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The Kiss

Warnings: This is a sad story with very dark themes. It will not be everyone's cup of tea. Rating: R Summary: Dracos trial is over, and Harry remembers almost everything.

Harry and Draco's unlikely love affair began with the kiss. Not just a kiss, but The Kiss. The kind of kiss that stops time and blots out sound and sends the blood pulsing to your belly where it pools warm and hot and thick and alive. The kind of kiss that causes the streetlights to flicker and passers-by to whistle and saliva to stream in your mouth so suddenly that you have to swallow to keep from drooling like an idiot down your partner's chin and the front of his shirt. The kind of kiss that foreshadows sex but yet manages to transcend sex and makes you swear to the gods that if they offered you sex at that moment, instead of This Kiss, you'd laugh aloud in their Elysian faces. The kind of kiss that erases the past - good bad and indifferent - and leaves you with nothing but this: This night. This street corner. This mouth against yours. Despite having shared a thousand kisses with Draco since then, Harry still remembered that kiss - their first kiss the most vividly. The only other kiss that could possibly rival the longevity of its memory was the one kiss between them that had been photographed, but Harry remembered that one for different reasons, mostly having to do with the fact that he'd clipped its image from more than a dozen papers and hung a copy in every room of Grimmauld Place. Oh, and then there'd been that other kiss - but Harry's reasons for remembering that kiss were far less pleasant. After all, it had been that kiss - that reckless drunken fuck-'em-if-that-can't-take-it kiss that had triggered the Trial. Before then - before Harry had pushed his way across the crowded pub and taken Draco in his arms in front of at least a hundred patrons - no one, except their families and closest friends, had known of their affair. No one had known that for more than a year, Harry had been slipping in his Invisibility Cloak from the door of Draco's flat every night, his mouth bruised and his body sated and his heart full. But after that kiss everyone had known. And not everyone had been happy about it. In fact, some people - highranking Ministry people - had been so unhappy about it that the very next day Draco had been arrested and arraigned according to a hastily drafted and sealed indictment. And although that had been months ago, Harry's appetite still hadn't returned . . . Not that he was "wasting away," though! Honestly. The very notion was ridiculous. Not to mention patronising as all hell. True, he wasn't feeling one hundred percent yet, but not wanting to gorge one's self was hardly the same thing as slowly dwindling into a sliver of bone-jabbed flesh. Really, Hermione's penchant for hyperbole was getting out of hand. And it was beyond irritating that she'd felt the need to inform Molly of her "concerns." Arthur and Molly had their own troubles - real troubles, not made-up, mountain-out-of-a-mole-hill, blown-all-out-ofproportion troubles. They had a daughter-in-law virtually bed-ridden for the remainder of her pregnancy, and a son whose laughter was even more of a distant memory than his dead twin's. And, of course, they had Ginny, whose heart Harry had seemingly broken and who was drowning her sorrow in unregulated Quidditch and a succession of progressively fleeting affairs. These were realtroubles. Real concerns. The last thing the Weasleys needed to deal with was Hermione's phantasmagoria of wasting illnesses. Harry sat down at the table and frowned over the rim of his teacup, watching abstractedly as photograph-Harry kissed photograph-Draco in the frame on the side table near the wine rack. Now, if Hermione really wanted someone to worry about, she could worry about Draco. Compared to Draco's appetite, Harry's was prodigious. Most days, Harry felt lucky if Draco consumed more than a slice or two of toast and a glass of pumpkin juice. It'd literally got to the point where Harry had to force-feed the stubborn prat a slice of bacon or a bite of eggs to ensure he was getting enough protein. But every time Harry suggested to Hermione that her worry was misplaced and that she should come round sometime and see what a real wasting illness looked like, she just pressed her lips

