From the Printers of Melvin's Mauve Mansion of Manlove
"What's the matter?" asked Draco, and Harry wished with all his heart that he could answer. He opened his mouth... nothing. No sound at all.
Draco waited a few moments, staring at Harry intently, as Harry, dazed, tried to figure out how to communicate nonverbally. Finally Draco sighed and turned away.
"I understand, you don't want to talk to me. That's fine." He started to leave the Great Hall, and Harry made a move to grab his arm, but he was still so disoriented, maybe he shouldn't, maybe Draco wasn't the best person to...
"What's the matter with you?" Draco had turned around and was now facing Harry, one hand still on the door to the corridor. "I thought we were all right. I thought we'd put unpleasantness behind us, and could behave like civilised people if we ran into each other."
Harry shook his head, opening and then closing his mouth ineffectually.
"This is your idea of 'let's stay friends?' I haven't seen you in ages, you've never bothered to even send a bloody owl. I finally run into you at Hogwarts when you know you're probably going to have to act civil to me, you look constipated every time you look at me, and when I do talk to you, you won't even give me the dignity of a response."
Harry ran a hand through his hair, annoyed, and wished he could fling in Draco's face the fact that he hadn't bothered to send Harry any owls either, but he couldn't, for Merlin's sake --
Draco looked about an inch away from stamping his foot. "Harry, you're being ridiculo --"
"Finally!" Harry exploded, and Draco stepped back, alarmed.
"I was just hit with a Silence jinx, you idiot. I couldn't say a bloody thing until you said my name!"
"And I wish I could say it's surprising that you didn't figure it out, but I can't." Harry worked his jaw briefly. "God, no wonder we didn't work out," he muttered.
"You and I. You never let me talk."
Draco scowled. "It wasn't a question of 'letting'. You never talked. I had to figure everything out on my own."
"And you figured it out in a way that made me seem as big a berk as possible."
"Well excuse me if my experience with people has left me a little skeptical about anyone's good intentions --"
"Really? How many years since the war? You're Mediwizard at Hogwarts, your mother on the Board, and you still treat people like they're out to get you?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "I never said people were out to get me, I only said --"
"You only said -- oh never mind." Harry straightened his robes. "I'm not doing this with you. I'm going to the Lake. Are you coming?"
"I'm part of the same information session you're in," said Draco, frowning. "Of course I'm going. I only came back here because Astoria sent me to see where you'd got to."
"I was here reviewing the security spells."
"Did you think I was going to skip the Lake section?"
"No, I didn't," said Harry, gritting his teeth. "I was being polite. Didn't mean to imply anything negative. Again."
Draco blushed slightly. He indicated the door, and started to follow Harry out, then stopped. "Hang on, a Silence jinx? Who cast it?"
"Nobody, it must have been something left over from the school year; I wouldn't let anybody get near enough to do it themselves."
"Left over from -- what? The Great Hall is used all the time even in the summer. It's almost the beginning of the next term, any leftover spells would've been tripped by now --"
"I would've felt anyone close enough to hex me."
"You're not on your guard; it's Hogwarts in August, there's almost nobody here except staff and people who are supposed to be here."
"I'm still not that daft."
The door opened, and Hermione popped her head in. "Harry! There you are!" she said, politely nodding at Draco, who nodded back and headed towards the door.
"Thanks, Draco," Harry called after him, and Draco tossed a muttered "You're welcome," over his shoulder.
"Were you talking to Draco?" she asked, glancing behind them as Draco opened the door.
"No, I was actually hit with some sort of hex," Harry told her. The door started to swing shut behind Draco. "I couldn't ta--"
Hermione blinked. So did Harry.
Harry opened his mouth. Closed it. Bugger.
"Couldn't talk?" Hermione said.
"And Draco fixed it?"
Harry spread his hands. Apparently not. Hermione hurried to the door and poked her head out. "Draco!" she called out.
"Yes?" Draco's voice was faint.
"Could you come back for a moment? Harry can't seem to speak."
"What?" Draco's footsteps neared and he came back in. "He was speaking fine just a moment ago." He frowned. "Audibly, at least."
"I know," said Harry, and stopped again, annoyed. "What the..."
"Draco, step out again," said Hermione, and Draco stepped back out, closing the door behind him. "Harry?"
Harry opened his mouth again. Bloody hell.
"Come back in," said Hermione, opening the door to Draco once more. "He can't talk if you're not here."
Draco leaned against the doorframe, gazing at Harry with resignation. "Well. Isn't that ironic?" He shook his head and took out his wand. "Let's see what's going on."
"What are you doing?" Harry said, backing away.
"I'm going to see if I can get a reading on who cast this jinx."
"I wasn't jinxed," said Harry. "Besides, who would jinx me here?"
"The school is full of parents and students," Hermione pointed out.
"You've got plenty of enemies," said Draco absently, frowning at his wand as soft amber tendrils of light floated from it. "What with being Head Auror and all."
"Harry?" asked Ginny, entering the room with Astoria Malfoy in tow. "What's going on? Weren't you supposed to come to the Lake?"
"Somebody jinxed him," said Hermione.
"What?!" gasped Astoria.
"Just a Silence jinx, and obviously I'm fine," said Harry.
"Unless Draco leaves the room." Hermione frowned. "Draco, it might not have been aimed at Harry," she said. "I'm not sure what would be the point of Silencing Harry when you're not here, but maybe somebody cast the jinx on you to make it look like you were... I don't know, doing something nefarious to him..." she trailed off uncertainly.
"There are still people out there who don't think highly of you," said Ginny. "And others who are still upset by your marriage."
"And our divorce," said Draco, still concentrating on the light coming off his wand.
"That's daft," Ginny scoffed. "As if there was any chance your marriage could've succeeded."
"Thank you very much," said Draco. And if Harry knew Draco at all, he was barely refraining from adding, "And from one ex-spouse to the other, sod you."
"I'm not saying it was your fault," said Ginny. "The public was after you all the time. This is why I didn't let anyone see Lee and me together until months after the divorce was final. Even if you and Harry hadn't been a rebound relationship, there was no way you could explore it without the press hounding you to distraction."
"If you ask me, the press left them alone too much," muttered Astoria, who'd suffered from the same amount of press coverage at the time as Harry and Draco. Of course it didn't help matters that she'd also suffered from the enthusiastic attentions of Petrus Aquila, Jared Flint, and Phillip Moody, two of them at the same time, and once in the stands at the Quidditch World's Cup. Though 'suffered' wasn't the right word at all, if the photographs were accurate. Harry couldn't quite feel sorry for her.
"Anyway, this has nothing to do with what's happened to you now," Draco said, and stepped closer with his wand. "If you'll just let me --"
"No," said Harry, backing away.
"If you'd rather have a real Healer diagnose --"
"I don't doubt your Mediwizard expertise; I never have."
Draco rolled his eyes.
"Right, Harry, let's get Ron and he can look around," said Hermione. "You can even call someone else in from the office, you can take some magical signature readings, figure out who --"
"I wasn't jinxed," said Harry. "I think I'd know if I had been jinxed."
"I can't believe I was jinxed," said Harry in the Headmistress's rather crowded office a few hours later.
"I know, it's a complete shock to me too," said Draco.
Harry scowled at him.
"It's perfectly understandable, Sir," said Auror McEnvish, the young wizard Ron had called in to help him. "There was no reason for you to be on your guard at the school when it was almost empty. And nobody could've expected Miss Edgecombe to be hiding in the charmed ceiling like that."
Harry would've been irritated with the man if he hadn't sounded more nervous than condescending. He supposed it was a little unnerving, having to tell your boss that he'd let himself get jinxed by Olivia Edgecombe, a witch whose greatest criminal escapade had been conjuring chips onto the rims of teacups at a Royal Doulton factory. Not just taken off guard, but taken off guard by a rank amateur.
"I'm not sure why she got you," said Ron. "You've always been pretty decent to her, I thought. You're not even the one who arrested her the last time. Though she probably just resents all of Magical Law Enforcement, and you're the figurehead."
"You said she's always been a rather petty criminal," said McEnvish. "Maybe she wanted to do one spectacular thing."
"How did she even know where Harry would be?" asked Ginny.
"Gin, the article about the information session for parents of sixth- and seventh-year students was in both papers and the Wireless," said Ron. "Harry being personally responsible for security was in there too, I'm sure."
"But she would've had to know that Harry was going to be alone in the Great Hall at one point, checking local security spells, and I know that wasn't in the paper, so where --"
"Oh bugger," said Astoria, dismayed. "Harry, I'm so sorry -- was that supposed to be confidential? Because we didn't publish it, but I had the information right out in the open. If she knew anybody at The Prophet --"
Harry rubbed the spot between his eyes. "Astoria, it's all right, I didn't mark it confidential."
"I'm so sorry."
"It's all right. Not your fault. Blast." Harry blew out his breath. "All right, what was the point of the jinx, anyway? And why can only one person break the silence?" He glanced at Draco. "And why him, specifically?"
"He's not the only one, sir," said McEnvish. "I've determined that anyone under the age of majority can break it as well."
"Why is he the only adult, then?"
"Well, you were married for several months," McEnvish said thoughtfully. "Perhaps that --"
"No, we were temporarily insane for several months," said Draco. "And thanks ever so for bringing that up. This situation wasn't nearly uncomfortable enough."
"I'm only saying that maybe there is a reason you are the only adult who can hear him."
"Maybe it's because of his maturity level," Harry muttered.
"As opposed to your own maturity level, making comments like that?" Draco snapped.
"It may simply be due to the fact that he is a Mediwizard," said McEnvish. "I don't know."
"How long is this going to last, then?" asked Harry.
"I don't know, sir," said McEnvish. "Since Miss Edgecombe says she doesn't know how to take the jinx off, it could be a fairly long time. Several months, at least."
"I can't go to work dragging Malfoy or a child around after me," said Harry. He sat down heavily. "I'll have to take time off."
"Harry, you're miserable when you're not working," said Hermione.
There was a brief silence.
Astoria cleared her throat. "Erm, Headmistress..." She paused, hesitant, then shook herself and went on. "You did just ask me to keep running the advert for the open Defence Against the Dark Arts position..."
McGonagall nodded, then narrowed her eyes and turned to look at Harry. "Yes. Yes, I did."
Harry stared back at her, not sure what this had to do with his current situation -- and then he got it.
Merlin. She couldn't mean...
Ginny's eyebrows went up. "Really? It'd be wonderful being near the kids again, Harry," she said. "It's not such a bad idea, is it?"
"You mean, me... here?"
"You were going to be visiting the school to run Tournament security this year anyway," Ron pointed out. "This way you'll be right here, the whole time."
"It does make sense," said McGonagall. "You've done it before."
"It's a wonderful offer, Professor," said Hermione. "Isn't it, Harry?"
"But I want it made extremely clear," said McGonagall. "There will be no foolishness like the last time you and Mr. Malfoy worked together."
Harry could feel a blush heating his face, not helped at all by Ginny's smirk and Ron's hastily choked-off laughter. He deliberately did not look at Draco.
