Note: Re-written the first chapter after many years because a review pointed out it was far too long and meandering compared to the rest of the story. This may results in a marked stylistic difference, but hopefully it will be an improvement.
Chapter One: Breaking up and breaking down
"I love you," Harry said, holding his breath. The chatter of restaurant patrons became loud in the following silence.
"I love you too," Draco said, smiling and raising his glass. Harry grinned in relief and clinked his too hard, but Draco didn't comment. He drank heavily and turned his attention to the waiter. Harry let him order – he always did – and tried not to think too hard about Draco's smile. The knot in his stomach slowly undid itself, and he breathed in a measured breath, almost like an exercise, and told himself he had succeeded.
That evening they spoke less than they usually did. As they said goodbye on Harry's front steps, he had to try again, to confirm.
"I love you," he whispered after a deep kiss. Draco smiled, kissing Harry cheek, mumbling 'you too' into it.
"Can you come over after work?" Harry asked. Draco was already down the steps and halfway to the gate.
"I can't," Draco replied. "I'm to visit my father." Harry cringed, sorry for asking.
"I suppose he's upset about the divorce?"
Draco pursed his lips, one hand on the gate.
"He hasn't spoken about it and I'm worried."
"I could come too, if you like. We could cheer him up," Harry offered, knowing there was no chance Draco would say yes. He had only offered out of sympathy.
"You know, that might be a good idea.. I need to have a talk with him, but afterwards we could all have dinner together at the Manor. How's that sound?"
"Eh… right. Yes, I mean. I'll be there with bells on." Draco didn't notice or did not care about Harry's sarcasm. He just nodded decisively and opened the gate.
"Great. I'll pick you up at five."
Harry went inside, head full of conflicting emotions. He had done what he had promised he would do that day; he had said "the words" to Draco, and gotten the desired results. He told himself it was only this sudden dinner with Lucius Malfoy that was throwing off his good mood. His little cottage was dark and quiet, and he sent a spark flying to the fireplace as he went to his drinking cabinet. He sat in front of the fire with his whiskey, and told himself he was not brooding.
His head was full of the last time he had seen Lucius Malfoy. It had been at the Last Battle. The man's robes had been torn to shreds, his long hair wild and his eyes crazed. To Harry he had looked like a demon. He had appeared unstoppable as he hurled curse after curse - into his fellow Death Eaters.
Harry still didn't understand how or why, but Lucius had defected before the end. The real mystery, however, was the last horcrux. Lucius had known, somehow, how to take it out, but the details had never been revealed, even to Harry. Dumbledore had attended the closed trial, and he had asked Harry as a last favour to let the matter drop. One day Harry would know why Lucius Malfoy, Voldemort's righthand man, had gone free without a day in prison. The only way to keep the nagging mystery from his mind was to avoid the man. Best to busy himself with living his peaceful life, Dumbledore has said, patting him on the shoulder, sending him off to find all this peace and happiness just waiting for him.
Everyone seemed to find their lives immediately, except Harry.
He had sought out Draco Malfoy, looking for answers. Harry had nagged and bothered him until the blond turned red as a Weasley. Draco finally admitted that he had been trained the good Death Eater's son, but that it had always been an act. Lucius Malfoy had taught him to play a part since infancy. The idea was ludicrous, but nothing else was forthcoming.
The kissing and all the rest had been unexpected, like Draco had kept that under wraps as well all these years. It had felt so good. Wasn't there some sort of saying, about finding love when you're not looking? Harry had chalked it up to that, though his friends took a lot of convincing.
It had to be said that Harry hadn't been in a good place after the war. So many people he loved had died. Every single person in wizarding Britain had lost someone, and everybody wanted to thankHarry for it. Not because their loved ones had died, of course, but for winning. Harry never saw it as winning. He just saw it as luck and stupidity, something only he and Severus Snape seemed to agree on.
But Draco never said thank you.
They were even a good couple, sort of, as long as Draco arranged everything to his liking. He had the best taste, while Harry had none, so it all worked out. Harry had the peace and happiness. The perfect little life Dumbledore had told him to get for himself, now that he deserved it. He had Draco had been "going strong," as Hermione put it, for so long now Harry had thought it was time. Time for another milestone in his post-war story.
And for his trouble he was getting a dinner with Lucius Malfoy. Great. He drank the rest of the bottle.
Draco flung his coat to a house-elf with habitual ease. His shoes clacked against the marble floor as he walked purposefully towards the west-wing's main downstairs sitting room. Lucius looked up from where he was seated on the sofa, a tumbler of something in his hand, the other hand poised over the chessboard in front of him.
"I was just about to make my move," he said, his eyes going back to the board as Draco approached. He nudged a bishop which dutifully hobbled across the board. Draco sat across from his father.
"I did as you requested," Draco said, surveying the board while surreptitiously noting his father's reactions.
"Good." Lucius Malfoy never gave anything away. It would still take decades before Draco was as proficient at hiding his emotions.
