The Ridiculous Notion
It wasn't his dream job. He had known that from the start. But it was keeping him near Ginny.
Dean chanted that to himself as he made his way out of the storage room, his polished shoes tracking through dust and paper scraps. He pocketed the mechanical pencil he'd popped in to grab and tucked the file he was about to deliver under his arm. He shimmied around the Post-it Note crates, hopped over a couple old fax machines---and nearly collided with his new boss.
"Thomas," Mr. Stevens growled. "What are you, an animal?"
"No, sir. Sorry, sir."
"Hurry it up with those papers."
Forgot about that! he thought, as Mr. Stevens trudged off.
Dean hurried to the back of the storage room to find the stack of papers. He took the file from under his arm and put it between his teeth, hoping he could get the stack to Mr. Stevens' office before the lady who needed the file came skulking around again. The stack weighed than it looked. Lift with your legs, not your back, that's what his father had once told him. As he walked toward Mr. Steven's office, he wondered why these papers weren't in a box instead of being thrown into the storage room to be trampled on.
"Where would you like these, sir?"
Mr. Stevens glanced up at him in the middle of a phone call, gesturing with his ballpoint that Dean should drop them on the empty chair.
"Thomas," he called, as Dean was leaving. "I'll need my coffee thermos refilled."
As Dean left the office, he bumped into Anita. She was the third person that day he nearly tripped.
"Thomas," she greeted uninterestedly, brushing off her stiff skirt. "Where's the file?"
"The file. The one you were bringing me. Did it even arrive yet?"
"Oh! I must have left it in Mister Stevens' office. I'll just go and---"
But when he turned around, there was a sign on Mr. Stevens' locked door: IMPORTANT BUSINESS. DO NOT DISTURB.
"Damn it!" Anita cried. Her lazy eyes were wide now. She launched herself at the door, twisting the stubborn handle and pounding it with her shoulder. "Stevens, my deadline is an hour away! I need that information!"
Dean slunk off before she realized the mistake was his.
The cool wall of the storage room was lovely to put his head against while he reminded himself how stupid he had been for taking this job. He did errands for low-paid reporters. He was a wizard, for God's sake. A wizard! He could have his entire day's work done in a minute if he took his wand out of his pocket. But he was among Muggles.
He had invested his years after Hogwarts in writing. He liked writing; it kept his mind off the worst of things and he could build entire worlds about the best of things. In the wizarding world, though, there was little call for new reporters and novelists. All the worthwhile newspapers were elite or family operated. He just couldn't make a living there. In the Muggle world, he had few credentials. What could he say? "I went to a mysterious school in the middle of a forest and learned how to wave a stick around."
Sometimes he wished he'd taken the path most of his friends took. Neville had gone into Herbology. Harry was a mediwizard. Ron tamed dragons.
You know, sensible things.
But here he was on a plastic chair, being choked by a tie and collar and wondering how he could have made things better for himself.
"This is for Ginny," he chanted. "For Ginny."
"Thomas, are you going to lay around all day?" came a shout.
That night Dean arrived home with aching legs. He'd missed the football match he had wanted to see on television. Seamus had left a message saying something about a party, and went on about how much he loved these Muggle answering machines, and could Dean really, actually, without a doubt hear him through the other end even if he wasn't at home, and---?
Seamus hadn't worked out there was a time limit.
Dean spent some time looking at the pictures on his small, scrubbed kitchen counter. There was a group shot of everyone in his year at Hogwarts: Padma Patil twirled her hair on her finger, Hermione had a quill behind her ear and seemed itching to get back to the library, Malfoy looked irritated that he was put next to Ron, and Seamus' hand hovered over Dean's shoulder as though hesitant. He had never noticed that.
Dean felt loneliness deep in his stomach.
He dug out some photo albums and journals full of drawings he'd kept at school. He wasn't far into them when he heard a tap from the window. He let a chirpy tan owl in. It waited, so he offered it some water and untied the envelope from its leg while it drank. He found a sort of card. It was a smart piece of stationary, if he said so himself, with black script and pale, swirling designs on the corners. As he read the message, the loneliness in him transformed into a happiness he'd not felt since he moved to the city, far away from his friends and family.
Messrs. Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy would be pleased to have you for a celebration
announcing their engagement.
