It had, rather improbably, been Ginny Weasley who got them together. At the wedding, many jokes were made about this, about the fact that Ginny had slept with both of them, and yet was one of Draco’s groomswomen.
“…and as someone who’s seen the best— and the worst—” she winked at Harry, and brought her index and her thumb together to denote his small penis (this, Draco thought, did Harry a disservice)— “of both of them, I can officially say: Draco, Harry, you deserve each other. To the happy couple!”
It was at that moment, that moment there, when all his friends and all of Harry’s friends lifted their glasses and toasted them, that Draco had tasted happiness for the first time. Full, true happiness. He had looked at his life and been satisfied.
The coffin was empty as they lowered it into the ground. Harry’s body was still missing. Draco remembered the way Harry had grinned at him above his champagne glass, and felt, bizarrely, as if he was reading a very sad book, rather than living his own very sad life.
“You can cry,” Ginny told him, later. “I know Slytherins don’t cry, but you can, around us.”
He stared around at the collected Weasleys. Ron’s face was puffy with tears. Hermione’s eyes sparkled prettily with diamond droplets. (Pansy would later complain that of course Granger was a pretty cryer).
“He’s not dead,” said Draco. Quietly. Because he knew it upset people when he said it.
Harry had gone missing exactly a year ago. He’d simply never returned from quidditch practice. They had cycled through a million stages before this one, the funeral stage.
Stage One: He’s out drinking
Brilliant, thought Draco, finishing his home-cooked meal and spelling the dishes clean. It’s good for Harry to see friends.
Stage Two: He’s sleeping over at Ginny’s house
Sometimes this happened. Usually Harry gave notice, but then again, Harry was nothing if not spontaneous, and that was at least a third of the reason Draco loved him. Draco drew himself a bath, read a book, and went to bed.
But the next morning, Harry still had not returned, and, as Draco’s increasingly frantic firecalls confirmed, neither had he slept over at a friend’s house.
Stage Three: He’s on some weird PTSD hermit kick
It hadn’t happened in ages. Ages and ages, not since he’d been with Draco. But the only reason Draco had been able to start dating Ginny in the first place had been because Harry was out of the picture, living on some desolate Mongolian plain.
“Has he been drinking lately?” asked Hermione, at lunchtime on the first day Harry had not come home.
“Three times a week, two beers each time,” said Draco, because that was the agreed amount for both of them, so that they didn’t… get wobbly, was how they termed it. Spiral into alcoholism, might have been more accurate. But it worked for them.
“Nightmares?” asked Ron.
“He hasn’t had any in ages,” said Draco, feeling oddly defensive. We’re happy, he wanted to say. I make him happy.
“He always used to send us an owl once he’d found a place to hide out,” said Hermione. “He doesn’t like for us to worry.”
“Draco,” said Ron, taking his hand across the table. “Don’t stress out, okay? He just does this, sometimes.”
But not with me, Draco wanted to say. He felt as if he had failed Harry. It was a familiar feeling. Draco had always striven to be good enough for Harry. He had never succeeded.
Had Harry been concealing his nightmares from Draco? Sinking into a depression without Draco noticing? Draco knew how self-involved he could be, but he had been working on it. He thought he’d improved. But was he the same selfish person he’d always been?
Maybe Harry hadn’t left because of post-war depression. Maybe he’d left because of Draco.
Stage Four: He’s getting away from Draco
When four days had gone by with no owl, Draco went to Ginny’s flat in a state of near breathless panic.
“It’s because of me,” he said. “He’s trying to get away from me!”
“Don’t be so self-involved,” said Ginny. “He’s probably been kidnapped.”
“Kidnapped!” cried Draco, clutching at his throat, which felt as if it were being squeezed.
Ron and Hermione, grim-faced, agreed.
“You’d think there’d be a ransom note,” said Hermione.
“Draco,” said Ron. “Breathe. We’ll find him.”
“If he’d just—” said Draco. “He probably just wanted— if he had just—”
“Draco thinks Harry was trying to get away from him,” translated Ginny.
Ron rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, that’s likely,” he said. “Because you’re both so independent and not-weirdly-obsessed with each other.”
“Maybe he’s with his mistress,” said Draco. He was ripping a paper towel into tiny pieces. Hermione, bless her, kept handing him new paper towel ever forty-five seconds, when he had finished shredding the one he had.
“He had a mistress?” asked Ginny.
“Probably,” said Draco. “Or a gigolo. A kept woman. A boy toy. The secretary. A fan. A super fan. All of the above.”
“He would never cheat on you,” said Hermione, handing him a fresh paper towel. Draco wondered if she was lying, or just stupid. He’s always known Harry would cheat on him, eventually. When he got bored, or whatever. Realised his mistake. Draco had just thought there would have been more forewarning. Harry had seemed happy.
“He doesn’t have a secretary,” added Ginny.
“What if he’s been sleeping with a psycho super-fan, like that one who kept sending him her underwear in the post, and she’s gone mental and flayed him so that she could wear his skin as a cloak?”
Ron and Hermione stared at him. They often did that. Ginny, however, just whacked him on the head with a rolled up newspaper.
“Don’t say shit like that,” she said. “It makes you sound like a serial killer, and we’ve only just convinced everyone you’re not one of those.”
“Do you have any reason to believe he’s been cheating on you?” asked Hermione, doubt creeping into her voice.
“I,” said Draco. Because he didn’t, not really. His fears about Harry’s faithfulness had lain under the surface for a while now. It had been like death: something he knew was coming, but that he didn’t have to worry about just yet. Harry loved having sex with Draco. It had been four years, and he still loved it.
“I don’t think a super fan could have kidnapped him,” said Ginny. “He’s not an easy one to capture.”
“You think it’s some Dark Wizard?” asked Ron.
“Don’t you?” asked Ginny.
Draco could see Ron transforming into Auror Weasley. It was always alarming to witness. His face hardened, and he took out a quill and some parchment.
“When did you last see him?” he asked Draco.
Stage Five: Draco Malfoy murdered him
Ron did everything he could to avoid this stage from happening, but it was inevitable. Husbands, after all, were generally responsible for murders. When those husbands also used to be enthusiastic members of active hate groups, it was understandable that most people assumed they were responsible for any mysterious disappearances in their households. A.k.a., the Daily Prophet headline:
“Reformed” Death Eater Draco Malfoy Under Investigation for Murder of the Saviour of the Wizarding World!
“It’s not catchy,” said Pansy, throwing the paper down on Ginny’s coffee table. “What about… ‘Malfoy Murders Mate’? Or ‘Death Eater Draco Destroys Darling’?”
“Those aren’t great, either,” said Ginny. “Rum, Draco?”
“Yeah,” said Draco, because Harry wasn’t around to remind him that this was the fifth night that week that he’d had a drink, and not all beers, either.
“It’s outrageous,” said Hermione. “You aren’t under investigation.”
“Maybe I should be,” said Draco, blankly. “Maybe I killed him in my sleep.”
“Sleep murder. That’s a thing,” said Pansy. Draco pointed at her without turning his head.
“Yeah,” he said. “Like that.”
“I read about this one woman, in like, Canada, or somewhere, who slept walked into her daughter’s bedroom, and hacked off her head with a butter knife,” said Pansy.
“Fuck,” said Draco. “What if I hacked off his head with a butter knife!”
“Pansy,” said Ginny. “You’re not helping.”
“No one who knows anything about the case thinks you’re guilty, Draco,” said Hermione, which wasn’t quite true, actually. Draco happened to know that quite a few members of the Auror Department thought Draco was a potential suspect, and he didn’t blame them. He didn’t have an alibi, after all, and he was a Death Eater. But Ron had enough clout, and had said there wasn’t any proof, not even any motive. Draco was plenty rich. And everyone could testify to the fact that he was head over heels in love with Harry.
So although the rumours persisted, the Auror Department moved on, to Stage Six.
Stage Six: He’s been kidnapped by a dark wizard.
Draco had taken a leave of absence from St. Mungo’s. He answered five million questions under veritaserum. He helped Ron pour over depositions. He went with Hermione to the Ministry library to read about obscure dark magic.
A month went by. He was obliged to return to St. Mungo’s, or lose his job. Worried that he would go mad if he didn’t have anything to do all day, he went back to the hospital.
He slept on his side of the bed. He didn’t leave his hair on the shower wall, because Harry hated that. He didn’t buy coriander even when the recipe called for it, because Harry said it tasted like soap, and Harry might come home any minute, and want to eat a curry.
Ginny’s humour grew nastier. Pansy’s grew softer. Hermione stopped moisturising her hands and the skin on her knuckles went ashy. Ron worked late every night and went into the office on weekends. Mrs. Weasley kept crying on Draco’s shoulder at Sunday lunch. Luna gave him a strange feathery contraption “to help him communicate with people beyond the veil”. Greg left badly-baked cupcakes on his doorstep. Blaise not-very-subtly implied that he would be happy to let Draco fuck him if he got too lonely.
These shows of support made Draco feel more and more guilty. He knew that if Harry had married someone else— someone more appropriate—less of a fuck-up— this wouldn’t have happened. This was retribution for veering off-script. Draco knew it.
The months went by, and Bill Weasley stopped asking Draco if he had any news every time he saw him. Instead, he would smile at Draco with this awful, pitiful look, and say, “How’re you holding up?”
Stage Seven came on them slowly, unevenly. It came to Ron and Hermione last. It did not come to Draco at all.
Stage Seven: He’s dead.
“Molly wants to have a funeral,” said Hermione.
“But he’s not dead,” said Draco.
“It’s not a funeral, if there’s no body. It’s a memorial service,” said Pansy. They were in Draco’s kitchen. His lovely, bright kitchen. Harry had fallen in love with this house the moment he saw it. It was a stone Tudor cottage in the Cotswalds, with an Aga and a field full of sheep and rickety old stairs like a secret passageway.
“Yes, thank you, Pansy,” said Hermione, through her teeth. Although Pansy was more insistent than Draco’s other friends about infiltrating The Gryffindors, she had not been entirely successful. Ginny had slept with her once, but then, that was Ginny.
“But he’s not dead,” said Draco again.
“It’s been almost a year,” said Hermione. “In wizard law, that’s when he can be declared legally dead.”
“But I don’t want to declare him legally dead,” explained Draco, because Hermione had clearly misunderstood Draco’s position in this respect. “I want him to be alive.”
“We’d have heard from him, Draco,” said Hermione. “He was a brilliant wizard. He would have got out some kind of message.”
Draco’s eyes prickled at her use of the past tense.
“I’d know, if he were dead,” said Draco. “I’d feel a shiver run through me, and a cry in my very soul, or whatever. Like in novels. I’d know.”
“What kind of flowers do you want for the service?” she asked, which was a ridiculous question, because obviously it was lilies. Draco had a grown a garden full of lilies for Harry when they bought the house. It kept stray cats away, but Harry’s whole face softened when he looked out the bedroom window and saw them.
So Harry had been declared dead. All his money went to Draco (the Prophet had a field day with that). Draco was given grief leave by St. Mungo’s.
“I don’t need it,” he told the hospital Administrative Supervisor.
“Just take it, Draco,” said the Administrative Supervisor.
“But he’s not dead,” said Draco. He seemed to be saying that a lot, these days, to anyone who would listen.
“Go to the zoo or something. Clear your head,” said the Administrative Supervisor.
“The zoo,” said Draco.
“Spend time with family.”
“Family,” said Draco, and laughed. He had no family. Harry was his family.
