Title: Be Careful What You Drink For
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, implied Harry/Ginny
Warnings: Sex, mild angst, weird humor, no mention of the epilogue.
Summary: Harry drank the potion because he wanted to know his future. Perhaps ignorance is bliss.
Author's Notes: Written for an anonymous one-shot request: a fic where Harry takes a potion to get a glimpse of his future since he's started dating Ginny and wants to know how things will turn out, only to discover that he's actually planning his wedding to Draco. This prompt inspired me. Thank you, commenter, wherever you are.
Be Careful What You Drink For
The potion sat on the counter and sparkled—as well it should, Harry thought a bit grumpily, when it had cost so many Galleons.
But a reluctant grin stretched his cheeks wide a few minutes later, and he reached out and let his fingers play around the mouth of the flask. It felt like being in Hogwarts again, this naughty, delicious feeling of breaking the rules.
He had made the mistake of hinting to his friends what he was going to do. Ron had nodded enthusiastically, but Hermione had said, "Harry! Divination potions are illegal, and they never work anyway!" and then proceeded to give him a lecture on why it was best to let the future lie and how he should be grateful just to be alive. By the end of it, Ron was nodding along with her, cowed, and only sneaking sidelong glances at Harry to indicate that he thought Harry was right.
Well, what Hermione didn't know wouldn't hurt her. And she wasn't privy to a lot of things that had happened between Harry and Ginny since they had started dating.
Harry frowned and drummed his fingers on the countertop. For a moment, the brilliant golden potion, which had looked so much like Felix Felicis Harry had had to sniff it to be sure that the smell was different, wobbled, and Harry reached out hastily. He wasn't eager for it to crash to the ground and waste fifty Galleons for him.
In particular, Hermione wasn't privy to the fact that sometimes, out of nowhere, Harry would look at Ginny's laughing face and be hit with a wave of dizzy disorientation. What am I doing here? he would ask himself, half-panicked. I haven't done anything since the war, really, except entered Auror training and started dating Ginny. Should I have traveled around the world, or dated other people, or chosen some wild and crazy job, or at least lost my virginity, before I made decisions that will affect the rest of my life?
But those moments of panic were rare. Harry knew that he should just ignore them and get on with his life, which wasn't bad, not really.
Still, they'd been coming more and more frequent lately. Harry didn't want to go to his friends about them, because he knew what they would say. They would reassure him that Ginny was great and, from the outside, it looked like she and Harry were madly in love. Harry wondered if that was true or if he was just mad.
He also probably looked like he was having a great time training as an Auror. He never showed, or at least he didn't think he did, the disgust he sometimes felt as they learned the endless rules, rules, rules. They'd spent more time learning rules so far than learning the proper way to counter Dark spells. Harry was starting to think Hermione would have made a better Auror than he did.
He looked back at the potion again and dragged a hand through his hair. Maybe Hermione was right and this was a load of bollocks.
But he'd already spent the money, and at least he knew that the apothecary—an ordinary one in Hogsmeade, not one in Knockturn Alley—wouldn't sell actually poisonous potions, or they would lose a lot of customers. He reached out, picked up the flask, removed the stopper, and drank a gulp of the golden liquid.
Harry grunted and opened his eyes, staring at the ceiling. There was a horrid taste in the back of his mouth, and when he moved his tongue around, it felt too large. He grimaced and touched his lips. Yes, they felt swollen again. Really, he had to stop drinking that swill that the Hog's Head served. He knew the effect it would have on him. How often did he have to have that proven to him?
He started to roll over, and someone clamped a hand on his wrist. Harry blinked and stared at the hand, which was pale, with blue veins racing through it. Long fingers, he thought dimly. And no engagement ring, though since he had broken up with Ginny six months ago he didn't know why he still expected that.
"Running away from the consequences of your choices, Potter?" asked a deep voice.
No. It isn't possible.
Harry lay there for what felt like endless moments—but couldn't be, because the man behind him would have got impatient and rolled him over long before that—until his curiosity and his horror combined and made him turn.
Draco Malfoy, naked, and as pale as his hands all over except where the red scratches and bites Harry must have made showed on his chest and neck, grinned at him. His lips were swollen, too, but Harry, staring in uneasy fascination, didn't think it came from the Hog's Head brew. His blond hair hung mussed about his shoulders. He leaned back deliberately as Harry stared at him and raised one leg, exposing a half-hard cock and a bite on his inner thigh that made Harry's gorge rise.
"Hello," he said, "lover."
Harry's eyes flew open, and he reeled back, barely managing to place the potion on the counter before he crashed to the kitchen floor. He put his hands over his mouth and stared wide-eyed into the nearest corner.
What. What the fuck.
A dozen explanations flew through his mind. Possibly the potion was really a nightmare potion. Possibly it was really from Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes; George might have seen him buying it on the sly and substituted this one. Possibly he was so apprehensive about his future that that had affected the potion's working—
But it was useless. No matter how many explanations he tried to come up with, he kept seeing that vision of the future where he looked for an engagement ring (a ring that he hadn't bought Ginny yet) and then turned around and found his lover was male. And Malfoy. That was the most horrifying part.
