You yawn, sitting back in your chair and lazily contemplating finishing up the paperwork still due for the latest case you've been working on… and then instead you Accio the Daily Prophet, flip to the back page, and start doing the crossword. The paperwork can last one more day - you'd started the damn crossword earlier and got stuck on 'Supernatural creature designed to guard the entrances to the world of the dead,' and honestly if you let Malfoy finish another one of these that you can't, you'll break something.
Preferably his face - even if you are reluctantly attracted to it.
"Nine letters…" you murmur thoughtfully, slowly swiveling your chair back and forth in a methodic manner as you tap your quill against your chin. "Sixth letter is an O…"
You're about to give up when suddenly it's there - and you shout, "Hellhound!" just as Astoria Malfoy walks into your office. You're distracted, jotting it down, and only look up when she says your name - and you jump slightly, waiting for the inevitable, "I know we've had our differences, Potter, but that's a bit uncalled for, don't you think?" but it never comes.
Instead, she stares at you with a burning in her eyes and her expression nearly unrecognizable - and you jerk to your feet, stomach already twisting in despair. "Is it - him?" you ask and why are your veins suddenly ice-cold, why do you suddenly feel like the world is tilting on its axis?
This can't be happening. Not after - you grip the desk, feeling alarmingly dizzy. "Astoria - fuck, answer!"
But when she does, you want to take it back, you want to go back to when she'd never walked into the room - when you knew nothing, and you realize that the saying really is true, ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is bliss because knowledge - this knowledge in particular - is horrific breaking shattering hopelessness rocketing through your brain and your mind and your soul. You stare at Astoria and you realize you hate her, you hate her with a fucking passion - for being the one to tell you this news, for knowing it first, for marrying him when you never could.
You hate her and yet, staring at her and seeing her stare back at you with those goddamn pitying eyes, you know she is the only person that understands what you're going through at the moment.
"H-how?" you croak out, still swaying, and you back up a few steps until you can collapse back into your desk chair. He would laugh if you could see you now, he would call you weak, pathetic (and then he would kiss away the insults and stroke your hair and call you gorgeous) but it doesn't matter, none of it matters, because he's fucking dead anyway.
"One of his cases," she says quietly. "He left without telling anyone where he was going… there were too many people there. He was overwhelmed. You know how he is."
Yes, you do, of course you do - you know better than anyone, you want to snarl, but you don't - instead you simply sit there with glassy-eyed panic. How the hell are you going to get through this? How can you possibly move forward with your lie of a life when he's gone?
"I should've been there," you manage, and she automatically shakes her head.
"You couldn't have known, Harry, that he would have run into trouble this time, when he's done so many cases on his own before now -"
"I SHOULD'VE BEEN THERE," you roar, rising from your chair once more and pointing your wand at her. When did your wand get in your hand? You don't know and you don't care. "He - fuck, how can you just stand there so fucking calm? He's gone - he's gone -" Maybe if you repeat it enough times, it will start to sink in. Maybe if you accept it, it won't hurt so goddamn much.
"The funeral is tomorrow at three," she says, looking away from you. "Narcissa thinks we should get it over with as soon as possible so that the press doesn't learn about it, and I agree."
Get it over with.
The words ring through your head, around and around until you want to vomit - and you can hear his smirking voice in your head, telling you just to go with it, that women are the bane of his existence and why do you think he needs you so damn much?
He's gone, you tell yourself.
Gone, gone, gone, gone, fucking gone.
(dead as a doornail)
"I should… go," says Astoria when it becomes clear you can't speak, won't speak, refuse to speak. "To help prepare things. I really think he would want you to be there, Harry -"
"You don't know what the fuck he would want," you spit, eyes flashing flames. "You knew nothing about him - nothing!"
She stares at you with dark eyes for a long moment and then bows her head, allowing this. "I knew that he loved you. I knew that, even though he was with me, he only ever wanted you."
And that cuts you deeper than any retort she could have possibly said.
She leaves and you are left alone with your fucking crossword and your fucking paperwork and how are you ever supposed to get anything done now? How are you supposed to eat when eating simple foods reminds you of him ("Your tastes are so mundane, Potter, when are you going to get sick of your fish and chips and admit that I know best?") and eating rich foods reminds you of him ("Try and get it through your thick skull that my restaurant choices are, and always will be, better than yours. Except - fuck you, okay, yes, I liked that Japanese one, stop laughing. Prick.") and alcohol reminds you of him ("Here. What do you mean, what is it? It's a book on wines. Yes, they make those. Happy Christmas. Maybe one of these years, you'll actually choose an appropriate wine for dinner.") and even fucking breathing reminds you of him, and oh God, it hurts so much and how how how are you supposed to go on?
