he has been waiting for so long that-
even the hourglass has faded-
The mood was calm and unruffled, but minute notes of apprehension still lingered listlessly in the air, unwilling to dissipate. The atmosphere was still and quiet, not a chirp or hoot could be detected. No cheerful moon hung in the night sky, no stars dared to sparkle on the most important night of Harry's life; it was as though someone up in the heavens had sprawled a black, thick blanket over the world.
The three of them sat together silently in Harry's living room, each fully aware of the fact that their mugs of tea had already gone cold and that it was time for Ron and Hermione to take their leave. Hermione slipped a hand under Harry's palm and rubbed the brunette's fingers in an affectionate gesture.
"We'll get going then," she said softly. Harry nodded tightly, but a quick shrug of his lips broke the tension on his face. Standing up and smoothing her skirt, the witch slid her fingers efficiently through the ears of their cups and padded towards the kitchen. Swishing her wand absently, the cups eased themselves out of her grasp, floated towards the sink and began to rinse themselves. After a few moments, Hermione flicked the water off the mugs, snapped open the nearby cupboard-
-and had to stifle a gasp.
At the first glimpse, it looked like a bouquet of roses. But when Hermione carefully took it out from its hiding place, she discovered that it wasn't flowers at all… they looked like… letters. A golden silk bow delicately held the multitude of parchment in place, along with two sheets of wispy, scarlet crepe paper that were liberally sprinkled with glitter. The bouquet was made up of roughly thirty letters. Each note was in a matching shade of violet and painstakingly folded into a rose, and Hermione gazed at the creation in wonder.
A finger gently traced the whorl and swirl of a paper rose, and Hermione knew that Harry had not used an ounce of magic on the letters. Smoothing out a wrinkle on the ribbon with her palm, Hermione cautiously replaced the bouquet in the cupboard, slotting it neatly between the numerous boxes of Draco's favorite breakfast cereal.
"You saw the letters?" Harry murmured when Hermione returned to the living room. Her cheeks colored, knowing that the letters were written by Harry and meant for Draco's eyes. Harry waved a hand airily and smiled slightly at her.
"It's alright. Do you… do you think they're nice?" he asked, a doubtful tone at the end. The brunette slid his glasses up the bridge of his nose messily and waited for Hermione's answer nervously.
"They're brilliant, Harry. How many of them have you done?"
"Around thirty bunches, all in different colors, scattered around the house for him to stumble on. It makes… things better when I write to him, it's like he's only going to be away for a short while," Harry explained haltingly, his voice low.
"You'll let us know what happens tomorrow, won't you, mate? Even if-" Ron cut himself off tactfully while they moved towards the Floo, but the trio could complete his sentence in their heads.
Even if he doesn't come out alive.
Harry looked at his two best friends who had been through thick and thin with him, the unfailing support that they had given him for the past five years when Draco, Draco- , and he suddenly felt a surge of affection overwhelm him.
"Thanks for… everything," he whispered hoarsely before enveloping both of them in an impulsive hug. They had spent the whole day with Harry today, and it had felt just like old times. Whenever Draco's birthday or Draco and Harry's anniversary had crawled around during the last few years, Ron and Hermione had refused to let Harry mope aimlessly at home. They had dragged him out, making time pass faster and numbing the pain that Harry felt, especially on those two days.
"It's going to be alright," Hermione said comfortingly. Harry replied by giving her a queasy smile in return. The witch bit her lip worriedly before stepping into the fireplace. Harry kept the grin on his face, but it slid off the minute the couple left.
Sighing, the 23-year-old trudged up the stairs to his and Draco's- bedroom. Harry shrugged off his clothes and pulled on a fresh pair of pyjamas. The brunette sat down heavily on the bed and rubbed his eyes wearily. He whispered a spell, and a large calendar, poised opposite his bed so that it was the first thing that he saw everyday when he woke up, flew towards him. Harry caught it deftly with one hand and stared at tomorrow's date, which was circled thickly with shimmering black marker, glowing like a glistening life-line at the end of a long, tired journey.
Tugging absently at his locks of black hair, Harry put the calendar aside and planted his elbows on his knees, his face buried in his hands as the years of complete misery that he had endured rose up in him like a nasty mirage.
For the first few months after Draco had left, Harry had pasted a crumbling smile on his lips while everyone around him tried to cheer him up. Harry had joked feebly along with them, while inside he disintegrated and died, trapped within his clear plastic bubble of a world, separated and disconnected from the events around him.
the way he left teardrops everywhere-
Harry's heart had been badly glued together, liable to fall apart with the merest mention of Draco. His life was divided between beforeazkaban and afterazkaban, and he was swallowed whole in the moments of his darkness that only Draco could break through, tangled in the madness of love, love that only Draco could give-
But slowly, gradually, Harry got used to the fact that Draco won't be there to hold him whenever Harry was cold during the nights, that he won't be able to wake up with Draco's warm body beside him, that Draco won't be the one doing the grocery shopping anymore. And with each looming year, the hollow, hopeless loneliness had grown, this pounding, familiar feeling that marred every aspect of his life, engulfing him like a stifling sometimes suffocating him- blanket. Whenever Harry saw other couples wrapped up in each other, their eyes whispering promises of foreverandever, it was like being stabbed over and over again with a sharpened, gleaming blade.
