Heart’s Desire 1/3

Title: Heart’s Desire
Series: Heart & Soul
Series Order: 1
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Harry Potter
Relationship: Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy
Genre:  Fantasy, Romance, First Time, Soulmates, Alternate Universe
Warnings:  Explicit Sex, Explicit Language, Discussion-Murder, Discussion-Child Abuse
Word Count: 82,200
Beta: Ladyholder
Summary:  Two years after the war, Harry is heartsore and lonely. Agreeing to marry Ginny Weasley just seemed like the thing to do, but their marriage application is rejected by the ministry because he has an active soulmate record in the Book of Souls.

– – – –

Chapter 1

“With my apologies, Mr. Potter, we won’t be able to accept the marriage application you’ve submitted.” The woman carefully pushed the parchment back across the counter, and Harry was so stunned that he couldn’t figure out what to say.

“What do you mean it can’t be accepted?” Ginny demanded furiously, and Harry cleared his throat.

He really didn’t want her throwing another tantrum in public. She was prone to them, and it was deeply embarrassing. Her fingers clenched on his arm, and he was relieved to have the dragonhide lining on the uniform robe he was wearing. Ginny had stupidly long nails and was often careless with them.

The clerk glanced between them and cleared her throat. “It appears that you have a record in the Book of Souls, Mr. Potter. Legally, you can’t get married as long as the record is active.”

“The Book of Souls?” Harry questioned.

“Yes, you have a magical soulmate,” she said patiently. “It’s a rather ­old-fashioned concept and so uncommon that most people don’t bother to visit the book these days. It’s also led to extremely hostile situations in families, especially amongst…” She trailed off with a glance toward Ginny.

“Pure-bloods,” Harry said. “I can see how bigotry would be a problem. Thank you for your time, Mrs. Clifford.”

“Wait,” Ginny hissed. “How do we clear this ridiculous situation up?”

Mrs. Clifford blinked in surprise but focused entirely on Harry as she spoke. “If you still wish to go through with the marriage—you’ll need to go the Book of Souls to discover who your soulmate is. Then it will be a simple matter of rejecting them to close the record in the book. Your marriage application to Miss Weasley can then be filed with no issues.”

“Reject my soulmate,” Harry murmured. “It’s that simple?”

“Quite,” Mrs. Clifford said stiffly. “A soulmate bond is built on mutual desire and consent, Mr. Potter.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Ginny said hotly. “He’s not going to have any sort of bond with this witch.” She tugged on his arm. “Let’s go down to that stupid book and find out who this bint is.”

Harry let his arm drop, so she had no choice but to release him and took a deep breath as she huffed dramatically. “Have a very good day, Mrs. Clifford.”

The older witch smiled then. “You as well, Mr. Potter.” She closed the book in front of her and walked away with a pointed look in Ginny’s direction.

“Let’s go, Harry.”

“You won’t be able to enter the DOM without an appointment,” Harry said stiffly. “I’ll go look and meet you in your father’s office.”

She frowned at him. “I could ask Daddy to….”

“Ginny, I’m an adult and don’t need anyone to hold my hand while I read a book.” Harry took a deep breath as tears welled in her eyes. He knew they weren’t real. He honestly couldn’t even recollect the last time she’d cried in earnest. But she certainly made a habit of crying to get her way.

They parted ways at the lifts, and he ignored the disappointed look she sent him as the doors closed between them. He walked to the private lift that would take him down to the Department of Mysteries, where he’d worked for the last six months. A cursory glance at his watch told him that most of the department would still be out for lunch, so at least he wouldn’t have a large audience for what was surely about to become a scandal.

He leaned against the wall and, out of the corner of his eye, watched several memos shoot past him in the glass tube running along the wall outside of the lift. The window in the lift had always amused him as he considered it a bit of magical showmanship. A fourth memo shot out of the slot as he exited the lift and sailed down the hall toward Croaker’s office. By the time he made it to the Book of Souls, Esmeralda Forth and Croaker were standing outside the door.

Madam Forth was the Mystery Keeper for the department and had been for over 50 years, and Croaker had become director of the DOM in the early 70s, but Harry wasn’t sure of the exact date. He made a face at them both, and Madam Forth laughed a little.

Croaker leaned on the wall and crossed his arms. “Hell, lad.”

“I don’t even know what to do with this,” Harry admitted. “Hermione told me to look at the book—shortly after she did—but I told her that I really didn’t want to unless it was going to tell me she was my soulmate.” He pursed his lips. “She assured me that she didn’t have a record at all and wasn’t disappointed. If I found out she’s lied to me—I’m going to have to trot off to Australia and tell her about herself in front of her girlfriend.”

“Her girlfriend could probably kick your arse,” Croaker pointed out.

“True,” Harry agreed and sighed. “Still, it would be easy if it was her because I’d know what to do with all this mess. She’s an unrepentant lesbian.”

Croaker laughed. “Heard that your almost-fiancée is upstairs throwing an unbecoming fit in her father’s office because you have a soulmate that isn’t her.”

“I don’t see how it ever could be—the only thing we have in common is that we’re both magical,” Harry said wryly. “Isn’t a soulmate supposed to be your perfect match?”

“As the legends say,” Madam Forth murmured. “It’s not so cut and dried as that; some would say that a soulmate is your mirror—a compliment to your magic and to your soul. Bonded souls are, often, considered truly gifted by Lady Magic herself, and it’s nothing to do with romantic notions.”

“What’s it to do with then?”

“It’s about Fate, Mr. Potter,” Madam Forth said. “And destiny. It’s about the path of your eternal soul. I believe you are very familiar with such things.”

“Such things cost me a lot,” Harry told her.

“Did they?” she questioned. “Or did you pay an unspeakable price because there were those who saw fit to interfere in matters that were none of their business?”

He leaned forward a bit and met her gaze. “One day, we’re going to have a conversation that doesn’t leave me feeling like an unprepared child.”

She patted his bearded cheek. “You wish, darling.”

Madam Forth took a step back and pulled a set of keys from her robe pocket. She opened the door that led to the Book of Souls and stepped back. “It’s a path you must walk alone.” She paused. “It’s symbolic.”

“Of what?”

“It’s potentially the last path you’ll ever have to walk alone, lad,” Croaker said. “That’s a gift in itself.”

Harry nodded and stepped into the hall. The walls were dark stone—dry and weathered. He knew the ministry was built on top of a much older structure, and the DOM was housed in the remnants of that long-destroyed stronghold. More than one theorist in the department believed they were walking on the very stones of the lost kingdom of Avalon. Harry didn’t know if he believed that, but the ancient magic that moved around him was hard to ignore.

The hall narrowed slightly as he walked, and the Elder Wand shifted in the holster on his wrist. He pushed his magic into it, and the wand calmed down. It made him question, once again, his decision to hide the fact that the wand had repaired itself and returned to him within a few months of the war ending. He probably should’ve reached out to Hermione to have a discussion about it, but she’d been at the International Academy of Magic at the time—learning all the things and falling hopelessly in love with an Australian witch named Quinn. Harry had honestly been too pleased for her to bring her back into his mess.

The book was on a pedestal in the center of a room lit only by torches.

“Dramatic,” Harry muttered.

“Necessary,” a voice corrected. “The magic is too heavy down here for the enchanted lamps the ministry uses.”

“I thought Fate was female.”

The man laughed, and a ghost shimmered into place on the opposite side of the book. “I’m not Fate, lad.”

Harry stared dumbfounded for a moment. He’d heard about the ghost, of course. Every person who went to work for the DOM heard about the Eternal Knight who refused to tell anyone his name. He was the root of the speculation about Avalon and the underground levels of the ministry.

“Hmmm.” He exhaled noisily. “Rumor has it that you haven’t appeared in about 50 years.”

“I meander about, and some people chose to keep conversations with me to themselves,” the ghost said and smiled. “I like to learn new things, see new people—you’re a really interesting one.”

“Don’t buy into that Boy-Who-Lived crap,” Harry muttered.

“Or the Man-Who-Conquered?” the ghost questioned. “How about the Chosen One?”

“How about just Harry?” he asked wearily and relaxed when the ghost nodded his agreement. “Do you always watch people open the book?”

“It’s a hobby,” the knight said. “Few visit these days—the ministry has made a habit of spreading it around that soul magic is meaningless and dying, but that’s just pure-blood propaganda. That little witch of yours is having a tantrum in the waiting area, by the way. Her father gave in and brought her down here along with his wife and that epically boring son of his.”

“Percy or Ron?” Harry questioned and grinned when the ghost laughed. “And she’s not my witch.”

“Percival. Ronald’s too lazy to even be boring. He only has a job because of his blood status.” The ghost shrugged. “He’s probably on his way down, too. He’ll do anything to avoid working.”

Harry nodded because he’d suspected as much and had worked hard to separate himself from Ron professionally. He didn’t know what it would take for that git to grow up, but he didn’t want to be around for the fall out of that situation. “What’s your name?”

The knight grinned. “You think you’re special enough to know?”

“I’ll take a vow on my magic to never reveal it,” Harry said seriously.

The ghost stared at him for a moment and inclined his head. “It’s Gawain, son of Lot, and no vow is required, Lord Peverell.”

Harry’s gaze narrowed. “Not just haunting the ministry, huh?”

Gawain grinned. “I get around. I understand why you’re hiding it. I would, too, in your circumstances. The last thing you need is an earldom slapped on top of your already ridiculous fame.”

“Gawain, son of Lot,” Harry repeated. “Knight of the Round Table?”

Gawain gave a short bow. “At your service.”

“No, sir,” Harry said. “I’m at yours.” He inclined his head as the ghost smiled. “Why are you here?”

“It’s my honor, duty, and privilege to guard what is left of my king’s domain,” Gawain said gravely.

“I understand,” Harry said and focused on the book. “Right.”

“It won’t hurt.”

“It’ll probably hurt a lot,” Harry protested.

“At one time, such a thing was considered the most beloved gift that magic could bestow on a man,” Gawain murmured. “I once stood where you stand—trembling and humbled speechless at being told the name of my soulmate. It was the most profoundly magical moment of my entire life.”

“And you’ve spent over a thousand years alone,” Harry said. “How is that a gift?”

“My soulmate is never far from me, lad,” Gawain said. “We are bound—by magic and Fate for eternity. He hasn’t appeared before anyone in the ministry since his death, but he lingers here—just as I do.”

“King of a land lost to myth and legend,” Harry murmured. “It’s Arthur, right?”

Gawain smiled.

“Loyalty to a king is one thing,” Harry said by way of an explanation and reached out with a shaking hand to touch the book. “Did you ever regret knowing? Could I reject my soulmate without seeing their name?”

“There is a way,” Gawain murmured. “But it is the loneliest path known to our kind, lad. You’d never be the same. It would carve the very heart out of you. No one deserves that.”

“Would it do the same to my soulmate, or would it just…set them free?” Harry questioned. “Do they know about me?”

“They would be free,” Gawain said in a subdued tone. “If they’ve already visited the book, they would forget that they ever had a soulmate. Neither of you will ever be granted such a connection again—not as long as your souls exist.”

“You mean if we’re reincarnated, we wouldn’t be reunited?” Harry questioned.

“I mean when you’re reincarnated—you would certainly be the most bitter of enemies,” Gawain explained. “You’d hate each other.”

“Has anyone done it?” Harry questioned.

“I’ve seen it happen,” Gawain said neutrally. “I wouldn’t wish such circumstances on my worst enemy.”

Harry let his hand fall on the book, and it started to glow. “I just…”

“Do you love the witch you intended to marry?”

“Honestly, no, but her family…expects it,” Harry admitted and shrugged when Gawain sighed. He lifted his hand, and the book opened.

“I never had children,” Gawain said as Harry averted his gaze to avoid the page. “But if I had a son, I’d want him to marry for love. I can’t imagine your father wishing anything different for you, Harry. Fate asked a terrible thing of you, and you did your duty. There must come a day when you live for yourself rather than for others. Let this be that day.”

“You must have been a very compelling man in life,” Harry said wryly and looked directly at the page. “Oh.” He took a deep breath. “Of course.”

Hadrian James Potter ~ Draconis Lucius Malfoy made perfect for each other by the eternal hand of Fate.

Perfect for each other. Harry exhaled as he traced the letters of Draco’s name with trembling fingers. Maybe he’d always known. That felt true in a way he’d never expected it to. The hostility between them in school had always been more hurtful than he’d wanted to admit. He lifted his hand away, and the book closed. Feeling a little overwhelmed, he walked to a wall and slid down it to sit on his bum. He said nothing when Gawain gamely joined him.

“Difficult to see?” Gawain questioned.

“I’m worried that there’s too much hurt between us for him to accept me,” Harry said hoarsely. He let his head fall back against the wall and closed his eyes. “What was it like? Being the soulmate of a king?”

“Difficult,” Gawain admitted. “He was married when it was revealed to us by Merlin. His wife reacted badly and insisted that I be dismissed from the Round Table despite the fact that we’d sworn ourselves to a chaste bond. When Arthur refused, she seduced the knight he favored above all but myself in revenge. He wasn’t blameless, but it broke Lancelot to be cast away by the king. Her infidelity humiliated Arthur, who’d done all he could to be honorable in our circumstances, but he couldn’t bring himself to see her executed for the betrayal, which is what the law demanded. He banished her from Avalon and ripped their marriage bond out of his magic with such force that it almost killed him.”

“Were you allowed to marry?” Harry questioned. “The legends don’t mention it.”

“Our oaths prevented it—we swore on our magic, Harry, to have a chaste relationship. It was the only honorable choice. The magic of Avalon resonated with his pain and the betrayal of his wife because he did truly love her. She loved him, too, but her jealousy drove her to make a terrible choice. Finally, the trauma of our separation and the destruction of his bond with Guinevere caused Avalon to fall apart. We spent our last night alive together—broke the oath that kept us apart, and we died with our magic.”

“That’s stupidly fucking tragic,” Harry said hotly. “This was not a great pep talk, for the record.”

Gawain laughed. “But we’ve existed and loved as we wish for over a thousand years—spirits bound to the last bit of Avalon to exist. I want for nothing, Harry.”

“Can you…” He flicked a hand. “Get laid in your state? The ghosts at Hogwarts can’t even eat a proper meal.”

Gawain reached out briefly and put his hand on Harry’s shoulder. It was gratifyingly solid. “We are not denied in death what we sacrificed in life.” He lifted his hand away. “Because that would be wretched.” He relaxed beside Harry. “What will you do?”

“Hell,” Harry said with a sigh. “I guess I’m going to go figure out how to talk my own damn soulmate into forgetting the first 15 years of our acquaintance.”

“And the young witch you’re about to disappoint?”

“Disappoint,” Harry murmured. “I mean, that’s certainly all it will be. It’s not she like actually loves me. She dumped me after she was recruited to play professional quidditch and flounced around the planet for the last seven years, dating one wizard after another. She only returned to Britain because she got dumped from the Harpies. She partied too much and didn’t train enough. This whole marriage thing was more her mother’s idea than hers, probably.” He sighed. “I was just….”

“Just what?” Gawain asked curiously.

“Bored, lonely, tired,” Harry said. “And like I said, it was what her family expected. Sometimes I wish I’d run away from Britain when Hermione did. She had the right idea.” He paused. “She often does.”

“Smart friends were always the worst,” Gawain said roughly. “They never hesitate to tell you about yourself, and that’s never great.”

“Agreed.” Harry stood and dusted off his bum. “Thanks for the chat. I won’t tell anyone you…were here.”

“Oh, I’m known for this sort of thing. Esmeralda would be quite surprised if I wasn’t mentioned, even if I haven’t made a habit of physically appearing. I had a very similar talk with your soulmate.”

“Did you give him the same advice?” Harry questioned.

“I did. He told me I was ridiculously hopeful for a dead man, said I was probably a Hufflepuff, then trotted off to drown his sorrows in a bottle of whiskey.”

– – – –

He very briefly considered flooing directly home to avoid Ginny and the whole mess that was brewing for him. Croaker had met him outside of the room to let him know he’d moved the Weasleys into one of the public meeting rooms then had left him to deal with it by himself. Harry really didn’t appreciate that at all. In an effort to put off the inevitable, he went in search of Draco Malfoy.

