Word Count: 22,000
Summary: Romance and love were nothing but fairy tales told to small children so that they grew up and had a reason to procreate. It didn’t really exist.
Disclaimer: The lovely JKR own these characters, except for the Trueloves. I made them up and placed them in her world. Just for fun.
A/N: Thanks to my wonderful betas who made such a difference with this.
Merry Christmas sugareey. I really hope that you enjoy this. It’s unashamedly romantic. With a tiny bit of angst and some snogging and hugging as per your prompts. I really tried to get some ties and handcuffs in there, but the boys said that would have to wait until next time. They laughed at me when I tried to tell them that of course their first time having sex with each other could involve handcuffs and ties. Really.
Tie my heart gently
The bells of the far distant Muggle church were the only thing that broke Draco’s peace, as he sat in his garden at the Manor, reading the latest edition of the Sunday Prophet. Not that he minded the bells; they heralded the time. 11 am every Sunday morning, the bells tolled as the faithful were released from another weekly sermon on how to live.
Draco thought he had some good advice in that regard, should anyone care to think of asking. His one piece of advice would be to have faith in yourself and only yourself. When you only have yourself to please, your own expectations to live up to, you don’t disappoint anyone. Nor do they disappoint you.
This mantle had served him well since the end of the war. Voldemort had been defeated and Draco had lost both of his parents in the aftermath. Only the fact that he was still 17 when the war ended, and hiding from Voldemort after his failed mission, saved him from a similar fate. The Ministry had left him the Manor in which to live but confiscated all other Malfoy assets. Draco didn’t mind, not any more; he’d prefer to not be weighed down by other people’s possessions and history even if it was his family’s history and possessions, though he was grateful for his home.
The newspaper now folded and placed beside his morning tea tray for the house-elves to clear away, he stood and took a short stroll around his rose garden. It was always good to have a stretch after morning tea before he headed to his study to write letters and deal with business. The roses were laid out in neat orderly rows and took him precisely ten minutes to walk around if he didn’t stop to smell them, and he didn’t; he usually found that when they were in flower their scent filled the air and he had no need to.
In the three years since the war, Draco had steadily been exploring the parts of the manor to which his father had always refused him entry. Many of the artifacts he sold to museums but some of them he refused to touch and called the Ministry to deal with. In his spare time, he wrote articles on the pieces for the Historical Association that had sprung up to document all parts of the war in the hope that it never happened again.
An hour later, his letters were all written and a house-elf directed to owl them. A quick look at the latest piece he was writing an article on and then he would have a light luncheon, before doing some more research into the pedigree of it in the library.
“Pippy,” he called. A tiny house-elf appeared and bowed respectfully.
“Yes, sir, Master Draco.”
“It’s such a lovely day, I think I will dine in the conservatory today. Please make sure that the doors are open to let in the fresh air.”
“Yes, sir, Pippy will see to that immediately.”
“Thank you.” Draco nodded, and returned to the piece he was researching.
“Sir, may Pippy speak?”
Draco turned and looked at the house-elf. “What is it?”
“Master asked Pippy to remind him to purchase some more of the sleep potion today,” the little house-elf said, a hint of anxiety in her voice.
“Ah, yes, thank you Pippy. I shall go directly after lunch. You may go, now.”
After the elf left, Draco stopped looking at the box he was studying, and stared out of the window. Sleep had been a problem for Draco since his horrible sixth year at Hogwarts. He disliked taking a potion to assist him with sleep and he only did it when things became desperate. Partly it was because the potion made him feel lethargic the next day, but mostly it was because he detested having to rely on something other than himself.
Sighing with the inevitability of having to purchase some more potion, Draco turned his attention back to the box he was studying.
Called ‘Lega Mio Amore’, it was more a trap than anything else. Draco had found it amongst his mother’s possessions when he went through them. It was quite a heavy box; rectangular and made of silver, with a hinged lid decorated by raised roses. At first Draco had thought it merely a jewelry box, and had added it to the collection of items to be sold. But reading his mother’s diary a few days later, he had come across an entry that had made him head for the library.
‘Lega Mio Amore’ was quite famous, according to his mother, yet he had been unable to find anything concrete about its history. Merely rumours and second hand accounts. The piece he was writing for the Historical Association would have to wait until he had discovered everything he needed to know. One of the collectors’ journals would be a good start. He could write, requesting help from others.
Rumour had it that only one’s true love could reach in and retrieve a perfect heart shaped ruby. Such a thing had never been seen, and few had tried, as the consequences for failure were said to be dire, although Draco had never been able to find mention of what they entailed no matter how hard he looked. Sentimental, romantic nonsense as far as Draco was concerned, however if he could find a full pedigree for the piece then it would fetch a stunning price.
At precisely 1pm lunch was served in the conservatory and Draco ate sparingly as was his habit. His food was superb, light and exquisitely presented; he had trained his house-elves well to his taste. When he was done he changed into traveling robes and stepped through the Floo to Diagon Alley.
If he’d had his choice he would frequent this place a lot less than he did. His house-elves did for him very well, but there were things that they just could not do, and purchasing this sleep potion was one of them, as Draco needed to sign for it each time. Other than that, he met his editors here on occasion and about once a month he met up with Blaise for coffee at one of the cafés that appeared to have sprung up since the war.
There were just too many people here for Draco to be comfortable. People seemed to like spending time socialising with each other again and there were always sappy couples sharing ice cream at Fortescue’s, which was still called that in sentimental tribute, despite Florean being declared dead after he went missing at the start of the war. Laughing, happy children ran unsupervised around him, playing a chasing game, cheerfully apologising when they bumped into his legs, before running off giggling. There was even an assortment of street performers who sang or juggled, and mime artists who amused onlookers by following unsuspecting victims, mimicking, and of course exaggerating, their every movement. Even Knockturn Alley had lost most of its hidden dark character.
