"Don't look so sceptical, Harry," Hermione giggled. "It's just for a bit of fun. It's not like it's a Love-potion or anything."
Harry squinted at the little glass vial she handed him. The liquid was pearly-white with a touch of purple and it smelled of lavender.
"It's an Identification potion," she continued, "so that you'll be able to recognize your soulmate, your true love or whatever you'll call it."
Harry met her gaze. He still wasn't sure that this, whatever it was, was a good idea.
"Relax, Harry," she said. "I've tested it myself, and it was awesome. It was like fireworks inside me, as soon as Ron touched my hand. That's what it does; when your skin meets the bare skin of your true mate, your body will let you know. I almost fainted, couldn't breathe and my heartbeat went mad. And then it passed and everything went back to normal. Except," she smiled a shy smile, "now when we're together, I know that he's the one."
She took a few steps closed to him and added more seriously, "If you take this, Harry, you don't have to worry about it anymore. As soon as you take Ginny's hand, you'll know."
He sighed a little and took a deep breath. "You're right, Mione." He smiled a little shaky. "I shouldn't worry so much. As soon as I take this, I'll know, right?"
"Right," she said, and Harry knocked back the vial and swallowed.
"Auror Potter, this is the solicitor, that is handling our case. You have an appointment with him at his office at 3 pm tomorrow." Head-Auror Robards' secretery handed him a business card.
"The address on the card isn't valid anymore," she said. "But I wrote the new one down at the back."
Harry flipped the card over and saw the name of a street close to Russel Square. He groaned a bit inwards. The law aspect of his work was somewhat intimidating to him, and the attorneys always managed to make black into white, and white into a foul grey and this case was a bit delicate, to say the least. He was going to be grilled, he knew that, and tricked to say things he didn't mean, just because he had a hot temper. But he guessed it was good to get it out now, instead at the actual trial. Head-Auror Robards never seized to hope that someday Harry would learn from his mistakes and be able to control his anger against the criminals, at least in a courtroom.
Five minutes past three Harry hurried inside the office door, slightly out of breath, since the Apparation-point had been two blocks away and he'd been late to begin with.
A woman of indefineble age and salt-and-pepper hair sat at the reception desk. Harry walked towards her to introduce himself, but she was faster. "Mr Potter, what an honor." Harry gave her a half-hearted smile, as he always did when he was recognised. She waved her hand to the door at the left. "You can go right in, he's expecting you."
The man at the desk raised his head as Harry opened the door. He was dressed in a perfectly fitted dark grey Muggle suit and the platinum blond hair was neatly cropped at the neck, with a few long strands falling over his eyes. Harry gasped. "Draco Malfoy?"
"Hello, Potter," he said calmly. "You look surprised. Didn't you receive my card?"
Harry took up the crumpled business card from his pocket and turned it over. On the printed side, after all the titles and degrees, it said D. L. Malfoy.
"Do sit down, Potter," he gestured to the gobsmacked Auror. "We got loads of work ahead of us, so be prepared for a long day."
She put the cardboard boxes down in front of them. The rich smell of curry immediatly filled the room and Harry felt his stomach ache of hunger.
"Thank you, Janice," Malfoy said. "And it's very late now, I'm afraid, you should go home. We only need to wrap this up while we eat. We'll be alright."
"Are you sure, Mr Malfoy?" She seemed reluctant to leave, but tiredness was evident in her eyes.
"Quite sure." He gave her a tender smile. "Go home." He turned to Harry as she closed the door behind her, "She's an absolute gem. I don't know what I'd do without her in this Muggle world." He opened the food cartons and peered inside to identify their orders before handing Harry's over to him.
"Your secretary's Muggle?" Harry gaped, plastic fork halfway to his mouth.
"Squib, actually. And she's my assistant, not secretary." He tore a piece of naan-bread and put it in his mouth and smiled as he chewed. "But sometimes she fusses over me more than my mother."
They ate in silence for a while. "You do know," Malfoy said quietly, "I did attend a Muggle university for my degrees, and I take on Muggle cases from time to time."
Harry looked at him with his mouth full of the spicy chicken curry. He had noticed the telephones, the computer and other Muggle office attire.
"The world's changed since the war," Malfoy continued, "and I belive I've changed with it." There was a light tinge to his cheeks as he looked away.
"Well, that should cover everything. I'm sure it will be all right tomorrow." Malfoy stacked all the papers together and Harry rose from his chair and streched, a little stiff after so many hours.
"I certainly hope so," he sighed. He couldn't affford another court-room disaster. He looked up at the taller man. "It was nice of you to take so much time with me."
"Don't worry about that," Malfoy grinned. "The Department will get my bill."
Harry laughed. "Even so, it's been… nice." He produced a hand across the desk. Malfoy looked at it, and then his gaze met Harry's. "Yes, it was nice… meeting you again… Harry." He took the hand.
Everything went black. Harry felt his heart's rapid beat in his brain and he couldn't breathe. He was on the floor, gasping for air.
"Merlin's beard, Potter, are you all right?" Malfoy kneeled beside him, supporting Harry's head with his hands.
Harry's head hurt and he was panicking for air. Malfoy's fingers trembled as they opened the collar button of Harry's shirt. It made it easier to breathe and the dizziness subsided.
"I feel better." His voice was ragged. "I think I'm all right."
"Don't move," Malfoy said sternly and got up on his feet. "I'll get you a glass of water."
He came back with the glass and helped Harry lift his head to drink. Harry's heart was back to normal and his lungs had decided to co-operate again. "I feel fine, honestly. Except my head." He rubbed the sour spot at the back of his head.
"Well, you smacked it very hard into my desk, I'm afraid." Malfoy surveyed him. "Have you had attacks like this before?"
Harry shook his head, which he immediatley regretted.
"And do you know what could have caused it?"
"No idea." Harry tried to get up on his feet, but as he was still dizzy, he let Malfoy help him.
"You ought to see a Healer," he said. "Shall I take you to St Mungo's?"
"No, I'm fine," Harry said. Apart from the bump in the back of his head he couldn't feel anything out of the ordinary anymore. "It was probably just a little fatigue." He actually felt embarrassed now. "All I need is a good night's sleep."
"I won't let you Apparate after this," Malfoy said and took his coat from the rack beside the window. "And this building isn't connected to the Floo-system, so it'll have to be the Muggle way."
He locked the office door and pushed the button to the lift. "Do you live with someone?" he asked while they were waiting. "I don't think you should be alone."
Harry felt his cheeks heat up a little. Another one of his many shortcomings in life. "I suppose I can stay at Ron and Hermione's tonight, if it makes you feel better."
The doors opened with a ping. "Good," Malfoy said, "I'll get you a taxi."
"What do you mean, you fainted?" Ron gave him a sceptical look. "You haven't fainted since 3rd year at Hogwarts."
Harry sipped the hot tea Hermione handed him in his favourite cup. He did spend a lot of time here, he realized. The toddler at Ron's knee squirmed and sulked. Harry felt bad for arriving so late and wake everybody up. But he had promised Malfoy.
