Title: 'Unbound'
Author: tigersilver
Beta: demicus* (after the fact, sorry; exigencies of posting on time have Imperius'd this author!)
Prompt: #335 for kitty_fic* see below.
Gift to: kitty_fic*
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Harry/Draco
Word Count: 11,000
Summary: Draco's Veela heritage impels him to make permanent his relationship with Harry Potter. He needs a certain special family heirloom to make that happen. Potter's cooperation would be useful, too.
Warnings: Dithering. Scheming. Scant mention of possible mpreg. UST, PWP, parental humiliation tactics; Draco and Harry POVs, alternating. Veela!Draco, Mate!Harry. Top!Draco for those who mind that (but don't be counting on it, folks, cause whose more likely to be laying those Veela eggs? Hmmm?)
Author's Notes: I've taken liberties with Draco's ancestry. He has a Veela grandmother now and a French one at that! Oh, and Harry's not an idiot, either. The rest is to kitty_fic* 's prompt, which was so unbearably fun I wrote her a treatise!
Disclaimer: This piece of fiction is based on characters and situations created and owned by J. K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made, no copyright or trademark infringement, or offense is intended. All characters depicted in sexual situations are above the age of consent.
The prompt: Prompt #335; Your name: kitty_fic* Pairing: Harry/Draco; Era: Any; Additions: Appearance of Draco's grandmother on Lucius' side (she is both beautiful and kind) whom Draco get his veela inheritance from. Happy Ending.;Scenario: Draco regularly holds conversations in his mind with Harry- But suddenly Harry can hear his thoughts.; Squicks: Non-con, scat, Fem!males, crossdressing, heavy bD/sm; Maximum Rating: NC-17+;

Oops! I should probably mention this is a sort of standalone sequel to another gift fic for this same do_me_veela* Fest, which you may read first, should you wish: Fear of Flying.

Unbound Part 1/2

"Darling," Draco's Mum remarked, heavily florally-laden and gilded Meissen teacup poised before perfectly outlined lips and her lovely light blue eyes sharp and narrow upon his wretched blush, "how… how utterly darling! And of course Potter, yes?" She smiled gleefully as Draco's cheeks burned a degree hotter. "Most suitable, really. Fitting."

Her brief bout of weird girly enthusiasm clearly over and done with, Draco's mother settled back with her tea, sipping contentedly.

"'Of-of course'? 'F-Fitting', you say?" Draco stuttered, his kneecaps coming together with a snap as he jolted bolt upright in his console chair. "But—Mum! I only just—we—you!" he yelped, reduced to nonsensical monosyllabic spurts. To have his mother approve his choice so easily? Unthinkable! To have his mother instantly state that Potter was 'suitable'? Completely unreal! Draco flailed internally. "Mother! It's Potter we speak of—Pot-ter!"

"But of course, my love," his Mum stated firmly, unaffected. "Harry Potter. And it is an 'of course', is it not? Rather a foregone conclusion, Draco." She paused significantly, giving him the Look. "I'd say."

"Urk!" Draco had never considered his Mum might actually ponder his largely uneventful love life, much less conclude Potter was a natural for a starring role in it. "M-Mum?"

He took a hasty gulp of his own tea, nerves skittering madly under his shaken façade; clearly, his Mum was no dummy. Possibly she was unnaturally precipient as well!

"Mmm, dear?"

"Why in Merlin's name would you ever think to alight upon Potter in any sort of connection to my romantic prospects?" he pressed her. "You know we've never exactly been even the slightest bit civil, Mum, so I don't see where your blasted 'of course' is coming from—I've only just now mentioned that our relationship even exists!"

The urbane and cosmopolitan—yet somehow unexpectedly sensitive and intuitive—Narcissa Malfoy sipped her Oolong daintily, briefly closing her delicate eyelids in admiration of the wafting and elusive aroma of steamed jasmine-scented leaves. Sighing lightly, she placed her cup upon its paper-thin saucer with a decided and deliberate 'clink!' Those finely plucked eyebrows, so like Draco's, drew together in the teeniest, tiniest of puzzled frowns. Her expertly reddened lips pursed as she cocked her head and stared wide-eyed and guileless at her sole offspring, ostensibly astounded at his gawp-and-huff reaction to his mother's perfectly sensible reaction. Her son scowled in return, lips thinned disagreeably.

