It starts in his ankles— a distinctly unsettling feeling— two customers away from the Gringotts window with its perfunctory goblin occupant, and Draco has time for No, no, not here, not now—
Before he begins his fall.
The violet fog seeps into his eyes like a creeping hunter, clouds his ears into nothing but the steady, increasing thud of his own heartbeat. It is seconds away from its treacherous climb into his brain, flooding and coating and wiping everything into obscurity. He can feel the tremble jittering up his calves, his thighs, shimmering at his fingertips like the prickle of numbness. “Oh gods—” knowing he won’t get any help, this time like all the rest of the times, and reaching out while he can still see far enough to locate an inoffensive place to collapse and ride out its conclusion.
At least he’s not in the middle of the street this time. At least he’s not in Knockturn. He had only his own luck, and a decisively mild attack, to assure him that he wasn’t robbed or further taken advantage of that time.
The witch in front of him turns to stare and immediately shies away, as is the custom when witnessing his plight. Draco cannot blame her; he cannot think at all. His arms are aching, sharp stabs of pain sluicing their way up to his shoulders. He can’t feel his knees, and he hates, hates, hates his former dark lord all the more this time.
That loathing never loses its fire.
He can already tell that this will not be the worst he’s had. It is missing that crucial consumption in his chest, the hot lick of acid that shunts his breathing into the realm of broken ribs and kicked sternums. He might not even fall this time, but he can never be sure about that.
The seizure grabs hold of his shoulders and wrenches them into a firm shake that does not stop, but rather grips at his neck with iron fingers, a neck that has, of course, gone frustratingly rigid. The entire vaulted room is soft violet. His head aches, he can’t pinpoint where, but past experience tells him it is his jaw. He cannot taste blood— taste is the one sense left to him during the attacks— and knows he hasn’t bitten through his tongue this time. He doesn’t know if he’s still standing. Still upright. Still facing whatever he was facing. The room rings with monotone sound.
Pressure on his ribs, about his torso, almost like the clench of his own body, strikes hard against his consciousness. Someone has caught him before he has met the floor, or the chair that he doesn’t think he could have reached in time anyway. There’s a voice saying his name, sounding like it is coming from underwater. He’s dimly thankful that there is no panic in it; he doesn’t like the gathering of eyes. Gringotts’ unlucky customers will see quite enough today as is.
He can’t tell if he’s even helping to keep himself upright anymore, and as suddenly as lightning’s flash, his lungs squeeze and he can’t breathe. He’s forgotten to draw that last, imperfect breath this time, thanks to the surprise of his dubious rescuer, and Draco wallows through the tight, close darkness of un-breath for many agonising heartbeats, waiting dully for the answer to the constant question: will his lungs release at all? He suspects they will; he thinks his body will throw its very worst at him only on the day it finally decides to kill him.
And he’s only twenty-four. Voldemort would never be so merciful as that.
“Malfoy?” That’s Potter’s voice. Draco knows it all too well. Quiet, calm, as if there is nothing amiss. “It’s alright, nearly through.”
He knows that well enough. It’s his damnable body, isn’t it? He blinks his eyes, sluggishly as he must. Potter is steadying him in the middle of Gringotts, well, perhaps a bit off to the side, but still in his place in line. If Potter had been standing behind him the whole, he hadn’t known it. No one is really speaking or even looking, save for the cursory examination of a crisis averted. The goblins have stone-cold black eyes.
“Fine, Potter,” when he can manage his tongue at last. Draco pushes up, levering one hand against Potter’s trouser-clad thigh, but not all the way. He’s not steady enough, he’ll fall yet. Potter, for his part, loosens his grip enough to give him some sense of self-capacity.
Potter’s hair is longer than it was, as unkempt as usual but weighed down into a titillating sort of wildness by its own increased length. He’s still wearing glasses, wire-rimmed and the colour of soot. He’s got an earring in one ear, a small silver hoop that doesn’t finish its circle around his earlobe. And he’s conceived of a tan, it seems: his forearms are browner than they were. The colour speaks of travel rather than a few days spent lazing about outside in the summer. Draco’s eyes track immediately to Harry’s left hand, but there is no ring. One curiosity assuaged without the need for words.
The purple tint to the pristine white walls of Gringotts has finally gone. Draco straightens the last little bit and Potter lets him go, casting a pointed glance in an arc about them, dissuading their contemporaries from their staring.
Only then does Draco’s left arm begin to sear.
He wishes he could rip it right off, elbow to fingertips. He might actually do it one of these days, though it won’t do a thing to halt his body’s repentant flailing. It will just be bloody.
The Mark is not the cause; everyone knows this, and by everyone, he includes himself and St. Mungo’s. It just reacts, as the rest of him does. The attacks always choose to exit with a bang, however: the Mark is the last thing that makes itself known every time.
Draco kneads his forearm, not really caring this time whether or not he has witnesses. He always has witnesses. He’s got the mother of all witnesses right behind him, one hand still at his elbow as if he might collapse and ooze away from the world of the living any second. Half of Draco wants to roll his eyes and smack Potter for being a saviour. The other half wants nothing but the scant support of that hand, regardless of whomever it may be attached to.
He has a brief desire to shove his bare forearm under Potter’s nose, just to show him that tattoos are forever. Just in case he is pondering getting one.
Potter’s hand finally drops from his elbow, but a low voice sounds just at his ear, and it sounds like a contract of sorts, promising more coddling should Draco fail to meet the terms. “You alright now?”
Draco draws a breath, looks steadfastly forward at the goblins he came here for, and nods as curtly as his swimming head can handle. “Yes.”
And Potter steps back, out of his range and out of his sight. If not for the past few minutes, Draco might not know the man is there at all.
The line and the transactions he requests are completed without fuss, so quickly in fact that Draco finds he still needs that chair in the corner. His feet agree with his mind: he could care less whether people think he’s a weakling. It takes an inordinately long time to cross the room, but at last he sits, and watches through narrowed eyes as his old schoolmate steps up to the counter and does whatever he came here to do. It’s a relief, Draco thinks with as much snicker as he can muster, to see that Harry Potter did not, in fact, show up solely to catch Draco midway through his seizure. Wouldn’t that be just like him?
Potter is definitely taller. He stands differently as well, with a slight sway to the left. As if his leg isn’t the same length as his right, or his back isn’t straight, or he learned his posture from a family of gorillas. And Draco is sad to realise that he hasn’t the energy to follow that darling thought on its natural and amusing jaunt through the universe.
Draco lets his arms go wobbly as they’ve been dying to do for the last few minutes. Lets his head drift back and his hands drop over the armrests and hang there. Gods. He’s so tired. So tired. The bank rattles and clanks and chatters its merry way along, as if nothing happened there in the middle of the room, and yet Draco can feel stolen glances. Eyes, like always. They’re all wondering if he’s about to drop dead. If he has something infectious and is planning his last Death Eater victory by sucking them all down with him as he flops into oblivion.
It occurs to him after the intake of ten blank, slow breaths, that it would be an excellent idea to be up and out of the bank before Potter concludes his business.
He’s got his wish, and his parents finally, finally hate Voldemort with all that the cold, dead half-man deserves. A little late, but then again, he himself was muddled back then, too.
His mother rushes from the Manor into his little apartment bedroom at night when her paranoid charms jar her from sleep, Apparating right through his wards as if they aren’t there. She curses then, clutches him and curses Thomas Marvolo Riddle in every tongue she knows. When he comes out of it, her face is always a shade older, lined with the vestiges of shed tears. She curses her husband, and herself.
She’s aging before his eyes. And he can’t say he’s sorry; if he continues like this, his own age will become difficult to guess at.
A good portion of his father’s fortune has made its new home in the accounts of potions makers and charms experts. St. Mungo’s has no answers, of course, and it isn’t because Draco’s family is made up of Malfoys. It is because they are outside of the hospital’s knowledge, its expertise, and its genius minds. It is because the Healers there swear almost as much as Draco’s mother at the fact that there are afflictions about which they know nothing. There have always been afflictions they couldn’t cure, but side effects they have no more ideas what to do with? There are no potions, no spell treatments. No fix-alls.
It must be maddening. Thank gods for the years of peace. The Wizarding world’s weaponry has outgrown its medical abilities, even if not many know how to use those weapons to such glorious effect.
Draco can’t cure a side effect. Some nights, he can’t handle it either, and does not hex aside his mother’s charms. Other nights, he thickens his wards and writhes in solitude, twisting his fingers and legs into his sheets and gasping for the air he breathes.
He doesn’t care if she sleeps easier. He just doesn’t want her there.
It doesn’t happen all that much, really. Only once every week or two. But he feels it each time as if it were new.
Outside Gringotts, the air is crowded with noise. Draco stops mid-step before he manages to reach the shopper-packed street and just breathes once or twice, blinking against the new light. If his eyes hurt this badly already, they’ll hurt into the evening.
Damn, he was grinding his teeth. They feel as if they’ve been pulverised. He runs a swollen-feeling tongue over the inside of his mouth, and everything feels tender. At least no one out here knows he’s just keeled over in Gringotts. Out here, they’ve only their normal revulsion to fall back against, and he feels more than a bit satisfied over the fact that they are aware of nothing.
The door opens behind him— did Draco really expect to get fully away?— and relinquishes one Harry Potter. The man trots down the steps until he reaches Draco, and halts. He’s donned sunglasses, or changed his spectacles magically. It hardly matters; Draco knows Potter is looking at him.
Odd, rather. Draco can’t remember ever really sharing a normal glance with Potter, the last year of school notwithstanding.
“Malfoy,” Potter says, giving a slight lift to his chin.
Draco acknowledges the ‘gesture’ with a nod of his own. “Potter. Good day.”
Potter lets out a weird sound, like some sort of strangled exhalation. “Possibly. Hard to tell just yet.” He shades his eyes, even with the glasses, and looks out over busy, winding Diagon with a vague pinch to his mouth. It occurs to Draco that perhaps the glasses are to avoid recognition.
“Have errands, Potter?” Draco says, turning his gaze away and wondering if his flush will choose to catch up with him or not.
“Just shopping. Food. Household things.” Potter shrugs his lean shoulders. “What about you? Anywhere else you need to be?”
Draco meets his veiled gaze levelly, deciding whether or not to attack the possible attempt at concern. Does Potter think he’s about to seize again? Fall down and crack his head open on the pavement as soon as Potter steps out of sight? If he does, he’s been gone too long, or he’s been missing the papers.
Suddenly there is a sound— one Draco has long since decided he hates— and Harry’s hand flies to his back pocket. He pulls out a flat black piece of Muggle idiocy and gives the display screen a downright frown. “Hang on.” And turns away to answer his mobile.
“Hey. Yeah, I’m here… Well, it’s not as if I’ve been here a week already. Give me a day at least before you— Yeah. Yeah, it was fine.” Harry’s mouth turns down even further and his entire body straightens rather remarkably. One hand plants itself into black shag, fingers curling almost like claws. “Well, I certainly didn’t attempt to ignore it. I’m not required to check in anymore, if you’ll remember.” Harry winces. “For Merlin’s sake, Gin, will you just talk normally? You sound like your brother… Hey, if you don’t want me there, just say so.” A long pause. And then Harry scowls outright. “No. No melodrama today, yeah? I’m done with it.”
He snaps the mobile shut and shoves it back into his pocket. Draco eyes his companion, wondering about paradise and the way trouble inevitably finds its way in.
“Sorry,” Harry says. His face is calm, his voice low. The sunglasses reflect Draco’s own features back at him. “You’re alright then?”
“Been dealing with it for over five years, Potter,” Draco says blandly. Potter’s eyebrow does not so much as twitch. He sticks his hands in his pockets and backs up on lazy strides, looking just this side of Muggle bohemian.
“Alright. Good to see you, Malfoy.” Nods, turns, and heads off.
He sounds as if he genuinely means it.
Draco hasn’t had sex. It sets him off now, he can tell from the few kisses and the groping he has already enjoyed, be it ever so briefly.
Hard to pardon your own seizures in the midst of a gentle caress or a devouring kiss. It must be excruciatingly difficult to look at and not think, repulsive.
He is not the picture of gorgeousness when the malady rears its sinuous head. He suspects his mouth will not close, he suspects his eyes change colours. He suspects that his fingers turn a bit claw-like the way they clench into themselves; he’s bruised his own palms often enough. He can’t imagine what his half-clothed body must look like in the midst of its frenzy, but he has never had a date who did not make excuses the second time. As if his own name were not enough for that.
He can bring himself off easily enough— There’s nothing it hates more than a heartless satiation of lost pleasure. Draco palms himself in bed at night, staring at the ceiling and trying to imagine what it must feel like to have another man inside him when he comes. His limbs tingle a bit, but even coming is not enough to do more than send him into shivers and purple vision. It passes quickly enough, and it rarely hurts.
It actually lessened the more severe attacks initially. Draco gives it its due in private because it claws him so much worse in public if he doesn’t.
Draco goes to Wizarding gay bars late at night. Even if he could stand the thought of Muggles, he knows better than to subject them to glowing purple eyes and possessed twitching across their acid-blue dance floors.
His face is known, but that is the state of his life. The Wizarding dance floors are filled with fairy dust, making the tiles shimmer like sand dunes, and the air is interstellar with purple bursts, red comets, and blinding star strobes.
It keeps the attacks at bay; Draco thinks it is because his body already believes itself to be seizing.
Dancing is a frame of mind at the clubs, rather than an actual talent. Draco’s not sure how he looks while on the dance floor, but he is rarely at a loss for a willing partner. They press, they touch and kiss without even seeing each other. Draco loves the brush of lips, or the sudden, deep suck of tongue. The hands winding into his hair and then out again. He can taste sweat on the air and see lust under the strobing lights. It forms almost like a mist of heat. It’s calming, in a weird sort of way.
