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The Best Man

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The color scheme was well chosen, the font entirely appropriate.

The parchment even smelled nice, and the owl was perfectly well-behaved.

There was, objectively, nothing offensive at all about the invitation.

But Harry took it as a personal insult.

The other annoying thing about the situation was that it was the second time in which Harry’s life had completely changed by a cream colored envelope.

“Oh,” was all he managed to say or to think, as he set it down and stared around at his empty flat. “Well, fuck me.”

 

“So,” he brought up conversationally at Ron and Hermione’s later that night, all of them safely two drinks in, “have either of you received an invitation to Draco Malfoy’s wedding?”

The air around them stilled and he received two stunned looks in response, Hermione’s third glass of wine halfway to her mouth.

“Guess not, then,” Harry muttered, sitting back in his chair.

“Have you?” Hermione asked incredulously, setting her glass down on the kitchen counter and leaning forward, anything they had previously been discussing rendered irrelevant for the night.

“Yeah,” Harry replied nonchalantly, trying not to let on how much his stomach was churning and how his mind was swimming in curiosity, the thought of the elegant invitation on what must have been incredibly expensive parchment personally addressed to him camping out in the forefront of his mind. “It’s in December.”

“Paris in December? That's a hell of a destination wedding.” Ron snorted, looking wholly unconcerned as he stuffed another cracker in his mouth. "I say keep it simple, keep it local: that's what me and Hermione did."

Harry stared at him.

What are you talking about, Ronald?” Hermione asked, shaking her head at her husband in disbelief.

“Doesn’t he live in Paris, still, surviving off his parents?”

“Ronald, we’ve had this conversation at least twice,” Hermione sighed.

“What conversation?”

“Draco Malfoy has worked in the Ministry for over a month now,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes. “He’s in my division, actually. I’m not exactly sure of his title, but he’s been minorly involved in some of my cases over the past few weeks.”

“Well, what’s he doing that for?”

“Just so we’re clear, the question is not ‘how’s Malfoy’s career going’, it’s ‘why am I invited to his wedding’!” Harry interrupted Hermione’s answer, a little scandalized his friends weren’t more concerned.

“I’m sure he just invited all the top Ministry people,” Ron shrugged. “For appearances, you know. I doubt he actually expects you to come.”

“I’m not a ‘top Ministry person’,” Harry protested, a little bit offended. “And if he doesn’t expect me to come, why’d he send me one? Did he honestly think I’d run crying to the press if I wasn't invited?”

“Harry is hardly some stuffy Ministry bureaucrat,” Hermione added thoughtfully, staring intently down at the table. “They’ve been at odds since they were eleven!”

Harry sighed. “I mean,” he said, shrugging, “We haven’t spoken since the trials. I knew he was at the Ministry but, surprisingly, I haven’t actually seen him.”

At this, Hermione straightened up and fixed Harry with her intense and slightly inebriated stare.

“How is that possible?” she asked, her eyebrows coming together slightly. “You see me at least three times a week. Magical Law and the Aurors interact constantly!”

“Yeah, you’re always telling us what we can’t do,” Harry mumbled, but Hermione chose to ignore this in favor of more investigation.

“Maybe he’s much more low-ranking than I thought,” she said, the wine allowing her voice to be coated with a hint of smugness, something she was usually adept at erasing when discussing work.

“Maybe he has a big apology right and ready for you,” Ron suggested, grinning over the top of his glass and raising it in a mock-toast.

 

Dear Potter,

It’s a bit hard to explain, but I need you to pretend to be my friend.

At least until my wedding. Then you can do whatever you want. You never have to see me again.

I apologize for the abrupt and confusing nature of this letter, but I am horribly pressed for time and am writing this with the utmost haste.

I will be seeing you during your lunch break in the cafeteria on Monday.

Until our conversation, please employ whatever tools of discretion you may have at your disposal.

Many thanks,

Draco Malfoy.

Harry read and re-read the note he had found waiting for him via owl the next morning, even more astounded and further puzzled by the whole weekend. Neither Ron nor Hermione had been able to solve the mystery of the invitation, and Ginny had been even less help. He had fire-called her and she had laughed herself silly for the better part of an hour before leaving for Quidditch practice.

“Who’s he marrying?” she had demanded first off, her face the picture of anticipation.

“Uh, Pansy Parkinson,” Harry had replied, unsure of why it mattered.

“OH, that is too good!” she had cried, falling straight onto her back and dissolving again into giggles without explanation.

Well, Harry thought, looking at the letter again, it wasn’t the big and weepy apology Ron had told him to expect, but technically, he did apologize.

I apologize for the abrupt and confusing nature of this letter,” Harry mouthed the words before laughing and setting the note aside. He and Malfoy had not spoken since Harry, Ron and Hermione had spoken at his trial seven years ago and he had disappeared to Paris with his parents to work on regaining access into high Wizarding society, or so they had all theorized.

Even if Harry had wanted to reach out to him, and he had thought about it, he had no idea how to go about doing it.

But as Malfoy seemed intent on proving, you definitely didn’t need much of an introduction.

 

“Did you hear that Malfoy is marrying Parkinson?” Seamus asked the next morning, hardly looking up from his newspaper as Harry plopped down into his seat across from him.

Harry froze. “How do you know? Did you get an invite?”

Seamus looked at him strangely. “No,” he said slowly, “it’s in the Prophet. Not front page, of course, but I’d thought you’d have seen it.”

“Oh,” Harry recovered, pushing up the sleeves up his robe. “I hadn’t.”

“Don’t look forward to those children,” Seamus shuddered, folding the Prophet and setting it aside.

Harry’s stomach churned even worse than it had when he was talking to Ron and Hermione, and he frowned, wanting Seamus to stop talking.

“I guess it’s lucky they were so fond of each other back at school,” Seamus went on, absently rolling a pen around on his desk. “Some of those arranged marriages can be a nightmare.”

Harry’s head snapped up to Seamus. “Arranged marriage?”

Seamus shrugged. “Well, I have no idea whether or not him and Parkinson were predetermined, but it’s been in the pureblood fashion to arrange marriages at birth for thousands of years. Granted, the tradition just keeps dying out with time, but it does still happen.”

“It does?” Harry asked, unsure of why he was so interested in this idea.

“Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s even less common now since the War, but it always makes a resurgence when some of the political controversy has died down.” Seamus replied.

“Has it?” Harry asked darkly, looking over some of the case files piled on the corner of his desk.

Seamus snorted. “Doesn’t seem like it.”

 

And then, before anyone was ready for it, Harry found himself walking to the cafeteria.

The night before he had lost sleep deciding on whether or not to take lunch in the cafeteria or in the Auror department, or perhaps outside of the Ministry all together. Eventually, the blatant curiosity and his basic integrity led him to take his lunch break as he usually did: in the cafeteria with Seamus and whoever else wanted to join them.

Today, that someone else would be Draco Malfoy.

And Harry couldn’t stop thinking about it.

“Mate, what’s wrong with you today?” Seamus asked, side-eyeing him suspiciously as they stood in line for mashed potatoes. He pushed his tray into Harry’s to make him move faster down the line, making Harry remember his presence.

“Er,” Harry said, eyes skating over the bland food options, “Just expecting some interesting company.”

“A case?” Seamus asked excitedly, his eyebrows raising. “It better be a case, I’ve been so bored for ages.”

Harry snorted and grabbed a milk carton, sliding his tray towards him. “Maybe.”

“What’s the crime?”

“Well, there’s no crime yet,” Harry laughed, enjoying seeing Seamus’s face fall.

“If there’s no crime, there’s no case! Don’t say there’s a case!”

“I didn’t say there’s a case, I said there might be a case—“

“How might there be a case, then?”

“Potter.”

The grin on Harry’s face dropped immediately as that name, his own name in that cool voice, shivered down his body.

“Bloody hell…Malfoy?”

Neither Harry nor Malfoy even looked Seamus’s way as Harry set down his tray on a nearby table and fixed his expression into a neutral and slightly guarded but still cordial one, turning smoothly around and looking at Draco Malfoy for the first time in seven years.

He hadn’t grown.

“You haven’t grown,” Harry remarked stupidly, before sighing and shaking his head. Great start.

“I…what?” Malfoy stuttered, looking startled.

But he did look older.

“Harry, what the hell is happening?” Seamus demanded.

“Seamus, can you sit…down? Just, er—I’ll be there in a second. Okay?” Harry just short of pleaded, nodding his head at the empty table they were headed to.

“Actually, I was going to take you somewhere. For lunch.” Malfoy said quietly, his chin jerking up a bit but nervousness creeping into his tone.

“Like a lunch date?” Seamus crowed, narrowing his eyes at Malfoy, who seemed to actually lean away from him.

“I have my lunch here,” Harry said coolly, feeling like he should defend the pitiful lunch he had acquired with Seamus.

Malfoy’s eyes flickered down to it once before coming to meet Harry’s.

“I can get you better lunch,” he offered flatly, folding his hands behind his back.

Harry pursed his lips, considering his options. On one hand, he could tell Malfoy to fuck off and stop communicating with him, but he couldn’t really think of a solid reason as to why that was a good idea. Malfoy had to have changed since the War and certainly since Hogwarts: they all had. Stirring up that animosity was something Harry instinctively recognized as a bad idea.

If Harry was honest with himself, the real reason why he wasn't about to tell Malfoy to fuck off was the curiosity burning a hole through his head. Malfoy had been one big mystery to him for seven years. He had heard little to no news stories about the Malfoys and certainly not about their son. They had caused no trouble and had it seemed the only thing that family did was eat, sleep and breathe charitable donations since Voldemort died.

So on the other hand, Harry would say yes. He would willingly go with Malfoy to lunch, and not say anything until Malfoy explained himself. Until he told him what the last seven years had done to him.

And, most importantly, why he had been invited to his wedding.

 

As soon as the door closed behind Malfoy and they were alone in a small but comfortable office, Harry began to rethink his decision.

He clutched his panini tighter in his hand as he watched Malfoy cross immediately to his desk, taking out a very expensive looking glass bottle filled with some sort of amber liquid and two glasses, filling both and pushing one across the desk towards Harry without so much as looking at him.

Harry didn’t walk over to take it.

“Who have you told?” Malfoy started, after a long sip. He finally raised his gaze to meet Harry’s, but there was no negativity there, no threat. Just…apprehension. And even a sort of detachment.

Harry blinked, the beginnings of anger simmering already in his chest. “What?”

“I sent you a wedding invitation and a subsequent letter—“

“I was there, Malfoy, I know what happened—“

“Alright, then I need to know who knows what. Who did you run to, who did you joke to, which paper did you sell the story to—“

“Who do you think I am?” Harry started angrily.

“The man who still appears on the front page of the Prophet monthly,” Draco replied readily. “The boy never out of the paper during seven years at boarding school, especially fourth and fifth year—“

“Are you fucking kidding me, that was your fault, those were your lies! You talked to Skeeter, not me!” Harry burst out, striding up to Malfoy’s desk, his chest constricting with anger.

Malfoy held up his hands in defense, shaking his head.

“Then you understand my point. Your story gets out, everything that happens to you gets out somehow. Whether it’s by you or by your arch-nemesis—“

Voldemort was my arch-nemesis, don't flatter yourself.” Harry hissed, still hardly keeping from boiling over.

Malfoy raised his eyebrows. “I don’t think you know how much that hurts, Potter,” he said, placing a lazy hand over his heart. “Anyway, people know what happens to you. One way or another.”

Harry rolled his eyes, breathing through his nose. “Why did you invite me, then?”

“Because!” Malfoy said, brightening considerably, though his energy had a definite forced feel to it, “you, Harry Potter, are my best friend!”

 

One month earlier

“And so…Pansy Parkinson,” Draco said, holding Pansy’s left hand with his right and staring into her amused eyes, “will you marry me?”

“Draco,” she cooed softly, cupping his face with her free hand, “Of course I will. I will devote myself to making your life as miserable as possible. Forever!”

Draco sighed and dropped her hand, stepping away from her and flinging himself onto the couch in Pansy’s sitting room. “Fantastic. Wedding’s in December.”

Pansy sighed back at him and pushed his feet off of the cushion, taking her usual spot there instead. “You’re not the only one getting a shit deal, here. A pureblood marriage involves two unwilling people, not just one.”

Draco groaned and turned over on his back, staring at Pansy through the hair that fell in his eyes.

“I know, Pans. You’re right. I’m sorry.”

She smiled and patted his foot, tucking her short hair behind her ear. “Do I at least have a ring?”

Draco snorted, reaching into his pocket. “Of course you have a ring.”

“Will it fit me?”

“Of course it’ll fit you.”

“Is it an emerald?”

Of course it’s an emerald, Pans!”

Making a face at her friend/fiancé, Pansy took the box from Draco’s outstretched arm and opened it, sighing at what she saw inside.

Draco shifted at the sound. “You don't like it?”

“What’s not to like?” Pansy replied, her eyes still on the ring. She turned and tangled her legs in with Draco’s, settling her back against the arm rest. “It’s…it’s exquisite. It’s an heirloom.”

Draco raised his eyebrows. “But?”

“But,” Pansy continued lightly, lifting the ring from its box and sliding it smoothly onto her finger, “I do not want to wear it. And I’m not the one you want to give this to.”

“Pansy…”

“We had a deal, Draco,” she replied curtly, cutting off any protest. “You know what happens next. I get to continue my easy-going lifestyle with some wifey duties on the side and you get to chase the dream you only get one opportunity to chase.”

“The dream you’re forcing me to chase,” Draco corrected, accepting the empty box back from Pansy. “You know, they never tell you what to do with the empty ring box.”

“Easy. Keep it,” replied Pansy, holding her hand up to the light.

“Why?”

Pansy laughed, bringing her hand back down and looking at Draco fondly.

“In case things change.”

 

Harry backed up, sure he’d heard correctly but certain he was missing something.

“Your best friend?” he clarified calmly, the churning in his stomach starting again.

“Yes. Absolutely. My favorite mate. Like a brother to me.” Malfoy said shortly, his smile dropping and the room darkening.

“You have to explain yourself,” Harry shrugged, sitting down and unwrapping his panini. “I’m not saying anything else until you do.”

“Fine,” Malfoy agreed, nodding. “Fair enough.” He looked up at Harry through his lashes, perhaps prompting him to say something.

Harry raised his eyebrows and waved his hand, motioning for Malfoy to go on.

“My marriage to Pansy was always a guarantee,” Malfoy began apprehensively, dropping his eyes again. “Ever since we were kids, we both knew we’d been set up.”

“So it is an arranged marriage,” Harry remarked, surprised. “Do you even love her?”

Malfoy paused, looking at him up and down. Pain flashed into his eyes for a steely second as they stared each other down, the shame Harry probably should be feeling at the intrusive nature of the question hanging between them obviously, floating in the stalemate.

“Yes,” Malfoy said finally, stiffly, and the shame seemed to rush back into Harry at this. He swallowed a bite of his panini and nodded, eye contact broken.

“Right. Sorry. Go on.”

“Well,” Malfoy said, sounding a bit ruffled, “the marriage was ready to take place any time after we turned seventeen…but then the War happened.”

Harry pursed his lips as Malfoy fell temporarily silent, automatically feeling defensive.

And there it was, out in the open.

The wound between them was open and raw, and it separated Malfoy from the rest of the world. Even though he and Harry had “made nice” at the trials, especially since he had almost single-handedly saved him and his parents from Azkaban, they were not friends.

They were not friendly.

They existed in two separate worlds.

They were, at best, officially neutral. Harry had heard no mention of Malfoy for the better part of a decade—they hadn’t even been in the same country.

And now, Harry watched Malfoy swallow and scratch nervously at his arm, his body drawn tighter and tighter with tension with every passing second, and somehow felt strangely farther away from Malfoy than he had ever been.

“What did the War have to do with anything?” Harry asked awkwardly, refraining from sighing in discomfort.

What didn’t the War have to do with?

“My family fell from social graces,” Malfoy said quietly, and Harry scoffed.

“Well, yeah.”

“You think we deserved it?” Malfoy replied sharply, turning quickly and fixing Harry with a piercing sort of stare that Harry had never seen on him before.

“Your father personally had a hand in trying to kill me—“

“But you spoke at—“

Malfoy,” Harry interrupted, holding up a hand. “I spoke at your trial for you and your mother. Not for your father. You knew that.”

Malfoy sighed. “Yes, I did. Um. Thank you, again…”

“No…” Harry said, rubbing his hand through the side of his hair. “It’s…it wasn’t a…it’s fine.”

“Right.”

“Go on,” Harry prompted, resisting the urge to take his hand to feel the thick tension in the room, building with each narrowly-avoided fight.

“Well,” Malfoy began again, sounding even more hesitant to continue. He scratched his arm again. “If you’ve been…thinking about me, or my family—which, I know, isn’t very likely—“

Harry took a bigger bite out of his panini at this, focusing very hard on not spilling any pesto. “You weren’t in the paper a lot.”

“Yes, well. My family had been trying to build up a reputation again, mostly through my father in the background and…my mother and I doing charity work.”

“Noble,” Harry remarked, and Malfoy actually smiled faintly.

“I actually began to like it. I opened a small clinic in Paris—nothing big, I mainly dealt with specialty cases—“

“Wait,” Harry interrupted again, jolting up in his seat. “You’re a Healer?”

Malfoy blinked. “Well, not anymore—can I finish?”

Harry stared at him for a moment, trying to picture Malfoy in white robes, before nodding blankly, sitting back in his chair. “Sorry. What changed?”

Malfoy clenched his jaw and looked down, visibly swallowing. “Yeah, um.”

“Malfoy?”

“My mother died,” he said shortly, looking at Harry with a hard, fixed expression.

“Oh,” Harry said, the words settling in his stomach with a feeling akin to guilt.

Narcissa Malfoy was dead. She had saved his life once. And now she was dead.

Malfoy's mother.

“Oh. God, Malfoy, I’m—“

“Not your fault,” Malfoy said curtly, stopping him completely with a shaky wave of his hand. “Cancer. It—the Muggles don’t have a solution and neither do we.”

“Shit,” Harry said, not really thinking. “That’s…really fucking horrible.”

Malfoy said nothing, just turned back around to face Harry.

“After she died,” he carried on, like nothing really had happened, “my father told me I would need to get married. It’s complicated…complicated social politics. We had lost a—key player—in the road to family recovery, and he realized that Pansy’s family wasn't…it wasn’t enough to bring us into the light. They’re not much better off than we are, so my father decided on Astoria Greengrass.”

“Who’s Astoria Greengrass?” Harry asked immediately.

“She was at Hogwarts with us,” Malfoy answered, plopping down in his chair and rubbing his eyes. “Year below us. Slytherin, obviously. But her family stayed neutral during the war, they were never even involved.”

“Why wouldn’t she do?” Harry asked.

Malfoy smiled again, the same slight smile Harry had seen earlier. It softened his face, Harry realized, but it made him look sad.

“If I was going to marry anyone, I was going to marry Pansy,” he replied, looking distantly at a spot on his desk.

Harry’s eyebrows drew together. “I didn’t realize you two were ever so…close.”

“I didn’t realize you were monitoring my personal life,” Malfoy drawled, smirking at Harry. “But that doesn’t matter. My father agreed to let me marry Pansy because I lied to him about something.”

“About what?”

“I told him you were my best man,” Malfoy said casually, but he picked at his nails as he avoided Harry’s stare. “Naturally, he didn’t believe me.”

“Naturally,” Harry repeated faintly, unsure of what was happening. “Sorry, you said what?”

“So you see my problem,” Malfoy said, rising again from his seat.

"Your problem."

"Yes, my problem. The only reason my marriage is even allowed to happen is because the public support that will come from our friendship will vastly outweigh anything people have to say about the relatively...um, dark match." Draco was fidgeting worse and worse with passing second he didn't get an encouraging sign from Harry. His hand was now traveling nervously up and down his left arm, and he hurriedly launched into more speech. "Obviously, this is absurd, because we've hated each other since we were eleven and even when we didn't, we didn't speak for almost ten years. So yes, my problem."

Your problem? You mean the problem we are now both involved in, the problem you created for both of us,” Harry summarized, almost ready to take his panini and leave.

“Well, your mission, actually, should you choose to accept it—“

“Wait, that’s—“

Mission: Impossible, I know, I watch Muggle films now.”

It was all too much.

Harry stood up, unable to hear another word. He grabbed his damned sandwich from Malfoy’s table and ran from the room, speeding up at the sound of Malfoy calling his name.

“POTTER! Potter, please stop!”

Harry turned the corner and literally plowed into a small old woman he’d never seen before, sending the panini flying and her frail form plummeting to the ground.

“SHIT!” Harry exclaimed, staggering sideways and then dropping to the floor next to the old woman, who had sat up, blinking heavily. “Merlin, ma’am, I am so sorry—

“Mr. Malfoy, I have him,” she said dazedly, and Harry looked over his shoulder to see Malfoy hurtling towards the both of them, his eyes wide with worry as he too dropped to his knees beside the woman.

“Mabel! Are you okay?”

“I was just going to grab him, but he’s a lot faster than he looks,” she continued, folding a piece of hair back into place.

“What?” Harry asked, feeling more and more like he had accidentally traveled to a parallel universe where Draco Malfoy was his friend and employed grandmother bodyguards.

“Mabel, I never asked you to stop him,” Malfoy said, giving the woman a hand and helping her carefully to her feet.

“Well, he’s here, isn’t he? Like you wanted?”

“Yes, but I don’t sic my secretaries on people I want to talk to,” Malfoy chastised her gently, sounding like it wasn’t the first time this conversation was being had.

“We did talk,” Harry said, straightening his robes. “You tried to drag me into your mess of a personal life—with marriage, and…muggle films…”

“Okay, well, just come back to my office and I’ll…try again. One last chance.” Malfoy offered, smiling and nodding at Mabel to send her teetering back to her desk.

“Fine,” Harry said, though he had been planning on leaving anyway. Rolling his eyes at his own curiosity, he followed Malfoy back to his office. “Why do you have a secretary?”

“Mabel was our housekeeper until mother got sick, and then she was the nurse as well. But after mother died, my father fired her. Then I heard about my new…well, I’d hardly call this a job, but it has an office and with an office needs a secretary. So I found her again, living with her daughter somewhere outside Paris, and I hired her.”

“What do you need a secretary for?”

“Nothing really,” Malfoy admitted, opening the door to his closet of an office. “But I do have calls I’d rather not answer sometimes and appointments to be made and kept occasionally, so I pay her more than required to help her daughter and the rest of her family.”

“I’m inclined to not believe you,” Harry said honestly, reclaiming the chair.

“Believe whatever you like,” Malfoy said airily, striding over to his desk. Then he turned around, frowning at Harry. “Actually, I’d rather you believe me completely. I need you to like me.”

