The spirited parrots of heaven will envy us - When we shall laugh in such a way, you and I
(December 25th 2020 - 10:00 pm)
I feel awkward and strange standing in front of the closed ebony door behind which is said to be the Study/office of the famous Harry Potter.
The encounter from a few moments ago still buzzing behind my eyeballs.
The generous and comfortingly warm mug of hot chocolate in hand, with its floating marshmallows and magic sprinkles, and the thin portfolio tucked under my arm. The portfolio which carries perhaps the most excruciating (for me) questionnaire.
I take a deep breath before extending my hand to knock at the door.
And at that moment it opens just as my hand was about to touch it.
I cannot help but feel annoyed and unsettled because of my failure to knock.
I would have liked to knock and prepare myself for the answer and then hear the answer and then enter the room on my own terms. In control of the situation from the very beginning.
But when have I ever had control of the situation when it comes to him.
At this point, it is even foolish to hope for it.
"I can always close it again and then you can knock and come in by yourself if it annoys you so much." He says, a wry smile playing on his lips.
His strange lips which seem a deep pink in the dull light of the corridor and the shadow of his dark scruff, thin and full at the same time.
I stop myself just in time.
And also realize just in time,
That it was not the Veela taking note of this.
It was me, my conscious mind.
My heart clenches at the meaning of this.
Not that I ever had any excuses. But this is just another weight in the balance of my doom.
I attempt at sneering, and somehow succeed though the reaction is quite opposite of what I would have expected.
He smiles widely at me in that strange Dumbledore-like way and steps aside with a flourish as if to welcome me into his world.
I do not fail to see the irony. I never fail to see the irony.
The space has a strange character, there is no other way of putting it.
The golden glow of the lamps is particularly dim in the corners, focusing more on the centre of the room where a large desk stands in all its black gaudy glory.
It is a restored piece of course like most things in this house and of the somewhat same make as the RAB study desk that stands in my temporary abode.
It is crowded with papers and what seems like Auror reports but it all still seems a bit more arranged than I would have expected his desk to be if his hair is anything to go by.
The left hand side wall is filled with frames which would probably take a while to look at such is the number of them. From where I stand, I can see that not all are pictures but also some newspaper cut outs, and some hand-drawn things.
The deep dove-grey of the walls and the dark wood panelling make it a proper serious study with a brooding personality.
And it smells thoroughly lived in.
Of this whole house, it seems this is where he spends most of his time as every particle in its air resonates his scent. The curtains, the walls, the wood, the glass. I can feel the over-whelming reflection of him in everything.
"Now, you are making me self-conscious about my favourite room in the house." He says from somewhere behind me.
As unexpected as his recognition of my scrutiny is, it is yet more un-intentional when I end up asking,
"Did you restore this room yourself?"
His surprise shows on his face for a split second, before another expression crosses his face which I cannot decipher quickly enough.
"Err… Yes, actually, how did you know?" he asks, his eyes glimmering with slight apprehension and curiosity.
'Because I feel it in every pore of my existence. Because this is your territory if there was ever any.'
But in answer to his question, I simply shrug.
He smiles and points me politely to one of mismatched easy chair by the desk.
It makes me feel outrage and guilt at the same time, this benevolent attitude of his. I wonder what he is playing at, or why he is playing at it. Does he think that I would not do my best if he did not play unnecessarily nice with me? Or is he compensating for what happened and what I might have heard the night past and the impromptu encounter with his oldest off-spring.
"The potion needs to be optimized for the next seven hours so I thought I would get some of the things out of the way before getting some rest."
For a moment I feel it would be better if I just left the paper I had written the questions on, with him.
But I know that would be the coward's way out, so I take a deep breath and open the portfolio and detach the self-inked quill from inside.
I look up at him to find him watching me intently and determinedly from the other side of the desk.
Suddenly, despite the very recent in-take of the Repressive potion, I feel as if my control is slipping and that we are sitting too far and too close at the same time.
I look down at the written paper in my hand and force myself out of the feeling of panic that is rising in my chest.
Stretched too thin.
I swallow everything down with a deep breath and look up to him, the healer in me finally getting space through the clutter of my psyche to surface.
