Rating: eventual NC-17
Pairings: Draco/Blaise, Draco/Harry (not necessarily in that order)
Summary: Sometimes love is gentle and familiar, like the warmth of the late summer sun. And sometimes it is so much more....
Warnings: Character death (not Harry or Draco) and some Ginny bashing. 1st person (I know some people don't like first person but please give it a chance! I will try not to disappoint) Not beta'd! Apology for any mistakes.
Notes: I'm sorry this took so long! I was working on my Big Bang fic, which I finished ON the day it was due *melts with relief* Thank you for your patience. This is a bit of a transition chapter and Ginny is...um...interesting. I hope you all enjoy!!! <3
Part 3: b
“Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear. And I can't help but ask myself how much I'll let the fear take the wheel and steer. It's driven me before, and it seems to a faint, haunting mass appeal. But lately I am beginning to find that I should be the one behind the wheel.”
“I’ve been thinking about selling my old flat,” I blurted out one day, two weeks after the incident with a screaming, red-headed shrew, over breakfast of cold Muggle cereal that was surprisingly good. Harry, who was sitting across from me looked up at me quickly, surprise making his eyes wide.
“Oh,” he said rather lamely. I could tell he was trying to think of something comforting and unnecessary to say, or at least just something to say at all. Agitated, I fiddled with my spoon and watched the flakes of my cereal slowly growing soggy as they swam in their bowl of milk. I hadn’t told him because I wanted him to say something, though I supposed that, with me staying in his house, he should know.
“I can look for another place while I’m at it so I’m not in your hair for too much longer,” I said it as nonchalantly as I could but my words still held a bite to them I couldn’t disguise. Potter scowled at me over our forgotten breakfast and I was almost comforted by the familiarity of his expression.
“Malfoy, stop being such a prick. I already told you that you’re welcome to stay here as long as you want to. If you were ‘getting in my hair’ I wouldn’t have invited you here in the first place,” he seemed rather angry about it, that he had to keep telling me that. It wasn’t the first time I had made a comment of that sort and it probably wouldn’t be the last. I just didn’t like being beholden to someone, especially Potter since I already owed him so much. It grated on me, that he was always coming to my rescue like I was some damsel in distress.
“What if I want to find my own place?” I demanded and immediately wished I hadn’t. Potter’s face fell and though he gallantly tried to hide it, I had seen the way he dulled and how his shoulders slumped just a little bit. Did he really like having me here that much, I wondered? What was more, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I didn’t want to leave either. Finding a new flat meant living alone and I didn’t think I could handle that. It would only remind me of the time when I didn’t live alone and that way only led to depression or worse. Then Potter cleared his throat and seemed to bolster himself, pretending he hadn’t been as hurt as I knew he was.
“Well, if that’s what you want,” he said with a painfully fake smile that nearly made me roll my eyes. An actor this man was not, “I can help, if you’d like,” his big green eyes reminded me of a puppy and I felt like if I continued to be difficult, I would only just be kicking it. With a sigh, I dropped my spoon and tucked an errant strand of hair behind my ear.
“I’m not going anywhere as of yet,” I mumbled with ill grace and told myself I did not like the way his face lit up. Not at all. It made no difference to me whether he was happy if I stayed here or not. Then I mentally kicked myself because even I didn’t believe that for one second. There was a short pause that should have been awkward but wasn’t before he broke the silence again.
“Can I ask…what happened to the Manor? Can’t you go back there? I mean, if you wanted to,” I don’t think I hid my wince very well but when I glanced at him, Potter didn’t seem to have noticed anything amiss. His eyes were as green as new spring grass behind the shine of his glasses when they blinked at me, waiting for me to answer. The Manor was not a topic I liked to think about if I could help it. The place, building, house that I had grown up in no longer meant anything to me, though not because I wished it to be so. If I’d had my way, I’d have been living in it all along.
Scowling, I plucked my napkin from my lap and tossed it to the table. My appetite had gone off with the conversation and the completely soggy flakes of Potter’s Muggle cereal, “The Manor no longer belongs to the Malfoy family,” I finally muttered, ears burning with remembered fury and shame, “Didn’t you read the papers? It was all over the news right after the war. ‘Death Eater family gets what they deserve’ or whatever shit the headlines said. The Ministry took our house and property as ‘reparations’,” It had been bad, too, much to my mother’s humiliation. So bad, in fact, she had packed her bags, gathered her house elves and moved to France. If it had not been for Blaise’s presence in my life already, I probably would have gone with her.
At the moment, I almost wish I had. I suppose if it wasn’t for Potter rescuing me yet again, I might have ended up there anyway. There was nothing for me here in England. And yet…it felt wrong thinking about leaving now. Potter was watching me with solemn eyes, understanding flooding his expression. I was happy there was no pity but then again, out of anyone, it would be him that understood.
