Per Solum Lacuna: By Words Alone
by Azhure & Wintermoon
Epilogue: Seasons of Love
525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes how do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?
How about love? Seasons of love.
Cast of 'Rent'
A familiar whooshing sound assaulted the room as the Floo flared to life. Peals of laughter rang around the room as Harry, Maggie and Draco all exited the fireplace. Maggie giggled uncontrollably and Harry was biting his lip to keep his own bout of mirth in check. Draco's face was thunderous as he stomped imperiously away from the fireplace. Harry quickly wandered over to put his hand on Draco's shoulder.
"...And that's why you won't ever be allowed to get a pet ferret, Maggie," Harry concluded a conversation that had obviously begun at the other end of the Floo.
Maggie's giggling finally burst into a fit of hysterical laughter as she gave Draco a strange look. He was not at all amused by the fact Harry had mentioned that rather unfortunate incident from their early school years. It was something he would rather forget, but Harry somehow managed to take great pleasure in telling every little detail to Maggie.
"Harry, you have to stop telling her such tall tales," Draco said as he cast a quick charm to dust off his overcoat. "You know I was at the mercy of a madman!"
"Nothing wrong with telling it as it happened, love," Harry's eyes sparkled in sympathetic mirth.
"Yes, well perhaps you could avoid any unnecessary elaboration and just stick to the basic facts," He replied. Maggie quickly took off her boots as Draco cast a quick cleaning charm over their travel clothes "I know you'd like a pet, Maggie - wouldn't you prefer an owl or something that doesn't twitch? Besides, I doubt Petite Amie would like a ferret around."
At the mention of her name, the cat opened one eye and let out a soft meow. She had spent a wonderful day sleeping in the kindling box, and their conversation had disturbed her slumber. Draco turned and stroked her soft fur as she leapt into his arms. "See," he said to Maggie, "even she agrees with me."
Maggie kept her distance, seemingly a little daunted by the cat, but she eventually gave it a hesitant pat. "You know there aren't too many animals that like me, Draco. Petite Amie seems to be the only animal who lets me pet her. Ferrets seem to be the only animals that don't care about my lycanthropy." She seemed a little disillusioned, and Draco gave her a warm smile.
"Don't worry, we'll find a pet that is just right for you. We'll leave the ferret as a last resort."
Maggie gave Harry a knowing grin. Harry returned her grin with a sly wink. They both knew how to play Draco to get what they wanted, and it seemed this had been an assault on Draco from two fronts. She seemed satisfied with Draco's answer, for now, but she would not forget it, and Harry had no doubt that a pet ferret would come into their lives sooner rather than later.
"So," Maggie cocked her head and changed the subject. "You never did tell me which of you was better at Charms at school." She took up a topic that they had been discussing all day, with Maggie trying to determine whether Harry or Draco was smarter. She had created quite a bit of discussion between her two guardians, and it had been amusing spending the day listening to them argue and work on their well-practiced one-upmanship. She had been sceptical of Draco's story about the pranks Harry pulled whilst invisible, but she thoroughly believed the story about Draco's turn as a ferret.
Their banter and debate had raged back and forth during their whole day in Paris. The museum had been an awful lot of fun, but she preferred to watch Harry and Draco together, and she found it fun when they nagged and clashed with each other in friendly rivalry. She had heard stories about their school enmity, and had tried her hardest to find any evidence of it, for it seemed so hard to believe that these two wonderful guardians could have once hated each other.
"Oh, Draco was dreadful at Charms," Harry said, levitating a couple of wine glasses across the room without any effort. The glasses seemed to tap dance as they made their way into Harry's hands. Draco just scowled at Harry's self-satisfied smirk, returning it with an evil glare. Harry blew him a wild kiss as he opened the bottle of wine with an exaggerated flourish.
Sleep suddenly overcame Maggie and she yawned deeply and rubbed her eyes. "Mmm, tired," she offered. "Think I should go to bed. I had a fantastic time today! Thanks for taking me to Paris. It's such a beautiful city. D'you think we can go back to that louver museum again?"
"It's called Le Louvre," Draco corrected her. "You enjoyed yourself, then?" he asked, his mood suddenly brightening at Maggie's enthusiasm.
She nodded, as another yawn engulfed her reply. "I guess you should get to bed," Harry replied with a heartfelt smile. "After all, it's Yule tomorrow."
"Yeah," she nodded, "but you two shouldn't stay up too long either," she replied with her own cheeky smile as she kissed and hugged them goodnight. Harry could have sworn she winked at them as she headed off to her bedroom.
Draco smirked. "Cheeky little minx," he muttered under his breath. Harry snickered in reply. They both waited silently until they heard the soft click of her bedroom door as it closed.
"That girl has wonderful ideas. I don't think we should stay up too long either," Draco sat back against the cushions with a smoky glaze in his eyes. He could not draw his eyes away as he drank in the sight of his soul mate, enjoying everything as Harry pulled off his own jacket and toed off his shoes. Harry could feel Draco's eyes watching him, and he played up slightly to the scrutiny as he poured their drinks.
"So, you certainly took your time around the museum today. I thought you would have seen all those paintings and sculptures before." Harry crossed the rug and lay across the couch, snuggling into the crook of Draco's arm as he handed over a glass of wine. They clinked glasses in a silent toast.
"You know, I've been to the museum hundreds of times," Draco replied with a sultry smirk. " But there were just some exhibits there that simply took my breath away. I couldn't stop looking at them." A deep look of desire filled Draco's eyes as he watched Harry's every move.
"That's funny," Harry laughed as the innocent look on his face faded away, "I could have sworn that you didn't take your eyes off me all day. I doubt you even looked at any of the paintings. I could have stolen the Mona Lisa and replaced it with a fake and you would never have known."
"The Mona Lisa pales into insignificance next to you," Draco's voice whispered as his gaze was transfixed on Harry. "Besides, if you're going to dress like that," Draco pulled at the lapel of Harry's shirt and ran a hand slowly down the fine silk, "then you have to expect me to want to ravish you at a moment's notice."
