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we're just strangers

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Wealthy men had needs, and those could not be obtained without a wife by his side, to serve him, and do her duty by him, and provide him with heirs to inherit his fortune once he was cold in the grave. Perhaps even before that, as many a son had been known to seize his father’s wealth at even the barest hint of an affliction.

Word had spread around the country that Draco Malfoy, only son of Lucius and Narcissa, had recently come of age and, for reasons unknown to all and speculated by many, inherited the Malfoy fortune. Some thought it was to do with the extremist ‘Death Eater’ group Lucius Malfoy was rumoured to have fallen in with, but they tended to keep those thoughts to themselves. Tongues that wagged badly about the Malfoys had a habit of falling silent not long after.

It was considered a wonder that Draco, aged 21 and quite handsome, remained a bachelor. Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy’s marriage had not been fruitful, so it was imperative that Draco, as the only child and heir, marry, and quickly, lest the great House of Malfoy go extinct. Lucius demanded that every House with an eligible daughter put forward a suitor to present to his son at a special ceremony in a fortnight’s time. Most were happy to comply, their eyes hungrily latching onto the pile of gold that was sure to come their way with the marriage. Others who were, perhaps, not so eager sent a daughter anyway, fearing that they too would be gotten rid of.

Draco bristled when he discovered what his family had done. He was of age, and the head of his father’s business, and after what Lucius had done, he had no right to be deciding Draco’s future for him. But his mother looked at him with those pleading eyes of hers, and he at last relented, his protests dying bitterly on his lips. His parents’ marriage had become loveless, and Draco cared little for his father these days, but Draco knew that Narcissa loved him, and he would do anything to keep her from unhappiness. And if that meant forcing himself into a marriage fuelled by greed and ambition, well. So be it.

The day to present the suitors came all too quickly, Draco rearranging his face into a carefully neutral mask whilst servants adjusted his clothes and his hair. His mother smiled sadly at him when he arrived in the entryway of the manor; his father just sniffed in begrudging approval. Draco noted that Lucius had made an attempt to scrub up for the occasion, although his hair still hung limp around his shoulders and his jacket was discoloured and riddled with holes. He would stand in the shadows, Draco knew, keeping public attention - and, more importantly, writers for that infernal newspaper The Daily Prophet - away from him. He almost envied his father the privilege.

Taking his mother’s arm, Draco was frogmarched outside, where a crowd of young girls and their hopeful fathers waited. The girls were all dressed in their finest dresses, their hair done up in elaborate twists, faces painted garishly. Perhaps he was supposed to be impressed, Draco mused. If he was being honest, they were all just more of the same.

The next few hours passed in a blur, one girl after another being pushed in front of him to curtsey and babble about her name and her family and why she would make a good wife for him. Draco stopped listening after the first few; he already knew what they were going to say. The same words, scripted by their fathers, rehearsed to perfection. Draco understood that, at least, and he almost pitied the poor girls.

He made sure to remember a few of them, of course, lest his father ask him whom he preferred later.

Hermione Granger, with the bright blue dress and curls exploding out of her hair-do and a brain too big for her own good.

Padma Patil, smiling prettily and glittering with jewels.

Hannah Abbott, shy and awkward, and with yellow hair that stood out against her pink face.

Pansy Parkinson, a wicked grin on her narrow, sly face. Out of all of the girls, Draco could believe that she had come here of her own free will. Faces, voices, words, passed Draco by. He smiled, and made meaningless comments like ‘pleased to meet you’, and ‘you look lovely’, and ‘how is your family?’ He fell into a sort of stupor, his body acting automatically as he allowed his mind to wonder.

It was somewhere between the fifth and fiftieth girl that someone finally caught Draco’s eye. He was skulking in the treeline, his features partially obscured by shadow, but Draco would know him anywhere. Harry Potter. He sat a little straighter in his seat, all pretences forgotten as he carefully watched Potter. What was he even doing here anyway? He had no sisters that Draco knew of, and certainly no daughters. Perhaps he had come with that Granger girl from earlier. He’d heard that they were friends. Either way, Potter’s presence was like a burning flame, and Draco was being drawn to it like a moth.

Mercifully, the ceremony ended shortly after, and Draco stood, thanking everyone for attending and welcoming them all to join his family for a feast. He turned to his mother and told her that he would like to take a walk before joining them. She touched her hand to his cheek and nodded, telling him to return soon. Draco smiled and promised he would, then set off towards the treeline. Potter, who had been lounging casually against a tree, stood up straight when he saw Draco approaching. He smirked infuriatingly, then disappeared round a corner, letting Draco give chase.

