Disclaimer: Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy do not belong to me. They belong to the nice Scottish Lady, and the Big Movie Studio. I just occasionally take them out to play.
WHAT RON WEASLEY WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND
“I’ll never understand it.”
Harry Potter turned his eyes from the stiff, square shoulders stalking away from him to the narrowed blue eyes of his oldest friend.
“You’ll never understand… what?” he asked, reaching for the glass that had just been left without a word on the small table beside him. To Ron Weasley, it looked like a simple glass of iced pumpkin juice, but Harry knew it contained a powerful pain killer and his afternoon dose of ‘Skele-Gro’.
“You and… him.” The red-head waved his large, square hand negligently, the spattering of freckles on his forearm and wrist vivid against the fair skin in the late afternoon light.
“He has a name, you know,” Harry murmured mildly, taking a tentative drink of his juice, relieved to find it mildly sweet rather than bitter. Considering the mood that Draco had been in lately, he’d not have been surprised to find it either so syrupy he could barely tolerate it, or as tart as an unripe olive.
“I know he has a name.” Ron grimaced and took a drink from the bottle of butterbeer he held in his hand. Harry watched him, unwilling to fill the silence that stretched out as they sat under the spreading Maple tree. Finally, Ron huffed and rolled his eyes. “Fine,” he said, exasperated. “Malfoy. I’ll never understand you and Malfoy.”
Harry didn’t even bother to try to explain; he and Ron had this conversation on a fairly regular basis and Harry had long since given up trying to rationalize it for the other man.
Ron gestured towards Harry’s leg, which was elevated on a small stool, cushioned on a soft pillow that had been delivered in much the same manner as the potions had been: silently, pale hands gently lifting his injured leg with extreme if somewhat clinical care, inquiring after his comfort without warmth or so much as a lifting of the icy grey eyes. To anyone else, Draco appeared supremely composed. But Harry knew better.
“I mean, you should have seen him, Harry. When he showed up at St. Mungo’s, he was white as death and shaking like a leaf. When I told him you were going to make it, I seriously thought he was going to faint on the spot, he was that relieved. Now, he acts like you stepped in front of the bloody curse on purpose, and you just sit here and let him treat you like garbage.”
Now Harry’s dark brows did rise. “So, bringing me pillows and something to drink is treating me like garbage, is it?” he said drily. “You’ve an interesting perspective, there, mate.”
He saw Ron color slightly. “Well, no, that’s alright. But he’s not talking to you! He’s acting like… like…” His voice trailed off as he searched for a word.
“Like Hermione would if you’d been injured doing something stupid,” Harry said flatly, and Ron frowned.
“Well, that’s different, innit?” Ron said roughly. “Hermione’s my wife!” Ron saw the green eyes narrow, and quickly went on. “And besides, you were on a mission, for Merlin’s sake. It’s not like you asked to have your leg near lopped off at the hip.”
“No, I didn’t ask for it,” Harry sighed, eyes drifting back to where Draco had joined Ginny and her mother under the small gazebo that sat in the center of their rear yard. He watched as the small boy Molly was holding reached for the blond, chubby arms lifted and green eyes wide and Draco smiled gently as he took the toddler, settling Jamie comfortably on his slender hip. He entered into conversation with the two Weasley women, idly stroking the little boy's dark curls with a slender, elegant hand, appearing to all those gathered the picture of the calm and gracious host. But Harry wasn’t fooled.
This bar-b-que to celebrate Harry’s twenty-eighth birthday had long been planned; the invitations had gone out weeks before. Harry was quite certain that if there had been more time between his latest injury and the party, Draco would have canceled. As it was, he’d had his run in with the wrong end of a wand on Thursday and today was Saturday. So the gathering had gone on as scheduled, their assorted friends and relatives were still arriving at their cozy country house bearing brightly wrapped gifts, and Harry knew that some of the relief he saw on the assembled faces was due to the fact that, once again, ‘the Chosen One’ had cheated near death. Only Ron and Hermione seemed to be aware of the fact that Harry and Draco were scarcely speaking to one another.
“I mean, given his reaction at the hospital, I’d have thought he’d just be happy that they were able to put you back together.” Ron shook his head, and his ginger hair brushed his shoulders. “I don’t understand what’s got his wand in a knot.”
