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A Man Barely Breathing by Dark Whisper
Format: Short story
Chapter 1: Malfoy vs. Malfoy - A File for Divorcement
“A Man Barely Breathing”
Written for crestwood’s… "The Eminem Challenge."
"You ever love somebody so much… you can barely breathe when you’re with them?"
~ Marshall Mathers… aka EMINEM from Love the Way You Lie
That’s how I felt about my wife. She always did have that effect on me, taking my breath away, even now… on the very date we are to be Divorced.
It pains me to say the word.
Ours was always a love and hate relationship. And right now, I am loving her to death… and hating what she is doing to us.
I told her from the beginning that I wouldn’t stop her from doing anything that she wanted. And I meant that.
And now, Hermione is leaving me and I only blame myself.
The reason is insanely stupid. She is leaving me because of my money.
Most women would be clinging to me because of it, but not her. That’s why I fell in love with her in the first place. She wasn’t like every other woman.
She would never marry someone because they had money. No, instead she would leave them because of it.
Everyone in the magical world knew that my family had always had money. It was well documented in the Daily Prophet. Headlines would report on ‘Malfoy’s Daily Profit.’
It was true. Wealth had been passed down through the generations and we always managed to add to it and build it up to what it is today… a ridiculous amount of money.
I had a problem with it, though. I wanted to make my own, separate from the Malfoy Family Trust.
I was accused of being a spoiled rich playboy, undeserving of my money, status, and lifestyle ever since I was born. And I wanted to change that. Not really for the world to think differently, but for myself. I wanted to prove to myself that I could earn my way through life and not just skate through it.
I know it sounds stupid, especially now that I’m finally admitting it. But the higher the amount I had on my personal Gringotts Bank statement, the better I felt about myself.
Making my own net worth was directly connected to my self-worth.
After my first million earned, I decided on a secret goal… one that I told no one about, not even her.
For I, Draco Malfoy, was an ambitious fool. I wanted to become the youngest billionaire in the history of the magical world.
And I was well on my way to reaching it when she left and filed for divorce.
It wasn’t because I spent too much time working late or that I went on extensive business trips. I made sure to balance my time with her very carefully.
But I had crossed certain lines of business ethics. All legal of course, but my business dealings sometimes put good hard-working people out of work... sometimes an unfortunate consequence in the business world.
She told me of things that would happen to her as she went to Diagon Alley or the Leaky Cauldron to meet up with friends.
People that had loved her for who she was; being part of the ‘Golden Trio’… had now turned against her. They would say, “The Malfoys don’t need a Dark Lord to destroy lives. They only need to take people’s jobs and their livelihoods to destroy entire families.”
Hermione was horrified. She wanted to tell them that she would make it right… that somehow she would help them. But she couldn’t make that promise.
And she grew ashamed on such a level that she couldn’t bear to look at me anymore. At least, look at me with love and adoration as she used to.
No, instead she was ashamed, ashamed of our money, ashamed of being a Malfoy… and especially ashamed of me, her husband.
It had started as an argument, which we had plenty of those. It was our way of life. Argue, have fun making up, argue about something else.
But one day it all changed. We stopped having fun making up. We just stopped making up altogether… until it was only arguing.
We argued so much that even a conversation about the weather would somehow end up in a fight. And I didn’t want that. Eventually, I just stopped talking for fear of saying the wrong thing.
And she did the same.
If anyone knows me at all, they would know that I could go weeks without speaking to anyone. I had no problem with it.
But Hermione not having anything to say was… well… for the lack of a better word…scary. Like she’d become someone opposite of who she really was.
In hindsight... not arguing, not talking was the worst thing that happened to our marriage. Because shortly after we stopped speaking, we stopped touching.
When we were in bed, I would try to run my fingers across her arm, but she would only pull away.
That’s when her effect on me was most obvious.
I would lie in bed next to her, loving her so much, that being so close to her and not be able to touch her… I could barely breathe, knowing full well she would reject me if I made any attempt at intimacy.
I was afraid that if I touched her or got too close, she would leave and sleep in one of the many guest rooms. I couldn’t bear the thought of her not sleeping in the same bed with me. I couldn’t. So I didn’t dare touch her. I would just lie there, barely breathing.
There were days that I would lie with her wishing, begging, screaming at her in my head for her to touch me… even if accidentally. I would’ve taken an accidental brushing of her hand to mine, but there was nothing.
The final straw came when the Daily Prophet linked yet another store closing to me because of a business deal that I had been involved with a year earlier. I didn’t know it was going to happen. How could I? The deal happened a year before. There was nothing I could’ve done, short of buying the place to keep it open, which I didn’t.