"I'm sorry I woke her up," he said and patted his god-daughter on her soft red hair. "If Malfoy hadn't insisted, I would have gone home. I feel fine, you know."
Both of his friends stared at him with open mouths. "Wait a minute here, did you say Malfoy? As in the Slytherin prat Malfoy?" Ron exclaimed and Rose started to cry. Hermione lifted her up and hummed an out-of-key tune as she rocked her on the hip. "This got to be good, Harry," she said. "Let me just put this one back to sleep, and then I demand to hear the whole story. Don't you dare start telling it before I come back."
"Well," she said as she joined the two men on the living room sofa. "Start at the beginning." And Harry did.
"I really don't know why I suddenly fainted," he concluded after finishing the story. "I've felt just fine up to that point and I feel just fine now again."
"I bet Malfoy hexed you," Ron muttered. "I'm not buying that 'I've changed' one bit."
"I don't know," Harry said, "he sounded honest enough to me. I do think he is a different person than what he was at school. He told me he even Went to a Muggle univerity. Besides, wouldn't he have to produce his wand at some point if he wanted to hex me?"
Hermione furrowed her brow, like she usually did when she had a tricky thing to solve. "No, I agree with Harry, I don't think he hexed you. But as you don't seem ill at all, could it be some other spell? Something someone cast on you that you don't know about? You do meet the most suspicious witches and wizards in your line of work."
Harry shook his head. "Not possible. They check us all out for spells every day."
"What if it's something older?" Ron improvised. "Some curse he cast at you in school?"
"Do you really think that's likley?" Harry asked back.
"Harry!" Hermione sat up straight and looked directly in his eyes. "Tell me again,exactly what happened and how it felt."
Harry sighed and closed his eyes. He was very tired now and only wanted to lay down on the couch and sleep. "We had finished, I stood up and we shook hands, I fainted and woke up on the floor. My pulse was speeding crazy and I couldn't breathe. It was like a bunch of firecrackers had set off inside me."
" Did you touch his skin?" Hermione interrupted.
"We weren't wearing gloves, so... yeah," Harry said with an eyeroll.
"Had you touched his skin before that?"
"No! Why do you ask a thing like that? I don't normally go around touching people's skin, do I?" Harry felt offended.
Hermione clasped her hands in front of her mouth. "It's the Identification potion!" she exclaimed.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked. "What potion?"
"Don't you remember? The potion I made in the summer after the war, to help us identify our soulmates. I took it and you took it. It helped me identify Ron as my true love, but in your case, nothing happened."
Harry looked at her in disbelief.
"When was this?" Ron wondered. "I've never heard about it before."
"I didn't tell you at the time." Hermione gave her husband an affectionate smile. "I didn't want you to be too sure about me, I wanted you to work a little to get me. And later, I almost forgot about it. It was a childish schoolgirl thing, but it actually worked."
"Are you saying, then, that Malfoy is Harry's soulmate?"
"It can't be," Harry said, his voice cracked.
"Why not? It could, when you come to think of it."
"But I don't believe there is such a thing as a soulmate, anyhow." Harry seemed doubtful.
"Of course, there is," Hermione said. "We read all about it in History of Magic, 5th year. Don't you remember?"
Ron stared at his wife with eyes wide as plates. "Are you telling me, Hermione Jean Granger,that you actually stayed awake during Professor Binns' classes?"
Hermione's cheeks caught a light shade of pink. "Well, anything you missed in class could be read later in the textbooks. But that's beside the point. The point is the Split-Apart Spell from 399 BC."
"The Split-Apart Spell?" Harry wondered.
Hermione sighed. "Does any of you have any recollection of studying the ancient Greek wizard Socrates?"
Both Ron and Harry shook their heads.
"All right then," Hermione said with an eyeroll. "I'll start at the beginning. It's quite a story, you know. The Greek wizard Socrates was a great humanitarian and philosipher in Athens more than two thousand years ago. He saw great suffering among his fellow man and thought about a way to ease the pain in people's life. Since he himself had been forced into a loveless marriage, he got the belief, that if everybody had True love in their life, a Soulmate just right for them, to help with the daily struggle, life would be more pleaseant and people would be happier.
He worked on this spell for meny years. There were meny parameters to consider, like mutual culture, religion, language, age and so on, so that everyone should have a fair chance to find their mate.
Socrates cast the first part of the spell, the one where every child born had a soulmate bonded to them for life, but before he had the chance to cast the second part, where you would be able to identify your love, he was arrested and condemned to death by the Athenian authorities, for corrupting the youth.
With Socrates dead, people were left with half a spell and a longing for a completion, that they could not easily find. It stirred the minds and created a lot of wondering, which we all live with up to this day. One of his desciples, Plato, created the myth, as an explanation to Muggles on what was going on, the myth of the Split-Aparts."
She paused and looked at the two gaping faces, and smiled. "THe myth goes something like this; in the beginning of time mankind consisted of three different creatures, slightly odd-looking, with four arms and legs, but perfectly happy. There were male, female and a third which was a little bit of both. The creatures were in fact so happy that the Gods got angry with them, for not turning to them often enough with their fears and troubles, and decided to punish them. The Head-God Zeus threw a lightning bolt that split the humans in half, two men, two women, and a man and a woman. The newly separated humans scattered all over and have been searching for their lost half ever since, without whom they can never feel complete and find peace."
She fell silent.
"Ever since then, witches and wizards has been experimenting with different identifying potions and spells, but no one have been able to help the entire human race. They have only worked on individual basis, like the one I made, which we took, Harry."
"Wow," Ron looked bashed. "I had no idea."
Hermione pursed her lips. "I'm actually surprised you haven't heard of this before, Ron, since you're from a wizard family. I thought most Pure-bloods grew up with this story."
Ron shook his head with a blank expression on his face.
Harry gave a heavy sigh. "So, what do you suggest I do about this then? Go back to Malfoy and say 'Hey, I think you're my Split-Apart'?"
"Harry, we all know how difficult it's been for you. Since you broke up with Ginny, you've dated I don't know how many witches over the years, and it never seems to click. Now you know you've looked for love in the wrong place all the time."
Harry groaned, "Oh God," and buried his face at her shoulder. She patted his hair and placed a sisterly kiss on the top of his head. "You could give it a try," she said. "Ask him out on a date, at least."
Ron growled. "You can't be serious, Mione. Harry can't go on a date with Malfoy."
"Well, he's a bloke, for one. Harry doesn't date blokes."
Hermione pierced her eyes at Harry. "Don't you?"
Harry's ears went scarlet red. "Well, I might have a couple of… You promised, Mione!"
Ron stared with his mouth wide open. "You haven't?"
"Well, I tried everything, you know," Harry yelled at him. "Everybody around me were so fucking happy. I've seriously been thinking there was something wrong with me, something damaged since childhood. That I never could have an emotional connection with another person."
Ron closed his mouth. "Was it any good? With another guy, I mean?"
"It wasn't fucking fireworks, okey. If it'd been, I wouldn't be sitting here on your sofa, alone, now would I?" Harry lowered his voice. "I wouldn't be in this bloody mess." He sighed.
Hermione hugged him and tousled his raven black hair a bit. "I think we all could use some sleep now."
