Actions

Work Header

When You're Gone

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When you walk away I count the steps that you take
Do you see how much I need you right now
When you're gone
The pieces of my heart are missing you
When you're gone
The face I came to know is missing too
When you're gone
The words I need to hear to always get me through the day,
and make it OK
I miss you - Avril Lavigne

 

When You're Gone

 

Chapter 1 - I'm Done!

 

"I'm telling you, Blaise, I've had enough!" Draco shouted and threw the latest copy of the Daily Prophet down on the table in front of his friend. "I've put up with enough of his rubbish the last couple of years, but this is the straw. I want out! You hear me?"

Blaise picked up the newspaper to find out what had gotten Draco agitated enough to actually summon him over to Malfoy Manor. He didn't have to look long; the story was splattered all across the front page and the mid pages.

The article should really have been about how star Seeker, Harry Potter, had lead his team, the Chudley Cannons, to yet another victory. The reporters and photographers, however, had obviously been more interested in the after-party. The pictures showed a smirking, and obviously drunk, Harry Potter surrounded by equally drunk team mates, Quidditch groupies and some skanky boy-toy hanging off his arm.

Blaise frowned at the pictures before he moved on to the article.

After the Cannon's star Seeker, none other than the wizarding world's own hero, Harry Potter, had caught the Snitch and made sure his team reached the semi-finals of the British Cup, he was the centre of the after-party. Champagne, alcohol, groupies and strippers flowed freely at the rather raucous party. It is rumored that Mr Potter arrived at the scene with an unknown young man and that the couple got hot and heavy on the dance floor before they disappeared back to the hotel the team's staying at. A source at the hotel claims to have seen the afore-mentioned young man entering the hotel around 4am, with Mr Potter. Upon faced with these rumors, Mr Potter's manager, George Weasley, said that the star Seeker 'was just having some well- earned fun and letting out some steam after a hectic match schedule', and that Mr Potter didn't do anything wrong. The young man that accompanied him was just a good friend. It is reported that Mr Potter will return to his home in Wiltshire next week, where he lives with his husband of six years, Draco Malfoy-Potter, and their five-year-old daughter, Emilia. The Daily Prophet has not been able to reach Mr Draco Malfoy-Potter to get a comment on these latest rumours about his famous husband.

"Rumours my arse," Draco spat angrily and paced around the study. "He's barely home, and when he is it's two or three days at the most. Then it's back to another match, another party, more drinking and fucking around. And he gets away with it, because he's the all-mighty Harry Potter. But not anymore, Blaise! I'm done, you hear me? I'm done with him, his drinking, his entourage, his cheating, his neglect!"

"I understand that, Draco," Blaise said and gestured towards a chair to stop Draco's pacing. "But it might not be as easy as you think, he might not want to go quietly. Actually, knowing Harry, he probably won't."

"You're the best goddamn solicitor in wizarding Britain, Blaise, you've never lost a case. You make him go. And make sure I get full custody of Emilia in the process," Draco said and slumped down into the chair, looking tired and worn.

"Do you really think that is such a good idea, Draco? If this was any other guy I'd say we have a solid case, but we're going up against Harry Potter, the whole wizarding world is biased where he is concerned. You could very well end up losing," Blaise reasoned.

"Losing is not an option here, Blaise. I want him out of my life, I want out of this farce of a marriage! I don't even know the guy I'm married to anymore. It's certainly not the same Harry I married. His ego has become so inflated I'm surprised he even needs a broomstick to keep him floating! I can't keep living like this, I really can't," Draco said and started sobbing softly into his hands. "Do you know how humiliating it is? To keep reading shit like this every other day? And knowing it's most likely true even. He just brushes me off when I confront him with it, tells me I'm being silly and over-dramatic and to get over myself."

"I'm sorry it has come to this, Draco, I really am. But know that getting full custody of Emilia isn't going to be easy if he decides to fight it. I will do everything in my power to make sure we win this, but I am only a solicitor, not a miracle worker. Now, what about his considerable fortune, will you try to strip him of half of it? You are entitled to if we can prove infidelity and neglect on his part," Blaise said in a business-like tone, looking intently at his friend.

"I have enough money on my own, let him keep his oh so hard-earned Galleons, I really don't give a shit," Draco said with disgust. "Go ahead with the proceedings, Blaise."

"You're not even going to talk to him first? Are you sure about this, Draco?" Blaise asked, knowing Harry's temper and that this would certainly not go down well.

"What good would it do? I've given him enough chances, enough time to come to his senses, but it's not going to happen," Draco said and pulled his hands through his hair in frustration. "Just make sure he gets the papers and get me temporary custody of Emilia until the actual custody hearing, if he insists upon one. And make sure he knows that he has until the end of the week to come and pack up his belongings, after that I'm changing the wards. The bottom line, Blaise, is that Emilia doesn't even know her own father anymore, he's just a fun guy who drops by from time to time with lots of presents and plays with her a bit. Then he's out the door again. He's like a whirlwind sweeping in and out of her life as he sees fit, it's no good."

"Well, at least we'll have the element of surprise. I'll start the proceedings the minute I get back to my office," Blaise said and stood to leave.

"Thanks, Blaise. I appreciate this. I know you have a very busy schedule," Draco said gratefully.

"Never too busy for you, Draco, you know that. But as your friend, and solicitor, I have to warn you, this could get ugly, fast," Blaise said and stepped towards the Floo.

Draco looked at Blaise, his grey eyes cold as ice. Blaise thought that he'd never seen Draco look so much like Lucius before.

"Just get me my divorce, Blaise. Remove Harry Potter from my life, for good!"

 

TBC... Harry's up next.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in?


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 2 - Consider Yourself Served, Sir

 

Harry Potter had never led a particularly fun and carefree life. The ten years spent with the Dursleys had certainly not been any fun. When he thought about it he probably had had a bit of fun at Hogwarts, but the six years spent there had been somewhat clouded by various incidents. Like two-faced teachers, crazy Basilisks, traitors disguised as rats, being chased by rampant dragons and resurrecting Dark lords, Umbridge and Sirius dying. And last, but not least, Dumbledore's death. The year following that he would rather forget, thank you very much.

No, Harry decided, his life had pretty much sucked altogether. After Voldemort's death he decided it was time he had some fun. He was done with his role as the Saviour; he was sick and tired of being manipulated left, right and centre, of having obligations and the weight of the world thrust on his shoulders. He had never asked for any of it and had never been allowed the privilege of being a normal boy. Come to think of it, he didn't really know who Harry Potter really was. It was high time he found out.

The first thing Harry did after leaving Hogwarts behind was moving into Grimmauld Place. The Weasleys had wanted him to come live with them, but Harry kind of enjoyed the idea of having his own place. He dug into his considerable fortune at Gringotts and hired an interior decorator, and in just a few months the place was hardly recognizable. The hardwood floors were shining, the walls were done in light colours and the interiors were modern. The kitchen, for instance, was all dark wood and stainless steel. Harry felt that after eighteen years he finally had found a home for himself. Kreacher came with him of course; it was unthinkable for the old house-elf to not follow Master Harry back to Grimmauld Place.

Another reason that he didn't want to live with the Weasleys, as much as he loved them, was that he found that he didn't want to get back together with Ginny. Harry realized that he had never really loved her; he had been in love with the idea of her. She felt more like a sister than anything else. Fortunately for Harry, she felt much of the same even if she was a bit sad about giving up her schoolgirl dream of becoming Mrs Potter.

Harry had quickly discarded the idea of becoming an Auror. His eyes had seen enough darkness and he was sick of fighting. First and foremost, he wanted to have fun with his life. He wanted to do what he wanted to do, not what everybody else expected from him. People could take their expectations and stuff 'em for all he cared. This was another thing about himself he found he liked, the fact that he no longer cared what anybody thought about him. If they didn't like his choices, too bad for them, he was certainly not going to waste any time being bothered by it, he was done being dictated. From now on he was going to live his life the way he wanted to, without regrets.

---

Harry slowly opened his eyes and looked around with bloodshot eyes, his head feeling like it had been trampled on by an angry horde of Hippogriffs. Then again, waking up with a hangover was not exactly anything new to him. He had thrown one hell of a party yesterday at his London residence at Grimmauld Place, not quite willing to let go of the celebrations that followed the Cannons' victory two days ago. There would be no partying tonight though, they were playing the Falmouth Falcons tomorrow and everybody knew that partying the night before a match was strictly forbidden by the team's coaches and manager.

So, just a quick trip to the pub tonight then. Harry grinned to himself. The rules that applied to the rest of the team did not include star Seeker Harry Potter after all.

His career as a Seeker had been a bit of a surprise. He had read an article in the Daily Prophet that the Chudley Cannons were looking for a new Seeker and, on a whim really, he had decided to go for the try-outs. The Cannons knew real talent when they saw it, and the next thing Harry knew he was wearing an orange uniform and was playing his first professional Quidditch match. It didn't take long before he was considered one of the most valuable player in the league. With his success came the sponsor contracts, personal contract negotiations, fan clubs, events, parties, and more Galleons than he knew what to do with. Harry pretty soon gave up trying to handle all this by himself and hired George Weasley as a manager. George had a real knack for the business side of things and had a way of handling the press. Under George's watchful gaze, Harry eventually became the biggest superstar in the world of Quidditch, even Victor Krum hadn't caused this much fuss in his glory days.

In the middle of all this Harry discovered that he was gay. His old friend from Hogwarts, Seamus Finnigan, had dragged him along to a gay club one evening and that had been an epiphany for Harry; all the pieces in his life seemed to fall into place and a whole new world of possibilities opened up to him. Where the old Harry would have been horrified and worried about people's reactions to this, he now tackled it the same way he did everything else. He never tried to hide it but instead came out right away. It caused a right ruckus in the beginning, but when confronted Harry just shrugged his shoulders and told them that if people didn't like it then that was their problem, not his. The storm died down pretty quickly and, instead of criticizing, the press started to print articles where he was romantically linked to other known gay celebrities.

Draco Malfoy, however, was perhaps the most unexpected surprise in his life. They had met at a club one evening and had ended up in bed together. It was never supposed to be anything more than a one-night-stand, but one night turned into many, and soon they found themselves being a couple. The press had a field day when their romance became common knowledge. They were the dream couple; Harry being a up-and-coming Quidditch star and Draco being heir to one of the largest fortunes in wizarding Britain, not to mention being the son of the notorious Death Eater, Lucius Malfoy.

In the beginning of their whirlwind romance they were most concerned about having as much fun as possible. They went out clubbing and partying several nights a week, they went on weekend trips to Paris and Rome and spent sunny vacations in Greece and the Caribbean.

It was on one of their trips to Rome they made the impulsive decision to get married. After spending a night clubbing and drinking Draco had decided that he was hot and wanted to take a swim in the Trevi Fountain. After watching his boyfriend splashing around and dancing in the water fully clothed Harry had shouted to him: You're insane, Draco Malfoy! Marry me! Draco had thrown himself into Harry's arms and kissed him breathless, Harry interpreted that into a 'yes'. The idea stuck in their heads, and the next day they found their way to the British Wizarding Consulate of Italy and became husband and husband.

Those had been the days, Harry mused and stretched his lean muscular body. He missed those carefree days like crazy. Things were so serious between them all the time now. Draco had new responsibilities after Lucius and Narcissa had moved to France and left Malfoy Manor and all the estate business that came with it to their son. And their 'fun days' had definitely come to an end after they had adopted Emilia. None of them had been prepared for how having a child would turn their lives totally upside down, least of all Harry.

After being married for about a year, the couple had visited a wizarding orphanage as a part of a benefit they had become involved with. Both Harry and Draco immediately fell in love with the little girl with the blond curls and big blue eyes that looked at them with a curious expression. After discussing the matter for a few days, Draco put his best friend and solicitor, Blaise Zabini, on the case. Before they knew it they were able to pick up their new daughter and became a little family. But with family came responsibilities, a word Harry had learned to loathe over the years.

---

In the years that followed Harry's career sky-rocketed and took him away a lot. There was always an upcoming match to train for, a party being held, interviews to be given, friends and fans that demanded attention and contracts being negotiated. In the middle of the craziness Harry failed to see that his career took more and more priority over his family. He had fought hard for his right to have a life and he couldn't see why he shouldn't have the best of both worlds. It didn't help that he was surrounded by people who worshipped the ground he walked on and never set him straight, instead they agreed with everything he said and did and thus helped build up his ego. Slowly but steadily Harry lost his footing and became the superstar everybody told him he was.