Harry laughed at that, surprising both of them.

“Well,” he said, coughing a bit, “Okay. Last chance. Tell me what I’m really doing here.”

Malfoy looked at him strangely, as if debating whether or not to say something.

“The day you testified,” Malfoy said seriously, looking at Harry earnestly. “The day we spoke to each other like normal people—relatively—for the first time, really, ever.”

“I remember,” Harry said simply.

“What were you expecting?” Malfoy asked, his eyes going wider and wider. “Were you expecting to…never see me again?”

“No,” Harry replied automatically. “I don't know. I didn’t…think like that. I didn’t even have time, you vanished the next day!”

“I know,” Malfoy said, and he actually sounded apologetic. “But if I hadn’t? What if I had stayed? Would you have talked to me again? Would you have wanted to see me?”

“I don’t…know,” Harry said slowly, looking apprehensively at Malfoy as the feeling of discomfort grew inside him, making his heart beat a bit faster. “I thought…about sending you an owl, something—but I didn’t know what to say.”

Why was he making excuses for Malfoy for his lack of correspondence? Why did he actually feel bad? He didn’t want to think about Malfoy’s questions.

But he was now.

“So that’s my point,” Malfoy said, just a bit breathlessly. “Neither of us know what would have happened if I had stayed. Maybe you would have seen that I wasn’t the same kid from school.”

“I know you’re not—“

“Do you?” Malfoy pressed, coming around to the front of his desk. “Do you really?”

Harry had nothing to say in response. He didn’t know what he could say, much less what he wanted to say. It was still all too much, too confusing, too suspicious.

“I’m asking for two things,” Malfoy said finally. “I’m asking for your help, and I’m asking for you to get to know me. Should go hand in hand, seeing as you’ll be pretending to be my…best friend.”

“If I should choose to accept it,” Harry added, and Malfoy smiled. A different smile this time—tentative but relieved.

“If you should choose to accept it.”

 

“He quoted Mission: Impossible?” Hermione clarified incredulously, her eyes wide.

“What the hell is—“

“A muggle film,” Harry answered Ron’s bemused question quickly, and his eyebrows shot up. “Yeah, exactly.”

“What did you say? Did you say yes?” Hermione asked.

“I said maybe,” Harry answered. “I think.”

“Well, then what happened?” Ron asked, both him and Hermione leaning over the bar division in their kitchen in a way that was almost comical.

Harry shrugged. “Nothing really,” he answered truthfully. “He just told me not to mention it to anyone else. Since the public is supposed to believe we’ve been friends for a while, it wouldn’t do to have people running around—“

“—telling the truth?” Ron supplied for him, and Harry sighed.

“Well, yeah. Then he gave me a time and place for our ‘first appearance’—that’s what he called it, anyway. It’s a general meet-and-greet of the wedding party to be—pureblood tradition, apparently.”

“An old one,” Ron said, his eyebrows drawing together. “That was popular among famous pureblood families inter-marrying—when the public cared about that sort of stuff. It was…well, it was the modern-day equivalent of a photo-op.”

Harry groaned. “Fantastic. I avoid cameras like the plague for a decade and now Draco Malfoy gets to parade me around in front of them.”

“Do you think that’s really what he’s doing?” Ron asked, scowl deepening.

“I have no idea what he’s doing.”

“What’s he like?” Hermione asked quietly, tilting her head slightly and looking at Harry curiously. “I mean…does he really seem all that different?”

“I don’t know, Hermione,” Harry answered, looking down at his hands. “He asked me to get to know him. But I don’t know if that can happen, he just seems so…closed off. Like he’s not saying everything, or like…he just seems…sad.”

“His mother died, to be fair,” Hermione rationalized, and Ron nodded.

“Yeah, and he’s being forced to marry Parkinson—“

“He says he loves her,” Harry reminded him sullenly.

“—well, and the whole Wizarding World hates him—“

“Not all of it—“

“Harry,” Hermione interrupted, smiling secretively, “it sounds like you’ve already said yes.”

 

Malfoy

If I didn’t say so today, then I guess I’ll say it now:

I accept. I mean…my answer is yes.

I’ll do it.

HP

Do you

P.S. What do I wear next weekend?

 

Chapter Text

“At least his fashion sense has only improved,” Ginny said approvingly, holding Harry’s borrowed tie lazily above her head as Harry struggled with the traditional robe. “Harry, for fuck’s sake, you don’t put the robe on first.”

“Does it matter?” Harry huffed, trying to find the arm-hole through the unnecessary pleats of fabric. “I have never seen robes like these!”

“It makes everything easier if you put it on last,” she informed him, tossing the tie to the side and sliding off of Harry’s bed and shaking her newly-short hair out of her face. “And you’ve never seen them before because they’re traditional pureblood wedding robes. They’re ridiculous. And they go on last.”

“Bill didn’t wear these,” Harry grumbled. “I didn’t as Ron’s best man either.”

“Harry, just give me the robe, ” Ginny demanded, and Harry sighed and complied, slipping what little of it he had managed to get on off and handing it to her. “You do know we’re not nearly as traditional as the Malfoys, right?”

“Yeah.”

Ginny laid the robe carefully over Harry’s bed and turned back to her friend, surveying his outfit so far.

“It looks like I’m actually going to the wedding,” Harry complained, looking down at his best and buttons and whatever the hell else Malfoy had sent him to wear.

“Oh, Merlin no, that’ll be way more extravagant,” Ginny said, grinning maliciously.

Why is this so funny to you?” Harry asked, exasperated. Ginny had insisted she be there to help him “get ready” for this…event thing, and if even if it turned out he did need her help, he had no idea why she was so involved in this. “Why do you even care if Malfoy gets married?”

“Because!” she insisted, running her hands over the buttons in his vest to check they were all there, “it’s Draco Malfoy! Stuck with a woman forever! Almost makes up for how horrible he was at Hogwarts. I still feel bad, though. Call this sympathy.”

“What are you talking about?” Harry asked uncomfortably, turning back to the mirror. “Do you really think he’s that much of…a player?”

Ginny met his gaze in the mirror, her eyes incredulous. “You don’t—you didn’t guess?”

Harry sighed, the bad feeling in his stomach he’d been managing to hold off on all week returning, making him all the more unsure and nervous about what he had agreed to.

“He says he loves her,” he said, mostly to himself rather than Ginny. He had been saying that over and over in his mind ever since Malfoy had told him that in his office, and he was using as a sort of meditation mantra whenever he got to feeling…like he was.

He says he loves her.

“I’m sure he does,” Ginny said, quietly, a bit more seriously, but Harry wasn’t listening.

“I’m ready for the tie and the robe now,” Harry decided, looking over himself once more in the mirror.

“Alright, but then I have to go,” Ginny said apologetically, looking at her watch. “Luna’s over tonight. I have to clean the kitchen.”

“Like the kitchen will be used at all,” Harry muttered, rolling his eyes. He still had sour memories of the last time he had interrupted Luna and Ginny during their “dinner” date.

“We use it sometimes,” Ginny said airily, popping Harry’s collar. “Just not usually for food.”

“Gin, God . Stop talking.”

 

The event was held at the Manor, and Harry realized only as he was stepping up to the door that it was the first time he’d been at the home since the War—since Malfoy had failed to recognize them all, and Hermione was tortured, and Malfoy let Harry take his wand. With this in mind, he paused, dutifully shaking off the memories as he stepped back away from the door to look over the house before actually going in.

It was rare sunshine that made the ebony color of the wood shine in intimidating contrast with the blue sky around it, but the impressive effect was not particularly sinister or foreboding. Objectively, it was a gorgeous work of architecture that had made up a house for a mother, father, and child—only to be invaded, and ruined by war and evil.

It was huge—far too big and regal for Harry to ever be interested in living there, but he could definitely still appreciate it, the manor today seeming far from the prison he had seen in his post-war nightmares, the one Malfoy and his parents looked so out of place in and where Bellatrix and Greyback had seemed right at home.

“Are you going to stand there and stare at the sun until you go blind?”

Harry was jerked out of his thoughts by Malfoy’s quip, blinking at the sight of Malfoy leaning against the doorway, somehow managing to look nervous and unimpressed at the same time. He was squinting in the sunlight and blinking frequently, making his whole act seem very disingenuous.

“Sorry, I was just…taking a moment,” Harry said truthfully, but Malfoy’s eyes dropped straight to the ground and Harry felt a stab of regret. “No—I meant…it’s actually very…nice. Your house.”

Malfoy looked up at him in surprise. “You think my house is nice?”

“Isn’t that what I just said, Malfoy?” Harry jibed lamely, inwardly sighing at their own incapability to overcome the awkward stiffness that now seemed to play as a key factor in their interactions with one another.

Malfoy grimaced, stepping backwards and waving Harry in. “Yeah, um. You probably shouldn’t call me that.”

“What?” Harry stepped across the doorway and was immediately led into a rather plain but still pretty side room that looked oddly like an exaggerated coat closet. “You mean your name?”

“Malfoy is my last name,” Malfoy said, rolling his eyes at the deliberately fielded question.

“Yeah, but that’s what I’ve always called you!” Harry protested, knowing what Malfoy was trying to get at but somehow unwilling to agree to it.

“Potter, we can’t be appear to be friends and have you call me by my last name. It doesn’t look right,” Malfoy reasoned, though he sounded tired and a bit disappointed that he had to have this conversation at all. “Is it really that difficult?”

“Well, you just called me ‘Potter’,” Harry deflected stubbornly, folding his arms.

Malfoy closed his eyes and let out a long, slow exhale. Harry’s gaze moved up and down Malfoy’s figure, dressed in almost exactly the same thing Harry was—but the color and style seemed much more suited to him. Harry supposed it wasn’t all that surprising. Aristocracy and all.

“Harry,” Malfoy addressed him casually, opening his eyes and finding Harry’s immediately.

Harry raised his eyebrows, both at his own name and the expression on Malfoy’s face. It was almost perfectly calm and neutral, but Harry knew the flash of challenge in Malfoy’s eyes by now better than anyone else.

Fine, Harry thought, and an odd little thrill went through him as he considered his adversary for the first time in a very long time.

Malfoy being his enemy—those days were over, and Harry knew that as he again surveyed the man opposite him, mouth caught somewhere in between a smirk and a pleasant smile.

But this…this wasn’t much better—the fake friendship, the forced pleasantry. Malfoy had to cover up even a hint of challenge with layers and layers of lies and body language, concealing his real thoughts from Harry even more than he would have ever bothered back when they were rivals at school.

There was too much debt, too much at stake, too many things being asked of the other—to much strain on a non-existent relationship, too much pressure to ease into anything.

And Harry wasn’t sure what he could do about all of it—or what he wanted to do about it—but he knew this was a start.

“Well, Draco,” he drawled, drawing the name out in his mouth and enjoying the way it made Malfoy’s—Draco’s—careful pose slip out of its normal stability, his eyes flickering with surprise and gratitude. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your father?”

Draco laughed. “I’m regretting this whole thing. Very much.”

“Flattering, Draco. I feel so at home, Draco,” Harry continued, nodding seriously as Draco sighed and rolled his eyes.

“You don’t have to say my name after every sentence,” he said tiredly, walking past Harry and out of the room. He shook his head to indicate exasperation, but as he turned to indicate that Harry follow him, he was smiling. “Harry.”

Draco led him through the entrance hallways and up a flight of stairs, pointedly saying nothing as Harry let his eyes roam freely around everything, completely thrown at what he was seeing.

Even though Harry had not seen this part of the house when he had first been taken here, there was no doubt in his mind that it still hadn’t looked like what he was seeing right now.

The walls, originally a dark and dusty black-looking mahogany, now warmed the space with an ivory color instead, with elegant white crown molding around the base and at the ceiling. The heavy portraits of ancestors or icons that Harry could only faintly remember had vanished, replaced with fonder-looking renditions of mostly women that Harry had never seen before, or beautiful paintings of flowers and nature. Dark drapes on wide windows had been taken off, the decorator apparently favoring incredibly expensive-looking but still comforting fabric that fell just above the ground, instead of pooling around it.

The staircase they were on provided a view of the front part of the house in full, prompting Harry to stop and lean over the banister, admiring the place where Draco now lived.

It was astounding, and welcoming, and matched with absolutely none of Harry’s previous impressions of the Malfoy family.

“Did you…redecorate?” Harry asked finally, lamely gesturing to the house around him.

Draco slowed for a second, looking around briefly, but he didn’t seem surprised by the question.

“This is what our house in Paris looked like,” he answered. “But when we came back, when we found out that my mother was sick, she insisted on redecorating. Said it was too dark, and that the world didn’t have room for that anymore, and neither did she.”

Harry felt that same guilty feeling as he listened, continuing to slowly climb the stairs behind Draco. That Narcissa Malfoy was obviously one he had never been able to know—but surely Draco had. Surely this was the mother he had adored, the one whose presence was now incredibly strong throughout the Manor.

“It’s wonderful,” Harry said, but in light of the story, he didn’t feel like that was enough.

But Draco turned around and stopped, looking Harry full-on and startling him into clutching the banister to keep from teetering backwards.

“You like it?”

Harry smiled, looking around again. “What’s not to like?”

Draco raised his eyebrows, his lips parting in hesitation and Harry understood immediately what he must have been thinking.

“I mean—sure, that,” Harry admitted, his rare eloquence leaving him, “but, you know—it wasn’t the aesthetic that threw me into the basement.”

Draco laughed, the slightly breathy quality to it leading Harry to believe he was actually fairly relieved. But then he looked up the staircase and down the next hallway, his smile fading and lips tensing instead.

“So…um, Harry. We’ll be needing to…at least act friendly. Especially since…”

“There’ll be cameras,” Harry supplied dully, and Draco’s grimaced deepened.

“Yes. I don’t know how many, but since it’s you—“

“Right,” Harry interrupted, keeping the frustration off of his face. Would this part of his life ever be over?

“Better get it over with, then,” Draco shrugged, turning back around and going up the rest of the stairs with renewed purpose. Harry followed closely behind.

Harry’s nerves returned full-force when they got to the top and began to hear voices from down the hallway, muffled by the double doors that sectioned off each room. Draco was tense in front of him, and Harry hurried his pace to fall in step beside him.

He suddenly realized that had absolutely no idea what he was doing here.

They came to a stop in front of the largest set of doors, the mutterings and laughs and stray clicks of cameras sounding louder than they should be in Harry’s exaggerated perspective.

“Ready?” Draco murmured, and Harry blinked, not expecting his voice to be that close.

“Yeah, of course,” Harry answered sarcastically, and Draco smiled wryly.

“Right.”

Draco wrapped one hand around the doorknob and pulled, flashes going off immediately and blinding the both of them. Harry instinctively turned his head away from the light and towards Draco, seeing only the profile of his face as he was turned entirely on the mass of people in front of them, all shouting his and Harry’s name. His expression was frozen in a mask of shock, fear drawing his eyebrows together.

“Draco?” Harry asked, as the cameras died down when they realized the two weren’t moving, and his head snapped towards Harry.

He blinked for a second before nodding, and the cameramen moved to the edge of the wall as Draco and Harry walked forward.

“You’d think we were getting married,” Harry whispered, unthinkingly, and Draco jerked a little, looking at him in bewilderment.

It was an innocent enough comment, but the way Draco looked at him made Harry flush with embarrassment, and he was about to apologize before Draco snorted a bit, his previous manner gone.

“Well, harbor whatever private thoughts of me you will, Harry, but for the love of Merlin don’t repeat that to any of them,” he replied, nodding towards the wall of photographers and journalists waiting with bated breath on the two of them to put on their show.

Harry laughed, following Draco to the other end of the room where a daunting group of people stood waiting. “As long as I’m still able to ‘harbor private thoughts’,” he joked, and Draco’s eyes widened, but he still kept smiling.

“Don’t tell me I should have asked Weasley to do this.”

“Well, he’s definitely not harboring private thoughts for you.”

“Draco!”

Their laughter died at the sight of Lucius Malfoy striding up to both of them, a welcoming but ever-so-slightly strained look on his face. “Harry!”

Oh, so it was Harry here too. Okay. That was fine.

“Hello, father,” Draco replied, grasping his father’s hand once before moving on.

“Mr. Malfoy,” Harry greeted, fairly neutrally, not exactly ready to throw himself into the man’s arms yet.

“Oh no, do call me Lucius,” Lucius said as he shook Harry’s hand, his eyes flashing and his lips twitching but otherwise giving no indication that anything unsavory had ever happened between them. “Please, meet everyone else…”

“Draco, darling,” cooed a voice on Harry’s right and he turned to see Pansy Parkinson float up to Draco and wrap her arms around his neck, kissing him lightly on the lips.

He received her gratefully, with a genuine smile, wrapping a modest arm around her waist as she pulled back.

Harry studied them without really realizing it, the image of Draco and Pansy pulling at his attention completely until he felt a hand clap onto his shoulder, making him jump and turn around.

Blaise Zabini regarded him with a cool but calm expression and manner, shaking his hand dutifully and smiling politely.

“Blaise Zabini, you remember?” he introduced, unnecessarily, but Harry nodded anyway.

“Right, yes.”

“Draco’s would-be best man.”

“Oh,” Harry said, flushing a bit and taking a step back. “Right. Er—right.”

Blaise only sighed and shook his head, his smile still in place. “I understand the circumstances—I’m just fucking with you. Of course, Draco told me not to, but I never listen to Draco.”

“Who does listen to Draco?” Harry wondered aloud, but Blaise laughed, though Harry had meant more as an actual question than a joke.

“Not even Pansy, mate.”

“Right. Pansy,” Harry said, turning back to the couple, posing peacefully for friends and family and cameras.

Blaise looked at him sideways, as if assessing him for something. “She’ll say hello in a minute. She’s different from school, you know.” He paused to take a sip of champagne, looking like he was reconsidering his statement. “Well, okay, she’s not, but you didn’t really know her.”

“Right,” Harry said again. “No, I suppose I didn’t.”

“Well, here she comes now,” Blaise said, his voice dropping low as he slid away, winking at Harry as he did so, which concerned him only slightly.

Indeed she was: beaming on Draco’s arm as they walked towards him, they looked like a perfect aristocratic couple. Harry found it a bit disarming, even.

“Harry!” she exclaimed, fairly loudly, dislodging herself from Draco and walking up to Harry, her arms spread wide. He found himself with a strong urge to lean away as he realized she was about to hug him. “So nice to see you again!”

“O-oh,” he stammered, quickly and awkwardly hugging her back. “Yeah—glad to be here.”

She laughed a bit in his ear and pulled away, eyes roaming over his face almost hungrily.

Yes, Harry thought, trying to keep his face pleasant and friendly even as she refused to break eye contact, we’ve definitely moved past ‘disarming’ now.

Unsettling, that was his new word.

The whole thing was very unsettling.

“Pans,” Draco said, his smile becoming a bit strained. “Try to be a normal person?”

Harry’s eyes shot to Draco in surprise, but Pansy only winked at Harry before backing back up beside Draco.

“What is it with Slytherins and winking?” Harry asked, and Pansy giggled.

“Prerequisite,” she replied, at the same time Draco asked, “Who else winked at you?”

“Zabini,” Harry answered, and Pansy’s smirk fell flat off of her face.

“There is a special place in Hell reserved for the Slytherin bisexual,” she muttered, before flashing both Harry and Draco a smile. “If you’ll excuse me…”

Harry raised his eyebrows a bit at the comment, the jibe hitting a little too close to home, but he still recognized the probable merit.

“Zabini wasn’t…coming onto me?” Harry half informed Draco, half asked, because he was suddenly doubting his abilities to be able to tell (which was slightly worrying, in and of itself). “Is he even physically able to do that?”

“Hit on men?” Draco asked absently, his eyes trained on Pansy talking to Zabini by the fireplace with forced smiles and barely-concealed intimidation techniques. “Yes, I should think so.”

“No, I meant—me,” Harry corrected, cursing inwardly as Draco gave him his attention, his face confused and a bit amused.

“I don’t think I can answer that question for you, Harry,” Draco said slowly, sounding sincere, but his eyes sparkled as his smirk grew.

“What? No, I mean—I didn’t mean—God, you’re such a git,” he sighed, dropping the conversation entirely as Draco snickered.

“I’m back,” sang Pansy as she danced up to the two of them again, obviously returned from a now-brooding Zabini. “Who missed me?”

“You know, Harry,” Draco said quickly, eyeing the wall of press slowly edging closer to the group, “you should meet some of my other family. They don’t bite.”

“Well, not in front of the cameras,” Pansy added quietly, gratefully taking a sip of champagne. “You should have heard what Draco’s grandmother was saying about my dress before they got here.”

“Your dress looks fine,” Harry said, looking at her floor-length silver gown, complete with fancier robes than even Harry and Draco’s.

“Yes, but nothing is ever good enough for old women,” Pansy said wisely. “The world’s been disappointing them for too long.”

“And in my grandmother’s case, the world has been a 102-year-old disappointment,” Draco agreed, discreetly taking Pansy’s champagne glass out of her hand as she drained the last of it. “Really, Pans, you may talk a tough game, but we both know what a lightweight you are.”

Was she really? Harry wondered, looking at her pout. He wondered if Draco was too.

Probably not, right? He was likely immune to alcohol that wasn’t the world’s finest brandy, and even then he knew how much to drink.

Or maybe, Harry speculated, watching Draco look with guarded eyes around the room as Pansy chattered on to one or both of them, he goes down with half a firewhiskey.

Harry decided he liked that idea much better.

“Oh, and Harry?” Pansy caught his attention back, a devious smile gracing her face. “Draco and I think your robes look fantastic on you.”

Draco closed his eyes and exhaled, but Harry flushed and looked back down at himself. He was definitely not used to Slytherins (however former) paying him so much physical attention.

“Oh, er. Thanks, Pansy. I didn’t really know what to expect…”

“Well, like I said, you look—“

A flash went off near their faces and they all jumped, looking around for the assailant.

“One more like that, please…”

A journalist led Harry unapologetically between Draco and Pansy, talking the whole time to his obedient photographer, whose camera never left Harry’s face.

He understood he was supposed to look and act friendly, and shoved his mind away from how weird it was to be pressed against Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson, all three of them smiling happily for cameras they all secretly despised.

What a Saturday.

“Perfect,” the journalist finally commented, and headed straight for Harry. “Now a short interview—you don't mind.”

It wasn’t a question, and Harry barely had time to look at Draco before he was whisked away to the refreshments table on the other side of the room, reminded horribly of his fourth year.

“My name is Roger Davies,” the reporter said, “I’d just like to ask you a few questions.”

“I know that name,” Harry remarked, as he and Davies fought through the crowd of people. “Weren’t you at Hogwarts?”

