Harry Potter stood at the back of the appallingly small crowd gathered around the simple black coffin, staring at the arrangement of brightly colored flowers that lay on the lid. It was fitting, he supposed, but the vibrant colors seemed out of place in the otherwise colorless affair. The coffin was black, the chairs were grey, and the grass and the trees in the modest Muggle cemetery were singed a dusty sort of faded brown from the heat. The breeze that stirred the dried leaves so that they made a hollow, rustling sound did little to alleviate the sweltering warmth, and he shifted uncomfortably within the constricting jacket, shirt and tie. The people present, himself included, were wearing the monochromatic palate of mourning. Well, most of them, he amended silently, glancing to his side.
Even Draco’s hair seemed an affront to the somber color scheme, shining white-gold in the unforgiving sunlight. His partner had bowed to the convention of the Muggle clothing, but his suit was silvery-grey and his shirt and tie were soft lavender. He looked cool and composed, his expression mild and his grey eyes carefully neutral. Harry would never know how he could look so cool and fresh on such a hot afternoon. In his black suit, white shirt and black tie, Harry knew he looked precisely how he felt; the opposite. Hot, uncomfortable, and wondering just what in hell he was doing there.
Draco had asked him that that very morning as they’d lain in bed.
“Why are you so determined to do this, Potter?” he’d asked gently, running his fingers down the curve of Harry’s bare back.
“She was my mother’s sister,” he’d answered tonelessly, his mouth half covered where his cheek lay pressed against his hand.
“Who was, by all accounts, a raging virago who forced you into child labor and locked you in a closet for the better part of your first eleven years.” Draco studied his face, his grey eyes clouded and his brow furrowed. “You owe that woman, that family, nothing. I don’t understand why you feel like you have to do this.”
Harry had sighed then, not altogether sure he understood himself, and answered with the only truth he knew. “Because he asked me to.”
Draco had shaken his fair head, still caressing the skin alongside Harry’s spine. “But, it’s your birthday.”
“People don’t choose when they die, Draco.” He’d let his eyes drift closed, feeling weary even after ten hours of sleep. “You don’t have to go with me.”
He’d heard Draco’s huff even as the hand at his back had dropped away. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
They hadn’t discussed it as they’d dressed quietly. They hadn’t discussed it as they’d ridden the tube to the station in Little Whinging, or in the cab to the cemetery. Harry had insisted on Muggle forms of transportation that day, and Draco hadn’t disagreed with him or scolded him or mocked him. Draco had simply been there, a quiet presence at his side in the colors of a cool spring evening, all silver moonlight and night blooming clematis, an oasis of unruffled calm on a hot summer afternoon.
Harry listened to the droning of the cleric, wondering if the man had ever actually met Petunia Dursley. There were many words that he might have used to describe his aunt, but loving, caring and generous wouldn’t have been on the list. And then the service was over, and the few mourners were beginning to drift away, and Harry felt Draco’s hand brush the back of his own.
“I’ll just… pay my respects, and then we can go…” he began softly, turning and looking into Draco’s face, startled to find the grey eyes hard as shards of glass and staring over his shoulder. Harry frowned and turned, wondering what had put that look in Draco’s eyes, and found his cousin standing not five feet away, his hands shoved into the pockets of his rumpled black suit coat.
He looked like a younger, not quite as lumpy version of his father. Vernon Dursley had been dead for five years, but he lived on in his only offspring. Except, Harry noted as he studied the florid, round face, Dudley didn’t have the same small, cruel eyes. In fact, his eyes were larger and blue, and at the moment, were filled with an emotion that Harry couldn’t begin to name.
“Dudley,” Harry said softly, then remembered himself and offered his hand. “I’m… sorry for your loss.”
Dudley stared at Harry’s hand, then back into his eyes, pulling his hand from his pocket and taking the one he’d been offered. “You really are, aren’t you?” Dudley mused, shaking Harry’s hand briefly before releasing it. “Thank you for coming. I can’t imagine that you wanted to…” His hands went back into his pockets, and the two men surveyed each other uncomfortably.
“Well, we’ll be going…”
“I was wondering…”
They’d both begun to speak at the same time, and they both stopped at the same time. After an awkward silence, Dudley cleared his throat.
“I was wondering,” he said again, “if you might have time to come by the house for a moment.”
Harry blinked. “Your mother’s house?”
Dudley nodded, looking self-conscious.
Dudley again cleared his throat, obviously a nervous gesture. “We’ve… the wife and I… we were going through the house, deciding what we had to do to get it ready to sell, and we came across something in the attic.” He stopped, licking his fleshy lips before he went on. “We found something that was your mum’s, Harry, and I think you should have it.”
