Title: Back to Me
Series: Identity #3
Spoilers: BtVS series finale, ***HBP***
Summary: They know themselves now, they know each other, but do they know where they go from here? And will it be together?
Disclaimer: Nope, lookin’ at the wrong girl, I did nothing. Joss and JK Rowling did the characters and background plot, and Michelle Branch did the song, Find Your Way Back
~:I used to get away with so much
Now I can’t get away
I even thought that it was simple
To say the things I wanted to say:~
She’d been an ordinary little girl once, in her memories, the baby girl in the family in so many of her childhood memories. She’d been childish and spoiled at times, she’d broken rules and dreamed of breaking hearts the way her big sister had. She didn’t know how many of those memories were real, and had, months before, ceased caring.
She was not ordinary any more. Even in her network of family, friends, and acquaintances, which included slayers, witches and watchers, oh my, she wasn’t ordinary. She wasn’t little anymore. She wasn’t the baby. She might have lived a lot fewer years than she remembered living, but she’d actually lived enough to count. Enough to create a life and a home for herself at the new council headquarters where she’d set up a room she had actually decorated and didn’t just remember putting together when she hadn’t been real.
She’d hung the poster on the wall in an almost unobtrusive corner, small and insignificant to those who had entered her room over the last year. If any at all had noticed it they did so with a vague recollection that she had spent a few weeks in the city depicted, and thought no more about it. But the room's occupant had found herself thinking of it much more than any would suspect. The image on the poster itself was a view she didn't recall with any particular clarity, though she was sure she had seen it firsthand at some point during her stay, the memories triggered by the picture were different, yet intimately linked with the scene. Nearly every private thought that had drifted through Dawn Summers' head since she had returned to the council headquarters brought her back to the place named on that innocent poster. Antigua.
No overabundance of importance could be placed on the Guatemalan city, yet it wasn't so much Antigua itself that she held so close, but the person she had met there nine months before. She’d decided months before she’d gone to Antigua that she would create and store her experiences from that day on in order to make herself into her own version of Dawn Summers rather than exist as the girl the monks had made her with their false recollections. At the time she hadn’t realized what she was committing herself to. She hadn’t known who she’d be making herself into, because she hadn’t known what she’d experience, what memories she would be storing from which to build herself. She hadn’t known she’d meet him.
He was a memory she stored with the utmost care, the weeks they’d spent together experiences she’d savored using to form the Dawn Summers she was now, the Dawn Summers she had realized one day as she sat across from Draco that she truly wanted to be. She wanted to be the girl that had become his first friend, the girl that had shown him how to be happy and carefree, and more than just a friend.
She wanted to be the girl that he had written the letter to, she reminded herself as she looked down at the weathered pages. She did want to be that girl. But more than anything, she wanted to be the girl who hadn’t needed a letter because he’d needed to leave and couldn’t actually talk to her anymore. Still, nothing and no one would take that letter away from her, nothing and no one would take from her what that letter had done for her, what it meant to her.
He’d said a lot in that letter, including that she had made more of a difference than she knew. He’d said that he was different because of her. He’d told her that she was a rare person, that she was exactly who she should be, that she would be who she wanted to be, who she made herself, and that that would be more than enough. He’d said he would be who he wanted to be, and that because of her, he would be a better person than he’d once thought he could be. He’d said he was a friend, her friend; he was the person who would always remember her. He’d said he would miss her.
Sometimes she wrote him letters. She always wrote that she remembered him, that she missed him. Sometimes she saved the letters, telling herself that one day she would be able to give them to him. She always wondered where they would go if she could send them. She wondered where he was, how he was, if he knew she was here, missing him.
~:And you told me everything I wanted to hear
And you sold me
Now I don’t know how I should feel
I should know me
And baby, you would think I knew better:~
He could remember the way she’d looked the last time he’d seen her, with her hair fanning out around her pretty face as she’d slept, a tiny smile on her lips. He could remember the shade of her eyes and the tilt of her head when she laughed. He could remember the feel of her hand, as it gripped his, lightly, but surely, so surely, as they’d walked down the cobbled Guatemalan streets.
