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Safe Words

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It bordered on obscenely late in the day when Draco finally heard footsteps on the staircase. A smirk unrolled across his face, which he tried to smother. Sipping at his coffee, he flipped the page of his book and waited.

            Harry was very slow in coming down the stairs. Draco could practically feel his reluctance. It shouldn’t have amused Draco as much as it did, but there were some things in life that he enjoyed beyond all reason. Teasing Harry was among them. That the man had given him so much material this time was an unexpected gift.

            Harry reached the bottom of the stairs, still in his pajamas, rumpled. He looked wary, but pretended to be casual. “Mr. Potter,” said Harry.

            From his place on the window sill, Draco responded, “Mr. Malfoy.”

            Shuddering, Harry walked past Draco towards the kitchen. “Not for all the gold in Gringott’s.”

            “It has a certain ring to it,” Draco remarked. “Harry Malfoy. Finally gives you that bit of elegance you’ve been missing all these years.” Draco absentmindedly tapped his ring against the cover of his book. He was a great admirer of jewelry, but rarely wore the same piece two days in a row. The one on his finger, though—he had recently committed to wearing it for life.

            Coffee was poured into a cup. It had to be cold after sitting out so long, but Harry was a barbarian. He would drink coffee regardless of its temperature. “My parents would roll over in their graves.”

            “Your parents would roll over in their graves at a lot more than that, Harry.” There was a pause from the kitchen. Draco leaned his head against the wall, saying, “Come sit with me.” He felt like the cat with the canary.

            Harry cleared his throat. He walked back into the front room, giving Draco the side eye. Draco smiled innocently, the picture of a dearly devoted husband. Harry’s eyes narrowed, not trusting it for a moment. He sat down on the other end of the window sill.

            Draco let him squirm a little. He turned another page in the book. The perfect moment would come. The perfect moment was usually after you let someone twist a bit.

            He could feel Harry getting more and more tense. Draco gave his fingertip a lick and slowly—slowly—used it to turn the next page.       

            When Harry was near to implosion, Draco said, “So.”

            Harry let out a growl. “Go ahead,” he muttered. “Take the piss.” He hunched over his coffee cup like a vulture.

            Draco closed his book, relishing the whole thing. “Get much sleep?”

            “You know what,” Harry said, but didn’t finish the thought.

            “Funny that. The two of us going to sleep at the same time.”

            The night before, Draco had woken in the middle of the night to find half the bed empty. That was fine and well enough—needing to empty one’s bladder didn’t cease due to the hour of the day—but after a moment he realized he could see lights down the hall. Now that was peculiar. Harry slept like the dead. There was no way he would be up watching television in the middle of the night. Then Draco remembered that they didn’t even have a television upstairs. So he got up to investigate.

            “Were you just pretending to sleep?” Draco asked.

            “Could we not?” Harry said, now turning to pleading.

            “You were, weren’t you. Waiting until I fell asleep before you ran off to—” Draco wiggled his eyebrows meaningfully.

            Harry’s brown skin began to reveal a reddish undertone. “You could just put me out of my misery. Seriously. Find your wand. End my life.”

            “You didn’t look like you were suffering last night.” Draco waited a beat, then quipped, “Your lads on the laptop, though—”

            Harry covered his face with a hand. “Oh God.”

            Draco set aside the book, leaning over his knees. “Imagine what the world would think,” he said in mock admonition. “What would they say if they knew the Chosen One was such a pervert?”

            “I want a divorce,” Harry moaned.

            “You don’t want a divorce. My solicitor would leave you penniless.”

            “No, I definitely want a divorce.”

            “Hush.”

            Harry dropped his hand, gazing miserably at Draco. “Look. Sometimes I watch porn. It’s just something I do.”

            Draco gave it a moment, then arched a brow. “Yes. Completely normal, that.”    

            Blushing even deeper, Harry said, “It doesn’t mean I’m not—satisfied—”

            “Harry. I don’t give a niffler’s fart that you watch pornography. It is entirely inconsequential. If you think that I’m thinking about you every time I masturbate, you’d have to be just remarkably naïve.”