Harry tried to think of other things that were strange about the vision, like why he would be drinking at the Hog's Head, where he never went, but his mind veered and slewed back to that ultimate horror.
Harry shook his head rapidly. No matter how drunk he was, he would never pick up Malfoy. The potion was mistaken. Things like that didn't happen. Harry could see thinking some blokes were attractive if he was drunk enough, but not Malfoy.
So the potion lied, and Harry didn't bother drinking the rest. He put the flask away in a back cupboard and pasted a large, happy smile on his face as he stepped out of the house to meet Ginny for dinner. Everything was fine.
And if he cast a few charms on his glass that would tell him how much alcohol he was drinking, which he had never done before, Ginny only rolled her eyes tolerantly and let him do it, much to Harry's relief.
Tonight had been the worst yet.
Harry leaned back against the door into the kitchen and waited until the pounding of his heart calmed. Then he shook his head, stood up, and moved briskly across the kitchen to fetch himself a Muggle beer. He could use the motions, which were precise and fast, to avoid thinking about tonight, if he tried.
He thought so, anyway. But the memories bubbled back the moment he stopped moving around and tried to sit in the drawing room with his beer.
Ginny had made it clear, quietly and patiently, but still with an air of someone scolding a naughty child, that she had expected a marriage proposal before now. She had told him with sad eyes that her mother asked her after every date if she could finally start planning the wedding.
"I don't know what the reason for your delay is, Harry," she said, sitting in front of the fire at the restaurant they'd gone to, staring at him with a serious expression. Harry had watched the way the flames made her hair glow and wondered frantically what he should answer. "I can think of several. None of them are flattering."
Harry had swallowed and looked at her. "I don't know, either," he said, deciding that he could at least be honest. "The problem is that I don't really—it seems so big. I don't want to get the proposal wrong, and I don't want to get the wedding or the marriage wrong. I'm terrified of making a mistake."
Ginny had softened at once and leaned over the table to put a hand on his arm. "If something goes wrong, I promise that I won't blame you," she said earnestly. "Unless it really is your fault." She had smiled then.
Harry had laughed along with her, because he was expected to, but it sounded hollow in his ears.
Now, he swallowed his drink so fast that he barely tasted it and wondered what he was waiting for. Someone to come and hold his hand and tell him it would all be okay? He wasn't supposed to need that. He was supposed to be an adult now, and that meant he could make his own decisions.
It would just be easier if there was a bit of reassurance. If he could talk to his future self and know that it would work out, that these were normal jitters for anyone who had been through a war and was on the verge of getting married, Harry thought he would feel better. Five minutes would help.
But you do have the chance for that.
Harry hesitated for a moment, and then slowly stood up and entered the kitchen. When he opened the cabinet he had shut two weeks ago, there the potion was, shining at him. Harry picked it up with a dry throat.
He had to keep in mind all the reasons it might not have worked, he told himself sternly. He had to be calm this time, and he had to cast a few charms that ought to reveal if it was a prank potion. George hadn't, so far, been able to resist leaving a signature spell in every joke he sold. If someone knew the right countercharms, it would reveal his name and Fred's, entwined and revolving, in bright pink letters.
Harry performed the charms. Nothing happened. The potion was still perfectly golden. And Harry was calmer this time than he had been last time, because he'd had time to think, and he wasn't so frantic about the potion working.
He lifted the flask to his lips and took a long swallow.
"You can't ignore this forever, you know."
Harry hunched his shoulders and refused to look up. He had enough paperwork to occupy him for days. He didn't need to pay attention to Malfoy, even if Malfoy was leaning against the doorway of his office and staring hard enough at him to make the back of Harry's neck flush.
"We slept together," Malfoy continued, in utter blithe ignorance of anyone who might be crossing through the corridor behind him. "You have to face that."
"What's to face?" Harry glared at Malfoy, slapping a report to death on the desktop. "So we slept together. So what?"
Malfoy smiled at him and stepped into the office with a disturbingly feline walk, prowling towards him. "You have to face that I'm the best fuck you ever had," he purred, "and that you'd love to experience that again."
Harry rested his forehead against his palm and sighed. He had to admit that he would probably look more convincing if his face wasn't burning.
"Look, Malfoy," he said at last, when Malfoy had stood in front of his desk looking at him predatorily for five minutes and Harry had started to worry over when Ron would be back, "you don't know that. You can think that all you like, and I won't tell you otherwise because I don't care enough to do so. But you can't know."
"I know that you came to me with your eyes shining like I was your savior," Malfoy said. "I know that you can't stop thinking about me, given the way that you glance at me and then turn away again when we pass each other in the corridors." Harry scowled at that, though he kept his head bowed so that he wouldn't have to look Malfoy in the eye. How in the world had Malfoy got hired as an assistant to Kingsley anyway? Common sense would have had him rotting in Azkaban somewhere. "And I know that I can't stop thinking about you."
