Love – A Business Arrangement
Harry and Lucius sent each other owls for over three weeks until they were both satisfied with their conditions. In the middle of March the contract landed on Harry's breakfast plate, narrowly missing his scrambled eggs and bacon. Ron and Hermione eyed the thick, official looking parchment curiously, but Harry just grinned and stuffed it away. Over the Ravenclaw table he winked at Draco.
"Hey, Harry, what was that all about?" Ron asked as he followed Harry out of the Great Hall. "What's so important that you can't tell us?"
"I don't can't tell, I don't want to," corrected Harry smugly. "Oh, stop pulling a face, Ron. How many months did you keep it a secret that you and 'Mione are going to go to France? And how long did it take you to tell me that you are engaged? Honestly Ron, now it's time for some fair play." He smirked. "But I'll give you a hint: it's important for my later future."
"But, but … Harry!" cried Ron disbelievingly. "We wanted to tell you, really! But do you know how difficult it is to say something like that?"
"Ron," said Harry with as much patience as he could muster, "We had that conversation before, and no, I'm not changing my mind. Live with it. And now come on, McGonagall is already waiting."
"You're mean," muttered Ron. "You're like that since you started hanging out with Draco ferret-boy Malfoy."
"You know that the Sorting Hat originally wanted to sort me into Slytherin. Stop whining and come on." Harry shook his head and decided to ignore his two best friends for a while until Ron had calmed down.
It was grating on his nerves that he had to explain everything three times until the red head had memorized it. It was annoying, really. Why couldn't Ron accept that his life would take a different path than his from now on? It was not that he didn't love Ron and Hermione, but maybe he had spent too much time with them and too little with other people. Draco was almost like a revelation for him. As was his father. As was Snape.
They went together into the Transfiguration classroom for another double lesson with Professor McGonagall.
After that he met with Draco in the Gryffindor Head Boy chamber. The blonde read the contract over his shoulder. They searched together for loopholes in Lucius' wording, but apparently there were none.
"It's solid," said Draco approvingly. "If you sign it then you found yourself a home for the next three years."
"And your father was fair. He let me time to negotiate terms and think things over. If we can believe the Daily Prophet then there's a little war going on in the Ministry right now. It was so bad that the Wizengamot decided to hold a pre-election for a temporary Minister. That's the perfect chance to give your dad a little push."
"Oh please, call him Lucius, you're confusing me."
"Lucius?" said Harry and cocked an eyebrow. "Wouldn't that fall into the category of "obnoxious behaviour" and therefore destroy our contract immediately?"
"I don't think so," chuckled Draco. He remembered that condition too well. "He's called Lucius by everyone, so I think he would feel strange if you would continue to call him Mr Malfoy."
"I will call him Mr Malfoy as long as he doesn't tell me otherwise. Maybe I can freak him out a bit."
"You just want to get him yelling at you, so you can do your terrible pouty mouth and melt his cold heart," Draco teased.
"Urgh, I may like men, but I'm not tired of my life, yet."
"My dad wouldn't kill you – would disturb his ambitions," Draco mocked. "And maybe you could tease him a bit."
"I planned to do that anyway, but without the jokes of the twins it's almost hopeless. And I can't annoy him too much or he kicks me out."
"I didn't mean pranks, silly boy," chuckled Draco. "I meant that you could tease him just with being yourself." He leaned a bit closer and nipped on Harry's ear, luring a soft purr from him. "As far as I know he likes men sometimes … younger men … I'd like to have a good laugh."
"You're mean, Draco," murmured Harry. "Teasing your dad is like teasing myself. He isn't ugly, you know? Gorgeous, in fact."
"That's why I am not ugly but gorgeous, too." The blonde nodded arrogantly and smiled cockishly. Then he raised an eyebrow. "Teasing will be okay, Harry. I know him, he will avoid coming home too often. But if he's there you can show him what you've got. I never manage to annoy him. And don't worry. His icebergish self won't change towards you for some time, so you won't feel attracted too much. You're not teasing yourself, you're merely acting as if you were at home."
