Fingers laced through his, and he looked up to Harry's smiling face. "We could make a different sort of promise," he said.
"I've decided," Draco said over the rim of his very expensive, gold rimmed coffee cup, "that we are moving to Canada."
After Harry had finished his remarkably accurate impersonation of a goldfish, he managed to stammer out, "But...but why?!"
Draco just looked at him. Harry knew that look, he knew that it meant some sort of proposal that would usually leave him performing the aforementioned goldfish impersonation. "Draco. Why do you want us to move to Canada?"
"Because, Potter, Harry Malfoy-Potter sounds far more attractive than simply Harry Potter, don't you agree?" Draco took another sip of coffee.
"Harry Malfoy-Potter?" Oh yes, the goldfish impersonation was back, twice in as many minutes.
"I believe that taking on one's partner's name when one becomes married is traditional. You do know how I enjoy traditions."
"You want to marry me?!"
"I do." Draco grinned. "In all senses of the phrase."
Harry stared at him. And then he lunged. Between hot, needy kisses, he murmured, "I do, too."
"You're kidding," Draco said, swallowing hard.
"No I'm not," Harry said. "Look, I found out through Hermione that they have these old betrothal contracts that wizards used to do that bind on consumation. And it doesn't matter if you're both blokes."
"I know that," Draco said. "But... you want to do one with me?"
"Yes," said Harry and he kissed him.
At twenty-five, they'd long given up hope of ever experiencing that flash of simple, protected joy that other generations would know as childhood. At twenty-five, they knew that they'd seen their last birthdays in return for letting all those other generations see their first.
"It'll all finish tomorrow, then," Draco said in a quiet voice. "We'll be over and done with by the end."
"I know I will," Harry said without even a hint of fear, though his heart wrenched hard in his chest when he added, "and you... you might too. But we won't."
Draco watched him take a small box out of his pocket, then looked up to meet his eyes.
"I will, soon, I mean it." Draco stroked Harry's cheek. "I just need a bit more time to tell her."
Harry can hear the crash of the waves and smell the salt in the air as they walk away from the breakwater toward the beach. He takes his shoes off and gingerly places his feet on the sand, wiggling his toes to feel the still warm grains between them. He looks up and smiles. "I've never been to the ocean," he says wistfully.
"I know," Draco replies, shuffling his feet and looking away, seemingly embarrassed. He then looks Harry in the eyes, face pensive as he takes a deep breath.
"Harry," his voice falters and he clears his throat. "Harry, will you marry me?"
Green eyes gaze at him for a long time before Harry walks away and picks up a piece of driftwood. He walks toward Draco, then takes the wood and draws a large circle in the sand. He steps inside then turns away from Draco and toward the slowly setting sun.
Puzzled, Draco reaches out to take Harry's hand. He hesitates, unsure, before he drops his hand and whispers, "Harry?"
"Wait," Harry says without even looking back. Draco anxiously looks at Harry whose eyes are now closed.
Harry tilts his head back and lets the cool sea breeze flow over him before he slowly opens his eyes. The sun is setting and the sky is now a mix of blues with bright amber and gold. Then he turns toward Draco, holding out his hand and giving him a slight tug. Draco steps inside the circle and they face each other as they look deep into each other's eyes.
Harry takes one step closer. "I promise to marry you." Draco smiles.
It wasn't as if he'd never thought of it before -- one couldn't grow up in a family so obsessed with bloodlines and tradition and connections without being burdened by such expectations, after all -- but he'd known from a very early age that it wasn't done by people like him, and so it had never really been a fantasy he'd allowed himself. The reality of this moment was therefore difficult to assimilate into his conception of How Life Will Be, and even though he should have known when Harry'd suggested they take a romantic weekend trip to Spain, it hadn't entered his thoughts at all. The sun was setting over the ocean behind them, waves were crashing againist the shore, and warm sand was sifting between his toes -- and all of this would forever be part of the memory wrapped around two little words he never, ever thought he would say: "I do."
After the years of swinging from hate to love, and obsession to passion and dark chasing light chasing dark... they were ready. Harry palmed the box, placing it on the table as Draco watched him... it was there, right there, and when Draco said his name in a shaky voice and Harry placed the box into his hand, opening it to reveal the ring inside, it was perfect. All he had left to do was ask, and the words tumbled out... easing the years of pain and filling in the cracks created along the way by mistrust and distance. Draco's smile was the best damn thing Harry had ever seen and yes... 'yes, yes, I'll marry you!' floated out around them, propelling them to the dance floor, practicing for what would be the best day of their life.
