Warnings: m/m slash language
Disclaimer: If you don't recognize it, it's mine. Everything else belongs to the copyright holders.
Author's Note: The custom of Di Catenas is lifted from Marian Zimmer Bradley's 'Darkover' series, and I've mangled it some.
Harry Potter had, as had been prophesised, killed the Dark Lord, Voldemort. The war, or 'cleansing action,' as the Ministry preferred to call it, against the remaining Death Eaters had been short, but violent. Most of them were now either dead or in Azkaban, although a few were still in hiding.
Strange as it seemed, few students with Death Eater parents, even from Slytherin House, had actually fought with them. The biggest surprise there, was that Draco Malfoy had actually fought against the Dark Lord's minions - which meant he was also fighting against his father. But nobody really trusted Draco, even after he'd risked his own life time and again for them. His history was against him; both his personal history at Hogwarts, and his family history in the wizarding world. Nevertheless, he'd been invited to the celebration feast when the 'cleansing action' had been declared successful, and over with.
"And so, Harry, I propose that by Halloween, I have you in Di Catenas!" Draco said, laughing. He laughed, but he was deadly serious. He laughed to lure in "The Boy Who Lived," who, with his muggle upbringing, would likely never have heard of it.
At this, there was some sniggering, and comments whispered between those people within hearing distance, but they thought he was joking. Any second now, "The Boy Who Lived" would laughingly refuse.
Harry hadn't heard of it, but laughed, too. He didn't know what the joke was, but figured Malfoy wouldn't be threatening him with anything dire or permanent - not with so many witnesses present. And since he didn't want to show his naiveté, he pretended to be in the know, and go along with the joke. "Sure! Sounds great!" he exclaimed, grinning.
Suddenly there was a circle of dead silence amongst the witnesses, everyone staring their way. Draco stood. "Di Catenas offered, accepted, and witnessed! You are all sworn to witness truly," he announced.
Ron and Hermione, who had been trying to reach Harry, but got there too late, were glowering at the Slytherin; but all, including they, albeit reluctantly, voiced agreement, although more than Ron and Hermione did so less than happily.
Harry leaned over and whispered to his red-headed friend. "Ron? What's everyone so upset about? What's dee-whatever?"
Ron looked pityingly at his pal. "Di Catenas. The most sacred and binding of marriages. You're engaged, Harry."
The raven-haired Gryffindor gaped at Ron, aghast, then at everyone else. He leapt to his feet. "To Malfoy? No! Marry Malfoy? Bloody hell, no!"
Many murmured agreement, either angrily or sadly, but without hope.
Ron stood from the chair he'd thrown himself into, to be on a level with his friend. "With any other form of proposal, you can claim ignorance of custom and annul the engagement, Harry, but not Di Catenas; it's too highly valued. Once accepted, a Di Catenas engagement is permanent. If the bloody bugger hadn't stated a date when he proposed, you could have put it off for ten years. Damned git closed that loophole. There's no way out of it," Ron informed Harry.
"No way out? Why?!"
"I read about this when I was researching wizard marriages, after Ron and I started going out - back before the war," Hermione explained. "Back in the Dark Ages, it was used to put an end to feuds and to seal alliances by joining the major families involved. It didn't work well for muggles, but with magic backing it up, a Di Catenas contract was binding on all involved, whether they wished it or not. The very words mean 'of chains' - or 'associations;' and by association, marriage. I just wish I knew what Malfoy was up to by invoking it - and why he set a date! He could have had ten years of the same benefits that the marriage brings, and without encumbering himself!"
"But we're both men!" Harry protested, grasping at straws.
"Sorry, mate, but it makes no difference for a Di Catenas," Ron said. "Gay marriage has been legal for a few hundred years, now. Took some powerful gay wizards to make it happen, but it's no big deal to anyone any more."
Harry sat down, albeit a little shakily. "No way out?" Harry asked again, weakly. And then belatedly realising what Hermione had implied about him, he sent a weak glare in her direction. "Encumbrance," he muttered to himself, scandalised that she'd so unthinkingly insulted him.
"The only way out is death for one of the parties - before the marriage. Afterward, if one dies, both do," Ron said, in an almost gleefully macabre manner, ignoring Harry's mutterings.
Harry relaxed, and with every appearance of being calm, cool, and collected, said "Oh! Well, that's alright then, because as soon as there are no witnesses, I'm going to kill him!" By the end of that sentence, he no longer even appeared calm, but the picture of a snarling beast about to kill its prey.
Draco held his ground. He knew that you didn't run from an enraged beast; it only inflamed their hunting instincts. He was looking anything but happy, however.
Ron blocked Harry's move towards the Slytherin, going so far as to wrap his arms around the raging Gryffindor, holding him back. "Unless you want to be beheaded, Harry, you killing the bastard is out, too!" he all but shouted.
