Recipient: The hd_holidays community!
Title: A Love that Transcends Hunger
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco (Harry/Ginny, Draco/Astoria)
Summary: 'You saved my life once. Now I'm saving yours.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant? Yep!
Word Count: 4500
Author's Notes: Betaed by the lovely B; title from Siken. And to all the people involved with this fest (mods, writers, artists, readers) who have made my last few Decembers a joy, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
On the 16th of February 2020, Harry Potter asks his wife for a divorce.
It's two days after Valentine's Day: she brought him irises and lilies because they're his favourite, and he cooked lasagna - her favourite - the Muggle way because it never comes out right with magic. They've been married just under twenty years: their anniversary is in ten days. Last month they agreed that they'd take a long weekend somewhere: not Paris, somewhere further afield, somewhere they've never been - difficult when they both travel so much for work. They'd been thinking about India.
And now, now, when she comes down for breakfast, still in her blue dressing gown and yellow slippers, Harry puts down the Sunday paper and asks her for a divorce.
The particulars of the conversation don't matter. Neither of them will remember exactly what was said. There's very litte crying and screaming: Ginny's too shocked and Harry's too embarrassed. He keeps making himself meet her eyes, which obviously takes great effort, then can't bear it any more and stares down at the wood grain in the table for a few seconds before trying again. It's ridiculous, and she wants to tell him to stop it, but the words get stuck in her throat, along with all the accusations and the grand speeches and the questions except for why? She just keeps repeating that word, sometimes mustering a normal tone of voice, other times so quiet as to be aspirated. She wants to be sharp with him, be blunt with him, be her usual self, but all she can manage is soft.
And when the conversation peters out and Harry awkwardly says that he has to go, she doesn't say anything: doesn't try to stop him, doesn't tell him good riddance. She just stays there, leaning against the kitchen counter, watching as he takes the Floo. When he calls out his destination, her heart lurches like it did when he first said Gin, I want a divorce.
But she's still not angry. It's like she's misplaced it, somehow: all her anger, fallen down the back of the sofa or hidden in the saucepan drawer. All she feels is off-balance and queasy. And tired.
Ginny goes back to bed. It's strangely easy to sleep.
When you see Draco at King's Cross, tall and straight-backed in black and white - that's the moment. That's the point of no return. You don't know that, of course, too focussed on seeing off your youngest son (and perhaps, if you're honest, your favourite): all you know is that it's the first time you've seen him for two years or more, and that that seems wrong somehow. You delineate his pale, pointed face: sharp chin and cheekbones, thin lips always ready to disapprove, large moon-grey eyes just starting to show crows' feet.
But it's his receding hairline that does you in. He's always had a high forehead, and the severe, slicked-back style he's adopted once again only emphasizes the thinning at his temples. It makes him look vulnerable, and a wave of tenderness rises up from your chest and surprises you. You want to trace that hairline, the sharp edge of the narrow jaw. You want to smooth the fine lines around his eyes, his mouth. You want to cradle the curve of his skull.
You don't, of course: a plume of smoke billows past, obscuring him from view, and Al tugs on your arm, wanting reassurance that he won't be in Slytherin. Instead, you tell him about the two brave, clever men he's named after - one a Slytherin. You contemplate leaving him with a teasing remark about not taking after Snape in any other respects or you'll be having words, but decide against it - he's too nervous to take it in the spirit it's meant. You say goodbye and watch the train leave the station, Hogwarts-bound once more, with one arm wrapped around your wife's shoulders and your free hand waving. It's a beautiful scene.
You take Ginny and Lily for icecream - Lily and Albus are awfully close, and you want to stave off the impending tears for as long as possible - and make them laugh by recounting the story of your first journey to Hogwarts, starting with meeting the Weasleys. Ginny keeps interrupting to give her side of the story, and in the end you never do get round to the part where you rejected Draco's friendship. In the grand scheme of things, you think, it's not very important.
Albus is, of course, the first to know. He's called to the Headmistress' office Floo to take a firecall, and even before he gets there, he suspects. He couldn't say why - to all intents and purposes, his parents appear to have a solid, loving marriage - but he's always been like that, attuned to Dad's moods. James calls him a clone, and he supposes it is a bit weird, what with how much they resemble each other physically as well, but it's always been part of their bond.
