So holy and so perfect is my love,
And I in such a poverty of grace,
That I shall think it a most plenteous crop
To glean the broken ears after the man
That the main harvest reaps: loose now and then
A scatter'd smile, and that I'll live upon.
- Act III Scene V, As You Like It by William Shakespeare
He'd asked me a question once, long before we'd been anything more than platonic. "How do you know what you want?" he'd said.
I hadn't understood what he'd meant by that. I'd answered his question with another question. "How does anyone know what they want, Potter? You ask yourself, you envision it, you try to achieve it." I might have even scoffed at the time. I don't remember now.
He had shaken his head. "That's not what I meant." Fiddling with the stem of his flute of champagne, he'd hesitated. "What if you don't know? What if you can't figure it out?" He'd stopped then, clamping his mouth shut as if he'd said too much already. But only for a few moments before continuing.
"What if you don't want to?"
I hadn't answered.
It's a cold winter. I don't like winter. Never have since the end of Hogwarts. Because from thereafter, it would always remind me of Christmas during seventh year when I'd had to come home to the Manor. To the Dark Lord's presence in my house. His sapping aura of darkness, his maelstrom of terror in every corner of every room of that godforsaken place. We were caught in his phantasmagoria of servitude, his delusions of power. His cornucopia of fear dread panic.
Winter is that time of life I wish I could just skip and never have to endure again. The festive season means nothing to me anymore. I have nothing to celebrate on Christmas. So I don't. Harry asks me why but I don't want to tell him. He wouldn't understand.
He's asleep, cheek pillowed on my bare chest as his own rises and falls with slow breaths, hand curled around my waist. My own in his inky hair. I know I should wake him. He doesn't usually sleep over. He's more tired than I'd assumed if he's dropped off so easily.
He came over straight from work to tell me they'd finally nabbed the prime suspect in the murder case he was heading for the last month and a bit. And I'd congratulated him with kisses and bites and licks before he fucked me into the mattress. I like seeing him this way. Happy and open. Unguarded. He's not usually like that. Not with me, in any case. Rowing and fighting, secrets and lies, that's what we're the best at, he says.
I don't think I disagree.
I wonder if he'll celebrate the same way with his wife when he finally goes home. Will he fuck her like he fucked me? Whisper how much he wants and needs in her ear as she gasps below him. Will he stroke her hair away from her face after she comes, hold her in his arms afterwards? I wonder if she'll listen to his stories the way I do, his head in my lap as I trace his scar and twirl his hair, biting back my soft smiles at his childlike enthusiasm.
I wonder if I even care. The realisation that I do stabs me like a millions icy knives in my heart. Over and over again. Until it's shattered and I'm broken.
I should wake him. He wouldn't want her to start worrying. He needs to go home.
For a short moment, I let delusions of letting him sleep on and stay the night wash over me. Making him breakfast in the morning. Showering together before he leaves for work. Kissing him goodbye.
But only for a moment.
Sometimes, when he smiles at me like that and says those things in that way of his, I think he might just possibly love me. That he, like me, thinks of it as making love and not fucking, that the touches and caresses and soft, tender kisses mean exactly that to him. But then something always happens and it always ends with us fighting, shouting at each other in the hallway of my lonely, lonely house before he slams the door shut on his way out, taking the air along with him. And I suffocate there in the prison of my self-imposed exile, wading through the mud of my own isolation and his rejection until I can't take it anymore.
It's not that I worry that he won't be back. It's like clockwork, the way he won't last more than two days without seeing me again, dripping rain from his coat as he knocks desperately on my door, saying sorry and Draco, please and fuck, I didn't mean it and a thousand other empty promises I know he'll stamp all over the next time he storms from my home.
And I take him back. Every single time.
I'm not a masochist. I have no inherent need to hurt myself like this over and over again. It's just that I can't find the will to blame him. He doesn't know the Desperation that I have, the Isolation that I impose on myself, the Hopeless Longing that is now me. I've never told him how I feel about him.
I don't think I'd be able to explain it, anyway.
So I don't blame him for not knowing how those careless words shatter me, douse my soul, purge my joy. And how I rush to piece myself together just so that he can do it all over again.
I know he loves her. I know it because I see it, the spark in his eyes whenever I see them together at those Ministry galas that I attend for reasons I can't fathom myself. Oh, he never mentions her in front of me, no. He knows what treacherous ground that is and, the bastard, he tries so desperately to avoid references to his betrayal even though it's there every single day, glaring in my face like the harsh lights of Muggle cars to remind me that he doesn't belong to you. And he probably never will.