30 August 2008
Snortle and Dobbs All Purpose Building
Ron was stunned. Harry was getting married! His best friend Harry, who'd worn tents for clothes and huge, taped glasses, was getting married to the gittiest git who ever lived. What was the world coming to?
He had to admit, though, the great room he found himself in for the engagement party was spiffed up well. You couldn't even tell there were Mandrakes and Mimbulus-mimble-what's-its here at one point. The dazzling chandeliers made him feel underdressed in his plain, green robes and sure that Malfoy had chosen the white roses and the lacy table cloths just to get on Ron's nerves. Any second Malfoy would be sauntering by, saying, "Oh, these old things? I just had them laying around." Relief washed over him when he noticed the other guests were in a similar state, having casual robes and looking completely out of place.
Ron found some old schoolmates to chat with: Finch-Fletchly and his wife; Hannah Abbott, who was now playing for an American Quodpot team; and Seamus, who he'd patted on the shoulder and spoken to about his family's bicycle shop (they were looking for new employees and Seamus still had his hopes up for Dean). He saw Fred and waved hello. Ron didn't know anyone else from his family had been invited. Next to a massive mermaid ice sculpture, he noticed Hermione's husband discussing something apparently enthralling with Neville. Neville's girlfriend was by his side.
Ron moved through the crowd. He hadn't seen many of these people in years, and hanging around dragons all day hadn't given him a chance to develop his conversational skills; he decided to sit back and look for someone he was really used to. Didn't see Harry or Hermione anywhere.
There was some food across the way, though.
The hors d'oeuvres table stretched across the length of the hall, so he could have an entire section to himself while he waited for someone interesting to wander over. Someone did.
"All right, Ron?"
"I haven't seen Harry yet. Have you?"
"No, actually. I've been around the place twice and haven't seen either Harry or Malfoy. Not great hosts, are they?"
"They'll be around." Dean tapped his shoe on the floor. "Music's nice."
"Yeah." If you liked snooty, mild stuff. All Malfoy's doing, he reckoned. "Say, is Ginny here?"
"Um. She couldn't make it. She had a meeting or appointment with some lady---Victoria, or something of the like. I told her I wasn't going to come if she wasn't, but then I changed my mind."
"We can bachelor around together, then."
"Oh, you didn't bring that girl---Martha?"
"We had differences. I moved out a couple days ago."
"I didn't know you'd moved in."
"Didn't want to make a big deal of it."
"Ah. Is there someone else?"
"Well...yes and no." Ron smiled a bit, remembering that enchanting Tuesday. The woman he'd been with, she'd smelled of vanilla and was just so...lovely. "I met her in Diagon Alley. We---well---we went to bed and we talked and she was great."
"See her again. Maybe you'll stick around for more than a couple months."
Ron laughed. "It's a possibility. But I don't even know her name."
"Good Lord," Dean said amiably. "You're hopeless! Perhaps if you hang around Diagon Alley she'll turn up."
"That could work. Or I could go straight to her house. I still have her floo address."
They sampled the bread and vegetables until Ron turned and noticed a murmur going through the guests. Some people who were sitting had stood. A nosy-looking woman climbed onto her table and said, "I don't see a thing, Gloria!" The people were gossiping to one another in a fever that hadn't been there before.
Ron saw a splotch of red from the corner of his eye, and moved to see his sister dashing toward him. "Ron, you're here!" she said. "Did you see what happened? I didn't see a thing, but I heard---"
"Ginny," Dean said, startled. "What are you doing here? You said you weren't coming."
"You said you weren't coming," she breathed.
"Oh, I found what the commotion's about, Virginia!" called a voice not far off. A beautiful woman in revealing robes swept up and placed her hand on Ginny's lower back. Ron recognized her, but before he could say anything the woman went on. "It was Mister Potter and his fiancé running outside to the fountains! They say his fiancé had tears in his eyes." The woman suddenly looked startled. "Virgina, whatever's the matter, darling?"
Ginny's freckles were tinted in red. She was still looking at Dean, who stared back.
"You!" Ron exclaimed.
The woman next to Ginny looked at him, and in an instant she was stricken. "Oh my. Hello."
"What are you doing here?" Ron asked. "Are you a friend of Harry's? Why didn't he tell me he knew you?"
