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Harry Potter and the Perils of Daycare

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     The first time Harry met Draco, they were five.

     "No, mummy! Don't go!" Harry wailed as Lily Potter pried his determined fingers from her skirt.

     The young woman knelt down to smooth back his messy fringe and kiss his forehead. "I'll be back to get you before you know it. Don't worry, sweetie, you'll have lots of fun," she promised.

     It did not sound at all convincing. In his mind, she was abandoning him to the perils of the world. She was issuing a death sentence. She was grounding him from his practice broom.

     He shook his head vehemently, making like a limpet around her lower leg.

     He didn't understand why he had to be left at this "daycare" place. Mummy had to "go back to work" and daddy was always traveling for Quidditch and Uncle Remy was off teaching in Scotland now and Uncle Siri was... well... as mummy put it, bless him, we love the man, but not enough to leave Harry with him and his motorbike. If everyone was too busy for him, why did mummy have to leave, too? Why did she have to work? Daddies worked, and mummies stayed home with the kids!

     Apparently, not anymore. Apparently, mummies worked, too, and now Harry would have to suffer the consequences of that sad fact.

     It took another ten minutes and a reminder that You're the son of two Gryffindors, Harry, won't you be brave for us? to make Harry finally let go. Dropping onto his bum right where he'd stood, he sniffled as he watched the door close behind his mother. His heart was breaking, he just knew it. He'd never see mummy again, and she'd be away as often as daddy, and everyone was gone, and he was alone.

     Except he wasn't.

     "Crybaby," mocked an unfamiliar voice.

     Startled at the unexpected novelty of being made fun of, Harry looked up - and at the strangest-looking kid he'd ever seen. Wispy blond hair so fair it was nearly white, skin so pale it was nearly translucent, and eyes - grey eyes, blue-grey, or blue-silver? What sort of human had silver eyes? - eyes that were... eyes that were sneering at him.

     Sneering at him?

     It didn't last. A second later the sneer slipped away, replaced by a puzzled look as the blond stared openly.

     It was kind of creepy, really.

     Realising he hadn't responded and the boy wasn't moving away, Harry gulped. Then, stubbornly steeling himself, he frowned and scooted back. "I'm not a crybaby," he retorted as he recalled his mother's parting words. He was determined to be strong and make her proud. "I'm going to be a Gryffindor!"

     The words seemed to snap the blond out of his fixated stare and he scowled. "Gryffindor? Why d'you want to be in Gryffindor?"

     "Why not?" Harry asked, taken aback - and deciding he liked the strangely pale boy with the funny grey eyes less and less.

     "They're dumb," the boy sniffed. "Slytherin's the best house, you know. Both my parents were Slytherin."

     "Both mine," Harry growled as he climbed to his feet, eyes narrowed angrily, "were in Gryffindor. And I'm going to be in Gryffindor, too!"

     Turning away before the stupid, annoying, know-it-all pretty pale grey-eyed boy could say anything else, Harry stomped off into the room.

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     Stunned and feeling a bit like he'd been denied - not that he knew what that felt like, really - Draco stared after the boy with the messy black hair and the very most prettiest and greenest eyes he'd ever seen. Eyes that had stunned his perpetual slurs into silence. Eyes like the grasses and trees in Wiltshire in the summer. Eyes like the Manor's orchard when it was in full bloom. Eyes... that were better than either of those, really.

     What had just happened? That wasn't how things went. That wasn't how things ever went. Usually kids listened to him and did what he said, or his father would get their fathers in trouble. They never just... talked back. They didn't walk away! He couldn't understand.

     What he did understand, however, was that those greenest green eyes that were better than the grasses and trees and orchards were no longer looking at him. In fact, they were looking at everyone but him. Now that he wasn't crying for his mum anymore, the boy seemed to make friends with everyone instantly, his bright smiles endearing Aiko and Omosede (the two caretakers) to him and his cheery "Hullo, I'm Harry!" winning him the friendship of five out of the other six kids in a heartbeat. At least Blaise didn't seem to care, giving his messy hair one look before turning away disdainfully.

     Draco seethed. And when he was done seething, he plotted.

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     "Hey!"

     Looking up, Draco put on his best surprised look as Harry stalked up to him. "What?"

