What are you doing, my love?
Innocuous. Or so the scent of rose seems. So seems the small tube of lipstick the solicitor for Fleamont’s Fabulous Face forgot in Harry’s office—after some meeting; so seems the late night fire calls.
Until, suddenly, they aren’t harmless...
Pale fingers drop the rose-scented paper, sealed with a mark of a kiss in the same shade of mauve Lavender Brown wears when Draco catches sight of her at the offices, In her neat script she mentions a rendezvous, and Draco’s stomach plummets with the parchment. Down, down Draco follows, winding her fingers through her hair while a scream surrounds her body. She wonders, vaguely, who could be screaming. Not realising it’s herself.
Fuck , it hurts.
Remembering the way she smiles and speaks to Draco when she happens by the office with lunch. The way she ’s kind, but now her smiles and voice are sinister in Draco’s memory. Mocking .
Worse, she knows her face, her voice—the way she speaks Harry’s name—and Draco imagines them . In that office that she perfectly recreates in her mind—from the small crack in the right corner’s plaster to the sun-faded spot on the carpet beneath Harry’s large window, down to the scent of well-oiled leather and lemon-oiled furniture. Did he have her over the desk? Did her short, square, pale-pink nails drag marks into the wood? Did she scream his name while the small picture of Draco looped through, grinning as Harry made his vow of forever before their friends? Did he come inside her , as he always did with Draco? Did he sloppily suck at her neck, panting that he loved her ? Did he stay in her until he grew soft?
Another scream tears its way out of her throat as Draco grabs a decorative glass ball from off one of the tables, launching it at the wall. It relieves some of the pain, so she grabs something else, then something else, throwing things until their living room is ravaged by rage.
It hurts. It hurts. It hurts.
She wonders if this is what it means to have your heart shattered.
So what are you gonna say at my funeral,
Now that you’ve killed me?
Here lies the body of the love of my life,
Whose heart I broke without a gun to my head.
Here lies the mother of my children...
“Mummy,” Echo’s voice comes like a cool spring, calming the fire that burns beneath Draco’s skin, leaving her exhausted and a mess of defeat. “Mummy, are you all right?” Strawberry blonde hair bounces around her as she comes into the room; her nanny, old Mrs Figg, follows behind the child with concern written into the deep lines of her face. Draco pays little mind to the old woman, opening her arms for her daughter to rush into.
“Mummy is fine, my love,” she lies, swallowing down the thickness of tears in her throat. She cups chubby, four-year-old cheeks, staring into the eyes that are a mirror of Harry’s—deeper green than emeralds, and no less dazzling. Draco has to look away, hurt by the traces of Harry she finds in their child. “Where is Scorpius,” she asks Mrs Figg as she looks up from Echo’s face.
“Sleeping, my lady,” Mrs Figg replies. “The park took all his energy.”
“We should go to the park every day, then.” Draco tries for light and happy, but only Echo believes the farce.
Draco swipes colour onto her lips, puts on a new dress, and gives her hair a soft curl before she sits at the dining table, waiting for Harry to come home. The children have eaten, both of them in bed for hours by the time Harry returns. The candles on the table have burned down to near stubs, crimson wax drips over the silver of the candelabras, but Draco doesn’t scream. She’s done enough of that for one day. There is nothing left to give.
“I didn’t realise it was so late,” Harry comments as he takes a seat, but Draco gives him silence as a reply. Simply pours herself another glass of wine—her third—and watches him as he places his napkin into his lap. “I had a long meeting with the head of advertisement about the accusations of sexual misconduct made against him by one of the interns.” Draco doesn’t respond even as Harry pauses for her to interject. He glances up, but goes back to his lamb without commenting on her unusual silence, “We’re going to brush it under the rug, of course. Or so Fleamont will expect. I think my grandfather is having an affair with one of the Wizengamot’s wives. So I’m sure Marcus is using that as leverage to be helped out of this situation. Bloody politics.”
Draco remains blank-faced.
A deep sigh makes its way out of Harry’s strong throat, “What have I done now?”
“Nothing,” Draco replies. Everything, she thinks.
Pushing away from the table, Draco stands, leaving her own dinner untouched before bidding her husband goodnight. She half hopes he chokes on his pudding.
God was in the room
When the man said to the woman,
“I love you so much.
Wrap your legs around me.
Pull me in,
Pull me in,
Pull me in.”
When he’d have her nipple in his mouth,
“Oh, my God.”
That, too, is a form of worship.
Draco glances up when Pansy’s voice comes sharp—as if she’s spent some time calling Draco’s name. “Hmmm,” she says, confusion furling her brow. “What did you say?”
Pansy sucks her teeth, and Draco can see that she wants to reach across the table to wrap her fingers around Draco’s throat. She’d let Pansy. Hell, she’d probably laugh as she died, but Pansy disappoints Draco by not giving in to the urge. “I said.” Pansy hisses instead, nostrils flaring in rage before she continues, “Malcolm has been hinting at divorce.”
“How does one hint at divorce?” Draco wonders as she flags down the waiter to order a neat scotch. Pansy is watching her with something else—a thoughtful moue rather than an irritated one—after the waiter hurries to do as requested. The anger has left Pansy’s clear blue eyes; in its stead is a strange consideration. “What,” Draco asks, her tone a bit defensive. She doesn’t like being observed as if she’s some animal to be studied.
“You haven’t had a drink in ages. You went and got boring after Potter put his brats in you,” Pansy reminds, with her ever-present disdain for breeding.
“Those brats aren’t just his,” Draco replies with a note of warning. One Pansy rarely heeds whenever Draco uses that voice.
“Yeah, well, can’t help that you have horrible taste in men.” The words sting, salt against a fresh wound, and Draco flinches.
Instead of defending Harry, Draco sniffs. “Look who’s talking. Your husband is hinting at divorce.”
She feels a bit guilty when Pansy’s face crumples. “He’s having it on with his assistant. I just know it,” she half-wails, and Draco hastily throws up a silencing charm so as not to be overheard by the gossips of Morganna’s Magical Teas—this tea room is home to the most unpleasant snakes of their circle, after all. It’ll be in the society pages if they aren’t careful. The vultures love nothing more than a scandal that isn’t their own. “The fucking tart drapes herself all over him even when I’m there, and it’s ruddy humiliating.”
Draco understands that humiliation. “He shouldn’t let her,” Draco reminds Pansy. Poor girl isn’t the only one in the wrong if Malcolm is having it on with his employee. It’s also Malcolm’s fault for being an absolute shit by not remaining faithful to Pansy.
“Easy for you to say,” Pansy sneers, taking some of Draco’s sympathy. “You’re over there looking like that after two fucking kids, and I’m over here, same as I’ve always been...dumpy, spotty, a fucking consolation prize instead of a trophy wife.”
Draco hardly registers that the waiter has returned with her drink, she just stares at Pansy in disbelief. “What makes you think that I’m so perfect that I can keep my husband’s attention?” She doesn’t throw her drink, even though the desire is strong. Draco wishes she could be one of those chavvy tarts that live in those dingy flats off Knockturn—hollering at their men in their skimpy shirts while throwing his shit out the window as he runs up the cobbled road without trainers. She wants the freedom to make a scene, but she can’t...she would see herself divorced, sued, and humiliated further if she made such a mistake. As a result, Draco sits, on the verge of tears—unable to cry. “What makes you think—” Her tone is slow, careful, so full of emotion. “That beauty will save me from being hurt like you?”
“Draco, love, I didn’t mean it; Potter’s just so good to you. I’m jealous,” Pansy huffs, a despondent expression on her face. “I want a man to love me the way Potter loves you.”
A hysterical laugh bubbles out of Draco’s throat, startling Pansy. “No, you don’t,” Draco promises, her voice cracking. “All he’d do is break your fucking heart.” Before Pansy can ask, Draco sneers. “He’s fucking that solicitor—the one who likes to take lunch with me, the one who likes to ask me about relationship advice. I’m so stupid.”
“I’ll fucking kill her,” Pansy hisses, reaching across the table to take hold of Draco’s trembling hand. “Then I’ll fucking serve her to him on a silver dish.” It’s a comfort to know that Pansy cares so much. Draco gives her a watery smile, squeezing her fingers.
“You’re lovely. Malcolm—if he’s stupid enough to cheat on you—doesn’t deserve you.” Draco grabs her drink to down it in a single gulp. Enjoying the sting as it slides down her throat, to warm her belly.
“And Potter doesn’t deserve you,” Pansy declares fiercely as she downs her own drink—a dry martini.
“I recall you saying that at my wedding,” Draco teases, only to help lighten the mood.
“Yeah, well. I still stand by it. Fucking bellend.” She huffs, settling back, “You know for sure? You’ve got proof?”
Draco does have proof, and doesn’t want to talk about it. Still, she shrugs, muttering, “I guess. I found photographs, a letter...her scent on everything.” It brings panic, that stifling smother of roses—suffocating her, burning her lungs as she tries to force it out of her.
“Fucking bitch,” Pansy hisses, causing Draco to huff out a deprecating laugh.
“She’s not all that bad, unfortunately. I want to hate her...but it’s not all her. I should hate him, too. Maybe more, because he’s the one who broke his promise to me.” A promise he made in Saint Mary Di Rosa’s Cathedral—at the northernmost point of Diagon Alley—a promise God witnessed. A promise that lit Draco’s mother’s face with a hope Draco never thought she would see. A belief in real love. One Harry made everyone—Draco included—believe.
