Title: Meeting the Malfoys
Summary: A meaningless fling has turned serious for Harry, too serious to face his lover's parents with equanimity.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warnings: None, really.
Epilogue compliant? There is no such thing as epilogues.
Word Count: ~ 7.200
A/N: Dear sesheta_66, I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed writing it for you! Your prompts were like a godsend to me, and I tried to include as many as I could! Many thanks to S and L, my wonderful betas. All remaining mistakes are mine.
He was going to murder Draco Malfoy.
That mean, arrogant, spiteful, vicious – oh, he could go on and on; there were not enough words to characterise that useless little prat.
Unfortunately, Harry sighed inwardly, useless everywhere save in bed. But of course, he seethed, willing his internal rant to gain momentum again, Draco Malfoy would be a good, no, a terrific, lay, what with him having the experience that would put any incubus to shame?
No, it was decided. He was going to kill Draco, and –
The calm voice that was only ever so slightly tinged with impatience snapped Harry out of his murder fantasies, which, to his dismay, by now included a disturbingly high amount of binding the prospective victim to their bed, and he gulped. "I beg your pardon?"
Two sets of eyes, one a bright blue, the other a slate grey that only just lacked that hint of bluish hue to be the exact match of said future murder victim's, focussed on him after having exchanged a quick glance of 'isn't this the most cruel form of punishment the Ministry could have come up with?'
"Do you prefer your tea black or do you take some milk with it, Mr Potter?" Narcissa Malfoy said slowly, her head cocking towards the milk jug in her elegantly manicured hands. Her eyes, he found, were gazing at him in a way she might look at a particularly daft house-elf. One she was about to have kicked out of her house any moment, or into her dungeon, or wherever; if, Harry thought vindictively, there were any house-elves around.
Murder was the only way out.
Pity, actually, Harry thought, since they'd had a really good relationship up until now. Quite surprisingly so, if Ron and Ginny and Neville and Dean and whats-their-names were to be believed.
'Malfoy?' Ron had all but yelped, his eyes in immediate danger of popping out of his head.
'Ron,' Hermione had said, in that peculiar mixture of reprimand and lenience that had led a quite inebriated Ron to admit to Harry that sometimes, he wasn't quite sure how it had happened that he was, albeit all grown-up and working and everything, still living under a woman's thumb.
But it couldn't be helped. Harry had shrugged and spread his hands as if in defeat and had smiled to himself at the memories of the passionate kiss with which Draco had sent him on his way to go and shock the hell out of these podsnaps.
Most of his friends had accepted his new relationship after a while, rather like the way they might have accepted an extended ban on the import of French broomsticks – pity, but nothing to be done about it. Even Ron had resigned to it eventually, though Harry knew that he was still running bets behind his back as to how long they would last.
Which, Harry mused while he stirred his hot tea, was hardly a surprise, given the usual half-value period of a mere six to ten weeks that Draco's relationships seemed to last. Legions – if the rumours were to be believed – of lovers of all kinds and shapes, blond, red- and dark-haired, older, younger, long-time acquaintances and complete strangers, paved Draco's way, who, while his discarded lover was still licking his wounds, would be seen cruising the bars and clubs for the next victim.
Yet, they had lasted. Was it really already four months in the past; that first morning when he'd awakened to blond hair tickling his nose, and a cheerful voice piercing through the haze inside his head? 'I do hope I'm not misled in my trust in you to have some decent tea around? And perhaps some toast?'
Malfoy, the morning person. Great.
The gentle clearing of a throat pulled him out of his broodings. Chuckling to himself at the idea of revealing to the two stiff-lipped snobs what he had been musing about, he nodded and managed to place a perfunctory smile on his face.
"With a bit of milk, Mrs Malfoy, but no sugar." Obliging, Mrs Malfoy gave her slim wrist a tilt and let a few drops of creamy milk mingle with the strong black tea that sent waves of intense, slightly spicy aroma up Harry's nostrils.
Where the hell was Draco? Urging Harry to accompany him to Malfoy Manor to collect his old skiing gear that he would never ever manage to carry all by myself, and you wouldn't want me to tear a muscle that renders me less limber was all well and good, but to drop him off at the drawing room at the mercy of his parents, and subsequently vanish into thin air was pretty steep indeed!
A silence so heavy that awkward didn't even begin to cover it wrapped them up, again, and Harry had to muster all his will to not start shuffling his feet.
"I guess Draco is a good skier?" Brilliant, Harry. No one conducts a conversation like you.
