Title: Take Your Bloody Traditions And—
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this fic for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Harry/Ginny, others mentioned
Word Count: ~21,000
Warnings: DH spoilers (ignores epilogue), slash sex, mentions of het, profanity, weddings, fluff.
Summary: Harry and Ginny are getting married because, well, it's what everyone expects them to do. But amid the bustle of the preparations, Draco Malfoy suddenly starts courting Harry. Harry really cannot find the words to express how much this annoys him.
Author's Notes: Written for a long-ago request by ethelnorthbrook for a fic in which Draco courts Harry. This is, I think, the fluffiest thing I have ever written ever; it is as fluffy as three bunnies hopping through a cloud of cotton. Take warning.
Take Your Bloody Traditions And—
"Really, Mr. Potter." Madam Malkin's voice was so pained that Harry felt as though he had just injured a helpless Crup. "If you would stay still, then this would be done quickly enough."
Harry folded his arms and scowled at the far wall. Madam Malkin promptly jabbed him with a pin. Harry yelped and dropped his arms to his sides.
"That's better. You were ruining the line of your shoulders." The witch stepped back and frowned at him for long moments, her squint pronounced. Harry hoped resentfully that she would go blind trying to concentrate on the sparkling golden material of the robes which had been deemed right for him to get married in. She caught his glance and clucked her tongue at him. "Really, Mr. Potter," she said, and Harry was getting bloody tired of that, too. "Don't you want to look nice for your wedding?"
Harry bit his lips until they threatened to bleed. As a matter of fact, no, he didn't care about that anymore. The past three months had been a bustle of preparations for food, flowers, robes, invitations, pictures, compromises with the press to keep the most obtrusive reporters out of the ceremony, gifts, and God knew what else; Mrs. Weasley was handling most of the elements of the marriage because she wanted to. If Harry could have kidnapped Ginny the next morning and run off to some private mediwizard who would marry them—as Harry had heard some of them had dispensation to in some parts of Ireland—then he would have done it.
But Ginny sighed when he suggested it and pressed his hand and said, "You realize we're doing this for them more than us, right, Harry? Think how heartbroken Mum would be if we ran off. Even Dad wouldn't like it."
And she didn't mention all the other people who wanted to see their hero get married as a means of soothing the anxieties that still prevailed after the Battle of Hogwarts and setting life back on a normal course. Somehow, the entire wizarding world had decided, things would get better if Harry would just walk off with a bride on his arm and then have kids.
Harry had always wanted a family. He had been sure for most of the past year that he wanted to have it with Ginny. And he knew he would have to settle down and be happy after all the preparations were done. But right now, he just wanted it to be done.
"And there you are, Mr. Potter," said Madam Malkin, with a bob of her head that made the pins in her hair rustle. "It doesn't take long when you simply allow an artist to get on with her work undisturbed." She whisked the golden cloth away from him and chivvied him towards the door with a wave of her hand.
Harry leaped down, glad for the excuse to move after two hours of standing still. He even made it to the door in a good mood, before he remembered that there were at least six other places in Diagon Alley he had to go before he was able to return home.
With a groan, he dug out the list Hermione had made him from a pocket of his robes. Wedding robe-fitting, done. And then Mrs. Weasley wanted him to get new shoes—she objected to his getting married in trainers—and the Daily Prophet had only agreed not to besiege the wedding if Harry came and did an interview with them this afternoon, and there were sweets to order, and…
A familiar laugh cut across the air. Harry jerked his head up. Coming down the middle of Diagon Alley was a procession of swirling blue silk robes, bobbing white peacock plumes, and platinum-fair hair.
Harry snorted and ducked out of sight into a side alley with a faint smile. Trust Malfoy to be holding court right in the open. He certainly had recovered his spirit after his family had been spared Azkaban and anything more humiliating than house arrest. (He seemed to forget that they were largely free because of Harry's testimony, but, well, like Harry had expected gratitude from the Malfoys). And the house arrest only applied to his parents, leaving Malfoy free to re-establish himself.
He seemed to have decided that the way to do that was to spend his parents' money. Wild parties flowed out of the pubs in Diagon and the expensive new flat Malfoy had taken in Hogsmeade all night long. Drunken broomstick races were held from Hogwarts out across the sea to the Hebrides. Life-like Golden Snidgets Transfigured from buttons served as prizes in impromptu Quidditch matches. And Bill had told Harry with some grimness that Malfoy had rediscovered some ancient "harmless" curses from Merlin-knew-where and cast them on those of his friends and admirers who volunteered to be paid an obscene amount of Galleons for the privilege.
Perhaps the biggest sign of Malfoy's decadence was the white peacock feathers on the heads of his favorites, which he plucked from the birds in the Manor's gardens. He had abandoned dignity and reserve in the pursuit of pleasure and a riotous good time—and a good name eventually, Harry was sure. This was the best way to ensure that Malfoy became friends with the children of the people his parents might have alienated.
In the majority of Harry's moods these days, having fun sounded like a grand idea. Disguising himself with a glamour and hanging about the edge of one of the parties would be ideal. He would catch glimpses of the wild life he was leaving behind to be a staid, respectable married man.
Still, he didn't want to meet Malfoy wearing his own face, so he walked briskly down the side-alley. He would slip into George's shop—still hard, sometimes, to think that there would only be one face behind the counter ever again—and into the main alley behind Malfoy's carousing group.
An owl fluttered overhead. Harry tilted his head back to watch it idly; it was a snowy owl, just like Hedwig, and the flash of white feathers caught his attention even now.
He started in surprise when the owl landed on his shoulder, shifting its weight delicately to avoid pressing its claws into anything too tender, and then ducked its head and bobbed it. It had a letter clutched in its beak, with a bundle hanging off it, tied with green ribbon. Blinking, Harry took the envelope.
He wondered for a moment if the sender had instructed the owl to deliver the letter to him only when he was alone. That was thoughtful.
And maybe evil, he reminded himself, and cast several spells to test for hexes. Nothing appeared, however, so in the end he slipped out the single sheet of parchment inside and read through the message.
I hope that you don't take this amiss. I can't be sure you've ever heard of this custom, or that you'll respect it if you have. But I do take this seriously, and I've given everything its proper name so that you can look it up any time you want. Or have Granger look it up for you, which I don't say with any disrespect. I've wished I had a friend as smart as her. Gregory refuses to see what's right in front of him, what would make him happy.
I intend to Court you. Why? Because I think I can make you happy, and I know that you can make me so. If you give this a chance, and make the proper response. And since the war, I've had enough of sitting around and waiting for what I want to come to me.
