Title: '... A Little Insecure'
Prompt: # 18
Summary: As requested by lomonaaeren: 'Harry receives a love letter from Draco Malfoy. Convinced that Malfoy is just fucking with him, he writes back in a way that he thinks Malfoy will take as joking, but which Malfoy unexpectedly accepts as totally serious. And pretty soon, Harry finds himself in a tightening spiral of pursuit where he feels half the time that he's leading Malfoy on, and half the time that this is all a huge, elaborate joke with him as the butt. Special Request(s):–I love courtship stories, so if you want to make this one, I would definitely approve!'
Rating: R (barely)
Warning(s): None, other than this is in no way Epilogue compliant. And is epistolary, non-explicit and mostly innocuous.
Word Count: 7,000
Author's Notes: With thanks to my wonderful Betas, S and L, and all apologies for lifting the words of other more eloquent persons as an aid and a springboard for this small tale of unrequited/requited. I do hope this pleases, dear Prompter, in some small way.
... A Little Insecure
"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure.
I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle.
But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell
don't deserve me at my best." – Marilyn Monroe
She's a Muggle, Potter.
This underlined in green ink, same shade as Harry's eyes, and three times so. The word 'Muggle' practically leaps off the note, which is folded like a heart, but with little wings flapping on each side of it. What magic is this, now?
What's worse, a Colonial – it goes on. Harry can't help but snort out a surprised burst of laughter. Merlin, what is this he's been sent? But, the next line kills any stray amusement completely.
I've changed, I'm thinking (hoping) for the better. Have you?
It's unsigned, but still it's a step above the first unsigned Owl Harry received, two days prior. Which was blank, entirely except for Harry's name as addressed, but again in the shape fashioned like a heart, and graced with an expertly crafted arrow piercing it. The arrow shaped as a tiny broomstick, inked out in brilliant green – the same exact shade of green, come to think; a fanciful little Owl, a trifling magic. Pretty, yes, and flattering, possibly, but... still, a bit creepy, to receive. Bloody fans!
This magic, though? Harry knows it, this magic; he can practically smell the Malfoy on it, and the ink is very familiar. But it cannot be.
He scoffs and tucks the second away with the first one, a curiosity lurking inside his trunk which he half expects to simply Vanish. And trust that wanker Malfoy to yank his chain after all, just entering into this final year. All they've had between them and this is the result? A joke with no purpose? Pah!
"It is better to be hated for what you are
than to be loved for what you are not."
– André Gide, Autumn Leaves
I'm not asking for to be friends, not at this late date. I'm a bit selfish, a bit spoilt, I admit. Potter, can you see your way to?
Potter, what I mean is.
Potter, I cannot bring myself to write it.
Help me, a little. A hand here?
No! This is absurd! More absurd is that no one has noticed. An eagle owl sneakily beating at the window of the Saviour's dormitory at all hours of the night and no one has noticed? Shame!
Whatever it is, joke or no, Harry can only continue to ignore it, this phenomenon. If it's Malfoy, and he's serious, then Harry's sorry, but it's just not on. The thing with Ginny is too recent, there is too much on his plate, and his plate's just expanding, it seems, like magic, till the whole bloody world's balanced on it.
If it's Malfoy, honestly; Harry is sorry. He'd like to – he'd want to – he's not so bad, really, Draco Malfoy. All tricks and no teeth. Harry also happens to remember the way his eyes looked, back at Malfoy Manor, just before Harry took their wands away and Dobby rescued him and his friends.
He cannot ever quite forget those eyes, or that singular expression Malfoy wore. Same as he'll never not remember the lavatory or the tower.
It's only – it's only, it is better to forget. Bygones and all that. Better to forget.
Harry – the latest Owl begins in a carefully printed hand. Harry grins as his gaze scans on; where ever did Draco Malfoy come across Bob Marley? Crikey, but it seems as if his life is only ever stranger and more strange.
Only once in your life, I truly believe, Draco has copied,
"you find someone who can completely turn your world around.
You tell them things that you've never shared with another soul and
they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more.
You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true,
goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you.
When something wonderful happens, you can't wait to tell them about it,
knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting
or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself.
Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough,
but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself
that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure,
jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around."
– Bob Marley
It's returned to its usual elegant scrawl right below, though. Harry inhales sharply. If this implies what he believes it might, there is so much more to this note he holds than mere words can ever tell.