Harry loved his daughter dearly, no question about it, and he was never more proud than when he brought her to a Quidditch match where his team mates and the press all fought for her attention. He sometimes felt guilty about being away from her so much and leaving the parenting to Draco, but with his match schedule it couldn't be helped. He tried to make up for it when he was home in Wiltshire. He always bought her mountains of presents, played with her, took her flying, read her stories and tucked her in, but he was rarely home for more than a week at the time. Harry knew Draco resented him for the way things had turned out and their marriage suffered. They had reached a point where they could hardly be in the same room for more than five minutes without starting an argument.

Harry thought Draco was being unfair to him. He had known that Harry had a career to protect and that he had responsibilities to his team. He deserved to celebrate a bit after a win like everybody else, didn't he? Okay, so sometimes things went a bit out of hand where the alcohol and groupies were concerned, but it wasn't like Draco was putting out much lately, Harry defended himself. A man had his needs after all, and he made sure it was blow-jobs only, even American presidents didn't consider that being sexual relations.

---

After taking a Hangover Potion, a much needed shower and having drunk three cups of black coffee Harry started to feel a bit better. He was sitting in the kitchen reading the Daily Prophet while eating some toast when the doorbell rang.

Harry fastened his robe better and went to open the door. A sleek looking man in a suit stood on the other side.

"Yes?" Harry said impatiently, eyeing the guy with some scepticism.

"Are you Mr Harry Potter, Sir?" the man asked in a businesslike voice.

"I am," Harry confirmed.

"I come from Mr Zabini's office," he said and handed Harry an envelope. "Consider yourself served, Sir."

With that the man turned on his heels and walked away. Harry looked after him a bit puzzled before he went back inside and shut the door. When he came back to the kitchen he curiously opened the envelope and took a look at the contents.

Petition for divorce... Temporary custody... Formal hearing, were the words that flashed before his shocked eyes.

After skimming through the papers his famous temper started rising, fast. He ran upstairs and put on some clothes before he returned to the kitchen, grabbed the papers and threw some Floo powder into the fireplace, furiously he stepped inside.

"Malfoy Manor!"

 

TBC... H/D confrontation next. Warning! It will get ugly.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in?


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 3 - Not What I Signed Up For

 

"DRACO! Where the hell are you? Get your arse in here right now, we need to talk!" Harry yelled out the moment he stepped foot out of the Floo in Draco's study at Malfoy Manor.

Draco had expected a visit from his husband. He knew Harry too well to think he would take being hit by a divorce lying down.

"Keep your voice down for god's sake, Harry. Or do you want Emilia to hear you? Either we're going to talk like civilized human beings or we're not having this conversation at all. It's your call," Draco said and closed the door behind him. He looked at his husband with contempt.

Harry gritted his teeth and threw Draco a nasty glare, but he managed to keep his temper in check - for now at least.

"What is the meaning of this, Draco?" Harry asked and held the papers he just had been served out. "At least you could've had the decency to talk to me before you started all this nonsense."

"Decency, Harry? Decency? Don't come here and talk to me about decency, you don't know the meaning of the word," Draco spat and threw the Daily Prophet with the after-party plastered on the first page in Harry's face.

"This is what's got your knickers in a twist?" Harry asked with a great deal of arrogance. "You're going to start believing what's in this rag over your own husband now?"

"I don't hear you denying it, Harry. You never deny it. Just how naive do you think I am? I know you're fucking around on me with every boy-toy that moves, I've just decided that I'm not going to put up with it for one more day. Good news, Harry, from now on you can fuck whoever you like, I just don't care anymore. Pack your shit and get out!" Harry knew Draco meant business, he had never seen him this angry and upset.

"Draco, please," he pleaded with his husband, "it's not too late. We can still fix this. I know I've made some mistakes and that my Quidditch career takes me away a lot, but I'm willing to take some time off to spend with you and Emilia and try to rectify things, okay?"

"Oh, how chivalrous of you, Harry. You're willing to take some time off, are you?" Draco said with as much venom as he could. "The sacrifices you make for us, it's truly touching. Has your ego really gotten so big that your brain has to take a back seat, or are you just plain old stupid?"

"Drop the sarcasm, Draco. You knew I was a professional Quidditch player when we got married, it's not exactly a nine-to-five job," Harry spat back.

"And that would be fine, if it was just you and me. But we have Emilia to consider too, Harry. And you have to face up to the fact that your own daughter doesn't even know you because you're barely home with us," Draco said with a sigh. "She should be your number one priority, not Quidditch, sponsor contracts, parties, drinking, and fucking around. You've allowed yourself to become a living cliche, Harry, and I don't want to be a part of it anymore."

"So because you've decided you don't like what I do for a living, I don't get to see my daughter?" Harry yelled back, his temper flaring up.

"I'm willing to grant you visitation rights. It's not going to be all that much different from now actually, with as little time you spend here. But don't even think about taking Emilia to Grimmauld Place with you, I don't want her anywhere near that damn entourage of yours always hanging around. If you want to see her we have to find some neutral ground." Draco knew this was a low blow, but he couldn't find it in him to care. And his words hit straight home if the angry look on Harry's face was anything to go by.

"Oh, we'll see what the court has to say about this. That's both our names on the adoption papers, Draco, not only yours," Harry spat at his husband.

"If the judge has any common sense he'll see how fucked up your priorities are. You could run out of luck you know, and we could actually get a judge who doesn't think that the sun shines out of your arse. Emilia belongs here with me at the only home she's ever known, not with some egomaniac Quidditch superstar that doesn't have the time for her and will probably hire a nanny the first chance he gets," Draco threw back, not giving Harry an inch.

"You know, Draco, you're fast to place guilt here, but let me tell you something, you're not exactly what I signed up for either," Harry said and moved so he was right in Draco's face.

"And what the hell is that supposed to mean?" Draco asked with a sneer.

"Like where the fuck is the man I married, huh? Where is he, Draco? Where is the guy that danced in that bloody Italian fountain? Because I certainly don't recognize him anymore. You've turned into a self-righteous, frigid and boring nag," Harry shouted into Draco's face. "We used to have fun together, remember? We went out clubbing and dancing, with you dancing on the tabletops if I remember correctly. You used to surprise me with getaway weekends and holidays and we could spend days in bed fucking our brains out. Now you barely ever let me touch you and all you do when I'm home is nag nag nag, when you're not cooped up in your study tending to your so-called estate business. I have needs too you know, Draco, and you're not meeting them, so excuse me for finding it elsewhere. I honestly didn't think you cared much anymore."

Harry was red in the face after his tirade, but very pleased with himself when he saw by the shocked expression on his husband's face that his words had had the wanted result as Draco looked both hurt and livid.

Draco was shocked to his core, then his temper got the better of him and he raised his hand and slapped Harry hard across the face, his nostrils flaring. He then wrenched open the door to the study.

"You bloody bastard! I hate you! Hate you! Get out! Just get the fuck out of here, Harry!" he yelled, angry tears now starting to stream down his face.

"Have it your way, Draco. But remember this, you haven't got custody over Emilia yet, and if I have anything to say about it, you never will," Harry yelled back and rubbed his burning cheek.

"We'll see about that, Harry. You are not welcome here anymore. Any contact you wish to have with me from now on goes through our solicitors. See you in court. And do let the door hit you in the arse on your way out!" Draco shouted after Harry while he walked towards the manor's entrance door.

"Go fuck yourself, Draco! And if you think that this is finished you're dead wrong! Dead wrong!" Harry yelled back and slammed the door behind him.

Nobody noticed the little girl at the top of the entrance room stairs, clutching her teddy bear to her chest with tears in her eyes, while the world as she knew it came crashing down around her.

 

TBC... Their day in court next.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in?


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

Author's note: I have no idea how legal proceedings concerning a custody case would take place in the wizarding world, and I am not entirely sure how it goes on in the real world either. This is probably different from country to country. My only knowledge is from what I've read and seen on TV, so go easy on me here.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 4 - The Only Person That Matters

 

Terry Boot straightened his robes and stood up from his chair. He glanced around the packed court room before he addressed the judge who would settle the temporary custody case. The final decision would be made once the divorce was settled, thus far Harry and Draco were only separated.

"Your honour," Terry Boot addressed the judge, "my client, Mr Potter, is shocked by these proceedings. He had had no warnings from Mr Malfoy-Potter before he received the legal documents from Mr Zabini's office on his door at his London residence, Number 12 Grimmauld Place. According to my client, Mr Malfoy-Potter had never even mentioned that he wanted a divorce prior to this. Mr Potter admits that the couple have had some differences in their marriage lately, but he did not know that his husband was planning a divorce behind his back, threatening to deny him access to his beloved daughter, Emilia Malfoy-Potter."

Harry glared over at Draco, who sat and listened with a hard look on his face. They had not talked since their heated argument at Malfoy Manor that day and Harry had only seen Emilia twice, when Draco had left her with Hermione for Harry to visit. Harry gritted his teeth, Draco would live to regret this.

"It should hardly be necessary for me to point out what an outstanding person Mr Harry Potter is to the wizarding society," Terry went on. "If it were not for him none of us would be here today. Instead we would have a terror regime with Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, Mr Malfoy-Potter being one of them, at the throne. This society owes Mr Potter a great deal. Today he is supporting many important issues, like the youth anti-substance-abuse programme. He is also one of the main benefactors behind the 'From Orphanage to a Home' programme, who works tirelessly to find good homes to small children who are unlucky enough to find themselves without a parent. Mr Harry Potter feels deeply towards this issue as he, himself, became an orphan at the age of just one year. After the war he received an Order of Merlin, First Class, and there is a seat at the Wizengamot open to him if he should want it. These are all high praises from the wizarding community and I assure you that Mr Potter does not take them lightly."

Draco felt the need to snort out loud. Harry could not care less about his so-called place in wizarding society, and yet here his solicitor, Terry Boot, all but drew a halo above his head. He noticed Blaise scribbling down notes while Terry was talking. He had to give his friend some credit, because while Draco knew he himself had a scowl on his face and wanted to punch something while listening to Terry's tear-dripping speech, Blaise looked as calm and collected like this was just a walk in the park. He could actually sworn he had seen Blaise smiling a time or two. It did serve to give Draco a confidence boost though, one that he sorely needed.

"There can be no doubt," Terry went on after taking a sip of water, "that Mr Harry Potter loves his daughter dearly, and that being separated from her has caused him a great deal of distress. All his team mates and friends can give testimony about what a truly dedicated and loving father he is. And with all due respect, he deserves to be recognized as such after everything he has meant to the wizarding world. That he is a professional Quidditch player should not be considered as an obstacle when it comes to taking care of his daughter. Many Quidditch players have children and it is a huge shame if society disqualifies them all as good parents. Mr Potter's career should not be an issue here. It is his qualities as a father and a person that should be taken under consideration. Further on, we are greatly concerned about the influence the Malfoy family could have on young Emilia Malfoy-Potter, especially now that Mr Harry Potter is declared a persona non grata at the premises by Mr Draco Malfoy-Potter. The Malfoy family was, as you will no doubt remember, great supporters of Lord Voldemort, especially Emilia's grandfather, Mr Lucius Malfoy."

Harry smirked at the mentioning of Lucius Malfoy. Oh, there was no doubt that the wizarding world still remembered the old peacock. Truth be told, Harry had only seen him and Narcissa twice in all the years he and Draco had been married, they very rarely left France. But the argument had had the wanted effect, if the livid look on Draco's face was anything to go by, Harry thought smugly.

"For all the reasons I have just mentioned, I ask that this court will take them under consideration and grant temporary sole physical custody of Emilia Malfoy-Potter to Mr Harry Potter. If the court does not see fit to do so, we urge you to set up a temporary joint physical custody agreement until the divorce settlement is finalized. Thank you."

With that Terry Boot sat down again and took another sip of water, looking utterly pleased with himself as he looked up at the judge. The judge was a stern looking witch, who reminded him a bit of Minerva McGonagall, and he could read nothing from her face, but he had an overall good feeling about this. He so wanted to win this case; Blaise Zabini was considered being the best solicitor in wizarding Britain, to have one-up on him would raise his star considerably. Not to mention earn him Harry Potter's gratitude. He had been Harry's solicitor for a couple of years, but this was the first time he was faced with anything other than legal questions concerning Harry's many contracts.

---

"Thank you, Mr Boot. The court has heard your arguments and will take them under consideration. Now we will hear from Mr Malfoy-Potter's solicitor. Mr Zabini?" The judge looked at Blaise with a nod. Blaise stood up and looked calmly at the judge.

"Thank you, your Honour," Blaise said with a confident voice and a short glance over at Harry and Terry Boot.