She and Ron stood up and Harry let himself fall on his back on the soft cushions. What a nightmare, and on top of everything, the trial tomorrow. And there Malfoy would be. Harry covered his face with his hands.
"Good night, Harry," Hermione said. "It'll work out fine, you'll see."
"How do you feel today, Potter? You look like a ghost." Malfoy gave Harry's sullen eyes a scrutinizing look.
"I had trouble sleeping last night, after all. Otherwise, I feel fine." Harry wished everybody could stop asking. "I just want this to be over, that's all."
Harry felt numb. He couldn't focus on anything apart from Malfoy's presence. He answered every question he got with absolutely no emotion at all, like a mechanical doll.
Head-Auror Robards was ecstatic.
"What a success! Malfoy, I hand it to you, you alone finally got Harry housebroken. This cause for a celebration. Everybody, come to my office. I have a whole case of Ogden's stashed away there."
Harry was a bit drunk, but then, so was everyone else in the room. Somehow it had turned into a party for the entire Department. Someone had managed to put on some music and the room was too hot, too crowded and too loud, and slightly spinning.
Harry braced himself to a doorframe and held his head down for a moment. Someone came up beside him, and he knew exactly who it was merely by looking at the shoes. No Auror had shoes like that, slim, handcrafted in shiny black leather with just a tad of heel.
"Hey, Malfoy," he greeteed him with a slight slur.
"Nice party, Potter." Harry could hear the smirk in his voice. "Do you all drink like this after every catch you make?"
Harry lifted his head and tried to focus on the grey eyes in front of him. He shuddered his shoulders. "I slept bad and I haven't eaten today," Harry said. "Do you want to get out of here before I get thoroughly sloshed?"
"Gladly." Malfoy disposed his glass at the bookshelf at his side. "Let's go somewhere and eat."
"Do you like Italian?" Harry asked as they stepped out on the street. "I know a very nice Italian restaurant." He grabbed Malfoy by the arm, and without waiting for the other man to protest, he Apparated them both.
"Harry, darling!" The young dark-haired waitress greeted him with three kisses on the cheeks. "A table for two this time?"
"Yes, please, Marina." Harry looked around in the dining room, which was quite full of loud families eating dinner. "If there's something more secluded available, I would appreciate it?"
"You're earlier than usual, it'll calm down in an hour or two, but don't worry, I'll find you and your beautiful friend a more quiet table." She winked at Malfoy as she hurried away.
They were seated in a small booth in the back of the restaurant. "You come here often, I recon?" Malfoy looked after Marina, who had just left them with menues, two glasses and a bottle of white wine.
"Well, I live nearby and I don't cook, so..." Harry smiled. He still felt a little embarrassed about the waitress's remark about Malfoy, even more so as he realized she was right. Malfoy was beautiful.
Malfoy ordered the Risotto con fungi and Harry took his favourite, Pasta Mediterriano. Harry also asked for a large bottle of water, as he felt the need to sober up a bit. He felt stupidly nervous in Malfoy's presence and was very glad they were in familiar surroundings.
They ate and they talked. They laughed. Harry found it was easy to make Malfoy laugh and that he liked it. When they had finished and both declined desserts, and Marina had left them with the remains in the bottle, Malfoy leaned back and took a long probing look at Harry. "Why do I get the funny feeling this is turning more and more into a date?"
Harry's face turned bright red. The clatter around them had died down and the lights had softened, and Harry realized that the restaurant was ridiculously romantic. "I didn't mean it that way. Do you mind?"
"Did you know I was gay?" Malfoy's grey eyes pierced Harry's.
Harry blushed even deeper as he shook his head. "I don't know anything about you really, except what happened at Hogwarts and that you're now a semi-Muggle solicitor." And as Harry still was a Gryffindor at heart, he added, "Care to fill in the blanks?"
Malfoy evaluated Harry silently for a long time. "This is a bit unexpected and I don't know what to think," he said very slowly, taking a sip of his wine. "But let's play a game. I tell you three things about myself, that I think you don't know, and then you tell me three. If I find what you say the least intriguing, I'll take you out on a real date. Agreed?"
Harry nodded. "All right."
Malfoy sat up straight and put his glass down. "Well, let's see, I'm a vegetarian. I own a Muggle mobile phone, to which you have the number, by the way, if you still have that business-card. And I officially live at the Manor, but I have a London flat close to my new office." His eyes dug deep into Harry's. "Unfortunately, I already slipped the gay thing. Your turn."
Harry closed his eyes. His head was spinning, but he knew it wasn't the alcohol anymore. This situation with Malfoy was making him faintly nauseous, but in a totally freaking-out good sort of way. What in Merlin's name could he say about himself that could make Malfoy even the slightest interested? Somehow that seemed crucial at the moment. He cleared his throat and looked up.
"I actually live right across the street." He turned to the window and pointed at a narrow house on the dimly lit street outside. "See that blue-grey door over there." Malfoy looked and gave a short laugh. "Well, you didn't lie when you said you lived close."
Harry quirked his shoulders. "I eat here a lot." But then he hurried to say, " That wasn't my number two, by the way."
Malfoy raised his eyebrows. "Then, do tell me your number two," he smiled.
"I used to be addicted to Dreamless Sleep, because of my nightmares after the war. It's only thanks to Hermione that I got out of it."
"You still dream about Him?" Malfoy asked quietly.
"Not as often as I used to, but still..."
There was a moment of silence and Malfoy nodded. "All right then, your number three?"
"I've totally given up hope of ever finding love in my life. I've probably dated every available witch of our generation, with very little success."
"Ever dated a wizard?" Malfoy had a smug look on his face.
"No." Harry played a little with his wineglass and dared to catch Malfoy's gaze. "But there was this time at a Muggle bar..."
"A rainbow-coloured Muggle bar?" Malfoy's eyebrows preformed a little dance on his brow.
"Well, it was a compete disaster and I never went there again," Harry said firmly. "I really don't want to talk about it."
"I must admit, now you got me hooked," Malfoy smirked. "I want to know every sordid detail. Didn't you get turned on?"
"Oh, I got turned on, all right. But that was just it, one quick thing and it was over."
"You're still such a Gryffindor. What did you expect? Love and romance?" Malfoy rolled his eyes.
"Yes, I did expect that. That's part of my problem, isn't it?" Harry snapped.
Malfoy leaned back in his seat and took a long look at Harry as he emptied his wineglass. "Well," he said slowly, "I can't promise you that, obviously, but I can be a perfect gentleman and walk you home. Come on, Potter, time to go."
They got out and walked the short distance to Harry's door in silence. Harry realized how tired he was when he got up on his feet, and he stumbled a little on the pavement. Malfoy's hand immediatley shot out to steady him. "Careful there, Potter. Don't want you to fall on your face."
At the doorstep he reached down in his breast pocket and pulled out another one of his business cards and gave it to Harry. "In case you lost the first one," he said. "I am intrigued. Call me." He turned and Disapparated with a crack.
Harry looked at his newly purchased mobile in disbelief after disconnecting the call. What a strange place to suggest for a meeting, from Malfoy, anyway. "See you at the stairs of British Museum, Friday afternoon. Shall we say four?" was what Malfoy had said.