“I don’t read the paper,” he said simply, “I’m sorry,” and he probably was. Nothing else was said as he stood and took both of our bowls so he could set them in the sink and then he was off to the Ministry with a small wave and a smile, “We’ll see about getting an agent to sell your flat this weekend, yeah?” I could have informed him that I was perfectly capable doing it myself and that the condition of my heart didn’t make me into an invalid but he had already stepped through the door. It just didn’t seem worth it anyway. Grief made me tired and it would be nice to have someone on my side.
It didn’t matter if it was Potter. In fact, I was beginning to see that not only was that not such a bad thing but the more time I spent in his company, the more I enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure when that happened but I was sure that it couldn’t be good. The more I came to like this man, the farther I felt from Blaise and that scared me so much I wanted to flee so I’d never have to see Potter’s stupid handsome face again. All I had left of Blaise was my memories and my love for him. I was afraid that, if I let myself be drawn in by this new, fascinating person, I would lose him for good.
Though it was only a little less than a month after my lover’s death, I could feel him slipping away, my grief slowly starting to dull with time. The more I tried to hold onto it, the harder it got to remember his face, his laugh, his kiss, his scent. And that hurt most of all.
Yet, for whatever reason, I could not distance myself from Potter and Blaise continued to gradually disappear.
Potter walked with aggressive grace, I noted as I watched him walk down the front steps and disappear around the corner from the sitting room window. It fit him, just like his perpetual intensity fit him and his wild, abundant hair fit him. I didn’t recall him moving like that when we were younger but then again, I was more interested in tormenting him rather than taking notes on how he walked.
How things changed.
As much as I wished to go on disliking the man and resenting him for, well, just about everything, it was admittedly hard to maintain it. Not only because I had a hard time digging up emotions that weren’t just grief and anger but because the man was genuinely likeable, damn him. His temper had cooled somewhat, turning into dark scowls and heavy glares. He had a sense of humor that was dry and sarcastic, something I couldn’t help thinking Blaise would have appreciated. Though the clothes he lounged around his house in were on the grungy side, I knew he could clean up disturbingly well. He wasn’t crude nor did he feel the need to swear like a sailor; he was intelligent and understanding and stopped talking if he sensed that I was in a particularly bad mood. Incredibly, he was very apt with dealing with those moods, usually brought on by particularly hard spells of desolation that would hit me hard and I couldn’t deal with. Desolation that would practically cripple me and I missed Blaise so much, it felt like I would physically shatter from wanting him back.
One of those struck me the first weekend he had started staying at Grimmuald place. Saturday night, after a surprisingly comfortable and informal day of lounging about in the back garden together, drinking a sweet, chilled drink I didn’t know the name of and enjoying the warmth of the gentle sunlight, he had called in Thai take out. It was such a stupid thing to let under my already weak defenses and now when I think back on it, it was humiliating that I had let him see me like that. But when he set the kitchen table and dug into one of the containers to sneak a bite like he thought I wouldn’t notice, I was struck by the action. Blaise used to do that, laughing when I lifted one eyebrow in disapproval, saying with the rich scent of spices filling the air, “but the first bite out of the carton just tastes better!”
I think he was a little terrified when I broke down right there at the kitchen table, though I was too busy trying to breathe through the sudden attack of grief to notice the expression on his face. Like the time when I had realized I’d forgotten about my lover’s funeral, this burst of emotion was just as messy. I tried to turn away, my face buried in my arms, wishing I could see so I could run away but then there was a warm hand on my shoulder and a soothing, steady voice in my ear.
“Okay, Malfoy,” he whispered, holding me close and not even batting an eyelash when I accidentally smeared tears and snot on the shoulder of his sweater, “That’s it. Just breathe,” I didn’t want to need that kind of comfort but I was so wrecked I didn’t have the strength to push him away. The entire time, he murmured soft, meaningless words in my ear and lent his quiet strength for me to sob against. Then later, when I was curled up in the sitting room with a cup of hot tea and swollen eyes, he simply sat in his chair and didn’t ask why I had started crying for no good discernable reason. We both knew why, even if he didn’t know the exact details. Instead he said, “I heard about a new broom that’s supposed to come out this fall. It’s said it’s going to be faster than the latest Lightning models. We should check it out,” and I had never been more grateful to anyone in my life.
Compassion, comfort, understanding, yes but the tact I wouldn’t have expected at all. I wanted to hate him for it but instead I smiled at him and nodded.
And then, after the conversation we’d had yesterday about selling my flat, he had come home that same night to announce that he talked to someone who might be interested in looking at it. At first I thought he was just being so nice because he felt bad for me but the thoughtfulness and the calm shows of compassion were not put upon, making me wonder how I could ever be free of him now that I knew what kind of person he was.
