Author's Note: Thanks to Shannon and TutelaTwin for their beta work on this chapter. This story is panning out to be about 21 chapters long, though that might fluctuate slightly as I go. It's DH compliant minus the epilogue and set 12 years from the war.
Chapter 1 Sound Advice
While letting the tea cool in his favorite mug – the one with the flying Snitch buzzing around on it – Harry turned to his favorite section of The Quibbler. He'd given up reading the Prophet years ago since it had gotten no more reliable after the war than it was during. He knew Ron would give him such a rash of shite if he knew that Harry read the advice column first every week, or that part of him even looked forward to it, but he couldn't bring himself to care as he scanned over the printed page to find the article in question. This was the only indulgence he allowed himself; he didn't drink excessively, he didn't smoke, he didn't gamble, he should be allowed this one small vice.
Dear Professor Amore,
I've been dating my boyfriend for about three months and things are great when we're alone, but my family doesn't trust or accept him. He's a pureblood and I'm Muggle-born and my parents just can't accept his family's beliefs. I care about him and I'm certain he cares about me, but how can a relationship work when I can't even bring him to Christmas dinner with me?
Confunded in Cambridge
That kind of relationship is destined to fail if you don't stand up to your family.
It sounds to me like you might share some of your family's worries or else you wouldn't be letting them dictate your love life. If you love him, you need to demand that your family respect him as they do you, and if you don't love him, you should let him go so he can find a woman who will treat him the way he deserves. Love conquers all, so even if your family is wary at first, if you want to stay together and get married, you'll have to find a way to make them see how happy he makes you.
Harry sighed and shook his head lightly. He remembered when Ginny started dating her husband Clive, who was a Slytherin, and the Weasleys had a minor epileptic fit. He thought the Professor's logic was dead on as usual and he envied her. She probably had a long, healthy marriage and great children and everything else Harry wanted for himself. Outsiders seemed jealous of Harry's wealth and fame and assumed it would be easy as Cauldron Cakes for him to find a partner, but Harry wasn't nearly as lucky in love as one might expect of the Hero of the Wizarding World, much to the contrary in fact. As he did every Friday when he read Professor Amore's column, Harry thought of sending in his own lovelorn letter to see what advice she might have for his love life - or lack thereof - but he never knew exactly what he would say on the matter.
Harry was a successful Auror and very close to the promotion of Department Head he'd been coveting for the last year or so. He had spectacular friends and a warm adoptive family in the Weasleys and wouldn't trade any of them for the world. The media still lurked around at every corner, but Harry found himself growing more accustomed to their bulb flashes and seeing his picture on the front page of newspapers accompanying some mundane story about what soap he preferred to buy. In spite of this seemingly wonderful life, something was always missing because he had no one to come home to and share it with.
His love life over the past decade had been a train wreck, not that he had done so well in Hogwarts either, but after the war it seemed people only wanted two things from him; money or fame. Although to be fair, some people he dated after the war wanted both. Discovering he was gay made things that much more difficult, but he was persistent. He even tried dating within his close circle of friends from school, people he knew and trusted, but that had been…awkward at best.
When he heard the fireplace in his kitchen flame to life he quickly stuffed the magazine away and stood to greet his new visitor. "Harry?" called a dreamy voice from the kitchen as he rounded the corner.
"Luna! What brings you here?" Harry asked, hugging his friend with the enthusiasm he often felt in her presence. Luna was such a caring woman, and his respect for her only grew when she married Ron and had five children, all while juggling her position as editor for the magazine he'd just been reading. Her dreamy qualities had taken a different tone when her first child was born and she seemed to live more in the here-and-now, though Harry always smiled at her occasional mentions of Wrackspurts or other ridiculous things.
Luna was dressed in violet robes with a very loud silk blouse peaking out from underneath. Her blonde hair was pulled up in a neat twist that exposed her trademark radish earrings – some things never changed. Harry thought after all these years it was a wonder she hadn't lost them, but sometimes he suspected she had more than one pair. An image of Luna's jewelry box stuffed to bursting with tiny beaded vegetables came unbidden to his mind and his grin only grew wider.
As she easily spelled a dribble of tea from his otherwise crisp white jumper, she returned his smile sweetly before looking rather taxed for a brief moment. "I'm afraid I need a favor," she admitted with a slight grimace.
"Anything, Luna," Harry replied without hesitation. His cluster of friends had grown smaller, but tighter over the past several years and Harry was very close with Luna, more so than he might have suspected he'd be when he first met the eccentric girl back at Hogwarts.