And then Harry learnt to box up the grief and longing, until all he could feel was the long, dragging pull that never goes, will never leave until they're allowed to be together-
"You make him out to be some sort of monster! He was sixteen, he didn't know what he was doing, you can't do this-"
"Draco Malfoy is a registered Death Eater-"
"He didn't do anything, even Narcissa Malfoy lied to Voldemort for me, don't you get it, they're not all bad-"
"Harry, it's going to be okay-"
"No it's not, Draco-"
"Enough! Please control yourself, Mr. Potter! Based on the accused's involvement in the Second Wizarding War, Draco Malfoy is hereby sentenced to five years in Azkaban."
"Draco! Draco, oh God, say something!"
Some days, Harry wasn't sure whether he should punch a wall or shed a tear.
Harry was consumed with prayers, haunted by this perpetual sense of uncertainty that gripped him like a claw, despondently stuck in limbo between the realms of ambitious, foolish hope, coupled with the certainty of the unhinged Draco will be okay, he'll be fine, he'll be released and we'll pick up from where we left off- and the sheer, cruel despair of it all, every what-if stinging and gnawing at him- no one has come out of Azkaban undamaged, what if he's dead, what if he's forgotten about us-
Letting his breath out in a huff, Harry relaxed his tense muscles and leaned back into the bed. He closed his eyes, and very slowly, like a handicapped patient learning how to walk again, Harry let each memory that shone so clearly in his mind overwhelm him and pull his senses into the heavenly whirl of Draco.
The Wizarding Zoo stocked an impressive array of animals, both Muggle and magical. Harry and Draco had barely batted an eyelid at the familiar Grindylows and the domesticated Puffskeins and Kneazles, but ogled in astonishment at the mythical Kelpies that the menagerie boasted. The size of the animals housed was mind-staggering, ranging from tiny and quick Doxies to the hefty and large Erumpets.
Both boys were now at the aviary which flaunted a wide repertoire of birds in all shapes, colors and sizes. Draco gazed, transfixed at the flock of preening Fwoopers that were blessed with brilliant plumages varying from sunshine-yellow to lime-green. A Fwooper cocked its head haughtily and glared back owlishly at the blond.
Next to him, Harry was looking intently at the extremely rare Golden Snidget at the adjacent enclosure. There were two Golden Snidgets, their blood-red eyes glistening like prized jewels in the sparkling sunlight while they chirped cheerfully and zoomed hyper-actively around. Harry's lips tugged up in a wistful smile while he reminisced about his Quidditch days.
There was a pleasing bustle in the air as both eighteen-year-olds threaded their way through the exhibits. A tour guide from the zoo had cast a mild Sonorus charm on herself while she brought a small group of visitors around the area, introducing each species patiently and clearly. Children of all ages squealed and ran amok like blurry comets, their chubby little hands full with decadent treats like ice-cream and candy while their laughing parents hurried after them. A cool, detached female voice that was magically enhanced rang loud and clear over the crowd, stating the timings of upcoming various animal shows.
After five minutes of walking, Harry and Draco had ended up at the Muggle portion of the aviary. Draco looked around tentatively, his eyes swiveling in all directions in growing excitement as he absorbed the explosion of colors that greeted him. Flamingoes, their feathers a bewitching mixture of rosy pink and creamy white, twirled daintily on their spindly legs. Their necks were curved majestically, each forming the shape of half a heart. On the opposite side, a scene of cool viridian greeted them; rustling trees came complete with out-stretched branches that supported an immense assortment of birds.
Parrots squawked and flapped their wings eagerly, showing off their plumes of fuchsia, cerulean-blue and amber. Toucans cawed joyously, their unusually large beaks snapping open as they caught morsels of food thrown by the visitors. There were no cages or bars; every enclosure was built with an open concept in mind. There were invisible shields separating animal and human, and only specially bought snacks for the birds were allowed entry into the barriers.
"It was a surprise, you know, when you told me you wanted to go to the zoo today, of all places," Harry piped up, pulling Draco closer.
"I… well… it's all rather colorful, isn't it? It's fascinating to know that Muggle birds are so much more vivid than the birds in our world…" Draco mused, tearing his gaze from a kingfisher and beaming at the brunette.
The traces of his smile lingering at his face, Draco's eyes continued to roam greedily, taking in every shade and hue of chromatic color. He was so distracted that he didn't even notice when Harry gently dislodged himself from the blond's grasp and scampered away. Within a few minutes, Harry had returned, a cone of cotton candy held proudly in his hand.
Draco blinked questioningly as he stared at the fluffy swirl of pink cloud.
"It's a Muggle candy. Go on, everyone here is eating it," Harry urged. Extracting a daub of cotton candy with his fingers, Harry's grin turned wider when Draco hesitantly dipped his head and took the treat in his mouth.
Smacking his lips gingerly, his tongue working the sticky substance, Draco's wary expression softened into one of childish bewilderment. "It melts in your mouth! Just like… magic!" he exclaimed. With that, Harry nudged the whole cone towards Draco. The blond blushed slightly as he accepted it and began to pop handfuls of cotton candy into his mouth happily.
a childhood that never was-
But Draco's smile began to fade when his gaze caught on a pair of lovebirds perched on a twig. They were nuzzling and cuddling together passionately, so blissfully unaware of the outside world. One half of the pair lowered his head to peck lovingly at his partner's saffron feathers.
Draco's hand lowered forlornly and he stopped chewing. Suddenly the cotton candy didn't seem so sweet anymore.