Nobody was allowed to be so bloody perfect without a few flaws, right? Not Potter. In fact, the only flaw I could see was the company he chose to keep.
Namely, Ginerva Weasley.
Since the fight Potter and his ginger girlfriend had in front of me, I had not seen much of her around. When I thought about it, something I tried not to do too much because it was rather cringe-worthy, it was surprising. The red headed shrew seemed like the type to cling to whatever poor sod she had her claws into, which, sadly, happened to be Potter. I expected her to barge in at all hours of the day, making demands and pretending she mattered. I suppose most of that might have been from my general dislike of the Weasleys and the perception that, despite how I did or didn’t feel about Potter, Ginny had no place on that man’s arm. But after that one row, the impression I had gotten of her was not favorable.
She stayed away for the most part, though. It could have been because of my presence in the house but I suspected it was more than that. I had no idea if Potter went back to the house he had been sharing with her, which was also his so I thought he must, or if he saw her during the day while he was out. Potter never said anything about it. Our conversations usually consisted of his accounts of one case he was working on or another or something mundane like the weather (bringing up our past wasn’t conducive to anything but an argument and I was too tired for those). He probably knew I had no wish to hear about the harpy, which was true but I would have listened anyway.
Sighing, I turned away from the window and rubbed my hands over my arms, the fabric of Potter’s borrowed jumper bunching under my fingers. I had taken to watching him leave for work everyday, striding down the street with his Auror robes tucked under his arm, disguised so the Muggles thought it was just an ordinary jacket. The buffoon walked to the Muggle Underground everyday instead of just Apparating like every other normal wizard. When I had asked him about it the other day, he had lifted his broad shoulders and smiled.
“I like it. It keeps the days from getting too boring. You never know what you might see in the Underground,” I had sneered at him a little bit, completely baffled. What was the sense of having magic at all if he wasn’t going to take advantage of it?
“Oh yes, because I’m sure being an Auror is oh so boring,” I had quipped and instead of one of his famous glowers like I had been expecting, he smiled sadly and turned his head away. If I didn’t know better, I would say that the expression in his eyes was wistful. Maybe, I think now, recalling the brilliant green gaze that had look so far away, I didn’t know better after all.
“You might be surprised,” he had responded and I hadn’t known what to say in response. In fact, I still didn’t know what to make of that little statement he’d made. The way he talked about it when he told me his stories from cases he’d worked, being an Auror didn’t sound boring. In fact, it sounded bloody dangerous and every so often, suicidal. A job right up Potter’s alley. Well, that’s what I’d always thought, anyway, when I thought about it all. I admit now that the man didn’t show up on my radar too much after the war and before Blaise’s…At any rate, it seemed that being an Auror was apparently not up his alley at all.
It was a mystery that I shouldn’t get involved in solving but I couldn’t deny it fascinated me.
I didn’t look into my borrowed room when I made my way upstairs for a shower. I didn’t want to look at that black candle burning on my bedside table. When I did that, I was caught in its flame and couldn’t leave my room again. I tried to keep the days I spent here a routine so I didn’t fall into boredom. I supposed I could leave the house but the back garden was good enough when the weather permitted. If I could keep myself from wallowing in my grief curled pitifully amid my sheets, I could forget for a little while that it was getting difficult to remember the exact shape of Blaise’s smile and the shade of his golden eyes.
On those days, I ate breakfast with Potter and then saw him off to work, though I don’t think he knew about that second bit, before taking the longest shower I could before the hot water ran out and my fingers pruned. Being clean always made me feel more awake, kind of like a strong cup of tea, so I would end up wandering around the house, seeking out all the dusty, forgotten corners of the old Black family home. It was more excited than it sounded, as the house was indeed much bigger than it appeared to be. There were hidden nooks and crannies all over the place and rooms tucked into the least expected places. Some of them Potter had either redone or had clearly started working on while there were others I didn’t think he even knew about. Strange things could be found in these places; sometimes oddities from a family long diminished while others were clearly Dark artifacts and which I gave a wide berth. Nonetheless, I usually lasted until mid afternoon, when my stomach started rumbling and I would go downstairs again to find Kreacher with dust clinging to my borrowed clothes and mussed hair seeking lunch.
Kreacher was an interesting companion to have around, puttering around while I ate whatever he made me, which was usually lavish dishes I recall being served at some of my mother’s formal dinner parties. I think he was just happy that, as a pureblood, I would understand and appreciate the food he made. The ones I liked the best, though, were the simple corned beef and mustard sandwiches I knew Potter favored when he was around. As I ate, he would talk in his creaking, trembling voice about some of the good things he remembered about my mother and my aunts and cousins. It was strange but amusing and he always looked so happy that I listened.
