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patron saint of the lost causes

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Draco Malfoy is nineteen years old when he is cursed to be the last of his line. At the time, he hadn’t realized it for what it was. Hadn’t realized that it was a true curse. The bog witch who spoke the words had snarled grey hair, a warty nose, and a wrinkled face like tanned parchment. She was the worst type of stereotype, so when she cackled shrilly and spat upon his face, he had wiped the spittle from his eyes and walked away. Surely she was to be pitied. Just another victim of Voldemort’s war.

It was only as his marriage was ending at twenty-four that he’d realized it may have been something more than a mad old woman rambling at him on a dark street corner.

He’d gone to St. Mungo’s. Got testing done. And when he walked out of the ward hours later, he knew that she had meant her words. That there was magic in those syllables sure as any spell.

“So, what’s the fix?” Potter asked him that night at the pub. He was several drinks in and already a bit glazed around the edges, tilting in his chair like he meant to do his very best to fall out of it before the night was over.

Potter was a new fixture. His marriage to Ginny Weasley hadn’t quite gone up in flames the way that Draco’s had, but it had ended. The whole magical world speculated on why - if she’d cheated, if he’d cheated, if the long hours he pulled as an auror was more damaging to their relationship than any war. Perhaps that speculation was the very reason that neither of them seemed much keen on admitting why they had split.

Draco wrinkles his nose, taking a prim sip of his wine before deciding that if there was any night to allow oneself to get drunk, it was this one. He tosses the glass back, slamming it down afterwards with such force that the narrow stem cracks. The bartender narrows her eyes, a warning if he’s ever seen one.

“Same old shite,” Draco scoffs with a wave of his hand. “True love. As if that exists in this world.”

Potter blinks at him, eyes wide around his glasses. All four legs of his chair clack back down onto the floor. “I thought that curses like that were-”

“Cliched?” Draco interrupts, seething. He waves for another drink, unsurprised when the bartender pointedly turns her back to him. “Pathetic? Old fashioned?”

“Something like that,” Potter murmurs.

“Well it is. Horribly old-fashioned.” He grimaces. “But you know what they say, the oldest magic does tend to be the most powerful.”

Potter crosses his arm. He’s been chewing on his lower lip again, the delicate flesh going redder and redder as the night wears on.

“Can’t you just, y’know,” he waves a hand and makes an obscene gesture, his cheeks flaring red. “Shag it out?”

Draco gives him an appalled look. “Shagging isn’t love, Potter. I had thought that you of all people would know that.”

Potter flinches slightly at that, the warmth in his eyes shuttering off in the space of a blink.

Draco sighs. “I’m sorry, that was uncalled for. I’ll buy you another.”

This time when he gets the bartender's attention, he points to both himself and Potter. That perks her right up. When he turns back, Potter is still a bit stiff around the edges, but he appears to be mostly mollified when a new beer takes the place of his empty one. He brings it up to his lip and sips. When he pulls it away, there is foam clinging to his stubbly upper lip. Draco, not for the first time that night, wants to lick it off.

He clears his throat, shifting in his seat, and for lack of anything better to do, also takes a sip of his drink.

“I am sorry,” he says again. “I know that you don’t want to talk about it.”

Potter huffs out a sigh, his shoulders sagging. “It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it, I just can’t. There’s not really much to say. People grow apart sometimes, that’s all.”

Draco swirls his wine, watching Potter carefully over the lip of his glass. “And you’re sure that it isn’t because she met someone? Because I’ve got ten whole galleons on it being one of those Harpies who stole her away.”

Potter cracks a smile, kicking Draco gently under the table. “No quidditch players,” he says. “Or at least not then. Who knows what she’s doing with her time now.”

“So you were, in fact, actually in love at one point?”

Potter shrugs. “At one point, sure. But I always thought that she was more in love with the story than she was with me.”

Draco raises an eyebrow. “Elaborate.”

“You know,” Potter insists. “I was the savior of the wizarding world. She was my best mate’s sister. It was all very… er, I don’t know, it just seemed like the thing to do. Like it was what was meant to happen.”

“Like fate? Destiny?” Draco says, faintly mocking.

