Draco can't stop staring at the single crack in the teapot.

The teapot is decorated with a riot of yellow sunflowers, with the faint crack on the surface sandwiched between two sunflowers near the spout. Harry had bought the garish teapot (saying that the crack gave it some character) after declaring that the Malfoys' tea service was too stuffy for their flat. Draco had hated it at first because it stuck out like a sore thumb, but over time, he had developed a particular liking for it.

Just like his feelings for Harry.

His Harry, who's now—

Draco closes his eyes briefly, reining in the tatters of his emotional control. When he opens his eyes, he picks up the teapot and fills two teacups with English Breakfast. His mouth is stretched into a perfunctory smile, and even though his eyes give nothing away, he's certain that the Aurors can't miss the tremor in his hand.

He's making tea to delay the inevitable, and they know that.

Draco replaces the teapot on the tray and transfers his flinty stare to the Aurors seated opposite him.

He knows what it means when two Aurors come knocking on his door with their hats tucked under their arms, solemn expressions on their faces and bearing a white envelope stamped with a special golden Ministry seal.

One of the Aurors slides the envelope across the table and says briskly, "As Mr Potter's listed next-of-kin, this belongs to you."

Draco's eyes dip towards it — Harry James Potter's Last Letter to Draco Lucius Malfoy — in Harry's handwriting, and there it is — he can't hold it back any longer — that disbelief flickering at the edges of his nerves mutating into a slow, pressing despair gathering and coiling around his heart.

Draco looks away.

There will be a time to break, but not now.

Not in front of the people that represent the very organisation that took Harry away from him.

"Do you need me to identify the body?" Draco asks, his words jerky and brittle. He hates the tremble in his voice, hates the very words that ring hollow as if they would need help identifying Harry Potter

He tries to summon Harry's comfort, his warmth radiating like jewels of sunlight that shine in Draco's darkest corners. He imagines Harry leaning over him; Harry's large, calloused hands rubbing his shoulders in soothing circles, and Harry's deep, wonderful bear of a voice hushing him, hoping against hope that Harry's whispers could cut through the harshness of the Auror's words.

"There isn't a body. It was an explosion that killed them. The Ministry will be holding a memorial service, of course."

All of Harry's warmth vanishes like illusions scattering in a gust of wind.

"Not even..." Draco gulps, his murmur escalating to a shout, "Not even a finger? There has to be something, anythingat all! Something for me to, to" His hands are bunched up into fists underneath the table and he's shaking his head, until he picks up on that one word—

"Them?" he demands.

"We'll be visiting Ronald Weasley's family next." The Aurors stand up and incline their heads in sympathy. "The Ministry sends its condolences. We'll see ourselves out."

A matching scrape of chairs, a series of fading footsteps, the gentle click of the door.

It's over; the entire exchange had been as passionless and precise as a piece of history homework.

The Aurors didn't even touch their tea.

Draco reaches for the envelope, a fingertip grazing the edge of the H in Harry's name.

The promise ring on the ring finger of his left hand twinkles.

They've been together for four years, and in these years with Harry, how much of it was spent with Draco's thoughts poisoned with pain and wreathed with worry about Harry's job? In the end, it didn't matter, because Harry's gone, he left anyway, he's gone—

Draco snarls, slams his fist on the table and sweeps the envelope away, watching with narrowed eyes as it flutters to the floor. There's only one thing left on the table—

"Come on, Draco, I wanna get this yellow teapot! Everything from your side of the family is so proper, this will lighten things up!"

Draco hurls the teapot against the wall.

When he hears the resounding crash, he's not sure whether it's from the smash of the shattering teapot, or the sound of his breaking heart.

Draco doesn't know how to calm Hermione down.

He had Flooed over when he regained his senses, only to be met with a dreadful sight: Hermione slumped on the door, her head tipped back and throat exposed while she screams Ron's name over and over again amidst sobs that shake her entire frame. She's clutching onto Ron's unopened will so hard that it's scrunched into an indiscernible shape.

"Ron, Ron—" Hermione gulps in agonising breaths. She's crying so hard, she can barely talk. "No, please, no, I want my Ron, Ron!" She's rocking back and forth as much as her swollen belly will allow, her clasped hands pressed against her forehead as if in prayer.

Draco has never seen her like this before. He rushes to her side and tries to calm her down, even though he's barely recovered from his own shock. He wants to join Hermione in her misery, but one of them has to be the stronger one.

Harry would hate to see Hermione in this state.

Draco nudges his own pain to the side and holds Hermione by her shoulders.

She looks up at him, her hands tightening around his arms. "Draco, tell me this isn't happening, please, this isn't real, because he can't be gone, he's supposed to be home next week, safe and sound, back in my arms, Draco, tell me this isn't real—" She's rambling now, her eyes as wild as her hair.

"I can't," he says. He's so close to a complete breakdown, but the grimace of discomfort that flashes across Hermione's features as she hugs her stomach, recalls him to the task at hand.

"It's not good for the baby. Hermione, listen to me, please—"

Her red-rimmed eyes focus at once on Draco's face, the look in them crazed and panicked. "The baby, our baby Rose, without a father, how can I have a baby without Ron, I can't have her without him—"

Hermione dissolves into a fresh round of sobbing.

Draco worries at his lower lip. All of his potions are at home, but he can't leave her like this.

There's a whoosh of the Floo, and Draco turns. He sighs in relief upon recognising the visitor.

Molly Weasley hurries towards them.

"I have calming potions at home—" Draco says. Molly nods and crouches down to fold Hermione up in a hug, murmuring into her hair. Hermione clings to her and continues to sob and mumble.

Draco Floos home. He grabs the phials and tosses a handful of clothes into his bag. He returns to Hermione's side — Molly has managed to lead her to bed — and administers the draught.

"Sleep now, love," Molly repeats in pacifying tones as she strokes her hand.

Hermione soon falls asleep, the train-tracks of tears drying on her cheeks and her hands clenched on the duvet.

Molly and Draco exit the bedroom.

"She shouldn't be alone," she says.

Draco gestures to his overnight bag. "I'll stay with her for the time being."

Without any warning, Molly engulfs Draco in a motherly hug, her hand moving across his back in soothing circles.

Draco falls apart.

She holds him through his grief, sorrow and pain that slices him down to the marrow of his bones. His tears soak the shoulder of her jumper. He's crying so hard that he might just break apart into a thousand little pieces and no one else except Harry would be able to piece him back again. He's sobbing Harry's name over and over, with the certainty of the deranged that the more he cried and called Harry's name, Harry would appear, just like magic, in front of him with his adorable crooked grin.

Eventually, his sobs subside. He withdraws from Molly, runs his hands over his face, dashes his tears away, and wipes his nose with his sleeve.

"Arthur and I will be here tonight with dinner. And you, young man, should take one of your potions and rest," Molly says, peering at him over her glasses.

Draco nods.

"Good lad." Molly gives him a small smile, but her eyes are glistening with leftover tears.

She's lost not just one, but two sons.

With a pat on his arm, Molly leaves.

Draco collapses on the floor, as if he's lost the use of his legs.

He looks at his promise ring, his tears threatening to make a comeback.

He hasn't felt this alone in a long, long time.

It doesn't taste the same.

Draco twines another mouthful of spaghetti Bolognese around his fork and eats it. The pasta is too soft, the sauce too bland and watery, and the flavour of rosemary and oregano too weak. He doesn't understand why; he followed Harry's recipe down to the exact measurement as if he was crafting a potion, but it doesn't taste the same anymore.

it's not the same without you—

Draco puts his fork down, pushes the pasta away and dabs his lips with a napkin. He's spent the past few days vacillating between a rollercoaster of emotions: fury, hope, misery, sorrow, more hope he's the Boy-Who-Lived, he's not really dead, he can't be—

Harry, Harry, Harry—

He stares at the empty seat opposite him, and then back to the plate of pasta. In contrast, Harry's pasta is a feast for the senses: the noodles cooked to the perfect texture, tossed in a rich and hearty sauce with the right combination of herbs adding a beautiful splash of colour and flavour, topped with sprinkles of grated cheese, and paired with a side of fragrant garlic bread.

Harry always cooked pasta whenever Draco was sick or upset. Eating his spaghetti was like coming home, no, Harry was home, and now he's gone, his parents were gone, everyone that he had ever loved in the twenty-three years of his life were all dead and gone, all of you left me just like that, how dare you, how dare you?!

The cyst of anger growing in the pit of Draco's belly flares to life, and before he knows what he's doing, he's swinging an arm out and whisking the pasta off the table.

"What's that noise? I know you can't cook, but you don't have to start throwing food around, you git. Come on, let's make a new pot together!"

Harry's favourite grey I like it 'cause it reminds me of your eyes— jumper is still draped on the back of his chair. His coffee-stained Gryffindor mug sits near the sink, and a box of his treacle tart is still in the fridge. Out in the hall, there are letters addressed to Harry that Draco can't bear to look at.

If Draco scrunches his eyes shut and pretends hard, he can almost hear Harry's warm laugh, see his sunshine of a smile, but when Draco pulls himself back to reality and opens his eyes, he's sitting alone in a house decorated with emptiness.