His voice was rough suddenly, and Harry blinked, fooled into looking up. Malfoy leaned towards him, hands braced on his desk, eyes so wide that it was difficult to avoid drowning in them. Harry swallowed. Ginny had told him once that his eyes were attractive because of the way he looked at people, with honest desire. Harry hadn't realized that he might run into someone who would return the compliment. Ginny hadn't, long before the end.
Malfoy's soft, impassioned words distracted him from the spiral of grief and gloom that thought caused. "I want you again. I want you. Come have a drink with me."
Harry licked dry lips and shook his head. "How can I, Malfoy? This is—just sex. You know as well as I do that I'll want more than that. Bloody Gryffindor, you know." He tried to smile, but he had the impression, given the stare Malfoy gave him a moment later, that it hadn't worked all that well.
"Come have a drink with me," Malfoy repeated, tone strangely gentle for all that it was a demand. "And we can see how it goes from there."
There was no reason in the world for him to lay his reports aside, rise to his feet, and scribble a note for Ron saying that something important had come up and Harry would try to find him later. But that was what he did.
We can see how it goes.
The warmth and strength of Malfoy's hand on his arm said that Malfoy would be doing his very best to see that it went well.
Harry woke rubbing his arm, where the tingling heat of Malfoy's hand seemed to have sunk into the skin. He realized what he was doing a moment later and snatched his hand away, horrified. The visions induced by the potion were one thing; he couldn't be unfaithful to Ginny in them because they were all in his head. But feeling as though he wanted what the dream Malfoy offered to him—
It doesn't matter, he told himself brutally, and put the remaining draft of the potion back in the cupboard, and locked it afterwards. He returned to the drawing room and his beer, and swallowed three gulps of it before he continued his thought. And you know the reason that it doesn't matter? Because the potion can prophesy all it likes. I'm still not going to hunt Malfoy down, have sex with him, and then go out with him.
It was true that Malfoy had been hired as one of Kingsley's assistants, but so what? Harry had read that the divination potions drew information from one's mind to make the visions seem more real. It was just something Harry knew, and it wasn't any more significant than dreaming about Ron and Hermione getting married when everyone knew they were going to.
Harry flopped back against the couch and closed his eyes.
It was true that the mixture of emotions he felt towards Malfoy in the visions, lust and embarrassment, was stronger than anything he had felt towards Ginny in several months. His passion for her seemed to have burned itself out the instant it was gratified, and now he had to worry about—
Harry swallowed. He had to worry about a loveless marriage to a woman who loved him, or at least said she did. From the sad and anxious glances she gave him sometimes, Harry wondered if she was going to marry him for the sake of others, not herself.
It's not real, he told himself, and took another drink. I won't let it become real.
Harry slammed the door open and watched the dent that it made in the wall without flinching. Then he slammed the door again—making one of his neighbors yell at him through the floor—and walked into the training room he had built himself several months ago. There, he smashed dozens of wooden targets behind wards that would both guard the rest of the flat from his magic and reassemble the targets when they were all reduced to crumbs and ashes, so that he could "kill" them again.
He was a bit calmer when he reemerged from the training room. At least he thought he could think about what had happened tonight without humiliating himself, which had already happened once.
He had asked Ginny to marry him. He had given her the perfect engagement ring, a band that was a pair of prancing, roaring golden lions. In their joined mouths was a ruby. Ginny's eyes had glowed as she accepted the ring, and the rest of her family had been loud and joyful with toasts and embraces.
And then Harry had gone into the Burrow's bathroom and was sick to his stomach.
Nerves, he thought now, as he sat on his bed and tried—and failed—to imagine bringing Ginny here someday. She'd seen the inside of his flat, but usually only in scattered glimpses when they were getting ready to go on a date. Every new bridegroom gets them.
But he knew it was more than that. He wanted to be sick again. He wanted to be sick at the thought of walking with Ginny through their assembled friends and up to the wizard waiting to bond them, and then walking with her through life. There was none of the giddy joy that was supposed to attend the picture.
He shook his head and entered the kitchen. He would make himself a sandwich, he thought. He'd thrown up most of the dinner Molly gave him and his stomach would make him regret it later if it stayed empty.
He opened a cupboard and reached for a loaf of bread. He started when his fingers brushed smooth glass, and then he was lifting the divination potion down and staring at it.
There was dryness in his throat. Harry found himself glancing around, as though someone had observed him touching the potion and would report him to the Aurors.
I'm going to be an Auror.
Harry shuddered and uncorked the flask. There was no good reason for him to do this, but there was no good reason to hesitate, either. He took a hefty gulp of the potion and told himself it was only to kill the thirst.
He barely got the flask back on the counter before the vision consumed him.
Draco pushed him back against the wall, his gaze so intense that it was physically painful. Harry opened his mouth to ask what was going on—Draco had seemed normal when he left this morning and had acted strange since they met for dinner this evening—but Draco kissed him before he could say anything, and then he didn't want to say anything.
Harry tucked his fingers greedily into Draco's hair and pulled him closer. They were in the drawing room instead of the bedroom, but that didn't matter. They'd fucked on the couch plenty of times. Harry steered him in that direction, biting at Draco's neck.
