Title: The Marriage Bet
Author(s): josephinestone
Beta(s)/Alpha(s): digthewriter, tavia_d, helikesapeanut
Written For: wipbigbang
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco
Rating: R
Content: bets, arranged marriage, genderbending Draco, hints at mpreg
Summary: Ginny just signed a two year Quidditch contract and is questioning her future with Harry, but Harry is ready to for them to promise their lives to each other. Draco runs into Harry at a jeweller's shop and bets him that he'd be a better spouse for him then Ginny would; Draco believes that you learn to love your spouse through marriage, but Harry thinks you have to be in love first for a marriage to work. Dejected because Ginny just called it quits for the two years she'll be away, Harry agrees.

'So,' Draco said as he entered the jewellry store, 'the rumours are true.'

Harry didn't look up, but he recognised the voice. He tried not to let Draco Malfoy get to him, even though Harry was already in a rather downcast mood. The rings had got the best of him for the better part of an hour. Harry stiffened when he asked, 'What do you want, Malfoy?' but kept his focus on the three rings left in front of him.

'I heard that you made the unfortunate decision to marry the youngest Weasley.' Draco came to stand next to Harry looked over the rings himself.

Harry had narrowed it down to three out of the hundreds around him. Picking one out of three should have been a much simpler task than what he'd already gone through that day. Yet Harry wasn't any closer to making a decision than he had been when he'd walked in the door.

The first ring was a simple, solitaire diamond with a plain white gold band. The one sat in the middle was a yellow gold with about fifteen diamonds; the biggest a heart cut one which was surrounded by the smaller ones. The third was black, but with a huge sapphire instead of the traditional diamond. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Draco judging them and wince as his eyes looked over the middle one.

'What's so unfortunate about it?' Harry turned his anger away from the rings and focused on Draco. 'Marriages are happy occasion for most people.' Though it wouldn't surprise Harry to find that Draco was one of the few that found the idea of marriages miserable. He found most things miserable.

'Come on, Potter,' Draco began and then smiled at him. It gave Harry an uneasy feeling in his stomach. Bad things tended to happen to Harry when Draco Malfoy smiled at him. 'Even I can admit that you could do better.'

Harry grit his teeth. He should have known the insults would start right away, even if they hadn't seen each other in over a year by then. 'I don't have the same outlook on life as you do,' Harry pointed out as he told himself he'd grown past losing his temper over other's petty, jealous opinions. 'She's the one who could do better than me.' Harry smiled to show that Draco's words had no affect on him.

'I can see how you would think that.'

'Now I'm just confused.' Was that supposed to be a compliment to Ginny, or was he saying that Harry had bad taste?

'That should be a familiar feeling for you.'

Harry glared at him, but Draco just smirked back.

'Is it not?' Draco waited a bit for Harry to respond and continued when he didn't, 'It's all about perspective. You're looking at it as if you aren't the famous Harry Potter, but just your-messy-lost-and-confused-self.' Draco glanced from Harry's still impossible to tame hair to the three most dissimilar rings in front of them and the back to Harry's eyes. 'Despite her family, she's extremely talented and beautiful enough to even make Blaise Zabini's head turn; the most vain man you'll ever met. She could have just about anyone she wanted.'

'And she chose me,' Harry said it more for his own benefit than to counter Draco. 'Which I'm lucky and happy for.'

'You see—' Draco shook his head. 'That's my point.'

Harry groaned and rubbed his forehead as he tried to remember if Draco always made this little sense. Probably. He had valid reasons for disliking him after all.

'She didn't choose you, but Harry Potter.'

'But, I am Harry Potter.'

'She chose Harry Potter the public figure. The legend she heard about and fallen in love with before she'd even met you: Harry Potter, the person. If you were not him, she would want nothing to do with you.'

Draco waved his hand dismissively in the air.

'That's not true!' It wasn't the first time someone had suggested it. Ginny did have a crush on him before she'd ever properly met him, but it was years ago. It didn't mean anything any more. 'We're in love.'

'Well then, that's even worse,' Draco said as if he were surprised. 'I thought she was going to be away for a few years?'

'Only two, and how would that make it worse? You're not making any bloody sense.'

Draco watched Harry's face closely and it made Harry look back down to be reminded of his problem. He had no idea which of the rings she'd prefer. Even with how different they were from each other, he couldn't tell if any of them would be perfect for her. Did she love or hate gold? Would she prefer something traditional or out of the ordinary? Though it was the one thing Draco hadn't thrown in his face yet, Harry knew anyone who saw him then would know how little he knew about his girlfriend.

