“There’s got to be a way to break the curse,” said Pansy.
“Ah,” said Draco. “There is, yes. Sort of. Not really? Harry Potter has to tell me he loves me, and mean it.”
Pansy put down her wine glass.
“What the fuck sort of curse is this?”
“An extremely contrived one,” said Draco, eating a salted peanut. He didn’t love the bar Pansy had chosen, but the important thing had been to get out of the house, so they could have this conversation without being overheard by Blaise and Millicent.
“No, I mean, what will happen to you if you don’t break it?”
“Oh! Death. Painful, slow death. In about six months,” said Draco.
He had been walking home from his mind-numbingly dull job at the Department of Transportation when he had been roughly shoved against a wall and spat on. Although this sort of thing didn’t happen as much as it had in the first year after the war, it wasn’t totally unprecedented. Draco had slipped out of the man’s grip and wiped the spit away with his sleeve.
“The only reason you’re not in prison is because of Harry Potter’s goodness,” said the man; and Draco had to agree with him, although he wasn’t sure that it was relevant.
It did, however, turn out to be relevant.
“You think he likes you? You think he cares about you?”
“I really don’t,” Draco had said. The man appeared not to hear him.
“He doesn’t. No one gives a shit whether you live or die.” The man raised his wand and spoke a few words in a foreign language; not latinate— Draco didn’t recognise it. But he felt the magic wash over him, like someone with bad breath breathing in his face.
“There,” said the man. “You won’t get him to save you from that.”
He had gone to St Mungo’s straight away, where they had diagnosed the curse and explained the rest.
“How the fuck are we supposed to get Harry fucking Potter to fall in love with you?” asked Pansy, now.
“I don’t bloody know, do I?” said Draco. “That’s why I’m asking you!”
Pansy nodded. Her long, tasselled earrings swayed.
“Okay,” she said. “Fine. We’ll sort it out.”
“I haven’t told anyone.”
“People will be boring about it.”
“We’ll fix it, Draco. You’re not dying. You’re twenty-two.”
Draco made a non-committal sound and ate another peanut.
“What?” asked Pansy.
“We-ell. I’ve had a good run.”
“Look, it’s not likely I’ll successfully seduce Potter, is it? So I may as well make my peace with it.” He tilted his head contemplatively. “I mean, in some parallel universes, I’m already dead. Probably. That’s how that works, right?”
“We’re fixing this, Draco.”
“Oh, all right. But I’m writing a Bucket List.”
The Bucket List kept him entertained while Pansy plotted how to get Potter to fall in love with him. They spent the next few days in coffee shops, scribbling in notebooks.
“What if you saved his life?” suggested Pansy.
“Fine. Back to the drawing board,” said Pansy.
“I wish I could go to Petra,” said Draco. “I’ve always wanted to go to Petra. And Cairo.”
He was forbidden from leaving Britain by the terms of his parole. It would be up in a year, but that was useless, of course.
“Maybe if you date Ginny Weasley, he’ll get jealous and fuck you,” said Pansy.
“1. Ginny Weasley will never date me, and 2. Jealous fucking isn’t the goal.”
“Back to the drawing board,” said Pansy.
“Do you think I’d be any good at tap dancing?” asked Draco.
Draco added “Take tap-dancing lessons” to the list, anyway.
Because there wasn’t much time, Pansy’s plan was slightly rushed. That was her excuse, anyway.
“You get in the lift with him. I’ll take it from there,” she explained.
“Well, sure, you’ll trap us in a lift together. Doesn’t mean he’ll fall in love with me.”
“He just needs to agree to go on a date with you,” said Pansy.
“This would be so much easier if I could just tell him about the curse,” said Draco. “You know how he likes a cause.”
“The healers said no tricks. It has to be genuine. Telling him about the curse is too risky.”
“I know,” sighed Draco.
The plan was put into motion the next day. Pansy had used her considerable stalking skills to find out exactly what time Potter left the auror department. Draco lingered nearby, and the moment Potter got into a (conspicuously empty) lift, Draco dashed in after him.
“Malfoy?” asked Potter, glowering. “What are you doing on this floor?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, do you own it?”
The lift juddered to a stop.
“No fucking way,” said Potter. He jammed the emergency button. Nothing happened.
“Looks as if we’re stuck,” said Draco. “I guess we have no choice but to get to know each other better.”
Potter glared at him.
“You did this.”
“I’m with you. You’re literally my alibi.”
Potter groaned and leant his head back against the wall.
He had quite a nice neck, reflected Draco. And a nice body, too. As long as he had to seduce someone, it may as well be Potter. Draco steeled himself. How hard could it be to attract him? Ginny Weasley had managed it, after all, and she was a ginger.
“So, I’m gay,” said Draco conversationally. “Are you?”
Potter’s head jerked so fast it looked as if it hurt.
“You don’t seem gay,” went on Draco. “But then, I don’t like to assume.”
“Malfoy, what the fuck is going on?”
Draco could sense that he was losing control of the situation.
“Do you want to go on a date with me?” he asked.
