Prompt Number: 14
Title: Where Your Heart Is Set
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione briefly in the background
Summary: Draco comes home from school to find that his mother has decided to rebuild their family to include Andromeda, Teddy … and Harry Potter.
Rating: PG-13 for a bit of language
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant? No
Word Count: 13,000 (approx.)
Author's Notes: The title is taken from the song Home by Gabrielle Aplin.
Platform 9 ¾ may be shrouded in steam from the Hogwarts’ Express, but that doesn’t prevent students from pressing themselves to the windows, peering out for the first glimpse of their parents on the platform. Draco, who knows that his mother will be there, stays sitting in his compartment, leaning back against the velvet fabric of the seat. This will be the last time he gets off the train.
He closes his eyes against the flash of memories which assault him. Eight years of these train journeys. He remembers the bitter tang of bewildered disappointment at Potter spurning his friendship. Sweets from the trolley and idle chatter, clandestine kisses with Pansy in an abandoned compartment. The satisfying crunch of Potter’s broken nose.
On the platform now, a stream of children have relinquished their trunks into their parents’ keeping, discarding all cares now the holidays are here. They cluster together, last minute goodbyes and promises to write. He can see Granger flinging herself at Ron Weasley, and Draco leans closer to the window to observe them. Granger has left the train for the last time too, but didn’t seem to have the same trouble with it as Draco, probably because she has been without Potter and Weasley for the last six months of school. Weasley pretends to stagger at the force of Granger’s hug, his head thrown back and laughing. Then he picks her up and whirls her around. Granger’s mouth forms an ‘o’ – Draco can almost hear her shriek – delight and surprise and laughter mingled. Draco feels an instinctive disgust at such an open display of affection. Draco’s mother has always kissed him once on each cheek, no more and no less, ever since his first journey on the Hogwarts Express. His father would always clasp his shoulder. Draco swallows painfully. His father won’t be there to greet him this time.
Next to Granger and Weasley, Potter is standing with Ginny Weasley. He turns to her, a half-smile on his face. She twists her lips in silent answer and punches him lightly on the arm. There are no shrieks and twirls for them.
Draco wheels around at the voice and sees Longbottom standing awkwardly in the compartment, stooping a little so as not to bang his head.
“Whoa. Easy, Malfoy,” Longbottom says.
Draco looks down and sees his wand in his hand without knowing how it got there. He mentally kicks himself. It is foolish to be so jumpy. He twitches the wand back into his sleeve.
“Can I help you, Longbottom?” His voice is calm. Good.
Longbottom looks down at him with a familiar expression on his face. “No, I just thought I’d check you were ok. I was taking a minute to say goodbye to the train, and you’re the last one on.”
Draco sniffs to hide his confusion. “The train isn’t sentient, Longbottom. You can hardly say goodbye to it.”
Longbottom appears unfazed. “Isn’t that why you’re still on here?” he asks. “I mean, it’s been eight years of our lives. It’ll be weird to walk off this train and know we’re never coming back.”
Draco turns to Longbottom and looks at him. He has an honest, open face, which would have served him poorly in Slytherin, where secrets are a currency to be spent with discretion. It rather suits Longbottom, he supposes. Gryffindor to the core, with that forthright honesty and simple belief in his own actions that he has grown into over the eight years spent at Hogwarts. He realises with a start that he rather envies Longbottom.
“I don’t know about that,” he says slowly. “I heard Sprout telling Hooch that she has her eye on you to replace her one day.”
Longbottom flushes. Of course he does. “Maybe one day,” he says. “I’d love to teach. But it would be weird. It wouldn’t be the same, you know?”
“I should imagine not,” Draco says, standing. “Now if you’ll excuse me, Longbottom, I believe my mother’s waiting.” He can see her: a tall, pale figure, standing alone on the platform.
Longbottom gives him an annoyingly easy smile. “Sure, Malfoy. Enjoy the summer. And good luck.” He offers Draco his hand.
Draco eyes the outstretched hand for a moment. He remembers, again, Potter refusing to shake hands with him when they were eleven. He imagines doing the same to Longbottom; pictures the confusion, realisation and hurt crossing Longbottom’s placid features. He imagines himself sneering and striding past Longbottom without a backwards glance.
And then he shakes Longbottom’s hand, briefly, with the firm, decisive grip his father taught him.
“Good luck, Longbottom,” he says.
On the platform, his mother makes no mention of the time it took him to get off the train. She presses her cool cheeks against his for their customary greeting.
“I trust the journey went smoothly,” she says, her hands smoothing the set of his robes in a way that would have horrified him two years ago, but which he sees now as another gesture of her love. Across the platform, he can see Potter turn and look at them.
“It was fine,” he says. “It’s strange to think my time at Hogwarts is over.”
His mother smiles at him, a little sadly. “It seems such a short while ago that we said goodbye to you for the first time. But then, so much has changed since.” She looks seriously at him, and Draco shifts under her gaze, uncomfortable. “Your father and I are so proud of you,” she says.
Draco avoids her eyes. He looks around, at Potter who is now making his way off the platform with his friends, pulling Ginny Weasley’s trunk behind him. He sees Longbottom take the arm of an aged old witch with a cane and a truly terrible hat.
Draco is sure his mother is telling the truth: that she is proud of him. He’s also fairly sure that he could paint himself purple and streak up Diagon Alley and she would still find a way to be proud. He has no idea if his father is actually proud of him, and wishes that he didn’t care about that. He knows, however, that he is not proud of himself. He is not sure what kind of person he imagined himself becoming, when he was younger, but he knows that he is not it. He knows himself, now, after the year with the Dark Lord and the year of peace following it. He knows that he is a coward, that he does not fight for what he believes and, worse, that he does not know what he believes. He knows that he has thought himself better than those who have, in the last two years, proved themselves to be better people than he could ever hope to be. When Hogwarts reopened at Christmas to allow students to retake their aborted previous year of school, Draco had been grateful to escape the reality of his father’s absence and his mother’s grief.
Now he has to face what he will be in this world – a new world built up from the rubble of the war – and he has no idea.
When his mother suggested they go out for tea, Draco never imagined that he’d to end up sitting in his Aunt Andromeda’s living room. He fidgets a little in the prickly, high-backed chair he has been ushered into by his aunt.
The room they are in is immaculately clean, save for the scattered, colourful blocks on the floor and the equally colourful baby playing with them. It currently has lime green hair and is wearing a babygro embroidered with zooming golden snitches.
“Do you take milk, Draco?” his aunt asks. Andromeda looks a lot like his aunt Bellatrix, to the extent that he expects that same syrupy baby voice to come treacling out when his aunt speaks. It is a shock to hear her voice, low and soft, like his mother’s.
“No. Thank you,” Draco says. Which is stupid, because he does take milk in his tea, but he feels so awkward and on edge that he can’t think straight. His mother shoots him a pointed look, but says nothing. Instead, she leans down and strokes the baby’s hair.
“Teddy looks well,” she says.
Andromeda’s taut face creases into a smile. She is beautiful, Draco realizes, in a way that Aunt Bellatrix never was. “He is well,” she says. “We’ve been very lucky.”
Draco’s mother reaches out for his hand and holds on tight. Draco tries to swallow and feels his throat tighten. On a small corner table next to him is a framed picture. In it, a younger version of his aunt Andromeda is sitting in a stiff, formal pose, wearing a smart set of robes, her eyes swiveled to the camera. Behind her is a tall, paunchy man wearing a tweed jacket and a pair of jeans. His hand rests on Andromeda’s shoulder. Next to him is a tall, slim young woman with short, spiky brown hair and a cheerful smile. The photo of Andromeda turns to her daughter every so often. As Andromeda turns away, the girl’s hair changes to a toxic shade of pink. She winks at her dad, who smiles and ruffles her hair.
He looks up to see his aunt watching him and the moving figures of the photograph. For all the etiquette drilled into him from a young age, Draco can’t think of a thing to say. Luckily, or otherwise, the silence is broken by the flaring of the Floo.
Andromeda and his mother share a startled glance, which Draco catches but doesn’t understand until he makes out the figure of Harry bloody Potter stumbling from the fireplace.
Aside from glimpses on the platform, the last time Draco saw Potter was last Christmas. Potter had come to the Manor, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, hands in his pockets.
“Do you want to come in?” Draco had said, stiffly.
