They called her the ship of dreams.
In fact, she was a dream, realized by steel and built by the hands of the poor so that the rich could feast off her extravagance. She was called the last word in luxury. She was a legend long before her maiden voyage and passed into the annals of history along with the icy waters of the Atlantic. She was a wonder. A pearl. Magical. Unsinkable.
She was the R.M.S. Titanic.
On April 10, 1912, she set sail for America carrying over two thousand souls. Every one of them had a dream. Some sought a better life in the land where the streets were said to be paved with gold. Some merely sought the attention that came with being on the first voyage of the greatest man-made structure of the age. Others stepped aboard because the sea was their true home; they made her run with the heat of the coal and the sweat of their brows.
Two-thousand two hundred and twenty-three people were aboard the Titanic for that fateful voyage. After nearly a century of studying the ship, it seems that nearly every story has been told and every passenger vetted by history to be declared heroic, cowardly, or simply unlucky.
But three passengers were different from all the rest. They too had dreams, desires, failings, and triumphs. They were human, after all.
Then again, they were more than simply human.
They were magic.
This is their story.
April 10, 1912
Draco Malfoy did not want to be there.
They were surrounded by a swirl of chaos, color, and noise -- caught in a whirlpool on dry land. They remained perfectly still amidst the cacophony, but he could not shake the feeling that he spun about in a tumult. The effort to remain placid in the middle of upheaval wearied him, though he struggled not to show this.
He thought of his mother, and how she always scolded him when he pouted or glowered. 'A Malfoy never shows his true colors, Draco,' she'd said to him once, sipping champagne that glittered like the diamonds at her wrists. 'We are a mystery to all others. This is the way to power.'
In fact, according to his mother, there were a plethora of ways to power and still more ways to keep it.
His new wife Pansy Malfoy, nee Parkinson, had not been so schooled. She either could not or would not hide the scorn in her eyes, and though for most part, it would be seen as par for the course classism, Draco knew better. He longed to hide her face.
"You forget how many of them there are," Pansy remarked, her voice pitched low. "It's so easy to forget. To think, there are thousands -- millions -- of them strutting about ignorant and... crippled." She shuddered. "It's obscene."
"Darling," Draco interrupted, doing his best to curtail his irritation. "Now is hardly the time."
Pansy looked up at him, sharp eyes and sharper eyebrows. She raised one, and it resembled a child's crude drawing of a mountain. "You act as though I'm riding a broom through the crowd."
He frowned at her brazenness and checked to see if she'd been overheard. She laughed aloud, tipping her head back only a little; her over-large hat could only accommodate so much movement. "You are paranoid! I'm somewhat tempted to tease you on the subject, but I dare say it would grow tiresome. Very well. What should I talk of? I can hardly gossip over people I know nothing about."
In point of fact, Draco didn't want her to talk about anything at all, though he could hardly say as much. "There's always the ship."
Pansy turned to stare at the vessel that would shortly convey them across the sea: the Titanic. All around him, people paused to gawp at its (or 'hers,' as Muggles were wont to feminize their boats) size and grandeur. More than once, he heard it referred to as magical.
Draco found the comparison patently ridiculous, and at another time, he would have likely commiserated with Pansy on the subject. To think, something man-made and labored over by sweaty workmen for months could be called magical. Draco knew what real magic was: it came naturally, at times effortlessly, and it wrought true glory out of the ether. These fools -- cripples, Pansy had said -- had no idea. The ignorance of their awe made him ill.
Truthfully, the ordeal in its entirety left him constantly queasy. It was not natural that either he or Pansy was there. They were not like those wizards who lived on the outskirts of Muggle life, and certainly not like those madmen who saw fit to mix and even intermarry. The Malfoys were an old family, and as such they had long memories. While some could forget the ferocity with which so many of their kind had been pursued, even killed, Draco could not. He knew the danger that came with desegregation. He knew the threat the Muggles posed, with their superior numbers and their blinding ignorance.
And to think, it was to the Muggles that Draco now must need look to for salvation.
One Week Earlier
The night was dark as pitch, as if he had gotten oil in his eyes that he couldn't blink out. The street lamps blazed, but neither electricity nor starlight could illuminate his path. So he stumbled dumbly in the direction of home. His eyes were wet. Something dripped from his hands.
He smeared red on the front gate of the manor.
He lurched past gaping, dithering house-elves and portraits that snored on in oblivion. He kept going, half-blind and perhaps only half-sane. He broke a priceless vase in his trek towards the drawing room. He crushed the shattered pieces beneath his boots.
His mother sat in front of the fire. She was the first thing he saw clearly, bedecked in white, hair like snow, her hands dripping with diamonds and pearls for no one to see. She was a swan before the fire, about to be burnt to death.
She turned. She stood at once, her ice blue eyes wide.
She did not embrace him. He wished he were young enough to ask it of her.
"What's happened?" she asked, disturbingly poised for the catastrophe she knew had come.
"We have to run."
His mother had fled that night. She waited for him in New York, for he had been obligated to make a few necessary arrangements. Chief among them being the woman at his arm.
"You're not listening to me. Is this going to become a habit?"
He took a deep breath despite the rank odor of coal and poverty. "I'm sorry. It's difficult to concentrate amidst this noise."
She glared, but Pansy was nothing if not shrewd. She would point out every battle she could fight, but she would not take up arms for all. "I only said that the ship is beautiful."
Draco looked at it for the first time.
Frankly, all he could say for it was that it was big -- tremendously so. The ship towered above them in a manner meant to be imposing. Draco found it garish. The whole thing struck him as impractical, but then so did everything Muggle.
"For what it is," Pansy added, seeming to read his mind.
Draco curled his lip. "It's a monstrosity," he said, and he meant it. It amazed him that she could think anything else. He hated it. Not only for the sheer presumptuousness of it, but for everything it represented. It was a floating prison. "Even the name of it. Titanic. It's like they're grappling towards something beyond themselves."
"You mean us?" she queried.
"I wouldn't know," he answered, turning away from his new gilded cage.
If he didn't know better, he could have sworn Pansy looked saddened by something. Surely it must have been a trick of the light. "Well, what else can they do?"
What else indeed? And for that matter, what else could he do? The answer was simple enough: nothing. He was crippled, practically Muggle in his impotence.
As if sensing his frustration, Pansy squeezed his arm. He hated her pity and drew away, hailing a porter.
"Might as well get on with it," Draco muttered.
Pansy smiled coldly. "All aboard the monstrosity."
It was the most beautiful thing Harry had ever seen.
Perhaps this was not actually noteworthy. Any number of fellow passengers might hear this sentiment and laugh, for what beautiful things could a street urchin have possibly seen? Regardless of what they thought of him, Harry Potter defied a single one of them to look upon the Titanic and not be overcome with amazement.
He thought of a story in the Bible: the Tower of Babel. Once upon a time, human beings striving to be closer to God by building a tower all the way to Heaven. They were punished for even trying.
Harry Potter hadn't believed in God for a very long time, but in this, he saw something greater than man. He could not help but wonder.
Harry tore his eyes away from Titanic and looked upon his fellow passengers, never letting his gaze linger too long. He watched first and second class passengers commenting on the boat or on one another, and he could not help but frown at their excess. Unnecessary frippery, parasols to protect a lady's complexion, walking sticks for men who had no trouble walking at all... It sickened him, but what sort of poor man would he be if he did not envy them? He was a proud man, but Harry was not the type to go hungry for it. Perhaps if given the chance, he would sacrifice a great many things for the guarantee of a full stomach every day.
Then again, maybe he would not have to worry about that ever again. For Harry also saw other steerage passengers, working men like him, suffering through a lice examination. Even though the humiliation stung, the hardest among them could not mask the hope shining on their faces. Soon they would be in America, a land where they said opportunity waited at every corner.
Harry was no cynic, but it sounded too good to be true. As Ginny had once pointed out to him, it very likely was.
Harry's stomach performed a complicated series of acrobatics. Ginny. How could he have forgotten her, even for a moment, in the shadows of the ocean liner? She was, after all, the only reason he was there.
Two Years Earlier
"Honestly, Ron," Hermione sighed, rubbing the work-worn shoulders of her sister-in-law. "Couldn't you talk to the twins? See if they can scrounge up the money for an extra ticket."
"I'd take steerage," Harry said, wringing his hat in his hands. "Wouldn't mind at all. Can't be worse... than other things." He ducked his head, avoiding Ron's gaze. He loved his best friend like a brother, but there were some things you didn't say to another bloke: like how much you loved his little sister.
"You will not!" Ginny snapped, fire in her eyes but a quiver in her voice. "They've paid for second class for all of us. They can certainly do it for you!"
Ron exhaled a long breath; Harry wondered how long he'd been holding it. "Gin, you know it's not that simple."
Ginny sniffed but did not shrink. "You mean you're still too scared of them to say anything."
"I am not," Ron retorted, though with less vigor than Harry expected. "It's just... you know how they feel about Harry."
Ginny and Hermione both made their opinion of that clear enough.
"It's rubbish, of course!" Ron insisted. "But they're still the ones with the money, aren't they? They're not bringing us to America because they have to; they're doing it because they want to. So of course if they don't want to pay for Harry, they won't. Made that perfectly clear in the letter. Hermione, you read it yourself."
Ginny's cheeks turned pink. She hadn't known, nor had Harry. Hermione was the only one among them who could read.
"They hate him that much?" Ginny asked, her voice very small.
Ron looked rather like he wanted to curl in on himself in shame. "I... I don't know, Gin. Honest. I know they want what's best for their only sister, 's'all."
For a moment, they all saw a flash of Ginny's insides, her anguish all too clear. It broke Harry's heart to see how much her brothers could hurt her. She shook for an instant. Then she was on her feet, shouting at Ron like he was the cause of it all. "And I don't get to decide for myself? Harry's no better or worse than the rest of us! He's a good man; he takes care of me. He'd never lay a hand on me, which is more than I can say for the bloke Katie Bell married last year. And I'm meant to stand here and let them tell what is and is not best for me?" She spat on the floor of their one room apartment. "Bollocks to that!" Then she turned on her heel and stalked out into the dark, London night.
The three friends flinched at the slamming door that echoed in Ginny's wake. They exchanged glances, and each seemed a little wearier than they had been before Ginny left them. Hermione's shoulders slumped, and Ron buried his face in his hands. Harry looked down at his cap and saw what a ruin he had made of it. Not the first time he'd made a mess of something.
"You should go after her, Harry," Hermione advised.
"I'm not mental," Harry answered wryly. "I'll give her a minute 'fore I do."
Ron sighed again. Harry thought back to when they were kids, and how even when they choked on the soot in the chimneys together, Ron had always smiled, pure white against coal black. Harry couldn't remember the last time Ron had looked happy.
"You know I think they're mad," Ron murmured, looking up again. "You know I do, Harry."
Harry nodded, steeling himself for the unavoidable 'but'.
"I have to go to them. They're all I have left of my family." His voice croaked just a little, and Hermione reached forward and grasped his hands. Both of their knuckles were white as stone. "And I have to take Ginny with me."
Harry nodded again, fitting his mangled cap over his unruly hair, pulling it low over his forehead as always. "I know, Ron. Don't worry. I'll sit her on the boat myself if I have to."
Then Harry followed Ginny out into the darkness, leaving his two best friends huddled around a quickly dying lamp, their hands still clasped against hardship.
It didn't take long to find Ginny. All he had to do was follow the swearing down the alley.
"Not very ladylike, Gin," he said, forcing a smile into his voice.
She kicked over a rotting crate, scattering a family of nesting rats. Then she whirled on him, and even in the dim starlight, he could see the tears glittering in her eyes. He hated when she cried; he never knew how to make it better. So he did the only thing he'd ever learned did work: he held out his arms. She pitched into his embrace in her way, barreling into him with the force of a man. Soon her face was buried in his chest, staining his shirt with damp.
"It's not fair," she hissed miserably. Silly as she sounded, he didn't have the heart to tease her for it. "You're a good man, and I love you. What more can they want?"
Harry stroked her hair, tangling his fingers in her red curls. "Maybe they've found a man for you there. One with money and prospects, since they're so successful now."
Ginny snorted, wet and messy. "Shit. Better not have. They know I'd kill myself 'fore I'd marry some prancing dandy."
"Well, maybe they just want to put you to work in their brothel."
Even in her sour mood, Ginny could not help but laugh. He'd known her all his life, but the sound of her laugh was still better than the sweetest music: full-bodied and soaring out of her throat, rich and sparkling. Just like her. "You don't really think that's how they've gotten the money, do you?"
"You have a better idea?"
Ginny shrugged. "I'm still hoping they just cheat at cards."
"I'm sure they do that as well."
He thought she would laugh again, but instead all she did was stand on tiptoe and press her lips against his. She kissed him with a smile, but he could not ignore the lingering salt of her dried tears.
She pulled back and draped her arms around his neck. "I love you."
"So you've said."
She pinched his cheek hard enough so that it was like as not to bruise. "That's not what you're supposed to say."
He chewed on his bottom lip, a bad habit Hermione constantly tried to break him of. "I know, but... well, if I say it, it's almost worse than just knowing it. If I say it to you now, I dunno if I'll be able to let you get on that boat next week. Dunno if I'll be able to let you go, and I have to."
Ginny swallowed, her voice thick. "I don't want to leave you."
"I don't want you to leave," he echoed. "But you have to. You've got to let your brothers make a better life for you if you can. I... I can only offer you this. Apartments off an alley festering with bloody rats."
"I don't mind the rats," Ginny growled. "I don't mind going hungry and working my fingers to the bone. I wouldn't mind anything at all, so long as I'm with you."
Harry shook his head. "But it isn't just us anymore." He pressed his callused, dirty palm against her stomach, spreading his fingers why. "Is it?"
Ginny's eyes were wide as twin moons, her skin just as pale. "Hermione told you."
"Overheard her talking with Lavender Brown about it," Harry admitted. "Surprised Lav didn't tell me herself, gossip that she is."
Ginny covered Harry's hand with her own, holding on fiercely. "All the more reason for me to stay with you. He's half yours. He shouldn't grow up without a father."
"He won't," Harry promised, whispering against her forehead. "I don't know how, but I will find you again. I'll work myself near to death so I can be with you. I'll follow you. I swear it."
They held on to each other just like that until the first rays of dawn broke over the horizon.
And one week later, Ginny got on a boat.
It seemed that that night had been a lifetime ago. His son, James, thrived under the care of so many Weasleys, now as rich in money as they were in love. Hermione had written him over the years, and Harry had eventually found someone to read them to him. He'd long since memorized them all, and he carried the papers with him every day. He'd mimicked the alphabet with an unsteady hand not long ago to send his own letter. In it, he'd let Ginny and the rest of them know he had finally done it. He was coming to New York on the greatest ship man had ever made. Whether her brothers liked it or not.
Harry was pulled from his reverie by a sharp, stinging pain in his back. He jumped, fumbling at the skin where his suspenders had been snapped.
He now stood face-to-face with three men who looked near enough to his age, and the culprit was easily determined. He was pale and tow-headed, with eyes that laughed along with his voice. He spoke with a rambling Irish brogue, which more or less told Harry everything he needed to know. "Sorry, mate. Couldn't resist! You looked so moony-eyed I thought we might have lost you forever! And what a shame that would have been, losing a good man to the sea before the voyage even begins. There's a ballad in that."
"Seamus, you think there's a ballad in everything," said the man at his right. He was much taller, with skin the color of burnt chestnuts. Harry noticed his long, tapered fingers were darker than the rest of his flesh, and he wondered if it was from working in the coal mines. Harry also noticed that while he affected disapproval of Seamus's antics, the left corner of his mouth kept creeping upwards in a half-smile.
"Not my fault that there is!" Seamus insisted. Then, remembering Harry, he removed his cap and made a sweeping bow. "My apologies to our newly recovered companion. Where are my manners? Name's Seamus Finnigan, of the Finnicky Finnigans. This cynical bloke at my right goes by the name of Dean Thomas. And our silent companion was once Neville Longbottom, but I'm afraid he may have gone the way you nearly did, Mister."
Harry stared at Neville's round face turned up towards the ship at his back. Harry was quite sure he had looked that stunned; he hoped no one else had been looking too closely.
"I'm Harry. Harry Potter."
Seamus's blue eyes lit up. "I don't suppose y'are a potter, mate? You know, ceramics and things. My friend Dean here's always looking for a fellow artist to natter on with."
Harry realized then that the stains must have been charcoal or lead. He glanced at Dean, who Harry thought would roll his eyes. When the taller man did not, Harry could not help but marvel at his willpower. "'Fraid not."
Seamus affected extreme disappointment. "Shame. Now I have to listen to it. What do you do then?"
Harry's skin prickled. The innocuous question rankled, and though he did his best not to let it show, he didn't miss the suspicious look Dean gave him. "Little of this, little of that."
"Dirt poor like the rest of us then, ain't ya?" Seamus joked. "Good man. Only man worth a spit's starving, me mum always said." Seamus glanced askance at Neville, slapping him lightly upside the head. When it didn't register, Seamus hit him considerably harder. "Are you just going to look at it?"
Neville turned a deep shade of crimson, and Harry inevitably thought of Ron. Which of course led to thinking of Ginny. He realized too late that he probably had an unforgivably stupid smile on his face.
At exactly twelve noon at Southampton port, the Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage. She was due to pick up more passengers in France later that day, but they were a mere afterthought. They could not hope to rival the jubilation and triumph that resulted when the ship first pulled away from the dock and set out into open water. People waved to strangers on the dock, children sang, and the richest men in the world laughed like they hadn't a care in the world.
Draco very much wanted to cast a Silencing Charm on the whole business.
"Oh, bosh," Pansy chided, squeezing his arm. "Let them have their fun. Muggles have so little to live for anyway. It's not as if they can do anything."
"Yes, but must they be so loud while they're doing nothing?"
Pansy stared up at him for a moment, dark eyes appraising. Draco hated it when she looked that way, like she knew every part of him better than he did. Draco may have chosen her for a wife because of her intelligence, but there had already been times when he regretted not taking up with that empty-headed heiress Astoria Greengrass. She never would have acted as though all of his masks were invisble.
Pansy currently remained under the illusion that men did not keep secrets from their wives. Draco hoped he cured her of that sooner rather than later.
She looked away, and the tension broke like a wave upon the sand. "Well, I for one am looking forward to this little adventure," she trilled with unconvincing enthusiasm. "I know you can't stand it, and I'm certainly not one for mixing. Still, think of it: we're part of history. Surely that must make up for a little discomfort. Don't you agree?"
"Of course." He clearly did not.
Pansy's grip on his arm tightened entirely too much for his liking. It caused her visible effort to relax. "You needn't be so cold. You're acting like --"
She cut off so quickly that she might have bitten her tongue.
He glared down at her, making the most terrible face he could muster. Still, she did not flinch from him, though she did look slightly cowed. "I'm acting like whom?"
She met his inquiry with rigid silence.
It gave him hope for the future of their marriage.
Third class quarters were not nearly as superb as the outside of the ship, but they were undoubtedly better than anything Harry or many of his other fellow third class passengers had stayed in before. To begin with, it was clean, which automatically made Harry uncomfortable. A quick inspection revealed that the cabins also had heat and electricity. It actually reminded Harry of Hermione's descriptions of their second class accommodations on their way to America two years prior.
Seamus let out a low whistle. "Mad, isn't it? Never thought I'd be bummin' around somethin' like this... And d'you know they're giving us food and everything?"
Harry smirked. "Well, they couldn't very well let us fight over the rats. Imagine the bad publicity."
Seamus nodded sagely, grinning. "Aye. Imagine what all those first class la-dee-das would think, if they knew vermin was runnin' about."
That wasn't what Harry had meant, but he realized Seamus's interpretation was far more likely. If there was one thing he'd learned over the years, it was that people wore blinders. Man did not help their fellow man out of pity or a sense of charity, but out of a desire to better himself. No one went looking at the poor to see how their lives could be bettered; they looked at them to thank God they were born better.
Harry shook his head. Now was hardly the time. In a matter of days, he'd be with Ginny. What did his position matter then?
"Ship's going to be taking off in a minute," Dean announced, tossing his bag onto a top bunk. Harry idly wondered how the man was going to fit comfortably, and then he realized that as tall as Dean was, it was impossible to sleep anywhere comfortably.
Neville brightened and spoke for the first time since Harry had met him. His voice was strong and clear, and Harry found himself instantly liking the man, even if he did look too well-fed. "I'm going up on deck."
Dean arched an eyebrow. "To wave at strangers?"
"To see it!" Neville insisted.
Neville made a large gesture in an attempt to encompass the entirety of their situation. "Everything!"
Dean shrugged. "Been on boats before; it's all the same to me. But suit yourself." He swung himself onto the bunk with easy grace, stretching out fully so that his feet hung over the edge. "Me? I'm due for a nap."
"You have no sense of adventure," Neville informed him with solemnity.
"So I've been told."
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Seamus's eyes sparkle. He was instantly reminded of Fred and George with their penchant for youthful mischief. It inspired a familiar feeling of trepidation and excitement.
"Neville Longbottom," Seamus announced, swooping between Neville and Harry. "D'you mean to tell me that you've got a hankering for adventure?"
Neville's face fell. "Seamus, not now... We've just got on board."
"It's the best time! They'll be busy with the launch."
"I for one don't want to spend the rest of the trip in the stockade or whatever they have because of your mad schemes."
"I missed something," Harry decided. "Fill me in?"
Neville released a long-suffering sigh. "Seamus's brother worked on building the ship in Belfast. And all he ever talked about was how amazing the first class decks of the ship are. Now Seamus wants a peek."
Harry turned to Seamus, intrigued. "Thought you said the rich weren't worth spit."
"They aren't," Seamus agreed. "I for one would like to know just how worthless they are. Neville, don't be such a woman; I know you've got a spine. You've such great posture!"
Neville scowled. "I'm going on deck. The one I'm allowed on. You can get arrested on your own."
"Woman," Seamus declared, ruffling Neville's hair as he passed. Neville shot Harry a warning look. The message was clear: don't let him talk you into anything.
Hermione had tried to do that all the time when they were kids. Hadn't worked then either.
"Do they really have a gold staircase?" Harry asked, ignoring the grunt of disappointment coming from Dean's bunk.
Seamus flashed him another radiant smile. "Guess we'd better find out."
Draco had been more or less inclined to spend the rest of the event in silence; really, he would not have been opposed to locking himself in his cabin and not emerging until they landed in New York. But Pansy wouldn't allow it, of course. It simply was not done. However, he was glad to have this momentary respite from his wife's attempts to distract him. Eventually, the noise of his fellow passengers fell away, and he was left to himself in a false silence. Here, he could ruminate over what had passed in recent days, and what he would face once he and Pansy reached New York.
Cries of horror and the smell of copper. A drop of wet on his cheek. A smear of red on the front gate of his home. His mother's eyes.
And then, something else. Something new. Something entirely unrelated to his troubles, yet irrevocably intertwined with his world.
His eyes flew open in panic. He began to look around frantically, ignoring Pansy's alarm. Had they been found? How could they have? He had chosen this route specifically; they would never think to look for him here. They couldn't be here... Could they?
"Draco!" Pansy demanded, spinning him around. She'd always been surprisingly strong. Strange how traits he'd admired in her when they were friends were so bothersome in a wife. "What is the matter? You look as though you've seen a Boggart."
The academic in him loathed not to point out that one never actually saw a Boggart. They merely projected images of your worst fear. Then again, Draco realized, that may have been her point.
"Can't you feel that?" he hissed.
"Draco, do try not to be deliberately obtuse for the sake of drama. I haven't the patience for it."
Draco leaned in close, hissing like the snake on his family crest. "There is a wizard here."
Pansy's eyes widened. He had not told her the details of why he had to leave Britain so quickly, but Pansy knew that the stakes must be high. "How can you be sure?"
"I'm not mad!" he insisted, realizing too late that this did not help his case. "I was concentrating and simply felt it. It's not unheard of."
Pansy remained dubious. "Can you find them?"
It hadn't occurred to Draco. Was it possible to follow a person's magical signature to his or her location? In a place populated with wizards -- Diagon Alley for instance --this would be singularly impossible. But on this ship, built by Muggles to ferry Muggles around the world, it just might work.
He closed his eyes and let the world fall away once more. His mother had always said he would have been a fair Legilimens if he'd bothered to take the time. Perhaps this was proof.
Draco sensed the power once more. It tickled at the base of his brain but lacked pressure. It was a sensation of cold, or maybe more like the absence of warmth. But most of all, it was a kind of siren call. 'Come to me.'
He tightened his grip on his walking stick, conscious of the wand hidden within. "Stay here," he ordered, his tone brooking no protest.
