Disclaimer This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's notes: Written for LJ's hd inspired's back to school fest to a prompt which was as follows: Ginny throws Harry over for, of all people, Millicent Bulstrode. Harry doesn't mind; he likes Bulstrode, but he doesn't know how to break it to the kids. Widower Draco Malfoy runs The Hogsman, a sort of gentleman's club for Hogwarts Alumni of the male variety and here, they run into each other once more.
The prompter also had some additions - siblings; ghosts of Grandmama Lily and God-doggy Sirius; magically unravelling scarf, all of which are included.
Enjoy - This one is just a bit of fun and something different than I normally write.
We'd only said good-bye to the children half an hour beforehand. Lily had looked so grown up climbing into the Hogwarts Express and yet so small against the bigger bulk of her brothers. Ginny had called to them to take care of her but I never doubted for a minute my Lily's ability to take care of herself.
Since the first time James had gone off to school, we'd had lunch afterwards in the gardens of a café after the train departed. It had become a tradition in those few years; after Christmases, Easters, summer holidays, something Lily had enjoyed, too. We all had, but she was now ready to say goodbye to that time as she departed on her own journey through her school years. I'd been looking forward to it being just Ginny and myself, hoping with the childless state we'd find ourselves in, we'd be able to recapture some of the feelings that we'd lost or let drift, caught up in the whirl of careers and child rearing and perhaps the sad fact that we'd married too young and for all the wrong reasons.
But it was not to be. Only a few minutes after we took our seats, Millicent Bulstrode arrived and turned my life upside down.
"Millie." Ginny smiled nervously. "What are you doing here…so early?"
Millicent Bulstrode was big and square and looked like she'd been hit by a freight train so I'm never surprised when people are nervous speaking to her but even I could tell that wasn't why my wife looked like she was ready to run. Obviously, she had arranged to meet Millie here, which was rather annoying, actually, because it was supposed to be family time. I mean, I like Millie. She's a good person under everything and Lily adores her, but then Lily would adore anyone who presented her with the complete works of "Jessie of Jade House" as a tenth birthday gift.
My question was why Ginny was meeting her at all today. Today was family time. I'd held a faint hope that we could head home after lunch and indulge in some sex that didn't require silencing spells, locking charms strong enough to keep the goblins from their own vaults and the ability to come with the speed of a delivery owl, whilst still managing foreplay and making sure Ginny enjoyed herself.
Clearly, I was deluded. One look at Millicent's normally dour countenance disabused me of the thought that I'd ever be having sex with my wife again. For a fleeting moment, I held onto the hope that the softening I saw on her face was that of a melting hex or some such thing. Surely no human emotion like love could have caused Millicent's face to dissolve into something close to…not ugly? It looked like she had an inner light about her, almost as if she was glowing. Not something I'd ever seen on Millicent's face before, even though it has to be said that I generally only see Millicent when her face is covered with her Quidditch mask during a game. It's become quite apparent that Ginny sees it a lot more often than I do and at closer quarters, too.
And, despite my shock at fearing the structure holding my life together was about to plummet to the ground like so much useless scaffolding, one glimpse at Ginny showed me that there was going to be nothing I could do or say to stop this train wreck from happening. Rather, I could make this a train wreck or I could be a gentleman, step away and let her go. Either way, she was going.
And people used to tell me I was oblivious. A blind man could see how they were looking at each other. Mind you, I suppose to not have seen this coming might indicate that to a certain extent I was oblivious.
"Thought you could use some moral support," Millicent replied in her deep voice. There was a reason the Quidditch league wanted her tested, you know. Some people claimed she was actually male or that she was taking testosterone to bulk up for Quidditch. I could have told them Millicent Bulstrode was like that from the day I met her.
Ginny shot a panicked look at me and I merely raised an eyebrow. No point in making things too easy for her. Also, some male pride reared its head and insisted that I attempt to convey the illusion that I'd known all along and that no man worth his balls didn't know when his wife was sleeping with another man…or in this case, woman. Which I have to admit, if it wasn't my wife and it wasn't Millicent Bulstrode, it might have been some man's fantasy thinking about two women together like that.
The thought of them together just made me sick. In fact, I was fairly sure at that point I wasn't ever going to be able to touch another woman again.
"Harry," she began. "I'm really sorry, but--" I held up my hand and interrupted her. For some reason I suddenly couldn't stomach having her admit the whole thing to my face.
"No need to say anything. When do you leave?" The voice was coping, even if my insides weren't. Made me feel very proud of myself, actually.
"The team doesn't leave until next week but we'll be going on ahead tonight," Ginny said.
"And that's to Australia for three months?" I asked. The Montrose Magpies had planned a tour of the continent playing against the local teams in an effort to promote international tours. Like the cricket, I figured. Spitefully, I hoped they had about as much success internationally as the English cricket team did.
They both nodded. As devastating as it was, I was glad she was leaving immediately. I don't think I could have been civil to her for very long – perhaps it was still the shock of it all that was requiring me to behave rationally and calmly. It did mean though that I would have to be the one to tell the kids. How do you say 'Mum's going to live with Aunt Millie' without having to explain why the woman their mother had played Quidditch with for four years was going to become a kind of step-mother and explaining the ins and outs of a lesbian relationship?
Kreacher threw away several empty Firewhisky bottles the next day while I continued to drown my sorrows and feel piteously abandoned and betrayed. Woe is me.
"Harry James Potter, rouse yourself from that couch and take a shower. You're stinking up my house!"
How on earth could Sirius even smell? I was quite positive that ghosts lost that ability when they died, along with taste and touch and everything else that makes us corporeal beings. Much as I loved him, the only reply he received was a rather loud burp and the sight of my back when I rolled over and faced the back of the couch.
He was right, though, I did smell. But I had a right to smell like the great unwashed in my own home if I felt like it. Didn't I?
"Harry, don't make me get your mother," Sirius warned, which of course was the lowest of the low things to do to a grieving man. Threaten him with his mother. It didn't matter that she was a ghost; she still knew how to rip shreds off me when I misbehaved. Like the time I worked a week solid, only coming home to shower and change. Malilee, as James had dubbed her in his baby talk, was a force to be reckoned with.
And possibly the only thing that could have roused me from the body shaped groove in the couch. Enough for a shower, anyway.
Hermione kicked the shit out of me three days later. I knew she'd be around eventually. Good old reliable Hermione; she'd always been there when I needed her. I wanted to shove her down the steps to the cellar and lock her in. It was bad enough living with the ghosts of my mother and my godfather without busy body friends sticking their noses in.
"Harry, honestly, it's not like it's the end of the world. You have responsibilities, a job and children to speak to. What would your mother say if she saw you like this?"
"My mother has the good sense to let me wallow in peace for a few days, Hermione."
She at least had the decency to make coffee and for that I was grateful, so I sat down and poured us both a cup.
"Well, it's been more than a few days and you need to pull yourself together. What are you going to do about the children? I'm sure this will be in the paper sooner or later and you need to tell them before they hear about it through gossip."
"I know." The coffee cup afforded nothing to hide behind but I distanced myself by taking a few sips, willing life back into my numb body. I know knew she was right; she always is. "But it's really hard to just shrug off the loss of almost twenty years of marriage. I understand she fell for Millie. I know she doesn't love me anymore, I just need some time to learn how to make myself want to wake up in the mornings." Maybe if I sounded pathetic enough she'd take pity on me and leave me be for a bit.
No such luck. She gave me one of those Hermione patented glares; the sort that used to make Ron and me study even when our eyes were falling out of our heads and it was three months before exams. No one was immune from a Granger glare. Ron and I used to joke - out of her hearing of course - that she could glare McGonagall into submission if she wanted. She could have glared Voldie into the ground – no need for a Chosen One, Hermione Granger is your girl!
There have been times in my life when I've wondered why Ron was my best friend. All those times he doubted me or took off when things got too rough rankled at the time and then were forgotten about in the joyous aftermath of victory. But right at that second I knew. When he stumbled through the Floo and cut off the Granger glare, he was my favourite person in the whole world.
"I thought you were at work," Hermione said, puzzled.
"It's five-thirty, work is finished." Ron shrugged and grinned at her. "I came to take Harry for a few drinks down the pub. You don't mind do you, love? We haven't done that in ages."
Right, like I was in any state to go out for a few drinks. But perhaps if I went along with him for now, Hermione would go home and then Ron and I could drink here at home in peace and I'd not have to face any stupid reporters asking even stupider questions about things they had no right knowing.