Potter had laughed, a short, barking laugh that contained little humour. “God no,” he said. “I just came to give you this.” He thrust a hand towards Draco, and Draco looked down to see a wand clasped in Potter’s grip.
Potter offered his hand again. “It’s yours,” he’d said. “You’ll need it at Hogwarts.”
Draco had stared down at the wand – his wand. The wand which Potter had taken from him and claimed as his own. The wand which …
He exhaled. “Bloody hell, Potter! You expect me to go swanning off to Hogwarts with the wand that killed the Dark Lord?”
Potter had snorted at that. “Malfoy, you are young, recently acquitted, and you still have enough Galleons to buy a small country. I expect you to do whatever the hell you like.”
He’d thrown the wand - thrown it to Draco. Draco had felt the familiar grain of hawthorn under his fingertips, felt the answering surge of friendly magic. It had awed him then, awes him still, that the magic that Potter had used is compatible with his own. That his wand still claims him, accepts him after it had been used by Potter.
He hasn’t spoken to Potter since then. And now they are face to face in his aunt’s living room. To his surprise and, a small part of Draco can admit, dissatisfaction, Potter doesn’t react to Draco’s presence. Draco’s more shocked still when, after leaning down and kissing - kissing! Andromeda on the cheek, Potter turns to Draco’s mother and smiles at her.
“Hi Narcissa. Nice to see you again,” he says. Draco just about manages to stay on his chair. Since when have his mother and Potter been on first name terms? Or even smiling terms?
“Teddy!” Potter flings himself down onto the ground next to the baby. He swings him up into the air, and the baby’s delighted squeal is like a beam of sunlight shining through the haunted air of the house.
Draco takes the opportunity to glare at his mother. She still has a hold of his hand, and her tightened grip is the only indication that she is not at ease.
“I imagine you must be pleased to spend time with your friends again, Harry,” Narcissa says.
Potter looks up. “Yeah, it’s great to see them,” he says. Draco notes a careful tone to his voice. Draco’s curious to ask about Ginny Weasley, but he’s seen that his aunt has her wand a mere twitch of the sleeve away. Somehow he doubts it would end well.
“So, Malfoy. How was school?” Potter asks. He sounds like an adult talking to a child. “Hermione’s been having kittens about her NEWTs results all week.”
Draco feels a little ball of panic in his chest at the words. He is expecting his NEWT results within the week and he knows that if he has any chance of getting on with his life he will need brilliant results. He can’t imagine why Granger should be worried; she distinguished herself at school and in the war: the world is her oyster. He shakes his head. “I can’t imagine Granger getting anything less than Outstanding.”
Potter looks up at him and grins. “She did once get an E. Don’t tell anyone.”
Draco smiles a little, not sure how to reply without it sounding forced or strange. The sight of Potter’s smile – directed at him, sort of – startles him.
“Harry is training to be an Auror,” his mother says. As if everyone didn’t already know. “Are you still on Stealth and Tracking?”
Potter nods. “I’m not bad at tracking,” he says, “But I still need to work on the stealth side of things. It’s much easier with an Invisibility Cloak.” He looks straight at Draco at this, and Draco knows that they are thinking of the exact same thing: the crunch of Draco’s shoe breaking Potter’s nose after he’d caught him on the Hogwarts Express.
Draco takes a breath. “I don’t recall you being that stealthy with it, Potter.”
Potter rubs his nose and Draco feels a stab of shame. Then Potter turns back to Teddy, who has been trying to pull himself up. Potter takes the baby’s hands and holds him upright.
“He’ll be walking soon,” Narcissa says. And the conversation moves away from him. Draco is left to shift uncomfortably in his chair and cast his eyes over the furnishings of the room. The furniture is mostly new and – aside from his chair – looks comfortable. Yet there are patches on the walls that tell the story of portraits recently removed, and the wallpaper on one entire wall is several shades brighter than everywhere else, as though a large painting or tapestry had been hanging there. Draco has the sensation of a lingering past that someone has attempted to scrub clean.
“Well,” Narcissa says, when they are standing in the empty entrance hall of the Manor, the cold seeping back into their bones after the warmth of the Black house. It is a question.
“Does father know you’ve been in contact with her?” Draco asks back.
Narcissa tosses her head impatiently. It’s the first time he’s seen her act in anything other than a restrained manner since Father was arrested. “It doesn’t matter,” she says. “The fact is, Draco, I have been establishing a relationship with my sister while you were at school.”
Draco doesn’t know how to react to this. He falls back on his father’s example and raises an eyebrow at her. “So I see.”
Unfortunately, his mother can see through the veneer of Lucius. A look of frustration flickers over her face, and she sighs. “Draco, we are changing. I have changed. My sister has lost her husband and her child. I have lived with the fear of the same thing happening to me and I refuse to waste any more time ostracising members of my own family.”
“And where does Harry Potter come into all this?”
Narcissa looks at him levelly. “He is Teddy’s godfather. Andromeda and Teddy live in Potter’s house.”
Draco doesn’t need to ask why. Standing in the Manor again, feeling the shadows pressing in from their corners, Draco knows exactly why his aunt had not wanted to stay in her old home.
He sighs; in itself a calculation. “Mother, what do you expect to happen?”
Narcissa tilts her head. The flicker of torchlight from the high sconces picks out the lines around her eyes and the fragile, papery quality of her skin.
“I want my family back,” she says at length. “And I expect you to be civil to Potter, Draco. We are Teddy’s blood relatives; he is his godfather. Such a relationship, if fostered, could bring us many benefits.”
Again, the ghosts of past mistakes hang between them. Draco thinks of his father, far away on Azkaban Island.
“You can cosy up to Potter, Mother,” he says. “But I shan’t.”
Narcissa smiles. “You were such a stubborn little boy,” she says. “I did think that you might have grown out of it.” Her voice turns hard. “However, I shall require civility.”
Draco bows his head in acquiescence.
Potter is bouncing Teddy in his arms on the doorstep of Number 12 when Draco and his mother arrive. Potter is wearing a violently orange Chudley Cannons t-shirt which makes Draco’s eyes water. Teddy’s hair is orange to match.
“That child looks like a Weasley,” Draco says.
“Hello to you too, Malfoy,” Potter says cheerfully. Teddy blows a bubble of saliva his way by way of greeting. Narcissa holds out her arms for him, and Potter hands Teddy over. Narcissa immediately starts to coo over him and Draco turns away. The fuss his mother makes over Teddy is quite frankly embarrassing.
In the entryway, Andromeda is busy shrinking down what looks like everything except for the kitchen sink – Draco supposes she must have already packed that – and putting them into a large rucksack.
“There,” she says at length. “I think we’re ready.” She looks uncertainly at the bag, as though it might grow lips and tell her what she’s forgotten.
“I thought we were only going to the zoo,” Draco says. “Not camping in the Forbidden Forest.”
Andromeda purses her lips. “It never hurts to be prepared,” she says. She looks down at the rucksack once more. “I wonder if I packed spare socks?”
“Let me take that, Andromeda,” Potter says, coming through the door and swinging the rucksack onto his back.
Draco crosses his arms over his chest and glares. He hadn’t thought of offering to carry the bag, but now supposes he should have. His legs feel stiff and unwilling as he follows the others out of the house. His mother had worked on him for weeks to get him to agree to this outing, and he feels irritable and ready to be displeased.
The trip on the Knight Bus is bumpy and as unpleasant as Draco remembers. Teddy seems to think that it is fantastic, lurching all over the squishy seats and even clambering up onto Draco’s lap to peer out of the window. After stops in Cardiff, Durham and Tipperary, they are finally disgorged, staggering and slightly green, in front of the magical entrance to London Zoo. Draco can see several people who are clearly wizards walking up to the statue of a large, bronze elephant. Other people - Muggles walk by without a backwards glance. Draco watches their faces – so closed and unwitting. He doesn’t think he hates Muggles. After all, they have given him nothing to hate, but he cannot shake off a childhood raised with distrust. Beside him, his mother has a determined expression on her face. She breathes deeply.
“What a beautiful day,” she says. “I remember coming here with you when you were little, Draco. You used to love it.”
Potter is practically bouncing again. He is pushing Teddy in his buggy, and talking nonstop about unicorns and hinkypunks and – urgh - hippogriffs. Potter turns to Draco at this with a laughing, mocking smile. “Bet you’re dying to see the hippogriffs, eh, Malfoy?”
Draco glares at him. “Sod off, Potter,” he says.