Harry stared, his heart suddenly beating harder in his chest. Dudley had found something of his mother’s? Whatever his personal feelings about his aunt had been, whatever they still were for his cousin, he had so little that had belonged to his parents…. He turned to look at Draco, a question in his eyes. Draco stared back at him, his only reaction a faintly resigned sigh before he nodded once shortly. Harry turned back to Dudley. “We’ll meet you there.”
Dudley nodded, then turned and walked to where a short, slightly plump woman with strawberry-blonde hair was waiting. Harry watched them walk away, and then turned back to Draco.
“Thank you,” he murmured, but Draco merely held up one graceful hand palm out to stop him, then turned it and reached forward, offering it. Harry took it in his, and they made their way back to where their cab was still waiting outside of the cemetery’s gate with the meter running. Draco had commented that he hadn’t wanted to be in Little Whinging any longer than he absolutely had to be, and he’d offered the driver twice the amount on the meter if he agreed to stay. When they got in the back seat, the driver turned and looked at them.
“Back to the station, gents?”
“No,” Draco answered shortly. “We’re going to…” He turned and looked at Harry.
“Number Four, Privet Drive.”
The driver had merely shrugged and turned back around, pulling out of the cemetery’s circular drive.
When they arrived at number Four, Harry was startled by how much the house had changed. It looked neglected, and he wondered how long his aunt had been ill. The lawn was dead, the bushes and ground cover overgrown, the paint faded. The cab pulled up to the curb and stopped, and once again Draco offered the driver twice his usual fare if he would remain. The little man had merely shrugged, commenting that he didn’t have anything better to do, and leaned back with his hands behind his head.
There was a dusty sedan in the driveway, and Harry glanced at it as he and Draco made their way across the lawn to the front door. Harry rang the bell then shoved his hands into the pockets of his slacks, feeling oddly out of place before the door of the house where he’d once lived. He heard the bell echo, and then heard the sound of high-heeled shoes approaching from inside the door. When it was opened, he saw the small woman who had been waiting for Dudley at the cemetery.
She wasn’t unattractive, exactly. She was round, and her face was very flushed. Her hair looked a bit wiry and the black dress she was wearing was not at all flattering, but her eyes were a soft hazel and her expression was kind, and she looked up into Harry’s face with a slight smile.
“Hi, I’m…” he began.
“Harry,” she finished for him. “I know. I’m Prudence, Dudley’s wife. Please, come in. It’s not much cooler in here than it is out there, but at least you’ll be out of the sun.”
She stepped back and allowed them to enter the tiny entry hall, then led them into the front parlor.
Harry looked around, feeling distinctly odd. The house was almost virtually the same; the same ugly upholstery on the couch, the same ruffled organza tiers at the window, the same pictures on the mantle. And yet, where the house had always been almost painfully neat and smelled of beeswax when his aunt had been alive, now there was a film of dust over everything, the colors of the fabric all seemed faded and washed out and there was a general odor of neglect.
“I’m sorry,” he heard Prudence say politely, and turned. She was speaking to Draco, whose face was a carefully composed mask. “I don’t know your name…”
“Draco,” he answered smoothly. “Draco Malfoy.”
“That’s a beautiful suit,” she said brightly.
“Thank you,” he answered, sending a quick, wry look Harry’s way.
“Can I offer either of you bloke’s a beer?” Dudley called out from the kitchen, and Harry saw Draco’s lips quirk slightly at the corners.
“No, thanks, Dudley,” Harry responded. Moments later his cousin appeared around the kitchen door, a frosty beer bottle in his hand. He’d abandoned his jacket and tie somewhere, and his white button-down was open at the throat, the fabric straining the buttons across his round stomach.
“Afraid I missed the introductions,” he said bluffly, looking at Draco. “You’re…?” He gestured with his bottle.
“Draco, dear,” Prudence provided.
Dudley’s pale brows rose. “Don’t believe I’ve ever heard that name before.”
“I’d be surprised if you had,” Draco said sleekly. “It’s a family name.”
“Ah.” Dudley nodded his rather large, round head, and an awkward silence fell. Dudley glanced back and forth between the two men; Prudence merely looked faintly confused. Finally, Harry broke the uncomfortable silence, offering his hand to Draco, who took it with a slight smile.
“Draco is my lover,” he said starkly, as if daring Dudley to make a comment. “We’ve been together for quite a while.”
“Oh.” Prudence’s little mouth formed a slight bow and she blinked quickly.
Dudley looked between them again, eyes lingering on their joined hands, and then nodded. “Well, that explains it.”
Harry felt Draco stiffen, and his own shoulders went rigid. “Explains… what?” He said between clenched teeth. He’d heard his uncle’s diatribes on the ‘unnaturalness’ of homosexuality. He didn’t plan to listen to Dudley continue the family tradition. Dudley didn’t seem to notice either reaction.
