The next morning, Draco sat at the breakfast table with Piers and his mother, tapping his fingers against his glass and staring off into space. He had no idea what to do next. Harry’s reaction to his invitation had been so shocking. Draco had returned to the shop and, swallowing his pride, asked Blaise what he’d done wrong.
Blaise’s reaction had also been confusing. He’d slapped his own head, murmuring, “Bloody hell.” Then he’d said only, “Give it time. I’ll talk to him – and I might kill Pansy.”
He’d rushed Draco out the door with promises that everything would be straightened out by the party. Draco sighed, his tapping increasing. That stupid bloody party. Pansy was driving him insane, and now he wished he’d never agreed to it. If it wasn’t for the big announcement –
A hand covered Draco’s on his glass, and he looked up, surprised. Piers gave him a gentle smile. “Sorry, love, but it’s driving me mad.”
Draco glanced at their hands and sighed. “Sorry,” he said. “Just have a lot on my mind.”
Narcissa laid down her silverware, put her hands in her lap, and looked at her son. “Draco, dear, I think it’s obvious you’re needed here again.”
He smiled. She didn’t know about his announcement, either. “Don’t worry, Mother. I have it all under control.”
Piers squeezed his hand and kissed his cheek. “Yes, you do.” Then he stretched and pushed his chair back, standing in one, fluid motion. “Now, it’s time to go shopping with me, no?”
Draco choked on his juice when he saw Piers’ pajama bottoms. “Gods, what are you wearing?”
Piers grinned. “You like?”
Draco stared at the garish red pants with green trees. “How long have you been wearing those?”
Piers laughed. “You were distracted this morning, no? I put them on as soon as I got up, and you just now noticed.” He laughed harder, apparently loving Draco’s disgust. “This is why you must help me shop, love.”
Draco shook his head. “Clearly. I have my work cut out for me.” But he couldn’t help smiling, despite the hideous pants. At least it would take his mind of Harry and his abrupt rejection.
Harry barely pulled himself into the shop. His head throbbed, and his mouth tasted like dirty, fuzzy, mouldy socks…or so he assumed. What had he been thinking?
Blaise took one look and tossed him a vial. “Drink it,” he said curtly.
Harry winced. Blaise hadn’t been that loud, but Harry’s head didn’t care. He managed to open the vial and swallow down the potion. Immediately his head stopped pounding, though his mouth still tasted and felt horrid.
Blaise handed Harry a cup of tea, folding his arms over his chest after and watching. Once Harry had a couple sips in him, Blaise took the mug back and said, “Well?”
“Well what?” Harry hadn’t forgotten that Draco had to hear about his feelings from someone. It hurt to think Blaise might do something like that, but he was a Slytherin. And he knew Draco came first to Blaise.
“What were you thinking? Why on earth did you do that to Draco?”
Harry’s jaw dropped. “To Draco? What about me? Were you just laughing your arse off here? I --” He stopped, breathing hard and trying to ignore the tightness in his chest.
Blaise frowned. “Laughing – why would I be laughing because you rejected my best friend?”
“Rejected – he’s practically engaged!” Harry yelled.
Blaise blinked and his face cleared. “Ah. Right.” He tapped his fingers on the mug. “Well…okay, here’s what we’re going to do.”
Harry stared at him. He felt like he was missing something, but for the life of him, he couldn’t see what it was.
Blaise stood in silence for another couple of minutes, until Harry’s impatient huffs seem to remind him of Harry’s presence. “We’re going to pretend it didn’t happen, that’s it. We’ll just do our thing here at the shop, and on Friday night, we’ll all go to Pansy’s party. Then everything will be clear.”
Harry closed his eyes. “Everything will be clear because Draco will announce his engagement to Piers, you mean? And you want me there to witness this so I’m doubly humiliated?” He opened his eyes to glare at Blaise. “Why on earth do you think I would go along with it?”