It's been over a week since the case-trial and the evening that followed, which Harry refused to refer to as a date when he told his friends. With this scheduled meeting, however, there was no doubt though.
"You have a date!" Hermione exclaimed with a wide grin on her face when he told her.
"I can't see why you're so worked up on the idea about Harry and Malfoy," Ron said with a dark glance at his wife. "I mean, it's still Malfoy. And we don't really know if it was the Identification potion in the first place. Maybe Harry just fainted from being tired, maybe it was bad Indian curry. It could be a hundred different answers and now you're playing Matchmaker for our best friend, trying to set him up with a man we no absolutely nothing about, besides being a perfect git all the time at Hogwarts, and, oh... oh... now I remember, he used to be a Death Eater and on the wrong side in the war." He almost yelled in the end.
Hermione tilted her head and examend the redhead man. "Since Harry obviously feels it's all right to give him a chance, don't you think we ought to as well?"
Harry's voice was low and he spoke slowly, "He did save my life, you know, and he was freed on all charges by the Wizengamot, their only demand that he took his NEWT exams."
"Wasn't he at Hogwarts for that at the same time as you, Mione?" Ron asked. "How was he, then, after the war?"
Hermione shrugged her shoulders. "He kept to himself, I guess. I didn't see him much, but now when I think about it, I don't think he was doing very well. He passed with excellent grades, though. Unlike some people," she couldn't resist to add, with a frown at Harry and Ron.
"Hey, George needed me at the shop, you know that. And Harry couldn't see the point of an extra year, since he was all ready accepted at the Academy."
"Right, Harry?" Ron turned to his friend for support. Harry nodded.
"But still, you can't be serious about this, mate?" Ron turned his head from Harry and tried once more with the spoon of mashed carrots, but Rose's mouth was determinedly closed and the food was again smeared all over her face. He sighed and put the spoon down in the bowl with a thud and pushed it away. Feeding Rose was an ongoing war for both her parents. Harry lifted the spoon and looked at the redhaired girl as he put it in his own mouth and made a sound of pleasure. "Mmm, this is so good," Harry teased, and as expected Rose opened her pink lips and reached out for Harry's hand. Ron stood and shoved the carrot-mash over to Harry. "Here, take over this, will you. She only wants to be fed by you now, anyway."
Harry proceeded to feed the little girl as Ron went over to the stove to look at the Shepard's pie in the oven. He was getting to be a rather good cook these days, Molly taught him. He had no choice, really, if he didn't want to starve, since Hermione refused, relying on take-away and pre-made frozen dinners. "I have more important things to do with my time," she said when he asked her. "I only need to eat, I don't care if it tastes good or not." But Ron did, so he cooked.
"Serious enough to meet him again, as it seems." Hermione closed the file of Ministry parchments and started to lay out the plates and the cutlery Ron placed in front of her. "What do you feel about him, Harry?"
Harry kept his eyes at Rose and tried to ignore the heat that crept up on his neck. "I don't know, really. He's changed, that's for sure. It's nice talking to him, easy to make him laugh and he's actually quite funny. He's clearly very good at his work and more Muggle oriented than most witches and wizards. I liked spending time with him." He dared to cast a quick look at Hermione, as the blush reached his cheeks. "And he's got a very nice arse." Hermione quirked an eyebrow. "I'll pretend I never heard that," Ron shouted from the kitchen, "or I'll never be able to go out and have a pint with you again, mate." Harry and Hermione locked eyes and burst out laughing.
"This is one of my favourite places in London," he said as they climbed to the entrace hall. Harry had waited right at the gates, unsure if they were going inside the large building at all, but Malfoy immediately started to ascend the stairs with long strides.
"The first time I came here, was merely by chance." He spoke softly, careful not to make his voice echo around in the dome with all the other noices. "It was right after the tials against my mother and me, and as I was able to move freely again, I began walking around in London. Randomly, for hours." He gave Harry a sideway glance as he guided him into one of the archways on the left. "It was raining quite heavily that day and I wanted to dry up and get warm, so I went in." Harry couldn't help wondering what had kept him from casting some simple spells to get warm, even if it had been among Muggles.
"Then I saw this." He paused and stopped in front of a high stone carving. "It's more than five thousand years old and Muggle-made. The museum is full of them, carvings and pictures of magical creatures and animagi, all made by Muggles." Harry tilted his head back and looked at the anchient block of stone. The carvings were worn and the stone incomplete, but it was a Hippogriff, no doubt about it. They strolled slowly along the walls and Harry gaped. This was as far away from the Muggle world he knew and grew up with as anything could be. There was a man with a fox-head, a woman half-bird, a thestral, dragons and all sorts of evidence of a magical world.
They walked in silence from room to room until, finally, Malfoy spoke again. "All over the place, there are magical and non-magical artefacts on display, side by side, without any comment, just sorted by geography and age. It made me realize something; that the separation between out two worlds are quite recent and that we were meant to co-exist in a way we had since the beginning of time."
"Is that why you came to live a half-Muggle life? I mean, University studies, Muggle clients and other things? Mobile phone? You must admit, it's a little surprising?"
Malfoy gave a wry smile. "Among other things, but it was a start and an eye-opener." They walked around the museum, side by side, baerly speaking, until they made it to the main entrance again.
"You're very quiet," Malfoy said. "At least for a loud bombastic Gryffindor," he added with a smile.
Harry shook his head. "I've never seen anything like this before. It makes me think how close and strongly connected our two worlds are."
"My thoughts exactly," Malfoy said. "And once I started to look, there was evidence of the notion of magic everywhere in Muggle culture, from folklore and fairy-tales to modern alternative lifestyles. Before Christianity, magic played an important role in everyday life and the witch and wizard was an acted member of society. All that has changed during the last thousand years, and we were persecuted and forced into hiding. These facts are the core of what made the Dark Lord's believes take root in the wizard community, and if we don't want anything like that to happen again, we have to start interact with the Muggles, take our place alongside them again."
Back on the busy London street, Harry glanced left and right at variuos pubs and restaurants before he cleared his throat. "Fancy having a drink or eat something, Malfoy?"
"You might think this is a bit presumptuous, but I've actually prepared something for the two of us at my place." His cheeks had just the slightest touch of pink. "Would you like to come?"
"To the Manor?" Harry didn't know how he could deal with that, not even after all this time. The thought alone made his palate dry and his hands clammy.
"No, no, of course not. My flat is only a couple of blocks away from here, we could walk." He gave Harry a furtive glance. "If you want to?"
Harry smiled and wiped the palm of his hands on the front of his jeans. "I'd like that very much."
Malfoy's flat wasn't the vast luxurious patrician home Harry had imagined. Instead it was modern and welcoming, with a dining table in the kitchen, two plush sofas facing eachother in a small living room with a fireplace. "This flat is connected to the Floo," Malfoy said as he gave Harry the tour. The walls in the bedroom were crammed with overflowing bookcases. Malfoy shrugged his shoulders, "I like to read before I sleep." As they went back to the kitchen they passed a closed door next to the bedroom. "And what's in here?" Harry asked. Malfoy stopped and gave him a solemn look. "Not today, maybe later."
