Title – Finite Incantatum
Rating – NC-17
Genre – Drama/Romance
Pairing – H/D
Chapter – 13
Warnings – Language, snogging, violence, hand jobs, oral sex.
Summary – What should have happened after Half Blood Prince! It’s the autumn after Dumbledore’s death, the Death Eaters are steadily gaining power, and Harry and his friends are desperate to find the remaining Horcruxes. But then Draco Malfoy arrives at Grimmauld Place, traumatised, starved and drained of all his magical ability. It falls to Harry to show the Slytherin how to adapt to his new way of life, never guessing that Draco has a few things to teach him in return.
Disclaimer – I don’t own the boys, they belong to Ms Rowling. The chapter title loosely translates as ‘Through hardships to the stars’. Done for fun, not profit!
Chapter 13: Per Aspera Ad Astra
Harry loved losing himself in the dark with Draco. It felt as if they could forget who they were, erase the past, and just be two people who lived only to give each other pleasure. Draco could make him dizzy, frantic even, with lust. Everything about the other boy was desirable; why had he never realised it before now? And it felt so good to be desired by someone like Draco, to have the same person who had always shown such evidence of hate towards Harry suddenly take delight in making him feel good. And Harry loved making Draco feel good too. It was exciting to slowly break him down, to take this boy, who had always been so proud and frigid, so sure of his self-control, and turn him into a sweaty, trembling mess in Harry’s arms, who begged him not to stop whatever he was doing.
Like right now. It was a couple of hours since Bellatrix had left them and, despite the gravity of their situation, the boys had realised that there was only one way they wanted to spend what could be their last night.
Draco’s kisses were almost feverish in their desperation. Harry felt himself becoming overwhelmed by the other boy’s passion; it was almost too much for him to bear. Draco’s fingers were twined painfully in his hair, and, while Harry didn’t exactly want him to stop, he had the urge to hurt the other boy too. He dug his fingernails into Draco’s back, hoping that it would leave marks on that flawless, silky skin. Draco didn’t seem to mind. He let out a low growl of desire and pulled Harry’s hair all the harder. Harry couldn’t breathe, slightly overwhelmed by an intensity of sensation he had never experienced before. He turned his face slightly to suck on Draco’s neck, gasping for breath as he did so.
They were thrusting desperately against each other. It was painfully frustrating, desiring each other this much. Harry desperately wanted to go further. He wanted to consume Draco, or be consumed by him. I want to fuck him, he thought, slightly shocked by the purely visceral nature of his thoughts. With Ginny, his desires had always been focussed on ‘making love’, but there were no remnants of that nobler feeling here. Draco was pure sex.
It would be so easy to do it. It would be so easy to go all the way, here in the darkness; to give in to their desires. He knew that Draco would be easily persuaded. Only one thing held Harry back: he knew that to give in now would be to admit defeat. After all, he had just sworn to Draco a couple of hours ago that they would have sex when they got out. And, even though Harry’s old doubts concerning Sirius were beginning to creep back in, he couldn’t give up now. He had to have faith.
Draco whined softly in frustration. “Harry…”
“I know,” Harry muttered, his voice strained. “I… hold on…”
“We can’t; not yet. When we’re… here, move back a bit.” He fumbled in the darkness, undoing their trousers and awkwardly tugging them down over their hips. “Here, it’ll… feel better. Come here.”
“Just a sec,” Draco panted. “I have to…” He wriggled himself out of his trousers, kicking them away from him. He then tugged Harry’s jeans down until they were around his knees.
“Draco, we… we can’t yet…”
“I know, I… I just need… Ahh…”
Draco had straddled Harry’s hips, bringing their groins into breathtaking contact. Harry whimpered as Draco began grinding their hips together in delicious circles. He pulled Draco down again, kissing him aggressively, digging his fingers into Draco’s tight arse. It felt so exquisitely good to have Draco’s hard cock pressed up against his own through the thin fabric of their underwear, to feel Draco’s desire focussed so completely on him. Their movements became violent, aggressive even, in their lust for one another.
Draco was almost sobbing. He moved frantically on top of Harry, trying to touch every part of him at once, frustrated that he couldn’t get closer, urgently rubbing himself against the Gryffindor in an attempt to allay the fire raging between them. Harry was overwhelmed once more. He found that he couldn’t move; all he could do was hold onto Draco, ground him, stop him from losing them both in this frenzy of desire. He realised that he was moaning softly, helpless under the little arrows of fiery pleasure Draco was sending through his body.
