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a Cheater, i am not. a Lover, that i am.

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"Sorry, I don't talk to cheaters," Weasley says with a snarl. It is only because of Draco's honed reflexes during his years as the second best Seeker of Hogwarts, that he manages to jam a foot between the door and the frame before Weasley could slam the door in his face.

"I don't understand," Draco says in exasperation, ignoring the throb in his foot with a frown. "I wake up to find Potter missing with only a note saying he needs some time away. What did I do?"

"You know what you did, Malfoy," Granger pipes up from behind Weasley, disapproval clear in her voice.

"If I did, Granger," Draco grinds out between clenched teeth, "do you really think I would be here? If I knew why he was angry, why would I be grovelling at your door right now?"

"You're not doing much grovelling," Weasley mutters, narrowing his blue eyes into a glower. Granger's silence behind the redhead indicates the gears churning in her big head.

"... Do you really not know?" Her voice is hesitant and suspicious.

Draco fights the urge to roll his eyes. "No, I do not."

There is a slight shuffle and a whoosh of summoning magic that can be heard from beyond the door. Grudgingly, Weasley moves aside to reveal Granger in an ugly sweater of an even uglier picture of her ugly cat (this should be illegal-- someone please call the fashion police). "Here," she says simply, tucking a strand of bushy hair behind her ear that does absolutely nothing at all because it falls right back in her face.

Draco plucks the picture from Granger's finger with a sneer aimed at Weasley, glancing down and-- oh shit.

The photo in his hand clearly depicts him, Draco Lucius Malfoy, boyfriend of Harry James Potter, walking into a muggle hotel with a very female companion hanging off his arm (clearly not his boyfriend, Harry James Potter)-- their distance too close to be called friendly or professional.

This was last week when he had told Potter they could not meet because... This was when...

"So...?" Granger frowns at his reaction.

"This is not what it seems," Draco begins, a nervous lilt leaking into his normally haughty tone. "Do you have any idea where he is?" His head snaps up to meet Potter's friends' eyes with something akin to desperation. "You've got to believe me. Malfoys may lie and bribe and do other questionable things... but cheating is not something that is on the list."

"How do we know that you are not just... saying these words?" Weasley starts slowly, attempting to tower over Draco with their same height.

Draco almost wants to throw his arms up in surrender. "Why would I cheat?" Look at who I'm dating, he wants to say, he's everything I'm looking for! These words never make it out of his mouth.

"Because you are obviously inferior to Harry, of course. He must make you feel like a small man." Weasley has the fucking gall to chortle at his own words before Granger elbows him hard in the ribs.

"Malfoy, I cannot trust the words you are saying completely... but you've not treated Harry poorly before. I would like to believe you are a decent person."

Draco presses his fingertips to his temple in preparation of the headache creeping up along the back of his skull. "So, will you tell me where he is right now?"

Granger and Weasley looks at each other before shrugging. "You figure it out yourself. You made this mess-- you clean it up," Weasley says, crossing his arms across his chest.

"If it is not what it seems, Harry will understand and forgive you. But... this really hurt him, you know? Show your sincerity through the chase," Granger adds unhelpfully.

"Goodnight, Malfoy," is the last thing they say before the door closes (not slam, so that's a win), and Draco is left with this stupid photograph crumpled in his grasp and a sense of complete loss at what to do.

 

So, he begins to look for Potter.

... Potter... is a creature of habit.

This fortunately means that he often sticks to the things that bring him the most comfort when he is feeling the lowest. This also means that Draco should start by trying to find Potter at his usual hangouts.

 

Potter loves flying.

His visit to their usual Quidditch field turns out to be a flop.

Potter is not there.

Draco looks up into the blue skies, squinting at the sun with a wrinkle on his nose as he flashes back to his school boy days with him racing Potter around the track because of a petty rivalry. He remembers the way Potter flies-- wild and unpredictable, and yet controlled and precise... how can someone be all of that at the same time?

Potter can, his mind says smugly, his whole body seems to swell with pride at the memory of Potter snatching the Snitch from him in their last game of their school years. That night, Draco had pettily punished (rewarded?) Potter for winning by edging him until Potter was reduced into a puddle of tears, sweat, and pleas.

Second place had never tasted so sweet.

"Oh hey, Mister."

Draco turns his head in mid-memory of Potter tossing his head back in pleasure, sharp gray eyes flicking down to where the little voice came from. Judging by the ragged state of her uniform, she must be the community Quidditch team that Potter coaches in his free time.

"Hello," he says stiffly, as if he was not just thinking of bending her coach over on some sort of surface in startling detail within the crevices of his mind.

"Mr. Harry was here earlier today," the little imp says, blue eyes glittering with innocence.