Andromeda walks up to the elephant statue and taps her wand to its trunk. Immediately, the elephant moves its head, flapping its thin metal ears and raising its trunk high. They pass though into the zoo.
After a while, Draco has to admit that this outing isn’t quite as unpleasant as he’d anticipated. His mother was right: he had always loved coming to the zoo. Although he hasn’t been in years, the landscape of the zoo is familiar and safe. They pass the birds section, populated with augureys, diricawls, fwoopers and one large and solitary phoenix. Potter stops to stare at the phoenix for a long time. Draco and his mother exchange glances, but Andromeda merely takes Teddy’s buggy from Potter and the four of them go on.
“Narcissa tells me you wish to be a Healer, Draco,” Andromeda says, as they sit and wait for Potter to catch up by the demiguise cage. Draco watches a small child, tugging on his father’s sleeve, obviously trying to get his father to make the elusive demiguise reappear. He remembers doing the same thing as a child.
“No,” he says, conscious of his mother’s disapproving look. “I didn’t get accepted at St Mungo’s, so I’m applying to Potions Masterships instead.”
Narcissa’s mouth twists. “He got 3 Outstandings in his NEWTS you know, ‘Dromeda.”
Draco sighs. He was never going to get into training at St Mungo’s – who would allow a former Death Eater to treat the sick and vulnerable? He’d known it was useless before he’d even sent off he letter.
Andromeda looks thoughtful. “You might have more luck with some of the institutes abroad, Draco,” she says. “There are some excellent courses offered in America, or Australia.”
“Andromeda was a Healer,” Narcissa tells Draco. “Maybe you could help him with his application, ‘Dromeda? To one of the foreign schools?”
“No, thank you, Mother,” Draco says sharply. He can’t say it wouldn’t be a relief to go abroad, as so many of his friends have since the war. But he can’t leave his mother and, most of all, he can’t bring himself to run away yet again. “A Potions Mastery will suit me quite well. I can still study Healing Potions.”
“There is a lot of vital work to be done in that field,” Andromeda says, calmly.
His mother still looks frustrated. “You would make a wonderful Healer, Draco.”
“Well I hope to make a wonderful Potions Master, Mother. Anyway, it’s what Father would want me to do.” There – he’s played his trump card.
His mother sighs sadly. “Draco, what your father would want you to do is no more and no less than to do what you want to do,” she says.
Draco shakes his head and stands up. He takes the handle of Teddy’s buggy. “Well, what I currently most want to do is take Teddy to see the clabberts.”
It takes him a few steps to realise that this means he will be alone with Teddy, something he hasn’t done before. The thought makes him instantly anxious, but he is reluctant to turn back. Back straight, he wheels the buggy along the uneven, meandering path towards the clabberts’ cage. Once they are there, Teddy makes his presence known by croaking and screeching just like the monkey-like creatures inside the enclosure. Draco peers into the buggy to see that Teddy’s face has grown distinctly furry. He decides that it’s time to leave.
After lunch, they head through the section with the winged horses, and hurry past the enclosure with the skeletal thestrals roaming within. Potter, who is walking next to Draco at this point, turns to him and mutters, “If Teddy can get to our age and still not be able to see those things, I’ll have done my job as his godfather.”
Draco swallows and mutters, “Agreed,” before he realises that they have had a polite conversation.
In the Reptile House, Draco finds he has to look away from the undulating bodies of the snakes and serpents. The rustle of snakeskin on leaves makes him think of Nagini, and when he closes his eyes he can see her lunging at the body of Charity Burbage. The memories are horribly clear; he wonders if they will ever dim, if he’ll ever start to forget the horror of those months.
He is startled even further when Potter starts to hiss at a nearby runespoor.
“Potter!” he hisses back. “What are you doing?”
Potter looks nonplussed. “I was talking to the snake, Malfoy. Or don’t you remember second year and Duelling Club?”
Draco glares. “I thought you couldn’t speak Parseltongue anymore. Skeeter had an article about it.” He does not admit that hearing the familiar language again has set his heart racing and skin prickling with sweat and remembered fear.
Potter shakes his head at him. “Please tell me you don’t believe the rubbish that Rita Skeeter writes? Come on, Malfoy – at one point you were the one making up half of it.”
Draco huffs. “You really do have a long memory, don’t you, Potter? “
Potter starts to reply to him, but his eyes are on the snakes behind the glass screen. Instead of words, out comes a writhing, sibilant hiss that makes Draco feel sick. In his buggy, Teddy claps his hands in delight.
“I wish you wouldn’t,” he says to Potter.
“But Teddy likes it,” Potter says. “Look, how about if I translate the conversation? You grew up in a dungeon full of snakes – aren’t you dying to actually talk to one?”
Draco did, actually, spend his time at Hogwarts dying to talk to a snake, but he’s not going to tell Potter that. He doesn’t want to hear Potter talk to the snakes in that insidious, caressing language.
“I’ve no desire to talk to a snake,” Draco sneers. “And even less desire to talk to you.”
Potter crosses his arms and looks him full in the face. “You need to get over yourself, Malfoy,” he says firmly. “You can sneer all you like, but neither of us is going anywhere, so you might as well get used to it.”
Draco sighs dramatically. “Fine. Ask the stupid snake to tell me a joke,” he says. “I could do with a laugh.”
Potter raises his eyebrows at him, but then turns to the snakes, and – to Teddy’s evident and loud delight – more of the sibilant syllables of Parseltongue slither from his mouth. One of the snakes, a greenish gold coil of muscle, hisses back. At one point, Potter laughs.
“All right,” he says at last. “Why did the snake’s wife file for divorce?”
“I don’t know, why did the snake’s wife file for divorce?”
Potter grins. “Because he had Ereptile Dysfunction!”
Draco smiles despite himself. “The snake really told you that joke?”
He thinks for a minute. “No, that’s a play on words. Who’s to say the term for erectile dysfunction in Parseltongue sounds anything like the word reptile?”
Potter rolls his eyes. “Spoil sport. All right, so the snake said she didn’t know any jokes but she did say that she thought your face was funny.”
Draco looks from the snake – which almost looks as though it’s laughing, the overgrown handbag, to Potter, who definitely is laughing.
“I had no idea that snakes were so rude,” he says, stiffly.
Potter turns and hisses his response quickly. The two snakes look as though they are conferring, and then the other one hisses urgently at Potter. Teddy leans as far out of his buggy as he can, arms outstretched towards the snakes. Oh well, Draco thinks. At least that bodes well for Slytherin house.
“They’ve thought of a joke that you might understand,” Potter says. “Knock Knock.”
“Who’s there?” Draco says, curious despite himself. Smiling, Potter hisses back at the snakes.
“Sssssss,” comes the response.
“Potter, that’s Parseltongue.”
Potter shakes his head. “No, that’s what they said. ‘Ssssss.’”
Potter relays that part – unnecessarily as it sounds practically the same. The snakes hiss in response and he snorts.
“Are you a snake or an owl?”
“That’s the joke. ‘Sssss who? Are you a snake or an owl?!”
Draco groans. He finds himself smiling at Potter, and Potter is smiling back. Draco realises that he isn’t hating today as much as he’d anticipated. That he has just spent ten minutes with Potter talking to snakes and that it was … pleasant.
When they reach Grimmauld Place, foot-sore and queasy from the Knight Bus, Teddy with a slightly too realistic, hissing cuddly snake clutched in his arms, Draco feels weirdly lightheaded. It takes him a moment to identify the sensation as being happy.
He pauses on the doorstep, reeling with the discovery.
Potter looks back over his shoulder. “Malfoy, are you and your mum staying for dinner? Kreacher’s doing pork chops.”
“Keacher!” shrieks Teddy.
And Draco doesn’t have to think about it before replying that they are.
“I’ve never seen my mother look so undignified,” Draco says to Potter. Potter follows his gaze to where Narcissa is tramping up the hill with Andromeda. Her robes are bunched up, and the hem is covered in a good 6 inches of mud. Her blonde hair, usually styled and formal, is tucked under a headscarf. She is talking to her sister and, as Draco watches, the two of them laugh, shoulders touching. Andromeda wipes her brow with a tissue. Narcissa looks up at Draco. Her eyes catch his and she smiles blindingly.
Draco feels the force of her happiness hit him. He turns away and fusses Teddy, who is hanging in his harness from Potter’s chest. Teddy has managed to get a fleck of mud on his cheek. His hair is wild, curly and leaf-green.