Harry raised an eyebrow and gave Draco a smouldering look. "I knew you had an ulterior motive for buying this shirt. Only you would buy silk for the sole purpose of ripping it off my body." His own voice was now hoarse with desire.
Draco grinned and raised an eyebrow. "You can't deny you've been playing up to it all day, can you?"
Harry just smiled coyly as he ran a finger around the rim of his glass. "You're one to talk, Draco. You know you look positively delectable in that leather jacket. I saw you licking your lips and turning your best profile when you thought I was watching you." His tongue darted out and licked at his lower lip, and his breathing became shallow as he felt the arousal tightening in his trousers.
"Well it obviously worked," Draco replied as he eyed the firming bulge in Harry's trousers. He teasingly moved away to put his wine glass on the coffee table, breaking the spell of desire.
"So was anyone keeping an eye on Maggie whilst we were otherwise preoccupied?" Harry asked with just a hint of concern. "This was supposed to be a family outing for her benefit. You were the one who wanted to expand her cultural knowledge, and I have to admit I thought I wasn't at my most attentive today."
Draco nodded. "Don't worry, I was looking out for her, but I think you've got it all wrong. I think she's trying to chaperone us. Why do you think she sat between us at the movie yesterday? I think she suspected you were planning to have your wicked way with me whilst the lights were dimmed."
Harry laughed. "I think she knows you too well. She's a Slytherin, after all." Harry took a sip of wine and changed the subject. "You never told me what you thought about that last Tolkien film. It was nice to finally see them with you, and not just talk about them in our journals."
Draco seemed to take a long time to consider his answer. "You know I get so flustered when I see that many good looking men on the screen all at once," he retorted cheekily.
"Aha!" Harry cried. "I knew you had a thing for Gimli!"
Draco punched Harry playfully. "Who's the one growing out his hair and beard? You can't tell me you aren't fashioning yourself after Aragorn these days." Draco played with the ends of Harry's lengthening hair and ran a finger admiringly along that neatly groomed jaw. He could never imagine Harry's hair behaving that way, but that was all part of Harry's good looks. He wasn't as strikingly handsome as Draco, but he did radiate an aura that was uniquely... Harry. Draco still marvelled at how lucky he was - how lucky they both were to have found each other.
"You like my beard?" Harry stroked his chin in an exaggerated manner. "Maggie thinks it makes me look distinguished."
"Maggie was just buttering you up so she could get her own way, as usual," Draco replied. "I'm telling you that because it really does suit you. It defines your face." He pulled Harry in by the chin and dropped a kiss on his mouth, but pulled away before Harry could deepen it. "Besides, it gives me something to hold on to."
"Prat," Harry slapped his hand away playfully. "Do you think Maggie is enjoying the holiday?" Harry asked with a hint of concern. "I mean last Yule we were all getting used to being around each other, and I really wanted this Yule to be special. I worry that we're not doing the right thing by her." Harry was constantly concerned for Maggie's welfare, but Draco calmed him down.
"Maggie will be fine. She can look after herself. We don't need to keep her entertained twenty four hours a day. She's almost a teenager. Besides, she's a Slytherin. Self sufficiency is thy name."
Harry nodded, seemingly placated. "She's becoming more precocious every day. It's almost hard to believe she's the same shy girl we met last year. Have you seen that little harem of boys who follow her around and cater to her every whim?" Harry asked.
"Yes – she isn't past using her lycanthropy to her advantage when it suits her," Draco reminded Harry. "Who was the one who questioned her sorting, hmmm?"
Harry shrugged as he thought back to that day. Maggie had been a truly surprising young thing, and constantly kept both of them on their toes. He sometimes wondered what would have happened if they had not taken it upon themselves to apply to be her guardians. "You know, I still can't help but wonder what would have happened if she had been sorted elsewhere..."
"We won't ever know, will we? Who was the one who told me that he didn't want to think about the past?" Draco reminded him. They were both lying across the couch now, with Harry draped over Draco's chest. Harry was resting his wine glass on his chest as he enjoyed a scalp massage from Draco.
"Mmm," Harry sighed, thoroughly enjoying the quiet moment. When they lay like this, he could often imagine that he could feel their soul mate connection, and it would remind him of their special bond, and just how lucky they both were. "She's right about one thing. We really should get to bed." Harry rolled around to face Draco, his empty wine glass now dumped unceremoniously on the rug as he toyed with the buttons on Draco's shirt.
Draco slowly pulled off Harry's grey cashmere scarf and wrapped it firmly around Harry's wrists. Harry smirked as he looked up into Draco's face. He knew what Draco wanted, and the idea of being tied up with scarves was turning him on more and more with each passing second. Perhaps he might even give Draco his Yule gift a little early. He had an idea of what Draco had planned for his own gift - the man had been spending far too much time in his lab and not telling Harry what he was doing. Harry could only assume he had some secret potion he wanted Harry to try. He could only hope it was something new that Draco pulled out of his seemingly endless supply of potions used to enhance sex.
Harry dived in and stole a kiss that quickly deepened, heating things up as he writhed against Draco. "Finally," he mumbled, "I was wondering when I could put this hard on to good use. Don't think I wasn't tempted to drag you off to a dark corner of the museum..."
"What stopped you?" Draco asked, his voice husky with desire. Harry sat up, pulling his scarf around the back of Draco's neck as he dragged them both into a sitting position. One hand was already tearing at the buttons on Draco's shirt when they were suddenly interrupted by a loud, screeching hoot. Melchett flew in across the room and unceremoniously dumped a pile of mail into their laps.
"You vile bloody bird!" Harry yelped as the mail landed directly in his lap, "You sure have the worst timing of any creature..." The bird let out another indignant hoot as it ruffled Harry's hair before heading for the back of the chair. He was expecting his usual treat for delivering the mail, but Harry looked ready to pluck his feathers and stun him just with a glare.
"Bloody bird," Draco muttered in agreement as he waved his wand towards the cupboard. A dead mouse flew out and landed on the floor. Melchett swooped down to pick it up before leaping up on top of the antique armoire. He was still chirping and complaining as if ungrateful for the generous morsel of food.
Harry was still tidying his hair as he looked over at the bird. "What are you looking at? Don't expect any sympathy from me!" Melchett hooted indignantly in response.
