The waiter led me to one of the coveted tables, where my publisher, in a desperate attempt to not to eat those forbidden carbs, sat pushing a basket of bread back and forth with a manicured nail. Did I say coveted tables? Bet your sweet arse I did. Numbers must be up. Go me.
"Caroline," I said, and air-kissed her as she leaned out of the booth.
"Dee!" she exclaimed. I choked back a cough as waves of Joy overwhelmed me. She air-kissed me back and slid over so that I sat facing the room.
Numbers must be way up.
"Bread?" she pushed the basket toward me. Or more to the point, away from her.
"Lovely, thanks. I'm starving," I confessed and ripped off a hunk of bread to dip it in olive oil, a culinary affectation that continues to baffle me. What is wrong with butter? But needs must. It was nearly two, and I hadn't eaten today.
"Numbers in?" I asked coyly.
"Yes, and they're wonderful, darling," she gushed. "So wonderful that... Oh, let's not talk about business just yet. I've ordered a magnum of Cristal. I knew that issue on spanking would give us greater market share."
"Caroline," I tsked. "The 'If It's September, It Must Be Spanking Month,' was, I believe, my idea?"
"You might have mentioned it once," she lied. "Your forté, wasn't it?"
Caroline has a love/hate relationship with my former lifestyle. The fact that I was a rentboy to some of the richest and most powerful men in the world never fails to captivate her. Unfortunately, she can't completely ignore her essentially middle class nature--you can take the girl out of Podunk, but not Podunk out of the girl. She glories in my former escapades, while simultaneously trying to shame me for them.
"Forté is indeed the right word. It takes a deft hand."
"Oh bullshit, Dee. You just whacked the holy hell out of them, didn't you?"
I was saved by the arrival of the champagne.
"To Lush," I said, and raised my glass. She took the tiniest sip and then put her glass firmly back down on the table. I stopped drinking instantly. Caroline had successfully bamboozled me once with champagne. Six glasses of Cristal is how I ended up being editor of this magazine. Vanity, thy name is Draco. I might be a whore, but I am not a stupid whore. Never again. My glass joined hers on the table.
"It's not just about the numbers, is it?" I smiled to let her know that while the ball was now in her court, I was fully prepared for the volley.
"Yes, it is; in fact, all about the numbers. But shall we order first?" she said, with a forced nonchalance that instantly told me that whatever plot she has hatched, I will hate it.
Now well aware that there were landmines ahead and fully intending to dodge them all, I said in a loud voice, "Their carbonara is to die for. Still on South Beach?"
"You are such a bitch, Dee."
Landmines? Excuse me. We are talking the equivalent of the bombing of Dresden here.
"You're English. I'd have thought you'd jump at the chance to open a U.K. edition. Why not?"
"Shall we count the ways? I have enough on my back being the U.S. editor of this crappy rag--"
"The number one gay men's magazine in the country--"
"If you had said that to me twenty minutes ago, I might have basked in that praise, but at this point in the conversation, it's little more than ammunition. Fuck, I want a cigarette."
I pushed my plate away--my uneaten plate away--and twirled a cigarette in between my fingers in frustration. I caught the chastising frown of the blue-haired socialite in the booth next to me. "If you do not stop glaring at me, I will light this fucking cancer stick right now and blow the first really good lungful right in your face."
"Dee," Caroline hissed.
I turned back to Caroline. Crushing my cigarette in my hand and letting the loose tobacco fall to the table, I inhaled its dry, woody scent. It would have to do. Fucking anti-smoking Nazis.
"As much of a fucking power-mongering whore that we both know I am, I will not do this. I cannot handle the responsibilities of two magazines. We will have to publish a largely separate version. Gay men in the U.S. are preppy kinky. Well, with the exception of San Francisco and New York. Gay men in the U.K. are just out and out kinky. You think that some issues skirt the line? We will have to be absolutely fucking raw to capture the Brit market. This side of raunchy. You will blush to your tips of your two-hundred-and-forty-dollar streak job every issue. Fuck it, Caroline, the Sun devotes a full-page, every day, to a bitch waving her rack at you with your morning cereal."
"Since when did you care about women's breasts, Dee?"
"My point exactly. England is all about boobs. No wonder it's a nation of cross-dressers. That's what I'm telling you. It's a motherfucker of a kinky closet." That got a hiss from the old hag in the next booth. "Madam, if you do not mind your own business--" Caroline yanked on my hair to turn me back around. "That hurt," I protested. "For the magazine to make any headway in the market, it will have to be so kinky that the buyers will want to pick it up with tongs--"
"You're brilliant! With the first issue, we'll hand out free tongs with every magazine."
"Plus, it has to be English. Caroline, do not sneer at me like that. The English are different. We are. We cannot simply cut and paste what we put together here. Some of it will fly, but the majority of it will not. We will have to hire an entire staff of Brit--"
"Freelance. We'll do the bulk of the articles by freelancers. True, we will have to open an office in London, but three people at the most, plus a publicity department. That will be my bailiwick. Everything will be electronic. You can stay here in New York. The monthly interview. Hmmm. We'll just up the number of British queens we interview. Americans are such whores for anything British. It will probably boost sales here, too. The letters section, yes, you'll have to hire someone to do that. Babysit them for the first couple of months. The travel section... We'll increase the number of stories on U.S. travel destinations. The pound is doing so well against the dollar right now."
She droned on and on. Obviously, she knew me well enough to rebut every argument I could possibly make. She finished with, "Surely there's no shortage of English fags who can string a sentence together. And we'll promote DavyD to editor for the U.S. side. You were going on and on about him the other day; how great he is. We'll hire a Brit to oversee the U.K. edition. You can be Executive Editor of both."
Fuck. I took a big gulp of champagne.
"No, I won't."
"Need I remind you that Lorenzo's contract is currently up for negotiation? He's requested a raise. As has Sam..." She reached for her glass and took a sip; the deep red sheen of her newly manicured nails looked obscene against the pale shimmer of the champagne.
"You are such a bitch, Caroline."
"DavyD, where's the copy for that article on the new orgasm? Stephan, I asked for that photo layout on lube three days ago. It has yet to appear on my desk. Courtney, did I or did I not demand that you call up that utter piece of shite Charles and ask him where his article was? And one person, one person, asks me how my lunch went and you're ALL FIRED!"
I managed to say all this between the entrance and the door to my office. Go. Fucking. Me.
My plants were still vibrating from the force of my door slamming shut when Sam eased her way in.
"How was your lunch?"
I sat at my desk, smoking two cigarettes at once. I squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head in despair. And took another deep drag.
"At Le Bernardin."
"Hmmm, numbers must be way up. Suit?"
"She'd just gotten it highlighted at Jose's that morning." I coughed.
"Jimmy Choo's. Last year's but worked very well with the suit."
"You didn't stand a chance. Now, before you tell me what went down, you have the entire staff in tears. And Stephan is out on the ledge. Again."
"I work with a bunch of fucking lunatics," I muttered.
I threw open the window and stuck my head out. "Stephan!" I yelled. "If you don't get your arse off that ledge, I'm going to push you off myself."
Then I marched to the door of my office, opened it, and screamed into the ether, "I'M SORRY!" I slammed the door again and went back to my desk and my cigarettes.
"The soft touch. You do it so well."
"Is he in?"
She stuck her head out the window. "Yes. DavyD dragged him back inside. I imagine you didn't eat. Here. Stop smoking your lunch." She pointed to an iced mocha, some grapes, and a plate of biscotti she'd put on my desk.
"She wants to launch a U.K. edition. Promote DavyD to my position and me to be Executive Editor of both magazines."
"That's decaf, by the way," she reminded me, pushed it toward me, grabbed the ashtray out of my reach, killed my cigarettes, and lit up. "This is my post-lunch smoke. When you've finished that," she pointed to the plate, "you can have yours. Do we need to have, yet again, the little chat that Dee is an utter asshole if he doesn't eat? Blood sugar issues, much?"
During her interview for the job as my assistant, the first thing she did, before I'd asked her any questions, was to light up a fag and say, "Does this bother you, because I smoke like a fucking train. If it does, let's cut to the chase and end this interview. And I swear like a fucking stevedore."
I hired her on the spot.
"All of this sounds extremely gratifying, so why the massive hissy fit? When did you ever turn down the chance to (a) fill your already obscenely full bank account; and (b) increase your power base?"
"She wants me to go to England to announce the launch."
Lorenzo picked me up at seven, per the usual.
"Take me home, Renzo."
He shot a concerned glance in my direction. Sam must have called him and told him I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but he said nothing and headed the Jag in the direction of my brownstone.
The magazine had hired him after that stalker incident--thank Christ, I never left the house without my wand. I used my magic very infrequently so as not to leave magical signatures, but when some complete nutter decides that you are going to be his love slave for eternity, as in a murder/suicide pact, you have no choice.
Lorenzo had been moonlighting as a bouncer at a club I used to frequent. We'd struck up a rapport, and when Caroline insisted I hire a bodyguard, I thought of him. One of those enormous Samoans, whose wrist is bigger than the circumference of my thigh, he drove me places, could broil a steak to perfection, and would break someone's neck if I so much as raised an eyebrow. He lived in my basement apartment with Mario, the son of a man who ran a chain of pizza joints--like I believed that shite--but I thought it couldn't hurt to have the son of a high-ranking Mafioso as a tenant. I hadn't been burgled in years.
"A nice Caesar's in the ice box. With lots of lemon, like you like it. Mario and I were gonna go clubbing. That okay?"
I waved him away. "Have fun." I waited until he was out the door before I opened up a bottle of wine, with every intention of getting good and drunk.
"One photograph for the press release, Caroline. One. That's it. And I approve it. Orange juice, please," I told the flight attendant. We were on the 7:00 a.m. flight out of JFK, scheduled to arrive at Heathrow at 5:00 pm. The following two days would be nothing but hand-shaking and smiling. I hate smiling.
"I'll have a mimosa. And another one when I finish that one. In fact, keep them coming." I scowled. She could afford to drink all she wanted now that she'd won her point. "Four photographs."
"One. And only one. Would it shock you if I was, say, wanted for murder in Britain?" I said with enough ambiguity to make it possible. "That photograph might jeopardize my freedom. There is no statute of limitations on murder, I'll have you know. Your truly Napoleonic visions of a smut empire will collapse all because you're shutter happy. One photograph. And from the side."
She blanched and then nodded. It was a little disconcerting to realize that she believed me capable of murder, but then again, it was more telling that she was willing to ignore it for the sake of her magazine. Fuck my luck. A Slytherin for a publisher.
"One photograph," she agreed with a sigh. "Lorenzo's contract is signed, sealed, and delivered. DavyD is ecstatic with his promotion. I also approved a raise for that utter bitch, Sam. Why are you so grouchy?"
"I told you," I muttered through clenched teeth. "I do not do Britain. Two days, that's it. I am catching the 5:00 pm flight to JFK on Sunday. That's our deal. Thank you for approving Lorenzo's contract. He can now quit his other job."
"And wait on you hand and foot?" she said archly.
"Something like that."