It's Dad rather than Mum. I wanted to tell you myself, he says. His face, surrounded by flames, looks tired, and Albus can imagine the stoop of his shoulders. It's a short conversation and Albus doesn't say much, preferring to nod when it seems appropriate. He suspects that if he opens his mouth, something awful will come out - but not from anger. He can't work out why he's not angry.
Will you - says Dad, and Albus says Yes. Of course. Of course he'll tell the others.
The next time you see him, you're at a summit in New York. Despite the impressive setting, it's actually not all that important: you're mainly there to be The Boy Who Lived (Twice) and impress the Yanks, who luckily turn out to be pretty entertaining, so it's not as interminable as you'd feared.
And then you catch sight of him, like you had at the station - but this time he's already looking at you. He doesn't seem embarrassed about having been caught staring: he inclines his head and turns away, his expression unchanging. You swallow.
The rest of the evening passes uneventfully, barring a somewhat inebriated Financial Secretary, or whatever they're called in America, who corners you to enthuse at you for a good ten minutes about Galleon-dollar exchange rates. It's well-meant, but you have no head for numbers - Ginny takes care of the household finances - and you don't understand a word. Mr. Staunton doesn't seem too upset though, so you don't cause an international diplomatic incident with your failure to grasp basic mathematics. All the time, you can't shake the feeling that you're moving inorexably towards something, something big. A turning point.
Then it's two in the morning and you're tired and the party's breaking up, thank Merlin. You dread waking Ginny and Lily with your return.
Draco appears at your side. You won't remember what he says, but it all sounds eminently sensible, so you agree to spend the night at his. You don't know why you agree: he still lives in the Manor, his parents having gracefully retired to France, and that house holds only bad memories for you. But it's like a compulsion: you have to go with Draco, you have to find out what he really wants. Because of course he has an ulterior motive: he always does.
You don't make idle chit-chat: you suppose you're both too tired. But when you arrive at the Manor, stumbling a little on your way out of the Floo, you come face to face with Draco, and you know this is it. This is what you've been building up to all night.
Draco takes you by the chin and kisses you. For one hysterical moment you think of supplication, that Draco is begging your protection, your favour - but no, Draco is kissing you for the sake of kissing you. He's been wanting to do this all night.
But then, perhaps you've been wanting to do this since King's Cross.
You're short, but Ginny is still an inch shorter than you so it feels strange to have to tilt your head up into the kiss. It should feel just as strange to press yourself against a flat chest and rest your hands on narrow hips, but it doesn't.
You should be thinking of Ginny. You're not. You're thinking that the bare curve of Draco's shoulder is the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. You're thinking you should sink your teeth into it.
You're thinking this was inevitable. You're not thinking much at all.
When the Floo call is finished, Albus doesn't go to James, but to Lily. James will be difficult. Lily will be bad, but at least she probably won't shout.
She's in her common room, but he's known to tickle the pear since the week they arrived, so he sneaks in and quietly extracts her from her friends.
"Al, what's the matter?" she asks as he leads her down the corridor, hand lightly on her wrist. She wriggles until he's holding her hand instead.
"I'll tell you outside," he says, and her lips compress and she doesn't say another word until they're on the far side of the lake, entirely alone - excepting maybe the Giant Squid, and he's not going to tell anybody. Lily sits down on the grass, stretching her legs out in front of her.
"Are you going to tell me what's happened, or are you just going to stare pensively into the lake until we both freeze to death?" she asks after a moment in which Albus struggles to work out how to say it. He casts a Warming Charm to delay, then gives up.
"Mum and Dad are getting divorced," he says. It comes out with the right sort of gravity, but that makes it worse.
"What?" Lily shouts, sitting up and startling a sparrow who'd been investigating something in the grass which Albus couldn't see. "You're not - really?" He doesn't say anything. He doesn't even look at her. She sighs. "Sorry, I know you wouldn't try to upset me like that. But - really?"
"Dad told me. So I guess it must be true."
