I was never a brave man. I could be, when it suited me, of course. There was very little I couldn't do when it suited me. But bravery was never exactly a character trait of mine. This, now that I think of it, was probably why I was never sorted into Gryffindor and, instead, became "That Slytherin Bastard".
Strange as it sounds, being that Slytherin Bastard also suited me. Or rather it suited my purposes.
I don't deny that after seven years of knowing that everyone was afraid of you it became a bit tiresome but the up side to it all was that, since everyone was afraid, most of the unsavoury conversations about me took place out of my earshot.
Unless, of course, she was involved in the conversation. In which case I was very likely to get insulted, cursed, transfigured or (on one memorable occasion) smacked across the face. But that's beside the point.
As I was saying, I was never a brave man, but it took every ounce of bravery I could summon up just to meet her that night. Because I knew what was coming. I knew that if she didn't do it, I would have to. And I knew that I couldn't.
She didn't want to, if I'm honest. We would have both been a lot happier if we'd just ignored it and hoped for the best. But she knew… she knew it would have to be done. And she knew that I didn't want to be the one to do it and so she did it for me. Maybe that's why she was braver than me. Maybe that's why she became the Gryffindor Princess while I became that Slytherin Bastard.
I don't suppose it matters after all these years. The fact is that I managed to meet her and, by doing so, I managed to make sure that I never would again.
I would like to say that it was a dark and stormy night. I would like to say that it was a dingy little tavern, filled with murderers and thieves. I would, at the very least, like to say that it was a bit chilly. But it wasn't. It was none of those things. It was a perfectly clear night with a lingering warmth and humidity that stood as testimony to the Indian summer that had been persisting for a month by that point. And the Three Broomsticks was as bright and shining clean as ever, filled with happy people celebrating whatever they felt like celebrating.
She was sitting up at the bar in plain black work robes, staring at her empty glass as though it had somehow hurt her in some deeply personal way. Even knowing what was coming I couldn't stop the smile that tugged at my lips as I saw her. It was, by that point, sheer reflex.
I deliberately snuck up behind her. I remember that. She hated it when I did it and so naturally I did it at every single opportunity. I leant into her ear, taking in her vanilla scent appreciatively, and asked her if she'd missed me. My voice was barely more than a whisper but she heard it plainly in the crowded pub.
I remember her going rigid, her eyes widening in shock and annoyance… before she let out a slow shuddering breath and closed her eyes. She almost turned to liquid as she leant back into my body, taking in another breath and smiling with her eyes still clothed.
"I like the way you smell." she'd told me that once. I had looked at her as though she were a complete lunatic. But she had gone on to explain that I always smelt of seawater, fire smoke, soap and something mysterious that was somehow innately me. I still thought she was a lunatic but it seemed to make her happy, so I didn't mind.
I took the seat next to her and she order two firewhiskeys. Then she turned to face me. I saw her watching me, almost as though she was trying to drink in every detail. I would have done the same to her if only I could tear my eyes away from her deep, honey-coloured orbs.
She started talking then. Explaining why we could never be together. Each and every one of them was a lie.
My personal favourite being that she was in love with Weasley. I laughed at that. I pulled her into my arms and kissed her, asking her if he had ever, once, made her feel the way I did just by looking at her. She told me I was being arrogant, and maybe I was, but I saw the denial in her eyes even if the words never made it to her lips.
Then the war came. We had only got together because of the war. We were both under a lot of stress, we were both fighting our own personal demons -inside and out- and we had simply sought solace in one another. Looking back I can safely say that I have never had more fun than I did in that war.
I have never felt more satisfaction than I did when looking up into that psychotic bastard's face and lying through my teeth. He was omnipotent, after all. I had always been raised to believe so. So surely he should know if I was lying to him, if I was giving away all his dirty little secrets to the Order of the Phoenix, if I was spending my evenings discussing battle tactics with none other than Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter. Surely he should know. But he didn't. He never even suspected. Neither did my father, now that I think of it, but since he was locked up he was of little consequence. But it is rarely considered good etiquette to tell someone that you have the time of your life during a war zone, so I didn't argue with her.
Then came the other reasons: We were too different. We were old rivals. No one would ever understand… all excellent, completely valid reasons really.