I haven't seen the sun in ages.

He slumps his upper body on the table and stares with vacant eyes at Harry's note — buy milk, carrots, salmon and those biscuits that Draco likes— stuck on the fridge.

Draco doesn't want to move; he wants to stay perfectly still and plunge his soul into memories of Harry, consumed by the regret of all those happy endings that they could no longer have.

I miss you so much that every breath I take hurts. There's a Harry-shaped hole in my heart that I don't know how to fill. The only place I want to be is in your arms because that's where I'm home. I can be anywhere in the world, anywhere at all, and as long as I'm with you, that's all I need because you're home, Harry, you're home.

They could have had everything, but instead, Draco is all alone in a reality that cuts like the glass shards of broken-down dreams; stranded in a place where love has lost its lustrous sheen.

Draco's throat thickens with tears.

I never told you how much I loved you.

Without taking his eyes off the note on the fridge, Draco pulls out a Galleon from his pocket. At first glance, it looks just like any other Galleon, but the golden sheen is a bit too bright to be genuine, the size too large, and the etchings on it have grown faint, as if someone has spent quite some time rubbing it or carrying it around on his person.

All those times when you told me you loved me, I should have said it more.

Draco closes his eyes and presses the Galleon to his lips.

"You remind me of night. Dark, cold, mysterious and dangerous."

"Dangerous? The great Harry Potter thinks I'm dangerous?"

A playful quirk of rosebud pink lips that Draco could never tire of kissing, bright green eyes crinkling at the corners in a wry smile. "Yeah. You have no idea what you can do to my heart, Draco Malfoy."

He's never told Harry this, but Harry's kisses taste like sunrise.

The night sky is mottled black and blue like a bruise. It reminds Draco of sadness, a sort of wide, all-encompassing sadness — as if a piece of inky gossamer silk had been hung over the heavens. A thin, filmy smog of a cloud shifts, exposing a full moon. Shards of moonlight glimmer on a spare pair of Harry's glasses resting on Draco's palm.

He runs his fingers over the frame, opens and closes the arms of the glasses. There are scratches on the arms, and he smiles at the memory of Harry nibbling at his glasses whenever he was frazzled over a case.

How many times has he handled Harry's glasses — whether to remove them from his face to give them a quick clean or yanking them off in the heat of lust-fuelled passion?

Sniffling, Draco deposits the glasses on top of his potions manuscripts on the bedside dresser. It's not his dresser — he's currently sleeping at Hermione's. He's been staying over more frequently to look after her in the late stages of her pregnancy. Moreover, he had thought that the change in environment would be a welcome respite from the cacophony of memories that assault him at home.

The taste of tears on his lips prove otherwise.

Draco lets out a long, deep sigh, pulls his legs up and wraps his arms around his knees. He leans against the wall separating the guest room from the master bedroom. There are muffled sounds of Hermione tossing and turning in bed, and occasionally, he hears cut-off gasps, soft cries and Hermione blowing her nose.

He knows exactly how it feels — he cries a little from time to time too, because if he ever starts to cry properly, there would be so much to cry about, it'll be difficult to stop.

When Hermione's bed emits an especially loud creak and her door opens, Draco wipes his eyes with his sleeve. Just in time too, because there's a hesitant knock on his door and Hermione's voice asking if she can enter.

Draco calls out in the affirmative and scoots over to make space for her on his bed.

To his surprise, Hermione rests her head on his shoulder and holds his hand while she lays her other hand on her belly.

"If I close my eyes and do this, I can pretend that you're Ron," she whispers, her voice quivering and breaking on Ron's name. "Sorry, it must be difficult for you to pretend that I'm Harry." She tries to chuckle, but what comes out is a choked sob.

Draco shifts around a bit, pulling her closer and wrapping his arm around her shoulder. He gives her hand an affectionate squeeze.

"I must not be a very good substitute for Ron, then. His shoulders are broader—" Draco squares his shoulders before deepening his voice. "Oi, Hermione! Your hair is all over my face. Budge up, won't you?"

This elicits a proper laugh from Hermione.

She straightens up to face him, a small smile gracing her lips. "Thank you, Draco. I can't imagine how I would cope without you."

"Don't be silly," Draco says, flapping his hand in the air in a dismissive gesture. "We're good friends, aren't we? I'll be here when you need me, you know that very well."

Plus, Harry would have wanted me to be here for you every step of the way.

Those unsaid words remain wedged between them like a third shadow.

Draco inhales the herbal scent of Hermione's shampoo and smiles. He's grateful for her company too; he's enjoyed their intellectual conversations about literature and magic. Although her knowledge in potions falls short of his, Hermione had given him very useful feedback (incorporating her experience in Herbology and Transmutation) about his potions manuscripts.

Time ticks by. There are no other sounds except for their breathing, the sporadic rumble of late-night London traffic and the loud whoops of some rowdy teenagers.

"Today at St. Mungo's…" Draco says carefully, recalling their Healer appointment earlier that day. "Somehow, we've managed to get Healer Wicke as your main healer. He was supposed to be fully booked. He's available now, as if someone's pulling strings. Could… that be a sign?"

"Draco…" There's a hint of a frown between Hermione's brows.

"A sign that they're alive?" he insists desperately, refusing to relinquish the hold on his denial.

Hermione closes her eyes briefly. "That's hardly anything to go on," she points out. "Unless… Harry said something on the Galleon?" A flare of hope ignites in her brown eyes.

"I... no," he replies, his heart dipping at the way her eyes dull and the slump in her shoulders.

"Oh." She looks away from him and towards Harry's glasses on the dresser.

Her lips curve up into a sad little smile that creaks at the hinges.

"What hurts more, knowing that they're dead and gone, or them being alive and unable to contact us?"

Draco doesn't know what to say to that.

Neither option can shake off the sorrow sticking to him like a second skin, or chase away the grief following them like a small rain cloud, reliable and repetitive as the ticking of the clock.

Hermione inhales sharply, a shock of pain flashing through her features. Draco tenses at once, ready to Summon his potions and the overnight bag prepared for the delivery.

"It's not a contraction. She's kicking," Hermione says, wincing.

Draco nods, easing. After a while, she relaxes, much to his relief.

"Where did she kick?" he asks.

"Here." Hermione takes his hand and rests it on the upper left side of her belly.

"Seems like she'll be an active child. Ready to train her for Quidditch?" he comments, grinning at her.

Hermione beams back, saying, "I'm horrid at Quidditch, you know that. That's more of Ron's—"

Their smiles fade, and Draco withdraws his hand.

They lean back against the wall and sit in silence, the glittering moonlight highlighting their interlaced hands, and the sifting shadows of twilight cloaking the pain in their eyes.

That night, they stayed up just to hear each other's heart break.

Draco has never held a newborn baby before, so he hesitates when Hermione holds Rose Granger-Weasley out to him.

"What?" he says, taken aback. He shakes his head and gestures to Molly and Arthur sitting on the opposite side of the hospital bed. "You're family."

"And you're not?" Molly replies, fixing him with a steady gaze and raised brows.

Draco pushes down the overwhelming wave of emotion rising within him and shuffles his chair nearer to the bed. He accepts the baby and holds her close to his chest. She's swaddled in a thick blue blanket embroidered with yellow ducks. There's a faint dusting of red hair on the crown of her head, and he can't help but grin when he grazes his finger down one of her chubby cheeks. Her fingers are so, so small—

"Oh!" Draco exclaims, alarmed when her eyes flicker open, revealing blue irises. She fidgets in her cocoon of blankets, prompting Draco to tighten his grip. He looks to Hermione for help, and she chuckles.

"Hermione, she's—" Draco starts, but he stops and looks down when Rose wraps her tiny fingers around his thumb, her wide eyes staring straight into his own.

Draco's heart skips a beat.

Memories tumble through his mind: rubbing Hermione's back after a long day, hugging Hermione while she screams through her grief even though he too feels like falling apart, staying up late into the night to prepare potions to ease Hermione's pregnancy and distract himself from his heartbreak, Hermione cradling her belly and cooing to her daughter while he laughs and cooks breakfast...

Pride and affection surges through him.

"She's... she's beautiful," he whispers and bends over to press a gentle kiss on her head.

Hermione lets out a sob. Draco looks up, just to see her wipe her eyes with the back of her hand.

The absence of Ron and Harry hurts like hangman to the heart.

"Let me have her, dear," Molly says. Draco stands up to deposit Rose in her grandmother's arms and turns back to Hermione.

"You're healthy. She's healthy. That's all that matters," he says, clasping her hand.

She nods. Although there's a shimmer of tears at the corners of her eyes, she's smiling.

With a heavy heart, Draco looks out of the window.

There's a storm brewing in the horizon.

The wan smile fades from Draco's face after the last flare of the Floo, signalling the departure of his friends. He gathers the remains of their drinks — a mug of strong builder's tea for Greg, a glass of red wine for Blaise, and Pansy's cappuccino — and pads to the kitchen.

Today was the memorial service.