Potter pulled out his wand and pointed it straight at Draco. A horribly familiar smell came to him; the bathroom smell, clean but old and wet, he hadn’t realised he had forgotten it until it returned, and then the tangy, metallic smell of his own blood, and then the taste, and his chest hurt, and he remembered the way the ceiling had looked as he bled, he had felt so calm, and there was the sound his mother had made in the hospital wing, and he was staring at Potter’s wand in a lift at the age of twenty-two at the same time as he was bleeding out on a bathroom floor at sixteen, and—
“Leave me the fuck alone,” said Potter. The lift started moving again. Pansy had been watching the whole scene with some sort of spying spell, and had clearly decided to cut their losses.
Draco put his hands up placatingly. He didn’t feel he could say anything. The lift came to a stop and he let Potter get out. Draco rode the lift down to the basement, where he found an old broom cupboard and had a little panic. Only a little one. He could breathe, and everything. It was just that there were so many books he would never get to read. His heart thumped in his ears. He would never go to Petra. He would never go to Cairo. He would never have children. He would never grow old. He would never—
“Draco?” It was Pansy, on the other side of the door.
“Yes?” His voice sounded fine.
“He didn’t say yes, I take it.”
“No, he had other plans,” said Draco.
“Don’t say ‘We’ll figure something out.’ We won’t figure something out.”
Pansy was quiet for a long time.
“Will you come out?” she asked.
“That’s on my Bucket List,” said Draco. “Come out.”
“I don’t want you to die,” said Pansy. Her voice sounded fine, too.
“Don’t—don’t be boring about it, Pans.”
There was a pause. Draco used it to swallow, hard, several times, until the lump in his throat was gone. He suspected Pansy was doing the same.
“Get out of this manky broom cupboard, you terminal wanker,” said Pansy, and he loved her so much that he nearly panicked again. But there wasn’t time to panic—only six months—so instead he opened the cupboard door, called her a stupid bint, and took her out to get plastered.
“I’ve got about a month until the first symptoms set in,” explained Draco. “So I’ve divided the list into energy categories.”
“‘Climb Ben Nevis’” read Pansy.
“It’s the tallest mountain in Britain. I’d have liked to do Everest, but.”
“This is a long list, Draco.”
“I know. I’ve quit my job.”
They were sitting on the floor in Draco’s attic bedroom. Pansy, Draco, Blaise, Millicent, Greg and the Greengrass sisters all lived in a rundown old townhouse that Millicent had inherited from her grandmother. At first, they had intended to live without house elves. Their resolve had quickly weakened when they realised how quickly everything got disgusting when no one had the knowledge or inclination to clean up after themselves.
“Well, you’ve got the money, I suppose,” said Pansy.
“Exactly. But I do want to do something. Useful, I mean. Like healing?”
“There’s not time.”
“I know,” said Draco. “Yeah.”
Pansy flicked through the Bucket List. It was ten pages long, double-sided. That didn’t include the list of fifty books Draco had chosen to finish his life with. Fifty was ambitious, but he thought he could manage it.
“What’s this one? ‘Befriend Aunt Andromeda’?” she asked.
“Ah. Well, mother is going to be a bit… put out, when I die.”
“Bound to be,” said Pansy. Draco’s father had died in Azkaban a year after the war. Natural causes, they said. It wasn’t very agreeable to think of his mother, all alone.
“I figure, if she’s friends with Andromeda, she’ll feel a bit less, you know, down about the whole thing.”
“Good thinking,” said Pansy. “Doesn’t Andromeda have a kid?”
“Grandson. Teddy, I think.”
“Sure you want to spend your last months on this good earth with a toddler?”
“Not at all sure. But I’ve got to get started soon. The relationship things all have to come up top, because you can’t rush those.”
“We’ll have to colour-code them. All good plans are colour-coded.”
“Yes. And I’m starting tomorrow. No time to waste.”
“None,” said Pansy, and she went to fetch her coloured pens.
The next day, Draco went to his Aunt Andromeda’s house. He and Pansy had decided against owling ahead of time. An owl was much easier to ignore than a nephew.
“Draco,” said Andromeda. She sounded more surprised than appalled, which Draco thought was encouraging.
“Hello. Can I come in? I brought candied pineapple.”
Andromeda led him into a neat little kitchen.
“This is a surprise,” she said.
“I hope you aren’t angry that I’ve come without warning. I’ve been thinking about you and Teddy a lot. Family’s important to me.”
She looked rather shiny-eyed, like a Hufflepuff. Draco smiled at her.
“It would be good for Teddy to have more family,” said Andromeda.
“Is he around? Can I meet him?”
“…and then I played with him for an hour, and by the end, Aunt Andromeda was practically inviting me to live with her,” he told Pansy that evening, as they broke into Kew Gardens (#84 on the Bucket List).
“Don’t you dare move out,” said Pansy. “Oh, fucking fuck, Draco. I snagged my tights climbing over that gate.”
“It’s nice in here at night, though, isn’t it?”
It was nice. No one else was around. They let themselves into one of the tropical greenhouses and breathed in the damp air.
“Too many plants,” said Pansy. “How did you get on with Teddy?”
Draco wrinkled his nose.
“I plied him with chocolate so that he would like me. If someone’s child trusts you, you’re in.”
“And then, once Andromeda trusts you, you’ll get her and your mother to make up?”
“It’s a good plan.”
“Thank you,” said Draco. The air was thick with oxygen, and Draco felt more awake than he had in years. Kew Gardens, at night, with Pansy Parkinson. Check.