Chapter 1: Mr. Malfoy Goes a-Courting
Draco tumbled onto the carpet in a heap of stupid hoodie and weak muscles. Potter’s angry words and haunted face snapped into his mind again. Draco shook himself, trying to get it out of his head. It didn’t work. Draco tore the hoodie over his head and kicked his jeans off—his ridiculous, unfitted jeans, how did he not realize what a laughing stock he’d made of himself?— and stood up, still shaking, in his undershirt and pants. He walked out of the foyer into the drawing room, by-passing the fainting couch where he usually liked to drop onto and indulge in a good old fashioned Victorian sulk. He ran into a few things due to the tears obscuring his vision. Really, that was what he got from thinking he could court Harry fucking Potter.
Medea’s Pub was, as usual, packed to the brim with Ministry employees, the case since it had opened five years ago. Its owner, a man not named Medea, both hated and loved his clientele. On one hand, it meant the pub would stay in business until capitalism finally collapsed and revolutionists overthrew the incompetent government and freed all of its overworked and underpaid employees; on the other hand, overworked and underpaid government employees were the worst. They yelled, they sang, they threw the eight-ball into the toilet so no one else could play, and they drank all the Malbec before anyone else could get to it.
“That’s because you and two other people are the only ones who would drink that stuff,” Potter said, a glass of boring bourbon hanging loosely in his hand. “And you always work late, so of course you never get here in time to order the one bottle they carry here.”
Draco looked at his cabernet sauvignon miserably. “Maybe I should stop coming here and drink at home.”
“Or, you could ask Sullivan to get more, and keep coming?”
Draco sipped his wine. “Who’s Sullivan?”
“The owner,” Potter said in an exasperated tone.
“Oh,” Draco said. “You know I’m not good with names.”
“You’re not good with them because you never listen.”
“Listen to what?”
Potter laughed, downing his drink. “Prat.”
“You can always go sit with your friends,” Draco said lightly.
“I am sitting with a friend,” Potter said, and his tone was a little snappy at that.
Draco looked into his wine. “Well, I mean—” He knew he was flustered. “Aurors always sit together.”
“This isn’t lunchtime in the cafeteria,” Potter said. “We’ve been colleagues for a year, and you still act like we’re going to start hexing each other at any moment.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No, I don’t!”
“We’re friends,” Potter insisted again. “That’s why I’m sitting here with you. That’s why I always ask you to come to pub nights.”
“Every night is pub night with you lot,” Draco mumbled.
Potter ignored him. “And that’s why I’m drinking to you.” He raised his glass.
Draco didn’t want to. He really didn’t. It was only decorum that made him raise his wine glass in return, and carefully touched it to Potter’s snifter glass, which felt very strong against his delicate wine glass.
Draco didn’t want to drink to being Potter’s friend. He wanted to knock Potter’s glass out of his hand and climb into his lap and kiss him until they were thrown out.
But they drank to it anyway. Potter signaled for another round and the owner came to top them off.
“Thanks, Sally,” Draco said. He got a glare from the owner and a kick to the shin from Potter.
Draco’s contract with the DMLE was for five whole years. And somehow near the end of his first year, Draco was still going to pub nights and Potter still insisted on sitting with him. But now they’d moved from the stools to the booths, because for some Merlin-forsaken reason his friends and Potter’s friends seemed to slither out from whatever hole they spawn from and decided that intruding on Potter and him was a nice weeknight past time. Blaise and Pansy merely smirked at Draco’s vitriolic eye-twitching.
“Granger invited us!” Pansy said, sitting her coquettish arse on a stool. “Isn’t she nice?” she said, craning her neck to look past the line of Draco and Gryffindors to see Smart Weasley at the far end, who waved at Pansy. “For fuck’s sake, why are we sitting here?”
Draco’s eye-twitching was evolving into a spasm.
And that was how they went from intimate, Draco-could-pretend-to-be-wobbly-after-drinks-and-Potter-would-steady-him-with-a-hand intimate to everyone-crammed-into-a-small-booth-and-were-too-drunk-for-an-extension-charm booth. And Potter wouldn’t even be sitting next to Draco!
“I hate you both,” Draco hissed at Blaise. Pansy was too busy talking to Boy Weasley and Smart Weasley to notice.
“We’ve given you years to make a move, sweetpea,” Blaise replied. “And still, there you were, sitting at the least romantic place in a pub, staring at Potter with lovesick eyes and not asking him out. ”
“Don’t speak about the stools when you have no idea of their use,” Draco replied. “And I wouldn’t be so crass as to simply ask him out .”
“Don’t pretend to be some wide-eyed virgin, Draco.”
“I’m not. I’m simply saying that Potter isn’t someone who I only want to see in the club’s bathroom for a handjob.”
“Right, because the place you want to see him at is every day in your bed.”
“Lower your voice before I shove this bottle so far up your ass Pansy will be tasting beer every time she kisses you. And you know full well that’s not how we do things when we are serious about someone!”
“Ugh,” Blaise downed his shot. “I can’t listen to you talk about what’s the proper way to woo again. I had my punishment when we all had to sit through you bitching about Potter’s atrocious dating skills. As if you weren’t happy that he got dumped by Cho.”
“Who got dumped?” Smart Weasley asked.
“Your beloved bespectacled friend,” Blaise replied.
“Harry!” she turned to him. “Did you get dumped again?”
Potter groaned. “What the fuck, Hermione?”
“Again?” Draco asked. He did not know about this. Potter hadn’t told him he was seeing someone.
“I didn’t get dumped again!” Potter said. “I’m not—I’m not seeing anyone!”
“That’s even worse,” Pansy said.
“When was your last date?” Smart Weasley asked.
Potter glared at the table. Draco held his breath.
“Two years ago,” Potter said.
Pansy let out a cackle with such force Draco was sure her throat would be damaged. “What!” she screamed. “What?!”
“What of it?” Potter replied petulantly. “I don’t like dating.”
Draco barely resisted sending Blasie a smug look.
“Don’t like dating?” Boy Weasley laughed. “Or is it because you like—ow!” He rubbed the spots where Smart Weasley pinched him and where Potter kicked him under the table.
That was quickly put to an end, but nearly a month later, when it was only the two of them, Potter told Draco quietly, “I always feel awful after dates.”
They were back at their comfortable spot: the counter stools, getting their friends’ drinks, and Granger (Draco stopped calling them both a variant of Weasley after one night where he had a nightmare of being buried by countless weasels) wanted a cocktail that took ten thousand years to make. Mostly because Draco tricked her into thinking that it was some traditional festival drink from Asia and it intrigued her enough to order it. Draco definitely didn’t want her to order it because it would force him and Potter to remain at the counter longer.
“Awful, like in bed?” Draco asked with false calm.
“Like in my brain,” Potter said.
Potter was looking away from Draco. “I don’t know. They always made me feel so...used, afterward. Like they wanted me for the rush. And I always go home lonely. I always wonder if anyone would want me just for me. All of them are either taken or...” he paused, slanted Draco a look. “... not interested...”
Draco had missed that last bit, because he was too busy glaring at the table after Potter’s I always go home lonely. Draco couldn’t speak, at least not with words, maybe with a scream or a sob or a kiss, or all of them. But at that moment stupid Sabien brought over their drinks and Potter snapped out of his reverie. He avoided Draco’s eyes and levitated the trays (wandless and wordlessly, like a bastard) quickly to their booth. Draco stared after him for a few beats before turning around.
“Thanks a lot,” Draco snapped. “Could you not tell that we were having a moment, Sabien?”
The man glared. “My name is Sullivan.”
“I thought Sullivan was the owner.”
“I am the owner!” he shouted, then he walked away sputtering about stupid bureaucracy rotting people’s brain.
Draco didn’t care who the owner was. When he finally went back, Potter was still not looking at him. Draco flicked a pickled onion at him, and it stuck to Potter’s beard. Potter snapped his eyes to Draco and Draco offered a smirk.
Potter stared, grinned, and threw the onion back at Draco. It landed in his drink.
Draco had never been brave, and being surrounded by Gryffindor for nearly a year and working with Aurors for over a year didn’t change that in any way. Draco didn’t have courage, and pursuing someone definitely needed it.
Harry had just told Draco he was lonely.
Draco wasn’t brave. He was simply in love.
That night Draco went to the attic where he kept his Manor stuff, and brought down a chest. In it were some of his favorite clothes. Clothes he saved for a special occasion.
“Dottie,” he said to his hired-elf. “Would you mind cleaning and pressing these for me?”
Draco had newly-hired Dottie for his residence, but she was also one of the Manor elves that had been there since Draco was born. She took one look at the chest and gasped.
“Mr. Malfoy is going courting!” she said.
Draco grinned at her. His heart was beating wildly.
“Yes, I am.”
Chapter 2: A Brooch and a Pile of Squares
“Mr. Draco is finally courting!” Dottie sobbed into her hands. “Twenty-seven years old, at last! Mr. Draco ought to have three babies by now—”
“Dottie,” Draco said.
“One girl, a boy, then another little girl!” Dottie cried. “Mr. Malfoy and his beloved will live together here in Ashby House, and Dottie will take care of them. And plan the wedding! And set up the nursery! Oh, but first, the consummation chamber—”
“Dottie!” Draco yelled. The elf yelped and jumped three feet off the ground. Draco caught her and held her up so he could look into Dottie’s teary eyes.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Draco told her. “We don’t even know if Potter will accept the courtship.”
Dottie’s eyes somehow managed to widen further. “Mr. Draco is courting Mr. Potter!” Draco winced at the volume. “Consummation chamber is a must!”
“Please stop saying consummation chamber,” Draco said, setting Dottie down. She blew her nose on her dress.
“Dottie will be cleaning these clothes now.” Dottie stared at the chest reverently. “And make Mr. Draco a pot of stew. Mr. Draco must be strong and steady for his beloved!”
Draco could eat five hundred pots of stew and still wouldn’t be strong and steady, definitely not standing next to Potter and the man’s muscles. But considering what was to come according to Pureblood courtship traditions, it might be a good idea to start beef himself up a bit.
After Dottie left, Draco went to his study and to his lavish, mahogany Wooton desk that once got a “Jesus Christ” from Potter. Draco didn’t care that Potter thought it ostentatious, it was one of the few pieces of furniture he’d brought from the Manor. He had always wanted it, ever since he was a child, and he had wished to grow up faster so he could ask his parents for it so he could put in the study that Draco was bound to have once he started taking on family responsibilities.
After the war, Draco didn’t have to (or get to) seek permission from his parents, and so he swiftly packed up all the vases, breakfronts, settees and couches he loved from his home and brought it over to Ashby House, where he’d lived since. The first thing Draco did, after finding a place for the desk, was to clean it by hand, top to bottom, attacking the grime left by months of abuse with a carefully mixed concoction, cleaning each compartment meticulously. It had taken him an entire week of non-stop work, but the result was worth it. Draco indulged himself in stroking the deep blue velvet pigeon hole drawers, with little golden stars on the velvet, like the starry vault in cathedrals; and pulling open all the drawers and poking at the cubby holes like he’d always wanted to as a child.
It wasn’t until years after the war did Draco find out that the desk, which was displayed so prominently in the Manor before and now in Draco’s home, was made by a Muggle company in America. Draco had never known that; he wondered if his father did.
It was one of his favorite things in the house, and Draco kept his most valuable possessions in the desk. Including the brooch.
His mother had taken him to the family’s vault and had him pick out a piece of jewelry. “These are traditional courting gifts,” she had said. “One day you will give it to your beloved, and if they accept it, it means they are granting you the privilege to court them.”
And the brooch had caught little Draco’s eyes. The gleam of the gold, the relief on both sides, and the inscription that said “ El mio core e ferito per voe” and “Quista te dono per amore bella. ” His mother explained to him that all courting gifts had inscriptions like that on it, so a gentleman could offer himself to his beloved and be accepted or refused, all conducted without a word, as talking was deemed “unseemly” in Pureblood circles.
He had saved it since then. And he was now, finally, going to give it away.
Draco sat the brooch on his desk. That was the formal gift, now for the homely gift. One that his mother told him was unnecessary and common, but Draco thought it would be perfect for Potter. He went around the house, gathered his favorite blanket, throw, tea cozy, sweater, scarf, his old Slytherin cloak, the uniform of his first job as a potions apprentice, and the curtains from every room in the house. By the time Draco dumped all the fabrics on his bed, he was out of breath.