While Lucius Malfoy, who had not as much as looked at him for longer than a few seconds, only responded to Harry's question with a gaze that made Harry see him mentally rolling his eyes, Mrs Malfoy seemed to feel the need of assuring him that of course, Draco was in fact a very skilled skier. "I bet he will be able to teach you a lot," she stated matter-of-factly, and nodded sagely, the lofty bitch, as Harry told her that indeed, Draco would have to teach him since he'd never stood on skis before, magical or otherwise.
"Mum? Have you changed the ward spell for the cellar?"
Finally! Draco's voice, although still inducing murder fantasies in Harry's mind, had never sounded so sweet to him. He straighened up in the chair, causing the fine bone china cup to teeter dangerously for a few seconds.
"Sorry," he mumbled, snatching the cup and peering at the icy couple across the table. Instantly, he had to bite his tongue to prevent himself from bursting out laughing at the relief that was written so plainly over both haughty Malfoy faces for a few seconds.
But then, who was he to blame them?
Munching away on a sandwich he had grabbed from Harry's plate, Draco lowered himself on the chair next to him, and Harry could have strangled him for the amused look that sparkled in his eyes.
"Are you enjoying yourselves?" Draco grinned, but suddenly, there was a wary glint in his eyes when he let his gaze wander between Harry and his father that gave Harry a tiny jolt of suspicion.
"Tremendously," Lucius Malfoy stated, unblinking, and picked up his knife to spread some clotted cream on his scone.
Was he, Harry wondered, starting to imagining things or had Draco just shot his father a rather sour look? What the heck? he thought. What the heck is Draco doing here, throwing me to his parental wolves like that?
"I take it that you still haven't not found everything you were looking for?" Mrs Malfoy interjected, smiled at her son, and the expression on her face struck a chord with Harry with its genuine softness.
"No-oh," Draco groaned, "I've tried Accio, twice actually, and have already put three tracking spells on them, but I can't find my gliding skis, you know, the ones for the Moving Mogul Slopes. I'd like to go and look in the last cellar compartment, that's the only place I haven't looked so far."
"Mind the biting lock, dear," Narcissa Malfoy said evenly while brushing some lint off his sleeve.
"Shall I help you?" Harry said eagerly, already half rising out of his seat. Biting locks or not, he'd rather face a raging Manticore than remain in the presence of these two.
"No," Draco all but exclaimed, and pushed him back into his seat. "I won't be long."
Harry sighed and leaned against the backrest of his chair, letting his eyes wander. The room had much changed since he had last been here, during that horrible time when he had been held prison. The room was sumptuously decorated, bright and spacious, and with rays of sunlight shining through the huge windows.
Having been pardoned after the war to the surprise, and anxiety, of many wizards, the Malfoys had lost much of their former wealth and standing. Yet no one could deny that Lucius Malfoy was on the rise again, canvassing for support at the Ministry and currying favour with anyone whom he deemed important enough to be of benefit to him.
Harry shot a quick glance at him. A few weeks ago, the Ministry had launched an investigation into broad-scale counterfeiting and contrabanding of Dark Arts objects, one of the major bases of which they assumed was somewhere in the midlands. Instead of cork-screwing himself out of the focus of the investigation, the cunning old fox had had the audacity to offer his help, claiming that his expertise on the authenticity of some objects might be valuable. Despite many voices who called for 'adequate wariness' and some who had Malfoy blatantly accused of trying to impede, perhaps even sabotage the investigation, Shacklebolt had accepted.
"Did you have some peace and quiet to have a look at the books we've managed to confiscate?" Harry asked in a desperate attempt to break the silence, and found the subject of last weekend's raid as good as any.
"Not yet," Lucius Malfoy replied calmly without further elaboration. Instead, he got up and sauntered over to the mantlepiece, picking up an old clock that gave an indignant whirr as he turned it upside down.
"My," Narcissa Malfoy said, "is it that late already?"
Merlin, this was beyond awkward. "Mr and Mrs Malfoy," Harry said, determined that he would not allow his head to explode from the sheer embarrassement of the situation, "I guess I'd better go and help Draco find his stuff, lest we never make it to our holiday."
A tiny snort escaped Lucius Malfoy, and he cast a quick glance with his wife that screamed 'what is Draco thinking?'. A muscle twitched in his cheek as he pressed his lips into a thin line. With a thud, he put the clock back on its place and leaned against the mantlepiece, drumming the fingers of his left hand against the carved ornaments.