McGonagall eyed them both steadily over her glasses. "No foolishness," she repeated. "Some of my portraits are still traumatised, and Professor Longbottom has never been able to use a certain part of Greenhouse 3 again."
"What do you think, Harry?" said Hermione.
Draco wasn't looking at him, and Harry felt cornered. Oh God, back at Hogwarts with Draco, seeing him all the time, their fragile truce tested every day, regrets and second guesses and...
"I don't know..."
"I do," said Ron. "He'll take it."
Harry blew out his breath. "Ron, hang on --"
"No, it's brilliant," said Ginny. She raised her voice. "Kids," she said, and the gaggle of teenagers gathered at the window of McGonagall's office glanced over at her. "Guess what? Dad's going to take the Defence Against the Dark Arts position again."
There was a small cheer from the group.
"It'll be brilliant, Dad!" said James, grinning widely.
"Brilliant, Harry!" said Scorpius. "Can you coach the Gryffindor team too?"
Harry sighed, giving in. "Yeah, all right."
He rubbed the space between his eyes as James and Scorpius let out a whoop of joy and the other children started to babble in excitement. He could feel a headache coming on. A 'Dawlish is going to take up an entire afternoon arguing about procedure again'-sized headache.
Well, that would be one advantage to this. No Dawlish. Yes, he'd have to deal with Draco on a regular basis, but Draco at least had a sense of humour. And intelligence. And wit, whether it was comfortable for Harry to hear or not. He'd take Draco over Dawlish any day.
... in fact, he'd have to take him for an entire school year's worth of days. Whether the jinx wore off before June or not, he was going to be here for the entire year. With Draco.
He glanced up as one of the portraits cleared its throat.
"Are you sure this is wise, Minerva?" a Headmistress in a bright orange pointed hat was saying.
"Not at all," muttered McGonagall, with a glance at Harry. "I may already be regretting this." She closed her eyes and said, without turning to look at Dumbledore's portrait. "Albus, I can almost hear what you're going to say, and I'd appreciate if you didn't."
Dumbledore's portrait smiled at Harry. "I think it would be good for them to spend some time together," he said.
"Please tell me you're talking about Harry and his children."
Dumbledore shook his head, amused. "You know I am not. It might help them to come back together."
"You sound as though you thought they were a good match," said McGonagall.
"They were," said Dumbledore. "They simply went too fast."
McGonagall rolled her eyes. "Albus, that's a load of bosh. We spent twenty years watching them approach like glaciers." She paused. "Not everyone can pine for a lifetime, you know," she said more gently. "They did not go too fast."
"If they ended up together in this lifetime, they went too fast," muttered Snape's portait, looking more sallow than normal. Nauseated, maybe.
"Yes, Severus, your opinion on this matter has been noted. Repeatedly," said McGonagall. She turned to Harry. "Well then, Potter, let's get you a suite."
Harry gave Dumbledore an uncomfortable smile, and followed her out of the office.
"You can't be serious," said Pansy the next day, over a whiskey at the Blue Sphinx Club.
Draco took a sip of his brandy, glancing at their dinner companions. "Unfortunately, I am."
"And he's going to be teaching as well as doing security for the Tournament?" asked Romilda Smith.
Draco nodded stiffly. He'd never understood what Pansy saw in the Smith couple, but she had invited them before Harry's jinx had happened, and he couldn't exactly tell them to bugger off while he unloaded his troubles to his closest friend.
"It makes sense," he said. "Children can still hear him."
"After what happened last time he taught?" asked Zacharias.
Romilda bristled. "Come on, not all of that was his fault." Draco met her gaze evenly, refusing to blush before former Gryffindors.
"What about seventh-year lessons?" asked Pansy. "Most of those students are already of age."
"The Defence class is small. Potter will do them combined with the sixth-years. And the School Mediwizard is supposed to be on hand for many of the upper-year Defence lessons anyway."
"Only if he hasn't thought of a million reasons to skive off that particular duty," said Pansy. "Which you won't, if it's Potter teaching."
"All right, does nobody remember that we're divorced?" Draco snapped, annoyed.
"I remember," said Romilda. "I could've predicted it would happen the moment I heard you'd eloped. I said so, didn't I, dear?"
Zacharias nodded. "Many times."
"Thanks so much for the vote of confidence," said Draco.
"It wasn't your fault. The problem was that Harry wasn't really gay," she said, with a weird predatory gleam in her eyes. "He just hadn't found the right woman yet." Pansy smirked at Draco, and Draco recalled Harry anxiously scanning the room for exits whenever he was in Romilda's presence. "I'm sure he was thinking of women the entire time."
"He never said he was," said Draco.
"Maybe just one particular woman. Someone he might have thought was out of his reach. In any case, he wasn't gay."
"He wasn't really bisexual either," said Zacharias Smith condescendingly, apparently blissfully unaware of what his wife looked like whenever she spoke of Harry. "The entire concept of bisexuality is nothing but an invention of our modern age."
"Pish," said Pansy. "The reason they broke up was that they didn't have enough sex." She turned to Draco. "You were surrounded by impressionable youngsters day and night, and being spied on by The Prophet. You could hardly bend Potter over a desk knowing his own children might walk in any moment. You couldn't fully explore the sexual part of your relationship."
Draco sighed and swirled his drink around his goblet.
"The problem was that all they had together was sex," Hermione said, rather primly, two days later at The Burrow. Harry was torn between wishing he could be heard right now so that he could change the subject and being grateful he couldn't be heard, as that meant that no children were hearing this fascinating conversation.
"They had too much sex," Ron muttered.
"They had far too public sex," said Neville, who'd had plenty of reason to know.
"They didn't have weird enough sex," said George, and Harry did not want to know (a) how George knew that, and (b) what George considered weird sex.
"I think maybe it's time to veer away from the topic of what kind of sex Harry and Draco had," said Ginny. Harry gave her a grateful look and once again thanked God that, if he had to be twice-divorced, at least his relationship with one of his ex-spouses was amicable.
Amicable in a 'we're still friends and have no regrets' kind of way, not in a 'we can grit our teeth and ignore total heartbreak and be civil to each other' kind of way.
"So, George, how's the shop doing after that explosion last week?" Ginny asked, and Harry felt a glow of gratitude towards her again.
It was odd being twice divorced, Harry thought as George launched into an excited description of general mayhem. Neither split had been particularly violent or dramatic; he and Ginny had just drifted apart for so long that when she'd brought up separation, he'd almost been relieved. No more of her endless sports stories, no more of her having to feign interest in his work. With the kids gone to school, they'd just realised they had nothing to share any more. He supposed it was a little strange that he was able to spend so much time with her -- every holiday, really -- without much conflict, but their passion had been worn down pretty early into their parenthood. What could they fight about, really, when they agreed about so much?
"I really, really want this, Harry," she'd said when The Prophet offered her the International Sports and Games Editor spot, right after Lily had left for first year. "It's a huge opportunity. I hate that it's in Geneva, but..."
"It's only six months," he'd said. "I'll stay here, keep the house going, and if it works, we'll figure it out, and if it doesn't, no harm done."
It had worked. Wonderfully.
"I take it you're not coming home," he'd said when she'd told him she'd accepted an extension to her contract.
"I do miss you," she'd said, but it hadn't rung true, and he hadn't really missed her either.
"Harry, we need to talk," she'd said just two months later. "There's someone else." He'd been stunned at how little he felt. His wife, one of his closest friends, was attracted to somebody else, was living an exciting life on the Continent, a life that didn't involve him at all, and he felt very little other than happiness for her and... relief?
"Dad," said James, waving an Owl and bounding into the room, breaking into George's explosion story, "Scorpius still doesn't believe me. Was it really you who pushed to make the Triwizard Tournament open to seventeen- and sixteen-year-olds?"
Harry blew out his breath, annoyed, and gestured to Ron.
"Yeah, it was," said Ron. "It's not going to be nearly as dangerous this time. And James, you know if you want your dad to talk, you'll have to bring in Albus."
"He's reading," James said scornfully. "Again. Is Dominique really going to come?" he asked his uncle Bill.
"Oh yes," said Bill. "She's pretty determined to win for Beauxbatons."
"What does Fleur think?"
"She's thrilled," said Bill. "Really envies Harry for being able to be there to see it all again." He grinned at Harry, who smiled back uncomfortably and reflected that maybe it was a good thing he couldn't speak right now, because he wasn't feeling particularly worthy of envy right now.
What could he say? Part of him thought this was logical and reasonable and the best way to make the best of a bad situation. He and Ginny might not be terribly close any more, but they could spend extended periods of time together without any difficulty. He and Draco should be able to do the same. After all, they hadn't fallen apart dramatically either. They'd fallen together dramatically, then separated rather sheepish and embarrassed.
This could work.
Or it could be spectacularly uncomfortable and he was going to regret it heartily within a week.
This was spectacularly uncomfortable, thought Draco a few weeks into the school year. He heartily regretted having agreed to work with Harry again. Because they were seeing each other at breakfast, lunch and supper, as well as at a couple of Harry's NEWT-level classes, and occasionally in the hallways, and when Harry had to come in with injured or hexed students, and... well, all the time, basically. They had gone from slightly strained polite smiles to not-so-strained smiles to inconsequential chitchat at breakfast, to Draco sitting down next to him and actually talking, albeit superficially, during mealtimes instead of grabbing something and retreating to the Hospital wing. And from that to...
"Honestly, Harry, you're unbelievable," Draco scoffed, rolling his eyes as he administered yet another Calming Draught to a sobbing fourteen-year-old. She glared at Harry reproachfully over her goblet as she downed its contents. "You really thought it was a good idea to loose a Boggart on them?"
"What? We had one in third year."
"From a werewolf," said Draco, and the student's eyes went wide as she choked a little on her Draught.
"He was a good professor," said Harry staunchly.
"Granted, yes, a better Defence professor than Professor Demon In My Turban, Witch Weekly's smiling idiot, the Polyjuiced Death Eater, Snape, and the member of Voldemort's Inner Circle. I will admit that much. It's nice to see you're setting your standards so high. I see my son's education is in good hands."
"Thanks," said Harry dryly. "I can't tell you how much your vote of confidence warms me."
Draco relented. "I'm not serious," he said, and Harry looked at him, startled. "For whatever it's worth, the students themselves think highly of you." The girl on his table handed her empty goblet back and glared at him. "Mostly."
Harry covered a smile.
"Are you feeling better?" Draco asked the girl. She nodded. "You're free to go," he told her, and picked up his journal to write up the event. "You're free to go too," he said to Harry, trying not to feel flustered that Harry was still in Draco's hospital wing, studentless.
"Do they really?" asked Harry, resting a hip on the examining table.
"The students. Do they think highly of me?"
"Scorpius says so," said Draco. "They missed you last year. They'd known you were only supposed to be here on sabbatical and to let Weasley have a shot at running the Aurors, but a lot of them were hoping you'd stay on."
"Since when do I invent reasons to inflate your ego?"