"Well it's not my bloody fault there's so much mail. If you hadn't knocked up my owl, she could have helped you carry it across the Channel. You have to expect consequences for your actions." Harry's lecturing tone made Draco chuckle.
"What?" Harry looked over at Draco. "It's not funny," Harry said in all seriousness. "That bloody bird of yours knocked up my Hedwig, and now she's nesting. Can't I be worried for her? She's not a young owl any more."
"You are a clucky old thing, Harry." Draco laughed, but Harry didn't seem amused.
Draco finally noticed the large yellow envelope that had fallen from the pile Harry was taking out of his lap. "Oh look," His mood suddenly sobered as he read the return address.
Harry looked over in curiosity. "What... Oh..." He too noticed the Ministry seal belonging to the Department of Wizarding Family Services. "Should we go and get Maggie?" he asked quietly.
Draco shook his head as he tore open the envelope with nervous fingers, his heart hammering in his chest. "Let's just wait and see what they say." Harry was too scared to read the pronouncement, yet he waited on tenterhooks for Draco to finish the page. His lack of expression wasn't helping Harry's nerves in the least.
"Fuck!" Draco cried in disbelief. Harry snatched the letter, reading it carefully and tossing it aside in disgust.
"You would think that the bloody Ministry would have run out of excuses by now, wouldn't you?" Draco asked in frustration. "All these excuses are just bollocks!"
Harry picked it up again and reread the page. "Well, we were told these things take time, Draco. You know how bloody lucky we are that they accepted us as Maggie's foster carers in the first place, and they really only agreed because you make the Wolfsbane for her."
"And here I thought they only did it because they were awed by the presence of the great Harry Potter," Draco bit back, a little too harshly.
Harry snorted. "Well that's obviously not the case, is it? We've been applying now for most of the year. I was hoping they might have at least seen their way before Yule. At this rate, Maggie will be of age before they agree to let us adopt her."
"You know, you could try and use your name to your advantage, for once. Use your bloody influence with the Minister. Now they say that our application is being considered, pending further review. What else is there to bloody well review?"
"As much as I would love to, we can't buck the system, Draco. It wouldn't be fair to everyone else." Harry blinked several times as he adjusted his glasses.
"I don't care about everyone else. Maggie's welfare is most important. Doesn't she deserve us? Don't you deserve to have someone cut you a break? What if they are just stalling because the name 'Malfoy' on the application is causing them to have conniptions? They're too bloody scared of my reputation to say 'no' outright." Draco was working himself up into a state, and Harry quickly put a stop to that.
"Well, we'll just have to prove to them that we are the right ones to adopt Maggie. Think of it as a challenge," Draco could see the fire in Harry's eyes, and knew that he wasn't about to give up. "We might be somewhat unconventional, but we're going to do things the right way. I can't be setting any bad examples, as much as I loathe the fact I'm supposedly a role model. Don't get worked up, Draco. If they try to pull any shit about your father or about their perceptions of your family name, we'll prove them wrong. We might not have got what we wanted for Yule, but I can't see either of us giving up just yet. I doubt even Maggie would allow that."
Draco looked over at the door, worried for Maggie. "I'm glad we never told her what we are trying to do. She would be devastated at this setback."
"True," Harry nodded. Maggie had no idea they had applied for full adoptive rights. She was just thrilled to have them as her foster family.
"Besides," he continued with a weary smile, "Even if we had been successful, she would have forgotten everything after we gave her that HP Firebolt. She won't care about anything else."
The smile finally returned to Draco's face. "She'll need all the practice she can get on it to ensure Slytherin's chances for the Quidditch Cup."
Harry shook his head. "Far be it for me to even think of ever trying to pry the Quidditch Cup out of Snape's office..." He seemed a little wistful as he absently sat staring into the fire, ignoring the rest of the mail. "If you had told me a couple of years ago that I'd be here with you, and we would be caring for a ward... "
"I know. It's so hard to believe... you're not having second thoughts, are you?" Draco asked with a hint of concern.
"No, I wouldn't change it for the world." Harry smiled.
"Good. It seems we both have exactly what we wanted. Apart from Maggie. I guess we just have to wait it out and be patient."
Harry picked up his wine glass from where it had rolled across the rug during their mild romp. He sighed as he levitated the wine bottle across the room, topping up both their glasses. He snuggled his head back down into Draco's lap. A slender hand absently ran through Harry's hair as they opened up the rest of the mail. The problem with being in the remote south of France was that the post was always late. No matter how hard Melchett flew to collect it, they always seemed a day behind. No wonder the bird was irascible - all that distance to fly and then having to worry about his new nest mate.
Draco had always thought it was hilarious that their owls began a rather heated relationship, which apparently had been going unnoticed behind the scenes. Many other things had been going on behind the scenes as well, and they were learning to accept the give and take of the disparate parts of their lives.
Whilst things weren't perfectly back to the way they were, Draco had accepted that Ron had been acting under the influence of the Neo Death Eater's Imperius potion. Things with the bank and his estate had been settled, even though Draco still had another few months until he could completely access his inheritance. This no longer worried him as much as it had in the past.
The goblins were now personally handling all the paperwork for the estate, and Draco could see that within a couple of years and some astute investment, he could almost recoup the losses incurred at the hands of the Neo Death Eaters. The only loss that was difficult to replace was the Manor. Draco was in a quandary, for he wasn't sure if he really wanted to rebuild his childhood home.
He didn't need to live there – he had comfortable rooms at Hogwarts, and the chateau held many happier memories than the Manor ever had. To be honest, he really didn't care where he lived, so long as Harry was there with him. He toyed with the idea of selling the Manor to Arianna and Neville. They took a keen interest in the greenhouses, and they had been talking about breeding some strange hybrid magical plants – a topic Draco found to be quite interesting. He was, as usual, curious about their magical properties and how they could be used in potions.
If they weren't interested in buying it, he could always sell it to the Muggle developers. That would really show Lucius up – having his precious Manor sold and subdivided into lots where hundreds of Muggles could breed and procreate. He toyed very briefly with that idea, but couldn't bring himself to do it.
