Draco stares in dread at the pink petal, his fist slowly crumpling around the soft petal. His first reaction is to go ask his mother or father, but they will force him to get the surgery, and he doesn’t want to rid the feelings yet.
Draco sees him today, in the Great Hall. He sits between his many friends, draped in red and gold. He laughs, and his friends surround him, though Draco sees none of that as the boy in the middle is somehow encased in light, eyes crinkling at something someone else had said. He almost stares, but when the other glances at Draco, his poor heart cannot handle it and he immediately looks away.
His friends talk about pointless things as he stares out the window, pretending to admire the golden leaves while his cheeks turn the same colour as the vibrant reds outside. He thinks about one boy in gold. He can only wonder whether or not the other is still looking. He tries to find out, just using his peripheral vision, but he has already turned away.
(These kinds of scenarios are what Draco’s dreams are made of. These, plus the romcoms he definitely does not watch.)
Today he answered a question in class. Draco had never been more proud, even if inwardly. The Slytherins all mock him, and Draco joins in, though he doesn’t really mean it and is beaming inside for him. As if on cue, he can feel a petal rising in his throat. He chokes it back down, and asks to go to the bathroom. In there, he can cry and throw up petals in peace.
He wakes up one morning, sick to his stomach. He stumbles his way down to the infirmary, not quite sure whether it’s night or day, and just concentrating on not throwing up. He makes it eventually, and collapses on a hard surface—whether or not its a bed, he’s not quite sure.
He wakes next to a glass bottle being pressed to his lips, and some sort of thick concoction being poured down his throat. He hears moans and groans, but maybe that was just himself. He pries his eyes open to see something… green? But they flutter close much too quick, and he can’t be completely sure.
The next time, he’s much more awake. It’s bright outside, and the snow is starting to melt, though a bit slowly. He glances around the room and its empty, save for him. He groans, and Madam Pomfrey strolls in.
He tries to speak, but nothing seems to come out. She, expecting this, hands him a glass of water, and he swallows thirstily.
“What day is it?” She waves her wand, fills the glass with more water, and he drinks as she answers.
“Almost 12 hours since you got here. You stumbled here in the dark sometime around 1am, and it's now,” she checks her watch, “just a little past noon. That first hour was the worst, though. You kept throwing up everywhere, and refused to get down the serum I was trying to give you. Eventually I just gave up, and l let you throw up till you finally slept.” He glances on the floor beneath him, almost expecting there still to be the contents of his stomach on the floor, but just seeing shiny, clean floors staring back.
“You just caught some type of stomach flu. You can go back to class after you get a change of clothes, though I very strongly recommend you stay and rest a while longer.” She pats his leg, and he lies back down, curling himself into the blanket against the cold that seems to drift into the empty room even through the thick-paneled windows. He drifts back into (what he wishes were) a dreamless sleep, haunted by round-rimmed glasses and dark hair, seemingly darker against the stark February snow.
He spends the next day catching up on everything he missed, and finally breathes a sigh of relief as he gets to his last two classes of the day, Defense Against the Dark Arts and Potions. As he makes his way out of Defense with Umbridge, he is so glad there is only one class left, and an easy one at that. He may not be particularly good at Potions, but Snape favours him, and it shows through his steady grades.
He makes it through the door, and though surrounded by friends, sees him , and it feels like its just them in the world. It’s as if no one else exists, and petals force their way up his throat. He can almost feel their silky soft touch in his esophagus.
His friends snap him out of it as they shove each other to their seats.
When class ends, Snape calls out, “Potter, Malfoy, come see me please.” The two boys inadvertently look at each other, wondering what might happen.
“It seems both of you were absent yesterday. This group project is due next week, and you—” He sighs wearily, and Draco is scared of what he might say next. “You two are included in groups with your friends already.” Draco sighs (what he thinks is) inaudibly with relief. He could not spend that much face time with the boy who caused the petals without breaking down.
“You,” Snape says, pointing at Harry, “with Hermione and Ron, and you—” He points at Draco, who suddenly feels like a deer in headlights. “You’re with Pansy and Blaise. You two go ask them about it; I’ve explained it too many times already.” He presses a hand to his head, and waves them out with the other.
As soon as the two get out and the door shuts, they look at each other, not sure where to go from there. Draco breaks eye contact first, already feeling the pink rising in his throat. As Draco is looking around and about to walk away, he speaks.
