Nature of the Beast
We all have instincts. Fight or flight. The drive to feed or drink. The compulsion to protect – or to hurt – those weaker than ourselves. Mankind is very similar when stripped of class, of feature and of name. There is very rarely anything that differentiates one person from another.
Though sometimes... sometimes, there does come a special something. Something that stirs in the spirit and flows through the blood. Something that can change a man’s destiny.
The bar was not the kind of place you came to celebrate. Rather, it was the disordered sort that wasn’t horribly well cared for because no one came here for the atmosphere. The drinks didn’t require mixing, and the weakest among them was firewhiskey. This was a place you came to get falling down drunk or to find someone to fuck. Both even, if you were that lucky. If you were that desperate.
It helped, Remus had to admit. Blocking the memories out any way you could helped. Would it hurt them all more in the long run? Hell, he didn’t know. Those with families could usually hold back the tide. Not Remus. He’d ‘indulged’ himself like this time and again, but since Siri’s death these incidents had become far more frequent, even though he was fairly solitary by nature.
He handled his glass thoughtfully. He had no desire to talk to anyone. What did people have to talk about anymore? The world had gone... wrong. Simply wrong. Children were pinched and quiet. Adults were quieter still, coming alive only on the battlefield. Remus could not deny that you were most alive when you were moments from death. Mankind was in touch enough with its own roots to see the beauty in blood that was not their own.
The place was a little more than half crowded, and people were still coming in. Rush hour, he supposed. Aurors and healers from St. Mungo’s both got out at about this time. They saw the worst of what this war had to offer. And consequently were in places like this much more often.
He sees a man he went home with once. A brunette. Michael? Sounded about right. Remus had seen him around St. Mungo’s a time or two as well. When he’d visited Hermione.
He sat there for a few minutes more, wondering why he bothered coming here in the first place. Then the hair on the back of his neck rose, and Remus shifted to make sure his wand was still in his pocket. Someone was watching him. He turned, his searching gaze meeting pale eyes from across the room.
Remus very rarely forgot a face, and he never forgot a scent. Even so, the pale hair and almost effeminate features... even if Draco had not once been his student Remus would have recognized him as a Malfoy. Draco was different from the boy he had been. More sure. Courage instead of bravado. Knowledge in the place of arrogance, although Remus was sure he still had plenty of that. Draco had grown to be dangerous indeed. Because everyone – oh, everyone knew what he was.
It was foolishness, Remus thought idly, to be doing this. But somehow the feeling of Draco’s hand sliding onto his shoulder did not feel like folly. His caresses and kisses did not seem shallow or valueless. And as Remus brings him back to his home, a dangerous and stupid decision if ever there was, it seemed there was no real danger. Oh, there was danger, true enough, but of a different sort. The way Draco becomes so suddenly rough and Remus so unusually demanding shows how dangerous this is indeed.
Remus had long ago accepted the part of him that was wolf. He had no taste for denial or self-loathing, and while he did not embrace that part of him, neither did he hate it. He knew that as frail as he may appear, he was far stronger than many a witch and wizard. He preferred the quiet and the outdoors, the darkness to the light. Not in the metaphorical sense, of course. And though Remus was on the side of Light, of good, he thought mirthlessly, that didn’t stop him from enjoying the flip side of things.
He dreams about letting go. Getting rid of all responsibility and heading for the deepest, darkest, most godforsaken piece of forest he can find. Transforming without the potion. It would hurt him, yes, like it always does, but there was pleasure to be found that way. Not that all things were about pleasure. Though, God help him, they should be.
As Remus and Draco tumble to the bed the moon outside the window moves from behind the cloud, and although it is not quite full Remus briefly responds to its call. Cannot help himself. Does not want to help himself. He is what he is. As he looks as the face of the boy-man who is pinned beneath him he can’t help but think how terribly wrong this is. He thinks of who he is. Who Draco is. How many lines he’s crossed and bridges he’s burned. Mistakes he’s made. It would be too cliché to say it was the point of no return, because Remus knows turning back was never a possibility.
Remus stares at the Dark Mark on Draco’s arm. He knows Draco does not hate it even though Remus sees it as an abomination, just as Remus will never hate that shadows and darkness that Draco will never again fully trust. While those shadows grow longer Draco curls further still into his arms. Neither feels a need to be anywhere else. Now neither feels this is wrong. A comfort has been given and a trust received. A call sent and answered. It was something no normal man would understand but neither were normal men. They were on opposing sides of a war that threatened to engulf the whole of the world but as certain as the sun would rise tomorrow neither would betray the other. It is a rare thing to find companionship. A rarer thing still to find understanding.
“And to think,” Draco murmurs sleepily. “I used to hate you.”