“A couple years ahead of you,” Davies confirmed, nodding triumphantly, like he had just gotten Harry to admit a secret. “Glad you remember. What I don’t remember, however, is any sort of kinship between you and Mr. Malfoy. In fact, it was pretty well-known you two were very hostile towards one another. Care to comment?”

Harry blinked, the question definitely not unexpected but still extremely blunt. “It’s been a long time since Hogwarts,” he answered coolly, deciding Roger Davies was definitely in his group of journalists he disliked (which, by now, was a fairly diverse and extensive group). The only two he could tolerate were Xenophilius Lovegood and Ginny, but the latter only used him for Quidditch quotes, citing him “anonymously”.

Davies nodded, scribbling quickly down on a notepad. Harry was grateful, at least, for the lack of a Quick-Quotes quill. “Would you care to shed light on how this friendship began?”

“Sure,” Harry replied, because it wasn’t like he could exactly refuse, “it—uh, began with…”

“You sound a bit lost, Mr. Potter?”

“No, I just…did you know he has a clinic in Paris?” Harry blurted out, amazed that he still hadn’t gotten the hang of talking to the press.

Davies blinked, caught off-guard by Harry’s information. “No…”

“Well, neither did I, until I got injured on a case about two years ago,” he lied, talking earnestly as the story unfolded in his head. “Someone cursed me and no one could really figure out what it was, much less how to stop it. But…then, I was recommended to his clinic because he’d seen something like it before, so…I really had to trust him. And it was easier than I had expected.”

Davies’ eyebrows raised slightly, but it wasn’t in skepticism. If anything, Harry would guess he seemed surprised by the genuine nature of Harry’s claim of trust.

Harry’s eyes darted over to Draco, laughing with Pansy and Blaise on the opposite end of the room. Every lie had to have some truth to make it believable, and he asked himself why he was in full of former Slytherins and ex-Death Eaters and cameras and photographers, if it wasn’t because he trusted Draco at least somewhat.

And one former Slytherin in particular lifted his blond head in Harry’s direction, taken aback by the eye contact but smiling encouragingly all the same.

Harry was right—it had been a long time since Hogwarts.

The interview finished up quickly, and without any more trouble, so Harry politely made his peace with Davies and made his escape, thinking that perhaps this wasn’t as disastrous of a situation as he had thought.

Then Lucius Malfoy intercepted his path, and he changed his mind.

“If you wouldn’t mind posing for a few more pictures,” Lucius asked, faux-politely, sounding like Harry had been obviously and deliberately avoiding photo ops. “Don’t despair—we all dislike them.”

“Of course,” Harry said blandly, still absolutely unsure of how to treat him. “Was there anything else?”

“Not right now,” Lucius muttered, “but you should come around to the Manor for dinner. Just you, me, and Draco.”

“Um, sure,” Harry said, not liking that idea at all. “That’s—“

“How about next Friday?” Lucius asked immediately, lifting his chin in a subtle move of intimidation.

“I—well, I work,” Harry said lamely, but one intensified gaze from Lucius told him he wouldn’t be getting out of it. “But after, yeah, probably.”

“Wonderful,” Lucius said, spreading his arms out, and Harry feared for a horrible moment that Lucius was about to hug him. “Welcome to the family.”

He swept away quickly, to Harry’s relief, but left him double-checking again that he really wasn’t the one marrying Draco.

The rest of the event closed up nicely, with a few more group shots but thankfully, no more interviews. The only vaguely unsettling thing about all of it was that Harry wasn’t sure what was stopping them.

 

“Lucius Malfoy invited you to dinner,” Ginny repeated, confirming the fact for the third time.

“Yes, Gin,” Harry sighed. “Are you going to invite yourself into my flat every time I interact with the Malfoy family?”

“I might just move in here,” Ginny remarked, finishing pouring her tea and looking around the kitchen appraisingly.

“You don’t want to do that,” Harry snorted.

“Why not?”

“Well, you’d come back to find Ron has sliced my head off,” Harry said reasonably, stirring his milk into his cup of tea.

“It’s not like we’d be together,” Ginny said, shrugging.

“Well, no, but he’d think so, because Ron is—“

“An idiot,” Ginny supplied for him, and Harry didn’t feel like correcting her. “But is that the only reason why I shouldn’t? That’s just a trash bag and a few cleaning spells away from being a solved problem.”

“I’m so glad we’re friends, Ginny.”

“You haven’t discouraged me yet,” Ginny warned, now pretending to inspect his countertops.

“How about this,” Harry said challengingly, and she raised her eyebrows, crossing her arms. “My first rule would be to ban kitchen sex with Luna.”

Ginny shrugged, smiling mischievously. “That also won’t be a problem once Ron has sliced your head off.”

“You’re impossible,” Harry muttered, shaking his head. She laughed.

“I’m not moving in. Of course. You’re just obligated to tell me everything to make up for it.”

Harry took a sip of tea, remembering the previous day with much less painful memories than he had anticipated. Ginny’s head titled one way at his hesitation, as if cataloguing it as some sort of clue.

“Why do girls always do that?” Harry deflected, indicating her expression with a nod of his head.

Ginny raised her eyebrows again, much more coldly, and Harry immediately realized his mistake.

“For the opposite reason men paint everything with a broad brush,” she replied, reaching a hand up to brush her new bangs out of her eyes, her gaze now unimpeded. “Someone has to see the world around them.”

“Fair,” Harry said, holding back a smile.

In truth, Harry missed Ginny. With her work, and her newfound relationship, they hadn’t been as close as they were in the years just after the War. Harry was now quickly rising through the Auror department and she was an international Quidditch star and off-season sports journalist, with apartments in both London and Barcelona.

Harry himself stuck stubbornly to Grimmauld Place, though his wealth allowed for a lot more lifestyle luxury. He liked to travel, sure, but he found it rather lonely to do so alone, and Luna was always dragging Ginny to secluded and remote corners of the earth when Ginny had time off.

Not that Ginny was his only friend. Not at all—he had also gotten a lot closer with Seamus, his partner, but even Seamus had Dean and Ron and Hermione were married and trying to have children and Harry was thinking about getting a dog.

“Other than the terrifying dinner invite, how were the Malfoys?” Ginny asked, snapping Harry out of his thoughts of dogs and relationships.

“Draco was definitely the nicest one there,” Harry said, marveling at the words that were coming out of his mouth. “His grandmother and your Auntie Muriel should have tea sometimes.”

Ginny shuddered at the image, but her smile grew as she caught Harry’s slip.

“And how nice was Draco?” she asked innocently, but Harry knew her far too well for any of her bullshit.

“Don’t even start with whatever you’re thinking about,” he warned her. “He calls me ‘Harry’, for the record.”

She stared at him then for a long while, before shaking her head and putting her mug down on the counter.

“Harry?”

“What?”

“You’re also an idiot.”

 

Pansy ran her fingers over Draco’s silk bedding, stepping out of her heels as she did so.

The setting sun hazed through even Draco’s emerald curtains, and Draco was standing in front of his full-length mirror, completely ignoring the woman crawling across the bed behind him.

“When do we have sex, again?” Pansy asked, now combing through the elaborate braid she had put in her hair this morning.

Draco snorted. “Not until the wedding night.”

“Ah, but will you be able to get it up for me, my love?”

“Only if you sprout a penis, darling.”

Pansy smiled, closing her eyes. “Is that really all it takes, a penis?”

Draco finally loosened the knot on his tie and yanked it through his collar, looking fondly at Pansy’s reflection. “No. That’s not what makes you a man.”

“Exactly. Look at Mills,” Pansy offered, stifling a yawn with the back of her hand. Draco could feel her exhaustion across the room, and he let out a long, slow breath. It had been a tiring day.

“Do you think your father thinks we’re having sex in here?” Pansy asked, pushing herself up on her knees to settle back against Draco’s pillows.

“He probably hopes,” Draco answered honestly, slipping out of his shoes and unbuttoning the first few buttons of his robe to slide it off and join her. “Seeing how he suspects I’m gay—“

“Which you are—“

“Which I haven’t told him—“

“Especially because you’re marrying me.”

Draco smiled grimly before scooting back to lay his head on her lap. Her fingers went to their usual positions in his hair automatically, and his eyes fell shut. “Exactly.”

“What if Harry Potter came into your office and demanded to snog you?” she asked seriously, as if the scenario was a possible and even likely situation Draco might find himself in.

He looked at her for a moment, ignoring the now-familiar pang in his chest. “He won’t.”

“What if he did? What if he actually falls in love with you too? What if he already is?”

“He isn’t,” Draco replied immediately, his tone harsh.

“Would you still marry me?” Pansy asked quietly, moving her fingers away from his face so she could look him in the eyes.

Draco looked back up at her, feeling shame creep back into the space between his ribs. It had been Pansy’s idea to tell Lucius he had befriended Harry Potter, and her follow-up plan to actually get him involved. Draco had seen it as the only way out from a marriage that would hurt an entirely innocent party, not as a way to act on his long-standing and extraordinarily long-suffering love for a man he hadn’t spoken to since the war trials.

But Pansy’s sacrifice had turned into a gift the moment the door had closed behind Harry in his office, and the pain in his chest, however dulled and ignored, had both swelled and morphed into something else: something Pansy had called hope.

But that was illogical, and the hopelessness of his stupid heart hurt to think about.

But Harry told dumb jokes unthinkingly. And Harry had smiled at him today. Harry had greener eyes than he had at school. He had missed him so much, even if he had never really known him. Never really had gotten the chance.

“Well,” Draco finally replied, wanting desperately for the look of pity to leave her face, “if I get you pregnant tonight, we have to rush the wedding, so.”

She smiled sadly at him, and her fingers went back to his hair. “So let’s not do that.”

Chapter Text

Seamus was reading Sunday’s Prophet when Harry wearily approached their desk unit, and the sight of it almost made him want to Apparate back home and call in sick.

The article had appeared exactly a day after Harry had left Malfoy Manor. Seconds after he had picked up his own copy, Hermione and Ron had Flooed without warning into his living room, sending the dutiful Prophet delivery owl screeching out the window.

They had talked for hours, Hermione mainly taking up the time by creating an outrageously detailed and impromptu “game plan” for the duration of this media storm. The discussion had only ended with Ginny bursting in and promptly kicking her brother and Hermione out, repeating firmly that Harry needed tea and relaxation.

Harry had read and re-read the article many times between its Sunday release and Monday morning, trying to convince himself each time that it really wasn’t as bad as it seemed.

Draco himself had even sent him a copy (like he was only person in the English-speaking Wizarding World lacking a Prophet subscription) with a good-intentions note attached, instructing Harry to not “worry about anything that seems worrying”, and that they’d talk about it the next day.

And then it was the next day, and he was facing work without Ron’s grim and bracing support, Hermione’s “game plan” or Ginny’s fantastic tea.

So he sighed to himself and pressed on, walking out from behind Seamus and pretending like had no cause for hesitation.

Seamus, however, jumped at the sight of him, the newspaper quickly dropping to the table as he stared.

“Harry,” he said blankly, as if surprised he still came to work.

“Hey, Seamus,” he greeted dully, smiling weakly and dropping in to his chair.

“So—um,” Seamus tried, looking back at the Prophet uncomfortably. “How was your weekend?”

Harry looked up at him and raised his eyebrows. Seamus flushed a bit but didn’t take the question back, staring resolutely at Harry until he sighed and caved.

“Alright, Seamus. What do you want to know?” He spread his hands outward, as if offering himself up for bait.

“Well,” Seamus began pointedly, picking up the Prophet and shaking it out so Harry could see the front page.

POWER PLAY OR COVER-UP: HARRY POTTER AS DRACO MALFOY’S BEST MAN?

By Roger Davies

Harry knew the article nearly by heart by now, but he reread the first line disinterestedly as Seamus formulated a question.

Harry Potter struts into the Malfoy’s reception room with Draco Malfoy walking almost dutifully right beside him, standing ram-rod straight for the modest procession of cameras as the both of them look more uncomfortable than a woman at a Veela show.

“I’ve seen it,” Harry said dryly, and the paper was folded up and put aside again, revealing Seamus’s freckled and wide-eyed face behind it.

“Look, mate,” he said, looking Harry over like this explanation was crucial, “all I know is that you walk out of the cafeteria with Draco Malfoy on Friday and then by Sunday you’re his best mate? Going to his wedding?” He paused for effect, or maybe waiting for Harry to wake up and start screaming. “You’re his best man?!”

Harry sighed again. He knew Seamus was now a loose end in their paper trail, since he obviously knew that Harry and Draco had not been speaking at all since the trials, especially after the less-than-warm greeting in the cafeteria right in front of him.

“I mean, it’s not true, is it? You can’t have been friends, you would’ve—“

Harry leaned forward and cut him off with a wave of his hand, looking around to make sure no one else was listening before dropping his voice low.

“No, it’s not true,” he whispered, and Seamus’s expression only got more confused. “It’s a complicated story, okay? Trust me. But listen—you can’t go around telling people it’s a sham, or whatever, because it’s only going to make things a lot more difficult.”

“But why are you helping him?” Seamus whispered back. “Why would you go through all that trouble for him?”

“I told you, it’s complicated,” Harry said again, leaning back in his hair and not at all willing to discuss the inner workings of his thought patterns with Seamus. He reached down for his briefcase before looking back at Seamus, a new idea in his head.

“That’s our job, isn’t it?” he asked, searching Seamus’s face for any sign of understanding. “We help people. We help when people need help, even if it’s a lot of trouble.”

Seamus shrugged, shaking his head. “I guess. Yeah.”

“Just promise me you won’t repeat what I told you to anyone,” Harry said seriously, looking him in the eye.

Seamus raised his hands in defense. “I promise, mate. ‘Course I do.”

 

Draco met him again for lunch, and this time Seamus didn’t act nearly as surprised. He even nodded at Draco has he passed, surprising the other into slowing down.

Harry and Draco greeted each other like real friends, easier now than Harry had ever dared to hope, and went out to buy salads, which was filled with a lot more publicity than buying salads ever should be.

“At least they think we take lunch breaks together,” Draco muttered out the corner of his mouth, giving one camera a “secret” smile.

“Don’t we?” Harry muttered back, giving his own “secret” smile to Draco.

They returned to Draco’s office in one piece, and Mabel smiled fondly at the both of them.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Potter,” she said warmly, her eyes twinkling even as Draco, unbeknownst to Harry, glared at her dangerously.

“Please, call me Harry,” he replied, smiling back at her. He liked her being a sweet old lady much more than when she was trying to tackle him.

“Of course, dear.”

Draco led the way to his office, closing the door behind them both and Harry immediately moved the chair he had used last time up to Draco’s desk with his wand, sitting in it and retrieving his salad without a second thought.

Draco merely blinked for a few seconds, stopping in the doorway, before recovering and sitting in his desk chair.

“So you could even come over tonight,” Harry offered, and Draco’s eyes widened. “Hermione’s got a lot of ideas about the whole Davies thing.”

“So she knows.”

“Yeah, of course she knows. So does Ron, Ginny and Seamus. And none of them are going to run to the Prophet,” Harry answered honestly, prepared for this conversation.

Draco sighed. “Okay, fine. But that’s it, okay? With everyone else you have to stick to the story.”

Harry pursed his lips, fishing around in his salad for another tomato. “Yeah, I know, but the story’s kind of hard to stick to.”

Draco looked up, his eyes flashing with hurt before he covered it smoothly, looking back down at the table and sitting up straighter.

Harry caught the emotion, however, somehow sort of attuned to Draco’s self-defensive techniques already. Guilt twisted in his gut and he frowned, shaking his head.

“No, Draco, that’s not what I meant,” he said seriously. “You’re fine—better than a lot of the guys I work with, honestly. I just meant—well, it’s still not true, is it? It’s kind of hard to make people buy it.”

“Well, you’re going to have to,” Draco said, but it was more in resignation than it was a demand.

“Especially after that article,” Harry agreed darkly, eyes falling to the paper on Draco’s desk.

Draco nodded, picking it up. “There’s actually something else worrying me about it.”

“You mean other than the blatant speculation and skepticism?”

Draco glanced up at Harry, then back down the paper as he flipped through it. “Yeah. Did you read the paper other than Davies’s story?”

Harry tried to remember. “Um. Might’ve read Ginny’s Quidditch draft column…why?”

“Well, there are no other stories on us.”

Harry dropped his fork into the salad and pushed it aside, immediately reaching for the paper. “What?”

“Did you honestly not check?” Draco asked, disbelievingly.

“I just…assumed! I never read past the first article!” Harry tore the front page story from the rest of the paper and flipped through it, reading through op-eds and economics and obituaries and Ginny’s sports column and closely scanned the entertainment section for the first time in his life, but did not see any other mention of their names.

“You just assumed,” Draco repeated blankly, his eyebrows raised. “And you’re…an Auror?”

Harry shot him a look. “I’m never investigating crimes about myself.”

“Well, I guess we all have to change from our school days,” Draco smirked, but sobered when Harry looked up at him genuinely.

“I guess so,” he said, and Draco visibly reddened, but his lips parted in thought.

“…Harry…”

“OH!” Harry exclaimed, pointing to a spot in the newspaper with a triumphant finger.

Draco jumped at the noise, a bit bewildered that Harry had seemed to find something he had missed.

“Another article? It must be about a paragraph long—“

“No, it’s an announcement,” Harry said, tapping the inked box with his finger. “Apparently, there’s an exclusive interview between—holy shit.

“What?” Draco snapped, trying to grab the newspaper back, but Harry absently held it further away, still staring in shock at the printed words.

“Roger Davies has granted an exclusive interview to Rita Skeeter,” Harry read slowly, with undisguised horror, “which will premiere in two weeks’ time by radio.”

What?!” Draco demanded, and this time Harry let him snatch the newspaper back to read the dreaded words himself. “That's—why? He must know you’re talking to him again, and you gave him maybe three usable quotes last time! What can he possibly do?”

“I don’t know. Hermione seemed to have some ideas, though. Come over tonight, we can talk through all of this.”

Draco stared at him as Harry thoughtlessly invited him over, like it was nothing, like a group brainstorm session with his two other war-hero friends was not a big deal at all. Harry himself was studiously ignoring what he had just said, determined to plow through the sticky moment any way they could.

“Yeah,” he said, “That—okay.”

Harry rose from his chair and gave Draco a tight smile. “I’ll pick you up after work—don’t you leave late?”

“Um, yeah,” Draco confirmed, his eyes roving over the pile of papers he had sort through today.

Harry nodded. “See you then.”

 

Draco surveyed his office, standing up with his hands on hips and shirt sleeves rolled up. His eyes fell on the embarrassingly large pile of not-filled-out documents, and he pursed his lips.

As far as productive days go, he thought, this isn’t one.

Being stupidly obsessed with Harry Potter was so unfortunate.

But would Draco tell him to not take lunch in his office anymore? No.

Would he tell him they should only talk in regards to the wedding? No.

Would he ever, ever tell him he was stupidly obsessed with him? No.

Pansy keeps calling it love, he scoffed to himself.

Obsession isn't love. Even he knew that, even if he didn’t know exactly what Pansy meant by “love”.

Draco had thought of him constantly for seven years and hadn’t sent a single owl. He had held onto every newspaper that mentioned his name for weeks after they’d delivered, hiding them in a drawer in his wardrobe like a teenager hiding magazines they shouldn’t have (and he’d been there too—all gay purebloods had).

And every time he’d see a big, bold headline featuring the words HARRY POTTER, his heart would freeze and he’d hope beyond anything he was worth that it wasn’t a wedding announcement.

But now

Draco was in Harry’s life again, and this time, they were Draco and Harry and they weren’t cursing each other every chance they got.

This time, Harry was eating lunch in Draco’s office.

And did Draco love him?

No. Because obsession wasn’t love, and his obsession only grew.

Harry just managed to invade his mind more and more often, and in the meantime, he was all too aware that Lucius and Pansy’s parents were going to start roping them both into more and more wedding plans.

He hadn’t even warned Harry about the “wedding plans” they’d have to do together.

Especially not the one month rule.

Merlin, especially not that one.

A knock at the door snapped him out of it, but he barely looked up as Pansy entered.

“I came as soon as I got your owl,” Pansy said, hurriedly closing the door and turning concerned eyes on him. The skirt of her dress swished around her knees and her black heels clicked across the floor as she made her way to Draco’s desk, and Draco only belatedly noticed the completely muggle ensemble before she whipped out her wand to move Draco’s papers off of his desk.

“No, Pans, don’t—“

“Too late,” she said flippantly, kicking her shoes off and sitting on the corner of Draco’s desk, bringing her feet up on the edge and crossing them at the ankles. “If you wanted constant delicacy, you should have fake-married Astoria when you had the chance.”

“Technically we’re not fake-married yet,” Draco pointed out, Summoning the papers from his floor and putting them farther away from Pansy.

“That’s true, and technically, you don’t have to fake-marry me at all,” Pansy grinned, her eyes glinting. “So speaking of—you are going to Harry Potter’s house to meet his friends?”

“We are discussing tactics for this media shit storm, not…whatever the hell you’re envisioning.” Draco corrected Pansy warningly.

“So…” Pansy said slowly, pouting in mock-confusion, “why did you call me here?”

Draco groaned, throwing his head back and sliding down in his chair. “Because…I’m going over to Potter’s house and meeting his friends.”

“I thought he was Harry now,” Pansy smirked, her eyes on the pitiful display in front of her that Draco now only let loose in front of her.

“He’s ‘Potter’ when he annoys me,” Draco mumbled, scowling.

“He’s not even here!”

“But I’m thinking about him.”

“Well, that’s nothing new.”

Draco glared at her, but in the end he could only really concede her point. “Fair.”

“Okay, time to be serious,” Pansy decided, shaking her shiny black hair over her shoulders. “Why are you scared? Potter didn’t seem worried, did he?”

“Potter doesn’t think,” Draco muttered darkly.

“You give him too little credit,” Pansy said, then shuddered. “And that’s coming from me.”

Draco shook his head. “I just don’t want to mess it up.”

“What do you mean? How will this mess it up?”

“We’re actually sort of friends, Pans,” Draco remarked, “which is…more than I ever thought we would be. If I go in there, with a group of people I’m definitely not friends with, they might remind him why we didn’t talk for ten years.”

“For seven years,” Pansy corrected, swinging her legs even more into Draco’s personal space so she was sitting on the edge of the desk, facing him. “And you literally disappeared to Paris. You have such a habit of exaggerating your own personal tragedies.”

“You also disappeared to Paris,” Draco shot back, though the jibe had no point.

“I’m not crying about the consequences,” Pansy took the bait anyway, bumping Draco’s shin with her ankle. “You have an actual chance to change things this time. And you’re barely taking it!”