"I was truly moved by Mr Boot's speech about all the fine qualities that Mr Harry Potter undoubtedly possesses. We are, however, not here to decide what is best for Harry Potter, we are here to determine what benefits Ms Emilia Malfoy-Potter best during her parents' separation. This is about what is the best course of action to take for her, not Mr Harry Potter, or Mr Draco Malfoy-Potter for that matter," Blaise said in a steady voice, giving Draco a reassuring look.

"Emilia Malfoy-Potter is born half Muggle, and her biological parents was killed in a so-called automobile accident when she was only six months old," Blaise continued. "She was adopted by Mr Potter and Mr Malfoy-Potter when she was one year old. She knows no other home than Malfoy Manor where she leads a good life. She attends a local wizarding preschool three days a week, and the days when she's at home she's got her father, Mr Draco Malfoy-Potter, looking after her. He is fortunate enough to be able to work out of his home and therefore has never seen any necessity to hire a nanny. The few times work takes him away, Emilia is left with either her godmother, Hermione Granger, or Arthur and Molly Weasley, all known and respected throughout the wizarding society. Why can't her other father, Mr Harry Potter look after her you ask? I have no doubt that Quidditch players are as good parents as any, but their line of work takes them away a lot, and that is a factor this court cannot close its eyes to. Emilia Malfoy-Potter is a happy and well-adjusted child, testimony to that can be given by her teachers at her preschool. But she needs stability and consistency, taking her away from her familiar environment will not serve in this young girl's best interest."

"As for our opponent's fear of influence from Mr Lucius Malfoy, I will have to write these accusations off as ridiculous," Blaise said sternly. "Mr Malfoy suffers from rheumatism and almost never leave their home in southern France. The damp British weather makes his illness worse. To my knowledge he has seen his granddaughter all of two times during the last four years since she was adopted. I am further more appalled by the accusations about Mr Draco Malfoy-Potter being a Death Eater. You will all remember that it was Mr Harry Potter himself that cleared him of all those charges after the war, I am shocked that you have the audacity to bring this up here."

Harry felt Blaise's words hitting more home than he liked to admit. Blaise was good, damn good. He was focusing mainly on Emilia's needs and all but hammered all the arguments Terry had made to the ground. A good strategy, Harry thought, but it would all be in vain of course, he told himself. He was Harry Potter after all, the wizarding world's golden boy, there was no way he would lose this.

"This brings me back to my point. This court's job is to decide what is best for Emilia Malfoy-Potter, and only her. She should be the only person that matters. And the best thing for her is to remain exactly where she is, in her home at Malfoy Manor in Wiltshire. She does, however, have two parents, and my client wishes for her to still have a loving relationship with her other father, Mr Harry Potter. We are, after all, not here to deny Mr Harry Potter all access to his daughter, our only agenda is what benefits Emilia best during her parents' separation. We ask this court to grant Mr Draco Malfoy-Potter temporary sole physical custody over Emilia Malfoy-Potter and to grant Mr Harry Potter visitation rights. Thank you." Blaise gave the judge a curt nod and sat down again, giving Draco's arm a reassuring squeeze.

Harry squirmed a bit in his chair. When Blaise laid it out like that it all sounded so reasonable. Like Draco cared one iota about his relationship with Emilia, he thought with a scowl. If that had been the case Draco would not have started these ridiculous proceedings, he would have stayed in the marriage and tried to work out their problems, like Harry had suggested. He wasn't overly concerned though, his name far outweighed Draco's any day. Hopefully the judge would see it that way too.

"Thank you, Mr Zabini. This court has now heard from both sides and will take your arguments under consideration. This court will now take one hour recess before the verdict is given." With that the judge left for her office through a side door, and the court room was immediately filled with loud buzzing.

---

It was the longest hour of Draco's life. He remained seated next to Blaise, who tried his best to keep him calm. Draco tried to avoid looking over at Harry who was currently standing in a corner in the court room, chatting with Terry, Ron and George Weasley and a couple of guys Draco recognized from Harry's Quidditch team. Hermione Granger was not present, but that was because she was looking after Emilia at the Manor. She had not wanted to witness Harry and Draco's very public battle in court, she preferred looking after her goddaughter. Draco had come to bear a great deal of respect for Hermione over the years and he was thankful that Emilia had her as a female influence in her life. He knew that Hermione did not approve of Harry's lifestyle, but she never spoke a disrespectful word about him out loud, a true show of loyalty in Draco's opinion, one he wasn't sure Harry deserved.

After one hour and ten minutes the side door went up and the judge came back in. All the people present hurried back to their seats. Draco felt his hands shake from nervousness. He could not lose Emilia, that was simply not an option. He'd rather stay in a miserable marriage if it came to that, he thought and drew a shaky breath. Blaise noticed Draco's distress and gave him a pat on the back before turning his attention to the judge. Draco snuck a peak over at Harry and concluded that the man did not look nervous at all, if anything he looked confident and calm. Draco realized that the thought that he might lose had probably never even crossed Harry's mind. Arrogant bastard.

"Mr Harry Potter, Mr Draco Malfoy-Potter, will you please rise and hear the verdict of this court," the judge said in a stern voice.

Harry, Draco and their solicitors stood up from their seats and looked expectantly at the judge.

"I have listened to the arguments of both sides and have carefully taken them into consideration," the judge said and righted her glasses.

"I agree with Mr Boot that the wizarding world would not be the fine community it is today had it not been for Mr Potter and his bravery during the war, and I am convinced he is an outstanding citizen that works relentlessly for good and just causes." The judge looked respectfully at Harry and gave him a small nod, Draco felt the dread settle in his stomach. Harry looked all serious and thoughtful, but Draco knew him, he saw the smugness there.

"The reason we are here today, however, is not about that. We are here to determine, like Mr Zabini rightly said, what is best for young Emilia Malfoy-Potter. This court agrees that it would be unwise to take her away from her home and her familiar surroundings. Mr Potter's career as a Quidditch player is unfortunately, Mr Boot, not uncomplicated as it will continue to make him travel a lot. Therefore this court grant temporary sole physical custody to Mr Draco Malfoy-Potter until a divorce settlement is reached. Mr Harry Potter is granted visitation rights and will be allowed to have his daughter in his care two weekends every month. This court is now adjourned. Thank you, gentlemen." The judge clubbed the verdict and left the court room.

As the buzz in the court room reached higher levels than ever Harry sank back down in his chair, shocked to the very core of his being. What the hell had just happened? Had he actually... lost?

 

TBC... reactions next.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in?


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 5 - Still Her Father

 

Upon returning to Malfoy Manor after the custody hearing, Draco was met by a whirlwind of blond curls, feathers and pink silk. His daughter had obviously been playing her favourite game of princess-dress-up again.

"Daddyyy!" Emilia squealed and threw herself into his arms. Draco discovered a second too late that she had smeared lipstick on and outside her lips before she gave him a huge welcome home kiss.

"Hello, princess," Draco said and lifted her high in the air before settling her on his arm. "Am I disturbing your and Aunty Hermione's princess party?"

"That is 'Princess Hermione' to you," he heard Hermione say from the door that lead into the sitting room. He could not help but burst into laughter when he saw her. She had a pink feather boa around her neck, three necklaces, more bracelets than he could count and a tiara on the top of her head. "And I'll have you know, you are interrupting the royal tea-party," she said amused. Emilia nodded her head importantly at her daddy.

"Well, you look absolutely lovely, the both of you," Draco said with a wink to Hermione and put Emilia back down. Emilia had a huge chest full of costumes and accessories, she loved playing dress-up more than anything. Right now it looked like they had more or less emptied the chest, because when he peered into the sitting room he noticed a whole gang of teddy bears, dressed for success, sitting around a small table decked with small cups.

Draco had a sudden flashback. He remembered another time when he came home and interrupted another tea-party. Only the guest of honour then had been Harry. Harry had obviously let Emilia dress him up to her heart's content; he had been wearing a pink velvet cape, a gold fake-fur boa, lots of jewellery and an askew crown on his head. He had been sitting on one of the small chairs by Emilia's play table and drinking fake tea from one of the small porcelain cups, laughing with his daughter. When Draco had revealed himself from the door opening by breaking out in laughter, Harry had stood up, slung the boa importantly around his neck and called Draco a 'peasant'. Then he had kissed him senseless while Emilia hid her face in her hands and giggled.

Draco's face fell a bit at the memory; their marriage hadn't been all bad, it was just that the good times seemed harder to remember lately. He was shaken out of his trip down memory lane when the entrance door opened and Blaise Zabini and Pansy Parkinson-Nott walked in, both looking jubilant. Pansy had been present in the court room to support Draco, she was one of his best and oldest friends.

"Wow, Hermione, that is a really good look on you. I dare you to go out to dinner with me in that outfit," Blaise said with a wink. He asked Hermione out about five times every month, and about five times every month she patiently declined. Blaise had not become the best solicitor in wizarding Britain by taking 'no' for an answer though, and tirelessly kept coming back for more rejections.

"Honey, why don't you see if the teddy bears would like some more tea?" Draco said and gave Emilia a kiss. She immediately scurried back inside to see to her 'guests'.

"I take it from all your good moods that you won the custody case?" Hermione asked and removed the tiara from her head and looked at Draco.

"You bet he did," Pansy answered in a victorious voice. "And you should have seen the look on that arrogant, cheating..."

"Silence, Pansy!" Draco interrupted in a low and irritated voice. "I don't want anybody to bad-mouth Harry inside this house. Despite everything he is still Emilia's father and this is her home. She loves her papa and she doesn't deserve overhearing you saying anything ugly about him. This is between me and Harry and I will not have Emilia suffer any more than what is absolutely necessary. Do you understand me?"

"I'm sorry, Draco," Pansy said and patted his arm. "You are absolutely right of course. I am just so happy you won, I know how afraid you've been, darling."

Draco drew Pansy in for a tight hug. "Thank you, Pans, sorry I got mad. It's been a long and nerve-wracking day is all, and I haven't slept very well lately. I think I need to spend some time with Emilia, just the two of us, and then have an early night."

"Of course, Draco," Blaise said with sympathy. "I have some papers for you to sign, but that can wait until tomorrow. I need to get back to my office anyway. Come on, Pans, I'll see you home first."

"Home? What will I do there with Theo being away on business? No, you can see me to Diagon Alley, darling, I'm buying some new shoes to celebrate," Pansy said and gave Draco a goodbye kiss.

"That's my girl," Draco said and shook his head. Amused by imagining the look on Theo's face when he came home to even more shoes. He had already threatened Pansy he'd open up a shoe shop as a side business. Draco then gave Blaise a hug. "Thanks for everything, Blaise. You were brilliant, as usual."

"Hey, don't think about it. I'm just glad it worked out the way I planned. You go spend some time with Emilia and try to get some sleep, okay?" Blaise said and patted Draco on the back.

"Goodbye, Hermione," Blaise said and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Seriously though; you, me, dinner and that tiara. I promise you won't regret it."

"Goodbye, Blaise. Pansy," Hermione said and shook her head, but not without a sparkle in her eyes. "I'm gonna go too, I'll just say goodbye to Emilia and have a quick word with Draco first."

---

Blaise and Pansy let themselves out, leaving Draco and Hermione alone in the entrance hall. They heard the distant chatter from the sitting room where Emilia still entertained her 'guests'.

"Well, he is nothing if not persistent, I'll give him that," Hermione said and broke the silence.

"That's Blaise for you. Perhaps you should accept his invitation one of these days, he might drop dead from the shock," Draco said and smiled. He suspected that Hermione was a bit more interested than she let on.

"That will have to be a story for another day," Hermione said and started taking off her princess outfit. "Did you talk to Harry today at all, Draco?"

"No. He was surrounded by people afterwards and we left in a hurry to get away from the press. It was crazy. Then again it usually is when Circus Potter comes to town," Draco said and slumped tiredly down on one of the stair steps. "The only communication we had was with our eyes. If looks could kill we'd both be dead now."

"How did he seem to take it though? Harry's not exactly used to things not going his way." Hermione sat down next to Draco on the stairs and rested her arms on her knees.

"He seemed shocked actually. You know, Hermione, I don't think it ever occurred to him that this was something he might lose. His solicitor, Terry Boot, went on and on about what a wonderful person Harry Potter is, Emilia was hardly ever mentioned," Draco said with a snort.

"Well, what was he supposed to say? That Harry would make a wonderful single father and that Emilia would be better off with him, when he's home maybe once a week? They had to play this up to his name and hope that would be enough, Draco. Obviously it didn't work this time. Harry is one of my best friends, but I am happy that Emilia gets to stay in her home, my goddaughter is my only concern in this matter. Harry has made his priorities, and now he has to live with them." Hermione picked thoughtfully at a tearing in her jeans.