     "Why'd you take Lavender's mirror?" Harry demanded, hands on his hips in a posture obviously mimicking a parent. Off in a corner, Lavender Brown sat crying as Susan Bones, Ernie MacMillan, Seamus Finnigan and Neville Longbottom tried consoling her.

     Draco gave Harry his best angelic smile. "She doesn't need it. She's too ugly," he replied, the rude words contrasting horribly with the sweet tone. He returned to fixing his hair in the mirror. "But I'd share with you, if you want."

     "No. Give it back," Harry insisted.

     "Why?" came the curious response.

     "Be... because," Harry blinked, flabbergasted as to why there even was a why. "Because it's not nice!"

     "My father says nice people are weak," Draco returned without missing a beat, picking at something on his eyebrow.

     Harry watched the vain display with a peculiar look. "Being nice isn't weak. Being nice makes you friends," he replied distractedly. What kind of boys liked mirrors?

     Draco rolled his eyes in an exaggerated fashion. "I just order them to be my friends and they have to do it."

     "I won't. I'll never be your friend." Harry snatched the mirror out of his hand. "Give it back and say sorry."

     "No," Draco replied, grabbing the mirror and holding it to himself.

     "Give it back!"

     "No!"

     It took both Aiko and Omosede to wrestle the boys apart, and another three minutes before they stopped thrashing. Draco was pink-cheeked and mussed-haired and shaking, and a bruise was forming on his left cheek from where Harry had punched him. Harry, just as breathless, scowled as he rubbed at the matching bruise on his left cheek from the blow the blond had delivered back. For such a small, pretty boy, he fought mean.

     When the caretakers told the boys to apologise to each other, they both crossed their arms and pinched their mouths shut and glared stubbornly. For the next twenty minutes, they were sent to sit on stools in opposite corners of the room and not talk to any of the other kids as they thought about what they had done and why it was bad to fight. They were also forbidden to play with any toys for the rest of the day - both of them.

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     Even as he outwardly sulked, Draco inwardly smiled. The eyes that were better than the grasses and trees and orchards were on him and only him again, even if it was to glare furiously. That made the punching and the bruising and the messy hair worth it.

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     The next afternoon, when Aiko was busy with Ernie and Omosede with Seamus during the morning snack time, Draco walked up behind Neville and snatched away his milk toast.

     "Hey!" Neville protested - before shrinking down when he saw who it was. Unlike Harry, Neville knew the Malfoys by name, sight and reputation, and he remembered his gran always telling him to keep away from them. The senior Malfoy was as deadly as an adder, the lady at his side had the charms of a Veela but the venom of a spider, and their spoiled son was following in their fickle footsteps.

     Draco sneered challengingly at him. "What?" he asked in the sort of tone that dared the other boy to answer or get him in trouble.

     Cringing, Neville shook his head. Draco was already ignoring him, however, as his Harry-Senses told him the boy whose attention he was really seeking was fast approaching. As if those determinedly stomping footsteps could belong to anyone else.

     "No," Draco said even as Harry opened his mouth. The other boy blinked and shut his mouth distractedly. Smiling prettily at him, Draco locked eyes, lifted the milk toast, and took a nibble.

     Neville let out a small whimper, and Harry immediately recalled his mission. Scowling at the ploy, he grabbed for the toast with a growled, "Stop it!" Draco twisted around to avoid the reach and Harry tried again, following after him. Finally, he grabbed the blond's upper arm to hold him still and snatched away the toast.

     Letting out a pained yelp, Draco dropped to the floor. Harry immediately let go of his arm, almost dropping the toast in his surprise. "What - what?"

     Draco stared up at him from the ground with tears in his wide eyes and a quaver to his lower lip. His hand gripped the arm Harry'd held. "It hurts!" he whinged pitifully. "You broke my arm!"

     "I did?" Harry absently shoved the toast toward Neville before dropping to one knee, his conscience kicking in no matter how much he disliked the boy. "I'm sorry!" He reached out to Draco's injured arm but the blond snatched his limb away.

     Seeming to rethink the action after a moment, Draco held up his arm. "Make it better," he ordered with a pout.

     Staring at the bruise he could barely see, Harry looked confused. He didn't know magic yet. Then again, his mummy didn't always use a wand to make his injuries feel better... so he did the only thing he knew how to do, and kissed it.