Attached to this letter is my first gift. You'll enjoy it. And even if you choose to cut the Courtship off, you can keep it.
Harry stared at the letter for some time, shaking his head back and forth. The white owl took flight from his arm into the sky. Harry ran his fingers over the spiky, confident letters, both frowning and thinking deeply.
Why would Malfoy do this? Boys didn't court other boys.
But too many motives sprang to mind. Power, attention, the pleasure of duping Harry, sinister vengeance for his parents' house arrest…
Harry shook his head again and then remembered the bundle. He opened it, and as he shook it out, in grew in his hands. Evidently, opening the package undid the shrinking spell that had confined it so far.
It was a green silk cloak, magnificent, in the color that Hermione had been urging him to wear for the wedding before gold was decided on, because, she said, it just matched the color of his eyes. Harry stared at it, baffled. Malfoy ought to know that fancy clothes weren't the way to appeal to him.
Well, of course he knows that. You didn't think this was serious, did you?
Suddenly furious—probably because of the strangeness and newness the letter had hinted at, and which was now forfeit—Harry spun and Apparated on the spot.
"And then I said to Brandon—"
Harry appeared again in the midst of a whirl of laughter and applause. Colors swirled in front of his face, but they had stopped by the time that he managed to focus his eyes. He wasn't entirely sure if they had been the sparks that often appeared to him when he Apparated or simply the cloaks and robes of the garishly-dressed people around him.
They stared at him: wealthy young pure-blood men, witches so delicately beautiful that Harry thought Ginny would shine in the midst of them like a flame, a few people so pale that they might have been taken for vampires if they weren't walking in the sunlight. The circle immediately in front of Harry wore white peacock feathers.
"Stand aside," said an imperious voice.
The circle became a semi-circle, and Draco Malfoy strutted through and stood in front of Harry, head on one side. "Yes?" he asked, voice politely curious.
Harry had been abashed immediately after he Apparated, wondering if he had the right to intrude on a private celebration like this, but the sight of Malfoy made his teeth grind again. Malfoy wore a set of robes that seemed plain enough until he moved, and then they stormed with color, blue and green and purple in metallic shades. The effect was striking with his pale face and hair and eyes and feather in his hat, and Harry hated himself for noticing that it was striking.
"What do you mean by this?" he asked flatly, and thrust the letter at Malfoy. The cloak swung from the same fist. "I know it's a joke, but I can't figure out what you mean by it. Will this cloak make me disappear when I put it on? Turn me inside out?"
He expected Malfoy to glare at him hatefully and retreat, but instead he smiled and laughed softly, clasping Harry's wrist and tugging him near. Their breaths mingled in the space between them. Harry was reminded uncomfortably both of the moments he'd shared in Hogwarts corridors with Malfoy just before fights and of the few stolen times he'd been alone with Ginny in the past few months.
But he braved it out. The intention of courting him could not possibly be serious. He sneered, and Malfoy's smile grew broader and softer.
"You look beautiful no matter what," Malfoy said softly. "So long as you're angry, defiant, challenging—anything but the broken-down creature I've seen in the past few months."
"I am not broken-down," Harry said. He wanted to kick Malfoy, except that now they were adults and he couldn't do anything so childish. And starting a fight would either win him unwanted attention or get Malfoy sent in for a trial, or probably both. He had to settle for glaring instead. "I'm getting married to the woman I love—"
"Of course you are," Malfoy said amiably, and only the tightening of his fingers on Harry's wrist showed that he disliked the mention of Ginny. "That's why you've looked as if you're about to vomit on a regular basis."
"It's just nerves!" Harry wanted to pull away from the hold on his wrist, but he was all too aware of what it would look to their watching audience, and to Malfoy, if he did. He contented himself with a heated whisper. "Lots of grooms get them."
"Not this kind," Malfoy said, and his voice became a persuasive whisper in return. "Don't you deserve some fun and some pleasure after ridding the world of the Dark Lord, Harry? Why should you rush into adult responsibilities right away?"
It was only persuasive because it sounded like the voice he heard in his head when he went to sleep, Harry told himself fiercely. And he knew to distrust that voice. It was the one that told him to leave Ginny. But he loved and wanted Ginny. He did. "I don't want the kind of fun you're having," he said. "I'd only regret it in the morning. And besides, I need someone to rescue and take care of. I want a family." There. All that was certainly true, and it ought to balance him against what Malfoy was offering.
Malfoy's smile deepened. He had a faint touch of blood to his cheeks now, which, Harry hated to admit and had to, made him look more attractive. "Courting is serious," he said. "You should look it up, really. You can still have your family and your settled life and someone to take care of. I'm sure that I could need rescuing sometimes, just to please you." His eyelashes fluttered obscenely. "I want to please you, Harry."
He had dreamed of someone speaking to him that way, too. Ginny was too shy ever to do so.
Harry ground his teeth and told himself that it would be different when they were married. Ginny had been raised with very traditional values, that was all, and she didn't want to do anything too wild before the wedding night. "You still haven't explained what the cloak does, Malfoy," he said, and thrust it roughly back at him. "Take it. I don't—"
Malfoy laid a finger over his lips. Harry was so shocked that he just stood there and allowed it. "Hush," Malfoy crooned. "You don't know what you're saying, and that upsets me. The nature of the gift will be explained when you look up Courting. As for what it does—"
He swept the cloak smoothly from Harry's hand and around his shoulders before he could object, managing to smooth a crease in the corner as he did so.
Harry gasped. The world had vanished around him, and he hung high in the sky on a particularly brilliant spring day, whilst the Snitch darted in front of him and beneath him the crowd in the Gryffindor stands cheered deliriously. The wind teased and tugged at his hair. He could feel the broom between his legs and the broom bristles scratching at his rump.
"It's been implanted with memories." Malfoy's voice came to him out of what looked like an empty patch of blue sky. "Hogwarts memories. I thought that you'd never really got to experience your childhood there the way you should have. Well, now you can. Think of any place you regularly went in Hogwarts, and you should find yourself there."
Harry pushed the cloak off his shoulders, and found himself standing in the middle of Diagon Alley again. Malfoy's tagalongs were silent, as if the sight of Harry standing there and gaping like an idiot had impressed them.
Harry glared at Malfoy, but his grip on the cloak was tight. He had missed Hogwarts like mad since leaving after his sixth year. He'd decided not to go back for his NEWTS, but to take a year off and study for the exams privately. He had thought he wouldn't be able to stand seeing the classrooms again and remembering everyone who died.
He didn't think he could give the cloak up.
