Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: Ever since Tuesday I've been finding it hard to get anything of my usual writing done -- but more than that, I've found it hard to express my sentiment toward the tragedy in a way that truly befits the sorrow I feel for it. So at 1.30AM, after chatting with Megan (who, incidentally, is flying over to visit me tomorrow! yay!) I sat me down and started to write, in an attempt to articulate my feelings in a way that I manage best -- in words.
Thank you to everyone on the C&R list who asked to post something to cheer everyone up -- I'm afraid this isn't exactly a "fluffy" fic Windswept-style, but it's what I managed to come up with in a late-night spurt of writing, and I just wanted to share it with you.
To Cassie, because I'm happy she's all right, and to Jennifer, for that incredibly touching listmail she just posted. And thanks to Pippin for the lightning-fast beta.
Sometimes When We Touch
"Are you sure, Harry?"
Dumbledore's eyes were misted over with a troubled expression as he turned to Harry, asking a silent, deeper question than what was already formed into words.
Harry didn't answer for a moment; instead he stared out of the window, out across the falling darkness woven with streaks of crimson dusk which bled across the horizon, tainting the sky even as it shone forth with a wavering, fading fire. A sunset was this beautiful, and so transient, the way all other beautiful things often were.
When Harry finally spoke, his voice was bereft of emotion. "I've always been sure." He continued to gaze out of the window into the far distance, as if something unreachable still held his attention.
Dumbledore sighed. "I know, Harry."
"No, Headmaster, with all due respect," Harry said quietly, turning his eyes toward Dumbledore, and they were filled with ghostly pain like the silvery trace of a scar that had long healed, but not quite. "I don't think you can really understand how I feel, or most importantly *why* I feel the way I do." He paused and took a deep, slow breath. "This mission isn't just about championing the cause of good, or fighting for our right to live without the shadow of evil looming over us. It isn't just about preventing the return of an era of terror that... that tore apart countless families, including mine."
Dumbledore opened his mouth to say something, but then decided against it, and let Harry continue.
Harry lay both his palms against the smooth surface of the table, his fingers so tense and rigid that his knuckles turned white; he stared down at the dark polished wood as if it was etched with the images of his dreams, his remembrances.
"This isn't just about revenge, although it's a very large part of it," he talked downwards, his voice still strong, his fervent words cutting through the stillness of the room with their steel resolve. "If it had only been driven by blind vengeance for what he did to my parents, the bitterness would have killed its own flame years ago, and swallowed me along with it. I'd never really known, or remembered, my mum and dad -- maybe only snatches of remembrance with a passing scent, or a sense of deja vu, or a familiar voice, which sounded like the same voice that used to sing me to sleep every night. It was easy to forget, to let go of something you never really even knew you had.
"Until the Triwizard Tournament. That changed everything.
"I saw them with my own eyes, and at that moment I realized what I had lost, what had been taken away from me. It was a sort of liberation, to finally know not just how my parents looked like but who they really were -- but at the same time it hurt, because they weren't really there, and to watch them disappear like a wisp of smoke before my eyes..." Harry broke off, a hitch in his voice.
"It was like losing them all over again. And whether it's true or not, I believe that their presence that day was what gave me the strength to carry on, to really *fight* to save my own life, which they have given theirs in sacrifice for. Or at least die trying, like they did.
"So, as I was saying... it's not just about avenging my parents, or our family that he shattered. It's about justice, about what is fair and what is *right*, what my parents died for. And I will not stand by and watch him trample justice once again without making sure I did everything I could to stop him."
Harry looked up, and an emerald fire blazed in his eyes, fiercely unyielding and completely determined. "I stopped him once, through some miraculous gift my mother left me -- her life, for mine. And I'm not saying that I *will* stop him again, just because I succeeded before -- but I know that I will have a lot to regret for if I didn't at least *try*."
Dumbledore sat back in his chair, looking weary yet thoughtful. He had listened to every truthful word that spilled from Harry's lips, and what more, the raw emotion that burned on every syllable, so intense and heartfelt that it almost hurt just to hear him speak.
"It's a dangerous mission, Harry," Dumbledore said solemnly. "I will not patronize you by giving you any odds of success, not because the probabilities are discouraging but because there are none to speak of. Everything rests with *you*, how you react and adapt to any swerves and turns in the situation, be it for better -- or worse. And because of the immensity of this task, the sheer emotional drain it will place upon you... the only way you will survive, much less succeed, is if you truly *want* to be there, doing what you *know* you have to. There will be no time for hesitation, for looking back. For second thoughts."
The silence that ensued was dense, but oddly calm, even in an atmosphere and time that was so often strung with fear.