He's grateful for their support: Pansy had cut her honeymoon short when she heard the news and has been one of Draco's pillars of support, while Blaise and Greg quickly tied up some loose ends in their businesses — a vineyard and a career in construction, respectively — and hurried from Italy and Berlin, where they are now based.

The three of them had flanked Draco during the memorial service. It felt so much like Hogwarts, having them by his side again. He could have smiled at the fond memories, but throughout the ceremony, his heart was splintering, collapsing like an old, sturdy tree being felled.

He almost expected a fully alive and kicking Harry and Ron to jump out during Shacklebolt's speech and croon fooled you, fooled all of you, we're not dead!

Draco would cling onto any vestiges of the denial dripping on his broken heart.

Pansy was on his left and Hermione on his right. Behind him were the entire Weasley clan. He also saw many familiar faces from school, and it seemed as though the entire Auror force, along with half of the Ministry staff, were in attendance too.

The service was exactly as they had expected: long, tiresome speeches about Harry and Ron's valiant efforts during the war, lauding Harry's virtues as the Saviour, and how their actions brought peace and stability to the wizarding world. Draco didn't miss Hermione's snort of derision when the Ministry used the opportunity to boost the public's impression of the Aurors.

The Ministry had formally invited Draco, Hermione and the Weasleys to give speeches, but all of them had declined.

Harry would have hated the service. He would have hated how they talked about him as if he was an otherworldly being. To Harry's loved ones, he was just Harry. Harry, who whistled while making breakfast and wearing nothing but his favourite red boxers with Snitches on them. Harry, who never capped the toothpaste lid properly after using it, who snored when he was especially tired after a long day. Harry, with his sunbeam of a smile so bright that it could chase away all of Draco's ghosts. Harry, who went absolutely mad for Draco's treacle tart (the only thing that Draco learnt how to make from Molly)...

...the Harry that Draco is so painfully, hopelessly, irrevocably in love with even after four years.

I haven't seen the sun in ages.

Draco and Hermione didn't shed a single tear during the ceremony.

Sometimes, you're too sad to cry.

Sighing, Draco washes the cups and hangs them to dry. Grey eyes snag on Harry's coffee-stained Gryffindor mug. His soapy fingers hover inches away from it. The last time Harry had used this was on the fateful morning when Draco last saw him. He had kissed Harry, dusted off his Auror robes and wished him a safe journey but you didn't come back this time, you didn't, you didn't!

Draco bites his lip and looks away. He leaves the mug alone, rinses his hands and rushes out of the kitchen.

He's hastily made-up chaos.

He's trapped in a clear plastic bubble of a world, disconnected from the people around him. His anger has drained dry, leaving behind in its wake grief, depression, and another intense, screeching sort of pain that feels like it could break him as easily as a bone. Some days when things are particularly bad, Draco imagines a giant, skeletal hand reaching down his throat, all the way down to his gut and extracting everything that is good and true and Harry, leaving behind a horrid sense of emptiness.

You're the first one I've ever loved.

He can't remember how long it has been since the Aurors turned up on his doorstep. It doesn't matter, he thinks, as the days bleed into weeks and inside him the red seeps through the white of the bandages that he papers over the cracks of his heart.

You're the first, and you'll be the only one.

His heart is like a humongous factory containing thousands of tiny rooms with whirring machines chugging on an uphill track. With every passing day, each room switches off its machines and clicks off its lights permanently, as if it's abandoned something, given up on the game altogether.

Draco sighs. At least he has Hermione; they're united in their loss but separate in their grief.

Draco takes small, mincing steps towards the bedroom and crawls into bed, staring at Harry's empty side of the bed.

He's not here anymore. No one will flash Draco that gorgeous grin and ask him "How has your day been?" every night, and Draco will no longer have that one person, that one lovely person you find only once-in-a-lifetime to spill your heart and soul out to. Harry's not here anymore to hold Draco after his nightmares. He's not here anymore to cook him spaghetti and make him drink cheap wine and watch bad sitcoms on the telly.

Harry's not here anymore.

That knowledge is enough to make Draco feel as if someone had accidentally elbowed a switch somewhere, extinguishing a light within him.

I should have said 'I love you' more.

Eventually, he gets out of bed, goes to a drawer and retrieves a simple wooden box. He returns to bed, opens the box and lays out a peculiar assortment of items.

He eyes the items and twists the ring on his finger.

These things would make sense to no one except for Harry and him, because this box of memories accompany each and every emotion he felt when he fell in love with Harry and found heaven in his arms.

Hogwarts, Eighth Year

Draco bites hard on his Quidditch gloves — his hands are already full with his jersey, knee pads and broom polishing kit — as he hurtles through the courtyard. Salazar, he's so late for training, why did he have a lie-down after dinner? He skids around a corner—

—and runs straight into Potter.

"Malfoy!" Potter yelps. He dodges just in time to avoid a head-on collision, but Draco's gear goes flying in the air. Even the contents of his kit are scattered on the floor. Draco rushes to gather the brushes and cloths, while Potter collects the rest of Draco's things. He's apologising and blathering on about looking for Draco at the pitch, but Draco's not in the mood to listen.

"Need me to look over your Potions essay again? Honestly, Potter, you've got to start listening during Slughorn's classes. I hardly think I'll be able to sit beside you for N.E. to guide you every step of the way," Draco says, tossing everything back into the kit.

"No, that's not—"

Draco grabs his things from Potter, cutting him off in mid-sentence. "Would love to stop and chat, but I'm in a bit of a rush. See you tomorrow."

He turns and hurries towards the pitch, ignoring Potter's shout of dismay. And then Potter's hollering, his words echoing in the night sky.

"Draco Malfoy, you come back right now so I can ask you out!"

He freezes in mid-stride. Potter's still yelling, sweet Merlin—

"Are you free this Saturday night?! I would like to take you to Hogsmeade! There's a new place that does a brilliant steak, according to Ron!"

A pause.

"You do like steak, don't you, Malfoy?!"

Out of the many Potter-related scenarios (that he had thought would never happen, but apparently he was wrong) that Draco daydreams about, he had never imagined a scene whereby Potter would be asking him out in a roar right in the middle of the courtyard. Draco's face grows warm when the surrounding students stop and stare at him as he dashes back to Potter.

"Shut up, Potter!" Draco hisses. "Do you want to announce it to the whole bloody school during breakfast tomorrow morning? Why not take out an ad in the Prophet while you're at it!" His eyes dart towards a giggling pair of Gryffindor girls. He nudges Potter to a corner of the courtyard. "You're as subtle as a sledgehammer to the head!"

Potter has the utter gall to smirk. "So, Saturday night? And you're fine with steak, yeah?"

Draco's heart is fluttering in his chest, surprise surging in his veins. He can hardly believe that this is happening.

"I... do like steak," he says. He ducks his head to hide the beginnings of a smile. Oh no, Potter can't see how thrilled he is. "I... I'll need to check if I'm free on Saturday night." Draco inwardly cringes at the blatant lie; he'll reschedule anything and everything for Potter, that's how bloody smitten he is with the git.

Potter huffs in impatience. "What d'you mean by that? I've got to make reservations for dinner. It's packed on weekends."

Draco hesitates for a second, and before he knows it, he's nodding. Once again, he cannot believe that this is happening. He hugs his gear to his chest and stares at the number 7 on his jersey. "Yeah, Potter. I'll go out with you this Saturday."

"Brilliant!" Potter exclaims. He crowds Draco up against the wall. Draco looks up, his wide eyes meeting Potter's half-lidded, smoky eyes. A corner of his mouth hikes up in a pleased half-smirk, and his voice is low and rough.

"Could you wear those black jeans you had on last Friday? Your legs look amazing in those," Potter whispers. "Seven pm, Saturday. I'll pick you up outside the dungeons."

He promptly unleashes a heartbreaker smile.

Draco makes a small, dying sound.

Potter's grin widens.

He steps back and looks pointedly at his watch. "You'd better hurry, you're so late."

That evening, Draco could hardly concentrate on his Quidditch training.

(seven preserved rose petals nestled between parchment)

It's finally Saturday.

With a finger tapping on his lower lip, Draco considers the three shirts on his bed. After a while, he lies down in bed, his fingers knitted behind his head. A part of him is still in disbelief at the recent turn of events.

It had started when McGonagall paired them up to repair the southern wing of Hogwarts. It took them a long time to strike up a tenuous friendship (aided further when Potter had returned Draco's wand with a sheepish look on his face). They had got much closer during Christmas break when Granger and Weasley, along with his own friends, had returned home for the holidays, while they opted to remain in Hogwarts.

It took Draco an even longer time to chip away at his denial and admit to himself that his feelings for Potter had developed to something more than platonic. Since Potter would never return his affections, he was content to bask in Harry's company and then go their separate ways after leaving Hogwarts, hoping that his infatuation would fade with the passing of time. Why would Harry Potter be interested in him, a Death Eater?

He had thought wrong.

The door swings open. Draco barely has any time to react before Pansy bursts into the room.