The look in his eyes that was brimming with condescension for him set the lump in Harry's throat on fire, and he had to swallow repeatedly to choke the words that were about to tumble out of his mouth. 'I know you think I'm not good enough for your precious son," he longed to shout at him, "but you know what? I don't bloody care!' For a few moments, he indulged himself in the vision of grabbing Draco (given that the git ever reemerged from the bloody cellar) and placing a kiss onto his mouth that would not only melt all the ice and snow out on the Manor's lavish grounds but would also cause the presumptuous old scoundrel to suffer an apoplexy.
Seemingly unperturbed by her husband's now barely disguised hostility, Narcissa Malfoy, always the perfect socialite, gave Harry a perfunctory smile. "I think he might indeed need some help."
Quenching the urge to jump up and make a run for it, Harry smiled back and finished his tea before he got up and left the room, steadfastly ignoring the whispers behind his back.
Harry yawned and stretched his still-aching limbs. For Godric's sake, he was really into sport, and not bad at it, was he? He still prided himself of being an exceptionally apt Seeker, and hadn't the Puddlemere United's coach only a few weeks back expressed his regret that he hadn't succeeded of enticing Harry away from the Ministry to join his Cup-after-Cup winning team? Besides, did not the Auror training, and the performance tests they had to go through on a regular basis, require a stellar physical condition?
Over the past few days though, Draco had mercilessly dragged him from one mountain top to the next, and Harry felt muscles ache, the existence of which he had so far been oblivious to, and happily so. Granted, Draco's massages had somewhat contributed to him willingly accepting his fate as a definite non-skier, but still –
If only he knew how to pinpoint it! It wasn't that he didn't enjoy skiing, regardless of how often he had, and would, fall on his behind, and it definitely wasn't that he didn't enjoy Draco's company, on and, particularly, off the slope. Theirs had until recently been a casual relationship, yet wasn't laughing together, sharing a (however warped) sense of humor as efficient a glue as any? Draco was good company, he was fun to be around; and he was certainly capable of making Harry shake and tremble and groan with lust, bringing pleasure to parts of his body he'd never ever considered erogenous (not to speak of the obvious spots).
The doubts were still there, lurking in the nooks of his mind, peeping up whenever Malfoy shrugged away something that, at a given moment, Harry deemed of utmost importance, or whenever Draco flew into one of his quick tempers over an issue that would have been negligible to Harry's eyes, had he but noticed it at all. He'd shushed them down, together with other voices that insisted that he had, against his better judgement and quite unnoticed to his rational mind, fallen head over heels in love with Malfoy.
A grumbling sound snapped him out of his early morning reverie. He turned his head and was met with a pair of bright grey eyes. "Morning," Draco said cheerily, leaving him to wonder how anyone could switch from being sound asleep to wide awake in a split second. "Care for some morning sports?"
Harry gave a mock groan, although his southern regions joined in with Draco's enthusiasm. "You do exhaust me, do you know that?"
Draco made a chortling sound at the back of his throat. "Poor you," he all but purred as he leaned over and started tracing Harry's chest muscles with the tips of his fingers, causing a tingling sensation in their wake. His lips followed his fingers in caress, placing gentle kisses and soft tongue swirls onto Harry's skin, while slowly and carefully, he aligned his body on top of Harry's. It was this carefulness, almost circumspection, with which Draco made love, that had taken Harry by storm – a carefulness, however, that could erupt into fierce passion at the most unexpected moments.
For a man that lithe and lissom, Draco was quite ripped, and for a few seconds, Harry relished in the sensation of Draco's abdominal muscles move against his own. He gave a low moan and stretched his body, as if to elongate his limbs as much as possible to give Draco even more canvas for his caresses.
"Hey!" Draco propped himself up on his elbows and frowned. "Are you at any time going to participate in this, or will I have to do all the work?"
Harry chuckled and lifted his head a bit. His lips met with Draco's, and the soft touch had his cock springing to full attention. Warmth pooled between his legs, a steadily increasing tugging in his groin demanded relief, and his entire body felt as if tiny shockwaves were jolting through it incessantly.
"Mh," he groaned, grinding his hips against Draco's and finding an erect cock poking his loins. He wriggled his left arm from under Draco's shoulder and after running his fingers down Draco's side in a tickling caress that elicited most gratifying sounds, wrapped his fingers gently around the hard shaft. "Got you."
Draco gave a low yelp that sounded almost like a hiccup. "You're mistaken," he whispered into Harry's ear, and a shiver ran down Harry's spine. "You are mine," he growled. "Your only purpose in this world is to be there for me to enjoy, and I – what?"
Almost against his will, Harry's body tensed up. "Is that all you want from me," he blurted out before he could hold back the words, and cringed at the needy untertone.