It was too dark to see by, and finally quiet. He could hear only the gentle, measured breathing next to him. He reached out until he touched warm fingers which curled around his hand.
"Call me crazy," he said. "But I want to do this again with you tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that."
Out of the darkness came a soft laugh. "Good. So do I."
Draco pulled a face and rolled over in his sleep. Harry watched, head propped up on his hand; he still couldn't get over how someone so obnoxious (and wonderful) and conceited (and protective) in his waking hours could look so innocent when asleep. "One day, I promise to marry you," Harry murmured, reaching out to touch Draco's cheek, his heart thudding so hard in his chest he thought for sure it would burst. In reply, Draco stole all the covers.
'Forever?' Draco asked, his eyes wide.
Harry nodded. 'Forever.'
It was cold, but the sun was bright. Draco's foot crackled in the dry autumn leaves as he scuffed his foot on the ground. 'It won't--you know. They won't recognise it. It won't mean anything.'
Harry's fingers brushed across Draco's temple, down his cheek, over his lips. 'It will,' he whispered. 'It'll mean everything.'
"What do you think it means?" snapped Draco. He looked off-balance, and suddenly small, like the eleven-year-old Harry remembered.
Harry took a deep breath and steadied his voice. "I think it means you're scared," he said, "because we had a fight and you think you're going to lose me and you don't know what to do so you threw it out there as a last resort to keep me from going."
"Fuck you," Draco retorted automatically, but there was an injured look in his eyes that told Harry everything he needed to know.
"Draco." Harry went to him and held him, which was hard work because Draco clearly did not want to be held. "I'm sorry. I'm not going to leave you. Not if we have one fight. Not if we have ten fights, or thirty."
"But you said--"
"No matter what I say when I'm angry. I--" Harry felt his face heat up in embarrassment, and he hid it in the crook of Draco's warm shoulder. "Those are just words. I'm not going anywhere. I've made my choice."
Draco stopped squirming, then, and let Harry hold him.
"I didn't say it because I was desperate," Draco murmured after a moment.
Harry's heart stopped beating until Draco spoke again.
"I've thought about it for a long time," Draco said. Harry kept his face pressed against Draco's neck because he couldn't bear to look up at Draco's expression. "Not because I wanted to keep you from leaving, and not to fix things, because things are what they are--but because... I--"
"Shut up," Harry heard himself saying, and suddenly he was pressing kisses against Draco's neck, drawing him closer, because it seemed suddenly vital--as if he could never ever get Draco close enough. "Yes. Draco. Yes."
"I do," said Harry. "Yes."
Draco looked at him and smiled, a little sheepishly. "Yeah?" he said.
Harry kissed him. "Yes," he said again, because he sucked as a boyfriend and he would suck as a husband, and he might never be able to tell Draco anything that was really worth saying. But he could say yes. To this. To Draco.
He would say always say yes to Draco.
He hadn't meant to act on a whim; this, if anything, should have been a decision carefully considered, the good and the ill analyzed and weighed and talked through, and Harry knew that, he knew it, but once the idea came to him it could not be stopped; it became his only thought, one which must be brought to fruition. Even so it should have necessitated planning of some sort; not this: ambushing Draco at the door--Draco, so tired at the end of this long month that he didn't hear Harry and then he didn't understand, and Harry could not form the words to explain that this caprice was more than a caprice; it was the outpouring of everything Harry had ever felt or wanted or tried to make right for Draco Malfoy, this tired man at the door, and Harry needed to explain this to him; he needed it so badly that when Draco fell against him and whispered a word over and over against his shoulder he could not comprehend for entirely too long that the word Draco had been repeating was yes.
Draco watched the sunrise slowly over the steaming lip of his mug and sighed. The sky over the lake turned from grey to purple to gold and somewhere in the distance a loon made its final lonely cry. Draco closed his eyes, breathing deeply the smell of firewood and wool blankets and spicy tea, then slowly turned to look at Harry.
"I thought it would be more of an occasion when it happened, something better fitting to the way our lives are viewed."
