Sakura by xErised
So this was a sweet, deliriously long one-shot that I wrote during August for the Harry/Draco Travel Fair. Sakura was based on sepsku's Till There Was You, which is linked here: pics(dot)livejournal(dot)com/smoochfest_mod/pic/00011q0k. It would be great if you accessed sepsku's fanart and read Sakura together as both pieces compliment each other beautifully. Thanks to Sevilla for the beta.
For those who are curious, Hardly Rational will be updated during December during my semester break. Thanks very much for the concern shown during my unexpected hiatus three months ago.
He tasted a tinge of uncertainty on his lips.
A 24-year-old Draco Malfoy impatiently paced the gleaming tiles of Portkey Central in Tokyo, Japan. His immaculately polished leather shoes were clicking rhythmically against the floor like castanets and his arms were folding and unfolding themselves in a show of neuroticism. Draco's anxious grey eyes flickered from his watch to the massive information board of times and Portkey numbers that was suspended in the air. The words on the board erased and rewrote themselves magically with each departure or arrival, and it was apparent that Harry's Portkey had gone off without a hitch, so why wasn't he here yet?
It was early on a Tuesday morning, and Portkey Central was already a buzzing hive of organized activity. Knots of predominantly Japanese wizards and witches, who were presumably also waiting for their friends and families to return, lolled and milled aimlessly around Draco. A group of twittering Japanese teenagers was decked out in the latest Muggle fashion, complete with mismatched splodges of electric blue and fire-engine red nail polish had whipped their wands out and begun to excitedly scribble the name of the current Japanese wizarding heartthrob in the air with candy-pink glitter. Their high-pitched squeals grated on Draco's nerves after a moment, causing him to let out a harried growl between clenched teeth.
Draco tamped down the mounting cyst of uneasiness rising within him and hurried nearer to the welcoming area of the Portkey that had departed from London. There was no way he could have gotten the date or time wrong; that particular set of details had been imprinted irreversibly on his brain the second Harry had called him via his long-distance Muggle mobile phone one month ago.
Both Harry and Draco were currently working as senior Aurors, each having roughly four years of experience tacked proudly to their belt. Kingsley Shacklebolt had initially made them partners during their training, and they had gone at each other like hammer and tongs, until Draco accidentally saved Harry from losing a limb during one of their overnight missions. By so doing, he had set the wheel of uneasy alliance into motion, and Harry and Draco had gradually morphed from proper partners, to friends, to finally becoming lovers.
But Draco had recently been posted to Japan to follow up on a delicate and long-term case that involved the yakuza of Tokyo, much to Harry's despair. Of course, Harry had appealed to Shacklebolt to send him with Draco as usual, but Shacklebolt had firmly refused, and had paired Draco with Joey Carson, an American wizard who was a veritable treasure trove of information and skill when it came to the ways and traditions of the yakuza. Additionally, Shacklebolt knew very clearly that Draco's reticence, cunning and silver tongue, as opposed to Harry's recklessness and general hot-headedness, would be well-suited to this particular case.
Harry wouldn't have made such a big fuss if Draco was slated to be away for only a few weeks, or even half a year, but oh no, Harry's sweetheart was going to be staying in Japan for two years, which was more than enough to throw both men into a tizzy.
This was the first time Harry would be setting foot into the foreign land that was Japan, and Draco had been looking forward to this day the way a small boy would anticipate peeling the tempting wrapping off his long-awaited Christmas present. Draco craned his neck and rocked urgently up and down on the balls of his feet as he checked his watch one last time, trying in vain to suppress the tension that twisted like a snake in his belly.
Harry was twenty minutes late. Clawed fingers of shadow and disappointment melted into tired grey eyes, and Draco stretched his hand and began to rub his temples wearily with his thumb and index finger. He didn't know what he would do with himself if Harry failed to turn up today. Every cell in his body reeked of sheer desperation; each wasted second, each miserable tick of the clock and slither of sand past the slit of the hourglass was wearing him down, as though a malevolent force had taken a vengeful scissors to his buoyant, floating hopes of seeing Harry again after a drought of one month and sliced and diced them all up. And there was that feeling again, that painful, oh-so-painful, gashing sensation of his heart dropping, disconsolately, all the way down to his shoes-
And then he saw him.
Draco's hungry eyes latched onto Harry like iron filings zooming towards a magnet. With a gooey, heartwarming emotion that felt strangely like honey slathered messily all over his insides, Draco took note of the awkward, unsure half-smile that hung on Harry's lips, the way his rucksack was slung casually over his left shoulder, that tell-tale slouch that made Harry look shorter than he actually was, and yes, that head of tufty liquorice-black locks that promised never to behave no matter how much Draco tried to tame them without magic, the scuffed Converse sneakers that Draco had disliked on first sight, but a stubborn Harry had insisted on wearing everywhere, and it didn't take long before Draco just chalked it up to one of those endearing quirks that made Harry Harry-
"Harry!" Draco called out as he stuck a hand unceremoniously in the air and waved it around madly. He knew very well that he stuck out like a sore thumb in the sea of Asians, but at the rate that Harry was going, it was going to be sunset before the bloody Gryffindor noticed him, Merlin, was he still wearing those old glasses, Draco had nagged at him so many times over the phone that his eyesight wasn't getting any better, but it didn't really matter right now because Harry, his Harry was threading his way towards Draco and all of Draco's insecurities and heartache, felt but never verbalized, was dissipating like fog because Harry was here, not separated from Draco by miles and miles of sea and air and land, when the only comfort Draco could glean was the deep baritone quality of Harry's voice over the phone, a voice which had the most amazing ability to just burst out into the most glorious, the most beautiful chuckles and guffaws that Draco could feel vibrating pleasantly in the pit of his stomach all the way from London to Japan, but Harry was here, close enough to touch-
"Hey. Security was giving me problems about my travel documents. I'm sorry I'm late," Harry said, carding his fingers through his hair in that exact same way that sent Draco's heart thudding faster and jumpstarting the jaded blood in his system. Draco only smiled and shook his head, ignoring the fact that in the past twenty minutes he had been on pure tenterhooks. The two men simply stared at each other for a moment, each taking in the subtle differences in the other; Draco's hair was longer now, falling in soft, artful streaks across the right side of his face, and Harry had gotten even tanner, the healthy golden hue of his skin providing a stark contrast to the light yellow shirt that he wore.
