“In courtesy I'd have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful…”
-Yeats, “A Prayer for My Daughter.”
“What’s the matter, Draco?”
Draco looked up at Harry and tried to smile, but he knew it fell flat. Harry sighed and leaned against him a little. They were in the room that Draco’s parents had always called the Winter Room, bright white walls with a hint of shadow-blue here and there. A fire blazed in one corner, the walls nearest it under an illusion that made them appear to be dripping melting icewater. Draco usually found the illusion settling, but he’d been watching it for hours now without a difference in his mood.
“It is the torque?” Harry asked, when Draco still didn’t say anything. “I can take it off or wear it when we go back to Hogwarts, it’s your choice.”
Draco cast a glance at the torque still clasped around Harry’s neck, and felt a surge of pride and possessiveness travel through him. It was a delicate thing of woven silver, enchanted to help Harry calm his temper when he got upset. Draco didn’t want him to take it off. It was his gift and his claim, and it made Draco feel better whenever he looked at it.
“I’d like you to wear it,” Draco admitted.
Harry smiled and touched his earlobe, a little gesture that he’d adopted without Draco even noticing where it began. “Then what has you worried? I thought it was something to do with the torque.”
“Your friends accepted me being your friend,” Draco said. “They accepted my apologies. But what’s going to happen when we show up and we’re dating? Do you think they’re going to accept that as easily?”
He was mostly worried about it for Harry’s sake. The last thing he wanted to do was cause tension between Granger, Weasley, and Harry. But he’d had a few good conversations about history and Charms with Granger, and being in the same room with Weasley was no longer marked by the tension of wondering when someone was going to whip out a wand. Draco didn’t want to lose that, either.
Harry chuckled. “I think they’ll be surprised, but it’s not their life. It’s mine. And it’s not like I’m suddenly plopping you down in front of them and declaring that you’re here and we’re dating. You apologized, and they’re used to you by now.”
“You don’t think…”
Draco took a deep breath. He hadn’t brought this up because he had assumed Harry knew and simply didn’t want to talk about it, but maybe he should have. “I’ve seen the way that Weasley keeps looking between you and his sister whenever we’re all in the same room together.”
Harry snorted, as if he hadn’t anticipated the question but truly didn’t care about it, and leaned against Draco a little harder. “What of it? It’s true that Ginny and I were dating, but we broke up before what should have been my seventh year and never got back together. I think Ron believes we’d be a good couple, maybe that we’ll get married someday. But it doesn’t mean that I’m bound to make the same decisions that I did when I was sixteen.”
“I just—don’t want to get in the way if there’s something there.”
“Ron can wish there was something there all he likes.” Harry’s voice was calm and firm. “Ginny hasn’t even approached me. She might have moved on, too, for all I know. Ron doesn’t get to tell me who I date, and neither does anyone else.”
“If she approaches you?”
Harry took Draco’s face gently between his palms, studying his eyes as if he thought that something would leap at him out of them, and then kissed him. Draco moaned softly. He’d never been touched like this, kissed like this. It was as if Harry was full of some soft hovering flame that always moved behind his actions and pressed itself against Draco, filling him with warmth, too.
“Then I’ll say that I’m dating you,” Harry murmured.
And perhaps Harry had developed a way to share his confidence along with his warmth, because Draco sighed and let some of his worry go, and leaned against Harry’s shoulder, and returned to reading about his essay for Professor Slughorn.
“That torque’s very pretty, Harry. Who gave it to you?”
Harry smiled at Ginny. He was at the Burrow again after his visit to Malfoy Manor, and Ginny had come back from visiting Luna in her new house. “Draco. It was a Christmas gift.”
Ginny paused for a second, one finger swiping circles on the kitchen table. They were alone despite all the people in the house, and Harry wondered if she had arranged that.
Well, it didn’t matter if she had. Harry didn’t intend to be cruel to her, but he wasn’t going to start dating her, either. He was with Draco, and the mere thought of leaving him sent a displeased shiver through Harry.
“I wondered if we would get back together after the war,” Ginny said softly. “You remember how I kissed you at the Battle of Hogwarts?”
Harry nodded. “Sure. I wondered the same thing. But I think if it had mattered so much to us, one of us would have made a move by now.”
Ginny paused again. “Despite the fact that we make so much sense together?”
Harry studied her, focusing on her eyes and her face and the way she sat almost hunched in her chair, not the irritation that flooded him at the thought that someone would question him dating Draco. “Did Ron put you up to this? Or was it your mum?” He thought it was probably Ron. Molly was too busy, still, with mourning Fred. That was a loss Harry didn’t know if she would ever entirely get over.