As usual, though, the arrow by far missed the mark. Draco laughed and kissed Harry's nose. "Ungrateful boy, aren't we? Haven't I been the one to start this mutual exchange of pleasantries?"
Willing his rigid muscles to relax, Harry shifted his hip to restore contact with Draco's. After all (he shut out the nagging voices in his mind that told him to prepare for heartache) it was unjust of him to expect more from Draco than what he had so far asked of him.
"What's the matter with you," Draco said, gently nudging his chin against Harry's shoulder. "You won't be turning into an old curmudgeon that's no fun to be around before my very eyes, will you?"
Before Harry could answer – and he was not sure whether he wanted to, and with what – Draco came down on him with his hands and his mouth and his body, drowning all rational arguments and conscious thoughts in a wave of passion that carried them both away.
Yet, upon awakening after a blissfully happy dream, Harry found the nagging voices returned that asked him if he really, truthfully wanted to go on like this, in wilful ignorance of his own feelings, and Draco's obvious lack thereof, only to be hurt three, four, uncountable times more in a month's, or year's time.
Afterwards, he couldn't tell what had caused the harmless bickering to erupt into a full-blown fight.
A flippant remark of Harry's on Ron's understandably awkward albeit undeniably hapless handling of his in-laws had triggered Draco to huff and set his face in contemptuous lines. "What do I care what that imbecile does?"
"That imbecile," Harry had retorted sharply, quashing the traitorous feeling that Ron had indeed behaved like an imbecile, "happens to be my friend. My best, and eldest, friend to boot, fancy that!"
Some shrugging on Draco's side had ensued. Harry had insisted on further discussion in spite of the futility since, as he had put it, trembling with rightful indignation, you obviously lack any compassion save for your useless bootlicking sidekicks. Draco had put his biting sarcasm to best use as he tore every single one of Harry's friends to pieces; and suddenly, they were embarking upon issues they had never even touched before.
Harry's diatribe about Pansy Parkinson being a snooty bitch had somehow merged into complaints about her being assigned to his pending investigation, and how on earth she had persuaded Shacklebolt to agree to that, and Draco had of course lost no time in jumping to the defense of that policy.
"How can you not see that she might hamper my investigation, what with her –"
"The Ministry's investigation, or has your ego already taken over all the –"
"Fine," Harry seethed. "The fucking Ministry's sodding investigation, whatever, but –"
"Have you not considered that she might have knowledge, owing to her upbringing, that you might lack? That Shacklebolt knew what he was doing? But of course, forgive me, how could he not have told – oh, never mind told, how could he not have asked for your permission? But perhaps he knew you wouldn't consent in her participating, since she is such an evil person."
"I never said that!" Harry snapped, "But you can't be denying that she –"
From there, it was a short way to listing all her, and his, and his friends', snide remarks whenever Harry was caught stumbling across a fact, or a tradition, that really, anyone but him in the wizarding world was familiar with, and how could he still not know, and after the better part of an hour of yelling and snarling, they stared at each other with a scorn and animosity as if the changes of recent years had evaporated into nothingness.
"I guess," Harry snapped, "I won't be asking you to accompany me to the New Year's Eve party at Hogsmeade then, lest I embarrass you with my inability to blend in, since I'm obviously still to be considered an intruder among the wizarding, or shall I say pureblood, folk!"
"Oh, for Salazar's sake, finally the little whiner has returned to perform his kicked-puppy act! Like Father said –"
"Your father!" Harry shouted. "He who is the arbiter of all things appropriate! I am sorry that I will never live up to that epitome of respectability, that paragon of decorum, that –"
"There is no need whatsoever," Draco spluttered out heatedly, his eyes narrowed to mere slits through which he glared daggers at Harry, "to slate him for what he is."
"Tell me," Harry snapped, "when I picked you up at the Manor, did he, did the three of you have a good laugh at my expense afterwards? The imbecile, how pathetically he fails whenever he tries to move in the higher circles of society, wasn't it a hoot?"
"Of course we did," Draco snarled, his lips curling into a cold smile while his eyes blazed. "That was the point of me taking you there, didn't you know that?"
"Then what was the point?" Harry yelled back. "If you hoped that it might aid him in the the investigation, that I would put in a good word for him to hush the rumours, well, you should've known that since he would never stoop to talking to someone that low beneath him, I'd hardly be able –"
Draco stared at him for a few seconds, then whirled around and took a few strides to a bay window. Gazing out into a pelting rain, he gave an appearance of calmness and only his hands, which were clenched so tightly around the window sill that the knuckles were almost white, betrayed his tension.