The need to touch Harry, to feel his skin prickling hotly against his own, to interlock their fingers and to never let go was eating Draco up inside, so without any warning, Draco pursed his lips, reached over and grabbed Harry aggressively by the wrist, reveling in the wicked, rejuvenating rush of adrenaline that Harry's mere presence brought him.
The day had only just begun.
because life is time,
and for now,
time is all there is.
ACT I: BACKDROP
It was life in reverse.
The scene was splayed brilliantly out like a watercolor painting, resplendent in a full palette of scintillating colors. The canopy of trees above Harry had their branches arched protectively over his head, the calming emerald shade of their leaves rustling and mingling coquettishly with the jewels of light cast from the sun. Chirping birds took flight and twirled playfully high up above in the periwinkle blue sky, their wings clumsily sketching the outline of a dozen imaginary rainbows. Cheerful, voluminous clouds that promised a beautiful, clear afternoon ahead scudded gently across the sky. The sun was shining down on Harry like a well-earned blessing as the pond cleverly captured facets of sunlight that sparkled like powdered sugar.
Harry bent down and rested his elbows on the edge of the sturdy red bridge that arched across the pond. Nestled beside the huge grove of trees was meticulously manicured foliage; small hedges studded with vivid purple hyacinths and charming pink posies. Harry tilted his head towards the skyline of the buildings visible in the distance. They looked like offices and apartments, judging by the high influx of Japanese Muggles starting a new day at work and rushing out helter-skelter from their homes. A fountain, its spout spraying out gossamer rivulets of water that seemed as fragile and glimmering as spider's silk lolled lazily at the far side of the pond. A flurry of wind pirouetted around Harry's legs and made his red cloak billow behind him as he closed his eyes, savoring every whisper of breeze and the graze of mellow sunshine on his skin.
The slow, steady elapsing of the minutes, twinned with the soft, playful hushes of the wind, brought to mind an idyllic pace of life, a pace that Harry found himself becoming increasingly disconnected from. Back home in London, the maelstrom of sheer, utter noise, coupled with the hustle and bustle of cases and assignments piled on his table at work was enough to make him forget that places as tranquil and placid as this still existed.
It wasn't long before Draco hurried back from the numerous snack-carts that lined the roads of Ueno Koen Park, a stick of marshmallow-lookalikes gripped triumphantly in his hand. Harry turned and faced the other man, his eyes taking a languid tour of Draco's kimono-clad body and an appreciative grin poised on his lips.
"You have got to stop looking at me like that," Draco pointed out rather huffily, twitching a bit in the kimono. It was a deep, rich shade of viridian with black Japanese motifs emblazoned all over. A yellow belt, with blue at the borders, was cinched neatly around Draco's waist. The picture was completed by a flimsy beige paper umbrella clutched in Draco's left hand. With the sappy grin still plastered all over his face, Harry answered Draco rather cheekily, "It's my first time seeing you in a kimono. It takes some time getting used to it, but bloody hell, Draco, you really can look good in anything," Harry praised effusively. Draco smirked proudly, trying not to puff up with too much happiness at Harry's words. Draco himself had been a bit unsure about wearing a kimono initially, but he really thought that he looked rather decent, no, scratch that, he looked bloody brilliant in it, so he had hoped that it would be a pleasant surprise for Harry. Draco was glad that it had paid off.
"Try this. It's sakura mochi, red bean paste pastry. The leaf wrapped around it comes from the cherry blossom tree," Draco said, plucking a pink ball of dessert off the skewer and presenting it to Harry, his mouth curved upwards in an encouraging smile. Draco's sleeve rode up slightly, revealing the pale, unblemished quality of skin that complemented his kimono wonderfully. In return, Harry blinked quizzically, one eyebrow raised with slight hesitation and his hands half-shoved into the pockets of his black pants. Finally, Harry shrugged casually, leant forward, nipped the pastry off Draco's fingers and began to chew on it slowly.
"How is it?" Draco asked after Harry swallowed thickly.
"Can I have one more?" Harry asked, a sticky beam on his lips. Draco nodded and passed the skewer to Harry, who helped himself unabashedly. Draco shifted his umbrella to his other hand, and with a sideways glance, checked that Harry was done with his mochi before resting his hand on Harry's wrist. In response, Harry felt his heart melt like hot butter on a stove.