He took out his wand and was just about to cast when Dottie popped up beside him and slapped his wand out of his hand.
“Bugger,” Draco said.
“Mr. Draco cannot be using magic for his courting quilt!” Dottie sounded horrified. “Mr. Draco must be using his own hands to cut out pieces and sew them together by hands as well!”
“I haven’t got the faintest idea of how to make quilts, Dottie!”
“Then Mr. Draco will be figuring it out, for his beloved,” Dottie said sternly. She snapped her fingers and Draco’s wand flew into her waiting palm. “Dottie will be taking this until stew is ready.” Then she Disapparated.
“Fucling elves,” Draco snapped at no one. Such was his life.
Three hours, and a lot of whining to no one later, Draco had shredded all the fabrics into a pile of mismatched squares. The uneven sizes were making his skin crawl uncomfortably, but his hands hurt so much he didn’t ever want to hold another pair of scissors again. Draco thought the progress was good enough to beg Dottie for a bowl of stew and his wand back. And soon he was sitting on the floor, stew and a plate of bread, cheese, and grapes in front of him. Draco happily ate away while Dottie picked up each square and examined it with shrewd eyes.
“These is not being the same size,” Dottie accused.
“Today was the first time in my life I’ve ever used scissors.”
Dottie sighed, and handed him a box of sewing stuff, plus a huge roll of embroidery thread.
“Mr. Draco must be thinking about his beloved while sewing the quilt,” Dottie said. “Now, does Mr. Draco be wanting a whip stitch, catch stitch, basting stitch, running stitch, back stitch, or a blanket stitch?”
Draco looked at her blankly.
Dottie put her face in her hands and walked out of the room.
Draco would feel bad for distressing her, but he honestly believed no twenty-seven-year-old person nowadays knew how to sew. When she calmed down enough she would return and teach him. Blanket stitch sounded lovely.
Blanket stitch could go fuck itself.
The next day found Draco wearing an open royal blue robe, plain shirt, and white trousers. Chintz patterns were stitched along the legs of the trouser in gold. It was too mild for Draco, so he topped the whole outfit off with a gold beaded necklace and traditional witch’s hat. Jasmine flowers curled around the hat, emitting a honeyed fragrance with every step he took. He had woken up early for some extra hair maintenance (i.e. soaked it in potions until it shined and felt like silk. It was unlikely that Potter would touch his hair, but one could never be too prepared for the important things in life). And he had put on just the tiniest bit of lipstick instead of his usual routine (lip moisturizers and coconut oil, every day, he wasn’t a barbarian, what if someone (Potter) wanted to kiss him?).
Now, standing in the line for the Ministry lift, despite the cool and collected vibe he wished the outfit conveyed, Draco couldn’t help but feel a hot and cold sort of panic seizing him. The brooch was safely in his back pocket, though Draco patted it one more time, just to make sure. Which marked the fifth time he’d patted his arse in the last two minutes. Three people had left their place in the line behind him from the excessive butt touching. Draco ought to be indignant (his arse looked fantastic in these robes) though perhaps no butt was good enough for government employees before eight o’clock in the morning.
Draco digressed. He was freaking out, because once the lift reached the fifth floor, Potter would be there to greet him and take his place next to Draco, and they would ride to the Auror Office on the tenth floor together. It happened every day, no matter what time Draco came in, Potter would appear as though summoned. To this day Potter insisted that it was all coincidence, not that Draco ever complained.
But it was nerve-wracking to know that today, Draco would have to officially ask Potter for his permission to court. Suddenly the brooch (Draco patted his arse again) seemed both gaudy and not fancy enough. Draco wondered what gift Potter had given Ginevra when they got together. It must have been something grand, they had looked so in love….
He hadn’t realized he was already in the lift, and didn’t snap out of his thoughts until someone coughed impatiently.
Draco snapped his head up, and was suddenly looking right at Potter, who seemed to be standing at the opened door and making no move to get in. He was staring at Draco.
Someone else grumbled. Potter still didn’t move.
“Any day, now, Mr. Potter!” someone snapped. Potter blinked and blushed furiously, hurried into the lift.
“What’s with you?” Draco said, after his voice finally decided to come back to him.
Potter was looking straight ahead. Usually Draco was the one doing that because Potter wouldn’t stop smiling at him, and some smiles were just too much to handle first thing in the morning.
“Special occasion?” Potter said.
“Your robes,” Potter said. “They’re nice. And your lips—I mean—Er….”
A bashful smile crossed Draco’s face and he wiped it off before he disgraced himself. “Yes, I suppose it is.”
“A special occasion or nice?”
Potter glanced at Draco then quickly away.
“What is it, then?”
“You’ll know soon enough,” Draco said.
They arrived on the tenth floor and made their usual walk to the Auror Office before going their separate way: Draco to the Forensics Unit and Potter to the Auror Office—though not before turning around and blinking at Draco dumbly once more.
Draco was smiling for the rest of the day.
Draco decided to wait until both of them left work to execute his plan. Since giving your beloved their courting gift at work (in the Ministry, no less) seemed like one of the least romantic things Draco could think of. Second to anywhere near Weasley.
So there they were, at Medea’s again, and Draco was about to throw up. Sam was going to kill him if he threw up on his counter.
“You okay?” Potter asked. He was talking to Draco’s lips, which seemed promising, but very unflattering if Draco’s stomach decided it couldn’t handle the pressure. With Potter’s eyes glued to Draco’s mouth, he would definitely get a front-row seat to what came about Draco’s lunch.
Draco nodded. This time when he wavered on his stool it wasn’t faked, but Potter’s hands shot out to steady him anyway.
Draco was going to die. He needed to give Potter the damn brooch and get it over with. If Potter rejected Draco’s request to court then at least Draco could run home and throw up.
“Potter,” Draco said weakly. “I have...I have a request….”
“Yeah?” Potter was so close. His voice got softer. He was looking at Draco’s eyes now.
Draco swallowed, and shoved the brooch into Potter’s hand.
Potter reeled back in surprise. “What’s this?”
Oh, god, why did Potter have to drag this out? “It’s for you,” Draco said.
“Oh,” Potter said. “Okay. Thanks...is that a woman shooting a man with arrows?”
“Yes,” Draco said, that was what caught his eyes when he was a kid. He always wanted an explosive love like that.
Potter turned the brooch around. “And is that...a woman stabbing a man?”
“Yes,” Draco said again.
The back actually depicted a woman pointing an accusatory finger at a man, then stabbing him. It was meant to show the suitor’s beloved that they would never be unfaithful, and if they dare spurned the courtship, their beloved had the right to seek revenge. Draco thought it was a very nice Gryffindor sentiment, but Potter was looking at the relief like it was a threat.
Alarmed, Draco asked, “So, ah, do you...accept?”
Potter looked back to Draco, “Yeah?” he said. “Of course. Thank you for this.”
Draco could pass out, he was so relieved, and he would’ve if their friends hadn’t all arrived at that moment.
“Hey!” Granger hugged Potter. She pulled back and saw the brooch. She gasped. “Oh, my god! Harry! Where did you get that?”
“Draco gave it to me,” Potter replied.
Granger turned her shocked expression to Draco, and Draco met her eyes head-on. Friendship and group system were important in courting traditions, meaning during this time, Draco really had to impress all of Potter’s friends to show that he was worthy. And in Potter’s case, his friends really did have the absolute power to decide if they deemed Draco trustworthy enough to stay in Potter’s life.
It didn’t seem like Granger was upset. She was smiling widely at Draco, “Oh, that’s such great news!” She turned to the rest of the group, who were not paying attention to them in the face of getting smashed.
“Guys, guys! Look!”
They all turned to Potter (who was looking very shell-shocked and confused. Poor man, he never did well with attention), then collectively, their eyes dropped to the brooch.
“Holy shit,” Weasley whispered.
“Draco, you bastard!” Pansy screamed right into Draco’s ears.
“Finally,” Blaise said.
“I’m so happy for you!” Lovegood said.
“Well, put it on!” Ginevra told Potter.
With a bemused smile, Potter pinned the brooch to the front of his robe, and their friends all cheered. Potter shook his head fondly at them.
“Whatever makes you guys happy,” he said.
Weasley nudged Draco in the ribs. “Only you would choose such a stuck up way of wooing Harry,” he said, only loud enough for Draco to hear.
Draco didn’t care. The sight of his brooch, displayed so proudly on Potter’s person, made him feel all warm and gooey.
Chapter 3: Ferret Costumes and Flying Contracts
“Well, well, well,” Weasley said gleefully when Draco showed up at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes the next day. “I see you’re choosing to do your chores today.”
Draco scowled. This was the one he dreaded the most: proving to his beloved’s closest companions that he was worthy of their friend. Since last night Weasley has been sending him evil little glances, and bursting into random bouts of laughter that boded no good prospect for Draco. Honestly, Draco would much rather face the truly old courtship rituals where he had to go slay a monster or something, because being beat up seemed infinitely more appealing than putting his dignity into Weasley’s hands.
“I will stay until noon,” Draco warned. “Then it’s Granger for the afternoon.”
“One morning is all I need,” Weasley said. And his grin made Draco shiver in a very bad way.
And that was how Draco ended up wearing a heavy, damp, smelly, and crudely made ferret costume, standing at the door to WWW and waving at every single horrible person that decided that day was the day they wanted to go and shop in Diagon Alley and witness Draco’s misery. God, why be a wizard in ferret costume when you could just be a pile of human-shaped regret?
“How goes the courting?” George said when he came in later, sipping a cup of coffee. What wouldn’t Draco give for that cup of coffee! Maybe he should pretend to trip in his costume and slap it to the ground.
“Fucking awful,” Draco said with difficulty from inside the costume. “I will sue your shop for this one day!”
“The kids love him,” Weasley said, popping out of nowhere. “They keep trying to hug him.”
“Why does this costume smell like shit?” Draco said. “And it’s damp. It’s supposed to be new!”
“I poured a bottle of our ‘Locker Room Scent’ cologne in it before giving it to you.”
“Why are you selling cologne that smells like sweat!”
But Weasley and George just cackled and went into the shop, while another kid came barreling into Draco and demanded that he squeak like a ferret.
Draco had never been more glad to see Granger’s face that afternoon. She looked up from her desk and scrunched her nose.
“Couldn’t you have bothered to shower before coming?” she said.
Draco glared. “Your husband did this. I have a reputation around here, you know!”
“The only reputation you have around here is how you don’t know that oranges have seeds.”
“For fuck’s sake. That was two years ago! I already told you it’s because the Manor elves always picked the seeds out for me, how was I supposed to know—”
“Yes, yes, we all know you were a rich little boy.” Granger folded her hands. “I saw the inscriptions on the brooch.”
Draco glared, “What about it?”
“‘ Quista te dono per amore bella, ’” she said, with perfect pronunciation. Bitch. “‘I give you this, beautiful one, as a token of my love.’”
Draco huffed. “Are you saying it was a bad gift?”
“No,” she said. “And ‘ el mio core e ferito per voe ’. It means, ‘my heart is wounded by you’, no?”
“Why did you decide to court him now?” Granger’s eyes were boring into his. “I know you’ve loved him for a long time.”
Draco blushed with embarrassment. He hated it when people saw through him.
“He said he’s lonely,” he said.
Granger looked like she expected the answer. She looked sad.
“He is,” she agreed.
“Well, he shouldn’t be!” Draco said. “He should be loved .”
She took up her quill again. “You can help me sort through the cases from Treaty for Werewolf & Elves Research and Protection.”
Draco blinked. “That’s it?”
“I got what I need,” Granger said, already writing away.
Draco went to the box labeled TWERP and opened it. Immediately files came flying out and started smacking him in the face. Draco yelped and hexed them, but that just made them angrier.
“I need them done in an hour,” Granger said lightly from the safety of her desk.
Draco should have known only someone evil would marry a Weasley.
It took him forty minutes to calm all of the files down (“You have to tell them a boring story, so they fall asleep” Granger said. “Then I should just show them your wardrobe,” Draco replied, and Granger threw a stapler at him, which, of course, landed dead-on). By the time Draco escaped he was covered in papercuts, sporting a bruise, and still smelling like a Quidditch Locker Room. Dottie was horrified when she saw him.