After lunch I usually whittled my hours away in Potter’s magnificent library, lounging in one of the cushy chairs with a book in my lap. He had books of all kinds, Muggle and Wizarding, but for some reason I found myself drawn to the Muggle ones. It was fascinating to see how imaginative they could get when they didn’t have the limitations of knowing about magic. To them, magic was just another myth so they could make it into whatever they wanted, without the truths about it getting in the way. Strangely enough, instead of bothering me, I found it refreshing and could often lose myself in a plot until Potter was stomping through the door with either take away or groceries for dinner.
Like this, I could force myself not to feel and to forget what it was I didn’t want to feel. And then, a little more than three weeks since I came to stay with Potter, the peaceful status of my days was shattered.
I had just finished my shower and was rummaging through the slowly growing pile of clothes I had been sneaking from Potter’s closet when there was a thump from downstairs and then a horrifying crash. Nearly leaping out of my skin in fright, I quickly snatched trousers and a jumper that was much too big and threw them on as I dashed down the stairs. It was mid-morning on a Thursday and I was the only one besides Kreacher in the house.
My first thought was a break-in, as the old house elf was generally very quiet unless he was taking to me. The wards were old and Potter seemed to have allowed them to relax, having no real need for them now that the war was over and most dangerous Death Eaters in Azkaban. It would still take some effort getting in but a truly determined witch or wizard would manage it. It could also have been something simply falling, a Sticking charm finally giving way but as I reached the first floor, I kept my wand ready at my side and my footsteps as quiet as I could. The floorboards didn’t creak much but it felt as though my heart would give me away as it tried to thump out the back of my throat.
There was a muffled curse then another crash from the sitting room and I switched my wand into my left hand temporarily to wipe the sweat from my palm. Despite being a good duelist, courtesy of my father’s upbringing, I didn’t like confrontation. Not after the war. I didn’t like the possibility of getting hurt and being put in danger but I especially didn’t like hurting other people. It was one of the reasons why I had been unable to kill Dumbledore; the very thought made me cringe just thinking about it. By now my hands were shaking and I swallowed dryly as I tip toed up to the opening of the sitting room where the person inside was breathing heavily and making rhythmic swishing noises, like they were pacing.
“Fuck, fuck fuck!!” I nearly jumped a meter into the air when something else broke noisily against an unfortunate wall and it took me another long, heart pounding moment to realize that had been Potter’s voice screaming profanities. Immediately relief flooded through me, leaving me sagging against the wall with my wand held limply in my hands. For a terrifying moment, I had thought I would have to chase out a rather violent intruder. Then I took a deep breath and let my curiosity take me around the corner and into the room.
Just in time to see Potter scream wordlessly and fling the heavy, gold-framed mirror that usually hung over the mantel across the room. It slammed awkwardly against the wall, tearing a gash into the paneling and showering that end of the room with little shards of reflective glass. This time my heart leaped and raced for a different reason entirely, mostly as a result of the palpable rage that thickened the air until it was like soup, making it hard to breathe. The man looked positively wild, with his hair in every which direction, length adding to the look and his eyes huge and dark behind his crooked glasses. His crimson Auror robes hung open around him and the white button down he wore underneath was disheveled, like he had been yanking on it in his anger. I was not aware that I was gaping until he whirled around and spotted me in the doorway, expression so fierce I felt a fission of fear.
“What the fuck do you want!?” he snarled, advancing a few steps before bringing himself to an abrupt halt, hands clenched at his sides and hair fanning out with wild magic. I’d never seen him this mad, which was saying something considering how angry I had gotten him while we were still at Hogwarts. Compared to what he looked like now, he had been like an indignant Crup puppy. Now he was a beast, his fine control shivering about him on delicate strings that were about to snap under the strain. I took a deep breath then lifted my chin. I would not be afraid of him.
“I heard a crash and I came to make sure everything was still intact,” I lifted an eyebrow and looked around, taking in the impressive wreckage of the room, “Apparently not,” his nose flared with the effort of keeping himself still and I felt his magic pulsing warningly in the air. Then he clenched his jaw and turned away, striding back to the dark fireplace. Every step he took was a controlled motion, deliberate, charged. I felt like I was flirting with a hungry lion that would quickly see me as lunch rather than a friend if I made the wrong move. Nervously, I realized that the comparison was probably not that far from the truth.
“Go away, Malfoy,” Potter’s voice was oddly strained and he ducked his head so he could grab two fistfuls of his hair, pulling on it rather than running his fingers through it like he usually did. Tucking my wand into my sleeve, I crossed my arms over my chest and leaned against the doorway, watching him pace back and forth over the carpet in front of the hearth. The ends of his hair actually lifted and curled from the seeping magic and though he turned sharply at the end of a couple strides, his robes billowed out more than they would normally, reminding me sadly of Snape. Thankfully, he’d stopped throwing things. Finally he stopped moving and stared out the front window, eyes still blazing with fury.
