“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.
“Why won’t you tell us what you want to do with your life, Harry?”
“I did,” Harry murmured, his eyes half-open as he stared into the fire in the Gryffindor common room. His hand rested on the silver torque around his neck. He thought it was probably his imagination that it was humming pleasantly, but on the other hand, it was warm from all the times that he kept touching it. “I told you I didn’t want to be an Auror.”
“That’s not the same thing as saying what you want to do.”
Harry sighed and turned so he was facing Hermione, at the other end of the couch. He felt his heartbeat pick up with nervousness, but he told himself he was being ridiculous. Draco was right. Just because Harry was interested in Potions and Snape had been horrible to him didn’t mean that he should keep it secret from his friends forever. And he’d probably kept the secret between him and Draco for long enough.
“I want to brew experimental potions.”
It did give Harry more satisfaction than he wanted to admit to see Hermione’s mouth fall open. Ron, sitting in a chair a few meters away that faced her, was as still as Dudley used to get when he was waiting for a sweet. Harry glanced at him and saw that his face was a little red.
“But why?” Ron finally burst out, loudly enough to make a few of the other Gryffindors look over at him.
“Reading the Prince’s book was fascinating,” Harry said. He played with the cover of the book on his lap, one on experimental potions that he’d actually got out of the library. Hermione had glanced at it when he came back to the common room with it, but hadn’t said anything. She probably thought he was doing extra study for NEWTS, now that he thought of it. “And Snape was a horrible teacher.”
“Do you want to be Potions professor here?” Hermione had a gentle note in her voice, which was better than the incredulity Harry had thought he was getting.
Harry shook his head. “No. Experimental potions really are what I want to do. Altering potions and inventing new ones the way the Prince’s book talked about. But I can separate Potions from the fact that Snape taught it and was a terrible professor. That’s all I’m saying.”
“But being an Auror would be a lot more exciting.” Ron had found his tongue. He leaned forwards. “Come on, mate. You know that you want to chase Dark wizards some more!”
“I don’t. I already did that. If I was supposed to do the same thing for the rest of my life that I’ve already done, that would be pretty boring itself, right?”
“But spending all your time in a dusty Potions lab…”
“It wouldn’t be dusty if I was brewing in it,” Harry said. “Dust is terrible for cauldrons and anything else that you’re using to create an experimental potion. You’d never know if a reaction meant ingredients were combining or if the dust was involved in it.”
“Wow, you have thought about this.” Ron settled back against his chair and stared at Harry thoughtfully.
Harry nodded. Then he glanced at Hermione, who had started tapping a finger against the cover of her own book. “What?”
“It’s good that you’ve thought about it, of course, Harry.”
Harry settled for rolling his eyes for a second. “I sense a ‘but’ coming.”
“But you’d need an Outstanding on your Potions NEWT. You’ve have to study really hard for Herbology and Arithmancy, too, because you would need the equations to predict whether the experimental combinations would work. You’re not even taking Arithmancy, and I don’t see you pay all that much attention in Herbology.”
“There’s such a thing as private study, Hermione. I’m not saying that I’m going to start brewing tomorrow. I’ve started self-study on Herbology and Arithmancy, and if I can’t get the right scores on the NEWTS now, I’ll wait and take them later.”
Hermione shifted a little. “You didn’t come to me and ask me to help you with the studying.”
“I was afraid that you’d start making—psychological deductions about why I’m interested in Potions when Snape was so terrible to me,” Harry said, admitting it in those words for the first time to both himself and her. “About it being my way of compensating, or something. Or you’d get upset because I was talking about the Prince’s book.”
Hermione blushed as brightly as Ron had for a second. “No, of course not,” she murmured. “Sorry if I led you to think that.”
“I didn’t really think that.” Harry shrugged and glanced away. “It was what I thought. It probably exaggerated the threat of it to myself.”
“I’d certainly hope so, Harry Potter!” Hermione sat up a little. “Now, do you want my help with the studying or not?”
“Honestly, Hermione, no.” Harry smiled at her when her mouth fell open. “I respect you a lot, you know? But our ways of studying academics are really different. The way you have of reading straight through the textbooks isn’t really going to help me. I’m reading the advanced books for Potions, and they interest me enough to go back and read the basic stuff. And the same for Herbology. With Arithmancy, you’re so much more advanced than I am that I don’t think you could slow down enough for me.”
