"Madame Secretary. So good of you to come."
"I wouldn't miss it for the world! It's been so long since there's been a true Malfoy party. Not so long ago they were more important than the Cabinet Meetings."
Lucius smiles beatifically. "And so they shall be again, one can only hope."
The Secretary of International Affairs turns to Draco and brightens. "And if it isn't young Draco! Not quite so young anymore. I remember when you were waist-high!"
Draco manages something near enough to a smile that she doesn't seem to notice anything amiss.
"I see you managed to inherit your father's striking good looks!"
"And his head for politics, with any luck!"
Lucius claps him on the shoulder, right over the fresh wound running parallel to his shoulder blade. It takes everything in Draco to swallow a shout of pain.
"Please," he says, "enjoy the festivities. Unless my memory fails me, I think there's a favorite vintage of yours being served."
She bustles off, husband on her arm, into the glittering ballroom of the Malfoy Manor. In the corner, a twelve-piece orchestra plays a waltz, and strings of thrumming, spinning fairy lights twirl around the ceiling. It looks beautiful, and Draco wishes he was in any sort of condition to appreciate it.
"If you're going to throw a tantrum, Draco," Lucius says through a venomous smile, "then at least have the decency to do so in another room."
Draco doesn't answer. He does not trust his voice. He tries to force himself to smile, to middling success.
Lucius turns to him, and Draco is not fooled for a second by the pressed dress robes, the combed hair, the gleaming cufflinks. His father is still quite angry.
"This evening will go off without a hitch, Draco," he says lowly, and Draco shrinks. "Surely you would not be so egregious as to make two consecutive attempts to sabotage your family's good standing. Minister Shacklebolt!"
He emerges through the double doors into the ballroom to the sound of a footman calling All rise for the Minister of Magic! Those seated around the room quickly rise from their chairs.
"Twice in one day!" Lucius says. "You must be careful to avoid any display of favoritism."
Kingsley Shacklebolt smiles wanly. "I assure you that those who know me could never make such an error. How are you, Draco?"
Draco tries to answer, but finds his voice is too hoarse. He swallows and tries again, "Fine. I'm fine."
Draco is not fine. Draco is barely holding it together. He feels thin, like a rope sawed down to its last fibers, pulled taut on both ends. He is cold and weak and his hands are shaking – though whether from some tightly-reigned emotion or from blood loss, he can't quite be sure.
Minister Shacklebolt seems to pick up on it to some degree. His smile fades fractionally. "Are you, indeed?"
"As this is your first formal visit to the Malfoy Manor, Minister, I thought it might be a good idea to give you a bit of a tour," Lucius says. "Nothing too time-consuming of course – there would be quite a lot to cover – but as a student of magical history, I'm sure you'd find it fascinating."
Minister Shacklebolt looks from Draco, to Lucius, then back to Draco. He seems to be hesitating on the edge of a point that he doesn't quite make.
"All right," he says.
"Draco," his father says, "I trust you can manage this on your own?"
Draco does not miss the emphasis, nor the harsh, punctuated tone. "Of course," he says, barely.
They depart. Draco is left standing by the ballroom door, swaying slightly. He feels like a whipped dog, so downtrod that he does not even have the strength to hate himself for his position.
But like a whipped, dog, he feels as though the only option is to continue to do as he is asked. A few more guests arrive. He greets them with everything left in him – which, he grants, is not that much.
If he can just make it through tonight, he tells himself, it will be fine, somehow. Won't it? It must. This is where he should be, what he should be doing, how he should be. Because if it isn't, then what the hell should he be?
It's Blaise, dressed to the nines but frowning. The dizzy sensation tempers with sudden fear.
"Jesus, Draco, you're white as a sheet—"
"What are you doing here." Draco means to phrase it like a question, but all the words run together in a way that barely sounds like a sentence. "You can't – I owled you—"
"Yeah, you fucking owled me, you absolute clod," Blaise says, stepping forward, "do you have any fucking idea how scary that letter was? Business letters aren't supposed to read like fucking suicide notes."
"It – that's not—"
"You spent three paragraphs apologizing, I'd half expected to find you with your wrists slit! What happened?"
"You can't be seen here," Draco says. "I'm sorry – Blaise, I'm sorry, you have to go—"
"I'm not going anywhere until you explain to me why you look like you're about to pass out from blood loss!"