Ginny gave a deep sigh and tossed her hair back. She looked normal again, and Harry smiled at her. “Ron didn’t really put me up to it. He just keeps talking about how good we’d be together, and if I didn’t reach out and scoop you up, someone else would.”
Harry snorted. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I am in fact capable of deciding who I want to date. I’m not going to be scooped up by anyone I didn’t want to.”
“Are you dating Malfoy?”
Harry nodded. “We talked about it while I was at the Manor, but I think I’ve been gravitating towards him for the past few months. And the torque more or less made it official.” He knew he probably looked smug, but, well, why not? There was only one Draco, and now he was Harry’s.
“His father was the one who gave me the diary.”
“I know,” Harry said calmly. “And Draco isn’t his father. Draco apologized to Ron and Hermione for the things he did to them. If you ask him for an apology, you might get one, too.”
Ginny raised an eyebrow at him. “Only might?”
“It would depend on what you were asking for it for. Draco isn’t going to apologize because of things his father did. I don’t think you would like it if someone tried to make you apologize for something your parents did, either.”
Ginny leaned back against her chair and shook her head. “I’m sorry, Harry, but I don’t know that I’ll ever be best friends with him. I can’t look at him without remembering how I lost a year of my life to something his bastard father did.”
“I’m not asking you to be best friends with him. I’m asking you to leave him alone, and respect that he’s the one I’m dating, and if you want an apology, just make sure that it’s one he can sincerely give you.”
Ginny gave a small smile, although her eyes were sad. “I suppose that if I wanted you, I should have put in more effort.”
Harry only shrugged, because just about anything he said now would be the wrong thing, and watched Ginny stand up. “Maybe I’ll ask Malfoy for the apology, at that,” she said, and walked away without looking at him.
Harry sighed. He hoped that wouldn’t get in the way of him and Draco being friends with Ron and Hermione, but honestly, he wasn’t about to give up Draco no matter what anyone said. Whether they were a Weasley or a Slytherin or a Malfoy.
He smiled a little when he thought about how Draco’s parents might react to this, although when they had seen the torque Draco had given him, they might already have known.
Come to think of it, that would make a good topic for his next letter to Draco. Harry went in search of ink and parchment. Writing letters to Draco wasn’t as much fun as being with him, but it was a way of being close to him.
“But why Malfoy?”
Draco paused with his heart abruptly accelerating in his ears when he heard the tone in Weasley’s voice. He’d come to meet Harry at the base of the stairs from Gryffindor Tower, to walk to lunch together. It was two days after they’d come back to Hogwarts from the winter holiday, and Draco had thought the confrontation, if there was going to be one, had already taken place in private. After all, the torque was big and Harry wore it all the time.
(To Draco’s secret smug delight, of course).
Harry answered, calmer and steadier than Draco had thought he would be. “Because he’s the one I want, Ron. I want to date him and kiss him and live my life with him.” He spoke slightly louder to be heard over Weasley’s gagging. “And Ginny and I already spoke, for your information, and agreed that we weren’t going to date.”
“You could be part of our family if you dated my sister!”
Hermione waded in then, from her raised voice. “Ron! Are you saying that Harry isn’t part of your family already?”
Weasley sounded surprised. “No, of course I didn’t mean it that. I just meant—officially—it would be different if he was married to Ginny…”
Draco shook his head, amused at himself for having gone back to referring to Ron by his last name in his own head the minute Ron tried to oppose his relationship with Harry, while Hermione had stayed there with her first name. He strode around the corner then, and saw Ron standing red-faced in front of Harry, who had his back to Draco and his hand resting gently on his torque.
Hermione caught his eye first, and nodded to him, her voice rich with exasperation when she spoke. “Hello, Draco. There was a book I was looking for in the Hogwarts library, but I couldn’t find it. I wondered if you had it out for some light reading?”
“Maybe,” Draco said, hiding his amusement as best he could while he watched Ron’s face turn a new shade of red. “What is it?”
“It’s called Dealing with Idiot Wizards,” Hermione said, and marched past them all with her nose in the air.
Ron hesitated, then went after her. He muttered something as he passed Draco that could have been an apology. Draco graciously decided to interpret it that way, and went up to touch Harry’s shoulder.
“Are you okay?”
Harry nodded, to his relief, not looking upset so much as exasperated. “Ron ignored the obvious message of the torque and told me that Ginny would be looking forward to my invitation to the next Hogsmeade weekend. So I told him I was dating you, and then there was a lot of shouting from there.” He leaned against Draco for a minute and added quietly, “It’s not your fault, Draco, and we’re not going to lose Ron. He just needs some time to get used to it.”