“Harry,” Draco panted against his neck. “So long… you have no idea… oh God…”
Harry shuddered. “Yes… ah… want you…” He thrust his hips up against Draco, loving the sensations he was experiencing, yet desperately needing to bring them to a climax.
Draco’s orgasm caught him slightly by surprise. One moment he was still grinding his hips frantically, and then he was crying out hoarsely, shaking uncontrollably as he came against Harry’s hip. The sensation of Draco clenching and pulsing on top of him brought Harry to his own climax. It felt like falling backwards, falling apart, falling into Draco. Harry clung onto the other boy as if his life depended on it. It hurt him to feel so good; he hated the thought that it would have to end, and that they would have to go back to their horrible reality.
Draco collapsed on top of him, and Harry weakly linked his arms around the Slytherin’s waist. The sweat that was starting to cool off on his body was making him shiver. Having said that… having said that, Harry was sure that their cell was warmer than it had been. His eyes fluttered open. He may have just been imagining it, but there seemed to be a faint, untraceable glow in the room. He remembered reading something about magic being released by witches and wizards during sexual encounters. Was this it? Was he unwittingly releasing his pent-up magic through getting off with Draco? He wondered vaguely if they could use this in order to break the magical barriers, thinking at the same time that it would be a little awkward for them to shag their way out of there. How on earth would they explain that one?
Draco groaned sleepily and rolled off Harry. Harry found his hand in the darkness and gave it a little squeeze, which made the Slytherin laugh softly. “Ugh,” he said. “I’m all sticky. It’s at times like this that we could really do with a wand.”
“Or at least a towel,” Harry added.
Draco sighed and snuggled up to him, resting his head on Harry’s shoulder. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you for making the last couple of days so nice. I’m sorry it has to end so soon.”
Harry didn’t say anything. He wanted so desperately to believe that Sirius was right and that they would escape, but his faith was ebbing away. He honestly couldn’t see how they would. He just hoped that Ron and Hermione would be able to finish what he had started, that his death wouldn’t make Voldemort’s triumph absolute.
“I hope they kill me first,” Draco said quietly. I don’t want to see you die. I feel like if you’re still there when I die, I won’t feel quite so bad. I’ll feel like there’s still some hope. Without you… I don’t even want to think about that.”
“Don’t say that,” Harry said. “I don’t want to see you die.” He pulled Draco even closer, feeling how surreal it was to be here, holding his lover, when in just a few hours they would be torn apart forever.
“Let’s stay awake tonight,” Draco whispered. “If this is our last together, I don’t want to spend it asleep. Can you… can you just hold onto me? Say nice things to me, things I want to hear, even if it isn’t true. And try to forget about the past. Please try to forget all the things I’ve done to hurt you. Just know that I love you. And always have, in my own fucked-up way.”
“Of course,” Harry whispered. “I’ve already forgiven you everything, you know. You don’t need to worry about that any more…”
Harry wanted exactly what Draco wanted – to stay together in the darkness, whispering nice things to each other, blocking out both the past and the future. Even so, his rebellious body refused to acknowledge his will. He could feel his eyelids growing ever heavier. He was so tired; they had hardly had any food, and the combination of stress and sexual exertion they had undergone over the last couple of days meant that their energy was seriously depleted. He felt the other boy jump occasionally, each time he pulled himself back from sleep. So frustrating, this dreadful somnolence. But… but sleep was so inviting, and it was so comfortable, lying here with Draco…
Harry finally surrendered, and had just started to dream a confused, disjointed dream, when something jolted him awake again. Someone was approaching their prison, it was so quietly he could scarcely hear it, but he was convinced of it nonetheless. He felt Draco go tense in his arms: he was aware of it too. They sprang apart without a word.
“It’s him,” Draco whispered. “It’s over. Oh my God, where the hell are my trousers? If I have to die, I’m not having the added indignity of doing so in my pants.”
They scrabbled to restore their clothes, their insides squirming with fear.
The door to the cellar opened quietly, and a small, cloaked figure slipped inside. Harry felt his chest deflate once again. It wasn’t Voldemort. It was really too cruel, constantly having to steel their nerves like this; he wondered dully whether, when the dark wizard actually did condescend to show up, he wouldn’t actually be relieved just to get it over and done with.
The stranger threw her hood back to reveal a pale face, paler than Draco’s even, and long blonde hair that glinted in the moonlight. She stepped towards them tremulously, her mouth tense, her eyes glittering with fear.
Draco made a small, strangled noise. “Mum?” he whispered hoarsely.
