Life was much more pleasant after that. People were talking to them again, and they had friends again, although only Blaise and Hermione were allowed to visit them in their apartment. Ron's attitude still hadn't come around, but it seemed he might be wavering. His support from his fellow Gryffindors was for the most part gone, and his family's censure of his attitude towards his 'brother' and Draco, as Harry's spouse, was a potent argument as well.
But the boys received a fairly pleasant surprise two days after the howler.
"Draco?" and then, reluctantly, "Harry? May I sit down?"
Looking up, the young men were surprised to find Pansy Parkinson standing there. Not saying a word, Draco pulled out a chair for her, then sat back down. After her previous angry outburst, neither were eager to trigger another by breaking the silence, so they sat waiting for what she had to say, looking at her with curiosity.
After the blond girl sat, she could be seen gathering her nerve while she played with her fingers. "I... I owe you an apology," she said, not looking up to identify to whom she was speaking.
"Why?" Draco asked.
"The... The scene I caused, the other day," she replied. "You're - really gay?" she asked, finally looking at Draco. "Well! Of course you are," she said, flustered. "After all, you're - married - to..." she stopped, and looked at Harry. "Sorry. I should go," she said, but made no move to get up.
"Pansy, I told you the other day that, well..." Draco sighed, and started over again. "Even if Harry and I hadn't got together, you and I would never have had a happy marriage. I am gay. Always have been. You know what Lucius is like. I had to get away. And when I did, I went to Harry for help, and we fell in love." Turning his head to look at Harry, he smiled. He couldn't tell her the real story, but he could tell her another truth. "It turned out that all I had to do was stop being... Well, stop acting like my father." Turning back to the girl, he noticed she was quietly crying. "I can't say I'm sorry it didn't work out between us, Pansy, because as far as I was concerned, there never was an 'us'. But I am sorry that you've been hurt. Lucius' plans always seem to wind up hurting someone."
Pansy nodded. "I was so angry; so hurt when I found out you were with someone else. I swore to myself that I'd get even with you for breaking your promise to marry me. But... Over the past few days I've gone over every conversation we ever had that I could recall," she said quietly. "I can't recall you ever talking of marriage. Your father talked about it quite often, and your mother made plans with me, but you... You never talked about it. We talked about a lot of things, but you always changed the subject when I talked about our wedding, or our future together."
"I didn't want to lie to you, Pansy," Draco replied.
The girl nodded again. "I finally figured that out," she said, then looked up with a teary smile. "I've always been very good at painting the world the way I wanted it, and working to make it that way. That's my Slytherin side; my ambition - to make the world the way I want it. I'll bet you never knew that Slytherins could be dreamers, did you?" She didn't wait for an answer. "You woke me up, Draco," she said, putting her hand on top of his. "Harry's lucky to have you."
"I think so," Harry said softly to her. "Thank you."
She smiled tremulously at him, then at Draco. She squeezed Draco's hand once, then got up and left.
The boys sat there quietly for awhile. "I wish I could think of something we could do for her," Harry said, voicing what both were thinking.
"She's stronger than I thought she was," Draco mused. "I think she'll be all right."
Harry had, that same afternoon, finally got around to taking Draco to visit Hagrid, to prove to the nervous blond how nice a fellow the "Creatures" professor and grounds-keeper truly was. While the half-giant was clearing off seats for them, Harry had caught sight of the large-print story line on a copy of "The Daily Prophet" that was uncovered during the activity. Snatching the paper up, he started looking for page thirteen.
"Now, 'Arry," Hagrid said worriedly when he noticed a couple of seconds later, "yeh don' really want teh be a-readin' of that. Dumbledore'll 'ave me 'ead, and... "
"When did this come out, Hagrid?" Harry asked of his friend, restrained anger evident in his voice.
"It's nothin' teh be worryin' yer 'ead about, 'Arry," the big man said imploringly. "Jes' gossip, tha's all it is."
"Hagrid?" Harry said, warningly.
The half-giant sat down carefully, and sighed. "'Bout three-four days ago, I reckon," he admitted. "But 'Arry,-"
"Thank you, Hagrid," the Gryffindor said with finality, then with a couple more page-turns, he found the story and started reading, Draco looking over his shoulder.