“Did Mr. Draco not get the blessing of his beloved’s friends?” she screeched.
“Oh, I did,” Draco said darkly. “They are just a couple of pernicious little hippogriff droppings who I will find a way to accuse of treason and get them deported to Sealand.”
Draco quickly showered, put on a clean set of robes, and Apparated away with the basket he had prepared that morning.
Mr. Weasley was the one that answered the door. Draco didn’t know if he should be relieved or nervous. The smell of roast beef told Draco Mrs. Weasley was most likely in the kitchen, with a knife, that she could easily stab Draco with if she pleased.
Draco hugged the basket to his chest protectively, stuck out one hand, and managed not to stutter, “Hello, Mr. Weasley. I’m here to—”
But Draco didn’t finish the sentence before he was pulled into a hug and given a few hard thumps on the back.
“I heard the news!” Mr. Weasley exclaimed. “Courting our Harry! Such wonderful news!”
Draco gave a wobbly smile. “Yes, well—”
“Molly!” Mr. Weasley bellowed into the house and ushered Draco in at the same time. “Dear! The Malfoy boy is here!”
From the kitchen came a series of clangs, that in Draco’s mind, sounded like war cries before a certain death. He braced himself as Molly Weasley appeared in the doorway. The one downside of falling in love with Potter was that Draco had to face the woman who had successfully killed Aunt Bella. In Draco’s opinion that was scarier than killing the Dark Lord, since Molly Weasley didn’t use fucking Expelliarmus.
“Draco!” Mrs. Weasley cried. She wasn’t holding a knife (thank god). She rushed over and also gave Draco a hug, which was very awkward since Draco was using the basket as a shield, but that didn’t stop her arms from reaching all the way around somehow. Maybe it was maternal magic.
“Oh, I was over the moon when George told us! Courting! Our Harry, being courted! And aren’t you a handsome lad; your robes are exquisite. Have you started on the quilt yet, dear? I’m sure I have some fabric lying around—oh, and you must see the one Arthur made me when he was courting!”
Mr. Weasley made a protesting noise.
“Hush, dear, it was a lovely quilt. I never thought I would see you young kids go courting! Even Bill didn’t—of course, he married a French girl, now they don’t have these traditions—”
“Molly, dear,” Mr. Weasley interjected. “Perhaps we should see what Draco brought us first.”
“Yes! Of course!” Mrs. Weasley said, finally letting Draco go.
“Thank you,” Draco wheezed, holding the basket out and pulled back the handkerchief covering it. Everything was under Stasis. The bread was still oven-warm. The salt crystal gleaming in the light like a gemstone. And the jar of rosemary, cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger, and sage were still green and fresh, exactly as when Draco picked them himself that morning.
“His shelter, happiness, and protection, I give you my word.”
Mr. Weasley and Mrs. Weasley stared at him.
Oh, god, Draco thought. Here comes the knife.
Then Mrs. Weasley burst into tears.
Alarmed, Draco said, “Mrs. Weasley—”
“He’s asking for our blessing to court Harry, Arthur!” Mrs. Weasley sobbed.
“I know, I know.” Mr. Weasley gathered his wife into his arms and let her sob into his chest. His eyes were shiny too.
“Oh, Merlin,” Draco said, his hands shaking. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to—I just assumed—I—I should just leave,” he said, and tried not to let his disappointment and shame well up in the back of his throat.
“No!” Mrs. Weasley shouted, pulling away from her husband. “That’s not what I mean, Draco, oh, darling—”
She grabbed and tugged him down, and pressed a wet kiss to his head. Draco flushed.
Mrs. Weasley continued, “I’m just so happy that you came to us, for the parents’ blessing!”
“You’re his family,” Draco said, still very tentative.
“But we didn’t think other people would understand that,” Mr. Weasley said. He wiped the corner of his eyes with his thumb, and reached out to accept Draco’s basket. “Of course we give you our blessing.”
“Make an honest man out of him, darling!” Mrs. Weasley said.
Draco’s face burned. “Oh, well—that’s a bit too—”
“Don’t tease, Molly,” Mr. Weasley laughed.
“Won’t you stay for dinner, darling?” Mrs. Weasley asked.
“That’s very kind of you,” Draco said. The roast smelled amazing, but he was overwhelmed with enough Weasleys for one day. “But I have another place I need to go.”
Godric’s Hollow was quiet and dark when Draco got there. Mostly Muggles lived here now, and it saw very little activity after Potter had made a heartfelt plea a few years back to let his parents rest. Though he had brought Draco here once. Draco had Potter swear to never mention it because Draco had cried like a little baby and Potter had to wipe his snot off for him. Draco looked into ways to permanently remove his tear ducts after that, but Pansy said, “Crying is 80 percent of your personality.” So Draco gave up, not before flooding Pansy’s bathroom and ruining all of her makeup.
Draco found James and Lily Potter quite easily, it was the one with the flowers. Lilies. Only Potter left lilies.
Draco laid his bouquet down. “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Potter,” he said. “I brought peonies, because I think I would be quite annoyed if people always assumed my favorite flower is the same as my name.”
A soft breeze went through the trees, and the susurrous sounded like laughter. Graveyards always gave people wistful assumptions.
Draco took out the quilt—barely halfway through—and his pile of squares. He had gotten more material from Mrs. Weasley, including the giant golden H from Potter’s first Weasley jumper.
“This was his first gift,” Draco said, holding the H up. “I think it would look good in the center of the quilt.”
Draco put the H away and picked up his thread and needle. “I hope you don’t mind me catching up on some work,” he said. “I’m awfully slow at this.”
Dottie told him he needed to be thinking about his beloved when sewing, which wasn’t hard, since Draco had been thinking about Potter since he was eleven.
“I was awful to him,” Draco said. “I used the two of you as weapons, because I knew it was his biggest hurt.”
Draco accidentally pricked his finger. He paid it no mind.
“I wish I could take it all back, sometimes I think I wish that more than anything, more than getting my own parents back—because now I know how much it hurts.” Draco finished a square. Picked up another one. Kept sewing. “Because I know he always brings you lilies because he doesn’t know what your favorite flower is, and he never will.”
The squares were getting soaked, and it made the needle harder to push through. “I came here to show you my determination to court your son, but I would give up my chance with him if it meant I could take back all the things I said to him, all the hurt I caused him. It scares me, to know that he knows that side of me. I wish I could make it right.”
Draco wiped his eyes. It didn’t help. He picked up the quilt again. Another square.
“I will do right by him this time,” Draco said. And he kept sewing, sitting alone in a graveyard. And if he used the quilt to dry his tears once in a while, well—no one alive was there to judge him.
Chapter 4: Mixed Signals
Draco left the graveyard near midnight, his body aching from sitting on the ground for so long, and from the crying that was forever going to be only between him and James and Lily Potter. He cast a warming spell on himself. The village was silent, and dark except for the streetlamps. Draco feared the click of his boots would wake up the entire street, or announce his presence to the man standing at the base of the obelisk—Draco gasped out loud.
Potter swung around to face him, wand at the ready. His eyebrows went up and disappeared beneath his beanie when he saw Draco across the square.
“Draco?” he said.
Draco winced at the sound echoing around them. Draco jogged over before Potter decided to wake up the entire street like a twit. “What are you doing here?” Potter asked when Draco neared, the obelisk slowly faded into the statue of the Potters.
Draco shrugged. His throat was still feeling very tender.
Potter seemed to be taken back at seeing Draco here of all places. Potter looked at him with unwavering focus, and Draco was keenly aware of his own puffy eyes and messy hair. Paired with his lavish robes, he must look so ridiculous. This just taught him to always assume he would run into his beloved—such a rookie mistake. Draco should start sleeping in his best robes and put his hair under Stasis, just in case Potter ever decided to knock on his door in the middle of the night, asking to borrow eggs.
Neither of them talked, just staring at each other, and—for fuck’s sake, Potter really wasn’t letting Draco forget his state of unattractive disheveledness, was he? (As opposed to attractive disheveledness, like the morning after, running into the bathroom to freshen up before your one-night-stand woke up). Draco was starting to imagine himself through Potter’s eyes, noticing all the flaws, all the shortcomings.
Draco looked away and tried not to squirm. Potter sucked in a deep breath and asked, “New robes again?”
“That tends to happen when you own more than one set,” Draco couldn’t help but retort. His voice was hoarse. It sounded like misery incarnate, or Weasley with phlegm. Either way, not very appealing in front of the person you liked.
Potter didn’t say anything. He conjured up a cup—a mug, for god’s sake—and filled it with water. He stepped close to Draco, far too close than proper etiquette would allow for a courting couple, but the village was very quiet and everything outside of their spot under the streetlamp was dark and very far away. Who was going to tell?
Potter gave the mug to Draco with two hands.
“A mug?” Draco asked.
“Not everyone’s conjured drinkware is a fancy tulip glass, alright?” Potter said.
A grin pulled Draco’s lips. “You remembered the name.”
Potter blushed. “Well, you talked about it for ten minutes, then yelled at anyone who got it wrong. It was entertaining.”
It really was. Draco remembered Potter laughing a lot during that conversation. He took a sip of water, and it soothed his throat like magic.
“Couldn’t sleep?” Draco asked softly, in between sips of water.
Potter’s eyes fluttered away. “Not really,” he said quietly, and turned his gaze to the statue. “I was just missing them.”
And oh, did that make Draco’s heart melt and break in the span of a breath.
“I’m sorry,” Draco said quietly.
Potter shrugged, then turned to Draco with a smile. “I feel better now, after seeing you.”
Draco could burst open with joy from that, but since that was impossible, he did a little tiptoe jump. The water splashed over the mug and onto his fingers. Potter laughed.
They parted at the Apparation point, and Potter’s eyes remained on Draco until the moment his body disappeared. Draco followed suit, Apparating straight to his bed because he did not think his legs could hold him upright if he tried, and hands still clutching the mug.
The next day, Draco went into work and was greeted, as usual, by Potter in the lift. Their conversation was more awkward than they were used to, but before they each went into their offices, Draco asked Potter to have dinner with him, and Potter replied with a very quick (and loud) “Yes!”and when Draco clocked out of work on time that day, all of his co-workers swiveled in their seat to look at him.
“What?” he snapped.
“You’re leaving on time?” one of them asked.
“Thought I'd try it out,” Draco replied, then hurried to the Auror’s office, before fixing his outfit (black shirt with red Mariah bow, black trousers with red clematis patterns, and spotless oxford shoes) and leaned against one wall casually. Then he conjured up a full-sized mirror to make sure he was casually leaning properly, fixed his hair, cleaned his face with a quick spell that left him smelling like begonias, checked his teeth, and—
“We got one, boys,” the portrait someone thought was important enough to paint said.
“One what?” another portrait asked.
“A suitor,” the first one replied. “Waiting for his Auror lover so they can sneak away and…” he paused.
“Pork?” a third portrait piped up helpfully.
“Yes! That’s the word!”
“Excuse you!” Draco said, indignant. “I am not here to do porking of any kind, except emotionally! I am courting my beloved properly, which means no—touching of that sort until he accepts me as a partner!”
All the portraits booed at him.
“Why are you booing me? I’m right!”
“Not even kissing?” another portrait asked in a disappointed tone.
Draco whirled around to face it. “Certainly not!” he said, horrified and flustered. “Don’t be crass!”
Draco and all the portraits whipped around to look at Potter, who looked disturbed by being the center of attention of so many eyes. “What are you—why are you talking to the portraits?”
“We were just discussing whether or not he would kiss you,” the first portrait said, and Draco was already devising a plan to burn the Ministry down just so he could rid these bastards once and for all.
Potter’s eyes widened and Draco hurriedly explained, “Of course I wouldn’t!” Like Draco would disrespect Potter like that during courting!
“Fine,” Potter said flatly.
Draco’s stomach dropped.
“Really, I wouldn’t!”
“Yes, I get it,” Potter snapped.
Oh god, he must think Draco a degenerate. Kissing during courtship, Merlin! Potter was already stomping away, and Draco hurried to catch up.
“Wait!” Draco said. Potter just stepped into the lift and started aggressively pressing the button. They were getting looks from other people, and Potter wasn’t responding to Draco. Thankfully, Pureblood courting was all based on the rule of “The less talking, the better.”