Why is it that Wizards can't say what I want to say to you, Potter? Draco rants on.
I wish I'd the words. I was so very brilliant at writing doggerel, once upon a time, and yet I can't manage an original thought when it comes to contemplating how to speak to you. I'm left with this, then, aping the Muggles. Don't take me wrongly. It's not so shabby. I wish I'd known then what I am learning now.
I wish you would speak to me, and maybe a great deal more.
Not a heart this time 'round, but a flower: a slim lovely white parchment-made lily, trickily cascading when unfolded into a full-blown cabbage rose. And... it's not a laughing matter, these Owls. No longer. Harry simply can't let this continue, not in good conscience. No – not 'can't'. That's not quite right. It's... Harry won't.
Harry's Owl is as plain as parson's prose, only just barely fashioned into a piss-poor flying triangle shape, but Harry doesn't believe Malfoy will mind the bumbled corners, bent awry. He sends it by school owl, as that's what there is left for him to use.
Malfoy, Harry scribbles. Nibbles his quill for a moment, thinking, thinking.
If it's you, you really don't need an excuse to speak with me. We're in all the same lectures and I don't see the problem. I would gladly talk to you anyway. How is your mother, for instance? That's the sort of thing I'd say.
Just. Don't. Don't expect a lot more. All right? This is a bit strange to me anyway. I've not been here in a long time, and it feels longer. And I'm not exactly. I'm not ready for anything new, let's just say?
But, we can be friends, finally, if you want. I think I'd be glad for it. We should try, at least.
Owl back if this is you. And if it isn't, please recall I am Harry Potter, and I know any number of tracking spells now and I won't hesitate to hunt you down and DO SOMETHING.
Folded by a master and deceptively simply, the reply comes in actual owl form, the neatly creased vellum bourn tenderly within the wicked talons of the living, breathing specimen. But the real bird only hoots softly at him, nobly disdaining when Harry spreads his palm wide to it, offering up the last bite of his crumbly biscuit, and takes itself off promptly, with a dark rush of wings.
Harry, Draco admits.
It's me. I suppose it's acceptable you know that it has been, all along. Yes, I would wish to talk. Preferably in private, if that is acceptable? Also?
Gods, I fail at this. Pick a time and a place, any, and I'll arrange to meet. I think we have more to say than just thanks for saving all our arses (me) and how's your Mum (you), right?
And I'm sorry you're not particularly interested in me, in 'that' way, but I can't say as I didn't expect it. You hardly know me, do you, and I've not been much good to you, all these years. Why would you ever find me attractive, right? Whatever it is I find you. I imagine everyone with a functioning heart beat is after you now, and maybe some who aren't. Not alone, then, am I? But don't think of it. Best not.
Harry's jaw drops a little. Draco's 'sorry' now? For finding Harry fit?
Slytherin, Potter, still. See? Realists to the core, my House. We know which side our bread's buttered on, and there's no advantage in having you uncomfortable with my presence, not if we are really going to try this talking scheme. And you are still such the classic Gryffindork you always were, and I must say now (I can say now?), it's all good. What you are, that is. And? And whatever I ever wanted to say and couldn't before, in regards 'that', we can safely ignore it, these days. We can safely disregard and avoid a lot of what's in my head, if you'd rather.
I would only just want, Harry. I just want. No. Stop. Sorry. SORRY.
Right, let's meet up. To talk. It's a plan. Tell me when, and where, and you choose. I'm game, as always.
Really, this is all just a little unbelievable.
Haven't heard from you. Maybe you're still thinking it over?
I said not to mind it, you know. Talking's fine. Talking's fantastic. I like talking.
It's not much to write, not for a loquacious Malfoy at least, but the ink is very heavy on the page. Harry's left nearly breathless by an immense wave of guilt, all scrambled up. What should he even do?
First thing? First thing strikes him is, it's no longer hearts and flowers. The notes are folded into, it's gone all Owls. Perfectly crafted ones, white as Scots snow, and they all closely resemble Hedwig, as Harry remembers her. As he recalls her best, from Before.
As if Draco Malfoy understands exactly how it is Harry misses her, and so fondly, and how it helps him, just a bit, to see these little tiny Hedwigs arrowing toward him, when at night and alone.