"He's got visitation rights two weekends every month though, I hope he makes the most of them. Despite everything I know that he loves Emilia dearly, and she certainly thinks her papa is the best. I don't want them to lose that, Hermione, even if things between me and Harry are totally messed up. Originally I meant for all the contact between us to go through our solicitors, but that was a bit hasty. Harry and I need to be able to speak to each other, at least somewhat dignified, for Emilia's sake." Draco rubbed his eyes with his hand, trying to ignore the burning of tears in them.

"Things aren't always black and white, Draco. You and Harry have a history and you have a daughter together. In some way or another you will always be in each other's lives. I think it would be best for all parties involved if you could try to be civil, if only just for Emilia's sake," Hermione said and took his hand and squeezed it. "I know Harry has changed a lot since Hogwarts, he's become like a totally different person. But there are moments, Draco. Tinly little moments when I still see a glimpse of the boy I knew back then. That is why I refuse to give up on him. I feel like the Harry I knew deserves for me to not give up."

"I didn't know Harry back then, I was too busy hating him, remember?" Draco said with a shake of his head and squeezed Hermione's hand back. "I will make an effort to be civil though. We have to work out this whole visitation business, I think it's best if we sat down and fixed it ourselves, without our solicitors. Hopefully he'll see it that way too."

"Yeah, here's hoping," Hermione said with a sigh.

"He's lucky to have a friend like you, Hermione. I really mean that. You are the only sane person, save Emilia, in Harry's life. He needs you even if he lets himself think otherwise," Draco said and gave Hermione a small smile. "I don't think I will ever stop regretting the way I behaved towards you during Hogwarts. I was a bloody tosser."

"That's water under the bridge, Draco. We all live and learn, well, except Harry maybe. I'll pay him a visit tomorrow. If I know Harry he's already drinking his sorrows away," Hermione said with a scowl and stood to leave.

"You're probably right," Draco said a bit sadly. "Anyway, thank you for watching Emilia today, and feel free to drop by whenever you want, Emilia loves having you around, as do I."

"Thanks, Draco, I will." Hermione gave Draco a hug before she went into the sitting room to say goodbye to Emilia.

---

Alone in his bedroom that night Draco was finally able to let his feelings out. It had been a draining day in all ways and he had a hard time not to let himself be haunted by it.

Draco had seen the expression on Harry's face when the judge gave her verdict. Harry had been shocked, yes, but there had also been something else there that maybe only Draco had recognized: Agony.

His mind kept drifting back to the tea-party and Harry in a gold boa, laughing merrily with Emilia. Harry had lost the custody of his daughter today, Draco was sure that despite his ego, Harry was devastated by the fact. But why did Draco care so much?

Carefully he let his hand slide over the other side of the bed - Harry's side. Silent tears pooled in his grey eyes and his heart felt like it would shatter from the sudden loneliness he felt.

"Merlin help me, Harry. I still love you," he whispered to the empty darkness.

 

TBC... reactions in Camp Harry next.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in?


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 6 - Just the Beginning

 

It had taken Harry a while to get rid of the press, who he definitely didn't want to talk to today, and to shake off all the people who wanted to talk to him and express their sympathies, that it was almost late afternoon before he returned to Number 12 Grimmauld Place, Ron, George and Terry in tow.

Harry went straight for the bar in the living room, poured himself a shot of Firewhisky and knocked it back in one go, another one following. Without saying a word he just held out the bottle to Ron who silently took it from Harry, poured three more drinks and handed two to his older brother and to Terry.

The silence hung over the room like a thick fog. Harry rested his arms on the bar and glared down at the shiny mahogany while he knocked back a third shot of the burning liquid.

"What the hell just happened back there?" Ron finally broke the silence and glared accusingly at Terry Boot. Harry didn't even look up.

"We lost, Ron, that's what bloody happened," Terry snapped back and drank his Firewhisky down in one go, scrunching his nose up at the burning down his throat.

"And just why, exactly, did you lose, Terry? This should've been a sure thing." Ron said and slammed his empty glass down on a nearby table.

"Nothing is a sure thing, not where these things are concerned, Ron. I am sorry, but the judge obviously thought it more important that Emilia stays where she is, with a parent who's home most of the time. The only way we could've convinced her to give custody to Harry was if he had said that he'd give up his Quidditch career, and that's not gonna happen, is it?" Terry said tiredly and slumped down in a chair.

"Not bloody likely," George Weasley snorted and knocked back his own drink. "And, Ron, don't beat up Terry about this, we all agreed that this strategy was the best way to go. Unfortunately for us, and luckily for Draco, Zabini is a genius."

"Well, we're just gonna have to work out a better strategy then. You guys are planning to appeal, right?" Ron asked and seated himself on one of the bar stools, reaching for the bottle to pour himself another drink.

"Certainly," Terry answered. "We'll work out a different strategy and hopefully another judge will see things more from our point of view."

"No."

Ron, George and Terry all looked up at Harry in surprise. It was the first word he had uttered after returning to Grimmauld Place.

"Come again? Harry, you have to appeal, you can't let Draco treat you like this," Ron said and looked at Harry in disbelief.

"I'm with Harry actually. Imagine if we lost again, think about how that would look in the press," George said and shook his head. "I think we should leave well enough alone for now and rather concentrate on the divorce conditions. This was only a temporary custody hearing after all, we'll negotiate a much better custody agreement in the divorce hearing."

"That will not be necessary," Harry said and finally looked up at the other three men in the room.

"What're you talking about, Harry? Of course it's necessary. Are you just gonna take this lying down?" Ron all but shouted.

"Firstly, Ron, I've never taken anything lying down," Harry said in a dry voice. "And secondly, it will not be necessary because there isn't going to be a divorce!"

The other three looked at Harry like he was a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

"Uhmm, Harry? What do you mean there isn't going to be a divorce? Draco has petitioned for it," Ron said with a bewildered look at his best friend.

"Yeah, Harry, Zabini is expecting the negotiations to start next week," Terry said confused.

"Oh, Draco can petition all he wants, and we can negotiate to our heart's content, that does not mean I intend to sign one single divorce paper," Harry said with a sly grin.

"But Zabini has gone forth with the proceedings, it's already in motion," Terry said in a disbelieving voice.

"Then stall it, Boot! At every little detail, every turning point, every paragraph and term Zabini comes up with, you argue it. Just stall it, slow down the progress as much as humanly possible," Harry said matter-of-factly while he poured himself another drink.

"You do realize that Draco can have the court grant him a divorce without you signing, right?" Terry asked and looked at Harry with confusion.

"I know, I'm not an idiot. I also know that we must've been separated at least one year before the court will even consider such a thing. And I really hope this won't take a whole year, I don't have that much of an attention span," Harry shrugged, his mouth curling up into a grin.

"Harry? What are you saying?" Ron asked his best friend curiously, clearly seeing the wheels turning inside Harry's brain.

"What I am saying, Ron, is that I don't want a divorce. I never asked for it and I don't intend to agree to it. Draco and I are still married, and that's the way it's gonna stay." Harry patted the very confused Ron on the back and sat up on the stool next to him.

"You mean you intend to get him to take you back?" Ron looked at Harry like a deer caught in headlights.

"Ding-ding! Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe we have a winner. It's the charming red-haired chap on the first row," Harry said with a laugh. "That is exactly what I mean, Ron. Draco is going to take me back, he just doesn't know it yet. But I need a bit of time for that to happen, he is pretty unhappy with me at the moment you know. That's why I need you, Terry, to stall this divorce as much as possible."

"Whatever you want, Harry. You are the boss," Terry said and lifted his glass in a toast.

"Hmm, I do believe I'm gonna suggest we go to see a marriage counsellor. The best, and busiest, in the business. Should be nice and long between sessions. If I'm not wrong I have a right to demand that in the divorce proceedings, right?" Harry asked his solicitor, toasting him back.

"That is your right, yes. As a matter of fact, the court will probably not grant Draco a divorce without you seeing a counsellor together. They believe all possibilities should be explored." Terry wrinkled his brows, his mind already whirling with stalling possibilities.

"Blimey, Harry! You are un-fucking-believable. I do believe you should've been sorted into Slytherin," George said with a laugh.

"Thank you, George, it wasn't far off to be honest. Now, I expect you to keep my name out of the headlines while this goes on. You are my manager and I don't want any negative press. If Draco sees another picture with me drunk and with pretty-boys hanging around, this won't work." Harry looked sternly at George.

"Consider it done, Harry. I've got some contacts in the papers and some favours I can call in," George said with a grin, shaking his head at Harry's nerve.

"I hate to rain on your parade, Harry, but won't Draco see what you're trying to do. I hate to admit it, but the guy's not an idiot," Ron said and fidgeted with his glass.

"It doesn't matter if he does, Ron. Maybe it's easier if he does. I'm doing this because I don't want to let him go. I still have... feelings for him, that hasn't changed," Harry admitted with a sigh. "Besides, there's Emilia to consider. She deserves to have both parents around. I'm her papa and I refuse to become one of those weekend dads, that was never my intention when we adopted her. I told Draco I wanted to try and work things out between us after I was delivered those blasted papers, he refused."

"What about your Quidditch career though? I thought that was the main issue between you two?" George asked.

"I'm a professional Quidditch player, George, I have no intentions of giving it up," Harry answered with a snort. "Draco knew this when we got married, he can't begrudge me of that now. What he really has a problem with is my partying and drinking, so I'm gonna have to cut back on that for a while and spend more of my free time in Wiltshire, if not I don't stand a snowball's chance in hell."

"I saw Draco's face in that court room today, Harry. I don't think you stand a chance even if you turn into a goddamn saint." Ron patted Harry on the back and went behind the bar to pick out another bottle.

"We'll see, Ron, we'll see. Some people said I'd never beat Voldemort either, and his bones are currently rotting in his grave, aren't they? Draco might've won a battle today, that does not mean I'm gonna let him win the war." Harry looked at Ron with a determined expression and held out his glass for another drink.

Ron poured another drink for each of them and raised his glass. "To Harry, the guy who never turns down a challenge. Good luck, mate, you're gonna need it."

"Harry!" With that the four glasses met in a toast.

---

Harry had a hard time falling asleep that night. He almost regretted not taking up Seamus' offer of joining him in a night of clubbing when he had called in earlier that night. He disliked the silence in the house and the thoughts that unwillingly crept into his mind.

He admitted to himself that he really missed his daughter and he felt the aftermaths of the loss he had suffered earlier that day. But he was determined, Draco was his husband and Emilia was his daughter, nothing was going to change that; no judge, court, stupid papers or even Merlin himself. This was a fight he was determined to win at all costs, losing was simply not an option, the stakes were too high.

"You think this is the end, Draco? Sorry, love, this is just the beginning," Harry said to the empty room before turning out the lights. He was Harry Potter, he could do this. With that thought to comfort him he finally fell into a peaceful slumber.

 

TBC... a bit of Harry and Hermione next, and maybe some H/D interaction.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in?


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 7 - This Is All Your Fault

 

Hermione was pleasantly surprised when she dropped by Harry for a visit the day after the custody hearing. She had expected to deal with a hungover and grumpy Harry, instead she found him freshly showered and shaved, quietly drinking a cup of tea and reading a Quidditch magazine, the Wireless playing softly in the background. His eyes lit up when he saw Hermione emerge from his Floo in the kitchen.

"Hermione, this is a nice surprise. How are you?" Harry walked over to greet her with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"I'm just fine, Harry. I'm on my way to work and thought I'd drop by and see how you're doing today," she said and kissed him back before taking the chair opposite his by the kitchen table.

"I take it you've heard the outcome of the custody hearing then? I know you watched Emilia yesterday, guess Draco told you," Harry said with a shrug and offered Hermione some tea and some of Molly Weasley's freshly baked scones.

"Thanks, Harry. Yes, he told me. And don't get me wrong, because I feel really sorry for you, but Emilia's best off where she is, her life should be interrupted as little as possible. I'm not taking any sides in this battle, Harry, except Emilia's," Hermione said sadly and patted his arm.

"I hardly get to see my daughter anymore, I'd say that not seeing her papa is a huge interruption of her life," Harry said, not being able to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

"Excuse me for being a bit blunt, Harry, but you didn't see her much before either," Hermione said and shot him a stern look. "But if you really mean that, maybe you should try and talk to Draco and work something out. If you want to see her more than every other weekend I'm sure he's not going to try and stay in the way of that. He told me just yesterday that he doesn't want you and Emilia to lose your good relationship."