“Teddy, you look like a sprite,” Draco tells him sternly. Teddy grins up at him, and Draco finds himself licking his fingers to wipe away the muddy smudge.
He looks up to see Potter smiling down at him. Draco straightens up at once.
“You’re getting better with him,” Potter says.
Draco runs a hand through his hair. “He’s a good little thing,” he says at last.
“Hear that, Teddy?” Potter says playfully. “Uncle Draco likes you.”
Draco feels his cheeks redden in a way that has nothing to do with the exercise. “I am not Uncle Draco, for the last time, Potter,” he says. “Cousin Draco, if you must.”
“Cousin Draco’s a bit prickly,” Potter tells Teddy – or rather the top of Teddy’s head. Teddy looks straight at Draco and unleashes a torrent of baby talk, within which the words ‘Dodo’ (Andromeda), ‘Hawa’ (Harry) and ‘Keacher!’ (Kreacher!) can be distinguished.
“Cou-sin Dra-co,” Draco says back at him, enunciating clearly and stretching his mouth comically. Teddy laughs at this, but is no nearer to saying Draco’s name.
“Here, you take him. Little blighter’s giving me back ache,” Potter says. Before Draco can protest, the harness is being transferred to him, and he can feel the wriggly, heavy warmth of Teddy pressed against his chest.
“Hello,” he says to the top of Teddy’s head. “I hope you’re enjoying the walk. I never used to like going for walks. But that was because the house elves never knew any good games to play on them.”
“When he’s older, we can get him a kite,” Potter says. He is closer than Draco realises, and his voice startles him.
“I had a kite shaped like a dragon,” Draco says. “When the breeze caught it, it would roar, and real flames came out.”
Potter smiles. “You just would have a dragon kite. Dudley never had anything that cool, but I thought his kite was pretty great anyway, back when we were kids.”
Draco tsks. “Muggles. A kite’s not a kite unless it has tongues of real flame,” he says.
Potter shrugs. “I’ll have to take your word for that one,” he says. “Flying a kite can’t be nearly as good as flying a broom, anyway.”
“Potter, nothing is as good as flying a broom,” Draco says. He flushes as a stream of things which are as good – if not better – than flying a broom fill his head.
Potter laughs at him. “Malfoy, if you think that then you’re doing it wrong,” he says.
Draco lets himself fall slightly behind and watches Potter climb the hill ahead of him. He wonders what experience Potter has had, and with whom, and how much he thinks that he, Draco, might have had. The answer being not all that much, besides Pansy and some fumbling gropes in the showers after Quidditch.
“They’re fairly far behind,” Potter says, startling Draco out of a Quidditch shower inspired reverie. “Maybe we should stop here for the picnic.”
Draco looks around. He and Potter are at the top of the hill, with a view which swoops down the hillside and along the surrounding valleys. Fields stretch out like a green and brown patchwork, marred only by the far-off gleaming of muggle cars, shining like metallic ants in the distance. He can see the figures of his mother and aunt a little way away.
“This will do,” he says. Potter obediently sets down his rucksack and starts to unroll the picnic blanket. Draco holds Teddy around the middle and undoes the fastening spells on his harness.
“Are you hungry, Teddy?” he asks him, as he sets him down on the blanket. He is about to see whether Potter has unpacked Teddy’s beaker, when he catches sight of Teddy’s face.
He stops and stares. Teddy’s face, usually round and red-cheeked, is pale and thin. His eyes are large and grey in his pinched little face. His hair is blond, almost translucently so. The effect is as though all colour has been sucked from him. Teddy is wearing his usual happy expression, but it sits uncomfortably on his new pale, pointed features.
“Potter …” Draco says in a low voice, not taking his eyes off Teddy.
“Potter!” cries Teddy triumphantly.
Potter turns around at this, and stills. His eyes meet Draco’s, and Draco wonders if the shock he feels is written on his face as clearly as it is on Potter’s.
“Well, that’s new,” Potter says slowly. A smile dawns on his face. “Look, Malfoy. He’s you.”
Draco can see that he’s him, thank you very much. But he doesn’t see why Potter is smiling about it. It’s awful.
“He looks just like me,” Draco says.
Potter frowns in confusion. “What’s wrong, Malfoy? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Draco has the sudden urge to vomit. Quickly, he gets up and strides as fast as he can towards a nearby copse of trees, ignoring Potter’s shouts as he goes. He has seen a ghost – but not the usual kind. He walks faster, trying to outrun the feeling, the spectre of his child-self.
“Oi!” Potter is still shouting. “Bloody hell, Malfoy!” Draco turns to see Potter stumbling through the undergrowth towards him, Teddy clutched under one arm like a Quaffle.
Draco stops. He watches Potter approach, more slowly and carefully now.
“Care to tell me what all that was about?”
Potter sighs, then holds out Teddy, who is still morphed into his mini Malfoy guise. Draco takes him automatically, clasping Teddy’s warm body. Teddy reaches out and tugs on a strand of Draco’s hair.
“He wants to look like you, Malfoy. That’s all. It’s a compliment,” Potter says. “He gave himself a lightning scar last week.”
Draco keeps looking at Teddy. His hands are chubby, the skin stretched smooth over his soft palms and fat fingers.
“I grew up wanting to be exactly like my father,” Draco says. He senses that Potter moves, but doesn’t look his way. “I looked like him, but I wanted to be just like him. I mean, I grew up thinking that he was wonderful.
“That’s not a bad thing, Malfoy.” Potter’s voice is gentle.
Draco shifts Teddy’s position. “Yes it is, Potter,” he says. “I idolised him. I thought that he was better than anybody, that he knew more, could do more than anyone else. Pleasing him was pretty much the only thing I cared about back then.”
Draco tries to picture the sort of things that Potter can remember from their childhood. Probably lots of upturned noses and Draco parroting Lucius at every turn.
He looks at Potter for the first time. Potter’s eyes are swimmingly green, but they are fixed on him and look concerned, if that’s even possible. Draco sighs. “I don’t know any other way to be,” he says. “Everything I do – my first thought is, what would Father do? Or what would Father think? I’m trying - I’m really trying, to work out what I want to do or think, but it’s hard. I don’t know any other way to be.”
“You don’t want Teddy to emulate you.”
Draco huffs. “Honestly, Potter. Would you want him to turn out anything like me?” This is the risk he is taking. By allowing himself to become embroiled in his mother’s plan to fashion herself a family, by allowing himself to enjoy it and to care for Teddy, he’s putting Teddy at risk. Teddy deserves to grow up untainted by him.
Potter looks at him with that annoyingly earnest expression of his – Draco wonders if it was taught in the Gryffindor common room. Then he shrugs.
“Don’t be daft, Malfoy. There are worse people. You might not see it, but you aren’t like your dad, and you haven’t been for a while now.”
There was a time, Draco thinks, when those words would have hurt him more than any others could have. Yet now he feels pathetically grateful for them.
The September sun turns everything golden in the afternoon as they stretch out, full after Kreacher’s masterful picnic and tired out by fresh air and exercise. Teddy is sprawled, fast asleep in a puddle of blankets. Andromeda and Narcissa have transfigured two branches into wicker rocking chairs. Andromeda has brought crochet, Narcissa a book. The birds chirp pleasantly overhead.
And Potter wiggles like a young Crupp.
“I’m bored,” he says in a low voice to Draco. For the tenth time.
“I’m beginning to think all your exploits at school weren’t to do with you being heroic or anything,” Draco grumbles. “They just came from your inability to sit still.”
Potter laughs at this. “That’s actually quite possible,” he says. “Come on, let’s go for a walk.”
Draco groans. “Potter, we’ve been for a walk. We are, in fact, still on a walk.”
Potter pulls a face at him. “Oh, fine.” He gets up and starts to head towards a small river.
Draco watches him go. He thinks that Weasley probably has an equally low boredom threshold, which would explain why the two of them get on so well. He feels irrationally jealous at the thought and then, grumbling at himself, gets up and follows Potter. And it’s hard to admit it to himself, but the smile that Potter greets him with is worth it.
They meander, following the river, Potter hopping over it from side to side, talking of Quidditch, Potter’s friends, whether Draco thinks that Hannah Abbott has a thing for Neville Longbottom …
“How on earth should I know?”
“Well you were at school with them, weren’t you? Last year?”
The talk turns to Andromeda, and how Potter thinks it would do her good to have a holiday. He says a little about Auror training and a lot about Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, which Draco is secretly dying to go to.
