“Are you going tomorrow?” the arsehole in the office next to mine asks.
“Of course I’m going tomorrow.” Idiot. Maybe I should look at getting my office moved. Or him fired.
“No need to get huffy. It’s not like your true feelings aren’t well known. I thought you might skip.”
They know nothing.
We stumbled into each other – literally – in the dirty loo of a Muggle Club. We were both drunk enough to be civil, to not ask any questions. Three shots later we were drunk enough to dance together: sweat and heat and tongues and hands everywhere, all mixing with the hypnotic pulse of the lights and music.
“True feelings rarely play any part in these types of social gatherings. If they did you surely would never receive an invite.”
With a raised eyebrow – challenging the fool to deny the truth of it - I slip the parchment I was working on into my leather case. My hand barely shakes as I reach for the doorknob.
His flat was messy; he hadn’t meant to take anyone back. My cock was in his mouth before I could comment on the dirty socks on the kitchen table. His technique was hardly polished – a straight boy testing the waters, obviously – but FUCK, I nearly blacked-out when I came down his throat.
I am nearly at the office floo when the owl finds me:
Don’t forget to pick up your robes. Astoria.
Fuck. I turn around and head out to Diagon Alley. The streets are bustling with romantics and fanatics alike. The snippets of conversations make my teeth ache. “I heard her gown was imported… I heard they spent three thousand Galleons on pink roses... I heard the invite list topped seven hundred…”
We spent nearly every day together leading up to the hols: walking in Hyde Park, seeing a movie, riding in the insane contraption he called the London Eye. Always Muggle London. I should have realised. The nights we spent fucking each others brains out and I forgot that – in the end - everything falls apart for me.
I nearly lose my lunch by the time I arrive at Madam Malkin’s. The crowd outside that shop is even thicker in enthusiasm and shorter on wit than the rest of the street. Madam Malkin is clearly not going to ‘accidentally’ display the infamous gown in her front window. Morons.
By the time I achieve my goal, I am late for dinner and in bad need of a drink. I Apparate directly to the Manor, the risk of wrinkles to my formal robes is the least of my worries. The house elves will have something to do tonight, it will make them happy.
Some nights, I would turn over and just stare for hours at the awe-inspiring view of Harry at rest, the pale moonlight filtering through the frost covered windows. I would absorb every detail, from the creases around his eyes to the old scars on his hand: I will not tell lies.
A large silver wrapped package greets me as I walk through my front door. Astoria has taken care of the shopping as well, it seems. Very efficient girl, my fiancée. Beside the table is a heavy parchment, its gold embossed lettering announces the time and place of tomorrow’s great event. The obligatory ‘we would be honoured if you would join us’ raises my ire to new heights.
Some nights, I would wake up and he would be staring at me instead. I never said a word about the tears in his eyes. I just pulled him towards me and made him forget everything. Everything but me.
I help Astoria through the floo. We are immediately hustled out of the way; the crush of people is overwhelming.
We make our way – with a few appropriately placed elbows – to the gift table. I remove the gift from my breast pocket and enlarge it. I shove a few flowery packages to the side with a satisfying crash and place ours on the table.
We celebrated Christmas Day together. There was no one left for me and I never asked where his friends were. I was so stupid. We exchanged gifts. He loved my green cashmere scarf; I pretended to like the jumper he chose. We made love beneath his fairy-lit evergreen, with a kind of tenderness I‘d never experienced before or since.
“What did we get the happy couple?” Not that I’m really curious, but it seems polite to ask.
Astoria shrugged. “I don’t know. I had the house elves take care of it.”
I smile. I hope it was Pentil that chose. She has the most grotesque taste. She was once an elf on my mother’s (less than sane) side of the family, where her admiration of inverted rodents was far more appreciated.
New Year’s Eve we went back to the Muggle Club where we first met and got too drunk to Apparate back to his flat. I discovered a passionate loathing for London taxis that night. He held me close and whispered nonsense into my ear until my stomach calmed and I fell asleep.
Astoria and I are ushered quickly to our seats and we are placed a few rows short of midway. As if I care how close we are. I’d rather watch the mating ritual of Blast-Ended Skrewts than have a view of this.
A field has been covered with chairs all queued up, like a Wizengamot trial. I would be expecting a Death Eater brought forth in shackles, but for the bouquets of pink roses floating over our head. Dozens and dozens of pink roses, inside each is a glittery sign that reads: Harry and Ginny forever.
The scent is overwhelming. I begin to sweat. Pulling at my collar, I stand.
On January second, he left for work saying he’d owl me later. After three days an owl arrived at the Manor with only four words: Sorry, been busy. Harry. I formulated an impressive list of ways he could make it up to me.
