A/N: I really like doing one-shots. They're tons of fun! Haha. So, I hope you enjoy this. (Yes, I realize I have several running series to update. But… my brain is full of other things!) I also really like doing things based off of myths, so… Here's a second one. Heehee. This one is based off of a myth I once read about Hephaestus, the smith god who was married to Aphrodite (she was such a cheating slut thought).
The Most Precious Thing
That war changed us all. The values that we had once held so high seemed insignificant now. What was truth, what was justice, if everyone you loved was dead? What did it matter that you were in the right if the lives of others were the cost? We had once been a people full of faith, always looking towards that bright and shining future. No longer. It came in different forms, this change. Some of it was merely physical, but most of it was emotional. The unlucky ones had both.
I, as one of the pivotal people in that Great War, was one of the unlucky ones. A blast from a curse had left my right arm completely useless; the horrors of war had left my mind in shambles. It took me years to pick the pieces back up, and even then I never fully got back to the way I was. I was a broken man. But there was a new empire to establish, and I was needed to solidify what were officially being called "peace negotiations". We all knew that really they were bribes to keep Voldemort's army from destroying us all. The whole damned world had been split in two when it happened, to the point where it became almost like two separate countries. So what was decided was this: we would unite powerful families from both sides through marriage unions. I almost laughed aloud when the idea was first pitched to me. Arranged marriages? What were we, some pathetic remainder of the royal courts of old? Yet they insisted. It was for the good of us all, they said. So I relented. If I had to be a pawn even now, so be it.
So, I was married off. For me, there were fewer choices. It was common knowledge that I was gay, so of course they had to search long and hard for the right match. They settled on him, Draco Malfoy. It made sense; I knew that even as my mind was screaming its protests. His family was wealthy, influential, and allied with the Dark, one of Voldemort's key supporters. I was the hope of the army of the Light. What better could they have done?
It was a June wedding. I have to laugh when I think of that; every young bride wishes for a June wedding, after all. He was no exception. We were married, but he did not love me. I, on the other hand, had always been very much in love with him. So, for a time I thought that I was happy. To be near him, to have him there when I came home every night, that was enough. Even if with this ruined arm I could not hold him, and with this scarred face he would not let me kiss him, it was enough.
Only for me, however. He wanted more, and rightly so. He was not the one in love, as he would constantly tell me. He wanted to be beautiful, admired by everyone. If I told him that I thought he was beautiful, he would tell me that I didn't matter. That hurt, of course, but I would only smile at him. That's all I could ever do, smile at him. Perhaps I was hoping that one day these smiles of love would make him care for me. But he was dissatisfied, more and more with every day that passed. 'I am not beautiful,' he would tell me. 'You are the most beautiful creature on this earth,' I would always respond. 'If I am so beautiful, then hold me.' He would say this and stare at me with that mocking look on his face. He knew it was impossible for me to do that.
Hold me, hold me, hold me. He was always asking for me to hold him, knowing how badly I wanted to. If I ever tried, even as clumsy as I was, he would dance away from me and coldly tell me that he did not love me. 'I am not the one in love. I am not the one in love.'
I just wanted to make him happy. If being wanted would do that, then I would make him wanted. These hands were still good for something. I could at least do that. While he was away, drinking himself to sickness at the thought of coming home to his crippled joke of a husband, I would work, secretly and quietly. I made for him a belt of woven gold, and spelled it to make all that saw him fall passionately in lust with him. One night, I presented it to him. He took it and without a word he left. He was off to conquer the world.
Still, for a while he would come home to me as he had always done. He was even sweet to me, though I knew full well that it was only because of what he called his most precious thing. During the day he would seduce any bright young thing that came his way, but at night he would stay with me, never looking at me or speaking, but there just the same. I was happy. I thought maybe it could stay like that forever.
I was a fool.
Time passed, and soon the power of the belt was not enough. 'More,' he demanded of me. 'I want the whole world to think I am the most beautiful creature in the world.' I said nothing, but did as he bid. This time I made him a necklace of diamonds like a net of stars. Soon after he wanted something else, and so I gave to him bracelet of silver that flowed like water around his wrist. More, more, more. It was always not enough. Earrings of rubies shaped like fluttering phoenixes, a ring made to resemble the World Snake of Nordic mythology that was forever consuming itself, a dragon broach made of burning garnets. There was no end to the wonders that I showered upon him. Each and every time he would take them from me, and putting them on he would ask me if he was beautiful now. Each and every time I would tell him that he was, and he would laugh as he left me.
Still, even with all of this, I could not hate him. I could feel only love, no matter how much I wished that I could be as he was, uncaring and cold, perhaps even fooling around with other men. Yet even if I had been, none would have me. I was "that crippled Potter", or sometimes "that tragic hero with the useless arm".
I came home one night to see his shoes already by the door. I was early, I knew, but he never came home before I did. He was too busy playing with the rich and the beautiful to want to come home to his crippled husband. I am sure that he never told anyone where he got his wondrous treasures. I called his name, but heard nothing but silence. Had he simply worn different shoes?