Harry chuckled. "Fair enough," he said, then straightened up and left the hospital wing. Draco let out his breath and continued his entry.
Yes, many of the students had hoped Harry would stay. Particularly their own children. He'd had the pleasure of being subjected to their dismay at the whole break-up during final exams week when Scorpius had come in with Harry's children in tow, to help him do the end-of-year clearing out of stale potions in preparation for the summer.
"They'd read too many Veela novels where you finally find your one true mate and it's for life," Lily had said scornfully, scrubbing a newly-emptied vial hard enough to almost dissolve it. "It was just supposed to be rebound, for fun."
"I've never opened a single Veela novel in my life," Draco had wanted to protest, and wisely not mentioned the stack of Veela novels in Harry's rooms that Harry swore were just Ginny's things that had got mixed up with his own when he'd moved to the school.
"Maybe they hadn't read enough Veela novels," said Al softly, sifting through witch-hazel plants absently, and Draco had winced. Perhaps it had been a mistake to allow Al to read them.
"They hadn't read enough vampire novels," said both Scorpius and James, though when questioned it turned out they had no reason to bring it up since vampire novels had nothing to do with romance. It was just that they both really, really liked vampire novels.
The entire conversation had been painful, his own regret at how they'd ended rubbed raw by the children. He'd tried to see the positive in it, see that maybe their marriage had been a mistake, but not a total loss: Harry's children still cared for him, Scorpius's very recent ex-step-siblings still wanted him in their lives. It hadn't been a complete waste...
Wait, what? He'd just entered a Calming Draught as Anti-Eros Potion. He waved his wand at the parchment and changed it.
This was why he'd broken up with Harry. Because he turned into an idiot around him. This was why having him around right now was mild torture. Because he wanted Harry around, wanted to have back what they'd had in those first wondrous months, and he couldn't. Because chatting casually with Harry and being friendly co-workers was nice, but not enough. Not nearly enough. How could it be?
"I think we have to talk," he'd said to Harry, months after their whirlwind affair had resulted in an impulsive elopement, passion so bright and new and exciting that had turned into a flurry of romance and fun and laughter and mind-blowing sex of the kind he'd never had with Astoria, the kind where he babbled and begged and felt like a god when Harry writhed and swore under him, felt a constant itch under his skin, a desperate need to be with Harry even in the most inconvenient times and places, and feel him and taste him...
And the newness and giddiness had slowly worn off, and they'd had their kids underfoot all the time, and disagreed about whose quarters to live in, and whether Harry should stay on at Hogwarts past his sabbatical year, and what the do about the Howlers and the bordering-on-pornographic fan mail that arrived in the Great Hall after The Prophet broke the news of their relationship. And how to arrange their rooms and how to spend their spare time and whether Neville's Greenhouse 3 really qualified as a 'discreet' place for a quickie. And even how to disagree, and the merits of arguing versus sulking versus trying to pretend nothing was wrong...
Disagreement had turned to annoyance and tiredness and disillusion, and finally weary suspicion that maybe they just weren't meant to be.
"We really have to talk," he'd said to Harry, and Harry had looked relieved. Because even though Harry didn't like to dwell on their problems -- or talk about them at all, really, which was infuriating -- they both knew they had them. And their marriage was still a few days from six months old, so by the Law of Buyer's Remorse, it could be dissolved with minimum fuss. They'd leapt at the chance.
"If we dissolve it now, we don't have to go before the Wizengamot," Draco'd pointed out.
They'd gazed at each other, uncertainty writ large on both faces.
"D'you want to?" asked Harry hesitantly.
"Maybe it's for the best," Draco had replied.
What a way to end a marriage: not with a bang, but with an embarrassed whimper.
They'd been wise. Realistic. Breaking it off before what was between them was destroyed by animosity and hostility and turned into something ugly.
And they knew they wouldn't be close friends any more, but Draco hadn't expected to miss their friendship as much as he had. He hadn't expected to feel empty after Harry left. Hadn't expected them to be so awkward, and then so not-awkward in an awkward way when they did finally interact.
They'd done the right thing.
The Champions and their families were gathered in a small courtyard as most of the staff and other students watched from around the perimeter and the photographers clicked picture after picture after picture. And Draco could just tell that George Weasley was going to find some way of making this go sideways, if his son's worried face was anything to go by.
It was quite a different atmosphere from the first Triwizard Tournament, though. For one thing, the last time there had been two Hogwarts champions and allegations of cheating. This time there were two Weasley champions, and some serious allegations of sibling rivalry. Draco suppressed a sigh at the Goblet's dismal sense of humour.
"You're going to keep the Cup at Hogwarts, Roxie?" George said, tweaking his daughter's plaits and smirking at his older brother.
"Unless Dominique brings it to Beauxbatons at last," said Bill, mussing his daughter's perfect hair, much to her dismay. Fleur re-smoothed it with a tsk.
Draco glanced at the Anton Zhivkov, the Durmstrang Champion, who looked a little forlorn. No relation to Viktor Krum, no famous relatives, no claim to fame whatsoever other than the fact that a giant mug had named him best in his school and the papers were going to misspell his name tomorrow.
"All right, all three Champions together, now," said the lead photographer, and really, they could've chosen a better place to do this, as the Champions were forced to smile over and over again despite the carnival atmosphere and the catcalls and jokes of over two hundred people.
"Haven't they done the Champions alone yet?" asked a fourth-year girl.
"No," said the boys standing next to her. "They did individual shots, then all three together with their parents, then Champions and their extended families, then --"
"Former Champions, get ready, you're up next," said Astoria, and Harry's lips pressed together into a thin line. Draco sniggered.
"Draco," said Mrs. Weasley, appearing right next to his elbow, and he jumped slightly. "How nice to see you."
"You too, Mrs. Weasley," said Draco politely.
"How are you doing this year?" she asked.
"Fine, thank you. You?"
"Very well, thanks. Very excited about this." She nodded at the yard, where two of her granddaughters were being moved around the totally irrelevant boy between them. She glanced at the courtyard. "And... what about Harry? How are things going with him?"
Draco shrugged uncomfortably. He wasn't sure what Mrs. Weasley was asking, but he doubted she wanted to hear that so far this year he'd spent the term remembering all the reasons he'd fallen for Harry, and all the reasons that having fallen for him didn't matter.
This was one thing he hadn't counted on -- or appreciated much -- about being with Harry: he came with a loud, intrusive, annoying horde of redheads attached. The one upside had been that Father would've been horrified.
No, that wasn't the only upside. Annoying as most of them were, they had, to varying degrees, tried to accept Draco, aided by his Gryffindor son no doubt.
"Everything's fine, Mrs. Weasley," he said finally. "We're professionals."
"Oh I don't doubt that." She gazed at Harry fondly. "I mean, how is Harry doing, dear?"
"Former Champions to the courtyard," called out the photographer.
"And his curse?"
Draco shrugged. "It'll wear off eventually," he said. "He says he honestly doesn't really notice it much; there are always kids around."
"I suppose so."
"Dad, you look like a bulldog, all glowery," said James. "Cheer up a bit."
"Thanks, yeah," Harry bit out, glaring at James. A ripple of giggles went up from the students.
"Right, then, let's have this: Mr. Potter behind Miss Roxanne Weasley, Mrs. Weasley behind Miss Dominique Weasley, Mr. Krum behind Mr. Zhivkov..."
Astoria waved her wand and placed a portrait of a smiling Cedric Diggory in the middle of the group.
"What a lovely image," said Mrs. Weasley.
"They've all aged well, haven't they?" said Astoria, coming to stand by Draco.
"Suppose so," said Draco.
"Oh there's no supposing, darling, particularly with Potter." She grinned at Draco.
Once more Draco wished Astoria hadn't bought The Prophet with her large divorce settlement. Granted, after all the times she'd graced their pages it made sense for her to follow the sound principle of 'if you can't beat them, buy them', and most of the time it was a fine thing; the stupid rag actually printed real articles these days, and no untoward publicity was attached to Draco's name. The article on Harry's curse had been relegated to page five. However, it did make her and Ginny Potter, now The Prophet's Senior Sports Editor, ubiquitous whenever there was anything having to do with sports.
What joy. Not only having to work with his ex this year, but having both of their exes regularly drop into the school. The exes were thicker than a noughts and crosses game.
"Scorpius says you're working comfortably with Harry," said Astoria, smiling as Ginny Potter joined their small group.
"We are professionals," Draco repeated.
"D'you spend any time with him outside of the classroom?" Astoria asked, her voice determinedly casual.
"Why would I?" asked Draco, and winced inwardly at how dismally he covered his bitterness, if the little glances between Astoria and Ginny and Ginny's mother were any indication.
"You did agree to remain friends," said Ginny.
"That's easier said than done."
"Not for you and me," said Astoria.
"Or for me and Harry," said Ginny.
"D'you know what you need?" asked Astoria, watching the two sets of Champions being posed; Harry was going to explode soon if the photographer artfully mussed his hair one more time.
"You need to make this decisive."
"Make what decisive?"
"Erm." Draco blinked. "We divorced. That's pretty decisive, I'd say."
"Not really. You know there's disagreement over whether what you had even constituted a marriage or not."
"Why, because we divorced before the six-month mark?"
"That, and you were never properly married as wizards."
"Oh, Merlin," said Draco, rolling his eyes.
"What?" asked Ginny.
"It's in that old book I was telling you about last week, d'you remember?" said Astoria. "I think their marriage didn't last because it didn't start properly."
"Which book?" asked Molly Weasley. "D'you mean Now That We Are Gaye?"
Astoria smiled, surprised. "Yes, that's the one."
"I remember when that was re-discovered," said Mrs. Weasley. "Witch Weekly considered it quite open-minded and daring at the time, even though it had been written a century earlier."
Astoria nodded. "I think they never had a proper courtship. I think that if they had, they would have succeeded."
"I think you've read too many Veela novels yourself," said Draco.
"I think you shouldn't scoff at everything you don't agree with."
"I think this conversation is over," said Draco firmly.
When had that ever worked on Astoria, even when they were married?
"I think it's worth a try," said Astoria.
"She may have a point," said Mrs. Weasley. "Maybe what you two needed was to have a proper wizarding courtship and marriage. Maybe if you'd had that, you wouldn't have divorced."
"Even if they did that and ended up divorced," said Astoria, "they would feel sure of the divorce."
"Yes, fascinating," said Draco, and turned his attention to the courtyard, where a reporter was asking questions while the photographers set up another shot.
"Well the first thing we did was make sure none of it was going to be lethal," Harry was saying as Draco focussed on him. "We didn't feel it was necessary to put children's lives at risk for our entertainment."
"How did the Tournament Committee feel about it?"
"They had to go along with it. Besides, Draco Malfoy's the mediwizard, and his ex-wife's family is funding a lot of the practical aspects of it. Once they agreed, the Committee couldn't really argue; who wants to be known as the committee member who pushed to make sure the Triwizard Cup remained potentially fatal?"