Startled, Harry's rage evaporated. "Beheaded?"
Draco, who had watched most of this drama, chose this instant to rejoin them, and chimed in. "The traditional punishment for a Di Catenas spousal murder - by either party. You're safe now, Harry. My father and his associates can't hurt you or anyone who has sworn allegiance to your cause. Now, the war truly is over," he said, by way of explanation.
"But why marriage? Why so soon? Why not in ten years?" Hermione almost pleaded.
"Accidents can happen, Granger. They can even be arranged. With either of us dead by misfortune before marriage, the truce can be broken. If either dies after marriage, we both die - and honour would require the truce to hold."
"Hold it!" Harry ordered. "That's the second time someone's mentioned that after marriage, if one dies, both do. Why?!"
"It's part of the marriage ceremony, Harry," Hermione said. "Your life-forces are bound together."
"But why me?!" Harry demanded. "No, forget that question. It would have to be either me or Dumbledore - and somehow, I can't see you and Albus together." The picture made him smile, in spite of himself.
"Hardly believable," Draco agreed, smirking.
"I wish you'd planned this with me, instead of tricking me into it," Harry said, scowling.
"And would you have gone along with it?" Draco asked, confidently.
Harry frowned. "I don't know," he admitted.
Now it was the blonde's turn to be startled. He'd expected an emphatic 'no.' "You would have - considered it?" he asked, confused.
Harry smirked, surprising the Slytherin again. "You're not hard on the eyes, Malfoy," he admitted.
Draco sat heavily. Fortunately (or not, depending on your viewpoint), there was a chair there to catch him.
"You're... You're a..."
"Homosexual? Poofter? Queer? 'Light in the shoes?'" Harry said, lightly mocking. "Surprised?"
Draco nodded, stunned. "Um... Yes - to put it lightly."
"It wasn't hard to guess you probably were," Harry stated, but without malice. "If you hadn't been such a bloody pain in the arse, I might have asked you out."
There was a 'thump' off to one side. Ron was sitting on the floor - he hadn't been as fortunate as Draco had been, to have a chair handy.
"Oh, really, Ron!" Hermione said exasperatedly. "You can't tell me you shared a dorm room with Harry all these years and not got a clue?"
Ron nodded; then shook his head, unsure how to answer that question without speaking. "But... Malfoy?" he squeaked. Such pained surprise in his voice, combined with the look on his face as he looked up at them, made it just too comical for words - the other three broke out laughing, which engendered looks of confusion from everyone else in the room who knew what was going on. That included almost everyone by this point, with all the whispered conversations going on.
Harry gave Ron a helping hand to get him to his feet again, then turned to the blonde. "I'm still more than a little angry with you, Draco, but this thing does solve a great many problems. But you're going to have many years, I hope, to make it up to me. And you'd best!"
Draco looked at Harry, awed. "You called me 'Draco.'"
"I'd best get used to it, hadn't I?"
A slow smile crept over the Slytherin's face. "I suppose that's so - Harry."
Harry's ears were treated to a great deal of ranting over the next few days from both adults and friends; both for his 'stupidity,' and against Draco's 'slimy trickery,' but it was true that the magic connected to the Di Catenas seemed to be working. The crime rate dropped, as Death Eaters in hiding were no longer making raids, or 'making examples' of wizards attached to the Light side. They were bound to the geas of the Di Catenas, even though it was unlikely many, if any of them, were aware of its existence. Harry had a few chuckles, wondering what explanation they were giving themselves for their lack of activity. They wouldn't wonder long, he was sure. He was quite surprised that the upcoming marriage had yet to make headlines in the wizarding papers. It was bound to, at some point.
Still, although few approved of the upcoming marriage, none could gainsay it.
As for Harry himself, well, he was busy trying to get to know his betrothed. Although he had known the boy for over five years, and knew a lot about the blonde's outer self - his family and actions - he knew next to nothing about the young man himself; about his thoughts, dreams, likes, dislikes, etc. It was a fascinating endeavour. Most of the assumptions he'd made were wrong. Of course, Draco could say the same thing about Harry. Although there were differences, a few major, most minor, they were surprised to find out just how many parallels there were - far more similarities than differences. Of course, some of those differences were serendipitous, as they fit smoothly together with the other young man's likes and dislikes.
As the day of the Di Catenas came closer, both Harry and Draco become more nervous, for personal reasons, and more determined, for the sake of the lives it would make safer - not that either could pull out of the arrangement, now that it had been made. During their hours and days of talking, both had developed feelings that they kept hidden from the other. Each was sure the other was only going through with this for altruistic reasons. While this was certainly true, it was far from being the whole truth, and Draco, at least, had at least some of those feelings from the start. That was what had prompted him to think of the Di Catenas proposal in the first place. The lives that could be saved was what had made him go through with it.
