The Leaky Cauldron wasn't dirty, exactly, but the worn floor and hard wax shine to the tables was just as painfully vulgar as grime, and the windows had a haze of smoke. Shoppers finishing their day out mingled with workers starting their evening. Potter had staked out one of the high, narrow tables in the corner. It would be comfortable for two; later in the evening, a group might give up on seats and squeeze in a third, or even fourth.
Potter already had a drink -- a dark pint of beer -- and he was chatting easily with a flustered-looking, matronly witch. Draco considered walking out again. Why was he here, anyway? Yes, being seen with Potter might help his social standing, but not with anyone he cared about.
A second woman walked up and greeted Potter with much fuss, and Draco suddenly considered the other side of that. How would Potter's fans react to him? Smirking, he sauntered across the room. Potter noticed him when he was quite close, and smiled with relief -- not a reaction Draco had ever inspired in him before.
"Hello, Harry," he said casually, setting his hat to one side of the little table. "Sorry I'm late."
Harry's smile twitched. The witches were too busy being horrified to notice. "No problem," Potter answered, with only a little rise in pitch indicating a reaction to Draco's use of his name. "I was just talking with these women about Glenda's foster placement effort."
"Ah, of course," Draco said, adopting the touch of concern that might be appropriate for whatever it was that Potter was talking about. He smiled at the wide-eyed witches. "If you ladies don't mind...."
With subservient nods to Harry and frightened looks at him, they stepped back and then skittered off.
"Well," Potter said, "Draco. Have a seat."
Smirking, Draco settled onto the stool. "I was hoping to weigh my status of pariah against yours as demi-god, but the results seem inconclusive."
Potter snorted. "I doubt that most people think as badly of you, or as well of me, as you think."
"I am quite certain they do."
Potter twisted his glass in its wet circle on the table top. "My experience is that it's never everybody. It's the loud ones, which feels like everybody when they distrust you."
"What would you know about people distrusting you?"
Potter raised his eyebrows. "Parselmouth during the whole 'Heir of Slytherin' thing? Wait, does 'Potter stinks' sound familiar?
Draco waved off the comment with a strange twinge of embarrassment. Yes, it had been juvenile, but he'd only been fourteen! Of course, that meant Potter had also been only fourteen. "I suppose," he said. "But you were still important."
"Not something I care about," Potter said, and sounded like he actually meant it.
A young witch came by and asked Draco what he wanted. Clearly, he wouldn't be able to afford anything in that category, so he gestured at Harry's beer and said he would have the same. That got rid of her, but still left him sitting with Potter.
"So," he asked, "what was that thing you were talking about when I arrived? Fosterage?"
"Oh, you didn't know?"
"I have no idea."
"You should pay more attention to the news, then," Potter chided. Draco couldn't tell if he was joking or not. "I made the same mistake -- ignoring it when I was-- Well, after I saw Cedric killed and Voldemort return. When things are bad, it's important to know what's going on."
"I read the paper! The main articles and the financial news, at least, and a few other things." He wasn't about to say that most of those other things had Harry's photo over them.
"And after Cedric, I scanned for news of Death Eater attacks. No good. Anyway, this would be further back, or in Society."
"That is far too depressing."
"And financial news isn't?" Potter dared to ask. Before Draco could catch his breath to answer, he had moved on. "Anyway, do you know Glenda Fortwright? She's a Wizengamot member from Wessex, and has been working with me, and Hermione, and Andromeda Tonks -- oh, she'd be your aunt, though I'm sure you never met her -- on assistance for war orphans. Glenda and I have been working on encouraging fosterage for school age orphans who may be too old to find adoptive parents, but really only need summer homes and a bit of guidance during the school year."
"Don't get so sarcastic." This time, Potter looked like his public image -- righteous and on the edge of dangerous. "We're working with at least four kids you would have known. Brent Rosier? Daphne Greengrass? Harriet and Edward Mossley?"
Draco swallowed hard. He accepted a beer from the barmaid without really seeing it. "Oh. Ours too?"