"So what's the worst that could happen to a contestant in this tournament?"
"For the first Task, they could be struck blind for a couple of months. For the second, the worst that can happen is they'll end up gender-changed for a month, and third Task, they might wind up with, erm, really objectionable body odour."
"That doesn't seem so fearsome."
"They're teenagers," Astoria called out. "It's fearsome, trust me."
The interviewer chuckled.
"Do you know what I came across the other day?" Astoria asked Draco quietly. "A current edition."
Draco glanced at her hand. There it was, bound in bright sparkly purple leather, Now That We Are Gaye. Ginny and Mrs. Weasley both oohed appreciatively, and Ginny took it from Astoria and opened it.
"Oh Merlin, Astoria," she snorted, "the publishing house!"
"Melvin's Mauve Mansion of Manlove," said Astoria, rolling her eyes. "I know, I know. They do occasionally publish scholarly works, though." She nudged Draco. "Why don't you borrow it?"
"Why would I?"
"Really, Draco, you should read this. Not for Harry necessarily -- all right, not for Harry at all," she amended. "For yourself. For any future relationships you may want to have."
"Because it's ridiculous --"
"But it's a historical document," Mrs. Weasley began.
"No it isn't," Draco snapped. "Despite the addition of an 'e' at the end of every other word, the word 'gay' wasn't even in use to label homosexuality when this was purportedly written."
Mrs. Weasley pursed her lips slightly, offended. "Nevertheless, the advice is good, from what I remember of it. And there was a Wireless programme the other day saying that same-sex couples aren't the same as male-female. Very informative."
Draco bit back a number of ill-tempered responses and reminded himself that no matter how silly her opinions, Molly Weasley had earned the right to be treated with courtesy by dint of her age and status as a war-hero, not to mention being the grandmother of what seemed like dozens of current Hogwarts students.
And also she could probably kill him with a flick of her wand.
"Regardless of when the book itself was published, the customs and spells in it are in fact real," said Astoria reprovingly.
Ginny paused about ten pages in, at a page illuminated with unhealthily rotund cherubs and vaguely phallus-shaped flowers in various lurid colours, and began reading aloud softly.
To create a true marriage, a wizard pair must proceed through the Six Encounters of True Manly Love.
Ginny sniggered and Draco winced.
The First Encounter buildeth the friendship of the soul, with no touch nor lustful look permitted.
The Second Encounter decideth which wizard shall be the gentleman, and which the lady, by conversation alone.
The Third Encounter showeth physical prowess of manliness, to allow masculine passion to flourish.
The Fourth Encounter giveth the wizards an opportunity to rejoice in touch through the magick of dance.
The Fifth Encounter createth the awareness of the pair as a couple, as they venture into the world as a pair for the first time and shareth a meal.
The Sixth and Final Encounter determineth compatibility of their passions, as the affections of the spirits matters not if the body hath no affection to add.
And after the Six Encounters, the pair shall be as wedded as any man and witch who have bonded in the presence and approval of their families, even though their own families may wish them ill.
"It's worth looking at, anyway," said Astoria, and Draco rolled his eyes impatiently.
"It is," said Ginny. "I don't know about you but we both agree, Harry's not over you."
"No, he's not," said Mrs. Weasley. "He's not dated anybody since you, even after I introduced him to that lovely single boy from Raven Locks Hair Salon."
Draco scowled. "Even if I believed that, why would I follow some ridiculous made-up --"
"The book itself may be silly," Astoria said, "but believe it or not the Six Encounters creates a real spell, binding by law. It really was used by gay wizards a few generations ago."
"I didn't know that," said Ginny.
"Well, they often couldn't get anyone to officiate their weddings, so they created this. The book says that the proof you show in court is a Witch Mistletoe branch with six blooms, and I don't know how accurate that is but --"
Draco blocked their conversation as best he could, noting with relief that the journalists seemed to be putting their Quick-Quote Quills away and hoping that meant the end of this circus was at hand.
Finally it was all winding down, the photographers were starting to take down their lights, the students were preparing to go -- and then the Durmstrang boy was suddenly sprouting tusks and trumpeting in alarm.
Draco -- and about half the other people still present -- glanced at the Slytherins immediately, but they were mystified themselves, and --
"George!" Harry bellowed, wand out and pointing at his former brother-in-law.
"Oi, it's good publicity for him, mate," said George, backing up and laughing, not even bothering to hide. "Otherwise the poor kid's not even going to be mentioned at all --"
"He's got a point, Uncle Harry," said his son Fred, gesturing towards the photographers now frantically taking pictures of the poor Durmstrang Champion.
Viktor Krum glared at George and Harry Vanished the tusks with a wave of his wand. "George, Merlin, you --"
"And you can say your security's working great -- see? You caught me right away --"
Draco placed a hand over his eyes as Harry bustled George away, protesting the whole way. It was going to be a long, long year.
This was insane, thought Draco, glancing about the Yule Ball. The Great Hall was glittering, everything lovely, and he was seriously contemplating going up and asking Harry Potter to dance. In public. Because of some 'traditional' rubbish that had been suggested by his ex-wife. And his former pseudo-mother-in-law. And... whatever the hell Ginny Potter was supposed to be to him these days. He was insane.
And the worst part was, it wasn't a new insanity, and he wasn't just considering. He'd been doing, already. So far it hadn't even been that difficult.
Granted, up to now it had been almost a whim. The book had specified that progress in the courtship could be measured by the blossoming of flowers on Witch Mistletoe, and Draco of course stocked it (standard supply in any clinic that dealt with teenagers, as it was used in about fifty different love-potion antidotes), so he'd brought a small twig down to the Great Hall at breakfast one day, about a week after having been given the book, feeling like fifty different kinds of idiot for doing so.
The first step shouldn't have been that difficult. He thought he'd made sure to talk to Harry without lustful thoughts or glances, but it had taken five meals to finally get the first bloom, and it had sprouted when Harry wasn't even listening to him, but was marking some of his essays at the table.
Scorpius whirled past on the dance floor with his girlfriend, and once again Draco reminded himself that he didn't care that she was Muggle-born. If anything, it was better for their family. Never mind that generations of Malfoys probably whimpered in their graves at the very thought.
The Second Encounter, deciding which was the gentleman and which the lady, was ridiculous. They'd never taken on male/female roles when they were together; Draco didn't know of any gay couples who did. They even switched in the bedroom, though mostly Harry topped. So who cared?
And how, exactly, does one decide which one is 'the lady'?
For Draco, it had involved casually mangling a spell the next time Harry brought a student into the hospital. He'd turned away from the newly-healed student, frowned at a shelf full of dressings, and flicked his wand to straighten them out. Too hard a flick and a bit of slurring and, instead of a neat shelf of dressings, he got Harry into a dress. A very fetching lacy lilac one, in fact. His student had laughed so hard he'd nearly ruptured the new ribs Draco had just given him.
Harry had merely frowned and said, "You know, I think this one's more suited to your colouring, don't you? The lilac would really bring out the colour of your eyes."
Draco had felt his heart flutter a tiny bit and nodded before catching himself and glancing at the mistletoe on his desk and noting it had another blossom.
Fine, all right. Encounter Number Two was done, and it didn't matter because nobody but him even knew anything had happened.
Draco stepped back as a bevy of Beauxbatons beauties twirled by, followed by a band of glowering Durmstrang boys who appeared to be trying to attract the girls through sheer force of Slavic broodiness. Not for the first time, he wondered if elegance and flirtatiousness were prerequisites to get into Beauxbatons and dark manly handsomeness prerequisites for Durmstrang. Or if they were just requirements to be part of the Tournament delegations. And he wondered, moreover, where on earth young Eastern European witches and French wizard boys got their education.
The foreign students were pairing off for a dance that seemed to be popular only on the Continent. Not something to which he could ask Harry to dance. Too much prancing and leaping on the part of the boys, too many birds flitting from the girls' robes.
The Third Encounter had been the easiest so far. Draco had challenged Harry to a flying contest, and it was actually rather brilliant, in that their kids were watching and, most importantly, Draco had actually won.
Granted, he pulled at least three muscles and Harry was fine, and had compounded the insult by being concerned and apologetic, but it was worth it.
The next three days of back muscle spasms weren't quite as worth it.
But this... actually dancing. This was committing. And he couldn't really do it without Harry noticing.
In fact, he couldn't really do any of the rest of the Encounters without Harry noticing either. It was time to decide --
"How are you doing?" said Harry, and Draco nearly spilled his drink on himself.
Harry looked at him oddly. "How are you?"
"Well, thanks. You?"
They stood next to each other, watching the whirling dancers, and Draco reached for something to say.
"Your niece looks rather pleased with herself," he finally said.
"Roxanne? She does, doesn't she?" he grinned at her, and Draco saw that she was pulling a Ravenclaw boy towards the circles on the dance floor. The dance seemed to involve a lot of skirt-twirling and batting of eyes on the part of the girls, and leaping and throwing the girls up in the air for the boys. It looked rather painful, to be honest.
"Does she know how to do this one?" asked Draco. "I didn't think any of ours did."
"I don't think so, but I just heard Dominique make fun of English girls who wouldn't know how to dance if you pricked them with hot pokers, so I think Roxie's taking up the challenge."
"Dominique's not taking her defeat graciously, I take it?"
Harry laughed. "Not exactly, no."
"Go on, Dad, ask Draco to dance," Albus appeared suddenly at Draco's elbow, and Draco almost slopped his drink on him.
"The Durmstrang boys are saying we can't do this one," said James, joining them. "We're going to show them we can."
"Yeah, go on," said Scorpius, popping up as well.
"I am not going out there right now," Draco said firmly. "It's a miracle nobody's been thrown into anybody else."
"Here, James, let's show them how it's done," said Scorpius, and the two boys headed onto the dance floor rather unsteadily, taking turns throwing each other into the air.
Harry frowned. "I don't think they've been drinking Butterbeer," he said. He turned to Albus. "Al?"
Albus swallowed nervously and opened his mouth, and Draco snorted. "Stand down, Auror Potter. James is of age, and Al and Scorpius are almost of age."
Harry rolled his eyes and patted Albus on the arm. "Yeah, all right. And God, don't remind me. I ran into a problem the other day with my NEWTs class when they went into groups and two of them had everyone over seventeen. Had to regroup them or I'd have been giving them help in writing or mime." He scowled. "And it's only going to get worse. Al turns seventeen in February. Two more months and only one of my own kids will be able to hear me. What a nuisance."
The overly enthusiastic dance was over and James and Scorpius were back, breathless and in good humour.
"Come on, go out there," said James.
"What? No," said Draco.
"It's a new dance, Dad," said Scorpius. "You can't complain anybody's being thrown around. Go on!"
"Oh, Merlin, fine, we can't go against all of you. Let's dance, then," said Harry, and before he knew it, Draco was being led out to the dance floor, to the delight of the assembled students.
Draco caught a glance between Neville and McGonagall. He wasn't sure, but they both seemed to be rolling their eyes. McGonagall picked up a bottle of Firewhiskey and poured herself and Neville a goblet-full each. They both tossed their drinks down simultaneously.
