Shades of Truth

Chapter 31

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Harry tried not to grimace as he entered the shop, but ever since his disastrous date with Cho Chang, he had never again willingly entered Madam Puddifoot's. It was a measure of how much he wanted things to work between Draco and himself that he was willing to meet Narcissa there. He was happy to see no confetti or cupids this time, but it was still with great trepidation that he pulled a seat up across from the older woman.

"I hope you didn't wait long." He offered as he settled into the chair and looked down at the waiting cup of tea.

"Not at all," she waved a perfectly manicured hand at him. "I've ordered cake, and the tea has just arrived. Earl Grey, I thought, would raise no objections."

"Sounds nice. Sna—I mean, he used to make this." Harry took a sip. "I hope you two are well?"

"Quite happy, thank you." Narcissa smiled slightly, dropping two lumps of sugar in her tea. "He is an expert at being unobtrusively thoughtful. I often find things set out for me just as I like, and if I did not know better, I would simply think the house elves are working harder. Did you know he could cook?"

"Yes, he would make meals quite often when we lived together." Harry told her as their cake arrived. "I gather that he grew up doing it, as I did."

"Really?" Narcissa's eyebrows lifted slightly. "I was always hopeless in that realm. My mother told me I would need to marry someone who had house elves or my family would starve. I sometimes forget that not everyone was raised as I was…" she took a dainty bite of the small cake in front of her that looked more like a decoration than a piece of food. "May I be frank with you?"

"Please," Harry took a bite of his own cake and had to fight back a grimace at the overpowering sweetness of the confection.

"I'm sure you remember my…initial reaction to the news of your relationship with Draco," she began, and Harry nodded, drinking his tea. "I want you to know, I am not usually as impulsive as that, and some of the things I said were quite uncalled for. I know that I cannot be the only person in the Wizarding world who had expressed opposition to this, but I realize in retrospect that of all people, I should be the first to support Draco. It is bad enough he has to struggle to be treated as a normal wizard without my own ill-advised reaction going against him." She paused, looking up at Harry.

"I love Draco. He is my only child, and my only living family. And it is plain to me that you love him as well. It is not in me to deny Draco something he wants as badly as this, and he clearly loves you dearly, in a way I once wondered if he could ever love anyone. He shows himself more honestly to you than he does even to me, from the accidental glimpses I have had of your shared confidences. Please, I am entrusting my son to you. Do better than I have to make sure he has everything he needs to be happy." She poked slightly disconsolately at her cake. "You cannot force the rest of the Wizarding world to treat him like a normal person at all times, but I gather that at least your presence with him in public shields him from the worst of their discrimination. Please, stay with him."

"I fully intend to stay with him as long as he'll have me." Harry answered truthfully. "Mrs. Malfoy, I know you and I have had our differences of opinion, but I have also seen all your efforts, misguided though some of them have been, to make his lot easier. When I step back and look at my relationship with Draco, how it's changed, and my relationship with…other Slytherins from school, well, it's amazing, isn't it? How people can change, how their feelings can change. And it makes me think that in the end, you and I aren't that different. We both want Draco to be happy, and I think you know as well as I do that he would rather we were on good terms with each other."

"I agree," she nodded. "And honestly, you have never done me a bad turn, despite all the old enmity between Lucius and you, or even Draco and you. If Draco and you can put all that aside, I see no reason you and I can't be civil with each other. And…even though…he and you have become close, if there was any harm to Draco here, he would not support you so steadfastly. But he maintains…and after seeing Draco again, I must agree, that you and two are nothing but good for each other. You've done more than I could have hoped to help heal him…his past being…as it is. And even when the way was ambiguous, and he doubted whether he deserved to be free, you have always stood behind him, and taught him to believe in himself once more. He may never forget, but as long as he is happy…that is all I want."

"Me as well." Harry nodded sharply, and when she raised her cup, he imitated her.

"My blessings to you," she intoned, no less regal for the tears shining in her crystal blue eyes. "May the two of you live happily ever after."

"To you as well," Harry smiled, and they both drank. Perhaps he would always feel the need to be on his best behavior around her, but at least they could get along.

"And…may I ask you one, small favor, Harry?" she asked, and he couldn't place what it was that changed in her demeanor, but she suddenly seemed more approachable, more casual. Friendly, even.

"Yes?"

"Call me Narcissa."

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"Oh, that's it." Draco yanked the comb out of Harry's hands. "I'm doing your hair. You look a fool."

"I've been taking care of myself for a long time, in case you didn't notice." Harry grumbled, resigning himself to letting Draco do what he felt was best.

"I did notice, but I do a better job." Draco dropped a conciliatory kiss on the tip of Harry's nose, his attention all on the task at hand. "At least you did your tie right this time. I should give you some sort of reward…" he leaned forward, whispering something in Harry's ear that made the other man flush brilliantly red and suddenly forget to complain. "There," Draco set down the comb, "you're perfect."

