Thank you again for all the reviews! This is the last chapter of There's a Pure-Blood Custom For That. Thank you for reading along.
"You're sure about this, mate?" Ron was squinting at Harry as if he could take him out of Slytherin colors if he just looked at him long enough.
"Sure," said Harry, and adjusted the cuffs of his robe in front of the mirror. He met Ron's eyes in the reflection, and had to laugh. "You look as though you think I'm going to burst into flames or start molting my Polyjuice disguise any second."
"I know that you're happy with Malfoy," Ron said, and waved one hand. "But I do think it's a bit fast to be getting married to him."
Harry cocked his head. "You remember some of the things you and I and Hermione went through?"
"Of course." Ron looked taken aback, and wandered around so that Harry could no longer see him in the mirror. Harry turned and saw him toying with a hook on the far wall of the dressing room that was probably meant to hold a cloak. Draco had insisted that Harry get dressed in his robe in a far room of the Manor, because he couldn't see Draco the morning of the bonding. It was a bare room, except for the mirror and a few trunks that probably stored old clothes. "But that was over a lot longer period of time."
"Sure," said Harry, and almost leaned against the wall before he thought of the dust that would get all over his robe if he did that, and Draco's probable reaction. He settled for standing upright and casting a spell that would put a small, invisible barrier between him and the wall. That way, he could still get some of the weight off his feet. "But things tended to change pretty fast. We became friends with Hermione because of something that was intense, and fast. I became enemies with Voldemort pretty much the first time I heard about him." He paused and eyed Ron. "We all suffered during the war because of things that didn't take that much time when they happened, but they were important."
Ron flushed. "So you're saying that this—"
"What I have with Draco is intense," Harry said quietly. "I think what matters is how deep it is, not how quick it is."
Ron considered him with a different sort of expression this time. "I used to think that you were the only one of us who had grown up and gone on with his life after the war," he said. "Now, I think maybe you still have a bit of the child left inside."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Of course I do. How we handled it was different, but. Well. I had to move my bed away from the walls. And I have nightmares sometimes." That had been fun, the first time he had awakened from one in the same bed as Draco, and had to explain what was going on. "You got married before I did and had a child. And I think you're a good dad to Rose. You just need help sometimes, that's all."
"Listen," said Harry, and waited until Ron was looking at him. "Draco said that custom requires I have this attendant who's my best friend. And pure-blood, if it can be managed. And I'm doing this not because I really care about the customs, but because I love Draco, and he does. Just like I did things for you because I cared about you without wanting to become a Healer and help everyone in sight." He nodded at the door. "But I'm going to call Hermione in, and who cares what the bloody customs say, if my best friend doesn't stop brooding about his completely imaginary lack of best-friend-hood around me."
It took a moment, but Ron laughed. Then he reached out and grabbed Harry in a long, deep hug. "I just want you to be happy, mate," he whispered.
"Believe me," Harry whispered back, "if I'm not, then I know what to do."
Ron nodded and took a step back, and this time, he was beaming all over his face. "Reckon you do." He turned to the door. "Shall we?"
Hermione joined them when Harry came out of the storage room. She was standing in the middle of the corridor and frowning at an empty portrait frame on the wall. Harry hoped one of the Malfoy ancestors hadn't ducked out of sight of a Muggleborn and caused a problem, but when Hermione turned around, she shook her head.
"The only way this place could stay as clean as it does without constant use is house-elves," she said.
Harry hid his smile and decided that Hermione didn't need to know how often he relied on their services, the same way Hermione sometimes pretended to Harry that all Rose ate was healthy vegetables. "I know," he said soothingly. "But there aren't going to be any elves taking part in the bonding ceremony, you know."
"That's because they're all preparing the feast." Hermione tapped her foot.
For once, Harry could honestly shake his head. "No. The food we're going to eat had to be cooked or prepared or at least bought with our own hands." Harry had spent a lot of time in the kitchen yesterday with a cake- and sandwich-smeared Scorpius, who had shouted and clapped his hands and run around with joy as Harry made the meal.