“Where were you yesterday?” Draco looks back at him, not quite sure the question was aimed at him, though they are the only people in that section of the hall. Seeing his hesitation, Harry answers first. “I was forced to stay behind in Divination. You know Trelawney.” He laughs slightly, trying to ease the tension.
Draco looks away, unable to be so close to him without inevitably reaching out for him. He has to settle on a spot on the floor. “I was sick. Had some stomach flu, Madam Pomfrey said. But it was just for 24 hours? I’m not really sure… ” He trails off, and mentally smacks himself for sounding so unsure.
Harry awhs sympathetically, nodding his head in understanding. “Well, I hope you get better soon!” Then he, realising his mistake, says again, “Or, hope you don’t get it again!” He walks off in the opposite direction of the Transfiguration classroom, where he was planning to go to ask McGonagall about an assignment. He sighs at his bad luck, and sets off towards McGonagall’s classroom.
He only pines from afar for the rest of the year, though the volume of his petals grow gradually. So slowly, that at first not even he notices. The first month was a petal or two a day, but now he has a least two handfuls a day. He needs to return home for summer break, but if his parents ever found out they would force the name out of him or force him into operation, both of which he doesn’t want.
He can hold on. Maybe next year will be the turning point.
(It is. Just not in the way he’d hoped.)
Because he hadn’t seen Harry in a month, the amount of petals diminished, and the petals came out smaller and more withered than he’d ever seen them. But as soon as the first day ended, although Draco only saw glimpses of him a couple times, donned in his house’s colours of red and gold, he had to rush to the prefect’s bathroom as he could feel them choking already. The petals returned to the volume they were at before classes ended, with petals pinker and softer than he’d ever seen them.
(The tattoo burns on his arm, especially when he’s coughing up petals.)
He sees him in the hall today as they pass by each other. They make eye contact, and Harry smiles encouragingly. In that moment, he wished it was just them in the hall, and Draco could have swept the snow off Harry’s hat like he’d wanted to and cupped his pink cheeks which are frosted by the cold, even though they’re supposed to be rivals and houses have been forever enemies. Draco doesn’t really know how to process the action, and thinks about it all day, even mulls it over before bed.
But maybe the toilet bowl full of petals he had to flush down and the constant aching of his tattoo that hurts more than the petals is answer enough for him not to do anything.
Draco sits in the Great Hall, mulling over his unfortunate timeline. At this point, it’s been more than a year. He has to go to the bathroom at least once a class. Every time he sits on the tiled floor between coughing the pretty pink up, he wonders whether or not it’s worth it anymore. There was still a chance, and though slim, this slim chance kept him going.
When he looks up from his food, his eyes are immediately drawn to the other boy. He looks how Draco thinks he looks and feels. Exhausted, worn out, and ready to collapse at any time.
Harry looks up as well, and their eyes connect. But the light is gone from Harry’s, like a lamp with the bulb blown out. His head drops back down to picking at his food, and Draco can only look on sadly, too far to do anything.
The Quidditch Cup is won by Gryffindor, again. Though Slytherins are disappointed, it’s still a fun event, and pulls together the whole school. But even a week later, when Draco first sees Harry again, he has an arm wrapped around Ginny, and the word is (at least in the Slytherin common room, where he hear) is that they’re together.
As soon as Draco sees them together, he knows he’s lost. Just by the sparkle in the black-haired boy’s eyes that has returned, he knows. He will never make him feel like that, even though he makes Draco feel like that already.
He gets rid of the petals a week later, and the feelings fade.
“Wrap your jacket tight. It’s going to be chilly.” Draco tells his son, who nods as he buttons up his jacket.
“Ready?” He asks Astoria, and she nods. “Let’s go!” The family clambers out of the car, and Draco puts his son’s luggage on the cart. They successfully make it onto the platform, but the white steam from the train makes sound distorted and vision blurry. He can’t see anyone until they are right in front of him. The three run into Harry and Ginny and their three kids, but don’t realise until the carts are almost touching.
Draco feels a strange tugging in his heart, and the urge to start crying if he really wanted to. His mind flashes to some February day, but he can’t seem to pull the memory out from the mess of others. He ignores it and sends his boy off on the train, now distanced from the Potters.
“Scorpius, be a good boy!” His wife calls out after their son, and they both wave to him in the train. He waves back, the once-mittened hand now bare.
He thinks of the pink flowers for the first time in more than twenty years. He feels something missing, but he’s not quite sure.
(He’ll spend the rest of his life satisfied, but not quite fully happy. He’s happy though. What’s missing?)
He’ll never know, nor will he ever find out.