Harry slowly turned to look at him, green eyes wide behind his glasses and bottom lip chewed ragged at the edges. Draco smiled slowly as he turned back to watch the water and the sunrise. "Yes."
Draco was silent for a long time, and Harry barely breathed for just as long. The vision still hadn't returned in Draco's right eye, but it didn't matter. The only illumination in the whole ward came from the tiny window, where the quarter moon shone fitfully. Harry held Draco's hand so tight he knew it must be hurting him, but he couldn't stop, and he couldn't look away. In the darkness, he could feel Draco looking at him, as if his gaze was a fine knife, slicing Harry wide open for Draco to see.
"You should've waited and done it properly," Draco said at last.
Harry jumped at the sound of his voice, his free hand twisting in the sheet. He didn't think he could take it if-- not if--
"Sentimental pillock," Draco muttered, and pulled Harry down by the back of his head, his mouth ravenous.
Around three minutes or three hours could've passed before Harry buried his face in Draco's shoulder, panting madly and pausing to bite at a collarbone. "Is that a yes?"
He laughed weakly as Draco pushed Harry off him violently, huffing and pressing his burning face into the pillow.
"Honestly, Potter. How slow can you be?!"
There was never a time when Harry had imagined saying what he was about to say, especially considering who he was about to say it to.
"Why not join us, Malfoy? There's no future for you with Voldemort. You have to see that!"
"Get bent, Potter! Why would I want to join you? We hate each other. You might as sodding well ask me to marry you--the answer's the same. Fuck you!"
Harry's eyes narrowed with anger. "Is that a threat or a promise?"
Six days after Snape was killed, Malfoy appeared at the Burrow just long enough to drop a chased silver armband in Harry's startled hands. "Found this in our vaults. It belonged to Salazar Slytherin."
It also turned out to be the sixth horcrux.
A fortnight after Harry sent Voldemort to well-earned oblivion, he noticed Malfoy edging along a group of boisterous wizards at one of the countless banquets held in his honor. For the first time ever, they exchanged genuine smiles before Malfoy melted away again into the crowd.
Three weeks after scraping together enough of his friends' cast-off furniture and moving into his first flat, Harry sent Ron into fits of apoplexy when Draco showed up, wine in hand, as Harry's invited guest at the housewarming party.
Four months went by before he found himself being lectured to by an amused Hermione, who had stopped laughing long enough to pump him full of first-date advice about exactly where he should take Draco for dinner.
The year flew by in an orgy of celebration in the Wizarding world, which nonetheless was shocked silent when Witch Weekly sold out their exclusive edition announcing that Harry Potter, their beloved hero, and Draco Malfoy, his former nemesis, were living together.
Both men knew exactly how much time had passed since Draco's flippant proposal--which evidently had been a promise and not a threat--but the Dutch magistrate standing before them never asked. After exchanging their simple vows, they checked in to the bridal suite of the Amsterdam Hilton, where they set about fulfilling the rest of Draco's promise.
Draco had expected none of this since the day he had kissed Harry Potter underneath a tree and been kissed back. Of anything he could have expected, this was so far off the list that it had never ever registered.
"You're serious," he said, blinking, too stunned to even be sarcastic, or appreciate Harry's efforts through a sly insult. All he could do was blink and stare because this could not be happening.
"Yes," Harry said, smiling, and kissed him. Draco had found he liked it when Harry kissed him, liked it very, very much.
They broke apart, Draco struggling to think of something to say. Fnally, the words came.
"You're stll an idiot most of the time," he informed Harry seriously. "And I expect an agreement beforehand."
Harry burst out laughing. "I never would have expected anything else," he replied, and took Draco's hand in his own.
"You're back," Harry said slowly, watching as Draco unpacked his things.
"How very astute of you, Potter." Draco paused mid-swish and raised his eyes to meet Harry's. They were narrow and guarded and Harry's heart skipped a beat; he'd missed Draco. More than he'd realised.
"I didn't think you were coming back this time."
Draco lowered his wand. "That's because you assumed."
"I shouldn't have." Harry grinned, the realisation hitting him as he crossed to Draco. "You can't live without me. Of course you'd be back."
"Don't look so smug, Potter." Giving Harry a sour look, Draco resumed his unpacking and began to studiously ignore him.
Harry snorted and sat on the edge of their bed, feeling better than he had in weeks. Draco had come back to him, they were digging at one another, and Harry felt normal again because this was his life. Draco was his life. Harry didn't want to give this feeling of normalcy up again, not for anything.