"They're children. I'm not going to punish them for their parents' politics -- or even crimes, though with three of those, it seems to have just been politics."
"Daphne's not that young."
"She's younger than us, and we were too young!"
Draco looked down. Slowly, he nodded. "Yes." Tentatively, he took a sip of the beer. It wasn't bad -- much less bitter than he had expected, and he didn't know enough about beer to have opinions about the quality of it. He cleared his throat. "How's Granger?" he asked. Although he tried to sound casual, that got him an odd look from Potter.
"Fine. How's Goyle?"
It wasn't a parallel question.
"I wouldn't know. We hardly speak to each other."
"Oh. Too bad. Um, Hermione's doing well. She has a few tutors and will be taking her N.E.W.T.s in the spring." Potter grinned. "At least, that's the plan. As dedicated as she is to studying, she keeps getting distracted by social missions -- like the fosterage project."
"And you?" Draco asked.
"What, will I take my N.E.W.T.s?"
Shrugging, Potter delayed with a swallow of his beer. "I don't know. I don't need a job, and I feel like I'm being productive now, and studying never felt productive to me, the way it does to her." Pushing back his fringe -- the scar was fainter now, Draco thought -- he sat back. "What about you? Do you like Slug and Jigger's?"
"What would I like?" Draco snapped. "Working as a shop boy? Being sneered at by anyone who happens to walk in off the street?"
Potter blinked at him. "I meant working in Potions, of course," he said, looking almost hurt.
"Oh." Derailed, Draco coughed slightly. "It's fine," he said, trying not to think of how his robes smelled at the end of the day. He hoped his Freshening charm had been sufficient; he could still smell pickled Murtlap, but the odor might be just in his nostrils.
"Well, you always were brilliant at it." Potter tilted his beer and looked into it. "But you don't seem enthusiastic."
"Let's say it is not what I was expecting." Bitterly, Draco looked at the young man across from him. When had Potter become self-possessed and socially at ease? "You were impressive yourself, your last year." Had you always been good? Did Professor Snape invent your incompetence for his own ends?
Potter chuckled. "I had help."
"Oh?" That was enough scandal to draw Draco out of his funk. "Not from Granger!"
"Oh no! No, that old book I had? It was Snape's, from when he was a student. It had the most brilliant stuff written in the margins, and most of the formulas improved."
"That's cheating!" Draco couldn't decide whether to be outraged or impressed.
Potter, rather that launching into Gryffindor indignation, waved the matter off. "Yeah, Hermione thought that too, but I don't see why. It was just like having a second text -- but one with a nasty sense of humor, and entertaining enough to read."
"Still! Did he know?"
"Slughorn or Snape? Slughorn didn't. Snape found out--" Potter's eyes shifted away and his voice dropped. "Um -- That spell I cut you with? That was his. I didn't know what it would do."
For a moment, Draco could think of nothing but pain and blood. He clenched his hand around his beer, feeling the sturdy, smooth glass, and forcing himself to focus. "So you thought you'd try it out?" he managed, sounding breathless even to himself. "On me? Most people experiment on bugs and such, you know."
His face red, Potter nodded. "In my defense, I'd been tortured by Cruciatus before. I reacted. And I'd been wondering about this spell, because it was labeled 'for enemies.' I hadn't planned to try it on you."
Draco stared. "You're rather not nice, you know."
"Sometimes," Potter admitted, so quietly that the word was nearly lost in the chatter of people around them. "I do try, though."
Draco lifted his chin. "I wouldn't know."
"No, I suppose you wouldn't."
If Potter had argued, Draco might have been able to ignore the memory of Potter coming back through the flames for him.
"I'm not sure you're suited for politics," he said desperately, and to his surprise, that worked. Potter shook off his melancholy and looked up with a wry smile.
"And you're not well suiting to waiting on customers," he countered. "Though you seemed to enjoy selling me things."
Draco waved the comment off. "That's just shopping by proxy. Anyone
Thankful of the distraction, Draco looked Potter up and down. His outfit really was awful -- cheap street robes open enough to show a shapeless Muggle shirt. "Ah. That ensemble isn't to make the Weasel feel better, then?"