"Come now, Draco, darling!" Narcissa squared her shoulders, apparenly taking it upon herself to jolly her son out his fit of nervous sulks. "Did you not ever consider that I might wonder? It's been years now, my sweet, you've been talking up your precious Potter. Years."

"Er." Draco, who seldom blushed and especially not before his own parents, eyed his formidable Mum warily. Had his guilty fascination with Potter been that apparent all along? So blatently obvious even his own mother could see it plainly? How—how bloody humiliating! How…lowering. He hung his head, shamed and at a slight loss. He'd rather expected this to be more difficult, his confession. It was disconcerting that it wasn't. "Ah. Ah…hem. R-Right. I s'pose it has, hasn't it? A bit."

"Oh, yes."

His mother nodded again, seemingly quite satisfied with whatever internal conclusions she'd come to concerning the newly revealed Potter-Malfoy misalliance—but, true to her generally reserved nature ,she wasn't being exactly forthcoming. Draco could only surmise what that mysterious nod meant and that left him feeling understandably uneasy. Not for nothing was his Mum a Black by birth, Draco knew. Rather…eerie, those Blacks. Peered into one's head at a drop of a hat, they did. Not at all nice, that.

"Indeed, I suppose I must confide I am…ah…pleased with this turn out, son." His mother's lips quirked in wry amusement behind the gold-leafed rim she peeked over. Draco sat up in a hurry; his mother seldom waxed lyrical concerning his actions, no matter how much she truly adored him. "Your choice is rather more than merely acceptable, darling—even I cannot deny your Potter is a bit of catch, these days. A very fit young Wizard, Draco, and really quite, quite above reproach in the marriage stakes, upon consideration. A champion, as they say. Excellent potential for a future Malfoy."

"Hurgh!" Draco, in the midst of swallowing the last dregs, had his tea go down the wrong tube; he coughed, grimacing horribly behind a polite palm. "You-you don't say, Mum," he gasped, startled. "Really?"

Narcissa batted her lashes at him, all innocent maternal love overflowing in bounteous waves. It was highly unlike her.

"I do," she vouchsafed, tilting her chin at him. "Oh! But darling boy," she cooed. "There's no earthly need for that odd face you're making. Do cease at once, Draco. You'll wrinkle prematurely. Or perhaps the wind will go and change on you—you never know, dear."

"Ah? Urrr?"

Draco, a perplexed and befuddled young Wizard, returned her approving stare for a long moment before dropping his chin and balefully regarding his own long legs, crossed at the ankles demurely. He was, he decided, experiencing a high degree of mortification. Mum was actually taking a personal interest in his unconventional light o' love, an act of kindness no normally frosty Malfoy matron would even remotely consider—but then, hadn't it been demonstrated that neither he nor his redoubtable Mum were 'normal' Malfoys?

"Hmm."

It had, rather.

"No, you're correct—of course I wouldn't want that, Mum." Either wrinkles or the wind changing; the wind had been rather uncommonly friendly with Draco lately.

"No," she chirped. "You wouldn't, dear."

But yet—this tete a tete with his Mum was horrid. Beyond awful.

For there was nothing worse, as Draco was actively discovering, that being a nineteen year old man forcibly thrust into the act of confessing the details of his suddenly rather torrid love life to his own mother. Well, not by any means all the details—Draco flushed a deeper shade of rose pink, blinking hurriedly—but enough. It was literally worse even than Draco's enforced cowering before a hideous Dark Lord or his suffering the torments of an unrequited passion for Potter all these years; it was more ludicrously unsettling than his horrible awkwardness over the feathery appendages his unfortunate paternal ancestry had thrust upon him.

Speaking of, damn Lucius to Hades for placing his own son and heir in this cruelly uncomfortable position! And damn that scurrilous git Potter, as well, for rendering Lucius's heir helpless, supplicant before his super-Saint Potter trainers, terminally goo-goo-eyed and lacking his usual Malfoy chill all 'round!

Draco was a bleeding aberration: a Malfoy who wore his heart on his robe's sleeve. And if his own Mum could provoke this sort of unbalanced response merely by poking her nose in his private affairs, Draco was in far deeper shite than he'd realized.