Draco is a deep sleeper. Almost nothing can wake him up. He curls deeper into the blankets the higher the sun rises, as if to defy the light and push back the breaking of the dawn and the time he must wake. Draco is not troubled by his dreams, Remus notes. He even seems to enjoy them. Remus doesn’t remember what that’s like. He has been trapped in a cycle of smothering blackness and terrifying nightmares for so long. He rarely remembers what he dreams but wakes up shaking and tasting blood on his tongue. Last night he watched as Draco slept. He watched a drowsy smiles flit over the younger man’s face. He wonders if Draco is happy. If Draco could be happier.
It’s a full moon tonight. Remus feels it in his bones, in his blood. There’s a stirring. A want to be outside these four walls which now seem far too much like those of a prison. He knows the windows will shrink by the hour and the sun and air will begin their siren call. Just when he thinks he cannot stand it anymore he will Apparate to the Shrieking Shack and hope someone is waiting there with a Wolfsbane Potion.
Draco stumbles out of the bedroom, pants on but just barely. Awake but just barely. Remus’ eyes slide over Draco’s hipbones before he hands him a cup of coffee. Draco accepts is with lidded eyes, and it’s those same eyes that follow Remus around the kitchen as he makes breakfast. Remus can smell the quickly warming sunshine from here.
When Remus finds himself wrapped around Draco a few moments later, he takes the chance to observe him more carefully. Powerful, but then no Malfoy would dare to be weak. Or anything less than beautiful. But Draco’s face holds none of the pettiness of his father, or the coldness of his mother. He sees their tenacity, their belief, and the magic that brought all that together. Maybe he even sees love.
An hour later Draco leaves. He has to. He grabs Remus roughly, kisses him passionately and bruises his lips. Remus fingers reach out to pull on Draco’s waist for a moment, and then Draco is gone.
As the day wears on Remus does not dare to go outside. He’s fallen into that trap before. It’s not safe. The pull of the sunlight and the trees is so strong. Too strong. He opens all the windows and closes his eyes, thinking that maybe for a moment he can forget where he is. He can’t. He goes into the bedroom and curls onto the bed, conforming to where Draco had been lying earlier. Draco’s scent hangs in the air and is drenching the sheets. Remus should change them, he knows, but he can’t bring himself to.
Remus finds himself thinking of Draco with alarming frequency. He can’t tell you exactly how many times a day because he’s afraid to count. Because it will be many more than it should be.
Remus stares down at Draco’s face with a growing dread. He can’t put a name or a reason to it. He just knows... he doesn’t hate him. Doesn’t fear him. Can’t resent him. And he certainly isn’t apathetic. Of course, one has to consider why Draco is here as well. And as Remus presses his lips to Draco’s and finds an answering passion, he is pretty sure that Draco isn’t into self-loathing either.
It is with great care that Remus bathes Draco’s arm. The Muggle way, because healing potions are scarce and more expensive than they’re really worth. If he were any good at brewing them he would, but it’s only a simple burn anyway. The kind you get from the latest Weasley product, a new, improved version of the Dungbomb that is most definitely not available in stores.
This means Remus had faced Draco on the battlefield. This means Draco might have killed one of the Muggles. Maybe more. This means Draco is the enemy . . .
Except he’s not.
And as Remus finishes and ties the bandage tightly he can’t help noticing the smoothness of Draco’s neck. God help him, sometimes he thinks he should have become a vampire instead of a werewolf. Would be a lot easier to explain why he felt like reaching down and taking a mouthful of that warm pink flesh and sucking –
He is suddenly. And Draco’s hands come up to twist violently in his hair, but not to push him away. To press down harder.
Hours later the sheets are well rumpled and off the bed, and everything on one half of the kitchen table where Draco had been sitting is swept to the floor. The sun is rising again, like the first time Draco came here. The sky turns begins to lighten, filled with hints of orange and yellow, but mostly a violent red color that matches the burn on Draco’s arm. He doesn’t know why they bothered with the bandage. It certainly didn’t last very long.
Remus feels Draco’s lips brush softly over his, followed by the too loud noise of someone Disapparating in a nearly empty room. Draco may come back here tonight, or never. Maybe because he chooses not too or maybe because all his choices will be taken from him. It’s something that has them living day by day. But at least now they are living.
Remus touches the Dark Mark. Not that he hasn’t before, hands brushing up against it pulling off Draco’s shirt, moving down his body to grasp his wrists, but this time is different. Very different. He was afraid of it, he realizes. Afraid of what it meant and what it still means. And though it is foolish not to be afraid, it will not be the first time Remus has been called a fool.