Hermione paused as if she was about to say something, then gave a little laugh and leaned back to pick up her own book. “Well, I never aspired to be a professor.”
“I know. And you’ve helped me a lot.” Harry reached out and squeezed her leg. “I think this is something I need to do by myself, then.”
“Is Malfoy not going to help you?”
“Maybe someday we’ll run a business together,” Harry said, although he didn’t know about that. Draco was great at Potions, but he’d said nothing about wanting to make them his life’s work. “I think he’s taking more time to look around and make a decision.”
“Except about that torque.”
Harry touched the torque and just smiled.
“I want to know what you were thinking, Draco.”
Draco frowned down at the piece of parchment balanced on his knee. “That I probably got the answer to number seven wrong.”
“Don’t give me that!” Pansy reached out, probably intending to dramatically rip his homework away from him, but her hand halted an inch from the parchment. Draco had put spells up in the beginning of the year because he couldn’t be sure that his Housemates wouldn’t try to destroy his possessions. Not all of them had been lucky enough to have their families escape Azkaban.
“Well, you didn’t tell me what you were talking about.” Draco flicked his wand at the parchment to Vanish his answer to the seventh Arithmantic equation and started writing again.
“What are you thinking, dating Potter?”
“That I like him a lot,” Draco said, pausing and raising his eyes to hers. “That I could grow to love him.”
Pansy stared at him with her hands clasped in front of her. Draco hoped she wasn’t about to say that he should be in love with her instead. Draco had sometimes thought about it, but even when they were younger, there were too many gaps between them, too many things she wanted that he didn’t, and now there was a chasm.
But Pansy surprised him. “And what is he going to think about that?”
“Harry?” Draco smiled in spite of himself, and was aware that Blaise and Theo were watching him curiously from across the common room. He shrugged at them and turned back to Pansy. “He’s completely in favor of it. Honestly, he’s so much more generous than I ever knew. Open and welcoming and—”
“I didn’t mean Potter!”
“Then who are you talking about?” Draco raised an eyebrow at her.
“Him.” Pansy leaned towards him, standing almost on her tiptoes. Draco didn’t know if this was an attempt to make him look down her shirt, but he kept his eyes resolutely on her face. “You know. The one who will return.” Draco just blinked some more, wondering if she was talking about his father, and then Pansy finally whispered, “The Dark Lord.”
Draco laughed without even considering it, and heads turned all over the common room. It wasn’t a place that saw much laughter anymore. “What? Pansy, you’re delusional. You should go see Madam Pomfrey.”
“I mean it!” Pansy caught her breath and began speaking more quietly again when her voice rose towards shrillness. “He will come back, and he’ll only reward the faithful, Draco, not those who took up with Potter.”
Draco shook his head slowly. “Pansy, you weren’t even Marked, the way I was.” He saw Blaise’s jaw fall, probably because Draco was talking about it openly, but he ignored that. He’d made his decisions about being this open and unshielded after the war, and he wouldn’t go back on them now. “Why would you be worshiping Voldemort?”
The name still sometimes hurt his throat when he said it, but it seemed to do far worse than that to Pansy. She backed away with her hand trembling on her wand. “He’s the only hope we have for taking back what should belong to us!”
“Then we don’t have much hope and don’t deserve to have it back,” Draco snapped, standing. “Think, Pansy. All Voldemort wanted was power. He was willing to kill my parents to make me be a Death Eater! He did kill Professor Snape. His followers weren’t safe from him, or purebloods! Why would I want him to ever come back?”
“It’s our only hope.” Pansy had stopped retreating, but she still stood there with her jaw trembling stubbornly and her eyes filling with what looked like tears.
Draco didn’t actually put his palm over his eyes, but he came pretty close. “This is about what you said right before the battle, isn’t it?”
“What do you mean?” Pansy folded her arms, but she had shivered for a second as if a Stinging Hex had struck her, and Draco knew he was right.