Harry's face was red with rage, just staring at the article, and Draco noticed things moving - things that shouldn't be moving on their own. And since when did the wind blow indoors? "Harry?" Draco said, trying to get his attention. "Love?" Still nothing, and the effects were intensifying. "Harry!" he finally yelled, alarmed, when a wicker basket flew past his head.
Harry looked up and saw the frightened look on his husband's face. Suddenly the wind died down, and everything that was moving about stopped or fell, but the Gryffindor was oblivious, his attention focused solely on his pale husband. "Draco!" he exclaimed, moving to take the Slytherin into his arms. "What's wrong, love?!"
Draco was trembling and didn't answer; he just clung to Harry, almost as though he were trying to climb into his husband.
"Yer magic got away from yeh, lad," Hagrid explained, then looked around ruefully. "Ah'm afraid I'll ha' quite the job, straight'nin' this lot up."
Now Harry noticed the mess the cabin was in, and coloured. "I'll help you, Hagrid," he said apologetically. "Sorry."
"Nah, nah... 'T'is a'right, 'Arry. Yeh did'n' mean it," the half-giant protested.
Harry's face got stubborn. "I insist," he said.
Half an hour later they finally had the cabin back in good shape. Better, since Draco had used a magical organization spell to take care of the various papers, magazines and books the big man had previously only stacked on his table and a couple of chairs. After Draco explained the system to him they'd left, Hagrid's profuse gratitude still ringing in their ears.
"Well, I made rather a hash of that visit," Harry commented sadly.
"But you proved your point, Harry," Draco said, taking his husband's hand. "He's nice. I don't think I know another person who would have been so forgiving." Their eyes met and the blond smiled. "And I think that's the first time I've ever seen a manifestation of wild magic," he teased. Then he sobered. "You must be the most powerful wizard in Britain, right now. It certainly proved that you have more power than you know how to handle, at the moment. It frightened me," he admitted. Harry was the only one to whom he'd ever admit such feelings.
"If I were that powerful, people wouldn't keep dying around me," Harry said bitterly, "but I'm sorry I scared you, pet." His voice softened as he said that, and he moved close, to put an arm around his husband's waist.
Draco smiled at Harry's use of the pet name. "You know I'd never make you sleep on the sofa, don't you?" he asked softly.
"Glad to hear it," the raven-haired young man replied, a small smile appearing on his face.
"Of course that doesn't mean you'd still get bedtime privileges," the blond said with a smirk.
"You are such a bitch," Harry said lovingly.
Draco almost missed it. He hesitated, thought about it, then decided it was to his advantage. "And don't you ever forget it!" he said flippantly.
Harry laughed, stopped, and swung the blond into his arms, kissing him soundly. "You are the best thing I've ever had in my life. What would I ever do without you?" he said, when their lips parted.
"Don't ever try to find out," Draco replied softly. Then their lips met again.
This time when their lips parted, Harry had a small frown on his face. "Who do you suppose their source was?" he asked, referring to the gossip column.
Draco was little miffed that his kisses hadn't kept Harry from thinking of other matters, but shrugged it off. "If I had to put money on it? Creevey, I'd think," the blond replied, putting his head on Harry's shoulder.
"I wish I could know for sure," the Gryffindor said.
"I could always sic Blaise on him," Draco suggested.
"No. No strong-arm tactics. Not until I'm certain. And then I want to take care of it myself."
"Not to worry, love. Blaise isn't the strong-arm type. That was Crabbe and Goyle."
"What about them, anyway?" Harry asked, curious.
"I don't know. Death Eater material, I suppose."
"Are you sure?"
Draco lifted his head from Harry's shoulder, and they resumed their walk back to the castle, hand in hand. "They're not much in the brains department, Harry. Not stupid exactly, but followers, both of them. But 'sure'? No. We didn't discuss things like that, much. When we did, it was like listening to their fathers. Not an original thought between them."
Harry filed that away for later thought, and returned to their previous conversation. "Colin won't get hurt?"
