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Chapter 2: 2.
All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams. — Elias Canetti
Harry doesn’t know why, but each night, after he goes through his normal routine and drifts off to sleep alone in his own bed, he wakes up in his dream with the burgundy sheets and Draco Malfoy.
After that first shock, Harry realizes that the whole thing doesn’t freak him out quite as much as it should. Maybe it’s because half of his life has been spent dealing with weird dreams, but he decides that if he’s going to have some crazy recurring dream, it’s probably better to walk it out and see where it leads. Besides, maybe if he does that, the whole thing will just go away.
The problem is that it’s not a recurring dream exactly. Each time he ends up there, things are a little different. Sometimes it’s Sunday and Draco is still asleep, nose pressed into Harry’s neck or his pillow, and other times, it’s Thursday and he’s in the kitchen or the bathroom, humming away annoyingly as he gets ready for work and Harry just wants to bury his head back into the pillow and go back to sleep. He usually gets up though, curiosity pulling him from the bed to hurriedly get dressed before Draco can see him -- though he realizes that if they’re sleeping in the same bed, Draco is probably okay with seeing Harry in his boxers by now.
Harry also realizes after a few more visits to the sort of… extended dream, that, wherever it is, Voldemort has never existed in this world.
The first thing that gives him an inkling of that is when Draco comes in from the bedroom while he’s cooking breakfast one morning, hair twisted haphazardly around his head from sleep and asks, “Did you want to go visit your dad anytime soon? It’s been a while since you’ve gone to see him.”
Harry nearly drops the frying pan on his foot in surprise. “My dad?”
Draco sighs. “I know sometimes things with you two are difficult, but your mum would have wanted you to — “
“Of course!” Harry says. “Of course I want to go visit him! I’ll go today.”
A dream where his parents are still alive. He had never even dared to consider the possibility before now. Harry decides that this almost cancels out the fact that he’s forced to wake up to a shirtless Malfoy every morning in his head.
Surprise colors Draco’s expression. “Well then. Okay.” He walks over to Harry then, tugging on the hem of the shirt he’s thrown on and hugging him from the side around his waist. Harry stiffens and Draco speaks into his shoulder, “It’s… good that you go. I know how hard it is sometimes.”
Harry is too preoccupied with trying to regain control of the frying pan without spilling all the eggs on the kitchen floor to notice the way that Draco presses his nose into his cheek, taking a deep breath. He’s done that a few times in his sleep before, so Harry doesn’t think much of it until Draco says his name softly into his jaw. Turning towards him, Harry can feel his eyes go as wide as saucers.
Draco’s face is so close that Harry can see the light from the kitchen lamp glinting off his blond eyelashes and each little freckle that dots his nose (Harry would never have thought that Draco Malfoy would have freckles) and before he can do anything besides stare, Draco is kissing him.
He knows his first reaction should be to push the other man away and wipe his mouth with his hand in disgust. But it’s been so long since he’s been this close to someone, not since Ginny, not even in his dreams until now, and although he thinks the idea of being kissed by another man should be revolting, it isn’t, not completely, and so Harry closes his eyes and lets it happen.
It isn’t… bad. Not like he would have thought it would be anyway.
But it doesn’t last long though, because after a few seconds Draco is pulling away and murmuring, “Good morning,” through a smile against Harry’s lips. Then he snatches up a piece of toast and goes to sit at the kitchen table to commune with the newspaper and Harry tells himself that he barely notices the way the material of Draco’s T-shirt stretches over his shoulders as he watches him walk away.
What the hell is this, he thinks, scraping his eggs onto a plate even though he knows they’re overcooked now and then Harry remembers that he actually hates eggs and sets the plate back down on the counter like it is infected with the viral plague.
Why is he even dreaming about this? And why hasn’t he run out the front door of their flat screaming yet?
He has obviously lost his mind.