Annoyingly enough, the DOM research section was completely empty, and Draco’s office door was locked. The door offered to take a message in a posh tone that was so irritating that Harry briefly considered kicking it. Since that was immature, and the door would certainly report it, he just stalked off to his own office and stood there behind a locked door while he tried to get a clear mental picture of what he wanted. After a few minutes, he realized he wasn’t going to accomplish a damn thing without a conversation with Draco, which just left him to acknowledge that he didn’t want.

He closed his own office, set the door to announce his next scheduled working hours, but disallowed messages before walking away. As a public field operative, he wasn’t required to leave a way for anyone but Croaker to contact him, and that happened through the medallion he was wearing. He heard the Weasleys before he saw them—Ginny specifically. Since there was no sense in putting it off any longer, he entered the room and pulled the door shut so he could activate the privacy charms. There was no need to air his business to the entire department.

“Well?” Ginny demanded. “It took long enough! What’s her name?”

“I told you I would join you in your father’s office when I was finished with the Book of Souls, Ginevra.” Her mouth dropped open, and he realized that his tone had been quite cold despite his efforts. “I don’t appreciate you coming down here and making a scene. Your habit of public tantrums is frankly embarrassing.”

“Harry…how…dare….” She started to breathe heavily. “How dare you!”

“I dare a lot,” Harry said evenly. “And frankly, your behavior is often intolerable when you don’t get your way. You act like a child—a spoiled brat—on the damn regular, and neither of your parents seem inclined to point it out to you. As if your fit in the bank last week wasn’t bad enough. You humiliated Bill and me with your disgusting language. There was a 1000 galleon fine for that dragonshite.”

“I’m your future wife! That creature had no business telling me I couldn’t go to your vault!”

“You’ve been told repeatedly that you’ll never have access to my ancestral vault—no matter our marital status,” Harry snapped. “And stop calling my account manager a goddamned creature! The dverger are a sentient and sapient species! I don’t care what crap language this backward and bigoted country embedded into our treaties with the Horde, you look like an uneducated idiot when you say shite like that!” He waved a hand when she gaped at him in shock. “But that’s not why we’re here.”

“You won’t talk to me like that,” Ginny returned coldly. “And I don’t care what those goblins think of me.”

“Fine, I’ll be sure to tell my account manager that I’m no longer interested in paying your fine for the tantrum you threw in the lobby last week. Expect a bill from Gringotts.” He crossed his arms when she huffed.

“We’re getting married! All of your money is mine anyway! It doesn’t matter who pays that ridiculous fine. Now, who is this twat who’s supposedly your soulmate?” Ginny demanded.

“Is it Hermione?” Ron questioned, and Harry focused on him for the first time since he’d entered the room. Percy was sitting at the table, looking bored as fuck. He could almost appreciate that. “If it is—you need to reject her! Because she’s mine!”

“Hermione is a lesbian,” Harry said flatly. “She’s in Australia with her girlfriend, Ron, and has no intention of ever returning to Britain as long as she lives. She hates this country, and I don’t blame her one damn bit! She was instrumental in the defeat of Voldemort and was utterly ignored by the ministry for it. People actually protested when she was nominated for the Order of Merlin because she’s a Muggle-born. But for the record, if she was my soulmate and available, I would not reject her. She’s frankly one of the best people I know on this planet, and I would move mountains to make her happy. What you want in that equation wouldn’t mean a damn thing to me.”

Harry focused on Arthur Weasley, who looked older than he’d ever seen him. “Arthur, you look…tired. Are you ill?”

“Long day, lad,” Arthur said and smiled kindly. “Had to meet with the MET about some idiot wizard Muggle-baiting. He transfigured himself into….well…a werewolf and ran around Hyde Park.”

Harry snorted. “Sorry. That’s not funny.”

“It’s a little funny,” Percy muttered. “And this is a waste of my time. I don’t even know why I’m here.”

“You work in contract law,” Molly said. “Your sister needs you to help her with the marriage contract she’ll be signing with Harry as soon as they can register with the Marriage Authority.”

“What’s her name, Harry?” Ginny demanded. “Stop avoiding the question!”

“The name doesn’t matter,” Harry said simply. “And I won’t be sharing it with you.” He watched her face darken with fury. “You and I aren’t getting married, Ginny. It was a mistake to let this farce go this far.”

“Farce?” Molly demanded. “She’s your first love! You’re meant to be!”

“Meant to be? I’ve got a record in the Book of Souls that disagrees with that,” Harry snapped. “And no, actually, if we’re going to be real here, my first love was Hermione Granger. Thank Merlin, I outgrew that crush before she figured out she preferred witches.” He rolled his eyes when Ginny started to sob dramatically. “Can you stop with the fake tears? Honestly, it’s been getting on my last nerve for weeks.” He pinched the bridge of his nose when she wailed.

“Why are you talking to me this way?” Ginny demanded. “You said we could get married!”

“I’ve been placating you the last three months,” Harry said plainly, and her mouth dropped open. “I really don’t want to marry you, but I’ve been single a while, and when you came back to Britain, it seemed convenient. I’d like to have some kids.” He shrugged. “Your parents are distant cousins, which is pretty gross, but I could do worse on that front. I like most of your family and can tolerate the ones I find annoying. You’re decent looking, and I figured with patience I could probably teach you at least act like a lady in public.”

Percy snorted, and Arthur groaned.

“At the very least, I assumed I could bribe you to behave since I’d have maintained control over all of my money no matter what you think. But the thing is, Ginny, I’ve realized that this whole thing has been a waste of time. I don’t want to teach you how to be a better person or even a tolerable one in public. And getting your family in exchange for marrying you is actually a pretty terrible deal.”

“Wow,” Percy muttered. “But also agreed, she’s spoiled rotten, and her tantrums are mortifying. I’m regularly ashamed to admit I’m related to her.”

Harry was pretty convinced that Percy was ashamed to admit he was related to any of his family, but that was neither here nor there.

“Harry Potter! I won’t tolerate you disrespecting my daughter like this another minute. You’re going to sit down right now and write your so-called soulmate a rejection letter,” Molly hissed.

“Or what?” Harry questioned and watched her glare at him.

“You owe our family!” Molly shouted. “We supported you during the war! Fred died because of you!”

Harry exhaled sharply, and Percy lurched from his chair. “I ended a war that started before I was born, Molly Weasley. In no single fucking way am I responsible for anything that Tom Riddle or his followers did. If this country wasn’t full of cowards and bigots, he’d have been dead before I was ever born! Not a single person in the war died because of me. They died because of pure-blood politics. They died because of fear. They died because a bunch of half-arsed terrorists were allowed to run roughshod over this country. They died because our leadership was weak and stupid. They died because Dumbledore kept secrets and let Severus motherfucking Snape trot off with half the prophecy.

“But me? I was just a dumb kid who trusted the wrong people. I died for you! I died for all of you! So don’t you fucking stand there and tell me that I owe you a single thing! Don’t you stand there and blame me for Fred’s death when he wouldn’t have even been at Hogwarts if you hadn’t ordered him and George to go there to defend Ginny!” Molly jerked back like she’d been slapped.

“Yeah, George talks about that a lot when he’s drunk—about how they didn’t even know the school had been attacked until you floo’d them. Then when they got there, you ordered them to protect their sister when they would’ve better served the entire operation in the air on brooms.” Harry glared at her. “So, really, Molly. Fred died because of you and your obscene desire to coddle and shelter Ginny at any cost.”

He turned to stare at Ginny and found her staring at her mother in shock. “Ginny, I’m not going to reject my soulmate. You and I are not getting married. Period. End of discussion.”

“We…you…I love you,” Ginny said desperately.

“No, you don’t,” Harry said tiredly. “Hell, I don’t even think you like me, but you’re running out of money, and I come with a large bank vault.”

“I do love you!”

He shrugged. “Swear it on your magic.”

Her eyes darkened, and she glared at him. “Fuck you, you sorry bastard.”

“Congratulations, I think we’re finally on the same page,” Harry said.

“Is it true?” Percy demanded. “Mother? Did you order Fred and George to go to Hogwarts to protect Ginny? Why didn’t you just send her away?”

“She couldn’t leave the battle!” Molly shouted. “She had to stand with Harry! What would the papers have said about her leaving? They’d have called her a coward! They’d have said she wasn’t worthy of marrying him.”

“You risked George and Fred’s lives to….” Percy trailed off and closed his eyes. “All these years, you’ve been telling anyone that will listen that it’s Harry’s fault. You said the war went on too long. You said over and over again that Harry and Hermione should’ve figured out how to kill Riddle sooner. But Harry’s right—they were just a couple of kids. No wonder she ran from Britain the moment she could. I can just imagine the life you had planned out for Hermione Granger.” He took a deep breath. “The brightest witch of the age forced to take care of Ron’s lazy arse because he’s going nowhere fast, and everyone knows it. I’m glad I don’t have to witness such a disgusting thing.”

Harry watched Percy stalk out of the room, and after a moment, Arthur Weasley turned and left with his son with just a gentle, silent nod in Harry’s direction.

“If you don’t do the right thing, Harry Potter, I will make your life a living hell,” Molly told him plainly.

Harry laughed. “You don’t honestly think you scare me, right? You don’t have the money or the power to do a damn thing to me.”

“Mum, let’s go,” Ginny said.

“He has to….”

“Mum!” Ginny shouted. “Let’s go!”

Harry shoved his hands into his pockets as Ginny shot him one final glare before dragging her mother from the room. Ron sighed.

“Why can’t you just….” Ron groaned. “Merlin, some days I really regret meeting you on the train first year. Being your friend is exhausting.”

Harry stared at him for a moment in bemused shock. “Then you can stop, Ron.”

“What?” Ron questioned.

“You can stop being my friend, Ron,” Harry said quietly.

Ron nodded. “It’s best, I think. You’ve not been a good friend at all. I know you gave Hermione money to go to Italy to study. If you hadn’t, she’d have stayed here with me.”

“Ron.” Harry stared pointedly at him. “Do you know what the word lesbian means?”

Ron squinted at him. “Hermione likes to have sex with witches, so what?”

“Hermione doesn’t want to ever have sex with a wizard as long as she lives,” Harry told Ron and watched the man’s mouth drop open. “Even if she’d stayed in Britain, she’d have never stayed with you. The one time you kissed her grossed her out so much that she went to a healer to get checked for curses. Turns out she’s just utterly homosexual.” He waved both hands. “And if being a good friend to you equals ignoring the dreams and needs of another person, then you’re right—I’m not a good friend to you. There isn’t going to ever come a day when what you want for Hermione is more important than what she wants for herself.

“I did pay for her to go to Italy because her parents refused to talk to her after she came out. Being a witch was apparently okay but being a lesbian witch was a step too far. I paid for her education, too. It’s the least of what I owed her after all the ways she helped me during the war. It was none of your business then, and it really isn’t your business now. But you need to get your head around the fact that she doesn’t want you and never did.”

“I’m going to go,” Ron said. “Don’t…just stay away from my family, Harry. You don’t deserve to be one of us.”

Harry stayed where he was as Ron left and took a deep breath when Croaker entered the room. “I’m fine.”

“I made a record of that entire conversation. If Molly Weasley becomes a problem—let me know. We have a lot of legal options because of your position in the department.”

Harry nodded.

“Are you really okay?”

“Honestly, sir?” Harry turned and focused on his boss. “I haven’t been this fucking relieved since Tom Riddle had the good taste to drop dead at my feet.”

Chapter 2

After the war, Harry had meandered around a bit, studied for his NEWTS, and taken the tests at the ministry before entering the Magical Law Enforcement Academy in London. He’d very nearly accepted an apprenticeship with a war mage from the ICW, and part of him regretted not doing so. At the time, he’d stupidly thought that keeping Ron’s friendship was more important. He’d needed an anchor in the magical world—something to keep him sane in the years following Riddle’s death. The Weasley family had seemed like the best choice. It was the choice that Dumbledore would’ve approved of.

It took him a long time to come to grips with the life he’d led, the abuse he’d suffered, and the fact that many of the greatest hardships he’d ever known had been created through the machinations of Albus Dumbledore. The disillusionment and heartache still lingered in the back of his mind. Harry had trusted that old bastard, and he felt like he’d be paying for that for the rest of his goddamned life. Hermione had run from it—the shock, the loss, the bone-breaking agony of realizing they’d both been manipulated by Dumbledore to solve Britain’s problems.

Harry didn’t blame her. He loved Hermione—a soft, sweet love that had bloomed in their childhood and solidified in shared trauma. Once, during one of the darkest moments of the war, he’d told her that he’d never love anyone like he loved her, and he’d meant it. He’d found comfort in her loyalty, resolve in her intelligence, and bravery in the faith she effortlessly had in him. Maybe, in another life, they would’ve been the most dedicated and passionate of lovers.

But he’d understood, long before she did, that there would be nothing but the deepest of friendship for them both. He didn’t see her as a sister and couldn’t fathom it, but by the time sexual interest had stirred in him—he’d known he wasn’t welcome to touch her in that way. There had been no resentment to be had.

Sometimes, he wondered if he’d taken Ron aside when they were younger and explained that Hermione just didn’t like wizards at all that way that Ron would’ve fared better on that front. Maybe he would’ve accepted it, moved on, and married someone else by now. Harry shouldn’t care, of course, but he remembered the foolish boy on the train who’d taught him about chocolate frog cards, and he resented the hot mess his first friend had grown up to be.

He’d known their friendship wouldn’t survive his leaving the aurors in favor of the Department of Mysteries. Harry had always suspected that Ron’s friendship was intimately bound with the idea that he couldn’t be better at anything than Ron. The only exception his former friend had ever made was quidditch. Harry figured Ron was still bitter that Harry had refused to try for any of the teams after sitting his NEWTs. He just hadn’t been interested at all in such a thing. It would’ve only increased his already unbearable fame.

The door in front of him swung open suddenly, and Draco glared at him. “Are you going to stand on my bloody doorstep all night without announcing yourself, Potter?”

Harry shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels. “It’d crossed my mind. There’s a reason why I gave this place to your mum, and it wasn’t because I was afraid she’d sue me for it.” He cleared his throat. “I never said, and I apologize for it, but I was sorry to hear about her death. If I’d known…if I’d been there…” He flushed. “You have to know I’d have never allowed it.”

Draco’s eyes darkened, and he nodded. “I’ve questioned many things about you over the years, but never your honor.” He stepped back. “Come in.”

Harry took a step forward and entered Number 12 Grimmauld Place for the first time in over a decade. The portrait was gone, so that was a relief. He shed his coat and passed it to Draco when the other man motioned for it. “Thanks.”

Draco hung the coat up in the front closet. “I was working in my home office when the wards notified me of your loitering.”

Harry followed him through the house curiously, taking in the new décor. “I never thought this place would look this good.”

“It didn’t come cheap,” Draco murmured. “But the house meant a lot to my mother, so…” He shrugged and waved a hand. “Drink?”

“Whiskey if you have it.”

Harry took a seat where he was motioned to on a formal-looking sofa that proved to be quite comfortable and accepted the heavy tumbler half full of whiskey. “I stopped by your office.”

“I left the ministry as soon as I heard about you visiting the Marriage Authority,” Draco admitted as he sat down in a chair near him. “I didn’t know how you were going to react, and I honestly didn’t want to be a part of the ugly scene your girlfriend was bound to create.”

Harry grimaced. “Yes, well, that relationship is completely over.” He took a sip of his drink and sighed. “It was a mess from start to finish, and I can’t even make excuses to myself for it. Maybe it was just habit? I’ve been kind of giving in to what Ginny wants since I was 16. There were a lot of expectations to be met, and none of them were mine.”

“You sound like a man who spent too much time talking to a really old ghost,” Draco said dryly.

“You’re right—he’s a total Hufflepuff,” Harry said and smiled when Draco laughed. “Should we all be so fortunate in love and loyalty as his king.”

“Agreed,” Draco said and cleared his throat. “Could you just get it out of the way?”