"I even made it seem as if Harry had suggested it."
"Really?" Lucius kept his eyes on the board, but Draco was now staring openly at his father.
"Why the 17th? Why is this dinner so important?"
"Can't a lonely man ask for the company of his son and said son's partner?" Draco huffed softly and looked away into the enormous fireplace, though it was unlit.
"Fine, don't tell me. I need to talk to you first, though. It's important, and about Harry, but I don't feel like discussing it tonight. I'm exhausted." He looked back at the board. "For this game too, I'm afraid. I'll see you tomorrow evening." He left his father still contemplating the chessboard.
To Harry's dismay nothing more noteworthy than a few mild hexes happened at school, and he was free to leave work early to get ready. He didn't live at Hogwarts, as he also had classes at St. Mungo's to attend while he finished his healer training. He lived in a small cottage about a mile from Godric's Hollow. He never went into town other than on Halloween, but he liked to be close to the place.
After trying on every single robe he owned, including the old dress-robes from his 4th year, Harry just took the nicest looking muggle clothes he had. Draco constantly tried to make him dress properly, but Harry hated the outfits Draco bought, and only wore them when Draco told him to. To hell with Lucius Malfoy's sensibilities. If Harry had to endure dinner, he was going to be comfortable.
He heard Draco calling from downstairs and hurried down.
"You are not wearing that."
"I thought you liked me in jeans?"
"Don't be a smart ass," Draco said. "You can't wear muggle clothes to dinner with my father, at Malfoy Manor."
"Why not? These are nice enough," Harry pointed out. He was even wearing a buttondown shirt, though no tie. Draco rolled his eyes as if it was the dumbest thing he had ever heard.
"No one has ever worn muggle clothes in the Manor. It's just not done. My father will have a fit, and all the portraits will probably scream so much you'll be splattered in hundred-year-old paint colours."
"Not that your wit should ever be missed, Draco, but aren't we going to be late?" Draco grumbled, but they left without Harry changing.
"Draco, I see you've manage to tear away your boyfriend from his important work," Lucius greeted. The fireplace was located in a special hall just for the arrival of guests by Floo. Harry couldn't help but stare at the opulence for a moment.
"Of course," Draco said. "He's just back from Granger's place, though, so he didn't have time to change-"
"That's perfectly alright," Lucius interrupted, his eyes on Harry, who was oblivious as he took in the painted arched ceiling above them and the chandelier. "If you like, Mr. Potter, I would be delighted to give you a tour." Draco' finally realised Harry wasn't at his side.
"Harry," he exclaimed.
"Oh!" Harry said, coming back. "Sorry, eh, hi, Mr. Malfoy. I- I would love a tour… maybe after dinner." Harry extended his hand in automatic politeness, and Lucius smiled as he took it.
"Of course. You are welcome any time." Draco was frowning at the exchange. Harry was confused by the nice greeting. "Draco, you said you had to speak with me?" Draco nodded. Lucius still hadn't let go of Harry hand, and it was causing a strange tingling all up Harry's neck. "Perhaps I could show Harry the rose garden and let him wander in it for a moment as we converse?" Lucius offered, locking eyes with Harry. The young man blushed slightly.
"Sure, I'd love to see it."
"Splendid. I'll meet you in my study, Draco," Lucius said, gesturing for Harry to follow. Harry looked wide-eyed at Draco for a moment, but found himself walking at Lucius' side towards the back of the house.
"The rose garden was planted by my great-great grandfather in 1853 so he would have something to look at while he worked," Lucius informed his guest as they strolled outside. Harry was very nervous. Lucius had never treated him with anything but disdain, indifference or outright hatred, but now he was acting like the perfect gentleman.
"Oh, wow." The garden was certainly something to look at.
"Indeed. Please, explore as much as you want. I shall come back and collect you as soon as my son and I have had our little heart-to-heart." Lucius smiled at Harry. It was the same sort of charming smile Draco used, but Lucius' was of an entirely different calibre. Harry didn't know what to make of the emotions he suddenly saw swimming in Lucius' eyes, but he grew tense because of it and drew back slightly. Lucius seemed to catch himself and gave a short bow before hurrying back inside. The whole experience had been perplexing, like he had fallen through a rabbit hole. Was he in opposite-land?
Harry decided he preferred walking in the garden to puzzling out Lucius Malfoy's rules of etiquette.
Inside the Manor Lucius entered his study and noted with inward smugness that the French doors were as he had left them this morning: open. Draco was seated, obviously deep in thought, in front of Lucius' large old desk.
Draco didn't notice his father until the man cleared his throat. The young Malfoy looked up to see the Lord of the Manor already seated in his chair.
"Father," Draco said, swallowing. "I need your advice."
"You are always welcome to that, my son," Lucius said, smiling, a Dumbledore-ish twinkle in his eyes Draco failed to notice.
"It's about Harry…"
"Yes?" Draco didn't hear how eager Lucius sounded.