"Well, Ron's sick with the flu and can't manage Philius, Quinn and Prewett on his own - you know how they are," she added with wince. The three boys were the youngest of five, with the twin girls Frieda and Georgina already at Hogwarts. Ron had his hands full with the rambunctious boys when he was at the top of his health, so Harry could only imagine the havoc the boys would cause without proper conscious supervision. "It would only be for a few hours and normally I'd stay myself but I can't miss another meeting with the magazine's new sponsor. He's a bit gruff."
"Consider it done," Harry replied before she could speak another word. "I'll just finish my tea and be right over."
"Oh, Harry, you're a lifesaver, really. If there is anything I can do for you, just say the word and it's yours!" she exclaimed before kissing Harry on the cheek and flittering over to the fireplace.
Watching the three Weasley boys while simultaneously taking care of a sickly Ron was like tying a dragon to a rocket and letting it loose in the house. He probably cast Reparo more times in three hours than he had his entire life. It was exhausting. When Luna got home and relieved him of duty, Harry gratefully went back to his own flat and went comatose in front of his Muggle telly. He had no idea what possessed Ron and Luna to have five children. Harry wanted kids of course, but he wanted to keep the number more confined to one or two. He would have to adopt, for obvious reasons, and the adoption process in wizarding society was even more rigorous than it was in the Muggle world. Harry sometimes even wondered if they would allow him to adopt since he was in the public eye so much.
Thoughts of children and adoption just brought him around to sulking that he didn't have a partner to raise the children with in the first place and Ron's house today was proof that two parents were far more effective than one, though in all fairness, there were three boys, and they were Weasley boys at that. Prewett and Quinn in particular made Fred and George look like tamed unicorns by comparison.
Tired of sulking, Harry grabbed his broom from the cupboard and went for a nice long flight. The wind in his hair was liberating as always, and it cleared way for his mind to focus on what was important to him. This feeling of weightlessness always invigorated him and he came up with some of his best ideas while on his broom, swooping above the streets of London.
Finally the culmination of his day –the Quibbler article, the unexpected visit from Luna, spending the day with his nephews - seemed to give way to the perfect answer. The solution to his problem was only an anonymous letter away. He could write to Professor Amore and ask her advice on how someone like him could find his true love. If anyone could help him with his love life it was the woman who made so many lives better.
The thought thrilled him and he found himself making his way home, where he planted himself at his desk with a spare bit of parchment and ink. After staring at a blank scroll for what felt like hours, he finally wrote a short letter to Professor Amore. He hoped desperately that the woman wouldn't laugh at his ineptitude in the dating world, or at least if she did, she would keep it to herself.
Dear Professor Amore,
What would you suggest for a person who wants nothing more than to have a relationship and settle down, but can't seem to find Mr. Right? My life is a tad unconventional and I've struggled with finding someone who can both tolerate living in the public eye and also not feel the need to exploit it for their own benefit. It's so hard to find a date when everyone seems to want something from you.
Without giving it a second thought, because he knew if he did he'd probably incinerate the parchment rather than send it in, Harry rolled it up, stamped it with a heavy wax seal and sent it along to the address listed in the Quibbler. His masked owl, Delano, seemed quite pleased to be let out of his cage for the journey and he watched as the bird flew out over the horizon, feeling relief that he was taking back some of the control in his love life.
The end of the week couldn't come soon enough for Harry, and as he flicked through the pages of the Quibbler looking for his favorite section, he wasn't disappointed. There in bold black type was his own letter and the response from Professor Amore herself.
Dear Lonely Lion,
As a public figure myself, I can understand the trappings that come along with celebrity in whatever form it takes. That being said, you can't simply assume the worst of people because there is certainly someone out there for you and if you give up looking, you'll never find him. My advice would be to go to your friends and family, people you trust, and seek their assistance. Ask them to set you up with someone they respect who they think might be a good fit for you. Who knows, the man of your dreams might be a few cubicles away from your best friend's office and you would have never known without asking.
Harry blinked as he processed the advice and realized how brilliant it really was. His friends were a close-knit group, but he trusted them all not to pair him up with some lunatic and at least one of them was bound to know someone that Harry didn't already know. Harry almost wished he could kiss the professor for her expert advice. He really didn't want to be the ponce asking his friends for blind dates, but he couldn't fault the logic one bit. It was perfect timing too, since everyone was getting together at Ginny's that evening for their weekly soiree.
Every Friday night Harry and his friends would all meet at one of their homes and drink wine and chat about whatever struck their fancy. With everyone's lives so full and hectic, it was important that they set aside a little bit of time to just be with people who made them comfortable and who accepted everything about them – or at least that was how Harry felt about it. Some of them might just use it as a temporary escape from work or children, but Harry looked forward to every Friday night when he was assured time with Hermione, Ron, Ginny and Luna and whoever else showed up.
It would be the perfect opportunity to do as the brilliant professor had instructed.