Potter shrugs again, looking uncomfortable. “I suppose. More like it was easy. Sometimes I think I wanted to be part of her family so badly that I fell for the idea of that more than I fell for her.”

“So, what you’re saying is that you have no advice when it comes to love.”

Potter’s eyes light up when he laughs. Draco had noticed it back in school, when the trio would cross his path in the hallways and Weasley or Granger would say something that nudged Potter into actual laughter. It was a rare event, like a shooting star. This close to the phenomena, it’s like being blinded, like a supernova.

“I wouldn’t say that,” he says good-naturedly, eyes glittering as he wiggles his eyebrows. Draco wishes that Potter didn’t look half so good smug as shit. His school years would have been a great deal easier.

Draco groans, tipping his wine back. He’s careful to set the glass down gently this time.

“Potter, you heathen. There you go again, confusing shagging with love.”

Potter shrugs a third and final time, looking unrepentant. He finishes his lager and smacks his lips. And then, appallingly, he winks. “Might not be love, but more often that not, it's definitely a part of it.”

“I wish we weren’t friends,” Draco tells him, pretending that he can’t hear the affection in his voice.

Privately, he thinks that he’s been waiting for this since he was eleven years old. And worse, he’s sure that Potter knows it.

 


 

 

After Draco’s mother died, the manor lost what remained of its luster. He supposes that the splendor he’d remembered from his childhood had been gone well before that, but even after the war, his mother’s presence had kept it a home.

With her gone, the halls are too quiet. The echo of his footfalls on marble are loud enough that they only draw attention to the oppressive silence.

He keeps a single candle lit for her at all times on his mantle. For a time, he’d kept its twin burning for the memory of a father who no longer existed. Now there is only one, and he stops by it on his way to his room whenever he returns home.

It’s a reminder. A tribute, of sorts. Stupid, really, but his mother had loved him enough to betray the most powerful dark wizard of their time. She may not have been perfect, but she had loved him, and he loved her.

When Astoria left him, he closed up most of the manor - sealed the floos, flung ivory sheets over antique furniture, closed and locked doors all over the house. He left the library, the kitchen, and his bedroom open. The rest, he left to dust.

One day, he thought, he would do the manor proper. Clean it out, hunt down the bits of refuse that Voldemort and his lackeys had left behind. He would purge it of darkness and make it a place that some far off child could call home once more. But until then, he didn’t want the reminder.

When he sleeps, he dreams that horrible silence and the distant echo of a child’s laughter. Having an heir was always something that he’d known he would need one day, never something that he thought he’d want. But here he is, wanting it.

He would raise the child right. Learn from his parent’s mistakes.

“This is… bleak,” Potter tells him, his eyes snagging on all the places Draco would really rather they wouldn’t - the dusty floorboards, the worn furniture, the blank places where portraits used to hang. He had taken those down, too, freezing their inhabitants before sticking them into the attic to rot. It wasn’t that he was ashamed of his entire legacy. There were good Malfoys with the bad, but he’d grown sick of hearing his ancestor’s taunt him.

“Quite,” Draco agrees, and leads him into the kitchen, where there is at least tea and a table not covered in layers of dust two inches thick.

With a flick of his wand he sets the kettle boiling, and begins to rummage in the cupboards for tea. Gingerly, Potter takes a seat at the kitchen table.

He’s still glancing around when Draco sets a cup of tea before him.

“Sorry,” Potter says, his attention still locked to the portrait that Draco had painted for his mother when he was seven. It looked like a trio of pigs rather than humans, but she had hung it next to the window anyways. Now he realizes that may have been because the kitchen was the least likely place that a guest would spot it. “I didn’t think that the kitchen would look…”

Draco arches a regal eyebrow. “Like a kitchen?”

Potter laughs, pulling his gaze away from the walls. He takes a sip of his tea, wincing when he scalds his tongue.

“It’s hot,” Draco warns in a deadpan, smirking sort of way.

“I realize that now, yes,” Potter tells him, his voice high and strained.

His glasses have gone all fogged up, and Draco watches as he pulls them from his face to wipe them off on his shirt. He’s never known a Potter without glasses, but their absence makes him look strangely younger, more like the boy that Draco had known in school.