"Marry me," Harry blurted, leaning over and shutting the lid on the trunk Draco was emptying.
There was a long pause. "Don't be daft. Wizards can't marry." Draco's wand rapped Harry's knuckles. "Open the trunk."
"Not until you promise to marry me."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Are you going deaf? Wizards can't marry. It's against the rules."
"Since when have I ever followed the rules?" Harry curled his fingers around the wrist of Draco's wand hand, pulling him down gently to the mattress.
Gray eyes searched green for what felt like eons. "You're serious," Draco whispered.
"Yeah," Harry shrugged; this should have been obvious. "I am. Serious about you."
Draco considered this for a moment before a smirk curved his mouth. "I promise to marry you if you promise to take my name."
Harry laughed. "Only if you promise to take mine in return."
The smirk disappeared and Draco sobered considerably. "I wouldn't be a Malfoy."
"That'd really stick it to your dad, yeah?"
"I wouldn't be a Malfoy," Draco repeated, an odd expression settling on his face.
"No, you wouldn't." Just then, Harry understood. "Oh," he said suddenly, wrapping an arm around Draco's back and pulling him close. Settling his chin on Draco's shoulder, he added, "You'd have a brand new start of things. No more 'Lucius Malfoy's son' rot."
"No more 'Death Eater's son' rot, you mean."
"I'll marry you, Malfoy," Draco said at length, "but not just for your name. I'll marry you for you, even if you are an annoying speccy git who hogs the duvets and burns the toast."
"And you use up all the hot water and open my post, Potter," Harry retorted, lifting his chin and giving Draco a bemused look.
"Potter." Draco sounded as though he were testing out his new name, and Harry fell in love with him just a little more right then. "I like the sound of that," Draco concluded.
Harry kissed him then, long and slow and sweet. "I like the sound of us."
"Draco, Ron didn't mean it the way it sounded."
"Of course he did. He still doesn't know enough to realize that I'd sooner cut off my own arm than hurt you. Not that I really expect someone of his emotional depth to ever get what the idea of 'commitment' means."
"That's just it. He doesn't think you're really committed to being with me."
"After three and a half years?"
"He thinks you're just...marking time. Until something better comes along. And you haven't exactly gone out of your way to make him understand how you feel about me."
"Like it'll make a difference if I tell him. He's not exactly likely to believe me, is he?"
"Don't take it personally. He doesn't believe it coming from me, either. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to convince him."
"Is it so bloody important that he understand?"
"Well, he is one of my closest friends. I'd like it if he understood."
"Maybe the problem is that you're telling just him."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, maybe he'd listen to you if you stopped trying to tell him and told the whole world, instead. Will you?"
"Will I what?"
"Tell the whole world."
"Yes. Committed to spending our lives with each other."
"Just how do you propose I do that? An ad in the Daily Prophet?"
"No, Harry. I'm proposing you do that by accepting my proposal."
"My proposal. I'm asking you tell everyone in the world that Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived, the wizard of everyone's dreams, has chosen Draco Malfoy. Will you marry me, Harry?"
"Draco, are you sure--"
"It's not meant to be a complicated question, Harry. And I never ask for anything unless I really want it. Will you?"
"Yes. Oh, yes, please."
"Have you seen the Prophet? One would think they'd worry about the dragon threat in Norfolk but instead, they're gushing about Weasley and Wood's marriage. Haven't these people figured out that marriage is for the weak; it's a ridiculous, antiquated, heteronormative practice that should be abolished. Why, if you asked me to marry you--"
"Potter. Are you proposing?"
Draco laid the paper slowly down beside his plate, so that the picture of Percy and Oliver faced downwards. "I promise to marry you if you promise there won't be a public spectacle."
When he and Draco walked into the Great Hall hand in hand all talking ceased and Harry could think of nothing else to do but beam at the startled faces.
"Harry, would you care to marry me next Saturday?" Draco asked in a voice that carried all the way across the crowd.
"Love to," Harry replied cheerfully, "but do you think we'll be able to get caterers by then?"
"You owe me ten galleons, Remus," Tonks squealed in a delighted manner and then the hall exploded with sound.
As was their usual, they had foregone breakfast in the Great Hall in favor of a quick bite in their rooms, courtesy of the house elves.