"Did he say something about me?" the woman asked hungrily. "Does he remember me? Virginia, I told you I'd met Harry Potter!"
"Virginia?" Dean asked, his eyebrows lowering at Ginny. "You hate being called Virginia."
"Why would she hate it?" the woman asked. "That's her name." She looked at Dean like something was sprouting from the side of his head.
"Wait, how do you know my sister?" Ron demanded. "How do you know---er, er---this woman, Ginny?"
The woman looked at Ron and then at Ginny, realization kindling in her very lovely eyes; she saw the red of their hair and the freckles first, but then she saw the way their noses came to the same long point and the thin arch of their eyebrows. She put a hand to her bosom. "Oh. Your sister...?" she said.
"Ginny?" Dean said faintly.
They all turned to her. She had become quite pink.
Although Draco had shed only one or two tears, Harry held him so tightly that he might have been crying fountains. The thought reminded him of where they were---in the middle of the court yard, humiliatingly enough, standing by a tall fountain.
Draco's voice shuddered against Harry's chest: "What about what they say...about men who love each other having babies? That's how you get pregnant. It's supposed to happen if you love each other."
"Draco," he said roughly, "it's just a rumor. I promise you."
"I was so sure. I felt it, I'm telling you, Harry."
"You did want the baby, didn't you? You did want me to be pregnant?"
"Yes. I did. I was...starting to get excited about it."
"Sorry I got your hopes up." He pressed his face harder against Harry. "I didn't mean to."
"You didn't. Don't blame yourself."
"It's not your fault, Draco."
"Why are you calm?"
"I don't know."
Harry's jaw was tense, as it became when he was upset. The way he was dressed, with his neatly pressed cobalt robes and combed hair, reminded Draco of a powerful sorcerer, ready to strike down anything in his path. Draco touched Harry's jaw and it visibly relaxed. He ran his fingers over Harry's shaven chin and over the curve of his bottom lip. He brought his arms down and held Harry around the waist.
"You would have been a good father," said Draco.
Harry didn't reply. He pulled away from Draco, walking the short distance to a bench. He sat and put his head in his hands.
"Would you like to know the reason I wouldn't believe you were pregnant at first?" he asked.
Draco couldn't hide his surprise. "If you want to tell me, yes."
"I...didn't think I'd be a very good father."
"Isn't it obvious? I don't know what a father's supposed to do. My uncle wasn't a role model. The closest thing I had was---was Sirius, and that was brief and he was really more like a brother. Maybe Mister Weasley...maybe I could ask him about parenthood, but I..."
"You don't need lessons. You would learn it as it went along."
Harry exhaled loudly. "Not anymore."
Draco sat next to him. He put his arms around Harry, who looked dizzy enough to fall off the bench. He put his head against Draco's. From here, they could hear the chatter and happiness in the main room and the peaceful way the water trickled. It was nauseating.
"Harry," he said urgently.
"This doesn't mean---this---"
He looked up. "What?"
"This doesn't mean we're not getting married?"
"Why would you think that?"
Draco shook his head. "I had the thought that you might not want to marry me if kids weren't involved."
"No. Kids have little to do with it. Well. All right. Maybe the thought of kids reminded me to marry you. But I would have. I swear. I mean, I still will!"
"I believe you," he sighed, resting his head on Harry's shoulder. "What if all these people had showed up and we ended up canceling the wedding?"
"Wouldn't be ideal."
"I feel stupid in Muggle clothes, while you're all dressed up. I should change into my robes."
They didn't move yet. Music floated around them, glasses clinked, crickets sung. But they didn't move until somehow, silently, they assured one another that everything would be just as cheerful today as they had intended.
Harry had changed into his robes beforehand, but Draco hadn't wanted to show up at the hospital in engagement party attire; so he'd reserved a room upstairs for himself, where he'd stored his robes for safekeeping. When they arrived, Draco stood in the room and fiddled with the hem of his shirt.
"Aren't you going to change?" Harry asked.
"Um. Go away."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Are you afraid of me seeing you naked?"
"I'll see you out there, then."
When the door clicked shut, Draco turned to the white box on the bed. He'd secretly decided to wear the robes of ancient, expensive material to the engagement party; perhaps he didn't want his and Harry's attraction to one another to be influenced by their magic on the wedding day. The engagement party was for fun, though, not seriousness. He hadn't opened the box yet, hadn't seen the robes inside. He'd just left Ginny and Madam Malkin to it. He hoped they did a good job.
