This fic was written for the smoochfest on LJ as a gift for sesheta_66. My very first fest, yay :D
It has seven chapters and is complete. I'll be updating this story daily. Thanks as always to the fabulous Ardchoile for her excellent beta skills!
Chapter 1 The Aequalis Bond
'What the fuck is he doing here,' Draco hissed, his voice low and tinted with more than a little bit of frost.
He turned his head and shot an accusing glare Pansy's way, but his best friend didn't look intimidated in the slightest. Instead, her eyes were full of wicked amusement, her eyebrow raised in silent mockery.
'Come now Draco dearest', Pansy replied sweetly. 'I thought you and my lovely fiancé had made your peace ages ago. In fact, I was under the distinct impression that you'd become rather fond of him?'
'Oh ha bloody ha Pans. I'm not talking about the crazy ginger twat as I'm sure you're perfectly aware. I'm talking about the twat walking next to him, The Boy-Who-Lived-To-Ruin-My-Life or whatever they're calling him these days,' Draco sneered, not taking his eyes off the two men making their way through the bustling Wizarding restaurant.
Damn, Draco thought, is nowhere sacred? Can I not be spared the presence of the insufferable Harry Potter, not even in my own favourite restaurant?
Draco braced himself as the two men rapidly approached their table. He stood up to welcome them, successfully resisting the urge to smooth down his already perfectly crease-free robes. Potter always did manage to rattle him a little, make him doubt himself where not many others could. Most annoying, Draco thought, not for the first time.
'Hello gorgeous,' George Weasley called out, pulling his wife-to-be up by her hand.
Pansy laughed, the sound of it light and free, while she let herself be enveloped in a somewhat overexuberant hug. That laugh and the look Pansy got in her eyes whenever she spoke about George Weasley, were what had convinced Draco that the man made a good match for his best friend after all. And well, the added bonus of a hugely successful business didn't exactly hurt, did it. Silly as the Weasley joke shops may be, the heaps of Galleons they brought in every month were no laughing matter.
George didn't look ready to let go of his fiancée any time soon. They kissed, the two lovebirds taking their time and ignoring anything but each other. Draco was about to clear his throat to remind the amorous couple that no, in fact they weren't alone, when someone beat him to it.
Potter. Right. Draco sighed and turned his attention to the man. Sweet Merlin but Potter had awful taste in clothes… The one time he wasn't forced to wear the standard Auror robes, he had to go and choose… this. Some sort of Muggle attire, what Draco recognised as baggy jeans and a plain white shirt. Draco sighed. Such a waste really. He'd bet Potter could look half decent if only he'd make a bit of an effort with his appearance. Like get some high quality, custom-made wizarding robes. And a haircut. Lose the idiotic glasses. Do something with… Oh, forget it, Draco thought.
'George. Potter,' he said curtly, adding a little nod because he was still a Malfoy and had some manners, even when confronted with uncouth Gryffindors such as these two.
He felt his temper flare up as he noted the hint of amusement twinkling in Potter's eyes, like he knew exactly what Draco had been thinking.
'Malfoy,' Potter said, echoing Draco's own painfully polite tone, expression grave if one chose to ignore the eyes. Which for some reason, Draco had always found rather impossible to do.
'Harry darling, lovely to see you,' Pansy interrupted Draco's thoughts. Apparently she'd just come up for air and finally remembered their presence.
'Hello Pansy. Always a pleasure,' Harry replied, giving her a warm smile and pulling her in for a quick hug.
'Draco mate, good to see you,' George greeted him, with the customary grin and an added thump on the shoulder. Ouch.
With the greetings finally over with, they sat down and started looking at the menus. All except Draco that was. He was too busy wondering what on earth Potter was doing here? And why was everyone else acting like it was no big deal, just an everyday occurrence? Which it most decidedly was not. Not for Draco anyway. Sure, having dinner with George and Pansy was common enough, but with Harry bloody Potter? Not likely. All he ever saw of the silly git was when he was prancing around the Ministry halls, always with a small, or not so small, band of admirers trailing behind. Because he was the "Git That Lived", wasn't he… In fact, Draco wondered what Potter was doing here now without his little fan club. He must be feeling positively lonely.
Draco absolutely refused to be the one to ask though. He'd already slipped when he was caught off-guard by stupid Potter walking into "Le Sorcier Agile" when he least expected it. But he wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of asking for an explanation now. They all wanted to pretend that there was nothing unusual about the four of them having dinner together at the most coveted table of this exquisite French restaurant? Fine. He could play that game.
With an almost regal composure, or that was what Draco was aiming for anyway, he reached for the menu and started to scrutinise it. Hmmmm… seafood possibly…
Harry tucked into the delicious looking salad of spring greens with relish. The colours were fresh and vibrant, the taste a delicate combination of different flavours and textures. Harry sighed happily as he took another bite and then looked around the table.
They were all quiet for the moment, everyone concentrating on the excellent food in front of them. Not for the first time that evening, Harry stole a quick glance across the table. It was strange to be sharing a meal with Malfoy of all people, strange to see more of him than a mere glimpse of blond hair rounding a corner of one of the many Ministry halls.