Too soon, and it was over.
And that was that. The Fourth Encounter, all done, and without Harry's knowledge.
"I think Draco's doing the Wizard Courting thing," said James, at the breakfast table in The Burrow two days later, and Ginny spilled her tea onto herself.
"The what?" asked Harry, passing her a napkin.
"I think Draco's trying to go out with you again," said James. "I read about it in this book I found in the hospital wing when I was in overnight. Scorpius says he doesn't think so, but Scorpius isn't the most observant bloke in the world."
The family members still lingering at the table traded smiles. James, calling anyone else unobservant? That was rich.
"James," said Albus, "do remember that's our stepbrother you're talking about."
"Ex-stepbrother," James pointed out. "So do you?"
Harry blinked. "Do I what?"
"Think Draco's courting you?"
"He is near you an awful lot," said Albus. "You're certainly getting along."
Ginny and George traded a look. "Are they?" asked George.
Harry shrugged uncomfortably.
"Would you want him to?" asked Ginny.
"Why would I?" asked Harry.
"Why wouldn't you?" asked George.
"Want Draco to court you. He's not a bad bloke, you know."
Harry blinked, confused. "You know," he said slowly, "everyone said that at the time, when we got together. I didn't think any of you really meant it."
Albus shook his head and poured himself more tea.
"Dunno about anybody else, but I did," said George. Harry raised his eyebrows. "You should've known that. He'd won me over me years before the two of you did anything naughty in poor Neville's greenhouse."
Harry blushed slightly at James's smothered snigger. "D'you mean because of the money he put in your shop after the war?" Harry asked. "Everyone else said his family was trying to get good publicity."
"Yeah, and I told you all, it was load of bosh. He never advertised that he was helping. And he didn't just give me money for the shop. I wasn't in a good place at the time," he said evenly. "Remember? Something about generally wanting to die so I could be part of a set again, even if it was a dead set?"
Harry put a hand on George's arm. Yeah, he could remember -- they all could -- and he'd never questioned George's gratitude to the man. He just hadn't thought it translated into actually liking Draco.
"What are you playing at, Malfoy?" Ron had asked, more curious than angry, the day Draco had come out of the Floo in The Burrow with a nearly unconscious George, and told them he'd found him passed out in a seedy London pub. Again. For the third time that week.
Draco had shrugged uncomfortably. "Believe it or not, I'm just trying to make amends. My family caused yours a lot of trouble."
"And you think this makes up for it?"
"It's a start," Draco had said curtly. "Look, I'm not here to have a chat with you. Just... get your brother cleaned up and keep a better eye on him." He'd cleared his throat. "He's got a good shop, but it's going to go under if he keeps this up. And we all need a laugh now the war's over."
It had been the first time any of them had seen Draco after the war. It had made an impression on all of them, an impression strengthened when they saw him at George's shop a few times after that. Whether he was acting out of any ulterior motives or not, at least he wasn't harming anyone, as far as they could tell. And then when Draco had been announced as the new Hogwarts Mediwizard after Poppy Pomfrey had retired, it had made an even greater impression.
Not that Harry had ever expected to fall in love with him, but he had honestly expected his friends and family to put up more of a resistance to his dating the man, let alone marrying him.
"He's a good man," George was saying now. "He's proven himself enough over the years. You know that."
"You only like him because he turns a blind eye to your Skiving Snackboxes."
George grinned. "We don't sell Skiving Snackboxes any more, mate, you know that."
"Whatever you call them. Perfect Excuse Pralines, Class Mates, Skipping Sweets --"
"D'you know something, Dad," said Albus abruptly, "I think you do want to get back together with him. But you're not doing anything about it, because you're afraid. Not terribly Gryffindor of you, is it?"
Harry's eyebrows went up, not sure exactly how they'd come to a point in the conversation where Albus, his normally shy and reserved son, was accusing him of cowardice.
George's eyebrows went up. "Harsh words for your father, there, mate."
"I'm sorry, Dad, but you're surrounded by Gryffindors --"
"Oi!" said Lily from the living room.
"-- except for Lily the Hufflepuff," Albus amended, "but you're not acting like one."
"Al, are you aware that Draco I had been avoiding each other since our divorce? Or were we being too subtle?"
"You haven't been avoiding him this year."
"Only because thanks to that idiot Edgecombe witch, I need him around if I want to talk to other adults!"
"Not that big an idiot, if she was able to hex the Head Auror," Ginny pointed out with a smirk.
"Whatever her level of stupidity, I'm kind of glad she did what she did," said Albus. "It's been good having you back in school. And if it gets you back together with Draco, I think I'll send her a thank-you card."
"Well I think it's got Draco together," said James. "Or at least thinking about togetherness."
"Your proof?" asked Harry.
"Like I said, that book I found. It was in the hospital wing, on Draco's desk, bookmarked to this list with steps about how to date another wizard. The first was talking -- well, you've done that loads -- the second was doing some kind of sporting event --"
"That's the third one," said George and Albus at the same time, and James paused, eyebrows up.
"Lee Jordan found it in the Restricted Section once," said George. "He read it out loud in our dormitory for laughs."
James raised an eyebrow at Albus, but Albus merely stared back blankly and didn't elaborate on where he'd seen it. "Anyway, the second or third is a sporting event -- you went flying, right? And there's also deciding who's male and female -- don't even want to get into that one, but I'd say if Draco starts trying to get you to paint your nails you'll know what's happening -- and the fourth is a dance, which Al and I pushed you into, and next up is an actual dinner date --"
"Oi, James," said Freddie, bursting in from the garden. "Gran says she's got a bottle of Icegin for whoever gets the most garden gnomes. You in?"
James and George abruptly got to their feet and hurried off, trading bets on degnoming prospects, Ginny and Albus trailing behind. Harry stared after them thoughtfully.
Courting him? Draco? Really?
Harry slowly stirred his tea and munched on a piece of toast, glancing at the man beside him. The man who seemed utterly absorbed in his morning paper.
The man who just may have been courting him since... when? December? November? The beginning of the school year? How long had Draco been oh-so-subtly wooing him? Had he decided he wanted to pick up where they'd left off a few weeks into the school year? Or right when the year started?
Or maybe even before the school year?
Just how had that incompetent Edgecombe witch got him? Had she had help?
And was Harry now getting inordinately paranoid about this? He didn't even really know there was anything going on, didn't really know if Draco had been courting him or not, and now he was wondering if he'd cursed Harry to get him to come to school and...
Although if he had... would that have been so bad?
Yes, of course, Draco cursing him would have been bad. Courting him? Maybe not.
Did he even want to think about it? Did Harry want it to be true?
No, of course not.
No, that wasn't true. He wanted; he just knew wanting was stupid, and he knew he wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. He'd danced this dance before: falling into bed together, caught up in the hormones and novelty, caught up in a whirlwind of emotions, wanting it to last forever, reaching to make it permanent long before anything like permanence should have been considered... it had been glorious.
And the plummet down had been devastating, for all that they'd told each other that it was a good thing they'd got off the ride before anyone got hurt. For all that he'd told himself that it didn't matter, they hadn't really been married, they didn't have children or a home together, easy come, easy go.
"Professor Longbottom?" said a pair of tall girls covered in blue dust. "You asked us to come and get you if the Pixie Peonies exploded?"
Neville quickly got up and hurried off with them, presumably back to his greenhouses.
"You know, it's funny," said Draco. "I never quite get used to how good Longbottom is with the kids."
"D'you know he never yells at them?" said Harry. "And yet his classes have perfect discipline."
Draco chuckled. "No doubt."
"I would assume you'd disapprove. What with you maintaining the injury levels low through intimidation and all."
"I'm not aiming for intimidation; I'm aiming for abject fear," said Draco. "And Longbottom manages that quite well."
"He never loses his temper with them; he just assigns detentions. Those two girls were neglecting their Mandrakes to the point where they've delayed their puberty; he told them he was disappointed in them and would have them make it up by having them watch the Pixie Peonies for a few days."
"What's so awful about that?"
"That if you're not paying strict attention, they explode all over you."
"So you get covered in sparkly blue dust."
"Sparkly blue dust that eventually makes you invisible for about a week. Which, amusing as it might seem, gets bloody annoying after even one day, let alone a week, of people sitting on you and not speaking to you and stepping on you because they can't see you. They won't make that mistake again, believe me."
Draco turned over a page in his paper and absently re-warmed his tea.
Harry smiled and turned back to his own marking. He squinted at the essay before him. God, no, Pogrebins could not be repelled by Muggle rubber ducks.
He looked up again. Draco was still reading his morning paper. There was no indication that he was any more interested in Harry's presence beside him than anybody else at the staff table.
Why? Why would he want to start anything?
"God, I could spend the rest of my life doing this," Draco had moaned the night Harry had first proposed, after their shudders had died down from a particularly spectacular shag.
"Mm, me too," Harry had said, his arms giving out and his body settling onto Draco's. "We'd have to go out sometimes, though. Meals. Work."
"Why?" Draco had asked. "We've both got money enough to live off if we don't have any other demands. We'd get the house-elves to feed us. Food, a bed, and shagging. I don't see where this is a bad plan."
Harry had laughed, pulling off to the side and letting his weight off Draco, pulling Draco with him so that they ended up face to face.
"Nobody can shag all the time," he'd said. "Besides, you don't work to pay bills any more than I do."
"All right, I'd keep working. On a greatly reduced schedule, though. Leave most of the day open for sex."
"You'd still spend hours obsessing over your hospital's tip-top condition."
"I'd train one of the school's house-elves to keep it to my standards."
Harry had chuckled. "Not a chance. You know the Granger Reforms: 'any institutional house-elf staff asked to perform extra duties for individual members of the institution must be hired as personal staff and given fair compensation'."
"Fine, I'd hire one, then," said Draco, yawning. "Wouldn't want you to arrest me for breaking Granger's laws."
"Now I know you're serious. You'd hire a personal house-elf, just to free up more time to shag me?"
"Absolutely. Every portrait in the Manor would vow to never speak to me again, but it'd be a small price to pay."
"All right, you've convinced me. Marry me."
They laughed, and gone to sleep, but Harry hadn't dismissed what he'd said. Neither had Draco. They'd repeated it twice, joking both times but laughing less, and then...
Draco had smiled automatically, opening his mouth for the "Done" part of their banter, then hesitated. "Are you serious?"
"You don't think it's a little soon?"
"We've known each other forever. Most of our lives."
"That hasn't been a good thing until fairly recently," Draco had pointed out, moving closer and nibbling on Harry's lip.
"I know. But... maybe it could be." Harry had tilted his head back, and Draco had moved his lips slowly down Harry's neck.
"Look, we're both recently divorced," he murmured. "Maybe we just both want to not be single any more."
"We?" Harry had moaned as Draco licked the hollow of his throat. "So I'm not the only one who's not entirely taking it as a joke?"
They'd dropped it. And the next morning, Draco had asked Harry. And Harry had said yes.
