After the Rain
"If there's a cloud up above us
go on and let it rain
I'm sure our love together
would endure a hurricane"
Harry could not remember the last time he was eyed with such contempt. That Saturday afternoon, when the Great Hall was almost empty, Draco Malfoy had purposely walked across the room to stand before Harry and glare. Harry looked nervously at the silver watch Sirius had given him for his seventeenth birthday. Now it lay defenceless on top of his table, gleaming under the fake sunlight that fell from the hall's ceiling. Draco was so close Harry decided he had picked the worst time to leave it unattended.
"What do you want Malf--" Harry was about to finish the salute he reserved exclusively for Draco Malfoy when the other boy took a sudden step closer. Harry saw in horror how in a single movement the hand grabbed his watch from the table. The next thing he knew Malfoy had made a run for it and was soon out the doors of the Great Hall.
"Malfoy, you--" Harry snapped out of the shock that immobilised him, and his steps became strides as he found himself running after the thief. He caught a glimpse of Malfoy's figure before it disappeared behind the castle's entrance doors. Harry followed.
Outside the sun was shining bright and the light entered through his eyes, blinding him. He searched around, narrowing his eyes to focus his poor sight on anything resembling an over-grown conceited brat. Harry was about to abandon the pursuit when he saw a blot of black move between trees in the Forbidden Forest. Taking a deep breath he broke into a fast run. He skipped tree roots that crept from the earth, dodged branches full of old leaves that clang on his hair and finally arrived to a clearing.
He came to a halt and looked around breathing heavily. The space was surrounded with tall and thick trees that rose dominant to a clear blue sky. The afternoon sunlight shone fiercely through the opening and pushed its way around the branches and leaves that dared obstruct its intended course. The result was an artwork of sunbeams that hit the ground from different angles, much like Harry's hair was hitting the air every other way. Harry was amazed at how the scenery could be violent and beautiful at the same time.
His sour mood was back as soon as a boy appeared from behind the thinnest tree, with a trunk so slim it seemed impossible for anyone to hide behind. The boy before him played lazily with an object in his hands so that it reflected the sun directly on Harry's pupils.
"Malfoy," Harry stopped the light with the palm of his hand "give that back."
"Well, Potter," Malfoy's voice was hard, "I wasn't planning on doing anything else."
He threw the watch in the air towards Harry, with more strength than was necessary. But catching it was naturally easy for the Gryffindor seeker. Harry clasped it on and observed Malfoy's dark look.
"You have what you want" he continued, "I'll take what's mine." And without giving Harry a second to think he punched him across the jaw.
Harry didn't even see it coming, lost balance and landed flat on his back. When he opened his eyes the world seemed darker, but it was really the sunlight that had turned dim. He tasted his own blood and with a swift flick of his tongue made sure all teeth were in place. His glasses were intact, but he couldn't say the same about his face. The pain on the right side of his jaw spread to his neck and behind his ear. He groaned in complaint.
Malfoy seemed to ignore this and instead walked to stand at Harry's feet. He looked down on him in rage; "that was for Cynthia," he said with passion.
A thick cloud took residence over the sky opening. Harry gasped at seeing a drop find its way down Malfoy's cheek, but understood when something cold and wet dropped on his own nose. It was raining; seconds later, pouring.
Harry noticed the other boy looking up to where the drops were coming from. "Oh, really?" Harry said as he took the advantage to kick hard on the back of the other boy's knees. Malfoy fell on his back and Harry was quickly on top of him.
He nailed his right fist into Malfoy's left cheek, "then that's for Ron." He then swung his left across the other cheek, "and that's for Hermione." Harry was glad to see bright red coming from the other boy's mouth, but the rain spoiled the moment by washing away all signs of blood. He thought Draco deserved more than a cut lip for all the hard times he had given him, Ron and Hermione. Once again he closed his hands into fists and prepared for another round.
But within a second Malfoy rolled on top of Harry with ease. The rain had soaked his hair and it dripped white-blond down his pale forehead and cheeks. His robes were covered in mud. It was the most untidy Harry had ever seen him. It was also the one time Malfoy didn't look like he cared.
