Title: Providence

Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this for fun and not profit.

Summary: Harry is in love with Draco. Draco won't look at him twice. But even though Harry can't have him, Draco still needs someone who makes him happy. And Harry has an obvious solution: write Draco letters whilst pretending those letters are from Astoria Greengrass, so that Draco will fall in love with Astoria, who adores him. It's so brilliant it just has to work!

Rating: R

Pairings: Harry/Draco, Draco/Astoria

Warnings: Slash and het (no het sex, but Draco and Astoria share long scenes together), described sex, profanity, brief violence, some angst, EWE, lots and lots of letters, deeply clueless Harry.

Author's Notes: This will be a short novel-length fic, probably around the area of 11-15 chapters. The title refers both to divine good luck and Harry's attempts to "provide" for Draco.

Providence

Chapter One—What Harry Potter Knew

There were three things that Harry Potter knew.

The first was that he had fallen in love with Draco Malfoy, but hadn't a Muggle's hope in an Auror fight of getting Draco to look at him.

Harry scowled and dashed a hand through his hair, then turned around sharply as he reached the end of his drawing room. At least, the room was supposed to be used as a drawing room, but Harry had cleared all the furniture out of it and then decorated the walls in soothing shades of blue and green. It gave him a place to either calm down if he could, or pace off restless thoughts.

If I'd known what would happen, I would never have paid so much attention to the git after the war.

But it had seemed natural to pay attention, then, when he realized that Malfoy was making some sort of effort to extricate himself from the mud that had splattered his name. Harry did think he was less guilty than his father, but if he dreamed he could walk away from his crimes and have no one remember them, he should dream again. Harry had carefully tracked his spending habits, as well as the reports of the Aurors who combed through the artifacts taken from Malfoy Manor.

Amazingly enough, Malfoy's actions turned out to be sincere. He had actually given up the Dark artifacts to the Aurors of his own free will, and he sold many of the rest that were too powerful, according to the new laws, for him to retain. He bought new furniture for his Manor. He donated to charities, but anonymously and often to the smaller ones that publicity ignored. He faithfully visited his father in prison and his mother in St. Mungo's, where she had been taken after Azkaban had broken her health. Harry had slowly relaxed and decided that Malfoy, contrary to all expectations, had actually learned a lesson.

Now, Harry slid a hand into his hair and tugged at it in annoyance, since he couldn't actually go back in time and strangle his (slightly) younger self.

He should have looked away then. He should have let himself become involved in the routine of Auror training, in the mad bustle of Ron and Hermione's wedding preparations, in the clever tricks he came up with to fend off presumptuous requests for interviews and "just a moment of your time" that had surrounded him since Voldemort died.

But he hadn't. He had watched, interested to see whether Malfoy would become a recluse once some of the stigma had faded. Ron had predicted it, saying that even Malfoy wouldn't be able to show his face in public after what his family had done.

Instead, Malfoy had moved out into the world and made a few less anonymous donations. Then he'd made some mysterious purchases the Aurors couldn't track, since they'd been forced to relax their vigilance; the Ministry needed them for other things. Harry had tensed, deciding instinctively that Malfoy was building up to something big, and ready to fight him if he tried to become the next Dark Lord.

Instead, Malfoy had opened a…sanctuary for people who were trying to cope with the aftermath of the war. They could come to his tightly warded set of six buildings, numerous gardens, two meadows, and a small patch of woods, and talk to Mind-Healers, or sleep for twenty hours a day, or try to drown their sorrows in brisk walking. Or they could think of any other therapy that might help them, and Malfoy would try to provide.

Harry had visited the place in disguise a time or two himself, and cast all the spells he could think of that would have detected Dark magic at work. Nothing came to light. And Harry had felt a longing travel through him when he peered into some of those rooms—a longing for peace, rest, light. He didn't have very bad nightmares, not now, and his mental scars were far less than, say, George's, but he still could have lain down on the wide blue bed in the middle of a sunlit room that he saw, with every wall glass on every side so that one could look in all directions for enemies, and simply fallen asleep.

He'd been impressed by the amount of consideration the place showed. Malfoy was trying to work with the people who had the most reason to hate him. He faced constant possibilities of being rejected, sneered at, even attacked. And Harry, who had suffered from six years of irritants at Malfoy's hands because of the boy's hatred of rejection, didn't imagine it was any easier for the man.

