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24 July 2011 @ 09:45 am
 Author/Artist LJ Name: khasael
Gift for: bryoneybrynn
Prompt Number: 13
Title: And He Alone Sits Lingering Here
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco
Summary: Draco is worried about his Auror partner, but it's Harry Potter – he can survive anything, right? Maybe not... unless Draco helps.
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): angst
Epilogue compliant? No
Word Count: 1640
Author's Notes: Dear prompter, this was not what I expected to write for you and the prompt you left. In fact, this is not even the fic I started to write. That one is exceptionally long and plotty and full of the angst. I would have loved to turn that in here, but alas, it got away from me length-wise, and requires more attention than I had time for, for this fest. I will finish it eventually, because I love it. In fact, there are at least three other fics I began, using your prompt, that will be finished at some future point. In the meantime, this is what came to me. I do hope you enjoy it. The title is a line from Henry Vaughan's poem, "Beyond the Veil", taken and twisted just a bit.

Harry's been losing weight, and it isn't like he's ever had much to spare.

And it's not just the weight, Draco realises as he takes a good look at his partner. They've been so lost in seas of paperwork lately that Draco can't think of anything other than case files, evidence catalogues, surveillance photographs, and diagrams of crime scenes. He has nearly a dozen paper cuts on his hands and, somehow, one on his nose. The skin on his hands is cracking and bleeding, sucked dry by the miles of parchment he's gone through in the last three weeks. And his eyes are always tired, burning and begging to be closed. It's the only reason Draco wants to admit when he thinks about how he's missed the crucial details.

Harry's eyes look just as tired, just as bloodshot. But his face is sallow, and there's a haunted quality to his eyes that Draco doesn't see in his own mirror. As Draco watches him sign his name to perhaps the hundredth form of the evening, Harry's hand shakes. It's just a little tremor, nothing most people would recognise. His signature's still perfectly legible, though the line crossing the T's in "Potter" is a bit wobbly. But it's there.

When they gather their things for the evening, preparing to head to their respective homes, Harry gives him a tired smile that doesn't reach his eyes. When was the last time it had? Draco can't remember. But he misses it. "Good night," Harry says softly, and Draco just nods back. He wants to say something, has for months, but no words come. All he can do is watch Harry walk out the door, taking a left towards the lifts.

But that's not right.
Harry should go right, not left. Right is towards the department's Apparition area and their direct Floo line, the one that saves them from having to use the public ones in the Atrium. Left leads to the lifts and while, yes, he could be headed towards the Atrium, the only real reason to use one would to be head to another department.

It takes Draco all of three seconds to change his plans for the evening. He can practically hear his bed call out in protest — theirs is a love affair lately neglected — but he knows something about this seems important.

Leaving his cloak behind and travelling with only his wand, Draco turns left at the door and heads straight for the lifts. Across the way, one lone lift descends. Pressing himself into the corner of the Atrium, Draco waits to see where the lift stops. As he watches, he can see the floor indicator stop at level nine. Trying to work out why Harry would stop there of all places, Draco gets a lift to one level above, so as not to raise suspicion. He forces himself to wait an agonising two full minutes before taking the lift down to level nine.

When his lift stops for a second time, Draco holds his breath and listens. Nothing. No footsteps, no muttered spells, no heavy breathing. Silent as the grave.

Draco shivers. Something about that phrase seems too accurate.

He casts a quick spell, one learned in the early days of Auror training, and watches as a soft, glowing green streak lights up down the corridor, leading to a black door at the end. Not even bothering with a spell to muffle his footsteps, he follows the light, which is rapidly fading. It's Harry's signature trace; he'd know it anywhere. They all know their partner's trace so well.

This isn't like the dozens of times Harry's gone off exploring, or sneaking into places he shouldn't be for a case. There's no part of him that should know that — after all, Harry's spent years sneaking around, first at Hogwarts, and then under Ministry approval, for the Auror squad — but he does. Everything about this whispers that there's something very wrong here. And every step he takes towards where his partner's gone only increases the feeling, instead of relieving it. Why is it so hard to breathe?

He pushes past the black door at the end of the corridor and stops, looking at the circle of doors in the dim, blue room, vaguely aware Harry's trace has run out. He doesn't even bother casting another. This deep into the Department of Mysteries, it likely won't even work. Instead, he goes on instinct. It's done him well enough in a number of cases; there've been plenty of chances for him to move on beyond this world.

That's what's wrong. The realisation nearly sends him tumbling to the floor, tangled in his own hurried footsteps as he picks a door, seemingly at random.

He doesn't know why he hasn't put it together sooner. He's heard enough about it — from his father, or eavesdropping on Aunt Bellatrix and his mother, or even from something he'd overheard Harry say to Weasley once — that it should have clicked long before this.

The veil.

Its existence isn't common knowledge, not even to the Aurors (though he'd bet half his still-sizable Gringotts vault it's a different story for the Unspeakables), but Draco knows enough for it to push him to move even faster. He doesn't know exactly how it works, and he doesn't know if anyone actually does, but he knows it's dangerous.