Blaise set the mug down and put his hands on Harry’s shoulders. “Do you trust me?” His dark eyes met Harry’s, and Harry could see the serious light there.
Harry hesitated. Until last night, he would’ve said yes immediately. But now..., “I don’t know. I don’t understand why you would find that funny, why you would betray me like that.”
Blaise squeezed Harry’s shoulders. “I promise you that I didn’t betray you. Not in any way. And Pansy hasn’t, either.” Now Blaise looked a little desperate – just a tad, but for Blaise, that was huge. “Please, Harry. You can give me Veritaserum even. I’m not lying to you. I would never betray you, and I’d never betray Draco. What happened yesterday was – unexpected. And it’s not my place to explain more than that. Go to the party, and I promise you’ll understand. Can you wait until then?”
Harry swallowed. Blaise was seldom this earnest, this open. And Harry knew that he did trust him, even though he couldn’t see how hearing about Draco’s engagement would possibly help anything, he nodded his head. “I’ll go.”
Blaise barely moved, but Harry saw the relief there. “Good.” He squeezed again and let go. “Now, back to business, right?”
“Right.” As soon as Blaise turned away, Harry slumped against the counter and ran his hands through his hair. He was ready for all this to be done with. Draco would have his Piers, and Harry could just get on with his life. Only two days, and he could let it go.
Draco and Piers returned to the Manor to find dozens of packages waiting for them – the results of their day shopping. Piers dropped into a chair, his legs splayed, his head back. “How did I think that would be a good idea?”
Draco smirked and sat on the settee opposite. “It was a fabulous idea, and now you have everything you need.”
Piers sat up, and an uncharacteristic look crossed his face. “Not everything,” he said quietly.
Draco leaned forward enough to reach over and touch Piers’ knee. “It’ll work out. You’ll see.”
Piers took Draco’s hand, holding it tightly. “Usually, I believe that. You know I do. But now that I have seen all this, have seen where you all came from – I simply cannot be certain anymore.”
Draco moved to sit on the arm of the chair, massaging Piers’ scalp a bit with his fingers. “We’re doing everything we can -- you, me, and Pansy. My mother adores you, and she’s firmly on our side. This will work out.”
Piers looked up at him, his brown eyes somber and yearning, and Draco’s heart thumped. It was rare that Piers let anything destroy his typical good cheer, and it made Draco want to move mountains for him. “It has to work out. Everything hinges on Friday night, and that makes me…concerned,” Piers said.
Dropping a kiss on Piers’ soft hair, Draco sighed. “Pansy’s always been amazing with her schemes. This one will come together, just like we’ve all planned. I promise you. We will find a way, and then, we will both be happy.”
Piers laughed a little. “For the rest of our lives, no?”
“Yes. For the rest of our lives.” They sat there like that for a few minutes, with Draco’s cheek on Piers’ hair, leaning against each other as the fire popped and crackled behind them.
Then Piers gently moved away. “Well, enough of that then. Time for some fun.” He started searching through the packages, grabbing one of the smaller boxes. “This is for you – just a little something to show my appreciation.”
Draco laughed. “I didn’t see you get anything on your own. When did you do this?” He unwrapped the package as he asked, his long fingers making quick work of the silky ribbons. Then he opened the box, and his jaw dropped. “I can’t – what – there’s no way I’m wearing these!” He held up the green boxers with their cheerful message, the Christmas ball ornaments swaying a bit.
Piers laughed. “You must! I insist – they are the perfect thing to be wearing beneath your dress robes for the party. And the announcement, no?” He grinned at Draco for a second, and then his smile softened. “Please wear them. It would mean so much to me.”
Draco bit his lip, considering, and then nodded. “All right. For you.” He leaned over and gave Piers a quick kiss on the lips. “Thank you.”
“Anything for you, love, you know that,” Piers said, his face pink with pleasure.
On Thursday, the shop was strangely quiet. Harry and Blaise took advantage of it and began inventory. Harry was delighted to see that they’d sold two more of Dean’s paintings. At this rate, Dean would have some solid fans for a long time to come.