"I have some questions for you and also some for your wife. The nature of these questions might be a bit too personal, but I insist that you answer them truthfully as your daughter's life may depend on it, also I will assure that whatever you wish to tell me will remain confidential between the two of us. I might change the course of my treatment according to these answers of yours, but I will swear upon my healer's oath to never disclose any information that you share with me."
He looks a little piqued for a moment, but then eventually that heavy brow turns determined.
It is amazing for a moment as I realize that in all my years of exile, I had not prepared for this at all and at the same time this has always been on my mind, burning in my veins. These questions, I do not know how he will answer them. I do not know what will be left of my already shredded heart when he tells me intimate details…
I break myself from the thought forcefully, looking to hold on to the thread like consistency of this war between my instinct as what I am and my instinct as a healer.
"Please, go ahead." He gestures at me seriously. Now all traces of the smile gone from his face, his eyes fixed on me, no judgement in them, only expectation.
"As I informed you of the kind of ailment that your daughter suffers from, her magical core being faulty, it is only natural that I inquire after the source of such a flaw. Magical core, as everyone knows, is 90% inheritance, so if your daughter has a problem in her magical core, it means that the problem is in composition of her core, which is closely related to the circumstances in which she was conceived."
His lips purse for a split second and he looks away for the first time. The silence is thick between us. He fidgets in his elegant chair and leans forward elbows on the table and palms pressed against his eyes.
"I think I know what you are hinting at…" he says after a few moments.
Then his palms leave his eyes and when the face uncovers, it is that of a broken and despairing man.
I can almost feel the alien sound scratching in my throat. A coo to comfort him.
"She was not planned. She was not planned at all, and I was so close to walking away from everything. Ginny felt it and I felt it, and I was just so angry all the time, I was…"
He pauses. And I am too steel covered to know how I feel about the words coming out of his mouth. The healer in me though, is hard at work.
"I…" he starts again, pain apparent on his face, and I can tell what he is about to tell me will not be…
"I had been having an affair…"
"I had been having an affair for a few months, but like my marriage, it was also not working out, so I had broken it off, I was angry and frustrated, because no matter… Do you know that feeling when you feel like you have been scooped out by a spoon, or as if there is a void in your chest and that you should be grieving something and don't know what it is. I am not trying to justify my infidelity, only trying to explain my situation. I was so emotionally compromised that even my magic was acting up, and during that particular week after the break up, I had a fight with Ginny, and I don't know what happened but a moment before, I was about to tear something apart and the next…"
An oppressive silence falls again as he hides again behind those steel hands. And I sit there watching and fighting the urge to punish someone.
The unfairness of it.
But this story is not mine and it needs to be told wholly. I have bigger matters to tend to.
"Were you in love with her?" I find myself asking.
He looks up again and frowns at the question.
"In love with Ginny?"
"No, I am asking about your lover."
"In love with Aidan?"
A male lover.
I feel it like a nail to the heart.
As if knowing he had a male lover just took him that much far from me in regards to the realm of possibility.
And at the same time, the fact that he might not have had constraints in sense of gender if there ever would have been a chance in a different world...
No, thinking like this would do no good at all.
"Yes, and was he a wizard?"
"No, I was not in love with Aidan and he was a squib, from a pure-blood family, but a squib."
I try to place the name somewhere in my memory but dismiss it.
"You were not in love with him, but still frustrated because of the breakup?"
"No, I was not frustrated because of the breakup. I was frustrated because even though I was having sex with two people, I still could not feel anything, and I wanted and wanted and my mind and body and core all wanted it so desperately but I just could not find it… I know how it sounds, I know how pathetic this excuse is, but, Draco, you have to understand, this is something that feels like it is the centre of my universe. I never cheated on Ginny again, I could not do it all over again and find myself just as much broken as I have always been. The guilt was like a brick in my gut, but I could not communicate with it in connection to my wife."
It is just as I thought, it is impossible to have things easy and simple when it comes to him.
"So your magic was fluctuating, and you were distressed, but not for obvious reasons which any one in your situation would be and you do not remember what exactly lead you to copulate with your wife and conceive a magical child…"
He looks a little terrified for a second as he processes that sentence and then bobs his head in agreement.