together in a thin line and radiated silent beseeching unhappiness at him. Oh, Harry, she'd say in her most plaintive-sounding Hermione voice. We've discussed this already a million times. I will not visit your home while . . . while Draco's still there. These conversations never ended well, and they left Harry feeling hollow and numb. Hermione was Harry's closest friend, closer even than Ron. It'd been Hermione, after all - not Ron - who'd stayed with him that cold rainy night when something soft and still vulnerable in Harry's heart had hardened into glass. And it had been the sound of Hermione doing the washing up that he'd woken to the next morning. He would never forget it. Of all the things she'd ever given him over the years, that would always be the most precious: the simple sounds of a routine morning task. The squelch of a wet dishtowel and the squeak of wet, clean china. The sound of water trickling from a faintly whistling kettle into the washtub. The almost musical clatter of metal utensils keeping time with the plop plop plop of raindrops on canvas. He'd never told her, but he was sure that she knew. How could she not? After all, it is on such mundane things - such small daily mercies - that enduring love is built. Enduring love. Until recently, he'd had no idea what that meant, having known very few things in his life before Draco that could be characterised as either love or enduring. And that was one of the many reasons Harry couldn't understand Hermione's stubborn refusal to accept the fact that they were living together. Certainly, out of all of his friends, she must know how much Harry needed his lover by his side. For far too long, he and Draco had been forced to live apart, maintaining separate residences, separate friends, even separate pubs and coffee shops, for Merlin's sake! Harry had understood the necessity of it, but that hadn't made it any easier. A public affair was out of the question, at least until the mass hysteria that had followed the War died down a bit. Even telling their closest friends and family had been traumatic: Ginny's tears. Ron's stony silence. Narcissa's secretly owled pleas begging him to forget "this foolishness" and let her son leave the country and live out his life quietly away from the backlash that "a high-profile affair" with Harry would inevitably cause. And then, after the public kiss and Draco's arrest, there'd been the endless investigations and inquiries. The dubiously obtained confessions of Draco's former House mates. The secret tribunals. The times when Draco would simply seem to vanish off the face of the earth, only to return after a day or two, dazed and confused and obviously recently Obliviated. And then, of course, there had been the Trial, itself. But Harry didn't want to think about the Trial. It had already consumed nearly two months of their lives, and now that it'd ended, he simply refused to let it consume any more of their time together. It was over. Over and done with, and Harry was sick of even having to remember it, and he suspected Draco was as well. Ever since Harry had brought him and his few things the Ministry hadn't taken to auction off for War reparations back to Grimmauld Place, Draco hadn't mentioned the Trial even once. It was water under the bridge. Puddles after the rain. Ancient bygone history. They had their whole life together ahead of them. Harry sipped his tea and smiled softly just thinking about it, but frowned again when he remembered the owl Hermione had returned to him just that morning. The fifth such owl in as many weeks. Why - why? - couldn't she find it in herself to be happy for him? Certainly, her disapproval couldn't be entirely attributable to Ron. After all, she'd never let Ron dictate her opinions on anything else before. Why would the fact that Harry and Draco were finally living together be any different? Every time he thought of her expression, full of muted censure and reproach, it infuriated him. Best friend, indeed! Was it really any wonder that he might still be off his appetite a bit when the one person in the world (aside from Draco, of course) he thought he could trust to be there for him was betraying him like this? He'd never expected anyone else to support him. Ron and his family were, understandably, in Ginny's camp. His Gryffindor friends were intractably bitter and suspicious. And his legion of faceless (though hardly voiceless) fans all wanted something from him, and quietly retiring to a life of domestic bliss with a former Death Eater was obviously not on the list . . . Domestic bliss. Harry's frown slipped back into a smile. Merlin, if Draco had heard him use such a loaded term that first night they'd spent together, Harry was fairly certain Draco would have booted him right out the door of that soot-darkened brownstone flat he'd been living in. Draco had been all for keeping the true nature of their relationship under wraps. "Like grudging mates" was how he'd suggested they behave in public, when they had to