The river widens as they walk, until it is several metres across, the water running smoothly downstream. Potter pauses.
“I wonder if I could jump that,” he says.
Draco eyes the distance doubtfully. “I don’t know. Why would you bother?”
Potter picks up a stone and flings it into the river. “I dunno, Malfoy. Because I’m alive. Because I can.”
Then Potter takes a few steps back. He squares his shoulders and sets off at a sprint. Draco is taken aback by the look on his face – fierce and determined and driven. Potter jumps, his expression one of confidence and power, one which Draco recognises from Quidditch games, and then he’s landed on the other side at a half run, laughing and triumphant. Potter is alive indeed – his face shines with it, and suddenly Draco feels like crying.
“Come on, Malfoy!” Potter crows. “Your turn!”
Draco shakes his head. “I have no desire to throw myself over rivers, thank you.”
“Ah, go on! You know you want to.”
Draco does want to, but he’s immobilised by fear. The past years are clawing their way to the surface in Draco’s chest. He sees his father, broken, cowed, imprisoned. He sees the doomed figure of Dumbledore on the tower, and feels the lick of fiendfire on his skin.
“Come on, Malfoy. You scared?”
Draco sees Teddy with blond hair. He sees Potter with his head thrown back, looking free and unencumbered and Draco knows, for the first time what he wants and who he is.
Draco is the sum of his inadequacies and failures, and he wants, more than anything, to jump across the river and join Potter. He imagines the exhilaration, the euphoria. He imagines throwing himself against Potter, stilling that laughing mouth with his own. He imagines standing tall, being the equal of Potter – of anybody.
He thinks that if he can cross the river, all of that could be achieved.
“Jump, Draco. Jump.” The words swirl in his head. He stands, torn, yearning and self-loathing on the riverbank. Then he turns and walks away, but not before he sees Potter’s smile gutter and die.
Draco has sunk so deep into his Potions book, that when the Floo alert rings, he feels like he has to swim to the surface of his concentration before he can get up and answer it.
He grumbles to himself as he stomps his way to the fireplace. He is taking advantage of his mother being away to make progress with his Mastery – it is more work than he could have imagined – and the interruption is unwelcome.
When he sees Potter’s face in the Floo, however, he breaks into a run.
The green flames give Potter an unhealthy tinge and Draco feels his heart starting to quicken as he takes in Potter’s worried expression.
Draco throws himself to his knees.
“Potter, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Teddy – I think he’s ill. He –“
“Get back. I’m coming through.”
Draco barrels through the fireplace, the whoosh of the flames and the pounding of his blood loud in his ears. He comes out in Teddy’s bedroom. The room smells of vomit and is cold despite the fire. Teddy is curled in Potter’s arms; his hair is a mousy brown and plastered to his face.
“It just started tonight,” Potter says, his face drawn and panicked. “I don’t want to call Andromeda and your mum unless I have to – Andromeda’s needed this holiday for months, but nothing Kreacher and I have done does any good and I’m useless at this and …”
Draco crouches down and looks at Teddy. “Hey, Teddy,” he says quietly. Teddy’s eyes flicker to him and he whimpers sadly. Draco raises his hand to Teddy’s forehead, trying to dredge up the spell which his mother had always used. Teddy’s skin is warm and damp to the touch.
“I don’t know what I can do, Potter,” Draco says. He feels a hopeless kind of uselessness. If he’d got onto the Healer training programme he would be able to fix this. “You’d be better off asking someone like Molly Weasley.”
The panic on Potter’s face recedes. “Molly,” he breathes. “She’ll know what to do. God, Malfoy, I never even thought of calling her.”
Potter had called him – hadn’t even thought of calling someone like Molly. Draco tucks this away to examine later. “Come on, give me Teddy. You get on to Molly.”
As Potter tries to get through to Molly Weasley, Draco dampens a cloth and mops at Teddy’s forehead. Teddy starts up a thin, reedy wail. Snot dribbles from his nose; Draco vanishes it with a flick of his wand, and starts to hum – snatches of melody half-remembered from when he was young and ill and miserable.
Draco is ashamed for many things he has said about the Weasley family – granted, they are poor and they do have red hair, and Molly Weasley is plump, but she is also a force of nature, and Potter is practically weeping with relief when she whirls in, diagnoses the flu, and sends Draco, Potter and Kreacher scurrying about the place. Draco is relieved to be sent to make a flu remedy for infants – luckily it only takes half an hour or so, and when he comes back Teddy is clean and in fresh pyjamas, lying in his freshly made bed, in a room which smells of peppermint rather than vomit.
Once Teddy has been dosed with Draco’s remedy, and Harry, Draco and Kreacher have all been dosed with tea by Molly Weasley, she leaves them with instructions to call her if Teddy’s fever doesn’t go down, and for them all to come for Sunday lunch.
Draco blows on his tea. “That woman’s wonderful,” he says. “I think I probably owe Weasley – all of them – a written apology.”
Potter smiles, his eyes constantly flickering towards Teddy. “She’s brilliant,” he says. “She said, once, that I was as good as her son. It was pretty much the best thing ever.”
Draco drinks his tea. “Potter, do you realise that you’re pretty much as good as Aunt Andromeda’s son at this point? Her grown up, informally adopted, incurably scruffy son, granted.”
Potter bows his head over his tea, his slightly too long hair falling over his cheekbones. “We’re a bit of an odd family, aren’t we?” he says.
Draco stills. Speaks carefully. “Would you say we’re a family?’
Draco is loathe to admit to Potter that he’s definitely had thoughts about him which had nothing to do with family.
“Potter, you cretin,” he says, with a disgusting amount of fondness in his voice. “You can’t just up and decide who your family is.”
Potter sits up, his green eyes huge against the shadows of the darkening room.
“Can't you? I can. Otherwise I wouldn't have one. My aunt and uncle certainly don’t count. Choices are important. Dumbledore taught me that.”
Draco sees the Astronomy tower once more. “You mean the man I killed, Potter?” he says, miserably. “This is why we can’t be a family, for God’s sake. You know what I’ve done.”
Potter looks surprised. “You don’t know?” he breathes. His mouth falls open and his eyes grow round. “Draco, you didn’t kill Dumbledore.”
Draco flinches at Potter’s use of his given name. He waves his hand. “I as good as killed him,” he says. “It was because of me that Snape killed him. Mother made him make a vow.”
Potter’s hand reaches out and sort of hovers, as though he wants to touch Draco. Draco sits on his hands in case he does something stupid like hold Potter’s hand and cry about Dumbledore and the guilt he feels.
“Draco, listen,” Potter says. His voice is urgent. “I know Snape promised your mum, but – look – he had promised Dumbledore first. Dumbledore was dying. He knew he didn’t have long. He thought you were worth saving – he didn’t want you to be the one to kill him.”
Draco gulps, trying hard to process the information. “I nearly killed plenty of people, Potter,” he says. “I – you don’t know. I mean.” He concentrates on breathing, refusing to cry in front of Potter. “If you think choices are so important, Potter, well, some of mine have been pretty poor.”
Potter exhales. “Everyone makes shitty choices. You, me, Dumbledore. Don’t be too hard on yourself.”
It is almost funny. Harry Potter, the boy who thought that he was capable of opening the Chamber of Secrets aged 12, thinks that Draco is too hard on himself. The room is almost fully dark now; the fire is guttering in the grate. In the darkness it is easier to hear Potter’s words.
“I do believe in choices, Draco. And I am choosing to count you as part of my family.”
Draco rests his head on his hands. “Thank you, Potter,” he says.
A hand on his shoulder, gone almost before he’s registered its touch. “Call me Harry.”
Draco feels like death would be a kindness. He must have expressed this thought out loud, because a moan comes from his left.
“For once I agree with you, Malfoy.”
Draco shakes his head, trying to clear out the fog, but that turns out to be a terrible idea and he ends up spewing bright orange vomit into an unfamiliar toilet.
He collapses on the bathroom tiles, feeling clammy and helpless. “What happened?”
To his surprise, someone answers him. “You and Ron tried to settle your past disagreements,” says Hermione Granger. “With Hannah Abbott’s Halloween Punch.”
The mere mention of Halloween Punch sends a wave of nausea through Draco. He clings feebly to the toilet.
Granger is dressed in a fluffy pink dressing gown, with her wand sticking out of one pocket. Her hair seems to have mutated into a sort of hedge, and old make up is smeared around her eyes.