"What- What happens when lovebirds are separated?" The blond asked quietly, his voice frightfully sober.
azkabanazkabanazkaban roll it around your tongue lick it suck it what does it taste like miseryfeardesolateforsaken blacknothingbutblackblackBLACK it's the lullaby you sing before you die-
It was an issue that they had danced evasively around ever since Draco's verdict had been announced, a word that they dared not approach, both of them stuck in the slippery wells of denial and unwilling to get out-
Harry's face hardened and his jaw was unrelenting, as though set in cement. He lifted up Draco's wrist and began to kiss each of his knuckles, his determined green eyes clamped onto the other boy's wavering ones, and when Harry spoke, his voice was steady and sure.
"It won't matter, Draco, because in the end, they'll always find their way back to each other."
He knew that this was inevitable. Running his tongue quickly over his dry lips, Draco crossed the threshold and entered their bedroom. Harry was sitting morosely on the bed, his back facing the doorway, staring miserably at his empty, out-stretched hands.
The backs of Draco's knees were trembling, and the blond took a deep, calming breath to relax his jangling nerves. He didn't know how to broach the subject of Azkaban. The both of them had been emotionally digging their heels in, trying to stop time, but Azkaban was a fact that stealthily sapped the sweetness out of every date, wedging itself rudely between them like a third shadow.
"Harry, thanks for… everything," Draco started, trying to inject some visage of light-heartedness in that sentence.
It was like lighting a matchstick around pure dynamite. Triggered by Draco's insensitivity, Harry whipped his body around and glared at Draco with enraged, blazing eyes, his cheeks pink with agitation and his voice as sharp as a whip. "Thanks for everything?! Is that all you've got to say?!"
Sucking air sharply through his teeth, the blond lifted a hand and rubbed his forehead wearily. "Harry, please don't wait for me. It's… five years. Five years!"
"It's only half a decade," Harry shot back, forcing his lips into a bitter smile.
"You're only eighteen, think of all the other guys you'll meet, listen to me," Draco tempted beseechingly, resisting the urge to cross over to Harry, grab him firmly by the shoulders and shake some sense into him.
"I only want you!" the brunette said hotly, trying to temper down the growing irritation that he felt. Draco growled angrily, but he couldn't ignore the way his heart did a little pirouette at Harry's words.
"How long have we been together, only a few-"
"Long enough!" Harry shouted back, balling his fists up in a sign of defiance. Each muscle in Harry's body was tensed, and Draco flared up, his jaw tightening and jutting out in a combative manner as both boys glared at each other. The blond didn't move from his spot at the door, and Harry sat, frozen at the bed. The tense air was charged with electricity, the atmosphere balanced precariously on a knife's edge.
"I'm not going on some sort of holiday! I might come out half-dead, my mind sliced into bits, forgetting everything that we ever had-"
"I'll fix you!" Harry yelled, cutting Draco off. His throat thickening with tears, Harry shook his head blindly, forcing the mental images of Draco injuredinsanetorturedscreaming- out of his mind because it won't happen, I won't let it-
"What if I die inside there? You can't heal death, Harry," Draco whispered in the low, dead voice of one forced to accept that their profoundest fears had become reality.
"Do you love me?" Harry asked quietly. He didn't understand why Draco chose to mention death, the very topic that they had been avoiding, but it had hung in the air like a vengeful ghost, staining each and every second-
"I love you, so that's why I'm letting you go," Draco uttered dejectedly through lips the color of crushed roses.
"Let's not argue. Not on our last night together," Harry pleaded, his voice as brittle as dry twigs. With that, the brunette curled himself up defensively into a ball, blinking his eyes rapidly to chase away the tears, and gazed plaintively at Draco. They were at the lovely stage where the awkwardness had faded and treasuredinnocentadoring-love prevailed, and each and every flaw of Draco had grown on him until Harry felt that he could die without the blond-
With a few long strides and words of rage wilting on his lips, Draco rushed towards Harry and gathered the brunette up in his arms carefully, stroking his black, turbulent curls, comforting him while the other boy wept with abandon in Draco's arms, each sorrowful cry piercing through Draco like burbling acid, twisting and snapping his fragile heart into painful little shreds-
don't you wonder why suddenly we're all running out of time-
"Don't starve to death there, Draco. No matter how much you don't want to, eat. Force yourself if you have to, promise me-"
"Promise me!" Harry hissed vehemently through clenched teeth, a new shade of intensity seeping into shimmering green eyes. Draco nodded mechanically, and Harry dissolved into Draco's embrace, inhaling the delicious, sweet vanilla scent of the blond, trying to imprint it irreversibly in his brain. There was no happy ending in the horizon for them, and they were left with nothing but the heartbreak and the cold, harsh reality waiting in store for them-
Both boys had held each other for the whole of the night, clutching each other so tightly, never wanting to let go, clasping each other so close, so hard, because they were simply incapable of releasing, wishing so desperately for the night never to end-
I am weeping as I write this, and you will be weeping when you read it.
He had been putting it off until the last minute; so steeped in the depths of his denial. Draco threw a cursory glance at the letter that he had penned just minutes ago, the letter that had soaked up so many of his tears and brought forward the intensity of the pain that he felt. The blond slid it meticulously under the palm of a sleeping Harry, his eyes alert for any sign of awakening from the brunette.
He had lied to Harry; he wasn't due to report to Azkaban at ten am, but instead, eight am. He didn't want the teary farewells, the heart-breaking departures that were sure to follow. Draco could imagine it in his mind's eye; Harry, a sobbing whirlwind, Weasley shuffling from foot to foot, unsure of what to do in a social situation like this, and Granger, a look of abject pity on her face.
Draco didn't want this last memory of Harry tainted by Ron and Hermione. He wanted to remember Harry like this, the picture of security and sanctuary, his face shining with sleepy happiness and a small, angelic smile on his face.