“Why at the cemetery he was looking at me as if he’d like to see me stuffed and mounted,” he said instead. Harry stared at him. “Can’t say that I blame him, under the circumstances. If someone had ever done to my Pru what was done to you by this family, I’d want their blood, too.”
Harry could only gape, dumbfounded.
Dudley’s face was filled with embarrassed color, but he didn’t look away. “It was Pru who actually made me realize it,” he said. “She was looking in the cupboard, under the stairs.” He paused, swallowed heavily. “Mum just… closed it up…after you left. The broken toys, and the palette, they were still in there. She thought it had been someplace where I played, but then I told her… well, it was your room, at least at first.”
Harry felt as if all the blood was draining from his face, even as his heart began to pound jarringly hard in his chest. He didn’t discuss his childhood, ever. The only person outside of his family who knew the whole of it moved closer to him, cool hand tightly squeezing Harry’s.
“We have a girl, did you know that?”
Harry blinked quickly at what seemed to him to be a complete change of subject, staring into Dudley’s eyes. “Pardon?”
“We have a girl, a daughter. Her name is Matilda, and she’s two.” He paused, his eyes steady on Harry’s, but filled with something Harry had never thought to see in them; regret. “If someone ever did to her what was done to you…” He stopped, clearly unable to finish the thought. “I won’t make excuses for them, Harry. For any of us. It wasn’t right. You didn’t deserve it, none of it. Dad was a right nasty old bigot, and I grew up wanting to be just like him. But Mum…” he shook his head sadly. “For Mum, I think it was more about her relationship with her own mother than it was about you.”
Harry frowned, feeling dazed. “I don’t… understand.”
“I didn’t either, not until Mum was right at the end. Can we sit?”
Harry, still feeling utterly gobsmacked, just stared at him. Draco curled his other hand around Harry’s elbow.
“Here, love,” he whispered gently, seeming to understand how stunned Harry was. “Sit.”
Harry allowed himself to be directed down onto the sofa, his eyes on his cousin the entire time, even as he felt Draco settle beside him. He watched as Dudley gestured for his wife to take the armchair that had once been his father's, and he settled himself on an ottoman that was dwarfed under his bulk. There was a short silence.
“Mum was in a lot of pain, near the end,” Dudley went on, sounding faintly suffocated. “They’d given her morphine, so sometimes she wasn’t quite herself, but other times, she just seemed to want to talk.” He searched Harry’s face. “She was sorry about you, Harry. But she’d been hurt, and she was so angry…”
Harry swallowed deeply, his mouth dry. “I don’t understand…”
“I know you don’t.” Dudley ran one beefy hand through his short, straw-yellow hair. “When your mum got her Hogwarts letter, apparently her parents, our grandparents, were right tickled. They were over the moon about their ‘magical daughter’, and my mum began to feel as if, because she hadn’t got one, she was a disappointment. That feeling only got worse when her parents didn’t like my dad.”
“They didn’t?” Harry asked softly. Dudley shook his head.
“Especially not her mother, I guess. She thought he was a loud mouth and low class, and that Mum was throwing her life away on him. What made it worse was that when your mum brought Potter home, they both loved him.” He shook his large head slowly. “My mum felt like she never measured up. Even when she was taking care of her father as he was dying, and then dealing with her mother’s grief, it was pretty clear that Lily was the favorite.”
“I didn’t know… any of this…” Harry said faintly.
“Well, how could you?” Dudley responded bluffly. “It’s not like anyone told you, and with your folks gone…” Dudley shook his head and took a drink of his beer. When he lowered the bottle, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Anyway, when Mum was right near the end, she told me that she regretted the way that she and Dad had treated you, that you’d just been a baby, and that you hadn’t deserved it. I know you won’t believe this --” Dudley said, his eyes earnest on Harry’s, “-- but I think that she meant it.”
Harry returned his cousin’s look, seeing in his eyes that even if Harry didn’t believe it, Dudley needed to. He sighed softly. “It was a long time ago, Dud,” he murmured. “It doesn’t matter anymore.” He could feel Draco’s eyes on him, knew that his lover understood just how far from the truth that statement was, but he let it go.
Dudley nodded and they all sat once again in faintly uneasy silence. Dudley seemed to rush through his beer, then set the bottle on the floor with an emphatic gesture and stood. “Right then,” he said, straightening and trying to push the tails of his shirt into the snug waist of his slacks. “I’ll just bring that in for you…”
He gave Prudence a slight smile, and then walked around the corner into the kitchen. They could hear some thumps, a grunt and then a dragging sound and Dudley returned pulling a rather large trunk. Harry’s eyes widened when he saw the initials “L.E.” stenciled on the front just beneath the lock.