Around noon, the door bell jangled, and Harry peeked out to see Ginny, Neville, and Pansy strolling in. “Hey, guys,” he said. “We’ll be right out.”
“We want to see the painting,” Ginny said. “Dean talked about it when he first started it, but I’ve never gotten to see it.”
Harry couldn’t hold back the smile which came every time he thought of it or went to look at it in his office. “Right this way.”
Blaise, who’d been on the other side of the shop, joined them, as well. When they saw it, all three of them gasped. Pansy reached out, but she stopped before her fingers actually touched the canvas. Harry noticed she was aiming for the figure of Draco. But they all looked a while at the group of them too, and only then did Harry notice a couple of the intricacies Dean had added.
Neville’s and Pansy’s figures kept sending shy glances at each other. And Ginny’s small character was clearly flirting with Blaise’s – who responded with open smiles that were usually only seen by Harry or Pansy.
Harry shook his head. How did Dean know all this stuff? He wondered if it was the artist in him – that he simply knew how to look better than most people.
Then Ginny looked at the Draco figure, and she sighed. “You’ve never really explained this, Harry.”
Harry furrowed his brows. “Explained what, exactly?”
Blaise gave him a slight smile. “Draco’s been gone for a long time, and I don’t recall the two of you spending any time together before he left. Did this --” he waved at the painting – “come about as a crush from afar?”
Harry blushed, wondering how to explain as four pairs of eyes turned to him.
“Well?” Ginny asked, her tone impatient.
Harry rubbed his hands through his hair. Then he looked at the faces of his friends and made his decision. “All right. We should probably go into the main shop, though. This might take a bit.”
They followed him out, and Blaise gave them all a pastry and a mug of tea – except Harry and Pansy, who both drank coffee.
Harry sat in one of the comfy chairs in a side section, which still gave him a clear view of the door. “So, I guess it began when I gave Draco back his wand,” he said, his mind returning to those days.
He’d Apparated to the Manor, nervous and uncertain but determined to do what was right. The wards must have signaled something, because after a couple minutes, Draco came out to meet him at the gates.
“What do you want, Potter?” he’d asked. And even though the words were his usual aggressive type, his tone was only weary, exhausted.
Harry looked at him, and he didn’t see the boy he’d fought with the past seven years. He saw a young man who’d been taken to hell and back…and in fact, he might not be all that far back from hell. Harry held out the wand. “It’s yours.”
Draco had blinked and looked at the stick in front of him. “You took it from me. It won’t even work for me anymore,” he’d finally said, and Harry heard the pain in his voice then.
“Take it back then,” Harry blurted.
Shocked eyes met his, and after a hesitation, Draco reached out to take it. Harry moved it away. “I’m guessing you have to try harder than that,” he’d said, a hint of teasing in his voice.
Steel entered those grey eyes then, and Draco almost smiled. Then he kicked Harry, grabbed the wand while Harry whimpered, and ran. He didn’t run toward the mansion, though; he ran along the gate.
Without thinking, Harry ran after him in a limping gait, his shin still throbbing where Draco’s sharp boot had left its mark. Draco must have known Harry couldn’t run too fast, because he was waiting for him around the corner. When Harry reached him, he jumped out and tackled Harry, slamming him to the ground.
The air left Harry’s lungs in a rush, and he gasped, trying to breathe. When he could see clearly again, Draco was straddling his waist, pinning Harry’s arms to the ground and leaning over him. Harry couldn’t take his eyes from Draco’s face – rather than wan and defeated, it now looked flushed and full of life.
“Do you give, Potter?” Draco asked.
Harry grinned. “Never, Malfoy.”
Harry cleared his throat. “I guess that was the start of it. I might have started, erm, stalking him a bit then. I mean, he wasn’t out in public that often, but after his trial, he felt a little more confident, I think.”
