Draco doesn’t love Harry, and Harry knows it. Draco loves fucking Harry. That, Harry’s sure of, because otherwise he wouldn’t keep coming back. But Draco doesn’t love Harry.
It’s not a guess, not an insecurity. He knows it because Draco’s told him that, right after fucking him against the wall until he couldn’t think.
“This isn’t what love is,” Draco had said, and Harry had agreed. For Draco, this wasn’t love, and it wouldn’t ever be. It’s just an impossible, blindingly unfair fact of life.
That doesn’t ever stop it from hurting, though. Like now, when he’s eating his breakfast before work and staring at a picture of Draco and Astoria Greengrass in this morning’s Prophet.
Well, he was eating his breakfast, but now he’s lost his appetite.
He knows Draco fucks other people. He’s seen the evidence on his skin, the bruises on his neck that he knows he didn’t leave there. But Draco’s not usually so public about it, and it turns his stomach into all sorts of twisted shapes.
He has half a mind to send Draco an owl, but he knows that wouldn’t get him anywhere. They’re in an open relationship after all, as Draco has always said. It’s Harry’s own fault for agreeing.
“Why don’t you ever have sex with other people?” Draco asks on occasion.
“I do,” Harry always says, and he knows that Draco knows it’s complete bullshite.
“Oh, all right, then,” Draco always replies. He plays the game that Harry started, never deviating, never pushing. It makes Harry feel the tiniest bit better, if only because their carefully crafted, ever-so-fragile façade means that he can keep Draco for just a little longer. It’ll never be the way he wants it to be. But he’s known that from the beginning.
That picture of Draco and Astoria—it’s a morning after picture. Harry knows it, because the newspaper shows them eating breakfast, and that must’ve been yesterday. Draco had turned down their usual meeting the night before last in favor of “other plans,” which Harry took to mean that he was going out with someone else. And he’d been right.
He waits for the simmering jealousy to take over, to eat him alive, and it does. It’s sharp, tangy, bitter; it fills him and it makes him feel empty all at once. He could do without it, but it’s not something that just goes away.
Draco’s never eaten breakfast with Harry. Harry’s never even stayed the night—Draco’s all but flat out forbidden it. Every single time, when they’re done, the coldness slides over Draco like a mask of ice. It’s impenetrable, unbreakable. It wasn’t long before Harry stopped trying.
How long will it be before he stops trying all together, before he lets Draco slide through his fingertips? But it’s just as likely that Draco will escape and fly away, leaving Harry to scramble after him, hands empty and cold.
He doesn’t like to linger on these kinds of thoughts, but sometimes it can’t be helped.
I want you, reads the owl. No greeting, no signature. Even though it's not their night, Harry puts away the paperwork he’d taken home for the weekend, stands, and stretches. He contemplates taking a quick shower but decides there’s no time, so he puts the kettle on instead.
Right as it whistles, he hears Draco pop into the room behind him. It sets his nerves on fire. Draco’s here.
“Today was utter shite,” Draco says, and Harry turns toward him. He looks weary and frustrated. He gets close enough so that he can grab Harry’s wrist, and does so. “Make me forget,” he commands, pleads, tugs Harry to him.
“Okay,” Harry says, and kisses him, and is lost in the lie.
When they’re done, it’s still early. Draco offers to make him dinner. It makes his heart jump a little. He knows it’s only a peace offering because Draco had been more caustic than usual tonight, but Harry hadn’t minded the grumpiness anyway. It always adds a touch of ferocity to their coupling.
They Floo to Draco’s, and Harry eats what Draco cooks for him even though it’s a little bit burnt. Afterwards, Harry sucks him off while he’s trying to do the washing up. Draco laughs with glee when his orgasm causes suds to land in Harry’s hair.
Draco’s only truly happy with him when they’re having sex, but the illusion feels so fucking domestic it hurts.
And when the Floo deposits Harry into his cold and empty home, his heart crumbles into a million tiny pieces—only to be forcibly held not-all-the-way-together by a body that doesn’t want to move.
Harry makes a lot of assumptions nowadays. For instance, he assumes that Hermione and Ron know he’s fucking someone, but he also assumes (for his own sanity) that they don’t know who.
He can see it in their eyes when he visits to play with little Rose. They’ve stopped trying to match him with this or that coworker, but the little worried sounds that Hermione makes when she thinks he’s not listening are still as frequent as ever.