He regarded his emptied cup with dismay; he'd have to be more careful, wouldn't he? Play it cool. A collected composed Malfoy front was key for handling emotional moments such as these…and besides, such control would stand him in good stead with Harry. No one cared for a clingy lover, did they?

He didn't believe so. Certainly no one in Slytherin ever had.

"Oh, yes." His Mum was tapping a long fingernail against her chin, bobbing her intricate coiffure ever so slowly, her eyes bright with speculation. The fond maternal smile had slid subtly into what Draco perceived as a rather evil and reptilian grin; she seemed entirely too highly intrigued with this topic, his Mum, and Draco shivered over it. Nothing about that expression boded well for his peace of mind. "Mmm-hmm. I see now, Draco. You know, I find I do completely understand your quandary, darling. Really, you must have had a particularly difficult time with it, all these many years at school attending with him. As it was of course Potter and not just any old Tom, Dick or Harry, correct? But naturally instead, ah, the Harry." She waved a white hand at him, reflexively shooing off all other potential contenders for her son's affections. "Couldn't have been any other boy, though—really, no. No, no, no—not remotely a possibility, not now I consider the entire picture. The Slug Incident, dear, and then the mudslinging you complained of so bitterly, not to mention all those Quidditch games you forfeited, darling…why, it's almost as if it were Fated, dear. How very…sweet."

"Nurgh?"

Draco changed up ten degrees redder, all 'round, his embarrassed flush covering him stem to stern. His teacup clanked against its saucer as his hands trembled.

"Fated?" he gargled, paling instantly to replace the fiery crimson colour he'd just sported. "Y-You think so?"

"Certainly," his Mum replied staunchly. "Stands to reason, Draco." Her tea was partaken of once more; she nibbled a Hobnob and cast upon him an inquisitive stare. "So, my darling dear, what exactly has occured that has caused you both to admit your mutual attraction?" His Mum, who was not by any stretch of the imagination ever particularly given to bonhomie, much less chattiness over personal details, beamed at Draco, her lazer sharp eyes twinkling. "And do tell, Draco—have you kissed him yet, your darling little Potter? Or have events moved well beyond that stage? I would hope so, actually—you are a Slytherin, Draco. Slytherins do not waste their time waffling about."

"I…erm." Draco blanched, entirely nonplussed. His Mum was a terrifying lady, sometimes. He'd often suspected the same but he'd not time to spare for being terrorized in this exact manner at this exact moment; he had a mission driving this strange Happy Famblies tea party. Which he should be about accomplishing before they both washed away on wave of Oolong and maternal empathy, he and his scary Mum. "A-About that piece of heirloom jewelry I mentioned, Mother? Could we possibly get back to that? I really am in need of something both Malfoy and valuable, you see. Er—and today, if at all possible. I'd like to carry it back to Hogwarts with me, Mum. It's, ah, rather…rather urgent."

"Oh, la, lovie!" His Mum tinkled her signature titter—with a decided middle-aged ladylike leer tossed in for good measure; Draco shuddered grimly hearing it, his toes curling in fright. "You do wish to spoil all my fun, don't you? But very well, my dearest; I'll save all my questions for another time, when we may be leisurely over it—provided, of course, you bring your young man to visit me, Draco?" She cocked an imperious eyebrow at him. "As I'm positive the family portraits would also appreciate a gander at your Harry, son, if he's to be one of us."

"Er?" Draco boggled, jaw dropping. "They would, would they?"

"Well, dear, you'll recall he didn't stay long the last time he stopped over? Most unfortunate, that." Narcissa bobbed her clefted chin in a regretful moue. "Had I known then he was to be my future son-in-law then, darling, you may be assured his welcome here at the Manor would've been very different, Draco—at least on my part. Can't speak for our poor dear departed Bella, naturally. But then Bella was never all that interested in family, either. Not your Father, either, except his own blood, nor even you, Draco…" Narcissa frowned at him for a fleeting moment.

"I!" Draco gasped at the insinuation; had he been that lousy at demonstrating his undeniable love for his Mum? "But I! The Cabinet Incident, Mum!" Which he regretted deeply, but still! He'd only followed the dastardly Dark Lord's orders in order to save his Mum and his horrid Father!

