Title: Flame and Shadow
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Sex, established relationship, no epilogue.
Summary: Harry intends for the celebration of his and Draco's engagement to make them happy in more than one way.
Author's Notes: This is the seventh in a series of fics I call "Seasonal Processions," based on the neopagan holidays, and the direct sequel to "Cold Comfort." You should read the rest before this one. "Flame and Shadow" is the fic for Yule.
Flame and Shadow
"But a public ceremony like this hasn't been done in hundreds of years!"
Harry had to chuckle at the expression on Hermione's face as he carefully copied down the list of materials they would need from the old book he'd found. "And why is that a reason not to do it?" he asked innocently. "I would have thought you'd be all in favor of an old tradition and old rules. Aren't they even more special and important because they're old?"
Hermione blinked and said, "I mean," then fell silent to think about it.
Harry smiled at her and once again turned his attention to the book. He'd discovered it in the Black library, but since it was written in Ancient Runes, he'd brought it to Ron and Hermione's house so she could translate it for him. As it turned out, she'd known a spell that meant she could just tap the book with her wand, and the runes swirled and resolved into letters. Harry had been content enough to accept that, although he imagined Draco would shriek with outrage over the "destruction" of the book if Harry told him.
All the more reason not to tell him. This was supposed to be a happy occasion, and Draco had had precious little to be happy about lately, outside their engagement.
Harry grimaced. And since our engagement brought all those Howlers and those people accusing him to his face of putting me under the Imperius Curse, I'm not sure that it's always been more happy than stressful.
Harry shook his head and once again returned his attention to the ritual. If he was right about this, then it would serve not only to confirm their engagement for everyone, which he knew would make Draco happy, but would serve as a pointed declaration of his intent to all the people who couldn't believe that he could possibly want to marry someone like Draco Malfoy.
"Just be careful, Harry."
Startled out of his contemplation again, Harry looked up at Hermione. "Be careful why, Hermione?" he asked. If she knew something he didn't about this ritual, then of course he would listen to her. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt Draco with something meant to help him.
"This ceremony is public and powerful for a reason," Hermione said softly, her eyes bright and worried as they searched his. "It's hard to tell what might happen. You have to mean it, especially because it solidifies the betrothal. It's twice as hard to back out of the marriage if you undertake this commitment."
"That's what I want," Harry said quietly. "Not just for myself, but for Draco and everyone else."
Hermione's eyes widened, and she bit her lip, although the beginnings of a smile went on forming there. "I see," she said solemnly. "Well. You know best, of course." She paused. "You know that Ron will faint when he hears about it."
"Make sure he has a pillow under his head," Harry said absently, and went back to studying the book again.
Hermione definitely was smiling as she shut the door.
"I thought we could use this instead of a newspaper announcement to inform the people who don't already know about our engagement."
Harry spoke casually, but he was aware of his heart pounding furiously as he laid the copy of the ritual on his kitchen table. Draco, his hair still disordered from sex, frowned up at him.
"What do you mean?" he asked. "Who doesn't already know?" His voice sank with bitterness for a moment, and then he straightened up and shook his head with a deep breath. "I mean-I want to marry you, Harry. Of course. But there's no need to make an announcement at all when our relationship is public property."
Harry leaned his weight across Draco's shoulder and breathed gently on his ear. Draco didn't shrug him off irritably as he would have only a few months ago, although he did tense up for a moment. But then he leaned back in his chair and looked up at Harry with heavy-lidded eyes.
"Doing that won't actually get you out of explaining, you know," he murmured, reaching up to fondle the collar of Harry's Auror robes.
"I know," Harry whispered, and took a few moments to nuzzle Draco's neck until he thought he had relaxed Draco about as much as he could expect. "But I want everyone to know that you're mine. And I want to do it this way."
"And that you're mine, too, don't forget," Draco murmured, but he picked up the ritual list and read.
He reached the end before he looked up, though Harry could tell from the tightening of his shoulders that he was becoming more and more incredulous. The parchment finally fluttered from his hand while he stared at Harry. Harry smiled back, and let his cheek rest against Draco's neck, and hummed.
"You-you know what this is," Draco whispered. "What this does. What kind of message it sends."
"All three of those are reasons for doing it instead of not doing it," Harry answered steadily. "I love you. It's time for everyone to know that, instead of acting as though it's a surprise or stupid. I love you. I'll say it as many times as I need to, as many times as I want. I love you. I love you. I love you-"
Draco surged out of his chair to get his arms around Harry's neck, and there were no more words.