I put what I hoped was an enthusiastic look on my face and smiled as best I could at her. "See? Going out with Ron."
"I hardly think getting drunk in public is going to fix things," Hermione said in the prim, huffy tone she takes on when she thinks people are doing 'immoral' things.
"Never said it was," I shot back. "But it will mean I'm out of the house and not rotting away in this mouldering dump. I'm not going to be fixed with the snap of your fingers, Hermione, I'm not one of your --"
Ron's hand on my shoulder stopped me, which was lucky. I tend to run off at the mouth when I get started. Memories of the way I'd shouted at everyone back in fifth year for the least little thing, reminded me that I'd surely moved past that. Surviving screaming babies and a hormonal wife for more than half my life had taught me to curb the temper.
But then I'd not had to face my wife leaving me before. It kind of dumped me on my arse, the bottom having fallen out of my world.
Anyway, Ron, good friend that he is, stopped me from completely ruining my friendship with Hermione. She really is a great friend, even if she does tend to take over occasionally. She'd make a good despot for some small third world country.
"Hermione, I'll make sure he eats and we'll just have a few drinks. He'll be all right." The years have been good to him, too. He's grown up; took the perfect wife for him and fell into the perfect career. Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes have never been stronger.
"All right." Hermione finally acquiesced, still looking doubtful. Then she relaxed and smiled. "I'm sorry, Harry, I just worry about you."
"I know, I'm sorry, too. I promise I'll be fine eventually, I just need time." And a few hundred more bottles of Firewhisky to make me forget what a complete failure I am as a husband.
She stood and hugged me, then. "I'd wish this had not happened to you, Harry, but it has and you have to make the best of it. You have three beautiful children who adore you and you have a job you love. In time, you'll find someone else."
It didn't help much. I didn't want someone else. I'd had visions of Ginny and I spending our child-free years alternating between travelling for her job until she had to stop playing and my job that took me to exotic places in search of rare animals to photograph. Colin Creevey cursed me with his love of photography. If you can't beat them join them, right? I'd settled for animals and rare creatures but I liked to think the principle was the same.
Now it appeared that was all just a pipe dream. I'd never really thought about being with anyone else, and so the long lonely years stretched ahead of me like a highway. It disappeared off into the distance like it went on forever.
She had a point, though. The kids.
If I'd had any hope of staying at home and drinking with Ron, they were quickly doused when he waved a ticket under my nose the minute Hermione Flooed home. Over the years Ron had grown more adept at keeping secrets, especially from Hermione. She always told Ron he had a different look about him when there was something he wasn't telling her. He'd called it a stupid Weasley fault of pale skin and too many freckles but, honestly, I think it was more that he was just hopeless at subterfuge. But he had learned a thing or two after two decades of being married to her, and I could tell by the gleam in his eye that this was something she would harangue him about if she knew.
"A complimentary ticket to the best club in town. The Hogsman; a Gentleman's Club." Ron raised his eyebrows and affected a posh sneer. I'm sure he thought it made him look like a toff but all it did was make him look like a ridiculous greying clown. I love Ron, I really do, but he couldn't pull off classy if you paid him; though if you paid him, he'd probably kill himself trying.
"One of those snobby old school tie type clubs with butlers and smoking rooms and things?" I asked. "But I don't smoke a pipe."
"Harry, those clubs also are renowned for their 'entertainment' and the best thing is that they are men only. No women allowed."
I could see now why he wanted to go so much. And why he kept it a secret. Hermione would have him on toast over sexism and chauvinistic men who treat women like objects.
However, it didn't appeal to me. I was still considering never looking at another woman in a sexual way ever again. What was I going to do while my best friend drooled over the latest little bit dancing in next to nothing?
"I don't think so--"
"Harry," he whined. "You have to come. Only members hand out free tickets like these and they only meet once a week on a Friday evening. Come on," he begged. "They have them at Hogwarts. It's only Hogwarts alumni allowed."
That changed things. Actually, it made me wonder why I hadn't heard of it before now. "Where would they have it at Hogwarts? And who runs it?"
"I don't know who runs it but they're held in the Room of Requirement. You can only Floo directly into the room and don't have access to the school, so it's all kept separate from the students."
"I don't know, Ron. I look like shit; I haven't shaved or showered for almost a week and I'm really not up to seeing people and answering stupid inane questions just yet." There that should shut him up. Suddenly, I just wanted to go and lie down for a while.
Two hours later, we were standing in the most elegant lobby I have ever seen, surrounded by several men I remembered from school.
"I keep telling you this is a bad idea." I was aware that I was whining, but sometimes whining works and you get what you want. Even if they only give it to you to shut you the fuck up. Hey, the end justifies the means, right?
Ron, bless him, ignored me completely as he spotted Neville Longbottom arriving. This brightened my outlook considerably. It had been weeks since I'd seen Neville and he could always be relied upon to show some discretion. He was, still is, a compassionate man.
So, with a sizeable lift in my disposition, I was feeling decidedly anticipatory. Perhaps this was not such a bad idea after all. Neville was fairly quiet and so I could huddle away in a corner with him and have some nice, decent, safe conversation and still imbibe in something to make me forget Ginny ever existed.
"Neville," I called, and he waved and smiled as he joined us.
"Haven't seen you two here before," Neville said.
"I'd never heard of this place until tonight," I replied. "Ron had an invite and dragged me away from my warm couch."
"Ah, well that's not surprising considering who runs this. I always thought that the old school rivalry was just too much for you to put aside."
"What are you talking about?" Ron asked in confusion.
"Malfoy. He runs this place. I thought you knew that."
Malfoy. Now there was someone I'd not thought of in years. Had no reason to think about him; his type held no mystery to me. More money than he could poke a stick at; more front than Harrods and a string of broken hearts left behind. That held no attraction for me.
It's just a pity that the snotty little arsewipe was bloody gorgeous.
Don't get me wrong, I've never wanted anyone except Ginny but I'm not blind. Despite my stupid glasses and the fact that Malfoy was pale and pointy and when his hair was slicked back he looked like an albino lizard, I could still see and, in certain lights, he made my heart jump. Probably indigestion – the food at Hogwarts was often far too stodgy.
While Ron was trying unsuccessfully to stifle loud noises of protest, I took the opportunity to grill Neville about my schoolboy nemesis.
"What's he been up to, then?" As soon as it was out of my mouth, I realised it was a ridiculous question – Malfoy had been running the Gentleman's club of course – very bloody smooth, Potter. Luckily, Neville was too nice to mention it.
"I think he's been running the club mostly. It's been going for about fifteen years now. I can't believe you've never heard of it." Neville was still preening about knowing something I didn't. Silly man; he's always known more than me about so many things. I am oblivious, remember?
He indicated the main doors. "Come on and have a look, it's really nice. Elegant."
We followed him; Ron having got his shock under control, his face no longer the colour of a tomato.
"Anything that's run by Malfoy must have a hidden agenda," Ron groused. I was impressed actually. All the years Ron has been married to Hermione have rubbed off on his vocabulary.
"Come on, Ron, all that was twenty years ago. Let it go." I was keen to let it go. Let something go anyway. The need for a drink was sneaking up on me and I was getting a little jumpy. My hands were not shaking as I held the door open for Neville and Ron to enter, I was just nervous at entering a new place. Really.
"There's no hidden agenda, Ron," Neville confirmed. "He runs this place really well. It has a name for the quality of its atmosphere, the club amenities and the entertainment of course." Neville's smile dropped from his face. "I don't come here for the entertainment, though; it's just a chance to catch up with some people I went to school with."
Ron looked at Neville as if he didn't believe him; but I did. Nev was never the type to drool over scantily clad women.
"Do you catch up with Malfoy too, then?" I asked.
"No, he's hardly ever here or, if he is, he stays away from the lounge."
"I'm surprised he's not the entertainment," Ron mumbled. When I looked at him oddly, he continued. "Well, he's a bit of a ponce, isn't he?"
Neville laughed. "He's married, well he was; he's a widower and has a child about the same age as Rose."
"Doesn't mean he's not a ponce," Ron argued.
"Who cares if he is anyway?" I said, rolling my eyes. Honestly - gah, I felt like Hermione then, someone shoot me! - the way Ron behaves; being gay is a crime against humanity. "And if being a ponce is a prerequisite for having taste like this, then sign me up!" I was looking around the room and impressed was hardly the word for it.