It was all as a result of the war, naturally. People were no longer afraid of being attacked by Death Eaters and there was a relaxed, casual, colourful atmosphere that made him feel a little disoriented. He knew it gave people the impression that he was a snob or standoffish, but it had the desired effect and nobody bothered him too much – except for the children.
He stepped into the dingy Apothecary, wrinkling his nose at the aroma as he headed down the narrow aisle to the counter. No matter how hard he tried not to breathe in too much of the fumes, he always left the shop with watery eyes, a rolling stomach and the cloying smell in the back of his throat that ensured he kept reliving the visit for hours after. While he still loved potion making, the combination of so many things all at once had an adverse effect on him, and he made sure Pippy knew to have a special blend of very strong coffee waiting for him when he arrived home, just to get rid of the smell from his nostrils.
He had just ordered his potion from the assistant, when he heard a familiar voice behind him. One that no matter how long it had been since he had seen the man, he would always recognise.
Draco would rather run back to the Manor without his potion than talk to Harry Potter, but when he turned, it was to find that Potter was blocking the way out. Sighing, he nodded and wondered if he could get away with not saying a word. The man was unreasonably good looking, and every time he saw him, Draco felt like he was back in Hogwarts and eleven years old again. He didn’t see him often, granted, but enough to unsettle Draco thoroughly, every single time.
Potter’s eyes landed on the potion that the assistant placed on the counter and he obviously recognised it. He raised his eyes to the assistant and said “Same for me, thanks,” before turning back to Draco. “You having trouble sleeping, too?”
“Obviously,” Draco replied shortly, turning to sign for his potion, but feeling Potter’s eyes boring into his back. When he was done, he handed the quill to Potter. Their hands brushed in the exchange and Draco flinched and jerked his hand away quickly. He avoided looking up, willing himself not to blush at his awkward reaction, instead paying great attention to settling his account.
“It’s been a while, we should catch up sometime,” Potter said, and Draco was so shocked he looked up into Potter’s smiling eyes. What on earth was he talking about? He and Potter did not catch up. They did not socialise in the same circles, or know the same people, why would Potter want to talk to him? They had nothing in common. At all.
“No, I don’t think so,” he managed to get out, as he picked up his potion and made to move past Potter, expecting to be let through. No such luck; Potter didn’t move. “Potter, I don’t have all day,” he said, irritated, just wanting to leave. Potter always managed to unnerve him.
Draco frowned. “Why don’t I have all day, or why don’t I want to ‘catch up’?” Draco answered, letting the irritation show.
“Why don’t you want to catch up?”
“Because we have nothing to say to each other. We hate each other remember? Arch nemesis and all that?”
Potter chuckled at that. “I’ve had worse things to be worried about than you, Malfoy. I just thought that as the war was over and we’re adults now, that it might be a good time to get past all that and at least be civil when we see each other.”
Potter leaned forward to sign for his potion, which meant he was decidedly too close now, Draco thought, and so he took the opportunity to slip past him. “I don’t see why that’s necessary,” he said, stiffly. “I can be civil. Good day, Potter.”
Draco exited the shop quickly without waiting for an answer, and when he reached the street, he realised he’d been so distracted, his eyes had not watered and his stomach was fluttering instead of rolling with nausea. Walking swiftly towards the Leaky Cauldron and the Floo, Draco half expected Potter to come running after him. He’d have some choice words to say to him if he did. Potter had surprised him in there; it was no wonder he couldn’t think of any scathing comments on the spot.
He was almost disappointed when he didn’t.
Back at the Manor, Draco settled into the library to drink his coffee, anticipating the calming effect the caffeine usually had on him after a trip to buy the sleeping potion. The first sip made him look askance at the cup. It tasted different than the last time. Pippy was under very strict instructions as to how to prepare his coffee; she would no sooner change the blend than she would voluntarily accept clothes. So, what was different about it? After a moments thought, he realised he didn’t have the customary smell of the Apothecary in his nose today. That would definitely affect the taste of his coffee. Sighing, he placed the cup back on the tray and looked around the library deciding that he may as well begin today’s reading a little early.
An hour later he was immersed in ’So, you think you have an heirloom?’ and had completely forgotten about Potter. It was only later that evening as he sat in his drawing room listening to Pachelbel’s Canon in D Minor, and his head cleared of the days research, that his thoughts returned to Potter and what he could have been after.
The times he had seen Potter since the war, he could have counted on one hand, though he knew what the one now called ‘The Saviour’ had been up to by following the stories in one of the newspapers. As much as he hated to admit it, Potter had surprised him and had demanded that he be left alone to live his life in peace after he defeated Voldemort. Of course the press ignored his demands when it could, and there were often stories about his personal life – who he was dating, receiving the Order of Merlin 1st class, bestowing medals on other war heroes too, as well as snippets of his work life. Harry Potter had become a Mediwizard and occasionally he would heal someone else famous, who, without fail, would thank him publicly for healing them.
So, why in heavens name did Potter want to catch up with him?
He very quickly realised that he had no clue and decided he was spending way too much time thinking about a five minute meeting with an insufferable man who deserved none of his time and certainly did not warrant affecting his enjoyment of the music he was currently listening to.
That said, he listened to the rest of the classical piece untroubled by thinking about Potter. When the last notes died away, he placed his empty glass on the table and headed to his suite to prepare for sleep. Pippy had ensured that the potion was on the table beside his bed and he drank it down before changing into his pyjamas and sliding between the sheets.
Over the next week, Draco spared little, if any, thought to Potter, totally pushing the meeting from his mind. His request for information on the ‘Lega Mio Amore’ box had been printed in the prestigious ’Artifactual Methods’ and he had received a number of Owls with further information on its history. One of Pippy’s duties was to receive all the mail Owls and deliver them to the library each morning and today there was a neat pile of perhaps a dozen scrolls stacked on his desk waiting for him.