“You look like shit, Granger,” he says.
She laughs at this, and the sound sends something ricocheting through Draco’s head. He moans into the toilet bowl.
“That’s definitely a case of the pot calling the cauldron black,” she says cheerfully. “Now, how nice are you going to be to get me to give you a hangover potion?”
Draco gulps down another wave of nausea. “Nice enough to vomit into your – I presume your – toilet rather than on the floor?”
She smirks at him. “Well, all right, that was thoughtful of you. More thoughtful than RON, anyway.”
Draco quails at the shouting of Weasley’s name. Judging by the groan from the next room, so does Weasley.
The next few minutes make Draco think that Hermione Granger is some kind of dreadful-haired goddess, because she gives him a hangover potion, casts a sturdy scourgify on his mouth and then lets him come and laugh at Weasley before he gets his potion.
Weasley is hanging onto the sofa as though it is the only thing preventing him from certain doom. His face is pasty pale and his freckles stand out like Spattergoit against the pallor of his skin. He is wearing what appears to be the remains of a pumpkin outfit with strategically placed cut-outs. Draco would mock him for this, only he appears to be dressed to match.
Once they are all potioned, showered and appropriately dressed, Draco in a pair of Weasley’s jeans which hang loose on his skinny hips, they sit on the sofa with cups of coffee, waiting until any of them feels like eating again.
“Okay, I can’t wait any longer,” Draco says at last. “As surreal and surprisingly civil as this morning has been, can either of you tell me what happened and why I’m here? The last thing I remember was Harry forcing me to come to some Halloween Party at the Leaky Cauldron.” A nasty thought strikes him. “Merlin’s drawers, where is Harry?” He turns to Granger, as the voice of reason. “We didn’t leave him somewhere, did we?”
“As sweet as your concern is, Malfoy, Harry left the party hours before you did. He has to work today.”
Draco frowns. “So if he didn’t get mind-alteringly drunk, then why did I?”
Granger looks pointedly at Weasley, who runs a hand through his ginger hair. “I remember you coming in with Harry, and we tried the punch, and Harry said that he wasn’t going to have any more because he had to work, and then I said that just because he’s gay doesn’t mean he has to drink like a girl, and then you said that that called for more punch and, er, it gets a bit blurry from there.”
Draco’s fragile brain snags on one particular part of that retelling. “Weasley, you said that Harry’s gay?”
Grangerlooks keenly at Draco, so Draco turns to Weasley to avoid her. Weasley’s ears are pink.
“Well, that’s the first time I’ve outed Harry twice,” he says. “But yeah, Harry’s never hidden it. I just thought you knew.”
“Oh, well,” Draco says, loftily. “Of course I’d had my suspicions. I didn’t know it was common knowledge, that’s all.” He casts around for an easy exit, but his eye falls instead on the sorry pile of bedraggled pumpkin outfits. “Do you know why we came back wearing those?” he asks.
Granger snorts. “The Patils were wearing them in the pub,” she says, a smile tugging at her lips. “And Ron was fascinated. They have these cut outs to display, er, certain anatomical features. You, Malfoy, said that it was unfair that girls could wear that sort of thing and that men couldn’t. So they offered to swap clothes with you.”
Growing horror dawns on Draco. “We swapped clothes, didn’t we?” he says, weakly. “In the middle of the pub.”
“With the Patil twins,” Weasley adds. He turns to Draco, but instead of horrified, Weasley looks thrilled. “That’s brilliant! Seamus will love this. I got Padma Patil to get her kit off!” The smile slips from Granger’s face. Weasley is apparently oblivious to this, as he lets out a snort of laughter. “Ha! Padma Patil got into my pants!”
Granger sort of ‘hem hems’ at this, in a manner reminiscent of Umbridge. Draco looks from her to Weasley, feeling the tension building in the air and wondering how he can take his leave before Granger goes feral and starts throwing punches. He debates pointing out that pants remained very much on throughout, thank you very much, but feels that it might be judicious to stay quiet. Just then, a whooshing sound draws their attention to the Floo. A scarlet envelope zooms through the fireplace towards them. Without thinking, Draco snatches it out of the air – years of Seeker training coming to the fore. He glances at the Auror insignia embossed on the paper, before coming to grips with himself and passing the note to Granger with a murmur of apology.
Weasley has gone a shade paler, all traces of mirth gone. “That’s an injury memo,” he says, his voice shaky. “It must be …”
“Harry’s in St Mungo’s,” Granger cuts in, her eyes scanning the letter as she talks. “He was shadowing a fellow Auror on a routine arrest. There was wandfire. A stray curse.” Her breath hitches. “He was shielding a civilian.”
Draco feels something fundamental change within him – or around him, he can’t tell. He is dimly aware of Weasley speaking, and Granger sending out her Patronus with a message. Unbidden, he remembers being a small boy and watching his grandfather stick pins through the bodies of captured butterflies in order to displaythem on his study wall. He remembers the stillness of those once-beating wings. He feels pinned himself, as though the news has pierced his chest, holding him in place and spearing his heart with steel.
“Are you all right, Malfoy?” The question, coming from Weasley of all people, jolts Draco into action.
“Fine,” he says. He swallows; his mouth feels too dry. “Can I use your Floo? I need to notify my aunt.”
Once he’s reached Andromeda – her eyelids flutter and her mouth collapses; Draco knows she’s heard similar news before, and worse, and he curses Harry for making her hear it again – he, Weasley and Granger set off for St Mungo’s.
They are allowed in to see him, which is better than Draco had feared. Harry looks smaller when he is asleep, or maybe it is the hospital bed which diminishes him somehow, highlighting the fragile bones of his wrists, the shallow movements of his chest. They don’t talk much as they wait for the others to arrive. Granger and Weasley exchange a few bits of murmured conversation from where they sit on Harry’s right side. Draco, on the left, says nothing at all.
He watches Harry’s chest rise and fall. He sees the faint shadows made by his eyelashes on his cheeks, and the day-old stubble darkening his jaw. He thinks about taking Harry’s hand, but doesn’t dare. Instead he replays their interactions over the last months, trying to map the point when Potter had become Harry, and when Harry had begun to feel like home to him. Draco can’t imagine a life without Harry Potter in it, now, and he can’t pinpoint the exact time when he decided he liked Harry. When did he come to like Harry? When had Harry Potter’s approval started meaning so much to him? When had he started thinking about Harry’s mouth and what it would be like to kiss him? To be touched by him?
Harry is gay. Draco doesn’t think there is much of a chance that Harry feels the same as he, Draco, does, but there is now a tiny part of him which hopes. Yet, as he watches Harry’s still form lying on the bed, he realises that it would never work. They are a family – Teddy’s family, and that has to be the most important thing. Feelings between them could only lead to an inevitable splintering of their odd little group. And he can’t do that to Teddy, or his mother.
Draco lets out a shuddering breath. Beside him, Harry sleeps on, unchanging.
More visitors arrive, and soon Draco is relegated to the waiting room while the Weasleys, Andromeda and Teddy, even his mother – although not before she has exclaimed over the state of his trousers - go in and sit with Harry. Healers bustle in and out, and are corralled by the combined force of Granger, Molly Weasley and Andromeda. Information trickles in: the perpetrator has been apprehended; Harry was lucky the curse had rebounded before it hit him; he was in no danger; he would need bed rest for a week; he could be discharged the next day …
The last piece of news starts a heated debate over who is best equipped to take care of Harry. Molly Weasley says that of course he must come to The Burrow. Andromeda counters that he should be allowed to go home, back to Grimmauld Place. The two go back and forth on the issue until Weasley gets up and holds up his hands.
“Mum, this is stupid. You know that all Harry will want to do when he wakes up is to go back home.”
Molly Weasley sniffs. “But we’re his family, Ron. He needs us.”
Andromeda riles at this. “We are his family too, Molly.”
Molly Weasley clearly doesn’t quite agree with this. “Andromeda, I know you and Harry are close, of course, but he’s been a part of our family since he was a boy. We’re happy to take care of him.”
Andromeda’s mouth is a thin-lipped line, and her eyes go steely. Draco, who has seen this expression on his mother to his cost, hastily joins the conversation.
“Harry knows you consider him part of the family, Mrs Weasley,” he says. “He told me once how much that means to him. But he’s also a part of our family – he’s chosen to be. And I think Weasley, er, Ron is right. He’ll want to go home.”