The blond stayed like that for a long while, his lips graced in a tender, loving grin while he slowly stroked Harry's riotous swirls of hair, his touch lingering over Harry's petal-soft cheeks, the strong line of his jaw and his bronzed, sun-kissed skin.
If only you could only open your eyes… Draco thought wistfully, but as fingers of shadow and misery seeped into his grey orbs, and as the air of a condemned prisoner wafted around his shoulders, weighing him down, Draco tried to harden he'll have found someone by then, there's no point in hoping- his throbbing, bleeding heart.
Dragging himself ponderously from the bed, Draco stumbled towards the door and stood there for a few seconds, trying as much as he could to burn the image of Harry in his mind, stamping every curve and contour of Harry's body, every breath that the other boy took, in his brain.
With an ill-concealed, shattered sob, Draco wobbled unsteadily on his feet before turning and fleeing like a wounded animal.
It was a match made in heaven that ended up in hell.
"Harry? Why are you still in bed and not dressed yet? Where's Draco, it's almost nine forty five-"
"H-Hermione, he's g-gone, hasn't he? He left a letter, I c-c-can't bear to read it. Read it and tell me, p-please-"
"What?! I- Alright…"
"I can't f-find him, I was yelling his n-name until I-"
"Harry, I'm sorry but… Draco left at eight this morning. Alone."
"I don't believe it, there're so many things that I haven't told him, Hermione, please tell me you're lying, and it's all just a joke-"
"Harry, mate, we're not-"
"Shut up! SHUT UP! He wouldn't have left without an explanation, he's still here, isn't he, and you're hiding him-"
"Harry, p-please stop crying-"
"Don't you get it?! We're perfect for each other, give him back to me, give him back, we can't end like this, I LOVE HIM!"
"Bloody hell, Hermione, he's gone mental!"
"Shush, Ron! Go to the kitchen and get a Calming Draught, hurry! Harry, stop throwing things-"
"He can't be gone! HE BELONGS HERE, WITH ME! With me, n-n-no one but m-m-me, Hermione, I-I c-can't-"
Jolting himself back into the present, Harry flicked his wand distractedly, gently nudging the slivers of memories away. The calendar pried itself out of Harry's fingers and bobbed back to its original position on the wall. Harry's alert eyes were swiveling and sweeping across the room, making sure that everything was in tip-top condition. His attention was inadvertently caught by the vibrant garland of bright-red letters artfully placed on the other Draco's side when he was still- side of the bed. The letters helped, in one way or another, to make his future not so black by blurring the edges of his grief, each penned word like an overdue kiss-
Hesitating for a split second, Harry bit his lip before leaning over and picking one paper rose at random. Uncurling it with shaking fingers, Harry tenderly smoothed the parchment out. But instead of reading the neatly written front page, he immediately flipped it to the back.
Silently, his eyes scanned the first few lines, and with each word read, his breathing grew more ragged, his fingers dug tighter into the letter, introducing fresh wrinkles on the sides of the paper, and Harry could feel the familiar, dull sensation of tears gathering. Before he could go any further, Harry scrunched his eyes shut and shook his head resolutely. Pressing the heels of his palms hard onto his eyes, Harry repeated the same word over and over again like a mantra in his mind-
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow-
Deftly twirling and folding the letter back to a rose, Harry was just about to slip the sheet back into the beautifully-wrapped cluster of letters, but-
Swallowing shakily, Harry sank back into the fluffy bed. Turning so that he was facing the empty half of the bed, the brunette cast a forlorn look upon Draco's pillow.
Green, unblinking eyes remained there for a long moment.
Slowly, tentatively, Harry placed the letter delicately onto the blond's pillow, his fingers ghosting over the too-cold pillow that had been unoccupied for far too long-
And then, Harry reluctantly fell into the deepest, most delicious sleep where unadulterated, flawless hope twinkled teasingly at the edges, cajoling him into a relaxing slumber.
Somehow, during the night, a still-asleep Harry had shifted closer to Draco's part of the bed, his tanned arm flung out as though holding someone to the death-
Hermione appeared suddenly at my office after work to bring me shopping today, to my utmost horror. She was armed with a whole list of clothes to buy for me and places to go, arranged with military precision down to every last detail.
I've seen wars that were less organized.
So, driven by her sheer assertiveness, I let her chivvy me down to the shops, and we did buy some new things for me, some Quidditch equipment for Ron, and some books for Hermione.
I didn't forget about you, though.
Do you remember that Muggle band that you liked, even though you insisted that you didn't? Anyway, they released a new album, so I got it for you. I know that by the time you're out, they probably would have come up with a new one, but it's alright, because you can listen to both.
I also bought your favorite shower soap, you know, the one that gives you the scent that I love so much? I probably have crates of it stocked up at home, so much that you'll be wallowing in it for the years to come, but you can take your time to use it.
There's no rush at all.
Today, Kingsley approached me and asked if I was interested in moving to Paris, where I'll head up another department there if I do choose to accept. Not only will I earn twice my current salary, I'll get to learn a lot over there.
I rejected it though, because I… don't like to travel much, and… I'll probably have to learn a new language on top of it all.
You'll be released in two years, Draco, and I miss you terribly.
So yeah… just to let you know.