“No, I don’t imagine you do,” Harry said heavily, his eyes still trained on his lover. As if he sensed the intensity of the gaze, Draco turned and looked at Harry, one pale brow arched, his face impassive. After a moment of silent communication, where neither of their enigmatic expressions changed, Draco slowly but definitively turned his face away.
Harry sighed, his chest tight. How long was Draco going to stay angry with him, he wondered? Usually, the man’s sulks could be timed in hours, and that time frame had shortened the longer they’d been together. But this was different and Harry knew it.
Draco had never been thrilled about the idea of Harry being on Auror. “There are other things that you can do to help the rebuilding effort,” he’d argued more than once. “Let someone who doesn’t have a big red target on their back round up the rest of them.”
But Harry had always retorted with, “The job isn’t done yet, Draco.” The argument had been going back and forth for years. And Draco had been patching him up after each close call for years, becoming progressively more concerned, and angry.
“And you want to tell me that they aren’t aiming for you?” he’d said through tight lips more than once. Harry had finally stopped arguing with him, knowing it would do no good.
And then two months before, there had been an incident that Draco hadn’t been able to patch up with a few spells or mild potions.
Harry and Ron had stumbled into a trap set by several former Death Eaters, and managed to get themselves taken hostage and held for nearly two days. They’d been beaten rather badly, but this group had not been the more vicious of Voldemort’s remaining followers, and when they’d finally been freed by their fellow Aurors the physical damage had not been too bad. The emotional fall out, however, had been all that Harry might have expected.
He’d been sitting at the kitchen table, his aching head in his hands, when Draco had slapped a piece of parchment and a quill down on the shining wooden surface next to his elbow. Harry had looked up at him, standing over him with his hands on his narrow hips and his grey eyes full of barely leashed fury.
“What…?” Harry had asked, frowning at the writing utensils.
“I want you to sit there and write a letter to your son, explaining to him why your bloody job and the wizarding world's continuing fucking hero worship was more important to you than he was. That way, I’ll have something to give him when he’s old enough to read, explaining to him why his father felt the need to get himself killed.”
“Draco, that’s not fair,” Harry had sighed wearily. He’d seen the shutters fall over the anger in Draco’s eyes, turning them icy with indifference.
“I would have thought that you would be the last person who needed an explanation about the fact that life is rarely fair.” He’d turned his fair head and stalked away, leaving Harry staring morosely after him.
Which was why on Thursday, while on a raid of an illegal wizard potions lab, when Harry saw the red flash and felt the sharp stab of pain that took his leg out from under him, his first thought had been ‘Draco is going to kill me’. He’d fallen to the cold, dirty floor and listened as the battle raged over his head, pain radiating through his lower body, unable to move his right leg, knowing this wasn’t a minor injury. He knew that at least one artery was severed near his groin, knew he was bleeding out as his vision began to dim. The last thing he heard was the desperate, almost maniacal voice of the young potions trader.
“Did I get him? Did I get Potter? You have to tell me if I hit Potter!” As his consciousness slipped away, the sound had carried him into darkness.
When he’d come to, he’d been lying in the sterile, too bright environment of St. Mungo’s, yet again. He’d turned his head and found Draco at his bedside, his hand gripped tightly between Draco’s cold palms. The beautiful grey eyes he so loved were red-rimmed and bracketed by lines of worry and bruised from lack of sleep. He’d known then that something would have to change, and the cold shoulder and nearly stifling silence he’d been receiving since were nothing less than he figured he deserved.
A soft breeze toyed with his hair as he sat in the shade of the old tree in his back yard, playing over his skin. He closed his eyes for a moment and inhaled deeply, understanding for the first time at a fundamental level how truly lucky he was to be alive. How he’d nearly squandered it, how many times in his life he’d casually accepted the idea of death, only to luck out and continue living. When he’d been younger and his destiny had been pre-ordained, he’d understood that a sacrifice might be in order for the greater good, that his life might need to be forfeited so that others could live in a better world. But he’d survived Voldemort’s reign of terror, not once but twice. That sacrifice had been required of him then; what made him think that he still needed to put himself in harm’s way now? Draco was right; now he had every reason in the world to want to live to be a ripe old age, and he wasn’t willing to tempt fate any further because of some misplaced need to solve all of the world’s problems by himself. Steeled with a new resolve, he opened his eyes and searched the small crowd. Finding Kingsley standing near the punch bowl having an animated conversation with Arthur Weasley, Harry reached for the cane leaning against the small table at his side. He lifted his leg down from the padded stool, and then grimaced as he laboriously pushed himself to his feet.