Harry sighed as he smelled the wonderful flowers. He was wandering close to the wall of the Manor, admiring its towering presence. He was making his way around the corner when he heard Lucius' voice, stopping short at the sight of the wide open doors. Father and son were in the study overlooking the rose garden. They were probably talking about the divorce. Harry started to turn around so as not to eavesdrop, but then his curiosity took hold of him. Whatever they spoke of might explain Lucius' odd behaviour. Before Harry could decide, Draco's voice caught his attention.
"It's about Harry. Last night, he told me he loved me."
"I know what you're thinking."
"I can guarantee you, you do not."
"Look, I know you want me to find myself a witch and settle down, have children-"
"But see, that's the thing. I have-"
"Perhaps you should explain things in the correct order," Lucius told him firmly.
"I care about Harry a lot," Draco said after a while. "A lot, and I don't want to hurt him."
"But you don't love him."
"No, I don't. He's so damn sweet and agreeable and he let's me decide all the important things like where to go, what to wear and eat, and who to meet, but-… it's… not like I pictured it."
"How did you picture it?"
"I don't know! A fast and passionate affair? A scandal even? We would have our fun and then a massive glass-shattering break-up. Based on our prior history, I never imagined we'd be good together. When I said I fancied him after he'd been irritating the hell out of me, I just did it on a whim… I didn't count on us becoming so domesticated." Lucius snorted softly. "What?"
"I agree, I would not have predicted that either, had I been in your shoes."
"You see then?" Draco was obviously eager for someone to see his point. "I didn't plan on actually liking him. He's like the best friend I ever had, and now I'm going to lose him because he'll hate me forever, worse than ever before. Who could have predicted Harry Potter wanted to settle down? I never imagined- I never saw this coming." Draco slumped in his chair, rubbing his forehead.
"Everything will be alright," Lucius said, causing Draco's head to snap up.
"How do you know?"
"Harry will forgive you. He is a Gryffindor with the heart of a true hero. He will be your friend, eventually. But I think you should tell him as soon as possible. It is not fair to keep him in the dark." Draco nodded and rose when Lucius did. His father guided him to the door. "Come, let's go find him."
Harry had been rooted to the spot, but when Draco said, 'I never saw this coming,' he finally snapped out of his stupor, turned and ran. He fled the garden and sprinted the long way back around the house. Inside his heart was hammering. He half-sprinted around the corner and towards the driveway just as Draco and Lucius stepped out of the front doors.
"Harry," Draco called, coming down the steps. Lucius remained at the top. "I need to talk to you."
"No you don't," Harry spat, walking right past Draco and towards the gates. He didn't even look at Lucius.
"Harry?" Draco asked, alarmed. He followed. "What's the matter?" Harry spun on his heel and glared at his former boyfriend.
"You never saw this coming?" Draco paled instantly and started stuttering out a reply. "What does that even mean? We've been going out, exchanging flowers and enough knick-knacks to put Dumbledore's office to shame. We've been together practically every day for a whole year! What part of our relationship has ever been the fast and dangerous, scandal-causing kind? What part of our relationship came as a surprise to you? Should I have written you a formal request before every interaction?"
"Harry," Draco pleaded. "I didn't mean it like that." He tried to reach out, but Harry jerked away.
"You said you loved me," Harry said. "Like a coward. Instead of just telling me the truth."
"I'm- I'm sorry," Draco said helplessly. "I didn't want to hurt you."
"But you had no trouble lying to me," Harry said bitterly. He turned and walked out of the gate, apparating the second he was free of the wards.
Back in his cottage Harry raged and drank, a lot. He couldn't understand it. He had finally been happy, and all the other sappy things he was supposed to be! Everyone always told him that now the war was over he could lay back and be happy with his nice boyfriend and live the life he deserved. Apparently what he deserved was a lying bastard.
Harry didn't know what to do. He had never hurt like this before. Both Cho and Ginny had at least been honest with why they couldn't be together. Draco had been too good at being the perfect boyfriend. Nothing had prepared Harry for this. He almost started laughing at the irony: he had not seen it coming.
He felt completely enraged at his own uselessness. There had to have been a moment when something had gone wrong. When they had gone from an actual happy couple to this pretend couple Draco had wanted out of. Harry felt the urge to fight, to do something. He had to fix this. He had to get his happily ever after story back on track.
Slowly a plan formed in Harry's mind. It was completely insane and downright illegal, and it came from a drunken mind, but Harry didn't care. He was going to get the life he deserved. No one was going to wake up tomorrow to the story of The Boy Who Lived losing at love. He couldn't take anymore of his own sob story. Not another loss, not another period of healing and moving on, no more sympathy from friends while they sat in their normal happy lives without a care in the world.
With this crazy plan firmly in his mind, Harry's brain shut down and he went to sleep.
Lucius Malfoy went to bed as well, knowing he needed to get up early to get to the Ministry. He didn't work there, not anymore. These days he kept to his investments, but he definitely had business there tomorrow.