After that, she stopped having dinner with me. That’s when I finally realized that I had truly lost her.
She became too ashamed to eat with me.
At first I waited. The dinner was on the table, but she didn’t show. It all grew cold as I waited. The grand table sat twenty. I felt ridiculous being the only soul sitting at it.
After awhile, I was beginning to think that maybe something bad had happened to her. I just sat there, waiting. And just as I was about to call Potter to help me find her, that’s when she finally showed up.
I heard her heels clicking on the marble floor and I was happy for a moment. But the happiness quickly turned to hurt as she walked right passed the dining room and proceeded directly to the stairs… without so much as a glance at me.
After a week of not having dinner with me, she did as I had feared and began sleeping in a guest room.
What could I do about it? I couldn’t force her to sleep with me.
One night, I went to her new room, desperately missing her. When I walked in, she was brushing her hair as she sat on the bed.
“What do you want?” she asked curtly.
I was surprised she spoke to me at all.
I wanted to tell her exactly what I wanted.
I wanted her stop this madness, come to our marriage bed, and let me make love to her.
But being the insane coward that I am, I couldn’t bring myself to say any of it.
Instead, I could only manage one sentence as she was taking my breath away yet again… seeing her wearing the black silk pajama top that I gave her two wedding anniversaries ago. It fit her perfectly as it hung loosely from her shoulders and dropped to mid-thigh.
She had put it on for me that same night and it was my pleasure in the middle of it to slip it off of her.
“I just wanted to know… if you needed anything.” Like maybe… me, I thought. Did she need me like I needed her?
“No. I don’t,” she answered blankly as she continued her brushing.
I managed to nod my head at her short, three-word response just before I left.
For a month I sat in a chair in her room and watched her as she slept.
It was a comfortable high-back chair and I would fall asleep in it, but I’d wake if I heard her stirring so that I could slip out before she knew I was there.
It was a mystery to me how she could sleep as if none of this was effecting her.
And even though I am a man, I will admit to shedding a few tears watching her sleep without me by her side.
I really lost it one day though, the day she left in the morning and didn’t come back.
I had gone down to breakfast, hoping in vain that she would join me.
What I found on my plate was more than I could bear.
It was her wedding ring… sitting on my otherwise empty fine-bone China, gold-rimmed plate.
I sat staring at it for a long time, willing it to go away. Wanting it to be a hallucination instead of the real thing.
She had given it back to me in the same manner that I had given it to her.
I had it ready for her, sitting on her breakfast plate the very first morning that she had spent the night with me. I had no doubt that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.
Without words she had said ‘yes’ to me. Her reaction was one of happy tears as she put it on her finger and kissed me, a most loving kiss.
And now, without words, she was giving it back to me… on my breakfast plate, no less.
After some time, I pulled out the necklace I was wearing from under my shirt. It held a silver Slytherin Alumni pendent. I unlatched it, adding her wedding ring alongside it and put it back on, tucking it back under my shirt.
For a minute I thought I was going to be okay. I felt emotionally numb sitting alone yet again at the huge table. But I think I was numb because my mind hadn’t quite registered what had just happened.
My hand went to my chest as I felt her cold ring resting against my skin, directly over my heart.
And that’s when I lost it.
I won’t go into too many details… but at first I didn’t have any tears.
Everything around me crashed, just as my marriage had crashed around me. The metaphor came to life as things literally began shattering. Everything but our wedding picture, that is. I wouldn’t allow anything to happen to it. It was much too precious.
My soul cried out then. The sound of it made the house elves in the place come running to make sure I wasn’t wounded from all the crashing.
I was physically fine of course, but wounded none the less, as my heart felt like it was suffering the stabs of a thousand knives.
“Master, are you al...”
“You will leave me alone!” I yelled at them. And being the excellent house elves they were, they did as I demanded.
That night, I wasn’t even sure where to sleep. I could no longer stand to sleep in my bed. Knowing that by choice, she would never be there again. It seemed that in some strange way, I no longer had need of it.
I would sleep on any couch or reclining chair in the place. I even slept outside on the swing she had wanted for her birthday.
She said she wanted a porch swing like she used to have at her Muggle house. But the Manor didn’t have a porch, so I had a very large gazebo built for it. The octagon shape building was made of stone and had large columns to match the house and was topped with a copper roof graced by a pointed Malfoy Family Crest as a weather vain.
Because of its size it was more like an ‘outdoor living space’ as she called it. It had cooling fans for hot days, a fireplace for cool nights, a stainless grill for cookouts, a full refrigerated bar for entertaining, and of course… her porch swing built for two.
