Draco keeps secrets.
He’s always prided himself in it, knows there’s no one who’s better at it than him; he kept his father’s secrets, first, thirteen and feeling like he was being let into the world of the elite, where people knew things other witches and wizards didn’t. Then, he kept his mother’s secrets; the quiet contempt no one seemed to see, the anxiousness that ate at her day by day because of things Draco didn’t quite understand, things he wasn’t told, not yet, not even though his father had called him a man .
Third, he kept the Dark Lord’s secrets; he remembers the day they came into his home, the Dark Lord and his cult of followers, each crueler and more heartless than the last, and Draco had been fifteen and terrified , and he didn’t feel like a man, not at all, he’d felt like a child. He’d heard the things they planned, seen the things they did, and he’d kept his mouth shut. He thinks he’d died a little, then; the first time he’d heard someone scream under a Crucio was the first time he realized he knew nothing at all, that the glory and the knowledge he thought were his, what he thought the cause he was fighting for entailed, was all wrong.
He was all wrong.
He still said nothing.
Fourth, he keeps his own secrets; or he tries to, at least. When he’s sixteen and the name Harry James Potter appears across his ribcage in horrible handwriting, he stays locked in his bathroom for three hours, the world crashing down around him; it is the summer before sixth year, and he just – he just needs to make it to September first without anyone noticing, and that’s all. He’s off to Hogwarts, and he can fuck off and never come back. For now, however – for now, well, he’s trapped in a place that used to be his childhood home but is now unrecognizable, filled with people who will not hesitate to kill him – or worse, and Draco knows what they’re capable of, he does, he’s seen them – if they find out who his soulmate is.
In that moment, Draco hates Potter, truly and overwhelmingly hates him, because he’s not going to get out of here, he’s not going to survive this if anyone finds out. The older Death Eaters already hurt him for fun, and he’s done nothing. After this, they’re going to kill him.
So he does what he has to; he draws a Difindo across the name, over and over until it is unrecognizable, and the pain of it is agonizing, but he shoves a towel between his teeth and bears his way through it; it gives him time, an excuse not to come out of his rooms if anyone comes looking for him – they don’t - but when the skin heals, the name is right there, readable over the scars, and Draco has to sit and just breathe , because this can’t be happening.
After that, he does the next best thing; he wears layers upon layers, skin-tight shirts underneath loose robes so no one will notice, keeps the mark hidden, knows he only needs to get through the summer.
And he almost succeeds. The last day of July – Potter's birthday, Draco knows – the Dark Lord tells him he’s taking the Mark; it’s supposed to be an honor, Draco knows, he can see the pride in his father’s eyes, but the only thing he feels is dread.
He doesn’t want the Dark Mark.
“Shirt off,” the Dark Lord hisses, and Draco’s blood runs cold; he knows it is usual for people to take the Dark Mark shirtless; it’s a metaphor, he thinks, something about his mind and body belonging to the Dark Lord, but for him it’ll be his doom.
Slowly, very slowly, he begins unbuttoning his robes.
Seven years later
“Anything yet?” Ron asks, stepping into their office when two bags of Chinese food; there’s a muggle place two blocks away from the ministry that makes the best spring rolls in the world, and they always eat from there when they’re working on a tough case.
“No,” Harry says, gratefully taking the box that Ron offers him. “Fuck, this smells delicious.”
Ron nods. “Got extra spring rolls for you.”
Harry groans a muffled ‘thank you’, already devouring the fried rice; he hasn’t eaten since breakfast, and he’s starving. He welcomes the taste of salty, fried food, and then looks back to the surveillance footage they’re watching. They’ve been investigating the death of a muggle military general, because he had no apparent cause of death to muggles – an Avada Kedavra - and because traces of magic were found at the scene.
“There he is, look at that.” Harry and Ron lean forward at the same time, eyes narrowing at the grainy footage; they'd ‘confiscated’ it from the Muggle Police – better to avoid unwanted questions when they saw it – but they’re used to how well one can see surveillance charms, so this is undoubtably a step down.
“What is he doing?” Harry asks, frowning; Edward Thomas can be seen drinking alone in the hotel bar; he’d be found in his hotel room, but they’ve already scanned the elevator and hall tapes and nothing has come up, so they’re working their way back.