“My God,” he said faintly, staring at is as Dudley lugged it in and let it drop to the floor in front of him. “It’s…”
“Her school trunk,” Draco provided, leaning forward, his hand on Harry’s knee. Harry studied the initials, and the lock which seemed rusted closed.
“It’s heavy enough that I’m guessing it’s full,” Dudley said, brushing his hands off on his slacks. “I didn’t try to open it, but I’m guessing it’s been in the attic nearly as long as…” He looked sheepish for a moment. “Well, it probably came about the time you did, I imagine. Wasn’t sure who it belonged to at first, 'cause, you know, never met yer mum. Actually, I’d forgot her name was Lily…It was Pru who put it together.” He sent his wife a devoted smile, and she blushed.
“Petunia mentioned her… frequently toward the end,” the small woman said softly, her eyes on the floor.
Harry stared at it the trunk, feeling numb. All of that time, all of the years he’d been in the house, that trunk had been sitting right upstairs in the attic. As he’d packed his own trunk to leave for every one of five years, his aunt had watched him carry it out of the house, knowing that his mother’s was upstairs. He pushed down a renewed surge of anger with determination.
“Well --” Dudley wiped his hands on the straining thighs of his slacks, “-- I think we’ll be going now. There’s folk’s coming back to our house.” He paused, dampened his lips with his fleshy tongue. “I don’t suppose…?” Harry looked up at him and blinked, startled. “I didn’t really think that you would, but I thought I should ask.”
“No, I just… you caught me off guard,” Harry said quickly.
“Mrs. Dursley,” Draco said smoothly, and Prudence looked up at him. “Please don’t take this in any manner other than it is intended, but I somehow doubt that your guests are ready for Dudley’s gay cousin and his lover.” She colored slightly, but didn’t disagree. He turned his attention to Dudley. “And I’m quite certain that Harry is anxious to see what’s contained in that trunk. If you would rather that we remove it before he opens it…”
“No, no, no,” Dudley said quickly, waving his pudgy hands. “Take your time. I figure you aren’t likely to steal anything.” He was teasing, and Harry attempted a weak smile. He knew that Draco had narrowed his eyes when Dudley took a nervous step backwards.
“True,” Harry said in as friendly a manner as he could manage.
“You just… do what you need to do, Harry,” Dudley went on, eyes on his cousin filled with both regret, and a faint expectation. “There’s wine in the frig; help yourselves. If you’ll just lock up when you go…”
“Of course,” Harry agreed, rising to his feet.
The awkward silence descended once again, adding weight to the stuffy room. When Dudley reached out with his hand almost desperately, Harry paused for just a moment before he took and shook it.
“Thanks, Dudley,” he said softly. “For this.” He gestured toward the trunk that sat silent, a tangible reminder of what had been lost on the floor between them.
Dudley nodded and stepped back, gesturing towards the door.
They exchanged inanities as the couple walked toward the door with Harry and Draco following them, Prudence with a slight smile that was the only indication of her relief that the meeting was over. She said goodbye softly and walked out into the late afternoon sunshine, but Dudley paused just inside the door, a slight frown between his brows.
“Harry,” he began, and then paused, as if he couldn’t think what to say. Finally, he cleared his throat. “Just, take your time.”
He nodded then, his eyes still searching Harry’s face before he turned and lumbered down the walk after his wife.
Draco closed the door quietly behind him, then turned his head and looked at Harry. “Extraordinary,” he said softly, and Harry could only agree. Draco parted the limp curtains over the window in the front door and watched Dudley climb into his car as Harry turned back and stared at the waiting trunk. It looked almost exactly like his had; nondescript sienna brown leather with darker straps, the initials painted on in fading yellowish beige. His was stored in the attics at Grimmauld Place and he’d not thought of it in years. Now, as he approached his mother’s, he wondered where his father’s might have gone. He knew nothing of his father’s family, just that they were all dead.
“I’m going to go pay the driver and send him on his way,” Draco said from behind him. “There’s no point in the meter continuing to run, and we can minimize the trunk and Apparate now that your family is no longer a factor.” Harry nodded faintly, still staring at the trunk. He started a little when he felt Draco’s hands on his shoulders, and turned his head to look at him. “Just taking your coat, Harry,” he said gently, reaching inside the collar of the jacket and easing it from his shoulders. “It’s hot in here. As soon as I get back inside, I’ll cast a cooling charm.” He took the suit coat and folded it in half, laying it over the railing of the staircase, his eyes never leaving Harry’s. “Go on,” he gestured with his head towards the trunk. “I’ll be right back.”
