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Ice Snakes, Glow-worms and Wolverine Stew

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Draco was ready to slip away home after the 5th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Hogwarts when he saw Harry Potter, also standing alone in the shadows. A strange place for the hero, but Potter shunned the limelight year after year.

Draco nodded. “Potter.”

Potter started and looked up. “Malfoy.”

They had seldom spoken in the years since the war ended, but Draco felt a need to at least be civil.

“Going to the ball this evening, then, Potter?”

Potter shrugged. “Not feeling very festive.”

Draco certainly understood that. Deeply grateful though he was that the Dark Lord was gone, he wasn’t about to court rejection by attending a ball celebrating that victory. Just as he could never bring himself to dance around the Beltane bonfires, so near the anniversary of his brush with Fiendfyre.

And yet - the May-tree decorations, still up from Beltane celebrations the day before, were lovely - the hawthorns frothing with white blossom and bedecked with colored ribbons. When he’d been chosen by his first wand, the hawthorn one, at age 11, Draco had imagined that Beltane would be his special festival. A day marked for happiness. And now… he sighed.

“All right there, Malfoy?”

Somehow he’d forgotten Potter’s presence. “Just thinking about – my wand,” Draco answered. “Good night.”

o8o

The next morning an owl was tapping at the window of the cottage Draco rented from Luna Lovegood. It carried a note from Potter, saying he needed to talk to Draco and suggesting that he come to Draco’s home the following Saturday afternoon, “if convenient.”

Mystified, but feeling it was unwise to refuse, Draco wrote back agreeing.

Saturday found him home waiting. No Potter. Inconsiderate, these heroes. Draco might need to eat all the tea biscuits himself.

Then the silvery Patronus of a stag appeared in the room and Potter’s voice burst out. “Malfoy, where the hell are you? The place looks deserted and I’m under attack by crazed peacocks.”

Oh Merlin, did Potter think he still lived at the Manor? Draco grabbed his broom and Disapparated.

When he arrived at the front gates of the Manor Draco could hear the screeching of angry birds mixed with Potter’s shouted spells. He hurried through the unlocked gates and waded through the weeds.

Potter was surrounded by a ring of snowy white peacocks in full display, shaking their feathers menacingly and screaming. He was firing off spells, which would only antagonise them further. The ones behind him darted in to nip at his heels.

Draco swung a leg over his broom and pushed off. “Potter, here!” Circling overhead, he stretched an arm down to the besieged Boy Wonder. One of the demented birds leapt up and snapped at Draco. “Come on!”

Potter reached up to him and Draco hauled him up behind onto the broom. The peacocks swirled up around them in a noisy storm and Draco shot up higher. Fortunately their tails weighed them down and they were rather clumsy flyers.

He was sweeping around the back of the Manor now, scanning the trees. “There’s another party of peacocks in the grove on the left,” he said over his shoulder. “We’d better get out of here.” A light tingle let him know he’d flown through the old overhead wards.

Not until the birds’ screams were lost in the distance did Draco bring them down to land in a meadow. “Looks like you got a scratch on your arm. Did any bite you?”

Potter was limping as he got off the broom. “My leg. It’s nothing much.”

“You don’t want to come down with peacock fever. Screechy voice, feathery hair, delusions of feathers growing out your arse, insatiable desire to strut around staring in mirrors….”

Potter looked sufficiently horrified that Draco was able to cast a few cleansing and healing charms. Not until he had rolled Potter’s trouser leg back down over his knobbly knee did Draco say, “Joke, Potter.”

“Not very good hosts,” Potter said. “Or maybe I just don’t appreciate their choice of entertainment.”

Draco froze. “I – “

“Joke, Malfoy. You did say there was a party of peacocks.”

“That’s the term. Parliament of owls, gaggle of geese, unkindness of ravens, party of peacocks.”

“War party, maybe.”

Party to a lawsuit, Draco thought. Avian assault and battery. “I am sorry. I didn’t realise you thought I was still living at the Manor. It’s been shut up for some time.”

“I should have asked. I don’t understand why none of my spells worked on the birds, though.”

“My father wanted them as guards. He put them under some kind of protection.”

“And you haven’t taken it off? Those birds are a menace.”

“I agree, but no one knows how to remove it, and it’s rather dangerous to try. He took that secret to his grave.”

“So you’ve given up living in your home over a bunch of bad juju peacocks?”

There were plenty of reasons Draco was not comfortable in Malfoy Manor any more, but he didn’t need to discuss them with Potter. “The peafowl will all die off eventually.” In fifteen or twenty years.

“If your father knew such a powerful protection spell…”

Potter was frowning and the unspoken thought hung in the air. Why wouldn’t he have used it to protect his own family?

It wouldn’t have worked on people. Draco assumed. Really, his father was not a fruitful topic for conversation.

Draco needed to salvage this situation somehow. He still didn’t know why Potter wanted to meet him in the first place. He wasn’t eager to find out, to tell the truth. No point antagonising Potter any further than could be helped.

“I am sorry about what happened, Potter. Allow me to buy you a pint. There’s a nice wizarding pub not far from here with a riverside garden.”

“Well – yeah, all right.”

A mild breeze stirred Potter’s ever-tousled hair. The May sunshine was warm on Draco’s skin, and the sky was blue. “It’s a lovely day, really. We could fly there,” Draco heard himself say.

Potter looked startled and Draco remembered that there was only the one broom. But Potter smiled. What Seeker wouldn’t prefer the freedom of the spring skies to the claustrophobic squeeze of Apparition, given the choice?

So they took off into the air again, under a concealment charm. Potter’s arms were clasped lightly around Draco’s waist. Nothing like the death-grip Draco had held him with when Potter carried him out of the Fiendfyre. Just – pleasant. Still… Draco leaned the broom into a slow roll.

“Hey!” Potter clutched him as they spun upside down.

“Just want to make sure you’re awake back there.” Draco righted them smoothly.

Potter swore without any real heat and asked about the make of the broom, which Draco had bought on the Continent when visiting his mother in France. Draco may have shown off a little with a few more stunts on the way to the pub.

They continued talking about brooms, and then arguing about Quidditch teams, over their pints. The pub was fairly busy – it was within Apparating distance of Stonehenge, after all – but they sat outside and watched the light sparkle on the water. It was all… easier than Draco could have expected a conversation with Potter to be. But then, the topics were suited to small talk, and Draco was still in the dark about what Potter had originally wanted to discuss. Let sleeping dogs lie, he told himself.

“Oh – I didn’t realise how late it is - I’d better let you go,” Potter said. “Saturday night coming, I expect you have plans.” Draco didn’t, but he assumed Potter was excusing himself to go get ready for his own date.

“Sorry if my owl was too early the other day,” Potter added.

“What? No, why would it be?”

“Morning after the ball, and that just after Beltane. Late nights, people sleep in. I forget.”

Potter assumed that Draco had been out having a wild time? He’d never noticed that Draco didn’t go to either the ball or the Beltane rites? Perhaps he never went himself. Perhaps they were equally hopeless at romance. But why would that be, with Potter’s hero status? No, he must just prefer to celebrate privately with his partner.

A partner who left him standing alone, looking sad and tired, after the commemorative service?

Well, it was none of Draco’s business.

“I do still need to talk to you about something,” Potter added. “I just wanted to do it privately, and thought you might be more comfortable at your own place.”

“Certainly,” Draco said, trying to squelch his sense of foreboding. “Owl me with a convenient time, and I’ll send you my current address.”

o8o

They arranged for Potter to come by the next weekend, and Draco laid in a fresh supply of biscuits. It turned out to be a lovely day, and he thought they might sit outside. He was getting things ready for tea when Potter arrived via Floo, holding his broom. “Shame not to fly here, on a day like this,” Potter said, “but I wasn’t sure I’d find the place. It would be nice to look around the countryside later though.”

Draco smiled. Potter had been curious about his French broom, and he’d always wondered about Potter’s brooms. Once a Seeker, always a Seeker, he supposed, and a Seeker looked for different things in a broom than other wizards and witches usually did. He’d love to try out Potter’s, to be honest, but that was such an intimate thing to do…. Draco gave himself a mental shake.

“It’s good country for flying. How do you take your tea?”

Just then there was a loud thud from the roof, followed by a series of crashes. Both of them were at the window with their wands out in an instant. Roof slates were laying cracked on the ground, squashing a flowerbed.

Draco stared, puzzled. The weather was calm….

With a clatter, more slates cascaded down and landed on the lawn.

Draco looked around for something to shield his head. He found an umbrella, cast a strengthening charm on it, held it over himself and stepped out. On the roof, looking very cheerful, stood Gregory Goyle with his wand out.

“Greg! What are you –“

“Hello Draco! Didn’t know you were home! Mind your head!” Draco’s reply was drowned out by another shower of falling slates. Mercifully, Greg had sent them well off to the side, but the rosebush would probably never be the same.

Potter had appeared, all foolhardy with no head protection, his wand aimed. Draco interrupted Potter’s stunning spell and hauled him under the umbrella. “Don’t jinx him – Greg is….” Well, harmless was not the word. “Well-intentioned. Toward me, at any rate.”

“Oi, Potter! Heads up!” Greg called.

“No, Greg, wait! Please stop and explain,” Draco said. “You’re destroying the roof, not to mention the garden, and you know this isn’t even my house. I’m just renting. What is Luna going to say?”

“She hired me to do it!” Greg was beaming. “She said there were Gloomy Mimswuggles nesting under the slates, and the house needed a good sunning and airing out. Then everyone in it will be happier.”

That was plausible, actually. Not that there were really Glum Mumsmiggles or whatever in there, but that Luna would think there were.

“But why wouldn’t she have told me?” Draco said.

“She had to leave to look for Blibbering Humdingers. It’s their mating season in the Canary Islands. She told me to start work on your roof when we got a stretch of sunny weather.”

“And were you perhaps supposed to let me know about this?”

“Er. I might have forgot.” Greg looked stricken.

“Can’t you at least take the slates down carefully, instead of smashing them?”

Greg’s face took on a mulish look. “This way is more fun. I can fix it later.”

“But the garden…”

“Luna said I could.”

Draco sighed. Greg had been a bit fragile since Vince died, and it was good to see him enthusiastic. He was a born follower, and if he’d decided to follow Luna for the moment, well, she was benign, though batty. Which was more than Draco could say about his own past influence.

“All right. Let me see about protecting the plants first, and then we’ll talk about it. You could, er, have a cup of tea and some biscuits while you wait.” Draco turned to Potter, who was regarding him with disbelief.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to just stun him, tie him up and bundle him out of here?”

Draco froze. “No. No.” Remembering how afraid they had all been of being bound and sent to Azkaban. Remembering the day of battle at Hogwarts, when Granger stunned Greg in the Room of Hidden Things, and Draco had to drag his heavy, helpless body up onto a teetering pile of furniture, desperately trying to escape the Fiendfyre flames. The weight of Greg holding him back as Potter tried to pull Draco up onto the safety of his broom. Just thinking of it made his palms sweat again, made his breath come in gasps.

“Malfoy?” Potter’s hand was on Draco’s shoulder. He looked concerned. His hand was warm. Draco’s breathing slowed again.

“It will be all right if I can supervise him,” Draco said. “Greg doesn’t lie. If he says Luna told him to do this, then she did.”

“What if it rains? It’ll go through the lathes – if he doesn’t tear those off too. You could have the ceiling come down around your ears.”

“Greg’s actually quite good at predicting the weather, so I think the skies will be clear for a while. “

“You seem very calm about this, Malfoy.”

Draco shrugged. Going roofless for a few days in the spring was a relatively minor matter, he thought. In comparison to living under a roof shared with Bellatrix, Fenrir, Nagini, assorted other Death-Eaters, and the Dark Lord himself.

Goyle joined them on the ground. “What kind of biscuits are there, Draco?”

“In a minute, Greg. I’m sorry, Potter, it looks like our conversation must be postponed again. Perhaps we should try your house next time.“

They arranged to meet at Grimmauld Place for dinner the following Saturday evening, and Potter left. Flying. Maybe someday they would get to compare brooms…. Draco sighed and started trying to transfigure some protection for his garden, while Greg stirred four spoons of sugar into his tea and ate all the biscuits.

o8o

It was a long week of dealing with Greg and the roof, but Draco managed to talk him into permitting the use of a cushioning charm to protect the rest of the slates from shattering. Greg created his own sound effects as he watched them bounce. The weather continued warm and sunny. The sunlight would disperse the melancholy vapours allegedly trapped under the slates, which had made the Mimswuggles gloomy, and would supposedly trigger their metamorphosis into Merry Sprigglewicks, after which everyone would be happy. Greg, at least, was happy, as long as the biscuits kept coming, and Draco liked seeing him at peace. Fixing the slates that had already shattered took some finicky wand-work, but they did get everything back in place eventually.

When his Aunt Andromeda Floo-called the next Saturday afternoon, Draco was considering whether the weather was cool enough for his favorite blue robe, the one that (he hoped) made his colouring look striking rather than washed-out. Not that it was important what he wore to dinner, really. It’s not likely Potter would notice. Probably.

“Draco,” Andromeda said, “I’m so sorry to bother you, but something has come up suddenly. Could you watch Teddy this evening? Come over and give him his supper and put him to bed? I have to go out and won’t be back until late.”

“Er…” Draco said. He enjoyed his little cousin and hated to disappoint his aunt. It was only a couple of years ago that he had mustered the nerve to meet her and tell her that he was sorry about the rift in the family. But his meeting with Potter had been delayed so much already….

“I know it’s an imposition. I asked his godfather, but Harry said he has a date tonight –”

“He – a date?”

“So he asked if I could possibly find someone else. And there are so few people Teddy is really comfortable with….”

Potter had a date tonight? Somehow Draco had imagined they could relax after dinner for a little. Though, why would he think that? Potter was squeezing in time for Draco at dinner, between the other things in his busy schedule, before he went out with his date – dancing, maybe – anyway, it didn’t matter, Andromeda needed one of them to mind Teddy and it might as well be Draco.

He let Andromeda know that he’d be there soon, sent Potter an owl to explain, and changed to more child-proof robes.

Andromeda left as soon as he arrived, but she had a meal all prepared for Teddy and him, so that was easy enough. After they ate, Teddy wanted to fly around the garden on his toy broom, so Draco watched him and gave some pointers until the light waned. “Time for bed soon. Let’s pick out a bedtime story.”

Aunt Lulu! I want to read Aunt Lulu!”

That was gratifying, because Draco had chosen the book himself – it was one of his birthday gifts to Teddy a month ago.

“All right, get ready and get your pyjamas on.”

Once Teddy was settled into bed, Draco began to read. Teddy interrupted him frequently with the parts he remembered and knew by heart. They got to the part where Aunt Lulu is setting out on her dogsled for the gold miners’ camp.

“’Mush!’ is what you say to sled dogs to make them go,” Draco read. ”’Mush!’ she would say. Then she would call out the dogs’ names. “Mush, Melvin, Louise, Phoebe, Willie, Norman, Hortense, Bruce…

Teddy chimed in, “…Susie, Charles, Teddie, Neddie, Eddie, Freddie, and Sweetie-pie!”

Just then they heard the Floo come to life in the other room. “Hello?” It sounded like Potter’s voice.

“Harry!” Teddy jumped out of bed and went running.

Draco followed. “Potter?”

“His name is Harry, Cousin Draco, call him Harry.”

Draco looked at Potter, whose face was softening out of a frown. “Yeah,” Potter said, “do.”

“All… right. Harry. What can we do for you?”

“I just thought I’d see how you two were doing.”

“Come over, Harry! We’re reading Aunt Lulu! Cousin Draco gave it to me for my birthday. I can read a little of it!”

“Can you? Wow.”

“Yeah, and it’s really good! You can hear me read! There’s a dog named Teddie! Teddie Neddie Eddie –“

“Well, I’ll have to hear that! If it’s all right with your Cousin Draco, that is.”

“I – if you like,” Draco said.

Potter came through the Floo. He was dressed more nicely than usual. For his date, Draco supposed. He wouldn’t be staying long, then.

“Back to bed, Teddy,” Draco said. “We can’t keep you up all night for company, or what will your grandmother think? We can read there.”

“So, tell me about this Aunt Lulu. Is she a good aunt?” Potter asked when they were settled in Teddy’s bedroom.

“Yeah, ‘cause she gives the kid a moose call! And she takes books to the gold miners! Books about kittens and pirates. And cowboys.”

“Really? Why does she do that?”

“She’s a librarian in Alaska,” Draco informed him.

“Yeah and they eat wolverine stew! And she has a dogsled and the dogs’ names are Melvin, Louise, Phoebe, and – and –”

“Willie, Norman, Hortense, Bruce…” Draco supplied.

“And Susie, Charles, Teddie Neddie Eddie Freddie and Sweetie-Pie!”

“Wow.”

“Have you ever eaten wolverine stew, Harry?” Teddy asked.

“Never even heard of it before.”

“How about you, Cousin Draco?”

“I have never had the opportunity.”

“And would you take that opportunity if it were offered?” Harry asked.

“Under the right circumstances.”

“Which would be?”

“Imminent starvation.”

Harry laughed.

“I want to taste it,” Teddy announced. “And to see a moose. And ride in a dogsled.”

“As far as I know, there are no wolverines or moose in Britain,” Draco told him. “We’d need your grandmother’s permission for an international Portkey, so I’m afraid it can’t be arranged tonight. Maybe you’d better just sleep now and dream about it.”

“We have to finish the book first!”

They read the book again from the beginning, and then Teddy begged Draco for a song before he slept. “The one you always sing.”

Draco smiled at him, dimmed the lights and began the lilting melody.

Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee,
The shooting stars attend thee;
And the elves also,
Whose little eyes glow
Like the sparks of fire, befriend thee.

No Will-o'-th'-Wisp mis-light thee,
Nor snake or slow-worm bite thee;
But on, on thy way,
Not making a stay,
Since ghost there's none to affright thee.

Let not the dark thee cumber;
What though the moon does slumber?
The stars of the night
Will lend thee their light,
Like tapers clear without number.

When he finished, Teddy’s eyes were shut and he was breathing in the gentle rhythms of sleep. Draco looked up to find Harry’s gaze upon him. It was a moment before Draco could look away. He got up quietly from Teddy’s bed and went into the living room. Harry followed and sat next to him on the sofa.

There was a slightly awkward silence, and then Harry said, “That book was certainly a hit. Where did you find it?”

“I asked a librarian for a children’s book with a character named Teddy. Did you know that Muggle librarians are actually helpful? Not like Pince at all.”

“You went to a Muggle library?”

“I’d been with Andromeda and Teddy before.” It had been an adventure, the first time, and Draco had been nervous, but he wasn’t about to tell that to Potter. Harry. Whoever. Andromeda was comfortable in the Muggle world, because her Muggle-born husband Ted had been close to his family. She’d been willing to help Draco get his feet wet there.

“And the librarian thought of this American book with sled dogs?”

“Well, the heroine of the book is a librarian, so I suppose they remember it. And then I got Padma Patil to special order a new copy for me. She owns that wizarding bookshop that also carries Muggle titles.”

“Teddie Neddie Eddie Freddie.” Potter was smiling.

“And Sweetie-pie. Don’t forget Sweetie-pie.”

“I would never forget Sweetie-pie,” Harry murmured.

For some reason Draco found himself blushing. He looked at his shoes. “Hadn’t you better get going to your date tonight?”

“My date cancelled on me.”

Draco scoffed. “Who would cancel on the great Harry Potter?”

“You, apparently.”

“I – it was a date?”

Now Potter was looking at his shoes. “In a manner of speaking.”

“I am sorry – it’s just that Andromeda – ”

“I know. It’s fine. I had a chance to hear that lovely song.”

Draco smiled. “My mother used to sing it to me. We called it the glow-worm song. She thought there was more to it, but that’s all she remembered. What did your – your aunt? – sing to you at bedtime?”

Harry’s smile vanished into a bitter twist of the lips. “Nothing. She wasn’t fond of spiders in cupboards.”

Draco would have asked about this puzzling statement, but Harry’s eyes were lost in some unhappy place. Draco shifted slightly so that his fingers brushed Harry’s. He felt an electric tingle at the contact. Harry glanced up and smiled at him, and something hummed in the air between them.

The Floo roared to life and Andromeda stepped through. “Thank you so much, Draco! I came back as quickly as I could! I hope Teddy wasn’t a bother. And Harry, you came after all! You shouldn’t have troubled yourself, I know it’s been forever since you had a date.”

Harry looked mortified and Draco laughed helplessly. Finally he said, “Teddy was a delight. And perhaps Harry’s date will forgive him. We can hope.”

“I’m going to try to reschedule it,” Harry said. “For lunch at my house next Saturday.”

“Well, you don’t need our approval,” said Andromeda. “I just hope that witch or wizard knows how lucky they are.”

“Indeed,” said Draco.

She turned on Draco. “Don’t laugh at Harry just because he’s a little shy. You should get out more too, young man. ”

“Thank you, Aunt Andromeda. I’ll try to do that,” Draco said. “I’d better be going. I think I’ll walk a bit and then Apparate. I’d like a bit of air.”

“That sounds good to me too,” said Harry. “Good night, Andromeda.”

They walked outside into the mild evening air. It was fragrant with blossoms. A few stars had come out.

“Next week, lunch, then?” Harry said.

“I’d love to,” Draco said.

He thought he caught a smile on Harry’s face in the dim light.

Harry caught Draco’s hand, swung it once, and squeezed it. “Good night,” he said.

“Good night.”

Harry loosed his hand and Disapparated. Draco smiled after him. From the corner of his eye he saw a gleam of yellow-green light blink on and off in the garden. He laughed again in quiet wonder. “Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee, Harry Potter.” And Draco went home.

o8o

Draco flew part of the way to Harry’s house the next Saturday, hoping they might go for a broom ride later. He was a bit dusty when he arrived, and asked to wash his hands before lunch. When he turned the water on, there was a slight hissing nose, and the head of a brilliant green snake emerged from the tap. Draco jumped back and grabbed for his wand. Stupefy! He turned the tap off, too, just in case.

Harry came running. “I heard you casting, what happened?”

“There’s several feet of an emerald tree boa coiled up in your sink. Or perhaps it’s a green tree python, they’re hard to tell apart.”

“There’s what?”

Harry stared at the snake. It had only partly emerged; the tail end was presumably still up the pipe. “Salazar Slytherin,” he muttered, “why me?”

An interesting exclamation for a Gryffindor, Draco thought. “Has this sort of thing happened to you often? Snakes in the pipes?”

“If by ‘often’ you mean ‘ever.’ Not in my own home, though. I wonder if I can talk to it? I haven’t had a reason to use Parseltongue in years. Do you think it’s safe to Rennervate it?”

“Whichever species it is, it isn’t venomous; they both kill by squeezing. I may have over-reacted by stunning it. If it’s the boa it will still have a painful bite, though.”

After a variety of protective and containment charms they released the snake from the spell and Harry had a hissing conversation with it. He turned back to Draco.

“It doesn’t know how it got here and is quite angry about it. It would prefer to be back in the rain forests of New Guinea. We are too big to eat and therefore safe. It has agreed to remain here for a short time to see if we can come up with a way to get it home, although it says the air is unpleasantly cold and dry here.”

“New Guinea? Python, then. Perhaps we could run a hot bath and let it enjoy the steam while we figure out what to do?”

“Good idea, I’ll do that. The bathroom’s upstairs. How did you know what kind it was?”

The Savvy Snakelet’s Guide to Spectacular Serpents. A popular picture-book in Slytherin families. I liked the colorful ones.”

“Hmm.” Potter disappeared upstairs. A minute later he called for Draco. “There’s another snake coming out of the tap in the tub!”

Draco hurried upstairs. The stunned snake in the tub was a striking combination of long black and blue stripes with a regular pattern of red splotches along the side. “I think that’s a California Red-Sided Garter Snake, though the blue stripe is a bit unusual. Gorgeous. They’re harmless, unless you’re a frog or something like that.”

“Yeah yeah, very pretty, but….” Harry tried the tap on the sink. Water came out. “Well, that’s a relief. At least some of the taps work. I‘m going to check the rest of them before I talk to this fellow.”

Draco followed him on a tour of the house’s plumbing. They didn’t find any more inside. “I guess that’s all,” Harry said.

“Magic tends to come in threes,” Draco said. “Is there an outside tap?”

The tap in the back garden produced a shimmering, translucent snake of a pure deep ethereal blue. As it hissed, Harry paused with his wand raised and hissed back. “It’s in real distress,” he said. “Claims to be fainting from the heat.”

“That’s an ice snake,” Draco said, awed. He cast the strongest cooling charm he knew. “They live on glaciers. They’re not dangerous, but they are endangered. It will melt and dissolve if it isn’t kept cold.”

“So now what do we do with them?” Harry frowned. “It doesn’t seem right to just Vanish them, especially if this one’s endangered. And they don’t like zoos, people are always harassing them, tapping on the glass.”

“What else can we do, then? Take them home?”

Harry cocked his head and regarded Draco for a moment. A mischievous light came into his eyes. “Want to?”

“Do I want to traipse all over the world repatriating three snakes who somehow turned up in your plumbing?”

“Yes, do you?”

“With you?”

“Yeah.”

A laugh started to bubble up from somewhere inside Draco. “Yes,” he discovered, “I do.”

o8o

They discussed logistics over lunch, with the ice snake in the converted Muggle freezer that Harry kept for ice cream, and the other two under containment charms.

“They need such different environments,” Draco said. “If our temperature charms fail, we risk melting the ice snake if we bring it to New Guinea, or freezing the python if we bring it along to the ice. I think garter snakes are a bit more adaptable. Maybe we should make more than one trip.”

“I’ve got the time if you do.”

“Fine. Where should we start?”

They decided to leave the ice snake in the freezer and the garter snake in the attic, and head for New Guinea with the impatient python. New Guinea being difficult to get around except by air, they brought their brooms along.

The green tree python was willing to go to any part of the tropical rainforest on the island of New Guinea, and the Portkey Office was willing to make one for any town they could provide the name of. Draco scanned maps of New Guinea. “Let’s go to Popondetta,” he said. “I like the name.”

After a slightly bumpy Portkey trip they arrived, in the steamy capital of the northern Oro province of Papua New Guinea. They set off on their brooms for the nearest stretch of rainforest. The snake, now much more cheerful, asked to be let off at the top of a tree, so they dipped down enough to let it slither into some branches. In moments its brilliant green coloring had blended into the leaves and it was lost from view.

They flew around for a while just to explore. Draco came face to face with a ridiculously cute tree kangaroo, and Harry was startled when he nearly collided with a huge butterfly.

“Going to let a butterfly knock you off your broom, Potter?” Draco teased.

“It was enormous!” Harry protested. “It must have been a foot across!”

“Nine or ten inches, maybe. Oh look, orchids!”

Eventually the heat and humidity began to sap Draco’s energy. He couldn’t seem to think clearly. “You look to be wilting,” Harry said, and sent a delicious blast of cooling charm Draco’s way.

“I could kiss you for that,” Draco murmured. Luckily Harry didn’t hear him – did he?

“Hey, I hear a waterfall,” Harry called, so they flew over and found a beautiful cascade. They made a game of flying close enough to get splashed with spray. Refreshed and laughing, they headed back to Popondetta for a meal of fish, sweet potatoes and rambutan, a fragrant and odd little fruit that Harry said looked like a hairy eyeball.

“It’s a beautiful island,” Draco said, “and fascinating, but awfully humid. And I can’t help remembering….”

“Flavius Belby?”

“Yes, the Lethifold attack here. Being suffocated in one’s bed and eaten by a malevolent dark blanket thing just sounds so unpleasant.”

“He scared it off with a Patronus.”

“Not everyone knows how to make a Patronus, you know. Besides, you’d have to stay awake all night watching so the Lethifold didn’t creep up on you in your sleep.”

“I can teach you to make a Patronus, Draco. But I agree on not wanting to stay awake and on guard all night. We have safely delivered the tree python, so we can head home with a clear conscience.”

Mission accomplished. It was a satisfying feeling.

o8o

Once back at Harry’s, they learned that the ice snake needed to return to a coastal glacier somewhere in the North American Pacific Northwest. “Might as well go to Alaska, then,” Harry said. “The glaciers are probably bigger there, it’s farther north. And Teddy would like it if we went.”

“He’d like it more if he could come along,” Draco said.

“We’ll tell him we’re scouting for future trips. I wonder if it’s too close to summer for dog sledding?”

Alaska, they found from the map, was enormous, though sparsely settled. “This must be seven times the size of Britain,” Draco said. “Where do we begin?”

Harry looked along the coastline. “Here’s a place called Glacier Bay. That sounds promising.”

The garter snake, who turned out to be quite chatty, said it would be happy to come along if they could keep it from freezing. They could swing by its home in California (the San Francisco area) on the way back. Harry bought a multiple use, open-ended Portkey, they packed some warmer clothes (and their brooms again), and they left. The Portkey trip wasn’t bad this time, and they arrived in Alaska in the morning.

Glacier Bay was gorgeous and some of the ice was the same beautiful blue as the snake, who slipped onto it and slid away without a backward glance. They flew close to some of the calving glaciers but learned not to fly too low, after Draco was nearly drenched by the huge splash made by enormous chunks of ice falling into the sea.

They saw a moose swimming, and some sea otters floating on their backs, and seals. The garter snake had wrapped itself securely around Harry’s upper arm under his clothes, but occasionally poked its head out of his collar to take a look.

After hours of flying over glaciers, forest, mountains and bay they were hungry and went to the small town of Gustavus for a meal at a little café. It seemed to mostly serve hamburgers and chips. “Do you have wolverine stew?” Harry asked.

The waitress laughed. “No one would eat that unless they were starving. It’s hard to even see a wolverine, and they’re tough mean stinky beasts.”

Draco snorted. “Well, maybe we can bring Teddy a moose call instead.”

Harry and Draco stayed in Gustavus overnight and flew to Juneau the next day, spotting some whales en route. The Owl Post office there offered Portkey reset services. “Is there anywhere else you want to see before we go to San Francisco?” Harry asked. “We’re so close to Canada, and seeing that moose made me think of…”

“The Moose Jaw Meteorites!” Draco said. “We shouldn’t miss a chance to see the best Quidditch team in the Americas.”

“I always wanted to know how they made the sparks come out of their brooms. Let me just check with our garter snake friend and see if it’s in a hurry to get home.”

The garter snake became quite animated when Harry spoke to it and there was a lot of hissing back and forth. It looked more eager than angry.

“It says the world’s biggest gathering of garter snakes is in Manitoba and if we hurry we might be able to catch them coming out of their winter dens where they all sleep together to stay warm. In spring they have mating balls.”

Draco frowned. “Are those like big snake courtship dances?”

Harry and the snake had another hissing conversation. “No, not a ball like a dance, more like a… big tangle of yarn, I guess. Made of snakes. Many males for each female.”

Draco raised his eyebrows. “Is that frustrating?”

More hissing. “No, he says he enjoys, uh, rubbing up against the other fellows. Um, he’s a male.” Harry looked a little pink. “They have mating balls at home too, but nothing like this. And he’d really, really like to go. Meet his Canadian cousins, have another story to tell the snakes back home…. It’s a place called the Narcisse Snake Dens.”

“Narcisse? My mother might like a postcard of that....”

So Harry booked Portkey travel to Winnipeg, Manitoba. From Winnipeg they flew to Narcisse, and saw more snakes in one place than Draco had ever dreamed of – slim, curious, friendly little garter snakes. Their travel companion slithered off into the midst of them, his blue stripe flashing among his yellow-striped cousins. When he finally returned he had an air of dreamy contentment.

It turned out that just outside Winnipeg was the home Quidditch pitch of another famed Canadian team, the Stonewall Stormers. Harry and Draco were able to watch a practice and have a pint afterwards with the team, discussing the latest Canadian innovations in broom design with the Stormer’s Seeker.

Then they headed to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where the Meteorites had a match against the Haileybury Hammers scheduled in two days’ time. While they waited, Harry and Draco flew out to Buffalo Pound Provincial Park, where they saw big shaggy bison and admired the pelicans with their long pouched beaks. At least, Harry and Draco admired the pelicans. The garter snake hid.

The Quidditch match itself was well-attended and hard-fought. The home team won, and the Meteorites put on a dazzling display of their signature broom-sparkling in their victory celebration. Draco got a couple of the team members to autograph the souvenir birch-bark moose call that he’d bought for Teddy. All in all it was thoroughly satisfying.

As the hometown of such an illustrious Quidditch team, Moose Jaw received a lot of wizard tourists, and Harry had no trouble finding a place to book a Portkey to San Francisco. On arrival, they took their garter snake friend to his home grounds at the seashore at Point Reyes and said goodbye. He thanked them for the adventure and told them they would always find a friend among the garter snakes of San Francisco if they mentioned his name, Ssschxthssthss. Draco was sorry to see him go. His company had revived Draco’s love of snakes, making the nightmare memories of Nagini recede. Draco suspected Harry felt the same way.

In San Francisco Harry and Draco found rooms at a wizarding bed-and-breakfast, since neither of them was in a hurry to go home yet. Then they wandered around. Shop windows were full of posters for San Francisco Pride, the upcoming Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Celebration and Parade. “Visiting from England? You should stay for the parade!” a rather flirtatious young man told them.

“Oh, er, that would be nice, but we have one in London too,” Harry told him.

“We do?” Draco said.

“I could take you. If you like.”

The man arched an eyebrow at them. “Sounds like a date.”

A date. Along with the curl of pleasure that brought, something tugged at Draco’s memory as he walked with Harry through Golden Gate Park. He’d become so involved in their serpentine travels that he’d forgotten about Harry’s previous interrupted attempts to meet with him after Beltane. There had been something Harry wanted to talk to him about. Something important enough that he kept trying, after peacock attacks and crashing roof slates and cancelled dinners. Something awkward enough that he hadn’t just said it and been done with it. Draco didn’t think it was romance – at least, not at the beginning.

Draco cast a Muffliato. “After the War Commemoration, when you first asked to meet me, you had something on your mind, didn’t you? And things kept coming up, and we never discussed it.”

Harry sighed. “Yeah, I guess I put it off because I didn’t know how to say it. You’ve been really patient. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry about what?”

“Your wand.”

“Why? It’s right here, it’s fine.”

“No, your first one. I know you wanted it back, but….”

The hawthorn wand. The first wand Draco had ever had... Memories flocked in. His pleasure at being chosen by it, at channeling magic with it. The spiteful little hexes he’d cast with it, and the careful and ingenious spell-work he’d done. The shock of being able to disarm his Headmaster. The sickening times he’d been forced to use it to torture. The mix of fear and fury, disbelief and relief when Potter – Harry – took it out of his hands. The strange and crucial part it played in defeating Voldemort.

“No,” Draco said, “I don’t want it back. It’s all too confused – would you still be the master of it, unless I won it back from you? If I won it, would I then be master of your wand too? I’d be a target for every would-be Dark Lord who wanted mastery of the Elder Wand, wherever it is. Let sleeping wands lie. I’m not the same wizard I was.”

“That’s the conclusion I came to too, but when I heard you say you missed it…”

“No, I missed….” The Beltane hope of the hawthorn May-tree? Another power and privilege he’d assumed was his for the taking? “Illusions of youth. Let them go.”

Draco’s eyes were fixed in front of him. Ahead of them, a pair of older men were walking along hand in hand. Harry said nothing, but bumped Draco’s shoulder lightly with his own. Draco looked over into a face full of attentive concern. Harry’s hand brushed his. Draco half-smiled, and then they were holding hands.

They walked to Baker Beach, and past that scrambled down to the smaller, more secluded Marshall Beach that someone had recommended. It was a place of beauty, and a nude beach, and a gay beach, and Draco would have been shocked, but he had been on a tour of wonders.

“I’m not taking all my clothes off,” he said.

“We could take our shoes off and go wading,” Harry said. “Get our feet wet in the Pacific.”

That would be all right, Draco thought.

The water was cold, and strong currents pulled the sand out between his toes. The Golden Gate Bridge soared across the water. Sea birds cried.

They walked to a quiet spot and sat on the sand together. The sun came out and the breeze died down, and Harry took off his shirt. He closed his eyes and a smile spread across his face.

“The sun feels so nice on your skin. You should try it, Draco. Just take your shirt off.”

“I can’t,” Draco said. “It – it’s ugly.”

“You do not own an ugly shirt, Draco Malfoy. And even if it were, all the more reason to take it off.”

“No. Me. I’m ugly. There.”

He couldn’t look at Harry, didn’t want to see the realization dawn. He heard Harry’s intake of breath.

“You know,” Harry said slowly, “I’m kind of an expert on scars. And I think – I hope – that scars themselves are not ugly. The curses that make them are. But the scars just show what we have managed to survive.”

Harry took his hand and drew Draco’s fingers over scars he had never known Harry bore. On Harry’s forearm. On his chest. The back of his right hand. And then he brought Draco’s hand to his face, and Draco brushed his fringe aside with trembling fingers, and touched lightning.

“Let me,” Harry breathed, and tugged at Draco’s shirt. Draco let him. His shirt came off and his scarred chest was laid bare.

“It was an ignorant boy who did that to you,” Harry whispered. “Who regretted it as soon as he’d done it.” He laid his fingertips gently against Draco’s skin.

Draco shivered and took a ragged breath. “I’m an expert on ignorant boys, and regret.”

The healing sunlight fell on him, and the salt air of this foreign shore lifted shame away. He brought Harry’s hand over his heart and held it there. Harry gathered Draco in his arms and kissed him, and they fell backwards.

It was sandy and astounding and glorious, kissing Harry Potter on the beach. As if Draco had breached a high grey stone wall and tumbled into a garden riotous with life and colour. The sweetness of Harry’s mouth on his, the singing in his veins, warm skin against his own, the little sounds that escaped them.

He pulled back and looked at Harry. Harry’s eyes were dark and his mouth was soft. I did that to him, Draco thought. He ached with a need for things he could not do on a public beach.

“Back to our rooms?” he said, his voice coming out husky.

“Yeah,” Harry said, and they grabbed their shirts and stumbled up to a private spot to Apparate.

Draco tried to spell most of the sand off first but he could still feel it in his hair when they arrived. “Shower first?” Harry nodded, shut the door of the suite behind them, grabbed Draco and they kissed their way into the bathroom.

Sandy hair was quickly forgotten when they were naked in the shower together, all hungry mouths and roaming hands. The sound of cascading water caught Draco’s cries as he spilled himself into Harry’s mouth. He barely recognised his face in the steamy mirror when they emerged. Dark-eyed with lust, stunned with pleasure, wanton.

They dried off hastily and fell into bed, and Draco felt a fizz of pride that his hands could make Harry come. And then a wave of tenderness at the unguarded awe on Harry’s face.

And then Draco was getting hard again, and they began once more, to explore together what unguessed joys of the body they could unleash.

o8o

After a few more lovely days in San Francisco, they went home to London together. Draco stopped off at Grimmauld Place with Harry. They checked the taps, which were all snake-free.

“We still don’t know how those snakes got there in the first place,” Draco said.

Harry didn’t seem too concerned. “None of them were venomous. Strange things just happen to me.”

“Strange things happen to people who are targets of powerful dark wizards, but he’s gone. So why would they happen to you now?”

“Oh, all kinds of funny things happened when I was a kid – I inflated my Aunt Marge like a balloon once, didn’t even know I was doing it.”

“That’s accidental underage magic and it’s perfectly normal,” Draco said. “The only unusual thing is that you didn’t realise you were a wizard.”

“Well, and then there were all kinds of crazy things second year, when Dobby was trying to protect me by keeping me away from Hogwarts. He managed to seal Platform 9 ¾ against me, can you believe it? There’s really no telling what house-elves can do….” Harry frowned. “Kreacher!”

The ancient elf appeared with a pop.

“Kreacher, do you know how snakes came to be in my taps?”

“Perhaps Kreacher is knowing something.”

Draco doubted that asking a house-elf “how” would be productive. “Kreacher, why would someone put snakes in Harry’s taps?”

Kreacher looked triumphant. “The course of true love is never running smooth.”

“That sounds like a literary quotation run through house-elf syntax,” Draco observed, momentarily distracted. “Have you been reading?”

“Kreacher is being a member of the House Elf Lending Library.”

“H.E.L.L.? That must be one of Granger’s projects. No offense to your friend, Harry, but she has an unhappy genius for acronyms.”

“But the snakes, Kreacher….”

“Kreacher heard Master Harry talking to himself about Master Draco’s wand, and Master Draco’s broomstick. Kreacher is knowing what it means when wizards talk about other wizards’ wands and broomsticks.”

“What…” Harry was starting to laugh.

“Kreacher likes Harry Potter and the young master of the house of Black. Kreacher is helping them.”

“So.…” Draco tried to follow the trail of house-elf logic. “You thought if you kept our course from being smooth, we would find true love?”

Kreacher looked smug.

Draco had to laugh too. “Thank you, Kreacher. It was a fine adventure. And it worked out very well.”

o8o

Draco and Harry were in Draco’s cottage garden looking at the stars when Draco saw the yellow-green lights blinking from the bushes. He touched Harry’s arm to get his attention. “Glow-worms.”

Harry caught his hand and they watched the tiny lights flash. “Oh,” said Harry, “I found that poem. I asked Padma Patil about it.”

“Mmmm?”

“The one your mother used to sing, the one with the glow-worms. It’s called The Night-Piece, to Julia. There’s a bit more - it ends like this: Then Julia let me woo thee -”

“Tired of me and running off to Julia already, are you?”

Then Draco let me woo thee,
Thus thus to come unto me,
And when I shall meet
Thy silvery feet –“

“My silvery feet?”

“Hush, you. I’m trying to be romantic.”

“Kinky,” Draco murmured.

Harry continued, unable to keep from laughing a little.
“And when I shall meet
Thy silvery feet
My soul I’ll pour into thee.”

“Oh, it’s your soul that you pour into me, is it? I’d have called it –“

“Such a mouth you have on you, Mr Malfoy,” Harry said, moving in.

Draco was temporarily distracted from answering because Harry’s lips got in the way. “You like my mouth on me,” Draco said, emerging from the kiss. “What’s more, you like my mouth on you, Harry Potter. All over you.”

“Prove it,” Harry invited.

So by the light of the stars and glow-worms, Draco most deliciously did.

o8o The End o8o