Your hair falls into your eyes as you laugh, and I wish I could be the one that amused you. I watch you from across the room. For most of the evening, your smiles have been forced and your words polite. They would never know of course, but I can read your eyes like a familiar book. Your expressions are well-known to me; I have watched you for many years. I can tell when you are forcing happiness and when you genuinely enjoy someone's company- you may fool them, but you could never fool me.
We end up at many of the same social gatherings, parties such as this one. Every time I approach, you turn and head further away. I don't know if you do so to avoid me or if you just do not notice my approach. I may pretend as though it means nothing to me, but every time you walk away, you chip away at my heart. As I have told myself so many times before, I will make you see me tonight. You will talk to me, and I will tell you how I feel. How much your smile lights the room, how much the words you speak grip my heart, and how much your every movement takes my breath away.
The paper has reported rumours of your engagement to someone I don't know. She looks pretty though. I have desperately loved you for years, but I am perfectly willing to accept friendship if you would be willing to offer it and never ask for anything more. I will take you in any form available to me.
I try to gather up every ounce of courage left to me, while I idly chat with some pseudo-friends, the kind that are handy at this type of party for when it would just not do to be seen alone. I am not paying attention to them. I watch you as closely as I can. I want to guess my chances of catching you off-guard. I'm not sure you have even noticed my presence as you flit from conversation to conversation, gracing the participants with a few precious moments before moving to the next.
Finally, your back is towards me and I know that now is the time to make my move. Should I walk towards you when you could see me, you would surely avoid me. I am finally grateful for my learned grace as you are oblivious to my approach. I reach towards you and grasp your elbow, "Malfoy…"
You turn with a forced smile to see who desires your attention now; I know that you don't enjoy these parties any more than I. Your eyes show a deep surprise, as though you never expected me to have the courage to sneak up on you. What you don't realise is that I am part Slytherin, and I almost smirk at the unspoken thought. You quickly regain your composure and excuse yourself from the conversation you so recently entered. You weren't interested in them anyway, and you glance at me appraisingly. I stand up a little straighter, and state as confidently as I can, "I was wondering if I could have a few words."
You nod and a little smirk turns up the corners of your mouth, "Of course, Potter, anything for the hero of the hour."
I wince at your words, and your smile widens. This is yet another Ministry celebration of the defeat of Voldemort so long ago. Your face has so quickly become a mask that I cannot find what I was looking for. My mouth feels incredibly dry, and I forget all the things I wanted to say to you. I can hear low whispers and how much the room has quieted since I first tapped your elbow. I gesture over to a table in the corner, where all eyes won't be on us. You take the lead, your formal robes billowing behind you.
I sit down without any of the grace I had before and wrack my traitorous mind for something to say. Luckily, you sense my discomfort and endeavour to alleviate it. "How have you been, Potter?"
I gulp audibly and respond, "Fairly well, I suppose. Wishing I was anywhere but here."
You gasp dramatically as though it shocks you, "Harry Potter does not wish to be present at the yearly party celebrating his victory?"
A shadow clouds my face as your eyebrows rise. I reply quietly, "This is the best kind of fundraiser for my organisation."
Although you had been casually glancing around the room, your eyes snap towards my face, "This is yours? I was unaware that you had started 'Fresh Beginnings.'"
I feel a blush spreading across my cheeks as I begin to explain, "Well, no one is supposed to know that I am the founder. I wanted- there was so much damage after the war, and I didn't want anyone to have to suffer for foolish mistakes. I had more than enough money and so I wanted to help people begin anew. The best way to do so was to create a Ministry-supported organisation and offer money to anyone proven in need to rebuild or just to get back on their feet. I wasn't expecting there to be so many people needing help, and then I started to do fundraising events like this- everybody loves to meet their "hero." Even after the war was years behind us, we are still suffering the after-effects, and I mean-"
"Potter, I know what Fresh Beginnings does. I am one of the biggest benefactors- hence, my presence here," you smirk at me, as though you had been trying to cut me off for a while. Truth be told, I am glad you stopped my rambling. I am surprised at how nervous I am around you and take a deep breath to calm myself.
"Right," I chuckle, running a hand through my messy hair. I am unsure of what else to say- thanking you seems too impersonal and nothing else comes to mind. "So," I try to change the subject, "What have you been doing recently?"
You respond politely, "Oh, but I would assume you know." You decide to humour me anyway, and go into the challenges of being a top barrister. I listen avidly to the tales of your recent cases, and I can see that you are truly passionate about your profession and clientele. I laugh with you as you tell of the portly man accused of mugging some young, fit men on the street. I feel sad with you as you recount the tragedy of the young mother and her unregretful murderer. You have had many successes, and it becomes you. Your face is animated, and I love this new side of you that you are letting me see.