Harry turned to look once again. “All right.”
He heard the door open and close at his back, but he was scarcely aware of it. He crossed back into the small living room and perched on the edge of the sofa, staring down at the large square piece of luggage, chewing absently at his lower lip as he studied the lock. Finally pulling his wand from the sleeve of his dress shirt, he pointed it at the rusted metal, his hand slightly unsteady, and whispered ‘Alohomora!’ The lock glowed bright blue for a moment, then with a decided click, snapped open. Harry exhaled heavily through his mouth, then reached down and slowly, almost reverently opened the lid. It creaked in the silence of the house as its hinges were tested for the first time in more than twenty years.
The trunk was full, a layer of tissue covering the contents. He’d just reached to pull the paper aside when he heard the front door open and close once again.
“No problem with the lock, then?”
Harry glanced up. Draco was removing his own jacket and laying it over the arm of the sofa, then took out his wand and made a complicated sign in the air in front of him. Immediately, the room began to cool.
Harry shook his head in response to the question, and then went back to pulling back the tissue as he felt Draco come to stand near him.
“Would you rather do this alone?”
Harry looked up at him again to find that he was being studied with gentle grey eyes full of both concern, and understanding. He reached out in response to the warmth he saw there and caught Draco’s arm through the soft fabric of his expensive shirt. “No,” he murmured. “No, I… need you here.” Draco immediately lowered himself next to him in response to the unsteady entreaty in his voice, his hand lifting to rest at the small of Harry’s back.
“All right,” Draco answered softly. “Then it's here I’ll be.”
Harry nodded, and then took a deep breath before reaching for the faded tissue to pull it back once again and almost immediately exhaled it in a slow rush as the contents were revealed.
On the very top of the neatly packed trunk, right in the middle, was a framed photo. A wizard photo, its contents playing out in a continuous loop lasting a few seconds each time. Harry reached for it and lifted it into his hands, staring at the handsome couple in their wedding finery, smiling into the camera and then kissing gently, their faces young, shining, and full of promise.
“Your parents,” Draco said softly, leaning forward. Harry just nodded, his throat too full to speak. He had a few pictures of his parents in a photo album that Hagrid had given him, but nothing as large as this. Nothing he could display and he touched the glass with his fingers.
“Your mother was lovely,” Draco murmured from beside him. “And you look just like your dad.”
Harry nodded, staring at the eager young faces for a moment longer before he handed the frame to Draco, who took it and studied it. “You really do have your mother’s eyes,” he said with a slight smile, touching the young woman’s pretty face with the tips of his long, slender fingers.
“It was one of the first things Sirius said to me,” Harry said faintly. Just beneath the photo was a neatly folded stack of Hogwarts robes in the distinctive colors of Gryffindor house, and as he lifted them, the faint scent of a soft floral perfume seemed to lift from the folds. He closed his eyes, swamped in a feeling of nostalgia and the sudden sure knowledge that he’d smelled the fragrance before, and he lifted the soft fabric to his face.
“Harry?” He felt the hand brush his arm, and opened his eyes.
“They still smell like her,” he said, sounding a bit suffocated. He held them out to Draco, who obediently pressed his nose into the black and red folds, then smiled slightly.
“I remember it, I think,” Harry said, bringing them back to his face. “It’s so familiar…”
“I’m sure that you do remember. I recognize my mother’s perfume, as well,” Draco said, gently removing the robes from Harry’s hands. “Scent memories are some of the strongest, the most evocative.”
Harry nodded and released the robes into his hands, then reached back into the trunk and pulled out another garment. It was another set of robes, but these were red and gold, still vibrant, even gaudy. He lifted them with a bemused expression, then turned them and felt a smile pull at his lips. ‘POTTER’ was emblazoned across the back in felt letters. Beneath that was the number 7.
“My dad’s,” he said with a grin, turning them to show Draco.
“He played too, then?” he said, eyeing the jersey. Harry nodded. “No wonder you’re so brilliant in the air. It’s hereditary.”
“Did your dad play?” Harry asked, handing off the robes.
“Hardly,” Draco responded with a soft snort. “This could explain why a certain other Seeker always managed to beat the pants off of me.” Harry sent him a sideways look filled with amusement. “Although, if I’d realized then how very fond you would come to be of me with my pants off, I might have distracted you enough to occasionally beat you to the Snitch.”
“Distracting the other Seeker with sex,” Harry said with a curved lip, shaking his head. “How unsportsmanlike.”
“You’d have liked it.” Draco bumped Harry’s shoulder with his own.
“Oh, I’m not denying that.”
