January was over and Harry was just about beginning to relax after the oath ceremony. So far there had been no more fallout than Harry spending an afternoon using mostly words of one syllable and staring off into space for no apparent reason. Everyone's oath had been registered except Pansy's and Voldemort had not even remotely made a move.
It was a crisp February evening and Harry had enjoyed his day of teaching, even if half the pupils in the great hall looked like they just wanted the week to be over. A familiar owl soared over to their table. Since Draco and his mother corresponded a lot, it was not unusual to see the Malfoy family owl making deliveries other than first thing in the morning.
Harry fed the beautiful eagle owl some meat from his plate while Draco untied the letter from his mother. The excited chatter of the evening meal surrounded him with familiar comfort and he grinned as Ron vehemently defended the Chudley Canons to Goyle.
As soon as the letter was free, the owl leapt back into the air and was gone. Harry was paying much more attention to Ron, since he liked to give Draco the illusion of privacy, when he felt the dagger of shock from his soulmate.
[What's wrong?] he asked without hesitating.
Draco did not reply and for a while simply stared at the letter. On the outside he looked as composed and focused as usual, but Harry could feel the turmoil going on beneath Draco's aristocratic exterior.
[Draco, you're worrying me.] Harry did not like the silence.
They were surrounded by their colleagues on the lower head table and he was doing his best not to make a scene, but when Draco went quiet, Harry always worried. He could still feel the underlying shock in his soulmate.
He gave a tight smile to Hermione who sent him a questioning look from across the table, and shook his head very slightly so she didn't say anything.
Then, finally, Draco moved, passing him the letter as if it was nothing. It was a good act, Harry might have believed it if he hadn't been inside Draco's head as well. Needing to know what had caused his soulmate to react in such a way he began to read.
"My dearest Draco," the letter began, "I have waited as long as I dare before putting quill to parchment, but now I feel it is time to tell you. Yesterday morning, Lucius awoke from his coma."
Harry stopped reading and glanced at Draco. His soulmate was talking to Pansy quietly as if everything was normal and Harry did his very best not to simply stare.
"I am more than aware this will not be good news for you, but there are several facts I believe you should know. The Dark Mark your father has had since he was your age is gone completely. According to the healers it finally disappeared the day before Lucius woke up. Although he is still very weak, Lucius is very much lucid. I have spoken to him at length yesterday and today. He claims to have no memory of recent events nor indeed anything he has ever done in service to the Dark Lord. In fact he does not appear to know who The Dark Lord is. I am sceptical, but I have asked the healers to perform tests. So far they can find nothing to refute Lucius' claims. The tests will continue.
"I will not burden you with details, my darling boy, for you have more than enough to worry about. Suffice to say, security has been increased and the Ministry have been informed. If anything significant comes to light I will send word. Until then, know that I love you, Mum."
[He woke up,] Harry said silently, because he needed to affirm what he had just read even if he couldn't say it out loud.
[Yes,] Draco replied.
[Do you believe this amnesia thing?]
[Do you want to talk about it?]
Harry folded the letter and placed it next to Draco's plate in as casual a manner as he could manage. There was no point pushing, not while they were in public, so he went back to his steak and ale pie. He wasn't exactly hungry anymore and he chewed absently as he thought through the possible consequences.
If Lucius really was amnesiac then it had to have been another effect of the magic Harry had sent back at the man. That the Dark Mark had completely disappeared before Lucius regained consciousness felt significant somehow, not that Harry knew why. He also wasn't sure how to feel about being the originator of magic that could wipe out a man's memory without having been aware he was doing it.
At least Narcissa was dealing with all the details. The last thing Harry wanted was Draco to be anywhere near his father, ever again if possible. That man was never going to be able to hurt Draco again, not on Harry's watch.
* * *
Harry remained silent about the letter and its contents until he and Draco made it back to their room. However, once the door was closed and the outside world was shut away, he couldn't just leave it any more.
"Talk to me," he said quietly, walking up to Draco and lightly placing his hand on his soulmate's back.
Draco was still, not moving and not speaking, so Harry gave him time. He could feel the turmoil bubbling away under Draco's skin and he waited for it to erupt. Eventually Draco turned towards him, face marred by a deep frown, eyes narrowed and full of too many emotions.
"Why can't he just die?" were the desperate words that cut straight to Harry's heart.
Without pausing, he gathered Draco into his arms and held on. Draco had been betrayed so completely by his father that all that remained of their relationship was hatred and fear, at least at the surface. Harry knew it ran deeper than that though. Draco might want the madman his father had become dead, but that was not all Lucius had been. Even Harry, who had only met the man a couple of times, had seen the changes in Lucius. The return of Voldemort had affected more than just his life.
"He's locked up in St Mungos," he whispered, "too weak to move and your Mum is keeping an eye on him. He's as good as in Azkaban, better, because your Mum won't just expect Dementors to do her part."
Silence greeted this affirmation, but Draco leaned into the embrace for long seconds.
"She'd kill him before she let him get away," Draco agreed eventually, pulling back.
"Not quite what I meant, but it'll do," Harry said as Draco valiantly tried to restore his usual calm and collected visage.
Harry had no doubt the idea of facing Voldemort alone would rattle Draco less than the memory of his own father. This wretched conflict had destroyed so much before the final battle was even on the horizon.
"And I will never leave you, Draco."
Of course Harry knew where the real trauma lay because he could feel it too. Taking Draco by the hand he stroked the ring he had made for his soulmate.
"He can never do that to us again."