“Yeah, well,” Pansy mutters darkly, drawing Draco’s attention back to the present. “She knew better, too. A friend doesn’t fuck your husband.” She signals for the waiter to bring more drinks. “If they wanted to have a go of it, he should’ve left you first.”
Draco doesn’t argue. How can she? It’s true. He should have left first, but somehow that hurts more—thinking that there could be a woman worth being left for. She accepts another neat scotch from the waiter, and doesn’t argue when Pansy demands he keep them coming.
It’ll be nice to be drunkenly oblivious, for once.
When she’s stumbling with Pansy up Diagon Alley, giggling like a schoolgirl, she spots Twilfit and Tattings. The sight of the marquee causes her to burst into uncontrollable sobs. Everywhere she looks, she sees Harry. Who was she before him? Who will she be after?
Pansy, dear that she is, stands awkwardly while trying to console her, but Draco is inconsolable.
It’s such a small thing, but that shop is where a lot of their beginnings happened—hers and Harry’s. Their first trip to get school robes with Harry’s godfather—because James often worked—and Draco’s mum. They’d fought about who looked more ridiculous in the school hats, the ones they never wore after the first night at school. It was where they went to find robes for the time when Harry’s grandfather merged his company with another beauty conglomerate. The place they went to when they were both thirteen, and were forced to look smart. It was where Draco stepped out—onto the raised platform, dressed in one of their formal gowns to sample for their Fifth Year Yule Ball—and took Harry’s breath away. He’d seen her in a gown before, certainly. At their first Yule Ball in Fourth Year, at the many summer and winter parties her mother or Sirius threw, but she’d become womanlike at fifteen. Having gone through a more noticeable change over the summer, and Harry had noticed. His eyes had gone wide behind his glasses had gone wide as they swept over her body dressed in pale blue satin. “Shit,” his voice had been hardly a whisper. “You’re beautiful.”
“You have to say that,” she’d teased, trying to tame the fuzzy warmth blooming in her stomach. He had to, didn’t he; they were so close, he had to be the one boy who complimented her, especially since boys were not ones for giving Draco compliments at that time.
“No, I really don’t,” Harry reminded her with a derisive snort. “I mean it, Draco. You’re beautiful.”
“Maybe you should take me as your date, then,” she’d responded, off the cuff, and he’d shrugged.
“Maybe I will.”
He had. Then, at the end of their ball, they’d got handsy in the Astronomy Tower while Slughorn chased several other students out of the hedges in the gardens.
Twilfit was also where she had her gown made—the gown that had put tears into Harry’s eyes as he watched her glide down the aisle of the church towards him. The gown she wore as he made her his wife. The gown he rucked up to her hips when they stole away to a private corner during the reception. The gown her mother has preserved, in a giant shadow box, displayed in the ostentatious closet of her London townhouse.
“I love him so much,” Draco confesses, feeling stupid for loving him still. Loving him so much it hurts. “Why, why can’t I stop?”
“Come on,” Pansy soothes. “Let’s go home, have a cry, and tomorrow we will sort out what to do.” She clings to Pansy’s thick upper arms, burrows her nose in the warm crook of her neck—ever grateful to have such a friend.
Only, by the time they get back to Pansy’s private flat—the one she goes to when Malcom is being a shit—Harry is waiting for them with an annoyed frown. “What the hell, Draco?” He demands, but she doesn’t want to talk about the poison of betrayal that’s coursing through her. She wants to feel Harry, even through this vise of pain.
“Take me home,” she begs, pressing against him, giving Harry the clues to know her intent.
Harry does as she requests. His eyes, so green, sparkle with awe before they Disapparate, and—for a moment—he’s that boy again. The one who used to watch her with wonder, as if he couldn’t believe she would bless him with the right to touch her. The Harry who used to make her feel magical.
In their bedroom, Draco knocks him to the rug, straddling Harry’s lap while she works the zip of his trousers. “Draco,” he tries, urging her to slow down. But she doesn’t want to. Draco needs Harry in her. She needs to feel the way she did days ago, weeks ago—a lifetime ago. She wants to remember the love he killed.
His cock burns her with a stretch she hasn’t felt in months. One she’s denied since she discovered the letter. Before the letter, too, while she lived through another anguish. “Oh, God,” she cries, actual tears dripping down her cheeks as she feels Harry inside her. It’s a homecoming she didn’t know she needed. But even that feels wrong. Like she doesn’t belong here anymore. Draco fucks through it, doesn’t care to examine her grief as Harry rubs her clit the way she once loved.
“Draco,” Harry breathes against her throat. “Draco,” his tongue mapping her skin. “I love you so much.”
That’s when she comes.
If it’s what you truly want...
I can wear her skin over mine.
Her hair over mine.
Her hands as gloves.
Her teeth as confetti.
Her scalp, a cap.
Her sternum, my bedazzled cane.
We can pose for a photograph,
All three of us.
You and your perfect girl.
She wakes beside Harry. Who is still nude beneath the dark grey duvet, his breathing even as if all is right in the world. As if the world isn’t breaking. A Minute Owl flutters in with a letter. One that has that sickly sweet scent of rose clinging to the parchment. Draco gags, anxiety upsetting her stomach. Dread fills her veins even as she accepts the mail. Her fingers tremble while she opens the tightly rolled scroll.
I missed you last night.
“Draco.” Harry’s voice calls to her, worry in his tone, and she realises she’s gasped—a pained sound escaping her. When she turns to him, Draco’s vision swims from her tears. His face—his rich golden skin—goes white when he sees what she’s clutching. “Draco,” and now her name, on his tongue, sounds panicked. “Draco, wait.”
She throws the parchment at him, not finding any humour in how it bounces off his face, “Did you fuck her?” He stands silent, chewing his lip—a lip she once licked with relish—with eyes that are glassy with turmoil. “Don’t you dare act sad about this,” she screams, offended that he can dare to act pained by his betrayal. “Don’t you stand there and look at me like this hurts you, too.” Harry stands there, naked, beautiful, silent. “Did you fuck her?” Draco asks again, her words hardly a whisper.
“Yes,” Harry breathes, his words heavy yet relieved like a sinner bringing his confession to a priest.
Draco crumples onto the carpet. Clutching her hair, a silent scream clogging her throat, while tears and snot stream down her face. “Get out,” the words are hoarse, pained. “Get out.”
“Draco, no, I—” Harry tries to plead, but she slaps him when he kneels beside her. Draco’s palm stings, and his cheek glows from the force of the smack.
“Get out,” she says, firmly. “If you don’t, I will.”
“It didn’t mean anything to me,” he tries again. Crying as well. Begging as she’s never seen him beg.
“It means something to me,” she hisses, extracting her hand from where he’s grabbed it with both of his own.
He tries to pull her close but she shoves him away. “Go. Now.”
She’s sitting, staring at the long mirror in her room, watching her face. Searching for what she’s lacking. What would make her the woman he sought? Should I change my hair? My smile? My nose? My breasts? What am I missing? What made her better?
Draco claws at the image of herself, smearing fingerprints over the glossy surface and distorting the image.
I don’t know when love became elusive
What I know is, no one I know has it.
My father’s arms around my mother’s neck,
Fruit too ripe to eat.
I think of lovers as trees...
Growing to and from one another.
Searching for the same light
Mother comes when Mrs Figg sends her an Owl, calling on her to console Draco. Draco, who is still sat in the middle of her bedroom floor, weeping like a hopeless spectre. A woman in white, a creature who has turned into something less pure by the disloyalty of her lover.
The light goes out of Mother’s grey eyes. The sparkle of belief—the twinkle of joy, relief—that Draco had found what Narcissa failed to capture: love, in its purest form. An unwavering devotion from a husband. The elusive fable in their circle of women who married for duty, cold husbands who played at passion long enough to beget heirs.
Harry was supposed to be different.
“Come, love,” Mother whispers into her hair, consoling her the way Draco consoles Echo when she scabs her delicate knees. “Let Mummy kiss it better,” she murmurs, patting Draco’s back. “It will be fine, you will see.”
“Liar,” Draco sobs, clinging to her mother’s silken blouse. Breathing in the comforting scent of bergamot orange, jasmine, musk, orris root, lemon—scents that smell of safety, of childhood and home .
A few minutes later, Draco finds herself in the deep bath, her mother rubbing a loofa over the knobs of her spine, soothing the anxiety in that magical way that only mothers can. Mother doesn’t speak, but something in her silence bids Draco tell her what happened. Unburdening her soul, Draco pours all of her heart out into the silence between them. All the while, bits of honeysuckle float about the milky water, clinging to her knees in patterns that Mad Professor Trelawney would say predict death. Perhaps I’ve already died, and am nothing more than a moving corpse.
“Have you asked him why?” Mother enquires when tranquillity stretches into tension and the water runs cold.
“Does the why matter?” Draco mutters, pushing wet, wilted petals onto the walls of the tub. Smashing them against the slick side.
“No,” Mother replies. Then, less than a beat later, “Yes.” When Draco turns her face up—to look at the woman who gave her her face, her arched brow, her straight spine—she feels betrayed. Until Mother adds, “If you want to fight for it, then the why matters.”
Draco’s not sure about that logic. Mother seems to sense her unwillingness, for she adds, “Harry is the one man I would not expect an affair from. And I truly believe men are rubbish, darling. My father, your father... every cousin, uncle, grandfather, and lover I’ve known has been a snake with a silver tongue.” She smooths her soft hands over Draco’s cheeks. “Not Harry, love. Everything he did was clumsy and sincere.”
“Does that mean I did this?” Draco worries her lip with her teeth.