Harry focused on Malfoy and found him staring into his own drink. “Get what out of the way?”

“The rejection.” Draco waved a hand. “Just do it, Potter, so we can get on with our lives.”

“Tell me something,” Harry said and waited until Draco met his gaze. “Why haven’t you? When did you visit the Book of Souls?”

“My mother left me a letter. She begged me to seek a better life than the one my father had carved out for himself. At the end of it, she suggested I visit the Book of Souls. She said I should consider it a test because if I had a soulmate, it would mean that I had a higher purpose than I’d ever allowed myself to believe. She had a lot of romantic notions about Fate, soulmates, and magical unions.” Draco took a deep breath. “Even after everything my father put her through. Even…after his weakness forced her to get down on both of her knees for Voldemort.”

“Is that also the reason you didn’t come find me immediately and tell me off?” Harry questioned.

“I did search you out that day,” Draco said. “I found you flying your boom over the Forbidden Forest. I couldn’t figure out what you were doing—it seemed methodical, and I felt as if you’d be…upset to be caught doing it, so I left.”

The day he’d gone and found the stupid Resurrection Stone, Harry thought. The thing had been giving him wretched nightmares in retaliation for his abandonment. The Elder Wand had already delivered itself to him at that point, but the stone had been pressed into the dirt, and Harry had meant to leave it there. But once reunited, the Hallows could not bear to be separated from each other or him. He kept the stone and the cloak in a hidden dimensional pocket as it was the only solution that gave him any peace.

The Elder Wand, he had no choice but to carry as his primary wand as no other wand had worked well for him after it had returned. The only saving grace in that situation was that it no longer looked like the wand that Dumbledore had carried for decades. It had reshaped itself in its rebirth—sleek, powerful, gleaming with magic and having the appearance of ebony wood. Despite its new look, Harry had known exactly what it was the moment it had essentially popped into existence in front of him and slapped soundly against his chest. It had been both a reprimand and warning.

“Were you going to reject me without a conversation?”

“I don’t know,” Draco admitted. “I was angry after my mother’s murder. I have to say it’s been a relief to me that you no longer walk around the ministry wearing that uniform. I know I can’t blame all the aurors for what John Dawlish did that day, but it’s difficult.”

Harry nodded. “It became difficult for me to wear, and every single time one of those arseholes defends him in front of me—it makes me sick. I reported Terry Boot three different times before he was fired for roughing up Theo Nott during an interview. He just doesn’t get it, you know? We can’t keep repeating this disgusting goddamned cycle over and over again. Dawlish has been Azkaban for nearly eight years, and he still thinks he did nothing wrong.”

“In his last petition to get his sentence commuted,” Draco began, “he said he shouldn’t be punished for accidentally killing a Death Eater’s wife. My father resisted arrest, yes, but my mother wasn’t…she just wasn’t doing anything when that so-called stray blasting curse hit her.” He cleared his throat. “I don’t want to talk about that day anymore.”

“I’m sorry to bring it up.” Harry stared at his drink. “The house just reminds me of her. She was so pleased when I met her to give her the deed. Not even telling her about the doxy infestation dampened her mood at all. She just patted my face like I was a little boy and told me not to worry about it. She used to send you care packages at Hogwarts.”

“Every single week,” Draco said. “I was spoiled rotten, honestly.”

“I envy you in that regard,” Harry admitted. “I can’t say I’ve never known a mother’s love because mine died for me but…it’s not like what you had. It’s not what you must miss like a limb.”

“I loathe my father,” Draco said and didn’t meet Harry’s gaze. “Ultimately, it’s all his fault.” He clenched the fist of his wand hand. “Everything we suffered during the war is his fault. His loyalty to Riddle destroyed our family, and I have nothing left but money I can’t stand to look at, a shell of a wizard pretending to be my father, and an atrocity tainting my magic.”

Harry considered the Dark Mark on Draco’s arm briefly before pushing it aside. It wasn’t like the others, and he’d never been offered a reason for it. It was also the only Dark Mark he’d been unable to remove with parselmagic. He’d tried the same method he’d used to remove the one from Greg Goyle’s arm. Goyle’s had just dusted right there on his skin under the spell but not Draco’s. It was confounding.

“I can try again.”

Draco grimaced. “The last time you tried was agonizing, Potter. I’d rather not. Just…can you reject me and get out of my house?”

Harry snorted. “If you want it to end—reject me yourself.”

“I…” Draco flushed and glared at him. “Must you be so damned…” He took a deep breath and stood. “Fucking Gryffindors.”

“The hat wanted to put me in Slytherin, actually,” Harry said and quirked an eyebrow when Draco turned to stare at him in shock. “It said I would find my path to greatness there, which…maybe it was right, but I’d already started down the great road of manipulation and begged for Gryffindor. I don’t regret it—I’d have never made a friend in Hermione if I’d ended up in Slytherin. The propaganda in the school was too intense to have allowed it.”

“Are you still in love with her?” Draco asked, and Harry looked up to find him glaring at the floor between them.

He laughed. “No, not ever really. I mean, I had a crush on her when we were younger, and I certainly do love Hermione. In some ways, I suppose she’s the love of my life, but it’s not remotely romantic or sexual. By the time that kind of love was on my radar, it was clear to me that Hermione had use for wizards. She’s living her best life in Australia with a very good-looking witch as we speak, Draco.” He relaxed on the couch. “She mentioned asking me to be their baby daddy in a few years. I agreed.”

“The love of your life.”

“One of them,” Harry agreed. “I think you can have more than one—someone you love your whole life. Don’t you think?”

Draco shrugged and cleared his throat. “I’ve never had that. I mean, I love my mother, but…even that…was tainted by my father. I wish it wasn’t…I wish she’d left him after fourth year. I begged her to, and she didn’t. When she allowed my father to force me to accept the Dark Mark, it broke my heart. I’ve honestly not recovered from that. I know they both did it to keep me alive, but I can’t forgive either of them. Not ever. I hate that I resent her for the choices she made, but I do.”

“Your survival meant more to her than your freedom,” Harry said. “I can see how that would’ve been difficult to accept. When I found out my parents died for me, I was so hurt, and looking at my scar every single day in the mirror was agonizing.” He touched it.

“Does it still hurt?”

“No—not emotionally or physically,” Harry said. “It’s the mark of Fate, and I’ve accepted that.” He focused on Draco. “I can’t turn my back on Fate, Draco.”

Draco’s gaze narrowed. “Why aren’t you furious? Why didn’t you come over here and yell at me like I expected you to?”

“When’s the last time I lost my temper with you?” Harry demanded roughly. “For fuck’s sake, Draco, it’s been years since we had any sort of row. We’re in meetings on a weekly basis, work in the same spaces, and have had to sit across from each other at Croaker’s dinner table while he complains about McGonagall refusing to talk to him for the last 51 years a dozen times in the past year.”

Draco snorted. “Merlin, does that witch know to hold a grudge or what?”

“I’ve been thinking about visiting her and telling her about herself,” Harry said conversationally.

“Every single current Gryffindor will send you howlers when they wake up, and their house points are in the negative because you tried to lecture the headmistress. You might get some from alumni, too,” Draco said in amusement. “Look…I’ve had years to come to terms with this, and I still don’t know what to do with it.”

“How could you even begin to think about it when you were the only one of us in the know?” Harry demanded. “I mean, honestly, Malfoy.” He set aside his empty glass and loosened his tie. “I can’t fucking believe you. You should’ve told me.”

“Maybe I didn’t want to deal with it or you,” Draco said crossly. “Up until a few months ago, you were knee-deep in the aurors, and I want no fucking part…” He huffed. “Did you know that asshole running the DMLE tried to recruit me when I came out of the academy? He was stunned when I said no. He tried to prevent me from entering the DOM, too.”

“That’s just PR,” Harry said. “Everyone was up in arms about your mother’s death for years, and it still comes up regularly in press briefings since there were absolutely no policy changes within the department regarding the handling of arrests. Robards wanted you on staff to try to deflect attention away from it. A reformed Death Eater’s son and all that rot. You’d have probably gotten the worst possible cases.”

“Certainly, but I only went to the academy to join the DOM,” Draco said. “Croaker recruited me personally after the war. I was…well.”

“A spy for them,” Harry supplied. “I know—I mean. I suspected.” He waved a hand. “It made sense considering Croaker’s heavy-handed defense of you. He allowed no one to even consider pressing charges against you for merely having the Dark Mark. People are still flummoxed by the fact that having the Dark Mark isn’t against the law.”

“It never could be, really,” Draco said conversationally. “It’s merely a physical representation of a conclave nexus. Riddle corrupted one of the most sacred and revered ritual bindings amongst our kind to create it. But no law could be passed that would impact the Dark Mark without impacting ritual craft itself.” He waved a hand. “Plus, there are far too many old bastards on the Wizengamot who are stuck in the past and content to stay there.”

“I don’t understand how anyone who wants to make money, like they all do, can think that stagnating is the path to it. There is money to be made—hand over fist—in magical innovations. The field is wide open in Britain.” He grinned when Draco huffed under his breath.

“Why are you hesitating?” Draco asked. “You can’t possibly want this.”

Harry glared at him. “Don’t tell me what I want.”

“A few hours ago, you were getting ready to marry a Weasley,” Draco muttered and stared pointedly into his glass.

“I couldn’t….” Harry sighed and stood. He walked across the room and stared out the window into the street. “I was bored and lonely. I want a family, and Ginny came with one.”

“What a wretched reason to get married,” Draco snapped. “For fuck’s sake, Potter, aren’t you tired of living for everyone but yourself?”

“Would it be pathetic to admit I don’t know how to do anything else?” He turned and face Draco. The other man was staring at him in horror. “What?”

“They did a real number on you,” Draco said flatly.

Harry didn’t know who Draco was talking about it, but it probably didn’t matter. He hadn’t seen his Muggle relatives in years and had no intention of ever seeing them again.

“What did you mean about making a decision without a discussion?”

“Hell,” Harry slouched against the window seal. “Don’t you think we both deserve a conversation about what this means? We’re soulmates, Draco. This is not some…it’s important. It matters.”

“It doesn’t have to matter,” Draco said flatly. “You can’t stand me, Potter, and frankly, I’ve never been all that fond of you.”

Harry couldn’t help but flinch because it wasn’t true. No matter how hard he’d tried—he’d never hated Draco. “I don’t hate you. You’ve done things that I didn’t like in the past, but, god, Draco…you spent years repeating your father’s blood purist dragonshite. It was infuriating to see someone I knew to be intelligent saying such stupid shite. You’re better than that, and I always thought so. You’ve been judging me for a singular moment for years.”

“It was several years after the fact that I realized you had no idea what kind of insult you’d delivered that day,” Draco said. “I’d never had someone treat me with such disdain. I was a little bastard, true, and I certainly deserved it, but it was formative. It’s tainted every single moment of our association. I told my mother how you refused to shake my hand, and she said I shouldn’t hold your poor upbringing against you. She said you’d been raised by low-class Muggles.”

“Well, she wasn’t wrong about that,” Harry murmured. “I don’t want to hurt you with this, but I don’t regret that day.” Draco blinked in surprise. “Accepting your friendship in that moment would’ve gotten me killed, and my mother deserves more from me than that. I’m sorry I upset you—you were just a little boy parroting your father, and looking back on it’s very clear you were just as insecure and desperate as I was for genuine friendship.

“Your father is a vicious son of a bitch, and he would’ve leveraged our friendship against us both. Considering the fact that we’re soulmates, I think we both know that a fast childhood friendship would’ve grown into something far more intimate as soon as puberty kicked in.”

Draco shuddered and closed his eyes. “I know.”

“We’d both probably be dead, honestly,” Harry said. “And Voldemort would be wreaking havoc over this planet in such a way that it would’ve certainly led to another world war.”

“He spoke of it,” Draco said quietly. “Baiting the Muggles to fight each other—destroy each other. He said they didn’t deserve to live—that no living creature should exist if it didn’t have magic. His insanity was horrific to witness.”

“He was a stupid motherfucker,” Harry muttered. “Destroy each other? There are far too many of them that know about us to think they wouldn’t have just bombed the shit out of our enclaves. We would’ve been exterminated, Draco. It’s a damn wonder that governments all over the world haven’t sought to gain complete control of us. They could make the inquisition look like a damned vacation if they wanted and probably would if we were revealed en masse. They have biological weapons and nuclear weapons—no magic we have would protect us from that.”

“I don’t disagree at all,” Draco said quietly. “I’m part of the dimensional pocket research endeavor. I think the dverger have the right idea, and it’s time for us to leave this world as much as we can. We need our own space, and the only way to do that is to…create it with magic. We need to carve out a path for the ley lines to follow us into a dimension of our own making. One we could protect and guard while still allowing the Muggle-born to find and join us.”

“Do you think it’s possible in our lifetime?” Harry questioned.

“We’d need a powerhouse player in the political arena,” Draco said. “Someone with magical prowess, a dynamic personality, and the kind of bloodline that gives people pause. It could’ve been you.”

“Could’ve been?”

“The Boy-Who-Lived crap ruined that,” Draco said. “Dumbledore shaped your public persona before you ever came to Hogwarts, Potter. He neutered you—created a mythos where you are a powerless icon. More myth than man, and I don’t see how we could begin to fix that.”

“I claimed the Peverell title,” Harry said and watched Draco’s mouth slowly drop open. “It’s under a privacy seal.”

“How the fuck did you claim the Peverell title?” Draco demanded as he lurched to his feet and started to pace. “The Potter family has a connection…the paternal and maternal line, for your great grandmother, for that matter if you go back far enough, but a lot of families could make that connection. The Gryffindor line is spread out over the place like devil’s snare, but there hasn’t been a direct line heir in generations…how…oh.” He turned to him and stopped moving. “Harry…those rumors are true?”

“You have the right to know what you’re getting into,” Harry said quietly. “I mastered the last Hallow on the day of the final battle. I took two Killing Curses that day—one your mother witnessed and another from the Elder Wand during the confrontation with Riddle.”

“Dumbledore’s wand.”

“The wand you took from him,” Harry said. “The wand I took from you just a few minutes later. That’s why Riddle killed Severus Snape. He thought Snape was the master of the Elder Wand because he killed Dumbledore.”

“He lied to Riddle about it to protect me,” Draco said dully. “He said…well, it doesn’t matter what he said. Riddle was too pleased by the murder of Dumbledore to care, which kept my mother alive. Everything I did that year was for her. Believe that if you believe nothing else.”

“What I remember most, Draco, was that we were a pair of desperate boys fighting a war that was not our own. I forgave you years ago, and I hope…that maybe you could say the same despite the fact that I nearly killed you. I can’t imagine how I would’ve suffered if you’d died. Is there any punishment fitting for killing your own soulmate?”

“It was clear you had no idea what the curse even did,” Draco said and cleared his throat. “And yes, I forgave you. In truth, you saved my life that day. Severus used the incident to explain his own actions on the tower. He said he feared that you would murder me as you’d already tried once, so he took control of the situation to protect me. Fortunately, Riddle was so enamored with the idea of marrying me that he was grateful.”

“What the fuck did you just say?” Harry demanded as fury washed over him like an ocean. He stalked across the room and grabbed Draco before he could help himself. “Did that fucker touch….”

“Not sexually.” Draco took a deep breath as Harry’s fingers curled around his shoulders. “There was a contract that kept me chaste—magical chastity charms are no joke. I couldn’t even touch myself. Fortunately, the contract was mostly destroyed when he died.”

Harry released him. “Sorry. I don’t know….”

“I imagine the thought of your mortal enemy defiling your soulmate would be a little difficult to take,” Draco said neutrally. “He did make a habit of stroking my face with his cold, dead hand, and he liked to play with my hair. I’ll never be able to wear it long again as a result.” He motioned to his head. “I take a monthly potion to prevent hair growth.”

“I shouldn’t have laid hands on you,” Harry said stiffly. “My apologies; I offer no excuse.”

“You are excused all the same,” Draco murmured. “Three owls have bounced off my wards in the past thirty minutes. At least one was carrying a howler based on the notifications.”