He lifted the lid, thinking he shouldn't be worrying about robes when he'd just received some of the worst news of his life, but something told him not to dwell on a baby that had never been.
With some maneuvering, Draco had the new robes on his body. They weren't bad, he thought, as he observed himself in the mirror. He was doing up small, pearl-like buttons when Hermione knocked on the door and came in.
She gasped. "I thought you were going to wear that at the wedding."
"I know. Changed my mind. Something about wearing them to the wedding didn't seem right. I want Harry to see me, not my magical robes, then. And---all right!---I couldn't wait to try these out on him. He'll be driven mad with lust and we'll fornicate in the pretty fountain."
"You're a tart," she said. "Why do I put up with you?"
"Do you like the robes? Are they too gaudy?"
"I think they suit you." She walked around him and brushed a bit of thread off his shoulder. "Yes, you look good."
"Well, don't look too hard. I'm engaged, in case you don't remember."
"Sorry, I don't go for effeminate sorts."
"Hermione! I'm not effeminate. I'm selectively masculine."
She stood aside as he looked into the long mirror. They were pale blue and at some angles caught light in a way that mesmerized the eye. The hem swept over the floor in a graceful flutter, and foreign etchings he had never seen in all his language studies as a child decorated the buttons. The silk fastening curled around him and hung in a knot on his flat front. He had said he didn't want to be fat on his wedding day, and today was not his wedding day at all, but what he would have given to see a protruding belly there...
"Draco?" Hermione said quietly.
"Harry told us what happened."
He turned his head and came into contact with the cloud of soft, invisible perfume around her. He hadn't realized she was so close. "Us?" he asked. "How many people did he tell?"
"Only David and me. Harry said we were the only ones who knew in the first place."
"Draco." She touched his hand. Their fingers entwined. It made him sadder. "Will you be able to have a good time tonight?"
"I should hope so. I paid a great deal for the decorating."
"You don't have to pretend to be shallow, you know."
"Well, I am shallow. Shallow is who I am: Draco Malfoy---effeminate, tarty, and shallow."
"No," she shushed, putting a finger to his lips.
He smiled. "I'll be fine, Granger."
They made their way to the party.
The floor shook under the lumbering partiers, all Draco's age or in that vicinity. He supposed their ages justified the seizure-like movements they called dancing. A modern song was echoing in the room. He didn't know who had requested it. When he found out, he would do away with that person and make sure all the music was pre-chosen in the future. He remembered asking for something snooty and mild.
He moved on.
What! The ice mermaid was dripping!
"Glacify," he said.
Hopefully that would hold it.
He went among the sympathetic looks of people who wanted to know why he'd been upset. He tried to find someone less caring with whom to socialize. He was drawn back to the courtyard.
Merlin. Just who he wanted to see: Weasley, with his ugly head in his hands, his elbows on his knees, plopped like a sack onto a bench near the fountain.
"This seat saved?" Draco drawled, shooing Weasley to one side. He sat. He beat his foot on the gravel path, his head having suddenly filled with "Weasley Is Our King." He wondered if the band knew that one.
"She's a lesbian," came a murmur.
"A lesbian." Weasley turned to him. "I met a really wonderful girl, fucked her, and she turned out to be queer---and dating my sister!"
"Huh. Do you have more than one sister?"
"No. Just the bratty little one."
"I could have sworn she was seeing Dean Thomas."
"Oh, good," he said, and settled closer to Weasley to hear everything.
"I don't know whether to blame Ginny for dating the witch of my dreams or to blame Dean for not keeping Ginny preoccupied."
"Who's going to blame the lesbian for wandering outside her orientation?"
Weasley glared at him. "Figures you'd be the only one around to comfort me."
"Comfort? Is that what this is?"
"I'll be alone for the rest of my days."
Draco felt happy all of a sudden.
"I'm getting married, you know," he said.
"So I heard."
"It's going to be grand, you know."
"Outrageously expensive---far more money than you'll ever have, I'm sure. We'll probably have a honeymoon somewhere torturously comfortable. I'll just die of happiness in Harry's company."
"I hate you."
"I love every minute of it."
"You're polite to me when Harry's around."