In their relationship, it was obvious that Draco was the one who chose to keep his feelings more to himself, while Harry tended to lean towards the opposite. It meant a lot to Harry that the other man was taking the first initiative, because this was a non-verbal statement that imissyou-, and because, because sometimes words, misleading, plain and disjointed words could just be static in the background-
Harry caught Draco's hand smartly and turned it over, hooking his fingers nimbly between Draco's and tugging him closer all in one smooth, fluid motion of comfortable familiarity. The two of them stood there quietly for a moment, immersing themselves in their surroundings and in each other.
The ducks in the pond had their bottoms comically up in the air as they dived down to latch their beaks to the morsels of food that a handful of families were throwing to them. Small clusters of parents were sprawled leisurely across the park engaging in mini-picnics, their young children running and burbling joyously all over the place like comets. Smatterings of schoolgirls with knee-high socks and their hair tied up into kawaii styles lounged on the stone benches, their fingernails busy working up a storm on their mobile phones.
Harry looked down at the wrinkled cherry blossom leaves between his fingers and turned his head back curiously.
"It's cherry blossom season now, isn't it?" Harry piped up and gestured towards the pink snowstorm of trees which were drawing much livelier crowds. Freshly budded and bloomed cherry blossoms, like a precious reincarnated sliver of life, graced the branches of the cherry blossom trees. Draco led Harry to the other side of the red bridge, turned their backs to the skyline of buildings and began to explain, his words punctuated occasionally by gestures towards the pink posters taped around the park that advertised the cherry blossom season, and the steadily-growing clumps of Japanese gathering under the trees.
"I was wondering when you were going to notice. It's hanami season now, which also means cherry blossom season in Japan. In Tokyo, it starts at the beginning of April and the blossoms bloom only for seven to ten days. In March, the Japanese have a lot of events going on in their lives, such as school graduation ceremonies and the finalization of reports at work, so when it's time for the cherry blossoms to bud, it's really like a refreshing change. It's a big thing for them, they'll have parties and everything, and it won't be long before the Japanese working around here come over to the park and enjoy the view of the blossoms too," Draco finished, his eyes glazing over with delight when he saw the childish excitement on Harry's face.
"I've never seen cherry blossoms bloom before! Can we go closer?" Harry suggested, and without waiting for an answer, he grabbed Draco's elbow and darted at full speed towards the main attraction of Ueno Koen Park.
but don't ever forget,
time is tickticktick-ticking away;
ACT II: DINNER
It was only today that Draco Malfoy realized that Harry Potter, his lover of one year and thirty days, was an utter and epic failure at using chopsticks.
"But we've always ordered Chinese takeaway back in London and oh, that's why you always kept insisting that Mei at the Chinese store had forgotten to provide chopsticks for you! You threw away your pair of chopsticks secretly and took the fork from your kitchen, Harry, you big fat liar!" Draco teased mercilessly, bubbles of not unkind laughter issuing from his lips.
The pair was having their dinner in a small and simple but cozy Japanese noodle and rice shop after an exhilarating whirlwind day spent at Tokyo's major attractions, such as Harajuku and Ueno Zoo. Their shopping bags and memorabilia were tucked safely under the table and shielded from the gloomy weather by their legs.
The droplets of rain fell like bullets from the sky and plopped hard on the pavement behind Harry, who could feel wayward pinpricks of rainwater splashing from nearby puddles lashing at the back of his legs. A dangerously silent crack of skeletal lightning flashed and sizzled overhead, and Harry raised a hand and placed it on the small of Draco's back, guiding him farther into the toasty-warmth atmosphere of the shop. The pedestrians behind the two wizards kept their heads down and scurried their way back home, eager to get out of the stifling rain, kick their damp shoes off their throbbing, exhausted feet and bask in the comfort and intimacy of their own homes.
Crimson signs that had "welcome" written on them in Chinese flapped vigorously in the razor-sharp wind. The periodically-flickering flames in the spherical lanterns emanated an invigorating glow. The chef that had prepared Harry and Draco's food was a relatively young man, and it was apparent that he took great pride in his little stand.
Two steaming vats of miso soup boiled and bubbled with contentment, alleviating the harsh and chilly emptiness, an unwanted side-effect that the rain brought. The menu was propped up right in front of Draco, one side of it presenting mouth-watering pictures of the delicacies the shop offered while the other proposed healthier alternatives, such as more vegetables and a smaller portion of noodles.
Condiments such as wasabi and shoyu were readily available in matching green canisters, and every careless drop of stray soya sauce around the serving table and the chef's worktable was immediately identified courtesy of his sharp-as-switchblade eyes and wiped up within seconds when he spotted it. The supply of chopsticks, also housed in green canisters with hand-painted cherry blossoms on them, was diligently replenished when they were running low-
Ah yes, the chopsticks.
"It's just two sticks together, it can't be that bad! I'm sure I'll get the hang of it, just you wait and see," Harry protested, then fell silent when Draco looked pointedly at the grains of rice drowning in Harry's condiment-plate of shoyu and the bits and pieces of chicken scattered all over Harry's bowl. Harry pouted theatrically and squared his shoulders with intense determination, clacked his chopsticks together fiercely and nudged a prawn bravely towards the ends of his chopsticks.
"See, it's perfectly fine!" Harry proclaimed pretentiously as the prawn quivered alarmingly between his chopsticks.