“Where you going, mate?” Ron asked quickly, leaning forward, blue eyes concerned. “If you need something…”
“No, it’s alright,” Harry answered, sounding a bit winded but straightening. “I need to talk to Kingsley about something. I’ll be back.”
He took a moment to steady himself on his feet, then turned and limped across the lawn to where the Minister for Magic stood.
A ringing, like a crystal bell, drifted on the soft breeze and the gathered guests turned to find the source of the soft, musical sound. Kingsley Shacklebolt was standing next to the punchbowl, a crystal wine glass in his hand, striking it gently with a silver spoon. The pleasant chatter faded away into silence as the crowd gave him their attention.
“Good afternoon,” he said when he’d set his glass aside, his dark face sporting a friendly smile. “I was going to say something appropriately glowing about the birthday boy, here--” he gestured to Harry, who leaned against the table near his side and smiled sheepishly at the responding chuckles “--but he tells me that he has an announcement he’d like to make, instead.” He gave Harry a resigned smile. “Sure I can’t talk you out of this?” he asked for Harry’s ears alone, and the younger man's lips curled up at the corners but he shook his dark head. Kingsley sighed. “All right, then. They’re all yours.” He stepped aside, allowing Harry the floor.
He lifted his eyes and looked around at the assembled guests, friends each one, searching their expectant faces. His gaze finally arrived at Draco still standing in the gazebo and holding their son, watching him in cautious interest and his resolve strengthened and he straightened, softly clearing his throat.
“First of all,” he began self-consciously, “Draco and I would both like to thank all of you for coming this afternoon. It’s been a long week--” here there were scattered murmurs and knowing looks, “--and your support is very much appreciated. I was very lucky, once again, and I know that. And I don’t intend to squander it.” He noticed Mrs Weasley and Ginny exchange a quick look, but he was concentrating on Draco and saw him go very still, saw the grey eyes widen slightly.
“Ever since the end of the war, I’ve thought that it was very important that I stay the course, keep at the job until we’d finished all of it, until all of the hold-outs were dealt with. I felt that unless they were all rounded up and put away where they belonged, that my job wasn’t finished. But, as someone I love very much pointed out to me recently, that part… just might not be my job. That, rather than ending it, I might actually be prolonging it, that there is always going to be someone who’s going to want to try himself against ‘the Boy Who Lived’.” Here he paused and shook his head. “It seems a very foolish thing to me to continue to tempt fate in this, and I don’t want to be responsible for depriving my son of one of his fathers. That having been said--” he glanced around at the avid faces, noting their watchful, expectant expressions, “--I have tendered my resignation to Kingsley from the Auror Department, effective immediately.” He heard Ron make a startled sound, heard the murmurs, but hurried on. “I was going to have to take some time off anyway, and this way they can assign Ron a new partner right away.” He found his friend's widened, shocked blue eyes. “I’m sorry, Ron. But I have to do this, for my family. I hope you understand.” After a tense moment, Ron’s shoulders slumped, but he nodded in resignation.
“I do, mate,” he said softly. “I do.”
Harry’s eyes went back to Draco’s, to find they were still trained on him, wide, watchful. “I need to spend time with my son, and allow my brilliant husband to work on his career for a while. I know I can’t cure the world’s ills with my wand, but he might be able to with a potion.” There was scattered laughter, and Harry thought much of it sounded relieved. He shrugged then, dropping his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. “Anyway, that’s all I really wanted to say. So, thank you for coming and… let’s eat.” More laughter followed his final words, then much to his surprise people were applauding and surging forward to offer words of encouragement and support, reaching out to shake his hand or squeeze his shoulder. He accepted their words and their gestures, but his eyes kept going back to Draco. He saw the man swallow heavily, saw him turn and murmur something to Ginny as he handed her the baby, saw him leave the gazebo and stride quickly toward the house. Harry caught Ginny’s eye, his own full of questions, but she just shook her head slightly and shrugged. As soon as he could manage it, he eased his way through the crowd gathered around him and made his way painfully toward the house.