Who was I to mention the fact that our differences were the only things that could ever make me feel truly alive? Who was I to tell her that having screaming rows with her across a room made my heart race almost as much as pushing her onto a bed (table, chair, couch, wall, etc) and having my way with her? Who was I to tell her that I didn't give a damn if anyone understood or not, so long as she was mine?
It still wakes me sometimes, in the middle of the night. The persistent feeling that maybe, just maybe, my life would have turned out differently if I'd spoken out and said all of that to her. But, like I said, I was never a brave man.
I didn't say a word. I was scared to. My mouth stayed firmly shut as my soul destroyed itself inside of me. I could see tears prickling at her eyes and longed to reach out and comfort her, but I didn't do that either. I just sat there, perfectly still, and tried not to scream.
We sat in silence for a while after she finished. Just sitting, staring at each other with pleading eyes, our drinks untouched. I was pleading for her to change her mind, to realise how I felt and to realise that whether she knew it or not she felt the same way. She was pleading for me to understand.
And I do understand. I understood then too, even if I wouldn't admit to it. She wanted me to go on and live my perfect Slytherin life: To marry Parkinson, to live in Malfoy manor, to produce an heir or too and to generally relive the lives of my grandfather. In turn, she thought she should go on and live the perfect Gryffindor Life: Marry Weasley, have a successful career, live a warm and comfortable home with children she adored and an obscene amount of family gatherings.
I don't think either of us realised just how hard it would have been for us to do anything else. Well, maybe she did. That may have been why she was so adamant, I don't know.
So, after a still unknown amount of time, I got to my feet. I saw her close her eyes and try to valiantly fight the tears away. I wanted to lean in and kiss her once more, but I couldn't. I simply reached out, picked up the glass of whiskey, drained the glass in a single gulp and stalked out of the pub.
That was fifteen years ago.
I see her from time to time. In London or Hogsmeade. We sometimes catch each other's eye and simply stare for a few seconds. Then something interrupts, the moment is gone and we both go back to our lives. Our lives which are more separate than I would have thought possible in such a small community.
Our children go to school together. Her eldest son and my eldest daughter. Pansy was most upset when little Lyra Malfoy got sorted into Ravenclaw but personally I was thrilled.
Lyra looks like my mother I think, with her flowing silver-blond hair and her petite frame that somehow seems to tower over anyone she cares to. But she thinks like me. If I'm honest, I think one of the reasons I like Lyra so much more than her little brother is that she has very little to do with Pansy. Pansy took the old pureblood approach that the first born son is the only important child and so Lyra was mostly raised by nannies. Then, when she was six years old, she came into my study and started asking questions…
She told me once that she doesn't like her mother or her brother. She told me I was the only family member she liked. I was somewhat startled to realise that the same was true for me. My son is exactly like his mother. To be honest I'm not even sure he's mine; he looks more like Theodore Nott if you want my opinion. But Lyra… she is my little angel. She's exactly like me except for the fact that she's an optimist. She doesn't know what it's like to be raised to hate certain people or to serve certain others, she's independent. And while she calls Pansy 'mother' she calls me 'Dad'. Or, on certain occasions, 'Daddy', which causes her mother no end of confusion.
She made Chaser on the Quidditch team during her second year. Pansy was appalled, saying that no daughter of hers would do something so unseemly and she should come off the team at once. That was the first time I ever fought with my wife. Before then I hadn't cared enough to do it.
Lyra asked me once if her mother was the love of my life. She asked me late at night in my study when we were playing Wizard chess. I looked up at her glittering grey eyes and tried to lie. I really did. I had read all sorts of things about the negative effects of a child knowing that their parents didn't love each other and so I tried to avoid it. But she was too quick for me.
"Don't lie to me Dad." she requested quietly, not looking up from the board. "I'd rather know the truth and deal with it than find out later I'd been lied to. I know you will always love me, but I want to know if my mother is the love of your life."
She said it so serenely. With such an innate confidence in me that I couldn't lie to her. I took a deep breath and tried to banish the images of honey brown eyes and curly hair that floated through my mind.
"No Princess." I whispered. "Your mother isn't the love of my life. She never was, never will be."
"Was there a love of your life?" Lyra asked, looking as though she wanted nothing more than to take the pain in me away. I nodded. "What was her name?" my daughter asked me. I looked back at her with a small, nostalgic smile playing on my lips.
"Her name was Hermione Granger…"