Tonight, he presses hip to hip with a short, willowy man who wears eye make-up as dark as the ancient Egyptians of legend, a man with cat’s eyes of amber and damp tendrils of hair that plaster themselves to his forehead. Draco brushes them back and cradles the face they belong to, and kisses that mouth and reminds himself why he so likes his nights here. It’s the closest he gets, like a perfect ivory jewel just within reach, where he can touch its glowing surface and feel its radiation. He knows he can’t quite hold onto it. He’s given up feeling bad about that; Draco Malfoy has learned to take what he can get with all the enthusiasm he can muster. The mindset, the approach, is half the battle anyway.
He knows this will be a delightfully good snog.
His partner of the evening is lithe, moving as if he has too much energy coiled in his limbs, searching out walls to be pushed up against or to back Draco into. The man knows who he is, and has worn a certain smirk ever since he first realised nearly twenty minutes ago. Draco caught a name somewhere back amongst the other dancers, but he doesn’t bother to remember them anymore. He saves his memory for the kissing and the way it feels to be touched.
“You— are perfect,” the man breathes against his mouth. “Like a sprite or a dryad, or…” He ceases to talk in favour of working Draco’s mouth into a swollen, heaving heat. “Who would have thought?” he finishes at last, pulling away to see the effect.
Draco doesn’t give him time. He doesn’t have time, not all that much of it. And he can cause heart-stuttering as well when he works at it. This man is no exception; Draco leaves him moaning and tugging at his belt with both hands, body squirming to push Draco flat against the wall.
“Go to your place?” the man gasps. Draco kisses him again; he feels the desire snapping between the two of them, the inherent sparking and the much more tactile bulge at the man’s groin. His partner nips his lower lip and smiles. “Or my place? Anywhere.”
“Hmm,” Draco murmurs. The man’s fingers are just at the hollows of his hips, edging downward under his beltline. Draco feels the first tremble in his extremities, and prepares to let this go, with a sigh perhaps. Or to rush toward it and hope he actually makes it this time. The club is full tonight. They aren’t exactly a spectacle; there are plenty of other couples much further along and in the great wide open for all eyes to see. But they will be a spectacle of another sort if Draco’s body continues on its current path.
And it will.
He pushes the man out of a desperate kiss, garnering a near-whimper, and holds him back where he can witness his expression. Smirks. “Hmm, I don’t think so tonight. I’m a little tired.”
The man freezes. His eyes narrow into frank slits and he looks Draco up and down. “You’re tired.”
Draco’s limbs are starting to shiver. It’s not plain enough for others to see yet, or even to feel. But soon. “Yeah. Rain check?” he quips, just for good measure.
The man pulls completely out of his embrace. “Well, what did I expect from Draco Malfoy, anyway?” he says. The smirk becomes a sneer. Draco stares stonily back, but the man turns around, his barely clothed shoulders glimmering with sweat under the lights, and disappears back into the crowd.
It’s either that, or let him back away from a seizure in full force. Draco considers the decision an adequate one.
Draco lifts the corner of Witch Weekly with the tips of his fingers. It even feels disgusting, and he’s not sure it’s really his imagination. The headline of the week, of course, is fantastic, less than objective, and all about him.
There’s a winner of a passage midway through the story, written by some upstart arse who fancies himself an editorialist:
Surely the youngest Malfoy can keep from regaling the rest of the Wizarding public with his caustic appeals for attention for one day, at the very least . Tragic his story may be, but we’ve heard it all too many times to be appalled by it any longer. Lines must be drawn; decorum dictates there is no longer a place for morbid displays of pureblood brains leaking from certain pairs of ears.
“I’ll take that one,” says an all-too-familiar voice. Draco looks up and finds the one and only saviour exchanging Knuts and Sickles for magazines to his right. Potter looks a bit gypsy-ish, with his hair flying longer and freer, with those slender glasses, with the wooden necklace and matching bracelet around taut wrist. He squints a bit as he looks at Draco. The light is fine; it’s a squint of awareness.
“Hey,” Potter acknowledges with a nod. Draco makes his own perusal much more frank, noting everything from hair to corduroy trousers to sun-dark skin.
“And where have you been, exactly?” he says in a flat voice.
Potter shrugs. “Japan. Chile. Over in those areas.”
Draco is not that easily sidetracked or impressed, even with his ‘pureblood brains leaking from his ears.’ “Doing what?”
Harry shrugs again. His mouth makes an unconcerned pout and he puts money down on the newsstand, folding the magazines he has acquired. “Finding out what I am, post-war.”
Aren’t we all? Draco doesn’t say it, and in the meantime, Potter nods to him again and steps away. “See you.”
Draco watches Potter depart, running over the other’s words in his mind, and ponders the use of ‘what’ rather than ‘who.’
It’s some theme night at the Wizarding club, but Draco can’t be bothered to be anything except himself. He’s got enough to worry about, and eventually he may give them all a show anyway, with his twitching and heaving and falling about. Much like the dancing that is currently exerting superiority over the floor anyway. Draco finds a free, humourous moment to think that he’ll hardly be noticed.
He’s had nightmares that looked like this: jumping, hurling people, all male, bathed in extraordinary colours and gyrating like monsters across the landscape. But he’s never recognised any of those monsters, and tonight he does indeed see someone he knows, in dark trousers and no shirt, and an earring sprinkling the immediate vicinity with disco-ball light flecks.
It makes the utmost sense that Potter would infiltrate here as well. He’s everywhere else Draco is, it seems.
Potter? Gay? Apparently, and very gay by the looks of the man all over him. Though Potter holds his own nicely enough. Draco wonders if Potter is a top or a bottom. A shagger or a lover. A kisser.
Potter’s chin lifts, brushing noses and bringing lips up to catch other lips, and that question is answered in one snog that looks as if the kiss itself is yearning. Potter’s partner breaks away and pants, and gathers the saviour of Wizardom all up against his body, and Potter’s hands grip shoulders and arrange bodies the way they should be, and Draco has to draw a breath and let it out again.
The kiss breaks; the dance returns. Perhaps, if Potter was in East Asia and South America learning to dance and kiss and eye-fuck like that, it was a worthwhile trip for more people than just him.
Draco wanders through cascading light over to the bar, where a strawberry blond in slinky silk and glittery face paint is waiting, maybe not for him, but rather for some thing in particular, and Draco has more than enough intention to provide. This one has been eyeing him all night, but Draco’s gaze strays just a bit this time, over to sweating, shirtless, gypsy-tanned body and sparking spectacles.
He can’t believe Potter can get away with wearing his glasses to a sex market.
It takes a little under four minutes for Potter to turn off the dance floor, and then to find Draco in the crowd. The man slows, his recent dance partner just behind and already bending to kiss his bare shoulder. Potter nods once. Draco eyes him over the heads of seated bar-goers, and closes a hand around the wrist of tonight’s willing fool. “I’ve a place,” he says and watches blue eyes light up.
He turns his attention from Potter completely and leads his new acquaintance through the door to the street, intent on a deserted alleyway suitable for Apparition. He fields deep, messy kisses as arms latch around him, and turns the two of them into a side-along Apparition, wondering how long he’ll be able to draw things out before the inevitable happens.
After his seizure and his newly disillusioned partner have deserted him for the night, Draco folds his hands over his stomach and stares up at the ceiling, his still-dizzy mind wondering who Harry Potter might be in bed with, moving in darkness and soft huffs and arches.
He finds he’s thirsty, but he has to wait for his knees to solidify properly before he can wobble out of bed and down the hall. Afterwards, however, sleep only takes a moment.
He dreams of Fiendfyre, scorching white heat with eyes and teeth, and feels the shame of a hand taken in terror. He feels the simultaneous elation of receiving that grasp, and the emotions melt together in one hot, repulsive lump, pushing each other out. He is happy-sad, soaring above the monsters, grateful-furious. Safe-dead. Simpler times, simpler times, when he didn’t know what was inside him, but it was there, curling its tongue around a sinister black lump of misery.
A second, rougher seizure rips through his limbs and his head in the night-dark room.
The club remains Draco’s for another week before Potter turns up again, in torso-hugging white that looks like ice under the whirling lightshow, and jeans that frame his lower limbs in a distinct and noticeable manner. Draco is not the only one who notices; Harry has barely air of his own to breathe out on the dance floor, and it explains his rapid retreat to the bar only a few seconds into the third song.
If only Draco had been prepared for Harry’s approach. Harry is already sitting on the next stool over, clasping some sort of lager in both sinewy hands, before Draco really registers the new proximity.
Green eyes dart sideways, studying out of their corners, and then flick back. Harry takes a long pull off his pint, bare elbow resting on the sticky bar. His dark hair is alight with blue and copper from the floor behind them.
“Have you ever considered physical therapy?” Harry says, more a lofty call than a question, but then, that’s all it can be over the noise.
Draco puts his own mug down before he drops it. “Physical what?” he returns, grimacing down at the bar’s surface.
Harry shrugs, a little lift to his shoulders. “It’s Muggle. A method of treating these sorts of things.”
These sorts of things, as in debilitating seizures that come out of nowhere. Except they don’t. But Harry Potter wouldn’t know anything about that. Draco rolls his eyes. “This is your great advice? In the middle of both a gay club and a pint?”
Harry’s mouth flicks in a strange way, and his eyebrows rise as if he is actually pondering it from Draco’s point of view. “Might want to try it. You know. If nothing else is working.”
Draco won’t even bother to find an answer to that. It’s much too complicated to begin the full-bodied explanation now, and anything less will gather too much interest from his listener.
But Harry stands and sets his finished glass down on the bar, sweeping his hair out of his eyes with a twist of his chin. “Just…” he starts, making his way out from between the close seats and brushing against Draco’s side, “think about it. I know ways to make things easier on yourself.”
Draco doesn’t look up then, and his pint becomes a leisurely indulgence once Potter is out of sight. Who cares who might be finding the other man so very attractive under the spinning lights? Draco has forgotten his existence.
If not his words.
But tonight, Harry’s in the club again, slouching under sparking lights the colour of the sea and sun with another man— tall and skinny and dark-toned with a gold stud or three. And perhaps it is that which yanks the seizure out of Draco, or perhaps it is the way his own partner’s hand is curling at the hollow of his hips underneath his trousers.
He’s got two minutes at most before it pulls him down, before the gorgeous man kissing him catches on. Draco pushes him away and slides casually along the wall. Already his legs are trembling.
“The fuck?” the man says, more dumbfounded than angry. Draco smirks.
“Not up for it tonight,” he answers, and this time the man frowns, but Draco is distracted by the unexpected fixation of Harry’s gaze across the room, and the way he meanders out from under his very attractive partner’s arm. Heads over, shirt collar gaping just a bit.
“Course you’re up for it,” Draco’s acquaintance rallies. “You’re up for it enough to let me know, anyway!” He gestures at Draco’s groin area, but Draco can do no more than quirk an eyebrow disdainfully and cock his head. This seizure will get him deep in his chest, he feels it.
“Why not?” the man finally snaps, but there’s Harry, smelling of sandalwood and sweat, and sliding an arm around Draco’s shoulders.
“Because he’s coming with me,” Harry says smartly, and then they are moving away, and Draco’s sight is going a bit lilac.
“How long?’ Harry murmurs. Draco bites his tongue before he can answer.
“H… half a minute. At most.”
“Okay.” Harry maneuvers him through the crowd, through dancers and drinkers as if they’ve just shagged in the back room, and out of the club’s double doors. Draco’s legs stiffen and he sags, looking smashed, he’s sure, but caring about his appearance isn’t exactly paramount. Harry walks him easily around the corner into an alley, swings round to clasp him close, chest to chest, and Apparates them with a shivery pop.
Harry is warm and steady. Draco’s feet touch ground somewhere quiet, and then he starts to shake hard.
It turns out to be Harry’s flat, and Harry’s couch on which Draco finally wakes up the next morning. But Harry is nowhere in sight— not that Draco looks all that hard— and Draco returns home as soon as he is alert enough to Apparate.
It’s less difficult to run into Harry Potter again, even though Draco can feel the hours until it finally happens pressing upon him. Half of him doesn’t want to find the man. The other half is so anxious for any sign of relief that it jettisons him from his bed each morning without a plan, so that all Draco can do is wander his own flat and realise he doesn’t know the first way to get hold of Potter.
He finally finds him at a Quidditch match, sitting in a box among a group of shouting, fit-looking wizards whom Draco does not recognise, a pair of Omnioculars around his neck and a bag of some weird fluffy treat between his bent knees. Harry takes a handful of the stuff. It crunches in his mouth and smells of butter. Draco can feel the other’s attention on him, even though Harry isn’t physically looking at him.
“There are breathing techniques,” Harry says eventually, as if they were still mid-conversation. “And one where you shut your eyes and listen until you hear sounds you’ve never been aware of before.”
“You’re full of shite,” Draco ventures, and it has nothing to do with Harry’s ‘techniques,’ but rather with the entire spectrum of the world, and Harry’s place in it. Draco wants to make things clear. Harry shrugs and pops another handful of his strange snack into his mouth.
“They’re a big hit with the less traditional wizards,” Harry responds.
Draco has heard about the Minister’s push for more Muggle-born and Wizarding integration. Things crossing over from the non-magical world to the magical. It’s a new movement without many followers, but it smells like most other small movements that just haven’t got their feet under them yet. It will be mainstream eventually; Draco knows this, somehow. It’s infuriating; they can handle a little non-magic, but they still sneer and back away from a former Death Eater in a crowded bank?
Draco frowns out over the screeching Quidditch pitch and hunches his shoulders. He knows he will make it through this game without incident; his body rarely makes him go through a seizure twice in one day, and he’s already had his share for the morning. “Why’d you take me to your home, Potter?” he asks shortly, and Harry sits very still for a long time.
Finally, “Don’t know what your place looks like, do I?”
Draco snorts. It figures.
Potter eats another handful of his weird food. Draco can see that his hands are greasy, and the shine of it laps over his wrist.
“So how does it work?” he says at last. “The breathing. I breathe everyday and nothing ever happens that’s worth a shite.”
Harry smiles very slightly. The crowd roars, and Draco eyes his own hands, wondering what he’s expecting to hear exactly.
