Title: An Offering of Dragons
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Light angst, established relationship
Summary: Harry decides that he really needs to take a holiday. He hits on the idea of touring the respective dragon sanctuaries of the world, and invites Draco, who he's casually dating, to come with him.
Author's Notes: This story will probably be relatively short in terms of total numbers of chapters. It should update every Sunday.
An Offering of Dragons
Chapter One—Away From It All
"You're not sick, are you?"
Harry had to laugh at the way Ron was leaning across his desk, but he grinned at his best mate immediately afterwards, so Ron wouldn't get upset. "No, Ron. But I did decide a holiday was the best thing for me."
Ron paused, looked around at all the paperwork teetering in piles on Harry's desk, and said, "Well, at least it's not deciding that you need to catch up on your reports and file them."
"Right," Harry said gravely. "That would be much worse."
"It would," Ron said, and swiveled around so he could look at the tilting piles of paper on his own desk, across the corridor. "That would mean someone would come in here and scowl at me if I didn't do mine." He turned and performed some kind of complex triple salute to Harry that he probably thought was funny, along with all the many other things he thought were funny. "Thank you for sparing me a scolding."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I won't be gone long," he said. "A month. Well, probably a few months." He paused. "And I'm going to ask Draco to come with me."
This time, Ron fell off in a way that nearly took the stacks of paper on Harry's desk down with him. Harry clucked his tongue at Ron and rescued the paper with a lazy sweep of his wand. Yes, these were documents and reports and files and memos that he hadn't got to yet and wouldn't get to before he went away, but that was no reason to have an avalanche.
"Excuse me, mate," Ron said, and screwed a finger into his ear as he got back up. "I thought you said you were going to ask Malfoy to go with you."
"No, I didn't," said Harry, and because he couldn't resist the mischief, waited until Ron was sighing in relief before he added, "I said Draco."
Ron gave a great groan and flopped back into his own chair. The paper he had trembled, but didn't slide down. "Why, mate?" he almost whined. "Why would you think that you need to—continue this thing you have with him?"
"Because I want to learn what kind of thing it is," Harry said, with a shrug and a grin that made Ron groan and hide his head again. "Casual, which is the way we've kept it so far, or not."
"Going on holiday with him will let you know that?"
"Um, yes," Harry said. "It should. When we're running breathlessly from Floo connection to Floo connection or eating food that we've never seen before or ducking because a dragon gets too close to us, then we'll find out what we're really made of. And whether we still get irritated with each other," he added thoughtfully.
He sometimes had the impression that Draco deliberately kept his temper in check around Harry, because he was worried what Harry would think if he said what he really felt.
"That sort of makes sense," said Ron, and leaned forwards to peer into Harry's eyes. "Who replaced your brain with one that makes sense?"
Harry smiled. "The same person that replaced yours with one that cares about paperwork."
"There's lots of different definitions of the word cares." Ron leaned back and continued to consider Harry from a short distance away. "But not as many of what you're doing. You really do want to see if it'll last, don't you?"
Harry nodded. "Is that so wrong?" he had to add. The few times Draco had had dinner with him, Ron, and Hermione, the tension had been so high that it was hard to tell how they would react to each other on a long-term basis. Harry hadn't even been sure either he or Draco wanted a long-term basis, anyway.
"Er, of course not," said Ron, in a patronizing tone that suggested Harry must be mental if he thought Ron was suggesting that. "But I didn't realize—" He looked off into the corner of the office and frowned for a second as though he was contemplating a problem Harry couldn't see. Then he turned around again.
"I didn't realize you were that serious about him," Ron said, and Harry caught his breath at the weight of meaning in his voice.
"That's what I'm trying to test," Harry said. "I mean, who knows if we'll come back from this serious or not? He might not even agree to come," Harry added, and felt his voice dip. It was true he would take this holiday whether or not Draco came, because he really needed it, but he would like it so much better if Draco was there.
"I think he will." Ron hesitated, flicked his eyes up to the ceiling of the office, and then looked back at Harry. "I just—I can't believe I'm doing this, and you're going to owe me something, all right?"
"What the hell are you talking about?" Harry demanded irritably. "Will you say what it is so I can tell whether I owe you a handshake or a punch in the gut, anyway?"
"I think Malfoy is serious about you," Ron muttered, outrage and rebellion in every line of his body. "I didn't want to notice it. I still don't want to. But you couldn't see the way he watched you the last time we had dinner together. Like he never wanted to let you go."
A second later, Ron turned his head to the side and spat as hard as he could into the rubbish bin beside his desk. "And I'm never going to say anything like that again," he muttered. "I can barely believe I got through it the first time."