"I can't talk right now," he says. "Please – just go, before he sees you—"
"So this was your father! Why am I not surprised?"
Draco walks away – or at least he tries to. He's still swaying unsteadily on his feet, but it is some small accomplishment that he manages to stay upright all the way to the refreshment table in the center of the room. The ice sculpture dragon is spelled to beat its outstretched wings as though it is taking flight, but it remains quite firmly attached to the table. For one delirious moment, Draco feels sorry for the poor bastard.
"I'm not going away, Draco!" Blaise grabs him by the shoulder and turns him around just as Draco snatches a flute of champagne from the table. "I'm fucking worried about you. Just talk to me!"
"There's nothing worth saying," Draco answers thinly, emptying the flute of champagne in one long swallow.
"You're as shit a liar as you ever were," Blaise says. "And you need to stand up to him."
"Blaise, go home."
"I'm serious, Draco. How on earth are you ever supposed to—"
The clutch of fear clutches harder. No, no, no. Not him, anyone but him.
But should he really be surprised when he turns and sees Harry fording his way through the growing crowd, ignoring surprised shouts of "Director Potter!" as he goes? Should he really be surprised that Harry is moving toward him like a drowning man swims for shore? And after everything, should he be surprised that he still wants to fall right into him and sleep for a year?
"Draco, Jesus, there you are! What the fuck happened? Are you all right?"
But doing what he wanted is what got him into this mess in the first place. Draco should never allow himself the luxury of indulgence ever again.
"You both—" Draco begins haltingly. "You can't stay here. You both have to leave."
"Potter?" Blaise says. "What are you doing here?"
"You're ashen white," Harry says, foregoing Blaise's question and pressing a hand, however briefly, to the side of his face. "Christ! And you're fucking freezing – Draco – did you not – are your wounds not healed?"
"Wounds?" Blaise says, looking sharply back at Draco. "What fucking wounds?"
"Please," Draco says weakly, feeling like he's about to fall apart, "please, you both have to go. If he knows you're here—"
"Draco, I'm sorry about what happened, you have no idea how sorry, but you shouldn't have left! You should have talked to me, let me heal you – I should heal you now—"
"Oh, shitting fuck," Blaise says, the dawning light of sudden realization on his face, "you're his Dom?"
"Please," Draco says, voice cracking under it all. "Please, just go, you can't…"
"Well, now I owe Pansy ten galleons from a bet I made in sixth year," Blaise says. "Perfect."
"Draco, please, at least let me heal you. You can't just leave wounds open, they'll fester."
"Harry, please." It is not the first time Draco has begged something from Harry, but it has to be his last, because, "I can't keep doing this. I never could. Please, just leave, just go."
God, the look of hurt on his face rips Draco open in fresh new ways. "Draco, what are you saying?"
His entire body reacts – one tremendous flinch of fear racing all the way up his spine. It's a movement that sets off new sparks of pain.
"Go," he says to Harry and Blaise, but when he turns around, it's too late.
There he is, Lucius Malfoy, comprised entirely of bared teeth and foul disposition, storming up toward the center table.
"Not five minutes I'm gone and already you make another attempt to sabotage your family's standing," he snarls.
He moves close enough for Draco to speak through his teeth: "What is your degenerate of a business partner doing here when I expressly said to uninvite him?"
"Well, I was here to check on my friend," Blaise interjects loudly, "but I think I'll stay for the express purpose of pissing you off."
"I will have you removed, Zabini!" Lucius snaps at him.
"Lucius Malfoy, I have been wanting to say this to you since I was twelve years old and you made that fucking mulatto comment about my mother: suck every cock on the face of the planet."
Draco is either going to burst into laughter or break down into tears. It should not be so hard to decide which.
"How dare you speak to me that way! I could ruin you with the information I have—"
"It's not a fucking secret, Malfoy!" Blaise shouts at him. "I run a sex club where people get tied up and whipped! Unlike you, my pride in myself and my work isn't fucking conditional on what other people think!"
People are starting to stare. Draco feels like he is unravelling, right along with the situation, as everything spirals into absolute chaos.
"Guards!" Lucius barks.
"And as long as we're fucking on the subject of proper ways to speak to people," Blaise says, and he's only getting louder, and this absolute insanity, and Draco's head is spinning, "how about we fucking talk about how systematically and thoroughly you've fucking destroyed your own son's sense of self-worth, you absolute goddamn twat?"
