Title: The Marriage of True Minds
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco eventually, Draco/Astoria, Harry/Ginny, and Harry/OMC.
Warnings: Sex (het and slash), angst, manipulation, bonding. Ignores the epilogue.
Summary: Lucius curses Harry and Draco into a forced marriage. They're required only to live together, not to be together, and so both of them pursue relationships on the side. But as time passes, things change.
Author's Notes: This will be a leisurely novel-length story, and at the moment, I don't know how many chapters it will be. If you don't like the cliché of a forced bond, it's probably not going to appeal. The title comes from Shakespeare's Sonnet 116.
The Marriage of True Minds
Chapter One—Across the Room
If Harry had ever listened to Hermione, he would have known better than to open the small package the white raven presented to him, or he would at least have known to check for charms and curses first.
But he was running late for a date with Ginny, and tired, and no one had tried to kill him in almost two months. He cast only the most desultory spells and then opened the box, thinking it was probably another good-luck gift from Hermione and Ron, or a new joke from George—
He caught a glimpse of a ring, a heavy metallic thing that looked as if it were braided together, with a dark stone in the center. There were two animals on top who held the stone, fanged mouth open to cradle it.
That was all he had time to see before a blast of light lifted him from his feet and carried him across the room. He vaguely felt the impact with the wall, his head ringing, his sight blurring, before he slumped to the side and lost all of it in darkness for a while.
When he opened his eyes at a burning in his fourth left finger and found the ring firmly clasped there, while an unconscious Draco Malfoy lay not three feet away, he began to suspect that he was in trouble.
"No, Father, for the last time." Draco made some effort to speak calmly. His father was an annoying, senile git who Draco suspected had gone more than slightly mad in Azkaban, but to show open disrespect to a parent was not a Malfoy tradition. Draco would show that he knew what was due his father even if his father never again showed what was due him. "The Ministry would only shut you up again if they found me letting you use the vaults, and they might take control of them from me entirely."
Lucius sneered at him. "What part of 'do this secretly' do you not understand?" His cane moved in his hand, and Draco tensed; when he was younger, he had more than once seen his father change it into a snake and send it after someone. But Lucius was either less angry than he appeared or he remembered at the last moment what was due his son, because he sneered and dropped his hand again. "Let me have only the money I've required. It is the minimum amount necessary to bribe a member of the Wizengamot."
Draco sighed. He did wish his mother was around to diffuse the tension, but she had left for another long session with Amelia Parkinson, Pansy's mother. Draco hated that she found it easier to be around a friend, even an old one, than the two of them, but he could understand how she felt. "I can't do that, Father. The risks of being found out are too great. This Wizengamot isn't like the old one you knew. Shacklebolt has done his very best to fill it with people who can't be bribed. We might hit on one by chance, but someone else would notice that they were acting differently, and probably manage to wring the truth out of them."
"You can't know that," Lucius said, and he was sneering again. Draco hated how ugly it looked on his father's face, he really did. He hoped he hadn't ever looked the same in Hogwarts, but he hadn't always been near a mirror to make sure. "I know names and details and stories that you can't imagine. I can find someone who owes me something."
"We used up all our favors during your retrial," Draco said steadily. "If it hadn't been for the way Potter spoke up for us, we wouldn't have earned back even the limited control of our vaults that we have."
"Potter," Lucius whispered, staring off into the distance as if the bespectacled Savior stood in front of him now. "We would have been better off without his interference."
Draco rolled his eyes; it was relatively safe to do so, since his father was looking elsewhere. "As you say, Father," he said. "Now, I need to meet with Hammersmith. He was making noises the other day about one of the businesses being threatened by Muggle competitors." He turned around, automatically tapping his pocket to make sure he had his wand.
"Draco!" Lucius yelled after him. Draco winced again. It would have been beneath his father's dignity to get out of the chair and come hobbling after him, but yelling across the width of a room wasn't much better. Malfoy voices were made for lowered conversations, darkened corridors. "Leave without listening to me, and you will regret it."
"I already do, Father," Draco said, turning around. "But you know as well as I that this meeting is important, and that you can't go."
Lucius's eyes traveled, burning, up and down Draco's body, as though he expected to see some grotesque touch of Muggle blood somewhere. "My friends knew what they were doing when they rescued me," he said. "They expected you to be the face, the front, for me. Not to take over yourself."
Draco straightened his spine, because that was going too far. "I'm cooperating with the law by doing it this way," he said quietly. "And my own desires. Accept it, Father. Things aren't ever going back to the days when you knelt to the Dark Lord." He turned away again.
"Draco! I will do something to make you listen!"
Draco showed his father only his back and his silence as he left.
