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The Rules of Matchbreaking

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~The Rules of Matchbreaking~

❣ Prologue ❣ 

Do you know of any Matchbreakers? Some may not be aware that such a professional even exists, although believe me, they're plentiful and around.

Those suddenly and unexpectedly failed romances? The ones that come with descriptors such as amicable, or surprising, or—my personal favourite—uncoupled (whether done consciously or not)?

If you look closely, chances are you'll discover most were the consequence of a Matchbreaker’s hard work.

I know that some of you may look down upon such a profession, as the world is already filled with temptation at every turn. But were you aware that Matchbreaking is a job that requires intelligence, intuitiveness, and compassion for everyone involved?

The truth is that it takes a certain kind of person to be an accomplished Matchbreaker. One must be confident yet discreet; charming and witty; and graceful enough to navigate a variety of social settings. Skill in the art of flirtation is a definite plus, as is a strong moral code.

You may have noticed that I've yet to mention anything remotely related to sex.

As any Matchbreaker worth their salt will tell you, there are ten basic rules to the profession. These rules were designed to optimise the chances of Matchbreaking success while minimising the collateral damage to both the Matchbreaker and their client:

Yes, ten is a repeat as well. Because despite the importance of rules two through nine, every Matchbreaking assignment begins and ends with this.

Of course, there are always those who will stray from such wisdom despite knowing the risks.

Even at the risk of failure, their credibility, and their own heart.

❣ Never Fall in Love ❣

Draco frowned as he stared into his tea. The smokiness of the lapsang souchong was tainted by the hint of bergamot and vanilla, an unnecessary muddling of the pine and whiskey flavours which made the tea so special. The drink had devolved into a product that catered to the saccharine tastes of the typical consumer, the ones who frequented the pop-up cafés that dotted the Muggle footpaths like weeds. There was no appreciation for the subtleties of the leaf, of those things that made one particular tea so wonderfully unique.

Appreciating such notable qualities seemed to be Draco’s focus nowadays, albeit in a setting far from the culinary realm. He rearranged the napkin over his lap and sighed. Perhaps he would be safer with an Assam, or even better, an Earl Grey; at least the compulsion to adulterate their classic profiles would be less tempting. He dug his fork into the ramekin which sat in front of him and scooped up his duck egg, along with some bits of ham and sage.

“Draco!”

Draco startled, the movement causing his fork to jolt. He watched in dismay as the yolk broke and slid back into the dish, a thick and viscous mess.

His face pulled into a moue. “That’s quite alright, Pans. I wasn’t planning on—”

“Forget about your breakfast, there are more important matters at hand. Did you hear the news?!” Pansy opened the pages of the Prophet to the gossip section, folding it onto itself and then in half. “Look!” she hissed, jabbing her finger at the photo. “Beaumont Heir Breaks Off Engagement with American Actress. If you can even call her that,” she sniffed.

“Please, darling. You’re just upset that she got to him first.” Draco moved Pansy’s finger to the side to get a better view. Justin Beaumont’s apologetic expression was quickly replaced by that of shock, courtesy of a glass of Cheval Blanc.

The photo looped once more; Draco dragged his eyes away from Justin’s handsome face as it was doused again in the expensive Bordeaux. He picked up his cup and peered into the overly sweet liquid in an effort to hide from Pansy’s astute gaze.

“That hardly matters anymore, at any rate. Perhaps Justin needs some consoling.” Pansy tugged at her dress, causing the décolletage to dip even lower. There was a thundering crash followed by a dismayed cry as their waiter stumbled, upending his tray and depositing a dish of caviar and blinis onto the floor.

“And you think you’re the person to do it?” Draco let out a low laugh as Pansy lifted a brow. “Oh, darling. Even you, with all your considerable assets, won’t be enough to give that boy what he truly needs.”

“Draco Lucius Malfoy, you spent all of last weekend with Justin at Château de Pierre. If you know something, you’re telling me now.”

Draco kept his face blank despite Pansy’s beseeching look. He wished that he could. He wished he could tell Pansy that her years-old pash was an exercise in futility and that even a great set of tits and magical fanny wasn’t going to do the trick.  He wished he could tell her that all it took was a week of mild flirtation and a sympathetic ear for the bent heir to Maison Valmath to realise that hiding behind the facade of a storybook romance was no way to live. Draco wished that he could tell her that when all was said and done, not only was Justin free of a fiancée, but the Lord and Lady Beaumont were rid of a social-climbing golddigger, and Draco’s Gringotts account was coincidentally thirty-thousand Galleons richer.

Thirty-thousand Galleons. For one week’s work.

Draco wished he could, but he couldn't. As much as he adored Pansy, gossiping was more than just a social sport, it was her lifeblood. To burden his best friend with such unspeakable secrets would be terribly unfair, not to mention the fallout it would create for Draco’s clients, whose continued happiness depended on his utmost discretion.

He returned to his egg. “I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about,” Draco drawled as he slathered the drippings over a piece of toast, watching as it softened and turned a pale yellow. “All I know is that Beaumont’s got too much money at his disposal and too many things to explore to think about settling down with any woman in the near future.”

Pansy reached across the table. She smiled, but there was a wistfulness behind it.

“Are we destined to spend the rest of our lives alone, Draco, contenting ourselves with our monthly brunches and only each other’s company?”

Draco hesitated. “At least it’s good company to be in.” He glanced down at the open page of the Prophet, his eyes alighting on the photo which occupied the bottom corner.

“Speaking of which, it appears as if Lucas Picquery and the American Quidditch team are in town for an exhibition match. I’m told that his skills in the bedroom are considerably better than those on the pitch.” He smiled as Pansy studied Picquery’s picture, pausing to stare at his washboard abs and trouser fronts with a particularly avid look.

“I find that I have a sudden renewed interest in spectator sports. Draco, the entire American team is quite appealing. Why don’t you join me next Saturday? Seeing as you swing both ways, you’ve twice the opportunity to meet your match.”

“Twice the opportunity for disappointment and heartbreak as well.” He gave Pansy’s hand a squeeze, then picked up his toast. “Remember, it’s just a spot of fun. Don’t go losing your heart to someone who spends half of the year chased by their adoring fans on the road.”

After all, love was a fool’s errand, and Draco suspected that his line of work made him an expert on that sentiment more than most.

~❣~

“Draco!”

Draco looked up from the book he was reading, resisting the urge to fidget as his glasses inched down his nose.

“Millicent,” he drawled as Millicent’s head popped through the Floo. “It seems to be a pattern this week, having women scream my name. Yet oddly enough, they’ve all been fully clothed.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, darling. I do like blondes, but you’re not my type.”

Draco clasped his hand to his chest. “I’m wounded. I thought I was everyone's type.” He placed his book on the side table and rested his glasses on top. “How is the lovely Luna, anyway?”

A smile softened Millicent’s face. “Good. She returned from Fiji yesterday. She’s been studying the effects of the solar eclipse on the shape-shifting properties of the Dukuwaqa.”

“Your girlfriend, whom you haven’t seen for a month, has just returned to London and is very likely naked and lying in your bed, yet you’re here, talking to me.”

Millicent sighed. “Yes, to both. Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do about the eleven-hour time difference, so she’s actually sleeping.” Her eyes suddenly flashed with excitement. “We’ve got another job. Can I come through?”

There was an unusual animation to Millicent’s face that gave Draco pause. “Of course,” he said as he tamped down the flare of apprehension.

Millicent stepped through the Floo with a gracefulness that belied her sturdy frame. “This case may be for our highest-profile client yet.” She dangled the parchment in her hand. “The person who is requesting your services wishes to remain anonymous until your first meeting. At which point you may still refuse the job if you wish.”

“Interesting,” Draco mused, his curiosity piqued. “When you said high-profile, were you talking about the undesirable sort? Why all the secrecy?”

Millicent bit her lip. “It’s not that, it’s just that…well, you’ve run the same circles in the past. Listen, I can refer them to one of our competitors if you’d prefer.”

“First, there are very few people of import whose social circles do not intersect with mine. Second, I’m the best there is; with a one hundred percent success rate, I’m offended that you would consider anyone else.”

Millicent looked torn, her face vacillating between excitement and concern. “It will be a bit of a challenge, but it’s not your perfect record that’s at stake.” She let out a breath, the words practically tripping over her tongue. “I just don’t want you to get overly attached, that’s all.”

Draco lifted a brow. “Now I’m definitely curious. That’s never been an issue. I know the rules; I helped draft them, after all.”

“Draco, have you forgotten that we’re Slytherins? We live for breaking the rules.”

“Only when it serves our interest. And as it turns out, I’m quite attached to my line of work and the lifestyle it’s afforded us and do not intend on jeopardising that boon. So if you want to continue to be a part of it, you’ll hand the information over to me now.”

“Fine. But if it all goes pear-shaped, don’t say that I never warned you.” Millicent handed him the parchment, which still held the faint glow of the secrecy charm which she had cast. “The client wishes to meet tomorrow night. Information regarding the apparition points and time are all contained within the document. As always, once both of you are in the room, the second protective charm will activate, preventing the release of any information related to the job or the identification of your role within it.”

Draco wrapped his fingers around the piece of paper, feeling as if he’d just sealed his fate. “Duly noted.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to know the name of the targets beforehand?”

This had been one of Draco’s personal rules. He preferred to divest himself of any preconceived notions in order to listen more openly to his client. There was always time to research the couple in question afterward.

He shook his head. “I enjoy the element of surprise. It keeps me on my toes.”

“Have it your way, then.” Millicent took a step back towards the Floo, but stopped, picking up a copy of that day’s Prophet from the floor. “By the way,” she said casually, “since you never asked. The job is worth fifty-thousand Galleons once completed.”

“Merlin,"  Draco whispered, sinking back into his chair. It would be their most lucrative contract by far. Perhaps it was time to book an extended vacation; he’d always loved Paris in the spring.

“Yes,” Millicent grinned. “But don’t go spending that money just yet. You still have twenty-four hours after the meeting to decline. Call me when it’s over and let me know what you decide.” She tossed the copy of the Prophet into Draco’s lap before grabbing a handful of Floo powder from the mantle. The last thing Draco saw was Millicent’s mischievous look as she stepped through the emerald flames.

Draco fingered the parchment, the residue of its protective spell tingling under his fingertips. Millicent was always brilliantly inventive when it came to charms, which was the reason why Slytherin House was able to get away with half the things that they had. In retrospect, she had been Draco’s only choice for a partnership that had grown extremely profitable for them both.

For as much as Draco loved his closest friends, there was no telling what could come out of Blaise’s mouth while the man was getting sucked off or pissed. And Pansy was not only a vicious gossip but a self-admitted, vindictive bitch. Millicent was loyal and hardworking, severely underestimated by others, and could be counted on for secrecy when it came to issues of privacy and the heart.

Love mixed with naiveté and endless temptation meant a thriving business that relied on word of mouth for its continued success. Protecting the identities of their clients wasn’t much of a concern; there were few people who would take kindly to family members or a jilted ex meddling in affaires de coeur. So while the client’s involvement in the breakup was left to their own discretion, Millicent’s modified Silencio charm ensured that Draco’s name was never able to pass their lips.

Draco pulled at the ribbon which held the parchment, the silk sliding through his fingers as it slowly unravelled, revealing the information within. Millicent’s warning unsettled him more than he was willing to admit; it was unlike her to be so persistent in giving him a way out. But fifty-thousand Galleons was a lot of money, and as attractive and charming as Draco was, Matchbreaking was not a field in which he could remain at the top forever.

He picked up the Prophet, sighing as he flipped to the society section. His bored expression morphed into one of reluctant interest once he saw the article which took up the entire page:

 

Wedding Bells at Last! Saviour to Marry Quidditch Correspondent Ginevra Weasley!

 

Potter had filled out since Draco saw him last, and his new height and muscle combined with his dark colouring made him…well, very much Draco’s type. Draco stared at their picture as Harry leaned in to give Ginny a gentle kiss. His lips were wide and lush, and parted beautifully as they met Ginny’s eager mouth.

Draco watched their faces as they pulled away—at Harry’s tentative smile and at Ginny’s, full of hope. It was a wise witch who once wrote: A fickle heart is the only constant in this world.

He turned the page. Good luck to them both.

 ~❣~

“Malfoy.”

Draco’s step faltered as he desperately tried to regain his composure. The voice which greeted him had pitched high in surprise, and he was sure that his own expression mirrored the shock which was plastered all over his client’s face.

“Granger.” He wracked his brain for something to say but old habits die hard, and he found himself resorting to snark. He took a look at the room’s sleek lines with its warm woods and chinoiserie panels, and the huge panes of glass showcasing London’s lights as they twinkled from down below.

“One of the top floors in the Shangri-La and a fifty-thousand Galleon contract. The Granger-Weasleys must be doing better than I’d thought.”

Hermione’s lips pressed into a tight frown. The intervening years had been kind to her; she had grown into her coltish beauty and carried herself with a natural elegance, despite the pinched look which she currently wore.

Draco felt his defenses rising. “So I suppose this is a deal-breaker, then?”

Hermione took a deep breath. Draco could see her mind working as she analysed the turn of events.

“No,” she said, belatedly waving him in. “When I discovered that such a service existed, I had asked for the very best. And despite our history, you may very well be the perfect person for the job. But I’d like to ask a few questions first.”

“But of course,” Draco agreed with an incline of his head.

“If we were to proceed, I need to be assured of your absolute discretion.”

Draco raised a brow at her obvious discomfort. “Knowing your penchant for research, I believe that your surprise at finding me at your doorstep speaks for itself.”

“So you’ve been doing this for a while?”

“For the better part of the last three years. With a one hundred percent success rate, I may add.”