Ginny finds you laying on your back on your side of the bed, staring up at the ceiling and trying not to die. The bed dips as she sits down on her side and starts taking off her shoes and you hear her pause once or twice to glance over at you but you refuse to say anything so she doesn't either. Best for both of you, really. And what is she supposed to say - I'm sorry the man you were cheating on me with got what was coming to him?
The lights go out, but you stay awake, trying to forget.
You know she's awake too.
You can't bring yourself to care.
"Harry," she finally whispers.
You don't respond.
"Harry. I'm… I know you loved him."
Fuck, did you really have to go through this as well as everything else?
This is the part where you deny you loved him, where you accept her apology, where you turn to her and finally let loose the tears that have been building all day.
Instead, you turn on your side and close your eyes as tightly as you can, wishing you were dead as well. She doesn't say anything else after that.
You wake up the next morning and for an instant you have forgotten that he's dead - and you feel a smile tug at your lips as you remember the plans you have with him - and then suddenly Ginny is cautiously touching your shoulder and you tense and then you hate her too, for reminding you of what you've lost, for not being him, for being so fucking sympathetic after everything you've put her through.
You can admit that she's too good for you, not that it does either of you much good. You still hate her. She's still married to someone who doesn't lover her - worse, to someone who loves someone else. A dead someone else.
You sit up, feeling suffocated. "Sleep well?"
"I slept okay." You can feel her hesitating and you close your eyes, knowing what she's going to say. "Harry… the funeral -"
"I'm not going." But you are. You know this and she knows this.
"Did you want me to?"
You stand up and whirl around, your anger lighting up the room. "Do I want my wife to attend the funeral of the man I've been fucking for the past three years? Fuck, Ginny, does that even make sense?"
She's quiet, watching you. "I know you're in pain, Harry -"
"You know nothing," you hiss, and it's startling how alike this conversation is to the one you had with Astoria. Your wife and his wife. His widow?
Her eyes flash; she knows you and she is no Astoria Malfoy. She is Ginny Weasley, and she is stronger than you ever will be. "I know you're in pain, but you still have a family to think about. Our children -"
You wince. How dare she throw that card at you? Now, while you're suffering?
"- are still ours, and you can't ignore that."
"I wasn't planning on it."
"Really?" she demands, getting to her feet and glowering. "Because you've been doing a damned good job of it since you met him and started this fucked up business with Draco Malfoy!"
You flinch, then sneer. "Yes, well - guess you won't have to worry about that any more, will you?"
She stops. "I - you know I didn't mean it like that."
"How did you mean it then, Ginny?"
"I am your wife," she says quietly. "I gave you three children. I've tried so hard -" she chokes and then continues, struggling forward like the soldier you know she is. "To let you be happy, because Merlin knows you've sacrificed more in a lifetime than anyone has a right to. But -"
You know she is only trying to help, just as she has been since day one - plodding along despite everything you've thrown at her, always there for you, always at your side. She has kept your secret and ignored the nights where you don't show, feeding excuses to anyone who asks. Yet she is not him and she never will be - and for a moment you have the darkest thought of your life, you have the thought of, I wish it had been you instead of him, and then you immediately retract it, feeling ashamed. "Please can I just get through the funeral," you interrupt in a whisper, and she stops, staring at you with saddened brown eyes.
"I will give you your time to grieve," she says, her voice almost as soft. "I will let you have this final time with him, Harry, but I don't know how much more I can take."
You nod and she disappears and you are left with nothing to do until three in the fucking afternoon.
You miss him. It's only been one day but you already miss him more than anything else, because he has been the one thing that has kept you sane through work and stress and struggling to support your family. Honestly - that was how this all started out. Not as sex, not even as passion; merely a friendship that started five years ago and escalated into… this.
Whatever this is.
Or - rather, was.
Three o'clock appears both too slowly and too quickly and suddenly you are standing in the back of a half-crowded room, with a priest at the front and a coffin there as well.
You have the strange desire to laugh as the priest begins talking because Draco was never religious and neither are the Malfoys - so who invited this man? It should be you up there talking, you discussing Draco's merits because you are the one that knew him best - you are the one that heard him discuss his cases, you are the one that's fucked him senseless, you are the one that's held him when he's lonely.
You, no one else.
