A Pair of Ragged Claws
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky…
Wartime. The time they had been anticipating for years, preparing for. As if it could have done them any good.
Three years had passed since the first battle. Three bloody years of fear and pain with no sign of a stop, and Harry was tired. He sat alone on a balcony staring bitterly out into the dark sky, which was streaked with orange.
“This really is too much,” he muttered to himself.
“You could always jump,” a voice suggested blithely from behind.
“Draco.” A brief smile, more like a wince. “Shouldn’t you be off spying? Dumbledore told me you’d been Summoned.”
“I’ll go in a minute.” Draco shrugged, the gesture useless with Harry’s back still turned. “Look, I heard about Ron. We pretty much hated each other, I know, but he was your mate and all…” Harry started shaking. “Cor, I’m sorry.”
“He’s better off this way.” Only a slight tremor. “I knew he wouldn’t last long, not after Hermione… there was nothing left for him.”
“There was you.”
“One person isn’t enough to live for these days.” He turned to fix Draco with his eyes.
“And yet one is enough to die for?” Draco’s voice was hard.
“Most things are enough to die for. That’s what war is about.” He snorted. “In the end it’s not about glory, or power, or love, or even winning. Just dying.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just… a lot of things. It’s all a bit much right now. Look, I didn’t come out here to off myself or anything. I just wanted to get out of the castle. Places become… too familiar.”
“So let’s leave.”
“We’ve been at it for three years with no rest. I think we deserve a break.”
“Draco,” Harry groaned, “you don’t get annual leave in a war.”
“According to whom? It’ll be good for you, for both of us, to just get away from here for a while. Forget the war.”
“I have. I try every night when I go to bed, and sometimes I’ll almost manage it until the floor creaks, or the wind moves a tree, or someone screams, and I remember… It’s no good.”
“I can help.” Draco’s voice was commanding, and Harry found himself eager for surrender.
Harry had never really been to the ocean, so that’s where they went. Draco found a small cottage by the shore that had been deserted, and they stayed there.
“Can we go to the beach now?” Harry asked as soon as Draco had inspected the house.
Draco grinned against his will at Harry’s anxious expression. “Alright then. This place will have to do. Of course, it’s no Malfoy Manor…”
Harry was already out the door.
They walked down to the ocean, and Harry flung himself into the water. Draco rolled his eyes and conjured a black leather armchair on the sand. Harry paused in his splashing to stare at the piece of furniture, which looked conspicuously out of place amidst the washed up shells and drying seaweed.
“What’ll you do when the tide gets higher?” Harry called out. As if in answer to his question, a huge wave washed up to the chair, which slid back a few inches, just out of reach. Harry laughed and dove back under the water.
When he got tired of swimming, Harry took on the challenge of soaking the chair. He grabbed handfuls of water and flung them at Draco, grimacing in frustration as the chair continued to retreat, untouched. Draco raised a condescending eyebrow, and might have looked like a king on a throne, had said throne not been darting about on a beach.
Finally, Harry collapsed in the sand in front of Draco, burrowing his toes in the sand. He stared at a crab skittering sideways in the wet sand.
“I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas,” He murmured.
“It’s from a Muggle poem I heard from Herm–” he blinked. “I don’t know where I heard it.” He shook his head. “Wouldn’t it be nice, though? To be a crab or something and crawl around in the sand all day? But I guess I get to do that anyway.” He beamed at Draco.
Draco smiled back, although his lips were tinged with white.
“Let’s sleep outside tonight,” Harry suggested one day as the sun sank below the rim of the ocean. He couldn’t say which day it was – they all seemed to blur together when he tried to figure it out, and it gave him a headache. So he didn’t think about it – it didn’t matter anyway.
“And risk awakening to look like one of your sand sculptures? I’ll pass.”
“Come on, Draco. We always sleep inside, and it’s so much nicer out there.”
“Matter of opinion.”
“If you don’t spend the night outside with me, I’ll…” Harry cast a glance around the room, eyes stopping on the threshold of the door, “I’ll throw your leather boots in the ocean!” he finished triumphantly and hurled himself onto the shoes.
“No! Not the boots! Take me instead!” Draco cried in mock horror.
“I shall keep them as my hostages. Come.” Harry marched out the door, looking back over one shoulder to make sure Draco was following. Draco rolled his eyes and trudged after him, smiling to himself once Harry’s back was turned. He could have summoned the shoes back whenever he wanted. They were just a good cover for what he could not do – deny Harry anything.
Once on the beach, Harry sprawled out in the sand while Draco conjured an elaborate feather cot beside him. Harry glanced at the silk sheets and matching pillow and snorted, packing armfuls of sand for his own cushion.
“Your bed won’t move will it? I’d hate to wake up and find the tide had come in, and your cot had migrated to the outer edge of the beach.”
“No, I left the charm off. The tide shouldn’t get this high until after we’re gone.”
“Good.” Harry lay back and pointed up at a group of stars.
“Leo, the lion. It’s my birth sign,” he explained. “We learned about astrology in divination.”
Draco took his time getting situated, eventually looking up in the direction Harry had indicated.
“You never dropped that class?” He shook his head sadly. “No wonder you turned out, well… I on the other hand took something useful – arithmancy.”
“Right, because it’s so useful to know the magical properties of seven. At least divination was easy. Now look, see those four stars that form a trapezoid? And then the other three right there?”