Narcissa Malfoy cleared the space between them in two steps, and it looked as if she was about to throw her arms around her son’s neck, but something made her hold back at the last minute. She cautiously raised her hand and touched her fingertips lightly to his cheek. “Draco…”
Draco swallowed and clenched his jaw, struggling to master his emotions. “Mother… what… what are you doing here? How did you—”
“Draco, we don’t have much time,” she replied, her voice low and urgent. “We only found out you were here by accident, and I can’t afford for the others to know that I was here. I’m going to get you out.” She reached into her robe and pulled out a small, crumpled playing card – the ace of hearts. “This is a Portkey. It’s going to activate in one minute, and it will take you far away from here. Here,” she pressed a package into his hand. “Here’s some Muggle money. You can use it to get out. Leave the country – go and stay with your uncle in France. Quickly!”
Draco stared at her in shock. “I… you’ve really done this? I thought you wouldn’t want me any more after…”
Narcissa looked briefly as if she was about to cry, but quickly regained her customary control. “You are my son,” she said steadily. “Nothing in this world can change that.”
“But what are you going to do? What if they find out what you’ve done?”
“They’ll kill me. But I don’t want you to worry about that – I’ll be very careful. Now quickly! Take the card and go!”
Draco paused. “Harry’s coming too,” he said quietly.
Narcissa, who had not yet acknowledged Harry’s presence in the room, now looked between him and her son with incomprehension. “What are you talking about? I couldn’t possibly let Potter go – your loss they might forgive, but not his.”
Draco looked as if he was waging a silent war within himself.
“Draco, it’s okay,” Harry said, affecting a bravado he certainly did not feel. “It’s okay. Your mum’s right – you should go. Don’t worry, I’ll be okay.”
Draco didn’t look at him. “I’m not leaving without him,” he said, looking at his mother with agonised eyes. “Please, I… I can’t.”
“Draco, I’ll be—”
“Shut up, Harry!” Draco hissed. “You know I can’t. Mother, please.”
Narcissa’s eyes grew a little wider as she looked between the two boys. “I see…” she whispered. “Draco, I…” She sighed sadly. “Oh, all right. Both of you. I’ll try and cover up as best I can.”
“Come with us!” Draco said urgently. “I’m not going to just leave you here with them. They’ll kill you if they find out it was you.”
She gave him a weary smile. “Draco, your father is here – I have to stay. He wouldn’t be able to cope on his own, and they would destroy him. My place is at his side.”
“Draco, please! You know what I have to do. I will do all I can to keep us alive, but… but my priority is first to protect my son, and then my husband.”
Draco was close to tears. “Mum, please don’t…”
“Don’t start that, Draco. Remember that you’re a man now. Get the hell out of here and live your life; forget everything that’s happened. Forget what we taught you. Quickly, that thing’s going to activate! Take Potter, if you must, and go.”
Draco grabbed Harry roughly by the arm and pulled him close, holding out the playing card so that Harry could take hold of it as well.
“Potter,” Narcissa said suddenly. “Keep him safe for me.”
Harry looked into her resolute, pale face, not quite sure what to say. She was risking her life by doing this. He was under no illusions that she would never have granted him such clemency if it wasn’t for Draco’s intervention, but he was unspeakably grateful all the same. He just had time to give her a small nod, before the Portkey took effect and he and Draco were whisked away, shoulders bumping together painfully, to who knew what kind of freedom.
The boys came down hard, and their shaking legs buckled beneath them. Harry lay on the cold ground for a few moments, enjoying the feeling of the cool dew against his skin. The night was so blissfully quiet. His hand clenched around the now redundant playing card. It had all happened so fast, he could scarcely believe it. He hadn’t had time to think, or even react properly to what had happened. One minute they were curled up together in their dingy cell, and now… well, who knew?
Draco coughed painfully beside him. This was real. They had escaped, and they were here, and they were together. Sirius had been right, Harry realised with a rush of happiness. He had escaped, and it had all been because he had Draco with him. Everything made perfect sense now. He pushed himself off the ground and turned to the other boy jubilantly.
Draco looked devastated. “They’re going to kill her,” he said wretchedly. “Why the hell didn’t she just come with us? We could have planned how to get Father out of there together. Why did I let her do it? Why did I just stand there like a fucking idiot and let her send me away without her?”