But I also know he doesn't love her enough. He wouldn't come to me over and over again if he did. And that gives me some delusion of hope.
How do you know when you love someone, anyway? How are you supposed to differentiate between that, and attraction and infatuation and affection and the million other pointless words that people use to give themselves some notion of control over those emotions that threaten to overwhelm them?
I don't know what this is with Harry. And I can't pigeonhole it into the neatly labelled box of 'love' because it's so much more raw than that, so much more dark and deep and inescapable. All I know is that now that I know what this feels like, I can't live without it.
I'm not naïve. The War robbed me of that long before I even knew what the word meant. I know I'll never be above her in his eyes. But it's hard for me to remember that when he's entwining his fingers with mine and kissing me with a passion that is so him, that speaks of unrestrained power that spills from his pores and wraps around me in an illusion of safety.
Whenever he's with me, I'm wondering where he's come from, what he was doing just before he came over. Was he kissing her goodbye, whispering a million lies in her ear about where he's going, what he's going to do?
And whenever he's not here, I push myself to the brink of insanity wondering what he's doing right now and when he'll be over next.
I can't help but ponder if he understands what he's doing himself. At times, when he's lying vulnerable in my arms, there's no trace of that strong, self-assured individual who has a presence so powerful you can feel it in your core, tingling in your fingers and seeping into your soul. At times, he seems so lost, so confused, like a little boy of eleven all over again, unsure of his place in the world and what people expect of him, just looking for a way to get by.
It's times like these that I tense up, waiting for the other shoe to drop, for that famed Gryffindor sense of ethics and morals and values to finally sink in and take him away from me. It's times like these when I hold him so close I can't help the tears of hopeless longing that spring into my eyes, blinked away before they get a chance to escape.
He always says I kiss like I'll never get the chance again.
I don't tell him that that's what I'm afraid of.
It's a cold winter, and it doesn't seem to want to give. It's been three days since I last saw Harry and the dread has already started to seep into my gut.
Panic. Fear. Dread. This is what I feel right now.
I feel like a relapsing addict.
I'm sitting there in my cage of numb staring at the starlit sky. Probably one of the things I love best about living in the countryside is that I can actually see those pinpricks of illumination above me.
I do this often, when Harry's awake and naked between the sheets, watching me watch the stars from my position on the windowsill, sitting with my hands around my knees, feeling the constant caress of the moonlight on the back of my hand.
The first few times, I'd been hyper-aware of his eyes on me, the raw energy of that unforgiving gaze on my face. After that, it'd become so natural I'd hardly paid it a second thought.
What are you thinking about, Draco? he'd ask me.
You, I'd always say, answered by silence.
Now I'm here and I'm looking at the stars again but this time he isn't here to watch me.
He's not coming, I think absently, counting the snowflakes melting into a mass of sludge on the outside sill of my closed window. He's finally not coming.
I move downstairs to make myself a cup of tea. My movements are mechanical. It's not sunk in yet.
The tea is feeble and lukewarm. It tastes horrible. I can't bring myself to care.
It's late. Very late. The trash needs taking out. Tomorrow those men will come over in their strange Muggle contraption with their lime green jackets and dump it in and take it away. I should do it now before it gets too late.
I put on my warmest coat, gloves, scarf and boots over the jumper and wool trousers I'm already wearing to walk out to the backyard and wheel the different coloured rectangular cylinders away. I open the back door and stop dead in my tracks.
The relief that washes over me when I see Harry sitting on my back steps is such a heady rush that I steady myself with a hand against the doorframe. Garbage duties forgotten, I sit tentatively next to him on the frozen steps.
His hair is soaked with the snow, forearms folded lightly over his hunched up knees, staring out at the stars. Just like I was a few minutes ago. They're so much brighter and beautiful out here, moonlight illuminating patches of grass to make everything appear awash in glowing greyscale. It's breath taking. And yet I can't seem to take my eyes off the man next to me.
He gives no indication of acknowledging my presence apart from shifting slightly closer to me. Probably unconsciously seeking warmth. I don't allow myself to read too much into it. He's wearing only one glove and he looks ridiculous, and then I can't stop myself as I reach out to cover that bare hand with my covered one. I can feel the chill of it through the layer, and I pick it up to smother it between my own palms as I valiantly try to warm it.