Actually, his parents had come out of the woodwork, when Harry first went missing. Lucius wrote him a letter from prison which would have been touching had it not been laced with covert “I told you so”s. Narcissa came over for tea and made several remarks about how Blood Would Tell. He asked her not to come to the funeral. Memorial service. Whatever. Harry wasn’t dead.
That said, the casseroles people kept bringing over were nice. Pansy slept over for a whole week after the Memorial Service. They got so drunk that later Pansy said they had had sex, but Draco was 90% sure they hadn’t. It would have been cheating, because he was still married, even if no one else thought he was.
The week in which Pansy stayed at his house passed in a haze of red wine and weeping.
“You cry a lot,” he remembered Pansy saying.
“No, I don’t,” he remembered answering, through sobs.
On Monday morning, they woke up with hideous hangovers, as they had every morning that week, but instead of downing mimosas, Draco made them a full English.
“Are you sure you’re ready to go back to St Mungo’s?” asked Pansy.
“I’m fine,” said Draco, and he was. Harry had gone to an away game, that was all. (The Canons had replaced Harry so fast it still made Draco furious to think about it.) Harry was away—everything was fine—and Draco lost himself in his work.
There was a stupidly handsome young man sitting next to Hermione at the Weasley’s Sunday lunch.
“Oh, Draco!” cried Hermione. “Come meet Clarence!”
Draco pulled a smile onto his face and held out a hand. Clarence was much taller and broader than Harry had been, with a tanned-bronze-Frenchman sort of face.
“Draco,” said Clarence. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
Draco recognised that this was a platitude, but in his case he wished people wouldn’t use it.
“Yes, well,” said Draco, and Clarence seemed to realise his mistake.
“From Hermione,” he said hastily. “At work. I work—good things. I’ve heard good things about you.”
Draco relented and smiled at him.
“Glad to hear Hermione’s not waging a war on my reputation,” he said. “I don’t think it would stand much of a chance.”
It was clear within about five minutes that it was a set-up. Hermione kept asking leading questions, like, “Clarence has always wanted children, haven’t you, Clarence? But his last boyfriend wasn’t interested.” And, “Clarence was telling me how difficult it is to meet people in London. Weren’t you, Clarence?”
“Hermione, a word?” asked Draco. Clarence, to his credit, seemed quite as embarrassed and uncomfortable as Draco.
Hermione followed Draco into the corridor.
“All right,” she said, “I shouldn’t have sprung that on you.”
“I am married!”
Hermione looked so sad that it made Draco want to crawl back to his stupid cottage and never come out again.
“No. No more set ups. Clarence is lovely—”
“Isn’t he?” asked Hermione.
“He’s really fit,” said Draco. “I mean, almost too fit. Untrustworthily so.”
“You should see him with his shirt off,” said Hermione.
“Is he ripped?” asked Draco, momentarily distracted.
“Like a Greek god,” said Hermione. Draco paused. Well could he imagine what Clarence looked like under his clothes. He and Hermione sighed at each other.
“Look, Granger, Greek god or no, it doesn’t change my marital status.”
“No. Harry’s coming back. I know it.”
In his darker moments, Draco could admit to himself that this certainty was only a form of denial.
Yet, after all, his denial proved true. Harry had been gone for a year and a half when a panicked underling burst into the operating room. Draco was in the process of removing a teapot that had grown arms and wrapped itself firmly around a small boy’s head.
“Healer Malfoy! It’s Harry Potter! They’ve found him, sir! He’s here!”
Harry. Scruffy beard, undernourished, fitfully sleeping, Harry. Draco couldn’t even think. He kept trying to go back to his teapot patient, and the healers kept telling him that it was all right, someone else had taken over, he could relax.
He sat next to Harry and touched his hand. Harry had such long, graceful hands. Draco thought he had remembered them, but he had been wrong, he didn’t remember anything, it was all brand new. The gold ring glimmered on Harry’s finger, making it look even stronger and more elegant. Powerful hands. They were one of the first things Draco had noticed, at the party when he and Harry had first—
Ginny had broken Draco’s heart, obviously, because she was Ginny and she couldn’t help herself. And Harry had been at that first party after the break-up, he had got back from Sardinia or wherever he had been hiding, and he hovered uncomfortably by the drinks. Draco hadn’t actually noticed him. His gaze had been fixed on Ginny, and her shiny, shiny hair.
“I heard you guys broke up,” said Harry. Draco jolted.
“Oh! Harry. You move like a cat.”
“Since when do you call me Harry?”
Draco felt his face blush.
“Everyone calls you Harry. I picked it up from the Weasleys, along with about a million hand-knitted jumpers.”
“I leave town for a year and you become an honorary Weasley,” said Harry.
Draco kicked unhappily at the carpet.
“‘Honorary’ is the word,” he said, bitterly.
“Oh, come off it,” said Harry. “You’re saying you would have taken her name?”
“Obviously,” said Draco. “As if Ginny would have taken my—” and then he was stopped by a wave of misery, and closed his mouth. Across the room, Ginny laughed at something Justin Finch-Fletchley said, and Draco wanted to throw up.
“Come on,” said Harry, and held out his hand. His long, strong, capable hand. Draco took it, and Harry led him out onto the street. They sat on the stoop.
“You okay?” asked Harry.
Eighteen-year-old Draco would have asked, “Why do you care?” But the last few years had taught him that some people really just were kind, for no other reason than that the world was good.
“Yeah,” he said. He glanced at Harry, who was watching him with concern. “I’m not going to cry, so don’t get excited.”
Harry raised his eyebrows.
“I know how you like to satisfy your blood lust.”
Harry looked as if he couldn’t make up his mind as to how he wanted to react to this statement. Finally, he said,
“Yeah,” he said. “Do you know about the Ship of Theseus?”
“Suppose Theseus’ ship was kept in a museum, and as it rotted, parts of it were replaced with new wood. And after a century, the entire thing had been replaced, piece by piece. Is it still the ship of Theseus?”
Harry wrinkled his nose.
“I’m the ship of Theseus,” he said. “But not all of me has been replaced yet. Thus, still a git. I’m working on it.”
“Oh,” said Harry, and laughed. It was a surprised sort of laughter. Draco smiled at his knees.
“So,” he said. “How was Uzbekistan?”
“I was in Connemara. In Ireland,” said Harry.
“It was good,” said Harry, leaning against the door and letting his throat stretch long as his head tilted back. “It was really good,” he said, quieter. He looked at Draco, moving only his eyes. “Ship of Theseus. I like that. I think I replaced quite a few pieces, in Ireland.”
It was surreal, sitting on a stoop with Harry Potter, talking about ancient Greek thought experiments, but so much about the past few years had been surreal that Draco didn’t even bother fighting it.
“What pieces?” he asked.
“I’m not angry anymore,” said Harry. “I was really angry, after the war.”
“Is it still Harry Potter, if he’s not angry?” mused Draco.
“Is it still Draco Malfoy, if he’s not bigoted?”
“Yeah, all right,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to be a dick.”
“Sorry,” said Harry, earnestly. “I wasn’t trying to be, either. Sorry.”
They looked at each other for a moment.
“This is weird,” said Draco, at the same time as Harry said, “I’m gay.”
“I knew that,” he said.
“Well. I speculated,” said Draco. “I’m bi. I fancied you, in school.”
Harry went bright red.
“Oh,” he said.
“Relax,” said Draco. “I don’t anymore.”
Harry brought his thumb to his mouth and chewed on a loose piece of skin.
“That’s a relief,” he said, but he was looking Draco up and down. Draco frowned.
“You can’t be serious,” he said.
“You come home from the Alps—”
“Connemara,” said Harry. “Ireland.”
“—and the first thing you want to do is have sex with me?”
Harry shrugged and looked shiftily away.
“I’ve done other stuff,” said Harry. “I saw Teddy on Sunday.”
Draco perked up.
“Is it just me, or he the most handsome child ever to have graced the earth?”
“He’s pretty cute,” said Harry.
“It’s because he’s related to me, you know. That’s the Black lineage. We’re a good looking bunch.”
“You are,” said Harry, looking at him with a distinctly predatory expression in his eyes.
Draco stared at him, then laughed.
“Well. Fuck it,” he said. “Your place or mine?”
Draco held Harry’s hand in the hospital bed, remembering all the other times he’d held it. He had never taken Harry for granted, he knew that. It was some comfort. Every time he had touched Harry, it had felt miraculous. This time was no different.
Harry stirred. His eyelids flickered. His hand broke free of Draco’s grip. He sat up, opened his eyes, and looked at Draco.
“Malfoy? What the fuck are you doing here?”
Oh—and how fickle was memory! For Draco thought he remembered the way Harry used to look at him, back when they were Potter and Malfoy, had been sure he hadn’t forgotten the hatred, but he had. He had forgotten it all, and only now did he remember, now that he recognised that same hatred he thought they had burned away long ago.
“Harry,” said Draco, helplessly.
“Since when do you call me Harry? Where are Ron and Hermione? What did you do to me?”
One of the things that made Harry so attractive was how expressive his eyes were. To have such a lovable trait be turned against Draco to show Harry’s loathing was—
“I haven’t done… they’re coming,” said Draco. “They’ve been informed.” He felt light-headed. Had he eaten that day? Maybe not. He had a habit of pushing meals later and later, until he was too tired to eat and just went to bed.
“You still haven’t answered my question,” said Harry, and suddenly his wand was in his hand. Pointing the wand at Draco; that same wand that had once gashed open Draco’s heart and now was doing so again, without any blood at all. How had this man ever loved him?
And that was the terrifying question, because of course there was only one answer: he hadn’t.
A year after they first slept together, Harry presented Draco with a card. On the front was a drawing of the Ship of Theseus.
Is the restored ship the same as the Ship of Theseus?
Are Harry and Draco who hated each other the same people as Harry and Draco who love each other?
Happy one year anniversary.
Draco was baffled by this card for a number of reasons, foremost of which was the fact that he hadn’t realised he and Harry were dating. Draco hadn’t slept with anyone else, but he had assumed Harry was fucking other people. It had been the source of considerable, and apparently well-hidden, anxiety and sadness.
And then, of course, there was the word that jumped off the page.
“Hang on,” said Draco. Harry was sucking up iced tea through a straw. “The first time you tell me you love me, you also decide I love you?”
“Well, you do, don’t you?” asked Harry, with such blinding confidence that Draco wondered if maybe he had been in love with Harry since he was eleven, without fully realising it.
“Yes, I do, but—”
“Cool,” said Harry, biting his lip and smiling with his whole face. That was how he smiled, with every muscle. Draco felt slightly dazed.
“Are you really counting our anniversary from our first drunken shag?” he asked, so that he wouldn’t say all the other things, things like Hang on, wait, did I miss something, has there been a mistake, do you know what love means to me?
“I wasn’t drunk,” said Harry.
“Neither was I,” admitted Draco.
“When would you say we started going out?” asked Harry.
Literally just now, thought Draco, but he suspected this would make him sound foolish, so he just jerked one shoulder and tried to look uninterested.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “Have it your way. Happy one year anniversary; I haven’t got you anything.”
He remembered that card now, as Harry glared at him on a hospital bed. Are Harry and Draco who hated each other the same people as Harry and Draco who love each other?
Had Draco dreamed it?
“Harry, we’re… we’re married, Harry,” said Draco, holding out his hand to show his own wedding ring.
Harry’s stinging hex was well-aimed and powerful. Draco flinched back in his chair, fear flooding his brain.
“Get. Out,” said Harry, and Draco obeyed without a second thought.
Harry had got drunk once and cried about Sectumsempra.
“Every time I see the scars I remember that I could have killed you,” he had wept.