Malfoy grabbed the front of Harry's robes and pulled him up on his feet. He slammed Harry against the nearest tree and fixed him there, not letting go. The Water-Repelling Spell on Harry's glasses wouldn't spare him the sight before him. Malfoy's eyes had turned to glossy ice; pinned on Harry they froze his own. Lightning illuminated the scene and painted dangerous shadows in the depths of his features. When Malfoy spoke his voice was ear splitting and he did so very slowly as if to make the message very clear.
"At least your friends are still alive, are they not?"
His words hit Harry in the chest. Death hadn't been a stranger since the day he was born, but the affliction he heard in Malfoy's broken voice awoke a sympathy for him that he wasn't aware he owned. A vague image of Harry's parents flashed in his mind. A new heat of anger grew from within, warming his limbs. It travelled up his neck and temples, and burned the back of his eyes.
"You think you are the only one who's lost someone?" Harry forcefully unclenched the hands holding his robe, "I never knew my own parents, you self-centred cretin." Shortly, one of his knees shot forward with strength and collided with Malfoy's abdomen. Harry shoved him away with disgust.
Malfoy bent over rubbing his stomach. His vengeful expression took over that one of pain. "I don't think I've made myself clear, Potter," his discourse came sharp even after he turned his back to Harry, "rest assured that will not happen again." His figure straightened with an even greater air of self-sufficiency than before, an action Harry thought with certainty was almost impossible.
A cold blast blew around the clearing, animating Malfoy's cloak to create the illusion of a living creature, like a compliant vulture, hovering, guarding, lurking. A shout caught in the wind became a whisper, but despite being oblivious to what it meant Harry held his breath in fear when the sounds reached his eardrums.
Before the spell hit him, Harry was able to see Malfoy's wand, entangled in dusky cloth, pointing at him, and bitter lips closing after having spoken, giving away their fault. Harry's vision blurred in a cloud of white smoke. He fainted.
The visions and feelings that followed passed in a rushed succession. A small hand brushed the dewy grass in a wild field. A contagious giggle and someone who looked like but surely wasn't Malfoy laughed happily along. Contentment. Not-Malfoy was spread on a couch by the fire, a little girl no more than two years old snoozed in his arms. Her black hair short just under the chin. Tranquillity. The girl was now around four, she held that blond boy's hand. They walked to the end of a pier and looked at the rainbow displayed in the horizon. The boy picked her up in his arms. She looked at him with gorgeous black eyes, smiled and hugged him tight. Love. Then, suddenly, there was darkness, long faces, worried glances. Fear. The Dark Mark over a white-fenced house. An owl flew in the Great Hall carrying a black scroll. Malfoy read it. Pain.
When the images stopped Harry was still enveloped in white smoke. He could not believe what he had seen and felt. His mind was racing. Malfoy's little sister, or cousin, was this Cynthia? He loved her dearly, Harry himself had felt it. But she was...dead? She couldn't be, why would Voldemort kill a child? Although, he had tried to kill him when he was one year old. In a way all this time he had wanted to believe children were immune to the killing curse. But... why? She was just a little girl. Just a little girl...
Harry came to lying on the muddy ground, the rain no longer falling on his face but he could still hear it. He reasoned he must not be in the clearing anymore. He opened his eyes. Blinked once, blond hair. Twice, grey eyes. The third time he could make out disdain in pressed lips. Again he was pulled up on his feet and held against a hard surface with little care. Only this time he didn't mind. Just a little girl...
"Potter!" Malfoy pressured, "Potter, do you hear me?" Harry slowly nodded. "Do you understand, Potter?" Harry recalled his painful visions, and he gave a more mournful nod. "Then bring her back," Malfoy demanded, "do your magic, touch your scar, be Harry Potter," he voiced this request as an only possibility, a last resort, "just bring her back," a Malfoy's plea, if there can be such a thing.