As if... he's not alone. Draco's making him Hedwigs to show him he's not.
And maybe that's why Harry writes in return what he writes.
Dear Malfoy (Draco?),
It's not that I'm not. Interested. In fact I think I may be more interested in your sort of thing (what's in your head) than I realised. Before. At least, it didn't work out with my previous girlfriend, and it wasn't that I didn't love her. I do. But.
Right. We should talk, I think, and soon. (Just not about 'that'.)
You say you're game, well, so am I. You name the place and time, please, and we'll sort it, meeting up. Just recall we both have extra lessons on Wednesday evenings (Potions, Slug, bother) and I have a standing appointment with Prof. McGonagall on Tuesday nights (Hogwarts, Repair Of, bugger). Also, Duelling Club's supposed to start up again, and I've been roped into teaching, here and there. And so have you.–Hermione told me so. So Mondays are right out.
This Friday, then?
(I'm glad it is you. I'd be pretty disappointed if it weren't and was some weird admirer, instead. They tick me off, I'll tell you! Mad bunch, all. And don't be scoffing at me for feeling creeped out over strangers wanting always to talk to me and touch me and steal my belongings for souvenirs. It's a trial, really. HP)
It goes pretty well, Harry thinks, the meet-up with Malfoy.
"If I had a flower for every time I thought of you...
I could walk through my garden forever."
– Alfred Tennyson
The next note, predictably enough, given Draco's quote, is reverted again to the shape of flower. Not some flashy rose but an outstandingly perfect sunflower, and folded tight till Harry runs a curious fingertip over the petal edges. The paper looks to be, actually, a little weather-worn, as if Malfoy – Draco – had twiddled it into shape once, twice, and then again, and perhaps it was more than once he'd done it. Or perhaps first a different form entirely, changed in the small exact action of folding and refolding.
However, try as he may, suspicious as he is yet, Harry sees no sign of words being crossed out or elided. The ink is still brilliantly green, and soaked deeply into the parchment. There's no Charms beyond the one that has Draco's flower blooming in the warmth of Harry's palms.
Harry, it begins. Simply enough.
I enjoyed that. No! Not merely enjoyed, I was overjoyed, and properly chuffed. I always was so certain we would manage to rub along, if we had but a chance to do it. Good to know I was correct.
Right, now I sound exactly like a real prat.
And then there's positively a flood of words, assaulting Harry's eyes.
So? Can we, can you? It is possible we can meet again? I was thinking I would very much like to fly the Pitch with you. I know you've replaced your broom that was destroyed, and I've a new one. (It would be lovely to go to the Quidditch shop on Diagon together one day. I know for a fact it's reopened, as it's where I ordered mine from. There's likely a great deal of new product! Our Goblins at Gringotts have Owled to say all the businesses are really picking up again, which is brilliant, I think. As we have interests, there.)
Oops! Meant to say this? An invitation, proper, that is. This is. From me, to you.
(Imagine me bowing, all right?) Would you care to join me for a little roundabout? Free-flying, and I'll bring along an old snitch I happen to have kept by me for shits and giggles. Maybe Sunday? At three, if convenient. The light's beginning to fail, but we could manage a few hours up and at it before it's too cold to do much more than shiver off our sticks. It would be good for us, I am positive. You know how Pomfrey is always prattling on about taking healthy exercise? Takes a young man's mind off his troubles, she says. I should know. She's always saying it to me, and then also to poor Greg Goyle. (Not that he needs the exercise so much anymore, as he's become a shadow of his old self. And not that I should really mention him to you either, right? Although maybe you don't mind it, or him, since you talked to me. Or you do, and I'm not reading you right, sorry. Yes, now I'm dropping that line of thought completely, right away, all right? Never speak of it again.)
I imagine you have quite enough exercise, fleeing your horde of admirers. I can honestly say I feel a great and persistent pity for you, Harry. Excepting I know how they feel, maybe a little. Your fans.
You are my flower, Harry. I cannot deny you are. In my head, you are. But I shan't press it and you've no need to fret. I think it may be hero worship I feel. Gods know I have a great deal to fall down upon my knees for, at least when it comes to you. Pardon me if I imagine it going a bit differently, sometimes, the down on the knees part, and maybe not so pure and merely grateful, either. But still a bit of honest admiration, so that's all right. Wait. (That last likely left you a bit sick, yes? Don't mind me.)