He’s speaking to the man beside him, whose face they can’t see because his back is to the camera. Harry, however, can see Thomas’s face, and he looks – evidently interested. Harry thinks he might be flirting . The other man is evidently not interested, because he turns away, but Thomas reaches out to harshly grab the other man by the arm; the man steps back, and they struggle for a moment before he manages to break himself free, finally turning towards the camera to leave.
“Holy fucking shit ,” Ron says, pausing the footage and placing his takeout box on the table, moving closer. “Is that Malfoy ?”
Harry nods numbly.
“Holy shit,” he echoes, and continues to stare at the furious, cool face of his soulmate.
“I can stay on the case,” Harry insists. As a policy, the Ministry doesn’t allow an Auror to work any case where their soulmate is involved, but Harry thinks these are special circumstances.
No one’s seen Malfoy in years, for one. He went missing before their sixth year – two years of being a prisoner at the manor, Harry knows – and though he appeared briefly, it was only long enough for the healers at St. Mungo’s to take a look at him. He disappeared again afterwards, as soon as he was discharged, and hasn’t been seen or heard from in five years.
Secondly, they’d finished watching the surveillance footage, and Thomas had left for his room after talking to Malfoy, which means he was most likely the last person to see their murder victim alive.
“You cannot be objective about your soulmate, Potter,” Robards says.
Harry would’ve loved not to tell him about this new development in the case, but he’d walked in while Ron and Harry were discussing it, so they’d had to.
“Sir, Malfoy and I are hardly soulmates,” Harry argues. “We haven’t spoken in five years!”
Robards looks at him calculatingly; Harry is his best Auror, and him and Ron work best together. Taking him off the case is a bad decision and he knows it, but if he doesn’t and something goes wrong because of Harry being stupid about Malfoy, it’ll be on him.
“Fine,” he says, finally. “You can stay on the case. Find me Malfoy, find me our murderer, and you do not stay alone with him at any point. If I hear you’ve messed something up because you’ve gone and done something more reckless than usual, I swear I'll fire you, Potter, even if the Minister himself tells me not to.”
Malfoy opens the door, takes a look at them, and tries to close it again. Harry slaps his hand against the door to stop him, and Malfoy sighs, rolling his eyes and opening the door again, resigned.
“Potter, Weasley. What are you doing here?”
“Edward Thomas was murdered three nights ago,” Harry says; he thinks one of them should have something more to say; they are soulmates, after all. He expected Malfoy to ask how they had found him, five years after leaving the Wizarding World without a trace. Harry sort of wants to know where Malfoy has been, wonders if he’s been here, in muggle St. Rémy de Provence, the entire time, but he is trying to convince himself that he doesn’t care about Malfoy. It's not working; he’s looking at him and there’s an itch just under his skin that he can’t quite get rid of. “And you were the last person to see him alive.”
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” Malfoy says.
Ron shows him a picture of Thomas, and Malfoy’s eyebrow raises marginally.
“Oh,” Malfoy says. “Him.”
“Yes, him,” Ron says, unimpressed. “You are a witness in our murder investigation, Malfoy, and we’d like you to come into the Ministry for an interview.”
“No, thank you,” Malfoy says politely. “We’re in France, which means you have no jurisdiction. You can’t make me.”
“You’re an English wizard,” Harry says, irritated. Malfoy hasn’t changed one bit. “We could bring you in under-”
“Subsection 1359?” Malfoy finishes for him smugly. “That law only applies to active suspects, Potter, and, as you’ve told it, I’m not one.”
“We could make you one,” Harry says. It’s less than moral, and not something Harry would do, not really, but the arrogant look Malfoy keeps giving him is pissing him off. “We know you left the bar before he did, but you could’ve hired someone to kill him.”
Malfoy cocks an eyebrow. “Oh? With what money?”
“The Malfoy fortunes weren’t seized after the war,” Harry says.
“Right.” Malfoy nods. “Except I’m not a Malfoy anymore.”
Harry opens his mouth to argue, and then shuts it again. “What?”
Malfoy – or, well, not Malfoy – opens his hands in a wide gesture. “Emancipated myself from my parents as soon as my trial was over, Potter, and I haven’t done magic in years. I’m officially a muggle. I have a muggle birth certificate, a passport – I'm Monéguasque, by the way, and yes, I chose it just because I like the way it sounds – and even social security and a job. I’m a muggle.”