It was elegant, as Neville had said. Understated, muted colours with huge comfortable armchairs gathered together in intimate groups around several fireplaces. Lamps lit the room in soft glowing hues and created a warm, cosy atmosphere that I immediately felt at home in.
Off to one side were several doors and also a bar where groups of robed wizards stood chatting and drinking. They appeared younger than me and so must have been Hogwarts students after I'd left. A number of them glanced over at us and, apart from a slight widening of their eyes, which let me know I'd been recognised, they ignored us after a welcoming smile.
I thought I'd found my new home. Bliss! A place where I could get raging drunk and no one would blink an eyelid; no one would make a big deal about my name – which was all ancient history anyway - people minded their own business and I would not be subjected to those stupid questions about my lesbian wife.
Which of course was the cue for Zach Smith to approach. I'd always been wary of him ever since he was such a twat back in fourth year about the DA. Still, perhaps I was being too kind.
"So, Potter, I hear your wife left you for Millicent Bulstrode."
See? I was definitely being too nice. He hadn't aged well at all. His middle-aged paunch made him look rotund in robes. A bit like a heavily pregnant woman, really. And he was grey, even his badly shaven whiskers were grey. Bloodshot eyes and heavy dark circles under them and you get the picture of a middle-aged lush. Not a pretty sight. He's another one that had been a pretty boy at school.
Now I was in a dilemma, because this place had seemed to be exactly what I needed to nurse my wounded pride and yet I was on the verge of punching Smith's lights out, which I was sure would be frowned upon by the management. Perhaps they expected the more traditional duelling to settle differences. I didn't have gloves to slap his face with, unfortunately.
Fortunately, Neville settled any sort of argument by flinging his arm around Smith's shoulder and smiling; a sweet innocent smile that I'd learnt years ago to be afraid of. "Don't worry, Harry, Zach's last wife left him three months ago for an eighteen year old. What's that now, Zach, three wives? That's a bit greedy, you should be happy with just the one. Oh, right, you would be if they just stopped leaving you, wouldn't you?"
God, I love that man. I beamed at him.
"Piss off, Longbottom." Smith huffed and stormed off to see how quickly he could find the bottom of a whiskey glass.
"Well, well, seems our host has decided to grace us with his presence this evening, after all. Perhaps he heard you were coming," Neville said from next to me.
I turned to follow his line of sight, wondering what Malfoy looked like after all this time and had an attack of that indigestion. No Hogwarts food to blame it on this time, though, only the familiar features of Malfoy; aged to be sure, but still much the same as twenty years ago. And he was striding over to our group, a smile of welcome on his face.
"I didn't even know I was coming until a few hours ago," I said, clearing my throat.
I could feel Ron tense beside me and, while I knew I was just as tense, I'm quite sure that I didn't want to hex Malfoy like Ron did.
"Welcome to The Hogsman, gentlemen." Malfoy greeted us both with a polite smile. I suppose he was as anxious about how we would react to him as I was about how he would react to me. A polite stand-off seemed appropriate.
Well, I certainly wasn't going to make things difficult. "Malfoy." I nodded and held out my hand. "Nice place you have here."
A flicker of surprise crossed his face and then a minute twitch at the corner of his mouth let me know he was amused. I wondered if he was remembering when he'd offered me his hand all those years ago and whether he'd refuse it now just to be an arse.
Seems he'd grown up, because he took my hand and we shook. Funny, I'd kind of been expecting fireworks or something, seeing as I'd built this up in my head so much, but it was just a warm clasp of soft, dry hands.
"Thank you, Potter," he replied, inclining his head in thanks. He turned to Ron then and gave a tight smile. Ron was doing his usual tomato thing, where he knew he should do the right thing but he really didn't want to and so it made his face flush the colour of a tomato. "Weasley."
He sounded grudging but civil enough. Perhaps we were all going to be grown-ups after all.
"I'm surprised to see the two of you here. I didn't think this was the sort of establishment you'd frequent."
"Why? Not good enough for this snotty place?" Ron burst out.
All right, not so grown up then. I sighed and put a hand on his shoulder. As if that had ever stopped him when he got his back up about something. But Malfoy beat me to it by holding up his hands. "Merely making an observation that the entertainment here is not something usually enjoyed by happily married men. And, as much as it pains me to say, the two of you appear to be happily married."
Obviously he hadn't heard about Ginny and I then. Which was actually a good thing; it meant that the gossip mill hadn't been too extensive. Yet.
"I am happily married, Malfoy," Ron replied eyes narrowing as he looked for the insult. Habit, I suspect. "There's never been anything wrong with looking has there?"
"Be my guest," Malfoy answered. "Through those doors." He pointed to two large doors off to his left.
"Come on, Harry," Ron said, grabbing my arm. But I wasn't interested in the entertainment. I was still sworn off women and was still vulnerable enough that I didn't want my resolve tested, just yet.
"I'll just stay here and have a drink with Neville." Ron wasn't going to be happy with that, but I'd come out with him tonight when I'd rather have stayed home and drunk myself into oblivion, so that was enough.
I didn't bother updating Malfoy on my marital status; he'd find out soon enough anyway and I hadn't come here to chat with him. After a few more moments of small talk, during which I caught an appreciative look or two he gave me, he wandered off to greet more guests.
The evening panned out beautifully after that. Neville and I settled into some of the squishy comfortable armchairs and chatted and drank while Ron availed himself of the 'entertainment'. Good luck to him. He was only looking and there'd never been anything wrong with looking. Especially as he'd never think about cheating on Hermione. Besides the fact that she'd eviscerate him if he did, he loved her too much to betray her like that.
I'd thought Ginny loved me like that too. Shows how wrong a person can be.
When Ron dropped me off at home that night we made plans to attend the next week, and for the first time since Ginny left, I was looking forward to something.
Mum must have caught the smile on my face and decided it was time her self-imposed restriction on speaking to me was over. Apparently I was now in a decent frame of mind and wouldn't ignore her. If there is one thing a parent hates, it's to be ignored.
I think she knows me too well.
"I did," I replied and smiled at seeing her materialise through the kitchen wall. "Coffee?"
"That's uncalled for, Harry," she admonished and I felt a little ashamed. Only a little; it was just a joke after all.
"Sorry. Just teasing." I had second thoughts about putting the coffee on, thinking that would only rub it in more.
"Well, it was beneath you but it is lovely to see a smile on your face."
"You don't need to check up on me, Mum, I am an adult and I can take care of myself." Her concern was touching, but after twenty years…she was the only person who could still manage to make me feel like a child. Apart from Minerva, but she died several years ago. They said the damage done to her body from the effects of the numerous stunners she received in the war, was degenerative and it eventually took her life. I think the world cried a little that day. I know I did. I missed the dour old lady.
"You'll have to forgive me for displaying a mother's concern, Harry. I think you'll need it now that your wife has left."
Did I hear a trace of bitterness in her tone? Now that was rather amusing, really. In all the years we lived here and regularly interacted with mum and Sirius, she never once showed any resentment to Ginny. Not until now. It was lovely having her unquestioningly on my side. Ron and Hermione care, I know that, but they have Ginny to consider as well.
"She has a name, Mum, and just because she's gone doesn't mean you can forget it. I'll not have you talking like that in front of the children."
"As if I would. You should know me better than that by now."
"Right." I was tired. It had been a long night and, whilst enjoyable, was not something I did on a regular basis, or ever actually, apart from the drinking.
"Speaking of the children, have you told them, yet?"
"No, not yet. I will when I can figure out how to tell them."
The couch looked inviting - it was where I'd been sleeping since the break up - but bed was better in this instance, seeing as that was the one place in the house Ginny and I had insisted that mum and Sirius stay away from. Never mind my reluctance to even go in there since Ginny left. Somehow getting a roasting from mum seemed worse than facing the marital bed.
"I want you to do it tomorrow, Harry. They will never forgive you if they hear it from someone else."
"Do we have to talk about this now?" I made a dash for the stairs. "Tired. Talk morning," I fired off as I ran up the stairs, pretending to be exhausted. She followed me, or jumped ahead of me, and was waiting as I reached the landing, hands on her hips, looking ferocious.
"Don't think slinking off to your bedroom will make it go away, Harry. Pull yourself together!"
"Fine, fine, fine," I shouted, bloody annoyed that my perfectly enjoyable evening where I had managed to forget about all this shit for a few hours was being very efficiently shoved back into reality. "I'll do it tomorrow if you just stop hounding me! Christ, my wife left me for another woman! You have no fucking idea how much I feel like a great useless lump of shit, so how about just leaving me be for one fucking minute and allowing me to grieve?"