I'm eighteen, I suppose, and now a man. Mum says eighteen year old men are very silly, and mostly driven by their bollocks. My Mum speaks her mind, sometimes. More now, obviously. And how are you doing with that, the being a man? Better than I am, I hope. No, I don't hope, really, I'm actually fiercely jealous. SOD ME. I don't want anyone else to look at you the way I do, ever.
I should simply really stop now, before I make it all worse. At very worst it will be.
Something to discuss, then, when we meet up next. Coping with admirers. I have some experience with that, as well. Could maybe give you pointers?
This underlined twice. Harry winces at the amount of ink Draco uses, soaking the page; it's practically still dripping. And laughs, too, almost hearing Malfoy's dry voice filling his ears.
I've gone and done it again, haven't I? Please! Don't let this put you off!
It's only that Harry must assiduously ignore those bits. About 'that'. The ones about... well, anything other than a tentative friendship, budding. Then they can be friends, he and Draco, and Harry could use another friend, really.
It appears Draco feels the same way. He signs off the note as if he does.
Sincerely (as in I am a foolish idiot, honestly, and still devoted to having the last word, even if it's the wrong word) and your friend, in fact if not yet deed.
The green ink is very heavy here, and the 'and' underscored multiple times.
Rather, I'd wish and want to be your friend, if I can, very much so. Can prove it, too.
It's a day or two before Harry has a moment to respond, and he appreciates that Draco doesn't say a word about him not writing in return. Not a teasing word about it and, really, they are in any number of lectures together and there's any number of halls to be transverse as a group between them, and then there's meals, and Luna Lovegood hopping about to every table, promoting Great Glorious Good Will Amongst All Houses, in the name of frightening off the Fluttering Whatevers! But before he's the chance to even compose a suitable reply, there's another Owl:
"I've been making a list of the things they don't teach you at school.
They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous.
They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor.
They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer.
They don't teach you how to know what's going on in someone else's mind.
They don't teach you what to say to someone who's dying.
They don't teach you anything worth knowing."
– Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones
It's a tiny Hedwig again, an owlet, all pristine and white; very dear and darling. Barely visible in the flakes falling down outside his window, and Ron and Neville never notice her coming, although Seamus does cock his head up before kindly glancing away from the heavy beat of eagle owl wings at the windows. (Draco's delivery service is just as imposing as he is, actually.)
Or maybe they all do, but they're Harry's mates and they don't mention it, the harsh flutter. One good thing, then, out of the War: fewer noses poking into his business.
This newest Owl, Harry thinks, might be another. He's really liking the start of it, at least.
I stumbled across this, when reading. I thought it was pretty well spot on. Thought I'd send it you. We might speak of things other than Quidditch, if you like?
I would like.
I'd like a great many. I'd like you to.
I can't say it, not properly, Harry, but every day. Every day it's more than it was before.
Harry swallows slowly, his eyes widening.
For the first time ever in any of these odd letters Draco's written him Harry sees the clear signs of scrubbing, denotes the obvious remnants of a frantic scribbling out. A massive amount of text, too, ghosted nearly to nothingness. The knap of the parchment's damaged, the threads exposed, but it's still legible, the imprint faint underneath, especially with a spell to enhance it. A whole densely scribbled paragraph all but gone away (not quite), even the heavily inked underlinings Draco seems to use so often when he's shouting on paper. (Or perhaps that's the voice he uses in his head when he's very much in earnest; whatever it is, Harry can practically hear it.)
'Harry, I can't help but, but I would want you. You. Honest. It's a naught but a recklessly idiotic idea on my part, I know that. I know. But I want, and I cannot help my wanting. It keeps me awake at night, Harry Potter, and even the nightmares don't do that, not for me, not any longer. There's Dreamless and I can brew up a mean potion. It's not the war, keeping me awake and wishing to remain awake, in private, solely so I have the chance to think of you. You. Are impossible. You shouldn't even exist, really. You were my favourite story, when I was a little kid. Did you know? Wanted you then. Is it so unreasonable of me to want you now, and still this much and more? No, so much more. And differently, naturally. (Foolish bollocks! Men are silly, Mum did say.) Well, I don't believe so, that it's foolish, but there's not much I can do to stop it, Harry. Harry. Harry. But I am so glad there's this, these letters between us. That I may send you Owls and flowers and heart-shaped notions (you like them! Loveliest Potter, you like them) and you may pretend all you want I'm not the wanker leagues deep in love. And also I want that I may keep up the civilized pretense I am civilized, when we meet, say, at Duelling Club? And that I may not jump your pretty bones or squeeze your marvelous bum, but will restrain my baser urges, and simply enjoy what I've gotten from you, this time around. The Next Time, I actually meant to say here and in company or alone, I will swear on a stack of all your Gryffindorks to only simply enjoy knowing you, Harry, and not to reach out and take you as my own. It's a trial but I believe I may manage that one small change in my usual behaviour, Harry, as long as there is a Next Time.'