The news made the headlines the Saturday before Calan Gaeaf - Halloween; also the day the ceremony was to be performed. Harry later found out that the Ministry had put a gag order on the news media, not to divulge this juicy bit of news before the day of the wedding - an unfortunate wording, as it allowed the said news media to blare out the news well before the ceremony. Fortunately, the Ministry had a back-up plan in place in case the word got out despite the gag order, and that plan was quickly put into action. Actually, they were quite pleased with this turn of events, so maybe the wording wasn't quite so unfortunate after all - for them, anyway.
The ceremony went off without a hitch. Harry and Draco stood before Albus Dumbledore, the sworn witnesses, and the few guests each had invited. Draco handed Dumbledore a flat box, about ten inches long, four wide, and one and a half inches deep. When opened, the box revealed a pair of chained bracelets that would have been even more beautiful, had they not been slightly tarnished. At Harry's look of askance, Draco mouthed 'Family heirloom; they wouldn't clean up,' which explained both why they looked as they did, and why they were being used, anyway.
As mentioned, the bracelets were chained together. Made of silver, or a silvery-looking metal, they were finely carved; dragons, eagles, gryphons and badgers chasing each other over their surfaces. One was quite heavy, being about an inch wide, and thick; the other was about half the width and thickness, and thus obviously to be the woman's wedding bracelet. Harry grimaced inwardly. They hadn't discussed it, but as the party that was proposed to, he knew he'd be expected to wear the woman's bracelet.
Dumbledore had looked quite startled when he first laid eyes on them, and then started doing what looked to be some very complicated spell over the bracelets. 'Probably checking to make sure there's no Dark magic about them,' thought Harry. A look of satisfaction crossed the headmaster's face, nearly confirming Harry's guess; but then the old man was at it again. This time, when he finished, there was a light glow coming from the jewellery. Albus picked up the joined bracelets, and moved to put the heavier bracelet on Draco - as expected. But Draco put up his other hand, wordlessly indicating with it that Harry was to have that one - that he'd be wearing the lighter piece. Eyebrow raised, Dumbledore did as directed.
Albus wasn't the only one with raised eyebrows. Harry looked askance at the blonde young man beside him as the thick bracelet was closed about his own wrist. Draco just shook his head, indicating that he'd explain later.
The professor then took the lighter bracelet, and placed it on Draco's wrist, fastening it as he did so. The two young men were now chained together. The old man then addressed the assemblage. "Although witnesses are not necessary to this ceremony, the bracelets being testimony to the completion of the Di Catenas," (A statement that rather puzzled Harry, as the catches, next to the chains, wouldn't be that hard to undo,) "it is a happy happenstance that so many are able to do so." Then, turning to the two before him, said "Join hands." They did, and he, taking a deep breath, started muttering a spell that, by its very length, Harry knew had to be extremely difficult. The faint glow that was on the bracelets grew, slowly enveloping both young men, then started receding again, back to the bracelets, which were getting brighter by the second. Soon, they were so bright that nobody could look at them, which was just as well, as they gave a bright flash before they stopped glowing altogether.
When the bracelets flashed, everyone, including Harry and Draco, covered their eyes with both hands. It was with some surprise, a couple of seconds later, that they realised they were doing so. The chain was gone, as was the tarnish. Upon closer examination, so was the latch on the bracelets, which fit snugly, but comfortably. The bracelets shone as though new, and were now solid pieces of metal. With the discoloration gone, it could be seen that they were probably platinum, Harry thought, with no way to take them off short of cutting off the hand they rested above.
"As the physical chains are dissolved, so is forged the chains binding the lives of these two people," Dumbledore said, intoning the final phrase of the ceremony. With the flash from the bracelets, the young men had been life-bonded.
Although it was not part of the ceremony, and they had not been instructed to do so, both were so affected, they were each moved to kiss the other. They moved closer to each other, watching closely for any sign that the move wasn't welcome; and then their lips met. It was a soft, tentative kiss - their first - but only the first of many, if the expressions on their faces were to be believed. They were so involved, they either didn't hear the gasps of surprise from their audience, or chose not to notice.
"Quite the Di Catenas bracelets there, young Mr. Malfoy," Dumbledore said, after they parted. "It's quite rare to have a pair that old, and never used."
"Yes, I know," Draco said proudly. "They've been in the family vaults for centuries."
"I don't doubt it," the professor said. "It's an obscure fact, but the wedding bracelets of Godric Gryffindor and his belovéd went missing just before their ceremony. It had to be delayed until another set was made. They never did find out who the culprit was." With that, Albus Dumbledore wandered off, leaving two wide-eyed young men behind him, staring at their wedding bracelets.