Harry curled his fingers around his coffee cup and watched in contented silence as Draco scowled over the Prophet, just as he did every morning. Draco was firmly of the opinion that the Prophet had gone downhill ever since Rita Skeeter left to write celebrity tell-all books, and he refused to budge in this opinion no matter how many times Harry threatened to hex his hair permanently pink.
Harry smiled. "Draco?"
Draco grunted, not turning his attention from the paper.
Draco hmmmmed in response, and Harry saw the exact moment when his words hit home, because Draco went absolutely still.
Harry set down his coffee cup and reached a hand across the table. "Draco. Marry me."
Draco turned his head slowly, his expression shuttered. Harry could sense without even trying that Draco's mental shields were up, an automatic defense he'd never quite shaken after the war. "Are you serious?"
"Of course I'm serious," Harry said, still smiling. "I love you." He wiggled his fingers in invitation.
Draco placed his hand in Harry's, almost--but not quite--casually. His thumb stroked over Harry's knuckles. "About time you made an honest man of me."
Harry snorted. "As though anything could do that, after twenty years as a Slytherin."
Draco smirked, but his fingers curled more tightly around Harry's. "So, you expect me to saddle myself with the Boy Who Lived for the rest of my life?"
"I kind of figured you had already," Harry said. "I'm not going anywhere."
A smile teased at Draco's lips. "Good," he said, then took a deep, almost relieved-sounding breath. "Good."
Harry grinned. "So that's a yes?"
"You have to ask?" Draco raised an eyebrow, but his eyes were glowing. He lifted Harry's hand to press a kiss against it. "Silly Gryffindor."
"And the Harpies are leading by thirty points, here comes Cunningham with the Quaffle-- she's passing it to Underwood... she's dropped it-- what a save!"
"Harry." Draco's voice filtered in from the living room where he was holed up at his desk determinedly sorting through the bank statements for his beloved galleons.
"Mm?" Chop. Chop. Chop. The carrots felt cool and wet on his palm as he scooped them up, dumped them in the bowl, went back to dicing.
"Hold on, Calloway seems to have spotted something, could it be-- it is! She's making the dive!"
"I think we should get married."
"Mmhm." Chop. Chop. Chop. "What?"
"Calloway and Dervish are neck and neck-- this is a thrilling moment, folks, in just a few seconds it could all be over-- Dervish gains, he's reaching for it--"
"Would you turn that rubbish down and listen to me? I said we should get married."
"But it's the last match of the... What?!" Chopchopchop. Slice. "Ow! Arg-- son of a..."
"Is that a yes?"
"The thing is... I mean... We already live together!"
"Mmmm," said Draco, sipping his tea and pinning Harry with his gaze. "We do. We share a house, and we buy groceries together, and we've combined accounts for all intents and purposes. None of which has anything to do with you marrying me."
Harry swallowed another bite of toast, and Draco watched him close his eyes, which generally happened when he was thinking too hard about something, and was never a good sign.
"Oh for Merlin's sake, Potter. It's for the presents!"
Harry laughed and Draco watched his shoulders sag a little as he relaxed. Then he was getting up, and dragging Draco with him, and there were toast crumbs in his mouth.
Jagged lights of battle lit the heavy sky like fireworks as they huddled waiting for the right moment. Harry's hand was tight around his wand and his shoulders slumped in sudden defeat as he looked toward the top of the hill. "I can't do this." Reaching for Harry's hand, Draco traced silent words lightly over Harry's palm with his fingertips. Harry felt his heart stop and then melt slowly into his feet, "You mean-?" "I promise," Draco whispered, his eyes bright. With a final squeeze, Harry stepped out to fulfill the prophecy and finally, finally take charge of his life.
Harry traced the edges of the Dark Mark with a fingertip, followed each and every swirl and angle and faintest relief. Draco didn't stir, not when Harry touched him, not even when the fire crackled and popped and a faint voice from within called Harry to war. He promised himself, in that moment and in many that had come before, that when this night was over that Mark would be gone. "I will marry you," Harry said softly, touching him one last time, "just as soon as I come home." Before he vanished through the flames he was convinced he heard Draco say, "Good."
Draco looked warily at their entwining fingers and then gave Harry the dirtiest post-coital look he could muster. "You're doing this on PURPOSE!"
Harry looked insufferably smug. "And if I am...?"