Unfortunately, there was also another scroll that was decidedly less welcome. Draco picked it up checking the return address. Potter. He sighed. What did the man want now? For one brief moment he debated whether or not to open it but curiosity got the better of him and he knew that if he didn’t find out what it said he’d be thinking about it all day and there was no way he was prepared to let Potter take up any more of his precious time than he already had.
Sliding his finger under the seal, he flicked it open. It was short; just one line.
Meet me for dinner tomorrow night?
Draco hissed in annoyance. No, he would not be meeting Potter for dinner tomorrow night, or any other night for that matter. He had half a mind to ignore it but there was the possibility that if he did, Potter would just keep hounding him until he had an answer. Irritated, he picked up a quill to reply.
No, I will not meet you for dinner tomorrow or any other night. Please take this as a direction not to contact me again.
And that should be that, Draco nodded, satisfied he had dealt with Potter efficiently and effectively. He gave the reply to Pippy and directed her to send the Owl immediately.
He turned to the other scrolls on his desk and opened each one, stopping when he came to one that seemed to have some solid background information about the box.
Dear Mr. Malfoy,
My name is Aubrey Truelove and my great grandfather was the original owner of the ‘Lega Mio Amore’ .
As you may be able to ascertain from my surname, my family has had a long tradition of finding their one true love with whom to spend their lives. After an unfortunate run of bad choices that almost decimated my family, great grandfather Theophilus Truelove commissioned a test; a way to establish if his intended had his heart and the safe keeping of it as their truest intention. Only if they did, would they be able to capture the ruby heart from the box.
Due to the mistakes he had made in the past, he wanted the test to be meaningful and not one to be undertaken lightly. Therefore, failure had dire consequences. The piece was actually made using Dark Arts spells, so you can imagine that the consequences are not something that would wear off in a day or two.
Failure resulted in a shattering of the intended’s own heart - what the mediwitches call a heart attack these days. Rarely fatal, unless there is some pre-existing condition, however it is extremely dangerous.
I do have papers verifying this that I will place at your disposal should you wish to view and perhaps copy them for your records, though I cannot let you have the originals, you understand. I can be reached at the address at the bottom of this letter.
You mention in the article that you were also looking for a pedigree of ownership. That, I am afraid I cannot help you with. Once Theophilus had no more use for the box, he sold it to a dealer and we have no further information as to what happened to it after that. I would suggest, however, that you have probably come by this piece legally.
Generally, once a dealer has these types of pieces, their history becomes lost; especially should it contain Dark Arts magic. My family is very grateful that this part of our history has come to light once more, and we would be willing to pay your price should you be inclined to sell.
Hoping to hear from you,
At last, a real insight into the history of the box. It would have to be confirmed of course, but Draco felt the excitement building in him that always did when he was able to put all the pieces together factually. And he even had a buyer for the piece. And what a buyer. You could hardly be a potion maker in the Wizarding world and not have heard of Truelove’s Natural Remedies. He would take Mr. Truelove up on his offer, once he had traced the dealer and all subsequent owners; he felt that because the box had belonged to his mother, he deserved to know it’s full story. Frowning, he wondered if Lucius had attempted to…no, Lucius would never have been likely to risk himself in that manner. Besides, theirs had been an arranged marriage.
Draco put no faith in the item as a way to test your perfect partner, regardless of the type of magic used. Clichéd and hackneyed, it was probably about as effective as those love potions that the Weasley twins indulged a gullible public with. Romance and love were nothing but fairy tales told to small children so that they grew up and had a reason to procreate. It didn’t really exist.
He called Pippy to him and drafted a reply, requesting a meeting as soon as possible at Malfoy Manor. Traveling to Cambridgeshire was out of the question; Draco did not travel unless there was an emergency.
Draco Apparated to Diagon Alley a few days later for his coffee date with Blaise. Floo travel usually left him feeling vaguely dirty and he always made sure to be impeccably attired when he met with Blaise.
Friendship was not something that sat comfortably with Draco. At Hogwarts, Crabbe and Goyle were more in the line of bodyguards than friends and, until his sixth year, he’d been the undisputed king of Slytherin, neither needing nor seeking out friendships. Slytherin didn’t operate that way. Since the war, however, he and Blaise had struck up an odd friendship, more one of expediency than anything else. So many of their classmates had either perished during the war or left the country, heading for a neutral or safe place to live. Often Draco felt he and Blaise were the only two left that remembered being a Slytherin at a pre-war Hogwarts.
They’d met up again after the war at the very café they now had coffee in once a month. They both put aside time in their busy schedules for these appointments; Draco from his research and Blaise from his modeling career. The manager of the café had been informed that they did not wish to be interrupted and, indeed, they never had been. Once Blaise left the café, however, he was usually surrounded by hordes of fans.
So, when Draco turned the corner to see Blaise already seated at their outdoor table, laughing alongside a smiling Harry Potter, he did a double take. His eyes narrowed and he gave Blaise a glare that could wither the best of men but Blaise just returned an enigmatic shrug of the shoulders.
“Did I forget the time of our appointment, Blaise?” Draco asked icily, knowing full well that he had not.
Potter turned at Draco’s voice and stood quickly, smiling and holding out his hand. “Draco, I was hoping you’d be here.”
Draco ignored him and his hand, electing to fix his stare on Blaise. “I can always leave if you are otherwise occupied.”
It was satisfying to see how Potter’s face fell at being ignored but, Potter being Potter, continued. “I’m not staying, I was just hoping to catch up with you and ask if you wanted to have dinner tomorrow night.”