“You didn’t,” Draco had told him. “It doesn’t matter. I forgave you so long ago. It’s forgotten. I’ve forgotten it.”
How many lies Draco had told. In the corridor outside Harry’s hospital room, Draco put his head between his knees and forced his heart to calm. Harry wasn’t going to kill him. It had just felt as if Harry was going to kill him.
“Amnesia,” repeated Hermione. Because it was Harry, his visitors had been given a private waiting room. Hermione and Ron had recovered from their shock much more quickly than Draco had. They were used to improbably awful things happening to Harry.
“Yes,” said Healer Bussell. “It seems to have stalled at his last important memory, which appears to have been the end of the war.”
“His last important memory,” said Draco.
He hadn’t healed the burns on his cheek. Hermione kept offering, and Draco kept saying, In a bit. It stung. It stung. It was easy to think about how much it stung.
“That was a poor choice of words,” said Healer Bussell. “I meant the last— the most vivid memory.”
“How long has he been stuck like this?” asked Draco.
“Over a year, it looks like,” said Healer Bussell. “It seems as if he was hostage for a few weeks, and then in the process of trying to get free, he triggered some kind of spell.”
“Stuck in the aftermath of the war for a year,” said Draco. “And all alone in that cellar?”
Harry had been found in a routine Auror sweep of an abandoned building near Birmingham.
“He’s been through a real ordeal, yes,” said Healer Bussell.
“But will he get his memories back?” asked Hermione.
“That’s the good news,” said Healer Bussell. “We can’t do much about experiences he had while he was alone, but we should be able to graft your memories of him through advanced pensieve technology. It’s not perfect, but it should help him move on. And his memories may come back with time.”
“Can we talk to him now?” asked Hermione.
“Yes, of course,” said Healer Bussell.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for me…” said Draco.
“Don’t be stupid,” said Ron. “We’ll explain to him. Come on, you must be longing to be with him.”
Draco touched the burn on his cheek.
“No, really,” he said. “And he should stay with you guys, when he gets out.”
Ron looked mystified.
“Are you crazy? You’re his husband. You’ve been pining away for him all this time.”
“I think Draco may be right,” said Hermione. “Draco, please let me fix that burn.”
“In a bit,” said Draco. “I’m just, uh, I’m just going to go home. To the house. You keep him. And when he wants to talk, I’ll be there. There’s no rush.”
“You can’t go home alone,” said Ron. “Hermione. Come on. He looks like he’s about to off himself.”
“I’m just tired,” said Draco.
God, he was tired. The next few days passed with an increasing fatigue that seemed to press down upon him from above.
Hermione sent an owl to tell him when she went in to give her pensieve memories. Then Ron, then Ginny, then all the Weasleys, one by one, then Luna, then Neville… on and on it went, and still Harry did not contact him.
Draco avoided them all because he knew if he saw them he would be unable to stop himself from asking about Harry.
“I’d be worried if you were ugly, but you’re not,” Pansy told him. He stared unseeingly into a mug of tea. “Harry will be thrilled he gets to shag you.”
“And if he’s not, I’ll shag you,” said Blaise.
“Cupcake?” offered Greg.
Draco was in the garden when Harry finally came. Harry was dressed in unfamiliar clothes; they looked as if he had just bought them. But they weren’t the kind of clothes he liked to buy, or, more accurately, that Draco had taught him to like to buy: they were bland and ill-fitting. The sort of clothes Dudley used to pass on.
“Hey,” said Harry.
Harry rubbed the back of his neck. He wasn't wearing his wedding ring.
“So. We’re married,” he said.
“It wasn’t my idea,” said Draco. Harry didn’t laugh. He wouldn’t meet Draco’s eye.
“Well, Ron said I had to come see you in person, so. I’m just here to give you these.”
He pulled out a rough stack of papers and handed them to Draco. Divorce papers. Draco stared at them.
“You haven’t seen my memories yet,” he said. He had sent them in to St Mungo’s so that Harry wouldn’t have to talk to him in order to see them, but it was obvious Harry hadn’t watched them. If he had, he would have been gentler. Draco was sure of that.
“Yeah, I’ve… look, don’t take it personally, I just think it’s best if I don’t.”
Draco raised his eyes slowly from the divorce papers.
“It’s… it’s best if you don’t?”
“Yeah. You understand,” said Harry, still not looking at him. “I mean… it’s us. Married? I think we’ve had a lucky escape, to be honest.”
Several starts of sentences presented themselves to Draco, but they were all so inadequate, so ineloquent, that he could not bring himself to say anything at all.
“I’ve changed,” said Draco. Tears were building up in a painful dam behind his eyes. “I’m—the Ship of Theseus.”
“It’s… you’d know, if you watched my memories.” Draco tried to burn his eyes into Harry’s, so that Harry would look at him. It didn’t work. Harry made an impatient sound.
“Look, Malfoy, I’ve had a pretty shit few years, and frankly, I can’t imagine any situation in which I wouldn’t regret marrying you.”
Buck up, Draco told himself. He’d known this was coming, since the very beginning. All good things come to an end.
Only he had thought, when that underling had told him Harry had been found, that he would have a little longer.
Draco lowered his eyes to look at the divorce papers. The movement displaced a tear, which splashed onto the “v” of Divorce, blurring it.
“Yeah,” said Draco. “Yeah. No. I always knew you would regret it.”
“But you married me anyway? That’s fucked up,” said Harry. And another note in the symphony of pain was that Draco knew Harry. He knew that Harry was only angry and belligerent when he felt that something he loved was under threat. Harry thought Draco was a threat.
“Do you, uh, do you need these now?” asked Draco, waving the papers.
“No,” said Harry. “You can just send them to me. I’m at Ron and Hermione’s.”
“You know I love you, right?” asked Draco, just— just in case.
Harry made an exasperated sound.
“Yeah, so I’ve been told. I don’t know how the fuck you’ve managed to convince all my friends that you’re my soulmate, but you can drop the act now.”
Draco fiddled with the edge of the papers.
“It’s not an act,” he said, trying to keep his voice flat.
“All right,” said Harry, as if he was speaking to a drunk person. “I don’t want to argue. Just send me those when you’ve signed them.”
“The house,” said Draco.
“You should have it,” said Draco. “You should buy me out. I’m going to sell it, if you don’t. I can’t live here anymore.”
He didn’t know it was true until he said it, but of course he couldn’t stay. The lilies; the curtains Harry had come with him to pick out, the silverware Draco had tracked down from an antique dealer because he was almost certain it had once been owned by Harry’s paternal grandmother.
“I don’t want a house,” said Harry, but as he said it, he glanced up, and Draco spotted it: that same wistful look he had got the first time they saw the house. When Harry had pulled Draco aside from the estate agent and said, urgently, “Do you like it? It’s nice, right? What do you think?”
“Think about it,” said Draco.
“Yeah, okay,” said Harry. He frowned. Clearly he hadn’t expected this to be so easy, and Draco’s heart broke in a thousand different ways, for both of them. Harry didn’t look well. He looked as if he needed someone to take care of him, and Draco longed—not only to care for Harry, but also just to know that Harry was cared for.
“So… send me those,” said Harry, gesturing at the divorce papers. “And, er, thanks, I guess. I thought you’d kick up a big fuss.”
“I could never could quite believe you loved me,” said Draco, lightly. “So this all makes sense.”
There was a long pause, in which Draco did not risk looking at Harry.
“Okay, well. Thanks,” said Harry, and disapparated.
Draco packed blindly, laying his hands on things and shoving them into an old carpet bag. He took down any pictures with him in them, put them in a box, and put the box at the back of his wardrobe. He cast permanence spells on the food in the kitchen; food he had bought in the hope that Harry would come round; all Harry’s favourite things. He tidied the house.
“Right,” he said aloud. “Right. This is fine.”
Ginny opened the door right away.
“I need,” said Draco, but she didn’t let him finish. She pulled him into her flat and drew him into a long hug. She made him tea, settled him on the sofa, and he told her everything.
“What an absolute twat,” said Ginny.
“He’s unhappy,” said Draco. “He’s all fucked from the war. And anyway, he’s right, it’s mental that we were ever together.”
“You were perfect for each other,” said Ginny. “He’s being unbelievably stubborn. We’ve all told him how happy you were. He’s seen plenty of memories of you two together. I have no idea why he’s being such a cunt.”
Draco just shook his head.
“How did you get over him?” he asked her.
“I was never really… under him,” said Ginny. Draco tried to smile, and Ginny made a small sound. “Look, come here,” she said, and put her arms around him, but they moved together imperfectly, and a moment later they were kissing. It was unclear who had started it, but they both continued it in equal measure.
They broke away, and he remembered, as if through a fog, how he used to feel about her.
“Will you marry me?” he asked. Ginny looked pained.
“I already told you, Draco. You don’t want to marry me.”
Draco lay back on the sofa.
“Will anyone ever love me back?” he asked. Ginny curled up in his arms.
“I love you,” she said.
“I know,” said Draco, after a pause. “I love you, too.”
They had sex that night, and it made Draco feel both better and worse. Better, because it was reassuring to have it confirmed that he was really and truly over her, and it was somehow marvellous to have a friend he could sleep with without it feeling complicated. They loved each other in the same ways, in the same amounts.
But it was worse, because she was not Harry. Worse, because he would never get Harry again. Worse, because someone else would get Harry. Someone who deserved him.
“I’m sorry,” whispered Ginny, as he cried. “We shouldn’t have—”
“No,” he said, clutching her soft, naked body close. “No. It helped.”
“I’m not sure this is healthy,” said Ginny, kissing him.
“I’m a healer,” said Draco. “I know what’s healthy.”
“You can move in with me, if you want,” she said.
“That’s a mad idea. I’ll find a flat,” said Draco.
“Near me,” said Ginny.
“I love you,” said Ginny. “As a friend, but it still counts.”
“It does,” said Draco.
Harry had not intended to move into Malfoy’s’s house. (He couldn’t think of it as his own old house.) He had been so sure that he wouldn’t move in, in fact, that he had met up with the real estate agent Malfoy had hired to sell it.
“Just want to check everything’s in order,” said Harry, because no matter how much Ron and Hermione told him that Malfoy had changed, Harry couldn’t shake the idea that Malfoy was probably trying to scam him out of money.
So the real estate agent took him round the cottage, and Harry fell in love.
The moment he walked in, he felt as if he had come home. It was an overwhelming feeling; like scent memory. The curtains were the right colour. The light streamed serenely through the diamond-paned windows.
“Of course, you’ll need to find out how Mr. Malfoy wishes to split the sale of the furnishings,” said the real estate agent, and Harry was visited by an oppressive sense of loss. Of course Malfoy would want to dismantle the decor, sell off the furniture. But the furniture was perfect. Everything look clean, comfortable, lived in. It looked as if Harry could start living there that instant, as if it had been waiting. Home.
Harry bought Malfoy’s share of the house, and asked Hermione to ask Malfoy what he wanted to do about the furniture. He had no idea where Malfoy was staying.
“He says everything in the house is yours,” said Hermione. Which made sense, actually. There had probably been a bunch of wanky, pretentious furniture before, that Malfoy had moved out. Although Harry wasn’t sure where there would have been space for Malfoy’s stuff, because everything seemed as if it was in its perfect place.
Harry moved in that night. The pantry was fully stocked with all of his favourite food.
There were two wardrobes in the bedroom. One was empty except for an old cardboard box, which Harry made a mental note to return to Malfoy sometime. The other was full of the most beautiful clothes Harry had ever seen. Crisp shirts with permanent ironing charms. Soft cashmere jumpers in shades of bottle green, completely free of piles. A thick brown coat with toggles and a hood that Harry had the disorienting feeling he had once seen someone wear—Malfoy? And been envious of. All the trousers fit him perfectly. They made him seem taller, somehow. The shoes were Italian leather.