"Draco, look at who I found waiting outside our portrait hole like an overexcited Crup?" she announces and moves away with a dramatic flourish.

Potter's eyes widen at the sight of a half-naked Draco in his black jeans, his lips turning up into a slow smile of satisfaction. Draco simply arches a brow in return and sits up in bed.

"It's hardly seven yet," he drawls.

"I thought I'd come early. I'm glad I did," Potter replies, grinning.

Pansy winks at Draco. "Go with the blue shirt, darling, it brings out your eyes."

Draco flips her two fingers. "I'll be ready in two minutes."

She laughs and chivvies Potter out of the room.

"Draco takes a longer time to get ready when he's excited, you see," she says to Potter, her giggle fading as they head towards the common room.

Draco lets out a long, heartfelt sigh.

"Well, I like the blue shirt too, if that helps," Greg offers, mid-way through a Cauldron Cake. A glint of amusement sparkles in his eyes.

Draco lifts up his head to glare at him, but shrugs on the blue shirt. He gets out of bed and finishes dressing. He looks at his reflection in the mirror and smiles at the memory of that night in the courtyard. Satisfied with his appearance, Draco waves to Greg and makes his way to the almost-empty common room, just in time to see Pansy lean forward, fix Potter with a hard stare and ask him, "Do you have dishonourable intentions towards Draco?"

Her gaze flickers to Potter's waist.

"What are you hiding behind your back?" she asks, her voice thick with suspicion. She tilts her body to the side to peek, but Potter deflects by shifting his body and pushing his back towards the sofa. Draco's curious too, but his view is blocked by the cushions.

"Nothing," Potter says.

"That's enough, Pansy," Draco drawls and promptly shoos a snickering Pansy away. Potter gets up, and they're soon out of the dungeons.

"Sorry about that," Draco says.

"S'alright," Potter replies, relieved. "I'm fine with a bit of ribbing from Parkinson, I just didn't want her to see this."

With that, he stops walking and presents a small bouquet of seven red roses wrapped in silver crinkly paper.

Oh, Merlin.

"I'm not a girl, Potter," Draco says rather weakly, accepting the proffered flowers. "I didn't get you anything."

"You wore those jeans, didn't you?" Potter says, pleased.

"So I'll be walking around Hogsmeade with these roses and you. Half the school will know by tomorrow."

"Usually people say thank you, you know," Potter says, flashing Draco a lopsided grin. "You could always shrink them, but..." He gives Draco's arse a lingering look, "your jeans are rather tight, aren't they? Plus, I don't care what people think."

Draco winces at the thought of unshrinking the roses and finding them squashed at the end of the night.

"Thank you. Roses like these deserve to be shown off." Draco smiles, rubbing a smooth, damp petal between his fingertips. The scent of the flowers is fresh and earthy, and he wonders where Potter got them. When he makes no move to shrink them, Potter's grin grows.

"It's our first date, so I thought flowers would be nice. Just don't expect this next time," he teases, bumping his shoulder against Draco's.

There's going to be a next time! Draco's heart flips over like a pancake, and he can't help the soppy grin spreading on his face. He ducks his head to hide his smile. Potter's favourite blue Converse sneakers — Draco wrinkles his nose at the smudges of dirt and the uneven length of Potter's mismatched shoelaces — keep pace with his own polished Italian leather shoes as they stroll towards Hogsmeade.

Potter brings him to a restaurant with a casual and cosy atmosphere of a pub. While the waitress leads them to their table, Draco is too distracted with Potter to notice much about the décor of the place. It's obvious Potter's tried to comb his hair. His shoulders are broad and strong beneath his beige jumper, and his arse looks delectable in those dark-blue jeans.

Draco licks his lips.

They're shown to a booth in the corner, and Draco is grateful for the privacy. The next hour and a half passed like a dream: service was prompt and friendly, although Draco didn't appreciate the waitress' lingering smile directed towards Potter when she took their orders. The food was wonderful, and conversation flowed as easily as the wine. It felt exactly like two mates having dinner, except...

Draco readjusts the napkin on his lap, his eye catching on the twinkling flowers beside him. He is reminded that this isn't just an ordinary Hogsmeade weekend; this is a date, a date with Harry Potter, the bloke that he's fancied for months.

His pulse jumping, he clears his throat and places his fork and knife together on his finished plate.

Potter's eyes flicker to the side when Draco looks up. Potter's been sneaking furtive glances at Draco throughout the entire dinner, his gaze equal parts heated and playful. He returns his gaze to Draco's exposed collarbone, his lips turning up in a smirk.

Draco looks away and takes a fortifying sip of his drink, feeling conscious.

After a few more minutes of conversation, Draco calls for the bill (shooting the waitress a dark look after he caught her winking at Potter) and pays for dinner, waving away Potter's protests.

They exit the restaurant, stepping out to the cool and crisp night air. Draco lets Potter lead the way.

"The... Shrieking Shack. How romantic," Draco drawls when they arrive at Potter's destination.

"Stop being a git," Potter says good-naturedly and pats the space on the bench beside him. "It's nice and quiet here."

Draco sits down, placing the roses on his lap. He makes a show of looking around. "Oh yes, I do have some memories associated with this place. Wasn't this where you scared me by throwing snowballs and dragging me around by my feet while you were hiding under your Cloak? Very mature," he points out with a raised eyebrow.

"I was thirteen!" Potter says, shifting closer to him. "And it's not like you were any better, bringing your goons here to harass Ron and Hermione."

Without any warning, Potter drapes his arm over Draco's shoulders.

It's astonishing how Potter's making his heart pound again, but for different reasons this time.

"You've been smiling all night," Potter remarks, lifting his leg and resting his right ankle on his left knee. "Guess you really like me too, huh?"

Draco frowns at the infuriatingly smug grin on Potter's face.

"Don't look so bloody pleased with yourself, Potter!" he snaps, and promptly begins to smack Potter on the head with the roses.

"Malfoy, you ungrateful arse!" Potter howls, shielding his head with his hands. Draco only stops when some of the rose petals become dislodged, falling to Potter's thighs.

Satisfied, Draco places the flowers beside him. Sighing, Potter brushes off the loose petals on his person. Draco rolls his eyes and laces his fingers with Potter's as a reconciliatory gesture, much to Potter's delight.

It's ridiculous how easy Potter is to read.

"Why did you ask me out now? I... I wasn't expecting that at all," Draco says. It's a question that has been circling his mind the past few days.

Potter's confident grin fades, to be replaced by a shy smile.

"I was happy to just be your friend for the remaining school year. I've actually fancied you for a while now, and I've thought many times about telling you how I feel, but..." Potter looks down at their joined hands. "But if you didn't feel the same way, then I might lose your friendship, won't I?"

Draco finally unshackles his own confession, held on the tip of his tongue every time he's with Potter.

"I might... fancy you too. A little bit, just a little bit, mind you," Draco says, his face growing warm.

Potter laughs, a bright bark of a laugh that makes Draco smile.

"I've had my own suspicions that perhaps the attraction was mutual, but I couldn't risk it. Until last week when Hermione sat me down—"


"She... sees the way you look at me."

Draco sags against the bench. "I thought I hid it well."

Potter's eyes sparkle with amusement. "She said you hide loads of things well, but when it comes to me, you're rather bad at it. She told me not to waste any time, and I reckon she's right. I mean, I've almost died twice, so... seize the day and all that," Potter says, shrugging his shoulders.

"Are you saying she approves of us?" Draco asks in disbelief.

Potter wrinkles his nose. "Well, she didn't exactly put it in that way. Right now, I just wanna get to know you better, in a... er... more-than-friends way." He stares straight into Draco's eyes, his gaze so intense and disarming that Draco instinctively moves back.

"Yeah, Malfoy, I really, really wanna know you a lot better."

And then Potter wipes his palms on his jeans, and Salazar, he's moving into Draco's personal space, head tilted towards him, his lips hovering just inches away from Draco's, but not pushing it any further—

Throwing all caution to the wind, Draco straightens his back, wraps a hand around Potter's waist, closes his eyes and kisses Potter.

Potter's lips are chapped from the wind, but Draco doesn't care, can't care at all because it's Potter that he's kissing. He's thought about this so many times, and it feels so surreal that it's happening.

If this is a dream, Draco never wants to wake up.

The warmth radiating from Potter's body is intoxicating, lighting up Draco from the inside. The kiss morphs from something sweet, hesitant and gentle to something predatory and primal — Potter's fists are clenched into Draco's shirt, and when Draco grazes his teeth against Potter's lower lip, Potter lets out a delicious moan and recaptures his lips in another hungry kiss.

After a few moments, they break apart. Potter's eyes are glazed over in a daze, and his lips form a giddy half-smile. Draco wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and smirks.

"I... couldn't resist," Potter whispers, his eyes re-focusing on Draco.

"Then don't," Draco growls, the streak of possessiveness and lust racing through him so strong that he's taken aback by surprise. He pounces on Potter, kissing him all over again.

They spend a good portion of the night talking and kissing, holding hands and laughing. It's a late hour when they return to Hogwarts, strolling with gooey grins on their faces and clasped hands.