“So where shall I sleep?” he asks when the glasses are firmly planted on his nose again.

Draco blinks. He hadn’t thought of that.

“I’ll unlock one of the spare rooms,” he says, trying to appear unconcerned. “It may take some searching to find one with a bed that won’t eat you, though.”

Potter’s eyes go wide. “Eat me?”

Draco flashes him a grin. “Kidding.”

He isn’t kidding. Not entirely. There were a lot more bad Malfoys than good ones.

They drink their tea in silence, and Draco can’t even be properly annoyed when Potter’s eyes begin to wander again. He’s being a horrible host.

“How do you stand the quiet here?” Potter eventually asks.

Draco shrugs. Outside, the sun is drooping in the sky. “You get used to it.”

 


 

 

They find Potter a room, one of the grey ones closest to Draco’s. It’s the easiest to sort out, because his mother had refused to let any of Voldemort’s inner circle sleep so near to him. That hadn’t stopped them from creeping around his doors late at night, crooning, power drunk voices whispering for him to come out to play, but officially, the two rooms closest his haven’t been touched since Draco’s Great-Aunt had come to visit when he was six.

Potter helps him crank the windows open despite the fact that it’s the dead of winter, and then they take turns banishing the dust from the room - first the bed, then the chest of drawers, the vanity, the en-suite bathroom.

Once they’re done, the room still smells vaguely of dust and mothballs, but it’s inhabitable.

When Draco’s ready to retire for the night, Potter catches him around the wrist and pulls him to a stop.

He looks… sheepish. Flustered. As Draco watches, one hand darts up to muss his hair. It’s a tic that Draco’s noticed only crops up when Potter is feeling especially bored or vulnerable. He thinks that this time it’s probably the latter.

“Have I said thank you, yet?” he murmurs. He’s gnawing his lower lip again. It’s plumping up under his teeth, red, and vaguely chapped.

“Not recently, no,” Draco tells him, a hint of tease to his voice.

“Ah. Well then,” Potter mutters, eyes darting up to meet Draco’s. He squeezes Draco’s wrist and offers him a quick, sincere smile. “Thank you.”

When Draco closes the door behind him, his fingers go to his wrist. Where Potter touched, his skin is warm.

 


 

 

Over the course of the next few months, Draco learns several things.

That Harry Potter, upon first waking, is basically a member of the shambling undead until you get some form of sustenance in him, be it tea or breakfast or, the most effective of all, coffee. This is only a partial new discovery, as Draco can distinctly remember Potter staggering through corridors and bumping into all sorts of things during their school days. But now, he gets to see it up close. He’s allowed to laugh good-naturedly when Potter collides with him in hallways, his glasses askew and a bleary look on his face. He gets to watch with delight as Potter spoons salt into his tea instead of sugar and not even realize until he’s halfway through. Draco can cook him something when Potter burns the toast, and guide him by the elbow to the table when it looks like he may just take a seat on the floor.

And this is but the least of the things he learns.

He finds that Potter will fall asleep on the sofa if you let him, no matter the time of the day, curling up on his side with his glasses stuck hopelessly in his curls. That he drools. He likes jam more than marmalade and hates milk.

He learns that Granger is positively dangerous when given enough to drink, and that Weasley isn’t half bad once you strip him of the suspicion and decade old hatred between their families.

He discovers horrible things as well - like how Potter gets screaming nightmares in the middle of the night and can only be woken from them if Draco’s open to the possibility of getting decked in the eye. That he is at his most angry when he is quiet, coming home from headquarters with blood streaked across his robes and a murderous look in his eye. That he doesn’t do well in empty train stations and does even less well in a crowd.

But mostly, he learns that with Potter there, the manor isn’t half so quiet and empty.

Sometimes Draco will come home to the lights already on, food simmering in a pot on the stove and a glass of wine waiting for him on the table. He’ll usually find Potter in the library or in the sitting room, where he’s made decades of Malfoys turn over in their graves by installing a telly.

They’ll drink or eat in companionable silence, and then they’ll say goodnight.