“You said that we should throw Harry to Voldemort to save our skins.” Draco shook his head, part of him aching. Yes, he had never really wanted to marry Pansy, but it still hurt to see her like this. “I think it embarrassed you when Harry won the war. And you didn’t want to apologize, because that’s not the kind of person you are, and maybe you thought Harry wouldn’t accept it anyway. But you just dug yourself further into the mud and decided that the only way to reconcile your feelings was to justify what you’d said. So now you’re setting up Voldemort as some kind of savior and pretending that you think he can come back. All to make yourself look less stupid over a mistake that I haven’t even heard Harry mention.”
Pansy was pale and sick-looking by the time Draco finished speaking. She turned and fled through the common room door without speaking. Draco sighed. He didn’t think she would go and try to curse Harry, Ron, or Hermione. He would have gone after her if he did.
Instead, he turned and studied the other Slytherins who remained, mostly of the years beneath his. Some of the sixth-years were avoiding his gaze. Draco snorted. “If you actually encouraged her to believe that shit, either because you wanted to deflect attention from yourselves or because you thought it was funny, you’re idiots.”
No one said anything, but Blaise stood up and sauntered casually towards him. Theo was only a little behind him. Draco sighed and leaned on the wall next to the staircase up to their bedroom to wait for them. He did send one more glare at the common room which made a whole lot of people decide they had something else to look at.
“How serious are you about Potter?” was the first thing Blaise asked. He was as bad about gossip as Pansy, although thankfully he hadn’t tried to bother Draco about either the torque he’d given Harry or his new open display of emotions.
“Dead serious,” Draco said softly, holding Blaise’s eyes. After a second, Blaise nodded.
“Always thought you’d end up with him,” Theo said, which made Draco snap his head around to stare at him. Theo just leaned an elbow on the wall and looked wise and knowing and not at all the way Draco knew him to be, which was actually a piece of shit a lot of the time, or the way he’d been since the war, which was a ghost.
“No, seriously,” Theo insisted. “The way he seemed so desperate to know what you were doing sixth year, and the way you couldn’t let a minor insult on the train during first year go, and your rivalry on the Quidditch pitch—”
“All of those things should have had you betting on which one of us would kill the other first,” Draco muttered, swiping his hand through his hair. “Merlin, Theo.”
“No,” Blaise chimed in. “Theo’s right. It’s all about the angle of the eyes and the tilt of the head, isn’t it?”
Draco stared at him. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“When your line of sight intersected with Potter’s arse as often as it did—”
“I’m the only one who’s allowed to talk about my boyfriend’s arse that way,” Draco said, and swiped at Theo, who ducked away, laughing. As irritated as he was, it still heartened Draco to see him act like that. He did pause and glance back and forth between Theo and Blaise. “You lot are more supportive than I thought you would be.”
Blaise grimaced and glanced away. A long enough silence ensued that Draco thought neither one of them would say anything, and then Theo muttered, “Yeah, well. We saw what the war took away. All the games we used to play feel so empty now. What did they gain us? Nothing more than Pansy’s did.”
Draco blinked, then nodded shortly. He hadn’t thought they would be so open about it, but then, his own parents hadn’t been entirely supportive of his decision to come back to Hogwarts after the war and start expressing his emotions. “Thanks for explaining the reason. And thanks in general.”
“At least this way, we don’t have to watch the two of you pine after each other for years on end.”
Theo had gone back to being an arsehole, so Draco followed tradition and shot him a Stinging Hex before going to find Harry.
“You think we ought to do something about Pansy?”
Draco leaned more heavily on him, and Harry stroked his hair. They were in the middle of the Room of Requirement, which at the moment looked like a cross between the Gryffindor and the Slytherin common rooms, with green chairs and a bright fire and hidden corners and a long couch right in front of the fireplace. Harry was sitting there, and Draco sprawled with his head in Harry’s lap.
“I don’t know.” Draco closed his eyes. He looked and sounded exhausted. “I know that what I said is right. She’s horribly embarrassed by the fact that you survived and she was wrong about turning you over to Voldemort, so she’s trying to distract attention from her mistake.”
“So she doesn’t really believe that Voldemort should be resurrected or any of that nonsense.”