“I had good taste,” he told Hermione, when he showed up at their flat in his new clothes. Hermione gave him a pitying look.
“Draco has good—” she stopped herself.
Oh, thought Harry. Of course Malfoy had bought all those clothes. Probably he had given them to Harry with plenty of snide remarks about his mudblood mother. For a few days, Harry avoided wearing them, but then he went to a pub night where Ginny was going, and he wanted to look his best. He put on the clothes and felt instantly like his favourite version of himself.
After that, he didn’t resist the clothes anymore. They were his, after all.
Malfoy sent the divorce papers back in good time. He didn’t argue a single point in the settlement, despite the fact that Harry’s lawyer had been rather aggressive and insisted on Harry demanding a large fraction of Malfoy’s fortune. Harry had let his lawyer put in the demand because he was so sure Malfoy would refuse, but Malfoy seemed to have signed all the papers without reading them. He hadn’t even hired a lawyer.
The Canons had taken Harry back, but he was badly out of practice. He spent all day on the quidditch pitch, trying to get to know his fellow team members. He was conscious that they kept comparing him unfavourably to Old Harry, who had apparently been some kind of saint of patience and compassion, and also clearly a gullible idiot who had married Draco Malfoy. They were surprised whenever he snapped at them, wounded when he made caustic remarks.
“He’s so angry,” he overheard one of them say. Of course he was angry. Who wouldn’t be angry?
He spent the rest of his time with Ron and Hermione, usually at his cottage, because he loved being there. It soothed him. The flower garden, in particular, seemed to drain his anger. He went there in the evenings, read one of the books from his cosy library, and let the thick smell of lilies lull him to sleepiness.
He had been there a week when he noticed that the lilies were looking brown and droopy. He invited Neville over to take a look.
“Oh, God,” said Neville. “What have you done to them?”
“Nothing! I mean, I watered them,” said Harry.
Neville ran his fingers over the damaged petals of a nearby lily.
“They look terrible. I’ve never seen them look like this.”
“Can you help?”
“Yeah,” said Neville, and taught him how to take care of the garden. But no matter how hard Harry worked on it, it never looked as it had the day he had served Malfoy divorce papers. He could not shake that memory, and it came back to him often, filling him with vague dissatisfaction. The garden had been luminously white, and the wind had blown the floating scent of lilies through the air. Malfoy’s pale hair had caught the sunlight in a way that had made Harry feel strangely miserable. Malfoy had moved so slowly, so deliberately, as if everything about the garden was sacred.
Harry felt, childishly, as if the lilies were sulking.
It took him almost a month to realise that all of his friends were meeting up with Malfoy behind his back. He was at Sunday lunch at the Burrow, and as George left, Hermione said,
“See you Tuesday!”
“What’s Tuesday?” asked Harry. Hermione flushed red.
“Oh, just— Draco’s house warming.”
Harry looked around at the collected Weasleys, who all avoided his eye.
“Are you all going?” he asked in astonishment.
“I’m sure Draco wouldn’t mind if you came along,” said Hermione.
“No,” said Ron. “No way. I’m sorry, mate, but you absolutely cannot come.”
“I don’t want to come,” said Harry.
“I don’t want Harry to feel left out,” said Hermione, in an undertone.
“You know how Draco is right now,” said Ron.
Hermione sighed and nodded.
“I don’t want to come,” said Harry again. “I can’t believe you’re all going. Even you?” he asked Mrs. Weasley.
“Draco’s had a hard time, Harry,” said Mrs. Weasley, and that made sense, to a degree; that Mrs. Weasley would pity Malfoy enough to overcome her repugnance.
“Ginny?” asked Harry. “I mean, he’s your ex.”
“Draco’s my best friend,” said Ginny coldly. “It’s my flat that he’s moving out of.”
Harry shook his head, because it was all too crazy to understand.
“I feel as if you guys are the ones with amnesia,” he said. “It’s Malfoy. I know he turned out not to be fully evil, but he’s still a prick.”
“Don’t talk about him like that,” said Ron.
“Literally, what the fuck,” said Harry.
“You’ve broken his heart,” said Ginny. “Have the grace not to cruel about it.”
“I didn’t want his heart in the first place!”
“Percy, how’s the cauldron metallurgy legislation going?” asked Hermione. All the Weasleys turned to look at Percy with forceful interest, and the conversation veered away from Malfoy.
“How often do you see him?” he asked Hermione, later, as they sat around the fire.
“Oh— not too often. Twice a week, probably.”
“Twice a week??”
“He’s been helping me with my dissertation,” said Hermione, sheepishly. “He must have read every chapter at least a dozen times.”
“What about Ron?”
“Harry… you were so in love with him. And we already liked him, because we’d got to know him through Ginny.”
“That’s another question,” said Harry. “How the hell did he and Ginny end up dating?”
“Well, he specialises in quidditch injuries, so when she tore a ligament, they ended up spending a lot of time together,” said Hermione.
It was just like sixth year. Harry was the only one who could see through Malfoy. Everyone else had gone mad. It made Harry feel strangely hunted, as if Malfoy was an invasive species who had penetrated his life and was killing it off, changing it.
Despite Neville’s ministrations, the lilies still had not recovered.
“I’ll ask Draco,” said Neville.
“I don’t know,” said Harry.
“He won’t mind,” said Neville. “He loves this garden.”
The next week, Neville arrived with a bottle of a pale gold potion.
“Draco’s secret!” he said triumphantly. “He used a resilience potion on them. He brewed some for me. We just need to put this on the soil once a month.”
The effect of the potion was immediate and remarkable. Within the hour, the lilies were back to their former, resplendent glory.
Three weeks later, a package arrived at the cottage, addressed to Harry in dark blue slanted writing that Harry somehow knew was Draco’s.
More resilience potion. It’s an old family recipe. Let me know if it doesn’t work.
The package, it transpired, was recurring. Every three weeks, Malfoy sent him a bottle of potion, with a short note asking Harry to let him know if he had any questions.
Harry’s friends continued not to mention Draco around him. Harry felt as if he was paddling as hard as he could just to stay afloat. He drank too much.
He was hungover the day he fell off his broom and injured his shoulder. Harry had had a lot of injuries, so he knew instantly that this was a bad one.
“St. Mungo’s,” he gasped.
In retrospect, he should have known what would happen next.
The door to his hospital room opened, and Malfoy walked in, wearing pale grey healer’s robes and carrying a clipboard.
“Good afternoon,” he said, his eyes fixed on the clipboard.
“You,” said Harry.
“We can find you another healer, if you prefer. But I think I can fix your shoulder quicker than anyone else; I’ve just taken a class on wrenched joints.”
Harry groaned and turned over on the bed, so that he lay on his stomach.
“No, fine,” he said. “Have at it.”
Malfoy asked a few technical questions, then asked if he could touch Harry.
“Whatever you need to do,” said Harry. The next moment there was a pair of cool, steady hands on his shoulder blade. Malfoy felt the muscles with his finger tips, his touch light and delicate.
“All right,” he said. “I think I might be able to heal it with an internal growth spell, so that you can avoid physical therapy.”
“Great,” said Harry. Malfoy touched his shoulder gently with his wand, murmured something in a low voice, and all of Harry’s pain vanished.
“Fuck,” said Harry.
“Yeah,” said Harry, turning over and sitting up so that he could windmill his arms. “Wow.”
Malfoy stepped away from the hospital bed and bent his pale head over the clipboard.
“Good,” he said. “We’ll schedule you in for a check up in three weeks.”
“Malfoy,” said Harry, and Malfoy looked up, his face expressionless. Harry realised for the first time that Malfoy was… proportionate. Symmetrical. His skin was really clear. His posture was great.
Harry cleared his throat.
“Can you give me the instructions for that potion you send for the lilies?” he asked. “So I can brew it myself?”
“You can’t,” he said. “It needs one of my hairs.”
Malfoy coloured pink.
“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t think. I should have told you, I just didn’t… you don’t have to use it. There are other resilience potions on the market, I just like— my one gives a certain radiance—”
“No, it’s great,” said Harry. “It works really well. I just don’t really want you to have to send me a potion every month.”
“Right, of course,” said Malfoy, looking back at the clipboard. “I’ll experiment. I’m a bit busy with work at the moment, but I can push back some plans this weekend and do it then.”
“No, obviously don’t do that,” said Harry. “Merlin. Don’t cancel your plans. Just, you know, it would be good if I could brew it myself.”
Malfoy nodded. Then he looked up, holding Harry’s gaze. His eyes were ambiguously grey, which struck Harry as symbolic.
“How are you?” asked Harry, before he could stop himself. He wasn’t sure why he had asked. It had just erupted in him, the abrupt desire to find out if Draco was okay.
“How am I?” repeated Malfoy.
“Er. How’s your health?”
“Oh,” said Malfoy, and he smiled, although it looked uncomfortable. “My health. It’s good. I’m very healthy. How is your health, other than your shoulder?”
“Good,” said Harry.
“Good,” said Malfoy. He licked his lips. “Well. If that’s all.”
He turned and went to the door, but paused when he got there.
“Connemara,” he said.
“You should go to Connemara,” said Malfoy. “You went before, after the war.”
“I know,” said Harry, annoyed. He didn’t like to be informed of things he knew he had done, just as he didn’t like people to act as if he remembered things he didn’t. He was aware that this wasn’t reasonable, but that didn’t change his feelings.
“It helped you,” said Malfoy. “You said it made everything easier. Cleared your head. I don’t know, I just thought… it might help.”
“I don’t need help,” said Harry, wondering if this lie was as transparent as it felt.
“Right,” said Malfoy. “Of course. Sorry.” He turned to go.
“Thanks,” said Harry.
Malfoy froze with his hand on the door.
“For the potion. And the house. And for fixing my shoulder,” said Harry.
“‘just my job,” murmured Malfoy, and slipped quietly out of the room. But the potion and the house hadn’t been part of Malfoy’s job. It occurred to Harry that Malfoy had actually behaved with extraordinary grace since the divorce. For the first time, Harry wondered whether he hadn’t maybe been a little inconsiderate of Malfoy’s feelings.
The evening after he healed Harry’s shoulder, Draco ran into Clarence in the supermarket.
“Draco,” said Clarence. He looked as if he didn’t quite know what to say. Draco’s divorce had been in the papers, so everyone knew about it.
“Clarence,” said Draco. “Shopping for… artichokes?”
“I like to cook,” said Clarence.
“Me too,” said Draco.
“Hermione mentioned,” said Clarence. “That’s one of the many good things I had heard about you.”
“Oh,” said Draco. He still felt as if he could feel Harry’s shoulder on his finger tips. Harry’s body had been so warm, so devastatingly familiar.
“I was sorry to hear about your divorce,” said Clarence. When Draco was younger, he would have assumed that Clarence was just being nosy and interfering. But he had learnt a lot from his time with Ginny, with Harry.
“Thank you,” he said, and he was just about to make his excuses and leave, when instead, he did something completely different. “Do you want to go get a drink?”
“Now?” asked Clarence, looking at his shopping basket.
Clarence smiled. His teeth were American white.
“Okay,” said Clarence. “Yeah.”
They went to a nearby bar and Clarence ordered for Draco without asking. Draco considered minding, but the drink, when it arrived, was delicious.
“Hermione said you had a bad break up recently,” said Draco, and Clarence began to talk.