"Prat!" Potter reached across the table and cuffed him on the arm, but not hard. "Show a little respect!"
"For what?" Draco sneered, and Potter was suddenly serious.
"For the man who saved Goyle's life," he said quietly. Draco had to look away.
"Sorry," he forced out, his face heating. "He only did it for you, though."
Potter was silent. Draco dared a glance up, and found a sour look on Potter's face. His old rival set his glass down as if he might push it away and stand up.
"I-- I'm being rude again, aren't I?"
Potter snorted. "Among other things."
"Mother was furious at me -- after you left. I hadn't thanked you."
"You still haven't," Potter said, lifting his chin. It changed his rumpled look from unkempt to dangerous.
"Thank you," Draco said quickly, "for returning my wand. For speaking up for my family, too, although I don't understand why you did."
Potter rubbed his forehead, darkening his scar and then hiding it behind his fringe. "I didn't want...." He sighed. "You'd had a hard enough time."
"My father had threatened you -- tried to kill you. I had threatened you."
"Yes, but... Look, you were young. You didn't really understand, did you? What he was like?"
"Of course not!"
"Well, there," Potter said, as if he had proved his point. "When you did.... Well, for you, that was brave."
Draco knew a backhanded compliment when he heard one. "But my father...."
"I didn't want you to lose him. I didn't want you all to lose each other. If we insist on justice, how many people our age will be alone?"
They sat in silence. Potter's heated assertion, which Draco would have brushed off from a campaign event, was right; many of Draco's classmates would be without families, or at least without fathers, if everyone who had supported the Dark Lord went to prison -- and most would vow vengeance.
"Some people will hate you anyway," he said softly. "It's ... embarrassing. Being beholden to someone's good graces, I mean."
Potter shrugged. "That's what you have to live with then."
Draco couldn't decide if the silence became more or less awkward.
"So," Potter said doggedly. "You hate my clothes, do you?"
"They are execrable," Draco said baldly, leaping on the change of subject. "You probably lose votes for Shacklebolt every time someone lays eyes on you."
Potter, far from being offended, grinned. "Do you really think so?"
"Well, no," Draco admitted. "But in certain quarters, yes. You accentuate the fear that he will bring further vulgarity to the office -- not himself, of course," he added hastily, for the former Auror's sartorial flair was widely acknowledged, "but in those he might appoint."
Brow furrowing, Potter looked like he might be considering this. Draco, who had expected scorn or defiance, waited nervously. "Want to take me shopping then?" Potter suggested, and then winced. "Oh -- sorry. I suppose you're working during shop hours."
"Really!" Draco exclaimed. "It is possible to buy robes after five, you know. Otherwise, everyone in the Ministry would be wearing clothes as ill-fitting as yours."
"Well, is there any place open now?"
"If you know where to go, yes."
"All right, then."
Potter stood up, but Draco sat back, his arms crossed over his chest. "Why should I help you?" he asked, trying to ignore the tantalizing prospect of choosing Potter's clothes -- and possibly seeing him in fewer of them.
"Hm." Looking amused, Potter considered this. "Five galleons an hour, to no more than fifteen? And if both Kingsley and Hermione compliment me on at least two outfits, I'll give you a bonus of another ten."
It was painful that such a sum was irresistible. "It's a deal, Potter," Draco returned, trying not to feel like a whore.
"Potter? I thought I was Harry now."
Draco wished the idiot would stop sounding flirtatious. It was completely unfair.
By the end of the evening, Draco had fifteen galleons, Harry had three complete outfits and a number of complimentary pieces, and Draco had grown used to calling Potter 'Harry.'" Had his bonus relied entirely on Shacklebolt, he would have been certain of it, but he had no idea of Granger's tastes. As she was from a Muggle family, there was really no telling.
"Wait a moment."
Draco had been about to reach for the Floo powder when Harry stopped him. He was rummaging in his shopping. "Here," he said, holding out a rectangle wrapped in tissue paper. "That shirt you liked."