"How did he seem? Sad, relieved?" He looks at her now and twists his mouth to one side.
"Mm, mainly tired."
"Oh." They're both silent for a long moment. "D'you know why?" Lily asks at last, fiddling with a blade of grass. "Actually, no, don't tell me. I don't want to know the reasons."
"Suit yourself, I'm dead curious. But he didn't tell me anything about why, so I couldn't tell you even if you wanted me to." This is not technically true, but what he does know would only upset her, so he keeps his mouth shut.
"I feel like I'm reacting wrongly to this," Lily admits. "I feel like I should be crying, or shouting or something."
"Me too," admits Albus. "But let's be honest: that's more James' style."
"Just hasn't sunk in yet, I suppose. Maybe I'll burst into tears over dinner tonight, in front of everyone. It'd be just my luck." She tilts her head back to work out a crick in her neck. "Or maybe you will."
Now it's Albus' turn to snort.
"Maybe I will," he concedes.
Draco enters the cafe like he's entering a cage: you see his eyes flicker, automatically cataloguing exits and escape routes. You've picked a table at the back which affords a perfect view of all of them and have in front of your arm, resting casually on the table, and a mug of tea which you're sure he's been trained to poison without you noticing; you hope he'll appreciate the gesture.
The care with which he sits down opposite you suggests a much older man, and you can't tell whether it's real or feigned. The Draco you knew wasn't a good liar - but then you don't know Draco anymore.
Draco reaches out across the table for the sugar bowl - you remember he used to do that in school, suck on sugar cubes, the sweet smell sometimes when he talked - and the backs of your knuckles brush. A thrill runs up your spine.
Draco sees it, and smiles.
"I can't leave Ginny," you say. A non sequitur. You haven't even exchanged greetings. Draco leans in and smiles wider still, pale lips stretched across his paler face like a scar.
"I'm not asking you to." His teeth are very white, and you remember how sharp they were, nipping at your neck and chest. You swallow.
"Why would I do that to Ginny?"
"You're not doing anything to her." Draco spreads his hands flat over the table and shrugs minutely, perfectly insouciant.
"Don't be disingenuous," you snap back, and Draco smiles like a shark. He leans in closer, close enough that you can see how his silver irises darken to gunmetal around the pupils.
"Because you're bored," he says.
"I've got a good life here," you protest.
"That's not what I said. I said you're bored." There's a knowing crinkle around his eyes. You purse your lips and turn your head away.
"So what if I am? That's not an excuse."
"For you? Boredom's a brilliant excuse. For you, boredom is dangerous. You were an adrenaline junkie all the time we were at school, and then afterwards you took on all those dangerous assignments - out of the goodness of your heart, the papers said." You can't look away from his eyes, cat-like and hypnotising. "I know better. You need the thrill." He leans back a little. "You saved my life, once. Now I'm saving yours."
Right on cue, a shiver goes up your spine. You want to protest, to take a sip of water, to get up and leave this cafe and never see Draco Malfoy again as long as you live.
But you can't, because he understands. He was there. And while you watched him, always aware of him on the periphery, he was watching you.
You lower your eyes to look at his face through the steam from your mug. Your tongue flicks out to wet your lips. You open your mouth.
James is - difficult. Albus doesn't really want to tell him, would rather put it off and have Dad or Mum deliver the bad news, but he knows he has to.
He finds him outside, of course, with a couple of his mates, tossing a Quaffle back and forth as practice warm-up, brooms by their feet. He's harder to get away than Lily - Can't it wait? I'm busy. - but Albus says no and he must be convincing enough for James to roll his eyes and trudge after him, no doubt making an exaggerated face at his friends behind Albus' back. Fine, he doesn't have to like it. Albus remembers when they were close, so close they were almost like twins - but then they went away to school and something just changed. James changed. He's - harder. Sharper. Albus wishes he knew why.
"Let's get this over with," says James, and the snide tone makes Albus forget about breaking it gently and just snap,
"Mum and Dad are splitting."
"The fuck they are," he says. "If this is you growing a sense of humour at last, you've got some way to go yet."