The advice of Professor Amore still lingering on the outskirts of his conscious thought, Harry felt ill at ease as he milled about Ginny's manor looking for someplace to set his drink down. Expensive pottery or vases overflowing with fresh flowers occupied all the little accent tables in the garden room, leaving him to hold his glass of crisp white wine. There were two large seating areas and his friends were all chatting amicably about what they had been up to since the last party. Harry wanted to get his mission over with, but he was afraid of how he would be received, begging for a date from his friends.
Hermione and Neville occupied a small window seat in front of a large bay window that overlooked a pristine garden. To the untrained eye, the couple might look like casual friends, but Harry knew better. Hermione only curled her hair around her finger when she was so close to the man at her side, and she was the only one who giggled lightly at his jokes about Herbology. Neville was a bit more overt with his affection, his hand casually placed at the small of Hermione's back and he would always brush the lock of hair Hermione played with back behind her ear when she let it fall. They had been married for nearly eight years come this fall, and it seemed their love had never dwindled in spite of working in such close proximity with one another at Hogwarts.
"Any new Transfiguration lessons being included in this year's curriculum, Mi?" Ron asked. "I taught Gina everything I could remember from First year, but I'm afraid it might not be enough."
"Well, if you could recall any of the lessons from our first year I'd be impressed, Ronald. Especially since you rarely paid attention in that class," she teased. "Gina should do just fine though, she's a bright witch and so is her sister. They must take after their mother," she mused with a playful smile.
"Oi!" Ron balked and puffed his chest out indignantly. "You don't need high Transfigurations marks to be a professional Quidditch player, and I scored brilliantly on my Auror's exam. If playing Keeper for the Cannons didn't pay so much better than working for the Ministry, I would be going into an office like Harry every day."
"Don't you act for a minute like you don't adore it," Harry butted in with a laugh. "Quidditch allots you all the time you want with the kids and I've seen you with those boys. You're just as enthralled in their games as they are." Ron had floundered with a few things before settling into his career as Keeper for his favorite team. With Ron's help, the Cannons had actually made it to last year's World Cup.
"They are fun!" Ron admitted excitedly. "We never had Slap Stones when I was a kid, and they can already fly pretty well. I bet they'll both make it on the Gryffindor Quidditch team and then maybe they'll follow after their father's footsteps and fly for the Cannons."
"If they actually make it into Gryffindor, you mean?" asked a smooth voice from the doorway. "Frieda got placed in Ravenclaw and Ginevra and Clive's brood are bound to end up in Slytherin."
"There is no reason to tease him, Draco dear," Ginny cooed as she greeted her newest guest with a cool embrace before turning her attention to her husband, who had walked in with Draco
Harry backed up a step at the blond's entrance. He'd only seen the man occasionally over the last few years, despite their mutual friends, and Harry was forced to note that time had been kind to Draco Malfoy. Instead of growing his hair out long like most wizards did, Draco had kept his cropped close to his face so that it fell in elegant tendrils along his cheekbone and around his ears. It looked like he'd flown here because his cheeks were tinged a pale pink and it was obvious by the lithe body under his perfectly tailored robes that the man still played the occasional game of Quidditch.
Draco's metallic gaze met his and caught him staring so Harry immediately dropped his eyes to the floor and cleared his throat. "Would anyone care for some more wine?" he asked abruptly, "I think I'm going down to the cellar to grab another bottle, okay Gin?"
Ginny smirked at him, an expression Harry was sure she'd picked up from her Slytherin husband, Clive. She certainly never smirked like that when they dated over a decade ago now. Harry liked Clive though, and tried not to hold it against the man that he smirked like Draco Malfoy was doing in his direction right that very moment. "Of course, Harry," she replied and pointed in the direction of the cellar even though Harry had been there a dozen times or more.
He was eager to make his escape of the claustrophobic room, made more so by the newest arrival. Draco Malfoy was undeniably attractive, but that was where his positive aspects ended. He was cold, aloof and probably had more trouble with romances because of it than even Harry did. Over the years Harry had seen the man from a distance at Ministry functions, and of course he heard about him a great deal because of their shared set of friends. Hermione worked with him occasionally when he gave his special education lessons to the more advanced Potions students at Hogwarts, and Ginny of course was friends with him through her husband, who graduated a year after Draco from Slytherin house. Those snakes always seemed to stick together.
Harry roamed the corridor until he found the aged barrel door that would lead down to the wine cellar. He left it open behind him so he could see the path ahead of him down the staircase but a shadow blocked his light and he nearly stumbled halfway down. Turning toward his assailant, Harry noticed the shock of white-blond hair first. "Malfoy," he addressed in clipped tones. "You're blocking my light."
Draco merely chuckled and gave his wand a flick, lighting the whole room with ease. "Do you forget that you're a wizard, Potter?" he asked with a teasing laugh.