"Or so I assumed for some years, Draco, though quite incorrectly in your case, my love. I quite believed you'd taken after Lucius, Draco. I was so pleased to find you hadn't." Draco emitted a high-pitched wordless squeak of shock, blinking rapidly at her. Scary! "Mmmm. In any event, how things do change, dear—do they not? And at times in a most pleasant way imaginable, yes. I imagine you're finding your new life to be precisely that way, are you not, darling? Delightful for you, son. I am so pleased."

"Urk! Mother!"

Draco's teacup was severely endangered by his clenching fingers, for his errant thoughts had circled in a rather nonlinear manner back to the crucial matter of he and Potter. Er, together.

Appalling, that his own mother could actually make light of what had surely been the most life-altering event he'd ever experienced—even if he'd been convinced it was also the most freakish...at the time. The worst day and night ever, Draco had been certain: having Potter incarcerated in his own bloody basement, covered in boils, the Mu-Granger being tortured right before his very eyes, his own precious wand waltzed off with, and then—and then! The very next morning—courtesy his beloved Grandme're's Veela legacy—he'd awoken to confront a bloody roc-sized wingspan and a bird beak where his usual rather more than good-looking nose should have been!

That had been a thoroughly rotten series of events. Like the stench of three weeks old caribou gizzards rotten. But…

Yes, alright; there were worse things conceivable than the many other 'worst things' Draco had racked up to date in his short lifespan: his Mum could quiz him mercilessly for additional details beyond Draco's bare bones confession of interest in the Wizarding Golden Boy—and then, too, she could display the gall to chortle knowingly over his polite request aid and assistance in his pursuit of Boy Wonder.

Only his own Mum could expect to take such liberties with Draco's private affairs, he supposed. He sniffed, a flick of his wand refilling his cup; truly, it was not at all unexpected, his Mum's taking an interest. For it wasn't as though Draco descended upon her private parlour and demanded of her meaningful Malfoy heirlooms every single day, was it?

For Draco had a deep and abiding purpose underlying this particular Sunday afternoon duty visit to his Mum. Tea at the ancestral pile was a perfect excuse to vie for what he needed at the moment: a physical symbol. Because he really rather wanted a present to bestow upon Harry, something special to commemorate the rather amazing fact there was now a bond of sorts developing between the two of them. And not just any old present, no. He wanted jewelry, fine jewelry—Malfoy family riches, centuries old; a piece Harry could wear proudly—an item that fair screamed 'Property of Draco Malfoy. Hands off, all you other wankers!'

He was, Draco admitted to himself in his most private moments, still reeling. With the wonder of it all, with sheer gasping awe that Harry seemed to return—no, match almost exactly!—the depth and breadth of Draco's runaway emotions. Staggered, too, by the heartfelt relief he felt, engendered by finally locating and latching onto the most important person in any young Veela's existence: his mate. His true love, his partner. For Harry Potter was exactly that and every day Draco counted himself the most fortunate of beings: Harry loved him.

"You will bring him along, won't you, darling? To visit with me? I would so like a chance to become reacquainted."

Harry loved him. Those three little words allowed the sun to rise on better days; they caused his very blood to dance through Draco's veins; they conferred upon him such a great joy he could only articulate a bare tenth of it—and that not clearly. For he'd not ever conceived of such a very—such an incredible—oh, but such an amazing state existing within him! And he a Malfoy, known for the ice water that ran through his veins. A Malfoy to be properly Mated and not in some bloodless Blood-pure arranged marriage! And to Harry, the unlikely object of, well, many a long year of Draco's furtively passionate feelings!

Not always love, true enough, but certainly feelings—quite strong and persistent ones.

C'est incroyable! as his Grandme're would've announced in her lovely French-tinted accents. C'est magnifique! Grandfather Abraxis had been the last Malfoy to adore his helpmeet in this fashion. It was only that cruel accident claiming his wife's life that had turned him to the Dark.

Draco could relate. If Harry ever left him, then so would he take leave of his bearings, even if he lived on. He wouldn't care what he got up to after, if Harry were to…die.

