Chapter Twenty: I Try To Stay Composed, But I Feel The Fever Grow
"Dad! I won't want to go to sleep yet!" My youngest, Lily, said mid yawn. I smiled at her, tucking her quilt up around her slender frame. Her night dress hugged her tiny shoulders and her dark curls hung around her face. She was the spitting image of me with Ginny's eyes and a few soft freckles along the tops of her cheeks.
"You have to, sweetpea, or Santa won't bring you any presents. Now, go to sleep, darling."
"Dad, Santa's not real. He's a mascot for toy store corporations in America. Everyone knows that." I laughed quietly, kissing her pale forehead as I brought the blanket up higher, tucking it under her chin.
"My smart little girl, where did you ever hear something like that?" I asked her, and her face grew solemn.
"Albus said he heard it from some boys at school a while back. He says they say some pretty mean things, and that they don't believe in fairy tales or anything. He says they say it's all a big joke and that anyone who believes in stuff so foolish is just a baby.." I sighed quietly as I pushed my fingers through her curls again. Even after all these years, some things just refused to change at Hogwarts.
"They're just silly boys, Lily, who feel like they need to grow up too fast. You and your brothers should pay them no mind at all, alright? Santa is completely real. If you didn't believe in him, you wouldn't receive any presents." Lily's eyes widened like tiny saucers as she brought her quilt over her mouth. After a moment, she brought it down enough to whisper to me.
"I believe, Daddy. I do." I smiled at her.
"That's my good little girl. Now, go to sleep, sweetpea." Lily nodded slowly, curling into a ball as I pulled away from her. I turned out her bedside lamp and began to make my way to her door on the other side of the room when she whispered out to me again.
"Do you believe in Santa, Daddy?" I chuckled quietly.
"Of course I do." I waited for her to say anything else, but when nothing came I stepped out of her room, quietly shutting her door. Ginny emerged from Albus, James, and Scorpius' room a moment later and smiled down the hall at me.
"Finally, they're all asleep," She said as she came towards me, her night dress hanging loosely from her shoulders. "I was almost certain Albus and Scorpius would never settle down enough to get into bed, let alone fall asleep."
I smiled sweetly at her, leaning down to kiss her freckled cheek. "Boys will be boys, Gin. It's a wonder James puts up with them, to be honest. Perhaps he just remembers being like that when he was younger." Ginny nodded once before pressing ahand to my chest. I watched her stand up on her toes before her lips graced mine in a kiss. My eyes slid shut, but behind them I did not picture my wife, but rather Draco, with his pale blond hair and deep, beautiful blue eyes.
I looked down at Ginny when she pulled away, smiling at her. My heart gave a kick of disappointment followed by regret. I knew I could not deny her the truth for much longer, that I loved and cherished Draco with all of my heart, but the idea of hurting her made my heart twist and my throat seal up. Because it wouldn't just be Ginny, but our children, Ron and Hermione, Ginny's parents and older brothers… I would lose them all, but I would lose Draco if I continued to pretend and to hide…
It was moments like these where I wished Voldemort was still alive, so that I could be preoccupied with saving the world from the Dark Lord instead of choosing between the man I loved desperately and keeping my family from falling to shambles.
Ginny brushed her fingers through my hair, gentle and sweet, as she always did when she was hinting at wanting a night of intimacy. "Come to bed, Harry." Translation: let's make love now that our children are finally asleep.
I leaned into her touch and kissed her gentle and chaste. "I have work." Translation: I'm going to go sleep with Draco instead.
Ginny huffed. "Harry, it's Christmas Eve. Surely your work can wait? I can't imagine why the Minister would need anything over the holidays…" Ginny's tone was clipped, her eyes hard with scrutiny as she stared up at me. The twist in my heart returned as I kissed her hand.
"I neglected a few things and he wants them done as soon as possible," I lied, avoiding her eyes while trying desperately to make it seem like I wasn't hiding anything from her. Ginny sighed quietly, pulling her hand from my grasp.
"Harry. It's Christmas Eve, surely it can wait?" Ginny pleaded. I gave her an apologetic look and a shake of my head slowly. It killed me to lie to her, but I hadn't had a moment alone with Draco in what felt like eternity almost, and I was becoming incredibly desperate for his company. I had come to depend on his gentle touch and soft words, sweet kisses in our moments alone. Now with three children and a teenager running around, it was too much of a risk to even steal glances let alone much else. "Why? Why is it so important for this work to be completed tonight?"
I sighed. "I don't know, Gin. The Minister said—"
"Harry, please, I hardly believe the Minister would need paperwork at midnight on Christmas Eve. If there's something else going on, please just tell me, Harry…"
"Ginny, there's nothing…"
"Don't tell me there's nothing, Harry, because there is definitely something. I don't know what it is and I'm sure there is a part of me that would rather not know, that would rather just be in the dark about the whole situation, but damnit, Harry… enough with all of this. Enough with the secrecy and the work that I can hardly believe even really exists. Just be honest with me, because I believe I at least deserve that much from you."
I swallowed hard, finding my chest begin to tighten almost painfully as I gazed at Ginny through the dim light of the hallway. Her hair was pulled back, exposing the tension in her jaw, the vein in her throat, and the hurt and frustration in her eyes. Perhaps the most painful part of staring at her was knowing I had put that strain there, I had put that frustration and misery into her expression, her eyes. And it was all because I couldn't be honest with her; I couldn't tell her that I fancied Draco, fancied fucking Draco, fancied the idea of one day being fucked by Draco. I couldn't tell her any of it because, deep down, deep beneath the bravery and the charm, I was a bloody fucking coward. I was a coward in the face of my wife, my children, the man I loved… Truly, I was a coward to myself, knowing that I loved Draco and wanted to be with Draco, yet crawling back to a woman I held no intimate attraction for.