'What if she finds someone else?'

'She won't.' Harry wanted to add ibecause she wouldn't be looking, because she has me/i, but he knew that wasn't as true as it used to be.

'What if you do?'

'I won't.' Harry was more sure of that. He knew he wouldn't be looking for anyone else, and he was too busy in training to have time to meet people outside of work.

'Because you're in love with her?' Draco asked, rolling his eyes. 'People cheat on people that they "love" everyday. Even when they are married and supposedly very happy together.'

'Then they don't really love each other,' Harry said. 'And yes, of course I love her.'

'And is it incomprehensible to love two people at the same time?'

Harry could tell that Draco was setting him a trap, but he continued anyway. 'If you're really in love with someone, then yes.'

'I love both my mother and my father, and I know that I'll love my partner someday when I get married. How is that possible?'

'That's not the same.' Harry looked away from the rings. He knew he was right, but he could not explain it as well. 'You know what I mean.'

'No, I'm afraid not. What do you mean?'

And of course, Draco was going to make him explain it. 'There are different kinds of love. You love your parents in a different way than you love your spouse.'

'Yes.' Draco gestured for him to continue.

'So, yes, you can love more than one person, but you will only love one person the way you love your spouse.' Harry was actually satisfied with his answer. He felt that he made his point, but he forgot that he was dealing with Draco. And Draco would never agree with him on anything.

'You're such a fool. Real love grows. You don't really love her; you don't even know her. What you're feeling now is lust that will fade once you have to deal with the real her. Which she probably won't show you until after you're married. You can't even vaguely guess the type of ring she'd prefer. A ring you're going to ask her to wear every single day for the rest of her life.'

How could he honestly have that conversation with Draco Malfoy? He was the most heartless person that Harry had ever met in his life.

'What would you know about love? You've never experienced it. You have never even been in a relationship.'

Draco inhaled and exhaled slowly whilst Harry looked around the shop. All the rings looked ugly to him then. The shopkeeper stood idly by in the back watched at them curiously. Draco kept his voice down when he continued, 'Look, I'm not trying to fight with you.'

Harry looked at him disbelievingly.

'I'm trying to help you.'

'Oh, really?'

'Yes,' Draco said, and then after a beat. 'I've never really thanked you for saving my life.'

Harry narrowed his eye suspiciously.

'And I thought you could use some advice before you ruined yours.'

'My life's fine, but thank you for your concern.' Harry still didn't trust where the conversation was going, but added, 'And you're welcome.'

'Look, whether you want to be or not, you are and always will be Harry Potter: public figure.'

Harry nodded; he knew that he could never run from it.

'Because of this, people will always try to take advantage of you, even if they themselves do not realise it at the time.'

Harry was beginning to learn that too, but still he just shook his head. 'Ginny's not like that.' Draco saw everyone in a negative light.

'My point is that you would benefit more from a political marriage than from one based on romance. You need someone that can keep your private life private and help you capitalise on your fame instead of run from it.'

'So you're suggesting I should marry someone like . . . like . . . you then? And not the woman I love?' Harry just wanted the conversation to end and the attack on his personal life to be over. He couldn't explain why he was right. He just knew it. He could show it to everyone that he loved Ginny, and he could prove Draco wrong. Just not with words, he had never been very good with words.

'Whoever you choose, you'd learn to love each other. It takes work, compromise and commitment. Why not with me?'

Harry was taken aback. Was Draco actually suggesting that they were a better match? They couldn't stand each other. Harry would end up killing him, but Draco just continued as if it was a great idea.

'It's common throughout history for two countries to marry royalty as part of their peace treaties after wars.'

He and Draco were very different from two strangers who were forced into a situation like that together, though. They had a long and hateful history behind them.

'You honestly believe that we could fall in love with each other?'

'Yes,' Draco answered quickly without thought. 'At the very least, I believe it'd be a better match than you marrying her.'

'You're wrong.' It was all he could say. Draco was wrong. He had to be.

'Prove it.' Draco gave him a challenging glare, which encouraged Harry to do the same. Nothing was changed about the git, just his bone structure showed that time had gone by. When he made that face he looked sixteen again in an instant. They were nineteen then and though Draco had graduated on time, Harry had returned for another year and graduated with Ginny. So, Harry hadn't seen Draco since the final battle almost two years prior.