"Y-Yes," Draco swallowed, blinking rapidly, vaguely aware his Mum had asked of him several questions recently. What exactly they were didn't matter—he'd been too busy musing to pay heed, so he'd have to simply wing his response and hope she'd be satisfied. Because, knowing his Mum, he wasn't likely to obtain what he wanted without first making her happy. "Yes, well, it's not been particularly easy, Mum, all of this. Very—very unexpected. And, erm, yes, we've—we've engaged in a—in some mutual expression of affections—not public, mind you!—and, and truly, Mum, I must allow I do find it still a bit unbelievable that he, of all possible people, is the one—" That tumbled out of Draco's mouth, quite unexpectedly. "That I—that I, ah…have come to regard so highly."

For it shocked him. Truly. How could he have not have sorted this long ago? He was Slytherin—he was one of the brainy sorts, like the Mu-Granger! Why had it taken the sprouting of great fidgety wings and the appearance of a beloved bloody face crammed full of boils in his very own parlour to awaken him to the state of his own heart?

He'd been blind all those years before that—deliberately so. Must've been, to not see what was so brilliantly obvious. Head up his own arse, blind.

"Oh, but Draco, my dear, why not your Harry?" Narcissa raised an eyebrow in gentle query as she chose another biscuit to nibble. Magical corsetry was a wonderful thing. "I mean to say, darling, simply by examining every humiliating incident you've confided to me before now I'd've instantly deduced he'd be most obvious person alive to claim your affections—had I ever considered it in that light." HIs mother fixed him with a most direct Look. "Which of course I hadn't, given our prior circumstances, nor would've normally thought to, either. But do you not agree, Draco? It stands to reason, darling. You've been gagging after that young man for almost a decade now, one way or another. Ten years it's been, Draco. I see nothing at all surprising about it, dear."

"Ah? Obvious?" Draco gulped, which must have caused the choke of surprise that overcame him. "A decade? Ah-ah-excuse me?" He blinked at the blandly beautiful face across from him, confusion resolving to a dark scowl. "Mum, whatever do you mean? I would hardly call this turn of events obvious! Nor expected! It's Potter, Mum—Potter! I didn't even think—would never have—"

His mother tittered at him. "Well, darling, you're not exactly self-aware, are you?"

"Harrumph!" Draco frowned furiously at her; perhaps he should've, but he certainly hadn't!

Indeed, but of course he wouldn't have thought of his current situation in those terms of Pottery inevitability. It was the very last thing that would ever cross his conscious mind, he and Potter. Together—an item? Absolutely not. Never in a million years could he have imagined the odd twists of fate and fortune combined that would lead to him—Draco Malfoy—being utterly enthralled with him—that ginormous git Potter!

He was a git, still. A beautiful git, the light of Draco's life sort of git.

And there it was. Vincit omnia veritas. He had, it did, and it was mutual—oh, Merlin's Whiskers and Bollocks, it was mutual!—and Draco was in desperate need of some way of cementing that commonality before the eyes of the world. Because as strange as it was to behold Pottyhead as the object of his affections, it was stranger still to be consumed with bitter, burning bouts of insane jealousy over Harry's every spare smile—every and any small sign of concern or attention he lavished upon anyone other than Draco. The Mu-Granger, the Weaselbee, the—that blasted wench Weasleyette; all of them! Draco was bloody all claws and red canines when it came down to it, practically seething like a cauldron on a constant parboil over his prized Potter. And it was…it was horrid, to be so dependent—so unsure. From one day to the next he was never certain that Potter might not simply take a quiet moment to reconsider his choices. That the entire affair might all end as abruptly as it had begun, in a flurry of moulting feathers and an unbearably tense confrontation atop that stupid Astronomy Tower.

And the situation needed fixing, at least in Draco's opinion; required it, even, and to that end he was in overweening need of a ring. A ring that symbolized a union—an unbreakable, unalterable bond. A special band that would stridently proclaim Potter his, Draco felt, which was exactly how it should be. For such an object would flash on Potter's finger like a bleeding beacon and warn off every potential rival. A ring…well, it would be Draco's polite mark upon Potter's person, more even than the love bites Draco liberally scattered down the tawny palette of Potter's perfect throat, more even than the fine silver chain he'd purchased on a whim in Hogsmeade just last week and presented Potter with a blush and a whole case of Frogs—more even than the fact Draco was in constant satellite motion about Potter's person, morning, noon and night, and much to the consternation of Potter's assorted mates.

"Darling," his Mum prompted gently, "you were saying? About your Harry, Draco? And Malfoy heirlooms?"