“No,” Mother’s tone is stern. “In the end, my love, it was still his choice.”
They sit like that for a while, Mother refills the bath twice, to warm Draco’s shivering form. Honeysuckle and lemon drown out the scent of roses that still tries to fill up her lungs. It’s silent; Mrs Figg has the children out at the park again, making Draco feel like a shit of a mother. “Grieve,” Mother commands. “Grieve as you cannot before the children.” So she does. Crying again when her mother pours more water over her back in a soothing way.
“Your father almost fooled me.” Mother starts the story as she always has: the tale of love turned sour. The story of Lucius Malfoy with his charming smile, soothing voice, and refined lineage. All things Mother’s parents convinced her she wanted. Draco’s father was—is—a legendary man. One who is hailed as a great businessman, a great lover, a lavish spender. Lucius is exceptional at everything except when it comes to being a husband and a father. “He had that way about him, you know,” Mother sighs, wistful as she remembers. “He walked into rooms and commanded attention. I was proud to call him mine.” A rueful expression comes over her still-beautiful face, “Proud, until I caught him with his Muggleborn assistant. The one he often called dumpy, dull, a nuisance. I always found that amusing... later, of course. Funny that he chose lovers who were feeble of face, muddy of lineage—women who made him feel all the more extraordinary.” Her chuckle is bitter. “I was too much for him. I made him feel plain , and for a long time I thought if only I were less myself .”
Draco tries to convey that her mother should never have to lessen herself, but she doesn’t have to say a word. Somehow, Mother knows. “Do not worry, love,” she smiles, pressing her forehead to Draco’s. “I know only weak men use women to feel better about themselves. Thin confidence is what Lucius was, transparent if only I had been looking.”
Finally, when Draco rises from the water, washed of the majority of her grief, her mother wraps her in a fluffy towel. She leads Draco to the vanity. There, they set her hair, curling it so that the silver-blonde of it falls into waves after the comb is pulled through the strands. “What do you see?” Mother asks.
“A broken woman.”
“A woman who will rise again,” Mother corrects.
You find the black tube inside her beauty case
Where she keeps your father’s old prison letters.
You desperately want to look like her.
You look nothing like your mother.
You look everything like your mother.
Film star beauty.
Draco is staring at one of Harry’s endless letters to her. There’s a short mountain of them, toppling off the small table she keeps by the velvet chaise in their library. His family crest is stamped into the charcoal wax of unbroken seals, and she is curious to know if he’s having his assistant send them. She wonders who knows of this travesty.
I miss you.
She sighs. Draco misses him, too, but she’s not sure she will ever be able to forgive him. The thought of his face hurts. His eyes—she remembers them gazing at her with soft devotion, and the thought of those eyes looking at another with such reverence is a slow, poisonous death. Draco is dying apart from Harry, but knows it will hurt more to be with him.
“Mummy,” Echo’s standing in the open arch of the library, clutching at the stuffed owl Harry insisted on buying the moment he knew a child was growing in Draco’s womb. “When is Daddy coming home?”
“Soon,” Draco lies, smiling as gently as she can to her child, hoping Echo finds peace in the expression. “He’s doing work for your great-grandfather and the talks are long, tedious things.”
“Does he miss me?” Her pale lip trembles as she climbs into the lap of her mother, clutching at the thin silk of Draco’s nightdress.
“Of course, my love. Of course Daddy misses you.” Draco kisses her strawberry blonde hair, humming a lullaby against her.
“I hope he comes home soon,” Echo murmurs, twirling a bit of Draco’s hair around her finger—a habit she’s had since she was a little over one.
Draco isn’t lying when she murmurs, “I do too.” However, her meaning is far different from Echo’s. Draco wants Harry to come back to himself, wants him to be the place she can call home again.
It’s late when the Floo chimes, and Draco startles at the sudden appearance of Sirius when he steps from the flames. “Sirius,” she sniffs, annoyed at the intrusion.
“Is it true?” He doesn’t play at his usual guessing game, the one where he makes you try to puzzle out the reason for his visit, all while wearing an impish grin. He has a hard, earnest expression on his face, and she’s never seen him appear so furious.
“Is what true,” because she cannot know what he has heard.
“Did Harry cheat on you?” His lips pull thin over his sharp teeth, exposing his pink gums— making him appear frightening and feral, like a wolf.
“Yes,” she shrugs, trying for nonchalance. Trying for anything to calm the scorch of his fury.
“I will bury his bones beneath the Black Lake,” Sirius snarls. Draco catches him by the wrist, stopping him before he can do something foolish, something that will send him back to prison.
“Don’t. Please,” she begs, quiet and demure. When he seems as if he doesn’t want to listen, she adds, “For the love of my mother, don’t do something rash again. Please.” He softens a bit in her hold and turns to her with pained, grey eyes.
“You look just like she did then,” Sirius murmurs, drawing her closer to hug her and pat her hair. “I would do anything to ease her suffering, and I would do the same for you.”
“She lived, and so will I,” Draco reminds, closing her eyes while he sways with her to a silent, miserable tune. “You saved her, and she’s saving me.” Draco thinks of the old, worn letters her mother keeps in her bedside cabinet. Letters from Azkaban—letters from Sirius—letters that still put a secret sparkle in Mother’s grey eyes. He’d spent four years in Azkaban for torturing Lucius with an Unforgivable, and had he not been a man of privilege he’d have spent his life writing passionate letters to Narcissa from behind Azkaban’s high, mouldy stone walls.
“If you ever decide that he should suffer, I will gladly go back to that cell for you,” Sirius tells her. His fierce loyalty is appreciated.
“Thank you, Dad,” she murmurs and his grip around her grows tighter. She doesn’t look, but Draco thinks she feels Sirius sob.
How to wear your mother’s lipstick.
You go to the bathroom to apply your mother’s lipstick.
Somewhere no one can find you.
You must wear it like she wears disappointment on her face.
Your mother is a woman
And women like her cannot be contained.
Draco puts the crimson to her lips, watching as it smoothes over the flesh—hiding the deadened colour that lives in her smile. Understands true magic as it puts life back into her, making her feel like a woman again. It has been ten days. Harry’s letters still come, never lessening, but they grow increasingly hopeless. In her gut something twists victoriously, and yet she feels miserable all the same. It’s an empty moment of triumph. One she doesn’t relish, but Draco still needs to hurt him all the same.
The walls of this large home feel like a small cage, one that is growing smaller by the hour. I need away.
Mrs Figg watches her with that sad expression, the one that speaks volumes of memories she’s never shared. Draco tries not to guess at the life Mrs Figg had before Harry’s father scooped her off the streets to nanny after Lily’s death. She’s a Squib—magicless, yet trapped in a magical world—and was once married to a prominent Wizard. A Wizard who left her for a magical woman when the time for an heir came. Squibs birth Squibs —or so the old saying goes— pitiful little Muggle-like children who know of magic and can never summon the power. Old horrible fables tell of how Squibs are Wizards reborn in punishment, and that they only bring curses to their children. The stigma runs deep. Before Mrs Figg, it was a stigma Draco’s own mother believed. Squibs can never have children, they are damaged wombs and seed . Yet here she stands, having raised one child and helping to raise two more.
All mothers feel grief, Draco thinks as she gives Mrs Figg a reassuring, yet watery smile. “I shall return soon.”
Mother dearest, let me inherit the earth.
Teach me how to make him beg.
Let me make up for the years he made you wait
Did he bend your reflection?
Did he make you forget your own name?
Did he convince you he was a god?
Did you get on your knees daily?
Do his eyes close like doors?
Are you a slave to the back of his head?
Am I talking about your husband or your father?
The lights are red over the surface of this ancient den of ill-repute. Draco stares up at the face of the majestic Moulin Rouge, as Parisian Wizards move past her without making eye contact. She pays them no mind, not caring in the least about their business in the 18th Wizarding Arrondissement of Paris. She’s heard a rumour that there is a cabaret just like this one in the Muggle realm of the 18th Arrondissement, but Draco has never sought the realm beyond her own. Has no need to now, when the man she seeks wouldn’t be caught dead in the Muggle world.
The gentleman at the door does not look at her face as she enters this world beyond her imagination.
There have been a great many schoolboy tales that she’s heard, through the years, about the Moulin Rouge of Paris. The den of women willing to make boys into men, for the right price. It was something all the boys and men of her circle whispered about when they thought decent , demure women weren’t listening. They would speak of gentleman, commoners, artists, writers, gathering within these walls to be inspired by the music and lusting after dancing women who could not be captured—women who belonged to everyone, and no one. Draco had expected glamour, and she is not disappointed. It is not refined elegance that she sees here, but vibrant, arduous magnificence. It surrounds her in dripping velvets and dim, red lights, with music that pounds out rhythms meant for enchanting her heart. On the stage, women are draped in jewels, yet naked enough to entice. Large crowns of gold and diamonds, precious stones on strings creating skirts and capes, but all the while these dancers move with their breasts out and little to cover the secret of womanhood while their bums are on full display. Draco watches, mesmerised, until a gentleman taps softly at her elbow—startling her out of her staring.
“Mrs Potter,” he begins, but she corrects him with a sniff.
“Mrs Malfoy. I kept my name in my marriage.” Draco did so because she is the only child of Lucius Malfoy, and she wanted to remind him, in her own way, that a male heir was not needed to carry on a dynasty.
“Forgive me.” The stranger inclines his head ever so slightly, before he adds, “I was sent to collect you.”