When she saw it with the biggest pink birthday bow I could conjure sitting on top of it, her eyes grew wide and her hands went to her cheeks.
“You spoil me!” she had voiced in delight as she grabbed my hand and began running toward it. “You must try it with me!” she cried out excitedly. “Come on!”
We spent the night there… talking… swinging… surrounded by a hundred hovering candles. I sat up, while she rested half on me, half on the swing. We talked of our early years at Hogwarts and how we never in a million years would’ve ever thought that the two of us would be spending the night together on a swing.
I teased her, “Of course we never would’ve guessed it. We didn’t even know what an ‘outdoor living space’ was back then.”
She giggled at what I said as she entwined her fingers into mine.
“I don’t deserve this,” she told me.
“I don’t deserve you.”
How could we have been so happy and it all come down to this? I asked myself as I woke on the swing, catching the sunrise over the apple orchard.
I pretty much stopped living when she left.
Even money no longer mattered. I didn’t care to work another business deal for as long as I lived. I forgot what the point of it was. Oh, yes… to feel good about myself. What a perfectly Slytherin, foul, selfish reason to ruin my marriage.
I canceled all appointments. I shut down my office and told my staff they could all go home and consider themselves on vacation until further notice.
Blaise stopped by almost immediately after that.
“You’re not allowed to cancel appointments with me. You know this,” he said, trying to make light-hearted conversation. “You look like crap by the way. What’d you do, sleep outside?”
“Actually, I did.”
“Well go get a shower before I hose you down.”
“I showered. I just haven’t shaved in awhile.”
“Don’t stop living, Draco. I don’t want to have to come here kick your arse out of bed every morning. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again if I have to. That’s what friends do.”
“Speaking of… will you do me a favor?” I asked.
“You stood as my best man at my wedding. Will you sit as my best friend at my… divorce? I’m afraid you might have to kick me out of bed that day because I don’t know that I’ll be able to get up. You just might have to drag my heavily inebriated body to court and stand with me at the end of a different kind of aisle.”
“I will,” he promised. “As long as you don’t get sick on my dragon leather shoes,” he replied with a look of understanding.
“Thanks, friend,” I said as we exchanged our old Slytherin handshakes and pats on the back.
After he left, I still didn’t shave. I didn’t feel like it.
I sat there looking at the gold band on my left hand, wondering if I’d ever be able to bring myself to take it off… like she did hers.
Just when I was wondering how easy it was for her to remove the symbol of my undying love, I felt it… a hint of an old feeling… one of hate toward a girl named “Granger.”
But it didn’t stay long. I loved her. I just hated what she was doing. “Hate the sin, not the sinner,” she would say.
I learned so much from her.
I decided then that as soon as the divorce was final, I was going to burn her birthday present to the ground. It would serve as an enormous reminder in my back yard that we had been happy once.
But the burning of it actually was to prevent the unthinkable. If I were to attempt to move on with someone else, I couldn’t bear the thought of another woman in her swing. It was hers and hers alone, built for her. And no other woman was allowed on it. I’d watch it burn before I would let that happen.
I was in a headfirst dive during the weeks leading up to the divorce date. My thoughts were dark, but not toward her. They were only directed at myself.
Honestly, I slept a lot, just not in our bed. Sometimes I’d sleep in my old room, the one I grew up in. Sleep is an excellent time killer and I liked being unconscious. It was like a drug taking my pain away. If I had nightmares about my Death Eater past, they were still better than the reality that I was living in.
My days and nights were quickly screwed up and at rare instances when I actually had an appetite, I would eat at the oddest of times. Usually I had no idea what day it was.
I did have thoughts of suicide, but not as you might think, as my Slytherin ‘self-preservation’ would never allow me to go through with it.
It’s just that I never really understood why anyone would want to take their own life. But that was before I knew what heart ache really was. I was baffled to find that it is, in fact, a very real and true experience, felt in the chest, right at the heart that just sits there… aching.
After about a week of feeling it, it was only then that I understood why someone would want to die.
I also began drinking myself into oblivion. And thanks to my best friend, Blaise, being there when I did it… sometimes at my place, sometimes at his, I didn’t have to worry about meeting my demise at the end of a bottle.
I was a mess on a new level of low.
For I, the rich and powerful Draco Malfoy had been reduced to 'A Man Barely Breathing.'
I am a quiet fan of Marshall Mathers and I could not pass up this chance to write a story using a quote of his. My fic has nothing to do with the song the quote came from, but I was inspired as soon as I read his words. He is an amazing artist and I hope that I do not bring embarrassment to him by posting this story.