Harry grimaced. “I can just imagine what sort of temper Molly and Ginny have worked themselves up into.” He rubbed his face. “I don’t have wards to prevent the delivery of howlers on my flat since I don’t own it. I was a complete bastard at the ministry, to be honest.”

“Not like you,” Draco observed. “You’re known for an even temper these days.”

“I have too much power to indulge in tantrums,” Harry said wearily. “Being the Master of Death is nothing to trifle with, Draco. It is an immense magical burden, and it can’t be undone.”

“What do you mean?”

“I broke the Elder Wand the day I killed Riddle,” Harry said. “And set the pieces on fire. A few months later, it apparated right into my kitchen and slapped against my chest with the kind of force that left a bruise for a week. No other wand will respond well enough for me to use. Not a single person at the academy successfully removed it from my hand or body. The instructors were flummoxed by the whole thing, but I didn’t reveal to them the truth of it. I don’t need that kind of scrutiny. It’s best if the Hallows remain a children’s story as much as possible.”

“And the Resurrection Stone?”

Harry grimaced. “I won’t use it to call your mum to you, Draco, so please don’t ever ask. I carry it because if I don’t, it gives me vicious and horrifying visions and nightmares that are frankly sanity destroying. The cloak has been in my family for generations, but the stone was in the Gaunt family. It’s tainted by dark magic and was once the host of a horcrux. The magic of the stone is forever…corrupt as a result. The only time I tried to use it—I was presented with an enchantment of Dumbledore’s design that used my own wishes and desires against me to manipulate me, again. I think the horcrux destroyed the connection between the stone and the afterlife due to the very nature of the magic.”

“Finding out about the horcruxes was probably the worst part about the aftermath of the war,” Draco admitted. “I know you didn’t want that information to get out.”

“I can’t even really blame Ron for it,” Harry muttered. “I mean, sure, Rita went to prison for giving him Veritaserum during his interview with her, but I told him repeatedly not to give interviews at all. He just…”

“Wants to be important and famous at any cost. That friendship has never served you.”

“He said being my friend was exhausting, but basically, he’s just furious that I won’t do what his mother expects me to do, so it’ll be easier for him. He’s probably having to listen to her bitch and moan right now.”

“I can’t believe you were going to marry into that situation of your own free will,” Draco muttered. “I shouldn’t have even let you into my house without a letter from a healer.”

Harry sighed. “Sod off.” He focused on him. “You never said—why didn’t you reject me the very moment you could? Why prolong this?”

Draco shook his head. “I have no answers for you, Potter. I don’t even know what I would’ve said to you that day if you had noticed me. Maybe just having the potential was…enough. My father ruined my life, nearly destroyed my magic, and I have precious little to hope for. Forgive me for letting myself have this for a few years.”

Harry didn’t know what to say to that. He also knew there was no way in hell he was going to reject his own soulmate. He didn’t know how anyone possibly could.

“I’ve never hated your father more than I do right now in this very moment,” Harry said plainly, and Draco’s gaze widened. “I could rip him limb from limb. You should probably warn him—he’ll not survive our next encounter if he gives me a single bit of room.”

“He’s not worth the price you’d pay.”

“You are,” Harry said plainly, and he averted his gaze at the shock Draco couldn’t hide. “I should go and endure whatever the fuck Molly Weasley has decided to unleash on me.”

“Or you could stay in the guest room on the second floor,” Draco murmured. “The whole house is redecorated. I won’t ask why you hate it so much, but hopefully, there are precious few reminders of whatever it was here now.”

“I…”

“You deserve some peace and quiet, Potter. It’s the only thing I really have to offer.”

Harry considered it. No part of him wanted to leave, but he also found the idea of sleeping in Grimmauld Place irritating. It wasn’t as horrible as it used to be, but it reminded him of his godfather and all the mistakes that led to his death.

“Yeah.” He cleared his throat and rubbed his face. “Okay.”

Chapter 3

“I have it on very good authority that men of your station should not perform manual labor.” Draco leaned on the kitchen doorway and watched Harry glance briefly over his shoulder before returning his attention to the pan of eggs in front of him.

“You had no groceries,” Harry reported. “I ordered some through the floo. I wasn’t given a bill, so I assume you have some kind of account set up with Snatchbottom Market.” He paused and flicked his hand at the toaster. Four slices of toast popped up. “I haven’t looked for plates yet.”

“Poor planning on your part,” Draco said and went to the cabinet to retrieve plates. He glanced over the stove and made a pleased sound at the sausages already cooked and in a stasis field. “But, seriously, you’re the Earl of Braemar. It’s the oldest magical title in existence.”

Harry transferred the sausage and eggs to plates as the toaster delivered its burden. “I’m very aware of my what my title is and what it means, Draco. I keep it a secret for a reason. I had an immense row with Shacklebolt and Chieftain Ragnok about my decision to lock it down with family magic as a secret. They were both furious because the Potter barony went extinct when my father couldn’t claim it due to the war. Then neither you nor I made a single damn effort to claim the Black title, and it’s in limbo. I get some seriously snotty letters on that subject.”

“I do as well,” Draco admitted. “I can’t take the title, but they don’t seem to care, really.”

“Why can’t you take it?” Harry questioned.

“Arcturus Black put a permanent curse on the title,” Draco said. “Because he didn’t want anyone bearing the Dark Mark to claim the title after he died. My father was furious when he found out, but there’s no way around it. Claiming it would probably kill me. Those arseholes on the Wizengamot tried to draft a law that would force you to remove the Dark Mark from anyone they wished, but it fell apart before it could be proposed due to McGregor’s backroom shenanigans. He doesn’t want anyone to know that you can’t remove the mark from my arm.”

“I’ve been asked about it,” Harry said as he retrieved the tea kettle and put it on the table. “I’ve never discussed your mark with anyone but Hermione, and I won’t.”

“I went out after you went to bed and relieved the owls of their burdens,” Draco said. “One was that little owl that Ron had at Hogwarts. He was carrying the howler, which is abusive as far as I’m concerned. The letters are on the table in the foyer, and I destroyed the howler before it could go off. In the end, there were five in total.”

“You didn’t have to do that, but thanks,” Harry murmured and fixed himself some tea. “I’m going to ask Croaker for a full retreat into the department.”

“Not everyone is allowed to do that,” Draco cautioned. “Many would like to see you continue to be a public face for the DOM. It’s good PR.”

“Croaker put it on the table when I joined,” Harry said. “He said that I’d be more successful in the field if I could shed the reputation on the job, and he’s right. I know I don’t have the right to know, in any single fashion, but you only spend half your time in R&D. Where are you the rest of the time?”

“In an Unspeakable hood,” Draco admitted. “I like research, but it’s not enough.” He took a deep breath. “We won’t be able to share code names with each other unless I take on the role full time.”

He shifted in his chair as Harry stared at him. A part of him had always disliked being pinned under the other man’s gaze. There was assessment, certainly, but something else drifted across the other man’s features that Draco couldn’t identify, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to. He wondered if there was too much conflict between them for there to ever be anything more.

Over the years, he’d had several plans in place to deal with the situation. He’d even devised ways to basically reject Potter in such a way that the man wouldn’t even know he’d been denied a soulmate bond. Draco hadn’t done it, of course, because there was something wretched about the idea of turning his back on Fate. It was stupidly unwise to do such a thing with an enemy.

“I won’t make any demands on you career-wise,” Harry said finally and leaned back to chew moodily on his toast.

“But?”

“It would be…helpful if you’d let me watch your back in the field. We know we can work together—we’ve done it. Croaker has never officially partnered us.”

“It’s been my preference, and he’s always been worried we might try to kill each other,” Draco said mildly. “I was concerned he’d make me take an oath specifically on the matter when it was announced you were joining us. A few of the old guard protested—said you were a glory hog and that your public profile was too high for you to be effective in the department. The worst of that lot retired shortly before you transferred in, and the other two quickly discovered that you were nothing to trifle with.” He snorted. “When you put down that giant bastard from Russia with a single spell, straight through two layers of dragonhide when he escaped custody, I thought some of those arseholes were going to stroke out. You’re probably the only wizard in the DOM who could subdue a dragon with brute force, you know.”

“I want to say that it was all the Elder Wand, but that wouldn’t be exactly accurate,” Harry admitted and flushed. “I’m an archmagus.”

“I’m not surprised. At one time, I was on that path,” Draco admitted. “The Dark Mark didn’t allow it. It has power limiters built into it. Riddle didn’t want any of his followers being more powerful than him, ever.”

“I knew about the limiter,” Harry said. “When I removed the Dark Mark from Marcus Flint’s arm, his core almost fractured. Apparently, he was marked shortly before his magical maturation.”

“Most the older Death Eaters were marked that way,” Draco agreed. “Riddle knew that a mature wizard would be more difficult to subdue and mark. We were slaves, Potter.” He fixed another cup of tea and frowned at the dark amber liquid. “This is nice—what is it?”

“I have no idea,” Harry admitted. “The box is in the cabinet. I just always ask for the best tea they have when I order for my own kitchen, so I did the same here. I’ve never bothered to learn much about brands or anything. I learned to cook at an early age because of my Muggle aunt, and after the war, I took to visiting the kitchens at Hogwarts while I was helping rebuild the castle and studying for my NEWTs. The house elves there taught me to cook with magic.”

Draco raised an eyebrow. “You got a house elf to teach you how to cook with magic?” He glanced down at his empty plate. “It explains the quality.”

“Thanks,” Harry said. “And yeah, I learned from several different ones over that year. I was trying to avoid everyone as much as possible because no one would let me just sit and think.” He took a deep breath. “And Ginny was trying to seduce me with the clear intent of getting knocked up so I would marry her. Then she got recruited by the Harpies and stopped bothering me for a while.”

“You sure about the pregnancy scheme?” Draco questioned thoughtfully.

“I overheard her discussing it with her mother over the floo one night. Why?”

“It’s considered line theft to purposefully get pregnant with a nobleman’s child out of wedlock,” Draco said. “Accidents happen, and the law takes that to an account but trying to trap you into marriage with pregnancy is a serious crime. She could’ve spent a decade in prison for it.”

“She didn’t know I could claim a title,” Harry pointed out.

“Well, the law wouldn’t give a fuck about that part,” Draco said wryly. “Even planning it could warrant a conspiracy charge. Keep that in reserve and bring it out if she makes a complete pest of herself. Even if you don’t follow through with it—the threat could be very effective.”

“Only if I want to break the seal I put on my title,” Harry muttered. “And I don’t.”

“If you have to, you never have to admit that you’re the Master of Death. People have been trying to claim that title for generations. My own father tried to get me to attempt a claim through the House of Black, but I refused. You can bet your arse that every single one of Molly Weasley’s sons tried at one point or another to claim the title. They have two different bloodlines that lead straight to the Peverell line.”

“So it would really make her furious if she found out I’d claimed it,” Harry said in amusement.

“And she’d double her efforts to make you marry her daughter,” Draco said.

“Maybe I should get myself checked out,” Harry said. “Because that sounds horrifying now when it wasn’t even a big deal yesterday. It was like…a non-event.”

“Sounds more like apathy more than a curse,” Draco pointed out. “But seeing a healer for a full workup wouldn’t be out of line just to make sure you’re making all of your own decisions. Croaker can arrange it.”

Harry nodded.

Draco’s stomach tightened as he stood from the table. “And I’ll agree to a field partnership if Croaker allows it. I’ll also agree to a full retreat from the public arena—staggered over the next week or so as I have a few projects to complete.”

“You think Croaker might say no?” Harry questioned.

“He could have plans for you,” Draco said simply. “Plans that wouldn’t fit with the way I work. I know he sees something special in you, and it’s clear he’s grooming you to be the next Head Unspeakable when Thaddeus Banner is ready to move on from the position.”

“There are others….”

“None as powerful as you,” Draco pointed out. “And the Head Unspeakable must be powerful enough to be the Secret Keeper for the entire department. It’s more than an ethical concern considering…well. The Head Unspeakable guards the doorway into what is left of Avalon.” He watched shock drift over Potter’s face. “Wasn’t that clear? After you spoke with the Eternal Knight?”

“I—yes—but I assumed that was Croaker’s job.”

“No, the Director of the Department of Mysteries would be too obvious a choice for such a thing. He carries a few official secrets, yes, but he couldn’t do his job and be the Secret Keeper, too.”

“More than an ethical concern? So there is a magical power requirement?”

Draco grinned. “Hell, Potter, the first Secret Keeper for Avalon was Merlin.”

“Son of a bitch,” Harry muttered under his breath. “Stop telling me stuff. You’re worse than Hermione.”

“Granger told me that it was my job to tell you stuff,” Draco said seriously. “She stalked me all through the ministry the day before she fucked off to Italy study to tell me that she was leaving, and it was now my job to tell you the stuff you didn’t want to know because you couldn’t be trusted to even ask the questions much less actually seek out the answers. She said you were a bloody-minded Gryffindor who’d rather throw a punch than listen to reason.”

Harry’s gaze narrowed, and he scratched his beard briefly. “Frankly, Malfoy, some people genuinely need to get punched in the face. I keep a list.”

“I keep a list, too,” Draco admitted and flushed when Harry laughed. “Shut it, Potter.”

“And here I was sitting here thinking about offering to take your list for myself,” Harry said dryly and quirked an eyebrow when Draco felt his face heat further.

He desperately wished Harry Potter wasn’t so attractive. He should shave his face and put those stupid glasses back on. Not that it would help much, but every little bit would count.

He huffed when Potter just grinned at him. “Get out of my house, Lord Braemar.”

Potter stood, smile still in place, and stared pointedly. “I thought magical nobles made a habit of using their own surnames with their titles.”

“Amongst the Sacred 28, it became a point of house pride and blood politics,” Draco said. “But when it comes to the Peverell title—if it becomes known—never let anyone forget exactly who you are. They’d try to call you Potter to lessen your impact and erode your power. You’d be a fool to allow it. If nothing else, consider adding Peverell to your own name legally.”

“This goes back to that crap with Dumbledore, right?”

“Of course,” Draco said. “Thanks for cooking breakfast. You’re a terrible guest with no manners.”

“See you at work on Monday, Malfoy,” Harry said dryly and strolled out of the kitchen.

Draco exhaled noisily and pulled his wand so he could clean up the minimal mess Potter had left behind. The man had actually produced the best scrambled eggs he’d ever had in his life, which was annoying. Now he had actual ingredients in his cooling cabinet instead of food, and he couldn’t cook to save his own life.

“You git,” Draco muttered as he sent the teapot back to its proper place. “At least I can make the tea.” He went through the house to his floo and threw powder in it. “Pansy’s Palace.” He rolled his eyes as his friend’s face appeared in the fire. “You really need a better name for your floo.”

“No, I don’t,” Pansy said tartly. “I heard Harry Potter took his fine arse down to the Book of Souls yesterday while his wretched girlfriend threw a common fit in her father’s office like a drunk Cornish Pixie.”

Draco snorted. “Yeah, he spent the night in my guest room hiding from said drunk Cornish Pixie. He didn’t reject me.”

“I told you he wouldn’t,” Pansy said. “You’re gonna have to send that emotionally needy Gryffindor packing if you want to see the back of him.” She paused. “He’ll never forgive you for it, so think hard about that. But if you just want to stare at his very nice arse, like you did most of sixth year, just trot along behind him a lot.”

“You’re not helpful.”

“I don’t have to be helpful,” Pansy declared. “Why did you call me?”

“Can you send your house elf over here today? I’ll pay her. I picked up six new bottles of nail polishes for her. Potter bought groceries while I was asleep, Pansy, and there are ingredients in my cabinet. I have no clue what to do with any of it.”

“She does need some new nail polishes,” Pansy agreed. “I’ll tell her, but it’s Dina’s day off, Draco, and so you might have to wait until tomorrow. Did you get any pink ones? We painted our toenails blue last week, and we agreed that pink would be nicer.”

“Hmmm…I think a rose pink? It was a themed kit of some sort.” He waved a hand. “Something about spring, I think? But I will certainly go get her a pink one if Dina wants it.”