Harry had deliberately chosen the Ministry's Atrium for the ceremony. Draco had opened his mouth to object when Harry first told him that he'd decided on that, and then closed it and looked thoughtful. In the end, he'd nodded, though he'd looked away as he muttered something about potentially disassociating himself from Harry if Harry embarrassed him.
Harry smiled as he stood in the center of the Atrium, near the restored fountain that had replaced the monstrosity put up during the war. I'm not going to embarrass him. People will see our shadows, but not the whole thing.
Which was a good thing, Harry had to admit. He wanted to declare his love for Draco, but he wasn't keen on everyone getting a good look at Draco's expression while he was doing it.
Someone cleared his throat. Harry turned and nodded affably to Kingsley, who stood behind him with his arms folded and his eyes narrowed as though he was trying to figure out what illegal potion Harry must have taken to think this was a good idea.
"Good of you to come, sir," Harry said. "I wasn't sure you would."
"Someone has to control the riots," Kingsley said dryly, before his expression shifted to one of concern. "Are you sure this is a good idea, Harry?"
Harry lifted his head, deliberately meeting Kingsley's gaze, deliberately not blinking. "If you're one of those who suspects that my relationship with Draco was engineered by a potion, then I'm not sure I have any more to say to you."
Kingsley sighed and held up a hand as though to stop the flood of justifications Harry could have poured out. "No. Not at all. But I do wonder if you're up to the scorn and jeering you'll get for choosing this ceremony."
Harry laughed. "The book I read said nothing about the ceremony having a bad reputation, and I'm sure either Draco or Hermione would have told me if it did."
"Nothing like that," Kingsley said. "I was thinking more of the fact that it must be performed in public, and that it will shove a fact that some people have been willing to ignore in their faces. I have heard some of the Ministry workers, including other Aurors, say that they won't gossip or doubt you, but they still don't like it. Flaunt it like this, and you take away the option of pretending it doesn't exist."
All impulse to laugh fled Harry. "I despise people like that more than the ones who honestly think Draco has me under Imperius," he said, and made his every word so precise that Kingsley blinked and shifted uneasily. "I don't care what they say, what they think. Taking away their ability to pretend that I'm not in love with Draco can only be a good thing."
Kingsley hesitated, and then nodded. "I may not think you're entirely right, but I can't question your nobility."
Caught by a familiar movement, Harry looked over Kingsley's shoulder and saw Draco approaching. "Thank you, sir," he said, with a sideways smile. "And I hope you won't take it wrong when I say that someone questioning my nobility is the last thing I'd care about, right now."
Draco came up in time to hear the final words, and glanced once at Kingsley before he seemed to dismiss the question he would have asked. He looked at Harry, instead, and his eyes were wide and burning-afraid and fierce at the same time. Harry slid his hands around Draco's shoulders and up through his hair, murmuring reassurances that weren't recognizable words half the time.
Kingsley had stepped back as if he didn't want to be associated with him. Or didn't want to be caught up in the circle of the ritual, most likely, Harry had the more generous thought a moment later. He nodded to him and noticed their audience already gathering, including Aurors with wide eyes and trainees from the Department of Mysteries with grey cloaks that swirled around them as they edged nearer.
Ron was there, too, standing on the edge of the crowd with a half-smile and his arms folded. He gave Harry a supportive nod when Harry glanced at him. Harry nodded back and then turned to Draco, leaning close enough to brush his nose against Draco's neck. Draco shuddered as Harry's breath washed over his ear. It was a weakness that Harry knew well and had taken shameless advantage of numerous times.
"Are you sure?" Harry whispered. "We don't have to do this if you'd rather not."
Draco sighed, shook his head, and said, "I thought my courage would fail, but it didn't. Which means that we practically have to do it now, because this is the longest night, and the ritual was meant to be performed then."
Harry smiled. "I know." There would be people who read evil omens into that, too, murmuring that it must be a Dark ritual if it took place on the winter solstice, when the night was longest and the day was shortest; the sun would be setting outside even now. But Harry, as he had told Kingsley, was past caring what other people thought. He knew the gossip would be even wilder after this, but it would have a fact to contend with, the fact that Harry and Draco had declared in public that they belonged to each other.
Harry glanced around. The Atrium was full enough, he judged, and drawing in more people every minute. It would only get worse-or rather, better-when some people felt the immense magic of the ritual spread through the Ministry. Time to begin.