"Isn't it deceitful?"
Weasley didn't reply. He looked on with sad eyes at Draco's white hair fluttering in the breeze. For a split second, he looked at Draco's robes. Draco hoped he felt poor in his old green rags.
He was now bored with Weasley. Best insult him a bit more and be in his way.
"It seems you've had more than one 'witch of your dreams.' Harry's told me all about it. Let's see: there's the lesbian, and further back there was Martha, Adrienne, Bianca, Cindy, some miscellaneous Muggles. My, I bet you have sticky sheets."
"Shut your gob," said Weasley.
The words were there, but lacked any vigor. Weasley continued to stare at him as though he'd never seen him.
"Why don't you give up on girls, Weasel? I mean, they clearly have no interest in you at all."
"Look that way," he said, with a pointing finger. Draco did so, and didn't see a thing except the side of the building. When he turned back, Weasley was much too close to him, and his mouth---
"Oh my God!" Draco whimpered, but Weasley was already holding him close by the upper arms.
Hermione had seen it all, of course. She was pretty sneaky if you kept an eye on her, but usually she was keeping an eye on you---Draco, in this case. She knew how torn up he was about the pregnancy, and had been spying from a window when Ron gave up his dignity in a moment of impulse.
She left them to repair the situation themselves, feeling that Draco would either hex Ron, squawk at him, or combine the two and run away in a snit. She didn't want to be there when Draco thought himself in a moral dilemma because she had seen enough dramatics for one evening, what with Ginny and her two lovers, Ron and his harem of disappointment, Dean and his contained sorrow, and most importantly to her---Harry and Draco's sadness about...well, it's quite obvious by now.
Hermione moved back to where she had left Harry before she found Ron and Draco in the garden. He was admiring the ancient pottery display, probably wondering why there was one at his engagement party but, nonetheless, admiring. From the corner of his eye, he zoomed in on Neville, who was engrossed in his girlfriend. Hermione had learned her name was Patsy and they were not so much engaged in matrimony as much as they were engaged in each other's tongues. That seemed to make Harry uncomfortable. He'd been expecting pureness from Neville, something to assure him that he needn't be on the lookout for Draco's welfare. Hermione took note, also, that Harry had been so focused on Neville's whereabouts since he left the private changing room that he had lost track of Draco altogether and was not there when Ron took advantage of the situation.
Neville, good Neville, had no designs toward stealing Draco away. But Harry had overlooked his best friend in his irrational suspicion that his fiancé was going to be stolen from him.
Everything seemed in order, or as in order as it was going to be. Patsy appeared nice enough. Or, at least, she kept Neville occupied. It was fine for now, Harry guessed.
He felt he had socialized plenty in the past twenty minutes. He now wanted to spend some time with Draco. He smoothed his robes, hoping his hair was still as straight as it had been when he'd caught Draco's approving looks at it earlier, and made his way across the shining room. Luck would have it that he ran into Draco, who stormed right into his chest.
"Whoa, Malfoy, what's the rush?"
"'Malfoy' is it?" he hissed. "Is that all I am now? Just some stupid surname? Something you can throw around and do anything you want to?"
"What are you on about---?"
"I hate Gryffindors! You slimy, arrogant lot of---"
"Draco, sorry! What did I do?"
Draco stopped. He took a breath. He slumped forward and sighed onto Harry's neck. "Nothing. Didn't have such a great start to the party."
"What happened?" Harry asked. "Besides...you know...." He looked piteously at the side of Draco's head.
"It's got nothing to do with...that. But you'll hate me."
"I can't hate you. We're not even married yet."
Harry felt a smile against his skin. He put a hand on Draco's head to hold him there as dancers whirled around them.
"I'm feeling like I felt at Hogwarts. I have the sudden urge," Draco declared, "to call you Potty and run off with my evil friends, plotting my next scathing remarks toward your scar, Granger's parentage, and Weasley's financial status."
"By all means."
"Already finished the latter item."
"How awful. I'm sure he's scarred for life."
"No, that's you---remember?" He pulled back and tapped Harry's forehead. "But. Well. Just a moment ago, I was outside being my delightful self to Weasley...and..."
"It can't be all that bad."
"It's not my fault in the least."
"You'll hate me."