Draco was incredulous and he turned his stare to Potter, instead. “Have you lost the ability to read, Potter? Or do you regularly ignore letters that categorically state I want nothing to do with you?”
Potter met Draco’s stare with one of his own. “Give me one good reason why you won’t have dinner with me?”
Draco leant forward, grabbing Potter’s shirt in his fist and yanking him to within an inch of his face. He snarled, “Because I hate you. Isn’t that enough?”
Potter looked at him, looked at his mouth, looked back into his eyes and then licked his lips and Draco’s heart started thumping loudly in his ears, realising just how close they were standing. He could even feel Potter’s light puffy breaths over his face. He made a disgusted sound and pushed Potter away, glancing around and noticing that many of the other patrons of the café were watching them with barely disguised interest.
“Just leave, and don’t bother me again.”
“I’ll leave this time, Malfoy, but I will want a real answer. You hating me isn’t enough anymore. We’re supposed to be adults and the war is supposed to be over. I wanted to find out for myself what type of person you really are.”
Potter gave Draco a long look and Draco turned away to find his seat at the table. “Blaise,” he heard Potter say finally and the next time he looked up, Potter was gone.
“What was he doing here?” Draco asked. He abstained from looking at Blaise and focused on his menu instead, even though he always had the same thing.
“Draco, Draco, Draco,” Blaise drawled, shaking his head. “When are you going to get over this unreasonable hatred? He’s not that bad. For a Gryffindor.”
The waiter approached the table and prevented Draco from answering; something that he was profoundly grateful for – for about a minute. As soon as they had ordered and the waiter scurried off, Blaise raised his eyebrow, “Well?”
“You know why I hate him.”
“Tell me again.”
“He refused my hand in first year, back in Hogwarts.”
“Ancient history, you were both eleven years old.”
“He got my father put into Azkaban when we were in fifth year.”
“And you yourself agreed later that was a good thing. Besides, it wasn’t his fault your father was at the Ministry that night and subsequently caught.”
“He punched me.”
“You broke his nose and paid him back for that.”
“He almost killed me in sixth year!” Draco countered.
“Even you said that was an accident, and he had no idea what he was doing.”
“Yes, exactly, he had no idea what he was doing and so should never have used that damned spell.”
“Draco,” Blaise interrupted. “You were attempting to Crucio him! I would have fought back with whatever I had, too. You can’t blame him for that.”
Draco pursed his lips. “Damn you Blaise, can’t I just have this one thing to hate? I’ve reconciled every other thing in my life; losing my parents, losing my friends – alright losing Crabbe and Goyle - losing my family’s place in Wizarding society, and losing my family’s assets. Why can’t I just be allowed to hate him?”
“I don’t think you do hate him,” Blaise said slowly. “You only think you hate him because you don’t know how to like him. You don’t know how to say thank you and you don’t know how to be the one to admit you’re wrong.”
At this point the waiter arrived with their coffee, which gave Draco time to think on Blaise’s words. No, Blaise was wrong. Draco did hate Potter. There was nothing to thank him for and no reason at all to like him. None. Potter was irritating in the extreme and the last thing Draco needed was an irritation.
When the waiter left and Draco had picked up and sipped his coffee, he turned to Blaise and shook his head. “Think what you like but Potter is an annoying Gryffindor who gets quite enough attention from the rest of Wizarding society without capturing mine as well.”
Blaise sipped his coffee, looking at Draco thoughtfully and, in between his own sips, Draco stared at him as if daring him to argue. Finally, Blaise put his cup down and rested his chin in his hands.
“You need to get out more. You hide yourself away from everyone and you never let anyone in. Now, I understand why you do it, I do, but aren’t you ever lonely? I mean, you see me once a month and who else do you see?”
Oh, now this was getting personal. It was going to be one of those ‘poor Draco’ speeches where Blaise decided that Draco’s life was worthless and that he could not live a healthy, happy life unless he had someone to share it with. Which was totally ridiculous of course. Preposterous. Draco was quite happy, thank you very much. What made Blaise an expert on life anyway? He was a model for fuck’s sake. He lived out of a suitcase, albeit a very expensive suitcase, and had a different woman in his bed each night. He was hardly the poster boy for a committed monogamous relationship.
“Don’t even go there, Blaise,” Draco warned. “I see other people. Just because I don’t have a different person in my bed every night doesn’t mean that I am not perfectly happy.”
“Prove that you see other people. Have dinner with Potter.”
“I will not. Now change the subject,” Draco said frowning. He thought they’d gone past Potter; he had no wish to revisit that discussion.
Blaise sighed and muttered “Coward,” before taking another sip of his coffee and doing what he was asked. “How’s your research going?”
At last, Draco thought, safe ground. He smiled. “I received an owl the other day giving me quite a detailed history of the piece. Seems like most of those rumours were true. A man who was sick of making mistakes in his love life commissioned it to determine if his intended was his one true love.”
“Doesn’t sound like a bad idea,” Blaise replied when Draco finished relating all the information he had on the piece.
“Well, you’d know if it were true love then, wouldn’t you?” Was there a hint of sorrow around Blaise’s eyes when he said that?
“You know I don’t believe in that, Blaise, and even if I did, relying on magic to determine that is irresponsible.” Draco replied, though he was distracted. “Is something wrong? You looked sad there for a moment.”
Blaise shook his head. “It’s nothing.” Draco just raised an eyebrow.
“I know you too well to let you get away with that. Tell.”
Blaise ran a hand over his face and sighed. “I’m just getting sick of the meaningless trysts with all the different girls. It’s getting to the stage where I don’t even remember their names anymore. It’s nothing; a physical release and, damn it Draco, it’s lonely.”
“I thought that’s what you liked. You never wanted to settle down before. What changed?” Draco asked.
“I met someone I can’t have. She’s tied to a husband she doesn’t love but can’t leave.”