“You call this an actual chance?” Draco repeated incredulously. “I’m getting married. He’s going to be at the wedding. Hell, he’s going to be in the wedding. You call that an actual chance?”

Pansy stared at him for a moment before replying.

“Yes,” she answered, her eyes wide and lips slightly frowning. “Yes, I do.”

 

Harry came to get him before he could even say he was finished, the amount of work on his desk too obvious to dismiss.

“Sorry, I…had a lot today,” Draco mumbled as Harry found the chair he always sat in, now returned to its original place.

“It’s okay,” Harry replied simply, shrugging.

“It won’t take me much longer,” Draco assured him, sitting back down, trying not to be visibly flustered. “Most of this is just busywork—they won’t mind it if I turn it late. Would serve the bastards right, actually.”

Harry granted him with a smirk as he relaxed into the chair. “Who, Magical Law? I don't like them either.”

Draco gave him a funny look. “Granger’s one of the top associates?”

Harry snorted. “Yeah, and she’s bloody awful at work when she’s telling me and Seamus to drop a case or some other legal stuff that makes it harder to investigate bad people.”

“Is Seamus your partner?”

“Yeah, has been ever since training,” Harry replied, taking a bag of Muggle crisps out of his robes. “We work really well together, actually—it’s sort of a shame we weren’t paired up more in school.”

“Oh,” Draco said neutrally, squashing down the irrational flare of jealously he felt spike in his chest.

Harry’s eyes darted up to meet his, as if he had sensed discomfort. Draco flushed and looked away, hoping Harry hadn’t suspected anything.

“Sorry if I’m bothering you,” Harry apologized immediately, and Draco exhaled slowly through his nose. “I can leave until you’re done—“

“No,” Draco said quickly, giving him what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “It won’t take me long, I told you. I just have to fill out some forms.”

“Alright,” Harry replied, shrugging again. He snuck a look at Draco and re-stowed the crisps, pulling out the newest edition of the Prophet instead, thankfully free of personal articles.

Draco put his quill to paper, filling out random names in blank copies of forms no one was going to read, looking up at Harry whenever he could.

Harry was engrossed in what was undoubtedly the Quidditch section, and his eyes held the same intense look of focus Draco had unintentionally familiarized himself with at school. Draco remembered, suddenly, that he had always noticed Harry’s eyes before anything else.

Except perhaps his hair, Draco thought, his eyes moving to the tumbling waves of black hair that sat above amber skin, unchanged from school save a few more sophisticated attempts to move the mess into a sort of pattern, making it look disheveled on purpose.

That irritated Draco to no end, for some reason.

It was then that Harry looked up at him again, catching him in the stare and making them both go still. Draco’s heart sped up as he searched for something to say, but Harry just raised an eyebrow.

“You need something?”

“Oh,” Draco said, realizing Harry was giving him an out, “no, I just…finished.”

Harry’s eyes dropped from his to the not-at-all diminished pile of papers on his desk. “Already?”

Draco smiled, swallowing discreetly to try and remedy his sudden dry throat. “Told you it wouldn’t take long.”

“Okay,” Harry said, accepting his bullshit to gloss over the moment. “Ready to go, then?”

Draco nodded and stood up, hooking one finger under the collar of his suit jacket and throwing it over his shoulder. He bent down to pick up his already packed briefcase and stood, looking back up to see Harry frozen in the doorway, staring at him strangely.

“What?” Draco asked, looking back down, suddenly incredibly paranoid. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Harry replied, shaking his head a bit. “It’s just—you say you hate this job, and yet you look so…nice. Good.”

Draco held his breath as Harry trailed off, looking Draco over again, making him feel very exposed.

“Is this you harboring private thoughts for me, then?”

The words were out of Draco’s mouth before he even realized he was the one who said them, and he refrained from literally smashing his head on the wall as Harry blinked and stepped back.

But then Harry smiled—and with the upward curve of his lips Draco seemed to melt in relief.

“Sure. These are my private thoughts about you. The tenacity of your professionalism.”

Still smiling, Harry motioned Draco out of his own office, and Draco followed.

Mabel had gone home for the night, so they walked down the hallway to the nearest Apparation Point in complete silence, neither of them really up for speaking.

Draco focused on Harry’s breathing, barely audible even in the stillness. But Draco could tell when he inhaled by the way he carried it all in his shoulders—

Damn, Draco. Stop being so fucking creepy.

“Side-along or separate?” Harry asked, as they stepped onto the platform.

“Side-along,” Draco replied, ignoring the shiver of warmth that spiraled down his chest as Harry nodded and hooked an arm through his. He cursed inwardly as he felt the warmth of Harry’s arm in solid contact with his own, and the moment didn’t even end when the metal platform left their feet and they were yanked backwards in space; the world swirled all around them and Draco couldn’t breathe, but he could still feel Harry’s skin through the thin fabric of his dress shirt.

They arrived at the row of apartments, at least half of which Draco knew to be a front for No. 12, Grimmauld Place.

“I thought this place was hidden?” Draco asked, feeling like he wasn’t allowed to see the block of apartments that Harry was walking them up to.

And then he noticed—as Harry explained something about removing a charm—that Harry still had his arm linked with his, gently moving him along as if they’d always walked together like this. Unsure if Harry had just forgotten or if it was still necessary for some reason, Draco tried not to move his arm enough for Harry to take any notice of it, walking along and trying to concentrate on Harry’s explanation like nothing was out of the ordinary.

“…it was nice for a while, since it meant I could avoid journalists, but after a while it just became too inconvenient to keep up. So the Fidelius Charm isn’t on it anymore, long story short,” Harry concluded, and Draco nodded knowingly, trying to seem engaged and normal.

“Right, makes sense.”

They arrived at the door and only did then Harry pull his arm from the crook of Draco’s elbow—freezing as he did so, looking confusedly at Draco’s slightly bent arm as if he was just noticed it was there.

“What?” Draco asked, trying desperately to appear nonchalant, but Harry just blushed and shook it off, looking blessedly bemused.

“Nothing…nothing.”

Before Draco could even decide whether or not to press him or move on, the door was yanked open in front of both of them, making Draco’s heart temporarily stop with fear, but Harry showed no visible sign of surprise as he rolled his eyes at an aproned and slightly flushed Hermione Granger. Her incredibly curly hair was pulled tightly back into a bun and her right hand was encased in a giant Muggle cooking mitten as it perched on her hip, and Draco thought Muggles must look rather ridiculous for considerable portions of the day if this is what they had to wear to be safe cooking. Her eyes scanned them both and halted on Draco, face sharp in concentration but entirely emotionally unrevealing.

“Hermione, you’re cooking?” Harry asked, obviously appearing to share none of Granger’s concerns, glancing back at Draco once to make sure he was still there and willing.

“Ron won’t allow Muggle devices in the kitchen apart from the toaster,” Granger sniffed, eyes finally moving away from Draco as she relaxed. “Your house at dinner is the only time I’m able to!”

Harry smiled affectionately at her and waved Draco inside, still continuing his conversation.

“I know what you mean. Still can’t cook in a wizard kitchen, never really got that part of my magic right or something.”

Draco almost snorted and shot a look at Granger, who looked like she was having to try very hard to refrain from correcting him on his magical theory. Without really thinking about it, he gave her a knowing smirk, and she received it with no small amount of surprise.

“Is that them?” Ron Weasley’s voice called out sharply from the kitchen, and the sound of shoes connecting ungracefully with the floor followed after.

Harry cringed as Granger sighed. “I do wish he was more careful with the hardwoods…”

Draco glanced down at the offending floors and realized, for the first time, exactly where he was.

His head snapped back up and he looked up and down the narrow hallway in confusion, trying to find even the slightest homage to what this place must have been. Harry, Granger and now Weasley had gone quiet as they realized what Draco was doing.

“I redecorated too,” Harry offered simply, and Draco swung big and disbelieving eyes on him, silently communicating that “redecoration” was a bit of an understatement.

The walls on either side of the hallway were a bright and rich royal blue, covered in nice frames containing incredibly detailed watercolors, a multitude of photographs and newspaper clippings (though, as Draco looked a few of them over, exclusively detailing the accomplishments of Harry’s friends and never any detailing the accomplishments of Harry himself). The staircase on the far right, only visible past the opening of the hallway, seemed to be painted completely white with bright green railings—Draco had absolutely no idea what Harry was trying to accomplish, but it seemed to be working, because no trace of the “pureblood Black heritage” aesthetic so much as lingered in the dust.

The blue walls turned abruptly into canary yellow as the staircase led up into the upper levels, and Draco could catch a glimpse of orange from the kitchen—

“So you did,” Draco replied, finally, completely struck by his surroundings.

“Did you expect me to live in a million-year-old safehouse?” Harry countered, his tone joking, but it’s the uncomfortable sort of joke that a child would make to avoid confronting a serious emotion or difficult line of thinking, and Granger’s face immediately twisted in worry.

Seven years, Draco thought, looking at the four of them standing in the most brightly-colored place he had ever been in, seven years and it’s still not enough, because sometimes seven years is no time at all.

“I helped,” Weasley blurted out, and Draco’s attention snapped to him, standing stiffly next to Granger and watching him with cool eyes and guarded posture. His tone was almost defensive and definitely challenging, like he was daring Draco to proclaim his distate.

“My house looks a lot different too,” Draco said quietly.

Weasley didn’t say anything, just continued to stare at him.

“So—there’s food,” Granger piped up, her eyes darting nervously between Weasley and Draco. “As I…said. If Ron’s left any, that is.”

Weasley unfroze at this, grinning suddenly at his wife. “You have no faith in me. It was just out of the…um, oven when you left!”

“That has never stopped you before…”

Their easy and practiced banter trailed off as they strode ahead of Harry and Draco into Harry’s kitchen, and Harry and Draco themselves paused in the hallway for a moment longer, looking around and enjoying a small moment of silence and peace.

“Harry! Malfoy! Food! Now!” Granger barked at them both from the kitchen and spurred them into motion.

 

They survived a short and awkward dinner, in which Granger asked polite and vague questions while Weasley said nothing but hung onto Draco’s every word, like he was expecting Draco to subtlety reveal a plan for world domination. Harry’s role was to give him simple small smiles of encouragement across the table, which Draco pretended not to appreciate nearly as much as he did.

As soon as Weasley had eaten his last, Granger shot up from her chair, whipping out her wand and clearing the mess instantly.

Both Harry and Weasley sighed, leaning back resignedly as Granger began spreading newspapers, notebooks and self-inking quills all over the space where their food had just been.

Draco leaned back, hands firmly planted on his thighs, afraid that any part of him that he would rest on the table would be sliced off in the flurry of movement.

“I have a plan of attack,” Granger announced finally, and the rest of them slowly sat forward, surveying all of the paraphernalia she had laid out.

“…You have a piece written on Boggart mating patterns,” Weasley elaborated for her, picking up a cut-out piece of newspaper with a drawn eyebrows.

“Written by Roger Davies,” Granger pointed out, sounding smug.

“Right, but…what do boggarts and their sex lives have to do with our problem?” Harry asked, looking doubtfully over the rest of her spread.

“Because this particular article almost got Davies fired,” Granger revealed, plucking it from Weasley’s hands and passing it to Draco. “Look at the source.”

“Xenophilius Lovegood,” Draco read, his eyebrows lifting in surprise. “When was this written?”

“Right at the apex of his career, and right at the beginning of Davies’s,” Granger answered, and realization dawned on Draco.

“Was he trying to discredit Lovegood?” Draco asked incredulously, skimming the article.

“I’m very lost,” Harry said, and Weasley nodded. “Can at least one of you explain?”

“Harry, I know you avoided the newspapers like the plague right after the war, but surely you noticed the trend of readership going from the Prophet to The Quibbler, right?” Granger asked, and Harry looked at the table.

“Sure…I guess,” he replied, which surprised Draco.

“You guess?” Draco repeated, incredulous. “I thought the Prophet was going to go under, and I was all the way in France!”

“Okay, fine, sure, I was absent,” Harry snapped back at him, clearly irritated. “But why were people putting so much stock into The Quibbler?”

“Well, why wouldn’t they?” Granger said. “For a long time during the war, underground news stations and papers were the only sources of truth for the resistance. Remember, that’s why the Death Eaters kidnapped Luna in the first place.”

Draco’s eyes dropped quickly to his lap as the familiar flood of shame spread through his stomach. There was sudden silence around the table as the tension thickened, unexpected memories resurfacing but unspoken.

“And um…” Granger said finally, and Draco reluctantly focused somewhere on her midsection, not willing to make eye contact with anyone, “That’s why people trusted it more…even after the war.”

“Right,” Harry said quickly, and Draco could feel his stare. “That makes sense…so you said Davies tried to discredit him?”

Realizing Harry was talking to him, Draco met his gaze with as neutral of an expression as he could muster. “I did. Yes. If you look…” Draco paused to hand him the article, quickly withdrawing his hand as he went on. “…there—Weasley, you can see too—it’s a blatant attempt at calling Lovegood on whatever bullshit he was printing.”

“Davies had just been employed at the Prophet, but he obviously realized he’d be sacked eventually if the paper went under, so he decided to go straight for their biggest competitor.” Granger said, pushing forward an article on boggart mating patterns that was written by Xenophilius Lovegood himself. “That’s the article that Davies was attacking. It was the first piece written since the war solely about magical creatures as opposed to political op-eds and testimonials. In other words, it was the first sign that the paper could be…going back to the way it was.”

“Delicate,” Weasley snorted. “Davies really thought Xenopholius was going crazy again?”

“I think he took a chance,” Granger replied. “He immediately called into question the merit of the newspaper itself, not to mention the article, and even the trustworthiness of Lovegood himself.”

“Did people buy it?” Weasley asked.

“Not at all. Almost cost him his job,” Granger answered factually. “But the reason it’s relevant is that his style of journalism hasn’t changed even a little bit since that incident. He's always attacked his subjects like this. The thing is, that sort of bold speculation only works if you’ve gained notoriety. If you have a following.”

“And now he does,” Harry sighed. “So this sort of…gotcha journalism is what we’re facing?”

“Incessant, Rita-Skeeter-worthy gotcha journalism,” clarified Granger, giving both Harry and Draco a grim smile each. “But like I said, I have a plan.”

She looked at them both for a moment, as if assessing how well this plan of hers would work.

“It’s going to require the upmost cooperation between the two of you.”

Draco’s eyes flitted from Granger to Harry, who was looking at him right back, something gleaming in his expression.

“I can do that,” he said, giving Draco a determined smile. “Can you?”

“Why, Harry,” Draco replied calmly, the rush of adrenaline Harry’s smile had given him making him think winking was a good idea, "why else would you be my best man?”

Harry’s face reddened again, which only served to inflate Draco’s confidence.

“Alright, then!” Granger clapped her hands together and cleared parchment off of a giant piece of parchment in the center of the table. “Sit down, everyone. We’re going to take notes.”

“Even me?” Weasley groaned, but Granger silenced him with a sharp look.

She flicked her wand at the parchment as she started talking, fixing them all with a business-like stare that Draco knew she had perfected for her job in Magical Law.

“Step one.” she began, and her words appeared in orderly cursive at the top of each of their notebooks as well, “You have to make the people want your friendship. You have to make them root for you. If the public wants to believe your story, then they’ll dismiss whatever claims Davies makes.”

“How do we do that?” Draco demanded immediately, looking to Harry to assess his reaction.

Harry was just staring at his notebook as the words formed, an odd expression on his face that Draco also vaguely recognized from their school days. It reminded him too much of the way Harry used to look at him, absently in class or determinedly in the Great Hall, like he detected something suspicious but wasn’t quite sure why.

“You need to leave your house, for one,” Granger replied to his question bluntly, pushing photos towards Draco. “The 'I've been on house arrest for seven years' look doesn’t suit you.”

“I’m not on house arrest,” Draco said, affronted, picking up the pile of cut-out pictures, discovering that they were all stiff and scowling photos of him.

“Then stop acting like it. The people have to see you to like you.”

“Is that it?” Draco asked, waving the pictures.

“No,” Granger answered, her mouth twisting. “See, more important than visibility is chemistry.”

Harry’s head jerked up from his notebook, frowning at Granger. “Oh, God, what do you mean chemistry?”

“The muggle subject?” Draco asked, his brow furrowing.

Granger coughed. “Erm, no. Like, when two people work really well together. When they have…a sort of…spark between them. Muggles call that “chemistry” sometimes, it’s just slang.”

Draco could feel his cheeks heating as he and Harry looked at each other, each arranging their face into careful expressions of disbelief.

“You mean…like…romantic…ally? Romantic chemistry?” Harry asked slowly, and Weasley dropped his quill.

What’s happening?”

“Ronald, pay attention. And no, I didn’t mean romantic chemistry, as such. In this case, I mean more…platonic chemistry.” Granger explained, though her voice was still unsure. “Basically, you have to be a really good team. A good give and take, smiles, body language—all of this factors into it.”

“And what if Harry and Malfoy just don’t have chemistry?” Weasley asked the seemingly obvious question, motioning between the offending parties.

“They’ll have to fake it,” Granger responded dryly. “But I hope it won’t come to that.”

“Okay,” Draco said, his mouth dry. He didn’t dare say anything else—especially nothing about how he didn’t think he’d have any trouble faking chemistry with Harry.

“Okay,” echoed Harry, betraying nothing by his expression. “What’s step two?”

“You’re both going to hate this one,” Granger warned briskly, flicking her wand once more, and Draco watched the next word form on the paper with dread.

“Interviews,” read Harry blandly, and he blinked a few times at his notebook. “Were you planning on giving me a lobotomy first?”

“A what?” Draco and Weasley asked at the same time, but Granger only smiled sympathetically at him.

“You’ll be fine,” she tried to assure him, but even she sounded unsure. “I wouldn’t say this if it wasn’t necessary. If you go to the press, agree to do a series of interviews on your terms, then it puts you in some control, and even with some material to counter whatever Davies puts out.”

Draco clenched his jaw to stop himself from sighing, guilt pulling at his stomach. He watched Harry tug at his own hair, frowning at the table, and tried to convince himself to call the whole thing off.

But, Merlin save him, he said instead, “When should we do the first one?”

“As soon as possible,” Granger answered immediately, seemingly grateful that at least one of them still appeared willing. “People are going to want more content than what they have to work with now, and it should come from you.”

“Fine,” Harry said shortly, and it was clear that no more of that would be discussed, “what’s next?”

“Step three,” announced Granger in reply, the words still etching themselves into their notebooks, “is to talk to Davies directly. Off the record. Be careful, put up a friendly and casual pretense, but see if you can see what he’s up to. Pretend to have normal concerns.”

“He’ll see right through us,” Draco said, shaking his head. “Davies is smart, he won’t buy it.”

“I think he believes our story,” Harry responded unexpectedly, and Draco blinked.

“Harry…”

“No, really! I mean, I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I think this is more about making money than it is him chasing the truth.” Harry explained, looking at Draco with suddenly dark, no-nonsense eyes, the look people got when they were trying to convince someone of something. It was slightly manic, Draco realized, and resolved to try and fix it before their interviews.

“Why do you think he believed you?” Weasley asked.

“He looked sort of surprised when I was done talking,” Harry answered thoughtfully, directing his concentrated stare to the table. “Like he didn’t expect me to—“ he broke off, blinking a bit and flushing again.

“Like he didn’t expect you to what?” Draco heard himself asking, his chest irritatingly contracting.

Harry shrugged a bit, looking a bit dumbfounded. “To…care about you.”

Weasley coughed.

Granger cleared her throat. “Well, that’s good. If you tell him that you just want to make sure Malfoy is portrayed favorably, it might throw him off your scent, so to speak.”

“So everyone just has to pretend to care about me,” Draco snorted. “That’s a long-sought fantasy of mine, actually.”

Harry opened his mouth to say something, but closed it again before anything came out, still looking mildly confused.

Granger broke the ensuing tense silence. “Step four.”

“Throw Davies off a cliff and make it look like an accident,” Weasley suggested, and Granger gave him her second silencing look of the evening.

“You know, that’s the second time you’ve suggested murder by staging tragic cliff accidents,” Harry observed fondly, and Weasley laughed.

“Cute,” Draco drawled, raising his eyebrows. “When was the first?”

Weasley coughed again, this time to hide a laugh, and Harry bit his lip to keep his grin from growing.

“What is it?” Draco demanded, self-consciousness nipping at his sides.

“Erm,” Harry answered, his eyes sparkling as he smirked at Draco, “The last time was fourth year. When, um, Ron fantasized about pushing you off a glacier.”

Draco blinked, hurt immediately spiking in his chest, but then Harry giggled at him, smile directed openly and invitingly at him, and Draco realized with no small amount of astonishment that Harry was trying to laugh with him.

Laugh, dumbass, he thought, and cracked a trademark smirk that was coded into his DNA while his mind whirled to think of a response.

“And here you had promised me you were the only one fantasizing about me, Harry,” Draco mock-scolded, and then almost cringed out of his chair and onto the floor.

Both Harry and Granger burst into giggles at this, as Weasley abruptly stopped laughing, eyebrows going through his hairline.

“I—what?!”

Granger eyes fell to her parchment and she tsked in disappointment.

“Oh, damn, the paper’s getting all of this—“

Draco looked down at his own notebook, and sure enough, one of the worst things he’d ever said was magically etched into the paper.

And here you had promised me you were the only one fantasizing about me, Harry.

“Step four,” Hermione said again, her voice once again brisk and professional. “Not only do you have to have people root for your friendship, they also have to want Malfoy’s wedding.”

I don’t even want my wedding, Draco thought bitterly.

“How?” he said instead.

“Getting people excited for a wedding is easy. Princess Diana’s wedding saw 750 million viewers, and that was over twenty years ago.”

“Pansy,” Draco realized, and Granger nodded.

“Yes, she’ll have to be involved. Get her to do interviews too—photoshoots, especially. Broadcast your love story!”

“It's an arranged marriage,” Draco replied skeptically.

“But you love her,” Harry interjected forcefully, startling all of them. Harry didn't even notice his friends’ attention, focused as he was only on Draco. “That’s what you said.”

Draco stared back, unable to look away. Sweat formed immediately on his palms and his tongue darted out to wet his lips, mouth suddenly dry again.

“I know,” he said finally, as sincerely as he could. “Of course I love her.”

"We all know that," Granger won back the conversation with a quick smile in Draco's direction. "The most important thing is that this all has to be set in motion before the radio interview with Rita Skeeter."

"So...two weeks," Harry said, his eyes widening a bit.

"Yes, but that's not even what bothers me most," Granger said, a contemplative look settling on her face.

"That's what I like to hear," Harry replied sarcastically.

Draco bit back a smile for Granger's sake and sat up straighter. "Then what is?"