“Spring Fling from Xtra Witchy?” Pansy questioned. “She says she’ll be right over!”

Draco laughed. “Thanks.”

“Was Potter a bitch about the whole thing?”

He wanted to immediately say yes, but it wouldn’t be true. “Honestly, Pans, it was like he…he looked like he was…carrying an immense burden, and I don’t know if that has anything to do with me. He’s obviously been lonely for a while. Anyone can see it, and I think Molly Weasley and her spawn preyed on that. I let him stay in my guest room so he could hide from them.”

Pansy sighed. “He should just put the fucking fear of the Chosen One in their nasty little hearts. You’ve seen him in a fight, and only a fool would cross him. Potter has always given that family more than they deserve—time, affection, and patience. One day he’s going to lose his temper with them, and they’re going to figure out what the rest of us already know.”

Draco didn’t say it; he didn’t need to. Anyone with the slightest bit of intelligence would know that Harry Potter was the most powerful wizard on the continent and probably in the top five on the planet. There were some ancient powers at play, of course, but Draco was convinced that Potter could stand head-to-head with any of them.

“He said he lost his temper with them yesterday after he visited the Book of Souls.”

Pansy snorted. “The ministry is still standing, so, no, Potter didn’t lose his bloody temper with anyone. Being brutally honest and having a conniption isn’t the same thing at all. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Potter genuinely lose it. Not even when he had that UST-filled tussle with you at Hogwarts.”

Draco huffed. “Shut up.”

“Maybe you could help him work out his aggression,” Pansy suggested. “I bet if you asked him very nicely, he’d give you a proper bang. He looks the sort—you know the kind—that’ll work you on his prick like making you come is his life mission.”

“You are awful.”

She laughed, and the floo went dark. Dina popped into place right in front of him and raised one eyebrow as she brushed her bright green braids over her shoulder. “Xtra Witchy only make 1000 of their Spring Fling collection. It sell out immediately.”

“I was at Madam Malkin’s getting a new cloak fitted when their shipment arrived. I paid 40 galleons for it.”

“You got hosed,” Dina announced but then trotted off. “I makes food! Get my polish!”

– – – –

Harry dropped the letters from Ginny and her mother on the kitchen table and glanced toward the balcony of his flat where six more owls were lined up. They must have taken their correspondence to the owl post when Pigwidgeon hadn’t returned to the Burrow. Fortunately, none of the poor things were carrying howlers. He knew the postmaster wouldn’t allow his owls to carry them, and that was certainly the only reason. He retrieved the letters, gave the owls some treats, and added the new ones to the pile. He had no intention of reading them but figured holding onto them would be to his benefit if things escalated and he had to seek a legal solution to his problem.

Harry used the floo to contact Gringotts and make an appointment to visit his account manager. Things weren’t always pleasant at the bank due to his history, the Griphook situation, and the whole mess with his title. He respected the dverger, and he even enjoyed arguing with Ragnok when time permitted, and often he thought the Chieftain of the Horde made time to bicker with him over tea and the lemon-blueberry scones Harry always baked and brought along for the occasion.

Since he had a few hours before his appointment with Razel, he took the time to make some scones to be passed along to the chieftain. Pigwidgeon appeared with a howler shortly before lunch, and it irritated him so much that he kept the bird, who didn’t appear all that fussed about returning to the Burrow.

“You know what?” Harry said to the little owl. “You deserve better than this dragonshite, and so do I.” He flicked the howler into the air, hit it with a finite, and the dark red letter destroyed itself. It was also very annoying that he hadn’t known he could do that in Hogwarts. “Also, your name is awful. I don’t know why Ron let Ginny name you.”

Pig settled down on the back of a kitchen chair, and Harry fed him several pieces of bacon while he moodily stared at the stack of letters.

“I need a new place to live. You can come stay at mine whenever you need. Those arseholes are probably driving you nuts.”

Pig hooted his agreement and settled down to sleep. He had a sandwich for lunch then went off to the bank to treat himself to some privacy. Just before he left, he asked Pig to deliver a message to Croaker, and the bird readily agreed. He enchanted the letter for secrecy just in case the owl was compelled to return to the Burrow. He didn’t think they’d bother with that kind of security, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

Harry was directed to the private offices of Razel Fireborn as soon as he entered the bank. He had a lot of money—Potter, Black, and Peverell equaled more gold than he could ever spend, but it did afford him priority meeting status within the bank. He was also Razel’s only client, but that was more a function of the fact that Razel was Ragnok’s oldest son and heir. The dverger had a lot on his plate, and managing Harry’s finances was more a matter of their mutual status than anything else.

He put a package down on the desk. “For your father.”

Razel made a face. “Did you put that awful lemon icing on them?”

Harry grinned. “I left four plain for you.” He took a deep breath. “I need a private property that I can ward. The flat isn’t going to work anymore.” He put a wood box on the table. “And this can be returned to the Potter vault. I won’t be marrying Ginny Weasley.”

Razel took the box and tucked it into a drawer on his left, then pulled out a book. “I heard there was a kerfuffle at the ministry yesterday involving you and the Book of Souls. My apologies, but if I’d known you’d never visited it, I would’ve let you know you should before going to the Marriage Authority. Most go to visit the book first to avoid their status being known to the general public.”

“It’s fine.” Harry sighed. “Hermione said to go years ago, but I ignored the advice. I should’ve handled that business when I learned about the book, and there’s no one to blame but me. I had to be forced to check the Hall of Prophecy for more predictions in my name. Fortunately, there were none. Fate has never been kind to me, Razel, and I’m not sure I’ll ever truly trust such magic.”

“Your service to the magical world can’t be measured,” Razel said. “We know how much of a threat that Tom Riddle truly represented even if others are content to forget about him now that he’s truly gone.” He held out his hand a book slid off the shelf and sailed across the room to him. “Thoughts on what sort of property you are looking to purchase?”

“I don’t want to build,” Harry said. “I’d like at least 20 acres of land with good ley lines so I can lay down wards to make the entire thing unplottable.” He paused and cleared his throat. “Something along the shore of Loch Ness appeals on a deeply magical level. Close to a magical conclave, no non-magical neighbors, if possible.”

“A stone structure will be preferred if you want war wards,” Razel murmured as he opened the book. “The older, the better—you’ll be able to master the residual magic in the structure for your own purposes pretty easily. Your warding skills are…basic, which is a shame considering your magical power.”

“I could…” Harry took a deep breath because he wasn’t sure he was ready to absorb another orb.

His magical education had been lacking on many levels by the time the war ended. He’d taken six NEWTs because he’d studied hard and followed the plan Hermione had created for him. She’d been prouder of his results than he’d been. The academy had smoothed out of some of his rough edges, but he’d felt largely unfinished as he’d started working for the ministry. Once entering the DOM, he’d availed himself of education magic that was beyond the scope of most.

“I’ve used knowledge transference orbs within the Department of Mysteries,” Harry admitted, and Razel inclined his head.

“How many?”

“Five so far,” Harry admitted. “The last was more than a month ago, and I needed about two days of recovery. I suspect I’ll be getting a very specific one fairly soon because I’m going to request a full retreat.”

“Good,” Razel said. “A position that protects your privacy will be best for you.” He rocked back in his chair. “I could provide you with an orb that would teach you dverger warding on a mastery level.” He paused when Harry gaped. “But it would put you down for a week since you’re a wizard. Since you’re about to assume a code name within the DOM, it would be a mistake to undertake such a thing now. Your legacy orb could very well teach you everything you need to know about warding.”

“I’ve never seen a legacy orb,” Harry admitted. “And I’ve not been briefed about how it works. Will it change me? Alter my personality?”

“No, it will merely give you exactly what it has been given. Legacy orbs are rare amongst my people as they are an immense magical endeavor. The older they are, the more knowledge they will contain. I don’t know the specifics of how such things work amongst the Unspeakables. I would assume that each person who has used the name would give the orb the knowledge and experiences they believed beneficial for those that come after them.”

Harry nodded. “I could get warding knowledge from it.”

“Depending on how old the damn thing is—you could get a mastery level education on several subjects. What have you already absorbed?”

“I have NEWT-level knowledge of world history, magical theory, and runic magic. I could sit the theoretical parts of the mastery tests for dueling and combat transfiguration,” Harry murmured.

“World history—magical or muggle?”

“Both, all of it,” Harry admitted. “I felt undereducated and unprepared across the board by the time I came into the DOM. I needed a deep understanding of the world,” Harry admitted. “I didn’t even know your species was called dverger until I absorbed that orb, Razel, and that’s genuinely obscene.”

“Treaties are what they are,” Razel said mildly. “Some magicals find it amusing to call us a slur, but every single adult who uses it with such intent is marked for life by our magic. We’ll never trust them, and they are given the bare minimum of services as required by the treaty that ended the last rebellion. Your very sincere apology regarding the word goblin did more to mend your relationship with the Horde than the brand-new dragon you bought us.”

Harry considered that. “Can I visit her?”

Razel shook his head. “No.”

Harry huffed.

“The last time we allowed you near that beast, she moped for weeks after you left. She cried, Potter.”

“It’s not my fault she loves me,” Harry protested. “Bendis and I are bros. Also, I do think that the new training methods have created a much better working environment for everyone involved. So, she’s just happy.”

Razel’s gaze narrowed. “We already promised not to use her for food until she dies, naturally. Also, my father has declared that you will not be allowed to go on any more dragon buying trips going forward.”

“That’s incredibly rude,” Harry protested.

“Three different dragons already fight over who is going to guard your vault,” Razel said sourly. “All females, by the way.”

Harry flushed and shrugged. “Maybe they sense my form?”

“Of course, they recognize your dragon animagus form,” Razel said and rolled his eyes. “They know they can’t breed with a wizard, but they still sense the alpha dragon in you and want to make you happy.” He rocked back in his chair. “So your soulmate? You realize they have the same animagus form as you do—whether they’ve sought it or not.”

“He has,” Harry said. “It’s a requirement for the DOM.” He rubbed his hands on his trousers. He knew that Razel was magically bound to keep his confidence, and he trusted the dverger regardless. “Draco Malfoy.”

Razel snorted.

“Shut up.”

“Oh, but, seriously?” Razel laughed. “At least he’s pretty.” He focused his attention back on the book in front of him. “You have a couple of options—a few right on the shore of Loch Ness. One is a beach property, but it’s just 15 acres.”

“Is the beach private?” Harry questioned.

“Yes.” Razel stared at the page. “I need to inspect this property personally, but it shouldn’t be terrible. It’s not been occupied since 1967, and it was placed in magical stasis when it was sold to the bank. The previous owner migrated to Austria. It won’t be furnished, but you can certainly afford to buy whatever you need after the move from your flat. Speaking of, your lease is due to be renewed in just three months, so there shouldn’t be much of a fine for breaking it.”

“I don’t care,” Harry admitted. “I need to be able to control my circumstances going forward. It’s about the situation with the Weasleys, but also about my change of positions at work. There’s…a lot going on.”

“I’ll go inspect it today,” Razel murmured. “And I agree—you honestly should’ve made this change years ago. You’re lucky that trouble didn’t follow you home long before now.”

“I don’t think that a few howlers qualify as trouble.”

Razel made a face. “Never underestimate someone who wants to control you, Hadrian. It will be the fucking death of you.”

Chapter 4

An eagle owl delivered a message from Croaker as Harry was leaving the bank, so he headed for the nearest apparition point and left Diagon Alley. He landed on the street in front of an old Victorian-style home in the center of Godric’s Hollow. Far from the remains of his parent’s cottage, and for that, he was grateful. Even Shacklebolt being minister hadn’t made it easy to retrieve his ancestral property due to the monument status. It was offensive, and he’d lost his temper several times over the years about it.

He stepped across the ward boundary and ignored the little swish of magic that drifted over his skin. Considering the time of the day, he figured that Croaker was in his back garden, so he walked around the house and found the older man sitting on a stone patio with a glass of lemonade and a ridiculous sun hat.

“Lord McGregor,” Harry said as he shed his robe.

“I told you, at home, you can call me Jonah.” He paused. “Lord Peverell.”

Harry sighed, shed his robe, and unfastened his waistcoat. He sat down and just nodded when the man waved a hand toward the tray in between them. “Draco Malfoy is my fucking soulmate.” He poured himself a glass of lemonade as McGregor started to laugh. “You knew already.”

“The first time I sat him down in my office and asked him if he had anything he felt he should disclose—he said ‘Harry fucking Potter is my soulmate.’ He looked so displeased and hounded by the information all I could do is laugh and now, years later, there you sit bitching about the same exact thing.”

“Why did he feel the need to disclose?” Harry questioned. “I mean, I have a specific purpose here that he didn’t have, so….”

“Soulmates have profound magical connections outside of the potential to magically bind themselves together,” Jonah murmured. “It can be both a boon and a disaster if I’m honest about it. We have two other pairs in the DOM currently, and they both have unique magical circumstances ranging from sympathetic magic to manifesting the same animagus form. I know that last to already true about the two of you—different breeds, though.”

Harry’s own form was Peruvian Vipertooth, but he hadn’t asked what Draco’s was. “I was concerned that his mark might have prevented the process for him, but that wasn’t mentioned when we investigated that situation and tried to remove it.”

“He had a long hard road,” Jonah admitted. “But he’s strong and determined. You’ll have to ask him about his form. He’ll probably be pleased to show you; just make sure you have a lot of room when you ask.” He shrugged when Harry laughed. “You had a question for me, right?”

“I…” Harry took a deep breath and took a sandwich from the tray. It was cucumber and very good. He looked out over the garden. “I’ll be changing addresses within the week. I can’t control the wards on my flat, and it’s become suddenly intolerable. Molly and Ginny bombarded me with letters yesterday afternoon and evening. At least two howlers, but both were destroyed on delivery. I don’t know what the letters say. I realize I should be reading that shite so I can get ahead of them and whatever mess they’re about to make, but I’m tired.”

“You’ve been tired for a while,” Jonah said. “Worn down. At first, I thought it was job stress, but your performance at work is only getting better. I didn’t realize you were dating that Weasley chit until yesterday morning when it came down that the Marriage Authority had refused your application. That’s not to say that you have to disclose your relationships because I don’t care who you date or who you fuck. I’ll get an automatic notification on a marriage, and that’s just for record-keeping.”

“I’m the last of my line,” Harry said quietly. “Practically everyone I know never looks beyond the surface of me. Sometimes, I feel like if I fell that I would shatter into a million pieces. I enjoy the work, and I’ve been burying myself in it for years, first with the aurors and then with the DOM, but it can’t be the whole of my life, and I know it. I want…” He took a deep breath. “I thought marrying her would solve my problems, but honestly, it would’ve just made them so much fucking worse because she doesn’t know me. None of them know me, and they don’t care to. They only want what they can get from me, and I hate it.”

“Fate demanded too much from you,” Jonah said. “You sacrificed a lot and had, even more, was taken from you against your will. I don’t understand the world you live in, Harry, and I’m ashamed to say that I’m relieved by that. I had a lovely marriage—arranged but solid—and I have some amazing children as a result of that marriage. I lost a lot in that bargain, and I can’t say I don’t have regrets, but they are precious few when weighed against the gifts I’ve been given in this life.”

“I wouldn’t want you to understand this kind of loneliness,” Harry said roughly and stole another sandwich. “These are amazing.”

“My daughter makes the mayo by hand—a secret recipe,” Jonah said. “And I grew the cucumbers—keeps me busy. I got the bread from Snatchbottom’s—best sourdough in Britain if you ask me.”

“I get it, too,” Harry admitted. “And you’re right—the very best. He expected me to reject him, but the thought of doing so makes my skin crawl. Honestly, I’d rather cut off my wand arm than reject my soulmate, but he thinks I hate him, and if I weren’t a selfish man, I would reject him so he can move on and find someone better.”

“You might be a bit selfish. But, honestly, there’s nothing wrong with a little big self-care,” Jonah said. “But he had years to reject you and didn’t. Exploring those reasons might get you to a place that you both deserve to be.”