Her smile is rueful when she responds, “I’m surprised he recognised me.”
The stooped, elderly man does not comment but turns, and she takes that as an indication that she should follow. Draco does. He leads her into a private alcove. Two beautiful women sit on the arms of a large, ostentatious velvet chair. Both of them equally nude and splendidly adorned—like the women on the stage—yet Draco isn’t focused on them. Her grey eyes are trained on the man between them. The one who shares the sharp slant of her nose and the point of her chin. The man who has hair as silver-white as her own.
The man who gave her his name.
“Draco,” he begins with a voice she both does and does not know. One she remembers from the earliest years of her childhood when he had still pretended to be a father. Before Sirius came back from that rock at sea.
“Lucius,” she replies. He manages to appear hurt by her indifference. Yet, Draco doesn’t believe his act. Lucius gives nothing of his heart to her, and never has. She was meant to be a son, but proved to be a disappointment. She was meant to marry a man of pure and noble blood, but again she proved herself a failure.
“Leave us,” he commands those around them. They go in silence—no protest, no enquiring glances—and Draco feels suddenly timid at this level of privacy. Lucius is pleasant, gesturing for her to take the soft seat to his left as he asks, “How is your mother?”
“Wonderful,” Draco responds with a frosty voice. “She’s not why I am here.”
“No, but I do miss her, and would love to hear about her life.” He taps out a rhythm on the silver tray sitting on a small table beside his chair and two glasses appear: a sherry for Draco, and a scotch for him. It bothers her to know they share similar tastes when he passes Draco her mother’s favourite drink and keeps the scotch for himself.
Barely containing her rage, Draco snarls at him. “If you miss her and want to know about her, then you should’ve been better to her. Then you might’ve had a chance to remain a part of her life.” Lucius sits passively, watching her with a blank face, as Draco spits out her hatred. “You were a curse from the start, and I wish your miserable touch would quit ruining my life.” She downs her drink, tears springing to her eyes, but Draco refuses to allow them to fall before this man. This man she cannot ever consider her blood.
“Why did he have to be like you? Why do men like you exist and prosper, while women like me wither in love?” She doesn’t expect an answer. Not really; she just wants to curse him because he was the first love who hurt her—isn’t he? The father who abandoned not only her mother, but the piece of himself that was meant to be sacred. Men have only let her down since. Harry was supposed to be different.
“We love the chase, but when we capture what we think we want, we grow bored,” he replies, unapologetic. Her tears fall in a rush of water, a dam broken as she screams. “You should have never married a man like me if you wanted faithfulness.”
As her sobs quiet down to barely-there whimpers, Lucius hands her a soft handkerchief to wipe her face. Draco doesn’t thank him. Grey eyes watch her steadily, an impassive expression settling over Lucius’s face as she blows her nose into his expensive cotton square. “Do you want to make him taste his own poison?”
Draco glances up, eyes wide. “What?”
“Revenge often helps lessen the hurt,” he pauses, watching as a frown draws down Draco’s brows. She’s about to give him a scathing retort when Lucius’s sharp smile appears and he murmurs, “Ask your mother, love. Ask her how accepting Sirius into her bed soothed the sting of my betrayal.”
“How dare you,” Draco hisses, rising. “I won’t let you insult my mother.”
“It’s not an insult if it’s true, my darling.” He rises, grasping her slim wrist. Drawing her closer to look her in the eye, “Tell me that Sirius loves Narcissa with chaste affection. Go on, lie to my face.” Draco cannot. She has seen them—Mother and Sirius—many a time, stealing away to dark corners with hands desperately grasping one another while they both gasp for more . Lucius smiles when he knows she’s been caught by the truth. “Come, then. Let’s make you less sad.”
Only, as he leads her into a private room—one draped in the same crimson fabrics and muted lights—Draco doesn’t think that this will make her less sad. She doesn’t have much time to think about it when a young, blond gentleman walks into the room. Lucius, beside her, grins.“Henri,” he begins, “Come, meet my beautiful daughter.”
He leaves them, throwing a saucy look over his shoulder at Draco. Henri moves closer, his gait and manner refined. Fingers, pale and gentle, touch her shoulder. Causing her to jump in fear, but his smile is reassuring. Draco finds herself relaxing as he moves closer to kiss her. He doesn’t, though. Draco doesn’t let this man—not when he lifts his hand to stroke her cheek and she catches the glint of gold. Signifying his own promise to some woman somewhere—a woman he promised forever and faithfulness.
Draco tears away from him with a scream, leaving in a rush. Outside, Paris is wet with the soak of rain, and she relishes the feel of cold water against her flushed, humiliated skin.
Why did I come here?
When she returns, first light is drawing gold and pink across the sky, deep purple a slash of colour over the others. Draco releases a sigh, pushing into a house that feels empty and not of a home. Echo and Scorpius are still sleeping, but Mrs Figg is in the kitchen directing the elves about while they prepare breakfast. Draco doesn’t bother to let the old woman know she’s back as she makes her way up the stairs. Her feet drag over the marble of the floor. Her soul too heavy to care whether she looks undignified—returning barefooted with wild hair, a wrinkled dress, and smeared makeup. All Draco wants to do is to fall into her bed, sleep for eternity, and forget her horrible time with the man who helped create her. She’s tired of men.
She doesn’t get the chance to sleep—to forget. For there, standing in front of her bedroom vanity, is Harry touching her stack of letters with a sad frown turning down the corners of his handsome mouth. Draco doesn’t want to see him—thinks about fleeing—yet, he spots her. Turning wide green eyes upon her, Harry steps forward, his hands on her shoulders before she can run.
“Draco.” Her name is a plea that cracks like glass, splintering her heart. “Where were you?” It’s not accusatory, although the tone of his voice is crushed, as if the idea of where she could have spent the night kills him. Yet, he knows he has no room to blame. His thumb, a callous she remembers like lightning against her skin, smoothes over her lip, swiping at the smeared, crimson lipstick.
“Who—” The word sticks in Harry’s throat, becoming disjointed as it spills between them. Then he says names—each one a knife to his own hide as he tries to name the elusive man he believes to have touched Draco’s skin. She trembles in his hold, relishing and loathing the familiar flutter it creates in Draco’s stomach. “Draco,” Harry whispers again, mouth close to hers. Her eyes slip closed, but behind them she sees Lavender’s face—hears her laughing Harry’s name—and Draco shoves him roughly away.
His face crumples. Misery and apology plain to see, it makes the love for him ache within her—makes Draco want to comfort him, even while a part of her wants to scream that she’s the one deserving of comforts. Draco is the one who was hurt here, not Harry.
“Draco,” he whispers. “Tell me how to make this right.” He crumples to his knees, begging at her feet, clutching his hands in his unruly hair. “Tell me, and I’ll do it.”
“Where have you been?” Because he’s not been here. He’s been out there—writing endless letters—but he never came home. Didn’t claw at the door, begging to be let back inside. She wants to know if he went to her , if she also threw him out when she realised he was weak and worthless. Likely to do to her what they did to Draco.
“At my dad’s Cornwall cottage.”
“You didn’t stay at the house in Godric’s Hollow,” she asks, then with a sneer adds, “Did you take your whore to the sea with you? Did you fuck her in the bed you used to fuck me in?”
His head snaps up, a glare narrowing his eyes. “Are you out of your mind?”
“Me?” Her laughter is shrill. “That’s fucking rich, Potter. Am I the one who violated her promise to you?” His wince creates a bit of vicious joy in her.
“I didn’t take her with me,” he sighs, the fight draining out of him. “I’ve never taken anyone there but you.” His eyes are imploring when he murmurs, “The sea was made for you and me. Remember?”
“That was a love I shared with another man,” she hisses, tears gathering in her eyes, “That man died months ago.”
His rage is back—Harry moves swiftly to his feet, and before she can run, he has Draco by the wrists. “If that was a different man, then I shared that promise with a different woman.” Harry’s words are hot against the chapped skin of her lips. “A woman who saw me.”
She spits, watching him hardly wince as her saliva smacks him against his tan cheek. “Saw you,” her sneer twists her face into a woman she doesn’t recognise—one she sees reflected at her in his lenses. “What’s there to see?”
He swallows, his Adam’s apple bobbing beneath the thick, dark stubble that coats his strong neck. A neck she wants to devour with her tongue. It’s odd—thrilling—to loathe and lust him at once. “You only see them.” Harry’s words are a fractured whisper. One that comes after he forces the truth off his tongue. She understands the implication of his words—knows who them is—but she needs to hear him speak his meaning.
Draco needs him to hear his selfishness as it falls out of his mouth. With fury, she digs her nails into his biceps, through the cotton of his shirt, “Say their names, you fucking bastard.” He stands silent, refusing, and she reaches up to slap him. Once, twice, again. “Say them, damn you. Say them,” Draco screams. He doesn’t try to stop her when she hits him again. Harry, bloody saint that he’s always been, takes her abuse in silence. Which angers her more; how dare he act the martyr? “Say their names, Harry,” she hisses again, pained desperation colouring her words. “Say the names of the children you helped create.”
He swallows again, a loud sound that rumbles through her like thunder, before he finally says, “Echo and Scorpius and the one that’s not here.”
“Say his name,” Draco sobs, falling—suddenly exhausted and weak—to her knees. Harry follows her, gently cradling Draco as they go.
“Antares,” Harry’s voice is gravel. The sound of a man being choked from the inside, one being hollowed out with grief. He draws Draco closer to his chest, kissing her hair, while tears drip off his nose, into the strands, wetting her scalp. Draco doesn’t pay much mind; she’s too busy sobbing into his shirt. Remembering the small, stunted body that slipped cold and purple from her womb makes her grip Harry tighter.