"Oh, grow up, Harry. You don't get to feel sorry for yourself, you are a parent and with that comes the responsibility to act like an adult and not wallow about in self pity as if nothing like this has ever happened to anyone before in the history of the world. Be thankful you have your life and those perfect, beautiful children you can hug and kiss and hold."
I glared at her. I hate it when she's right. Part of me wanted to dispute her and act like a twat anyway, but that wasn't going to solve anything.
Instead I slammed the bedroom door shut behind me, closing her out.
Seeing Ginny's favourite linen on the bed almost broke me but with my mother's words ringing in my ears, I determined not to let it beat me and so with great speed and calm deliberation I ripped the linen off the bed and tossed it out the window. Present for the mailman in the morning.
Then I flopped down on the bed, pulled the quilt over me and gave a little grunt of victory before falling asleep.
The miracle was that I actually slept. I didn't bother questioning why that was; I was too busy worrying just what I was going to say to the children. After arranging for them to be in the Headmaster's office, I stepped through the Floo half an hour later to face my three beautiful children.
Calling them to the Headmaster's office was a rare enough occurrence that their faces showed traces of nervousness, especially Lily who had only been at school a week or so. James was sitting close to her with his arm around her shoulder and looking at me with that look he always had when bracing himself for a punishment. I wondered what he'd been up to for him to think this was one of those occasions.
Albus was sitting on the other side of Lily, biting his nails. No matter what we'd done to try and stop him doing it, he still dealt with stress by nibbling on them. People say he looks like me but people used to say I looked like my dad, too. I can see the family resemblance but that's as far as it goes. Personality wise, Albus suffers the middle child syndrome, often overlooked as the second son, while James as the eldest receives lots of attention and Lily as the baby and the only girl is spoilt rotten. He is a quiet child, sometimes sullen and resentful, but if you take the time to get to know him he shines, and when he loves, he loves unconditionally.
James is more like me – a bit of a trouble magnet. I cannot remember going a whole week without James being in trouble for something or other. He is just lucky he has the type of temperament that fascinates people, and friends and hangers on always surround him.
Lily, my princess, is an adorable girl, all sweetness and cuteness on the outside with an inner core of strength that even surprised Ginny. She winds people around her little finger with an ease that scares me sometimes – in a few years the boys will need to watch out – and she can kill with a look. Many a time I've been on the end of one of Lily's looks that make me feel like I should have been anything but a parent.
"Dad, whatever it is, I didn't do it!" James greeted me, switching to his innocent look.
"Who says you've done anything?" I asked him, the unexpected query settling me somewhat.
"I'm always in trouble for something."
"But I don't usually call in your brother and sister to hear you being punished, do I?"
He nodded. "You have a point." Then he frowned again. "So, why are you here? What's wrong?"
"Mum's all right, isn't she?" Lily asked, her big brown eyes worried.
"Of course she is, or else Dad would look like death warmed up," Albus added, rolling his eyes. "He's probably just come to tell us they've split up or something."
Curse perceptive children. Or lucky ones.
Lily whacked his arm. "Don't say that, Al."
But James had caught the look on my face – the grimace of pain. "He's right, isn't he?"
I gave him a long look before nodding. I guess at least I didn't have to voice the words aloud, after all.
"What did you do?" Lily's tearful voice made me break away from looking at James.
In that moment I lost all the thoughts I'd had about what to say and how to say it.
"I didn't do anything!" It was a reflexive response, I know that, but I didn't feel like I had done anything to make Ginny fall in love with someone else. I know that it takes two, and at some point I might agree to take some of the blame, but right now I was hurting and feeling like it wasn't my fault.
Sighing, I dropped my head into my hands. "I'm sorry. I hardly know what to tell you."
"You must have done something for her to leave," insisted Lily, and I could tell by the hardness in her voice that she believed that I was the one at fault. She really was her mother's daughter.
"Lils, stop it." Albus elbowed her. "Why must it have been Dad?"
"Because mum loves us too much to leave us."
"She hasn't left you, she's left me," I added, and at least assuaged that fear. "You three are here at school most of the year and when you come home, everything will be exactly the same, only mum won't be there and you'll spend part of the holidays with her." And Millie. But I didn't say that. I was still debating whether or not to tell them or make Ginny tell them herself.
"Why did she leave?"
"Well, she has Quidditch for the next few months in Australia, remember?" Coward, I called myself.
"Dad," James said, looking at me as if he knew I was hedging. I was really proud of the way he was behaving. Almost like an adult.
"She decided she didn't love me anymore, because she loves someone else."
The three of them looked at me, hurt. "Who?" Lily asked.
I opened my mouth to answer but James jumped in with "We don't need to know" at about the same time as Albus said "It's Millie, isn't it?"
"Oh, don't be ridiculous, Albus, Millie is a girl," Lily said, rolling her eyes.
"Albus is right, Lily," I said as gently as I could. "Your mum loves Millicent and wants to live with her now."
Lily shot to her feet. "How could you do that? How could you let her go and live with someone else? With a girl of all things?" She was angry and her beautiful, normally pale skin was flushed with it. Her eyes were flashing but under that steely look, I could also see the hurt and betrayal. She was only eleven years old; she shouldn't have to be dealing with things like this.
"It doesn't matter who it is, Lily, your mum loves who she loves and nothing I could have done was going to make her change her mind. You think it would have been easier if she'd fallen in love with another man?"
"More normal, that's for sure," she sneered back. "Are you that bad a husband that our mum prefers women?"
"Lily, that's enough!"
She didn't know it but she'd cut to the heart of why I was so hurt. I couldn't handle this, I needed to get away. I wasn't even coping with this myself, let alone teaching my kids to cope with it. I cursed Ginny one more time and wished I'd never set eyes on her. Although I had these great kids to show for it, so that was a pretty weak wish. God, I needed a drink.
Where did Lily get all these ideas from anyway? We'd certainly never taught her that there was anything wrong with preferring your own sex as a partner. Still, I suppose it was going to be hard fending off the smart arsed comments about her mum being a lesbian and such. But I mourned what appeared to be the disappearance of my princess Lily.
"I don't know why this happened," I began. "All I know is that it has and we have to adjust to the changes. If you want more information then write to your mother, I'm sure she'll be glad to hear from you."
That was as much as I could say; the need to escape was frighteningly urgent. If I didn't leave right there and then I'd be looking through the bottom of a Firewhisky bottle for the rest of the day and into the night. Possibly for the foreseeable future. The brown bottle tends to put a softer sepia coloured tone to life. Much gentler on the psyche, that.
Hesitant to appear too eager to leave, when I stood up I paused as if there was something else I wanted to say and in truth I have no idea if it was just a cover or if I really planned on saying something other than goodbye. But I could feel the helpless rise of pain surging up the back of my throat and in the end all I could do was mutter that I'd always be there if they needed me, and leave.
Stupid really. When I think back on it they were in as much pain and confusion as I was and I should have swallowed my own feelings and stayed longer to help them sort out theirs.
Unfortunately, I am not perfect, which must be completely obvious. Not for the want of trying. Perhaps I try too much to be everything to everyone and, in the end, forget that I deserve something too and so it shows in random bouts of selfishness.
Perhaps I just can't deal with other people's pain when there's no chance of fixing it for them.
Sod the stupid bloody saving people thing. I went back and spent the next hour or so consoling my children and bearing the brunt of Lily's evil eye.
When I arrived home it was to find a pile of dung eating scum on my doorstep demanding to know what my reaction was to my wife taking up with another woman. The story was out, then. Not that it surprised me; the only thing that did surprise me was that it had taken this long. Ginny and Millie must have been being discreet.
In any event, there was no way I was baring my soul to that bunch of vultures and when I drew my wand most of them disappeared pretty quickly. Except for a spotty youth who obviously had more guts than sense, because he continued to harangue me with questions like "Mr. Potter, will you start dating again?" and "Harry, come on tell the readers who the next significant person in the life of Harry Potter will be." The most stupid question though was also the most thought provoking one. "Harry, are you going to take a leaf out of your wife's book and start dating a bloke? I'm sure there are hundreds of willing wizards out there."
At the time all I did was snarl at him and flounce through the door and inside. Well, I didn't flounce, I stormed through the door and slammed it shut. Cretin! I should have hexed his balls off! That would have made him think twice about asking such an imbecilic question next time.