“Potter,” I ventured after long minutes of silence where he just stood there and breathed. At the sound of his name, he gave a little shudder and his shoulders drooped. All the magic that had been dancing around him and charging in air deflated along with him, dissipating like a heavy fog. The change was alarming and for a second I wondered if someone had died. Well, someone else. His dark head ducked, chin hitting his chest and I took an involuntary step into the room, barely suppressing the impulse to reach out and touch him. He must have heard my movement because he took a shuddering breath and spoke in a soft, unsteady voice.
“I got a call today from a realtor. My realtor. For Godric’s Hollow that…that Ginny is putting up for sale,” I felt my eyes go wide, completely shocked. Even I understood what that house had to mean to him. It was his parents’ house, the one they had died in, the one his entire conflict with the Dark Lord began in. I had seen a few pictures of him standing in front of it with a couple of his friends on his desk in the third floor study and I could see the pride on his face even in the little, animated squares of magical paper. I knew that the she-weasel was a complete fool but I didn’t think she was actually stupid enough to try and sell his house.
“If I may?” I ventured, taking another step into the room. Potter’s shoulder’s tightened for a moment before he turned and faced me, the lines on his face looking hollow and his eyes dark with so much hurt I could almost feel it, “How does she have the authority to sell your house?” the only way that could happen was if he signed off half of it to her, as couples sometimes do when one moves in with the other. Yet even then, she needed to consult him and they needed his signature before anything could go through. His green eyes flashed dangerously but he was feeling the betrayal too keenly for it to flame up into full-blown anger again.
“It’s not up for sale yet. She can’t do that by herself because it’s not completely hers,” the way his voice rasped and shook with emotion made me feel momentarily bad for him but I was really just angry. Angry at him for not having seen what kind of woman the Weaselette was and wishing I could hex her for making me want to comfort him, “But…she must have convinced the realtor, Ms. Small,” he twisted the name into something mocking, “that I was on board and just didn’t have time in my schedule for the meeting,” he scrubbed both hands through his hair and then collapsed into the couch, eyes red rimmed and hollow, “I don’t understand,” he whispered, “I don’t understand it at all,” I sat next to him, frowning at the way his helpless expression pulled at my heart. It was strange being the one comforting rather than being comforted. I didn’t like it because I wasn’t used to doing it. It made me wonder what kind of selfish bastard I had been, that I couldn’t even bring myself to pat Potter on the back or offer a kind word when he looked so pitiful. Awkwardly, I touched his arm, a quick, fleeting touch that, while not exactly warm, brought his eyes to mine, surprised and maybe just a little less hollow looking.
“Have you…talked to her?” I asked after a few moments, not knowing what else to say. I knew what I would do in this situation. I would simply go to a Solicitor and have her removed from all the house deeds and then dump her ass. But then again, I was too much of a Slytherin to ever give someone that kind of power over something that was mine. The only reason both mine and Blaise’s names had been on the contract for our flat was because we bought it together and it held no sentimental value to either of us except that it was ours to share. I would probably not have cared if he decided to sell it and bought another place but then again, our tastes were the same so I knew it would be a good place. Gryffindors, it seemed, did not think of terms of logic and consequences. They let their hearts lead. An admirable but potential messy way to live, it seemed.
“I can’t,” Potter muttered darkly, staring down at his hands clasped white-knuckled in his lap, “I’m…I’m so angry, I’m afraid I’m going to do something I’ll regret,” he shook his shaggy dark head then heaved a great sigh that sounded like it came up from his very toes, “I suppose I should. Maybe she has a good explanation,” I felt my mouth twist when the words, but I doubt it, floated in the air between us.
I was sure he was thinking them as hard as I was and the shadowed green eyes continued to look tortured and betrayed. Even after I brought him a cup of tea and sat next to him on that couch saying nothing, his expression never changed. And when he finally mustered up enough courage (as though he was lacking it, which was unlikely) to send an owl to the she-weasel, I wandered into the kitchen and made spaghetti and meatballs with Kreacher’s help. Comfort food. I couldn’t soothe with touches or soft words but I could cook, a trade learned I in the past couple years. By the bright look on Potter’s face when stepped into the kitchen just as I was finishing, perhaps I hadn’t done so badly after all.
I would not examine why that made a little bubble of warmth rise within my chest and ignored the way those brilliant green eyes watched me all through dinner. I was afraid that if I acknowledged him, I wouldn’t be able to stop.
And that was something that just couldn’t happen.
The fight and subsequent breakup between Potter and the she-banshee was, in short, spectacular. Like fireworks, complete with explosions of wild, angry magic, courtesy of Potter.