            Indignant, Harry asked, “Do you not think of me sometimes?”

            “Don’t be greedy. I think of you when we fuck. I’m under no agreement to think of you when I fuck myself. I’d ask if you think of me when you’re having a wank, but—” Draco waggled his brows again. “Clearly you have something else in mind.”

            “How about we stop talking about this?”

            Draco thought about it, then said, “But I’m having so much fun.”

            “I can’t believe that I thought marrying you would stop you bullying me.”

            “Oh please. You’d need an act of God for that. In all honesty, I’m all for you having your private wank.”

            “You…are?”

            Rolling his eyes, Draco said, “If that’s what you’re into, you’re only ever going to have the fantasy. If you think I’d let you put me on a chain and have me call you sir, I’d assume you were confunded.” Harry looked on the verge of aneurysm. Draco snorted, and picked up his book, finding his page. “Harry Potter. Leather daddy.”

            Voice strained, Harry said, “Please don’t—ever use those words in conjunction. Ever again.”

            “I’m endlessly amused that it would turn you on to have me as some sort of submissive sex slave. Unfortunately, if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s submissive.” Draco waved Harry away. “So off you go. Dream big, love. Tis only ephemera.”

            Harry sat there and Draco ignored him, returning to his book. Harry cleared his throat and said, “So you’ve done taking the piss.”

            “Oh no,” Draco said. “We’ll be returning to this topic for many years to come.”

            “Fantastic,” Harry said glumly.

            He pushed himself up and walked back to the stairs. Draco glanced up from his book, smiling crookedly at the sight of his beloved, peculiar man. He was supremely amused to discover, after all these years, that Harry’s hidden fantasy was fairly perverted. Unattainable—Draco would have eaten his own tongue before getting on his knees in some little leather get up like one of the men in the video—but priceless, nonetheless.

            Harry was nearly at the top of the stairs before he leaned over the side and said quickly, “By the way, we’re going to the Burrow for dinner.”

            Draco slammed his book shut, but Harry had already scampered up the last of the steps.

 

“I can feel you stewing over there.”

            “I’m not stewing,” Draco said shortly. He faced the mirror as he manipulated his tie into an intricate knot. “I’m putting the bare minimum into my appearance. I’m allowed a moment of concentration.”

            Over his shoulder, he could see Harry watching from the doorway. Harry was clad in jeans and a jumper. No effort there. “It’s just dinner at the Burrow. You don’t need to wear a tie.”

            “I’ll do it for the look on Molly’s face.” Harry dropped his head, sighing. Draco frowned, then said, “I’m teasing. I rather like this tie. Haven’t had a chance to wear it yet. It complements my eyes.”

            “It does at that.” Harry rubbed his arm, uncomfortable. “We don’t have to go.”

            “You already accepted the invitation on both our behalf, yes?”

            “Well, yes—”

            “Then we’ve committed. I’m too English to back out now. Love, stop lurking there. Either come inside or bugger off.”

            Harry pushed off the doorframe. He came into the bedroom and took a seat on the bed. “It won’t be that bad. We really don’t have to stay that long.”

            “Harry. We’ve been together seven years. Do you think that at this point I don’t know what dinners at the Burrow are like?” Draco shook his head. He pulled the knot apart, then started over. He would go to the Burrow wearing his flawless appearance like armour. “We’ll be lucky to get out of there by ten. I have to be at work early tomorrow. You knew that.”

            “I could go by myself.”

            “Yes, and you could hear all the little digs about me. And next time I’d have to sit through all the backhanded compliments as my penance.” Draco took a moment, then said, “I don’t mean to be miserable about it. I know you love these dinners.”

            “I do. I just wish you did as well.”

            Thick as a board. As if the problem was some deficiency on Draco’s end. “You think I haven’t made the effort.”

            “No,” Harry was quick to say. “No, you’ve gone above and beyond. I’m not sure what you want me to say.”

            “I’d like you to tell me that next time you’ll work up the courage to tell Molly no, that we can’t attend dinner at the last second. I’d like you to actually say no and mean it.”