He assumes that Draco will leave him someday, because Draco is a pureblood, and it is the pureblood way to sire children. It would be far too scandalous if Harry were still in the mix when the time came.
But he doesn’t have to assume that it’ll hurt when Draco leaves, simply because he knows it will. He catches a glimpse of it every time Draco shuts him out, pushes him away into the void that is loneliness.
He feels that loneliness now, while Draco twirls Astoria at the Ministry party that Harry’s been forced to attend. He hadn’t wanted to go, and this is why.
Draco is smiling a soft little smile at her, one Harry’s never even seen on his face in pictures. He’s whispering in her ear and putting a hand on the curve of her slender back as he guides her through the dance. He looks like he’s actually happy, which is the opposite of how he looks when he’s with Harry.
Harry is but a tool for Draco’s frustration, a vessel in which Draco hides all of his anger and fear and disguises them with the slap of skin-on-skin and the scrape of nails against Harry’s back. Harry likes to imagine that Draco needs him, that Draco would go mad without Harry to dispel his frustration.
But Draco places the gentlest kiss on Astoria’s cheek, and Harry looks down at his glass of champagne and imagines it shattering, piercing his skin with so many shards of crystal. He thinks that would hurt less than watching Draco fall in love with someone else.
Draco walks into their office the next morning, smug as can be, and shoves the paperwork he never wants to do over to Harry’s side of the room.
And Harry bites his lip so that he doesn’t have to think about Draco fucking Astoria last night.
It hadn’t always been this way. That’s probably what he regrets the most when he bothers to think about it.
There had been an awful lot of shouting when they’d first been assigned as partners, but that was okay, predictable, the norm.
Next had come late night coursework over takeout that had long since gone cold, Draco sitting on his desk so that he could check Harry’s grammar over his shoulder, the dozens of spells aimed at trying to fix the draft in the room.
Maintenance had come and repaired the heating charms a month ago, and neither of them had even mentioned it.
He doesn’t know when he’d stopped making stupid jokes when Draco arrived in the morning, when they’d stopped pausing casework to talk about their hopes and ideas and worries. All he knows is that he misses it. He misses the roll of Draco’s eyes just before he reiterated some section of the Auror Code that Harry hadn’t bothered to follow, misses the innocent way Draco would suck on the tips of his quills when he thought no one was looking.
Sex has changed it all between them. Or maybe it’s just changed Harry, but he can’t tell. All it had taken was one drink too many and an accidental fall into Draco’s lap, and then they were spinning, spiraling down into the way they are now. It’d been a cascade of events that made Draco become withdrawn and turned Harry into a coward. He can do nothing but toe the line, dance occasionally alongside it. He’s too afraid of finally speaking the words that will make Draco leave him.
It’s January, and it’s cold, even with the draft in their office fixed. Harry shivers and forcibly avoids thinking of the times when Draco had shed his jacket and draped it over Harry’s back, claiming not to need it.
He tries not to look at Draco, who is going over case notes across the room, brow lowered in concentration. Because it’s inevitable that when Harry starts staring, Draco will choose that moment to look back.
“Don’t you have work to do?” Draco says when that happens, and Harry ducks his head and goes back to filling out forms in triplicate.
But that night, Draco Floos into Harry’s living room wearing a scowl and a cashmere sweater. His breathing is uneven, panicky, and it only takes him two seconds to straddle Harry and snog him mindless.
“It’s Monday,” Harry says when they finally break apart.
“So?” Draco dismisses, leaning over and biting Harry’s ear in a way that makes him gasp.
“Monday’s not our night,” he murmurs distractedly. And it isn’t; Thursday is their night, has been since they’ve started this whole fucked up game. There’s always an owl from Draco, and then they fuck or suck each other off or jerk off into each other’s laps until they’re both sated.
Draco stills. “Astoria and I fought,” he admits. But then he looks at Harry, and the flicker of jealousy doesn’t quite have time to spark because for once Draco looks just as lost as Harry is.
“Okay,” Harry breathes, and he lets Draco pull him up to the bedroom.
Draco is surprisingly vulnerable today. He lays back and moans at Harry’s touch, and he doesn’t even complain when Harry pulls his legs open and starts to eat his arse.
He does tense when Harry summons the lube, and it’s enough to make Harry offer to bottom, but Draco shakes his head. “You always do it. Fuck me this time.”