Granger shook her head, tapping Davies's newest article with her finger. "This is a big story," she sighed. "So why isn't anyone else writing it?"

 

It seemed to Draco that Weasley and Granger took eons to finally leave, when in reality it was only about a half an hour.

Harry saw them to the door as Draco reheated the kettle and unthinkingly poured himself a cup of tea, before realizing he had neither the invitation nor the excuse to stay. And he had gone and poured himself a cuppa.

He stood, facing the counter, handle of Harry’s mug clenched tightly in his hand. He didn’t want to leave, he just wanted to talk to Harry for a little bit longer—

“God, what time is it?”

Draco yelped and jumped around as he heard Harry’s voice coming from directly behind him, his wrist weirdly seizing and flinging Harry’s mug full of tea to the other end of the kitchen. It spun in a tight arc, splashing tea absolutely everywhere before smashing down on the tile floor, breaking into a thousand ceramic pieces.

Ringing silence fell as they both stared, slightly open-mouthed, at the offending mess of tea and…mug. Harry turned to look at him, his face concerned.

“Did you just—“

“No.”

Harry blinked. “Well…what…happened?”

Draco shifted his weight, trying to casually settle back against the counter and act like he didn’t just hurl a teacup across a kitchen. “You startled me.”

Harry’s eyebrows only drew together. “Did you…think I was gone?”

“No,” Draco answered again. “I…didn't hear you…come up behind me.”

“Oh,” Harry said, blinking.

“I’ll fix it!” Draco exclaimed, pushing himself away from the counter and whipping out his wand from his trouser pocket. “Reparo!”

The mug re-formed instantly and wobbled a bit before standing upright again on the kitchen floor, while Harry silently Scourgify’d the tea off of the walls, cabinets and ceiling.

“Sorry,” Draco apologized stiffly, Summoning the cup from the floor.

“It’s alright, sort of my fault too,” Harry apologized, smiling a sheepish smile that made Draco relax a bit against the counter, and he covered up the wince of pain as his elbow hit the cabinet knob.

“No, it’s…yeah.” Draco faltered off and shook his head, looking down at the floor. He knew, if he were to stay, he’d have to make an attempt at conversation.

But—did they even do conversation?

None of their interactions had been strictly voluntary—officially, Harry had agreed to do him a favor and everything that had happened was simply a consequence of that.

He should be going home, because none of it meant he was Harry’s friend.

But—

“You’re not a good actor, Potter,” he said bluntly, though Harry didn’t look particularly offended. His lips merely parted, and he breathed a little sigh. “I mean—I’ve seen you lie, you can lie, but you can’t necessarily make people believe you.”

“…Thanks, mate, that's—“

“—Just the thing,” Draco cut it in. “Am I your mate?”

Harry blinked again. “What?”

Draco wet his lips, exhaling hard through his nose. “You said you got Davies to believe you…genuinely cared about me.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah, I think I did.”

“Butdoyoucareaboutme?” Draco breathed in a rush, feeling completely stupid and suddenly all too aware of the spot of tea that Harry had missed on the ceiling.

What?”

“Do you care!” Draco half-yelled, his eyes widening and heartbeats burning in his chest. “About me!”

“Oh,” Harry said, taking a step back. He coughed and looked Draco over, a painfully fake-casual expression morphing his face. “Yes.”

“Oh,” Draco repeated, as though the word was entirely his own. “Okay. So…I care about you too.”

Harry nodded. “Right, that’s…that’s good. Definitely good.”

He cares about me. “We’re actually friends, then?”

Harry smiled. “Of course we are.”

Relief hit Draco as he realized what it all exactly meant.

The stiff, cordial exchanges they’d have when they were consciously trying to be amicable and peaceful were not the result of two people with too much bad blood to reconcile anything. Their natural banter, their give-and-take, their—their chemistry, that was the reality of their relationship. That was the result of their connection, the one they’d formed without even trying to.

This wasn’t the start of their friendship. It was just the recognition that, well, they’d sort of accidentally already formed one.

Chapter Text

“Is it me or is ‘meeting the father’ sort of a fourtieth-date type of thing?” Harry asked, scratching at yet another unfamiliar shirt. “And not, you know, a fourth?”

“Has it been four? Congratulations to us.”

“Draco, I’m being serious.”

Draco shot him a derisive look from Harry’s bed, where he was unapologetically stretched out. “Stop making me nervous. Besides, you’ve already met my father.”

“Quality bonding each time,” Harry mumbled in response, and Draco pretended not to hear him.

“Oh—and please don’t suggest that we’re on a date in front of him,” Draco added, sitting up and actually sounding worried.

Harry met his eyes in the mirror. “Um, well, we’re not.”

“I know,” Draco said, rolling his eyes. “But—trust me, don’t even joke about it.”

Harry shrugged and turned away from his reflection. “Ready to go?”

Draco scowled and grabbed a pillow, clutching it to his torso and groaning dramatically. “Nooo.”

“I haven’t washed that bedding in, like, 2 months,” Harry said mildly, watching with satisfaction as Draco immediately flung the pillow to the other side of the room.

Merlin, Potter.”

“I’ll tell your father I’m stealing you away to Cancun if you don’t get off of that bed in the next five seconds,” Harry threatened, with just the right amount of neutrality that Draco wouldn’t be able to call his bluff.

“Fine.”

You were the one who said we couldn’t get out of it,” Harry said, holding the door as Draco strode forward out of his bedroom. “So you don't get to groan about it now.”

“That logic doesn’t hold up, but I do know we have to go.” Draco sighed. “Anyway, I’m much more interested now in why you only do laundry annually.”

“Oh my god, that is not what I said—“

“Godric’s gallstones you should hear yourselves!” a bright voice sounded loudly from downstairs, and Harry was just about to yell down at Ginny to stop breaking into his house when his vision spun and blurred as he was yanked suddenly and painfully, his head thudding against the wall behind him. He blinked, stunned, finding himself pinned by the back of Draco’s body, his arms spread against the wallpaper, forming a cage around Harry. Harry tried to make noise, or move his hands, but found his throat completely constricted and body immobile, and he wondered if Draco had put some strange containment spell on him.

He couldn’t have stood there for more than a second, but time seemed to rip apart around him as Draco’s stance widened in front of him, and he was acutely aware of each minute detail around him. His belt buckle pressed into Draco’s arse, which was a position he registered he should try and alter. He shifted slightly and heard a sharp inhale from the man in front of him. The heat from Draco’s body seemed to thrum through him and he felt a strange sense of fear as they stood there, silent and unmoving, like they were in some sort of warzone.

“Hello? It’s only me!” Ginny said again, and Draco finally froze in shock. His muscles went taut against Harry, and he was finally able to move his hands. He rose one and shoved the small of Draco’s back gently, somehow finding it within himself to whisper “Draco” as he did so.

Draco shot away from him at once, spinning around and staring at Harry with a horrified look on his face, like Harry himself had been their attacker. Harry stared back, his body still pressed against the wall, trying to sluggishly work through what on earth had just happened.

Guys?!” Ginny’s footsteps pounded on the stairs and only then did Harry take a step forward, the tension that made breathing difficult snapping as her fiery red hair appeared over the banister. “Why didn’t you answer?”

“Hey,” Harry breathed out, and her wide eyes swung between them.

Why are you both completely out of breath?”

Harry exhaled again, faint surprise hitting him as he looked at Draco’s flushed skin and realized that yes, they were both seeming to struggle with breathing.

“You scared us,” Harry answered stupidly, and Draco made a noise.

“I thought you would be gone already,” Ginny grimaced apologetically. “I was going to steal some of your tea…”

“Ginny, buy the fucking tea.”

“Harry, we’ve had this conversation so many times,” Ginny said, waving her hand dismissively. “Are you not late?”

“We are,” Draco snapped, startling them both. “Harry. Come on.”

Harry watched, mildly offended, as Draco turned on his heel and descended the stairs at an alarming pace, leaving Harry no choice but to shrug at Ginny and take off after him.

“Draco, what the hell?” Harry demanded, as Draco continued to almost run ahead of him, everything about him still managing to be elegant.

Draco pulled the door open and motioned Harry through it with a jerk of his head. “No time, we’re late.”

“Draco—“

“Side-along okay?” Draco asked curtly, holding out his elbow like he was offering it to an elderly dance partner.

“Yes, but what the fuck are you—“

His words were swept away from him as he touched Draco’s arm, the Apparation sucking his breath out of his lungs without any sort of additional warning. His body squeezed and his blood boiled with anger, his vision whiting with lack of oxygen before he landed on all fours on Draco’s front porch, wheezing for breath.

“You—fucking—bastard—“

Draco stared at him for a moment before shaking his head minutely and offering Harry a hand.

“I’m sorry.”

“Damn right, you’re sorry,” Harry huffed, taking his hand anyway and hauling himself to his feet. “Don’t you know you never—“

The wide door opened suddenly and both Harry and Draco froze at the sight of Lucius Malfoy, pale and cold-looking in the shadow of the doorway.

Lucius’s eyes dropped immediately to Harry’s hand, still clutched tightly in Draco’s, and Draco yanked his hand away from Harry’s like he had been burned.

A beat of silence passed and Harry wanted to scream, his head still pounding with lack of air and frustration for all of these fucking Malfoys.

“Welcome,” Lucius finally said icily, stepping back and holding the door open wider. “I’m extremely appreciative of your attendance.”

What the fuck century is this? Harry thought as he stepped into the manor, Draco silent beside him and immediately assuming his father’s posture.

“Couldn’t wait,” Harry replied loudly, and Draco cringed slightly.

Lucius’s eyes glittered and narrowed. “Fantastic to hear. Please, if you will accompany me further…”

This is going to be the most passive-aggressive dinner ever, Harry thought as he obediently followed Lucius through the front hallway.

“After the war reparations, of which we were only too happy to pay our part, we used a large portion of our remaining fortune to renovate the manor,” Lucius talked over his shoulder to Harry, motioning grandly to the impressive and inviting decorations that lined their walls.

Harry initially refrained from rolling his eyes, but the irritation that flamed within him as he heard Draco’s small sigh behind him threatened to be hard to temper.

Why was Draco even bothering with all of this showmanship when he clearly got nothing out of the exchange either? Even if Lucius didn’t believe the fact of their friendship, it put them at no disadvantage. Lucius would go along with whatever Draco said where Harry was involved, as any sort of positive relation between the two of them could only ever be good for the Malfoys. Harry felt like he was missing something.

“How was your trip over?” Lucius asked of Harry, barely letting a second go by without flowery language from at least one of them.

Harry raised his eyebrows. “You mean the Apparation?”

By this time they had reached a wide-open sitting room, with the wall opposite the hallway a floor-to-ceiling show of bay windows, the same gauzy curtains Harry had previously marveled at complimenting the fantastic weather they were having in an absolutely lovely way. It was Harry’s personal opinion that Lucius looked incredibly out of place, clad in traditional emerald robes and receiving Harry with barely-concealed contempt, just as he always seemed to be.

“Apparation,” he mused, the corner of his mouth twitching up in a ghost of a sneer, “such a tricky business it can be. One never can know what may happen.”

“Let’s not get too entirely ominous so early,” Draco intercepted the uncomfortable moment smoothly and to Harry’s great gratitude. “I’m sure Harry has many work stories to satisfy that particular appetite.”

Harry almost scoffed.

“Of course,” Lucius replied silkily, his eyes growing even colder as he regarded his son. “Of course. Narcissa always said, anyway, that she never intended for this room to be used for anything other than pleasant business.”

Draco’s practiced manner broke within a fraction of a second as Harry watched, slightly horrified, as both Lucius and Draco fought to control their selected facades, their thoughts only too evident. Harry got the sense, again, that Narcissa’s presence was contained with the freshly painted walls and emerged every so often to dwarf them both.

“I was sorry,” Harry said carefully, the only sincere thing he had said so far, “to hear about what happened. I truly—I wish I had had the chance to—to know her as the person she was.”

Lucius opened his mouth immediately, directing a pained glare Harry’s way, but changed his mind at the last second. He closed his mouth, eyes softening slightly, his mask re-settling onto his face.

“Thank you,” he said finally, subtlety drawing himself up. “That means a great deal from you.”

“Thank you,” echoed Draco, in a subdued murmur beside him. Harry turned to look at him, but Draco was staring, drifting, at the floorboards below them.

 

The fateful dinner began, and Harry realized that none of them, not even Lucius, were prepared for any sort of unity between their three parties.

Making conversation with one Lucius Malfoy was a task daunting enough, but Harry felt as if he was at a direct disadvantage considering he had once been held hostage in Lucius’s basement.

Was he supposed to just talk about the fortunate summer temperatures and just avoid the “war criminal” aspect of it all?

Well, yes, he was.

“Do you miss France?” he asked, as they all fished around in the elaborate salad that had been put in front of them.

Lucius looked at him as if he hadn’t expected such a pedestrian question from Harry, but smiled politely anyway.

“France offered many wonderful opportunities for us all,” he said, and Harry noticed Draco sort of sigh in the seat to his right, as if he’d heard it all before. “but we all felt it was time to come home.”

“France was beautiful,” Draco added quietly and Lucius’s gaze darted to him, his posture immediately tensing. “France was lonely.”

“Of course,” Lucius said, smiling almost forcefully at his son, “it provided the perfect backdrop for Pansy and Draco’s relationship to take on its true form.”

Both Harry and Draco winced into their salad.

“It was refreshing,” Lucius went on, either unaware of or capitalizing on their discomfort. “To see such hope and love after a time where those things were quite barren in our lives. Pansy and Draco had always been very close, but in the years following the war…”

“It was,” Draco cut his speech short with his curt agreement. His gray eyes connected with Harry’s, and Harry felt a twinge of helplessness as he saw the same look of exhaustion and turmoil that Draco seemed to express so often.

Belatedly, Harry realized he was supposed to give Lucius the benefit of a positive reaction.

“That’s wonderful,” he said loudly, and Draco looked, if possible, even more sullen. “I was, uh, really happy for Draco when I heard.”

“Tell me more about that,” Lucius said suddenly, and Harry blinked in surprise.

“Er. Sorry?”

“I am woefully uninformed on the story of your friendship. Enlighten me, please.”

Harry stifled his nerves as he stole a glance at Draco, who raised his eyebrows ever so slightly as if to say, go on.

“I would have thought Draco had told you,” Harry said, injecting slight surprise into his voice, just as he had practiced with Draco.

Lucius waved a dismissive hand. “Only the vaguest of notions. It was rather surprising to me—my son had always been rather loquacious on the subject of you.”

“Father,” Draco said suddenly, clenching his jaw and almost pouting at his lettuce. “I was not!”

“It was only because I irritated you so much,” Harry grinned, his eyes amusedly taking in the ever-sulking Draco. “For whatever reason.”

“You were a prat!” Draco insisted, turning his wide eyes onto Harry disbelievingly, as if Harry was rewriting the whole of history.

Me?!” Harry gasped, aware of his melodrama but enjoying every second of this bickering. Draco finally seemed to be acting normally again, and Harry realized he had actually missed whiny Draco. “Sure, it was me.”

“Fine, it was you as well!”

“You can’t honestly blame me for reacting to whatever horrible thing you said!” Harry laughed, astounded. “What sort of logic is that?”

“Slytherin logic,” Lucius interjected smoothly from the other end of the table, effectively silencing them both with the reminder that he was still very much there. The amiable (but strangely heated, Harry noticed) atmosphere was vacuumed out of the room and left Harry feeling cold and nervous all over again. Draco’s pout faded back into a dull and steely expression, his eyes dropping to his salad once more without even looking at Harry.

If Lucius noticed the effect he had, and Harry couldn’t see how he wouldn’t have, he didn’t show it. He simply kept smiling, staring politely at the both of them like he fully expected the conversation to flow on, uninterrupted.

“I’m happy to see the vicious fights have given way to…friendly bickering,” he observed carefully, and Draco graced him with a smile.

“Me too,” Harry said honestly, picking through the nuts in his salad.

“If only you had come to that conclusion during your school years. You would have saved me many letters from Minerva McGonagall,” Lucius continued, and both Harry and Draco smiled again at the attempted joke.

“School got busy, I guess,” Harry said lamely.

“Yes,” Lucius agreed, his eyes narrowing. “It did. So you were saying, about the start of this friendship?”

Harry crunched on a carrot, staring back at Lucius. He had a story prepared, of course, one that matched what little Draco had already fabricated. Making Lucius believe it, however, when he so clearly hadn’t believed anything so far, was the real challenge.

“Well,” Harry began, setting his fork down and furrowing his brow like he was thinking of a good place to start. “I guess I wasn’t all that happy with the way…we had left things. After the Trials, I just assumed I would get another chance to talk to Draco again, but the next I heard, he was in Paris.”

Lucius hummed, looking like he was already deeply invested in Harry’s story.

“I should have told you,” Draco cut in, with a rehearsed show of grim remorse. “Should have said something, after you testified.”

Harry shook his head. “I don’t know if we would have even known what to say. Still too raw. But you’re right—it would have been better to at least start something before you left.”

“You didn’t know,” Draco assured him, his calming voice, though practiced and not for Harry’s benefit, was actually inadvertently working to relax Harry as he smiled gratefully and plowed on.

“I thought about Draco and his family a lot over the next few years,” Harry said, having agreed with Draco that the gaps in their narrative would be best be filled in with truth. “You were hardly ever in the paper, and all I saw were the opening of charities and donations—which were wonderful,” Harry gritted out, “but didn’t give me insight into your lives. Not that they should have, I just…” he trailed off, allowing Lucius to finish the sentence in any way he wanted.

“The way I actually saw Draco again was not under very good circumstances,” Harry said, and though this was true, everything that they would try and sell to Lucius from this point on was a complete and total lie. “I was poisoned, or cursed—I still don’t know—“

“Technically, it was a combination of both,” Draco filled in, throwing an easy wink in Harry’s direction.

“—Right, sure—see, Draco’s clinic had just seen a victim inflicted with the exact same potion or curse or whatever as I had been hit with. We think it was the beginning of serial murders—some other people turned up dead before we caught them—but since the magic was still new when I was hit, Draco was the only one who could help.”

“Of course I agreed to,” Draco said. “It was automatic. Had Harry been in full control of his judgment, however, I doubt he would have agreed to it.”

“That’s not true,” Harry insisted sincerely, looking at Draco and then at Lucius to emphasize his point.

“Good thing too, I saved your life,” Draco smirked, somehow managing to be truthfully smug about something that literally never happened.

Harry smiled, his eyes narrowing slightly at Draco. “Yeah, you did.”

“Harry was only in the hospital for a week,” Draco told his father. “And I wanted to make sure I said what I needed to—it was lucky Harry was so receptive.”

“It had nothing to do with me,” Harry protested modestly, sensing that that was the version of him that Lucius was most receptive to. “I mean—you were the one who worked with me all that week. It was hard to not like you when you weren’t such a huge prat.”

“You were also a huge prat,” Draco improvised flippantly. “Know that, father.”

“Draco, be civil,” Lucius admonished tiredly, flashing Harry a barely-apologetic smile.

“I’m used to it,” Harry shrugged, secretly feeling the surrealism of joking with Lucius Malfoy.

“How fortunate,” Lucius replied, a mildly satisfied smile gracing his face. “I thank you, Harry—all of this is truly wonderful to hear.”

Harry smiled good-naturedly and nodded, risking a glance towards Draco as Lucius took a sip of water.

Relief unwound his tensed muscles as Draco winked, stabbing a cherry tomato with his fork.

“Shall I call for the next course?” Lucius asked, and Harry nodded, pushing his plate away. Draco did the same, sitting up straighter and giving Harry a bracing look. “Gimbly!”

A house-elf appeared immediately, a tray table already in hand and parchment molded in a sort of hat on his head. He bowed and silently approached the table, keeping his head down so low that Harry had to lean down a bit to smile and thank him as he cleared away Harry’s plate and replaced it with a large, silver platter covered in vibrant food.

“Gimbly is a wonderful servant,” Lucius said stiffly, staring directly at Harry. Gimbly stopped dead and bowed so deeply Harry feared he’d drop everything he was holding. “We are very lucky to have him—with us.”

“I can see that,” Harry replied neutrally, eager to release the poor elf from what looked to be a very uncomfortable and delicate situation. Lucius nodded and the elf silently and immediately slipped out of the kitchen. “It all looks very good. Hermione’s always getting on me about nutrition, and she doesn’t even live with me…”

Lucius smiled, a bit impatiently. “Yes—Gimbly really is indispensable to the workings of this household.”

“Oh,” Harry reacted, mentally backtracking and trying to think of a sensible response. “Well—“

“But when we brought him back from France and heard about Miss Granger’s house-elf regulations, we decided to reevaluate his role as our servant.”

“Oh,” Harry said again, finding a lot of things wrong with what was just said, but unsure of which to focus on. “Well—it’s Mrs. Granger, now, actually—she married Ron but kept her name…”

Lucius blinked, distaste flickering undisguised in his eyes for a mere second before his face settled back into disinterest. “Did she? She was always very modern, wasn’t she.”

It wasn’t a question, and Draco coughed uncomfortably.

“Father,” he said, his voice careful and slow, “I’ve told you a lot about the strides Granger’s made in Magical Law, haven’t I?”

The blatant reminder was obvious to everyone in the room, and Lucius colored slightly before sitting up even straighter in his chair, making Harry subconsciously shift his own shoulders back.

But even through the sticky moment, gratitude rushed through Harry at Draco’s attempt, and the warm feeling dissolved some of his tense uncertainty about the whole situation. He glanced meaningfully to his side quickly, trying to show his thanks without attracting Lucius’s attention.

“Well,” Lucius said finally, fingers stretching and flexing on the table before coming to rest uneasily on the brim of his wine glass, “Gimbly and our new house elf protocol is just one example of the recent lifestyle changes we’ve employed in the years since the War.”

Draco sighed loudly, and Lucius ignored him once more.

“Lifestyle changes,” Harry repeated, trying to keep the doubt from filtering too heavily into his voice.

“Oh yes,” Lucius replied, with an informative and praising air, like he was recommending a newly renovated restaurant. “All of these with the theme of charity, you see.”

“Right,” Harry said, catching on. Draco said nothing, but rolled his eyes quite theatrically. Harry held back a snort, trying to keep his eyes from drifting to his right. “I heard a bit about that…”

That’s all you’d let yourself be mentioned in the press for, he thought privately, taking a sip of his water. Charity.

Lucius launched into a list of organizations and names that Harry had never heard of, and Harry tuned out Lucius’s performance in favor of watching his son.