Eventually, you run out of stories, and I decide to ask the question pressing at my mind. I question as nonchalantly as possible, "I heard rumours of your engagement?"
Now a shadow falls across your face. "I would never have suspected you to be prey to the rumour mills, Potter. I should think you would have more sense than to listen to such drivel," you state sternly.
My heart soars to learn that you are, indeed, unattached and plummets at the seeming disappointment you have at my question. "Just dating her then?" I ask lightly. I try to pretend that your answer is of no importance.
You see right through me. "Potter, do you see me here with anyone? I am available should the right person ask," you say with an appraising glance. Do I dare to hope that I could be that person? I am not even sure if you fancy men and I plan to tread carefully with our tenuous relationship.
"Ah, I see. Me too," I say without any grace, far too quickly. "That is, I mean, I'm not seeing anyone right now either."
You ignore my hastened speech, and instead quirk your eyebrow to ask, "Well, Potter, would you-"
"Harry!" I hear Hermione yell across the noise. My heart is racing and I frantically look to you, wishing Hermione had not seen me and that I could have heard the end of your question. She is rapidly approaching our table.
I am frozen in my seat, unable to do anything but open and close my mouth wordlessly. Your face has lost the playful look it had earlier, and you straighten before turning in your seat to look at Hermione. "Granger," you nod.
She halts mid-stride, clearly not expecting to see the two of us sitting together. She approaches at a much slower pace. "Malfoy," she says carefully before turning towards me. "Harry, I'm so sorry I was late. You know how Ron can be. He sends his regrets, but seems to have developed a severe stomach-ache." She rolls her eyes.
"Ah, would this be the same stomach-ache he has had for the last two weeks, since Susan left?" I laugh. They only dated for a few weeks, but of course Ron was smitten. His heart was broken, and he had decided to avoid the public until he could be around her without crying. Not such a bad decision, but the stomach-ache bit was overused. Hermione had bravely ventured over to his place to try to get him to come out.
"Oh, Harry, I don't know what we're going to do!"
"Hermione, give him another week or so- he'll snap out of it. He always does," I remind her, but the look of concern is still clouding her face. Hermione can be stubborn when an idea has gotten into her head, and she is convinced that Ron needs to get out and about.
"But, Harry-" Hermione begins.
"Granger, you look lovely this evening. Are those earrings new?" you cut her off, and we quickly look to you, surprised to hear a compliment without any sarcasm. Hermione regains her composure much more quickly than I do.
"Why, yes, actually, they are," she murmurs, touching her ears as though she had forgotten what was adorning them. "And you may call me Hermione, Draco."
"Hermione," you repeat with a sideways grin. I envy that smile you spare her and desperately wish to have you to myself again, though Hermione has only just arrived. You begin to exchange pleasantries about the weather with her, and I muse over your expressions and what you were going to ask me.
I am alarmed when I realise Hermione was talking to me, and I turn to her apologetically. "I'm sorry, Hermione, I missed what you asked."
"I asked if you had seen Zach? Zacharias Smith? Tall, handsome, dating a certain witch who happens to be a close friend of yours?" Hermione says with a giggle.
I smile indulgently and shake my head no. I begin to tell her that I saw some of his crowd by the appetisers earlier, when she waves to someone on the other side of the room. Hermione is very into the charities crowd, as she has become quite the revolutionary. It probably could be traced back to SPEW at Hogwarts but has now branched into a billion other horrendous acronyms.
"Well, it was good to see you again, Harry. You too, Draco. Have a nice evening," Hermione excuses herself with a last wink at me. She is much better at socialising than I could ever be.
You turn to me with a smile, "Well, that didn't go too horrendously. There is simply no resisting the Malfoy charm." Your wink almost causes me to melt. I am still amazed that you haven't left to seek out some better conversation. I notice that some of your school friends have arrived and are chatting with each other. I'm not sure if you've noticed them, but your eyes are trained on my face now. I squirm under the intensity of your gaze.
I look out to the ballroom floor. I'm not sure why they bother including one at these parties- no one ever dances. Maybe it's just for the atmosphere. You follow my gaze and quirk your eyebrow. Then you stand to extend your hand and ask, "May I have this dance, Potter?"
My heart skips a beat, and I laugh to protest, "But no one else is dancing."
"Since when have we ever acted like everyone else, Harry?" Perhaps it is the soft smile across your lips or the way you used my first name, but whatever the reason, I find myself lightly placing my hand on yours and getting pulled to my feet. I wonder at how I have become "Harry" instead of "Potter."