Harry didn’t know what to say. He realised, rather shamefully, that he hadn’t given a thought to the fact that Draco would be upset about his mum. Of course he had known that Narcissa had put her life at risk to help them, but he hadn’t really felt it. He had been too preoccupied with the excitement of getting out to really think about the consequences. But this was Draco’s mother, and she was probably going to die. The Death Eaters, for the most part, were not stupid – they were going to figure out what had happened. His heart ached for the other boy and what he must be feeling.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “Draco, you should have just left me there. She was right – if you’d left me they might not have cared so much.”
“Oh, shut up, Harry!” Draco shouted. “Do you honestly think that’s going to make me feel better, you being all self-sacrificial? Fuck!” He beat his fist against the cold ground. “You think that would help? Having two people on my conscience instead of one? Just… just learn when to shut the fuck up, okay?”
Draco got to his feet and turned away from Harry, arms wrapped tightly around himself.
Harry got up to join him, his lack of nourishment causing his head to spin a little. He stood next to the other boy, looked at Draco’s face which was all crooked with pain, and realised how far apart they really were. He didn’t even know Draco. He had no idea what the other boy was going through, what Draco’s relationship with his family was like. He had always thought that the Malfoys were only bound together through their blood, and that there was little actual love or affection to bind them together, but… perhaps he had been wrong. Perhaps he really didn’t know anything about Draco at all. And the maddening thing was that Draco always seemed to know exactly what Harry himself was thinking at any given moment. He may not always agree with him, but he implicitly understood the Gryffindor – it had been what had attracted Harry to him in the first place. But was it just one-sided? There had been prisms of clarity, moments when Harry had felt that connection, had felt that he could finally hold Draco down, know him, understand him. But those moments always seemed to shimmer away.
They had been so intimate, just a couple of hours ago. Of course Harry had always known that physical closeness did not necessarily entail knowing a person well – even he wasn’t that naive – but it seemed strange to him nonetheless. He had felt that he had grown close to Draco over the last few days, but it struck him how much he still had to learn about the other boy. He wasn’t even sure now whether he ought to touch Draco, and touching was one of the things he had thought he was so sure of in their relationship.
He tentatively reached out and brushed his fingers against Draco’s arm. The other boy didn’t move away, but he still sulkily refused to look at Harry. Harry wondered whether he ought to just leave Draco on his own for a bit. He shifted his feet awkwardly. He wished he knew what it was that Draco wanted from him, what he could do to make things just a little bit better.
“Harry,” Draco said at last, “could you please stop standing there like a plum?”
“What do you want me to do?” Harry asked quietly.
Draco sighed. “At the risk of sounding like a complete girl, do I really have to tell you everything?” He glanced up at Harry, then sighed wearily, wincing slightly with embarrassment. “What I need, Potter, is for you to not try and say something to make me feel better. Nothing will. The only way you can help, even slightly, is by holding me for a bit. I can’t believe I’m actually having to tell you this, and if you ever mention it again, I will kick you in the balls.”
“Right,” Harry said uncomfortably. “Um…”
“Oh!” Harry pulled him into an awkward hug.
As he held Draco, Harry felt them both start to relax a little. This, at least, they knew. This they were good at. He rubbed his hand slowly over Draco’s back, aware of how thin they had both grown.
Harry finally took the time to take in his surroundings. They were standing in some kind of bleak, remote landscape. The sun had not yet risen, but there was a greyish light on the horizon by which Harry could make out the scrubby grass around them, and a small road a couple of feet away, only wide enough for one car. He wasn’t even sure what country they might be in, and had no idea how they were going to get home.
“Draco,” he whispered, “we need to get going. We need to find some sort of town. We don’t know how long we’ve got before they realise we’ve gone, and I don’t know if Portkeys can be traced. Do… do you still have the money your mum gave you?”
Draco sniffed and nodded.
“Okay, well that should help. If we can get to some kind of civilisation then we might stand a chance of getting back home before they catch up with us.”
Draco pulled away from him. “You’re right; let’s go. This place is freaking me out anyway. Besides, I’d kill for a sandwich.”
Harry peered at the other boy through the gloom, and saw that Draco had drawn back into himself again. “I’m sorry about that,” he said. “I didn’t mean to get all…”
“It’s okay. I mean, your mum’s just—”
“It’s fine,” Draco interrupted, his voice hard and controlled. “We don’t have to talk about it any more. Let’s just… let’s just get out of here. It’s freezing.”
“All right,” Harry said cautiously, seeing that there was no point in trying to pursue any further intimacy just then. “Um… I guess if we head in that direction?”
Draco nodded. “Sure, whatever. If we follow the road we’re bound to reach a town sooner or later.” He set off, as if by moving he could escape from his own thoughts, and Harry had to break into a jog to catch up with him.