"If he cared about that he wouldn't have gone through with this ridiculous divorce," Harry replied flatly.

"Can you honestly blame him, Harry? Your marriage haven't exactly been sunshine and daisies the last couple of years, your priorities are so different," Hermione said, trying to keep a neutral voice. "You never talk about it to me, Harry, but if the stories in the papers are even half true, how did you see this end? Draco's no pushover."

"So I like a drink and a party every once in a while, is that such a crime? Up until my eighteenth birthday my life wasn't exactly made of parties, Hermione, you should know that better than anyone," Harry said accusingly.

"I don't begrudge you to live your life the way you want, Harry, far from it. I know how hard you fought for that right. But it's not just you anymore. You need to think long and hard about if you want the life that includes endless parties, drinking and easy lays, or if you want the family life. You at least need to find some middle ground. Because, right now, the two don't mix," Hermione told him and finished her cup of tea, eyeing his reaction. "And a word of advice, Harry, lay off the boy-toys. It's beneath you!"

"I've only had a couple of blow-jobs, Hermione. Oh, don't give me that look, it's not exactly cheating, is it? And Merlin knows that Draco hasn't been very amorous the last year or so. We're men, Hermione, we have needs," Harry said and took a bite off his scone. "You will, however, be happy to hear that I'm gonna cut back on all of that. I want to try and work things out between me and Draco. I thought we could go see one of those marriage counsellors, maybe that will help."

"Are... are you serious?" Hermione looked suspiciously at Harry, but he seemed sincere enough. That was just about the last thing she would have thought he would suggest.

"Of course I am. Remember, Hermione, it was not me who wanted a divorce, it was Draco," Harry said and helped himself to another scone. "I am prepared to fight for my family, Hermione. I've let Draco run this divorce farce this long, it ends now."

"Okay, Harry, if that's what you want I wish you good luck. I only want for all three of you to be happy, especially my goddaughter," Hermione said and stood to leave for work. "But I hope you don't think it's gonna be easy. Draco is, like I said, no pushover."

"I know he isn't, and I don't expect it to be easy. But I have to try, Hermione, please understand that. Emilia deserves to live with both her parents and I miss her... and Draco," Harry said quietly, for a moment leaving his soul open for Hermione to see. "I'm gonna go see him later today to try and work out the visitation stuff, even if it's just temporary, while I wait for him to come to his senses and take me back," he added, half joking, and gave Hermione a goodbye hug and kiss.

When Hermione walked to work her mind was mulling over her meeting with Harry. There was something in his attitude that she had not seen in a long time. Because behind the superstar ego and arrogance she had seen the wizard who had rid the world of Lord Voldemort. Harry was also a very stubborn person, had always been. She knew that when Harry Potter truly set his mind to it, he could achieve almost the impossible. He would, however, have his work cut out for him. Draco was, by no means, an easy person to deal with when he was angry and hurt. She could only hope that they would be able to work things out. It seemed like a long shot, but she wanted them to patch things up.

---

That afternoon Harry stepped out of the Floo in Draco's study at Malfoy Manor. Draco had initially threatened to shut Harry out, but in case something should happen to Emilia he would need to get hold of Harry quickly, so the Floo in Malfoy Manor was still connected to the one at Grimmauld Place. Draco was seated behind his desk, trying to concentrate on the never ending correspondence. Estate business was much more tedious and time consuming than one might think. He looked up in surprise when Harry suddenly arrived.

"Hello, Draco," Harry said in a friendly voice and brushed a spot of soot off his jacket. "I hope I haven't come at an inconvenient time. I wanted to talk to you about my visitation rights. I thought we'd try and work this out without Blaise and Terry."

"Oh, hello, Harry," Draco said a bit tense. He remembered all too well the last conversation they had shared, it had been far from pleasant. "Certainly, I've been meaning to talk to you too, I just haven't had the time yet. After preschool I had to get Emilia ready for Victoire's children's birthday party at Bill and Fleur's and then I had to drop her off. Molly said she'd bring her home after the party."

"Right, I remember Ron mentioning that. Apparently, there will be clowns," Harry said and shuddered.

"Still no fan of clowns, eh, Potter?" Draco asked amused.

"Clowns are scary. Now, if they really wanted to scare me off my broomstick, the other team would just have to dress up as clowns, that would do the trick," Harry said jokingly, hoping to keep the atmosphere between them light and friendly.

"Be careful not to tell any Falcons fans that, they just might take you up on it," Draco joked back, relaxing slightly.

"No worries, I won't," Harry replied and sat down in the chair opposite Draco's desk. "Now, about this visitation stuff. I thought maybe I could have Emilia next weekend? I'd take her this weekend, it's just that the Weasleys' annual family picnic is next Saturday, and I really want to take her."

"That is fine with me, Harry," Draco said a little puzzled. Harry seemed to be taking this rather well and mature. Maybe it was resignation, Draco thought.

"Good. Then I'll pick her up after preschool next Friday, okay? And I hope you've changed your mind about her not staying with me at Grimmauld Place, that is my home now, Draco." Harry looked expectantly at his husband, seeing the way Draco's eyebrows knitted together in thought.

"I said some things that day that I shouldn't have, Harry. As did you. But I have no objections about her staying at Grimmauld Place. I just hope that you tell your friend Seamus and his army of party boys to stay away when Emilia's there. I don't want her subjected to the kind of environment you sometimes choose to involve yourself in," Draco said sternly, not quite succeeding in keeping the bitterness out of his voice.

"What do you take me for, Draco?" Harry asked angrily, his temper flaring. "Do you really think I'm such a terrible father that I'd throw wild parties at Grimmauld Place with my five-year-old daughter present? Give me some credit, will you!"

"Fine. I'm sorry, Harry, I shouldn't have said that," Draco said and tiredly rubbed his eyes. "I didn't sleep much last night, you know how cranky that makes me."

"Oh, I remember, loud and clear," Harry said with a snort and stood up. "I'll get out of your hair now, I just wanted to work out my visitation rights. Give Emilia a kiss from me when she returns, will you?"

"I will, Harry," Draco said with a small smile, happy that they had been able to conduct themselves with at least a little bit of dignity today.

---

Harry was just about to step into the Floo and leave when the study door opened and Emilia walked in together with Molly Weasley. Mrs Weasley thought it would be best to give the small family some privacy, she knew an awkward situation when she saw one. She immediately excused herself and gave Emilia a goodbye kiss and Harry a pat on the arm before she returned to the Burrow, using Draco's Floo.

Emilia was overjoyed at seeing her papa again. She ran straight into his arms, squealing with delight, the blond curls dancing around her head. Harry picked her up and hugged her close. He had missed her more than he thought possible.

"I missed you, Papa. Can you stay and play with me?" Emilia asked and hugged Harry tight, clinging to his neck.

"Oh, I'm sorry, baby girl, I'd love to play with you, but Papa's gotta go," Harry said and hugged his daughter back, his eyes squeezing shut. He carefully put her down again.

"But I haven't seen you in forevah, Papa. We don't have to play, you can have dinner with me and Daddy instead," she pleaded and looked up at him with big blue eyes who were brimming over with tears, clinging to his legs. "Don't go. I don't want you to go."

Draco had witnessed the exchange between his husband and daughter, his insides aching. He somehow knew that this had been an inevitable moment, but found he really wasn't prepared for it. He would, however, have to try and deal with the situation. He went over to them and crouched down next to Emilia, gently prying her clinging hands from Harry's legs.

"Sweetheart? Remember we talked about this? Papa doesn't live here anymore because he and Daddy need to spend some time apart," Draco said and wiped some tears away from Emilia's cheeks. "But you and Papa's gonna spend a lot of time together next weekend, okay?"

"No! I want Papa to stay with me now! You're stupid!" Emilia exclaimed and teared her small hands out of Draco's and started to sob into Harry's legs, refusing to let her papa go.

"Oh, Emilia, baby, we'll see each other next weekend, and we're gonna have so much fun, I promise," Harry said, gently brushing Emilia's blond curls back, trying to comfort her. "Me and Daddy are having some grown-up problems now, and, like Daddy said, we need to spend a little time apart to figure them out."

"Did you hear that, sweetheart? I bet you and Papa will have all kinds of fun next weekend, but right now you need to be a big girl and let Papa go, okay?" Draco said in a kind voice, again trying to make Emilia let go of Harry's legs.

"This is all your fault! You made Papa leave us, you made him go! You don't want him with us anymore," Emilia screamed through sobs while she turned around and looked accusingly at Draco.

Harry gave Draco a pained look and clearly saw the hurt and despair in Draco's eyes. He simply could not let Draco take all the blame Emilia was putting on him. He crouched down so he was on Emilia's eye level and looked seriously into her wet eyes.

"Emilia, honey, that is not true. Daddy and Papa have been very bad to each other lately and fighting a lot. You know, like you sometimes fight with your classmates? And we don't want to do that anymore, that's why Papa's staying at his own house for a bit. That doesn't change the fact that we both love you, very much," Harry said in a serious voice.

Draco looked at Harry with gratitude. It was heartbreaking hearing his daughter blaming him for the fact that her papa wasn't around anymore, and he had to give Harry credit for the way he was trying to tackle it.

"Papa is right, Emilia, we both love you so very much. And you'll still spend lots of time with both of us, okay?" Draco said and pulled Emilia in for a hug.

"No! We're not gonna be all three of us anymore. And I heard you saying to Uncle Blaise that you wanted Papa gone. It is too your fault and I hate you! Hate you!" With that Emilia pushed Draco away and ran sobbing out the study door. They heard her small feet as she climbed the stairs towards her room.

"Oh, god." Draco whispered and slumped down on his knees. He tried to will the tears away, but he was unable to stop them from starting to stream down his cheeks. It felt like he had been hit in the gut and he could hardly breathe.

Harry was torn between wanting to run after and comfort his distraught daughter and say something comforting to Draco. Draco did not deserve this, Harry deep inside knew that, and he hated to see him so broken. He silently sat down on the floor next to his husband and carefully pulled him into his arms. He thought that maybe Draco would've pushed him away but he didn't, instead he relaxed into his hold and sniffled quietly into Harry's chest.

"Children eavesdrop, Draco," Harry said quietly after a while and rubbed Draco's back. "I should know, I used to do it all the time."

"It's been weeks since I had that conversation with Blaise, Harry. I've made it a rule to meet in his office on the days that Emilia's at preschool, because I didn't want her to overhear something like this. She's too young to understand." Draco had calmed down but remained in Harry's arms. He had so missed being held like this, for some reason he felt safe. Another small thing, easily overlooked, he mused.

"Children also have selective hearing. They draw their own conclusions based on the things they think they hear. Like you said, she's too young to understand something like this," Harry said and sighed, resting his chin on Draco's head. "How do you feel about me staying for dinner? You think you can stand to be in the same room with me for a couple of hours? I'll leave when Emilia's gone to bed. And maybe I can have her stay this weekend instead of next after all? To a five-year-old a week-and-a-half is an eternity you know, maybe it's easier if we can tell her that she'll be seeing me in just two days?"

"Well, we are having yours and Emilia's favourite tonight, spaghetti and meat sauce. I think we can probably try to stay civil and not throw the food at each other," Draco said with a small chuckle. "And if you want Emilia to spend this weekend with you that's just fine. As long as you're not too busy. And I still want you to take her to the Weasleys' picnic next Saturday, I can't see any reason why she should miss out on that."

"Good. I have a practice on Saturday, but it's just for a couple of hours, I'm sure Hermione or Molly can watch Emilia for a little while. The rest of my plans for this weekend are changeable," Harry said and stood up, offering a hand to Draco to pull him back up on his feet. "You okay?"

"Better, yes. Thank you," Draco said and wiped away the last wetness in his eyes with his sleeve.

"Good. Now, I'm gonna go upstairs and have a chat with our little miss, then we can sit down and have a nice, messy spaghetti dinner," Harry said with a chuckle, knowing that Emilia usually looked like a disaster zone after those dinners.

"Sure, Harry. I'll go and tell Marley that we'll be three for dinner. And to skip the tablecloths," he said as an afterthought. Harry laughed at that and went to find his daughter.

Draco watched Harry disappear out the door, still feeling the warmth from his arms. Oh, Harry, what are you doing to me?

 

TBC... A contemplating Harry and a frustrated Blaise next.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in?


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 8 - Don't Intend to Make It Easy

 

Draco,

I put Emilia to bed, and when I returned to the sitting room, you were asleep. You looked like you needed it so I didn't want to wake you up. I just put a blanket over you before I let myself out.
Give Emilia a kiss from me and tell her I'll pick her up at Friday after preschool.
Thanks for the dinner, I had a real good time.

