“…so the fish bowl was knocked over, right, and at first Teddy didn’t notice, and Andy was still in the kitchen, so it wasn’t until she heard Teddy scream that she saw the goldfish flapping about on the floor—”
Draco laughed. “And did she get the fish back into the bowl?”
“Of course she did.” Harry laughed, too, a sound full of statics on the other side of the telephone. “But Teddy was frightened, I think. His ears are now goldfish fins and they wouldn’t turn back. He’s been hiding in his room.”
“Shouldn’t you go see him?”
“He won’t see anybody.” Harry sighed. A noise came from the other side, as though he was shifting, was stretching his legs. “Andy is making pudding after dinner. Says that’ll probably bribe him out.”
“It’ll bribe you, is who it’ll bribe.”
“Hey,” Harry laughed, “Teddy likes sweets, too.”
Draco smiled. Harry’s laughter was warm and familiar, even through the messy statics over the wire. He clutched the phone closer to his chin and let out a soft breath.
“And you?” Harry asked. His voice softened. “How was today?”
Draco couldn’t remember why they had decided that living separately was better. It was so stupid, thinking about it now. One day they were talking late into the night, and the next the Ministry issued a lock-down for the dragon pox that had spread out of control and banned Apparation and the Floo altogether. Harry had been staying with Aunt Andromeda and Teddy, had been invited over the long weekend, so that was where he was, now—leaving Draco alone in his miserable flat with gilded Chippendale furniture and heavy bookshelves, the winter sky pale and gloomy outside the window.
Draco swallowed and tried to smile, even though Harry couldn’t see him. It fell. “It’s alright. I started another book.”
“Is it the one you talked about before? The one about the painting of a bird?”
“It’s a goldfinch,” Draco said, twisting the telephone cord between his fingers. “No, it’s another one. It’s about a detective.”
“Tell me about it.”
Draco smiled. “Like a bedtime story? Shall I make sure you’re tucked in and kiss you goodnight?”
Harry laughed. “That would be nice. I’m sure you’re good at it.”
They had been talking over the phone every day. At first it was Harry who called, Draco rushing down the hall and skidding over the corner whenever the old telephone on the wall rang, but then he couldn’t stand it anymore: the silence, staring unseeingly at the lines of a page, waiting for the phone to ring at any moment—a fog pressing at the back of his mind, an unconscious notion. The air strained. The ring would come wrecking through anytime now, deafening—his muscles strung tight, ready to leap out of the settee. He was so sick of it, so tired. So he copied down Aunt Andromeda’s telephone number one night, carefully, number by number, and called the next day. And the next, and the next. Waiting for Harry to pick up, for the loud clack that came just before his voice, the little tilt at the end when he asked hello? Then the warmth that came with recognition—Draco.
How he missed hearing his own name from Harry’s mouth.
They fell into comfortable silence. Draco looked out of the window, stretching his legs out in the nook. It was dusk, the sky bruised with a streak of yellow.
“Have you shaved?” he asked out of the blue.
“No,” Harry said without delay, as though he, too, had been waiting. “I shaved two days ago.”
“Do you have stubble?”
“Yes.” There was a smile in Harry’s voice. “If I kissed you now, your chin would be ruddy after.”
Draco took a sharp breath. From the phone came only silent, swarming statics.
“Tell me about it,” Draco said, quiet and frantic and desperate. He could barely breathe. “Harry—”
“Fuck,” Harry whispered. A quick huff into the telephone, a broken attempt at a laugh. “Fuck, Draco. I want—oh god. I want to see you. I want to cook dinner in the kitchen with you, I want to wake up next to you in the morning, I…I miss you. So bad. Fuck, Draco, I miss you. I want to touch you, I want—”
Harry’s voice broke. Draco clutched the phone, tight with fright. “Harry. Harry, are you crying?”
“No,” Harry sobbed. “No, I’m not crying.”
“Harry. Harry. Don’t cry, Harry.”
“I won’t.” Harry sniffed, inhaled and exhaled deeply. His voice was thick and wet even through the statics. “I won’t. I’m not crying now.”
“I miss you, too, Harry.”
Harry broke again. “Goddamn it, Draco!”
“It’s okay. It’s okay.” Draco’s voice thickened. Clutching the telephone close to his mouth, he took a shuddery breath. “I miss you. Darling, my darling. My love. I miss you so much.”
“I miss you,” Draco continued, “I miss you.” It was a chant, as though with every repetition it eased the pain however slightly. “I miss you. I miss you.”
“I wish I could kiss you right now,” Draco said. “I wish I could see you right now, you and your snotty face. I’d take it all.”
“Hey!” Harry laughed, wet. “You love my snotty face.”
“I do.” Draco laughed, too, soft. “I do, my love. I do.”
Slowly, on the other side of the phone, Harry quieted down. Draco stroked the smooth metallic surface of the telephone. After the mess of a confession he felt numb and fuzzy, a little tired.
Outside the window, a raven glided against the dusk and settled in an empty tree.
“When this is all over,” Harry said, inhaling—letting the air out in a whoosh, the statics swarming crazily in Draco’s ears. His voice was low and slow. Draco imagined him looking out of a window, too, looking out at rural England under the same fading sky. “When this is all over, I am going to take you out. I am going to Apparate to your flat so fast you won’t even notice, and I am going to kidnap you.”
Draco laughed, curling into the nook. “Why do you need to kidnap me?”
“Just for the surprise of it all.”
“Yeah,” Harry said, a smile in his voice. “I am going to take you to Wales, just like the first time we went out together. Remember? I’ll take you to that ice cream shop again, and I’ll order raspberry-flavor for you. It’s going to be such a nice day, the sky is going to be so clear. The air is going to be so fresh. It’s going to be such a beautiful day.”
“And are you going to steal my ice cream again, just like that time?”
“Yes,” Harry laughed, “and I am going to be a gentleman about it. I will offer you mine, and you will take a bite, and you will say, oh, my, this is delicious. I am going to order that one this time. And I’ll be flustered and tell you no, don’t bother—and I will give mine to you.”
Draco smiled, abashed, even though Harry cannot see. They fell into comfortable silence again. Draco did not feel the need to hang up. Outside the window the night had fallen, the early hours of the dark, a tinge of light still lingering—as though the colors had not yet spilled fully, were still drifting to cover the side of a house, the tip of a thin branch.
The statics was a soft noise in his ear. Harry was on the other side, listening, too, to the same noise.