Resigned to spending the next several years holed up in Grimmauld Place, I secured the doors with heavy locking spells and searched out my bed, safe in the knowledge that mum and Sirius were likely to find a way to keep my arse from withering away too badly.
Over the next several days they tried numerous things to rouse me – mum called Luna in to tell me of a lead they had received on some hunchback arachnid hybrid she'd been searching for ever since her dad had been reported killed by the weird magical creature no one could place. She'd named it something I could never recall accurately, and had been following leads ever since. On this occasion, I told her that I didn't plan on working again and she should find someone else to search it out for her. Lockie Goldenflash would be a better option for her than me.
Sirius tried to channel my dad and make me feel ashamed of myself but, to be honest, after finding out what a shit my dad was some of the time, his opinion didn't hold much sway over me any longer. Sirius threatened to rouse up Snape, but I just laughed at him and slid back under the bubbles in the bath. See? I was bathing and observing the basic niceties of life. I bathed, I ate and drank and slept. Lots of drinking to be frank, but who cares, anyway, right?
The kids must have decided that I was indeed a hopeless father and written to their mother as I'd suggested because I never heard from them that week.
About the only bright light in that whole week was the anticipation of going back to The Hogsman on Friday. I even managed to bathe, shave and dress nicely for the occasion. It lifted my spirits, which was odd. I suppose that after a couple of weeks in mourning, I was beginning to feel like I wanted some fun again. Perhaps the self imposed solitude was as much because I hated being the centre of attention and didn't want people pointing and staring at me, knowing I'd been dumped, as much as it was because of the pain associated with being dumped for a woman.
Maybe it was just that I felt at home at the club. The club where the only women were the 'entertainment' – as misogynistic as that is – and where I did not have to interact with any of them. Only men. In an atmosphere that made me feel comfortable.
Ron stuck his head through the Floo and told me he was going to be late, so I went on ahead without him. Not that it mattered; he really only went to watch the girls, I'm sure, so I wasn't planning on seeing much of him throughout the evening.
Malfoy was there again when I arrived, which surprised me because Neville said he was rarely ever there. But I smiled; he'd been courteous and polite the last time I was here.
"Potter. Pleasure to see you here again."
"You too, Malfoy. Neville mentioned that you rarely put in an appearance."
He was looking bloody gorgeous again and suddenly that reporter's comments didn't appear quite so impossible.
"Well, there's generally not much here to hold my interest," he said. "Not many Slytherins of my era left to attend."
He pinned me with those deep grey eyes of his and I had to wonder if I should be impressed that he found me interesting enough to want to attend two weeks running. Then I kicked myself. Stupid, Harry, he barely spent any time speaking to me last week so why would it be me that'd caught his interest?
"True." Most of the Slytherins of our era had either moved abroad or were dead. There were still a couple of them around but I don't remember Malfoy being friendly with them. "Can I buy you a drink? You can update me on what it is that's caught your interest these past two weeks."
Holy crap I was flirting with Malfoy!
He just smiled enigmatically at me. "No, I'll buy you a drink and we can chat if you like."
Either way was good for me and so a short time later, drinks in hand, we were seated in front of a warm fire engaged in a friendly conversation. Call me surprised, but Malfoy – Draco - was actually rather decent to talk to. He told me about his wife dying and leaving him with young Scorpius, who, now I remembered, was the same year as Albus at school. His wife, Astoria, had died from a rare blood disorder that no amount of wizard magic or transfusions could cure. He must have loved her because he looked haunted over her death, even though it was so many years ago.
All things considered, I'd much prefer to be left for a woman than lose Ginny to something as permanent as death. I can't imagine how hard it would be to bring up kids on my own or find ways to talk about their mother so they got to know who she was and the type of person she'd been. I didn't envy him that job; I'd had enough trouble telling my kids their mum was a lesbian.
So when he finally asked me about Ginny, I had no trouble speaking to him and telling him how bad I felt, how much of a useless lump and waste of space as a husband I must be.
"People always underestimate Millicent," Draco said. He was relaxing back in his chair drink in one hand and the other resting casually along the comfortable armchair, long fingers slowly stroking the plush cloth. Something under my skin was jealous of that cloth.
"How do you mean?"
"They assume because she looks like the back end of a Hippogriff, that she's as lacking in personality. She's actually very charismatic."
"I always liked her."
Draco looked at me.
"Before she stole my wife from me."
He gave me a tight smile. "You don't think if she loved you enough no amount of persuasion by Millicent would have worked to take her away from you?"
That gave me cause to think. I knew I'd been hoping to recapture something I felt we'd lost over the years. Perhaps Ginny felt it more keenly than I did. Maybe women do feel things more intensely than men and it just took me too many years to realise what was slipping away.
"You have a point. Much as I hate to admit it, you do."
He was looking at me intently again and when he spoke it was softer, more determined. "And if you'd loved her enough, you'd have fought to stop her going."
Damn it, he was right. I'd let her go even before I realised that's what I was doing. Maybe I'd taken it for granted that she was waiting for Lily to go to school before we could recapture some of the heady romance of our youth. Maybe when she indicated she didn't want to, I gave in because it was already too late?
Maybe this grief and self-pity was because I didn't care as much as I should? Guilt that I should have fought for her, that I was relieved it was over?
What did that make me? An uncaring sod of a man? No, I don't think so, because I truly was hurt and devastated by what had happened.
"And now I've said something to upset you." Draco said, sitting forward, suddenly concerned. "I would have thought I'd learned to think before I speak. Especially where you are concerned."
"No, no, you're fine. You haven't upset me." I hurried to reassure him. "Just made me think. That's the second insight you've had into what happened that was more true than I'd like to admit, but that no one else has been game enough to say to me."
"It often takes an outsider to see things more clearly, objectively. Besides, it's in my best interest not to have you sobbing into your drink every time you come here," Draco replied.
I was just about to question him on that remark when Ron appeared at my side.
"Bloody hell you wouldn't believe how hard it was to get away from Hermione tonight! She wanted se–" He stopped, blushing. I had to laugh. Really, what's not funny about a bloke hurrying to shag his wife to shut her up so he can get out of the house and go ogle scantily clad women he can't even touch?
"Spare me, please," Draco drawled, standing. "I'll leave the two of you here to your…" he waved his arms around "…discussion."
"You think I like talking about their sex life?" I protested. "Believe me, the last thing I want to hear about is a happy, healthy sex life that concerns my two best friends. Stay."
Ron looked from me to Draco, who'd sat down again, and then back. He raised his eyebrow. "Well, if he's staying, I'll be off to check out the entertainment." He gave me a leer and then stood. "You still sworn off women?"
"Indefinitely." I nodded, noticing Draco's curious glance.
"Right," Ron said. "Enjoy yourselves, boys." He was gone before I had the chance to say anything else.
"What's this about swearing off women?" Draco asked.
"Now, I could answer that a number of ways," I said, smirking. "I could say that there was some gorgeous bloke I was thinking of shagging, instead. The papers seem to think I might take up with a bloke as revenge or some nonsense." That earned me a rather different, curious glance – the kind that wondered what I tasted like. "Or, I could say that after being married for more than twenty years, I am so out of practice with women that I'm not ready."
"You don't need practice to look." He was sceptical, I could see that. Hopeful, too. I am not that oblivious.
"The truth is," I continued more soberly, "that the thought of a naked woman makes me see Ginny and Millicent together and that has the tendency to put me off my food for the day."
"I thought every red blooded male was supposed to have a fantasy for watching two women." He laughed though, which made me feel less like a complete wanker.
"I used to, until it served as a reminder that my wife prefers women to me."
"You should really do something about that, you know. It could be rather a turn off to prospective partners."
"The whole self-pity thing. It's not an attractive look." He stood up and motioned me to do the same. "Come with me, I want to show you something."
"You're not going to trick me into watching your entertainment are you?"
"It's not what you're thinking. Just a tour of the club. You and Weasley will have to become members here soon if you want to continue gracing us with your presence. I think you should see what the benefits of becoming a member would be. "
"Oh, should I get Ron? He should see this too."
"No." Draco smiled, shaking his head. "No, this tour is for your benefit only."
Now he had me intrigued. What sort of benefits could a club like this offer me that would make me change my mind? An entertainment room where the audience threw curses and hexes at replica ex-wives? A torture chamber that allowed one to vent their frustration out on odd things transfigured to look like enemies? Actually I liked the sound of both of those; I'd set a Millicent up in the torture chamber and shove a Ginny on the stage and test out the potency of a few hexes.