Tired, I went towards what was supposedly our bedroom. I never slept in it when he was home. He would have turned his back from me, and I knew that I could not handle that pain. When I got outside the door, I could hear noises coming from within. I think that I knew what I would find if I opened it. I did not want to believe I was right, and so I turned the knob.
There he was, sprawled out naked and delicate and vulnerable as he would never be for me, his face flushed and his body shining with sweat. Some strange man was buried within him, not even noticing my presence. He did, however. Those grey eyes, always so cold, turned to stare at me. I stared back. For a long time we stayed just that way, he not needing to speak, and I unable to. He mocked me in his stare, in the pretty little gasps of pleasure that would escape his lips. I smiled at him as I had always done before I walked away.
Such a pain had never rent this heart of mine! Intellectually, I had always known that he was sleeping with other men. After all, we had been married for a year, and never once had he even so much as touched me accidentally. He was not the kind of person to be content with celibacy, as I was. I knew, but I had never known. It was the absolute undeniabilty of it that pained me so.I went to my workshop, where I had made those thousand pretty things for him, and stayed there until I fell asleep.
It was his voice that awoke me. He was addressing me. Not saying my name, for he never said my name, but addressing me. 'I want more,' he said, those grey eyes daring me to refuse him.
I told him that I would do as he wished. I poured my whole soul into this, the most precious piece I would ever create. It had to be perfect, for it was the last thing I would ever give him. I had no more wonders in me. At least I could give him this one last treasure. In the end, it was a crown of white gold that shone as soft as moonlight, set with opals. It would never tarnish or fade, just as my love would not, could not. I gave it to him, and he took it without a word and left, just as he had always done.
I thought that would be the end of it, but surely enough he returned to me several weeks later. I want more, he demanded.
'I have no more to give,' I told him. This upset him greatly, and he flew into a rage. What did I mean, I had no more to give him, he screamed at me. I repeated myself. 'But they don't work anymore,' he insisted. He was become hysterical. 'They won't love me anymore.' It pained me to hear him sound so sorrowful, but all I could tell him was the truth. He threw the crown to the floor, where the metal rang and the opals cracked.
'Am I still beautiful?' he demanded. 'Yes,' I replied. He called me a liar.
His dragon broach splintered from his breast. 'Am I still beautiful?' he asked me again. 'Yes,' I replied. 'Liar, hateful liar!'
The snake on his ring let go of his tail and clattered to the floor. 'Am I still beautiful?' 'Yes.' 'Liar! Liar! Why do you lie to me this way?'
His earrings stopped mid-flight. 'Am I still beautiful?' 'Yes.' 'You are lying to me still!'
His bracelet stopped flowing and became nothing but dull metal. 'Am I still beautiful?' 'Yes.' 'You insist upon these lies!'
His necklace fell apart, the diamonds shattering into a thousand sparkling pieces. 'Am I still beautiful?' 'Yes.' 'Poisonous lies!'
Finally, his belt unraveled itself. 'Am I still beautiful?' Now he was crying, and he could no longer get enough breath to scream at me. 'You are beautiful,' I told him, 'more beautiful now than with any of those things. You are beautiful.'
'How can you say that? How can you tell me these things, even after I hurt you and cheat on you and all of the presents that you made for me are broken?'
'Because it is true. Because I love you.'
'If you love me, then hold me.' He was crying, and I wanted to. Hadn't I shown my love in all of those pretty things that fell apart? Why did he continue to demand of me what I could not give?
'I cannot.' Now I did cry, and the tear would not stop. I had never cried in front of him; of all of the shameful things I was and did, crying was the worst. I had never cried, because I knew that once I did it would all be over and he would go far away from me. Perhaps, at this point, I wanted for him to leave me and end my pain.
'Then I will hold you.' I had never thought to feel his arms encircle me as they did then at that moment. It was something I dreamt of, yearned for, occupied my every waking moment with want for it, but I had never thought to have it. Yet there he was, his arms around my shoulders and his face against my neck. My tongue ceased to function. What spell, what madness gripped him that made him do this thing? I was repulsive, I knew. Hadn't he told me so many times before? 'I am not the one in love', he had said. What was this thing that he did now?
My ruined arm twitched, wanting to touch him, while my good one remained limp at my side. He must have seen, for then he took that arm in his own two lovely, perfect hands, and lifted it to his petal lips. 'It must have… hurt very much.' His actions suggested that he meant when I had lost the use of my arm. It was in the way he said it that I knew that that is not what he meant. 'It hurt enough,' I said. I had found my voice at last. 'I thought that I was the one in love?' He kissed me, not the impassioned kisses that he would have given any of his lovers, but gentle, tender kisses. They meant so much more. 'You are,' he said to me, 'and I am only humouring you because you make such lovely presents for me.' I knew that he was lying.
'Am I beautiful?' he asked. I realized then that what he had really meant was 'Do you love me?'
I smiled at him. It was all I could think to do. 'Yes.'
'So are you.'
He wrapped that useless arm around himself, and I moved my good one.
Finally, I held him.
A/N: What do you think? I was in the mood for a sweet ending… Heheh. I hope you all liked it! Please, R&R!