Draco looked at it suspiciously. Brushed silk of French blue, in a slim, tailored cut.... "Why?" he demanded, and Harry rolled his eyes.
"Because you'll look lovely in it," he said sarcastically.
Draco took the shirt, but he wondered if this was just Potter's way of taunting him.
When he got home, his mother was sitting on the bench in the entrance hall. She had already set her hat aside, and was embracing him as soon as he finished brushing the ash off his clothes. "Draco! I had expected you hours ago!"
"I..." Somehow, that hadn't crossed his mind. "I'm sorry, Mother. I should have flooed."
"Oh, I'm not saying you can't have fun, darling!" She turned her face slightly away, looking back with a sly smile. "Was it fun?"
"Almost. Potter wanted help buying clothes."
"Oh, good! H--"
A wet cough interrupted her, alerting Draco to the presence of his father. Apparently, the mention of Harry Potter had been enough to make him choke on his drink.
"Draco...." he began helplessly, but Draco wasn't about to be scolded for consorting with the enemy -- not when it had been his most enjoyable outing in almost a year, and profitable, besides.
"Don't say it," Draco growled, and stalked off to bed.
He couldn't sleep until he had wanked to the thought of Potter in those close-cut burgundy trousers. He was trying to humiliate Draco by soliciting him as a whore, not understanding that Draco had no resources to court a wife and might as well go for a romp. Draco feigned reluctance until Harry was pressing him down on a broom, flying amidst flashes of fire and lightning, too far gone to let up until he had given Draco exactly what he wanted.
His ten minutes of indulgent, absurd fantasy left Draco embarrassed at the thought of seeing Harry again. It was a relief when he didn't come into the shop the next day.
It was almost a relief the day after that.
It was nerve-wracking by the end of the third day. Draco wondered if Potter was doing this deliberately. That was how he had taken down the Dark Lord, wasn't it? Pretending to be an innocent victim, dragging things out until even Draco's mother played along, and then taking him by surprise.
It was a clever theory. If Lord Voldemort hadn't occupied his home for months, Draco might even have believed it.
Nor had his job improved. The eyelid gel in the blue jars had indeed sold better, which Draco would have thought to elevate his standing in the shop. Instead, Mr. Jigger seemed even more likely to keep him out front, hardly letting him brew at all. It was actually more pleasant -- the customers seemed to be growing accustomed to him, and he had leeway to rearrange the stock during the lulls -- but it was also humiliating.
Granger came by that afternoon, picking up Pixie wings, pickled Mandrake, Opaleye shell, and a blue jar of eyelid gel.
"Hi, Malfoy," she said, more brightly than Draco was comfortable with. She lifted the jar. "Harry says this stuff is brilliant. Has he been by here?"
"Not today." Draco thought he managed to sound quite normal, considering.
"Oh. Well, he might be. I lost him in Flourish and Blott's, so he's around somewhere. Do you have any Bruise-B-Gone?"
While fetching the potion, Draco wondered if Granger would tell him why Harry-- why Potter had been so friendly. She was a Gryffindor; perhaps a moderately direct approach would work best.
"I'm curious about something," he said, as he packed up her items to carry.
"Harry..." He said the name hesitantly, but she didn't seem surprised or upset -- "has been being, well, rather agreeable."
"And?" she prompted.
"I was wondering if you might have any insight as to his reasons."
She made a face, but it resolved into almost a smile. "Harry's reactions to you have never had anything to do with reason, if you ask me. He just tacks those on as he requires. This time, at least, he's not ranting about you, and he doesn't have any House Elves pressed into tailing you, as far as I know, so you're probably safe." She picked up her package. "Oh, and that sage shirt with the russet trousers and jacket is just lovely on him! I'm quite impressed."
"Anyone could see that he'd look good in that," Draco scoffed.
"Right, but you got him to wear it. Do you not mind helping the Rebuilding Britain party, or is that not a concern?"
Rolling his eyes, Draco turned away. "I'm trying to avoid politics, Granger."