"All right, now we have the circumstances out of the way on your side. Tell me, do you remember exactly the day and date you think she was conceived and if you remember the details of that day in particular leading up to the event?"
"I am sure it was the 29th of March, I remember because it was Molly and Arthur's anniversary the day before and I had not gone to it, even though it was on a Sunday and my day off, but I did not want to see anyone. I could not even stand the sight of my own children so I was hiding here, the whole Sunday and half of Monday, before I had to go home because Ginny was floo-calling every 15 minutes and I was miserable and angry and so I had stormed-in and I remember it was precisely around 4 in the afternoon, when things started to go really out of control. It went on for two hours and it was different than when we had conceived both the boys. I am so sure about the accuracy of the event because, I was staying here for the next whole month and was not intimate with my wife again until at least a month later when the pregnancy was officially confirmed."
I realize that I have not written a word on the paper since he started speaking.
I also realize the tremor in my hands and the levy my emotions are about to break as my sharp mind, which I wish was slow for this moment, makes the obvious connections. I am glad that he had been staring at the fire for his whole narration, or God knows what he would have seen in this face of mine.
As if hearing my thoughts he looks back at me his large green eyes glassy, a small sad smile placed on those strange lips.
"She tied me back you know. If it was not for her, my marriage would have been over years ago. She chained me back and though it was never okay, we managed to trudge along with a semblance of so-called normalcy. But my marriage with Ginny has always been an obligation than desire, which is why it is falling apart now, if there was any left of it since Lily went to Hogwarts. Ginny said she did not want to get an official divorce, and I was always so afraid, because I had this illogical fear of losing my family and being alone again like I was in my childhood, and you won't believe it, but I only got over it in the past few days that you have been here."
"I saw you working your amazing magic and all of sudden I had this strange epiphany that it is all going to be okay. If you can turn around from such a heavy past and become what you have become and step out of the shadows of the past, so could I."
"Hmmm… never mind, I don't think I have as much time as you seem to have to brood over personal growth Potter."
I say standing up, wanting to leave the doom in the room. I need to be alone to process everything that has been said, and everything that cuts me, and everything that needs to be done now. So an appearance of nonchalance is what would be appropriate while I am still in control of myself.
"All I can say about that is congratulations and that I am glad to have inspired you for the better, if that is what you meant to get at in a strangely insulting way. Right now my concern is your daughter and I think you have given me enough to do some further testing on her even without the cooperation of your wife, so thank you…"
I am only a few steps from the door when his voice come floating into my ears and I find myself coming to a brutal stop.
"You were gone such a long time and I looked for you, you know, I looked for you for almost five years after you went missing."
I can hardly breath as my mind deciphers the words. Static, it is all static I can't make sense of. He looked for me? He looked for me for five years?
Before I can stop myself I am turning around and asking, asking, knowing that it will all just make it all the worse. My realizations are already an undeniable, inevitable truth in the back of my mind. In this room today, all of my fears have become reality. All of my pain has been cut through with the serrated knife of kindness.
"Why? Why look for me?"
He stands from his chair and walks towards me, his eyes fixed on me, sincere and deep. Desperate to make a connection. If only he knew the connection that is already there and how it has been the reason for all his daughter's suffering. If only he knew what will have to be sacrificed. He should not do this and I should walk out of here now, before he says something to make me greedy for a life I have never even allowed myself to dream of. But I am unable to move. Not when his eyes are fixed on me and he is standing only two feet away.
"Because of what happened at the Wizengamot after your trial. You wanted to say something to me and I did not hear you out and said some things I regretted a lot afterwards. I really had been looking to make things better with you, you know, but we always were gits when it came to each other and I should have kept my temper in check, and I was already very angry, because there was talk of me taking a bribe to come to your rescue at the trial and the Malfoy reputation did not help at all. I came to the manor two days later, but by then it was on lock down and you were not there anymore. But I did not start looking for you until a few months later when Severus' will was opened and you were left most of his possessions. What was it that you wanted to say Draco?"
'Only that I adored you, and wanted you for not just the being inside me that had chosen you, but for myself. That you were the reason why I breathed, and existed and fought through unlikely circumstances. That I would do anything and change anything if only you would just give me a chance. And that I would die if you did not.'