Draco liked to tease and build things up, because, he said, they'd taken things so fast the first time. So Harry was surprised when Draco made him sit down, knelt between his legs, opened his trousers and tugged his pants down in the same fast movement, and fastened his mouth around Harry's penis.
Harry cried out and rocked back, eyes shut as his body tried to arch. It didn't get far, between the clothes tangled around his legs and Draco's firm hold on him. But Harry kept trying, because he hadn't been prepared at all and this was fast and warm and wet to the point that he was shaking.
Draco's tongue lashed out, and traveled back, and curled around to cup the head of Harry's erection before he lapped as though he was apologizing for something. Harry panted at the ceiling and tried to remember if Draco had asked him about anything lately that Harry hadn't wanted to do—
But the memory turned white, and then he was spiraling down into pleasure, into mindless bucking and pushing. He'd never come that fast before, and when he could catch his breath, he was embarrassed about it, but Draco didn't seem to mind. When Harry looked again, half-fearing that Draco would have pulled away, Draco was watching him with the head still in his mouth and a smirk on his face.
The smirk didn't last long. Draco rose to his feet and pulled his shirt over his head, then crouched down in front of Harry and yanked back his trousers. Harry started to ask if he wanted Harry to get undressed more, but it didn't seem to matter. Draco had already taken himself in hand and was yanking, wanking, tugging, his gaze fixed on Harry's face the same way it had been earlier.
Harry found himself breathless for a different reason. Without knowing why, he reached up and laid the backs of his fingers against Draco's cheek.
Draco's head tipped back, and the cords in his throat went tight with what looked like pain. He came an instant later, strings of fluid springing out of him and hitting Harry in the chest. Harry was still wearing his shirt, but he found that he didn't mind. He dipped his fingers into Draco's release and licked at it hesitatingly. It didn't taste as warm as it did when it went directly into his mouth, but otherwise not much different.
Draco fell on him, kissing him. Harry kissed back and again tried to ask what was wrong, but this time Draco muttered something about needing rest and steered him for the bedroom.
Harry went with him, and decided that sometimes the greatest gift he could give—after Draco was nestled and snoring against him, admittedly—was silence.
Harry opened his eyes. He was kneeling in the middle of the kitchen, and his groin was throbbing. He shifted, afraid of what he would see if he looked down, and concentrated on the more disturbing thing.
He had thought of Malfoy as Draco in that vision, and they had behaved like long-established lovers.
How stupid was his future self, that he would not only go on a date with Malfoy but continue interacting with him, by choice, over a period of months?
Harry shook his head and stood up. He had wanted to see something different than all his fears, to drive his thoughts about marrying Ginny out of his head, and he had his wish. But one kind of nightmare wasn't much improvement over the other.
His future self had to be a moron, Harry decided in bed later that night, trying not to wank. Otherwise, he would realize that he had no business being so happy.
Harry shoved the pile of letters away from him. If he spent one more minute thinking about food and flowers for the wedding, then he would be sick.
He went over to look out the window instead. He had enchanted it so that it showed a view of the lake and the Forbidden Forest as they looked walking towards Hogwarts, and it usually cheered him up. Now he simply leaned his head against the glass and wished that he could really be there.
"Why am I doing this, when I don't want to?" he whispered.
But he knew the answer. He had nothing else to fill up his life. He wouldn't know what to do if he wasn't marrying Ginny and working to become an Auror. It wasn't Ginny's fault. It was his, because the enormous empty void that yawned inside him when he thought of letting her go made him turn away in terror.
He snorted bitterly as he remembered part of his reason for buying the divination potion in the first place. He had feared what might become of his marriage. He had wondered if he would be a horrible husband to Ginny; it wasn't like he had many examples of marital bliss except for her parents. Everyone assured him that his own mum and dad had been deliriously happy, but he hadn't known them.
Instead, you learned it was worse than you could ever have dreamed.
Then Harry froze. For long moments he saw nothing but the grass bending as the wind passed in front of the window, felt nothing but the tight clutch of his hands on the sill.
No, he thought, and the word chimed around in his head like the echo of an enormous bell. No, this is the worst thing that you can imagine, isn't it?
Harry licked his lips and stepped back from the window. The sunlight on the lake made him sick and shaky. He staggered a few steps and then sat down on the couch, blinking mindlessly as he thought of what should come next.
The divination potion had shown him that his future self was stupid. Or so Harry had decided the last time he used it, two months ago. But he was thinking that his present self was pretty bloody stupid, as well.
He stood up and walked into his kitchen. He knew what he was doing before he opened the cupboard, but it was still a shock when his hand brushed the smooth glass of the flask. He brought it out.
It shone like the sunlight on the lake.
Harry closed his eyes and poured a gulp down his throat. He knew that he'd drunk more than he had the first time he used the potion, but still, he had time to cork the flask and place it gently back in the cupboard before the vision seized him.
"What am I supposed to believe, Potter?" Draco hissed, stalking towards him. His wand was in his hand, waving dangerously back and forth, and it was that Harry watched, almost more than his face. "I caught you kissing Childers!"