Suddenly, it's Harry's turn to talk: "Is that what happened? Is that why you ran?"
"Stop," Draco says, weakly. "All of you please stop."
"All his life he's been trying so fucking hard to win your approval and respect and you wrap it up in so much petty, superficial bullshit—"
"How dare you—"
"—because Merlin fucking forbid he's not an exact replica of you, espousing the same backwards, traditionalist rubbish you do! Newsflash, Malfoy: your outdated, puritanical views on life and love and sex are going to die with you!"
"Stop it!" Draco shouts, voice breaking.
"STAY SILENT, DRACO!"
And then Harry is in front of him, hunched and snarling and dangerous. "You keep your fucking distance, Malfoy!"
"This has nothing to do with you, Potter!"
"I will rip your fucking arm off before I let you lay a finger on him!"
"He is my son!" Lucius bellows, at least three times as loud as even the loudest of Blaise's ranting, and anyone that hadn't been listening before surely is now. "And this is my estate, my manor, my party! What are you? You're nothing! You have no sense of true power, true dignity, true breeding! This progressive, nouveau-riche generation is comprised of nothing but sinners and sodomites and vagrants and—"
And then, Blaise Zabini punches Lucius Malfoy in the face.
It is sort of mystifying to watch, really. The initial impact – Blaise went right for the teeth – sends him staggering backward into the refreshment table, upon which he collapses. Several glasses of champagne shatter, and then the entire table capitulates under his weight. This in turn sends trays of hors d'oeuvres spilling onto him, bottles of wine breaking over him, and then – with one last, grand sound – the tremendous ice sculpture dragon toppling over on top of him and knocking him unconscious.
The room goes suddenly quiet. Draco stares down at his father, unconscious and covered in hundreds of galleons worth of food, not entirely sure what just happened, but feeling like something in him has changed in some fundamental way.
"Jesus Christ, that felt good!" Blaise says loudly, voice echoing around the deathly-silent ballroom. "Not to overstate it or anything but I'm pretty sure I just came in my pants!"
Something thin and fragile snaps in Draco's head and he quite abruptly bursts into laughter. Full, throaty, asphyxiating belly laughter, and he doubles over. And it may be his imagination, but he thinks he can hear the rest of the room joining in.
"I'm really sorry," Harry says quietly.
Draco smiles to himself. He is dizzy, uncoordinated, and the little snaps and arcs of pain moving up along his back as Harry magically seals the wounds are oddly nice.
"Don't be," he says.
"I should have talked with you more beforehand," Harry says. "It's my responsibility to get a read on your mental state before the play."
"Harry, it's fine," Draco says. "It wasn't your fault."
"Are you sure you're all right?"
"I'm so much better than all right," Draco answers, grinning to himself. "You have no idea."
"Really?" Harry's voice can only be described as hesitantly optimistic. "I mean – not that I don't believe you – it's just that when I found you, you looked like you were about ready to break down into tears."
"Oh, I was," Draco answers. "I felt absolutely wrecked. But as weird as it feels to say, I think I might be over it."
"Over all of it."
"That's – I mean, that's good, but it just seems… all that baggage, and then…"
"Harry," Draco says, turning around on the settee to look over his shoulder, when—
"Face forward, I'm not done."
"Sorry." He turns back around, and Harry continues healing the large wound along his ribcage. "Harry," he continues, staring into the fire of the drawing room hearth, "it took something ridiculous to make me see how ridiculous it was. How ridiculous he was. To see him standing there, shrieking his head off about sodomites and the nouveau-riche—" Draco laughs. "Merlin, he sounded like one of those homeless doomsday prophets who stands on the corner and shouts at you about the apocalypse."
"And it was all just that. I was pinning all my self-respect and my identity and my raison d'être on the political and emotional equivalent of a shouting homeless person."
The chuckling turns into laughter, strong enough to force Harry to momentarily stop his healing.
"God," Harry wheezes, "when the fucking dragon—"
"I know!" Draco says, and they both break down into laughter that lasts for several more seconds.
"Don't take this the wrong way, Draco," Harry says when he finally regains enough of himself to return to the healing spell, "but next time we fuck, I'm going to be thinking 60% about you and 40% about your father getting punched in the face."
Draco dissolves into giggling – again.
"You know," Harry adds somewhat belatedly, "if we…"
Draco grins and turns his head just far enough to see Harry in the periphery of his vision. "If we what?"