Draco swallowed hard, fidgeting in his seat, his hectic flush growing under his mother's scrutinous eye.

"I, ah, was wondering, Mum," he faltered, for this was difficult and possibly tricky, especially if Mum was feeling her oats. Mum had no compunction over teasing her beloved son if she felt he deserved it. It was that damned Black blood, finally outing itself. Aunt Andromeda had that self-same horrid sense of sly humour; he's caught her and Mum giggling like schoolgirls more than once, now that Father was banished! "If perhaps you knew where Father had cached Grandme're's personal effects? Because I find myself in need of a significant piece of jewelry; family jewelry, Mum—and clearly, it seems that I should be the one asking him, being the, er, suitor, so a Malfoy engagement ring would be the best place to start—"

"Ah, darling!" His Mum trilled a gentle laugh in Draco's direction, obviously delighted over Draco's hectic facial blotches and attendant fluster. "You're asking for Maman Cecilie's ring, are you not? Well! Why have you not simply come out with it before now, darling? No need for all this obfustication, Draco. You could've simply Owled me. I'd have sent it off to you immediately."

"Oh—oh?" Draco's brows climbed. "Really? You would've?"

"Silly boy! Of course. Love does render one rather incoherent, doesn't it? How delicious!"

His Mum emitted a muffled sound arising from a particularly frightening species of gleeful femininity. Draco winced. He much preferred his Mum's sly matter-of-factness or her nearly preternaturally composed façade to this—this abominable effusiveness over his love life! Besides, what exactly could he say to that pronouncement? Because it did, rather—love.

"Of course you may have it, son," his Mum went on, kindly enough. "I'll have Twimbly dig it up as soon as we're finished our tea, dear. You may take it away with you, my love, with all my good wishes, and use it wisely and well with your dear little Potter. Oh, and your blasted Father's blessing as well, sod him," Narcissa added with a decided snap before Draco could thank her. "Do convey his most sincere polite sentiments to Harry, Draco. Though I'm certain he'll suffer apoplexy when he learns, Draco dear, but what he doesn't know at the moment won't harm him, of course. Besides—I'm fairly sure he'll grow accustomed to it…after a while. A great long while. Thankfully, we rather claim that advantage, yes? It'll be literally years before he'll be available to stick his oar in, son. Thank Merlin."

"Oh! Ah. Really? You think so? Father would actually…with Harry?…eventually?"

His Mum smiled at him, clapping her hands to summon Twimbly. He popped in, was given his instructions swiftly and reappeared bearing gifts before Draco had even fully digested the idea that one day his shitefully poor excuse for a pater might actually approve of him.

"Well…ahem…th-thanks. Super, Mum." Draco heaved a tiny sigh of relief; perhaps he could yet escape his uncomfortably antique seat without further maternal grilling? Maybe? "I will, then, Mum. Take it with me. Thank you."

Narcissa acknowledged that with another beam of white teeth. She fondled the small jeweler's case Twimbly had brought her, her eyes soft. Draco watched her intently, reassured by the way his Mum's well kept hands folded over the hinge and the tattered velvet with care.

"But of course, dear. That, too, is only fitting, to present your objet d'amour with a Malfoy ring and especially our departed Maman Cecilie's. You should begin as you mean to go on, yes? A most lovely gesture, that, and I'm sure your Harry will appreciate as such. He strikes me as the sort who would adore the history of your Grandme're's ring. She was a most fascinating person, your grandmother. We all adored her, darling—and especially you and that old arse Abraxas. But, Draco?"

"Y-Yes?"

His mum smiled that calculating smile again; Draco felt a chill crawl across his nape, raising all the fine blond hairs there.

His Mum really was terribly well suited to be the consort of one Lucius Malfoy: she was more than capable of keeping his bastard papa in check. Though perhaps by the time Draco's errant Father was released from Azkaban there'd be grandchildren in the mix. He rather hoped so; twenty years was a long time and he wanted a family to fill up the empty echoing halls of his inherited manse.

He and Harry might even be able to duck Father's inevitable fury, simply invoking a solid shield of Malfoy nappies. A bit of appeasement for the old git, perhaps? A diversion, at the least.

A pleasant one, rather, to go about creating.