"What are you thinking?" Harry asked suspiciously.
"Ooh, you in shorts and nothing else, or tight, clingy clothes, leather trousers …"
Harry smirked. "It sounds as if I'm already teasing you."
"Well, yes, but I know my father. He won't seem like it but he never, ever fails to notice something … delectable frolicking around."
"You are cruel," Harry mock-accused, pointing with his finger at the blond boy.
"Yeah, cruel and proud of it. Are you going to sign it right now?"
"No," said Harry with a glitter in his bright green eyes. "The last possibility to support your dad for a pre-elected position is the next Saturday, so I will let him sweat a little. Friday will do. And I have to speak with Dumbledore."
And so they headed together to Dumbledore's office, snickering about their evil plans.
x – xx - x
Dumbledore let the boys tell him everything about the arrangement and Harry's plans concerning the Malfoy patriarch. He even read the contract and pointed out the one or other condition, all the time chuckling merrily.
"That's better than even I had hoped for, Harry," he said, wiping his eyes. "Lucius will be great for the wizarding world, but he's a stubborn man that obviously needs a push in the right direction."
Draco smirked. "How good then that Harry's inner Slytherin is as stubborn as that of my father."
All three chuckled evilly and managed to munch lemon drops at the same time.
Of course Harry and Draco were allowed to Floo to London on Saturday so that they could support Lucius. Both told Dumbledore that they would work on a little speech which Harry would make in front of the press and audience. The world would be in an uproar for his sidling with a Malfoy, but it was time for changes, and it was about time that people finally realized that.
Dumbledore shooed them out because they had Care of Magical Creatures this afternoon and wished them luck. He expected them on Saturday around ten in his office. So they said goodbye and rushed out, still sniggering.
x – xx - x
On Friday morning Harry signed the contract and watched satisfied as it copied itself and one copy dissolved into nothing with a POP.
Portkey, not bad, Malfoy, he thought, grinning. Maybe he's fuming because I had him waiting for so long. Awww, poor Lucius.
Just last night he and Draco had finished their little speech. It was designed to uncover the weaknesses of the other suitors but also make Lucius a little bit nicer in the eyes of the audience. Harry by no means intended to make a pink fluffy bunny out of him, but certain … blemishes needed to be explained and forgiven in public. And he thought he had the right words for that.
Dumbledore would speak earlier, in order to keep the surprise as secret as possible.
Draco would accompany him, of course. For nothing in the world the blonde would let the possibility to see his friend and father cooperate slip by unnoticed. And a trip to Diagon Alley in the middle of the term was another thing which had to be considered, of course. Maybe a first glimpse at Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes was in order?
Ron and Hermione wouldn't leave him alone all day. Harry found himself almost fleeing from their presence. The questioning from Hermione and the outright accusations from Ron became worse and worse; he never would have thought that they could be so pestering. He had left his breakfast on his plate in order to sprint from the Great Hall as Hermione began to ramble about his new, secret life. Ron at her side was rambling about him abandoning his best friends and such.
He had also turned on his heel and skipped lunch for the Greater Good. With capital letters. Not that it did him any.
At teatime he was on the verge of starving, having had Care of Magical Creatures and DADA that afternoon. He was early and just starting to delve into his tomato soup when Hermione and Ron each seated themselves to his left and right and again started to prattle about his annoying behaviour these past weeks and months.
That was when he exploded. Quite literally. A bright red light engulfed him and glasses and plates exploded in a range of two metres into dust. Students squeaked in terror and Ron and Hermione jumped away from him – they had been zapped rather badly.
"Stay-the-hell-away-from-me," Harry ground out between clenched teeth. He surveyed the destroyed food, and then looked back at his terrified friends. The red light vanished, and Harry's hair floated back down over his shoulders. "I think I will eat with the Slytherins today," he said maliciously.
And without further ado he turned and stalked to the Slytherin table. People gaped after him, some terrified first years pointed at him, but at the moment he really didn't care.
