It was ironic, wasn’t it? All Harry’s life revolved around love and yet he couldn’t manage to love ‘properly’. His survival had only been possible thanks to it. He knew many different types of love, had experienced them first-hand: his mother’s love that had saved him both times Voldemort cast the killing curse on him, his friends’ love that had saved him pretty much every time he got in trouble –which was quite often to be honest– and pulled him through the worst parts of his life, some sort of paternal/mentor love from Dumbledore, of course the Weasleys too who saw him as a son and a brother, and his own love for all of them.
So why, why , couldn’t he love Ginny the way he was supposed to ? Or anyone else for that matter. It would be so much easier if he had just fallen in love with someone, anybody. If he could tell her ‘Actually I love someone else’. That would hurt, but surely less than telling her ‘Actually, I just don’t love you. No reason, sorry’.
He honestly thought he did before the war. He was sort of attracted to her in a way he wasn’t sure he could describe, so it was easy to take those feelings and label them as love. Romantic love, that is. She was pretty and smart and fierce and strong and brave. She was everything he could ever wish for as a girlfriend, and yet… he wasn’t in love with her. Nor did he want to have sex with her. He wanted to cuddle her, stare at her, laugh with her, and do all kinds of things, but not like that . He didn’t really mind kissing but it wasn’t the kind of firework, life changing, whatever feeling it was supposed to be according to the rest of the world.
Any time she tried to take things further –slipping a hand under his shirt, slipping his hand under her shirt, or even just trying to slip him some tongue– it just felt wrong . And weird. And not really all that pleasant. Honestly, why would anybody want to share that much saliva with another person? It was kind of gross in his opinion, and definitely unhygienic. Didn’t anybody realise that? He constantly had to remind himself to initiate kisses, to seek more alone time, to do more ‘couple-y’ stuff. It just didn’t come naturally to him and it often made him feel like he was playing the role of a boyfriend instead of being a boyfriend.
And there was The Cho Disaster. Yes, with capital letters, it entirely deserved it. Not Cho herself, he didn’t have anything against her personally, she was a sweet girl. But the two of them together, at that time in their lives, well… it was Not Good. She was pretty, and she was a decent seeker, but other than that he barely knew anything about her. They had always had a hard time talking. Discussion just didn’t flow between them, especially with the weight of Cedric’s death hanging between them. No need to remind anyone of how it had ended.
But back to Ginny. She and Harry had started dating again after the war, but without the threat of Voldemort hanging over his head, he had had a lot more time to think about his feelings -or lack thereof- and he had quickly realised that he didn’t love Ginny the way she loved him. He had told her immediately, not wanting to lead her on or lie to her, and they had broken up.
It went rather well, all things considered. A lot better than he would have thought. It hadn’t exactly been a walk in the park, but Ginny didn’t seem all that hurt. A bit sad, sure, but not crushed, and she was thankful that he told her, so he managed to not feel too guilty about it. Most of the time.
Until he started missing being with her.
Well, that was not exactly true. He didn’t miss being with her specifically, but he missed some parts of what they had together. The cuddling and hand holding mostly. He couldn’t ask her to keep doing that, obviously, he had already hurt her enough and he didn’t want her to get her hopes up again.
He instead tried to do it with his friends, but it never yielded the results he hoped for. Ron had looked at him weird when he tried to sit a bit closer than usual, so Harry made up an excuse, ran away, and never tried it again. With Hermione, he was afraid that it would make Ron jealous again so he didn’t dare. Dean and Seamus were constantly all over each other so they were not even an option. Neville didn’t like people touching him in general.
Luna was actually ok with it. She hugged him every day to say hello, even letting him linger a bit more than friends usually did. They held hands a couple of times too, but then she started getting closer to Ginny and he had to stop. People were getting the wrong idea, thinking that he was trying to sabotage their relationship before it even started because he resented Ginny for their breakup –or some other stupid idea of that kind. It wasn’t even Luna who made him feel like he had to stop, and he was pretty sure that she wouldn’t have minded –because she was awesome like that– it was literally everybody else.
So here he was. Single, apparently incapable of falling in love or feeling anything even somewhat romantic for anyone, craving more physical contact than he was able to get from his friends, and watching everybody around him pair up. Ron and Hermione, Dean and Seamus, Ginny and Luna, Neville and a Ravenclaw girl he didn’t know, even Parvati and Pansy Parkinson of all people. How that had happened, he had no idea, but they looked happy together. Oh, and Terry Boot had hooked up with or dated at least half of the seventh and “eighth” year at one point or another. The only other person that Harry knew who didn’t seem obsessed with finding their “other half” and wasn’t already in a relationship was… Draco Malfoy.