"Why are you doing this?" he whispered.
"Because I want to make you happy," Malfoy whispered into his ear, and leaned forwards as if he would steal a kiss.
Harry Apparated again, this time back to the Burrow, scatter-brained and gasping for breath for some odd reason.
"Harry! Where have you been?"
Harry just had time to fend off Hermione's charge, and then he found himself holding a woven bag filled with something that rustled and crumpled under his hands. He stared at the bag blankly, then smelled it. The scent of roses filled his nose so powerfully that he coughed, his eyes watering.
"You don't smell it," Hermione said in an aggrieved voice, and tugged him out the door. "They're hung around the house to create a web of blessing." Despite the flush on her cheeks, she smiled at Harry. "Isn't that interesting?"
Harry shuddered, but he was thinking of something more than the immediate present. Hermione had read up on all the wizarding wedding traditions before she started helping Mrs. Weasley; Harry suspected she wouldn't have thought herself qualified to help otherwise. Maybe she could tell him about this Courting Malfoy had mentioned, and why expensive gifts and flirtatious seduction seemed to be a part of it.
"It's interesting," he said casually, and then started to levitate a bag of rose petals towards the roof. "Can you tell me—"
"Harry!" Hermione stamped her foot. "You have to hang them by hand, not by magic! Or all the virtue goes out of them."
"Oh." Harry blinked and decided he wasn't about to argue with her in this mood. Instead, he conjured a ladder from a stone—he had grown rather proud of how good he was at Transfiguration, and he had taken a high NEWT in it—and leaned it against the side of the Burrow. Hermione began tossing rose-bags to him; Harry began conjuring hooks, too, when he found out that the bags had string loops woven on the top, but no other apparent means of hanging them. "Have you ever heard of something called a Courting?" he asked at last.
"Yes." Hermione looked up, her eyes narrowed. "But why do you ask? You and Ginny are having a traditional wedding, and Courting is something else, and Harry, we really don't have time to change everything we've agreed on now, you're getting married in a month—"
"I know that," Harry said hastily. "But there was another customer in Madam Malkin's this morning, and she was giggling and saying that she was being Courted. I didn't know what she meant."
"You're not usually that curious, Harry." Hermione had rocked back on her heels and was still regarding him skeptically. Harry suspected Ginny might have confessed some of her own inclination to run off to Hermione.
"She seemed happy," Harry said, and let some of his bitterness slip into his voice. "Happier than I am about this bustle."
"Oh, Harry," Hermione said, her face softening. "You know that it's because Mrs. Weasley wants the best for both of you, and because you're a celebrity and your wedding would be a madhouse anyway—"
"I know," Harry said. "I just wish—well, never mind." Hermione's face had begun to change alarmingly. "But I'd like to know what a Courting is. Her talk about it is all I had to listen to for two solid hours, but I never got a good sense of what it was."
Hermione nodded absently and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "It's when someone decides to approach someone else for a—well, call it a non-traditional marriage," she said. "It has a special name, but I can't remember it right now—"
Harry gave a gasp of mock horror, and the next bag of rose-petals Hermione tossed at him almost knocked him off the ladder.
"But there's more than one form of marriage in the wizarding world, you know," Hermione continued. "Nowadays most people have weddings like this—"
"How do they sleep at night?" Harry muttered, causing another hook to pop out of the side of the Burrow's roof with unnecessary force.
Hermione ignored him. "And like Bill's and Fleur's. But there were also marriages made between pure-bloods for the sole purpose of having children, and for making sure that there was a legal heir from a family they could trust in the case that a man or woman who didn't want to marry traditionally died early, and for—oh, dozens of other reasons." She smoothed her hair away from her face again, this time casting a spell so that it would hover behind her instead of getting in the way. "But the Courting led up to a union that was more flexible than either of those. It was what the partners wanted it to be. It could have sexual fidelity and legal aspects incorporated into it, but mostly it tied together two people so that they could trust each other. It was meant to make them happy."
Harry swallowed. "The girl in Madam Malkin's said something about gifts," he said as casually as he could, whilst he caught another rose-bag and hung it in place. He was glad that he'd thought to tuck the green silk cloak away again before he returned to the Burrow. "Are they part of the Courting, too?"
"Oh, yes," Hermione said. She sounded more relaxed than Harry had heard her in weeks. He suspected she liked talking and speculating about wizarding traditions more than she did actually participating in them. "The person who initiates the Courting sends one they think the recipient will like. The recipient can refuse it, and that marks the end of the Courting. Accepting it and sending a return letter says that the Courting can continue, but it doesn't constitute encouragement."
Harry was silent, thinking frantically, as he moved his ladder around the Burrow and the hanging of rose-bags continued. Did he want Malfoy to Court him? The green cloak was a wonderful gift, but Harry hated to think of himself bound to spread his legs for Malfoy—or whatever it was that two blokes did with each other—just because he'd received a few nice presents. And who was to say that the other gifts would be equally thoughtful?
"It sounds like bribery," he said.
"It isn't," Hermione said firmly, standing on her toes so that Harry could reach the bag she held out. She seemed to have got tired of levitating them—or, more likely, Harry thought, she'd been using her own magical strength all day and was nearly exhausted. "The person being Courted can break up the Courtship at any time, just by sending a letter saying so. The Courtship has to be willing, or it doesn't mean anything."
Harry nodded and swallowed. He couldn't believe he was actually considering what he was considering.
But why not? You heard Hermione; you can break it off when you like. And how quickly can Malfoy possibly Court you before the wedding? He'll doubtless give it all up when he sees that you're going to marry Ginny anyway.
Harry relaxed. Yes, he deserved a little excitement in his life. And he was interested to see what Malfoy would send next. Maybe a letter saying "Fuck off, Potter," because he was likely to demand a gift in return instead of just a letter saying that he could continue, the greedy bastard.
"That's better," Hermione said approvingly. "You're smiling again. Remember that you should be getting married for love, Harry."
"I do remember that," Harry said quickly, and hung up the last bag. The cloak felt like a burning coal in his pocket, and he didn't want to think of Ginny's face.
I can break it off whenever I like.
He thought of Malfoy's face instead when Harry didn't fall over his feet to accept his offer, and smiled.
Composing the letter was unexpectedly difficult.
Harry had originally intended to just dash off a few lines—Here I am, Malfoy. Court me if you dare—but then he had begun to think that might make Malfoy decide he was refusing. Harry had no idea what had made Malfoy start this in the first place; what if he could end it with a few careless words?