“No. But she’s going to cling to it harder because she doesn’t want to admit to the mistake, and that means it’s going to damage her reputation.”
“What does Pansy like to do?”
Draco blinked open his eyes and stared up at Harry for a second. Then he shook his head. “If you’re thinking that you ought to offer her sex or something to cheer her up, Potter—”
Harry couldn’t help the way his laughter rang out, and Draco subsided with a little huff. “Of course not, Draco. But what you seem to be saying is that she doesn’t like to do much of anything except sex, right?”
Draco rolled his eyes and turned to look more in the direction of the fire. “Yes. Although she did mention an interest in Arithmancy a few times.”
“What kind of careers can you make with Arithmancy?’
“Experimental Potions brewer,” said Draco, with a sly smile in Harry’s direction, and Harry poked him in the side. Draco laughed and squirmed half-away from him. “Besides that, you can go into the sort of Divination that predicts the outcomes of duels and the like based on calculations. Or you can work as someone who provides equations and their results to people who design rituals. Or some magical research involves it. Or—”
“So fairly esoteric things. Would they be the sorts of careers that Pansy could still get if she went around spreading this nonsense about Voldemort being resurrected, or not?”
Draco held still for a second. Then he shook his head. “Especially once you start contacting some of the people who specialize in it and they learn that you’re interested in it, most of them will distance themselves from Pansy so fast that she’ll think she’s on fire.”
Harry sighed and rubbed his face. “Then I have to do something.”
“Because she doesn’t believe this and she’s acting like an idiot, but people are going to believe that she believes it. They’ll deny her career opportunities and the like to please me. I don’t want to be responsible for that.”
“You shouldn’t have to worry about that.” Draco’s fingers curled into the material of Harry’s robes over his legs. “You’ve done enough. You don’t have to rescue Pansy from her own idiocy. What did she ever do for you?”
“Idiot,” Harry said softly. “I’m not doing this for her.” Draco tilted his head back and blinked up at him, and Harry sighed. “I’m doing this for you.”
Draco turned his face away, probably to hide his expression. “Was I that unhappy about her acting like an idiot?”
“Yes.” Harry rubbed Draco’s shoulder and then returned to his book about Potions. This was yet another one that Professor McGonagall had signed a permission slip for him to take out of the Restricted Section; it seemed surviving a war and defeating a Dark Lord was one way to make all the professors give him permission for whatever he liked. Hermione would have been indignant about it if she hadn’t received the same treatment, Harry thought.
Draco sighed and turned his face back towards him again. Harry peered down from around his book, hoping that Draco hadn’t taken his words the wrong way and wouldn’t tell him to back off or leave the affairs of Slytherins to Slytherins.
Draco’s hand found his and clenched down hard. “Thank you,” he whispered. “Seriously, thank you.”
Harry didn’t wait. He approached Pansy the next morning at breakfast, and Draco nearly swallowed his tongue when he saw how pale Pansy turned and the way some of the Slytherins sitting on either side of her clutched at their wands. Draco reached for his, wondering if he would have to defend his boyfriend against people who had once been something like friends.
But then the ones who had touched their wands sat back and resumed eating. They had obviously given up on Pansy and assumed that there was nothing they could do if Harry Potter himself wanted to kill her. It made Draco’s stomach churn. He caught Harry’s eye and gave him a pointed look. Harry just smiled back and turned to Pansy.
Pansy still looked as if she wanted to cower down and hope Harry wouldn’t notice her, but Draco had to give her credit for some courage, if not much sense. She blew out air and raised her nose. “Yes?” Her voice squeaked.
“I know that you don’t really mean all that rubbish you’re saying about wanting to resurrect Voldemort.” Harry ignored the way the noise in the Great Hall had heightened, instead just gazing at Pansy. Draco shook his head. He knew Harry was a lot more bothered by the gossip and staring than he let on, but Draco never would have known it. Harry had a better public mask than he gave himself credit for. “It’s born of fear and insecurity.”
“How dare you!”
Pansy fumed for a long second, her nails curling into her palms. Draco watched closely. He didn’t want to have to intervene, when it would be seen as a favor that Harry was doing to placate his boyfriend more than for Pansy’s sake, but he would do it rather than let Pansy scratch Harry.
