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Chapter Twenty-Seven—A Golden Ending
"I can't believe how stupid I was."
Draco rolled his eyes a little and lay back on his bed with his arms behind his head. He had once dreamed of hearing Harry say that, but the fiftieth time he repeated it in two days, it got a bit old. "I know," he said. "But that's past and done now, and any time you feel the urge in the future to be as stupid as you were then, just come and talk to me. I'll stop it."
Harry, lying near the foot of the bed with Draco's feet on his stomach, started and looked at him. "You've done so much already," he mumbled. "I don't want to put you to more trouble—"
Draco seized Harry's hands and pulled him up so that he was draped across Draco's stomach. That drove the air out of Draco, but Harry was the one who whoofed in surprise and lay there blinking at him.
"I think your sense of humor is taking the longest to recover of anything you muted with that chain ritual," Draco told him in exasperation. "It was a joke. Of course I would hope that you feel you could ask me for help, but I'm also willing to be at your side for your own sake. Remember that." He yanked Harry's hair for emphasis.
"Ow," Harry said meekly.
Draco then used the hold in Harry's hair to pull Harry up and kiss his lips, and Harry went along with that plan much more enthusiastically. In fact, he melted all over Draco like candle wax, sighing and kissing into his mouth, and Draco had to push him back a little to hear steps outside the door.
There was a pause, and then a brisk knock. "Draco? Harry? May I come in?"
Harry pulled back from Draco so quick that it felt as though his stubble burned the sides of Draco's mouth. Draco grumbled at it, shook his head, and reached for Harry's hand, holding onto it when Harry tried to get off the bed in a panic. "Listen, it's my mother," he said. "She knows perfectly well what we've spent the last few days doing." He raised his voice. "Lean in at the door only, Mother. That's all I feel like tolerating right now."
Harry stared at him in amazement, but Narcissa smiled in perfect understanding as she opened the door and stuck her head into the room. "I wanted you to know that dinner is being served in twenty minutes, dear," she said.
"You could have sent a house-elf announcing that," Draco pointed out, entwining his fingers with Harry's and petting his hand. Harry finally gave up on trying to get loose, although he lay there and eyed Draco's mother as if he thought that she would object to him corrupting her "innocent little baby."
"True, but I wanted to say it so I could hear what you're going to do to your father," his mother agreed, totally unrepentant.
Harry tensed again, but Draco widened his eyes at her. "Why should we do anything? Don't you think he's going to torment himself enough when he sees us come down to dinner holding hands?"
Harry turned his head and gave Draco another look of wonder. Draco smiled back at him, shaking his head slightly. There was no reason for Harry to be so surprised that Draco would champion him. Even with all his emotions back, he seemed to believe that this interlude was only a dream, and Draco would wake up tomorrow morning and decide that he wanted to be the prim and proper Malfoy heir, with no lover, that his father would have valued.
"Never," Draco whispered to Harry, not caring that his mother could overhear. "I'm never going to abandon you."
Harry closed his eyes once, then turned his head to Narcissa and said, "Do you think there's a serious chance that Lucius might grind all the enamel off his teeth just watching us sit on the other side of the table?"
Draco knew his mother, and he saw the light start behind her eyes, running down her face to pool in her smile. She didn't put one hand over her mouth to hide it, and that said more than anything else about how much she had accepted Harry into their lives.
"It might happen," Narcissa agreed gravely. "I'm not sure that's something you should care about, though, given what he has done to you."
Harry half-shook his head. "I wouldn't want to give him expensive dental bills. Clearly we should do something else than just come down to dinner holding hands."
"You're right," Draco said, touching Harry's back gently. He would have liked to do something else, but in front of his mother, it was the only visible sign he felt like giving of the wild explosion of delight that filled him when Harry showed he had his sense of humor fully back. They could do the other things later, when his mother was out of the room. "I think we should start there, but not end it there. Spill your drink during dinner, Harry. Then, because my father won't want us wasting more wine on you, you'll have to share my glass."
Narcissa laughed in the way that Draco had rarely heard her laugh, a soft and delighted, liquid chuckle. "And I think Harry should complain of tiredness and not having the strength to lean all the way to his plate," she said. "It's understandable, after all, considering what he's been through in the last few days." Harry opened his mouth, no doubt to say that Draco had done more, but Draco pinched the back of his hand, and Harry ended up grinning and staying silent. "So Draco has to feed him with his fingers."
Harry fell back as he laughed, and Draco put a hand in the middle of his stomach, stroking, smiling at his mother. Narcissa understood the message—that they didn't need any more help planning—and smiled back as she left.