Draco slipped Potter a card.
“What is this?” Potter said tersely, flipping the card over. “‘May I. C. U. home tonight?’”
In a sense eerily like Draco’s co-workers and the portraits, everyone in the lift snapped their heads to them at the phrase that was undoubtedly well-known but never heard, since it was meant for discreet flirting, in the sauciest, yet courtly way! Potter wasn’t meant to say it out loud! Now everyone in this lift knew what they were doing, and Draco’s face burned in mortification.
Once the lift door opened, Draco stormed out and this time Potter was the one to follow.
Potter grabbed Draco’s wrist and Draco shook it off. Good god! Announcing his Escort Card out loud and now touching him willy-nilly, right after getting angry at Draco for insinuating about kissing! Draco did not understand this man!
“I don’t fucking get you!” Potter shouted at him, brandishing Draco’s card.
Draco snatched it out of his hand. “If you don’t want me to, then just say so! ” he snapped back.
“Don’t want you to what?”
“To escort you home!”
“What?” Potter gaped. “Like, walk me home?”
“Draco, we get home straight from the Floo,” Potter said. “What? Were you going to walk me from the lifts to the Floo?”
Draco’s eyes burned as he blinked at Potter in astonished hurt, because yes, that was what he had planned to do, since spending those extra three minutes with Potter was three minutes of time better spent to Draco. But apparently only to him.
“I see,” Draco said stiffly. He was quick to tears. It was in his nature. But he detested crying in front of people. Potter seeing him cry more than once was enough to make Draco want to take a scalpel to the eyes, and the urge got stronger every time it happened.
Draco turned and walked away. They were in the Department of Magical Games and Sports, so maybe Draco could find a closet full of brooms and try to fly himself out of the country.
Someone touched him lightly on the shoulder then pulled away. Draco turned to look at Potter, who looked just as miserable.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Look, I don’t unders….” he sighed. “How about we go get something to eat, maybe somewhere central London?”
Central London, Draco thought, not far enough to Apparate and close enough to walk back to Grimmauld Place. “And I can see you home?” Draco asked, hopeful.
Potter looked dazed for a minute. “Yeah,” he said, eventually, when he tore his eyes away. “I’d like that.”
Dinner was wonderful, and Draco’s offer to pay made Potter blush prettily. And Draco took Potter on a road that he knew was under constant complaints for the uneven ground—which gave Draco a valid excuse to bypass the no physical contact during courting rule, by offering Potter a hand to steady him over bumpy roads. Potter responded to Draco’s gentlemanly gesture with a bemused yet pleased grin.
When they reached Grimmauld, Potter turned at the door, and asked, “Would you, er, do you want to—um, come in?”
Bewildered, Draco stood there. First Potter got upset about kissing, and now he was asking Draco if he wanted to go in his house, after dark? Alone? Without a chaperone?
“No, thank you,” Draco managed. Potter blinked.
“Oh,” Potter said. And he looked very blank, and confused, and frustrated all in one. Or maybe he was just bloated. They did get French for dinner, after all. “Okay, I guess, I’ll see you, tomorrow, or whatever.”
The door closed, and Draco pondered on how this day hadn’t ended on a particularly promising note, even though it did have quite some enjoyable interludes in between. Draco only hoped tomorrow would be better—courting was all about him proving to his beloved that he was a worthy partner, after all—but good grief! Potter was sending him all kinds of mixed signals!
Chapter 5: A Blast and Edible Bird’s Nest
The next day Draco was called into the Head Auror’s office with Potter. Draco had never personally met her, a newly appointed woman called Williams. (“Oh, you remember her name, but not the owner of the pub we’ve been to for years,” Potter whispered to him when he greeted her. “Because the pub owner doesn’t have the power to fire me, dickhead,” Draco said.) She was efficient, terse, and the most important part — she had sent Draco and Potter on a job together.
“Do I get to hex people?” Draco said excitedly.
“No!” Potter said. “Do not hex anyone. I’m going with you to protect you, since you are still technically a civilian.”
“And yet, here I am, the crucial part of this case.”
Potter rolled his eyes, smiling. “Yes. This evidence is the key to a conviction. Apparently it’s prone to explode, and the Edinburgh’s Auror Office doesn’t have the means to transport it properly, so we’ll have to pick it up. But it won’t be ready until tonight.”
“Alright,” Draco said. “When do we leave?”
Potter’s cheeks took on a dusty pink. “Well—I thought we could leave around noon and walk around a bit before?”
Draco tried to keep his face impassive, but he couldn’t quite manage it, so he quickly turned around and pretended to be packing up the things he needed. “Is there a report on the potion?”
Potter handed it to him, and Draco hid his face behind it.
“It has Bat’s Hazle in it,” Draco said. “It’s very volatile, if not kept in the correct temperature it will turn into gas, and if the gas makes contact with materials—say, the vial—then it will explode.”
“Good to know,” Potter said dryly.
Draco closed the report. “I have the equipment to safely transport it in.”
“Great. We’ll meet back in an hour?” Potter said.
“Alright,” Draco said.
Draco was not alright. An hour was not enough time. He was going to spend an afternoon with Potter, in a beautiful city, rich in ancient magic, and a good amount of twisted roads for them to get lost in. Draco spent nearly forty minutes in the shower, with Dottie yelling from outside the door telling him to hurry up. “It is not like Mr. Potter will be seeing Mr. Draco naked!” she shouted.
“It doesn’t matter!” Draco shouted back. “I’m going to soak myself in rose water, shave, put on my most expensive pants, and treat this like he’s going to see everything!”
“Mr. Draco only has ten minutes left!”
Draco was back at the Ministry with five minutes to spare because if Hogwarts had taught him anything important, it was how to rush and still manage to look like you didn’t rush at all. Draco’s hair was soft and shiny, his clothes spotless (he thought he ought to dress down a little, since they were going to be seen by Muggles: a plain white shirt, suspenders with purple trousers, and finally, a purple calla lily in the breast pocket), heeled boots polished, and he smelled great.
But of course when Potter showed up he looked as though he didn’t bother going home at all, and yet he was still so unbelievably handsome that for a second Draco wanted to hide away so no one would see them standing side by side. Especially when Potter saw him and grinned widely, showing all his teeth and making his eyes scrunch up. Draco had thought many times that life was unfair and he should have been dealt with better cards, what with his family being generally evil and having a pasty bitch live in his house and ruining everyone’s life, but he never thought life was more unfair than every time Potter smiled and showed how indisputably gorgeous he was.
Edinburgh’s dreariness did not lessen that at all, instead it softened him. The gray sky made Potter look as though he was perfect for cuddling against—not that Draco dared.
They sat on the steps of an old church and ate fresh peaches with hot tea. A street artist was drawing a dragon for a little boy, and it reminded Draco of his childhood doll. And before Draco knew it, he had related the escape of his little dragon doll in great detail for over twenty minutes without stopping, or more importantly, being stopped. And Potter’s gaze hadn’t gone unfocused like most people would have. Draco cut himself off mid-sentence and blushed.
“Why’d you stop?” Potter asked.
”Why didn't you stop me?” Draco said.
“Because then I wouldn't find out what happens to your Mr. Dragon.”
“That was not his name!” Draco said indignantly. And so it went. In the end they never moved from their spot to see any more of what Edinburgh had to offer, and if you’d ask Draco about this trip, he wouldn’t be able to tell you what the city looked like beyond those two church steps where he and Potter sat all afternoon. But if you had asked him about Potter that day, Draco could write an entire encyclopedia on it.
Draco had always been like that with Potter. The sound of Potter’s laugh would make Draco bump into things. And every time Potter looked at Draco as though he too, wouldn’t be able to look past the two church steps they were on, Draco’s heart would open up, and something much, much worse than blood, much warmer than blood, much softer would come gushing out—and Draco would need to force himself to stop and breathe, to hold his heart in his palms and coo at it until it sealed itself back up. And that nifty little trick would have worked just fine with a crush, probably for the rest of his life, if Draco hadn’t gone and fallen irrevocably in love. His heart hadn’t been the same since—hadn’t since...
They had to wait in the laboratory for the transferal papers. The potion was already safe inside the container, and Draco was confident it would stay that way. Potter was very impressed when he found out that Draco had made the container himself, but probably because the runes carved on the surfaces made it look far more intricate than it actually was. Not that Draco was going to tell him that.
“Why the fanfare?” Draco asked while they waited. “We could probably have sent the container to them and have them sent it right back.”
Potter shrugged. “Sometimes evidence gets deliberately destroyed during transport.”
Draco was just about to say something when it seemed there was a commotion outside of the lab. Potter’s wand was up and ready in the blink of an eye.
But neither of them expected the wall to cave in, and before Draco even realized what was going on, Potter threw himself onto Draco and the both of them went down.
They stayed like that for a long time, or maybe Draco’s perception of time and space and reality had all gone to shit because Potter was shielding him, his Auror robe opening during the scuffle, and Draco could see that little triangle of dark skin with curled chest hair, glistening with sweat and smelling like heat and whatever cologne Potter used that made Draco’s world narrow into one single point. Draco's heart pounded to the point where he thought he would pass out. Heat pooled in his belly and he curled into himself in horror. Scandalous! What would people think?
“Draco?” Potter was calling him. But Draco was having trouble returning to reality. His head was so foggy that he was completely unresponsive when Potter pulled them up. “You’re in shock, I’m taking you to St. Mungo’s.”
“No,” Draco said weakly.
“I don’t care, you're going to a Healer,” Potter said.
Draco tried to protest but it came out as a squeak, mainly because Potter, the heathen, the sweaty-good-smelling-fucking-brute pulled Draco flush against his chest and Apparated.
When they came to, Draco stumbled and had to be caught by Potter again. “What happened?” Draco said, still dazed.
“Don’t worry about it, okay? Let’s just make sure you’re alright.”
“It’s okay, Draco,” was the last thing Potter said to him before the Healers took him away, and he tried to shake them off to go back to Potter, but Potter was already hurrying back to the Apparition point.
“I’m fine,” Draco told the Healers. He could give the diagnosis more efficiently then they could: a bad case of schoolboy crush turned life-long love with the side-effect of dizziness because Potter just had to be brain cell killing levels of hot. So, there was nothing wrong with Draco besides emotionally, so if they could kindly let him go and find Potter, since that would be the best treatment for being in love with said man, that’d be great—
“You have a slight concussion,” the Healer said.
“Oh,” Draco said. And before he knew it, Potter was bursting through the door again.
“Is he okay?” he demanded.
“Slight concussion,” she repeated.
“Oh, god,” Potter said, looking so upset it hurt Draco. He grabbed Draco’s hands and said, “I’m so sorry. I was supposed to keep you safe. I’m so sorry.”
“S’ okay,” Draco mumbled. At least now he could blame the concussion for his lack of witty lines instead of his embarrassing feelings about Potter holding his hands.
Potter insisted on taking Draco home, and if it wasn’t for Dottie, he would have camped out on Draco’s bedroom floor just to make sure he didn’t stop breathing in the middle of the night.
But Dottie was adamant. “It’s unseemly for sirs to spend the night alone!” And shut the door in Potter’s face.
Draco rested on his bed, sewing his quilt, one little square at a time.
Dottie climbed onto his bed saying, “Mr. Potter is very worried. He is wanting to take care of Mr. Draco.”
Draco thought about eating sweet peaches, spending time on church steps, and Potter throwing himself into a blast to protect Draco.
Draco smiled, small and shy, at the quilt.
He sewed nearly fifty little squares that night.
Potter hovered and worried beside Draco for nearly the entire morning asking, “Should you be doing this? You had a concussion! (“Slight concussion. I’ve had hangovers that were worse,” Draco retorted.)
“Why did you come in? Did the Healer clear you? She did? You should’ve still taken some time off! Why did you guys let him come in?” he asked Draco’s co-workers.
“You try making Draco do something he doesn’t want to,” one of them replied, and Draco threw a crocodile heart at her. Classic Weasley move, the only thing Draco would give him credit for.
Potter was still hovering. Draco sighed. “I’m fine, Potter. Through the wonders of magic, it is very real that my slight concussion has been perfectly healed. You don’t have to keep feeling guilty.”