In the month after his trial, when he was still reeling from the fact that it was all over and he was really free, Draco had made a list of all the things he hated about himself.
It had been long.
Depressed by the length of his failings, he had gone to the library to find a book to read. It was there that he first came across the Ship of Theseus thought experiment.
What if every rotten part of him could be replaced?
He had gone back to his list of flaws, and decided that if it could be done, if a new Draco could be built amid the wreckage of the old one, he would do it. From then on, he worked consciously to strip out all the parts of himself that he hated, and to replace them, to improve them.
The first word on the list was “arrogant”. From then on, every time he thought he was better than someone, he caught and berated himself. There was nothing he was too good for now, he decided.
Another word on the list was “insecure”, and he knew that in chipping away his arrogance, he only increased his insecurity. There was probably a middle way, but Draco couldn’t find it.
The result was that, whereas he once would have shown off to impress Clarence, he now became quiet and questioning. It was a funny thing, how the easiest way to seem clever and fascinating was to make other people feel clever and fascinating. Draco asked a thousand questions, and Clarence didn’t ask a single one back. Draco fixed an interested expression on his face and wondered if Clarence had any idea how bored he was.
They finished their drinks.
“Dinner?” asked Clarence. Draco longed to go home to his cottage, to tell Harry in barbed terms about his terrible date.
“I’d like that,” he said.
Harry had never let Draco get very far into his retreats. When Draco got nervous and stopped talking, Harry would dig in, ask more and more questions, until Draco was sure that by answering he wasn’t being boorish. (That had been another word on the list; boorish, self-absorbed, and in his paranoia, he had a rule that he wouldn’t talk about himself unless he was certain the other person wanted to know. There were only a few people he felt sure of, in that respect: Pansy, Ginny. Harry, before the change.)
So Draco waited, as Clarence took him to an incredibly expensive restaurant, for Clarence to ask him about himself. He never did. He was complimentary about Draco; he ordered for him, he paid. But he didn’t seem to have any interest in finding out more.
In many ways, this set Draco at ease. It was simpler to be quiet and to listen than it was to figure out how to be a good person.
“I went on a date,” he told Pansy, the next day, at Ginny’s flat.
“You did?” asked Pansy.
“With whom?” asked Ginny.
“Oh, my God,” said Ginny. “Did you see his dick? Was it huge?”
“I did not see his dick,” said Draco.
“Pansy, Clarence is the hottest person I’ve ever actually seen in person,” said Ginny. Pansy grinned wickedly.
“Is he, now?”
“He really is impossibly good looking,” said Draco.
“So? How did it go?” asked Ginny.
“He liked me, I think,” said Draco, taking a sip of wine.
“And?” asked Pansy. “Did you like him?”
“Yeah,” said Draco.
Yeah. He did like Clarence, more or less. He liked that Clarence liked him.
“I love what a good listener you are,” Clarence told him, when they had been dating for a month. Draco smiled. They were at the Jules Verne, the Michelin-star restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. That was something that was better with Clarence than with Harry: Clarence loved fancy shit. They went to the opera, the ballet, to expensive exhibits at the Tate Modern, to wine tastings in the South of France. Draco had tried dragging Harry to the opera once. Harry had complained and asked stupid questions the entire time. He laughed when Carmen died.
There were other things that were better with Clarence than with Harry. Clarence showered Draco with gifts, for instance; expensive, tasteful gifts. That had been one of his earliest fights with Harry. It had taken a lot for Draco to realise that Harry wasn’t slighting him when he gave joke gifts at Christmas.
They had settled it, eventually. Draco would leave a catalogue out on the kitchen table, with what he wanted circled in red pen, and Harry would buy it for him. But it was nicer, not to have to do that. Simply to receive things he loved, unexpectedly, knowing Clarence had picked them out.
Draco was well-aware that his constant tally of ways in which things were better with Clarence was a testimony to how much better things had been, overall, with Harry.
But that, in itself, was one of the advantages of his relationship with Clarence. He had never been able to believe his luck, when he had been with Harry. It had seemed too good to be true; self-indulgently blissful. Dating Clarence was work, and so it felt more credible.
“Is he good in bed?” asked Pansy.
“Yeah,” lied Draco, because he had chosen Clarence, and owed him his loyalty. In truth, Clarence, like most truly good looking men, was rather clumsy in bed. He relied more on the excitement of his partner than on any innate skill.
Probably the best thing about Clarence was that Draco felt nothing like himself around him.
They had been dating for several months before they ran into Harry. It was at a party at Neville’s house. Not much of a party, really, not compared to the glamorous events Clarence and Draco attended constantly. They sat in Neville’s living room, snacking on cheese cubes. Clarence had his arm around Draco, and stroked Draco idly as he talked. Draco was embarrassed by how Clarence mistook Dean Thomas’ politeness for interest, but he didn’t say anything.
On his other side, Hermione and Ginny were talking about a camping trip they were planning. Harry sat next to Ron, his feet on the coffee table, looking dark and handsome and dour.
“Draco, will you come, if we go camping?” asked Hermione, across the circle. Draco opened his mouth to answer, but Clarence got there first.
“We hate camping,” said Clarence, squeezing Draco close.
“Why don’t you let him speak for himself, for once?” asked Harry disdainfully. Draco had hoped that Harry would see him with Clarence and feel jealous—Clarence was so very good looking—but now he saw how hopeless that little fantasy had been. Harry probably thought Clarence was every bit as boring as Draco did.
Clarence laughed uncomfortably.
“Harry,” chided Hermione.
“What?” asked Harry, and Draco knew, he could hear, how close Harry was to blowing up. “He hasn’t let Draco say a word all evening!”
“I don’t want to go camping,” said Draco quietly, to Hermione. Clarence looked at him anxiously.
“Have I been talking over you?” he asked, when people had stopped looking at them.
“No,” said Draco. Clarence kissed his nose. Clarence loved him. Draco had never felt sure of Harry, and it was wonderful, knowing, knowing that Clarence loved him.
“You’d tell me, right?” asked Clarence.
“Of course,” said Draco.
“I love you,” said Clarence. Draco kissed him on the lips.
“Love you too,” he said, because he did. It wasn’t an exciting sort of love. It was more like gratitude than anything else. But he did feel it.
Harry left the party early.
After Neville’s party, Harry started seeing Draco more often. It was as if a seal had been broken, and all their friends stopped bothering to keep them apart.
Harry found he didn’t mind as much as he had thought he would; as long as Draco was by himself. The trouble was, he so rarely was. Clarence came to the Burrow, to Andromeda’s, to parties at Ginny’s and barbecues at Ron and Hermione’s. He talked incessantly, while Draco stood quietly by, like a politician’s wife.
“What does Draco even see in him?” he asked, at Ron and Hermione’s. “I mean, I’m not Draco’s biggest fan, but even I know Draco’s too smart for him.”
“Hmm,” said Ron, stroking his chin. “What could Draco possibly see in him? Gee, Harry, I just don’t know. Do you think it’s his chiselled jaw, or his six pack, or his vast fortune?”
“Be nice,” said Hermione.
“Obviously he’s good looking,” said Harry, “but—”
“Oh, that reminds me, they were in Witch Weekly,” said Hermione, pulling out a copy from the pile of magazines on the coffee table and flicking through it. “Here.” She handed it to Harry and Ron.
It was a picture from some glitzy society party, the sort Harry always refused to attend. Draco looked arrestingly handsome as he smiled at the camera. Clarence stood behind him, his chin resting on Draco’s head, his muscular arms wrapped around Draco’s slim body. “A second shot at love”, read the caption.
“How are you guys friends with him,” said Harry. “Look at this. He’s everything we hate about pureblood culture.”
“Honestly, shut up,” said Ron, taking the magazine to look at the picture. “I’m just glad Draco’s found someone who treats him right.”
Harry ignored the implied slight.
“Clarence is the least interesting person I’ve ever met,” he said.
“Yeah, well, he makes Draco happy, so he could be a brick wall and I still wouldn’t say shit,” said Ron.
“Draco doesn’t seem happy,” said Harry, slouching into his chair. Ron sighed.
“Happier,” he said. “Than he’s been.”
The next day, when Harry got to Andromeda’s, Draco was in the nursery with Teddy. For reasons he couldn’t quite explain to himself, Harry hovered out of sight instead of going in.
Draco sat in a dinky child’s chair opposite Teddy, who pushed forward a bowl full of purple gloop.
“Touch it,” said Teddy.
“No,” said Draco.
“Because! Look at it! It looks like a liver!”
“You touch livers all the time, at St Mungo’s,” said Teddy.
“They pay me to. Are you going to pay me?”
Teddy crossed his arms and tilted his chin up.
“Hmm, I suppose an annual fee of 20,000 galleons, plus holiday pay,” said Draco.
“That’s not fair,” said Teddy. “It’s a one-off.”
“Why are you so determined to make me touch it?”
“Because you get so upset,” said Teddy, with a grin.
“You’re a horrid child, and you’ll come to no good,” said Draco.
“Just touch it!”
“I dare you,” said Teddy, with the triumphant look of a man putting down a winning card in a game of poker.
Draco narrowed his eyes malevolently, yanked the bowl of goop forward, and thrust both his hands into it. Teddy squealed with delight. Draco made a gagging sound.
“What even is it?” he asked, moving his fingers.
“Slime,” said Teddy. “You make it with glue; it’s a muggle thing.”
“It feels—I hate it,” said Draco.
“About as fun as prison,” said Draco. “And I should know.”
“You never went to prison,” said Teddy.
“I did too! Not for long, but long enough.”
Teddy leant avidly forward.
“What was it like?”
“Can’t tell you,” said Draco. “You’re not seventeen yet.”
“Oh, come on!”
“Nope,” said Draco, pulling the slime apart with his fingers. “Sorry. The stories are too gruesome, disturbing, and yet somehow—arousing? To be shared with innocent young ears.”
“You can tell me!”
“Not till you’re twenty-five,” he said.
“You said seventeen!”
“That was before I realised how immature you were.”
“Draco! That’s so unfair!”
“Whoever said life was fair?” asked Draco, looking up and suddenly catching sight of Harry.
“Oh, uh, hey,” said Harry, stepping forward. Teddy leapt out his chair, crying “Harry!” Then he paused, looking from Draco to Harry, his discomfort transparent on his face.
“I was just leaving,” said Draco, peeling slime off his fingers.
“No, you weren’t,” said Teddy. “You just got here.”
“Yes, and then you made me touch slime,” Draco punctuated his words by wiping his hands on Teddy’s shirt as Teddy tried to squirm away, “and now I need about ten years of therapy.”
“Can I have a word?” Harry asked Draco. Draco straightened up, ruffled Teddy’s hair, and walked out of the room. Harry followed him down the corridor. When they were out of earshot, Draco turned to face Harry.
“You don’t have to go,” said Harry.
Draco stared at him.
“We can’t just avoid each other forever,” said Harry. “He’s your cousin, he’s my godson. You’re friends with my friends. We can be in the same room as each other.”
“Can we,” said Draco. There was a lovely, citrusy smell that Harry was somehow certain was Draco’s hair.
“Stay,” said Harry. “I don’t mind.”
A smile flashed across Draco’s face; an unpleasant thing.
“Maybe I mind,” said Draco, his eyes flicking away to look over Harry’s shoulder.
“Oh,” said Harry. This hadn’t occurred to him. Watching Draco and Teddy had made Harry feel calmer than he had in a long, long time. There was something soothing about the way they clearly loved each other, despite all the good reasons for them not to. It was like a physical representation of post-war healing. It had sapped Harry of his anger.
