Prologue- Whiskey & Woman
Draco Malfoy cursed.
"Why didn't I become a professional Quidditch player? Life would have been so much simpler. I'm only twenty-six, and it's not too late; maybe I'll give it a go."
He had been signing and affixing his seal to dozens of documents for the better part of the day, an awful way to end the work week. Just when he seemed to reach the bottom of the pile, his secretary Quigley would produce yet another stack for him to sign. He could have dealt with the documents magically, of course, but when one is giving away (pissing away, really) millions of Galleons, it was best to review each document carefully before signing it. Draco was in the process of completing a deal to build the Narcissa Black Malfoy Wing onto St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries; the wing would specialize in finding cures for damage done to people by Dark Magical curses.
"I suppose the hospital will throw a ball in my honor for this," Draco grumbled.
"Yes sir," Quigley replied.
"Five million Galleons and I get an over-cooked chicken dinner and the honor of having all the buck-tooth, flat-chested daughters of every Ministry official thrown at my feet."
"Yes sir." Quigley could get more mileage out of those two words than most people could get from a million word vocabulary. Just by changing his tone and inflection, he could let Draco know his true feelings about most any topic; his feelings weren't always polite, nor were they subservient. Draco liked him immensely.
"But I suppose one has to keep up appearances: be philanthropic, pretend one gives a crap."
"Yes sir," Quigley said handing him another parchment.
"Mr. Malfoy…" The shrill voice of Draco's receptionist filled the room. "…there's an Auror from the Ministry here to see you."
"Thank you, Estella. Tell him that the semi-annual pillaging of our accounts isn't due for another six weeks. Send him away!" Draco fumed. The ministry still felt it was their prerogative to investigate Malfoy holdings whenever they pleased. This infuriated Draco.
"Sir, it's Harry Potter. He says the business is personal." Draco made a note to himself to fire the woman, if only because of the awe with which she spoke the git's name.
"I have no personal business with Potter. I repeat, send him away!" Draco snapped.
Draco sat back in his chair and held up his hand, spreading his fingers. "Five seconds…" he said to Quigley, with a smirk.
As if on cue, the heavy wooden door to Draco's office burst open with a pop and a bang. Harry Potter strode into Draco's office, his robes billowing around him dramatically and the irritation clearly evident in his face.
"Wandless magic's a bit showy for everyday use, isn't it Potter?" Draco drawled.
"I know how much you appreciate an entrance. I wouldn't want to disappoint," Harry replied dryly.
Without pausing, Harry had ensconced himself into one of the guest chairs in front of Malfoy's desk and rested both feet up on his desk, crossing his ankles comfortably. Over the years, both men had become experts at pushing the other's buttons.
"This desk has been in the Malfoy estate since before Merlin's time… get your filthy ready-to-wear shoes off it! What do you want?" Draco retorted, nodding his head to Quigley to dismiss him.
Harry complied, and removed his feet from the desk. "I've come to ask if you want to get a drink or two?" Harry asked casually, as though he did it everyday.
This was not what Draco expected to hear; if Harry wanted an extended conversation over alcohol, Draco knew very well what the topic of discussion would be and he knew it would take substantially more than two drinks. "You're not my type, Potter. I like my dates leggier and much more intelligent then yourself," Draco evaded.
"Don't you ever wonder why, Malfoy? I thought maybe we could figure it out," Harry asked thoughtfully, not rising to Draco's bait.
"Why what?" Draco asked, knowing the answer.
"Why neither of us is with her. How did we both lose her?"
"It's been five years! Shouldn't you be over it by now?" Draco asked, knowing first hand that Ginny Weasley was not a woman one 'got over'.
Harry chuckled. "You're not over it. We have enough friends and acquaintances in common for me to know that. It's been almost two years for you, but you're the one who walked away. No one knows why, not even Ginny. I want to know why."
"I'm running an empire here Potter! I can't skip out in the middle of the day to go get pissed as easily as a civil servant such as yourself." Draco knew he would be going with him. This conversation was long over due. There were some questions Draco wanted answered himself.