“Go back to work,” Draco said, pointing at the door. “I have a surprise for you at lunch. I’ll see you then. Go.”
Potter shuffled to the door, though he kept turning back and opening his mouth to talk, and Draco would cut him off each time with a stern look and a threatening grip on another crocodile heart. Eventually, probably three years later, Potter’s steps were so slow, he finally left.
“Bloody hell, you have him wrapped around your finger!” someone said.
“No, he has me wrapped around his finger,” Draco said snootily. “That’s how courting works.”
Potter was already at the lab’s door as soon as the clock hand went from “rat race” to “lunchtime.” Draco’s co-workers filed past them giggling (Potter noticed none of it), and Draco tried not to pout.
“I always pick you up,” Draco said.
“Today I thought I’d try it out,” Potter said. “It’s nice. I like it. What do you want for lunch?”
“Actually.” Draco held up a basket. “I made you lunch.”
“Oh.” Potter’s cheek darkened appealingly. “That’s, uh, great. Thoughtful. Sweet, I mean, er, shall we?”
They went to the indoor garden and Draco unpacked Potter’s lunch. A jar of home-made soup, an overflowing of fresh bread, cheese, and an assortment of fruits, plus dessert.
“The soup smells nice,” Potter said, and took a sip. “Oh, that’s good. Did you make this?”
Draco (happily) watched Potter drink away (happily). “Yes, I did. I thought you might need some highly nutritional food after the mission.”
“Oh? Chicken broth?”
“Chicken, lotus seeds, ginger, and of course, yanwo,” Draco said with excitement and joy. “Or edible bird’s nest, if you’re plebeian.”
Potter sucked in a huge spoonful and choked.
“What?” he wheezed.
“It’s actually Muggle,” Draco explained. “My mother used to have it all the time. Good for the skin and health, they say. It’s an East Asian delicacy,” which cost Draco ten thousand Galleons, but Potter didn’t need to know that. “It’s a swiftlets nest made with their solidified saliva.”
Potter, who had slowly taken in another spoonful, choked again. Draco laughed. “You don’t have to rush! There’s plenty!”
“Brilliant,” Potter rasped. He stared at his soup, then at Draco’s eager face, and his face changed, steeling himself and drained the whole thing in two large gulps.
“Good grief,” Draco said, giddy from the show of enthusiasm. “Do you like it?”
Potter nodded, the back of his hand to his mouth. Then he started shoving cheese and bread into his mouth while Draco picked at the fruits.
“What’s for dessert?” Potter asked after he was done.
Draco took out another jar. This time it had honey, wolfberry, pears, and of course—“Sweet yanwo!” he said proudly.
“Oh, great,” Potter said.
Chapter 6: A Crash Course on Wards
One of the most common misconceptions about Malfoys was that they were stealthy. Malfoys were cunning, yes. Resourceful, definitely. Erudite, no doubt! But stealthy they were not. And especially not Draco I-announce-my-presence-with-fanfare-and-nothing-less Malfoy. A fact he was inconveniently reminded of as he clung to a tree trunk in the backyard of Twelve Grimmauld Place, the old Black townhouse, the current resident of the person Draco was courting, his beloved, Mr. Harry “sweet arse” Potter—Draco was rambling again. Because he was stuck. In a tree. Without his wand. Because he dropped it. Under the tree. Where the monster was.
“Go away!” Draco hissed at the stupid thing, which just growled in return. “Go away! Go away! Go away!” Third time’s the charm, right?
The creature put its paw on the tree trunk, and Draco scurried up some more.
“I’m in the middle of important business, I’ll have you know!” Draco seethed. “I’m strengthening the ward around Potter’s house to keep him safe, from things like you! And how am I supposed to do that when you’re keeping me from keeping you out? Tell me!”
The thing tried to jump and Draco muffled a scream in his arms. “Ugh!”
Ugh! The thing knew how to speak! Draco resolutely turned his face away from the sight.
“Draco, what the hell are you doing in my tree in the middle of the night!”
Draco whipped around and almost fell. Potter made a noise and rushed toward him, but Draco caught himself last-minute. “Potter!” he said, trying for nonchalance. “How do you do? How did you know I was here?”
“You were screaming very loudly in my backyard,” Potter said dryly. “Also, you’re wearing a very large, very shiny cloak.”
“I was not!” Draco said loudly. And curses! He should have known there would be drawbacks for burning all of his black robes. He had taken one look at his azure blue cloak with golden fern linings and thought, “A great outfit for sneaking around!”
As he had said: Malfoys were not good at stealth.
“What’s going on?” Potter said. He then reached down to—to pet the monster!
“Careful!” Draco screamed from his safe spot. “It might try to eat you like it did me!”
Potter kept petting it, like a lunatic. “It’s just a stray dog,” he said. “I feed her sometimes. Tried to get her to stay, but didn’t take.”
“What do you feed her with? Human remains? She’s a beast!”
“She just wanted to play with you.” Potter waved at the monster’s rapidly moving death-trap of a tail.
“She tried to maul me to death!” Draco insisted.
Potter contemplated Draco silently. “I always thought you were playing it up with Buckbeak,” he said. “But were you actually scarred by the experience? Are you afraid of animals?”
“I am not afraid! I am simply very partial to staying alive!”
“What about fish?” Potter asked.
“Are there fishes around here?” Draco screeched.
Potter decided to finally take pity on Draco’s poor nerves and led the monster away with some treats before coming back and waiting for Draco to come down. And Draco tried to figure it out, but he barely remembered how he got up.
“You hate animals, but you’re like a cat,” Potter said when Draco hissed at him for simply watching. Then he opened his arms and waited.
“What?” Draco was blushing furiously.
“Come on, then,” Potter said patiently.
“And you’ll catch me?”
“I’m not going to drop you, Draco.”
Draco thought it was very indecent for them to be hugging at this stage, but he didn’t know how else he was going to be free of his leafy and ant-filled prison, still, he grappled with his inner-Pureblood that was telling him to stay respectable! Don’t fall trap to your lust!
“I think I see a bird ready to land on you,” Potter said calmly.
Draco screamed and leaped away. His arms flailed for a breathless second, with just the thin air between him and the unforgiving earth, before he landed with a loud “oof!” in Potter’s embrace.
“Was that so difficult?” Potter asked gently. Draco stared, breathless and besotted, before a voice in his head that sounded eerily like Dottie’s screamed, “Inappropriate! Inappropriate!! Inappropriate!!!” that snapped Draco out of his rosy haze and scrambled out of Potter’s (very strong, very warm, very liveable) arms. Potter dropped his arms and looked away.
“What are you doing here?”
Draco retrieved his wand and his supplies. Potter looked at the rune stones, candles, herbs, chalk, and jars in his bag and his eyebrows rose up. “Were you warding my house?”
“Well, of course!” Draco said defensively.
“Because you always complain about people sending you letters and sneaking into your yard!” Draco said like it was obvious. “You use the Aurors’ standard wards, which are so ancient they might as well be public records. The ward I had planned is much more ancient, so old that it might as well be a myth, so then no one can break into your house again.”
Potter swallowed. “I see.”
“Do you, now?”
“Well, I won’t keep you, then.”
“Go ahead,” Potter said. “I’m letting you ward my home.”
“And you are just going to watch?”
“I thought I’d protect you from any more animals,” Potter said lightly.
“Good point,” Draco said.
Chapter 7: A List to Your Beloved’s Heart
“I don’t think my courting is working,” Draco said.
Dottie got up and brought him a pot of tea and a plate of ginger cake, but he ignored it in favor of working on the quilt. That seemed to alarm Dottie more than anything.
“It’s been a month, usually by this time your beloved should have given you their answer on whether or not they accept you as their partner,” Draco said.
“Mistress Narcissa was accepting Master Malfoy’s courting by the second week,” Dottie said.
Draco looked at his quilt sadly. Before it had looked vibrant and warm, something that surely would bring blessing and comfort to a person’s beloved, now it looked sagging and dull, and Draco could see all the clumsy needlework, the uneven patches, and the unflattering color schemes. The more his eyes roamed over it the more it looked…was it possible for a quilt to look ashamed?
“I’m afraid I made a mistake,” Draco admitted. “By choosing to court him. At least I knew he liked me as a friend. Courting was supposed to be a process, to show a person’s beloved that they were appreciated, and hope to be appreciated in return.” Draco grabbed another square. “To show your beloved how suitable you would be as their partner, that you are able to bring them love, respect, protection. He seemed so hot and cold toward me. What if by courting Potter, I only showed him how incompatible we are?”
“That is possible,” Dottie said.
Draco pricked himself. “Dottie!” he shouted. “You were supposed to comfort me!”
“I is supposed to help Mr. Draco in his courting, not lie,” she said. “Dottie thinks Mr. Draco should simply ask what Mr. Potter look for in a partner, and work towards that!”
Draco stared at her. “Of course,” he said. “I can do that. I’m a Slytherin, we’re great at pretending we’re better than we really are. Plus I’m a Malfoy, that’s double the advantage at lying to yourself.”
“That is the spirit!” Dottie clapped her hands.
The next day, Draco asked Potter to lunch once more. Potter accepted it, tentatively. And they decided to bring their food to the indoor garden once again. Potter sat cross-legged, with his cafeteria tray balanced on one knee. Draco sat primly, not because he thought it was more comfortable (it wasn’t), but simply because he thought it showed off his legs better, in case Potter wanted to look. He wore a white vest with turquoise and pink stripes, and the star of the outfit: his very tight trousers.
But Potter hadn’t looked at his legs all day. He seemed more interested in Draco’s vest.
“The color looks good on you,” Potter said with averted eyes when Draco asked.
“Oh,” Draco said, pleasantly surprised. People had made teasing comments of it whenever he wore it, apparently pastel was unsuitable for men, but Draco liked it too much to stop wearing it.
Also, Draco had told Granger about it and she had unleashed a three-hour-long Howler onto that person. Everyone was on board with pastel after that. Pleased, but ruffled, as it always happened when he got a compliment from Potter, Draco quickly changed the subject.
“Did you know this garden was modeled after the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston? They change the flowers every few months.”
“Really?” Potter didn’t seem like the sort to care about flowers and gardens. Draco quickly realized his mistake, but his “Really?” sounded as though Draco had said the most interesting thing in the world, and suddenly Draco found himself stuck, both by the glow of Potter’s eyes and the fact that what he said had been the limit of his knowledge on both the Ministry’s garden and the Museum’s garden.
“Um, yes,” Draco said. “I like nasturtiums.”
“Do you now?” Potter replied. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
It was until they finished their lunch and was drinking their tea did Draco asked his question, “Potter, say, what do you look for in . . . in a partner?”
Draco braced himself as Potter pondered.
“Someone like Ron, I suppose.”
What in the name of all that was expensive and shiny holy mother of Merlin’s hairy balls —
“Hm.” Draco nodded magnanimously. On the inside, however, he was already prepared to drown himself in bleach. Oh god, did he have to dye his hair red? Did he want Potter that much? (Yes, the answer was yes, but still!)
“Anything else?” Draco asked, hated himself for asking it.
“Well, I guess brave,” — Well, that was strike one — “loyal,” — That Draco was, safe for now! — “quick on their feet,” — If Potter meant running away from danger and running towards any sweets available, then Draco was qualified — “know the R.M. Reyes’ Auror strategy book thoroughly,” —Circe, that book could put Draco so far into sleep he might as well be dead, but Potter probably loved it enough to sleep with it — “isn’t fussy on what we wear, honestly, I can’t think of anything more useless than caring about what to wear, as long as nobody trips over their clothes,” — Draco thought uncomfortably about his wardrobe, which had seven extension charms in place—“doesn’t tell me what to do. And isn’t overly talkative, I guess. It distracts me. Oh, and,” Potter groaned. “I hate it when they stare at me all the time.”
“Interesting,” Draco squeaked. “Good to know.”
“No wonder my courting wasn’t working!” Draco said, after reporting to Dottie over dinner. She sat on the tall stool specifically made for her, contemplating what he had said. “Do you suppose any of my clothes match ginger?” he asked nervously.
“Nothing matches ginger, Mr. Malfoy,” Dottie said. She was a kind elf, but she was also a Malfoy elf.
“Does that mean I have to buy a whole new wardrobe after dying my hair red?” The prospect of shopping did help to diminish the prospect of being ginger, Draco supposed.
