Never Wither

By Ekai Ungson

DISCLAIMER: Harry Potter the series copyright J.K. Rowling and other such related enterprises. Characters used without permission.

Notes: This story is connected to 'Stardust' and 'Moonshine', both stories I had written some time ago, and although it is not deathly important that you read both oneshots, I'd rather you have done so for reference at the very least. It can, however, stand alone.

And love? The brazier where I burn. Extravagant, profuse, excessive, beyond bounds. Out of our risk comes our safety, not the small sad life that will cling to anything because it has nothing. You are not a raft. I am not a sailor. You are not weak. I am more than a strong arm. I want to love you well, not to lose you in children and objects. I want to love you well, but to love you well I shall have to be in love with more than love. I shall have to find in myself the emotional extravagance that fits me to stay in one place.

-- "Art & Lies"; Jeanette Winterson

He gave her white roses, never red. White roses the color of clouds, not tinted with shades of cream or pale yellow. True white roses that bloomed in the snow. They were a contrast to her bright hair and her flushed cheeks, and against her they gleamed even more. Or, against them, she burned brighter, rendering her with more beauty.

The first time it had been just one long stemmed rose. He had waited for her in their secret room, standing in the middle of the floor just staring at it. He had removed its thorns one by one with his fingers, and a few scars remained to remind him of his trouble. He had felt pain, but it was a joyous sort of pain, a beautiful sort of pain, that he was young and in love and he could do these things not out of spite but adulation.

And when she came in he handed it to her, slowly, almost shyly, but his upbringing had taken over and he had managed to pull it off looking suave and smooth. She had laughed, then, her laughter filled the room like sweet music to his ears, and she said, "Draco, you make me happy."

It was those words that brought about his epiphany.

*

He was sitting in the window frame, staring out at the dark grounds below, and in between his legs she sat, her back to his chest. Her fingers were entangled with his on her chest. The warmth there made everything seem so cold.

He brushed some of her hair out of her face so he could see her eyes, now closed. "Are you asleep?" he asked softly.

"No," she replied in the same quiet tone, but he could tell from her voice that if she wasn't asleep, she was getting there. He drew her closer and she smiled. She liked touching, and closeness, and although it had taken him a while to get used to it, he found that he rather liked it as well. Something to show for living without intimacy for nearly fifteen years.

He dropped his chin to her hair and sighed thoughtfully. He noticed that her left hand, the one he wasn't holding, was hanging at the edge of the window seat, the rose he'd given her just now still clutched in her fingers. He smiled. "Why don't you just let the flower drop?" he asked.

"I like holding it," she replied as she opened her eyes slowly. "I love your roses, but hell if I ever find out where you find them."

"Let's just say they take a bit of an effort," he answered, grinning. "Let it drop, Gin. I don't know why you insist on holding on to it every single time."

"They might get soiled, is why," she replied, raising her rose to the light. "It's so pretty while it's white that it's a shame to see it dirty."

"Suit yourself," he said, staring at the lone flower. She looked up, grinned, and touched the blossom to his lips. The gossamer touch was light, gentle.

"Now you can properly say that you've had a kiss from a rose," she giggled.

"I'd rather have a kiss from you," he said. "You look like a rose."

"I'd say more like a worn begonia, but I won't argue the point," she joked. He kissed her smart mouth and she shut up indefinitely.

He leaned back and sighed for one more time that night. Letting the air out of his chest reduced its tightness. Then he looked at her and said, "Sometimes I feel as if I don't deserve you."

Her brow crinkled, as this was the last thing she would have ever expected him to say. "That's ridiculous, Draco," she said. "Where do you get that?"

"I just do."

"Not very like you to feel insecure about anything," she said, smiling. "You are, quite possibly, according to popular opinion, the most obnoxious pillock this side of Europe."

"Shut up, Gin," he replied. But he was smiling.

"No, seriously—where do you get that, Draco?" she asked.

"From the knowledge of good and evil," he answered somberly. "From the knowledge that you and I are different, as night and day is different, from the knowledge that I am stained, and you aren't."

She turned to him, eyes narrowed. "Then you should also understand that though night and day are different, they are one," she said softly. "Then you should also know that good and evil are nothing but preconceived notions of opinion and belief, and in close inspection, they will appear to be the very same thing."

She held the rose between them, and he stared at it, and at her.

Someday, he vowed, someday when he has found the right words to say, the right words to fit all the meaning of his feeling, he would tell her exactly what she meant to him. That he would have something more than the flowers that never withered. For now, the promises would do, shaped in the delicate blossoms of the white roses he gave her.

It would not be enough to say 'I love you'. He knew she had heard it before.

--Finis

Reference: Art & Lies by Jeanette Winterson for "It will not be enough to say 'I love you'….".