He faced Draco and took his hands. Draco's fingers were cold and motionless in his at first, but he squeezed back when Harry squeezed them, and returned the meaningful smile with a smile of his own that managed, after a bit of practice, to look less terrified than it had started out as.
"Incendio," Harry said.
Half the ritual was already in place just from the right day and their intention to perform it, and so Harry didn't need to raise his wand to summon the fire. It sprang up from the floor around them in a thick curtain, a perfect ring, red and gold and pale flames that bowed and gestured towards the couple in the center and shielded them from sight at the same time.
Except for their shadows.
Harry could hear the murmurs and gasps and shouts-some outraged, some fearful, some excited-from the crowd. They had exactly as much meaning to him at the moment as the barking of dogs. He turned away from them and towards Draco, feeling the heat build between their palms.
"You still want to continue this?" he asked softly, although he knew that Draco did or the fire would have died. This ritual could only be conducted with the willing gift both participants made of themselves.
But asking confirmed and honored Draco's choice, and from the way Draco lifted his eyes to Harry's face a moment later, he understood that and valued the question. "Yes," he whispered.
Harry smiled and let go to Draco's right hand to reach into his pocket. This was the part he had been most nervous about, really: purchasing the gift he would need to give Draco. He had been worried that it might not be expensive enough, might be too expensive, might have some hidden symbolic meaning he was unaware of and that would contradict the whole intent of the ceremony, might be something that would clash with Draco's eyes and hair color, and on and on.
But when he opened the box and Draco stared at the silver ring, set with an emerald, resting there, he only issued a long, rattling hiss of a sigh.
"Yes," he repeated, so softly that Harry found it hard to hear him.
Harry smiled and opened his hand. If the ritual worked right, then he wouldn't have to release Draco to put the ring on his finger, because-
Yes. It did. The box hovered in midair, borne up by the magic of the ceremony, rather than dropping to the ground with a clatter, which would have disrupted the mood of the ritual as well as giving the people beyond the flames, who could see only their projected shadows moving on the curtain of fire, something else to gossip about.
Draco's eyes opened wide, as if he hadn't expected this despite knowing what should happen. Then he turned to face Harry, and Harry felt his stomach swoop as he realized something else was happening.
Until this moment, Draco had probably been keeping up one last wall against him, one last guard, in case it turned out that Harry was mocking him with a pretense of a romantic relationship. Harry knew that similar things had happened to Draco before, until he didn't date because he considered himself undesirable. It had taken him months to trust Harry because he was always waiting for the moment when Harry would choose someone else over him.
Those barriers were gone. He knew that the box wouldn't have hovered if Harry's love had been less than sincere.
Harry leaned forwards and kissed Draco gently on the mouth, the free hand behind his head. Then he reached out, plucked the ring from the box, and slid it onto Draco's extended finger.
The emerald began to blaze as if it held an inner light the moment Harry slid it into place. Then an enormous green shadow expanded from it, leaping to join the flames bowing around them. Harry blinked and looked instinctively at Draco. He hadn't read anything that described that.
Draco's eyes were very wide, very bright, and he seemed on the edge of laughter. Harry thought that here was a Draco he had never seen before, one who felt in his element, loved and protected. Perhaps he could have looked like this all the time, if various people hadn't tried to squash his spirit.
Then Harry told himself to stop thinking about the past. The present was what mattered.
"What does that mean?" he asked softly, nodding to the blazing emerald.
"It means that the jewel itself accepts and acknowledges our love." Draco was looking straight at him, and then he moved nearer and leaned his lips against Harry's. Harry's heart-rate sped up. To people on the outside of the curtain of flame, it would look like a kiss; they would misunderstand the deep and tender nature of the gesture. At the moment, Harry was all for that. "Our emotions can awaken a response from stone. Do you know how rare that is, Harry?"
Harry beamed. He couldn't help it. If he hadn't chosen the most special or expensive ring for Draco, he had, at least, still offered him something of precious value.
Draco pressed his lips against Harry's then. Harry shuddered, and as the kiss slipped down through him and seemed to end up in his chest, another glow joined the shine of the emerald and the light of the flames. This one seemed to originate around his heart.
When he looked down, yes, there it was. His body was irradiated with it, scarlet and orange, nearly the colors of Gryffindor House. Draco wasn't shining with silver and green, but he didn't seem bothered by that, instead giving Harry a sly smile.
"The partner in the ritual with the greater, ah, sexual energy will usually shine like that," Draco said. "If the love is true. If both partners are as committed to the ceremony as they are to one another."