Well, speaking of the devil, there he was, entering the eighth year’s common room. Harry watched him walk around one of the sofas near the fireplace, obviously planning on sitting there, only to stop short at the sight of Terry and a seventh year that Harry didn’t bother to try to identify, eagerly and passionately snogging and groping.
Malfoy’s face scrunched up in disgust –which made Harry snigger– and he looked around the room, searching for another free spot, a rare thing nowadays. Their common room had quickly become a rallying point for all the students of age, probably because it wasn’t divided by house which made it easier for friends to hang out. It was a good thing in theory, with all the inter-house unity stuff being all the rage lately, but in practise it just made it harder to actually do anything there.
Malfoy caught Harry’s amused smile and lifted an eyebrow in response. What that was supposed to mean, Harry didn’t have a clue, but it seemed friendly, if such a world could be associated with Draco Malfoy. Actually that wasn’t fair, he was friendlier nowadays. Quieter too. He wasn’t insulting and hexing people anymore, he mostly kept to himself and studied, but on the few occasions Harry spoke with him this year he was cordial, and even –yes, he had to admit it– nice.
He made his way to Harry who followed him with his eyes, and flopped down in the empty spot next to him, one arm on the armrest, his body facing the room. To Harry’s surprise, he immediately spoke to him –or at least he assumed it was to him as there wasn’t anybody else in earing distance, what with all the noise around them, and Malfoy didn’t seem the type to randomly talk to himself if there were witnesses. “Ugh, can’t they find somewhere more private? Honestly, the common room is a common area, nobody should have to be subjected to that . Are they animals?” He sighed. “Next thing you know they will be dry humping each other in public . At least we all are legally adults.”
Harry tried –and probably failed– to not look as startled as he felt to be addressed so casually by Malfoy, as if it wasn’t unusual for them to complain to each other about other people – and not about each other to other people for once. Not that it really mattered what his face was doing, Malfoy wasn’t looking at him anyway.
“You don’t even know the worst part,” Harry finally replied.
Malfoy made a doubtful face. He finally turned his face and met Harry’s eyes before replying. “Don’t I? What’s worse than that?”
“They’re sitting on my potion essay. I spent hours trying to write something decent for once, then somehow managed to forget it on this couch.” Harry gestured towards the offending furniture for emphasis and sighed dramatically –because, yes, it was that bad. “I came back just in time to see it disappear under Terry’s arse.” He grimaced at the memory. “Now I have to do it all over again.”
Malfoy’s face glowed up in delight –the git was laughing at him. “You could also wait for them to stop and take it back.” He suggested.
Harry gave him an unimpressed look. “Yeah, no, not a chance. I’m not touching that ever again.”
The Slytherin snorted. He pulled his feet up on the couch, arms wrapping around his knees and shifted so that he was now facing Harry, his back now resting against the armrest. He smirked and Harry knew what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth. He knew him too well. Or Malfoy was just that predictable. He could already hear the ‘Saint Potter’ that the wanker was surely thinking, it was pouring out of his expression.
“I’m surprised it isn’t you on that couch Potter, with your little fanclub running after you all around the castle, one would have thought it wouldn’t have taken you long to find yourself a little girlfriend. Or Boot; he doesn’t seem very opposed to the idea.”
Harry didn’t bother getting mad like he would have a few years ago, it seemed almost-teasing, the way Malfoy was saying this. Harry made a face though, to show how little he cared for that. “No thank you, I’d rather not.”
Malfoy gave him a curious look, eyebrows rising slightly. “Why not? Still not over the Weaslette? I heard on the grapevine that you were the one who broke up with her. Not that Hogwarts rumours are very reliable, mind you, but sometimes they do get things right.”
“I was. Sort of. It was kind of mutual- but it was definitely my fault. Anyway, it’s not that.” He didn’t want to explain himself more than that.
“Then what?” Malfoy seemed genuinely interested in the answer for some reason.
Harry stared at him. Could he actually tell him? Nobody seemed to understand –or care-, always telling him that he just hadn’t found “the one”, that things would be different once he found “the right person”, or even that he was probably “just a late bloomer”. What a load of crap.
Would Malfoy be the same? Would he mock him? Tell the whole school? No, he wasn’t like that anymore. Something made him feel like that would be different than any other time he tried to open up about this. Maybe it was just hope, but something in Malfoy’s eyes made him want to trust him.