It wasn't lost on me that I'd surrounded myself with the Muggle equivalent of Slytherins. Mario and Lorenzo functioned pretty much as Crabbe and Goyle had; they were beefy subordinates whose chief strength lay in their loyalty and their cheerful nonchalance toward violence. Sam? Sam was Pansy. And while she looked nothing like Pans, being Amazonian (she and I were the same height), plump, and blond, she had all of Pansy's vicious wit and grit. Plus, she was never afraid to tell me off and call me on my shit. This is what Pansy had done, too. When you have an ego like mine, you need at least one person in your life to do that or you run the risk of megalomania. Hello, Father, I believe this has your name on it.
I didn't want to think about Vince, Greg, or Pansy. I doubt they survived. Vince and Greg were too stupid to last long--they were lousy wizards, frankly. Pansy was harder to call. I assumed Harry had won. The absence of massive Muggle deaths from a mysterious green light boded well for the Order's side. Nor did the Muggle papers ever report anything slightly bizarre except for an inexplicable fog that blanketed Britain for three entire months. I imagine that was the beginning of the end. But that was sheer speculation on my part. Once I went into exile, I went into exile. I hadn't spoken to or seen a single wizard or witch since I left. I never went into the wizarding sections of the cities I lived in--although New York's wizarding section is quite large. I'd made my Muggle bed and was lying in it quite happily.
The only exception I made was to send my mother a Christmas card every year, to let her know I was alive. I did that for a few years until one came back stamped, "Undeliverable." I assumed my father died with Voldemort. When the Christmas card came back, I assumed my mother was now dead as well.
I hadn't been back to England in twenty-two years.
While Caroline proceeded to get thoroughly hammered, I made a list of private ground rules.
Ironclad Rule No. 1: I would not go to Diagon Alley. Indeed, I would avoid London entirely. The launch party was at some castle-for-hire in Sussex, not Wiltshire, thank Christ, because the grass in Wiltshire has a perfectly sweet scent that is unlike anywhere in Britain. If I so much as set foot in Wiltshire, I'd probably have a full-blown mental breakdown.
Ironclad Rule No. 2: I would not look up Harry. Amendment to Ironclad Rule No. 2. I would stop thinking of him as "Harry." He was, henceforth, Potter. Nor would I spend so much as one second thinking about him, what he was doing, where he was living, or if he'd gotten married and had ten children, like I suspected he'd gone and done. I'd devoted enough angst and anguish to him over the years; enough was enough.
I lectured myself during most of the flight on what I would and would not do. How I would do this magazine launch ala fucking garden party; how I would not torture myself by seeking information about Potter. Excellent advice. Then as we began to land, I spied the patchwork of fields dotted with sheep. My heart both thrilled and broke to see it again, forcing myself to acknowledge that no place had ever replaced England in my heart.
That I'd never found anyone to replace Harry, I'd admitted a long time ago.
The war had just begun when I left. Hogsmeade had been attacked by Death Eaters. Several people had been badly hexed, but no deaths. That, I thought, was rather lucky. Harry didn't see it that way.
"Well, of course, its proximity to Hogwarts makes it a natural target, Harry. What did you expect?"
Segue to a motherfucker of a fight, which ended with, "You have to choose. Me or him. You can't have it both ways."
Of course, he was right. And "him" was not, as you might suspect, Voldemort. No, it was my father.
I chose neither.
As Snape shoved an envelope toward me containing a wad of English pounds and a passport, he said, "You are making the right choice, Draco. Do not live the life I have lived. A half-life where no matter what you choose, you will betray the people you love. Here is a Portkey to Singapore. If you are careful, your money will last two years."
"Do not be a fool, Draco," he warned.
I reached for the Portkey. In that second I ceased to be Draco Malfoy and became Dee de Poitier. Fitting, considering I ended up selling my arse, and to a number of royalty, too, for the next thirteen years.
What did I know of careful? Careful, to me, was keeping secret the labyrinth of hidden rooms in Malfoy Manor that contained all manner of things dark. Careful was sneaking peeks of forbidden visitors in the wee hours of the night when I should have been in bed. Careful was telling not a soul of the fight I witnessed between my parents, my mother hysterically begging my father not to sacrifice our family for Voldemort's cause and him shouting back that Voldemort's cause was our cause.
It did not mean counting pence.
I went through the money in six months. I traveled all over the east, staying in first-class Muggle hotels, pretty much heading for the bar the first thing in the morning and not leaving until the last thing at night. When down to my last two hundred pounds, I was back in Singapore, at Raffles, contemplating throwing myself off the roof, when the youngest son of the youngest son of some Arab sheik waltzed in with his entourage. At eighteen you can pickle yourself for quite a long time and not show it. I was still very handsome, if a little rough around the edges. He offered me two hundred pounds for a blow job.
"Four hundred. A fuck will cost you a thousand pounds."
I stayed with him for a year. He was the first in a series of high-profile sugar daddies that kept me in style and oodles of British pounds for the next thirteen years.
"Meet and greet, darling. It's all about meet and greet."
Caroline was true to her word about the cameras. There was only one photographer and he'd taken hundreds of shots, but only one of me, my face slightly turned away from the camera and in shadow. And since I only wore black--ever--it had the feel of a silhouette. I approved. I wasn't above using Legilimency on him every time he got near to me and was able to steer him in another direction with little effort.
When I'd shaken about a million and four hands, I high-tailed it to the library for a leisurely fag. Not even Caroline could complain I hadn't done my fair share. I'd turned on the old Malfoy charm, although these days it would be correct to term it the de Poitier charm, and wowed everyone I met. The new fellow they'd hired as the British editor seemed intelligent enough. An earnest young man just out of either Ox or fucking Bridge, he struck me as unsure of himself yet exceptionally ambitious. I'd have to watch him. He assured me that the letters section for the first issue was done and just needed my approval. It was being zipped and emailed to me in the morning. I'd get the layout and copy for the first U.K. edition by the end of the week. And would I have time tomorrow for the photo shoot or should we do that in the U.S?
I assured him I'd do the photo shoot here, and I'd meet him at the photo studio at ten.
My mouth had graced the first cover of Lush. A black and white shot from the bridge of my nose down, my bottom lip in a slight pout. It was Caroline's idea. I'd pooh-poohed it, thinking, well, it's just my mouth. But she'd laughed and said, "Yes, Dee. It's just your mouth. Trust me. The first run will sell out in four days." It took three days. That started what was to be our signature style. All covers were black and white shots of a single body part. Hands or mouths were popular, nipples and pecs very popular. The arse cheek shot was quite controversial (for the issue devoted to spanking), but it was vague enough to get by the censors. Although, frankly, you'd have to be a fucking idiot not to know it was someone's arse.
For the first U.K. edition, we were going to go again with my mouth, but after much discussion regarding the recent brouhaha on secondhand smoke, it would be an identical shot but my mouth slightly opened and puckered, just about to wrap my lips around a fag. Tendrils of smoke would curl about my lips. A sop to both the fellatio fanatic and the smoker.
I'd do the photo shoot, and then proceed to break both of my ironclad rules at the same time before I headed to Heathrow.
I hadn't done a Glamour in years--after all, I was getting paid pounds and pounds to look like me--and ended up wasting at least an hour casting different Glamours, where try as I might, I still ended up resembling a Goblin. Thirty spells later, I managed to look somewhat human, if sort of a caricature of myself. I Apparated into a small alley beside Fortescue's, not knowing Knockturn Alley was still there. At the very least, I doubted Borgin and Burkes had survived. They'd be the first casualty in any Ministry clean-up.
I ignored the thrum of magic every wizard feels when you're in a magical place. That kick to the soul that reminds you, yes, you're different. You're wonderfully different. I'd felt the thrum over the years. In Egypt it was impossible to walk more than twenty yards and not feel it. But this was home. Where I should, by all rights, have had a place. A presence. And quite a big one.
If I kept up that train of thought, I'd be giving serious contemplation to hanging myself with my hotel bed sheets. I picked up my pace and headed toward Knockturn Alley. With this half-arsed Glamour it would be insane to go into the Leaky.
Luck was with me. Knockturn Alley was still operating in all its foul splendor, and, fortunately, no one wanted to make eye contact with me as much as I didn't want to make eye contact with them. While Borgin and Burkes had indeed disappeared, several seedy pubs where my father used to do business remained. I didn't find what I was looking for until I'd entered the fourth pub, a dive where the patrons only came to get drunk and stay drunk. Several issues of The Daily Prophet sat in a haphazard pile on a table; they probably had been lying there for weeks. I gathered them up and Apparated back to my room. I couldn't take that Glamour off fast enough.
I didn't find anything but the usual tripe until the last issue. It was several weeks old, and the paper looked like someone had mopped up the floor with it, but there was no mistaking that face; or the scowl on it.
Head Auror, Harry Potter, leaves the courtroom after an exceptionally emotional day in court.
Harry put a hand up to shield his face from the photographer.
This reporter remembers the absolutely beautiful wedding of these two lovebirds twenty years ago; the bride wore the most enchanting full-length gown of champagne-colored satin overlain with Chantilly lace. I assure you there wasn't a dry eye in the house at those nuptials. Now there isn't a dry eye in the courtroom as these two hammer out the financial settlement regarding their divorce. Reliable sources say that Ginevra Potter nee Weasley is not just a little bitter about this turn of events. 'I always thought we had a fairytale marriage.' Harry Potter has been less than forthcoming regarding the reasons behind his decision to end this marriage. But then Mr. Potter hasn't exactly been a friend of the press over the years, now has he?
Harry, excuse me, Potter, scowled again and the photo replayed itself. I traced a forefinger over his face. His hair, completely gray, wasn't any less of a mess than when he'd been a young man. Pronounced brackets on either side of his mouth punctuated his frown; it was impossible to tell if they were in response to recent events or the permanent markers of an unhappy life. He still wore glasses, silly git, although not the round ones of his youth. He looked dreadfully unhappy.
The phone rang. My car was waiting.
I'd changed my mind about the British editor. He was a fucking idiot and not for the first time in my life did I miss having the dungeons at Malfoy Manor at my disposal. We were supposed to go to press within a week, and the first U.K. edition was a disaster. The only articles worth keeping were the ones hijacked from the U.S. edition. Working eighteen-hour days, we reworked the entire issue from soup to nuts (the food column to the monthly nude). The letters were the last item to finish up.
"Dee, do you want me to do the letters?" Stephan tried to keep the tremble out of his voice, but I could see he was exhausted, in a "heading for the ledge" frame of mind.
"Go. Get some sleep. I'll do the letters, but don't expect me until four at the earliest tomorrow. This has to go to press no later than Wednesday." He nodded and shuffled out the door.
People thought we made the letters up, they were so outlandish. Frankly, we didn't need to make them up. Human nature is, I've found, unbelievably perverse and twisted all on its very own, thank you very much. The magazine walked a fine line between encouraging people to indulge their inner kink and yet shied away from completely endorsing clearly illegal behavior. Safe sex was one thing we did not budge on. You watch several friends die of AIDS and then ask me to bareback. You'll be lucky I don't break your jaw.