“Let us not be so hasty, Mr. Malfoy!” Dottie said frantically. “Let the red hair be of last resort!”
So this was the list:
- Read R.M. Reyes’ Auror Strategy Book for Every Auror: A Strategy Book Every Auror Needs!
- Doesn’t care about clothes
- No nagging
- Not talkative
- Doesn’t stare at him
“I can do this,” Draco said to Dottie. “I can be brave,” he lied. There wasn’t a single bone in Draco’s body that started with the word “back.”
“I believe in Mr. Malfoy!” Dottie said. Then her eyes widened. “Oh, no—is that a cockroach?”
After much screaming and climbing atop of tables, Dottie took pity on Draco and admitted she was lying about the cockroach. “Mr. Draco is not a brave person,” she said sadly. “That should not being a bad thing.”
Draco ignored her.
“Being myself is useless in this situation. Nothing matches me on that list,” Draco said, still on top of the table.
“That is not being true,” Dottie argued. She was looking up from the floor and almost falling backwards from how far she had to tilt her head to look at Draco on the table. Draco picked her up and deposited her beside him, because there was no way in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes Draco was putting his feet on the ground for the near future. “How will Mr. Draco take showers?” Dottie asked.
“I am a wizard. I can Apparate directly into the tub, then to my bed, then back to this table for meals. It’s foolproof, because I am very smart.”
“Mr. Draco is very smart, but Mr. Draco is having no common sense,” Dottie said. “Roaches are in bathrooms too, and Dottie already told Mr. Draco that she was lying!”
“But you reminded me of their existence!”
“Let us see the other points,” Dottie said. “Mr. Draco is always loyal to people he loves, so he is no problem being loyal to his beloved.”
Draco blushed. “That’s only one.”
“Mr. Draco is quick as well,” Dottie said. “Mr. Draco jumped on to the table very quick.”
“Mr. Draco liking books, as well,” she kept on. “Dottie will go out and get you this book.”
The last four were almost like a personal attack on Draco’s character. Draco had spent nearly his whole life staring at Potter and by this point in his life it was practically Draco’s default. He would have to make a continuous effort not to look at Potter too much from now. Draco turned his attention back to the list, so he could ignore how far away he was from Potter’s ideal partner.
“I can dress casual,” Draco said
“What is casual like?” Dottie asked.
“Like, without cufflinks?” Draco guessed.
“No cufflinks!” Dottie said in horror. Her little hands coming up as though to shield herself from the abhorrence. “What about hats?” she said from between her fingers.
“I’m afraid not,” Draco replied gravely.
Dottie wailed. “Mr. Draco is courting without cufflinks and hats! Mr. Draco might as well being naked!”
“I’ll just have to dress like Potter,” Draco said. “Dottie, get me a...hoodie.”
“Oh, dear mother elves of the underworld!” she cried before Disapparating, apparently deciding that was her last straw.
R.M. Reyes’ Auror Strategy Book for Every Auror: A Strategy Book Every Auror Needs! appeared on the table, but Dottie was still nowhere to be seen. Draco resigned himself to a night of intense studying.
A mug of piping hot tea and a plate of cakes also appeared a while later, lifting Draco’s mood a little.
The next day found Draco the center of everyone’s attention. Draco would like to believe it was because they all finally noticed his dazzling personality, but it might just be the hideous hoodie and jeans he was sporting. And as much as Draco liked to be the first in things, he thought being the first Malfoy to wear a hoodie might be overkill.
The comfortable stomach pouch was acceptable. Just a little bit.
The lift dinged and opened, Potter appeared, grinned at Draco, then promptly tripped over his feet.
Good thing Potter caught himself in time, because Draco had his hands in his stomach pouch and got tangled in his haste of trying to tug them out. Potter gaped at him.
“Are you wearing a hoodie?” he asked. “And—and jeans?”
“You wear them all the time,” Draco said, a tad defensively. Potter said nothing but continuously gaped at him. When the lift door opened to the DMLE, Draco walked out at a quick and brisk pace, and kept his gaze straight ahead. Potter jogged to catch up.
“Yeah, but—” Potter shook his head. “You look weird.”
“Yes, fine,” Draco snapped. Should it be any surprise that this didn’t work as well? If Potter had appreciated it, then it would have made this all worth it. But he hadn’t, and now Draco was stuck in this stupid getup for the rest of the day.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that,” Potter said, frowning. “But why? And why are you walking so fast?”
“I thought I should stop being so fussy about what I wear,” Draco said stiffly, and he walked faster.
Potter kept pace with Draco, but his frown deepened. “But you love coordinating your outfits. Don’t you have a calendar to make sure you don’t wear the same thing twice or something?”
“Well, I’ve changed,” Draco said. “From now on I pick my clothes five minutes before leaving.”
Potter’s frown stayed until they parted ways.
During lunch, Potter ordered a single sandwich and a can of soda. Usually Draco would tell Potter to order another sandwich, because one was never enough to fill him up, but for some reason Potter always seemed to convince himself he was less hungry then he actually was. Today, Draco bit his tongue and let Potter walk away with his solitary sad little sandwich that probably couldn’t even satisfy Pansy. When they finished, Potter absentmindedly scratched his stomach.
“I’m still hungry,” he said, then narrowed his eyes at Draco, who hastily looked away (Potter’s stupid exposed stomach made his concentration slip.) “You usually tell me to get more.”
Draco tried not to be riled up, and kept his voice calm.
“You are an adult, Potter, you can survive on your own,” even though everything in Draco was telling him to run back to the canteen and buy Potter another fifteen sandwiches.
“Did I do something wrong?” Potter asked.
“What?” Draco said stiffly. “Of course not.”
“You won’t look at me.” Potter’s words took on an accusatory tone.
“I look at you a normal amount,” Draco said. “Definitely not excessively.”
Potter crossed his arms and said nothing. His lips were a hard, unhappy line.
That night, unfortunately, was pub night. Draco was stiff all day from wearing clothes he didn’t feel comfortable in, thinking about Potter in his stupid Auror Office with his stupid empty stomach going hungry because Draco knew the prat never ventured out for food breaks. And when he slid into the booth with Potter, and everyone was staring at Draco, he really didn’t have the energy to snipe like he used to.
“Did someone ruin your clothes and you had to go look in the lost and found?” Pansy said.
“Did you finally snap?” Weasley asked.
“Are you dying?” Blaise said. “Because someone ruined your clothes and you’ve given up from the grief? ”
Draco turned his nose up and didn’t deign them with a response, even though he had many things just itching to throw at them. He was no-nonsense now, after all.
The table waited for his rejoinder, and when none came, they all kind of awkwardly pretended that the conversation didn’t happen and ordered their drinks. Draco could feel Potter’s gaze on him, intense and unwavering, and it made his inside flutter at the attention, along with the tiniest bit of respite for the comfort that at least it was working.
The conversation from then on returned to a relative normal, except for the absence of Draco’s usual input, and as he noticed how much quieter their table was now, he couldn’t help the humiliated flush of realization creeping up his neck as became aware of how much he used to dominate the group’s attention without noticing. He shrank into his seat and picked at the label on his beer (he didn’t feel elegant enough to drink wine today), offering no more than the obligatory acquiescence when someone directed a question at him.
Granger poked him. “You okay?” she mouthed, eyes fluttering between Potter and him.
Draco gave her a wobbly smile. “Going according to plan,” he mouthed back.
Another poke came, from the other side. Draco turned to see Potter regarding him with an unknown expression.
“Yes?” Draco said.
Potter reached out and yanked on one of the strings on his hoodie.
“What?” Draco said.
Potter said nothing. He kept pulling, and Draco looked as the two strings got more and more uneven, until one of them was so long it reached his thigh, and the other was so short only the metal part was sticking out of its hole.
It was making Draco’s scalp crawl, and he itched to fix it. This was a test, he told himself. A test of wills, and your strength at not caring about clothes. Potter probably thought caring about clothes was shallow and inane. Draco gripped his beer to fight off the urge to right his clothes.
“I don’t care,” he told Potter.
“Okay,” Potter replied lightly. He reached for the bottle of vinegar and knocked it over. A large splatter landed on Draco’s sleeve. “Oops, sorry.”
It was a test. I will succeed, Draco told himself faintly. The wetness and the pungent odor would normally have made him curse and scream and probably on the verge of tears. But no, not this new Draco, who was going to cater to his beloved’s standards like a proper suitor.
He would succeed in courting Potter.
“Does anyone want more drinks?” Draco said loudly and perhaps a little hysterically. He stood up. “My treat!” He walked away without waiting for anyone’s responses.
Draco made his way to the counter and saw Sampson glaring at him. Draco turned sharply right at the last moment and headed to the front door. He burst out of the pub and let the air chill his face.
It’s just clothes, he said to himself, resolutely not looking down at those uneven strings, ignoring the sticky wetness on his sleeve and the sharp smell. He didn’t have to talk and laugh and tell Potter to take care of himself. He certainly could be the one that got rid of bugs in the house. And Draco would train himself to not stare at Potter all the time, no matter how much of a comfort the mere sight of the man was. And he would not complain again for the rest of his life. He could do this, for Potter—for the rest of his life—
Someone yanked him around and Draco stumbled. Potter was glaring at him furiously.
“What is going on?” he said. “Why are you—ugh! Why are you letting me push you around like this!”
“What?” Draco said dumbly. “I am not !”
“You can’t stand being messy!” Potter threw his hands up. “I’ve seen you change clothes because you got a smudge of grass on it! And you’ve barely talked all day—Ron snorted beer out of his nose and you didn’t even blink!
“That’s what I’m trying to change!” Draco shouted back. His head was fuzzy with so many emotions it made him want to sick up. He was trying his best. “I’m trying to show you—”
“Show me what?” Potter demanded. “Why would you ever—”
Merlin, this wasn’t working. Draco gulped. There was only the last resort. The heavy pressure of ginger dread loomed over him. He had to become a redhead, oh god!
“What are you doing?” Potter asked, alarmed, when he saw Draco pointing his wand at himself.
“I have to do this,” Draco said in a grave voice, but his trembling hand betrayed his true horror. “I have to turn my hair red.”
Potter whipped out his wand so fast Draco couldn’t even tell where he pulled it from. His own wand was wrenched out of his grip and flew into Potter’s hand, and before Draco processed anything, Potter backed him into a corner and pointed his wand right between Draco’s eyes.
Did Voldemort feel both aroused and fearful for his life, before his death? Which did he feel more of? Looking at Potter’s face, dark with the promises of threats, lip thinned and jaw clenched, the flush on his face made his cheekbone more pronounced, Draco felt heat pool in his stomach—
Potter lowered his wand and jabbed it into Draco’s neck. Draco yelped. Fear, definitely fear more.
“Who are you?” Potter said evenly. His eyes were clear and harsh.
“What?” Draco gaped.
“Draco Malfoy would never allow his hair to be ginger.” Potter jabbed his wand into Draco’s skin again. “What have you done to Draco? because I swear to fucking god, if he’s hurt, even a little, I will make your life miserable. I will make you regret being born.”
“What the hell are you on about!” Draco said. Potter dug his wand in harder and Draco had to stand on his toes to alleviate the pain.
“Don’t fucking try me now,” Potter said, still in that eerily icy voice.
“It’s me, you bothersome four-eye bastard!” Draco snapped.
Potter paused, then finally stepped back, wand still raised. He cast multiple detection spells on Draco. Draco finally gave into his irritation and fixed his clothes. Potter dropped his wand, but he still looked furious.
“What were you doing?” Potter said. “You–you had me thinking you were someone Polyjuiced! Or Imperised! Or drugged!”
“Why, because I try to be someone you would like?” Draco couldn’t help but spat.
“What the hell. Are. You. Talking. About.” Now Potter really looked scary. But Draco wasn’t afraid of this brand of Potter-rage.
“Yesterday!” Draco snapped. “I asked what you look for in a partner!”
Potter gaped. Then he turned around, stomped over to a tree, punched it and cursed indignantly from the pain. Draco scoffed at the display. Potter stormed back right up to Draco and hissed angrily.