It becomes clear to Draco within the next couple of days that Potter spends far too much time pretending to be a Muggle and talking to that stupid little mobile box of his. Or rather, he begins with talking and usually ends up snarling at it until he has a proper excuse to slam it shut. Whatever that might be. There is a certain amount of satisfaction that Draco is witness to the rebuffing of the girl Weasley so often, though he finds it hard to care nearly as much as he used to.
Draco is sitting, his hands loose on his knees and feeling like dead weights, leaning against a cold wall and trying to get his body to calm down. It’s been a bad day, the kind that walks him right along the rim all morning and afternoon until the attack finally drives him into the ground during the early evening. It’s as if he has been seizing all day; Draco can predict how sore his body will be tomorrow.
At first all he heard were birds. Lots and lots of bloody birds. And what did Potter expect, having led him to a damnable park with a pond in the centre? There are people chattering and children rushing about. It’s not very conducive to relaxing, that’s for certain. But there is this one strange sound— almost a clicking, quite like tapping on a wooden surface. Mostly to his right, but also to his left, now and again. Draco resists the first temptation— Just don’t open your eyes, alright, Malfoy? The point is to listen— and swings his head around slowly toward the sound. Can’t for the life of him figure out what he is hearing.
He’s already discovered that the pond has tiny waves that lap against the edge in little flutters. And the grass has a swish-swash to it that he’d never have thought to listen for. But the clicking is new. Unsteady, without pattern.
Why, oh, why is he here? Why has he come here, with Harry Potter, who seems to have all the patience in the world and all the appreciation for gently waving and creaking tree branches? Another thing he has learned to hear is the sound of Harry’s breathing. It, unlike the clicking, is steady. He could set a Muggle clock by it.
Click. Click, click.
He knows people are staring. Maybe not many, but some. People can’t help but stare at what is outside their own sphere of understanding. Two men sitting in a park in the grass dampening their bums with dew and looking as if they are meditating has to be drawing eyes. Draco, however, doesn’t mind the idea. It’s a relief to be stared at for something else this time, rather than for flopping about on a floor or a slab of pavement trying not to cause a scandal by dying in front of everyone. He could care less if people are staring at him for practising a weird listening ritual.
He notices, just a little late for surprises, that his own breathing has slowed in time with Potter’s. He doesn’t recall when it happened, just that he was too enamoured with the unusual clickity-click to try to calm his body down consciously. It seems to have stepped in and done it for him. The resulting euphoria is mixed with amazement, and is so sudden and complete that Draco does not trust it. So simple. Like attempting to fly for the first time, before one realises that skill is in fact needed. The first lucky attempt is never duplicated so completely.
But it does feel good, to feel the seizure that he knows is coming sliding back just a little way. For a little while.
Potter’s phone goes off, an aggravating jingle. Draco opens his eyes and glares, just to annoy Harry, but the other man already has the contraption to his ear and is scowling.
“No, I am not free to talk… Well, if you don’t care, why did you— Fine. What?” There’s a long bout of listening this time, during which Draco lets his eyes wander to the scant group of fellow park attendees. None of them are sitting on their arses in the grass. He spots one person with no capacity for discretion and looks straight at him until he blushes and turns away.
“I’m fine. No, I really am, there is absolutely no reason for you to be calling about that… Oh, for Merlin’s sake, Gin. I survived a whole bloody three years abroad without you calling in to check on— What? I said it’s fine.” Harry listens for another tense tick of seconds. When he speaks again, his voice has changed, maybe only to Draco’s new aural point of view, but it is definitely not the mere annoyance of before. “I’m not discussing it with you. It’s none of your business anymore. –Ginny, it hasn’t been your business since we—”
The click sounds lightly to Draco’s recently trained ear. He stares at the nearest bend in a meandering stone walkway, where an elm is morphing into glorious fire-orange and sunset-red. Another click; Draco realises he is hearing leaves fall, their stiffened, browned, curled tips clicking on the pavement.
“I’ve said this before,” Harry’s voice proclaims into his mobile. “It’s not up to you where I choose to be. If I want to dive off the Tower Bridge for my health, you can be damn sure I will… Well, I’m thinking I don’t really care what you think. You are having an extremely difficult time dealing with— You know what? I’m done right now. Ending this conversation. I’ll call you later when you’re not so upset.”
He hangs up and sticks the phone back in his pocket with an audible grinding of teeth. Runs a hand through his hair, and one over the grass almost as an afterthought, where his fingers clench very, very slightly. Not a full fist. Almost a shivery remembrance of a fist.
Draco watches his jittery fingers until they go slack, and then looks up.
“You know, you could turn that bloody thing off.”
Harry’s eyes narrow. “Aren’t your eyes supposed to be shut?”
Draco sneers. Shuts his eyes and hears Harry let out a long, cleansing sigh. It’s amazing how quickly his breathing eases back into its hypnotic rhythm. Draco hears a click. And a click-click. Exhales.
He is not one to jump toward impossibilities, not anymore. But he does wonder that night if maybe his seizure right before bed, alone in his flat, is just a little less violent than normal.
In the morning, his body still hurts as much as it always has. But the wayward thought is comforting.
“You should get a cat,” Harry says, his mouth full of chips. “I hear they are very soothing animals to have around.”
Draco frowns at the way Harry’s fingers linger near his own order of chips and scoots the basket away with a decisive push, then proceeds to pour vinegar over the pile until Harry’s mouth turns down in a disappointed grimace. “A cat, then. Potter, that’s ridiculous. I don’t need a cat. One more thing to provide for?”
Harry shrugs and resigns himself to shoving his chair back and rising. “They don’t take much work. Unless you’ve managed to get yourself a Kneazle.”
Draco grumbles a brief farewell and fiddles with his fish pieces as Harry makes his way to the bar, pushing through a few less-than-sober patrons, and orders another basket of chips. A cat would be asking for stress, and that’s something Draco isn’t willing to barter over, even if the gamble may end up ‘soothing’ him in the long run. Besides, he’s not a cat person. Right now, he’s a Draco-person. That’s about all he can take care of at the moment.
But Potter’s got his theories. Draco wonders where on earth he got them, anyway.
Harry has not lost his authoritative touch. He handles the jostling dinner and beer crowds with, if not finesse, then at least aplomb; not a single chip is lost in the journey back to their small table near the door. Not that Harry had the authoritative touch for all that many years of their acquaintance. Draco only really recalls it from the last battle anyway, and he wasn’t exactly paying all that much attention to the before and after. Just Potter, and Voldemort, and then his family, left alone to their own devices. And that had surprised him; he’d expected to be pulled from his parents’ arms. He’d expected them all to be split up for good.
Oh, but for pardons from unlikely sources.
“Where did you learn all this rubbish anyway?” Draco says tetchily as soon as Harry regains his seat. The other man blinks at him once from behind his spectacles and then settles his attention on salting his new chips.
“I’ve got friends,” he answers vaguely, but looks up immediately, and Draco knows somehow that the vagueness is about to end. “They’re Muggle techniques. For serious injuries and depression and such. Wizards don’t go in much for the non-magical treatments.”
Draco lifts an eyebrow and is satisfied by the barely hidden smile Harry dons. His former schoolmate tilts his head to the side and pops several potatoes into his mouth. Chews and swallows. “Well? Are they helping or not?”
This time Draco rolls his eyes. “Haven’t you ever heard of trial and error? It’s much too soon to draw conclusions.”
“Well, keep drawing. And you have to practice. Some of these things, they’re hard to get the hang of. It’s very mental, you know?”
Draco knows that something is mental here. But he’s not about to bother saying so.
There’s this bit about breathing ten times deeply with one’s eyes shut. And there’s the immersing of the face in warm water just before bed and exhaling. Fifteen seconds. That seems to have a little bit of an overall effect. Draco can hear his heart slowing into a steady thrum in his ears, and his dreams tend to be less active on those nights. And of course there’s the listening exercise. Draco’s never been more aware of the tiny sounds of his flat than he is now. He swears he has rats or some sort of large and unwelcome rodent living in the walls of his closet. Or maybe it’s just his bloody neighbours.
But it’s the quiet lie-in he has in the mornings that make him absolutely aware of his body, more so than ever before. Just lying there, studying the ceiling and the light from outside. It took him nearly two weeks to notice it, but on the days when he ends up seizing mid-afternoon, he has a very, very slight headache just behind his brow before half-nine.
Harry’s flat is quite different from his own. Bigger, at least, in some ways. There’s an upper floor. But the rooms themselves are smaller. Harry’s sitting room, for instance, seems to barely be able to contain his couch, though the couch itself is comfortable. There are pictures on the walls, and not all of them move, which is interesting enough to hold Draco’s attention. Not that he’s never seen a Muggle photograph before. Just that some of these Muggle photographs are of people he knows to be magic-users. A still shot of the girl Weasley sits on the wall near the door, and unless she has grown extremely bored of moving, this snapshot of her is not a magical picture. She’s laughing, a true laugh and not one of those that is faked for the purpose of moving things along. There’s one over by the staircase, of Granger’s profile on a windy day with a crumbling castle behind her.
There are also a few of people Draco doesn’t know, people who might very well be Muggles, people in brimmed hats and big smiles, with their tanned arms slung around Harry’s shoulders and their sunglasses huge and dark. Harry’s smiles are of a different quality than Draco is familiar with: easy and lopsided, indenting dimples into his cheeks and showing off white teeth. He’s in the sun a lot, under palms and canopies, beside exotic–looking towers and in pristine gardens. When Draco goes upstairs to find the loo, he also finds a picture of Harry in someone’s home, not looking at the camera, just collapsed across a couch somewhere with his head fallen back and his hair askew. The photograph is filled with warm afternoon light, and it bathes Harry’s body and makes his hair glow.
Draco looks at the photograph for a long while before he heads back downstairs.
Harry is again on a couch, almost as if he’s leaped out of the picture Draco left behind, and for an instant, Draco has to blink. It’s an odd moment as Harry straightens up and leans over to rest his arms on bent legs.
“You want some water?” he asks.
“Tea,” Draco answers stiffly.
Harry nods. “Sure.” And gets up, and goes into the kitchen. Draco listens to muttered spells and the clink of mugs for a second or two before lowering himself down to the edge of the couch.
“So,” Harry’s voice comes in through the doorway, “are they working, then?”
Draco lets out a quiet sigh. “I don’t know,” he pronounces carefully, certain that if he says it slowly enough and often enough, Harry Potter will eventually get it. “You know, you’re ridiculously impatient about this. Just shut up and let me get used to it all.”
Harry’s head pops around the doorway. One of his eyebrows is raised. “Come on.”
Draco glares, but decides that the change in tactics is invited, and even warranted. “A little. It might be.”
Harry’s face is passive, hard to read. “Seizures aren’t as bad? Or the effects are lessening?”
Now that’s interesting. Almost no one cares to ask about the after-effects, aside from Draco’s various Healers at St. Mungo’s. They’re curious, naturally. But his mother’s woes begin and end with the seizures themselves. And Harry’s asked the million-Galleon-question.
Draco hesitates. “The effects. Not lasting so long.” And then, to curb Harry’s inevitable gloating, “Not much of a difference, alright? Just...a slight one. And I haven’t kept track like this in a long time. Could be a fluke.”
Harry shrugs. “Could be effective.” He disappears back into the kitchen. “You want cream and sugar? I’ve Earl Grey, and chamomile, and I’ve got some tea that tastes a bit like the underside of a tire tread, but there are a great group of people in Nara Prefecture who swear by it—”
“Oh, for Salazar’s sake, Potter,” Draco snaps, getting to his feet. “Shut up and let me do it.” He stalks into the kitchen and finds Harry standing a bit away from his counter looking expectantly back at him. Draco waves his hands until Harry gives way, and turns solely to the task of making himself a cup of Earl Grey, thank you very much, with cream and sugar, plenty of it. He hears Harry go back into the sitting room, and only then does he lift the third pouch of tea leaves from the box. Draco holds it to his nose and sniffs cautiously.
Yes. That does rather resemble burnt rubber.
He’s putting the lid back on the sugar bin when the slightest tingle of magic sparks down his spine. Draco straightens and turns toward the doorway. “Was that you, Potter?”
Harry clears his throat. “My wards. Listen, could you… There’s a pantry just off the other side of the kitchen. I was hoping to get my sugar back in there. When you’re done, that is.”
Draco rolls his eyes and picks up the sugar bin in one hand. The pantry door is open a crack, and Draco finds a tiny room beyond it, full of small shelves stacked with crackers and dried pasta, and juice and boxes of something or other. He shoves the sugar into a bin-shaped vacancy, and that’s when he feels the next spell. Most definitely a muting spell, or some sort of masking charm. But it’s either not strong or Harry is distracted. Draco shuts the pantry door quietly behind himself and crosses the kitchen. A flick of his own wand banishes the faint magic, and voices immediately fill the quiet.
“—the one who called me. If you didn’t want me here, then you shouldn’t have bothered!”
Harry answers, his tone very, very clipped. “I do want you here. But you’re early, and I haven’t had the proper time to explain things.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” The Weaslette, Draco is sure of it. “You called, I came over.”
“When you damn well felt like it!” Harry snaps. Draco hears him collect himself quickly with a deep breath. “Look, I don’t want a row again.”
“I didn’t start this row, Harry,” the Weaslette says acidly.
“And I certainly didn’t want a row about that again! Gods, Ginny, why can’t you just accept what’s happened?”
And the Weaslette explodes, just like that, into a ragged but furious tirade. “I wasn’t the one who just up and left, Harry! You might’ve given it a little bit of a chance!”
“There is. No. Point.” Harry growls. “For the last time. Alright?”