Superimposed upon this grand outpouring, similar to the Bloody Baron, are Draco's prideful attempts to come off as all casual.
So, for Duelling? I was thinking we might use the Serpensortia again, and see if our respective snakes can battle it out, okay?
The note resumes, as if there was never that brief blip.
It should be fitting for us two as well as terribly amusing, at least for the little ones. Bless them, they are all so very Small, aren't they?
We were that, once. Small. Wee little Wizards, all agog, even me. I shudder to remember, really I do. Do you? No... you probably really enjoyed it. I know you did. I was watching, you see.
Harry swallows again, and it's difficult enough to do, given the odd-sized lump in his throat clogging it, and muses over the buried text. He knows Draco realizes the Wizard in Harry could – and has just! – easily call back every cursive loop and line and dot from Draco's determined erasure. Harry thinks he must've meant it, then, every word of it, or he'd should have begun anew.
... No, Draco had meant it all to be seen by Harry. This is a confession, barely veiled. Another one.
It's obvious Draco must've suffered as he was scribbling away. Perhaps he might've reconsidered part way through, and almost didn't send Harry the Owl at all. But... then he'd left it go anyway, had cast his passionate selfish words to the cruel bland winds, to be entirely ignored if Harry so chose. Expecting them to be, maybe hoping they would be. Though... likely not.
Draco's a courageous prat, then, if nothing else. Resourceful and cunning, too. Slyly, shyly trying it on with Harry. It's flattering.
I'm probably boring you, sorry. All this talk of school and days gone by. It's gone quite late, too. We can speak of Duelling Club any old time. Nice, safe, dull old Duelling Club. No, I'm absolutely certain I'm boring you, Harry.
Yes. This isn't the best of Owls, right? Sorry, sorry, again. I was never much of a correspondent. Mum always complains. She sends her fondest regards, speaking of. Thank you for asking after her.
Monday, then. I'll see you there.
My best regards,
Flattering, yes. More than. And there is something more here, quaking newborn between the two of them, and it's definitely not a joke on Draco's part. No one would ever do this unwillingly, leaving themselves wide open for the killing shot.
Monday evening? It strikes Harry, mid-chew and swallow.
It's time; it's more than time, to face up to it. What's brewing, been bubbling away.
No, it's more what's been flown at him, flung at him, cast in his face: all these many words, all from Malfoy. All these many words he writes, bold and brilliant. His own half-twisty, half-blunted words and then those cadged from other, better writers, but all of them heartfelt, and sent on to Harry's eyes as straight and true as any real Owl flies to his or her Master, in stout and stalwart hopes (though perhaps not so much; Harry frowns, fretfully regarding the dimmed-out ink, the damaged weave, the muted scrawl of the note he's been keeping tucked away in his pocket) pecking away, nibbling away, banging away –
Well! Just bloody well having a great huge flap at Harry's guarded heart!
Draco's not changed, then. Much. He's chasing after again, but this time it's different again, different than before. No Dementors, for one.
Right, yes. It's not a joke, never was. And it's a bit past time, time is actually wasting away while Harry does nothing, and he cannot ever truthfully argue Draco Malfoy's not a fit bloke, nor he lacks charm, nor is really – truly, at the heart of him – a total twat, and therefore not worthy of Harry's attentions.
(Only, it's all so confusing, and if Draco can barely articulate it? If he's turned to stealing the words of others to say what he needs to say to Harry? Then how could Harry evensay in return? Write, rather. They certainly don't talk about anything like this when they are talking!)
(It's only? It's only Harry's not, ever, snogged an actual boy. Nor thought of it, either. Well, maybe one boy... but that's been ages ago, and it never amounted to anything, much... Ollie Wood was everyone's heartthrob, back in the day, right?)