You lead me to the centre of the ballroom floor and gracefully place your other hand around my waist. All eyes are again on us, but you only have eyes for me. I wonder if I am dreaming, for surely this could not be my reality. A waltz begins and you sweep me across the floor. I feel as awkward as I did at Yule Ball all those years ago and my back stiffens. You run your hand down it and whisper in my ear, "Relax, Harry, and ignore them. I will lead you."
I melt into your embrace and find that it is easy to follow you. It feels so divine to be so close to you that I can't help but to close my eyes. We dance through several musical pieces, and your step changes to match each piece. I love the way you shift me a little closer each time as the song changes. Eventually, I open my eyes to see that several other couples have joined us on the floor. Hermione seems to have found Zach, and she winks at me as she twirls past. I look to you and say, "We seem to have begun a trend."
You smile and nod. I decide that I have had enough of this party and gather up my Gryffindor courage to lean into your ear and whisper, "Would you like to go somewhere we can talk more?"
You whisper back to me, "Harry, there is nothing I would love more." I cannot contain my glee and a smile spreads across my face. As we have already performed our social duties and appearances for the evening, I lead you outside by the hand.
I turn to ask, "I know a decent tea shop not too far from here. Shall we go there?"
You grin brilliantly, and say, "Wherever you would like, Harry. I will follow you." I know that you are referencing the fact that you led in the ballroom, and I smirk knowing that now it is my turn to lead.
As we amble in the open air, I realise I still haven't dropped your hand. My hope is that you won't notice and I can continue to grasp it. I steer us into the Steeped Leaf, where I often stop to get hot tea on my way to the office. Luckily, they are open almost all day.
I seat us at a quiet table in the back. Janice, one of the waitresses, notices me and calls over, "Hiya, Harry! You'll be having your usual then, I suppose?" Only then to ask a little louder, "Have you got someone there with you? What'll he be having?"
You give Janice your order and she soon bounces over with our drinks. She's as good as a Cheering Charm in the morning, but right now, I wish to be alone with you.
I nod my thanks, and she says, "Cute friend, Harry. Is he single?" She winks, and though you seem as composed as ever, her comment has caught me off-guard. You look over at me with a smirk on your face, as though it's my question to answer. I wish it were.
I feel my face redden, look at my folded hands, and mumble good-naturedly, "I believe so, bloody nosy waitresses." With a last wink, Janice leaves us be without any further ado, and I am grateful for it.
You look towards me and say with a smile, "No worries, Harry. She's not really my type."
You have practically begged me to ask. "What is your type then, Draco?" I question hesitantly.
"Oh, I don't know, Harry. I should think it would be obvious," you state seriously. My stomach leaps, and I take a sip of my mint tea, grateful for the chance to compose myself before responding. I vaguely remember Hermione suggesting in the past that you seemed to take an avid interest in me. I assumed she was just trying to cheer me up, since she has known of my intense infatuation with you for years. I wondered if I could have made a move in the past but am really just grateful for this time now.
I glance around nervously and attempt to talk to you about Quidditch. You follow the subject change as though there was nothing strange or abrupt about it. We talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the newest players before moving on to the older ones. Of course, no seeker could ever compare to the ability we once had. We have some laughs, and I am feeling very relaxed in your presence. Eventually, Janice comes over again and tells us apologetically, "It's 2:45- just about closing time. Can I get you anything else?"
I shake my head no and pay her for all the tea we have drunk. You try to pay, but I insist that tonight is on me. We wander into the street and stop. I stare at you. I'm not ready to let you go, but I am not sure that you would want to stay with me. Though it seems that I began tonight as the braver one, I have lost my courage. I do not think I could handle rejection from you.
You survey my features as though trying to read my thoughts. You step closer to me and whisper, "Harry…"
Your hand reaches up to cup the side of my face and I lean into it. My eyes flutter closed, and I again drown in the bliss of your proximity. I feel your face coming closer until your lips brush over mine. I eagerly lean into your embrace and my hands curl up into your soft hair. My mouth parts to allow your tongue entrance and I feel your arms wind around my waist to pull me closer. Surely there is nothing sweeter and more heartfelt than this moment between two former enemies. Somewhere along the way, our hatred had transformed into a powerful infatuation, and perhaps- if I dare to say it- love. Though I may not know specifics about your life, I know you. I know this face held so close to mine, those eyes that are closed in pleasure, these hands grasping at my back, these lips tenderly massaging mine, and I know you. I know your laughs, your habits, your smiles, and your sighs.
As we move our mouths apart to breathe again, desperately gasping in the air, I feel as though the universe has shifted back onto its axis and everything is right with the world. Our bodies are still aligned and I look into your eyes. I see surprise, passion, and genuine happiness.
When you pull my hand and say hoarsely, "Come, we can watch the sun rise from my flat," I do not resist. I will follow you to the ends of the earth.