Thanks to Vittani, my wonderful beta, who always comes through for me when I need it most.
This story is loosely based on (admittedly two of the sappiest movies ever made) 'You've Got Mail' and 'The Lake House'. As well as my all time favourite books (other than the Harry Potter series, of course) 'Bridget Jones's Diary' and 'Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason', which were both based on Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Persuasion'.
This story also contains quotes and ideas from these movies and books.
You all know that I don't own the Harry Potter characters (JKR does). But if I did, something like this would happen to them...
You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight and a half years ago.
Dare not say that a man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.
- Jane Austen, Persuasion, Chapter Twenty-Three
Harry made his way to work slowly. He walked with his hands in his pockets and did not hurry to the elevator. He slumped against its back wall as the grilles clanged shut. The lift began to descend and a silence settled.
The peace didn't last long. The lift rattled to a stop on Level Seven and a large group of wizards squeezed through the doorway. The noise level rose and Harry stood within his bubble of isolation and let it break over him.
"Gloat all you want, Enderby, but just because your Appleby Arrows beat the Chudley Cannons last week, it doesn't mean they'll be a match for the Wimbourne Wasps tomorrow."
"You seem to be forgetting that our Beaters exceed theirs in both strength and execution."
"Yes, but your Seeker has failed to catch the snitch in his past five matches!"
"You know as well as I do that the snitch doesn't always win the game, Alconbury."
"I bet you ten galleons that it does this time."
"Make it twenty!"
Harry sighed. He had nearly gone into playing professional Quidditch. He had chosen the Auror career path in the end as he figured it would help more people. It was a foolish mistake. Nobody needed his help anymore. The only person who needed saving was himself.
The Ministry was a mundane place. He spent muddled, ordinary times in it. The excitement and adventure of the past was long gone. They had been stuffed away in dusted, cobwebbed cardboard. He felt no more duty, no more a piece or a part belonging to this place. He looked at his watch. It was nine o'clock. Twelve hours until he would see Austen.
As the lift reached Level Three, and the group of wizards flooded out, it seemed inconceivable now that Harry had ever tried to integrate himself, let alone keep on trying for so long. Determination was crystallising inside him. It tasted like elation salted with fear. He felt the potential energy to leave spring-loaded inside him, surely there was just enough of it to carry him away and out of the gravitational field of the Ministry. Beyond that, he had no idea.
"Level Two, Auror Headquarters."
When the wrought iron grilles rattled open on Level Two, Harry remained slumped against the back wall, staring. He was impatient for his meeting with Austen. He could not wait for the day to be over so he could finally see his garden and meet his pen pal.
"Level Two, Auror Headquarters." The cool female voice repeated after a short moment of silence.
Harry closed his eyes and let out a sharp breath of air through his nostrils. "I guess I have no other choice for now," he murmured to himself.
He drifted slowly down the familiar corridor, considering his words and the way they hinted at his longing for a different future. iFor now./i In no more than an instant's flicker like a pale flame, his relationship with Draco Malfoy had changed. Change suddenly seemed exceedingly possible, unavoidable even. He wanted to change, as far away from the Ministry as possible.
Aside from the death and destruction he had actually enjoyed the job at first; it was challenging and interesting work, it even felt meaningful to ascribe his efforts to a cause, rather than drifting listlessly.
They fed, housed, clothed, trained, disciplined, and paid him, and at the end of the day all he had to offer in return was his life.
Rationally, physically, financially, it was the best he had ever been in his entire life. He hadn't been aware that doing something for logical reasons alone would be little comfort, and whilst it had already paid dividends beyond what he anticipated in almost every way, and could continue to do so for the foreseeable future, he finally realised that some things (friends, lovers, lifestyle, freedom) can never be underestimated.
The Ministry has its place, he noted, but that place was far removed from the demands of his reality. It was time to flip the proverbial bird to the mainstream, throw away his career, his old prospects, and his old ambitions. There was another side to life, some exciting and intoxicating underbelly beyond his safe, reliable, mundane existence.
As he seized the handles of the heavy oak doors that enclosed the Auror Headquarters, he resolved to resign his position as soon as possible and work with George, as requested, in the joke shop.
Sometimes making it right means walking away and never looking back. He was going to walk right up to Finch and hand in his badge. He wasn't going to waste another day. The more time spent thinking about the best way to live your life, the less time you have in which to live it.
He threw open the doors and lunged forward, only to charge straight forward into a wall of hard wood. He stepped back dizzily, grasping his forehead in pain and blinking wildly in surprise.