"I doubt it. If I end up hating you, at least I'll be able to return this worthless party junk and get my money back. Those everlasting white roses and that set of Egyptian Tupperware are pretty useless looking."
"The roses add fragrance to the air and the Tupperware was property of King Tut! Do you know who that is, sweetness?"
"Shut up. Why is it all here?"
"I thought I'd impress my old friends."
"I did see Gregory Goyle stumbling around near the food a while ago. Oh, pardon, sorry---"
Someone had bumped into Harry, doing a backwards sort of jig. He and Draco moved to a table under a chandelier, which Draco marveled at until he noticed a waiter with champagne and tried to signal him over.
"I think we got off subject," said Harry.
"What happened with Ron?"
"If I never tell you, you'll never find out. Weasley won't say a word."
"I'm his best friend! I'll go to him right now and he'll tell me everything."
"He won't say a thing."
Harry rested his head on his fist. "Why?"
"He's in mourning."
"Oh, I heard about Ginny and that Victoria person. Did he talk to you about that?"
"Sort of." Draco waved his arm, but the waiter was still not looking. "But he's mourning over something else now---his embarrassment, which he suffered in my presence. At my expense, actually! In fact, I was quite involved in it."
"Just tell me already! What happened?"
"I don't think I'll say."
"I'll get Hermione to tell me. I saw her spying on you when you went outside."
Draco straightened up in surprise. "What's that? Hmm?"
"Hermione. Spying on you."
"She was worried about you. She doesn't think I do, but I read her like a book."
"What a perfect analogy for that woman."
"And while all this was happening, what were you doing, Harry, darling?"
Harry paused. He then realized what he had been doing, while Draco was doing...er, whatever he had been doing. He didn't know what facial expression to have while he was thinking about it, so his face decided for him: a simple flush.
"Oh, you're red!" Draco cried. "Tell me."
"Oh. I know. You were spying on him."
"What? Who's 'him?'"
"Don't pretend. I know everything about you. I know which brand of toilet paper you wipe your arse with. I know you're jealous of Neville Longbottom."
"Why on earth would I be jea---?"
"Because I dated him at Hogwarts, obviously, and you think he'll miraculously fall into my arms after all his claims that he'd been going through an experimental stage. It was sure experimental for me---I learned never to date a boy with a toad. I smelled of amphibian in the most ungainly parts of my body; but I also know, Harry, that you're too polite to inquire about that." He swept his hair out of his face to fan his neck. "And haven't you noticed Longbottom's not been with one man since me? Ten years ago! You're a jealous, jealous, stupid person."
Harry's cheeks burned in his hands. The waiter finally came by, and Harry swiped a couple glasses and pressed one to his face.
Draco took his own and knocked it back. Harry blinked.
"Poor, poor, Harry. His lover caught him in a pitiful act," said Draco, looking down at the remains in the glass.
"Are you going to tell me what happened with Ron, or am I going to get my information from Hermione---who, by the way, will probably make the explanation far more detailed than you will, and that's to my benefit."
Draco looked nauseated at having wasted all that champagne, but ready to confess:
"Weasley kissed me. He really, really kissed me."
Harry blinked some more.
Harry would kill him. It wasn't polite, really, killing one's best friend. Ron had never done it, but he didn't think his own best friend would have any objections to the act now that Ron had molested his fiancé.
Merlin's pointed hat! When he thought of Malfoy as someone's fiancé it made it all the worse.
It had been a mistake. Ron knew it as soon as he had opened his mouth against Malfoy's. And it had nothing to do with the fact that Malfoy had bit his tongue. No, no, Ron would have pulled back anyway.
He'd been entranced by the fact that even Malfoy could keep himself in a stable relationship and a great rocket had gone off inside Ron's head, urging him go, go, go---that pretty little mouth is right there, Weasley! Kiss it, Weasley! You can have stability, too, Weasely! At the time it made sense.
After avoiding Harry for an hour, during which Ron had a silent dinner with a group of former Slytherins, he went to the restroom to clean the remainder of blood from his mouth. He would be tasting it for days. Bastard Malfoy and his bastard teeth.
When he came out, Harry was waiting for him in the main room. His face was blank.
"Um." Ron put his hands in front of him as if evoking the help of a mighty spirit. "I can explain!"