            “It’s just dinner,” Harry said weakly.

            “You know what—let’s not talk about this. We’ve gone over it a hundred times at this point. I know you can’t tell her no. You’re just not built for it.”

            “Well, what would you rather be doing instead?”

            Turning to Harry, Draco said, “Literally anything else. What about having dinner with our friends?”

            “Ron and Hermione—”

            Exhaling, Draco motioned between them both. “Our friends. Our mutual friends. Radical idea, Harry—what if we spent the evening with people who could stand the sight of me?”

            “That’s not fair—”

            Draco put his hands up to his face. “We have to stop. This is never going to be solved. I don’t want to fight, so let’s just…let it go.”

            Harry frowned, clearly unsatisfied. But he said, “All right.”

            Draco went back to finishing off his tie. “You have to make me a promise.”

            “What’s that?”

            Tugging and adjusting, Draco said, “You know what.”

            “Oh come on. It’s been two weeks.”

            “Yes, and I’m sure Molly’s over it,” Draco muttered. He turned back to Harry, setting his hands on his hips and giving his husband a hard look. “We made it very clear that we didn’t want any fuss over things. There’s a reason we eloped. She’s going to have something planned just to be contrary, and the second there’s even the whiff of it, you are going to shut it down.”

            Harry pulled his head back. “Why me?”

            “Because I am sick and tired of being the bad guy. She’s your family, she’s practically your mother. It’s your responsibility to take the lead when it comes to her. So promise me—if Molly has some surprise—Merlin forbid, if she decides to throw us a wedding—you’ll tell her no.” Harry look away, queasy. Draco snapped his fingers, quickly drawing Harry’s attention back to him. “Promise me.”

            “I promise.” Draco wasn’t sure he believed him. Harry insisted, “I promise. I don’t want anything either. I don’t give a shit about weddings, and I certainly don’t need any more publicity over the whole thing. I just want to be married to you.”

            “Okay. Good.” Draco waited a moment, then held his hand out to Harry. “Shake on it.”

            “You must be kidding.”

            “I need every assurance. Despite this secret fantasy of yours being some confident leather master—”

            “Just don’t say the word ‘leather’ anymore. Let’s just cut it from your vocabulary.”

            “It doesn’t translate over to your actual track record in this regard. So. Shake on it?”

            Rolling his eyes, Harry shook Draco’s hand. “You bloody lunatic.” He pulled Draco closer. “Give us a kiss.”

            Wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck, Draco bent down to kiss Harry’s mouth. He had a sudden wave of reminder. I’ve married this man, Draco thought, and it was still an amazement. When Harry’s hands moved up to his rear, Draco slipped away. “None of that. Get me through this dinner with some shred of dignity in tact and we’ll discuss it.”

            Harry sighed, and Draco cast him a wink.

 

Draco tried very hard not to be a snob about things. But he despised the Burrow.

            It was cramped and chaotic and nothing made sense. Draco would not have lived in Malfoy Manor again for all the silk shirts in the world, but at least it was spacious. Tasteful. Everything had a logical place. It was all of a piece. He had brought that sensibility into their home, and much as Harry had balked at first, he did eventually admit that it was nice to have that sense of order. There was absolutely nothing ordered about the Burrow. It was an overflowing disaster that always had too many people in it.

            Invariably, it was always filled with people who couldn’t abide his existence. Add in the fact that it was Draco’s first time seeing these people since Harry and he had eloped, and there was a whole new tension to deal with.

            When they came through the fireplace, Molly came bustling out of the kitchen. Everyone else parted so that she could get through. “Harry!” she said happily, opening her arms.

            Draco stood back, very aware that every person in the room was avoiding looking at him. Harry gave Molly an enthusiastic hug, swaying her from side to side. “Hello there. Something smells delicious.”

            “I made your favourite chicken.” She drew back a bit, still holding onto Harry’s arms. Molly looked over at Draco. Her eyes narrowed imperceptibly. “Draco.”

            “Molly. Thank you so much for the invitation.”