But on the other side of the letter, it was a whole different matter altogether. Gone were the neat, orderly words that were tailor-made to bestow an air of nonchalance. The handwriting here was sloppy, erratic and crowded together, wobbly words veering sharply off the lines of the page, each cramped word scribbled in a frenzy, as though the writer had to get it all out in one last dying breath. Some sentences were incomplete and fractured, as though it simply hurt too much to continue-
The letter was dappled and crinkled with copious amount of dried tears, and there were agonizing, deep and thin scratches across the page as though someone had dragged his nails torturously and heartbrokenly on the parchment, having lost all semblance of carefully reined-in control, each blotchy, messy word dripping with desperation, poisoned with pain, wreathed in worry-
I tell myself everyday that you're not a figment of my imagination, that we were once together, and that you're real, Draco. I miss you so much, I think of you so much that I see your face on the back of my eyelids when I close my eyes, trying not to, not to-
I whisper your name when I'm asleep, I write your name when I'm awake, because by doing that, I can fool myself into thinking that-
And then Draco's name was scrawled at the borders of the sheet, every available blank space invaded by his name. The handwriting was varied, sometimes loopy and light, sometimes jagged and spiky, but it doesn't matter because it told the mournful tale of a pair of star-crossed lovers, cursed and splintered beyond repair-
I dream about you all the time, they shimmer disturbingly at me, so close, so close to me that I can almost touch you. That's why I keep all my dreams and put them in a jar and save them for you-
I can't do this anymore, it hurts so much that I can't put it into words, I feel all of these emotions crumbling within me, so deep, nothing but a swirling cauldron of feelings, twisting me in different directions, I'm hopefulafraidpatientmiserable, please, no one can feel like this all at the same time, they'll simply melt into a puddle, DracoDracoDracoDRACO -
Some days I ask myself why I'm still holding onto you, doubting myself, and I feel like relinquishing the thought, the very memory of you. I'm scared, I'm so scared that at the end of everything, you'll have forgotten me, that I'm just Potter to you, and then, I don't think, oh God-
But then when everything gets too much, when I feel like I'm all cried out and my heart's wrenched from my chest and smashed into smithereens, there'll always be this visceral certainty that will bring me back to you, this startling clarity that we'd always be together, simply because I can't imagine us ever being apart.
Do you remember how you would kiss me, Draco? You'll push your lips out like an adorable little duck and then land a noisy, messy smack on my cheek. You would creep up behind me and do it, and I'll get the shock of my life, and sometimes I would find it bothersome, even irritating.
Now, I'd give anything to hear your kisses again.
Do you remember how you would say my name, Draco? You'll roll your tongue seductively over the r's, and you always trail the end of my name into a sigh. It doesn't matter if you purr it, whisper it into my ear, or even yell it when we're fighting and arguing, it doesn't matter at all because-
No one can say it as well as you do.
That day, when you left so abruptly just like that with nothing but a note for me, I was sobbing so hard into the bed that I thought I might just dissolve into a million, gut-wrenching pieces. I was trying so desperately to inhale the scent of you that's soaked, like the rarest and the most prized perfume, into our pillows, our sheets-
Come back, Draco. Come back to me, Draco, and make the bed smell like you again.
You're every single thing to me, you're the words that I can't say out loud, you're the breaths that I need to take underwater, the colors of my rainbow, without you I'm stuck in black and white, Draco, I want to be your beginning, your ending and everything in between-
You'll be with me forever and ever, like a handprint on my soul that I can't scrub off, won't scrub off, a mark that I will never want to remove. You're the spark in my smile, the glorious twinkle in my eye, and I am the stars, the beautiful, shining stars in your sky-
When you left me, heaven collapsed, along with my heart.
Draco Malfoy didn't know who he was anymore.
Sitting in his cell, Draco's thin shoulders were hunched, his long, dirty fingers drumming a rhythm blankly and monotonously on bony thighs. The blond's head was tilted up, his dreadfully vacant grey eyes staring unseeingly at the dank, filthy ceiling.
A scuttling of tiny paws told him that rats were nearby. The continuous, tiresome drip of rusty water somewhere in the distance reminded Draco that he was thirsty.
But he was used to it by now. Licking his cracked, peeling lips, Draco blinked slowly, shifted gingerly on the cold floor, wrapped his arms around his soiled knees and began to rock himself on the balls of his feet like a young child.
His eyes hooked magnetically onto a fat, juicy spider that was crawling at an amazingly fast speed across the grim, filthy wall, and out into the vast, carefree fields of freedom.
It was sad to know that he was more confined than a lowly bug.
In the beginning, he had entered Azkaban headstrong and determined not to let anything get to him. He guarded each and every happy memory of him and Harry fiercely and protectively, mounting emotional firewalls to the best of his ability. But there was this particular recollection, this certain memory that Draco treasured the most of them all.
It was the one when Harry brought him to the zoo. This was the memory that Draco captured and locked tightly in a box, never to be parted from him. Harry was his mental Patronus, and as long as Draco thought of Harry and his beautiful green eyes, as vivid and as bright as glistening blades of grass, the blond could feel his fears being tunneled far away in the distance. Each sunny smile that Harry had cast upon him was bottled up in a corner of Draco's mind, used sparingly like a healing salve to sooth the jagged edges of Draco's grieving heart.
But then the Dementors had sucked it all away remorselessly, and Draco had fought, oh, did he ever, holding onto that sweet moment with both hands like a little boy protecting his most beloved toy, but with every passing day, Draco could feel that memory fading and being drained away, ebbing like a forlorn wave sliding unwillingly down back to the shore-
Draco had tried to run, tried to chase after it, his face stained with tears and pitiful sobs wracking his broken body, but it disappeared like a ghost before daylight, like it had never happened at all-
And then, he was left with nothing but an absence of hope. Day by day, year by year, Draco felt that he was afflicted by the deepest, darkest despair, as though something, or someone, was missing from his pathetic excuse of a life. His thoughts were deadened and dulled at the edges until, some days he couldn't remember what his name was.