They walked quickly, partly due to the cold, and partly because they could. For the first time in days, they were able to walk and breathe fresh air; they were free. Harry didn’t want to let himself really believe it just yet, because he was frightened that it all might be an illusion. It felt like the faster they walked, the sooner they got somewhere where they might meet other people, the more chance there was that it was real.
The stars were going out. The sky had turned a steely grey colour, and Harry was beginning to make out misty hills on the horizon. It was bitterly cold.
He sneaked a glance at Draco. He wanted to ask the other boy if he was holding up, but he didn’t quite dare to. Draco had that intense look in his eye – the same look he had had for most of their last year at Hogwarts – and Harry knew that he had to tread carefully. Never the most tactful of people, he guessed that it would probably be wiser to say nothing than run the very great risk of saying the wrong thing and making the blond angry with him.
Even so… he wished there was some way he could let Draco know that he cared. It was difficult. If it had been Ginny, he would have reached out to hold hands. But would Draco want to hold hands, or would he think it was silly? Did boys even hold hands? It occurred to Harry that he really had no idea of the etiquette involved with being involved with another man. He had never been that good at being in a relationship with a girl, but at least he had some idea there. Social convention was geared towards heterosexuality – the basic guidelines were more or less drilled into you as you grew up. And this… well, he knew how to get on with boys, and now he knew how to get off with them, but what about all the stuff in between? How was he supposed to work out how to be in a relationship with a boy, which included both friendship and sex, but also a whole lot more? More to the point, were he and Draco even in an actual relationship? They hadn’t discussed anything like that and—
“Look!” said Draco, interrupting Harry’s reverie. He was pointing ahead, where a church steeple could just be made out over the next hill. “We’re nearly there! Wherever ‘there’ is.” Draco’s voice was cracking with exhaustion.
Harry realised that they must have been walking for at least an hour. The road had widened out, and the sky was a milky white colour; it was close to dawn. Harry’s limbs were aching, and his brain felt like it was filled with lead. Finally there was an end in sight. He found the courage to reach out and gently squeeze Draco’s hand. He heard the other boy’s breath catch a little, and then he slowly returned the pressure. The moment was so fragile; Harry could feel his heart beating pathetically. It was so stupid to feel nervous about this when he had all but had sex with Draco not that long ago. There had been nothing scary about that, so what the hell was wrong with him now? They were only holding hands.
Harry heard the sound of an approaching car, and instinctively pulled away. He cursed himself immediately – so what if someone saw them holding hands? They weren’t doing anything wrong, so what was he afraid of? He glared bitterly at the car as it passed them. The moment was gone. It had been a tentative attempt at… at something more than merely sexual intimacy, and now Harry had spoiled it because he had been stupid enough to feel uncomfortable.
“There’s a sign up ahead,” Draco announced suddenly.
Harry glanced at him. Draco had become remote again; his mouth looked hard and a little angry. He must have been hurt by what had just happened, and Harry’s stomach twisted with guilt to see it. He wanted to apologise for being so stupid, but he wasn’t sure how.
“ ‘Welcome to Staveley,’” Draco read out. “Well, I guess that means we’re still in England. Any idea where in England Staveley might be?”
“None at all,” Harry replied, trying his best to sound as if everything was normal and he hadn’t just acted as if he was ashamed to be seen with Draco.
They were passing cottages now, and a couple more cars went past. Harry figured that if they made their way into the centre of town there were bound to be people about by now who could advise them on how to get back to London. There might even be somewhere where they could buy some food.
“Where are we going?” Draco asked. “I mean, once we find out where we are… where are we heading to?”
“Well, we’re going back to London, aren’t we?”
Draco looked at him cautiously. “Yeah… you do realise that’s the first place they’ll be looking for us, don’t you?”
Harry hadn’t thought of that. He had been so caught up in the idea of getting back to the Order and letting everyone know he was okay that he had completely forgotten that the Death Eaters had an idea now where the headquarters were. They might even be lying in wait there already for all he knew. Besides, he thought with a further wave of guilt, Draco’s mum had wanted him to leave the country. She had risked her life so that her son would be able to get out of danger – it would be no way to thank her by wandering back into Voldemort’s hands again.
“You should do what your mum said,” Harry told the other boy quietly. “You should get as far away from here as possible. Go to your family in France and wait there till it’s safe again.”
“What about you?”
“I have to go back to the Order,” Harry said, even as his insides shrank at the thought. It made him feel strangely empty to think of being without Draco now. It made him feel like the world would be a flat, grey place one again.