He is getting dressed later that morning, digging through the mountain of clothes that fills his closet (their closet, he reminds himself, since more than half of the clothing in here belongs to Draco. Harry should have guessed that the other man would be a clotheshorse), and accidentally knocks a box down from the top shelf onto the floor. Someone, probably him, has stashed several newspaper clippings inside and they flutter through the air, scattering across the floor and Harry crouches down to pick them up. The headline of one of them catches his eye:
Potions Master Lily Potter Dies Tragically in Laboratory Accident
He pauses, scanning for a date on the paper and sees that it was printed only a few months ago. That is why Draco had asked if he wanted to go see his father, not his parents.
Looking at the date, he tries to remember what he had been doing then in the other world, if he had been at work or sitting at home by himself, or maybe even eating dinner with the Weasleys.
There’s a numbness, not in his skin but in his insides, in a way that Harry can’t describe, because he’s always known his mother was dead, and even if he had seen her here, it wouldn’t mean anything, it would have just been a dream.
But it’s his mother.
Harry reads the article quickly. Here, Lily Potter had been a Potions Master in charge of brewing all the potions used at St. Mungo’s and she was famous for the innovative medical potions that she herself had created during her tenure at the hospital. But things like that were dangerous and there had been an accident, something had gone wrong with one of her experiments, no one really knew what, and she had been killed in the explosion. The article says Lily is survived by her husband, James Potter, head of Magical Games and Sports, and son, Auror Harry Potter.
Harry takes one last long look at the picture next to the article of his mother, long hair pulled over her shoulder as she bends over a cauldron. Here, his mother had had a life, had had a job and a chance to grow up, but she was still gone.
Folding the clipping into a small square, Harry slips it into his pocket and closes the closet door.
The visit to his father’s is stilted and awkward and leaves a bad taste in Harry’s mouth.
James Potter has aged gracefully and his hair is the same jet back that Harry remembers seeing in all the pictures, but his skin has lost its youthful glow and there are tiny lines webbed around the corners of his eyes and mouth. Harry wonders which of those lines are from the death of his mother, from his first year at Hogwarts, from when he was born, and tries to imagine what it would have been like to see them all as they formed.
There is an awkward moment when the front door opens and Harry realizes he doesn’t know if he should hug his dad or — how didgrown-up sons greet their fathers anyway? Harry has no idea where to start.
In the end they shake hands and end up in the living room, Harry looking around, trying to drink in the house that he must have grown up in as his untouched tea goes cold in its cup.
His dad clears his throat and asks stiffly, “Are you still living with that Malfoy boy?”
“You mean Draco?” James’ face pinches as though Harry is correcting him instead of clarifying and Harry thinks it’s strange that he can’t remember the name of his own son’s boyfriend. As far as he knows, he and Draco have been an item for a year at least. “Yeah, I am.”
“Well. I want you to know that whenever you get over this… phase, you can come back and stay here at home.”
And that’s when Harry realizes: this is why Draco was surprised that he wanted to come and visit his father. Because things aren’t good between them and if Harry isn’t mistaken, it’s all because of his relationship with Draco.
“Phase?” he stutters, feeling a bit blindsided. It has never crossed his mind that he might not have gotten along with his dad if the other man had lived to see him grow up.
James ignores him, picking at the arm of his chair so that he doesn’t have to look Harry in the eye. “Your room is the same as when you left, you know. There’s still a chance to come back. It’s what your mother would have wanted.”
Harry has always thought if he ever got to see his dad, that everything would be perfect. That his mother would be there too, smiling and loving him, and then the picture he has in his head of what a family should be like would be complete.
It isn’t and Harry has no idea what to say.
No matter how much he might wish he knew his father, Harry has no idea how to be a son because he’s never had a chance to learn. Between them here is a whole life of choices and conversations and arguments that Harry has no memory of. The newspaper clipping of his mother’s obituary is burning a hole in his pocket.
Even so, he might not know much about this parent thing, but Harry finds it hard to believe that his mother would have wanted him to break up with his boyfriend and move back home at the age of twenty-five.
He stands up because for some reason, his mouth has decided to stop working, and his father sighs.
“Fine. It’s your life. Do what you want.”