Draco smirked as he watched Hermione’s thoughtful gaze. It was the same reaction he always got when he presented his clients with the news. It was too much of a temptation not to think back upon Draco’s past activities, to guess which of the events that had made their way into the papers were of a contractual, versus a personal, nature.

“And here I thought you were merely being a gadabout.” She hesitated. “May I ask why you chose this particular profession? I always thought you’d be working at Gringott’s, or perhaps doing something in Potions.”

Draco stared. “In case you haven’t noticed, established banks and major academic centers aren’t exactly clamouring to have an ex-Death Eater join their esteemed ranks. Not that it’s any of your business.”

And it wasn’t as if Draco hadn’t tried. It hadn’t been easy after the war, when the Ministry had taken practically everything his family had owned, including the contents of the Manor, their vaults, his father, and his pride. A job in the Ministry was out of the question; he refused to be a token of reparation and reformation, a blatant display of public magnanimity which only added insult to his injury.

So it was the occasional odd job—cleaning cages at Eeylops Owl Emporium, or polishing cauldrons at the local apothecary, or sweeping floors at The White Wyvern in the early morning hours. But none of the jobs were completely free from the buying public, and inevitably, there’d be a snide remark cast in Draco’s direction, followed by an even snider rejoinder, which typically escalated to the point where the customer was offered profuse apologies from an embarrassed business owner, whilst Draco found himself once again unemployed.

“You’re right, it’s not,” Hermione said softly. “I guess I was just hoping to reassure myself that what I’m doing is the right thing for two people whom I care very much about.”

Draco looked down and smoothed an invisible crease on his coat. “If you have a concern, there’s likely a reason for it. It’s better to go through the heartbreak now, than deal with years of increasingly tangled emotions.” His eyes darted to Hermione’s belly, and the soft and gentle swell. “Or worse, the presence of children to complicate matters.

"I’m here to provide a service. And I’m not just good; I’m the best Matchbreaker out there. My livelihood depends on my clients’ happiness and their word of mouth. It’s hardly in my interest to be indiscrete, or to leave behind a trail of bitter or broken hearts.” He saw Hermione’s changing expression and noted the moment where her indecision turned to resolve. He pressed his advantage, making a move to finalise their arrangement.

“So now that I’ve unburdened myself, it’s your turn. So who’s the couple, and why?”

Hermione’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “You don’t know?”

“You requested anonymity until our meeting. I thought that included protecting the identities of the targets.”

Hermione winced at the terminology. Draco fought an eye roll at the misstep; Gryffindors were such a notoriously loyal bunch.

“So who is it? The Curse-breaker and the Veela? The head of the Department of Magical Transportation?” Draco’s eyes lit up. “The Dragon-tamer?” Now that particular Weasley could be fun.

“No. It’s Harry,” Hermione said, the name exploding out of her in a rush.

Draco blinked, stunned into silence.

“Harry,” he said after he recovered his faculties. “You want me to break up Harry and the Weaselette? What would your husband say? After all, this is your best friend and your sister-in-law that we’re talking about.”

Hermione bit her lip. “It’s because I do love them that I’m seeking your help. Marriage is difficult enough, even when two people are completely in love. I don’t want either Harry or Ginny entering it out of a sense of obligation.”

Draco frowned. “I saw their engagement announcement in the Prophet. They looked happy.”

“That picture was from two years ago.” Hermione’s eyes lowered. “Things have changed.”

“So you want me to focus on Ginevra?”

Hermione flushed. “No. I mean, I know your success record, but between Fred and your aunt, Ginny’s hardly your biggest fan.”

“And Harry is,” Draco said drily. “Not to mention the fact that he’s straight.”

“Well, Harry’s always been a bit obsessed when it comes to you. And he’s not as straight as you think.” She looked torn, disclosure finally winning out over her guilt.

“There was a period in Harry and Ginny’s relationship where they had taken a short break. Harry was seeing Terry Boot. Ginny was offered a reserve Chaser’s position with the Harpies and had started to date Viktor Krum. Once Harry and Ginny got back together, things just weren’t the same.

“Ginny loves Harry but she also loves Quidditch, and I think she’s always regretted turning down their offer. And once Terry moved to the States, the passion Harry used to share with Ginny just wasn’t there. It was as if they were going through the motions, so terribly afraid of disappointing everyone around them, even at the expense of their own happiness.”

Draco took out the contract from his pocket and activated the Revelio charm. The words shifted as the details of the job became laid out in indelible ink. He handed Hermione an enchanted Quill, his perfunctory demeanor belying the turmoil roiling within.

Harry Potter. His schoolboy nemesis, and the star of more teenage wank sessions than Draco would like to recount. No longer just the Boy Who Lived, but a man, fit and powerful, and one whose sexual proclivities apparently aligned with Draco’s more than he ever would have thought.

The scratching of the Quill broke through his musings.

Hermione looked up. “Fifty-thousand Galleons for your efforts, whether the job is successful or not. After all, if they were meant to be together, you won’t be able to break them apart.”

“True in theory. Although I must warn you, that hasn’t been the case so far.” He signed his name next to Hermione’s. “Gemino," he incanted with a flick of his wand.

He softened upon seeing Hermione’s worried expression. “I promise that it’ll be done as swiftly and painlessly as possible." He handed her a copy of the contract, sealing the deal.

Draco was determined to hold fast to that promise, if only as a means of protecting his treacherous heart.

❣ Make Them Feel Special ❣

“You know you look perfect. Turning around for the tenth time won’t change that.”

Draco angled his body in the mirror. His sharp eyes swept over the lines of his robes, studying the way in which they accentuated the width of his shoulders while hinting at his tapered waist and narrow hips. The ice blue silk complemented his colouring perfectly while the silver and navy lining added just the right amount of splash. The tailors at Twilfitt and Tattings continued to amaze; the shape of the robe was traditional enough to be appropriate for a Ministry function, yet its unique elegance ensured he would draw his fair share of appreciative looks.

Draco pouted. “Something’s off. Speak honestly; I promise I’m not in a throwing mood.” His once infamous temper was admirably controlled. In fact, it had been a good seven years since he had shattered a mirror in a pique of anger for telling the truth.

The mirror shimmered briefly as if chuckling to itself. “It’s not the clothes which are giving you pause. Perhaps you should ask yourself what it is about tonight that’s got you so nonplussed?”

“It’s nothing. It’s just another job.”

“Hmmm,” the mirror mused. “Yet you’ve been pacing for the better part of the last hour, enough to make an imprint on the floor. Not to mention your scowling; keep it up and you’ll be sure to add several wrinkles to your handsome face.”

Draco’s brow wrinkled further. “Don’t make me rescind my promise,” he groused.

“The Muggles have a saying, Master Draco: Don’t shoot the messenger. After all, I am merely a reflection of that which you already see.”

Draco sat down, sighing as the mirror went dim. He was tempted to soothe his frayed nerves with a glass of something smoky and strong, but he needed to keep his wits about him. There was no reason for this bout of nerves; it was hardly his first Ministry event, he had been raised to charm and dazzle, and there was something heady about infiltrating a society that had turned its back on him just five years ago.

He cast a Tempus. The time read half eight—fashionably late, but not so much that he risked losing Harry to a growing and increasingly inebriated crowd. He picked up the invitation which Hermione had wrangled for him and tucked it into his pocket, ignoring the unease which built as he Apparated to the northeast corner of the Vauxhall Gardens.

A strong wind blew along the Thames. The mansion’s limestone walls were softened by a plethora of fairy lights while the tinkling laughter, lilting music, and clinking glasses promised a welcome respite from the winter’s chill. Draco straightened his robes and stepped through the doors with a practised smile on his lips as he joined the party that was already in full swing.

~❣~

“Lord Malfoy!”

Draco turned from the podium where Harry had just finished his speech. It appeared as if the Saviour had improved on his public speaking skills; gone were the awkward pauses and frequent stutters, even if the subject matter was a bit trite. He watched as Harry made his way off the dais, his exit curtailed by the lingering and thunderous applause. It took Kingsley Shacklebolt a good five minutes to rein in the crowd’s appreciation before he could hand the floor over to the newly appointed head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, Oliver Wood.

“Lady Heffernan. A pleasure to see you once more.” Draco bowed as he took her hand, keeping his head lowered as he watched Harry evade another group of sycophants in favour of the bar. He relaxed his shoulders and turned his attention back to the countess. It appeared as if Potter would be seeking refuge in the amber-coloured liquids which lined the bar’s shelves for quite a while.

“Fancy running into you here.” Lady Heffernan’s voice lowered into a conspiratorial whisper. “Are you attending for business or for pleasure?”

Draco gave a low laugh. “One never knows. You know the saying: A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept. Speaking of which, how is the lovely Katie these days?” He wracked his brain, trying to remember the name of the besotted young man whom The Honourable Katie Heffernan had married two years ago.

Happiness flooded Lady Heffernan’s expression, making her appear significantly younger than her fifty-six years. “She and Jonathan are extremely happy. They’re expecting their second child in August.”

Jonathan. Of course. Draco smiled upon hearing the news. “That’s wonderful to hear. You and your husband must be over the moon.”

“We are. And we owe it all to you.”

In truth, it was Draco who owed the Lady Heffernan. Three years ago, the countess had seen him at yet another low point in his life, working the till at an unquestionably dodgy apothecary. An irate customer had accused Draco of substituting goldenrod for Lady’s Mantle in her most recent order, with disastrous consequences for her Beautification Potion. Draco was beside himself; he most certainly could read a label, and if the store’s owner looked to cut corners with substandard ingredients, all he was responsible for was measuring them properly and doling them out. It had taken five minutes of unsuccessful placating amidst a stream of continuous accusations before a snide remark regarding 'Those Malfoys’ fall from grace’ deigned to fall from the customer’s lips.

Draco had put on his best sneer, one which would have made his Grandfather Abraxas proud. He proceeded to inform the Dowager Warthouse that no beautification potion—no matter the quality of its ingredients, nor how perfectly brewed—would ever be enough to cure the munter of her ills.

The owner of the apothecary had an apoplectic fit, and Draco soon found himself made redundant once more. His predicament was not lost on the Lady Heffernan who, despite her romantic tendencies, was also blessed with a keen perspective on human nature and a bit of a devious streak. She took one look at Draco—at his aristocratic good looks, sharp wit and ability to charm—and tasked him with breaking up the growing attraction between her only daughter and one Rafael Montagnana: the Viscount Somersby, and a rake of the first order.

Draco affected a self-conscious expression. “You give me too much credit, milady. After all, it was your instincts which made you suspicious of the viscount’s intentions.”

“My daughter was driving me to distraction. Jonathan was a fine young man, from a fine family, who absolutely doted on Katie.”

“Ahhh, but therein lies the rub. There was no excitement for your daughter, no thrill of the chase.” The Earl of Avington may have represented a stable and comfortable familiarity, but it was the viscount who delighted in making both the witches and the wizards swoon.

Lady Heffernan hesitated. “I often wondered: how did you get my daughter to see the error of her ways?”

“If you are wondering whether I did anything to impugn her virtue, I can assure you that the presence of a strong shoulder and a reassuring ear goes a long way. Although I can’t say the same for the viscount,” Draco added with a leer.

“La, Draco! I knew you were perfect for the job!” Lady Heffernan laughed delightedly.

It had required patience at first, for Draco to become Katie’s confidante. Several well-timed bits of gossip about Rafael’s indiscretions and gambling debts (and a drunken Pansy making the moves on the miserable earl) was all that it took. Draco received five thousand Galleons for his efforts—a pittance for a month’s work compared to what he currently commanded, but the Lady Heffernan proved to be an ally worth any price. She was wealthy enough not only to be in a position of social power but was also blessed to be on the right side of the war. Her admiration for her mysterious Matchbreaker began to make the rounds, and Draco soon found himself with a list of clients a mile long.

There seemed to be a never-ending need for Matchbreaking services, and the booming business meant Draco needed a partner to help oversee the operation. In over three years he had secured not only Millicent's help, but a flat in Kensington and a walk-in closet filled with the latest in fashionable clothing, while his numerous investments and Gringott’s account continued to grow.

“I appreciate your confidence in me as well as your support. I will never forget what you’ve done for me, as well.”

“Perhaps you will forgive an old lady her impertinence then. There are times when I read the society pages and see what are undoubtedly examples of your influence. I hope that this is not all of what life has to offer you, Draco. In fact, I hope to one day see you with a happy ending of your own.”

Draco pushed away at the emptiness which washed over him, feeling suddenly worn. “It is a casualty of the field, milady. It is hard to open your heart to another when breaking them is your raison d'etre.”

Lady Heffernan gave him a considerate look. “Call me silly, but even after all these years, I believe in marrying for love. There’s a difference between being together for the wrong reasons, as opposed to the right. If you keep that in mind, young Draco, there’ll still be the hope of happiness for you yet.”

Draco thought of his parents. “Love doesn’t guarantee happiness. And I’m not so young anymore.”

Lady Heffernan looked at him with surprise. “You are but twenty-five! Do not let the bad choices of your youth define the rest of your life.” She looked around the dancefloor as the orchestra began to play. “I need to find my husband, lest someone steals him for this waltz. But let me leave you with this: It is true that love does not always bring happiness. But there is also nothing more magical in the world than when it does.”

Draco bade her goodbye and headed towards the bar. As he suspected, Potter remained seated in the corner, already looking fairly deep in his cups. He radiated a distinct aura of unapproachability—enough to make Draco wonder whether Potter was just naturally that prickly, or whether such detachment was enhanced by the use of a Notice-Me-Not charm.

Draco sidled closer. He leaned against the edge of the bar casually, making sure to angle his hips so that they aligned closely with Harry’s gaze. A shock of recognition and something else flitted over Harry’s face before he quickly smoothed it over, his attention drawn once more to the contents of his glass.