Later, waking up with a ring on his finger three feet away from a staring Potter, Draco might have wished he had listened a bit longer.
"What the fuck?" Harry ignored the disapproving look Malfoy gave him as he scrambled to his feet. If there was any time that called for swearing, it was this, when he had somehow woken up in an unfamiliar room and there was a ring he wore that wouldn't come off for any amount of tugging. The ring was braided from many small threads of gold, silver, and copper, and it contained two animals struggling on the top. Harry hadn't looked at them closely, but he thought they were both snakes.
He reckoned he should try Parseltongue on them, but his major concern was escaping this room. He let his eyes rake it as Malfoy sat up behind him, hands wrapped around his temples. He groaned faintly. Harry would have felt sorry for him if he could have spared any sympathy from the stock he was using for himself.
The room had five or six walls; Harry wasn't sure if the one that bent into a small alcove housing an ivory statuette near the fireplace should count as a separate wall or not. The fire shone and leaped on the logs, and Harry had to admit that the place was comfortably warm. The walls were either white or a sort of off-yellow that made Harry want to grit his teeth as his eyesight wavered back and forth between the colors. The floor was shaped blocks of some dark brown wood, and the furnishings consisted of only two chairs. Two doors, Harry noted, as well. He could check them for locks in a moment.
Harry ignored him and began to move across the floor, drawing his wand. If Malfoy was mixed up in this somehow, listening to him could be fatal. He was probably trying to delay Harry so his friends could attack.
"Stop!" Malfoy scrambled up and ran after him. But the moment he did, Harry had lengthened his stride, and a turn for speed when he was a child had been accented by Auror training. He got to the door first and leveled his wand at it, thinking a non-verbal Blasting Curse that ought to make the thing shudder on its hinges. If he did any damage to Malfoy's precious home—because surely this had to be Malfoy Manor, it was decorated pretentiously enough—then that was an added bonus.
The door absorbed his spell and simply glowed red, rather than breaking apart. Harry backed up a step, watching narrowly. Then the glow intensified, and he whirled around and dived to the floor, pulling Malfoy with him on instinct. He had seen glows like that a few seconds before a curse came at him.
This time, nothing of the sort happened. The glow died, and Harry became aware that Malfoy was struggling to sit up. He let it happen and turned to face the bastard, yanking hard at the ring on his hand again. It stayed.
"What the fuck?" he explained.
Malfoy knelt there, head bowed, his chest heaving, and said nothing for long moments. It gave Harry an opportunity to study him. There ought to be some guilt in his face, if he was as concerned in this as Harry thought he was.
But there wasn't. He just looked tired. Harry had seen the look in the mirror often since the war. No one had told him that being an adult was going to be this hard.
Malfoy had unexpectedly ragged hair, the ends cut as though someone had gone crazy on them with a pair of scissors and left them hanging that way. Maybe he just didn't have time to groom this morning, Harry thought, seeing as he was busy enslaving people with magical rings. The robes he wore were formal and pale, which meant he hadn't anticipated ending up on the floor next to Harry. Perhaps something had gone wrong with his plan. Harry had seen the ring he wore, too, of course, and it looked to be the twin of his. Just as stubborn and immovable, too.
"All right," he said, when moments had passed and Malfoy had offered no explanation to match his own bewilderment. "Talk."
Malfoy sat back on his heels and looked at him, pushing his hair out of his eyes. Harry was glad to see that those eyes were the same as ever, despite the weariness in the back of them. Cool, grey, disdainful. Good. It would be a lot easier to hate the bastard than if he just looked like any ordinary wizard of his generation that Harry might pass in the Ministry.
"My father did this," Malfoy said. "Not me. I—annoyed him, and he took his revenge on me." He held up his ringed hand. "I assume he thought the most annoying revenge possible would be to bind me to you in marriage."
Harry felt a lump of snow collect in his gut. "No," he whispered. "That's not—possible. He couldn't have."
"Couldn't have," Malfoy said, and his gaze was brilliant and bitter and clear now. Harry wondered fleetingly if the rings were letting them read each other's minds, or if he was just better at reading people in general than he used to be. That was one thing the Auror training was supposed to do for you, but on the other hand, his instructors had usually despaired of him learning it.
Along with a lot of other things, Harry reminded him, and you proved them wrong on those, too.
"He did," Malfoy said. "As the head of the Malfoy line, he can give me in marriage to whoever he wishes. And when he uses these rings, then the bargain—and the bond—is unbreakable."
Harry shook his head. "But he shouldn't be the head of your family. That's you, now."
"Good to see you've noticed."
Harry just shrugged, uncertain why Malfoy was staring at him that way. "Anyway, he shouldn't be able to."