Harry paused; he'd reached the other side of the room, and he banged his head for a moment into a patch of specially softened wall that he kept there for just this purpose.

Even that wouldn't have been enough. Harry could have admired Malfoy, sympathized with him, saluted him in his mind, and let him go.

But no. Instead, he'd had to pay more attention still, and then more attention, and then more attention, to notice all the small subtle ripples that came from Malfoy integrating himself fully back into society.

He sent an anonymous apology to the Weasleys, along with a handsome gift of Galleons that was just the right size to convince the Weasleys to accept it, instead of rejecting it out of pride. Ron had been utterly astonished, and had selected five or six Death Eater families it might have come from before deciding it had to be from the family of whoever had killed Fred. No one had ever mentioned the Malfoys in front of Harry, though, and if he hadn't stared at Malfoy's handwriting on countless letters over the last three years, he wouldn't have recognized it.

Then Malfoy had started saying publicly that he welcomed correction on his beliefs against Muggleborns, but if no one had any logical arguments, he'd go on believing in pure-blood superiority. He dealt gracefully with the letters he received. Several times, Harry had heard the screams of a Howler berating Malfoy for his prejudice, and scrambled breathlessly towards it—in time to see only Malfoy's slightly raised eyebrow and the contemptuous flick of his wand that removed the Howler's ashes. But better still were the debates he held in public, and the slow increase of his quoted remarks in newspapers that showed, yes, his beliefs were changing.

And Harry had been there the day Malfoy brought his mother home from St. Mungo's, circling her with a number of protective spells whilst the newspapers and photographers fought like sharks for a glimpse. Someone had yelled at Narcissa, "How does it feel to be married to be a murderer?" And Malfoy had turned and aimed a glare that literally made the woman who'd asked the question stumble several feet backwards, her camera falling to the ground and breaking as her face went pale.

That was the day Malfoy became Draco in Harry's mind.

And that was the day Harry realized he had a serious problem, because Malfoy only dated women, he'd never shown the slightest interest in a bloke, and even if he was bisexual or gay, the chances that he would want Harry, with all the history between them, were slim to none.

Harry paused now, sighed, and drubbed his forehead several more times into the patch of softened wall before moving away from it.

*

The second thing Harry Potter knew was that Draco was lonely.

He dated women, sure, but he never stayed with them. Harry had seen him on several dates, first on reconnaissance trips after the war when the Aurors still felt it prudent to keep an eye on the descendents of Death Eaters, and then through the newspapers and his own fascinated spy—er, observation. Draco would start the evening laughing or flirting. He would smile at his date's jokes. He would look with obvious admiration at her hair or her jewels or her robes or whatever it was that she wanted him to notice; he was one of the few men Harry had seen who was sensitive to that kind of thing. Merlin knew Harry had never managed to be that good with Ginny.

But towards the end of the evening, he would lean back in his chair and his eyes would begin to wander. Slowly, he'd make shorter and shorter replies to his date, or no replies at all. Most of them didn't notice, too enthralled with their own glitter and fashion. But Harry saw the way Draco stared searchingly at each new person who entered the room, and he understood, especially with the wistful smile that twisted Draco's mouth. Harry had felt like that himself, before he gave up general dating as a bad job and decided to hope that he would find Ginny attractive again, someday. Harry wanted someone who would be as interested in him as they were in appearing with the Boy-Who-Lived, whilst Draco wanted someone who would return his level of interest.

Whenever Draco sighed and turned back to his date with a determined little smile, Harry ached with empathy. And when he was directly in the restaurant or the theater or the pub with Draco and his date, he had to stop himself from whipping off the glamour or the Invisibility Cloak and marching over there to announce that he had noticed Draco, and the bint he was dating could clear right off.

Only Harry knew he couldn't do that. Draco needed to be happy. He needed someone who would return his interest, his attention, his time. He needed someone who would admire the strides he had made whilst still gently criticizing him for the times he slipped. He needed someone—

Beautiful. Female. Desirable.

And so Harry realized, more gradually than he'd had the first realization, that he had a second problem, because the man he was in love with wasn't happy, and that made Harry wake up at night with a jolt as though someone had pinched him.

*

The third thing Harry Potter knew was that Draco had an obvious choice for a partner, but it was someone he never seemed to notice.