"You caught him kissing me," Harry said. His voice was taut, and he knew he should sound less defensive. But he was on the verge of losing the best thing in his life because Childers had a stupid crush on him, and being kind about the crush to Childers's face hadn't worked, and neither had telling Draco the truth. It made him want to scream, but in the mood Draco was, he would take a scream as an admission of guilt. "I told you how it was. He grabbed my arms, pinned me against the wall, and leaned in—"
"And I can practically hear you salivating as you talk about it!" Draco raised his wand, and the resulting spell jarred the glass loose from the window behind Harry.
Harry darted forwards and grabbed his wrist, squeezing hard enough to make the wand fall to the ground. He usually didn't use Auror techniques against Draco, except to increase his pleasure in bed, but he drew the line when spells were cast at him.
Draco panted into his face. His hair was mussed as though he'd slept on it. His hands clenched and closed on air, but he made no move to touch Harry. When he turned his head away, Harry knew why. He had given up already. He thought Harry wanted to be with Childers, and he would offer no opposition.
"Good God, you're stupid," Harry said. He barely recognized his own voice, it was so rough. "I don't want anyone but you, you great git. I never have since that morning we first woke up in bed together. I was lying to myself all those months until you came seeking me. But I'm not going to lie to myself anymore, and I'm not going to let you do it, either." He leaned forwards and fastened his mouth on Draco's.
Draco bucked in Harry's grip. Harry didn't know whether he was trying to get closer or back away, and frankly he didn't care. He kissed and sucked at Draco's lips, and Draco gave in with a sob and thrust his tongue back.
Harry tripped them into the bedroom, where he let Draco fuck him as hard as he wanted, something Harry usually required a lot more preparation for. Draco's frantic face and the colors his knuckles turned as he grasped Harry's hips were testimony to how much he needed this, though, and if Harry needed a little extra help to come, well, it wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last.
Draco went to sleep on top of him, hands curled around Harry's shoulders instead of helplessly still this time. The last thing he whispered before he started snorting was, "Don't leave me."
Harry stroked his hair and shook his head. Why Draco thought it would be that way instead of the other way around was beyond him.
Then again, Draco couldn't feel the thrill of tenderness that shot through Harry when he looked down at that well-loved face and stroked the too-sharp cheekbones, imperfect, ferret-like, but his.
Harry opened his eyes slowly. He hadn't wanted to leave that place, he thought, or perhaps more accurately that time, that sweet, peaceful moment when he lay in the bed with Malfoy and knew that he was in love.
In love with Malfoy. In love with a man.
Harry had to sit still for a while after that and consider whether his reluctance to marry Ginny was coming from his sexual orientation. But he didn't think so. There was nothing repulsive about the idea of having sex with her. There wasn't even anything repulsive about the idea of being married.
It was just—not yet. Not like that.
Harry couldn't explain it more than that, but he didn't know that he had to, since he was alone and just thinking to himself.
But when he thought about the process of stopping the marriage, his heart shook, and made his chest shake, and his cheeks flushed, and his ears filled with a buzzing noise, and he buried his head in his arms. Too much. It was too much. He had to sit still, and breathe, and hope that he would never have to make the explanation to anyone else, because it wouldn't convince them.
Well, he had to hope that and that he would find some other way out of his marriage to Ginny, which was looking increasingly unlikely.
Harry limped slowly through the door of his flat and shut it behind him, gingerly testing whether his ankle could bear his weight. He was almost sure it couldn't, and a moment later he snatched it into the air and hissed in confirmation.
Well, it was simple enough to cast a charm that would enclose the ankle in a thick bubble of air and hobble over to his couch. It would have been even simpler to have someone stay with him and fetch him what he needed, including healing potions. Hermione had offered, and Ron, and Mrs. Weasley, her eyes wide with concern. Harry thought sourly that she was afraid he wouldn't be able to walk without tripping on his wedding robes if he went on getting injured in the practice raids.
Then he shook his head. That was unworthy. Mrs. Weasley was proud of and anxious about both him and Ginny, for reasons that went beyond wanting them well enough to get married. Harry knew that she would cluck and hug him and feed him a huge meal if he confessed his doubts and insecurities about the wedding.
"Sure, she would," Harry muttered. "But she wouldn't listen."
No one he could think of would. That was probably what made him Summon the divination potion again from the kitchen. He wanted a holiday in a place and time when he didn't have to explain himself, when he was fully embraced and understood.
He swallowed only a few drops of it this time and leaned back with his eyes closed. Visiting this particular nonexistent future felt oddly like being unfaithful to Ginny, though he didn't know how he could be that when he hadn't seen Malfoy since the end of the war, and never would again unless they ran into each other by accident.
"Will you stop sniffling?"
Draco opened one bleary eye and stared at him. "It's not as if I can help it," he said indistinctly, while a long stream of snot spilled from one nostril. Harry made an exclamation of disgust and Summoned the handkerchief that would clean it up. Draco carried on without seeming to notice while Harry wiped his nose and the drool creeping from the corner of his mouth. "You get hit with a Cold Curse and—achoo!"