Pansy grudgingly assented. "Send up sparks if you need me. We can Obliviate later."
He might have smiled fondly at her, his ruthless and forthright companion. But, unable to ignore the danger they might be in, Draco set out into the crowd, searching (perhaps) for someone sent to kill him.
Draco would very much like to see them try.
As it turned out, Seamus had grossly underestimated the sheer amount of officials running about. True, as he predicted, they were busy, but there were just so many of them. It was as if the Titanic had amassed her own army for the protection of her passengers.
Thankfully, Harry had always been good at hiding and sneaking about. He'd picked a few pockets in his day, when work had been impossible to find, and he'd been too hungry to bother with Hermione's unwavering moral code. He'd never been caught, and his victims had never known he was there. He never stole from a person who wasn't completely capable of replacing anything that had been lost.
For all his theatrics, Seamus seemed equally suited to the task. He stepped lightly, and though he lacked Harry's knack for sensing someone just around the corner, he was certainly a decent fellow to be sneaking about with.
Despite their vastly different personalities, Harry was again reminded of Ron. They had done this all the time. He remembered following Ron's brothers, Bill and Charlie, when they'd gone off to fight the Chinese in 1900. They'd thought themselves very clever until the older boys had found them out and boxed them around the ears. Charlie had told them they were too damn loud; Bill had just laughed and said there'd be time to teach them how to do it properly when he got back from the war.
Harry and Ron had taught themselves in the end. Neither Bill nor Charlie came home.
Seamus snapped his suspenders again to get his attention. "Still with me, Potter?"
Harry set aside his old grief, an old habit. He grinned at Seamus and got one in return. "Try to keep up, Finnigan."
They hadn't had any luck of making it to the grand staircase. In the end, they'd decided to go up on deck as Neville suggested, but Seamus insisted they join the first class passengers.
"You never know, maybe one of them fine ladies will fall in love with us and save us from our pitiful lives," Seamus joked.
Harry decided now was not the time to mention Ginny; he'd rather keep her to himself. He'd simply shrugged and followed Seamus to the first class promenade, where it seemed like hundreds of people were waving to -- as Dean had suggested -- complete strangers.
Almost immediately, Harry felt wrong. Or no, maybe it wasn't wrong... just different. He felt twitchy, as if his muscles couldn't stand keeping still. There was a strange clenching in his stomach, how he imagined actors felt before they stepped on stage for the first time. He wasn't sure he liked it, but he was certain that he didn't dislike it.
"I don't understand the dresses," Seamus remarked, half-shouting over the din. "It's like they're wearing tents."
Harry tuned out Seamus's rambling commentary. He was entirely too wrapped up in himself to care about Seamus's tired opinions on the rich. He could not remember ever feeling this way before. So then why did something about it feel familiar? And why did it disturb him enough for him to take notice anyway?
Not for the first time, Harry wondered what was wrong with him.
Draco had never been one for hunting, a distressingly Muggle pastime. But now he felt like a bloodhound that had caught the scent of its quarry. It pulled at him, and nothing short of a lightning bolt could have knocked him from the path. He wove his way between hooting passengers, all heedless of the danger they might be. Not that Draco particularly cared for their safety above his own; he simply reasoned that were he in their position (Merlin forbid), he would have been most unhappy to be caught in such a crossfire.
With each step, he felt himself moving nearer to his target. As he closed in, he felt he could get a sense of the kind of person he sought. There was something wild and raw about the magic, untamed.
Finally, Draco felt like he was practically on top of his prey. He began to remove his wand from the hidden compartment in his walking stick. He looked around.
He saw a pair of bright green eyes.
Draco began to advance. He would demand answers from this man, and if he had to use a few Unforgiveables to do it, so be it. Desperate times.
Draco had very nearly whipped his wand out to begin his interrogation when his field of vision was blocked by a solid blue field. It took him a moment to realize that an officer had spotted the green-eyed man as well. Apparently, the wizard was in high demand. Draco bit back a curse, hating to wait but realizing that making a spectacle of himself would do no good.
"What do you boys think you're doing up here?"
"Protesting the injustice of the British caste system." Draco realized that the green-eyed man was not alone. His companion seemed irredeemably Irish. "Yourself?"
"Very funny," the officer drawled. "I'll give you a warning this time, lads, but if I catch you up here again, it'll be passed on to the Master at Arms. Get on now."
The Irish one saluted cheekily, and then pulled his friend -- Draco's target -- away. The green-eyed man looked oddly dazed, and... had he been staring at Draco?
"My apologies, sir."
Draco blinked, entirely lost. It took him a moment to remember that the officer was still there. Draco plastered on a cold smile; Pansy would have his head if he was outwardly rude to someone of high standing aboard the ship. "Pardon?"
"I caught sight of you heading toward that pair," the officer explained. "I expect you were about to give them the what for. And I agree with you; steerage should keep to their places. But the maiden launch tends to go to people's heads. Chances are good those boys won't cause any more trouble."
"Quite." Draco could not help but sneer. He could guarantee that one of them would not, once Draco found him again. "Thank you..."
"Second Officer Charles Lightoller."
Draco nodded in a way that could have been interpreted as a bow. One did have to show due deference, even to Muggles. "My thanks, Officer Lightoller." Then he went back the way he came.
Predictably, Pansy had not listened to him and met him halfway. He threaded her arm through his and led her to their stateroom. What he had to say was not meant for so many ears.
Pansy listened to her husband's story with what she undoubtedly thought was nigh saintly patience. Draco could tell immediately that she was not taking this threat seriously.
"You think I'm paranoid," Draco scoffed, loosening his collar with a flick of his wrist.
"Well, darling, we both know Malfoys tend to run that way," Pansy remarked coolly, ignoring the frosty look Draco sent her in return. "And honestly, the way you described how the magic felt to you... Sounds to me like a Gryffindor."
Draco raised an eyebrow. He knew of the four houses in Britain's wizarding school of couse, but since he had been to Beauxbatons, he did not have the intrinsic understanding that Pansy did. "I thought Hogwarts houses were dependent on personality."
Pansy shrugged elegantly. "As I understand it, your personality affects your magic to a degree. And if you think a Gryffindor imbecile has actually come here to harm you... Well, I'd no more expect a Gryffindor to murder me in my sleep than I would a Hufflepuff," she laughed. "They'd likely ask permission before slipping hemlock in your drink."
"I'm thrilled you find this so amusing."
"Oh, don't be so sensitive." She sank into the chair before her vanity and began preening in the mirror. It was a sight Draco realized would be a common one for the duration of their life together. "How old did he look?"
Draco blanched. "I... I haven't the faintest."
Pansy glanced at him incredulously in his reflection.
"I didn't have much time," Draco defended, bristling. "That Muggle got in my way too quickly... I don't know. He was a boy."
Pansy began to tend to her hair, using her wand to shift and knot the dark curls in ever-changing styles. "What kind of boy? Young? Or was he older and just seemed like a boy?"
Draco frowned, concentrating. How old had the boy been? Certainly older than sixteen... He must have been of age. He would be in school otherwise. He said as much.
"Good. Then there's a chance I knew him when I was at Hogwarts."
Draco rubbed his forehead. "Like I said, I didn't have long. I can tell you he was poor."
Pansy sniffed primly.
"And he looked strong." Draco added, "like he works with his hands."
Pansy was either intrigued by this information or by her current up-do. "How curious for a wizard."
"Does it mean anything to you?"
Pansy shrugged. "Well, it means I certainly didn't know him, though I might have heard of him. Let's see if I can remember... Was there anything else?"
How could he have forgotten? "He had green eyes."
Seamus and Harry ran all the way back to the third-class cabins, half-breathless with excitement. Seamus was crowing over their narrow escape, whereas Harry simply felt electrified by something he could not hope to explain.
He had felt uncommonly charged on the first class deck. He had not been able to identify it with any accuracy at first, but then that pale man had come upon them. He hadn't said anything to Harry or Seamus, but there was something about him. It made his heart flutter the same way it did when he thought of Ginny, though of course it was entirely different. Still, something about that pale, aristocratic man had stirred something in Harry. Something he never talked about but could never entirely forget.
He wondered if that strange man was at all like him.
"Didja see the look his face when I saluted him?" Seamus guffawed, clutching his sides. "Thought he was going to turn purple!"
"You were caught?"
Harry spun, surprised to find Neville had returned. Had they been gone so long?
"Indeed we were," Seamus announced. "And do note, dear woman, that I am in no stockade."
"Pity for the rest of us," Dean muttered groggily. Apparently Seamus had woken him from his nap.
"Bah!" Seamus cried, slapping Dean on the back. "Admit it. You'd miss me."
"You're going to miss a part of you if you touch me again."
Seamus held up his hands in mock surrender. "So grumpy today. I've got one of you out of sorts, Neville the woman, and our new friend Harry always daydreaming!"
"Hm?" Harry asked, finding he hadn't been paying attention.
Seamus looked at Neville mournfully. "See?"
"You were thinking rather far off," Neville observed keenly. "What about? If you don't mind me asking."
Harry momentarily froze. He couldn't tell the truth. The stories you heard as children always told you to be honest, but they never told you that sometimes, you had to hide for your own safety. Harry had learned that the hard way. He reflexively pulled his fringe farther down on his forehead.
The he pulled a picture out of his pocket.
Neville took it gently, handling it with an appropriate amount of care. Seamus leaned in, raising his eyebrows appreciatively. Even Dean glanced down to see what all of the fuss was about. He smiled at Harry for the first time. "That is a fine looking woman, sir."
"And a wee little thing as well," Seamus added in a high voice, pointing to the chubby little boy on her lap.
Neville looked up, eyes wide with knowing sympathy. Harry liked him more and more. "Is she your wife?"
"No," Harry admitted without shame. "But she will be soon as I land in New York."
Then Harry told them everything he could about Ginny, Ron, Hermione, and even the twins. After a while, he could almost forget about the pale man up on deck. Maybe soon it would be as if it hadn't happened at all.
Harry thought this was probably for the best. If the man was anything like him, it was likely best to stay away. And even if he wasn't...
Harry could smell trouble from far off, and the pale man had reeked of it.
"But I can't believe you're traveling without a maid! Why, if I had to do that, I think I'd lose my head!"
Draco stared at his cutlery, wondering how long it would take to saw through his wrists before someone got them away from him. Anything would be better from this agony.
Pansy had insisted on going to dinner, as he'd known she would. They had to appear like perfectly normal people if they wanted to make it to shore undetected. Thus, Draco was forced to dine with these incomparable fools: men overstuffed with importance and women lacking any substance at all.
Sour as he was, he could not help but begrudge Pansy her composure. No matter what the situation, she remained at her best. So she smiled at the woman's useless prattle and answered with some of her own. "I just can't seem to find one decent girl these days." She smiled in Draco's direction, a glint in her eyes. "Do you know I had one who used to slap herself when I reprimanded her?"
All them women at the table gasped. Draco couldn't help but smirk a little. After all, it was such an accurate description of Pansy's family house-elf, Primy. Draco's had always been far more creative. He particularly remembered one Christmas when Dobby had ironed his hands, if only because of the lingering stench.
"Really? Poor child. She must have been disturbed."
"I do think she was. A terrible shame I had to let her go really." She paused meaningfully. "She made excellent biscuits."
Draco scowled at the subtle dig. He had made her abandon the house-elf when they got married, but why did she care? It wasn't as if she had feelings for the smelly little imp. Though Draco did have to admit that Primy had made incomparable biscuits.
The man at Draco's left cleared his throat. "I say, Mr. Malfoy, I've been meaning to ask you..."
Draco took a deep, steadying breath and turned. He recalled that his name was Ismay. Pansy had pointed him out several times, though he couldn't recall why. Something about him made Draco dislike him more than the other members of the table.
"Yes?" Draco asked, gritting his teeth. Pansy kicked him gently beneath the table.
"What sort of a name is Draco anyway?" Ismay laughed, braying pretentiously, and the rest of the table joined in late out of politeness. Draco could only take minor comfort from the fact that Pansy did not laugh. "It isn't exactly Thomas or William, is it, Mr. Malfoy?"
Draco did his best not to outwardly glare, but he was beginning to think his face might be growing all too accustomed to it. "It's a family name."
An awkward silence fell over the table. Draco's failure at pandering was apparently about as far from normal as one got.
Pansy hastened to cover the faux pas. "You must forgive my husband, Mr. Ismay. I'm afraid he's always been a bit sensitive about his name." Draco aimed his scowl at her, but she pressed on, unperturbed. "We don't get to choose our names, do we? I assure you if I had a choice I would not have agreed to be called a flower."
"Why ever not?" another one of the women asked.
Pansy smiled winningly. "There's always such an expectation of me to be sweet like the fragrance, and I am often anything but sweet."
The table chuckled, and several of the women hastened to persuade Pansy that this was not the case. Pansy accepted the compliments with grace.
In fact, she was handling this whole business with unparalleled poise. He had expected her to be cool under pressure. She was doing everything he had hoped: adapting, distracting, standing by him.
How he resented her for it.
"I assure you, madam," Draco said, interrupting one of the cloying ladies at the table, "my wife's assessment of her character is quite correct."
Again, an awkward silence and a less gentle kick from Pansy. He did not miss the question in her eyes. Why was he doing this? Why did he persist in being so difficult?
He would have liked an answer to that himself.
"My husband likes to tease me," Pansy told their false friends.
"One of my few pleasures in life," Draco drawled before taking another swallow of his wine. Fine enough, but with an aftertaste only Muggle drinks possessed.
"Ah, not true, sir! There is no better pleasure than a man's work," another one of their companions announced. He was obviously a tycoon of some renown. Draco had often found that men like that always brought the conversation back around to work, much to the distaste of their wives and everyone around them. "What is it you do, Mr. Malfoy?"
Pansy stiffened beside him. He felt oddly pleased to see that Pansy now looked genuinely panicked.
"I worked for my father," Draco commented darkly.
"Not anymore?" the tycoon asked.
Draco drank the remainder of his goblet of wine in one gulp. "He's dead."
Yet another uncomfortable hush. Perhaps this was what Draco ought to do with his life: be a bad guest at dinner parties.
"Oh," the tycoon said, clearly his throat. "Dear me. Was it recent?"
"Just a week ago."
"I'm terribly sorry."
Draco looked up, his voice steel. "I'm not."
Pansy immediately shot to her feet, forcing all of the men to stand as well. Draco remained firmly in place. "Draco, I'm not feeling well. Would you mind escorting me back to our rooms?"
Draco smirked. "How terribly transparent of you, darling. Feeling the pressure, are we?"
The tips of Pansy's ears began to turn pink, a sure sign that she was biting mad. "Draco, now."
Draco shrugged and rose beside her. Pansy turned her smile back on for the members of the table, offering apologies and claiming a headache. No one believed her, but they all played into the pretense, wishing her well. Predictably, no one said anything to Draco.
They trudged back to their stateroom in silence. Draco could feel tension radiating off Pansy as they walked, though she had enough self-possession to nod politely at those they passed. It was only when they were safely locked inside their cabin and a Silencing Charm cast that she turned her wrath upon him.
And oh, how fierce it was.
"Are you insane?" She was uncommonly ugly in her fury, her face twisting into a grotesque.
Draco threw himself into a chair, sullen and somewhat drunk, though not nearly enough. "You've intimated as much."
"How are we supposed to show our faces again after that... that... childish display?" Pansy demanded.
"I'd rather not have gone to begin with," Draco reminded her coolly.
Pansy looked like she was ready to rip her carefully done hair out. "Belonging. Blending in. Hiding. That is what you have to do among Muggles. What you just did made us stand out horribly. You've put us in danger --"
"We're already in danger!" Draco shouted, surprisingly himself at his volume. "That wizard --"
"Damn the wizard!" Pansy threw back. "If he's come to kill you, he's doing a fine job of it: alerting you to his presence and getting hauled off by the authorities before you laid hands on him."
Draco found he held himself still by sheer force of will. "There shouldn't be any wizards on board."
"Oh really?" Pansy asked, her voice dripping with disdain. "Then why, dear husband, are we here?"
His hands gripped the arms of the chair, making the wood creak. He would not lay a hand on her. He did care for her at this moment, and he was not the kind of brute who struck his wife. No matter what the circumstances.
"For your amusement," Draco ground out. "Remember?"
"My amusement," Pansy repeated softly.
Pansy lunged for him lightning fast and bent over him, covering his hands with hers. Her nails dug into his skin. "What exactly is it that you think I find amusing, Draco? Stinking Muggles running about with their mouths hanging open like apes? Traveling across a frigid ocean at a snail's pace? Or your dazzling companionship?"
Draco smiled cruelly. "You used to think I was funny."
"I used to think you had a brain."
Draco saw his eyes darken in the reflection of Pansy's mirror. "Forgive me for not being as skilled in deception as you are."
Pansy let out a throaty laugh. "Oh, Draco, please. You're the best liar I know."
He had no idea what she meant by that. Something about the look on her face made him think that maybe she didn't either. Certainly neither of them liked it.
"Listen," she said, pulling him from his thoughts. "I know my purpose. I'm here for my money and fulfilling your dynastic duty. I am fully aware of how I am being used, and I don't fault you for it." She leaned in, her plump red lips curling. "But do not think for a moment that you can treat me like your bloody house-elf. I am your wife."
He met her harsh gaze without fear and more than a little pride. "For better or worse."
"Whether you like it or not."
Suddenly, she yanked him towards her. His lips crashed into hers hard enough to bruise. Startled, it took him a moment to realize what she was doing although she'd just told him.
Draco kissed her back ferociously, pouring all of his rage into her. This was not meant to be his life. He was not the man he should have been. He had done things and seen things he should never have gone near, and this was the price he paid. He tried to tell himself how much worse it could have been.
He pulled her down on top of him, her legs straddling his waist. He buried his hands in her hair, loving that he ruined it. She began removing their clothes, her hands hurried but steady.
He wanted to hate her. He wanted to hate her so badly for all that she represented. His loss of freedom, the loss of safety, and the loss of things he couldn't bear to think about. He was cruel to her, and he knew there was only so much she would let him get away with. That was reason enough not to hate her. Forget that they had grown up together. Forget that she had always been at his ear to gossip or make him laugh. Forget that she had not asked him why he needed to run and simply agreed to help out of some lingering sense of loyalty to him.
Pansy pulled his shirt away, exposing his chest to the night air. He bit her lip the way he knew she liked, drawing some satisfaction from her wanton sigh. He began to shift her skirts aside.
Draco could not hate her. She wouldn't allow it.
So he was resolved to hate the world instead, though it did put them in a more precarious position.
Pansy slipped her hand inside his trousers and wrapped her fingers around his cock, stroking vigorously.
And what of that? What of the man Draco had seen on board the deck with the callused hands and the green eyes? He had to be there for a reason, and Draco refused to believe that a third class passenger had made it to the first class deck without some sort of magical aid. Furthermore, he refused to believe he had been there out of a sense of boyish fun. It only made sense that he had gone there to find Draco.
Or was there something else lurking in the shadows?
Pansy pulled away, panting in frustration. He stared at her, uncomprehending, until he came fully back to himself.
Despite all of her efforts, he was flaccid in her hand.
He didn't know who was more humiliated. He could hardly look at her, though she seemed unable to look away.
He licked his lips, raw and swollen. "Pansy... Pansy, I --"
"I'm going to bed," she announced, withdrawing. She walked to the door of the bedroom he assumed would be closed to him tonight. The door clicked shut and locked gently behind her.
She left Draco alone in the sitting room, but he knew that even if she had stayed, he would still be alone.
April 11, 1912
The next morning, Pansy hardly spoke to Draco except to say that she was going to breakfast and then amuse herself on ship. She made it perfectly clear that she was staying well away from their cabin, and that he was free to stay inside. She did not point out that there was no point in him trying to belong after his performance the evening before. The implication was clear.
She arranged for breakfast to be sent to his room: baked apples, smoked salmon, and rolls with honey and black currant conserve. She'd remembered his taste for fruit in the mornings, naturally. Her thoughtfulness in addition to his own lingering anxiety stole his appetite completely.
Draco tore his hands through his hair. This worrying was getting him nowhere. Malfoys were not men prone to take action; they were meant to be patient and wait for the right moment. But Draco could not think of an instance when any of his ancestors had been at such a disadvantage: trapped at sea with a horde of Muggles and not even a splintering broomstick to act as an escape. He regretted now not planning for this sort of contingency. But he had been so sure, and Pansy was such a poor flyer...
Draco swore and kicked at his table, knocking the honey to the ground.
He knew, of course, what his father would have said. He'd been overconfident and rash, as always. He'd thought himself safe, and now had no one but himself to blame for the danger he found himself in. It had been his own carelessness that had brought all of this about to begin with.
Besides, he didn't much like to dwell on his father anymore.
"Damn it all to hell."
Draco got to his feet and strode over to his walking stick. He twisted the silver snake's head around and pulled his wand free. The hawthorn felt supple and springy in his hands; it brought him some comfort, however small.
Draco was resolved. If his would-be assassin would not come to him, then Draco must seek him out first.
The hunt was back on.
Harry had not slept well at all the night before, tossing and thrashing about for hours even when he was bone tired. Many of the third class passengers had gathered in the common area and made quite the ruckus, but Harry had been unable to join in. The truth of the matter was that though he had tried to ignore what had happened aboard the first class promenade, he could not.
He felt like a first rate idiot getting so tied up in knots over a stranger. It didn't make a lick of sense, as anyone else would have told him. But they their breath had not quickened at the sight of the pale man with his grey eyes clouded with cold fury. They could not understand his predicament, for they were not him, and he was different from the rest of them.
He'd always been loath to admit it, but it was the truth of the matter. Harry Potter was not normal. Sometimes, when he was young and superstitious, he had wondered if he was even human. Perhaps he still wondered it in the deepest pitch of night, far beyond the reach of sunlight and sanity.
Harry had felt an immediate kinship with the rich stranger. He could not deny that any more than he could deny his face. This of course did not solve his problem. He still didn't have any damned idea what to do.
"Bollocks to this," Harry groaned, swiping a hand over his aching eyes.
"Rough night?" Neville yawned from the bunk below his. "Didn't see you out there myself, but then I couldn't see much after the fourth whiskey."
Harry shook his head. "No, just... worrying about something."
"Your girl?" Neville asked kindly. "I know I'd be worried, if I had a girl like that and she was far away."
"We'd all be worried if you had a girl like that," Seamus growled sleepily. "She'd have to be daft takin' up with you."
Dean threw one leg over the side of his bunk as if to kick Seamus. "Shut up, the lot of you. Too bloody early."
Neville rolled his eyes placidly, apparently used to receiving early morning abuse. "You're not afraid of the ship, are you? Cause there'd be no sense in that. She's unsinkable, remember."
"No, it's..." he groaned, throwing his arm over his eyes. "I can hardly make it out in my own head, much less to you lot."
"If you think I am at all invested in this, you are completely mistaken," Dean drawled.
Seamus grunted, "Fretting over nothing... womanly is it what it is."
Harry couldn't disagree. "Used to be all I had to think on was how to make a few quid."
"And what did you do then?" Neville asked.
Harry leaned down, arching an eyebrow. "What?"
"Well, you went out and you worked, didn't you?" He grinned slyly. "Maybe not always; we all do what needs be done. But still you did something about it."
Harry furrowed his brow. "Suppose I did."
Neville shrugged. "There's your answer." Then he rolled over to go back to sleep. He was snoring in seconds.
Harry stared at the back of the boy, utterly confused. He righted himself and worried again at his bottom lip.
Surely Neville was right. Harry had never wrung his hands in his life. If something needed doing, he went out and did it. He was not going to be able to forget his run-in with the pale stranger on deck, and it was like as not that it would come back to bite him in the arse before the landed in New York.
That more or less settled things. The man was trouble, of that much Harry was certain, but it wasn't as if there was anywhere he could run. If the other man cared to, he could seek Harry out. Maybe claim that he'd stolen something just to get him in his sights. And while Harry did not pretend to be a great observer of people, he was certain that the pale man had some reason to be interested in Harry. It was probably only a matter of time before he was found.
If that was the way of it, Harry did not intend to be snatched away in his skivvies.
He leapt down from the bunk as lightly as possible and pulled his trousers up by the suspenders. He scrubbed his unruly dark hair with both hands and tossed his jacket over his shoulder. He grinned a little, nervous, but thriving on it.
When he'd been a boy, Harry had still been able to sense trouble, but then, he had run directly towards it, pulling Ron and sometimes Hermione right along with him. It was time to do that again.
He touched Ginny's picture and the letters for good luck. The pale man might already be searching for him. Who knew what he wanted? But if Harry was going to go down, he intended to go down swinging.
It appalled Draco to rediscover how singularly unobservant Muggles could be.