He didn't want that to happen. It was something that wasn't wedding preparations, and that was so rare in his world he was willing to take risks to keep it.
He sucked the end of the quill thoughtfully and closed his eyes. The cloak was around his shoulders, and where he should have seen the backs of his eyelids, he saw instead the brilliant interior of the Gryffindor common room. Hermione sat in a chair, her eyebrows bent in a ferocious scowl, studying a book. Neville was telling stories of his slaying of Nagini to a group of wide-eyed first-years. And several boys were wrestling, and Lavender and Parvati were giggling to each other, and games of wizarding chess and Exploding Snap were in progress, and altogether it looked so much like home that it made Harry's throat ache.
All right, so I'm greedy, too. If the first gift is this good, who knows what else Malfoy might send me?
Someone knocked on the door.
Harry started up, his eyes wide. It was stupid of him to think that people would leave him alone, even in the Weasley attic. Mrs. Weasley probably had some new flowers for him to approve, or she'd decided to change the color of the wedding robes again and she wanted his approval for that—
But it was Ginny who pushed her head in through the doorway and frowned at him for a moment before saying, "Where did you get that cloak?"
"Er, wedding present," said Harry, truthfully if not honestly, and hurried forwards to embrace her. "I didn't think I'd see you tonight. Wasn't this your evening for hiding out with Fleur and the baby in Shell Cottage?"
Ginny's face softened at the mention of her niece. She'd make a wonderful mother, Harry thought, and it was his responsibility to give her that. They'd agreed that they'd get married. And when the children came, he had no doubt his regrets would fade.
Suddenly, he was glad that he hadn't written a line to Malfoy so far. Risking his happiness with Ginny seemed like an incredibly stupid and petty thing to do.
Before he could tell her what he'd almost done and that he never planned to do anything as stupid again, Ginny sighed and raked a hand through her mass of hair. It hung nearly to her waist now. She'd threatened to cut it right before the wedding and march to the altar with nothing but red stubble on her scalp, but Molly had fainted, and it had taken two hours to calm the tears afterwards. Arthur had made Ginny promise not to joke about it again.
"It got—disrupted," she said. "Fleur wouldn't stop talking about wedding preparations, and then I had yet another fitting."
"Robes?" Harry grimaced, thinking of the two hours he'd spent in Madam Malkin's.
Ginny shook her head tragically and sat down on a broken crate. The ghoul made an ominous bumping sound from behind them. "Shoes." She gave him a sharp glance. "And Hermione says that you never picked up yours."
Harry moaned. "And I never made it to that interview, either. Reporters will be crawling over the house tomorrow." He dropped down next to her. "Sorry, Gin. I got—distracted. And I just wanted out of Diagon Alley before someone recognized me."
Ginny put an arm around him and leaned her head on his shoulder in silent sympathy. Harry embraced her back. She was solid and warm next to him, and if he no longer wanted her quite as passionately as he had before their affair had the sanction of the entire wizarding world, he still knew he could be happy with her.
Well, not unhappy most of the time, either.
But the solidity was the important thing, Harry hastily reassured himself. This thing he was letting himself believe he could have with Malfoy was the thinnest, most airy, insubstantial object, spun of fairy wings and moonlight. How could he risk solidity and children and a wife and the Weasleys' family gatherings for that?
"Harry," Ginny said, so softly that Harry could hardly hear her.
"Hmmm?" Harry brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes and smiled down at her. Really, he owed her for rescuing him from something desperately stupid.
Ginny tilted her head back, and her eyes were deep and brilliant in the light of the fire that Harry had lit on the hearth he'd Transfigured most of the attic wall into. "Do you wonder who we're doing this for? Ourselves?" Her hand crept up his chest and pressed over his heart. "Or them?" A jerk of her head encompassed the entire house below.
Harry swallowed, and felt as if Malfoy had Apparated into the room to smirk at him. "I wonder, of course," he said slowly. "But the correct answer is both, isn't it?"
"It's just—" Ginny moved her hands restlessly, dancing them like butterflies past his face. Harry caught her fingers and kissed them. For some reason, that made Ginny grow very still and look at him again, cocking her head slightly as if she could encompass and hold onto him with her gaze.
"Harry," she said, "if you had fallen in love with someone else and wanted to call the wedding off, you would tell me, wouldn't you?"
Harry's mouth fell open. "Gin," he said, "I'm not in love with anyone else! Promise! Please tell me you're not believing the rubbish that Diamond reports." The Diamond was a new paper that had sprung up in the wake of the war and which made its profits solely from reporting on rumors and news concerning Harry.
"No," Ginny said. She sounded slightly breathless. "But we're good friends before we're boyfriend and girlfriend—or bridegroom and bride. You would tell me?"
Harry's stomach clenched. The cloak around his shoulders seemed to grow heavier. He recalled, with extraordinary clarity when he had the girl he was going to marry in his arms, the pressure of Malfoy's fingers on his wrist, the harsh rake of his breath.
I think that I can make you happy, and I know you can make me so.
When had he lost that certainty with Ginny?
But she was looking up at him, so appealingly, and Harry couldn't do this to her. He wouldn't write a letter to Malfoy. Malfoy would be miffed for a while, but then doubtless he would find someone else to Court. Hermione had told him how casual those relationships created by Courting were.
Harry wanted—had to have—something else. Something serious, something he could build a future on.
"I would tell you," he said, and tightened his arms around Ginny, burying his nose in her hair. "But there's no one else, Gin. Not at all."
Ginny exhaled a sigh that seemed to come from her toes. "I didn't think so," she said.
When she left, Harry Vanished the quill and tore up the parchment, to prove to himself that he was out of temptation's way. He stood over the conjured table when he'd finished, breathing hard and feeling virtuous.
Of course, he could still close his eyes and enjoy the intense vision of the Gryffindor common room, since this was the only gift he would ever have from Malfoy.
Then his eyes blinked open, and he stared at the far wall in confusion.
The memories implanted in the cloak had to be based on memories taken from Pensieves, or so Harry had read that evening when he'd Apparated to Grimmauld Place and sneaked a book on the subject of enchanted clothing out of the library there. And he was certain Malfoy had never been in the Gryffindor common room himself.
So who had contributed this memory for him?
Malfoy's second gift came two days later.
It was the middle of June and so of course it was hot, but Ron, bored with yet another endless lecture on the order in which they were to enter the Burrow's garden and seat themselves at the table, had conjured a miniature snowstorm the moment his mother remembered two recipes she had yet to secure and hurried off to owl Fleur's mother. Now he and Harry ran through the middle of the garden, packing snowballs and hurling them at each other. Harry, borne backwards by one in the middle of his forehead, laughed and scrambled up, drawing his wand to thicken the storm; the sun had already melted the flakes tumbling at the edges.