Harry startled. All was there in Malfoy's face. The reminiscence of a boy at the end of a lost battle, his whole faith gambled on his enemy's mercy, his weakness revealed for the sake of a purer resolve. It was very distressing. With an image of young black eyes full of life imprinted in his mind, Harry stuttered silently,
"Malfoy, I can't..." tears sprouted, the product of his despairing feeling of impotence over everything, "I mean... my parents... Cedric... I tried... I try every day... I wish..." He looked into Malfoy's eyes, giving in to his own tears, "I can't bring her back."
Confusion was the only feeling that could be read in Malfoy's gaze at first. Soon it turned into realisation, and then into a sentiment so vivid Harry could only describe as the very essence of sorrow. His expression had shattered like thin ice under pressure. Malfoy's eyebrows were frowning, lips trembling, but he held his watery stare on Harry, maybe looking for an answer he already knew wasn't there.
Suddenly, he drifted away. He was still standing there, his hands always pushing Harry against the tree, now doing it more as a support than a deliberate offensive. But he was staring at some point in space. Gone, unresponsive.
"Malfoy... Malfoy!," Harry panicked as he yelled with no use. He tried to be more drastic, grabbed the lost boy's head with both hands and shook it, "Draco!" Malfoy snapped out of his trance and focused his gaze on Harry's. Then he laid all the weight of his head in Harry's hands. His legs failed and his whole body collapsed into Harry, dragging him along to the ground.
Harry instinctively embraced Malfoy in protection. Once sitting, he turned to look at his face, expecting to see him unconscious. Instead he saw his narrowly opened eyes, avoiding him, looking like they were trying to work out what was going on. Malfoy seemed to hush his internal conflict and hid his head under Harry's arm.
Malfoy, still broken, tried to curl closer to him. He took a deep breath with his mouth wide open, much like a drowned person would if a second chance was given. Then he finally let go and started to cry, in the most heart-breaking way Harry had seen. His quiet sobs, muffled against Harry's chest, emerged from within, stealing the little breath he managed to take during the brief breaks.
Harry held him tighter and he felt Malfoy's body shake in grief. He was not sure what to do, and he really wanted to do something. So he began rocking him, back and forth, very slowly. After a long time Malfoy evened his breathing with Harry's movements. Backward, inhale. Forward, exhale. Time passed, and then he wasn't crying anymore, only looking flushed and tired, but tranquil.
"It stopped raining," Harry whispered.
He took a moment to examine Malfoy. The boy in his arms had damped hair pulled over his face. Harry occupied himself taking the hairs out of the way. The pale skin felt cold under his fingers so he took out his wand and cast a Drying Charm, which blew warm air from the tip. He dried some of Malfoy's hair around the face, and was pleased to see Malfoy wrinkle his nose and then give him a lopsided grin. He smiled back.
"Cynthia loved the after-rain," Malfoy confided without expression, and continued after Harry raised his eyebrows, "The jumping on puddles, the playing with mud, the dew, the rainbows – they were all her favourites." He didn't look sad, only immersed in memories.
"I know," Harry said. Malfoy didn't look surprised. "What was that spell you used on me?"
Malfoy looked like he was expecting this question. "It's a Memory-Sharing Spell," he explained, "it works like a Pensieve, only with less accuracy. The caster has limited control on what memories he wants to share, and the one cast-upon sees only a flash of those memories. Except he can experience what the caster felt at that particular moment in his life." He paused for a moment, then he finished, "That's why you understand now." He shifted in discomfort and Harry quickly loosened his grip. But Malfoy didn't move away, and Harry felt confident enough to rest his hand on the other boy's chest.
Harry understood very well. What was still unclear was why Voldemort would kill someone that was probably on his side. Before he had decided if it was appropriate to ask, the words formed out of his mouth. "Why would Voldemort want to... do that to Cynthia? Isn't she a pure-blood?" And just a little girl...
A smile spread across Malfoy's face, so cold a shiver in the spine made Harry shake his shoulders. "Oh yes, she was very pure-blooded, direct descendant of the grand Malfoy family," he worded in mockery. Only then did Harry notice Malfoy had very pink lips, when all the colour faded away from them before he said, "Cynthia had no magic in her. She was what the less polite would call a Squib."