He had cloaked himself with a Disillusionment Charm as a precaution, but he sincerely wondered if it was actually necessary. He practically barreled into those feckless imbeciles at every turn, and each and every time, their eyes slid right past him as though he were not even there. Their ability to ignore what was right in front of their faces sickened him despite the fact that it was this trait which undoubtedly saved him.
Draco had begun, naturally, in the third class compartments. This search had yielded nothing but an intense desire to bathe. Really, how could they stand to smell like that all the time? Poverty was truly the most revolting of human conditions.
When Draco had thoroughly gone through each area of steerage, he realized what must have happened. The slippery bastard must have sensed his approach and run for it. Or perhaps he had gone into hiding the moment Draco had spotted him. Draco had assumed the man was an idiot for allowing himself to be seen in the first place, but perhaps Draco had underestimated his cunning.
Draco swore aloud, startling a few poor children playing with a tattered doll. They looked around and, finding themselves alone, gazed at each other with gravity only the young possessed.
"Ghosts," said the oldest one gravely.
The others shrieked and ran past Draco, miraculously failing to run him down. Draco took a deep breath and prayed for strength. Then he remembered he wasn't a praying man.
He began to search the rest of the ship.
It was not until mid-afternoon, just after they had raised anchor at Queenstown harbor, that Draco finally knew he was closing in again. He had made his way onto C-Deck near one of the second class entrances when he noticed it. That same fiery sensation that he had felt the first time he had become aware of this man's present. At sea with a thousand Muggles, it flared like a beacon in the night. This time Draco expected it, but the feeling was nonetheless powerful. Now somewhat practiced at following the trail, he tracked it into the library.
And there the green-eyed man stood, plain as anything.
His back was turned to Draco, but he couldn't be more obviously out of place. To begin with, he was gaping at the Colonial décor (which Draco found provincial at best) as though it were something of magnificence. He looked poor, and he acted poor. This should have been enough to make him stand apart, but Draco knew better. This boy was one of his kind.
Draco noted that they were alone. Perhaps the stop in Ireland had lured out the second-class passengers. With a few quick flicks of his wand, he cast a Silencing Charm around the room and barred the doors. It would not do for them to be interrupted during a duel.
If indeed that was what was happening. After all, an inexperienced child who thought sycamore paneling to be the height of luxury could hardly make a good killer. Then again, perhaps this was all a ruse meant to lure Draco into complacency. He had made that mistake once already by trapping Pansy and himself on board; he would not do it again.
He threw aside the Disillusionment Charm and aimed his wand directly at the stranger's heart. "Who are you?" Draco demanded.
The boy whirled around, leaping a full foot in the air. He saw Draco's wand and threw his hands up in surrender. "I'm sorry, sir! Don't shoot! I --" He paused, lowering his arms a fraction. "Is that a stick?"
Oh, he was clever. Feigning idiocy and even acting like a Muggle! Draco had been right in being overly cautious. "Don't be deliberately obtuse. Tell me who you are."
"Um, my... my name is Harry Potter," the boy said, staring at Draco as though he'd just sprouted fairy wings. "And you are a mad man with a stick."
Draco had half a mind just to kill him, but he could not be so hasty. He had to find out what the boy knew, and if others were coming. "You know very well who I am. Draco Malfoy. The man you've been sent to kill."
Draco had never actually seen anyone's jaw fall open before. He found it singularly unattractive. "I what?" Harry began to lower his hands. "Look, mate, I don't know who you think I am --"
"No sudden movements!" Draco barked. "Don't think you can play the fool and go for your wand on the sly. I will kill you if I have to, but not before you tell me what you know."
Potter began to work his jaw, green eyes darkening. Draco did not find this growing anger to be alarming but refreshing. Anything to save him from that false stupidity.
"You are completely off your head," Harry said clearly. "I don't even know who you are! To think I was coming to find you --"
"So you admit it!"
"Not to kill you," Harry insisted. "What would I do that for? I'd never laid eyes on you before yesterday!"
Draco sneered. "Good. At least you're not pretending that didn't happen."
Harry then looked very tired, though no less enraged. "How could I forget?"
Draco had no idea what he meant by that, and he didn't much care. He had the wizard cornered, and he was going to make Harry talk. "If you weren't looking to do me in, what possible reason could you have for seeking me out?"
Harry started to speak, stumbling over his words. It was almost like the man -- for Draco now realized Potter was near to his age -- didn't know how to answer it at all. As though he couldn't even lie properly.
"What sort of assassin are you?" Draco asked, now feeling a little insulted. His family had sent this idiot? Did they think him unworthy of a competent killer?
Harry's entire body jerked with poorly concealed frustration. "I am not an assassin! I don't even know where you got that idea! And why are you still pointing a stick at me?"
Draco continued to scowl. This didn't make any sense. Something about Potter's manner seemed almost... sincere. Though it was not an affectation Draco was used to, he could recognize it well enough. Either this Harry Potter was an exceptionally good actor and feigning complete ignorance, or he really had no idea what was going on.
Draco compromised and lowered his wand slightly, giving Harry leave to put down his arms. "Fine. Maybe you don't know who I am. But that still begs the question: what are you doing on this ship?"
Draco had hoped that moving onto less turbulent ground would cure Harry of his moronic responses, but clear that wish was in vain. "Er. Well, to go to America. Obviously."
"Do stop looking at me like I'm a simpleton," Draco snapped. "It's tiresome. What I mean is, why are you traveling by ship?"
Despite his request, Harry continued to gawp at him. "Because swimming would take too long?"
"Could you at least attempt to take this seriously?" Draco seethed. "There's no reason why you couldn't have Floo'd there, or even Apparated if you know where you're going. Blast it, you can even fly there if you have the right broom."
This made Harry's expression change at last. However, it was to laugh in Draco's face, which was not much of an improvement.
"Do you have any idea how you sound?" Harry howled, actually slapping his thigh. "You're completely mental!"
"I was not joking about killing you," Draco deadpanned.
Harry didn't seem to hear over his incessant chortling. "I mean, honestly! Fly? On a broom? Like a w-witch."
Something within Draco bade him to take notice of the hitch in Harry's voice when he said 'witch.' Draco suspected some part of him was beginning to understand what all of this was about, but he needed more information to work it out.
"Yes," Draco answered. "Exactly like a witch."
Harry abruptly stopped laughing.
"Is something the matter?"
"You're mad," he repeated, a tremor in his voice.
"Am I?" Draco asked, narrowing his eyes. "Where did you go to school?"
Harry's cheeks colored. "I didn't. I can't... I can't even read."
Normally, Draco would have commented, but now was not the time. "I see. And you were never invited to attend any institution? No letters coming through the post, or... by other means?"
"No," Harry said, incredulous. "What school would have anything to do with me?"
Draco shrugged. "Who am I to say? I didn't attend Hogwarts."
"Tell me something, Potter," Draco continued. "Did anything strange ever happen to you?"
Harry paused. They were coming to it now. "Strange things happen to a lot of people."
"I think you know what I mean," Draco said, now lowering his wand completely. He understood now that this stranger was no threat. "Have animals ever behaved strangely around you? Owls or cats?"
Harry clenched his fists, turning his face away. "I'm hardly in a position to keep a pet."
"Were you ever able to do anything that others couldn't?" Draco asked. "Run faster, hide better? Did you ever find yourself in a place and have no recollection of how you got there?"
Harry looked visibly uncomfortable, as though he might be sick.
Draco closed the gap between them, and despite the silencing charm, pitched his voice low. "Have you ever felt different, Potter?"
Harry's head snapped up, green eyes sparkling with intensity. Draco was struck by the look on the other man's face, and perhaps even by the face itself. He may have been a poor wretch, but there was something arresting about him nonetheless.
"Yes," Harry admitted softly. "Always."
So that was it. Everything explained away in one fell swoop. Harry's apparent ignorance at all things connected to the wizarding world. His using the Titanic as a mode of transportation when so many faster ways were available. Even his magical signature, which Draco had thought seemed like an untamed wildcat, was achingly clear.
Harry Potter was a grown wizard and didn't even know it.
"But I don't seem different, do I?" Draco asked, another piece of the puzzle falling into place. "That's why you were looking for me."
"Yes," Harry responded without hesitation or guile. "I thought...." He blushed again. "I don't know what I thought, but there... there was something about you, and I --"
"That's because you're a wizard, Potter," Draco said, waving his wand with a slight flourish. "And so am I."
Harry tensed, and for a moment, still stared at Draco with those eyes like hardened green glass with fervent power. And then the next instant, it was gone, replaced by the mewling child he had tricked himself into being.
"That's impossible," Harry spat.
"Is it?" Draco turned to the lacquered bookcase behind them, and with a practiced swish and flick, levitated it off the ground. He turned back to Harry, unable to keep from looking smug. "Impossible?"
Harry's face screwed up with fury. Draco was growing used to this emotion form Potter, so he was thrown completely off guard when Harry punched him square in the mouth. He reeled back, clutching his bleeding lip. The bookcase fell to the ground with a loud thunk.
"Witch," Harry accused, hissing. "Fucking witch!"
Draco drew his hand away and inspected the blood on his fingers. He wasn't thrilled with this turn of events, but he ought to have suspected it. The lower classes were so superstitious. He pulled a kerchief from his suit jacket and dabbed at his mouth, deciding to forgo a healing spell for the time being. He didn't want to know how Potter would react. "Technically speaking, the women are witches. Men are wizards. And at the moment, I'm not fuckinganyone."
"Witch!" Harry shouted again.
Draco threw up his hands. "Whatever you like. It doesn't change what you are."
Harry blanched, turning sickly pale. Apparently he was slower that Draco had anticipated. "No... No, I'm not a --"
"Oh, but you are," Draco insisted. Before Harry could speak again, he continued. "I'm not sure how you managed to slip through the cracks... It seems whoever was Headmaster at Hogwarts when you were of age -- or perhaps when you were born -- somehow overlooked you. Granted, I have no idea how that happened, and I'd be interested to know whose stupidity brought us to this juncture.
"Regardless of how it happened, it happened. An adult untrained, unregistered wizard walking among us, completely ignorant of what he is." Draco scoffed in disbelief. "It's a wonder you haven't killed anyone yet."
The vein on Harry's neck bulged. "I am not a w-wizard."
"Oh, yes. Denying it at this point will do you so much good," Draco drawled. "It's served you so well in the past."
"You're insane!" Harry maintained for what Draco hoped would be the last time.
"No," Draco corrected. "I'm a wizard."
Potter visibly flinched at the word. "Shut it."
"There are hundreds of us, thousands," Draco continued. "And we don't slaughter children or ruin anyone's crops or whatever you would like to accuse us of. You and I are no different from them in many ways; we're simply more."
Harry grabbed the lapels of Draco's jacket. Perhaps he ought to have been alarmed, but if Harry tried to hit him again, he would be prepared. "I said shut your mouth."
Draco smiled maliciously, wondering how deranged he must look with his blood-stained teeth. "Wizard."
Harry bellowed like a savage beast and shoved Draco aside. Draco stumbled and fell, watching as Potter covered his ears as if to physically block out what Draco was saying. And though Harry didn't realize it, he was doing something else as well: drawing power. "SHUT UP!"
Draco barely had enough time and presence of mind to shield himself.
As Harry screamed, the bookcase began to vibrate as though caught in the middle of an earthquake. The pictures on the walls began to spin around on the nails that held them, and the lights swayed out of time with the rocking of the ocean. Then the glass in the bookcase exploded outward, falling over Draco and Harry in an unforgiving hail storm. All of the pictures simultaneous leapt off the walls, crashing overhead amidst the glass. Debris rained down on them, sliding down Draco's invisible wall. Every time a piece came near Potter, it veered around him, leaving him totally unharmed.
All at once, everything came to a halt. Harry stared at the carnage he wrought, undeniable proof that he was more than simply human. There might have been tears in his eyes. Draco had half a mind to point this out, but something made him stop. Surely it wasn't pity... perhaps a sense of self-preservation. If Harry truly wanted to, he could bypass Draco's shield, and then where would he be?
Harry wrapped his arms around his middle, looking well and truly ill. He looked at Draco without any malice, only panic and sorrow. Then Draco might have felt a twinge of something like pity.
"God damn you," Harry whispered before turning and running out the door. Apparently his outburst had damaged Draco's locking spell. He could only assume it had destroyed the Silencing Charm as well.
Despite the fact that people were surely going to come running any minute now, Draco found himself quite unable to move. He was honestly not sure his legs would support him, and he didn't much want to try.
Draco sighed, looking around at the ruined room with contempt. "Why couldn't you have just been an assassin?"
Harry fled the library as fast as his feet could carry him. He was a blur as he escaped the second class compartments, ignoring all who called after him to stop. No one gave chase, deciding he was not worth the effort. He sped all the way back to his cabin, gratified to find it empty. He threw himself onto the bed that he called his own, burrowed under the covers, and buried his face into the pillow. Then he screamed.
Why now? Why after all this time did he have to lose control like that? He'd been so careful. He had worked so hard not to get angry. Rage always unleashed the strangeness within him. A long time ago, he'd gotten angry fairly often. Not anymore.
He'd tried so damned hard. And he'd tried to warn that Malfoy, hadn't he? He'd told him to leave it, but he just didn't know when to stop kicking the bloody horse.
He shuddered at the thought of the pale man, Draco Malfoy. Wizard. He'd called Harry a wizard -- which as far as Harry was concerned, was the same as a witch.
It might have been hysterical. After a lifetime of spitting at the mention of witchcraft like all his friends, it turned out he was one. He'd always known he was different, but he'd never expected to be evil. He didn't feel like a servant of the Devil; hell, he didn't even believe in the bastard. Did this mean there was a Satan? Did that mean there was a God as well?
No. No, Harry couldn't believe that.
Malfoy had said people got most things wrong about his kind. Their kind, he'd insisted. So maybe it wasn't about good and evil. But even if it was just about human and not human, Harry felt as though he'd been kicked in the gut. If he was a witch, he wasn't really human. And if he wasn't human, what did that mean for him? For Ginny? For James?
Harry felt so ill that he did not have to try very hard at all to feign seasickness and stay abed the rest of the day.
As it turned out, Draco dallied for so long that he was discovered amidst the wreckage, but he was able to explain away the situation. He claimed that there had been a swell, and the furnishings had taken the brunt of the damage. The fact that the seas had been dead calm seemed to matter to no one; it made no sense that one man could have done that kind of damage in such a short amount of time. No human man at any rate.
Once he had been checked over and excused by the ranking crewman, Draco immediately headed back to his stateroom. He wanted nothing more than to spend a few silent hours pondering the mystery that was Harry Potter. But, like most things Draco wanted as of late, he didn't get it.
As Draco pushed open the door to his quarters, he immediately sensed another presence. A lingering sense of paranoia almost sent him for his wand. It took him a moment to realize it was only Pansy.
"Jumpy, are we?" she asked, fastening a sapphire earring.
He forced himself to smile and didn't mind that it was bitter. "As you said, darling: paranoia runs in the family."
She dismissed him with a shrug and returned to lacing up her dress with her wand. "Bosh."
Draco pulled the door shut behind him and strode into the room, stepping lightly as a panther. "Aren't you going to ask me where I was?"
Pansy laughed aloud, fumbling with the laces. She started to wave her wand again, but Draco crossed over to her and began to do up the back. His mother had never mastered domestic charms, and she didn't trust Dobby with her finery. As a result, Draco was quite adept at doing the task by hand. He wanted Pansy to remark on it, perhaps even be impressed by it.
"I see no point in asking questions I won't get an answer to," she explained.
Draco frowned, hoping Pansy thought the frock was giving him unexpected trouble. "You think I'm that evasive?"
Pansy sighed, sounding uncharacteristically tired. "I likewise see no point in answering stupid questions."
Just for that, Draco yanked at her ribbons unnecessarily sharply.
"Ouch!" Pansy gasped, glaring. "Careful."
"You must look your best, dear heart," Draco maintained, curling his lip.
"I must also breathe, regardless of what my mother says," Pansy muttered. She paused, taking a deep breath. "At the very least, you do seem slightly more relaxed -- and I do mean slightly."
Draco's upper back still ached with tension, so he could not help but be impressed that Pansy had detected even the slightest change in his behavior. "Don't strain yourself attempting to compliment me," he said, finishing with the corseted top.
"Thank you," Pansy responded, sounding nearly sincere. She set about putting the finishing touches to her evening make up. "I don't suppose you handled the 'assassin' situation?"
Draco's mouth went dry. He'd forgotten that he would need to admit his error to Pansy, making a tiny mistake a point to harp on over the rest of their trip and probably beyond that. He cleared his throat loudly and headed for the bourbon. "I believe so."
He could literally hear the smile in her voice, the vile woman. "Oh? What did you find?"
He poured a liberal glass of liquor and knocked it back an instant later. It burned all the way down. "I may have overreacted. Somewhat."
He was half-tempted to hex her favorite dress orange permanently if she didn't desist.
She added, "And it's too much trouble for you to tell your own wife if the danger is truly past, I suppose."
His muscles strained painfully. He truly was playing the fool. He had also forgotten that he would have to explain the situation to her. The thought of it left him short of breath.
But why? It was not as if Harry Potter's magical status were a state secret. There was no reason for Pansy not to know. In fact, it might be safer if she did on the off-chance (however slim) the two ran into each other. Potter had proven himself to be unstable at best. It would not do for Pansy to happen upon him unaware of the threat he posed.
Yet it was so very unlikely. Pansy would have abhorred the trip through steerage far more than he had; nouveau riche, which Pansy was, did not like to be reminded of how close poverty was at all times. Unless Potter came looking for him (which Draco also doubted), there was no reason to bring it up.
This did nothing to satisfy Draco's curiosity as to why he felt the need to hide it in the first place. Was it merely aforementioned evasiveness and paranoia? Or did he detect a kind of... possessiveness over this untamed wizard?
Pansy coughed delicately, reminding him that she was waiting.
"Apologies," Draco said, pouring another glass. "It turns out he wasn't a wizard at all. Just a Squib abandoned by his family some years ago. He was quite put out that I'd mentioned it at all."
He could feel Pansy's eyes pressing through his skin. "And he didn't wonder what a wizard was doing on the Titanic?"
"He did," Draco admitted, knocking back the bourbon once more, "until I Obliviated him."
The conversation once again lapsed into silence. Draco did not mistake it for disapproval; Pansy had a delightful penchant for manipulation of any kind. It was an admirable quality in a Malfoy wife. Nevertheless, though he could tell what her quiet did not signify, he was at a loss to explain it in truth.
He was quite surprised when Pansy wrapped her arms around his waist.
"I don't mind if you keep secrets from me, Draco," she murmured softly. "But please don't treat me like a fool."
He froze in her awkward embrace. He fumbled for words in a way he scarcely ever did. Before he could arrive upon anything coherent, however, Pansy was gone.
April 12, 1912
The next morning went much the same as the one before. Draco woke up alone with a breakfast in his living quarters he had no appetite for, and Pansy again made it perfectly clear that she had no expectations of him. The only notable difference was that Draco did not feel nearly as helpless as he had before. This was because Draco Malfoy had a plan.
In point of fact, it was not much different from the plan he had enacted the day before. It still required searching the ship for a strange wizard -- one who had a name and little else to his credit -- under a Disillusionment Charm. The one key difference was that Draco was no longer hunting for prey. Rather, he was seeking out a curiosity.
Draco longed to know the whys and wherefores of Harry Potter's existence. He knew full well how Hogwarts operated in terms of locating wizards and witches regardless of blood status; he'd heard his parents and relatives rant about it often enough. The book that tracked all magical children was enchanted and seemingly foolproof. There was no reason why even one child should have been lost in the shuffle, but Harry Potter was living proof that something had gone very wrong.
Draco needed to know why, and if he was feeling particularly honest with himself, it was not simply due to an inquisitive nature. Ever since he had left London, he had felt at loose ends. He had existed only to disappear, which in itself was a kind of death. Chasing after the mystery of Harry Potter felt dangerously close to living again. He felt lighter at the prospect of the pursuit, even if there was a very good chance Harry's wild powers could kill him in an instant.
Well, the likelihood of that was miniscule, and besides, Draco was not often honest with himself.
So Draco once again dressed himself accordingly and cast a Disillusionment Charm (really, the whole scenario felt unbearably redundant). And then he made his way down to steerage. Somehow, the smell of the great unwashed had gotten worse. He hadn't thought it was possible.
This time, his search of the third class cabins bore fruit. He located Potter easily in his crowded cabin despite the fact that the man had pulled his covers above his head. Draco could neither mistake his magical signature or the unruly black curls peeking out from underneath his bed covers.
In Draco's opinion, getting his hair to lie flat ought to be among Potter's top priorities should he ever master his magic.
Draco shook Harry's shoulder to rouse him and was surprised to find the other man was alert. He sat upright in bed, his eyes wide and red-rimmed, and glanced around at his bunkmates.
"Sleeping beauty joins us at last," a familiar voice sang out. The Irishman, naturally.
"You must have been having all manner dreamin'. Your lady friend pay you a visit?" He chuckled lewdly, and Draco was gratified to see his bunk companion give him a good swat. Draco commended him, even if he was colored.
"Manners, Finnigan," the dark man instructed.
Harry rubbed his eyes as if they ached. "Did one of you shake me?"
Draco repressed a sigh. Why must he be so obtuse?
"Not me," said his third companion, a useless looking lump of a man. Weren't the poor supposed to be starving? This one looked suspiciously rotund. "Did you dream it -- and don't say a word, Seamus."
The Irishman looked horribly put upon. "Didn't have a thought in my head!"
The dark man grinned. "How is that different from any other day?"
They all laughed at that. Even the Irishman could enjoy a laugh at his own expense. The only one who remained silent was Harry. While the other three were distracted, Draco reached forward and tugged on Harry's sleeve.
Harry practically vaulted out of the top bunk, eyes crazed and hands balled into fists. He looked completely deranged.
His cabin mates obviously agreed. The round one carefully got up beside Harry, shooting nervous glances over the taller boy's shoulder. "Are you... are you feeling all right, Harry?"
Harry kept looking around wildly, swallowing. Draco wondered if he had deduced what was going on as of yet.
"I just...." He was shaking. "I felt as though someone touched me."
Draco could hardly contain himself. He had so little patience with idiocy. He drew back from the group, deliberately upsetting someone's luggage as he passed.
"Oye," the dark man muttered. "How'd that happen?"
"Dunno," Seamus confessed, beginning to collect what had fallen. "It's a dead calm, innit?"
Draco ignored this discussion. He had eyes only for Harry. He watched Potter's green eyes intently as the fear began to dissipate and the proverbial wheels began to turn. Finally, he snapped to attention and stared directly at Draco, almost as if he could see through the charm. Draco didn't know whether to be relieved or unnerved.
"Harry, mate, go get a cuppa or something," Seamus instructed, shoving him forward. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
Harry raked his hands through his hair, making it even more of a mess. "Not seeing anything."
Draco sighed. Finally! He withdrew slowly, taking care to subtly upset things in his path. Harry followed, his eyes darting back and forth at even the smallest movement. He at least had sharp eyes to balance out dull wits. He continued to follow Draco even after he led them out of the third class cabins and into territory where there were not as many opportunities for Draco to leave a trail.
At last, they arrived at an area that rested directly above the deafening turbine engines. As such, third class passengers avoided it as much possible. Once assured they were alone, Draco cast off the charm.
Even though he had certainly decided it was Draco leading him along, Harry still jumped when Draco appeared. "Jesus! Shi-- Don't do that!"
Draco scoffed. "Yes, because none of your friends would bat an eyelash at me sauntering into their cabin and leading you off."
Harry bristled, which Draco found quite satisfactory. "I... I only meant it was sudden. I knew it was you, but I wasn't expecting you to just pop out like that." He shook his head in disbelief. "I couldn't even see you!"
"If you'd looked hard enough, you might have been able to see a faint outline or a shadow." He shrugged smartly. "Of course, it would have helped if you had gotten a wink of sleep last night."
Harry looked immediately suspicious, even frightened. "How did --"
"It's grossly obvious," he drawled. And then he paused, reconsidering his words, though not going so far as to regret them. "Not to mention the fact that I didn't get much sleep either."
This clearly surprised Potter. This seemed only natural to Draco as he certainly hadn't expected to spare the boy much thought after their initial encounter, but there he was.
"About yesterday," Harry murmured, letting his hair fall even further into his eyes. Draco's hands itched to push it away. "I... I'm sorry about.... Well. You know."
"You refer to, I assume, nearly killing me in the explosion?"
"I didn't -- I never would have done that!"
"I should hope not, since you seemed so adamant that you hadn't come here to kill me. It would have been the pinnacle of irony if you had done so without wanting to," Draco commented. "But make no mistake: you could have killed me. I only barely protected myself in time."