"Professor Potter, here's that list you asked us to give you," said one of Harry's NEWT students, dropping a parchment beside him and startling him out of his reverie.
"Oh. Erm, thanks, Evans," said Harry, and opened up the parchment.
"What's that?" asked Draco.
"The NEWT students are scheduling some extra tutorials, but I need to know what everyone's extracurriculars are." He paused, scanning the list. "Damn."
"What is it?"
"The Quidditch players are all practising every day."
"Seven of my NEWT students are on Quidditch teams, and in all four Houses, too. Damn."
"You'll probably need me on hand too, Potter," said Draco, annoyed. "Nice of you to think of that before you started scheduling."
Harry gave him a guilty glance. "Erm. Sorry."
No, Draco wasn't trying to get into his pants again. If he were, he'd be pleased at the chance to spend more time together. Right? "I --"
"Never mind," Draco sighed. "Here, let me take a look, see what slots I can be available." He pulled the parchment closer and started poring over the dates and times.
All right, maybe not so annoyed.
Suppose Draco was trying to court him, as per that ridiculous book. Apparently the first step in Wizard Courtship was an Encounter with "no lustful thoughts." Well, Harry was sure that had happened at least once or twice, though to be honest it had been weeks before he could concentrate on his meals with Draco right beside him every time. Divorced and uncomfortable he might be; blind and indifferent he was not.
The sports event... well, their impromptu broom race could definitely have counted, never mind that Harry had lost and pulled several muscles and then suffered in silence for a week, not going to Draco for pain relief out of injured pride.
"Friday's right out for me." Draco shook his head at the parchment and crossed out a few lines.
And they had danced together at the Yule Ball. So that was another step done.
But as for the 'decide who's the woman', they'd never...
Harry had a sudden image of the hideous lacy lilac Great-Aunt-Tessie-like thing he'd found on his body in the hospital wing a few months ago, courtesy of a very uncharacteristically clumsy spell fumble by Draco. And his own voice telling Draco it would go better with the colour of his eyes. And Draco's rather attractive blush as he nodded.
That hadn't struck Harry as a settlement of who was the female... but had it been?
He glanced at Draco, who was speaking to Professor Xanatos, the rather officious and pompous new Potions teacher. "Higgins and Chong? Yes, they should be back in class today. I don't think they understood just how potent Larkspur could be."
"I think they've been using those Weasley Skiving things."
"How do you know?"
Draco's lips thinned in mild annoyance. "For one thing, Wheezes hasn't made Skiving Snackboxes for over a decade. For another, I'm friends with the man, and I asked him. And these symptoms don't go with anything he's got on the market. I agree, with Higgins and Chong some shenanigans are always a possibility, but they are genuinely ill right now. Maybe you can let me do the health care and you do your Potions at this school."
Xanatos's eyebrows went up, and he huffed in annoyance but cleared out anyway. Draco rolled his eyes and Harry got the impression he was stifling the urge to stick out his tongue at the man's back.
If James was right, and all of those random events were true Wizard Courting steps, they were at the Fifth Encounter by now. The dinner date. He wondered how Draco was planning on pulling this one off without Harry noticing.
For that matter, if Draco was courting him... why was he doing it all without telling Harry?
Was he trying to get them back together? Or was he maybe trying to make them officially and unequivocally married, so that they could be officially and unequivocally divorced when they split up?
And which would Harry want it to be?
Harry stifled a groan and put his head in his hands. He couldn't make head nor tail of this. Astute as he was as an Auror, when it came to Draco... he had no clue.
"Harry," said Draco, startling Harry.
"Wha? Yeah! I'm here," he said, and Draco gave him a puzzled look. "Sorry. Yes?"
"I just said, here's my availabilities." He pushed the parchment back to Harry. "And while we're on the topic of extracurriculars, d'you want to get dinner together some night this week so we can discuss what you'll be covering at the tutorials?" All right, Draco was blushing ever so slightly, and tutorial discussions aside that definitely sounded like a date. "Maybe at the --"
"No," said Harry's mouth without input from his brain. He shook himself. "I mean, thanks. But no. I'm... going to be busy."
Wait. Why had he said that?
Draco frowned. "I haven't told you what day."
"I'll be busy all week. Erm. Tournament. Paperwork." He abruptly put his napkin down and stood up. "Maybe some other time." Right. God, that was adroit. No wonder he'd made it to the top of the Auror heap. Because he could think quickly on his feet and dissemble with the best of them. As long as 'them' were toddlers.
All right, he thought as he headed out the door and down the hallway. Why had he run away like a scared rabbit?
So Draco wanted to date him. Or court him, or whatever. And there was no way of telling whether Draco was doing this to be with him, or to finally break off with him. But he was courting him. And Harry knew that, and had bolted.
What the hell. Draco wouldn't do anything to hurt him. Whichever way he wanted this to go, he wasn't going to lie to Harry. And if he wanted them to be together again, that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
And if he just wanted to finally be free... Harry owed him at least that much.
He turned on his heel and headed back to the Great Hall. "Actually," he said as he opened the door. "Draco, are you busy tonight? You're right, we really should discuss the tutorials."
Draco's pleased smile warmed Harry all the way back to his room.
"Hang on, Harry, I've got a patient," said Draco when Harry showed up at the hospital before dinner that night. "Not one of yours, for once." He carefully finished painting Anti-Polly potion onto his patient's claws, then re-loaded the brush and brushed it over the bright fuchsia feathers on her head.
They were going to dinner, he thought as Harry sat on one of the beds and watched Draco. A dinner date. Here he was, about to go on a dinner date with his ex, and he wasn't sure what the hell he was doing.
Harry gave Draco's young patient an encouraging smile, prompting a shy one in return before she dropped her eyes, a little flustered at his attention.
Draco smiled inwardly. Even after months as their professor, some of his younger students were still a bit in awe of him. And with good reason: Harry was bright, and interesting, funny, and kind. He was a marvellous teacher, and very good with kids.
He was everything Draco wanted. And their time together had been difficult, yes, but also wonderful. He remembered feeling that despite knowing him since childhood he'd never met Harry before, never realised that he wasn't self-righteous at all -- that he had a wry sense of humour, fierce loyalty, a sincere devotion to his friends and family, and deep love for the wizarding world.
"Scorpius tells me you spent Christmas with the Weasleys?" Draco asked, more to settle his nerves than out of curiosity. He started wrapping bandages loosely around his patient's hands.
"Most of it, yeah."
"How does that work, with your ex?"
"It's fine. She's... she was always a better friend than partner. I mean, I don't think it'll ever be like it was at the beginning, but..."
"Yeah, it's not really possible, isn't it?" He wrapped a scarf around the student's head, tucking in her feathers. "Now, the potion will get your hands and hair back to normal tomorrow," he told her, "but you need to keep the cloths on so you won't leave a trail of feathers everywhere you go." The small girl nodded and he pushed the head scarf back a bit, making it less ridiculous-looking. "And you're not going to taste-test your classmates' potions again, right, are you?" he asked sternly.
"No sir," she said solemnly, looking much, much younger than her twelve years, and then hurried out of the hospital.
"I thought you said you tried to cultivate fear in your patients," said Harry.
"She's got a lisp. The other kids tease her. She doesn't need more abuse from me, even when she's here through her own fault."
Harry smiled at him, his expression open and unguarded and showing that soft, warm approval that had always melted Draco when they were together. Draco's heart gave a small thud. He turned away and reached for his cloak.
"D'you know something? I don't feel like waiting till after dinner," said Harry suddenly, and Draco turned to find him much farther into his personal space than he'd expected. He stepped back, unsure.
Harry took a deep breath, and tugged Draco gently towards him. Draco could feel a blush spreading over his cheeks and his heart speeding up and his stomach unsure whether to sink with dread or swoop with excitement.
Harry paused. "Draco," he said quietly, and dropped his gaze to Draco's lips. He slowly leaned forward and Draco mirrored his actions. They paused, mouths only a hair's breadth apart. "Can I..."
God, Merlin, yes. Yes, he wanted to say. But...
"Harry..." he whispered, closing his eyes. "I don't know what I'm doing here. I do know I don't want to go through what we went through last time. Let's... let's take it slowly, all right?"
Harry nodded slowly, and Draco sighed and leaned closer. He felt his heart start to beat again as their lips touched, and Harry's strong, capable hands came up to his face to draw him closer.
Somewhere in the castle, a mistletoe branch had probably just sprouted a flower.
Draco didn't care.
"I'm sorry, I simply don't understand why the second Task was so bewildering," said Rolf Scamander.
"The challenge was in dealing with the unknown," said Harry patiently. "It was a creature none of them had ever encountered."
"Surely everyone's seen Cornish Pixies."
"Yes, but not cynogriffons. Most people don't believe they exist." He winced. "Draco, that hurt."
"Hold still for the next one and it won't," Draco shot back.
"But I've written about them before," said Rolf. "All the champions had to do was be kind to them. Cynogriffons are highly intelligent, and benign. I've written about them."
"Darling, most people who read your books think you're mad or lying," Luna told her husband.
"Your father always believed me," said Rolf, puzzled.
"Daddy believed a lot of things," said Luna with a small smile.
"In any case," said Harry, "the challenge was for them to figure out how to enlist the aid of the cynogriffons in finding their particular pixies. And only Dominique was able to do that. And keep her original gender."
"The boy -- the one who was a boy at the beginning -- was able to figure out that the cynogriffons were telepathic." Rolf brightened up. "Perhaps he read my book."
Luna gave him an affectionate kiss. "Harry, are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine," said Harry. "Nothing a few Episkeys can't fix."
"Bit more than a few," said Draco. "It's rather amusing; I'm kept on hand to help in case of accidental mauling of a champion, and end up healing the bones of the hapless Head Auror who's supposedly in charge of security."
"There was no security breach."
"You fell off the mountain." Draco waved his wand, healing up the last of Harry's bruising. "High amusement value in that. Not that we need it with the Tournament this time, what with actually being able to see what's going on." He started tying up a sling for Harry's left arm. "I mean, really, whose idea were the Tasks the first time? Seriously. The first was fairly exciting except for the part where your dragon flew away, but the second? Very exciting, watching the four of you dive into the water and then staring at it for an hour. And the third, disappearing into a bush. Thrilling."
"Well you got to see everything this time, didn't you?" asked Harry ruefully.
"Inglorious tumble and all. What do you want to bet that that's what leads in the papers tomorrow?"
"Can't you use your influence on Astoria to --"
"Wouldn't dream of it," said Draco.
"It'll lead at The Quibbler too, Harry," said Luna. "If only to reassure our readers that you're still alive."
"Oh, he's alive all right," Draco offered, "and out of my hospital in an hour or so. Would that all my patients were so simple to clear out."
Harry glanced over at the two other occupied beds, both with curtains drawn around them for privacy. "Busy lately? I haven't sent anybody to you recently, have I?"
"No, surprisingly enough. Other than your invent-a-curse victim."
"The what?" said Luna.