Harry closed his eyes and exhaled a little, sitting there as he imagined the way Draco must have looked. And how openly, if Ron could comment on it. "Thank you for doing this much," he whispered, and opened his eyes to smile at his friend.
"We won't speak of it," said Ron, with a repressive look, and stood up to pick up a report. "When are you leaving?"
"As soon as Kingsley reads my letter and grants me formal permission," Harry said, glancing at the clock. "Which shouldn't be very long. I think that he wants me to take a holiday as much as I want to take one."
At that moment, a purple paper bird came fluttering through the doorway of the office. Harry plucked it down easily and unfolded it, grinning when he saw the spiky slash of Kingsley's writing on it.
Get out of here before you try to change your mind, Potter. Or before some case comes up where people think they could use the benefit of your expertise.
Harry shuddered as he laid the memo on his desk and cast a few spells that ought to hold the piles of paper in place and protect them against tampering. Other Aurors thought Harry was an "expert" on insane Dark wizards, and those cases were always the nastiest ones for him to handle.
It was also one reason Harry had never tried to make his relationship with Draco more serious, and had only casually dated before that, too. Somewhere in the part of him that still believed in Divination, Harry thought he was going to end up sacrificed on a stone altar, a dagger in his heart. He didn't want a lover left behind to mourn him.
Taking a holiday willingly instead of being ordered into one was a new step for Harry, and so was asking someone whose last name wasn't Weasley to come with him on it. That meant he could change, he thought. Other things would start coming before his job if this holiday was a success.
And he really wanted Draco to be the one he made the success with.
Draco hissed in irritation as a white shape appeared in the corner of his vision. He had almost finished this particular construct, and he hated having to lay down both his delicate tools and the vision bobbing in his mind. Right now, he knew how everything in the jeweled dog's veins and legs and tendons fitted together. He might not if he turned away from it.
But because he relied on contacts from new people to make sure he could continue to live, he fixed the vision in his mind as best he could and laid his tools down. Then he turned to take down the memo.
Except it turned out not to be a memo. It was more silvery than white after all, and it was a stag Patronus. The Patronus bowed its antlers to Draco, and spoke in a voice like a hunting horn. Harry's, of course.
"I wanted to talk to you about something, Draco. Something important." There was a little note of affection there that made Draco flush. "Dinner tonight at my place, at seven. It's all right if you arrive late." Then the Patronus faded as though it was mist someone had blown on.
Draco stood there for a second, looking down at the small greyhound of silver and jewels he was building on the table. But he wouldn't be able to properly return to work right now, not when speculation was coursing through his veins like blood. In the end, he sighed, turned away, and went up to the kitchen.
He hadn't had any lunch, and he attacked that with tea and hot bread and butter. Then he decided that wasn't enough, and added a few slices of beef from the last restaurant he and Harry had visited. As he munched, he thought about what Harry might tell him.
It could, of course, be the announcement Draco had thought in the beginning would come any day—that Harry was breaking up with him. Things had got better, and now Draco only thought it was coming every week.
But Draco tried to tell that thought to pack up and go home. Harry was more than happy with him. He'd said it himself on any number of occasions.
Yeah, but that's usually right after you've had sex.
Draco shook his head. He wouldn't get anything done sitting here and wondering, and if he was too distracted to work on the greyhound, then he would take a nap. He knew spells that could send him into sleep if he had to use them.
In the end, practice at Occlumency let him clear his mind enough to go back to the work, and soon he was working at attaching small winking topazes to the dog's legs, where they would flash and dazzle someone when the greyhound raced, his thoughts revolving only around the vision of what it would look like when it finished.
Harry spun the pan and caught the flat cake of meat as it came down. Then he turned and cast a spell that made the spoons in the various pots hanging over the fire spin faster, and a jar of several mingled spices he kept for these special occasions float down from a shelf. It darted from pot to pot, spilling in the spices.
A knock sounded at the door.
"Come in!" Harry called over his shoulder. He turned around and slapped the meat flat on the plate waiting for it, then began to chop it. When he had it all but diced, he turned and spilled the meat into a waiting pan with small diced pieces of cucumber, tomato, and onion set in it.
"Harry? Are you doing a house-elf's work again?"
Harry rolled his eyes and snorted. "You know that's part of the reason you don't get along with Hermione, right?" he asked, as he stepped back so he could keep an eye on the pots. A taste of the noodles in the nearest one convinced him they were soft enough, and he ended the fire beneath that one and lifted it out of the way. "Because you keep referring to house-elf's work as if we needed them for it?"
"They need it, too," Draco said, coming into the kitchen and leaning back out of the way. "They need us to give them some purpose in life."