Molly Weasley’s expression softens somewhat. “I just don’t want you to be burdened,” she says to Andromeda. “Looking after a toddler and an impatient young man is quite a handful.”
Draco’s mother sits beside her sister, her hands folded in her lap, her posture straight and her face composed. Calmly, she speaks. “You’re quite right, of course, Molly. Which is why Draco and I shall be moving in to Grimmauld Place to help. Is that not so, Draco?”
They have not discussed this. Part of Draco is irritated that another portion of his life is being decided without his consent. But he thinks that what Harry says about choosing one’s family must be true, because he nods his head. “Quite so, Mother,” he says dutifully.
Narcissa smiles. “Well, that’s settled then.”
Draco wakes on Christmas morning by Teddy being plonked unceremoniously on his midsection.
“Urgh!” he groans.
“Draco bed!” Teddy chirps.
“Yes,” Draco says, crossly. “Draco’s bed, and no one but Draco has a right to be in it.”
Overhead, Harry sniggers. “Come on, Draco. It’s Christmas!”
“It’s early,” Draco complains, but it sounds half-hearted even to him. As fond as he is of sleep, he is fonder of Christmas and presents.
“Kreacher’s starting on breakfast,” Harry says, to seal the deal. “And I’ve got Teddy the best present and I can’t wait to open – I mean, for him to open it.”
Draco rolls his eyes at this. Harry has been banging on about this ‘secret’ present for a number of weeks now, refusing to divulge what it is. Not that it really matters in a house full of Slytherins. They all know he’s got Teddy a broom.
Draco swings his legs over the side of the bed. Harry and Teddy are both still in pyjamas, so he just summons his slippers and dressing gown. He’d never have been allowed to go downstairs in his dressing gown at the Manor, he thinks. Which might be one of the best things about not living there.
Breakfast passes cheerfully, with so much food that Draco thinks he might not need to eat again until January. He would be quite content to linger over his coffee after the last of the plates have been cleared away, listening to his mother and Andromeda joining in with the carols on the radio. Harry, naturally, is restless. He plays with Teddy while the others finish their coffee, but it soon becomes clear that there will be no peace until presents have been opened.
“Teddy’s first,” Harry says, as soon as they are settled under the tree. He pulls out his wand to Summon it from upstairs. “Now, Andromeda, you might not approve of this at first,” he says earnestly, “but I really think that – “
“We know you’ve got him a broom,” Draco says. He can’t help but laugh at the way Harry’s face falls, a comic exaggeration of disappointment.
“You all know?” Harry asks, turning from Draco to Andromeda. Andromeda nods.
A broom-shaped package glides into the room. Harry looks at it forlornly. “Slytherins,” he mutters. He crouches down next to Teddy on the floor. “You’ll like this, though, Teddy,” he says. “I’m your godfather, after all, and it’s my job to give you your first broom.”
He glances up at Andromeda again as he says this, and they share a look that is tinged with sadness, and which Draco does not understand. Harry helps Teddy to unwrap his tiny broomstick, and the pair of them cavort around the living room, Teddy squealing in excitement as he hovers just off the ground, Harry holding him in place on the broom. Draco understands how much Teddy needs Harry, and how much he will need him. Growing up in the house of the Blacks, Teddy could have been raised like a relic, the last precious piece of Andromeda’s family. Harry will let him take risks, will raise Teddy with the energy and love of life that was bred out of Draco’s family long ago.
Draco catches his mother’s eye. They, unlike Harry, have been able to keep their gift a surprise. When they moved into Grimmauld Place back in November, Kreacher had shown Narcissa into her new bedroom. She had opened the cupboard to unpack her clothes, and there, in a neat bundle, was a tapestry. Centuries old, she explained to Draco, fingering the fabric lovingly. A family heirloom which catalogued and celebrated the expansion of the family through each new generation. His mother remembered it from her visits to this place as a child. There, at the bottom, she showed him where her own name, linked to his father’s, was stitched, with Draco’s underneath. “Proof of where we’ve come from,” she’d said. “Proof of where we belong.”
But this family tapestry had been mistreated: cursed and blasted to burn away those members of the family who had not been deemed worthy. There was only a small hole where Andromeda had once been. No line of descent to her daughter or grandson. As soon as Draco had seen it, he’d known what they must do.
It has taken a lot of trial and error, a few raids on the Manor’s library and even an apologetic letter asking Granger for advice. But Draco has always been good at mending things and sticking at a task until it is done. At his mother’s signal, he fetches their gift, neatly wrapped in green paper, and presents it to Andromeda.
“What’s this?” she says, as the paper falls away. She frowns at the sight of the tapestry, but Narcissa unfolds it for her.
“Draco and I wanted to restore honour to our family,” she says. “It has been damaged and the ties of family have been severed.” She takes her sister’s hand. “And I regret that most deeply.”
Andromeda’s breath hitches as she takes in her restored name, and the name Ted Tonks joined to hers in silver thread. Underneath their names, Nymphadora’s name is linked to Remus Lupin’s. Teddy’s name stems from theirs, like the shoot of new life in the spring after a winter’s frost.
“Cissy,” Andromeda breathes. “Cissy, you mended it.”
Draco’s mother’s voice is suspiciously thick. “Draco did most of the work,” she says. “I hope you don’t mind. I hope you like it.”
Andromeda pulls her sister close and, for the first time, they cling to each other like children. Draco turns away, towards Harry, who has been watching Andromeda open her gift with a shuttered look in his eyes.
“Thank you for putting Lupin on there,” Harry says. “I’m sure it will mean a lot to Teddy, when he’s older.”
Draco hopes it means a lot to Harry, too, but instead he says, “We put some more names back on the tapestry as well.”
Harry crouches down to look. It doesn’t take him long to find the place where his godfather’s name had been removed. Sirius’s name shines there in its new, bright thread. A dotted line leads down from Sirius’s. Harry James Potter, the name below reads.
Harry looks up, his eyes bright. “Me?” he asks.
“You were his heir, Harry,” Narcissa says, over Andromeda’s shoulder. “It was only right that you should be there too.”
“You mentioned that you had chosen your family,” Draco says. He’s has to admit, he’s rehearsed this line a few times in the mirror, and he’s terribly afraid that it’s cheesy, and yet his voice still shakes when he says it. “Well, your family has chosen you back.”
Shit, he thinks. It was cheesy. Horribly so. He stands, looking Harry straight in the face, and neither of them move for a moment, until Harry grabs Draco and squeezes him in the most uncomfortable and wonderful hug Draco’s ever had.
“Thank you, Harry says, breath warm and damp against Draco’s neck. The scent and feel of Harry pressed up close against him is overwhelming. Draco lifts his arms and hugs Harry back.
The music is loud and echoing in Draco’s head. He’s learnt from Halloween and has had one cup of Hannah Abbott’s New Year’s punch and no more. Harry, it seems, has not stopped at just the one. His goblet dangles loosely from his fingertips and he is gesticulating wildly with the other hand. Weasley’s arm is slung about his waist – Ron Weasley, thankfully, and Draco never thought he’d see the day when Ron Weasley was a lesser evil. It is not apparent which of them is holding the other up, but Draco’s betting on gravity to win at some point.
He stays in a corner of the pub, watching Harry because there seems to be some built in magnet in his mind which draws him to wherever Harry is. Draco deliberately shifts his gaze, to where Longbottom has his shirt sleeves rolled up and is helping Hannah Abbott ladle punch – definitely something going on there – and then to a not-secluded-enough corner, where Ginny Weasley and Dean Thomas are doing inappropriate things to each other. Then, inevitably, his eyes are drawn back to Harry.
He has tried, over the months, to rationalise his attraction. Harry’s hair isimprobably messy – what are the odds of every hair sticking in a different direction? His clothing sense is functional but not stylish; he isn’t tall, he isn’t overly muscular. And yet he just is. He is free and full of life and energy. Despite the fact that Granger seemed to do all the actual work for the three of them while they were at school, Harry is clearly powerful, and a decent wizard. He kind and good, and a whole lot of adjectives that Draco would have sneered at when he was sixteen, but which he has come to value. Thinking back over the last months, he sees that Harry has helped Draco to value himself, which might be his most attractive quality of all.
Harry is leaning over the bar now, but he turns his head towards Draco, as though called by Draco’s thoughts. A flare of panic shoots through Draco, until he reassures himself that, powerful wizard or not, Harry is a rubbish Legilimens. Harry picks his way though the room with the exaggerated care of the very drunk, and sits down on the stool next to Draco.