     Draco stared. Neville stared with him.

     Harry furrowed his brow. "It didn't work?" he asked with oblivious confusion.

     "He's faking it," Seamus called. All three boys in the toast trio looked up at his distinctively non-English accent, just in time to spot Omosede headed their way with a frown.

     "What's going on here?" she asked as she knelt beside them. "Go on, Neville, go have your toast. Draco, what's wrong with your arm?"

     "It's broken," Draco responded promptly, sniffling for good measure as a tear rolled down his cheek.

     "I'm sorry!" Harry apologised immediately. "I was just trying to get the toast!"

     Sighing, Omosede pulled Draco onto her lap, not noticing the way the small boy scrunched up his nose at the gesture. "It's not broken, sweetie. Come on, let me see."

     "I'm Draco, not sweetie," the boy protested, wriggling away. As soon as he was back on the ground by Harry, he grabbed his arm again and resumed the wounded act.

     "Of course, Draco," Omosede responded obligingly. "Look here, it's only a small bruise-- you'll be fine, nothing to cry over." She turned to Harry next, frowning slightly. "Now, what's this about taking his toast? You shouldn't be fighting or stealing things, Harry."

     Harry gave her startled eyes. "I wasn't -"

     "Don't yell at him," Draco demanded as he sat up abruptly, eyes flashing.

     Floored by the unexpected defense of a boy she'd only ever heard stand up for himself, Omosede smiled encouragingly at him. Perhaps playing with other chidren was helping socialise the prideful little prince after all. "All right, then? Your arm's not broken after all?" she teased.

     "But -" Harry began.

     Draco cut him off again. "I'm fine. Don't yell at him," he repeated.

     "Okay, I won't," Omosede promised. She gave Harry a stern look. "Now, then, play gently, sweetie."

     "But I wasn't -"

     "We saw you grab him, Harry. Unless you want us to talk to your mother..."

     "No!" Harry protested a bit desperately. He did not want to get in trouble with his mum on just the second day. She had the saddest "disappointed" look ever. "No, I'll be good!"

     "All right." Standing up, Omosede gave both boys a pat on the head before turning and heading back to Seamus.

     Harry stared after her worriedly for a moment longer before turning back to Draco. When he found the boy smirking smugly, he frowned, replayed the scene in his head... and glowered as realisation dawned. "You - you did that on purpose!"

     "We didn't get in trouble," Draco pointed out.

     "You should've gotten in trouble!"

     "Then you would've gotten in trouble for hurting me."

     "But your arm's not broken!"

     "But it's still hurt." Draco pointed at the pale discolouration and pouted again.

     "You're impossible," Harry snapped. Getting up, he stomped off, although he continued to shoot Draco vividly hateful glares for the rest of the day.

     Draco couldn't have been happier.

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     The next several weeks went by in a similar manner. Draco continued to pick on the other children, insulting them and stealing their things and breaking their toys; Harry continued to argue with him, scolding and yelling and when that didn't work, shoving and snatching.

     Then, one bright and sunny Monday, a new boy joined them.

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     "You look like a girl," seven year old Graham Montague mocked as he ran his fingers through pale blond hair. Unfortunately, even at age seven Graham was rather large and strong and not terribly bright, and ended up yanking at a lock.

     Draco yelped and ran away. Harry grinned and the other kids laughed. Graham ignored them, smiling as his prey hid by Aiko for the rest of the day.

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     "You're too pale," Graham commented the next day, reaching for Draco's neck.

     Draco squeaked, dropped his blood-flavoured lollipop, and dove under the table. Harry rolled his eyes and the other kids laughed. Graham ignored them, smirking as he watched the pretty boy wiggling away.

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     "You're like a kitty-cat," Graham teased another day later, slipping grabby little fingers beneath Draco's new angora robe to feel the soft inside lining.

     Draco made a choked sound as he clobbered the boy with the nearest toy - in this case, a rather ineffective plush rabbit - and fled. Harry frowned and the other kids laughed. Graham ignored them, rubbing his fingers together as he recalled the brief feel of smooth, milky skin when Draco's shirt had ridden up his side when he'd gone for his weapon.

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     On the fourth day, Aiko watched the rest of the kids as Omosede sat Graham and Draco down for a talk. She informed Graham that his taunting of Draco was not acceptable, and that was no way to make friends. After making him apologise, she made the boys shake hands.