"Harry gave his NEWT students an assignment where half the class was supposed to invent bothersome curses and the other half were supposed to defend against them. One of them invented Mortis Shuffle; the victim can't walk without lurching, smells horrendous, and keeps reaching out to people's heads croaking out Braaaains."
"Well Harry had taught them all how to dodge and counteract. And none of the curses were life-threatening. I didn't bother to cure most of them; it's their own bloody fault if they weren't paying attention."
"So why are you curing this one?"
"The stench," said Draco. "It's not fair to the other students. They can't study properly. He's sleeping off the antidote right now. Should have the regular Eau de Teenage Boy aroma about him when he wakes up, though I doubt he'll be walking right for another week at least."
"Who's the other patient?" asked Harry.
"Our school vampire."
Luna's eyes widened. "A real vampire?"
"Oh yes. In fact, he's been a vampire for quite a while; I'm not entirely sure how old he is. One of the staff believes he's actually a hundred years old and at the school under false pretences, but who on earth would pretend to be an adolescent in school if they didn't have to?" He glanced at his watch. "Speaking of which..."
He approached the curtained bed. "Mr. Stevens, it's time to go," said Draco, pulling open the curtains on a pale boy reading a Marvin the Muggle comic. "Sun's going down, you should be full of energy now."
"But I don't feel well. I think I need to stay a bit longer."
"Nonsense. Stop letting a minor case of vampirism get you down. Buck up and get back to your studies." He gave the boy a small smile. "We've talked about this before. Stick with your friends Davidson and Patel and don't let the others bother you. Now, get yourself back to your House."
"But I don't want... The other kids are scared of me," he said, his voice very small.
"And so they should be," said Draco. "You're a dangerous creature. You've got a registry number and file at the Department of the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and everything. The most fearsome thing they can be is dangerously stupid and bigoted."
And there it was, that snark that had been so cutting and malicious when they were children but that he now saw as merely Draco's way of dealing with the world. Yes, hurtful sometimes. Yes, sometimes tactless too. But also sometimes providing the exact bracing steadiness you most needed.
He watched Draco bustle the young vampire out of the hospital wing, passing him a blood lollipop and patting him on the back with encouragement before shooing him firmly off. He was so good with the kids. Brusque and unsympathetic as Pomfrey had ever been with the foolish ones, but comforting nonetheless. And the way he --
"How long have you two been back together?" asked Luna after the boy was gone.
Draco started. "What? Who?"
"Us?" blurted Harry. "Why would you think --"
"Luna, they're divorced," said Rolf. "It's not polite to talk about such things. Especially since it's not their fault. Relationships among Hogwarts professors never work, because there are Bolochimpies infesting the teachers' living areas."
"There's no such thing as Bolochimpies," Luna said serenely. "And I don't think it's possible for anyone to say with certainty what went wrong the first time."
Harry opened his mouth, for once unable to deflect.
Luna blinked, then turned to Rolf. "Come, dear. We need to get back to oversee tomorrow's edition."
"Erm," said Draco once she had left. "She's always been a bit too perceptive, that one. Bit creepy, to be honest."
Yes, it was, thought Harry as Draco busied himself writing up his notes. And it was really too bad that there was anything for her to be perceptive about. Skulking around and snogging in random isolated corners of the castle was rather hot in its own way, but he hated feeling vaguely ashamed of himself, and of Draco and him as a couple.
And... well, some days it made Harry almost doubt that they were a couple at all. Especially as they treated each other exactly the same as before, barring some rather heated kisses whenever they could manage. Kisses that left Harry hard and panting, but never progressed beyond groping down to their belts before they were abruptly stopped by Draco, his eyes dark with hunger, his voice steady with determination, and regret in every feature.
There'd been at least five times Harry could've sworn that they were going to end up in bed -- possibly because he kept track and repeated each incident over and over, and had only resisted the urge to make Pensieve memories out of each one through firm self-talk, using them as wanking fantasy material instead. Each time, they had stopped.
There was being mature and going slowly, and there was masochism. Which one was Draco going for?
"Draco, can I ask you something?" Harry asked during a lull in their conversation several weeks later.
Harry sat back and put down his fork. "What exactly are we doing here?"
Draco blinked. "Having dinner. That's generally what one does at the Three Broomsticks."
"I don't mean right now. I mean, in general, with... this." He motioned between them.
"Having a good time together." Draco paused. "Or are you not having a good time?"
"I am. You know I am. What I'm wondering, though, is what exactly is going on."
"What do you mean?"
"You said you wanted to take things slowly."
Harry gazed at him patiently. "Is there anything you want to tell me about why it is that we're going this slowly? Because I have the feeling it's about more than just nerves about last time."
Draco mulled over his response. He could act bewildered and innocent: Harry wouldn't know what to say; Draco would make Harry feel like a bumbling fool and subtly threaten to stop what they were doing; Harry would feel like a bit of an idiot for being impatient; Draco might even be able to feign decent outraged innocence.
He could act like he'd only been waiting for Harry to express a desire to move faster: they could rent a room upstairs and fall into bed together, and somewhere in the school a mistletoe branch would bloom. And then they'd be married, and if it worked this time, brilliant, and if not, their parting would be definite. Not a bloody question mark.
... but Harry wasn't an innocent schoolboy any more. Nor was he a slightly confused recently-divorced man who'd finally accepted his own sexuality but was still hesitant about it. He wasn't infatuated with the newness of falling into bed with Draco any more.
And Draco was no longer the sneaky Slytherin he'd been. He owed Harry honesty, at least.
He put down his cutlery and reached for Harry's hand.
Harry blinked. "What is it? What are you doing?"
"You asked, didn't you?" he said wearily.
"... and you're just going to tell me?" said Harry slowly. "No playing around for hours, trying to figure out your motives?"
"All right, then," said Harry, taking both his hands.
"Wait -- why are you doing that?" asked Draco, and Harry blinked again.
"You're not comfortable holding hands?" he asked. "Sorry, I must've got my signals as crossed as they've ever been, because I could've sworn we --"
Now he was veering into adorable inarticulateness. "No, I am, it's all right," said Draco. "I'm." He cleared his throat. "I'm just a little leery about taking the final step in Wizard Courtship."
"Wizard Courtship," Harry repeated.
Draco pressed his lips together. "It's from a supposedly old custom, an old spell. It's described in a book called Now That We Are Gaye."
Draco's eyebrows shot up. "Harry?"
"Sorry, the name of the book always makes me laugh."
"The book. It's awful. Where did you find it?"
"When -- why -- how did you..."
"James was the one who told me about it, around Christmas at The Burrow --"
"James?!" Draco covered his eyes. "Oh, Merlin, how did --"
"Relax," said Harry. "He was just thinking out loud because he saw the book on your desk. I ended up finding a copy and looking through it and I started to recognise some of the things that had happened since school had begun."
"Who else did James talk to?"
"Well, Al and George were there too... though something tells me they may have already known more about it than they were saying. Did they?"
"How should I know?"
"So they weren't involved?"
"No! It was Astoria who gave it to me, the whole idea was hers to begin with, I didn't want --"
"And then your mother-in-law said it was a good idea. And your ex-wife too."
Harry started to laugh again.
"Bloody hell, Harry, I didn't expect you to be overjoyed but I also didn't expect you to laugh at --"
"No, it's -- only, you've been following the advice of Molly Weasley, and --"
"And Astoria! And Ginny!"
Harry couldn't stop laughing.
"Aren't you the least bit upset?"
"Oh, I might be, if I thought about it. But you didn't go through with it to the end." He paused, looked down at their clasped hands. "Why were you doing this without telling me?"
"I... I don't know, it all started because Astoria said that we were uncomfortable around each other because we didn't know if we were properly married in the first place, so we didn't know if we were properly divorced, and I thought... maybe if we were..." he trailed off, his cheeks burning.
Finally Harry spoke up again. "So did you want us to be a definite couple so that we could be definitely divorced?"
"It sounds stupid when you put it like that."
"Is there any way I could put it that wouldn't sound stupid?"
Draco couldn't meet Harry's eyes, despite the amused tone of his voice. "Why go along with it, then, if you suspected?" he asked.
"Because I owed you that much at least."
They lapsed into silence again.
"Maybe I just wanted us to be together again," said Draco.
"Maybe I did too."
"Even though we didn't work before."
"There's about a million opinions on why we didn't," said Harry quietly. "And not one of them is that we're incompatible."
"But... but your family..."
"Are behind us. They were behind us when we started dating the first time, even though it threw them at first. They'd be behind us now, if we tried again. And I'm not just talking about Molly and Ginny and possibly George and Albus."
"I thought they didn't like us getting married."
"They didn't like us getting married so quickly."
They stared at one another.
"Did you want to --"
"Yes," said Harry, far too quickly.
"Erm, whatever you were going to say," said Harry, and Draco smirked. Harry rolled his eyes. "Whatever you were going to say. Honestly."
"What d'you mean?"
"I... honestly, it's up to you. I wouldn't mind continuing this dating thing. I won't mind... well, ending up in a bed upstairs. I don't want to actually be married so that we can be properly divorced -- I'm not sure we should be married at all." He took a deep breath. "But if you do... then I can do that too."
"If I decide we're through, you're all right with that; if I decide we're properly married, you're all right with that too?" Draco's voice rose in slight disbelief.
Harry sighed. "I wouldn't be all right with it. I definitely wouldn't be if you really wanted to walk away from this. But you've got every right to. And somehow I'll manage to survive." He pressed his lips together. "And so will you. We've done it once already."
"You should know better than this," Draco scolded Scorpius as he removed fluffy stuffing from his son's hair with his wand. "Human-to-furniture transfiguration is tricky enough in the classroom; doing it alone late at night was foolish in the extreme."
"I wanted to see if I could blend into the common room well enough to fool the others," Scorpius mumbled, his mouth still small and shaped like a button.
"Didn't think it through far enough to wonder how you were going to deal with success, did you? You knew you hadn't quite mastered turning back. You're lucky your fellow Gryffindors noticed your slippers -- a common mistake, by the way -- because if you'd remained that way for much longer, you might have been stuck with red-and-gold plaid skin for months." He checked his son's hands, now poking out of the armrests and definitely looking near-human. The eyes were definitely more almond- than button-shaped, too.
Normally it was a wonderful thing, being Hogwarts Mediwizard. He got to see his son every day, unlike most wizard parents. Days like today weren't so wonderful. "I don't understand why you're taking NEWT Transfiguration anyway."
Draco sighed again. "I keep hoping you'll outgrow that."
"Not likely," his son grinned at him. "I'm going to scandalise every last Malfoy ancestor back to the root of the tree."
"Please. As if any of them can be scandalised any more, seeing me become school mediwizard and you get Sorted into Gryffindor."
"Draco?" Harry stepped into the hospital, stopping abruptly at the sight of Scorpius.
"Oh. Sorry, didn't realise you had company."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Not company; patient. Patient who should know better. Did you come to get that potion for your class?"
"Yes. Yes, I did."