A silly, unwanted and uncalled-for tenderness surged through Harry as memories of a much younger Draco, pale and tight-lipped, his reasons understandable only so much later, rose before him. How much had he despised him then, had spent days and nights raking his brain over what Draco might be up to. Nothing good, that he had been sure of, and – Harry released a breath he hadn't even been aware of holding. Wasn't it time to cut Draco some slack, to eventually let go of mistrust and reproaches?
He heaved a sigh. "Draco, I – I'm sorry. Look, we've both got het up a bit, but –"
"Leave it alone, Harry. It does not matter. I'm tired of it."
The tranquility of Draco's voice, Harry knew by now, was inversely proportional to his anger: the more he gave room to his volatile temper and allowed himself to fly off the handle, the lesser the importance of what had triggered his outburst. A calm Draco, however, did not bode well, and any advances, however tenderly or wittily executed, were usually met with ill grace.
"Listen to me, Draco, please." Harry took a step further, so that his chest was all but touching Draco's straight back. He could feel the heat oozing from that other body in front of him, and memories of that delicious heat being even closer, almost permeating him, caused his thoughts to cloud momentarily.
"Draco," he whispered, inching so close that the vault of his chest aligned with the curve of Draco's back. For a moment so brief that he wasn't even sure whether he had but imagined it, Draco relaxed against him, only to tense up again a second later.
"Draco, don't," Harry mumbled, willing his body to unwind. "Look, I'm not cross with you, really, I am not. It's just – I – I do feel awkward around your parents, and I know they despise me and – look, I don't know."
"You sanctimonious bastard," Draco said. He turned around, and the blazing fury in his eyes that warred with the almost serene tone of his voice made Harry flinch. "You really dare to imply that I – oh, you know, never mind!"
He pecked Harry's cheek, his lips cold and unyielding, shoved past him and made a beeline for the door, closing it behind him with a final slam.
Luna, Harry decided, was beginning to become a real pain in the arse.
Wasn't it bad enough that Molly kept cooing over him and stuffing all his once-favourite tidbits down his throat whenever she caught sight of him; that Hermione shook her head at him and offered reasonable, and completely useless, advice at any given moment; that Ron had slapped his back, manly and somewhat clumsily, and had mumbled something along the lines of 'so that's that, mate, right'?
Luna however was worse, with her not commenting on his – no, he plainly refused to call it lovesickness! with her not letting him take pride in not needing to be comforted! She'd merely clicked her tongue when he'd revealed, still bristling with indignation, to the sympathetic ears of all the others, that Draco had obviously chosen his way of life, his parents and friends over him, who had so obviously disapproved of his newest fancy. Well, what else was to be expected, what was a four-month blissfull shagging compared to being A Malfoy? Only hours later, and completely non-sequitorial as was her way, she had mumbled pensively, as if in soliloquy, 'I'm so happy that my father loves me so. You never hurt the ones you love, even if their decisions displease you, do you?"
Harry sighed and checked his watch for the fifteenth time in as many minutes. It was quite unlike Luna to be that late without as much as giving notice, but then, she could have hardly known what the little cafe two blocks off Diagon Alley had in store for him.
Fidgeting, he risked a glance at the corner table that a semi-transparent folding screen endorsed with fluttering birds all but hid from his view. Albeit not hidden enough to disguise a flash of silvery blond hair when its owner rocked back in his chair every now and then, and definitely not remote enough to prevent someone from hearing the voices, if not being able to really eaves-drop. For the last quarter of an hour, he had taken great pains to ignoring the three voices one of which was so agonisingly familiar to him, while, of course, pricking his ears to at least catch the gist of what the Malfoy family conference seemed to be about. To no avail, though, and frustration at both hearing and not hearing, at their mere tantalising presence, was nagging away in the pit of his stomach.
He lowered his gaze and started picking at his cuticles. Cuticles, he thought, irritated beyond proportion by that very innocent part of his body. A few months back, he hadn't even known he had such things as cuticles, save for when he'd once again injured his fingers during one of his world-saving missions. It had been that vain, uppity, blond git who was quite constantly living beyond his means who had insisted that Mme Cixi on her regular visits extended her care to his fingers and toes as well, and –
"Mr Potter?" The young waitress bobbed up and down in front of him, clearly excited about her famous guest, and Harry scolded himself for not being able to muster up more than a perfunctory smile. It was not her fault that he was as cranky as a Peruvian Vipertooth with an inflamed root canal, and that her high-pitched voice carried through the entire room like a fanfare, turning many a head in his direction.