And Harry presses every ounce of longing in with his lube-slick fingers, tries his best to convey his broken love as he slides inside of Draco. Draco can sense it, he knows, but Draco can never bear the intensity of it. He always looks away.
Harry carries Draco over the edge with him, hand on Draco’s cock and tongue between his lips. It’s a minute of intensity and intoxicating spasms.
Draco never says his name during sex, and it breaks him. But it’s too dangerous to let his brokenness show, so he picks up the pieces in one fell swoop and dumps them in a bucket for a rainy day. He’s composed himself by the time Draco opens his eyes.
Draco allows three minutes before he pulls on his clothes and leaves. He doesn’t look back; he never does.
Harry lies in his bed and thinks about how things are changing. It worries him. Changes mean that something is about to end, and he thinks that something might be he and Draco.
The pattern is broken again that Thursday at Draco’s, because Draco doesn’t kick Harry out of his room within the allotted three minutes. Instead, they’re still sitting in his bed when he levels his gaze at Harry and says “I think I’m going to propose to Astoria.”
Harry had half expected this.
But that doesn’t stop it from hurting like a fucking bludger.
The wind is knocked from his chest, and he feels like he’s being smothered by his own shock. The lock on his heart—the one that keeps him from throwing himself at Draco and telling him he loves him on a daily basis—is coming dangerously close to snapping. It doesn’t matter that he had long ago thrown away the key.
“So? What do you think?” Draco says tentatively, but Harry’s voice has fled to a place where no one can reach. He wishes he could follow.
“Fucking say something, Harry,” Draco presses, and Harry can tell he’s growing in annoyance.
All he can manage is a rasped “Oh,” and a small shake of the head, one that he’s convinced is too small for Draco to even see.
“…Whatever. I didn’t need your opinion anyway,” Draco rolls his eyes. “Just thought I should mention it.”
With that, Draco lies down, spelling the lights off with a loose flick of his wand. Harry is paralyzed. Draco never turns the lights off before Harry’s left. Should he still go?
He shouldn’t stay—it would be too dangerous, too much of a risk. But he wants to.
A thought pierces him in the heart, one that tells him that this is probably their last night together. Draco is angry, and Harry knows Draco in anger. He knows that he’ll ignore the source of his anger until time takes it away, refusing to speak of it to Harry in the meantime. He’s done it before.
Tonight’s game is played on a dangerous ledge, and Harry is teetering off the side with no handholds in sight. What is he supposed to do? What does Draco want from him?
He doesn’t want this last night to end in anger.
Tentatively, he allows himself to slip beneath the covers, doing it gently so that maybe Draco won’t notice too hard. It’s futile, of course, because Draco rolls to face him as he’s taking off his glasses.
“What are you, moving in?” Draco says, and his voice is spitting with annoyance.
A vice has taken ahold of Harry’s lungs, and though he can open his mouth, he can’t eject the words sitting on his sternum. He can just see the too-pale irises of Draco’s eyes, the displeased curve of his mouth. His love almost cuts through the thick feeling of despair in his gut.
Harry can hear Draco gritting his teeth, just like he does when they’ve narrowly missed capturing a perpetrator. Draco isn’t happy.
“Fine,” Draco sighs sharply. He rolls back over, pulling the covers half off of Harry in the process. “If you’re going to stay, don’t hog the blanket.”
Harry’s heart gives a painful tear, even though it’s the closest thing to an invitation he’s ever gotten from Draco. So he stays.
One of his feet is cold. But it’s worth it, just to lay by Draco’s side and inhale his scent for the night.
It takes Harry a long time to fall asleep, but it takes Draco longer. It’s not until Draco quietly looks back to make sure his best friend is no longer awake that he allows the tears to slide down his face.
Their office is tense the next morning. In fact, the next week is tense, so Harry’s not at all expecting it (hoping, dreaming, maybe) when Draco comes through the Floo the next Thursday night.
Harry stares at him, forkful of curry halfway to his trembling lips. “Draco…?”
Draco fidgets with his sleeves, swallows roughly, looks away. “Harry,” he says, and his voice catches on the syllables like a bump on the Knight Bus.
Putting down his takeout, Harry stands, feeling wobbly and slightly insane. “You came,” he mumbles lamely.
