When love is not madness it is not love.
Pedro Calderón de la Barca
"The latest numbers are looking good, but I think we should Floo someone down at the Prophet to have something to cross-reference."
Draco sighs and looks up from the letters scattered over his desk. "Hermione—"
"We've definitely got Jennings in the bag," she continues, pacing the length of his office and clearly not listening. She keeps fussing with the stack of parchments in her hands, flipping between the same four pages over and over. "I'm a little concerned about Dorner, though; he was quite cross at you for that jab you made about his bill being discriminatory to sentient non-human magical creatures."
Draco knows by now from experience that when Hermione gets into a state like this, there's really nothing to do but let her talk herself out. Even when there is no point to it.
So he shakes his head and looks back down at his papers and lets her chatter on about probabilities and numbers and percentages, and he answers his correspondence.
Hermione is halfway through a point about how Luna might be able to pull some strings down at the Quibbler if they asked when a great white shark floats through Draco's office door.
"Hello, Draco," the shark says in a familiar, businesslike voice, "the house is on fire."
Draco and Hermione both give a start.
"No, wait," the shark says. "That's not what I meant to say. The house is not on fire."
"I never should have taught her how to conjure a patronus," Draco says. Really, she shouldn't be actually conjuring it, either, especially at the age of eleven, but as it turns out there's some sort of genetic component to Draco's genius because Lyra Malfoy is smarter than Draco was when he was eleven.
"The house is not on fire," the shark patronus assures Draco as it slowly rolls onto its back in midair. "But something important is happening. It is very important but not life-threatening, and you should come home now to handle it. Bye."
The shark vanishes.
"Your sister is an odd one," Hermione remarks.
"Runs in the family," Draco says, stacking up all his papers with a gesture of his hand. "I should probably go."
Hermione looks aghast. "Now? But – Draco, they're going to – any minute now—!"
"Hermione," he says patiently, "either the Wizengamot is going to approve the nomination or they aren't. There's no point in fussing about it until we have news."
"This is sort of important!" Hermione says, sounding only slightly shrill.
"And I'm sure whatever it is they need me for won't take very long," Draco assures her. "Our wards will let you in. If anything happens – anything significant, that is, please don't Apparate in just to tell me a percentage point went down – you know where to find me."
He grabs his cane from where it's leaning against the wall and pushes himself to his feet. He leaves the office before Hermione's stuttering turns into actual words.
Outside his office is a wide room crowded with desks and people, many of whom offer smiles and waves and Evening, Lord Malfoy's as he passes. It's not usually so crowded this time at night, but then, they're all waiting on rather auspicious news.
He takes the Floo back to Spinner's End and the first thing he sees is Lyra, arms crossed, frowning, her long blonde hair braided down her back.
Draco gives a precursory look around the foyer.
"I was expecting fire," he says.
"There is no fire," she tells him. "Harry made me party to his lies."
"Did he, indeed?"
"I thought aurors weren't supposed to lie."
"He's only an auror when he's on-duty," Draco tells her. "The rest of the time he's my goofy boyfriend who lies sometimes. Why did he lie, by the way?"
"He wanted to get you home quickly without saying why. I knew telling you the house was on fire would get you home right away, but he insisted—"
Harry is coming out of the kitchen. He's pushing down the sleeves of his Oxford shirt that he'd rolled up, and at once Draco detects the scent of roasted lamb and garlic wafting through the now-open kitchen door.
"You're setting a bad example," Lyra informs him.
"I know," Harry says, "I'm just dreadful. Hello."
Draco smiles. "Hello." He's about to ask why Harry brought him home in such a strange and apparently duplicitous fashion, but he can't because Harry is kissing him and after all these years, Harry still knows how to turn off his brain with one of his kisses. Draco may be biased, but this one seems exceptionally nice – all soft lips and gentle tongue, hands sliding along his back, and that tempting aroma of roasting lamb.
"I have a surprise for you," Harry says when he pulls away, and when Draco's brain kicks back into gear, he detects a fine layer of nervousness over Harry's smile.
"This isn't the best time," Draco says.
"I know. But it needs to happen now. Come on."