It’s all very domestic. More so, in fact, than what Draco had shared with Astoria.

He likes the way that Potter smiles at him. Likes the way that he’ll pick up a bottle of Draco’s favorite red while he’s out. That he knows Draco well enough to read his discomfort, how depending on the situation he’ll either spirit Draco out of the room with a hand on the small of his back or clap him on the back companionably, standing just a little bit closer.

He likes him, and that’s always been the problem. Draco’s always liked Harry Potter too much for his own good. He’d liked him in school even as he’d hated him. Wanted to kick him in the face and kiss him breathless in equal measures since he was twelve years old.

He’d always known that letting Potter stay here wouldn’t work long term. It would be messy, and Draco would get even more attached, and then when Potter found someone new, he’d be left with a broken heart and a big empty house, made all the smaller with Potter’s absence.

Draco doesn’t dream of the silence anymore. He dreams of the manor lit with sunlight, with new furniture and polished floors, and Potter at his table with the echo of children’s laughter reaching them from down the hall. The dream is almost worse than the nightmares, worse than the silence, and when Draco wakes from them, there will be tears in his eyes, on his cheeks, and in his throat.

It’s April before Draco realizes that it’s worse than getting attached - that he’s always been half in love with Harry Potter and having him here, in his home, has pushed him over the edge.

“I think,” Draco muses one morning over a breakfast of sausage and toast, “That I’m going to need to find someone soon.”

Potter doesn’t even pause, taking a bite of sausage and mumbling, “Find someone for what? The plumbing?”

“No,” Draco tells him, eyes locked to the steaming surface of his coffee. The milk hasn’t quite been absorbed, blossoming outwards like a sun. “For me. To break the curse.”

Potter goes still. He isn’t looking at Draco, still only half awake, but out of the corner of his eye, he can see Potter’s hand going tense around his fork.

“Ah,” he murmurs, and pushes the plate away. “I see.”

The silence between them stretches, thin and ready to break under its own weight. It’s the first awkward morning they’ve had in months. The first that they’ve maybe ever had.

“I just,” Draco says, wringing his hands in the safety of his own lap. He tries to smile, but it comes out more of a grimace. “I’m not getting any younger and-”

“And you want a family,” Potter says, his voice flat. Off.

Draco takes a darting glance at him. “Yes.”

“Well, then,” Potter says, pushing himself to his feet. He’s still holding himself very still, his whole body locked up tight. “I’ll just make sure to get out of your hair then. I’m sure I can find a place before the week is up.”

“That’s not-” Draco says, and stops. Because how was he going to finish that without telling Potter the truth? Tell him that he didn’t have to leave? That Draco could ever possibly meet someone and get over him with Potter right there? In the next room?

He swallows. “Yes. That might be best.”

Potter’s fingers flex, his jaw tightens, and he nods, then goes spinning out of the kitchen. A couple minutes later, the front door slams.

 


 

 

When Potter gets home that night, Draco is already in bed. He’s got a book in his lap, something heavy and dense with pages full of small, cramped text that Granger had recommended the last time she’d dropped by. He's been drifting for a good twenty minutes and is just starting to think of sleep when he hears the door slam closed.

A moment later, his bedroom door swings open.

Potter stands there, swaying on his feet, his eyes glassy in that way that means he’s had too much to drink.

“Potter?” Draco whispers.

At the sound of his name, Potter gives a ragged little lurch, his breath catching before he takes a step into the room, closing the door behind him.

Potter has never, not once in the last five months stepped foot in his room.

As Draco watches, Potter staggers towards him. He’s wearing a t-shirt under his robes, something silly with a muggle saying on it, and as Draco stares at him, he shucks the robes off and tosses them into a corner.

He pours himself into Draco’s bed, ass landing on Draco’s ankle before he hastily pulls his feet out of the way.

“Look,” Potter says, audibly slurring. “I’ve had an idea.”

Draco crosses his arms. “And what, pray tell, is this idea of yours, Potter?”

Potter leans forward, using a hand to prop himself up, until he’s well into Draco’s personal space. He smells like beer and whiskey, and his cheeks and jaw are more beard than stubble.