He noticed Harry was laughing as he perused a postcard that appeared to be from Hermione and Ron in Egypt. Even now, Ron was still suffering lingering after effects of the Imperius potion. Hermione had given up a lot of her time to help her husband in his recovery, and a short holiday in Egypt had turned into something more permanent. It seemed the climate was more conducive to Ron's recovery. It was still early days, according to the other medi-wizards at St Mungo's, but they seemed to be slowly weaving the threads of their lives back together.
The distance had hindered a complete reconciliation with Harry. Harry had completely forgiven Ron, but there was an awful lot of guilt and an even bigger serve of pride on Ron's part. Despite this, Harry was patient. He wasn't going to push. Ron would come to him in his own time, and they could be best friends again. Harry suspected a lot of Ron's guilt came from the fact that the Imperius potion, whilst forcing Ron to say and do things against his will, often heightened and brought out hidden feelings. Ron knew his homophobic tendencies had always been hidden deep down for Harry's sake, but knowing they were expressed openly must have made him feel even more uncomfortable.
Harry had no doubt that Draco would be fine if Ron ever returned to the fold. He had kept up a regular correspondence with Hermione - discussing goodness-knew-what, and this gave Harry hope for the future. Besides, he had tried so hard to be pleasant to Snape, and they could easily manage a whole day without bitter barbs and a constant desire to reach for his wand. That was an improvement. Surely Draco and Ron could play nice too.
Draco picked up a familiar looking envelope and eagerly tore into it. He scanned the pages and his face fell. He cried out in disgust, dislodging Harry's head from his lap in the process.
"Oh no. No. No. No... this can't be happening..." He said in horror.
"What?" Harry asked in deep concern. Draco's face was ashen.
"Arianna..." he mumbled.
"What's wrong? Is it Neville..."
Draco shook his head as the blood drained from his face. "She's pregnant," he pronounced with solemnity. His disbelief was evident.
Harry looked at Draco in shock before bursting into raucous laughter. Melchett hooted in disgust and Draco looked even more mortified by Harry's reaction. "Well, what do you expect?" Harry asked. "You shouldn't be surprised. They've been talking about children ever since the wedding."
"Yes... but Longbottom!" Draco retorted, as if that was the answer to every blatantly obvious question in the universe.
Harry just snickered. "Well, yes... I should certainly hope the child is Neville's. I always knew Neville had it in him, what with his endowments and all..."
"Oh Merlin, Harry, I can't believe you just said that. There's no need to be so ghastly and crude..."
"I'm not being crude, Draco. Merely making an observation. I shared a dorm with Neville for seven years. I can tell you that when I say endowments..."
"Ugh, Harry, if there ever was a thought to kill a mood, it's the mere thought of discussing anything to do with the size of Neville Longbottom's cock. I'm traumatised for life, you realise." Draco knew he was falling into a melodramatic sulk, but he had very good reason to feel that way.
Harry smiled at Draco's sense of drama, waving it away in a spirit of humour. "You're just jealous. Trust me. I've only ever seen it from a respectable distance, but have you ever wondered why Arianna's smiling all the time? She's a lucky girl - in more ways than one."
"Prat," Draco pouted sulkily.
"Why are you so bothered by the fact she's pregnant? Don't they deserve their own family? Goodness knows Neville's upbringing was almost as crappy as mine." Harry could see Draco becoming petulant. "We have our own family now that Maggie is with us. Doesn't Arianna deserve the same?"
It took a moment for Draco to answer. He hated it when Harry was right. "You're right. I'm just being selfish. It's silly... really..." Draco seemed hesitant to say any more.
"Draco," Harry scolded. "Okay, spit it out. What's really bothering you? I thought we agreed not to hide any of our worries?"
"Oh it's silly, really. I'm not begrudging them their family, not in the least. It's just that... well..." He realised he had never told Harry about his feelings on this subject, and knew now was the right time. He looked up directly into Harry's eyes. "I really don't want to be teaching Potions forever, Harry. The first thing I saw when I read that letter was the sight of another hapless Longbottom with his father's clumsiness and all those blown up cauldrons. I don't think I really want to face that."
Harry understood the real dilemma. "Who says you have to still be teaching potions in another decade? I know you agreed to help Snape out for another year..."
Draco quickly interrupted. "Severus won't be teaching at all soon. He's so stubbornly proud, it's taken him this long to admit that he really won't last out the year. I won't have much choice after that."
"I think Charlie might help him come around. I know he wants Snape to retire."
"Yes, you're right. Charlie has been working on him, but I know he's only hanging around until I finish my apprenticeship. I'm almost certain he'll retire at the end of the year. It seems that Weasleys can be good for something," he muttered.
Harry smirked. "Oh, I don't know. I think we have a lot to thank Ginny for," he retorted with a smirk. "After all, wasn't she the one that turned you off women for good? I think I owe her a huge favour."
Draco smirked in reply, but didn't deny it. That disastrous night with Ginny Weasley had actually been the start of a journey that brought him to Harry, and to this point. He would reluctantly agree that she had done him a favour - although he hoped that Harry would stop teasing him about it one day soon.
Harry became serious again. "But if Snape retires at the end of the school year, you're really not obliged to stay at Hogwarts any longer. There's nothing to stop you from leaving and focussing on your research. It's a perfect time to do so. You've got your lab set up perfectly here at the chateau and you're within easy reach of Paris now that we're connected to the Floo here..." Harry could see Draco wasn't totally sure about what he wanted to do. Harry could completely understand the terror of being torn between a job that you tolerated, and the career you wanted.
"Now that you can travel anywhere you like, you can get the Wolfsbane to Remus and Maggie with plenty of time to spare, and you'll have all those eager lycanthropes in Prague just itching to work with you. That article you published has made you famous, Draco." During the summer Draco had published some of his preliminary research from his thesis and it had been picked up by wizards as far away as South America. It had been the type of recognition Draco had always sought, and Harry was so proud of him.
"But I can't do that, Harry. I don't want to leave you alone in the castle. I know how much Hogwarts means to you. I know that teaching and taking over from Remus is your dream. How can I deny you that? I... I can stay at Hogwarts - it's no big deal." Draco didn't hear the sigh of relief as he said what he had been thinking for a very long time.