Harry wonders how many times they have had this conversation before. How many times it has ended this way, with him leaving.
“Dad, I — “ His throat clogs a bit at the resigned look on his father’s face and he forces out, “I love you.”
James stares down at his hands sadly, his wedding band a glinting golden stripe on his left hand. “I know, son.”
Unable to make himself stay for another moment, Harry fumbles for his wand and Apparates home. He can hear Draco singing to himself obnoxiously from their bedroom as he sorts clothes for laundry and something inside him collapses. Throwing himself down on the sofa, Harry shoves his face into a cushion to muffle the sound and sobs like a child for hours.
The next evening, he and Draco are sitting in the living room together, Draco with a cup of tea and a large, Hermione-sized book and Harry with the day’s newspaper.
They haven’t said much about Harry’s crying fest the day before. Harry can’t remember the last time he cried before that — he has certainly never broken down to that extent ever before — but Draco had seemed to understand, retreating to their bedroom until lunchtime. Eventually, he had gone rummaging around in the kitchen and presented Harry with an obscenely large plate of biscuits and an ice pack for his face, because apparently no one wants a boyfriend with puffy Quasimodo eyes.
There is the clink of a china cup being set down and Draco says, “Maybe we should break up.”
Harry stares at him over the top of the newspaper, eyebrows raised. “What?”
“I know that we’ve been through this before, but I just… I don’t want you to regret deciding to be with me because of your father.”
And it shouldn’t matter. Harry doesn’t know Draco, not this Draco (because by now he’s beginning to come to terms with the fact that they are different people, quite literally worlds apart), but the Harry that he had taken the place of obviously cared enough about Draco to argue with his own father, to give up that relationship for this one. Earlier, at his dad’s house with everything he had always wanted in front of him, Harry had just assumed that the person he was here before had been too spoiled to know what he was giving up.
But now, the idea roars through him, and suddenly he is angry.
Choosing between the two was not something he should have ever been forced to do. If anyone was going to take the need to make the choice away from him, it should have been his father, his blood, and not some stranger, who had so obviously given Harry his heart, with no expectations or prerequisites. His dad, it seems, expects everything from him and it isn’t fair.
He has fought for this, and Harry has never fought for something that he thought he should be giving up.
“If you try to dump me for my own good, I promise I’ll take all your cashmere jumpers and shrink them in the wash.”
Draco’s eyes widen and he nearly yelps, “My cashmere ones?!”
“Yes, now don’t say such stupid things and drink your tea.”
This may have been a different world, this dream, but Harry was still Harry, and if he had thought something was worth fighting for before, then Harry was going to try and figure out why.
He’s still an Auror in this dream, but things are different in small ways. Everything seems… brighter, less dreary. There are no mentions of catching Death Eaters or Voldemort or any war after Grindelwald was defeated, and Harry will never, ever forget the complete conniption fit he had when he first heard the words ‘Minister Riddle’.
But Ron is here, and so is Hermione, and one day they both come into work and Hermione flashes her new engagement ring at him, grinning like a cat that’s caught the canary. Some things, he thinks happily, really never change.
As far as Harry can tell, Ginny was never in the picture for him here. Ron mentions her and her boyfriend, someone called ‘Mac’ that they were apparently in school with as he and Hermione chatter away happily about wedding plans, and Harry is glad, because that means there are no disappointments between them like there are back home. Here, he has Draco and Ginny has her ‘Mac’ and everything seems to fit so much better.
Before, Harry would never had said he was unhappy with his life, but now, faced with the possibility of this existence, he isn’t so sure.
A/N: And the plot thickens! Harry's father is still alive, but things aren't so great between them. What do you think of Harry choosing Draco over his dad? And Draco in general? Why is he like this?
Thanks a hundred thousand times to Melissa (witnesstoitall) for helping me with this idea and putting up with my babbles, and to my dear Rachel (tenthweasley) for being my beta, because without her everything would be awkward and badly spelled.
Disclaimer: The wonderful world of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. I own nothing you recognize.