Malfoy sighed and tugged at the ring absently, proving that he didn't know how to get it off, either. "The Ministry took his vaults and the chance to act publicly from him, that's true. But the right of forcibly giving a child in marriage is an archaic one, and not often used even by pure-bloods anymore. They forgot to remove it."
Harry closed his eyes and massaged his temples.
"Don't tell me." Malfoy's voice was soft and bright, but underneath it Harry could hear a tone of inexpressible bitterness. "You're sobbing to yourself in your head, wondering why these things always happen to you, thinking about why you're an innocent victim and you're just too good to suffer like this."
Harry opened one eye and regarded him. "Actually, Malfoy, no. I'm thinking about all the ways those idiots at the Ministry have fucked up my life in the past, and how this is only another of them. Someone ought to come along and take the right to make decisions away from them, I swear."
Malfoy stared at him, so startled that he didn't seem to realize how close he was leaning. Harry suppressed the urge to swat him away. For all he knew, the rings might not permit violence between them right now. "How else have they—fucked your life up?" Malfoy asked, pausing before he said the word as if it was too dirty for his silken mouth to pronounce, though Harry had heard him use it often enough at school.
Harry shook his head. "That isn't the point right now." He tugged one more time at the ring and gave a disgusted sigh. "Anyway. What does this marriage entail?"
"It's marriage," Malfoy said, and his voice had become immeasurably superior again. "Not even you can have lived this long in the marriage world without knowing what a couple does when they're wed, Potter." His gaze raked up and down Harry as if looking for some hidden deformity that would explain his ignorance.
Harry gritted his teeth. "What I mean," he said, "is that I've seen a few marriage curses used in the field, and they usually involved forcing the victims to fuck." He used the word on purpose and saw Malfoy hesitate and blink. "But we're not doing that, which suggests this spell is different. What do we have to do?"
Malfoy took a step back and turned around to pace. Well, let him. Harry awaited an answer, studying the doors out of the room and trying to recall everything he'd heard or read about Malfoy and his father in the past few years. It could be important.
Potter was rational. Draco really hadn't expected that.
Of course, he was an Auror, and Draco expected that he'd had to learn a small degree of rationality or he would have flown apart by now, or been killed by someone slightly more sane than the Dark Lord. It was—unpleasant to be surprised like that, to have to think of the reasons for Potter's actions after they happened rather than simply anticipating them and using that foresight to trick him or get ahead of him. Draco told himself not to let it happen again, and finally rose to his feet from their undignified position of sitting on the floor.
He remembered how they'd got there in the first place, and frowned at Potter. "You thought the door was going to attack us?"
"From the color of the light, yes." Potter kept sitting where he was, regarding Draco without intimidation, as though the height factor Draco was using meant nothing. Perhaps it didn't, to him. His green eyes were absurdly calm and straightforward, as a matter of fact, and Draco tried not to let that make him flounder. "And you'd told me to wait. So I thought casting a spell on the door might cause a harsh reaction."
"And you still tried to save my life?" Draco had to be clear on that point. It would have made sense if Potter had knocked him down to bring him within reach of his wand, but as far as he could tell, Potter hadn't cast any aggressive spells on him since he'd come into the room.
Potter's eyes darkened. "We're trained to do that, Malfoy," he said, voice also lowering. "Now. I can only think of two reasons you would put off telling me what we have to do because of this curse: because you don't know or because it's too horrible to contemplate. Decide which one it is and tell me already."
Draco looked away with a frown. He hadn't anticipated that Potter would act like this about the curse, either.
"We—have to live in the same house," he said. "We have to pool our vaults. The one who married into the family was expected to do that, to resign control of themselves to the Malfoys and their—the family as a whole, really, more than the single spouse."
"Hmm," Potter said. "And sex?"
Draco glared at him, but he had to admit that, if he hadn't had more notions about what the Malfoy marriage usually meant, he might have been panicking, as well. Though he reckoned, to be absolutely fair, he couldn't call Potter's reaction panic. There was a heightened flush in his cheeks and a bright glitter in his eyes, but he wasn't shouting and flinging destructive curses around the way Draco had assumed he would be.
Draco shook his head. "The Malfoys married for convenience, and the last time this was used, sex was still considered to be something that would happen any time two attractive young people were placed near each other. Not something one needed to have sentimental associations to do." He couldn't resist giving Potter an expressive look on the last words.
Potter returned it with a sneer and twisted lithely to his feet. The formal grey robes he was wearing—and for the first time, Draco wondered why he was wearing them—swept out from his neck and then back as they settled.
That was enough time for Draco to make out a livid weal of scars across the back of Potter's shoulders and throat that he was sure the bastard hadn't had in school. They were an odd color, grey like the robes, ash-colored. Draco leaned forwards, trying to see more.