“I’ll go, then,” said Harry.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Like you said, we can’t separate our lives completely.”
“You were having a nice time,” said Harry. Draco frowned.
“Well, yes,” he said. “It’s Teddy. You know how I feel about—” Draco stopped himself. An awkward silence followed.
“Okay,” said Harry. “I’ll see you around, then.”
“Yes,” he said, and left.
It was like the cottage, Harry realised. Watching Draco with Teddy had felt a bit like stepping into the cottage. It was a similar quality of feeling. A relaxing, a loosening. He noticed it, when he stepped out of the floo, and looked at the soothing paintings on the wall, paintings of landscapes that looked vaguely like the grounds around Hogwarts. He made his way up to his bedroom and he did not know consciously why he was going there until he was standing in front of Draco’s empty wardrobe, looking at the cardboard box at the bottom of it. He hesitated, then pulled it out and opened it.
He had known what it would contain, somehow.
The first picture was in a silver frame, and it was clearly their wedding day. Harry was staring at Draco as if he couldn’t believe his luck, as if he was slightly dazed, still. It was the winning-the-quidditch-cup expression, times a hundred. Draco, meanwhile, was looking in another direction, smiling so hard he looked almost deranged, showing far too many teeth. It actually made him look much less handsome, because his eyes were crinkled shut and his face had creased practically in half to accommodate his enormous grin. Yet that was the one they had chosen to frame, despite the fact that Harry knew there were other, more flattering photographs of their wedding day— he had spotted one once at the Burrow, before Mrs. Weasley had hastened to put it away.
The next picture was from their engagement party. Harry recognised it from the memories he had got from his friends. Draco looked handsome in this one. His chin rested in his hand and he watched as Harry made a speech, a fond, exasperated look on his face. Harry, meanwhile, was grinning like an idiot as he spoke, and occasionally the moving picture Harry would reach out to touch Draco’s hair. Whenever he did, Draco closed his eyes and smiled.
Those were the only pictures of just the two of them. The other photographs were more casual— Ginny shoving an ice cream cone into Draco’s face at the beach; Draco, sunburned and miserable, on a hiking trail; Draco, Ron, Hermione and Neville all crowded together in a hammock, wriggling and shrieking in joy. Harry looked at each picture, trying to piece it together, trying to understand. It was late by the time he gave up. He put all the pictures back in the box, the box back in the wardrobe, and closed the door.
He was almost asleep when it came: a memory, crystal sharp yet also dreamlike. In the memory, Harry had been in the now-empty room that had once been Draco’s study. In real life, the room had been aggressively tidied, leaving no trace of Draco, but in the memory it was comfortably cluttered with books and old portraits. Harry had gone in looking for Draco, found the room empty, meandered over to the window. His gaze had fallen on the desk, on a piece of parchment there. A list. No title, just a long series of words.
It went on like that, some of the words crossed out, some with question marks next to them. And in the memory, Harry understood what the list meant, and as he read the words he was flooded with an intense sense of—
Harry sat up in bed, clawing at his temple. The emotions seeped thickly away. The fierce desire to protect, to help, the frustration, the fondness, the love. So much love. More than Harry had ever felt, for anyone.
He tried to get to sleep. It was no use. Had it been a dream? It was late. He went into the garden in his slippers and noticed the way the moonlight gilded the lilies.
Had it been a dream?
He had Draco’s address. Draco always put it on his packages, as if he hoped Harry would one day write back. Harry went to his desk and pulled out the packaging from the last potion Draco had sent him. He went to the fireplace, and before he had time to question what he was doing, whether it was appropriate, he had stepped into the hearth with a handful of floo powder and read out Draco’s address.
Draco’s flat was dark. It was two in the morning. Draco was asleep. Clarence was probably in bed with him.
“Shit,” muttered Harry, and stepped back into the fireplace.
“Who’s there?” came Draco’s voice, tight with fear, and then Draco himself, wearing a long green silk dressing gown and holding out his wand.
“I,” said Harry, at the same time as Draco said, “Harry?”
“Sorry,” said Harry. “I had—Sorry.”
Draco turned on the lights. The room came into focus, sharply neat and elegant. It was like the cottage, but without any softening influences.
“Are you okay?” asked Draco.
“Yeah,” said Harry. “I’m sorry. I, shit, I’m sorry.”
What had possessed him to come to Draco like this, in the middle of the night, as if he had a right to? As if he could expect Draco to wake up and take care of him? What was he thinking?
“Sit down,” said Draco.
“No, it’s the middle of the night, I shouldn’t have come.”
“Why did you?” asked Draco.
“I remembered something.”
Draco’s eyes widened.
“Sit down,” he said again.
“Or maybe it was a dream,” said Harry. “I don’t know. I wanted to ask you. I know I should have waited.”
Draco’s mouth pursed into a small smile.
“When have you ever waited for anything?”
Harry sat. Draco stayed where he was. He had lowered his wand.
“What was the memory?” he asked.
“It was a list. I found a list. It was yours. A list of words. Do you know what I’m talking about?”
Draco stared at him for a second, then went to an old-fashioned writing desk, opened a drawer, and pulled out a piece of parchment.
“Was it this?” he asked, handing it to Harry.
There were new words at the bottom now: words like boring and not fun.
And just as before, feelings rushed through Harry, different feelings, but just as powerful: pity, primarily, and anger. And one thing that was constant: the desire to protect, to heal.
Distantly, he had a sense that he had not told Draco he had found the list, last time. Vaguely, he had the sense that it would embarrass Draco if he thought Harry knew what the list meant.
“What is it?” he asked, to set Draco at ease. It worked. Draco’s shoulders fell from the stiff position in which he had been holding them.
“Nothing,” he said, taking the list back from Harry and putting it away in his desk. “So, was that what you remembered?”
“Yes,” said Harry.
Draco stayed by his desk, his back to Harry, his posture straight.
“That’s good,” he said. “That it’s coming back.”
It was late. Harry felt, unbidden, a strong desire to yank Draco’s shoulder and force him to look at him.
“Maybe I’ll remember how to be in love with you,” said Harry.
Draco tidied some pens into an ivory pen cup.
“You weren’t ever in love with me,” he said.
At Lavender’s birthday party, Draco sat, pale and silent, next to Clarence. Draco wore an expensive silk tie. Harry knew it was expensive, because Clarence several times picked up the end of it and showed it to people, telling them how much it cost. Draco looked the other way when he did this. It made him seem like a prisoner in chains, being paraded through Rome.
When he said as much to Ron, however, Ron only glared at him, and Ginny gave an ostentatious sigh.
“It’s just like sixth year,” said Ron.
“Yeah, but it was much cuter in sixth year,” said Ginny.
“It wasn’t all that cute in sixth year,” said Ron.
“You guys seriously don’t think it’s weird how… proprietary Clarence is about him?” asked Harry. Across the room, Draco leant into Clarence, and Clarence put an arm around Draco, kissing the top of his head. Draco closed his eyes and smiled.
“Harry. It’s one thing to obsess about your school rival,” said Ron. “It’s another thing entirely to obsess about your ex-husband.”
“I’m not obsessing,” said Harry, although he was, he knew he was. It was exactly the same feeling he used to have in sixth year, except instead of Malfoy’s up to something, it was Why is Draco with that loser?
“Can’t you just let him be happy?” asked Ron. Harry wondered when it was that Ron had learned to get defensive about Draco.
Ginny said the same thing, two weeks later, when Harry started complaining about how pathetic it was for Draco to go out with someone who clearly didn’t get him.
“Look, we’ve all been trying our hardest to support you, because obviously being kidnapped is rubbish and you’ve had a hard go of it,” she said, putting down her pint glass on the wooden coffee table. It was going to make a ring, because the wood wasn’t varnished. Harry wasn’t sure how he knew that. “But you know what? Draco’s had a bad time, too. Everyone thought he’d murdered you, did you know that? And we thought you were dead. Then, by some miracle, you come back, and he thought the nightmare was over, only for you to hex him in the face and serve him divorce papers. So if he wants to be with Clarence, who I’ll admit, is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so be it. If he can find a way to be happy after all that’s happened, then the least you can do is not begrudge him that.”
“He’s not happy,” said Harry, with a certainty he couldn’t understand. But he knew it, somehow. The word arrogance, crossed out, a question mark added to insecurity, as if Draco no longer trusted that his low self-esteem was anything but what it should be. His silly banter with Teddy, and his total silence with Clarence.
Ginny glared at him.
“He’s happier,” she said.
Harry moved her glass onto a magazine.
“Was I actually in love with him?” he asked.
“Oh, Harry,” said Ginny, disgusted.
Draco had sounded so sure when he told Harry that Harry had never loved him. But then what about that feeling that had pulsed through Harry, when that fragmentary recollection had come to him in the middle of the night?
It was more to prove Draco wrong than anything else that he went to the Memories Department of St. Mungo’s and asked to see Draco’s pensieve memories.
It had been consistently strange seeing his friends’ memories. One of the peculiarities of the process was that the memories tended to begin a little before Harry entered them, and end after he had left. With Ron and Hermione, this had meant watching them make out with each other more than was ideal.
With Draco, it meant something else entirely. It meant watching Draco steel himself before he opened the door to Harry, the second time Harry came over. It meant watching Draco go into his bathroom after sex, splash cold water on his face, and whisper, “This would be a bad time to panic.”
Did Harry know Draco better now than he had in those first six months of dating? Because he saw things that he could tell Memory Harry did not. In one memory, Harry and Draco had been sleeping together for four months. Draco was in Harry’s flat and Harry had gone to the bathroom. Draco bent over a copy of Witch Weekly on the coffee table. One of the cover stories featured a picture of Harry with his arm around the neck of a pretty girl on his quidditch team.
“Chosen one chooses chaser?” read the caption. Draco stared at it, looking stricken. Harry came out of the bathroom, and didn’t seem to notice how pale Draco had become.
“I was thinking about you, earlier,” said Harry.
“Were you,” said Draco. Harry nodded and closed the gap between them, taking Draco’s face in his hands to press a kiss into his lips.
Draco broke away.
“Nice piece about you in Witch Weekly,” he said. “About you and Marcia Snicket.”
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Hey, do you want to order in some food? I’m starving.”
Draco clenched his jaw— how had Harry not noticed?
“Sure,” said Draco, subdued.
Harry watched the memory where he first knew Draco was in love with him. They had been sleeping together for six months. Harry wondered if he had thought they were dating. It couldn’t have been clearer that Draco thought they were just friends-with-benefits. Draco showed up at Harry’s flat and said they were going hiking. Memory Harry agreed with good grace, and they apparated to some trail in the Pennines that Draco knew about. It quickly became apparent that Draco loathed hiking. His hair grew dark with sweat. He slipped down a hill in his impractical shoes and got cut up by brambles. His nose turned pink with sunburn. Harry took a photograph of him, laughing.
“Why on earth did you decide to go hiking?” asked Harry. Draco flushed beneath his sunburn.
“Why do you think?” he said, swatting at midges. “Because you like hiking!”
Harry-in-the-memory and Harry-watching both seemed to understand at the same moment. Memory Harry got a soft look on his face, and passed Draco a bottle of water. He watched as Draco gulped it down.
“I hate hiking,” said Harry, when Draco was finished.
“Got my fill during the war,” said Harry. “I’d be quite happy never to hike again.”
Draco looked at him in astonishment.
“I hate hiking too,” he said.
“So let’s get back to London and never do this again,” said Harry, and Draco laughed, clearly unaware that he had laid bare his heart.