Back in his room, Draco changes into his pyjamas and plops onto his bed. He picks up the bouquet and admires it for a while, smiling as he traces the petals with a finger. From each rose he plucks a single petal, casts a Preserving Charm on the seven petals and presses them between the pages of his notebook.

Our first date.

(their Leaving certificates from Hogwarts)

It's a beautiful day for a breakup, isn't it?

Draco raises a hand to shield his eyes from the sunlight sparkling off the Great Lake. He edges a glance towards Potter. Potter's sprawled out like a starfish on the grass, his eyes closed and a sleepy smile on his face. His robe, tie, shoes and socks lay abandoned at his side.

In contrast, Draco's dressed in his full school uniform, despite the muggy weather. He's sitting on the grass, hugging his knees to his chest as he regards Potter with downcast eyes. Sunlight sifting overhead through the large branches and leaves casts shifting shadows on Potter's features. Draco longs to run a fingertip along his thick dark lashes, to press kisses on his closed eyelids, to hold his face with cupped hands and stroke his cheekbones with his thumbs.

Potter is one of the most beautiful things Draco has ever seen and touched. He slides his gaze all over Potter's gorgeous features again, committing every little detail to memory, because he's not sure when he'll be able to see Potter like this again: unguarded, content and at peace.

Troubled, Draco looks up and sees Granger and Weasley lounging a distance away, sharing a chaste kiss. They laugh and rest their foreheads together, all frothed up in the summer flings of love.

If only it was so easy for Potter and him, Draco wishes, jealousy and envy colouring his thoughts.

He turns his attention back to Potter. Scooting closer, Draco lifts a hand to cradle Potter's jaw. Potter's beam widens, and he tilts his face towards Draco — like a sunflower turning towards the sunlight — to kiss Draco's palm.

Draco memorises the way Potter's kiss melts, just like the sweetest sugar, into his skin.

Potter's eyes flicker open. "Hey, you."

Draco tries to smile, but he's sure it doesn't come out right. He withdraws his hand and steels himself. He sits up, his back ramrod straight.

"Thank you for this year. It's been delightful. I understand if you don't want to continue this anymore," Draco says and looks away. He's practised this many times in front of the mirror. His words were supposed to have emerged sleek and rehearsed, but instead, they felt chunky and stilted.

A furrow appears between Potter's brows. He reaches for his glasses and puts them on. Potter's trying to catch his gaze, but Draco's focusing on the small ant tottering up and down a patch of grass near Potter's tie.

"Draco," Potter says evenly. "What are you talking about?"

Draco fiddles with his shoelaces while he mumbles. "The Leaving Ceremony has just ended. The next part of our lives is beginning. You're going to be an Auror, Weasley's going to be one too, and Granger's probably going to do something equally outstanding. You're going to meet new people that will be a much better fit for you than me. And I'm..." His heart sinks at the vista of opportunities awaiting the Trio, opportunities that he will not be granted. He's always wanted to work in Potions, but he can't think of any Potions shop which would take him as an apprentice. "I'll just be pulling you down when everyone knows you're going out with me. The media is going to tear you apart. The Ministry might make it hard for you to be promoted. I don't want to hold you back, nor cause you any trouble."

This is the reality of life after Hogwarts, and Draco is very much aware of that. They've been trapped in their own bubble of a world, revolving around the predictable and comfortable humdrum of homework, classes, Quidditch, Hogsmeade dates and late nights spent snuggling in each other's dorms.

This whirlwind of a romance with Potter for the past few months has been exhilarating, wonderful, and beyond Draco's wildest dreams. He would never trade Potter for anything, but if it was going to end, he'd rather it end now, before he fell for Potter even more and exposed himself to more heartbreak.

The one who loves the least, will have the most power.

Everything will change the moment they leave Hogwarts.

The Slytherin in him hisses that it'll be wise to keep Potter close, because being the partner of the Saviour would open up a myriad of benefits, such as connections that would help Draco obtain a job, but...

"So you're breaking up with me for my own good?" Potter asks, incredulous. He presses the heels of his palm on his closed eyes. "That doesn't even make any sense! I thought you were happy with me—"

"I am!"

"Then why are you doing this? It's still so bloody hard to figure you out sometimes," Potter says, letting out a frustrated growl. "All those reasons that you gave..." Potter begins to count them off his fingers, his voice spiralling in volume and intensity with every word. "I've grown up with the media scrutinising my every move, so I'm hardly gonna care about what they talk about now. Yes, Ron and I are gonna be Aurors, but why are you even fussing about my promotion? I'm not even enrolled yet! I will meet new people, yes, and maybe they will be a better fit, but that doesn't matter because the only person that I want to be with is you!"

Draco is rendered speechless and breathless by the vehemence of Potter's rant, his confidence and certainty about their relationship.

Potter nudges his glasses up his nose and cards a hand through his hair, made even messier by the grass and leaves caught at the back of his head. Potter does that whenever he's trying to piece his scattering thoughts into words. Many a time Draco has caught him doing the same thing when he's hunched over his Potions essay in the library.

"Draco, could you just... stop thinking about everything that could go wrong? There are so many things that could go right, so, so right, if you'd only give it a chance," Potter says, taking Draco's hand into his. He takes a deep breath and stares into Draco's eyes, his gaze intense and serious, and the line of his jaw strong. "I just have one question for you: do you want to be with me? That's all I need to know."

"Yes." The answer slips from Draco's lips without hesitation, because that's the truth. I want to be with Harry Potter, perhaps for the rest of my life. There's a swooping sensation, a strange mixture of happiness, disbelief and doubt, in Draco's belly at that realisation. Merlin, I don't want anyone else.

The lines of tension on Potter's shoulders ease at once, and his face relaxes into an open smile.

"Brilliant. Because I want to be with you too. We'll make it work, you know we will."


"We'll make it work. Trust me," he reassures, his grin sunny with hope and optimism. "I'm gonna be an Auror, you're gonna start your apprenticeship in Potions, and we're gonna get a flat in London together, maybe not too far from Ron and Hermione."

"Seems... seems like you've got it all sorted out."

Potter gives a casual shrug of his shoulders. "I don't see any other way because we have to be together."

A blush rises in Draco's cheeks. "Why do you have to say everything on your mind?"

"Because if I don't say it now, I might not have the chance to say it next time," Potter murmurs against Draco's neck. Draco pulls him closer, and it's as if a heavy weight has been lifted from his shoulders.

"Don't ever do anything like that again, please. At least talk to me about it before dropping a bomb like that. You... you really shocked me," Potter says, his voice small and vulnerable.

I've been a fool, an absolute fool.

"I'm sorry," Draco whispers. He closes his eyes and kisses the crown of Potter's head, pulling away when he ends up kissing a dried leaf instead. Laughing, they brush the leaves and grass off Potter's hair.

In the horizon, a tentacle from the Giant Squid breaks through the surface of the Lake and soars up in a jaunty wave. Weasley cheers and waves back, while Granger turns and grins at both Potter and Draco.

Draco nods back. Although they're not close friends, Granger has been more accepting of their relationship than Weasley, but at least all three of them are on civil terms. He slants a glance towards Potter, who's staring ahead at the display of the Giant Squid's tentacles with amusement.

Potter's skin is stitched with golden sunlight, keeping Draco warm and chasing away all of his demons.

Yes, it's a beautiful day...

...a beautiful day to be with someone you care so deeply about.

(a page removed from a book of French lullabies)

He wakes up to the screams of his dead parents ringing in his ears.

Draco catapults to a sitting position, gasping. The terror that was coiling in his gut begins to release, replaced by an unease that escalates when there's nothing familiar around him; he's not at Hogwarts, nor is he in the Manor—

There's warm hands rubbing his shoulders in circles, lips pressing soft kisses on the back of his neck in between snatches of what Draco dimly registers is French.

The War is over. I'm with Harry. In our new flat.

Harry continues to warble tonelessly in broken French and stuttering pauses, but the melody and some of the words are familiar. This is a French lullaby that Mother used to sing to him. She would tuck him into bed after a glass of warm milk and sing to him, cajoling him to sleep.

Draco lets out a shuddering sigh. Soothed, he begins to recover his equilibrium, his heartbeat returning to normal after a few moments. He rests his cheek on Harry's forearm and laces his fingers with Harry's other hand. Harry is kneeling behind Draco's back, his arms wrapped around Draco's shoulders while he continues to sing.

"Where did you learn this?" Draco asks when he's finished.

"You told me about this song and hummed it a few times before, while I held you after your nightmares. Last month after the funerals, when we went to the Manor, I found a book of French lullabies containing the lyrics. I learnt it from there." Harry uses the hem of his shirt to wipe away the sweat on the sides of Draco's face. "Did my singing make you feel better? Well, I wouldn't really call that singing, but..." Harry chuckles.

"It did help me. Thank you," Draco says, touched. It must have taken a considerable amount of effort to learn the lyrics and the tune. "Go back to sleep, you've got early training tomorrow."

