A Whiter Shade Of Pale
Lucius Malfoy stared at the piece of paper in his left hand. It was creased and crumpled, as if it had been crushed very tightly by a palm, but the words were still distinct, mockingly visible. His fingers gripped the thin parchment, making it tear, as another kind of remembrance ripped through Lucius' mind.
The words written on the parchment were painfully simple: I'll meet you tonight. That was all it said, with volumes of hidden meaning beneath the innocent surface.
Such familiar words. Such painful sentiments.
The handwriting was plain and bland it was obvious that the person who wrote it was in a hurry, and equally obvious that it had been a boy. Words written by girls were naturally more fanciful; a decorative tail on the letter y, a lingering curl on the end of an h. This note was far too simply penned, yet each word was disturbingly clear.
In the locked drawer of his office lay many notes of a similar variety brief, yet unmistakably concise as regards their intention. Sometimes all that was written was the time and place; everything else went without saying, and neither of them would turn up late. In retrospect, it was a marvel such vague arrangements never went awry.
Lucius never destroyed those notes, those preciously handwritten scribbles which he would never again receive for the rest of his life. At least not from the person who mattered. So many times before, Lucius had wanted to set fire to those faded shreds of parchment, to let them burn and hopefully sever the attachment within him that wouldn't yield to flames. So many times before, he'd tossed them all in the fireplace, laid carefully in a small pile, and had stood with his wand poised over the heap of paper.
But not a breath of fire had emerged from his wand.
So blinking back tears he just kept them away, like he had done with his feelings he locked them up in a drawer, hidden but not forgotten. He turned his thoughts to other things; there were so many preoccupations that demanded of his time. There was no time to reminisce, no time for regrets.
Lucius stared at the note in his hand again, feeling a swell of emotion rise within him. The words quietly mocked him, testing the brittle chains holding back the memories, invoking the aching stir of emptiness once again.
Even though the note wasn't signed off, Lucius could immediately guess who it was from. His son was too much like him to a Malfoy, danger was to be boldly courted, and the forbidden fruit was the only ecstasy worth having.
There was a soft rustling of feet as Draco entered the room he stopped dead when he saw his father, facing away from him, standing over his schoolbag. An ambiguous emotion flitted across his pale features, something strangely akin to fear. He felt a sinking sense of foreboding, and stood where he was for a moment, uncertain of what to do.
Lucius didn't turn around, but he knew that Draco was standing in the doorway. His fingers closed over the tattered note, now even slightly damp from the sweat of his palm. He allowed the uneasy silence to settle between them, mirroring the bleak stillness echoing through his mind.
Finally, Lucius raised the hand holding the note, his back still facing Draco. He spoke softly, although his tone was harsh and cutting. "Who is this from, Draco?"
Draco's heart skipped a beat as he looked at the familiar piece of parchment, one of many he'd received before. More than that, he sensed the imminent storm in his father's dangerous tone. The last time he remembered this same deadly quiet voice, his father had flung him across the room in a virulent fit of anger.
Draco bit his lip, and his voice quavered slightly as he answered simply, "A friend."
"A friend?" Lucius' voice was sharp, slicing through the tension between them. He spun around, glaring at Draco. "What sort of friend might that be one of the nocturnal variety, perhaps?"
Draco cringed inwardly. His father had always been the hardest person to fool. He tried anyway. "It's from a girl."
"A girl," Lucius said thoughtfully, tilting his head to one side. The fierceness drained away from his face, and Draco relaxed slightly, exhaling a small breath of relief.
Lucius nodded slowly. "I see."
Then he strode forward, drew back his right hand, and slapped Draco hard across his face.
Draco stumbled backwards, reeling from the impact. His left hand instinctively flew up to cover his bruised cheek, and he stared at his father in utter disbelief. Draco managed to keep from tumbling very unceremoniously to the floor as he staggered a few steps backward, coming up short against the wall, looking mortified. Words failed him.