"Well, good. In general, I think people should be civically involved, but in your case, I'll make an exception."
Nose in the air, she departed, leaving Draco wondering if Harry had set House Elves to spying on him at some previous time.
Harry Fucking Potter finally strolled in, minutes before closing. He was looking quite well put together, which was hardly surprising, as Draco had selected everything he was wearing.
"Hi, Draco," he said breezily, as if they had always been friends. "How've you been?"
"Lovely," said Draco coldly, which made Potter cough down a laugh and jerk his head to the side, flicking his fringe away from his eyes. It was hardly worth wasting intonation on the prat. "What do you need this time?"
"Oh, nothing." Potter reached into a pocket hidden in the drape of his burgundy robes and pulled out a small purse. Draco could hear Mr. Jigger thumping up the stairs.
"Maybe this isn't--"
Harry's eyes darted to the opening door, and for a moment, Draco thought he would tuck the purse away. Instead, he continued, projecting more clearly. "Just letting you know you won our bet," he said, tossing the purse down on the counter, where it hit with the satisfyingly heavy clunks of muffled galleons.
"Why Mr. Potter," Jigger said warmly, as if he hadn't tacitly favored purebloods for all of Draco's life, "how good to see you in my little shop. Mr. Malfoy is treating you well, I hope?"
"Oh, definitely." On the side away from Jigger, Harry winked at Draco. "Don't put him on commission, though -- you'll go broke."
"Mm, yes. I've noticed that he has a talent for selling things."
Draco wished they wouldn't make fun of him. He told himself he was going to walk away, just as soon as the clock moved one more click over, and his hours were up. Someday, he would have a position in which people respected his talents, and then they'd both regret this.
"Have time for a beer or two?" Potter asked, and Draco drew himself up haughtily.
Harry looked almost disappointed, and then satisfyingly awkward. "I was hoping you might give me some advice," he said. "We're hosting a benefit gala -- auction and ball, that sort of thing -- and the decorations--"
"And you wish me to set aside all political considerations and assist you?"
"It's not that political."
"If you're involved, it's political."
"Fine. I suppose you're right to some extent, but you didn't mind dressing me, so I'd hoped you'd be willing to consider something further."
Draco thought quickly. Was this an offer of hire? Could he accept that? He no longer cared, really, what party prevailed, or whom they chose as Minister, but if his father found out, the betrayal might finish him off.
"I might have time to discuss it tomorrow," he said grudgingly. That would give him the evening to decide how far he was willing to go. "I'm expected at home, quite soon."
Harry brightened. "All right. Better go then. Narcissa isn't someone to keep waiting."
Turning almost before the words were out of his mouth, he left Draco staring at the closing door.
Draco had set the fifteen galleons aside for normal provisions, but he decided the ten should be for frivolities. Retaining five for himself, he went to the butcher and spent much of the rest on a beef rib joint for Sunday. It would make a nice change from chicken and fish.
Indeed, Mippy exclaimed over the prize, and after his shower, Draco sauntered down to dinner with a feeling of accomplishment, ready to face another breaded fillet of sole.
"How was your day, darling?" his mother asked, as he tasted the chilled potato soup. She was wearing a jaunty green velvet hat decorated with spatters of gold and the eye of a peacock feather.
Draco shrugged. "About as usual."
"Did Harry stop by?"
"Mother!" Draco darted a quick look at his father, but the man was steadily eating his soup, as if his wife had not just mentioned the heart of the opposition with easy familiarity.
"Well, those burgundy robes were so elegant on him. Of course, it made more sense when he told me they were your choice. I told them he must wear them to the upcoming benefit. Do you think you could coax him to a stylist before then?"
Draco's throat choked with the sheer number of questions that wanted to come out. How had his mother seen Harry today? He didn't think she went out, although that possibility was certainly less alarming than that of Harry visiting the Manor while he was away. And why would she want a liberal Muggle-loving half-blood to look his best for a benefit?
"Benefit?" he managed dumbly.