'How?' Other than marrying Ginny and staying together forever, something that neither of them really had any control over. Especially, Harry. Ginny already made it clear she wasn't ready for marriage, and didn't know when she would be. The only other option was to … 'You want me to marry you, just so it can all fall apart?'

'What else are you going to do while she's away for two years?'

'I'll be working.' Harry tilted his head, curiously watching Draco's slightly smirking face. Draco was winning, and they both knew it. 'Just as she's going to.'

'Do you plan on seeing each other a lot? Or are you just getting engaged so everyone would know that you're both off limits?' Draco laughed as he said that, and Harry's curiosity was replaced, once again, with anger.

'What? No!' He was looking at rings because of his own wishful thinking. They weren't getting engaged; they weren't even officially together anymore.

Draco was impossible. Every few minutes Harry lost his temper with him. He hadn't lost his temper in years before then, and Harry didn't know why he felt the need to be honest with him. It was none of Draco's business.

'Actually,' Harry said, 'What I was going to do was buy the ring now . . . but I was going to give it to her before she left, so that when she came back she would know that I'll be here waiting for her.' He paused and looked around for the shopkeeper, who was still at the back of the shop, and then finished mumbling, 'Technically, we are not even going to be together while she's away.'

Saying all of that aloud made it sound a bit more pathetic than it had in his head.

He was second guessing even letting Ginny know he had been thinking of it then. He certainly was not going to go through with it. How was it that Draco still had that effect on him? He had defeated the most powerful dark wizard since Grindelwald, and a fifteen-minute conversation with Draco made him feel like a small child that had never heard of a broomstick before.

'And you expect her to be faithful?' Draco looked like he was trying to hold back a laugh, but had failed.

'No, of course not, but if you love something. When you let it go, it returns to you. That's how you know it's meant to be.'

'Where did you hear that rubbish?'

Harry was silently asking himself the same question along with "why did I just say that?" Draco didn't need anything else to make fun of him about, and he kept spouting out arguments like a lovesick thirteen-year-old. He closed his eyes and wished he was anywhere except next to Draco Malfoy defending his romanticism.

'It's just a saying; one that I happen to believe in.'

'So you're saying that we have two years?'

Harry took one step back away from Draco as he contemplated what he meant. Was Draco actually suggesting that they should try it? Not just in theory, but actually do it?


'We have two years to prove each other wrong,' Draco said, slowly to make sure that Harry understood him. 'Two years for me to make you fall in love with me; two years for you to prove to me that you never will.'

'Uhm … are you suggesting that we should get married?' Harry hoped that saying it would make him change his mind and let it go, but Draco just smiled, stepped toward Harry, and said, 'Yes, Potter. Do try to keep up.'

They'd kill each other.

Harry studied Draco's face. He looked serious. Draco had never been the best at hiding his feelings, at least not his anger, so Harry concluded that he was intending that was what they should do. The silence stretched while Harry actually considered it. He would be able to prove Draco wrong. He could show him that it would never work between them. Even with all the rules for marriage that Harry was sure Draco had been taught were what made them work, they hated each other. No amount of manners or time spent together would change that.

After all, he had lived with Ron and had spent most of his waking hours with Hermione, since they were eleven, and he wasn't in love with them. He loved them, yes, but as family. He was also straight, so the idea was ridiculous in itself.

What harm could it really do?

All he would be doing for the next two years was Auror training. Ginny had suggested that they should take a break while she went away, just as they had done when he was away in his seventh year of school. They decided they would wait for each other once again. It would prove that they belonged together: there was no way he was going to fall in love with Draco. He could grow to care about him, maybe, but he would never feel about Draco the way he felt about Ginny.

He must have been thinking for too long about it, because just as he decided it might not be such a bad idea, Draco faltered.

'You can just say "no",' Draco said, stepping away from the case, away from Harry. 'It's okay, I didn't actually expect you to be up for it.'

Draco was backing out?

Like always, Harry found he could not resist a challenge when Draco presented one. No, they were definitely going to get married, and Harry was going to prove him wrong.

'Why not? Let's do it, let's get married for two years.' He took a few steps down towards the men's rings as Draco slowly followed him. 'Then when we're still not in love with each other, we can get a divorce.'

'And if we are in love with each other?' Draco's eyes fell down to the case, but Harry couldn't tell which ring he was looking at.

'Well, then—we'll already be married. Won't we?'

Draco gave a slight smirk. 'So then, we could tell all of your adoring fans?'