"Don't give me that crap," Lucius hissed maliciously, stalking closer. There was a manic glint in his eyes, and his fist reached out to seize Draco's chin. Draco flinched involuntarily, bracing himself for another blow that never fell.
Lucius leaned forward, until their faces were only inches apart, shaking the note in front of Draco's startled grey eyes. "This isn't from a girl."
Panic rose desperately in Draco's mind, and he took a deep breath to calm himself before he tried again. "Father," he said, a hidden plea in his voice, "It's from a girl I've been seeing, I swear." He hoped he sounded convincing.
Lucius inhaled a fiery breath, simmering with rage. "Really?" he said sarcastically, his voice thinly controlled. "Interesting that you've never mentioned her before. How long have you been seeing her?"
Draco averted his eyes. "Three months." It was truthful, in a certain way.
The blinding fury took over, and Lucius hit Draco hard across his jaw, his hand clenched solidly, and he almost relished the yell of pain as his fist connected sharply with Draco's chin. The force of the blow sent Draco lurching, and his head struck the edge of Lucius' desk as he fell, the sharp corner narrowly missing his eye as it tore a graze across his forehead. Blood blossomed forth, and Draco sat sprawled on the floor, staring up at his father in horror.
Lucius' face was contorted with anger, and he advanced on his fallen son. Draco looked at him, a volatile mix of fear and defiance shimmering in his pale grey eyes, blood from the wound on his forehead trickling down his temple.
Lucius bent forward, seized Draco by his collar and yanked him roughly to his feet.
"Who wrote you this note?" he thundered, shaking Draco viciously. "WHO IS IT FROM?!"
Draco's face was flushed with humiliation as he struggled futilely against his father's grip. His body was quivering with fury, a blazing rage against his father for treating him so shamefully. His lower lip trembled, and his eyes glistened with angry tears.
"All right," Draco spat, his expression hard, his chin still raised in a dignified way. "You want to know who wrote that note? It's from Harry Potter." His eyes flashed defiantly, and his tone was strung with reckless insolence. "I admit it. I've been screwing with Harry Potter for the past three months. Are you happy now?"
Lucius stared at his son, an expression of pure agony twisted with anger bleeding across his tense face. He was speechless, and father and son stood for a silent moment, glowering at each other.
Finally, a mask of distant calm wiped the emotion from Lucius' face, and he glared frigidly at Draco, who boldly levelled his gaze, rebelliousness in his eyes. Lucius' voice was cold and hollow when he spoke again, his piercing grey eyes boring straight into Draco's soul.
"You will break it off." It wasn't an instruction; it was a command.
"No." Somehow, for the first time in his life, Draco found the courage to stand up to his father; strangely enough, it was in defence of someone else. His father's fingers were digging painfully into the flesh of his arm, and with a final, determined twist, he wrenched himself away. He lifted his eyes impudently, glaring almost hatefully at his father. "I will not."
With that, Draco turned and fled from the room, his hand still covering the gash on his forehead, his fingers matted with his own blood.
"DRACO!" Lucius bellowed furiously, starting forward but it was to no avail. Draco was gone, and Lucius could hear his fading footsteps echoing on the polished marble, terminating with the loud slamming of a door.
Lucius turned away suddenly, it was too painful to look. His fingers gripped the edge of his desk, and Lucius closed his eyes as the burning memories ignited once again in his mind. It was like a knife twisting inside his chest; sharp, aching, tearing him apart.
Draco hadn't seen the brief pain that flickered across his father's face at the mention of Harry Potter's name, but now Lucius couldn't control it anymore. He sank into his chair, his vision suddenly a stinging blur.
"James," Lucius whispered, his voice tortured with anguish.
It was perversely innocent if there was such a thing. It used to be so simple, so uncomplicated.
The rivalry between the Houses was intense, almost overtly hostile. It was a furious battle for glory, and winning a Quidditch match soon escalated into a matter of life and death especially Gryffindor vs. Slytherin. Adrenaline surged as the crowds gathered and the players walked onto the pitch, and emotions ran particularly high.