Draco greeted him and scooped over a little bit so Harry could sit down. Pansy Parkinson lamented about the invading of her seat next to Draco, but the blonde glared at her and effectively shut her up. The rest of the Slytherins stared at Harry in astonishment and suspicion, but didn't say anything.
After his second cup of tea Harry relaxed a bit.
"Weasley and Granger did it again, eh?" Draco asked lightly. "I think I haven't seen you blow up like this for three months now."
"Yeah …" Harry pulled a face and buttered a roll.
"I guessed it would happen much earlier again – I know it would have happened if it were me who had to put up with these morons." Draco took a swig of his pumpkin juice.
Harry sighed. "It's just that they don't understand when it's enough. Before befriending you I used to tell them everything … well, almost everything." He glanced at Draco and smiled lightly. "But since I became your friend, their pestering is getting on my nerves. With you it's different."
"Trouble in paradise?" Pansy sneered. "Awww, poor Potter has lost his friends!"
Some Slytherins looked at her as if she was insane.
"Shut up, Parkinson," said Draco and Harry in unison and continued their conversation without missing a beat.
Shortly after that Harry helped himself to a new bowl of soup and started to eat. Draco watched him with a smile and waited for Harry to be able to speak again. It was, after all, very impolite to speak with a full mouth.
No one dared to interrupt that peaceful silence or even ask why Draco Malfoy was so fond of Harry Potter. They had watched and observed, waited to see what would come out of it, but instead of a trap there seemed to blossom genuine friendship. And at that point most of them had stopped caring. It was not their business, and most of them wanted to stay out of trouble, anyway.
Draco waited until Harry had enough food in his stomach to provide him until the next breakfast with energy. Then he put a dessert on his plate.
"Meet me in our room?" he asked teasingly.
Harry grinned. "Of course, you blond git. Can't have you walking around all on your own, now can I? We wouldn't want you to be assaulted by crazed fan girls."
Some Slytherins snickered while Pansy instantly turned red.
"How dare you!" she screeched.
"How dare I what?" Harry asked lazily. He took a bite of his chocolate dessert and looked at her as if she was mad. "Steal your precious Draco? Oh, I'm sooo sorry." His bored voice made more Slytherins chuckle.
An attrition of the table under her fingernails caught his attention. He smirked. "Really, it won't do to mutilate the poor table because of me … what will Professor Snape say?"
"He would say 'Ten points from Gryffindor for insulting my students, Potter'," Snapes silky voice told him.
"Damn that sexy voice," muttered Harry loud enough for Snape to hear it. Draco snickered. Then Harry straightened himself and said in a military voice: "Sir, yes, Sir! I deserve every point as punishment for my impudent behaviour!"
Pupils at the Gryffindor table started to laugh like mad, and even the Slytherins had trouble to keep their straight faces.
Snape smirked. "Ten points for Gryffindor for that excellent insight. And five points for good taste."
Snape swept away and left the Slytherin table in complete shock.
"Good taste, eh?" said Draco and elbowed Harry.
"Well, he has a damn sexy voice," the black haired boy shrugged. "What can I say?"
"You have him wrapped around your finger!" yelled Pansy beyond angry now. "Do you fuck him as well?"
"Ten points from Slytherin, Miss Parkinson," said Snape in his deadly voice from the teachers' table. "Another comment like that and you will serve detention for a month with Hagrid and Filch."
Harry and Draco used the opportunity to sneak out and head to the Room of Requirement. No one ever searched them there, and since Harry had his precious map always with him Ron and Hermione weren't able to find him. They didn't think of this room anymore where they had their DADA lessons with other pupils who didn't wish to be misguided by Umbridge, back in fifth year.
Today it was Draco's turn to decide about the looks of the room. After three walks along the wall in the seventh floor the door appeared. The room looked like a winter garden. A huge glass front on the faraway wall let all the sun in which was just about setting, and the winter sky was a pale blue and rosé with fine wisps of gold streaked through it, mainly on the feathery clouds.
"Wow, this is beautiful," Harry breathed.