“Harry… It’s been a few years. And you’re bound to want time on your own, I know that. For a little while. But don’t you think you could possibly be mistaken about… about all of that?” Her voice had turned a bit wheedling. “You never used to be interested in—”
“That’s neither here nor there, Gin! It’s not the point anyway, and I’m not going to argue with you about it! Not today. He’s the point today. I asked you over for some help, remember? Do you think maybe you could set our fight aside for long enough to—”
“And what exactly do you expect me to do to help him? I don’t even know him! I haven’t seen him in years. And I don’t know if I care to see him again, especially.”
Draco frowns. Fucking hell, he’s not an imbecile; he knows who they are talking about. And he doesn’t care to see the Weaslette either, for that matter. He’s not exactly feeling topnotch— hasn’t been ever since the damn war— and he could care less about Potter’s tribulations and love-quarrels. Draco doesn’t want to be ‘the point,’ today or any other day.
“You helped me. Gin? Ginny. Listen to me.” Harry’s voice drops into the realm of murmuring. Draco can picture him leaning closer to her, and maybe she’s crossed her arms and is trying to retain whatever upper hand she thinks she’s got. But she’s not going to keep it. There’s something in Harry’s voice.
“I need you to do this. Find whatever reason you want. Do it for me if you like, or for your studies. Whatever. Just… please consider it. It’s not something I can handle on my own, and it’s definitely not something he can handle.”
“Oh, Merlin, Harry, what is this, the month of philanthropy? Hard-luck cases? He’s not going to want my help, and he’s not just developed this, you know! He’s dealt with it for about half a decade! You think they haven’t exhausted all their options by now?”
“Ginny, if you saw it—”
“And why should I? Suddenly it’s all about you again, it’s always been about you and what you want. You never asked what I wanted then, and you still aren’t asking now!”
Harry sighs, but the sound is muted again. Draco frowns, leaning forward, and then realises that it isn’t a problem with spells. It’s his ears. His extremities are beginning to tingle.
Gods. He’s got to find a place to sit down. Lie down, maybe. It’s creeping up, scuttling far faster than most of the others. Draco looks around the room, at the two chairs by the window, then at the tile floor. But— he can’t seize in here, he’s going to make noise. They’ll hear him.
Perhaps, if he can get Harry’s attention—
“—in bad shape. Alright? Please. Just stay and see it. You’ve no idea what’s—”
“Harry, I’m not a Healer! Do you hear me? I’m not a Healer. I’m not a professional, I’m not a Muggle doctor, and I’m certainly not your personal Healer or Muggle doctor!”
“I’m asking you to watch! That’s all, Ginny! Just see what happens to him, because you’ve no idea what you’ve been hearing about in the papers, that I can assure you! You’ve no clue at all!”
Like shattering through crystal, Draco becomes aware of what exactly Harry is referring to. What they are talking about. What he is asking her to watch.
“No!” He’s out into the sitting room so quickly he nearly falls, but he can feel it coming, all the faster because the Weaslette is the last person Draco wants as a witness to his debilitation, and he lunges forward to shove her away, out.
But it’s too late.
Everything is the colour of plums, so dark and so opaque that Draco doesn’t know what happens next. He could be falling. He could be standing. He could be breaking his nose on the floor right this instant, this eternity, and bleeding over Harry’s floorboards—
The bastard. The utter bastard—
He’s in a void, so dark and deep and massive. Only the worst ones send him here. He’s never ever sure if he will get out. Draco waits, suspended with muscles painfully locked. And waits.
It is his knees that he feels first, hot eruptions of agony. His belly churns and threatens to empty. He opens his eyes— they fly open on their own— to a blurry world full of messy colours and moving shapes. Terrifying; he has no control. But he’s too exhausted to be scared this time. Whoever is still there, whoever has not fled at the sight of it all, will be there no matter what happens.
At last the colours coalesce just enough. Draco picks out glinting spectacles surrounded by black fuzz. It is, strangely, a relief to remember who owns them. But red moves over Harry’s shoulder, and Draco’s stomach goes sick again. He wishes his eyes would blur back into darkness, he wishes more than anything, because then he wouldn’t have to think, he wouldn’t have to do. He would just lie there. Let Potter take him to St. Mungo’s. They don’t have a thing to help him there anyway.
Only, his eyes insist upon restoring themselves rather than heeding his wishes. Draco can finally see the detail of Harry’s eyes, all roiling greens and widened pupils. The man’s nostrils are flared and he hovers, his attention completely on Draco. Over his shoulder, Weasley stares down mutely. And there is something in her face that wasn’t there before the world turned purple this time. Draco does not truly touch upon it until he realises that for once, there is no shred of suspicion in her wide, sad eyes.
“Merciful gods,” she mutters. Her throat bobs. “I’d no idea it was… so violent.”
Perhaps his mood does not swing downward because Draco has no energy for snide lashes with his tongue. It means little; the Weaslette stays where she is. Which is not where she was originally. But Harry is the close one, the one who has lowered Draco out of his fall and into the couch’s welcoming arms.
“I knew,” Harry says quietly, but the sound still rattles Draco’s swollen ears. Harry’s hand twitches where it rests upon the couch cushion. “Gin, you’re a Healer.”
“In training,” she corrects quickly, but Harry continues.
“You can look. The libraries there, or the journals. Your Muggle colleagues.”
Draco wonders if she is fighting the age-old urge to turn aside anything linked to him. It’s normal. He’d understand the sentiment. She stares at him quite forwardly. Her eyes are two troubled calypso seas.
“Gin.” This time Harry’s voice is soft in a new way. A desperate way. “You helped me.”
She stares at him and her throat works to swallow. “I’ll see what I can find out,” she promises. And it does feel like… a promise.
As soon as the door clicks shut behind Weasley, Draco staggers off the couch and shoves Harry as hard as he can. There is more force to it than he expected. Harry stumbles, but the look on his face reveals no surprise.
“You fucker,” Draco gasps. “You told her. You let her see it!”
“I’m sorry,” Harry answers softly. “But she can help. After the war, I was… She’s a Healer. Helped me with physical therapy.”
“I don’t care,” Draco snarls, even though the mystery is already tapping at his mind: Harry Potter, physical therapy? But the prickle of hope still shimmers, in spite of Weaslettes and humiliation and betrayals.
“She knows things, Draco,” is Harry’s soft response. “She can help you.”
The question, whether Potter admits it or not, is will she help.
Weasley actually sends Draco something. Or perhaps she sends it to Harry first, but Draco can’t find any evidence of owl-switching or messy mail. It’s nearly a week since her untimely arrival at Harry’s flat, and the envelope is modest, with his name printed neatly on the front. There’s not much inside:
Some Muggle remedies/preventative measures. –GW
The list is short. Staying away from alcohol seems to cross the magical barrier between seizure treatments. There are common sense suggestions, such as getting enough sleep and drinking plenty of fluids. But there are other, stranger things that Draco has never heard of, such as sitting in the dark in the mornings and evenings, avoiding reading small print, and noting funny smells just before or after he seizes.
She also suggests keeping a log of when and where seizures occur, and rating them on some sort of scale.
Draco rolls his eyes at that one; it’s too much to take in, too much for his tired mind to commit to so quickly. It did not give many answers the first time he did it anyway, for St. Mungo’s. But he does decide to try the darkness.
He sometimes wonders who took the photo of Harry on that afternoon-lit couch. The imprint of the image stays with him where a dozen other pictures have not; Draco can still see the slope of Harry’s arms resting at his sides, the folds and shadows of his shirt over his abdomen. His glasses sit in one slightly cupped palm, one temple folded in, and the light gleams off the lenses. It’s a drowsy picture, full of sleep and the last instance of not being noticed. Was it the Weaslette with the camera? The picture has a lover’s eye.
Perhaps it is that lover’s couch that Harry is sitting on.
Of course he asks. There are not many other options that suit Draco’s blunt viewpoint.
And Harry lifts his head and looks straight at Draco. “I dated a photographer for a few months. He took the pictures.”
“A Muggle photographer?”
Harry nods once. He is staring at Draco, eyes narrow and mouth set, as if daring him to run with it.
Draco doesn’t take the opening for a fight. He thinks he will lose.
“You think maybe the club’s doing it?”
Draco lifts his head from where he’s been resting it in his hands and stares at Harry dully. “What?”
Harry’s brow furrows. It’s familiar. It’s just the type of look Draco himself used to wear before he figured out that his condition was not going to be fixed by any amount of research and fretting. “The dance club. The lights are fairly seizure-inducing even to those of us who don’t tend to get them.”
It’s meant to be amusing, Draco is sure. He just doesn’t care at the moment. He hasn’t cared all day. His head hurts and he knows what is on its way now that the sun is beginning to set. It might happen in an hour, it might happen in four hours. He’s mildly disturbed by the fact that he doesn’t care whether it happens before Harry leaves or after. It’s all the same to him nowadays, and Harry is notoriously bad at leaving him the fuck alone while he twitches all over the floor.
“It’s not that,” Draco grumbles, resettling his head in his hands. Perhaps he can rub the seizure right out of his temples if he does it just right. And perhaps Potter could just be silent for a time instead of trying to find the cause of the bloody attacks. Draco could tell him the cause if he’d just stop being so unrealistic. The cause had snake eyes and happens to be very, very dead. Not as if Harry doesn’t know that.
“It could be a factor, Draco. You—”
“If it was a factor,” Draco cuts through, “then don’t you think I’d be seizing two seconds after setting foot inside the door?”
Harry sits back a bit in his chair and drinks from his glass of water. His throat ripples several times. Draco looks away, too irritated to bother analysing anything about anything.
“What about the journal, then? You might try keeping track of what you’re eating. Certain foods can be triggers.”
Draco bites off the snarl, just barely. “I know that, Potter. There are some things I have already attempted, you know. St. Mungo’s may be full of incompetent fools, but they aren’t totally useless.”
Harry’s face tightens a bit. “They’re not incompetent,” he mutters, and goes back to drinking his water. Draco has started to notice that Harry does this when he is nervous or unsettled. It’s hard to care right now; he’d rather Harry would just go home already. If he, Draco, is the stressful part of the situation, then Harry would be solving everyone’s problem by leaving anyway.
“Alright, then,” Harry tries again. “What have you noticed? What sets you off?”
Draco could tell him about the fact that he can’t get off without going into convulsions of the wrong kind. He could outline the number of people who have made it into his bed but have left before the end of the night. Before the end of anything. But he doesn’t fucking want to, for Merlin’s sake. It feels like a filthy old cowl draped over his body, too thick and heavy to push off. And it’s not the night to try, of that Draco is sure.
“I don’t know,” Draco says at last, exasperated. His muscles hurt from being rigid and he can feel the ache from clenching his jaw. Hells, this alone might induce tonight’s seizure, and then it will be over with, at least. “Gods, why do you care? Just let it alone.”
Harry is quiet for a moment. Then he moves, a shift of one hand closer over the tabletop, as if he means to reach for Draco in some way. “I know how bad this is. You’re doing well, though. It’s just… the whole process, and you’ll get past this part of it, Draco.”
Draco pulls his head up, staring, incredulous, a brief emotional void in his chest, and finds Harry’s eyes earnestly on his face.
“I don’t need sympathy from you, Potter!” he hisses, not furious yet, but climbing there so quickly it’s only a matter of seconds. Or words.
Harry’s scowl is fast and disappointed. He leans across the table, one hand out with his palm pressed flat. “You don’t have my sympathy, Malfoy,” he grates. “This is empathy.”
“How in fuck could you possibly empathise with me?” Draco laughs, harsh, hurtful, wanting to hurt because there are no wounds he has ever received that haven’t been deep. And here Harry is, ripping them all open and shoving salt into their depths with his ludicrous notions of altruism. “You know nothing about what I’m going through!”
Harry’s face goes a bit white. His lips twist in such a way that Draco knows some line has just been stepped over. Harry jerks up from the table, shoving at his sleeves with shaking hands until they are well over his elbows. “Yes, I do.” His voice is hard-edged, like stone, but quivering. Rage, perhaps. Or sorrow, except his eyes cut right through compassion into something else that is much more resilient. He fumbles for his wand, and for some reason, Draco does not go for his own until Harry has already waved the length of wood in the air.
Once down his own front, once up. Two sharp flicks.
Immediately Harry’s hands begin to shake. It’s startling: the left shivers like a leaf worried by the wind, but the right trembles as if the muscles have given up. As if the world itself is shaking him. Draco feels his own mouth open, but already he is watching the wilting of Harry’s body. His shoulders droop; his left side sags just a bit, until the ghostly limp Draco thought he saw weeks ago makes a grotesque sense.
Draco rises from his chair, his weariness vanishing in the face of all things hidden. Harry stands there, his hands quivering, fingers fisted tightly around his wand, drooping like a dying flower. His breathing has become much more pronounced, and yet he stares at Draco, just… stares.
“Stop it,” Draco whispers. It comes out desperately, almost silently. Harry blinks once, twice, and then waves his wand very deliberately over his torso and about his head. He whispers two near-silent words. The spells showers over his shoulders, silver and glittery before fading out. The shaking drips out of his arms as if it were water. Harry draws himself up, only to step forward quickly and collapse into the chair he’s just vacated.
The silence of the room presses in on Draco’s ears. He can hear Harry’s breathing, still rushed and shallow. Uneven. It unsettles something in his own chest; he’s gotten used to the steadiness, the strength of Harry’s inhalations and exhalations, without even knowing it. He feels an instant of extreme discomfort: he has no idea what’s happened.
Slowly Draco regains his seat, trying to sort himself out. Harry doesn’t look at him. His gaze rests on the tabletop, heavy-lidded and unconcerned, but Draco knows the look: he’s gathering himself, struggling with a weak spot in the façade of normalcy. One of Harry’s fingertips taps at the table a few times.
“What was that?” Draco murmurs, watching Harry.
Harry stirs. Strong-again shoulders lift and fall, a casual shrug. Harry’s head rolls a bit on his shoulders. “Side effects.”
“From what?” Draco says, but he’s pretty sure he knows. Maybe not exactly, but he doesn’t need to be exact. It was a war. There was suffering everywhere, and not all of it ended with Voldemort’s timely demise.
