I never hated you.
You thought I did, I know, and I meant you to believe that. It was simpler that way. And strangely, I reveled in the way your eyes followed me, taking comfort in the obsession our opposition formed. I hoped, some day, you’d see past it. See the truth.
You never did.
And you never would, I know that now. But it still aches every time I see you and remember that had I played it another way, perhaps things might have been different. Or perhaps not. You seem happy with her.
I suppose that’s good, that one of us is happy.
Draco turned the photograph over in his hands, looking at it for a moment, taking in the smiling faces before he turned it away again. But he couldn’t seem to let it go, and a moment later he turned it back once more, and stared at the smiles. It was taken in Nice, seven years ago, on a summer holiday where Scorpius had insisted that they invite his girlfriend, and her family, to go with them.
So there they were, Scorpius and Lily, arms wrapped around each other, alternately locked in a kiss, then turning to wave wildly at the photographer. Lily’s brothers were next to them, James holding Albus in a headlock, making it impossible to see the middle Potter’s face as they wrestled. Astoria stood to one side, smile fond of her son, carriage stiff and proper. The Potter adults were as bad as the children, barely visible in the background as Potter walked off with his wife over his shoulder, her red hair hanging down, hands hitting his back as she laughed with outrage.
Draco wasn’t in the picture; someone had to hold the camera. And he was the only who knew he didn’t belong in this simple black and white image. They were his son and his wife. His family. And yet, he had never quite belonged to them. And he couldn’t belong to anyone else.
He set the frame down on the table, stood up, walked away. He turned back and laid it face down, hiding the image from his view.
“Dad?” Scorpius stood in the doorway, handsome in his dress robes, despite the tight lines around his eyes. “It’s almost time, and Mum’s waiting downstairs. I’ve been told Lily’s ready to go, and I can’t find Albus.”
“And of course, you can’t possibly get married without your best man to stand by your side,” Draco said dryly. “I’ll see if I can find him. You go downstairs and wait there. He can’t have gone far.”
“Thanks, Dad.” Scorpius gave his father a quick hug, and even after a quarter century, that simple easy affection caught Draco off-guard. He had never been raised that way, but Scorpius simply did it, despite the reserve of his parents. Draco wondered sometimes where Scorpius had sprung from, he was so unlike Draco and Astoria.
Draco suspected he wouldn’t have to look too far to find Albus; he’d discovered the boy’s hiding place long years ago, one time when Scorpius brought him home for he holidays. Draco made his way through the Manor now, threading through the unused halls to find the old library, the one which remained closed most often, and housed a collection of remarkably old and dusty books. He’d loved it himself as a child.
Although Albus was no child anymore, he had to remind himself. None of them were. The eldest Potter boy had been married for five years now, and had two small children running about. Scorpius had finished Hogwarts seven years ago, and had been engaged to Lily Potter these last three years.
Soon, Draco would have grandchildren. Perhaps they would be some comfort when they visited as he lived alone in the Manor.
He nudged open the door, gaze sweeping the room. There, in the window, a silhouette behind the curtains. Draco cleared his throat, waiting for the curtains to move.
For a moment, he was sent back in time as green eyes peeked out, then Albus drew the curtains wide and stepped free of them. “Is it time?” he asked.
“I’ve been told so,” Draco said simply. “Your presence is required. Scorpius can’t do this without you.”
“He can’t—” Albus muttered, but the words dropped away, his gaze falling to he floor. “I know, and I promised I’d be there.” Tone remote and formal, gaze shuttered as he finally looked at Draco. “I never thought he’d actually marry her.”
Draco held the door wide, motioning Albus through. “Scorpius has loved your sister since you were still in school,” he pointed out. “It has been obvious for quite a long time.”