“ What ?” Harry demands, because he can’t quite wrap his head around it; Malfoy as a – as a non Malfoy ? Malfoy as a muggle ?
“Yes,” Malfoy says. “So you can leave me alone.”
And he closes the door on their face.
“Well,” Ron says, awkwardly. “That was – not good.”
“You don’t seem very surprised,” Harry says, mildly, when he and Ron – mostly Harry – have finished their rant about Malfoy.
“Well,” Hermione says, shifting on the sofa. “I knew all of this.”
“ What ?” Harry and Ron ask.
Hermione sighs and puts down the box of Greek takeout she’d been eating.
“He asked for my help, when the war ended,” she confesses. “I got him the muggle birth certificate, the passport, the school records, all of it. I had help, obviously. Luna was very helpful, unexpectedly. Turns out her father used to be a barrister, and she-”
“Why would you help him?” Harry asks. Then, “Why would he need help?”
“You’ve made him practically untouchable, I hope you know,” Ron says to his wife, kissing her cheek and reaching for another box of takeout. “It’s made our case a thousand times harder.”
“Thank you,” Hermione says, smugly. “That was the point.” She turns to Harry. “Harry, I don’t know if you’ve forgotten , but Draco spent two years as Voldemort’s prisoner because he is your soulmate. He lied for us in the manor. He – understandably, I might add – wanted a break from the wizarding world, he asked for my help, and I said yes. It was decent.”
Harry knows, logically, that she is right; that he shouldn’t be as angry as he is about finding out Malfoy has made a successful life for himself in France, and, if he’s honest, he’s not entirely sure why he’s angry.
Maybe – well, a tiny bit of Harry had been excited about knowing who his soulmate was since he was told about them when he was eleven, and, after getting through the initial shock of having Malfoy’s name on his ribcage, he’d hoped they could be – normal, for once.
He should’ve known better; nothing between them is ever simple.
After Malfoy had lied for him in the manor – and Harry knows Malfoy knows it was him, because they could’ve recognized each other blindfolded and with their hands tied simply by the feeling of it – Harry had been stupid enough to think that, since the war was over, now came the easy part.
The part he deserved.
And then Malfoy had disappeared without another word, and Harry had been left without a soulmate and with the entirety of the Wizarding World expecting him to know why his soulmate had left, where he’d gone to, and when he and Harry would get together.
It had been stressful.
“Why did you never mention it?” he asks, finally, and Hermione gives him a knowing look that Harry doesn’t quite understand.
“You would’ve looked for him.”
“I wouldn’t have!”
“Harry,” Hermione says sensibly. “The first year after the war – you were a mess .”
“Not that it’s wrong! Or that it wasn’t understandable, or anything, it’s just-” she exhales, shaking her head, and continues quietly, sorrowful. “We all were. All of us, we were all – Malfoy was, too. You did not see him - I spent only a week visiting him in St. Mungo’s, and it was like he was still trapped in that house. I cannot imagine what it must’ve taken for him to move forward. If you’d gotten together then, you would’ve broken up.”
Harry clenches his jaw and looks away, but he knows she’s right; he barely remembers the year after the war, drowned in a haze of alcohol and sex and potions and clubs and anything that could make him feel even a little better for a second .
Hermione, though looking better from the outside, had been just as bad; she’d thrown herself into her work in a way that had meant she’d needed potions to keep up, and had had a brief addiction to a wizarding version of Adderall, five times as potent. She had spent almost an entire year struggling to stop after Ron and Harry had found out. There’s too much to fix , she’d said, frustrated. I can’t do it any other way.
Ron had been, surprisingly, the least self-destructive of them; he’d spent the first three months in bed, without moving at all, barely eating, and without speaking to anyone. He’d begun getting better after that – he’d seen a mind healer, and had later dragged Hermione and Harry with him, too – and now, thankfully, they’re all successful, functional people.
None of them forget, though.
Harry was surrounded by people who’d gone through what he did, by people who somewhat understood.
He couldn't imagine Malfoy having to live through it in the muggle world, with no one who could understand why he couldn’t sleep at night, why he got lost in his own head.