“I died,” Harry says simply. Green eyes rise and meet his. “Voldemort killed me.”
“I…” Draco knows this. He’s heard the stories, and he knows about Horcruxes. About Harry’s scar, though not from Harry. He knows what his mother saw in the woods that night, and he knows that the blow felt by the side of Light was visceral, and very real, if not permanent. He knows there was bizarre magic at work at Hogwarts that night. But he’s never heard of any direct physical consequences until now.
“They don’t quite know what to do with people who have died and come back,” Harry says quietly. “The wizards. Doesn’t happen much.”
Draco stares at him, because he knows all that. He knows all about the failures of Wizarding medicine.
“The Muggles have a different approach. They have… Well, people die. And they bring them back. And then they rehabilitate them.” Harry rubs a normal-looking hand over his forehead. “It’s not something wizards are used to. Magic is supposed to take care of everything.”
“You’ve used these techniques yourself,” Draco whispers, knowing there is no reference, but he thinks it is clear enough. All the listening outside, which is so hard to master. The deep breathing, which he takes for granted. The charts and the meal records and everything.
Harry shrugs. “I use a spell. Every morning, I put it on. It wears off as soon as I first wake up the next day, and no one else is the wiser. The Muggle stuff is for the rest of it, the things magic can’t cure. Only cover.”
Draco presses his lips together. It’s daunting, even though there are no spells to cover what happens with his seizures, even though there’s no magical way to hide his own malady. The idea of using the same spell each day of one’s life just to look normal, to keep other people from staring and asking questions and prying— Draco is only stared at once a day. Without the spell, Harry would be stared at every second of every minute of every hour, until he secluded himself.
“Weasley knows?” he asks instead, feeling the vacancy around the words and the weight of everything he hasn’t said.
Harry nods. “She’s the one who helped me. Not with the spell, but with everything else. You know. I can’t wear it all the time. I can… feel it.” He gestures vaguely, and Draco imagines a constant buzz, or perhaps a tingle. A mantle of magic, reminding always of its existence.
“She knows Muggle medicine.”
“She’s part of the liaison movement.” Harry sighs and sits back. “Shacklebolt wanted to be certain Voldemort was washed completely out of the system. The Ministry went in that direction. Extending the hand of friendship to Muggles, exchanges of knowledge. The medicinal part is a huge improvement, regardless what the uneducated masses think.”
Draco watches Harry. “Was it quick?”
“Gradual,” Harry says. “Didn’t even know it had anything to do with— Well. I thought it was just twingeing at first. Then an illness. Until St. Mungo’s finally figured it had to do with coming back from the dead.”
A soul trying desperately to reconnect with its tired, tired body, a body that was, for all purposes, deceased. The end is decided, and then to be jerked back from that end, to the beginning again, or as near as possible. Harry’s body must have struggled. And then gave way and fallen at last.
Draco wonders who Harry has told. Who knows and who just thinks he is another normal bloke, a saviour who can overcome anything thrown at him and keep on walking.
“Not the easiest of things to deal with. I’m sure there are a lot of people who think I was deathly ill for several months.” Harry presses one hand to his forehead and rubs lightly. “So I know what you’re going through. Some of it, at least. And I did lose a significant other over it, once.”
“Was it your photographer?” Draco asks softly.
Harry’s lips twist in a faint, bitter smile. “No,” he answers. “It wasn’t him.”
Draco hesitates, then nods. “Was it Ginny Weasley?”
Harry’s eyes open and his body goes still for an instant. He sighs weakly. “Alright. Then I’ve lost two. In a roundabout way.”
Somehow, Draco doubts Ginny Weasley ran from the shaking. Roundabout ways have so many other twists and turns.
Weasley’s next letter comes a day or two later, and states that current studies do not recommend the Muggle methods of medication in conjunction with magically induced seizures. Too many risks… Too many bad results during tests. Draco decides to term the medications ‘Muggle magic,’ just for a laugh or two when he’s feeling particularly irritated. It figures they wouldn’t react well to Wizarding magic. Muggles haven’t been reacting well to wizards for centuries.
Then again, the reverse could be said as well.
She does recommend certain diets, however, cutting out magically prepared foods on five out of seven days. Harry sends an herbal tincture by post owl just after, and Draco has a feeling that Weasley knew he’d never take it directly from her. She’s right, of course.
He uses the tincture in his tea at night. It lends a slight tartness to the taste, which lingers on Draco’s tongue through the night and into the morning when he wakes. He’s fairly certain it is not his imagination when the headaches weaken over the next week. The seizures themselves come and go with slightly less pomp and circumstance.
Very slightly less.
He lowers his wards to less stringent levels every few nights or so, to make sure his mother does not go insane with worry. Her warm hand cupping his in the middle of the night as he comes up out of a shivering, heaving, jolting chaos is comforting, often enough.
Harry knocks on his door bearing a bag full of bread and some sort of preheated pasta sauce. “It’s nothing,” he says. “I cooked it myself. Well, heated it up, actually. Probably better that way.”
Draco opens the container of still-steaming noodles and nods. “Cheers.”
Harry shrugs. “Like I said, it’s nothing.” He tugs his gloves up over his wrists again. “Alright then. Have a good one.”
There’s quite a lot of pasta. Draco’s mouth stays shut until Harry is nearly in his front hall. Then— “You can stay. You’ve made this massive amount anyway.”
Harry leans back around the corner, hands in the middle of turning his coat collar up. “Okay,” he says uncertainly.
Draco turns to busy himself with plates.
The rain splats hard against the window panes, running in thick rivulets down the glass. Draco stirs his tea, watching the tincture mix in, and thinks about warm socks in the chest of drawers in his bedroom. A blanket perhaps. He can hear the rain thudding on the pavement outside if he listens very carefully. It’s become much easier to distinguish layers of sound.
“Practice, practice, practice,” Draco murmurs, taking a cautious sip and padding out of the kitchen on bare feet. Still too hot to drink. He decides he’ll get that blanket after all, and maybe come back down, charm a fire into the fireplace and sit for a while. There are most likely layers of sight as well as sound. Flame seems like the perfect venue for such a—
It takes him completely by surprise.
Draco drops his mug, but does not hear it fall. His mind is already jagging, sharp ends everywhere, stabbing and cutting and— and—
Blank. Deep… blank. Pain. Low. Air in— in— inhale— sharp oh oh hurts white lilac white dark lilac exhale—
Bad shapes. Size and colour and change, oh. There’s no control. They shift and morph on their own. Hurts to watch, his eyes hurt. Apparently he has eyes. He can’t breathe. He’s not sure if he’s supposed to.
And then he does breathe, and he’s absolutely certain that it is necessary. His chest expands— he can feel someone inhaling, filling the void with cool air. He swallows, turning end over end in the dark, tasting a strange thing on his tongue, as if he’s drunk something sour or bitten through his lip.
All at once the shapes freeze… and fade out. Draco remembers his own name sluggishly. He tries to say it, to frantically ingrain it where it should be, but he can’t get his tongue around it. His eyelids feel sealed, or cov… covered in stone.
Frenzy of any kind feels much too difficult to master.
He hears the rain first, a slow murmur of hushed noise to his ears. Draco turns his head, rolls it, and finds that it is resting on something. He can’t tell what; he can’t even tell if it is soft or hard. His tongue feels swollen, filling his mouth, and tingling as if the muscle has gone to sleep. His hand hurts, his jaw hurts, and he comes to the gradual conclusion that he is clenching both, though he can’t figure out just how to stop.
Deep breaths. Listen.
He hears breathing.
He can taste blood in his mouth now, tangy and metallic, iron lying across his tongue. He tries to speak and hears an odd sort of groan. His ears echo. There is dampness along the side of one of his legs. He should be… on the floor. With spilled—
There is someone else in the room, breathing.
Draco twists, but his body does not follow. It flops restlessly against whatever surface it is on. He forces his mouth to open. “…Who…?”
There is rustling. Something touches down on his arm and lifts away again. “Draco, don’t move.”
Harry’s visage flits across Draco’s blurred vision and vanishes again. Harry is in his house. Maybe. He can’t be sure. He’s not even sure where he himself is at the moment. His fingers are still clenched, digging deep into a surface that gives. Draco flexes his hand as best he can; it feels stiff, as if it has been encased in dried molasses. Fabric, then. Soft. It smells familiar, a place he knows intimately. Yet, he cannot see.
He wants to ask where he is. What happened to his mug and his spilled tea. He’s afraid what might happen if he gets the question out and there is no answer. Perhaps there is no one here except for him.
The rain drums heavily on.
Finally his eyes obey him and open. The room is a mish-mash of blue and black, shadows and rain-reflected walls. The walls seems to be crawling, alive. Draco rolls his head the other way. There is a darker form under the swell of his mixed-up sight. My room, he thinks suddenly. The chair would be just there, which means…
A pillow, that’s what’s under his head. He’s fairly certain. “In bed?” he asks, his tongue gone all loose. The words don’t sound like words. How did I g-get here—eeere…?
Harry gets up from his chair, blurred and lost in fog, drops to the floor and eases to the bedside on hands and knees. “Yes,” he says quietly.
“Mmmy mug,” Draco forces out, only a part of what is trying to get free, but a necessary question nonetheless.
Harry’s voice sounds like it is under a mound of snow. Words float in and out. “…dropped it… mess on the… kitchen…alright now.”
He should sleep. Or maybe Harry is saying that he should, and it is the truth, whatever it might be. Maybe Harry isn’t even here. Draco lets his jaw sag open and feels the pressure in his head drop away. He can see more clearly now; Harry is wearing grey trousers, like sweatpants, and a large, loose shirt. Draco stares dully, noticing wild hair and familiar spectacles. The windows beyond Harry are dark with the storm. Rain shifts and whorls down the glass.
Draco feels very lonely.
What is Potter doing here? It’s a belated question, but right on time for Draco’s addled brain. He remembers wards, and spells to keep his mother out. Logically, there should be no one here except for him. It’s his flat. Right?
“Why?” he tries.
He doesn’t understand the answer. His ears garble it into nonsense. He hears mangled sounds, guttural as if they mean to be words. It sounds like an animal, or thunder. It probably is thunder. Draco longs to shake his head, clear his ears of the mist, but the very idea leaves a churning sickness in his belly.
Harry is sitting again, hands on the armrests and bent knees straight forward. Regal, like a king. Draco works his throat until he can swallow. His mouth still tastes strange and the room smells like the tea he was drinking. He knows he belongs in the sitting room, on the floor in the lamplight, but he is in bed. Surely Harry put him here. Surely he’s not hallucinating…?
He’s not quite sure he’s really speaking aloud at all.
He blinks, and Harry is suddenly kneeling at the bedside, as if he never moved. Draco’s heart races and then slows again. Something warm touches his hand. “Draco, are you alright? Should I Floo St. Mungo’s?”
Why should he help you? His brain hisses, a snake sliding through now that the gates have been left wide open. Draco’s sickness turns decisively as the rest creeps in, a muddy tide swirling at his ankles and rising ever higher. The bad ones always lower the barriers. He can’t fight what they let in. He hasn’t the strength.
He’s not quite sure Harry is really there.
“N… no,” he grits out. His jaw doesn’t seem to want to work properly. It hems the words in, as if it means to keep him from help. To keep him from Harry. “Happens. Sssssometimes.”
Harry nods. Squeezes his hand. Draco cranes his neck painstakingly, trying to look at where their hands are joined, finally succeeding. It looks strange, Harry’s hand clasped about his own pale fingers. He can’t get them to move now, when five seconds ago they were clenching and unclenching all on their own. Draco curses his body, screaming in his head, but there is only the sound of two people breathing in the room. He wants to explain that this is not the norm, that he hasn’t had a seizure that left him like this for almost two months. That he’ll be okay in an hour or two. But he can’t do it.
There’s a reason you are like this, Harry whispers, and yet Harry’s mouth does not move, but it is his voice, Draco is sure of it. Or maybe… Maybe it’s his own voice. Maybe it’s Voldemort’s voice on the other side of the ice wall between those who are alive and those who are dead.
He remembers fire, a burning castle. He killed. Didn’t he? It wasn’t his wand, but it may as well have been. If not for him, people would be whole. Alive. Healthy.
He deserves this, whatever it ended up being. It’s not enough for what he caused.
“Deser… Deserve. This.” He struggles through it but doesn’t feel like he is the one speaking. Harry’s fingers prick like claws; Draco tries desperately to yank his hand free, but then Harry’s skin is soft again, his fingers normal, and they hold on, draw his hand back.
“You don’t.” Harry’s voice blows about, coming and going. Draco strains to hear the words that follow, but Harry’s mouth moves and he hears nothing. Harry touches his forehead and Draco barely feels it.
He killed Dumbledore. He might as well have done it. He robbed the Wizarding world of its strongest protector right in the middle of Voldemort’s ascension to power. Gods, he…
“How much do you hate me?” he slurs, staring dully at Harry, at Dumbledore’s protégé.
The rain echoes, a pitter-patter-slip-slide down the window. It fills the room with sound, and yet the place is deathly silent. Ugly.
“I don’t hate you,” Harry whispers.
Draco turns his face upward, then his head begins to shake, side to side. His eyes burn, the distortion of moisture rolling between him and the outside world. He’s so exhausted. He can feel himself crying, his chest tearing, the mean pit in his belly driving inexorably outward to fill his body. Just a shell full of poison.
He’s not quite sure of anything.
He tries to say it aloud. Hate me.
Someone has to. Someone besides himself, so he can rest.
In the stark light of day, Draco wonders when it was exactly that Harry set the charms on him. Especially without him noticing.
Such tricky spells, these things. His mother’s charm shivers like a faint breeze when he does not mask it. He feels it ruffling his hair, the lightest of trembles. But it is there. The balance for the spells must be perfect.
Harry has not only mastered that, but also the proper spells to pierce a small hole in Draco’s wards.