Lost in my fantasies, I missed which door I followed Draco through and almost crashed into his back when he stopped at another door. When I looked around, we were in a long carpeted hallway, where several doors lined each wall. It was all the same understated décor as the main lounge, but it must have been protected by silencing spells because the noise from the lounge was deadened. In fact, I couldn't hear anything at all and the thick pile of the carpet muffled our footsteps.
"This whole area is for members only," Draco said, and opened the door in front of us. It opened to a well-appointed bedroom dominated by a huge bed.
"So, you offer members a place to sleep it off?"
He laughed. Predictably. Even I wasn't that stupid; the club was only here one night a week. So, he was offering a place where the members and the 'entertainment' could shag. For the right price, I bet. I was suddenly glad Ron didn't know about this. Yet. I've said before he'd never cheat on Hermione but why put temptation in his way? He's not the hardest person to influence.
"Not quite," Draco said, waving his wand at a big screen on the far wall. While it flickered, he shut the door behind us. "When I said members only, that's exactly what I meant."
I was beginning to wonder if he'd lured me into the room for a quick shag after all. I am not that oblivious; I had caught those appreciative looks he'd given me and we were in a bedroom within a few minutes of him learning I was sworn off women. And he locked the door. Paranoia, hello my friend.
Shock might be a better word for it, because the thought of Malfoy naked didn't put me off food.
Another wave of Draco's wand and the room reformed itself into what could be a small theatre. Then the purpose of the screen became clear. This room was somewhere to watch porn and then, if the mood took the viewers, it could be made into a place to scratch the itch and fuck like bunnies.
Which meant… My eyes narrowed as it all became clear. "So, blokes can come in here and watch gay porn? And then…?"
He was watching me intently. "And then if they want, the bed is there for them to fuck on."
The way he said 'fuck', emphasising the 'f', made my mouth go dry.
"What makes you think I'd be interested in that benefit from membership?" I asked, very grateful that I had perfected that cool exterior when inside I was jumping around, quite rapidly feeling like I was out of my depth.
"Aren't you curious what it's like to be with someone of your own sex? Don't you wonder what your wife saw in it?" he asked me, smirking as I blinked.
"Are you offering?" Oh, hell, what was I saying?
Gracefully, he smiled and turned to the screen. "I think not tonight. I don't do curious."
"Why the locked door and the special treatment then?" I am a glutton for punishment. Never let it be said that I took the easy way out of anything. I could have just left it all alone.
"Are you saying you'd rather watch with an audience?"
"No, but you're here and, don't take this the wrong way, but you're as much of a distraction as what's up there on screen."
He smirked and looked back at me. "Potter, Harry, I may not do curious, but that doesn't mean I'm letting you off the hook entirely. I'm the manager here and must cater to my members' needs. I can't do that if I'm not here." I could tell he was playing with me, which was new, and not unwelcome. What was more surprising was that I was entertaining the thought of doing this. Watching gay porn in a locked room with Draco Malfoy. And maybe that's why Neville rarely saw him in the club – perhaps he was in here more often than not.
"You do this often, then?" I gave him a smirk of my own – he's not the only one who knows how to smirk. "You watch gay porn with your members and then fuck them?"
"No, I generally don't get involved with members, but it would make my night to see you get aroused watching gay porn. After that who knows what will happen."
"Who says I'd get hard?" To be honest, I couldn't remember the last erection I'd had, not including the rather pleasant tingling I was feeling just thinking about getting hard again. Would have had to be weeks ago, possibly at the thought of having some alone time with Ginny. Before…before Millie.
Suddenly, I wanted to do this. No doubts, just… I have no idea why. Quite possibly I was curious. More likely I wanted to prove that I wasn't completely useless without Ginny. Besides, being desired, no matter who by is always flattering. Especially seeing that I'd been feeling anything but desirable for the longest time now.
He snapped his fingers. "This might help," he said, and sat down in one of the plush red armchairs, settling in comfortably and looking like he was ready for a long evening watching television.
"Why would it make your night?" All right it had taken me a while to get there and ask that question but as I sat down it occurred to me to wonder why Malfoy wanted to see me aroused. Belatedly. Not that I was squeamish about being hard in front of someone. Rooming with four other hormonal teenage boys at Hogwarts was enough to knock that out of me. Besides, I'd accidentally caught my own sons having a bit of a pull enough over the last few years for it to be less of a big deal than it could have been.
As some cheesy music started circulating the room and the screen on the wall flickered, casting multiple lights over Draco's face, he sighed. "Because if you hadn't married the Weaslette, I would have gotten over myself, approached you and tried to bury the hatchet so I could ask you out myself."
Well, fuck me dead, that was unexpected. Malfoy had a history of doing the unexpected where I was concerned so you'd think I'd learn. I'd obviously forgotten that aspect of his personality in the intervening years since I'd seen him last.
For a moment I thought he must be having me on, but when I looked at him there was a telltale blush staining his cheeks and neck. He was bloody serious.
"Right," I replied. "And now?"
"Let's just wait and see, shall we?" he said, flustered now.
"What purpose do you think seeing me hard will serve?" I asked. I wanted to know, and I wasn't going to let this go. I was hearing that Draco'd had some sort of crush on me for years and part of me was flattered – why wouldn't I be? And the other part of me was annoyed that I'd never bloody known. Not that it would have made any difference in the slightest; as I've said before, I only ever wanted Ginny.
Draco ignored me and looked up at the screen and I was just about to berate him for not answering me when movement from the corner of my eye drew my gaze to the screen too.
There was a very pretty blond up there on the screen, arms tied with a school tie above his head. He was naked but for a thin scarf tied loosely around his neck, the end of which disappeared down the front of the screen, as if the person holding the camera was also holding the end of the scarf. The blond was also hard as a rock and squirming in his restraints eyes alternating between looking at the screen and fluttering closed as he gave little thrusts with his hips.
That was enough to divert my attention from Draco. It was all I could do to sit there and cling desperately to my heterosexuality, because that boy was pretty! And young. And pretty.
All right, so I got the indication that there was a slight possibility I might think the young bloke on the screen was sexy. Shoot me full of testosterone and tell me to be a man.
A deep voice came from the screen then.
"You look utterly edible like this."
The blond blushed prettily and pouted.
"Why don't you undo me then?"
"Not yet. I haven't had my fill of seeing you aching for me."
"I like it when you beg."
There was a tug on the scarf and I could see that it was unravelling itself.
"When the scarf is fully unravelled, I will unravel you."
Whoever the owner of that voice was, he sure had an impact on the blond who closed his eyes and kept moving, swaying like he was listening to some music. My eyes were drawn to the redness of his erection, stark against the pale skin of his belly. There was an oozing drop of moisture right at the tip and, as I watched him move, I saw it pearl and dribble down the underside of his prick.
I had to bite my lip to stop from letting my tongue out to pretend to lick at it. Along with the murmured begging and the writhing, the scene was making me hard. I must have let a sound slip through…knowing me it was probably a whimper…because Draco jumped up, looking cross and in pain at the same time.
"What purpose?" He sneered at me. "What fucking purpose…" Now he was almost laughing as he reached out and placed a hand over my groin. Shit. "Because I thought if you got hard watching that then my ridiculous obsession with you for all these years was not a complete waste." His voice trailed off as the realisation of what he was doing lit his eyes and he stepped back, horrified.
"You don't have to stop you know," I said, amused. Well, amused because I had no idea how to feel about what he was saying, or the way he looked – flustered and breathing heavily. Or any idea of what to do about it.
He looked at me, frowning for several seconds. "Fuck off, Potter. I told you I don't do curious."
And then he left. And there I was, stuck in a room with some pretty blonde looking like he wanted to come until he dried out and died, feeling like I'd never been as hard in my life as I was right then.
Fucking hell. I was completely and utterly fucked.
Of course, in the morning I saw things differently. So what if Draco harboured some lustful feelings for me? I was flattered that this nearly forty-year-old body could still attract that sort of attention. I'd never had it before – well that's not entirely true, I'd had my share of women throwing themselves at me because I was, am, Harry Potter, but that was attraction because of the fame attached. I was pretty sure that Draco wasn't coming from that direction. If I remembered correctly, he'd hated me for that very reason all through school.