"No, it's not! You're holding it all wrong, the tips of your fingers are too close to the ends, come on, I'll teach you properly-"
"Hang on, hang on-" Harry continued stubbornly and before he knew it, he had jerked his wrist too much to the side-
Both Harry and Draco watched, mortified, as Harry's poor prawn fell forlornly from Harry's ineptly-held chopsticks into his cup of hot sake. The prawn floated around the top of Harry's sake sadly for a moment before swirling miserably down to the bottom of his cup.
"Oops," Harry said sheepishly and rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. The raspberry clouds of embarrassment that were dusted against his cheeks escalated to full voltage when the very amused chef whisked out a clean spoon and presented it to Harry with a formal bow.
"You could have told me right at the start, Harry. I would have taught you how to use them," Draco offered primly, lifting up the cover of his miso soup and sipping carefully from it. It was only then that Harry noticed the twin rings looped around the middle and pinky fingers of Draco's left hand. The two golden bands were devoid of design or embellishment, but Harry recognized them immediately. Without warning, he whooped blithely and wrapped his fingers around the slim taper of Draco's wrist.
"I gave you these two rings during our first sixth-month anniversary! And I thought you didn't like them," Harry recalled, his face falling slightly and his voice spiraling into steep curves of disappointment. The rings were far from fancy, and although it wasn't as tacky to have both of their initials inscribed on them, it was apparent that Draco didn't care much for the rings. Yes, the blond did go through the clockwork motion of smiling gracefully and thanking Harry for the 'delightful gift', but this was the first time that Harry had ever seen Draco wearing it.
"I just… wanted to give them a good airing, that's all. Don't you dare read too much into it," Draco shot back a tad uncomfortably, a fact that Harry noted positively with glee. Harry placed his fingers on one ring and slid it off marginally, dislodging it from its snug resting position.
There was a very visible tan-line around Draco's finger.
"Now who's the sneaky one lying?" Harry announced with a proud flourish, his smile morphing into a smirk.
In return, Draco blushed slightly, snatched his hand back and re-fitted his ring. "Yes, I didn't like them at all on first sight, but they grew on me after a while. Sort of like you, actually," Draco remarked lightly, raising an eyebrow eloquently at that loaded sentence.
It was then that Draco's bowl of tempura udon arrived, and Draco thanked the chef in Japanese politely.
"So when are you going to start romancing me in Japanese?" Harry asked cheekily as he shoveled portions of rice into his mouth with his new spoon. Draco took his time answering, choosing instead to entwine his noodles deftly with his chopsticks and take a mouthful of his dinner before replying.
"Only when you learn how to use chopsticks properly," Draco said in an equally playful tone, the cadence of his voice lilting up in an oh-so-familiar manner that was music to Harry's ears.
Conversation flowed freely during the meal as they speedily provided each other with condensed versions of their lives for the previous month. However, it was still pouring outside when they finished their meal, and Draco looked at the rain in mounting dismay. They didn't have much time together left, and the last thing Draco wanted was to be stuck at a noodle shop when they could be back at his apartment luxuriating leisurely in one another's presence.
"Please," the chef piped up graciously and withdrew an umbrella from the depths of his worktable. He handed it over to Draco, who blinked and accepted it with a grateful bow. Harry, on the other hand, rewarded the flimsy umbrella with a dubious look but kept silent. With that, Harry and Draco hauled their purchases together, slung the bags up their arms and ducked out of the scaffolding of the shop into the hostile weather before them.
"It looks like it's going to fall apart anytime," Harry pointed out unhelpfully, lifting his concerned green eyes up to the shaky structure of the umbrella which looked like it was fighting a losing battle against the howling wind. Draco huffed slightly, tightened his green jacket around his shoulders and picked up their pace, but it only took a few unfriendly gusts before the umbrella collapsed completely, the gauzy, chiffon-like material tearing into small fragments.
"Let's just run!" Draco yelled while he dipped his head, increased his pressure on Harry's wrist and yanked the other man along. Rivulets of rain lashed angrily at their bodies, soaking both men to the bone and blurring Harry's glasses until he couldn't see a single thing.
"Hang on, my glasses-" Harry grunted and tugged Draco into a remote alley. He plucked the glasses off the bridge of his nose and attempted to dry them off, but failed miserably as the hem of his shirt was drowning in rainwater too.
And it was at that exact moment when Harry was performing his daily routine of cleaning his glasses that Draco realized how much he had missed Harry, missed him until there was an actual, physical pain roiling and churning and swilling and burning in his insides all at the same time when Harry was not with him for his first month in Japan, all those lonely, empty days that Draco had spent, trying to adjust and assimilate into the alien Japanese culture, and oh God, here Harry was, in front of him, his black hair sharpened into spiky points from the rain, and Harry was biting his lip in the exact same way he did whenever he was puzzled by something, and all of these emotions were suddenly distilling into an overwhelming dam-burst of affection it was a miracle that Draco didn't just melt into a pool of need, want and lust on the slick streets of Japan-
Before he knew what he was doing, an out-of-control Draco yanked Harry's glasses out of his hands, wrapped his arms around the other man's neck and pressed his lips hungrily onto Harry's. Draco swallowed Harry's startled yelp and could only kiss him harder, disbelief and love reverberating and darting like fireflies from the tips of his fingers all the way down to his toes. Harry recovered his equilibrium quickly and pushed Draco roughly against the wall, his calloused fingers separating the sticky connection between Draco's bare back and shirt, their reinvigorated hearts beating out unwritten love letters to each other-
Draco clawed desperately at Harry's new shirt that they had just bought today, a simple red shirt with a picture of a dragon on it. He let out a moan that resonated between their mouths, and that only spurred Harry further. His eyes fluttered open and rested on Draco's snowy eyelashes, the fine, aristocratic curve of his jaw, a jaw that would jut out combatively whenever they had their fights, but fuck, he loved every single part of Draco, every single fucking part of Draco so bad that he would die, die of an irreversible, incurable heartbreak without him-
"Never, ever leave me," Harry panted out between kisses, his lips working their way down the slim curve of Draco's throat and planting a necklace of kisses around the base of his neck. The blond could only throw his head back in blissful surrender and arch his fingers around Harry's broad, heart-stopping shoulders.