Including – yes. Before his mind could even summon the determination not to look, he'd already sneaked a peek at said corner table, and was met with an icy glare from Lucius Malfoy's narrowed eyes. Before he could help it (and return the look with an even icier, or perhaps demonstratively friendly, look?), he averted his eyes again and felt to his horror a deep blush creeping up his throat and setting his cheeks aflame.
"Yes, uh," he squinted at the name tag pinned to the waitress' bony chest where a tiny bird was pointing his beak at her name. "Uh, Betsy?"
"Luna – I mean, Ms Lovegood's just sent an owl that she'll be late. If you need anything, please don't hesitate to call me over."
Clearly, Harry thought with wry amusement, her attitude had shifted from excitement to puzzlement, and, given her knitted brows and curled upper lip, not in a way that might in any sense be flattering for him.
He mouthed a 'thank you' at her and reached for his coffee cup, only to find his fingers trembling. Memories of what Luna had said three days ago about accepting a loved ones' decisions whirled through his mind, mingling with lurking doubts and the worry that he so desperately wanted to believe her. Had Lucius Malfoy, schemer de luxe that he was, wielded some unknown power over Draco to force him into –
Yeah, right. One couldn't blame the waitress for repeatedly shooting wary glances in his direction, he thought, since he was mentally deteriorating right in front of every ones' eyes. It was ridiculous; Draco was not the first nor would he, hopefully, be the last man to grace Harry's bed with his presence, and no one in his right mind should ever make such a fuss over what had been nothing but a few months' fling, ensuing heartache or not.
He would definitely not make a fool of himself and –
Right again. While his mind had been occupied with how to save the last shreds of his dignity, his feet had obviously taken action. He gulped heavily and tried to force his hammering heart which seemed to have wandered up from his chest right into his throat back to where it belonged. His cheeks, he felt, had to be crimson given the heat they were exuding, and for sure, there was this 'lovesick Lobalug look' on his face again that Luna, be she damned, had diagnosed so succinctly.
"What can we do for you, Mr Potter?" Lucius Malfoy said in a low voice, his eyes guarded, while Draco busied himself with inspecting the menu. Harry could have strangled him for not even raising his eyes, because he most certainly would have seen, had he only bothered to look at him!
"I surmise that a problem has arisen concerning your investigation into these pernicious Dark Arts that cannot wait until tomorrow's office hours? Of course I am at your disposal, provided that my humble advice can be of any –"
"I wasn't talking to you," Harry snapped even more tersely than he had intended, but by Merlin! that pretentious, mealymouthed fop with his manicured hands and tailored robes did have a way of getting under his skin within the merest of seconds. A talent he had, Harry thought grimly, quite successfully managed to pass on to his son.
"There is no need to snap at Father!" At least, Draco spoke with him. With barely veiled hostility, and still without looking at him, but then, beggars can't be choosers, Harry buoyed himself up.
"I wasn't – oh, I didn't meant to," Harry stammered, and harrumphed away the lump in his throat that was blocking his voice from couching his thoughts. "Draco. Draco, do you have a moment?"
Finally, Draco raised his head, and Harry felt as if an iron ring was being pulled tight over his heart. He had braced himself for that bright blue fire that was burning behind a layer of ice grey whenever Draco was angry, and that never failed to ignite a fire within himself that had led them to hours and hours of wonderful makeup sex, but Draco's eyes were not burning now: they were cold, almost dull, and scurried over him as if they had caught sight of something that wasn't even nasty enough to secure closer scrutiny.
"Come on, let's have a coffee. I –"
Draco heaved a sigh, as if confronted with a particularly tedious, whinging child. "I can't possibly see the point of it, Harry," he said in a casual voice, his hands wrapped around his cup just a tad too tightly.
"You won't perhaps believe it, Mr Potter," Lucius Malfoy chimed in, "but my son is quite capable of remembering his name, and – "
Narcissa Malfoy placed a placating hand on her husband's wrist, and with a fascination that for an instant distracted him from the incessant gnawing sensation in his stomach, Harry saw Lucius Malfoy fall silent and nod at his wife, with a smile playing around his lips that could only be described as gentle. There was no doubt as to who was the real, if loving, holder of the family's reins, and with scorching pain Harry remembered a foggy, showery morning that Draco and he had decided to laze away in bed, snogging and kissing and making love. During one of their in-between chats, Harry had mentioned Molly's iron-gloves-in-disguise with which she ruled the constantly growing Weasley clan. Draco had laughed in that particularly fetching way that wrinkled up his nose and brought out a dimple above the left corner of his mouth, but had refused to share what had elicited his amusement.