“It looks more like a mouse than a lion.
“You’re looking at it backwards.”
“Hm.” Draco lowered his voice to a misty drone. “So tell me, what does this sign reveal about your inner self?”
“Well, it’s a lion, like Gryffindor, which is an interesting coincidence.”
“Earth-shatteringly profound,” Draco commented dryly, “stop now before I’m in over my head.”
“Leos are also enthusiastic and generous,” Harry grinned, “and we have sunny dispositions.”
“And we’re always the center of attention.” His smile faltered slightly. “Anyway, next to Leo, is Cancer. See that funny upside down Y-shape? It’s a crab.”
“How is that a crab?”
“I’m not sure.” He laughed suddenly. “Just think, if I’d been born about a week earlier, I could have been a pair of ragged claws.” Draco snapped his head to look at Harry, but his companion just continued talking. “Then maybe I wouldn’t always be in the spotlight.” He paused. “Why was I always…?”
“Noticed? This distressing mess on your head.” Draco reached over and poked at Harry’s tousled hair to illustrate his point. He yanked his hand away quickly, exclaiming, “Oi! It bit me!”
Harry rolled his eyes and pinched Draco’s side. He glanced over to where his hand lay. “Where did you get that scar?”
“Scar?” Draco’s brow furrowed and he looked down. “No, ‘s just a shadow.” He shifted slightly so Harry could see his unmarked skin in the moonlight.
Harry hummed noncommittally. He had felt something rough there but decided not to comment. Instead, he rolled onto his side and continued tracing the now smooth skin under his fingers. Draco stared off at the dark ocean, and as Harry’s breathing deepened next to him, he noticed a crab scuttling into a hole in the sand.
“Draco! Wake up!”
Draco jerked into a sitting position, and Harry jumped back to avoid smacking heads.
“What is it?”
“I thought… I thought I saw something. The sky was different – orange in places.”
“Maybe it was lightning. Do you want to go inside?”
“No, that’s not it. And it wasn’t just the sky; there was no ocean, just empty space, and there was a pounding sound-”
“Probably a dream. Maybe you heard thunder and only woke up halfway, so you saw what you were dreaming, and thought-”
“No! You’re not listening! It wasn’t a dream, and it wasn’t a storm.”
“Then what do you think it was?”
Harry exhaled. “I don’t know. I can tell when I’m dreaming though. I have had strange dreams recently; there’s a war, and… and I’m supposed to be doing something, helping out… only I can’t remember how…”
Draco’s eyes widened fractionally. The sky flickered orange.
“There! Did you see it?” Harry pointed.
Draco breathed in deeply. When he spoke his voice was calm and firm. “It’s just a dream, Harry, go back to sleep.”
“I told you, it’s not – ” Harry’s protests trailed off as his eyes slid closed. Draco’s eyes shut briefly as well, in relief. When he opened them, a light blur in the sand caught his eye. He looked closer and recognized the white underside of a crustacean. Gritting his teeth, he looked away.
The sun woke them early the next morning.
“Did we talk last night?” Harry asked.
“No…” Draco said slowly, “not that I recall.”
“That’s odd. I thought I remembered telling you about the sky.”
“The sky? Must have been a dream.”
Harry looked at him oddly, but to Draco’s relief, nodded vaguely and muttered, “Must have.”
The sun climbed higher into the sky until the shadows nearly disappeared. Harry’s back had gained a light tan, although Draco’s had somehow remained nearly porcelain white. The latter reclined in the leather chair, which had once seemed bizarre beside the ocean. Harry now could not imagine a shore without one – it would look empty.
The dark-haired boy was sprawled in the sand, concentrating on his castle, which bore a striking resemblance to the sketches Draco had brought back of Voldemort’s stronghold. Unnerved, Draco suggested they go for a walk, and Harry happily agreed.
As they strolled along the shore, Harry pointed out mermaids in the distance.
“Do you suppose they’re singing to each other?” Harry mused.
“Probably. It’s practically all they do, isn’t it?”
“I wish I could hear them. Only I don’t suppose they’d sing for me.” He looked slightly crestfallen.
“Come on, you know its just a bunch of screeching in the open air.”
“It’s really nice under the water though.”
Draco snorted. “Brilliant, I can just see you bobbing up and down in the water trying to listen and breathe as well.”
“I could use gillyweed,” Harry pointed out.
A loud bang interrupted, and Harry snapped his head around wildly. “What was that?”
“I dunno. Probably a cannon or something,” Draco suggested hastily. The noise came again, this time with a flash of light.
“That sound… it reminded me of the dreams I’ve been having.”
“Strange…” Draco was only half listening. His arm had started to burn, and if he closed his eyes he could see vague shadows. There were voices too, only muffled, as if heard from under water.
“Harry,” Draco said quietly, “let’s sit down.” He sank to the ground, not noticing the sand that stained his white trousers. He opened his arms, and Harry obligingly laid back against him.
“What’s going on?” Harry’s voice had become wary.
“What are the sounds?”
“Nothing Harry, just a dream.” He tightened his grip around the dark-haired boy. “Shh…” His voice had taken on an eerie calm. “Just concentrate on what is here. It will pass.”
The voices grew steadily louder as the scene around them faded. The sky, once blue, darkened to black with colored streaks, and then disappeared in a flash of green light.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea,
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown,
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
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