Beneath the robes had been more clothes; a Gryffindor sweater with ‘Evans’ embroidered in the collar. A red and gold scarf, a box of quills and parchment. Beneath that were a few books, including an Advanced Potion Making Textbook, and Harry thumbed through it. Like Snape’s, there were notes scribbled in the margins on many of the pages.
Harry had only seen his mother’s handwriting once before, but he recognized it instantly. He read some of the scrawled notes, and flipped through the pages, about to close it when some scribbles near the bottom of a page titled; Potions to Assist in Maintaining the Body’s Perfect Balance caught his eye. His mother’s loopy writing was there, but so were lines scrawled in tight, slanting script that he also recognized instantly, and his breath caught.
“Clearly, Slughorn hasn’t deemed it necessary to partake of this himself,” young Severus Snape had scribbled in the margin.
“Oh, hush,” Lily Evans had written back. “You’re just mad because he likes me best!” Under that was a wiggly round happy face, its tongue extended.
“Mature, Evans,” Snape had shot back.
“Give it up, Sev,” Lily had retorted. “You’re smiling.”
Harry read the exchange twice, then pointed to it.
“Is that…?” Draco asked, leaning closer. Harry nodded.
“Incomprehensible,” Draco said finally, shaking his head slowly.
“The idea of Severus being seventeen.”
“I thought you meant the idea of him smiling.”
Draco gave him a light push on the shoulder, and then laid the book aside.
In the next level down was a long, flat white box, and harry lifted it out before opening it. When the contents were revealed, he heard Draco make a soft sound of wonder at his side.
It was full of baby clothes. Little socks and tiny shoes, small t-shirts and rompers. There was a small blue sleeper, with a tiny embroidered Snitch that still moved lazily across the front, and corduroy pants so small that Harry wondered that anyone had ever fit into them.
“These were yours,” Draco murmured, his hands coming over to stroke the small clothes gently. Harry moved a few things aside and pulled out a miniature set of robes, and Draco made a sound of delight as he reached for them. “I’ll bet you were smashing in these,” he said with a wistful smile. He arched one fair brow as he fingered the soft fabric. “Much more fashionable then than now.”
“It’s because my mother was dressing me then,” Harry answered a bit wryly.
“So clearly, your appalling lack of style isn’t hereditary.”
“Shut it, you,” Harry answered and handed Draco the box. Harry sifted through the rest of the contents of the trunk while Draco gently lifted the baby clothes and studied them with a slightly wistful smile.
There was a small copper cauldron, and a traveling potions kit. There was a scale, and weights, and a box that contained dried potions ingredients and another whole box of brand new vials. Harry decided that all of that would go to Draco; he had no use for them, and he knew that Draco would value them for what they were. There was a small replica of a broom that he held up with delight, remembering the lost half of picture that showed him zooming about on it, and Draco took it from him with a charmed laugh. There were hand crocheted blankets, and a tiny blue knitted hat and mittens, and a white satin covered book with the words ‘Our Baby’ embroidered across the front. Harry opened it expectantly, slightly let down to find that the pages were blank. But then, they hadn’t actually had the time, really…
Melancholy filling him once again, Harry came to the bottom of the trunk feeling slightly let down. There was so much there, so much that was, finally, a tangible connection to his own past. He was delighted to have it, all of it, and yet…
“Harry,” Draco said softly, and Harry looked over at him only to find Draco staring into the bottom of the trunk.
“It has a false bottom.”
Harry looked back down into the cedar-lined trunk once again, but all he saw was the wooden bottom. “I don’t see…”
“There,” Draco said, setting the box from his lap to the floor, leaning forward and pointing to the corner. “There’s a small depression, see? You press on it…” He leaned across Harry’s legs and felt in the corner, doing something with his hand, and there was a soft but audible ‘click’. He looked up at Harry with a slightly triumphant smile, and lifted a section of the bottom of the trunk away, revealing a small square hidden space.
“How did you know?” Harry asked, leaning to the side to look.
“My mother has one in her old school trunk,” Draco answered, lifting the lid. “They must have…”
He stopped speaking when he saw that there was something secreted inside the hidden compartment, and he removed it from the space gently. It was a square of parchment, and he read the face before turning to Harry, his eyes wide. When he held it out, Draco’s hand trembled slightly.
“What…?” Harry began, taking it, but stopped abruptly when he saw what was written there. The words were in his mother’s hand.
“For my darling Harry,” she’d penned. “Written on the occasion of his first birthday.”
For a moment, Harry felt almost as if he couldn’t breathe properly. The hand that wasn’t holding the letter came to his chest, pressed over a heart that was suddenly racing. “Oh,” he said faintly, blinking quickly. “Oh.”