The white owl dived at him so neatly and swiftly that Harry thought it was another snowball at first. He ducked and weaved, but the owl pursued him and landed on his shoulder. Fluttering its wings, it clung until Harry gave up trying to get away and scowled at it.
This time, the bundle dangling off the letter was attached with a red ribbon, and it had a flash of metal like the colors in Malfoy's robes. Harry shook his head in slight bafflement as he took the letter. Malfoy had sent him another gift? He had thought it would take a letter from him to make the git want to continue the Courtship.
"What have you got there, mate?"
Shite. He'd forgotten about Ron. Harry started and smiled hastily, and the owl sank its claws into his shoulders to show him it was displeased with this behavior. Harry had an excuse to yelp, then. "Bloody wedding gift," he said. "There's some girl who was in Madam Malkin's the other day and thought it was her duty to 'offer me felicitations.'" He rolled his eyes and made himself detach the bundle and hold it up, even though he was really longing to go away and examine it privately. "And here it is."
Ron tore away the red ribbon and laughed at the object revealed: a ring made of twisted silver wire. "She has bad taste," he said, pointing to a single green stone in the top. "I bet that's green glass, and not an emerald."
Harry swallowed down his objection and offered what felt like a traitorous smile instead. "I'd rather read the letter alone," he said. "God knows what she'll say, and Ginny doesn't have anything to worry about, but sometimes she acts like she does."
"Yes," Ron said, eyes unexpectedly direct. "I'd noticed that, too." He leaned forwards, his gaze searching. "Look, mate, if you were unhappy, you'd say something, right? I mean, it's not as if you have to marry Ginny. Only, you started this awfully fast."
"Ron." Harry pretended to swat him playfully on the side of the head. "I can't go back now."
"Yes, you could." Ron blinked at him and tilted his head. "It's your wedding."
It stopped belonging to me the moment thousands of wizards and witches decided to make it their hope for the future, Harry thought grimly, but managed to give Ron an earnest glance. "Ronald Bilius Weasley, I really do want to marry your sister."
Ron shuddered dramatically. "Ugh, not you, too. It's bad enough when Hermione says my name like that." Then he grinned and shook Harry's hand with pretend affability. "Welcome to the family."
"Thanks." Harry clapped Ron on the shoulder. And, proving that fate did favor him sometimes, Mrs. Weasley yelled from inside the house.
"Ron! I need you to come here and cast a translation charm."
Ron winced and marched into the house with the expression of a soldier going to his doom. Harry, his fingers trembling with cold and not anything else, ripped the envelope open and nearly severed the letter inside. It was two sheets of parchment this time.
I'm sure that you must be wondering why I'm contacting you again, when you were so ill-bred as to reply to my last letter and gift with silence. Well, I consider your facing me in Diagon Alley and not giving me a positive refusal as encouragement enough to continue. I know that I have a stubborn mate and one who'll need a lot of wooing.
How many times have you ever been wanted solely for yourself, and not for the scar that decorates your forehead or that beauty you wear all ignorant of its existence? And don't tell me the Weasley chit counts. She was in love with you before she ever saw you. It's the Boy-Who-Lived she wants to marry, and not Harry Potter.
Harry scowled at the letter and thought seriously about ripping it up. Malfoy was allowed to target Harry all he liked, but Harry thought Ginny should be exempt from his general prattishness.
I think the experience can't be common. Well, I want you for yourself. I want you for the anger that made you beat me up on the Quidditch Pitch and come after me in the corridors when you had nothing better to do with your time. I want you for the stubbornness that made you defy Umbridge to her face—which wasn't the smartest thing you could have done; I don't know if I ever told you that—and catch and keep hold of the Snitch when you had a broken arm. I want you with your face pale and flushed, for your fingers that are so clumsy I think sometimes you messed up potions for the pleasure of scrubbing them clean again, for your killing grace on a broom. I want you for all the things you are, and for the things I've heard hinted at but never seen except from a distance: a laugh, a genuine smile, your tears.
Harry knew he was a bit flushed by the end of that paragraph, and he cleared his throat. "You have fucking weird taste, Malfoy," he whispered, because there was always the chance that Mrs. Weasley or one of the innumerable Weasley cousins and aunts who were in and out of the Burrow to help with the wedding would creep up behind him just then.
And I want you to see me for what I am, and want me, too. You're not there yet, but you will be if I'm allowed to continue my Courtship.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Keep dreaming."
I have two gifts for you this time. One is the ring. Put it on, and it has a memory charm that will interact with your deepest mind, the buried subconscious we usually can't access past the time we're infants. Since it's you, Harry, I'll drop all the magical theory language and say that the ring will allow you to remember your parents.
Harry was certain he had stopped breathing. He stared at the letter helplessly, then at the twisted silver ring. This time, he could see that the twist had a pattern to it, and that the emerald was the eye of a snake.
And the second is an invitation to one of those nighttime flights you may have heard about. We start from the Astronomy Tower at midnight. Bring your broom and your courage. You'll need both.
There was a fire on top of the Astronomy Tower.
Harry, who had Apparated to the outskirts of Hogsmeade, stood looking at it for long moments before he swung one leg over his new Moonbrush broom and began to fly towards it.
The countryside slid beneath him, dark except for an occasional silver flash when the moonlight caught the water of the lake. Harry could see nodding shifts of gray and black where the Forbidden Forest tossed. He looped and circled lower, and a howl that sounded remarkably like a werewolf's rose out of the trees to meet him, even though it wasn't a full moon. Harry shivered and pulled himself higher.
He was grateful he had thought to bring Quidditch gear; the robes would protect him from the cold, and the gloves would protect his hands. Harry had absolutely no idea what route Malfoy intended to fly, or how fast, or how long it would take.
It occurred to him, dimly, that he must have been mad to sneak out of the Burrow and leave no better clue to his whereabouts than a vaguely-worded note. He didn't know if he would be back by morning. He should have written another letter to Malfoy and insisted on a short flight.
But that would have been wrong.
Harry didn't question the impulse. (He was doing a lot of that lately). He only knew it would have been. He leaned forwards on his broom and urged it faster.