Draco Malfoy, now he's a cauldron of a different colour, altogether. And treading carefully is definitely called for.
Harry can barely wait through the remaining few minutes for the dinner hour to be over and done with, so he can fly up the steps and set pen to parchment. He can barely wait to send his reply, one that's long overdue.
You send me all these wonderful lines from Muggle people. But I'm rather more wanting to be a Wizard, really, so I'll send you this, instead."Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!"
– Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster.
It was the first best thing ever said to me, after coming here, into this world, and I've never forgotten it, either. Don't know what it means, exactly, but I know I like it. Makes me laugh, and remember things. Like you, Draco. Remember in the Forest, you ran away and brought back help? I remember that. I remember rather a lot, really. Like what you didn't do, up the tower that one time. Like what you didn't say, in your great big house, the other time.
I think you're a very wonderful Wizard, really. And you are fast becoming my very good friend. You're fit, as well, and I see how all eyes follow after you, even now. Not blind, only speccy. And not dull, either, or a fool enough. To say no, just NO. To you.
Not NO, Draco. Never NO. I wouldn't.
But it's early days yet. For me. Which doesn't mean much, other than let's us take this all very slowly? Like tortoises. Or whatever is slower than those in the wizarding word, and forgive me if I don't recall of Care of Magical Creatures all that well. I did skip a year and you skipped at least two, so don't jump down my throat to correct me, either. Or only do, if you can prove you're not taking the piss. (Wouldn't mind knowing, really, what's slower, in the wizarding world.)
Slowly (slowly!) Please? Harry
The tiny Hedwig Harry receives in return is almost immediate; Draco's eagle owl's wings are practically aflame at the pinfeathers, that's how quickly Draco responds. As if he's been waiting up, just hoping for Harry to Owl him. So he may write in turn, and they may continue this odd courtship they've begun.
Harry!"When I despair, I remember that all through history
the way of truth and love have always won.
There have been tyrants and murderers,
and for a time, they can seem invincible,
but in the end, they always fall. Think of it – always."
– Mahatma Gandhi
That idea suits you, it so much suits you. It is the way you are, the way I think of you. I think of you in other ways as well, and those ways are filthy, and you'd likely not like to speak to me, not again, but I do.
It's a bit strange. Liking you two ways.
You do make me happy. You do. I'm all right with slow. I'm happy with slow. Ecstatic. I'd laid my wagers on nothing, so slow is ace. I'll be slow, for you. S-L-O-W, see? S–L–O–W!
The ink is thick and dark but very even, as if Draco's been mulling over his sparse words as he pens them. Though half the time he's shouting, on paper.
Slow as you like, slow as mud, sliding. Not Mudblood mud, but simply wet earth.
But... he's so careful, Draco is, it quite wrings Harry's heart. Picking his way through the mire of words already between. This isn't, no, it isn't, what Harry craves from this boy – this man – precisely. Not...'careful'. The 'caring' is very welcome, though. It's only Harry needs a bit of time, yet. To sort things out, all on his own.
Snogging a bloke, yeah? That's not what Harry's ever been brought up to consider allowable.
(Though gods know it's nothing new, not in the wizarding world. Plenty of that, and Ron's Mum has tales to tell of her uncles, and then Harry's been wondering for ages over his own godfather and what he got up to, as a young sprat.)
I really would enjoy a hike off to Diagon Alley with you, one day soon? Instead of our usual, and that's saying a lot, believe me. Our usual's grand, Harry. But! Think of it – Town, Harry! It's been ages since I've been to Town and Hogsmeade's not a thrill when we can pop down there whenever we like without sneaking out or having permission granted. So? Would you like it, to come along with me, up to Town? Could you bear it? Perhaps even this coming weekend?
My treat, of course, and then also I'll buy you luncheon at the Leaky (or some place better than that), and I'll even open my purse for a new broom care kit for us to share between us at the Quidditch Supply. Can't ask for a much more generous offer, can you? A Malfoy, willingly shelling it out for a Potter. Bloody miracle. No! Kidding. Of course I would. I will do, if you consent to go with me.
Oh, and it's not a date, so don't mind it. Nothing like that. I'm absolutely not thinking it would be anything like a proper date. Just two mates, racketing about on the weekend.