When I first started with Lush I answered all the letters myself. My book, Before I Lay Me Down, a brash biography of my thirteen-year career as a high-class tart, had gained me a fair amount of notoriety, not to mention tons of filthy lucre. On the strength of the introduction alone, Caroline offered me the editorship of a new magazine she wanted to publish that targeted gay men. Think Martha Stewart Living Meets Oprah Meets Stud. The fact that Dee de Poitier, courtesan to the titled and famous (and gay!), was handing out advice on all matters sexual was quite a selling point. Why not use my knowledge of some of the world's most well-known arses to answer letters about various well-known kinks. I did it for six months until the volume grew overwhelming. We now had a database of answers for any kind of kink, although I usually vetted the answers to the ones that appeared in the magazine itself.
The British editor's answers were so ridiculous that I immediately fired off an email to him. "Are you even gay, you moron?" My fiftieth email to him in three days. To Caroline I emailed, "Fire him by eight tomorrow morning or I quit." I attached the letters and his boring and stupid responses (the letters were her personal kink), satisfied that his severance check would be FedExing its way to Britain by tomorrow afternoon. I spent the next three hours rewriting his tripe. The last letter didn't have an answer, and I suspected that this idiot didn't know what to say.
Granted, we usually stick to the kinky and perverse, but we always include one letter with some real pathos. This was one of the saddest letters I've ever received.
Time: 2:04 am
Date: September 10
RE: Possible to rekindle old romance?
Do you think it insane of me to try to rekindle a failed romance that died over twenty years ago? I have recently run into this man again, and while I am furious with him for the way he ended our relationship, among other issues, I never forgot him, and I wonder if he feels the same. He was my first lover. I know that your first lover is someone you never forget, but I still dream about this man nearly every night. I was very young, but I loved him desperately, deeply, like I've loved no one else.
I lit a cigarette. Turn back time? Oh, if only it were that easy. I thought of Ha-- Potter's face: gaunt, bitter, angry, his hair gray. I opened a desk drawer and took out that issue of the Prophet to stare at it for the hundredth time. Harry, are you in there?
Time: 11:13 pm
Date: September 23
RE: FW: Possible to rekindle old romance?
Are you barking mad? Let me back up a bit. Not only do I know a thing or two about how to give a blow job that would have brought down the Ottoman Empire, I know a surprising amount about great lost loves.
I grew up in aristocratic circles. Yes, I'm sure you're shocked, but being born into the social stratosphere doesn't preclude you from peddling your arse should the need arise. Shortly before my eighteenth birthday, I fell in love. For the first time. Given my past and the number of lovers I've had over the years, you will be doubly surprised to hear that it was also for the last. And no, Gerhardt, if you are reading this, I did not love you. Now go away. My lover had a foot in my world and yet was clearly not of my world. My parents despised him. There was much enmity between our families. Think "Romeo and Juliet," add a few more dead bodies, and you might come close to imagining the cast of characters. Had we been caught, being disowned was the least of my worries. Had my father known I was gay and fucking him, he probably would have killed me. (I am not joking.) I could not choose between my father--my past and my destiny, as manifested in my father's expectations of me (and perfectly legitimate ones I might add, considering our position in society)--and him--an uncertain future at best.
Do not contact him again. Do what I have done and replay your good memories of him at the very darkest part of the night and you are alone. I now have a perfect picture of that part of my life that cannot change, no matter what has happened in the ensuing twenty years.
I want to remember my lover as he was at eighteen. The flush of his cheeks when aroused, the silky dark of his hair as it lay against the blond of mine, his large blunt fingers reaching for mine. The curve of his smile when I said something naughty and he was both amused and appalled.
I have no idea how my former lover remembers me. I am sure he despises me completely for how I ended our relationship, but I know how I'd like to be remembered: saucy, sexy, and forever young.
If we met again it would be nothing but recriminations and rage. Why would it be any different with you?
That letter depressed the shit out of me for a week.
Ambitious, yet stupid, young editor fired, and I assumed editorship of both magazines, which I suspect was Caroline's plot all along. U.K. edition smashing success. My cigarette consumption went up by a pack a day. My bank account went up accordingly.
Time: 4:45 pm
Date: September 25
To: Dee (the bloke who smokes too much)
From: DavyD (the bloke who works too much)
Re: See attach.
D: Seems like this is written to you personally. Want to answer it or shall I just use boilerplate number 37?
Time: 5:10 pm
Date: September 25
To: DavyD (the bloke who now earns a hell of a lot more money)
From: Dee (the bloke who will smoke as much as he damn well pleases, so fuck off)
Re: FW: See attach.
Will respond personally. Have copy on "Bondage on Your Coffee Break: Hype Yourself Up without the Caffeine" on my desk by Friday. No excuses. Tell Stephan that I am sending him to a twelve-step program for whack jobs who can't stay off building ledges. Remind Sam to send memo to maintenance and have all the windows in his office nailed shut. If Simon is murdered in his bed and Interpol contacts you, you've never met me.
Time: 5:30 pm
Date: October 1
From: Dee de Poitier
RE: I'll have a martini with my rage, please
You say that your initial reaction is always rage when you think of him, even now. This is rational grounds for re-establishing contact? I think not. You go on to say that you never understood why he couldn't just choose you over his parents. You do not say how old you are, but I am guessing by the absence of current slang that you are near my age, late thirties; perhaps early forties? Which, if true, gives you no excuses for being so fucking myopic. I doubt it was that simple.
Rage equals desperate desire to reunite? Slight disconnect from this side of the Atlantic. What do you hope to get out of this reunion?
You say you were duped by him initially, then thought that you were completely wrong about him, only to be duped again.
My lover could have said the same thing of me. But I never duped him. What I did was choose myself over him. Over my father. I doubt either of them has ever forgiven me.
Time: 5:36 pm
Date: October 5
From: Dee de Poitier
RE: Forgiveness Is a Something Thing
You're up late. You say you want to see him to mend fences, close that door, blahblahblah, insert more inane psycho babble, but I never get the sense that you truly want to understand why this man left you. Forgive me if I take his part, but I imagine my former lover speaks of me in similarly disparaging tones (selfish, arrogant, nasty bastard was, I believe, the "term" you used). My, that doesn't sound like someone in a listening mood, does it? It sounds like you're aching to beat him to a bloody pulp. Just saying.
No, the first time I'd been back in twenty-two years. My publisher blackmailed me into going back for the launch of the U.K. edition, or I never would have set foot on the old sod. I spent the entire plane ride convincing myself it would be a piece of cake. After all, you've see one blade of grass, you've seen them all. I am rather practiced at the art of self-deception, but who was I fooling? England is so beautiful.
Time: 3:04 am
Date: October 5
From: Dee de Poitier
RE: England, My England. Not
Can't sleep either. No, I didn't really stay long enough to enjoy the sights; just two days. My family is gone, and whatever friends I had are probably gone as well. That life is over.
I did see a picture of my former lover in the newspaper, however. He looked angry and unhappy, which is identical to how he looked the last time I saw him, come to think of it. In my memory he is always laughing at something I've said (before I left we laughed all the time a tad out of the ordinary for me as an amused smirk is usually as good as it gets), and then he's pulling me toward him.
What is the first thing you think of when you think of your old lover?
Time: 3:30 am
Date: October 5
From: Dee de Poitier
His mouth and his hands? He must have been something that you can recall him so vividly many, many years later.
I leave you with that thought. If I don't get some sleep, I'll be raging around the office like a bear with a thorn in its paw. Although I must admit that is my usual M.O.
"You are not hiring her. Absolutely not."
"Sam, I am exhausted," I whined, and I hate whiners. "I cannot do this anymore. I am running two magazines. Short of her being a complete corpse, we have to hire her. I've not had a decent night's sleep in three months. My cigarette consumption is alarming even me. We need more people. I'm thinking of joining Stephan out there on the ledge."
She came around my desk and began to massage my shoulders and neck. "She misspelled her own name, Dee. Twice. Either your name has an 'e' on the end or it doesn't, and if the person filling out the application doesn't know, I really don't know who does. We'll find someone. Hang on. You're so tense. When was the last time you got laid?" My neck really knotted up at that. "Oh, that long, huh?"
"Not interested," I grumbled. "I probably couldn't even get it up. Am too fucking tired." I found myself shockingly celibate these days. I no longer did it for money, and I never thought I'd say this, but all cocks were starting to look the same to me. "Mgughghg. There, right there. And you're a fine one to talk. You're turning into one of those sad women who own a hundred cats in a nine-hundred-square-foot apartment."
"I only have ten cats, and, thanks to the raise, I'm now the proud renter of twelve-hundred-square feet. Cats can't get me pregnant. They keep me warm in the winter. They don't drink my booze, and they don't mind if I smoke. We are muy simpatico."
"Next you'll be telling me--"
Stephan poked his head in. "Interview's here."
Sam stopped kneading my shoulders. "Thought we were done for the day," she muttered and stole a fag from the open container on my desk on her way out the door.
The phone buzzed. "Can you interview one more? Older than what we usually get, but beggars can't be choosers. He's English, too. Actually seems to have a brain. Exceptionally polite. My gaydar is going berserk. But subtle berserk. You two can compare kinks."
"Send him in," I said absentmindedly and lit a fag. My thirtieth that day, but who's counting?
I dropped the lit fag on my pants and promptly ruined a five-hundred dollar pair of pants.
The photo in the Prophet hadn't done him justice. Take away the scowl and you had Harry Potter all grown-up and looking good enough to eat.
The two of us were galloping headlong into manhood that summer we turned eighteen, all length and broad hints of the men we would eventually become. I was still angular and slender, but I'd grown into all those sharp edges. Now, instead of being an astonishingly handsome man in the right light, I was merely a handsome man in most light.
Potter had changed much more than I had. For one thing, he was wearing clothes that fit. A first in my memory. That they were of such poor quality I wouldn't mop my floor with them is immaterial. But who cares about clothes when the most delicious bottom lip I'd ever encountered had elongated to the point of pure sin. I'd lost my pointed angles; he'd gained them. He'd finally abandoned the trademark round glasses for some stylish horn rims that suited the new angles of his face. The pronounced brackets were still there, joined by faint tight lines around his eyes, but neither looked like exhaustion so much as character lines. He'd been a very fit eighteen; however, being fit at eighteen is child's play. But fit at forty?
For most of our school years, he'd been so physically effacing that it was impossible to see anything but too skinny knees and elbows. It didn't help that his clothes would have fit a baby giant. I blame his relatives for this. He never saw himself as attractive, even when we were clawing at each other every chance we got. I couldn't get enough of him and it puzzled him. I've never met anyone so completely unaware of their own personal magnetism. It was greatest when he was on a broom, possibly because it was the one time he was, conversely, both completely out of himself and the most of himself. He was mentally and physically at one. Standing in the door to the broom shed, I'd watch him soar over the Quidditch pitch, him trusting his body for once.
The second he jumped off that broom I'd be on him. Some of our most impassioned trysts were behind that broom shed. Harry all sweaty from exertion and yet smelling like fresh air and sun. Me all sweaty from arousal and smelling like polishing wax.