And still sitting in the bloody middle of a fairly open room.

Draco sees it when he stumbles into the room, before he processes any other detail. A crumbling stone archway with a tattered bit of dark fabric moving seductively, as if stirred by an unfelt breeze. He skids to a stop just inside the room, oddly mesmerised. What's moving the veil that way?

It takes just a moment to see he was right, that Harry has come here. His cloak is in a pile on the floor, as if Harry's just slipped it off his shoulders without caring where it lands. Draco can see the top half of his partner's wand sticking out from the pile of material. What, exactly, is going on? Harry's never without his wand. He probably sleeps with the damned thing in his hand.

He watches as Harry finally moves. He's not far from the veil. One big gust of wind, and it will flap around his shins. He hasn't moved since Draco's walked in, and doesn't even seem to have noticed anyone else is present. With a deep sigh, Harry raises his hand, as if to tug the veil aside and reveal whatever he hopes is there.

That's the thing that finally breaks Draco's paralysis. "Harry?"

It isn't loud, but the whisper is still enough to stop his partner. He pauses, hand still at shoulder height. Still, he doesn't move away. That, more than anything Draco's seen since the end of the war — hexes thrown his way, victims of murder and torture, the time he was poisoned by a shard of glass at a crime scene — scares the utter hell out of him. "Harry. What are you doing?"

This time, Harry drops his hand and turns his head. "Draco?"

"Yeah. Why don't you step away from that thing?"

Harry just shakes his head. "I've been listening. I thought I heard…" He looks back at the veil, and the almost wistful look on his face gives Draco a very good idea of what he's thought he's heard.

"You didn't, though. It was just an illusion. There's no one there on the other side of that thing. I don't know who you thought it was — your parents, your godfather, Dumbledore, or someone else you lost — but it wasn't them." He moves closer, careful not to make any sudden movements. Harry's expression is frighteningly similar to the one on that woman they had to talk away from a ledge late last year. But really, that'd been Harry's success and not his. He's never actually done this sort of thing before.

"But the voice..." He sighs again. "I just want to know. What's on the other side? And what makes this side so much better?"

The way he says it makes Draco believe that Harry's been spending far too much time in here. How many nights has he come down here instead of going home and getting sleep? Has this been going on weeks? Months? Longer? And more importantly, how has he missed that something was wrong for this long? "Harry, don't." He's close enough now that he could grab his partner and throw him out of the way if necessary, but he doesn't want it to come to that. Because, truth be told, Harry's overpowered him before, and he can probably do it again, even if he's as ill as he looks.

"Why not?" Harry whispers, and everything Draco's been trying not to say for months, all the feelings that aren't right for one to be having about one's partner, threaten to bubble up and spill out of him. What can he possibly say?

In the end, he doesn't give an answer the way he expects, reasoning with words and logic. He simply reaches out a hand and takes Harry's other one, the limp one hanging at his side, and gives it a gentle squeeze. "Because," he whispers, afraid of what else he might say if he allows his voice any more freedom.

When Harry turns fully towards him, facing away from the veil that seems suddenly forgotten, and gives him something that resembles a hesitant smile, Draco wonders if he's got through to his partner. But it's the moment that he realises that the expression actually reaches Harry's eyes, just a second before the hand in his squeezes back, that he feels something like hope.

And it's not so different from the look in Harry's eyes, come to think of it.
Sarahfancypantsdylan on July 24th, 2011 07:22 pm (UTC)
Very beautiful and very sad
(Deleted comment)
Nennenenne on July 24th, 2011 10:30 pm (UTC)
Leela: stairsleela_cat on July 25th, 2011 01:06 am (UTC)
Sad and bittersweet and ineffably hopeful. Just lovely.
ayurubieayurubie on July 25th, 2011 02:55 am (UTC)
enthralling and bittersweet <3
Bryoneybryoneybrynn on July 25th, 2011 02:59 am (UTC)
Darling!!! This is so lovely. SO. LOVELY. You are like my own personal writer - isn't this the third (fourth?) time you've written a prompt of mine? It's so awesome. I have an idea, someone else writes it and does such a great job. And I'm so glad you picked this prompt. The Veil just slays me.

From the first line to the last, pitch perfect. You totally captured what i love about the veil, that tired, weary sadness that drives Harry there, that makes it seductive. The way he doesn't tell anyone, wouldn't think of reaching out, just pushes on and then goes to it like a sailor to a siren. And I loved Draco and how he missed the signs, that he didn't notice immediately - because who ever does - but that when he does notice, he acts with so much compassion.

I hope you'll finish that long fic because I know I'll love it too but oh, this was beautiful. thank you!!!
kaykayen on July 25th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
Heartbreaking! I'm so glad Draco followed his instincts and now he should follow his heart!
magicallioness: Red eyedmagicallioness on July 26th, 2011 05:18 am (UTC)
This was almost painful. I feel so bad for Harry. And I'm really glad for the shimmer of hope you gave us in the end! :)
tigersilvertigersilver on July 30th, 2011 06:10 am (UTC)