Love,
Harry

PS! You still look cute in your sleep. Love the bed-hair.

It was Sunday afternoon and Draco was waiting for Harry to bring Emilia back after spending the weekend with him. He had kept the note Harry had left after their dinner, and, even if he tried hard not to, he kept reading it over and over again. He had woken up in the middle of the night on the couch in the sitting room, all snuggled up under the warm blanket Harry had tucked around him. He could've sworn he still smelt Harry's aftershave in the room, and for some reason the smell suddenly made him feel cold and lonely, so lonely. When he had discovered Harry's note on the coffee table he had found himself smiling to himself in the dark room.

Draco Malfoy, you pathetic fool! The man's never home, he drinks and he cheats on you, and you argue all the time. Still, you miss him. What the hell is the matter with you? Are you such a glutton for punishment? Draco scolded himself.

He had felt his resolve regarding the divorce wavering since Emilia's outburst and the following dinner, which, he had to admit, had been surprisingly pleasant. He tried to pull himself together, and kept reminding himself of all the reasons this divorce was necessary and how much he'd gone through already. The problem, however, was that his heart wasn't listening to his head. Because he could not forget Harry's strong and warm arms around him, and the way Harry had comforted him, even if it was Harry who just had lost custody of his daughter.

Of course Harry would choose now to show this side of himself again, after Draco hadn't seen anything but the egoistic Quidditch star for such a long time. Suddenly Harry resembled somebody Draco could fall in love with all over again. He told himself repeatedly not to fall for it, that it would just bring him grief again. Besides, he knew that Harry didn't really want a divorce and would probably try to make attempts to reconcile. Draco had to hand it to the man though, if this was his tactics, it seemed to be working.

Either way, it didn't look like it would be a fast divorce, not if the visit he'd had with Blaise yesterday was anything to go by. Apparently, Blaise had delivered the divorce conditions to Harry's solicitor, Terry Boot, a few days prior. In return he'd gotten thirty pages of neatly written notes on long pieces of parchments, arguing every single point of the conditions. Terry had even insisted on the couple seeing a marriage counsellor. To top it off, Terry had enclosed a letter warning that he'd be going on a long planned vacation for the next couple of weeks, so they had to postpone the negotiations further. It was all fully legal, and a seething Blaise couldn't do anything but agree to the delay, knowing Draco wouldn't be happy about the turn of events.

Blaise had been livid; he had not foreseen this divorce taking up so much time, especially since there was no financial claims from either parts. But that didn't stop Terry Boot from finding plenty of other things to argue about, possessions for instance. All the way down to a set of goblets that he insisted they'd figure out the value of, if they were to stay in the Malfoy estate. Blaise chalked it all up to Terry feeling vindictive after losing in court, and Draco had to admit that it sounded like a plausible reason. But as long as everything was done by the book, they could do nothing but reluctantly agree, even if Blaise's patience was wearing thin.

Draco could not help but be puzzled by the suggestion that they go see a marriage counsellor though. It didn't sound like something Terry would dare suggest without talking it over with Harry first, and thus Harry must've agreed to it, maybe even suggested it himself. And if the latter was the case, how was Draco suppose to interpret that? It was all very confusing.

...

Draco was shaken out of his line of thought by a soft knock on the door. He went to open it and found Harry and his daughter standing outside, with Emilia sound asleep on Harry's arm. He saw Harry's shiny, silver coloured Jaguar parked in the driveway and realized that Harry had driven all the way from London to Wiltshire. He knew that Harry loved driving, and Emilia loved riding along, even if she almost always fell asleep after ten minutes. Besides, he also knew that Harry's Jaguar had all sorts of magical enchantments on it, so he used maybe a third of the time that he would by driving a normal car.

"Should I just go upstairs and put her to bed for a while?" Harry asked in a hushed voice.

"Yeah, I'll just wake her up in a little bit, if she sleeps too long now it'll be impossible to make her go to bed later," Draco answered. He smoothed down Emilia's soft blond curls and gave her a kiss on the forehead before Harry carried her upstairs.

After a few minutes, Harry came back down and found Draco outside on the terrace. It had a spectacular view of the impressive manor gardens, and in the far distance he could see a white peacock wandering around, looking superior. Harry could not help it, whenever he saw one of those bloody birds they reminded him of the previous master of Malfoy Manor. Harry loathed Lucius Malfoy, and the feeling was very much mutual. They had silently agreed that the less they saw of each other, the better. It had been a lucky turn of events when the Malfoys had moved to France, all-though Harry knew that Draco missed his parents occasionally, especially his mother.

"So, you still haven't shipped those pieces of poultry off to your father I see. Pity that. I bet your mother could've had them made into a delicious gourmet dinner," Harry said and threw his Prada sunglasses down on the table and helped himself to a glass of ice tea. Harry had exchanged his glasses for contacts long ago, he found the glasses were mostly in the way during practices and games.

"Harry! Honestly," Draco said with a shake of his head. "Besides, our daughter loves the peacocks, so they stay."

"Guess you're right," Harry sighed. "She loves all animals to be honest. I took her to the London Zoo today, she was beside herself. She particularly fell in love with the zebras. She claimed it was a horse with licorice stripes, I had to stop her from running into the pen and taste them. She had to settle for feeding them."

"That's our girl," Draco said with a nod. "She must've gotten those curious and mischievous traits from you. I take it you two had a good weekend then?"

"Ha! She didn't want to leave the zoo, unless I'd take her for a hamburger lunch. My five-year-old daughter actually bargained with me. Does that sound at all familiar? Oh yes, now I remember, sounds a lot like you actually," Harry said with a laugh. "And yes, we had a great weekend. I even brought her and Hermione along to my Quidditch practice yesterday. She really loved it. I think she should be allowed to watch a real match soon, you know. Some of the other guys on the Cannons have their children on the VIP stands on every single home match, and most of them aren't much older than Emilia."

"We'll see. I think the game's a bit brutal, Harry. I really don't want Emilia to see her father being hit by a Bludger or anything, it would only upset her." Draco knew he would have to let Emilia watch one of Harry's games sooner or later, but he preferred later.

"She's a lot tougher than you give her credit for, Draco. Don't be so over-protective. One shouldn't think you were a Quidditch player yourself once, and not a bad one either. And just for the record, I haven't been hit by a Bludger since the second year at Hogwarts." Harry took a sip of his ice tea and grinned at Draco. His jet black hair had gotten a bit long, his fringe kept falling into his eyes. It was not, in Draco's opinion, totally unbecoming.

"I'll think about it, okay? And don't remind me of my years as a Seeker for Slytherin, I never really wanted to be one, but my father had his expectations," Draco said with a touch of sadness. He had long since stopped idolizing his father. That had came to an abrupt end during Draco's sixth year at Hogwarts, when he had experienced first hand what a psychotic madman his father had subjected his family to.

"Okay. But let me know, I'll make sure you get seats on the VIP stand," Harry said and patted Draco on the back. It didn't do Draco much good to talk about his father, he either became withdrawn or melancholic.

"Harry, what's going on with the divorce? I had a visit with Blaise yesterday, he told me the negotiations had been delayed for a few weeks, and that Boot is being very difficult. Not to mention that he's suggested we'd go see a marriage counsellor? What's he playing at?" Draco abruptly changed the subject. He looked at Harry a bit sceptically.

"The delay is due to a holiday he's been planning for a while, Draco. He and Padma are taking a trip to the Caribbean. What was I supposed to do? Tell him to skip it? And he's probably being difficult because he wants one-up on Blaise, but I really don't know, I don't keep track of everything he does. As for the marriage counsellor, that was my idea." Harry looked closely at Draco to eye his reaction. He was partly telling the truth, the counsellor had indeed been his idea. The holiday, however, had been booked the day after the custody hearing after Harry had told him to stall the divorce. In Harry's opinion, it had been a stroke of genius, not to mention fully legal.

"Why on earth do you want us to see a counsellor, Harry? Do you honestly think that anything good will come from it?" Draco asked in disbelief.

"What was I supposed to do, Draco?" Harry asked back. "I asked you for a chance to talk and try and work things out, you refused, remember? Well, now I'm forcing you to. I'm sorry, but it was the only way I could think of."

"You, Harry Potter, are unbelievable! First you act like you don't give a toss about our marriage, by being absent most of the time and fucking around on me. And don't give me that 'blow-jobs aren't really cheating' speech, I don't' wanna hear it! And now, when I've given up on our farce of a marriage, then you act like you suddenly give a damn?" Draco looked furiously up at Harry, who was picking up his sunglasses as he stood to leave.

"I don't want this divorce, Draco. I never hid that fact. You and me and Emilia, we belong together, and I'm willing to fight for that, even if that means seeing a bloody counsellor," Harry said matter-of-factly.

"I think you probably should leave now, Harry, before we start saying things we'll regret again," Draco said and walked across the garden towards the driveway, clearly showing Harry out. When they reached the car, Harry suddenly turned around and walked right up to Draco, stopping mere inches away, staring hard into his grey, uncertain eyes.

"You see, Draco, I don't intend to make this easy for you, because I still love you!" With that he grabbed Draco around his waist and pulled him in for a long, fierce kiss.

First Draco was too surprised to react. When he came to his senses he first pushed at Harry's chest to make him release him, but Harry was too strong, and too bloody irresistible. Draco stopped struggling and desperately wrapped his arms around Harry's neck, kissing him back. Harry's lips were soft, but unyielding against his own. When Draco let out a small moan, Harry's tongue immediately slipped inside his mouth. Harry tasted every part of Draco's mouth, pushing his tongue as deep as he could, almost consuming him. At last he sensually licked and nipped at Draco's lips, reluctant to ever let them go. When Harry finally released him, Draco took a few unsteady steps backwards, his mind reeling from what had just happened. Harry put his sunglasses back on and got into his car.

"And you, Draco Malfoy-Potter, still love me too!"

With that Harry confidently rolled up the window and spun down the driveway towards the gates. A very confused Draco was left behind, staring in disbelief after the disappearing car. His fingers unintentionally touched his now slightly swollen lips, Harry's kiss still lingering.

 

TBC... Date night next

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in?


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 9 - Plenty of Fish in the Sea

 

The day after Harry and Draco's last encounter, and the rather passionate kiss, found Draco pacing around in Theodore Nott and Pansy Parkinson-Nott's living room. He had hardly slept the previous night, his mind had been reeling with all that had happened. And that kiss. That mind blowing, wonderful and infuriating kiss. Draco mentally kicked himself again. He had been so angry and frustrated with Harry, and all it took was a kiss and his knees went all weak and all his resolve was shattering. This was why he took the opportunity to seek some advice and comfort from his friends while Emilia was on a play date that afternoon.

"Draco, darling, will you please sit down like a civilized human being and stop pacing a hole in my 10.000 Galleon Persian carpet," Pansy said and gestured towards the couch.

"Yes, Draco, do sit down, you're making us all dizzy," Blaise said and looked up from the parchment he was scribbling on. "Theo, fetch the man a drink, will you? Maybe that will calm him down."

Theodore Nott went over to the liquor cabinet in his and Pansy's living room and picked up four glasses and a bottle of Scotch. He put the glasses and bottle down on the coffee table and poured them each a drink, eyeing Draco as he finally relented and slumped down on the couch next to Blaise.

"I think I'm about to go mad. The man is so unpredictable. One minute he acts like he doesn't give a damn about our marriage, the next he's forcing me to go with him to see a counsellor?" Draco groaned and took a sip off his drink. "And then last week he was all sweet and understanding when Emilia more or less blamed me for being the big, bad wolf who wouldn't let her papa stay. Suddenly he changed into Harry Potter, father and husband of the year."

"You've hurt his ego, Draco," Blaise said, not looking up from his parchment. "You've filed for divorce and got custody of Emilia, that is a hard blow - pardon the pun - for Harry Potter, who usually gets his way. Not to mention that it hurts his reputation. Not that there's been many stories in the papers lately. I'm guessing George Weasley's made sure of that, must've cost him a pretty penny."

"Well, yes. But there's more to it than that. He's fighting this tooth and nail. And the weirdest thing of all is that he's acting sort of mature," Draco said with a shake of his head.

"Now, that is weird. But you've been married for five years, it was bound to happen sooner or later," Theo commented dryly. Blaise and Pansy both snorted at that.

"Listen, Draco. Harry might want to get back inside your good books, not to mention your pants if that kiss is anything to go by, and it actually seems like he's started to realize that this is real, that he might lose you," Pansy said and leaned forward in her chair and took Draco's hand. "But the man has taken you for granted for so long, he's even cheated on you. You're too good for that, Draco."