Harry watched hundreds of memories. Simple ones, of Draco cooking dinner and chiding Harry for not liking coriander, and funny ones, of Harry teasing Draco and Draco smirking as he took it, and uncomfortably arousing ones, of Draco bearing down on Harry like he was going to eat him and then doing just that, deftly, expertly.
Harry watched their engagement party. The bewildered happiness Draco had evidently felt. The moment after the toast when he had pulled Harry aside and whispered into Harry’s ear, “Are you sure?” and Harry had just laughed, because Harry in the memories did not seem to see, could not seem to understand the depth and frightfulness of Draco’s doubts.
Buying the cottage. Their wedding. All the work Draco had put into the garden. All the happiness he had brought Harry, that Harry had brought him. The way Draco still steeled himself sometimes before walking into a room where Harry was, even though they’d been together for years, as if he thought that Harry would stop loving him if he didn’t put his best foot forward. Their last morning together, when Draco had rolled his eyes at Harry for calling jam “one of his five a day” and said that it was a cosmic injustice that Harry was still so in shape. Harry kissed him quickly on the cheek and left the house. Draco pretended to look annoyed, but when Harry was out of the room, his expression changed, falling into a dreamy smile. He followed Harry with his eyes as Harry walked down the garden path, broom in hand.
The memory ended.
Harry bought a Portkey to Connemara, Ireland.
They had only been dating six months when Clarence proposed.
“I know it’s soon,” he said. He was down on one knee on the ice skating rink on the Eiffel Tower. They had just eaten at the Jules Verne again, because Draco had once mentioned it was his favourite.
Harry hadn’t really proposed. They had been talking to the real estate agent, trying to find a house they liked in his catalogues, and Harry had turned to Draco and said, “You know, tax-wise, this will be a lot easier if we get married.”
And Draco had said, “Would it?”
“Yeah,” said Harry. “What do you reckon?”
“Okay,” Draco had said. The real estate said he wished he had known. He would have gotten in some champagne.
The violinist Clarence had hired played Vivaldi. Everyone had stopped ice skating to watch them.
“It’s a bit cold on the knee, Draco,” said Clarence, with a wry grin.
Maybe it was selfish to say yes. Draco wasn’t sure. He knew that Clarence loved him, and he didn’t think it would, realistically, get better than that. He made Clarence happy, he knew that— or he made Clarence look good at parties, which amounted to more or less the same thing, for Clarence.
“Yes?” said Draco. Clarence beamed, got back to his feet, and put the ring on Draco’s finger. The crowd cheered. Draco smiled, and once he’d started, he couldn’t stop, although he was aware that it was a slightly hysterical smile. He and Clarence hadn’t talked about marriage. He hadn’t like being asked to marry Harry for tax reasons in an estate agent’s, but this wasn’t what he had wanted, either. He wasn’t sure what he wanted. There probably wasn’t any point in figuring it out, since he wasn’t going to get it.
Everyone told him how happy they were for him.
“Except Harry, of course,” said Clarence, as they wandered through Gifford’s, picking out crystal.
“Of course not,” said Draco. “Still off finding himself in Kuwait.”
“Connemara,” corrected Clarence. Draco laughed to himself.
Clarence frowned, setting down a crystal goblet.
“They’re very different places, Draco. Kuwait is in the Middle East, and Connemara is in Ireland,” he said.
Draco was silent, temporarily paralysed by hopelessness. He and Harry used to have this recurring joke, where Harry would say something ridiculous, and Draco would respond with intent seriousness.
“I would rather peel off my nails with pliers than get up from the sofa,” Harry might say, and Draco would answer,
“I think it would be better to choose the getting-off-the-sofa option. You see, taking off your nails with pliers would be very painful.”
“Oh, shit, yeah, good point,” Harry would say, and get up from the sofa.
“Draco?” said Clarence.
“I’m actually inheriting a lot of crystal from my great aunt,” said Draco. “Let’s look at linen.”
Draco insisted on inviting Harry to the engagement party, even though Ginny looked at him as if he was crazy.
“All his friends will be there,” said Draco. “I don’t want to leave him out.” Harry had just got back from Connemara, and Draco wondered what he had found there. Whether he had shed his anger again. Met anyone.
They had decided to rent out an old palace ballroom in Westminster for the engagement party. It was all Draco and Clarence had talked about for weeks, which actually worked pretty well for them. Clarence was excellent at planning, and he had perfect taste. Draco never loved him more than when they were discussing logistics.
The engagement party itself, however, was hard. Draco could not help comparing it to the one he and Harry had thrown in their favourite Ethiopian restaurant. Draco had been overdressed, Harry underdressed, Draco had felt as if he was dreaming. Harry had given a speech about how he’d been stalking Draco since he was sixteen and it was getting so embarrassing that the only remedy was a wedding. Draco had loved him so much it felt like something was going wrong inside his body.
“I’m so glad you’re happy,” Hermione told Draco, as he stood quietly next to Clarence. The palace ballroom was magnificent. Draco and Clarence looked splendid. Clarence had done Draco’s bow-tie and kissed him.
“You’re perfect,” he had told Draco. And Draco did feel perfect. He was the Ship of Theseus. Replaced. New. No scrap of rot left.
Draco shook hands and smiled. He liked shaking hands and smiling; it made him feel as if he was living up to the dreams he’d had as a child, but in a good way, a harmless way.
Harry showed up late, wearing jeans. Black jeans, but jeans, all the same. His hair was so black. Would Draco’s heart ever stop speeding up when he saw him? Would he ever be able to treat him like a normal person?
But Harry wasn’t a normal person.
He scanned the room, frowning, as if he was looking for someone specific. Then his eyes landed on Draco, and his whole face came alive. He strode through the crowd, coming straight for Draco.
“Harry,” said Clarence. “Draco and I are so glad you could make it.”
“I need to talk to you,” said Harry, his eyes fixed intently on Draco. Draco glanced at Clarence, who looked less than pleased.
“Can it wait?” asked Draco.
“Please,” said Harry, which was the big guns, really. Of course Draco wasn’t going to say no, when Harry was looking at him and saying please.
“I’ll be right back,” he told Clarence, and led Harry out to a gilded antechamber. He closed the door carefully behind him, then turned to look at Harry.
“Don’t marry him,” said Harry, instantly. He sounded slightly out of breath.
Draco closed his eyes.
“No, I know, I’m a dick,” said Harry. “But you don’t love him, Draco. Don’t do this to yourself.”
“I do love him,” said Draco.
“Not the way you loved me,” said Harry.
“Why— why are you doing this?” asked Draco, and he was horrified at how raw he sounded, how pathetic.
“I’m not trying to hurt you,” said Harry. “I swear. I watched your memories, Draco, but even if I hadn’t, just from—just from being around you, I would have—”
“Would have what? You haven’t been around me. You’ve been in fucking Ireland.”
“It didn’t work,” said Harry. His eyes were painfully green. It didn’t matter how handsome Clarence was. No one would ever be more attractive than Harry, because he was Harry. “Connemara. I have no idea what happened last time, but I wandered around fucking rainy fields for weeks and nothing made me feel as calm as you do. As your garden makes me feel.”
Draco shook his head. He could hear the sounds of his engagement party drifting in from under the door. He and Clarence had already started looking for a country estate. They would have children. Clarence would be a good father. Most of all, Clarence would never leave. Even if Clarence were to have his memory wiped, he would never look at Draco with hatred and hex him in the face.
“Draco,” said Harry.
“What are you saying,” said Draco.
“I’m,” said Harry. “I’m— I don’t know if I’m in love with you yet. It feels like I am. But I know that I like you; I really like you. And I can’t stand to think of you marrying someone else, but especially— especially someone who makes you—not yourself.”
It had been a long time since Draco had been angry at Harry.
“Do you hear yourself?” asked Draco. “‘Hi, Draco, I don’t love you, but I assume you still love me because you’re so pathetic that there’s no way you could have moved on, so why don’t you break off your engagement with a wonderful man who worships the ground you walk on so you can—what—go on a date with great Harry Potter?”
“You’re not pathetic,” said Harry, stepping closer, dangerously closer. “I don’t know if you’re still in love with me. I know I sound mad. You’re right to be angry.”
“It was never real, what we had,” said Draco, taking a step backwards, so that his back was against the door. “I’m not giving up a man who loves me for someone— someone who always was, and always will be, temporary.”
“You’re wrong,” said Harry, stepping so close that they were almost touching. “I was crazy about you. I am crazy about you. I can’t stop thinking about you. I fucking wrote your name in all my notebooks in Connemara, just so I could look at it, just because it was yours.”
Draco shook his head.
“No,” he said. “You were always just— I was your starter husband.”
Harry kissed him. It was like a natural disaster; horrifying, deadly, divine. Draco pulled back and pushed him away.
“Stop it,” he said. Harry took several steps backwards, put his hands in the air.
“Sorry,’ he said, and sounded it. “Sorry. I just, fuck, Draco, I love you.”
“Do you have any idea how nice it is for me to be with someone I actually believe loves me for once?”
“I love you!” said Harry.
“Fuck off, you love me,” said Draco. “You literally just told me you didn’t know if you did or not!”
“Yeah, and then I kissed you, and it felt pretty fucking clear, actually!”
“I don’t want— I want— I don’t want to be with someone who’s going to leave!” said Draco. “I don’t want to go through this again; I can’t, it’s too hard, please, Harry, I…”
The next thing he knew, Harry had his arms around him, was holding him tight and stroking his back and whispering, “okay, okay, I’m sorry, Draco, I’m sorry”.
Draco wasn’t actually crying, only shuddering, gasping. He clutched Harry’s back. It felt right. As if he was home, and could finally rest.
“I didn’t know, back then,” said Harry, into his ear. “I only realised when I watched the memories. That you didn’t know how much I loved you.”
“I can’t,” said Draco, although he wasn’t sure what he meant by it.
“I know,” said Harry. “I’m sorry, I’ve done everything wrong. I shouldn’t have gone to Connemara, I should have gone to you. I just thought… I don’t know what I thought. That I’d get my memories back, and know how to fix things.” He pulled away from Draco and looked him in the face. “Is it too late for me to fix things?”
“I’m marrying someone else,” said Draco.
“Don’t do that,” said Harry simply. “Marry me.”
Draco huffed a bitter laugh.
“What, for tax reasons?”
“No,” said Harry. “Because we’re meant for each other.”
He still had his arms around Draco’s waist. Draco was marrying Clarence. He was lucky to have found Clarence. He broke away from Harry’s grasp.
“You don’t mean it.”
“I do,” said Harry. Draco wrenched the door open. The music came spilling in, louder than Draco had expected. Draco walked out.
“I do,” shouted Harry after him. Draco didn’t look back.
“Harry!” said Hermione. “You didn’t!”
“Yep,” said Harry glumly. “I did.”
“It was ballsy, I’ll give you that,” said Ron.
They were at Ron and Hermione’s flat, and Harry had just told them about his disastrous attempt to break off Draco’s wedding.
“But do you really want him back, or is this just some… some attempt to get your memories back?” asked Hermione. Harry looked at her blankly.
“What? No. Of course I want him.”
“There’s no ‘of course’ about it, Harry,” said Hermione. “You were horrified when you found out you were married to him.”
“Because I was imagining myself married to the prat who called you a mudblood!”
“We told you he had changed,” said Ron.
“Ship of Theseus,” said Harry.
“What?” asked Ron.
“Nothing,” said Harry. “I just had to see it for myself, that’s all. Get used to the idea. Get to know him.”