“I’m going to talk to him again,” he says stubbornly.
Hermione’s smile is wry. “I know you are.”
“Holy shit ,” Malfoy jumps when he walks out of his apartment and finds Harry standing there, leaning against the wall. “Don’t you know how to knock , Potter?”
“Would you have opened the door?” Harry asks with a raised eyebrow.
Malfoy glares at him. “If someone won’t open the door for you, the polite thing to do is leave .”
Harry ignores him. “Are you a doctor?”
Malfoy is wearing lavender scrubs, with a navy blue Henley underneath thick white shoes.
“Nurse,” Malfoy corrects, and then seems surprised at himself for having answered. He crosses his arms across his chest defensively. “I’m a neonatal nurse at the hospital.”
“Is it far?”
Malfoy shakes his head mutely.
“I’ll walk you,” Harry offers. Malfoy looks surprised and more than a little bit suspicious, but he chews on his lower lip and nods. Harry lets Malfoy lead the way, and, together, silently, they walk towards the hospital where Malfoy works.
St. Remy de Provence is unexpectedly beautiful; it’s small, and much quieter than Harry’s used to – magical London is busy and loud on the best of days – but it’s cozy, and Malfoy looks truly peaceful.
“What are you doing here, Potter?” Malfoy asks finally, quietly. “I’m not going to help you with your case.”
“I don’t have a case anymore.” Harry shrugs. “I was transferred.”
He’d gone to Robards after he’d seen Malfoy, and had admitted he couldn’t work the case. Robards had already another team waiting.
Malfoy gives a humorless smile. “Should I be expecting another Auror at my door soon, then?”
Harry shakes his head. “I told them you didn’t know anything.”
Malfoy blinks, stunned for a second, and then mutters a quiet ‘ thank you’ .
They continue walking in silence, and then Harry decides to simply say it .
“I want you to come back.” Malfoy immediately stiffens, and Harry can see he is going to refuse outright, which is why he continues quickly. “It doesn’t have to be right now. I don’t mean to pressure you, and I know you - I know you’ve been dealing with – well, everything, like the rest of us, but – it's not the same without you.”
He wishes he were lying, but he’s not; he’d been unable to sleep the night before, and had, very slowly, very painfully, realized that he’s actually missed Malfoy, all this time. Sixth year without him was worse than ever, and through being on the run, Harry had, secretly, wondered where he was, all the time. He'd checked every day, nearly every hour, his soulmark with Draco’s name in his handwriting, only to make sure that it was still inked black and not a faded grey, to know he wasn’t dead.
Seeing him at the manor – and that is not a memory Harry will ever forget. Seeing Bellatrix dragging him forward with a chain wrapped around his neck had sent blinding fury through Harry – had been a breath of fresh air and relief where there was none, if only for a few seconds. Losing him again so shortly after, when he’d disappeared after being discharged, had been unbearable, even on top of everything else.
“I can’t,” Malfoy whispers.
“I can’t.” Malfoy clears his throat, looks away. “I meant it when I said I was a muggle, Potter. I – we're soulmates, and I’ve missed you for some – some reason-” he lets out a disbelieving laugh and shakes his head. “I can’t do magic.”
Harry cannot speak. Then, “ What ?”
“I can’t do magic anymore,” Malfoy says, louder. “When I was – there - my wand was taken away, and I spent - I spent two years without being able to even touch a wand, let alone do any magic, and – afterwards, I was so – so terrified of them I couldn’t bring myself to grab one.”
“Have you tried?”
Malfoy gives him a look. “Obviously. My therapist – she's a muggle, so I had to come up with some pretty creative metaphors, and I think she knows I'm lying to her – she suggested I try to get more comfortable to eventually start doing it again. I worked on it, and I’m not – afraid anymore, not really, I can be around wands, but - I can’t do magic. I’ve tried, even with the simplest of spells, and I can’t . She says – it's just trauma, I know that, but I can’t. ”
Harry stays quiet; he cannot imagine not being able to do magic. It had been one of the few things that got him through everything after the war, and having it taken away – well, fuck .
“I’m sorry,” he says uselessly.
Malfoy gives a tense shrug. “I’ve gotten used to it. But I can’t go back.”
