By: Provocative Envy
January – July, 1999
I got my life together after he was gone.
It wasn't, I frequently told myself, as if I didn't have it together before—I had just been a little bit broken, slightly rough around the edges and burdened with a random series of microscopic cracks that didn't really go anywhere or lead to anything or provide any sort of structural integrity. But I hadn't been in pieces. I had still, despite all of the evidence that might have indicated otherwise, been whole.
("You should have waited for me," I said in the middle of February.
Ron had the decency to look ashamed.)
Before he'd left, Draco had paid out the lease on the flat through the rest of the year.
I still moved out on the first of March.
"Isn't it a little morbid?" Harry asked dubiously, rifling through an empty drawer in my parents' old kitchen. "Coming to live here?"
I clenched my jaw.
"It's comforting," I said. "It's—I need to learn how to miss them."
(I received a postcard from Sicily.
Zabini can still drink me under the table, he wrote, letters sloped and uneven. And then, underneath, almost an afterthought, I miss you so fucking much.
I held the flimsy cardstock over an open flame on the stove.
Seconds passed, but—)
I spent St. Patrick's Day in a poorly lit pub on the outskirts of Diagon Alley, watching with thinly veiled amusement as Harry tried to shout out an order for another round of firewhiskey over the deafening din of the crowd. He wasn't successful.
"So," Ginny said, running a hand through the tangled ends of her hair. "Remember that time you spent half a year shagging Draco Malfoy?"
I spit out my drink.
She raised an eyebrow.
"It wasn't half a year," I argued weakly.
(Athens was next.
There is an abundance of exceptionally old statuary in Greece, he wrote. Also: sunburn. I'd compare myself to a lobster, but the locals are rather fond of their seafood. Probably shouldn't risk it.
I traced my fingertips over the brittle, long-dry stains of ink.
April passed without incident.
"Heard you turned down another job at the Ministry," Harry remarked one day at lunch, taking a large bite of his sandwich.
"It was in the Department of Mysteries," I replied, arranging my leftover French fries into a perfectly straight line. "I'd sooner try to resurrect Bellatrix Lestrange then go back there, thanks ever so."
He snorted, but cast a worried glance at my forearm all the same.
"What are you going to do, then? You finished up with Malfoy back in January," he reminded me.
I did not cringe.
"I'm writing a novel," I answered honestly.
He looked at me in surprise.
I took a thoughtful sip of ginger-strawberry lemonade.
"Mistakes," I finally answered. I wrinkled my nose before continuing, "And Voldemort, too, I suppose."
(A small parcel came the second week of May.
Barcelona is full of Americans, he scribbled on the back of a restaurant napkin. Someone really should have told me.
The napkin was wrapped around an oval-shaped amber pendant with a silver chain looped through the top.
A second piece of cardstock fell to the floor when I upended the envelope.
Your eyes, it said.)
Ten days later I was at Sunday brunch with the Weasleys, standing in the backyard with Ron and George as Molly finished preparing pancakes.
"Lucius Malfoy is getting out of Azkaban next month," Ron said, clutching his butterbeer in a white-knuckled fist. "Can you bloody believe it? Only got a year."
George squinted up at the sun.
"Well—his wife did turn traitor to You-Know-Who at the very last minute," he pointed out. "And a very important last minute it was, little brother."
Ron swatted at a swarm of mosquitos that were hovering around us, disrupting a nearby daffodil bush. There was an explosion of pollen.
"Only to save precious little Draco, though," he snarled. "Useless twat. What's he even doing now? Traipsing about the continent, pretending to be a muggle?"
"Allergies," I supplied with a grimace.
(My mother prefers the same champagne you do, he wrote from Prague on June 17th.
The words after that were lighter in color and hastily scrawled, as if he'd added them using a different pen in the middle of the post office.
Muggles think my Mark is nothing more than a poorly thought-out, particularly regrettable tattoo. The irony is almost too much to bear.
I laughed helplessly—
And then I cried.)
He was a sweaty, disheveled mess when he showed up on my doorstep at the end of July.
"Did the—did the post already come?" he heaved, bending over to clutch at his side.
I stared at him incredulously.
"Malfoy?" I bleated.
His cheeks were dark red as he watched at me intently.
"The post," he repeated, breathing hard. "Did it come?"
I thought about what I'd received from him, just that morning.
"You came all the way back to England to steal my mail, didn't you?"
"Not all your mail," he said quickly. "Just…"
I swallowed and reached into the pocket of my sweatshirt.
"Just this?" I asked, holding up the postcard.
His eyes snapped down.
("Wish you were still living in our flat," he said, collapsing onto my parents' couch. "Bit of a nightmare getting to the suburbs."
I didn't sit down.
"It was yours," I corrected him. "The flat. It was yours, not ours."
He shook his head.
"Don't be dense, Granger.")
He felt just as I remembered.
But he tasted like cheap spearmint gum and stale cola and his chin was scratchy with day-old stubble and he was different, too, in the way that he reeked of sweat and curry and the unfamiliar plasticized leather of a train seat. His shoulders were wider, more muscular, and his fingernails were trimmed unevenly, cuticles lined with dirt, and weirdly, awkwardly sharp as they dug into my hips.
("You said you weren't coming back," I blurted out. "When you left."
He gulped down his bottled water.
"I don't even think I believed that," he responded with a wry twist of his lips.)
He gripped the backs of my thighs, silently urging me to wrap my legs around his waist, as he stumbled up the narrow staircase.
"Never thought it'd be you," he mumbled, sucking bruises into the space between my collarbones. "Never thought I'd be lucky enough for it to be you."
(I rolled my hips, felt how hard he was through his corduroy trousers, and abruptly, desperately, I fucking ached.)
"I shouldn't forgive you," I gasped, arching into his hands as he kneaded my breasts. "You—you just—"
"I know," he said plaintively before thrusting into me. "I know, Granger."
(The mattress creaked and the bed springs moaned and the noise was like the soundtrack to falling apart;
To being put back together.)
"I wanted the first time you heard it from me to be in person," he said later, picking an olive off of his pizza slice and examining it suspiciously.
I tore a paper napkin into thirds and fourths and fifths.
"Why?" I asked.
He flicked the olive onto my plate.
"I wanted you to see my face," he answered, hiccupping. "I wanted you to know that I meant it."
I offered him a smile, soft and private.
"I knew that anyway, though."
(The postcard came from Calais.
Granger had been written and crossed out and replaced with Hermione.
And then, below that, script slanted, smudged, hurried, perfect—
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.)