Harry began to look ill. "I... I thought that all the debris was avoiding us."
"Oh." Strange how much smaller he seemed when Harry was precisely the same height as Draco.
Perhaps this was unfair. Spending one's entire life ignorant of one's power and forever on the outside of what was considered normal... Draco was not an especially empathetic man, but he expected this called upon one to mature quickly or face certain doom.
"Tell me how it happened," Draco said suddenly.
Harry stirred from his reverie as if Draco had yanked his arm again. "Err... How what happened?"
Draco supposed he was going to have to be completely specific in order to get answers. How tiresome. "Tell me about your parents. Are they... like you?"
Harry's green eyes darkened so that they were almost black. There was that intensity again, which Draco found strangely... alluring. "They're dead."
"I'm sorry." He meant it. "How long?"
Harry rubbed at his eyes again, and Draco was happy to pretend it was still from exhaustion. "When I was two. They both worked at a factory, and... they didn't make it out."
Draco frowned. Could he simply be a Mudblood? He had hoped not. "Did you ever hear anything about them? Any... abilities?"
Harry looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Molly -- the woman who took me in -- she was there. Saw it all. She used to tell me that my mum was helping other women get away from the flames, that she even seemed calm about it. It wasn't... It wasn't until my da came to get her that she even screamed."
Draco breathed a sigh of relief. Half-blood then. It had been too much to hope for a lost pure-blood scion to be found in steerage aboard the Titanic. Pansy and his mother were always accusing him of letting his imagination get the better of him. His father had done as well.
"You think she was like... like us?" Harry asked.
Draco did not remark on how difficult it was for Harry to include himself in that statement. "Surely you've considered it before."
Harry shrugged awkwardly, as if trying to dislodge the falsehoods he had told himself over the years. "I don't know. Since I never knew her, it's not as though I could have asked."
"That still doesn't explain why you didn't receive your letter," Draco muttered. "All wizards in Britain receive a letter when they turn eleven inviting them to Hogwarts. The only reason I didn't get one was because --" He stopped short.
"Because?" Harry prompted, curious in spite of himself.
"My... my parents didn't want me to attend school in Britain," Draco explained. "So when I was born, they contacted the school and had my name removed from the list to save everyone the effort."
Harry frowned. "You're saying the only way Hogwarts could have not known about me was if... if my mum had taken my name from the list?"
Draco couldn't think of another explanation and said so.
"But why would she do that?" Harry demanded.
"Do I look like a necromancer?" Draco asked, regretting it an instant later. It wouldn't do to needle Potter senselessly. Unless he was presented with too golden an opportunity of course. "Whatever reasons your mother had, she took them with to the grave."
Potter looked genuinely distressed by Draco's words. Had he still not gotten over the loss of his parents?
He thought of his father, and then he did not.
"I can make an educated guess," Draco offered. "I think... Well, it's very uncommon for wizards or witches to work at a Muggle job, much less a low-paying one. The only thing I can think of is that her family didn't approve of her marrying out." It took Draco considerable effort not to mention how heartily he agreed with that. "Perhaps she reacted so poorly to the suggestion that she cut out magic entirely. Do you know her maiden name?"
Draco pondered it, frowning. "Not an old family, but they still could have been technically pure-blood..." He clucked his tongue, wishing he had more information, but knowing there was nothing to be done until they reached dry land, at which point Draco was unlikely to continue caring. "I believe that explains your situation to my satisfaction."
Harry frowned. "Why did you want to know?"
Draco would have very much liked an answer to that question himself.
"Call it an academic's prerogative," Draco said dismissively. "However, knowing how you arrived at this impasse changes nothing."
"Not in the least." Draco exhaled, feeling exhausted already. "You're still more dangerous than a Hungarian Horntail in heat." Potter stared at him dumbly, not the least bit impressed by the alliteration. Draco pressed on valiantly. "You don't know how to control your magic. You made that abundantly clear in the library yesterday."
"I can control it!" Harry insisted, sounding like a thwarted child. "It's only really been a problem when I'm angry."
"Oh, so you never get angry?"
"Except for yesterday."
Harry scowled. "Well, I was hardly expecting to be accused of being a witch."
Draco kicked Harry in the shin.
"Were you expecting that?" Draco asked smoothly.
Harry hissed, clutching his bruised leg and hopping about. "No, I was not expecting that, you fucking nutter! What the hell's the matter with you?"
"I am really beginning to wonder if your stupidity is not a very convincing affectation," Draco quipped. "It seems too precise to be true."
Harry snarled, "Why did you kick me?"
"Because no one ever expects to get angry, you insufferable buffoon," Draco said. "Do you often find yourself wandering around London deciding whether or not to be miffed about the suffragettes bleating on about the vote? You're either annoyed, or you aren't. Emotion is hardly something one can plan in advance."
Though Draco was certain his point had been made, Harry did not stop scowling. "I only meant that it's not every day a bloke hears he's... unnatural. Not even human."
Draco laughed so abruptly it sounded reminiscent of a raven's caw. "Is that was you're upset about? Of course you're human. You're simply greater than. Nietzsche called us the Übermensch, though he didn't know it at the time."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "He a friend of yours?"
Draco took a moment to count to ten in order to collect himself.
"I'm still not normal," Harry grumbled. "Never can be, according to you."
"Frankly I'm amazed you'd want to be."
Harry shook his head petulantly. "No one wants to be a freak."
A voice echoed from Draco's shadowy memories. Disgrace. Failure. Freak of nature.
"I suppose not," Draco agreed quietly. "I only meant... I think it's unfortunate you were denied your heritage in such a manner."
Harry glanced up at him, truly looking him in the eye for the first time since they had started this conversation. His eyes sparkled like green flames. "So you came here to pity me. Is that it?"
"You do think highly of yourself," Draco mocked. "As if I'd go through so much trouble."
Harry was clearly beginning to get angry again. Draco cast a wary glance at the glass nearby. "Why did you come then? It's more than just curiosity. Nobody ever goes out of their way just because there's unanswered questions. Not if it's really dangerous."
"Touché," Draco acknowledged. "No in fact, I thought I might do you a kindness. And believe me, that is a rarity in and of itself."
"I don't doubt it," Harry muttered, almost too low to hear. Strangely, it amused Draco rather than annoyed him. "How could you possibly help me?"
Draco grinned. This was the moment he'd been waiting for. All of this dancing and parrying leading up to this one sentence -- a statement so important that he had rehearsed it mentally before happening upon Potter.
So he leaned forward in a practiced way, dropped his voice down to the exact pitch he had desired, and offered Harry Potter the fruit his circumstances had forbidden him.
"I can help you control it."
Harry staggered back, stunned. He was immediately apprehensive, remembering what Ginny had said about things being too good to be true. He didn't know this man. Why had he taken an interest?
But the chance for him to manage it, to keep his family safe...
"I can already see you're tempted," Malfoy said, looking disgustingly proud of himself.
Harry resisted the urge to call him a smug bastard. Just barely. "There is absolutely no reason for you to do that," he deadpanned.
Malfoy shook his head, looking almost disappointed. "How very wrong you are."
"I am not," Harry insisted, realizing too late that he sounded like a three-year-old denied his porridge.
The way Malfoy looked at him did not do anything to help change his self-image. "Potter, we're on a boat. There is absolutely nowhere for anyone to go should you have another tantrum."
Harry winced. Did he have to call it that? "I am not going to --"
Draco kicked him again.
"GOD DAMN -- WOULD YOU STOP --"
"My point exactly."
Harry snarled. "So help me, I'll teach you a thing or two!" He began to advance, looking forward to the opportunity to punch Malfoy in the face once more, when he noticed Draco was not looking at him. In fact, he was looking at one of the light bulbs.
A light bulb that had suddenly cracked for no apparent reason.
Harry stared. How could this be happening? Yesterday was one thing, but this? Malfoy wasn't even trying to get him riled; Harry was simply reacting. Overreacting. That after years of training himself to keep his anger in check at all costs. How did Draco Malfoy get under his skin as if it was nothing at all?
He hung his head, unbelievably ashamed. "I don't mean to," he whispered, as if it was any excuse.
"That will hardly matter if you blow up the boiler room," Draco informed him coldly. "It's my understanding that men are prone to a certain amount of restlessness when they cannot roam as they please. Merlin knows I've been guilty of it."
Harry decided not to acknowledge that Draco had just sincerely invoked the name of Merlin.
"I wouldn't offer to do this for you if I didn't think there was a very good chance you could kill us all just because someone stole your... well, whatever it is you have to steal."
Draco ignored him. "I'm not offering you an education. I'm no professor, and we certainly do not have the time to do anything more than the basics, if that. But possibly I can get you to a point where you can hope not to kill anyone before we land in New York."
It wasn't much. Draco made that perfectly clear. Harry would not have expected much anyway. Truthfully, he hadn't expected anything. But even if he came away from this with nothing but the barest hint of how to keep his friends and family safe... he couldn't say no.
"Where do we start?" Harry asked.
He couldn't be certain, but Harry thought Draco almost smiled.
As it turned out, the first "lesson" was that he wasn't allowed to do anything without getting a few hours of sleep. Harry had protested -- loudly -- but Draco had insisted. "I'm not going to have you destroying my things because you're not properly rested," he'd said. So Harry begrudgingly had slunk off to his cabin to catch a few winks. Draco said he would meet him there in a few hours with further instructions.
Harry had been certain he'd be too wired to sleep. In the past twenty-four hours, he had learned of the existence of magic, discovered just what he really was, and blown up a library. It wasn't exactly what he considered to be restful. But he was either so exhausted from these events or Draco had put some sort of sleeping spell on him for he did manage to doze off. He slept heavily and dreamed of nothing but a baby's laughter.
He woke to something sharp poking him in the nose. Harry started awake, an accusation on his lips. He stopped himself when he remembered how embarrassing that had been earlier.
He stopped again when he saw a paper bird flying in front of his face.
Harry scrubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand, certain he was hallucinating. But the bird still hung there, flapping its wings as if it didn't have a care in the world. It gave a tiny cry and then fell into his lap, lifeless.
Harry gazed at the little bird, as overcome by it as he had been by the Titanic for the first time. Possibly more so. He had known that the Titanic would be a massive ship, but in spite of everything, he had never dreamed that magic would be real. For the first time, he saw his strangeness not as a curse, but as a gift gone awry. He regretted that he had never learned how to do something Draco no doubt took for granted, like breathing life into a paper bird.
With trembling hands, Harry cradled the bird in his palms. He realized with a sinking heart that Draco must have written him a note, forgetting Harry could not read it. Harry's cheeks flushed with shame. It was clear enough that Draco thought he was an idiot. Did he have to keep giving the aristocrat more reason to believe that?
All of a sudden, the bird perked up in his hands. "Sleep well, Potter?" it asked in Draco's voice.
Harry flung the paper away. It talked?
"Do stop making that face. It's annoying."
Harry closed his gaping mouth so hard his teeth ached.
"Consider this your second lesson: make it to my stateroom in one piece with no magical help."
Harry spluttered. "How is that a lesson? And how the hell am I supposed to do that?"
"Stop shouting. I'm testing a theory."
Harry wondered if he wringing the bird's neck would succeed in choking Draco. The only thing that stopped him from doing so was the bird giving him directions to the exact room. Once it had finished, Harry said, "And if I get caught?"
"Don't get caught. See you in one hour." Then the bird burst into flames.
Harry yelped, leaping down from the bed and scattering ashes across the floor. He stared at the dying embers, half-expecting them to start talking at him as well. After a few minutes, Harry realized that Draco's message was finished.
And that the second lesson had begun. Such as it was.
"How is this a lesson?" Harry asked the pile of dust. "What the hell is he trying to prove?"
Harry could almost hear Malfoy laughing at his confusion, no doubt having a grand time being deliberately confusing.
Nevertheless, he didn't have any choice if he wanted to take Draco up on his offer. Malfoy was clearly a madman with high expectations. He wanted Harry to make it to his stateroom in one piece? Then he'd do it. Somehow.
Cursing, Harry jammed his hat on his head once more and made his way out of the 3rd class deck.
At first, Harry followed the same path he and Seamus had taken on the day of the launch. Things were much different now. Far more people milled about, passengers and crewman alike. But it was a route Harry was very familiar with. He even remained almost comfortable as he traveled from third to second class. Security between those decks was not quite as tight. Besides, Harry was adept at sneaking around. He always had been.
He frowned as he continued to make his way down the narrow hallways, doing his best to remain inconspicuous. He had always taken pride in this talent, which had seemed to be born into him. Was this yet another aspect of his magic? It was strange enough to think of off-hand, much less seriously consider.
He continued to mull over it as he looked for a way to sneak onto the first class decks. He didn't think his talent for guessing at when other people were likely to round a corner was proof of anything. Hell, Ron had been just as good, and the Weasley certainly didn't have any witches in his family tree. As far as Harry was concerned, that was just the result of living on the streets, where you could never be sure you were really safe even behind your own locked door.
But it wasn't just good intuition that kept him from being caught. It was also his ability to remain unnoticed. There had been plenty of times long before the Titanic had even been a gleam in Mr. Andrews's eye that Harry ought to have been caught. A mistimed step, a careless noise, an overly cautious watchman. Yet it had never happened. It was almost as if their eyes slid right past him, like he wasn't there at all.
He remembered what Draco had said about his invisibility spell. It wasn't that he was completely hidden; he just concealed himself enough so that no one would notice him if they weren't looking for him. Did Harry do that without even meaning to?
He focused so much on this that he nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of slow clapping. He started, amazed to find that he was definitely no longer on the second class deck and that he had somehow managed to find Draco Malfoy.
"Well done," Draco complimented, checking his pocket watch ostentatiously. "And with five minutes to spare. I must say, I am impressed."
Harry practically leapt into the room, shaken. "I didn't even try!"
"On the contrary," Draco said, locking the door behind them. "I think in situations such as the one I threw you into, your magical instincts kick in."
Harry could not make himself stop trembling. "So you made me do that based on a hunch?"
"A very good hunch," Draco maintained.
Harry could not fathom how easy it was for Draco to incite him to violence. "How the hell did you even come up with the idea to begin with?!"
Draco was giving him that look again: like he pitied him. Harry was decidedly tired of it. "The first time I met you, it was on the first class promenade. The next time, in the second class library. Potter, with all of the crewman, passengers, and officials running around, how do you suppose that you can sneak around so easily?"
Harry clenched his fists. He'd been thinking this too, and he didn't like that Draco had arrived at a similar conclusion. He did not want Malfoy in his head. "I wouldn't expect someone like you to understand, but where I come from, you need to be good at hiding to survive."
Draco's face darkened like a summer squall. "What makes you think I don't know about hiding?"
Harry paused, taken aback. After a moment, Draco seemed surprised as well. The paler man remembered himself, but he suddenly looked far more strained. He reached for a container of amber liquid at his left. Harry could tell from the position of the sun that it was barely one o'clock.
"Never mind," Draco grumbled after swallowing a sizeable portion of liquor. He dabbed at his mouth with his sleeve, which made Harry decide that maybe Draco was almost human after all. "We need to get to work."
"Lesson three?" Harry muttered, realizing too late that he sounded like a sullen child.
"Indeed," Draco said, thrusting something towards Harry. It took him a moment to recognize it.
"You're... giving me your stick?"
The outer corner of Draco's right eye apparently twitched when he was under stress. "For the last time, it's a wand."
"Fine. Wand." He rolled his eyes just in case Draco didn't know how stupid he thought it was. "Whataya want me to do with it?"
"Take it, for starters."
Harry eyed it warily.
Draco groaned and pushed the wand into Harry's hand. He very nearly dropped it.
Once he had a firm grip on it, Harry found himself a little disappointed. He'd thought it would feel different somehow. But once his fingers closed around the thin, reed-like wood, he found it didn't feel any different than a stick.
"It's not ideal," Draco admitted. "I'm not much for wandlore, but they say the wand makes the wizard. You'd probably do better with something more rigid."
The way Draco said it made Harry certain that he'd been insulted somehow.
"Will it even work for me?"
Draco shrugged, swirling the remainder of his liquor (Harry thought it might be brandy) in his glass. "No idea."
Harry now looked at the stick as if it could be used for much more dangerous things than merely poking someone's eye out. "Erm. Is this really a good idea? Considering I tend to, well... make things explode?"
Draco made a noise in between a scoff and a laugh. "This is precisely why you will not be testing out your powers on anything I own." Malfoy set his now empty glass on the table and waved at the tea tray on the other side of the room. Harry became aware of a strange sensation -- like a breeze only he could feel. It passed by him and seemed to envelop the rolling tray. It rattled forward on its own accord.
Harry remembered the bird and felt flooded with awe and happiness all over again. The emotion was so powerful that he couldn't stop himself from saying, "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
He could hear the snicker in Draco's voice. "The tea set?"
"'Course not," Harry answered, too entranced to become annoyed all over again. "The... magic. It's wonderful." He felt sad all of a sudden, thinking of a thousand hungry nights and all the loved ones he'd lost. He thought of wars that could have been won without losing Bill and Charlie, a cure for the sickness that had taken Ron's parents, his parents in the fire. "It makes everything better, doesn't it?" he murmured.
Silence fell over them like a heavy blanket. Harry's thoughts tumbled over one another, his disadvantages piling on top of one another. He wished he could have saved them. He wished they were all still alive so that he could see Ron smile again.
His knuckles paled as he tightened his grip on the wand. Sparks shot out of the tip. The tea pot exploded.
Draco sighed behind him, but Harry realized it was not unkindly. Shockingly, he thought Draco might have somehow understood. He felt further surprise when Draco gently gripped his hand, raising it to the level of his shoulder. His touch was light and his fingers supple. Harry thought he would have made a good pickpocket.
"Lesson the third," Draco instructed, his voice level and strangely soothing. "This is the first charm they teach at all wizarding schools: Levitation."
Harry left after a full four hours of instruction. He had not managed to Levitate one blasted thing from the tea tray, but he'd exploded the entire set and cracked Pansy's second-favorite hand mirror. By the time Draco had sent Potter on his way, Draco had consumed three large helpings bourbon and found himself longing for some Ogden's as well.
Beauxbatons had not possessed houses as Hogwarts had, so despite being a British wizard, Draco was still largely unfamiliar with the concept. Pansy had tried to familiarize him with the system, and as a result, he knew what it meant to be a Slytherin versus a Hufflepuff in a disconnected, theoretical sense. Pansy had once told him that the hat would have put him in Slytherin, but it may have been sorely tempted to choose Ravenclaw, the house of academia. Draco had never been more inclined to agree than at this moment.
Potter fascinated him. True, the wand was not fit for him, but it did not explain the violent reactions of the magic. Potter had, after several tries, mimicked the 'swish and flick' perfectly, and his enunciation, while heavily accented, was tolerable.
However, the Levitation Charm was by nature a low-level spell. There was a reason it was considered so rudimentary in any curriculum. But whenever Potter tried to lift even a sugar spoon, the magic burst from the wand like a river breaking down a dam.
It piqued his interest. Draco had focused on Harry's magical signature, still palpable even when filtered through Draco's wand. It seemed to flow forth unrestrained, unfettered. Draco could practically feel heat radiating from the spell traces. By the end of the four hours, Potter had been exhausted, but based on the amount of energy he had spent, Draco was of the opinion the other man ought to have been unconscious.
Was Harry a naturally talented wizard? Or had a lifetime of suppressing his powers made them impossible to control finely? And why was it that anger, rather than concentration or ability, worked as such a successful catalyst?
Draco supposed he ought to have been vexed, but he was not. He felt intrigued and... invested. If he had been an honorable man, he would have put it down to a promise he had made, but the Malfoys had never put much stock in honor. So why did he feel so attached?
Before he could put too much thought into that conundrum, his wife entered their cabin. If she felt any surprise at seeing her husband there, she masked it well. "Draco."
Draco smiled at her well before he realized he was doing it. "Good evening, Pansy. Did you have a fruitful day of avoiding me?"
She narrowed her eyes, fully prepared to launch back a return volley, but she decided he hadn't meant too much harm in the sentiment. She gave him a crooked smile. "Naturally. I spent several hours watching the Muggles flounder on the exercise machines; it was high entertainment."
He chuckled, remembering catching a glimpse of some of those strange contraptions in his sojourns beyond their quarters. "I'm sure. Any more libraries destroyed?"
"Not so far as I'm aware." With a flick of her wand, Pansy unpinned her hat, but she preferred to pull her gloves off by hand, one finger at a time. "I'm just getting dressed for dinner. I'm frightfully late already."
In a bolt of inspiration, Draco rose to his feet. "Hang it."
"Dinner," Draco clarified. "Have it sent to the room. Let's take a walk."
Now she was not merely skeptical but mystified. "You want... you want to take the air?"
"That was the general idea." He paused. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
Without warning, Pansy stepped forward and sniffed the air around him. She rolled her eyes in a manner that was almost stylish. "You've been drinking. That explains your fine mood."
"You take great pains to remind me I'm not naturally pleasant."
Pansy waved a perfumed handkerchief around him. "A drunk for a husband does not fit my definition of pleasant either."
"America was never in mine," he reminded her, threading his arm through hers and pulling her along. "We keep calm and carry on."
Pansy continued to utter a few verbal protests as he fetched his hat and walking stick -- complete with a very tired wand. She had barely enough time to magic her hat and gloves back on before they reached the corridor. They reached the promenade in minutes and found themselves quite alone as everyone else was involved in the arduous process of dressing for dinner.
"It's brisk," he noted.
"You have your mother's talent for understatement," Pansy observed. "Or perhaps the alcohol's made you too warm to notice just how cold it is."
Draco did not ask if she was uncomfortable; no doubt she had already cast a warming charm. "I hadn't thought the weather would be like this."
"It's my understanding that we've gone farther north than was planned in hopes of arriving in New York earlier," Pansy explained. "I believe they've also broken a speed record."
He chuckled with her at the joke. "Muggles. They have no concept of speed. Or strength. It's all... a facsimile, isn't it?"
She raised both eyebrows, mocking him. "Really, husband, I am surprised you made it through those syllables without stumbling once! Such a large word for a lush."
"Hag," he returned affectionately, recalling the old childhood insults.
"Squib," she answered, perfectly on cue.
"Ugh! You know I look ghastly in that shade of blue."
"Pansy, you look awful in any shade of blue."
She pinched his arm hard enough to bruise, just like she used to do. If he'd been younger, he'd have pulled her hair, but Draco had no doubt that if he mussed up her curls now, she would AK him with absolutely no compunction. He half-expected her to list the shades of blue in which she looked stunning, thank you ever so much, but instead, she grinned. He'd forgotten how pretty she could be when she smiled warmly.
Draco brushed the pad of thumb against her cheek. She nearly pulled away. He noticed that her cheeks were pink, and he did not know if it had anything to do with the wind. "I have been awful to you, haven't I?"
Pansy only missed one beat. "A complete brute."
"I don't suppose an apology would do much good?"
She shrugged. "Perhaps..." Her eyes sparkled wickedly. "If it comes with the promise of a new brooch once we land."
"Emeralds and onyx?"
"Be daring. Throw in a diamond or two."
"So predictable," he rebuked mildly, steering them on. Her heels struck the wood deck smartly, punctuating every step.
"What are we to do in America?" she asked cautiously. It was a subject they had instinctively avoided up until now. Pansy showed her colors in taking advantage of his lighter mood, true to form.
He frowned, pensive but not angry. Perhaps he had snapped at Harry too much today to be angry at much else. "I'm not certain. Chances are good we won't be able to enter into magic circles again."
She looked away, unable to conceal her sadness. "I had wondered exactly what position we were in."
"Now you know," he murmured, giving her arm a squeeze. "We'll still have money -- your money. With that and a few other resources, friends of my mother who won't cause problem, we ought to be able to start over."
Pansy pursed her lips. "Start over how?"
"A new house, new servants..." He paused. "New names."
She stumbled for a moment and was loathe in accepting his help in steadying her. She glared. "As bad as all that?"
He simply nodded. He still couldn't speak the words.
He could tell she wanted to ask how they had arrived there. She'd been longing to since he'd begged for her hand in marriage just a few days ago. He had gotten her to agree to a secret engagement, a swift wedding, and even to running away with him. She had done so and kept her questions to herself, but he knew the time for her flexibility was running short.
She took a deep breath, filling her longs with icy sea air. "And to think, I'd just gotten used to being Mrs. Malfoy."
His shoulders sagged in relief. She was giving him a little more time. Letting it become real for him before he foisted the impossibility of it onto her shoulders as well.
He kissed her forehead, just beneath her widow's peak. He did not need to say 'thank you.'