“Break your curse with me,” he breathes, a hand settling atop Draco’s blanket-clad knee.

Draco swallows. “I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.”

“No, look,” Potter says, leaning in even closer, eyes a bit wild. “We can just… you know.”

“No, Potter,” Draco tells him. “I don’t know.”

But he does. He really does.

“You know,” Potter says again. “Shag it out.”

“I think that you’re confusing things again,” Draco says tiredly. He sets the book on the nightstand next to him. “Remember the terms of the curse? Love, Potter. Not sex.”

Potter’s nose wrinkles. “But sex is part of love. Usually, anyway. It’ll work, I know it.”

“It won’t,” Draco insists, slapping Potter’s hand away when it begins to wander up his thigh. “Do you really think that I didn’t shag my wife before she left me? Because I did. We tried for years. Years, Potter. Trust me, if the curse were going to break because of a fuck, it would have happened well before now.”

Potter blinks at him, his eyes wide. There’s a ruddy flush on his cheeks, and Draco’s not sure if he likes it.

“We could at least try,” Potter says, almost gently. He doesn’t touch Draco again, but he looks like he wants to, hand trembling where it lays on the bedspread.

It feels like there’s glass in Draco’s throat. He is so, so tempted. Here is what he wanted - or at least part of it - Potter in his bed begging to fuck him, and he’s going to have to send him away.

“I think you should leave,” he tells him, and Potter’s mouth shuts with a click.

A moment later, he is gone.

 


  

For the rest of the week, Potter avoids him. Where before he’d met Draco in the kitchen for breakfast, he now sleeps in until Draco leaves for work, and only comes back again once Draco is asleep again.

On Friday, he is waiting for Draco in the entrance hall. He’s got his best suit on and a bag at his feet.

“So, you’re leaving,” Draco says, crossing his arms in front of his chest as if to ward off a blow.

Potter shrugs. “I’m going to crash on Ron and Hermione’s couch for a bit, til I can find a place.”

Draco licks his lips. “All right.”

Potter is still for a moment, before he sighs, scrubbing a hand through his hair. “Look, I’m sorry for the other night. I was drunk. It was a dumb idea.”

“Did you even mean it?” Draco asks, curious. It’s like poking at a wound.

Potter blinks. “Of course I meant it. Why wouldn’t I have?”

Draco snorts. “You were drunk.”

“Yeah,” Potter says. “But not that drunk. Look, I know we haven’t always been on the same page, but I really like you. I thought-” He breaks off, grimacing. “I don’t know what I thought.”

“You thought what?”

Potter’s avoiding his eyes. He shrugs, uncomfortably. “That we were, I don’t know. Getting there. Working our way up to it. And look, I know that ‘true love’ isn’t in a shag, but I-”

Draco grabs the lapels of his jacket, jerks him in until Potter’s close enough that he can’t avoid Draco’s eyes. He leans in, until Harry’s eyes widen. Until he drops his bags and grabs a hold of Draco’s hips.

“Working our way up to it?” he asks, and can hear the strangeness of his own voice. How it’s gone flat and a little disbelieving. A little dangerous.

“I- er, yeah.” Harry blinks. “We make each other breakfast, Draco.”

Draco closes his eyes, drops his head forward until it’s propped against Harry’s, and laughs - first quietly and then louder, until he’s laughing so hard that he’s trembling, tears streaming down his cheeks.

“‘We make each other breakfast,’” he mocks, eyes still squeezed shut.

He can feel the drag of Harry’s eyelashes when he blinks.

“Oy,” he says, wounded, and Draco just laughs harder, until he’s flushed red all over and his cheeks are sticky from the tears. He’s still hiccuping with laughter when Harry pulls away from him.

“Breakfast,” Draco gasps. “True love.”

Harry huffs, cheeks flushed, and goes to storm out of the room, but Draco catches his wrist, and pulls him down again.

“Sorry,” he says, still snickering, and kisses him.

It’s not a true love sort of kiss. He’s a little bit… runny, and Harry is caught off guard, so they kind of bump together. But by the time Draco stops laughing and Harry manages to get a hold of his jaw to pull him in again, it’s already a little better.

They can work their way up to it.