When his vision focused again, he gasped in shock. Before him stood a fence painted in faded blue, with orange, scarlet and ginger flowers spilling over the top.
Slowly, he pushed the gate open, breathing in the unmistakable scent of flowers. Instantly, noise burst out at him. There were Aurors everywhere, running and shouting. Finch was in the midst of it all, waving his wand wildly and barking orders. Harry stood back in amazement, watching the scene unfold in front of him.
There was a big evergreen tree with a hammock slung from the branches in the corner where Perpetua's desk used to be. Grass covered the floorboards and climbed the walls, covering the photographs of wanted Death Eaters. Flowers and plants had replaced all of the office desks and cubicles.
It was his garden; his perfect world, and as he stood admiring it the people of the Ministry were fiercely and relentlessly trying to pull it apart. It seemed Finch had called in as many people as he could to help.
As he looked closer Harry could see that Ron and Hermione were amongst them. Ron looked confused and Hermione looked frustrated. She was pointing her wand at a nearby rosebush and muttering to herself.
Some wizards were doing the same as Hermione, whereas others, frustrated and impatient beyond rationality, had thrown their wands away and were trying to remove the foliage by hand.
Harry jumped as Finch yelled. "Stop standing there and do something!"
Harry followed Finch's angry gaze to where Draco was sitting on a small tree stump, smiling fixedly at Harry.
Harry's breath suddenly stopped short, his chest tightened and his heart began to beat faster. "It couldn't be," he whispered to himself.
He quickly studied the ground beneath him, noticing a stone path, barely discernable through the layers of thick grass. His eyes followed the path as it curved and ended at the tree stump where Draco was sitting.
I will meet you in the garden tomorrow at nine o'clock. When you come around the curve in the path, you'll find me there waiting. The timing is finally right.
The memories of the past few months returned to his mind with perfect and unobscured clarity. He didn't know how it had begun. It had advanced in stages, so tiny as to seem unimportant, until the threshold of intolerance had long been passed and nothing could be done to revive the past for either of them.
Harry found his feet moving forward. His breath started to tremble on the first step. Draco rose as Harry reached him.
"Hi," Harry said nervously.
"Hi." Draco's voice was warm and husky, with a touch of nervousness as well. It made Harry shiver.
Harry stood transfixed. "It was you."
"Yeah," Draco replied. "You can tell me to fuck off if you want."
He said it differently to the way he had said it in the front doorway of Grimmauld Place. He was smiling, his eyes were bright.
"How did you do this?" Harry asked in bewilderment. "They can't even destroy it." It reminded Harry of Fred and George's swamp. The garden seemed to contain the same powerful magic, only more meaningful to Harry because it was made for him.
"You gave it to me," Draco said simply. "I want to give it back to you. You need it."
Harry's heart began to beat faster now. He could feel his pulse hammer at his wrists, at his throat, at his chest. His whole body vibrated with it.
"Is that all you want?"
Draco took a step closer. He lifted both hands, running his fingers through Harry's hair. He leaned closer, and then paused. Harry's lips trembled apart.
This was the moment he had been waiting for. He had never in his wildest dreams imagined that Draco Malfoy would be in it, but the moment was too perfect to second guess. Harry desired change and opening himself up to a romantic love with Draco Malfoy was the most complex, horrific, beautiful and insane change of all.
He let Draco's lips meet his, firm and gentle. At first they barely touched, just tasted. Then he lingered for a moment, keeping the kiss soft.
Harry curled his hands around Draco's arms. There were muscles, hard, firm muscles that he wouldn't think of until much later. Now he thought only of Draco's mouth. He was barely kissing him at all, yet the shock of the impact almost winded him.
Degree by aching degree Draco deepened the kiss. Harry's fingers tightened desperately on Draco's arms. His mouth brushed over Harry's, then came back with more pressure. His tongue feathered lightly over his. He only touched Harry's hair, though his body tempted him. He drew out every ounce of pleasure with his mouth alone. The gentleness, the feather-light pressure that turned his blood to flame. It was perfect.
Harry knew what it was to be hungry – for food, for adventure, for love, for a man – but he hadn't experienced this raw, painful need in years. He wanted the taste of Draco, only the taste of Draco. It was at once sweet and pungent.
When the kiss ended they both remained still, holding each other close. Harry kept his eyes shut. It was exactly what he needed – to be held, just to be held. Draco's chest was firm against his, his arms strong around his neck. Yet he knew he was being held as if he was something precious, and for the first time in his life Harry wanted to be fragile.