"Never," Draco promised solemnly, the tail of that single word hiking up into a groan when Harry nibbled on his collarbone, marking him for all and sundry to see. Drunken grey eyes latched onto predatory green ones, and Harry snarled possessively as he mashed their lips together, running his tongue over Draco's swollen lips that tasted like strawberry and cream, and Draco returned the sheer desire and ardor that Harry fed him-
Power-hungry lightning flashed threateningly on the landscape, the rain was pelting down on them with a furious vengeance, drenching them, and there was this incredible snap of thunder, the roaring of rain pounding about their ears, the puddles of rainwater pooling around the bottoms of their shoes and seeping into their socks and their shopping bags, but it didn't matter, nothing mattered at all because the world outside HarryandDraco meant nothing, as though the both of them were in a snow-globe and everything was insignificant, inconsequential, immaterial-
it's night now-
and it will be morning tomorrow.
how a heartbreak sounds.
"You two look like what a kitten would drag in!"
Both Harry and Draco greeted the shocked announcement with dopey smiles spread all over the bottom halves of their faces.
The pair had just trudged into the main hub of the Ministry of Magic offices of Tokyo, Japan. Since it was already after working hours, most of the offices had been vacated by now, except for a group of Unspeakables who were huddled in a corner discussing strategies for an episode of field work later. This particular branch of the Ministry of Magic, albeit smaller, didn't differ much from the branch that Harry was intimately familiar with back in England. There had been flying Post-Its boarding the lift with them, there were neat, well-behaved rows of Floo fireplaces studding the walls, and there was still tasteful décor arranged artfully in the offices, but with an Oriental air this time.
Mizuki Akihiko, the Head Auror in charge of the Japanese division, stared incredulously at the couple. The tall, devastatingly handsome Japanese wizard got up from his seat and eyed Harry Potter with a calculating gleam as though sizing him up.
"You must be Harry Potter. Over here, we have heard a lot of your… adventures with Voldemort. It is a pleasure to meet you finally," Akihiko said in heavily-accented but relatively fluent English, inclining his head slightly in recognition and shaking Harry's hand.
"Thanks. Kingsley always talks favorably about you whenever he mentions his work here. Japan really is a beautiful place," Harry commended.
"I'm happy that you enjoyed your day here and I hope that you have a safe Portkey back to London tomorrow," Akihiko finished before turning directly to Draco and reminding him firmly, "Briefing tomorrow morning at ten. I will see you then."
"Have a good night," Draco said and led Harry through a labyrinth of densely-guarded winding corridors and ponderous doors. There were two occasions on which Harry had to withdraw his wand and tap it on the sensors before he was granted access. It didn't take long before the pair reached the small apartment in which Draco and Joey cohabited. The lights were all switched on when Draco whispered the pass-code and swiped the tip of his wand in the lock of the door.
"Did you enjoy your day out, oh, it's Harry Potter! I forgot that you were having a guest over today," Joey Carson exclaimed heartily in an American accent as he casually leant back on the doorjamb of the kitchen and tilted his frying pan to the left. Spurting and sizzling globules of hot oil bounced off the rashers of bacon and yolky, quivering centers of the eggs.
"I would shake your hand, but, well," Joey shrugged apologetically and gestured to his occupied hands. "Want some?" Joey offered the pan in their direction with a friendly grin.
"No, thanks. We just finished dinner. I'll see you tomorrow morning," Draco said quickly, his nose wrinkling with distaste at the congealing film of oil that coated the pan and Joey's late-night cravings of bacon and eggs. In response, Joey tossed them a thumbs-up and wandered back to the kitchen, whistling a jaunty tune under his breath.
The apartment was smaller than what Harry was accustomed to back home and furnished with the bare minimum, but it was cozy and big enough for both Joey and Draco. The blond drew open the sliding shoji doors and stepped over the threshold into his room. Harry followed suit, his eyes absorbing in every detail of his current surroundings. A small, paper lamp stood like a sentry near the sliding doors. Harry carefully placed his rucksack and shopping bags in a corner of the room, his bare feet treading slowly on the traditional tatami flooring.
There was a table directly opposite the doors which housed a small, decorative bonsai plant. Beside the plant was an ornately-carved statue of a majestic dragon, its wings spread out grandiosely. A furrow formed between Harry's brows and he moved closer to the ornament. It was no ordinary adornment; Harry's well-trained eye could detect a heavy cloud of magic wafting around the dragon.
"Safety Portkey?" Harry suggested.
"Yes. Joey has one in his room too, just in case the yakuza find some obscure way to storm the area and seize everything. But there's no need to worry, it's only a precaution," Draco added hurriedly when Harry's features sagged with extreme worry.