“Harry, you can’t!” Draco protested. “You’ll get yourself killed! Look, why the hell is this your responsibility anyway? I know he killed your parents, and… and you’re Gryffindor’s heir and all that, but you don’t have to fight this fight. You were the one who was telling me about the freedom to choose, remember? Don’t let them use you any more – come away with me! We could go somewhere safe, away from… away from everyone… and just be together where no one can hurt us. Please, I can’t just let you go back there on your own, not now.”
Harry stopped and looked at the other boy. “Don’t tempt me,” he said, trying to ignore the pleading look in Draco’s eyes. “You have no idea how much I want to. I wish I could run away with you, and forget my duties and responsibilities, and just be a normal seventeen-year-old boy. But I can’t. I can’t do it to them, to all those people who are relying on me.”
“You don’t owe them anything!” Draco said. “They didn’t treat you so well when You Know Who first came back, did they? Why can’t you just let them pay the consequences?”
“Because I can’t,” Harry said wearily. “I couldn’t live with myself. Besides, fate would catch up with me in the end. I could run away, but V- You Know Who would find me. If I don’t take a stand now, who knows what damage he’ll do, how much more power he’ll gain? And by that time it’ll be too late. No, I have to go back and face it.” He swallowed. “Go to France, go somewhere safe, and if… and when things get better, I’ll come and find you. I promise.”
“No,” Draco replied stubbornly. “Oh, fuck you, Harry! Why did you have to do this to me? Why do you have to be such a fucking Gryffindor all the time?” He ran his fingers through his hair and turned away in frustration. “You might be able to leave me, but I can’t leave you. I couldn’t leave you back there, and I’m not going to now either. I’m not letting you go back there on your own. If you must go back to London, then you’re going to have to take me too.”
“But, Draco, your mum said—”
“I know!” Draco looked for a moment as if he was about to hit him. “Don’t you dare throw that in my face! Don’t you think I’ve realised what my mother has risked for my sake? Don’t you think it kills me to just run back into danger again, when she told me not to? I’m not exactly the self-sacrificial type, you know! Oh, fuck you! Just try to understand that I can’t leave you now. And not just because I need you to help me cope as a Squib, and not just because I’m afraid of being alone, but because…”
“You boys all right?” a voice said behind them.
They turned to see a middle aged man standing a few feet away, wearing wellington boots and a thick duffle coat. He was looking at them curiously, taking in their unkempt appearance and their obvious state of high emotion with a suspicious glance.
Harry took a deep breath, trying to appear as normal as possible. “Oh, yes, um… we were hiking yesterday and we got lost. We’re trying to get our bearings again. Um, I don’t suppose you could tell us… well, whereabouts are we?”
The man frowned. “You’re in Staveley.”
Harry grinned foolishly. “Oh, ha, right. Um… I don’t suppose there’s somewhere we could get some food, is there? We’ve been lost all night, and… well, we’re pretty hungry.”
The man gave them another suspicious look. There’s a local store in town. I’m going that way myself. You’re Southerners, I take it?” He said this with a slight tone of contempt. “You shouldn’t have gone out hiking on your own if you don’t know the area.” He set of down the road, and the boys trotted to keep up.
Harry laughed awkwardly. “No, it… it was pretty stupid. Um, what’s the nearest big town from here?”
“That’d be Kendal.”
“I know Kendal!” Draco said suddenly, breaking his silence. “That’s in the Lake District!”
The man looked at him oddly. “You boys been drinking?”
“Er… well, a bit I suppose,” Harry said, feeling increasingly uncomfortable. “It was a bit stupid. Um… we just really need to get home.” He desperately wished for his wand; they weren’t exactly being low-profile, and he would have dearly loved to perform a memory charm on their guide.
The man sniffed and pointed down the street. “There’s the store. It’ll open at seven-thirty, so you don’t have long to wait. Bus stop is over the road – there’s one going to Kendal every half hour. And be more careful in future.”
“We will,” Harry said quickly. “And thank you so much for helping us.”
The man grunted and ambled away down the street in the opposite direction.
“I’m sorry,” Draco said. “I… I just said it without thinking. I guess I’m not too good at fitting in with… with these people.”
“Muggles? No, well, it’ll come in time. Don’t worry about it; at least we know where we are now. Hey, it looks like there’s someone opening up that shop!” A youngish woman had unlocked the door and was putting a stand outside which displayed the day’s papers.
Draco reached inside his jacket. “Here, you take the money – I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.”