Scorpius had dictated most of the menu, not that Harry minded. Along with the child that still lurked inside him when it came to intense experiences, there was another child who appreciated a meal of cakes and sandwiches—delicious sandwiches made with all sorts of fillings, the kind of thing he could do for himself but rarely bothered with—just fine. At the very least, he thought his best friends would enjoy the meal after the bonding.
"Well, okay," said Hermione, and for an instant she looked so out of sorts because she didn't have something to complain about that Harry bit his lip. "Fine, then. I reckon we start walking to the bonding now?" She looked at Ron as though he should know, although Harry thought he was the one who had the most knowledge of the customs involved after Draco.
"Yes," said Harry primly, and pretended to strut and swagger in his robe as he led them down the corridors. That finally got a laugh out of Hermione, and Harry smiled to himself when he heard Ron chuckle with her.
He would have wanted to have his best friends with him even if they were still having nightmares and needing his help constantly, and even if the custom didn't call for him to have a friend help him with his robes, but he was so glad they could be here like this, for these reasons.
Harry rounded the corner and stopped with a gasp. He had thought he was stepping into the gardens of Malfoy Manor, and he would find the ordinary gardens there—decorated a little, because Scorpius had wanted to and there was nothing in the customs that forbade it, but still, ordinary.
It wasn't. At all.
Andromeda and Teddy stood off to the side, Teddy grinning like mad, beneath an arch of silver roses that ran the length of the garden. They weren't real, like the one that Scorpius ran up breathlessly to give to Harry, but it was still something Harry hadn't thought would be there.
And there were lights, fairy lights and softly sparkling globes the color of icicles, hovering above the points of the fence, and strung in the bushes, and everywhere around the property that Harry could see. Beside the lights were small photographs of Harry and Draco, set into frames, that turned continually to face each other. Harry was sure it was a spell, but it was one he had never heard of, which made it all the more wondrous.
Overhead soared Golden, the only golden one in a flock of swirling silver birds. Harry had to swallow hard when he saw them. George had said that he didn't feel he could attend the bonding ceremony—he just wasn't up to it—but he had sent his best wishes, in the best way he knew how. Scorpius was already looking from Golden up at the other birds as if figuring out how to catch them.
Draco stood at the front of the gardens, down a path between the bushes that had fairy lights and pictures under them, beneath the largest globe of light in the garden. The soft radiance it shed on him mingled with the sheer joy in his gaze to distract Harry at first, and he didn't see the robes Draco was wearing.
Then he made them out, a golden color so gentle that it looked like brown or yellow until Draco moved or breathed. Like Harry's, it was ornamented with silver at cuffs and hem. A collar of white lace stood up around his neck.
On his hand was the ring that Harry had given him, shining with its ruby, and on the other wrist the bracelet with its entwining pattern of flowers and leaves that matched the ring he'd given Harry. Harry smiled at him, and Draco smiled back at him in a way that made his heart tingle and pound hard enough he thought it was probably distorting the neat line of his robes.
On the other hand, he was perfectly sure that Draco would forgive him for it.
Harry advanced with slow steps. Draco stood in front of the low green bank of turf and grass that he'd raised, and didn't come to meet him, although Harry saw him tremble with the eagerness to do so. But Harry was trying to give the ritual the respect it deserved, as well as taking in the sights all around him, and Draco must know that.
Finally, Harry stood in front of the green altar, and turned to face Draco. At the same moment, someone shimmered into being behind Draco, removing the Disillusionment Charm.
Harry blinked. Draco had told him that the customs called for Draco, as the one who had announced the time of the bonding and the owner of the house, to have a pure-blood with him who wasn't a close friend to help with his own robes, but Harry had forgotten about it entirely. And here was Neville, grinning at him and taking the thin outer cloak, also golden, from Draco's shoulders and stepping back with a wink.
Harry opened his mouth to say something, but Draco was already moving forwards, and the globe of light hovering above his head moved with him. Harry closed his mouth obediently, and tilted his head so Draco could touch his neck with the petals of the silver rose that he also carried.