At least for him it hadn't been unexpected. He'd been prepared to see Malfoy here, where Malfoy clearly hadn't been. Pansy obviously hadn't seen fit to fill her friend in on the purpose of their little get-together this evening, and judging by the shared mirth between her and her fiancé, that omission was not accidental.
Never in a million years would Harry have expected George and Pansy to be the perfect fit they so obviously were. After the war and losing Fred, George had been left devastated. For years he wasn't himself, never quite complete without his twin beside him. He'd thrown himself into his work, so much so that Harry and the Weasleys worried for his health, worried he would never be his old self again.
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes had thrived on all the hard work of course, and shops had been opened in several international cities such as Paris, New York and Milan.
It was at the grand gala opening of a brand new wizarding shopping centre just outside Athens that Harry had unwittingly introduced George to his future spouse. George was there because one of the main shops was a Weasley joke shop of course, and Pansy was there because that's just what she did. Harry had seen her before at functions he'd felt obliged to attend, looking all smiley and glamorous, but with eyes that seemed desolate and full of sorrow. Harry knew what had caused that sadness, knew Pansy had no family left, both her mother and father having died at the final battle.
At one such function, Harry had struck up a conversation with her. Not about anything important, just some friendly gossip about some of their Hogwarts professors and fellow students. She'd looked startled at first, but after a while she hesitantly started to respond to him. He'd seen her at other events since then, and they'd always find the time for a friendly chat. They were in the middle of one of those chats, when George interrupted them at the gala opening.
Harry had seen it happen. They seemed to recognise something in each other, not like a bolt of lightning, but a more gentle connection, one that would burn slowly but surely. They'd found each other that day and had been together ever since. George made Pansy laugh and brought the life back into her eyes, while Pansy made him whole again, encouraging him with warmth and an unexpectedly wicked sense of humour that struck just the right chord.
Yes, Harry was happy for them. He'd love to find a man one day who could make him as happy as Pansy and George did each other, but he wasn't sure he'd ever be that lucky.
Harry looked up when he heard Pansy clear her throat as if preparing for a speech. Oh. This would be the moment then. He turned his eyes to Malfoy expectantly. For all the trouble Harry was in for, he could at least enjoy the show.
Malfoy finished the last of his entrée ("escargots", the pretentious little snob)and looked up at his friend with a superior calm. We'll see how long that lasts, Harry thought with a hint of glee.
'Right…' she started, 'Draco, Harry, thank you for sharing this impromptu celebratory dinner with us. As you both know, we'll be getting married four weeks from now. We've decided on the Aequalis Bond, which means we'll each need a Confidant to stand up with us'.
Harry kept sneaking glances at Malfoy, looking for the moment those expressive silver eyes began to widen in comprehension. He wasn't disappointed. Draco looked from Pansy to George to Harry, searching their faces for something, anything that would deny what he thought he knew. No such luck, Harry thought.
'Yes,' George said cheerfully, a wicked glint to his eyes, 'We're ever so grateful you two decided you could be mature enough to play nice. Because of course you'll have to now that you've agreed to be our Confidants'.
'Now now George darling, let's not ask them for the impossible. It's just for the bonding ceremony they'll be forced to be civil with each other,' Pansy playfully scolded her fiancée.
Harry looked at Malfoy and saw him first go very pale and then flush with colour.
'But… but…' Malfoy spluttered ineffectually.
Pansy looked at him with mock concern and asked: 'What's the matter Draco? You agreed to be my Confidant, did you not?'
'Well yes, but… I most certainly did not agree on anything involving him!' he managed to get out.
George raised his eyebrows and put on a sad face.
'But Draco, I thought you liked me,' he pouted, coyly fluttering his eyelashes.
Malfoy's glare was so frosty Harry was surprised George wasn't sporting icicles down his freckly nose. Clearly deciding to ignore that last statement, Malfoy said: 'I would have assumed you could have picked a Confidant from amongst one of your ginger relatives'. His eyes narrowed as he said: 'You did this on purpose, didn't you'.
'You wound me,' George declared, putting a hand on his heart in a dramatic gesture. He might have had a tiny hope of pulling that expression of hurt and wounded pride off, if it wasn't for Pansy's snickering.
Harry sat up a little straighter. Hang on… Malfoy did have a point there… He eyed George suspiciously.
'Oh, only now catching on are you Potter? We've been thoroughly set up here,' he spat out.
Harry looked over at George and Pansy to see identical angelic expressions that wouldn't fool a first year Hufflepuff. He hesitated, then looked back to Malfoy and said: 'Come on Malfoy. Yes, it's going to be rather awkward. But it's only the one day, isn't it. I'm… fairly sure we can be all nice and polite for just one day, can't we?'
Harry wasn't sure who he was trying to convince, Malfoy or himself. From the looks of it, he wasn't doing a very good job either way.
Malfoy sighed and closed his eyes in exasperation.
'One day Potter? Is that what you think?' he said, after a few moments of silence. He opened his eyes and continued. 'Do you know anything about the Aequalis bonding ceremony? Do you?'
'Er… No?' Harry tried. He was starting to get a bad feeling about this. Malfoy's reaction seemed excessive, even for him. There had to be more to it than Harry could see right now…