What was I so afraid of? Hurting her? Hurting my family? Hurting my children? Perhaps all of the above, yet despite this, other thoughts came to me. Ginny was strong and had just admitted that she deserved the truth, if nothing else, from me. Her family would be angry but would no doubt find their own ways to deal with it. My children adored Draco, and while they would be upset that I was leaving their mother, I had to believe they would not resent me for it. I had to believe that they would come to accept me and my love for Draco. If not… Well, it would crush me. But I couldn't afford such thoughts.
I tore my eyes from Ginny. I wanted to be brave, I needed to be brave, but as the truth began to piece itself together, my fears, my shame clamped around my throat like an iron fist. I was rendered speechless, breathless, void of thought for a moment before collecting myself. Sweet breath filled my lungs as I leaned forward automatically and kissed my wife on her delicate forehead. I felt fake.
"You worry too much, Ginny," I told her, my heart icing over within my chest. "There isn't anything secret. Go on to bed, love, and I'll be there in an hour or so." Ginny didn't speak. She didn't kiss me back. She didn't smile. She merely brushed past me as if I was nothing more than a piece of furniture in the middle of the hall and disappeared into our bedroom.
I stood there in the hall for a long while, feeling the frost brushing over my heart, cocooning my veins and leaving me cold. Perhaps I should turn around and go to her, tell her that I'd lied to her face, that I'd lied to her back, that I'd hurt her and I wasn't worth her time or effort or love since I couldn't return it. Perhaps I should tell her I'm not a good person for having wronged such a wonderful person but that I could not deny my affections for Draco, I could not deny how badly my heart burned for him. That with every day I spent away from him, he resented me and our love more and more. Draco would never admit it, but I could see it. It was evident in the envious looks he gave to Ginny when he thought I wasn't looking…
I sighed heavily, feeling myself choke as I leaned on the wall. The point, the moment in time where my biggest decision came to rest on my shoulders… Would I go and tell her and admit all of my wrongs, all of my sins and my true feelings, or would I go to Draco, spend a blissfully perfect night with him and continue the charade? Would I continue to pretend, to hide, to hurt my wife and my love for the sake of attempting balance?
I glanced at the door of mine and Ginny's room before making my decision. I straightened off the wall and turned away, walking down towards the end of the house where Draco's room resided.
I found myself at his door, gently raising my hand and knocking on the wood. There was a rustle of blankets and clothes, something being set down on a table before the door opened slowly. Draco's hair hung around his eyes and cheeks, his appearance boyish and soft. A dark green robe hung off of his frame and my mind flashed him nude in my subconscious. I wondered if he was nude still.
"Harry?" He whispered, opening the door a little wider. He wasn't expecting me to be here, but the relief was obvious. "It's late, shouldn't you be with Ginny?"
"No," I said. "I should be right here, with you, like I am now," I slipped into his room, shutting the door before pulling out my wand. I waved it quickly, muttering a silencing charm on the walls and the doors.
"You told her?" He was hopeful, and I kissed him gently.
"Harry…" I kissed him again.
"I will. I will, you know I will. I almost did tonight." I admitted and he stared hard at me.
"Why didn't you?" I pushed my hands under the fabric of his robe around his shoulders, feeling the silk on the tops of my hands and his warm flesh under my palms.
"I choked. I stood there like a fool when she asked me if something was going on and I told her there was nothing, that she worried too much. She went to bed angry, and will probably wake up so. But I don't care right now." I leaned in to kiss the conjuncture of Draco's neck and shoulder, but he pulled away before my lips to grace its warmth.
"Harry, you have to tell her. Don't keep putting this off, you know it does no one any favors to have all of these lies going around…"
"I know… I know, but right now… Right now I can't. I just can't. I'm sorry." Draco's eyes hardened and he looked… more than disappointed. He looked hurt. Merlin, don't look at me like that…
"You have to, Harry. You have to tell her."
"I can't!" I nearly shouted, clinging desperately to his robe, staring up at him. My heart was in my throat and I wanted so dearly to shout Don't you see I can't? What if my children hate me? What if my entire life falls apart because I chose to follow my heart? What if all of this falls to shit and we're left out on the cold. What then? How long will it be before I fail to make things right and you start hating me too? How long until I lose you too? Why must you make me decide at this very moment whether I lose my family or you? I can't be stoic and blunt like you, I can't pour it all out there and watch Ginny crumble. I can't do it. Don't ask me to do it. Not now. I can't do it now.
Draco's eyes flickered back and forth between mine, cold and yet so warm all the same. The only comfort was that he didn't push me away. He let me hang there, clinging to him, my heart bleeding from my fucking fingers as he drew me in and kissed me gently. And he didn't say anything. He didn't utter a sound as he shed his robe, stripped me of pajama pants and my shirt before pulling me over him on his bed. He didn't say anything as he rode me, only soft moans and gasps of pleasure falling from his pink lips and tongue. He didn't say anything as I kissed him lazily after we'd come, holding his hand pressed to my heart to let him feel how it was all for him, and he didn't say anything as I slipped from his arms, back into my clothes, and left his room.