“A glass of Dragon Barrel Hors D’age, if you please,” Draco ordered. He stole a glance at Harry as he waited for the bartender to pour his drink. Potter’s hair was as unruly as ever but his lanky body had filled, his movements hinting at his raw power and wiry strength. For tonight, Potter had traded his usual T-shirts and trainers for an elegant set of robes, appearing ill at ease and uncomfortable despite their impeccable fit.

Draco took his brandy, swirling the glass slowly as he sniffed. His nostrils flared at the smell of the grapes and their pomace, and then the hint of pepper and cinnamon as he took another whiff. He lifted the snifter to his lips, savouring the brandy’s warm and smooth finish as the liquid filled his mouth.

Draco caught Harry’s stare just as he licked the residue off his lips. “Delicious,” he murmured, as Harry’s eyes narrowed in response.

“Can’t you just have a drink quietly, like a normal person?” Harry asked through gritted teeth.

Draco lifted a brow. “I never professed to be ‘normal.’ Besides, there’s a proper way to savour brandy. One must test what works well for the palate, and endeavour to get a sense of its legs.” He sat on the edge of the stool and allowed his robe to fall open, smiling as Potter’s eyes travelled predictably up the long lines of his trousers.

Potter made a move to stand, staring when Draco followed suit.

“Are you following me, Malfoy?” he asked unhappily.

Draco huffed out a laugh. “I believe that was your role, not mine.”

“Why are you even here?” Harry persisted. “Ministry functions aren’t exactly your scene.” He looked around. “There’s no one in this immediate area for you to impress upon, no photographers from the Prophet. If it’s publicity you’re looking for, you’re not going to get it from me.”

“I was invited. Why is it so hard to believe that I would be supportive of a Quidditch camp for underprivileged children?”

Harry frowned. “I bet you’re more supportive of the players who are here tonight from the British and Irish Quidditch Leagues. Perhaps you’re scouting out your paramour du jour.”

Draco laughed, the sound of it low and silky. “Tu ne me connais que trop bien."  He took another sip, making sure that the brandy wet his lips and that his neck tilted in just the right way as he swallowed. “Alex Livingston from Puddlemere United is looking particularly fit. I heard that his latest relationship is in shambles; perhaps this night is not such a tragic waste, after all.”

“Why don’t you go chat him up then, instead of wasting all of your breath on me?”

“Perhaps I will.” Draco rested his drink on the polished wooden counter of the bar and leaned in. From this distance, he could smell Harry—smell the maple and smoke of the whiskey he drank, along with the spiciness of his soap. “Speaking of relationships, I heard that congratulations are in order. You and Ginevra? How soon after the wedding until you grace your adoring fans with a birth announcement? It’s all part of the plan, isn’t it Potter? A Ministry job, a country home, and a bunch of red-headed sprogs, throwing wobblies at your feet.”

Potter looked as if he were ready to bolt. There was something about their interactions that made Draco exceed the boundaries of his judgment, unable to stop the burgeoning excitement and thrill as he pushed for another reaction.

Green eyes met Draco's own. “Don’t go worrying about my life, Malfoy. At least I’m not such a fuckup that I can’t find someone to share it with.”

Draco felt his face pale. He gulped down the rest of his drink, the remainder leaving a citrusy and acidic burn as he slammed the empty glass on the bar and stormed towards the balcony at the end of the hall. The winter air provided a welcoming blast, its sharpness adding a spot of colour to his cheeks as it greeted him with a sharp sting. Perhaps Millicent was right; there was too much history there for this to work, too much baggage between them. His hands fumbled with the red and gold carton hidden deep within his robes until he removed a cigarette from the half-empty box. He lit the end with the tip of his wand, willing his hands to steady as the end flared and hissed, the cut leaf smouldering as it turned a glowing red.

Draco inhaled. The smoke curled in his mouth, along with the taste of cloves and Virginia leaf, then escaped in a mist of blue and grey as he exhaled, the warmth of his breath mixing with the cold, London air.

“Hey.” Draco stiffened at the sound of the voice behind him. He remained facing outwards, choosing to stare at the paths which meandered through the expansive gardens instead.

“Er… look. I’m sorry. That was uncalled for. Even if you were being a total knob.” Harry stepped halfway onto the balcony before he shut the door, then cast a warming charm and Muffliato in quick succession. Draco shivered as the residue of Harry’s magic washed over them.

Harry took another step closer. “I didn’t know you smoked,” he said, surprised.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of things you don’t know about me, Potter.”

“May I?” Draco quirked a brow, but handed the cigarette to Harry, studiously ignoring the way Harry looked as he placed the fag into his mouth and pressed down on the paper with his lips. “Terrible habit, I know. But I figure if Voldemort couldn’t kill me…”

Draco allowed himself a small smile. “You survived the Dark Lord’s Killing Curse when you were but a year old. You’re either incredibly lucky, incredibly powerful, or incredibly blessed. You’re free to do whatever you want.” He let out a long sigh. “I, however, have no such excuse.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Harry said thoughtfully, handing the cigarette back to Draco. The moonlight washed over his face, accentuating the squareness of his jaw while nearly shadowing the rest of his features with the exception of his eyes. They now stared back at Draco, a bright and unnerving green.

“I can’t escape my past. When I attend these things, all I can think about is how quickly I can get out of here, or where I can hide.

"You, on the other hand—you’re kind of in the same position. Maybe you have it worse; I mean, you can’t escape your past either. But you’re trying to get on with your life by not hiding. Even if it would be the easier thing to do.”

If only you knew. Draco took another puff of the cigarette, then held it out to Harry. When Harry shook his head, Draco performed an Evanesco, vanishing the remainder into the air.

“The speech you gave tonight. You looked…if not comfortable, at least competent. I believed in what you were saying.” He lifted a brow. “Not that I’d ever admit that to anyone else.”

Harry chuckled. “Yeah, well Hermione gave me a crash course in public speaking. And over the years, I’ve had plenty of practice.”

“Everyone’s still clamouring for a piece of you.”

“Yeah.” Harry let out a long exhale; Draco could feel Harry’s desire to unburden himself, the unspoken words warring with his guilt as they sought to trip off his tongue.

“Do you enjoy any of it?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been doing it so long, I can’t think of it objectively anymore.”

Draco scoffed. “That’s rubbish. Maybe that’s what you tell yourself out of necessity. But look at Wood and all the other players in there. Many of them have been playing for five, ten, even fifteen years. That’s longer than you’ve been a figurehead for the Ministry, and I’ll bet you every last Galleon that I have that despite the endless practices and the physical pains and the time they’ve spent on the road, that none of them would trade it for anything in the world. So I ask you again: do you enjoy it? And if not, why do you still do it?”

“I don’t know.” Harry moved, the change in his position bringing him one step closer to Draco, the shift in angle now throwing his face into relief. The silence hung heavy between them, broken only by the muffled noises in the background, and the occasional rise and fall of their breaths. “I suppose it’s because, for some people, I’ve become a symbol of hope. After all that we’ve been through, that’s the last thing I'd want to take away.”

Draco hummed his acknowledgment. “That’s not a bad thing to be. It’s certainly better than what I’ve come to represent.” He faced Harry, his eyes an icy silver in the moonlight. “But if you’ve come to symbolise hope for others, then who fulfills that role for you?”

Harry looked at Draco, unable to give him an immediate response. “I don’t know. Dumbledore? My parents. Sirius and Remus, I guess.”

“All important, but also all in the past.” He looked at Harry quizzically then stepped closer, his voice hypnotic and soft. “What about now?”

Green eyes stared at Draco with something akin to longing. Harry gulped, his pulse bounding, quickening in his neck.

“My friends. Ron and Hermione. Ginny, of course.” He let out a low breath and gestured towards the activity taking place in the ballroom. “They’re the ones who help me get through all of this.”

“When does it become enough, Potter? When will you be done with all of this, and allow yourself to just be? Is this the life you’re destined to live, and is it one that’ll make you happy?”

The corners of Harry’s mouth pulled down slightly. “I don’t know.” The words were spoken so quietly that Draco had to move even closer to hear.

“It’s not an easy question to answer for most people, at least honestly. But if you can’t live the life you want, then what chance do the rest of us have? You have it all—money, fame, opportunity, love, and support. The rest is up to you.” Draco rubbed his hands together as the warming charm began to fade. “Speaking of happiness, there’s an incredibly fit Quidditch player wandering about inside who, if I play my cards right, won’t be going home alone tonight. It’s been nice chatting with you, Potter.”

“Yeah. It was nice,” Harry grinned. “I guess I’ll be seeing you around then, Malfoy.”

Draco stepped through the French doors and into the brightness and noise. When he looked back, Harry remained leaning against the balustrade, his back to the activity inside. The lights from the city reflected off his face as it tilted towards the heavens, searching for the answers to his questions as if they lay hidden amongst the stars.

❣ Share a Common Interest ❣

The tide of people moved en masse as Draco was buffeted about, carried forth by a sea of orange and blue. It had been years since he had been to a game; his father had placed a temporary moratorium on the sport after the Montrose Magpies’ devastating loss to the Kestrels, which was followed by Draco’s own self-imposed ban when his presence in the stands post-war seemed to draw more attention than the activity on the pitch. He had nearly forgotten about the restless excitement that permeated the crowd. There was a competitiveness that went beyond the game, a sanctioning of their most primal behaviours, a place where people celebrated the divisions between hunter and prey and victor and victim while indulging their appetites in brightly coloured, crisply wrapped and tooth-rotting confections.

Draco scanned the rows of private boxes, finally locating the one which Hermione had reserved and charmed to include his access for the day. He placed his hand on the door and pushed, feeling the faint buzz of the wards as they gave way.

“What… Malfoy?!”

“Potter.” Draco froze, unhappy at having been caught off guard. Potter wasn’t supposed to be due for another fifteen minutes. He quickly reworked the scenario in his head and fired an opening salvo.

“I apologise; I was unaware that you would also be here. Hermione had offered me the use of her seats, knowing that I was a fan of Puddlemere United.”

“Oh.” Potter didn’t look put out, just surprised. “I didn’t realise that you and Hermione were close. Or that you were a Puddlemere fan; I always thought you rooted for the Magpies.”

“I wouldn’t say Hermione and I are close, although we do share certain common interests. And regarding my loyalty to Puddlemere, let’s just say that I’m a recent convert. As recent as the night of the Ministry ball,” Draco added with a wolfish grin.

Harry flushed attractively. “Yes. I erm…seem to remember you mentioning something about that.”

Draco’s grin grew even bigger. He had not been oblivious to the way Potter’s eyes had followed him around later that night, or missed his wistful look when Alex slid his hand down to rest it against Draco’s arse. For a brief moment, Draco wondered whether Harry had been that demonstrative with Terry Boot and, if so, whose hand had done the touching.

“Yes, I did. And if you hadn’t remembered, the pictures in the Prophet the following day certainly rectified that.”

“You know you can’t trust everything that the Prophet prints.”

Draco thought back to Harry and Ginny’s engagement announcement—of their happy faces, and Hermione’s words.

“Careful, Potter. Such talk borders on sacrilege. Given that your fiancée is in their employ and all.”

Harry sighed. “I know what goes on behind the scenes and believe me, it’s even worse than what I'd originally thought.”

Draco gave him a thin smile. “As we both know, public opinion can be fickle and easily swayed. Words have the power to build a reputation as quickly as they can tear one to shreds. And as my father has shown, words can be purchased, for the right price.”

“At least Ginny’s writing is less susceptible to that sort of thing.”

“Surely you're not that naive. Quidditch is a big business.” Draco waved the small flag he was carrying; the triangular piece of felt circled in the air twice before falling limp against its wooden dowel. “It's a Cannon’s match; I'm surprised the entire Weasley clan isn't here.” He threw the flag onto an empty seat. “Misery loves company, and all.”

“Ginny’s here.”

Draco frowned; there was certainly no love lost between him and Harry’s future in-laws. Perhaps Phase Two would have to wait for another day.

“Look, I didn’t mean to intrude. I was hoping to enjoy a good match, with a bit of privacy while I was at it.” Draco hesitated, surprised at his sudden need for honesty, however small. “It would have been nice to do so, without being on the receiving end of barbed insults, discarded wrappings, or dirty looks. I’ll leave you and Ginevra in peace.”

“Wait.” Harry stood. “Ginny’s down on the field, interviewing the players with the rest of the press. And the rest of the Weasleys are either working, or busy, or away. It’s just me. I don’t mind the company, if you want to stay.”

“Even if we’re rooting for the opposite sides?” Draco asked, taking in Harry’s brightly coloured paraphernalia.

Harry laughed. “Even then. Besides, isn’t that the way it’s always been, between you and me?”

Draco’s eyes narrowed, but when he saw Harry’s eyes crinkle, they were filled with mirth, not malice. In fact, not only was his tone teasing, it could almost be considered flirtatious. Draco tamped down the flutter which spread through him at the thought.

“Care to make a friendly wager?”  The laughter left Harry’s face, and Draco immediately regretted the suggestion. “Not for Galleons or anything of the sort,” he quickly amended.

“What did you have in mind?”

The images which came unbidden to Draco caused his cheeks to pink. “Nothing too terrible.” He looked down at their jerseys, at the bright orange and black of Harry’s, and his in gold and blue. “Loser wears the winning team’s jersey after the game.”

“And that’s it?”

Draco raised a brow. “Isn’t that enough? I assure you, I look positively putrid in orange.”

The laughter returned to Harry’s face, as he shook Draco’s hand. It was solid and strong, and when Harry’s fingers curled around Draco’s own, the amity of his grip nearly made Draco gasp.