As he came closer and began to spiral up, he realized there wasn't actually a fire burning on top of the Astronomy Tower; instead, a complicated glamour had been put up to create the illusion of light and heat. Harry hovered beyond the parapets and tossed his cloak back so that Malfoy could see his face. The glamour's light ought to be bright enough for that. It was certainly bright enough for him to see Malfoy standing, not, as he had expected, in the middle of a circle of sycophants, but alone, one foot firmly planted, one arm and one leg slung around a broom. He saw Harry and smiled. The light caught like real flames in his hair, in his eyes, in the clean white shirt he wore and the stunning purple robes. Harry caught his breath, and Malfoy's smile deepened.
Annoyed to realize that he had given exactly the reaction Malfoy wanted and expected, Harry cleared his throat gruffly. "Why am I here?" he asked.
"To receive my third gift," Malfoy said. His voice was smooth and deep, and the way his eyes seemed to burn as he gazed at Harry—with firelight, it had to be with that—was positively uncanny. "How did you enjoy the first two?"
Harry swallowed and closed his fist around the ring on the index finger of his right hand. He couldn't admit to Malfoy what the memories of his parents cradling him and cooking and singing silly songs to him and giving him a practice wand had meant to him.
"It's all right," said Malfoy, his voice descending into the croon that he had used the last time they were together. "You don't need to tell me. I can see it in your eyes. I'm sure I'll see much more than that there, and you'll have been the one to show me."
Harry flinched, stung by the proprietary smugness in his voice. "I haven't agreed to the Courtship by anything more than acceptance of your gifts," he said flatly. "What makes you so sure that you'll win me?"
That gave Malfoy pause, but not the way he had intended. Instead, Malfoy simply seemed to be searching for the best way to phrase his answer.
"Because you're you," he said at last, "and I'm me."
Harry sneered at him and pushed his broom back a little so that he hovered just off the edge of the Tower. "A simple answer, Malfoy. Almost Gryffindor. I'd have thought that you'd prefer something more sophisticated."
"I've learned to appreciate some Gryffindors," Malfoy said, with a bright smile. Harry's eyes narrowed, and he started to demand who the giver of that memory of the Gryffindor common room had been, but Malfoy leaped onto his broom and was hovering in front of him in a neat, quick movement. Harry found his breath speeding up again, his eyes squinting as if he could tame the bewildering blur that was Malfoy with a simple stare.
"I propose a race," Malfoy whispered, his breath fogging between them, "to the first islands of the Hebrides. Winner's forfeit."
Harry's blood stirred. God, he had forgotten what it felt like to do something wild and daring and reckless because he wanted to, and not because it would make for good publicity or because it was needed for the wedding.
Nevertheless, he wasn't quite addled enough to forget something essential. "I don't know the way."
"So, you'll have to follow and depend on me." Malfoy's breath was coming in pants now; one of his gloved hands trembled on the shaft of his broom as if he wanted to reach out and touch Harry. "I rather like that."
And before Harry could complain about the challenge or his wording, he was gone, fleeting over the side of the Tower and rising again like a swallow in flight.
Harry whipped his head around and followed instantly. He didn't have to think about it; the instinct of a hundred Quidditch practices was in him, around him. He couldn't forget what his muscles remembered.
Malfoy was far ahead already, a figure arrowing straight to the north, his hair flashing like a banner in the moonlight. His white shirt flashed to complement it. Harry laughed smugly and accelerated. He can't lose me looking like that. If he was smart, he would have covered his head and worn a different color.
He saw the small, pale beacon of Malfoy's face turned back to look at him, and almost thought he saw a smile. It made him wonder, suddenly, if Malfoy hadn't meant to lose him at all.
Frowning fiercely, Harry ducked and wove under Malfoy, then came up keeping parallel with him. What Malfoy said was quite true. He would have to follow the git most of the way, sheltering in his shadow as it were, and only pull ahead when he was sure of the destination and that he could reach it on his own. It was exasperating, but Harry was determined to win anyway.
With Malfoy, he always won.
Malfoy turned to look at him, and his face was brilliant and unearthly. A golden glow still played over it, and when he glanced over his shoulder for a moment, Harry realized the floating glamour had accompanied them.
He growled in displeasure and pushed himself harder as Malfoy began to spiral and turn and swoop, performing evasive maneuvers. Did the idiot think Harry needed light on a night like this? It was mostly clear save for the tattered clouds streaking across the moon, and the wind past them was brisk but not a gale. A perfect night for flying.
Malfoy lured me up here because of that, a flash of insight as unexpected and unwelcome as the one about Malfoy's smile came to Harry. He gritted his teeth and pushed himself faster still. Malfoy had turned west now, and Harry could see the land changing beneath them, growing wilder and darker, sloping more steeply.
Up here was the wind, and the sky, and the stars.
Malfoy flew beside him like a dragon, like a bird, like a boy on a broom. The starlight caught on his face and chased his hair and chiseled his features. Now and then he tossed his head back, mouth open, drinking the wind or laughing soundlessly. Harry almost lost his breath in watching him.
The land beneath them became sea, and a part of Harry remembered the race and that they must be close to the islands. But he didn't care, because he couldn't keep his eyes from Malfoy. He was so—
Harry wanted to resist the word, but it was the only one that fit. He shivered and licked his lips. Malfoy, turning his head yet again, seemed to catch the gesture. A slow, dangerous smile touched his lips, and he inclined his head as if bowing Harry into a dance or a duel.
Then he veered away and dropped like a stone to the sea.
Harry followed without thought. Of course he needed Malfoy to find the islands, but even if they had been over the Quidditch Pitch and he knew this was only a maneuver designed to distract him from the Snitch, he didn't think he could have resisted. His body flexed with Malfoy's; he moved his legs as Malfoy did, he gripped the broom harder when he did, and their brush rushed in and out of their lungs in concert.
Malfoy led him low enough for foam to lash his boots and salt to spring up and cling to his lips. They rode over a patch of what appeared to be moonlight, and it broke apart and wheeled around them, complaining in loud voices; it was a flock of gulls, asleep on the water. Harry laughed, and heard Malfoy laughing beside him, hoarse and hysterical and wrought with joy for the beauty of the ride and the night.
Malfoy rose, then, in a straight and spectacular sweep that would have been appropriate for a triumphant climb to the top of the sky after retrieving the Snitch, and Harry hurried; he had to be at his side. The golden and the white light played across him, and his purple robes seemed the color of the midnight blue sky now. Harry was breathing hard, unsure whether the half-formed sounds that trembled in his mouth were curses or sobs.
Malfoy swung, and angled, and Harry was there with him, flying side by side, like a mated pair of dragons Harry had seen flying when he visited Charlie in Romania, grace and elegance and power joined.
He never wanted it to end. He knew it must. But he only wanted to fly on and on, over the sea and across the sky, with Malfoy.