be seen together in public at all, that is. Despite what everyone around them seemed to think after his arrest, Draco hadn't had his . . . how had The Prophet put it that one time? . . . "claws in Harry like an Augurey from day one after the Battle of Hogwarts." More than anyone, it'd been Draco who'd talked him into taking things slowly. Harry, despite having been too often burned by public perception not to be wary, had had far fewer reservations. He'd simply been too overwhelmed by happiness for caution. Too head-over-heels. Especially after that first kiss and then, even more so, after that first night (that only night) they'd spent together . . . They'd scarcely made it into the dim narrow parlour before Harry was seeking out the heat of Draco's belly against his palm. The skin there was so warm, so intimate, and Harry had hungered for the feel of it ever since the very first time he'd slipped his hand beneath the waistband of Draco's trousers and touched him there. That was the farthest they'd gone up until that time - tentative fingers slipped under the cinch of a belt - and Harry had ached to go farther. Your hands, Draco had gasped. Your hands, Potter. They're fucking freezing. Draco, despite how he might've seemed beneath the utilitarian tailoring of his Hogwarts robes, was anything but sharp. Harry had always imagined that touching him would be like grabbing the blade of a straight razor, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Though not even remotely girly, Draco's body had a hidden softness to it, and it was this softness - even more than his Firewhisky-scented kisses and the eerily erotic vacuity of his heavylidded and virtually colourless eyes - that cemented Harry's addiction. Draco's skin, when Harry touched him, gave ever so slightly, like the flesh of an over-ripe peach. Fingering open the button of Draco's trousers that night, Harry had been amazed once again by the generosity of Draco's lingering baby fat, by the seeming shyness of the short soft curls of his pubic hair. If he'd had any idea that this is how Draco would feel beneath his robes, Harry would've done this ages ago and perhaps spared them both a lot of pain. Certainly, it would have made life easier now if Harry had befriended Draco while they were still in school. Perhaps then Harry never would've dated Ginny and thus never incurred the wrath of her brother when he'd broken it off. And perhaps then Hermione would've adapted to the idea of Harry and Draco being together instead of referring to their love affair as Harry's "disturbing - and, quite frankly, deranged - obsession" and refusing to come round Grimmauld Place until Harry had "sorted himself out." Sorted himself out. Well, those hadn't been Hermione's exact words, but they were a fair approximation in Harry's opinion. Didn't she realise that "sorting himself out" was precisely what he was trying to do? It was just that his idea of "sorting himself out" and Hermione's were completely different. Hermione wanted him to get a job, to "get out of the house more." But Harry had seen enough Aurors for a lifetime, thank you very much. He certainly didn't want to work with them day-in and day-out for the next sixty-plus years, honorary appointment or not. And how could she think he'd want to spend evenings at the Leaky with people who'd testified before the Wizengamot about things they couldn't possibly know anything about? No, the only person he wanted to be with right now was Draco, and the only place he wanted to be was in the quiet of their living room curled around each other by the fireplace. Of course, he'd be even happier if Hermione wouldn't return their invitations to dinner with a note scrawled across the unopened envelopes reading, "Harry, please don't send these to us anymore," but he figured eventually he'd wear her down. It was only a matter of time, really, before she realised that Draco was here to stay. Harry hadn't turned his back on Draco during the Trial, so why on earth would she think he'd do so now that it was finally all over? Merlin. The Trial. It was the last thing Harry wanted to think about, but yet his mind kept returning to it like the loop of the photograph of him and Draco kissing. How many hours had Draco been forced to sit in that chair, and how many years must've the stress of it taken off his life? Even with Draco breathing quietly in the dark beside him at night, Harry still found himself picturing him again in that chair every time he closed his eyes, his skin even paler than usual against the heavy dark-stained wood. At first, Draco had been calm - almost defiantly so - dressed in conservative blue robes with his hands resting serenely on the chair's massive arms. That had been when both of them had believed the whole process would be over in a week. But as time wore on, and the witnesses kept coming forward, corroborating the increasingly outlandish accusations, Harry had watched Draco grow more and more tense. More and more brittle.

