Title: Fallen Idols
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: mentions of both het and slash (Harry/Ginny, Draco/Astoria, Harry/Draco), but no infidelity. Angst. Some swearing. Past character deaths. DH spoilers.
Word Count: ~2100
Challenge: for sisika
folder, and umbrella
Dialogue: "You know, I make it a point not to fight any losing battles. You obviously missed that lesson."
Summary: Harry's plan when placing a plaque on Astoria's grave wasn't to run into Draco, but then, his life tends to work in unexpected ways.
"Potter. Fancy meeting you here."
Harry stiffened for a moment, then sighed and bent down anyway, laying the tiny, round brass plaque in his hand where he'd always intended to put it, at the foot of Astoria Malfoy's enormous mausoleum. The white marble of the tomb shone like snow in the water-filtered daylight and made his plaque look like the small and tacky thing it was. Well, Harry had always intended for it look like that. Someone would have to bend close to make out the engravings on the plaque, the entwined roses and nasturtium—which, as Draco had told him many times, were Astoria's favorite flowers—and the words, Congratulations. You won.
At last he turned around and nodded to Draco, adjusting the umbrella above his head so that the rain dripped down to either side instead of directly on his shoulders. He could have got away with an Impervious Charm, since this was a wizarding graveyard, but he didn't feel like it. "Malfoy. You're looking well."
Draco always did look well. His blond hair hung loose around his cheeks, and his face had long since ceased to be too pale and pointy. If he looked at that face now, even for a moment, memories were bound to spring on Harry and clutch at him.
—the last time they had made love, their bodies straining and striving against each other, Harry trying to dissipate his anger and desperation by making Draco feel pleasure more intense than he'd ever felt before, hoping against hope to escape the moment afterwards when Draco's eyes would go distant and he would look past Harry's shoulder at the stars—
Harry turned around with a small nod. The memories vanished back to where they belonged. "Just came to visit the wives," he said, and walked over to the much smaller gravestone not far from Astoria'a tomb. It was plain grey granite, and said, in chiseled letters that Harry liked because they were both graceful and simple, Ginny Potter, beloved wife of Harry Potter, daughter of Molly and Arthur Weasley.
Ginny had become Astoria's friend without Harry's ever knowing it; it took multiple casual mentions of her for Harry to finally connect the woman who offered Ginny advice on her cosmetics and wandwork as an Auror to Draco's wife. And then Ginny had been assigned to protect Astoria from an assassin intent on making the Malfoys pay for the war, and had died with her in the assassin's clever, deadly trap.
Ginny had been four months pregnant with their first child at the time, Astoria hoping.
On his wife's headstone Harry laid a wreath of real flowers, daisies and violets and lavender, the ones she had favored in her perfume. "Miss you," he whispered, and seven years after her death, it was still true. His grief for Ginny hadn't crippled him, but their love had been calm and had burned like a banked fire, and Harry knew he wouldn't ever find something like it again.
"What does—Potter, why did you leave that plaque here?"
Harry sighed and stood, letting his hand remain for a moment on Ginny's tombstone. There were times he'd longed to join her beneath it, mostly in the first few months after she died. Now he accepted that he'd been meant to live, for whatever reason, but her grave still seemed like a quiet and restful bed now and then.
Mostly when Draco is around.
"I think you know," Harry said, and faced his former lover again. Draco straightened, staring at him; he'd bent to get a better look at the carved words on the plaque. Once again, the memories ambushed Harry.
—listening to Draco talking from across the room at a party, sifting his words about work and Astoria for any reference to himself and not finding them—
"No, I don't." Draco came towards him, his face pinched. "No more than I know why you broke up with me."
Harry hissed under his breath and looked longingly towards the gate of the graveyard. He could have waited to come here; it wasn't as though there was ever going to be a queue to visit Astoria and Ginny. Harry had made it very, very clear in those shock-filled first few months that anyone trying to disturb his wife's peace would suffer. And miraculously, Rita Skeeter had listened for once.
"Draco, I don't think you want to discuss this," he said. "I did try to tell you, and you didn't want to listen to me—"
"Because the reasons you gave were ridiculous!"
Harry whipped around, angry beyond reason, and caught another glimpse of Draco's face, and so, of course, another glimpse of memories.
—trying to comfort Draco as he twisted in nightmares of Azkaban or his father's death there, and always, always hearing him call out for Astoria, even though he and Astoria had been married for only one year and he and Harry had been together for four by that point—
Harry sighed. That was inconvenient. At least he was no longer overwhelmed the way he would have been immediately after he broke up with Draco.
"You're still carrying on childishly about a woman who couldn't even hurt you, considering she was in the ground when you and I became lovers." Draco sneered at him, taking a step forwards. "Not that she would have grudged my falling in love with someone else when she was alive. If I really did care about you more than her, then we would have had an amicable divorce and she would have wished me well."
Draco's eyes had become distant, the way they did when he was watching the stars.