     Graham kissed the back of Draco's hand.

     Draco brought his knee up sharply to smack the boy in the chin. He missed - or rather, he was too short to kick that high - but it made Graham let go so he could run away again.

     Omosede scolded Graham for provoking Draco, then chased after Draco to scold him for fighting with Graham. Harry glared and the other kids laughed. Graham ignored them to beam as Draco curled up miserably in a corner.

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     On the fifth day, Draco did not come in.

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     Draco was back the following Monday, but arrived late. This time, it was he rather than Harry who clung desperately to his mother's leg, begging her not to leave him there. Even in spite of his age, gender and current hysterics, it was easy to see the resemblance. Despite being a grown-up, the woman was thin, pale, and stunning.

     "N-n-n-nooo! Don't go, mummy!" he wailed. "I don't - I don't wanna be here! I'm thcared!"

     Aiko helped pry the blond's grip free so his mother could leave. Narcissa Malfoy cast her son a sympathetic look before closing the door behind herself to head to work.

     As soon as she was gone, Graham attached himself to the distraught child. "Thcared, Draco? Are you lisping?" he snickered. Draco cringed away again, a dramatically haunted look settling on his pointy features. This time, however, Graham grabbed his hand before he could bolt. "C'mon. My daddy got me a new thestral. I'll let you play with it - but only you."

     Dragging the reluctant boy behind himself, Graham took him over to a child-sized toy thestral. It flapped its wings as they approached and Draco squeaked, falling away. "It's ugly!"

     "It's cool," Graham corrected, pulling Draco back onto his feet and yanking him along. "C'mon, it's fun. It flies!"

     That got Draco's attention. In the next two minutes he was on the thestral's back as it flew around the room, diving at Susan's hair and scaring Neville into a corner. Aiko and Omosede shrieked before the first lunged for the toy. It kicked her before flying off, and the latter launched a spell to hold the thestral still. The spell missed, hitting a clock instead, but a second casting caught the thestral. Aiko pulled the blond off of the toy as Omosede scolded a hysterically laughing Graham.

     Draco was beaming.

     Harry gave Graham a withering glare.

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     After a week, Harry'd had enough. Draco left the other kids alone now, which they were perfectly fine with. That also meant he wasn't fighting with Harry, which he was perfectly fine with. And yet...

     Draco stopped watching him wherever he went. It felt like he'd lost something.

     Draco was given half of Graham's snack every day and always accepted it. It put Harry off of his appetite.

     Both Draco and Graham stopped causing trouble so Aiko and Omosede stopped carefully monitoring them. It made Harry more suspicious.

     Draco still yelped and squeaked and choked and kicked and wailed when Graham would mock him, tease him, touch his hair, or kiss his cheek. It almost gave Harry a sense of satisfaction... until he realised that Graham was undeterred, and seem to like the resistance. It only made him provoke Draco all the more.

     Harry seethed. And when he was done seething, he plotted.

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     On Monday, Harry came to the center dressed in Slytherin green and silver and carrying a plush snake.

     Draco watched him curiously. Graham frowned and nudged him to get his attention back.

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     On Tuesday, Harry begged daddy to let him bring his practice broom and, with Aiko's and Omosede's permission, let Ernie, Seamus, Neville, Susan and Lavender have rides with him.

     Draco looked jealous. Graham glared and gave him his own half of his snack as well.

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     On Wednesday, Harry complimented Lavender's pretty new haircut and Susan's lovely dress. He also complimented Neville for his spiffy shoes, Ernie for his nifty cap, and Seamus for his Snitch-covered scarf. He even complimented the ever-silent and solitary Blaise for his grown-up waistcoat, although his effort went ignored.

     Draco whimpered. Graham kicked him under the table, since being nice obviously wasn't working.

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     On Thursday, Harry brought brightly coloured flowers for everyone. This time, he even gave one to Draco when Graham wasn't looking.

     Draco's smile lit up the room even more than the flowers did. Graham stormed over, snatched the flower from him, and stomped it into the ground. Draco cried and clung to Aiko for the rest of the day, refusing any more flowers from anyone else.

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     On Friday, Harry intended to offer Draco a bite of his treacle tart at lunch but didn't quite get that far.