Draco was absently sorting through his food, trying not to listen to his father and sometimes shooting Harry apologetic looks throughout Lucius’s monologues, to which Harry would just shrug lightly and turn back to Lucius for the time being. His mouth seemed permanently affixed in a frown, the unhappy crease between his eyebrows growing more and more pronounced with every embellished story of goodness that his father spun Harry’s way, and Harry was suddenly reminded of his first meeting with Draco.

“My family had been trying to build up a reputation again, mostly through my father in the background and…my mother and I doing charity work.”

“Noble.”

“I actually began to like it. I opened a small clinic in Paris—nothing big, I mainly dealt with specialty cases—“

“Wait—you’re a Healer?”

And what was strange, Harry thought, his attention continuously darting between the two Malfoys, is that Lucius had yet to mention Draco’s clinic. With each new name-drop, a distance began to grow between Lucius and Draco that prompted Harry to break his silence.

“And Draco’s clinic—that too, right?”There wasn’t even an ounce of force to his voice and yet silence fell as quickly and violently as if he had drawn his wand. Lucius’s next story seemed to visibly die in the back of his throat and Draco openly stared at Harry, at once astonished and apprehensive.

Touchy subject, Harry belatedly summarized, resolve shrinking slightly but not altogether dying.

“We all have ways to keep our mind off of the serious things in life,” Lucius got out, each syllable empty and clipped, like a badly memorized script.

“I don't know,” Harry replied, something about the way Draco’s face reddened and lip pouted causing heat to tighten in his bloodstream. “Medicine has always seemed a rather serious topic to me.”

Draco’s startled laugh broke from his previously silent frame, and he looked at Harry with wide, what-the-fuck-are-you-doing eyes. Lucius still didn't look at his son, but instead stared at Harry with now-open hostility.

“I hope my son hasn’t made you believe the same pipe dreams he held onto in Paris,” he said coldly, decisively setting his fork down. “He did the same thing to Narcissa, she’s the one that funded it.”

Draco’s own fork slipped from his fingers and clanged noisily down onto his plate, shocked hurt twisted his features and made Harry throw any goal of a semi-peaceful meal out the window.

“That clinic saved my life!” Harry insisted, the firm passion in his words almost making him believe the lie himself. “That pipe dream made a difference, it helped people.”

“Don’t talk about Mother like that,” Draco warned his father in a low voice, the tenor slightly shaking, and making his father look at him in immediate accusation.

“Like what?” Lucius goaded. “Your mother was sick, and all you could think to do was try and solicit money—“

“How dare you!” Draco cried, standing up so quickly it knocked his chair back.

“What would she say now?” Lucius hissed, slowly rising as well. “What would she say—to all of this? This posturing, this sham—because, as you’ve well reminded me, Draco, she always did hate posing, and lying. What would she think of your friendship with Harry Potter?”

“What are you implying?!” Harry burst out, striding out of his chair to stand next to Draco. “After all of this—you still think we’re lying?”

Lucius scoffed, letting his hand thud to the back of his chair. He shook his head, breathing harshly through his nose. Both Harry and Draco stared silently at him, both of them daring him to keep talking.

“What would I even gain from lying?” Harry asked into the quiet, not letting his eyes leave Lucius’s tense frame. “What do you think is going on?”

“You are telling me,” Lucius said slowly, cold and calculating eyes sweeping from Harry to Draco, “that you have some sort of obligation to my son?”

“For fuck’s sake, no!”

“Harry,” Draco cut in, “let’s just go—“

“I care about him! Draco and I are friends, and I don’t know—“

Lucius’s cackle split Harry’s declaration.

“Oh, you care about him! Harry Potter, thank the merciful gods, cares about my son!”

Something about the cruelty in Lucius’s snarl and the horror on Draco’s face cracked something inside of Harry—some internal bolt of lightning, not unlike the scar on his forehead, splitting fissures into his ribcage in blind anger. Had this been seven years ago, he probably would have been close to cursing Lucius on the spot.

His head turned to Draco, and he realized that he was clutching Harry’s forearm with his right hand, pleading silently for them to just leave. The seven years of forced emotional maturity, his professional training as an Auror and newly found sense of tact kicked in, and he nodded once to Draco before turning back to a mutinous Lucius.

“Alright,” he said, breathing hard and threateningly through his nose. “Yeah. So—I am Harry Potter. And that, as I have learned, both credits and discredits a lot of what I say and do. For you, my name serves only to discredit any…I don’t know, any sincerity or honesty to whatever I say. But that doesn’t matter anymore. The privilege—and you have enjoyed that privilege—of that opinion and that contempt is over. That’s gone now.” Harry paused to let his words sink in, hearing the hitch in Draco’s breath beside him and seeing Lucius shake with silent fury as he strengthened his gaze. The urge to turn and look at Draco was strong, but he pushed it aside in favor of winning his unwavering staring contest with the ex-Death Eater at the other end of the table. “Because to the press, to the cameras, and to the blindly patriotic—and a lot of the country is still very much blindly patriotic when it comes to me—is the same press and are the same cameras you have spent the better part of the last decade scrounging to get a wisp of a favorable portrayal from. And one word—one official word—from me, whether you believe it or not, can undo anything positive you have done in the last seven years. Because I’m Harry Potter, and you are damn lucky that I care about your son.”

Pure, dangerous, check-mated and almost political silence dropped like a sheet of iron in the narrow stretch of polished hardwood floors that connected Lucius, Harry and Draco in a tense, taut triangle.

Lucius stared at Harry, muscles in his jaw visibly working and eyes glinting with metallic anger. His entire body was drawn and trembling, like a snake or a predatory cat poised to strike. Harry and Draco held their breath as they waited for him to take action.

Time stopped for millisecond before Lucius finally snapped the tension like a bungee cord that Harry remembered learning about as a child, his entire body cracking like a whip as he turned on his heel away from Harry and his son, robes flying behind him as he stalked from the room.

“Get out of my house.”

The low, deadly demand seemed magically amplified and especially painful as it was slapped across the room and leveled at the two of them, and Draco finally came back alive, dragging Harry from the room by his elbow. They both hurried back out of the house in silence, descending the front stairs in record speed and finally Disapparating together, in perfect sync but still silent. Neither of them could say a word until they were away from that house, and that infuriating toxicity.

 

They reappeared in Harry’s living room, and Draco let out an immediate breath that exhaled with it the fear and anxiety he had carried through dinner. It made him feel better for a split second, before guilt and shame rushed back in with his next breath.

“That was—“ Harry was saying, pacing in front of his couch. “I’m sorry. I honestly didn’t really think it’d go that far…”

“Not your fault,” Draco dismissed vaguely. “He’s an arse.”

“I’m still sorry.”

“Well, you shouldn’t be,” Draco replied shortly, cutting off Harry’s sympathy. He didn’t deserve any of it.

Harry looked at him for a minute before sighing and nodding.

“Yeah. Okay. Well, everything’s done now. We don’t have to think about anything else now. I can get you a butterbeer—or, hey, I’ve got some firewhiskey too, that might be better…”

“I really should get going,” Draco shook his head, denying Harry’s hospitality. “It’s late, and it’s been so stressful.”

“Exactly,” Harry called from the kitchen—and when had he moved? “That’s why you should stay and have a drink with me.”

Even through his guilt, the same illogical but undeniable part of his heart that Draco had spent many hours wishing gone jumped with schoolgirl happiness at Harry’s invitation.

“You’re a smooth talker,” Draco replied, deciding firmly to shut off his anxiety centers and reserve his better judgment for the morning, when he could wake up alone.

Harry’s laugh that floated in from behind him delighted him, and the endorphins were enough to settle him down slightly, and he relaxed back into Harry’s couch cushions.

“How do you think I got Ginny? And all the others?” Harry came into view again, holding two glasses filled with clear firewhiskey.

“The others?” Draco questioned, raising a skeptical eyebrow. “Like who?”

“Let’s see,” Harry mused, settling down next to Draco. He set his glass down on the table in front of him and flopped inelegantly back against the couch. “Ginny, right, but that didn’t last long—Ron lived with me for a few months before he and Hermione got engaged, does that count?”

“I don’t know,” Draco drawled, leveling his eyes with Harry’s and taking a sip of his drink. “How many times did you sleep with him?”

Harry’s eyes widened in horror. “Zero. Good god.”

“Harry Potter, the traditionalist? I’m appalled.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “You know that’s not it.”

Draco shrugged, a small smile breaking through his facade. “Even so, you’re telling me you’ve been alone for seven years?”

“Six years,” Harry corrected. “There was Ginny, you know, right after…but after her, then…more or less, yeah.”

“But,” Draco protested, “you were seen with women, all the time! What about them?”

“Did you really keep such a close following on my tabloid sex life?” Harry asked, and Draco cursed internally.

“France can get boring,” he answered instead, the epitome of non-committal. “And the media made sure you were interesting.”

“I’m glad I could help,” Harry answered ruefully. “But the secret affair with Luna Lovegood everyone thought I was having, and the next secret affair with Hermione, and then my not-really reunion with Ginny—all of that was just speculation. I mean, I dated—sort of—but not any of them.”

“Sort of?” Draco asked, hoping his breathlessness and pounding heart wouldn’t translate to their conversation.

Harry sighed, reaching for his glass. “I didn’t even start thinking about it until about three years after the war—after the media storm had died down, and that took years. But then Luna and then Hermione and then even Ginny started giving me names, of sweet and quiet girls that they thought I’d enjoy and wouldn’t be too star-struck or whatever.”

“Did you like any of them?” Draco asked softly, and Harry automatically shrugged.

“I don’t know. None of them stuck, anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.”

“It could matter,” Draco said, swallowing jealously like bad medicine, “if you still did, you can always try again.”

Harry looked at him suddenly, eyes going right for Draco’s. Draco stopped breathing, staring down into bright and searching green eyes with what he hoped was just the right amount of casual friendship to let Harry keep talking to him like this.

But Harry didn’t say anything else. He just kept looking at Draco, sort of confused and hintingly suggestive, like he was making some sort of connection between Draco and something else, some other mystery he still hadn’t figured out yet.

“The longest one was a Muggle,” he said unexpectedly, and Draco breathed again, wrapping his mind around this.

“Good idea,” Draco said, and Harry snorted.

“I knew it couldn’t last. I actually have no idea if I even really liked her at all. Everyone else convinced me to end it, and it wasn’t sad or anything. But it was...just so nice, I think, to have a distraction.” Harry shifted, sitting up straighter and leaning towards Draco. “I mean, Draco—she didn’t even know my name.”

Draco nodded, and Harry sighed and sat back. “But that’s impossible to have. And I don’t know what I want.”

“Yeah,” Draco said, absolutely clueless as to how exactly to act. His heart was aching as it drowned in his chest, and his muscles were twitching to wrap around Harry, to show him that he could want him.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever know what I want,” Harry said, and then looked at Draco, helpless and confused again. “I just know I probably won’t be able to have it.”

Chapter Text

Draco woke up on Harry’s couch that next morning, in a now-impressively wrinkled button down and—oh right, borrowed sweatpants. He had pulled—or, had Harry covered him with?—a ragged afghan on top of his lower half and there was a small throw pillow scratching its ugly yarn pattern into the back of his neck. He realized it seemed to be much too bright in the living room, and vowed to tell Harry to buy dark curtains, whenever the topic could come up naturally. Blinking heavily and breathing slowly, he re-oriented himself to the morning and to his surroundings.

He was on Harry Potter’s couch, in Harry Potter’s living room, which was located in Harry Potter’s house. He was absently fingering Harry Potter’s blanket, which he had slept under—he had spent the night at Harry Potter’s house.

Platonically. Completely, totally, hey-broseph-just-crash-on-my-couch, straight-guy platonic. And now, like platonic bro-friends do, he would get up and drink coffee and maybe eat cold pizza and then leave. Easy.

One month, he thought.

He brought his elbows back to hoist himself up, but hissed as spasms of pain shot down his back.

“Am I really too old to sleep on a couch?” he whispered to himself in horror, and startled at the laugh he heard from behind him. He sat up quickly, the pillow falling to the floor, and looked around wildly to find Harry seated calmly at the kitchen table, watching him openly.

“How long have you been staring at me?” Draco huffed, kicking off the blanket and trying to cover his embarrassment.

Harry shrugged, looking down into a mug of coffee beside him. “Dunno. But your cup of coffee is cold by now.”

“Couldn’t have put a stasis charm on it?” Draco asked, and Harry scoffed.

“Can I ever do right by you?”

Draco turned away from Harry to smooth his clothing, smiling to himself as he did so. “Dunno.”

“Well,” Harry said, “I don’t think you’re too old for couches.”

“No?”

“I think you’re too privileged.”

Draco gasped, feigning indignation. “Privileged!”

“Rich people don’t ever sleep on regular, cheap couches,” Harry explained factually, sipping his own cup of coffee.

Draco turned around again, raising his eyebrows. “You’re rich too, Harry. You might even be richer than I am at this point.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “Have you ever slept on a couch, though?”

Draco laughed, circling his shoulders back. “Warm up the damn coffee, Potter.”

“Sure,” Harry said, pulling his wand out of the waistband of his pajamas and waving it silently over Draco’s mug. “Your hair looks terrible, by the way.”

Draco’s hands instinctively flew to his hair, knowing how susceptible his naturally fluffy, soft hair was to horrifying bedhead. He tried to smooth the frizz with his hands, but knew that there wasn’t much helping it until he could get to his hair tonic.

“That’s low, Potter.”

Harry smiled pleasantly at him in return. “I like it. It humanizes you. Makes you look like you actually sleep.”

“Did you ever doubt that I did?” Draco snorted.

“Yes,” Harry answered seriously. “But now I know.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “What time is it, anyway? It’s incredibly bright in here.”

“Yeah, it’s like 10:30,” Harry replied, glancing at a clock on the kitchen wall.

Draco almost dropped his coffee.

Shit.”

“What?!” Harry demanded immediately, watching Draco leap up from his chair.

“Get dressed! Now!” Draco instructed, sprinting back to the couch to look for his own pants. He couldn’t believe he had forgotten—

Why?!”

“I’m sorry,” Draco apologized, running one more helpless hand through his hair. “I really meant to say something earlier, but I kept forgetting and then that horrible dinner—“

“What didn’t you tell me?” Harry asked, his voice dropping lower with danger, like he knew Draco was going to answer with something horrible.

“It’s—damn, where’s my shoe? It’s not that bad—but we need to be in Diagon Alley in an hour and a half. And there will be cameras.”

What?!”

“Get dressed!” Draco replied finally. “I’ll be back here in an hour. Are the wards still disabled for me?”

“I—um, yes, but—“

“One hour!” Draco cut off Harry’s protest, snatching his shoe from the floor and Disapparating.

He reappeared in his own room, the only direct Apparation allowed in Malfoy Manor. The sudden change in situation was unexpectedly jarring—not two minutes earlier he had been sitting with Harry, calm and well-rested and laughing about coffee and couches, living a life he had literally never thought possible—even if it was only for a few minutes.

And he missed it now, already, like an ache in his lungs as he looked at the renovated and impersonal walls of his room. The color didn’t match his bedsheets, and Narcissa had promised to get him new ones on a day she felt better. He could never really summon the heart to tell her that he didn’t care.

He looked at the antique clock mounted carefully on the wall opposite his four-poster and was again propelled into action.

It was 10:40 in the morning. Draco honestly couldn’t remember the last time he had slept that late.

 

Draco arrived back at Harry’s just shy of 11:30 to find Harry surprisingly suitably dressed and looking understandably pissed off.

“What if I had had plans, Draco?” was the first thing he threw at Draco as he appeared, and Draco grimaced apologetically.

“I’m sorry, again, Harry, but the way you phrased that question lets me know that you didn’t.”

“That doesn’t mean—“

“I know I’m in the wrong here,” Draco interrupted, holding both his hands up in defense. “I’m sorry, and I won’t do it again.”

Harry looked him over and crossed his arms, sniffing in a sort of Granger-ish way before finally nodding once.

Draco exhaled, unappreciative but still amused by the unnecessary dramatics. “Will you at least let me tell you what we’re about to do?”

“I welcome it,” Harry deadpanned, and Draco stopped a fairly impressive eye-roll. He walked into the kitchen again from the living room, pulling a pamphlet out of his robe pocket.

“We’re going to go look at wedding venues with my wedding planner,” he said, handing the elegant advertisement to Harry to look at.

“What’s a destination wedding?” Harry asked, reading off of the front flap.

Draco looked at him.

“What?”

“That’s sad, Harry.”

Harry huffed and shoved the paper back at Draco, who took it with a laugh.

“It just seems like a vague descriptor when it comes to venues, is all. Destination.” Harry scowled, like the concept was now offending him.

Draco tried not to smile too widely. “Destination as in far-off. Makes for beautiful photos but very disgruntled guests. That is, if your guests are normal.”

“And your guests…are not,” Harry summarized.

Draco nodded. “They’ll expect a venue either deeply traditional and symbolic—like a mansion that your family has been using for weddings for centuries—or somewhere grand, gorgeous, luxurious—but still completely unique and high-taste.”

Harry looked a bit shell-shocked. “Who the hell has access to either of those things?”

“Purebloods,” Draco replied, matter-of-factly. “Just part of the bloodline.”

“Sure,” Harry said, a bit helplessly. “Wait—you said there would be cameras?”

Draco tried to convey his sympathy. “Granger did say…all press is good press, right?”

Harry shook his head. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

 

They arrived in Diagon Alley with ten minutes to spare and Harry still grumbling, half-heartedly arranging his bangs. The street was beginning to fill with weekend shoppers and happy late-breakfast goers, all stopping dead as they caught sight of Harry and Draco.

“Keep moving,” Draco muttered to Harry, placing a friendly but guiding hand on his shoulder to steer him away from the cautiously approaching witches and wizards.

Harry smiled tightly and held his hand up in a generic greeting before gratefully complying with Draco, hurrying along with him past sleepy Saturday morning patrons.

“Where are we meeting him?” Harry asked. “Tell me we’re not doing some sort of sit-down breakfast thing…”

“Not a bad idea, we can table that,” Draco answered thoughtfully, and Harry groaned. “But no, not that sort of situation. We’re meeting him outside Flourish and Blotts and leaving right away.”

“To go where?”

Wedding venues, Harry.”

“I know that, smartarse,” Harry huffed out. “Where specifically?”

“Well, you’ll see soon enough.”

Harry slowed by a fraction, letting out a long-suffering sigh that had Draco snickering until they reached their destination.

The man that met them at Flourish and Blotts seemed extraordinarily excited, something Harry had expected but not eagerly anticipated. He was shorter even than Harry, and his height combined with his demeanor reminded him suddenly of Dedulas Diggle, someone he hadn’t seen for years.

“Welcome!” he exclaimed, grinning widely. “I, as you know, am the founder of Amadeus Weddings and Celebrations, Horace Horntail.”

Harry almost laughed, but controlled his sudden smile to one of polite interest and instead shot wide eyes at Draco at the obviously fake name.

“I have a gorgeous set of scenes for you today, Misters Malfoy and Potter,” Horace continued. “All authentic, most magically enhanced—I assumed that was rather expected, yes?” he asked, mostly of Draco, but with big sweeping arm movements to show that he had by no means forgotten Harry.

“Correct,” Draco answered, and Harry felt premature exhaustion for the day ahead.

“Er—sorry, but…do you know how many we’re going to see?”

“No more than fifteen,”

“See? Shouldn’t take too long,” Draco winked at Harry, and Harry was legitimately unsure if Draco was failing at being reassuring or succeeding majorly in being a prat.

“First up is a wedding house right outside of London,” Horace informed them, whipping out pamphlets and handing one to Draco and then to Harry. “I know you wanted more of a personal touch, Mr. Malfoy, but I urge you to keep an open mind…”

“Of course,” Draco answered, as Harry blinked mindlessly between the two and tried to see the conversation as anything but nonsensical. What the fuck was a wedding house? And why was that undesirable for a wedding?

“Shall we be off, then?” Horace asked, offering both of his arms to Harry and Draco. Harry was by far the most reluctant as they Disapparated all together, further forward into a day full of posture and empty of any sort of point.

 

Greens and purples and yellows swirled into focus as the three of them landed in a dazzlingly elegant garden, tall but subdued flowers just barely bending at the top to sway, as if they were petrified to an agreed upon point of movement.

Looking around, Harry could see the entire venue had this aura of controlled beauty, from the trimmed ivy on the base of the cleaned stone wedding house to the apparently permanent white color of the trees lining the walkway, the frosted leaves catching the light in a way that Harry could only describe as precisely pretty.

“If you have a wedding that’s not in winter,” Harry asked, creasing his brow and stepping closer to one of the trees in question, “would the leaves still be frosted?”

Horace smiled. “Those are diamonds.”

Harry stepped back immediately, embarrassed and astounded. “Right. Why wouldn’t they be?”

Draco laughed at that, and Horace immediately focused on him.

“What are your thoughts, Mr. Malfoy?”

Draco’s smile faded as his eyes drifted from Harry to Horace, and then to the wedding house.

“May I see inside?”

No sooner had he asked the question then a massive crack sounded behind him, and suddenly the outer ring of the venue was completely surrounded by masses of cameras and reporters, all shouting their names but seemingly unable to move any closer.

“Why aren’t they moving towards us?” Harry asked, gracious but suspicious.

“There’s a default barrier that prevents people without passes from getting past the entryway,” Horace answered proudly. “That’s a feature you’ll see quite often with these types of venues, and a service easily applied to any other at minimal cost.”

“I’m putting that in the ‘pros’ column,” Harry muttered, glad to see that it made Draco smile again.

They followed Horace into the surprisingly modest stone mansion (though, it was still a stone mansion), closing the door on the still-shouting reporters and incessant clicking of cameras. Harry stopped short at the sight in front of him, looking quickly at Draco to make sure they hadn’t accidentally Apparated somewhere else.

But Draco’s face was just as impassive as it had been ever since they had first met with Horace, and he assessed the scene in front of him without any degree of confusion.

Harry slowly dragged his eyes from Draco to the room around him—if it was a room at all. What greeted them was a completely empty, plain white space devoid of any structure, color, or furniture. The only thing that could mark it as a part of a building at all was a single, unadorned staircase that led up to what Harry could only assume was an exact replica of the floor they were on.

“The staircase is important to the structure of the house, so my suggestion would be to tamper with it as little as possible. Certainly no Vanishing of it altogether,” Horace warned Draco, something of a secret smile shared between the two.

“What?” Harry asked, unable to ask a more specific question.

“Well, Harry, spaces like these are supposed to be fully customizable. This is the inside devoid of any personal touches—things you add later, like colors, flowers, tables—“

“Walls,” suggested Harry, stepping forward. “Can’t forget walls.”

“No indeed,” Horace agreed, though less enthusiastically than he had been and looking at Harry like there was something wrong with him.