They settle back into bed, but not before Harry fluffs Draco's pillow and tucks him into the covers. Draco waits until Harry's breathing is constant, and then turns back to face him.

How could his heart feel so much for one single person?

How could Harry be the only one who could see the beauty in Draco's breakdown?

I think I love you, Harry James Potter.

Draco smooths Harry's hair back, but he's startled when there's a movement under the duvet. Harry's fingers wrap around his wrist.

"I can hear you saying I love you in your head, you know," Harry says with a smirk, opening his eyes.

Draco's face heats up. "I—"

"I love you too," Harry whispers.

It's not the first time he's said that, and it won't be the last.

He pulls Draco close. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight," Draco mumbles into his chest.

That was the night when Draco stopped dreaming in Avada Kedavra green and started dreaming in Harry green.

(a birthday card mentioning one of Draco's most useful Potions reference materials)

"Happy birthday, Draco!" Hermione greets from the kitchen entrance. "Hey, I thought you were banned from the kitchen after you set the stove on fire last month?" she asks, raising a brow.

"Are we never going to forget that?" Draco asks, sighing.

"Well, from what I heard from Harry, it was quite a sight to behold," she says. She places a plain paper bag on the table and sits down on a chair, eyeing the sliced tomatoes on Draco's cutting board.

"He was exaggerating," Draco says, and promptly goes back to his tomatoes. When he's finished, he stores the tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers away in the fridge. "Cooking will never be my forte, but I do help in the preparation of ingredients, you know," he says with a rather injured air as he washes his knife and board.

The haughty expression on his face gives way to a radiant grin when he takes a proper look at Hermione. She's made an effort tonight — her little black dress hugs her curves in all the right ways. Her hair, usually bushy and flyaway, has been styled into an elegant chignon, with a few tendrils framing her face. Her cheeks are the shade of rose, and bronze eyeshadow shimmers on her eyelids. Her cherry-red lips quirk up in a playful smile when Draco removes his apron to reveal a dress shirt, unbuttoned at the collar and rolled up at the sleeves, and a pair of grey pants.

"I thought we were going for your birthday dinner? If you told me you were going to have a date with a pile of cut vegetables and fruits, I think Harry would be sorely disappointed," Hermione says.

"Shut it, you. They're going to be here anytime, I thought I'd get ready early," Draco replies with fond exasperation. "Thank you for the birthday wish…" he trails off when Hermione pushes the bag towards him.

"It's from Ron and me. We hope you like it."

Whatever inside is heavy and shaped like a book. Draco's excited already, he loves receiving books as presents, and from the many conversations he's shared with Hermione, he has a sneaking suspicion about the identity of the book. With eager hands, Draco yanks the wrapping off.

He yelps in disbelief and happiness. Having a crucial text like the Moste Ancient Secrets of Potions for the Healing Arts to leaf through at his own leisure would advance his research in the field of healing potions by leaps and bounds. Stunned by the thoughtfulness of the gift, he lifts up the tome with both hands, grunting, and hugs it to his chest. He's been hunting high and low for it: it's near to impossible to get copies of the text unless you have official access to the library in St. Mungo's, and even so, the loan of the book is heavily regulated. Draco's visited many vintage bookstores, both local and overseas, but he had been unable to find a copy.

"How did you get this?" he asks.

Hermione winks and puts a finger on her sealed lips.

"Oh, that's not important. Thank you, thank you!" Draco exclaims, delighted. He goes at once to his study to keep the book. There's the crackle of the Floo, and Draco's heart leaps. That should be Harry and Weasley, back from the Ministry. Enjoying a nice dinner with Harry would make it a perfect birthday. He's barely seen him for the past three weeks, what with the high-profile case they've been working on.

He misses him.

Draco rushes into the living room, only to stop short when the room is empty save for Hermione. She is hunched over the red embers of the coals and hissing in an undertone.

His grin freezes and falls off his face. His joy drains out, like air leaking from a deflating tire.

"It's his birthday, Harry, and you can't even spare two hours for him? We haven't seen you and Ron in ages—" Hermione stops when Draco appears, stony-faced. "He's here, and he looks like he knows. Tell him yourself." She moves away, giving Draco ample space to confront Harry.

"Draco, I'll make it up to you, I swear. It's just tonight, we'll be at Manchester, something's come up, we've got to go there now. We'll go out tomorrow, anywhere you want, I'm sorry, so sorry, Draco!" Sparks sizzle from Harry's mouth as he speaks.

He knows how Harry is like when he's so close to cracking a big case. He doesn't need to be physically near Harry to know that Harry's body is strung taut with nervous energy, his fingers probably tapping out an impatient rhythm on his thighs as he kneels in front of the Ministry Floo. So what if Draco insists that he come along? He won't be able to concentrate at all, and it'll make Draco even more miserable.

It's cruel of Draco, but he knows exactly how to wound Harry with a few simple words.

"I just wanted to spend some time with you on my birthday. I should have known that even that would be too much to ask," Draco says, his voice flat. "Take care of yourself."

With that, he shuts off the connection before Harry can answer.

Draco's grateful for the pause that ensues; Hermione's giving him time to marshal his thoughts and get his emotions — anger, hurt, disappointment and resignation — under control.

"I'm so sorry," she says. She loosens her chignon, letting her curls tumble over her shoulders. She has dressed up not for Draco, but for Weasley. Her engagement ring sparkles on her finger, but what's the point of proposing if Weasley's not going to be around anyway?

A dizzying gust of anger storms through him.

How many times has he listened to this same old story before, hell, how many times had they heard the same bloody thing from Harry and Weasley?

Draco rises and dusts the ashes off his knees.

"You know what, Hermione? We can either go out and have fun, or we could stay in and sulk. It's my birthday, and I've got the company of an absolutely stunning lady. Let's go out, have a fantastic dinner with the best champagne, and then we'll go dancing. Or anything that you'd want to do. Together, just the both of us. How does that sound?"

Hermione nods in determination. "Yes, let's do that."

When Draco bows and offers her his arm in an exaggerated manner, she giggles and takes it. He nabs their jackets on the way out.

It's a surprisingly cold evening outside, and Draco catches himself wondering about the weather in Manchester as they make their way to the restaurant. He pushes that thought out of his mind.

"Thank you for being here," Draco says.

Hermione tightens her grip around his arm. "You're welcome."

His world does not revolve around Harry. He has his work, his books and friends that care about him.

His world does not revolve around Harry.

(a pair of International Floo tickets to Mauritius, torn)

"For all the fuss you make about us not spending enough time together—"

"Stop it! Don't say things like that—"

"—you sure as hell don't seem to care when I make an effort!"

Draco stops pacing and stares at Harry, wide-eyed. "Make an effort? I wouldn't call booking a three-week vacation without consulting me as making an effort! You know I hate it when you ignore my decision on things—"

"Oh, I definitely know about that! When we were fixing up this flat, everything was based entirely on your decisions, wasn't it?"

That is so untrue that Draco wants to laugh, but he's too furious. He directs his anger to the topic at hand.

"I run a one-man business, Harry! I have orders to fill and time-sensitive potions to brew. I can't possibly drop everything to go on holiday with you! Did you even think about that?"

"It's a surprise! You do know what a surprise means, don't you?" Harry retorts through gritted teeth and narrowed eyes, an ugly sneer twisting his features. He's run his hands through his hair so many times that it's all tousled, sticking up in all directions. He's an absolute beast when his temper rears its fiery head, but Draco's no slouch either.

"Don't talk to me like I'm some kind of idiot! You know what, here's what I think of your poorly planned surprise!"

Provoked by his anger and need to hurt Harry as much as possible, Draco grabs the Floo tickets off the coffee table and rips it into pieces.

Harry's body is trembling, his chest is heaving and he's clenching and unclenching his fists. "Do you… do you know how long I waited for to get those tickets and to make all of the arrangements?"

The expression in Harry's eyes would make any lesser wizard cower in his boots, but not Draco.

Draco snorts in derision. "How long? As long as all the nights I've spent dozing off in front of the Floo waiting for you to come home?" He's releasing all his pent-up frustration, each piercing word designed to wound Harry in the best way possible. "Maybe you should go with Weasley instead, since your schedules match perfectly."

With that parting shot, Draco turns sharply on his heel and storms to their bedroom. He slams the door closed behind him.

There's a loud thud outside, accompanied by a bellow, and then a shatter.

That must be Harry throwing something against the walls.

Draco can't stay here anymore; they've said things to each other, things that they can never take back. Staying here would just prolong the fight. He hurries to the closet and Summons his bag. He flings open the drawers and starts to hurl clothes into the bag. When he's finished, he grabs his notes off his bedside dresser and crams them on top of his clothes.

Pansy, I'll go to Pansy.

The door swings open—

"You're leaving?"

Harry's appearance stops Draco in his tracks.

Draco raises his chin in defiance. "So what if I am?"

Harry advances towards Draco, his shoulders squared, green eyes blazing and his focus centred entirely on Draco. He makes a sweeping motion with a hand, and Draco's bag flies out of his grasp and crashes to the other side of the room.

Draco shivers; Harry's command of magic has always thrilled and chilled him at the same time.