"Oh?" Draco's chest tightens, chasing away the momentary dirtiness he felt being pinned by her blue gaze. "Where is he now?"

The imp tilts her head with a small frown. "He left a while ago. He said his heart wasn't feeling very well... I hope you can make him feel better." She then holds out a muddy hand, flashing Draco a toothy grin. "Please give this flower to him for me! Flowers always make me feel better."

Draco accepts the quest with a grim nod of his head, reaching out to awkwardly pat the imp on her head. The imp gives him another toothy smile before running away.

 

Potter loves treacle tarts.

Draco stops at small shop tucked in a back alley just a street away from Diagon Alley. He remembers the joy on Potter's face and the way his green eyes seemed to glow when Draco brought him here for the first time.

"I love treacle tarts!" Potter had said, pressing his hands again the glass display case as the owner leaned against it from the other side, grinning at Draco and winking at him while making obscene gestures at him accompanied by meaningful looks sent to an oblivious Potter's back.

"I know." Draco had summoned all his strength to glower at the owner before looking down at his boyfriend. Really, he wonders how he had looked at that moment because Potter had turned his head and his eyes had widened and--

"Alone today?" The owner's voice interrupts his thoughts, lazily pillowing his head on his folded arms at his usual position above the display case.

Draco rolls his eyes before stalking to the table closest to the display case. "Obviously."

The owner waves his wand with a noncommittal hum. Within moments, a few pieces of well-loved bone china dances across the store and twirls to a stop in front of Draco, settling themselves with a gentle clink before a steaming pot of tea waddles towards him, tipping its spout into the cup. "The usual?"

"Don't ask me after you've made it and poured it already," Draco mutters as the spoon in front of him guards his black tea from an over-enthusiastic creamer full of milk from sabotaging his tea.

"It's the only thing you've ever ordered for the past five years. Something tells me you're not about to switch it up any time soon," the owner says, his lips twitching with poorly contained mirth. "Besides, it seems like it's been a bad day for both of you. Trouble in paradise?"

Draco nearly scalds himself with the tea at the comment, barely avoiding a cascade of hot pain down the front of his designer robes. "He was here earlier?"

The owner hums with a nod, looking thoughtful for a moment. "Yes, but the lad wasn't his usual self. I sent him on his way with a box of my fresh tarts before he left."

"How long has it been since he left?" Draco makes a move to stand before the owner comes around the display case and pushes him back into his seat.

"Drink your tea, boy. You need to calm down before you go and fix anything." The owner says, not unkindly. "Here, have a tart on me."

Draco looks down at his tea, the special blend of Earl Grey that Potter had insisted on him trying on their first visit-- he has never had to try anything else. This tea... it is everything he has ever wanted in a cup of tea.

He drinks the tea, sipping it slowly as he reminisces all the times he and Potter visited the shop, until the sun is about to set and the pot is finally empty.

He definitely feels calmer for what he is about to do.

 

Potter loves his family.

Draco experiences a terrible sense of dejavu when he is encounters Potter Senior blocking the door into the Potter household in Godric's Hollow.

"Cheater," James Potter hisses with a glare. If Potter Senior frowns any more, Draco is afraid the look may become permanent-- and by no means is James Potter not handsome... but...

"Draco!" Lily Potter greets on the other hand, a warm smile gracing her lips and eyes shimmering like emeralds. "Looking for Harry?"

"Lily!" Potter Senior sounds scandalized, his head whipping back to stare at his wife before she manhandles him away from the door. "You can't sell out our son like that!"

Lily Potter rolls her eyes at her husband. "Do you really think Draco cheated if he's showing up at our doorstep of all places?"

Finally, Draco's shoulders sag in relief. He thanks the heavens that Potter had inherited some intelligence from his mother. Although there were... a few instances through-out his relationship with Potter where Draco had cursed James Potter's involvement with making Potter, though.

"That, of course, does not mean I am happy about you hurting Harry's feelings," Lily continues, her smile sliding off her face to reveal a small disappointed frown.

Draco shrinks in on himself. "I... I apologize."

Lily shrugs. "We are not the ones you need to apologize to, dear."

"He should apologize to us, too. I can't believe I had to try and convince Harry that you still loved him to make him feel better," Potter Senior sulks, shooting little daggers at Draco with his eyes from behind the stern figure of his wife. "You better go and fix this. I'm not above making it hell for Lucius when he needs things signed."

Draco looks up when he feels Lily's thin hand patting him on the shoulder and is greeted by a sincere smile hanging on Lily's lips. He can see really where Potter's smiles came from. "Anyway, I am guessing you have something to say to us while you're here? Why don't you come in for a while?"

 

Potter probably loves? likes Draco Malfoy.

Draco returns home just a quarter past nine. The moment he Floos into their flat, he sees the person he has been searching for all day.