     Graham took half of Draco's morning snack instead of giving him his own. He also called him a girl again, yanked his pretty hair, and pinched his pale, pale skin hard enough to bruise.

     Harry stormed over and shoved him off his chair. "Don't you hurt him!"

     Graham retaliated by giving Harry a black eye. But he was then sent to sit in the corner without toys for the rest of the day, and once Draco woke up from fainting delicately at all of the drama, he fussed over Harry's heroic battle wound.

     "I might go blind," Harry sighed in a what-can-you-do tone.

     "Poor, brave hero," Draco mourned, gazing deeply into his bright green eyes.

     When lunchtime came about, Draco gave Harry his chocolate frog and traded bites of ice-cream and held his hand the whole time.

     Harry couldn't have been happier.

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     "You'd stopped watching me," Harry accused.

     He was older now - twelve years older, to be precise - and enjoying his last year at Hogwarts. Standing at 175cm with a slim but sturdy Seeker's build, awkwardly broad shoulders, and still-gangly limbs, he looked utterly at peace as he lounged against a tree, gazing out at the Black Lake. To his right, the sun set over the distant mountains, and everything was tinted in a wistful, summery, golden glow.

     "I did when you and Graham weren't looking."

     Because time was not relative unless one wanted to go deep into physics, Draco was also twelve years older now. He'd passed Harry at 183cm but was still so lean and pale with his mother's soft, wispy hair that he generally came off as the smaller one when the two weren't standing side-by-side. Tucked against Harry's left, their fingers still interlocked as if they'd never let go, he wound Harry's Gryffindor tie around his free hand as Harry toyed with the green and silver of his own. The fading light that was soothing and summery to Harry felt to him like getting ready to say good-night and good-bye to this period of his life and good-morning and hello to the next...

     In other words, a ridiculously overdone and melodramatic metaphor that made him nauseous to even consider thinking. And yet.

     "You ate with Graham," Harry reminded, although his tone softened the way it always did when they talked about those early days.

     "And wished he was you." Draco sighed peacefully, letting go of the tie to tighten his arm across his boyfriend's chest. Graham Montague was a non-issue now. Upon reaching Hogwarts Draco'd been sorted into the same house as him, but Harry had immediately pulled the older boy aside and had a "talk" with him about what was or wasn't acceptable behaviour around his Draco.

     Draco never learned the precise details of what was said during that exchange, but Graham had come out of it looking shaken. Even as a first year, Harry's white-knight determination shone radiantly. Graham gave both of them a wide berth after that.

     "You stopped picking on the other kids," Harry pointed out.

     "Isn't that what you wanted?" Draco asked.

     "Not when it meant you weren't trying to keep my attention anymore," Harry growled.

     Draco recognized the sound as a playful growl, and was unsurprised to find himself promptly rolled over and pinned. Reaching up, he ran his thumb across Harry's lower lip as he smirked at him. "My, my, my... so jealous for someone who once swore he'd never be my friend."

     "And I never was," Harry responded, nibbling at the pad of his thumb. "You went from being an annoying bully to victim to boyfriend."

     "Oh, did I?" Draco asked in an amused tone. "I don't recall either of us officially asking the other out..."

     "Didn't need to. You're mine." Harry kissed him to shut up the laughter that followed. "Besides, we held hands and shared ice-cream. That is dating when you're five."

     Technically, that's dating now, too, Draco thought, but he didn't bother breaking the kiss to voice the sentiment. It only supported Harry's side of the argument anyway.

     Not that he was complaining...

     Besides, while he still liked the holding hands and sharing ice-cream, he liked other aspects of grown-up dating even more. Things that didn't happen in a daycare center while surrounded by five year olds and watched by caretakers. Things involving lips for something other than sneering, hands on skin for something other than punching, voices rising for something other than fighting, hair being pulled for reasons other than pain.

     They never did stop bickering, of course. In fact, being in constant close proximity only made them snipe at each other more, and being in separate houses hadn't helped. There'd been a bleak period back in third year when their friends and families had almost been enough to tear them apart, and Draco wasn't sure how he would have survived the misery and separation if it had lasted any longer than five terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. But they got through it together, and were stronger now for it.

     And Draco was never letting Harry and his warm hands and kind smile and eyes that were infinitely greener and better than anything the Manor had to offer go again.