“After you testified on his behalf, you mean,” Pansy said, tears in her eyes. Neville put his arm around her shoulders from his position on the arm of her chair.
Harry shrugged. “He saved our lives -- my life. Anyway, the more I saw, the more interested I got.” He looked at his mug, embarrassed at how pathetic he must seem.
“Why did you never say anything?” Pansy asked. “To Draco, I mean?”
Harry snorted. “Right. There’s no way he’d ever look at me. He wasn’t following me, you know – I was the one who was interested, not him. And now he has this great boyfriend. I suppose I could’ve said something before, but it’s too late now.”
Blaise gave Pansy a look that Harry didn’t understand, and Pansy flushed, glancing down. Neville, who seemed oblivious to their interplay, frowned at Harry. “You really think he’s serious about this Piers person? I got the impression they were simply flatmates --”
Pansy interrupted. “Enough about Piers.” She sounded uncomfortable, and Blaise looked annoyed. “Listen to me, Harry. Draco isn’t a Gryffindor – he’s not the type to just approach someone and tell them how he feels.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ginny asked. “Gryffindors always have to make the first move? That’s bullocks.”
“And untrue,” Blaise murmured, taking her hand and twining their fingers.
Ginny grinned at him. “Yes. It’s not all up to Harry here.”
Neville agreed, and Pansy said, “You don’t understand. You don’t know what it’s like for him --”
As Neville and Ginny began to argue on Harry’s behalf, the noise level rose, and Harry winced. Finally, he raised his voice and said, “Enough! All this is moot. I was the one interested. I’m the one still interested – not Draco. He’s got his own life, and no matter how much I might have wanted something to happen, the truth is, I didn’t act on it.” He’d thought about it often enough, though. Heat rose in his face as he recalled one of his prominent fantasies – the one where he showed up in Draco’s room wearing nothing but a red thong with a white bow and dared Draco to unwrap it.
He sighed then, putting down his half-full mug. “I didn’t do anything about it,” he repeated, “and now it’s too late. All this talk doesn’t mean anything.”
After a second of silence, Neville said, “I don’t know about that. Look at your painting – Dean only put in things he could see. And Draco is watching you in that painting as much as you’re watching him.”
Blaise blinked and then gave a sly grin. “Longbottom’s right, though it pains me to admit it.” Pansy reached over and smacked him.
But Harry shook his head. “I don’t know. I think you’re reading too much into it.”
Ginny, however, disagreed. “How else would he even have known to include Malfoy in it? Clearly, there’s more going on than you realize, Harry.”
Harry blushed again. “I followed Draco to Dean’s studio once,” he blurted. “Okay? That’s all it was. It was right before he was planning to leave, and Dean had mentioned the Draco stopped by now and then, and that he was looking for a painting to take with him to Paris. He wanted something to remind him of home, and I found out when Draco was going to be there, and just kind of – well, I made sure to be there at the same time. That’s all. It was all me.”
The four of them looked at him, and he could see that not one of them believed him. Not even Pansy. He appealed to her. “Come on, Pansy – you’re the one who wants to see Draco happy with perfect Piers! Why are you doing this?”
Pansy, to his surprise, turned red and looked away. Blaise glared at her. “Yeah, Pans, why are you doing this?”
She fiddled with her blouse for a second then tossed her hair and glared right back at Blaise. “I know what I’m doing,” she said. Harry was completely confused – what were they talking about? She went on. “Tomorrow night, you’ll all see. And you’ll be thanking me then.”
Harry didn’t have time to try and figure out Slytherin strangeness. It really didn’t matter. He hadn’t acted when he could, and now it was too late. He got up, collecting mugs. “Well, I need to get back to work.”
Neville followed him. “I don’t know what Blaise and Pansy are talking about, but I do think Draco liked you too. I may not have seen him much before he left, but Pansy’s mentioned that he asked after you a number of times when he wrote.”