"Please, don't do that," Harry repeated, and would have perhaps cringed at the pleading tone had he even noticed it over the hammering of his pulse in his ears. "Talk to me. Let's – let's go over there," he nodded towards an empty window table next to which two old ladies were staring at them unabashedly. "Please, talk to me."
"Could you please go away?" Draco said politely, a cruel smile lurking at the corners of his tense mouth. "We aren't finished laughing at you; in fact, Mother was just pointing out how quite atypical it is for a glorious hero like you to sport such a blush, and –"
"Draco," Lucius Malfoy's lazy voice drawled. "Play nicely."
With a gush, Harry's long-pent frustration and anger erupted. "You think it's funny?" he hissed at Draco. "Everything's a joke to you, isn't it? A great joke, let's make fun of stupid Potter!"
"If it pleases you to think so, then so be it."
Feeling the eyes of every single guest of the cafe on him and not giving a damn, Harry bent forward and propped his palms on the table, bringing his face so close to Draco's that he could see the hint of a five-o-clock shadow on his cheeks. A sudden rush of longing nearly knocked him off his feet, and suddenly, exhaustion settled in and drained him of even the will to further prolong this pointless bickering.
He pulled himself upright and ran the back of his hand across his forehead as if to wipe away the painful memories. "I cared about you, Draco, I really did. I – You know, for some time I actually thought this –" he made a helpless gesture, waving his hand between their faces, "this would lead to something, that we had – well, a. A future. Together."
Draco snorted. "Right. And it took you only three months to tell your sanctimonious friends about us being together, didn't it? Where should it have led to, pray tell me, if Harry Sodding Model Auror Potter can't be seen rubbing elbows with the shady Malfoys?"
Harry's mind whirled from the unjust accusations Draco threw at him in his still dispassionate voice.
"But unlike you I did tell them!" he fired back, his temper heating up to hitherto unknown hights. "Don't you dare pretend that you saw anything but a meaningless fling in it! You let your friends continue to deride and lampoon me, and laughed along with them and didn't you egg them on time and again? And didn't you even have to come up with some silly excuse for your parents – helping you pick up your skiing gear, I beg you – to explain my presence in their house? Not that you need to have bothered, given the total of – wait, let me recount – three sentences your father had the grace to address to me. Not –" he glared daggers at Lucius Malfoy who retorted with an arched eyebrow and a curled upper lip, but to Harry's surprise remained silent, merely shooting back daggers fully adorned with Malfoy crest and little dragons.
Draco drew in a few ragged breaths and cast him a withering glance. "I stand by my much-repeated opinion that you are an idiot, Potter."
"Fine. If that's all you've got to say –" Harry squared his shoulders and jutted his chin forward. He had made a fool of himself in front of these three snobs, but he'd be damned if he didn't stand his ground to the end. "Fine."
"What else is there to say?" Draco shrugged. "Mother, Father, I'm sorry. That was," he gave a half-mocking, half-annoyed chortle, "that was quite embarrassing, wasn't it? Excruciatingly so, even. What about if we leave this inhospitable location and I treat you to a decent dinner over at the Golden Galleon, what do you think?"
He made an effort of getting up without ever so much as looking at Harry and scurried over to the hallstand to collect their cloaks. Lucius Malfoy brushed past him, paying him no heed whatsoever, which, Harry hissed inwardly, was fine by him; after all, he'd have to deal with the pompous lackey at work soon enough.
Narcissa Malfoy stood frozen for a moment, as if fighting an inner battle, and then turned in a swift move to face Harry.
"You are mistaken, Mr Potter," she said matter-of-factly.
"Am I? In what regard, if I may ask?" he inquired, trying his best to sound as if she had just commented on something even less interesting to him than the Ministry's last year's accouting.
For a split second, an expression quite akin to amusement flashed up in Narcissa Malfoy's eyes. So the supercilious bitch had only stayed behind to mock him? Harry clenched his teeth to hold his temper at bay while myriards of conflicting emotions whirled through his mind, rendering him almost dizzy.
"Mh," Narcissa Malfoy breathed, her eyes wandering to his table where his coffee was cooling next to a parchment sheet he'd scribbled down some thoughts on the pending Dark Arts investigation before the sight of the blond trio had utterly meddled with his mind. "Things are a tad complicated, aren't they?" she said pensivlely. "One would not want to say too much, in order not to say things that might be misinterpreted? You see, hostility and, hm, insecurity can take on the same appearance. And – well, be that as it may: Draco did tell us."
