Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, or witherings, or tarnishings. - Anais Nin.
There was a pub directly across from St. Mungo's called the Tipsy Wizard, and the relatives of patients could be found there on any given night, drinking away their fears and worries. Some drank in celebration, but those people were few. Most of them couldn't see another day when they might celebrate anything.
Ron had wondered many times over the past five months if the Tipsy Wizard were named as an attempt to cheer up people like him. Witches and wizards in danger of losing their loved ones, or who already had. A pub frequented so often by the hospital's visitors and employees should have had more of a medical name, right? Maybe the Tipsy Healer or something of the sort.
Thinking about pub names kept him from thinking about the reason he was so often a patron.
"One more," he said when the bartender came to check on him. The guy gave him a raised eyebrow, but didn't have to say anything. "Yes, I'm sure. Just pour the damn drink."
Through a slowly growing haze and over the rim of his latest drink, Ron took a look around the pub. There were several regulars in attendance tonight, faces he knew without knowing names. None of them ever asked names, or details. At most they waved across the room or exchanged a few words of greeting, but questions were not allowed by unspoken agreement. Questions would mean having to answer, and answers would make it all the more real. No one wanted their situations to be real.
A flash of movement caught his attention. Ron squinted at the vaguely familiar form in a far corner, swathed by shadows, a familiar form he couldn't remember having seen in the Tipsy Wizard before, but that he knew almost as well as the back of his hand. Pointed face, pale hair and grey eyes, he knew that face. He'd often wanted to smash it in with his fist, and had once had the pleasure.
Years later, Ron was drunk enough to not care about the consequences. He pushed to his feet, swaggered and staggered--though he'd deny all allegations of staggering later--over to the table where the other man sat with a drink of his own. Ron barely saw the narrow face lift to look at him; it didn't matter if the guy looked at him or not, that wasn't the point here.
"What're you doing hanging around here, Malfoy?"
Almost all the time, you tell yourself you're loving somebody when you're just using them. - Chuck Palahniuk.
There was a certain freedom in losing everything, Draco discovered. Freedom in losing his wife, who had only ever been a trophy for the wall of a pureblooded wizard who needed something shiny, and needed an heir. He hadn't loved her, but he hadn't set out to hurt her, either.
There was no freedom, however, in the loss of his son.
Astoria made it quite clear when she left that Scorpius would be going with her, and living with her, and she might allow Draco to see him on occasion, but he should never expect such a kindness from her. To expect it would be to invite disappointment.
Her hatred, he deserved, that he could admit without hesitation. Hatred was to be expected for someone who used another person's love to shield them from the scorn of their family. One might be able to understand why he would use her in such a way, but the understanding didn't soothe the hurt.
Yet, to keep him from his son? Draco rubbed his hands over his face. Astoria was a Healer at St. Mungo's, and he'd come to meet her during her break to discuss the issue of Scorpius.
"He's my son too, Astoria!"
"You should have thought of that before you chose to destroy our family," she'd said with perfect aplomb, just as any pureblooded witch wedded to a man of the same high standing. Astoria had never let her work stand in the way of her aristocratic comportment, or her birth stand in the way of her work. Other women of her station would have been ashamed to have jobs. Astoria was never ashamed. Not of herself. Draco thought she was ashamed of him, now. She refused to let him see Scorpius.
"What're you doing hanging around here, Malfoy?"
Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectantly and without law, and must be plucked where it is found, and enjoyed for the brief hour of its duration. - D.H. Lawrence.
Ron might've thrown the first punch, but he didn't do it out of hatred. No matter how much he'd wanted to beat the shit out of Malfoy for years, this was not about hatred.
He knew it wasn't about hatred the moment his cheek made contact with the pavement outside the pub, and he felt nothing at all in reaction to it, or to Malfoy's form falling next to him. He knew then the punch had been thrown because he had wanted someone to hit, to damage. He wanted to look at another face and see his hurt reflected there in bruises and blood.
"Fuck," he muttered as he pushed up from the ground to his knees. A drop of red fell, splattered on concrete like paint. Ron touched his lip to find it busted, then looked to Malfoy, seeing a similar streak of red on paler lips. "Malfoy--"
"No, Weasley. I think you've done quite enough." Malfoy rose as well, dusting off his pants and shirt. His long face wore an expression of utmost annoyance, but for the first time in years, Ron couldn't see any actual malice there. Annoyance, disgust, but no malice. "A man can't even have a drink, minding his own business, without being attacked by a red-haired thug."
"Hey, I'm not a thug. Just a little drunk. Besides, I have reason to want to bash your ugly face in, Malfoy."
Grey eyes rolled as Malfoy finally looked up at him. "Oh yes, Hogwarts. I was a git, I said some things about your mother, might've said some rather nasty things about Granger, and we haven't seen each other in ten years. Congratulations, Weasley, you win the prize for grudge-holding."
Ron stared at him, then put out his hand. "Ah, shut it, Malfoy, and let's find somewhere else so I can replace the drink you wasted on my face."
Prodigious birth of love it is to me/that I must love a loathed enemy. - William Shakespeare.
The entire thing was so maudlin, not to mention cliché. Draco spared a quick glance at the bed and the man within, from whose arms he'd just barely managed to escape without waking him. Ron Weasley snored. Loudly. He only snored when he slept on his stomach, though, which was strange from what Draco knew about usual snoring habits, but it was purely Ron.