The resulting sneeze blew the handkerchief out of Harry's hand and coated the chair he sat in with transparent droplets. Harry curled his lip and made sure to cast the most powerful cleaning charm he knew. Then he Summoned another handkerchief and felt at Draco's forehead. "Your fever's lower," he announced.
"Good." Draco swallowed some of the phlegm that Harry knew must be in his throat and glared at him. "Then let me have some proper food."
"Chicken soup for you until you get better," Harry said in determination and cast a more careful and complex Summoning Charm this time. Unless he used that variation, the bowls containing the chicken soup tended to zoom to him as fast as they could, banging into walls on the way and spilling their precious burden. Harry had had to learn how to make it himself, since they didn't have an elf and Draco, for various reasons, didn't want Mrs. Weasley tending to him.
"You know I don't need this," Draco said, catching Harry's wrist with a clammy hand. "Only sick Muggles do. Why do you keep feeding me like this?"
Harry smiled into his face, flushed and fretful as it was. Someone jealous of Draco's job, or possibly his position in Harry's life, had hit him with the Cold Curse, and there was no countercurse for that. He would simply have to wait it out until the watering eyes, cough, headache, fever, sore throat, and dribbling nose went away.
Harry knew Ron would have hooted to hear it, and Ginny would probably have turned away, but Harry could still love him when he was like this. Draco wasn't complaining out of anything other than the usual sick person's irritation, and Harry could help him with that. It was an ordinary thing to do together.
But, of course, Draco wouldn't understand if Harry tried to explain that, because it was soppy and Draco Malfoy didn't do soppy. So Harry said, "Because I'm a sadist, and you never knew it. Open wide." The bowl had landed n his hands by now, along with the spoon, and he stirred it, then held out a spoonful of the nearly transparent broth to Draco.
Draco folded his arms and turned away. Harry waited two seconds, and then Draco sneezed all over himself. "I hate my life," he moaned as Harry carefully sponged the snot and darker liquids away.
"Really?" Harry asked mildly, while he once again cast a cleaning charm on Draco's pillow and blankets. Not on Draco, of course; this spell was meant to scrub away any dirt or lingering infection, which would probably mean taking off several layers of Draco's skin at this point.
Draco was quiet. Then he took Harry's hand and squeezed it. "No," he said. "Not all of it."
"Well, that's good," Harry said, and finally coaxed him to turn over and take in a mouthful of chicken.
Harry had always hated being sick, and he had always hated taking care of people when they were sick. When he was a child, that had meant being sent to fluff Dudley's pillows and carry food up and down the stairs and dodge thrown toys. When he was older, he usually avoided situations where he could get sick, and squirmed out of Mrs. Weasley's sight as soon as he could otherwise. It was too vulnerable. If he was going to make a disgusting mess of himself, he would rather do it in private, where at least he would be the only one who remembered that enormous sneeze that had made his bed uninhabitable.
But the person who called himself Harry Potter in the future seemed to love it. Or perhaps he loved it because it meant he was taking care of Draco, and he loved doing that.
Because he loved Draco Malfoy.
Harry stared at his ankle, crudely wrapped in the layers of the bubble charm, and tried to imagine what Malfoy would have to say about that. A raised eyebrow, probably, and a shake of his head. He would comment in a dry voice that only Harry could injure himself to the point of swelling by slamming his ankle into a simple door.
No. No, he wouldn't say that. We're enemies, and he would probably be glad that I'm hurt. Harry swallowed. The one I made up in my head with the help of the divination potion would say that, but he's not real. Good God, I've got to remember that.
The fact remained that he didn't know Malfoy anymore, and had no plans to do so any time soon. He had no idea what his thoughts were, whether he had abandoned his pure-blood prejudices or held onto them, no—
Stop! This is stupid! Harry slapped his leg for emphasis, and was rewarded by a throb of pain in his ankle.
At least that let him drag his thoughts back to the point. He lived one life in the divination potion and in his own mind, yes. That didn't mean he could live it in reality. Reality was bigger than the confines of his thoughts, infinitely more exciting and interesting than fantasy. Harry had learned that lesson after Voldemort's defeat. Voldemort had had the chance to walk down different roads in childhood, but he had let the fantasy of immortality catch him up instead, and so he had sacrificed everything that might really have made him happy. Harry wouldn't do the same thing.
Isn't your idea of happy marriage to Ginny a fantasy? You keep concentrating on it, telling yourself that everything will be better once you're married, and neglecting your real unhappiness.
Harry sat there, frozen, for a few minutes, and then shook his head in frustration. No. No, he wasn't Hermione, to come up with answers like that all by himself. He was a tired and injured Auror trainee who had to go to bed so that he would be equal to face the challenges of tomorrow.
It took some work to haul himself to his feet, hobble to the bathroom, drink the pain potion that he kept there, get undressed, and crawl into bed, but at least the effort kept his mind off Malfoy.
You're a miserable coward.