Thick tomes with yellowed pages were arranged meticulously in alphabetical order beside the Portkey, and beside those books was a photograph of Harry and Draco in their earlier days as a couple. In the picture, Draco had his arms folded, his twinkling grey eyes rolling upwards, an embarrassed half-smile dancing on his lips and an expression of amused exasperation on his face. Harry, on the other hand, was charm personified. The photograph accentuated Harry's side-profile as he alternated between kissing Draco unabashedly and noisily on the cheek and grinning lopsidedly at the camera.
"I bet you stare at it every night while you're missing me, don't you?" Harry said shamelessly, flopping down on the bed and gazing at the picture with a lovelorn look in his eyes.
"No I don't! And move your arse, you're getting everything wet!" Draco demanded and booted a squealing Harry off his bed. Draco opened his closet and took out a set of face and body towels.
"The bathroom's to your left, two doors down," Draco instructed. With that, Harry dug out a fresh set of clothes from his rucksack and trotted off towards the shower. Draco waited until Harry had left before picking up the frame and looking at it contemplatively for a quiet moment.
If only he knew how close to the truth he was, Draco mused as he tenderly traced the silhouette of Harry's full lips, lips a rich cherry pink that Draco fantasized about kissing in his dreams when Harry was not with him, but now, now, Draco would kiss Harry all night and never dare to let him go-
ACT III: DANCING
"You're spoiling me, you know that?" Harry said huskily from behind as he slid his arms smoothly around Draco's kimono-clad waist and squeezed the other man gently. Draco had his own elbows resting calmly on the wrought-iron railings of the compact balcony outside his room which offered a panoramic view of the dozens of skyscrapers ahead. The moon, creamy-white and luminous, reposed idly in the night sky, flanked by sporadic stars that seemed precious and rare as perfect diamonds with the velvet curtain of sky as their backdrop. Draco smiled and turned his head towards Harry, his softly-lidded eyes catching slivers of moonlight and taking Harry's breath away.
Draco had skin that begged to be touched, and Harry could only oblige eagerly, his lips ghosting softly against the back of Draco's neck and toying with the bow behind Draco's kimono. They felt like they were on the top of the world, caught up irrevocably in each other, when suddenly there was a curious whistling sound and a loud bang that startled both men.
"Fireworks!" Draco exclaimed in pleasant surprise and tugged Harry nearer to the edge of the balcony.
"Wow," Harry breathed in awe, his eyes hooking onto each twirl, whirl and scatter of the explosives that fanned out brilliantly in the sky. They came in all shapes, colors and sizes; lime-green circles that sprayed out like dandelion puffs accompanied by deep purple rockets that ricocheted out from what seemed like nowhere into the clouds beyond.
"Does this happen often?" Harry asked after the display had concluded. Draco paused before answering, letting out a strange, hollow, mirthless little chuckle that sent alarm crackling down Harry's nerves.
"Often enough," Draco said quietly. Often enough for me to miss you, Draco thought privately to himself as he turned away and refused to look Harry in the eyes.
"What's wrong?" Harry enquired softly and caught Draco by the wrist, forcing the blond to face him. Draco lifted his head and gazed into Harry's eyes, those steady and focused eyes that had held Draco in thrall right from the very day, the split-second moment when Harry had stubbornly grabbed Draco at that fateful Ministry function and forced Draco to dance with him-
It was the little things that sent Draco's heart cramping like a wound, little things that were meant to be shared between two people, things like romantic shows of fireworks and on occasions when Akihiko praised Draco for a job well done. And after this night, after this deserved honeymoon period, Harry would be going back home, and things would revert back to the humdrum of daily life.
There were times, oh, times when Draco could feel the splinter in his heart that sounded frighteningly like ice-cubes hitting lukewarm water, when Draco tried so hard, so unbelievably hard to conjure Harry, to summon traces and memories and to piece Harry together from scratch, and the pull between them that would never fade until this bothersome, long-distance aspect of their relationship was over-
"I'm scared that I'll forget you. I'm scared that you'll find someone else. I don't want… I don't want to lose you," Draco said quietly, newfound jealousy and anger storming his veins when he imagined some good-looking bloke stealing his Harry from him under his nose.
"Draco, Draco, Draco, look at me, please. Nothing's going to happen to us, alright? I'll commute back and forth every month-"
"That's the thing. I can only see you in two months," Draco hissed out, spitting the words out like pebbles.
"What?" Harry exclaimed, shock echoing in every pore.
"We're going through a crucial juncture in the case right now. Akihiko has warned us about the consecutive nightly stakeouts that we'll have to go through. I can't tell you the specifics of the case, but for the next two months, we'll be concentrating our search and energies on other parts of Japan, namely Hokkaido, Osaka and Kyoto. It appears that there are some underground operations in these places that are worth exploring. That's why I'm worried, Harry," Draco elaborated, the disappointment and despondency etched on Harry's features nibbling at his flailing confidence with every passing second.
"Well, since we're in confessional mode right now, I'll let you know that I'm taking the Murphy case," Harry confided, his voice so low that Draco had to make an extra effort to catch his words. Draco immediately blanched.
"No way! No way in hell you're taking the Murphy case! You must have known how dangerous and high-profile it is, how could you even think of-"
"Does it matter, Draco? Does it matter a single bit when you're away on the other side of the world and when I go back after work every night to an empty home? I'd rather work myself to death than mope myself to misery! There's no one in bed beside me, there's no one to cuddle with when the nights are cold and lonely, and every bloody thing reminds me of you, your clothes that you left at my place when you used to stay over with me, your favorite spot on the couch and your scent, you've been away for so long that even the sheets and the bathroom don't smell like you anymore, God, Draco, sometimes I miss you so much, so fucking much I could, I could-" Harry snarled caustically in a noxious cocktail of despair, desperation and distress, his emotions swilling in a never-ending, heartbreaking cycle.