I'd often wondered if I had stayed whether that physical confidence would have eventually manifested itself in our bed. I guess I have my answer. Not that he hadn't been a wonderful lover. Shy yet hungry, so giving but not certain of what he was giving. The sum had me dizzy with desire. I'd hazard a safe guess that he was now as confident and bold in bed as he had been on a broom. A train of thought not worth pursuing.
He stood in my office, physically sure, aware, his mind quickly cataloguing his surroundings. The physical confidence was all Harry, the mental acuity all Auror. I had a momentary flash of jealousy that Ginny Weasley had had the good fortune to witness this transformation and not I. But then, it was my choice to leave and I had no right to complain. Now did I?
"Harry Potter, this is Dee de Poitier, he is the Executive... Hey, you know each other?" You couldn't put much over on Sam.
"We're old friends. I just stopped by to say hello. Didn't mean to imply anything else."
Bleeding fuck. The awkward boy would have done his patented oh-pardon me-did-I-do-something-wrong-I-didn't-mean-to shuffle. This, this confident, almost breezy manner had my cynical Sam, the woman who'd rather buy cat food than date, what the fuck, beaming?
"No problem, Harry," she beamed some more. I stared at her. "You two catch up. He could use a break." She shut the door behind her.
I grabbed my wand out of my bootleg and immediately cast a Silencing charm because there was no way it wasn't going to get ugly. And loud.
"What are you doing here, Harry?"
I was furious. I didn't know why I was furious, but I was so angry that I started thwacking my wand against the edge of my desk, because if I didn't, I was going to hex him. A monumentally stupid idea. Even in my fury I knew it suicidal to even attempt to hex an Auror, not to mention hexing the Head Auror, not to mention hexing Harry Potter, Head Auror.
"International conference for Aurors. How are you, Draco?"
"Perfect until about three seconds ago. I didn't mean what are you doing in New York, you imbecile. Here. In my office. I have no idea how you found me, but it doesn't matter. You've stopped by, had your look see, now go." I'd moved toward the door to show him out and then it hit me. "Fuck. Wait. Are you here to arrest me?" I leaned against the door. He was going to throw me in Azkaban, because I didn't stay, because I... Apparate, Draco, you can do this, think of where you want to go. Home? No. He probably knows where you live. Sam's flat. God, those fucking cats...
"Arrest you? Draco, what in the fuck are you on about?"
"Head Auror, right?" I gasped. Couldn't breathe. Where was I going to...
"I'm not arresting you, silly git. Yeah, I'm Head Auror, but I'm only seeing you to close your file. You're the big, uh, fat question mark. And. Well. I wanted to... Anyway, what could I possibly arrest you for? Last time I looked, dumping your boyfriend wasn't just cause for a stint in Azkaban. And if there was, there's probably a statute of limitations that has run out by now."
I stumbled over to my desk, sat down, and fumbled for a cigarette. The box fell on the floor spilling fags everywhere. A quick flick of his wand and the box was back on my desk. "Ha, fucking, ha. Accio fag. And please tell me why you still can't put a sentence together even now."
"I have no problem putting sentences together. Just that you... You still smoke?"
"Twice as much. Maybe more." My hands were shaking so badly it took me ten flicks with my thumb to trip the lighter. I inhaled deeply. It was times like these I knew I could never give it up. Ever. "How did you find me?" I could see Harry stalking me. He had that in him.
"If you had wanted to stay hidden, you shouldn't have done that press release. Even in shadow, I'd know you anywhere."
Fucking Caroline. I was going to kill her, tear her apart, spit on her Jimmy Choo's, take a black permanent marker to her--
"The article mentioned that you were the editor--"
"Oh, and was this a reunion with your inner queer or do you have a lifetime subscription? Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall listening to you explain to the wife why you're drooling over Mr. June. Or did you tell her you were reading it for the home decorating tips?"
"Ex-wife. And it cited your book. I read it cover to cover."
I could feel it then. The anger building.
"I never knew where you went, whether you were alive or dead. Twenty-two years. I didn't know. And then I find you weren't ill, sick, or dead; all the things I imagined had happened. No. You had your bare arse up in the air for the taking. Went from being my boyfriend to whoring for God knows who. Imagine how that made me feel?"
"Grammar challenged as always. It's 'whom,' and I couldn't give a rat's arse, frankly," I drawled. "Didn't realize I was your property. Should I have asked permission?"
"Why? Why, Draco?"
"I explained in my last letter to you why I was leaving, and why I turned tricks is, frankly, none of your business. Shove your middle-class Victorian values up your arse, Potter. Glass houses and all that. Not the only one who sold their arse now I am? Granted, I probably win in the quantity category."
"What in the fuck do you mean?" His magic started to shake. I tried not to inhale it, glory in it, but even his anger felt wonderful. I'd stayed far away from magic for a reason.
"To that Weasley bint. Got your children, certainly not something I could have given you. Talking about selling yourself. Whore is as whore does. What did you do, fuck her from behind all the time? Because unless my memory fails me, you couldn't have had much fun with her unless she'd charmed herself a dick."
The brackets around his mouth tightened. His anger mounted, and like the sad ex-alcoholic who has been flaunting his sobriety for years in a rather smug fashion and then takes a drink and knows he's doomed, I soaked up his wild magic like it was my life's blood. I physically leaned toward him, afraid to miss a single shimmy. I didn't care it was magic-induced rage. It was magic. Battering me in waves, it was like I was drunk, cranked up, on E, all at the same time. I braced myself for the windows to shatter. Then he stormed out of the room, taking his magic with him.
Finite Incantatem, I murmured. The Silencing charm dissolved.
Time: 3:33 pm
Date: October 20
From: Dee de Poitier
Re: At the risk of repeating myself, you can't go home again.
At the risk of sounding like an insufferable know-it-all, I warned you not to seek him out, that bringing your past to your present was, at best, foolish, at worst, insane. Did you really expect to run into each other's arms and start sucking face? Has he become balding and fat and thinks bedroom slippers are perfectly acceptable attire in which to do the grocery shopping? And yes, I know that sounds incredibly shallow, but I've recently seen my ex-lover and while he was a mere two seconds away from throttling me, he's still as fetching as ever. If he were fat and balding and lived in bedroom slippers I'd sleep better at night. The bastard.
Time: 5:13 pm
Date: October 20
From: Dee de Poitier
Re: Not fat and balding, eh?
Still saucy and sexy and yet you want to kill him? Perhaps you can have a rollicking good time before you strangle him. I think I should put you in contact with my former lover. He and I spent many years throwing punches at each other (not very English of us, was it?), before we realized that we could put our hands to much better use.
What if I hadn't exiled myself? I suspect the number of blow jobs I've given would have been substantially decreased. Although you never know. My lover had a very nice dick. I think about this in the dark of the winter when it's sleeting outside: exile, not cock-sucking. American sleet smells faintly of car exhaust, English sleet like freshly cut grass.
Then I remember how this "me" would have been antithetical to my family. My homosexuality would have been something akin to insanity. Getting blow jobs in public restrooms has its place, but loses its luster when that's the only place you can drop trou. I've known I was gay since I was sixteen. You see a bloke in black leather pants packing a cock the size of Wales and all of a sudden your frustration with girls makes perfect sense. Here, I'm lauded and paid lots of cash for being gay. Granted, it's a small world because there's nothing more homophobic than small-town America. But I don't live there, now do I? I live in New York where it's not a crime to be gay. A freedom worth the sharp smell of grass after a rain storm.
No use bleating on about this. New York is home now. Can toss out American slang with the best of them. Americans are total whores for anything English; no one really understands me, but they don't care. They just want me to open my mouth and say something. Doesn't matter what. Every now and then though, I wish to Christ I didn't feel that half the time I needed an interpreter. Oh well. Life is good here. If rather American.
He was waiting for me when I arrived at work the next day, slumped in a chair next to Sam's desk. I narrowed my eyes. Was he still wearing the clothes he had on yesterday? But who the fuck cared?
The previous night had been a whirlwind of club hopping, where I indulged in an orgy of suggestive behavior, yet didn't end up in anyone's bed or them in mine. Par for the course these days. Was there some memo I missed where all the attractive, fascinating gay men in New York were asked to leave and only the boring, ugly, and dumb as dirt ones were allowed to stay? I thought yet another homage to the chastity gods perfectly fine when I went to bed, but was not very fine upon waking up with exceptionally painful morning wood. (Who in the hell had I been dreaming about?) Combined with an exceptionally painful hangover. Wanking and hangovers do not mix. It's like eating hamburger and peaches. I was not in the mood. For anything. And certainly not Potter looking all woebegone in his sleep-wrinkled clothes.
When I reached his chair, I said in a loud and determined voice, "Attend your conference and leave me alone. Sam, if he doesn't leave in two minutes, call security and have this gentleman escorted from building." Like I said. Not in the fucking mood.
"Dr-- Dee, I came to apologize for calling you a whore," Potter said to the office at large.
"You are-- Fuck. Come with me," I hissed, grabbed his arm, hauled him out of his chair, and yanked him into my office.
I must have been mad, insisting my office have lots of windows; obviously, a pathetic attempt to compensate for living in a dungeon for seven years. I plucked my wand out of my bootleg and spelled the blinds shut. At least now I could glare at him without feeling like ten-foot long spears were lodged in my brain via my eyeballs.
"Do you mind not airing our dirty linen in front of my staff? I am editor of this rag, and I'd like to maintain some modicum of professionalism while at work."
"Sorry," he apologized. The world was certainly right on its axis. Potter was apologizing and it wasn't even noon. Something he always did too much of, except in regards to me. "You don't look so hot. Hangover?"
"No," I lied.
"Here." He waved his hand. The remnants of spear tips disappeared. Christ, Potter didn't even need his wand anymore, he was that powerful.
He shrugged. Not for the first time did I think he nothing more than a Muggle who happened to be able to do magic. Power that most wizards would gladly sacrifice their first born for, he hitched his shoulders at. It was totally wasted on him.
"Freaks most people out if I don't use a wand. Don't need it anymore, actually. Have you eaten?"
At the mention of food, my stomach lurched. Dinner had been a pitcher--or ten--of mojitos. I'd been burping up mint most of the morning. Determined to be surly at all costs, I snapped, "No, I have not. You know I don't eat breakfast."
"Yeah, but you're twitchy like you're hungry and won't admit it."
I closed my eyes. What good did this do? To remind ourselves that we knew each other that well.
"Come on, Draco. There's a decent looking café around the corner."
"That place is raided monthly by the Health Department, and if you knew how lax the standards generally are, you'd cross the block rather than even get within sixteen feet of the place." I opened my eyes. "Did you sleep in your clothes?"
"Might have done," he admitted and pushed his glasses farther up on his nose in a familiar gesture. "Had a rather bad night. So let's go someplace else. You pick. You're still hungry."
"No, I'm not. I don't plan on being hungry for days. Perhaps ever."
"Just pick some place, Draco."
"Are you seeing someone?"
"Is that really any of your business? You may have noticed that I'm editor of two magazines. It eats up my cock-sucking time. If I'm not careful, I'm going to be demoted to whore second-class."
"I told you I'm sorry I called you a whore," he grumbled.