One morning, six weeks into the whole sordid fucking affair, Harry had Apparated into Draco's flat to meet him before court started that day and found Draco sitting on the edge of his bed, staring sightlessly out the window. Going for a new look? Harry had asked, pushing aside the duvet and sitting down on the bed beside him. The room felt close, and the air smelled stale and rank with sweat. I think it might go over well. After all, who can resist a bloke in pyjamas and manacles? He'd been going for light-hearted, not callous. But as soon as the words left his mouth, he'd wanted to take them back. Draco looked exhausted, like he hadn't slept properly in days. He turned to Harry, his eyes riven with the kind of fear that settles like cold dew on your heart in the wee hours of the morning. Harry swallowed. Draco, he'd whispered, it's going to be all right. I promise. I promise I won't let . . . He'd said it all before, but suddenly, for the first time, he'd realised it may not be enough. Perhaps sensing something, Draco had reached up to rest the tips of his fingers against Harry's lips. And when Harry opened them again to speak, Draco merely shook his head. No longer permitted words, Harry had done the only thing he could: he'd reached out and touched Draco's jaw, pulling him forward with nothing more than a nerve-twitch of muscle memory. Draco's mouth was sour with anxiety, but Harry had kissed him anyway. Outside, frozen rain ticked against the glass, and coaches groaned and hissed to a stop at the corner. They hadn't much time before court would be in session, and Harry had already learned from bitter experience that Draco's bond would be called if he was even so much as five minutes late, but even so, he couldn't bring himself to care. Right then, the only thing that had mattered was the way Draco seemed to stir beneath his touch as though Harry's hands and mouth were sunlight, and Draco was a knuckle of frost, slowly loosening. They hadn't made love in over a week, not since Theodore Nott had testified that Draco practised his Imperius on first years every day for a month before he'd used it on Madam Rosmerta and Katie Bell. It's not true, I swear to you, it's not true! Draco had cried over and over that night as though Nott were still present and Draco could confront him at last. And, of course, Harry had believed him - had, in fact, never doubted him in the first place but Draco had been inconsolable, and Harry had let him twine himself into a knot of misery in Harry's arms that night and every night afterwards. But now - now, there was nothing for it but to tug Draco's pyjama shirt over his head and press him back into his sheets, still damp and smelling of night sweat, and fuck him as long and as deep as he could. In the artificial charm-generated heat of the flat, Draco's fine hair had floated about his head like dandelion down, and the ugly rash he got every time he neared orgasm bled slowly from his cheeks to his throat to his chest. It's all your fault! he'd panted, his body writhing beneath Harry's and his face contorted in a violent mixture of pleasure and desperation and helpless rage. It's all your fault! No one would care, but for you . . . You. Ah! He'd interrupted himself as he came, as hard as he always did (Draco had amazed him ever since their very first time by how hard he came, much harder than Harry thought possible or even normal, his come - not white but almost as colourless as water - sometimes striking his chin). But Harry had known what he'd meant to say: it was his fault that their affair had become public knowledge. His fault that the papers were crying for a pound of flesh. His fault that an otherwise routine trial had turned into a three-ring circus. His fault that Draco wasn't looking at a slap-onthe-wrist, but at something more serious. Maybe probation, or a prohibition on his use of magic, or . . . or perhaps something even worse. Something unthinkable like a term in Azkaban or . . . or . . . Azkaban! Harry gulped a scalding mouthful of tea and winced. Merlin, they'd come far too close to that for comfort! Azkaban. For all his cockiness and hot-headedness and seemingly indefatigable sense of entitlement, Harry doubted Draco would've lasted a month if he'd been sent there. Sometimes, even with Draco lying right there in his arms, Harry would still imagine the fate he'd only narrowly avoided: Draco in the thin drab cotton robes the inmates wore, his face sallow and grey-tinged as though the bleakness of his tiny cell were slowly infusing his