And then the flight stopped. Malfoy turned his broom towards Harry and arched his eyebrow. Harry, breathing hard, said the first thing that entered his head, though the words were blurred given his split lip and his wind-burned throat. "Why did you stop?"
"Now that," Malfoy said softly, "is what I like to hear." He raised his voice. "We reached the islands. The race is over, Harry."
Harry blinked, and glanced down. Just beneath Malfoy's heels hung a low dome of rock and soil. Maybe something more, but with the darkness so thick—the golden glamour was hovering to the side now, throwing its light on them instead of on the water—Harry couldn't be sure what.
He licked his lips and looked up. "A forfeit," he said blankly; his mind still danced in the dream he and Malfoy had created between them as they rode through heaven. "You won, so you can claim a forfeit."
"I can," Malfoy said, his voice utterly pure and confident. "And it's something I have no intention of waiting any longer to claim. Come here, Harry."
Harry drew near him without a pause, without a thought. It seemed the broom and not his body that carried him closer. And then he was leaning in, and Malfoy was wrapping one arm around his shoulders and the other around his waist, almost hauling him off the Moonbrush as they kissed.
Harry had thought he knew what kissing was like. He had snogged Ginny often. He knew about parted lips and darting tongues and hungry groans. He knew about the way someone else could fit into his arms when he sought it long enough; Ginny seemed shy most of the time, ducking away, but now and then she would yield to his passion.
He discovered very quickly that he knew nothing about kissing when one's lips were cracked and covered with salt and tasting of brine, or when the other person pressed into him with a savage force that made their brooms creak, or when the tide of desire that poured into his mouth was not merely his own.
Harry was shaking badly when they parted. Malfoy ran a hand over his neck and up to his hair, and Harry had to close his eyes against the expression on the other boy's face. He couldn't even resent the simple possessiveness of the gesture.
"Tell me, Harry," Malfoy said, his voice low and hypnotic as the rush of the waves on the island's shore, "do you grant me permission to continue Courting you?"
And Harry, in thrall to the sea and the sky and the stars and the seduction, could only whisper Yes.
The next morning, Harry opened his eyes and sat straight up in bed. His fingers closed hard around the ring he'd taken off and put on the table, and then he turned and stared at the cloak draped across the back of his chair. Ron's snoring from the bed next to him practically shook the walls, but that made no difference to his busily racing mind.
He wanted to splutter with indignation. Malfoy's giving me gifts and Courting me and—and kissing me, and what am I doing? Just sitting here and taking it like a girl! He's probably bragging to his friends about how easy this all is, that I'm so starved for attention I'll smile at him dreamily when he makes the least move—
Harry sprang to his feet, fuming. He should have understood the Courting in this light before. It was a competition, just like everything else between them always had been. Malfoy might not see it that way, but he would despise Harry if he simply went on contributing and trying to woo him and Harry sat there like a passive object.
I'm not a passive object, damn it. I'm not a virgin—
And that caused Harry to squirm mentally for a moment, because, well, he was.
But Malfoy doesn't know that, he reminded himself triumphantly, and slid the ring onto his finger and the cloak over his shoulders, so that they wouldn't be here if anyone woke up whilst he was gone. Harry didn't know if they would create visions for anyone other than him, but he saw no reason to take the chance, either. I'm going to prove I'm better at this than he is. I'm going to buy him a gift that he'll never forget and send it with a really flattering letter! Then he'll be the one fumbling and blushing and not knowing how to meet my eyes the next time he sees me.
And it would soothe the niggle of guilt in Harry's conscience, too. Malfoy had said Harry could make him happy, but it was hard to see how that would happen if Harry selfishly accepted his attentions and did nothing else.
Grinning madly, Harry ran out of the Burrow and Apparated to Diagon Alley.
"And you're sure?" The owner of the Magical Menagerie gazed at Harry searchingly. "This pet isn't for everyone. It'll take someone who can spoil him and make sure he always has plenty of companionship, food, and attention."
Harry liked the look in the man's eyes. He was obviously wondering whether Harry, in the midst of being famous and getting married, would have the time, and that showed that he wasn't willing to let his animals go to just anyone. "I'm sure," he said firmly, and gazed at the creature in front of him again.
It arched its back at him and sniffed his hand, as if deciding whether or not he was good enough to touch it. For the most part, it looked like a cat, but its coat was a shimmering white down that had more than a hint of feathers, and wings like a bat's rose from the center of its back. Its tail darted and lashed like a snake's. Harry had asked what it was crossed with; the owner had muttered "a number of things" in a way that reminded Harry of Hagrid, and then hastily pointed out its brilliant blue eyes and sharp, hooked claws. "It can be trained to defend anyone against anything," he told Harry.
"And he isn't deaf, is he?" Harry asked. "I've heard white cats with blue eyes are."
"He's not a cat," said the owner, his voice stiff with offended pride. "He's a Wingmalkin. And no, he isn't deaf; he hears extremely well. See?" he added, as the cat arched its back and hissed soundlessly at Harry. "And once he's offered a bond with his new owner, he's extraordinarily loyal. He'll offer attention for the attention he receives, and he's capable of sensing his owner's moods and knowing when he might need help or cheering up."
Harry smiled. It was what the advert had said, and he was glad to find that the Wingmalkin apparently lived up to its reputation. "How does the owner bond with him?" he asked, letting his hand hover above the cat's wings. That won him another hiss.
"Um." The owner darted a glance around the shop, and the Wingmalkin bared his teeth.
"Ah," Harry said, understanding perfectly why the owner didn't want to name the condition aloud. Probably, you had to offer the creature blood, and blood magic was still illegal. "That's fine, then. I'll be sure to send the information when I send him. Do you have a secure cage and a list of instructions for caring for him?"
The owner blinked twice. "He's—a gift?"
"Yes," Harry said.
"Rather expensive for a gift."
Harry sighed in annoyance. Behind those eyes now was a glitter of the greedy curiosity the wizarding world insisted on inflicting him with. "Expensive enough that I didn't expect to be asked this many questions," he said pointedly.
Of course the owner colored, and after that Harry was away with a cage containing the Wingmalkin and a list of various fishes, meats, and raw and bloody organs he could eat. The cat tried to claw him from inside the cage, stalking moodily back and forth. Its eyes spat fire and its ears were laid flat to the side of its head.
"You and Draco should get along just fine," Harry muttered, and Apparated to Grimmauld Place. It was the only place he could be sure of staying undisturbed whilst he wrote the letter he needed to write to Draco.