Draco waited only until the sound of the door clicking shut before he pounced on Harry, and they mingled laughter and plans for the dinner with kissing and other things that neither of his parents needed to know about. Although they were more than free to suspect them.
"That was stupid."
Draco leaned against the wall and sighed. He had agreed to let Harry speak to his friends alone, because Harry insisted he should, and that had seemed best when neither Weasley nor Granger would welcome Draco. But the last thing that Harry needed to hear, over and over again, was how stupid he had been. Granger had said nothing else for the last twenty minutes.
They had sent Draco out of the room—even Harry had agreed to that, though with shadowed eyes—but Draco was leaning against the wall outside and listening with the charm that made a special section of wall thin and dull. Draco thought Harry should face his friends himself, especially since Draco still didn't know what they had said to him in their last argument. That didn't mean he wanted to have no idea what they said to him in this argument.
"I know it was."
Draco widened his eyes and shifted his stance so that he could stand there more comfortably without revealing to anyone that he was listening. At last Harry sounded as though he wanted to do something more than stand there and let his friends heap hot coals on his head.
"I know it was stupid," Harry continued, and his voice was low and charged. There came a sound as though he had pushed back from the table that Weasley and Granger had in that room, and begun to pace back and forth. "But I have to get past that at some point, and start thinking of something else."
"How never to be that stupid again?" Draco heard a noise he suspected was Weasley shifting his chair around.
Silence from the Trouble Twins. Draco rolled his eyes. They hadn't expected agreement of any kind, it seemed, and they hadn't expected Harry to be able to move on. Draco thought that was foolish of them. Harry was stupid in the way that he didn't anticipate consequences or look at things with foresight. He wasn't stupid in the sense that he couldn't learn better, once the mistake was pointed out to him.
Many times, admittedly. But Draco had done some of the work that he suspected Granger usually did, in pointing out that mistake to Harry, and Harry had now finally reached the point where he didn't need to hear it anymore.
"How are you going to make up for it, Harry?" That was Granger, a click following her words, as though she had rested her elbows or her teacup on the table.
"Not make up for it," Harry corrected her. "I think I already did that in helping Draco fight down the creatures that made up the chain ritual." He ignored or didn't feel the silence that Draco could hear following the declaration of his name. "Make sure I'm not that stupid again. And I'm going to hunt down Dark Lords and fight them the way I should have been all along, not try to come up with some way to get rid of them forever that won't work anyway."
"But what happens if something goes wrong?" Weasley demanded. "It already did, once, and you didn't have the sense to come to us."
Draco decided that was so perfect a cue that he would just have to reveal that he had been eavesdropping, rather than stay out of the conversation. "That's where I come in," he said, and flung open the door.
Granger and Weasley turned around and gaped at him, even though Draco thought Granger was some kind of magical genius who was supposed to make sure that Weasley didn't do things like that or something. Harry was the one who rolled his eyes and shook his head. Apparently he was resigned to the fact that Draco would always do things like this.
'Were you listening?" Granger demanded, firing up so quickly that Draco decided the genius reputation wasn't undeserved. Just the quickness reputation. Granger probably achieved very good results when she had weeks to work.
"Yes," Draco said, and turned to Harry. "You won't be fighting Dark Lords exactly like before, or exactly the way you should have all along. If you'd had the sense to avoid doing the chain ritual, you and I would never have known what we could be to each other. And think what a waste that would have been."
The way Harry's eyes warmed and softened, the way he crossed the room to take Draco's hand and kiss the back of it, made up for any distress that Draco might have suffered at the sight of Weasley and Granger's dropped jaws and widened eyes. Though, in truth, there wasn't much distress at that, so in this case, Harry's gesture added to the pleasure instead.
"How can you put up with him?" That was Weasley, shaking his head and considering Draco from head to toe, as though the secret was written on his skin.
Draco smiled pleasantly at him, while Harry sighed and leaned his head on Draco's shoulder. "It's easier than you'd think," Harry muttered into Draco's neck.
"It's a secret that you don't need to know about," Draco translated for Harry's friends, putting his hand on the nape of Harry's neck. He paused thoughtfully. "Unless you regularly share secrets with each other about your sex lives."
"Merlin, no!" Weasley flushed so hard it looked painful.
"Good." Draco nodded. "Because I think that you have enough rows without adding jealousy into the mix. What?" he added, as they all glared at him.
Harry's glare melted, but Weasley and Granger's stayed. Draco grinned and settled down to charm them. That, at least, he was good at.
Harry was shouting as he raced down the darkened tunnel ahead of Draco, aiming at God knew what beyond. Draco tossed his hand forwards and illuminated the tunnel with a single thunderclap of light, the Lumos charm raised to a level that Louis had taught him. Harry looked back and nodded once.