As they left the building, they found a team of Aurors picking off Death Eaters as they came to the Di Catenas, lured by the announcement of the ceremony in the papers, and having some half-arsed idea (correct, as it happened) that this may be behind their lack of satisfying action. The Aurors were placing them under Petrificus Totalis, and then tying them up in preparation for transportation to Azkaban until they could be tried, and most likely sent back to Azkaban.
"But I thought neither side could act against the other, under Di Catenas?!" Harry protested.
"They can't," explained the officer in charge, "but although you fought with, and supported the Ministry, it isn't sworn to you, or to either side."
Although Harry didn't think it was fair (or that the officer's version of things was quite accurate), he was happy that the Death Eaters would be punished. Draco was a little less happy, probably thinking of his father, but didn't press the issue. After all, his father had killed people with little or no provocation, and would have probably, happily, killed him, had the opportunity arisen, before the Di Catenas. He wasn't yet among the captured insofar as they could find out, however.
When Harry asked, later, why Draco had opted for the smaller of the bracelets instead of the one meant to be for a male, Draco tried to pass it off as merely a style thing; claiming that it was crass to wear so large a piece of jewellery. After much coaxing, Draco heatedly, blushing furiously at the same time, admitted that he wanted Harry to have the dominant role in the relationship. He then refused to talk to Harry for over three hours, during which Harry coaxed, cajoled, and argued with (or argued at, since there was little response from Draco, other than the blonde turning away whenever Harry tried to get in his line of sight) his co-husband to give up his silliness and talk to him.
"Really, Draco; how in the world was I to know? Was I supposed to invade your mind and read your thoughts on the matter?"
Draco finally looked at him, sending a glare that would have melted a glacier.
'This is an Ice Prince?' Harry thought to himself, 'More of a heat demon!' He reconsidered. 'Okay, my heat demon. Now, if I can just get that heat rerouted in a different fashion...'
"Well, how else was I to know that you wanted to play the role of wife with me? You're too manly for me to think of you as a girl!" Okay, that was laying it on a little thick, but if it worked...
'Huzzah!' Harry thought. "Mm-hm. Really."
"You're a terrible liar, you know," Draco commented quietly. Harry blushed at having been caught. "But I forgive you. I guess I was expecting a bit much;" Harry started to relax. "after all, you're a Gryffindor." Draco finished, smirking slyly at his new husband.
"Hey!" Harry objected. "If I hadn't protested, I would have been Sorted into Slytherin, you know, so watch the slurs; it's just lack of practise."
Draco stared at the raven-haired man. "You... What?" Draco inquired, in shock.
"Quite true," Harry affirmed, happy to have turned the tables on the blonde.
Affronted, Draco asked "If you could have been, then why in the Nine Hells did you not want to be?"
"Two reasons; Ron, and you."
"An explanation, please?" Draco asked, frostily.
'Ah, there's the Ice Prince,' Harry thought, somewhat sadly. Aloud, he reminded Draco: "Madam Malkin's, where you insulted Hagrid; the train station, where you insulted Ron, the first friend I'd made. Do you remember? Come to think of it, you also obliquely insulted me, when you intimated that I didn't have sense enough to pick good friends. And do you also remember the airs you put on? Quite off-putting, Draco."
The frost melted, as Draco replied "I was eleven years old, Harry. I was behaving as I was taught I should."
"I'm not blaming you, Draco; just explaining my motives at the time," Harry replied warmly, moving to sit beside him, and put an arm around his shoulders.
"The Hat really let you choose?"
"Well, sort of; I just begged it for anything but Slytherin. By that time, I'd heard all sorts of awful things about that House; and then after you got Sorted there..."
"I really wanted you to be my friend, Harry. Do you have any idea how humiliating it was to have you refuse my hand in front of everyone?"
"I took your hand today, didn't I?"
"Because I tricked you into it," Draco said sadly.
"You didn't trick me into that kiss," Harry replied softly. "Could I have another?"
The joyous light that grew in Draco's eyes could have lit half of London. He leaned towards the man he had grown to love against all odds, feeling Harry's arms come around him, holding him, supporting him as their lips met for only the second time. This time was better. Both were a little more at ease, a little more confident, although they were still discovering each other, still finding out what the other felt like, tasted like.
Although Draco couldn't say that the kiss was, in technique, the best he'd ever had, it was still the most mind-blowing. He leaned into it, his hands moving to hold the Gryffindor, one arm moving around under Harry's arm to put that hand in the centre of his back, the other tangling in the wild, dark hair at the back of his new husband's head, pulling him in deeper. The kiss improved, rapidly.
Harry found his husband's slight, warm body very erotic. It made him want to ravish him, and at the same time, to keep him in his arms, to protect him from all the ills of the world. But at the moment, a pair of very soft, warm, malleable lips were claiming most of his attention, working on his own, and they were - delicious.