Draco slipped into his pants, his shoes, pulled his shirt on and buttoned it as he grabbed at his robe. This he hauled over his head as he left the bedroom to move down the stairs.
Oh, what the hell are you doing, Draco? he asked himself for the hundredth time. It was a question he had asked many times over the past three months in many variations. Every time he meant to end it, though, Ron would look at him, pull him close, and drown both their sorrows with touch and kiss. Draco knew what he was to Weasley, the same as Weasley was to him. Comfort, nothing more.
That, too, was something he told himself often.
He waited until he stood outside on the Weasleys' front stoop to Apparate home. Malfoy Manor, which had been his completely from the moment he married a good, pureblood woman from a prestigious pureblood family. The price of his birthright.
Sighing, he walked from his point of arrival over to the mirror adjacent to his bed. Merlin, he looked terrible. Sleepless nights did not do well with his complexion, specifically the skin under his eyes. Draco was vain, of course he was vain, what Malfoy worth his Galleons wasn't vain? His father had been vain, Draco thought as he studied the offensive bags under his eyes. Was still, in fact, from the home he shared with Draco’s mother in the country. Vain, and arrogant, and pretentious, all acceptable qualities for a Malfoy.
There were unacceptable qualities as well. Weakness. Lack of ambition. Homosexuality.
Falling for a mudblood, or a mublood-lover.
Those days are over. Long over. Isn't it about time you admit it? Admit that Granger was better at everything than any pureblood you ever knew? Including yourself? Isn't it time you forgot that stupidity?
Reflected grey stared back at him. Biting his bottom lip, Draco tilted his head to see the bruises forming there. Thinking of how they'd gotten there made his stomach flutter.
Don't go. Stay. Please.
I need you to stay.
I can't. Don't ask again.
"I can't," he whispered aloud the words he'd said two nights ago. "I can't."
Love lives in sealed bottles of regret. - Sean O'Faolain.
Beauty can be an amorphous thing, shifting meaning from person to person. There were plenty of people who, in their early days, had considered his wife homely at best. To some, that homeliness had been equal to ugliness; these were people without the slightest clue about real beauty.
Real beauty was being smart as a cracking whip, and ready to use that intellect without shame. Beauty was dedication to a cause even when no one else had the courage to follow. Beauty meant following one's conscience no matter where it led.
Yet, Ron felt his perceptions shifting. Even as he sat by to watch his very first definition of beauty lose everything, he knew he'd already found another definition.
"Mr. Weasley?" The Healer in the doorway smiled when he looked up at her, a smile he'd come to know very well over the course of the past nine months. Smiles like these were reserved for people like him. Visitors to decay. He stood, checking the sleeping form of his wife in the bed, then moved to take the Healer's offered hand. "Mr. Weasley, I'm Healer Daw. Your wife has been transferred to my care."
He'd expected something of the sort for weeks now, but that didn't stop his stomach from clenching. "I see."
Healer Daw's smile deepened, tinged by sorrow. "You've been here long enough to know what's happening, and what I'm going to tell you."
"My wife's condition isn't getting any better."
"No, it isn't. She's deteriorating very fast, Mr. Weasley, and very soon she's going to lie down in that bed, close her eyes, and never wake up."
Love is jealous that any should come before her, or after. - Jennette Lee
In the center of the bed once shared by Ron and his wife, Draco held the hunched form of his lover as the man cried and tried not to cry. Across the room, the bathroom door was open, and Draco could see his reflection in the mirror there. He looked no more rested than he had a month ago, but he found, strangely, that he didn't care.
"Shhh," he said, for lack of knowing what else to do, or say. His marriage had fallen apart because he couldn't control who he wanted to love. Ron's marriage was dying. What could a man say to the lover whose wife was dying?
"I need you." Ron's voice was weak through his tears and Draco's arm. "Don't go. Stay, please. I need you to stay."
Draco closed his eyes. Felt the shaking form in his arms. Thought about all the kisses and touches, and the fact they had been doing this for almost a year. How he couldn't stay because Ron still had a wife, and children, where Draco had neither. He'd been so very jealous of Ron for still having them, and jealous of Granger--Hermione--for still being the center of Ron's attention. Could a man fall in love with another man while visiting his wife in St. Mungo's every day?
Yet, he found himself whispering in reply, "All right. Merlin, Ron. All right. I'll stay. I'll stay."
Later that night, when the urge to rise from the bed came, Draco rolled over, his face inches from Ron's, and reminded himself that Hermione had a bed in St. Mungo's, while he had her place by Ron's side. A selfish thought, and cruel, and one he would never, ever share with the man lying beside him. But if Draco Malfoy had ever been anything, it was selfish.
You'll forgive me, Granger, he thought, hand stroking the hard line of Ron's jaw, that had been softer in school, rounder. You have to forgive me, because you know what it feels like to love him. Because I'm only happy now when I'm with him.
Ron breathed in deep, sighed out, and the arm around Draco's waist pulled him closer. He didn't wake, but he did murmur under his breath, and Draco smiled because the name Ron whispered was his.
Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other. - Rainer Maria Rilke.