I want to say it all now. But at that very moment there is a knock on the door and in peeps Albus Severus Potter saying something about the potion, and I am following him out of the suffocating room.
After all the suffering and pain, I still wanted to say it all just moments ago. In his face. After burning for so long, I still want to dedicate what is left of me to him and claim him and be claimed by him. And for the first time, against all odds, I feel the oppressing possibility of it, a chance that it would happen. I could see it in his eyes, the confusion, the feeling, the connection. How cruel is fate that now I have only to put forward my hand and grab the life I have always desired and that only now, my hands are tied behind my back with the rope of inevitable death. My life for the Child's.
Because it is confirmed now, I am the reason behind all of that child's suffering. The spring of 2008 was when I had first tested my heat repressing potion. It had only been able to delay the heat for two weeks and by the end of March I was in the middle of one of my most intense and painful heats ever. 13 year old Aali had been so vigilant with me. Going to the monastery regularly and keeping my problem a secret from all but Healer Mumtaz, who had some experience with Veela heats but could not help much apart from keeping watch of Aali, keeping a watch on me.
I have only read in ancient texts that a rejected veela in special circumstances could have an effect on the mate during the heat over a short distance, but it was all very vague and strongly applied to female veela and male wizard couples. My situation is so unique that there are almost no precedents, which is why the decision is even more blaringly obvious. I cannot get technical about this. Not when a child's life hangs in the balance and especially when I have a single ritual in my inventory that could save the child's life without any dangerous side-effect and risks.
The cost of it is something I had been ready for from the moment I got that letter.
I smile and look into the cauldron where the potion has turned a Translucent golden. Perfectly done.
This potion will help largely in her recovery, and strengthening of her magical core once it is fixed.
As I pour it out in seven vials and drop the silver leaf in before stoppering them, I think of another small vial tucked inside my satchel just a few floors above me with a liquid gold potion inside it.
I realize that I would use it for the last ever ritual of my life. A little bit of luck cannot go wrong.
(December 26th 2020 - 3:00pm)
"Granger." I acknowledge her presence without wanting to.
When she simply stands next to me staring outside the window, down in the back garden Mini-Granger and Arthur are scanning through the frozen garden plants for something their grandmother asked them to look for, while Albus stands by the swings with his boyfriend their eyes fixed on each other for past 2 minutes without each of them saying a word. Just holding each other. As if Albus is soaking strength from his lover. I wonder how that feels just to stand there and look into your lover's eyes.
"My daughter is extremely impressed of your skills in healing and I must tell you that she is not easily impressed."
"More like her mother than just her face then." I say simply taking a sip from my mug of sweetened tea."
"I think she is better. Better than I ever was as a person especially for trusting you so explicitly when you have given her all the reason to. I, on the other hand, cannot help my scepticism. But I will give myself a little leeway in this situation, because I have known you longer and in very different circumstances."
"You only think you knew me back then Granger, but I doubt that you did."
"No, I did not know you Malfoy, but I did have you figured out. And you only proved my theories about you right as years went past, which is why, I come with to you now with my concerns."
I look at her for the first time. Feeling the sharp edge of being figured out for the first time after a long time.
"There is something, some ulterior motive of you being here now and doing all this, something you are not telling us, something you are hiding."
She pauses and looks at me for the first time.
"I am not going to insult you and say that I suspect some kind of revenge on your part. I know that is not it. And I know that you are sincere about healing her. But there is something else there too. I have never seen someone make an unbreakable vow so easily and devastatingly. You are in some kind of a fix. I can feel it and while I can ignore it and look the other way since we are getting what we want out of this, I cannot."
We look at each other for a long silent moment. I see the sincerity and determination in her face. I realize that I have never really looked at her so close and proper. I can almost touch the solid offer of confidentiality that she is presenting me with. A new hope, a different kind of friendship. And it would be good, if we could be friends. But I don't have any time left. I wish I could apologize for all the hurtful things I used to say to her, but it is all too late, and Granger was always one of those people who understood and accepted without bringing words into play.
"You cannot do anything about it. If there was even a small possibility, I would have asked it of you, of all the people in this house and perhaps in this world Granger, I would have asked you. I had you figured out too you see. But, there is nothing you can help me out of. It is just the way things are."