They'd have to work on that bit, Draco mused happily, that very intriguing notion. He'd always wanted a sibling, Draco recalled, his bemused mind wandering off to much balmier, talc-scented climes. Or three. But maybe five would be a better number—give those sodding Weasels a run for their Galleons. Or seven—go them by one more.

Draco grinned, staring off vacantly at the tapestries lining the cold marble walls.

He'd have to look more closely into the details of Veela nesting. They laid in clutches of three, did they not?

"My dear boy." Narcissa Malfoy repressed a chuckle over the rather daft expression her usually keen-eyed son had plastered all over his handsome angular features. "There's the one thing, with your Grandme're's ring. Let's say I hope most sincerely you'll not hesitate too long before popping the fateful question? For there is this tiny, a very minor—ah!—let's call it a 'catch', shall we? In any case, you should be made aware of it, dear, before you do anything. Draco, love, that band possesses a certain power, you see, which is why I never wore it after your grandmother passed on."

"Oh?" Draco nodded encouragingly, all ears and eyeballs. "Do tell, Mum. What sort of power, precisely? Because I don't want Harry to be placed in any sort of danger. No nasty surprises, please. We've had more than our fair share of those."

The smile was positively terrifying; what did she know that he didn't? His Mum only blinked at him sweetly.

"Indeed, dear. Nothing that bad, I assure you. It's…ah, subtle, the spell used. A Veela magic, one employed for binding, and to do with two mates communicating clearly. And your concern for Harry does you credit, dear." She waved a hand approvingly. "Very nice, dear. I'm proud of you."

"Thank you." Draco cleared his throat and tapped an impatient toe, waiting. "Ahem… and this 'catch' you mention?" he prompted. "The spell, Mum? What is it, exactly?"

"Well, son, I cannot provide you all the ins and outs of it, but rest assured your Grandme're's ring shall bind you and your Harry much more intimately than you can even imagine." Narcissa winked at her son, a sign that the entire world had run mad and frothing. "You'll be all the more connected, Draco, in every possible way. You'll see."

"Er…but."

Draco hesitated, swallowing back a surge of anxiety. Perhaps…perhaps maybe Grandme're's engagement ring was not such a good idea after all? There seemed to be a great deal more to it than a simple band of diamond-encrusted platinum and he'd no wish to take even the slightest risk with Harry, offering him a Magical Item with invested Veela powers…but then, it was Grandme're's, wasn't it? And Draco's Grandme're had been one of the most joyful people he'd ever had the pleasure of knowing, however briefly. If the ring could in some way impart that sense of joie de vivre to Draco's Harry—if it carried with it a cargo of fond memories and good fortune, then Draco would be more than happy to present it.

"Bind us…positively, I hope? Mum? No Imperious or Confundums, right?"

"Naturally. There's no harm to it, Draco, dear." His Mum reached out and offered up a tiny pat to his fisted hands, clasped in his lap, apropos perhaps the uneasy scowl flittering across her son's expression. The fingers of one tense were pried open and she pressed the box into his damp palm before sitting back with a quiet sigh.

"Not at all. It's entirely beneficial. Vincit omnia veritas, Draco—'the truth conquers all'. In fact, I cannot think of a more…fitting…way of officially beginning your relationship with your Harry than by offering him this particular ring, Draco. You'll see."

"O...kay? It's alright to use it, then?" Draco swallowed, reluctantly accepting the little box. "You're very sure of that, Mother? One hundred percent certain it's safe?"

"Absolutely! In fact—" his Mum said firmly, with a winning grin. "You should be off now. Don't waste a moment more with your old mother, Draco. Go find your young man!"

"Wa-wait!"

Draco was then promptly hustled politely out the Floo, his second pouring of tea and plateful of tiny cress-and-butter sandwiches abandoned behind him, his mother uncharacteristically wreathed in maternally proud smiles and actively shoving him through it.

"Mum!"

"Now be off with you and the very best of luck, son. Likely you'll be needing it. And don't waste another moment, Draco—ask him as soon as possible. It's best that way, darling."

"Wha—? Wait, Mum? What does that mean, damn it? Why would I need to hurry—?"

But the Manor Floo didn't vouchsafe an answer, being firmly shut behind him, and all Draco was left with was a small velvet covered box and the memory of his Mum's weirdly twinkling gaze.