"She was my best friend! She was the only real friend you ever had! I would think you'd want to at least salvage that." Harry paused, and glared into Draco's impassive face. "But then, Slytherins don't need friends, do they? Fine, I'll be going."
"Wait," Draco hissed. "Quigley!" he called. Quigley entered immediately, as though he'd been listening on the other side of the door; he probably had been.
"Quigley, cancel my appointments for the rest of the day."
"And Quigley, contact Astrid. Tell her I'll be unable to dine with her this evening, but I'll see her next week," Draco said, smirking.
A look of reluctance flashed over Quigley's face briefly. "Miss Astrid will not be pleased, sir."
"I know. That's precisely why I'm giving the task to you!" Draco's smirk turned into a grin.
"She has a soft spot for you Quigley. She thinks you're sexy, in an 'old-enough-to-be-her-grandfather' way, of course.
"Yes sir." The subtext here was definitely 'Sod off, Mr. Malfoy'.
"Tell her I'm getting pissed with Potter, if you like; she'll know what's going on. On second thought, don't say that; if she knows I'm getting pissed, she'll show up at the penthouse tomorrow at dawn just to torture my hangover."
"Yes sir," Quigley said, a little too brightly for Draco's comfort.
"Still robbing the cradle with that little hellion, are you Malfoy? Is that why you left Gin, because Astrid finally outgrew her diapers?" Harry jeered.
"Let's go," Draco said sternly. Harry stalked past him out the office door, with Draco following.
"There's not enough whiskey in the world for this little talk," Draco drawled.
Sometime later, Harry and Draco found themselves at a secluded table in the back of The Leaky Cauldron. They'd spent the prior hour chatting easily about many topics as they drank through their bottle of fire whiskey. They honestly disliked one another, but years of being mutual friends with Ginny had taught them how to pretend to be civil in public. Either of them would do anything for Ginny. Eventually the whiskey did its job and the conversation wound around to the reason that they were there: Ginny Weasley.
"How is she?" Draco finally asked. He'd only caught distant glimpses of her over the past two years.
"I don't know. Ron says she's fine, but he's never had much of a clue about reading his sister. She avoids me as much as she can. Even at Weasley family gatherings she never seems to be in the same room as me," Harry lied, but it suited his purposes.
"Why would she do that? I thought the two of you had salvaged a friendship," Draco asked in a mildly accusing tone.
"We haven't been friends, not since you left," Harry threw the accusation back at him.
"What do I have to do with it?"
"Well, there tends to be two different scenarios. The first one is when we meet and she's not involved with someone. Well…" Harry wasn't sure how much truth he wanted to tell. "Well, we tend to fall into bed together. Sex was never one of our problems," Harry bit back a grin as he watched Draco grimace. "It never lasts, a few days maybe. Then I have to go back to work and she remembers why she can't be with me. She goes away and kicks herself for the next few months for being weak. At least that's what I think is happening. The second scenario is when she is seeing someone; eventually she has to bring him around to meet the Weasleys, so eventually he's going to meet me. He usually bolts once he realizes I'm still around."
"Potter! What are you doing to these blokes?"
"I shake their hands and say 'How do you do?' That's all, I swear. But everyone knows what we did together. Hell, we're a whole chapter in the history books. We're 'the pure love that defeated the greatest evil ever known.' We're 'the soul mates bound together for all eternity.' Must be true, after all, history books don't lie. I have the same problem actually. It's easy to find a woman to bed once or twice, but damned near impossible to find one who'll risk her heart when the history books clearly state that mine has already been claimed."
"Poor Harry Potter," Draco sneered.
"Draco, you're the only bloke that was never bothered by all that," Harry said quietly, downing another shot.
Draco blanched and downed another shot himself. "I wouldn't say that. I'd say it just took me longer to wise up, before I bolted," Draco groaned to himself, thinking that he must be very drunk indeed to say that to Harry Potter.
"No! Don't tell me that!" Harry said miserably. "You're shattering my image of you, Malfoy!"