Hope fluttered for a second, but then Harry remembered Piers. “He might have, but now he has someone else. And I could never try to break up a solid relationship.” The sadness he’d felt for days rose up, flooding him for a moment. “I waited too long, Nev. Whether or not he’d ever have looked at me doesn’t matter anymore – he has someone else. Someone he’s planning to marry. All I can do is wish him the best.”
Neville bit his lip, his own face reflecting the sorrow Harry felt. Then Harry clapped him on the shoulder. “It’s okay. As long as he’s happy – well, I can live with that.” And he really could, he thought. Despite his personal unhappiness, he felt a measure of peace at the thought that Draco had found someone who could bring him joy.
On Friday, Draco spent the morning helping Pansy get the Parkinson manor – which was smaller than the Malfoy manor but still decent-sized – ready for the big party. Piers had offered to help, as well, but Pansy wanted the time alone with Draco.
They worked on organizing the house elves who were decorating and setting the various tables scattered throughout the main level. Draco nodded his approval at the place settings and the different moods in each room. “This is my favorite,” he commented in the side parlor which now held a gleaming wood table which seated ten. “I’m going to sit in here.”
Pansy rolled her eyes. “Really, Draco. This isn’t for the guest of honor – you saw the main dining hall.”
Draco sighed. He had seen it, of course. Unlike this room, which had fairly downplayed and tasteful decorations, the main hall practically sparkled with fairy lights, glitter, actual snow falling, and a white tree with green and silver bows. He wasn’t sure he could keep food down in that room.
He fingered the gold filigree on one of the candlestick holders. “Can’t I sit in here?” he asked. “It’s quieter, more rustic.”
Pansy gaped at him. “Since when do you like rustic?”
Draco hesitated, wondering how honest he should be, when Pansy suddenly nodded. “Ah. You want Harry to sit with you, and you’re thinking there’s no way he’ll sit in the other room.”
Was he really that transparent? “Or perhaps I simply think this is more conducive to actual conversation.”
Pansy smirked. “Well, as you are the guest of honor, I suppose we can make this your room. That also means you get to choose the guests who eat with you.”
Draco nodded, trying to keep the triumph from his face. “Well, with ten spots, that pretty much covers the basics.”
Pansy snorted, but Draco could tell she was amused rather than annoyed. “My father won’t be thrilled --”
“My mum has already promised to stay with him and your mother,” Draco put in. “And your aunt, as well. She’ll keep things on track, I believe.”
Pansy looked worried for the first time. “Do you think it will all work out?”
Draco pulled her into a hug. “Of course. When do your plans not work?”
She shook her head. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the time I tried to sell Harry to Voldemort?”
Draco shook her a little. “Hey. That’s all behind us – and you had good reason. Plus, you didn’t know him then. It’s not like you were friends.”
Her face, when she pulled away, was troubled. “Yeah, but it was stupid of me. Probably the most idiotic thing I’ve ever done – and I still have nightmares about what could have happened if anyone had listened to me.”
“Pans.” Draco cupped her face in his hands. “You were terrified for your family. At that point, things didn’t look good for the other side, and all of us thought Voldemort would win easily. We had no way of knowing what was really going on. And hasn’t Potter forgiven you?”
“Of course. But he’s a Gryffindor – he doesn’t understand what it means to hold a grudge.” She couldn’t manage a smile.
“The war’s over.” Draco wasn’t sure what else to say. They’d all done some pretty stupid things, but they were beyond desperate, at the time. It was over now. The wizarding world had moved on. “And look at how successful your party will be – everyone RSVP-ed. You need to move on too.”
Now she smiled, though it was faint. “I know. I really do.” She stepped back, tossing her hair and fixing a calmer look on her face. “Now, you need to get home and prepare – and make sure Piers looks perfect, right?”
“I took him shopping. Believe me, he’ll look hot.”
She laughed. “I’m not worried about ‘hot’, Draco. He needs to look right.”