"So you said. In front of my staff. The French toast here is excellent; the huevos rancheros hot enough to melt the enamel off your teeth. So you're perfectly fine with the fact that I charge two-hundred-fifty pounds for a hand job, five-hundred pounds for a blow, and two-thousand pounds for a fuck?"
He blushed. "Look, I don't understand why you did, um, what you did, but I'm trying to and, like, I want to, it's just, you know, really confusing me."
I suppose it too much to ask that Harry's now perfectly marvelous physical ease would have been accompanied by a modest increase in the ability to string together a sentence without a plethora of implied periods. Which didn't belong there. Which was just so twenty-five years ago. Which I found mildly sweet all the same.
"There's nothing confusing about it. I sold sex. Obviously being Head Auror does not require speaking; just a flourish of hands and voila. You are hemming and hawing like you're fifteen again."
"I only do this with you. Git." But the insult lacked venom. "You look the same. Handsome. Still blond. I like your hair long," he said, running a self-conscious hand through his gray hair.
"You are still king of the non sequitur. As if the length of my hair has anything to do with selling sex. Well, I suppose it might." I turned to the waiter who'd been hovering around our table for the last five minutes. "I'll have the eggs Benedict, a side of sausage, an orange juice, large, and a double espresso. Bring me the fruit cup as well, and you can't afford me so stop eavesdropping."
The waiter blushed and gripped his pen. I felt like paging Freud.
"Ignore him, he's cranky," said Harry, in mollifying mode. "I'll have a side of scrambled eggs and a pot of tea. Thanks."
He scurried off, clutching menus to his chest. By the list to his walk, he had quite a boner. Lucky for him they wore those long white aprons.
"You know, I'm really sorry I dragged you out for breakfast because it's obvious, since you ordered enough food to feed a Quidditch team, that you're really not at all hungry."
I gave him two fingers. For some reason, that got a chuckle.
"Draco, could you not call me 'Potter'? It makes me feel thirteen-years old. Not a particularly great year for either of us. How did you know about me and Ginny?"
"You should call me Dee. Picked up a Prophet when I was in England for that disastrous photo shoot. Rather horrible picture of you leaving the courtroom. You looked like you were about to punch that photographer."
"I did punch him," he said with a mirthless laugh. "If you'd read the next issue you would have been treated to a full-page article on what a nutter I've become, attacking people at random. The fact that he wasn't exactly randomly pointing the camera in my direction somehow irrelevant. Fucking Creevey. From my own house, too."
"Well, I must say you fulfilled all my expectations. Married the girl who'd been pining for you since she was, what, ten years old?" That sounded bitter. Better keep it light. "Had your fourteen children--"
And thinking what he had to do to get those five children, I decided to fuck light. "So why the divorce? Am not a little curious. Discovered that your little penchant for dick wasn't just a flash in the pan?"
"Yes. I thought... I don't know what I thought. You," he pointed a menacing finger at me, "left and... I'd always wanted kids; the Weasleys treated me like another son. She had loved me for a very long time. I guess I thought I loved her. The beginning was alright; the children are wonderful, Draco. Truly wonderful. But the last five years with her have been utter shite. She really hates me now. Yes, my little penchant for dick, as you so eloquently put it, wasn't just a flash in the pan. Vicious bastard."
I smirked. "Never pretended to be anything but. But then I haven't spent the last twenty years pretending to be something I'm not."
"Oh? Like not being a wizard."
"Fuck you, Harry." This time I truly meant it.
Fortunately the food arrived. He pushed his scrambled eggs around the plate for several minutes, while I wolfed all of mine down. I was starving, notwithstanding my new and improved hatred of Ginny Weasley.
I finished my espresso. "Harry," I began, if I never saw him again, I needed to say this. "I will never ask for your forgiveness for leaving you."
At that he looked up from pushing his food around on his plate. He wasn't angry, just hurt and confused.
"I had excellent reasons, not the least of them was that at some point you were going to want to have children and where would we be then?"
His wan little, "I know," was accompanied by more food pushing.
I called the waiter over. "Please take our plates away. He abuses those eggs anymore and I'm going to stab him with my fork."
I threw some bills on the table. "Let's go. Central Park isn't far from here and I'm dying for a smoke."
At the first empty bench, I plonked down and lit up.
"You do look the same, you know."
"Bollocks, but thanks for saying it. And if you tell me that smoking will give me wrinkles, I already know that and have a plastic surgeon on speed dial. Granted, I weigh the same. Thank Christ. Keep my figure by punishing myself on the treadmill for an hour every day. Except for hangover days," I said, ruefully. "You've kept your Seeker's build." I couldn't help but sneer a little at that. "Work out much?"
"Not much. Quidditch on the weekends. Always seem to pass my yearly physical, but then I don't smoke four thousand cigarettes a day. Got sort of stocky there for a while, then the divorce hit. Lost a couple of stone in the aftermath."
I punched his arm. "It's only three thousand and two stone? Good God, Potter. You must have looked positively Goyle-ish."
"First smile I've seen."
"First time I've felt like smiling in months. I married her because I was angry with you. And I wanted children."
I'd forgotten how honest Harry could be. How he would readily admit to things that wild Thestrals couldn't have dragged out of me.
"How was it pretending you were straight for twenty years?"
"Lonely. How is it pretending you're not a wizard?"
"Do not go there," I warned. And for good measure, added, "Potter."
"I have to go home on Friday. Have dinner with me tonight."
Time: 4:40 pm
Date: October 21
From: Dee de Poitier
Re: Fwd: At the risk of repeating myself, you can't go home again.
No, I am not sorry for leaving him. I had excellent reasons for doing so. If you can control that rage practically leaping off the screen every time I open your email, ask him why he left. Ask him and mean it, not just as an excuse to become furious all over again. At this point it shouldn't be about exacting penance so much as reconciliation and revelation. You two have nothing to gain by rehashing old arguments nor, unfortunately, by recalling old passion. And, by the way, if you run into my ex-lover, pass the same advice on to him. He and I had breakfast today. The arrival of our eggs was the only thing stopping us from attacking each other with our forks. That and I was really hungry.
Why did I leave him? I left him because I realized that sometimes there are no winners. Not an easy admission for me. Spoiled rotten as a child, and I mean rotten, I never expected I wouldn't get what I wanted out of life. I assumed I would get it all. On the proverbial silver platter no less. The game was mine. At least that was what my parents hammered into me every second of my childhood, and I fervently believed it. Why not? What in my ridiculously privileged upbringing had taught me any differently?
We had a glorious six months. The happiest time of my life. Naturally, we had to keep our relationship secret. As much as he said that his friends would accept me, he knew it was utter bollocks. It wasn't even debatable what my father would do if he found out. So we fucked in rented rooms. We gave each other hand jobs in cinemas and on park benches. We sucked each other off in public restrooms. The sex was wild, frantic. Unbelievably innocent at first--he'd barely even kissed a girl--he'd lay atop of me, the scratchy sheets of some cheap room we'd rented chafing my back. He'd kiss me, his body trembling, and his mouth unsure of what to do, unsure of what it wanted, but knew I could give it to him. Show me, he'd say with these shy, non-stop kisses. Like this, I'd murmur, and he'd match me bite for bite, thrust for thrust.
And then both the metaphorical and actual winter set in. What I learned was that sometimes all you can hope for is to leave the field with your dignity intact. Your uniform may be torn and spotted with mud, your nose broken, but your arms and legs are in working order, and the wisest thing to do is walk off that field and don't look back. If you don't want to be a casualty of the play, you'd better get your arse off the pitch fast, because the game is about to re-commence. I left the game for others to finish.
That doesn't mean I wasn't devastated by it. That I didn't ache for him for years.
I did have a pang of jealousy today. Yes, he truly got his own back on me by marrying the sister of his best friend. Whom I loathed with a passion. The best friend. Of course, now I loathe the ex-wife, too. She saw him grow into a man. I'd have liked to have seen that.
I tell you this so that you understand that I loved him just as much as he loved me, and yet I still had to leave. You've been rather vague about the details of your estrangement. Perhaps your lover felt as I did. That he had no choice but to hurt you. Maybe in the game you two were playing there were also no winners, only losers.
I see someone with green eyes and it's... I have no words for what I feel.
I'd foolishly thought the past was the past. That I'd done a surgical strike. And really all I've done is close the wound. You wind the gauze tight, tight, tight, and think, there, you're done. But red starts a slow bleed into the white and then it starts to hurt again. Like holy fuck.
"You going to fuck him?"
"Shut up, Sam. What does everyone think about this article on fag hags? Don't like the title much. DavyD, is it just me or does Fag Hags: Myth or Reality? sound so three years ago?"
"Boring maybe. Dee, you going to fuck him? He's the original for every brunet I've seen you try to pick up over the last five years."
"Our clubbing days are official over. Find yourself another samba partner. Didn't we do a similar article a couple of years ago?"
"No," piped up Stephan. "That was entitled Fag Hags and Their Gay Male Friends: Who's the Bigger Bitch? I agree with DavyD. You always go for the slender, dark-haired types. Are his eyes really that green or are they contacts? You going to fuck him?"
"Good thing DavyD's evenings are now free, Stephan, because now our clubbing days are also officially over. They are really that green. No contacts. I'm not going to embarrass the hell out of you by reminding you that he wears glasses, which would slightly defeat the purpose of contacts. Courtney, did you have something you wanted to say?"
"I knew someone who wore both contacts and glasses. You going to fuck him, Dee?"
I did mention that I worked with a bunch of fucking lunatics, didn't I?
"What was I thinking? I thought this staff meeting was called to discuss copy for this month's magazines. I hate to rain on everyone's pervert parade, but I plan on actually putting out two magazines this month, and if you all don't want to prop each other up in the unemployment queue, I suggest we all get on the same page. Talk about my sex life behind my back, if you please."
"Much more fun to talk about it to your face, Dee," drawled Sam.
I narrowed my eyes in what was now known as the patented de Poitier death glare. "You will be first one in line."
She stuck her tongue out at me.
I knew this bunch of miscreants. If I didn't give them a bone we'd never get anything accomplished today.
"Right. I fucked him years ago, so this is based on ancient history, but FYI: he is a ruthless top, but an emotional bottom. He gives head with a delicious hint of teeth. His dick is quite nice, but he's not porno star material. He is loud when he fucks, lots of shouting and begging. He is a phenomenally good kisser. His nipples are wickedly sensitive. And he has a rimming fetish. As in he likes to do it. Wasn't it lucky that I like to receive it? Curiosity all satisfied? Good. Now, I want the author to tweak this article--"
"Look, Harry, I lay awake all night after our final fight and kept coming to the same conclusion. It didn't matter which side I chose because, regardless, at some point I would have found myself in battle either killing you to stop you from killing my father, or I was going to kill my father to stop him from killing you. I couldn't do it, damn it. Don't you understand? I couldn't do it! I was in the middle between both of you. What if your father was alive? What if the three of us were standing in a field, and he was pointing a wand at me. Who in the fuck would you choose to save? Who would you kill to save the other?" I shouted.
"Dee, you okay?" Renzo stood in the doorway to the dining room, Mario in shadow behind him.