Well his Harry had a nimble mind, anyway, jumping back and forth from one subject to another, Draco thought. "Not unless he does something stupid," he replied.
"Okay. Let's do it," Harry decided.
In an already event-filled day, there was one more shock to come. That evening, Professor Dumbledore asked them to his office.
Worried that Hagrid may have reported the incident in his cabin, the couple arrived at the gargoyle guarding Dumbledore's office, only to realize they didn't have the password.
"He did it again!" Harry griped.
"He's always neglecting to tell me the password," Harry said. "I think he gets a kick out of having me stand out here guessing."
"You can guess his passwords?" Draco asked in amazement.
Harry shrugged. "It's not all that difficult. It's always some kind of sweet. It's usually his favourite of the week, but it never repeats."
Draco's forehead creased in thought. "He's been eating a lot of differently-coloured pill-like things this week," he said. "Sometimes he screws up his face when he takes one, as if it was sour; like after dessert the other night."
Running through the few candies he knew that might fit that description, there was only one that stood out; but it was a Muggle candy - and American, at that. "Sweet-Tarts?"
Draco's face grew confused. "Wha-?" He didn't finish the question, because the gargoyle had just jumped aside, startling him.
"I guess that was it!" Harry said, grinning, happy that it hadn't taken any longer than that.
Stepping on the revolving staircase, they were soon at the headmaster's door. Harry knocked, and they were bid to enter.
"Sit down boys," Dumbledore invited. "Tea? Scone? Sweet-Tarts?" he asked, gesturing to a tray on his desk.
The bowl of Sweet-Tarts made the boys share a grin. "No, but thank you, sir," Draco replied for them both.
The headmaster leaned back in his chair. "I have three pieces of news for you," he said. "The good news is that we think we might know what caused - um... the - incident the other night."
"Yes?" Harry asked.
Dumbledore nodded. "It's just a theory, mind you, but we think that you two might have linked your magic together, for that time. We'll have to test that theory, of course."
Harry and Draco looked at the old man in horror. "You can't mean to have us... In front of you?" Harry finally said, aghast.
"Oh my goodness, no!" Albus replied, his cheeks tinting.
The young couple relaxed, relief evident in their faces, although neither would have acceded to such a request. "Then what?" the Gryffindor asked.
"I believe Professor Snape taught you some Legilimency?" the headmaster asked Harry.
"Have you tried it with Draco?"
"No. I didn't want to invade his privacy."
Draco was looking at his husband with a growing sense of wonder. He remembered, on one occasion, Harry asking him if he expected him to read his mind, but he'd thought it merely a rhetorical question. Maybe it had been; but that he could actually do it, and hadn't? His respect for his lover grew even more.
"That's the experiment I propose," Dumbledore said. "I don't mean actually reading his mind; just making a link, then trying a bit of first-year's magic to see the result." The magic first-years learned was mostly harmless stuff, meant to teach them control of their magic. "If you're amenable, Mister Potter?" he asked Draco.
"I trust Harry," the Slytherin replied.
Harry silently took Draco's hand, raised it, and kissed the knuckles, then held it as he looked into his husband's silvery eyes. "Legilimens," he incanted.
Immediately, their minds were thrown together. Draco was lost in wonder at the contact, while Harry fought to limit the link. Finally successful, the Gryffindor looked at his husband with wonder and remorse. "Sorry, p - Draco. It's never done that, before."
The headmaster, having monitored what just happened, was sitting there, one eyebrow cocked rather high. Those who knew him well, knew that meant that the old man was more than a little gobsmacked. However he merely reached into a desk drawer and withdrew a large, white feather. Setting it on the desktop, he said, "Would you mind levitating the feather, Harry, while maintaining the link?"
Harry drew his wand, drawing attention to the fact that he'd not had it out before now, and with the proper wave of it, casually incanted "Wingardium Leviosa." The feather shot up to the ceiling, stopping abruptly upon contact with a small, but audible 'whap'.
All three of them stared as the feather floated slowly to the floor, where it could be seen that the shaft had been completely flattened. The headmaster cleared his throat. "Ah... Yes... Well, I think that fairly well proves the theory," Dumbledore said carefully. "I think you may want to end the link now, Harry."