blood, his breath. Knowing Draco, Harry was sure he'd have spent his first week breaking every single rule he could - refusing his meals, kicking the iron door, pissing on the floor instead of in the bucket. But then slowly he'd start to bend beneath the weight of his sentence like a birch weighed down by ice and snow. Harry shuddered every time he thought of it. True, Draco had been terribly quiet and subdued since the end of the Trial, but at least he wasn't in Azkaban. In Azkaban, his unresponsiveness wouldn't be the result of shock caused by a fate narrowly avoided, but a crushing darkness of the soul. In Azkaban his quiet wouldn't be the quiet of a healing heart, but rather the quiet of a man whose desperation was slowly eating him alive from the inside out. Just thinking of it again, how close they'd come to a sentence in Azkaban, Harry shuddered, repulsed and scarcely able to suppress the roll of his stomach and the tremor in his hands. Perhaps Hermione was right about the Sound Sleep Drought. Maybe he'd Floo to her flat later and accept that bottle she'd tried to give him last week. The nightmares hadn't gone away as he'd expected they would once he'd brought Draco to Grimmauld Place, and perhaps it was time for the assistance of a potion. At least until he was rested again, which shouldn't take too long, now that Draco was with him. Even doing nothing more than just sitting by the fire with Draco's head in his lap, running his fingers through the fine silk of Draco's hair, helped him immensely. Helped him to relax. Helped him to feel almost normal again. But every time he fell asleep, it was as though something on the Other Side was just waiting to grab him and pull him down and whisper terrible terrible things in his ear. Things that made Harry doubt his own senses, doubt, in fact, everything he knew to be true. He's gone, the whispers told him. He's gone, and he's never coming back. You lost him. You failed him. And the worst one of all: You didn't love him enough. Harry would wake up sweating and crying, sick and desperate. But not alone. Thank God, not alone. It's okay, he'd whisper into Draco's neck, feeling buoyant with relief and glad he hadn't disturbed Draco's sleep. It was just a bad dream. Just a bad dream. Kind of like the whole Trial had been, but now everything was fine. Not perfect, perhaps - not yet, at least - but fine. Better, certainly, than they'd been at their lowest point: the day the verdict was announced along with its accompanying sentence. Not that Harry remembered every detail. He'd stoically refused to Obliviate himself after each day of increasingly outrageous testimony, knowing that he had to remember it, had to bear witness to the Ministry's abuses. After all, one couldn't count on the Wizengamot's own records and, even less, on the papers, which seemed perfectly willing (even eager) to believe the perjured and probably tortureinduced testimony of former Death Eaters and Voldemort sympathisers. But that last day had been different. Harry had gladly surrendered himself to the Obliviators, his skin still stinging from the bloody welts Draco's fingernails had left behind when the guards had literally torn him out of Harry's arms and carried him (in true Draco fashion) kicking and screaming from the chamber. You promised me! he'd screamed at Harry, thrashing wildly in his captors' hands, his face red and streaked from crying.You promised me! he'd kept screaming as the guards dragged him through the door behind the chair, which, until that time had been Disillusioned to resemble a large shelf of legal texts. You promised me, you bastard! he'd screamed hoarsely as one of the guards hit him with some sort of spell that snapped and crackled like a Muggle taser. You promised me! he kept screaming although Harry could no longer see him in the darkness of the corridor down which he'd disappeared. You promised me! his screams echoed. You told me you loved me! You fucking PROMISED me! What do you wish to forget, Mr. Potter? the chief Obliviator had asked him just minutes later. He was still

shaking, still spitting in a nearby bin where he'd just been violently sick. He'd looked up and seen them - uniformed and blandly professional - and he'd so desperately wanted to say, Everything! Everything from the very moment he and Draco had first exchanged a civil greeting one morning at Flourish & Blotts, to the moment when they'd first kissed under a pool of streetlight, to the moment when the door in the wall had slammed shut in the suddenlysilent chamber and become, once again, a bookshelf. A big part of Harry had wanted it all gone. Every last little bit. The pain of knowing that Draco believed Harry had betrayed him was simply too great to be borne. But then Harry had summoned his courage from the same well in his soul that had given him the strength that night to walk alone into the forest, into the grasp of certain death, and replied, Nothing. Nothing except the sentence. Just the sentence. Nothing more. Of course, they'd tried to dissuade him. Told him that simply extracting this one tiny memory and no others would do no good. Or, worse yet, confuse him to the point of madness. But he'd insisted, and at last they'd relented, probably seeing it as the least the government could do for the Boy Who'd Saved Everyone's Arse. And, Merlin, was he glad he'd stuck to his guns. Because the very next day, there he'd been, collecting Draco at St. Mungo's, and the winter sunlight was glinting off Draco's hair as Harry took him in his arms to Apparate straight to Grimmauld Place, and everything had been fine again. Certainly, Draco would be angry (and probably yell at him for days) once he'd recovered a bit more from the Trial, but even that was fine. Draco could