Pansy ignored the affection; acknowledging it would have been too much fuss. "Who do you suppose we should become?"
He chuckled against her skin and pulled away. "Well, you needn't be named after a flower anymore. Circe knows you've always hated that."
"Yet I'd miss it in a way," she mused. "Do you think I look like a Rose?"
"You certainly have the thorns."
"Or perhaps I ought to keep the 'P' so things stay simple. Pauline? Pearl?"
"Whatever you pick, I refuse to be married to a woman named Beulah. I have my standards."
"Well, so do I! I certainly don't want to be married to a Eugene or a Herman."
Draco nodded, in complete agreement on that. Then he found himself speaking without realizing what he was saying. "What about Harry?"
She tipped her head back and laughed, the white of her throat flashing in the sunset. "Harry? Draco, that's just awful! Don't you think it sounds like... a poor person?"
He tightened his jaw so slightly he hoped she didn't notice. "Yes. Maybe you're right."
"I'm always right, husband. That's the secret to our successful marriage, in case you weren't aware."
Later, they returned to their room and dined within. They managed to speak without arguing, merely bickering over little things with mundane but subtly vicious digs. Once they were finished, Draco thought of reaching for her and trying again. Pansy sensed his intentions and declared she had a headache, retiring early. So she left Draco alone again in the dark. Again.
Two steps forward, two steps back, and nothing but uncertainty ahead.
Uncertainty and Harry Potter.
April 13, 1912
Harry returned to Draco's stateroom at the pre-determined time. He was completely exhausted. Upon returning to steerage the night before, he had wolfed down his dinner, and then slept for a solid twelve hours. It still didn't seem like enough. Once again, he'd scarcely noticed his own attempts at sneaking around the ship, and he'd made it with minimal trouble. He'd decided, rather than be disturbed by it, to ignore it completely.
"Good, you're here," Draco said, waving Harry into the room. "I've been giving this some thought."
Harry suppressed a moan. He barely knew Draco, but he was certain this was not good. The manic look in Draco's eyes confirmed his suspicions.
Draco tossed Harry his wand, which Harry snapped from the air with lightning quick reflexes. Draco furrowed his brow and muttered something about a snitch, though Harry had no idea what a squealer had to do with anything.
"Why do you look so nervous?" Draco demanded.
Harry decided that even if he did have the wand, telling Draco exactly what he thought vis-à-vis the rich man's sanity was not the best course of action. "Not looking forward to blowing things up today."
Draco's eyes shone. It took a great deal of effort for Harry not to shudder. "Ah, but I think I may have found a solution to that!" He tossed a book onto the now-scorched tea tray from the day before. Draco pointed at it. "Light it on fire."
The suggestion made Harry sick for a multitude of reasons, and all his promises to himself that he would remain calm vanished into the ether. "Light it on -- Fucking madman! What would you have me do that for?"
"I have a theory," Draco confided proudly, clearly waiting for Harry to ask him what it was.
Normally, Harry was of a mind to humor lunatics, but his patience for Draco's theories no longer existed.
Draco looked disappointed, to the point where Harry could nearly call it a pout, but the expression vanished before Harry could get a handle on it. "For whatever reason, your magic is too strong for the small stuff. Defensive spells, simple charms, etcetera -- they won't work for you. Imagine asking a giant to pick up a normal size tweezers. He can't because his hands are too big. Delicacy is beyond him, much as I believe it is beyond you."
Once again, Harry had a feeling he had been shrewdly snubbed, yet all he could think to say was, "Please don't tell me that giants are real."
"You realize that you have an exasperating habit of completely missing the point."
Harry flung his hat onto the loveseat, ignoring Draco's disapproving cough. "Didn't miss it. When I try to do simple spells, I blow shit up. So what's to say that lighting something on fire -- a stronger spell -- won't blow more shit up?"
"So pessimistic," Draco chided.
"You're the one who convinced me to do this so that I didn't sink the bloody Titanic!"
"Yes, and this is still my aim, though you are making things difficult by throwing yet another fit."
"I don't understand you!" Harry shouted, waving the wand threateningly. He felt like a complete fool, but it gave Draco pause. "First, you threaten to kill me, thinking that for some daft reason I'm out to get you --"
"I admitted I was mistaken, didn't I?"
"Then you say you want to help me, which we both know is a load of bollocks because men like you never help anyone without there being something in it for themselves." Draco began to sputter, but Harry cut him off once more. "And don't give that sorry excuse about not wanting the ship to go down. I thought on that, and it's not a good enough reason, not really. After all, the only thing on this ship making me angry is you."
Draco had gall to look insulted. "You ungrateful -- After everything I've done --"
"And what have you done?" Harry raged. He was aware of something building within the room, something more tangible than mere tension or fear. He could name it, but he didn't want to, and dangerous as it was, he longed to let it loose. "You've shown me what I've lost and made me want something that shouldn't even be real! You've mocked me, kicked me, threatened to kill me, worked me to the bone, and for what? Your amusement?"
"Potter, get ahold of yourself."
Harry pointed the wand at Draco's face, fancying it was a pistol. "What? Afraid I'll blow you up?"
"It is a concern," Draco responded tersely. "This is what I've been trying to tell you. I think in order to control your outbursts, you need to release the magic consciously with an appropriately strong spell."
"Like fire?" Harry spat.
"Exactly like." Draco glanced around nervously. "Potter, if you don't do something soon, you're going to destroy my stateroom."
"And what if I do?" Harry demanded, his face flushing with color.
Draco bared his teeth and shouted back at last, matching Harry's volume and intensity gesture for gesture. "Can you swim, you half-blood bastard? Because I certainly can't!"
Finally, Harry was able to take a moment and think. He felt his power in the room, pressing in on him like a hot, living thing. The air felt thicker, and when he moved, he saw tiny sparks on his skin. Draco was right. His exhaustion, frustration, loneliness, everything built on each other until it was an unmanageable force. He had to let something go.
"How?" he asked hoarsely.
Draco whipped Harry's arm back to the book, holding the wand steady. "Incendio!"
Harry repeated the word, and all at once, the heat in the room rushed towards him. It was like being caught inside a boiler. For three seconds, he could scarcely breathe because of it. Then the power was sucked into the wand, which burned hot in his palm, glowing red. Then fire poured out the tip: an impossible amount of fire. The book went up in flames, but so too did the curtains and one of the paintings. Draco swore impressively, if nonsensically, and yanked the wand from Harry's hand. Soon the fire was replaced by water, and the danger passed.
The pair stood in the middle of the ruined room, trembling and shining with sweat. Harry stared at the damage he'd caused, horrified by how destructive he could be. The explosions, the breaking glass: that was one thing. But fire... he hated fire. It had taken so much from him. He hadn't wanted anything to do with it. Draco had made him. And because of that, he could have lost Draco as well. How strange that this mattered to him despite how much he wanted to throttle the other man 99 per cent of the time. Draco was the only other one like him, and this was enough for Harry. For now.
Harry sank to the floor. "Tell me there's another spell. Any other spell."
Draco stared, shaken and bemused. A moment later, he seemed to realize the error. He turned sharply to his liquor again.
A moment later, a glass was shoved in front of Harry's face. His nose was overwhelmed by the scent of the liquid; he was thankful for a distraction from the ash. "Drink it," Draco ordered
Politeness or self-preservation should have made him refuse or at least hesitate, but he didn't. He snatched it away and poured the golden contents into his mouth. It tasted like poison, and he gagged on it. Still, he felt better once it settled in his stomach.
Draco snorted delicately. "Stronger than your usual fare, I take it?"
Harry could only wheeze in response.
Draco smirked, but he could not conceal the way his hand shook. He finished his own glass and then sat beside Harry, bringing the tumbler with him. Amazingly, he still looked like a true aristocrat even curled up on the floor.
"The fire was a mistake," Draco admitted, and Harry knew this was as close to an apology as he would ever get.
Harry coughed, pushing his damp fringe out of his eyes. "Damn straight."
Draco frowned at him, and Harry immediately realized his error. He hastened to cover it up again, as if it hiding it would make it so that it had never been seen. Draco swatted his hand away and brushed Harry's hair aside with that same strange tenderness he sometimes employed.
"Strange scar," Draco murmured, and even Harry could not mistake the suspicion in his voice. "It's almost like... a lightning bolt."
Harry snorted and wished he could ask for another drink. "If it were that, I wouldn't cover it."
Draco's fingertips brushed against the angry red flesh. They were surprisingly cool. He drew back a moment later so that Harry could not be sure if it was an accident or not.
"You're ashamed of it," Draco ventured.
"No," Harry murmured. "It's a reminder."
Later, he would no doubt wonder what had possessed him to keep talking. Was it the drink? The aftershock of the spell? Or was it simply the fact that Draco was the only one he could tell, the only one who would ever understand?
He supposed in the end, the reasons didn't matter much. They certainly hadn't then.
Three Years Earlier
It hadn't been his fault. Harry had told them that and would have kept shouting it forever if they'd let him. He'd have kept insisting even knowing that it would make no difference: they had already decided to blame him.
The Weasleys had been his family when he had none. Molly, matriarch of the family, had known Lily and taken Harry in when she died despite having too many children already. She had doted on him. Arthur, Ron's father, had likewise been kind, passing on his own brand of wisdom. Harry liked to think that sometimes, Arthur had been proud of him as if Harry was his own flesh and blood.
Death hit the Weasleys three times in 1909. They had already lost Bill and Charlie; they ought to have been spared any more. But one day Molly came home pale and coughing. It had only taken seven days to lose her. Arthur followed soon after.
The loss had been almost too much for Harry to bear. Ginny wept constantly, and he had never known how to help her in strife. Ron's height seemed diminished, his spirit weaker, and the boy who had been his best friend became a man far too quickly. Even Fred and George, the twins who had always been counted on to make them laugh, mourned deeply.
The only one Harry had not noticed was Percy. Harry had never cared for Percy, and the feeling was mutual. Percy wanted more than life could ever give him; he talked and acted above his station. No one could begrudge a poor man the desire to be better, but there were ways to do these things. Percy was entitled despite his tattered clothes. Percy was snobbish despite his ignorance. Mostly, Percy was angry -- not just at the hand life had dealt him, but at his mother and father, for agreeing to take in an orphan when the family was already starving. What they saw as kindness, he saw as folly. Percy had always been sure to let Harry know that if it had been up to him, Harry would have gone to the poorhouse.
Harry didn't notice how Percy grieved when his mother and father died. He didn't notice how the rage he felt at the loss of his surrogate parents had been so clearly mirrored in the older boy. He missed the sullen silences, the slamming doors of the tenement apartment, the steel beneath his gaze. He did not see Percy's desperation.
Percy had wanted to be a poet. He had wanted to find a patron. He'd called himself the next John Clare, the first laborer's litterateur. Fred and George used to find the verses and draw male genitalia all along the sides. Harry had always laughed and never stopped to wonder how it made Percy feel, or if Percy was any good.
He didn't notice Percy coughing.
Someone had -- Hermione or George -- he couldn't remember now, but Percy had insisted it was only dust. Percy didn't lie, and they took him at his word.
As it turned out, Percy did lie. He knew that he was sick, and that without medical care, he would die. To get medical care, he needed money. Percy had always frowned upon his siblings for their occasional forays into pickpocketing, claiming moral superiority. But he bent his own rules well enough to break into one of the well-to-do houses when he thought it was empty. Perhaps if he'd done so before, he would have gotten out faster. He would have sensed that he wasn't alone before the rifle blew a hole into his chest.
Harry had been working that day. He had been trying to earn more money for the family, hoping to give them just one day where they could mourn and not fear hunger. Fred and George had found him, pulled him away despite his avid protests. He'd been so vehement that he hadn't heard them at first.
"Percy's what?" Harry snarled, scrubbing dirt and sweat out of his eyes.
"He's dead, mate," Fred said softly. George couldn't speak. "Killed robbing a house."
It hadn't made sense. None of it. Not Percy. Percy was too high-and-mighty to stoop to such levels. Even if he was just like the rest of them, he wasn't stupid enough to get caught. Harry had been certain that Fred was telling a cruel joke and dressed him down for it. Harry had forgotten that above all else, Percy was ambitious. Dead men had no aspirations.
"It's him, Harry," George croaked finally. This is what made Harry believe it. Even if Fred might have told the joke, George never would have.
Harry had grieved so much, lost so many. He'd shed more tears for the dead than anyone ought, and he was tired of. He hadn't even liked Percy, wouldn't miss him over much, but damn it, he'd been Ron's brother and his brother too in a way. Percy wasn't supposed to die; he was too damn stubborn.
Bill and Charlie had gone to war. There had always been danger. Arthur and Molly had been sudden, but not unexpected. But Percy?
Harry had not been able to brace himself for the loss of Percy. Perhaps he never would have been able to. In the silence that followed George's admission, the rage overtook him.
A horse in a nearby carriage spooked and ran off, screeching wildly into the empty streets. Streetlights exploded. Store-front windows cracked. All to the tune of Harry's tortured wail.
He'd stopped only when his throat felt raw enough to bleed. Then he collapsed, gulping air. He'd been too dazed to realize the magnitude of what he had done.
Then George hauled him to his feet, and Fred punched him the jaw.
They beat him beyond senselessness, screaming and spitting in his face. They called him a witch, a demon, and a thousand other hateful things. They blamed him for Bill, Charlie, their parents, and now Percy. They said he'd cursed their family, bewitched them all into loving him.
Harry hadn't fought back, drained and amazed. He'd pleaded with them -- his brothers, his friends -- insisting that they were wrong. It wasn't his fault. He hadn't done anything.
They might have killed him if a constable had not come by and pulled George off. The copper had whistled for help, and it had come quickly. But in the interim before reinforcements came, Fred yanked out his knife. Rather than gutting him as he'd feared, Fred had instead carved into Harry's forehead. Harry's struggling had made it lopsided, but he knew that it had been meant to be a 'W.'
No one believed Fred and George's story, and they were tossed into jail for a day for being drunk and disorderly. Harry had barely made it home. Ginny and Hermione patched him together. He didn't tell Ron what happened.
Fred and George never came home. They sent their friend Lee by to say that they wouldn't have anything more to do with Harry. They claimed Percy had tried to get Harry to go with him to the robbery, and Harry had refused, leaving Percy on his own. This was more believable than Harry being a witch, but Ron, Hermione, and Ginny had stuck by him.
One month later, the twins had stowed away to America and made a fortune inside of a year. Then they booked passage for their siblings and their brother's wife.
They said if Harry came with them, they would kill him on sight.
Harry expected the following silence; it wasn't exactly a tale that invited immediate comment. So he didn't try to break it and stewed in the tension, rubbing his calloused hands along the scar-skin.
The quiet was broken by clinking glass as Draco poured another drink. Harry wasn't surprised when Draco downed it himself. "Muggle bastards."
"They were afraid. I don't blame them, but I... I'd hoped over time they'd realize that I hadn't meant any harm." He laughed and longed for a cigarette. "Should have known better. Once the twins have made up their mind about someone, they don't change it."
Draco's white skin had gone blotchy. "This is exactly why we can never mix, our kind with theirs. It's too dangerous. When they find out, the first thing they think of is evil. And who wants anything evil walking about?" Every word came out between clenched teeth, so that he hissed and spit like an angry cat.
Harry frowned. "It can't always be like that.. My mum and da--"
"Do you really think your father ever knew?" Draco snarled. "No, your mother was smart to keep it from him, even if it did condemn them both. He'd have killed her if he could and strangled you in your cradle."
No amount of exhaustion could stop Harry reacting to that. "He loved my mum!"
"And the twins didn't love you?" Draco asked. "Fear and hatred will always trump any other emotion. There's nothing more dangerous than a scared animal."
Harry longed to defend his best friends and his future wife, but he couldn't drown out the wild screams of Fred and George. The scar ached like it was a fresh wound.
"It's better your wife never knows," Draco concluded softly. "Another benefit of the lessons: to keep your secret."
Fear gripped Harry's heart like a cold fist. "My son."
Draco scoffed. "Perhaps you'll be lucky and he'll be a Squib. The bane of the wizarding world will be your salvation." He raised his empty glass in a mock toast.
Harry almost asked what would happen if James was not normal, but he didn't. He wasn't sure he could bear the answer.
Suddenly, it wasn't Fred and George calling him a witch in his mind. It was Hermione and Ron. Even Ginny.
He'd have strangled you in the cradle.
Harry fought the urge to vomit and clambered to his feet. "Another spell."
Draco stared up at him, silver eyes narrowed but unfocused from the drink. For a moment, Harry thought Draco had not heard him, but then Draco rose to his feet with enviable grace. He glanced at the charred curtains. "No fire."
The lessons continued.
Over the next few hours, Draco and Harry continued to work on the latter's spell technique. It was hardly simple, like teaching a baby potion-brewing before it could walk, but they managed. Draco taught Harry as many offensive spells as he felt comfortable doing, and Harry continually surprised him by the sheer power behind each attempt, even if it failed. By early evening, Harry could scarcely stand.
"I'll wager that's enough," Draco announced, eyeing what had once been a perfectly nice tea tray. "You look like death."
"Feel worse," Harry muttered darkly. He sank against a wall, but kept his knees locked to hold him up. He tossed the wand to Draco. Despite his fatigue, he did not throw wide.
"I'm not sure that's possible," Draco answered, twirling the wand idly in his fingers. How was he to explain this to Pansy? Should he simply transfigure it into a bauble and hope she didn't notice the missing furniture?
"Can I ask you something?" It was so slurred a request that it took Draco a moment to decipher it.
Draco frowned, glancing at Harry askance. "I have a suspicion my feelings on the matter wouldn't factor into your decision."
Harry shrugged; Draco wondered if he was alert enough to follow it. "What are you running from?"
The muscles in Draco's back contracted. He ought to have known. Potter wasn't an idiot, just single-minded. He'd been too concerned with his own problems to pay Draco's any mind. Now they had come up with a solution of sorts, and there was room to wonder at all the mysterious behavior and unanswered questions. He had known the risk in offering this to Harry; if he hadn't wanted to deal with it, he needn't have bothered.
"None of your business," Draco said, knowing that would not be the end of matters.
Harry held up his hands in mock surrender. "Didn't think it was. It's just... well, you know something about me that I don't go around telling everyone. Thought it might even things out if you--"
"What?" Draco mocked. "Revealed something of myself? How terribly naïve."
Harry exhaled sharply. "Don't get your knickers in a twist. You don't have to answer my question. Just... I don't know. If you're honestly worried about someone killing you, I thought you... you could use some help."
Draco turned, compelled to study him intently and seek out the trick behind the offer. He drank in the tanned skin of the other man, letting his eyes linger on those worn hands he had grown familiar with. He sought out the vicious scar beneath his black hair and wondered if he should offer to remove it. Then he caught sight of Harry's eyes, vibrant even in exhaustion, and he lost track of his thoughts for a moment.
He physically shook himself and hoped it passed for a shiver. "You couldn't possibly help me."
Harry nodded slowly. "I suppose not."
That should have been the end of it. But bourbon always loosened Draco's tongue and made him say things that were better left unsaid. Sometimes it even made him think it was a good idea to say them in the first place.
"But you would, wouldn't you?" Draco asked. "If you could."
Harry started, briefly thrown off by the question, but his hesitation in answering was still much shorter than it ought to have been. "I'd try to."
"Why in the hell would you do something that stupid?" He could not make himself sound as cruel as he wanted.
Harry laughed quietly. "I've been told I have this... saving people thing. Always trying to help when help's not wanted, generally mucking things up more as a result."
Draco found this concept utterly foreign. "That sounds like the height of stupidity."
"It's been said."
Impulsively, Draco bridged the gap between himself and Harry. Ignoring the other man's discomfort, he touched the ruined skin of Harry's brow. It still looked like a lightning bolt to him, but he could see how it could have been meant to be a 'W.' "You'd help them, if they asked." He knew better than to ask.
Harry glanced away. Draco wondered if it was their proximity or the statement that disconcerted him. "Don't think they need anything from me, but... even if they didn't ask. If they were in trouble, I'd help them. If I could."
Draco hated things he could not understand, but at the same time, could not look away. "Why?"
"I still love them," Harry responded without hesitation. "In spite of everything... I still love them."
Draco's fingers pressed into Harry's skin. He wondered if it hurt. "How can you love the ones who hurt you?"
"It's not something I can set aside. Be much easier if I could."
"I wish I could teach you that," Draco murmured. "It's very liberating."
Harry shook his head. "I wouldn't listen."
Draco opened his mouth to ask why and then closed it again. At this point, it was foolish to ask. There were some things he was not meant to comprehend. He hated it.
Or did he?
Without daring to think, Draco cupped the back of Harry's neck and pulled him forward, taking a kiss that should never have been given.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, the token protests were raised. He was married now. It was unseemly to be with another man. He was taking advantage. He was letting his head be ruled by lust and liquor.
But it was so easy to drown those thoughts with his lips pressed against the curve of Harry's mouth. The desire came suddenly, naturally, and all at once he understood the very motives Harry had insisted on examining, the ones that Draco had evaded.
So easy to lie to himself. Perhaps that's what Pansy had meant when she said Draco was the best liar she had ever known.
He tangled his fingers into the hair at the base of Harry's neck, holding him close. Draco sensed his struggle and knew that resistance so well. He was also sure that if Harry really wanted to, he could break away at any time, bloody his nose all over again. Kill him if he felt so moved.
Harry's hand settled tentatively on the curve of his hip. Harry was confused and tired, lost in a world that had lost him. These were not decisions he ought to have been making. Draco should have been ashamed.
So easy to lose all sense of right and wrong and bury it in the physical sensation. The smell that had once disgusted him coiled around his skin. It was no longer foul, but soothing, like smoke and earth and damp shadows. A push, harsh and demanding, and Harry's back was flush against the wall. He no longer struggled to stand. He wasn't resisting, but every caress and trick of the tongue was a question, and one Draco would happily answer.
Draco rocked his hips forward into Harry's. His blood quickened at the hardness there, a mirror of his own. He rutted with insistence, seizing Harry's shirt. Breaths too sharp, moans smothered into sweat and skin, and no thoughts beyond what felt good, what felt great, what could feel better.
Harry's teeth sank into Draco's bottom lip. He drew blood.
The taste of copper. A smear of red on the front gate of his home. Another man in his arms, smaller and colder and so far gone.
Draco pushed himself away, gasping for air as though he had been drowning. His heart beat even faster now, but his skin felt like ice, not only for the absence of contact. His throat began to burn from something other than bourbon.
Harry started to speak.
One Week Earlier
Such a short time ago, there had been another man in his arms. Small, pale, and always a little different from everyone else. Theodore.
It had begun at Beauxbatons, where they had both gone. Things were simple in France: everyone more forgiving and more willing to turn a blind eye. Who cared what two men or two women got up to in the privacy of their own rooms? Love was love, no matter what form it took.
They had never been in love. Lovers without love. Very French indeed. But they had both recognized their intrinsic otherness. Other boys had no trouble paying for a whore when the urge struck, and would no doubt make excellent husbands to excellent wives and father excellent children once their wild oats had been sown. But Draco and Theodore had always been a little different from everyone else. They had never cared for whores and could never manage to dream of becoming fathers of any caliber.
They were different from everyone else, but together, they were the same. It wasn't love, not really. It was deep friendship, affection, loyalty... but had they been given another choice, Draco wondered if Theodore would have chosen him. Personally, he doubted it.
School ended, and adulthood loomed. Marriage became less of an idea and more of an encroaching reality. They clung to each other even more now, though their secrets were harder to keep and these dalliances were better left to boyhood.
Such a short time ago, there had been another man in his arms. Small, pale, and cold. So very, very cold.
It wasn't love. It couldn't have been.
Even if it had been, it wasn't anymore.
How could Draco bear to love the dead?
Harry fled minutes after Draco, thinking only briefly of chasing him down. He was owed answers certainly, but Draco's responses could wait. His own interrogation could not.
He pled sea-sickness again, ignoring Neville's concern and Seamus's jokes. He cowered under the covers again. Why did he have to spend so much of his life hiding?
Was he hiding even from himself?
Harry refused to believe it. He loved Ginny. He had never questioned that. First as a sister, and then as far more, Ginny was everything to him. And now there was James to consider.
Had he ever wondered...?
No, of course not. Ginny had always been there; he hadn't even needed to think about it. Falling in love with her had been as natural as breathing. Hermione called it a foregone conclusion. Harry had never looked at Ron or any of the other Weasley men and thought of... that. It was wrong. Disgusting. Evil.
But wasn't witchcraft meant to be evil?
Harry drove his fists into his ears as if he could block out own thoughts. He wanted to tear all memory of Draco from his mind. He wished he could go back in time and make it so that he never agreed to go on deck with Seamus. All to see a sodding staircase he had no hope of laying eyes on.