A wave of emotions crashes over you as the priest drones on and you struggle to identify each separate emotion churning inside you - there is regret (shoulda married him, shoulda loved him better, shoulda done this and that and not been so fucking cautious) there is heartache (no one else will love you the same, no one else will ever compare) there is anger (FUCK YOU, DRACO, FUCK YOU FOR NOT STAYING SAFE, FOR ME, DON'T I MATTER) there is sorrow, endless pools of sorrow that you find yourself sinking in, drowning in, choking in.
The priest pauses his sermon and invites anyone that knew the deceased personally to come to the front and share a memory with the gathered mourners.
There is a long silence, stretching out over everyone like an oppressive cloud, and you know you should go up there - but what would you say? What is both impersonal enough and meaningful enough to share with these strangers? All the things that truly define Draco, that define your relationship with him… The idea of sharing those memories makes your stomach clench into knots.
You could, for instance, share how completely vulnerable he looks (looked) after sex, while you prop your head up on his chest and stare into his sleepy, content face. You could share how he whispers his fears to you late at night, how his fingers never stray far from your skin, constantly brushing back your hair or catching hold of your hand or trailing lazily across your chest.
You could share how his eyebrows furrow together when he reads - and that he chooses to spend his time reading thick Potions books, a fact that you teased him about constantly… until the day you found a thin, cheesy romance novel tucked inside the Potions book and then you teased him even more about that. You could share that he loves cooking just as much as Potions - how he can prattle endlessly on about making the perfect soup, while pretending in public that he uses house elves for everything. You love tasting his experimental food - you love pretending to choke and gag on it and ducking his reprimanding smack as he tells you that it is better than any other shit you've ever tasted. You tell him you've never tasted shit - and he goes to smack you again before catching you instead and kissing you.
You could share how he looks after a shower, all flushed skin and mussed hair - you could share how beautiful his smile is and how picky of an eater he is as he gets older - you could share how he laughs at all your corny jokes, how he's such lightweight when it comes to hard liquor, how you catch him humming Muggle songs when he thinks you're not listening, the same Muggle songs that you forced him to listen to - not knowing how much he would grow to love them.
You could share all this and more - so much more, so much that it overwhelms you and breaks you and maybe gives you the littlest bit of strength at the same time as well, just because it's him and because he's always somehow managed to give you strength, even when he's not there.
(even when he's dead)
"Harry?" asks a quiet voice, and you blink, startled to find Astoria Malfoy standing directly in front of you - and over her shoulder you see people standing in small circles and already trickling out.
The funeral is over and you hadn't even noticed.
"You came," she says.
What the fuck are you supposed to say to that? But she is your only comforter at the moment, the only other person that knew him like you did - even if she is a fraction of what you were to him. "I came."
"He would - it means a lot… to me," she says, eyes downcast.
"Yes, well… I suspect we won't be seeing much of each other any more after this." Not that you went out of your way to see her much before, but well - paths will cross when you're both walking around the same drafty Manor. God, you hated that Manor. Tried to convince him to sell it a thousand times, to no avail. Now you inexplicably miss it.
"No, I suspect not. Your… wife didn't want to come?"
"I told her not to."
"Ah. I see."
You see her hesitate and then before you can blink she is leaning in and engulfing you in sweet perfume for the briefest of moments as she hugs you - and then she is pulling back, her Malfoy mask back in place. "I should go see to the other guests."
"It was… it meant a lot."
And then she is walking away and you are left alone with your goddamn memories at his goddamn funeral and slowly you walk up the aisle - and his coffin is directly in front of you, halfway open, and you want to die, want to black out before you can reach him - but you don't, and then there he is. Frozen and dead and lifeless and dead and no longer yours.
You want to touch him, but you can't.
You want to walk away, but you can't.
Instead, you simply stand there and stare at him - your eyes burning in the familiar way they've been burning all day. "Draco," you say quietly, and he's (dead), "This - fuck - you weren't -" You're already breathing heavily and you clench the side of the coffin, feeling sick, "You weren't supposed to leave me like this. You weren't supposed to leave me ever, and -"
You can't do this any more.
There is a haze everywhere; filling your thoughts, tugging you towards the numbness. Numb sounds good; numb sounds safe. And you have a wife, you have children… but the haze is trickling throughout your body like a slow, thick fog, whispering soft things to you… And you never did want to continue on living without Draco, that was never the plan. The plan was for you both to grow old together, for you to leave your wives and move away and forget responsibilities…
(but now he's dead)
And so you let the haze consume you, falling down down into yourself as you stare at him and you know, if you had a mirror, that your expressions would be the exact same.
The Many Tastes of Harry Potter
When Draco kisses him for the first time, he decides that Harry James Potter tastes of summer.