“Deal. And I look forward to seeing you decked out in orange.”

They sat down next to each other, the atmosphere shifting to something companionable. Draco tried to focus on the game instead of the way Harry’s arm pressed against his, or how their shoulders or thighs would occasionally touch.

The Chaser for the Cannons suddenly feinted and dove, narrowly escaping the Bludger which was travelling directly towards her broomstick’s tail.

Harry let out a whistle as they both leaned forward in their seats. “If she had been riding anything less than a Firebolt...”

“It’s not just the speed of the Firebolt, it’s the skill of the rider.” Draco gave a delicate shrug of his shoulders at Harry’s incredulous look. “Yes, Potter; as much as it pains me to admit it, your victories against me were not solely due to the make of your broom. There are not many people who can fly like you.” Harry had never been the prettiest flier, nor the most strategic. But he always had a fearlessness about him when he flew—an instinctive knowledge that was breathtaking to watch, and even more, to be a party to.

“You beat me your fair share. Well, perhaps not always fair,” Harry amended as Draco laughed.

“I was a right prat,” he conceded. He turned towards Harry, matching his grin. “Do you still play?”

“Just an occasional pickup match at the Burrow, with Gin and the rest of the Weasleys. I’d like to do more, but…well, sometimes it draws too much attention if I play anywhere else. How about you?”

Draco looked down. “There aren’t many people looking to have a game with me.” He hurried on, not wanting Harry’s pity. “I do still fly, however. I haven’t quite made my way up to a Firebolt, but for my purposes, I find the Nimbus more than adequate.”

“And what is that? I mean, where and when do you fly?”

“Where depends on my mood. Sometimes it’s over the London skyline, when the city becomes just too stifling and I need to escape. Sometimes it’s over Wiltshire, when I want to remind myself that not everything from my past was without its beauty. And even though you hadn’t asked, the ‘why’ is because flying is one of those activities I can still do where I truly feel free.”

“That sounds nice.” The word itself may have been inadequate, but Harry’s expression spoke volumes.

“You could join me sometime.” Draco held his breath. His heart was beating fast, even as he reminded himself that the invitation was just the next logical step in accomplishing what he had set out to do.

“I’d like that. Maybe we could even have a Seeker’s match.”

“I’d like that as well. Owl me, when you have the chance.”

They watched the rest of the game together, engaging in a teasing rivalry as the scores between the two teams remained nearly evenly matched. Somewhere in between the pints of Butterbeer and the offerings from Honeydukes’ concession stand Harry’s touch had changed, growing from the wariness of their initial handshake to a growing familiarity as their fingers brushed, heated skin wet with the condensation from their drinks.

Which was why in the third hour, when the two Seekers closed in on the Snitch, Harry had stood, automatically reaching for Draco’s hand as they rose with the crowd to their feet. They watched excitedly as both players flew fast and low on their brooms, chasing the elusive sphere and each other until a single leather-clad hand reached out, seizing the fluttering wings of victory in its grasp.

Half an hour later as Draco made his way to the exits, his heart was still bounding. He felt inexplicably happy as his gaze lingered on Harry’s retreating form, clad from head to gorgeous arse in Puddlemere blue.

❣ Be a Good Listener ❣

Draco waited. There was no owl from Harry on the first day or the second. By the end of the seventh, Draco wondered if he should send one of his own, or whether he had completely misread the cues.

As it turned out, he needn’t have worried. Because on the eighth day, as he was heading into a small, Muggle pizza restaurant tucked on the outskirts of Diagon Alley, he ran into—

“Potter!”

“Draco!” Harry looked startled at first, but then his face broke into a genuine smile. “I’m starting to think that perhaps you are following me.”

Draco flushed. “I...this…” He shook his head at his unusual lack of eloquence. “I happen to like this cafe,” he said defensively. There were few places in the wizarding world where Draco could have a meal without feeling as if at least one of the diners was judging him unfavourably.

“Me too.” Harry looked around the cozy but cramped space, filled with cyclists and students and the lunchtime work crowd. “Do you want to share a table?”

“Sure,” Draco replied, feeling as if he had taken an entire phial of Felix Felicis as the waitress seated them at a table for two.

He waved off the menu. “The Charcuterie Board and a green salad, along with a bottle of sparkling water.”

Harry gave the waitress an apologetic look. He glanced down, studying the laminated sheet for a good half-minute before placing his order. “The Santa Margherita pizza, please. And a pint of your best pale ale.”

The corners of Draco’s mouth quirked. “You don’t fool me, Potter. You barely had time to read the headings, never mind peruse all the offerings underneath.”

Harry let out an embarrassed laugh. “Yeah, well…she just looked so, I don’t know, happy to have given us a menu.”

“The girl is in the middle of handling a large and impatient crowd. I doubt that your dismissal of her menu would have disappointed her in the least. In fact, based on the way she was eyeing you, I would guess that she would be more disappointed to learn that the fit bloke at her table is currently engaged.”

Harry’s expression fell. His mouth tightened as he let out an uncomfortable laugh.

Draco stared at him pointedly. “Pre-wedding jitters? It’s not uncommon, with all the planning that has to take place.”

Harry took his beer from the waitress, returning her appreciative smile as he took a long sip. Draco watched as a line of foam collected along the curve of his upper lip, which Harry quickly remedied with a swipe of his tongue.

“There is a lot of planning, of course, but I’m leaving that all to Gin. We don’t want anything excessive, but there are a lot of people to consider. It’s been trying; I’d like something low key and private, but we don’t want to leave anyone out.” His voice trailed, clearly overwhelmed.

“Remember what it’s all for, Potter. After all, isn’t it supposed to be the happiest time of your life?”

“So they say. That, and having a family. Having kids.”

“Family means different things to different people. Look at mine.” Draco took a sip of water, the bubbles fizzing over his tongue, harsh against a throat that was suddenly dry. “When I was growing up, my family meant everything. My name meant everything. Unfortunately, it still does, but not in the same way." He stopped as the waitress came over with their lunch, noting the covert glances she cast repeatedly in Harry's direction.

Draco rolled his eyes. He sliced into his ballotine, neatly removing the bone. “I still love my parents," he continued once she had left, "but I’m extremely aware of their faults. My father…it’s hard to explain, but it’s been a confusing mix of anger and bitterness and innocence lost. But despite his wrongdoings, I know how much he loved me and my mother. It's just too bad he couldn't see fit to feel the same way about others.”

Harry looked thoughtful. He cut into his pizza, the crust of it giving way, then crumbling under the weight of his knife. “So what’s next for you? Time to restore the family name?” He took a bite, wincing at the temperature of the melted cheese. “Weren’t you engaged to Astoria Greengrass once?”

Draco let out a sigh, the sound of it dragging over his lips. “Perhaps the only good to have come out of my family’s fall from grace is that marrying a Malfoy lacks the appeal it once had. Astoria’s now engaged to Theo Nott.”

Harry’s brows lifted beneath his fringe. “And you’re okay with that?”

“It was a mutual decision. After all that transpired, my parents were no longer in a position to make any more demands of my life, whereas Astoria was all too happy to free herself from an unsavoury alliance and marry the man of her choice.”

“So what’s next for you? Do you ever see yourself settling down? Having a family of your own?”

Draco looked around, the muted chatter of the diners suddenly sounding uncomfortably loud.

“I don’t know if it’s in my nature to settle down,” he finally admitted. “And probably not with a family, at least of the traditional sort.” He gave Harry a wry grin. “Due to my fondness for both fanny and cock. With a preference for the latter.”

A predatory look crossed his face at Harry’s becoming blush.

“Come now, Potter. Surely you’ve thought about it. All those years in the Gryffindor dorms, all those lovely showers. You’ve never imagined what it would feel like to have another man’s hands gripping your arse, stroking your cock, his prick sliding against your own?”

Harry looked around wildly, choking on a tomato wedge as he let out a strangled cry.

“Really, Harry.” Draco’s smile widened, and there was a devilish glint in his eye. “You can tell me. We’re in the middle of a Muggle restaurant; for all these people know, we could be a couple ourselves.”

Draco’s hand darted out, his slender fingers closing over Harry’s wrist, the skin of it burning with heat. “I’m good at keeping secrets,” he added, giving Harry a squeeze.

Harry’s face scrunched adorably. “Yeah, I’ve thought about it, Malfoy. Done more than that, actually.”

Draco smiled at Harry’s revelation. “Do tell,” he drawled, leaning back.

“I love Ginny,” Harry clarified defensively. “Aside from a fleeting schoolboy crush, she was my first love. And for several years, my only one.

"When I started training, Ginny was still in school. It was difficult to stay connected; our worlds seemed so different, not to mention all the time we had to spend apart. And once she graduated, we still couldn’t coordinate our lives. I was out doing fieldwork, while she was playing Quidditch. She was brilliant, by the way, even catching the eyes of several scouts. We just…our lives were changing so much.”

“You’re an Auror; I thought that meant you pushed paperwork from behind a Ministry desk for most of the day.”

Harry’s eyes twinkled. “I’m not saying you’re entirely wrong, although the action in certain cases certainly makes up for it. But even though I went through their training program, I’m not exactly an Auror.”

Draco frowned. “Unless Madame Malkins truly has ‘Robes for Every Occasion,’ I believe that those maroon ones you’re so fond of stomping around in are a standard Auror’s uniform, obtainable only through that particular department in the Ministry.”

Harry laughed, his smile curling beautifully at the corners. “I’m a crisis negotiator. It's a new position that Kingsley created for me, although I’m officially considered part of the team,” he clarified upon seeing Draco’s confused expression. "I'd always wanted to do something with the Aurors but despite their best efforts, there was still so much senseless loss.

“Hermione was the one who told me about the field. Certain branches of Muggle law enforcement have been employing crisis negotiators for quite some time; Kingsley gave the go-ahead and placed me with the Hostage and Crisis Unit at Scotland Yard for additional training. Nowadays, if an Auror team is heading into a potentially violent situation, they’ll call me in.  See if there’s something I can do to de-escalate it, like using defensive magic or talking the subject down.”

“That’s incredible.” Draco hesitated, uncertain how to proceed with his next thought. “But you’re immediately recognisable.  Wouldn’t that be a disadvantage when you’re dealing with certain groups?” He could only imagine that wizards such as the Carrows or the Lestranges would prefer to Crucio Harry on sight, rather than exchange pleasantries with the man who had destroyed the Dark Lord and all their hopes.

“That’s true. It’s why I generally work with a Glamour, to disguise certain...ah, distinguishable features and my voice. It affords me anonymity which I don’t usually get to enjoy in my personal life.” He grew quiet, his face inscrutable. 

“So what happened between you and Ginevra?” Draco prodded gently.

“Terry Boot happened. After a couple of months of trying, Ginny and I decided to take a break. Terry was my liaison on the Mondalvo potions ring case. There was a lot of paperwork, lots of stakeouts, and a lot of waiting around.”

“Wasn’t that the case where…?”

“Yeah,” Harry grimaced. “That night…Ugh, it’s still hard.” He gave Draco a small smile as Draco reached out with a reassuring touch. “We had no idea there was a leak in the department. Terry and I were given faulty equipment, which is why we weren’t with the rest of the team. By the time we got everything sorted, we were at the warehouse fifteen minutes late. If we had arrived just five minutes earlier…”

Draco remained quiet, allowing Harry to continue at his own pace. He remembered reading about the explosion. About the devastating loss of four Aurors.

“The case had taken up five months of our lives. And just like that—all of the evidence, all of our team, all of it was gone. I don’t think there was a single waking moment during the next forty-eight hours where Terry and I weren’t either crying or totally pissed.

"And as much as Hermione, or Ron, or Ginny would try to console me, it just wasn’t the same. In my heart, I knew I wasn’t to blame, but Terry understood what I was going through. What he was going through. He knew the guilt of surviving while others had died.” Harry scrubbed his face, the movement pushing his glasses further up his face and away from his eyes, which were now suspiciously bright. “I’m supposed to be one of the first ones on the scene. God, it was like being in the war, all over again.”

“But surely that’s something your friends would understand.”

“Yes and no. They do, but they’ve also made efforts to move on. I’ve tried, but it’s different; how can I move on when I’m forever being held as a symbol of the winning side? For most of the wizarding world, I’m The Chosen One, the Saviour. Never just Harry,” he added bitterly. “I’m not allowed to forget.” He looked at Draco, his eyes suddenly fierce. “Just like you.”

Draco made a face, trying to tamp down his sympathy and guilt. “So what happened with you and Boot?” he asked, deftly sidestepping the obvious question.

“Only our closest friends knew we were together. Terry was discrete, out of respect for my privacy. A couple of months after we got together, he was offered a position with MACUSA. It was a great opportunity for him, and there was no question that he would accept it. And as great as our relationship was, there wasn’t any passion—no lows, but no highs either.”

“Not even during sex?” Draco asked, arching his brow as the tips of Harry’s ears turned pink and his mouth fell slightly open. Draco experienced a strange pleasure in his ability to elicit such a reaction; Harry was so responsive, he could only imagine how pliant he would be if given the opportunity to be with the right lover.

“Oh no, the sex was great. Good enough to discover that I also have a fondness for cock and fanny,” Harry said as they both laughed. There was a sudden buzzing noise and Harry’s eyes widened as he glanced at his watch.

“I’m sorry; I didn’t realise the time. I’ve got to be back by a quarter past one, and I still need to pick up a present for my godson Teddy.”

“Teddy? Teddy Lupin? Would you mind if I came with you?” Draco added hurriedly as Harry nodded. “I’d appreciate it if you could give him something from me.”

“Of course you can come with. But wouldn’t you rather give it to him yourself?”

Draco looked away. “I’m not sure how much you’ve heard. But my Aunt Andromeda’s got plenty of reasons to dislike me and my side of the family.”