yell at him all he wanted as far as Harry was concerned. In fact, given Draco's uncharacteristic silence, Harry would positively welcome one of his profanity-laden tirades. Draco would get everything off his chest, and eventually they'd fall into bed or on to a sofa or even across the kitchen table, whichever was most handy at the time, and Harry would make love to every inch of Draco's body until they were both sweaty and sated and laughing like fools in each other's arms. Harry would take whatever time and effort it required. He'd kiss and lick and fuck and caress away every doubt Draco had ever had. And then, when he was done, he would do all over again. Harry smiled quietly to himself and almost - almost - felt his stomach give a rumble of hunger. Hermione just didn't understand. Healing took time. You couldn't simply snap your fingers and have everything return to normal again overnight. But just as he wasn't worried that Draco would start speaking to him again soon, Harry wasn't worried that Hermione would eventually warm to the idea of them living together. It was only a matter of time. And if it would make her feel better to have him take a sleeping potion and eat a few biscuits once and awhile, then fine. He'd do it. Maybe he'd even go around to the Burrow someday in the near future and let Molly fuss over him. Perhaps there really was something to getting out a bit now and again, other than just rebutting Hermione's theories of imagined health issues. After all, the Trial had ended two months ago, and Harry reckoned that having people see him around and about in public would help to clear up some of the ridiculous rumours that were circulating in the press. Rumours, such as the one Harry had read about this morning - that he'd supposedly gone raving mad or some such rot. Honestly, who came up with this stuff? This latest rumour was nearly as preposterous as the last one, but at least that one had been so easily refutable that Harry had simply laughed out loud when he'd read it and made a mental note to floo-call The Prophet's editors later in the afternoon when he could bring himself to be bothered to point out their incompetence. Honestly! The ridiculousness of it all. Especially that headline: Draco Malfoy, Kissed at Last. Harry chuckled to himself just thinking about it. The people at The Prophet obviously knew nothing at all about Draco if they could actually believe that Draco was some kind of blushing virgin. Kissed at last. Ha! If only the reporter had seen them that night. That first night. In the inky December rain outside a Muggle caf. Far away from wizards and wars. Just the two of them, kissing and kissing and kissing until their chins were slick with spit and the rain plastered their hair to their heads and Draco's hands clenched in the cloth of Harry's shirt. Fuck. Don't stop, he'd said when Harry had paused to catch his breath, and Harry hadn't been at all certain if he'd meant the kiss or his hand that had drifted to Draco's arse or the world itself, which had seemed to start spinning like a top on a table. So, Harry had simply gone back to kissing him. Kissing him into silence and stillness and nothing but now. Kissed at last. Harry rolled his eyes at the quaint Victorian prudishness of it all. At least the photograph that had accompanied the headline was a nice one, capturing the glint of winter sunlight in Draco's hair just as Harry remembered it. Over and over, the loop showed Harry lifting Draco's chin gently and pressing his mouth to Draco's. Over their heads, a starling landed on the branch of a tree, knocking loose the snow that clung there and dusting

their heads like confetti. Or rice. As though this were a wedding shot, and the kiss that Harry drew Draco into, over and over, were the seal of a sacrament. Clipping off the silly headline and throwing it away, Harry had kept the photograph and framed it. At least until they were actually married, and he could have the real thing. He just wished, sometimes when he looked at it, that Draco had closed his eyes instead of gazing off, rather oddly, into the middle distance. But then again, Harry could hardly be surprised. Draco must've been dazzled, what with the end of the Trial and the apparent last-minute rescission of his sentence. Also, they'd had endless days of sleet and freezing rain, and that morning had been white-washed in brilliant winter light. As though the sun herself was smiling down on them. As though a slate had been wiped clean. And if people had been staring at them, bug-eyed and silent, it was only understandable given how close Draco had come to a sentence in Azkaban . . . or . . . or worse. No doubt people were stunned that of all the convicted Death Eaters, only Draco had escaped the public administration of the Dementor's Kiss. But not Harry's, though. Draco couldn't escape that, and Harry had the photographic proof. He watched once more as his newsprint counterpart kissed Draco again and again and again, his fingers gently cradling Draco's jaw and his eyes drifting shut in contentment and relief. Perhaps he'd send a copy to Hermione. Along with another invitation to dinner.