And that was a new beginning, Harry thought, pausing, to write Draco instead of Malfoy. His fingers tingled as if he'd dipped them in ice water. He licked his lips, and shifted in the chair, and thought of what Ginny would say if she could see him now.
And abruptly it was as if the entire glass of ice water had been upended over his head.
Harry laid down the quill and stood up, turning away from the table and pacing back and forth across the study. The Wingmalkin, secure in its cage on the other side of the room, let out a long, low growl that Harry would have expected to come from a full-grown lion, not that tiny thing. He turned around and stared at it helplessly.
I can't betray Ginny. But—but the gift's already bought, and I have to send it to Draco somehow. Maybe I should say that I can't see this continuing much longer, but I have to send it. It certainly can't stay here, and it's not mine. It's his.
Harry wondered for a moment when he was considering a gift Malfoy's when Malfoy had no idea Harry had even bought it yet, but then he shrugged impatiently. He just did, and he knew better than to argue with his instincts.
It has to go. And I refuse to send along a bare letter blandly suggesting that I'm glad he bought me presents. I have to—have to send him something to let him know what the ride above the waves last night meant to me.
Inspired, Harry sat down at the table again. Surely he could write a good letter, and one that wouldn't betray Ginny either, if he just kept it to the night ride and didn't talk about the other confusing feelings running around his head. He ought to be smart enough for that.
He was. The moment he dipped the quill in ink and started writing again, the words poured forth onto the page.
I bought you this Wingmalkin as a thank you for the gifts that you've bought me so far, and because I thought it would be a companion for you. God knows that you have enough of them, but most of them are probably with you for your money and your parties. The owner of the Magical Menagerie promised me that this companion returns loyalty for loyalty, spoiling for spoiling. And knowing how much money you have and how lonely you probably are if you chose to Court me, I thought you would have plenty of everything to give him.
Harry looked up to grin at the Wingmalkin. It lashed its tail against the cage bars in answer, then turned to look over its shoulder with an injured stare. Apparently, it thought the bars should jump out of the way when it wanted to move.
He seems steady enough, but he doesn't like me. He hisses when someone tries to touch his back, unless he's already sniffed their hand and personally approved him. He glares something fierce with those bright eyes of his. I think that you'll suit each other perfectly.
I wanted to say thank you. I still don't know what made you decide on the cloak and the ring and the ride, but they were wonderful. I've almost lost my mind in the last few weeks, with so many wedding preparations going on around me. I feel like I'm being herded into a cage.
Mrs. Weasley says it's just nerves and they'll settle when I'm married, but so many things have to happen before that does. I can't tell you how many hours of preparations we've been through already, and it's still a month off, or almost. I've lost track of time more easily since you started Courting me.
And sometimes I think that Ginny doesn't really want to get married either, but she doesn't want to disappoint her family even more. She already mentioned cutting her hair and her mother fainted.
How could I be responsible for that? For disappointing the first family in the wizarding world that ever took me in? For disappointing everyone who's looking forwards to a celebration of something wonderful and life-affirming, the first grand occasion we've had since the death of Voldemort? (The re-opening of Hogwarts and the first anniversary weren't grand enough, I think. For some people, they only meant that they were thinking again about the place and the day where their families had died.)
Harry's quill slowed. He wasn't writing about Draco; he was pouring out his feelings instead, exactly as if Draco had showed up on his step with a bottle of Firewhisky and a sympathetic ear.
He thought about crossing out most of the sentences and starting again, then decided against it. This letter was already long enough as it was, and Harry didn't have much more parchment in the house; it had all gone for wedding invitations. Draco would probably be curious enough if he saw all the scratches on the paper to try and decipher the words Harry had marked out, whilst if Harry left them uncovered, he would hurry through them to reach the praise of himself.
I never said how much you've improved on a broom. Maybe flying in a race instead of in a match improves you. Or maybe you've got a lot of practice during those nighttime rides I've been hearing about in the past year.
I don't know much about those rides, because I've tried to avoid reading the newspapers since the war. Nothing like a bad analogy in an article about Celestina Warbeck to make you realize that half the Daily Prophet has you on its mind.
I've just realized I don't know that much about you, in general. What do you like? Do you enjoy the company of all the people who flock around you, or is it mostly about political connections? Or maybe you want someone to laugh at. Now that I'm not in front of you all the time, you must need a substitute joke target.
I tried to think of what else you'd want for a gift—maybe your parents released from house arrest—but my lack of knowledge put paid to that. And anyway, I think you're having more fun acting on your own and spending all their Galleons. So I got you a friend that ought to appeal to you no matter what. Even if you do have lots of real human friends, they can't give you the kind of loyalty an animal can.
Harry paused, and swallowed. The quill had led him, almost insensibly, to the part of the letter he didn't want to write. But Draco had been brave enough to send him a beautiful, eloquent, complimentary letter, when having not the slightest idea how Harry would react to that. Harry owed him no less than the same.
I never thought blokes were beautiful. After seeing you on the broom, I can't think why.
But that was all wrong. Harry left it, though, because it was better than the next several thoughts that pelted through his head. Then he tried again.
I've missed you, too. I always knew where I stood, with you. I never had the sense that I was going to disappoint you or risk my standing with you, because to you I was already a disappointment. So it left me free to fight and argue and even to pity you, sometimes. It was a less complicated emotion than I felt for anyone else.
And that didn't sound very complimentary. Harry bit the end of the quill and finally threw his hands up, splattering his face with ink. There was a reason he hadn't written Ginny any love letters. He was horrid at them.
I don't know anything about spending the rest of my life with you, and Hermione said people in Courtships don't usually do that, anyway. It's more casual. And I'm getting married, and you'll probably get tired of this game. But I wanted to let you know that I do appreciate it, and if I was going to let someone who wasn't Ginny Court me, and if I was going to let a bloke have sex with me, you'd be my first choice.
Harry dried the ink with a muttered charm and hastily sealed it in an envelope. He knew he would rip it up if he paused to look at it. "Kreacher!" he shouted.
The elf appeared and gave a low bow, though he looked askance at the Wingmalkin's cage. Harry handed him the letter.
"Take that and the cat to Malfoy Manor, please," he said firmly. "Give them only to Draco Malfoy and no one else, do you understand?"
Kreacher stared at him with quivering ears. "Master Harry is Courting the Malfoy boy?" he whispered.
"Um," said Harry. The one being Courted can't Court back, can he? "Just deliver the letter and the cat, please," he said weakly.
Kreacher, wearing a truly frightening grin, bowed and vanished. Harry sighed and went to face the consequences of his actions at the Burrow.