“He will.” Draco remembered the robes he’d helped Piers pick out. The man would definitely stand out. “But you’re right, I should go. I need to look my best, as well.”
Pansy gave him a fond look. “You always look your best. And I know you’ll get his attention.”
Draco shook his head. “I don’t think he cares, one way or the other,” he said, knowing exactly who she meant. She didn’t know he’d tried to ask Harry out the other night – and Harry had not only refused, he’d freaked out at even the thought of it. Draco pushed the memory from his mind. He did want to look good, to give the announcement greater weight and import. But he seriously doubted it would help him as far as Harry was concerned. No, that dream needed to be laid to rest.
He’d focused for so long on just getting to this point. Most of the time, he’d hidden one of his strongest motivations even from himself. Now, though, he couldn’t deny that he’d hoped Harry would see him differently.
As he Floo-ed home, he shook off the despondency. He’d be back in London by summer, and maybe then he could at least try for a friendship with Harry. That wasn’t what he really wanted, but it appeared it might have to do. For now, he had the party to get through – he could fall apart later.
Harry met Ginny and Blaise at the Apparition point just outside the wards of the Parkinson manor. Others were Apparating in at similar times, and the air was filled with excitement. Harry was nervous, more than anything else. He still didn’t know how he was going to be able to hear Draco’s big announcement about him and Piers without showing his feelings, but he’d do his best.
Ginny, dressed in a long, blue, satin dress, looked stunning. In fact, as they got to the entry and had their cloaks taken from them, Blaise just about panted as he looked at her. Blaise, resplendent in a Muggle tux complete with long tails, held more than his own, however. In fact, Harry was feeling more than a little underdressed.
“Why did you make me wear this again?” he muttered, his face heating up when he took in the richly dressed people all around him.
Ginny and Blaise exchanged an amused look. “You look fantastic, Harry,” Ginny said. “You never have had any sense of your own presence, have you?”
Harry frowned, not sure what she meant by that. “I know that everyone else is dressed up better than I am,” he said.
Blaise laughed. “Always play to your strengths, Harry. Believe me, you look exactly as you should.”
Harry felt a touch of unease at that. Did Blaise want him to look different from everyone else? And if so, why?
Before he could get too nervous, the main doors at the end of entry way opened, and someone who looked like a butler began announcing the guests. “What’s going on?” Harry whispered, his discomfort growing.
“This is how all the old pure-blood families do things,” Blaise said. “They’ll call us in as we’ve arrived, and then we’ll go through a greeting line to meet the hosts and hostesses.” He winked at Ginny, who smiled back and put her arm through Harry’s.
“Don’t worry, Harry. We’ll make sure it’s all good,” she murmured, using her other hand to brush something from his silky shirt. Harry simply wished the night was already over.
They finally got to the front of the foyer, and Harry caught his first glimpse into the large, open room where guests would begin their evening by mingling. Blaise had explained that much earlier today. Harry glanced around, taking in the lavish decorations and groups of people. He saw Ron and Hermione at one end, talking with Charlie and George. He wondered how he’d missed them before, but then, the foyer was almost as large as the Dursley’s house, all on its own.
Then he saw Draco, and everything stopped. Draco wore dress robes in a deep, dark grey. They were styled in a similar manner to Blaise’s tux, and the robes fit themselves over Draco’s arse perfectly before splitting into something akin to tuxedo tails. Beneath the dark grey was a creamy, silky-looking shirt. It actually appeared a lot like the one Harry wore – given to him by Blaise this morning.
The high neck might have made Draco look like a vicar, but it didn’t. Not at all. The ivory tone was only slightly paler than Draco’s hair, and combined with the dark grey, it brought out the beauty in Draco’s features. Harry couldn’t move – he’d never seen Draco looking more gorgeous than he did right then, and predictably, his trousers began to feel rather too tight.
Then Ginny was tugging on his arm. “It’s our turn, Harry.” She leaned up and smoothed his hair, murmuring in his ear. “It’ll be all right. Trust us.”