Mippy took soup bowls as his mother nodded brightly. "For Glenda's fosterage project, you know. Merlin knows that she and I have scarcely ever had a cause in common, but here one is!" She sighed, readjusting her hat. "Harry's invited me to attend, of course, but I'm not certain that I'm up to it."
"Oh, go, Mother!" Draco urged, schooling himself not to look at his father. This went beyond politics. He didn't care if the man disapproved, if it got his mother back into society. "You can wear one of those lovely hats."
"If it wasn't for Andri...." She sighed. "Perhaps I will, darling. Since I've donated two of them."
His father moved, and Draco expected an explosion, but he was just setting down his wine and reaching for the main serving platter. "I hardly think your former sister will assault you in public, my dear," he rasped, as he lifted the cover from a magnificent roast bird. "Pheasant, anyone?"
"Pheasant!" Draco exclaimed. "How did we get that?" He had thought pheasant was more expensive than chicken.
His father sat back with more confidence than Draco had seen him all year. "I took a walk this morning," he said casually. His eye took on a once-familiar dangerous glint. "Startled it."
Draco blinked. Of course there were wild pheasant on the grounds, and the bird was where the meat came from. He gazed at the crisp, caramel skin of the bird on the table, his mouth watering. They had deer as well, which meant venison. And didn't they have apple trees by the north wall?
"Oh." Recovering his manners, he nodded. "It looks delicious."
It was delicious, but Draco had recalled the conversation and could scarcely swallow around his worries. After a few bites, he dared to give one of them voice.
"Mother. Harry wanted my advice on a benefit. This one, do you think?"
"You didn't ask?"
"We didn't really have time for details. I was assuming it was some Rebuilding Britain function, which would be problematic, of course."
His mother lifted a delicate hand dismissively. "I don't see why. They would hardly be worse than the alternatives."
"But Mother! They support non-discrimination protections for Muggleborns, and--"
His father set his cutlery down with a clatter.
"Draco," his mother said plainly. "The world has changed."
"I know," Draco whispered, staring at his plate. They were going to start shouting at each other. There was no chance that Father would ignore this.
"Harry thinks he could work quite well with you. I believe you should listen to his offer and give it real consideration."
Draco couldn't stop himself. He turned to his father. The brief swagger from his hunting prowess had vanished beneath the haunted mien that had clung to him since Azkaban, and he looked at Draco like something he had lost. Worse yet was the way his mouth started to open and then closed again, as if Draco didn't know that his father would be horrified to have him working for the enemy. As if silence would help.
"Say it!" he snapped, his patience finally breaking.
For a moment, his father's eyes closed, that terrible weakness flooding his face, and then they opened, and his chin lifted, his eyes narrowing almost as they used to when Draco was about to get a scathing reprimand.
"You would be a fool not to seize this opportunity."
Draco coughed. His breath had caught on nothing.
"You want me to help Kingsley Shacklebolt get elected Minister?" Draco stared. "He hates us! He cited you in at least one speech as an example of dedicated and ferocious promotion of a pervasive wrong."
"Yes." His father's chin lifted. His eyes looked almost clear. "He was right. It was a folly. I was a fool. There is no reason for you to drown clinging to a golden anchor."
Shaken, Draco looked away. He felt he had indeed lost an anchor, and been cut adrift. "I'll have to think about it," he said, pushing back from the table. "Excuse me."
"Draco!" his mother appealed, as he came to his feet.
"No, Mother." He forced himself to breathe. "Have Mippy set some dinner aside for me. I can't enjoy it right now."
As the door closed, he heard glass shatter behind him.
The Four of Cups, by its nature, is not a card that offers a conclusion. However, stories should. At this point, therefore, I offer four epilogues. Chose the one you like best.
Potter had paused by where Draco was setting out new tropical stock -- hippocampus and mermaid scales, runespoor eggshells (eggs and two heads were secured behind the counter), and parrot tree buds that squawked if he squeezed them too tightly.
"If you're looking Alertness Elixir, you know where it is."
Potter sighed. "Right. So that's not why I'm standing here."
Draco glanced back. "Look, Potter -- I told you 'no'. Clearly, your man will become Minister, but that doesn't mean I want to have had anything to do with it."