Draco smiled and walked to a cream white, sinfully soft sofa. In front of it stood a coffee table which had tea and some cookies on it for the two boys. They seated themselves and watched the sun go down slowly and vanish behind the horizon.
Harry cuddled Draco and sighed sadly. "Why can't I have all of you and my other friends at once?" he asked miserably. "I would love to go out with you and them together."
"It's a law of nature that Slytherins and Gryffindors don't get along."
"But we are–"
"No, you are more Slytherin than you know. You told me yourself that the hat wanted to sort you into Slytherin, and that only your insistence brought you into Gryffindor. That's why we make such great friends, and maybe that's why Weasley and Granger annoy the shit out of you lately."
Harry sighed. "But I got along with them for six years."
Draco sighed patiently. "Look, they might have been a great help to you during the war. It simply was you or Voldemort, and Slytherin couldn't have helped you. You know why."
Harry nodded meekly. With all of the Death Eater children he would never have had a chance to defeat Voldemort.
"So you mean it was … convenient to put me into Gryffindor?"
"Yes," said Draco. "Dumbledore could train and protect you without putting you into the danger of crazy students. And I do believe – and I'm saying that just once and never again – that Dumbledore did it right. It was necessary for your protection and your training. Had you been in Slytherin … maybe you would have become evil as well or died in your first year."
Harry contemplated that and found that Draco was absolutely right. It just was disturbing that his best friends were of no use anymore, now that the war was over and he didn't need the protection anymore.
"I know you feel bad," said Draco lovingly, "but that's life. You cut ties and make new ones. You shouldn't feel ashamed of it. They will go on without you quickly. Weasley always was jealous, and Granger thinks you are no match for her any longer, now that the Dark Lord is gone. Didn't you tell me that they want to go to France, anyway?"
"I hope that you are a tie that I won't cut," said Harry. "The hat said that one will find true friends in Slytherin. I hope that's true."
Draco nuzzled Harry's hair affectionately. "With us it's very true," he whispered. "And with my father, too. Once he sees what your strengths and weaknesses are he will like you as well." He leaned closer and murmured: "And what's going on with Snape?"
"Don't know," admitted Harry, grinning. "We're teasing us. I think he's sexy, but he's such a pain in the ass. Horrible. An absolutely disturbing mixture, believe me."
Draco laughed. "You don't know how many Slytherins think that, too."
Harry's eyes gleamed wickedly. "I thought about a little set-up," he purred into Draco's ear. "I assume Professor Snape is single, am I not right?"
"Very right," Draco snorted. "I never saw a man or woman who wanted to put up with his overactive brain."
"And since he's absolutely gauche in matters of the heart, I thought we could do him a little favour." He smirked. "I know by chance that a certain werewolf thinks Snape's sexy, too."
"Lupin?" shrieked Draco. "I thought he was with Black?"
"Nope," Harry shook his head. "They were like brothers, very close friends. Actually I heard that they bickered once about Remus' attraction to Snape. Sirius used to tease him about it."
"Mmmh, in that case it would be worth a try," agreed Draco. "Lupin really is a sexy bastard, even without trying."
"Aha?" teased Harry and lifted an eyebrow. "Well, then it's settled. We try to set Snape up with Lupin. Can't be too difficult, now can it?"
"And I just know how we get the whole thing started," said Draco excitedly. "We will ask Dumbledore if Snape can come along to Diagon Alley, as chaperon, because we need to buy some stuff after the speeches … you know the old fool, he would grant us almost everything if it helps to make Snape happy."
"Yeah, he's an absolute romantic at heart," agreed Harry, smiling. "So, shall I ask and you try to convince Snape? I could owl Remus and ask him to be in the shop tomorrow. You know, because I want to visit him."
They both cackled evilly and dwelled in their plans for the two poor, unsuspecting men. For an hour they stayed in the room, practicing the speech they had prepared for one last time, then they went out and parted for the night. Harry would go to the owlery and then to Dumbledore, Draco would go to Snape and try to talk him into coming tomorrow.
Humming, they kissed goodnight and went their separate ways.
End of Part III