Draco stood in the greeting line, already tiring in the face of the constant flow of people. Pansy had really outdone herself tonight. Everything and everyone rose to the occasion, and this manor, on this eve, was the place to be in wizarding England. At his side, Piers shifted nervously, and Draco touched his hand for a moment, hoping to calm him.
With his dark brown dress robes and his rich rust-colored undershirt, Piers looked exactly as Draco had hoped – suave, handsome, strong. Draco knew that if Piers could simply relax, Pansy’s plans would work out easily. And Draco wanted that for Piers, more than almost anything else.
He greeted the next person, leaning in to hear what the older witch was saying, when movement near the doorway caught his attention. Harry stood there, Ginevra Weasley on his arm. Draco froze, and for a moment, he forgot where he was and simply stared. Unlike most people here, Harry had foregone robes. Instead, he wore a fitted, long-sleeved silk shirt – in a rich, forest green. Beneath that, he wore a traditional Wizarding undershirt, his in a soft black. His muscular legs were encased in black, shimmering material that, if Draco wasn’t mistaken, was dragon hide. The legs of the trousers came down over tight, black boots. He looked phenomenal, and Draco couldn’t get enough moisture in his mouth for a second to speak.
Then the elderly witch – Pansy’s great-great-aunt – tugged on his sleeve. “When are you coming back to England, where you belong,” she rasped.
He managed a smile and somehow found the presence of mind to respond. “Soon. Thank you.”
She moved on to Narcissa, and Draco took a deep breath. Merlin, but Harry was breath-taking. He was probably the only person here who could avoid the dressier robes and still manage to outshine everyone else. That shade of green made his eyes glow beneath his tousled, black curls. Then those eyes turned his way, and Draco had to use every ounce of self-control he had not to walk toward Harry.
Piers touched his arm, gaining his attention. “Are we almost finished with this part?” he murmured.
“Soon,” Draco said, trying to keep his poise.
Then the girl Weasley leaned up and touched Harry’s hair, whispering something in his ear at the same time. Draco’s stomach clenched with burning jealousy. How dare she touch him – hadn’t Harry himself told Draco that he was bent? What had changed since he’d left England?
Draco closed his eyes for a moment, trying to center himself. There was no way he was letting that girl take Harry – in fact, he wasn’t letting anyone take him. Harry belonged with him…well, he would if Draco had anything to say about it. His earlier resignation faded away, and Draco decided right there that he’d do whatever it took to gain and hold Harry’s attention.
Harry took a deep breath as the man at the door announced them. “Miss Ginevra Weasley and her escort, Mr. Harry Potter.” Much of the crowd quieted then, heads craning to see the Boy Who Lived.
Harry barely noticed. He watched only Draco as they walked toward the greeting line. Piers was first, and Harry noticed briefly that he also looked very fine as he shook his hand. Then Draco took his hand, and Harry’s breath caught as their eyes met.
“Harry,” Draco murmured. “I hope you’ll do me the honor of joining me in the south dining room for dinner.”
Harry blinked, and even though Piers was right there, he couldn’t have held back the ‘yes’ if he tried. Then he added, “I’d be honored to join you both.”
Draco gave him a funny look before turning to Ginny and taking her hand. Narcissa pressed her cheek to each of Harry’s. “We’re so pleased you could join us this evening, Harry,” she said.
“Thank you,” he said, a little dazed. Next to Narcissa was Pansy, who introduced him to her parents. He shook both their hands.
“And this is my cousin, Persephone,” she said, leading Harry to a young woman, who looked to be a couple years older. “This is her first visit to England.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Harry said. Pansy beamed as Harry kissed the cheek Persephone offered, and Harry had a fleeting, horrifying thought. Was this why Pansy wanted him here so badly tonight? Did she think he might like her cousin?
Then Pansy herself was hugging him. “I’m so glad you came. It’s all going to work out splendidly,” she said in his ear.