“I’d like you to stop,” Harry went on gently. He had his hands resting on the Slytherin table, displayed with open palms. Draco wondered why for a moment, but then wanted to slap himself. Of course. Harry didn’t want anyone able to say later that he had gone for his wand to curse Pansy. “I know that it’ll deprive you of a lot of opportunities with people who value Arithmancy, but also value my good opinion.”
Pansy blinked, and blinked, and then she stood up and faced Harry, which Draco had to admit he hadn’t anticipated. “You think I have any future unless the Dark Lord comes back?” she asked. “Everyone hates me. I know that! I just want them to understand what it’ll mean when the Dark Lord returns and I’m one of his favored—”
“I can make sure they don’t hate you. Or at least don’t think of their hatred of you as some favor they’re doing me.”
Pansy folded both hands in towards her chest. “You can’t mean that. You’re taunting me, because you hate me.”
“You’re not worth hating.”
The statement was so cool that Draco saw more than one person start or shrink back from Harry. He didn’t, but then, he had known something like this was coming. Not that it would be so public and so blunt, though.
On the other hand, Harry had announced their relationship in the Great Hall like that. Why should Draco think that he’d do this differently?
“Then why do you want to do something for me?”
“Because it annoys me that people might pass you over for a career you want and then try to claim some kind of debt from me, or that it’s what I would want.” Harry shrugged. “For what it’s worth, I forgive you. I think the mistake you made is the kind any silly, frightened child would make.”
Pansy’s cheeks darkened in a way that made Draco have to hide his chuckle in his hand. Yes, Pansy would hate that. It was a much more effective way to cure her of claiming that she followed Voldemort than anything else.
“And now what?” Pansy whispered.
“If you want a career in Arithmancy and someone refuses you because of your name or because they know what you said about throwing me to Voldemort, then you have my permission to tell them what happened. Send them a copy of the memory. Or tell them to write to me. I’ll confirm everything I said today.”
Pansy’s eyes narrowed. Draco knew that look. She was seeking some weakness in Harry’s statements, because anything other than crushing an opponent was weakness to her. “How do I know that you’re going to keep your word?”
“How do I know that you’re not going to try and throw me to the next Dark Lord that appears?”
Pansy bit her lip and sat down again. She bowed her head a little and said, “Thank you, Potter. I’ll keep what you said in mind. And I’ll stop talking about following this Dark Lord.” Draco managed to hold back the temptation to roll his eyes at how she was apparently leaving it open as an option for the future.
“That’s fine,” Harry said, and turned away. Pansy’s face fell a little, as if he had deprived her of the expected dramatic reaction, which he probably had. Then she shook her head and breathed out, and turned back to the food on her plate. Draco found himself sighing softly.
“What?” Theo asked next to him as he heaped his own plate with spinach. He had always been strange. “Disappointed that Pansy didn’t get more of a punishment?”
“No,” Draco said. “Glad that it worked out so well.” And he went back to eating himself, ignoring the way that Theo’s calculating gaze seemed to linger on the back of his neck.
“I’ll take that apology now, Malfoy.”
Harry bit his tongue against the impulse to protest as Ginny marched up to the table in the library where he and Draco had been studying. This was between Ginny and Draco, and if one of them refused, it wasn’t his business. He couldn’t make himself stand up and walk away into the library, though, the way he had once planned to leave them alone if they ever made it this far.
Draco gave him a quick glance over his shoulder, as though he was relieved that Harry was staying, and faced Ginny again. “All right. For what?”
Ginny’s face darkened. “You don’t even know what you did to me?”
“Off the top of my head, no. I didn’t interact with you directly much the way I did with your brother and Hermione. If you want me to apologize for making fun of your family’s poverty, though, I will. I acted like an arsehole then, and I can’t even blame that on my family. It should have been something anyone with a shred of decency would know not to do.”
Ginny took an uncertain step back, as if the library floor underneath her had turned to water. “Well, being a bigot is the least of it.”
“All right. You remember this better than I do. Please tell me.”
“So that you can tailor your apologies?”