"It's on that table," Draco nodded, and Harry hurried over, took it, and left. Draco turned back to Scorpius and started to flick his wand in a criss-cross pattern, steadily turning his son's plaid skin back to its natural paleness.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Are you sleeping with Harry?"
Draco nearly dropped his wand. "What?!"
"No! Of course not! Why would you think that?"
"Well you know everyone in the school's been thinking you are, and there's a rumour that you're not allowed to actually have sex on the grounds because of what happened last time --" and Draco could feel his entire body flushing scarlet -- "But everyone's noticed Professor Potter's here a lot more often looking for potions for his classes, even when nobody's doing anything that requires potions --"
"Well he often has to have them on hand in case anything goes wrong. And sometimes he prepares them weeks in advance," Draco said, the words he and Harry had prepared in case of interrogation tripping off his tongue in a rush.
"Only, James said he thinks you two are doing this weird thing from a book and --"
Draco groaned and covered his eyes.
"So, are you? Together with Harry again?"
"Oh Merlin, Scorpius, I don't know."
"How can you not know?"
Draco shook his head. "It's... it's complicated. It..."
It had gone from idle acting out of a silly spell in a silly book to playing with fire again, only they'd both been burned last time, and weren't exactly eager to get burned again and singe everyone around them as well. But since Draco'd gone and buggered everything up because of that stupid, stupid book, now they were both afraid to take their relationship any further, which was probably wise in some ways but so incredibly frustrating sometimes...
Not that he could share any of that with his son. Draco sighed and picked up his wand again, and started turning Scorpius's tassels into nails.
"It's complicated, Scorpius."
"You haven't packed much," said Draco, pushing Harry back on the couch.
"I've been a little busy," said Harry, wincing slightly. It was a vast understatement. Between dealing with end-of-year marking and NEWTs, supervising the last Task of the Triwizard Cup, and getting hit with a Reducto, he hadn't even made a stab at putting his things away.
Not that general busyness was the only reason.
"I still have no idea how you survived that last blast. And didn't you say something about the Tournament not being dangerous this year?"
"Then explain to me how it landed the Head Auror in my hospital wing for five hours."
"Carelessness? Besides, I'm not Head Auror. Ron's that."
"For now. Your jinx is wearing off; people in their twenties can hear you now. You should be back at work in no time."
"Ron's been doing a brilliant job with it. He's good at it."
"Well, you're good at your job too."
"Teaching and running a contest." Harry smiled. "Without anybody but me being in any mortal danger."
"Don't put down your work at the Tournament. It went well. It was everything the Triwizard Cup was supposed to be. It brought people together."
"It brought a lot of people together," said Harry.
"Harry." Draco put his wand down and regarded Harry seriously. "Why am I here?"
"To check up on my health?"
"I could do that at the hospital wing, if I needed to. Which I don't. You're perfectly healthy."
"I didn't know that. I'm not a mediwizard."
"Rubbish. You're an Auror. You know."
Harry took a deep breath and sat up. "All right. I wanted us here. I wanted some privacy, to do this." He leaned closer to Draco and kissed him. "Or... more."
"Should I take a guess at what 'more' means?" Draco cupped Harry's cheek. "You know, don't you, that if we sleep together, we're married again," he said evenly. "No ifs, ands, or buts this time. Wizard's Marriage is archaic, but still legal."
"I know that."
"And you still want to?"
"If you do."
"We tried before."
"We didn't try hard enough." He took Draco's hands in his. "I want you. I've had several months of not sleeping with you to really get to know that. I want you. I can figure out how to deal with your friends, with your work, with a lot of things." Harry paused. "I... I can even step down as Head Auror. I've been thinking about it for years. Ron can do as good as a job as I ever did; maybe even better."
"It's like I said before," said Harry. "Of all the things people said about why we didn't work out, nobody who knew us said that we were incompatible."
Draco nodded. "Yes, I know. You're being very logical."
"Am I?" Harry narrowed his eyes. "I'm trying to be Slytherin here, and appeal to your sense of practicality."
"My Inner Slytherin always buggers off on me when it comes to you, you know that," said Draco ruefully. "It's rather disgraceful, really."
Harry's mouth quirked. "Maybe I should be appealing to your sentimentality. Your hidden Hufflepuff side."
"Not if you want to actually sleep with me."
"Or maybe your sense of romance. After all, you're the woman here," Harry smirked.
"That doesn't help your case either," said Draco, laughing.
"What do you say?"
Draco thought for a moment. "I say... I say maybe we move to the bedroom."
They stood up, and Harry took Draco's lips in a long, gentle kiss. He pulled back and slowly drew him to his bedroom, trading kisses on the way, moaning as Draco lay back on the bed and drew Harry down with him so that he ended up on hands and knees over Draco. He bent down to bring their lips together again.
"This doesn't have to be an actual wedding, you know," whispered Draco between kisses. "Nobody but us needs to know that --"
"I know." Harry caressed the back of Draco's neck, pulling him close for another kiss, and brought his fingers down to the neck of Draco's robe. He slowly unbuttoned, pulling it open. "We'll know, though."
Draco's lips found his again, and he ran his fingers down the front of Harry's shirt and unbuttoned it, pulling Harry closer, the rough material of his robes scratching Harry's chest as they kissed.
He'd wanted Draco so much, these last months. Wondered if, when they got here, they'd pull each other close and start ripping each other's clothes off, the way they had the first time. He'd wanted to take things further so much, dreamed about it so much -- but not as often as he would've thought. He'd learned that he could live with nothing but the snogging they'd had these last few months, as if they were teenagers --
No, not as if they were teenagers. He distinctly remembered feeling like snogging Ginny was brilliant and all, but he desperately wanted to get into her knickers and would've done so if he hadn't been in mortal fear of Ron. And Mrs. Weasley. Or the twins.
There hadn't been any spectre of disapproving relatives these last few months with Draco. Just the spectre of having tried, and failed, and not wanting to try and fail again.
Maybe it was time to banish that spectre. They weren't the same people they had been the first time around; maybe 'if at first you don't succeed, try, try again' had some merit after all.
He kissed the side of Draco's neck, smiling as Draco shakily drew in his breath and he remembered how that was a turn-on for him. He unbuttoned Draco's shirt, pulling them together, skin to skin now, their shirts hanging off their arms as they moved together, and the heat between them grew, slowly and so incredibly natural...
It really didn't matter if the bloody mistletoe sprouted a dozen flowers. What mattered was that they were together again. He lay down on Draco, pressing them together and thrusting once against him, then pushed up onto his elbows again, not breaking their kiss.
"Oh!" Draco gasped as Harry ran a hand down his stomach and to his trousers, unbuttoning them and slipping a hand inside. "Well yes -- Merlin I'd forgotten just how good that felt."
"I'm insulted," said Harry. "I think. Oh. Not so insulted any more," he gasped, as Draco pulled his own belt free and started to push his trousers down. "Here, hang on." He sat up long enough to divest them both of their trousers -- and then they were pressed together, and though his pulse had quickened, they were still going steadily, hands re-learning each other's bodies, lips exploring, everything so familiar and yet somehow new. Harry whispered a lubrication spell and slowly prepared Draco, spurred on by the moans falling from his lips, then eased himself in with a groan and it was just as perfect as he remembered, and so much more...
They were still together for a long, breathless moment, and Harry had to close his eyes at the naked vulnerability in Draco's eyes, the tremors racing through them both, and he kissed Draco deeply. Draco melted into his kiss, gasping as they started to move together again.
"God, Harry, fuck, oh fuck --"
Harry sped up, losing the rhythm as heat built up between them. Draco's moans trailed into breathless gasps and suddenly he clenched around Harry and cried out, warmth and wetness pooling between them. Harry held himself steady as Draco shuddered, and almost sobbed in relief when his climax swept over him, drowning him in pleasure and warmth and love and Draco.
"And so a Weasley won the Cup after all," said Astoria, finishing off her gelato. "As did Beauxbatons. Were the final moments as exciting as my staff tells me?"
"Very much so," said Draco. "Particularly the part where Zhivkov managed to make the Sphinx who'd eaten him regurgitate him."
"Didn't Harry say they'd agreed to not make the Tasks life-endangering?"
"It wouldn't have digested him."
"It was all very well done. It's all the papers can talk about."
Draco toyed with his goblet. "Not all, though."
Astoria smiled. "Oh yes, there's a lot about you and Harry lately, isn't there?"
"Yes, there is."
"My favourite one was 'Professors Proposing Again?' Although 'Hijinks At Hogwarts' was fairly clever as well."
"I thought you'd like that one."
"You're not angry at me for allowing them to print, are you? After all I could hardly sit on the news once The Quibbler broke it. Although I must say 'Potter-Malfoy Lovechild Expected' was a difficult act to top."
"No, I knew you couldn't sit on the story forever."
Astoria met his gaze squarely. "Then why do I sense disapproval in your tone, darling?"
"There was something else in The Quibbler. Something about a Miss Edgecombe going to Paris."
"Olivia Edgecombe. The petty criminal who jinxed Harry. Somehow she found the money to pay her fine, and is now in Paris. Living quite well, as a matter of fact."
"She even has a fairly nice house -- owned by a cousin of yours, I believe -- and a job at a shop owned by a business associate of George Weasley."
"I asked Weasley -- Ron, that is -- to do a bit of discreet digging, and it turns out there's no indication the woman had ever met any of the Weasleys before. But she did work in one of your cousin's shops as an assistant for a few months, shortly before her last arrest."
Astoria fiddled with her napkin for a moment before speaking. "Darling, I hear you and Harry are doing well."
Draco regarded her seriously.
"I've heard he's doing a press conference at the Ministry to announce he's finally going to hand over Head Aurorship to Weasley, and stay on at Hogwarts. Is that true?"
"Then what does it matter how Livvy Edgecombe got the money to go to Paris? Or whose house she lives in, or who employs her? Or who knew her when?"
"Finish your treacle tart, dear. I'm sure Harry will be coming back for you as soon as he's done with the press."
Draco watched her pick up her goblet, her manner completely relaxed, and wondered what he should be feeling. Manipulated, definitely. Outraged? Maybe. Resentful?
He put his napkin down and stood up, noting Astoria's swiftly covered expression of dismay. He headed for the door and opened it -- and then stopped.
Who was he trying to fool here?
He went back to Astoria, bent down and pressed a kiss to her cheek.
Astoria's eyes widened. "Good heavens, what was that for?"
Draco smiled at her. "Thanks."
Then he left the restaurant and headed towards the Ministry, and Harry.
Roma asked for "happy or at least resolved ending, MAGIC, mystery, romance, auror!fic, intelligent opportunistic!Draco, Healer!fic, Professor!fic, wizarding traditions, non-Hogwarts-era," and asked her gifter to stay away from clubs. Not a problem, that last one :D
And her plot-prompt was "Harry and Draco are already divorced. Auror!Harry is injured and Mediwizard!Draco is the one who finds him and saves him. (note: I see mediwizards like paramedics and healers like doctors.)"