"Draco told me---"
"I'm sure you're furious, but there's no need to get wands involved. I know you're angry---"
"No, I know. I just hope you can look past that and see---"
"Wait, Ron! I understand why you did it."
His hands dropped to his sides. "Y-you do?"
"Yeah. Draco thinks it was psychological reaction to having so many failures in your love life; you hit your boiling point and took out your frustrations on the nearest person, and because he happened to be one who you disliked you wanted to overcome your enmity and finally achieve satisfaction in an unpleasant relationship. He also thinks that because this attempt was a failure, too, you're ego will continue to suffer."
"Is that what you were going to say?"
"Er. I was going to tell you I was drunk." And that Malfoy had shown me his upper thighs.
"Yeah. Probably that, too."
"Um. We could have a butterbeer. Or some champagne."
"I've seen enough champagne for the evening. I'll grab a couple butterbeers."
Ron nodded, and slumped at a nearby table, where numerous plucked petals were strewn. His arms hung at his sides. He was thankful that Harry wasn't the jealous type.
Despite the questionable activities earlier, Harry was caught in delight he hadn't encountered since the big seventh year bash at Hogwarts, which had taken place in a hideaway under the Hufflepuff common room. The alcohol here was better and the attendance larger, but tonight he kept with a small number of people sober people: his former roommates, Hermione and her family, the Weasleys, and Draco.
Draco was becoming more beautiful by the minute. Harry had never seen him in such robes. He kept swooshing around and drawing Harry in, alternately smiling and smirking to display this newfound power he had over Harry's attention. He wouldn't let Harry grope him behind the giant, historic Morgana statue. He snaked away and turned up again with little desserts to pop into Harry's mouth. The most he would let Harry touch him, if they weren't dancing, was to let him suck the chocolate off his wet fingertips.
Harry danced with Ginny, Pansy Parkinson, and Professor McGonagall, who he didn't know Draco had invited. He looked around and was relieved to find Snape wasn't there; surely Draco would have invited him. After dancing with Colin Creevey twice and tapping his foot during a fast number called "The Wizard Lizard," he adjourned to sit with Ron again. They were getting on fine.
He and Ron attracted Seamus, Dean, and Neville, and it was like they were at their favorite restaurant having a monthly visit. They bumped glasses and stomped feet, having a ruckus of a time.
Neville was grinning as he held his wine glass to his mouth. "Oh, Dean," he said, "did you get the job you were telling us about?"
"Yes," said Dean, looking shaky and somewhat confused. After what had happened, Harry couldn't blame him. "I think I'm going to quit and take a holiday, though."
"What!" Seamus shouted. "After all that searching for the right job you're going to pack up and---"
"It's not really the right job. Not what I expected. And there's, well, the issue with Ginny...." He gave Ron an understanding smile.
"Yeah," Ron grumbled. "I saw Virginia and Victoria dancing a few minutes ago."
"Where're you going to go, Dean?" Harry asked quickly.
"Ireland," he said, and glanced to Seamus. "I mean, if that's all right."
"It...it's your life," said Seamus.
"I'm thinking of looking into bicycles."
"Oh," he said faintly. "I can help you with that."
The talk spiraled into bike races, Quidditch, Hogwarts, their lives after Hogwarts, and then into commentary about the great room's setup.
"Can you believe it?" Harry was saying. "I asked him---I told him, 'Draco, I want it to be casual,' and he went and did this. And he wants the wedding to be at his parents' mansion with 'more appropriate furnishings.' I can only imagine."
Ron snorted. "You got yourself into this, Harry. I've always said he was trouble."
"Yes. But he's worth it."
Over his shoulder, he watched Draco conduct the band with his wand, although they weren't paying him any mind.
Their eyes met. When Draco made a come hither gesture, Harry went with the jerk of that finger on an imaginary leash.
Harry and Draco danced. They danced until their feet ached and guests began to call it a night, and paused only to say goodbye to their friends.
Draco made declarations of ardor into Harry's hair and mouth, and began a quiet song with the trumpets and violins and wizard instruments to which Harry didn't know any names:
I'll love you till your hair turns gray,
Then hire a teenaged pool boy.
I'll pinch his bum all night and day,
But he won't compare to you, Toy.
"Did you make that up by yourself?" Harry asked.
"I'm a poet," Draco replied. "Didn't you know?"
"I knew. You look good tonight."