He entered through the back door directly into the kitchen and found Draco standing at the sink with his back to him, arms braced stiff on the counter, head forward. Harry closed the door softly at his back and leaned against it, and silence settled around them. He stared at Draco’s square shoulders and saw that his arms were trembling.
“Draco,” he murmured, his heart sinking. Draco stiffened at the sound of his voice, his head coming up, but he didn’t turn.
“You didn’t think,” he said softly, his voice sounding thick, “that perhaps we should discuss this before you made a grand pronouncement?”
Harry shrugged even though the other man’s back was still turned. “I didn’t think you’d believe me unless I said it with an audience.”
He heard the broken sounding sigh that escaped the other man, saw him shake his fair head before he turned. “I’m not sure that I believe you, even with the audience,” he said tightly, arms crossed over his chest, hands gripping his own arms as if he were cold. Harry didn’t know what to say to that, so he merely stood there, eyes level and unblinking. “I mean, it isn’t as if we haven’t had this conversation before.”
“I know,” Harry said softly, leaning heavily on the cane. His hip was throbbing, but he didn’t move to sit. “But I mean it this time, Draco. I swear that I do. I know what I’ve put you through…”
Draco’s eyes narrowed. “You have no idea what you’ve put me through,” he said, his voice vibrating with anger. “Do you know how the Ministry notifies a family that an Auror is down, Harry?” Harry could see that the question was rhetorical, and held his silence. “There’s a… alarm that sounds, through the Floo. It’s like a bell, and it keeps ringing until all of the families sign on. Sometimes it takes a few minutes; one time it took up to an hour. That constant, chiming bell, for an hour. Do you have any idea what that’s like?” he asked, another rhetorical question. “To sit there, waiting, knowing that bell means something is terribly wrong? That someone you love is hurt, or in danger, or dead? Do you know how many times in the last year that damned bell has wrung, Harry? Twelve. Twelve times. And nine of those times, the person hurt, or missing, or kidnapped, was you!” Harry inhaled deeply, seeing clearly for the first time what the last year had cost Draco, seeing the bald fear and hurt and anger on his pale, ravished face. “Do you have any idea how they treat me at St. Mungo’s? The way they look at me? You can stand out there and announce to everyone that I’m your husband, Harry, but until it’s legal, I have no right to know anything about you. They won’t tell me anything unless Shacklebolt or Granger are there to back me up. And the time that you and Weasley were being held hostage, do you know what Russert’s wife said to me? That she didn’t mind Evan being on your team, because she figured as long as you were such a huge target, her spouse would be safe.”
Harry’s eyes narrowed at that and his jaw clenched. He knew that Diantha Russert felt that being on Harry’s team was holding Evan back from promotions, but he’d had no idea she’d said any such thing to Draco. “I’ll speak to him…” he began.
“You won’t,” Draco said flatly. Then, the beginnings of a wry smile pulled at the corner of his lips. “Besides, Granger took care of it. Told the bint she was a vicious cow, and that if she wasn’t careful, she was going to tell her husband what a bitch she was. It shut her up.” Draco shook his fair head. “Granger can be amazingly fierce in her defense of the people she cares about. Like you.”
“And you,” Harry interjected. Draco’s expression softened slightly.
“Yes, astonishingly. And me.” Their eyes met and held again as the silence in the comfy kitchen stretched out.
“I’m sorry, Draco,” Harry said finally. “I really am.”
Draco stared at him for another long moment, and then sighed. “I know,” he allowed softly. “I know that you are. But you have to mean it this time, Harry. You have to walk away from it. I can’t keep going through this. If you say this now, you have to mean it.”
“I do. I mean it, Draco.” Harry answered firmly.
“Even if some lunatic fancies himself the next Dark Lord?” Draco asked, eyebrows arching. “Even then, you won’t go back?”