Harry turned around, and Draco moved a single step forwards and kissed him. Harry was left standing there with his mouth gaping as Draco moved away, not even attempting to touch Harry more than that, and Summoned plates and cutlery. Forks and spoons spun like darting silver swallows in between the several animated objects obeying Harry's will.
"Draco?" Harry asked quietly. It wasn't like him to do that.
"I spent half the afternoon worrying you were about to break up with me," Draco said, looking up from where he was arranging the plates fussily on the table. "I knew you wouldn't as soon as I walked in the door, but—" He shrugged and began folding the napkins.
"Sorry," Harry said. He had left his announcement vague because he wanted to surprise Draco, but he could see how Draco would take it that way. "And who's doing a house-elf's work now?"
"I'll have you know that napkin-folding is a precise art, depending on timing and the degree of how much you want to compliment your guest."
"Except I'm not your guest."
"It can be a compliment to your host, too," said Draco, not missing a beat, and smiled at him.
Harry smiled helplessly back, then turned around as one of the pots threatened to overflow. The chopped vegetables and meat had to go in another pot, then, and the overflowing one be removed, and the components of the pudding in it be carefully poured into a bowl and cooled, and Harry had no more time to think about what he'd inadvertently done to Draco.
But when the spaghetti and its sauce were done, along with the pudding of hot chocolate and boiled fruit and cream all folded into one another, and Draco was trying his best to eat without getting any sauce on his shirt, Harry looked at him and felt a twinge of remorse.
"I'm sorry," he began.
Draco waved his fork at him, which nearly filled Harry's face with noodles. "Don't worry about it," he said, and swallowed. "I don't know why you subject me to dinners with Weasley and Granger. When your cooking is so much better."
"It takes a lot of effort to get the cooking this good," Harry admitted, and smiled at Draco again as he managed to suck down a lot of noodles without making a mess. "I would probably still let Kreacher do the noodles and the pudding if it wasn't for Hermione, and just concentrate on the sauce."
"She interferes too much," Draco muttered.
Harry heard him, but he let himself pretend that he hadn't, and they both ate enough to fill their bellies with steaming warmth. When they were done, Harry reached out and took Draco's hand. Draco lounged back to watch him, eyebrows rising higher and higher.
Harry knew why. They didn't usually sit in silence like this. If he invited Draco over for dinner, they ate and then they fell into bed.
Strange that casual dating can include sex for me, but not talking. Harry had never thought it would be like that when he first started dating people who hadn't been his friends first. He had imagined—oh, it was silly to think of it now, but he had thought he would be celibate until he found someone he could give his heart to.
After his first time sleeping with someone who meant less to him, Terry Boot, Harry had realized it was okay. If he and the other person both knew what they were doing and agreed to it, it didn't hurt anyone for them to have a bit of fun.
He and Draco had both been casual. Draco hadn't actually acted as if he wanted anything more from Harry, most of the time, and he'd backed off when Harry asked him to stay the night or spend a lot of hours with his friends. Harry hadn't pushed.
But now, the silence was giving him hope.
"Harry? Can you put me out of my misery, here?"
Harry started and then leaned forwards and smiled at Draco. "Sorry, Draco. Sometimes I forget that it's not just me who must be nervous about this."
"Then you should learn it now." Draco's face looked like it was made of ivory as he stared at Harry. "I thought—you wanted to break up with me. Then I decided that you wouldn't have put it off like that or invited me to dinner. But now?"
Harry sat up. "I'm going on holiday," he said. "I want you to come with me."
Draco blinked a little and sat up. "Where? Ireland?"
"No," Harry said, wondering why Draco thought had picked that as the first possible destination. "Well, maybe. I admit I haven't plotted out more than the vaguest course for it yet. It depends on whether there's a dragon sanctuary in Ireland."
"A dragon sanctuary." Draco was looking around as though he expected to see a dragon picture or statue or book, something to explain Harry's sudden interest.
"I need a holiday," Harry said. "The last case—I thought I was going to die. And it's been a while since it was that close and personal." He shuddered. It didn't get much more personal than an obsidian dagger actually in your chest and heading for your heart before the backup arrived.
"You read about it in the papers—"
"But that isn't the same as hearing about it from you." Draco was straining across the table now, and he'd dropped Harry's hand. "I want to know about it from you. Why did you never tell me the truth about any of your cases? You just keep brushing it off and—I don't like that."
Harry winced a little, but said, "I didn't want you to be hurt by it when I died. I did the same thing with everyone I dated."
"How many times have you nearly died?" Draco demanded.