Grey eyes, a shade darker, bleaker, than he’d let her see, swept over the black robes, the silver mask, and the red, red blood at his feet. Draco let his eyes close and tried to remember the sound of her voice when she’d told him that he was a good person, a good friend. With the body crumpled on the dirty ground before him, the sound was difficult to recall. He hadn’t gone looking for this, if there were any part of his past he would actually try to find, it wouldn’t have been this. It would have been her. It would have been Dawn.
He’d thought about it of course, so many times over the last sixteen months, but he’d never allowed himself to go through with it. He breathed a sigh of relief. As much as he’d missed her, as much as he’d missed the way he’d felt, the person he’d been with her, he was glad he had never looked for her. If he had, if Dawn had been with him today…
The blond suppressed a shiver and lifted a hand to run through his white-blond locks, freezing as it got half way there, lowering it once more to his side at the sight of the blood slowly drying on his palm. There were still bits of dirt and bark in the cut there from when he had caught himself against the tree trunk after the curses had started flying at his head minutes before. It had only been minutes, he thought rather dazedly. All this time running and hiding and it had almost come to naught in a few minutes. If he’d been just a little slower getting out of the way, a little less accurate in returning fire, a little less lethal in the curses he’d flung… He’d come so close to dying, so close to being found.
He could have just run, he supposed, at least then there wouldn’t be a body at his feet and a hollow, sickly feeling in his gut. But if it hadn’t been today, it would have been another day that the figure before him would have caught up to him again. Once on his scent, the Death Eater now laying so still would have tracked and hunted until he’d been found again, especially without the head start he’d had last time. Of all the Death Eaters who could be on his tail, this one would have been one of the most relentless, he would know, they’d grown up together. At least now there was one less of them out there to cause the mayhem that came hand in hand with the robes and the mask. One less to come after him. Unless she’d been right.
A bloody hand rose once again, this time to rub absently at the inside of his left forearm as Draco stared down at the slack features of Pansy Parkinson and tried to remember the sound of Dawn’s voice as she’d told him that no matter what he had done, he was her friend.
~:I’m finding my way back to you
And everything I used to be
And waiting is all that I can do
Until you find your way back to me:~
“What exactly is it you’re looking for?”
Dawn shrugged as nonchalantly as possible at Willow’s question. “I just thought I’d get started on that database of contacts you and Giles were talking about. Compile some names and such,” blue eyes flitted around the library, not staying still long enough to meet the witch’s gaze.
The redhead smiled excitedly at the thought of showing the younger woman how to set up the database on the Council’s new computer system. “Oh well sure thing Dawnie, that sounds great. You can start right here…”
The brunette followed her sister’s friend further into the stacks, listening to Willow chatter on about all the places she could look for names and information to put in the database. It wasn’t long before she was combing through books and notebooks, and even a collection of paper scraps and dirty napkins that held names, numbers, and vague descriptions of the people and other creatures that made up a network of experts and informants. Some had been used in the past, some had been set aside for future use, and some had been mentioned on the off chance they might sometime be willing to talk first and maim latter.
It took days of searching and cross checking and several discrete phone calls and emails before she had the information she had been looking for. She wrote it on a small piece of notebook paper that she then folded into a tiny square and placed at the bottom of a stack of unsent letters in her bottom desk drawer. She kept working on the database, it really did need to get done, and she had nothing else to do. Except think about what she’d found. She would sometimes just sit at her desk and stare at the drawer, and what she knew was inside. A few times she got out the letters, and unfolded the paper underneath them. She’d memorized the information on it almost as soon as she’d written it down. But she looked at it anyway. She kept it anyway. And despite how badly she wanted to put what it said to use, she folded it back up, placed it in the drawer, piled the letters back on top, and closed the drawer.
He’d told her that it wasn’t safe for him to come with her. He’d said there were dangerous witches and wizards who were looking for him. He had left without giving her any clue about how to contact him and had made no effort to contact her. Dawn told herself it was because he thought the prospect too risky. And she made herself leave that folded paper in the drawer just in case. As badly as she wanted to contact him, as much as she wanted to hear his voice, if only through ink and paper, it wasn’t worth his getting found.