I counted to five to calm down. "Yes, Renzo. Fine. Dessert was lovely. Have you lit the fire in the lounge, yet? Good. You two can go." As Harry and I yelled at each other over the course of the entire meal, the two of them hovered in the background, just waiting for Harry to step out of line. I saw the bulge of a blackjack in Renzo's back pocket and suspected Mario was wearing his holster.
"Is it okay they heard?" Harry whispered.
"I wouldn't give it a second thought. Probably normal dinnertime conversation for Mario, frankly." There was a rumor floating around at the office that Mario's father had been the prototype for Tony Soprano. It was a little frightening when I laughingly told him that and he didn't deny it, but said in a very serious voice, "They cut out a lot of the good stuff."
"Let's go sit in the lounge. I'm tired of fighting. I have some cognac that's better than sex."
The lounge was my favorite room in the whole house. Originally I had stuffed it chock a block with Louis XIV antiques, a mini-replica of the drawing room at Malfoy Manor. Gradually all that gilt with spindly legs got sold, and now it was stuffed with comfortably worn leather chairs, decent reading lamps, and a couple of squishy couches perfect for taking naps on. I hadn't gone completely native. One does draw the line at proper carpeting. The Aubusson stayed.
"Have a seat," I said, jerking my chin at the couch in front of fire as I began to pour our drinks.
"You have a way of attracting minions, Draco."
"Renzo gets paid, I'll have you know. Mario sort of comes along with Renzo."
Out of the blue, he said, "I loved you so much, Draco."
I paused mid-pour. "Yes, I know." I filled our glasses nearly to the rim. What the hell. I handed him one. "Here. Cheers."
We toasted each other and sat on opposite ends of the couch facing the fire. I swirled my cognac in the snifter, cupping the base to warm it up a little.
"I... I have... I don't do well when people leave, you know."
I put down my cognac and put a hand to his shoulder. "Harry, look at me. I know. But I had no choice. Granger and Weasley were there to pick up the pieces. Plus, I half expected the she-Weasel to take advantage, frankly. She certainly met my expectations on that score. If it's any consolation to you, I had no one." I lifted my hand and ran my fingers through his hair. It was always such a shock. You half expected it to be coarse and wiry based on its constant state of riot, and it was always like threading your fingers through a silk tassel. "You went gray early."
"Been like this for years. Happened during the last battle."
All I could say was "oh" and drop my hand.
"Why did you become a rentboy? I really don't understand that. I need to know."
Merlin, how could I wrap Harry's essentially middle class stodgy outlook around sex as power, not sex as sin.
"I supposed if you look at it in a conventional way, you'd think it way beneath me and I'd done it because I had no choice."
"Perhaps the first fuck was like that. I was down to my last two hundred pounds and didn't know what in the fuck I was going to do. But I'm in bed with this Arab sheik--handsome, although a little rough at first--and I had this epiphany, Harry. Sex is power. Absolute power. We are at our most vulnerable when we have our nuts hanging out there. So I parlayed my natural ability to charm and captivate into an art form. I wasn't servicing men in dark alleyways. I was a courtesan in the oldest sense of the word. I lived in the lap of luxury, and you know how much I like luxury--"
"Does a niffler like gold?" he muttered.
I smacked his arm.
"I'm not apologizing for it. It's how I was brought up. Rich men kept me in the manner to which I was very accustomed, and all I had to do was to make them believe they were the most desirable men on earth. I know you won't believe me, but it was fun. I traveled the world. Lived in the most opulent places imaginable. Of course, it helped that I had the sex drive of three men. Curiously, for most of the time it wasn't about fucking; it was about making them laugh and feeling good about themselves. And I got paid for it. Rather well. Some of them were wonderful and some utter bores. Having money does not mean you have brains, unfortunately. I avoided the stupid and nasty ones, the men who hate you because they're gay and want you. The Terry Boots of this world. I didn't stay with them if they weren't nice to me. There were plenty of other men who wanted my company. Had quite a rep, if you must know."
Harry's eyes roamed over me as if trying to come to terms, I suspect, with the man I am versus the young man he knew. Harry hadn't an introspective cell in his body. Action first, thought if you were laid up in hospital for weeks. I never stop thinking; a curse, frankly. So I wasn't surprised by the man he'd become. Well, as much as you can surmise from two hostile encounters, a breakfast with forks at forty paces, and a dinner where all we did was shout epithets at each other for two hours. At eighteen, all the hints of the man he was to be had been there, both physical and emotionally. Thank Christ, the war hadn't twisted that. That he'd fulfilled my expectations on that score. It was oddly comforting. He must have been completely confused, because I doubt he'd had much of a handle on me at eighteen. He knew he loved me and accepted that without much thought. Oh, in the beginning there must have been a squick or four hundred. After all, we'd hated each other, but once he'd admitted to himself that he loved me, that was it for him. No turning back. I'd always envied him that bravery.
I nudged his mind, just a tad, to see what was going on.
"Out of there, you bastard," he warned, and it was all shut to me.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," I murmured.
"Why did you quit?"
"Got too old," I laughed. "Occupational hazard. Part of the ego-stroking gig is that some handsome young thing is telling you you're gorgeous. The closer you get to thirty, the less convincing you sound. I quit, wrote my book, got offered the editorship at Lush, which I bitch and complain mightily about, but I really do enjoy it and am quite good at. Which is, again, about power. Information, media, it's all about power. My passport may say de Poitier but I am all Malfoy, Harry. Power is important to me."
The light from the fire was dim, but I could tell by the way he was dipping his chin that he was blushing.
"Was it about power with, uh, you and me?"
"No, and you know that, so stop fishing."
"I don't know, Draco," he insisted. "I'm trying to wrap my mind around a zillion things you've said tonight."
"It wasn't. Do you trust me enough to believe me when I say I wasn't fucking you because you were Harry Potter?"
"I... I didn't think so, but you left and..."
Fucking hell, he sounded close to tears.
"If you cry, I'll hit you. I was fucking you in spite of the fact you were Harry Potter. Just as you were fucking me despite the fact I was Draco Malfoy." I reminded him.
That got a small smile. We sat there in a comfortable silence, listening to the fire, and making our way through the liquor in our glasses. Is there anything on the face of this earth more delicious than drinking Napoleon out of crystal brandy snifters?
"This is a really nice room," he commented.
"Yes, I'm rather attached to this house. It took me years to discover the man beyond the son of Lucius Malfoy. I don't think I would have unearthed him if I'd stayed in Britain. Too much history. Too much to live up to."
"You seem the same. Beautiful. Witty. Saucy. Snotty. And too intelligent by half."
"I'll ignore the snotty part. And you left out sexy. I'll have you know I was the very best at what I did. Not that I didn't augment it a little, but still. My natural ability and charms are considerable." I smirked, reached into my boot to retrieve my wand, and began to twirl it through my fingers as if it were a baton.
"You were a wonderful lover." He licked his bottom lip. "I haven't..." He shot out of his slouch. "Dracooooo," his eyes narrowed. "Did you use sex magic on them?"
"Ohhhh, might have done. Once or twice." I mocked and blew on the tip of my wand as if it were a smoking gun.
He laughed and then choked in horror, "On Muggles! You are incorrigible! You know that's illegal, don't you?"
He wasn't too horrified; well, he sort of was, but he was still being playful. He wasn't getting all Auror-ish on me.
"Really? Illegal do you say?" I grinned.
"I should confiscate that wand. You're a bloody menace."
"They enjoyed it," I pouted.
"Of course they enjoyed it, you devious wanker," he snorted.
He made a lunge for my wand, but I was too fast for him and leapt up from the couch.
"Can't catch me," I teased and raced into the dining room. We feinted around the table a couple of times, then I made a made a mad dash for the doorway and was up the stairs two at a time.
"Draco, give it up. I don't smoke, and you know I'm faster," he called after me.
Although he had a point about the smoking, he was a sedentary sod. I ran five miles a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Minus a few hangovers.
He caught me in one of the spare bedrooms, tackling me onto the bed. I fell face first, he on top of me, and before I knew it, he had my hands pulled up above my head. Panting in my ear, he demanded, "Give it up, Draco."
I clutched my wand tight and then dropped it all together. Because the word "never" died on my lips as the dynamic immediately changed from a silly game of tag to the weight of him, his scent, his hot breath on the back of my neck... No, damn it, no. I turned my head away from him not trusting myself. Maybe he'd keep on playing tag and not smell my arousal, not... Dear god, he was hard. The length of his cock was nestled along my cleft, the fabric of our trousers pulling tight from the pressure of our erections. His haphazard panting, half laughing, half out of breath, stopped with a hitch, and then returned in a light rhythmic huff in time to the push, push, push of his body against mine.
"Draco," he murmured in a sigh and pressed his lips against my neck, hard. This wasn't the shy mouth of a young man embarrassed by his desires. No. This mouth sucked my pulse point, mouthed my earlobe, an insistent tongue fucked my ear, all demanding a response. The confidence with which Harry continued to kiss me told me that shoving my face in a pillow and keeping my upper body rigid was fooling no one. Telltale beads of sweat began popping along my hairline, along my collarbone. Oh, and that matching grind as his groin dipped and swirled against me a possible dead giveaway.
The tingle of magic rippled over my body and our clothes disappeared. Oh fucking, fucking hell. How do you spell wonderful? N.A.K.E.D. First the tickle of his pubic hair against my arse, then his hot cock against my crack, and finally the length of his sweaty torso as he rubbed his nipples against the plane of my back. An involuntary shout of joy into my pillow was followed by an equally involuntary spreading of my legs. Another ripple shimmied through the room, and a slick finger caressed my arsehole. Dear, dear, Merlin, this was... I wanted...
HAD I LOST MY FUCKING MIND?
I made a little memo to myself to send my personal trainer a bonus check in the morning, as I easily heaved Harry off of me. I grabbed my wand and spelled back on our clothes.
"I shall see you out," was all I said, as Harry stared at me from the heap of jumbled limbs he'd fallen into.
I left the room and stood by the front door, cursing myself that I'd let Renzo and Mario go. Although Harry was never one for playing by the rules, with my wand and their brawn, I suspected I could easily get rid of him without too much trouble. I'd have had to Obliviate them afterward, but needs must.
He stood at the top of the stairs, refusing to come down, a stubborn-I'm-not-giving-up scrunch to his mouth.
"You felt it," he accused. "It's no different."
"You're right," I agreed with a degree of calm that should have warned him I meant business.
"So why in the fuck--" he shouted.
"Because it doesn't matter. Now go. Either you leave by this door or you Apparate. I don't give a flying fuck which, but I want you out of here in ten seconds. One--"
"Do you know how rare this is? This is magic, Draco. Fuck Transfiguration and charms and spells. I've found you again, and I'm not bloody well letting you--"
"Come home. Come home with me. Buy the Prophet. We can be happy together. I know it. There's no war, no--"
"Surely, you're joking. That rag? What is the circulation? Perhaps twenty thousand on a good day. I've got a circulation of three hundred thousand, four hundred thousand if the issue contains anything to do with spanking. Three."