“Andromeda is also a doting grandmother who wants the best for Teddy. She understands the pain of loss, and of being isolated from family. She wouldn’t wish that for her grandson; I believe she’d be receptive to the idea of you becoming part of Teddy’s life, should you wish to make amends.” He signalled for the bill, waving Draco off as Draco made a move to pay.

“Next time,” he said, grinning at Draco’s shocked expression. “What? We both have to eat.”

Next time. Draco grew pleased at the thought—a reaction, he told himself, that was the result of how well his plans for Potter were progressing, and not because of anything else.

They walked out into the London afternoon, the shining sun a welcome reprieve from December’s chill. They first stopped at Quality Quidditch Supplies. Harry purchased Teddy a Quidditch Starter’s Kit, a pair of gloves and a Hogwart’s Quidditch robe. Draco briefly considered a broomstick servicing kit before putting the box back on its shelf.

Nothing seemed appropriate—either too mundane, or thoughtless, or extravagant. He wracked his brain and came up with nothing. What kind of gift could he possibly get a seven-year-old that adequately expressed sorrow and loss, yet embodied innocence and hope?

“Draco. Do you want to come with me to Flourish and Blotts? I need to pick up something for Rose.”

Rose. “That would be perfect,” Draco breathed. His sudden idea for Teddy’s gift buoyed his spirits, allowing him to ignore the curious looks he and Potter garnered as they walked side by side down the cobblestone footpaths of Diagon Alley. By the time they reached their destination, their appearance had attracted as much attention as the colourful Christmas displays which decorated the shop’s windows and stalls.

Draco headed over to the children’s section and scanned the overcrowded shelves, crowing with delight once he found what he sought. His fingers traced the figure on the cover; the book was as beautiful as he remembered, the watercolour illustrations fragile and delicate, yet full of life.

“Le Petit Prince?” asked Harry. He leaned over, the fringe of his hair falling over his eyes. “Isn’t that a Muggle children’s book?”

“The beauty and message contained within are universal, a parable of life and love. On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”

“Which means—?”

“That one sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye."

Draco brought the book up to the front, picking out a wide, silver ribbon and iridescent wrapping that shifted colours depending on the angle at which it was held. He hesitated when it came to writing the card but decided to let the present speak for itself, and settled on a simple: Happy Holidays. From your cousin, Draco.

Harry watched him gently.

“Are you sure you don’t want to give it to Teddy yourself?”

Draco swallowed. “I’m sure. Let’s just start with this for now. If Teddy or Andromeda want anything further, they’ll know how to reach me.”

“Okay. Look, I’m sorry to run, but I’ve really got to get back. It was nice seeing you again.” He broke out into a shy smile. “Thanks for listening.” He pushed open the door, the bell on the door jangling a dissonant tune as he returned to work.

Draco suddenly felt exhausted. He decided to forego a trip to Rosa Lee’s and Apparated back to his flat. The space was clean and modern and undeniably beautiful, but with only the silence to greet him, it also felt unbearably empty for the first time in his life.

❣ Cater to Their Needs ❣

Draco

Gave your present to Teddy. He loves it. He can’t read it enough, although I can’t say the same for Andromeda.

Wishing you a Happy New Year,

Harry

 

Potter

I received an invitation to tea from Andromeda and Teddy. I can’t help but think that you may have had something to do with my good fortune. I was touched by both gestures, although should you ever tell anyone, I shall deny it with my dying breath.

I should also warn you that this letter has been charmed with an Incendio, which will commence as soon as you have finished reading it.

Happy New Year,

Draco 

 

Draco

While I appreciate that you informed me of the Incendio, a little more warning would have been nice. I had just finished reading your missive when it activated—which, when you’re in a library filled with ancient and irreplaceable manuscripts, is not a good thing.

Speaking of fires, putting them out is all I seem to be doing nowadays. All this wedding planning is driving me spare. Before you broke off your engagement, how did you ever cope?

Harry

 

Potter

Firewhiskey. Lots and lots of it.

Draco

 

Draco

I don’t think there’s enough.

Harry

 

Harry

Please note that your response has caused my face to take on the appearance of someone afflicted with Stinkitus.

Be a man. Talk to your fiancée.

Draco

 

Draco

Have you met Ginny?

Harry

 

Harry

I seem to remember her being fairly adept at a Bat Bogey Hex.

Draco

 

Draco

Any further discussions with Ginny will have to wait. She was covering prospective players for next year’s Quidditch teams when someone saw her fly, and now there’s renewed talks about a possible Chaser position with the Harpies!

I wonder how I would look in Green and Gold.

Harry

 

Harry

Anything is an improvement over orange.

I took Teddy flying for the first time yesterday. He’s an absolute natural.

Dare I say, he reminds me a little of you.

Draco

 

Draco

What are you doing this Saturday?

Harry

 

Draco patted his pocket for the fifth time, and just like they were on the fourth, the third, the second, and the first, his gloves were secure and in place. He shifted, his toes curling against the front of his boots, feeling inexplicably nervous.

As he had mentioned to Harry, flying was one of those activities which Draco still enjoyed. He engaged in it not infrequently—as often as once every other week if his schedule allowed. Whether it was over the city or the countryside, or battling the chill of winter or the heavy heat of summer, there was a freedom to flying that allowed Draco to just be.

It was also an activity which, for the most part, he indulged in alone.

He hung back in the shadows, feeling slightly foolish carrying his broom and decked out in his flying gear. The moon hung huge and pregnant overhead, its brightness eclipsing the multitude of city lights. There was a slight bite to the air, but not enough of a wind to cause them to be buffeted about.

“Get a hold of yourself,” he admonished himself angrily. “It’s just another step in the plan.”

Even if it was Harry who had asked.

“Hey.” Harry made his way from around the corner. Draco opened his mouth; a snide remark regarding punctuality nearly escaped his lips, but the eagerness in Harry’s expression caused him to swallow his irritation. “Ready?”

For Fuck’s sake. “Yes, Potter. For at least the last ten minutes or so.”

“Sorry,” Harry said sheepishly. “I was just confirming our plans with—I just wanted to make sure that the pitch was still available.”

Draco raised his brow in surprise. “Where exactly are we flying?”

“If I told you, it would ruin the surprise,” Harry grinned. He held out his arm. “Side-Along?”

“Don't make me regret my trust,” Draco pouted. His fingers had just hooked over the bend in Harry’s elbow when Draco felt the sudden tug, disorientation and a lurching in his stomach that he wasn’t sure was due solely to the act of Apparition. He felt his feet settle first as the rest of his body followed, his surroundings spinning in a blur of muted colors until everything finally slowed and came back into focus.

Harry stumbled. His body pressed up against Draco’s as his eyes widened.

“Ooomph.” Harry stepped back quickly; if it weren’t for the full moon, Draco would have missed his faint blush. “We have to hurry. We’ve only a couple more minutes before all the protective spells go up.”

“Protective spells? Where are…” Draco looked around, slowly acclimating to their surroundings. It was distant yet familiar, the grounds as beautiful and haunting as he had remembered. “How did you get us through?” he asked, gobsmacked.

“I may have called in a few favours to Minerva,” Harry admitted.

Draco saw the small, winding path which led through the hill and onto the Quidditch Training Grounds. A pounding excitement thrummed through his veins, intensified by the smell of grass and loam. They hurried past the Owlery; Draco felt a buzzing on his skin which was foreign but not unpleasant as the Castle shuddered, then let them through.  The silvered light tinted the grass a near-purple, the expanse of the sky broken up by the Turris Magnus as it jutted heavenwards, unyielding and proud.

Harry held out his fist.  A fluttering movement captured Draco’s attention, followed by the glint of gold that reflected off the Snitch.

“Seeker’s Match?” Harry asked, the challenge evident in his grin.

Draco pulled on his gloves. “Bring it on. And fair warning: this time, I won’t be distracted.”

Harry released the Snitch. It shot straight into the air, hovering impatiently as they mounted their brooms, then zig-zagged across the field and behind the Training Grounds tower. Harry let out a whoop as Draco laughed, immediately forgetting his promise to remain focused. Harry was breathtaking as his body shifted in time with his broom’s movements, graceful and powerful and impressive to watch.

They darted through between the turrets, chasing each other as much as the Snitch. Harry occasionally showed off a daring turn or heart-stopping drop as Draco matched him with the precision of his moves and his memory of the terrain. As the pleasure and exhilaration built, Draco found himself hoping that neither of them would emerge victorious and that their game would never end.

They followed the Snitch south, accelerating as the grounds widened, the world between the mountains spreading out beneath them as they approached the expanse of the Great Lake. The Scottish winter had turned its surface glasslike, its mirrored perfection broken by the occasional icy floe.

Draco saw the Snitch first, its wings an infinitesimal blur as it sped along the banks. He eyed Harry, keeping his expression carefully blank. Once he saw Harry continue forward, he pulled up suddenly and shouted, “Prepare to lose, Potter!”

Draco dove as the air rushed into his lungs, burning through his chest and making him feel alive. He felt Potter circle around, visualised the way in which Harry would bank the curve, body and broom tilted practically on their sides. Draco pushed forward, the lengths of his hair whipping about his face, each stinging lash breaking through the numbing cold and setting his nerves alight.

The Snitch faltered for a second, as if aware of the two men barreling towards it at full speed. Draco reached out as the ground approached at a dizzying rate, his robes billowing and fingers stretched, their tips pushing to the ends of his gloves. He ratcheted them closed then pulled the front end of his broomstick up with a sharp tug. The rapid change in direction was too much for someone who hadn’t flown aggressively in years and Draco hit the ground hard, the frozen earth making its displeasure known even through the layers of his clothes.

“Bloody hell, Draco!”

Harry skidded to a stop and dismounted. “We’re not seventeen you know,” he bit out. He lay Draco on his back, his movements careful despite the fury underlying his tone. “You and your posh life, with all your cigs and drinks. What made you think you could get away with a move like that?”

“I almost made it,” Draco wheezed. He tried to inhale, but everything hurt. “I could have avoided the collision if the bloody broom just flew a little bit faster.”

“Right. It was the broom’s fault. And it was also the broom that forced you into some dodgy imitation of a Sloth Grip Roll.”

“Potter.”

“What?!”

“Could you get my right arm out from underneath? I don’t think it’s broken, but it’s bloody painful to move.”

Harry took out his wand and waved it over Draco. “Nothing’s broken,” he declared as the diagnostic spell shimmered green; Draco let out a small gasp from its warmth. “You’re lucky, though I doubt you’ll be feeling that way tomorrow.” He rolled Draco over onto his back and repositioned his arm gingerly.

Draco gave him a crooked grin. “Worth it now, though,” he said laughing as he showed Harry the Snitch. He sat up and winced at the pain, feeling a bit stiff.

Harry plopped down beside him. Draco leaned in, gravitating unthinkingly towards Harry’s solidity and warmth.

He handed Harry the Snitch. The wings slowed then retracted as Harry placed it back in his pocket. They stared out into the waters of the lake, watching as the air grew misty with each huff of their breath.

“Winning’s not everything, you know. Sometimes the price just isn’t worth it.”

“But this was. Not so much the winning. The flying.” Draco looked away, unable to meet Harry’s gaze. “I had a lot of fun. It’s been years since I've done anything like this.”

“Yeah, me too. I mean, I’ve flown aggressively—you have to, when you’re playing against Gin and Ron and George—but I can’t remember the last time I've flown for the pure enjoyment of it. I’d almost forgotten how amazing that can be.”

“So it was worth it then. Worth the bruising of my muscles and your ego.”

Harry laughed. “It bruised a bit more than that. Take a look at your broom.”

Draco’s eyes widened when he saw the shards of wood littering the banks of the lake.

“Bugger!”

Harry stood, and gently helped Draco up. “I’m sorry. I don’t think it’s salvageable. If you think you can manage, I’ll fly us out of the grounds and then Apparate us home.”

Draco mounted the Firebolt behind Harry. He was flooded by the memories of the last time he was in this position, when fear and death made him cling to Harry with everything he had. This time when his arms wrapped tightly around Harry’s waist it was to remember the joy and magic of their day, in the hopes that he would somehow have the chance to relive it once more.

 

Draco

I had a lot of fun. When do you think we can do it again?

Harry

 

Harry

I seem to recall that it was I who had hit my head, not you. Have you forgotten that I’m currently sans broom?

At least I exited on a high note.

Draco

 

Draco

When do you think you’ll get another?

Harry

 

Harry

Unlike some other (entitled) person who shall remain nameless (The Chosen One), not all of us have broom companies at our beck and call.

I’ll let you know when I do. Perhaps this Spring.

Draco

 

Draco

How about now?

Harry

 

Draco was just about to dash off a reply regarding the benefits of listening in “Crisis Negotiation” when there was an impatient rap on the window. A large brown postal owl flew with great effort, carrying a package that was nearly two metres long. Draco opened the sash and handed the irritated bird a treat, ignoring her frustrated pecking as he opened the enclosed card.

 

Draco

Next time, there’s no excuses

H

 

Dracos’s heart thudded as he pulled on the twine.  The binding loosened as the layers of paper fell apart, revealing the polished ebony handle and precision-cut hazel twigs of a brand new Firebolt broom.

A gasp escaped as he staggered backwards, his throat prickling at the obvious generosity and thought. Harry had said that the cost of winning was not always worth it. Draco was starting to realise that the price of breaking up Harry Potter and Ginevra Weasley may not be worth the toll it could take on his heart.

❣ Forge an Emotional Connection ❣

❣ Never Engage in a Physical Relationship ❣

“Draco?”

Draco looked up from where he was sitting as the flames in the fireplace flared green.