That would be why he missed the Stunner headed for his chest, because he was too busy looking back and thanking Draco. Draco rolled his eyes and raised a Shield Charm in front of Harry to deflect it. He could have used a more powerful spell, but Harry would kill him if he used Dark Arts on an investigation, and Draco hadn't managed to train him out of gratitude yet, so it was this or let him get Stunned.
Harry swung around, reinforced Draco's shield with his own just as another Stunner cracked into it, and roared a name that Draco couldn't understand, probably the name of the puny Dark Lord they had come hunting. Then he took off running again. At least this time, he wouldn't trip on any hidden wards or holes in the stone.
Draco followed, hotfoot, and sent a seeking spell ahead to tell him how many wizards were there. The second Stunner alone argued that this particular insane Dark wizard had more followers than they'd thought.
Draco was looking forward to taking him down. Insane Dark wizards offended him as a matter of principle. If you were going to be Dark, you shouldn't be mad. Did this idiot want all the Light wizards to think that Dark wizards only fulfilled stereotypes?
But apparently a lot of them did, because they kept letting down the side.
The seeking spell came back and told Draco that it was a large cavern ahead of them, with five wizards in it. The cavern floor dipped up and down, resembling the one that Harry had hidden his heart in, and two of the wizards were hiding in side tunnels that wormed and branched off the main one, and that Harry probably wouldn't even see before he ran straight into the heart of the trap.
"Five!" Draco yelled, and when Harry didn't turn around and Draco couldn't be sure he'd heard, he conjured a flashing blue number 5 in front of Harry's eyes. Harry nodded once, but didn't look back this time, proving he could learn. Harry ducked ahead of Draco, rolling, and Draco followed him. Another three Stunners crashed overhead and earthed themselves harmlessly on the stone.
Draco popped up before Harry did and sent another spell into the main cavern. It probably wouldn't affect the insane wizard, whose perceptions were already confused, but it would Confound the ones right next to him, and make them infinitely less dangerous. Draco whirled to the side and jumped down into the cavern, already plotting how to deal with the wizard in the left-hand tunnel.
That was Harry, and his arm wrapped around Draco's neck and his weight bore Draco to the stone right before a purple spell that would have left Draco spitting up blood soared overhead. Draco nodded and patted Harry's arm to tell him he was all right, and in thanks. Yes, he could have survived that spell, and probably would have seen it coming in time, but it was bloody convenient that he didn't have to.
Draco shoved gently at Harry's chest, and Harry let him go and stood. Then he faced off against the Dark wizard in the middle of it all, a pale fellow who had already done some damage to himself with rituals and spells, if the slit-pupiled eyes and long nose were any indication. There was probably going to be some dramatic duel, Draco thought, and he didn't want to be around for it. He slipped into the left-hand side tunnel.
The wizard there was so startled to be spotted that he dropped his wand and gaped at Draco, and Draco cursed him into submission and turned back to the main cavern.
He was just in time to see Harry conjure something that looked like a portable Shield Charm in front of him and sweep it around in a wild motion, at once reflecting a Stunner from the right-hand tunnel back so that it hit the witch who'd aimed it and catching the Dark wizard he was dueling beneath the chin. The witch fell over backwards, the Dark wizard reeled down and wailed, and Harry bound both of them and Stunned the Dark wizard.
There was sudden silence.
Harry turned around and smiled at Draco. "Thanks for helping," he said, even as he went about binding the Confounded wizards. One of them was staring at his wand, and the other was making faces at a rock. "I couldn't have done it without you."
"You could have," Draco corrected him, approaching Harry and feeling the warm glow of pride for another person lighting him from within. It was such a strange sensation that he had to pause and bask in it for a moment before he was sure what it was. "It just wouldn't have been as easy."
Harry's smile softened. "It's good to know that you have that much confidence in me."
Draco stepped up to him and planted his hands on Harry's shoulders, kissing him. He had no compunctions concerning who would see him. No one around them was in a fit state right now to report on it later.
"You might not always make the best decisions," Draco whispered into his ear. "But no one can fault your courage, or your compassion, or your ability to make the best of it. And you can admit what you did wrong. Believe me, that's the most important trait you need to be a Malfoy's lover."
He stepped back, and Harry was beaming at him. There was so much in that smile. Draco reached up and trailed his fingers gently, tenderly, down Harry's face.
"Just don't make another attempt to hide your heart from me," he murmured, "and we won't have any problems."
Harry caught Draco's hand and kissed his palm. "I wouldn't be so foolish," he said simply. "Besides, it's not mine to hide anymore."
And that, Draco thought, as he looped his arms around Harry's neck to kiss him again, is the sweetest thing that anyone's ever said to me.