The owl he had sent to the Weasley girl apparently asked her to come over so he could talk to her. I’m not quite sure why they didn’t just have it out at the house in question but for whatever reason, Potter chose his kitchen at Grimmuald place. I wondered if perhaps he felt more comfortable there, since it wasn’t a place he had shared with her and thus had more leverage. Whatever the reason was, the fact remained that their blow out row fairly shook the roof down and I was there to hear every word of it.
I told myself when I heard her voice downstairs while I was sitting in the library, I wasn’t going to eavesdrop. It wasn’t any of my business and I shouldn’t care one jot what happened between Potter and his ginger girlfriend. Well, that’s what I told myself, anyway but I had never been any good at minding my own business. Everyone else’s was always so much more interesting. I could hear the echo of Blaise’s laughter in my head when I gave up after two full, agonizing minutes of listening to the steadily rising voices from a floor below me and fairly pelted down the steps, hoping my hurried footfalls weren’t noticed. After all, I reasoned as I made my way to the kitchen door, wincing when I heard something shatter, I would only explode with my desire to know what was going on anyway. Wasn’t it better to just get it over with rather then remain irritable and curious for the rest of the week?
“…yours to sell and if I had known that was how you felt about it, I would never have asked you to move in to begin with!” Potter was snarling and as I sidled down the small flight of steps that led into the kitchen, I could almost picture him pacing, black hair even more of a mess from having run his fingers through it and green eyes fairly blazing in anger. An image I quickly discarded when it sent a little shiver of something through me that was better left alone.
“I tried telling you many times that I wasn’t happy there and you wouldn’t listen to me!” the she-banshee was whining and the sound of it made me wrinkle my nose in disgust. There was a heavy pause and I wondered if Potter was staring at her as incredulously as I would have been if our positions had been switched, disbelieving and hurt, “You aren’t happy there either!” she rallied a moment later, voice turning wheedling, “I could see how much living there hurt you. You’re just living with the ghosts of your parents in that house!” this time I winced and sat down on one of the steps, feeling the pang of sympathy for the other man flare in my chest. There was a crackle of something on the other side of the door and a sharp inhalation of breath.
“That’s not true, Ginny,” I almost didn’t hear him through the closed door, Potter’s voice was so soft. Soft with anger and hurt and what sounded like doubt. It seemed to give the Weaselette the confidence she needed to continue her attack, making her voice soft to match Potters as if that would show him how much she cared.
“It is true, Harry. You may have fixed it up and put a new coat of paint on it but you can’t change the fact that it was a gravesite for you parents. You can’t keep clinging to the past and you can’t keep clinging to them,” her words were sugar coated but the bite to them was no less vicious. She wasn’t pulling punches and I wondered if she really believed what she was saying or if she was just doing it to get what she wanted “In case you haven’t noticed, Harry, they are dead,” I covered my mouth with my hand, eyes wide. Even if it was true, there had a kinder way of saying it.
“Ginny,” Potter’s voice was low and dangerous and I could practically feel the wild, angry magic flooding the room as it poured off of him, “The paperwork will be changed as soon as Gringotts opens in the morning. You are no longer on any of the deeds,” I could have cheered but it would have given me away and I didn’t need the wrath I knew was burning in those wild green eyes to turn on me. The she-weasel made a sound as if she was going to say something but Potter wasn’t done, “You will get all of your things out of my house by the end of the week or I am Incinerating them,” this time she made an indignant noise but he still wouldn’t let her speak, “Leave the key under the doormat. You will no longer be needing it. And since you dislike it there so much, I will be changing the wards as well,”
“Harry, calm down. Just think about this before you do anything rash,” she sounded a little desperate but also a little condescending, as if she thought that this was just something he had to get out of his system and he would just forgive her in time. It made me curious as to how many times that had already happened; Potter forgiving her for something she had done after his temper was spent. Somehow, I doubted there would be forgiveness this time.
“Rash? Rash? You tried to sell my HOME! My parents home!” he had truly lost it now and the door rattled on its hinges as if trying to get away from his wrath, “I have put up with your selfish requests and thoughtless actions for almost three years because I thought that you might grow up and I would see the strong, beautiful girl I fell in love with at Hogwarts! Did she even exist, Ginny, or have you been playing me all this time?” I bit my lip and tried to tell myself that my heart wasn’t aching for him. It didn’t work.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Harry,” the she-banshee said a little stiffly, ice crusting her voice, “I’m still that same girl. Maybe you just wanted something that didn’t exist. No one can be perfect, you know,” I have to admit, after everything I’d heard so far, I was not expecting this. The door rattled again, harder this time and I thought that she was incredibly foolish to have said something like that to him while he was so angry. Perhaps she thought she was being brave and standing up to him but there was never the need for cruelty.