“Granger. You’re looking well. How’d you escape your doting husband this time?”

“I sent him on a mission. He’s not to return unless it’s with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy. It’s a Muggle ice cream,” she laughed upon seeing Draco’s confusion. “Absolutely delicious, and not always easy to find.”

“That’s quite ingenious of you. We may make an honorary Slytherin of you yet.”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been craving it as well. And I’ll bet he returns with more than just one pint; it’s not purely out of the goodness of Ron’s heart that he never kicks up a fuss.”

“Right. It could also be his instinct for self-preservation,” Draco drawled as Hermione shot him a grin. “So what’s next on Harry’s agenda?”

“Teddy’s birthday next month. Andromeda’s planning a party, and Harry mentioned that you’ve been spending some time with his godson. I wouldn’t be surprised if you got an invitation as well.”

“What about Ginny?” Spending an afternoon with children skunked on sweets and a still-guarded aunt plus Harry’s fiancée did not bode well for a fun nor productive afternoon.

“Ginny’s still in Wales. She’s made it into the final round of drafts. If there’s a formal offer and she accepts it, she’ll start training during the first week of April.”

“The first week in April?” Draco bit his lip in frustration. “That won’t work for me either. I had planned a holiday in Paris, one which I’d prefer not to cancel.”

Hermione let out a sigh. “Honestly, everything may be moot by then. They’re both busy and preoccupied—enough so that their wedding plans have been put temporarily on hold.”

“As happy as I am to relieve you of your Galleons, it’s possible that you may not have needed my services, after all.”

“Things happen for a reason, Draco. I don’t doubt that the result is due in part to your influence, at least where Harry’s concerned.”

“Speaking of whom, how does Harry feel about the delay in their plans?”

Hermione hesitated. “He’s taking the news rather well.” She sighed. “Harry’s just always been so bloody noble, always taking into account the needs of others before his own. Spending time with you has allowed him to take a step back and think about what he truly wants.”

Draco let out a bitter laugh. “I’m glad I could get him to see the benefits of being selfish.”

“I didn’t mean it in that way and you know it.”

Draco shrugged. “So it may just take one more meeting, then. To tip him over the proverbial edge.”

“Perhaps,” Hermione said rather unhappily. “This is one instance where I’d love to be wrong, but…” Her eyes widened. “I think Ron’s at the door. I’ll call you if something else comes up.”

Draco watched as she disappeared into the flames, her mass of curls looking even wilder mid-flight. He walked towards the kitchen; it had rained earlier in the day, and the combination of the setting sun and the moisture-laden air turned the sky a lurid red.

He opened the fridge and studied its contents. A delicious, roasted hake would take little effort to make. He gave his wand a lazy flick and sent several items in the direction of the counter. He had just finished slicing the peppers and was reaching for the next ingredient in the mise en place when the Floo flared green once more.

“What errand did you send your husband on for this time?” he called out, rinsing his hands under the cold water.

“Er—Draco? Can I come through?”

Draco barely had time to verbalise his assent before Harry stumbled into the living room. His appearance was shocking; his face was blotchy and his eyes swollen, his hair was even more disheveled than usual, and his clothes looked like they had been slept in for two days straight.

Draco wiped his hands dry and came over.

“Merlin, Potter, what’s got into you?” He took a step back as he was assaulted by the stench of Firewhiskey. “Never mind, I think I just got my answer.”

“Draco,” Harry begged, his eyes overly bright. ”I can’t burden Ginny with this right now, not when her head needs to be firmly on tryouts, and Hermione’s due to give birth, and I’m sorry to drop in like this on you but I really need to talk to someone, and I just didn’t know who else to turn to.” His voice trailed as he finally registered the state of Draco’s kitchen.

“I’m sorry. I interrupted your dinner plans. I’ll just… I’ll just go.”

Draco’s hand darted out. “It was a dinner for one. Stay.” He cast a preservation charm then waved his wand, sending two tumblers followed by a bottle of flavoured sparkling water into the living room as he led Harry to the couch.

“Tell me,” Draco urged as he poured a glass of water. He summoned one of the heated rolls from the basket and shoved both items into Harry’s hands. “What’s got you so worked up that you’re drinking as if England’s finally won the bloody World Cup?”

“It’s March,” Harry said simply.

Draco looked at Harry closely. “Yes. And before March comes February, and after it comes April.” He nudged the bread gently in Harry’s direction.

Harry managed a scowl even as he took a bite, albeit begrudgingly. “I hate March,” he added, his expression fierce.

“It’s terribly rainy,” Draco conceded. “But I can’t imagine a spot of bad weather’s what’s got you showing up at my flat unannounced, maudlin and drunk.”

Harry hesitated, staring at Draco before his face crumpled. “Remus and my Dad were born in March,” he said softly. “March was when Dobby…” He scrubbed his face, looking young and lost. “They’re all gone, Draco. They’re gone.”

Draco swallowed, knowing how his memories would be filled with those of Crabbe and Snape once May came around.

“They are, Harry,” he whispered, drawing Harry to him. He wrapped his arm around Harry carefully. “They’re gone, but you’re not.”

Harry rested his head against the crook of Draco’s neck. His hair was surprisingly pliable despite its wiry and unruly appearance and when Draco inhaled, it smelled faintly of grass and lemon.

“I know that. But there are some days when the guilt and the thought of how much I miss them are almost too much to bear.”

“Harry.” Draco reached up and carded his fingers through Harry’s messy locks, trying to soothe him with his hands when his words could not. “Bravery and love are the purest of incentives. I’m sure they would have made the same decision even had they known the outcome, because their love and belief in you and their cause was worth it.”

“They sacrificed themselves so that others could know a world where peace and equality exist, so everyone could move forward. But I feel so trapped.” He gave an ironic laugh as he lifted his eyes to Draco, red-rimmed and lost. “I’m supposed to be 'The Boy Who Lived.'  And there are days where I don’t know what that means, at all.”

“You’re alive, Harry.” Draco fought against the urge to press his lips onto Harry’s forehead in a kiss. “I see your excitement when you talk about Teddy. I see the anger at the injustices that still exist. I see the love that you have for your friends and the consideration you have for others. I see the absolute joy you radiate when you fly. Every single one of these emotions is what it means to be alive.”

“You forgot about passion,” Harry said, the tenor of his voice growing husky and raw. He turned, the movement causing his nose to brush against the curve of Draco’s neck as Draco fought the urge to arch further into the touch.

“Harry,” he breathed.

“Godric, how you make me feel. You make me feel all those things—excitement and anger, consideration and joy. And you’re so bloody gorgeous.” Harry grasped Draco’s chin; too late did Draco realise Harry was pulling him in for a kiss.

Harry’s mouth parted, his tongue licking over Draco’s lips before sliding slowly into his mouth. His hands grew insistent, rubbing along Draco’s flanks, continuing their downward descent until they rested on his bum. Draco shuddered; it had been so long since he had been touched like this, with such naked emotion and want.

“No,” he gasped.

The denial registered despite Harry’s inebriated state. He pulled back, confused.

“No,” Draco repeated with more emphasis than he felt. “I won’t have you. Not like this.” He stood, putting a safe distance between him and Harry. “You’re drunk. You’re engaged. You’re emotional, and right now, I’m a convenience.”

“You want me, though,” Harry insisted, his gaze flicking to the swell that filled out the front of Draco’s trousers. “I want you, too. Please.”

“Not like this. But I’ll be here as a friend tonight if that's what you need.”

“You’re not just a convenience,” Harry mumbled.

“We’ll see,” Draco hedged, unable to promise anything more. He gathered Harry into his arms, pushing away his guilt as he held him close.

“I’m glad we ran into each other at the Ministry Ball, Draco,” Harry whispered, his words slurred, tempered by drink and exhaustion.

“Me too.” Draco wondered how much that feeling would change if Harry ever knew the truth. They lay in each other’s arms as the sun made its steady descent, the weight of Harry’s body growing lax as he gave in to his weariness and a welcome sleep.

Draco transfigured the couch into a double and covered Harry with a throw.

“Good night,” he whispered. He hesitated for a moment before leaning forward, unable to resist tasting Harry’s mouth. His lips were as soft as Draco had remembered, and despite the lingering hint of alcohol, still unbearably and temptingly sweet.

Never Engage in a Physical Relationship

The morning after was predictably awkward. The reappearance of Potter’s sensibility seemed to have coincided with the onset of his sobriety. He lifted his head, wearing a sheepish look that was likely the result of the physical effects of his hangover and a healthy dose of embarrassment.

“God, Malfoy. You didn’t even have a chance to make your dinner last night.”

Draco took a look at the dishes which occupied the countertop, still fresh and bright. He had retreated to the safety of his room soon after Harry had fallen asleep—an easier, albeit more cowardly, way out.

“It’s fine,” he said, flicking his wand as the containers of ingredients sailed back into the fridge. “Everything held under the preservation charm. I’ll make use of it tonight.”

“Yeah. About what happened. Thanks for being there. For listening, and not throwing me out on my arse when I was being a bit of one myself.”

“I do care for you, Harry,” Draco said, choosing his words carefully. “The times we’ve spent together in the last several months were some of the most fun I’ve had in years.”

“So why—?”

“There hasn’t been anyone meaningful in my life for a long time. Oh please, I never said I was celibate,” Draco said, rolling his eyes at Harry’s pointed look, “but a one-off here and there does not a relationship make.

"But you’re different. With our history, if our relationship were ever to turn physical, an emotional connection would already be in place. And now that we’ve entered this comfortable truce, the last thing I’d want is to bollock things up. Plus there’s the fact that you’re currently engaged.”

“What if I weren’t? Engaged to Ginny, that is,” Harry asked softly.

A riot of emotions flooded Draco. This was how it all started, what he was hired for, after all. He could finish the job, take his fifty-thousand Galleons and be rid of his confusion and guilt, even if it meant no more luncheons or Quidditch matches or Seeker’s games or kisses with Potter.

“I can’t answer that,” he finally said. “Harry—whatever you decide about your future with Ginny, it has to come from you. From your feelings for her, and not any future that you may think that you have with me.”

Harry’s brows drew together. “Are you saying that because you don’t want anything more, or because you’re trying to protect me?”

Draco took a deep breath, wondering if he was destined to live a life that was forever tainted by his poor choices. “I wish I could say that I’m thinking of the better good of all involved, but the truth is that I’m a selfish prick. I don’t need the added burden of guilt that would result from destroying either of your lives.

"Take the time that you need. But perhaps it would be better if you stayed away whilst you’re trying to make your decision.”

Draco practically pushed Harry out the door, trying to ignore the ache in his heart as he witnessed Harry’s hurt expression.

~❣~

The next several days passed without any word from Harry. Draco tried to resume his regular activities but everything seemed to lack its former appeal. An afternoon spent with Pansy shopping at Bourdon House in Mayfair while indulging in salacious gossip did little to lift his spirits. He even took his brand new Firebolt out for a spin, losing himself temporarily in its breathtaking speed. He took in the beauty of London, captivated by the way her lights reflected so beautifully off the Thames.

He had spiralled lower, following the river’s course as it meandered from the city to the countryside, riding so close to the ground that he was able to brush the tips of the reeds with his hands. But joy turned to wistfulness once he remembered flying along the banks of the Great Lake with Harry. The longing it produced was so intense that it quelled any further desire to fly; Draco headed home, then proceeded to stow away the Firebolt in the back of a seldom-used closet.

Perhaps it was good he was heading to Paris in a week. He needed time away from London. To distance himself from his rampant hormones and intrusive emotions, and to regain some semblance of professionalism and regroup.

Leave it to Potter to make him consider opting out of a job, and to relinquish his perfect Matchbreaking record and refuse payment of any kind. Leave it to Potter to make him contemplate abandoning a profession which had allowed him to regain some semblance of his former life, and to trade in the security of a steady income for that of a future unknown.

Leave it to Potter to make him feel something deeper than just physical attraction, and damning him with hope.

His musings were interrupted by an urgent knock on the door. A look of displeasure crossed his face given the untimely hour, and he opened the door with more force than necessary.

“Harry—”

Harry propelled himself forward. “It’s done,” he murmured, grabbing Draco and pushing him up against the wall. “I broke it off with Ginny. I tried to dodge the paparazzi, but there’s several of them stuck outside your building’s gates. I shouldn't have led them here, but I had to see you.” He looked momentarily contrite before he wound his hands around Draco’s waist and pulled him flush.

Draco gasped, his hands fisting into the folds of Harry’s shirt. “Harry, wait.”

“I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of denying myself what I want in deference to what others expect. The only way I’m going to stop is if it’s you who tells me that this is wrong. That I’m mistaken in what I feel, and what I think you feel for me.”

“Ginny—”

“Is an incredible friend and an amazing woman who deserves a partner who considers her more than ‘second best.’ ”

“Your work with the DMLE. You’re on the shortlist for assistant Head.”

“The Ministry is my job. They don’t get to dictate my personal life.”

“The public, the Prophet. I’m an ex-Death Eater, Harry. A Malfoy. People are going to talk.”

“They already do.” Harry shifted, the movement repositioning his leg so that it rested between Draco’s thighs. “Weren’t you the one who encouraged me to live? To get on with my life?”

Upon seeing Draco’s reluctant nod, Harry gripped his wrist. “So let me live it. Let me make my own decisions, even if it leads to my own mistakes.” The bravado in his voice wavered. “Unless you don't want me?”

“Salazar, I do.” Draco swallowed thickly. The words had spilled out from him unwittingly, his desires bared and dangerously uncensored. Perhaps if he could confess to Harry now, all would not be lost.

“I'm not someone who wears his heart on his sleeve. I’m a Slytherin; I was taught from an early age to cloak my feelings and my thoughts. What you see may not always be what you get.”