Warm, happy, a bit like melting ice cream. That last one is odd - that last one confuses Draco, and he pulls away, reaching up to touch his lips and flicking his tongue out afterward to swipe up the last of Harry's taste. They are standing at the edge of the Black Lake and it's the middle of winter and Harry has been shooting him those looks for the past few weeks - before Draco couldn't take it any more and here they stand.
"That was - wow," says Harry a little breathlessly, eyes shining.
"Did you eat ice cream just now?" frowns Draco, his eyebrows furrowing together in confusion as he licks his lips again. He wants to lick Harry's lips but first he wants his answer.
"Uhhh, no, not that I can remember…" says Harry, looking just as bewildered as Draco feels. "Did you want some or…"
"No," says Draco, and he pulls Harry back in again, kissing him just as deeply as he had the first time.
Except - there it is. Warmth, happiness, melting ice cream. Vanilla ice cream. And Draco is about to pull away and question Harry about it further but then Harry does a little thing with his tongue and oh God, the idea of pulling away at a time like this is bloody torture.
And anyway, maybe Harry had ice cream earlier and just forgot about it.
The fourth time they snog, Harry tastes of sand and ocean water and suntan lotion. Perhaps the most confusing thing about it all is that none of this taste particularly bad - which is surprising because Draco has had suntan lotion dribble into his mouth on one hot, memorable summer day last year and it is not a good flavour - no, it doesn't taste bad, just… distinct. Distinctly summer.
Harry flops onto his back, panting from the lack of air their snogging allows, and grins up at the sky, looking giddy; they're both lying in the middle of the Quidditch pitch and it's the middle of the night. The stars are sparkling in the pitch-black blanket and Harry's hair looks almost blue. "When are you going to let me start telling people?"
"Potter, people are still talking about how you're not with the girl Weasley - and that break-up happened months ago," points out Draco, sighing slightly as he rests in his own patch of grass. He's once again licking his lips, his expression contemplative. What a curious, curious taste. How the hell does Harry manage it? Sand…. How could his mouth taste of sand? How does one acquire such a taste in the middle of winter at a magical school in the middle of nowhere? It's baffling.
"Is it because you're ashamed of me?" comes the quiet question, spoken in a small voice.
Draco immediately rolls onto his side, looking down into Harry's abashed face with a fierceness that surprises even the Slytherin himself. "No. No - I'm not ashamed. Don't think that, promise me you won't think that."
Perhaps it's because of Draco's harsh tone, perhaps it's because of the burning light in his eyes; either way, after a moment, Harry agrees.
Rolling back onto his back, Draco is quiet for a moment before saying, "Besides, it's you that should be ashamed of me. I'm the… the ex-Death Eater, the failure -" He abruptly falls silent as warm, slender fingers intertwine with his. It is the first time Harry's held his hand, and Draco cannot help noticing that their fingers fit together perfectly.
They stay like that, laying on the grass in the middle of the pitch, silently holding hands for a long time, and Draco forgets all about the questioning taste of his almost-not-really-sort-of-secret-boyfrie
It is three weeks after they've become a thing and they're sneaking back into the common room after a late night rendezvous - when, just outside of the portrait designed to guard the eighth years' common room, Harry jerks Draco into him and kisses him hard - and this time, with his eyes closed and his hands sliding around Harry's neck, Draco tastes mowing the grass and flying a nearly-broken kite and baking in the heat of the sun.
And he thinks to himself, shit.
I've broken Harry Potter somehow.
Because how can it be possible for someone to taste like an action? Like flying a fucking kite? But as Harry gently nudges Draco's mouth open with his lips, as Harry darts his tongue into Draco's mouth, as their breath mingles together in a hot cloud - that is exactly what it tastes like. Like running on a flat field and throwing the kite into the air and holding your breath as you wait for it to maybe please hopefully catch a breath of wind. Like laying on a blanket for hours on end with a good book and feeling the heat sink into your skin, warming you from the inside out. Like feeling blades of grass hit your ankles and watching as the tangled area soon becomes neat and tidy.
"Potter," gasps Draco as he breaks away just barely, steadying himself on Harry's shoulders and feeling his knees weaken. "We're going to get caught -"
"I don't care," murmurs Harry, and he kisses Draco again, and this time it's sunshine and a hot wind -
"I care," manages Draco, breaking away again. "Your friends hate me, Harry."
The Gryffindor stares at him with heady, pupil-blown eyes - but it's not all lust that Draco sees there, no, it' something more, and that scares him, that scares the hell out of him. "They don't," he whispers, his hands tightening on Draco's hips. "You need to give them a chance. You need to let them give you a chance. Sit with us at the eighth year table tomorrow - come to one of the study sessions Hermione forces us to hold."