Harry stared at him for a long moment before speaking. “No. I won’t go back.” He took a stiff step closer. “My God, Draco, I don’t want Jamie to lose one of his parents, and I don’t want for you to…” He paused, took a deep breath. “I don’t want for you to have to dread that bell coming out of the Floo, and have to listen to that shit at St. Mungo’s, and deal with bitchy wives…” When he was within arm's length he stopped, leaning heavily on the cane. “I want to get to know my son,” he said, his voice deep. “I want him to come to me when he takes his first steps, and I want him to know who I am. And I meant what I said about you spending time working on your potions. You’re so bloody brilliant, and all you’ve done for the last year was take care of me, and Jamie, and deal with everything here, and I’m trying to make this right…”
“Harry,” Draco said softly, interrupting his monologue. Harry stopped and searched the grey eyes.
“If you mean that--” Draco paused and licked his full lips. “If you mean that, then make an Unbreakable Vow with me, right now.” Harry’s eyes widened as he stared, but he didn’t say anything. “Swear to me that no matter what nonsense the wizarding world gets up to, you won’t put yourself on the front lines ever again. Vow to me that you won’t voluntarily get yourself killed.”
Harry didn’t say anything for a long moment, and Draco had started to turn away again when Harry caught his arm, stilling him. “Get Hermione,” he ordered softly, his grip firm on the slender arm. Draco frowned.
“Why do you need her?” he asked, clearly confused.
“Because,” Harry said resolutely. “She’s an Unspeakable, and if we’re going to enter an Unbreakable Vow, I’d just as soon it was overseen by someone who knows what they’re doing.”
Draco’s mouth fell open slightly as he stared into the beloved face. He’d never thought that Harry would actually agree, and surprise flowed through him. “Now?” he asked hoarsely.
“No time like the present,” Harry said promptly. Draco just stared. “Fine, I’ll go get her.”
Harry started to turn, and it was Draco’s turn to firmly grasp a muscled bicep. Harry turned back, eyes questioning. “I didn’t think you’d really do it,” Draco whispered, studying Harry’s resolute expression.
“Draco, I’d do anything for you. Don’t you know that by now?”
Draco caught his breath, and then let it out shallowly. “You really would, wouldn’t you?”
“I told you,” Harry said firmly. “I’d do anything…”
His words stalled in his throat when Draco took the two steps that separated them and pulled him against his chest, arms encircling him, holding him hard. Unprepared, Harry staggered a bit, and Draco leaned back enough to clasp both of his arms.
“Your leg,” he muttered. Moving carefully, he turned Harry until his back was against the kitchen counter. Harry reached back to lean against it, but in a surprising show of that unexpected strength that only Harry knew he had, he slipped his fine-boned hands around Harry’s ribcage and lifted him, settling him on the countertop. His cane clattered, forgotten, to the floor. “You should have said something,” he scolded mildly, his eyes finding and holding Harry’s.
“There were more important things to talk about.” They stared into one another’s eyes for another long, silent moment. “Aren’t you going to go and get her?” Harry asked, and Draco lifted his hand and gently touched Harry’s face with the tips of his fingers.
“No,” he said finally, shaking his fair head. “Just the fact that you would do it is enough.”
“Draco,” Harry protested. He so wanted this behind them -- so wanted Draco to feel secure in the knowledge that he’d never go back on his word.
“No,” the blond repeated, his hand skimming down Harry’s neck to come to rest in the center of his muscled chest. “I can’t make you promise me that.”
“But, I want to…”
Draco lifted the hand back to Harry’s face and pressed his fingers over the full lips. “You want it now. You might even believe that you’ll always want it. But if there was a threat, a real one, to everything that you hold dear, you’d never be satisfied sitting on the sidelines, watching other people fight the battles for you. It would tear you apart.” He lifted his eyes back to Harry’s, stroked his thumb over the plump lower lip. “I can’t, and won’t, ask you to be something you aren’t. Just… promise me that you won’t go back unless you really have to, and that will be enough.”
Harry reached up and caught the fine-boned wrist in his hand, his thumb pressed over the pulse point, which throbbed beneath his touch. “I promise,” he said sincerely, the expression in his eyes much the same as it had been the day they’d stood in a clearing in the nearby woods and ‘hand-fasted’ themselves to one another, the only ritual of bonding the wizarding world would allow. Harry would never forget the look in Draco’s eyes as the cords around their wrists had been tied, as they’d joined their lives, and he lifted their linked fingers and pressed his lips reverently to the back of the pale hand.