Harry's mouth dropped in surprise. "You're willing to stay at Hogwarts and do a job you hate just because you think I want to stay?"
Draco couldn't understand. "But you're always saying how you love the place and how special it is... it's a part of our Anam Cara."
"True, you're right there," Harry nodded, "But there comes a time when you have to leave home. It's a part of our Anam Cara, and always will be, but I've realised that home isn't the castle - it's wherever you are."
Draco looked at him strangely as Harry's words echoed his earlier thoughts. Harry just smiled, and reached over to kiss him gently on the lips, his arms winding around to embrace him. "I don't care where we are, Draco. Home is my family. You... you and Maggie and our crazy menagerie of cats and birds and werewolves... and ferrets..."
Draco swallowed visibly. "You're serious?"
"No, I'm Harry. Sirius was your cousin. Of course I'm bloody serious." He sat back and looked at Draco with no hint of mirth in his face, holding Draco's hand solemnly. "We've never had this conversation, and I guess now is as good a time as any. You belong here, Draco – at the chateau. I can see that you thrive here."
"... as do you at Hogwarts..." Draco interrupted.
Harry shook his head profusely. "No, not any more. I will always hold Hogwarts as special in my heart, but it's just a place, not a home. I've outgrown it now. I don't want to be there unless you want to, and I know your heart doesn't truly belong there. You should be at the Manor, or here, but if you ask me, you belong here, in France."
"You don't think I belong with you?" Draco asked in confusion.
Harry just rolled his eyes. "No you great git, that's not what I meant. I fell in love with a Frenchman named Luc. It's here - in Roussillon - that you came into your own and shook off the mantle of your father's ghastly legacy. I know how unhappy you are in Scotland. I can see it in your eyes."
"I'm not unhappy with you, Harry." Draco coiled in defence.
"I know that. Which is why," he leaned over to fetch one of the letters from the pile, "I did take your advice, and I put my influence to some use." He handed the letter to Draco, who read it. His eyes widened in amazement as he reached the bottom of the page.
"When were you planning on telling me this?" Draco asked, his voice husky with emotion.
"It's not a firm offer yet, Draco, but Monsignor Robilliard is planning his own retirement and he's very keen to talk. He's an excitable little fellow, actually."
"But teaching, at Beauxbatons? You barely know enough French to know your way around a menu!" Draco retorted.
Harry just smiled, and said in perfect French, "Did you honestly think I spent all those hours after class just marking? I've still got a lot to learn, but I know I can always fall back on my Translation Charms if I'm out of my depth.Although I thought you would be pleased to know I didn't need to use a Translation Charm at all today!" Draco was shocked. Harry's words were perfect. His pronunciation was a little off, but Draco was just too ecstatic to be too critical at that moment.
Harry's eyes sparkled with mischief as he continued to natter away in French. "I know how my Parseltongue affects you in the bedroom," he ran a hand up and down Draco's arm, bringing a shiver of delight to Draco's skin, "I have often wondered if I could turn you on as much with another language." He leaned in and whispered across Draco's ear, sensing the involuntary shiver. "I can see I'll need a little bit of time for us to practice..."
Draco realised he could not resist when Harry spoke in such a sultry tone. Indeed, French was a sexy language, and hearing it from Harry's mouth made it all the more enticing. "Somehow I don't think bordello talk will go down terribly well with Madame Maxime, Harry." Draco managed to smirk, not realising he had lapsed into French as well.
Harry just grinned. "I thought I might get some favours and special tutoring..." Harry wrapped his arms around Draco's neck and straddled him on the couch.
Draco was still a little stunned and seemed unsure by this turn of events, and pulled Harry away so he could look at him closely. He couldn't be sure if this was really happening, or if Harry was just saying it to make him happy.
"What about your grand plan to take over from Remus when he retires? You've had your heart set on it from the moment you first realised you wanted to teach. I remember how excited Flash was for this opportunity. Don't tell me you don't want it any more."
"You're right, Draco, I do want it," He admitted. "But Remus is enjoying a second wind. He's more active than ever - I don't think I've seen him look this good - not ever. I swear he looks at least 15 years younger. Even after a transformation he's back on his feet quickly. We all have you and your work on the Wolfsbane potion to thank for that."
Draco relented. "Yes, I never expected he would respond so well, but I don't think I can take all the credit. Jean-Paul is certainly keeping him in shape," he grinned. "Mind you, Remus has a lot of incentive there, I can tell you."
"It's funny how things turn out, isn't it?" Harry laughed. "You were with Jean-Paul, and I thought I wanted Remus, and now we have each other and they are together. The world of soul mates is just simply too bizarre sometimes."
"They deserve each other. Jean-Paul has so much to give. You know he admitted he was furious when he found out that we were the ones connected in the journals."
"Really? Are you saying I have some competition?" Harry asked in mock defiance.
Draco just rolled his eyes. "Not too many people get a second chance at love, but I can't think of anyone more deserving than those two. Sirius was taken away from Remus all too quickly. Perhaps this is the universe's way of making apologies for all it's done."
"You're right. Or perhaps now that we've mended the rift in the soul magic, more soul mates will be able to find each other."
"So Remus wants to stay on at Hogwarts, and you want to come to France... If Severus does retire, who is going to be left to teach Potions?" Draco asked in all seriousness.
"Who cares?" Harry replied.
"I care. We can't have just anyone teaching our Maggie!" Draco whined.
"How could anyone ever accuse you of being uncaring, Professor Malfoy? You'd better watch yourself - your carefully crafted mask might just slip, and the students might see that you really aren't an uncaring bastard after all..."
"So you really want me to work on my research... here, in our home?" The sound of that phrase rolling off his tongue felt good, and Draco knew then it was exactly what he had been looking for.
"Yes, our home. Your apprenticeship will end around about the same time as your inheritance is due, so it's not like you'll have to go out of your way to work. It will be kind of nice not to have you snarking around the place and trying so hard to be tolerant around the students, when you really don't want to teach. Besides, it will be nice to come home and have my bath drawn and dinner on the table."