It was enough to put a smile on my face at breakfast. In fact, I was famished and downed several tonnes of bacon and a few dozen eggs. And just for fun guzzled a few litres of orange juice.
Sirius made an appearance and tried to put a dampener on my good mood, but I was feeling too much like I was dancing on air to pay him much mind. My mother was a different matter.
"Good morning, Harry."
"Mum." I blew her a kiss.
"You look quite pleased with yourself. It's nice to see you getting back to your normal self."
"I had a good night last night." I agreed. "Seems like your old son still has some life left in him, after all."
"I never doubted it, dear."
Some days it didn't take much to make my mum happy. I made coffee and took it through to the living room, where the sunlight coming through the window made a cheery spot to sit and read the paper for a while before I planned to contact Luna and see if I could follow up on that humpbacked arachnid thing she'd been going on about.
Amazing what a little flattery could do to a person; I was even thinking about getting back to work.
"So what do we owe this good mood to? Or is that a question a mother shouldn't ask her child?"
I gave her a look and shook my head. "I could tell you all the details but you'd run away screaming."
"I think I can take it."
I'd warned her. "I found out that Draco Malfoy has had a crush on me for years, decades even, and he and I –" I stopped. There was no way I could tell my mother what else happened, it just wasn't respectful. And while I teased her and played games and was sometimes mean to her because she was a ghost, she was still mum and didn't really deserve to be told that I'd watched gay porn with Draco, got hard from it and had him touching my dick. I rather liked the thought of keeping that thrilling little secret to myself. I wondered when I'd decided that little secret was thrilling. "He and I talked," I finished slowly. I really should Owl him and at least try and speak with him. I hadn't really been in much of a state to chase after him when he'd run from the room the night before, so in all likelihood Draco was still angry with me for some reason.
"Well, that's nice, dear," Mum said. "I'd known that for years, of course."
"Mum! How did you know that?"
"Close your mouth, dear, you'll let the flies in." She was smirking at me! Smirking! How the hell did she know that?
"Well, tell me how you knew and why you never said anything!"
"Word gets around, you know," she said enigmatically, running a finger along the back of the sofa – not that she could feel it, but the action was there.
"Mum," I warned. "Tell me!"
"All right," she gave in, grinning. "Sirius talked about what you and young Draco were like, how you always fought and hated each other and it struck me that Draco was behaving much the way your father did toward me when we were at school. I had Kreacher visit with the house-elves at Malfoy Manor and he snooped a lot. This was just after the end of the war not long after I found myself here."
I remembered that time. Mum and Sirius came back somehow when Voldie died. I've not been able to explain it – something about me using the Resurrection Stone and the two that I missed the most were able to remain as ghosts. If they wanted. And they did. I wonder if dad was pissed that the stone had known I missed mum and Sirius most. Mum was self-explanatory and Sirius – well I felt so guilty for his death, perhaps that was why.
"All that time… Why did you not say anything to me?"
"Would it have made a difference? You don't have any feelings in return for him do you? Because if I'd had any inkling of that I would have told you immediately."
"No, no, nothing like that," I said, calming her fears. "I only ever wanted Ginny. But it might have been nice to know, especially…" Especially nothing.
"I don't think it was any huge thing. From all accounts he loved his wife very much."
"He did." I nodded.
"Are you going to see him again?"
There was a note of worry in her tone and I looked up at her.
"I don't know. I assume he'll be at the Club, why? Do you think I shouldn't?"
"You do whatever makes you happy, Harry, you know I only want that. But if your children – if Lily, sorry, - was so unhappy hearing about her mother, think how she will be if you and young Malfoy start dating.
Lily. I had no idea what to do about her. There had still been no word from her and I was on the verge of writing to Ginny and asking if she'd heard anything.
In the end, I heard from Ginny. She apologised for Lily's attitude and I was still bitter enough to think she should, when I know better. It's not Ginny's fault that Lily was acting like a spoilt princess. A spoilt, homophobic princess. Ginny advised me that she'd spoken to Lily and sorted things out with her. I had the impression from the tone in the letter that Lily now saw things as all Ginny's fault. It didn't bother me one little bit. About time she took some responsibility for her actions. I didn't realise until then quite how much I thought her running off with Millie and leaving me the job of telling the kids was a cowardly thing to do.
My kids are lucky they have one parent who's willing to take on the responsibility of being a parent.
I received a letter from Lily the next day apologising for her behaviour, and in the next breath cheekily asking me if I was planning on doing what the papers said and finding a boyfriend. Where on earth did they come up with this stuff anyway? Did I wear a sign round my neck proclaiming that the best revenge was to fuck some bloke in retaliation? Revenge: A dish best served hot with a side of cock. Not that there wasn't some sort of hint of a possibility of that happening in the foreseeable future, but I'd only just discovered myself that I wasn't repulsed by the idea. It was ridiculous the way these newspapers put ideas into people's heads like that.
It's probably pretty obvious that I have such a wonderful relationship with the Wizarding world's press.
Writing to Draco had been something I'd mulled over since he stormed out of the club and I still wasn't sure if I should. What would I say? 'I was an arse. I'm sorry, can we start again?' I didn't know what I was sorry for, but I'd angered him when I hadn't meant to and I did feel sorry for that. It had to be pretty hard admitting you'd had some sort of crush on someone for years. On my part, I was flattered but Draco must have been crushed when I didn't react how he wanted.
What could be the worst that could happen if I did write to him? He could ignore it, and me. Or he could write some scathingly brilliant reply and I'd have to hide myself away in the library for a week looking up all the words.
Kicking myself for doubting my Gryffindor bravery, I set to writing him a letter.
Which he ignored.
I don't think I could blame him for ignoring me. I'm not the most articulate person when apologising. Perhaps I should have sent along some roses. Roses always worked on Ginny. Now, actually, if that's not a reason to steer clear of sending roses, then I don't know what is. Besides, sending flowers to a bloke just doesn't seem…the done thing. Too poncy. That'd be Ron's word for it. Poncy. But then if Ron had to send a bloke something he'd send porn magazines and Firewhisky…they don't seem right, either. What do women send blokes when they're trying to apologise? Or don't they apologise…now that seems more logical. I can't remember Ginny ever sending me anything with an apology. She went about it entirely differently – cooked my favourite meal and then lured me to the bedroom with sexy lingerie after having sent the kids to Molly and Arthur's for the night.
I'm really not sure Draco would appreciate me in his kitchen cooking the only thing I can cook – beans on toast – and hanging all my bits out in some pretence at being sexy. I'm not even sure that being sexy with Draco is what I want. Although I have to admit the thought of Draco in the same pose as the blond in the film is most enticing. Indeed.
And damn me but that thought has stuck in my head and I'm sure is going to feature in my dreams at night now. Bugger. Perhaps I should just stop kidding myself. But it is a toss up between admitting that I find men attractive – and I am sure that I do – because of Draco who I think is attractive, or that I am so desperate to be found still desirable that I don't care who it is.
What to do in a crisis like this? I'd normally say 'call Hermione' but I'm not really in the mood for the death glare, nor for the Spanish Inquisition. Ron would have a fit. Mum is just way too smug for her own good and Sirius would tell me I'd fallen down the stairs and cracked my head.
A little thought of revenge inched its way into my head and I wondered what Ginny would think if I asked her what to do. Well, we'd always been able to talk things through before. I'd used her as my sounding board on more than one occasion, as she had me. Oh, the thought of the look on her face when I told her I was considering having some sort of sexual relationship with Draco Malfoy cheered me up for the rest of the day.
It still didn't solve the problem of Draco not answering my letter. What made it worse was that he wasn't at the Club the next week, either. Nor the one after that. I'd tried in the meantime sending more letters, but they went unacknowledged. It made me wonder if I was sending them to the right place. The only thing I knew for certain was that the silence was pissing me off. Knowing Malfoy, it was designed to do that; he was probably sitting at home counting down the days until he knew I wouldn't be able to stand being ignored anymore and come knocking on his door.
So that's what I did. Went and knocked on his door. Literally. Predictable? Probably, but then when am I not? At least I'm consistent about it.
I was finally shown inside by a house-elf that could have been Dobby's twin, right down to the excited little "Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts" speech. All right, I was joking about that, but I bet if I asked him to repeat that line, the similarity would reignite those times when Dobby's voice rasped through my dreams every night all those years ago. I still miss him. He was one brave house-elf. Perhaps this elf of Draco's was some relation?