Utterly pissed off at himself for the warmth swooping in his stomach, Draco attempted to pull his hand away. Harry responded by settling his weight against Draco's slick stomach, and gripping his hand even harder.
"That hurts, you bastard," Draco complained.
Harry's smirk broke into a full-fledged grin, and he leaned forward and licked--licked, as if Draco were a lolly!--the side of Draco's neck. "Hasn't anyone ever told you you should go with the flow?"
"No," said Draco, fidgeting beneath him, "and I don't need your empty platitudes at a time like this!"
Harry raised up. "Like what?"
"LIKE WHAT?! YOU'RE PRACTICALLY-- PRACTICALLY PROPOSING, IF YOU HAVEN'T NOTICED!"
Harry's look went from amused to calculating to downright terrifying, all in one swift head tilt. "And if I am?" he asked.
Draco went rigid, swallowed, and then said, "Oh, stop toying around and let go of my bloody hand."
"No," said Harry, still holding it tight. "What if I am?"
"We're shagmates, Potter, not--not like that."
Harry snorted. "So? I'm the bloody best shag you're likely to get, so why not?"
"If you're insinuating that there's no one else I could--"
"Not could," said Harry, smiling. "Would."
Draco sputtered and attempted to kick Harry out of the bed, which was difficult given his position.
"Admit it," said Harry. "You can't get enough of me."
"I'm not admitting to a thing without a solicitor present," Draco said huffily, and then they both laughed and Harry squeezed his hand, flopping back on the bed.
"It wouldn't be so bad, you know."
"What," Draco snapped.
"Oh, I don't know...." He brought Draco's hand to his chest, playing with his fingers absentmindedly and daring Draco to say something.
"You think you can get away with absolute murder, don't you, Potter."
"I don't need to think," Harry grinned, leaning over Draco again and shivering when both their breaths speeded up. "Do you?" He was a hair's breadth from kissing him now, but not quite. It almost seemed as if he was content to stay that mere millimeter away from Draco's lips, and it was up to Draco now. His choice.
"I don't--" His breath hitched, and he bit down on his bottom lip. "Potter...."
Harry didn't move, didn't flinch, and Draco was hyperaware of him, of his closeness, his infuriating stillness. "I know what you want, Draco," he said. And then: "I'm not moving til you promise."
"Promise?" Draco yelped. "Promise what?"
Any minute now, Potter was going to stop smiling at him that way. "You know what," he said comfortably.
"But I--" Harry, impossibly, narrowed the gap from two millimeters to one, or from one to one billionth, and Draco was going to go crazy if he didn't have Potter's tongue in his mouth in about five more seconds. "You can't torture me into agreeing to marry you," he said desperately. "It won't work, you're just posturing, you don't really want to--" he stopped short at the look on Harry's face.
"You do, don't you," said Draco in utter surprise. "You've thought about it and all that."
Harry looked down at their intertwined hands, which Draco had regrettably forgotten to disentangle. "I told you. I don't have to think about it. I'm sure."
"Oh," said Draco, feeling all his breath leave him at once.
"And so are you," said Harry. "Now hurry up and promise because I really bloody want another shag."
Draco thought the tension must be getting to him, because looking at Potter looking at him was making him a bit dizzy. He tried to take a deep breath and failed, and generally blamed Potter. "It's-- always about what you want," he forced out, determined to-- well, be determined.
Harry grinned. "You're such a try-hard, Draco."
"Just bloody kiss me before I go mad, you utter wanker!" Draco yelled--in a vaguely croaking manner.
"I want you to say it," Harry said softly.
"You started it--" he panted. "You--"
"--finish it," Harry whispered.
Draco's neck hurt like a son of a bitch from all the effort of not tilting his head. "I--" he swallowed. God, he wanted to lick him so much it actually physically hurt. "You fucking complete utter bastard."
"I love you," Harry said, looking straight at him, and some part of Draco thought he was going to die of embarrassment or arousal or sheer frustration or possibly something else.
Potter was going to be the death of him.
"Yes," Draco breathed, falling forward.
Harry carried the cold drinks into the garden. Draco appeared to be snoozing in his chair, but he half-opened his eyes when Harry drew near. Harry held out one of the glasses, and Draco stretched out a languid hand to take it. Harry eased himself down into his own chair.