            “Oh, it’s just a little get together.” A little get together was every Weasley save the one who lived in Romania, all their spouses, and their children. Molly clucked. “What a—lovely tie.”

            “Yes, I’m rather fond of it myself.”

            “You know,” Harry said, “I’m thirsty. Perhaps I’ll get us drinks.”

            Don’t leave me with these people, Draco thought. But Molly practically swung Harry around and hustled him off to the kitchen. “Come with me, Harry.”

            Harry gave him an apologetic look and Draco sighed. He put on his most polite smile, preparing to make small talk. But every single person in the room turned away from him, blocking him from their conversations.

            Draco was not cowed by this. He’d been through years of outright hostility from this clan. Being ignored was not going to scare him. Draco found a spare chair and picked it up. He took a look around, searching for a place to set up. George and his wife Sandrine had a space left beside them.

            Draco plopped the chair down beside them and took a seat, facing them directly. “Good evening.”

            George looked like he had a mouthful of lemons. Sandrine, who was ridiculously out of her husband’s league, smiled sweetly at Draco. “Lovely to see you again, Draco. Congratulations.”

            “Thank you so much. Good to see a friendly face.” Draco shifted on the lumpy chair. He was tempted to perform a spell on the thing to make it bearable, but he’d hear a lot of comments about how he thought he was above them all.

            He wasn’t. At least not in all regards.

            “So,” George said. “It’s official, then.”

            Draco arched a brow. “It wasn’t before?”

            That set the tone for the evening.

 

Draco got through dinner with sheer Malfoyan perseverance.

            Ron and Hermione were not speaking to him. He caught them both glaring at him throughout the meal. Hermione had the good manners to look away, but Ron kept at it, like a pair of eyes lost in a sea of freckles. Draco didn’t blame them. They had not been invited to the ceremony, and found out like everyone else—after the fact. Draco didn’t bother telling them that he had asked Harry to invite them, only to have Harry insist that he wanted it to be just the two of them and the clerk. Better that they be upset with him than hurt by Harry.

            Any time Arthur was reminded of Draco’s presence, he would immediately drop his eyes and begin mumbling. “Yes, well, erm.” He’d push some food around his plate, then abruptly change the topic, usually to something about Muggles. Once Draco had the audacity to correct Arthur about one of his ridiculous claims about Muggles—after all, Arthur only knew about them in the abstract, and Draco had actually lived with Muggles throughout his twenties—and it had been a terrible mistake. Draco had been right, of course—Muggles did not, in fact, discount the roundness of the earth—but everyone was furious that he’d dared say anything in disagreement with the pater familias. The remarks that night had not been subtle. Draco would have preferred people be outright mean, because he was quite adept at countering that. It made Harry quite sad, however.

            The only person at the table who ever seemed to enjoy Draco was Hugo. The other children were old enough to have absorbed their parents’ prejudices, but Hugo was still a baby. He was fascinated by Draco. Any time he got close enough, he would try to grab his hair.

            Everyone avoided the topic of the marriage for the first bit, then Ginny finally broached it, because she was the bravest amongst them. “Was it for the tax perks?” Ginny asked Draco, an edge to her voice.

            “Oh, entirely,” Draco said, picking at his overcooked chicken. “The forms are a nightmare otherwise.”

            Then came the questions. Polite questions about procedure and bureaucracy. No one asked either of them how they felt about the whole thing, or how happy they must be (over the moon, was the honest answer). Draco let Harry field most of the questions, stepping in only when Harry looked frustrated or flustered. Team effort, after all.

            Molly, however, did not say a word about it.

            That was the mother of all red flags. Molly did not keep her opinions to herself. She was the undisputed ruler of this house, this family, and if she was holding her tongue, then they should all be nervous. When she finally cleared her throat, everyone went still, leaned slightly away from her.

            “Pass the butter, will you, Ron?” she asked.

            She’s going to go bloody nuclear, Draco realized with horror, and emptied his drink.

           

When Harry mentioned that they needed to be going, Molly stepped forward.