“It’s Thursday,” Draco shrugs. He tilts his head toward the bedroom, and Harry follows numbly. The carpet feels sharper than normal under his feet as he watches Draco pull his sweater over his head, draping it over Harry’s desk chair as he always does.
Harry can’t stop himself from reaching for Draco, running his fingers along scars and pale skin. It feels somehow new, even though they’ve done this so many times before. He thinks it’s because he hadn’t anticipated it would ever happen again.
Draco pulls him to the bed, ridding them of their clothes in the process. Then Draco fucks him with an unspoken tenderness, and Harry can do nothing but cling to the meaning behind it.
When Draco comes, he breathes Harry’s name for the second time in as many weeks. Harry’s heart lurches into a frenzied rhythm that doesn’t quite go away, even as they lie quietly in the afterglow. He counts the seconds in his head, his apprehension growing more enormous with every minute. He can’t resist turning to look at the man beside him.
The man that he wished was his, but wasn’t, will never be.
The unfairness of it all strikes him in the chest, and he startles himself by bursting into tears.
“Harry, what…” Draco starts, but proceeds to surprise Harry by looking like he might cry himself.
He doesn’t know what that means.
“Draco, I—“ he starts.
The lock on his heart is being sawed straight through, every jagged cut sending a pang of longing through his body.
He opens his mouth again, but Draco covers it with a hand, shaking his head desperately.
“Don’t. Don’t say it, Harry, please don’t say it,” he whispers, and his usual fierceness is belied by the desperate terror in his eyes.
But Harry needs to say it or it won’t ever be true. He wrenches the hand away from his lips; the words come out as an irretrievable sob. “I love y-you…”
Draco chokes out a sob and covers his own mouth, hiding the distress that Harry can see mirrored so clearly. “Fuck you…”
God, Draco doesn’t love him. Draco doesn’t love him and he knows it, but he’s said it anyway.
“…Get out,” Draco says, and Harry lets out a deranged cry.
“This is my fucking room, Draco. So you leav—“ he can’t even say it. No, he doesn’t want to say that, he wants Draco to stay.
“You know what? I don’t care. I’m still marrying Astoria,” Draco hisses. “I love her.”
“You don’t think I know that?” Harry sits up, a shudder running up his back and wringing his heart out like a towel emptied of so much water.
“And I’m going to ask for… for a different partner,” Draco says, but the threat lacks conviction because he’s breaking down, staring at Harry with an increasingly desperate expression.
Harry reaches out because he has to touch him, latching on to his wrist like he’ll never let go.
“I mean, it, Harry—“ Draco tries, but Harry interrupts him.
“Does she know?”
“Does… does Astoria know?”
Draco’s face dulls. “…Yes.”
Harry shatters. He wants to wail but just barely constrains it by biting down on his own knuckle, so hard he thinks he may have drawn blood. It had been a last, wretched hope, that maybe Astoria would find out and would leave Draco for it. And he’s awful for thinking that, for projecting such misfortune on Draco, but it doesn’t stop him from wishing it.
“Do you know how she found out?” Draco sits up next to him, speaking with a voice that said he had nothing left to lose. “I said your name when we were having sex, and she heard it. She doesn’t even care, you know,” he spits with frustration. “She said I could do what I wanted as long as it didn’t reach the press.”
Harry’s almost lost in his own sorrow before he catches the meaning in Draco’s words. It elicits a startled gasp, and his eyes widen—he’d been waiting all this time for Draco to say that he was leaving, if not last week, then tonight.
But this… it sounds like an opening, a way to keep Draco to himself forever. “You mean…” he whispers, the last bit of hope brimming in his bones.
“Yeah,” Draco averts his eyes. “We don’t… have to stop.”
Relief sparks even through Harry’s cautious disbelief. “You… you would do that?”
Draco closes his eyes. He nods.
A dam breaks in Harry, only this time it’s somehow flooding him with relief. “I don’t want to stop,” he says breathlessly, even as guilt swirls at the back of his mind. He’d never seen himself agreeing to cheat, had always looked down on it in when he saw it happen with others.
But it’s worth it. It’s all worth it for Draco.
“…I don’t want to stop, either,” Draco admits, and then Harry heaves forward and kisses him, even though he still has tears running down his face.
But it’s all right. Draco’s crying too.
Draco loves someone else, and Harry knows it. But Draco hasn’t left him yet. Harry thinks Draco might even love him too, with quiet feelings and words that will never be spoken.
And that’s more than enough.