"You've told me several times. Watch out, I might start to get a big head."
They spun through the thick, flower-scented air, mashed together on the floor, but tried not to dance too heartily lest all the remaining happiness of the night would be shaken out of their bodies. Harry's insides were curdling; this would be done tomorrow, and in a month they would be married. They would take that final step of detachment from the rest of the world. There would be an empty spot in their lives, much like the one in Draco's stomach.
No matter how hard Harry tried to convince himself they would live content in their flat until the end of their days, he knew it would not feel the same as it had before Draco told him they were having a baby. He would wake up one day and be very lonely, regardless of the loving arms around him.
He looked at Draco's glowing face for a long moment. Draco appeared to grow worried, looking at his expression, but before he could speak Harry had asked it.
"Do you want to have a baby?"
"We can have a baby---we can plan it all out. It doesn't have to be accidental." Harry's hands trembled on Draco's shoulder blades. His eyes bored into Draco's. "We'll go to the hospital and discuss it with the mediwizard. We'll make an appointment immediately, and we can have a child together."
"Harry, are you sure you---?"
"Yes! I need to have a family with you. We'll be happy, I promise."
"You're not joking with me? I'll murder you if you're joking."
"No!" Harry held him at arms' length to look him square in the eye. "I want to have a baby with you as soon as possible."
Draco slowly smiled and then found himself clenching Harry around the middle. They were both laughing. "I want to carry the baby," said Draco, pulling away. "I've been set on the thought for so long that I can't imagine it any other way."
"Fine. Whatever you want."
"And we can still get married?"
"But I want to wait until after we get married to do this."
"Yes, yes, all right!"
"Harry," he laughed, "calm down."
Draco's hands were warm on his face. He couldn't stop kissing Harry's cheeks. His smile was so wide that it looked like it hurt.
"Tell me about how we started dating," said Harry.
"I'm appalled you don't remember."
"I do remember. I want to hear it from your overdramatic mouth."
"I'll add sound effects. Once upon a---"
"Please don't. Just the story."
"What's there to say?" He looked to the ceiling, trying to find a way to start. Harry followed his gaze, and for the first time he noticed fairies shimmering in the darkest corners. "We met again, several years after Hogwarts, at Quality Quidditch Supplies. I bet that's why you like going there so much."
"You don't think it has anything to do with brooms?"
"Not at all. It was the debut of the Firebolt Three, so I suppose that was your reason for being there at the time. But I didn't know that, and I was quite annoyed once I arrived, because I hadn't expected the place to be flocked with twelve-year-olds wanting a peek at the new broom."
"You did look disgruntled."
"You said you wanted to hear this story from me."
Harry rested his lips against Draco's temple in apology. "Go on."
"Ahem. I didn't go into public often, I remember. It was just after Mum and Dad fled the country and I...well, I wasn't in the mood to deal with crowds and things. All I wanted was a Quidditch magazine, and then there you were, looking at me like I'd insulted you."
"I noticed you were blushing---and looking very cute doing so, might I add. You were looking at my magazine. You had no idea I enjoyed the shirtless edition of Quidditch Men Monthly." Harry smiled. The room was quite silent now, but he didn't want to stop their swaying. "And you, Potter, thought I was breathtaking."
"Yes," said Draco. "I could tell. You wanted to ask me out but didn't know how to strike up a conversation with your schoolboy rival, so I asked you whether you read this magazine, and you blushed harder. I was ecstatic. We went on a date, and then more, and then we were exclusive, and soon I moved out of my mansion---Heaven only knows why---and into your flat, where you now use my body for vulgar experimentation."
Harry rested his forehead on Draco's shoulder, smiling. "And here we are," he murmured.
They continued to dance.
They danced until a flautist tapped Harry on the shoulder to say that the band was leaving. He ignored her, which embarrassed Draco, and they went on dancing.
Harry learned the fairies were artificial when the tremor of beating wings skimmed his ears as they descended from the ceiling like deflating balloons at a child's birthday. Draco promised to use real fairies at the wedding, flicking one off Harry's shoulder.
Before long, the manager informed them the building was closing. Harry didn't see why they should have to leave when there was a perfectly good dance floor to make use of; however, Draco took him by the hand and led him to the exit. They returned home, where they would continue to live together happily, and where, someday, they would raise a child together. Happily.