"I got called into McGonnagall's office to take a fire call from Dad. He told me they're divorcing. Just like that, with the word 'divorce' actually said, in fact." Albus stares at James, watching his face, on edge. He doesn't know what James is capable of any more.
"The fuck." James' face is flushed. "The fuck." His knuckles are white with how hard he's clenching his fists. "They -" He takes a breath. "Look, you don't tell anybody about this, you get that? Nobody, or I swear to god I'll wring your scrawny little neck." His jaw is clenched tight with anger.
"I wouldn't!" Albus protests. "I've told Lily, but I'm not telling anyone else, not even the cousins."
"Good," says James shortly, then turns on his heel and stomps off, away from Albus and also away from his friends. Albus kind of wants to know where he's going, but the tension in the line of his shoulders means he daren't ask, so he leaves it.
From here, it looks like James' shoulders are shaking. Must be the wind playing tricks - or even if it isn't, that's what Albus chooses to think.
The first few months, you fuck all the time. Draco is in charge, of course.
One visit in the fourth month, Draco pins you to the wall and kisses you. Just kisses you - doesn't try to stick his hand down your pants, doesn't even grind against your thigh. Just leans his weight on you and kisses you, open-mouthed and slow.
You spend the whole hour before you have to go like that, just kissing, Draco's hand cupping your jaw, your hand on his hip. When you leave, the colours of the world seem different. You can't tell if you're happy or not.
Pillow talk springs up fairly quickly; you've never been good at keeping quiet around each other. You share work woes and funny stories. You've told them all to Ginny before, but it's better with Draco, who know exactly who you're talking about and has some utterly hilarious anecdotes of his own - told with exactly the right intonation and and gestures to sometimes make you even convulse with helpless laughter, your eyes always fixed on his smiling face. It's harder to make him laugh, but you do your best - fascinated as you are by the cynical, diffident cosmopolitan attitude which Draco cultivates, any time you can catch him off guard feels at first like a victory, then later like a secret shared.
Neither of you mention Ginny. Why would you?
Time passes. Lily goes off to Hogwarts. Hugo goes off to Hogwarts. The twins go off to Hogwarts. Three years, measured in children's milestones. You suppose this is what happens when you get older.
You're the one who finds the first strands of grey in Draco's hair, barely distinguishable against the platinum. You should probably tell him, like Ginny told you, but upon realising what you have glinting around your fingers in the weak summer-evening sun, that old tenderness wells up in your chest again and renders you unable to speak. You kiss his temple instead, touching your lips to the thin skin there, the blue veins, like you kiss your children goodnight.
You're meant to leave in half an hour, get back to your family. Instead you stay for two until Draco wakes, so you can kiss him goodbye.
The last person whom Albus goes to talk to is Scorpius.
He's not difficult to find: he likes the Astronomy Tower, and within it a particular windowseat. He doesn't move as Albus approaches, keeping half of his forehead pressed to the glass; Albus thinks it must be terribly cold, but Scorpius doesn't seem to mind.
"I suppose you've heard, then." He appears to address the Whomping Willow, which Albus can see stretching its branches in the distance. "Papa told me," he adds, "so that if any of you had a bad reaction to the news - I think your brother in particular was on his mind - I would know to keep my head down."
"He asked me not to tell that bit to the others," Albus admits. "I don't think he meant to tell me, actually - I got the impression that it sort of slipped out."
Scorpius snorts, but otherwise doesn't respond. Albus wonders how this looks to him. He wants to ask him what he should expect from this divorce, how Scorpius handled his parents splitting up, but doesn't know him well enough to ask.
But then he will get to know him, won't he? He'll have to. He assesses Scorpius - his pale, pointed face, his narrow frame, his placid gaze - and says,
"Here, move over a bit." At that Scorpius does turn to face him, raising a brow for good measure, but does as requested to let him clamber onto the windowseat and gaze out at the still snow-covered Hogwarts grounds, from the covered bridge to the lake, a faint dark smudge in the distance. There are people outside going to and fro, black robes and brightly-coloured scarves casting pale blue shadows over the snow, but up here you can't hear what they're saying or the crunch of their boots on the ground. The world seems very beautiful and very silent. That's probably why Scorpius likes it so much.