“I have to go in.” Malfoy gestures to the big hospital on their right. “I’ll... see you later?”
Harry nods, and watches as Malfoy walks away.
“This is crossing so many lines,” Hermione had said, when Harry had told her of his plan.
Harry is aware he is crossing many, many lines, but he is now outside of Malfoy’s door, so he cannot back down.
He knocks, and, a few seconds later, the door opens; Malfoy seems to have just woken up – and it’s nearly four in the afternoon, but Harry doesn’t know what kind of shifts he works at the hospital, so he’s not judging him too much – and blinks owlishly at him for a few seconds before sliding his gaze to the person standing next to Harry.
“Potter,” he says, very slowly. “What have you done?”
“This is Healer Bo,” Harry says, placing his hand on Malfoy’s door to stop him from – predictably – slamming the door on their faces. Healer Bo is a little old man with dark, greying hair, shorter than both of them but also probably smarter than them combined. “I know you’ve said your therapist thinks it’s trauma, but what if it’s something different?”
“Potter.” And oh, okay, Malfoy is furious , as is evident by the quickly blooming color on his face. “I am not some victim you can focus your – your hero complex on. I told you those things to explain , not to have you turn me into some pet project!”
“That’s not what I'm doing!” Harry defends. “I’m only trying to help you-”
“I didn’t ask for your help!”
“Well, deal with it, you git, because we are soulmates and I want to help you, and I want you to come back, and I want you to be able to do magic because you deserve it!”
“ So you just want me to uproot my entire life for you?” Malfoy demands. “Why don’t you come to the muggle world instead of setting me up with a healer appointment I didn’t ask for? He’s not going to be able to do anything!”
“How do you know that?” Harry pushes. “Your therapist is muggle, Malfoy-”
“Don’t call me that, I’m not-”
“ Draco, you can’t have told her everything, so her diagnosis can’t be reliable-”
“Well, too bad! I’m not letting some random healer you’ve brought to my door run tests on me-”
“I’ve already run them,” Healer Bo says calmly. “Your magical core is damaged.”
“What?” Draco asks, fragile.
“It could be trauma, as well, but it’s not only that,” Healer Bo explains. “Your magical core is damaged. I need you to come into my office so I can run some more tests.”
Harry spreads his hands in an ‘ I told you so’ gesture, and Draco throws balled socks at him.
“What did he say?” Harry asks anxiously, standing up as soon as Malfoy comes out the door, Healer Bo following close behind him. “What did you say? What’s wrong?”
Healer Bo and Draco share a look.
“I told you he frets,” Draco tells him.
“You were right,” Healer Bo agrees solemnly, and before Harry can be properly offended, he continues. “Draco's magical core is damaged because of Crucio .”
“That can happen?” Harry asks, frowning.
“That’s what Crucio does,” Healer Bo says. “It cracks one’s magical core. It’s why it feels like everything is burning. If it’s done enough, the magical core can be damaged irreparably.”
Harry holds his breath. “Is - Draco’s-”
“No,” Healer Bo says; Draco can complain all he likes, but he’s beaming beside Healer Bo. “It’s not irreparably damaged. It will be a long process, however. You’ll both need to be patient.”
They both nod, quickly, and Harry asks, “Do I – should I do something?”
“Support your soulmate,” Healer Bo says simply. Draco’s cheeks turn red, but Harry nods seriously. He’ll do anything he can. “I’ve already given Draco the Potions he’ll need to be taking, and we will have to perform Healing spells once every two days. You can either come in here, or I can send one of my interns-”
“We’ll come in,” Harry says immediately; he assumes Bo’s interns are good – Bo is, after all, one of the highest praised healers in the world – but he wants Bo to do it. He won’t trust anyone else with his soulmate.
“Alright,” Bo says. “I’ll see you in two days.”
“What are you thinking about?” Harry had taken Draco out for a late lunch; they’re at the only restaurant reporters never find Harry, a tiny Indian takeout place. The lady who runs it loves Harry, so she never calls the reporters, and doesn’t allow anyone else to call them, either. He’d figured Draco wouldn’t want to be in a Prophet article on his first day back.
“A lot of things,” Draco admits. “The possibility of getting my magic back. The fact that I didn’t quit the hospital before we left, which means that technically I have a shift in twenty minutes, which I figure I’m not going to make. The fact that I have nowhere to live and no money to get a place to live-”
“Come live with me,” Harry blurts. He’s never had the best brain-to-mouth filter.