"All right," he backpedaled. "Move to Britain. Run Lush from London. We'll get a flat in Muggle London, but close to Diagon Alley and--"
"New York is the center of the world, Harry. You move here, if you're so keen. Four."
"I can't! My children." He pulled at his hair and a vase on the hallway table started to teeter back and forth.
"Rein it in. Now. That vase," I pointed, "is priceless. If you shatter it in one of your fits, I'm going to shove the pieces down your throat. Five."
"You miss it," he hissed. "You miss being a wizard. You practically had an orgasm the other day in your office when the magic began bouncing off of me."
"What if I do?" I snapped. "It doesn't keep me awake at night. Six."
"Who are you kidding? You've surrounded yourself with Slytherin wannabes. Renzo and Mario are practically clones of Crabbe and Goyle. Ditto for Sam. She doesn't look anything like Parkinson, but she's bitchy like Parkinson was. And that DavyD, is it? I actually thought it was Zabini. Where's my substitute, Draco?"
He hadn't budged from the top stair. His body was mostly in shadow, I couldn't really see his face. He looked eighteen in that light. He sounded eighteen, as well. All indignation and outrage.
There is no substitute and there never will be.
I opened the door. Wide. "Seven. You don't fucking get it, do you? If I don't go back, if we don't fuck, you are still eighteen, I am still eighteen. We are still in love. There's no war, no choosing sides. My friends are alive. My parents are alive, I can go home. Home. And I know that you think that Malfoy Manor was just evil brick piled atop evil brick, but--"
"You're not the only one to lose a parent or their home," he reminded me.
I slammed the door shut in rage, only to open it again. "I don't fucking care. We, we, do this... And I can no longer pretend that it's still all there for me. Just a plane ride away. Nothing you will say will change my mind. I'm not going back, I'm not going back to you. Get your arse out of my house. Eight. Nine."
He started down the stairs.
"Your mother is alive. In exile in Switzerland."
He was now halfway down the stairs.
"Bastard," I mouthed. "Don't do this to me, Harry. Shut the fuck--"
"Parkinson is living in Italy with Zabini. She had a few hard years, but she's doing okay. She Owls me at least six times a year asking if we've heard about you."
Pans, oh my Pans.
He reached the bottom. I was merely an arm length's away. No, I wasn't, I wasn't going back and...
"Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you," I murmured and closed my eyes. I couldn't look at him because if I did he was my present, past, and future all on a platter. All for the taking. But the price? "Nothing will change my mind," I insisted through clenched teeth. "I mean every--"
"You were right. I couldn't have chosen you over my father. I had no right to ask that you choose between us."
"Ten," I whispered. The door shut as I fell against it.
And like the Snitch he'd been chasing forever and ever and finally caught, he scooped me up with a triumphant cry before I hit the floor.
The next few moments were a blur. Somehow we made our way back to the couch, Harry clutching me so fervently that I would have bruises dotting my biceps for days. He was incoherent. Not unusual for Harry, I must admit, but these babblings reached new depths, astonishing even for him. These were choked sighs and half-sentences and garbled words that I doubted were English; a few sentences that I swear were in Parselmouth, but the gist of it all was how much he loved me. Peppering my face, hands, and neck with kisses, he rambled on and on until I finally turned up my mouth to reach his and parted my lips in the most shameless act of begging.
He fucked me on that couch. Just like twenty-two years ago, against my better judgment, throwing that innate Malfoy sense of self-preservation out the fucking proverbial window, I let Harry Potter seduce me. With that wanton upturned mouth I signaled my total surrender. The seducer turned seducee.
It was rather pathetic to admit that the forty-year old Draco Malfoy was just as susceptible to the charms of one Harry Potter as had been the eighteen year old, but there you are. The dynamic hadn't changed one iota over the years. This is why I had never found a stand-in. How many people are there in the world with such a capacity and fierce desire to love?
I would never admit this to him. Never. But Harry's true power over me was not how much I loved him, but how much he loved me. I spread for him like I've spread for no one else. There was never a more bottomy top than Harry Potter. He was moving and thrusting in me to some internal rhythm, yes, but the dance was all for me. "There? Right there, Draco?" "Let me, let me..." "So beautiful, you're so beautiful..." "Love you, love you...."
I'd never been fucked by someone who didn't want to own my arse. Who never understood the true dynamic between a top and a bottom. That it was the bottom's show. All my other lovers thought they owned me because they wrote the checks and I spread my legs. But I never spread them all the way. Kept a little back for myself. With Harry? I'd have dislocated a fucking hip for him.
That first fuck was brutal. It probably couldn't have been anything else given our past. We marked the width of the each other's shoulders with bite marks, the length of each other's spine with scratches.
I suppose we both had something to prove. In my case, it was that my arse was far sweeter than any twat could be; and in his case, he was reclaiming my arse from all those other men.
Harry had always been a territorial bastard because he'd never gotten what he wanted; me because I'd never not gotten what I wanted. I needed to own, and Harry was so desperate to be owned. Shoving my legs apart with a brutal push with his knee, a nip to his bottom lip that fell just shy of breaking the skin, certainly hard enough to bruise, we made an equally compelling statement of love as it was ownership.
"Mine, mine, mine," I chanted in rhythm as he fucked the fucking stuffing out of me.
"Yours, yours, yours," he chanted back.
We never made it to the bedroom; we snuggled under Accio'd blankets and kept reheating the fire with our wands.
Somehow we'd work it out. Maybe I could commute half the week. His children would revile me, but no doubt they loved him and eventually they'd come around. Hmmm. I wonder if there were any potions I could brew that make children like their father's new gay lover. Imagine Harry would balk at a few Imperius curses hexed their way. I'd have to grovel to Caroline, which would make her extremely happy. Perhaps not. The success of the U.K. edition might...
"Draco, can we go to bed now?" Harry yawned. "Have slept like utter shite for the last few nights..." He yawned into my shoulder blade again.
"Come here, lie against me. Am too arsed to get up and too tired to Apparate us. Our bits might get splinched. Which would be no end of tragic since I've just rediscovered yours."
"We'll be so happy," he mumbled half asleep.
"Your children," I reminded him.
"Last one sent off to Hogwarts this September, so it will be easier than you think. Still have Grimmauld Place, if you want to live there. Nasty house, but you'd be able to do it up."
"Don't fancy living in that mausoleum. We should find something together. Something that is new and has no smells from our former lives. And excuse me, by all rights that house should be mine, you know."
"Your mother's actually."
I pinched him.
"You obviously aren't that sleepy."
"Completely fagged, actually. But so happy, Draco." He nuzzled himself into my armpit. "Are you happy?"
I nodded, because it doesn't do to admit to too much around Harry.
He nipped at my armpit.
"Insatiable wanker. Thought you were exhausted."
"Am, but am afraid this is a dream and that I'll wake-up without you. Need to keep proving to myself you're real."
"Absolutely real, I assure you," and ran a soothing hand over the flat of his stomach as he began to tongue my armpit.
"Aren't you glad I'm not fat and balding and living in bedroom slippers?" he murmured in between licks.
It took a second because when you have a Harry tongue laving your armpit it gets in the way of much rational thought. But I am quite well known for being able to multi-task. As in appreciating the lasciviousness of that tongue and going completely stiff with rage.
"Off," I demanded. "Off and out."
"What?" he queried, even as he hauled himself up in a sitting position to look at me.
"Mr. timeturner." I said in a voice so snide I'm amazed I didn't peel back the first layer of skin on his face.
He jerked, and he stopped breathing for a second. "Draco, please; tell me you knew. Tell me. The timeturner thing. How could you not know?" he insisted.
"I did not bloody well know," I shouted and grabbed my wand. Totally deja fucked, I spelled back on our clothes. "I said things to that man I never would have said to you. Never. What did you think? That I using some backdoor way to win you back. That I was... Fuck... You..." I was spitting I was so angry.
He started that frenetic pacing of his, a certain precursor to glass shattering and lamps exploding. "You must have known. How could you have not known? Every single reply screamed that I wrote those emails."
Deja fucked again.
"I. DID. NOT. KNOW!"
"Okay, okay," he panted in between words as he started to hyperventilate, flapping a hand to his chest. "But does it matter? We..." he reached out for me.
I pointed to the door. "It fucking well matters. Get your lying arse out of my house. If you don't, I'll Avada Kedavra you and you'll be forced to kill me. I am not joking." And I wasn't. There is nothing more galling and bitter a pill to a Malfoy than humiliation, and I was fucking sweating humiliation.
I was sorely tempted to hex him with his back to me, but I didn't. He made several feeble protests, but I honestly couldn't hear a thing as the rage and the humiliation fought for dominance. The door closed. I warded it. I took supreme satisfaction in knowing that Harry might be able to cure a hangover with the flick of his pinky, but I defied him to undo a Malfoy ward. I sent a silent thank-you to my father wherever he was. No doubt roasting in hell's fires, if you believe in that sort of thing. Practicing evil did have some perks; as in writing the definitive book on wards. Warding my house against Harry Potter with spells I'd learned on my father's knee, how ironic. Or tragic. I kept bouncing and forth between the two.
I cast similar wards on the places I frequently ate and, naturally, the office. Talked to the IT staff and banned that traitorous timeturner from any access to our site. I ignored the hundred of owls besmirching my block with owl shit until I widened my wards to one full city block. That took some doing, but again, dear old dad's teachings with a few modifications of my own and voila. An owl-free zone.
After a week the owls disappeared and the push against the wards stopped. I have to admit I was surprised because nothing to date suggested that Harry was less than the pig-headed bastard he'd always been, but then again, I'd never pegged him for being a lying sack of shit either. At some point I didn't even care if he honestly believed that I knew he had written those emails. I wanted him to forgive me, or at least accept my rationale for those years, on my terms. That he thought they were my terms was immaterial. In fact, it was worse.
I reread all those emails I sent. I sounded like a weak, lovesick fool. I don't want to rekindle this romance, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. You're beautiful and gorgeous and haven't changed except in the most positive way, and, by the way, you were a wonderful fuck and I have no doubt you're still a great fuck and it's three in the morning but I can't sleep because I'm thinking of you... Shall I massage your ego some more? Don't mind if I do!
How could I possibly be that stupid? All those emails. All that goddamn soul bearing. All that blather about England and loving him and aching for him and loving only him. What is it about a keyboard and blank screen that you expose yourself so willingly? Christ, what was I thinking? Fuck squared. It was enough to make you adopt a fetal position for life.
Someone put a wand to my head. Please.
I stayed at home for two days, parked at my kitchen table, inhaling coffee or cigarettes, which ever came to hand. By day three, the Malfoy sass came to the rescue. Which meant I refused to think about it anymore. I dusted off my capacity for denial and compartmentalizing loss, donned my latest acquisition from Barney's, yet another black cashmere sweater, and wondered for one horrible second if perhaps one could own too much black. Such a traitorous thought demanded that I take immediate action. I called Renzo and told him to ready the car. It was time to put Harry back in the past where he belonged and concentrate on my present and future. Selling gussied up and tasteful porn. The status quo.