Voice shaky, Harry incanted "Finite," ending the spell, and the link.
"What just happened?" Draco demanded, his voice soft with awe.
"More mysteries, I'm afraid," Albus replied, "but it appears that, as strong as the two you are as wizards separately, you're quite a bit stronger, linked."
"Are you saying I could do that as well?" Draco asked in wonder.
"If you don't mind, I'd like to leave that experiment to another day, Mister Potter," the headmaster said. "I have some other things I need to tell the both of you. You, Draco, due to your pregnancy, are banned from mixing potions, but to keep from falling completely behind, you are still required to study them: their properties, and the theory behind both the potion that the rest of your class is studying at the time, and the properties of the ingredients that go in it. The story is that you've become allergic to a couple of common potions ingredients due to a potions accident, and the cure will take most of the year to affect. You'll be in the next room over, to avoid any fumes that might endanger your - condition, and to stay close to Harry. And due to your relatively short bond tether, I'm sure you've realized that you'll both have to quit your positions on your respective quidditch teams?"
From the looks on their faces, Albus could see that no, that hadn't occured to them yet. "I am sorry. You two have provided some of the most exciting quidditch this school has ever seen. But even if your bond tether were ten times its length, there are some who would claim a conflict of interest when your teams were playing against each other. I would have had to ask you to resign, anyway."
The headmaster didn't say it, but both young men knew that Draco's pregnancy would have been a factor as well, if the bond tether hadn't negated any reason for that to be considered.
"There is one more bit of news, and I'm not quite sure how to relay it," Dumbledore said, hesitantly. Taking a deep breath, he continued. "It seems that another newly-wed couple were on an outing, yesterday, and found a barely recognizable body."
There was only one reason the headmaster would bring something like that up to them. It was someone one of them knew, and would care about. And since the headmaster's gaze was on him... "My f... Lucius," Draco guessed, no emotion showing in his voice.
The old man nodded. "I'm afraid he'd been quite badly tortured before he was killed."
"No more than he deserved," the blond said coldly. "It's what he would have had me subjected to, with rape thrown into the bargain."
Harry got up, sat on the arm of Draco's chair, and put an arm around him, drawing him into an embrace, which Draco accepted. Draco didn't like that Dumbledore was witness to his weakness, but he was grateful for the contact.
"The funeral is in two days," the old man added.
"He could rot on the plains of Salisbury, for all I care," Draco replied. But his voice wasn't as strong as it had been. For all his coldness and cruelty, Lucius had been his father, after all.
That rather ended the visit. The young couple returned to their apartment. Draco was very quiet the rest of the evening, and Harry respected that, sitting in front of the fire doing his lessons, and occasionally cuddling the blond when Draco wordlessly asked to be held. When they went to bed, Draco snuggled up to him.
"Harry?" Draco said, a short time later, turning to face him.
"Make love to me?"
Harry leaned forward, moving Draco over onto his back, kissing him gently at the same time. They had stopped wearing anything to bed right after their first real love-making, preferring to feel each other's skin, rather than having layers of cloth between them, even if they were just cuddling.
They slowly explored each other's bodies, reaffirming their love and their interest in each other.
"Now, Harry," Draco demanded softly.
The Gryffindor gently prepared the blond, and just as gently, entered him. Harry moved slowly; a stately dance of love, rather than their usual love-making, in which each tried to give the other maximum pleasure. There was pleasure in this as well, but it was more low-key, comforting, the main goal being to reassure each other of their love and commitment. Lips met, hands caressed each others' face and combed through hair, reveling in the fact of the other's presence. They found their love-making lasting far longer than it had ever done before. Harry finally adjusted their positions so he could grasp his husband's hardness, caressing it as well, trying to make sure that Draco would orgasm when he did. It was only during the last few seconds that their movements sped up, the need of their bodies for release forcing a last flurry of activity.
"I love you so much, Draco," Harry finally said, a lone tear trailing down his cheek.
"I feel the same way, my lion," the blond replied sappily, with a kiss.
They tenderly held each other, exchanging the occasional kiss or caress, until they drifted off to sleep.