He stared at the writing for a long time. Draco sat beside him, his eyes on Harry’s face, but he didn’t urge him to open it, to hurry. He just sat there, his hand now on Harry’s arm, warm through his shirt. Finally, taking a deep breath, Harry turned the note over and opened the back. He pealed back the wax seal and slowly opened the parchment, turning it to read.
“For my sweet boy,” he read, and immediately he had to blink to clear his vision.
“You’re asleep in your crib, just across from me, your thumb in your mouth,” the flowing script read. “Your Aunt Petunia says you’ll ruin your teeth that way, but I cannot bring myself to stop you. You look so sweet, with your round little cheeks and your messy black hair. You’ve inherited your father’s hair, I fear, and I love every cowlick on your head. You’ve had a busy day today, but you so didn’t want to go to bed. I’m quite certain the cause for that can be divided equally between a surplus of sugary birthday cake and your desire to never get off of the toy broom that your godfather sent you. You’re quite terrifying on it, actually. And poor Mr. Whiskers! Between Sirius chasing him up trees when he’s around and you chasing after him all afternoon on that broom, it’s no wonder his fur is falling out in clumps!
It was a very quiet party. Just you, and me and your Dad and old Bathtilda Bagshot. We saw the Longbottoms last week before we came here, and baby Neville, who just had his first birthday yesterday. The two of you were so cute, crawling around on a blanket under a tree in their back yard. It was an idyllic day, really. Hard to believe that there is so much uncertainty in the world.
Your father and godfather think that I worry too much. I suppose I do, in a way. It’s amazing how much your life changes when you have children; it’s not just about you, anymore. You have someone else to think about, to worry about, to put before yourself. Their welfare becomes more important to you than your own, their happiness the thing you wish for most.
We live in frightening times, my love, and there are those who believe that this is the wrong time to be bringing children into our world. Part of me understands that sentiment. But another part of me agrees whole-heartedly with Alice Longbottom. If not now, when? If we don’t go on with our lives, then doesn’t the darkness win? I don’t know. I look at you, and all I can think is that I will do whatever I must to make the world a better place for you to live in than it is right now. Perhaps we need our children, to remind us of what is important, to compel us to fix what is wrong.
Forgive me, love. I hadn’t intended to wax philosophical. I suppose I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, missing our old house, the old rooms. We were happy there, but it’s not safe any longer. And while I want, so much, to write these little notes on each of your birthday’s, and to save them up to embarrass you at some future date by showing them to the love of your life, I can’t help but understand that that might not happen. I remain hopeful, but I’m a realist, my darling.
There were so many things that I wanted to tell you, but as I look at you, sleeping so peacefully, only one of them seems very important, now.
If, for whatever reason, your dad and I aren’t with you when you read this, I want you to know that you were the most important thing in our lives. No matter what happens, I want you to know that you are loved, so much. That’s the important thing, Harry, the most important thing. You are loved.
I’m going to close this now, and put it in the little hidden compartment in the bottom of my school trunk. I’m going to hope against hope that I’ll be the one to rediscover it at some later date, and that you and I can have a good laugh over it while I’m having tea with my handsome, grown up son. But if that shouldn’t be the case, I want you to know that on your first birthday, you were the center of your parent’s world, which is as it should be.
Happy Birthday, little man. May your life be full of joy, and laughter, and someday, my fervent hope is that someone else will love you just as much as I do right now.
Harry sat for a long time, staring at the signature, his heart in his throat.
The voice spoke nearby, startling him, and he looked up to find Draco holding out a white handkerchief. He’d not even known that he was crying. He took it and mopped his eyes a bit self-consciously, then looked once again into Draco’s eyes.
“Did you read it?”
Draco shook his head slowly. “No. I would never intrude like that. Not unless you wished for me to.”
Wordlessly, Harry handed Draco the parchment, and sat back into the corner of the couch, staring unseeing at the contents of the trunk still strewn about his aunt’s floor.
He’d wondered, over the years. Wondered if they’d known it was coming, before. Of course, they’d known they were in danger, but he’d wondered if they’d understood that they might die, that Voldemort might succeed in killing them. Clearly, his mother had understood. And he could just imagine Sirius, reckless rake to the end, urging her ‘not to worry’. He wiped the linen handkerchief across his face again and thought about what he’d read.
He’d known about that first birthday tea from reading the letter his mother had written to Sirius, all those years ago at Grimmauld Place. He wondered if she’d written that letter when she’d written this one, if she’d placed this one in the trunk and that one in the post on the same day. He’d cherished the remnants of that letter to Sirius since the day he’d found it, and now he had another to add to it. But this was so much more; not only had Lily Potter lived and breathed, not only did she form her g’s exactly the way that Harry did, but on a warm summer night in 1981, she’d sat in a strange house, in unfamiliar rooms, across from her sleeping infant son and written him a love letter that had finally found him two and a half decades later.