"No," Harry leaned in, trying to catch the other man's lips as he reached forward, "You are."

"I won't be if you mess up my hair with your constant snogging." Draco ducked out of the way. "Come on, Hermione won't ever forgive you if we're late."

"I'm nervous." Harry admitted then. "What if…what if you guys…what if you never get along? What if every holiday, I have to split my time between you because I can't get you in the same room without you hexing each other?"

"You mean Weasley?" Draco wrapped his arms around the other man.

"And his family." Harry pushed down the knot in his throat. "I just want…I wish it were easier."

"If we could just do everything easily, we would never appreciate how sweet something like this can be." Draco told him softly. "Today is just another day. And even if things don't go well, we'll have more opportunities. You've done everything you could to get close to my friends and my mother. I'll try for you, as well. I love you, and if they don't want you to be miserable, they'll learn to put up with me."

Harry laughed. "You make it sound…like you can threaten them into it or something."

"Let's hope it doesn't come to that," Draco's voice was grim. Harry desperately hoped he was joking.

"George Weasley will be there, now he's out of St. Mungo's." Harry tried a different tack. "He'll never be the same, of course, but at least he knows who he is and what's going on around him now."

"If you're going to ask me to tell the Weasleys I recovered their erstwhile sibling, the answer is still no." Draco slipped his fingers into Harry's hand and offered a tight, clearly nervous smile. "Let's just go."

"Okay," Harry relented as they left the house together, preparing to Apparate. "But if you'd only let me tell, they might be a little more…"

"No!" Draco pulled him into an alley, and they disappeared with a loud crack, reappearing on the lower edge of a grassy cliff overlooking the sea. "Lovely area. It never ceases to amaze me," Draco breathed in deeply, surveying below them, where scurrying people were preparing the reception at the base, and then above them, where an aisle cut cleanly through the seating area, leading to the highest point of the overhang. "Hermione has excellent taste in all things but one."

"Please don't give Ron a bad time today." Harry admonished as they walked up the path to where many people were already waiting. "I really want things to be better between you two."

"I know, I know." Draco sighed, "Just trying to get it out of my system beforehand. "Ah, look, there's Pansy and Nott." He waved at his friends, already seated in the top area before turning back to Harry. "By the by, I almost forgot, Blaise is coming for dinner next week."

"That's fine," Harry nodded as they reached the main area, continuing to where Pansy was blowing them ostentatious kisses. "How is he?"

"Ask him for yourself." Draco pointed, and Harry spotted the good-looking ma across the way with Parvati Patil on his arm.

"Still with the twins?" Harry asked. "What's he going to do if Padma turns up?"

"Who knows, but it should be entertaining." Draco shrugged. They reached Pansy, who leapt up and hugged them both, complimenting them extravagantly while Nott remained seated, looking distinctly aggrieved and clutching a flask. At once, Pansy and Draco struck up a speculative conversation, wonder just how exciting things might be if this was not only a wedding, but a confrontation between the Patils and Blaise.

"Harry! There you are, mate!" Ron rushed over and gave him a quick, one-armed hug. "It's time to start. Er…hello, Slytherins…" Ron looked over the people near Harry with slight discomfort.

"Please, don't hurt yourself." Pansy rolled her eyes. Ron and Harry rushed away and Draco sat down for the ceremony. It was rather simple, rather swift, and the highlight was certainly Hermione in her gown. Pansy began to tear up, wondering in a whisper whether she'd ever be able to be a bride like that, to which Draco squeezed her shoulder encouragingly, and Nott snorted, plugging away at his flask determinedly.

After the wedding, there was food, and then dancing, and as things started to wind down, Draco found himself on the sidelines, not feeling left out, just watching with warm satisfaction as Pansy discarded Nott as a bad job and had her fourth dance with Harry, both of them discussing who-knows-what as he led her around the grass inexpertly.

"Now there's something I'd have to see to believe." Ron's voice startled him out of his reverie, and he nearly spilled his drink down his front. "Sorry," Ron shrugged sheepishly, "didn't mean to sneak up on you or anything."

"Not at all," Draco relaxed after being sure there was not a spot on his nice dress robes. "Did you mean Pansy and Harry?" he returned to Ron's opening statement.

"I guess all of this." Ron answered. "Weird, the way things turn out. I never though I'd be the first of my brothers to be married, and honestly, I don't know how I got Hermione to agree to it in the first place."