"Okay." Potter's shoes squeaked on the floor as he shifted. "I, er, I'm running for a Wizengamot seat."
"Right." He sighed again. "Look. Your mum's backed off on the hat thing--"
"I have never in my life called Mother 'mum.'"
"Fine. Narcissa had an offer in fashion design -- some fancy boutique that wanted to sell her originals, and she won't take it because she says it upsets you."
Draco actually twisted to glare at him. "It upsets me."
"Because it's bad enough having one of us in trade, and I won't have her demean herself that way. I can take care of things."
Potter was silent. Draco waited for him to argue, to ask why he was still here, to ask if he was a journeyman yet. He didn't. After a minute, Draco heard his footsteps fading away.
Draco paused at the window of the shop, looking in an almost familiar stylish hat that sat jauntily on a silver goblet. If it wasn't one of his mother's creations, it was by one of her imitators. He looked to the brim and found the crystal that would dangle over the left ear. A genuine Narcissa Malfoy hat, he thought, with a little sniff. He had known they were sold in Paris, but that wasn't the same as seeing one here.
The Fosterage Project Benefit auction had been a breakthrough for his mother. She had told Draco that was why she had contributed to it in the first place -- as a way to establish herself as a designer. It might even have been true.
But then there had been his father's hunting accident -- unless it was suicide. After all, who was stupid enough to try to fish by firing curses at sunlit water? And shortly thereafter had come the day that Draco was fired for calling a customer a stupid old biddy. He had Apparated onto the grounds at noon to find Potter sitting on the bench swing in the rose garden, with his robes rucked up, and his head back, and Draco's mother riding him hard. He had no idea whether that had started before his father had died or after, but when he had raged at them both, an offensively unflustered Potter had taken him aside, told him not to upset his mother, and suggested he take a vacation.
So here he was, vacationing on Potter's money. He wasn't sure he would ever go back.
Ron Weasley grabbed Draco by the collar and shoved him up against the chapel door. "Stop insulting my sister."
"There's nothing wrong with her--"
"You just don't think she's good enough for Harry," Ron mocked. "Well she is, so shut it."
"To be fair, I hardly consider anyone good enough for Harry," Draco pointed out. He didn't even consider himself good enough for Harry, he knew, so the bride was out of the question. "I recognize that Ginevra is at least intelligent and a good Quidditch player, so I don't fully despise her."
"How generous of you."
"Yes, I thought so myself. Now," he said, drawing himself up, "don't throw people into the flowers, or even the ribbons. The future Mrs. Potter and I may not get along, but she'll hardly be grateful if you make a mess of her wedding before it starts."
Ron Weasley growled, but he backed off. "And it wouldn't look good for your business, I expect."
With that, he turned and stalked away.
Two hundred galleons, Draco told himself. You're getting two hundred galleons for this, and Harry still likes you, and if you don't fuck it up, it will bring in business for life. You can survive eight hours of the best man.
"Do you regret it?"
You couldn't tell Harry's eyes were green in this light. The celebratory magical fireworks, exploding harmlessly all around them, made them gleam with every color of the rainbow.
"Not at all." Draco took a deep breath, trying to force his heartbeat to steady. "I feel ... free."
Harry stepped closer. In the shadow of Draco's face, his eyes were black. "Good." He glanced out the open center of the platform. Think anyone can see us here?"
"Pfft. The crew, if they bothered to look."
"Good," Harry repeated, and he leaned closer. Draco started to twist his head, thinking Harry intended to whisper something to him, but Harry caught his chin and guided it back. Their lips met, and Draco's brain melted. It wasn't until Harry stopped that he was able to register Harry Potter kissed me in the wings for the Rebuild Britain victory celebration, and it took several seconds more to add the more sober in secret.
This time, Harry leaned to the side, and it was to whisper -- or at least, to speak at a volume that would have been drown out at any further range by the cheering, now that Kingsley was walking on to the makeshift stage.
"I'd do it in public," he said. "Just so you know."