            Here we go, Draco thought, equally relieved and apprehensive.

            “Before you go, dear,” Molly said. She stepped between the two of them, only she was mostly facing Harry. It gave Draco the perfect opportunity to look over her head at Harry, trying to convey his potential displeasure if Harry wouldn’t stand his ground.

            Harry smiled at him weakly, then looked down at Molly. “What is it, Molly?”

            Molly rubbed a hand up and down his arm, taking a moment before saying anything. I swear by all the stars in the sky, Draco thought at Harry. Molly said sweetly, “Well. This has been such a big change in your life. We were all sad that we couldn’t be there.”

            Draco watched Harry’s face fall with guilt. We made this decision together! I asked you repeatedly if you wanted them there and you said you didn’t, so don’t you dare

            Harry opened his mouth, ostensibly to apologize, but Molly cut him off. “But never mind that. It’s all done, and now we need to celebrate. So.”

            Draco began to shake his head ever so slightly, not caring that the rest of the Weasleys were all watching this with various levels of queasiness. Harry was watching Molly like he was expecting the ceiling to drop on him.

            Molly said cheerfully, “We’re going to throw a party! Everyone will be there. I’ve sent out the invitations today, and we’ll make a big event of it. The Minister has already RSVP’d. I put a notice in the paper as well. It’s traditional, of course. It’s not really a proper marriage unless the notice is in The Prophet. We’ll need some time to prepare, so we’ll have it next month, on the 18th. We’ll do this right. Proper.”

            What she was really saying was there would be dozens of people, if not more, showing up to ogle and make snide comments and pass judgment on their union. Reporters would likely be there. Draco and Harry would be on display, their relationship, their marriage. Literally everything they had fought to protect themselves from these past seven years.

            She was also saying that she had just alerted the whole world to the fact that they’d gotten married.

            Draco caught Harry’s eyes. Harry looked absolutely blasted clear. No, Draco mouthed vehemently.

            “We’ve already put quite the down payment on everything,” Molly said.

            Draco shook his head at Harry. Don’t you dare

            Harry looked back at Molly, then said, high pitched, “What a lovely surprise!”

            Draco dropped his head back as Harry threw his arms around Molly. Malaysian resting eels had more backbone. Harry looked at him over Molly’s shoulder, abjectly remorseful, and Draco glared at him. Harry had promised him. He had actually said the words.      

            “You’re not upset?” Molly asked. “I know you don’t like a lot of fuss. But you’ll indulge an old woman on this, won’t you?”

            Pulling back, Harry smiled at her, but it was a smile that could only charitably be described as painted on. “No! No, this is so sweet. Thank you, Molly, this is so kind.”

            I’ll kill him, Draco thought.

            Molly turned back, putting a hand to Draco’s arm. “And you, Draco?” Her smile bordered on saccharine, but her eyes were hard as flint.

            If he said what they were all thinking—this was a punishment, not a celebration—it would be just one more excuse for the whole clan to hate him. Draco, the monster, who said no to the party after the notoriously poor Weasleys put down money on the thing. Everyone would conveniently ignore the fact that he was trying to protect Harry. He would be the villain. Again. Always.

            So Draco smiled politely and said, “What a lovely gesture.”

            Molly’s smile spread further with triumph, and she wrapped her arms around him. Despite the fact that she was a round, soft woman, the embrace was like holding a board. “I’m so glad,” Molly said, and patted him on the back. Only it was more like a blow, to the point where Draco lost his breath a moment.

            He looked at his husband. The Chosen One. Well, the Chosen One was a coward. Harry raised his shoulders, apologetic, and Draco sighed.

            A damned coward.

 

When they stepped through the fireplace into their house, Draco immediately went to the front door. He checked the locks, same as always. He was seething.

            He could feel Harry behind him, and he didn’t care how badly Harry felt about the whole thing. The man had thrown him under the bus.

            Harry said, “Draco.”

            Without looking at him, Draco said, “Splendid job, Harry. You really know how to keep a promise.”

            He bounded up the stairs. He left Harry downstairs alone.