Lucius Malfoy gripped his broom as he confidently strode onto the pitch to applause and jeers, from the Slytherins and Gryffindors respectively. He ignored the restless, eager crowd in the stands as his eyes settled on the dark-haired head a few feet in front of him.
Lucius strolled casually in the black-haired boy's direction, swinging his broom in his hand. The boy turned slightly and stiffened when he saw Lucius approaching, but didn't react otherwise.
Lucius walked right by him, not even turning to look at him, their robes brushing ever so briefly. As he passed, Lucius said out of the corner of his mouth, without even moving his lips, "I'll see you tonight, same place. Have a good match, Potter."
True to his word, at precisely midnight later that day, Lucius went to the disused store room and found James already there, waiting for him. There was a slight graze across the side of James' cheek, courtesy of a collision with the Slytherin Beater in the match earlier.
Lucius didn't smile at him; he simply strode straight over to where James was standing, and kissed him very hard on the lips.
James sensed the dangerous mood Lucius was in he felt it in his harsh embrace, in the lack of gentleness in his kiss. He didn't resist as Lucius pushed him onto the bed, and he lay back as he felt Lucius' lips ravish his own, and his hands stroke down his prone body.
Gryffindor had won that day, and now it was Slytherin's turn.
Lucius watched James leave the room, a slight limp in his walk, and he wasn't sure if it was because of the Quidditch match that day or their own private match in the night. Before James walked out of the doorway, however, he paused, and turned back to look at Lucius, who was still sitting on the bed.
James looked at him for a moment. Then he gave a small, tired smile. "Good match, Lucius."
And he left.
Lucius stared after James, his eyes piercing. An empty doorway looked back at him, and a cold silence was all that remained of their heated passion only moments ago. Lucius turned away, and the dense darkness all around him hid the dismayed realisation on his face.
It used to be so simple between him and James they fought in the day, and fucked at night. The respective stars of Slytherin and Gryffindor, facing off during classes, in the hallways, at Quidditch somehow, it became only natural that they took their sparring into bed, as well. Twice a week, or sometimes more, they would sneak out of their dormitories, and release the pressure of their rivalry in an entirely different way.
Lucius had always lusted for James; ever since the moment he first laid eyes on him, the model Gryffindor, so moral and self-assured. They were so different; yet, perhaps it was this reason that they found solidarity. And it was so straightforward they owed each other nothing but pure gratuitous sex, and an occasional lingering kiss would soften the mood a little.
Then he made a mistake.
He fell in love with James.
Draco sat in his room, seething. He angrily wiped the back of his hand across his forehead, and it came back streaked with blood. God, the cut was deeper than he thought it stung as he gingerly touched his finger to the gash.
Damn his father. Draco was still shaking involuntarily as his anger ebbed and flowed within him. Damn his father for trying to control him like that, for trying to take Harry away from him.
Draco wondered how he ever landed himself in this situation. In this situation where he actually felt something for Harry, the boy he'd sworn he hated, the boy who outshone him in almost everything. Draco was not one who took kindly to being upstaged.
He didn't know what he felt for Harry, whether it was lust or passion or desire. It was all of these, and a lot more. It was a far stronger emotion, so intense it made his heart skip a beat each time Harry walked by, and made him feel complete each time he had Harry's arms around him. It was getting very complicated, and deep down inside, it scared him.
There was nothing more complicated than love.
Lucius almost got an apoplectic fit when he heard the news.
"What?" he spluttered in disbelief, and the porcelain cup he was holding shattered to the ground, unnoticed.
Crabbe stared at the smashed cup, then looked at him, alarmed. "What's wrong, Lucius?"
"Getting married? Did you say James Potter is getting married?" Lucius choked out the words, looking horrified, ignoring the shards lying broken at his feet, or the blood that seeped from a cut on his shin.
Crabbe nodded. "To that girl, Lily Evans." He looked curiously at Lucius. "What's it to you?"
Lucius didn't answer. He was already out of the door.
Lucius slammed James against the wall, utterly distraught.