He laughed and choked on it. Had that really been all he cared about a few days ago? So much had changed, so much ignorance had been abandoned. He longed to go back to a time when he could think of himself as merely 'different.' Not as a 'wizard' or something far worse.
Ought he have been angry? Perhaps. At Draco for initiating certainly, but it couldn't all be his fault. Harry'd kissed back and more than that.
He curled around his still painful erection and tried not to think about what had happened. The feel of Draco's mouth, the taste of bourbon and desperation, the way it had been so very hard to breathe.
Why had he responded? Why hadn't he pushed Draco away? Was he so longing for someone to understand him that he would accept even the basest form of attention?
Or had it been something else?
He knew he was in for another sleepless night. He just couldn't understand why he felt as though he was waiting for a paper bird that would not come.
April 14, 1912
Draco could not bear to return to his cabin; it would have meant eventually looking Pansy in the eye. Instead, he retreated to the first class smoking lounge, indulging in brandy and whatever other spirits he could lay hands on. No one approached him. It was better that way.
Eventually, he had to emerge and wandered the promenade. He was utterly alone except for the patrolling officers on duty, who always asked Draco if he was all right. It took every ounce of patience in him to respond cordially.
He leaned against the railing, a cigarette hanging from his bruised lip. He looked out into the ink black dark, noting that the moon was but a sliver hanging in the sky. He could see his breath, but he did not feel the cold. He did his best not to feel much of anything.
Finally, just before the sun was due to peak over the horizon, one the current patrolmen "suggested" that he return to bed and his wife. Another time and Draco might have informed the man just what he thought of such proposals. Out of exhaustion or resignation, he merely nodded. He could not avoid his wife forever.
As he crossed the threshold of their stateroom, he found he could not avoid his wife even for a moment. All of the lights were on, and she sat awake on the sofa he had grown so accustomed too. She looked sallow in her pale green dressing gown, her hair a wreck. It was the first time Draco could remember seeing Pansy so undone since they were children.
"Where have you been?" she demanded, crossing to him in a blur of silk and feathers. "I've been worried sick."
Draco focused on her eyebrows, hoping this could mimic eye contact well enough. "Needed to clear my head."
"After setting fire to our room?" she cried.
He looked over at the charred remains of the once fine curtains. "I'd forgotten."
She seemed amazed at this fact and then wrinkled her tiny nose, smelling. "You've been drinking."
He ignored the reflex to rise to her bait and simply pushed past her. "And I intend to drink more."
The decanter flew past him, nearly taking his head off in the process. He turned just in time to see Pansy snatch it from the air only to throw it the ground. He winced at the sound of splintering glass and lost indulgences.
"Enough," she hissed. "I have turned a blind eye to your ridiculous behavior out of the goodness of my heart --" She paused, waiting for him to interrupt, and looked visibly disturbed that he did not. "This is the limit, Draco. Do you know I found myself wondering if you'd jumped?"
Draco rubbed his head in anticipation of the hangover that was sure to follow. "Pansy, you know me better."
"Do I?" she railed. "You're keeping secrets from me, Draco. You never did that before we were married."
He laughed. "Don't be so sure, darling. I'm a master of deception, remember?"
She trembled, her lips turning white. "At least before now you've had the decency not to be so sloppy about it."
He knew what was coming, and he couldn't. He wasn't ready. He wasn't sure he would ever be ready to tell her his sins, though he knew he owed that to her and more.
She vanished the mess with a wave of her wand and then marched toward Draco like a dark, avenging angel. "Why are we here, Draco?"
He began to turn his face away and offer the prepared excuse, but she grabbed his chin roughly, forcing him to look at her. "No! I've had enough! No more sneaking around, no more cryptic non-answers, no more pacifying me with promises of a better life! I liked my old one! I have given up everything for you. Do you understand that? My home, my family, my name, even this!" She pushed her wand into his chest, expecting him to grab it. It fell between them, clattering to the ground like a forgotten toy. "These are the sacrifices I have made for you, Draco Malfoy! And for better or for worse, I am you wife, and I damn well deserve answers!"
She was so shrill; she'd always sounded like a banshee when she was angry, much as they both loathed the comparison. And she wouldn't stop -- why couldn't she just stop? Every word was like a shove driving him closer to a precipice he had spent so long eluding. Why couldn't she leave him to silence and his own distractions? Why couldn't she understand that she wasn't enough, that she never would be enough, no matter how much he wanted her to be?
Pansy grabbed him by the lapels of his jacket, her red nails scratching him like claws, and she shook him as hard as she could. "Tell me!"
It was out before he could stop it.
She gaped at him, utterly lost. "What? Theodore Nott? What do you mean, dead?"
Draco had taken her away before the news broke. He hadn't wanted her to mourn their fellow childhood friend. He wanted to keep Theo all to himself. Even if he hadn't been so selfish, he hadn't been sure he could stand to hear Pansy say his name.
She paled and began to pull away from him. "Draco... Draco, tell me you didn't kill him."
"No!" he shouted, grabbing her wrists. He couldn't stand it if she left him too, even in this small, physical way. "I wouldn't! I'd never do that to him."
"Then what did you do?"
And then finally, against his better judgment and self-serving protests, he told her.
One Week Earlier
It was a meeting with Theodore just like any other. They spoke of mutual interests and discordant ambitions, of their mothers and fathers and friends, of the lives they were both expected to live. Neither of them ever acknowledged how impossible it would be for them to meet the expectations foisted upon them. Each time one approached the topic, one reached for the other, and then it was very easy not to think about anything at all.
Draco had never suspected that he had been anything but careful. He had forgotten how much harder it was to hold these dangerous liaisons outside of Beauxbatons. Most importantly, he had forgotten just how much Lucius Malfoy expected from his only son.
The Malfoy patriarch had burst into the Nott's drawing room, black for all his paleness. Draco had leapt away from Theo, attempted to straighten his cravat, but it was all too late. They had been seen. It was known.
Lucius didn't even look at Theodore. He had eyes only for his son, and those eyes were full of nothing but rage warring with disappointment. "How long?"
It had been hard to speak, his mouth had been so dry. Theodore had said something, but Draco couldn't remember what it was.
"Draco. Tell me." A command from Lucius Malfoy was one meant to be obeyed.
Draco tried to speak. He would beg forgiveness, swear that it was a mistake, that Theo was a mistake. He would disavow his lover and make his apologies later, because he knew there was nothing more dangerous than Lucius Malfoy when things did not go exactly according to plan.
Theodore stood at his right arm, a hand upon his elbow. "Since school," he said.
Lucius's eyes bulged, white-rimmed and full of winter storms. He wrenched Draco away from Theodore and struck him. It was the first time Lucius had ever laid a hand on him. "Disgrace! Failure! Freak of nature!" He punctuated each insult with a blow. Blood poured from Draco's nose, overwhelming all of his senses with copper. "No son of mine! No son of mine!"
Theodore tried to pull Lucius off. He was younger, but Lucius was stronger. Lucius kept screaming about depravity and the like. He spat that he would beat this affliction from his son and stop only when Draco said he would never see Theodore Nott again.
Draco had been prepared to agree. There was time enough to wonder later if he meant it.
Then Theodore shoved Lucius away and snarled, "I love him!"
Draco and Lucius both stared. It couldn't be true. Not for either one of them. Theodore had never said, but then he wouldn't have said. He'd always been quiet, always reserved, gentler and far better than Draco deserved. He couldn't love Draco.
It was something Draco would never be certain of, for in the next moment, Lucius Malfoy had leveled his wand at Theodore. They had both expected an Unforgivable, but not that one. Not, "Avada Kedavra."
Draco screamed wildly as green light filled his vision. He caught Theo as he fell, calling his name even though he knew it was too late. Theodore looked resigned, perhaps calm, but Draco knew he had been expecting a Cruciatus Curse. He wondered if Theo had even had time to be afraid.
Draco's cheek was wet with blood and tears. "How could you do that?"
Lucius scowled in a way Draco had always thought of as god-like. Now Draco realized it was the look of a monster. "Bad influences must be rooted out."
"I would have kept away!" Draco shouted, clutching Theodore to his chest. He seemed cold already, but surely that was his own shock. "If you had let me speak, I --"
"But I couldn't have kept him away from you!" Lucius retorted. "He made that perfectly clear."
"He didn't mean it!"
Draco looked back down to Theo, as if his frozen face still had answers for him. But he was gone, dead. And Draco had done nothing to save him.
Lucius was talking. "We will not speak of this again. Your mother need never know. Within the next month, you will become engaged to one of the young ladies in our circle -- you know my preference is one of the Greengrass daughters. I will... explain the situation to the Notts. Surely they will get on.
"They have other sons."
The Killing Curse erupted from Draco's wand before he had a chance to question it.
Lucius had no time to move or deflect and was struck down. Draco did not pause to think of what his father's face looked like in death.
A lifetime of love and affection, discounted in a moment. All because of a boy Draco didn't love, but who had loved him.
He knelt in the Notts' drawing room for as long as he dared, trying to wake himself from a bad dream. Eventually he clambered to his feet. He stumbled blindly in the direction of home. His eyes were wet.
And he told his mother they had to run.
It took Draco a moment to realize that he was on his knees again, and still another to discover that he had buried his face into Pansy's stomach. The front of her dressing gown was soaked through.
She rubbed his back, making soothing sounds though he was not crying anymore. He clung to her, all that was left of his former life still in reach. He didn't want to let go.
"That's why you proposed so suddenly," she murmured. "The family Protectorate Spells... They would be deployed if you tried to touch the money. It would know you... killed your father. And your mother can't touch it because she isn't a Malfoy by blood."
She made him sound so cold.
"What did you tell your mother?"
Draco could not fathom why this was important to her. "Only that I had killed Father. She didn't ask why."
"Perhaps she already knew."
It was a thought that hadn't occurred to him before. His heart sank towards his stomach.
"You killed her husband, but she stood by you, her son," Pansy contemplated aloud. "I always said Narcissa was a remarkable woman. She should hate you, but she's chosen to love you more than the man she married."
He wanted to beg her to stop talking, but he didn't have the right.
She squeezed his shoulders. "We needn't talk about this anymore. We'll pretend it never happened."
He froze, shocked. For a moment, he had thought she was an echo of his father, but no, it was Pansy. Only Pansy. "What?"
"It doesn't matter anymore," she said, her voice brittle and full of steel. "It won't happen again, will it?"
Draco knew better than to assume there was anything but one answer. "It won't happen again."
"Good." Her voice was too bright. He thought of a quill straining until it snapped. "I know you're not really Slytherin, Draco, but you would have been. We honor loyalty and faithfulness above all else. You were loyal to Theo, if not your father. You were confused. You've been confused for years." She brushed his hair away from his face. Her nails felt like claws. "But that's all over now."
He could do nothing but agree. She raised him to his feet and put him to bed. For the first time, she slept beside him, her arm slung around his waist like he was a possession.
Draco slept fitfully, dreaming of green light and green eyes.
At 9 o'clock in the morning on April 14, 1912, Titanic picked up a wireless message from the Caronia, warning of icebergs. It was noted in the logbook, but otherwise not remarked upon. At least eight more messages would be picked up by the ship's wireless throughout the day.
Harry spent most of the day brooding. He made it perfectly clear to his bunkmates that he was in no mood to talk, though Seamus naturally pushed it just to see what would happen. Dean intervened before any damage could be done, and Neville gave Harry a sad look on his way out the door.
What did they care? They barely knew him. And certainly if they knew what he had done, they would not have been so concerned with his welfare.
Harry wondered what they would see as the greater sin: witchcraft or unnatural lust?
He ate dinner with the other third class passengers, though he made an effort to be as unfriendly as possible. He heard them gossiping about the upper class, the crew, and of course, the ship. Four days into the journey, and still, the ship was what people discussed the most.
He heard someone say that he had once worked as a sailor, and at the speed they were going, they would land one day ahead of schedule.
Harry dropped his fork. It clattered onto his plate loudly, but no one looked in his direction.
Early. They might land early. He would get to see Ginny and James that much sooner.
His heart swelled at the thought, but he could not fully commit himself to joy. Too much had happened on this trip. He was no longer the man Ginny had fallen in love with and made a child with. Would she take one look at him and see the changes, read the sins in the lines on his face, and cast him out as her brothers had done?
No. She wouldn't. Even if she knew about the magic, she would forgive him. She'd love him. He was sure that Ginny would not forsake him for that. He would not tell her yet for it would still take some getting used to himself, but one day, he thought he might. Especially if James was not completely... normal.
But there was something he could never tell her. Something he was haunted by. Would she be able to sense the ghost of Draco Malfoy on his flesh?
He left the table abruptly, muttering something about needing a smoke even though no one was listening.
Harry raced into the open air, taking a deep, bracing breath. It was colder than he had ever remembered it being on board, and he folded his arms to contain his body heat.
There were too many questions. Most of them could never be answered, and Harry was grudgingly willing to accept that reality. But the mystery of Draco Malfoy... who he was, why he'd helped Harry, what he ran from... and indeed, why Draco had kissed Harry, these were answerable. Assuming that he could convince Draco of that.
Harry wasn't entirely certain he wanted to know. It would probably be better to set the incident aside and lock in some deep corner of his mind, never to be revisited. He just wasn't sure that he could do that.
He would visit Draco one last time. They would have it all out. Harry would not touch him again. If he did these things, maybe he could leave Malfoy behind in New York Harbor and look ahead only to Ginny.
Hoping he was not making yet another bad decision, he set off for the first class staterooms. Once again, it took the better part of an hour to reach them, but Harry was determined that it would be time well spent. When he reached the familiar door, he did not pause to examine why it was unlocked or even wonder if Draco might not be alone. He simply barged in, just as Draco had shoved his way into Harry's life.
Draco looked up at the sound of his entrance. He said nothing in greeting and barely seemed to register Harry's presence at all.
Finally Draco muttered, "You at least could have knocked."
"Why?" Harry asked, demanding the answers he knew he was due without acknowledging the sardonic greeting.
Draco had the decency to flinch, though only slightly. "It seems that's all anyone ever wants to ask me."
Harry slammed the door behind him, shaking the artwork on the wall. "Then we've good reason for it. Tell me why you... you --"
"Kissed you?" Draco asked, no longer doleful. He drew himself up in his chair and looked once again like the formidable wizard Harry had come to know, fear, and sometimes like.
Harry felt his cheeks burn. "Yes."
Draco's eyes became slits, his gaze punishing. "Isn't the better question why you didn't push me away?"
Harry stalked deeper into the room, ignoring that this brought him closer to Draco. "Don't try to change the subject."
"Oh, but it's so very easy," Draco insisted. "Two to tango, Potter, no matter who leads."
"But why start it in the first place?" Harry pressed. "Have you... before?"
Draco's posturing seemed to weaken. Harry could no longer take it seriously. His shoulders were stooped now, his skin greyer than Harry remembered. "Yes. He... He died."
Harry supposed he ought to offer condolences, but all he could manage was an awkward, "Oh."
Draco glowered. "Thank you for your concern."
Embarrassment flooded Harry, but he hadn't the room or the time for it. If he didn't ask these questions now, he would not get another chance. They would be in New York soon, and by the time they docked, this incident must be forgotten and done. "Tell me, Draco."
"You were here!" Draco hissed, spittle flying from his lips like a rabid dog. "You were close to hand, don't you understand that? Anyone would have done! Anyone! You asked me why I was bothering with you before, and now you know. It was all part of my lewd, disgusting desires. Is that what you wanted to hear? You didn't matter! You never did!"
It surprised Harry how much that hurt.
"Get out," Draco ordered. "You're of no use to me now."
Harry stayed planted, unable to look away from Draco. The other man looked so tired, and so much smaller than he had seemed when Harry had met him. He still didn't know what Draco was running from, but now he knew what Draco had been hiding. It was surely connected; it had to be.
He also knew that Draco's motives could not have been without some other motive. There were easier ways for one man to seduce another, surely. The time invested in the venture, the effort, the way Draco had put his own life in danger... It didn't add up.
"No," Harry voiced clearly. "You're lying."
Draco laughed in his face. "Obviously, you're in denial."
"You have done nothing but lie since you got on this boat!" Harry snapped. "Your whole existence is a lie. Telling the truth would involve riding around on a broom with a black cat on your shoulder."
"Must you be so trite?" Draco grimaced. "And do forgive me for having a sense of self-preservation. You know as well as I do that exposure means death."
"A ship to ferry you across the world to hide what you are," Harry spat. Then he reached over to the vanity and grabbed a necklace of emeralds and pearls. He hurled it at Draco's feet, satisfied when the beads broke apart. "And a wife too."
Now Draco was on his feet, full vitality returned. Harry was gratified as well as unnerved. "I told you to get out."
"Not until you tell me the truth."
Draco's hands convulsed as if to clutch his wand, but without it, the gesture seemed almost impotent. "I can force you out!"
"Then why haven't you done it already?"
Draco swore loudly, his whole body convulsing. "Is that all you can do: ask me why, why, why, and never have a care for your own motives? Why did you come here?"
Harry had his answer completely prepared. He stepped even closer to Draco, wishing he had a height or status advantage to play off of. They stared each other down for what may as well have been an eternity.
He had come here for Ginny's sake. This is what he'd told himself.
Then Harry reached for Draco and wondered if there wasn't something to denial after all.
If someone had told Draco just one hour before that Harry Potter was going to one, come back to his cabin after his flagrant indiscretion, and two, initiate a second round, Draco would have assumed that the strain of his situation had cracked him at last.
But he could not deny the sensations of Harry pressed up against him. It was real, and Draco thought in a distant way that it was the most real thing that had happened since the loss of his father and Theodore.
Harry's stubble grated against his cheek, his fingers seizing his face clumsily. Everything about Harry was rough and harsh. The pressure of his lips, the grip of his hands, the sharpness of his teeth. There was no softness to be found in Harry Potter for all of his goodness. He remained a contradiction unto himself -- cruel and kind, untrained but deadly, weak but powerful. And not his.
Draco forced himself to pull away, silently cursing himself for untimely propriety. "We can't," he whispered hoarsely.
Despite the fact that he was in no position to disagree, Harry refused to let go of Draco. "Malfoy --"
"You know perfectly well this is lunacy!" Draco insisted, trying to pull away. "We're not... We barely know each other. You don't even like me."
Harry laughed, and it came out low and brusque, sending a quiver running up Draco's spine. "Too right. I'd just as soon hit you most times."
"Likewise," Draco concurred, struggling to disentangle himself. His mind warred with his body, flushed with heat and desire and longing only to be closer to Harry, while his good sense told him he had to walk away.
"Stop," Harry said, and for a wonder, Draco listened. "You've turned everything around for me... Changed my history, my future. Changed me for better and worse. I ain't never been one for thinking too much on the whys and wherefores of doing a thing. Nearly gotten me killed once or twice and saved my arse more times than I can count."
Draco was about to ask if this rambling monologue had any end in sight when Harry grabbed Draco's hands by the wrists and pinned them against the wall. Then Draco momentarily forgot how to breathe.
"You're under my skin, Malfoy," Harry said, well and truly growling now. The sound of it was enough to make Draco hard. "But we'll be landing soon, and then we'll never seen each other again. I can't have you hangin' on me like that."
Draco glared up at Harry through his eyelashes. "So your new plan is to fuck me out of your system?"
"Something like that."
Harry descended again, harsher than the first time. His mouth was a force unto itself, working against Draco's good intentions like a demon made flesh. Though Draco resisted, they both knew it was a token protest. Together, they would descend into something they both ought to regret. For better or for worse, it was the only way to be free of each other.
Draco opened his mouth, inviting Harry in. Their tongues coiled against each other, caught in a wicked, writhing dance that left Draco desperate for air. Kissing Harry was like drowning, and Draco thought if that was the way he had to die, at least it would be an enjoyable ride.
He pulled his arms free, ignoring the bark of protest. Draco lost his fingers into Harry's hair, white tangling with black. He gave a hard tug, yanking Harry's head back and exposing his throat. Then Draco attacked his throat with lips and tongue and teeth. He marked the darker flesh with his mouth, feeling the Adam's apple bob against his cheek.
When Harry moaned, Draco grinned against his flesh. There was nothing more satisfying.
Harry's hands pulled at Draco's clothes, insistent and rough. Quickly, Draco pushed Harry backwards, propelling him towards the bedroom. He swatted Harry's hands away, removing his own shirt and giving Harry leave to shed his coat and suspenders. The hat, thankfully, had been lost in their tussle sometime before.
They fell onto the bed in a tangled heap, frantically shedding layer after layer of clothing. And all the while, their lips constantly sought one another out, every kiss a new and deadly adventure.
Draco's cock was fully erect, and he was gratified to feel Harry's own hardness instinctively rubbing against his own. This would have been enough to satisfy, but Draco wanted more than mere satisfaction.
Draco tipped his head back, allowing Harry full access to the hollow of his throat. He shuddered, struggling towards coherence. "You said I got under your skin?"
Harry made a noise against Draco's flesh that may have been an affirmative.
Draco chuckled darkly. "Be careful what you tell me, Potter. I'm always liable to use it against you."
With strength that certainly surprised Harry, Draco rolled the pair of them over so that Harry lay on his stomach. Draco settled his weight on top of him, pressing his palms onto Harry's arms and holding him steady. Harry jerked beneath him, entirely too used to being in control, and the sudden movement pressed Draco's cock deep into the back of Harry's thigh. He moaned loudly as his muscles spasmed, leaving a smear of white on the curve of Harry's leg.
"Always so violent," Draco remonstrated, trying to control the desire in his voice. He leaned down and nipped at Harry's earlobe. "Well, at least you know better than to trust me." His teeth raked the tip of the outer ear. Harry gave a cry of pain that Draco did not mistake for lack of pleasure.
He swirled his tongue against Harry's inner ear, drawing groans out of the other man like a violinist drew out music with his bow. His hands remained firmly levered against Harry's arms, preventing him from changing their position again. Though from the sound of it, Harry was in no hurry to resume command of the situation.
Slowly, Draco moved away from the ear toward the back of the neck and then all the way down the curve of the spine. He left bruises with his mouth against the expanse of flesh, experimenting to see just how far he could push Potter until the man fell to begging. For now, it was all wordless moaning until a tiny pool of sweat had gathered into the small of Harry's back.
"Am I still under your skin?" he hissed.
Draco pushed himself up, curling his fingers around Harry's biceps like twin vices. The he rubbed the length of his erection into the cleft of Harry's arse, throwing his head back at the feel of it. Harry whimpered, thrusting his hips back into Draco.
The request was clear enough, but Draco had never been a conciliatory lover. "What's the magic word?"
Despite his predicament, Potter had enough sense about him to be snide. "Abracafuckingdabra."
A more forbearing lover would have insisted on the correct answer, but Draco had also never been patient.
He ran his hands down the length of Harry's body -- broader and more muscled than his own, toned from a life of hard labor. He ghosted over Harry's hips and then grasped both cheeks. Harry responded accordingly, drawing himself onto his knees.
Draco couldn't help but smirk. "Are you sure you haven't done this before, Potter?"
Harry growled again, sounding disturbingly like a wild animal. "Malfoy, I swear, if you don't get on with it --"
Weary of threats, Draco shut Harry up in most efficient manner he could think of: Draco dipped his head and flicked the tip of his tongue inside him.
Not exactly the desired effect, but it would do.
Draco continued his ministrations, spreading Harry open wider with his hands. He lowered his face into the crevice and ran his tongue along the inner arc of each cheek. He circled the hole with his tongue painstakingly slowly, occasionally pushing it into the opening.
"Draco," Harry gasped. "I --"
"Patience, Potter," Draco interrupted, certain he knew what Harry was bound to ask. "Unless you want me to hurt you."
Harry made a noise that seemed to intimate that he didn't much care if he got hurt in this process, but Draco knew from experience that such disregard would not end well for either of them.
Carefully, Draco inserted one finger into the opening. Harry twisted the coverlet beneath his fingers, pushing back against Draco's gentle pressure. Draco entered Harry easily, his finger slick with spit. He entered in and out, spreading Harry wider. Meanwhile, every noise and move Harry made drove Draco further to distraction.
"Malfoy," Harry moaned. "Please."
"Little late for that," Draco mocked, hoping Harry was too distracted to notice how his voice was shaking.
Draco curled his finger inside of Harry, twisting as Harry gave a cry. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
Draco withdrew his hand and repositioned himself behind Harry. His erection throbbed, and all he wanted to do was pound Harry into the mattress until he screamed. It took all of Draco's willpower to slip inside Harry slowly until he was full entrenched.