Except Stephan stopped threatening to jump out of his window. And Sam had breakfast for me every morning and nagged me about my cigarette consumption. And Caroline took me to lunch and didn't try to worm anything out of me. And DavyD bought me a bottle of Napoleon with the admission not to drink it all at once. And Courtney gave me a bunch of wilted flowers that looked like they'd been pilfered from her neighbor's yard, but still.
What were they seeing in my eyes that I wasn't getting?
They were all waiting for me when I exited the elevator.
How nice, I thought; I don't have to have my little stroke all by my lonesome.
"Dee," warned DavyD. "Stop your fit, right now. There's a reason, a damn good reason."
I didn't heave a sigh of relief because I couldn't come up with a single reason why the December issue of Lush hadn't hit the newsstands yet. Nuclear war between Pakistan and India was the only possible explanation. As the printing was done in India.
"Someone wanted to run a full-page ad at the last minute--" piped up Sam.
"Caroline approved it. Double-page ad in both editions--" corrected Stephan.
"A really nice love letter," sighed Courtney.
"The letter is addressed to a really weird first name. Think I'd change it if it were me," whispered DavyD in my ear. In a normal voice, he said. "Paid double the going rate. Caroline insisted we delay production."
"Happened at the last minute and Caroline didn't want to upset you--"
"A really nice love letter," repeated Courtney with emphasis.
"Oh for god's sake, Court. Are you one of those pathetic women who spend a goddamn fortune on romance novels every month in lieu of actually fucking someone? You'd rather take Barbara Cartland's imaginary seconds than spread your legs for someone real?"
"Fuck off, Stephan. That letter is just beautiful. If someone wrote that for me, I'd be melting all over the floor by now. How he thinks their relationship is magical. It's so passionate. So soul-baring. So brave. And so what if I read romances? Notice that you're spending a lot of time on that ledge lately. You've gone through every single barista boy within a three-mile radius."
"You leave my ledge out of this!"
I looked at Sam and mouthed a silent, "Help."
"Shut the fuck up, all of you," she demanded. "Come on, Dee. A fresh pain au chocolate is on your desk from that French bakery you love, I just brewed you an espresso, and Caroline promises me that the December issue will hit the newsstands tomorrow."
I let her lead me into my office. True to her word, the steam was still rising out of the coffee cup, and the room smelled like freshly baked butter and melted chocolate.
"Okay?" she asked.
Not really. I wasn't doing very well on this compartmentalization shit, but I nodded to get her out of the room.
A love letter. Someone stopping the presses to write of undying love. A gesture so grand that you could only admire the person who would be that brave.
All right, I admit I was being stupid (again!), but I ask for a modicum of slack. Casting those wards took a lot out of me, and the anxiety that perhaps he'd have the strength to push through them kept me constantly on edge. Plus, my dreams were little more than porn reruns of Harry, no, Potter and I fucking each other cross-eyed.
So with the first cigarette I mused how fortuitous that someone had both that large a bank account and those size balls.
The second cigarette? I recalled Courtney's description of this letter being soul-baring. The reference to magic a little hackneyed, but I suppose his lover wouldn't mind a little trite with his passion.
I'd gotten through most of my email when it hit me. Weird. First. Name.
I honestly thought that you knew. I honestly thought we were playing out the scenario of twenty-two years ago. That you were saying all those things to me because you couldn't say them in person. Like before. I couldn't say them in person, because if I did I'd probably kill you. We are even, I think. Twenty-two years ago I believed you betrayed me, and you convinced me that wasn't the case. I'm now before you with a similar plea. Believe me. You hold grudges forever, so I don't expect you to contact me anytime soon. But I am waiting. Waiting for you.
Why? Because a simple touch to your arm and I feel like I've entered a magical world. Magic. I don't use that word lightly. You know exactly what I mean. You say the past is perfect. I disagree. You've just culled out the perfect bits. But who's to say that the future won't have its perfect bits as well? We are finally free. Of everything that weighed us down and bled our youth dry. Please, please, Draco. You know where to email me.
I love you. I love you. I love you.IloveyouIloveyouIloveyouIloveyouIloveyouIloveyouI
Time: 2:01 am
Date: January 1
From: Dee de Poitier
Re: Thank you
I have spent the Christmas holidays with my mother in Switzerland. She sends her regards. Regards is probably too effusive, but she is grateful that you spoke to the Ministry on her behalf. Thank you. Please relay to the Ministry that she has no intention of returning to Britain permanently, although she might visit during opera season. She is quite happily ensconced here in the wizarding section of Geneva. With the Malfoy accounts now unfrozen, the exchange rate between galleons and Swiss francs is quite favorable, and the frosty demeanor of her Swiss friends suits her to a tee. (In another lifetime, I might have appreciated this myself, but I find the Swiss cold and boring next to my colorful American cohorts.)
Pansy Parkinson asks me to remind you that the Ministry has not yet made a ruling on her father's estate.
Dee de Poitier
PS I have asked our IT people to lift the ban on your email address. I have returned your Christmas present via FedEx. I have an inordinate amount of faith in FedEx and assume the Ministry has set-up some sort of mail liaison between Muggles and wizards. Sounds like Granger's cup of tea, frankly. Please let me know if it does not reach you. I didn't have a phone number and had to make one up. I have no intention of going to Italy with you any time in the near future. As usual, you are late. In this case, twenty-two and one-half years too late. A record perhaps. One that I doubt you'll break. Lucky me.
Time: 6:05 am
Date: February 3
From: Dee de Poitier
Re: Parkinson estate
Thank you. Pansy can now stop teaching second-rate Italian to ex-pat Muggles. Her accent leaves something to be desired. The woman is tone deaf. A fatal flaw when the language is nothing more than a series of vowels strung together.
Dee de Poitier
Time: 10:04 pm
Date: February 26
From: Dee de Poitier
Re: Hot issue
Yes, I thought the latest issue was also rather hot.
Dee de Poitier
PS. I shall be spending more time in Britain as the newly hired U.K. editor has quit to become a Carmelite nun. Caroline says it's all my fault (as usual!), and that I need more of a presence here. I bow to the inevitable. With the resources at your disposal, you no doubt will know the minute I land in Britain. Perhaps we can have tea sometime. I have no intention of setting foot in D.A. Meet me at Brown's? Their high tea is the best. I do miss real clotted cream.
Time: 8:38 pm�
Date: March 1�
From: Dee de Poitier
I shall be in the U.K. next week. I am free next Wednesday afternoon. Tea? 4:00 pm at Brown's?
PS. You should know that I am spending most of the week flat hunting. I've been trying to do it via the Internet. An unmitigated disaster. I am too visual a person. I need to run my finger over lintels and what not.
Time: 8:38 pm
Date: March 7�
From: Dee de Poitier�
Re: No I Did Not
I did not eat my weight in scones, and no, Harry.
Time: 8:42 pm
Date: March 9
From: Dee de Poitier
Because I said so. Twice.
PS. Yes, I did visit that flat you circled in the paper, and it was perfectly lovely. But it's far too large for me. How funny you remembered that I'm partial to Georgian architecture. Sadly, I don't need anything more than a pied a terre.
Time: 8:55 pm
Date: March 9
From: Dee de Poitier
Re: Not yet
I can't just yet, and you're pushing. Stop it.
Time: 9:14 pm
Date: March 9
Re: Fw: Not yet
Because I said so, you irritating wanker. I am NOT a Snitch. This isn't about catching me.
Time: 3:30 am
Date: March 17
Time: 2:31 pmDate: March 19
I had a few. Please do not read into that keyboard smash than anything more than someone tanked to the eyeballs on Long Island Iced Tea.
Time: 3:30 pm
Date: March 23
From: Draco Malfoy
Re: Fw: Apologize
Perhaps. I have to be in London for business on 3 April. We might do lunch, if I have the time. You are one pushy bastard, and why I am even giving you the time of day...
PS. What is the rent again?
Time: 7:34 pm�
Date: April 6
Re: You are not fooling anyone
I only smoked five today. Honestly. Really. Ask Sam. Give or take a zero.
Yes, I signed the lease before I left. We can move in immediately. And do not think for one fucking moment that I don't know that you have had that flat rented for months. I might not be as powerful a wizard as you are, but my Legilimency skills are superb, and the estate agent's mind was open for the taking. So I know about the little scam you two hatched. In addition to stumbling on some sexual fantasies regarding him and David Beckham. If you're nice to me, I'll share them with you. I forgive you, but don't think I'm not going to exact my pound of flesh. And you can interpret that any way you like.
Time: 2:14 am
Date: May 9
Re: My past, present, and future.
You are absolutely shameless, wearing that ring. I can't believe you kept it. My father is turning over in his grave.
Which I visited on Sunday. Yes, I came in a day early. And before you have a conniption fit, I needed to do this by myself. If we are to have any chance of a future, I must confront my past.
I walked over the grounds first, running my hands over the rubble that was once Malfoy Manor. My home. I thought of you. How different we are, like treacle and cream (I leave it to you to decide who's the treacle and who's the cream), and yet I imagine you've done a similar pilgrimage to Godric's Hollow. Do not think me so shallow to believe that a cottage in a forsaken corner of Devon is any less precious to you than this (once) grand estate in Wiltshire is to me.
With your maddening optimistic fervor that has you negating every potential obstacle, one of us needs to keep their feet on the ground. I do not know if I can lead a double-life; Dee de Poitier, smut peddler by day, Draco Malfoy, wizard and boy toy to Harry Potter by night. I don't want to bury Dee. I've come to like him. He's the man who can put his feet up on a couch on a rainy winter's day, sleepy from too much wine at lunch, and take a snooze. Something the aristocrat Draco would no sooner do than make his own bed. I need to knit these two men together, and damn it to hell if I know how. This is your first and last warning, Harry. This might not work. I might find the commute untenable, the animosity of your children unacceptable (and I'm sure since they cannot blame either of their loving parents for the failure of your marriage, how convenient that I've shown up!), and the patently manufactured acceptance of me by Weasleys ad nauseam unbearable (Weasley didn't let go of his wand once during our visit and his wife wasn't much better).
And I have to come out all over again. I don't know if I have the energy for this.
When I visited my mother at Christmas, we relived old memories because we had no new ones. But I also knew that this wasn't stasis, that slowly over time, the young man who'd abandoned his mother to his father's rapacious desire for power would eventually become the middle-aged son who smokes too much and has, inexplicably, become Harry Potter's lover and he mine.
My visit with my father wasn't nearly as sanguine. As I stood in the Malfoy vault saying my goodbyes, I would be lying if I said I didn't cry buckets. Because I wouldn't age with him. I would have no new memories of me with him, other than that of the son who betrayed him and what the Malfoys had always stood for. At least in his eyes. He went to his death cursing me, of that I am sure.
You were right. I've culled out the good bits of our past. Facing the nasty bits is...difficult.
I hope you're right, Harry, that the past is done. I had no past as Dee de Poitier; the present and future were all that mattered. As I trace over "Lucius A. Malfoy," inscribed on the Malfoy vault, moss beginning to fill in the loops and circles that make up his name, all that history begins to press down on me again. Give me your hand, Harry; some days it's very hard to breathe.
Sequel to this is Home Again, Home Again