"What's this I hear?!" His voice was menacing, and he subconsciously snatched a fistful of James' collar. "You're getting married?"
An ambiguous emotion flitted across James' face. "Yes," he said softly.
"Why?" Lucius felt mildly hysterical, and he shook James with no small measure of desperation. "Why are you doing this? To spite me? To make me jealous? Because you want me to tell you that I love you?"
James looked surprised. "No," he said, with a slight shake of his head.
"Then why, James?" Lucius gripped James' shoulders very tightly, almost hurtfully. "Why are you marrying her?"
A pensive expression spread across James' face, and he gave Lucius a sad smile. "Because I want her to be my wife," he said, in a careful, measured tone. "Because I love her."
"And you don't love me?" The words spilt from Lucius' lips before he could bite them back.
James sighed. "I do, Lucius. But in a different way."
"How many ways are there, exactly?"
"Lucius, please." James' voice bore a pleading tone of urgency. "Please, don't make this more difficult than it already is."
"Then explain it to me, James!" Lucius wouldn't, couldn't let it go. "Why do we have to end this way?"
"Do you think I'm completely all right about this?" James' voice finally cracked, and a pained expression crossed his face. "Do you think I can just forget everything that happened between us? But do you think I or we have a choice? Come on, Lucius. You're going steady with Narcissa you'll marry her someday, too."
"But I don't love her." Lucius said mutinously, and he spoke the truth. Not the way I love you, he whispered silently, although his words were apparent in his grey eyes.
"Well, I love Lily" James saw Lucius flinch, but still continued gently, "I love her enough to want to make her my wife, to have her bear my children." He paused, and there were unshed tears in his eyes. "I'm sorry, Lucius."
"I don't believe this!" Lucius hissed fiercely, pushing James harder against the wall. "How could you, James? How could you do this to me?"
James didn't wince, or back away, even though their faces were only inches apart. He just smiled sorrowfully, looking deep into Lucius' grey eyes, now warmed with emotion and unmistakable pain. His eyes ran over Lucius' arrogant features, now weary with an agony too painful to acknowledge.
James' voice was quiet as he spoke again. "We're just different, Lucius. You're Slytherin, I'm Gryffindor, and you can't deny that we both believe in completely different things. Our social circles are worlds apart face it, Lucius, our children will probably never get to be friends."
Lucius sighed, and he felt all the malicious anger and spiteful pain slowly bleed away, leaving only empty bitterness.
"I know," he said, his voice choked. He stared deep into James' clear eyes. "I know it can't be any other way." He took a deep breath, mustering the courage to say what he had never dared to, all these years. "But James, I want you to know that "
"I know." James shook his head once to silence him, then leaned forward and kissed Lucius softly on his lips, drowning his half-formed words. Lucius closed his eyes, crying inside, as he melted into the last kiss he would share with the only person he ever truly loved.
"God, Harry, I want you so bad."
Draco slammed Harry up against the wall, holding him in place as he expertly pared off Harry's clothes. They kissed feverishly, fervent swears escaping their lips as they both collapsed on the bed, shrugging out of their robes, almost ripping the other's with the force of their efforts.
Harry smiled as he felt Draco's tongue slide down his neck, teasingly licking at his collarbone. "Yeah, you're making it pretty obvious."
"You owe me a Christmas present, and now's a good time to give it." Draco pushed Harry back onto the bed, feeling almost drunk with passion, intoxicated by the taste of Harry's lips. He missed Harry desperately, for the five days that he'd spent back home for Christmas, while Harry had stayed at Hogwarts like he always did.
Harry pulled Draco down on top of him, kissing him passionately, feeling the delicious flicker of Draco's tongue against his. Draco pinned him onto the bed, allowing his hands to traverse freely across Harry's exposed skin.
Draco closed his eyes, savouring the moment. This was worth all the punishments his father had threatened. There was no way he was going to give Harry up, not now, not after all this time.