They sipped their drinks. The late afternoon sun was still hot, and its rays struck Draco's hair, turning it whiter than ever. Harry looked at it, and wished he'd remembered to bring out a hat. He watched Draco's eyes slowly fall shut. He was going to drift off into a doze, and drop that glass, if he wasn't careful.
Harry gave Draco's elbow a slight nudge.
"Would you like to get married?" he said.
Draco's eyes blinked open. He stared at Harry with sleepy incredulity.
"We're not married enough for you already?"
"I know it's probably a bit late to ask," said Harry.
"A bit late? We've been together -" Draco raised the hand that wasn't holding his glass, pretended to count on his fingers, gave up, "- decades. Now you want to totter up the aisle with me?"
"Don't exaggerate, we can still walk."
"What about dance? There's always dancing at weddings," said Draco.
"Well, I'm too old for that these days, at least."
"Oh, I see. So you waited to propose until you had an excuse not to dance."
Harry smiled, and sipped his drink.
"Will you marry me, then?" he said.
Draco had another sip too, dropped his arm, and put his glass on the ground beside his chair. He tilted his head back, towards the sun, and closed his eyes again.
"No," he said. "But I promise I'll always love you."
"OK," said Harry. "By the way, the answer to your question is yes. We are married enough already."
"Good. Now let me have my nap in peace."
"Seven years ago you could have had this," she grumbled, wincing as she forced her arthritic knees to bend, setting herself in a chair. "I'd have been seven years younger. You two have no respect for the elderly."
"Special dispensations are for cowards," Harry grinned, his spectral shape twirling about her and her chair in an equally disrespectful manner. "You're so smug about it you have to pretend to be annoyed with us."
Hermione could not help but take a sober tone. "And if I'd died before the universal law went through?"
Draco had nothing of her hair free to tweak as he once used to, bound as it was beneath her sober witch's wimple, and so he merely blew her a raspberry--dry, of course. One of the advantages to being teased by someone ectoplasmic. "Then you'd have been the first ghost on the ministry's council. You wouldn't have gone on without that seen to."
"He's right, you know. We'd nothing to worry about." It meant a lot to her that Harry kept looking at her with his next words, rather than at Draco. "We didn't want to be granted an exception because we're war heroes or what have you. We wanted it for all ghosts."
"And you weren't about to let Harry down, silly bint. At least you came up with a better acronym for your efforts than S.P.E.W. this time."
"I was fourteen," she protested.
"You're still as beautiful as you were then," Harry said, and tears pricked her eyes. They could say things like that, frozen in ghostly semblance at the ages of twenty.
"And besides," Draco said, pretending to be petulant, "you're the one who's made us wait six days after the law went into effect. What was so important we couldn't be the first posthumous wedding on the books, I ask you?"
She blinked back the tears, fetched her handbag from the table, and took out the drawstring pouch, smiling. "This. Here, open it."
Draco had opened his mouth to say something--likely and how are we supposed to do that or somesuch but was forestalled by Harry trustingly taking the pouch. Draco closed his mouth as he saw its spectral sparkle. The contents clinked against each other.
None of them spoke for a time once Harry had the rings on his palm. At last, Harry said, "You made them," and his voice was as choked as Hermione's knew her own would be if she spoke, so she had to nod instead.
Draco bit his lips before he said, in a deceptively neutral tone, "Goody-goody Granger, dealing in necromantic magic. Never thought I'd live to see the day. Of course, I didn't, did I." But he ducked his head away so that she couldn't see his face, before saying, "So can we get on with it? This bloke owes me a promise sixty-six years overdue." There was a catch in his voice like an overtight harpstring.
They got on with it. Hermione served as both officiant and witness, there being none else they wanted present for this moment. No press, no spectacle--nothing but the shades of two people who had refused to rest until they had this, and the one person left alive who understood them better than anyone.
She had not said good-bye, had not asked them to say it, had not begged them to stay just a little longer. Could not. When the last words of the ceremony were spoken she knew they would be gone at last, not willfully or selfishly but ineluctably, their needs within the world of the living at last complete.
Draco gracefully inhaled his coffee.
Harry watched, fascinated, as pink traveled up to Draco's hairline and his face arranged itself in a scowl.
"It took you how lo..."
"Marry me? I promise to make it good for you."
Draco's expression slowly turned calculating.
Harry dragged a batch of love cheques from the drawer and prepared to write.
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