The bitterness was polluting, asphyxiating the air around them like the most acrid smoke, and suddenly, all of their fears, all of the uncertainties that plagued their relationship, compounded by the danger and instability of their chosen profession began to take root in their hearts. Reality was circling and hovering like an ugly, bloodthirsty vulture, waiting for the first cut to draw blood from-
Draco maintained his stoic silence and turned his back stonily on Harry, his eyes as cold and unfeeling as a slab of marble. The precious hourglass worth of time that they had was evaporating like a rainbow in the heavens. How could they survive like this with their hearts for hire? What was the point of sweeping the cobwebs off the incisions nicked carelessly on their hearts when it was going to happen all over again when Harry left?
It was strange how the mood had suddenly swung from one pendulum to the other.
"Draco. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have lost my temper like that," Harry admitted quietly and slowly snuck a hand out and slipped a finger rather gingerly in between Draco's fingers.
Draco shrugged Harry off brusquely.
Fate could bring them together, what if Draco had never saved Harry on that Auror mission that fateful day, but fate could also singlehandedly decimate and destroy everything that Harry and Draco had built up, perhaps a curse gone wrong or the appearance of a third party within those two years. Fate, if guided by an erroneous and malicious hand, could empty them of everything, taint and mar every single glorious memory, send their wishes and regrets bleeding all over the bathroom floor-
Harry's lips sealed themselves into a grim line, but he soldiered on. He shifted closer to the other man, pressed his front to Draco's back and steadfastly wrapped his arms tightly around Draco. In return, Draco stiffened, his body held as taut as a bow, for a short moment, before sighing softly and relaxing his ramrod spine.
They stayed like that for a while, Draco's non-verbal signals spelling out sentences and words that only Harry could understand-
"I don't want this either. I'm scared, Harry. I'm scared something untoward will happen to you or me. I'm scared that one of us will find someone new. I'm scared that… that we won't last," Draco whispered, scrunching his eyes shut and shaking his head vigorously as though thinking about them would make all those things come true-
Harry let his precariously-held breath out in a hot rush and forced Draco to turn around and face him. And this vignette was the picture that spoke a thousand words, this scene that could make a total stranger freeze in his tracks and simply stop and stare, because how was it possible, how was it possible for so much emotion and love and worry and pain and everything else in between to be expressed in just a mere spark of bravery in a smile, a tender flick of blond hair and fingers curling around the wool of a green turtleneck sweater-
Harry held Draco as close as humanely possible to him, his fingers stringing themselves through the alabaster tendrils of his lover's hair and his other hand resting on Draco's shoulder, beseeching him to listen. Harry's lips were curved comfortingly upwards in a reassuring smile. Tousled locks of black hair ruffled calmly in the wind as though invisible fingertips had rearranged it all.
Draco's eyebrows were knitted together in a transparent display of anxiety, and when coupled with the tremble of melancholy that was reflected in his half-lidded grey eyes, it was more than enough for Harry to want to sweep it all away and just run away from the world, just him and Draco, because that was all they needed-
"We've been through so much together starting all the way back at Hogwarts, Draco. Do you remember the Forbidden Forest and Fang? How could you let this temporary separation weaken what we've got between us? Please, Draco, please don't let what isn't going to happen break us up. We'll be fine, just fine, and I know it," Harry said assertively, punctuating his last word with a bold nod.
"Okay," an assuaged Draco murmured in reply. He reached up and rested his chin on Harry's shoulder, feeling relief exerting its soothing force on him.
"Let's dance," Harry suddenly piped up abruptly, much to Draco's consternation.
"Have you gone mad? There's no music, there's not enough space here at all," Draco protested amidst snickers.
"Let's do it exactly how we did it almost one year ago. Remember at the Ministry function, when I grabbed you and just whisked you to the dance floor and you punched me after stepping on my toes-"
"It was not a punch, it was more of… more of a pinch on the jaw. Honestly, Harry, you have got to stop exaggerating matters," Draco pointed out with a haughty little sniff, which dissolved into a genuine, heartbreaker smile. "Besides, I asked you out the day after. God, if you never had put your inhibitions away and dragged me to dance, I think we'd still be in denial."
In reply, Harry only grinned and twirled Draco around the balcony, the fresh peals of their youthful laughter and Harry's out-of-tune humming creating the soundtrack of their last night together.
The kiss was as luxurious as satin against skin, as smooth as cream and melted chocolate and as unforgettable as their first date. Their lips slid hotly against each other, their breaths sweet as caramel and molasses and their bodies tingling with molten electricity.
The scent of burning hormones and unreserved longing lingered in the air like the most potent form of magic. Draco kicked the covers back, sneaking them playfully down his abdomen to his naked thighs. Explicit desire bubbled in Harry's eyes and he growled heatedly. Draco bit his lower lip flirtatiously and pouted, his lips reminding Harry of cherry blossoms and the delicate cupid's-bow curve of Draco's upper lip driving him crazy with lust.