"Aha, so there's where you keep all your Dark Art-stuff," Harry grinned.
"You shouldn't joke about it, Potter," Malfoy muttered through his teeth. "You know the Ministry took almost everything from the Manor, stripped it clean, claiming that all our heirlooms were contaminated with Dark Magic, which wasn't true, of course." He had his hands clenched into fists.
Harry swallowed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean… I didn't think..."
"They even took my old toys and books, can you imagine? Some things were returned later, together with the contents of the vault belonging to me, but the Manor will never be the same as it was before the war."
"But you and your mother were both cleared?"
"Yes, because of you." He faced Harry and met his eyes. "I've never thanked you for that properly yet."
"You wrote a letter."
"That's not enough. If mother had been sent to Azkaban together with my father, it would have killed her instantly. Thank you, Harry."
At the trials after the war, when every feeling was still raw, Harry had watched him walk into the Wizengamot courtroom, supporting his trembling mother, and their eyes had met, and for the first time those grey eyes wasn't hidden behind a mask. An honest face was turned up to him and something clicked inside of Harry and he knew what he had to do.
"You and your mother saved me. We're even." Harry smiled. "Now, what's for dinner?"
Harry watched Malfoy move easily between the work-bench and the stove. The kitchen contained a mix of wizarding things and Muggle, like various cauldrons hanging above the stove with the pots and pans, ingrediencies for potion-making together with the spices and herbs on a shelf. Malfoy's long bony hands worked Swift as he meticulously chopped tomatoes for the salad, while the aubergines were being baked in the magically heated oven.
"How come you cook?" Harry drank from the offered Butterbeer.
"I found it was very similar to brewing potions, a lot of chopping and stirring, not half as complex." He drew his fingers through his hair and a few strands fell over his face. "But there was a lot of burnt stew in the beginning," he said with a sheepish grin.
Harry drew a shvering breath as he looked at the blond man and his neat appearance, his perfectly clad body. "You know, Malfoy, you look exactly tha same as you used to, but how you talk and what you do, it's like you're a totally different person."
Malfoy shrugged a shoulder. "We've all changed in different ways." His eyes raked over Harry. "You look different, though. You're not wearing your glasses, I like the beard, and your hair seems somewhat tamed." He tilted his head. "And you've filled out a bit." Harry embarrassedly felt his waistline. It wasn't much, a softness around the middle mostly, but even so... Malfoy, on the other hand, appeared to consist of legs only.
"Don't worry about it," Malfoy smiled. "You look good. And I bet you're exactly the same as you've always been." He placed the salad bowl on the table and took out two bottles of Perrier from the fridge and held them up to Harry with a questioning look. "Mineral water? Or do you prefer Butterbeer with your food?"
"No wine this time?" Harry had to ask.
"Don't you think we had enough of that last time?" Malfoy leaned in and his breath whiffed Harry's ear. "Apart from that, I have the ulterior motive of possibly get you in bed later, and I don't want you to be able to blame it on the wine afterwards." Harry felt his cheeks flush bright red, but Malfoy slid back into his chair and started to fill Harry's plate with the deliciously smelling hot food. Harry sighed with contentment when the aromas filled his nose. He could never turn down good food, not after being starved all those years.
"Good?" Malfoy asked, a coy smile playing at the corner of his mouth. "I knew you liked Italian, so I thought I'd go for a safe thing, this first time." Harry almost choked. The flirting and innuendos were getting the better of him. Time to come clean about something.
"I have, sort of, a confession to make, about why I'm here," Harry said as he put his cutlery down after spending the entire meal of small talk and jokes. Malfoy's face fell.
"Oh. Is it a 'sitting down in the sofa with coffee'-confession or a 'standing in the hall putting the coat on'-confession?"
Harry laughed. "Sitting down with coffee will be fine."
"Well?" Malfoy sipped the hot black coffee and looked probing at Harry.
Harry cleared his throat. "Remember that first night at your office, when I fainted?"
"I think I fainted because I shook your hand."
Malfoy's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "What? You think I did that?"
"No," Harry said. "Not like that. Not on purpose." He drank some coffee and tried to collect his thoughts. "Have you heard of the soulmate-spell? Or, as Hermione calls it, the Split-apart spell?" Harry fiddled with his cup, turning it in his hand.
Malfoy laughed. "Naturally. Every pure-blood kid waits anxiously for the day when their soulmate is revealed to them."
"So, you know who your soulmate is?"
"Since I was about thirteen. That's when most parents start looking for appropriate spouses for their children. Finding out the childs mate is preferable, it might not be acted on, but if the person your child is bonded to is otherwise suitible, there's no reason not to take it into consideration."
"Did you touch someone's skin?"
"What are you talking about?" Malfoy furrowed his brow and gave Harry a long scrutinizing gaze. "Look, there are many ways of finding out the name of the soulmate. In my family's possessions there was a Patera Nuptial, a bowl similar to a Pensive, in which you insert a drop of blood from the child and the name of the mate appears to be read." He put his cup down at the coffee table with a distinct clink and straightened his neck. "Didn't you know this?"
Harry shook his head. "Not until quite recently."
"I guess that's not that surpising, since it's only a few of the old families that arrange marriages nowadays. Unlike the Potters and the Weasleys, who marry the Muggle way."
Harry drew three steadying breaths before blurting out. "Years ago, I took some sort of potion, and I think… you might be my soulmate."
The silence in the room was palpable, and then Malfoy broke out in a loud boisterous laugh. "Oh, Potter," he panted, wiping his eyes, "aren't you the most romantic fool ever. Just because I let you know I was interested in a good shag, there's no need to... well, propose. Besides…" He leaped over in one swift stride and sat down very close to Harry, cupped his chin in his hand and turned his face. Harry sat compleatly still, and as their lips brushed ever so slightly, he felt a heat rush all over him. Harry opened his mouth a bit, waiting, and Malfoy's thumb stroke Harry's short beard while his breath whiffed over him. "Besides, I'm already married."
Harry pulled away and opened his eyes. He couldn't remember closing them. He felt dizzy. "What?"
Malfoy leaned back and looked seriuosly at him. "I'm married and I have a five-year-old son."
Harry was furious. The bloody bastard!
He was back in his own living room and according to the debris and broken items around him, Harry wasn't emotionally balanced at the moment, wasn't dealing very well with his anger issues.
The absolute prick!
He knew it'd been immature of him to rush out like that, but he'd felt so stupid. And the feeling of disappointment didn't make it any less humiliating.
He slid down on the floor and banged his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. What a complete idiot he'd been. Of course, Malfoy wasn't his soulmate. Still, Harry couldn't escape the feeling that it had made sense, somehow, that there had been a connection. Somethin that had drawn them together from the very beginning.
He slowly lifted his wand and muttered a lazy Repario at the chair on the floor and levitated the books and magazines back to the coffee table. He sighed. So, that was that.
Harry slammed the door open. "Is he in?"