Say you will? I am deathly dull, here in Commons, and literally dying of writing out all this work the profs give us. I require a real Hero's company to inspire me, so... please, if you will?
Save me –
[PS. You might think I'm kidding again, but I'm not. You are my personal hero, Potter. I am very serious. So deathly serious I've committed it to writing. You may perhaps even show this confession to the Weasel, as proof. No. Don't dare laugh. I'll know if you are. And this Owl will explode in just the twenty more seconds. Hah! Duck, Harry! Defendo!
Harry burst out into giggles; he cannot help it. Draco's a funny old sod when he wants to be.
PSS. NO, no. Was just taking the piss, sorry. I am so dull here, I am stifling of it. And, yes, there's Firewhisky abroad in Slytherin tonight, as you've likely guessed. Someone slipped Pansy a bottle. It's making the rounds. Boring old brew, but effective. Do I still sound anything like sober, on parchment? I really am, I swear. Really. Mostly sober. And I meant it very much, concerning Diagon. Please say you will.]
They do indeed venture forth to Town, and it's exactly as it is when Harry goes up with Ron – excepting sharper-edged, in the conversation, and then Draco has this unnerving tendency to stare at Harry when he thinks Harry's not noticing. And then to glance away instantly, when he suspects Harry's caught him out. And he touches constant fingertips to Harry's elbow and the small of his back, and opens all the doors, and smiles a little too often even when his gaze is always terribly serious. Burning holes straight into Harry, Draco's eyes do – hot holes.
It's all right, Harry supposes reluctantly. This... not-date. He's not put off, exactly, but then he's not inclined to wish to kiss Draco at the end of it, when returned to safe territory and strolling leisurely towards Hogwarts' main doors after they Apparate outside the gates. There's this one horribly uncomfortable moment when they both pause and stare at one another, fixedly and with lips parted, but then streaming all about them are the other couples, coming in, so nothing comes of it. Harry doesn't say a word and neither does Draco and it passes, soon enough.
Harry continues on up to Gryffindor, whistling moodily under his breath. Draco politely wishes him a 'good evening, Harry' and trails down the halls towards Slytherin, his gaze banked down and dulled to ash. Harry doesn't catch his new friend checking back over his shoulder, either, to see where Harry's got to on the flying staircases. Not even when he looks again, a second time, furtively.
Or the third.
Two entire days pass and Harry receives no new notes from his somewhat bewildering new pen pal, not via Owl at least. And Draco is seemingly absolutely as usual in lectures and at meals. He's perfectly polite and everything; nothing is different about him.
Excepting, on the third day, there's finally another Owl come to Harry, and it's not in shape of anything Harry's ever had Draco send him before.
This is a dragon, done up in miniature and utterly perfect in every way. A Hungarian Horntail, female. Her folded wings hide a message and the green ink used is frail and wispy, barely there. And the Owl is not openly addressed to Harry, as nearly all the others have been, not is it signed; it's as if Draco never meant the note to be delivered.
"The heart was made to be broken."
– Oscar Wilde
Harry, I knew it, I really did. I've known for so long now, it's stuck in me, like a thorn in my skin, how useless, how pointless. It was nice to hope a bit, Harry. To attempt it and give me points for effort. Of course I attempted it. When I have ever not, when it comes down to you? Oh, Potter. Oh, Harry.
Harry, for a gut-wrenching second, wonders if he should go on with this, reading what he shouldn't ought. This is clearly, terribly, horribly private, and Draco's eagle owl has committed a grievous error, taking up this scrap of his master's miserable fancy and delivering it without proper leave. But Harry cannot stop himself, either. That's a bit much to ask, even from him.
"And, in the end the love you take
is equal to the love you make."
– Paul McCartney, The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics
See? There's another one! There's always another one, I think. For one, there are all these Muggle songs on the wireless these days, and they're all about love. I've been listening to even more of it, on that player device I've gotten, the one I showed you, you recall? And the words these Muggles sing leave me hurting worse after. If this is supposed to be comforting, Harry, I don't think much of the method. I truly didn't believe I could ache more than I am, but it seems I can. I would wish you would just please stomp on it, this pain in my chest, and send me straight out of my misery, and that you had done exactly that the other night when I was hoping we would. You might. But of course not, that's a vain thought, and you would never. I'd never have Owled you the first time if I believed you would do. The stomping, I mean, not the snogging. Not so stupid, Potter. Just not particularly lucky. But there's more. I've been reading a lot lately, tonnes and tonnes. Beats moping."Promise me you'll always remember:
You're braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think."