The noise of the room seemed a long way off, but threading in and out of his consciousness he thought he could hear the counterpoint of Ron's voice and Hermione calling.
The moment was finally broken by Finch walking up to them and screaming.
"POTTER! MALFOY! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!"
They both stared at him, shocked, but unperturbed.
"If you two don't start helping like the others you'll be out of a job!"
Harry and Draco looked at each other and smiled, before turning back to Finch.
"I hate to use an overdone cliché, sir," Draco said, smirking. "But you can't fire us, because we quit."
Finch disregarded Draco with a scowl and flick of his wrist. He turned to Harry.
Harry smirked as well, "I'm with Draco, Finch. If staying here means working within ten yards of you, frankly, I'd rather have a job wiping Mundungus Fletcher's arse."
Harry and Draco left the Ministry laughing. They laughed all the way to Grimmauld Place, to pack Harry's things and move them back into his apartment.
Harry's bedroom was dark when they entered it. Harry reached for his wand, but Draco stopped him. "I can't wait," he whispered into Harry's ear.
He fumbled with Harry's belt, and then dropped their shirts on the floor.
Harry shivered. The air was cold against his shoulders. Draco lay him down on the bed. His touch was foreign and yet familiar.
He kissed Harry. "Can I touch you like this?"
"And like this. Oh yes."
Draco moved his hands, finding that Harry's flesh was more muscular than his own but still soft, seemingly soft enough to dissolve. Harry smelled manly and complicated, and so enticing that Draco wanted to bury his face in him.
"What do you like?"
"I like all the usual things."
Harry groaned. Draco's hand was on him. His mouth moved over Harry's face, from his eyelids to his throat.
They didn't talk for a while, allowing a different type of language. The bedclothes coiled around them and they pushed them away, freeing themselves.
"Have you got something I can use? In your bedside drawer?"
Harry laughed, a touch wildly. "I don't. I don't do this."
In the years since the end of the war there had been one or two mild dinner dates, exchanged flirtations. Tepid possibilities that he had dismissed. There was nothing he could remember that came near this imperative, instant connection. The urgency of it.
"It's alright. I know a spell. Is that okay?"
"Alright. Now. There. And there. And..."
Harry smiled, holding Draco in his arms, widening his legs around him. It was amazing, the fluency, the comedy and the brutality and tenderness of it. Now he was free, easily becoming an amphibian again after a long time on dry land.
"Draco. Oh, Draco. Wait. No. Yes, oh. Ah."
Draco kissed him lightly on his forehead.
"I'm sorry," Harry said sheepishly.
"It's okay. You'll be ready to go again in a minute."
"I'd forgotten. That's what you do in your twenties. Alright, now you."
"No, it's fine."
"Yes. Hands or mouth? Or we can do it together. Give me your hand, here, like this. Like this?"
"Oh. Yes. Harry. Just like that."
Once they had begun, they understood now, there was no ending. They were driven over and into and around and under each other. Their day stretched into night, dwindled into a matter of minutes.
"There. And there. Turn over. Put the pillow there, what do you feel?"
"I feel," Harry said, "unwrapped. Bare. Nothing to hide."
"Good. So do I."
"Yes. We've done it too much."
"Hold me instead."
"I am holding you. Are you tired?"
Harry nodded. "But I've never felt so alive."
"Nor have I. It's like discovering a sixth sense. No, six extra senses."
"I'm sleepy, but I don't want to go to sleep."
"You need some sleep. Close your eyes."
Harry lay on his side as Draco fitted himself into the curve of his back and knees. He felt his exhaled breath innocently warm against his neck, slow and deep.
"I wonder if they've figured out how to remove the garden yet."
Harry felt Draco's mouth move against his skin. He was smiling.
"They won't be able to remove it, not for awhile anyway."
A week later, when Harry had comfortably settled into living in the apartment with Draco, several large packages from the Ministry arrived labelled, Return to Sender, in thick, black ink.
Harry opened one of the boxes and barked with laughter, "Draco, they finally figured it out."
The boxes were filled with flowers, grass and tree branches.
Draco appeared behind Harry, wrapping his arms around his waist.
"They didn't figure it out," he said simply. "I made it to only stick for a week."
"I didn't want them to have the garden forever. It's only for you."
"You and I," Harry corrected.
"Yes." Draco smiled. "You and I."
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