Visible proof, Harry decided. Draco can trust me as much as he likes, but there's nothing like visible proof. He was coming to know and understand all sorts of things about Draco tonight.
Draco lifted Harry's hand, where the scarlet light had formed a slender ruby band of its own around the appropriate finger. "Our light," Draco added, "to hold back the darkness of the solstice, to echo the vanished sun." Harry was sure he had found the words in a book somewhere, but his voice was as bright and breathless as though they were his own, as though he believed them.
Harry grinned at him-a wonderful sensation; he sometimes wasn't sure how much he could laugh around Draco without Draco thinking Harry was laughing at him-and bent down to kiss him once more. Draco opened his mouth eagerly, hands grabbing Harry's hair and tugging.
"I'm going to marry you," Harry breathed against his lips. It seemed an odd form for a vow, but the description of the ceremony had insisted that that was all it took, a simple declaration of action. He had to be careful not to use any words that would display uncertainty or mere desire, though, as opposed to something that stated the marriage would happen.
"I'm going to marry you," Draco said back, and his eyes blazed and his face shone and even his tongue glowed, or maybe Harry just saw the reflection of their light in a string of saliva spilling down it and mistook it for a separate glow.
The magic began to gather its force around them, spinning and sparking and growling. Draco's body shuddered in Harry's arms, but Harry was more enthralled at the moment with its effect on himself; he could feel the force tugging at his arms as if he stood in an ocean current.
And at his groin. He had never felt so aroused in his life.
The public part of the ceremony was done, however. They had shown to anyone watching, skeptical or not, the basics of their commitment through their shadows, and everyone who was actually sane knew the ceremony wouldn't have worked without desire, true desire and not enchanted emotion caused by a love potion or Imperius.
There would be people who doubted, but Harry knew he couldn't do anything about them.
He gathered Draco closer to him with one arm, and saw the way Draco's eyes sharpened when he felt Harry's erection. For a moment, his gaze weighed and judged Harry as though he was wondering whether he should give in.
Then he said, "Yes." One word, but it was enough, as it had been in the earlier parts of the ceremony.
Harry laughed, clasped him nearer still, and Apparated, straight through the Ministry's wards with the extra magic of the ritual, and the fire dying behind him.
They landed in Harry's drawing room, and rolled for a moment before Harry stopped them moving and laid Draco down on the floor. A flick of his wand later, and there was a fire leaping on the hearth so they didn't get cold, and Draco's clothes were gone.
Draco stared up at him with the same awed expression Harry had seen during the ceremony. "Yes," he said again, as Harry waved his wand, made his own clothes vanish, and then hesitated.
That was all the invitation Harry needed.
Preparing Draco went faster this time. All their other times, Harry had felt he needed to constantly keep hesitating and watching Draco's face for signs of discomfort. It shouldn't have been, if people had behaved more humanely to him after the war, but it was a big deal. Draco was putting himself in a position of vulnerability by letting Harry inside him. Harry needed to check that it was all right.
But this time, Draco was relaxed and smiling, his legs sprawling open, his eyes fastened so securely on Harry's face that Harry was almost convinced he never looked away or blinked the entire time. He laughed when he saw Harry peering anxiously at him, and nodded.
"Yes," he said, and arched his hips encouragingly, widening his legs.
Harry's face burned as he smeared the lube around Draco's entrance, inside it, and so deep inside him that Draco was hissing by then, his head falling back and his hair sprawled on the pillows Harry had hastily conjured on the floor, his mouth open, his face blank, his eyes yearning. When Harry replaced his fingers with his cock, Draco cried out, once, and then reached up and gripped Harry's sides to control his pace, his expression alight with pleasure.
In, out, in, out, Harry rocked back and forth, driving his thrusts, and Draco was with him the whole way: soaring in flight, wheeling through the buildup of pleasure that followed the initial thrusts as inevitably as the sun the sunrise, and then down into the messy fire and the spray and the stickiness and the gasping and the panting and the resting.
Harry shut his eyes. His whole body thrummed with contentment, and Draco played with his hair as they lay still in front of the fire. When he did open his eyes, he focused first on the lazily dancing shadows the fire threw.
Their shadows must have looked like that, shining on the curtain of fire, glowing like their passion.
And they were to be married soon.
Draco tugged on the sides of his face. Harry looked back at him, and found Draco smiling once more, expression relaxed as Harry had never seen it.
"Yes," he said again, and leaned up to kiss Harry.