She looks deep into my eyes for a few more moments and then nods taking a deep breath. Coming to an understanding.
"Thank you for the offer though. It means a lot to me."
She smiles sadly and touches my arm with some hesitance.
I turn back to look out of the window and look down at the children in the garden again only now Albus and Leo are sitting on the bench by the swing with Rose, helping her sort her frozen herb collection into a small napkin while Arthur swings idly on the swings looking almost like an eskimo.
"She told me that you call her Granger, because you can't stand to give any praise to someone named Weasley."
I can hear the amusement in her voice.
"Despite all the insults, I did always compliment you too Granger, I did always call you a know-it-all, and it is not an insult."
"I never took it as such, not from anyone, not even from you."
"I had no such intrigues with Weasley though…"
She giggles at that, reminding me of her in school days.
"Oh he did not have any intrigues regarding you either."
"What a relief…"
She smiles benignly for a few moments before her face turns solemn again.
"Harry is trusting you with his most prized possession Malfoy, I only hope you will do your best like you have promised."
"It's not like I have not made an unbreakable vow now, is it Granger?"
"You suggested it, you offered it and it was you, yourself, who undermined the value of a simple promise."
"That was because I was settled on saving her life even before I made the vow, that vow was not for me."
"No, it was for the rest of us, and all I can say is sorry. Sorry that we are not better by much. That we still have these insecurities."
"It's all well and good. I knew what I was getting into when I got the letter."
"And what exactly have you gotten yourself into Malfoy?"
"A situation where the chances of my success are hundred per cent."
"That confident are you?"
"You have no idea Granger."
"That is rarely the case." Pipes in Potter as he comes out of nowhere and sets a plate of Jam biscuits on the windowsill.
I don't deign to look at him. Because I probably won't be able to look away and I don't want to give anything away to Granger. Especially when the last dose of potion was 13 hours ago.
"So, when are you going to administer the potion." He asks squeezing himself between Granger and I. I give him a sideways look and notice he is much more relaxed right now than he has been in the past two days.
I feel them both looking at me strangely and think about what I just uttered.
"I mean, at sunset."
"Because of the added Silver yes?"
I am impressed that she noticed and made a connection at all.
"Best of luck."
I don't answer, only look away.
I know that luck has nothing to do with it. Not with this at least.
(December 31st 2020 - 8:00pm)
The knock on the door brings me out of my reverie.
I place the papers I have been staring at for the past hour inside their unassuming cover and put them in the desk drawer before I stand to open the door.
It is Junior Potter, and from the bounce in his steps just outside the door, he seems anxious.
I unlock the door by a gesture of my hand before sitting back down.
He enters and stands by the door.
I look up at him to find him with a nervous smile.
"Yes Potter, what is it?"
"Err… I was wondering if you would like to join us all upstairs for dinner?"
"I would prefer to have it here, thank you." I say as dismissively as I can manage.
"Err... It was just that… It's New Year's Eve and, it is family tradition to gather in one place from dinner until you know…"
"I'm waiting for you to make a point."
I know I am much more harsher than I should be. It is a generous offer. But I have had it with generosity and with endurance and with sacrifice.
"We would like you to be there too? Since it is a family tradition?"
I know he is not to blame. I know he does not deserve my rude refusal that I am about to give him, but I cannot let him or anyone in this house come closer to me than they already have.
Despite all that is happening, I need space and I need a quick retreat when all is done.
I know I feel drawn to his children because there is a part of him in them. I know if circumstances were any better, I would have embraced them as my own, despite of what they represented.
But there is no way. No possibility where I come intact out of this to make any connections.
I turn away from him because I cannot face him while I say what I am about to say.
"You and your family will never stop being idiots will you? I am not a part of your family, so your family traditions don't apply to me. If it was not for your sister's life I am doubtful that I would even be allowed in, not that I would ever try to visit here. I have much more important things on my plate than your stupid family traditions and I genuinely do not care. So please do not waste your energy and sentiments on me. I am not one of your stupid uncles and I have already gone too much out of my way to stay in the place where they frequent."
I turn around to find two pairs of green eyes staring at me. One hurt, the other furious.