Harry clutches Draco's forearm. Draco struggles just for the sake of it, and this only makes Harry pull him even closer to his chest. Harry hisses, his breath gliding across Draco's right ear. "If I let you leave, what's gonna happen? Will you return a few days later and pretend that this never happened?"

Draco refuses to meet his eyes, and instead settles for looking at Harry's ACDC shirt. "I…" Draco feels drained, as if he has spent the past few hours running an emotional marathon. "It just feels like… we've been fighting so much lately. We go to bed angry, and the next day we pretend nothing has happened. How do we move on from this?"

"I don't know," Harry says in a small voice. "But what I do know is that I love you too much to let you go." He encircles Draco in a full-bodied hug, and right now, Draco knows that this is where he belongs forever, right here in Harry's arms.

What if your supply of love runs out?

Some days he wants to lock Harry away from the rest of the world, even from Hermione and Weasley. He wants to shred every tabloid magazine that continues to gossip about Harry with dozens of men and women, even though Harry and Draco make no effort to keep their relationship secret.

He wants Harry to belong to himself and no one else.

"I love you," Harry repeats.

The silence is rich with expectation.

It's just three words. Just three words, Draco. Say it, say it!

"I…" Draco swallows. "I…"

How could Harry not feel those three words with every exhale of Draco's breath, with every thud of Draco's heart? How can Draco put into words the ocean's worth of love he feels for Harry? He's never been brought up to express affection with words, but with actions.

"I'm sorry for tearing the tickets," Draco mumbles after a long pause.

"What if… I checked if we could go another time, when the both of us are free? I swear I'll let you know before booking anything. Or would you prefer to get a refund?"

"No, don't get a refund. I… I really want to go away with you. Mauritius sounds lovely. It's just that this month isn't good for me. The shop's expanding, and the school term is starting, so…" Draco untangles himself from Harry's arms. "I'll go and unpack."

He crosses the room towards his bag and gathers his scattered things, keeping his back turned to Harry.

Draco pulls up the memory of them together — one of his most cherished memories — basking in the sun at the grass near the Great Lake two years ago after the Leaving Ceremony, when Harry had uttered these words: "We'll make it work. Trust me."

Draco hopes, with every fibre of his being, that Harry remembers that too.

(a pair of promise rings, each worn by Harry and Draco)

Harry eyes the ornate box in Draco's hands with curiosity.

"What's that?" he asks, sliding his feet off the coffee table and putting his bag of crisps aside. He grabs the remote to lower the volume on Britain's Got Talent. He sits up on the sofa, facing Draco.

Draco snags a cushion and puts it on his lap. He rests the box on the cushion. He runs his fingers along the four corners of the sleek, silver jewellery box. Each corner has a single rose inscribed on it. The Malfoy crest is embossed on the lid, along with the Malfoy motto — Sanctimonia Vincet Semper — curling in elegant script on the bottom.

Draco opens the creaking box, revealing a pair of rings nestled in lush green silk.

Harry's breath hitches.

Draco flicks his wand. Both rings rise from the silk and levitate in the air between them. "These are the promise rings of the Malfoy family," he explains. "All pureblood families have these heirlooms: promise rings that are handed down generation after generation. Usually, the Malfoy heir presents these rings to his partner before meeting each other's parents, as a sign of commitment."

"Yeah, Ron showed me the Weasley promise rings before he offered them to Hermione," Harry says, distracted by the light catching on the gems socketed in each ring: an emerald stone and a black diamond.

Draco picks one ring from the air, leaving the other floating. He rests it on his palm. The rings are customisable, in both band design, gem type, and width. He's crafted a suitable pattern for Harry: a simple sterling silver ring studded with the gems lying next to each other.

"Then you know what this means," Draco murmurs.

Harry looks for a long time at the ring on Draco's hand. He transfers his gaze to Draco, who meets his eyes with a steady gaze of his own.

"Only you. No one else. Only you," Draco says, his voice shaky.

Nodding, Harry offers his left hand, palm down, to Draco.

With a pounding heart and unsteady hands, Draco pushes the ring onto Harry's ring finger.

"Wow," Harry says in awe and wonder, his eyes glued to the ring. He turns it this way and that, smiling when the gems sparkle.

Harry picks the other ring and studies it for a bit. The ring is a rich yellow gold, with the Malfoy motto carved on the inner side. Draco has kept the design as similar as possible to his father's: it's a triple twist ring, with an emerald stone in the centre of the pattern and two smaller black diamonds flanking it.

"May I?" Harry asks.

A blush suffuses his cheeks when Harry slides the ring on his finger. Draco is wearing a smile wide with happiness. They've been together for three and a half years. They've enjoyed blissful times and weathered through the thistles and thorns of their rough patches.

A part of him feels that there should be more words, perhaps a heartfelt speech to accompany this exchanging of rings, but how can he translate the beats of his heart and the spirit of his soul into words that perfectly capture his all-consuming love for Harry?

He tried, really, he did. He sat at his table and attempted to construct a short paragraph, blooming with affection and endearments. He tried fitting the words on his tongue, but they only wilted on his lips.

So he holds Harry close and hopes that his touch says the words that he can't.

"I love you too," Harry whispers against his cheek. Harry pulls away and laughs with unbridled joy, his smile so brilliant and bright as if summer has been captured and kept alive in that single smile.

There is nothing else Draco needs in his life.

Yours in life and in death, yours forever more.

He wrenches himself back into the present, a present where Harry doesn't exist anymore.

He's flat-lining all over again, his emotions on the blink.

I gave you everything I had, every single thing under the twinkling stars,

With shaking hands and glistening eyes, Draco packs each item back into the wooden box.

and you broke my heart,

He's surrounded by a suffocating sadness that wraps around him like a kidnapper's cloak, pressing him from all sides.

you broke it like how you loved me,

Draco picks up the box and hugs it hard, trying to feel his heartbeat through this box of memories, because he can no longer feel it in his chest.

so beautifully, so passionately, so certainly, so intensely.

Draco does not expect the jumble of flowers outside his shop.

He bends down to leaf through the cards accompanying the flowers — condolences and well wishes from both strangers and acquaintances such as Mr Davies from the used broomstick store across the street and Mrs Taylor from the neighbouring bookshop.

Hermione carefully removes a card from his shaking hands and tucks it back into its respective bouquet.

"We'll sort that out later. Come on, Draco," she says, tugging him ahead. Although her touch is firm, her words are gentle and encouraging.

With an unsteady voice, Draco says the spell to unlock the door. As he wanders through the shop with Hermione behind him, the onslaught of memories feels like a stake through his heart.

There — the chair near the bookcase — was where Harry liked to sit while he waited for Draco to lock up. That cauldron that Draco had to repair… Harry had used that to brew a potion just for fun, and ended up blowing it up instead. There's a small Gryffindor flag in the corner of his brewing room that Harry had put up in jest. Draco left it there, but countered it by tagging a Potter Stinks badge on the flag. There's even an old note in Harry's handwriting detailing the contents of a cupboard when Draco had dragged him to help out with inventory.

The last time Draco was here a month ago, he'd been safe in the knowledge that Harry was still alive.

That's no longer the case now.

Draco's stomach swoops with panic, and he turns to face Hermione.

"I can't do this. I can't," he insists in a papery whisper. Grief, hovering like a vulture, begins to coil and gather, seeping through the cracks in his heart. He shakes his head, backing away from his workbench. He's not ready to return to work yet, he's not ready to move on—

"You can. You can do this," Hermione says, cutting through his fog of misery.

"No. He's not here, Hermione. He's not here," Draco chokes out, slumping to the floor.

"Yes, Harry's not here. But he wasn't with you when you bought groceries, and you managed perfectly fine."

Harry normally did the shopping. Last Sunday, Draco had removed the shopping list written in Harry's handwriting from the fridge and added to it. It was strange entering the shops without Harry, but he had made his purchases without breaking down at the treacle tart aisle.

If he could do that, then he could do this.

"What is the first thing you do when you start work?" Hermione says.

"I… I do a quick check of the stock to see which potions are running low."

"Alright. Let's start with that, then."

With Hermione's support and patience, Draco finds himself falling into the predictable routine of gathering and preparing ingredients and setting the cauldrons to boil. Surrounded by jars of ingredients and empty phials, he weighs powders and chops roots, casts spells and stirs potions. It takes a few tries and a few Vanishing spells when he loses his concentration, but it's not long before he's back in his element, seeking comfort in the familiarity and clockwork precision of his work.

As time passes, fresh potions bottled and ready for sale gradually fill his workbench. Hermione stays with him, curled up in a corner with a book and a hot mug of tea.

"I'm ready," Draco says when the last potion is sorted into the appropriate cabinet.

Hermione looks up from her book and beams at him.

With a determined flick of his wand, he flips the Closed sign on the door over to Open.

Time can heal, even when it is wreathed in tears.