– A.A. Milne
And that's you again, all over, at least I think it is. Every single thought in my life seems always to come round to you, again. There's this, Harry? All along I've been swotting up on Muggles like mad, on my own. Maybe to impress you, maybe because I never did, and should've. And they're not so bad, these non-Wizarding people, and they've a great many really excellently smart ideas if you figure they don't have a clue they're handicapped. Well, not quite that, sorry. No offense meant. I mean to say they're the same as us Wizards, I think, but the sort of magic Muggles is just... different. Scientifical. The feelings are the same. Mum's always going on about them, 'the feelings, Draco!' (She makes this face at me, you should see it) and she says I'm not so wonderful at expressing mine. Which I don't think is completely true. I have tried to express myself with you, haven't I? In vain, but I have tried.
It's the 'in vain' part that's murdering me. Cannot stand losing what I've never had. But I'll probably live, all the same. Insult you and all your efforts if I didn't, right? I suppose I'll be forced to continue just to spite you, yes? Or your Weasley, more like. No, I jest. Just kidding. He's not so bad. So bad.
I am, though. Pretty much a rotter. Very. A nasty business, greedy like you don't even know. Yes, greedy. There's so much I want. WANT, WANT, WANT. From you, of you.
I wanted, beyond everything and more than even I thought I did, to live with you near me. In my life, you, Harry, any way I could have you but really the way that Marley bloke spoke of. I never could tell you about that, not the whole of it. I acted as if it was just I wanted to shag or date, nothing serious, but it wasn't ever only about either of those. But if it's only this, Harry, and this only, I'll accept it. Was an arrogant sod for a long time, thought I could have everything I wanted. Pitched a fit when I couldn't. Not so much, these days. But you still seem to want me about in some small way, maybe because you are Harry, and I'll always want you, in all ways, so this is a pretty fair compromise. Really, it is. No, it's super, actually, because I was blind-arse stubborn, all this time. I know that now. Foolish as any git. Has nothing to do with luck, or with effort, or anything like. All the songs say and the Muggles say and even some smart Wizards as well (though we're not much for 'feelings', Wizards.) It has to be the other fellow wanting you, same as you want him, and that's clearly not the case here. Give me points for trying, though, will you? Name that firstborn after me. Draco Potter. The name I'd have liked to try on, for size. Right, no. 'Harry Malfoy'. Much better.
Right, NO. Not likely. I'm laughing here, right out my own arse. (Not really.)
I'm an arse. The real arse. Worse thing is, I cannot manage a decent way of telling you I am finished with this stupid pursuit of mine. Nor of saying 'goodbye', and I don't think I ever will. The songs all say I should do, that is if my stupid feelings are all bruised and banged up by you, and they are, trust me on that, Potter (not your fault, of course) but I don't wish to lose you nor let you go. No, never.
Forgive me. I'm sorry, again. For failing to stop, for having those 'feelings' for you when I shouldn't ought to, and for not letting you go entirely free of me, Harry, after I know for certain it's no good. Gods all sodding well know it's no good and I wish more than anything in the world to just kill what's in me for you, to AK my heart, both your sake and for mine, Harry, but I can't seem to do it. I can't manage that, not that one thing. (You wanted me to live, so I am, right?) There's no magic that can make me, either, and on that count me and the Muggles are exactly the same. So. Please don't ask me to stop. As I'm all right. It's all actually really exquisitely brilliant. We'll just fly the Pitch as usual and sleep through lectures as usual and carry on like we usually do with everything we do now (together) and it will be all very well, all of it. Don't mind me.
And I can never send – No.
I will never send. This. To you.
See you around, always, as I can't bear to not.
Harry agrees: some things can never be accomplished properly by post.
"Draco? Got a moment?"
"Hmm? What's on, Harry?"
"Not a thing... Just... Come here, would you? Right 'round this corner – oh, perfect."
"Certainly, Harry. What's the mat– oomph!... Ah. Oh, now... yes... Harry."
Oi, and? Snogging a boy's not that awful.
"The very essence of romance is uncertainty."
– Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest