Like Heaven to Touch
"Let me just check I heard you properly, Professor McGonagall," said Draco. "Did you say you want me to sleep in Potter's bed?"
"That is correct, Draco," said the disembodied head in the fireplace. "I know you've not been inside the castle very much since the war, so you may not have realised how much of it is still in ruins. We rebuilt the vital parts quite quickly, of course, but there just wasn't enough money to fix the... well, the optional bits. So we don't actually have any guest bedrooms these days, but it's not usually a problem, because generally the only time we need to put guests up overnight is when they're covering for an absent member of staff, in which case we just put them in the quarters of whomever they're replacing. Hence you staying in Potter's rooms."
Draco nodded thoughtfully. "I see. And he's agreed to this, has he?"
"Ah... not as such, no. I haven't had a chance to mention it to him yet. But it won't be a problem, I assure you. Since he's requested to take a holiday in termtime, he can hardly complain about what the school has to do in order to cover his timetable. It's very lucky that the Beauxbatons term starts so late in September, and you can help us out before you go back to France. I don't know of anyone else with your experience who would have been available at such short notice."
Draco frowned. "Hmm. I hadn't realised he was going on holiday. I don't know him at all well these days, of course – the only times I've seen him since the war have been at King's Cross when I've been with Scorpius – but... forgive me... it seems a bit unPotterish to just go off on holiday right near the start of term, doesn't it?"
"Well, yes, but let's just say that he does have a good reason, which he told me in confidence, and that I agreed to his request on the condition that I could find a competent supply teacher. I wasn't at all sure that I'd manage it, until Neville Longbottom suggested you."
"Longbottom? Really? I'll have to thank him. I knew he was Herbology professor here, of course, but I had no idea he knew what I was doing."
"He keeps in quite close contact with his Beauxbatons counterpart, I believe; I imagine your name must have come up in conversation. Anyway, as I told you earlier, Harry arrived yesterday with the students, and will be here for the first two weeks of term, but will leave for his trip after lessons end on Friday the thirteenth of September. If you were to arrive on the morning of Saturday the fourteenth, that would be most convenient: that way, the house-elves could be sure that the rooms were ready for your use, and you could have the weekend to get acclimatised to the school before starting teaching on the Monday morning. We'll need you until Friday the twenty-seventh, but you'd have to leave that evening because Harry will be back on the Saturday morning. How does all that sound?"
"That sounds fine, Professor. I haven't taught much Defence, though – just the odd lesson at Beauxbatons when Williamson was ill – so could you let me have copies of the current syllabus and textbooks to look at beforehand, please? I assume Potter will have lesson plans too, but I can wait to look at those till I get there."
"Of course. I'll send everything across later this evening. One last thing, though: you haven't mentioned anything about this to Scorpius yet, have you?"
"Not yet; I thought I'd better make sure I could actually do what you're asking first. But it all sounds straightforward enough, and the money will certainly be helpful. I'll tell Scorpius next time I speak to him, but, if you happen to end up in conversation with him before then, by all means tell him yourself."
"Well, I'm actually quite relieved you haven't said anything yet, because I'd prefer you to keep it a secret for the moment, if possible. Harry doesn't want his children to know he's going away until he's already gone, because he says they're terrible at keeping secrets and he wants this trip to be a surprise for Ginny. I wouldn't ask you to lie to Scorpius, of course, but I'd appreciate it if you could avoid telling him until nearer the time, and, when you do tell him, ask him to keep it to himself until you arrive. He's very close to Albus Potter, as I'm sure you know."
"Yes, indeed. I was quite surprised at that at first, as I'm sure you can imagine, but they seem to get along much better than Potter and I ever did. We're much better behaved in our old age, though, you'll be pleased to hear. We seem to have perfected the art of the polite nod. Clearly where we went wrong all those years was actually speaking to each other."
"Old age! My word, Draco, the two of you are only thirty-nine years old. Just wait until you're eighty-three like me. And I'm sure you could manage a civilised conversation these days if you were to find yourselves in the same room. It's almost a pity that you won't see each other at all while you're covering his classes."
Harry stepped out of the fireplace at his home in Devon, feeling slightly queasy. Partly this was because of his aversion to Floo travel, which had diminished over the years but never quite gone away; mostly, however, he was worrying about what reception he'd get from Ginny when she saw him.
Until recently, he'd always thought she was happy... well, that they were both happy. There'd been the occasional argument when they first got married, but never anything serious; thinking about it now, Harry couldn't remember the last time they'd actually had a proper row about anything, but it had been years ago. That had to be a good thing, didn't it? It was true that the excitement of the early years of their marriage was long gone, but Harry assumed that that was a natural part of growing older together: after a while, you were bound to stop surprising each other, weren't you? And if you had kids, your happiness became inextricably dependent on theirs, and your main mission in life, above all others, was to be a good parent. James, Albus and Lily all seemed happy and well-adjusted, therefore the Potter family must be fine.
It had come as quite a shock to Harry, therefore, when James had asked him privately, in the last week of the summer holidays, why he and Ginny never seemed to speak to each other unless one of the children was there. Harry was taken aback, but then realised the obvious flaw in this question.
"Of course we speak to each other when you're not there, James. How would you know, if we didn't?" He laughed, but tried to keep his thoughts from showing on his face, because his mind was whirring as he tried to recall the last private conversation he and Ginny had had. They certainly never talked in the bedroom, because Ginny always went to sleep a lot earlier than Harry and got up before he woke. During the day... well, during termtime, Harry was at Hogwarts with the kids anyway, and during the holidays Ginny was still at work most of the time. Was James right?
"I'm not stupid, Dad. It's pretty obvious when you go into a room and the people in it are in the middle of a conversation, and you two never are. You're always sitting reading a book, and Mum's always writing long messages to people at work." James didn't meet Harry's eyes when he said this, which was unlike him, but starting conversations about his parents' relationship was also not something he'd ever done before, so Harry didn't worry too much. About that, at least.
"Well, she and I have known each other a long time," he said, striving valiantly to keep his face unpanicked. "It's nice to be able to spend time with someone who doesn't feel the need to chatter nonstop. At least, it is at my age. You're only fourteen – you might feel differently in a few years."
James rolled his eyes. "Don't patronise me, Dad. I do know what you mean – it's why I actually like spending time with Al, although please don't tell him that. This is different, though, and ever since I noticed it's been you I'm worried about more than Mum. You don't exactly seem miserable, but you don't smile very often, and only ever because of something I've done, or Al or Lily. But you've been like that for as long as I can remember, whereas I've only noticed this summer that Mum seems much happier than you do, even though she never talks to you. She smiles all the time – in fact, I think she smiles more when you're not there."
Harry blinked. "She... James, I really think you're worrying over nothing here. Your mother's always been a lot more outgoing than me. If she smiles more than I do, it doesn't mean that she's happy and I'm not; it just means that I'm not very good at showing my feelings. Tell you what, though – I'll talk to her about what you've said, and see what she thinks. How's that?"
He was startled when James flung his arms round him and enveloped him in a hug. "Thanks, Dad," he said (somewhat indistinctly) into Harry's chest. "I just want you to be happier."
Harry had had every intention of mentioning this odd conversation to Ginny during the next few days, but for one reason or another he never got the chance. There were several occasions when he was determined to speak to her, but she'd gone to bed by the time he'd come up with a suitable opening sentence, and he didn't want to deprive her of sleep. In the meantime, though, he had watched and listened to the whole family (himself included), and come to the reluctant conclusion that there might be something in what James had said. Harry's difficulty in broaching the subject with Ginny was the most telling piece of evidence, in fact.
It had been Ginny herself who had, unknowingly, given Harry an idea about how he could do something to improve their relationship. It was the last Friday in August, and the whole family had been eating fish and chips and talking about going back to Hogwarts on the Sunday.
"I can't wait to finally go to Hogwarts," Lily said, "but I'll miss you, Mum! It'll be really weird not seeing you till Christmas. You'll send me lots of owls, won't you?"
"You know I will," said Ginny, "but there might be slightly fewer during the last two weeks of September, because I'll be a bit distracted then."
"Distracted? Why, what will you be doing?" asked Lily.
"Didn't I tell you? It's the Quidditch England team selection camp from the fourteenth to the twenty-seventh of September. We've always sent a couple of junior reporters in the past, but now I'm head of department I'm pulling rank and going along myself. I can't wait!"
James and Albus both gasped. "Mum! Can't we come with you?" begged Albus.
"No, silly," laughed Ginny. "You did hear the part about later in September, didn't you? You'll all be at school. It's a pity, really, because I could have taken two of you with me, at least: the Prophet was allocated three tickets to the whole thing. I'm taking my assistant, but the third ticket won't be used."
That unused ticket had been central in Harry's thoughts for the whole of the next day, and by the time Ginny had waved the rest of them off at King's Cross he had formulated his plan. McGonagall had been a bit surprised to hear Harry's request, and he had felt his face growing more and more crimson as he had haltingly explained to her why he felt this surprise trip was so important, and why he couldn't have done anything sooner.
Now, at home for the first time in almost two weeks, Harry felt oddly out of place. It was rare for him to be at home during termtime: he usually slept at Hogwarts. He and Ginny hadn't done anything more than sleep in bed for many years (since Lily was born, in fact, he realised as he thought about it), so when he'd started his new career as a teacher, and found himself working even later into the evening than he'd had to as an Auror, he'd fallen asleep in his Hogwarts quarters so many times that in the end he'd given up even attempting to get home. He and Ginny communicated via owl if there were things to discuss regarding any of the children, but he felt slightly uncomfortable at the realisation that it was only a year since he'd started working at Hogwarts, and already it felt normal to only see his wife during the holidays. It had never occurred to him to worry about this until James had set his thoughts racing – plainly he must be the worst husband in the world, he thought glumly.
But Ginny had never said anything, he reminded himself, and she didn't seem unhappy... He gave himself a mental shake. Everything would be sorted out over the next two weeks. It would be fine.
He leaned back in his armchair and closed his eyes. It was likely to be a couple of hours before Ginny got home from work if the previous week was anything to go by, and, after almost two weeks in the hustle and bustle of Hogwarts, he was grateful to have some time to just relax.
It took Draco a while to get rid of Scorpius so he could start unpacking. He had managed to resist the temptation to tell Scorpius that he'd be joining him at Hogwarts for the next two weeks, although he had mentioned in his owls that there was a surprise on the way. He was delighted to find that Scorpius seemed genuinely pleased to see him, and excited at the news that his father would be teaching him for a while. However, Scorpius seemed unusually fascinated by the chance to come and look round Potter's quarters.
"It's Saturday morning," said Draco. "I'll be here for the next two weeks. Surely there's something more interesting that you'd usually be doing?"
"There's Quidditch practice, but that's not for half an hour yet. This is interesting! I've been in here before with Al, but I always feel as if it'd be rude to stare at Mr Potter... er, Professor Potter's stuff. But now I can look at it!"
"Good grief, Scorpius, there's not going to be anything exciting in here. Were you expecting him to leave his invisibility cloak out on the coffee table or something?" said Draco, who had in fact thoroughly examined the rooms upon arriving and been disappointed to find nothing noteworthy at all.
Scorpius blushed slightly. "No! At least... well, not really. It's just interesting. Not just because he's, you know, Harry Potter... it's also because he's Al's dad. And my teacher."
Draco grinned knowingly. "Alright then. I get it. Look around, by all means, but don't touch anything. And don't tell anyone!"
"Thanks, Dad!" said Scorpius. "I won't be a minute." He vanished into the bedroom, leaving Draco to start unshrinking his baggage.
"Hey, Scorpius," he called a few minutes later as his son moved from bedroom to bathroom, "what's Potter like as a teacher? Is he any good? You've never mentioned anything to me about that."
"He's not bad," said Scorpius, emerging from the bathroom and starting to work his way round the living room. "I do always feel as if I've learned stuff after one of his lessons. And I like the fact that he always gives us real-life examples of when he's actually used each of the defence spells in life-or-death situations. Professor Dawlish used to do that as well, sometimes – you know he was an Auror too, before he got injured? – but only when we actually asked him, and he always acted as if it was really none of our business which spells he used when he was an Auror."
"Well, Potter sounds quite a lot better than 'not bad'," said Draco. "So what is it about his teaching that prevents you from saying he's great?"
Scorpius sat down on the edge of the sofa, which was otherwise piled up with Draco's clothes and books. "I think... Well, there's nothing wrong with his teaching at all. He's actually really good – better than I thought he would be, given that he only started teaching last year. But people behave for him, so he's had it a lot easier than new teachers usually do."
"You mean they behave for him because he's Harry Potter, or they behave for him because he's a really good teacher and can control the class?" Draco asked.
"Erm... I'm not sure," said Scorpius. "But I think it's mainly because he's Harry Potter. Whenever we have a new teacher, there are some kids who always try and see how much they can get away with, and there are some teachers who stamp that out straight away... and others who never really deal with it properly. They don't last long. But I don't remember anyone trying anything in any of Mr... Professor Potter's lessons."
"You seem a bit confused about what to call him," said Draco, trying not to think about the fact that it was a very long time since he'd been in the position of 'new teacher', and he was likely to be somewhat out of practice at stamping on children... metaphorically, of course.
"Well, I first got to know him as Mr Potter when I became friends with Al in first year, and it wasn't till second year that he became a teacher and I had to call him Professor Potter at school. But I still call him Mr Potter when I'm at Al's house in the holidays."
"You'll have to call me Professor Malfoy for the next two weeks, you know... in public, anyway. I take it Potter's kids all call him Professor Potter in lessons?"
"I presume so. Al definitely does, at least. Well, actually he says it feels strange, so he tries to avoid using any name at all unless he has to."
"Well, if you end up doing that with me I won't take it personally, don't worry. Anyway, you're going to be late for your Quidditch practice if you don't get a move on. When's the first match?"
"Next Saturday. Against Gryffindor. We should win quite easily, in theory. The only good player on the Gryffindor team is James Potter, but the rest of his team is terrible, so the only way he can save them is by scoring millions of goals single-handedly. No-one on the Slytherin team is individually as good as him, but we're all fairly competent and we work well together. Al and I seemed to take the other teams by surprise last year – they all assumed that because we're both quite skinny we wouldn't be any good as Beaters, and by the time they realised we're stronger than we look we'd usually already won. This year will be a bit harder, because now they all know what we can do, but I still think we can beat Gryffindor."
"I'm looking forward to finally being able to watch one of your matches, I must say. All three of last year's matches were during the Beauxbatons terms. I hadn't realised James Potter was a Chaser, though. I was sure Potter's kids would all want to be a Seeker like their father."
"Well, I know that James only ever wanted to be a Chaser. Neither he nor Al has ever seen their dad playing Seeker in a proper game, though – I think he did play a few times in Auror staff tournaments, but nothing else. But they all used to go and watch their mum playing Chaser for the Harpies. Al and I both tried out for Seeker, but that was mainly because of our size rather than because of you and him. We were surprised when we got picked as Beaters, but it's been a lot more fun than we thought it would be. Croft leaves at the end of this year, so we'll have to have a new Seeker next September, but I'm not sure whether either of us will go for it."
"You'd better get to your practice, or they'll be getting new Beaters this year," Draco pointed out; Scorpius squeaked slightly and ran out of the room.
Several hours later, Draco was surprisingly tired; he was used to spending time surrounded by the many inhabitants of a boarding school, of course, but over a dozen people had come up to speak to him during lunch in the Great Hall, and he'd always found that conversation tended to drain his energy. He'd been startled – but very pleased – at the response to McGonagall's announcement that he'd be replacing Potter for two weeks. He hadn't expected cheers, of course – it hardly seemed likely that anyone would be pleased at Potter's absence – but he also hadn't expected the warm round of applause he'd received, or the smiles on everyone's faces. Maybe they were all just being polite, or people's memory of his past was hazier than he'd anticipated, but whatever the reason he was grateful for it.
Longbottom was one of those who'd come up to speak to him during dessert. He seemed overjoyed when he discovered that he was responsible for Draco being there; Draco thanked him fervently. It had become obvious to him during the war that Longbottom was by no means the idiot Draco had initially thought him to be, but they'd never met since then; the fact that Longbottom had recommended Draco for a job, despite the abuse he'd received from him in their youth, made Draco even more ashamed of his younger self's behaviour. Apologising at this point seemed a bit ridiculous, but he resolved to get to know the Herbology professor better so that he could maybe attempt to apologise over a drink sometime.
Scorpius had come over as well, of course, accompanied by all three Potter children. McGonagall's announcement had merely stated that Potter would be absent for two weeks due to urgent business elsewhere, and it seemed that James had been about to go and ask her for more information, until Albus had suggested asking Draco. Draco had, luckily, already spoken to McGonagall regarding this situation, so he was able to tell them that their father had gone to the Quidditch camp to surprise their mother. He was relieved when they accepted this explanation quite happily; James and Albus even explained to Lily, when she protested, that it was obvious why their father had kept this secret from them. Draco had reassured them that of course it would be fine to owl either of their parents, but suggested that maybe it would be better to wait a day or so.
When he finally got the chance to return to his quarters, he sank into the armchair and sat in blessed silence for a few minutes, before beginning one of his favourite relaxation exercises, which involved clenching each part of his body (starting with the toes on his right foot), holding it for a few seconds and then releasing. He had almost finished – only his forehead was left – when the flames in the fireplace suddenly turned green; a second later, Harry Potter stepped out.
Draco had seen Potter briefly two weeks earlier, at King's Cross, but he didn't recall him looking so pale at the time. Draco had been amused when he'd first encountered the Muggle expression 'you look as if you've seen a ghost'; Potter had, of course, seen much more terrifying things than ghosts and had hardly even broken a sweat, as far as Draco could recall, but any Muggle seeing him now would definitely go with the ghost phrase. Potter looked quite ill.
Draco's thoughts on the matter were abruptly halted when Potter's eyes fixed on him and he stared in disbelief.
"Malfoy?! What are you doing in my quarters?" he asked, after a moment of stunned silence. His voice was quite a bit deeper than Draco had expected (but then, he told himself, he hadn't actually heard Potter's voice since they were both seventeen).
"I... Well, as a matter of fact I'm here as a supply teacher, to cover your classes while you're away, so they put me in your rooms. McGonagall did say she'd tell you it would be me – I take it she didn't?"
Potter stared at him again, for at least a minute this time, and then shook his head. "Right. OK. Well, there's been a change of plan. I won't actually be missing any lessons at all, so you're not needed. I'm really sorry for the inconvenience. Would you mind seeing yourself out?"
Draco leapt out of the armchair, aghast. "What?! Potter, please. I really need the money. And... well, forgive me, but you don't look in any fit state to be teaching children. Or even talking to them, for that matter. What's happened?"
Potter dropped onto the sofa, looking oddly fragile. He put his head in his hands for a moment, then looked back at Draco. "It's a long story, and I'm not sure I feel up to talking about it to anyone. Let alone you, of all people. No offence."
"None taken," said Draco. He hadn't actually expected Potter to answer his question, and the fact that he had (if only partially) made Draco suddenly determined to find out what had got Potter into such a state. If he ended up actually helping him in the process... well, he did still owe Potter a life debt. "Look, I understand if you don't want to tell me, but I'm assuming that so far no-one else knows you're here?"
Potter closed his eyes and sighed. When he nodded – albeit ever so slightly – Draco continued. "Well then. May I suggest a compromise? You probably haven't looked in a mirror recently, so I'd better warn you that you currently look really quite ill. If anyone sees you looking like that, I guarantee they won't leave you alone until they've got to the bottom of what's happened. And I think your children would probably be very worried indeed, especially as they already know that you were planning to spend two weeks with your wife. So I think it would be best if you were to stay in your quarters and not tell anyone you've returned, at least until you're feeling a bit better. In the meantime, I've been employed to do your job, and I do really need the money, as I said, so I would very much appreciate it if you would allow me to stay and help you out."
There was another long silence, during which Potter sat with his head drooping and his eyes shut, and Draco took the opportunity to run his gaze over the parts of Potter that he could see, in order to check for any obvious signs of injury. Then Potter pushed himself slowly to a standing position and walked over to the bathroom, where he stared expressionlessly at himself in the mirror for a while.
When he returned to the sofa, Draco looked at him questioningly.
"You need the money? You? How come?" asked Potter.
This was not the first question Draco had been expecting, but he decided that if he was to expect an explanation from Potter then he'd better start by being forthcoming himself. "Do you know my wife? Astoria?"
"I've never spoken to her, but I've seen her with you at King's Cross."
"Right. Well, we divorced a few months ago." Potter started to say something sympathetic, but Draco cut him off. "No, no, don't worry; it was all very amicable, and we're still good friends. You see, ours was an arranged marriage. I'm gay, but my parents were so desperate for me to produce an heir that I agreed to it, on the condition that we would divorce once Scorpius left school. But Astoria met someone that she wants to spend the rest of her life with, and she wants to have a child with him, but her biological clock is ticking. So we divorced, but I want to help her as much as I can, because she stuck with me for so long despite the fact that I stopped sleeping with her after she got pregnant. She's never worked, and her new husband isn't very wealthy, so I want to give her enough money that she doesn't need to worry about living expenses. But my salary isn't enough for me to be able to give her as much as I'd like, so every little helps. The money I'll get for these two weeks will make a big difference."
Potter was gazing at him, open-mouthed. "You're gay? And she knew that but married you anyway? Does Scorpius know?"
"Yes, yes and yes," said Draco. "It's never been a secret. In fact, I'm surprised you didn't know, since our sons are so close. Do gay people disgust you, then? I must say I never thought of you as the homophobic sort."