“Get out,” he hissed, sounding like the snakes I knew he could speak to, “Get out of here and don’t come back. We are done,” it shouldn’t be that sexy, his fury. It shouldn’t and yet it was, making me squirm uncomfortably on the stair. I heard someone walking, clicking footsteps nearing the door and I scrambled to my feet, wanting to make a get away before I was discovered. I wasn’t quick enough, though and had barely just stood before the red headed Weasel was yanking the door open, light from the kitchen flooding the staircase.
“I’ll let you cool down and then we can talk again,” the she-banshee growled over her shoulder and I decided it probably wouldn’t make a difference if I was caught. Not by her, anyway. Freckle-faced bint. She barely acknowledged me when she turned back around, merely lifting her chin in the air and looking down her nose at me. As if that had any effect whatsoever. I was the king of haughty; it was almost comical that she thought she could pull it off at all. Potter stood on the other side of the room and I watched as he made a furious, aborted movement with his hand that sent a porcelain teacup and saucer flying at her only to change course in the middle and smash against the wall. It stole my breath away and had the red head squeaking and scurrying away.
I stood against the wall on the steps, watching Potter as the she-weasel’s footsteps faded and the front door slammed closed. He was breathing hard, face flushed and eyes so bright with his anger they seemed alive. I hated that he could just get angry and my heart would fall all over itself but there was no use trying to pretend it didn’t. There was something magnificent about all that power barely leashed and whipped around him like a storm. I didn’t need to act on the reaction his power stirred in me, unwelcome as it was. But I wasn’t sure if I could continue to pretend it wasn’t there, either. Not when he looked like this, blazing as hot as Feindfyre and powerful enough that I could practically see the flames licking along his pale skin. When his eyes locked on me, blazing behind the wild curls of his hair, I felt a spark of heat bolt up my spine, a mixture of arousal and worry.
“How much did you hear?” his voice as still an aggressive growl, an angered lion that was debating whether I should become its prey. It was a comparison that should have made me uncomfortable but it didn’t. He wouldn’t hurt me, I knew that much but his temper, as much as it seemed to have mellowed over the years, was still something to contend with.
“Just about everything,” I said with a shrug, feigning nonchalance as I stepped into the kitchen with him. I was anything but unaffected, though and had to swallow around the dryness in my mouth before I could be confident my words wouldn’t crack, “I think the entire neighborhood heard just about everything,” he frowned at me but didn’t comment on it, which was a little surprising. I would have thought, with him still riled, he would be snapping at me like we were still at Hogwarts.
“She just…doesn’t get it. She didn’t want to hear that what she was doing was…” he shook his shaggy head and spun in place so that he could start pacing the length of the kitchen, taking huge, ground eating strides that looked much too big for the space he had. I pursed my lips as I watched him, thinking that all the man needed was a tail to lash and he would complete the image of a caged lion. He already had the mane and the presence.
“I get the impression that this is not the first time she was…inconsiderate of your feelings,” I ventured finally, testing the limits of his temper and was rewarded with a sharp gesture similar to the one that sent the tea cup flying at the wall before. Nothing came flying at me, thankfully but his eyes burned like a touch of fire. He didn’t say anything at first, clearly trying to wrestle his temper back under control. His nostrils were flared and his jaw was clenched, fists closed tight at his side.
“You could tell?” he managed to snap after a while, scrubbing his fingers through his hair. I nearly snorted aloud when his black locks stood on end, making him look like he’d been struck by lightning but decided it was probably best not to laugh at the man at the moment. I crossed my arms over my chest and lifted one shoulder.
“Not that hard to figure out, Potter. Every time I had the misfortune of meeting her, she was usually walking all over you,” those green eyes were piercing, the dark brows drawn down over them like hulking thunderstorms, shadowing his expression and making me shiver, “like a door mat,” I couldn’t resist the final jab and he snarled wordlessly at me, blazing up in his hurt and rage. I admit, it wasn’t fair to say but in reality, that was exactly what it had looked like. The woman took what she wanted from him without regard for Potter himself.
“Fuck you, Malfoy,” he hissed, taking few steps towards me, smoldering dangerously. There was no more wild magic, though and I had to wonder as I stared back, holding my ground even though I wished I could take a step back, if he had been angrier at the ginger shrew than he was at me for stating the truth, “She wasn’t always like this. Not really. Not at first,” all at once, his anger seemed to dissipate, much like it had while we were in the sitting room earlier that day, “She is not the person I thought she was,” his shoulders slumped and I realized I was looking at someone whose heart had just been broken by reality. In a different way than mine had been, of course, but I don’t think the loss of love, no matter how it happens, is any less painful.
“Then why did you stay with her?” I asked quietly, no longer goading but just questioning. Potter tipped his head forward, letting his palm cover his face so I couldn’t see his expression then uttered a bleak, hoarse laugh.