"Sometimes," Harry muttered honestly. "What are you doing down here, Malfoy?"
"I thought you might like company," he mused and met Harry at the bottom landing where they turned to face the rows upon rows of dusty wine bottles.
"I'm fine, Malfoy, you can head back up with your friends if you'd like," Harry suggested. He held his old animosity toward the man wrapped around him like a warm blanket. Remembering that he once poisoned Ron and cursed Katie Bell made it easier not to think about the fact that he somehow smelled like fresh baked brownies.
"You injure me, Potter," he replied with mock offense. "Are we not friends?"
"Are we?" Harry asked, not bothering to keep his face schooled into a careful mask as Malfoy always did. Instead he let the outrageousness of that comment show fully on his features.
"No, I suppose not," he admitted at last, "but we could be."
"Malfoy," Harry began but the blond cut him off.
"Draco," he corrected but Harry just rolled his eyes.
"Malfoy," he began again, noting the exasperated chuckle that escaped the blond's lips at Harry's refusal to use his given name, "I'm happy that you and my other friends get along after all these years, but really, don't you think that you and I are too dissimilar to be friends?"
"No," he replied plainly.
Harry sighed tiredly and pointed to a bottle with a shiny gold label. "How about that one?" he asked, determined to change topic and get out from under the man's hovering gaze.
"Too dry," Draco complained and began scanning the contents of the cellar himself. "This one," he said at last and pulled down a dusty bottle of Shiraz.
He aimed his wand at the bottle and gave it a little flick. The cork shot out of the glass like a bullet and hovered in the air until Draco plucked it up and studied it. After a moment, he transfigured it into a goblet and poured an inch of the deep burgundy liquid inside before handing it to Harry.
After swirling and sniffing it, as he knew an aristocratic prat like Malfoy would expect of him, Harry took a sip and swallowed the fruity mixture down. "Quite good," he begrudgingly admitted. "I taste black cherries and smoked wood."
Draco smiled appreciatively before leaning in and capturing Harry's mouth. The brunet froze, his eyes flinging wide as he wondered what the hell the former Slytherin was playing at. Draco's tongue did a quick, yet thorough sweep of Harry's mouth and then pulled away so casually that Harry began to wonder if it had happened at all.
"Yes, I do have good taste," Draco mused when he broke the kiss. Harry just stood there staring awkwardly as the blond winked and turned away, carrying the bottle back upstairs with him.
"What the hell just happened?" Harry asked himself as he followed a few moments later. His mind was screaming that he'd just kissed Draco Malfoy of all people, but he quickly squashed that notion. If there was any kissing going on, it was Draco doing it, not him. He was in no way attracted to the sneaky git.
He carefully avoided the blond for the remainder of the evening and had nearly convinced himself that the incident had never even happened. It was easy enough when he would look up and see the man deep in conversation with Clive and Hermione and not paying even a lick of attention to him.
"So, how was your date with George?" Ron asked, pulling Harry out of his Malfoy haze.
"Hm? Oh, it was fun," he replied at last.
"To hear George talk about it you two hit it off," Ron offered hopefully.
Harry winced, remembering the night with some regret. "George is great," Harry began.
"But not the one?" Ron finished for him knowingly and Harry nodded.
"I hope I didn't ruin our friendship by asking him out," Harry sighed.
Ron simply shrugged and smiled. "I think he'll take the rejection well enough. I hear he's out with Angelina tonight."
"Good," Harry replied with a sigh of relief. "I've been meaning to ask, actually, do you think you have any single guy friends on your team?"
"Er, no one who isn't already seeing someone pretty serious," Ron mused. "Wait, I might know of someone, not from the Cannons, but I saw him at practice recently and I think he mentioned he was unattached. Want me to set it up?"
"I hate to ask," Harry began, but Ron cut him off with a laugh.
"Think nothing of it," he replied, clapping his friend on the back. "I'll see if he's busy next Friday. Maybe I can just invite him over to our place and you can see if you two hit it off. It'll be less pressure that way," Ron reasoned.
"Sometimes you surprise me, Ron," Hermione mused from the corner where she'd apparently been listening into their conversation. "That was so thoughtful."
"It's been known to happen occasionally," Ron muttered.
The rest of the party went smoothly. Harry kept a safe distance from Malfoy, completed his mission and perhaps even managed success out of it. He felt accomplished as he went home to sit in his favorite armchair with a glass of firewhiskey. Unfortunately, even though he felt his evening was a surprising victory, he couldn't get the taste of wine and Malfoy out of his mouth no matter how hard he tried.
Author's Note: Things are already heating up at a confusing pace for Draco and Harry, but who will this mysterious date be that Ron's setting up? Will anything come of it?