"No! I... No. I'm not disgusted. I'm just surprised. But I've realised recently that I'm apparently unbelievably bad at noticing vital things about other people. And I didn't know you were divorced or gay, actually. So either Scorpius has never told Al, or Al has never told me. He doesn't say very much about you at all, actually. Which is a little odd, now that I think about it, because he's spent lots of time at your house, hasn't he?"
"He has indeed, and he's been very welcome. You know, I suspect the reason he hasn't talked about me is that he's unsure how you'd react. It's a well-known fact that you and I didn't get on very well at school."
Potter grinned wryly. "That's an understatement if ever I heard one. But we're both a lot older and wiser now – look at us! We're actually holding a civilised conversation."
"Indeed. McGonagall was right," said Draco. Potter looked quizzically at him. "Never mind. I was about to finish my explanation by reminding you that the Malfoys are no longer rich. The Ministry took most of our fortune in fines after the war. We still had the Manor and its contents, of course, but I sold that after my parents died. It had too many bad memories for me, and I'd already lived in France for several years anyway. But the money from the sale of the Manor is almost gone."
"Al did tell me that you teach Potions at Beauxbatons. How have you managed to get time off from there to be here?"
"Their school year starts much later than the Hogwarts one, so this is still my summer holiday," said Draco. "Now, please stop avoiding the issue. I've answered all your questions. Will you answer one of mine? An easy one, I promise."
Potter, who had been starting to look a little more composed, instantly reverted to his almost-catatonic demeanour at this, but eventually he spoke. "I... I'll answer if I can. What's the question?"
"Will you allow me to stay here? Ideally for the full two weeks – because, as I mentioned, I need the money – but at least until you're feeling well enough to resume your lessons."
Potter let out the breath he'd been holding. "Um... Alright. I suppose so. For a day or two, at least, and we'll see how it goes. But you'll have to have the bed, and I'll have the sofa. I don't think I'll be able to sleep anyway, so it makes more sense for you to have the bed."
"OK. I'll take the bed tonight. But after that I think we should alternate. I'd feel very uncomfortable knowing I'd taken your bed from you every night," said Draco.
Potter held out his hand, and Draco shook it. Their eyes met, and Draco knew, somehow, that they were both thinking of the same thing: that day on the train all those years earlier, and whether or not things might have turned out differently if Draco's handshake hadn't been refused.
Despite the conversation about the bed, Harry was quite grateful when Malfoy suggested that he should probably go and lie down for a while. However, he didn't manage to stay there very long: every time he closed his eyes, his mind started spiralling downwards into a collection of black thoughts, and when his eyes were open they insisted on trying to close again. Eventually he gave up and went back into the living room, where he found Malfoy surrounded by DADA textbooks.
"I'm going mad," said Harry, when Malfoy looked up at him. "And I think that maybe I do want to tell you what's happened. Well, I don't want to, really, but I think it would help a bit."
Malfoy smiled, and Harry was startled when the thought crossed his mind that it was a surprisingly beautiful sight. He didn't think he'd ever seen Malfoy smile before. "Thank you, Potter. It means a lot to me that you're willing to trust me. And I promise to try not to interrupt," said Malfoy.
"Well, I want to thank you for not pushing me to talk about it earlier," said Harry. "I think that's what made me feel comfortable about trusting you now. I do have one request, though. Can you call me Harry, please? When you call me Potter I feel like a schoolboy, and we're different people now."
"I can do that... Harry," said Malfoy. "But only on condition that you call me Draco."
"Fair enough," said Harry. "Draco it is. ... Huh. That feels quite weird."
"I know," said Draco. "But we'll get used to it, no doubt. Now, before you tell me your story, let's be practical. How about some food? I bet you've not eaten since breakfast - am I right?"
Harry realised that he was actually starving. "That's a good idea. And I've got an equally good one. Winky!"
At his call, the house-elf appeared with a crack. Her huge eyes opened even further when she saw Harry. "Harry Potter, sir!" she squeaked. "You is supposed to be on holiday!"
"I know, but there's been a change of plan," said Harry. "I need your help, Winky. I know you're good at keeping secrets."
"Oh, I is being the best at keeping secrets, especially if Harry Potter is asking," said Winky. "What is Harry Potter wanting Winky to do?"
"Well, just to bring me food, I suppose. I need to stay here in my rooms, but I don't want anyone else to know. Can you bring me food without any of the other elves finding out?"
"Of course, Harry Potter, sir, Winky is easily doing that," she said. "But Winky is confused. Draco Malfoy is still here – is he being a secret too?"
"No, no, not at all," said Harry. "He's staying here too, and everyone knows he's here, so he can go to the hall for meals. In fact, he'll have to, because people will wonder where he is if he doesn't. But please could you bring both of us some food right now?"
"Right away, Harry Potter, sir," said Winky, and she vanished, returning only minutes later with a large tray of sandwiches and cakes and a jug of coffee, all of which she set out on the coffee table at Harry's nod.
"Thank you, Winky," said Harry, and she bowed to him before vanishing again.
Draco hadn't said a word during all this, but now he leaned forward to take a sandwich and pour them both some coffee. "I didn't know you had a house-elf," he commented.
"Oh, I don't," said Harry. "At least, not any more. There was Dobby, of course – he was yours before he was mine, in fact – but he was killed in the war. And Kreacher, but he died of old age not long after the war. Winky doesn't belong to me – she works for Hogwarts – but she was a friend of Dobby's so I know her quite well."
"I'd forgotten about Dobby," mused Draco. "My father was so furious when you managed to trick him into freeing him. I was glad, though: it always made me quite uncomfortable, the way he treated the elves. I hadn't realised Dobby was killed in the war, actually – the last time I saw him was when he left the Manor with you. Can I ask what happened?"
"Bellatrix Lestrange happened," said Harry shortly. "She threw a knife at us as we left, and it hit Dobby. He died within the hour."
"I'm sorry," said Draco. "Mind you, I think I could spend the rest of my life making daily apologies to people hurt by my Mad Aunt Bella, and I'd still never get to them all. Even my mother was relieved when Molly Weasley killed her."
They looked at each other, grinning suddenly as the memory struck them, and chorused: "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!"
Draco laughed. "I don't think anyone who was in the Hall that day will ever forget that line. I never quite dared to mention it to my parents, though, so I've no idea whether or not they found it as funny, in hindsight, as I did."
Harry, however, stopped laughing while Draco was speaking. His mind had just made the connection and reminded him who the daughter in question actually was.
Draco took a piece of Victoria sponge cake, but paused with it halfway to his mouth. "What's the matter?" he asked.
"The quote reminded me of Ginny," said Harry. "And, since I know you're not stupid, I'm sure you've probably already guessed that what happened today is to do with her."
"Ah, said Draco. "Sorry. I had guessed that, but I didn't mean to pressure you into speaking about it before you were ready. I shouldn't have mentioned the Molly-Bella incident. I wasn't thinking. Sorry."
"Don't be silly, there's nothing to apologise for," said Harry. "I've already said I'll tell you what happened, and in any case you can't be expected to predict every single tenuous connection my mind might choose to make. In fact, it's probably just as well it did make the connection, because I suspect that otherwise I'd have spent the next hour or so trying to steel myself to start my story. But I may as well start now."
"Start in five minutes' time," said Draco. "You're the one who said you were starving, and you haven't touched any of the food yet. I don't want you passing out mid-story and leaving me with a cliffhanger. Eat!"
Draco sipped his coffee and watched Harry as he devoured a whole plateful of roast chicken sandwiches. He had forgotten how fascinated he'd always been at school by the sight of Harry eating: the almost feral way in which he crammed food into his mouth as quickly as possible, chewing rapidly while getting the next mouthful ready on his fork in order to avoid wasting any time. The desperate-looking eating habits were still present; so, it appeared, was Draco's fascination.
"So," said Draco tentatively, when the plate was empty and Harry had gulped down a glass of water, "as I understand it, your wife is attending the Quidditch England selection camp as a reporter, and you planned to go along and surprise her. I take it things didn't go according to plan?"
"You could say that," said Harry. "I am so stupid. How could I have not noticed what's been happening?"
"Well, maybe it wasn't entirely your fault," said Draco. "But we can discuss that later. Begin at the beginning. You went home last night. Was she there when you arrived?"
"No. But that's not unusual – she usually works until at least eight or nine o'clock these days. Her hours were shorter when she was just a reporter, but when I left the Aurors she got the head of department job. I felt a bit bad, actually, when I found out that she'd wanted it for years but never applied earlier because she thought one of us had better be around in the evenings for the kids."
"I was surprised when I heard you'd left the Aurors. It seemed like an ideal career for you."
"Well, it was at first. But there was just so much paperwork. I hated it when I was just an ordinary Auror, so when I became Head Auror I made it my mission to reduce the number of reports that Aurors had to write and forms they had to fill in. It did get better for them, but I never managed to reduce my own paperwork very much. I really wanted to be out in the field the whole time, but as Head Auror I hardly ever got to do that. So eventually I decided that there was no point in sticking with a job I'd grown to hate, and Dawlish died just when I was trying to decide what to do instead. I used to love teaching the DA in fifth year, and I'd already done some guest lecturing at Hogwarts over the years, so I found I quite fancied the idea of the DADA job."
"I can't imagine you're delighted with the paperwork involved in teaching either, though," Draco commented.
Harry laughed. "Yes, that was a bit of an unpleasant surprise. But it's actually not quite as bad as at the Ministry. And at least this job isn't all paperwork – I do spend most of my time actually teaching kids, and I love that. So it's definitely better than being Head Auror."
"Sorry, I've just remembered I promised not to interrupt, and I did it straight away," said Draco. "Do go on. What time did Ginny get home?"
"She didn't," said Harry. "At least, not last night. I fell asleep in the armchair and woke this morning to find the house still empty. I thought that she must have gone straight from work to the camp – there was no reason she had to come home, of course. So I made some breakfast and planned to get a Portkey to the camp later and surprise her there. But she turned up while I was eating."
"Was she pleased to see you?"
"At first, yes – at least, I think so. But then she started dashing round the house trying to pack, and I had to follow her so I could tell her I was coming with her. And d'you know what she said, when I told her?"
Draco shook his head.
"She said 'You can't!'," said Harry, bitterly. "And the way she said it... Well, it was very clear that she wasn't just saying that someone else was using the ticket. She didn't want me to go with her."
"I'm sorry to hear that," said Draco. "What did you say to her?"
"I don't think I said anything," said Harry. "I couldn't think what to say. I just stood there looking stupid. So then she sighed and said 'I suppose we'll have to talk about this now – just give me a moment', and she scribbled a note and owled it to someone. And then it all came out."
"She'd been seeing someone else," said Draco. Harry nodded.
"She'd been seeing someone else for the past year," he said. "Dean Thomas. And, by the way, how ridiculous is that? She marries one boyfriend from school and has an affair with another one. Hasn't she met anyone new since she left school? Anyway... Listen to how stupid I am. She said she'd assumed I must be seeing other people too, because I've shown no interest in her for ages, but she thought we'd somehow come to an unspoken agreement not to talk about it because of the kids, and it'd be discussed when they were older. Somehow come to an unspoken agreement. How could that even happen?!"
"I take it you haven't been seeing anyone else?" asked Draco carefully. "It doesn't seem like the sort of thing you would do."
Harry stared at him for a moment, and then smiled slightly, to Draco's surprise. "Thank you. No, I haven't been with anyone else, and you're right: it's not something I would ever do. It's quite ironic that you know that, but apparently my wife of almost twenty years doesn't."
Draco felt oddly proud, but thought it wiser not to say so. "So when she said you'd shown no interest in her in a while, was that true?" he asked.
"I suppose so. Sort of," said Harry. "We, um... we haven't had... you know... sex since she was pregnant with Lily, and it had got less and less frequent before then. Ginny was always really tired, especially by the time we had three young kids. I tried to help her as much as I could, but she started going to bed earlier and earlier, and she was always asleep when I went to bed and got up before I woke. It was actually only a few weeks ago that I realised how long it is since we had, erm, sex. Like I said... I'm stupid."
"I don't think you are," said Draco. "It sounds to me as if it's not all your fault. Maybe you've not shown much interest in her, but she's not shown much interest in you either. What about other stuff, though? Showing interest doesn't necessarily mean just sex. Did you ever kiss?"
"Quick pecks, yes, all the time. Saying hello and goodbye, that sort of thing. But proper snogging... Hmm. You know what? That's even longer ago. Wow. I can't even remember the last time we snogged. I know we did at our wedding, but... We must have snogged since our wedding, but I can't think of a time when we definitely did."
"Not even when you were... erm, creating your kids?"
Harry laughed hollowly. "Not even then. That sort of felt like a chore, actually. It was always Ginny that instigated it, and she liked to get straight down to business. I didn't mind – it's part of marriage, isn't it? And my kids wouldn't exist if we hadn't done it. But I've never really been able to see why people rave about sex itself so much. It just felt awkward to me. I certainly don't miss it."
Draco was starting to develop his own theory as to why Harry's marriage had been like this, but he wasn't sure how much of it was wishful thinking, so he put it to the back of his mind until further evidence presented itself. "Maybe the two of you just aren't sexually compatible," he said. "It does happen. What about your partners before Ginny? How was the sex with them?"
Harry looked puzzled. "Before Ginny? I've been with Ginny since I left school. I've never had sex with anyone else."
Draco added this fact to his mental evidence collection: his theory was starting to look quite promising. "Right. Sorry, I'd forgotten. OK, then... What about hugs? You seem like the hugging type."
"We do hug, of course," said Harry. "The Weasleys are all great huggers. In fact, the best hug I ever remember was from Molly Weasley, after Cedric died. But these days we mainly seem to just do quick hugs... Why are you nodding?"
Draco shook himself. "Sorry," he said. "I was just thinking that it sounds as if the two of you don't spend much time together alone at all."
"We don't, I've now realised, but it seems that I'm the only person who hadn't noticed," said Harry. "James told me a few weeks ago that he'd noticed that Ginny and I never talk to each other unless the kids are there. That's what started me thinking about our marriage, and made me realised I was making a mess of things and I'd better do something to fix it."
Draco was taken aback. "What made you think it was your fault?" he asked.
"How can it not be my fault?" retorted Harry. "I obviously didn't pay enough attention to my wife, so she went to someone else who did."
"Did she say that was why she ended up with Thomas?"
"Well, no," Harry admitted. "He's her assistant, and they've worked together for years. She said she didn't actually set out to be unfaithful, but when I started sleeping at Hogwarts most nights she ended up staying later at work, and then going out for drinks with her workmates. It developed from there. Anyway, she spends most nights at his house, it seems – she said it would have felt wrong to sleep with him in our bed, so she never brought him back here – and that's where she was last night. And they're going to the Quidditch camp together, so it's not surprising she didn't want me there."
"I would have thought it would be too risky for her to spend all those nights away from home," said Draco. "What would have happened if one of the kids had been ill and you'd Floo-called her in the middle of the night?"
Harry shook his head, smiling slightly. "I said the exact same thing to her," he said. "She pointed out that I never Floo-call her – or anyone, in fact, if I can help it. I hate making Floo calls. So I always use owls, and of course they reach her wherever she is."
"Right," said Draco. "So... did you resolve anything? Or did you decide to talk about it later?"
"A bit of both," said Harry. "What shocked me even more than finding out she'd been unfaithful – and that she didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with that – was when I realised that she was obviously still intending to go on the trip almost immediately. To me, it was obvious that our marriage was over and we needed to talk about how we were going to proceed, and then we needed to tell the kids as soon as possible. But she said that she couldn't see why anything needs to change at all – why can't we go on as we have been, living more or less separate lives but still being perfect parents? I pointed out that to me everything had changed, because I'd just found out that my wife didn't love me any more. She looked at me as if I was insane, and said that of course she still loves me, and she always will, but that she just needs some things that I can't give her."
Draco noticed tears starting to trickle out of the corners of Harry's eyes, and wordlessly handed him a tissue. The two of them sat in silence for a few minutes before Harry started speaking again.
"I told her that she might be able to go on living a lie, but I can't. I'm a terrible liar, but she's always been brilliant at it. She can keep a totally straight face while she's lying through her teeth to someone. I've even seen her fool her mother. I used to admire her for it, actually, but it feels different now I know she's been lying to me. Although... well, as far as I know she's never actually told me a lie. Not in words. But that might be because we never talk."
The tears were flowing more profusely now, and Harry's voice was starting to sound a little ragged. Draco had been fighting the urge to give him a hug for the last few minutes; he wasn't sufficiently confident that they'd reached the stage at which that would be acceptable. He was also a little bemused by the fact that he had the urge at all: he hugged his own family regularly and loved doing so, but he'd never had the urge to hug anyone else. "She has obviously been lying, through her actions," he said. "Lying doesn't have to involve words. In fact, in this case she's lying through the absence of words. She obviously knew you'd be devastated if you knew about Thomas, which is why she kept it a secret."
"I know," said Harry, a bit brokenly. "It's just... I'm still trying to get used to the thought that any of this is happening. The Ginny in my head is my faithful wife, and I have to keep reminding myself that the real Ginny isn't like that... hasn't been like that for ages, except that I was too stupid to notice."
"I wish you'd stop calling yourself stupid, you know," said Draco. "It's not stupid to trust someone you love. It's not stupid to believe the best of people, if you have no evidence to the contrary."
"But I feel stupid," said Harry. "And I'm sure everyone else will think I'm stupid when this gets out in the press. Which it will."
"It won't help matters that she works for them, I imagine," said Draco. "But I still don't think you've been stupid. So... she wanted to go on as if nothing had happened; you told her you weren't willing to live a lie. How did you resolve that?"
"She told me to go back to Hogwarts and she'd come and visit after her trip and we could talk again, and if I was still insistent on splitting up properly then we could tell the kids then. I said that, since she obviously has no intention of trying to fix our marriage, divorce is the only honest option, but that I couldn't keep it from the kids that long, so if she wouldn't come back to school with me then I'd tell them without her. She seemed a bit torn at that – whatever the problems with our relationship, I'm positive that she really does love the kids and would never do anything to hurt them. So in the end we agreed that I'd come back to school and she'd go to the camp, but she'd contact me later today or tomorrow, once she'd seen her schedule, to let me know when she'll be able to come up so we can see the kids together. In the meantime I'll just try my best to keep it from them. Actually, your suggestion may be the only way it'll work – I couldn't quite see how I could see them without telling them, but if I stay here secretly until Ginny arrives it'll be much easier. I just hope she can get away sooner rather than later – I hate the idea of being stuck in here for days."
"And did you discuss what you'll do in the future?"
"We did. I said she can keep the house – I have these quarters, and I stay here most of the time anyway, so it's not urgent for me to find somewhere else. I'll have to get a flat or something for the holidays, because I need somewhere that the kids can stay with me – we agreed that they can all spend their time with whichever of us they want to. I hope they'll choose to split it equally between the two of us, but we don't want to pressurise them in either direction."
Draco nodded. "I'm very lucky in that respect. Astoria does love Scorpius, but she suggested that he might feel more comfortable spending most of his holiday time with me, rather than feeling like a third wheel with her and her new husband. He's visited them once or twice, but he does always seem relieved when he can come home."
Harry didn't respond to this; he seemed to be lost in thought. Draco suddenly had an idea, and stood up. "You know what?" he said, and waited until Harry looked at him before continuing. "I haven't been to Hogwarts in years before today. I think I'm going to go for a bit of a wander, and give you some space. You look like you need it. Is that OK? Is there anything you need that I can get for you?"
Harry gave him a watery smile. "You're being so nice," he said. "Thank you. I do actually feel a bit better now I've unloaded everything on you, but I think I'm all talked out for the moment. Please don't feel you have to go out, though."
"I think I probably should," said Draco. "You might want to have a good cry – I know I would, in your position – and I'm sure you'd rather I didn't witness it. In any case, I wasn't lying: I really do want to explore the school. So I'll be a couple of hours at least. If you need me before then for some reason, you can always send Winky to get me."
He picked up his cloak and walked to the door. Just before he stepped out into the corridor, he looked back and found Harry gazing at him with an inscrutable look on his face.
When Draco returned to Harry's quarters just before teatime, he paused at the door, suddenly unsure whether or not he should knock. He compromised by knocking and then, when there was no answer, letting himself in anyway.
He was greeted by an empty living room into which a cloud of steam was slowly drifting from the open bathroom door. As Draco removed his cloak, though, Harry came out of the bathroom. He was wearing nothing but two not-particularly-large orange towels, one of which was wrapped round his groin and the other round his head. He was using the latter to rub his hair dry, and this prevented him from noticing Draco's presence. Draco took full advantage of this fact and stared at Harry's almost-naked body.
It was a very impressive body for someone almost forty years old. In fact, if he hadn't known the man's age he would have guessed him to be at least ten years younger. The legs were lean and muscular with only a slight covering of hair; the arms matched them, and they looked strong. Draco's favourite wank fantasies all involved him being embraced by men with strong arms, and he was suddenly desperate to know what it would be like to be held by Harry Potter. But that seemed unlikely to happen – other than in his wank fantasies, of course, in which Harry would undoubtedly be starring for quite some time – and so Draco continued his rapid ogling, well aware that he should really make his presence known.
The towel covered Harry's arse, sadly, but it was tied tightly enough to reveal that it was an excellently-shaped arse with an encouragingly-visible bulge at the front. Above the towel was... Yes, the bastard actually had a six-pack. And running down the centre of it, from the belly button to the top of the towel, was a very thin trail of black hair which Draco itched to follow downwards with his fingers. He settled for following it upwards with his eyes instead, and discovered that Harry's chest was hairless and well-defined without having those too-huge pecs that body-builders seemed to like, and his nipples were... well, perfect. Draco found himself wondering what they tasted like.
He realised that he could easily stare at Harry's muscles for hours, and decided he'd better do the decent thing and admit that he was there. He coughed.
Harry instantly pulled the towel from his face and whirled round. An intense blush quickly covered his face, and Draco was intrigued to notice that it actually spread to his neck and shoulders.
"How long have you been standing there?" demanded Harry.
Draco couldn't quite tell whether Harry was angry or just embarrassed, but the truth was harmless enough either way, he thought. "Only a couple of minutes."
"You're... You're staring at me," said Harry, sounding a little puzzled.
"I have to admit that I am," said Draco. "I'll stop if you don't like it. I don't want to embarrass you. But I'm not going to hide the fact that I do like to look at good-looking men, and you are looking very good, if you'll forgive me for saying so."
He hadn't thought it was possible for Harry's blush to deepen any further, but it did now. "I think you must be getting delusional in your old age," said Harry. "But thank you for the compliment. It's been quite a while since I was called good-looking. Especially by someone like you."
"I almost daren't ask, but... what do you mean by 'someone like me' in this particular case?" asked Draco.
"Well, someone who is amazingly good-looking," said Harry. "There weren't many things I envied about you at school, as I'm sure you'll understand, but I was quite jealous of how good you always looked. And you look much better now. Less... pointy."
"Thank you for the compliment," said Draco, inwardly cheering. "I have to admit that I've cheated a bit, though. My hair started receding a few years ago and I hated it, so I had a hair transplant. I feel a bit of a fraud, but I'd rather that than have no hair. Shallow, aren't I?"
"I can't say for sure that I wouldn't do the same," said Harry. "Luckily my hair shows no signs of dropping out yet, but it'd freak me out if it did. Your hair looks perfectly natural – it's not all transplanted, is it?"
"It is all natural. The magical transplant technique isn't like the Muggle one – it causes the hair follicles to start producing hair again, as opposed to moving hair follicles from another part of the body."
"Ewww! Is that really how they do it? The non-magic version, I mean? It never occurred to me to wonder before. So people with hair transplants might actually have pubes growing on their head?"
Draco burst out laughing. "Ah, sadly not," he said when he'd calmed down a bit. "I think they just move hairs from another part of the head. Probably just as well – there are too many curly-haired people in the world."
This caused Harry to collapse in giggles on the sofa, and Draco watched him, greatly relieved that Harry's mood had improved and hesitant to say anything else for fear of spoiling it. He rewarded himself for cheering Harry up by staring at the muscular thigh which had been revealed when Harry's impact on the sofa had twisted the towel.
Eventually Harry stopped giggling and sat up, still smiling. The towel twisted a little further with his movement, and Draco was unable to stop himself from licking his lips.
"Did you have a nice wander?" asked Harry.
"What?" said Draco. "Oh, my wander round the school. Yes, actually. McGonagall told me a couple of weeks ago how much of the place was never repaired after the war; I felt a bit ashamed that I'd never realised that. So I wanted to see which bits are intact and which aren't. I think I've been everywhere in the castle this afternoon. Well, everywhere except one place. I couldn't quite face going there."
"Where would you... Oh. The Astronomy Tower?"
"Got it in one."
"Right," said Harry. He was silent for several minutes before continuing. "Well, if it's any consolation, I've never been able to make myself go up there either."
Draco frowned. "Why would you avoid it? It was me who did an idiotic thing up there."
"I had nightmares for years about Dumbledore falling from there. It's not something I like to remember," said Harry. "Anyway, you did do an unwise thing, but I'm not sure I'd call it idiotic. I know what pressures you were under. And here's something to consider: if you hadn't done what you did that night, I couldn't have beaten Voldemort the way I did. So, in a way, you helped win the war as much as I did."
Draco stared at him, baffled. "I don't understand," he said. "How on earth did I help?"
"You disarmed Dumbledore, didn't you? That's what made you the master of the Elder Wand, and that's what made me its master when I disarmed you a year later. And being master of the Elder Wand is how I beat Voldemort, because he tried to kill me with it and couldn't."
Draco opened his mouth and then closed it again. "Why have I never thought of it like that before?" he wondered, when his power of speech finally returned. "I knew each one of those facts, but I've spent so many years trying not to think about what happened on the Astronomy Tower that it never occurred to me that any good came of it. Thank you."
"You already thanked me, when I gave you your wand back after the trial," said Harry.
"Then, I was thanking you for everything else. You know: giving my wand back, rescuing me from Fiendfyre, testifying for me, saving the world... that sort of thing. Now, I'm thanking you for being kind enough to try and make me feel better about the stupid things I did when I was a boy. You really don't have to – I know what a nasty piece of work I was then, especially to you – but I do appreciate it." Draco was embarrassed to feel a lump in his throat. He hoped he wasn't about to start crying; true, Harry had cried in front of him only hours earlier, but he'd had a good reason. How pathetic would it be to cry over something that had happened over twenty years earlier?
Harry smiled. "Well, if it does make you feel better, I'm very glad. And, if you recall, you apologised to me at the same time as thanking me, so as far as I'm concerned we're even. The only thing I regret is that we've never had the chance to talk since that day. I did think about it once or twice after things calmed down a bit and I stopped having to hide from the press all the time, but by then it was months later and I think you'd already moved to France."
"Yes, it seemed like a good time for a change of scene. We suspected that if we'd stayed in England there would have been unpleasantness whenever we went out. As it turned out, we did occasionally get curses thrown at us when we went to the wizarding district of Paris, but I think it would have been much worse in London."
"I'm sorry to hear that. It doesn't still happen now, does it?" Harry sounded worried, which gave Draco a pleasantly warm and fuzzy feeling in his belly.
"No, I presume people got bored with it when we didn't react; plus, we made sure we kept our heads down and didn't do anything that might get us in the news, good or bad. After a few years everyone seemed to forget about us. That's in France, though; I've only been in Diagon Alley a handful of times in the past twenty years. It was fine each time, but I'm never sure whether that's just luck or whether people really have forgotten."
"Well, I can't tell you that. But I can tell you this: I haven't forgotten, but that doesn't mean I have any ill will towards you. I'd already forgiven you by the time I saw you at your trial, as I think I told you at the time. And, even if I hadn't, I can tell from talking to you that you're a different person now. And I'm enjoying talking to you, and I do wish we'd done this years ago."
"You did tell me you'd forgiven me, but I thought you were just being polite. Anyway, I also wish we'd done this years ago. But at least we're talking now – and I'm enjoying it too." They grinned at each other. "Now, as you pointed out to that house-elf earlier, I'll have to go to meals, otherwise people will wonder where I am. And it's nearly teatime, so I think I'm going to have a shower, if that's alright with you. I'm a bit sweaty from all those stairs. Are there more towels in the bathroom?"
Harry watched Draco remove his cloak and vanish into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. He heard the shower start running a minute later.
Having been sitting in nothing but a short towel for more than half an hour, Harry was starting to get a bit cold, but he remained seated on the sofa, his thoughts on Draco. After surprising himself with the thought that Draco's smile was beautiful, he'd found his thoughts drifting back to the man repeatedly during the afternoon; each time this had happened, it had been a welcome interruption to his downward-spiralling thoughts about Ginny. Those thoughts had been mainly about Draco's manner – so different to that of the teenage Draco – which had somehow persuaded Harry to confess all his secrets to him, and then to cry in front of him. The Draco of their schooldays would certainly have mocked him relentlessly for this; the Draco of today had just looked at him sympathetically and handed him a tissue, and he couldn't think of a single one of his friends who would have had the sensitivity not to say anything at that point.
He hadn't been lying when he'd told Draco that he'd felt better as a result of this, and he'd felt even better – oddly enough – after he'd sobbed his heart out for twenty minutes after Draco had left to explore the school. He'd even managed to sleep for a couple of hours before waking and feeling the urgent need for a shower.
His current thoughts about Draco were not about the man's manner, however. All Harry could think about was that Draco was naked, just the other side of the bathroom door. He had never, to his recollection, thought about another man's naked body before; part of his mind wondered what had caused him to do this now. Maybe it was because Draco had casually mentioned his sexuality. Harry suspected that it was more than that, though; it was true that he'd admired Draco's looks at school, yet he hadn't known till today that Draco was gay. He didn't think he'd ever imagined him naked at school, though.
Suddenly it occurred to him that if Draco came out of the shower and found Harry still sitting there in his towel, it might look as if he'd waited there just to ogle him. He jumped up from the sofa and rushed into the bedroom to change; he had to admit to himself that he did sort of want to ogle Draco, so he needed to be back on the sofa as soon as possible.
By the time Draco did emerge from the bathroom, Harry was clad in jeans and a Holyhead Harpies T-shirt and was slouched on the sofa, attempting to concentrate on a novel. He glanced up, and embarrassed himself by dropping the book at the sight before him.
Draco was wearing one of the ubiquitous orange towels, and Harry felt irrationally guilty for not having bought any other colour, because it didn't really suit Draco. However, that was the only thing wrong with what Harry could see. Draco was maybe not quite as muscular as Harry; this was only to be expected, Harry decided, since he'd had regular fitness tests as an Auror, even after his job became mainly desk-based. Draco definitely did have muscles in all the right places, though. His skin wasn't as pale as Harry had expected, but it did appear to be entirely hairless; on closer inspection, however, a very thin covering of hair was visible on Draco's arms and legs. His chest and flat stomach were hair-free, and his nipples were more prominent than Harry's; they were actually standing out from his chest, and Harry could only tear his eyes from them with considerable effort. The thought of Draco's groin was what caused him to manage this feat; when he looked down, he noted that Draco's arse was as slim as the rest of him. The buttocks were of course covered by the towel, but Harry was prepared to guess that they could be described as 'pert'; most excitingly, though, there was tenting at the front of the towel.
"Sorry about that," said Draco, startling Harry from his ogling. He flushed. How long had Draco been standing there, just letting him look? When he raised his eyes to Draco's, though, he was relieved – although still embarrassed – to find the man's eyes twinkling with suppressed mirth.
"Sorry? What for?" asked Harry, confused.
"My semi-hard-on. That's what you were looking at, isn't it? I would have dealt with it in the shower, but I felt a bit awkward knowing you were just in here."
Harry was mortified. "I'm... not used to talking about stuff like this," he said awkwardly. "I'm sorry for staring, though. I couldn't help myself."
Draco laughed out loud. "You don't have to apologise for that, you idiot," he said. "It doesn't make me uncomfortable. Quite the opposite, in fact; it's a bit of a compliment. Do feel free to look at me whenever you like. I'd hate to think I was making you uncomfortable, though, so maybe it would be best if I got dressed and went to tea." He went into the bedroom, leaving Harry gaping after him, speechless.
Draco's evening meal was, to his relief, much less conversation-filled than lunch had been, so he was able to spend a lot of the time thinking about Harry. The evidence for his theory was stacking up, but Draco wasn't sure how best to act. He was fairly sure that it hadn't yet occurred to Harry that he might be gay, and that this might be one factor in the collapse of his marriage, but his obvious fascination with Draco's body meant that it was probably only a matter of time before he drew the obvious conclusion. The fact that Harry's embarrassment at being caught staring seemed to be due to his extreme inexperience – rather than because it was a man he was staring at – was encouraging, however.
The one thing Draco was positive about was that he needed to be extremely careful. If he were to make too obvious a move, or make it too early, then he ran the risk of causing Harry to run a mile. Maybe it would be safest to wait for Harry to make a move, just in case. Draco definitely wanted Harry in every possible way – he had admitted that to himself during his afternoon explorations, all the while shaking his head at the ridiculousness of falling so hard during the course of only three conversations – but if he couldn't have him as a lover (and it did seem unlikely that he would be that lucky) then he would much rather have Harry as a friend than go back to them being little more than strangers.
He decided that patience and understanding was the best strategy; it certainly seemed to be working so far. With that in mind, he went back to his quarters (waving to Scorpius and Albus on his way out of the hall) and suggested to Harry that they spend the remaining hours before bedtime just reading. It was obvious from the overflowing bookshelves that Harry was a voracious reader, so Draco was confident that the idea would be welcomed; in any case, Draco really needed to finish reading through the DADA textbooks and Harry's lesson plans so that he could plan his own lessons for Monday.
It was almost midnight before Draco put his books away and stood up. "I don't know about you, but I'm shattered," he announced, stretching. He hoped he wasn't misunderstanding the reason why Harry's eyes grew wider when he did so. "Are you sure you'll be able to sleep on the sofa? It doesn't look long enough to be comfortable."
"Oh, I'll be fine," said Harry. "I've been on Auror stakeouts in much more cramped places. And I'm not sure whether I'll be able to sleep anyway. I do feel much calmer, but I know what my mind's like. As soon as it's not distracted by anything, it'll start coming up with unhelpful thoughts again."
"Hmm. Well, alright. I'm going to bed, but if you can't sleep and you decide you want to talk, please wake me. I won't mind, I promise you," Draco said, fighting back a yawn.
"I won't wake you unless I'm in dire straits – you look like you need your sleep," said Harry. "Listen, Draco... I can't thank you enough for being so understanding today. I don't know how I would have got through the day without you. It means a lot to me, what you've done."
"It was my very great pleasure," said Draco. "But I haven't really done anything special. I'm sure any one of your friends would have done the same if I hadn't been here."
"Well, actually, if you hadn't been here I would probably have just kept it all to myself. I love Ron and Hermione to bits, but neither of them is very good at giving me space. They always try and get me to talk to them if something's bothering me, but sometimes I just don't want to talk, and they never seem to accept that. What you did – making me feel comfortable enough to talk when I felt up to it, but not forcing me to do it before then – was just what I needed, and I'm grateful that you were here to give it to me. Plus, I'm not at all sure how they'll react to the news that Ginny's been seeing someone else," said Harry, looking suddenly worried.
"Did you talk about telling them?" asked Draco, stifling another yawn. "I'm so sorry, I'm not bored, I just can't stop yawning. I'm going to have to go to sleep in a minute."
"We agreed that we'd tell them after we told the kids, and that we'd ask the kids not to mention it to Rose and Hugo for at least a few hours, so that they didn't hear the news before their parents did," said Harry. "Now, please go to bed. And thanks again. Goodnight."
"Night," said Draco, and went into the bedroom, closing the door behind him. He was naked and in bed within a minute – he always slept nude – but it was quite a while before he could sleep, exhausted though he was. His mind was full of Harry.
Harry's aching back was what woke him on Sunday morning. Despite his insistence that the sofa would be perfectly comfortable, he decided that he was far too old to sleep anywhere other than a proper bed. Groaning slightly, he reached out for his glasses, which he'd left on the coffee table.
Draco was sitting at the desk with his back to Harry, consulting a piece of parchment held in one hand and scribbling on a large scroll with the other. Harry stood up and wrapped his duvet round himself. He was surprised to note that he didn't feel particularly embarrassed at the fact that he'd been sleeping nude so close to Draco, and that the duvet had certainly not been covering much of him when he'd woken up. He wondered whether Draco had looked at him, and found that a small part of him rather hoped he had.
"What are you doing?" he asked, shuffling over to look over Draco's shoulder.
"Seating plans," said Draco.
"Oh, I'm sorry – didn't I leave copies of them with the lesson plans? I thought I had," said Harry, frowning.
"You did, but these are new ones," said Draco. "I always do this when I take on a new class. Don't you?"
"Um... no," said Harry. "I'm confused – why does making a new seating plan help with anything?"
"Two reasons," said Draco, putting down his quill and turning round. "Firstly, these plans are alphabetical, which means that I find it much quicker to learn the kids' names. Secondly, I find that if the first thing I do is to uproot them all and make them sit where I tell them, it helps me to establish control."
"Huh," said Harry. "I never thought of that. Don't they make a huge fuss when you move them away from their friends, though?"
"There's usually a bit of grumbling, but nothing major. It helps that I always tell them it's only temporary, until I know all their names."
Harry considered this. "You know, that actually makes a lot of sense," he said. "It took me a while to learn all the kids' names last year – at least this year it's just the first-years I don't know. The control thing is less of an issue – I feel a bit guilty, actually, because all the kids behave for me, and I know it's not because I'm a brilliant teacher. Something to do with being Harry Potter. McGonagall came to observe my lessons a few times in my first term, and she commented on it. She said I wasn't doing anything wrong, but that I was very lucky the kids didn't try and push me like they usually do with new teachers."
Draco smiled. "I wondered whether or not you were aware of that," he said. "Scorpius told me about it. I'm glad you do know, because I was just wondering whether or not I ought to mention it to you."
Harry bit his lip. "Um... Did he... Never mind."
"You want to know what else he said about you, don't you?" said Draco, chuckling. "Don't worry. He said you're really good. He didn't have a bad word to say about you. He just mentioned that he didn't actually know whether you were any good at controlling a class, because you'd never needed to."
"That's fair enough, I suppose," said Harry. "I'm quite relieved, actually. It would be quite awkward if he'd said I was rubbish, wouldn't it?" He had a sudden thought. "... Unless he did, and you're lying to me to make me feel better?"
Draco looked slightly offended. "I know my history doesn't give you much reason to trust me, but I promise I have never lied to you – even when we were at school – and I never will."
"Sorry," said Harry, feeling terrible. "I didn't mean to accuse you. I don't know why I said that. I do trust you, actually. I've never thought of you as a liar."
"Well, I'm relieved to hear you say that," said Draco. "Now, I've been to breakfast, but that was hours ago – I didn't want to wake you, since you'd actually managed to get to sleep. I'm ready for my second breakfast, I think – d'you want to call that house-elf?"
Winky was summoned, and shortly afterwards they were tucking into a full English breakfast. Harry cleared his plate quickly, and sat back to watch Draco eat. This was a fascinating sight, he discovered. Draco didn't shove too-large pieces of food into his mouth (as Harry was all too aware he did every time he ate); he cut off a small piece, used his fork to carry it to his mouth, and didn't cut off another piece until the first one had been swallowed. It seemed odd to use the word 'dainty' to describe a man, but that was the word Harry's brain produced.
"You're like a demonstration of how to eat properly," he commented. "I know I should eat like that but, by the time I realised, it was too late. I'd got too used to shoving everything in as fast as possible."
Draco paused in his bacon dissection and looked at him, seeming slightly uncomfortable. "You know, we used to think it was hilarious at school, watching you eat," he said quietly. "It never occurred to any of us to wonder why you ate like that. We were all just, you know, 'haha, look at Potter, he can't even eat like a civilised person'. But I remember feeling awful when I found out, years later, about how things had been with your relatives."
Harry was astonished. "How did you know about that?" he asked. "I've hardly ever told anyone!"
"I think it was Pansy who told me first, but I don't remember who told her," said Draco. "From what I recall, though, it seems it was fairly common knowledge in Gryffindor while we were at school, so I imagine one of your housemates must have eventually mentioned it to a friend sometime, and within days everyone knew. I was surprised there wasn't a story in the Prophet, actually – it was definitely the news headline of the day. I was in France at the time, of course, but I got quite a few owls saying 'did you hear about Potter's childhood?' If it's any consolation, though, no-one was gloating. Most people were feeling really guilty. There were so many of us who'd grown up assuming you were worshipped by your family and friends, so it was a huge shock to discover that your family had abused you and that you had no friends, before Hogwarts. Everyone seemed to think that the cupboard was the worst part, but I couldn't stop thinking about the times I'd watched you eat, without realising that you'd grown up with hardly any food."
Harry was mortified. "You'd think that by now I'd be used to the idea of everyone talking about me," he muttered. "But I didn't know they were pitying me. Oh, God – d'you think the kids know?"
"Your kids, or all the kids?" asked Draco. "Either way, I'd be amazed if they didn't. But, look... I'm really sorry to have broken the news to you like this. It's such common knowledge that it honestly didn't occur to me that you didn't know everyone knew. Are you OK?"
Harry considered this question, then exhaled heavily. "I'll be fine," he said. "But I'm not sure I'll ever be able to eat in the Great Hall again. Speaking of which, your mushrooms are going cold."
"I like them cold," said Draco, and Harry uttered a mental prayer of thanks that Draco was perceptive enough to go along with the change of subject. "I don't often have a full English breakfast, but when I do I always eat everything in a particular order. Egg first, then beans and fried bread – because those three are disgusting if they're a bit cold – then bacon, sausage, tomatoes and mushrooms. In that order. It's very important. And then, if I'm not totally full by that point, I eat toast until I am."
"What about black pudding?" asked Harry, amused.
"Black pudding is an abomination and I always surreptitiously hide it underneath the remains of my fried egg," said Draco. "I don't like the white bit of the egg, you see. Actually I used to like black pudding, but that was before I found out what was in it."
Harry smirked. "That's very symbolic, you know."
Draco looked at him quizzically. "What do you mean?"
"Oh, you know," said Harry. "You used to be a Death Eater, but eventually you realised how evil they were and changed your ways. And black pudding is a very appropriate food for Death Eaters, actually. Did they serve it at ceremonies? Please tell me they served it at ceremonies."
Draco stared at him, his face unreadable, and then picked up a fried tomato and threw it straight at Harry's face. Harry flung up a hand and caught it. He laughed at Draco's outraged expression.
"How the hell are your reflexes still that good, damn you?" grumbled Draco. "Typical."
Harry continued to giggle as he went to dump the tomato in the bin and wash his hands. By the time he returned to the table, Draco had almost finished eating (except for the white of the egg with, indeed, a hint of black pudding showing from under it), so Harry poured him a cup of tea; Harry himself preferred coffee, so he was pleased to see that Winky had brought both. As he reached for the coffee jug, however, there was a tapping noise at the window, and they both looked up to see an owl waiting patiently to be let in.
Harry went over to open the window. The owl swooped in and dropped a note into his hands, before flying round the room and then back out of the window. Harry sat at the table to open the message.
"It's from Ginny," he said.
Draco had been delighted to see how much better Harry's mood seemed after a good sleep, especially when he hadn't even reacted too badly to Draco's unplanned revelation about the gossip regarding his childhood. But he was worried now. The good mood had vanished in a split second when Harry had looked at the parchment in his hand; all of a sudden, his posture was... well, defeated was the word that sprang to mind, and his face was haggard.
"What does she say?" asked Draco carefully.
Harry sighed. "Not much," he said; however, his voice cracked slightly, and Draco wanted to reach out and hold his hand. "Here, see for yourself."
Draco took the proffered note and read it.
I just wanted to check you were OK. You looked so awful yesterday, and I was worried. I've thought a lot about what you said, and I've realised that it was stupid of me to have just assumed that we were both thinking the same way. I do love you – I hope you know that – and I never meant to hurt you. I'm sorry that I obviously did.
Bad news, though: I don't think I'm going to be able to get away quite as soon as I thought. It's pretty full-on here for the first few days, and I'm afraid it looks as if the first time when I'll have the whole evening free will be Thursday. Can you possibly hang on till then? I want to make sure we don't have to rush it, and if I come any earlier I'd only be able to stay about an hour. I'm really sorry – I know it'll be hard for you to talk to the kids until then as if everything's fine.
Hope that's OK. If I don't hear from you before then, I'll get a Portkey direct to your quarters at six o'clock on Thursday night.
Draco passed the note back to Harry. "I suppose it's good that she's worried about you, and seems to have realised she's an idiot," he said. "That's awkward about Thursday, though. D'you think you'll be able to cope with waiting four days?"
"She's not an idiot," mumbled Harry.
"I'm sorry, I didn't choose my words very carefully," said Draco, after waiting a few seconds in case Harry had more to say. "I should have said that she'd done something idiotic. I didn't mean to insult your wife."
"Maybe she is an idiot, though. How would I know?" Harry's voice began to grow louder and more frenzied. "I obviously don't know her at all! I've got no idea what she's been thinking for the past twenty years. And she's been with someone else for a year and I didn't even notice anything was different until my fourteen-year-old son pointed it out. What was the point of this?" He tugged his wedding ring off his finger and threw it across the room.
Draco was alarmed. He formulated and dismissed several possible responses before deciding to go with: "Well, you've got three great kids, and as far as I can tell they all love you both very much. I don't believe kids should be the only point of a marriage, but they're a pretty good thing to show for it, don't you think?"
Harry whirled round and looked at him for a minute before speaking. "The kids. You're right. The kids... I'm going to go and see them," he announced, and leapt out of his chair, heading for the door.
Draco jumped up and stood in his way, and then somehow Harry's wand was at his throat before he'd even noticed Harry reach for it. Draco held up his hands in submission. "I can't stop you if you really want to do that, of course," he said, striving to keep his voice steady and calming. "But please can I ask you to wait a few minutes so that we can discuss the consequences?"
"What consequences?" demanded Harry. He didn't sit down, but he did lower his wand, Draco was relieved to note. Still, he was careful not to make any sudden moves.
"Well, you remember when you first arrived here yesterday, and I persuaded you not to leave the room because you looked so terrible? You look worse now, and I can feel your magic buzzing, it's so out of control. You'll scare your kids if they see you. I can understand if you don't want to wait till Thursday to talk to them, but please consider waiting till you're calmer, at least."
Harry stood motionless for a moment before visibly deflating. "You... can feel my magic?" he asked.
"Not all the time, but I definitely noticed it just then, when you were about to hex me," said Draco. "I'd love to claim that the only reason I didn't get my wand out is that I was being calm and sensible, but the truth is that I didn't even have time to make the decision, you were so quick. I like to think I would have done the same if I'd had the choice, though."
Harry looked aghast. "I attacked you," he said, sounding near to tears. "What was I thinking? And after you've done nothing but be kind to me, as well. I am so sorry." He collapsed onto the sofa and leaned forward, resting his head on his knees.
"You didn't attack me, you just pointed your wand at me," said Draco, coming to sit next to him. "And you backed off as soon as I spoke. So there's no harm done. Although it's quite a terrifying sight, you know, having Harry Potter's wand pointing at you. Much more so these days than the last time you pointed your wand at me. Somehow the knowledge that you've killed Voldemort since then makes it much scarier. Imagine that."
Harry sat up. "When was the last time I pointed my wand at you?" he wondered. "I can't remember."
Draco thought for a minute, relieved that Harry seemed to be calming down. "I can't either," he admitted. "You didn't in the Room of Hidden Things, because I pointed mine at you before you saw me. And you didn't at the Manor, because you disarmed me by brute force then, you hooligan. And you didn't on the Astronomy Tower, because I didn't find out you were there until Snape told me later. So it must have been... Ah."
Harry, who had smiled slightly at 'hooligan', suddenly looked on the verge of tears again. "The bathroom," he whispered. "Draco, I've never apologised to you for that, and I should have. I had no idea what that spell did, but I knew it wouldn't be anything pleasant. I should never have used it. On anyone. I nearly killed you! I would have, if Snape hadn't been nearby."
"You didn't kill me, though," Draco pointed out. "And you weren't unprovoked, remember. I'd drawn my wand first, and hexed you first. And I was about to Crucio you. I can't blame you for anything you did in self-defence."
"I blame myself, though," said Harry. "And I am sorry. I'm even more sorry that it's taken me so long to apologise. That's unforgivable."
Draco burst out laughing, and Harry stared at him in bewilderment. "What's so funny?"
"I was just suddenly amused at the idea of a fourth unforgivable curse: the Delayed Apology. They didn't teach that one at Death Eater Training School." He giggled even more as Harry's mouth dropped open. "No, before you ask, there was no Death Eater Training School," he said. "Sorry, I'll behave now."
Harry started to smile. "It's fine," he said. "Actually, you're completely brilliant, because I feel quite calm now. How do you do that?"
"It's a gift," said Draco, smirking. "Seriously, though, don't worry about what happened in the bathroom. I accept your apology, of course, but it wasn't necessary."
"Well, thank you for saying so," said Harry. "All this does persuade me that you were right, though, when you talked me out of going to find the kids. It's not a good idea for me to be with people when I'm wound up. I scarred you for life twenty years ago, and I nearly hurt you again today. I'd never forgive myself if I ever hurt any of them."
"I was never worried that you'd hurt them, you idiot," said Draco, becoming exasperated. "I wasn't even really worried that you'd hurt me – not today, anyway. That day in the bathroom was a different matter, but it's in the past, when we were both different people and we were trying to hurt each other. We've both grown up now, and those circumstances no longer apply. The only reason I don't think you should see the kids right now is the one I already said: you're not yourself, and I think you would scare them if they saw you like this."
Harry leapt up from the sofa. "Of course! That's it!" He dashed into the bedroom and began rummaging through the wardrobe.
"What are you doing?" called Draco. Harry let out a cry of triumph and reappeared, clutching a handful of shimmering fabric.
"They'll only be scared if they see me," he explained, as if this was perfectly obvious. "So I can go and visit them with my invisibility cloak!" He headed for the door once more.
Draco decided not to risk jumping in front of him again, so he settled for tilting his head to the side and raising his eyebrows. "And what do you hope to gain from this, may I ask?"
Harry looked a little embarrassed. "I just want to see them," he admitted. "I promise I won't try to speak to them. I do want to try and wait until Ginny can be here for that. But I sort of feel as if I'll feel better if I can reassure myself that they all definitely look fine at the moment, before their world gets torn apart."
"I suppose I can understand that," Draco conceded. "Do you want me to come with you?"
"You mean, to make sure I don't go mad again?" said Harry, smiling self-deprecatingly. "No, I think I'll be OK. It's a valid point, but I think I'm calm enough now to stay in control. I won't be long, anyway. I just want to see all three of them with my own eyes. I'll come straight back as soon as I've found them all."
Draco watched him close the door behind himself, and tried to memorise his facial expression so that he could compare it with whatever he looked like when he returned.
Harry set out to find James first; being the only Gryffindor among the three of them, he was likely to be nearest to Harry's rooms, which were on the corridor leading to Gryffindor Tower. It had been a long time since Harry had last used the Cloak, and it brought back many memories; however, he cast each of them from his mind as it arrived, and tried to concentrate on searching for his eldest son.
James wasn't in his bedroom, or in the Gryffindor common room. Harry paused, trying to think where else his son was most likely to be on a Sunday morning. All the possibilities that sprang to mind were equally applicable to Albus and Lily, however, so he decided to go down to Slytherin to look for them instead; he could search the non-House locations afterwards for all three children if necessary.
He found Lily immediately: she was in the Slytherin common room chatting animatedly to Hugo Weasley, who appeared to be perfectly happy just to listen, throwing in an occasional remark when Lily paused for breath. Harry couldn't quite hear what they were saying amidst the general chatter in the room, but he exulted for a moment at this evidence of how things had changed since the war – he thought it extremely unlikely that a Hufflepuff would have even wanted to be in the Slytherin common room back in his time at school, let alone look perfectly comfortable there, with no-one batting an eyelid – but then he leaned back against the wall and allowed himself to gaze at his daughter.
She was the spitting image of Ginny, of course, which gave him a momentary pang, so he concentrated on her body language and the expression on her face, rather than the face itself. She definitely looked happy. As Harry watched, she leaned forward and whispered something in Hugo's ear, her eyes dancing, and he threw back his head and laughed, before standing up and waiting until Lily did too. The two of them left the common room, heading out of the dungeon, and Harry considered following them until he remembered that there was a good chance Albus would be here somewhere.
Albus turned out to be in his bedroom, in fact: he was sprawled full-length on his bed with his eyes shut. He wasn't asleep, however, and he wasn't alone: Scorpius Malfoy was sitting next to his head, legs stretched out in front of him and back propped against the headboard. Harry strained to hear what they were talking about, feeling slightly guilty for eavesdropping, but not guilty enough not to do it.
"D'you think he was real?" Albus was saying, without opening his eyes.
"I've often wondered," said Scorpius. "I've even done some research, but I'm none the wiser. I don't think there's enough evidence to say either way. Maybe I'll ask my dad while he's here. He knows everything."
"Bet he doesn't know as much as my Aunt Hermione," said Albus. "Or my dad, for that matter. Everyone always assumes Aunt Hermione's the clever one in the family, but I think my dad's cleverer. And he reads all the time. If I ask him something and he doesn't know the answer, he always goes away and finds out. But that hasn't happened for ages, because he always does know the answer."
"Well, next time you see him, ask him about Merlin," said Scorpius.
"I will," said Albus, and rolled over onto his side. Harry, who was feeling quite smug to hear his son's evaluation of him, and already mentally running through his library to find relevant books to answer the question under discussion, was startled to see Albus reach out his hand and place it on Scorpius's thigh; he was even more taken aback when Scorpius laid his own hand on top of Albus's, and the two boys lapsed into a comfortable silence.
Harry suddenly felt horribly guilty for intruding on such a private moment, especially since Albus and Scorpius had no idea that they weren't alone. He quickly went back down through the common room, making every effort to be as silent as possible. The vision of his and Draco's sons remained etched in his head, though; he'd known that Albus and Scorpius were the best of friends, of course, but he'd had no idea there was any more to it than that. He wondered whether Draco knew how close they actually were, and resolved to ask him at the first opportunity. As soon as he thought of Draco, though, it occurred to him that he and Draco would have looked very like Albus and Scorpius if they'd been friends at school.
This thought led naturally to a daydream of what he and Draco would look like now if they were lying on a bed together, which in turn gave him an idea which he was keen to suggest to Draco, if he could only summon the nerve. That sofa was very uncomfortable, and the bed was huge. Surely Draco would be receptive to such a practical suggestion?
Harry was still thinking about this when he finally found his eldest son. James was outside, sitting under a tree, reading. Harry watched him for fifteen minutes, during which time no-one spoke to him and he didn't speak to anyone else, or even look up when they passed him – and lots of people walked past in the time that Harry watched. He was in two minds over what to think about this. On the one hand, part of him couldn't help being a bit worried that James seemed to be such a loner. But, on the other hand, James looked quite relaxed, and not unhappy, and Harry was well aware that he spent hours of his own life doing exactly what James was doing now, and he regarded that as perfectly normal. And he knew that James did talk to people, at least if his behaviour at mealtimes was anything to go by. In the end, Harry decided that there was nothing to suggest that there was anything wrong with James, but that he'd be sure to keep an eye out in future just in case there was more to this solitude than was so far apparent.
By ten o'clock that night, Draco was a bundle of nerves. He'd already been quite anxious by the time Harry had returned from his surreptitious offspring-watching; he was relieved to see that it did seem to have calmed Harry down considerably. The main reason for his agitation was nothing to do with that, though; it was the thought of facing twelve classes of unfamiliar children. He spent the afternoon and evening ensuring that all his lessons for the next few days were thoroughly planned, while Harry lay on the sofa and read quietly.
Draco finally closed his books and began double-checking his piles of parchment.
"Are you OK? Your hands are shaking." Harry's voice made Draco jump: neither of them had spoken since teatime.
"It's nothing," he said. "I'm just a bit nervous about teaching tomorrow."
Harry looked puzzled. "Why? You've been teaching forever. Surely there can't be anything to worry about by now?"
Draco laughed shakily. "If I was at Beauxbatons I'd be fine. But being a supply teacher is just like being a new teacher all over again. No, actually, it's worse, because at least if you're a new permanent teacher the kids know they'll have to work with you for the foreseeable future, and that makes them behave slightly better. If you're on supply, they know that whatever they do you'll be gone in a week or two, so they seem to regard that as carte blanche to try whatever mischief they can think up. I've seen how supply teachers get treated, and was always relieved I didn't have to go through that. What was I thinking, agreeing to do this?" He was embarrassed to hear his voice crack slightly.
Harry came over and sat at the table with him. "Look, I know I'm not the best-qualified person to say this, but I'm sure you'll be fine. I get what you're saying about supply teachers, and I've heard all the horror stories, but at least you're not a supply teacher who's also a newly-qualified teacher. You do have enough experience to cope with most of what might happen. And McGonagall wouldn't have employed you without checking your references, you know. So your bosses at Beauxbatons must think you'll be fine too."
"I will be, don't worry," said Draco, touched by Harry's attempt to reassure him. "I think it just feels scarier because it's Sunday night. That's the worst time in any teacher's week, isn't it?"
"Can't argue with that," said Harry. "At first I thought it was just because I always left it till then to start my preparation, but then Neville told me that he always does all his preparation straight after school on Friday so that his weekends are free, yet he still gets that feeling of dread on a Sunday night. Bizarre."
"And the worst part is the insomnia, isn't it?" said Draco. "I always try and go to bed early on a Sunday night because I know I'm always so tired on a Monday morning, but it never works – I just lie there for hours with things spinning round in my head."
At this, Harry blushed, and Draco looked at him, confused. "What?" he said.
Harry blushed even more. "Erm... Well, I had an idea. But if you don't want to do it, it's fine. Really! In fact, forget I said anything. It doesn't matter."
"Well, I can hardly forget you said anything when I'm dying of curiosity," said Draco. "Tell me. Please?"
Harry's eyes met Draco's briefly, but then he became fascinated with his fingernails. "Well, I was just thinking," he mumbled. "I know we agreed to take turns with the bed, but that sofa is more uncomfortable than I thought it would be, and my back was killing when I woke up this morning, and you're taller than me so it'd probably be more uncomfortable for you, and... Well, the thing is, the bed's easily big enough for both of us, if you don't mind sharing. I promise not to touch you, don't worry!"
Draco grinned, and waited until Harry looked up at him before he spoke. "And what if I want you to touch me, eh?" he said lightly. Harry's eyes widened at this, but Draco decided not to push his luck – for the moment, at least. "I'm fine with that if you are; thank you for suggesting it," he said. "I should warn you, though, that I sleep naked. I can put on pyjamas if you prefer, but I don't actually own any – do you have any I could borrow?" He thought it best not to reveal that he was well aware that Harry slept naked too, due to the delightful sight that had met him when he'd emerged from the bedroom that morning.
"No," said Harry. "But it's OK. I can cope with sharing a bed with a naked man. Well, at least I think I can. I've never actually tried."
"There's a first time for everything," said Draco. "I'll make it a bit less awkward for you, though, because I'm going to bed now, if that's OK. I'll probably be asleep by the time you come in."
"I'll try not to wake you, then," said Harry, smiling but also looking definitely relieved. "Make sure you wake me for breakfast, though, so I can wish you good luck for your lessons."
"It's a deal," said Draco. "And thank you. Goodnight, Harry."
"Goodnight," said Harry. This was accompanied by another smile and a slight crinkling around his eyes, both of which were still etched in Draco's mind by the time he'd stripped off and climbed under the duvet. He spent several minutes trying to distract himself from the uppermost thought in his mind, but eventually he gave in and took hold of his cock. He'd hardly started to move his hand before he was coming; he'd left his wand in the living room, but he'd mastered wandless silencing and cleaning spells many years earlier. Just as well, really.
He was asleep very soon after that, but woke briefly when he heard Harry come in some time later. Had he not been so exhausted, he might well have opened his eyes to ogle when he heard Harry removing his clothes; as it was, however, he merely turned slightly towards Harry's side of the bed, and mumbled a drowsy "Hello" when he felt the mattress move slightly.
His next thought was: "You've got a naked Harry Potter in bed with you. Don't fall asleep again!"
But he did.
Harry fell asleep almost as soon as he got into bed, having stayed up far too late to finish his book, but he awoke after only a few hours. The sun wasn't up yet, but the sky was so light that sunrise couldn't be far away; Harry couldn't see his clock while facing the window, but decided it must be about 6am. "Far too early to get up," he thought. He turned over to avoid the glow from the sky, intending to go back to sleep, but was instead struck by the sight before his eyes.
Unbelievably, Harry had forgotten until this moment that there was someone in bed with him, but he suspected that this sight would be one he'd remember forever. Draco was sprawled face down across his half of the bed, looking oddly dishevelled. One arm was dangling off the edge of the mattress, while the other was hugging the pillows. The duvet had slipped down slightly, revealing Draco's surprisingly muscular shoulders and back, and his face, although turned towards Harry, was almost completely hidden by the fall of that amazing white-blond hair.
Harry resisted his sudden urge to run his fingers through that hair, but then he remembered the discussion about pubic hair transplants and laughed out loud. He felt immediately guilty for making a noise, but apparently it hadn't been loud enough to wake Draco, so no harm was done. Harry closed his eyes.
It only felt like the next moment when he opened them again, but clearly some time had passed, because the sun was blazing through the open window and a fully-dressed Draco was shaking him awake. Harry rubbed his eyes and sat up against the headboard, and was handed a steaming cup of coffee. He muttered his thanks and drank half of it before looking properly at Draco, who had perched himself on the edge of the bed.
"What time is it?" he wondered.
"Half past eight," said Draco. "You asked me to wake you for breakfast, but since you weren't having it in the hall I thought I may as well let you sleep a bit longer. I've eaten, and it's nearly time for me to go to my dooooom."
Harry laughed. "It won't be that bad, you know," he said. "I'm sure you'll be fine. But if there's anything I can do to help, you will say so, won't you? ... Draco?"
"Huh?" said Draco, lifting his gaze to meet Harry's; it looked, to Harry's secret delight, as if Draco had been mesmerised by Harry's bare chest. "Oh... Sure. Don't worry. You've already helped a lot, actually, by letting me whinge at you."
"Well, it hardly makes up for the amount you've let me whinge at you, but you're welcome," said Harry. "Will I see you at lunchtime, or are you going to be busy till tonight?"
"I'm not sure," said Draco. "Monday's the only day you have no free periods, so it might be a bit manic. I'll definitely try to make it up here for lunch, but I apologise in advance if I don't manage it."
"No apology necessary," said Harry, stifling a yawn. "But if you do come up and I'm asleep, promise you'll wake me? I'd hate to miss you."
Draco smiled at that, and nodded at Harry before standing up and leaving the bedroom. Harry gazed at the door long after Draco's elegant dark grey robes had swished through it, before setting down his coffee cup and going back to sleep.
"Professor Malfoy, please may I go to the toilet?"
Draco stared at the speaker, a blonde-haired third-year Ravenclaw girl. His day until now hadn't been as horrible as he'd feared: it had started with second-year Slytherins and Hufflepuffs, who were no trouble at all, and continued with fourth-year Gryffindors and Ravenclaws. That class, which was a bit more boisterous but still not difficult, had included James Potter, who was a lot quieter than Draco had expected, although he'd asked some intelligent questions. After break he'd met the seventh-year NEWT group, whose members had impressed him with their knowledge and willingness to learn more; the sixth-year NEWT group, which had followed them, wasn't quite as satisfying to teach, but Draco reckoned they'd improve as they got more used to the NEWT-level way of thinking.
He'd had every intention of going to see Harry at lunchtime – the memory of the man's bare torso had made him smile to himself more than once during the morning – but, by the time he'd put away the materials from his morning lessons and got out the necessary items for his afternoon lessons, he realised that he only just had time to actually eat. He dashed to the Great Hall and bolted down a plate of pasta and a couple of slices of parkin, deciding to take his glass of water back to the DADA classroom with him so that he could gather his wits before the next class arrived.
The first-years (Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, including the Weasley boy) had been lovely; they were really cute, in fact, although Draco decided that he probably wouldn't be repeating that thought to anyone else. He'd been lulled into a false sense of security, in fact, just in time for his last lesson of the day: the current nightmare, also known as third-year Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.
"No, Miss Davies, you may not go to the toilet," said Draco. "There are only fifteen minutes left of the lesson, and you are old enough to be able to hold it in for that long, I'm sure."
"But, sir! That's not fair! You let Caroline go. And Elizabeth. And Michael." The girl glared at Draco balefully. This, it turned out, was just what Draco needed to regain control: by reflex, he glared back, and the full force of his glare caused her to twitch slightly.
"I did indeed," he admitted. In hindsight, he bitterly regretted saying yes to any of them, not that he was about to say so. He'd been so surprised by the first request – he didn't recall any student ever asking to go to the toilet during a lesson when he'd been at school, let alone during his Beauxbatons career – that he'd agreed to it without thinking of the possible consequences. When the second girl had asked, he'd been about to refuse before it occurred to him that it wasn't very fair to say yes to one and not the other. He'd been determined not to allow any more, but then a boy had asked, and Draco had been suddenly alarmed at the thought of being accused of sexism. But he'd had enough by the time Amy Davies decided to jump on the bandwagon. "However, I will not be allowing anyone else to go to the toilet today. There are, as I just mentioned, only fifteen minutes left of the lesson. Your bladders should all be competent enough to cope for fifteen minutes. If they are not, I suggest you go and visit the hospital wing this evening for advice." He was slightly gratified to see Rose Weasley, one of the few members of the class who hadn't done anything to worsen his headache, smirk slightly at this.
"And what if I wet my knickers?" asked Amy, sullenly.
"Then I will, of course, apologise profusely and summon a house-elf to assist with the cleaning up," said Draco, only slightly sarcastically. "In the meantime, perhaps you would humour me by attempting to answer the question under discussion: what is the best way to deal with a grindylow?"
Harry was tucking into a plate of scones when Draco finally came back to the room, just after five o'clock. He had just crammed more than half a scone into his mouth when the door opened, and he nearly choked on it at the sight of Draco. The self-assured elegance that had been visible when the man had left that morning was no longer quite as prominent: Draco definitely looked frazzled. Although his robes were still perfectly crease-free, a couple of strands of his hair were slightly astray, and each of his cheeks featured a small red glow. The hand that was holding his satchel was white-knuckled, and the other was clenched into a fist at his side.
"What happened?" asked Harry, as Draco slumped down beside him on the sofa. Draco rested the back of his head on the sofa and stared into mid-air.
"Bloody kids," he said with a sigh. "Third-years, to be exact. The rest were all OK, actually, but that lot I had last lesson..." He sighed again.
"Rosie's class? Oh," said Harry. "There are a few kids in that group that always seem to be challenging me with their eyes, but they've never done anything I could pull them up on."
"So I take it none of them have ever asked to go to the toilet during a lesson, then?" said Draco.
Harry was taken aback. "During a lesson? No," he said. "Really? That's what's got you this annoyed?"
Draco turned his head and glared at him. "That, and the fact that I'm an idiot," he said bitterly, and went on to describe his toilet-related nightmare.
Harry felt ridiculously guilty that none of the kids had ever tried that on him, but decided it wouldn't help to say so. "I wouldn't worry too much," he said. "And I wouldn't take it personally. I know you're thinking that they only tried it because of who you are, but I think it's because you're a supply teacher. For all the reasons you explained to me yesterday, remember? And the worst is over now. If anyone else tries the toilet idea, you'll be ready with a response rather than being taken by surprise. And you said all the other classes were fine, right?"
Draco looked at him for a moment, then exhaled heavily. "They were," he admitted. "I actually really enjoyed most of them. It was just those damn third-years. And bloody hell, I just remembered – I get the other half of the third year first thing tomorrow. Kill me now."
"That class has your son in it, though, remember," said Harry, trying not to grin at Draco-the-drama-queen. "And my son, for that matter. I'm sure the pair of them will keep the rest in line."
"I'd like to think so, but I obviously don't know Scorpius as well as I thought I did," said Draco. "I might find it hard to concentrate in that lesson, actually. I'll be trying too hard not to stare at them. I've seen them at meals since you told me about their relationship, of course, but tomorrow will be the first time I get to watch them close up and try and spot clues I've missed in the past. How could I not have known they're together?"
"Well, I didn't know either," Harry pointed out reasonably. "And I'm just as upset as you are. No, not because he's with Scorpius," he added quickly when Draco's eyes flashed hurt, "but because I thought he would have told me about something so important."
"I know," said Draco, sounding defeated. "But I think we both know the reason they didn't, don't we? I'm almost positive it's to do with what we discussed the other day. At least, I hope that's the only reason."
"Agreed," said Harry, "because, if it is, we can reassure them that we're friends now."
Draco looked at him, and his face broke into a delighted smile. "I'm so pleased to hear you say that," he said.
Harry was puzzled. "Why? We are, aren't we? Friends, I mean?"
"Well, yes, I definitely feel as if we are," said Draco, "but it seemed a bit presumptuous of me to actually call you a friend, when we've only been like this for three days."
"Hmm, when you put it like that it does seem a bit soon, I suppose," said Harry. "But those three days have been very intense, remember, and we've been together almost nonstop. And it's not as if we only met three days ago. Anyway, the only part that matters is this: you feel like a friend to me now, and you just said that I feel like a friend to you, so it's all fine. How we used to feel is irrelevant."
Draco grinned. "Alright then, friend," he said, and held out his hand. Harry shook it, chuckling, and they sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes.
"You had James this morning, didn't you?" said Harry eventually. "How was he?"
"He was a bit of a star, actually," said Draco. "He asked some very good questions, including one I'd never even thought about before."
"What was that?" asked Harry.
"Well, you know we're covering all the different ways in which objects can be cursed," said Draco, and Harry nodded. "James wanted to know whether there's any way in which you can tell if an object was created by a curse. You know, like in the Gringotts vaults where they protect stuff with the Gemino Curse. Once the curse has been triggered, how do you know which is the original item?"
"Huh," said Harry. "I've never thought about that, either. Which is odd, considering I've actually been in a Gringotts vault where I triggered that curse. Mind you, on that occasion I was only looking for one specific item, and I kept hold of it after the curse on it was triggered, so I knew it was the original."
"I'd forgotten about that," said Draco. "Yes, of course I knew about you robbing Gringotts, you idiot; it was in Skeeter's book," he added, when Harry looked at him in surprise. "That was always Scorpius's favourite part of the whole story when I used to tell it to him when he was little."
"You... used me as a bedtime story?" Harry asked, unsure how he felt about this.
Draco smiled. "Well, it's a better bedtime story than what I did in the war," he said ruefully. "And it's a better bedtime story than the one I had growing up. You were the star of that one, too, but I always wanted to know how it ended and I hated that they wouldn't tell me. It wasn't until I was a bit older that I realised they just didn't know. And then I met you, and the rest is history, as they say. Except it really is history, in this case."
"I knew that people used to tell their kids about me, but for some reason it never occurred to me that they probably still do," admitted Harry. "I think I'd vaguely assumed that if people talk about me, it's people my age. Or older. D'you think it's strange that I'm a bit freaked out?"
"Not really," said Draco. "Everything about your life is a bit freaky, after all. You freak." He smirked, and Harry instantly felt better, for some reason.
"I can't help wondering, though," he said. "I hope you don't mind me asking, but... what did you tell Scorpius about your part in the story?"
"The truth, of course," said Draco. "And no, I don't mind you asking. It was awkward, though. I wanted him to understand the mistakes I'd made and the reasons why I made them, and that I'm sorry for them, but of course I didn't want him getting the idea that I'm a terrible person. Because I don't think I am, any more, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to convince him of that."
"I don't think you were ever a terrible person, actually," said Harry. "You were a child, under a huge amount of pressure and with hardly any support. Anyone might have done the same as you, under those circumstances."
"I don't think you would," said Draco. "But I suspect you're one of a kind. Thank you for saying that, though. I do appreciate it."
Harry smiled at him, deciding that arguing the last point wouldn't help. "So how did you manage to tell Scorpius the story without him getting the wrong idea about you, then?"
"It was easy, actually, although it was only by accident that I did it this way. When I started telling him this story, he was very young, so I always started with 'once upon a time' and didn't make it clear that it was a true story that involved people he actually knew. So, by the time he realised that I was talking about myself and his grandparents, I'd been able to include all the details that explained why we did such bad things, and he had some sympathy. He still liked you better, though. Who wouldn't? And when I did finally make clear to him exactly who all the characters were, he went quiet for a few minutes, and then he hugged me and said 'Dad, I wish you hadn't had such a horrible time when you were younger. But I'm glad things are better for you now.'" Draco had a tear in his eye, which Harry decided not to notice.
"He's a great kid," he said instead.
"He is," said Draco. "Oh, and remind me to tell you, another time, the full story of how excited he was when we saw you at King's Cross the first time he went to Hogwarts. We had to go and stand at the far end of the platform for ten minutes before he could calm down enough to keep his face under control when you walked towards us." He chuckled at the thought.
"That wasn't why he made friends with Albus, was it?" asked Harry, suddenly worried.
"No, he met Albus on the train, but they only introduced themselves by their first names," said Draco, who had worried about the very same thing when Scorpius had first mentioned his new friend. "They only found out each other's surnames when they were being Sorted, and Scorpius said they were both a bit taken aback, but they already felt like friends by then, and when they both ended up in Slytherin that just reinforced it. He admitted to Albus that first day how much he'd always idolised you, but Albus apparently just laughed and said that it was fine as long as he didn't start sending you love letters."
"I've never seen any sign of Scorpius being in awe of me, you know," said Harry, amused. "I'm starting to realise that he's clearly a fantastic actor. First him and Albus, now this!"
"Scorpius is, of course, fantastic at everything," said Draco, keeping a perfectly straight face for several seconds before breaking into a grin.
"I don't doubt it," said Harry, grinning back at him. "And, going back to what I was saying before, I'm sure those third-years will be perfectly behaved in the morning. Albus and Scorpius will lead the way, and the rest won't dare not to follow their lead."
Three days later, Draco was much more relaxed. He'd met all his classes at least once by then, and there had been no further problems. The Gryffindor/Slytherin half of the third year had been the most attentive of all the groups, and if this was due to the influence of Albus and Scorpius then Draco certainly wasn't complaining. Even the Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff half of the year, when they'd turned up for their second DADA lesson of the week that morning, had behaved acceptably.
Draco and Harry had continued to share the bed each night, but there had been no physical contact between them. From the number of times that Draco had caught Harry staring at him, though, he was hopeful that it was only a matter of time before the right moment presented itself. Hopeful in both senses of the word, in fact, because it was being increasingly difficult to find opportunities to wank. (Draco had actually been forced to restrict the number of times he stared at Harry, in an effort to mitigate this problem.)
Now, though, it was Thursday teatime: Draco had just returned to Harry's quarters after his day's teaching, and Ginny was due to appear in half an hour's time. Harry was a bundle of nerves and was pacing round the room; Draco opted to add some calm to the atmosphere by sitting on the sofa. Before he did, though, he reached into his pocket and handed Harry's wedding ring to him.
"I think it would be best if you put this back on, just for the moment," he said carefully.
Harry took the ring and stared at it. "Where... How did you get this?"
"You threw it across the room at the weekend, remember? I picked it up afterwards, because I figured you'd need it, but I didn't want to mention it until I had to, in case it upset you. If you don't have it on when the kids see you, though, one of them's bound to notice straight away, before you can even start to explain. My money's on Lily."
Harry held the ring on the palm of his hand, as if weighing it, then exhaled and put it on. "It feels weird," he said, gazing at his finger.
"Well, it will," said Draco. "But you can always take it off again later tonight if you want to. I just think it might make things more awkward if you don't wear it until then."
"You're right, of course," said Harry. "Thank you for thinking of that. Now, what time did I tell the kids to come up? I forget."
"Quarter to six," said Draco. "I haven't told you how I got the message to James, have I?" He grinned.
"I presumed you'd just give my note to him at lunchtime or something," said Harry. "What did you do instead?"
"I was going to do that, but I had a better idea while I was planning my lessons," said Draco. "I had the fourth-year Gryffindors and Ravenclaws just before lunch today, and the lesson just happened to be about how to determine whether or not a note was genuinely from who it appeared to be from. So I used your note as an example, saying that it appeared to be a note from you to your son, but that people have often forged your writing in the past – I don't know if that's actually true, but they all seemed to believe me – and they needed to test it before James could open it, because it might be cursed. They got quite excited, I must say. They seemed almost disappointed when they finally established that it was from you."
"They didn't all read it, did they?" asked Harry, alarmed.
"No, of course not," said Draco. "I was keeping a very careful eye on it, just in case, but none of them even tried. I'd be interested to know whether or not they would have given it a go if James hadn't been sitting right there, mind you. Anyway, when he did finally read it he looked at me and nodded. He'll bring the others on time, don't worry."
At that very moment, there was a knock on the door, and Draco went to open it.
"Come in, you three," he said. "Scorpius! I shouldn't be surprised to see you as well, I suppose, but I'm afraid you can't come in. Harry needs to speak to his children alone. But if you just wait out there for a minute while I get my cloak, I'll take you out for tea – how does that sound?"
"That sounds great, Dad," said Scorpius, standing back obediently as James, Albus and Lily rushed past him. Draco definitely noticed – but only because he was watching out for it – the way Scorpius briefly gripped Albus's hand as they passed each other; he thought he'd also seen Scorpius raise his eyebrows at Draco's use of Harry's first name, but the movement had only lasted for a split second, so it could have been just a twitch.
Draco closed the door on his son and turned back into the room to find Harry attempting to hug all three of his children at once.
"I've missed you so much," he was saying.
"Hey, Dad! Why does it take pirates so long to learn the alphabet?" said Lily.
Draco grinned, delighted. Harry merely looked puzzled. "I don't know – why does it take pirates so long to learn the alphabet?" he said.
"Because they can spend years at C!" said Lily, collapsing into giggles. "But that's not even the best one. Why are pirates called pirates?"
"Because they ARRRR," chorused James and Albus.
Harry burst out laughing. "What's with all the pirate jokes?" he asked.
"Today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day!" said Lily. "Professor Malfoy told us about it this morning. I thought he'd made it up, but I asked Albus afterwards and he said it's real. Isn't it brilliant?"
Harry grinned at Draco, who shrugged his shoulders. "Listen, you three," said Harry. "Your mum'll be Portkeying in any minute now, so just sit down and I'll join you in a second. I just want to have a word with Professor Malfoy before he leaves us. No, not leaves us, leaves us," he added hastily, as Albus started to form a question. "I just mean he's kindly agreed to go out for the evening so that we can have our family meeting without having to move."
Draco took his cloak from the back of the door and put it on as Harry came over to him. "Listen, thank you," said Harry quietly. "For everything. Especially for making my kids happy. That's an unexpected bonus."
"Well, I didn't do it just for them, but you're welcome," said Draco, smiling. "Now, you listen. I know that this evening will be difficult, and I want to help however I can. I'll stay out for at least three hours, but if you need me sooner than that then just send an owl and I'll come straight back."
"OK, thanks," said Harry. "And did I hear you say you're taking Scorpius out now? I think it'd probably be a good idea if you told him what's going on while you're at it. Albus will want to if you don't, so it'd be nice if he didn't have to go through it all again."
"Fair enough," said Draco. "I think I'll also tell him about us being friends, if that's OK – maybe he'll finally tell me about his relationship with Albus."
"Hopefully the way we behaved together just now will have reassured them all that we're fine with each other," said Harry. "Scorpius didn't see that, though, did he? But Albus did, and I could see his mind whirring, so that's close enough. Anyway, tell him whatever you like, but obviously I'd appreciate it if you could ask him to keep the news about the divorce to himself until we make a proper announcement. We'll probably sort all that out tonight. I hope so, at least."
"I hope so too," said Draco. "Good luck. And stay strong." He shook hands with Harry – he'd briefly considered going for a hug, but decided that this was not the moment for confusing relationship increments – and stepped outside, closing the door behind him.
Scorpius, who was leaning against the opposite wall, looked at him questioningly. "Come on," said Draco. "I've got lots to tell you."
Draco and Scorpius were enjoying their dessert (they'd both opted for tiramisu) when the waiter came to their table with a piece of parchment.
"An owl for Master Scorpius Malfoy," he intoned.
Scorpius thanked him and read the message before handing it to Draco.
Where are you? When are you coming back? I need you. Love you. Al.
Draco tried not to, but he couldn't help it: his face broke into a huge soppy grin. He looked up at his son, who was blushing but looked an odd mixture of delighted and slightly worried.
"Scorpius, I am so pleased that you have someone like this in your life," he said. "I really am. And I'm even more pleased that you've finally told me about him. Don't worry, I do understand why you didn't before."
Scorpius beamed, looking very relieved. "I'm so glad I don't have to keep it a secret any more," he said. "I would have told you the truth if you'd asked, though – you do know that, don't you?"
"Of course I do," said Draco reassuringly. "Now, you'd better finish your dessert so we can get back. Would you do one thing for me, though, when you reply to him?"
"Don't worry, I can guess what you want to ask," said Scorpius. He switched his spoon to his left hand so that he could eat while scribbling a note. Draco was about to reprimand him for these appalling table manners, but then he remembered that he did want to get back to the castle as soon as possible, and started to speed up his own tiramisu consumption. He'd just cleared his plate when Scorpius handed him the note.
We're in that new Italian restaurant in Hogsmeade. Just finished eating. We can come back right now. Are you all still in your dad's quarters? Is everyone OK? My dad especially wants to know if your dad's OK. By the way I told him about us. Love you too. Score.
Draco stared at his son, momentarily speechless. He handed the note back and watched as Scorpius summoned the waiter and asked him to owl it immediately; when he went on to ask for the bill, the waiter glanced at Draco, who shook himself and nodded. It wasn't until the bill had been brought to the table that Draco finally spoke.
"How did you know?" he asked.
"What, that you fancy Mr Potter?" said Scorpius. "Please. I guessed as soon as you started telling me about what good friends the two of you are now, and when I started listening to you with that idea in my mind it was fairly obvious that I was right."
Draco was mortified. Did that mean everyone knew? Wait – had he actually talked about Harry to anyone other than Scorpius? He rapidly scanned his memory and decided that he hadn't. And certainly no-one had seen him with Harry, other than the Potter children. He relaxed slightly, at which point he noticed that Scorpius was smirking at him, damn the boy.
"Oh, stop looking so pleased with yourself," said Draco, but he couldn't help smiling. "It's not quite as simple as that. Yes, I do fancy him, but I would be eternally grateful if you could keep that to yourself. Even from Albus, if at all possible. I'm sure he'd feel duty-bound to tell his father and, since I don't know for sure what Harry's feelings are on the matter, it would complicate things to bring it into the open."
"But... aren't you going to do anything about it?" asked Scorpius, looking suddenly confused.
"Eventually, probably, yes," said Draco. "But Harry's got enough to deal with at the moment. I think what he needs at the moment is a friend, and I'm happy to be that, if I can. Anything else can wait."
Scorpius stood up, pulled Draco up out of his seat, and flung his arms round him. Draco, startled but happy, gripped his son tightly for a minute, before kissing him on the forehead. Scorpius hugged him once more, briefly, as he gestured to the waiter that they were ready to settle the bill. When the man came over, he had another piece of parchment.
I'm in dad's room. Everyone else is gone. Will explain when you get here. Please come straight up. Both of you. Al.
Draco looked worriedly at Scorpius after they'd both read this.
"He didn't answer the question," said Scorpius. "I think we'd better hurry."
Draco decided that it would be polite to knock before entering Harry's quarters, whether or not Albus was alone in there. The door was flung open instantly, and a slightly-wild-looking Albus pulled Scorpius inside without a word. Draco followed, closing the door behind him. He watched, feeling slightly out of place, as the boys hugged each other tightly. Albus was the one to break the hug; he pulled away slightly, gave Scorpius a quick peck on the lips, then looked at Draco, blushing slightly, with one arm still round Scorpius's shoulders.
"Albus, I'd like to thank you, very belatedly, for making my son as happy as he obviously is," said Draco. "I am thrilled that you have each other. But we're both sorry about what's happening with your family. How are you feeling?"
Albus sank onto the sofa, pulling Scorpius down with him. Draco sat opposite them in the armchair, feeling very intrusive. He was desperate to ask about Harry, but restrained himself for the moment: Albus was important too.
"I'm fine," said Albus. Scorpius turned to look at him searchingly, and Albus flashed him a crooked smile and pulled him a little closer. "I am, really. We've all known for ages that something wasn't right, and James was so worried that he even tried to speak to Dad about it. I didn't know till tonight that James knew Mum was with Dean, though. It was all a bit of a shock at first when Mum and Dad said they're really getting divorced, but then I realised that nothing will really change all that much from our point of view, other than that they'll both be much happier. At least, I hope they will."
"That's a very sensible way of looking at it," said Draco. "Are the others as calm as you?"
"James is calmer – in fact, I think he's actually pleased," said Albus. "I suspect this is what he's been hoping would happen. He's glad it's finally sorted out. Lily and Hugo were a bit upset at first, but James explained to them that it would be better this way, and they're both OK now. And Rose says she'd seen Mum with Dean a few times and had guessed something was going on, but didn't like to say."
"Wait – Rose and Hugo know?" said Draco.
"Yeah. Dad said we'd better go and tell them while he and Mum went to tell Uncle Ron and Auntie Hermione. He told me that he'd asked you to tell Score, so I came back here to wait for you. He said to tell you that he'll be back as soon as he can, but definitely tonight."
"You didn't answer Dad's question, in the note," murmured Scorpius.
Albus flushed slightly. "I know," he said apologetically. "I thought it'd be easier just to tell you when you got here."
"I take it the answer isn't 'he's fine', then?" asked Draco, more calmly than he was feeling.
Albus sighed. "I don't think he is, no," he confessed. "He did smile a few times while he was telling us – he did most of the talking – but I think he was forcing himself. He had a look in his eyes that I don't know how to describe – I've never seen it before, but he definitely didn't look happy. And Mum seemed fine, but I think she was worried about Dad. She even came over to me and James, while Dad was hugging Lily goodbye, and asked us to keep an eye on him while he's here. We told her about you being here, but I don't think she was too impressed at that. Sorry."
"Don't worry, I don't suppose she's had any reason to change her lifelong opinion of me," said Draco. "Maybe she will, if she gets to know me. Which is more likely now that I'm practically your father-in-law." He grinned at Albus's blush. "Sorry, I couldn't resist. At least now I know about you. I take it your parents still don't?"
"They do now," said Albus. "Dad asked me point blank whether Score and I are more than just friends – he saw us holding hands tonight, before you went out. So I told him the truth. James and Lily already knew, but Mum looked a bit cross. I think she was about to make a fuss, till Dad said something to her. And then he started talking about them getting divorced, and my love life wasn't mentioned again." He sounded a bit uncertain.
"I'm sure your dad's happy about it, you know," said Draco. "I do understand why neither of you felt you could tell us before now, and I think he'll understand that too. All he'll be bothered about is whether you're happy, and you obviously are."
Albus beamed at him. "I am," he said simply. "It's only my dad that's not, and hopefully he'll get there soon."
It was almost midnight when Harry finally returned, and Draco would have had trouble staying awake if he hadn't been so worried. He was just wondering whether or not it was worth sending an owl when Harry stumbled out of the fireplace.
Draco had thought Harry had looked ill when he'd first seen him on Saturday, but this was worse. The preternatural paleness was again present, except that now there were also mottled pink areas on Harry's neck; these drew Draco's attention to a vein there, which appeared to be throbbing. As if that wasn't enough, he seemed to be breathing too quickly, and his hands were trembling: this was particularly noticeable because Harry had again removed his wedding ring, and was fidgeting with it.
Draco leapt out of the armchair and approached the fireplace, where Harry was still standing, looking lost. "How are you feeling?" Draco asked.
Harry looked up at him for the first time, and put his wedding ring on the mantelpiece. "I'll survive," he said. "Good news, though. I've just been to see McGonagall and explained what's happened. She's agreed to keep you on for the next week, even though I'll now be here too. I suggested to her that we could spend the week on duelling techniques – they're much easier to teach if there are two teachers together. So you needn't worry about the money – you'll get paid what she originally promised you."
Draco blinked. "That's great, but it's not exactly important right now," he said gently. "I want to know how you are. You look terrible. If you don't want to talk about it yet, I can understand that, but I'm here and I want to help however I can."
Harry sighed. "There's one thing I didn't tell McGonagall, you know," he said. "My main argument for you staying was that it'll be good for the kids to have a week of team teaching, and I really believe it will. I also told her why you really need the money – I hope that's OK, I know she'll keep it to herself. But I didn't tell her the main reason I want you to stay: I don't want to be alone."
Draco could resist it no longer: he stepped forward and took Harry into his arms. After a moment, Harry lifted his arms and wrapped them round Draco's back, and they just stood there; Draco was very slightly taller, and Harry's bowed head fitted perfectly into the crook of his neck, while Draco ran his fingers soothingly through Harry's hair.
Finally getting to hold Harry was the best feeling Draco thought he'd ever experienced; at least, he couldn't think of anything else he'd enjoyed more. He decided that if this was as far as he ever got with Harry, he'd be fine with that: how could anything be better than this? He would quite happily have stood there for days, but then he felt wetness on his skin: Harry was crying silently.
Draco tightened his hug. "Let it all out," he murmured into Harry's hair. "I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere." Harry didn't say anything, but Draco felt the man's body shaking with quiet sobs. He began rubbing reassuring circles with the hand he had on Harry's back.
It seemed like hours later when Harry finally lifted his head and fixed red-rimmed eyes on Draco. "Thank you," he said, a little hoarsely. "I think that was just what I needed. I feel totally pathetic, though – I'm not even sure why I'm crying."
"Anyone would cry if their marriage had just ended," said Draco, continuing to rub Harry's back, but removing his hand from Harry's hair and using it to wipe the tears from the man's face. "I did, and mine was only an arranged marriage that ended with no trauma. You've got much more reason to cry. I'd be more worried if you didn't cry."
"I don't think I'm crying just because of that, though," said Harry, closing his eyes. "I'm just... I feel like such a failure at life. And I feel so tired."
"Since the world would be a much worse place if you hadn't done what you've done, you can hardly be considered a failure at life," Draco pointed out. "But I realise that it's not always easy to convince your own brain of what's obvious to everyone else. However, the tiredness is a bit easier to deal with. It's very late. Shall we try and get some sleep?"
Harry opened his eyes. The greenness of them suddenly seemed so intense that Draco felt a little unsteady. "I think that's a good idea," Harry said. "But... can I ask a favour?"
"Anything," said Draco.
"Could you... Would it be alright if we tried to sleep like we are now?"
Draco was puzzled. "You mean, standing up?"
Harry laughed nervously. "No! I meant... you know, with you holding me. It feels really good, and I think I might be able to sleep like that. And I never have fallen asleep in someone's arms, and I've always wanted to."
Draco's heart couldn't decide whether to melt at this, or to jump out of his chest with excitement. "There's nothing I'd like better," he said, smiling. "Would you feel more comfortable if we kept our clothes on, though? I'm happy either way – it's entirely up to you."
Harry blushed. "I'd quite like it if we were naked," he whispered.
Draco stared at him for a moment, then he smiled and took Harry's hand to lead him into the bedroom, extinguishing the living room lights as he did so. When he finally let go of Harry, for the first time in almost an hour, the sense of loss was startling. It was insignificant, however, compared to the sense of wonder that he felt as he stood in front of Harry and began to strip, keeping his eyes fixed on Harry the whole time.
Harry's face was crimson – Draco was pleased to note that at least he no longer looked like death warmed up – but, to his credit, he didn't look away, staring as Draco removed each item. It was only when Draco stepped out of his black boxer briefs and stood there naked, trying not to feel self-conscious at the fact that his cock was fully erect, that Harry started to remove his own clothes, his eyes continually returning to Draco's cock as he did so.
Draco was considerably encouraged by the fact that Harry didn't seem to have been deterred by his erection, but he couldn't stop his jaw dropping when Harry took off his jeans and it became obvious that he was just as hard as Draco. By the time Harry pulled off his own underwear, Draco no longer felt guilty for staring: all his thoughts were occupied by Harry's cock. It was even more impressive than he'd dreamed. That trail of hair leading down Harry's belly had featured in many of Draco's daydreams since he'd seen it, so he felt as if he'd reached the end of a treasure hunt now he'd finally seen what it led to. It widened significantly as it got lower, culminating in a fairly small rectangular patch of black hair, from which Harry's larger-than-expected cock strained upwards, reaching slightly higher than his belly button. The various veins on the underside were prominent, and the largest of them ended just above Harry's balls.
Harry smiled shyly as they both gazed at each other, and Draco had to remind himself that this did not necessarily mean that Harry was ready to be ravished to within an inch of his life. "Bedtime," he said. He pulled back the duvet and got into bed, holding his arms open in invitation. Harry didn't hesitate: within seconds he was lying next to Draco and covering them both with the duvet.
"How d'you want to do this?" asked Draco. "Spooning, or face to face?"
Harry laughed nervously. "Erm, both sound amazing," he admitted. "But can we start like we were before? Face to face?"
Draco reached out wordlessly and pulled Harry towards him, wrapping his arms tightly round him before releasing one of his hands to play with Harry's hair. Their cocks pressed against each other as they settled into a comfortable entwined position, and they both jumped slightly at the initial sensation but then relaxed. "How does that feel?" Draco asked, hoping it was as overwhelming for Harry as it was for him.
"It's... a bit mindblowing, actually," said Harry. "But in a very, very good way. Thank you. And thank you for not making it awkward. I feel as if it should be awkward, but actually I don't think I've ever felt more comfortable." He yawned.
"Well, it does feel pretty good for me, too, you know," said Draco. "I'm not being entirely altruistic. But the most important thing right now is for you to get some sleep. D'you think you'll be able to?"
There was no answer apart from a very slight snore. Draco congratulated himself on a job well done, and was asleep himself within minutes.
When Harry woke up, he found that his wish had come true, because he had turned round in his sleep and was now enfolded in Draco's arms from behind. He lay there and decided to allow himself to just enjoy the feeling, for a little while at least. He was amazed at his own daring for asking for this; despite being, he was forced to admit, generally thought of as one of the bravest people in the world, Harry didn't think of himself as brave. He suspected that he would never have summoned the nerve to ask Draco to hold him in bed if he hadn't been in such a state after spending the evening doing the rounds with Ginny.
Telling the kids hadn't been as traumatic as he'd expected: he'd been surprised, in fact, at how unshocked they'd seemed. James had even said "well done" to him when he'd hugged him goodnight. Breaking the news to Ron and Hermione hadn't even been all that bad; he'd got the definite impression that they'd been expecting this to happen at some point and were relieved that it finally had. Arthur and Molly had asked lots of questions, trying to satisfy themselves that all the options had been considered and there was no other way forward, but eventually they'd just said that of course they'd be happy to help however they could, and that they still thought of Harry as a son. It was hugging Molly, actually, that had really made him start to feel on the verge of breaking down totally; they'd all ended up in tears, and Ginny had suggested that they go home for a bit to calm down before their last visit of the evening: to Diagon Alley, to give a statement to the Daily Prophet and visit a solicitor to start the formal divorce proceedings.
He'd managed to remain stoic while answering the reporter's and solicitor's questions, but the few minutes they'd spent at home were whirling round inside his head. He'd been startled at how out of place he'd suddenly felt in the house where he'd lived for twenty years, and Ginny had seemed lost for words; they'd both just stood there for ages, until eventually Harry had gone to wash his face. When he returned, Ginny just said "Ready?" and Harry had nodded, before taking her arm to Apparate them both to the Prophet office in Diagon Alley, where Ginny's boss was waiting for them.
By the time he'd said an awkward goodbye to Ginny and owled McGonagall prior to returning to Hogwarts via the fireplace in her office, Harry's head had been spinning as the realisation sank in that, in the morning, the failure of his marriage would be common knowledge. His reason for seeing McGonagall had initially been to give her the courtesy of a heads-up, but somehow he'd found himself talking at length about the need to keep Draco at Hogwarts. He suspected he'd babbled a bit, but McGonagall had just gazed at him sympathetically and told him to come to her if he needed any help, before agreeing to his suggestion.
Harry shifted slightly, and was thrilled when Draco tightened his hold on him in his sleep. He was feeling a little light-headed at both the sensation of being held by strong arms – he'd never felt so safe before – and the growing realisation that he wanted Draco, physically, more than he'd ever wanted anyone. He assumed that this meant he was gay, or at least bisexual; he tried out both labels in his mind before deciding that it didn't really matter. After all, if he'd been asked a week earlier, he'd have said he was heterosexual without a second thought, whereas in hindsight he'd actually been closer to asexual than anything else. Until he'd seen Draco, at least. Maybe the best label was Dracosexual, in fact. He smiled to himself at the thought.
His main worry was that Draco might not feel the same way. Harry thought he did – the way Draco looked at him, and some of the things he'd said, were very reassuring – but Harry was all too aware that he couldn't trust himself to interpret other people's feelings accurately, after what had happened with Ginny. He decided that, if at all possible, he would wait for Draco to make the first move. And if he never did... well, they'd already graduated to sleeping naked together, so hopefully they could keep doing that at least; that would be a pretty good result, to Harry's way of thinking.
Draco shifted in his sleep, and Harry was suddenly very conscious of the cock pressed into his arse crack. Had Draco been that hard all night? Surely that was impossible! Regardless, it was another encouraging sign. Harry moved his arse slightly, wanting to feel some friction against that cock; he nearly jumped out of his skin when Draco spoke.
"Good morning. I was about to ask how you're feeling, but actually you're feeling pretty good to me, if you'll pardon the pun."
Harry felt himself blush, but turned to face Draco anyway. "I feel much better, thank you," he said. He'd forgotten how beautiful Draco's eyes were; it would be easy to get lost in them, he thought. "Emotionally, that is. Physically, I feel incredible. I really enjoyed waking up with your arms round me."
"I meant to ask you about that, actually," said Draco, yawning. "You said last night that you'd never fallen asleep in someone's arms before. I know you said you and Ginny never did much in bed even at the start of your marriage, but I was surprised you never did that. How come, if you wanted to?"
"I suppose, when we were first married, we did often go to sleep with me holding her," said Harry, thoughtfully. "But that's not quite the same thing. What I liked last night was that you were holding me. Ginny never did that, and it seemed like such a silly thing for me to want that I never asked her. We just got into a routine where she'd always lie down with her back to me and I'd spoon up to her. And then, of course, we eventually stopped going to bed at the same time, and although we still slept in the same bed we'd stay on separate sides."
"Right," said Draco. "And, of course, you wouldn't have been held as a child, would you? I can see why it's something that would mean a lot to you. It's not a silly thing at all. Well, I'm sorry you got to such an advanced age before you got to do it, but I'm very glad that it was me that got to make your wish come true." His arms had been resting loosely on Harry's shoulders, but now he pulled Harry closer to him and gave him a tight hug.
Harry's cock, which had been half-hard ever since he'd woken up, became significantly more interested in proceedings when it was suddenly pressed against Draco's. Draco laughed. "That's reassuring," he said. "I wasn't sure how comfortable you'd be with this – I know it was you that suggested it, but you weren't exactly thinking calmly last night – but your cock certainly seems to be happy with the situation."
Harry was mortified, but decided that he'd never forgive himself if he didn't take advantage of this opening. "It is," he said. "I am, too. Very happy, in fact. But... Look, this is really hard for me to say." Draco laughed out loud, startling Harry until he realised what he'd said. "Oh my God, are you twelve?"
"Sorry," said Draco, grinning. "I'll behave. And I won't interrupt. Do go on."
Harry shook his head, but couldn't help smiling. The interruption had actually relaxed him, he found. "The thing is... I definitely want you to be here. I've really enjoyed all the time we've spent together, and I feel as if I could talk to you about anything. Whatever else happens, I don't want to lose that. I want you as a friend. But... I think I want more. I haven't been able to stop thinking about your body ever since... well, ever since that day when you saw me coming out of the shower. And now that I've finally touched you... your skin feels so perfect that I just want to run my fingers all over it forever. But... although I think it's because it's you, I want to be absolutely sure that it's not just because I haven't been physically intimate with anyone in years and my body's just getting carried away with the excitement of it and I'd have reacted the same way to anyone good-looking that I'd spent the same amount of time with. So, although I definitely want more – a lot more – I also don't want to go too fast, just to be sure. Does that make any sense?"
"It makes a lot of sense," said Draco. "And it also makes me very happy. I don't know whether this will help or not, but just to avoid any unnecessary doubt I'll say it: I definitely do want you in any way that I can have you. You can, hopefully, tell from the state of my cock what my body thinks of yours – and no, I don't usually wake up this hard. I want to hold you, and kiss you, and touch you, and taste you, and fuck you, and I want you to do all those things to me, and I've wanted all that for days – long before I had any idea that you might want me. But if you decide that's not what you want, being friends with you would still make me happy. Take as long as you like to decide, and I promise not to put any pressure on you in the meantime, but you can make your decision with the knowledge that I'm not going to be saying no to anything you suggest, unless it's that we never see each other again. Does that help?"
Harry beamed at him. "You're just too good to be true," he said. Then he laughed. "Huh. That reminds me of my uncle's favourite song. Hadn't thought of that in years. It's a great song, which is odd considering he had so little taste. Anyway, thank you. How do you always know exactly the right things to say to make me feel better? You're brilliant."
"I try," said Draco, smiling. "But I meant every word. Now, much as I'd like to stay here forever, it's almost time for breakfast, so I'd better get up. I presume you're going to rejoin the rest of the school at some point – will today be the day?"
Harry winced. "I don't think I can face them just yet," he said. "Especially as the news will be in the Prophet today, so everyone will be talking about it. I always used to hate being at breakfast on days when there was a story about me in the paper, and this story's much more embarrassing than all the others. Also, I think McGonagall's going to announce something about me coming back early, and I think I'd rather not be there for that. But I'll aim to go to breakfast tomorrow – how's that?"
"We'll go together," promised Draco. "I'll just jump in the shower, then. But first... I know I said I wouldn't put any pressure on you, but I'm hoping this doesn't count as pressure: I'd like to kiss you good morning. May I? I could clean my teeth first, if you'd prefer."
"I'm sure my morning breath is worse than yours," said Harry, and lifted his head slightly until his lips met Draco's. The kiss was brief but delicious – no morning breath evident – and Harry was disappointed when Draco pulled away, saying "I'd love to do that for longer, but I need to get to breakfast, sorry." He kissed Harry on the forehead and headed for the bathroom.
Harry sat up to watch the delectable rear view of Draco leaving the room, but this was all too brief a spectacle, and he flopped back down and wrapped his hand round his cock.
When Draco arrived in the Great Hall, he immediately noticed lots of people reading the Daily Prophet, and wondered how Harry's children were coping. He went over to the Slytherin table, where Albus was sitting between Scorpius and Lily; the three of them were on the end, slightly apart from their housemates.
"Good morning, you three," said Draco. "How's it going?"
Albus and Scorpius smiled at him, but Lily looked on the verge of tears. "It was a bit of a nightmare when the paper first arrived, to be honest, but people got bored of asking questions when we kept refusing to answer," said Albus. "The Prophet has actually got the facts right, for once – I think that's probably thanks to Mum working there – and anything beyond what they've printed isn't anyone else's business. If Mum and Dad had wanted to give more details, they would've put them in the statement."
"I don't see why they had to tell the paper at all," Lily burst out. "Why does anyone else need to know?"
"That's one of the disadvantages of your dad being so famous, unfortunately," Draco told her. "Someone would have found out eventually anyway, and then it would only be a matter of time before it got in the papers. This way, your dad has made sure that what's printed is the truth. I know it's horrible, but it's better this way than if there'd been a load of rumours going round and they'd had to make a statement saying which ones were true. By tomorrow, people will be talking about something else."
"Professor Malfoy's right," said James, who had wandered over while Draco had been speaking. "It'll be over soon, and in the meantime we'll stick together. Stay close to Al and Score and let them answer any questions. And me, of course, but I can't be with you as much as they can. You'll be on your own in lessons, but if people start bugging you then, just tell the teacher."
"And your dad's going to be back in school from tomorrow, anyway, so I suspect all the attention will switch to him," said Draco.
Lily brightened immediately. "Really?" she said excitedly. "Where is he now?"
"He's in his quarters, and yes, before you ask, of course you can go and see him any time you like," said Draco. "But he wants to lie low just for today, until the excitement has died down. I think Professor McGonagall's going to make an announcement about him in a minute, and he didn't want to be here when that happened. But he's OK. Better than he was last night, I think."
Scorpius smiled knowingly at him at that, but didn't say anything. Albus, however, looked unsettled. "He's coming back tomorrow? Does that mean you'll be leaving?"
"No, not just yet," said Draco. "I was due to be here till next Friday, and the new plan is that Harry and I will spend next week teaching together. I'm looking forward to that. But I do have a job at Beauxbatons, and their term starts next weekend, so I'll have to go then. If you'll all excuse me, though, I'd better get to my place before I miss all the food."
He ruffled Scorpius's hair (prompting a protest of "Daaad!") as he left the Slytherin table. He sat down at the end of the staff table and grabbed several sausage sandwiches, but he'd only eaten a couple of mouthfuls before McGonagall came and sat next to him.
"How's Harry this morning?" she asked, without preamble.
"A lot better, I think," said Draco. "I take it you were worried about him last night? He did look terrible."
"As if his world had ended," agreed McGonagall. "Which, under the circumstances, he has every right to. I was astonished when he told me what had happened. I'm pleased to hear he's recovering, though. And that the two of you seem to be getting along so well. I was confident you'd be able to be polite to each other, at least, but I was still quite taken aback when Harry begged me to let you stay."
"He... begged you?" asked Draco faintly.
"He did. He spent quite some time listing your good qualities, in fact, but the one that impressed me most is that he described you as 'a really good friend'. I have to say that I'm delighted... and I don't need to ask whether you feel the same way, because I can see it in your face."
Draco blushed at that, but was unable to remove his grin. "I think it's surprised both of us, but we certainly seem to be on the same wavelength. We have more in common than anyone would have predicted. I'm enjoying spending time with him."
"Well I never. Who are you, and what have you done with Draco Malfoy?" murmured McGonagall. Then she smiled. "I must say, I'm looking forward to seeing you two duel again, though. I'll definitely be visiting some of your lessons this week. I hope you'll be able to find at least some of your legendary enmity, even if you have to fake it!"
"I hadn't thought about that," said Draco, amused. "I wouldn't worry, though. I suspect we're both competitive enough that we can produce an entertaining spectacle. I'll certainly be trying to beat him, I can promise you... and you know what he's like."
"Indeed," said McGonagall, her eyes twinkling. "Anyway, I'd better make my announcement to the students – some of them finished their breakfast ages ago."
By the time Harry next saw Draco, the sun was setting. Harry was just finishing a large helping of treacle tart when Draco came in and joined him on the sofa; Harry was very pleased to see him, and not just because of the distraction from his current state of mind. He smiled welcomingly, wondering how Draco managed to still look so good after a day's teaching.
"Ah, I wondered if Winky might have brought you some of that," Draco commented. "I suspect they put it on tonight's menu in your honour."
"Really?" said Harry, uncomfortable. "Everyone's talking about me, then." It wasn't a question.
"Well, to be fair, you did expect that," said Draco. "If it's any consolation, though, the talk about your divorce seems to have more or less died down. The hot topic for most of the day has actually been your relationship with me."
Harry was horrorstruck. "What? But... You mean you've told people?"
Draco frowned. "I thought you knew me better than that," he said. "Of course I haven't told anyone. But I didn't mean that part of our relationship, don't worry. What they're all talking about is our famous hatred of each other. If I had a Galleon for every time today I've been asked 'Is it true that Professor Potter nearly killed you when you were at school?' my financial worries would be over."
Harry, who had relaxed slightly at the news that he had not in fact been outed before he was ready, tensed up again at the reminder of the bathroom incident. Draco saw his face and reached over to put an arm round him. "I'm so sorry, I should have used a different example," he said. "That was thoughtless of me. Look, we've already put that incident behind us. I don't expect anyone to forget our past, but I also don't want to keep rehashing it. Can you forget I mentioned it? Please?"
"Sorry. I'll try," said Harry. "And I'm sorry I accused you of gossiping. I know you wouldn't do that. I'm just a bit twitchy. But I'm really glad you're here." He laid his head on Draco's shoulder, and Draco took his hand and started absently rubbing his thumb over the back of it.
"I'm glad to be here," he said. "Anyway, you needn't worry about the gossip. I've made it clear to everyone who's asked that yes, it's true that we both did things to each other at school that we now regret, but that we have both grown up since then and apologised to each other, and now we're good friends. Is that OK?"
"Couldn't have put it better myself," said Harry. "Thank you. Oh, and thank you for reassuring my kids, by the way. They all came up at lunchtime and told me that they felt much better at breakfast after you spoke to them. I'm so grateful that you did that without me asking you to – it only occurred to me after you'd already left this morning, and I felt terrible not to have thought of it sooner."
"It's fine," said Draco. "I was glad to be able to help. I think they would have been fine without me, though, actually – Lily was a bit upset, but James and Albus were looking out for her, and they both seemed OK before I spoke to them."
"They're always very good with her," said Harry, and then lapsed into silence. Draco turned and looked at him, concerned.
"What's up?" he asked gently.
Harry let out a bitter laugh. "Nothing, really," he admitted. "At least, nothing new. I had an owl from Ginny, and I suppose it's unsettled me a bit. I was feeling quite positive this morning, but now..." He shrugged his shoulders.
"What did she say?" asked Draco. Harry reached forward and took the note off the coffee table, handing it to him.
How are things at your end? I'm quite glad that this training camp is at a secret location, I have to say, but the people here have been driving me mad with questions. Dean's been really good at getting rid of them, though. And he's agreed to our plan of waiting a few weeks and then doing another statement about me and him. Oh, and he wants to come and talk to you sometime, to tell you how sorry he is for his part in all this – will that be OK?
I'm sure all this must be much worse for YOU today, not only because you're at Hogwarts but also because you're on your own. I hope you're talking to people and not just bottling it all up like you usually do. James and Al told me that Draco Malfoy is looking after you, but I presume they must have got the wrong end of the stick, because they both said you were FRIENDS, and I can't see that ever happening! Don't let him take advantage of you – you know what he's like.
Draco put the parchment down, his face expressionless. "I see," he said. "And may I ask how you responded to this?"
"Erm, with a Howler," admitted Harry. "I should probably have waited until I'd calmed down, but I was so furious that I'd already sent it before it occurred to me that it might be a bad idea. The gist was: yes, I'll see Dean, I've got no problem with him; yes, I have been talking to people; yes, you and I are very good friends and you are not taking advantage; yes, I do know what you're like now, which she obviously doesn't; she also obviously doesn't know our sons very well if she thinks they're stupid enough to misunderstand our friendship. Oh, and I finished by telling her that I hoped you and I could meet her together, after her camp, so she could get to know you, but until then she'd better stop slagging you off."
Draco raised his eyebrows and grinned at Harry, his eyes twinkling. "My hero!" he said. "I'm impressed. Thank you for the support. I'm guessing she hasn't replied? How long ago did you send it?"
"Only about an hour ago, and no, I haven't heard from her since," said Harry. "I'm still a bit freaked out, though. I've, erm... well, I was feeling quite confident this morning about, you know, us, but now I'm starting to wonder if I dreamed that whole conversation. The more I think about it, the more unlikely it seems that you would actually have said what you said."
Draco took his hand. "Shall I tell you what I remember of it?" he asked gently. "We both said that we're thrilled to have each other as good friends, but that we're definitely also very attracted to each other. You said you wanted to go slowly, for very understandable reasons, and I said that I was fine with that, and that I want you in every possible way but am very happy to be patient. Does that help?"
Harry, who had felt his smile gradually growing during this, squeezed Draco's hand. "Definitely," he said. "Thank you. You're like a potion, aren't you? One dose and I'm cured."
"I don't think I've ever been called a potion before, but I've certainly been called far worse things, so I think I'll accept it," said Draco, laughing. "Have you finished eating? Because, if so, I have a suggestion about how we can spend the evening."
"That sounds promising," said Harry. "And yes, I've finished eating. What did you have in mind?"
"Let's go to bed," said Draco.
Five minutes later, they were naked under the duvet, grinning at each other. Harry reached out and ran his fingers through Draco's hair, delighting in its silkiness. Draco laid his hand lightly on Harry's waist, his grin fading suddenly.
"I hope you'll forgive me," he said. "I said I wouldn't put any pressure on you, and I think I probably just did. You would tell me if you were uncomfortable, wouldn't you?"
Harry stared at him, surprised, and was taken aback to notice a hint of real worry in Draco's eyes. He leaned forward and kissed his forehead. "Actually, it hadn't even occurred to me that I might feel pressurised," he said. "So, no, I don't feel uncomfortable. And yes, I would tell you if I was. At least I think I would. I haven't yet encountered anything I'd be unwilling to say to you. It's nice – I don't think I've ever known anyone else that I could say anything to."
"That's a relief," said Draco. "And I know what you mean about being able to say stuff. I think I could say anything to you, but I admit I was holding some stuff back before yesterday. I wanted to tell you how I felt about you, but I didn't want to freak you out with everything else you were dealing with. But now I feel... unfettered."
Harry laughed out loud. "Unfettered, eh? Good word! But I'm pleased to hear it." He pulled Draco towards him and hugged him tightly. As their cocks were forced together, Harry exulted in the jolt of electricity that surged through him. He found he couldn't remember why he'd wanted to go slowly; he had this glorious body in his arms and he suddenly wanted to explore it thoroughly. He drew back slightly and gazed into Draco's eyes searchingly; Draco just gazed back invitingly, so Harry kissed him.
It was a light kiss at first, as Harry was overcome with the sensation of being glued to Draco's lips; he detached and reattached his lips several times to see if he got the same headrush each time. (He did.) The last time, however, he felt Draco's tongue tentatively reaching out, and that reminded him that there was a whole mouth still waiting to be explored.
While Harry's tongue was busy getting to know Draco's, his hands were on a mission of their own. He started off by removing his right hand from Draco's hair and running it over every millimetre of Draco's face. He lingered for quite while on the closed eyelids, fascinated by the way the long eyelashes fluttered at his touch; he suddenly wondered whether the fluttering was symmetrical, and brought up his left hand to mirror the movements of the right. This turned out to be slightly awkward while they were both lying on their sides, so Harry flipped Draco into a supine position and lay on top of him.
"I'm liking this self-confidence you've rediscovered," murmured Draco, resting both hands on Harry's back as Harry returned to his facial reconnaissance.
Harry felt himself blush, but told himself firmly that Draco couldn't have been clearer about what he wanted, so there was no shame in taking him at his word. "I feel like I've just opened my best ever Christmas present," he admitted, and then became lost in the contemplation of how kissing Draco felt ever so slightly different – but still amazing – in this position.
Draco shifted slightly, reminding Harry that his exploration had only just started. He was very tempted to continue kissing Draco forever, but the thought that there might be even better things in store eventually caused him to release Draco's lips with a regretful final peck, and start kissing his neck, moving his hands down to Draco's shoulders. He felt Draco smile.
"Are you giving me a love bite? It's fine if you are, but it might take a bit of explaining at breakfast," said Draco, sounding amused.
Harry hadn't thought of that. "You're right. Maybe it wouldn't be the best way to announce that we're together," he said, moving down and starting to lick one of Draco's nipples.
Draco jumped slightly at the new contact, then returned both of his hands to Harry's hair. "You want to tell people?" he asked, seeming surprised. "I thought you'd want to keep it a secret. You seemed quite upset before when you thought I'd told people."
"I'm sorry about that," said Harry, resting his chin on Draco's chest so he could meet his gaze. "I think I was just freaked out at the idea of people knowing before I'd thought about how to tell them. I've got a bit paranoid about that over the years; people do seem to insist on talking about me, but it's been a bit easier to deal with since I started pre-empting anything I knew there'd be rumours about, by making announcements myself."
"That's a good idea, I think," said Draco. "So do you want to tell people about us?"
"Yes, definitely," Harry said, planting a kiss right in the middle of Draco's breastbone. "I want to spend as much time as I can with you, and if I have to hide what we are it'll make that much more difficult. There's no reason to keep it a secret... unless you want to?" he finished, suddenly worried.
Draco smiled. "Me? Not at all," he said. "I'd be very proud to be officially at your side. And of course there's the bonus of being able to see people's reactions. That'll be hilarious. The only worry is that there might be people who decide that I'm still an evil Death Eater who's taking advantage of you. Like your wife, in fact."
"If anyone dares to say that, I'll deal with them like I dealt with her," growled Harry. "But hopefully the problem won't arise. Can we talk later about how we're going to tell people, though? I seem to have an amazingly beautiful man entirely at my mercy, and I really want to get back to investigating his body."
"Don't let me stop you," said Draco, grinning. "Just so you know, though, I'm definitely going to want to return the favour later. If I ever recover from my current sensory overload, that is."
Harry shivered deliciously at the thought of Draco touching him, and bent his head back to the man's nipple, beaming. He spent quite a while trying to decide which nipple tasted better, switching his mouth from one to the other several times until both were reddened and protruding. His hands, in the meantime, were mapping Draco's arms and torso, and when he eventually abandoned the nipples (slightly concerned that they might be getting sore) he gave in to the urge to lick what his hands had been feeling, to see what that perfect skin tasted like.
Draco had been squirming more and more and, as Harry sucked his fingers one by one, he was starting to emit low moans. Harry had moved down his body during his exploration, and his head was now level with Draco's groin; it therefore seemed like the obvious next step to move his mouth to the perfect cock that was right in front of him. When he licked a stripe up the side of it, Draco gasped and arched his back. Encouraged, Harry continued to lick, being careful to avoid the very tip of the cock for the moment. Once he'd covered the whole of the rest of it with his tongue, he transferred his attention to Draco's balls, which his fingers had been lightly stroking for the last few minutes. He left his fingers in place as he started to lick, and was fascinated to notice how the balls tightened markedly the instant his tongue touched their sac. He wondered what would happen if he actually took one into his mouth; when he did so, Draco's moans rose in pitch by more than an octave and became more frequent. Harry chuckled despite having a mouth full of testicle, and laughed even more when the sensation of his laughing apparently caused Draco to become even more undone.
By the time Harry had almost finished comparing the two sides of Draco's balls thoroughly in his mouth, Draco was panting heavily between his moans, and Harry decided that he'd release him from his torment. With a farewell lick around the whole of Draco's sac, Harry left his fingers there and trailed his tongue all the way up the front of Draco's rock-hard cock, closing his lips over the tip of it before taking as much as possible of it into his mouth and starting to suck. The noises that began coming from Draco at this point were very satisfying, and Harry concentrated on trying to elicit more of them. He was pleased to find that the taste of come wasn't as bad as he'd expected, at least so far, but he still wasn't particularly looking forward to the flood of it that was presumably on its way. He was hoping he'd be able to swallow it, but wasn't at all sure how much liquid there'd actually be. Just as he was castigating himself for thinking about volume when he should be concentrating on Draco's pleasure, though, Draco let out a cry and came. Harry was almost taken by surprise, but managed to keep his mouth firmly in place as Draco's cock pumped into it.
As Harry swallowed what felt like a gallon of come and then licked Draco's cock clean, he felt Draco's whole body trembling and moved up the bed to look at his face. "Are you cold?" he asked, concerned. "Here, let's get the duvet over you."
Draco smiled and put his arms around him before kissing him tenderly. "I'm not cold," he said, still sounding a little hoarse. "I'm... overcome, I suppose is the best word. I've never experienced anything like what you just did to me. And the most amazing part is that I know you've never done it before. I didn't expect you to be comfortable enough at this stage to even touch my cock, let alone suck it. So thank you. You didn't have to do that, but I'm very happy that you did."
Harry beamed at him. "It was alright, then? That's a relief. I wasn't sure whether there might be a better way to do it. I was just sort of guessing. Well, actually to start with I hadn't even thought about going that far – I just knew I wanted to touch you all over – but when your cock was right in front of my mouth I couldn't resist."
Draco laughed and hugged Harry harder. "It was a lot more than alright, you idiot. I can promise you I've never had a better blowjob than that."
"I've never had a blowjob at all," confessed Harry.
Draco pulled his head back to stare at him. "Never? But what about...?"
"I suppose Ginny must not have liked giving them, because she certainly never offered," said Harry. "Or maybe she just didn't like giving them to me? ... No. That's not fair on her. She says I was the first bloke she did stuff with, and I believe her. And I also believe her when she says she was faithful to me until last year. But we've never even talked about blowjobs, so... Oh, I don't know."
"But you must have known what one was, at least? Before you got married, I mean?" asked Draco, tucking Harry's head back into the crook of his neck.
"Oh, yeah," said Harry. "Seamus used to go on about them all the time at school. I'm not convinced he'd ever actually had one at that point, mind you. But I was always quite intrigued. I even got some books out of the library at one point to find out how to do it, and whether there were any other sex-type things I didn't know about."
"You're kidding. There were books about blowjobs in the Hogwarts Library and I never knew?" Draco sounded outraged.
Harry laughed. "No, sorry," he said. "I wasn't very clear. It was the Muggle library in Little Whinging. The librarian did look at me as if I was a pervert, but she always used to look at me like that anyway. I think she was a friend of my Aunt Petunia's."
"I'm not sure I would have dared to take books like that out of a public library," mused Draco. "Luckily I never had to, though, because our library at the Manor was very well-stocked. And we had an elf librarian who'd go and buy any books that we asked for that weren't already there."
"Posh git," said Harry, impressed. "So what happened to all the books when you sold the Manor? Did you just leave them there?"
Draco burst out laughing. "No – and I've never made this connection till now! We donated the books to Hogwarts!"
"So, you mean..." began Harry, amused.
"Yes! All those sex books are now in the Hogwarts Library!" Draco held Harry to him, shaking with laughter. But then he stopped quite suddenly.
"What?" asked Harry, alarmed.
"You must think I'm so selfish!" cried Draco. "You just gave me the best sexual experience of my life, and I haven't returned the favour yet! You're still rock-hard!"
Harry's cock, which was indeed harder than he'd ever felt it, twitched excitedly at this, and he grinned at Draco. "There's no hurry," he said. "That's one of the benefits of being decadent and going to bed at half past seven. We've got all night. And tomorrow's Saturday."
"Well, remember that we do have to go to breakfast – everyone will be expecting you," said Draco. "But you're right. There's plenty of time for me to do to you all the things you did to me. Also... did your books tell you about rimming?"
Harry walked into the Great Hall the following morning in a bit of a daze. Draco, strolling alongside him impassively, had merely nodded at the various students who'd greeted Harry with delight on their way to the hall, but he gave Harry a quick private smile and squeezed his hand before they entered.
The initially scattered applause soon spread, until the whole hall was clapping by the time Harry and Draco reached the staff table. Harry wasn't quite sure why they were clapping, and said so to Draco as they sat down.
"I think they're just pleased to see you're OK," said Neville, overhearing. "Are you OK, if you don't mind me asking? You look OK."
"I feel fine," said Harry, smiling at him reassuringly. "I'm just glad everything's sorted out and Ginny and I can both move on. And Draco has been looking after me."
Draco smiled at him again at this, and Neville stared at them both searchingly. "So I see," he said after a moment, grinning. "Who'd have thought it? Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, the best of friends."
Harry, who had frozen briefly, relaxed slightly as Neville finished speaking. He was suddenly convinced that everyone must be able to tell what he and Draco had been doing. He was sure his whole body must be glowing after the attention Draco had lavished on it, and his arsehole was still buzzing from its encounter with Draco's tongue. They'd fallen asleep soon after that – Draco enclosed in Harry's arms this time – and had ended up sharing a shower when they woke up. It was just as well they'd gone to bed as early as they had, because they spent so long in the shower that their skin was beginning to wrinkle when they emerged; their cocks, however, were tingling, after frotting while kissing had led to mutual desperate handjobs.
"Don't worry, it's just a sign that the world has in fact ended and this is the afterlife," said Draco to Neville, jolting Harry out of his reverie. "Anything might happen from now on."
"Good, I like a bit of excitement," Neville said, reaching for a croissant. "Speaking of which, who d'you think'll win the match today? It pains me to say it, but my money's on Slytherin."
Harry sat up straight. "There's a Quidditch match this morning! I forgot!"
"If Scorpius is to be believed, Slytherin will win," Draco told him. "He says James is the only one on the Gryffindor team who's any good, and he doesn't think that'll be enough to take them past Slytherin."
"Sad but true," said Harry, although he was pleased to hear such praise of his son. "Albus and Scorpius are really good when they're together, I have to say, and the rest of the team aren't far behind them." He noticed Neville grin and then quickly straighten his face.
"Oh, bloody hell," said Draco. "Did everyone know about them before we did?"
Neville looked startled and then laughed. "I'm afraid so," he said. "At least, it's fairly common knowledge, I think. I'm surprised you didn't cotton on earlier, to be honest. You're OK with it, though?"
"Of course," said Harry. "They obviously make each other very happy, which is all I'm bothered about." Draco nodded his agreement.
"I think they're very good for each other," said Neville, relaxing back in his chair. "Like you two, actually."
Harry stared at him, unsure exactly what he was implying. Neville burst out laughing. "The looks on both your faces!" he chuckled. "So you are more than just friends? I suspected, but I wasn't actually sure till just now. Good for you. Both of you. Don't worry, though, I won't tell anyone."
Harry looked at Draco, and was relieved to see a smile on his face. Their eyes met, and Draco shrugged. "We will tell people soon," said Harry, giving in. "Really soon. I just don't want it to get mixed up with all the divorce stuff. I'd hate it if people tried to blame Draco for that, when in fact none of happened until Ginny and I had already agreed to split up. Draco and I hadn't spoken to each other in twenty years, before last Saturday."
Draco grinned suddenly. "It has only been a week, hasn't it?" he mused. "That's incredible. Best week of my life, though." At this, Harry definitely felt another warm glow suffusing his body, but this time it was inside him. He took hold of Draco's hand under the table and squeezed it briefly.
Neville smiled fondly at them both. "Well, I think it's great," he said. "Now, I'd better leave you to it before your breakfast actually goes cold. See you at the match?"
Harry and Draco both nodded at him as he left the table, then smiled at each other before piling their plates with food. Harry was absolutely ravenous: being a night owl, he usually had a snack late in the evening, so he was definitely feeling the effects of not having eaten since teatime the day before. Despite having twice as much food as Draco, he still finished first, however, so he excused himself and went over to speak to his eldest son, returning greetings from other students as he approached the Gryffindor table.
James looked round as Harry reached him, and his face broke into an uncharacteristically wide grin. He jumped up from the bench and flung his arms round his father. "It's great to see you back," he said, looking up at him.
Harry laughed, but hugged back happily. "It's great to be back," he said. "But you've seen me twice already – you do remember that, don't you?"
"I know, but that wasn't the same," said James, finally letting go. "You looked OK yesterday, but you're always a bit more uncomfortable in public, aren't you?"
"You know me too well," Harry admitted. "But never mind me. Are you ready for the match?"
James sighed. "As I'll ever be," he said. "It'll take a bit of a miracle for us to win, but you never know."
"This is the first match with the new team, though, isn't it? How many of your players have changed since last term?"
"None. That's the problem," said James. Harry raised his eyebrows. "We didn't have any seventh-years in our team last year. We had trials anyway at the start of this term, but no-one who turned up was really good enough to replace anyone. It's depressing."
"Oh well," said Harry. "Maybe you just need some special training. I'd offer to help, but my Quidditch expertise isn't what it was. You could have a word with your mum, though. See if she's got any ideas."
"Maybe I will," said James thoughtfully. "Have you heard from her since Thursday?"
Harry flushed. "I had an owl," he admitted, hoping his son wouldn't ask what his response had been. "She sounds fine. I'm sure she'll be in touch with you after the England camp's finished."
"I'm glad you're still speaking to each other," said James. "I'm pleased about the divorce, because you were so miserable before and you already look years younger, but I would've hated it if it'd meant the two of you couldn't get along."
"I think we'll be OK," said Harry. "And thank you for what you said to me the other week, by the way. I might never have realised there was a problem if you hadn't helped. I don't know where you got your people skills from – it can't have been from me or your mother!"
James smiled shyly. "Maybe it was from your mother, and it skipped a generation," he suggested, then nodded to someone behind Harry. Harry looked round to see Albus and Lily approaching, flanked by Scorpius and Draco. Albus and Scorpius were holding hands, and Harry grinned at them, at which they both blushed but didn't let go.
"Will you sit with me and Professor Malfoy to watch the match, Dad?" demanded Lily, wrapping her arms round his waist.
"Only if I'm still allowed to cheer for James as well as Al," said Harry. Lily looked round at Draco, who shrugged his shoulders.
"I suppose that'll be OK," Lily said seriously. "It won't matter anyway, because we're going to win. Sorry, James."
"I suspect you're probably right, but don't tell anyone else I said so," admitted James. "I need to go and get ready, though. See you all out there!"
"Good luck!" chorused Harry and Draco as he left the hall. Scorpius looked sternly at his father.
"You can't say 'good luck' to the opposition!" he said, outraged.
"If Harry can cheer for both sides, I don't see why I can't as well," Draco replied, amused.
"It's different for him," said Scorpius. "He's got a son on each team. You haven't."
"Well, I promise to only cheer for Slytherin during the actual game, but I might applaud James if he does anything impressive. Will that do?" asked Draco.
Scorpius grinned at him. "I suppose so," he said, mollified. "James is really good. He deserves more credit than he usually gets."
"That's a very nice thing for you to say," said Harry, pleased. "Thank you."
"It's only the truth," Scorpius said, but he smiled. "It's great to see you back, by the way. And I can't wait to watch you and my dad duelling. You won't hurt him, will you?"
Harry, who had completely forgotten about the week of duelling ahead of him, glanced at Draco and grinned. "What makes you think he won't hurt me?" he pointed out. "We're friends now, so I promise you we won't be trying to hurt each other, but we do both tend to get a bit competitive. Anything might happen."
Draco laughed out loud. "That's exactly what I said to McGonagall yesterday," he told them. "Scared?"
Harry was laughing too much to reply, so it was left to the three children to chorus: "You wish!"
By Monday morning, Hogwarts was buzzing with anticipation. There had even been some talk of cancelling the whole timetable so that the whole school could watch Harry and Draco's first duelling session, but this had proved to be unfeasible. There were cheers, however, when Harry had stood up after the Sunday evening meal and promised that he and Draco would try to ensure that every class got to see more or less the same duel; they would not be using watered-down spells for the younger students.
The weekend had been fun, but exhausting. Slytherin had indeed won the match, but it had been a very close thing. James had played out of his skin, scoring twenty-two goals with no help from the rest of his team despite being pelted repeatedly by Bludgers from Albus and Scorpius; unfortunately for him, however, the Slytherin Seeker had caught the Snitch the instant before he scored his twenty-third goal, and the match had ended 230 points to 220 in favour of Slytherin.
Draco and Harry had spent most of the rest of Saturday ambling round the grounds, after Harry realised how much he'd missed fresh air; they'd then spent the whole of Sunday planning their curriculum for the week, and had even had a few practice duels, all of which had ended in fits of giggles. They'd still been laughing when they'd finally fallen into bed, but they'd quickly been distracted by each other's nakedness. Draco had considered mentioning how much he was desperate to fuck Harry, or be fucked by him – either would be fine – but he knew that Harry would mention it himself when he was ready. In the meantime, he was still happier than he'd ever been.
Draco strode into the DADA classroom at a quarter to nine, with Harry close on his heels, and was surprised to see that all the students were already in their seats. The buzz of chatter stopped, and the second-years looked at them eagerly.
"Good morning," said Draco. "You do know you're early?"
"We all wanted the front seats!" burst out a studious-looking Hufflepuff girl.
Harry grinned. "What makes you think Professor Malfoy's seating plan no longer applies?" he asked mischievously. The majority of the class looked distraught; a few of them, however, seemed delighted.
Draco took pity on them all, shaking his head at Harry. "As a matter of fact, we're going to move all the desks, so you'll all get a good view," he said. The class brightened immediately. "And since you're all here so early, you can help."
Within a few minutes, the desks had been formed into a loose rectangle almost as big as the room, and the students were seated around the outside of the rectangle. Harry had suggested that, for safety reasons, it might be a good idea to make it very clear that the students needed to stay well away from the actual duel. The classroom's usual arrangement did have some space behind the desks, of course, where practical activities could take place, but Harry had found, last time he'd taught duelling skills, that he'd needed more room. And that had been before he had an equal opponent.
When the bell rang for the start of the lesson, Draco stood up in front of the teacher's desk, and Harry started prowling round the edge of the classroom. Draco ignored him – they'd planned this, for no reason other than to increase the excitement level – and addressed the class.
"This week, as you know, we'll be concentrating on duelling techniques," he said. "Professor Potter and I will give you a demonstration, and afterwards we will all practise some of the spells we used, before splitting you into pairs so that you can have a go yourselves. We'll be using quite a few spells in our demonstration, but the one I particularly want you to watch out for today is Expelliarmus."
Several of the students looked crestfallen. "But you said you weren't going to be using different spells with different years!" one boy protested. "That's a babyish spell!" There were a few noises of agreement.
"Expelliarmus is the spell Professor Potter used to destroy Voldemort," Draco pointed out, pleased that the students had fallen for their bait. "None of us would be here today if he hadn't known it." The whole class swivelled to look at Harry, only to discover that he'd vanished while they'd been paying attention to Draco. They looked at each other, puzzled. A second later, they all jumped, and many of them screamed, when Harry reappeared from thin air, standing beside Draco.
"Expelliarmus," yelled Harry, and held out a sack, into which all the students' wands obligingly flew. They looked at him for a moment, betrayed, but then burst into applause. He grinned sheepishly.
"It's a more powerful spell than it seems, isn't it?" he said. "Don't expect to be able to disarm more than one person at once straight away, though. It takes a lot of focus and determination. And practice."
"It also takes considerable magical power to do it to this many people at once," Draco added. "It's only fair to tell you that I doubt any other wizard in the world could do what Professor Potter just did. I certainly couldn't."
"How many do you think you could disarm, sir?" asked the studious girl.
"To be honest, I'm not entirely sure," said Draco. "I'll have a go at the end of the lesson though, if you like. But we'd better get on with this demonstration."
There was a rippling of applause as he and Harry walked into the centre of the circle of desks, and he was amused to hear one girl say quietly to Harry, "You won't hurt him too much, will you, sir?"
They bowed to each other solemnly, then stepped backwards several paces. Draco nodded to Professor McGonagall, who had slipped into the room to watch. Harry turned and grinned at her.
"As this is a demonstration duel only, we will of course not be needing seconds," Draco told the class. "Perhaps, though, Professor McGonagall would be good enough to give us the countdown."
"It would be my pleasure," she said, coming to stand nearer to the circle of desks. "One... two... three..."
The fourth-year Gryffindors and Ravenclaws were as eager as the second-year Hufflepuffs and Slytherins had been, and none of them protested about the focus on Expelliarmus; Draco presumed they were better-versed in history. Harry won the duel this time; Draco had been slightly surprised to win the first one (he'd managed to disarm Harry after overcoming him with a sneezing charm) but he'd been unable to recover from Harry's Bat-Bogey Hex this time round. He consoled himself by deciding that it was probably better for Harry to win while James was watching; not that he would have let him win, of course.
James came up to speak to them, in fact, at the end of the lesson, but Draco was taken aback at his opening question. "Are you two... you know, together?" asked James quietly, even though everyone else had already left the room. "Al said he thought you might be, and he asked Score what he thought, but Score refused to answer, and Al says the only reason he can think of is that he knows it's true. So I've been watching you for the last hour, and the way you both look at each other... well, I think Al's right. Is he?"
He looked from Harry to Draco and then back to Harry, biting his lip. Draco wasn't sure quite how to interpret this, so he caught Harry's eye and nodded, trusting in Harry to know what his son's reaction would be.
Harry closed the classroom door with a careless wave of his hand. "Al is right," he admitted, taking Draco's hand; Draco squeezed reassuringly. "And we were going to tell you soon, I promise. It's just... it's only just happened in the past few days, and we're still getting used to it ourselves. We'll be making an announcement at some point, but I intended to tell you three long before that."
"And please forgive Scorpius," Draco added. "He doesn't actually know for sure that we're together now, but he asked me whether I fancied Harry, while we were out on Thursday night; I wouldn't have told him otherwise, but I couldn't lie to him when he asked me outright. But I asked him not to tell anyone else, because at that point I wasn't sure whether or not Harry felt the same way."
"And I do," said Harry softly. "Are you OK with this, though, James?"
James smiled. "Why wouldn't I be?" he said. "I've only ever wanted you to be happy, and you look happier right now than I've ever seen you. If it's Professor Malfoy who's caused that, I'm all for it."
Draco beamed at him, and detached his hand from Harry's in order to shake James's, while Harry leaned forward to hug his son. "I'm so pleased to hear you say that," Draco admitted. "I don't know what we would have done if you didn't like the idea. And please call me Draco when it's just us, by the way."
"Alright... Draco," said James, smiling shyly. "I'm just wondering, though – does Mum know?"
"Not as far as I'm aware," said Harry. "She might have guessed something, though, I suppose, when I sent her a Howler for insulting Draco. I haven't actually heard from her since, so I'm not sure. To be quite honest, though, it's none of her business, so it doesn't really matter if she disapproves. It was you and Al and Lily that I was bothered about."
"I'm pretty sure they'll be thrilled too," James told him. "Can I tell them, or would you rather do it yourselves?"
Draco and Harry looked at each other. "We'll tell them next time we see them," promised Harry. "Lunchtime, hopefully."
"If they ask you about it before then, though, don't feel you have to hide it," added Draco. "You can tell them, if the subject comes up."
"OK," said James. "I won't tell anyone else until you've announced it officially, though, I promise. Well, except Score. I assume he's now sort of like my brother?"
Draco stared at him for a second, before turning to Harry to see whether he was as delighted at Draco at this thought. It seemed he was. "Huh, I have four kids," said Harry, grinning. "Lily might complain. She's more outnumbered than ever."
"Dad, have you met Lily?" asked James. "There's a reason she ended up in Slytherin. I bet you that within a week she's got Professor... erm, Draco wrapped round her little finger just like me and you and Al. She bewitched Score ages ago."
"Too late," admitted Draco ruefully. "She collared me at breakfast on Saturday and somehow persuaded me that we all had to sit together in the Slytherin stand to watch the match, when I'd been determined that Harry and I would sit somewhere neutral. I'm not even sure how she did it."
Harry and James both laughed. "It'll only get worse," Harry advised.
Thursday evening found Harry musing to himself about how things had changed since the same time the previous week. Tonight, he was on his own again, for the first time in a while: Draco had wanted to take Scorpius out to tea again, since this would be his last chance before he went back to France, and Scorpius had asked if Albus could come too. Draco had agreed, and had then extended the invitation to James and Lily, not wanting to leave them out; Harry had been implored to join them, but he pointed out that he would be able to take the kids out on his own for the rest of the term, so it was only fair that Draco have them to himself this once. Besides which, Harry had confided privately to Draco, he would quite like some time alone, having become so used to his own company over the years. Draco, of course, had apologised profusely for not giving Harry enough space, but Harry had reassured him by insisting that he knew that Draco would have left him alone earlier if Harry had asked, but he'd only felt the need tonight.
The main thing on his mind was, in fact, Draco. This would be their last night together, and they still hadn't fucked each other... although they'd done everything else very thoroughly indeed. Harry was sure Draco must have been thinking about it, but he was grateful that his... what should he call him? Lover? Boyfriend? Partner? None seemed quite right, so he decided to just stick with 'Draco' for the moment. Anyway, Harry was grateful that Draco had kept his promise not to put any pressure on Harry, but he'd been obsessing about this more and more as the week went on, and he'd just about decided that he wanted to try it tonight.
It was a bit scary, though. He knew the basic mechanics of it, of course, but those books all those years ago hadn't included much detail when it came to anal sex, and he'd never had any reason to investigate further... until now. He could ask Draco, of course, and he knew Draco would be only too happy to educate him patiently and gently, but he felt mortified at the thought of having to ask for a lesson before they could even get started. It had occurred to him that if Draco would let him do the fucking first then it might be slightly easier, since he had at least done something similar to that before; however, this seemed like an incredibly cheeky request to make, and he wasn't at all sure how he was going to bring himself to make it.
He was still trying to come up with a way of wording the question when Draco returned. There was a faint aroma of rum on his breath when Harry kissed him in greeting, and he laughed when Harry pointed this out.
"Don't worry, I didn't give any of the kids any booze," Draco assured him. "I wasn't going to have any myself, but Lily wanted to do toasts and she insisted that I had to have what she called 'a proper drink'. Rum's what I drink when I am drinking, so it doesn't affect me as much as other booze does. And I wanted to keep a clear head for my last night with you."
Harry smiled at him tenderly. "Well, it's not the last night ever," he pointed out. "I was a bit depressed when I thought I wouldn't see you for ages. At first I assumed we could just use the Floo network, but then I remembered that it only connects places in this country. But I still have a Portkey permit, so I can make them as often as I like. If you want me in France every night, you only have to say the word."
Draco beamed. "That's great!" he said. "I hadn't realised. I was thinking we'd have to go through all the usual rigmarole of getting permission from both Ministries of Magic. We'd be lucky to get one once a week, in that case."
"Being Head Auror did have some uses," said Harry. "I double-checked the details tonight, too, because I haven't used the Portkey permit since I quit. But I'd remembered it correctly: the permit names me personally, without specifying that I have to still be an Auror, and it's valid for my lifetime."
"You're a useful person to know," commented Draco. "You were lost in thought when I came in, though. Anything I can help with?"
Harry blushed. "Erm, yes, actually, but I'm a bit scared to ask you," he admitted.
Draco raised his eyebrows. "Would it be any easier if you weren't looking at me?" he asked. Harry thought about this and then nodded, so Draco sat down next to him on the sofa and laced their fingers together. "Go on," he said.
Harry took a deep breath. "Erm... Well... I've been thinking about... you know, sex. Erm, proper sex. Full sex. I've loved everything we've done so far, and I want to carry on doing all that forever, but... I'm sort of dying to know what it'd be like if we, erm, fucked each other. But I'm worried that I'd do it wrong."
Draco squeezed his hand and rested his head on Harry's shoulder. "Given how good you've been at everything else, I find it hard to believe you'd be bad at fucking," he said. "But I can understand why it's a lot more frightening than sex with a woman. The hole is a lot smaller, isn't it? I remember when I first found out that it was possible to get a cock up there. I didn't believe it for ages, but I finally went and looked it up in the library and found it was true. I was convinced it had to be agony, though, and I couldn't understand why people would do it voluntarily. I was very young then, though."
"Which is why I feel so stupid, having to ask about it when I'm almost forty years old," said Harry bitterly.
"Hey, there's nothing to be ashamed of," said Draco, still not looking at Harry. "You've never had any reason to find out before. And I'm sure there are plenty of people our age who know even less about it than you."
"So... I can understand why people want to try it. But does it hurt?" asked Harry.
"A bit, at first," admitted Draco. "But you soon get used to it, and then it's amazing. If you like, though, I'd be very happy to bottom first; if you still want to switch afterwards, it should be a bit less scarier when you've at least experienced it from the top."
Harry turned Draco's head towards him and kissed him. "I was so hoping you'd say that," he said, relieved. "I definitely want to try both ways, but that'd be a big help. You really wouldn't mind?"
"I really wouldn't mind," said Draco, his eyes dancing. "You may recall I said I wanted to do everything to you and let you do everything to me. I'd be disappointed if you didn't fuck me."
"Come on, then," said Harry, jumping up and leading Draco into the bedroom.
By the time Harry finally pushed his cock into Draco's arse, he felt much less terrified. They'd kissed and fondled each other for a long time before Draco had guided Harry's fingers towards his hole. Harry was very used, by now, to licking this area, so he was surprised to find that inserting his fingers somehow felt dirtier. Draco was quite amused when Harry commented on this.
"I've never heard anyone say that before," he said thoughtfully. "I wonder whether it's to do with which one you do first? Most people think rimming feels much dirtier, but then again most people try that much later."
"It doesn't feel really dirty, just a bit dirtier," said Harry. "Don't worry."
"I'm about as unworried as it's possible to be, right now," Draco reassured him. "Especially if... ah! There it is."
"Ooh, did I find your prostate thingy?" asked Harry, excited.
"Yes, and – ahhh! – you're at just the right angle," said Draco. "Now, I'd like it very much if you would consider putting that huge cock of yours inside me. Are you ready to give it a go?"
Harry grinned at him and withdrew his fingers. Draco turned over to face him and reached for the bottle of lube that he'd placed on the bedside table in preparation. Harry held out his hand for it, but Draco ignored that and started slathering it over Harry's cock himself. Harry sat back on his heels, delighting in the sensation, until he had a sudden thought.
"Do I need to wear a condom?" he asked.
"No," said Draco. "Muggle gay blokes do, because of sexually-transmitted diseases, but none of those seem to affect wizards. At least, there have never been any known cases."
"That seems a bit unfair, but I'm not going to complain," said Harry. "It's just as well, because I haven't got any condoms, and I might actually die of frustration if we had to stop at this point."
"You and me both," said Draco. "But please don't keep me waiting any longer. I need your cock inside me. Right now. Fuck me, Harry."
Harry blushed, but lined up his cock and pushed, and was gratified to see it go straight in. He felt a brief barrier, but continued to push, and eventually his cock was entirely hidden within Draco's body; he felt his balls pressing against Draco's buttocks and gazed down in wonder.
"Yes, yes, well done," said Draco breathlessly, following the direction of Harry's eyes. "But don't just sit there – move! Have you ever heard the phrase 'fuck you into the mattress'? I'd quite like you to do that to me."
Harry bent down his head and kissed him, before trying to get his body into the best position for thrusting. When he thought he'd found it, he did a couple of trial movements, and then began to fuck Draco in earnest, gazing into his eyes the whole time.
"That's... it..." gasped Draco. "Not... gonna... last... long..."
Harry grinned and redoubled his efforts. He doubted he'd last much longer himself, which was just as well since his elbows and knees were starting to protest. The groans Draco was emitting were extremely satisfying: Draco was always delightfully noisy when they did anything in bed, but these noises were even louder than usual. Then one of them changed from a groan to a moan and then to almost a scream, and Draco came spectacularly. The sight of this happening, without either of them so much as touching Draco's cock, was enough to send Harry over the edge as well, and he exulted in the feeling of his come pumping out, deep within Draco. He lay still, noticing belatedly that he was trembling all over, and slid out of Draco only when he was sure there could be no more come left in his balls.
"How was it for you?" asked Draco, smiling. He pulled the duvet over them both and laid his head on Harry's chest.
"Amazing," said Harry. "Fabulous. Incredible. Fantastic. All those sorts of words. But that's not because it was sex. It's because it was with you. I've felt just as good every time we've been in bed together. Anal sex is just a different type of fabulousness. It's being with you, in general, that's the amazing thing."
"Now who's saying all the right things?" chuckled Draco. "I know what you mean, though. And I agree. Except that you're far more fabulous than me. Just so you know."
"I find that hard to believe," said Harry. "But I don't think any valid conclusions can be drawn until we've completed all the tests. Which means that you need to fuck me."
"It may be a few minutes before I can get it up again – I am an old man," Draco pointed out. "But being in bed with the most gorgeous bloke in the world will probably help."
"I'll just go and get him, then," smirked Harry. Draco hit him with a pillow.
"And finally, as I'm sure you all know, Professor Malfoy will sadly be leaving us today in order to return for Beauxbatons for the start of their term. I know you'll all want to join me in thanking him for helping us out for the last two weeks," said Professor McGonagall. The Great Hall was full of the clinking of crockery as the house-elves cleared away the remains of breakfast, but Draco was startled to find the noise eclipsed by a huge round of applause – much louder than the one two weeks earlier – and even some cheering. He stood up and bowed slightly, smiling.
Harry was beaming at him when he sat back down. "You deserve it, you know," he said. "Quite apart from what you've done for me – and my arse is certainly well aware of that this morning – the kids have loved your lessons. Even if none of them actually believes that we didn't throw any of our duels."
"I know, it's so unfair!" said Draco. "Here's me thinking people would be impressed that I beat you overall by seven duels to five, but they all think you let me!"
"Sorry," said Harry, looking as if he really was. "I'll try to convince them after you've gone. Can't promise I'll manage it, though. People seem to believe all sorts of ridiculous things where I'm concerned."
"I know, and it's OK," said Draco. "As long as we know the truth, that's all I'm bothered about. The kids are welcome to their fantasies of you. I'd rather have the real thing."
"The real thing is all yours," said Harry warmly. "In fact, I'd like to make it officially yours, if it's alright with you. How d'you feel about coming with me to the Prophet tonight to make a statement about us?"
Draco stared at him. "I'd be delighted," he said. "But are you sure? What happened to waiting a few weeks?"
"It probably would be better to wait a few weeks, but I don't want to," admitted Harry. "It's been a nightmare this week, not being able to touch you or kiss you unless we're sure we're alone. I don't want to hide any longer. In fact, unless you have any objections, I plan to kiss you right here at this breakfast table, in a minute, in front of everyone."
"Would you like me to ask the students to remain in their seats until you're ready?" asked McGonagall, who neither of them had noticed standing behind them.
Harry flushed, but looked her in the eye, smiling awkwardly. "No, it's OK, Professor," he said. "I'll make do with whoever's left."
"I look forward to the spectacle," said the Headmistress drily. "However, before you out yourselves, I have some news for you. Horace Slughorn has just informed me that he will be retiring at Christmas. It seems that his sight has been deteriorating for several years, and he has finally decided that it is bad enough now that it is a danger to his work. I will therefore have a vacancy for a Potions professor in January and, Draco, the job is yours if you want it."
Draco and Harry gazed at each other, speechless. "I don't need an answer immediately, of course," McGonagall added. "I have three months to find someone else if you say no. But I'd appreciate a decision in the next few weeks if possible."
Draco turned to her and smiled. "I don't think I'll need that long," he said. "Thank you. I'd be delighted to accept. I'll need to give my notice at Beauxbatons, of course, so I'd be grateful if you didn't announce it until I have. But there's nothing I'd like more than to be here."
Harry beamed at him. "Stand up," he said, doing so himself. As usual, many heads turned to look at him; what happened next was less usual, however. Harry took hold of Draco's head and proceeded to kiss him thoroughly.
"And to think people tell me I don't get enough entertainment in my life," muttered McGonagall to herself, settling down to watch.