“Harry,” Draco said breathlessly, leaning forward into the vee left by Harry’s open thighs. Harry let their hands drop, but slipped a strong arm around the lithe body and pulled him in, holding him close against his hard chest. Draco’s hands found his legs, open on the sturdy thighs just above Harry’s knees. Harry pressed his cheek against Draco’s, his lips brushing the baby softness of his blond hair.
“I love you,” he whispered into the fair hair. “I’ll always love you.”
The hands on his thighs tightened briefly, and then slid slowly upwards over the faded denim that encased the hard muscles beneath, until his thumbs were pressed into the indentations on either side of Harry’s groin. “I know you do,” he murmured in response, leaning back slightly, aligning their lips. He paused when just a breath separated them, Harry’s eyes heated and waiting, Draco’s soft. “Lucky me.” He closed his eyes, and then closed the distance between them, settling his parted lips over Harry’s.
To Harry, the few days that had passed without Draco in his arms felt like a month, and he tightened his hold on the lean body, one arm around his shoulders, the other hand sliding up to card through the softness of his hair to cradle the back of his fair head. He turned Draco slightly, pressing him into his own broad shoulder and used his slightly higher, dominant position to deepen the kiss from something sweet and tender to something darker, needier. When Harry’s tongue went on a slow, thorough tour of Draco’s welcoming mouth, the blond made a soft, sighing sound in the back of his throat and pressed his palm over the burgeoning hardness behind Harry’s fly. Electrified by the feeling of that warm hand on his hardening cock, Harry groaned, the hand in Draco’s hair fisting.
“Uhm, ‘scuse me?”
The two men jumped a bit, startled by the sound of the hesitant voice. Draco pulled his lips from Harry’s and turned his head, and Harry looked over his shoulder. Ron was standing just inside the door, his eyes staring at anything but the two of them, his face the color of a sun-ripened tomato. Draco slid his hand, shielded from Ron’s gaze, back onto Harry’s thigh, and Harry groaned in disappointment.
“Did you need something, Weasley?” Draco asked politely, shooting Harry a quelling look when he grabbed the pale hand and tried to place it back on his groin. “Stop it,” he said quickly, but amusement sparkled in his grey eyes.
“Uhm, Ginny sent me in to find you,” he said quickly, clearly uncomfortable. “James is working himself up into a right state out there…”
That was all that needed to be said to have Draco stepping away and turning. “He’s hungry, and it’s naptime,” Draco said with a knowing nod. He started to step away, and then turned back, leaning toward Harry, that teasing hand brushing against his obvious hardness before dropping away. “We’ll finish this later.”
“We’d better,” Harry growled in response, but accepted Draco’s light kiss with a slight smile before the willowy man turned and made his way past Ron and out into the yard.
Harry watched him go with a satisfied smile on his face.
“You uhm… coming back to the party there, mate?” Ron asked, still not looking directly at him. Harry smirked.
“Yeah, just give me a minute here.”
Now Ron’s eyes did find his, a question between his brows. Harry’s smirk ripened as he glanced down meaningfully. Ron’s gaze followed his, and then he was grimacing and rolling his eyes.
“That’s an over-share, Harry,” he complained darkly, and Harry laughed.
“Hey, you asked.” He grinned and adjusted himself absently before easing himself off of the counter and reaching for his cane. When he laboriously joined Ron at the door, the red-head pushed it open for him.
“So, you guys are okay now, I’m guessing,” he said wryly. Harry’s self-satisfied grin deepened.
They stepped through the doorway and out onto the grass, and Harry’s eyes sought and found Draco as he took the fussy baby from Ginny, lifting him against his chest, kissing the small flushed cheek and making soft, soothing sounds. He saw the little face turn towards Draco’s in welcome, seeking comfort, and Harry knew exactly how his son felt.
He heard Ron sigh heavily, and glanced over at him. “What?”
Ron shrugged. “I just… I’ll never get it, mate. I just don’t understand the attraction.”
Harry clapped a hand onto Ron’s broad shoulder companionably. “No, I don’t imagine you do. And I’m betting Hermione is probably glad that you don’t.” Ron gave him a wry look and lifted his butterbeer to his lips. Harry’s green eyes sparkled wickedly. “Let me just say, his oral skills defy description.”
A stream of butterbeer shot from Ron’s mouth and he was still sputtering when Harry limped, chuckling, out to join his other guests.