“I don’t know,” Draco said, sighing. “There’s something lacking about it. It’s not—unique enough for the type of wedding we need to have.”

“But isn’t the point to make it look however you want?” Harry asked, and Horace gave him a redeeming smile.

“Yes—there’s nothing personal about it,” Draco decided, and Harry shook his head in bemusement.

Horace nodded solemnly. “Completely understandable.”

And so they were off once more.

Draco struck the next one down almost immediately because it was “too close to the ocean”, by which he meant you could see the beach from where they were standing and he didn’t want a “beach wedding”. The one after that was too cold, the next too warm, and Harry had been photographed so many times in so many different places he was considering how best to escape from the press, Draco and Horace to Apparate home without anyone noticing. By venue nine, he had not come up with any sort of plan and so simply resigned himself to suffer for the rest of the day.

By venue ten, the press had somehow gotten a hold of their planned route for the day and Draco decided that it would be okay for them to do an impromptu “interview”—mainly answering light questions with smiles and quips and ignoring the baited, tabloid questions from reporters who didn’t know any better.

“Are the pictures not enough?” Harry lamented as Draco excused them from Horace and made their way towards the edge of a beautiful lawn, lined with cherry blossom trees that they had been told were always in full bloom.

“Of course not,” Draco chided, a smile already plastered onto his face. “Don’t take any questions on your own.’

Harry made a noise and very narrowly refrained from stepping away from Draco in irritation. “I’ve been dealing with the press for about fifteen years now, I think I’m okay.”

The first question was screamed at them before they had gotten within thirty feet of the line of people all shouting the same things, and Draco and Harry had to run towards the poor girl before she was trampled by more forceful reporters with less friendly questions.

“HARRY POTTER, ARE YOU AS EXCITED TO FOR THE WEDDING AS MR. MALFOY IS?” the question was yelled again as they approached her, her pen and spelled quill both shaking with nerves. “It almost seems as though you’re being dragged along!”

They both laughed appropriately, but Harry felt a nudge of insecurity. The question, even as he gave some mindless answer with another gracious laugh, felt wrong somehow. Fraudulent, like it was masquerading as something else.

But then, this whole thing was the very definition of fraudulent, so Harry decided he was being stupid and hypocritical and moved on with Draco.

Draco was asked a question about Pansy’s dress, which seemed to Harry to be sort of a waste of a question, while Harry was asked if he had gotten along with Draco’s family.

“How has this process affected your friendship?” A young reporter asked eagerly, still elbowing the person beside him to maintain his spot in the front.

It started it, Harry thought.

“I think it can only be for the better,” Draco said simply. “Harry has been amazingly supportive, even if he can’t be very helpful in the actual wedding decisions.”

Harry snorted. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

That got an appreciative laugh from the journalists that weren’t busy yelling at them, and they waved and posed one last time before turning to walk away.

“HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO ROGER DAVIES’S NEW ARTICLE?”

They both stopped simultaneously. Harry tried to walk back to question the man, but Draco grabbed his arm.

Later,” he muttered, steering Harry away.

The last thing Harry heard from the field of reporters was a last desperate attempt at a reaction:

“HE HAS PROOF THIS IS ALL A LIE!”

Draco threw up a subtle Silencio, walking faster back to Horace.

“We’ve got to see that article,” Harry said urgently, “We weren’t counting on him releasing anything before the Skeeter interview.”

“The only reason why he would is if he had new information—things that couldn’t wait,” Draco muttered darkly.

“So…what does he know?”

“That’s the question.”

Draco pulled Horace aside to tell him that they would need to cut the appointment short and that Draco would decide on the venue with him privately at some other time, which was just as well because Harry had hardly done anything but ask unnecessary questions the entire time. Plenty of pictures had been taken of them by then, so they hoped that no one would notice the early end except for the three of them.

They waved once more to the press before Disapparating together, landing not in Diagon Alley but in Horace’s office itself.

“I know you can’t stay, but here—take the files on the rest of the venues. Owl me any time—no need to take heed of those pesky office hours.”

Out of anyone else, those words probably would have seemed sarcastic, but the eagerness in Horace’s voice couldn’t be covered up by any level of irony. Draco simply smiled and nodded appreciatively.

“Let’s just go back to my place,” Harry suggested. “I can Floo Hermione there—or do you have something else planned for us today that you had forgotten about?”

Draco glared at him.

With a final wave to Horace, Harry hooked his arm through Draco’s and Disapparated, thinking firmly of his living room to make sure they wouldn’t run into any cameras outside of his flat.

Almost as soon as they arrived, Draco pulled himself away from Harry and sat down on the couch, his head falling into his hands the same way they had at Hogwarts whenever he was truly upset.

“It’ll be alright,” Harry tried to reassure him, but the uncertainty he felt was all too audible. “Hermione will have thought up a plan already.”

And as it turns out, she had. She burst into Harry’s flat through the fireplace not a moment after Harry had withdrawn his head from it, dragging Ron behind her and accidentally smacking his shin into Harry’s forehead.

“OUCH! Ron…”

“It’s not me, it’s my bloody wife—“

“Stop arguing,” snapped Hermione, smiling tensely at Draco as she marched the trail of people into Harry’s kitchen. “Have either of you read this?”

“No,” Draco and Harry responded simultaneously.

She wordlessly handed them two pages from the Prophet, and Draco was the quickest to snatch it from her. He held it out for Harry to read along with him, but already seemed to know the gist of it.

“This is a new low,” he hissed, scanning through the article at top speed. “The audacity of him—“

“I wouldn’t get all high and mighty, most of it’s true,” Ron contributed grimly. “He did his research.”

All it was, Harry gleaned, was a sensationalized, itemized fact-check on every single claim Draco, Harry, Pansy, or anyone in the wedding parties had made about the validity, nature or history of their friendship. Not only did it debunk most of their official story, it speculated without restraint on the reasons for their deception. Draco groaned and broke away, collapsing into the nearest kitchen chair.

“They got your clinic records!” Harry yelped. “And my case records! Who even gave them access?”

Draco was decidedly uninterested in uncovering the mystery behind Davies’s article. He had felt sick ever since the reporter had called them out, and that feeling now sharpened into tangible nausea as he watched Harry pour over the article with his friends, trying to fix a problem that didn’t even have to have anything to do with them.

Was Harry being selfless by doing all of this for him, or was this the type of things people did for each other, and Draco was just so far below the average level of compassion that he thought each act of kindness was extraordinary?

Now, though, Harry’s professional reputation was at stake. Davies had viciously attacked Harry on more or less fabricating an Auror investigation to invent an injury that led him to Draco in the first place—and though the only false detail in the case history was Harry as a victim, Davies had blatantly suggested a story more along the lines of a mass Auror conspiracy.

Draco was messing Harry’s life up more than either of them had anticipated, which was sort of astounding because it wasn’t even a month into the process and they had apparently surpassed the expected level of mess the whole situation would bring.

But the worst part, Draco realized, deaf to the trio’s determined conversation but not blind to Harry’s frustration, was that he was nowhere near done asking things from Harry. He had been dishonest from the start, and he really should bring it up now, if he had any decency he really would, he’d apologize a thousand times over and tell them, but he instead sat in silence and didn’t even begin to form the words in his mind.

“Draco?” Harry asked quietly.

Draco looked up, and was extremely startled to see that he and Harry were alone.

“Where are Granger and Weasley?”

Harry looked worried. “They left.”

“When?”

“About a minute ago, I just wanted to check…you didn’t say anything.” He was definitely worried.

Why was he worried?

Harry’s expression flashed immediately from concern to confusion. “Because you don’t seem right?”

Draco blinked. He had asked that out loud?

“I’m okay,” he lied. “But I really should go.”

“You can stay here,” Harry said firmly. “You seem sick, or something, and I can take the couch—“

How had Draco not noticed how disgustingly good Harry was?

“No, I want to be alone,” Draco said bluntly, and Harry pulled back a bit, looking a bit embarrassed.

“Right.”

Draco felt worse, but didn’t say anything to this effect. He only thanked Harry, wished him a good evening, and Harry showed him reluctantly to the Floo.

“I’ll Owl you in the morning,” Harry promised, still sounding and looking confused and concerned.

Draco nodded, took a pinch of powder and vanished in a comforting swirl of green, thinking of nothing but his own bed.

 

The Manor was so large that his father probably had no way of knowing whether or not Draco was even there. His newest bedroom was on the top floor and his father’s was on the main one, at opposite ends of the house. They had gone days without seeing or hearing each other, though in all probability neither of them had ever left.

It had always been a comfort to Draco, especially since his mother died, but tonight the solitude felt strange. Not that Draco would rather the company of his father, of course.

Guilt was now rising like bile in Draco’s stomach, seeping into his heart and limbs like poison as he thought about his last encounter with his father. How dare he do this to Harry? How dare he think he had any right to ask for his help? How dare he lie so often, so profusely?

He needed a drink, but he had none in his room, and he wouldn’t risk going into his father’s wing of the house to find any.

An incredibly bad idea occurred to him then.

 

The club he ended up choosing had never been his favorite, but it was the safest place for closeted, high-society gay wizards to go. Everyone there was under a strict policy of mutually assured destruction, and nobody desperate enough to indulge themselves there was interested in leveraging secrets. Everyone had the same goal, and nobody had any misconceptions. But most importantly, and the feature that made this underground club stand out was the complicated spellwork that allowed you to forget the identity of those around you as long as you were in the same space. The Minister of Magic could be a complete stranger among senior members of the Wizengamot, if he so pleased—it was completely foolproof, and what Draco was hinging his safety on it tonight.

The atmosphere was of a sort of dirty elegance, as the lights kept each ashamed and foreign face as dim as possible, and the air was perfumed with cologne, coalesced from the leftover smells of men who had just left and the exposed chests of those presently dancing. The furniture was a deep green, and scarlet curtains hung low from the ceiling and sectioned off booths attached to the wall. He made his way to the bar before anywhere else, letting a man buy him a drink but abandoning him soon after. He bought the rest of his drinks himself—flaming shots that used to have an immediate effect on Draco’s happiness in clubs but now only seemed to depress him faster. He downed them anyway, and sat still on a bar stool until he felt the effects set in.

He bought one more vodka martini and sipped on it, surveying the room. It seemed much more pleasant now, as he got used to the smell and the noise and the flashing lights. He didn’t feel much like scoping out any men himself, so he decided to let them come to him.

Draco moved seamlessly through the crowd of men, ignoring the looks pointed his way until he arrived on the dance floor.

He hated the music, but it still had a beat, so he swallowed his pride and began to shake out the guilt and anxiety pooled in his joints, his movement inelegant but effective. He hadn’t been dancing for more than two minutes when he felt hands on his hips, hands quite like his—long and delicate, but a firm grip. That's a shame, he’d been hoping for someone a bit rougher. Someone more like—but that’s okay, he thought, probably better that he’s not reminded. He backed up slightly, so his arse was pressing into the man’s thigh. The hands tightened at Draco’s acceptance, and suddenly he felt a breath on his neck, hot and increasingly ragged.

Good, Draco thought, he’s already there.

He turned abruptly to face a shadowed but obviously handsome face, slightly taller than he was, and wound his arms around the man’s neck.

They grinded to the remainder of the song, and Draco spent the time focusing solely on the physical sensations. He slowly blocked out everything that had happened that day, every dishonest thought about Harry or dread of the wedding. He focused instead on the feel of the stranger’s body, and didn't think twice when the man grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him to the bathroom.

There was already a couple in there, but they didn’t care, just pushed into another stall. The man reached for Draco’s crotch, but he pushed his hand away. He wasn’t hard yet and didn’t want to waste time, so he dropped to his knees instead at the sound of protest from the man. He ran his fingers over the silver of the belt buckle, wondering exactly who he was about to suck off, before pushing the thought away and whipping the leather through the silver, pulling the jeans down with one hand. The man was straining against his briefs, and Draco felt one hair already push its way into his hair.

Draco traced the hard outline with his index finger and resisted the urge to look up—unsure of what he wanted to see. He swallowed and pushed the underwear down too, freeing the man’s cock. He took it into his mouth with little or no embellishments, wanting to get this part over with and not in the mood to be artful with it. It seemed to work for his stranger, however, as the man immediately let out a loud groan. He worked the shaft for a few moments before the man started pushing into his mouth, making Draco brace a hand on the stall behind him.

“Y-yeah,” the man huffed out, and Draco felt his cock swell in his pants at the praise. It was working.

Draco took him deeper, and suctioned his lips to make the man cry out. He flitted his tongue across the tip as he pulled off, and the man’s legs were already beginning to shake. It wouldn’t be too much longer, so Draco stood up abruptly and let the man’s knees buckle into him.

Fuck,” the man hissed, and Draco leaned into his ear.

“Come home with me.”

“Yeah—alright,” the man stuttered.

Draco grabbed the man’s arm, ignoring the part of him that knew he couldn’t Apparate drunk—especially with another drunk person.

Home, he thought, and then: what would Harry think of this?

 

Harry was having sort of a shitty evening.

He was stressed out about Davies and worried about Draco—he seemed suspiciously upset and Harry couldn't figure why he could never just come out and say what he was feeling. It’s not like he didn’t know how to be blunt.

To top it off, the telly programs sucked that night, so he just sat with his reheated leftovers on his couch, flipping through TV channels and thinking about Draco. Not the wedding, because that always gave him a weird feeling in his stomach, but just about Draco as a person. He really did wish they could have been friends earlier, that way maybe things would be different. Easier.

Easier how? Different how? Harry’s brain would fire back, but he didn’t really have an answer to that, and he was left with a sort of confused ache in his chest.

Whatever.

CRACK!

Harry yelled and sprung to his feet as two men Apparated in his flat and immediately fell to the floor, intertwined and kissing

His whole system screamed with shock as he realized the one on the bottom was fucking Draco—drunk as all hell and wrapped around a tall stranger—a tall strange male

That his engaged friend—his engaged straight friend—no, that Draco was with another person, and not with—Pansy—

“Jesus FUCK!” Harry yelled, and that seemed to shock Draco and the stranger apart. The man jumped up and stared at Harry in horror, while Draco lay blinking, confused, at the ceiling.

“’snot my—not my—ceiling—“

“Forget I was here,” the man whispered, horrified, to Harry, before immediately Disapparating.

“WAIT—“ Harry demanded, as Draco sat up slowly, looking around in what seemed like devastation.

“Oh, no,” he whispered, sounding almost like a child. He raised his eyes to meet Harry’s, and the two stared at each other for almost a full minute.

Harry was ready for anything to happen, for Draco to disappear and for him to wake up, for Draco to jump up and yell “JUST KIDDING!”, but not really for Draco to start silently crying, cross-legged on his living room floor, the stench of sweat and shame and vodka permeating the room.

“You’re gay?” Harry asked shortly, and Draco flinched.

“I’m sorry…”

“Why are you—what about…Pansy?”

“…she knows. She’s always known.”

“So why—“ Harry shook his head, anger and betrayal giving him a headache. “You told me you loved her. That’s why this—“ he gestured between the two of them, “was worth it.”

“I do,” Draco said immediately, “Just—“

“Not like that,” Harry finished for him, nodding. “Right. So you told me all this about needing me and you trusting me and that was all just—why didn’t you tell me? Did you think I was, like, homophobic or something?”

“No—I just—“

“Just didn’t trust me enough to be a decent person and help you anyway?”

“I thought you might try and stop me,” Draco shot back defensively, “Try and save me or something.”

Harry cursed loudly, making Draco jump, and fell back onto the sofa.

Draco fell silent, regretting what he had said instantly.

“People accuse me of that every damn day, it feels like. Like they’re sorry, like they’re worried for me. Don’t seem so sorry when I actually help them, though.”

“I’m sorry,” Draco tried, but Harry shook his head.

“I can’t—okay. I’ll still do this, this whole wedding thing, but then we’ll be done. Okay?”

That was about as unspecific as it was possible to be, but Draco knew what he meant.

“Okay.”

“Can you get out yourself or do you need me for this?”

“No—it’s—I can leave.”

Numbly and calmly, Draco got to his feet. Harry wasn’t even looking at him, his expression was pained and hopelessly confused, and Draco suddenly felt incredibly tired. And hungover.

“Bye.”

Chapter Text

Draco wasn’t hungover. That was the first thing that he realized, astounded, as he woke up in—okay, not his own bed.

He squeezed his eyes shut for a few seconds before opening them again, relieved at what he saw.

“Finally,” Pansy huffed. “It’s almost one.”

“Don’t.”

“Darling.”

Draco didn’t want to move. He felt as though moving would start him feeling things, and for this moment he felt so deliciously numb.

“You need to shower,” Pansy said. Draco said nothing.

A few moments passed and Draco felt Pansy’s mattress dip on the other side as she crawled over to him, her hair brushing his shoulders as she kissed his temple.

“You smell.”

“I don’t want to shower,” Draco mumbled. “Deal with it.”

“I’ve already drawn you a bath. If you don’t get up now I’ll reverse the stasis charm and you’ll bathe cold.”

Slowly, Draco began to move.

 


 

Harry’s shitty evening turned into a shitty night and a shitty morning. He had slept badly and came down at 4 in the morning to sharp knocks on his window. A sleek black owl flew into his kitchen, dropped a note in his hands and flew off without so much as landing.

 

Potter-

I know what happened and it’s not Draco’s fault. There’s an explanation for all of this, I promise.

Please, don’t give up on him. You never have before.

-Pansy

 

He was now turning the note over in his hands, not really reading it anymore but just thinking, trying hard to put reason to anger and answers to confusion and quell the anxiety that was making him shiver in the warm sunlight coming through his windows.

Please, don’t give up on him, the note said. You never have before.

He never had before? It’s not like he was doling out second chances for Draco at every turn—rivals throughout Hogwarts, technically enemies in the War and all Harry had really done was keep the boy out of prison.

Really, this was the first chance Harry had given Draco to be anything like a friend and Draco had lied to him from the start. Harry could easily give up on Draco—they’d been giving up on each other until very recently.

He also knew he should probably tell Ron and Hermione about what happened. The man Draco was with last night could talk, even though from what little Harry registered of the encounter he had seemed just as frightened at being found out.

It was all just a bit too much.

There was a nudge of something deep inside of him, beyond the anger and betrayal, that felt a lot like heartache.

Which didn’t make sense.

As he soon found out, however, the decision had been made for him: Draco vanished for two weeks.

 


 

Roger Davies stared at the paper in front of him—a draft, unlikely to be published in the sad shape it was in. He may be the most well-known name in journalism today, but even he had an editor.

RUMORS SWIRL AS MALFOY HEIR VANISHES

Draco Malfoy has not been seen in public for fifteen days, and an insider source reports that neither his allegedly “close friend” Harry Potter nor his notorious betrothed Pansy Parkinson know his whereabouts.

“People just don’t trust anonymous sources,” Davies remarked, eyeing the man sitting opposite his desk. “It would really help to put a name to the quotes?”

The man frowned. “Undoubtedly. But you see the problem in naming me?”

Davies scoffed. “Less and less each day. Look, the only reason every other paper in England isn’t jumping on this story is because everyone thinks I’ve got an exclusive with someone very close to the family—”

“You do.”

“—Yes, but no one knows that! I keep saying I have an ‘insider source’, but anyone can say that! And now that Draco Malfoy’s vanished, I can’t stop other journalists from writing about this. You were the one who wanted press control, but I can’t give it to you anymore.”

The visitor sat back in his chair. “I had hoped we could wait a bit longer.”

“It’s not my fault—I’m not the one who’s M.I.A. right now.”

The chair scraped backwards as Lucius Malfoy stood up.

“Name me if you must,” he said. “And keep the others at bay until the interview.”

Davies’ eyebrows shot up. “You mean—”

“Yes.”

 


 

 Fuck, thought Hermione Granger exactly 24 hours after Lucius Malfoy met with Roger Davies. Wherever he was, it was time for Malfoy to come home.

Chapter Text

Harry stubbornly did nothing for the next two weeks.

The only correspondence he’d gotten from the Malfoy side of his life was Pansy’s note, and another one like it a few days later when Harry failed to reply. Draco had sent no letter, note nor postmark and telling journalists “I don’t know” was becoming more and more suspicious. Headlines morphed from confused to speculative to accusatory in a matter of days and the widespread opinion was that Draco got cold feet and left his friends and family out to dry.

In fact, in the only good thing to come out of it was the newfound sympathy for Pansy, the apparently abandoned bride.

But sympathy and absence weren’t sexy, and the stories fell out of the mainstream newspapers after about a week of no new developments. Even Roger Davies seemed to have moved on, and even though Harry was extraordinarily grateful for the relative peace and quiet, his anger and hurt towards Draco only festered in his chest.

Hermione pointed out how hypocritical of him this was, because while Draco hadn’t sent anything to Harry, Harry hadn’t exactly sent anything to Draco, either.

“Actually,” she had said, “the last thing you said to him is that you were no longer friends, right? If you didn’t mean it, you should tell him that.”

“I did mean it,” Harry responded firmly. “He just needs to finish what he started with this sham wedding so I can finish this sham friendship.”

Hermione then just looked at him sadly.

Ginny was no better—at least Hermione hadn’t made him feel like an idiot.

“You’re an actual idiot,” she’d said.

She’d been the one he’d told first, expecting her to be properly shocked and upset with Draco and Pansy. Usually he could count on her to vent righteously with him—but not this time.

“Why am I an idiot?!”

“Of course he’s gay!” Ginny cried, throwing her hands in the air, turning to her girlfriend for support. Luna—who apparently never left Ginny’s flat—turned her wide eyes onto Harry.

“Oh, you really didn’t know?”

Harry blinked. “No,” he said flatly. “Missed the coming out party.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “He’s not actually out, obviously. But him and Blaise were Slytherin’s worst kept secret for their last two years at Hogwarts.”

“Him and—”

“Don’t worry, Harry, I don’t think it was romantic at all,” Luna said, smiling at him comfortingly.

Harry wasn’t comforted.

“Well—I spent one of those years tracking down Voldemort in a tent,” Harry pointed out, a bit defensively.

“Yeah, but you spent the other one tracking down Draco,” Ginny responded immediately, and Harry bit his tongue.

Luna giggled, which strangely hurt to hear.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m the most oblivious bloke in the world—”

“Well, there’s still Ron—”

“—he still lied to me,” Harry ground out, face flushing. “It hurt. I deserve to be…upset.”

Luna’s mirth faded from her face. “He was just scared, scared you’d react…well…”

“Like you did,” Ginny finished for her, a lot more firmly.

Harry was about to say something—he didn’t know what—when Ginny’s fireplace crackled from the other room. They all turned to see Ron’s wide-eyed face pop into view.