“You fucking drive me crazy, Malfoy. I feel like I’m being tossed around like a ragdoll every day just trying to figure out what the hell you want from me. You give me gifts, make me lunch, protect my home, then won’t look me in the eyes the next day, or you reject my offer to spend time together! I thought we were finally going somewhere, but it’s looking more and more like you found out about how I feel and are trying to get a good laugh—”
Draco suddenly had the urge to laugh hysterically because he had truly lost control over his life, and still he was in the same place as sixteen years ago, trying desperately to get the attention of the very same boy, pathetically hoping he would prove to be worthwhile enough for the attention to turn into affection. But instead of laughing, he choked out a sob that opened a floodgate for all the failures he had, and he wished he could say he’d only failed at winning Potter over these past few weeks. The truth was he’d never stopped failing since he was eleven.
Draco covered his face with his hands and let himself wail. Tears were dripping out from the side of his palms and between his fingers and he felt lightheaded. Heaving for air but only sobs were coming from him.
“Draco,” Potter said. He sounded shocked. Or choked. Or something else that Draco did not care in his demoralized state. “Oh, Draco—”
He could feel the ghost of fingers touching his shoulder. Draco jerked back before they could grab and he turned, staggered a few steps, just to get away, before turning into himself and Apparating away.
Chapter 8: Too Wise to Woo Peaceably
Draco tumbled onto the carpet in a heap of stupid hoodie and weak muscles. Potter’s angry words and haunted face snapped into his mind again. Draco shook himself, trying to get it out of his head. It didn’t work. Draco tore the hoodie over his head and kicked his jeans off—his ridiculous, unfitted jeans, how did he not realize what a laughing stock he’d made of himself?— and stood up, still shaking, in his undershirt and pants. He walked out of the foyer into the drawing room, by-passing the fainting couch where he usually liked to drop onto and indulge in a good old fashioned Victorian sulk. He ran into a few things due to the tears obscuring his vision. Really, that was what he got from thinking he could court Harry fucking Potter.
He went up the stair and into his bedroom, where he was accosted by the stupid Auror handbook he had spend the previous night diligently studying, hoping to impress Potter.
Draco snatched it up and chucked it into the fireplace and set it ablaze. He then turned in search of that god-forsaken, pathetic looking, nearly done patch quilt.
It wasn’t on the bed, where he’d left it. Draco tried to summon it, felt the pull of magic, but nothing came.
“Useless cloth!” Draco screamed into the room, poking his wand about. “Get over here so I can burn you!”
He turned again, and there Dottie was, the quilt in her hands.
“Give it to me,” Draco said.
“Mr. Draco put so much love into this,” Dottie said.
“Mr. Draco cried into this. Because he loves Mr. Potter so much.”
“I don’t want to hear about it, Dottie.”
“Dottie is feeling the magic in this gift.” Dottie clenched the quilt harder. “It would have kept Mr. Potter very warm.”
Draco strode over and yanked on one end of the quilt. Dottie yanked on the other end, refusing to let go.
“I will throw the both of you into the fire if that’s what it takes,” Draco snapped.
“Mr. Draco put so much love into this,” she insisted again. “It should stay.”
Draco was still crying. He used the quilt to wipe off snot and tears, because who cared anymore. Who cared?
“Give it to me, Dot,” Draco said quietly.
Dottie did. Suddenly, Draco was at a loss. As soon as it was back in his hands, he didn’t want to burn it anymore. But he had made such a fuss about it. He didn’t want to look any more foolish than he already was.
Draco was about to hurl the quilt into the blazing fireplace when a pop and a “Wait, don’t!” sounded out from behind.
And Draco, like a dumbass, stopped.
He wasn’t going to turn around. He might hex Potter, or worse, burst into new rounds of tears.
“Draco,” Potter said. “Please, I didn’t know .”
Draco stood stiffly. The quilt bundled up in his arms.
“I didn’t know you were courting .”
A beat of silence.
“How was I supposed to know!”
“How were you—you accepted the brooch!”
“Yeah! Because you gave it to me!” Potter threw his hands up. “It had a woman stabbing a man on it, how was I supposed to know it was supposed to be romantic!”
“It’s a traditional request gift! You should know! You courted Ginny! She’s a Pureblood, too!”
“I kissed her, like a normal person!”
“I asked for Arthur and Molly’s blessing! I visited your parents’ grave! I wore a ferret costume! I secretly warded your house! (“No, you didn’t! I immediately saw you!” Potter said.) I gave you an escort card! How could I have been more clear?”
“Oh, my god,” Potter said, pushed Draco against the wall and kissed him.
As soon as those lips touched his, Draco used up all of his strength to simply not just die right then and there. He was left slumped in Potter’s arms, and would no doubt have melted through the floor and dropped down and down until he met the solid earth and his fate of death via a good snog—if Potter hadn’t been supporting him with all of his strength in return.
Draco had to stand on his tiptoes, not from being shorter (he wasn’t), but from being lifted up by Potter’s sheer intensity; not unlike when Potter was digging his wand into his throat. He moaned when Potter cupped his face so he could shove his tongue further in Draco’s mouth. Draco was completely slack, partly from the shock of everything and partly because it felt very good to let Potter do whatever he wanted with him. When Potter pulled back, Draco was left gasping wetly for air.
“Draco, you have five milligrams of romantic intelligence, you were not clear at all,” Potter said. “I thought you were asking about Auror partners. I ate gross bird spit for you. And I thought we were like, flirting, yes, but—you courting me— ”
“I am extremely skilled at the art of romance!” Draco said, indignant. He was rapidly getting very annoyed at the space between their mouths and he was not above taking it out on Potter.
“Why are we fighting again?!” Potter yelled.
“I don’t know!” Draco shouted, then Potter unceremoniously dipped Draco and started snogging Draco like neither of them needed air. And Draco finally realized—maybe—did Potter not want a formal, respectful, Pureblood courtship?
And he got his answer when Potter shoved his hand down the back of Draco’s pants and bit him just below the ear. Draco moaned (which Potter would later claim it was more of a howl) and yanked Potter’s robes open. Potter picked him up and Draco wrapped his legs around Potter’s waist, but Potter made no indication to move, intent on kissing Draco, as though he had forgotten he could walk and use his mouth at the same time.
Draco wrenched his mouth away and Potter—the bastard—released one hand from Draco’s arse to grip Draco’s chin and guide him back into the kiss. Draco moaned loudly. He hadn’t realized how strong Potter was, but he wasn’t keen on being dropped mid-snog.
“Are beds a foreign concept for you?” Draco sniped, though it came out all slurred since Potter refused to remove his tongue from Draco’s mouth.
“What’s wrong with this?” Potter panted, straight into Draco’s mouth and ground his hips up. Draco’s head fell backward when he felt a hot and hard (so fucking hard, did Potter keep a rock in his trouser?) cock pushing against the thin fabric of his pants.
“I don’t want—ah—want— god! I’m trying to talk! Don’t drop me!”
“I won’t drop you,” Potter said in the same tone as when he insisted on taking Draco to the Healers. Brooked no arguments, yet delicate in the same breath.
“Yes, but—we’ll be—” What will they be doing? Draco thought he would gladly let Potter fuck him right there, standing, Potter heaving him up then dropping Draco down on his cock with so much force that Draco would feel it all the way to the crown of his head—
“I won’t drop you,” Potter said again, sneaking a finger between Draco’s arse cheeks. Draco surged forward with a whimper. Potter’s stance didn’t waver from the sudden movement.
Just when Draco was about to get lost in the glorious sensation that was Potter’s finger breaching him from that angle, Dottie popped into existence right next to them and cried, “No copulating before the consummation chamber is ready!”
And that made Potter jump out of his skin, but thankfully, as a man of his word, he did not drop Draco, but that also meant he fell and took Draco down with him.
They landed in the embarrassing combination of tangled clothes, exposed arse and disgrace. Draco could never face Dottie ever again. He would have to wear a very thick veil for the rest of his life, to hide both his face and shame.
“Did your house-elf just use the word copulating and consummation?” Potter said.
“House-elf is being a wrong term, Mr. Draco’s beloved,” she said coldly.
“Sorry,” Potter said, suitably chagrined. “Er, beloved?”
“Beloved is the correct term for a suitor’s object of affection, the person they being courting!”
Potter turned to Draco, but Draco had pulled the quilt (discarded on the floor somewhere along the first kiss) over his head to get a headstart on his veil plan.
“Beloved?” Potter said softly.
“It’s what people say,” Draco defended himself weakly.
“No, I was calling you beloved,” Potter said.
Draco peeked out of the quilt with only a small part of his face. No need to let Potter see how flushed he was.
“Nice,” Dottie said.
“Dottie!” Draco snapped and Potter laughed. “I forbid you from spending any more time with Pansy if that’s the attitude you’re getting!”
Dottie huffed and pointed a finger at them. “Dottie made dinner already. No copulating!” Then popped away.
Draco buried his face into Potter’s shoulder and groaned. Definitely from the whole mess and not from how good Potter’s fingers felt in his hair.
“Beloved,” Potter said again.
“Everyone knew he was courting you!”
Potter looked a bit sheepish at that. Draco pressed a kiss to his ruddy cheek.
“Potter’s bit slow,” he said.
“Everyone knew Potter’s head over heels for you too,” Blaise said. “We were just threatened with disembowelment into silence.”
“I thought it was sweet, doing it the traditional way,” Granger said, ignoring Blaise. “It obviously was very important to Draco for him to do so.”
“Yeah, since he has no objection to sucking a guy off in the loo,” Pansy butted in. Draco opened up the vinegar and sprayed it on her. She screamed.
“Well, from now on I’ll only be sucking Potter’s cock in the loo,” Draco said.
“Damn right,” Potter said, high-fiving Draco. Dottie had given up on them waiting for the consummation chamber after the fifth time of breaking up some very enthusiastic snogging session. Then she decided her new mission was to appear right beside them after “A very nice fornication!” and offer refreshments. Draco had to sit her down and explain to her how modern dating worked while Potter buried his face in his hands at the experience of an elf seeing his dick. At least after the talk Draco could finally enjoy fantastic sex and an elf who didn’t ask about their coupling and provide refreshments in appropriate places.
“Are you going to keep calling him Potter?” Weasley said.
“I like calling him Potter,” Draco said. He turned to Potter. “Do you not like it?”
Potter kissed him. It went on for several minutes.
“No,” he said.
“Next time,” Weasley shouted. He had his hands over his eyes. “Next time, just say that!”
They ignored him. Draco took out a Penhaligon’s beard oil and gave it to Potter. He had continued to “court” Potter, though now only through simple gift-giving and dates. Draco thought it was far too mellow of a method, but Potter seemed to enjoy it better than Draco’s previous attempts.
He’d choose to give this beard oil at pub night so everyone knew how expensive his gifts were. He saw Blaise eyeing it jealousy, and that man didn’t have a beard!
“You know you don’t have to keep doing this,” Potter said. “You already got me.”
“I am going to do this right, Potter! What if someone had told the French people that? ‘You already chopped off the king’s head, no need to keep chopping!’ Then we wouldn’t have Les Misérables !”
“Is that the lesson you got from the French revolution?”
“Are you saying you don’t want me to keep courting you?” Draco threw his arms around Potter’s shoulders. “And here I was, thinking about wearing that satin nightgown you found in my wardrobe tonight, but oh well, I suppose the spark is gone, I shall put on my nightcap and nightshirt and we will both sleep on our side of the bed and snore the night away…”
Potter yanked Draco towards him and gave him a preview of what was going to happen later that night.
“Do they know we’re still here?” Weasley asked in a hushed tone.
“Let them continue,” Blaise purred.
But when Draco climbed into Potter’s lap, Stephen came over and kicked them all out. Potter didn’t mind, and despite the previous promises, neither of them complained when they simply put on the Wireless and listened to the new drama in quiet contentment.
The quilt was a ruined surprise, so Draco stopped hiding it, and Potter loved to kiss him while Draco sewed away. Out of all the gifts Draco’d been giving him, the quilt was the one that made Potter’s face break out into an unbelievably bright smile when Draco finally finished it. Potter ran his fingertips over it reverently, tracing the large, golden H in the center.
“I was so upset when I grew out of it,” Potter said. “Even though Molly makes me a new one every year…”
Draco took the quilt and wrapped it around the both of them. It was such a thin thing, with mismatched materials, but it was so warm, and soft, and safe, and Draco hoped with all his pride and love and pin-pricked fingers that it felt like that for Potter too.