Early on, Harry knew, Draco had developed a blind spot to people who were infatuated with him for his beauty or his money alone. Harry sympathized. He'd had to do much the same thing, until it occurred to him that he could get along best if he just restricted his attention to his friends and adopted family in the first place, and didn't seek out someone beyond them, someone who would never understand.

But sometimes blind spots could be too large, and in this case, Draco's was. It included Astoria Greengrass, who had the misfortune to be two years younger than Draco and Harry; to be the sister of Daphne Greengrass, whom Draco had dated and then decided he didn't like; and to have fair skin that always showed a blush and bright green eyes that couldn't hide what she was feeling for the life of her.

Draco had looked at her and dismissed her as an infatuated girl. Harry had looked at her and seen something more.

Astoria followed Draco about in the same unobtrusive fashion Harry did. She looked at him in the same starry-eyed way that, Harry was sure, he did. But she had three advantages Harry didn't have.

She was female. Draco might want her, whilst there was no hope in the world that he would ever want Harry. (And Harry hit the wall particularly hard with his head at this point, and then told himself not to be stupid. Why should he wish things were different? If Draco was different, then Harry probably wouldn't have fallen in love with him in the first place).

She was of a pure-blood family just like Draco, and understood small things about him—reacted to small things about him—that Harry never would.

And she was unscarred by the war, which she'd spent away from Hogwarts in a hidden sanctuary with her family. Draco would never have to look at her and see someone he had hurt, or someone he had to make things up to.

Astoria loved Draco the way Ginny had loved Harry. Yes, it might look like infatuation on the surface, but Harry knew what strength underlay an emotion like that, knew how pure and deep it could run.

So there was Astoria, a solution to at least Harry's second problem, the problem of Draco's happiness, the most important one (since the first one wasn't a problem for anyone but Harry).

But she presented a third problem in and of herself. How was Harry going to get Draco to fall in love with her? How was he going to get him to notice her, even?

And so all three problems and all three pieces of knowledge came together and had him pacing his drawing room, or what would have been the drawing room if he had had any furniture in it, and all three together caused his pace to become faster and faster and his grumbling to get louder and louder, and then he fell over a bump in the carpet and slammed his head into a patch of wall that had not been specially softened.

And in between saying, "Ow!" and picking himself up, the idea came to him, in all its brilliance.

*

"Hullo, Astoria." Harry made sure to smile as he opened the door and look as friendly as possible. The young woman on his doorstep already had her lower lip locked between her teeth, something Harry knew she only did when she was nervous. "Please come in."

"Mr. Potter." Astoria's voice was low and gentle—musical, almost, Harry thought approvingly. It would have hurt more to lose Draco to anyone who wasn't attractive. She took a step into his entrance hall and looked around as if she thought that predatory plants would unfold from the walls and eat her at any second. "I—I'm glad you invited me here, but why did you do it?'

Harry smiled more widely. Yes, she's direct when she wants to be. She'll be able to criticize Draco and support him the way he needs. "Because I wanted to talk to you about Draco Malfoy."

Astoria promptly blushed to the roots of her very long, very smooth blonde hair. "Was it that obvious?"

"Only for someone who's looking," Harry said gently, and led her through the entrance hall into the smaller drawing room he'd had done up for guests—most often Ron and Hermione. Astoria, looking relieved, sat on a comfortable yellow chair that put as much distance as possible between herself and Harry. Harry smiled at her again. "Tea?"

"I—of course." Astoria's hands darted out and smoothed down the folds of her robe. "Mr. Potter, to be quite honest, you're upsetting me. Why did you want to talk about Draco? Do you want him for yourself?"

Harry was glad that he was only carrying the teacups at that point and not drinking from one, or he would have sprayed the hot liquid all over the room. As it was, he kept his eyes on the cups until he felt ready to look Astoria in the face again. "I want to talk about him because I think you could be the partner he needs," he said. "You're strong enough to support him, and you love him nearly as much as he deserves."

Astoria flushed again, but this time her lips parted, and Harry nodded approval. Yes, she wasn't going to lie to herself about the strength of her love. She understood her own emotions, and that was a good mark for her in Harry's book.

"But how are we going to get him to look at me twice?" Astoria ran a hand over her hair, rather than through it. Harry thought his own would probably stay tamer if he did that. "It doesn't matter if I love him, if he never looks." Bitterness crept into her voice for the first time.