There had been nights, over the past year and a half that she had woken in the dark, her heart pounding in her chest and her breath caught painfully in her throat. She dreamed that he’d been caught, that he’d been killed, and she’d never see him again. She dreamed that they’d run into each other somewhere when she was out running errands for Giles and he didn’t even recognize her. She wasn’t sure which would hurt more. So she didn’t use the information she’d found, she never sent the letters, but she did write more. Dawn wrote so many that she had to move things from a second drawer in her desk to make room for them.
She wrote letters she would never send, and she wondered where he was, what Draco was doing. And she missed him.
~:What if I said what I was thinking?
What if that says too much?
When everybody’s got a reason
I feel like giving up:~
He held the paper in shaking hands, willing his eyes to focus on the words in front of him. He’d wanted to believe her, wanted so badly to believe what Pansy had told him, what she had screamed at him in accusation as she had thrown curse after curse. It had taken him two days to work past his fear and his hope enough to actually investigate her vicious claims, however. And now that he had, he didn’t quite know what to do.
It had been building in him for weeks, creeping up on him since she’d caught up to him. The fear that it was a trick to lure him out of hiding, the hope that it was real, the fear that it never would be, the hope for all that could be if it ever was. Her words had frozen him, had sucked all the breath from his lungs and nearly gotten him killed. He’d forced himself not to listen then, forced himself to hear only her curses and follow them back to her hiding place until he could get a clean shot at the girl he’d always been told was meant for him.
It hadn’t been Pansy he’d seen, though, once he’d taken that shot and taken out his one-time girlfriend. It had been Dawn he’d thought of as he’d stood above Pansy’s body. It was Dawn he thought of now as he held the paper in the shaft of weak sunlight that made it into the small room he’d rented. What would she think about what he’d done, what would she think about what he was contemplating doing now?
That uncertainty had festered in the back of his mind for much longer than the fear and the hope, though both emotions had been wrapped up in his indecision. Ever so carefully, he set the paper on the table next to him, struggling to keep his shaking hands from ripping it. His gaze moved from the black words on the white paper to the ghostly grey shape on his pale arm. He’d been asleep when it happened, holed up in some run of the mill Muggle hotel in Australia. At first he hadn’t been able to tell where the pain was coming from, it seemed to sear through every nerve and fiber of his body in a sudden excruciating fire that had torn him from a deep, if troubled, sleep.
After a few minutes, the agony had begun to ebb, retreating inch by inch until it had covered only a small section of his left arm. The inside of his left forearm, where his Dark Mark was. Where it had been. He could still see the ghostly image of it on his flesh, but he hadn’t quite decided if that was because some remnant of the design lingered, or if it was simply because he knew it had been there.
The words scrawled boldly across the front page of the Daily Prophet, where it lay on the small table beside him weren’t a ghostly image, though. Those words were dark and clear and burned brightly behind his eyelids as he let them fall shut on a wordless exclamation a mere instant before he came to his feet. There was no hesitation in his steps as he made his way around the room quickly, gathering up his belongings in record time, the young wizard paused only a moment to grab the paper on his way out. Draco only gained speed as he walked from the room, from the hotel. He couldn’t stay there another instant.
~:And you told me everything I wanted to hear
And you sold me
Now I don’t know how I should feel
I should know me
And baby you would think I knew better:~
His steps faltered as he climbed the stairs to the building’s double doors. What exactly was he doing there? Should he have come? Should he have sent a letter first? Should he have even known where to send a letter? But he did. He’d spent the last few months searching everywhere for the smallest hint of what and where this place was and how he could get there. All his efforts, all his determination changed nothing, though. It had been over nineteen months since he’d left Antigua, and her. Who was to say she would want to see him after so long without a word. Who was to say she’d remember him.