Harry took the thick envelope and glanced inside. “Bloody hell, Draco, there must be hundreds of pounds in here! Shit, if someone saw this, they’d think we’ve robbed a bank or something!”
Draco shrugged. “Well, my family isn’t exactly hard up. You reckon it’ll be enough to get us both back?”
“More than enough. We’d better be careful though; like I said, we don’t want to arouse the suspicion that we’re criminals or anything. The last thing we need is to get arrested.” He took two ten pound notes out of the packet and handed the rest back to Draco. “Keep that safe – we can get more out as we need it. Come on, let’s get this over with.”
He crossed the road to the shop, Draco following at his heels, and pushed open the door. A bell tinkled somewhere inside. Harry could smell fresh bread, and his insides ached with hunger.
“Oh, Merlin…” Draco sighed. Harry turned to see him eying the sweets lined up in front of the counter longingly. “Harry, Muggles have proper chocolate, right?”
Harry smiled in spite of himself. “Yeah, they do.”
The young woman reappeared through a door at the back. “Good morning!” she said with a warm smile. “Sorry about that, I was just sorting the veg. What can I do for you?”
Harry smiled with relief. It was so nice to find someone prepared to be friendly. “Well, we know it’s early, but we were hoping to get something to eat. See, we were hiking, and we got lost, and—”
“Oh, you poor things!” the woman interrupted. “It’s very easy to get lost in the hills if you don’t know the area. Even my husband loses his way sometimes, and he’s been here for fifteen years!” She gestured towards the side of the shop where there were a couple of little tables set out. “Sit down and have a rest. I’ll brew you up a pot of tea. And how about a couple of bacon butties?”
Harry could have wept with gratitude. “That sounds wonderful,” he said. “Thank you so much.”
She smiled warmly and disappeared out back again, and Harry collapsed into a chair beside Draco. They smiled at each other weakly, too tired and too relieved now even to worry about what was going to happen next. Even if it didn’t last, they were safe now and they were about to be fed, and Harry was starting to think that ‘now’ was all that mattered.
“Couldn’t we have just taken the Knight Bus?” Draco said, clinging to the seat in front of him as they swung round another corner. “I don’t trust these Muggle contraptions!”
And old lady a couple of seats away from them turned to look at them curiously, and Harry attempted a disarming smile. “I told you, the Knight Bus is too risky,” he muttered to Draco. “We need to keep a low profile, and who knows who else might be travelling. Come on, this is perfectly safe. Anyway, we must be nearly there – the woman at the store said it wouldn’t take longer than fifteen minutes.”
“Longest fifteen minutes of my life,” Draco muttered. “Anyway, even if we do survive the journey—” He winced as the bus went over a bump in the road. “Even if we make it to Kendal, what the hell are we going to do then?”
Harry shrugged. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I need to get out of these clothes. We’ll find a store and buy some new ones – get rid of these – and find a bathroom to change in. We’re less likely to be recognised that way. And then I guess we need to find the train station and get a couple of tickets back to London.” He looked at the other boy cautiously as he said this, but Draco was stubbornly gazing out of the window. Harry decided not to say anything. He hated the thought of Draco putting himself in danger when he didn’t need to, but couldn’t see any way of talking him out of it. Besides, there was a selfish part of him that didn’t want to talk Draco out of it. He wanted Draco with him now, at his side. He didn’t want to be alone any more.
Draco nudged him. “Get up, this is us.”
Harry hauled himself to his feet, and the two of them made their way along the aisle. Kendal was a nice place; at any other time Harry would have been happy to spend a bit of time there, but all he could think about was getting the both of them safely home. The Death Eaters would know that they were missing now, and Harry didn’t know how far they might be behind them.
Draco looked terrible. A little colour had returned to his cheeks since their breakfast, but his face was pinched and exhausted, and he looked as if he was making an effort not to cry. Harry badly wanted to reach out and touch him, but there were too many people around. “Come on,” he said, “there’s a Marks and Spencers over there – we’ll probably be able to get clothes from there.”
Draco wrinkled up his nose elegantly. “I don’t know, Harry; are you sure we couldn’t do a bit better?”
Harry looked at him incredulously. “No, I don’t! What, you think we’re going to find a high-end wizarding boutique around here? Draco, no offence, but you’re filthy. We’re wearing clothes that have endured three days of imprisonment, and we look a mess. Marks and Spencers is fine.”
Draco followed him across the street grudgingly. “I don’t like going into Muggle clothes shops,” he said. “I get this sense of impending doom. It must be something to do with the lighting, I guess. The ambiance is all wrong.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Draco, have you ever even been in a Muggle clothes shop?”