“On Monday, I’m going to request a position in one of the covert units,” Harry said and focused on his boss. “I want a full retreat.”

“Your employment will become an Official Secret,” Jonah warned. “People outside the ministry, who know where you work, will forget the details. I can’t make exceptions for anyone, not even that lovely witch who fucked off to Australia and ruined my plans. I’ve been considering trying to recruit her and her girlfriend.”

“She hates Britain,” Harry said plainly. “And she’ll never come back permanently, sir. I think…well.” He took a deep breath. “This country broke her heart after the war. Nothing changed, no one paid for their crimes, and even Dolores Umbridge walked free, and she murdered over a hundred people in her so-called trials. When Hermione found out that woman wasn’t going to face charges for killing all of those Muggle-borns, she cried like a child. A few days later, she accepted the offer to study in Italy. I knew she’d never return if she had a choice.”

“If I had a choice in the matter, I’d have tossed that cunt Umbridge through the veil. But legally, due to the laws passed at the time, she didn’t do a damn thing we could charge her with.”

“That part alone is obscene,” Harry said. “If Umbridge hadn’t trotted off and gone into hiding—I’d have probably killed her myself. I think, even now, I could get away with it.”

Croaker huffed. “Just don’t leave any evidence, Potter.”

“You’re the best boss I’ve ever had,” Harry said sincerely, and he grabbed another sandwich.

“If you want it, I’ll send you off to the ICW and get you Hit Wizard status,” Jonah said plainly. “We have two in the department currently, and the mandate allows for five. A sanctioned killing is rare, of course, but there are special circumstances when it pertains to dark wizards doing terrible, dark shite.”

“Let’s think about it in a few years,” Harry murmured. “I want to get the rest of this settled first. I’ve asked Draco, and he’s agreed to partner with me. You’ll want to meet with him, right?”

“I’ll send him a message with an appointment time,” McGregor said mildly. “He spends half his time in research.”

“He’s prepared to join me in full. I think part of him always wanted to retreat behind the hood, but he’s kept himself visible out of spite.” Harry shrugged. “And I get that. I go out of my way, sometimes, to make people who irritate me as miserable as possible. I keep a list. I plan to hold grudges for decades.”

“Every wizard needs a hobby,” McGregor agreed. “I’ll bring you both into the fold. You’ll be in the field within the week as an Unspeakable. There are several code names to choose from—so we’ll go over that in the morning. Anything interest you, knowledge-wise? It’ll help me choose which legacy orbs to present to you.”

“Razel is mourning my lack of warding knowledge,” Harry said. “Between training and previous orbs—I’m ready to sit the mastery tests for dueling and transfiguration. I thought to take them in the fall. I’d like to spend some time in the Room of Enchantment—combat scenarios, advanced dueling so I can really bring it when I’m tested.”’

McGregor nodded. “We’ll schedule it. I’ll go into the grave resenting how Dumbledore allowed you to roam your way into a fucking war without training you.”

“He didn’t want a warrior for the light—he wanted a martyr,” Harry said quietly. “He was so pleased with how it all worked out. I’ve never wanted to set a portrait on fire more in my entire life. He also felt like I was his legacy. I told him point-blank that I was Lily Potter’s goddamned legacy, and I was never going to let anyone think otherwise.”

“I read your letter to the Prophet about your mother’s sacrifice and what it meant for you and the magical world. It pissed off a lot of pure-bloods, but you knew that already.” McGregor grabbed another sandwich and poured himself some more tea. “Why didn’t you take the full retreat when I first offered it.”

“The Weasleys,” Harry said and shrugged when McGregor sighed. “I have no excuses for myself, really, but I’ve been letting that family sort of guide me through the magical world since the very day I got on the train for my first year of Hogwarts. When I was younger, I believed they wanted the best for me, but over the years, I’ve come to realize that Molly Weasley is a manipulative and cruel person with a very selfish agenda. What she wants is more important than anything else unless Ginny is involved. The only one of her sons she ever invested in was Percy, and his rebellion drove her nuts.

“Molly expected me to drag Ron around with me for the rest of my life—forcing him to be somewhat successful by association. She was furious when I accepted the position in the DOM; her biggest complaint was that I hadn’t tried to get you to do the same for Ron. Percy laughed his arse off at the dinner before he explained that Ron was barely qualified to be an auror and would never earn a position in the Department of Mysteries.

“Ron and Molly were very offended by that, by the way. She tried to claim that Ron was just as smart and capable as I am and was stunned when Arthur pointed out that I left the academy with a mastery in magical law. I’d never really talked about it and wasn’t aware that he knew about it. Ron threw a fit and didn’t talk to me for a week. I mean, he knew about it, but he didn’t think his own father would be bragging about my accomplishments.”

“That little git will drag you down and ruin your career if you allow it,” McGregor warned.

“Well, he’s decided that being my friend is exhausting, so maybe he’ll leave me alone from now on.” He paused and frowned. “Until his mother makes him apologize. I don’t plan to let him back in my life, to be honest. He’s never been the kind of friend that I needed. I mean, well, there was that one time in first year but otherwise not so much.”

“For fuck’s sake,” McGregor muttered. “I’m going to get you a mind healer, you know.”

Harry laughed. “I’ve been to mind healing, Jonah. Hell, I had no choice. I was a real mess after the war—fury, grief, guilt, etc. If you can feel it, I felt it. I didn’t think I’d actually survive Riddle, and when I did, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Eventually, I figured everything out on that front, but it was a long road. Maybe I should’ve spent more time in the process, but it was hard to deal with the war, and I figured that was the worst of my issues.”

Jonah stared at him and shook his head. “Wanna help me degnome my garden?”

“Sure,” Harry said with a laugh. “I love throwing those little guys around.”

– – – –

Harry left the shower and pulled on a robe. There were now 14 letters from the Weasleys piled on his kitchen table. He hadn’t opened any of them. Harry just honestly didn’t give a fuck what any of them had to say. He used a charmed towel to dry his hair, dropped it in a laundry basket, attached to the service he paid for, and headed for the kitchen to figure out something for dinner.

His magic shifted inside him as he approached the kitchen, and he realized he was no longer alone in his flat. It could either be Ginny or Ron, both of whom had keys to his flat. His wand shifted in its holster, and he walked into the kitchen to find Ginny having tea at his table. The letters were stacked in front of her.

“You can go and leave your key,” Harry said shortly.

“You don’t just get to decide our relationship is over, Harry!” Ginny exclaimed.

“I certainly can,” Harry said mildly. “It takes at least two people to have a relationship, and I’m done.” He waved a hand toward the letters. “And I don’t care what you or your mother have to think about it.”

“What’s her name?” Ginny demanded. “She can’t be better than me!”

Harry laughed. “At least your ego is fine.” He pulled a Coke from his cooling cabinet and twisted off the cap even as she made a face at him. Ginny hated that he bought Muggle products with his own money. “The name of my soulmate doesn’t matter. The whole thing with the Book of Souls gave me a wake-up call, but I can’t imagine I would’ve actually gone through with marrying you. At least without a contract, I don’t have to pay a fine to your parents.” He rolled his eyes and took a long drink.

“You’re not thinking clearly,” Ginny said evenly. “You need to marry into a light, pure-blood family, and I’m the obvious choice. Mum was right—our family did stand with you during the war.”

“Plenty of people stood for the Light,” Harry said mildly. “Maybe I should trot off and ask Luna Lovegood to marry me or Susan Bones. Both are powerful, attractive witches with great reputations from light, pure-blood families. Neither of them are known to throw embarrassing tantrums in public when they don’t get their way.”

Ginny glared at him. “I’m not paying that fine, so you’d better tell your account manager to handle it! I threw away the letter they sent me.”

“You’re the one that insulted him and his entire species,” Harry said flatly. “And I don’t give a fuck if you pay it or not, but you should know they’ll charge you interest and close your account as punishment if you don’t. If your account is closed for cause—you’ll never be allowed in the bank again for any reason. Plus, you’ll bring further shame to your name, which won’t help Bill’s career at all.”

She shrugged. “I’m going to be a Potter, so I don’t care about any of that.”

“I’m never going to marry you—not under any circumstances,” Harry told her evenly.

“I’m pregnant,” Ginny blurted out.

Harry leaned on the counter and took another drink. “Who’s the father?”

“You are, of course.”

“I couldn’t possibly be the father,” Harry said mildly.

“We must have missed a protection spell,” Ginny said and shrugged. “It happens, and we just have to deal with it. So you need to reject your soulmate, and we should get married before I start showing.”

“I don’t need a protection spell to prevent conception, Ginny,” Harry said patiently. “I have a birth control rune. There is no single way I’ve fathered a child with you or any other magical person in the last six years. I used protection spells because I know you’re incapable of engaging in a monogamous relationship, and I didn’t want you to give me a disease that magic can’t cure. Besides, I’ve never forgotten those spells. Poppy Pomfrey gave me a thorough sex education before she let me loose on the world since no one else ever bothered to.” He waved a hand and watched her pale. “What? Did you honestly think I was ever going to fall for that ploy? I know you’ve been trying to get knocked up with my kid since Hogwarts.”

She glared at him. “Why can’t you do what I want?”

“Why are your wants more important than mine?” Harry asked curiously. “Is it because you’re female or because you’re a pure-blood?”

Tears welled in her eyes.

Harry sighed and summoned the stack of letters wandlessly. He tucked them into his robe pocket.

“Why haven’t you read them?”

“I don’t care what you or your mother have to say,” Harry admitted, and her cheeks darkened. “I don’t give a shite what Ron thinks, either, for the record. You need to go, and I want your key. I’ll be leaving this flat so the landlord will want the extras back. Have Ron owl his—no discussion is required.”

“I don’t accept this!” Ginny snapped. “You’re going to come to the Burrow with me right now and explain to my parents why you’re refusing to do your duty to me! I’m carrying your baby!”

“If you’re pregnant, then you need to do a paternity charm to determine who the father is because it isn’t me.”

“Your birth control rune has clearly failed.”

“Dverger runes don’t fail—they have to be removed with intent and mine’s hidden. No one but my healer knows where it is, and it hasn’t been removed.” He checked his watch. “But, yes, I’d actually be happy to go to the Burrow and explain to your parents exactly how things will go from now on. You can leave while I get dressed.”

She stood with a huff.

“The key.”

She pulled the key from her pocket and slapped it on the table, then apparated.

He took the key and put it in his office with the letters before dressing. Harry wanted this mess over, but he knew that no matter what he said that Molly Weasley wasn’t the sort to let go of what she thought was the proper course. He apparated to the Burrow for what he planned to be the very last time he ever willingly stepped foot on the property.

The door opened before he could knock, and Molly offered him a smile, but her eyes were hard. Harry almost drew his wand.

“Come in, Harry.” She stepped back and motioned him inside.

He slid a hand into his pocket and pressed two fingers against the surveillance rune on his upper thigh, that he’d been given the day he joined the DOM. In London, deep in the bowels of the ministry, a quill activated to make a detailed record of his current circumstances then waited for something to transcribe. Harry wanted to be surprised that all six of Molly’s remaining children were in the room. He knew that George and Percy both had probably been forced in some way to come because neither volunteered to return to their childhood home willingly. Thankfully, Bill had left Fleur and their children at home.

Harry ignored the place at the table that had been left for him and leaned on the counter near the sink. He crossed his arms over his chest as Molly outright glared at him. “I’m not part of your family, Molly. I’m not going to sit down at your table and pretend to care what you want or think. I’m here because your daughter showed up in my flat uninvited and unwelcome. I thought we’d already said whatever we had to say to each other.”

“You didn’t sleep at home last night,” Molly stated. “Where were you? Did you go find your soulmate? What’s her name? Have you rejected her yet?”

Harry wondered why both Molly and Ginny both assumed that his soulmate was female when he was well-known to be bisexual. “It’s none of your business where I go or who I speak to. And I’m not going to reject my soulmate.”

He felt something deep inside relax as he said the words as if his magic had been anxious over it, and that was startling.

“Ginny’s pregnant, so you don’t have a choice.”

“If Ginny’s pregnant, it’s not my problem,” Harry said quietly, and Bill inhaled sharply, so he focused on the oldest of Molly’s sons. “Because it can’t possibly be mine. I have a birth control rune placed by a dverger healer. I’ve had it for six years.”

Bill’s shoulders relaxed, and he nodded.

“I don’t care what sort of magic you have,” Molly said hotly. “It can only be yours.”

Harry laughed and focused on Ginny. “Swear on your magic that I’m the only wizard you’ve had sex with in the last four months.” He paused when she crossed her arms. “Two months? Two weeks?” Her aura flashed briefly, but that didn’t bother him. She didn’t actually have a lot of magical power because of the damage done to her by Tom Riddle’s diary. “Look, I’m not trying to shame you, Ginny. I never asked for a monogamous relationship because I didn’t care. If I’d married you, the marriage contract would’ve kept you physically faithful, and that was enough. You like sex—that’s fine. I don’t care. But don’t sit there and act like I’m the problem in this. You need to do a paternity charm with your other partners and figure out which one of them fathered your child.”

“You’re going to marry her,” Molly declared. “You’ll reject whoever your soulmate is because that magic means nothing. It’s old-fashioned nonsense. You’re also going to transfer back to the Auror Department. I don’t want you working with those Unspeakables anymore. There’s no telling who they are or what they get up to. I’ve heard the rumors about rituals and dark magic, Harry. And I won’t have it. If Ginny’s baby isn’t yours—you’ll claim it and adopt it as soon as it is born.”

Harry laughed, mostly out of shock. “I’m not doing any of that. For fuck’s sake, Molly, I left the Auror Department because I hated it. I don’t want a high profile in the ministry. I don’t want to be Head Auror or the Director of the DMLE. I’m not going to use my ridiculous fame to protect Ron’s job. He’s a lazy git, and whatever he gets, he has coming. They probably won’t fire him because he’s a pure-blood, but he shouldn’t be working as an auror at all. He barely passed the academy, and I think that was done out of pity.

“I wouldn’t marry Ginny for any single reason, and I’m certainly not going to claim another man’s child as my own. Whoever it is has a right to know about their own child!” He huffed when she glared at him. “I’m not a Weasley.”

“What?” Molly questioned.

“I’m not one of your fucking children,” Harry snapped. “I don’t take orders from you. I don’t care if you’re disappointed in me. I don’t have any single desire to make you happy, and if I never heard from you again—I wouldn’t be at all upset. I’m never going to forgive you for blaming me for Fred’s death, Molly. You said it a few months after the war, and I let it slide because of grief, but yesterday wasn’t about grief. You do believe I’m to blame for everything Death Eaters did during the war, and that is disgusting and cruel.”

“You should’ve worked harder,” Molly snapped. “Faster! Granger wasn’t smart enough, and you owe us all for your mistakes.”

“Go fuck yourself,” Harry said flatly, and she reared back in shock.

Arthur cleared his throat. “Harry, lad, I can’t let you talk to my wife in such a way.”

“Then tell your wife to act like a decent person, Arthur,” Harry said, and the older man lowered his gaze. “Tell her to stop blaming me for mistakes that were made before I was born. Tell her to stop sending me hateful letters and howlers. Tell her mind her own goddamned business. Tell her I don’t owe your family anything. Tell her to leave me alone and to stop planning my life like she has the right to. My mother is buried in Godric’s Hollow!”

“We want what is best for you,” Arthur said quietly. “We always have.”

“Maybe you always have but has it ever crossed your mind that what your wife has planned for me is what is best for Ginny, and no one else even matters?” Harry demanded in frustration. “When did you decide it was okay for Molly to sacrifice the happiness of every single person around her in favor of keeping Ginny safe and happy?” He glanced around the room, and even Ron looked slightly sick. “Fred deserved better.”

“Don’t talk about Fred!” Molly shouted.

“Tell me the truth, Molly,” Harry said mildly. “When he was lying there dead in the Great Hall—did you know, for certain, if it was Fred or George? Or did you have to wait until George was sobbing over his twin’s corpse—saying his name over and over again?”

“You bastard,” Molly said quietly. “Get out of my house.”