Draco's mouth opened in shock before he protested. "Yes, right, of course I'll be catering to your every whim, oh great Saviour of the Wizarding World. I'll do all that for you." Draco rolled his eyes and spoke in a sycophantic tone. "Of course, you won't be getting anywhere near my cock ever again if you think I'm going to turn into some sort of house-elf..."
Harry pouted petulantly. "But I like your cock." He started to palm it through Draco's trousers, and he could feel it hardening instantly. "I like it too much, sometimes." Harry leaned over to kiss at his favourite spot behind Draco's ear.
"Now, now, you can't ever have too much of a good thing, Harry Potter. Feel free to keep..." Draco lost his breath for a moment, gasping in delight and grinding into Harry's hand, "Feel free to keep worshipping my cock in any way... although you know you have such a wonderful mouth..." Draco was lost again as Harry squeezed and he arched into the touch.
Harry grinned as he slowly undid the buttons on Draco's trousers. "You only had to ask," he whispered hoarsely in the blond's ear as Draco groaned in delight – a wicked smile crossing his lips as all propriety was forgotten. They had tried to be so careful when Maggie was around, but Harry was making things dreadfully difficult at that moment, and he really couldn't have cared if Maggie came out of her room and watched.
"Ouch," He yelped as he twisted around against the cushions to feel something sharp digging into his back. He shoved his arm under the cushion to find what it was. He pulled out a small hard scroll that must have fallen out of the mail when Melchett threw it at Harry.
Intrigued by the writing on it, he looked at the address. Meanwhile, Harry's tongue was working at that spot on his neck as his hands finally released the last of the buttons on Draco's trousers. Draco groaned in delight at Harry's touch. "Why... why would Lao Kuai be sending you an Urgent and Fragile scroll, Harry?" he asked, his mind only half on the question.
"Wha..." Harry turned his head, his eyes filled with hazy desire and his glasses askew. He was about to ignore Draco's question and dive right back into the business of ravishing his soul mate, when he spotted the familiar seal of his old mentor. He looked at it oddly before finally taking it from Draco's hands. He adjusted his glasses and looked it over yet again.
"You could always open it, Harry. It is, after all, addressed to you," Draco replied, sorry now that he had interrupted what he knew was going to be a wonderfully blissful blow job that he had been aching for all day.
"Actually, it's not. It's addressed to you." Harry stated as he read the fine scrawl of Lao Kuai's writing.
"Huh?" Draco snatched it out of Harry's hands and brought the parcel right up to his face.
"You are definitely coming to visit the Oculist with me next time, Draco. You really do need new glasses if you couldn't read that properly."
"It's just dark in here, that's all," he retorted automatically, not willing to admit that he really couldn't see the difference in the words. Only the recognisable seal and the large URGENT and FRAGILE written across it were plainly visible.
"Well then, I think you had better open it."
Draco carefully untied the ribbon and tore the seal with his fingernail. He unrolled the letter and caught the small vial that fell out before it could land in his unclothed lap. His hands started to shake as he instantly recognised the contents of the vial. The letter was dropped and forgotten as he sat up straighter, all thought of his previous activities forgotten.
Harry saw the complete change in Draco's demeanour as he saw his mouth moving silently.
"How..." he eventually said, his gaze not once leaving the vial containing the darkly translucent feathery substance. By this stage Harry was reading Lao Kuai's letter, and the significance of what Draco held struck him.
Harry sucked in a deep gasp as he realised what was in the vial. "He... he says he stumbled across them whilst travelling through Outer Mongolia. It wasn't even a real village – just a nomadic wizard travelling by on his horse and who wanted to trade for some fresh ingredients."
"He found them in the middle of nowhere?"
Harry just nodded. "Apparently Lao Kuai became a little befuddled as he tried to Apparate through a blizzard, landing in Mongolia instead of China. He was about to freeze when this nomad came out of nowhere and offered him the warmth of his tent and food. They got to talking and trading items from their respective packs. He apparently seemed quite happy to be rid of them – he had been carrying them around since he was a young boy."
"Pure chance," Draco murmured as he just stared at the Pegasus Wingtips.
"No, Draco, not chance. Not at all." Draco became suddenly silent as he continued to hold on to the glass vial with an iron grip. The first Harry noticed the tear in Draco's eye was when he put both his hands over Draco's.
"Harry... I..." again Draco was choked with emotion.
"Shhh. Happy Yule, Draco." This was better than any gift, and Harry silently thanked Lao Kuai.
It seemed like they sat there forever, but eventually Draco put the vial down carefully on the side table. He turned back and wrapped his arms around Harry as he lay on his chest. Draco breathed in deeply, soaking in the warmth and love emanating there. Harry wrapped one arm around Draco as his fingers ran soothingly through that soft hair.
"I thought by now you would be rushing off to put the cauldron on," he offered in a light-hearted tone.
The comment managed to raise a smile on Draco's face. "Oh, I think this can wait a day. I am certainly not going to rush this potion." He looked up into Harry's eyes and knew right then that all the pain and suffering had been worth ever second, knowing that he wanted to be with this man for the rest of his life. Knowing this, and seeing the same emotion in Harry's face and feeling Harry's heart beating beneath his hand, he didn't need Legilimency to know that Harry was sharing the exact same feelings.
"Besides," he eventually continued, pulling again at the scarf that was still around Harry's neck, "You've got some unfinished business. It's not polite to stop what you've already started. Honestly, Potter, your manners can sometimes be appalling."
Harry just laughed as he buried his nose in the hollow of Draco's neck, kissing his way down that chest as he began to slowly undo the buttons on his shirt. "The more things change, Draco, the more they stay the same. You can still be so insufferably self absorbed... Don't worry, you'll get what you need and deserve before the Sabbat is over."
"Ahh, good..." Draco arched his neck back. "Because then I can give you your Yule gift..."
Harry shook his head. "I don't need any presents, Draco. I have everything I've ever wanted right here, right under this roof," he added. Draco was quickly lost as Harry continued to kiss every inch of skin that was bared as he laved his tongue across neck and chest. He was startled when he felt Harry grasp his wand and heard a barely audible spell. He felt the tingle of magic and he laughed.