“You’ve barely spent any time with him,” pointed out Hermione. Which was true, technically. But Harry had watched Draco with Teddy. He had seen how Draco responded to heartbreak; how good he was at his job, how many friends he had made and kept among his former enemies. And then there was something else, something Harry hesitated to call memory because it felt so much like instinct, that inexorable desire to know what Draco was up to that had been a part of Harry for as long as he could remember. Did he love Draco because he had been fascinated by him all his life? Or because some hidden part of him remembered falling in love with him last time? Or because he had fallen for him afresh through witnessing his poise in the face of adversity? Or some combination of the three?
“It doesn’t matter,” said Harry. “I love him.”
“Well,” said Hermione, leaning against Ron. “I can’t pretend I’m not relieved.”
“What? But everyone was so happy for him and Clarence!”
“We were happy he had found someone who loved him,” said Hermione. “He deserves that.”
“To be honest, we were worried that he’d just pine away for the rest of his life,” said Ron. “We were relieved he’d settled, even if it was obviously not… perfect.”
“Well, he’s still planning on going through with it,” said Harry to his knees. “So I wish him and Clarence and their fucking expensive clothes every happiness.”
Harry knew he should leave it, but he couldn’t resist sending Draco a letter.
I will respect your choice, whatever you decide. I’ll even try to be nice to him. But make no mistake: it is a choice. You have me and Clarence both.
He did not receive a response.
A week went by, in which Harry tried to convince himself he could be mature and not-twattish about it if Clarence picked up the end of Draco’s tie at the wedding and told Harry how much it cost. Assuming Harry was invited, which he probably wouldn’t be, given that he had snogged the groom at the last party they threw.
The garden still calmed him, at least. It was morning, and the lilies were more luminous than ever. He sat at the slatted wooden table having a nice pot of tea and trying not to feel furious at whoever had kidnapped him and fucked up his life.
Draco appeared at the garden gate. Harry sat up and lowered his tea cup.
“Draco,” he said.
“Oh! Harry. Hello,” said Draco, running a hand through his hair, his eyes all over the place, looking as if he had expected to see anyone but Harry in Harry’s garden.
“Everything… okay?” asked Harry.
“Hmm? Oh, yes,” said Draco, looking vaguely at the flowers. “Just came to, to check on the lilies. They’re looking well.”
“Neville took care of them while I was in Connemara.”
“Ah, well, that explains it,” said Draco. “Lovely, well, glad to see they’re…” he drifted off, staring at the garden.
“Anyway, that’s all,” said Draco. He turned sharply on his heel and walked back down the garden path. Harry watched him go, completely baffled.
At the garden gate, Draco stopped, turned around, and came back to Harry.
“So sorry,” he said. His eyes were wild. “I forgot to ask after your health.”
“Er,” said Harry. “It’s good, thanks. How is your health?”
“Good,” said Draco. His fingers tapped against each other at his sides. “Good. So. Good morning. Goodbye.”
He turned around and went back to the garden gate, where he paused again, his hand on the latch.
“Oh,” he said. “One more thing. Not a big—but probably best you hear it from me. The wedding’s off. My wedding, with Clarence, I mean.”
“Draco,” said Harry.
Draco bent his head.
“Come have a cup of tea,” said Harry.
Draco let go of the latch.
“Please,” said Harry. “Just a cup of tea.”
Draco nodded to himself and wandered back to the table, not looking at Harry. Harry duplicated his tea cup and poured Draco his tea, just as he liked it. Draco sat on the bench and pulled the cup towards him.
“Are you okay?” asked Harry.
“Yes, fine,” said Draco, and Harry somehow knew that Draco was worried about confiding in someone who didn’t really care. He wasn’t sure how he knew this, whether it was memory or observation, but he was sure of it.
“I’d really like to know,” said Harry. Draco’s eyes flicked up to meet his.
“It was awful,” he said.
“When did you do it?”
“Last night,” said Draco.
“How did he take it?”
“He asked if it was because of you,” said Draco. Harry tried to keep his face neutral.
“And what did you say?”
“I asked him if he knew how I’d got the scars on my chest. He didn’t. He’d never asked.”
Harry didn’t say anything. Draco took a sip of his tea, put the cup down, and buried his hands in his hair.
“He was so sad,” he said. “He really did love me, you know.”
“Yeah,” said Harry.
“And I loved him. Just not— just—”
“Yeah,” said Harry again. Draco glanced up and smiled at him, rather unhappily. Harry smiled back. It was so peaceful in the garden.
“I should get to work,” said Draco, standing up. “Thanks for the tea.”
“Draco,” said Harry. “Whenever you want—if you want—when you’re ready, or whatever— will you go on a date with me?”
“A… a date?”
“We never did dates,” said Draco.
“I know,” said Harry. “I thought, maybe, we could start.”
“Oh,” said Draco, looking at him intently. “Yes. Maybe. All right.”
Harry took Draco to a romantic Italian restaurant. It wasn’t expensive, or trendy. The food, in fact, was not all that good, but Harry wore a tie and looked so nervous that Draco found he didn’t care.
“The thing is,” said Harry, in between breadsticks (the waiter kept bringing more whenever Harry finished them, and Harry seemed to feel that it would be rude not to finish them whenever the waiter brought them), “that you and I are so on the same page, with so many things, right?”
“Right,” said Draco, scritching a piece of old food off the tablecloth with his fingernail.
“Like, in all those memories, we talk so easily. We make the same jokes.”
“It used to feel as if we shared part of our mind,” said Draco, under his breath.
“Right!” exclaimed Harry, as if Draco had just proved his point. “Exactly. So I thought you knew how I felt. I knew how you felt, about me. So I just assumed you knew. How much I loved you.”
“Are you remembering all this?”
“Sort of? It’s more of a feeling. And some speculation,” said Harry. The waiter brought another basket of breadsticks. “Thanks,” said Harry unhappily, taking a breadstick with a look of near-defeat.
“You don’t have to eat them,” said Draco.
“Oh,” said Harry, dropping the breadstick. He laughed. “I’m shit at restaurants.”
“I know,” said Draco.
“It’s just, Clarence took you to restaurants.”
“I’ve been thinking about that,” said Draco. “Pansy has agreed to be my Fancy Friend. We’re going to the Jules Verne on Thursday.”
“What’s the Jules Worm?”
“See,” said Draco, noticing that his fork was dirty and cleaning it on his sleeve, “no one is perfect for anyone else, are they?”
“No,” said Harry.
“So it’s all about finding the imperfections you can handle.”
“And you can handle me not liking opera,” said Harry, tentatively.
“That’s one of your imperfections that I can handle, yes,” said Draco.
“Okay,” said Harry. “What can’t you handle?”
Draco looked away. Harry was too handsome to ask questions like that. He made it hard to focus. Draco tried to shrug nonchalantly.
“It’s just a bit hard, feeling as if someone’s with you as—as almost a joke.”
“Like—a whim. A punchline. ‘Then I married my worst enemy, it was hilarious.’”
Harry started to reach out for Draco’s hand, then pulled back.
“It was never like that,” he said.
“How would you know? Maybe it was, and you don’t remember,” said Draco.
“It wasn’t,” said Harry.
“Let’s talk about something else,” said Draco.
And they did. It was easy. And Harry paid at the end of the meal, and walked Draco back to his flat.
He paused outside Draco’s front door, his hand on Draco’s elbow.
“I’d really like to kiss you,” he said.
Draco leant in, slowly, hesitantly, and their lips met. It was a rather frightened kiss, for both of them. He could tell, from the quality of Harry’s breathing, that Harry, too, was terrified of messing it up.
Draco pulled away.
“I love you,” he said, looking at the pavement. Harry drew in a sharp breath.
“Oh, God, Draco, I love you so much. So much.”
“Okay,” said Draco, because it was.
On Sunday morning, Harry turned up at his flat.
“Are you coming to the Burrow for lunch?”
Draco was still in his dressing gown.
“You know I’m not,” he said.
“Come,” said Harry.
Draco bit his lip. Harry looked like he used to, vibrant and soft and beckoning.
“This is a lot,” said Draco. Harry’s face fell.
“You don’t want people to know about us?”
“There’s an us?” asked Draco.
“Yes, please,” said Harry.
“I’m not ready to go to the Burrow with you.”
“Okay,” said Harry, immediately, and sent a Patronus telling Mrs. Weasley that he wouldn’t be coming either.
They spent the day together, cooking, eating, having slow, languorous sex. And from then on, they were together. Draco knew they were together, because Harry told him.
“This is serious, for me,” he said. “If you don’t tell me otherwise, I’m assuming you’re my boyfriend.”
“Presumptuous,” said Draco.
“Very,” said Harry. “Very presumptuous. I notice you’re not telling me otherwise, though.”
“No,” said Draco. “I’m not."
The following Sunday, they went to the Burrow for Sunday lunch together. Harry grinned at the smallest things. He clutched Draco’s hand under the table. Whenever Draco said something funny (and Harry seemed to find everything Draco said funny), Harry dipped his head into Draco’s shoulder, radiantly happy.
Draco was still too stunned to do anything but nod when Bill asked if they were back together again, when Ron whooped and Mrs. Weasley cried and Ginny told Harry he’d been a real cunt and if he fucked up one more time she would personally ensure he never got laid again, by anyone.
“I won’t,” said Harry, still smiling beatifically. “I won’t.”
Draco had thought he had remembered how good it was, but he hadn’t, really. He had forgotten that Harry woke him up by stroking his hair and smiling at him. He had forgotten how Harry had sex, intently and intensely. He had forgotten how often Harry made him laugh, not a fond, affectionate laugh, but an irresistible, beyond-prevention sort of laugh.
All in all, it was almost like having Harry back, the Harry he had been married to, except it wasn’t. Because this Harry often got this look in his eye, and took Draco’s hand, and said, urgently, “you know I need you, right? More than you need me,” or “I love you, you know that, don’t you?” Or “I’m here to stay, just so you know.”
“Is it like it was?” asked Harry once, as they lay in bed, after sex. The bed they had bought together years ago, the bed where they had spent their wedding night, where Draco had cried when Harry went missing, where Harry had slept when they got divorced.
“No,” said Draco. Harry didn’t stop stroking his hair. “It’s better.”
They were drinking tea in the garden, as they did most mornings. Harry peeled an orange for Draco, because Draco hated how the rinds felt under his nails, and passed it to him.
“Thanks,” said Draco. When he looked up, Harry was down on one knee in front of him, holding out an engagement ring.
“Oh,” said Draco.
“I’m sorry about how I proposed last time,” said Harry. “I was just nervous, I reckon. But will you? Will you marry me?”
“Again,” said Draco.
“Not again, for me,” said Harry. Draco picked up the ring and laughed. It was the ring Harry had bought him last time— Harry must have pilfered it out of Draco’s dresser drawer.
“I changed it,” said Harry. Draco brought it closer to his face, and saw that in the gold there were fine engravings. A ship in a full sail, a ship in a state of decay, a ship that had been rebuilt, slightly different. A repeating cycle.
“What makes the ship the same?” asked Harry. “I don’t know. There must be something in it that lasts across the changes. I think that’s what you are, for me.”
This, realised Draco, was what he had wanted, all this time. A garden full of blowing flowers. Harry, on one knee, looking at him with all the forceful intensity of his nature. Telling him he loved him in permanent, endless ways.
Draco put the ring on.
“I wonder what it is about me, that people always assume they’ll be the ones who have to propose,” said Draco.
“It’s because of your pretty hair,” said Harry, seriously.
“Oh, yes, that must be it,” said Draco. Harry took his hand and kissed his finger, catching the ring with half his mouth.
“I love you,” he said.
Draco put his index under Harry’s chin and tilted it up.
“I know,” said Draco.
Harry smiled wider than ever.