He showed me, reluctantly I might add – perhaps he wasn't related to Dobby after all – into a sitting room the size of a Quidditch pitch and, had he wanted to, Malfoy could have hidden in here and I'd have never found him. As it was, it looked like he'd been expecting me.
"Potter, what are you doing here?" His arms were crossed in front of him, though the rest of his stance appeared casual. "Dibby, I'll see to you later. I asked you not to admit any visitors," he said, turning to the small elf and glaring at him.
The elf opened his mouth as if to say something and then thought better of it and left, scowling and muttering about ironing its ears. It made me smile. If I didn't know better, I'd say that Malfoy had expressly ordered Dibby to let me in if I had the courage to turn up. I think that confused my emotions a little. I'd come here angry, annoyed that Dr-Malfoy was avoiding me, but it was ameliorated by the fact that it seemed Malfoy had been waiting for me.
"I'm here because you've been avoiding me." Nothing like getting right to the point, I reckon.
"I have not, I've simply been attending to other matters," Draco replied, nose shoved so high in the air it looked cold.
"That doesn't excuse bad manners. You've not replied to any of my letters."
"As I said, Potter, I've been attending to other matters. Don't tell me you think you're entitled to any more of my time than you've already occupied?"
Like beating your head against a brick wall. Malfoys are a stubborn lot. Still, I am a brave, foolhardy Gryffindor who never gives up, so I took a seat, ignoring Malfoy's comment and his slight frown, and got comfortable. "I'd really like a drink thanks, Malfoy. Shame on you for not offering your guest a drink."
It was really quite satisfying seeing Malfoy uncomfortable in his own home. At the club I'd not seen him discomforted by anything until the last few moments before he took off. And seeing the faint pink blush that coloured his cheeks was worth the trip over here all by itself.
Confidence is a funny thing. For some people, even a sniff of victory spurs them on and they continue harassing until they get what they want. That's me. I always get what I want – recent separation from my wife notwithstanding – and now Malfoy had shown chinks in his armour, there was no way I was leaving this room until I had what I came for.
Malfoy tied up and begging me to fu-
No, Malfoy on his knees before me, su-
No! Malfoy agreeing to have dinner with me.
As I watched him playing the gracious host and preparing me a drink, I wondered if my first thought should be the correct one after all. Curious or not, Malfoy was going to have to change his rules. He was going to do curious, because he was going to do me. And he could argue until he was blue in the face, but I was more stubborn than he. I had to be to survive Voldemort. Besides, I knew he wouldn't argue too much; he had a thing for me. Always an advantage, that. Smug doesn't suit me, I know, but cut me some slack, I'm almost forty years old and still desirable. I deserve to be smug.
All this anticipation was curling pleasantly in my stomach and when he passed my drink to me, I let my fingers slide against his deliberately and press against them, delighting when he jumped and then stilled. But he didn't pull away, not right away. He gave me a look then; a challenge. In those grey eyes I saw some depth there; a little fear that he was going to be humiliated – which is a good thing. Can't have him thinking this was going to be easy. And there was the knowing hint that he would give in eventually. I did like that one.
Very much. "Thank you," I said, smiling at him.
"You're welcome," he responded automatically before he grimaced and poured himself a drink, too.
"Why did you run off that night?" I asked him. I always did lack the ability of the subtle nuance and the thrust and parry of innuendo and flirting. Because that's all that rubbish small talk is. Flirting. Saying absolutely nothing in as many words as possible, just so you can make googly eyes at someone, lick your lips and pierce them with your lusty stare. Ginny used to read those ridiculous romance novels. She asked me once why I didn't pin her with my passion filled eyes and ravish her with just a look. I think I was elbow deep in a shitty nappy of James' at the time. Being the good dad that I am, I did learn very early on how to change a nappy. Perhaps that's why my marriage failed. Not the fact that I changed nappies, but that I didn't take the time to ravish Ginny with my eyes. God, maybe I was gay all along, because I never even thought of doing that to Ginny. Though I was pretty sure that, should I try the lusty stare at Draco, he'd think I was giving him the death glare and he'd fall over laughing.
Best just to stick with the straightforward approach.
"I told you, I don't do curious, Potter." He took a drink, refusing to meet my eyes again and so I knew he was hedging.
"What if I'm not curious anymore?"
His eyes shot up then and looked at me. He snorted. "Really? Unless you've actually done something, you'll always be curious."
"But I have done something."
I let him think on that one and the silence was thoughtful. Well, how do you describe a silence anyway? He was sitting there and I could feel him thinking about what I'd just said. Debating internally whether he'd risk asking me what, or if he'd hold on to that Malfoy aloofness and refuse to rise to the bait. So, it was thoughtful.
Finally, and I allowed myself to experience a moment's victory, he asked, "What have you done?" His voice was low, almost resigned.
Placing the half finished drink on the table, I rose and moved to stand in front of him. "Everyone is curious, Draco," I whispered, ignoring the question. That he'd asked it was enough for me.
He was very close, so close I could feel the changes in the air on my face when he breathed. His lovely eyes were wide and one of his nostrils was flaring, I hoped not in fear but in some pent up sexual tension just impatiently waiting to erupt.
"What if you decide you don't like men?" The voice hadn't risen; it was still quiet, trying not to sound vulnerable but he failed.
"Is that any more of a risk you take with dating anyone? There's always a risk that any relationship will break up before at least one party is ready for it."
He sighed. And took a deep breath. And then sighed again. "I'm not sure I…You're on the rebound from a broken marriage, and… I've had this thing for you for years and I'll get my…"
He nodded blushing again, which now I think on it, is pretty adorable on Malfoy.
"No one can tell the future, Draco. I certainly didn't have any idea that my wife was seeing another woman, and a couple of months ago I could never have foreseen that I'd be contemplating having a sexual relationship with the one bloke at school who could always make me angrier than anyone."
His eyes searched mine, I guess looking to see if he could detect any lies or hint of mockery. But there was none, I knew because I wasn't lying and I wasn't intending on mocking him. I felt bad for him, then. All my intentions of making him uncomfortable and having some sort of advantage over him crumbled at seeing him so vulnerable.
One of my hands cupped his cheek and he sighed again and leant into my hand. I was sure he did; it was a barely detectable movement, but it was there.
"Would you throw away this opportunity to see what we could have and where we could take this because you're worried what will happen?"
"I grieved badly when my wife died. Regardless of these feelings I've always had for you, I loved her very much and when she died, I wanted to die, too. I'm not sure I could survive such heartbreak again."
He was being very candid and honest. I could only offer the same. "I can't promise that we'll be together forever, Draco, but I can promise that whatever happens I won't hurt you deliberately."
Laughing softly, he replied, "It's the careless acts that hurt the most, the thoughtless ones." There was silence again for a short time.
"I don't know if I can even promise roses and romance," I said, smiling, because I know I am the worst in the word for romance. Ginny must have complained a hundred times that she would have loved to have received flowers more often.
When he looked at me, his eyes softened in amusement, releasing the tension. "What if I expect roses every week?"
"Then I'll learn to bring you roses every week." I used to tell Ginny that if I gave her flowers all the time, she'd not appreciate them but if I surprised her with them once in a while then I'd know she really appreciated them. She'd snort and tell me that if I did that she'd think I was feeling guilty about something. So, she hardly ever got roses. Her own fault really.
It occurred to me then that I was thinking a lot about Ginny. Comparing. Which wasn't fair in the slightest. I suspect that because she was the only other person I'd been in a relationship with, it was a natural thing, but it still wasn't fair. No more.
"Good," he whispered. "Then I'll know you're thinking of me."
Well, technically, I could place an order with the florist to deliver them each week and then not think on it ever again, just pay the bill when it came in each month, but I knew I wouldn't do that. I'd take the time to choose the flowers each week myself.
"Anything else Your Majesty, or may I kiss you now?"
"I think you'd better kiss me right now."
"Demanding little thing, aren't you?"
Not that I minded and I didn't give him any time to argue back, either. He was too busy being kissed by me. And it was good…mind numbingly good. His lips clung to mine beautifully and when he pressed against me harder, I realised that I'd been kissing him all gently and prettily, like I'd kissed Ginny, but he was reminding me that he was a bloke and I didn't need to be so tender. So, I matched him and then things exploded into messy and slick and wet and crushing and I forgot where I was. By the time we came up for air an hour later, he'd forgotten his name. Although, what he did remember was horrifying.
"What are we going to tell the kids?"