"Are we going to end up as stepbrothers, do you think?" Scorpius asks in his usual mild tone.
"I have considered that possibility, yes," Albus admits. "But it's not me you have to worry about, is it?"
"I suppose we'll burn that bridge when we come to it," says Scorpius dismissively, and Albus laughs before he can stop himself.
"That's not how the expression goes," he points out.
"Do you dispute its accuracy?" Scorpius' tone is arch. Albus finds himself smiling.
"Mm, maybe not." He watches two magpies alight on a weathervane. "It's going to be fine, though. I think. Somehow. Hopefully without anyone winding up dead."
Scorpius hums and goes back to resting his forehead against the glass. "In the end, it'll be fine one way or another," he says, and Albus supposes there's nothing more to say to that but he doesn't want to leave - so he stays there with Scorpius for a long while, just watching people carrying on with their lives. In the end, it'll be alright.
The breaking point comes on February the fifteenth. You spent Valentine's Day with Ginny, so you're spending the day after with Draco.
It goes wrong.
You're leaning by a bay window in one of the Manor's many parlours when Draco comes in with your tea, puts the tray down on a table and says, mildly,
"You know, it'd be nice if you said you loved me every one in a while."
You suck in a startled breath. Then you relax: he's teasing you. That's what Draco does.
"And why would I need to do that? You love yourself quite enough," you say lightly. But Draco frowns.
"I'm serious," he says.
"What? Why?" you ask, wrong-footed. You don't understand; love was never part of the arrangement.
"We've been together more than three years now and it's just after Valentine's Day; I thought we might push the boat out." His tone is dry, but sincere.
"That's not what I - together, what - how can I be in love with you? I don't know you!" You stand up, angry and confused.
"Of course you do," says Draco instantly, and you bare your teeth because that's not what you meant. You open your mouth to snap back, but he says, still quietly, still calmly, "You know me in all the ways that matter." He keeps his eyes fixed on yours. "Tell me, Harry: why did you start fucking me while you were still married?"
"Because I was bored. Isn't that what you said?" You try not to sound spiteful. You don't think you succeed.
"You're lying." He sounds very certain.
"Draco-" You sigh. "We fuck sometimes. That's not the makings of a grand romance."
"Is that what you tell yourself? That we've just been having occasional, opportunistic sex for the past three years?" His tone is very dry now.
"Are you telling me we haven't? Draco, I'm married. I love my wife."
"Are you in love with her?" Draco fires back immediately, quick but still calm.
"What sort of question is that?" You run your fingers through your hair in frustration. "I can't leave Ginny, you know that."
"I'm not asking you to." Draco steps into your space again. "Your stable but passionless marriage is frankly none of my business. I'm asking you to admit that you love me."
"Because I can say out loud that I love you, and I want you to be able to do the same. Makes things fair, don't you think?"
The realisation comes when Draco has already finished speaking. You stare at him for a long moment, hot thread of excitement in your stomach and chest, a feeling of unbearable fullness throughout your body, splitting through your skin. Your head is tingling.
"Shit," you say. Your face must be a picture, because Draco laughs - a little nervously, you think. "Shit," you say again, more distantly. "You - I love you."
Draco's eyebrows raise and the corners of his mouth quirk upwards. He reaches out to clasp your forearms and you grip his hips tightly, seeking an anchor. "What, you only just realised?" he asks, lightly, teasingly. You want to kiss him, so you do - press your lips to the corner of his mouth, just for a moment.
"I love you," you repeat wonderingly. "What am I meant to do about that?"
"I told you, I don't expect you to do anything. Reciprocation is enough." He says it sincerely, but for some reason it makes you feel ashamed.
"No it's not. It's not enough." Draco deserves more. Ginny deserves more.
Draco looks surprised, but only for a moment.
"So what do you want to do?" he asks, in a tone that makes you think he already knows the answer. His sharp face seems softer in this light. There are the faintest crows' feet at the corners of his eyes, and you want to kiss them.
You look him in the eye, take a breath. You open your mouth.