A startled Janice stood at her desk, took off her glasses and left them hanging around her neck in a thin golden chain, her eyes wide as sauceres. "Mr Potter!"
"IS HE IN?" Harry roared.
"Yes, Mr Potter, but you can't go-"
Harry didn't stop to listen. He pushed forward and flung the door open to Malfoy's office. He was sitting at his desk with an elderly man in the visitor's chair opposite him. His eyebrows raised as he saw Harry.
"Is your wife your soulmate?" Harry hissed between clenched teeth.
"Lovely to see you too again, Potter." Malfoy rose and made his way up to Harry with a few quick steps.
"Answer the question, Malfoy," Harry bellowed, but found himself being pushed back through the door by a couple of strong hands on his chest. Janice closed the door behind them with a small apology to the grey-haired man.
"How dare you interrupt me like this. Barging in, yelling about soulmates, in full Auror-uniform, when I'm with an important Muggle client. Not to mention that you left me in the same uncivil manner almost two weeks ago." Malfoy's grey eyes were like storm clouds, piercing into Harry's.
"I have to know. IS YOUR WIFE YOUR SOULMATE, MALFOY?" Harry was practically shaking with rage. "I can't stop thinking about it. The thought goes round and round in my head, it's driving me crazy. I even dream about you, damn it."
"Look, Harry." Malfoy lifted his hands from Harry's chest to let them rest on his shoulders. "I'm with a client." He squeezed soothingly Harry's neck, searching his eyes. "There's a teashop just around the corner here. I must finish this first, but I'll be there in twenty minutes, tops. All right?"
Harry sighed and straightened his back before nodding. He turned to the door.
"Order herbal tea, Potter. No more caffeine for you today."
Harry stirred his teacup and hunched over it, seeping in the scent of bergamot and lemon. He had ordered a perfectly normal Earl Grey with his usual two lumbs of sugar. He'd also bought a lemon-tart, but it tasted like sawdust, so he pushed it aside on the small round table. Malfoy was late.
Every time the little bell on the door chimed, Harry lifted his head, but only strangers went in and out. Finally, a long black overcoat was in sight, the collar turned up against the wind and his blond hair was a bit damp from the drizzeling rain. "Sorry I'm late, but it took quite a bit of apologizing before we could go on with the case." He sat down and let the coat slide off at the back of his chair.
"Did you order for me?" He looked at the single cup on the table.
"No," Harry said sulkily. He had calmed down from his adrenaline high and transfigured his robes to Muggle clothes on his way out of the building, but he was still furious. He glared at Malfoy as he went to the counter and returned with a cup.
"You're married," Harry stated. "You ask me out and you flirt with me, and you're married."
Malfoy quirked a shoulder but held his gaze. "Stop hurdling around moral judgements, will you. You don't know anything about my situation."
"Is your wife your soulmate?" Harry persisted.
"You have no right to demand an answer to that question."
"Oh, but you see, I think I do. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Everything fits. The way we were drawn to each other from the start, the way I FEEL. I'm going out of my mind here. I really believe there is something between us. Please, Malfoy, tell me, is your wife your soulmate?"
Malfoy sat in silence a while before answering. "No, the name that appeared for me in the Patera was totally out of the question, so my parents arranged a marriage for me that was based on the mutual interests of blood-lines, connections and wealth. And I had no reason to disagree with them."
Harry picked up his spoon and started pushing it into the lemon-tart, creating very small pieces of it. "You have a boy?" he asked quietly, giving Malfoy a glance.
Malfoy's face transformed; it was like a sunrise over a misty meadow. "I have the most beautiful little boy," he said, smiling. He reached out and grabbed the spoon from Harry's hand. "Give me that pie instead of trying to stab it to death." He took a piece. "I have to get back to work, and so do you, I suppose," he said chewing.
Harry darkened. "Robards sent me home the rest of the week. To 'get my shit together'."
Malfoy raised an eyebrow. "I would like to see you and talk, Harry, somewhere less crowded." He made a vague gesture around the café. "But I am to be with Scorpius this weekend."
"You don't want him to meet me, I guess."
"Not yet, anyway, maybe later. He's a great fan of yours, you know. He loves the stories of 'The Boy Who Lived'. You can't believe how ridicules it feels for me to read them to him at bedtime."
Harry laughed. He threw his head back and roared with a rich contagious laugh. When he looked back at the other man, Malfoy's pupils were slightly dilated and he licked his lips. He reached out and took Harry's hand.
Harry felt the warmth from him and linked their fingers together on the table top. "Come to me Monday night, then," Harry said, his voice a little hoarse and low. "You know where I live. I can't offer any home-cooked Haught-cuisine, but I can rattle up something, an I have two very comfortable armchairs in front of the fireplace, that are perfect for late night confessions." Harry stood up. "See you then...Draco. Have a nice weekend with your kid."
"Harry! How lovely to see you, old friend. It's been ages."
Harry cringed at the over-enthusiastic former Slytherin. "I don't remember us being exactly friends, Zabini," he muttered.
"Oh, please, call me Blaise. We've known each other for years, haven't we? Come into my office. Let's have a cuppa and a chat, and we can both get an update on all the recent buzz."
"I'm only here to get the paperwork on the Anderson-case." Harry had absolutley no interest in chatting with anyone of the Unspeakables, especially someone as sly as this one.
"I have it right there at my desk, there's plenty of time for a little get-together, isn't it?"
Reluctantly Harry followed Zabini. Robards had put him on deskwork after his forced sick-leave, and that included getting evaluations from the Department of Mysteries at level 9. Harry hated going down there and avoided it if possible, but today he had no choice.
Zabini showed him a seat, and after levitating two magically heated teacups, he sat down opposite him, piercing him through with prodding dark eyes. "Now, what have you been up to lately, Harry? Any juicy gossip to indulge me with?" A snidely smile played at the corners of his mouth. "How are things with the Golden Gryffindors? Still in that amiable threesome of yours?"
Harry winced. Blaise Zabini was still a perfect prat. Harry choosed to ignore the implication. "Ron and Hermione are both fine. Rose's giving them a full-time job, of course, but Hermione is doing great with her new assignment for the Department for Magical creatures, and Weasley's Wizard Wheezes are expanding. I think Ron has that shrewd mind for business that George lack."
"And what about the Saviour himself, then? How long are you going to deprive the Wizarding world of the merry sound of wedding bells?" He wiggled his eyebrows.
Harry stifled a snarky remark by sipping on his too hot tea, desperately searching his brains for another topic. "I met Draco Malfoy," he blurted out, and mentally slapped himself. Of all the things he could have said to Zabini, why, in Merlin's name, did he say that.
"And how is darling Draco these days, then? Zabini smirked over the rim of his teacup.
"Fine, I guess. He helped me with my latest case-trial," Harry said. Zabini snorted.
In for a knut, in for galleon, Harry thought. "You're his friend, tell me, what's his wife like?"
Zabini shrugged. "Astoria? Smart and funny. Far too pretty for him." He gave Harry a searching look. "You do know he's actually…" He made a vague gesture with his left wrist.
"Is he happy with her?"