"Why Harry, you've finally worked out there really are spells for that..."
All thoughts of Yule gifts were put aside as they wordlessly rekindled and renewed their love by the flickering fireplace. Petite Amie barely opened an eye. She had a full view of the goings on before the fire, but all she did was push her paws beneath her legs and return to sleep. Her work was done, and the final task had been only now completed.
Jean-Paul was now looking after the journals and even though they were no longer her responsibility, she had been with them for so long, and she could still sense that they were about to fall into the hands of a new pair of soul mates. A log popped in the fireplace as it caught alight, revealing a strangely familiar smile on the cat's face. An even more familiar twinkle in the cat's eye blashed as she curled up atop a wrapped Yule gift, attempting to get comfortable. She wanted a nice, long sleep, and she wanted to be awake when they opened her present – the single bound copy of their journal conversations that the freed souls had somehow bequeathed to them in thank you for what they had done.
But for now, all was right with the world.
Argyle Doyle was trudging through the streets of Hogsmeade. He hadn't realised the weather was closing in until he looked up. He could barely see a few feet in front of his face, but followed his last ounce of common sense as he stepped into the doorway of the nearest shop.
The atmosphere was inviting and the rich smell of coffee made him look up and pay attention. How fortunate that the storm had brought him here. The store was empty - most people with an ounce of common sense were at home celebrating Yule with their families - not wandering around villages until they were frozen. He barely realised the proprietor had sat him down and placed a steaming cup of coffee in his hands. It took a few moments to finally get his bearings and discover he was in a coffee house and bookstore. The Leaf & Bean, the sign said. It seemed warm and friendly - something Argyle had almost given up hope on. The proprietor gave him a warm smile from behind the counter as he polished glasses with a tea towel.
The bookstore had a unique character that made Argyle feel immediately welcome. Books were stacked haphazardly along shelves stacked right to the ceiling. Argyle loved books, but he had given up on his literary pursuits over recent months, much to his regret.
But who was the fool who gave up his studies because he fancied himself in love? Argyle felt like the biggest fool in the world. Why did he ever quit his university studies to follow his lover? What made him think that was a good idea?
It would have been a grand plan, had his lover actually loved him, and not suddenly dumped him quicker than a flaming cauldron. Of course, he would have to fall head over heels in love with Oliver Wood.
Things had been perfect - Oliver doted on Argyle, and they seemed perfect together. He even took Oliver in when his old boyfriend (the imitable Harry Potter) kicked him out. He'd even supported the cad when he decided to quit the league and come to work at Hogwarts! Of course, it had been no surprise when that gig lasted only a few weeks, and he allowed Oliver back into his home.
How could he have been so foolish? Argyle berated himself over and over. If anything, he was going to learn from this mistake and never fall in love again. As he sat there, a new resolve firmed in him and he realised that he didn't need a lover to make himself complete.
He was too young to be so cynical, but he had convinced himself that he had been an idealistic fool to think that true love ever existed. The coffee had warmed him and he wandered through the store's bookshelves. He loved the smell of books - they always made him feel comforted. They gave him strength, and they gave him the courage to move on and forget about Oliver. Oliver. He had given up almost everything for the bastard, but now, surrounded by generations of parchment, ink and leather, he felt the sudden urge to pick up a quill and write. He had not felt that way for months.
One particular display of books caught his eye as he turned. Bagman had written an autobiography, and Argyle felt drawn to read it. He noticed several other autobiographies by many other sportsmen. A few of the books were 'unauthorised', and he noticed on the jacket of another book that the author intended on writing a tell-all exposé of the life of Harry Potter. He read the jacket on the back of yet another autobiography. "Oh please," he muttered under his breath. "Even I could write better than this pish posh, and still make a fortune."
Argyle snorted and rolled his eyes. The idea of writing an unauthorised biography on Oliver suddenly became very appealing. That would certainly put the ponce in his place. Still, the idea was there, but he was feeling pulled to write something else.
Besides, he had no intention of having another thing to do with Oliver, even if he had enough information to write two books about the man's life. For that matter, he knew enough about Potter to be able to write about him as well. For a moment he sympathised with Potter, but then went back to his own thoughts.
The proprietor's eyes sparkled as he noticed Argyle heading further back into the book stacks. The bell above the door tinkled as another customer braved the elements. He heard a warm laugh and looked back. It seemed he was the only one moping around, for the proprietor had locked lips with the newcomer. Only then did he notice the gold wedding band on their fingers, and their happiness only soured his mood even more.
His musings had brought him to a display of empty journals, and he seemed suddenly filled with a greater sense of purpose. He would finish that book - anything to pass the time now he was sworn off love forever. The smell of fresh leather and parchment was overwhelming as he had his choice of books.
One journal seemed a little more worn than the rest, but it was unique, and it exuded a sense of successful individuality. Argyle liked that. He picked up the book, his hand running over the textured surface. This book was old - Argyle could feel the magic that it exuded. Goodness knew what charms it contained, but he knew at that moment that he needed to buy it. He rushed to the counter to make his purchase. If he were lucky, Scrivenscaft's would still be open and he could pick up quills and ink. A new journal was useless without quills and ink.
As he left, he felt the proprietor staring, and he turned. He seemed a little confused by the man's knowing smile, but he felt warmed, not only by the coffee but by the realisation that he had wasn't going to let Oliver's rejection ruin his life any more. Imbued with a renewed sense of purpose, he was ready for a brand new beginning.
Young Devon Prescott was back in the south of France, having spent the better part of two years travelling all over the Continent. He remembered this small village, not for the man who broke his heart, but for the fact that this was where he first grew up.
He had been only a boy when he first landed in Paris and travelled through France, but meeting Draco Malfoy had been a turning point in his life. He had bared his soul to the man, and had it deftly broken within an instant. Devon quickly learned from that and it was a harsh, but very necessary lesson.
He had come back to Roussillon a man, but he was no longer looking for love – he had given up on that long ago. But something had been tugging at his conscience – bringing him back to this village surrounded by the most picturesque countryside. Even now in the middle of winter he was surrounded by warmth. How could he resist the pull? He regretted never getting enough time to draw this magnificent vista during his previous visit, but he was making up for lost time now.