He had cartwheeled from anger, to confusion, to pain, to sheer denial, each bleak, gaunt emotion rearing up in him like a spitting cobra. Occasionally he would forget to take his meals. But in the end, even though his mind was disintegrating into quicksand, Draco would reach a hand out mechanically and munch on a chunk of dry bread thoughtlessly. He didn't know why he didn't just let himself rot and die, but he knew, some part of him knew that he had promised someone-
Sometimes, Draco wondered why he dreamt in green.
Hugging his knees to his chest, Harry checked his watch tetchily for about the hundredth time in the past hour. Each second was nibbling away at his shaky composure, and the brunette shivered when a cold blast of air blew over him. The evening sky was streaked with slivers of peaceful orange, but Harry could see grey, stormy clouds forming on the horizon and scudding towards him.
Harry folded and unfolded his arms neurotically, his eyes darting from side to side impatiently. He was completely alone outside the gilded gates of Azkaban, but he couldn't ignore the faint chill that the Dementors projected, even from this distance. He refused to sit still; his body was nothing but a worrying bag of nerves. He had checked the date and time of Draco's release so many times, but Harry couldn't see the blond anywhere.
Forty-five minutes is nothing compared to five years.
He could feel his heart start its slow, but sure plummet down to his shoes, and Harry tried to push away the threads of doubt that niggled at him. If Draco's sentence had been prolonged, Harry would have received a letter about it. And then another thought, dark, morbid and alarming, plunged itself into his mind, and Harry shook his head stubbornly, shooing it away.
He's not dead. He can't be-
The brunette's hands were bruised, sprinkled with angry red welts that would leave eventual scars. Little pinpricks of pain fanned out from the marks, and Harry winced when he lifted a hand to paw nervously through his hair. After loitering for twenty minutes, Harry had, in a fit of anger I can't stand here and do nothing- and rashness, pounded, banged and slammed his hands mercilessly on the magical force field that surrounded the prison, in the hopes of letting someone know that he was out there, waiting, waiting for years, waiting for minutes, waiting for-
"Give him back to me! Please, please, please!"
But no one heard his desperate screams and his begging pleas, his shouts and cries echoing aimlessly in the air like the densest fog. Finally, he had given up and retreated back into the shadows, rewarded with nothing but a dry throat and injured arms.
His shoulders collapsing in a sign of dawning defeat, Harry felt his legs give way as he dissolved into a mangled heap on the floor, the pressure of incipient tears remorselessly stressing the corner of his eyes. Curling his hands into fists determinedly, Harry roughly suppressed the feelings of anguish and insecurity, because he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter how long he had to wait out here, for hours, for even days, he would, because it's Draco-
And then he saw him.
Draco was dressed in a cheap white shirt and black cotton pants. The blond squirmed uncomfortably in the new attire that was far too large for him. His shoes were bursting at the seams, and Harry could see Draco wriggling his toes edgily through the flimsy material of his footwear.
Draco looked like something out of a horror picture; his skin was the color of freshly exhumed bone, stretched and sick. His grey eyes, once so bright and brimming with affection, was dimmed by melancholy and loneliness. Unwashed tendrils of listless blond hair sagged lifelessly around his face. There were horrible, ghoulish hollows at his collarbones, and his shoulders which used to be graceful, rounded domes were now nothing but leathery skin yanked over shrunken bone. The thinness of his ribcage looked as breakable and brittle as china. His arms were skeletal glass twigs, transparent and fragile, that jutted out at awkward angles. Draco's narrow waist tapered down to a pair of bony hips and skinny thighs. Harry used to love wrapping his arms around Draco's waist and squeezing the blond passionately.
But now, Harry was scared to do that because he knew that Draco would simply break apart into two.
Anyone would have run away if they stumbled onto the horrible silhouette of Draco, but not Harry, because, to him, Draco was a truly beautiful person, flawed, wounded, but entirely beautiful-
"What happens if I come out, and I'm nothing but a walking skeleton, Harry, you have to understand-"
"I won't care, because I'll bring you home and I'll cook for you and I'll nurse you back to health-"
And then Harry felt his legs moving independently of his brain, which was still reeling from the sight of Draco. Putting one foot ahead of the other like a sleepwalker, the brunette easily crossed the distance between the both of them. Stopping just an arm's length away from Draco, Harry experienced a twist of terror, and another of hope. His heart was clattering away on overdrive, and the air sizzled with the emotions emanating from Harry.
Harry was so scared to touch Draco, because he didn't want it to be just a dream, because his hand might just pass, ghost-like, through Draco. The last five years had distilled into this split second moment, and both men stood silent and still, like a pair of tiny statuettes that had wandered so far from the wedding cake-
But Harry couldn't see any light of recognition in Draco's dulled eyes, no danger of a warm smile, nothing, oh God-
Draco was unable to translate the flounderings of his soul, the way his heart started to whirr alive again, this warm feeling of affection that suddenly welled up in him, but he couldn't, simply couldn't. This man was staring at him, staring into him, and Draco fidgeted twitchily under Harry's burning, gimlet scrutiny. An awkward expression clouded his face, and he painted a polite, antiseptic smile on his face.