Potter tucked his face into Draco’s neck and sighed. He was asleep in a blink.
Though his persistent wooing, Draco had gone back to his own clothes and hats, and vowed never to wear jeans and hoodies again, unless they were Potter’s, and even then, it was because Draco in nothing but Potter’s hoodie turned Potter on so quickly that once, he didn’t manage to get his dick out before coming.
And it was a pleasant surprise that, the reason Potter had finally snapped that day was because Draco had tried to change everything Potter loved about him. (Potter! Loved him! Him! Potter had actually said it multiple times! Loved him for quite a while, in fact! How did Draco not notice? Then Draco’s thoughts got derailed again because Potter started nuzzling him like a cat.) Who knew a scruffy Gryffindor would like Draco’s colorful and shiny clothes so much? (“I don’t like it, generally,” Potter argued. “I like them on you. All wispy and...fairy-like.”)
Potter asked why he went from his severe black (“Angsty,” Potter interjected, then got a pillow to the face—Dottie threw it, not Draco) phase to almost no dark colors at all.
Draco told him how he stopped wearing black and started wearing colors permanently a year after Lucius was imprisoned. He had visited his father wearing a lavender-colored robe with cornflower lining the hems and placket. His father had spit out something so vile and vicious that for a second, Draco couldn’t recognize the person behind the bars. Then he left Azkaban for the very last time and had Dottie throw out all of his black robes, except for ones studded with crystals and moonstones that had once belonged to his mother.
“And you tried to give that up for me,” Potter said, with a hint of awe and a lot more displeasure.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Draco said snootily the same time Dottie said, “Yes.”
But sometimes, the old insecurities would blindside Draco. Once, during sex; Potter was above and inside him, and Draco had been gripped with a sudden lightheadedness, a tingle that usually meant he was in a dream. He panicked and started asking if Potter really understood what a burden Draco could be, repeating all the things his former lovers had said to him, as though he was trying to scare Potter away before he could leave. But Potter never stopped the shift of his body, nor the caresses on Draco’s cheeks.
“You’re perfect,” Potter said. “You’re too capricious, and I’m too stiff. You’re perfect.”
And then he kissed Draco, fingertips on his jaw, buried inside of him, and made a sound so pained and so enormous that Draco thought he was the one being offered something precious and needed to hold gently.
And Draco was. He was. “I love you,” Potter said. That was the first time he’d said it. And Draco pressed his palm to Potter’s chest, the steady beat reverberating all the way back to Draco’s heart.
Chapter 9: Epilogue
“Mr. Malfoy, please.”
“Why not, Anderson?” Draco said. “I know I don’t work here anymore, but surely this isn’t an outrageous request. I’m doing it in the name of love, man!”
Anderson looked pained. “It’s too big!”
“It’s a modest gift!” Draco insisted.
“It won’t fit!”
“Yes it will!”
“What won’t fit?”
“Potter!” Draco cried. “Control your assistant, or else he’ll be working for himself and no one else soon!”
Harry looked amused. “Anderson, I can handle him.”
Draco sputtered indignantly and Anderson scampered off. “Handle me?!” Draco said. “Ungrateful—”
Harry kissed him. Draco shut up.
“Hi,” Harry smiled against his lips. “I’ve missed you.”
“It’s ten o’clock in the morning,” Draco murmured back.
“And you’re here to torture my subordinates, is it?” Harry said. “Not because you missed me too?”
Draco scoffed. “I wasn’t torturing him,” he said. “He was refusing a perfectly reasonable request!”
“Courting you, of course.”
“Ah,” Harry said. “Of course.” He had learned to stop fighting Draco on this a long time ago, and really, Draco knew he was secretly pleased about it. “What is it?”
Draco dragged him to the doorway excitedly. There, humongous and beautifully decorated and blocking everyone’s way (they were all giving Harry and Draco dirty looks, and well, you weren’t Draco Malfoy if you didn’t have a thick skin, and you couldn’t date Draco Malfoy without developing a thick skin along the way. In short: neither of them cared about the looks) was a —
“A carriage,” Harry said faintly.
“A two-tiered carriage,” Draco said delightedly. “It’s got a jacuzzi in it!”
“Why would we need a jacuzzi in a carriage?”
“Why, for relaxing after sex, of course,” Draco said. And well, that was logic Harry couldn’t dispute.
“Thank you.” Harry kissed Draco’s temple. “But how about...parking it somewhere that isn’t the middle of the Ministry for now?”
Draco heaved a sigh, “Oh, alright.” He thumped the carriage twice, and it galloped away, with Ministry workers running from it in terror.
“You did it just to announce your presence for your first time back in the Ministry after you left,” Harry said.
“What if someone missed me and didn’t know I was here?” Draco said.
“I miss you,” Harry said.
“Sap!” Draco folded himself into Harry’s arms. “What’s up with you today?”
Harry felt the weight of the velvet box in his pocket and smiled. “What, you don’t like it?”
Draco kissed him. It went on for a long, long time.
“Good god!” one portrait on the wall said. “It’s been four years, can’t you lads have some restraint?”
Draco pulled back from the kiss with a smack and glared. “If I recall, you lot were complaining about the lack of snogging years ago.”
“That was before we knew how licentious the two of you are!”
“Tough luck,” Harry said before Draco dragged him back by the tie.
But way too soon, Harry had to leave because he couldn’t spend all the time on the job making out with his boyfriend, to which Draco said, “Ugh, work? Can’t you quit and become a professional Draco-kisser? There’s a lot of places for you to kiss me. You’ll never be out of a job,” prompting all the portraits in that hallway to boo them until Harry and Draco separated (which took another five minutes).
“You’re going to see each other tonight!” a portrait yelled at them. “Surely you can hold it together until then!”
Oh, and couldn’t Harry? Harry’d been holding it together since two years ago, when he first knew he was going to marry Draco. It was one night, when Harry came home from a long night of partying and drinking and laughing with other Chudley Cannons fans. Draco often remarked on how gross it was that Harry would spend hours in the presence of smelly Quidditch fans in a small space and come home only to collapse into their bed without showering.
“I won’t have you do it again, I tell you!” Draco had said. “You stink up my three thousand Galleons sheet again, I swear to Snape’s greasy hair, I will kick you out. These sheets can only take so many Scourgifys!”
So that night Harry had stumbled back into their drawing room and had thought he really didn’t feel like a shouting match with Draco, which definitely would happen if he tried to sleep in the bed. So instead of showering like a functioning adult, Harry collapsed onto the sofa and was done with it.
It was as though as soon as he drifted off, footsteps thundered down the stairs and Draco appeared in the doorway, wearing his silk robe that hid none of his legs and showed nearly all of his package, his face dark and thunderous.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Draco yelled.
“I thought I was avoiding a fight,” Harry mumbled into the sofa.
“Well, I didn’t wait up for this fight so you could just give up on it!”
Harry rolled over and looked at Draco.
“Are you upset that I didn’t give you the drama you wanted?” he asked.
“Do you not know me at all ?!” Draco wailed, then promptly climbed into the sofa with Harry and tucked himself under his chin.
Even with alcohol and probably some sort of disease disguised as stadium-burger in his system, Harry realized that Draco hadn’t come looking for a fight, he’d come looking for Harry.
“I thought you said I stink,” Harry murmured.
“You do,” Draco said. “Sweat, grease, and Weasley.”
“Yeah, Ron tried to kiss me after the Cannons scored their first goal.”
“We’ll have to disinfect the both of us and this room tomorrow, then.”
Harry nodded, and knew at that moment, he could fall asleep anywhere, but never without Draco again.
Fast forward two years later, Harry finally decided on a ring (yes— it took him that long to find one. It’s quite difficult to shop for someone who insisted that all of his jewelry must be heirlooms. Harry had to beg Aunt Petunia for his great grandmother’s ring that was supposed to go to his mother. That took another few months. In the end Dudley heard about it and went off on his mother so spectacularly that Harry got the ring the very next day in the mail.)
(Dudley was definitely going to be invited to the wedding.)
Now, as he took to carrying the ring wherever he went, Harry was always filled with excitement and nerves, and usually he needed some semblance of safety and warmth, which had been synonymous with Draco for a very long time now, and that made things a bit awkward. But by some miracle he made it to the end of work in one piece, and showed up at pub night in a relatively calm mood.
“Potter!” Draco said loudly. “Are you listening?”
“Yeah,” Harry said, a little distracted. They were at the counter, in their usual stools, getting everyone’s drinks. Even after years of being together Draco still hadn’t stopped the habit of pretending to sway just so Harry to catch him. It was so obviously endearing.
“I asked whether or not we could get a plate of chips,” Draco said. “I want you to promise you won’t let Weasley’s grubby fingers anywhere near it this time. That man! I swear—Sammy! May we have some drinks? ”
Sullivan gave Draco a half-hearted glare. Harry thought he was grudgingly impressed that in the near five years of their patronage, Draco had managed to never address him with the same S name twice. And to this day Harry still had no idea if Draco really couldn’t for the life of him remember Sullivan’s name or if he was just pulling everyone’s legs. Harry would not put either past Draco.
Like a few weeks after they moved in together, Draco started passive-aggressively leaving toothpaste globs everywhere in the house for an impressive two months, to the point even Harry couldn’t stand it, to which Draco said, “Well, if you can’t stand it in these places, why do you leave them all over the sink?” So really, anything was possible.
He just didn’t have the knack for planning these things like Draco did, who, after how they got together, mellowed quiet a lot in his grand gestures, and his five milligrams of romantic intelligence had upgraded significantly (maybe to seven milligrams), but Harry never minded. Because seven milligrams was the maximum milligrams for Draco. Draco loved Harry to the brim of his scale and he showed it in the most Draco-esque way possible. And although Harry didn’t particularly need all those gifts, it was wonderful to be loved so completely.
Draco was arguing with Sullivan about ginger-proofing his chips when a sudden frenzy gripped the base of Harry’s throat, and he thought he ought to show his love in the most Harry-esque way possible as well, so he just said, “Marry me.”
Draco paused, mid-tirade, hands still in the air, and turned to Harry with his mouth agape. And he stayed like that for a good minute.
“Oh my god, are you speechless?” Harry asked.
“No!” Draco said, but he still didn’t say anything else, because that was the moment when Harry pulled out the ring. Draco almost looked petrified.
“Did I scramble your brain?” Harry said.
“Finally,” Sullivan groused from behind the counter.
“I had planned—well, I was going to plan something big and surprising, because that was what you liked, but I just, I don’t think I want to spend another second not being engaged to you—” Then, with a hint of insecurity, “Are you going to answer?”
Draco swayed in his seat, and Harry shot out a hand to steady him.
“You want to marry me,” Draco said in a faint voice. “This isn’t a dream, is it? I didn’t get sent to Azkaban for stabbing Weasley to death for laying his hands on my chips?”
“I’ll make sure you won’t do anything Azkaban-worthy for the rest of your life.”
“I’m going to be so difficult, Potter, you know that, I—I—”
“Beloved,” Harry said softly. Draco looked so frightened.
“Do you know what you’re getting yourself into?” Draco whispered, almost falling off the stool despite Harry’s hand on him.
“Does this mean you want to?” Harry asked gently.
Draco was staring at the ring, his face red and open. “I don’t want you to regret it. This means forever.”
“I always meant for this to be forever,” Harry said. Then, just to drive his point home, he slid down from his seat and got down on one knee.
“Draco Malfoy, will you marry me so you can court me for the rest of our lives?”
Draco threw his arms around Harry. “You mean it? You really mean it? You want to marry me? Potter—”
“I mean it, I mean it, I love you so much, I wish I could be married to you right now—”
“Yes,” Draco said wildly. “Yes, let’s, let’s.”
“We’ll do it in the carriage,” Harry said.
Draco laughed, and kept laughing, even when Harry picked him up and headed for the door. Their friends, shocked and giddy and very confused, all followed them like a gaggle of ducklings, and Draco surged up in Harry’s arms to face the crowd, “I’m spending the rest of my life with Potter!”
Chapter 10: Epilogue?
Three seconds after Draco got his wits back: “We should dive into the Challenger’s Deep for our honeymoon! To show how deep our love is!”
“You’re the one marrying me, Potter!”