“For the same reason you mourn Blaise,” when he glanced at me, he looked unaccountably sad and I hated it. The mention of my late lover sent a pang through me and I hated that too. Nothing with Potter was ever easy or straightforward. It was low of him to even bring Blaise into the conversation but I couldn’t be angry with him for it, as much as I wished to be. Even when he shoved past me out the door, I just stood there, staring at the far wall and remembering what it had felt like to love.
The lack of Potter’s towering presence in the room made the ceiling and walls feel so much farther away and I shuffled over to a chair, feeling suddenly exhausted. I didn’t think Potter had said what he had because he was being mean or hurtful. Truthfully, he probably had a point. But I didn’t want to believe that anything Potter might have had with the she-weasel was anything like what I’d had with Blaise. She didn’t love Potter the way Blaise and I had loved each other; there had been nothing selfish or conniving between us.
And Potter could not possibly know what it was to miss someone the way I missed Blaise.
When Kreacher popped up at my elbow what felt like hours later, I had my forehead pressed to the table and my arms dangling uselessly at my sides, thinking about going to bed early but not having the energy or the will to get myself there.
“Would Master Draco be liking some tea to cheer him up?” the old house elf asked in his gravely voice and I couldn’t even care enough to blink.
“No, Kreacher,” I murmured, breath heating the wood under my lips, “I don’t think anything will cheer me up,” When I dozed off right there at the kitchen table, I dreamed of Blaise, smiling at me as he faded away.
It was close to midnight when Potter descended the stairs and found me in the sitting room, staring moodily at the flames that cracked in the fireplace. I had woken up on the couch nearly an hour ago, undoubtedly moved by Kreacher and hadn’t moved. I could feel the ache of missing Blaise twisting within my heart like a blade. It was keener today, perhaps because of Potter’s thoughtless words or maybe because of the hurt that I had seen mirrored in his own eyes. True, the woman he loved didn’t die but in a way, she had been taken from him too. She had let him down and proved to be someone who wasn’t the person he loved. But at least he had a chance to move on, knowing she wasn’t the one.
Blaise had been my one and he was gone forever.
The shadows in the green eyes muted all that bright color and the dark head was ducked in contrition. Clearly he felt bad about how he had left before. I just looked at him as he stepped into the room and made his way awkwardly to the chair across from me. I was rapidly beginning to think of it as “Potter’s” chair and the couch as “my” couch and I was sure I should be troubled about that. I wasn’t. It took too much energy. Potter shuffled around for a few moments, running his fingers through his hair and sighing.
“Look, I’m sorry about before,” he said, still shifting about in his chair and jiggling his leg, “I shouldn’t have said that,” he seemed genuinely sorry, eyes wide and once again reminding me of a puppy. I just shrugged before looking back into the dying fire. Maybe it would have been worth it to drag myself up to bed after all, if I didn’t need to listen to his worthless apologies.
“No harm in saying a dead man is dead,” I murmured callously, pretending my own words didn’t gouge away another chunk from my heart. Fuck, it shouldn’t still hurt so much and I was terrified that, even after I could no longer remember Blaise’s laugh or his voice or the color of his eyes, I would still be crippled by the pain of his loss. I could avoid it if I didn’t think about it but it was always there, waiting behind the haze of numb exhaustion. Potter drew in a sharp breath and then I felt his hand on my arm, warm and real. It took too much effort to turn my head back to look at him but somehow I managed it.
“There is and I’m sorry. I did not mean to hurt you,” I snorted at his earnestness but didn’t look away. How very green his eyes were, I mused. Once, I had thought it was impossible someone’s eyes could be so green, made even more vivid against the black mane of his hair. But the more I watch him, looked at him, got to know him, I realized that they looked right on him. It would figure that Potter would have impossible eyes. Everything else about him was impossible, why not the color of his eyes as well.
“Don’t worry about my little feelings, Potter,” I said tiredly, rubbing my fingertips over the material of the pants I was wearing. A pair of Potter’s trousers, wrinkled a little and soft from many uses, “I’m not,” I saw a flash of anguish flash across his face. Anguish and guilt. He licked his lips and gently squeezed my arm before letting go and sitting back in his chair.
“I wish you wouldn’t say things like that,” he murmured softly and I refused to let myself be moved by the gentleness of his tone. He watched me for a long moment, the dwindling fire throwing odd shadows across his features before he sighed and looked away, “I was thinking about that party that G-Ginny accepted in my name,” I noted the way he stumbled over the she-weasel’s name, though to his credit, he didn’t wince or alter his expression once. Taking solace in the change of subject, I lifted one eyebrow and tucked my feet under me.
“Oh?” he nodded, looking strangely nervous and determined, which was an odd combination even for him. The thing he said next, however, was not something I would ever have expected him to say in a million years.
“Yeah, uh,” he licked his lips then met my eyes, his own bright and full, “I’m going to go. And I’d like to take you with me,”