Antares had come after a long, exhausting flu. Unfortunately, there was nothing the Medi Wizards could do. So there he was, beautiful, still—a gaping emptiness in Draco she’s not sure she can ever fill.
“After Antares, you locked me out, Draco.” Harry combs his hands through her hair, holding her as he hasn’t been able to in months.
When was the last time ? she wonders as she breathes him deep, finding solace in his familiar scent. “Why did you touch another woman,” she demands, pathetically clinging to him even though she’s angry.
“I was lonely,” Harry admits, after a brief silence. “I was lonely and hurt, and you were focusing on your grief. You were filling all your hurt with the kids, and with silence.” Harry clings to her when it seems like she might leave, might pull away. “I just wanted to remember what it felt like to be wanted.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you make me look at you?” Draco’s still angry. Still hurt that he collapsed beneath the weight of the feelings he’s confessing. That he turned to temptation when she would never. When she hadn’t, even when given the opportunity. “There was a man, tonight,” she starts, and Harry looks as if she’s kicked him between his thighs. “He was beautiful, like you, soft-spoken and gentle, but I couldn’t...” She trails off, staring into Harry’s eyes. The eyes that she knows so well, but still finds traits she’s never noticed. Like the fleck of gold around Harry’s left iris, the eye that’s beneath his lightning scar. “I could never, ever touch someone that way after I’ve touched you.” She shakes her head. The tears have run dry, but they still try to form when she adds, “Even now, I want to touch you.”
“Touch me, please,” he begs, opening his arms to welcome her into his heart. Draco goes.
Another strange homecoming—right and wrong at once—when he covers her with the bulk of his body. His skin is hot beneath her palms, hard muscle wrapped in the golden skin she used to spend hours learning. The scar on his clavicle is one that he got in a duel—at school, when his prideful anger got the best of him. She maps it now, with her tongue, bites against it with her teeth as his cock slides into her. Too thick, just right. Too full, but wonderful.
“Draco,” he groans into her hair. “Draco,” he says again. And again. And again. A worship. A prayer. A promise to be worthy again.
His hold on her hips is bruising, the ache wonderful as he drives into her with precision. Harry’s body knows this dance—knows the angle, the depth, the speed to make her tremble. He’s a magician who knows how to delight screams from her throat. Through the veil of her gold lashes, Draco watches his muscles, working beneath sweat gleaming skin, the way his stomach clenches when she tenses around him. His face is her favourite to watch. The way his nostrils flare while he watches that place where they are melded in obscene, yet perfect, splendour. His eyes are captivated by her, by that place he’s known for years, and she wonders in a moment of cruelty if he’s seen better.
“Was her cunt prettier than mine,” she asks of him. Causing those eyes to snap up to her face. They are wide, almost terrified, and Draco sneers as she clenches the walls of her cunt around his cock. “Was it?” When he doesn’t answer she snaps, “Was it new and pretty and unruined by your seed?”
“No,” Harry’s face grows dark. He hunches over her, pressing closer, his chest against hers—squishing her in a possessive sort of way that is both terrifying and thrilling. “I don’t even remember, it looked like a cunt.” He bites at Draco’s mouth, licking into her when she opens up to him. “No cunt but yours is remarkable.”
“Liar,” she mouths against his stubble. Drags her teeth over the sharp line of his jaw.
His voice is rough at her ear. “It’s the softest pink, I’ve never seen a colour like it, until the dinner where your mum gave you a lipstick in the same shade. And every time you wore it, I’d beg for you to get on your knees and suck me, to see that colour wrapped around me. Fuck.” He clings to Draco tighter, still moving in her, still breathing her deep, “I closed my eyes and imagined it was you. The few times I fucked her, I didn’t see her cunt, I saw yours. I fucked her with the memory of you suffocating me.”
“You should’ve stopped breathing,” Draco hisses, her eyes growing damp as she draws closer to orgasm. From sorrow or stimulation, she cannot say. “The ghost of me should’ve killed you.”
“Kill me now, then,” Harry commands with a grunt. Drawing her hands up to his thick neck, urging her thumbs to crush his larynx. “Do it, Draco.”
She comes, crying from grief and relief, and curses him, “I wish I could kill you.”
Every fear...every nightmare...anyone has ever had.
She wakes in hospital.
No, this is a dream
The scent is too stifling to be anything real. It clogs her nose with antiseptic and death. Blood heaviest—iron so thick, it lingers on her taste buds. A sticky feel coats the inner parts of her thighs, and when Draco struggles in the sheets, Harry’s face tilts up from where he was staring at his knees. His eyes are red-rimmed, his nose raw from where he’s rubbed it too often. He sniffs and she begins crying anew.
Only a dream.
“Antares,” she screams, as if shouting his name will bring him back. “Antares,” her tits leak, aching to feed a child she doesn’t have. No one comes to this room. Medi-Wizards mysteriously absent once they’ve pried the cold thing from her arms. As if it is too hard to watch a mother in mourning. The sort of evil that no one can bear to witness.
Make it stop.
Even with Harry’s hands around, her she is alone. Trapped in sorrow. Her soul locked away, smothered beneath this darkness.
She goes home, hollowed out and aching. Tries not to crack as she disappoints her daughter by speaking of the loss. Closes her ears and heart as her daughter begs for them to save the baby. “Go get him back, Daddy,” Echo cries, digging small fingers into her father’s shirt. Pleading with him, because she believes her daddy can fix everything.
Never knowing Daddy breaks more than he fixes.
Echo forgets faster than Draco. She plays in the garden, with Scorpius who had not understood, and they laugh in the sunshine while Draco feels her mask of happiness fracturing with each passing minute. Pretending is a must.
Who the fuck do you think I is?
You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy
You can watch my fat ass twist, boy
As I bounce to the next dick, boy
And keep your money, I got my own
Keep a bigger smile on my face, being alone
Home is a strange place. Familiar, but unwelcoming. As if the mortar of these walls whispers You lost your right to us the moment you touched that woman. Even his home office is stifling, every book on the shelf murmuring about Draco lying on the chaise, drinking the memory of Harry’s touch away, crying into the letters that he’d sent in bundles.
It feels even less of a sanctuary when the rooms are full of well-dressed social climbers—new money, old money—people who Harry wouldn’t trust with a dead fish. These are the people who would gladly put a dagger through his sternum while grinning brightly in his face. The sort of people who would pounce at the hint of weakness.
Sabinus—a blue blood without a coin to his name—sniffs in disdain at Harry when they finally happen into one another. “A little bird told me that you were banished from this home.” His breath is foul with drink, the whites of his eyes are pinkening, and his skin has an eternal sheen that makes him appear waxier than usual. Harry loathes everything about this man, especially when he hisses, “Look at her.” His head tips in the direction of where Draco stands, surrounded by the wives of Harry’s business partners, and Harry doesn’t need permission to seek the image of his wife. He stares openly at the way the silver-white gown she wears glitters in soft candlelight—each seed bead and crystal casting a glow around her. Pale skin, pale hair, irradiant. Just like the Veela of lore, Harry is helpless beneath Draco’s thrall. He’s forgotten about Sabinus until the old prat’s breath tickles Harry’s ear, making him shudder with disgust. “You don’t deserve a woman like that, Potter.”
He turns, ready to cut this man down with a precise lash of his tongue, but he finds Sabinus grinning. A man piss-sodden—miserable old wretch—a man fallen, looking down on Harry with such confidence that it shakes Harry to the core of his person. Harry hasn’t got a rebuttal because he doesn’t deserve Draco.
Sabinus smells his weakness, and like a shark drawn to the sweet bouquet of blood, he moves in for the kill. “She’s got more money than you, better breeding, and an army of men waiting for you to fuck up.” Then, as a final parting shot, he murmurs, “Zabini was quick to try and seduce her when word went around about your absence.” The shock must be visible on Harry’s face, for Sabinus chuckles with an air of superiority that Harry wants to choke out of him. “Zabini heard about this great empty home, and came running with every red rose, from every shop on Diagon Alley.”
Red roses. When he begins searching their home—taking note of the party’s decor—Harry finds blooming red roses everywhere. Something that seemed strange when he’d first seen the decorations for their party. Draco hates red roses. She prefers white or yellow. Red is generic, common, expected...or so she’s always said. Yet, here they are—red roses in every possible nook of their home, choking Harry with their thick, floral scent. One he’s only just noticed. One that is now forcing its way into his lungs, trying to smother the oxygen in them. He has to get away from them. Fast.
But the roses follow—up the bannister, across the mezzanine, through the long corridor, even in their bedroom when Harry slams into the room he once thought sacred. His haven, invaded by the reach of Blaise Zabini. Harry rips them from their vase, throwing the beautiful blooms to the ground before crushing them into the carpet with the sole of his boot. Watching as red ruins the pale cream, yet he finds no pleasure in the mess. All the sight does is fill him with conflict.
At the night’s end, Draco returns, the hint of a pleased smile hiding in the corners of her mouth. A smile that diminishes when grey eyes lift to find him sitting on their bed. He’s still unsure if he should sleep here, beside her, as if nothing is amiss. She’s not allowed him to touch her since that first night, when Draco came into their room reeking of spiced incense, expensive cigars, and liquor. Her appearance had been that of a drowned kneazle, with her makeup smeared across her face, her silk dress in tatters, and her expensive, red-bottom heels muddy in her hand.