"Thanks, Pans. It's just not that easy, you know. I know all that, but he keeps pushing all the right buttons." Draco squeezed Pansy's hand and sighed before he glared over at Blaise. "For heaven's sake, Blaise. Will you stop that scribbling, it's driving me nuts! Who're you writing anyway?"

"Well, I'm trying to formulate a letter to Hermione. I've got tickets to 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', and I want to take her. While you're trying to get rid of your love life, I'm trying to get one," Blaise said and chewed on his pen. "Sooner or later she's gonna have to cave and agree to go on a date with me, hopefully old Shakespeare will help."

"Blaise! I could kiss you, you're a genius!" Pansy exclaimed and jumped to her feet. "Oh, sorry, Theo, I didn't mean that literally," she added hastily to her husband, who just looked amused.

"Anyway, that is the solution, Draco. Go out on a date," Pansy said excitedly.

"A date?" Draco almost choked on his drink. "Are you serious?"

"Draco, darling, before you and Potter became an item you were one of the most sought after men in wizarding Britain. They'll be lining up," Pansy said confidently. "Don't be so modest, it really doesn't become you."

"That's not a bad idea actually, Draco. If nothing else it will show Potter that he's not the only fish in the sea, and that he shouldn't take you for granted," Theo said and looked thoughtful. "Come to think of it, remember Adrian Pucey? He was two years ahead of us at Hogwarts? I've recently started doing a bit of business with him, he's selling some property that my firm is interested in buying. Anyway, he asked me the other day if it was true that you and Harry were getting a divorce. He seemed very interested."

"Of course I remember Adrian, he was a Chaser on the Slytherin Quidditch team. But I don't know about this date thing," Draco said and pulled a hand through his hair.

"Oh, come on, Draco. Adrian Pucey is perfect. He's handsome, well connected, successful and very wealthy. Potter might actually see him as a real threat. What's the worst that could happen? That you might actually have a bit of fun? Remember fun, Draco?" Pansy said and pointedly raised her eyebrows in question. "And don't worry about Emilia, Theo and I will be happy to look after her for the night. She loves to play with my shoe collection, we'll have lots of fun."

"Oh fine. I give up. And I guess you're right. Sitting around the manor obsessing about Harry is doing me no good at the moment. And I'm not exactly doing anything wrong going on a date, right? I mean, we are separated after all." Draco actually felt a nervous thrill at the prospect of going out on a date again. Harry might make him feel desired, but it had been a long time since he'd felt special and appreciated.

"Great. I'm having a meeting with Adrian tomorrow, I'll make sure to give him a discreet hint," Theo said and poured them all a second drink.

"Fine, but I'm not ready for anything too heavy. Only dinner, for now at least," Draco said, already sounding like he was having cold feet. He noticed Pansy rolling her eyes.

"Try not to take it so seriously, just concentrate on having a nice evening out, you deserve it," Blaise said and patted Draco on the back. "Now, if that's settled, I could really use some help with this letter to Hermione."

"Blaise, honestly, darling! Have you no pride? The woman must've turned you down at least a dozen times by now, yet you keep coming back for more. I thought you were supposed to be smart," Pansy said disapprovingly.

"Hermione is intelligent, witty, beautiful and kind. And I've seen her duel, she can kick some serious arse. So I think I'm pretty smart in wanting to date her, I'd be an idiot not to," Blaise said and waggled his eyebrows at Pansy, who threw her hands up in resignation. Her friends seemed determined to have their hearts broken by previous members of Gryffindor House.

---

Four days later

Draco had not at all been sure that this date had been a good idea, but as the evening progressed he found himself enjoying it more and more. Adrian Pucey turned out to really be all the things Pansy had said, and Draco also found that he was easy to talk to. They had a lot of fun reminiscing about their Hogwarts days and catching up on recent events.

Adrian quickly caught up on the fact that Harry Potter was a touchy subject for Draco and only asked him about it once. Their separation and impending divorce, and not to mention the custody hearing, had been all over the papers and news. To not mention it at all would've been like there was a huge elephant in the room that everybody pretended not to see. Adrian understood from Draco's fleeting answer that the situation was complicated, but that Draco was trying to sort his life out back into something that resembled normalcy. That also meant having a social life.

For the life of him, Adrian Pucey could not understand how Harry Potter's mind worked. The man was married to Draco Malfoy, who was not only gorgeous beyond belief, but also funny, smart, perceptive and, last but not least, sexy as hell. Still, the wizarding world's Golden Boy had managed to throw it all away. It was unfathomable. He understood that Draco wasn't exactly searching for a substitute for Harry just yet, but that time would come. Adrian would very much like to be the one to take that place eventually. He tread carefully though, he sensed that this was not the night for getting too physical, and only occasionally brushed Draco's hand, and once tucked a loose strand of blond hair behind Draco's ear.

Draco was actually having a good time. It was nice to spend an evening with a person who seemed interested in his opinions and who obviously enjoyed his company. He noticed the little physical gestures and decided to allow them, liked them even. In fact, he was enjoying himself so much that he forgot to pay attention to their surroundings. If he had, he might've noticed Ron Weasley staring hard at him as he slipped out the restaurant door.

---

To Ron Weasley, one of the downsides of being Harry Potter's best friend was that he occasionally had to frequent gay bars and clubs. He figured himself a well rounded and open minded guy, who didn't have a problem with homosexuality in the least. But being hit on left, right and centre, by other guys, was a little bit uncomfortable for Ron, who, himself, was straight as a nail. Hermione kept telling him he should feel flattered by the attention, and he really did. Kind of. Sometimes. Harry, of course, found the whole thing hilarious, but it wasn't often he made Ron come with him when he felt like a gay night on the town, he had other friends for that, like Seamus.

Ron tried to ignore the wolf whistles and suggestive comments as he pushed through the crowd inside the popular gay bar, Gomorrah. Contrary to its name, it was one of the upscale gay establishments in wizarding London. And as per usual on a Friday night, the bar was jumping. The place had had a real popularity boost when Harry Potter had made it one of his usual hang out places. People tend to orbit around their gods after all. If it was a slow night when Harry Potter showed up somewhere, it took maybe half an hour before the place was packed, to the owner's and cash register's immense pleasure. There wasn't a wizarding bar or club where Harry's name didn't stand on the VIP list, regardless if it was considered either a gay place or a straight. Some places had a mix of both.

Ron finally located Harry sitting by a table near the bar. Harry was wearing a pair of worn designer jeans, a black button down shirt, a Hugo Boss leather jacket and a pair of dragon hide boots that Ron knew must've cost a small fortune. Harry's hair was the usual ordered chaos, his fringe falling sexily into his green eyes. Even Ron, straight as he was, could see why Harry was considered to be a very sexy man. And as usual Harry was surrounded by people, Ron recognized Seamus and a couple of his tag-alongs among them. Ron stopped a few steps away and waited until Harry noticed his presence, he was in no mood to deal with the others at the table right now.

He had debated with himself whether telling Harry that he'd seen Draco out on what unmistakeably must've been a date was really a good idea. But he had come to the conclusion that he had to tell Harry. Harry was his best friend, and he knew that if the situation had been reversed, Harry would've told him. What's Draco doing out on a date already anyway? Ron asked himself. Their separation papers wasn't even cold yet. No, this was the right thing to do, Harry deserved to know. Especially since Harry was trying to get back together with the ferret. Maybe this would even their score a bit.

Harry finally noticed Ron standing a few metres away. When their eyes locked, Ron beckoned him over with a jerk of his head. Harry knew that it must be something urgent, because Ron didn't normally hang out at Gomorrah, unless Harry dragged him along, almost kicking and screaming. He excused himself to his crowd and stood up from his chair and walked over to Ron, a questioning expression on his face.

Seamus Finnigan also understood that there must be something going on if Ron Weasley willingly walked into Gomorrah to see Harry. Unfortunately it was impossible to make out what they were saying, the music was so loud that Ron had to talk directly into Harry's ear. But if the darkened expression on Harry's face was anything to go by, it was not happy news, which probably meant that their night was coming to an end. Pity that, it was always much more fun with Harry around. When he left the place usually died down pretty quickly.

Seamus was considered an influential and important person in the gay community, a status he had won much thanks to his friendship with Harry Potter. Seamus was in no hurry to see Harry and Draco reconcile. On the contrary, he thought that Harry would be better off without Draco. He tried to discretely sway Harry's opinion in that direction too, but Harry seemed determined to try and work things out with Draco. Seamus hoped with all his might that wouldn't happen. He was more than ready to pick up the pieces once Draco was gone from Harry's life, an agenda he wisely kept to himself.

He saw Harry give Ron a disbelieving glare, and then Ron giving Harry an apologetic look. Harry started to push his way to the door, obviously in a hurry to leave. Ron tried to grab his arm and hold him back, but Harry just shook him off and disappeared in a rush. Seamus stood up and walked over to Ron.

"What was that all about?" Seamus all but yelled into Ron's ear, it was hard to hear anything above the loud music.

"Sorry, Seamus, can't tell you. Let's just be happy our name isn't Draco Malfoy tonight," Ron yelled back. He didn't notice the small smile on Seamus' face.

"Buy you a drink?" Seamus asked with a grin and gestured towards the bar.

"Okay. What the heck, as long as I'm already here," Ron said with a shrug and followed Seamus to the bar. He knew the other people in the bar hadn't been able to distinguish it from all the other noise going on, but when he had told Harry what he had seen in the restaurant, the room had started to vibrate. And it hadn't stopped until Harry was out the door. Ron Weasley was very happy indeed that he was not in Draco Malfoy's shoes that night.

 

TBC... Next, welcome home from your date, Draco.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in?


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

Author's note: A very small Draco/OMC warning for this chapter. But it's very small, if you blink you'll miss it. This is also the chapter where the story earns its R-rating. Enjoy.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 10 - What's It Gonna Be?

 

After leaving Gomorrah, Harry Apparated straight to Malfoy Manor. Originally he had planned to show up at Chez Savy, the restaurant where Draco was on his date, but even Harry, impulsive as he was, understood that causing a very public scene wasn't the most intelligent thing to do. So he had decided to wait for Draco at the manor instead, squashing the inner voice that tried to tell him that confronting Draco tonight was a lousy idea.

Harry was simply seething with anger and jealousy. He had thought they had been on their way to repair their marriage, especially after that kiss. But apparently, I was wrong then, he thought.

Harry was, by no means, an idiot. He knew he was thinking and acting irrationally. But the thought of his Draco, on a date, with that sleek Adrian Pucey, was enough to drive Harry mad. Harry knew about Adrian. He knew the former Slytherin was considered to be a very handsome and successful businessman. If rumors were true, Adrian was a very sought after gay wizard. Harry saw him from time to time at Gomorrah, but Adrian always kept a low profile and had never been part of any scandals as far as Harry could tell. Until tonight that was, because going after other people's husbands was certainly overstepping it, at least in Harry's opinion. And if what Ron had told him was true, they had been all cosy too, with Adrian actually touching Draco. The thought was unbearable.

He was shaken out of his thoughts by a distant pop of Apparition. He saw two people emerge by the fountain on the round lawn in front of the manor. They didn't notice Harry, who stood hidden in the shadows behind a column by the manor's entrance door. The pair started to move towards the steps leading up to the door, chatting pleasantly.

"Thank you for a very nice evening, Adrian. It was a delicious dinner, I hadn't been to Chez Savy in ages," Draco told Adrian with a smile.

"I should be thanking you, Draco. I can't remember the last time I had such a good and relaxing time on a date," Adrian said and gently caressed Draco's cheek with his thumb. Harry narrowed his eyes dangerously.

"I'm glad. Good to know that I can make a decent date, considering I hadn't been on one for at least five years," Draco said, feeling a bit awkward by the touch, but allowing it all the same. "You didn't have to see me home though, but thanks anyway."

"Ah, but you see, if I hadn't followed you home, then I wouldn't have been able to try and steal a goodnight kiss," Adrian said with a wink and carefully lifted Draco's chin and pressed his lips lightly against Draco's. Draco's eyes widened in surprise.

"Are you really sure you wanna finish that, Pucey?"

Draco and Adrian jumped apart and turned around to find Harry Potter leaning casually against a column, his arms crossed. He looked relaxed, but Draco saw the fury in those green eyes.

"Potter. I wish I could say that this is a pleasant surprise, but let's skip the formalities," Adrian said, having clearly already composed himself from Harry's sudden appearance. "Now, perhaps you would be as kind as to tell me why you so rudely interrupted our date?"