Albus shoved his hands into his pockets, not answering as he stalked ahead of Draco. His robes were neat, albeit a little dusty from the library. He reminded Draco of Potter’s darker moods when they were younger, although other than that and the eyes, Albus little resembled his father. His hair was short and messy, but shaded a dark russet that set off his bright eyes. His build was taller than Potter, more slender and lithe, and he had a grace when he moved. Draco had seen Albus fly, when the boys went out on the grounds, and Albus flew like his father, with instinct and speed. It was as if Potter had settled into a Weasley body and Draco found that image somehow disturbing.
Draco realized he had missed something that was said, and frowned. “I’m sorry, could you repeat the question?”
Albus stood there, regarding him closely. “Is it difficult for you, sir, having your wife here after you’ve separated?”
“That’s a personal question,” Draco snapped, more ruffled by the repeated honorific than anything else. It made him feel old on a day when the weight of the years already pressed down on his slender shoulders. At Albus’ waiting silence, he relented. “No. Astoria and I are quite amicable. We never had a perfect marriage, and it’s simpler to be apart.”
“I don’t think I could be so polite with someone I loved,” Albus said softly.
“I never loved her.” Draco smiled thinly at Albus’ shock. “We are not all like your parents, Albus. Astoria and I were arranged; she to restore my social standing, and myself to restore her family’s coffers. It was advantageous for us both, and we have an heir. We no longer have to pretend.”
“Were you happy?”
Draco considered that question, remembering the photograph he had been looking at not all that long ago. “In our own way, yes. But it was never what I wanted.” He gave Albus a look. “If there is something you need in your life, keep it. Do not let it slip away, or you will always regret it.”
“I don’t think it’s that simple, sir.”
“It never is.” They had reached the end of the hall, and Draco paused with his hand on the door to the back gardens, where he knew Scorpius and a hundred guests waited. “You’re twenty-five, Albus. I believe you are quite old enough to have earned the right to address me by my name.”
Those green eyes widened as Albus was startled into stillness. He smiled ruefully. “That’ll take some getting used to, sir—Draco,” he corrected himself. “But thank you.”
Draco watched him then, watched thin shoulders set themselves square as Albus walked up to Scorpius. Watched the two hug, Albus’ green eyes closed for a moment, fingers holding on a bit too hard. Draco’s hand clenched in response, recognizing that hope and hurt for what it was, and his gaze dropped away. It was too personal to observe.
When Astoria touched his arm, he gave her a polite smile and offered his elbow, escorting her to the front of the gathering, so they could see their son wed.
You still love her.
You loved her when you were sixteen and thirty-five years later, she is still your heart. I see you smile as you spin her among the dancers, her red hair flying as she laughs. She is flushed, and you pull her close.
You never looked at me that way, no matter how much I wished you might.
It has taken me thirty-five years, but I finally learned to let it go.
Draco slipped away from the festivities, leaving the guests dancing on the back lawn while he slipped inside. He had been warmed by Firewhiskey and champagne, and beset by conversation. After several hours of being polite, he’d had enough. Astoria had nodded as he left, turning with a smile to distract the Potters from his departure.
He had never loved her, but he had always appreciated her. She understood him in ways few had ever bothered to learn.
He made his way through the halls, further up and further in, until he reached the doorway to the rooftop walk. Music sounded faintly as he pushed it open, dimmed and muffled from this height. But as he moved to the rail, he could see them below, dancing like dolls upon the grass, twisting and turning in their finery.
A small cough caught his attention.
Albus, standing next to him, gesturing at the door. “I don’t want to interrupt,” he said. “I’ll go.”
Draco looked from Albus to the dancers, then back to Albus once more. He watched as Albus’ gaze was drawn somehow downwards, staring, breath soft and ragged until he closed his eyes. “You don’t need to go,” Draco said, and closed the door.
“You came out here to be alone, s—” At Draco’s look, Albus flushed. “Draco. It’s going to take time for me to be comfortable calling you that. You’ve always been Mr. Malfoy, or sir.”
“Yes, well, you’ve been an adult for years and I suspect your sister is likely to try to call me father,” Draco said dryly. “I think since our families are linked, we might dispense with formalities.”
The muscle in Albus’ jaw knotted tightly, his hands clasped around the top rail. “Of course,” he said softly.