Harry had spent the last few hours trying to listen to the wireless and ignore the current of his thoughts, but there was nothing good on, and they had crept back into his head and assaulted him now when he least expected it, hours after his conversation with Ginny.
Yes, he was. She'd poured out her dreams to him, talking about the children she hoped to have, the long years they would spend together, and how she hoped that their dual careers as an Auror and a Quidditch player wouldn't be too stressful. It was the sort of honesty that Harry had dreamed of when they began planning the wedding. They would sit together like this and talk about their lives, and never, ever grow bored.
But he'd barely been able to stand there with the smile plastered on his face. When she paused and looked at him expectantly, he muttered something about his ankle still hurting and ducked out of the room as soon as he could.
He would have been braver than this a few years ago. What the fuck was wrong with him?
Harry sighed and put his head in his hands. He could blame pressure from the Weasleys for him to marry Ginny and have a happy family life, but that would be more cowardice. They'd talked about the idea of him marrying into the family the same way Harry had thought about it: as a fantasy. They'd been thrilled when it started coming true, but that was because, as Ron had confessed to Harry one night when they'd both been drinking, it seemed something rare and marvelous, the kind of thing that you dreamed about without ever taking it seriously, like winning a million Galleons.
It wasn't the kind of thing you could engineer, Ron had told him earnestly. It had to depend on the wills of the other people involved.
They would be miserable if they knew that I was miserable. But it would be worse if I married Ginny and made her unhappy.
Harry dragged a hand over his face. He knew all that was true, and yet something else also was. He was considering sacrificing his life with Ginny not to a love for someone else, not to honest doubts—he had doubts, but he didn't know where they came from—but to a shadowy and impossible future shaped by a potion that probably didn't work anyway.
They would ask him how he could give up Ginny for that, and Harry would have to reply that he didn't know. Suppose he were to go out and seek Malfoy tonight. Malfoy wouldn't look at him twice, wouldn't know what Harry was talking about when he asked him out, and would then proceed to laugh at him after ten or so seconds of stunned staring.
Harry lurched to his feet, winced as he bumped his ankle against the couch, and made his way into the kitchen. He would take just one more drink, he told himself. There was only enough potion left for one drink, anyway. He would see what future he and Malfoy had left at the end of it all. The potion would show him the inevitable collapse and then he would go back to clinging to the one good and solid thing in his life, his relationship with Ginny.
He drank the potion before he could analyze the intense hope that crowded his chest, and whether it was the hope that he would see the end or that he wouldn't.
"I don't think you quite understand the weight of tradition that you're fighting here," Draco said dryly, and bent over to run his finger up the guest list. "No Weasley has attended a Malfoy wedding in six hundred years."
"This isn't just a Malfoy wedding," Harry said evenly.
Draco half-flinched and then looked at him with startled eyes, the way he tended to when Harry revealed that he had a different opinion than Draco and his mother about their marriage plans. Then he smiled helplessly and stroked Harry's hand. "But you're only an adopted Weasley," he murmured. "Not one of the red-haired blood traitors."
Harry sat there and waited for Draco to figure out the problem with his words for himself. He did, a moment later, and buried his face in his arms. Harry chuckled without sympathy.
"We can't even agree on decorations, never mind guests," Draco muttered. "Why did we ever think this would work?"
"There's no reason that the decorations have to be green and silver," Harry said. "Not all the guests we can agree on will be Slytherins. What about those French cousins of yours, and Theo's wife? I know she was a Hufflepuff. I wouldn't have proposed red and gold in the first place if you hadn't acted like such an arrogant twit about the Slytherin colors."
Draco jerked his head up with a little pout. "Mother and Father married with those colors," he said. "It's traditional. I do want some traditions, Harry. I think the ones we're overthrowing are bad enough." He brightened suddenly. "Do you think the Weasleys hate me so much they won't consent to come?"
"They've had time to get used to you," Harry corrected him. "That means they love me more than they hate you. So, no, they'll be there. And your mother told me herself that they married in black and red as well as green and silver, because those were traditional colors in her family. She's a Black, Draco. She won't mind."
"It's—complicated," Draco said, his fingers dancing among the piled invitations and lists and diagrams on the table. Harry had winced when he first heard about the prices that a wedding organizer might command, but now he wished they had just hired one and dumped the whole business on them. Of course, he and Draco would still have had to agree on the guest list, which would still cause problems. "I want to stand up in front of the whole world and show them that you're mine and I don't care what they say. And I want to stand up in front of the whole world and show that I'm still a Malfoy."
Harry understood all about that, as it happened—not the Malfoy bit, but the other parts. He'd had his share of wondering in the past week what his parents would say, what the Weasleys would say, what Lucius Malfoy, dead three years now in Azkaban, would say.
He gripped Draco's hand and held it still. "This is for us," he said firmly. "Everyone else is a secondary consideration."
Draco blinked at him. Harry rolled his eyes. "You think that way all the time," he said. "What's stopping you from doing it now?"
"I don't know," Draco said, in a deeply startled tone. "I mean—I could have been selfish and demanded my own way for once in my life, and I didn't. What's wrong with me, that it takes Harry Potter to teach me selfishness?"