And Draco's about to say no, about to protest again, when Harry kisses him once more and he tastes like the lemonade Draco's mother always makes for him when he's hot and thirsty and how can he say no to that?
"Ugh, I'm going to take back my blessing," grumbles Ron as he stares balefully across the table to where Draco and Harry sit, holding hands.
"Shut it, you," says Hermione, beaming at the couple and Draco isn't sure which he finds more annoying: Ron's pointed comments or Hermione's constant smiling at them. And why is she so happy about this anyway? "They don't need your blessing to be together, isn't that right, Harry?"
"I still can't believe it took you two so long to tell us," mutters Ginny and she looks just as unhappy as her brother but for a completely different reason. She - wait, what she is she doing sitting at the eighth year table anyway? Aren't there any rules in this place? "Merlin, I knew it was happening! Didn't I know, Neville?"
Neville looks uncomfortable. "You did mention it, once or twice…"
"Or a thousand times," cuts in Seamus. "You owe me six galleons, by the way, Ron."
Draco looks affronted. "There were bets?" He whirls on Harry, who has been serenely eating mashed potatoes throughout this entire ordeal. "Did you know they were betting on us?"
"Of course not," says Harry in a soothing voice. A pause and then, "Well, I might have put in a knut or two…"
"Ugh," says Draco, and he tries to pull his hand away from Harry but the stupid Gryffindor is holding on too tightly and maybe Draco likes the feel of that rough, callused palm against his too much to let go anyway. Whatever. "You don't deserve me."
"Too right," grins Harry and he leans in and kisses Draco heatedly, their lips melding together and its their first kiss since they brought their relationship to the public and how is it that Harry was just eating mashed potatoes but he tastes of laziness and sleeping in late and eating messy BBQ?
Draco doesn't even like BBQ.
"It's small," says Draco, wrinkling his nose and surveying the living room. His arms are akimbo and he makes the picture of mild disapproval as he slowly revolves in the middle of the room and then looks over at Harry - who is standing anxiously at the doorway and watching Draco. A reluctant smile flickers across Draco's face. "But it'll do."
"Prick," laughs Harry, crossing the distance between them and sliding his arms around Draco's waist. He stares at him for a moment and then he leans in, not to kiss him but merely just to hug him, resting his chin on Draco's shoulder and holding him tight. And it's simple and it's warm and Draco loves him for it, for being Gryffindor enough to hug him during their first moment inside their new flat together.
And suddenly the feeling is welling up inside of him and it's too much to control and, "I love you," he says, and blinks, startled by his own admission.
Harry tenses for a moment and then pulls away just enough to look Draco in the eyes - his own wide and surprised and affectionate. They stare at each other for a moment, long enough that Draco starts to flush, and then Harry murmurs, "I love you too."
And this time when Harry kisses him, it tastes like being sunburned, it tastes like being on fire, it tastes like the hottest day of summer, the longest day when everything is perfect and you go to bed exhausted but with a smile on your face. He tastes like summer and he tastes like love as well, like a love that lasts a million years and makes every day feel like the middle of summer.
Finally, he dredges up enough courage to ask, weeks and weeks after they've moved in together.
They're in bed, with Harry's arm thrown snugly around Draco's waist and his head tucked into the curve between Draco's shoulder and neck - and he can tell that Harry is almost asleep, just in that state between coherence and dreamland, and he swallows tightly, half-hoping that maybe Harry already is asleep and his question will go unheard -
"Whassamatter," mumbles Harry, brushing his cold nose against Draco's throat and making the blonde shiver. "Tense. Stop. Sleep."
"Harry…" says Draco and he frowns, wondering if he's mad, wondering if he's been mad this entire time - and that would make sense, really, because in what world would he and Harry really end up together? "When we kiss…"
"Mm, good," yawns Harry, his breath tickling Draco.
"I'm being serious. When we kiss - why do you - you taste like summer," sputters out Draco and he feels Harry shift just enough to blink up at him sleepily.
Draco stares at him. "You believe me?"
"Well… yeah," smiles Harry, and he's just awake now to lift his lips up to Draco and kiss him (if a little bit sloppily) and this time it's a day at the park and feeding the birds and fixing a picnic basket - and then Harry is dropping back down to Draco's chest and sighing a little content smile. "Love you."
"Love you too," says Draco, turning to nuzzle the ink black hair hitting his face.
A pause. He can feel Harry relaxing back into him. "But why would you accept something like that so quickly?"
"Easy," mumbles Harry, already drifting again.
"Yeah… I can accept that I taste like summer because - well…" yawn, "because you taste like winter."