Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, Harry/Ginny, mention of Draco/Astoria
Summary: Harry needs to choose. Draco cannot wait.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Angst ahoy!
Epilogue compliant? Yes
Word Count: ~1600
Author's Notes: I went with the idea that Harry is keeping Draco waiting, but can’t do so indefinitely. I wanted to try and capture vignettes that show what it’s like to be kept somewhere between acceptance and rejection, and hope that this delivers.
Much thanks to D. for the beta!
It is December 22nd, and Draco is sitting alone in the restaurant.
He’s been here for three hours now. He’d arrived promptly at half past six, just like they’d agreed, and had proceeded to order a bottle of what he’d been assured was a very fine Sauvignon Blanc. By now he’s made it through about half the contents, and he feels light and ethereal. He decides it’s a pleasant enough sensation, but nowhere near strong enough to take the edge off the bitterness sitting in the back of his throat.
The plans for this evening had been according to Harry’s specifications, not Draco’s. Not Christmas Eve, because that was when he would be at the Burrow (with Ginny), and not in Wizarding London because that would be an invitation for their pictures to be splashed all over the Daily Prophet on the 23rd. Draco had agreed, and now he’ sitting here in an upscale Muggle restaurant at half past nine two days before Christmas waiting for his...his...
His what, exactly? Draco’s lips quirk upward in a faint smile. That’s just it. He does not know what he should call Harry. They have never really discussed the matter.
It’s ten o’clock, and by now Draco is sure Harry isn’t coming. He signals the waiter and pays for the wine with crisp, new banknotes, smiling just a bit when he thinks about how once upon a time he wouldn’t have had the slightest idea how to deal with such things.
That is just one of the many ways he’s changed his life to accommodate Harry.
Draco stands up, draws his overcoat tight around him, and leaves the restaurant. It’s started snowing, and the flakes fly against his cheeks like icy pellets, leaving the skin red and stinging. He murmurs a warming charm under his breath, one of the few pieces of wandless magic he’s always been able to perform easily, and sets out for home.
* * *
This thing between them started some eight months after the War ended.
The immediate aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts had been chaotic, to say the least. The amount of work that needed to be done was staggering - the Ministry had to be completely reorganized in order to satisfy public outrage over how easily it had been co-opted by Voldemort, the damage to Hogwarts’ magical infrastructure was so severe that they needed to find an alternate teaching site for the next year, and then there were the awards to be given out and official apologies to be made. It was a busy, exhausting time that was nevertheless marked by a dizzying sense of exuberance - the War was over, Good had won, and the future would almost certainly be bright.
Once the trials started, however, things became ugly.
The Malfoy family was at the center of them, of course - they were known as having been loyal to Voldemort ever since the First War, were related by blood to the Lestranges, and had been at the forefront of the Year of Terror. Draco had known that his family would not be able to walk away unscathed, and he was right. They were dragged through hearing after hearing, forced to testify over and over again, and every time Draco took his place before the rows of witches and wizards his family had once looked down upon, all he could think about was how hollow and pathetic his excuses for his family’s actions were. He was sure none of the stone-faced jurors would show any sympathy. If their positions were reversed, he almost certainly wouldn’t.
Of course, Perfect Potter was the one who threw the proceedings in his favor. All the Golden Boy had to do was recall what he’d witnessed the night of Dumbledore’s death and the night he’d been taken to Malfoy Manor, and the youngest Malfoy was duly given a lenient sentence. The jury decided he’d been led astray by his father’s machinations, and although they couldn’t let him completely off the hook, he would not face imprisonment or disenfranchisement. All that was imposed was a one-year term of service at St. Mungo’s, and then his debt would be considered paid.
That was the official line, anyway. The reality was that a significant portion of the Malfoy fortune was confiscated in order to aid the rebuilding efforts, and while it left more than enough for Draco to live comfortably, it was nothing close to what he had once had.
All things considered, though, he knew he was lucky. So he shut up and acquiesced.
* * *
Draco knows that Harry is a good man. That’s the problem.