He finds Potter standing in the middle of a leaf-strewn track, hands in his jacket pockets, a crooked smirk on his face. They faced each other in silence for a moment, the tension growing thick and heavy between them.

“Potter,” Draco eventually said, as casually as he could managed.

“Malfoy,” Potter countered, equally as mild.

Silence again. Draco sighed in frustration. Potter was not going to make this easy for him.

“What-” he started, but Potter cut him off.

“Heard you were getting hitched,” he said, breaking their gaze and studying his fingernails in apparent disinterest. “Thought I would come and watch the show.”

“And that’s the only reason?” Draco demanded suspiciously.

“If it was?” Potter asked, raising an eyebrow. But, before Draco could get a word in, he shook his head and stepped closer, faint amusement in his expression. “As it happens, no. A friend of mine is here; I’m sure you’ve met. Hermione Granger.”

Ah. So Draco had been right then. “Yes,” he replied carefully.

Harry took another step towards Draco. “I’m curious,” he started, voice low. “Why did daddy dearest invite people from Houses as lowly as Hermione’s? Not the type of company the Malfoys usually keep.”

“Father couldn’t afford to be seen discriminating, not in his position,” Draco replied, breath hitching as Potter came yet still closer. They were sharing air now, and a thousand memories of idyllic schooldays flitted through Draco’s head.

First year. They’d hated each other as soon as they met, Potter despising Draco’s high and mighty attitude; Draco scorning Potter’s holier-than-thou act.

“And what position would that be exactly?” Lips ghosting over Draco’s own.

Third year. Potter took ill, and Draco watched from outside the hospital wing, hiding whenever someone walked past. They locked eyes once, but it was not hate that passed between them. Potter got better, and the incident was never spoken of again.

Draco shivered at the whisper of touch, but didn’t reply. Harry stared down at him intensely, and he was a teenager again.

Fifth year. They get into a fight, one that somehow ended with Harry’s lips on his, and - god help him - Draco didn’t stop it. He didn’t stop any of it, because he wanted it so fucking much, more than he’d ever wanted anything in his life.

“We shouldn’t,” Draco stammered, but it was a weak protest at best.

“What does it matter?” Harry asked, cocking an eyebrow.

It didn’t, Draco supposed.

Seventh year. They’d been playing this game for two years now, except somewhere along the line it stopped being a game and started becoming dangerously real. Draco broke it off, because he knew what his parents were like. Harry was hurt, but Draco reassured himself that he would get over it. It was just a fling, after all.

Except it was so much more than that, and they both knew it. They kissed in the bushes behind Malfoy Manor with a ferocity and passion that Draco hadn’t felt since they were but children, and god he hadn’t realised how much he’d missed this. Missed him.

His promises to his mother flew out of his head as his hands roamed up and down Harry’s body - fuck he’d gotten tall - finally coming to rest on the small of his back.

“Harry,” he gasped out, and suddenly the warmth of Harry’s body against his own was gone. Draco looked up in confusion to see Harry looking down at him, frowning.

“You’ve never called me that before,” he said, sounding out of his depth for the first time that day.

Draco considered. He supposed he hadn’t. Not when they had cut daggers at each other from across the room, not when they fought, not even when they fucked. Why, he couldn’t fathom. It just felt so right.

Harry backed away, and Draco yearned to reach out for him. But he knew that would be a bad idea, so he remained still.

“You were right; this was a bad idea,” Harry told him, then turned and walked in the direction they had come.

Draco stared after him, but made no move to follow. He should have never come here in the first place, but, as his lips tingled with the remains of memory, he could not bring himself to regret it.

In the end, Draco married Astoria Greengrass, a girl he had known at school. She was pleasant, and pretty enough, and her family had enough money to just about satisfy his father. Lucius still complained that she was not good enough for a Malfoy, but Draco never listened. He did not - could not - love Astoria, but he would rather a friend for a wife than a stranger. They were happy, if happy was the right word for it, and they had a son, whom Draco loved with everything he had, knowing all too well the pain of a father who didn’t love you.

He never saw Harry again, and, with time, the ache for him began to fade. But first loves die hard, and sometimes he would remember the boy with the black hair and green eyes, and Draco would smile.