“Ginny? Is Harry here? Luna?” he sounded breathless, and they all immediately rushed over.

“Yes, what—”

Ron’s face disappeared immediately, and seconds later the fireplace puffed with tell-tale green flame, giving the three of them just enough time to jump back before Ron emerged in person, dragging a laughing Hermione behind him. They both looked dazed and slightly delirious, chests heaving as they grinned at Harry, Ginny and Luna in turn.

“Harry, mate!” Ron said. “We looked all over for you!”

“Well, just in your house—”

“Fire-called to the office, just in case—”

“Guys,” Ginny interrupted Ron and Hermione’s joint rambling, “What the fuck happened?”

“Pregnant,” Ron blurted, and Hermione laughed, still breathless, and swatted him.

“What?” Harry and Ginny said together.

“I’m—we just found out—”

“She’s pregnant. Hermione. We’re pregnant!”

There was a second of dead silence before Luna and Ginny started screaming and ran into Hermione, both hugging her so hard her face was momentarily frozen in panic.

Harry felt, cliché as it was, that he’d been hit in the chest with a bludger. And the knees—and it felt sort of like when he’d broken his arm in second year—or, speaking of second year, it felt like when Harry and Ron crash-landed into the Whomping Willow, but he was happy about it. Finally, and all at once, he felt like he was surrounded by basilisk fangs, covered in blood and dust, watching his two best friends kiss the daylights out of each other for the first time.

“HERMIONE! CONGRATULATIONS!” Ginny was yelling, Luna was sobbing, clutching Hermione around the middle, and Ron stared at his sister, looking wildly offended.

 “Oi! I helped!” he yelled, and Hermione threw her head back and laughed before turning shining eyes to Harry, jolting him into action.

“Ron…Merlin…a baby…” he said, and walked forward dizzily until he felt Ron collapse against him, uncomfortably squeezing him around the middle, one arm free and one arm pinned against him. Harry didn’t care. Ron could snap his elbow for all he cared.

He could hear Hermione’s sobs mingling with Luna’s, and Ginny ran up to her brother and hugged him from behind in a way Harry could only see fondly as child-like, eyes squeezed shut and shoulders hunched up.

“Have you told Mum yet?” she asked suddenly, jerking her head back around to look between Ron and Hermione.

Hermione blushed. “We only did the diagnostic spells an hour ago—you’re the first to know.”

Ginny let out a low whistle, stepping back from Ron.

“One minute longer and she’ll kill you,” she warned, and Ron paled. He released Harry, looking lost.

“You—you’re right,” he stuttered. “Blimey…”

Hermione, amazingly calm all of a sudden, wiped her face with the back of her hand. “Come on then, Ronald.”

“I’m coming too,” Ginny said. “No way I’m missing this.”

A few more congratulations, kisses and hugs later and Ginny, Ron and Hermione vanished in a cloud of green smoke as Luna and Harry fell back on Ginny’s couch, Luna sniffling and Harry absently handing her a tissue.

Harry cleared his throat. “So…what about you and Ginny, then?”

Luna blinked. “We’re not pregnant.”

“I…Yeah, no. I just meant…you’ve been together for almost a year now…”

Luna smiled at him. “Marriage doesn’t mean much to Ginny, I don’t think.”

This surprised him—she’d grown up around the best example of marriage Harry could think of. “How come?”

She shrugged. “She spent two years or so thinking she was going to marry you.”

Like a lot of things Luna said, this knocked the clear thought out of Harry for a moment.

“She—what?”

“That’s not to say she wanted to—but she knew you loved her in your way and she did love you enough…if you’d ever have asked, she would have agreed.” Seeing Harry’s uncomfortable look, Luna went on. “But that was a very long time ago, you know. She spent so long knowing she was expected to end up with you, and when she didn’t I think she…stopped thinking about things she was supposed to do. Things she was supposed to be.”

Harry was stunned. He’d never considered marrying Ginny—other than vague fantasies of the “future” while he was on the run, but only because he knew in the back of his mind he wouldn’t live to see it. But then the War ended, and so did him and Ginny, and then seven years went by, and the last time he thought about marriage at all was when Ron and Hermione got married.

And then, he supposed, when Draco Malfoy invited him to his wedding.

“Luna?” Harry said after a while. “I’ve got to write a letter.”

 

Pansy held Harry Potter’s letter—well, note—in between two fingers, trying to make it incinerate without a wand.

Pansy—I know you know where he is. I’m coming over in an hour—send back if it’s not okay.

H.P.

She stared at his awful handwriting until her eyes swam, and a pinprick at her waist actually drew a tear.

Fuck!” she hissed, glaring at the seamstress until the woman looked away in fear. “What else can I possibly do to avoid getting stabbed? I’m hardly breathing!”

She heard a small squeak at her knee and frowned. She hadn’t been that rude, had she?

Looking in the mirror, she saw her seamstress stand up, wobbling slightly as Harry Potter inclined his head, obviously embarrassed. Their eyes met in the mirror and his widened comically as he looked her over.

“Like what you see?” Pansy asked, sickly-sweet and seductive. “One can only hope Draco will too.”

Her dress was a silvery white, pure silk that clung to her shoulders, arms, breasts and waist before falling gently over the curve of her hips and billowing down her legs in the most elegantly-tailored bell-shaped skirt money could buy. Her veil she’d thrown on just for shits and giggles, but she was almost regretting it when she saw the look on Potter’s face. It was pure discomfort, mixed with more than a little confusion. For Potter, it was a look she knew well.

“Final fittings,” she said, twirling for him against her better judgment. “This wedding, last I was made aware, is still happening. Jenny—if you wouldn’t mind, I think we’d best end the fitting here?”

Jenny jerked out a nod—whether her trembling was due to her obvious and sort of pathetic fear of Pansy or her definitely pathetic reverence for Potter, she unbuttoned the dress until Pansy could step out of it, naked as the day she was born. Her personal preference.

Potter inhaled audibly and looked at the floor, going red as Jenny all but ran from the room.

Pansy rolled her eyes. “Oh, come off it, it’s been so long since I’ve had a man look at me naked. Well, except Draco, although he doesn’t count.”

Potter’s eyes flashed to her once, travelling so quickly down her body she couldn’t be sure he’d looked at all before returning to his shoes.

She sighed and Summoned her dressing gown, and he waited frustratingly until she’d knotted it securely around her waist to look up again.

“Well, that was fun,” Pansy said dryly. “You really know how to get a girl going, Potter.”

“Can you—stop flirting with me for two seconds?”

Pansy laughed. “You think that’s flirting? Merlin, what have you even been doing with Draco all this time, then?”

Confusion flitted across Potter’s face again and she could have strangled him.

“Well—do you know where he’s gone?” He sat down, uninvited, on her favourite couch in the sitting room.

“I have a pretty good idea,” she answered warily. “Why?”

He looked at her—her!—like she was stupid. “I wanted to send him a fruit basket, maybe some Halloween candy.”

Despite herself, Pansy was sort of amused. She’d forgotten Potter could be witty.

“Is it Halloween already?”

“Come on, Parkinson—”

“No,” she cut in angrily. “Listen to me. He didn’t disappear just because he was lazy, or embarrassed, but because you—”

She stopped, grinding her teeth. She couldn’t say broke his heart, even if it’s what she bloody well meant.

“I what?”

“Hurt him.”

“What about me?!”

Pansy huffed. “There’s the Potter I know.”

Potter’s face darkened considerably at that. She could see he was considering getting up and walking out, and she cleared her throat.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that,” she said. “But you did hurt him, Potter—did you even stop to think how much this all means to him? He’s known he was gay since third year, and he still can’t tell his father. Never told his mother either, do you know how much he regrets that?”

Potter looked away guiltily, and she tried not to revel too much in it.

“And we’ve known we could never be with who we want in Pureblood society, so we’ve promised ourselves to each other ever since, and you were…a way of keeping that promise.”

Potter slumped a bit. “I…knew it was all an act. Me and him. But that was just at first, you know?”

Pansy straightened up. “Then what?”

“I mean. Did he ever…talk about me?”

Oh my god. Pansy couldn’t help the bubble of laughter that escaped her lips. Potter frowned.

“He…yes. He talked about you. He’s talked about you since first year, Potter.”

“I meant in a good way,” Potter mumbled. Pansy wanted to strangle him again.

“You need to go find him,” Pansy said. “Say these things to him. I’m pretty sure I know where he is, like I said, and you do need to bring him home before that radio interview with Skeeter in two days. Yes—don’t look like that, it’s been rescheduled—honestly, pick up a newspaper. I have the feeling a whole bunch of shit is about to rain down on us.”

 

By the time Harry got back to his flat, he had an address and a newfound sense of hope. And Ginny, he realized as he walked into his kitchen. God, she was an absolute menace.

“Do you think I could get a restraining charm on you if I went to work and said that my crazy ex-girlfriend keeps breaking into my flat?”

“No, it’s Quidditch season, baby. I’m untouchable.”

Harry snorted.

“Luna said you went to see Parkinson?”

“Draco’s in his clinic in Paris,” Harry answered. “It went on without him after they came back, apparently. He’s living in their old house and assisting on cases until…well—”

“You go and rescue him?”

Harry sighed. “Hardly be a rescue. I’d be dragging him back into the shit.”

Ginny scoffed. “It’s his shit.”

Harry didn’t reply. Ginny hopped off one his barstools and steered him into his living room.

“So you are bringing him back, right?”

“Yeah. For better or for worse, we’ve got to do this wedding.”

Ginny smirked at the double meaning, and Harry flushed. “Okay. Poor word choice. But yeah. I want him to be happy.”

“And you think helping him into a sham marriage is the way to do that? Honestly, I thought once you got over yourself, you’d be all ‘we have to rescue Draco’ and stuff,” Ginny said, and Harry thought hard to think of why the fuck he hadn’t thought of that.

“He doesn’t want to be rescued,” he said lamely, and he could feel Ginny’s derision radiating off her.

“Okay, Harry—forget about what he wants for a second. What do you want?”

“I—what do you mean? I just said, I want him to be happy.”

Ginny waved her hand. “More specifically.”

“With Draco,” came a voice behind the couch, and Harry almost jumped out of skin as he saw Luna rest over the large pillows on her elbows. “Oh, sorry, yes, I’ve been here too.”

Pushing away his questions about that, Harry considered both of them, looking at him expectantly.

“I don’t…think I want him to marry Pansy.”

Ginny and Luna both nodded, maddeningly slowly. “Why?”

“He…wouldn’t be happy.”

Luna’s expression remained unchanged, but Ginny looked like her soul wanted to depart from her body.

“Harry. I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this—but there’s something you need to know. About another marriage tradition.”

Harry groaned. “What.”

“I wasn’t sure if the Malfoys were going to stick to this one, but with how badly you say Lucius is getting on with Draco, they probably undoubtedly will now…”

“Just tell me!”

“Draco’s going to have to live with you,” Ginny said, looking at him as if he were liable to explode.

Instead, Harry deflated. “He’s—why?”

“It’s called the ‘one-month rule’, and it was supposed to enlist the Best Man’s help in keeping the engaged couple from—well, fucking before the wedding. The groom lives with the Best Man, and in really old times it was no bother because all the Purebloods were all rich with huge mansions—well, I mean, still sort of true…”

Ginny’s voice became unfocused in Harry’s ear as he realized she was rambling—and nervous. He glanced around to the kitchen, attached to his living room, and remembered putting Draco to bed on the very couch they were crowded around, making coffee for him as he slept and how he’d looked in Harry’s sweatpants, and—

“Harry?”

Luna was looking at him, her too-perceptive eyes raking over his face.

“It’ll be okay,” he said, unthinkingly. “It might not even happen, like you said. And if it does...well, the more he’s away from his father, maybe the he’ll start to consider not going through with the wedding at all.”

Ginny looked surprised, but happy, but Luna sighed.

“Harry. You need to be careful with Draco,” she said.

“Why?”

“He loves you,” she answered simply, and knocked the breath out of him for the second time that day.

Ginny bit her lip. “Fuck,” she muttered. “Luna—”

“Draco and I were closer towards the end of the War than you know, I suppose,” she continued, ignoring Ginny as Harry did, too busy as he was suddenly hanging onto her every word. “And he certainly loved you then. He would talk with me for hours, when I was in his dungeon. During the night, when everyone else was out on missions, bringing me food and water—we talked about his father, and Hogwarts, and he sure talked a lot about you.”

Harry’s mouth felt so dry, but he tried to focus on something to say. “Just…just because he talked about me…”

“He loved you more than anything else, except his mother. He’d say if he ever got the chance to start over with you, with everyone, yes, but you especially…he’d give anything for it.”

“Luna,” he interrupted desperately, “You’re not making any sense. He didn’t speak to me—he ran away after the Trials, didn’t speak to me at all!”

Ginny gasped then, hand flying to Harry’s knee.

“Harry…do you remember what happened just before the Trials?”

Harry just blinked at her.

“The last piece of news Draco must have gotten about you was that you and I were together again,” she said weakly. “Everyone went crazy, remember how they kept saying we were getting married, that I was pregnant, all these things?”

Harry’s mind went blank.

“That—but that was—that was all seven years ago,” he stammered, and Luna shrugged.

“We wrote letters back and forth, sometimes,” she confessed, and both he and Ginny stared at her in shock. “He wouldn’t…say anything like he would when it was us in the dungeons, but…the way he’d mention you sometimes, it was like he was sort of writing to you through me. It could be quite sad, actually.”

Harry shook his head. “You didn’t say anything? In seven years, you said nothing?”

“Harry,” Ginny said, a bit harsh.

Luna looked away, and the guilt on her face was something he’d never seen there before. “I asked him if I could once, and he made me promise I wouldn’t.”

Harry sat back, not trusting himself to stand up. He let out a long breath. “None of that means he still loves me. He can’t—I mean, I’ve been with him for a month, and you—you’d notice if someone was in love with you, right?”

Ginny let out a disbelieving laugh. “Well, theoretically, you’d notice when you’re in love with someone.”

“What, are you saying I should ask Draco if he’s in love with me?”

“No,” she said slowly. “I’m not.”

The three of them were quiet for a second. Harry felt like nothing in his world could ever be righted again. This whole thing was an absolute, exhausting mess, and in the middle of it was him and Draco, and he felt strangely exhilarated.

“He doesn’t love me, he’s not…I know that.”

“Harry, stop telling us,” Ginny said. “Are you going to get that, or do I have to do everything?”

“What?”

The tapping at his window Ginny must have been referring to became more insistent with every second it went unnoticed. He went up to it and opened it, letting in a very disgruntled owl that dropped his letter on the counter and flew out again at once.

“Who’s it from?” Ginny called out.

“You’re nosier than Ron,” Harry answered, but the volume in his voice cut down to nothing as he recognized the writing.

 

Harry,

I’m back from France. That’s where I was, if you were wondering, and I’m really sorry. I’m extremely sorry. Please, come to the Manor. Don’t worry, you won’t see my father, he’s away this week. Small miracles.

I’m free all day today, and tomorrow, and the next day—but I have eventually a commitment in December, so don’t wait too long.

Draco

 

Harry found himself laughing despite himself.

“Ginny, Luna—please get the fuck out of my house?”

 

Draco,

I’ll be there in half an hour. I also have a commitment in December, so I can’t stay forever.

Harry

 

“Hello,” was what Draco said when Harry appeared at his front door.

“Hermione’s pregnant,” was what Harry said when Draco let him in.

Draco’s mouth fell open.

“Yeah, that was my reaction too.”

Draco shook his head minutely. “France was great, if you were wondering.”

“You…are a git.”

“Is that all you came to tell me?” Draco raised his eyebrows when Harry just continued to stare at him. “That Granger’s pregnant and I’m a git?”

“You invited me over.”

Oh. Right.

“Yes,” Draco sniffed, “Well. I’m sorry I disappeared, and I know you don’t want to be friends, but the last month—”

“I didn’t mean that,” Harry cut in suddenly, face red and cast downwards. “I was…I didn’t know what was going on, and I thought you were just using me.”

Guilt nudged at Draco and his eyes flickered away from Harry’s face. “We should probably sit down.”

He led Harry into the same living room they’d met Lucius in last time, and Harry sat down on a couch that was definitely not meant to sprawled over quite as inelegantly as Harry managed to do it. Draco took a seat opposite him, and tried not to notice Harry’s chest rise and fall as he breathed and how his back was arched just enough for Draco to imagine that he was causing his spine to curve, and not the awkwardly high armrest Harry was resting on.

“Can you just…pretend I didn’t say the things I said two weeks ago?” Harry asked, suddenly looking Draco full in the eyes. He almost sounded pleading, and Draco felt relief replace the shame he’d felt from staring. “I’m still your friend, okay? And I still care about you. And—I just want to know why you weren’t honest with me in the first place.”

Draco laughed a bit, but in a way that didn’t invite anyone else to laugh with him. Harry just stared, looking a bit sad.

“What was I supposed to have said, Harry? ‘Please help me marry my best friend even though I’m gay and closeted and you don’t have any reason to help me at all?’”

“Yes?”

“And you would have helped me?”

“I never needed a reason to help you, Draco,” Harry said quickly, sounding equally frustrated and embarrassed. “Though…now I’m going to help you with something else.”

Draco felt his body tense before his mind even caught up with it. “With what?”

Harry swung his legs around to the front, so he was sitting like a normal person (for once), staring earnestly at Draco. “I thought you needed me to marry the woman you loved, and that was all I needed to know. But that’s not true, so now I’m helping you get out of this wedding.”

 

Harry held his breath as Draco looked at him, face hardened and gaze going colder by the second.

Not a good sign, his brain helpfully supplied.

“That’s not the kind of help I asked for,” was all Draco said, and Harry could see the shutters closing inside of him.

“I don’t care,” Harry answered, hearing his own stubbornness. “For fuck’s sake, Draco, you never ask for the right kind of help. I learned my lesson not helping you when I knew you needed it.”

Draco’s eyes flashed with anger and shame, and for a second Harry regretted saying it.

Potter—” Draco started dangerously, but Harry cut him off.

“Look, I know you think I have this obsessive hero complex—and maybe, yeah, I butt in too much—but it’s not because I need to keep on being someone’s saviour to feed my ego, it’s because the people in my life aren’t allowed to be miserable. And I’m an idiot, I know, because I’ve only just realized how miserable you are.”

He could see Draco’s jaw clenching from where he was sitting. The muscle twitching and steely gaze made him look threatening, yes, but Harry rather thought if the anger wasn’t directed at him, the aggressively masculine expression would quite suit him. He then thought that silence had stretched between longer than either seemed comfortable with, and Harry wondered if he should say something else.

Before he could, however, Draco took a deep breath in and let it out as he replied, calmer than he looked. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I appreciate the help, but you don’t understand, you like women—”

“Too,” Harry said, before he could think better of it. Draco’s mouth hung open for a second, confusion written on his face. “I like girls, too. Meaning I also—”

“Like men,” Draco finished for him, eyes widening slowly and voice so low it was almost a whisper. Harry laughed nervously.

“Don’t look so scared, mate.”

“No, it’s…you’ve never…”

“I have,” Harry said, ducking his head down. “No guy I was ever with…it was never serious enough to—they didn’t want to be seen with me.”

“Who wouldn’t want to be seen with you?” Draco said, his eyes disbelievingly falling all over Harry.

Harry’s brain knew it probably wasn’t necessarily a compliment—almost definitely—but his stomach still warmed up at Draco’s gaze. He cleared his throat and Draco’s eyes went back to his face. Harry looked away and hoped Draco was blushing like he was. In solidarity. Obviously.

“Whether I like it or not, I am the most eligible bachelor in the world,” Harry said, cringing slightly. “No guy wanted to be the one to out me—it’s too much pressure.”

“Oh,” Draco said, voice still very quiet. “Then you know how it feels to disappoint people.”

“You wouldn’t be disappointing anyone,” Harry said immediately, and Draco snorted derisively, raising his eyebrows. “Okay, well, your father can go fuck himself.”

“It’s not just my father. It’s Pansy’s family—I told you when we talked the first time, she’s not going to have much of a future without…me.”

“I’m not giving up on this,” Harry said, staring him down. “The last two weeks have been really shit, and not just because I had to answer to the celebrity journalism industry in its entirety but also because…I kind of got used to you, you know? Actually, the two weeks before that were sort of brilliant.”

Draco smiled, though Harry thought it seemed a bit weak. “You’re that lonely, then, Potter?”

Harry rolled his eyes, not bothering to suppress his grin. “Don’t tell me we’re all the way back to surnames, Malfoy.”

The corners of Draco’s mouth twitched and his smile widened, before it quickly faltered again.

“What is it now?”

“There’s something else you don’t know. Another tradition—it’s stupid, but my father’s insisting—”

“Draco—”

“No, Harry, listen—”

“No, really, Draco—”

“It’s called the ‘one-month rule’—”

“Draco, please move in with me?”

Draco blinked. “You know.”

“Ginny told me. Honestly, I’m not bothered—you’re right, even if you were being a git, I am a bit lonely, and you need to get out of here, wedding or no wedding. I just have one condition.” Harry said, and Draco’s face quickly went from relieved to worried.

“What?”

“That you’re not keeping anything else from me.”

Harry probably was imagining it, but it looked as though Draco stopped breathing. He remembered Luna and held his breath as well, trying not to consider anything she’d said.

“Nothing,” Draco finally answered, though he did it on a whisper.

Harry stood up, clearing his throat much too loudly. “Right! Get your things then, come on. You’re sleeping on the couch, by the way.”

 

Harry and Draco’s newfound domesticity was granted peace for exactly sixteen hours. In that time, they’d managed to have three fights, two ending amicably and one with a wildly-outmatched pillow fight and a very sour Draco. Where he used to find it nothing short of insufferable, Harry found now he quite liked a pouty Malfoy. It wasn’t cute, he thought, just…funny.

But sixteen hours after Draco moved hurriedly out of the Manor came Hermione crashing through Harry’s—their—fireplace. Draco could hardly get out a ‘congratulations’ before he was hit in the face with a Prophet, squawking indignantly.

“Hermione?!”

“How did neither one of you—especially the one of you that is on a fast track to becoming Head Auror—fail to notice a reporter taking pictures of you on your own front-fucking-yard?!”

Harry was stunned into silence as Draco caught the newspaper as it felt from his face. Staring up at him was the Manor’s front lawn porch, and he watched as picture-Draco ushered picture-Harry inside. Above the photo was an advertisement that Draco read out loud in horror.

ROGER DAVIES AND RITA SKEETER TO CONDUCT SPECIAL INTERVIEW REGARDING THE MALFOY WEDDING WITH SPECIAL INSIDER SOURCE LUCIUS MALFOY.

“Your father,” Harry said again, “can go fuck himself.”