“Live with me,” he repeats. “I’ve - a flat. I moved out of Grimmauld place, it was too – too many memories, but – we can live together, and – if you want to leave, later, I’ll let you, but – well, I'd like it if you stayed.”
Draco stares at him for a moment, and then looks away, a pink flush spreading across his cheeks. “Alright.”
Harry can’t help but grin. “Yeah?”
The recovery of Draco’s magical core is, as the healer had said, slow. Healer Bo tells them that it really helps that they’re together, because being far from one’s soulmate can be greatly stressful, and Harry is glad to be doing what he can. Apart from that, they settle into Harry’s flat quite nicely.
Harry refuses to sleep on the couch – he was about to offer, but then Draco demanded it, so Harry would be damned before he gave up his bed – and Draco refuses to not sleep in the biggest bed available, so they share Harry’s bed, which Harry thinks should feel weird, but it doesn’t.
It feels... right. Like home, sort of.
Time passes much quicker than it used to, without Draco; Harry takes a year leave from the Aurors so he can dedicate, fully, to his soulmate. Draco gets reintegrated to the magical world slowly, and though he cannot do magic, he’s evidently glad to be back.
They even get pets – a fat kneazle that they call Morgana and a huge black crup that they call Godric – and pretty much build their life together. Draco opens a bakery – and really, of all things Harry imagined Draco doing, this was not one of them – and it turns out that Muggle treats are not widely known in the wizarding world, and they are widely liked, once Draco starts selling them. Because he runs the place, he only works during the morning, which means they get to spend their afternoons lounging together in their flat, watching the telly or teasing each other.
“Potter, I swear to Merlin,” Draco growls, glaring tightly at Harry, who’s holding his favorite mug as high as he can reach.
“I’ll give it to you,” Harry tells him. “As soon as you admit that you’re the one who got our reservation wrong.”
“I did not! You said seven!”
“I told you, a thousand times, that our reservation was at six!”
“No, you didn’t!”
Turns out, being soulmates didn’t really stop their fighting, but it’s different now. Harry is rarely truly angry while they argue, unlike before, and Draco is the same way.
“Yes, I did!”
“ No you bloody didn’t!” Draco snaps. “Give me my mug back right now, or I’ll - I’ll-”
“You’ll what?” Harry asks smugly. “ What will you do to me, Draco?”
Draco glares at him, ears red in his anger, and then grabs Harry’s wand off the counter and yells, ‘ Accio’.
The mug flies straight from Harry’s hand into Draco’s. They’re both so surprised it slips from his hands, shattering on the floor.
Neither of them care.
“Did I just-”
“Did you just-”
They look at each other for a moment, before they both break into the biggest grins imaginable. Harry laughs and pulls him in for a tight hug, lifting him and spinning around in their kitchen, miraculously not stepping on any shards of ceramic.
“You just did magic, Draco!” Harry practically yells, not putting him down. “Magic!”
“I did!” Draco’s ecstatic, over the moon, grin wider than Harry’s ever seen. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”
And he grabs Harry’s face roughly and pulls him in for a deep kiss.
They both freeze momentarily, and Harry puts him down.
“I’m sorry,” Draco begins immediately. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to - I didn’t - I shouldn’t have-”
Harry pulls him in for another kiss, deeper this time, and pulls him closer, grabbing his hips.
“Don’t apologize,” he pleads. “I’ve been wanting to do that for ages.”
“You have?” Draco sounds surprised.
“Yes,” Harry says, and he kisses him again. Draco wraps his arms around his neck, and Harry lifts him again, sitting him in their kitchen counter, and he can’t get enough , he can’t stop, he can’t.
When they both pull away to breathe – a long, long time later – Harry cannot stop grinning at him.
“I love you,” he says. “ Soulmate .”
Draco’s grin is the only thing Harry wants to see for the rest of his life.
“I love you, too,” he says, rubbing their noses together sweetly. “ Soulmate.”
And Harry kisses him again, and he thinks that if everything he had to go through was leading to this moment, he’d do it all again, a thousand times, however many times it was necessary, because this? This is everything.