He clasps a strong hand on the shoulder of his son. Who startles and turns around quickly before nodding slightly and making his way out of the room leaving both of us alone.
The silence fills the room once the boy is gone. Deep inside I am trembling with excitement strangely enough.
I do not know what is coming next. But it is as if my insides desire fire and blood. I want to goad him, tease and taunt him until he loses control and beats me to a pulp. I want to take a bite out of him.
This has been brewing between us for past four days since the day after Christmas when he told me he had looked for me.
I want to tell him, I want to taunt him with the fact that it was his cruelty and temperament that lead to where his daughter is today. That it is me because of who she suffers. I want to show him the hell I have been through and a part of me wants him to burn in it. To feel the burn, the rejection, the anger, the despair. I want to laugh at the cruel justice of our situation. I want to laugh at him for the strange form of retribution that has come for all my fighting. It was my Veela magic drawing on his across the continent and ocean that has led to this disaster. It is all my fault and in turn his fault and in turn my fault again. A vicious cycle for which he has only started to suffer now, whilst I have been suffering for past twenty years.
And they talk about fucking family traditions!
How many New Year's eves have I spent alone and looking out at the world, without a chance of coming home? Seeing people in their homes with their loved ones shining golden with happiness and knowing there was nothing but cold darkness waiting for me? How many New year's eves when I shivered in cold just to be numb enough to not feel the pain, while he sat by the hearth filled with laughter and bathed with love? And now, now when finally I do have a patchwork family, I will die before another New Year's eve arrives when it could have been Aali, Sarah and I with a little child to be a family with. All because…
"I cannot believe you, after everything Malfoy? How could you do that to him? He worships the ground you walk on, how could you be so cruel to him? All he asked you was to join us for dinner, you could have declined politely too."
"I am here to heal your daughter Potter, not to coddle your fully grown son. I do not have to answer politely to anyone if I do not want to."
"You are a total git you know that? I cannot figure you out any farther than that. You are total and utter git."
"Oh! Potter! Such strong words, I am dying of the poison of your impoliteness, never have my innocent ears heard such a word as 'git'! What will I ever do to become a non-git in eyes of Saint Harry James Potter!"
"Right! I finally remember why I have always hated you Malfoy. I was starting to forget, but thank you, I remember again now."
"Yes you are bound to forget things with the pea-sized brain that you have Potter. I, on the other hand have never had to remember because I have always known and never forgotten. You should put it down on a nice piece of parchment and frame it and put it on your wall."
"Put what on my wall?"
I look at him incredulously only to see his breath breaking into a snort which in turn breaks into a laugh, and unexpectedly I can feel it building in my chest too and it breaks out before I can control it.
A genuine laugh. It is as if compartments of my chest are opening with the pressure of the hilarity and absurdity, I had forgotten how to laugh. And he is laughing with me, eyes shining and creased, mouth wide open and head shaking. And I cannot help the tears that are starting to stream out of my eyes. Because it is so absurd. All of it. There is no reason for me to not take what is given to me so freely. Twenty New year's eves cannot be forgiven or forgotten, but there is no harm in celebrating the twenty first with everything it comes with. Why am I fighting this? Still so afraid of the pain, when that is all there has been, why not embrace a little relief too. Why not live for a day? Why fight now when I have surrendered? Why fight happiness even if it is for a moment. At least have something to hold in your heart until it beats its last. Anything other than pain. Memories, laughter, joy, as short as it may be. After all, is that not a form of love too?
It takes us a while before both of us can control it and I find both of us sitting on the foot of the bed side by side. I can see the side of his face flushed and a red ear as we finally catch our breath. And then he looks at me in a way that shows such strange kind of fondness that my heart skips a beat.
"Please come! I promise there are no fixed courses and you can have mince pies with the Turkey and stew for main course."
"I cannot possibly say no to that, even if I will have to endure the whole train of Weasleys for that."
"I don't even wear glasses anymore!"
"You'll always be a specky git."
He snickers like we never did as teenage boys and it's catching.
A flash of thought crosses my mind regarding the papers in the drawer titled 'Last will and testament of Draco Lucius Malfoy'.
I cannot help but shrug it away. I have a boy to make up to for my rudeness, and a New year's eve to celebrate.