Harry knows what day it is and what sort of news he's waiting for, so Draco gives him the benefit of the doubt and lets Harry lead him through the kitchen and into the dining room just beyond, where—
"Harry! What's all this?"
The table is done up for an intimate dinner: a white lace tablecloth, a vase with a single rose, the good china, red wine decanting in a glass bottle, and candles by the dozen floating all around the perimeter of the room.
"It's your surprise," Harry says, the nervousness intensifying along with the smile. "Part of it, anyway. Roast leg of lamb with a garlic-rosemary rub, stuffing, green beans."
"This is…" Draco doesn't really know what this is. Lovely, to be sure, but he can't quite figure out why it's happening. What day is it? Did he forget some special occasion?
Harry ushers him to one of the chairs. Draco hooks his cane over the edge of the table as he sits and looks at the spread. It smells incredible.
"I had banked on you coming home at your usual time. I suppose I might have known you'd be late. That's why I had Lyra send her patronus. Always easier to get you home when it's her."
"What is all this?" Draco asks again as Harry uses a few flicks of his fingers to serve the lamb.
"Can't a bloke do something romantic?"
He certainly can, but traditional romance has never been what Draco would call a staple of their relationship. They love each other, absolutely, and have for years, but elaborate dinners and candlelight have never been a part of expressing that love.
The look on Draco's face must show what he's thinking, because Harry smiles sheepishly as if to admit to the fact that it's unusual.
"It's just – we've been together for ages now, and I…"
He falters and falls off, like he isn't sure where he intended that sentence to go. Draco takes a hesitant bite of lamb. It tastes just as good as it smells, and Draco makes what is surely a very undignified noise.
"Before things get really crazy – or crazier than usual – and since Lyra will be going off to school soon I thought it might be a good time to, ah…"
Draco is perfectly content to let him think through wherever this sentence is going if it means he can keep eating this lamb.
"I don't know," Harry laughs, rubbing the back of his head. "Should I wait till after we eat? Is that how it's meant to go?"
"I have no idea," Draco says, "mostly because I don't know where you're going with this. Not that I don't appreciate it. This lamb is incredible."
Harry smiles, wets his lips, reaches out for Draco's hand. "This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen, you know."
"People aren't supposed to find their soulmate on the first go," Harry explains, and despite himself, Draco smiles. "I mean, when does that happen? You were my first love, and after ten years, I know you'll be my last."
"That is very sweet," Draco says, gripping Harry's hand back, "and incredibly soppy."
"I know. Sorry."
"Do you want to just tell me whatever it is you're trying to say? Surely it will be easier than all this pomp and politesse."
Harry doesn't answer immediately. He's nervous, Draco can tell, though Draco can't imagine for what.
"Yeah," he says after a moment. "Yeah, all right." He sucks in a breath, grips Draco's hand all the tighter. "Draco, will—"
And then the door opens with a clatter.
Draco wrenches around. Hermione is standing in the the doorway, looking slightly frantic.
It takes a moment for the words to sink in. Draco has been preparing himself for this moment for years now, but somehow the news still knocks him flat.
"It's happened, Draco!" she says, lunging forward and grabbing him by the shoulder. "The Wizengamot just approved the nomination! You're running for Minister of Magic!"
"Oh," is all Draco can manage.
"Come on!" She grabs his cane off the edge of the table and shoves it into his hand. "We have to go; the press are waiting for your acceptance speech!"
"What," Harry says. "No, wait. Hermione, wait."
"Oh, hi, Harry!" Draco is willing to bet Hermione hadn't even seen him. She has that single-mindedness in her eye that she always gets at important moments.
"You can't have him yet. I need him."
"Surely whatever you need him for isn't more important than his campaign for Minister of Magic!"
"It sort of is, thanks!"
"All right, both of you stop," Draco says, rising to his feet. "Harry, this is gorgeous and thank you and I love you and put it all under a stasis charm. This won't take long. I'll be back in less than an hour."
Harry looks alarmed. He rises to his feet. "But you don't understand," he says. "This is really important."