When she spoke of the man—the nameless one, while Harry felt the heat of her body against his own—he’d been angry. Yet even more than that, he was sad. Disappointment with himself was greatest when Draco had whispered that she hadn’t been able to commit such treachery. Now he thinks of all the men who would eagerly step up to take his place. The Zabinis of the world who could come bearing extravagances that might sway her troubled heart. Harry tries to banish the thought, but like the rose scent that still lingers the idea troubles his mind.
Into the silence he asks, “Do you want me to go?”
Draco, the sneer of a smile twisting her mouth, hisses, “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? It would be so easy to leave, Potter. If you do, I’ll think you a coward.”
He watches her as she prepares for bed. Her gown whispers down the back of her thighs as Draco drops the silvery mass of it to the floor. Nude, she is a glowing beacon, drawing his gaze to the still-supple muscles of her pale back—down further to the curve of her soft, bouncy bum, and lower still to the delicate flex of her ankles as she makes her way into the bathroom.
When the shower starts, Harry thumps his head against the tall, dark-stained oak headboard. Releasing a sigh, he closes his eyes, wishing he could go back months in time and stop the horrors that would befall them. When he opens his eyes, there’s another rose—one he didn’t manage to destroy—and it causes him to frown with suspicion. It takes little effort—a precise flick of his wrist—and a small card comes sailing into his palm. The seal is intact: a shimmer of fine silver swirling through deep navy with the impression of a hissing Ashwinder in the centre. Harry’s nostrils flare as he breaks the seal, rage boiling through him as he reads:
Mother’s sources tell me you are alone in that grand home, looking for a man to ease you through the night. Potter mustn’t be doing a decent job of playing husband. I tried to tell you to choose me instead. I wished you would have listened, my heart. I could be amazing to you. I could be a wonderful father to your children and would love them no less than any of my own. Come to me, Draco. I am here.
My heart , holds Harry’s attention. For there it is—in another man’s writing, his endearment for Draco. I could be a wonderful father to your children has him crushing the letter in his hand, feeling it turn pulpy from the sweat of his enraged palm. As if he would let another be father to his children. As if he would let a snake like Zabini near the preciousness of his family.
Yet, something whispers, You did this to yourself, Harry.
Let’s have a toast to the good life
Suicide before you see this tear fall down my eyes
Me and my baby, we gon’ be alright
We gon’ live a good life
Big homie better grow up
Scorpius refuses to let Harry hold him. His large grey-green eyes watch Harry as if he’s a stranger. Fourteen days—that was how long it took for his two-year-old son to view him as an outsider. A vise tightens around Harry’s heart, and Arabella apologises as she tries to calm Scorpius down. Nothing soothes him until Draco comes into the room with the hint of concern creasing the skin between her eyebrows.
“My love,” she murmurs against Scorpius’s dark hair, stroking his small back as his arms wrap about her slender neck. “Tell Mummy why you’re sad.”
“Don’t want Daddy,” Scorpius sniffles against her. Another knife to the gut for Harry, but he has to stand there as if he’s fine. As if nothing is amiss when his son says, “Don’t know Daddy.”
“Shhh,” Draco murmurs, “Daddy is the same Daddy you’ve always known, he just had to work a lot, remember?” Scorpius’s reply is burrowing his face further into her neck with a loud sniff.
Echo isn’t much better. She watches Harry with the same face Draco had in her youth—the same accusatory eyes that Draco levels at Harry when their gazes meet the —and he nearly cries when his daughter turns away from him. Clinging to her mother’s skirt, Echo refuses him just as strongly as Scorpius and Harry is tired.
“I’ll be in the study,” he says, trying for gentleness when he addresses Echo. “If you want to come colour while I work, you are always welcome.” Harry moves to pat her on the head, but when she draws further away he stops, dropping his hand to his side before he turns away stiffly.
The study holds little reprieve. More of those damnable roses mock him from the decorative vases Draco keeps on the library table stationed before the lone cathedral window. With a snarl on his face and a snap of his fingers, Harry watches them go up in blue flames. Their petals are ash, but the smell lingers in his nose, a pungent poison for the soul. A toxin that suffocates him—torturously slow—and he’s near gasping when the study doors open.
Arabella comes in, a hint of disappointment in her dark eyes, causing Harry to squirm in his seat as he often did when he was small. She sets a tray to the side of his desk—tea and sandwiches arranged neatly. Clearing his throat, he begins, “Has there been anything new with the children since I’ve been away?”
She stops, an inaudible sigh causing her shoulders to rise and drop. Harry pretends to not notice. “Scorpius has been using the toilet regularly. He’s not had an accident in a few days.”
“That’s good,” he tries to make his voice sound happy, not hurt, to have missed out on something so small yet so grand. James often missed Harry’s milestones, and with a long-gone mother—one they never mentioned—Arabella was the one who often stood by, cheering Harry on. He never wanted that for his own children—absent parents, and a nanny who loved them more than their own blood. “Has Draco...” he trails off, unsure how to proceed.
Arabella turns toward him, a flicker of apology and a gleaming rage warring in her gaze. “Don’t, Harry. Don’t ask me about her.” She swallows, her old throat moving with a thick sound that is loud in the stillness of the room. “I can’t. I can’t listen to James’s words as they come out of your mouth.”
In Harry’s entire life, Arabella has never said a bad word against James. She’s bit her tongue so often that there’s probably a scar in the shape of her teeth. She doesn’t bite the words down now. Not when Arabella stares him in the eyes and whispers, “I raised you better than this.” She swallows again, choking on her anguish. “I watched your mother suffer under James. I saw what he drove her to, Harry.” Her piece spoken, Arabella leaves him, dabbing her eyes dry, walking from the study with her spine like steel.
The scar on his forehead throbs, and Harry reaches his hand up to trace the lightning shape. Thinking of the mother he didn’t know, the one who died Halloween of 1981. They found her in a bed of peach satin, with empty vials of the Draught of Living Death and purple monkshood scattered about the room. It was made to appear like a suicide.
She was killed by a lover. A lowborn Wizard—Severus Snape—who’d tried to kill Harry, but his Mother’s loving magic protected him from harm. Some curse the man had hurled at an infant Harry. Ill-will that grazed him, leaving a scar upon him—the reminder of a woman he’s never seen. A woman he knows by name and not feature since James burned every memory of her from their home. All Harry knows—beyond Lily’s name—is that she had eyes as green as his own. Arabella has never mentioned Lily to Harry. She had kept her loyalties to his father, even when Harry pleaded. Now he wonders about the whispers Sirius once rambled of when drunk. On one of those many occasions where Narcissa and Draco had visited Number Twelve, days when Sirius would be exuberant until Narcissa took Draco home via Floo. Then he’d find his way down a bottle. Sharing secrets he thought Harry wasn’t paying attention to.
Ne’er seen James so mad ‘n mah life, Sirius would mutter at the flames flickering in his ornate hearth. Could’t stand bein’ left, mind, not yer da...no one leaves ‘im, mate.
Harry wonders how true the official reports of his mother’s death—her murder—truly are. Asphodel and Wormwood. Pungent herb and fragrantless flower. Harry thinks of Arabella, the woman his father employed to help Lily with Harry’s raising. The woman who ultimately became his mother. He thinks of what his birth mother could’ve been driven to, and none of it makes his soul happy. None of it helps him feel that his grievous crimes against his own happiness can be forgiven.
Fuck. It hurts.
Here lies the mother of my children,
Both living and dead.
Rest in peace,
My true love,
Who I took for granted.
Most bomb pussy who,
Because of me,
Her god listening.
Her heaven will be a love without betrayal.
Narcissa is as warm as an ice statue. There is no embrace or kiss on the cheek for Harry when they come in through the main Floo of her home.
“ Grand-mère,” Echo beams up at the stately woman. Narcissa has never worn a casual article of clothing in her life, and this casual brunch sees her wearing a knee-length chiffon dress of deep emerald. It’s less formal than the gowns she wears when they all go to the opera or the ballet, but it’s certainly not something Molly Weasley would wear unless she was attending a formal function. Draco is much the same as her mother, usually, but today she’s in wool trousers that are deep grey in colour and an ivory, silk blouse. Her hair hangs in long, platinum waves, but despite the neatness of it Harry knows Draco hasn’t run a brush through the strands. Just like he knows she’s not worn makeup since their party. All she does is stare at herself in the vanity before she swipes a dab of coloured cream beneath her eyes. To hide the bruises that seem eternal in her skin.
Narcissa notices. Her grey eyes move over Harry with intense judgement. “Sirius is in the conservatory,” she says instead of commenting on the misery Draco wears openly for those who know how to spot her signs.
“ Grand-père is here,” Echo shouts with joy. Her red, velvet flats click along the marble floor as she takes off to Narcissa’s prized room. Scorpius follows after her, equally excited , feeding off of his sister’s enthusiasm.
When they are out of earshot, Narcissa sniffs. “I didn’t invite Harry to brunch.” This she says at Draco, as if Harry is not present.
In the beginning, when they were tentatively dating, Narcissa was often dismissive of Harry. Talking to Draco as if Harry were air. In those days, Draco would fight her mother to acknowledge Harry. You disrespect me when you disrespect the man I love. He’d fucked her in a cupboard while Narcissa had entertained her stiff guests—Draco was keyed up, looking for a fight and had let her voice bounce through the corridors. Hoping to be heard.
Draco doesn’t resemble that Draco now, the one who was flame and fury—mimicking the dragon for which she was named. Now Draco is an underfed beast, one that pounces on prey that comes to her in the shape of Harry’s throat. “Echo wanted to bring him. Don’t blame me.”