Dumbledore watched the young man standing before him -- the Boy Who Lived, and who refused to give up the right to keep on living, the way life should be lived. Without regrets. Without fear. Without pain. Without tears. Without parting.
"Do you have anything to ask me, Harry?" he inquired gently.
Harry pressed his lips together, and bowed his head for a long moment; then he raised his eyes, the resolve in them fixed like an inalterable truth, and he drew a deep, slow breath. "When do I leave?"
Dumbledore nodded once, all the seal of his approval he needed ever show. "Tonight, nine o'clock sharp."
Harry looked out the window. Dusk had already fallen, the pall of night swiftly advancing, blocking out light and emotion in its unfeeling darkness, leaving space for only dull desperation. Nine o'clock.
"I'll be back by then," he said softly, as he turned to leave.
Dumbledore considered, then asked the question. "Where are you going?" Ron and Hermione were in a safe hiding place at another location a ways from where they were, and Dumbledore would promptly dispatch notice to them of Harry's impending mission, which he had just accepted.
Harry turned back, a pensive half-smile on his face. "To say a farewell."
And he left.
Dumbledore knew where he was headed; he sighed, and stared at the closed door for a few moments longer.
"Of course," he said softly. "Draco will miss you."
Harry moved quickly and silently, down the staircase and along a maze of corridors, his legs moving automatically as if he was on autopilot. His mind spun with a thousand emotions and images, and the most prominent of those were love, and... and Draco.
<< Without regrets. >>
Harry reached a familiar door and flung it open, too many things on his mind to remember to be quiet; inside, Draco leapt to his feet, whirling around, looking startled.
"Harry?" Draco quickly recovered from his initial shock, and strode over to where Harry was standing. "What happened?"
If it hadn't been for his own promise to himself to be strong for Draco, Harry would have let himself collapse right then and there; break down and cry and just let Draco make everything feel all right. But he didn't, and all he could manage was a constricted nod, and nothing more.
"What?" Draco gazed at him, desperation glinting in his beautiful silver eyes. "What did Dumbledore say? About the mission?"
<< Without fear. >>
Harry nodded once more, his eyes communicating what words simply failed to.
Draco stared at him, understanding glazing over his confused features; he took a small step backwards, as if stunned, yet it was something he had known all along. "You're going?"
"Yes," Harry finally managed in a low, hoarse voice. "I'm going."
Draco bit his lip, and nodded once; waves of conflicting feelings washed over his face like a pale tide, wetting his eyes with a sheen of tears, until the emotions subsided into a tortured acceptance.
"Of course," Draco said quietly, his voice oddly steady, although imperceptibly bitter. "I knew you would."
<< Without pain. >>
"I have to," Harry answered softly, reaching forward and drawing Draco closer to him. "I can't not go."
Draco let Harry pull him near, and he subconsciously arched forward against the comforting warmth of Harry's body, the only comfort he trusted in these dark days, and the one thing that was being taken away from him now, and he didn't want to let Harry go, not now, not ever.
Harry felt Draco trembling slightly against him, from cold or otherwise he did not know -- what he did know was that Draco was crying. And he didn't remember ever seeing Draco cry -- not even when Lucius Malfoy disowned him, or when he had been almost forced to bear the Dark Mark, although Harry and Dumbledore had rescued him just in time.
Harry let his hand run up Draco's arms, feeling the smooth silky skin of the scar where Voldemort's wand had just pressed against Draco's inner left forearm, leaving a painful remembrance of how close he had come to losing Draco, how the tentacles of evil had almost engulfed the one person he truly ever loved.
<< Without tears. >>
And the next thing Harry knew he was kissing Draco, desperately, holding him closer than he had ever done before, with hot tears wet on his face, his or Draco's he didn't know, probably both; pearls of pain, moist and warm as they washed away everything except for the simple moment of truth, of promise, of love.
He had never kissed Draco this way before, so painful and raw, as if his heart was bleeding from love, from loving so much that it hurt. And he clung to this fragile kiss, willing it to last forever, because he didn't know if it would be their last tearful kiss, or a prelude of many happier ones to come.
<< Without parting. >>
"Draco, I--" Harry whispered, against Draco's lips.
"Don't." Draco said softly. "Don't say you'll come back, Harry. Don't make me promises you can't keep."
"No," Harry answered, his arms tightly encircling Draco's waist, and he buried his face in Draco's neck. "Only that I love you. And I always will."
Sometimes when we touch
The honesty's too much
And I have to close my eyes and hide
I want to hold you till I die
Till we both break down and cry
I want to hold you till the fear in me
- Dan Hill, "Sometimes When We Touch"
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