Harry has long since risen from his repose on the couch, where Draco found him once he’d pulled his exhausted body from his bedroom and limped into the kitchen for food and water. Harry poured Draco a glass, and cooked him a simple omelet. Waited until he finished, and then offered to go and let him rest. He said nothing of the previous night.
Draco is tempted to bolster his wards. Finding the hole once he knows it is there is not a difficult process. His flat could be impenetrable again by the next evening.
He doesn’t end up looking for the crevice in his wards. Somehow, the possibility of Harry’s presence does not exasperate him. He’s not sure what it does, but what he feels is nothing like irritation.
It’s been nearly a month since Draco has set foot in any club. It wasn’t so much a conscious decision as it was a happenstance; the lights have never been one of his triggers. Only, it is harder to get himself settled for the night when there is a club to contend with.
Draco fixes chamomile with lavender at around half seven, when the sky has long been dark. Ten drops of his tincture make the taste a bit tart, as usual. The steam fills his nostrils. If it is after a seizure, his muscles relax instantly. When it happens before the attack, it clears his head, and then Draco fancies he can almost time the event down to the minute.
This evening, his body aches from not seizing, and he sits at Harry’s kitchen table beside its owner, who drinks coffee without sugar but with plenty of cream. It was not planned; Harry knocked on his door nearly an hour back. Draco found him on his way back in from the nearest park, where he goes because it is secluded and a man may meditate or seize in the grass without being disturbed. Harry’s eyes followed him up the walk and all the way to his side in front of the door, before their owner invited him back to his flat for dinner.
And now they are sitting, drinking tea or coffee, and waiting for the inevitable. Draco wonders whether or not it will leave his vision fuzzy again, or his ears blocked. Harry clears his throat.
“Haven’t seen you out late for a while,” he says presently, and Draco glances up from his tea. Harry motions with his right hand. “I’ve gone out for a drink once or twice.”
“Yeah.” Shrugs and looks down, because he’s feeling calmer than normal and he doesn’t know what he looks like, exactly. “Trying out your bloody suggestions.”
“Tea. Herbal whatever. Weasley mentioned a steady sleep schedule.”
Harry nods. Takes a sip of his coffee.
Draco swirls his tea, willing the tightness in his shoulders to ease just a bit more. “So. I haven’t been at the clubs for a few weeks.”
“That’s good,” Harry says shortly, but there’s something else in his voice, and it makes Draco raise his eyes once more.
Harry’s eyes are intent. They’ve been intent all evening, intent on his face, intent on his throat and his hands. Intent on his own eyes. Harry sets his mug down and leans across the table. Draco can hear the Muggle clock in Harry’s kitchen ticking gently. He watches tanned fingers make their way over his own, unhesitant, just moving. And closing.
“I’m going to kiss you,” Harry says. It’s matter-of-fact, a statement of truth. Harry’s eyes are wider than usual, but the rest of him is the same as always, and Draco looks back silently. Harry goes on. “Thought I ought to let you know.”
He leans his body across the space, across the table with its placemats, and tilts his head until his mouth fits gently over Draco’s. His lips are warm and slightly parted, but they only linger. They do not press deeper, or ease for more. The kiss ends a few seconds before Harry actually pulls away, and Draco can taste his lips resting against his own, and feel the exhalation of Harry’s breath. It is no longer a kiss, only Harry’s mouth touching his.
It is the most stimulating thing Draco has felt in a long, long time.
Harry leans back slowly, parting their mouths. Draco watches as he licks his lips, knowing Harry isn’t doing it consciously.
“Trying to start something?” Draco rasps, thinking of induced seizures and Harry’s motivations. Harry’s head jerks minutely, as if he can’t decide which answer is correct. Draco draws a deep, unsteady breath, and nods.
“Do it properly, then,” he gets out, and reaches, and tucks a hand behind Harry’s nape and pulls him close into another kiss. And this time there is tongue, and Draco decides he likes the taste of Harry quite a lot.
In the end, it’s just a kiss. But it is a long kiss, full of sought breaths and hands on faces, and bumped noses. Draco enjoys the feel of Harry’s hair between his fingers, and the soft skin at the nape of his neck. He enjoys the pressure of Harry’s tongue on his, and the fact that he can make Harry suck in a breath with a shudder.
Mostly, he enjoys the fact that he knows who he will be looking at when he lets his eyelids open, and that is the most surprising thing.
Everything changes after that.
The next two evenings, Draco does not have his flat to himself. And it is no unwelcome thing when Harry taps on the front door with his knuckles. The kissing is immediate, deep, but never too long, never enough to send Draco into wobbly territory. Of that, he is grateful.
It feels both slow and fast. There are meals: that first dinner, lunch the next day and the dinner following. Breakfast, and dinner again on the third day. Draco knows the smell of Harry’s flat as well as he knows his own. It dwells in his senses, and it is a foundational slab now rather than a new point of interest; he feels quite comfortable when he is in Harry’s flat, surrounded by Harry’s smell and Harry himself. The only place he desires more is his own home.
The air is cold, windy with frost’s bite rushing overhead. Draco shuts the door behind himself and follows Harry into his own flat, wanting scalding tea, wanting to put his takeaway under a cooling spell. Wanting… other things. They’ve recently vacated a tiny Spanish bistro— Harry’s suggestion— and braved the freezing wind for several blocks until Draco saw home.
He sets the food on the counter and flicks the spell over it. Harry is shedding his coat and gloves, laying them on the couch in the sitting room when Draco looks up.
“Flat’s cold,” Harry says. Draco feels a touch lightheaded, a touch out of control tonight. He thinks about it for a single second before committing.
“I’ve sweaters. In my room.”
Harry nods and leaves his position just behind the couch to follow Draco down the hall. The door is open, softer light streaming into the hallway from the window inside. Draco turns abruptly just before he leaves the last shadow and finds himself face to face with Harry.
It only takes an instant to start. But then, that’s all it ever takes.
Harry has him pressed up against the door almost at once, hands around his wrists, fingers sliding up to clench around Draco’s. Harry’s mouth is at his throat, and then at his lips. Draco pushes sideways, angling instinctively, and they lurch through the opening in the wall, spilling into his bedroom and onto his mattress in an untidy heap. Harry arches his back and pulls his shirt off, button by button by sleeve by sleeve, quickly, and starts in on Draco’s. He’s excellent at it; the thought that Harry knows what he is doing in this as well as everything else is titillating, startling, and delightfully exciting. Draco bites Harry’s lower lip and earns himself a hard, passionate, tongue-deep kiss.
“Gods, Draco,” Harry breathes, “don’t, if you want… want this…”
Oh, it’s going to last, alright. Draco is determined, flushed and overheated and half-clothed and snogging the one man he never thought he’d get around to snogging like this, never thought he’d enjoy snogging. Never thought he’d be this close to shagging him, in his own bedroom, in his own flat, with nothing but the two of them to worry about.
Harry slides his hands over Draco’s newly bared chest, then begins to mouth his way down, slipping aside to kiss a shoulder or an elbow. Draco entangles his fingers in Harry’s thick shag of hair and brushes it back, lifts his head until that mouth draws away from his skin and he can see lust-fogged green eyes looking at him intently.
And the first shiver grates through Draco’s body.
No. Oh— no. No, what is he doing? This never turns out, he never gets as far as he’d like, but this time his stomach aches, like a heavy wound. This time, it’s Harry above him. They’re about to shag, and it’s Harry, and Draco’s throat lurches shut. He swallows hard, feeling goosebumps speckle his flesh— the first signs.
Oh gods. He’s going to seize.
He can’t stand the thought of being seen by Harry this way. In Gringotts, in the club, it’s one thing, but in his bed half-naked with Harry against his body, it’s not okay. He’s never, ever cared before, never cared what they thought, aside from the revulsion on their faces at whatever they end up seeing. But he cares what Harry sees.
It is more instinctive than planned: Draco grabs hold of Harry’s shoulders and pushes up.
“What?” Harry breathes. His torso is heaving with effort, his arms locked and strong and sinewy either side of Draco’s head. His sweat tastes like sea salt on Draco’s tongue and mouth. His right hand rises and touches gently against Draco’s forehead, smoothing its way down the curve of his cheek toward his chin, and Draco’s muscles spasm with more than the coming frenzy.
Harry does, immediately. It’s startling how quickly he moves, arching up until he is no longer against Draco, until Draco can no longer feel their skin touching. But Harry doesn’t really move. He is still above Draco, his eyes are still open, and he’s going to see anyway.
Draco shoves hard at one shoulder, succeeding in knocking Harry off balance, and sits up. “Not going to happen tonight. I’ve changed my mind.”
Green eyes blink at him. Harry’s mouth is red-swollen and tempting, but Draco’s turning stomach has no problem brushing it aside. Everything he wants goes this way.
“You alright?” Harry’s voice is an edgy calm. Perhaps he’s wondering if he did something. Draco doesn’t have time to care. He can feel the tingles skittering through his limbs.
“I’m fine,” he says shortly. “More than fine. What’s it to you?”
A second of silence. And then—
“You’re seizing,” Harry whispers. His chest is still heaving and sweaty from their exertions. “Aren’t you?”
“Fuck off!” Draco snaps, and gets to his feet, strides to the door, throws it open. “Leave.”
He knows Harry is about to say no. Harry Potter never gave in to Voldemort, and this is nothing but Draco and sex. He doesn’t give Harry time to speak. “I don’t want to hear your therapeutic nonsense any longer. I said get out, Potter. Now.”
Harry stands slowly from the bed, without hesitation. His eyes are locked on Draco, and Draco has to force himself not to look elsewhere. “I’m not leaving you here like this.”
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” Draco hisses. “I’ve survived many a night without you holding my hand.”
“Are you afraid I’ll hate you?” Harry says sharply, striding forward, driving Draco back a step. “That I’ll take one look and decide you aren’t worth the trouble?”
“No, Potter, this is about me deciding I don’t want you in my bed!” Draco fires back, letting the fury take the words for whatever it intends. He knows he is basically naked, his body bared in all its horrible, imperfect glory. “I don’t want to shag you, or kiss you. Can’t believe I let you in here to begin with.”
Harry’s face quivers with something he’s holding back. It’s hard to look at his eyes. “What in hell do you think you’re trying to pull?” Harry snaps. “You think I believe that tripe?”
“Believe it, Potter. It’s all you have left.” Draco shoves the door so hard it hits the wall and bounces. His legs begin their steady quake; he’s running out of time, and he’s still hard from having Harry so damn close, so near after so much time. “Now, go. Leave me alone.”
“Draco, you are such an arse sometimes,” Harry growls.
“I don’t give a shit what you think,” Draco snaps, and it tears from him in something that will soon become a sob. For an instant he can’t decide which loss is worse, the loss of shoving Harry Potter out of his life, or the loss of Harry seeing him as he falls.
Then the decision is made, and he pulls the last weapon he has to his aid: his wand. The magic plummets through the room, tugging at wards, shoving at the invading aura. Potter winces, but keeps his head, and his feet.
“Draco,” he whispers. “Stop.”
“Only when you’re gone,” he answers blithely, except it isn’t blithe. It’s more uncontrollable, shaking and full of wheezing. Maybe he is imagining it. Maybe his mind has already gone halfway into his seizure. Harry’s eyes widen. He lunges forward, hand stretching itself toward Draco.
“Stop it, stop. You’re going to end up hurting yourse—” At his own words, Harry’s face changes. His eyes widen. He stiffens, and snaps his hand out; his clothing flies into his outstretched fingers. Without another word, without an attempt to clothe himself or a last plea for clemency, Harry Apparates, turning with a loud crack and vanishing right in front of Draco’s eyes.
Silence falls like a shroud over the flat.
And then Draco’s ears begin to buzz, and he backs toward the bed and collapses there, shaking, sucking in final breaths, to wait it out. His skin feels clammy and cold, unclothed and damp from his own sweat and Harry’s.
Who is no longer in the room.
He tries the deep breathing, and the listening exercises. But he has no will to do it; all his energy has been sucked into the vacuum of that closed door, and in the end, the seizure brings him down as it always does.
The headache he wakes with is pounding and immense. Draco spends twenty minutes lying dully on his bed with his arms out, praying that it will fade.
He knows it won’t. Not for a few hours.
His bed is empty otherwise, as empty as it was when he passed out, still gripped by the exhaustion of the seizure. He remembers the room being dark, and he remembers jerking at blankets with shaking hands. He remembers the bed feeling huge.
At last he pulls himself up, gripping the sheets and quite literally using them to sit up. Swings his legs over the side of the mattress. Stares at his pale legs and shapely feet, which haven’t done him any good since the war ended. The elegance just can’t compete with the monstrosity.
The loss this morning is almost impossible to bear, however.
He’s felt it before. Every time he wakes alone and reminds himself of just why he has come to be without a bedmate, he feels it. But this… feels like he’s cut off a limb. Or maybe sliced into his own chest, where all the breathing and beating and feeling occurs. Removed something without cauterising the wound.
He’s never felt this exhausted. Not in five years.
He doesn’t want coffee. He doesn’t want to get up and get water to soothe his throat. He doesn’t want to get up. It feels much too difficult, as if his body weighs twice as much. As if the world will crush him if he moves from the bed, from the place of rest and stupor.
It hits him with a shudder so intense he feels it in his toes… that all he really has left anymore is the seizure.
“You’ve won,” he croaks, and then doesn’t know why. His own voice startles him in the quiet bedroom. Surely someone should hear it, his last concession. It is important, and yet no one will ever know he spoke the words. That he gave up. Draco feels like sobbing, pouring out his body’s grief in tears down his cheeks. He shakes with it, a gentle, helpless jolting of his shoulders.
The one that has finally been chased away shouldn’t be different from the others. But he is. Oh gods, he is.
Harry is always different.
The knocking is not loud, but it is firm. “Draco, open the door.”
Draco stands in his front hallway in the dark, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. “No,” he says, but it comes out as a whisper.
“Please open the door,” Harry pleads. “Just listen to what I have to say. You owe me that.”