Unexpectedly, Draco smiled, his clear eyes still focused on Ginny. “If I apologized in general, then you could accuse me of not really knowing what I was apologizing for, and rightfully. So, yes, I really can’t remember what you’re specifically asking me to apologize for, Weasley. Please tell me.”
Ginny stood still, her face dark. Harry watched her and wondered. Had she thought Draco was lying about the apologies he had given to Ron and Hermione, and would show his “real” blood purist self when she asked him? Of course, Harry couldn’t remember the specific things Ginny was asking Draco to apologize for, either, so he didn’t know for sure.
Ginny finally said, “For the insults that you hurled at Gryffindors. And at Harry.”
“For the insults I hurled at Gryffindors, I apologize.” Draco grimaced. “I was so invested in that ‘one House is better than another’ shit when I was younger. I still don’t really know why. I can’t even blame my parents for that one. They discussed sending me to another school so often that they weren’t praising Slytherin at me most of the time. My mother would have been happier if I’d ended up in Ravenclaw. But once I knew I was coming to Hogwarts, I…just adopted the idea that Slytherin was better at a gulp. I’m sorry.” He blinked and focused on Ginny again. “Your House was better at fighting the war and standing up for their friends, almost everything that mattered.”
Ginny put her hands on her hips. “And Harry?”
“I apologized to Harry for the insults that I gave him, and he was gracious enough to accept my apology.” Draco leaned a little back in his chair and turned to Harry. Harry nodded. “Those are already over and done with.”
“What about your father giving me the diary?”
“That’s not my action and not mine to apologize for.”
“It’s still something your family did.”
“And your father ensured that he was always the one conducting raids on Malfoy Manor and trying to get my parents punished.” Draco’s voice cooled. “He led another raid right after the trials finished, and he insulted my mother and told my father that he’d like to see him dead. Should I ask you to apologize for that?”
Ginny blinked. “We lost Fred. He was grieving.”
Draco shrugged at her. “The whole point is that you won’t, and you shouldn’t have to. I won’t apologize for my father for the same reasons. He did a stupid thing, and a terrible thing. I’m glad that you survived. You shouldn’t have had to suffer it.”
“And that’s it?”
“That’s it.” Draco raised an eyebrow. “If you’re more troubled by that than all the things that my family did during the war, then I suggest that you go seek the help of a Mind-Healer. You might need help getting through this. I’ve considered that, but I decided to put it off until after the end of this year.”
Ginny stared at him, and then at Harry. Harry looked back at her steadily. He had made his decisions, and so had Ron and Hermione. Ron might prefer it if Harry dated Ginny, but he’d never actually said that Draco had to apologize for Lucius Malfoy giving Ginny the diary, and Harry knew he would have if he’d believed it.
Ginny turned and left.
Draco sighed and rolled his head on his neck, then glanced at Harry. “Was that too harsh?”
“No.” Harry reached out and took his hand. “She can’t really be compensated for what happened to her, even if your father apologizes. It’s up to her to accept that or not, and as long as she’s not rude to you, I don’t care if she spends time around with you or far away.”
“I thought you were close? I don’t want to be the cause of a rupture in your friendship.”
Harry sighed. “The war interrupted whatever we could have had, and she didn’t even approach me about it until after I came back to the Burrow wearing your torque. This is—terrible things happened, Draco. But I don’t want to spend the rest of my life brooding on them. I want to move on. I want to live.”
“That’s the same thing I want,” Draco whispered, and for a moment, stared at him so intensely that Harry wished they were alone elsewhere in Hogwarts, instead of at a very public table in the library. Then Draco smiled and sat back. “What would you say if I told you that we could go on a date during the Hogsmeade weekend?”
Harry laughed. “I would say I intended on doing that the entire time, but I didn’t think you’d like to be taken to Madam Puddifoot’s.”
Draco leaned towards him, the whisper of his lips against Harry’s ear making him wish once again that they were alone. “I got permission from the Headmistress to take you to Diagon Alley tomorrow.”
Harry blinked. “Really? Wow.”
“We’re both adults who can Apparate,” Draco said, sitting back with a small shrug. “And she’s soft on you, you know that. She wouldn’t have given me permission if I was dating anyone else but you, but as it is…”
“That’s not fair, about the lack of permission.”