“Being married has never stopped you before,” Draco pointed out.
“No, but I wasn’t in love with them. This is different. I have to respect her decision, don’t I? If I love her I have to respect her previous ties.”
Draco had no idea what to say. “I’m sorry,” he finally said.
Blaise looked at him, the anguish plain to see on his face now he’d disclosed his secret. “You know what makes it all so much lonelier? The absence of intimacy. I’m not talking about sex, I’m talking about a simple kiss or hug; just a touch that means more than ‘get your clothes off and fuck me’.” Blaise’s hand reached over and covered Draco’s. “When was the last time anyone hugged you, Draco? When was the last time that you touched someone else?”
If Draco couldn’t see just how serious Blaise was, he’d have dragged his hand away. And if Blaise hadn’t just admitted that he was in love with a woman, Draco would have asked him if he was coming on to him but, as it was, this was a whole new phase of their friendship and Draco wasn’t sure he was comfortable with it. But…Blaise was his only friend and didn’t that mean something? Blaise was the only one who put up with him, Blaise was the one who listened to him when he got all involved in an artifact he was researching. And Blaise was the one who knew him better than anyone.
“I don’t remember,” he answered quietly, admission settling uneasily in his chest.
“Don’t you ever miss that?”
All Draco could do was shrug; he hardly remembered the last time he had hugged anyone. Certainly his mother was probably the last one; he didn’t invite people to touch him, normally. She’d always been the exception. Then there was Pansy at school and Duncan before the end of the war, when he was living in fear of retaliation from the Dark Lord for failing to kill Dumbledore. But they hardly counted; it had been a clingy, prickly Pansy who thought her future as Mrs. Draco Malfoy was secure; and a lusty Duncan who was more concerned with getting his hands on Draco’s cock or his lips around it than kissing him.
“Do me a favour, Draco?” Blaise asked, solemnly.
“You’re single, Harry is single and he’s obviously interested. Don’t throw that away because you don’t know what to do. Go out for dinner with him. Just once.”
Oh no… Draco shook his head, “I don’t think I can do that.” No, that would mean that he would have to speak to Potter and look at him and put up with his messy hair, his retarded glasses and his holier than thou attitude. It would make him vulnerable and he couldn’t do that. No. There was no way known.
“It’s just dinner. No strings, no riding off into the sunset together. Just dinner. You owe it to yourself to do it.” Draco was still shaking his head as Blaise continued. “Besides, I’m not going to be available next month; I have a shoot in Thailand and won’t be able to make it back. I don’t want to think of you here with no one. Do it for me, will you?”
“I don’t need anyone looking out for me,” Draco protested.
“Alright, alright, but for me?”
Draco still shook his head. “Just because you’re in love doesn’t mean you have to set everyone else up, too. It’s not worked so well for you, has it? You’re all heartbroken, which is one of the reasons I don’t believe in love. Some of us are happy to have nothing to do with relationships.”
“Draco…” Blaise looked at him with pleading eyes. Why did he have to have the mournful brown eyes of a kicked puppy? “You’ve been obsessed with Harry ever since our first year and yet you never got to know him properly. You assumed a lot about him, just as he did about you. He’s willing to overcome those assumptions to find out who you really are, why can’t you do the same?”
Draco’s eyes narrowed, suspiciously. “Just how long was he here talking with you before I arrived, anyway?”
“Not long. Now, come on, say you’ll do it. You never know, you might enjoy yourself.”
Giving a huge sigh, Draco finally agreed. “I’m going to blame you if Potter and I end up killing each other. You know this, right?”
When Blaise smiled in triumph and removed his hand, the missing warmth saddened him.
It took only an hour for Draco’s owl to return with Potter’s reply, agreeing to have dinner with him the following evening. Draco had been specific, though; he expected Potter to come to the Manor and collect him; none of this casual meeting up at a designated place, no, Potter would do the civilised thing and appear at the Manor at 7pm. Potter had agreed and advised Draco to dress casually.
Which was why Draco was standing in his boxers in front of an open wardrobe surveying his collection of casual clothes. There was a small knot of tension in his stomach; but he was sure it wasn’t anticipation; more worry that he was removing himself from his comfort zone and spending an entire evening in the company of someone he disliked intensely. Blaise really had a lot to answer for, and Draco had fired off two owls this morning telling him exactly what he thought of him.
After much deliberation, he decided on dressing entirely in black. Black trousers, shirt, tie and jacket, and be damned if he cared. He snorted at his mirror when it whistled at him, and he almost changed; he wasn’t dressing to impress Potter after all. But then, he liked the cut of this jacket and all black went with his colouring superbly, so he left it. He gave some final attention to his hair and then looked at himself critically in the mirror. Gorgeous, as always. He was under no illusions on that score.
Pippy appeared at that moment, and announced that Potter was here and waiting in the drawing room. Right then; it was time. Why was he doing this, again, he asked himself, chewing on his bottom lip for a moment before he noticed in the mirror that it made his lip look swollen and pouty. Oh, for Christ’s sake! He rolled his eyes and went downstairs to greet the bloody Saviour, irritated at himself.
“Potter,” he said, as he entered the room and saw him standing at the window gazing out into the garden. At his voice, Potter turned and smiled, eyes appreciating the way Draco was dressed.
“Draco. You look terrific,” he responded, and moved forward, hand extended for Draco to shake.
Draco smirked at the compliment, then stared down at the extended hand, wondering if he could get away with not taking it again. Doubtful. He took it reluctantly, briefly, and privately gasped at the warmth that passed between their palms. It startled him so much that he reflexively squeezed Harry’s hand momentarily, before pulling free, flustered now by his uncharacteristic response.
“I suppose I should pay you a similar compliment but you might take that to mean I noticed what you looked like,” Draco replied, cool mask still in place, thank God, because Potter really did look good. He cleaned up pretty well.