“You don’t have to wear your heart on your sleeve for me to know you, Draco. You’re the blighter who surprised me with his insightfulness on the night of the Ministry Ball. You’re the fan who wasn't past risking a bit of his self-dignity in the name of fun. You’re the man who showed a tenderness for his cousin despite the divide of your family’s past. And you’re the brilliant flyer who’s so bloody competitive that you’d prefer to end up in St Mungo’s than lose the Snitch, even while flying against me on a lesser broom.”

Draco managed a huff even as he felt his cheeks warm. “So you admit after all this time that the difference was in the broom.”

Harry let out a soft laugh, nuzzling Draco’s neck. “I’ve wanted you for so long. Ever since the Quidditch Match. Maybe even longer,” he confessed. He lifted his head and cupped Draco’s chin, his pupils fattening with lust. “I’m going to kiss you now, okay?”

The flutter which flared in his belly worked its way up to Draco’s chest. “Alright,” he breathed.

Potter’s kiss was like the finest Firewhiskey: powerful and bold, nuanced and smooth, and spicy enough to nearly bring Draco to his knees. Harry lowered his mouth to work the column of Draco’s neck, the stubble along his jaw rasping against the smooth and tender skin.

“Fuck, you taste amazing,” he groaned. “You have no idea what you do to me.”

Draco tilted his head back to allow Harry access, his fingers gripping the loops of Harry’s jeans as he fought to steady his swaying legs. “I may have a bit of one,” he gasped as he stumbled, his hips coming in contact with Harry’s swelling erection.

Merlin. It had been months since Draco had been with someone in such a manner, much less someone who stirred his emotions and desires such as this. The idea of reducing the Saviour to a ruddy mess should have been a heady one—his teenage wank fantasies usually included some variant of a submissive Potter, after all—but Draco wanted something more meaningful for their first time together than some inelegant rutting on his living room floor.

“Bedroom. Now,” he managed before Harry silenced him with another kiss.

What should have taken no more than fifteen seconds was drawn out as Harry made a game of impressing Draco with his wandless magic (and all-around horniness) every several feet. Draco’s shirt was the first to be vanished (as they stumbled past the console table) followed by his belt and trousers (once they reached the Floo). The sight of him in such a state of undress led to some furious snogging (and further grinding) and an even further delay.

Draco’s skin prickled. It wasn’t often that he felt self-conscious of his appearance; he was well-aware of his unique and aristocratic beauty, but there was a part of him that wondered if he would be found lacking when it came to being judged by Harry. His embarrassment quickly faded, however, once he saw the desire in Harry’s feral gaze.

His loafers and socks were off by the time they reached the hallway (with an extra ten seconds to toe-off the footwear; Draco refused to let Harry Vanish a perfectly good pair of John Lobb’s). When they pushed past the door to the bedroom, Draco was left clad in little more than his dignity and his briefs.

Harry stared, fixated on the outline of Draco's straining cock. “Fucking Christ,” he whispered as he gripped the waist of Draco’s Y-fronts and pulled. The elastic resisted as it caught on the head of Draco’s cock before finally springing free, and the feel of the fabric as it slid along the length of Draco’s leg made the action almost unbearably erotic.

“Ahhhh, fuck,” Draco swore as Harry leaned in and rubbed his face against Draco’s balls and prick. Draco tilted his hips as he attempted to force his cock in the direction of Harry’s delectable mouth.

Harry looked up and smirked, his eyes glinting with mischief as he grasped the base of Draco’s cock. His lips were kiss-stained a cherry red, appearing soft yet filthy and obscene as he lapped and sucked enthusiastically at the head.

“Look at you. Sucking me so perfectly.” Draco twisted his fingers through Harry's hair and thrust into his widening mouth, those perfect lips wrapped around the thickness of Draco’s prick and glistening with pre-come and saliva as he swallowed him down.

He closed his eyes, revelling in the warmth of Harry’s mouth, the tightness of his throat and the rough slide of his tongue. The sloppy sounds filled the air, mingled with the occasional grunt as Harry took him in, his breath hot against Draco’s platinum curls.

Draco’s hands curled tightly until they were nearly white-knuckled against the jet black of Harry’s locks. He had the horrifying realisation that he was nearing the edge as his feet rocked forward and his thighs tensed.  He watched as Harry reached down to palm his own cock through his jeans, never once slowing down on the steady bobbing of his head.

“Fuck me,” Draco begged, his voice breaking. The plea must have crossed through Harry’s lust because the sucking stopped, confusion flitting over his half-lidded gaze.

“Fuck me,” Draco repeated, overwhelmed by his need to feel Harry wrapped around him. On him. In him. Filling him. “Please.”

Harry’s breath hitched, the green of his eyes disappearing to black even as his face softened into something disbelieving. “Merlin,” he whispered. He stood, kissing Draco with lips marked with the scent of sex as they worked frantically to remove his jeans.

Draco clawed at Harry’s shirt; Harry seemed disinclined to cease their snogging to remove it fully and chose to spell away the remaining clothing instead.  Draco let out an audible gasp.  The promise of all that lean and toned muscle, honed by Quidditch and chasing down Dark Wizards couldn’t begin to compare to the real thing. Harry was gorgeous, his skin golden and slicked from his earlier efforts. He moved with a determined grace as he backed Draco against the edge of the bed, his ruddy cock bouncing with every step.

Draco fell backwards onto the duvet, wrapped from behind in sateen cotton and from above in the arms and legs of Potter.

“Oh,” he exclaimed as Harry knelt between his legs and cupped his arse, those large hands trembling with something more than just physical effort.

Draco gasped as Harry bridged the cleft of his buttocks and gently prised them apart. A thumb probed further, its calloused pad tracing the sensitive rim, and Draco drew up his knees and tilted his hips towards Harry, shifting into that maddening touch.

“You’re so beautiful.” Harry’s voice was unsteady as he muttered a quick cleansing charm. The residue of magic still lingered when it was replaced by something wet as Harry traced the shape of his arsehole with his tongue.

“Ah, Christ... unghh, fuck,” Draco groaned. His cock leaked steadily as his hips writhed, his movements increasing as Harry ate him out. It was as if Harry were trying to taste him with every part of his tongue; rough and flat, kitten licks at the tip, probing and curled, the wet, erotic sounds of mouth and tongue adding to the noise of Draco’s growing whines.

“You taste... wow,” Harry said, his voice hoarse with lust before he dove back in, fucking him past the rim. Once Draco’s arse was loosened and glistening pink, Harry added a finger, then two, the digits reaching and curling as he worked to stretch Draco out.

A shock of pleasure radiated from the base of Draco’s spine down to his cock. The intensity grew as Harry worked him open, his fingers pistoning in and out, their thick strength filling Draco expertly even as they were slowly taking him apart.

Irrational jealousy flared in Draco’s chest at the realisation that Harry had done this before, that those magnificent fingers and talented tongue had given pleasure to someone else.

“Enough,” he growled. He took advantage of Harry’s surprise to flip them both, manoeuvering himself so he was upright and straddling Harry’s well-muscled thighs, hovering just over the tip of Harry’s straining cock.

“Jesus, Draco.” Harry’s eyes were glazed as they roved over Draco’s pale skin, his hands travelling reverently up Draco’s flanks as if he couldn’t touch him enough. They settled on Draco’s hips, their gentle pressure a plea as they urged him down.

Draco reached between them and positioned the blunt head of Harry’s cock against his slicked hole. He gasped at the intrusion, then shifted slightly to accommodate its width as he concentrated on unclenching his arse. A bead of sweat gathered in the dimple above his buttocks as he lowered himself onto Potter’s rigid length. His lips curled in satisfaction as Potter stilled as if bracing himself against the incredible tightness, afraid to spill so soon.

Draco seated himself fully, the flesh of his cheeks rubbing against the wiry hairs at Harry’s groin. He leaned forward and canted his hips, the movement drawing him up along that delicious prick.

“I’m going to ride you now, Potter,” Draco whispered wickedly as Harry let out a painful hiss. He gave an experimental circle of his hips as Harry groaned. “I’m going to fuck myself on your cock until you fill me with your come.”

A fierce look overtook Harry’s face as a possessive sound escaped his throat, garbled and needy. He grabbed Draco’s hips, steadying them as he began to move. Each thrust seemed to penetrate more deeply, the erratic movements brushing against Draco’s prostate, threatening the remainder of his composure with each delectable roll.

Draco moaned, bracing his hands on top of Harry’s shoulders as he ground against him, head tipped back and eyes closed. The air was thick with their sweat and sex; he could feel the slick of their skin, the heat underneath his palms, the guttural start and sibilant end to Harry’s grunts, and the way his cock bounced with every thrust.

“Look at me, Draco,” Harry pleaded. “I want to—nngh—see your face, see your... fucking Christ—

Draco’s eyes flew open, meeting Harry’s rapturous gaze. He felt the edges of Harry’s fingers marking him as they dug into his sides, crescents of red blooming under the white of his skin.

“Draco, I—” Harry tensed, then with great effort brought his hand up and circled Draco’s cock, stroking and twisting along its swollen shaft.

The brush of his thumb against the slickened tip was all that it took. Draco came with a choked cry, his face twisting in pleasure as he shot his spunk all over Harry’s hand. Harry quickly followed suit, his face caught between exaltation and relief, the splash of his come hot as it filled Draco’s hole.

Draco continued to roll his hips even as warmth and languor settled over him, unwilling to end the moment until he felt Harry soften and slide out. He slipped off, content to let Harry carry the weight of them both as he lay his head on his chest, lulled by its rise and fall.

“Fuck,” Harry breathed. He reached up and threaded his fingers through Draco’s hair. “I never knew it could be like this.” He flicked the wrist of his free hand absentmindedly, sighing contentedly as a fleeting warmth brushed over their skin.

Draco looked down to discover the remnants of their lovemaking wiped clean.

“Wordless and wandless, hmmm?” he purred, his prick already showing renewed interest following the display of Harry’s magical prowess. He stretched, gently fingering the soft hairs on Harry’s balls. “How long before you’re ready for round number two?”

Harry flipped him over, his hand stroking Draco’s stirring cock. “I’ve never had any issues keeping up.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” Draco laughed as he pulled Harry into a heart-stopping kiss before disappearing under the sheets.

A Clean Break is the Best Break

The morning sun filtered into the room, spilling its warmth over the bed and the two bodies sprawled within it. Draco hummed as he curled up against something warm and masculine that was also very (delightfully) hard.

He cracked open an eye, making out through his half-lidded gaze the sight of an awake and overly-cheerful Potter.

“Salazar! Don’t you ever sleep?” he grumbled as Harry rolled off his side to greet Draco with a morning kiss.

“Couldn’t. Woke up and had to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “You should have been sorted into Hufflepuff,” he snorted, although he couldn’t quite hide his smile.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Harry grinned. “Be right back. Gotta use the loo.”

Draco waved him in the direction of the en-suite then sighed pleasurably as he stretched. Perhaps they could go flying today; Spring was near, and the brisk air and light winds meant conditions that were just challenging enough.

“Oi!” Draco looked up to see Harry wincing as he hopped on one leg. In their haste, he had forgotten to warn Harry about the valises and suitcases which were scattered about the floor.

Harry looked incredulously at the display. “Are you moving?”

Draco shook his head. “Holiday. I’m going to Paris, the week after tomorrow.”

Harry frowned. “It looks like you’ve packed your entire wardrobe. How long are you planning to be away?”

Draco laughed. “Just a week. It’s Paris,” he emphasised. A canny look suddenly crossed his face. “Why Potter. Don’t tell me you’re going to miss me.”

Harry made an unhappy noise. “Perhaps. Just a bit.”

Draco’s eyes lit up. “You should come along. I’ve reservations for the Suite Aurore at Le Narcisse Blanc. The cherry blossoms around the Champs de Mars will be in full bloom. It’s one of my favourite times of the year.”

“Who’s the Hufflepuff now?” Harry asked, somewhat mollified. His face softened. “I’d love to go. I’ve never been there on holiday, only for work, and even then I never got a chance to really enjoy the sights. I’ll talk to Kingsley; it may be a good time to escape London for a bit, given the guaranteed scrutiny of the press.”

“Mmmm,” Draco said as his mind went in a decidedly wicked direction. “I’d be happy to show you all the ins and outs. If you know what I mean. My turn,” he said, studiously ignoring Harry’s groan as he slid out of bed, feet padding towards the bathroom. “Then perhaps some breakfast?”

“I’ll start. Tea?”

“Left-hand cabinet, second shelf.”

Draco brushed his teeth and ran a comb through his hair before making his way towards the living room and the kitchen. The smell of brewing tea was already permeating the flat—a smoky and almost cocoa-flavoured aroma that was nearly as welcome as the sight of Harry puttering around the kitchen, clanging the cutlery and pans, bare-chested and clad only in his boxers. The lovebites which decorated his collarbone were clearly visible, their purple blooms filling Draco with a fierce delight. Perhaps he'd add just a few more to the collection right after breakfast.

Somewhere more private.

He was almost across the living room when he was stopped by the green flames of the Floo.

“Draco! Did you see today’s papers?” Millicent's voice boomed as she held out the weekend editions of the Quibbler and the Prophet.

“Listen to this: ‘Fairy Tale Engagement Shattered.’ And from the front page of the Prophet: 'Say It Isn’t So: Potter and Weasley Call it Quits.' ”

“Millie! Now’s not a good time!” Draco waved at her frantically, trying to shoo her back from the hole she crawled out of as he hissed under his breath.