“Draco, you stare at me,” he says. His speech is slurred, his expression dazedly happy.
“I assure you I do not,” Draco says, his heart racing.
Harry smiles. “You do, you know. You’re al- always looking. Just – there. Looking.”
“Harry, you’re drunk.”
Harry nods, seriously. “Am. Very.” He puts his empty goblet down on the table with a bit too much force. “But. I like it.”
Draco shakes his head at him. “You like being drunk? You won’t like it in the morning, Harry.”
Harry leans forward. His breath stinks of alcohol. “No,” he says. “I like it when you stare.” He grins at Draco, a stupid, breathtaking grin which Draco knows does not count because Harry is definitely not in his right mind.
“You don’t know what you’re saying,” Draco says. “Stop it, before you embarrass both of us.”
“Are you gay, Draco?” Harry asks, inching closer. “I am, you know and you do know, don’t you. And Her-hic-Hermione thinks you are too. She’s usually right.”
Draco can’t bring himself to move. Harry looks up at him. “I wish I wasn’t drunk,” he says, suddenly sounding like himself. “Because everything is spinning and twirling and I want to kiss you.”
Draco feels as though all the breath has been knocked from his body. His mind races – spinning and twirling justas Harry had said.
“I wish you weren’t drunk too, Harry,” he says.
Harry tilts his head to one side. “Because then you’d let me,” he observes.
He’s right of course. Draco steels himself, takes all the courage he can, and nods once.
Harry grips his wrist. “Take me home,” he says, his voice urgent. “Take me home now and give me a So- sob-riety Potion.”
Draco risks splinching them both by Apparating Harry side-along with him. Harry stumbles as they land, clinging to Draco and giggling into his shoulder. “Shh!” he says, loudly, as they open the door. “Don’t wake everyone.”
“Potter, you’re the one who is making the noise,” hisses Draco.
Harry looks chagrined. “Don’t call me Potter,” he mumbles.
He clings to Draco’s hand as they head up to the spare bedroom which Draco uses as a Potions Lab. A Sobriety Potion is a delicate and arduous potion to brew, which is why most people only bother with the far easier Hangover Potion the next day. But Draco needs Harry to be sober, and now. Luckily, his Potions Mastery has had him brewing every difficult Potion under the sun. He knows he has a phial of it in his Potions cupboard. He is distracted as he searches by the sounds of Harry tapping his wand against the cauldron, clattering about the room to examine his Potions ingredients.
“Harry, stay still,” Draco instructs.
“You’re too sloooow,” Harry complains. “Lemme …Accio Sobriety Potion!” He waves his wand haphazardly. Draco flings himself at Harry and pulls them both down on the ground, throwing out a shielding spell for good measure. He waits for the explosion - an inaccurate summoning charm in a room full of volatile potions could be disastrous.
Nothing happens. Slowly, he sits up and releases his shield. And there, to his relief and annoyance, sits Harry, holding a small phial of potion.
The Sobriety Potion tastes foul and feels fouler, purging the body of the ingested alcohol. Draco watches anxiously as Harry gulps it down.
“You’d better get to a toilet,” Draco says in a low voice.
“You’d better get – never mind.” Draco transfigures a paperweight into a large bowl, handing it to a green-faced Harry just in time. He rubs small circles on Harry’s back as Harry vomits spectacularly into the makeshift basin. When he’s done, Draco vanishes the whole thing.
They sit on the floor, side by side, Harry leaning weakly into Draco, and Draco letting him, even though Harry smells of sick.
“How do you feel?” he says at length.
“Embarrassed, mostly,” Harry answers. “And a bit like I just threw up in what used to be a paperweight.” He gives Draco a quick smile. “But not drunk anymore.”
Draco runs a hand through his hair. “Good. Merlin, Hannah Abbott should be banned from designing her own drinks,”
Harry nods. “She’s a dangerous woman with a punch bowl and a ladle,” he says. “Neville’s got his work cut out.”
There is silence for a few minutes. Companionable but awkward. After a while, Draco can bear it no longer. “Look, Harry,” he says. “What you said earlier, it’s all right. You were really drunk. It doesn’t matter.”
Harry gets to his feet – he’s going to go, Draco thinks, and his heart sinks. Harry takes a few steps and turns sharply, coming back towards Draco.
“It does matter, you idiot,” Harry says. “It’s just…”
“Harry,” Draco says. He leans back against the leg of his writing desk, shielding his eyes with his hands, not wanting to look at Harry. “I think I need to say this. I’m not brave like you are.”
Harry starts, ready to interject, but Draco ploughs on. “No, shut up and listen. I was scared about getting to know you and Andromeda and Teddy. I don't know how to love new people. I've never had to and the feeling terrifies me. What if I bugger everything up like father did? What if Teddy looks at me and wants to be like me, the way I wanted to be just like my father. What if I teach him to belittle others and be proud and petty and ... afraid. I’m afraid all the fucking time, Harry. I’m afraid of how I feel about you now, because I don’t want to mess up the family.”
He looks up, and Harry crosses to him in three quick strides, and drops to his knees on the floor in front of him. He shakes his head.
“No one has ever told me they love me. I have never said it to anyone.” Harry says. Draco wants to reach out, to comfort, but holds back to let Harry say his piece. “I won't let Teddy grow up like I did. I will never abandon him, and I won't let you do it either. Someday we could be all he has.” Harry looks at him, full of fierce determination, the same look as when he jumped across the river. “I really like you, Draco. I’m not brave either, because I’ve felt it for ages and I haven’t said anything, but this evening something just snapped.”
“Alcohol will do that to you,” Draco says.
Harry smiles grimly. “Well God bless alcohol,” he says. He leans forward. They are close now; just a little more would bridge the gap between them. Draco thinks for a moment that Harry will, but no. Both of them are holding back.
“If we start something, we could risk breaking up the family,” Draco says, laying out his fear like an offering.
“We can’t let it. We can agree on that now,” Harry says. “I want this with you. I think we can make it work.”
They are so close that Draco could count his eyelashes. He can make out the flecks of gold in Harry’s eyes. There is still a tiny space between, though, and he knows suddenly that he will have to be the one to make the leap. His mind goes back to the picnic in September, when he’d walked away from jumping the river, frozen by his self-doubts.
He is less doubting now. “Jump, Draco,” he says to himself.
And then, tilting forwards and bringing his mouth against Harry’s with a bit too much force, he jumps.
The wind is whipping through the trees; branches sway and reach like ballerinas’ limbs. The force of it stings Draco’s cheeks. Harry’s hair is, as ever, an incurable mess, but Draco doesn’t think that his can look much better. The sand is blowing about in swirling patterns upon the beach. Teddy is perched upon Harry’s shoulders, his hands gripping painfully tightly to Harry’s hair. Draco sneaks glances at the two of them and smiles.
“Teddy, time to get down,” Harry says.
“No!” Teddy says. The word has been a favourite of his for a while now.
Draco reaches up and prizes Teddy’s fists open. “Come on, Teddy,” he says. “If you come down, then I can show you how to fly the kite.”
Teddy relinquishes his hold and allows Draco to lift him off Harry’s shoulders. “Dragon kite,” Teddy says.
“That’s right,” says Harry. “With real fire!”
When Draco unleashes the kite, the wind scoops it up easily and flings it high into the air. The dragon spreads its wings and swings round in a half-circle, a beautiful, colourful monster spiraling though the dull grey English sky.
“How do you get it to breathe fire?” Harry asks in hushed tones.
“You pull on this bit, see? Here,” says Draco. He doesn’t watch the dragon’s mouth open and the plumes of smoke and fire spread out across the clouds. He watches Harry’s face, upturned to the sky, flames reflecting in his eyes. He feels his heart achingly, overwhelmingly full.
Harry turns to him, a smile on his lips. “It’s brilliant, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Draco’s hands are clutching the kite strings, so he just leans forward to kiss him, letting himself topple into Harry, and feeling Harry’s arm hold him steady and safe. Teddy, his hair flame red, his skin the green of the dragon’s scales, runs around them in circles on the sand, while the dragon kite swoops and wheels above their heads.
Today, Draco knows who he is. He is his mother’s son and his father’s too. He is Andromeda’s nephew, Teddy’s cousin and Harry Potter’s boyfriend. He is a Potions Master – nearly – and a kite-flier. He is Draco fucking Malfoy, and life is good.