With supreme effort, Draco held back the flood of snappy insults that cropped up in his mind immediately. He watched Harry laughing at something Pansy had said and felt a wave of contentment wash over him. "Congratulations, by the way. Her dress is just…"

"Isn't it?" Ron's eyes went to half mast as he watched Hermione, currently dancing with Bill, who was smiling so brightly it was as if the last ten years had been erased from all of their minds. "We're very lucky, you and I, aren't we? Harry's too good for you, Hermione's too good for me, but somehow they've decided out of everyone they could choose from…"

"I know," Draco's voice was soft, and he was shocked to realize, sincere. "Harry says it isn't about deserving anything. He says we can't choose who we love."

"Harry thinks he's clueless when it comes to this stuff, but I wish I had his insight." Ron sighed, turning and analyzing Draco's calm profile. "I've been meaning to tell you, thanks. For finding Fred."

"I…you're welcome." Draco turned to look at the tall redhead, and Ron was briefly gratified to see a flit of surprise in his normally schooled features. "Who told you?"

"No one, I worked it out on my own." Ron answered. "Look, I've given you a lot of grief over the years. And after what you did to your father, I don't know…but I can't really say what it's like, can I? We're both wizards, but we grew up so differently, and your father was…"

"Vile and twisted?" Draco finished.

"Yeah, I guess, a bit." Ron turned to watch the dancing again and Draco copied him. "Well, that's not to say that I think you've never done anything wrong, but I've made so many mistakes…and Harry loves you. All this time I've been with Hermione, we hoped Harry could find someone that would make him as happy as we are, someone that would make that whole war seem worth it to him. I never guessed you would be the person, but I want Harry to be happy."

"We'll probably never be friends." Draco admitted. "The history, you know."

"Bollocks to history." Ron snorted. "Stranger things have happened. Look at Harry and you."

"Let's just not fight all the time." Draco suggested. "For his sake, if nothing else."

"Good plan." Ron smiled at him, and Draco let a very small grin of his own make an appearance before he found his arms full of Pansy.

"Draco! Harry says he's too tired for another turn around the floor. Will you dance with me?" she batted her lashes at him shamelessly and Draco privately wondered how much champagne she'd already had. He turned to offer Ron a parting shot, but the groom had already been taken out to the floor by Hermione herself whose face was set in the grim determination of one who would be happy if they could go just one song without Ron stepping on her feet.

Harry watched Draco with Pansy while he rested, sitting down next to a progressively more drunken Nott who seemed to have exhausted his first flask and then, as though by magic, produced a second one and carried on with his drinking. Harry wondered how much future there could be for Theodore and Pansy, if he was in a state of constant inebriation just so that he could stand her company, but then it struck him that Nott might actually like her. After all, he'd been with Lavender Brown, and there was no way Pansy could be more aggravating than that. Perhaps Nott was merely trying to maintain a front of being an unwilling party to her company. And that's when Harry realized that despite the amount of flask-swigging he'd witnessed that day, Nott actually seemed pretty lucid, and he didn't smell at all like alcohol. Choking in surprise at this epiphany, Harry pretended to simply have swallowed his drink wrong and hurried away from Nott's glares of suspicion, finding sanctuary by the food, where he accidentally knocked someone's plates from their hands as he struggled not to start laughing where Nott could see him.

"Oh! I'm sorry, I—" he looked up and found himself face to face with Padma Patil. At first, he thought he'd mistaken her sister for her, but no, he could see Parvati and Blaise dancing across the way. Hurriedly, he fixed his eyes on Padma's face as though this would prevent her from seeing what he had just seen.

"Hello, Harry," she smiled warmly at him. "I haven't seen you in a long time. How have you been?"

Good, but Blaise is dating you and your sister at the same time, so you're probably not so good. Harry tried desperately to will away any thoughts of Blaise's infidelity, somehow suddenly convinced that Padma could almost certainly be a master of Legilimency, and it would be no trouble for her to divine what was going on if he even let his mind wander in that direction. That's stupid, if she can read minds, how would Blaise have been able to fool her for so long! Just calm down, and don't say anything stupid. "I've…I've been good."

"Are you okay?" Padma frowned at him, taking in the cold sweat on his forehead and clearly wondering if he was feeling well. "You look like you're going to be sick."

"Blaise is cheating on you with your sister!" Harry couldn't believe he'd said it even after the words came out. Surely she must be some sort of Legilimens to make him admit it so quickly. He had underestimated her, to his detriment. "I mean…I'm…a little tired." He wildly hoped that maybe he had dreamed saying that, and that she will not have heard it. But no such luck.

"Oh, yes, I saw that he brought her." Beyond all probability, Padma turned and looked over at the dancing couple and Harry watched in utter confusion as the girls waved at each other, Blaise still completely oblivious to the situation. "I told her I'd come and pretend not to see them, but make sure he saw me. The sex is always much better when he just escapes being caught."

Harry was dumbfounded. She knew? And she wasn't infuriated? She sounded like she'd known for a long time, and that Parvati had as well. He would never understand women. "Oh." Was all he could think to say, feeling rather foolish.