He let his eyes fall shut for a moment, taking a deep breath and holding it for a heartbeat before exhaling and opening his eyes once more. He stared up at the doors and told himself that however much had changed for her over all those months, nothing had changed for him, and whatever her reaction might be, he had to see her, if only once. He had to know that his first, his only, friend was okay. Considering the time and effort it had taken him to find the Watcher’s Council Headquarters, even knowing what Dawn had told him, he doubted that any Death Eaters would have gotten close enough to hurt her. It was doubtful that they would have even known to look. He and Dawn had only known each other for a few weeks over a year ago in another country and he was sure that if the Death Eaters had known about her, had gone after her, that Pansy would have used the information to taunt him when she had found him a few months before.
Pansy. His stomach churned inside him, black robes and red blood flashing before his mind’s eye. She’d been something to him once, and he’d killed her. He’d done a lot of things he wasn’t that proud of while on the run, though nothing close to what he’d done to Pansy. Still, the fact that he had done it couldn’t be ignored. And even if everything went exactly how he was hoping it would today, it couldn’t be forgotten. He’d have to tell her, if there was any hope of them getting to know each other more, of remaining… friends, he’d have to tell her. He had to hope that doing so wouldn’t change how she saw him.
He didn’t know if he could take it if she couldn’t even see him as a friend anymore. Knowing she thought he was worth something, that he was someone worth knowing was all that had gotten him through the nearly two years that had passed since he’d last seen her. If those months, what he’d done to survive, changed that he wasn’t sure he could face it. He also wasn’t sure he could face the rather intimidating figure currently standing in the suddenly open doorway in front of him. Well, he wasn’t sure he wanted to anyway. Despite being a rather petite young woman, the person staring down at him radiated a sense of menace he was all too familiar with from his time as a Death Eater. But he did want to see Dawn, and he wanted it badly enough to return the less than friendly expression currently being aimed his way.
Straightening his shoulders and trying not to look like a man who had spent the last few years on the run, he cleared his throat. “Excuse me, but I’m looking for Dawn Summers, is she here?”
The young woman didn’t say anything for a few tense seconds, then she narrowed her eyes further and looked him up and down. “Why? Who are you?”
He resisted the urge to run his hands through his now shaggy white blond locks. “I’d like to speak with her if I could. Will you please tell her that Draco Malfoy is here to see her? She’ll know who I am.”
At least he hoped she still would. He did his best to not show his doubts though, instead trying to look calm and unconcerned, and above all, unthreatening. Dawn hadn’t said much about the people she worked with, but she had said that they could probably protect him against the wizards after him when she’d tried to convince him to come back with her before she’d left Guatemala. And that in and of itself gave him pause and made him wonder what the girl in front of him would do if she thought he was a danger to her or anyone in the Council. As it was, however, she did little but continue to stare at him before half turning away when someone walked through the hall behind her. Her eyes remained on him as she spoke to the other girl he could just barely make out behind her.
“Hey, get Dawn, will you?”
Draco didn’t hear the other girl’s response, but it didn’t really matter, all he could think was that he had found her. He was at the right place. She was here. He was going to see Dawn again.
The thoughts had barely made their way through his brain when she was standing there, dressed casually in a pair of jeans and a jumper, her hair bouncing across her shoulders as she looked at the girl in the doorway with a question on her face. “What’s up?”
“You’ve got a visitor,” the girl said as she inclined her head in his direction. Dawn glanced over in response, a mildly interested look on her face until she seemed to freeze, her blue eyes widening in recognition.
His lungs seemed to seize up in his chest as he stared back at her, waiting to see how she would respond to his sudden presence. Sure, she seemed to remember him, but did she still remember him fondly, would she want to see him again? The questions spun round and round in his head, threatening to make him dizzy, unless that was the lack of oxygen as he still hadn’t taken a breath since she’d appeared.
The blond didn’t have the time to contemplate the possibilities any further as all of a sudden he was entirely too busy keeping himself upright as Dawn rushed through the door and threw her arms around his neck. The exclamation of his name was still echoing in his ears as he returned the embrace, pulling her tightly against him, whispering her name into her hair.