“I’m all in favor of it, if it means that we can go to Diagon Alley and not have to deal with our classmates gaping at us.”
“Even if it means that we’ll have the shoppers in Diagon Alley doing it?”
“If we have to threaten someone to stay away from us, better it be shopkeepers and other adults instead of children. It would look a lot worse if it were little third-years we were threatening.”
Harry rolled his eyes and reached out to link his fingers with Draco’s. “Then, yes, I would love to come to Diagon Alley with you.”
Draco kissed his hand with a spark in his eyes that promised surprises, and Harry leaned against him as he finished up the essay for Transfiguration that he had to write.
“I wish we’d thought to ask Headmistress McGonagall for permission to go to Diagon Alley.”
Draco smiled at Hermione, knowing that she and Ron wouldn’t try to come along with Harry without that permission, and grateful for it. He enjoyed the company of Harry’s friends, but he also wanted some time to just be alone with Harry, which they hadn’t had for almost six weeks, since the Yule holiday. Someone was always coming around the corner in Hogwarts to gape at them.
Draco turned around to watch Harry stroll up the path towards him. He wore thick winter robes and a scarf around his neck in shining Gryffindor colors, but it hung off to the sides to reveal the torque still around his throat. Draco leaned towards him and kissed him—just a gentle kiss, not a full-on snog—but it was enough to make Ron sigh from behind him.
“Do you have to do that in front of us?” Ron muttered.
“Yeah,” Harry said. “And this.” This time, he did snog Draco, and Draco drew back with a laugh.
“Let’s stop tormenting your friends and Apparate to Diagon Alley. The lunch reservations I made won’t wait forever.”
Harry looked at him with bright, inquisitive eyes, but nodded to Ron and Hermione and followed Draco down the hill. Draco hooked their arms together, as the path was a little slippery with the deep snow and he thought Harry could use the support. As always, Harry didn’t object, but leaned a little nearer. Draco heard him sigh.
I wonder if I’m the only one who knows how much he likes being held and touched like he’s precious.
Probably, Draco then added to himself, silent and smug. The people who had dated Harry before had done it when Harry was still committed to a lot of his old image: strong and the hero type who had to be victorious in public. Draco still thought he had changed more, but Harry had become a lot more open since the end of the war, too.
Draco Side-Along Apparated them to Liberal Alley, just off the main cobblestone road of Diagon Alley, and ignored the stares that immediately came their way. “The Silver Apple is this way.”
“I’ve never been there,” Harry murmured as they walked. Other than a bit of tension in his shoulders, he was doing a brilliant job of ignoring the stares, too, Draco thought. “What kind of food do they have?”
“Any kind you want,” Draco said, and shook his head when Harry snorted. “No, I mean it. They have connections to all kinds of different restaurants all over the world. They can bring you anything that was ever mentioned in a fairy tale or story. They’re named after a story themselves, the silver apples of the moon.”
“Good, I was wondering if everything was apple-themed.”
Draco rolled his eyes as he nudged open the heavy door of the Silver Apple, which was made of frosted glass. “Why would I take you somewhere that boring?”
Harry opened his mouth to retort, but the restaurant owner, a tall woman with silver hair who went solely by the name Bruja, came out and bowed to them. She was wearing silver robes that floated around her, and Draco thought he caught a glimpse of huge butterfly wings behind her back. No one had ever tried to find out her heritage that he knew of, however, given that she served food so good it didn’t matter.
“Welcome, Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Potter. If you will come with me?”
Draco relaxed as Bruja led them further back into the restaurant. This was another reason he had chosen the Silver Apple, the privacy it guaranteed. There were tables everywhere, but illusions hovered around them to make them look like pools of silver water, fruit trees with silver leaves, and moonlit forest clearings. No one except the people outside who had seen them come in would know he and Harry were here, and if busybodies tried to enter, Bruja would refuse to show them to the right table.
Bruja led them through an illusion of a tree with silver peaches that shimmered and vanished, and indicated the table to them. Sparkling crystal butterflies with various items written on their wings, for those who preferred to order from a menu rather than their imaginations, fluttered around the table. Everything else was a soft, soothing shade of ivory, with black accents. “This will do?”