To some such complete reliance on another person would have been a nightmare in itself, but to Harry it was the most natural thing in the world. He had been on his own through so much of his life that to know he never had to do that again was perfect. Hecatamae were not designed to be solitary creatures and sometimes he wondered how he had survived before Hogwarts.
"Never again," Draco agreed eventually, staring down at their joined hands.
After a little while Draco lifted his head and looked Harry directly in the eyes.
"Show me," he said, voice far less confident than it should have been, "and make me forget he exists."
"It would be my pleasure," Harry replied.
Moving closer, he leaned in and put the lightest of kisses on Draco's lips. Then he waited. Draco might have asked for this, might even have wanted it, but Harry was not about to rush. He needed to draw Draco out of his thoughts slowly or this wouldn't work anyway.
Their tableau held for a few quiet moments before Draco kissed back just as gently. Now Harry stepped that fraction closer again, bringing one hand up to cup the side of Draco's face as he continued to hold onto Draco's hand with the other. He kissed his soulmate again, a little bit more insistently this time. Draco leaned against him, shoulder to hip.
Harry stroked his fingers down the side of Draco's face, along that pale, aristocratic neck and round into the soft edges of Draco's hair, deepening the kiss as he did.
[I love you,] he whispered into Draco's mind, [I always will.]
Draco moaned quietly, parting his lips and Harry claimed his soulmate's mouth completely. For a while Harry let himself indulge in the kiss, enjoying the closeness and the simple touching. The centre of his universe was right there and he basked in Draco's presence. He had a plan, though, so he had to move on eventually.
He kissed away from Draco's mouth, along Draco's firm chin to the neck he had so recently been fondling. Placing tiny kiss after tiny kiss, he moved round until he was behind Draco and his fingers were resting lightly under his soulmate's chin rather than in Draco's hair.
Draco tipped his head to the side as Harry gently urged it and then he had room to lick a stripe up that beautiful, pale flesh. He nibbled lightly at Draco's ear lobe before kissing his way back down, a breathy moan was his reward. He knew every inch of Draco's body, had learned it by heart, but it never ceased to amaze him how many different ways there were to explore it. Sex was an adventure he would always enjoy.
The part of Draco's heart where he loved his father was broken. It had been cracked by Lucius' reaction to Draco's rejection of Voldemort and it had been shattered by Lucius' attempt to separate him and Harry. Harry aimed to patch over the wound with his own love and distract Draco from the turmoil of his thoughts.
Taking one shoulder of Draco's teaching robe in each hand, he eased it off his soulmate's shoulders, letting it fall and pool on the floor. As ever, Draco was impeccably turned out underneath, even after a full day of teaching. Where Harry always ended up covered in mud and grass stains, no matter what went on in the potions classroom, Draco never seemed to mess up his clothes.
Draco's jacket went next, discarded to the back of a chair. Since the teaching day had been over for a while, Draco had loosened his tie and undone his top button, so Harry took the opportunity to push aside Draco's collar and kiss more of the revealed flesh. He might have had a thing for Draco's neck that he couldn't fully explain and would never admit out loud, but since Draco seemed to love Harry's attention on that area of his body, Harry counted it as a win/win.
He moved his way back round to the front, allowing himself a few moments to look at Draco's closed eyes and relaxing features. The tension was not all gone yet, but it was beginning to ease.
Draco used what Harry considered a ridiculously complicated knot on his tie, but, although he could never create it, Harry had undoing it down to an art. As he slid the silk from under Draco's collar, Draco opened his eyes and stared at him with a gaze full of longing and need. Smiling just a little, Harry sent back his love in a warm wave. Draco closed his eyes again, taking a deep breath, lips parted.
Words were entirely unnecessary.
One by one Harry popped Draco's shirt buttons, letting his fingers linger on the skin this revealed as he worked his way down. Of course Draco was wearing a belt, but Harry was a master of releasing that as well. Trouser button and fly went next before he pulled Draco's shirt free from its confines and the last shirt button gave up its charge.
Sliding the very tips of his fingers over Draco's upper chest, he slipped them under the edges of the shirt, pushing is back and off Draco's shoulders. A very contented hum came back at him so he played for a while, digits dancing over Draco's upper body. It elicited such lovely little moans of pleasure from his soulmate.
Eventually, however, he wanted even more access and the shirt was still sitting just off Draco's shoulders. Pushing it down further he moved back in and claimed Draco's mouth in another kiss. Draco let him and responded in kind, lifting his arms to help with the removal of the shirt. That's when Harry hit a snag.
The shirt came off alright, but when he tried to pull it free it stopped. He looked down.
"Smooth, Potter, so very smooth."
He lifted his eyes back to Draco's face to find one eyebrow raised at him. In his enthusiasm he'd forgotten the cufflinks. Draco's shirt was stuck at the wrist. For a microsecond he considered being mortified, but then Draco's mouth twitched and Harry couldn't help it, he laughed.
Draco laughed as well and Harry leant it, pecking him on the lips while they were both still laughing.
"Guess I am not Casanova," he said.
It might not have been the smooth seduction Harry had been hoping for, but with the laughter the air in the room seemed much lighter.
"No, but I prefer Harry Potter any day," Draco replied, smiling at him fondly.
He lifted his hands, stuck in the inside-out sleeves.
"But if you wouldn't mind," Draco said, "I believe we were about to get to the good part."
Chuckling to himself, Harry set about freeing Draco from his predicament and planning just what he was going to do during 'the good part'.