If one thing became apparent after the War ended, it was that Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley were destined to live out an Epic Romance. The two of them spent all their free time together, were caught snogging more than once, and gave every appearance of being the perfect young couple in love.
The two of them have always made Draco feel nauseated, just a bit. They’re just so very sweet.
Maybe not so sweet anymore, though. Because even though Harry and Ginny celebrated their marriage just fifteen months ago, Harry still makes time to see Draco at least once a month, sometimes more, even if it’s always in the Muggle world, where there’s less chance someone will see. A dirty little secret that won’t spoil the Savior’s fairy tale ending.
* * *
“I heard you were good with the patients.”
Draco looked up from where he was sorting the newest shipment of supplies that had been sent in from China and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He’d heard that Potter was making the rounds today, visiting all the witches and wizards who had been injured during the Battle of Hogwarts. It was just one more reason that everyone loved him.
“I’m better with researching new treatments, but part of the deal is that I do what I’m told.” Draco frowned as he got a whiff of the Yangtze Purpleweed; it smelled a little musty. “I get by.”
“I just wouldn’t have expected it, that’s all.” Harry leaned over and peered curiously at one of the cages holding live specimens. “I’ve never seen bright purple snakes before.”
“Don’t touch her. She’s very excitable, and you don’t want to get bit.” Draco scowled at his visitor. “Why are you here, anyway? Come to gloat?”
Harry shook his head, and his bright green eyes were open and honest as he looked at Draco. “No. I came to say thank you. You tried to help us at the Manor, and I haven’t forgotten that. So. Thank you.”
Draco stared down at the phials and boxes spread out before him and tried to suppress a sudden, completely unexpected urge to cry.
“You’re welcome,” he said finally, and was relieved his voice didn’t shake.
* * *
It’s amazing how a moment here and a moment there can add up.
They started taking lunch together out in Muggle London. After the initial wave of confusion caused by the presence of buses and trams and crosswalks wore off, Draco found he rather liked it. He could be anonymous here in a way that was impossible in the Wizarding world, and it gave him a rush of freedom that could be duplicated nowhere else.
Harry had laughed at him, loud and carefree, and dragged him off to the British Museum. “That’s why I like it, too,” he’d said. “Anyone can just blend in to the crowd.”
No one ever gives them a second look out on the streets of Soho or Piccadilly, and Draco sometimes wonders if that’s the problem.
Maybe if people actually saw them, it would force Harry to realise just what it is he wants.
* * *
Warming charm or no, he feels cold all the way down to his bones when he gets back to his apartment. He flicks his wand at the corners just as soon as he walks through the door, sighing when the room is suffused with a welcoming warm glow. His current home has no resemblance whatsoever to the imposing grandeur that had dominated his childhood, and that’s just how he likes it. He can be himself here, without trying to live down the burden of the past.
He walks into the bedroom and draws up short. Harry is sitting on the bed, shoulders slumped and his hair hanging into his eyes. He doesn’t look up as Draco enters the room and sinks down next to him.
“I’m sorry,” says Harry, and his voice is so soft that Draco has to strain to hear it.
Draco doesn’t say anything for a few minutes, just listens to the sound of the wind. The snowflakes outside are dancing wildly in the orange glow of the streetlight, and for a moment Draco wishes he were one of them. It would be easier.
“You need to choose,” he says finally. “If you want to live your fairy tale life with Ginny, that’s fine. But I can’t wait any longer. The Greengrass family has been making overtures to me, and I could do a lot worse than marrying Astoria.”
Harry doesn’t say anything.
“I can’t build my life around you,” says Draco. “I can’t. It’s not about reviving the Malfoy name, or regaining the family fortune. It’s about finding a place for myself, and I can’t do that if I’m always waiting for you.”
“I can’t leave her.” Harry’s voice is muffled and indistinct. “I made a promise.”
“Then you shouldn’t be here at all,” says Draco, and he’s relieved to hear that his voice is steady. “You do realise that.”
“I know,” mutters Harry, his hand creeping across the bedspread toward Draco’s. “I know.”
Draco can’t pull away from that soft, tentative touch. So he just sits, and watches the snowflakes, and waits.