"If we keep doing that," Harry finishes, somewhat lamely.
"I love you," Draco says.
He can see Harry look up slowly from his spellwork. Draco can't see him clearly enough to get a read on his face, but it's not so important. Draco feels like he's been sitting on this for months.
"I do," he continues. "I think I have for a while now. I just let myself bury it so deep that I wouldn't have to confront it."
"Draco," Harry says, softly.
"I love you, Harry Potter," Draco says, turning around. Harry's face is lit with the orange hearth light, green eyes shining. "I love you for your strength and your thoughtfulness and your willingness to rip my father's arm off."
Harry laughs, but only once.
"And I want to be yours," Draco adds. "Your – your boyfriend, your submissive, both at once. I want to never take that collar off."
"Not to alarm you, Draco," Harry says, reaching up and trailing his fingers along the crux of Draco's jaw, "but I think you're one step ahead of yourself."
Draco looks down. There is a faint blue glow around Harry's wrist – pale blue threads that pulse in time with his heart beat. They're glowing strong and soft, intricately interweaving.
Then Draco looks to the side, where a decorative mirror hangs on the wall, and Draco sees it around his own throat – a nearly identical twining of blue threads – ligabus filium.
Draco smiles. "Wow."
"It's generally not just supposed to appear that abruptly," Harry says, "but then again, we've never been able to do things the right way, have we?"
Draco grins and looks back at him. Harry closes his right hand as though holding an invisible rope, and he tugs – a gesture which pulls Draco forward by the throat. Draco feels that same little chill of excitement, and he can feel it in Harry, too.
"I love you, Draco Malfoy," Harry says, "for your intelligence and your cunning and everything else you are."
And perhaps there is still some part of Draco that wants to ignore just how truly, uniquely happy that sentence makes him, but he decides that it is the same part of him that he's left behind. He lets himself relish in it. Harry is in love with him, and he is in love with Harry, and he's allowed to be happy about it.
"Should I come back later?"
Draco looks up and sees, to his surprise—
"Just wanted to check up on you," he says. "I hope those wounds aren't from flying glass?"
"No, no, no, nothing so unpalatable," Draco answers, shrugging on his shirt. He'll let Harry heal up the rest of them later.
"Good, splendid," he says. "I just wanted to drop this off with you."
He produces a large envelope from the sleeve of his robe, handing it to Draco.
"It's a formalized offer for that Cabinet position," he says. "I thought it would be better to get it in writing so you have—"
"I'll take it," Draco says before he actually takes the letter.
Shacklebolt gives a start. "Will you?"
"Yes," Draco answers, beaming. "I will. It would be an honor to serve at the pleasure of the Minister."
He takes the letter and thumbs open the wax seal.
"Splendid," Shacklebolt says, still sounding surprised.
"You were offered a Cabinet position?" Harry asks.
"Of course I was," Draco says. "As it turns out, I'm pretty fucking brilliant with money."
From the far end of the hall outside the drawing room, Draco hears the sound of shouting, stumbling, clattering. And even though it should fill him with dread, all it does is make him grin.
"That sounds like your father," Shacklebolt says. "Speaking of, where's that friend of yours who punched him? I rather feel like I should send him a fruit basket."
"His name is Blaise Zabini, Minister," Draco answers, "and he is very fond of papaya."
"DRACO! Where IS he! I want him BROUGHT UP ON CHARGES!"
"I suppose that's my cue," Shacklebolt says.
"I wouldn't subject you to him. Thank you very much, Minister."
"Absolutely DISGRACEFUL! I want him THROWN IN AZKABAN for his—"
As his father rounds the corner into the drawing room door, Draco grabs Harry by the front of his robes and kisses him bruisingly.
Draco isn't watching, but he can hear the sudden silence, followed immediately by the sound of his father's unconscious body hitting the floor for the second time that day.
Harry breaks apart. "That was mean."
"It was hilarious."
"It was that, too," Harry admits, grinning.
"I'm two for two. At this point I'm on a roll. Do you reckon we can get him to do it a third time if he catches us having sex?"
Harry laughs, and Draco laughs, and he buries his face in Harry's chest, and the threads of magic pulse warmly around his throat.
Author's Note: THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING! Especially those of you who stuck it out from the beginning; I love you most of all! If you liked it, leave a review and check out my other stuff and also my tumblr if you are on tumblr. THAAAANK YOU!