“Yes, thank you, Bruja,” Draco said, smiling at her, and drew out Harry’s chair. Harry sent him a half-hearted glare, as if to say that he could do it himself, but sat down gracefully enough in the chair. Bruja glided out through the illusion, and Draco sat down in the chair across from Harry and nodded to the butterflies. “That’s where we’ll look if you want to order something that doesn’t come out of your imagination.”
Draco snapped to attention. There was something soft and husky in the tone of Harry’s voice that worried him. But the smile Harry was giving him said he was happy, so Draco asked, “Yes?”
Harry’s eyes were huge and dark, and he took out a small, illusion-shielded object from his pocket. Draco blinked at it and then up at Harry. Harry leaned forwards so that he could rub his thumb across Draco’s hand.
“You’ve been a great friend to me and a great boyfriend. And I think you’ve been braver than most people I know, ever since you came back for our eighth year and showed that you really do want to make up for what you did.”
Draco relaxed minutely. This didn’t sound like “I like you, but I think we should date other people” speech.
“And when you gave me that torque at Christmas, I wanted to do something special for you. It took me almost two months to think it through, though, and decide what I wanted. I didn’t want to just copy what you did for me.”
“Anything you did for me would thrill me, Harry. Please don’t worry about whether it would be a copy of what I did or not.” Draco eyed the shielded object. It probably wasn’t a torque, but he had to wonder what it was.
“But you have to take into account how I would feel about it, too,” Harry chided him gently. “Really, Draco, are there two people in this partnership or not?”
Draco smiled and bowed his head. “I apologize. What did you come up with?”
Harry waved his hand, not his wand, at the thing he held, and Draco had to ignore the pulse of heat that ran through him at the sight to focus on what appeared. It was a wooden box, and it was too small to hold a torque.
Harry opened it. Draco’s whole body felt as if it had stuttered. There was a shining silver ring in front of him, wrought in the same style as the torque, with—Draco could tell even before he reached out to it—the same enchantments for a calm, clear mind as the torque.
“How did you get this?” Draco whispered in wonder. The torque had been a Malfoy heirloom, and he couldn’t imagine that Harry would have simply happened on a ring that looked exactly like it. Draco ran the tales of his ancestors swiftly through his mind, but he also couldn’t remember a ring that had looked like the torque and been sold away from it.
“You know those owls people are always sending me about how they owe me a favor?” Harry had touched one of the butterflies, and a small silver cup of creamy orange liquid had appeared in front of him, which he sipped from. “One of them was from a jewelry-maker, and he insisted that I had both saved his life and his reputation when I testified that your family helped save me from Voldemort. I reckon your family had used him in the past. So I sent him a picture of the torque and asked him to make you a ring like it. He did.”
“And the enchantments?”
“I copied those from the torque myself.” Harry hesitated for the first time. “Was I not supposed to?”
“No,” Draco said. “No, it’s a wonderful gift. They’re just old magic and really rooted in the metal, so it’s difficult to study them separately.” He slid the ring onto the fourth finger of his left hand, eyes lingering on Harry all the while, to see if that wasn’t what he wanted. But Harry beamed, and the last of the tension in Draco’s chest relaxed. “Thank you.”
“I overheard some of the younger years gossiping. They wondered why I had the torque from you, but you had nothing from me to show how much I loved you.” Harry reached out and clasped Draco’s hand, apparently oblivious to the way that his words made Draco’s body ring like a gong. “I love you, Draco. I want to show the whole bloody world, and I don’t care if we’re still in school.”
Draco swallowed and whispered, “I love you, too. You didn’t—have to do this.”
“Oh, but I wanted to. I told you, I was already thinking of how I could give you a gift that would mean a fraction as much to you as this torque means to me.” Harry touched it with his free hand, eyes steady and glowing. “The people I overheard just clinched it for me.”
“I’ll wear it,” Draco said, and leaned across the table to kiss Harry, scattering a flight of crystal butterflies as he did so.
Harry’s hand rose to his hair, and the air seemed to turn silver with more than magic around them. Draco sighed into his boyfriend’s mouth. The soft, warm sweetness blending into his veins was—
More than magic.