They spent the next hour making love, compensating for the time they were apart during Christmas. Harry was secretly surprised at Draco's ardour he seemed different, somehow, since before the holidays. There was a subtle change in his style; his manner was more fervent, almost fiercely desperate. Harry could feel it in his kisses, sense it in Draco's body so close to his own.
As they sat on the bed afterward, Harry cast a sidelong glance at Draco. He suddenly noticed the fresh, linear scar on Draco's forehead, which stood out starkly against the blond wisps of his fringe.
"What happened to your face?" Harry asked, looking concerned, reaching out to brush Draco's hair aside.
"It's nothing." Draco said shortly, flinching away from Harry's touch. He averted his eyes, suddenly becoming very interested in a blank spot on the far wall.
Harry's expression softened; he guessed what had happened.
"Was it your dad?" he asked delicately.
Draco said nothing, and his silence answered for him. He kept his gaze turned away for a few moments more, and when he looked back again, Harry saw a torn uncertainty in Draco's eyes, which was so incongruous to the Draco he knew.
"He found a note you gave me," Draco said softly, and Harry noticed the confused innocence that clouded his eyes, an emotion he'd never seen in Draco before. "He confronted me about it, so I told him about you about us." Draco's lips twisted in a bitter smile. "He was very displeased, to say the least."
"How did he know it was from me?" Harry asked, furrowing his brow. "I never signed off. And you could have lied said it was from your girlfriend, or something." He looked upset that Draco had been hurt on his account.
"Believe me, I tried." Draco shook his head. "But..." he trailed off for a moment, tilting his head slightly. "But somehow, he knew. Don't ask me how, but he knew it was you."
"So what are you going to do?" Harry asked quietly.
Draco looked up sharply, and Harry saw a glint of his familiar defiance in his eyes.
"Nothing," he said savagely, a hateful frown marring his fine features. "I'm not going to do anything." Draco took a deep breath, and his voice quavered slightly as he blurted, "He doesn't understand." He shook his head in disgust. "He doesn't know how I feel."
"And how exactly do you feel?" Harry asked, not ungently.
An abrupt thoughtfulness crossed Draco's pale features, and for a moment, he looked as if he was going to say something. Harry waited expectantly, but then Draco just shook his head, smiled and leaned forward to kiss him deeply.
The sky was clear and cloudless, but the sun was obscured and not to be seen, except for the feeble glow it cast across the pale sky which awaited the imminent fall of dusk.
Lucius got to his feet, and walked resolutely out of his study toward the front door. There was somewhere he wanted to go, needed to be.
Narcissa poked her head out of the kitchen. "Where are you going?" she called, as she heard Lucius open the front door rather noisily.
Lucius paused, almost thoughtfully. Finally, he answered, "To see an old friend."
With that, he walked outside and Disapparated.
Almost instantaneously, Lucius reappeared where he had intended. The green grass rustled softly under his feet, damp with moisture from the passing shower earlier that afternoon. He was standing on a small hill, looking down across the peaceful quietness of a cemetery.
He walked slowly down the slope, carefully avoiding the shallow ridges cut in the ground by the torrential rains of winter. The cemetery was fairly well upkept, and a clear dirt path snaked between the orderly slabs of stone, marking the way for him to walk.
And Lucius walked. He knew exactly where he was going, even though all the ivory tombstones looked the same, even though it had been so long since he had last set foot in this cemetery.
Finally, he found what he was looking for.
Lucius quietly dropped to his knees in front of the plain headstone, with the name JAMES POTTER engraved in faded gold letters on the speckled marble surface. He reached out a trembling hand, and let his fingers brush against the name, wishing this wasn't the closest he could ever be to the person who changed his life in more ways than one.
And for the first time in fifteen years, Lucius broke down in tears.
He buried his face in his hands and cried silently, for a friend he sorely missed, for a lover he just couldn't forget, the only one who could ever make his life complete again. He mourned for James, for the man he was and the boy he had fallen in love with, whom he should have known better than to let go of.
And now he was lost. Forever.
And as Lucius wept, the sky above him faded to a whiter shade of pale.
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