Harry stared at her, his silly, treacherous heart suddenly soaring.
"He did? When? What did he say?" he said, and almost succeeded in banning all the annoyingly eager tones from his voice. Feigning indifference as best as he could, he shrugged as she remained silent and only continued to gaze at him with an unreadable expression while she wrapped herself into her coat.
"He needn't say anything, Mr Potter," Narcissa Malfoy said in a low voice that, in spite of the coldness which came naturally to it whenever she spoke to anyone but her family, was laced with other, softer, undertones. A somewhat wistful smile played across her lips, as if she was reliving a memory long past. "Oh no, he needn't say anything. Don't you see that he basically told us 'you'd better get used to him because you're going to see a lot more of him in the future' simply by inviting you into our house?"
She nodded at him, seemingly oblivous to the blow she had just dealt him, and hurried after her family.
His legs shaking, Harry stumbled back to his table and let himself fall onto his chair.
Perhaps he should have felt some sort of triumph, of victory and vindictiveness, that he'd made the Proud Malfoy Family get up and dash off at the mere sight of him, leaving the grounds to him, but all he felt was that all-engulfing emptiness that had been created by Draco's absence.
Harry peered out of the window and sighed. For weeks now, the weather had been matching his mood – wafts of mist that wrapped themselves like a cloak around everything within eyesight, muffled every sound, and made one shiver from the damp and cold within a few minutes' exposure.
"Have you heard from him?"
That sentence, in all its possible variations from pitying to probing to 'mate, let's face it, he's always been a silly bugger', seemed to be his new motto. The Man Who Was Hoping for His Ex-Boyfriend to See Reason, great.
Unfortunately, the answer remained a resounding no. Draco did not return his owls; Draco seemed to have put a spell on his fireplace to prevent Harry from getting connected; Draco had even had the audacity to snub the portrait of Lupin Harry had sent over to talk to him; short of waylaying him on his way to work, Harry had tried every single means to get in contact with him over the past weeks.
With a deep sigh, Harry turned back to his desk and with a flap, he closed the lid on the last Dark Arts investigation file. He shoved the pile to the utmost corner of his desk.
"I thought we'd never see the end of this," he heard Pansy Parkinson's voice and looked up.
Her carefully made up face which had, according to no one less than Neville Longbottom, transformed from its former pudgyness into a quite fetching young woman's countenance, hovered over him. "What a turmoil this last search caused! Who would have thought that Brian Diggory of all people hosted such a stash of literature on – well," she grimaced, "I guess I'll never forget his face when we pulled the, uh, ones with the, hm, inappropriately dressed women from under the tomes on Ancient Transfiguration."
"Yeah," Harry grunted, squinting at her. She returned his gaze evenly, almost challenging, and for a second, anger boiled up in him as he rememebered her incessant insistance that they were on equal footing, thoroughly disregarding his higher rank. Typical, he thought, instead of being grateful that she'd been given the chance to –
"You're a seriously good Auror, Parkinson," he heard himself say to his own surprise.
"Why, thank you, Potter," she said with a hint of amusement, but when he looked up in suspicion, he found her actually smiling at him.
"Are you going to pull an all-nighter?" She swished her wand, causing the stack of files to glide through the room and disappear in one of the huge cabinets, and then reached for her robe. "I'm off."
"I'll – I guess I'll go through the staff member evaluation once more, I've really got to hand it in tomorrow, in order not to unleash the wrath of the wizarding world's most ferocious and fearsome being unto me."
Pansy laughed. "Poor Mrs Thickey, how can you say such things about our dear secretary?"
Harry pulled a face and gave a low groan, burying his face in his folded arms. "I really need to finish these reports today."
Pansy nodded and huddled herself in her voluminous robe. "See you tomorrow, then."
"Mh?" Puzzled, Harry raised his head. Pansy was standing in the doorframe, her head tilted to one side, her teeth working her lower lip as if she were unsure whether to proceed or not.
"Everything's going to be allright."
Harry frowned at her, but was only met with a tentative smile that, irrationally, made his whole body ache with pain even more.
"I don't know," he mumbled, almost to himself. "If I only knew how - if I only could get the chance to speak with him, could meet him somewhere where the presumptuous git has no chance but listen to me."
Pansy nodded wistfully, and gently shut the door after her.
Mr Harry Potter
12, Grimmauld Place
Dear Mr Potter,
Please be my guest at a Celebration for my husband, Mr Lucius Malfoy's Fiftieth Birthday on October 20th, starting at 3 pm, at the Manor.
R.V.S.P. by October 10th
Formal attire requested