Harry stood in a daze, not sure what had just happened. Ginny joined him and pulled him over to Hermione, Ron, George, and Charlie. Neville came up after a few minutes, as well. “What do you think of Pansy’s cousin?” he asked Harry.
Harry shook his head. “I’m gay,” he said, a bit louder than he’d intended. A group of witches nearby shook their heads, but then went on with their conversation. With his voice lowered, Harry said, “I’m not going to go out with that Persephone girl --” and stopped, as Neville began laughing.
“She’s not here for you, Harry. I promise you that.”
“Oh. Well, then she’s fine.”
That had all of them laughing. Then Blaise came up, and the group slipped into their typical subjects, with Ginny and Hermione gossiping about girl stuff, and Harry letting his mates argue about the upcoming Quidditch season.
“May I have your attention?” Pansy stood at the head of the room, and Harry noticed that the doors leading to the foyer were now closed. “Before we head into the dining rooms, I wanted to thank all of you for attending our celebration. We are here for a number of reasons, not the least involves moving forward into this new year and letting go of the past. We, my parents, aunt, and I, want to thank you for showing your support of us and of the new Wizarding culture by gathering here.”
Her voice grew a little husky, and Harry hoped she wouldn’t cry. “The Parkinsons made some serious mistakes in the past, and we’re so grateful to have another chance. In fact, thanks to a certain someone, we all have a chance to change our world and live in peace and acceptance.”
Glasses suddenly popped into every person’s hands. “Will you raise your glasses with me in a toast? To Another Chance!”
“Another Chance,” the crowd repeated, taking a sip.
Pansy went on. “As part of that, we are also here tonight to celebrate with my best friend, Mr. Draco Malfoy.” She lifted her glass towards Draco, and he stepped forward.
Harry’s mouth dried up. Here it was, and it had to happen right after Pansy had toasted him – thankfully, not obviously, though many people were still looking at him. And that was the problem – so many people were watching him, and his reaction to Draco’s news had to be accepting and pleased. He tried to swallow, to find an expression of happiness.
Draco took a deep breath. “I’m very pleased to announce that I will be returning to England in the late spring – as I’ve been hired as the Potions’ Specialist for the Ministry of Magic.”
Harry blinked as murmurs and then claps began to flow through the room.
Draco lifted his glass. “The Ministry didn’t have to choose someone with my background, but they looked beyond the surface and the mistakes I made during the War. I’m honored that they consider me worthy of their illustrious program. To the new future before all of us,” he added, taking a sip.
“To the new future,” everyone echoed.
Harry didn’t drink. He simply stared as Draco’s grey eyes met his. Only then did Harry realize he was grinning. “Congratulations,” he mouthed to Draco.
Draco smiled. “Thank you,” he mouthed back, and then he lifted his glass towards Harry alone. Harry drank this time.
“There are five dining halls situated around this room,” Pansy announced. “Draco and his friends will be situated in the south room – all of you with silver ribbons around the bottoms of your glasses.”
Harry hadn’t even noticed the ribbon, but it was, of course, silver. As Pansy explained the rest of the seating arrangements, Harry followed his friends. They wandered down a hall and through a small library before entering a cozy dining room. The roasted turkey already rested in the middle of the table, its scent filling the room with warmth and familiarity. As they found their place cards, more food popped into place, including a small treacle tart, right in front of Harry’s plate. Only then did Harry notice that he sat at the right hand of one of the table heads.
He glanced at the other place card – it was Draco’s. He slipped into his chair with less grace than normal, stunned. Draco didn’t announce an engagement? Why not? Was he not serious about Piers? Harry didn’t know what to think, but for the first time since Pansy had first mentioned this party and Draco’s relationship with Piers, he felt something tight inside him start to loosen.
And then Draco sat down beside him, and even the presence of Piers across from him couldn’t distract Harry from the light on those beautiful grey eyes.