“Why is he so loud if he isn’t going to turn his back on us?”
Harry sighed and kept his head leaning against Draco’s shoulder as they walked towards the Great Hall in Hermione’s wake. Draco didn’t disapprove at all, but he almost held his breath as they moved. This felt like something rare and precious he could lose at any second.
“Ron’s always had a problem with assuming that what he wants is what everyone wants,” Harry said after a moment. He kept his voice to a murmur. Draco approved of that, too. They might come around a corner and suddenly happen upon Ron, after all. “He wanted the fame and wealth that came from being the Boy-Who-Lived, and it took him a long time to understand that I didn’t. He believed I put my name in the Goblet of Fire at first because it was what he would have done if he could.”
Draco nodded. That kind of thing would have infuriated him, but then, Ron hadn’t been his friend during those years. “And he does eventually get over it?”
“Yeah.” Harry shrugged against his shoulder. “He did every other time. Even last year, when he was in the middle of doing—something important, he thought I was dating Hermione. Or, well, there was a possibility. And he didn’t falter. He did what needed to be done.”
Draco wondered exactly what the “something important” was, but kept his peace. Eventually Harry would feel comfortable enough to tell him all his secrets. That was a day Draco was looking forward to, but he didn’t need to rush its coming.
He did pause when they got to the Great Hall, because a few comments he’d overheard in the Slytherin common room the other day had returned to him. Harry turned to face him, brows arching in question.
Draco took a moment to admire how he looked before he asked, “Would you mind publicly announcing our relationship?”
“I thought I was. I haven’t hidden the torque.”
Draco nodded. “I know. But from comments that I’ve overheard from friends in the common room, no one knows who gave it to you, outside Ron and Hermione and I suppose Ron’s sister. They all assume that you must be courting someone who’s outside the school, a Gryffindor who’s graduated or something.”
Harry half-smiled. “Because no one even now would think that I could be friends or lovers with a Slytherin, right?”
“No,” Draco said, a little lightheaded despite himself at the word lovers. “If we walk in there together, then everyone will have to confront the fact that they’re wrong.”
“Are you sure? I don’t mind at all, but it could make things more difficult for you personally if people who’ve left you alone because they didn’t know we were courting start attacking you.”
“I want everything that comes with being yours and having you as mine.” Draco’s voice grew hoarse on him, which he hadn’t planned, and he cleared his throat. “The danger and the excitement and the pleasure and the friendships. And if people make nasty comments about us after that, I want to share that, too. Not just leave you to bear the brunt because people are outraged that their hero is making friends with someone who was a Death Eater.”
Harry studied his face for long seconds. Draco tried to tamp down his own nervousness. He had no idea what Harry was thinking when he did that. But if it was something uncomplimentary, then Harry wouldn’t have agreed to what he had so far, Draco reassured himself. And if Harry didn’t like or didn’t want something, he no longer seemed to have a problem saying that.
“All right,” Harry said, and his smile was deep and simple happiness. “Come on, then. But what if we do something other than walk in together?”
“Come in with me, and you’ll see.”
Draco hesitated, but he had meant it when he said he wanted everything that came with being Harry Potter, and the surprises were part of that. He nodded and followed Harry into the Great Hall, letting his hand stray near Harry’s but not exactly touch it. He wasn’t sure if that would fit with the surprise Harry wanted to give, or not.
Harry noisily cleared his throat, and despite the usual chatter of lunch, a lot of people turned to look at them. Headmistress McGonagall frowned at them, but not as if she disapproved, Draco thought. More as if she was wondering if she would have to move the tables out of the way or do something else in the wake of a Harry Potter Surprise.
“There’s been some confusion about who gave me this torque,” Harry said, loudly, “and I want to clear that up. It was Draco Malfoy. We’re dating, and we’re going to stay together. If you had delusions about that or about me having some kind of secret lover, put them to rest. I have a public lover.”
And he turned around and gripped Draco’s jaw and kissed him, hard, not a snog but a definite claim.
Harry drew back, chuckled at the expression on Draco’s face, and murmured, “There we are. I don’t think there can be a mistake after that.” Then he walked towards the Gryffindor table with a definite swagger in his step.
Draco nearly followed, he was so dazed, before he turned back to the Slytherin table. He got scowls, perplexed looks, blank faces, and at least a few clenched fists.
He didn’t care. His heart was beating so hard that he could have flown with it, without a broom.