Potter caught the movement from the corner of his eye and turned his head to look at him. Draco promptly backed away, hands raised, his heartbeat accelerating until he thought it would be next to impossible for Potter not to hear it. Potter hadn't moved fast, but that barely mattered, given the look in his eyes just then.
"All right," Potter said, and tugged the collar and shoulders of the robe up until they obscured the scars. Draco sat on his curiosity. "Can you persuade your father to take the spell off?"
"Not unless I also give him the control of the vaults and the public behavior of the Malfoy family that he seems to want," Draco said, lifting his chin and preparing to stare down any smart remarks that Potter might be about to offer, about how that wouldn't be such a sacrifice. "And I will never do that."
"You'd only be the one arrested by the Ministry, if you did," Potter said, unbalancing Draco with the wave of opposition that wasn't there. "What about breaking the rings to get them off?"
"They would take our hands with them," Draco said, with a cold glance that he hoped said, while Potter might not be above heroically sacrificing his limbs in the cause of freedom, Draco was more sensible.
Potter tapped his fingers against the corner of his lip, a gesture Draco had never seen before, but thought meant he was thinking. Well, no wonder it's rare. "What happens if we don't live together and pool our vaults? Tell me that."
"Then the curse—excuse me, the parental privilege—starts inflicting pain on us until we do. The pain—not even you could bear it, Potter." Draco closed his eyes, shivering. He had read descriptions of that pain back when his father still thought Draco was a worthy son and ought to know every important fact of his heritage. "Don't ask me to try it."
"I won't," Potter said stolidly. "Fine. Is there any countercurse that we might be able to find?"
Draco sighed. "Perhaps, but I think the chance is slim. I called it a curse, but it really isn't. It's a simple effort of will for the head of the Malfoy line, like deciding what clothes to put on in the morning. Spells aren't designed to counteract things like that."
Potter nodded slowly. "Yeah, I see. Well, then, let's go talk to Lucius." He swirled towards the door he hadn't tried to attack, pausing to glance back at Draco for guidance.
"I told you, he won't take anything I can actually offer him." Draco trotted after him, smoothing one finger over the ring and hating the way that the braids pricked at him like thorns. There was nothing his father could have done that would be more inconvenient and humiliating than this, and he must have known that. It was the perfect solution to Draco's disobedience, really, because he still didn't want to kill his only living child.
"But he might take something from me," Potter said softly, and opened the door.
The house-elves were lined up outside, waiting for them.
Draco jerked to a halt in surprise. He had forgotten that the elves could sense it when one of the bloodline married, especially if it was a forced marriage. The nearest elf bounced up on its toes and touched an ecstatic, trembling hand to its forehead, eyes so wide that Draco knew tears would start falling any moment.
"Sini wishes to wish Master Draco Malfoy and Master Harry Malfoy congratulations on their marriage," it squeaked.
Draco took note of the grammar, the best he'd ever heard a house-elf use, before he took note of the tension that had settled into Potter's muscles. He controlled it much better than he ever had when they were back in school; his head simply tilted a bit forwards, and his shoulders rippled once. But Draco could feel the shift in power through their rings, a connection that he thought he had noticed before Potter because he was the only one who knew how to look for it. Potter was close to bringing his magic screaming down on everyone in sight.
"This is a side-effect you forgot to warn me about," was all he said, in a controlled voice, turning to face Draco. "The women who married into the Malfoy family would automatically give up their last names, I suppose?"
Draco nodded uneasily. It had seemed something so small that he hadn't thought to include it in the list of immediate consequences Potter had asked for. He might have made a mistake.
On the other hand, meeting those burning eyes, he knew now would be the wrong time to admit it. He would not let Potter intimidate him or force him into doing something he knew was impossible. He lifted his chin. "Your name will have changed on your records in the Ministry, and anywhere else official records are kept. All the elves know as well, of course. And my mother probably knows, if she was paying attention to the Malfoy magic at all."
"I see." Potter glanced at him more fully.
Draco stepped back from the look in his eyes. A Blasting Curse would have laid him out less successfully.
"We will be discussing this later." It sounded like it was an effort for Potter to keep his voice below a shout, but he managed. He turned to the nearest house-elf, seeming to have figured out that he could give it orders, now that he was a Malfoy. "Lead us to Lucius," he commanded.
The elf led on, and Potter followed it, and Draco followed him, eyes never leaving the middle of his back—except when Potter's robes swished and showed glimpses of that grey scar as well as some others that stretched away towards his spine.
He refused to let Potter intimidate him. But it seemed Potter intended to return the favor.