What exactly is it that he owes Harry? And yet his entire body feels like he does owe him, insists that he let him in. At least into the flat, if not elsewhere. But the truth is that Harry’s already in, deeply and irretrievably. Draco is already past the point of residual suffering if he shoves Harry Potter out of his life, no matter what he does now.
The knock sounds again. It’s been a single day since Draco demanded that Harry leave his bedroom. The day has been quiet, like most others. Only, Draco feels as if he has been lambasted, smacked off his feet by an angry blow. He’s exhausted; he’s on the verge of cracking. All he wants is to sleep until his hurt goes away or Harry does, leaving him without any say in the matter. Then at least the decision will not be a hard one.
Draco summons his voice. “I’m fucking tired, Potter,” he grates. There is no immediate answer, and Draco finds it hard to continue, but he manages it. “Sod off, if it’s all the same to you.”
If Harry really wanted to come in, he could. The thought makes itself known, and Draco presses his lips together, waiting to see if it will happen. When something does, it is not a forceful push through already cracked wards.
“You don’t need to resort to insults. I’m not going anywhere.”
Merlin. He’ll sit out there, Draco knows it, until he lets Harry in or people begin to wonder. Until Draco seizes and can’t do a thing for himself, and then there will be no reason for Harry to stay outside, and he’ll be in Draco’s home again, in his rooms and in his sight, inches away. Draco moans and shoves his palms against his eyes, rubbing furiously. No tears; he’s done with them, and this hardly warrants crying, and yet he’s so close. He’s been close all day.
Perhaps he can force Harry to leave. Draco pushes his hair back and stares hard at the door. Some things even Potter won’t do, not in a public hallway, surely. He steps nearer to the door, touching it with the fingertips of one hand. “Why bother, Potter?” he snaps. It’s easier than he thought; his body is full of jitters that add sharp edges to his tone. “What’s the use of coming inside when I bloody well don’t want you here?”
He almost hears Harry draw a breath. “Because I don’t think that’s true.”
Draco resists the urge to punch the door. “Is it the sex?” he calls through the wood, feeling wildly elated at the possibility of being heard by others, forcing Harry into their notice in such a personal way. “Because if so, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. It won’t happen, Potter, I can promise you that, and it won’t have anything to do with me!”
“Is that why you go to the clubs?”
Draco’s hand slips and he barely catches himself against the door. It’s a little hard to breathe; his lungs seem to be out of synch with the rest of him. “What the fuck do you care?” he snarls. Harry is silent. And damn it, Draco knows his silences already. This one is a waiting silence, and it won’t be broken until whatever he’s waiting for appears.
Well, if he has to throw a bit of himself to the wolves, then he will. “Yes, Potter, I go for the sex. And I certainly don’t need a special visit from you to get what I want in that department, so if you please, go away.”
“Draco, let me in,” Harry says softly. “This isn’t what this is about and you know it. I know it. And I’ll sit out here all night giving your neighbours an earful if that’s what it takes to get you to open this door.”
Draco’s responses disappear as quickly as they arrived. The helplessness of the situation digs into him like the warm air of the flat, squeezing and enveloping. It doesn’t help that half of him wants for Harry to be inside, wants to be within breathing space of him again, wants so much to just let go for a minute and allow whatever happens to happen.
“I know about your seizures, Draco,” Harry says. His voice is so close; he must he leaning right up against the door with his mouth nearly touching it. “I know already. You’re not going to show me anything that I haven’t seen.”
Oh, Salazar. There’s no answer to it, no rebuttal and no refusal. Draco stares blankly at the closed door. He can recall the taste of Harry’s mouth and tongue, and the way his fingers alighted on his skin the night before. He can recall the first tremors of his body buckling under the creature inside, rearing into that touch to snuff it out.
“You don’t have any idea,” he whispers.
Harry does not answer.
It’s another minute before Draco moves slowly, reaching upward until his fingers touch the cold metal of the doorknob. It’s not him moving, it’s something else, because if it were him, he would never be reaching like this, clicking the lock back, twisting the knob. His breath makes brief patches of moisture on the wood of the door. Draco shuts his eyes and pulls it open. Steps back.
He hears Harry enter, quiet footsteps over the threshold. A hand covers his, eases its grip on the doorknob and lifts it away. The door shuts, and Draco is standing in the dark of non-sight with Harry’s hand holding his, wordless and lost.
“Draco,” Harry murmurs. “It’s alright.”
“Like hell it is,” he whispers.
A hand touches his face, making him jump, threading through his hair and brushing down over his scalp to settle on the nape of his neck. “Stop,” Harry whispers back. “Listen to me, just for a minute. Alright?”
The touch is horribly perfect, like being given light after years of darkness. Draco feels himself leaning toward it, his whole body yearning for it, because it is male, because it is Harry, because it knows and it hasn’t vanished. No, Draco insists stubbornly, no. But the most he can do is hold himself rigid.
“I’m not going to leave.” Harry speaks steadily and quietly, his mouth only a foot away. “I’m not going to be scared or startled when you seize, and I’m not going to be surprised when it happens. I’ve seen it.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Draco tries, his voice less than steady.
“You’re not always right.” Draco can feel the breath from Harry’s words on his face. “Draco? It’s not always good to be right.”
“Harry—” It escapes on a desperate exhalation. Harry’s body heat is so close, caressing him, reminding him how close he is to what he had last night, before the seizure, before everything went to hell.
“You’re not broken,” Harry says, “and you’re not defective. If you are, then I am, too, remember? Are you disgusted with me? Do I disgust you?”
“Screw you, Harry,” Draco says weakly. He’d break the arm of the first person who ever tells Harry he’s disgusting, or worthless, or ugly. But he can’t do the same for himself. His mind feels broken somewhere.
“Please let me stay,” Harry whispers, right at his ear. His lips brush Draco’s hair, hovering as delicately as a feather. The real question makes Draco’s body shudder, and not in the way it is used to shuddering. Harry is asking to stay with him, in his arms and in his bed, all night, if Draco will let him. He’s not just asking for sex, he’s asking for something else with the sex. He’s asking to see. To be allowed to see. Draco wants to allow it. So badly.
“Do you want me to go?” Harry asks, almost inaudibly. He’s close, all along the front of Draco’s body. He smells like sandalwood, faint and earthy, wrapped around Draco as if he is physically holding him already.
“No.” Draco opens his eyes, feeling as if a small but necessary weight has dropped from him. He exhales unsteadily. The warning is shrill and loud in his mind, but it doesn’t alter his answer. They won’t agree, not tonight. Maybe not ever. But he’s so tired of fighting.
Harry nods. His fingers stroke the back of Draco’s neck, thumb lifting to brush his cheek. “Thank you,” he whispers.
Draco nods his head as well, feeling a little bit lightheaded. He steps backward slowly and Harry lets him, eyes never leaving his face. Draco purses his lips to keep his expression from collapsing and searches for his wand. It’s in his back pocket, sticking out as if waiting for him. Shakily he casts the charms, muttering the words to block his mother’s spells, to keep her out for the night.
And meets Harry’s gaze.
Harry lets out a long breath. “Where?”
It’s a heavy word. Draco swallows. “My bedroom. Alright?”
The other man nods. He doesn’t move, holding himself in place and watching. “Slow. We’ll go slow.”
“No,” Draco says. He reaches forward and slides his fingers around Harry’s wrist. “No.”
It’s strange, going from such hesitancy to such movement. Draco pulls Harry forward, steps in to meet him, and angles the other man’s head down. He’s pulling too hard, his hands are shaking too much. But he needs to kiss Harry. Needs to. Harry gives into it completely, his body going lax and his mouth pliant, searching tentatively with the kiss but letting Draco control it. Draco tilts his head, urges the kiss deeper, harder. He doesn’t want to wait for the seizure to find them; he’s terrified of it.
As quickly as the surge of energy comes, it fades. Draco breaks the kiss, touching his forehead to Harry’s and breathing hard. Harry says nothing. His breathing is unsteady as well, his body so close, expanding and contracting with each inhalation. Draco nods again, squeezing his eyes shut for just a moment, and pulls Harry gently forward, backing up as he does.
They make their way down the hall to his bedroom like this, almost together, almost apart. Not looking at each other. At least, Draco is not looking at Harry. He can only do so much at once and already he feels as if he’s not the one in control of his body, as if he’s watching this happen. Watching himself lead Harry to his bedroom, walking alongside and witnessing as he grips Harry’s shoulders and sits down on the end of his bed. Harry follows, leaning on one arm, the other still cupping Draco’s face.
He’s already scented Harry, he can feel it. He’s felt it in the clubs, breathing in the sweat and smell of whomever he is closest to, whomever he is kissing. It’s much worse this time; the foreboding is overwhelming, nearly impossible to combat. He’s wanted people this much before, but he’s never had such a stake in it. Such a need for it to succeed. He needs Harry to want him like this, because if it’s one-sided, if it’s just his own desire, he won’t be able to do this. He won’t be able to let himself fall open in front of another person, as he’s about to do. Draco stifles a gasp and finds Harry’s mouth, parting his lips and kissing Harry’s apart as well, until he can taste him again. Harry’s free hand rises to cradle his other cheek, and then fingers thread through his hair. One of Harry’s hands travels downward over his shoulders, sliding until it finds his waist and rests there. Squeezing gently and moving around to rub his back.
Draco grips his own shirt and tugs the fabric from under Harry’s hand, pulling it up until there’s only bare skin to touch. He lifts his mouth from Harry’s and pulls the shirt over his head, an awkward, one-handed move, but then it’s gone and Harry is looking at his chest intensely. The look changes when it moves to Draco’s face, and Draco lets out an explosive sound, so close to collapsing and letting himself break.
“Don’t even start,” he says shakily. “I don’t want to be coddled. Just—”
Harry surprises him by kissing him again, tonguing deeply and gripping Draco’s bare skin. Draco shudders at the contact, at the dizziness of the kiss. In a mere second he is jerking at Harry’s jacket, shoving it from his shoulders and finding the hem of his t-shirt. Harry lets him remove it without a murmur. It takes a too-long, fumbling moment for their trousers, but then they are off and cast aside, and Draco is against Harry and breathing hard and kissing, and starting to catch up with himself.
The flicker of light on Harry’s spectacles as he sets them aside, not looking at where they land, darts like a pixie. Harry eases Draco down onto his back on the bed, a slow movement for all of Draco’s haste, and it is then that the reality finally closes in. Draco can’t help his hands. They latch onto Harry’s forearms and grip. He freezes, shaking.
“It’ll be alright,” Harry murmurs, cradling his face in one hand and touching his mouth to blond fringe. “Just don’t think about it.”
Draco tries. He really does.
Harry’s hands are delicate ghosts, flickering and caressing over his skin, smoothing and kneading. Gripping his waist. He kisses Draco’s throat and Draco’s vision swims. He’s been kissed like this before, but not by one who knows what will follow. Harry parts his legs with a gentle nudge and edges between them, and Draco lifts his body to meet bare chest, bare hips, open mouth and soft breaths. Gods, he is— He wants Harry. He wants this, and he wants… oh, he wants to finish it this time. He, they, are close to it, he’s close to letting Harry inside in just about every way.
But he can already feel it coming.
“Oh gods.” He pushes Harry back, almost off, except his arms are shaking like dead aspens, and he can feel Harry’s body pressed to his, feel things he hasn’t ever been skin on skin with, but his body is betraying him one more time, showing its razor claws to the intruder.
“Look at me,” Harry says. It sounds like a distorted echo; Draco’s ears do not fail him often during an attack, but he knows they will shut down completely this time. He can’t even begin to look at anything; he has no control over anything anymore.
He is too hot; their bodies are scalding, he wants nothing more than to be far away, not touching, but his limbs won’t work, and—
Gods. He can’t see. His tongue tastes like a rock, lodged in his throat and slipping back. He jerks, feels a dull thunk as his head connects with something— pillow, headboard— and that is the last thing.
The room bleeds purple, the colour of royal robes. Deep, oxygen-deficient blood. Draco writhes in it, a soupy mess through which he cannot swim. There is nothing on the horizon but a trembling, cracking, guttural shudder. His stomach twists somewhere. He’s sick, or will be.
He had Harry. And now he is floating. Sinking and glugging down purple murk. He opens his eyes wide and stares upward as the ocean tosses around him, and waits for the first shimmers of anything.
The purple haze sloughs itself slowly and painfully from his eyes at last, and Draco’s limbs come back into being: arms stiff and fingers clenched into rigid fists, legs two hot masses of cramped muscles. His lungs remain flat; they will not fill, and Draco stares dully into darkness. The mattress regains form beneath him. He can feel the cool lick of sweat at his throat, his belly, the hollows of his wrists and elbows. At last, his chest rises and it is… yes, over. The darkness presses and Draco shuts his eyes, unwilling to look.
A hand touches his face, four hot fingertips cradling his chin. Turning his head. He looks— can’t stop himself— and waits for the usual suspects: revulsion and fear.
Harry’s eyes are dark green and fully open. His mouth is a thin, soft line, and the faint non-purple light plays over the still-damp places at his throat and the curl of darkened hair at his temples.
“It’s over?” Harry murmurs quietly. There are absolutely no edges in his gaze, no recoil in his tone. Draco can’t help the surprise, the shock that freezes his body all over again. His arm lurches, hand snapping up off the mattress to wrap around Harry’s. He knows he is squeezing tightly. Harry’s face doesn’t change.
“You’re staying?” he rasps. Harry’s expression contorts into something pain-invoking and in an instant he has switched their grips and now his fingers are wrapped around Draco’s.
“Are you kidding?”
Draco can’t answer. He shuts his eyes and waits for his body to grab hold of itself. The feeling of another person’s weight on the bed next to him is strange and crowded. He couldn’t remember how bad it felt to be alone until now, now that he’s not.
He takes several minutes to right himself, and all the while half of him expects Harry to leave. And yet there is no movement to his left, just the calm breathing of another person and the soft stroke of fingers over the back of his hand. Draco breathes slowly… in…. out… in… and collects his thoughts as best he can. There are questions, of course. But not the ones he is comfortable with.