Harry shrugged. "I gave up counting at fifty. But this time, the wizard I tracked down was trying to remove my heart with an obsidian dagger, and nearly succeeded. I went there hoping I could talk to him instead of arresting him. I thought it would be simple. But he was further gone than I'd imagined."
Draco closed his eyes and sat still. Harry felt a little catch at his heart. He had lost a few partners after they did find out something about his work and decided they didn't want to be that close to constant death.
But Draco meant enough to him that Harry knew he had to ask.
"If you want to break up with me," he said, "it's all right. I know I'm pretty reckless."
Draco shook his head and said, "I didn't even know that that—was happening. I don't want to break up with you." For a minute, Harry thought he was going to add that he wanted to change Harry instead, but Draco opened his eyes and looked at him with the immovability of a stone statue. "I want to know more about your life instead."
Harry thought the smile that spread over his face then might have been the most since he'd ever given Draco. He touched his hand again, squeezed it, and then asked, "Does that mean you'll come with me on this admittedly insane idea to tour all the major dragon sanctuaries?"
Where did this sudden interest in dragons come from?
Then again, Draco thought, apparently Harry had been concealing nearly dying every other week from him. Compared to that, concealing an interest in dragons was nothing major.
"If you'll explain why you want to go there, and why you want me to come with you," Draco said. "Of all people."
Harry flushed a minute, not the reaction Draco had expected. Then Harry looked down at the kitchen table. Draco saw nothing more interesting than the remnants of their pudding, but he waited for Harry to gather his thoughts.
"I was trying to find a book that would distract me from all these racing thoughts I have at night," Harry began.
I never knew he had those, either. Of course, Draco had never spent the night with Harry, and he only knew the way Harry tended to look immediately after they made love, languid and blissful and with his head drooping. For all Draco knew, Harry held that expression until he was gone and then lay awake the rest of the night staring at the ceiling.
"I ended up picking up an old copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." Harry grinned this time, presumably at Draco's expression. "And this line caught my eye, about dragons being impossible to domesticate. I started thinking—"
"Always dangerous," Draco interjected, unable to help himself.
Only a second later, when he thought about it, did he realize that this might be one reason Harry hadn't told him about nearly dying all those times. When things got intense, Draco would make a joke, and Harry would back off.
Either Harry didn't recognize the pattern or he was too caught up in his own thoughts to care. He gave Draco a vague smile and said, "Right. But I thought—they're wild. Really wild. Hard to manage. Beautiful." He hesitated. "And the last time I saw one was when we rode that dragon out of Gringotts."
Draco nodded, struggling to conceal his resentment that we didn't apply to him. "So you want to see others?"
"Yes," said Harry. "I want to do the things that Hermione did the year she went to Australia—oh, you don't know about that, right. She Obliviated her parents and convinced them they wanted to move to Australia during the war, so they would be safe if Voldemort tried to track them down."
Draco stared. "That sounds a lot more ruthless than the Granger I know."
"How well do you really know her?"
"Less well than I'd like to."
After a second, Harry raised Draco's fingers to his mouth and kissed them lightly. Draco sat still long enough for the shiver to finish running down his spine, and by that time, Harry was already talking again
"I want to travel around the world. Take risks. See beautiful things before I die. I didn't do any of that, just went straight into the Aurors." Harry stared at Draco. "I'll probably be gone for a few months. And Ron and Hermione can't take off their jobs. I wouldn't want them to, anyway. But I want—I want you to go with me. To see what happens. To see if this becomes something more."
Draco felt as if he had shards of glass in his throat. He managed to swallow anyway. "You know it might not."
"I know." Harry gave him a smooth smile. "But at least that way, I'll know, instead of lying there at night and wondering. That's another thing I think about."
Draco waited, and thought. He might have been offended that Harry thought Draco could leave his job while he didn't think the same of Weasley and Granger.
But it was true that Draco worked on his own schedule, and chose to honor only some of the orders for jeweled, protective animals people plied him with. Old enemies and uninteresting requests he refused outright. He could close his shop for a few months and send some owls.
Now, the question is: do I want to go?
Draco turned and looked at Harry. He thought in a second that he could see all the coiled energy Harry was putting into sitting in the chair instead of springing up and grabbing Draco and asking Draco to go with him.
Because he doesn't know if he has the right, since we've kept this casual.
But he wanted the right. And Draco wanted to give him the chance.
"Yes," he said. "I'll go."
Harry's enthusiastic response broke several of the dishes, and they ended up not even making it to the bed. Which, Draco thought, gasping as he got chocolate up his nose and sauce on his shirt after all, was fine, this time.
We'll have other times to—
Then Harry did something extremely sophisticated with his hips, and Draco gave up thinking until tomorrow.