The kitchen is clean, the cleanest that it has ever been because it is hardly used these days. The fridge hasn't seen a slice of treacle tart in months. A Gryffindor mug, thoroughly scrubbed, sits on the back of the rack of cups. Beside the cups, there's a repaired yellow teapot engraved with sunflowers. If you look closer, you can see that strangely familiar crack between two sunflowers near the spout, as if to preserve the memory of someone who was very important in this house, but was no longer here.

The guest room has been converted into a storeroom of sorts. There are a few large cardboard boxes labelled with black permanent marker: Harry's clothes, Harry's shoes, Harry's Auror textbooks, Harry's Quidditch magazines and Harry's vinyl records.

There is a much smaller box on top of a table and unlike the other boxes, this one isn't sealed.

It is labelled with just one word: Us.

Up the stairs, into the bedroom.

These four walls have held in what Draco's heart could not.

Draco is sleeping on a bed that is too big for one person, and he's still sleeping on his side of the bed. There are four things on the bedside dresser: his wand, a half-completed Potions manuscript, a glass of water and a polished Galleon.

The wooden box is still tucked away in the last drawer, but there's two new additions in the box: the photo album that Hagrid had given to Harry in his first year of Hogwarts, and a white envelope stamped with a special golden Ministry seal.

The envelope has not been open.

Draco mumbles something in his sleep and rolls closer to the other side of the bed that has gone unoccupied for months.

Outside, the sky shifts in colour as the dawn of a new day chases away the shadows of the night.

It's Christmas.

It's Draco's first Christmas without Harry. No matter how busy either of them were, they made sure to spend Christmas together. Well, there was that one year when Harry had been posted to Birmingham during the Christmas week. Draco had all but given up hope of him coming home on time, but Harry had tumbled from the Floo at eleven o'clock on Christmas night with a lopsided grin, bloodied robes and a rather crumpled present under his arm.

"Think we can still make it to the markets if we leave now?"

It is a yearly tradition for them to spend some time browsing the wares in the park-turned-Christmas market just ten minutes away from their apartment. Sometimes, Ron and Hermione join them before they leave together for dinner at the Burrow.

Draco is sitting on their favourite park bench at the edge of the market, a small smile playing on his lips as he soaks in the festivities. There's a towering Christmas tree in the middle of the market, complete with glittering baubles, sparkling tinsel and a cluster of gifts around the base of the tree. The market is heaving with families, couples and last-minute shoppers. He had not been in the mood to lose himself in the hustle and bustle of the crowd, choosing instead to indulge in a mug of mulled wine to chase the cold away.

But Harry's homemade hot chocolate, served with a snowman-shaped marshmallow at the side, is still the best at keeping him warm. Draco sighs and winds Harry's Gryffindor scarf tighter around his neck. He misses Harry's off-key Christmas carols, he misses Harry's home-cooked Christmas dinner just for the two of them, he misses waking up to Harry's cuddles and kisses the day after Christmas.

He misses Harry.

The seasons have come and gone; hope has flared, dimmed and faded. Months have passed, and with each passing week, the pain has dulled, to be replaced by raindrop ripples of resignation.

Draco has rebuilt his life around the loss of Harry, but that pull, that longing that he has for him will never go away.

"Harry," Draco murmurs. He could never tire of whispering Harry's name, whether he is gasping it in reverence, like a prayer, when they were in bed or hissing it in anger when they fought.

"Harry, I wish you were here. I wish you were here with me," he says, snowflakes covering his words and his eyelashes. His eyes are drawn to the moon hanging high up in the velvet sky. He's sent up Gryffindor-gold wishes I'll give anything, anything at all to have Harry back with me, please— that had complicated the stars.

There's a muffled shout and a grunt in the distance that sounds familiarDraco sits up in alarm and puts his wine down. He slips his wand out of his pocket discreetly and walks towards the sound, his boots crunching on the snow.

"Hello?" he asks, his eyes darting around the empty scene. A choked cry on his left, but before he can turn, there's the distinctive crack of Disapparition. With wide eyes, Draco runs to the spot, his heart hammering in his chest and a stray sunbeam of hope winding its way through his veins.

It couldn't be, but it sounded like—

"Harry?" he whispers, moving deeper into the small clearing surrounded by trees. He's sure he heard something around here, but there are no other footprints in the snow. He stays still for a moment, his senses on high alert.

Nothing else happens.

His heart sinks all the way down to his shoes as he plods back to the bench. Who was he kidding? It couldn't have been Harry. He's dead. Pushing that thought away, he looks at his watch. He should make his way to the Burrow soon for Christmas dinner.

Draco smiles, his chest swelling with pride at the thought of Rose, already ten months old. He loves her chubby fingers and ruddy cheeks, her tufts of red hair and bright blue eyes framed with thick lashes. She's already starting to learn how to stand, much to Draco and Hermione's delight. He had never thought he was the paternal sort, but he's fallen in love with her bubbly laughter, her shy smile and her tendency to hide her face and look towards Draco and Hermione for help when someone that wasn't family approached her.

One day, Draco and Hermione found a drooling Rose curled up fast asleep on one of the thick, leather tomes that Hermione had been reading.

"I see the resemblance," Draco had drawled, earning an elbow in his ribs from Hermione.

There is even a small play area set up especially for Rose in the corner of his shop for the rare instance when Hermione was at work and Molly was unable to babysit. One time, when Hermione popped by to collect Rose, Rose had been in the midst of waving bye to Draco before her face crumpled up and she burst into tears.

"Dada!" she had screeched, her small body straining towards Draco.

Draco and Hermione had only stared at Rose, who had just spoken her first word.

Hermione clapped her hands and squealed in excitement. "Her first word!"

They shared a proud grin over Rose's head. After a moment, Hermione had placed Rose on Draco's counter and said very firmly and clearly, "No. Not your daddy."

"Draco," Draco said, bending down to face Rose. "I'm Draco." He had repeated his name, but Rose clung onto him like a limpet and kept on mumbling Dada into his chest, her tears drying on his shirt.

Draco let out a weak laugh and turned to Hermione. "That could be her nickname for me. It does sound a bit like my name."

Draco jolts himself out of his recollections and sips his mulled wine. He has been considering further studies in France, but Hermione still needs help with Rose. Perhaps in a year's time...

He turns back to the patch of snow where he had heard the strange sounds earlier.


A simmering, sparkling grain of hope continues to lie, dormant and timid, beneath his heart of cobwebs, like an almost-forgotten word after a long, tiring list of footnotes.

Because wherever you are, whether you're still on this godforsaken earth or scattered somewhere high up in the heavens smiling down at me, I'll always be right here missing you with the broken pieces of my heart.

Harry was every tear that Draco had lost.

My dreams are on fire, but the snow doesn't stop falling.

Sometimes, Draco wonders when he will stop dreaming in green.

It's his imagination playing tricks on him again. He couldn't have heard anyone say his name. The windows are wide open, bringing in the din of traffic and pedestrians on the pavement below.

Draco continues to hum as he dunks the pan in the sink of soapy water to wash away the remains of his lunch. He will have to visit the apothecary today; he's running low on lacewing flies and porcupine quills. Oh, he might as well drop by Flourish and Blotts to check on his order of—


That single word, murmured in that voice in that tell-tale manner, scatters his thoughts like pinballs.

Draco's fingers slacken on the pan. His shoulders rise with tension, and he looks straight ahead at the row of mugs hanging on top of the sink. He is so on edge, disbelief rioting through him—


With a pounding heart, Draco turns.

There Harry Potter stands in front of him, looking weary but very much alive.

When Harry's lips curve up into one of those sunny smiles that Draco has only ever dreamt of, Draco's world falls away.

With every passing second, dull green eyes bloom with a brilliant vibrancy, the corners of Harry's eyes crinkling up in a delighted grin. His hair is still as messy as ever, although it's shorter now. Draco's breath catches — Harry's still wearing his promise ring — when Harry raises his left hand to card his fingers through inky scrawls of black hair.

Harry is scruffier than usual; there is the beginning of a beard growing along the strong line of his jaw, going all the way down to his Adam's apple. His lips are chapped and his skin is so pale. He looks thinner underneath his plain black T-shirt, but he still has those broad set of shoulders and biceps that always drove Draco wild. A dusty brown duffel bag slips from Harry's grasp and thumps to the floor.

It has been one year since his disappearance.

This dizzying, overwhelming spectrum of emotions: a growing joy soaring through him like a bird taking to sunny blue skies, a shatter of disbelief and a squirm of unease you're supposed to be dead, have I gone round the bend, seeing things that don't exist anymore— twists Draco's heart.

Harry takes a step forward, his arms moving up.

Draco retreats, backing up against the sink.

Harry's smile dims, his hands fall and he shuffles back, putting the distance back between them.

Both men stand silent and still for a very long moment, like a pair of tiny figurines that had fallen so far from the wedding cake.

Eventually, Draco shakes his head. "Wha—" he tries, but his words are stuck in his throat, and nothing emerges except a laryngitic croak.

Harry lifts a hand to gesture between them. "I…" He frowns and drops his hand, looking disappointed in himself.

Draco's heart slows, before whirring in double quick time, as if the sight of Harry had breathed life back into him.

There Harry Potter stands.