'Oh,' Harry said surprised—that Draco thought about Harry's fans at all, but also that he hadn't planned on going public with it as soon as possible. The Malfoy name wasn't exactly igood/i anymore. It was rumoured that his mother had become a recluse. Having Harry as a spouse would do a lot to help change that. 'You're not going to use this to your advantage for the next two years? Wouldn't it be good for . . .' Harry didn't feel comfortable finishing that thought with the way Draco was frowning at him.

'No, it would not be good for my family if we get a divorce after only two years. And I'm sure you would rather no one knew about it, other than family and, in your case, close friends.'

'Right.' Harry wouldn't appreciate the attention they'd get for it. He gestured down to the case. 'So, which ring do you like?'

Draco studied Harry for a moment before answering. 'If we do this, we have to do it by the rules.'

'And what would those be?' Harry asked sensing a catch.

'You can't treat this like we're just friends with benefits,' Draco said. I'm not going to be your roommate. We need to make every decision together. You can't walk out after a fight, or just run away when you don't get your way.'

'So … I have to ask for your permission before I go to see my friends?'

'I don't mean permission, but you should let me know where you're going or more likely take me with you. Just do with me what you would do with Ginny. If you would've taken her somewhere, then you have to take me. If you would have told her something or asked her opinion . . . '

'What if you don't want to go?' Harry couldn't see Draco wanting to spend evenings with Ron and Hermione like how he and Ginny used to all the time. It was easy with Ginny, because they had all the same friends. If he wanted to see Ron and Hermione, but she wanted to see Neville and Luna then they just all went out together.

'Then we'll have to find a compromise.' Draco rolled his eyes at Harry. Obviously, they'd have to find compromises. 'As we will do with a lot of things, like where we're going to live. All I'm saying is that you can't treat this like you could leave tomorrow, because if this were a real arranged marriage you couldn't. You leave, then you lose.'

'Fine.' Harry wasn't a child. He knew marriage was a commitment, even if their marriage would be a fake marriage. It would be great practice for when he married Ginny. After two years of living with Draco, getting back with Ginny would be bliss.

Draco actually smiled as they both stared down at the case of rings. He pointed to a platinum ring that had a snake etched around half of it with a jade in the middle for the eye. Harry rolled his eyes. How perfectly Draco. Harry could have put up a fight, but he happened to like it as well. He'd looked at it before when debating on matching rings for himself and Ginny, but of course the ring that went with it also had a snake on the band. Not something she would likely have wanted.

Being a Parseltongue, he had always liked snakes, especially when he was younger. Seeing a snake always reminded him of Dudley and his friends running from the snake at the Zoo. Strangely enough, they made him feel happy and safe. They were the first friends he had. He waved the attendant over, instead of giving Draco an actual response.

'I'd like two of these, please.'

The attendant, who had been pretending he wasn't listening in on their conversation, simply nodded and asked, 'Size?'

Harry answered first, and then Draco's sized turned out to be only one size smaller than Harry's. He could feel Draco's stare as he worked out the details with the shopkeeper. They'd be ready in six weeks. With the rings settled, Harry made his way out of the shop. He tried to exhale his nervousness. Had he just finished asking Ginny to marry him, he could imagine himself full of energy ready to plan the whole thing. But instead it felt as though he were looking at a mountain.

He had to tell everyone. That was more frightening than the rest of it to Harry right then.

'So,' Draco said as he came to stand beside him. 'We're really getting married?'

'Yeah, I guess we are.'

'How soon would you like the wedding to be?'

Harry cringed; were they going to have a real wedding? All for a bet? 'I don't know,' Harry said not sure how to disagree with that part right away. How would they hide a wedding from the press? What was the point of a celebration, if they were going to be hiding the union from the world anyway?

'I'll have to speak with my mother—and you with your friends—to make sure they know not to tell anyone about it, but they all also need to know. It wouldn't be like a real marriage if we didn't have to deal with the people in our lives being a part of it. We can't hide it from them.'

'What should I tell them?' Harry said more to himself than Draco, but Draco answered.

'The truth: that we made a bet, and that it requires us to be married for two years. We can't spend a the traditional year to plan it, so how about two months? That way we can make sure to have the rings.'

Two months? Could they really get it all done that quickly?

'You think we can plan it that fast?'

'Potter.' Draco shook his head at him. 'We are very rich. Do not underestimate what we can accomplish.'

Harry grit his teeth.

'How about we meet for lunch on Monday to discuss the details of our arrangement?'

'Fine.' Harry nodded. 'Where?'

'Meet me at the tea-shop on that corner.' Draco gestured toward the Bat's Wing. 'One o'clock.'