"Where were you?" Draco says, his voice a dry raspy whisper in his throat, eyes greedily drinking in the sight of Potter in his pajamas (a good sign, if he is not reading the situation wrong) while cupping a mug of steaming butterbeer in his hands. Judging by the various magazines and books scattered around Potter, he must have been waiting for Draco to come home.

Home. A place of domesticity. A nest for the feelings and memories that he has made for Potter, because of Potter, and with Potter.

"Oh," Potter breathes out quietly, leaning close to the waft of steam from the butterbeer. "I went to the tracks and flew for a bit, then I went to our usual shop. After that, I went to visit my parents... and then I came home. I had a lot on my mind, you see..."

Draco closes their distance with a few strides, pulling Potter close to him as he settles on the couch beside Potter. "It's not..." He trails off before trying again. "I'm... sorry. It's not--"

Potter rubs Draco's back in slow soothing circles, letting go of his mug to let it hover beside them. "I know," Potter says simply, a weird warble in his voice. "I mean. I'm pretty sure it wasn't what it is... but maybe... what if it really was, you know? I didn't really want to stick around for that. But going to all our places together... I guess I should hear you out regardless of whatever it is. We both deserve that much."

Draco's exhale was shaky. "It... It isn't like that," he begins, suddenly uncertain of himself.

"I'm listening," Potter says, pulling back with teary green eyes.

Draco lifts Potter's hands to his lips and presses a kiss against Potter's left ring knuckle, turning Potter's left palm up and depositing a flower into his hand.

 


"Mrs. Potter--"

"Mom," Lily corrects with a grin, reaching to clasp Draco's hands in her own. "What is it that is so important for you to take time away from your newly wedded husband to talk to your new mother-in-law on your wedding day?"

Draco flushes uncharacteristically, resisting the urge to free a hand from Lily's to tug furiously at the collar of his wedding robes. "... How did you know that I wanted... I wanted to talk to you and Mr. Potter about marrying H-Harry?" Draco cringes at his stutter, unused to calling his boyfhusband's name (especially not in front of his in-laws).

Lily blinks. "Oh. Well. There's no one who doesn't know about Penny Hartley-- she's the one in the photo, right? It is hard to not recognize her."

"I didn't know she was... that famous."

"There are two people that all witches above the age of 11 know about-- one is Gilderoy Lockhart, heartthrob of the English Wizarding World; the other is Penny Hartley, daughter of Ian Hartley, the Master Jeweler. If you were to cheat, it couldn't have possibly been with Ms Hartley. She's light years out of your league!"

Draco manages a stiff smile, unsure of how exactly he should reply (is this a trap?) that will not seem overly rude to his new mother-in-law. In fact, if he values his life (this thought was certainly not inspired by the figure of James Potter standing behind a pillar with a glare so potent that Draco can almost taste its acid on his tongue), he should say nothing in reply to the comment at all.

So, he opts to say nothing.

What Draco does not know, is that by saying nothing, he took a great leap in the right direction of building an amiable in-law relationship with Lily Potter.

 

"How did you not know that was Penny Hartley?" Pansy huffs as she crosses her arms over her chest, leaning back in her seat as Hermione Granger recounts The Story to a tittering group of girls. "Everyone knows who she is."

"I'm much more into books than I am jewelry," Granger replies with a shrug. "Besides, I was busy with my fifth read of Gilderoy Lockhart's I Will Chase You Back Into My Arms." Granger sighs dreamily.

"Oooh, I don't blame you," one of the Patil twins say with stars in her eyes. "What I wouldn't give to be held by Gilderoy like that."

"Ugh!" Pansy rolls her eyes so hard that she almost pulls a muscle in her face.


---

"Oh, Mr Malfoy," Ms Hartley says in delight, clapping her hands with a smile. "You're early! Ms Parkinson did tell me you are rather punctual."

"Well, yes. Thank you for making time for me today. I would like to have enough time to consider... all of the modifications possible," he says with a strained and nervous smile. It had taken weeks to book a meeting with this jeweler-- he will make it up to Potter by booking another date. But for now, the next few hours will require his utmost concentration to pick something that will be worthwhile for Harry James Potter-Malfoy.

Not yet, Draco reminds himself. He shouldn't get ahead of himself just yet.

She laughs, a tinkling noise in his ear, before curling an arm around his and leading him towards the revolving doors of the hotel. "Come, come. We have a very large variety of metals that would be perfect for your ideal proposal ring." She presses close against him and leans in to whisper in his ear. "It's a huge decision, that's for sure. But don't worry, we will find something perfect for your love."

Draco relaxes a little before turning to her with a smile. "I'll be in your care today, then." He walks through the revolving doors with his heart full and warm.