Harry made an incoherent noise of disgust. "You're doing it again," he said. "Don't you realize this was the exact reason I broke up with you? You are a walking, breathing demonstration of it."
"You are jealous of a dead woman." Draco pronounced the words with some care, taking a step with each emphasized one, as if he thought that he could somehow keep Harry from going if he got close enough. Harry was reminded of the photograph of the Surrey Stalker in the front of the latest folder he'd received from the Head Auror. "I should probably have left you, but I loved you too much to do that. And now you're telling me that—what, Harry? That you can't even stand to hear me mention Astoria?"
Draco pronounced the name like it was an angel's. He couldn't be in a room in the Manor without telling Harry how Astoria had walked through it, or liked to sit in the window seat looking out into the gardens. He couldn't come to Harry's flat without telling him what Astoria would have thought of the color scheme. He had given Harry a flat, steady, disappointed stare over the food that Harry had chosen for his twenty-fifth birthday party, and Harry had thought he'd accidentally got something Draco was allergic to until Draco revealed, in a sharp whisper, that it wasn't the food Astoria would have chosen; her taste was impeccable.
"I've had about enough of your bloody nonsense," Harry said. He'd been gentle, deliberately so, when he broke up with Draco, but all that had accomplished was that Draco could pretend not to understand his reasons. All right, then; Harry would speak bluntly. Draco was practically stalking him these days. Maybe the truth would make him go away and leave Harry the fuck alone. "Yes, I am jealous of a dead woman—when she's all you ever talk about, when not a day goes by without the mention of her name, when I get compared to her in manners, in looks, in purity of blood, in magical talent, in everything, and I come out inferior every time."
Draco actually fell back a step from him. His face was very pale. "Excuse me for having loved my wife," he declared.
"I loved Ginny, too," Harry snapped. "But I was trying to move on when I chose you. I wasn't looking to relive a relationship that was gone. Astoria is gone, Draco. She's never coming back. She was a wonderful person, but she isn't me, I'm not her, and I can't compete with her when you insist on making her into this sort of idol in your mind." He laughed, and then stopped, because the pain emerged too openly in the sound, and he would be damned if he would let Draco see how much the bastard was still capable of hurting him. "She's dead. She won't change, she'll never grow older, and you've forgotten any imperfections she had, whilst you notice every single one of mine."
He'd lost count of the number of times he'd overheard Draco complaining to someone else, in every situation from parties to Floo calls, about the way Harry was too demanding, too clumsy in bed, too stubborn, too quick-tempered, too male, too alive.
"You talked about her so much that some people thought you were still married," Harry continued, measuring out his poisonous words. Draco just looked more and more shocked and upset, which meant, of course, that he was going to deny the whole thing. "You remember? Parkinson'd been out of the country and didn't know she was dead, and actually asked me why I was taking you home at the end of the evening, and whether Astoria knew you were cheating on her. I didn't matter to you, meanwhile. I wasn't there. I never was, even when I did my best to stand by you."
He stopped, then, because Draco was saying, "I never did that. You are just jealous of someone who never did anything to hurt you—"
All the old complaints, all the old words, over and over again. He still wasn't listening to Harry, even when Harry used bluntness, so Harry interrupted him.
"She didn't," he said. "You did. And I'm not keen on loving someone who's still in love with someone else, another person I can't fight. So I left you, and, really, Draco, it's been a year since we broke up. Go cuddle with your wife's memory and have done." He turned his back and walked towards the gate, crunching over dead leaves and stepping on tufts of grass struggling to grow, though it wouldn't be proper spring for another few weeks.
Draco followed him, hurling words at his back. Harry ignored most of them, except for, "You should have tried harder, if you really thought I was doing that. You should have talked to me about it sooner."
Harry turned, pausing with one arm against the stone wall that ran around the graveyard, and shook his head. "I did try," he said. "And you got upset and told me your grief was still too raw to be talked about—even though you talked about it all the bloody time."
"You need to come back," Draco insisted. "You need to give me another chance. You gave up too soon." He'd let whatever charm he was using fade, and the rain had plastered his hair to his cheeks. Harry, of course, had to remember the first time he'd seen it like that.
He'd gone up to Draco after the double funeral; Astoria and Ginny had been laid to rest together and not far from each other, as they would have wished. And Harry had gone up to Malfoy and put his hand out in simple camaraderie. Malfoy, his tears invisible in the falling rain, hadn't even hesitated before he clasped Harry's hand with his own. And Harry had thought it was the beginning of something, something definitive, something different.
He'd thought it was friendship at the time, and a love affair later, and been wrong on both counts. But at least he knew that now. At last he thought, after taking a year to come to terms with his continuing feelings for Draco and the Howlers that assaulted him from the direction of Malfoy Manor, that he was ready to love someone else, and really build a new life.
"You have to be less selfish," Draco was saying now. "It's not about just what you want."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "You know, I make it a point not to fight any losing battles. You obviously missed that lesson."
And he turned around and strode away again, Apparating with the sound of Draco's shouts still ringing in his ears, leaving the memories behind him, where they belonged.