The birds that flew above them circled down and landed on the grass. Scorpius stepped beside them, breathless and looking from one of their faces to the other. Andromeda and Teddy and Ron and Hermione went quiet at the same instant, and Harry wondered if that was something Draco had told them they had to do, or rehearsed, or just a nice coincidence.
Or maybe, like Harry, they could sense the mood that Draco had fallen into at the moment, although Harry didn't think any of them were close enough to make out the deep solemnity in Draco's eyes.
"This rose seals the bond between us," Draco whispered. "As it didn't grow on its own, as it was cultivated, so we've cultivated the bond that grows between us. It's something we had to choose, and every step has been a different kind of choice." He paused, and Harry wondered if anyone else there knew Draco well enough to see how strong his uncertainty was. "Do you make the final choice to bond with me?"
Harry caught Draco's hand and kissed the back of it. Here was Draco, not knowing Harry's answer, but brave enough to ask him in front of people he didn't know that well and family he had only recently reconciled with. Harry honored his courage more than he could say.
"Yes," Harry whispered, when Draco stood there and looked at him, and either he also wanted Harry to prove his courage, or he didn't trust the moment to be real until Harry agreed. "I promise to be yours. I choose to be yours."
Draco's smile was a new beginning. He reached for something lying on the green mound beside them, although Harry knew there hadn't been anything there a second ago when he'd glanced at it. What Draco raised was a delicate circle of silver links, joined by a thin, fine chain to another circle. Each collar had a single stone dangling from it as a pendant, which in the case of the one on the left was a sapphire and in the case of the one on the right…
Harry squinted. He didn't recognize the stone.
"It's a ruby," Draco said quietly. "Like the one you gave me. But this one is a star ruby." He turned the necklace, and Harry nodded; he could see the star-like shape that seemed to float in the surface of the jewel. "Just as the other one is a star sapphire." And Draco turned the necklace again, and Harry gave a low, admiring whistle at the sight of the soft white starburst that glowed there.
"What do those symbolize?" Harry whispered. He wondered for a moment if the others could hear them, and then dismissed the notion. It didn't matter if they could or not. What mattered was the slow smile that worked across Draco's face, the spark touched in him by what he could surely tell was genuine interest.
"They symbolize great endurance of the relationship," Draco breathed, and turned the necklace so that the stars flashed again. "And the star shows that we shine equally well. Rubies and sapphires are close to the same stone, you know. The different colors still show that we have a variety of talents and abilities between us."
After a moment, Harry gravely inclined his head. Honestly, he didn't know of anyone who could make him feel as much a part of the pure-blood world as Draco. And he didn't know anyone else he would have been willing to learn all these customs for. Of course, Ron and Hermione would never have asked it of him.
"We both wear the chain," Draco said. "For a moment only," he added hurriedly.
Harry nodded again. He could see that, and he was a little curious to see what would happen when the chains settled around their necks.
He had to step closer to Draco and dip his head so Draco could get the collar with the star ruby over his ears. Then Draco, working with his hands in two positions so far apart that Harry winced a little for him, managed to arrange things so that the star sapphire collar settled around his own neck at the same moment.
Harry gasped aloud when the globe of light above them began to whirl around, faster and faster. Draco caught his hand and held him still as the shadows and the radiance danced and flickered over them. His smile was so extraordinarily sweet that Harry smiled back and stood there, unafraid and uncomplaining, while the light came near enough to make Harry feel as if his ears were burning.
But then the light flashed and glimmered out, and Harry looked down, blinking. The chain that led from one collar to the other was glowing with the flash's remains. As Harry watched, the light slowly worked its way up the fine links, in both directions, so that Harry wore one collar of brilliance and Draco the other.
Draco reached out and caught Harry's right hand with his left one. Harry nodded again at the second silent question those eyes asked.
"Do you promise to be true to me?" Draco asked.