“Are you alright?” Astoria looks up, concerned. “You look pale.”
“Fine, dear. Just feeling a bit crowded.” To emphasize my point, I am shoved in the back by an enormous woman trying to get into the row behind us. “I’ll take a walk and I’ll be fine in a moment.”
I tap her shoulder to reassure her that I am fine and rush out of the suffocating presence of the flowers.
I make my way past the food tents, there must be a hundred elves – paid, I’m sure – preparing Hogwart’s style-dishes. I roll my eyes at the cliché. Finally, I spot a gazebo in the distance. I can collect my thoughts and get out of the sun. A mid-July afternoon is intolerable for any outdoor event unless there is enough shade provided.
I walk up the few steps and freeze. I am not alone in seeking refuge, apparently.
The man of the hour stands not five feet from me. The irony rots my insides.
When I spotted him with a handful of pink roses in Diagon Alley the next weekend, all my frustration disappeared. As I walked towards him, grinning like the fool I was, I realised his coat did nothing for his new scarf and decided a black tweed cloak would make a lovely Valentine’s gift. A moment later I saw the Weasley girl at his elbow. He handed her the flowers; I walked away, unseen.
Harry turns. He looks like shit, ghostly pale and face gaunt in his starched black robes. He sees me and pauses for a moment, a strange look on his face. Then he laughs, hollow and cold and panicked. “It had to be you, didn’t it?” He pulls at his hair, the Prophet’s front page will look horrendous tomorrow morning because they will print his picture no matter how hideous. “It couldn’t be my best man come to drag me off. No.” –another bitter laugh – “It’s you. Of course it's you.”
I turn to leave. I have nothing to say. All my words are caught below my Adam’s apple anyway.
There is no second owl. No floo call. No visit. I refused to attempt to make contact. It wasn’t beneath me, however, to ask around. I found out the Weasley’s spent three weeks over Christmas in Romania visiting one of their brood. Not even Voldemort had made me feel such utter humiliation.
“Nothing to say? I don't suppose you've come to wish me a long happy life?” His voice cracks. I think he might be drunk.
My anger breaks past the lump in my throat and I attack him verbally, though I wish I could just knock him flat. “Fuck you, Potter.” My voice is cool and far more restrained than I feel.
He laughs harder, hysterical. “You already have.”
My temper begins to thaw; I had frozen myself for so long. “Fuck you and your perfect wedding and your fucking moment of crisis or whatever shit you are doing here and not being there.” I remember this feeling. The raw ache of it. I want it frozen again.
“I’ve missed you and that razor-sharp tongue.” Harry half chuckles, half sobs. Pathetic. “Do you ever think we could have worked?”
I hate him more at this moment than I had a year and a half ago. The buried longing tears me open.
“Fuck you Potter. Don’t you even dare.” I keep my hand away from the wand in my pocket because if I touch it at this moment, I will surely kill him.
“Sometimes, I wonder–”
He wonders. He fucking wonders, like a child wonders what makes up a star or a potions master wonders what another clock-wise turn would do to the Belladonna. Idle curiosity. That’s what I am to him, I guess. The path not taken.
“Sometimes, I dream that I chose to do things differently.”
My heart pounds when he makes the correction, the painful distinction. I feel my resolve ripping at the seams. I don’t want it to. I have no use for curiosity, no matter how intense or how tempting to pursue. In the end, I will be broken and empty and there is already not enough left of me to be put back together properly.
And yet I allow myself the momentary fantasy, the one I’ve repressed for eighteen months: dozens of Christmases and summer hols, too; days at the beach and midnight broomstick rides; sweet, gentle lovemaking that lasts for hours and brutal fucks that explode in a blink, but leave bruises for days. Could it have worked? The whole package, good times and bad, till death. The answer is lost in the bitterness of too much time past.
The fleeting indulgence nearly breaks me, which is why I’ve never allowed myself such luxury of thought. The bastard stands waiting, staring like maybe I’ve got an answer other than the obvious.
“We would never have worked.” He stares at me, eyes wide in shock and red rimmed in regret. “Go marry your Weasely. Have ten ginger hellions. I am going to marry Astoria have my Malfoy heir.”– I am nearly frozen again and the words come easy –“I will never, NEVER ONCE think of you other than to spit on your grave should I be fortunate enough to live to see you dead.”
I turn around and walk away, the tears are gathering in my eyes and I’ll be damned if I am going to let him see them spill down my face.
“I hate you, Harry,” I whisper as I walk away. “I will always hate you more than life itself.” Every time I wake up and you are not there, I hate you.
There was only one thing he needed from me today and I gave it to him, gladly.
I will survive this day. And all those that follow. I will live my life and I will prove every one of my words to him true, eventually.