Draco doesn’t give him the slightest look of acknowledgement as she follows their children.
Sirius smiles up at them when they enter the innermost haven of Narcissa’s home. Plants and trees surround them in a mimicry of the jungle, sweet-scented flowers that add their perfume to the already enticing scent of brunch. “Come eat, your mother has outdone herself.” Harry moves to pull out Draco’s chair before he takes his own seat beside her. The tension is awkward amongst the adults, but Scorpius and Echo don’t seem to notice as they tuck in. Thick slices of French toast, fresh strawberries, a jar of Narcissa’s “homemade” gooseberry jam, poached eggs, sausages, and the ever-constant staples of tea and sparkling water. It would be divine if Harry didn’t dread sitting, if food didn’t taste of ash on his tongue.
Still, he eats, silent—with loud thoughts trying to make their way to Draco. Hoping to bring back a bit of that spark they’d once shared. When they had sat as a solid front in spaces where Harry wasn’t warmly accepted. Now they are a disintegrating structure, a mansion on sand that crumbles with each swell of the tide.
Harry misses her hand on his thigh, beneath the table, while Narcissa bores them all with talk of her latest foray into fashion. He misses the teasing grins when Draco would catch his eye—sharing so much between them in a short amount of silence. Harry yearns for the whispers against his skin when she would lean in close—placing a soft kiss near his ear before promising him delightful deviance when they left Narcissa’s home. He misses them painfully when all Draco does is sit, gracefully eating her own small breakfast.
“Have you fired that useless solicitor?” Narcissa’s brisk question yanks Harry away from his thoughts and his eyes snap up to his mother-in-law, suddenly, aware of how tense Draco and Sirius have grown. The children continue on as if nothing is amiss.
“Erm,” Harry begins, trying to get his voice to work. “Ms Brown doesn’t work with me directly, but she is still involved with the negotiations for new branches in China, Japan, and Russia. She’s been on the project so long, it was not practical to sack her before those were finished.”
Narcissa’s expression is pinched. Sirius’s doesn’t appear much better, and Draco seems as if she’s too hurt to show any more grief.
“Wonderful,” Narcissa near spits, “I hope your negotiations are successful.”
“Mother,” Draco begins, tired. “I don’t want to get into this. Lavender is the best one for the job.”
“Lavender gave me colour books on my last visit to Daddy’s office,” Echo speaks up suddenly, wearing a beaming expression, not realising her words probably hurt Draco.
“She is a dear.” Draco smiles, and Harry wants to cry at the vulnerability he detects in her.
Came into this world
Daddy's little girl
And Daddy made a soldier out of me
Daddy made me dance
And Daddy held my hand
And Daddy liked his whisky with his tea
And we rode motorcycles
Blackjack, classic vinyl
Tough girl is what I had to be
Sirius pours a generous helping of whisky into his teacup, watching as Draco rocks a fussing Scorpius.
“He needs good music to soothe his soul,” he booms with glassy eyes. Snapping for a house-elf to put a glossy black record on the gramophone. Soon the sounds of his own glorified youth begin; Sirius, cackling in delight, goes over to wrap his arms around Draco and Scorpius —making them sway to the music . Causing Draco to release her own bright laugh. Narcissa rolls her eyes at the both of them, muttering about the obscenities of Muggle Rock n’ Roll.
Sirius releases another bark of a laugh as he snatches Echo into his arms after releasing Draco and Scorpius. Then, he spins the small girl, causing a delighted squeal to escape her throat, before winking at Narcissa. “Love, everyone knows Jimmy Page is a wizard.” He dances Echo closer to Narcissa while singing ‘Black Dog’ at Harry’s snotty mother-in-law.
Harry, feeling horribly out of place, recedes silently from the room. Their merriment follows him, bouncing through the home as he meanders from room to room. There’s a great many memories in these halls. The study where Draco and Harry hid from boring, posh parties, settled close in their child-sized finery, reading through the history of pirates, arguing about who was the best pirate. Draco always insisted on The Lioness of Brittany. Harry forgets who he argued for.
In the ivory and gold guest room, when they were thirteen, Draco had shown Harry the changes in her body. Harry had been teasing her, about how she didn’t look like Cho—who had noticeable curves. He was a right prat, cackling as he said, “You’ll never grow tits.” Draco — flushed, embarrassed—had dragged him into the guest room and tore off her shirt. She certainly wasn’t fully developed like the women in those smut rags Ron and Seamus hid in their dorms. But she was a girl, and Harry had reacted. Embarrassed that she could spark such a reaction, he’d whispered, “Still not impressive.”
“Yeah, well I have them, and one day someone’s going to love them,” she hissed back.
He laughs now, sitting on the bed, thinking of how he does love her breasts. Harry loves all things about Draco. The scent of rose hits him—from large white blooms in a decorative vase—and Harry wonders if he should have spoken his love. Shown more of it. Now he dreads another whispering devotions into her ear and making her convinced they could love Draco more.
Narcissa’s private closet is open, being aired out by the house-elves, when he passes it on the way to the garage. Draco’s wedding dress is preserved in a glass case at the centre of the large room. A mass of white satin and diamonds, glittering beneath the constant glow of an ornate chandelier. He pauses, staring at the visible reminder of the oath Draco gave: to love and to honour Harry until death. It causes guilt to squirm in his stomach. I didn’t hold those promises. A sigh forces its way out of his throat as he recalls Draco’s bright laugh when he rucked up her gown’s skirt. Eager to get at his new wife. Ready to imprint himself in her despite the guests who kept searching for them.
Harry, we will be caught.
Do you care? Let them see, my heart; let them know they can’t have what we have.
He closes his eyes to the past—steps muted by thick carpets, his hand ghosting familiar, cold bannisters as he walks down the steps he ran in his childhood. Steps his children play on in his adulthood.
The garage is home to Sirius’s motorcycles. Here in Narcissa’s home, not Number Twelve, because it’s an open secret that they share a life. My heart is where my motorbike is , he once joked with Harry when he’d taken Harry to see the wonders of carnal flesh, behind those walls where boys went to be made into men. Now, in this dim space, Harry settles onto the seat of the oldest model Sirius owns. The one that got him briefly evicted from Number Twelve when he was still in youth—openly rebellious and slagging about. It was the motorcycle Harry learned to drive on, with Draco teaching him how to shift between gears and not kill the engine when releasing the clutch. He traces the odometer, remembering the empty moor of Northern Scotland where they’d gone to have a lesson in private. Harry had tumbled from the motorcycle into an ungraceful heap and Draco had come to check him. He had pulled her close, calming her harsh words about him being an idiot with a deep kiss.
“Marry me,” he’d gasped when she swallowed all of his seed, when she’d had him pressed against a tree and held the length of his cock down her throat.
‘ Yes’ she had mouthed against his over-sensitive cock.
“Harry.” His head snaps up, as he stops tapping against the odometer’s glass, to find Draco standing in the doorway with a strange expression on her face. “What’re you doing down here?”
He blinks, processing the fact that she’s speaking to him for the first time in days, then murmurs, “Remembering you.”
A derisive snort leaves her. “Were you, now?”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you, so yes, I needed a refresher.” He’s not snippy but knows his words must sting.
They do. Harry can tell when she smiles—all teeth—and a hiss of sound pushes through her grin. “Whose fault is that, Harry?”
“Mine,” he replies dully. Always mine.
Can’t you see there’s no other man above you?
What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you.
Hold up, they don’t love you like I love you...
“Why?” Ron asks Harry a few nights later, when Harry decides a night out at a dodgy pub is needed. His house is still frigid, Harry craves warmth, and they don’t come warmer than The Leaky. “I mean,” Ron adds, “I’ve never particularly enjoyed Malfoy, but...mate, you acted like she hung the fucking moon.”
It’s something Harry doesn’t want to admit, because in his own mind, his reasons are shallow, awful, as unforgivable as the adultery he’s committed. However, Ron’s watching him without judgement—his eyes are full of brotherly affection, and Harry knows he needs to unburden himself to someone. It can’t be his dad, because James would never forgive this. Their family image is everything to him, and Draco is perfection in James’s mind. It can’t be Sirius, because as much as he tries to support Harry, he did step in to fill the role of father to Draco. She’s his child in ways Harry will never be. So it has to be Ron—the one who will not immediately tell Harry he’s a shit.
“I felt neglected after Echo and Scorpius...” he admits slowly while tracing the beads of condensation on his pint glass. After a swallow he adds, “She shut me out after Antares. It was like she was the only one allowed to feel sorrow. I’d reach for her and she’d yank away.” His hands go to his hair, pulling at the strands. “I just wanted her to touch me, assure me we were okay, and when she didn’t...” he trails off, chewing at his lower lip. “When she didn’t, I found someone who reminded me I was wanted.”
Ron, for several long minutes, is silent. Then: “You’re a shit, Harry.” His voice doesn’t hold much heat, but the words still sting. “I can’t say I don’t understand some of that, though.” Harry glances up, surprised, and Ron snorts. “I get that I do most of the child-minding, but when Hermione used to come home from work, all of her attention was Rose’s.” He sets his own pint down, frowning at the near emptiness of it. “Made me feel invisible. And for a few years, it was hard. We fought more.”
“Were you tempted to have someone remind you that you were a man worth desiring?”
“Sure,” Ron admits, then adds, “There was a mum at the littles Quidditch matches. I was probably more chummy than I should have been.”