It would have been prudent, even kind, for Draco to ask if Harry was all right. But Draco's mind had fully retreated from the proceedings. He was aware only of the tightness around his cock and the fact that he was not in any position to deny either of them this now. They'd made their bed, they were lying in it, and now they would have to finish.
Both of them were beyond speech. Their coupling had pushed them back into primeval grunts and groans, evocative but lacking substance. Draco thrust deeply into Harry, and with each movement, he felt himself losing whatever tenuous control he had once had over his own desires. But Harry gave as good as he got, rocking his hips and clenching just so. Draco could hardly see or breathe as he entered again and again. It was just Harry, only Harry, and all thoughts of blood betrayal, wives, and secrets were chased from his clouded mind. It was like they were the only two people in the world, and this was all they could ever have. And in a way, it was.
Draco felt himself drawing closer to climax. He wrapped one arm around Harry's waist, thrusting all the while, and then wrapped his free hand around Harry's cock. He stroked its length roughly, flicking his thumb over the head.
Harry swore and came, spilling onto Draco's hand. A moment later, Draco crested. The orgasm ripped through him, a violent force escaping to freedom. Draco cried aloud, arching his back as it overtook him. It was unlike anything he'd ever felt before, like tasting fire. He wasn't sure he ever wanted to come down.
Despite what Draco might have wanted, the reality was that ecstasy could not last forever. He collapsed onto Harry, fully spent, and it took him considerable effort to withdraw and roll off of him. He lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling, his mind a peaceful blank for the first time since...
And then he was filled with anxieties again. Theodore. Pansy. His mother and father. The new life in America. The family that would strike him down if he was ever found. And Harry, of course Harry.
Draco shut his eyes. "Have you gotten rid of me, Potter?"
Harry didn't answer for a while, and in the silence, Draco regretted the question. He'd thought the answer wouldn't matter, but now...
"Why are you here, Draco?"
Draco shut his eyes. That again. Must it always come back to that? Was his past so important to this man he barely knew? Why did it matter to him? Why could his curiosity just not die?
Harry's hand brushed against his cheek, gentle for the first time. "Tell me," he implored.
His heart contracted. He thought of Theodore, who couldn't have loved him, and then thought of Harry, who certainly couldn't stand him. But they had both helped him in their way, and now it seemed this soft caress would break Draco at last.
The irony was not lost on him.
Draco told him about the man that had come before him, Theodore. Draco told him about the discovery, about his father, and the cruel murders that had overtaken what had once been a promising life. Draco told him about his family, how his mother loved her son above all else, but how the rest of his family would view his patricide. Draco told him that he was running to save himself. Draco told him that he had married Pansy for convenience. Draco told him that he'd never been in love, not once, but Theodore and Pansy both could not be ignored for his own lack of emotion.
At the end of the story, Harry longed to offer some conciliatory words of wisdom. He wished he were smarter or more world weary so that he could tell Draco how all of this might be mended. He wished for a lot of things, but so much of him was still floundering. How had he ended up in this bed? How had he allowed himself to desire another man? How could he continue on normally knowing that he was a wizard and something else unnamable?
Then Harry spoke, and Draco listened.
He told Draco everything he could stand to remember about the Weasleys. Harry told him about Hermione's quasi-motherhood, Ron's lost childhood, and then Ginny. Harry told him about Ginny most of all, refusing to look him in the eye as he claimed to love her. Harry told him about the baby named for his dead father. Harry told him that all he'd wanted when he boarded the Titanic was to be with her again.
"And what do you want now?" Draco asked.
Harry had no answer for him. How could he? He could say nothing to Draco before he discovered the answers for himself. After the confrontation, after the sex, after all the answers, Harry was no closer to finding a solution. Draco was still under his skin.
"Honestly?" Harry murmured. "I still want to be with her. It's been two years. I miss her. I'm starting to forget the sound of her laugh. I've never even met my son." He shut his eyes, ashamed of his own confusions and infidelities, physical and otherwise. "But I also want to stay on this bloody ship forever. How could she ever laugh again if she knew what I'd done and... what I was?"
He could not make it clear even to himself he spoke of Draco or the magic in his blood.
"Would you like to forget?"
"Sometimes," Harry confessed, choking on his guilt.
"I could, you know."
Harry jerked upright. Just when he'd thought he was beyond surprise, Draco defied expectations. "You what?"
Draco stared down at the bedspread, worrying at a loose thread as though it was the most fascinating thing in the world. "I can make you forget. There's a spell to erase memories... I could make it so we never met. You'd never know you were a wizard, and we'd never have..." He gestured at their position.
Harry would never have guessed this was possible, though perhaps he should have. Wasn't everything within a wizard's grasp? They seemed to have power over everything. Why not memory?
And now Harry was faced with another choice. He had only just recently thought that life would be better had he never met Draco. Could he trust that this decision was right one? Would he truly be safer and happier living in ignorance?
His mouth fell upon to answer, though even then he still didn't know what to say.
Then the bedroom door opened.
Draco had been so enraptured with his own self-pity that he had not paid attention to the time. Dinner was long since over, and though Pansy had made a point of avoiding him all day, she would eventually have to return to the cabin. It was now well past eleven. The time had come, and he had not been prepared.
She stood at the threshold of their bedroom, her lips undoubtedly paling beneath the slash of red lipstick. He noted all of the subtle changes in her posture and facial expression that could only betoken one thing: she was enraged.
"Pansy," Draco started, clambering from the bed. "I can explain."
He expected her to fly into a towering rage -- certainly he deserved it. But instead all Pansy did was turn on her heel and run off.
"Damn it," Draco snarled, fumbling for his trousers. He dressed sloppily, noting distantly that Harry was doing the same. "You stay here!"
"I can't just --"
"You can, and you will!" Draco ordered, hastily trying to arrange his buttons properly. Finally, he gave up and dashed after Pansy into the night.
As it turned out, she was easy to follow. Pansy had always complained that a woman could not move efficiently in the fashions of the day, though she adhered to them strictly. He caught up with her easily, emerging onto the main deck. The cold hit him like a physical blow, and they both drew up short.
"Pansy, stop!" Draco demanded, already shivering. He reached for her arm. "Pansy --"
"Don't!" Pansy shouted, tearing away. The look on her face broke him. No more subterfuge or veiled emotions. Her pain was raw now, and it grated against him like hot coals. "How could you?" she demanded. "How could you do that to me?"
He tore his hands through his hair. "You were never meant to know."
"Is that the best you can do?" she shrieked. "You promised me, Draco! One thing! I asked you for one thing in return for everything I've given up for you, and you couldn't even grant me that for a day!"
Draco was conscious of a weight in his chest, though he tried to shove it away. "You don't understand, Pansy. You couldn't. I'm not... I know it's not normal, but I can't just ignore it like you want. I'm sorry if you thought I could, but I can't!"
Pansy wailed horribly and wrapped her arms around herself. He knew it had next to nothing to do with the cold. "Disgusting pig!"
He winced, turning away from her fury. He had not expected that from her, and he'd been foolish in doing so. How could he hope for her to have a better opinion of him than he had of himself?
"Ever since I was a little girl," Pansy hissed, heedless of his own torment. "That's how long I've waited for this. They all told me it was hopeless: I was new money, I didn't go to Beauxbatons, I wasn't pretty enough or docile enough." Her eyes glittered with tears and something Draco did not want to name. It reminded him of the mirror Harry had cracked days before. "But I knew better! I knew you didn't want some simpering idiot to bend to your every whim! You needed someone to fight with -- someone to hate as much as you loved. And didn't I give you that? Didn't I give you all that and more?"
She had. He knew she had. It just didn't make a difference.
"It's not enough," Draco admitted in a small voice. "I wish it was. But it's not enough."
She had nothing to say in response, but they were not left in silence for long. The tension of the moment was interrupted by three bells coming from the crow's nest.
At 11:40 PM, Titanic was moving 20 _ knots. Lookouts Lee and Fleet spotted the iceberg 500 yards ahead and estimated it to be at least 50 feet high. They immediately rung the warning bell three times and called down to the bridge: "Iceberg right ahead." Sixth Officer Moody relayed the message to First Officer Murdoch, who called hard-to-starboard. He then ordered the engine room to stop all engines and then reverse at the highest possible speed.
Harry had chased after Draco despite the other man's warning. He couldn't be sure why he felt so compelled to see this through; it simply felt as if he owed Malfoy that much. So after pulling on his clothes haphazardly, he took off after the warring couple.
He heard the entire argument from the shadows. He felt sick when faced with Pansy's grief. Was this what Ginny would say if she ever learned of his sins? Would she show him this much hatred despite all of the love she'd felt for him?
Three bells resounded from above, jolting Harry awake.
The sudden movement caught Pansy's attention, as he should have known it would. She bared her teeth and began to run forward, eyes full of bloodlust. Draco caught her easily about the waist, but she was difficult to hold.
An apology was on Harry's lips, but how he could he dare voice it? What he'd done had gone so far beyond penitence.
"And this is enough for you?" she screamed. "A Muggle, or..." Her eyes widened in understanding. She laughed and sounded like a broken thing. "The Squib! The one you thought was going to kill you! It's him, isn't it? Is he what you need?"
Grunting with visible effort, Draco kept Pansy in his grip. "Leave him out of this!" He turned to scowl at Harry. "I told you not to follow me."
Harry opened his mouth to explain despite the fact that he had no explanations, when Pansy pushed herself away from Draco.
"How do you like pain, Squib?" she spat. Then she drew her wand from the folds of her dress and pointed it right between his eyes. "Cru --"
Harry would never know what spell she had meant to cast.
The iceberg struck the Titanic on the starboard side. The crew on the bridge felt the brunt of the collision. Most of the passengers were unaware that anything had gone wrong.
Thirty-seven seconds had passed between the initial sighting and the impact.
Suddenly, Pansy lost her footing and fell, her wand flying out of her hand as she went down. It began to roll away from her, and she had to dive to keep it from going overboard. Harry and Draco also struggled to stay upright, but soon, they didn't care about whether or not they were standing.
Their eyes were arrested by the sight of an impossibly tall iceberg -- bigger than the Titanic herself -- passing dangerously close to the ship. A sound like a dying beast shook the air, and chunks of ice fell over the side. Harry jumped back to avoid being struck by one.
The triumvirate watched as the iceberg vanished into the darkness behind them.
Anxiety enveloped Draco tight in its iron grip. He raced to identify the sound he had heard. Had it been rending metal? Or just the sound of the ship successfully avoiding the iceberg?
He thought back to when he'd believed Harry had been sent to kill him, though that seemed like a lifetime ago. He had pondered then how he had not arranged any way to escape the ship in the event of a catastrophe. Draco had assumed at the time that the worst that could befall them was an assassin sent by the remainders of the Malfoy family. This might portend something far worse.
Pansy was on her feet and by his side once more. The rage had gone from her face, replaced with tight fear. All around them, other passengers poured onto the deck. Several of them began to kick the ice around as if it was all a game. "Unsinkable," she whispered.
Had he bought into the Muggles' hubris and doomed them all?
Draco and Pansy stared after the iceberg as if they had seen the ghosts of the recent dead amidst the peaks. They seemed genuinely afraid. Harry's first instinct was to reassure them that everything would be fine -- the ship couldn't sink, after all. But he knew it was not his place to intrude, and it would only invite more abuse, no matter how deserved.
He stood there awkwardly, wondering when the pair would remember what had transpired and the violence would be renewed. Then they were interrupted by the sound of a shrill whistle.
"Second and third class passengers, return to your berths!" an officer shouted loudly -- even shrilly. "First class passengers, please assemble in the formal dining room."
Draco turned to Harry, his eyes wide. "He's with me, officer," he announced firmly, ignoring Pansy's murderous glare.
"Moody," the officer said. It took Harry a second to realize he was giving his name and not describing the uncomfortable atmosphere. "I don't care who he's with; he's going back down to steerage."
The line of Draco's jaw hardened, but Harry paid more attention to the triumphant gleam in Pansy's eyes. "See here --"
"It's fine," Harry asserted. The last thing he wanted right now was to be anywhere near Draco's wife, who had good cause to loathe him and reminded him far too much of his own woman. "I'll go."
Draco looked visibly panicked, which Harry thought was testament to how much the entire evening had shaken him. "Harry, don't."
But Harry was already walking away.
Twenty minutes after the iceberg struck, Captain Smith had returned to the bridge. It was reported that number 1, 2, and 3 holds and boiler room No. 6 were flooding. After consulting with Thomas Andrews, the ship's architect, it was determined that the Titanic would only stay afloat for another few hours.
After seeing Draco and Pansy inside, Moody grabbed Harry by the arm and began pulling him along, leaving other crewmen to tend to the other passengers, who were all second or first class. Harry longed to wrench free, but he knew from past experience that this would do him no good. Still, he struggled for good measure. "Oye! I'm cooperating, ain't I?"
Officer Moody's sad-looking mouth was set into a thin line. Harry noticed that he couldn't have been much older than him, if not the same age. "Have to hurry," he muttered.
Harry suddenly began to wonder if Draco hadn't been so paranoid after all. "There's nothing wrong, is there?"
Moody murmured again, but this time Harry couldn't quite catch it. He could only be sure that the officer had said something about an iceberg.
Now Harry did pull free. "Tell me what's going on!" he demanded.
Moody looked away, looking green, and for a mad second, Harry found it hilarious that a sailor was seasick. Before he could make sense of matters, he was grabbed from behind, nearly lifted off his feet. "Jesus -- Leave off!"
"Pitman!" Moody shouted.
"Captain's orders, James," said the newcomer -- Pitman -- who Harry could tell was another senior officer. "Return to the bridge and await further instructions."
Moody nodded smartly, and then glanced back up at Harry. He looked almost desperate. "I'm sorry," the junior officer said, and Harry felt certain he meant it.
"For what?" Harry called after Moody's retreating form as Pitman dragged him in the other direction. "Tell me for what!"
That's how Harry returned to steerage quarters: half-dragged and half-carried by the bulk of a man behind him. Harry continued to try to break free or get answers, but Pitman was stronger than him and infuriatingly silent. When they finally reached the entrance to third class decks, Pitman nearly threw him inside. Harry whirled to rush the officer, self-preservation be damned, but the man locked the gate behind him.
Harry pounded his fists against the wrought iron. "What is this? Tell me what the hell is going on!"
Pitman stared at Harry over the length of his mustache. Harry was profoundly surprised to see that despite his gruff manner, his face looked alarmingly similar to Moody's. "God be with you, son." With that, he turned and strode off.
Harry gaped at his retreating back. He could only think of one reason why a stranger would say that to him. His blood felt colder than the winter air.
"But it can't be," he whispered. "They said... she couldn't sink."
He spun around to find Seamus, Dean, Neville, and scores of other third class passengers running towards him. They were gasping for air, and many of them looked as though they'd just been roused from a sound sleep. Harry found himself staring down at their feet. All of their shoes were wet.
"Do you know what's what, mate?" Neville asked, seemingly assuming responsibility for the group. "There's water filling the bunks. Some of the crewman came down and gave us lifebelts. They said it was a precaution, but then they took some of the women and children. Then they left and all the gates are locked. Dean says -- He says he heard something and felt a jolt."
Harry met Dean's eyes, which had always struck Harry as a touch too serious for being one of Seamus's mates. Now he appreciated the somber look he'd been given. Dean already knew. He only needed Harry to confirm.
"There was an iceberg," Harry heard himself whisper. "And I think... I think we're going down."
Pansy practically dragged Draco into the first class dining room. If she'd been a man, he thought he might have struck her, but as it was, he could only offer very loud protests. He was cut off the second he stepped into the gold, brightly lit room, when yet another officer shoved a lifebelt in his face.
"Just a precaution, sir," the officer assured him. He was a good enough actor that Draco might have believed him at one point. "You too, madam."
Pansy took hers as though it were an animal liable to bite. The couple stared at their new accessories with undisguised disdain. "How can this help at all?" she queried, struggling to remain casual despite what had just occurred.. "And really, does it have to look so --"
"Are you mad?" Draco hissed, throwing his vest to the floor. "How can you be nattering on about fashion at a time like this? The ship could be --"
"It's not," Pansy insisted too firmly.
"Why? Because the Muggles said it wouldn't? Or because it's simply inconvenient for you?"
Pansy bristled. "You have a lot of nerve lecturing me on anything, Draco Malfoy, after..." She choked, shuddering, unable to say the words. "And with a Squib!"
"He's not a bloody Squib," Draco snapped back, as if that had any relevance.
"That makes me feel so much better," Pansy ground out, wiping at the tear tracks on her face. "Look around, Draco. Does anyone else seem alarmed?"
Draco did as she bade, though for his own curiosity rather than for her sake. Indeed, none of the other first class passengers seemed all that concerned. Most of them had neglected to put their vests on, despite the continual pleas from the crewman.
He shook his head. "Look at how much they're pressing the life jackets. Nobody works that hard to make rich men bend to their will; it's far too much effort. You only do that when you have no choice, or you know something they don't."
He was clearly frightening Pansy, and though he regretted it, he didn't have the time to worry about it. Once, he would have paid it no mind, assuming she was strong enough to take it, but after what he'd put her through...
Finally, his eyes landed on the one person aside from the crewmen who looked truly distressed by the proceedings. He had dark hair and seemed naturally pale, but even in the warm light, Draco could tell that all of the blood had drained from his face. He grabbed Pansy's elbow, taking care to hold it gently. "Surely you know everyone at this point. Who is he?"
Pansy followed his gaze, and just as he'd anticipated, recited what she knew without hesitation. "Thomas Andrews, shipbuilder."
Draco's stomach clenched. Who would know better what the Titanic could survive but the man who built it? He released his wife and walked to Andrews, barely managing to keep himself from running up the man.
"Mr. Andrews!" Draco called. The older man didn't seem to hear. Ignoring propriety, he reached forward and gave him a quick shake. "Mr. Andrews!"
Andrews turned to him, but seemed to be looking at something utterly beyond Draco. It did not bode well. "Please, sir, if you have a question, I suggest --"
"Are we sinking?" Draco asked, keeping his voice down. "Just tell me. Are we doomed?"
Draco had no idea why, but the question roused Andrews from his stupor. Perhaps he had been in shock. He blinked and saw Draco for the first time. "They don't want to cause a panic, but... yes. The Titanic is going down."
Pansy, who Draco had not realized was following, gasped. "Oh, Merlin."
Draco nearly had more reason for alarm, but Andrews did not notice that Pansy had said anything out of turn. "I must insist you both put on your lifebelts," Andrews muttered. "Soon, they'll begin filling the lifeboats, and you'll want to get on them as soon as possible."
Something about the way Andrews said that terrified Draco. "Why? Why couldn't I wait?"
Pansy sounded as if she thought he had ascended to new heights of stupidity. "Do you want to stay on a sinking ship?"
Draco did not look away from Andrews. "Why isn't it safe to wait?"
At last, Draco could sense the true reason for the shipbuilder's distress: guilt. For this man, it was like a physical weight bearing down on his shoulders. "There aren't enough lifeboats."
The news hit Draco directly in the stomach. His mind worked through this information faster than he would have thought possible. The Muggles hadn't thought to save everyone. If they could not save everyone, who would they save first? Women and children. First class women and children.
Harry had been taken back down below.
Draco swore and began to run before he'd even worked out why. He nearly toppled when Pansy clutched at him, weighing him down like an anchor.
"Don't you dare," she spat, her eyes brimming with the fury of a woman scorned. "Don't you dare risk your life for him."
"I can't let him die!" Draco raged back at her.
Pansy drew back and slapped him across the face. He had to catch her wrists lest she hit him again, and he knew she hated him for that and more. "Why? Why is he so important?"
Draco realized that he couldn't have answered even if he'd wanted to.
She stopped struggling and went limp in his grip. "Draco. Tell me you don't love him."
He said nothing.
"Draco! Tell me!"
He released her, letting her go for the last time. "I'm sorry, Pansy."
He turned and ran, her deafening silence damning him as he fled.
April 15, 1912
At 12:25 AM, the order was given to start loading the lifeboats with women and children first. If every lifeboat is filled to capacity, they would still only be able to save 1,178 of the estimated 2,227 passengers on board.
Far below where women, children, and even men were being placed into lifeboats to be rescued, the third class decks were in chaos. All of the gates had been locked, and though they all screamed for release, the iron held fast. Meanwhile, the water was rising; it was already halfway up the stairs.
"Let us out!" Seamus howled, hanging off the bars like an enraged ape. Dean and several other men had grabbed nearby tools and fire extinguishers to try and force the gate down, but to no avail. It held tight. Harry felt lost in the sounds of crying, screaming, and fervent prayer.
Harry kicked the bottom of the gate, finding it did nothing but make his foot ache. They were trapped. Rats were escaping through the bars, but they were going to drown if someone didn't set them free.
Harry stepped away to rest, letting other men take his place hammering at the bars. He crouched down, panting hard. The smell of sea-water filled his nostrils.
There had to be something he could do. He was a wizard, wasn't he? What was the use of having powers to make paper fly or levitate bookcases if you couldn't save people? What was the use of living at all?
If he'd had Draco's wand, he was certain he could have blown the door off its hinges. He even felt sure that his fellow passengers would not immediately attack him for it, recognizing that his efforts had been to save them and not evil in the least. But he had nothing to focus the power. All he had was his anger that they'd been left there to die. How could he be sure it wouldn't backfire? What if someone was hurt in his attempts to rescue them? And what if he was wrong in trusting to their gratitude?
He had spent so long hiding. He'd lived a lifetime alone and afraid of who he was. Draco had taught him about magic and opened his eyes to worlds he could never have dreamed of, but he was hiding too. Always running, always evading.... It had served both of them in the past. Not no more. Now he had to fight.
He took a deep, steadying breath. Then he jerked to his feet and shouted, "Get away from the door!"
Seamus, who had never once stopped pounding at the gate, craned his head at the sound of Harry's voice. "Shut it, you bastard! What can you do that the rest of us can't?"
Harry knew Seamus would not understand the significance of the gesture, but Harry felt compelled nonetheless. He pushed his sweat-dampened hair back from his face, revealing the scar he had taken such pains to hide. "I said 'move!' Now!"
Neville and Dean were the only ones paying him any attention. Harry had no idea what he must have looked like to them, but it must have been fierce. For a moment, both of them looked terrified not of drowning, but of him.
In the next breath, they were with him, pulling the others away from the gate. Seamus struggled hardest of all, calling Dean every horrible name in the book, and several in Gaelic Harry had no hope of translating. Seamus nearly clocked him as he stepped by. "You daft fucker!" he raged. "I'm not dying down here because you've lost your mind! Do you hear me? I AM NOT DYING!"
Harry rounded on him and snarled, "If you want to live, shut your damn mouth!"
Seamus spat in his face. "Son of a whore!"
Harry wiped the glob of saliva from his eyes and turned away. It wouldn't do him any good to talk sense into Seamus or any of the others jeering at him. He'd just use it as fuel for the fire already raging inside of him.
Harry laid his hands on the bars and closed his eyes. He focused inward, drawing on every bit of strength he had within him.
He thought of the men who had locked them down there to die, hating them in spite of their genuine regret. He thought of Ginny, the woman he had made the journey for with the smile that had carried him through the darkest of times. Of Ron and Hermione, who had stood by him through everything despite all of the reasons they had not to. Of James, the child he had never met. Of the brothers in all but blood he had lost, and the ones who had forsaken him. He thought of his mother and father choking on flame. He thought of Seamus's laugh, Dean's wry smile, and Neville's unflinching, quiet strength.
The air crackled with energy only he could feel. It writhed like a living thing. It surrounded him and filled him up, a storm of power building within him. The bars burned beneath his hands, but still he hesitated, terrified that it wouldn't be enough or that something would go wrong.
Then he thought of how disgusted Draco would be if he failed.
His eyes flew open. The bars glowed orange beneath his palms. In that instant, he knew it would be enough.
The gate blew outward off its hinges, hurtling forward into the empty corridor. It crashed into one of the emergency lights overhead, and a shower of sparks rained down. The door came to rest no less than ten yards away.
The blood fled from Harry's head, and he collapsed to his knees. When he hit the floor, the only thing that kept him from falling face first into stairs was Neville's arms around his chest, holding him up.
Everyone bolted, surging around the pair like a parted sea. They praised God in what seemed like a hundred languages, shouted for loved ones to follow quickly, and screamed in fear at the rising sea.
Still channeling Draco, Harry raised his hand in mock goodbye. "You're welcome."
"Mother of God."
Harry blinked the infringing darkness out of his eyes and turned, shocked to find Seamus and Dean were still there. Seamus wasn't spitting anymore, and for the first time, Dean looked anything but nonplussed.
"Harry?" Neville asked carefully at his back. "How... how did you do that?"