Malfoy closed his eyes as he increasingly seemed to lose his composure. He added, "it seems these days the Dark Lord doesn't find Muggles, Mudbloods or even grown-ups, for that matter, good enough to satisfy his blood-thirsty self. These days it has to be a little girl." Malfoy opened his eyes, "Potter," he looked at Harry with eyes full of melancholy edged with desolation and whispered, "just a little girl."
Harry felt a pang in his heart at hearing his own words been given a new meaning in Malfoy's voice. He felt the sides of his mouth begin curling downwards, even when he tried to smile. Harry unlocked his eyes from Malfoy's and looked elsewhere trying to avoid the pain. He wasn't sure if it was intentional, but he felt Malfoy's hand come up to tuck his white-blond hair behind his ear. Malfoy left his hand there, touching Harry's chest, right on the spot where his aching heart was. Harry felt warmer in an instant.
"Malfoy, why did you come to me?" Harry finally asked. His back was still sore from the two times he was thrown against trees. He remembered the creepy words after the punch that started it all: "That was for Cynthia," then the spell, and finally the impossible plea.
Malfoy placed his hand on his own chest, on top of Harry's. If Harry hadn't known better the gesture would've been one of reassurance. But coming from him it could mean anything at all. Malfoy pondered, and then answered.
"As soon as I got the letter I knew I had to talk to you." Malfoy appeared unable to explain it himself, "I was positively angry at Harry Potter for bringing the Dark Lord back to life." Harry was surprised at how different his tone of voice was than before. It was still firm, but it lacked the former tone of supreme self-confidence. "But at the same time I hoped that you, of all wizards, would be able to make it right again."
Harry wished he could have. Throughout the years so many had come to him with blind faith, asking impossible favours, seeking the great Harry Potter, expecting a hero, a saviour and even an almighty god. He let them down every time. All indicated he had made no difference with Malfoy. Only this time he wanted it as much as the other party, and still he hadn't made anything better.
Malfoy retrieved his hand and stood up. "We should get back to the castle."
Harry was disappointed, but he promptly stood up in front of him. He felt his stomach lurch and knew it wasn't hunger. He let his sight wander around the ground but looked up when Malfoy spoke.
"I'd appreciate if you didn't mention this to anyone."
Even though Harry had expected this, he wished he had made a difference to Malfoy. He felt warm of embarrassment for being so naive.
"Yes, of course," there was nothing else Harry could say.
Malfoy lowered his head to one side. He looked confident reading Harry's expression, studying feelings, inferring meanings. He then stepped closer and raised a hand to his face. Harry didn't move, curious as he was about his intentions. Malfoy stretched his index and brushed it against the tip of his nose. His touch was movingly gentle.
Malfoy's voice was low and challenging, "I'll have to tell you all about Cynthia." He stared at Harry grinning slightly, so long he made Harry blush. Then he stepped back, turned around and walked back to the castle.
Harry looked back at the clearing. Something was different. The water had washed all things clean. Dew shone brightly under the afternoon light. The battling sunbeams were there again, no longer aggressive but almost agreeably creating the artwork of before. The whole atmosphere had a certain shade of green that was almost optimistic. A promise of change. All looked better after the rain.
Dedicated to Ricardo, who introduced me to the rain.
- The quote from the beginning is part of 'Moody's Mood For Love' by James Moody, lyrics by Eddie Jefferson.
- Whenever it rained my best friend Ricardo always said "rain washes all things clean."
- "A Certain Shade of Green" is a song by Incubus, which is indisputably the best band out there.
I took some literary licence on the weather. It could happen...
Beta Credits: Thanks to the lovely and watchful LadyKate, the ever-demanding Yuki (love ya), brit-picker Aleph for a scarily accurate beta, Jenny for her to-the-point comments and pre-beta giggles, lostgrl for putting up with AOL to beta me :P and Nanashi for her wonderful enthusiasm. Special Thanks to Michael for the awesome summary. But most especially to (my) The_Chap656, who is not into slash but still nit-picked every single word from the beginning and then spent a late evening brain-storming with me. Without your support I would still be moping over my mistakes.
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