"Just a quick press briefing!" Draco insists, bending forward to peck him on the lips. "I'll be back before you know it and you can romance the hell out of me, I promise."
"I'm sorry!" Draco says as he follows – or, to be more accurate, is dragged by – Hermione out of the dining room. "Love you!"
"I picked up notes for the speech," Hermione says, pulling him back toward the hearth. "They're already waiting in the press briefing room. I can't believe it's finally happening!"
Draco laughs. "You're more excited than I am."
"As well I should be," she says. "I've done more work on it than you!"
He supposes that's true. Hermione has been one hell of a campaign manager, and Draco's sure she'll be an even better Deputy Minister.
He follows her back through the hearth into the Ministry, where he is promptly assaulted by several people all at once – a few assistants with words of congratulations from Shacklebolt and Headmistress McGonagall, his image consultant to fix his hair and robes, Hermione's deputy with last-minute prep – and he's shaked them all and is nearly at the door of the press briefing room when all of a sudden, he is grabbed by the front of his robes, pressed into the wall, and snogged senseless.
He isn't quite aware of what's going on other than the fact that whoever's snogging him is doing quite a good job of it, and when they pull away—
"Harry, what are you doing here? I told you I'd be right back—!"
"From the first day I met you, you were the most remarkable person in my life," Harry says, sounding quite rushed and a bit breathless (Draco is willing to bet he ran through the Ministry to catch up with them). "Every day you astound me with your intellect and humor and incredible empathy and I want to spend the rest of my life with you will you marry me?"
Draco opens his mouth, sure he misheard.
He feels something pushed into his hand, small and covered in soft, buttery velvet.
It's a ring box.
The door to the press briefing room opens; a page is standing just inside.
"Lord Malfoy," she says, "come on!"
He's tugged inside, though he's still staring at Harry, who is staring back at him with those entirely-too-green eyes, looking just as lost as Draco feels.
He stumbles up to the podium. A few cameras go off, but he's not looking at the reporters. He's looking at the ring box.
He cracks it open. Inside is a small, plain band of brushed silver. A small, engraved butterfly is flapping around the inside.
Draco suddenly finds that his eyes are burning with tears. He does his best to bite back the smile, but it arrives anyway. He pushes the ring onto his finger.
Draco looks up. The cloud of reporters are looking at him in confused silence, all of them primed and waiting, expecting a speech. Draco cannot think of anything in the world less important.
"Harry?" he asks, scanning the crowd. "Harry, are you—?"
Harry pushes through the door. Every line is drawn taut and tense, and his eyes are fixed at once on Draco.
"Yes," Draco says, voice hitched. "That – my answer. Yes."
The reporters all spin. A few more pictures are taken, this time of Harry.
The tension in Harry melts out; Draco can see it from across the room. His face breaks into a smile.
"It's going to be absolutely mad," Harry says, though he has to raise his voice to be heard across the room, "planning a wedding while you're running for Minister of Magic."
Whispers break out across the room. More cameras flash.
"I know," Draco laughs, rubbing a knuckle into his eye. "Let's do it anyway, though, all right?"
That's when the shouting starts. It's an incomprehensible cacophony of Mr. Potter and Lord Malfoy, and even if Draco could make out all the individual questions, he wouldn't have cared to answer them. Harry pushes his way past the reporters and makes it up to the podium, and the force with which he embraces Draco nearly breaks his ribs. Draco gives as much as he gets.
"Probably should have thought this out a little better," Harry mutters into his ear, voice sounding drawn and tight with emotion. "This is going to be a PR nightmare, isn't it?"
Draco laughs. Any pretense of fighting back emotions is gone. Draco kisses him and the cameras flash and Harry's probably right about this being a PR nightmare, and somehow it doesn't matter.
And under the layers of starched dress robes, after all these years, strong as it ever was, the butterfly flaps its wings.
Author's Note: OMG, YOU GUYS! Two-and-a-half months and 100k words, and it's FINALLY OVER!
Thank you so much to all of you, but especially those of you who stuck with this monstrosity from the beginning. I love you most of all!
If you liked it, please consider leaving a review. Reviews are like crack to me and I always need a fix!