"I'm Harry," the other man croaked, his voice as rough as tree bark, as though he had spent the past few days alternating between screaming and crying.
Draco tried to sieve through his broken mind, but his memories, which felt like a lifetime ago, were patchy and blurry. Shaking his head in disbelief, Draco managed to reply, his voice hoarse and rusty from under-use, but still containing a hint of culture.
"I'm sorry, but I- I don't remember you." And then, to Draco's utmost consternation, the man in front of him deflated like a pierced balloon, all the gumption knocked out of him. Draco's clipped speech sent shockwaves of fear leaving my heart open, just for it to split again- rocketing down Harry's spine, and he could feel the last smudge of hard-won hope that he clung so desperately onto gurgling hopelessly down the drain. The vague aura of unhappiness, grey and unformed, that plagued Harry, suddenly solidified in his gut. His heart was cracking, splintering slowly and painfully within him, like an old tree being felled-
"What if I can't remember you, Harry-"
"Don't you dare say that, Draco, you can't forget me, I won't let you-"
Taking a deep, shaky breath, Harry tried to calm the ragged aching of his unsteady heart. "I'm Potter. Harry Potter."
"I'm really sorry, but I don't-" Draco started, but with a sharp, shocking jolt, the blond's mind suddenly dredged up a distant remembrance in a wild rush of recovered memory-
"You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort, Potter."
"Wonderful Potter with his scar and his broomstick-"
"Harry Potter's giving out signed photos!"
"Potter?! But I don't understand, have you been waiting for me all this time, I don't-" Draco babbled, his words tumbling clumsily out, a thousand questions etched in his eyes. Gathering his wits about him, Draco continued shakily, his voice dropping to a mere whisper.
"Why are you here?"
"I'm here because I never wanted to say goodbye." With that, Harry launched himself towards Draco, but the blond recoiled, stepping back. And then Draco gazed into Harry's eyes, his green eyes which were bright and youthful, surrounded by clear whites, holding his own grey eyes with a steady focus, and then Draco could feel something long forgotten and buried flickering within him-
I can almost see the stars and the sky in your eyes, it's the reason why I dream in green, because I dream about you all the time, you're Harry, Harry…
To Draco, it was like a black and white film blazing into color and life, and Draco's arms, which had been held stiffly at his sides, suddenly rose to ineptly encircle Harry. The blond could feel his pulse quickening, his pale, ghostly skin gradually warming to Harry's touch, his normally sluggish blood speeding up and pumping voraciously, and he felt a tight knot of unfulfilled wishes loosening inside him. Harry was like a life force buoying him up, rescuing him from the murky depths of hell that he had been mired in for the past few years-
The Dementors had raped Draco emotionally, but slowly, painstakingly, Draco began to perform an archaeological dig of his blackened heart, and he could feel the beautiful, glorious recollections of Harry, not Potter, but HarryandDraco, disjointed snapshots of the past sprinkling over his thoughts like gold dust, something, something that Draco had once treasured, hanging onto them with the edge of his fingertips-
Something shifted beneath Draco's features, and Harry could see the memories bleeding into Draco's eyes, and with a strangled sob, the brunette laid his head on Draco's shoulders. The blond warily leaned in towards Harry, and he was surprised at how natural it felt. The world beyond Harry was hazy, his pupils zoomed in on the man of his life through his sheen of tears, delicate, quivering teardrops balancing on the edge of Harry's lashes, hot tears leaping from his eyes to his wrists, but no, he shouldn't be crying-
It was strange how years of pain could be swept away in mere seconds. An emotional landmine was detonated in Harry, and the brunette was now embracing Draco like how a lost tourist would cling for dear life onto his map.
never letting go of you, never-
Gently, Harry lifted up a shaking hand, wanting to feeltouchlove Draco, reveling in the tender caress of skin against skin. Shyly, with his face a blushing red, Harry slid a finger from Draco's temple down to the side of his face, down to his pointed chin. Draco shuddered that touch, that touch so foreign, but yet so… familiar- and closed his eyes in intoxication, his eyelashes fluttering drunkenly. Emboldened, Harry lightly stroked Draco's cheekbones, and he could feel like a pair of lovers discovering each other's bodies all over again- the lovely whisper of Draco's snowy eyelashes on the backs of his fingers.
Biting his lip, Harry timidly flipped back a lock of unkempt blond hair that fell across Draco's eyes. Trailing his hand down, Harry splayed his fingers at the side of Draco's neck, his butterfly touch brushing against Draco's heated skin. A lone finger traced the sharp outline of the blond's collarbone, progressed steadily down Draco's limp arm, all the way down to the network of blue veins that decorated the inside of Draco's wrist.
your touch tells me where I need to go-
Sliding his hand under Draco's, Harry gently lifted the other man's arm, which was as translucent and yielding as a macabre wax figurine. But Harry soldiered on relentlessly, ignoring the unattractive, sickly pallor of Draco's body and the layers of dirt and grime caked underneath his long fingernails. The brunette continued to press delicate, warm kisses at Draco's trembling fingertips, his green eyes locked onto Draco's hazy grey ones.