"I've been thinking," Harry said firmly. "What he needs is something to make him pay attention, yes, but dozens of people try that every month. So we'll try a slightly more indirect route. Letters. It'll probably appeal to him, since he gets so many that are nothing but blame or mindless praise. Give him something witty to respond to, and I think you'll intrigue him."

"I—I'm really not a good writer." Astoria's flush changed color again, and she looked down and fiddled with a diamond ring on her smallest finger. "I don't think I could do it."

"Then let me," Harry said.

"You?" Astoria stared at him.

Harry nodded. "I understand him, because I went through school with him," he said. "And I feel differently than you do." No, I don't, but she doesn't need to know that. "I'll tell him about my respect and admiration first, and then challenge him to be more, do more. You could do that in conversation, right?" Astoria nodded, seeming dazed. "So I'll do it in writing."

"I—" Astoria swallowed. "You really don't want him for yourself? Forgive me, please, but this seems like a lot of effort to go to for someone you don't want."

"I want to see him happy," Harry said. At least I can tell the truth about that, and it's pure and uncomplicated truth. "He's not. You know that. He's lonely."

Astoria had started nodding with every word. She had flushed again, and Harry could see where Draco's impression of her weakness came from. She looked much too prettily flustered. Still, Draco didn't stop at surfaces with the people he argued with; he would have to learn to see beneath his future wife's blush.

"I can see him happy," Harry said. "But he would never trust me if he knew it was me trying this. He won't notice you, for whatever stupid reason, until we make him glance your way. I'll make two copies of the letter, one for you and one for him, and of course I'll share any of his replies with you. So it'll be exactly as if you wrote it."

"I can't ever repay you," said Astoria, joy shining in her voice like stained glass. "But I want to try somehow. What—what can I do?"

Harry caught her hand and kissed it. "Just make him happy. That's all I ask."

*

Harry sat down to write the letter later that evening with a delicious feeling of anticipation in his stomach.

This was a way he could be close to Draco, legitimately, because he wasn't trying to force Draco to be with him. He was doing it for Astoria's sake, and for Draco's. He was going to make someone he loved happy, and solve two of his pressing problems at once.

And maybe, once he saw Draco smiling into Astoria's face on their wedding day, the first problem would be solved, too. Maybe Harry could let go of this love he had for Draco and move on to someone else.

He'd known what he wanted to say to Draco for a long time, so it wasn't a problem to pick up the quill and write.

Dear Ferret-face,

I'm sure that nickname probably made you sit back and stare at the parchment. Now you're looking over your shoulder to see if I'm in the room. Trust me, I'm not—although I'm very good at Disillusionment Charms and also at finding sources of information to tell me about events I didn't witness myself. I just wanted to make sure I had your attention.

No, I don't really think you look like a ferret. And though you're handsome, your looks are the least important thing to me.

This is a letter from someone who really respects and admires you for the changes you've made in your personality since the war, because I know what you were like before it. You were small and petty. You struggled to be civil to people you thought were beneath you because of their blood. You snarled at people when things didn't go your way. You gave information about Harry Potter away to the newspapers. Making up for your mistakes was beyond you. You had far too much pride.

But you've turned around and, Draco, I'm proud of you. Do many people say that to you? I hope your mother does, but a mother isn't the same thing as a lover. And I know some of your dates would simper about pride, but they really wanted you to compliment them.

I'm not looking for compliments, except the compliment of a steady answer to this. If you're not interested, say so at once. But if you're interested in someone who notices all the bored glances you give around you at restaurants—someone who held their breath each time you were about to do something huge, in case this was the time you messed up, and who celebrated when you proved yourself with every single one—someone who thinks that you really should stop looking past people you'll never end up with and spend less time stringing them along—

Then reply to this. I can't say you'll get a response immediately; my life doesn't revolve around you. But it'll probably be in a few days. Or a week. Two weeks at the very outside.

You're wasting your life and your time the way it is. You could do so much more.

Yours,

A very sincere friend.

Grinning, Harry sat back and surveyed the letter. Then he leaped to his feet and went in search of Grimoire, the owl he'd bought after the war—a great horned owl with dark feathers, as unlike Hedwig as possible.

If everything worked out, then Astoria and Draco would both be happy, and Harry would be happy by proxy.

And of course it was going to work out. How could Draco fail to be intrigued by the letters, and how could he fail to work out that it was Astoria sending them when she dropped little hints from them into conversation?

Harry had never come up with a plan that couldn't possibly fail. He figured he was due one now.