Potter just grinned. “You always notice me, Draco. Are you ready to go?”
Draco still hated him.
“Where are you taking me?”
“Well, I thought for our first date, it should be –“
“This is not a date, Potter,” Draco stressed. “Get that into your head. You harassed me until I agreed to dinner, but this is not a date.”
Potter gave Draco that infuriating little grin again; the one that said he knew better, but was humouring him anyway. “Whatever, Draco. I thought we could go to one of my favourite restaurants.”
“Right. I’m overdressed then, I imagine.” No one said Draco had to be nice and Potter was dressed very casually in jeans and shirt, open at the collar.
Potter ignored the barb, and replied. “No, you’re good. You ready then?”
“Yes I’m ready,” Draco replied. “How are we getting there?”
“Come outside,” Potter said, grinning. “I have a surprise.”
Why did he have a bad feeling about this? Draco followed Potter out of the drawing room, down the hall and through the front doors to see a Muggle car parked in the driveway. A car without a roof!
“You cannot possibly expect me to travel in that!” Draco spluttered.
“Why not?” Potter asked, looking at him.
“It may have escaped your notice, Potter, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest, but that car has no roof.”
“That’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s a warm night; I thought we could drive with the roof down and enjoy the fresh air.”
Hopeless, that’s what Potter was. Totally hopeless. If Draco traveled in an open topped car his hair would be blown around so much in the wind that it would stand on end all over his head and make him look like a hedgehog. Surely Potter knew…Draco looked at Potter and realised that of course he wouldn’t know; his hair always looked like he’d just been thoroughly shagged. And why did he care about keeping his hair neat for Potter anyway? Perhaps seeing him looking like he’d just received a fright might make Potter go away.
He’d known that having dinner with Potter was a bad idea. Damn Blaise.
“Fine,” he huffed and sat in the passenger seat. It would be quite a nice car if it had a roof, Draco grudgingly allowed; comfortable leather interior and plenty of leg room. But it had no roof and it came with Potter.
“Great,” Potter grinned. He jumped into the driver’s seat beside Draco, started the engine and took off down the driveway in a spray of gravel, leaving Draco to shriek and hang on to the arm rest for dear life. This really was a terrible idea; Potter was going to be a reckless driver, which he should have known to expect, and Draco was going to be killed. His short life was going to end wrapped around a tree - he just knew it.
At a safer speed, perhaps with a hat to cover his head, Draco could admit that it might be a nice drive, but barreling down the road at breakneck speed was not Draco’s idea of fun and it had him on the edge of his seat with his heart in his mouth for fear they would run off the road and hit a fence. Potter might be a capable driver but that didn’t stop Draco being afraid for his life. And telling him to slow down made no difference, Potter just laughed and told him he was being an old man.
But then, and Draco was sure it was deliberate, perhaps in order to shut him up, Potter took a left turn suddenly and too fast, and Draco was unable to hang on. He was flung violently across the car and ended up sprawled across Potter’s lap, his arms getting tangled with Potter’s arms and the steering wheel, and the car swerving dangerously from side to side. He struggled to right himself but the swerving car did nothing to help, only made things worse as it swung again and made him fall in an undignified heap in Potter’s lap once more.
There was a surprised squeak from Potter as he tried righting the car and Draco found to his total humiliation that his hand was in Potter’s groin. Fuck.
“Potter, you utter imbecile! Stop this car now! Are you trying to get us killed?”
“I’m trying.” His voice was shaky. Good.
Luckily the car righted itself and Draco extricated himself from the embarrassing position he was in. He was furious. Potter could have killed them both! Not to mention that the palm of his hand was now tingling with a warmth that was alarmingly nice.
No it wasn’t. It was just alarming.
“Sorry about that but your hand on my dick was a bit distracting. You could have waited until the car slowed down, you know,” Potter joked.
Really! The man was insufferable. No, this was such a bad idea and he couldn’t do it. Fine, he would admit to Blaise that he was socially retarded; hell, he would admit anything at this point, as long as he could get out of this car and away from Potter. But Potter didn’t look as if he were going to stop the car any time soon and Draco just looked at him, breathing hard in his anger and anxiety. No, he was going home, right now.
He closed his eyes, concentrated, and Apparated back into his drawing room at the Manor.
When he opened his eyes and found himself back home, he breathed a huge sigh of relief. He never should have agreed to dinner, it had been a total waste of time. He was much better here on his own.
Draco looked down at his hands; they were shaking and he wasn’t sure if it were fear or shock or anger or a mix of everything. He felt raw inside, feeling as if something had ripped aside his attempt at normalcy and left him floundering in embarrassment at his failure.
It also reminded him of just where one of those hands had been only a few minutes ago.
He was not going to think about that; he needed a drink and to forget that this evening had ever happened.
And hope that he never saw Potter again.
He wasn’t that lucky.
Not five minutes later, he heard the roar of an angry engine skidding to a stop outside his door and he downed the last of his fire whiskey, tempted to refuse to speak to Potter.
In the end he didn’t get the chance to decide, as Potter just stormed right in; opened the door himself and walked in as if he owned the place.
“Why the hell did you do that?” he yelled at Draco. “You scared me almost half to death!”
“You almost ran off the road when I was in the damned car, Potter. I’d had enough. You didn’t look like you were going to slow down, and I do not appreciate being flung around like a rag doll, thank you,” Draco yelled back.
“Christ I was only having a bit of fun. It’s fun tearing down the road at impossible speeds and flinging the car round the corners. Don’t you pure bloods ever have that sort of fun?”
Potter was up close and yelling in his face now, and Draco, who steadfastly refused to back away, could see the flecks of hazel in his green eyes.