“Gladly,” Harry said mildly. “Ron, I need the key to my flat. You won’t need it anymore.”

Ron frowned but stood to pull a keyring from his pocket. “I was upset yesterday, Harry. We’ve been friends for so many years, and I….”

“Ron, I’m giving up the flat and moving,” Harry said impatiently. “I don’t hate you, but I don’t like the man you’ve become. You could’ve been so much more than you are, and it’s not all your mother’s fault.” He took the key when Ron offered it. “You hate being an auror, so do everyone a favor and find a job you actually like.”

He apparated out of the Burrow before Ron could respond.

– – – –

Harry sat down in front of his floo just in time for it to activate and Hermione’s head to appear. He was glad they had a scheduled call because he had a lot of information to relay, and also, he wanted her to know he was leaving the flat.

“Hey.”

“You look exhausted and sad,” Hermione observed. “What’s wrong? Did Ginny back out of the marriage?”

“I wish,” Harry muttered. “The application was rejected because I have an active soulmate record.” He held up a hand when she huffed. “I know you told me to look years ago, but I didn’t, so now I have a hot mess to deal with. Ginny and Molly are both furious with me, and Molly is probably working her way toward some sort of blackmail, but I’m not sure what she could use or if I even care. Most of what Ron might have told her is old shite from Hogwarts.” He waved a hand. “Regardless, I’ve no intention of rejecting my soulmate, so they’re both going batshite over it.”

“Who is it?” Hermione questioned.

Harry made a face. “I forgive you in advance for laughing—it’s Draco Malfoy.”

She snorted. “Oh. Oh my god.” He sighed as she giggled.

“You’re the worst,” he told her. “I don’t know how or why Quinn puts up with you.”

“I’m great in bed,” Hermione declared and sighed. “Please tell me you’re going to give him a chance, Harry.”

“I’m not sure if he’ll do the same for me,” Harry said quietly. “He’s known for years and never mentioned it.”

“And never rejected you,” Hermione pointed out. “Interesting. I don’t know much about soulmate magic. I mean, I meant to research it, but after the book wouldn’t open for me—I just sort of pushed it aside because I was kind of disappointed. Do you need me to send a reading list? I can research it and find the best resources.”

“I figured I should ask Draco about it,” Harry said, and she nodded. “Maybe it’ll help us communicate.”

“Did you already argue with him?” Hermione questioned.

“No, he just was…prepared for me to show up and reject him out of hand.” Harry sighed. “I think that says a lot about how he views me.”

“Or how he sees himself,” Hermione interjected. “He’s had a hard road since the war, Harry, and you know that well enough. Many people blame him for his father’s crimes and always will. Shacklebolt didn’t want Draco in the ministry after the war, even after it was confirmed that he’d done nothing illegal. Not even fixing that cabinet when he was sixteen was illegal. There were no laws, at the time, regarding entry to Hogwarts. To be honest, I don’t recommend you tell the minister or anyone in his office that Draco is your soulmate. At least, not until you’re both on the same page and you can watch his back properly. I’m not saying Shacklebolt would have him killed, but he has people on staff who see you as their meal ticket in some fashion or another. I doubt that’s changed since I left.”

“There was some maneuvering from his people before I accepted Croaker’s offer and joined the DOM. I let Kingsley know that I wasn’t going to tolerate that shite, and I wanted no part of the political game he was playing. I can’t say it went well, and it was worse after I put a seal on the Peverell title, so it couldn’t be discussed without my permission. In fact, he was furious because I can’t join the Wizengamot without the title since the Potter barony went extinct during the war, and I refuse to go anywhere near the Black title.”

Hermione nodded. “Perhaps…you should take it.”

“Why?”

“Well, it would piss off a lot of people for an old pure-blood title to go a half-blood, but more importantly, it could give you and Draco some legal protection since you’re a Black by adoption, and he’s one by birth. It would give you some political power without revealing the Peverell title, and I know why you’re keeping that a secret. The Black title wouldn’t make you more famous, and it certainly wouldn’t make anyone question you about the Hallows or the Master of Death business.” She flicked a hand like that wasn’t a big deal.

Part of him regretted not telling her about the Elder Wand returning itself to him, but he’d made that decision years ago, and the reasons were still valid. Hermione had wasted enough of her time trying to fix the mess of his life, and he was pretty sure, based on his own research regarding magical theory and like-items, that there was nothing to be done. The Hallows would never tolerate separation again.

“One day,” Hermione continued, “when you go on a rampage through Europe—I’ll be sitting here in Australia both totally understanding why and being low-key jealous.”

“If I ever go on a rampage through Europe, I will, of course, invite you and Quinn.”

“You’re a charming motherfucker, Potter,” Quinn said wryly from somewhere in the background, even as Hermione laughed.

“Don’t encourage him, love,” Hermione said, looking over her shoulder briefly to shake her head. She returned her attention to Harry. “Anything else on your mind?”

“I’m moving house—I need space and more control over the warding situation. I have Razel researching properties, but I’m thinking something near Loch Ness—I’m monitoring the plesiosaur population for the DOM and the Department of Creature Regulation. Not an unpleasant task by any means. They are quite lovely, and I’ve taken a few swims with them over the last year or so. Thank fuck for charm work, or I’d have frozen off all of my favorite parts.” He grinned when she snorted indelicately. “I’ll floo you from my new place and let you know the details once I’m settled. Things could be in limbo a bit over the next week or two, so if you need me for anything, don’t hesitate to reach out through Razel. He’ll be able to reach me quickly no matter the time of the day.”

“I’m not afraid to call in reinforcements if I need them,” Hermione said with a laugh.

“Oh, speaking of, Croaker offered to send me to the ICW to get Hit Wizard certification. Thoughts?”

“Do it as soon as you can,” she said immediately. “Seriously—that’s the kind of favor the magical world seriously owes you. The training is world-class, and the certification would protect you from anything the British ministry might try to throw at you. They couldn’t jail you for some made-up crime because the ICW would make them prove it.”

“After all these years, that’s still a worry for you?”

“I have to think the only reason it didn’t happen is because of Shacklebolt,” Hermione said. “He’s problematic, of course, because he kowtows too much to the wishes of so-called light pure-bloods, but he could be ousted from office in the next election, and there’s no telling who’d take his place or what their agenda would be. There are plenty of people, dark and light alike, in Britain who want to control you for their own gain. Every single advantage you can gain over them is to your favor.”

“Yeah, okay,” Harry agreed. “What’s up with you?”

She laughed. “Harry. You’re really going to just not talk about Malfoy?”

“What’s to say?” Harry asked. “We’re soulmates, he doesn’t want me, and I have no idea what to do with any of it. I mean, it would be nice if my soulmate at least liked me, but Fate always has been terrible to me, so why should this be any different?”

Hermione sighed. “Set aside your opinions about Fate and all that mess. Concentrate on the fact that Draco Malfoy is apparently magically perfect for you. That means you’re freaking perfect for him, too, and he knows it. There is potential there, and ignoring it would be tragic.”

“I’m not ignoring it,” Harry protested. “I’m just not sure what I can do. There’s no making this…it isn’t like I can just say—hey, Malfoy, you’re gonna have to get over your entire life history and come sit on my lap.

“Well.” Hermione shrugged. “I mean, that wouldn’t be my go-to solution, but I’d certainly keep it an option.”

Harry laughed. “Shut up and tell me about all the things you’re doing.”

He sat back on his hands and relaxed a little as she started to tell him about her current project at work. If there was one thing he could always count on, it was that Hermione Granger had something new and interesting to talk about.

Thirty minutes later, Harry found himself plucking a small note from an owl’s claw. The creature flew away without a treat, and he opened the sealed parchment as he entered the kitchen.

Potter,

I figure you’ve had a stressful day that didn’t involve getting a new place to live. You’re welcome to come to Grimmauld Place for some more peace and quiet.

DLM

The idea was so appealing that Harry found himself immediately packing an overnight bag. He still wasn’t fond of Grimmauld Place in any single way but sleeping in the same house as Malfoy had been a deep comfort the night before, and he wasn’t sure he could sleep in his flat at any rate. Something about Molly had put him on edge earlier, and he hadn’t gotten over it. The fact that none of her sons had vocally backed her was a relief of sorts, but he didn’t know if that meant anything at all. They might have been ordered to be quiet, or she’d had them there in case he lost his temper magically.

Harry apparated to Grimmauld Place and waited just a few more moments before Draco opened the door.

“Thanks,” he murmured as he was motioned inside.

“How’d things go?”

“The bank was fine. Croaker will meet with us both on Monday, and I went over to the Burrow to tell Molly about herself. I suspect she’s going to try to blackmail me or have me killed or something. She’s bent. Plus, Ginny is claiming to be pregnant, but I know it’s not my kid.”

“If it was your baby, you couldn’t be made to marry her,” Draco said. “You can use the same room. Did you want a drink or anything? Have you had dinner?”

“I’m honestly exhausted, and sleep would be great. I’ve been…on guard since I left. I haven’t felt this on edge since the war, and I don’t understand it.”

“Someone you thought you could trust just overtly made themselves your enemy,” Malfoy said as he walked with Harry toward the guest room. “Of course you’re on edge.”

Harry put his bag on a chair near the door then dropped down on the bed. He toed off his trainers and took a deep breath. “Magically, she’s not a threat at all.”

“Threats come in all sizes, Potter,” Draco said as he leaned against the doorframe. “And personal betrayal is the kind of thing that lingers for a long time in the mind and heart.”

Harry nodded and took a deep breath as he focused on Draco. “I’m not going to reject you. I can’t do it, so if you want me out of your life—you’re going to have to do it.”

“Why?” Draco demanded.

“Because magic has done nothing but take from me since I was born, and for the first time, ever, I’ve been given a gift.” Harry lowered his gaze when Draco’s mouth dropped open in shock. “Thanks for letting me stay. I don’t know that I could’ve relaxed in my flat enough to sleep. I’ll work on other accommodations quickly.”

“Good night, Harry.”

The door shut, and Harry dropped back on the bed to stare at the ceiling. “Fuck.”

Chapter 5

Harry glanced over the table’s contents and focused on Malfoy, who was reading the Sunday paper with a cup of tea in hand. “You cooked absolutely none of that.”

“Of course not, Potter,” Draco said crisply. “I paid Pansy’s house elf to do something with all that stuff you ordered. I’ve never cooked a single meal in my life. Normally I just order through the floo, but this was easier. So I’ll be paying Dina to cook for me from now on.”

Harry sighed but sat down and made himself some tea. “I should be getting a letter from Razel this morning.”

“It arrived already—I put it in the study,” Draco said and folded his paper. “What sort of purchase are you looking to make?”

“Something near Loch Ness is my preference; it will make it easier for me to manage the plesiosaurs. They’ll be breeding soon, so we can expect between two and four calves in the spring. Only two of the females are entering the breeding cycle this time. I’m considering getting in touch with the witch maintaining Canada’s population to see how they’re faring there. We might have to encourage some crossbreeding. So far, there doesn’t appear to be any incestuous offspring.” He frowned. “Sorry, you can’t possibly care about that.”

“Well, I’m not particularly invested in the mating habits of plesiosaurs, but I am curious as to how you got involved.”

“They understand parseltongue,” Harry explained. “Creature Regulation asked me to go out and have a chat with them when I first joined the ministry, and I’ve been doing that quarterly since. I’m the first keeper they’ve had in over a hundred years, so they were eager to meet me and air their grievances.” He paused. “They had many. They’re deeply offended by the whole Loch Ness Monster business but also enamored with Muggle baiting. They know that Muggle technology can’t successfully record or photograph them because of the protection spells on the loch.”

Draco grinned. “That’s awful. Did you lecture them about the Muggle baiting?”

“Their leader said it wasn’t their fault, and if the ministry wanted to fix the problem, then they should get off their lazy arses and fix it. Of course, that offended practically everyone, and nothing is getting done about it. The elders of the pod take turns pretending to be Nessie.”

“Everything about what you just said is amusing,” Draco declared and refreshed his tea. “What’s your agenda for today?”

Harry didn’t know what to do with the level of domesticity he was being presented with, so he shrugged as he considered what to say. He’d been struggling with the public image that Dumbledore had left him with, and that had been mixed up largely with the Weasleys. Molly had definite opinions about Dumbledore, and she’d made it clear that Harry should honor the headmaster’s sacrifice during the war as much as he could. But he didn’t consider Dumbledore’s death a sacrifice or a murder. He did believe that he and Snape had planned it. He even believed that Severus Snape had ultimately been working for the light. It didn’t make a hero or even redeem him in Harry’s eyes.

“Can we talk about Severus Snape?”

Draco made a face. “Must we?”

“I…” Harry flushed. “I realize you were close with him.” He paused when Draco held up a hand.

“No, I wasn’t. He was my father’s friend, and my mother leveraged that friendship to make Severus Snape protect me. The man barely tolerated anyone, and I wasn’t much of an exception. He was bitter and lonely, which often made him cruel. I recognize that he was a vicious bully at Hogwarts. If he’d treated a child of mine the way he treated you—I’d have set that bastard on fire.” Draco sat back in his chair and munched moodily on a piece of toast. “So what do you want to talk about, exactly?”

“I’d like to start destroying the Boy-Who-Lived mythos. I was talked out of trying to mitigate my fame years ago by the Weasleys, and I regret that.”

“Well, destroying that image would’ve less you made influential, and that would’ve made you less valuable to them,” Draco pointed out reasonably. “Arthur Weasley has enjoyed favorable circumstances at the ministry since the war because of his family’s association with you and the Order of the Phoenix. Pay raises, a large budget for his department, etc. Shacklebolt is an empire builder of sorts, and he’s used his relationship with you as well.”

“I hate that,” Harry admitted. “But I don’t know what I can do with it. They were part of the Order and Dumbledore’s war effort, for what that was worth.”

“How much did the Order of the Phoenix actually do to help you?” Draco questioned. “What did Dumbledore really do for you? Did he prepare you in any single way for what was coming toward you? Were you prepared for war?”

Harry shook his head. “No, I wasn’t prepared, and moreover, he fully expected me to die for the cause.” He winced when Draco’s mouth dropped open. “I was host to a pseudo-horcrux, Draco.”

“You…” His gaze narrowed. “Your scar?”

“Yeah, from when he tried to kill me and got disembodied,” Harry murmured. “Hermione has a whole theory about it if you’re interested in learning more. I don’t like to think about it.” His fingers glanced over the scar.

“I never understood why it scarred,” Draco admitted. “The Killing Curse leaves no marks behind.”

“I was marked by Fate,” Harry said wryly. “It’s why it can’t be removed. Most assume that it’s just a curse scar, and I prefer that to having to endure a whole new round of that chosen one mess.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“I think I’ll start by telling the magical world about how I was raised by a pair of emotional and physically abusive Muggles who didn’t care if I lived or died.” He paused. “Well, they’d have preferred it if I died.”

“Did Dumbledore know?” Draco asked quietly.

“He maintained the wards on the house, so you tell me. Did he know I was underfed? Did he know that my uncle hit me regularly until I received my first wand? Did he know that my aunt constantly screamed at me when I couldn’t do the chores she assigned me? Did he know that she knocked me off a chair and broke my arm when I was six because I burned the sausages she demanded I cook for her family?”

Draco’s lips pressed together briefly. “For fuck’s sake, Potter.”

“After the war, I had a conversation with Hermione about the wards on my aunt’s house, and we speculated on how long the Order of the Phoenix guarded the house. One of the members of the Order was a neighbor and often watched me when my aunt didn’t want to bother with me. She came to the conclusion that not only was the Order aware of how I was treated that they were largely complicit in it.”

“So Molly Weasley wasn’t just protecting Dumbledore’s legacy by encouraging you to move on from your tragic childhood,” Draco said. “People will ask them—the survivors of the Order—if they knew that you were mistreated in that Muggle home. They’ll want to know when they knew and what they did about it. You’re entitled to your own history, of course, but revealing this will put you at odds with Kingsley Shacklebolt if he knew a damn thing about your circumstances in the Muggle world. As an auror, he was actually required to render you aid, Harry.”