“Yet another success. I never should have doubted you,” she continued, oblivious to Draco's rapidly disintegrating world. “After all, you’re the crème de la crème of Matchbreakers. Between your success with Potter and your still-perfect record, our client list is about to explode. In fact—”

Millicent’s eyes suddenly went wide in horror. A chill settled over Draco as he turned. The colour had drained from Harry’s face, his hands trembling as the tray holding the teapot and their breakfast slid slowly towards the floor.

Millie turned bright red. “Shite. Oh God, Harry, it’s not what you think...”

“Harry.” Draco took a step forward cautiously as if approaching a cornered animal. He expected to see anger, but the pain and disappointment that flashed across Harry’s face were a thousand times worse.

“Harry,” Draco tried again, his voice breaking as Harry shook his head then Disapparated without a further word.

Draco sank to his knees, his heart shattering like the bits of porcelain that were now scattered all over his Jatoba floor.

Never Fall in Love ❣

Draco stood on the Pont Alexandre III and stared out over the Seine. He had just spent an entire afternoon at the Palais de la Découverte, yet his ennui following what should have been a stimulating day only underlined his glumness and displeasure.

He wondered how Harry was faring. The git had retreated back to the safety of Grimmauld Place, closing his Floo and adjusting his wards to bar everyone, including his closest friends. Draco’s owls returned unread, and when he called Hermione in a state of near panic, even she couldn’t get through.

Ginny was effective in shutting down the line of inquisition on her side, aided in part by her connections at the Prophet and the heightened security at the Harpies’ training camp. The lack of sight or sound from the Saviour himself, however, ramped up the speculation as to the reason for the dissolution of their engagement—the most popular theory was that the entire story was merely a publicity stunt fabricated to throw the populace off the track.

The sun had just begun to touch on the horizon, taking with it the clear blue of the Parisian sky and leaving in its place a wash of pinks and lavenders brushed with gold. The candelabras dotting the length of the bridge slowly came alive, their etched and frosted globes suffusing the air with a warm and haloed glow. Even the tourist boats made accommodations for the time of day as the chatter of the sightseers grew muted in deference to the romantic city lights.

Draco ran his hand against the smooth, stone rail. There may be those who felt that the crossing was unnecessarily grandiose, but in his mind, it was perfection in its intention—a link between the past and future, nationalism and globalism, and romance and hope.

A pang of self-pity washed over him as a couple passed, their heads bent close together, hands firmly ensconced in each other’s grip. With no one to hold his own, he fumbled around for a cigarette instead. He dug around the pockets of his Muggle-tailored coat, cursing when the edge of the carton caught on the narrow opening and caused him to elbow the gentleman standing to his right.

“Sorry.” Draco glanced at the stranger out of the corner of his eye. He was nearly as tall as Draco, with a shock of light brown hair that peeked out from beneath his hoodie. Although the man’s profile was partially hidden, the way in which his clothing hugged his body suggested that he was lean and fit. Had it been several months ago, Draco may have been tempted to strike up something more than just a conversation, but now…

He held out his pack in a conciliatory gesture, which the man declined with a shake of his head.

“They say that Paris is the ‘City of Love.’ ” Something in the timbre of the man’s voice made Draco's breath hitch.

“I had always thought so. Unfortunately, it is also now an unpleasant reminder of all that I’ve lost.” Draco lit his cigarette and inhaled, welcoming the acrid smoke as it pulled deep and tight into his lungs.

“Romance troubles?”

Draco let out a sharp bark of laughter. “Yeah, you could say that. Although I've no one to blame but myself.” He sighed. “It took destroying the best thing that ever happened to me to make me realise just how much I had to lose.”

The stranger remained silent as they both looked out over the river, the low puttering of the boats passing below leaving a swash of foam churning in their wake.

The man frowned. “I was recently hurt by someone I cared deeply about. I felt duped. Played for the fool.”

The raw hurt in his voice made Draco wince. “What happened? Did you forgive her, or did you end up moving on?”

“Him,” the stranger corrected. “And in answer to both your questions, not yet.” He let out a long sigh. “At first, I didn't know if I could ever get over that level of betrayal. But the angrier I got, the sadder I felt, and every day apart from him made me see all of the wonderful things he also added to my life.”

Draco blinked. “I think I always knew how great it was," he said, "or at least how great it could be. The problem was that I didn’t think I was worthy of it. I couldn’t believe I was deserving of such a wonderful person in my life, knowing they would leave the second they were to see the real me.”

“Did they not allow you to be yourself? Or perhaps they were overly judgmental.”

“No. He was none of that.” The words came out short, as Draco suddenly felt the need to defend Harry. “It’s not that simple. We had known each other as children. We had…well, a messy and complicated history, to put it mildly.”

“Yet you still ended up together.” The man waved a powerful hand at the bridge and the city beyond. “When isn’t history complicated? It doesn’t mean the end result can’t be beautiful.”

Draco snorted. “It can also be a bloody, painful mess.”

“So you’d rather live a safe and uneventful life by taking the coward’s way out.”

There was an undeniable steeliness to the man’s tone. Draco wrapped his coat around him and shivered, despite the temperate evening air.

“Are things ever that simple? I can tell you from personal experience that there is little to gain and everything to lose by choosing such a route.”

“And yet you stand here alone.” The censure in his voice softened as he finally relented. “So it is over then? Whatever you had with your amoureux?”

Draco puffed on his cigarette angrily. “More than. His utter disgust when I last saw him…Merde, I can still see his expression. He wants nothing to do with me, much less trying to pick things up where we had left off.” He blinked away the tears that distorted his vision in undulating waves.

“Perhaps time is what he needs to heal his wounds. On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”

Draco let out a choked cry as the man turned and lowered his hood. His features shimmered then wavered as the Glamour fell, his jaw squaring, his hair darkening, and his eyes turning a bottle green. Harry looked even more gorgeous than Draco had remembered, despite his pinched expression and wan look.

“When will you stop doing things that are bad for you?” Harry asked as he stepped forward, snatching the cigarette from Draco’s hands and promptly Vanishing it.

Draco gaped. His emotions ricocheted between shock and elation as questions mixed with apologies, muddling his tongue.

“Harry. How—?” Draco clenched his fists, fighting the urge to reach out and touch, to bury his face in Harry’s scent.

Harry shrugged, although the faintest hint of amusement tugged at his lips. “You told me where you were staying. The hotel’s reputation for its helpful and accommodating staff is certainly well-earned.”

“You came here. To Paris.” To me.

Harry sighed. “Isn’t it obvious by now, Draco? Honestly, you could’ve been camping in the Forbidden Forest and I still would have tracked you down. Yes, you’re a right pillock, and I’m angry and confused. But I also missed you terribly, if you must know the truth.”

“I’m sorry,” Draco said softly. There was so much he wanted to say, if only he could find the right way to say it.

“You know, I’d heard the rumours of a Matchbreaking service. I always thought it was a joke.”

Draco looked away. “Doesn’t seem very funny right now, does it?”

Harry shook his head. “I didn’t mean it like that. I was never one for gossip, but it’s inescapable. People love to guess at the cause of other’s woes; any scandal or misfortune naturally leads tongues to wag. But when someone mentioned ‘Matchbreaking,’ I thought the whole bloody business was made up.”

“There are charms in place for that type of thing. For protecting the hypothetical employee and their clients.”

Harry snorted. “Sounds as secretive as anything the Ministry has to offer.”

“Protecting one’s privacy and reputation is nothing to laugh at. And despite what others may think, a Matchbreaker usually has the client’s best interests in mind. Hypothetically speaking, of course.”

“Do such interests usually involve taking a client to bed and then breaking their heart?”

“Fuck, no! I mean, if I were to surmise—typically it would not be in a Matchbreaker’s best interest to become overly involved in a client’s personal life. If I were to guess, such an action would not only be detrimental to a Matchbreaker’s credibility but have negative consequences for their future employment. If I had to speculate, a Matchbreaker would only commit such an egregious breach of ethics if they harboured a foolish romanticism with regard to an exceptional client.”

Harry moved closer. “And are you, Draco Malfoy? Foolish?”

“I've been known to make some extremely questionable choices.” He swallowed. “At least once or twice.”

“You infuriating, complicated, and ridiculous prat. What am I going to do with you?” Harry asked as he traced the angle of Draco's cheek, drawing the pad of his thumb down until it hovered at the edge of Draco’s mouth.

Draco turned and nuzzled Harry's hand. “Snogging me silly seems like a good place to start.”

Harry cradled Draco’s face as he leaned further in, his lips tantalisingly close. “I'm still angry with you, you know.”

“As you have every right to be.” Guilt washed over Draco’s face. “Do you think we’ll be able to get past it? Eventually?”

Harry gave him a small smile. “It wouldn’t be the first time. And I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we had another chance. I don't want to stand on ceremony, Draco. I've wasted too much of my life to hold back on something that’s worth exploring.”

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

Harry tilted Draco’s chin up, forcing him to look into his eyes. “I would never hold you responsible for things that are out of your control. But I've had enough of people in my life who’ve lied or hid the truth. Just be honest with me, and you won't.”

Draco wound his hands around Harry’s neck and drew him close. Their lips brushed, and he nearly groaned with relief.

“Harry. My Harry.” Draco's heart stuttered as he put everything into that kiss, the years of shame and longing melting away with each slide of the tongue, each movement of their lips.

A low growl emanated from Harry's throat. He pinned Draco against the balustrade, pressing forward until their hips lay flush.

“Not that I’m not loving this side of you,” Draco gasped. “But I have a suite that costs well over £900 a night. It happens to come with the finest bed linens, five-star room service, and a private terrace.” As an added incentive, he licked the side of Harry’s neck in a long, sensuous stripe.

“There’s an Apparition Point not far from here,” Harry began. Draco was pleased to note the breathlessness in his voice.

“Let’s go.” They ran down the bridge and made their way behind the Grand Palais to the Jardin de la Nouvelle. The small garden was empty at the late hour, and it was with little difficulty that they were able to duck behind an impressive marble statue before descending a set of rickety stairs. Draco glanced at Harry, the silver of his eyes gleaming brightly as he wrapped Harry in his arms and Apparated them back to his room.

The sun had set, and the lights of the Eiffel Tower were already visible over the rooftops in the distance, sparkling with the beauty of a thousand stars against the backdrop of the Parisian sky. Harry gawped, momentarily forgetting why they had returned to the hotel as he stared at the sight.

Draco came up behind him. “You’ve never seen la Tour Eiffel lit up at night?”

Harry shook his head. “I’ve only been to Paris once before, when we had to Portkey here on our way to Saint Veran. I never had a chance to see most of the attractions, let alone something as spectacular as this.”

“Tell me what you want to see and I’ll take you there,” Draco said. He stripped off his clothes slowly under Harry’s hungry gaze until he stood before him totally bared, his pale skin gleaming under the moon’s light.

Harry’s hands shook as he touched the heated flesh. “Everything and anything,” he whispered. “As long as it’s with you.”

*

As it turned out, it was difficult to appreciate even the most famous sights of the city without leaving the comfort of one’s bed. But it was a matter of priorities; Paris had existed for over two thousand years without either of their attentions and could easily survive several days more. Whereas Harry and Draco had over a decade of history to make up for—and perhaps a lifetime to start rewriting it—after all.

 

❣ Epilogue ❣

Several weeks later, the Matchbreaking industry mourned the loss of one of their own. Of course, Draco’s farewell was poignant and charming, and handled with his usual aplomb:

 

Ma très chère Millicent,

 

I apologise for extending what was supposed to be a one-week vacation into a monthlong sojourn. Harry and I are planning to spend some time in Aix-en-Provence, although our suite has proven difficult to leave.

I know there are those who believe I’ve turned a traitorous tail. But to this day, I mostly hold fast to the wisdom of The Rules. I do my best to make Harry feel special (a blowjob every morning goes a long way); we share many common interests (food and wine and flying and lots and lots of sex, to name a few); and I try to be a good listener (and do a fair job of it, unless Harry’s cock happens to be somewhere up my arse).

I cater to his needs (see: morning blow jobs), and if there’s anyone who thinks we don’t already have some type of emotional connection, then I’d gladly refer them to The History of Magic, Volume III. Or to Ron and Hermione Granger-Weasley, Blaise Zabini, Pansy Parkinson, our entire class at Hogwartstake your pick.

I’ll admit that I may have faltered when it came to the point about avoiding a physical relationship. Which leads to the most important rule for all Matchbreakers: Never Fall in Love.

I guess I still have enough romance in me to be a dreamer. My last final job has taught me that things that are worthy in life often require taking a chance, and that logic at times takes second place to the wishes of the heart. But a wise woman once told me that although love doesn’t guarantee happiness, there is nothing more magical than when it does.

I finally understand what she means.

I want to fly—to be pushed higher and faster than I ever have. To try for the Snitch. To have someone with me when I reach it, who will be by my side should I fall.

Some may find it strange that my someone is a person whom I've known for nearly fifteen years. We’ve had a tempestuous relationship, that's for sure. But when I look back, I think I've known that it was only and always Harry, all along.

On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur.

 

Bons baisers,

Draco

 

I adore Draco. We go a long way back, and my feelings towards him will never change. Even if he has joined the competition.

You haven't heard? Rumours are that he's entering the Matchmaking business, of all things.

Some of you may see this as a story of true love, while others view it as a cautionary tale. Of what can happen when you mix business with pleasure. Of the risks of taking your eyes off the prize, and letting your own personal interests interfere with the attainment of your goals. Of the dangers of neglecting the logic of your head, in favour of the whimsy of your heart.

For those who land firmly in the latter camp, perhaps you have what it takes to be a successful Matchbreaker. And if you do, or know of anyone who does, give me a ring.

It turns out I have a job opening that I would love to fill.

 

XOXO,

Millicent Bulstrode ღ

 

❤️.❤️.❤️ Fin ❤️.❤️.❤️