He sighs softly and I take it to indicate his appreciation. He's still not glanced at me even once yet, staring out at the sky like it's the first time he's seen it.
The irony of the role-reversal amuses me faintly as I watch the play of awe on his face as his eyes drink in every speck of light in the blackness that spans over us.
"What are you thinking about?" I ask, unable to stop myself.
"You," he says simply, and my breath catches.
We sit like that for a while, my heart fluttering in my chest as it tries to navigate the all-consuming desperate and hopeless desire I feel for this person by my side, attempting to make sense of it all. All the feelings and obligations and fears and a thousand other unnameable things that make a young boy cry into his pillow in panic over how he could possibly survive the night, let alone the day, in this house and world that expects him to maim and torture and kill, that make a lonely man wait for his affections to be acknowledged if not reciprocated, surging on through life in an everlasting limbo of simply waiting. Things that everyone feels but doesn't know how to describe, things that you struggle to compartmentalise and rationalise until life passes you by in a blur and you wonder how you're already at the end when you never even lined up at the start.
And then he speaks.
"What is this between us, Draco?" His hand is still between the two of mine. "What are we doing?"
Oh. So this is finally it. That inevitable realisation, when he finally decides that what he's doing is wrong, so very wrong. The belated sense of morality. And I'm scared. I want so desperately to say something that'll make him stay, because if he ends this now, I won't survive it. I'm in too deep.
He doesn't know how I feel, I think wildly. I've never told him, and he doesn't know how I feel and I need him to know, god, I need him to know, he can't leave without knowing and I have to tell him –
But before I can part my lips to curl the words around my tongue he turns to look at me for the first time that night and the syllables turn to smoke in my mouth. I'm pinned under his gaze, so open and asking and merciless. And the soft sadness of it all is the man doesn't even realise the power he wields so unknowingly.
And now he's whispering, so soft. "At first... At first I thought it was love." His hand clenches between mine.
Pure and unadulterated silence greets his words. Even the crickets seem to have held their collective breaths and my treacherous, traitorous heart, Merlin, the heart that longs and longs and longs so fucking much blooms on the pure rush of hope, of maybe this could be and the constant chant of what if what if what if. And I can't clamp it down and now I can't stop the words that burst out like spring water from between slick rocks, glistening and gleaming and so very insistent to make its presence felt.
"Harry, I love y-"
His other hand shoots out to encircle my wrist painfully as he chants, eyes desperate, "No, don't say it, don't say it don't say it, please don't say it."
I stop mid-word but he's still speaking.
"I'm sorry. I just… I thought it was love. I just… don't anymore. It's not… It's just… Fuck."
His words are like a punch in the stomach.
They effectively silence me. Stunned, I blink back irrational tears and dormant ache in my soul intensifies into hurt and a sudden, desperate wish to be anywhere other than here.
I turn my head away, unable to look into that green power anymore. But his voice is a whisper of the trees, a caress of the wind, a lick of a raindrop and I'm powerless, so powerless in front of it and I just can't help myself to turn to him again.
I kiss him with everything I have, with all the cracks and pieces and parts that have made me this thing to never be repaired, to exist and not live, to watch and not see, to hear and not listen; an unfinished sculpture – until he's there and fits into me and completes me, revealing the colour in everything around us and focussing my blurry destination, captivating me in the journey. And he kisses me back, insistent and consoling, the unsaid words of I know I know I know and it's all right and I don't mind coaxed into me with every sweep of his tongue, every press of his lips and every mingling breath that fogs in front of our noses, clinging to his glasses before quickly disappearing as we twine into each other's souls, twine and twine and twine until we're inseparable, just two little boys who are so very lost, trying to make sense of it all, clinging on to some semblance of direction in this swirling mass of everything.
And as we separate, one of his arms winds around my waist possessively, pulling me into his side until we're leaning against each other, fingers laced loosely but there.
I look at the snowflakes and the stars and the moon and that beautiful, broken man beside me, and I shiver. Because I know he's going to hurt me. He loves her and he won't leave her, not for me.
But I also know that I will let him, over and over again. Because when it comes to Harry, what I get, I take, never question, never expect, never hope. It is passion and rawness and desire – that breathtakingly tender desire – and I will be content with receiving merely a wisp of what he is, the rest of it divided and demanded by all those others that claim to know him and love him but will never see him like I do.
And if he wants to break me, I will let him. Because he's Harry, my Harry, and I'm his to do with what he likes.
The stars dull in the sky as dawn begins to break.