“I don’t know if he ever went to Privet Drive,” Harry said thoughtfully. “But that’s not my problem, is it?”

“Don’t use any names,” Draco suggested. “The speculation might be more damaging, but that’s not your problem, either. You don’t even have to explicitly say that Dumbledore knew about your circumstances—it will be clear to anyone who really looks at it. Some won’t because they don’t want their worldview changed in any single way. But the small-minded people in magical society aren’t the ones that bring change to our world.”

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to write a few letters before I leave today, and I need to review the information my account manager sent.”

“I don’t mind—I’ll be leaving shortly before noon to meet Pansy for lunch. I suspect she’ll want to spend the afternoon shopping, and I’m her favorite escort for that.” Draco set aside his napkin. “I’ll be back in the evening for dinner if you’ll still be here.”

“I don’t know,” Harry admitted. “It’ll depend on Razel’s research, I think, and I want to check and make sure my flat hasn’t been invaded by that…unreasonable witch, again. I also suspect that I’ll be called into a meeting with Shacklebolt sometime within the next 48 hours as he’ll be notified of my full retreat within the DOM. Like many, he believed my job with Croaker was temporary. He fully expects me to return to the DMLE after my learning experience with the Department of Mysteries.”

Draco made a face. “Right. Well, you’re welcome to stay here until you have a more secure home situation.”

Harry didn’t think he should stay, but he wasn’t going to say it. He didn’t see how they could ever have more than a good working relationship so pretending that more was possible by sharing a home was just a non-starter for him. Allowing himself to want for more with Draco was just the road to heartbreak. Maybe they were both stuck in some sort of limbo where rejecting their potential together was more appalling than letting it hang between them for eternity.

“How prominent are your veela genetics?” Harry asked.

Draco’s mouth dropped open, and he flushed. “I…Merlin…Potter, what an incredibly rude question.”

Harry inclined his head. “Is it really?”

“Very,” Draco said and rolled his eyes. “Such a thing just isn’t discussed in Britain. In France, such a genetic lineage is bragged about to the point of excess, but in Britain, it is merely tolerated as long the line remains purely magical.” He ran a hand over pale blond hair and stood. “Both my parents are 1/3 veela as far as genetics go, but that means nothing when it comes to creature blood. Magically, my mother was half-veela. Her parents permanently suppressed her allure before she entered puberty. My father, on the other hand, is barely veela where it concerns his magical legacy.”

“And you?” Harry questioned.

Draco wet his lips but then shrugged. “I have no idea.”

Harry felt fury stir in his gut. “Because of that bastard’s mark?”

“Yeah,” Draco murmured. “I have the emotional…needs and perhaps even in the physical ones, but I’m entirely shut off from any magical gifts I might have received because he marked me before I magically matured. I was created in a ritual conception due to fertility issues. As a result, I could be as powerful as a full veela, but I’ll never know.”

“And you don’t want to do further research into it? We can keep trying to figure out how to get rid of it.”

Draco’s jaw tightened, and he averted his gaze. “I already know why you can’t remove it, Harry. Frankly, you’re probably the only parselmouth on the planet who could’ve done it for me and didn’t work.”

“Why?” Harry asked despite the fact that he absolutely did not want to know. He felt he owed it to Draco to share the knowledge as weird as that sounded even in his head.

“Because Riddle embedded a betrothal bond into the magic of the Dark Mark,” Draco said frankly. “To ensure I’d never have a magical marriage with anyone but him. He was marking his fucking territory.” He took a deep breath. “His death destroyed the contract but not the bond. I was like some goddamned prize he was going to claim after he won his obscene war. I can be thankful that Bellatrix was able to convince him that my chastity was instrumental in the creation of a marriage bond.”

“Bellatrix did that for you?”

Draco snorted. “No, she did that for herself. She wanted him, Potter, and was prepared to murder her own husband to be made the wife of Voldemort. But he was gay and wanted no part of a witch.”

“Does anyone else know about this?”

“Not that I know of,” Draco murmured. “My parents kept the betrothal a secret from everyone but Bellatrix. They were hoping that she’d succeed in distracting him from me, but it was never going to happen. I apparently reminded him of someone he’d lost. I was a replacement.” He cleared his throat. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore, okay? I was spared the worst of it, and while the threat of it was emotionally traumatizing on a level I didn’t consider possible as a teenager—I never had to endure more than a bit of casual non-intimate petting.”

“That’s bad enough,” Harry retorted and waved a hand. “And I’m sorry to bring any of that up.”

“Why did you?”

“I wanted to know if your veela nature was preventing you from rejecting me,” Harry said honestly. “Because if you’re being magically compelled to…accept me in any single damn fashion, I’d like to know.”

“If I was?” Draco asked curiously.

“I’d reject you, and you’d never have to look at me again as long as you live,” he said plainly, and Draco’s mouth dropped open. “I can’t do it for myself, but I will do it for you if that’s what you want.”

“I don’t know what I want,” Draco snapped in exasperation. “You’re so fucking annoying, Potter. I swear to Merlin.” He waved a hand. “Have fun writing your life-ruining letters today.”

Harry watched him stalk out of the kitchen and turned just in time to watch Draco’s section of the table clear itself off. The dishes flew to the sink, washed themselves, and returned to the cabinets. He huffed. “You lazy git.”

– – – –

He used Draco’s owl to send the first of many letters off to the Daily Prophet. The first was just an introduction to the life he’d led in the Muggle world before he’d received his Hogwarts letter. He figured it would cause a major shite storm so getting a new place was absolutely necessary as soon as possible. Once he’d received confirmation of his appointment with Razel, he’d apparated to the bank and settled down to wait in a private room.

“Potter.”

He looked up from his reading and found Ragnok standing in the doorway. “Good afternoon, Chieftain. Is Razel not available?”

“He’s currently enduring a lecture from his mother about duty and marriage,” Ragnok said wryly. “He’ll be along shortly, but we can start in my office unless you prefer to wait for him.”

Harry made a face. “He is my favorite.”

Ragnok laughed. “He’s everyone’s favorite.” He waved for Harry to follow and left the doorway.

Harry gamely followed the chieftain to his office and settled down in a chair he’d spent more time in than he’d ever expected to. He’d honestly anticipated a deeply hostile relationship with the Horde because of his actions during the war. But a few sincere apologies and a willingness to replace the dragon they’d stolen had smoothed most of that away. Plus, he figured, it helped that he’d defeated Riddle in the end and had credited the bank in helping with that. It had seemed like the thing to do since he’d have never succeeded without the destruction of all the horcruxes. The only thing they ever really had to argue about was the Braemar situation.

“Razel tells me you’re finally house hunting, and you’ve ditched that wretched harpy.”

“He’s picked out several properties for me to tour,” Harry said. “None meet all of the requirements, but one is close enough. We’re going to discuss options away from the loch, but it’s not my preference.”

“That could be the dragon in you,” Ragnok speculated. “More a territorial response than anything else, and it would be a mistake to ignore it. What’s the problem with the close enough property?”

“I’d like more land—to create a better buffer between me and the outside world.”

“Purchasing additional land from your potential neighbors might be possible,” Ragnok said. “Or we could artificially enlarge the acreage with expansion wards. It would give you room and additional security measures. I’m sure Razel has that on the table for a solution.”

Harry nodded his agreement. “I’m sure. Did you need something from me?”

“I heard about the soulmate thing, of course,” Ragnok said. “Amongst my kind, such a magical gift is considered sacred. I’m not about to sit here and lecture you about magical gifts and the acceptance of them, but I am very curious about your circumstances. Soulmates are becoming more rare amongst human magicals, and it’s been the subject of debate and research across the world for decades.”

“Molly Weasley called soulmate magic old-fashioned,” Harry said. “She acted like it was stupid of me to even consider accepting my own soulmate. I didn’t know what to say to that.”

“It’s a common theme amongst ancient families in Britain—there hasn’t been a soulmate bond in the Weasley or Pruitt lines in several hundred years. Many pure-bloods in Britain have convinced themselves that soulmate magic is meaningless because they don’t have it. But Molly Weasley would be shouting it from the rooftops if one of her children were to be your soulmate.” Ragnok raised an eyebrow.

“Draco Malfoy,” Harry said roughly and sighed when Ragnok burst out laughing. “Shut up.”

“Oh, lad, you had that shite coming, honestly.”

“This is why Razel is my favorite.”

“I’m your favorite because I’m beautiful,” Razel announced as he entered the room. “Why are you letting my father torture you?”

Harry shrugged. “You said there were problems with the property directly on the loch?”

“The beach is nice. The structure has a great foundation and an inactive warding matrix that will be nothing to reconfigure to your needs,” Razel said as he pulled a book out of his dimensional store. “The problem is that sometime in the last 15 years, the preservation charms failed on the property. It’s a dusty mess. No pest infestations, fortunately, but it’s not ready for immediate habitation. We can put a team on it, of course, and have it ready in a week.”

Harry didn’t think he could spend a week in Grimmauld Place, and he didn’t know if Malfoy would tolerate it no matter what he’d said. “Right.”

“So, there are a few magical hotels that we could book you into,” Razel said. “To get you out of the flat and in a location that would be difficult, but not impossible to find. That being said, you were unplottable this morning when I sent off that note. I wasn’t sure you’d receive it.”

“I was at Grimmauld Place,” Harry said. “There’s a charm in the warding scheme that allows for owls despite its unplottable location.”

“You haven’t rejected each other then,” Ragnok speculated.

“Merlin knows I should,” Harry said. “Honestly, Ragnok, no one deserves the burden of being my soulmate.” He watched the dverger chieftain grimace. “You know it’s true. Maybe that’s one reason why marrying Ginny was reasonable to me—she seemed to think she wanted the unreasonable fame that would come with being my wife and the mother of my children. She didn’t know the full measure of it, of course. But eventually, I’d have had to tell her that the Peverell title was mine, and I’d have to provide an heir for it. She claimed to want several children, so it seemed fine.”

“Don’t you think you deserve more than that?” Razel questioned. “Come on, Harry, you’ve given the magical world more of yourself than anyone had the right to ask.”

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

“You haven’t had enough mind healing,” Ragnok told him plainly. “I’m telling my sister.”

“Oh, come on. What did I do to deserve that?” Harry demanded. “Omis is vicious.”

“She’ll be pleased you think so,” Ragnok said in amusement.

– – – –

Draco refrained from standing from his favorite chair when the wards notified him of Potter’s return. He was torn between relief and irritation. Having Potter under his roof made it easier for him to relax, but it was frustrating to realize how much he needed the man’s proximity. He’d had no idea how tense he was on a regular basis until he felt his own damn magic start to relax at the mere sight of Potter at his breakfast table.

Harry entered the library and slouched down on the sofa near Draco. He couldn’t quite place the look on the other man’s face. Somewhere along the line, Potter had grown up and gotten stupidly complex. Draco would admit, privately, that he didn’t mind that at all. He enjoyed complicated people as they were the most entertaining and stimulating to be around.

“I think I’ve found a property I like. I want to visit it personally before I decide to sacrifice the land requirement for the location itself. I mean, it’s just five acres less than what I want, which isn’t a huge amount, but…” He shrugged and toed off his shoes. “The building is a mess apparently due to failed preservation charms. Razel believes he could have it cleaned and ready for me in about a week as long as they don’t find any pests with a deeper assessment.”

“Where is it?”

“Inverness.” Harry exhaled. “Did you eat dinner?”

“Yes, there’s roast chicken in the cooling cabinet with various options for sides. I ordered it from the Leaky Cauldron,” Draco said. “Have you eaten?”

“I got roped into dinner with Chieftain Ragnok,” Harry said. “And got a lecture from his sister about my poor career choices. She says I’m wasted in the ministry and should’ve gone into healing. I had to remind her that I sort of hate people and don’t want to deal with different ones every fucking day. Which she admitted was reasonable considering my history, but she also suggested more mind healing.”

“Well, she’s certainly right about the need for a mind healer,” Draco said dryly and grinned when Potter just glared at him. “And maybe a Muggle therapist.”

“I could go back to my flat and get abused like this,” Harry informed him darkly.

Draco focused on his book so he wouldn’t have to look at Potter’s stupidly attractive face. When he glanced up again, he found that Potter had a book in hand. “What are you reading?”

“I’m preparing to undertake a mastery in rune craft,” Harry said. “I’ve got a list of books to read before I’m assigned a master within the department.”

“You already have a mastery.”

Harry shrugged. “Why settle?”

“You barely bothered with classwork at Hogwarts,” Draco pointed out. “I mean, your practical work was always infuriatingly on point, but you clearly didn’t care for theory. Rune craft is 90% theory.”

“I actually love to read, but Ron found that frustrating, and I was deeply invested in keeping that friendship when I was young. He would get bent out of shape to an unreasonable degree if I did better than him on written work or tests, for that matter. He was furious when I earned a NEWT in every subject I bothered to test for. He outright failed half of his and was admitted to the academy on a probationary basis. He skated by on his blood status. I think he always has, to be honest.”

“Did you…I mean….” Draco made a face. “I hate to ask this, Potter, truly. But did you have some sort of romantic attachment to that weasel?”

Harry made a disgusted face. “Merlin, no. He’s a terrible friend, but he’s…a wretched piece of shite with his romantic partners. He uses witches for sex on the regular and told me once that he lets wizards suck his dick because he’s famous, and that it’s the least he could do for his fans.”

Draco’s mouth dropped open.

“Fortunately for those fans, it’s not much of a prick.” Harry wiggled his pinky finger meaningfully.

“Shut up,” Draco ordered, then laughed despite his best intentions.

“I mean, he’s no Neville Longbottom,” Harry continued and grinned when Draco gaped at him. “Seriously big dick and the best sex I’ve ever had, to be honest. He fucks like it’s his only purpose. Highly recommended.”

“You’re awful,” Draco muttered and shifted in his chair. He wasn’t even sure how long it had been since he’d gotten properly laid. The hand jobs he exchanged with Blaise hardly counted. “Is Longbottom the only wizard you’ve slept with?”

Harry shook his head. “I largely prefer wizards for sex. There have been far more men than there have been women when it comes to casual sexual relationships. I did figure I would marry a woman because I want kids, and I know some wizards can carry children, but most aren’t inclined to do so. But there’s blood adoption as well, which I consider a viable option.”

Draco could theoretically carry, but he wasn’t about to mention it. Any discussion of a future with Potter had to be avoided, even if the thought of Harry making a life with someone else left him feeling cold and lonely. Being enamored with the idea of a soulmate and actually accepting the soulmate magic had given you were two entirely different circumstances. Draco knew that even if Potter was avoiding thinking about it.

“You?” Harry prodded.

“No witches, ever,” Draco murmured. “I’ve been attracted to one or two over the years, but it wasn’t…viable at the time. After the war, I found it difficult to find partners outside the ranks, so to speak.”

“Others with the Dark Mark,” Harry surmised.

“Blaise Zabini and I have an arrangement, but he contacted me yesterday to let me know he wasn’t comfortable continuing it.” Draco huffed when Harry raised an eyebrow. “You’re a scary bastard, Potter, and he knows we’re soulmates. He said he didn’t want to end up on the wrong end of your wand, and I guess I can’t blame him.”

“Why only those who had the Dark Mark?”

“Yes, because there’s not much worse than some witch or wizard trying to climb onto your dick because they’re a goddamned Death Eater groupie. That dark bastard still has fans, you know, and a marked Death Eater is as close as they’ll ever come now. There are fewer marked in our generation because of you, but there are enough out there to keep the fetish alive and kicking.”

“That’s…” Harry trailed off and focused on the book in his hand. “Does the mark hurt or intrude on your magic when you’re intimate with another person?”

“No, that part is definitely broken, but the rest is entrenched, and there’s no getting rid of it. I’ve accepted my circumstances. They are what they are.” Draco stood. “I have an early morning. Good night, Potter.”

– – – –

Part 2

 

Keira Marcos

In my spare time, I write fanfiction and lead a cult of cock worshippers on the Internet. It's not the usual kind of hobby for a 40ish "domestic engineer" but we live in a modern world and I like fucking with people's expectations.

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