It occurred to Harry that he really ought to have anticipated this. He struggled to think of a convincing lie but found that his brain was either too addled or there simply was nothing to say but the truth. So that's what he did.
"I'm a witch."
There was a long pause. Harry opened one eye and saw his three former bunkmates take in this news. The scar on his forehead began to throb, and the memory of Fred and George's betrayal nearly engulfed him. Would they hate him now? Would they leave him here, nearly too weak to stand? Or would at least be kind enough to kill him so that he would not have freeze or drown?
Then Seamus crowed, "Well, you coulda said something a mite sooner! I was err... getting a bit shirty with ya."
"A bit?" Dean asked dryly.
"You know I don't handle pressure well! And I don't fancy drowning, do you?" Seamus snapped. "What are we still standing around for anyway? Let's go!" He leapt down from Dean's arms, and the two of them began to slog forward.
"Too right," Neville said, throwing Harry's arm around his shoulders and hoisting him up. He trailed after Dean and Seamus more slowly but without trouble. It occurred to Harry for the first time that Neville was not overfed, but stocky and strong. "So you're a witch, eh?" Neville asked, struggling to maintain a conversational tone. "You don't really ride a broom do you? Because that can't be comfortable."
Harry would have answered if he hadn't been too busy smiling.
It seemed to take an eternity for Draco to navigate the decks and corridors of the Titanic. He had only gone down to steerage once, and now he had the added complication of everyone around him racing in the opposite direction. His one comfort there was that if they fleeing from the water, he must be headed in the right direction.
Draco realized that this act must signify that he was now completely insane. What sort of man ran towards disaster instead of away from it? Perhaps if Potter had been a lifelong friend or a child, he could have reconciled himself with this decision. But he barely knew the man! Or at least he'd only known him for short amount of time.
He remembered Pansy's question. Tell me you don't love him.
He couldn't. Just like he couldn't have loved Theo, just like he didn't love Pansy. Perhaps Draco didn't love anyone, not even himself.
Suddenly, Draco ground to a halt. Up ahead were four men struggling to move forward quickly. He recognized the Irish one first, then the other two, and finally Harry, slumped over and slowing them down.
"Potter!" Draco yelled, not recognizing the sound of his own voice.
Harry jerked upright, caught sight of Draco sprinting forward, and then disentangled himself from the man who had been holding him up. Draco barely caught him in time.
"You bloody idiot!" Draco cursed, clutching Harry like a life raft. "I told you not to come down here!"
"You... you came back for me?" Harry muttered, confused. "Wh --"
Draco was in absolutely no mood to be asked any more stupid questions. So instead he kissed Harry soundly on the mouth.
After a few long (but not long enough) seconds, someone muttered, "D'ya suppose that's how witches... mate?"
Draco's eyes flew open. He glanced down at Harry in confusion, who was blushing but more alert.
"I err... sort of had to blow up a door."
It would have been funny any other time. "Of course you did. It's not a day in the life of Harry Potter if he doesn't blow something up."
Harry looked momentarily abashed before being taken over by unpleasant smugness. "You came back for me," he repeated happily.
"I will drop you."
"As adorable as this is," interrupted that damned Irishman, "unless you fancy a dip, I suggest we move along."
He may have been an idiot, but Draco had to concede the point, though when he spoke, he only addressed Harry. "And we'd best hurry. There aren't enough lifeboats for everyone on board."
Now Harry was completely awake. "What?"
"Shite," the Irishman swore, grabbing the darker one's hand and holding fast.
"There are still people below," said the one who had been carrying Harry. "They couldn't have just... left them down there."
"One of the officers locked the gate behind me," Harry reminded him.
Draco glanced out one of the port windows. The sea level was already noticeably higher.
"That's why they only took a few of the women and kids," the round one -- Neville, Draco remembered, whispered. "Probably they locked the doors to keep everyone from stampeding."
"Because we're animals," the dark one said coldly.
"Every dying man is an animal," Draco snapped, in no mood to listen to the plights of the lower class.
"If there aren't enough boats for everyone, they'll let the poor drown," the Irishman said with certainty. "There are other gates. They won't know there's another one open if they don't move."
"It's every man for himself now," Draco agreed.
Harry's ears reddened. "Then every man should have a fighting chance." He began to pull away from Draco. "I'm going back."
"No!" Draco yelled, holding tight to Harry's shoulders. "I did not come down here for you to go play the hero again. I've got you; I'm done. Now we have to get off this damned boat!"
Harry opened his mouth, clearly to argue, and Draco remembered what the other man had said about helping people, saving them even. It had mystified Draco to the point of attraction then, but now Draco considered it to be the most idiotic thing he'd heard in his life. He was not going to die for that kind of folly.
"I'll go back."
All heads turned to the least impressive among them.
"Neville?" Harry asked softly. Then he began to shake his head. "No, you can't --"
"I can lead them to the open gate while there's still time," Neville insisted, pointing out the porthole. "And there isn't much of it. You lot go."
Draco couldn't help but stare along with the rest of them. Personally, he thought the other man was losing his mind in a tense situation, but he sensed the others regarding him with a kind of awe. Tact dictated he keep his mouth shut.
"Neville," Dean sensibly. "You can't swim."
He thumped his lifebelt. "Taken care of."
The Irishman (whose name Draco really could not be bothered to recall) heaved a sigh. "Honestly, Longbottom. You had to pick now to stop being such a woman? We can't let you go alone."
"No!" Seamus insisted. "Dean and I are coming." He paused, grinning. "This is definitely ballad worthy, and I intend to be a part of it."
There was no need to add the ominous, 'if we make it out alive.'
"I can't let you do that," Harry murmured. "I --"
"Oh, just because you blow shit up you think you're the boss of everyone," Seamus mocked. "Typical." He leveled his gaze at Draco. "Get him out of here. Keep his head above water. And for fuck's sake, get the stick out of your arse."
Then the trio turned and ran back the way they came.
Harry jerked as if to go after them, but Draco began to pull him in the other direction. "Potter. No."
"They won't make it!"
"You don't know that." Draco returned, certain it was a lie.
"I know we have a better chance!" Harry screamed, his eyes wild.
Draco grit his teeth. "You mean I have a better chance. Potter, there's no way in hell you'll be able to blow off another door. You've exhausted yourself over the past few days --"
"And whose fault is that?!"
"-- and doing it again could kill you!" Draco finished, shouting over him. "Half of the people on this boat are going to die. I don't intend to be one of them!"
"And why can't you save them?!" Harry demanded. "What good is a wizard if he can't save anyone?!"
Draco gripped Harry's face in his hands. "It would take a hundred wizards to stop this ship from sinking now. I can't save a thousand people, but I can save you and me and Pansy. That's whom I intend to save! And that's all!"
Harry looked at Draco as though he hated him. Fine, then. Let him. He'd change his tune once they were both on dry land again, and if not... well, it wouldn't matter then.
"Accio picture," Draco murmured, summoning the photograph Harry had shown him earlier. He let it hang between them, facing Harry, a damning reminder of what good his martyrdom would bring. "You'll never see them again if you die."
Harry looked at it for a long time -- too long -- his green eyes growing dark and wet. "You don't care about them."
"I haven't met them," Draco corrected. "Do you want to see them again or not?"
Harry didn't answer immediately, which Draco supposed was too much to ask. He reached up with one hand -- injured and bleeding -- and gently stroked the edge with his finger. He left a smear of red on the corner.
Then he snatched it from the air and shoved it in his pocket. Draco breathed a silent sigh of relief.
Twenty minutes after the lifeboats began to be filled, number 7 launched. It was large enough to hold around 65 passengers. It carried only 28. In the confusion, over the next ninety minutes, most lifeboats lowered into the water would not be filled to capacity.
Harry allowed his body to be pulled along, though he knew a part of him would stay with Seamus and the others. Every few meters, he thought of turning around. The only thing that kept him moving towards safety was Draco's cool hand and the weight of Ginny's picture in his pocket.
"How do you know we'll even get on a boat?" Harry called out. "Unless you can make us look fifteen years younger?"
Draco did not turn around when he answered. "I'll have to use the Imperius Curse."
Harry didn't like the sound of that and said so.
"I don't relish it, but if it'll get us on a boat, I'll do it," Draco muttered. "No doubt Pansy's done so by now."
Harry flinched at the memory of Draco's wife, though that paled in comparison to the predicament they were in now.
"She won't have stayed behind for you?" he asked.
Draco scoffed. "If she did, I'll have to lose much of my respect for her."
Harry couldn't think of anything to say to that, so he kept his mouth shut. He made the rest of the trip in silence.
They continued racing up the levels of the ship, dodging pictures and furniture as it began to slide away from the sinking bow. Eventually, they emerged into a room that, despite the chaos, took Harry's breath away. He slowed to a stop, ignoring Draco's protests.
It was the grand staircase; it had to be. Above them hung a great glass dome, which must have invited light in during the day. The moonless night bred almost no illumination, and the stars had never seemed further away. It gave the scene an eerie cast, so that it seemed haunted already, but Harry could not look away.
The structure was not made of gold, as rumor had suggested, but it was still magnificent. In fact, it was not one actually one staircase, but two, divided by an ornate railing. Each of the lower stairs was drastically longer than the one above it, giving it the impression that it curved out at the ends. Somehow, it reminded Harry of wings, though it seemed too solid for such a comparison. He may have conjured the image from the bronze cherubs decorating the framework, the largest of which stood directly between the two staircases, holding a still burning light aloft. On the landing, Harry noticed a clock surrounded by an intricate oak carving wherein the face was flanked by two smiling angels. If it was still keeping the correct time, it was now a quarter past one in the morning on April, 15 1912.
"Potter, what has come over you?"
Harry started. He had not forgotten the disaster, but for a moment, it had seemed to pause. Now things were moving all over again.
"It's just... when I met you -- or when I saw you the first time -- the day the ship launched. Seamus and I, we... we wanted to see this," he explained.
Draco looked almost solemn and then looked around at the room, perhaps seeing it for the first time. Harry knew Draco did not think of normal, human invention, but surely even he could not deny that this was beautiful.
The Draco laughed sadly. "Only you would stop in the middle of a shipwreck to look at the bloody scenery."
"I'm glad I did," Harry admitted without shame. "And I... I'm glad I saw it with you."
Draco turned to him, arching an eyebrow. "Really? Seeing angels with such a selfish man creates quite the juxtaposition."
As usual, the point went directly over Harry's head. "Why did you come for me?"
Draco's face darkened. "This again. It's always one question or another with you. Can't you just be grateful that I saved your life -- or at least intended to -- and live with it?"
"No," Harry said plainly. "Because you are selfish. Selfish and cruel and arrogant and probably a thousand other things I can't stand."
"Thanks ever so much."
"Well, I'm impulsive and poor, you've made it crystal clear on a number of occasions that I ain't worth the mud on your shoes," Harry retorted. "They're launching the lifeboats now. You and Pansy could be safe, and the only reason you got on this ship was to save yourself. So why did you come back?"
Draco pursed his lips, staring at Harry down the end of his nose for an interminably long time. Harry thought it was a simple question, or at least it would have been for him. Why was it so hard for Draco?
Those soft hands settled against Harry's neck, and Draco's forehead fell against Harry's. His skin felt cool against the scar.
"You told me I've gotten under your skin," Draco murmured, his lips brushing against the swell of his cheek. "Did you think you were the only one?"
Maybe it wasn't so complicated after all.
Harry wasn't sure who closed the gap between them, and perhaps that was telling enough. But soon they were kissing all over again, desperate and tender all at once. He twined his limbs with Draco, drawing him achingly close and longing for still more. Nothing but that moment mattered to him now. There was no one watching them now but bronze angels, and soon they would sink to the bottom of the Atlantic. Harry could trust the cherubs and time to keep this secret.
But then he was aware of another pair of eyes. They burned.
Draco felt Harry's shoulders stiffen beneath his hands before he was aware of anything else. For whatever reason, he did not discount this change to the sinking or to any trivial danger. His eyes flew open, and he saw Pansy standing some fifty yards away. Her wand was raised, her glare murderous.
He'd seen that look once before: on his father's face.
"NO!" Draco shouted, throwing Harry out of the way. Draco began to follow, but it was too late.
Pain bloomed across Draco's chest as though he'd been struck by lightning. He felt as though he'd been ripped open, gutted with a serrated blade. He looked down, amazed by the sheer amount of blood covering his chest. He hadn't thought a human body could contain so much.
He sank to one knee and would have crumpled completely had Harry not grabbed him. Draco looked up at Harry's face and thought his eyes looked much greener against his chalk white skin.
Pansy shrieked and ran towards them already sobbing. She pressed her perfectly manicured hands onto shirt, balling the wet fabric up in her hands. "You bastard! Damn it, why did you do that!" She shook him, adding insult to injury in a most literal fashion. "You're not a damn martyr!"
Draco looked up at her balefully. "I've lost enough people, wife."
He could feel Harry trembling against him. "Can't you do something? Oh, Jesus, there's so much blood..." Then he seemed to remember himself. He was torn between lunging for her and holding on to Draco. Luckily for all of them, he choose the later. "How could you do that to him?!"
Pansy's eyes glittered with hatred. "I was aiming for you!"
"Shut up," Draco snarled. "Unless you want me to bleed out."
Pansy's whole body wracked with sobs. "The normal healing spells won't work! You know that!"
"I believe that was your intention in using Snape's spell," Draco reminded her, invoking the name of the Head of House she worshipped. "They'll slow it down well enough."
Crying so hard now that she could scarcely hold her wand steady, Pansy began to patch him up as best as the normal healing spells would allow. It would not replace the blood he had lost, nor would the patched skin remain closed over for very long. At best, he had an hour, and he did not know if the ship even had that long.
When she finished, she grasped his hand, though Harry could clearly barely stand it. "I never meant... you know I would never hurt you."
Draco sighed, but it desolved into a cough. He felt blood bubble up at the corner of his lips. "If you'll forgive me for saying so, darling, evidence seems to suggest otherwise."
"You're mine," she insisted, poor little rich girl to the last. "You were always mine."
Draco did not know if it was out of a sense of kindness or prudence that he neglected to point out his father had felt much the same way. "Get on a lifeboat, Pansy."
She shook her head fervently, squeezing his hand. "No. I won't leave without you."
"If you move me an inch, the wounds will reopen," Draco reasoned sharply.
Both Harry and Pansy turned grey, realizing for the first time what Draco had known the second the spell hit him. "No," Harry murmured hoarsely. "Draco, no."
"I'm not getting off this ship."
Pansy clutched his hand between both of her own and buried her face against it. Harry did not physically alter his grip in any way, but somehow, he seemed more present than he had been, more solid. Draco leaned more heavily against him; he knew he wouldn't have much longer.
"Pansy," Draco wheezed, struggling to be heard over her weeping. "Pansy, look at me."
She could hardly stand to; he could see that. But he'd married for her a reason, and in the end, she managed it.
"I'm sorry I couldn't be the husband you wanted," Draco said, hoping she found him sincere. "But as a widow, you can return to England. Claim I Imperiused you to take your money, and that the spell ended when I went down with the ship."
Pansy looked horrified at the prospect. "I can't. Draco, I couldn't do that to you!"
"What would it matter to me? My reputation means nothing now. I have no heirs to ruin." He paused, sorry for that as well, but unable to say it. He could only hope she understood. "Save yourself, Pansy. Frankly, it's what I've always considered your best quality."
"But... your mother --"
"Can take care of herself. She could say the same of me if she liked. No need to tell her that. Just tell her... that I'm gone and that I..." He hated himself that he couldn't say what else needed to be said.
"I'll tell her," Pansy promised, and he knew she meant it. "And I'll take care of her, if she'll let me."
"I wish you luck in that." He took a deep, painful breath. "Take care of yourself, Pansy." Then he glanced meaningfully at Harry.
Pansy's spark returned with a vengeance. "You can't ask me to save him!"
Harry looked ill, even frightened. "Draco --"
"Pansy, dear, we both know you won't really refuse my dying request," he sighed. "Can't we save time? Just agree."
"You cannot be seriously asking me to make sure your lover gets on a lifeboat. Anything else, Draco Malfoy. Ask me anything else, and I'll do it. But not that."
Draco would have pulled himself free of her grasp if he'd had the strength. "Pansy --"
They both looked up at Harry, shocked that he had intervened. Draco was startled by the look on his face, so resigned but still murderous. He looked like a statue of Ares Draco had seen once as a child; it had given him nightmares for a week.
"I'm not leaving you," Harry swore.
Draco gnashed his teeth, frustrated beyond the telling of it that there was nothing more he could do. "Potter --"
"You said yourself that you don't have long," Harry croaked. "Just... just let me stay. I can still make it out."
Draco shut his eyes tightly, willing the burning in his throat to stop. "Why must you have a Savior complex and be such a bad liar?"
Harry didn't answer.
Pansy inhaled sharply and gave Draco's soiled knuckles a final kiss. "I'm sorry," she said again.
"I know," Draco murmured.
Pansy's lips parted again. He knew what she wanted to say to him; he knew her too well not to. She had asked him earlier if he'd loved Harry, but he hadn't answered her. She wanted to ask again, to know for certain that his sacrifice had been worth it.
Draco also finally knew what his answer would have been. He had never truly been in love with anyone. He loved Pansy as a dear friend and companion, admiring her for the depth of her passion and unflinching strength. He had loved, and perhaps still did love, Theodore, as his first lover and the first person to teach him what it was to be true and faithful, and unfortunately, what it meant to be a matter. And he loved Harry as well. He loved his power, his ignorance, his stupidity, his courage, his kindness, and his rage. He loved him despite only knowing him for barely over hundred hours. He loved them all too well, and so he could not love any of them well enough.
This is what he would have tried to say, if she'd asked. Instead, all she said was, "Goodbye." Then with a final hiccup and a glare to Harry, she turned and ran.
Once again, Harry and Draco were alone. Draco took another slow breath and the fragile veil of skin across the spell wound stretched. He could already feel it thinning.
"Do you know what's funny?" Draco muttered, wishing he could taste anything but his own blood. "Really, truly hilarious?"
Harry didn't answer but seemed only to hold on tighter.
"I married her and got on this damned ship to keep my family from killing me," Draco said, struggling to keep his voice light. His throat felt as though it was constructing, but he knew he was in no danger of dying just yet. "And then my own wife does me in."
"Draco," Harry said softly. Draco thought he sounded quite uncomfortable.
"Why aren't you laughing, Potter?" Draco demanded, his shoulders beginning to shake. "You really ought to be laughing. I am."
"No, you're not, Draco."
Water spilled on to Draco's cheeks. Now he tasted salt mixed with blood.
"I suppose I'm not," he admitted, and then he buried his face in Harry's chest.
At 2:05 AM, the last lifeboat, Collapsible D, was lowered into the sea with 44 people aboard. The forecastle of the Titanic began to tilt upwards as more and more of the ship's bow filled with water. Over 1,500 people were still on board.
Harry held Draco as he wept. Funny, he'd never been able to do anything when a woman cried in front of him -- and there had been plenty of occasions for Ginny, Molly, and Hermione to do so in his life. He felt no such awkwardness with Draco. He had no idea if it was because of his sex or if he was past the point of caring for such things.
Draco quieted, and for a moment, Harry thought he was already gone. Then he heard Draco's quiet breathing.
Other people were running through the room now, panicking or praying. He heard one of them say there was still a chance to get on a lifeboat and get away, that the officers were still working on releasing them. Harry no longer hoped to be on one of them, but then he knew he'd been trying to fool both Draco and himself when he said that.
He glanced up at the clock. It was now a quarter past two in the morning. The floor had tilted at a steep angle, and the sky seemed crooked overhead. Water was beginning to rush towards them.
"Not long now," Draco muttered, and Harry wondered if he meant the ship or his own body.
"You shouldn't have let her go," Harry said darkly.
Draco snorted. "So you could have had your revenge? Really, Potter, you must learn to control your temper."
Harry found it unbearable to look at Draco, and yet he was unable to look away. "We would have never have seen each other again. I would have disappeared. She didn't need to --"
"What did I tell you, Potter?" Draco reminded him. His voice sounded strange, like he was three sheets to the wind. "My skin. She knew it the moment she found us. I wouldn't have forgotten, and she wouldn't have either."
"I won't forget either," Harry promised fervently, as though he had been accused. "I never will."
Draco made a horrible sound, and Harry realized with dawning horror that the wounds were reopening. "Draco, please."
Draco coughed loudly. Blood dripped from his mouth. "Honestly, Potter, if it were up to me --"
Harry continued holding on; he wasn't sure he knew how to let go. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I ever said I wanted to be rid of you."
Draco sighed wetly. "You would make this awkward."
Harry had held it together for Draco's breakdown, but there had been something surreal about the events leading up to that point. Now it all rushed at him, and he knew that he was bound to fly apart. "Damn it, Draco --"
He stopped cold. Draco had never used his first name before.
"Put on a lifebelt," Draco instructed softly, seeming to choke on every word. "And... take this." He pulled out his wand.
Harry instinctively pulled away. "I couldn't."
"Exactly what good will it do me?" Draco demanded. "Take it."
Harry found it was impossible to refuse the request of a dying man. He wrapped his fingers around the wand and pulled it towards him. Strange that it felt so much heavier now.
"I'm going to teach you one last charm," Draco whispered. "And it's going to save your life."
At 2:18, all of the lights went out. A great roar erupted through the ship as all of the furniture began to slide from one end of the ship to the other. The Titanic began to tilt until its stern was almost straight up in the air. Then the steel began to groan as it tore apart.
The remaining souls aboard the sinking vessel cried out to heaven or their loved ones. It was time.
Draco Malfoy closed his eyes for the very last time just before the lights went out.
In the last minute of his life, he had seen Harry tie the lifebelt around his chest and taught him one final spell.
They did not say goodbye.
Once the emergency lights were doused, Harry knew it was time. He gently levered Draco's broken body off his legs and pulled himself to his feet. He felt sticky and cold. He wondered if he would ever feel warm again.
Then he remembered that this was exactly what Draco had guaranteed him.
A horrible noise filled his ears, even more awful than the death throes of the thousand people still aboard the Titanic. He clasped the wand to his chest and inhaled, wondering if Draco's scent would cling to it. He smelled nothing but the sea.
He felt the boat began to tilt violently.
He shoved one hand into his pocket and grasped the picture of his future wife and child.
"I'm coming, Ginny."
He whispered the Warming Charm and heat flooded his body.
Then the sky above him shattered.
The Titanic could not sustain its own weight vertically. It broke apart, the bow sinking like a heavy stone while the stern side crashed back into the water. It stayed afloat for two more minutes before it filled with water and disappeared under the waves. Over a thousand people fell into the freezing Atlantic waters, and every one of them was screaming.
Later, Fifth Officer Harold Lowe transferred the women and children in his lifeboat to another so that he could turn around and look for survivors. He steered his small vessel amidst a sea full of the silent dead, bobbing in the water like a thousand white graves.
He pulled five people from the water alive.
One of them was Harry Potter.
She was the R.M.S. Titanic. They called her the ship of dreams. She was a wonder. A pearl. Magical. But not unsinkable.
She had been meant to carry over 2,000 passengers to New York on her maiden voyage in 1912. But a combination of bad luck and hubris conspired to ensure that she never reached the shore. In the end, only 705 people made it to America.
As Harry Potter would come to tell the story, he survived the shipwreck by sheer luck. He had found a lifebelt at the last minute, which kept him afloat, and only providence had kept him from succumbing to hypothermia. He would also say that when the Carpathia reached the shore, Ginny Weasley and his son James were waiting for him, terrified that he had been lost in the disaster. They were married by the end of the month. Ron and Hermione Weasley were the main attendants of the wedding. Fred and George did not appear.
In addition to James Percival, they would have two more children: William Charles, for their brothers, and Lily Margaret, for their mothers. They would all live to adulthood. For whatever reason, none of them ever showed any signs of their father's talent. Harry rarely ever used magic again.
Harry never learned what had happened to Pansy Malfoy, nee Parkinson. He eventually assumed that she had taken Draco's advice and returned to London a widow.
In fact, Harry only ever found out the fate of one other passenger. In 1920, during the Harlem Renaissance, he became a fan of painter Dean Thomas. He particularly liked the only painting Dean did of Caucasian men, simply titled "Neville and Seamus."
Harry never told anyone the real story of how he had survived the sinking of the Titanic. He had considered it many times, but in the end, he could not think of a way to speak the words. He lived the rest of his life happily, working as a New York policeman when law and order was most needed in the city. He died at the age of 96 in 1985, three years after his wife. His death coincided with the rediscovery of the Titanic's wreckage. When his eldest son was interviewed by The New York Times, James Potter remarked that he thought his father had been forever haunted by the ghost of what had transpired aboard the ocean liner.
He never knew that this ghost had a name.