"I see," Padma smiled warmly at him again. "You thought we didn't know? No, we've been keen to his game from day one. But he's just such an excellent lay…and when we realized that it was the whole cheating thing that kept him interested, we decided that it would be best to continue this way." She set about filling a new plate with food. "It's sweet of you to be honest with me, though. I know that something like this can't last forever, but if he has to have another woman, I'd want it to be her, and she feels the same way. We love him, and we know he'll figure out what we're doing eventually, but who knows? Maybe he'll grow up one day and learn how to settle down. Until then, I plan to have sex with him as much as possible. Honestly, he's a fantastic lay. Tell Draco he missed the boat on that one."

"Ah…"

"Not to make you jealous or anything." Padma patted his arm in a friendly manner. "I'm sure you keep him satisfied."

"I…have to go." Harry turned to escape and heaved a sigh of relief when after ten steps, he was intercepted by the person he most wanted to see that moment. Draco met his wild gaze with a calm grey stare and was clearly about to ask what was the matter when Harry grabbed the sides of his face and kissed him desperately, almost brutally, ignoring everyone around them and everything taking place around them.

"What…was that for?" Draco was clearly taken by surprise, his normally shielded eyes flooding with warmth as they pulled apart before he could school his features into his Public Face.

"I just needed you." Harry answered simply and realized it was the truth. "Are you danced out yet? I'm ready to leave."

"Ah, sure." Draco straightened himself, pushing away the flush that had sprung to his cheeks, unaware that his lips looked so thoroughly kissed that no one could really be fooled in any case. "Let's just say our goodbyes."

"Right," Harry found himself impatient with Draco's propriety as they filtered through the crowd, telling his friends that they had to be going. And then Draco insisted on saying goodbye to Hermione and Ron, which made sense to Harry, but also to the rest of the Weasleys present, which completely flabbergasted him, something he voiced as they left the area finally.

"I thought you hated them." Harry pointed out.

"They're like family to you, they can't be that bad." Draco responded, his fingers woven comfortingly through Harry's. "You put up with my mother."

"She's your mother," Harry flushed slightly. "You don't have to force yourself—"

"Hey," Draco turned, stopping them both in their tracks. "Isn't that what you want? For us to get along?" Harry was so surprised by this bit of insight that he just nodded dumbly. "Think of all the things we've been through since when we first met, and look at us now. Do you really think I can't put aside my father's stupid animosity and give them a chance? You get along with all my friends, and you would probably never have even talked to them again if it wasn't because you wanted me to be happy. I don't deserve it, but it does make me happy to see you get along so well. I want you to be as happy with me as I am with you, and I'll do anything to give you that."

"I…I love you," Harry could feel tears pricking at the back of his eyes, but that wasn't as immediate as another feeling heating his stomach and making his fingers itch for Draco's skin. "Thank you for that…for everything."

"Let's just go home." Draco leaned over and kissed Harry lightly on the lips before they both Disapparated, still only halfway down the hill, startling quite a few people in their hurry to get somewhere more private.

Ten minutes later they were giggling breathlessly as Harry closed the door around Draco, who was tugging at his robes in an attempt to expose his skin. Harry finally managed his task and went to work on Draco's own robes, feeling it distinctly unfair that Draco had gotten a head start. He had only barely gotten one of the clasps open when Draco turned and ran for the stairs calling out, "race you!" over his shoulder as Harry watched his own robes flutter to the ground. Stifling his laughter at Draco's behavior, Harry shot after the other man, still wearing his trousers, but struggling to cast his shoes aside as he stumbled up the staircase.

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"That's what I'm talking about." Draco spoke up breathlessly later as he fumbled on the nightstand for a wand to clean them up after Harry rolled off of him, completely spent. "That was brilliant."

"Mmph." Harry felt completely boneless, sure he would fall asleep in a matter of moments. It seemed like Hermione had been right. It does get better. So much better. Not that their first time had been disappointing, but every time they were together, he felt like it was the best. Maybe that was because they were in love, and just being near the person you love is better than almost anything else in the world. He had no way to make sure that this would last, but lying here next to Draco, letting his hair be brushed out of his eyes and being kissed warmly as he opened his arms to snuggle close to the other man, he felt that if there was only one thing he could be sure of in this world, it was that he loved Draco Malfoy, and that he always would.

He didn't need the whispered words in his ear to confirm that Draco felt the same way, but it was always nice to hear.

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The End!

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Okay, all finished! If you couldn't tell, there is an uncut version of this final chapter as well. I was able to get the whole story posted on and it's under the same title and under my pen name (teresa) still, so if you want the uncut versions of chapters 24, 28 and 31, that's the place to go. Thanks everyone!