The old Spaniard behind the counter at Mincka's recognised him, which came as a surprise, and he ordered coffee and rolls with a flawless Translation Charm. Many hours were spent with parchment and charcoal as he drew everything he saw. Market day was always busy, and he found plenty to draw in the faces of the villagers and tourists.
He never expected to come across Draco Malfoy again, but he figured that returning to this village was tempting fate, and he got the one thing he never wished for. That shock of platinum blond hair was unmistakeable, and memories rose to the surface at the sight of it.
At least, he thought it was Draco at first, but he was at the opposite end of the square. He looked a lot like Draco, but Devon began to question his own sight. This man seemed much happier and more relaxed that Draco. Besides, he didn't have a limp. He was accompanied by another man - of a height, with dark hair, a beard and glasses. They were obviously a couple – there was no doubt about that, judging from the way they touched. They appeared to be very much in love. There was no way possible this was the cruel and heartless prat, Malfoy. Perhaps it was a cousin, for there seemed to be a resemblance. A teenage girl also seemed to hang off the both of them, putting doubt in his mind about the man's identity. They weren't close enough for him to be certain, and he had no intention of wandering that way to confirm his suspicion.
Still, the sight of someone resembling Draco looking so very happy added to his own depression about his love life. He left home to travel Europe, hoping to find his one true love, but only finding that he was now well travelled, if somewhat cynical about finding someone to love.
Venturing through the stalls later in the day, he came across a stall selling all manner of knick knacks. He seemed rather intrigued by the wizened old man behind the table, his pipe hanging out his mouth and his oversized cardigan giving him a rather shabby appearance.
Devon was always on the lookout for new parchment, quills, inks and anything else he could use to draw. He saw nothing of real interest other than the stall's owner, and turned to leave. A sudden burst of sunlight turned his eye and he was drawn back to a grubby looking book. It was half hiding under a box of old wizarding sheet music. He pulled out the book and let out a slight gasp.
It wasn't grubby, as he first thought. The dappled texture of the tapestry and leather cover felt quite amazing under his fingers. He could also feel a sense of magic coming from the book as he turned the pages. Being such a tactile person, he could feel the contrasting textures of the cover and the smooth and blank parchment pages under his fingers.
He got the sense that despite the book being blank, that it had once contained many stories. The soft cream pages felt magic to the touch. He gazed at it for a long time, but immediately felt compelled to buy it. "How much?" he asked.
"Oh, that old thing?" The wizard pulled the pipe out of his mouth and donned a pair of spectacles as he studied the journal intently, muttering under his breath all the while. He seemed to consider a price, slowly nodding as he took his spectacles off and put the pipe back in his mouth.
"I have no idea where that moth-eaten old thing came from. You sure you don't want something new? I've got some nice new parchment over here..."
"No," Devon shook his head. "I want this." He was prepared to haggle. He wanted this journal and was prepared to pay handsomely.
"Oh, very well," he seemed disappointed that he wasn't going to make a hefty sale. "I guess you can have it for seven Sickles.
"Is that all?" Devon wondered if he had heard correctly. This book seemed antique - at least it was worn and for a book that old to have perfect pages and no writing, it must be worth more.
"Sure," the salesman shrugged. "You'd be doin' me a favour. Been lugging that thing around for a long time. You've just saved me packing it up. The ole Levitation Charms aren't what they used to be." Devon smiled, not hesitating as he handed over the price. It was a great find.
"What 'choo plan on putting in that thing?" the old wizard asked curiously with a nod of his head. Devon considered the question carefully. He had attempted to keep a journal of his travels at first, but he gave that up months before. The urge to write it all down came upon him suddenly. This trip had been a turning point in his life, and now he needed to express everything he had learned about life, love and growing up.
Besides, he had little else to do during those long and lonely nights.
Devon shrugged. "I've been travelling the past couple of years. I've seen a lot of things, met a lot of people and learned an awful lot about myself. It's high time I wrote it all down."
The old wizard nodded knowingly, a smirk showing the worn groove in his teeth where the pipe always sat. "Learned a few things along the way, did you?"
"Sure did. Wish someone had told me all this before I came here. Would have helped me a lot."
"A bit like a user guide?" the old man suggested.
Devon nodded. "Yeah, a bit like that. A user guide to growing up and the reality of life and love. That's what I'll write." He smiled. He wished someone had written something like that for him, but alas, he had to learn the hard way.
The wizened old man let out a wry chuckle through his pipe. "Well, good luck then. I'm sure your readers will learn a lot."
The weight of the journal felt just right under his arm as he made his way back to his rooms. Was it really that far fetched to write a book about all that he had learned in his journey of self-discovery?
Sitting by the window, looking out over the brightly coloured buildings in the town, he spotted that head of platinum blond hair again, and he knew exactly how he would start his book, and what he would write.
I'll write about falling in love, and how it's only ever going to end in disaster. He dipped the quill in the ink and without a second thought began to write...
People will tell you wonderful stories about falling in love – about how they met and their perfect courtships. I just want to say that it's complete bullshit. Love is a fallacy – it's designed to rip your heart out through your chest and beat you over the head for being an idiot.
Perhaps I should explain my cynicism. Let me tell you a story.
It all started with a bad translation charm, and a bastard by the name of 'Bad Faith'...
Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed this fic over the past two years. Huge thanks must go to Separatrix, C Dumbledore and Mijan for all their efforts in beta work throughout the latter half of the fic. And thank you to everyone who has read this. Your reviews really do mean something to us and it makes the effort of writing all the more satisfying. With the new reply feature here at the site we can reply personally to signed reviews, so thank you again. We hope you have enjoyed the ride along the way as much as we have enjoyed writing it. If you don't particularly like the way the story ended, that's your call, but thank you for taking the time to read this far. Before anyone asks - the answer is 'no, there will not be a sequel'. 541,451 words - goodness!
All the best, Azhure & Wintermoon.
Footnote: The yahoo group that was set up for this fic has been unexpectedly deleted due to some nasty business. If you are wanting to read the adult version of this story, you can find it on Skyehawke.