He looked away, but unfortunately only made it as far as Potter’s lips, which were stupidly pink and slightly chapped, probably from the wind in the car. But it made him lick his own and Potter exhaled deeply when Draco looked up and saw that Potter had caught him.
Draco scowled and blushed and hadn’t forgotten their argument at all.
“That was not fun, that was life threatening and while you may not have any regard for your life, I’ve been through too much shit to throw mine away,” Draco replied, the anger muted by the frantic thumping his heart was doing and the quickened breaths he was forced to take as he watched Potter lick his own lips. In slow motion. Dragging his pink tongue across the chapped skin. Fuck.
“Do you think for one minute that I would have risked my life out there? Risked your life? Draco, I discovered an excellent cushioning charm and adapted a sticking charm. The car could not have left the road and if something got in our way, we would have been cushioned against the impact.”
Potter’s voice had become soft and the retort that rose to Draco’s lips to refute the date claim was lost in his endeavor to drag his eyes away from Potter’s mouth.
God, he was so close Draco could smell his breath, feel eddies of warmth brushing across his cheeks and it was too close, too close, just too damned close and he had to move. If he didn’t he would panic; was already beginning to panic as he stood there just looking at Potter’s mouth, feeling Potter’s breath and listening to his own heartbeat thumping in his ears. He felt trapped. He had to find something to say, an escape.
He must have looked like a caged wild animal because Potter stepped back and it broke the spell. Draco was too relieved to interpret the look on Potter’s face; it was probably pity though. God, he thought, if Potter pitied him he must be pathetic. He needed another drink.
Stepping around Potter, he headed to the table and poured himself another fire whiskey. “Drink?” he asked.
“You need cushioning charms inside the car, you know. It was still no fun being thrown around like that,” Draco said.
“I don’t know, I quite liked having you in my lap,” Potter replied, a smile on his face.
Shaking his head and cursing the pale skin that coloured so easily, Draco bristled. “Well I found it extremely uncomfortable. We were supposed to be having dinner, that’s all I agreed to, not a…” He stopped, horrified. He had been going to say, ‘not a quick grope in the front seat of a car.’
“Why did you agree to have dinner with me?”
“Blaise made me,” Draco said, bluntly. “Why did you ask me?”
“I already told you that yesterday. I wanted to get to know you. I’ve seen some of the work you’ve been doing for the Historical Association and I was impressed. As you probably know, Sirius left me his house and that place is full of old things that even I won’t go near. We cleaned out a lot of them years ago, but…” He stopped and shrugged, giving Draco an appraising look that made his toes tingle. “Plus, you’re more than easy on the eye and I wanted the chance to get past the way we were at Hogwarts.”
Draco inhaled deeply, as much in an attempt to rid his stomach of the sudden flock of butterflies that had taken flight in there, as to give him time to think of something to say. Potter seemed to drain all his intelligent responses.
“Pippy,” he called, not taking his eyes off Potter. “Mr. Potter will be joining me for dinner,” he told her when she appeared.
The small elf nodded. “Yes, Master. Pippy will see to it immediately.”
“Thank you. We’ll be ready to eat in ten minutes.”
“Certainly sir,” the elf replied, and disappeared.
“If you still want dinner, we’ll eat here,” Draco said, finding that taking control of the situation was settling him a little. Now if he could just drag his eyes away from Potter’s he was sure that those butterflies would drop dead and he’d be able to think of something interesting to say.
Potter nodded. “I’m happy with that. It’s nice here, much nicer than my place.”
“Of course it is,” Draco said. “I remember Black’s house. My mother took me there often when I was younger. It was a horrid, dark house.”
“And it’s not improved much since then I’d wager. Sirius always hated it, so he shied away from doing much to it. And then…” Potter frowned, “he wasn’t there for too long, anyway.”
Draco just nodded. He didn’t want to hear Potter’s sob story about his godfather. It was common knowledge now, anyway. He wouldn’t mind having a look at some of the artifacts in that house, though. From what he remembered there had been some really interesting pieces.
He motioned Potter to sit, and took a seat himself, much more relaxed now that the tense atmosphere had abated, and he could fall back on good manners and being the perfect host.
“Perhaps you could let me have a look at some of the things in your house, then.”
Potter agreed enthusiastically, and by the time Pippy announced dinner, Draco was actually enjoying their conversation.
They ate in Draco’s formal dining room, which also helped Draco to retain a veneer of cool distance. He could play the gracious host, making polite, yet friendly conversation.
Two hours later, they took their drinks to the patio and sat comfortably in the cool night air. Which, upon reflection might have been a bad idea, Draco realised, as Potter obviously thought that the darkness invited confidences.
“I’m really glad Blaise made you accept my invitation, Draco. If I’d known you like this back at Hogwarts, things would have been a lot different than they were,” Potter said, sipping his drink and looking directly at Draco.
“I might still have hated you, though,” Draco replied, raising an eyebrow. See? He could do this; be unaffected by Potter’s obvious interest. “Besides, I’m not that person, now anyway.”
Draco shook his head, and looked down at his drink. “Too many things happened to me since I left Hogwarts that night. If I were the same person, I’d be dead by now.”
“I think it changed us all, the war. How can it not have? I know most of the facts about what happened from your trial; it must have been really hard to deal with.”
Draco just shrugged; he didn’t want to talk about it. Not now, and not with Potter. Living through the nightmare of his time with the Dark Lord was bad enough without having to revisit it. Everything he’d ever known about himself, his family and his place in society had been swept from under him during the war. Lies and betrayal and fear had become the creed by which he lived, desperate just to survive. And he had. It had changed him though, made him distrustful of almost everyone, made him determined that he would never again place his faith in anything, would never tie himself to any ideology.
“It must have changed you, too,” he finally answered.