Harry looked at his lap, his fingers playing with a loose thread on his jeans. He took a deep breath and started speaking.
“I- don’t really do relationships. At least- not the way people want. Everybody else here,” he made a vague gesture toward the rest of the room,”they kiss, hold hands, go on dates, call each other pet names, cuddle, do sappy romantic stuff, have sex in dubious –and more or less public– places… You know, all that stuff couples do. And I’m not saying I would hate all of this, I do think it would be nice to have someone to cuddle and hold hands with and plan a future together and whatnot, but- it’s not…”, he sighed, struggling to find the words to make Malfoy understand, and passed a hand through his hair, making it stick up even more than usual. “If you start doing that with someone, there will always be the expectation of more. People will assume you’re dating and eventually you’ll have to kiss and even have sex. Or, if you try to plan a future with a friend, even your best friend, they’ll humour you at first, but they’ll eventually leave you for their partner –their romantic partner- because that’s what people do!” He was starting to get worked up, his voice coming out harsher. “They’ll always make their significant other –or whatever stupid thing you want to call it- come before anybody else. And I’m bloody sick of it! And why is it so inconceivable that I might not want to or even be capable of falling in love?! I’m not weird, or broken, or a freak, and I spent too much of my life thinking that, I’m not going to start again now over something so stupid.”
The fight suddenly left him and he continued in a quiet voice. “I just- feel like everybody around me is going on with their lives, and I’m left on the side of the road, craving things I can’t have unless I force myself into a mould that isn’t made for me, into a type of relationship I don’t want and can’t possibly be happy in.” He paused then added in a whisper, “I lose either way”.
He didn’t mean to say that much to Malfoy. He hadn’t even realised some of the stuff he said until he said it. Shit, he shouldn’t have been so honest, it was going to bite him in the arse.
They were both silent for a few minutes and Harry thought Malfoy was trying to find a way to get away without seeming too rude, until he finally spoke, slowly, tentatively, as if afraid that he might spook Harry. “I think. I think it might not be as hopeless as you make it sound. If you- found someone-“
Harry interrupted him coldly, throwing him a quick sideway glare before looking forward again. “Nobody is going to fix me. I don’t want anybody to change me.”
“No!” Malfoy sounded horrified. ”That’s not what I was going to say. At all.”.
“Really?” Harry asked dubiously. “Then what?”
“I meant . If you found someone who felt the same way that you do, then maybe- maybe you could have what you want.”
Harry finally turned his head and properly met Malfoy’s eyes. He seemed to be trying to silently communicate something. As if- as if he was talking about himself. But it wasn’t possible, was it? Malfoy couldn’t want the same thing as Harry. A relationship, not quite platonic and not quite romantic either. The comfort and commitment of a relationship, but without the stupid romantic and sexual stuff. Draco’s face had never been so open, so raw, at least not for Harry. He looked hopeful and fearful at the same time, like he was afraid to hope, or maybe afraid to be so vulnerable.
Harry was so overwhelmed, he could barely breathe. He couldn’t move his eyes away from Malfoy. Something was stuck in his throat, halfway between a laugh and a sob. He swallowed and took a deep breath, trying to loosen the knot. He turned his upper body towards Draco.
The Slytherin moved too, lowering one foot to the ground, the other tucked under him, his back straight, not resting against the couch anymore.
Harry didn’t have the words to say what he wanted, he wasn’t even sure he knew what he wanted to say. He had never been good with words anyway- except on a few rare occasions. This moment was too important for him to fuck it up by saying the wrong thing, their truce was still too fragile, so instead he extended his hand in the space between them, palm up, like an invitation.
Malfoy looked wide-eyed at the Gryffindor’s hand, then at his face, and back at his hand and slowly, slowly slid his own into Harry’s. Draco’s hand was warm and surprisingly soft, and a distant part of Harry’s brain –the one that wasn’t fixated on the feeling of the hand he was holding– realised that this was probably the first time they touched each other willingly, without any of them being in danger, and not with the purpose of hurting each other.
They still had a long way to go; they could barely call themselves friends, and they had years of hatred to sort through, but it felt like the beginning of something. It felt like they could learn to know each other, become friends, and eventually- maybe- they could try to be something else. Not boyfriends, not a couple, but- partners? Platonic partners. It sounded good to Harry. And even if they didn’t fit together like that, at least they knew they weren’t alone.
And, well, Harry happened to quite like holding Malfoy’s hand.