~:I’m finding my way back to you
And everything I used to be
And waiting is all that I can do
Until you find your way back to me:~
“You’re really here.” Dawn wasn’t sure how many times she’d said it, but she couldn’t help repeating herself yet again when she’d finally stepped back far enough to look into the face she hadn’t thought to ever see again, especially on the front steps of the Council Headquarters. She took advantage of the view for a few more moments before trying to say anything more intelligent. “How’d you get here? What are you doing here? Are you okay? Do you need help? Are-”
Despite being overwhelmed by the sight of her mere inches before him, Draco couldn’t help but laugh at the words tripping over themselves to get out of her mouth. It had been a long time since he’d laughed. About as long as it had been since he’d seen her. Since he’d felt her. And thankfully he could still feel her now, as she’d stepped back only far enough to meet his eyes and not far enough to break their embrace.
He raised a hand to brush the errant strands from her face before a sudden vision of that same hand covered in Pansy’s blood flashed through him. He halted the motion, reaching into his pocket instead and handing her the crumpled and worn parchment he’d been carrying with him since the day he’d found it. Dawn cut off her questions and reluctantly released her hold on his neck to unfold the sheet of newspaper. It took her a moment to make out the faded print, another to process what it meant.
Wizarding World Free of Dark Taint At Last!
The dark lord, though the article called him He Who Must Not Be Named, had been dead for months, and shortly thereafter, all the known Death Eaters had been captured, or their bodies found. It said so right there in the article. Everyone he’d been running from was dead or in custody. He was safe. And he was here. Draco had come here, he’d said he’d look for her when it was safe, and he had. He’d found her, and he’d come.
Dawn barely managed to not tear the news page into multiple pieces as she leapt forward once more, throwing her arms back around him and hugging him even tighter than she had before.
The words were whispered into his neck, muffled against his skin in a puff of warm breath that sent shivers down his spine, but he couldn’t quite feel the emotion he heard in her voice. For all that she had reacted to his appearance better than he could have hoped, he didn’t know for sure that he was as welcome in her life as he had spent all those months wishing he would be. And he wouldn’t know until she did, until she knew what he’d done in those months.
His arms literally ached as he reached behind his neck to grasp hers and pull them from around him, his chest becoming heavy as he forced himself to take the breath necessary to form words he didn’t want to say.
“I wasn’t a few months ago. When she found me.” Draco took her hand in his, re-opening the parchment so that the list of names at the end of the article was visible. There were two columns, those who had been caught, and those found to be killed. His free hand pointed a finger at the last name in the second column. “We grew up together. We even dated for a while,” he added with a voice that could have been considered wry if not for the lack of any emotion.
“She found me. We fought.” Grey eyes, more shadowed than she remembered, met glassy blue as she searched his face for an answer as to what exactly he was trying to tell her and why it was so important for her to know right that minute when all she wanted to do was hold him, to prove to herself that he was there with her and that he was all right. Only he wasn’t all right. Not really, she thought as she held his gaze.
“And you survived.” She placed the hand not still holding the parchment with him on his lips as he began to respond. “You survived, and you came back to me.”
Neither said a word for several long moments, though they didn’t find her words the least bit out of place considering the short period they had known each other almost two years before, or the fact that they had parted without acknowledging more than friendship having formed in those short weeks. It didn’t feel odd or overly dramatic to either of them, both having felt like the last nineteen months had been nothing except the time they’d had to get through until they could see each other again, until they could feel the friendship and closeness they had developed so unexpectedly in the streets of Antigua. Until they could move even further, even closer. They’d known then that their time was limited so they’d contented themselves with the friendship they’d had time to nurture, but now there was no limit. Now they could be friends, and more. Now he could do what he’d dreamed about so many times as he’d hidden and ran for his life. So he did.
Draco Malfoy held her open, accepting gaze for another heartbeat before he pulled his first real friend back against him and met her lips for the first time, Dawn let her eyes fall shut and returned the kiss with every ounce of worry and hope that had filled her as she’d worked and searched and waited for almost two years. And for the first time in all that time, she didn’t see those distant weeks in Antigua behind her lids as she had since they’d parted. She didn’t see the memories she’d held to so tightly. Instead Dawn held Draco to her and she saw the future.
~:Until you find your way back to me:~