"That's what I want to know," Harry said, with a grave nod.
Draco leaned across the table and kissed him, and Harry laughed into his mouth. Everything—decorations and guest list and the frustrations of putting a wedding together aside—was going to be all right.
There were tears on his cheeks. Harry scrubbed them away and decided that the divination potion must do something fucked-up to his emotions and his hormones.
It can't be like that all the time, he thought to his nonexistent future self. I didn't see any arguments—or at least not any arguments that couldn't be solved by shagging. And that's just not real. We would fight. We have to fight. There'll be days we're tired and unimpressed with each other and just want to split up. Fuck, I looked old enough in that last vision that we could have spent three or five years fighting before we decided to get married.
But although he knew all that was true, and the potion was no doubt presenting him with a far too sunlit picture of that future, he also knew that the Harry in those visions felt more strongly for his Draco than he ever had for Ginny. Even his contentment made Harry feel like he'd swallowed a brand-new bottle of Firewhisky.
All this is stupid. There has to be some fault in me that won't let me love Ginny the way I want to. And that fault would mean I can't turn into the man the vision shows me no matter how hard I try.
The thoughts weren't much proof against that last picture of his lips locked on Draco's, his mouth stretched wide in laughter and relief.
Harry sat on the couch until morning, which meant no dreams came along and banished the visions. By the time the sun rose, he knew what he had to do.
Harry winced and rubbed his cheek where Ginny had slapped it. She'd had the right to do that, and worse, but after he told her that he couldn't go through with the wedding and engagement, she'd struck out in rage only once. Then she'd simply begun to cry—normal tears, the kind anyone would shed—and told Harry to leave when he awkwardly offered to comfort her. The only good thing about it was that Harry didn't have to give her an explanation as to why he was breaking up with her. She was too upset for that.
Well, all right. That was one good thing. The other was that Harry felt happier and lighter than he had in—well, forever.
He'd Apparated to the middle of Diagon Alley since he didn't want to go anywhere near his flat or the Weasleys' house right now, and this was a place that he could wander around and stare vaguely at things without attracting attention. Harry tilted his head back and swallowed the wind. Bright and clear and cool and free. At least he knew that he wasn't going to enter a marriage he'd regret.
Not with Ginny, anyway, he decided a moment later, with a faint, wry smile. There was nothing to prevent him from falling in love with someone even more unsuitable and getting married to them. But he'd silenced the doubts at last and escaped from a situation where he knew he was only marrying Ginny because it was, well, the fairy tale ending. If he got eaten by the big bad wolf, it would be a consequence of his own decisions, not because he'd passively gone along with someone else's desires.
"Watch where you're going, Potter!"
Harry gasped and reeled back. He'd slammed into the person who snapped at him without looking where he was going, that was true enough, but it was the person's identity that made him stare in shock. Draco Malfoy shot him a single irritated look before he started to turn away.
That look was enough to confirm for Harry that Malfoy had changed, a bit. He wore rich purple robes now, and a silver ring on his right hand. He was taller, and had his hair cut short, save for a long tail in the exact center of his back. It made him look extremely silly, rather than sophisticated, the way he'd probably intended.
That wasn't how he'd looked in the early visions the potion gave Harry. And Harry knew this wasn't the way they'd met in that future, either. He'd picked Malfoy up in the Hog's Head, taken him home, and shagged him in a drunken haze. No, this wasn't his Draco, any more than he was that Draco's Harry.
But there were other ways for the future to happen.
"Fancy a drink, Malfoy?"
Malfoy froze in the middle of turning away. Then he turned back. His eyes were wider than Harry found flattering, but he shrugged off the sting of humiliation. The worst Malfoy could do was say no, or perhaps insult him and then say no.
"Are you out of your mind, Potter?" Malfoy asked after a few minutes of silence, during which the crowd eddied around them and sometimes gave them hopeful looks, as if expecting a duel. His eyes held no expression, and neither did his face.
Harry grinned. "Call it an apology for bumping into you." His heart hammered the way it had when he was steering his broom straight at the ground in a game. Damn, it felt good to be doing something unexpected again.
Malfoy continued to study him. Harry glanced at the silver ring on his hand and saw that it had a purple stone in it, filled with a slowly turning silver haze. Huh. He hadn't had that in the visions. Harry wondered why he had it now, what was different from that future.
"You know what," Malfoy said at last, in a serious tone. "I've had too much predictability in my life lately. I miss that special breed of madness that only you provide. I'll take you up on that offer, Potter." He nodded towards the Leaky Cauldron, and Harry followed.
Yes, Malfoy was taller than in the visions, and he had a scar on the back of his neck that the swaying hair revealed which Harry hadn't seen before, and he had a heavy silver chain around his neck that might be an official badge of office. Harry had no idea what he was really like in this world, what kind of friends he had, what he was like in bed.
Who he was.
There were a dozen, a hundred, possible futures here, from the prosaic to the marvelous, spinning unseen around them.
Harry couldn't wait to find out which one they'd have.