Harry was swamping Draco's numbed senses; he could feel the faint beating of Harry's heart against his own, the warmth radiating off the close proximity of their bodies, and he could hear the slight hitch of Harry's breathing, inhale the comforting scent of Harry coaxing him, telling him that I'm going to bring you home-, could see the vivid brilliance of Harry's eyes, and oh, Harry's touch which sent fireworks cascading over his skin, agile and lithe fireflies of chemicals flitting and flooding his system-
Harry's lips, the color of perfect raspberry sorbet, pressed hesitant kisses on Draco's neck, and Draco bowed his head, feeling his cheeks heat up, matching the warm glow around his heart. Draco's tongue hovered cautiously behind his front teeth as Harry pulled him closer, and the blond tried not to flinch self-consciously when he thought of how dry and cracked his own lips were.
arms that will hold you at your weakest-
eyes that will see you at your ugliest-
and most importantly,
a heart that will love you at your worst-
But then Harry beamed indulgently, his lips curved up into the smile of the century, so melting, so beguiling, so knowing that it gripped the very core of Draco's soul. Harry used his thumbs to rub it's okay, you're gorgeous just the way you are- Draco's lips tenderly, his touch lingering wonderfully at the corners of Draco's mouth, his fingernails ghosting over the cupid's-bow curve of Draco's upper lip-
And then Harry swooped in and captured Draco in a kiss, that kiss which took him home, hints of eventual passion coquettishly hiding behind each lick, ensnaring every single part of him, making his heart sing and his brain freeze up as Draco marveled at the sheer warmth of Harry's arms that were enveloping him in a protective arc, and he could feel all his doubt, his dismay and his longing drying up and falling away from him like an eagerly discarded cloak-
when you kiss me I taste stars, cherished, precious, glowing nuggets of iridescent yellow and burnished gold-
sparkling with hope and promise and love, and you, Harry, the very person that I've been trying to find, trying to chase, the ghost of you, but you've been evading me no matter how hard I've tried to search for you-
the intensity of your kiss telling me things that no words can express, painting a picture that I can't-
that I can't-
Draco tugged his lips away, and Harry's heart somersaulted all the way up to his throat. Draco's body seemed more alive, his eyes were brighter, shining with lucidity. His face had recovered some semblance of a bloom. His shoulders were thrown back, his hunch had faded and the blond had straightened his back, drawing himself up to his full height.
"M-my Harry?" voice a papery whisper-
And the way Draco said his name, sliding out of his mouth like a caress, that single word coiling like smoke around Harry's ears, containing a hint of a sigh at the end, just like last time-
Harry was openly crying now, his shoulders shaking with the overdose of emotion assaulting him. Each teardrop was weighted with disbelief and elation, and hope soared through him like a hawk taking flight. His head was bobbing vigorously with the force of his nodding.
Yours for the past five years, and yours forever more.
It was as though all of his birthdays were rolled into one, joyous occasion, and Harry just wanted to press the pause button on the whole world, capture this fleeting instance and keep it like a treasured memento away in his heart-
just you and I, simply because-
we are all we need.
Draco was like a blind man suddenly gaining the power of sight, Harry's name was the name that fit the puzzle, making everything click into place, a word that Draco had forgotten, but now, Draco could feel the perpetual ache in his chest, so much akin to homesickness, suddenly vanish without a trace.
"Don't cry. I don't want to see you sad," Draco soothed lovingly, and Harry sniffled to a stop, trying to diminish the tears that had been queuing up for years. Harry's tear-ravaged face was buried into the crook of Draco's shoulder, and they stood quietly for a while, Harry gently melting into Draco's arms, each locking this moment in their mind, committing every single second to memory. A new glow of happiness surrounded both men like a halo.
I'll never be sad again, not when you're with me-
Draco's face was a medley of differing emotions. There were large, gaping holes in Draco's memories that needed to be filled up with tender loving care-, passion and feelings to be rediscovered. The five years had robbed them of time that they would never get back, and Harry had to slowly glue back their past piece by piece, brick by brick. Harry knew that it was going to be an uphill battle, but he could feel his deep old scars knitting back together-
I'll wait, Draco, I'll wait until your heart decides to love again.
Harry slowly extracted an envelope from his pocket. Carefully prying Draco's fingers apart, Harry laid it on his palm. Galvanized by the brunette's encouraging smile, the blond furrowed his brow in curiosity as he tipped the envelope to one side.
Out tumbled a pair of zoo tickets, with tomorrow's date emblazoned in huge, glittery, golden letters. The tickets were splashed with bursts of color ranging from fire-engine red to rich shades of cool lavender, and Draco half-expected the tickets to melt, the way dreams dissolve and vanish. The filmy, asphyxiating veil of darkness that Azkaban had cursed on Draco was slowly drawn away, and the blond felt a sudden pang of need for colors, anything to take him away from the black, horrific nightmares of Azkaban and whisk him right back into the loving arms of Harry-
"It won't matter, Draco, because in the end, they'll always find their way back to each other."
"Are you hungry?" Harry murmured, his fingers clasped possessively around Draco's bony wrist, and a silence ensued, a silence colored by optimism and expectation-
take me by the hand and tell me
that you would take me anywhere-
And when Draco nodded bashfully his cheeks as gloriously pink as cotton candy- and shot Harry a shy glance underneath his eyelashes, Harry could feel his heart dancing under the first ethereal raindrops of hope, tears pressing at his eyes again, threatening to break free, but these were tears of joy-
A thin drizzle began to mute the landscape, and the wind swirled around them, making sounds like a thousand murmurs, filling the air with soft whispers. It had been a torturing, drawn-out fairy tale that had gone on for too long and with too little words, but ultimately, there was no need for theatrical white horses, no dramatic declarations of romance, just this blind, almost fanatical devotion-
This is true love, rare, undiluted and unstoppable.
we are given two hands to hold-
two legs to walk-
two eyes to see-
two ears to listen-
but only one heart-
because the other one was given to someone for us to find.
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