"It was perfect you know, we had three perfect years. Then I began letting myself imagine forever with her. I began imagining our children, our little 'pink' children I think you called them once," Draco said with a chuckle. "But there was always this voice that nagged at me. It kept saying that someday you'd wise up, get a real job and she'd go running back to you. That's all it would take you know. She wants to raise a family and know that her children's father isn't out trying to get himself killed everyday."
Harry laughed. "We're a couple of idiots, Malfoy. She's always told me we're more alike than we'd like to believe; I'm beginning to think that she's been right. When Ginny and I were together the two of you had this unbreakable bond, and I hated sharing her with you. I had a voice nagging in my head too, which said she was only with me for 'the cause', because of the powerful magic that we created together. Once Voldemort had been destroyed, the voice kept at me, saying she wouldn't be mine much longer. I think I became an Auror somewhat to push her away. She did her best to support me until the first time I disappeared for two weeks on a mission. When I came back I could see it in her eyes…she couldn't take it, and she left me soon after that. I was about to reconsider… my career and do anything to get her back when I heard she'd gone running to you."
"You're a fucking idiot, Potter!"
"Right back at ya, mate!"
"So, we would both just give her up, rather than risk losing her to the other? Do we hate each other that much?" Draco had never felt more stupid in his life.
"I'd say we do, yeah," Harry said pragmatically.
"Interesting," Draco pondered with an intensity reserved only for the very drunk. "Hate triumphed over love. I guess the Dark Lord won after all."
Neither of them had noticed the tall ginger haired man approaching the table. He slid into a seat next to them with a mischievous grin. "Ahhh… behold the carnage that is my sister's love life!"
"Sod off, Weasley!" Malfoy groaned in disgust.
"Ron! How'd you know we were here?" slurred Harry.
"Well let me see. I'm in Quality Quidditch Supplies perusing this year's broom selection, when suddenly all the pretty little sales witches start squealing about how the richest man in the wizarding world and Harry Bleedin' Potter are getting pissed together down the street. 'Oh, they're both sooo dreamy; I could just eat them with a spoon.' Enough to make a bloke hurl his lunch!"
"Why did you feel the need to join us, Weasley?" said Draco, clearly inferring that he wanted the man to leave quickly.
"I'm here to protect my sister's interests, Malfoy! Judging by your miserable expressions and very inebriated states, I assume that's what this pity party is about, right? Am I wrong, or did you two suddenly decide to be mates?"
Harry and Malfoy both glared at him, but said nothing. Ron took their silence as an indication that he was indeed correct and continued.
"What the two of you do is your business, but I'm going to ask you to move somewhere more private. Soon you're going to have Rita Skeeter buzzing around taking notes for tomorrow's edition of The Daily Prophet. My sister doesn't need that, and she doesn't deserve that from you two."
Malfoy looked around for the first time since they entered the pub. "The Weasel may have a point; we do seem to be drawing a crowd," he conceded. "My flat is nearby. Let's go there, we were just getting to the good bits."
"Lead on," Harry agreed.
Malfoy's flat was the penthouse in a nearby Muggle high-rise. It was dark when they entered and Draco conjured a fire in the hearth which provided a soft glow over the room. Harry plopped into a chair in front of the fire, while Draco retrieved an unopened bottle of fire whiskey and glasses from his bar.
"Well gents, I'll leave you to it," Ron said, as he prepared to apparate.
"Don't let us keep you," Malfoy grumbled.
"Stay for a drink at least, mate," Harry pleaded.
"No way, I want nothing to do with this. I'm going home to kiss my wife and babies; I'm going to thank the Gods that I'm not one of you two sots. Then I'm going to floo my sister and warn her about this détente that's taking place, so she'll be prepared for whatever hair-brained plan you two come up with," Ron paused, looking down piteously onto his best friend and his best enemy, already hard at work on their second bottle of whiskey. "You know, back in school I used to worry about you two trampling over Ginny's heart. I was right to worry, since I've wanted to kill both of you at various times over the years. But at least it's heartwarming to see that you've both done as much damage to yourselves as you have to her," Ron disapparated.