A warring tussle of limbs ensued, and Draco ended up locked beneath Harry, who smiled wickedly like a sinner and dipped his head, leaving trails of burning kisses all over Draco's shoulders and chest, marveling at the way Draco was offering himself up like the most decadent, the sweetest dessert that no one else could afford but him, and him alone-
"Mine," Harry said shortly, his grunt eloquent with passion and need as he parted Draco's legs urgently and thrust his hips roughly against Draco's.
"I'm all yours to take," Draco managed in between breathless gasps while a smirking Harry continued his rhythmic maneuvers. Draco's lips were held slightly apart, little, rousing moans falling forth. His eyes closed, his head tipped back and his arms snaked voraciously around Harry's neck, the very epitome of surrender.
They were breathing in perfect synchronization, their muscles and nerves were tingling with pleasure, butterflies were fluttering about the border of their tummies and long-suppressed affection and lust was pumping wildly back into their veins, both of them hoping that this night would never, ever end-
meeting is only-
the beginning of parting.
It had happened like a dream, complete with bedroom eyes twinned with halos of happiness.
And now, it was time to wake up.
"I'll learn how to use chopsticks properly and you better brush up on your Japanese to romance me when I see you two months later, alright?" Harry said and ran his tongue cheekily around his mouth.
"Alright," Draco said. His smile felt like his lips had forcibly been plastered on his teeth and inside, deep inside the cloisters of his heart, it felt like china crashing and shattering against cement-
"Hey. Smile for me, okay? Anyway, I've got something for you," Harry said as he ferreted around in his bulging rucksack.
Draco perked up immediately.
"Here. It's what I've done every night for the past month. I know it's not much, but it shows you how much I miss you," Harry said shyly and handed over the envelope of love letters. With his eyes as wide as full moons, Draco blushed slightly and accepted the bundle of letters.
"I picked this up for you too, and I had to use magic to preserve it," Draco said and presented Harry with a wrapped cherry blossom. "To the Chinese, the cherry blossom symbolizes love. But I prefer the Japanese version of the meaning of the cherry blossom. Since the cherry blossom blooms only for a short while, it signifies fleeting life. It signifies how fragile, how fast things can change, and it also means…" Draco trailed off sadly, but both of them knew what he was about to say.
It also means how easy it is to destroy a long-distance relationship.
"I have to go now, Draco. They're calling my Portkey number," Harry said hopelessly, feeling a gulf of pain cascading through his insides and a stake ramming itself repeatedly into his heart. Their time had been as brief as a light shower of snow, and it would not be enough, it would never be enough until Harry could have Draco back in his arms again, where their time together would not be governed by the merciless, hateful and relentless marching beat of the clock-
With that, Harry turned and began to slouch away, and Draco tried to slam on the emotional brakes, but he could feel it, could feel the slow, pressing despair seeping into every nook and crevice. Snapshots of their previous day tumbled through his mind, bringing with them pain and pleasure, and the fact that Draco could only hold on to so much before Harry would be gone-
He would return to his room alone and think "Harry was just here an hour ago."
He would pass by the noodle shop tonight and think "Harry was here, with me, having dinner yesterday night."
He would sink forlornly into his bed and think "I can smell him on the sheets, I think, I think I might just-"
And now, he was left with sorrow his only souvenir.
"Don't go. Harry, Harry, please don't go!" Draco croaked out, seized by an overwhelming urge to sob his foolish heart out, right in the middle of the busy Portkey Central, but Draco discovered that he didn't care, he didn't give a fucking damn because there was this pain shredding everything into half, this actual, unbelievable, tangible and physical pain that he could never and would never put into words-
Harry looked back, his heart flipping over and plummeting like an out-of-rhythm ballerina when he saw Draco standing there, fear and sadness carved into his pleading eyes, his lips the color of crushed roses and his bag of letters dangling gloomily from his hand-
"I'm here," Harry said, his voice breaking because within those two words were a hundred nestled in between-
Harry swept Draco up in a panic-stricken kiss and grabbed his hands, interlocking their fingers together. They held hands for a long while, both not daring to let go, a mess of fingers stroking knuckles and pinching the web of skin between index finger and thumb gently, the soft, delicate grazing of fingernails against bare skin, Harry's thumb flicking over the tell-tale ridge on Draco's pinky that he loved so much, and Draco squeezing the back of Harry's hand, it was so important, so vital to keep contact just in case the other should disappear just in the blink of an eye, and that time was here, oh God, it was here, there was that wretched voice calling Harry's name over and over on the announcement system, and they had to disconnect, the only thing left was to let go-
With that, Harry could only drop one last kiss on Draco's cheek and slump away. But before that, Harry turned back and shot Draco a single look, a look that could only be conveyed between two people meant to be together. It was something more complex than a glance, something deeper than a glimpse, but not as disconcerting as a stare, and they tried to slow it down, tried to prolong it to make it last, but it didn't take long before Harry melted into the deluge of nameless and unrecognizable faces.
Draco stifled a soft sob and hugged the bag of letters to his chest.
These were letters that were written by Harry, each sentimentally-penned word and carefully-constructed sentence bound to send Draco's heartstrings into a whimsical tap-dance. And these were the letters that Draco would thumb through again and again when the nights stretched too long and too cold, these were letters that would be wrinkled and yellowed and preserved even when Draco returned to London because this wasn't just ink on parchment, it was a testament of their love-
They've had dinner and dancing and shimmers of forever.
And when they got through the next two years, the only thing left would be whispers of an eternity and promises of a lifetime.