Harry looked over to find Draco still holding the parchment in his hand, blinking quickly. He cleared his throat, then with exaggerated care, gently folding the parchment back into its original shape and turned to look at Harry. “This is a remarkable letter.”
Harry nodded, swallowing heavily when he saw the dampness on Draco’s lashes. Draco leaned over and placed the letter almost reverently on top of the neatly re-folded baby clothes, then pushed himself up to his feet. Harry thought that he was going to walk away from the sofa, so found himself surprised when Draco took the two steps that separated them and moving with the languid grace that was the hallmark of nearly every motion he ever made, he straddled Harry’s legs and sat on his thighs. Lifting his hands, he bracketed Harry’s face between them, and leaned forward, kissing one damp eyelid, then the other. Harry relaxed into his touch, and sighed deeply when Draco’s forehead came to rest against his.
“What an amazing birthday gift that was,” Draco murmured softly. “One you never would have received if you’d listened to me to begin with.”
Harry curled his arms around Draco’s waist and pulled him in until their chests were flush against one another’s. “You were just thinking of me,” he whispered, his hands moving on Draco’s back. “I know that.”
“It’s true.” Draco let his arms slip around Harry’s back and turned his head and laid it on his solid shoulder, his eyes on Harry’s face. “You seem to bring that out in people, Potter. That desire to love, the need to protect.” He pulled one hand forward and gently traced Harry’s profile. “I want you to know something,” he murmured gently. “I can’t pretend to understand a parent’s love, but I can tell you this: I think she’d be happy to know that someone loves you as much as she’d hoped they would.” Harry opened his eyes and turned his head, looking into the grey eyes that studied him soulfully. “I do, you know. Love you that much.”
Harry felt tears welling again, and blinked them away. “I know,” he whispered. “I know that you do. And I love you, too.”
Draco’s lips curved slightly in a tender smile. “Happy Birthday, Harry.”
Harry nodded. “It’s been a surprisingly good one, given the circumstances.” Draco scooted closer on his lap, his smile turning slightly sly. Harry eyed him indulgently. “Now, what exactly is that look for, Malfoy?”
“Well, I was thinking,” he answered slowly.
“Always dangerous, that.”
“Shut it, you,” Draco said with mock rebuke, his smile lingering. “I was thinking that you must still be irritated with your aunt.”
Harry’s brow creased slightly. “Interesting change of subject.”
“It suits my purposes,” Draco said, intentionally lightening the atmosphere. He straightened and began to loosen Harry’s tie. A slight smile began to pull at Harry’s lips.
“Now, you’re scaring me.”
Draco’s eyes began to sparkle. “Good.” He freed the tie from Harry’s collar and laid it over the back of the sofa. “So, did your aunt share your uncles aversion to people of our predilection?”
“If you mean was she a homophobic twat, then yes.”
Draco clucked his tongue against his teeth. “Language, Potter. Honestly. You’d think you were raised in a cupboard.” Harry narrowed his eyes slightly but Draco just smiled. “At any rate, I was just thinking of what I could give you for your birthday…”
“You gave me a lovely Rolex and a new broom,” Harry reminded him, remaining relaxed under his hands as Draco unbuttoned his collar, then began to open his shirt down his chest.
“I meant something less material, more… immediately gratifying.”
Harry’s smile deepened. “Do tell.”
“And I was thinking, it might be enormously gratifying --” he slipped one hand inside Harry’s now open shirt and caressed his chest, his fingertips teasing one nipple to hardness, “—to shag right here on your aunt’s really… hideously ugly couch. That ought to send the old bat spinning.”
“Well, Dudley did say that we could take our time,” Harry said, his hands dropping to Draco’s arse, and Draco’s lids slid to half mast as his eyes took on a seductive sheen.
“Maybe after we get done here, we could move on to the bitch’s bed.”
Harry laughed, shaking his head. “Merlin’s balls, I’d never be able to get it up in that bed. The idea of them, doing it, EVER, is enough to put me off of sex for months.”
“No bed then, because that is an intolerable prospect.” Draco rolled his hips forward, his smile turning sly. “You don’t seem to be having that problem on the sofa, however.”
“No, no I don’t,” Harry agreed, reaching up, curling his fingers in silky white-blond hair and pulling Draco in to kiss him. Draco’s lips opened in welcome to the searching slide of Harry’s tongue, and he carded the fingers of one hand through the thickness of Harry’s hair. When their lips parted, Harry pressed his cheek to Draco’s, lifting his hips into the downward press of the lanky body astride him.
“I do love you,” he said roughly.
“Of course, you do,” Draco murmured. “How could you not? I’m the present your mother ordered.”