"It was an arranged marriage. But they seem very close, always sitting with their heads together at society functions, whispering. It's most annoying. But happy? No, I don't think I've ever seen Draco happy. Except when he's with his boy. Then he sort of… glows." He drank some more of his tea.
"Why does he stay with her, then?"
"The thing about Draco," Zabini stated and put his cup down at the desk, "and I'm surprised you haven't noticed this about him yet, is that he's so irritatingly loyal. He values family above all things, and blood-lines. Underneath all that smirking and posing, he's always had this core of strong moral standards. He never backs down on his word, no matter what the consequences will be for him."
He tilted his head and gave Harry a coy smile.
"Why this sudden interest in Draco and Astoria? You know, back in school, I used to have the feeling that someday… Oh, never mind. More tea?"
When Malfoy arrived at Harry's Floo in the evening he found Harry in a state of panic. His hair was still wet from the hasty shower and his old glasses sat askew on his nose.
"I'm sorry, I'm really, really sorry. I'm such an idiot," he gasped when Malfoy entered the kitchen. "I made us tuna-sandwiches, which I happen to like, and I totally forgot." The realization had hit him when he thought everything was ready for meeting Malfoy. He'd been absentminded and brooding, both at work and when he got home, ever since his encounter with Zabini earlier in the day.
"Calm down, it's not that I'm allergic, or something. I just felt it was a good choice to make. Fish is... acceptable, I suppose."
They ate in front of the fire, sitting in Harry's soft Gryffindor-red chairs, with a pot of tea under a heating charm on the small table beside them.
"Well then, Potter, now that you've made me give up on one of my principals of life, what more do you want from me?" Malfoy said, when he was finished.
"I want you to tell me the truth."
"Ah, the truth. A bit overrated, don't you think, the truth. There's never only one way to see things, surely you know that, in your line of work, as well as I do."
"Then tell me what you saw in the bowl."
"What difference does it make now? You think I saw your name, don't you? And what should I have done about that, if that was the case?"
"You could have told me."
"And what could possibly have changed if you'd known? Wait, I can just see us, walking into the Great Hall at Hogwarts, holding hands. There was a war going on, Potter!"
"So, it was my name, then. Don't deny it, Malfoy."
Malfoy sat quiet for a long time. He sighed and glanced over at Harry, his eyes a little moist. "I was such a mess after the war. We were put in house-arrest, my mother and I, with no wands, no house-elves, not allowed to do any magic, not even simple household spells, for three month in wait of our trials. After that it took me quite some time to get around and start using my magic again.
When I was cleared and learned that I was welcome back to Hogwarts to finish my schooling, it felt like I had a chance to amend, to start over. I wanted to talk to you, maybe even be your friend. That's why I sent that letter before school started. But you never came, you weren't there.
I finished mt NEWTs, I went back to the Manor and I married Astoria Greengrass. To my surprise, she got pregnant. The times we fucked were scarce, to say the least, and seldom was I sober at the time.
After Scorpius was born I told her. About me, and we came to an agreement.
I worked hard to find a meaning with my existance. I wanted my life to have a purpose, that's why I studied law. I fill my life with work and try to spend as much time with my son as I can. Then there's the nice things, like music and art, good food and a good wine, and sometimes a quick blow-job with a beautiful stranger in the back of a Muggle-bar.
And I thought that was that, that I should be content, that I was lucky to have that much. I never expected to run into you again, so when I was approached by the Ministry about your case, I nearly declined. But my curiosity took overhand, I wanted to see you again. When you told me you were, shall we say, not entierly straight, I toyed with the idea of perhaps having you for one night, to see what it could have been like. I didn't think you knew, you see, because that changed everything."
"Why's that, Draco?"
"Because, you're my fucking soulmate, that's why. And I wanted you." He buried his face in his hands. "Salazar's saggy tits, I wanted you."
Harry rose from his chair and stood right in front of him. He grabbed his hands and pushed them down and manoeuvred himself up in Malfoy's lap, straddling him. Harry took his pointy chin in his hands and turned his face up. He let his thumb strike the sharp jawline, scratching the light stubble. They locked eyes. Pools of shimmering silver met his, and Harry felt he could drown, right there, in them. Slowly he moved forward, brushing his lips ever so lightly at Malfoy's.
With a very undignified whimper, Malfoy took a firm grip in Harry's hair and pulled him closer for a proper kiss. Malfoy's lips were hot like fire against his own, and when he parted them slightly, Malfoy prodded his tongue in. Harry felt like he was soaring and falling at the same time, and he latched on with all his might. He carded his fingers into the silky blond hair and tugged him closer, devouring deeply, grinding his hips against Malfoy's crotch, until he had to break free and gasp for air. Harry buried his face in the crook of his neck, trying to even out his rapid panting.
This man. Harry cursed under his breath. How could he have been so bloody oblivious, with this boy, this man, right there all the time? All these years being so close and still not realizing what it meant. This was it, this was finally it. What he'd been looking for his whole life. All that he wanted, all that he'd longed for and never thought he would find. This man, with his snarky remarks and loop-sided humour, his haughty airs and all his wrong decisions. And now this new version of him, that had shown such unexpected tenderness. He would never see what everyone else saw, the Saviour, the Chosen One and all that rubbish. He would always see just Harry.
Harry groaned with pleasure and started placing a line of soft kisses along the slender neckline, when he felt Malfoy's back stiffen underneath his touch.
"It's too late, Potter," He said softly. "This can never happen. It was a possibility, when it was only a one-time thing, but we both know it's not, not anymore. And I can't get a divorce."
"Of course, you can." Harry continued kissing, sucking the pale flawless skin of Malfoy's neck, not really listening.
"No, you don't understand." Malfoy sat upright, taking Harry's hands away from his hair. "I don't want to. I can't do that to Astoria. She's my best friend and the mother of my child. She single-handedly runs the Malfoy estate, she's company to my mother, who never really has recovered after the war, and above all -she stood by me when everything fell apart for us. She and her family, not once did they mention they were backing out on the marriage agreement when the tables had turned. She didn't break the engagement when she had nothing to gain, only to lose, being associated with me."
Harry stilled, his forehead resting at Malfoy's neck. The sinking feeling took it's vile grip on the guts in his stomach and he screwed his eyes shut. "Please, Draco," he pleaded, "stay with me." He felt a sob building in his throat. This wasn't fair. "Love me," he breathed.
Malfoy rose, pushing Harry down from his lap with firm hands. "I'm sorry, Harry, but I just can't. It's been a nice thought, a dream, but it can never be. I'm so sorry." Before Harry could react, Malfoy gripped the jar on the mantlepiece and threw a handful of the glittering powder into the fire. He turned to Harry, fixated him with eyes as sad as Harry's own, and in a second, he was gone in the green flames.
When Harry stepped inside the restaurant, with all it's familiar scents, Marina grabbed him by his arm and dragged him over to the secluded booths.
"He's over here," she said. And he was.
Sitting with an empty plate and a half full glass of wine, his eyes red-stained and puffy, with dark circles underneath. His hair was falling in limp strands around his face. He looked totally dishevelled.