“No, of course not! Why would I?”
Harry looked at him incredulously. “You know, I’m not even going to try to untangle your system of logic.”
In spite of Draco’s sartorial pretensions, Harry ended up picking out their new clothes. He chose simple, nondescript items – jeans, sweaters and a couple of dark, hooded jackets. The less noticeable they were the better. Draco allowed him to deal with the payment again as well. Harry kept glancing anxiously at the other boy. He could bluff as much as he liked, but Harry could tell that Draco was at breaking point. If only they were alone again, Harry would be able to help fix it. He would be able to kiss his lover’s sulky mouth, hold him close, chase his demons away. But they weren’t alone, and Harry wondered if they ever really would be again. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
They found some public toilets which smelt strongly of stale urine in which to get changed.
“This is disgusting,” Draco said through the cubical wall. I’m scared to touch anything – I’d probably get hepatitis. Why are Muggle toilets always so… rabbity?”
Harry smiled to hear one of Draco’s little pet sayings. “Why do you say things are rabbity when you don’t like them?”
He almost heard the other boy shrug. “I don’t like rabbits. One bit me when I was little. Ugh, my hair is foul. I can’t wait till I can have a shower.”
Harry unlocked his cubical and stepped over to the sink to splash a bit of water on his face and remove the worst of the dirt. He looked almost as bad as Draco; his eyes were shadowed, and he needed a good shave. Besides which, his glasses were cracked. No wonder the man they had met that morning had looked so suspicious – they must have looked like a couple of druggies. At least the clean clothes helped a bit.
“Draco?” he called.
“I wish you weren’t involved in all this. I wish you were somewhere safe, but… I’m sorry, but...”
Draco was silent for a moment. “But what?”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t help being glad that you’re here with me.”
Draco had enjoyed the train, in spite of himself – Harry could tell. He had enjoyed some righteous indignation when he had found out how much their tickets were going to cost, he had enjoyed finding food supplies for their journey, and he had been very pleased with himself when he had figured out what platform they needed all by himself when they had had to change at Lancaster. It had given him something to do, taken him out of himself. And it made Harry feel even more guiltily glad that the other boy was there, that he didn’t have to do this all on his own. He remembered what Sirius had told him – keep that boy safe, he has a part to play in this. He believed in his godfather implicitly now, and he would follow his advice until the last. He would die before he let anything bad happen to Draco. Draco had chosen to be with Harry in spite of the danger, and Harry was not about to let him down.
Draco was sleeping now, exhaustion having finally caught up with him. Harry watched him, a fierce, protective bubble swelling in his chest. He couldn’t sleep himself in spite of his fatigue; they were on the train back to London, and Harry needed to be on the alert. He reached out and gently pulled Draco’s hood further up, covering his distinctive blond hair. Draco made a little noise and moved closer to Harry, resting his head on the Gryffindor’s shoulder.
Harry felt his pulse begin to quicken again, and almost laughed at how ridiculous he was being. This was nothing compared to everything they had done over the past couple of nights. Why was he nervous? Why was he suddenly so afraid of breaking these moments with the other boy? Crushing his nerves down, he took a deep breath and put his arm around Draco, pulling him into a more comfortable embrace. See, it was easy – nothing to worry about. He felt the corners of his mouth curl into a smile. This felt… nice.
They had been like that for some time, when a group of twenty-something Muggles walked past their seat, having boarded the train just north of the capital. Harry resisted the urge to pull away from Draco as they approached. They looked at the two boys askance, and Harry heard one of the men mutter, “Bloody queers. Can’t get away from them these days, can you?”
Harry’s felt a hot rush of anger, but he didn’t say anything. It wasn’t worth it. He pulled Draco closer, feeling glad that the other boy was asleep and hadn’t heard. He was shocked. It was stupid of course – he knew that attitudes like that existed. He remembered the stick Justin had got when he’d come out. Still… still, unfair as he had known it to be, it had never been aimed at him before, and that made all the difference. It was bloody unfair. He sighed fretfully and gazed out of the window. As if they didn’t have enough to deal with, without other people’s ignorant comments about things that were none of their bloody business…
The January evening was closing in, and the city of London sprawled ahead of them like a great, glittering spider crouched on the horizon, waiting to swallow them up. Harry steeled himself for what was to come. He didn’t know how they were going to get back to the Order, or how they would cope if the Death Eaters caught up with them. All he knew was that he had to protect Draco. As long as Draco was all right… that was all that mattered.