Remus feels the muscles in Draco’s stomach tighten as he runs his fingers over the skull that mars otherwise perfect flesh. The muscles clench tighter, and then slowly relax as Remus’ mouth covers the mark, tracing the intricate lines. Though Draco feels no shame towards the Mark, he knows that people hate and fear it, hate and fear him for it. In spite of what he and Remus share, Draco expects Remus to hate that small part of him, to shy away from what he resents but cannot change, as animals are wont to do. By Remus doing this, Draco knows Remus feels as he feels. For someone to accept him so completely, knowing what he was and is and will become is overwhelming. And in that moment Draco is as utterly lost as he is found.
There are nights when Draco doesn’t show up. Or when he shows up very late, tired yet still buzzing and completely drenched in magic. Remus doesn’t ask where he was.
Sometimes though, when he’s reading over the Daily Prophet the next morning, he can’t help but wonder whether that was Draco last night. It isn’t always him, he knows. Not always. But sometimes. He knows Draco has killed people. He has as well. He’s not one to throw stones. Not like that.
Still, it’s on one of those just a little-too-quiet mornings that Draco comes over and sits on Remus’ lap, and twines one arm around his neck.
“I... I could...”
“No,” Remus demurs. “You can’t. And I can’t ask you to.”
God knows he wants to ask but he’s so afraid. He isn’t sure which he’s more afraid of, Draco saying yes or Draco saying no.
Life is such a delicate balance. Tip it one way; death and destruction. Tip it the other; a life just maybe worth living. Remus isn’t sure which way the scales are tipping, or what he can do to make them tip in his favor.
Draco is the catalyst. Something... something has changed since his arrival and is still changing. Something is stirring and Remus feels it. The wolf acknowledges it. And that is just another thing to be afraid of in a time full of fear. And the sound of Draco’s hand passing over Remus’ face is whisper soft, because he is one of the few that can afford to keep them that way.
Remus doesn’t know anything about Draco. Doesn’t know what music he likes or what he’d be if he wasn’t a Death Eater. What he does when he’s not with Remus. At the same time, he knows everything. He can look into Draco’s eyes and know what he’s thinking. He knows what it’s like to have his arms wrapped around Draco, head tucked under his chin. He knows that Draco likes his eggs sunny side up and his coffee much to strong to be good for him. He knows that to everyone else Draco carries no scent, but under the faint musk of sweat Remus smells something faintly metallic. He smells snow melting in spring, cold waters flowing and rippling around colder patches of ice with the promise of warmth to come.
But what good is an unspoken promise? What good is any promise at all?
Remus marks the passage of time with new scars and full moons. Life is a whirlwind of fighting and spying and Draco. His dreams are oddly disturbing and strangely realistic, full of far too many details. They leave him uneasy. Frightened. Something is drawing to a close. Something is ending. And he doesn’t know what, or who. He holds Draco tighter to him, keeps his wand closer, and pushes the wolf away relentlessly.
Sometimes he wonders what he would do if Draco were captured at one of the raids. Would he help Draco escape? Plead for leniency? Wish for something that never could be, and stand by? He imagines a dark hood thrown back, and an anguished scream. He is never sure if it is his or Draco’s.
Voldemort dies. Heart attack. Draco almost kills himself laughing.
Funny. Things don’t seem to have changed much. Everyone’s joy is tentative, half-hearted. Their faith is so weak. Faith in anything. Remus tries not to think of how many funerals he’s been to these past few years. How many curses he’s cast that have caused funerals. Some things are not meant to be dwelt on.
Draco shows up on Remus’ doorstep. In the morning this time. He doesn’t need any words, and neither does Remus. Draco steps inside awkwardly, his leg, or what’s left of it at least, making things difficult. Remus sets the crutches by the bedroom door, standing upright.
That night as Draco lies sprawled across him he finds himself again tracing the line of Draco’s neck. He knows what it means now. Maybe he always did, but now he can admit it to himself.
“You can, you know,” Draco murmurs. “You can.”
Remus pulls back Draco’s hair reverently, fingers sliding over Draco’s pulse, noting its sudden acceleration. Draco smiles tremulously.
“There won’t be any going back. Not after this.”
He knew that. He always knew there was no going back. He wouldn’t anyway. “I wouldn’t change one bit of you,” he says softly. He wouldn’t. Not Draco’s looks, not his scars, not even the Dark Mark on his arm. Draco is who he is and there is no changing that. Whoever heard of an apologetic dragon? Some things just aren’t meant to be. And some things... some things are.
It was that night a wolf was bonded to a dragon, a man to a man. There were few who accepted it, fewer still that understood it. There was nothing really to understand. It was two people who were meant for each other, even if the circumstances were far from perfect. It had nothing to do with what was right and wrong and everything to do with instinct. Need. And the nature of the beast.
Remus looks out the window. It seems as if the sky is finally becoming lighter.
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