"I tought you'd come by eventually," he said with a faint smile. "I didn't have the nerve to seek you out in any other way. I've been eating here every night for nearly two weeks now. You're right, the seafood pasta is absolutely great."
Harry didn't know what to think, what to feel as he looked at the blond man in front of him. The wound was still too raw.
"So, you're sitting here, in my favourite restaurant, eating seafood now?" He remained on his feet and gave Malfoy a stern glance.
"What can I say, you completely changed my life." Their eyes locked and Harry decided to sit after all.
"What made you come back?" he asked as he slipped into his seat.
"Astoria, naturally," Malfoy admitted and followed a crack in the table with his forefinger nail. "She yelled at me, she never done that before. And she called me a fool."
Harry gave a short laugh. "You can say that again."
Malfoy looked up under his fringe.
"I went over to her after I left you that night, and she knew instantly that something devastating had happened. She's smart, that wife of mine." He gave a weak smile. "When I told her I'd met my soulmate and broken with him, she was furiuos. You see, her soulmate was killed in the war and she thought something similar had happened to mine. We'd never spoke about it, and she just assumed, since I didn't want to break our engagement, when all the old reasons for the marriage had vanished."
He took a small sip from his glass.
"I contacted our old family solicitor at Gringott's and we've filed for a divorce, so that, at least is settled. And we've swapped homes. I'm back at the Manor and Astoria has my flat in London. We thought it was the best for Scorpius, since he already feels at home there and has his own room."
"The closed door?" Harry asked.
Malfoy nodded. "He'll have all his things and toys like he used to." He slumped down and watched his hands on the table. "I had to go and visit my father," he said with a faint tremble.
"I was there today. It wasn't easy to bring him the news and I'm afraid he didn't take it very well, either."
"Did you tell him about us?"
There was a pause. "No," Malfoy finally answered,"because, honestly, I don't know what there is to tell." They sat in silence, looking expectantly at each other. "And if it were," Malfoy continued, "I'm not sure that telling my father would be my first choice."
"What do you want to do now?" Harry asked hesitantly.
Malfoy rubbed his face with both hands. "Sleep, actually. I'm quite beat, to tell the truth. It's been rather exhausting, these last weeks, overwhelming and emotional," he sighed. "I just want a bed."
"I have a bed you could sleep in."
"Nice offer, Potter, but I'm way too tired," he smiled. "I can't do anything right now. Some other time."
"No, I mean it. I love to make you feel safe and warm. I could watch you sleep, nothing more. I would really like that."
Harry crossed the street with a bag of steaming Lasagne al forno in his hand and Malfoy in tow.
"Would you mind if I used your shower?" Malfoy asked as they stepped inside Harry's narrow hallway. He had wrapped his arms around himself, looking a bit lost and uncertin. "I can still feel the prison smell in my hair and clothes." He winced.
Harry changed the sheets as Malfoy was in the shower and tried to tidy up the mess he'd left behind when he'd Floo-ed over to Ron and Hermione weeks ago. He hadn't bothered with anything since then.
He put a clean pyjama on the bed for Malfoy to sleep in, changed his robes for a pair of old soft joggers and a T-shirt and walked down to the kitchen again. He ate the Lasagne, cleaned his plate and made a cup of tea before he went up the stairs and silently opened the bedroom door.
Draco seemed to be asleep. Harry lowered himself gingerly down at his side, with his teacup and the latest issue of a Quidditch magazine, careful not to disturb him, but when he looked at Draco, he met his grey eyes. "So, this is how we do things?" he said sleepily.
"Yes," Harry replied. "I take care of you, and you do the same for me in return."
Draco looked a little thoughtful and bit his lip. "You know that this soulmate thing isn't the answer to everything. That we will have our problems, like everyone else has."
"We take things slow, get to know eachother, find trust. I'm in no hurry."
"And then, there's Scorpius."
"I always wanted children. Do you think he'll mind having a second Dad? In due time, of course," Harry hurried to add.
"If he's Harry bloody Potter? Don't think so." His eyelids were getting heavier. Harry raked his fingers through Draco's damp strands of hair. "There's more than sex here, you know."
"I liked the kiss,though," Draco said with a yawn and nuzzled his face into Harry's shoulder and placed his arm over Harry's midriff. "I'd like to have more of that."
"You can bet your pretty skinny arse you're gonna have that," Harry chuckled under his breath. Draco's breathing had evened out and his limbs got heavier. He looked younger, more vunerable than Harry had ever seen him, even as a boy. A nice warmth spread over Harry as he looked at the sleeping man at his side, once his childhood rival... now? The words that kept poking at Harry's mind through all these strong emotions, was… It felt like home.
Draco walked stiffly into his father's study. He'd never been here at this time of day before. His father usually summoned him in the evening, right before bedtime, to reprimand him for something he had done or neglected. But today the morningsun flowed through the high window, making rays of dust dance merrily among the dark-varnished furniture.
His mother was also there, sitting in the brown leather chair and between them, on his father's desk, was the Patera Nuptial.
He'd known since their Summer solstice-party, that the Greengrass family had made inquiries about him. Mother had sighed and said to father, that it was time to find out, and this morning his House-elf brought him the message to meet them here.
"Good morning, Father. Good morning, Mother," he said with a light bow. No one should be able to accuse him of forgetting his manners, even at a time of inner crises.
His stomach churned. What if Daphne Greengrass's name came up in the bowl? He wasn't particularly keen on her, she was stupid. All the girls in his year was stupid. Maybe not Pansy, but she was more like a sister, he'd known her all his life. It couldn't be her, could it? What if it was someone he didn't know at all? Or worse - a Mud-blood? Could it even be a Muggle? He wasn't sure if it worked that way.
His father cleared his throat. "You know, of course, how this works, Draco? A marriage, for a member of a family like ours, depends on many different aspects and a person's soulmate is by no means the most significant. Your mother and I was very lucky, and I can only hope at this point, that you, as my only son, will be granted the same happiness. But bear in mind; if the name that appear isn't of Pure-blood heritage, a liaison of that kind is out of the question." He produced his wand out of his sleeve. "Give me your hand, son."
It stung a little, and a drop of blood welled up from his wrist. His father took his arm and let the drop fall into the Patera.
He couldn't look right away. He knew he was such a coward sometimes, but he closed his eyes. He heard his father sigh and his mother gave a slight gasp.
"Well, that settles it then," father said. "I'll send Greengrass an owl, telling him that anyone of his daughters will be suitable for us."
Draco's eyes flung open. He saw both his parents looking at him, his father with a deep frown, his mother biting her lip. "Oh, little dragon," she said with a shiver. She hadn't called him that for many years.
What name had come up? What horrible person was his soulmate? He had to know.
Draco held his breath and let his eyes slide over the swirling surface of the Patera. The letters morphed in and out, like under water, still totally legible. The lump in his throat grew and tears began to burn behind his eyes. He wanted to crawl up on his mother's knee, like when he was a little boy and bury his face against her warm bosom and never have to deal with this world again. Of course, this was his fate, it made perfect sense. It was like every piece fell into place, his destiny, the cruel joke the gods played on him.
He had to look again, and once more he read the shimmering name. Harry James Potter.