Draco let his own gaze drift away, giving the younger man privacy. “How long?” he asked idly. He picked out Potter and his wife easily among the dancers, spotting where they stood drifting on the edge of the dance floor, snogging as if they were still teenagers.
“How long what, sir?”
“Draco,” he corrected.
Draco sighed, tapping one finger against the rail. “How long have you loved my son?”
The breath went out of Albus in a soft whoosh, the inhalation rough when it came. “I don’t know.” Draco heard the tears in the gulp that followed, before Albus whispered again, “It feels like it’s been forever. I can’t imagine not loving him. But now—”
“Now he’s married her, and there’s no hope,” Draco murmured.
Draco reached out then, slow and careful, offering Albus haven, and with a small whimper, Albus slid in close, wrapping his arms around him, face pressed against Draco’s shoulder. There were tears and wet, soft gulps, and clinging fingers. Draco closed his eyes and rubbed Albus’ back, trying to reassure him. To comfort him.
And he remembered, strangely, the one time he had been pressed close to Potter, as they escaped the fire in the Room of Requirement. He remembered soot and ash and strange spice. He inhaled now, finding none of that save the spice, a hint of cinnamon perhaps, and an echo of whiskey.
A unique scent, Albus’ own, and Draco memorized it at that moment, holding him there beneath the stars with music swelling below.
“I’m sorry,” Albus finally murmured, eyes red and puffy. “You must think I’m an idiot.”
“Hardly.” Draco’s gaze drifted back to the dancers, just for a moment, but it was enough. He heard Albus’ breath catch. Draco lifted his chin, defensive.
Albus smiled slightly. “You’ve been watching my father all day.”
“That’s nothing new.” Draco’s tone was sharp. He moved to step back, but Albus caught him, refusing to let go.
“You’re right, it isn’t,” Albus said. “You’ve done that as long as I can remember. Your eyes have always followed him. How long have you loved my father?”
Draco felt his heart drop out. Even Astoria had never stated it so baldly. He felt a flush rise to his cheeks. “It feels as if it has been forever.” He echoed Albus’ words, showing exactly how much he understood.
A chasm of years separated them, yet at that moment they were united in this one thought, of wanting the one man they could never have.
Draco didn’t expect Albus to lean forward, to press his mouth lightly against Draco’s lips. He felt the soft hiccup in Albus’ breath, then his mouth crushed down and Draco welcomed it. He welcomed the hunger, welcomed being pressed against the rail. Welcomed having his mouth plundered until he couldn’t breathe.
It blunted the pain.
“I’m not my father.” Albus drew back, staring at Draco.
Draco smiled thinly in response. “I will never be anything like my son. He cares for people.”
“So do you,” Albus countered, fingers skimming over the sharp planes of Draco’s face. “You’re just afraid to let anyone see.”
“And you’re brave to kiss an old man,” Draco smirked.
“That’s not brave, it’s easy. You’re not exactly hard on the eyes.” Albus slid a finger along the line of Draco’s collar, opening the robes a tiny bit. “I wish I’d known you were gay before.”
“It’s not something I advertise.” He knew he shouldn’t do this, but Draco opened his robes anyway, letting Albus slide his hands inside, warm against Draco’s skin. “Particularly not to those I’ve known since they were children.”
“You’re the one who pointed out I’m an adult. Sir.” Albus put faint stress on the word, the look in his eyes challenging.
Albus had never looked so much like his father as he did then, and Draco smiled. “You are indeed an adult.”
This time it was Draco who reached out, fingers cradling Albus’ head, dragging him close, mouth slanting over his to devour him and be devoured in return. A low groan as fingers caressed naked skin, and Draco rushed to undo Albus’ robe to allow himself that same pleasure of touch. Albus moaned as Draco’s fingertips skated over his nipples, and Draco felt his blood rise in response.
He could have been a teenager again, his prick rose so swiftly, aching and ready, hungry for the way Albus fit their hips together, rutting against him there at the railing.