Potter nodded. “It did. I lost too many people I loved, people I never had the chance to tell. When Ron died, I…I lost it there for a while. He was my best friend and I just didn’t have the knowledge to save him. That’s why I became a Mediwizard, saving lives instead of causing deaths.”
That seemed to stifle conversation for a while, Draco remembering reading about how the Weasel died from poisoning of some sort. He spared a momentary shameful thought to the time he’d almost killed him with poison at Hogwarts, before he took a sip from his drink and looked at Potter. Perhaps hate was too strong a feeling, after all. Even intense dislike didn’t sit well with him anymore.
Potter finished his drink in silence and then stood. “I guess I should get going,” he said, and Draco could hear the faint hint of regret in his voice.
“I’ll show you out then,” he replied, and stood, walking inside through to the front door, and expecting Potter to follow him.
When he saw how Potter had parked the car, almost diagonally across the driveway, he smirked. “I think you need driving lessons, Potter,” he said.
“Hey, I was angry and in a hurry,” he laughed. It was a nice laugh, actually. “I am sorry that I scared you, by the way. I had no idea you wouldn’t realise I had used magic on the car.”
“Yes, well…” Draco looked away, feeling more than a little foolish at that.
“I’m glad I chased after you, though. I had a nice time.”
Potter stuck his hand out and Draco took it, nodding. “It could have been worse, I suppose.” But the corner of his lip was upturned into the beginnings of a smile.
Potter laughed again and leant in, placing the gentlest of kisses on the upturned corner of Draco’s mouth. He was so shocked that he couldn’t even move for a moment. Potter kissed him? “Yeah, you could have thrown me out,” Potter whispered. “Thank you, Draco, I’ll see you soon.”
He gave a quick squeeze of Draco’s hand and let go. Before Draco could even say a word, Potter had jumped in his car and was off in a hail of stones.
“Well,” he breathed, raising his fingers to rub over the place Potter’s lips had been as he watched the car disappear.
Potter was as good as his word and over the next few weeks had turned up at Draco’s numerous times. The visits were not planned, which initially irritated Draco, who thought that he should have shown some manners and either waited until he was invited, or organised a time to meet. But as Potter always rang the front door bell and waited for Pippy to show him in, it gave him the option of refusing him entry if he just didn’t want to see him.
In that time, Draco had explained to Potter about some of the work he’d been doing and he’d taken Potter on a tour of the Manor. Potter had chuckled over the secret room where Draco’s father had stored many of his illegal potions, artifacts and Dark objects, saying that they’d known about it, but had never been able to find it. Often they sat in the garden and talked, Draco haltingly at first, unsure of just why Potter was interested but, as the days wore on, he slowly relaxed.
Potter never suggested that they go anywhere in his car again, and Draco was thankful for that; he felt he could deal much better with Potter and this absurd attraction Draco had developed for him, if he were here on his own territory.
Potter had also refrained from taking things any further than a soft brush of his lips across Draco’s when saying goodbye. Stupidly, it made Draco’s heart race. Just that tiny affectionate gesture left him standing there staring dumbly after Potter as he left. Every time. He began to think that Blaise might have been onto something after all. He had also begun to think of Potter as Harry.
They’d made arrangements for Draco to visit 12 Grimmauld Place in a couple of days but Aubrey Truelove responded to Draco’s Owl, asking if it were possible for Draco to visit him instead, as he was wary of letting the documents out of his house in case anything happened to them. With great trepidation and, with Harry’s encouragement reminding him that he’d wanted to find the history in tribute to his mother, he had agreed and was packing for a short stay. Aubrey had suggested he stay and spend a few days getting to know his family to satisfy himself that the ‘Lega Mio Amore’ was coming home into safe hands. Draco wasn’t that concerned about the piece but, as Aubrey had sounded so sincere, he agreed.
Packed and ready to leave, he was giving Pippy last minute instructions when he heard what could only be Harry’s car roaring up the driveway. Draco was very curious as to just why his insides smiled but he composed his features and went out to meet Harry.
As usual, Harry bounded out of the car, full of energy and that daft grin on his face, and Draco was hard pressed not to give him a giddy smile in return.
“I’m glad I caught you,” Harry said, smiling.
“Only just,” Draco responded, giving in and letting a small smile curve his lips. He leant on the doorframe and crossed his arms. “What are you doing here, anyway? Don’t you have a job or something important like that?”
“On my lunch break,” Harry beamed. “Just wanted to say that I hope you have a good trip, that’s all.”
Harry grabbed one of Draco’s wrists and pulled him into a hug. Draco froze, awkward in this unfamiliar position. It was all wrong; there were hard angles and bits that bumped where there should have been a smooth fit. Then Draco shifted in an attempt to step back and everything changed. Suddenly all those places that had seemed wrong before, melded and it was like sliding home into a safe secure place where all his curves matched all the curves on Harry. It made him catch his breath with the difference and his arms rose to wrap round Harry’s waist as he relaxed into his chest. He hardly knew what he was doing but it didn’t matter. All he knew was that he was being hugged and it was heaven.
“And I wanted to tell you that I’ll miss you,” Harry whispered against his neck, making Draco shiver.
Harry couldn’t know that he’d never been held like this before – the simple affectionate caring was threatening to undo him and he felt a lump forming in his throat, so he just nodded, trying to breathe around it.
After a while, not nearly long enough in Draco’s opinion, Harry pulled away to look at him. He wore an odd expression; like he was confused at the emotions on Draco’s face. Harry must think him a total sap, Draco thought, and he fought to regain his usual cool attitude. “See you in a few days then?” he asked, glad that there was no tremor in his voice.
Harry nodded and stepped away completely. He waved as he jumped in the car and drove off, leaving Draco standing there once more, staring dumbly after him.
Bloody hell, he fancied Harry Potter. Like mad!
* CONTINUED IN PART 2/3 *