"I promise to be true to you," said Harry, with no hesitation and no doubt in his voice. He hoped that would help soothe any fear his friends might feel that this wasn't right for him.
"And I promise to be true to you," Draco said, and the light faded out around a third of his own collar. Harry was sure the same thing had happened to him. "Do you promise to be at my side?"
Harry smiled. He didn't know why Draco had insisted on hiding the vows they would make from Harry, which he had. Harry thought they were simple, sweet, straightforward—the sort of vows he would have wanted to make with a spouse. "I promise to be at your side."
"And I promise to be at yours," said Draco, and another third of the collars turned back into ordinary silver. Draco took a single deep breath, and then released it. "Do you promise to share your life with me?"
Harry didn't touch Draco's cheek, because he doubted the ritual would allow it and he didn't know if Draco would want it, but those eyes, so large and vulnerable…
And so trusting and courageous. "I promise to share my life with you," Harry whispered, the words flowing forth as effortlessly as though he had known what to say, and had had time to prepare.
"And I promise to share my life with you."
The last of the light vanished from the collars. Then, abruptly, the collars lifted off their necks, the chains going wide so that Harry didn't even feel it slip up and around his ears and hair. He looked up in time to see the star ruby and star sapphire detach from their pendants and orbit around the chain, which was shining brighter and brighter.
"Watch," Draco whispered, taking his hand, and Harry leaned his head against Draco and watched as the light consumed the silver, and reached out to touch the gems. Then Harry had to hide his eyes as the radiance grew too bright to continue looking at.
The silver mass fell down towards them at last. Harry would have moved, but Draco stood there, calm and confident, and his hold on Harry's arm kept Harry in place.
When the light landed, it faded out, and Harry stared. On the green grass mound next to them stood a simple cup, made of silver, but silver that looked as though it was folded and pleated, like the links of a chain. It had two handles, one made of ruby and one of sapphire, and a star-pattern imprinted on either side.
"Now," Draco said, "we drink out of this. It's a sign that our marriage is true, that it formed this shape so quickly." He lifted the cup by one handle. Harry took the other, and opened his mouth to ask what they were going to fill the cup with.
Then he saw the cup was already filled with a dark, sparkling purple wine. Harry smiled in wonder, and lifted the cup to his lips at the same time Draco did. The brim was so wide they could easily drink together.
The wine was like nothing Harry had ever tasted, foam with an edge of sweetness, and for a second, a torrent of whispering thoughts went past him. Draco's, he knew. Harry couldn't hear them properly, but he was sure every one of them spoke of love.
Draco blinked and shook his head, and then stepped back. Harry let go of the silver cup at the same time, and it floated over and settled on the mound of green grass in front of them. In seconds, it sank into the grass and blended with it, and a sheen of silver spread across the green. Smiling, Draco bent down and took up two small circlets that Harry realized, a moment later, were rings, thin enough that they could be worn on the same fingers as the ruby ring and the ring Draco had given him.
"Witness the bonding," Draco said softly, and slid the first ring onto Harry's finger. Harry blinked and came back to himself, and managed to follow suit a second later.
The rings settled softly into place, perfectly fitted. Harry looked up and carefully slid a hand around Draco's chin, watching his face. He wanted to know if they could kiss now, but he was afraid of mistaking the moment and causing some upset to Draco.
Draco only inclined his head with his eyes shining, and Harry kissed him. It was softer, gentler, than so many of the kisses they had shared, but this time, Harry was certain that was only because of the audience. They would have harder kisses later, when they were in the privacy that could safely shield such things.
Scorpius cheered, and a moment later, Teddy and Andromeda followed suit. Neville clapped. Ron and Hermione smiled, and then joined in the applause when Scorpius whispered loudly, "Why aren't they clapping, Daddy?"
But Harry, standing there for a moment with his touch still lingering on Draco's finger where he'd slid the ring on, couldn't care less at the moment who was applauding and who was cheering. What mattered more than anything was the smile on Draco's face, and the way his eyes shone.
This was love. More precious than any ring or gem. More binding than any custom.