Draco grabbed Albus and turned them, pushing Albus back against the wall, out of sight in case someone chose to look up. There were shouts and cheers below, well-wishes for the newlywed couple and cat calls as Draco assumed Scorpius and his new wife kissed.
Draco didn’t care what went on below. He only cared about the man in his arms, hungry and willing, whimpering his name. He lowered his mouth to Albus’ throat, sucking at the skin, delighting in the taste of salt and the soft cry and thrust of hips that answered him.
He pushed the robes back off Albus’ shoulders, kissing skin as it was exposed, then gathered him in. Together they rotated, Albus pushing Draco back against the wall now, fitting one leg between Draco’s, pressing in hard. Draco panted softly as Albus slid his hips along him, dragging out the pressure before letting it release.
This wasn’t planned. This was his son’s best friend, a man he had known for far too long.
But he was here, and he was hungry and he was warm. And Draco needed that too much to let him go.
“Don’t stop,” Albus murmured, hooking one leg around Draco’s and driving close to him. “I want—” a flush rose to stain his skin, bright and warm beneath the freckles. “Would you let me fuck you?” The words came out in a swift rush, low and hoarse as Albus paused, their hips locked together while Albus looked into his eyes.
Draco felt that rush like a twist in his gut, and he groaned, thinking of Albus over him, plowing into him. He managed to wrestle together his coherence enough to reply, “Not on the roof.”
And Albus laughed at that, the joyful sound sharp counterpoint to the way he had looked earlier when Draco found him here. Fingers tugged swiftly at the buttons of their trousers, knuckles knocking knuckles as they both fought to free themselves. Then Albus wrapped his hand around them both, squeezing them together, and Draco thought he might come right then and there.
“I’m not going to last,” Draco warned him.
“I don’t want you to.” Albus rested his head against Draco’s shoulder, his hand working them both together as their hips moved frantically. “Next time we’ll go slow. Next time I’ll lay you out on the bed and stretch you wide for me, then I’ll take you slow, and I’ll fuck you until you scream my name.”
Draco’s teeth closed over Albus’ skin, delighting in the way the younger man’s breath caught, his hands stuttering in their stroke. “What makes you so sure there’s going to be a next time?” he murmured.
Albus didn’t respond, hand moving swiftly, rolling over the tips of their pricks, pressing them both together. Draco thrust into that touch, groaned, and spilled over, splashing sticky fluid against himself and Albus. He bit down on Albus’ shoulder as he came, and a moment later Albus joined him.
Draco held him then, inhaling this new mixed scent: Albus, himself, and their mixed arousal. He wanted it again. Soon.
As Albus’ breathing slowed, he stroked fingers down Draco’s chest, exploring slowly. “They all have to leave eventually,” he said quietly. “Scorpius will go off with Lily. My folks will go home. Astoria will leave.”
“And you will stay.” It wasn’t a question, as Draco framed Albus’ face with his hands. “You will stay here tonight.”
For a moment, something uncertain flashed in Albus’ eyes. “I’m never going to be my father,” he whispered. “If that’s who you’re looking for, then we shouldn’t go past this once.”
“I know.” Draco kissed his forehead. “Albus Severus Potter, I am well aware of who you are. And while I might have loved your father, I would far rather take a chance on something that might happen, than something that never will.”
Albus smiled, and Draco felt as if the sun burst from the clouds over them, the faint chill of evening chased away. “Let’s get cleaned up and go downstairs,” Albus said. “I think we can get through the rest of the evening, knowing what we have to look forward to when it’s done.”
Draco supposed he was right.
Someday you’ll find out, and I suspect you’ll want to hurt me, for taking your son.
It was his choice, his and mine, and he is more than old enough to make it.
I know what you will say, that I am substituting. That I have chosen him for his green eyes and fearless ways. That he sees only my pointed chin and pale hair, and fucks me instead of my son.
You’d be wrong.
I know that he is not you, and he will never be you.
That doesn’t matter to me, because he is the one thing you could never be.
He is mine.