Harry’s eyes go wide, horrified, behind his glasses when he whispers, “Did you sleep with her?”
“No,” Ron declares with a stern frown. “I might have if Hermione hadn’t suggested we talk to an outside professional.”
“Therapy is a taboo in my circle,” Harry says with a tired sigh. “Something about needing a stranger to fix you being a poor person’s problem.” Draco would never go for it—she’s too old-fashioned and stubborn to allow a stranger in on something she deems as extremely private.
Ron snorts, “That’s why you fuck rich tossers are miserable.”
Harry agrees. Then sags, “I’m a terrible dad.”
“I’ve met worse ones,” Ron reassures.
“They are going to hate me.” After a pause he mutters, “I think they already hate me.”
“It’s possible.” Ron doesn’t try to sugarcoat the situation, and Harry appreciates his bluntness. “But you’ll get to that bridge when you get there. Focus on fixing the one with Draco first.”
“She’s going to leave me.” Harry’s throat closes at the thought, and his eyes sting with tears he refuses to cry.
“She might, and she might not.” Ron shrugs. “I’m not saying infidelity is right, mate. I’ll never say that—but I know for a fact some people come out on the other side stronger.” He levels Harry with an extremely stern expression. “If you ever tell anyone what I’m about to tell you, I’ll burn you to the ground.”
“Ominous,” Harry quips, but promises when Ron seems completely sincere.
“My mum had an affair after the twins. Before me.”
Harry’s mouth drops open in a silent “O”.
“Yeah,” Ron nods. “You’d never guess it from the way my parents look at one another. They way they still trust one another.”
“How do you know this?” Harry cannot imagine Molly Weasley ever telling her children about her indiscretion.
“Dad got fucking wasted one night, and I was bemoaning my inability to make my wife happy—because I was being dramatic. And he said, If you want to keep her, talk to her, make her happy. Never ignore her, because someone else will pay attention to her if you don’t. ” Ron swallows. “That hit me pretty hard, and that’s when I decided to go to counseling with Hermione.” He pushes his empty pint glass aside, looking up from the glass at Harry with an open expression. “I’m just saying, mate, if it’s worth dying for, it’s worth fighting for. Don’t give up. She’s going to be mad as hell—rightly so—but she loves you.” Ron makes a face, “Much as I hate to admit that Malfoy has a heart. She does, and I know that at one time, it was full of you.” He makes another amusing face. “Disgustingly so.”
When they part, Harry decides to walk through Diagon Alley. His thoughts linger on his children. Harry had always wanted to be the parents he didn’t have—he wanted to take that path with Draco, but she had been hesitant. They had married young, after all—barely twenty when Harry watched her walk down the aisle of their family’s church to promise her loyalty to him. I want to spend years with just you before we add brats into the mix , Draco had said, over and over. Even while Harry watched Ron with envy as his best mate raised kids right out of school. Rose was nine before Draco even began thinking about the possibility. She enjoyed going to the little Quidditch matches, liked riling Ron up by telling him that his kid’s team would win more if they had a proper coach. She enjoyed helping Rose pick out cosmetics because Hermione didn’t know much about them, because Rose desperately wanted powders and perfumes and lipsticks.
“I was thinking I wouldn’t take it,” Draco had said the night they conceived Echo, when Harry brought her the contraceptive potion. “You know, just see how it goes.”
“Okay,” Harry had responded, and like that, a baby was born nine-and-a-half months later.
Scorpius was even less planned. They’d had a free moment for the first time in months because two-year-olds are hell, and Harry had fucked her in their closet while Echo slept down the hall. A blessed reprieve, since Echo had been in the weird habit of screaming whenever they tried to fuck. They were so exhausted afterwards that Draco fell asleep without taking her dose, and forgot to for the next few weeks as they weren’t able to fuck.
Antares was the one where she said, “I really want a baby,” and he was the one who didn’t live, disappointing and devastating Draco in ways Harry’s not sure anything else could. They brought Arabella in to help when Draco was pregnant with Antares, because she was exhausted—wan and sickly. Arabella stayed after, because there were days where Draco did not rise from the bed. Too wrapped up in silent grief and gaping at nothing, rubbing at a stomach that no longer held life. Harry didn’t know how to reach her. He could touch Draco’s hair, whisper words, but nothing breached that fog. She continued to stare at nothing while flinching away from his hold, and the world around her moved on. True, Echo cried for weeks, and Scorpius was upset by the absence of his cheerful, loving mother, but Arabella soothed them as did Harry, and Harry discovered the resilience of children. They moved forward while Harry and Draco stagnated behind. Harry was the one who had cleaned the nursery. Alone, one Saturday, when he could no longer stand to look at the empty memorial of a child that never came home. Harry isn’t much of a crier, but he cried that day. Cried so much that his face was wet with snot and tears as he smashed every bit of furniture Draco had lovingly selected for this room.
Fuck you , he thought, as he fell to his knees with bruised hands, fuck you . He didn’t care what god did this, but if he came face to face with the bastard, he’d pull the fucker’s kidneys out from his throat for the hell he’d inflicted on them.
Draco didn’t change for weeks—months—and Harry went to her every day. Tried to get her to look at him, speak to him, to smile again, but nothing helped. She went through the motions; after a couple of weeks she was up, mothering the children. A hint of who she used to be. But she wasn’t all there yet, and as the days grew longer, Harry wondered if she would ever return.
He spent days in the office, days where she never wrote him home. Days where she didn’t scream at him for his absences, and Harry had reached the point where he wondered why he bothered going home at all. Why he bothered reaching for her if she wouldn’t reach back. He had lost something too, and he had lost more than just a baby. He’d lost Draco.
Selfishly, Harry knows he could stand to lose a hundred babies if he never lost Draco. However, Draco didn’t seem to share that feeling. When she lost Antares, she lost everything. Nothing else mattered, and Harry felt himself being shut out of her world. So, he stayed away—for his own sanity, for her heart, for his wounded pride.
If he could do things differently, Harry would. He would make himself go home. Make himself soak up the despair and reach for Draco, even if she jerked away. He cannot go back, unfortunately; he cannot undo his failures.
Harry would give anything to redo that day—the one where he didn’t shake off Lavender’s hand on his shoulder, didn’t push her away when she leaned in closer, murmuring that she was lonely too.
Walking in the front door, Harry releases a sigh into the stillness. Startled into a mild yell when a light comes on and Draco is there, staring at him with accusing, grey eyes.
“Where were you?” She steps closer, hands on his shoulders, drawing him closer to breathe him deep.
“What’re you doing?” Harry demands when Draco lifts his shirt to sniff his naked skin.
“Trying to smell that woman on you,” she hisses, baring her teeth at him. “It’s half-three in the fucking morning, what were you doing?” She seems more desperate than angry—hurt by the implications of where he could have been.
“I was wandering the Alley after Ron and I met for a piss up,” Harry admits with a soft voice, hesitating as he reaches to touch her cheek. “I was thinking.”
“About what?” Draco’s eyes are over-bright with unshed tears, “About finding another woman to fuck around with? About leaving me?” She huffs out a rough laugh. “You can’t even touch me.”
He pulls her close, touching his forehead to hers. “You are what I thought about—all the pieces of you that I’ve been missing.” Admitting it causes a lump to form in his throat. “I fucked up, you know? I wish I didn’t fuck up.”
“I wish you didn’t, too,” she whispers. Then, after a hesitant peck of a kiss against his cheek, says, “But I’ve fucked up, too.” Ice slithers into his gut, his mind immediately drawn back to the roses, making him fear what might have happened in his absence.
“How—” He swallows around the word, knowing he doesn’t have the right to doubt or question her.
“I pushed you away,” Draco admits. “I might not have betrayed you the way you betrayed me, but I let you down.”
Harry hates himself when he sees how horrible she feels about her prolonged grief. “I should’ve tried harder and been more understanding,” Harry tries to reason. “You lost a baby, Draco.”
“Yeah,” she whispers. “But so did you.”
You’re the magician.
Pull me back together again,
The way you cut me in half.
Make the woman in doubt disappear.
Pull sorrow from between my legs
Knot after knot after knot.
“Tell me about her,” Draco whispers as Harry undoes the silken ties of her nightgown. Exposing her pale skin is like unwrapping a precious gift—one he’s longed for and has been denied. So her words make him pause.
“Why,” he wonders, the now unspoken but heard by Draco, who still knows him well enough to hear his intent.
“I have to know in order to forgive you.” Draco’s palm presses to his cheek, catching over the stubble he’s grown in the last few days. “I miss your short beard,” she murmurs with a face that is open—fragile and raw. This is as close to therapy as they come. Naked and vulnerable, they share themselves in ways that are more than just carnal. Harry brushes the long strands of her hair away from her face, adoring every subtle line, tiny freckle, the rosy flush of her cheeks.
“You’re beautiful,” he murmurs against chapped lips that are parted, drinking down his words.
“You have to say that,” she replies with a teasing lilt, a memory lighting her gaze.
“I really don’t,” Harry replies, remembering that summer where she dazzled him in Twilfit and Tattings. One of many days where she stole his breath, and even now, Harry’s still waiting for the air to return. “You’re the most beautiful thing in the world to me.” He closes his eyes, pressing his face into the crook of her neck to inhale the blood orange, jasmine and freesia that is ingrained in her skin. Home is the scent of Draco—a perfume Harry would gladly drown within.
“She stank of roses,” he begins, and Draco pulls his face up to stare him in the eye, as he spills out his shame.
How I’ve missed you, my love.