“Why’d you do this?” he manages, finally. And he’s not even sure he knows what he means. Harry most likely won’t know either. But it might not matter; the question is the question, whatever it means.
“You wouldn’t let me near you, and I… needed to be,” Harry murmurs, just a few inches from his ear. It’s a new sensation. Draco’s never really heard a voice in a tone like this just minutes after seizing. He’s heard concern, he’s heard anger and fear and annoyance. This is a lover’s voice, he’s sure of it. And they’ve usually left by now. Harry stirs, rolling just a little and changing the tilt of the bed. “Wanted to be here.”
“With the invalid?” Draco presses, unable to help himself. Harry’s hand touches down on his chest, all bare flat palm with heat radiating out of it. Draco opens his eyes and looks up at shadowed green. Harry’s head shakes slowly.
“No,” is all he says. There’s a flat quality to it, very final. Draco stares up and wonders when exactly his life flipped over and changed.
He finally looks away and sighs. Swallows. “That was worse than usual. I don’t know why.”
Harry nods. Draco doesn’t really see it, but he can feel the motion. He bites his lower lip against the question, but it comes out anyway because he’s always wanted to know. Always been curious.
“What does it look like?”
Harry’s eyes go a bit wider. His chest expands, and Draco wonders for the first time if Harry is still hard, if he has gone flaccid… If he’s disappointed.
“You shake. Violently. Sometimes I think you’re going to cut yourself with your fingernails. Your neck… goes rigid. Your eyes change colour, just a little.”
Draco waits, but that is all that comes. He frowns up at Harry. For all the world, they seem as if they are talking, just quiet talk after or before sex. So normal. And it’s not, not at all. “And you’ll put up with it every time? Because this is what happens.”
“It’s your trigger,” Harry states, and again, it seems so simple, all the abnormality sucked right out of it. “Or one of them.”
Draco snorts, disgusted again with himself, with his body, with his part in the war that gave this astounding gift to him. “And now you see how fucked I am.”
“Have you ever had sex with anyone?” Harry asks quietly. Draco glares at him, feeling his face going hot, and hateful of the lamplight forcing it into relief.
“What in hell does it matter?” he snaps.
Again, Harry shrugs. “I wanted to know.”
Harry’s had sex with people, dozens of times, maybe. Over and over with the same people; that is something Draco is willing to bet on. He was probably in love with his photographer, they might have lived together, ended their evenings tangled with each other’s bodies. Harry probably whispered the name of his lover each time, gasped it out, clenched with it, and came with it. Draco feels sadder than ever, there on his own bed not inches from Harry. Harry’s been in love, and not just mentally but physically. His entire body. And that is something Draco hasn’t been able to do.
“That’s just great,” he mutters and shuts his eyes. He feels lips on his hair, a soft press and a kiss.
“How are you doing?”
It’s a much bigger question than the one people ask day to day, the one no one ever means. Then, it’s a greeting. Now, Draco hears the entire question and opens his eyes, collecting his answer.
“It wasn’t a big one. It was a bad one, but not the worst. You saw the worst.”
Harry nods. His hand strokes lightly over Draco’s chest. Draco’s muscles try to unclench under the touch, and this time he lets them. He’s already twitched himself into the darkness and back. It hardly matters if Harry sees it again.
“Can you see alright?”
“Yes,” Draco sighs. “Yeah, Harry, I can see. And hear and feel and taste and speak. I’m a little tired. But I’m fine.”
“Good,” is the answer. Harry’s fingers sweep down and circle at his stomach, touching the soft skin of his belly. Draco looks at the ceiling and just feels it, the uncertainty and exploration of another’s hand against his flesh. He’s a bit colder than he’d like, but it is such a novel sensation on his seizure-sensitised body that he barely cares.
“How tired are you?” Harry’s voice comes again, somewhere very close to his ear. Draco shivers, and then rolls his eyes.
“Doing a study, are you?”
Harry’s hand slides down and sideways, cupping around his waist and squeezing him closer. Draco draws a deep, instinctive breath. His exhaustion rolls back like an ocean wave, leaving a shivery, tingling feeling in its wake.
“Exactly what are you doing, then?” he manages.
“Ever happened twice in a row before?” Harry mumbles against his neck, the smell of him in Draco’s nostrils. Draco swallows and clutches at Harry’s nape.
“No,” he whispers.
Harry raises his head and looks at him without speaking. When he leans down and catches Draco’s mouth in a demanding kiss, there is nothing left to say. Draco twines his arms around Harry and pulls them bodily together.
This time Harry does not rise above him, or get to his knees, or part the two of them in any way. His skin is hot and sweaty against Draco’s, their bodies pressed close. But this time there is no sense of being hunted, no deluge roiling beneath, waiting to flood up and over. Draco feels loosened, almost drunk. And yet everything feels sharper, as if he can see all the edges. As if everything actually has edges. Definition. Harry’s tongue touches his and draws back, and Draco tilts his head without thinking and finds him again, rising into the kiss and gasping back out of it. Harry’s eyes fix upon him. Draco is no longer irritated at the lamp’s light; it throws a glow over half of Harry’s face, golden and warm. He can see the contours of Harry’s lips, the almost-indefinable scar. Every eyelash.
A fleeting thought spins through his head: he understands the draw of Muggle photographs now, the still instant, eternal.
“What?” Harry breathes. Draco just shakes his head.
Gods… he’s aroused again, so quickly and so completely it’s frightening. And he has no idea what he’s going to do in the next few minutes. He can’t feel his constant companion lurking, waiting to stave off the things that follow, and for the first time since he’s had the seizures, he’s lost. Nervous. He runs his hands through Harry’s hair, gripping his head, urging the kisses deeper and more frantic, and his body is just going along, and then Harry breaks the kiss, a hand stroking Draco’s face, and bends his head further down.
Harry kisses the hollow just where Draco’s jaw meets his throat, a tender, lingering suckle. His hand leaves Draco’s face, sliding down over his throat and trailing across shoulder and side, ribs and hip, and finally…
Draco feels it all. He’s shivering, as if he is cold, it’s rolling over and through him with every brush of Harry’s lips and every tease of his fingers. Harry breathes deeply and unsteadily, his gaze ever moving over Draco’s face and down his body. Draco can feel the room’s air on the sweat at his own throat and over his chest. He can feel Harry’s heat, close up against him, hovering above. Harry’s lips are soft, his hand is firm, stroking between Draco’s legs, and his gaze is intent. He kisses like he’s found a wellspring, and there is always movement, always. Harry never seems to grow still.
Draco arches into it, gasps with it, and doesn’t want Harry to grow still. Under it all, like some skulking creature, is the fear that his seizure will return and rip through all of this. Take it away from him.
Draco squeezes his eyes shut and feels the difference pulling at his insides, Harry’s steady, deliberate strokes coaxing it up and up. It’s merely a touch, and yet it is sending him over faster than any amount of anything he’s done before. Draco sucks in more air, feeling his control begin to wane, but there is no shudder of seizure this time. Just Harry, and what he’s easing free in Draco’s body. It spikes through him very suddenly, shoving his lungs shut and his eyes open, and Draco’s muscles all clench at once, and he comes. Harry’s hand continues to move, excruciating and unrelenting, until Draco can do nothing but ride it and gasp out Harry’s name, and hope that it is coherent.
And then he’s in for another surprise, exhausted and still shaking, as he feels Harry’s breathing slip into ragged, as Harry’s hand leaves him, as Harry kisses him messily on the mouth and says his name quite clearly, and then comes as well. It’s the helpless shuddering that does it, that guides Draco’s arms up around Harry’s back, one hand pressing Harry’s face to his own throat, wrapping him in a hug as his shivers fade.
Harry stirs, a soft sound making its way to Draco’s ear. It’s not the motion of restlessness, but rather of the need to move, to check oneself. Harry’s leg tightens around Draco’s waist and pulls him closer, until they are locked together again, heaving across tousled sheets.
Draco wakes to a soft glow beyond closed eyelids. He is on his side, sunken deliciously into a mattress and blanketed by layers of sheet and quilt. The room is cool; the air smells of his home.
He opens his eyes and becomes aware of steady heat wrapped round his hand. Draped over his side, in fact. An arm, a hand, with skin darker than his.
His mind already offers a sense memory for the sigh at his ear. A face and a scent.
Draco finds his head unfogged, dusted clean of the steady, familiar after-ache. He discovers his body sore in other places. He finds Harry wrapped— arms, hands, and legs— around him. Deep breathing at his back tells him that Harry is still asleep. Draco lifts his free hand and touches the tips of his fingers to the back of Harry’s wrist, gliding over the skin there and the firm contour of bone.
Harry gives another more restless sigh, and Draco feels the beginnings of a gentle quake under his hand, against his body. Steady, and growing. He remembers. He knows, as if he’s always known, that Harry is waking. That he always wakes like this.
The shuddering grows more pronounced. Harry’s hand shakes, loosening from its perch atop Draco’s. A jittery gasp sounds. Draco can feel the quaking of Harry’s whole body against his back. He sees Harry’s fingers twitch, and then the man’s breathing alters, a quick inhalation. Harry is awake.
The hand in Draco’s grasp attempts to pull away, but Draco closes his fingers around it and holds on. Harry stills, only the constant shivering making itself known.
“It’s alright,” Draco murmurs, not planning it. Harry breathes quietly against the nape of his neck for almost a minute, and Draco lets himself feel the strange trembling, the quivering of what has always been so steady. He recalls Harry’s staggering fall into his chair just after the first time he revealed the reality of his life to Draco, how much it took out of him to wade through his spasms. It’s a gift, this single, silent moment, and Draco knows it. Knows that it is not what Harry is used to. Finally he exhales and releases Harry’s hand. Harry draws it away and fumbles for something.
The silvery spell drifts into Draco’s view, glittery like snow. He can see it vanishing against his own skin, against the sheets and blankets. Harry’s shaking stops. The hand returns, slipping over Draco’s side again and back into place beneath his fingers.
“I don’t mind, Harry,” he murmurs. For a second, Harry remains still. Then his fingers squeeze Draco’s.
“How do you feel?” Harry’s voice is raspy and unsteady in uncertainty. Draco turns over, half afraid to sense his own clinging, incorporeal Other companion there in the room with them. But there is only Harry.
“I’m good,” Draco whispers softly, touching fingertips to Harry’s face.
He can’t stop looking at the man’s deep, warm eyes.
Twenty years later
The morning is waning. Draco wakes gradually, one second at a time, to comforting yellow light shining against the room’s walls. He stretches his arms over light green sheets and feels his muscles loosen, each with a slight shiver. The bed is delectably warm; the down quilt lies heavily over his shoulders, trapping heat. Draco groans, knowing it will take work to get up this morning.
But he manages it.
The way the house smells tells him the French doors are open and the wind is blowing. He can see the water-ripple of clouds passing quickly overhead. It flickers on the floor and up the walls of the hallway, leaving blue shadows to follow.
Draco has a small headache, just behind his brow. Today he’ll have a seizure, a mild one. It will last for under fifteen seconds, and it will make it difficult to see for the rest of the day. But it won’t happen until mid-afternoon.
His shoulders feel a bit sore, and he cocks his elbows over his head one after another until the tendons stretch. Harry is outside, working on the plots of flowers in the east corner of the yard. The scent of fresh dirt lingers; he’s been down the hallway already this morning on quiet, bare feet, a quick trip to the loo or to retrieve a jumper from the closet. Draco is willing to bet it’s the one with the holes in the right side, down near the hem.
Draco takes the stairs at an easy lope and kicks aside the trainers left on the floor, a little too far from the front door. He’ll have to get Harry to pick them up later. Now, he can smell chamomile, and knows that Harry has set out his tea.
He makes his way past the French doors, which are indeed open, creaking in the wind, and heads into the kitchen. The earth-brown pot with the aged paint sits steaming on the table next to his mug. Draco pours the tea into it and settles into one of the chairs with a sigh, rubbing his forehead and reaching for the small glass bottle in the middle of the table near the salt and pepper shakers. Five drops. Draco takes the mug up in both hands and blows steam away.
He slept well last night, strangely enough. There are only one or two nights a month that he is usually restless. Harry had the lights set low for him by half six; Draco found his way up to the bath and floated for a long while in warm water before heading to bed early. He felt Harry’s arrival through a dream-fog— the shaking tends to give him away— and turned toward it, as he always does. And slept.
Harry leaves his spell off most nights. The shaking is so mild now that Draco barely even feels it. He knows he is used to it, and that Harry is used to him being used to it. But Harry’s nervous system, despite getting older, has shown its resilience admirably. The toll on his body is not nearly as great as it has been in the past, the spell less and less necessary, except in public. He quakes just enough to remind them both that he is Harry Potter.
The herbs out in the yard tinge the air in the kitchen with sweet scents. Draco has bottles in the bathroom, vials in the kitchen cabinets, flasks in the pantry. It’s been a long two decades. But Harry has Draco’s schedule down to a fine art: the calendar is marked, the appropriate tinctures ingested, and Draco has had Harry every way possible in every room in the house, as many times as they desire.
Sex is no longer a trigger. Now Draco decides on his triggers, determines his own dates of seizure and their severity, and sticks carefully to the routine and diet that allow him that luxury.
It is simple, easier than one would think. It’s a good life.
Draco yawns, drinks his tea, and settles his gaze out the kitchen window. Harry is crouched down next to the mint leaves now, his back warmed by the sun, dark hair silvering a little at the tips. His hands tremble— barely noticeable, as he touches the leaves and tugs some free to crush between his fingers.
He might induce his seizure early this afternoon, Draco thinks candidly. Just after lunch, perhaps, when the headache peaks and begins to drop. It’s going to be a breezy night, and he’d like to feel it over naked skin, on the couch with the French doors open and Harry draped over him and around him and in him. Blurry vision won’t make a difference; he’ll take Harry’s glasses off early on, and then they’ll be even.
~=~ fin ~=~