"It's not exactly rocket science, is it?," Harry snorted, still leaning against the column. "Perhaps you would be as kind as to tell me what the hell you are doing out on a date with my husband?"

"Your separated husband, you mean," Adrian corrected, seemingly unfazed. "As to why I was out on a date with him, I asked and Draco accepted, it's as easy as that."

"So he neglected to tell you that we're working to save our marriage then? And going out on a date with other people really isn't going to achieve that goal," Harry said and glared hard at Draco.

"Shut up, Harry," Draco said furiously. "I'm not interested in working out anything, that's all you. And it's too little, too late."

"The ink on our separation papers aren't even dry yet! And here you are, going on dates and kissing other men. I guess the road back to the playboy life you lead when we first met was pretty short, wasn't it?" Harry's voice was dripping with sarcasm.

"You're one to talk! If you hadn't fucked around on me so much, there might not have been any separation papers at all. If you're looking for somebody to blame for this whole bloody mess, find a mirror!" Draco spat at Harry. He felt tears of anger started to burn behind his eyes, but he refused to let them fall.

"Why don't you tell lover-boy here to take a hike so we can try to talk calmly about this," Harry said and jerked his head towards Adrian. "And, you, Pucey, there's not going to be any menage-à-trois here, sorry. So just fuck off, will you?"

"You arrogant tosser. Why don't you fuck off?" Adrian suddenly had his wand in his hand, pointing it straight at Harry.

Draco quickly turned his head around to see Harry's reaction. Harry had not moved an inch, he was still leaning casually, almost bored, against the column. If anything, he looked utterly amused. Most people, when having wands pointed at them, they did something, anything. But Harry didn't even bat an eyelash. Instead he shocked Draco by starting to laugh.

"Are you challenging me to a duel, Pucey?" Are you really sure you want to do that?" Harry asked and gestured his head towards the wand in Adrian's hand, his green eyes shining with mirth. He finally pushed his body away from the column and took a few steps towards Adrian. Draco suddenly had a vision of a lion toying with his prey before going in for the kill. He really couldn't blame Adrian for suddenly looking a bit unsure, but he didn't lower the wand.

"Expelliarmus!"

Neither Draco, nor Adrian, saw it coming. But they both saw Adrian's wand flying out of his hand and into Harry's. Draco knew that Harry mastered wand-less magic, but he didn't know to what extent. It was very elegantly done, Draco had to admit, but so arrogant. And maybe, just maybe, a little hot.

"Now, why don't you be a good boy and run along, so my darling husband and I can have a little chat?" Harry said patronizingly, and then returned the wand to a stricken Adrian Pucey. "And be careful where you point your wand in the future." The double meaning of that sentiment was clear as day, as was the threat behind it.

"Go on, Adrian. I'm sorry about this. I'll talk to you later, okay?" Draco said with an apologetic look at Adrian.

"Right. Goodbye, Draco. I'm sorry too. See you," Adrian said and Disapparated.

"Goodbye, Pucey. I'm not the least bit sorry, and I certainly won't be seeing you," Harry managed to shout out as Adrian disappeared. He knew it was a bit childish, but he simply couldn't help himself from making one last jibe at Adrian. He then followed Draco inside the manor, steeling himself for the storm he knew was coming.

---

"Ah, alone at last," Harry said when he had closed the entrance door and followed Draco into the sitting room.

Draco stood silently with his back turned, obviously trying to control his anger. He failed. Almost with the speed of light he had his wand in his hand and turned and pushed Harry hard against a wall, the tip of his wand jabbing into Harry's throat.

"I hate you, Harry Potter!" Draco said, his teeth clenched as he pushed the wand harder against Harry's throat. "You made sure to push me out of your life, with all your partying, drinking and cheating. And now, when I give you back your freedom, then you act like you suddenly give a damn! Well, guess what, Harry, now it's me that doesn't give a damn about you!"

Harry did not move an inch, he just looked into Draco's eyes. He saw the angry tears threatening to spill over. He could've easily disarmed Draco too, but he chose not to. Harry felt the electric air between them and knew there was a better way of handling this.

"You don't hate me, Draco Malfoy," Harry whispered. "If you truly did, then you wouldn't care so much. I've seen you hate people. You get all cold and vicious, but never furious, like now. You're angry, not because you hate me, but because, despite all, you still love me, and that drives you mad."

"You're wrong! I really, truly, with all my heart, hate you!" Draco exclaimed, damning the tears he felt flooding his eyes.

"No, you really, truly don't," Harry said in a low voice and wrapped his arms around Draco's waist, ignoring the wand against his throat.

"Let go of me! What do you think you're doing?" Draco pushed away from Harry's body, making sure to put some distance between them, but his wand was still pointing towards Harry. He hastened to dry his eyes with the back of his other hand.

"You have two choices here, Draco. You can do what your head tells you, and throw a nasty hex at me. Which you know won't work because I'm just gonna block it. Or you can give into your feelings and kiss me. But you have to make up your mind," Harry said and took a few steps towards Draco. "What's it gonna be?"

Draco damned himself to hell. Because as angry as he was with Harry, for ruining his date and acting like a jealous husband, he was also unbelievably turned on. His true reason for going on a date in the first place had been to teach Harry a lesson. But, like always, Harry's reactions were unpredictable. He realized that Harry was standing only two feet away now, looking at him intently. Draco felt the electricity between them, there was no denying it. It was like the air was suddenly to thick and he felt himself starting to breathe heavily. He looked up and found himself only inches away from Harry now, his hand holding the wand was trembling.

"What's it gonna be?" Harry whispered into Draco's ear. Draco felt Harry's warm breath and heard the wand clatter to the floor, forgotten. Before he could stop himself, he threw his arms around Harry's neck and pressed their lips together in a heated kiss. It was anything but tender. They poured all their pent up frustration, anger, lust and passion into the kiss. Their lips moved roughly against each other and their tongues fought for dominance.

Eventually, Harry wrenched his mouth away and moved it down to bite and suck on Draco's neck. He lifted Draco up and forced him to wrap his legs around Harry's waist, he then backed Draco up against the wall and smashed their mouths together again.

Every sane fibre in Draco's being was screaming at him to stop, but he did not want to hear. He had missed being touched, being kissed, being taken. He simply could not stop, he was too far gone. Instead he started pulling at Harry's black shirt, sending the buttons flying, but he did not care if he tore it apart. Harry had somehow already managed to rip off Draco's shirt and was now sucking furiously at Draco's collarbone, while Draco was being all but crushed between the cold wall and Harry's hot body. He felt Harry's hands move to his arse, squeezing it and pushing their groins together, starting to thrust roughly. Draco felt sparkles behind his eyelids at the contact and he started moving his hips into the thrusts.

"Too.. many... clothes," Harry panted and let Draco's legs back down. He immediately started pulling off Draco's trousers and underpants. He managed to get them all the way down and Draco hurried to step out of them. Harry managed to pull his own trousers and boxers down below his hips, it was enough to free his now achingly hard erection.

Not pausing for a second, Harry smashed their lips together in another passionate kiss while he shoved Draco back against the wall. Draco let his fingers claw up Harry's back, leaving red marks, before he moved them into Harry's thick hair, letting the silky strands slide between his fingers. He suddenly pulled Harry's head back by his hair and started to lick and bite at Harry's exposed throat. Harry let out a groan and moved one of his hands down between Draco's legs and started stroking his hard length.

The touch alone was almost enough to make Draco come. He knew he wouldn't last long if Harry kept up his stroking. He put his hand on top of Harry's to stop his movements. Harry understood and wasted no time in spinning Draco around, now pushing his face into the wall.

"Damn. We need lube. Accio lubricant!" Harry said in a husky voice and made a small wave with one of his hands. The next second, three tubes of lubricant flew at him, one hitting him in the forehead. Draco could not help but let out a small giggle.

"Remind me to be more specific in the future," Harry said with a grin and popped open one of the tubes and coated his fingers generously. He slid first one, then two fingers inside Draco. Draco let out a small moan and dropped his head back on Harry's shoulder, not being able to focus on anything else but the maddening fingers sliding in and out of him.

When Harry felt Draco was sufficiently prepared, he pulled out his fingers and slicked himself up. He grabbed Draco's hips and pulled his arse out and away from the wall before pushing inside. He started thrusting into the tight heat, not giving Draco any time to adjust. Draco knew this was going to be hard and fast, and it was exactly what he wanted. He pushed back roughly into every thrust. Harry almost felt as if his eyes were rolling back into his head from the pleasure, and he grabbed Draco's hips tight enough to bruise as he pounded into him.

Draco knew they wouldn't last very long and started stroking himself in rhythm with Harry's forceful thrusts. After what they would later consider to be embarrassingly quickly, they both came almost at the same time. Harry bit down on Draco's shoulder as he came. The bite was enough to drive Draco over the edge as well, whimpering Harry's name.

After their orgasmic bliss, neither of them were able to hold themselves up any longer. They stumbled towards the sofa and slumped down on it together, both totally spent. Harry had the sense to pull up his boxers and kick off his trousers before covering them with a throw rug that hung over the armrest. He then pulled Draco into his arms, with Draco's back to his chest, enjoying the feeling of having Draco in his arms again.

"Still hate you," Draco mumbled sleepily.

"I know," Harry yawned.

And then they slept.

 

TBC... Aftermath

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in?


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 11 - Not On the Same Page

 

The next morning, Draco woke up by the sun shining through the window and into his face. He looked around blearily, rubbing his eyes who protested against the bright light. The room seemed unbearably hot and he felt all sweaty and sticky. It took a few seconds for Draco to realize that he had been sleeping on the sofa in the sitting room - again, and that the heat came from the body behind him and the arm wrapped around his waist.

The reality of the previous evening and night came crashing down on Draco like a freight train. The date with Adrian, who had been going so well. Harry waiting for them at the manor. Adrian and Harry fighting. His anger towards Harry. And then, at last, the sex. Oh Merlin, the sex. Draco let out a small whimper.

Draco felt his heart pounding wildly in his chest and a sense of panic came over him, but he forced himself to stay calm. He carefully extracted himself from Harry's arms and started looking around for something to cover himself with. He located his trousers and underpants and quickly put them on, it would have to do until he could get upstairs and have a much needed shower. He picked up his shirt too, but found it was torn. He looked at it with disgust and then threw it aside, out of sight. He eventually found his wand on the floor where he had dropped it the night before. He pocketed it and picked up all of Harry's clothes and put them down in a heap on a nearby chair.

He opened the door out to the terrace and went outside to draw in the fresh air. The cool morning air felt good against his skin and it helped clear his head. He looked back into the sitting room and the man still sleeping on the sofa. It hadn't seemed like such a bad idea the night before, he mused. And they were still married, so technically they hadn't done anything wrong. But try as he might, he could not reason his way out of this situation. He had let things spiral totally out of control, and he damned himself. He considered himself a strong person, but then why was it that he was nothing but weak in Harry's presence?

Because Harry knows you, and regrettably too well, his subconscious told him. He knows your flaws, your weaknesses and your fears, and he knows how to exploit them. But where does that leave you? Right back in the same marriage you've worked so hard to get out of, that's where. Nothing has really changed, Harry certainly hasn't, if anything he's even more arrogant and inconsiderate than ever. It's just going to be the same song and dance all over again, is that really what you want?

Draco was shaken out of his musings by strong arms wrapping around his waist and a kiss being pressed to his neck. He felt the stubble of Harry's unshaven face as he rested his chin on Draco's shoulder.

"Morning, love," Harry rasped, his voice not quite awake yet. "It really is a good morning, isn't it?"

Draco didn't answer, instead he removed Harry's arms and stepped out of his reach. He had fallen for temptation last night, but the daylight made him feel ashamed and cheap, a feeling he honestly did not like. Draco knew what he had to do, even if it would be difficult.

"Draco? What's wrong, love?" Harry asked and leaned against the terrace railing, looking at Draco expectantly.

"I put your clothes in a chair inside the sitting room. You should probably go and put them on, unless you prefer Apparating home in your boxers," Draco replied, his voice emotionless.

"Home? I thought this was home, especially after last night," Harry said, clearly confused.

"I'm afraid it's not quite that easy. Last night was a mistake, Harry," Draco said matter-of-factly. "I don't really blame you, but I very much blame myself for letting things get so out of control. Nothing has really changed between us, so you should leave."

"You're not making any sense," Harry said with a shake of his head. "You wanted it every bit as much as me. Admit it!"

"I'm not denying anything. I did want it, but that doesn't make it right, Harry. If anything, it just made things even more complicated. Sex doesn't solve anything," Draco said tiredly and pulled a hand through his blond hair.

"Things are only complicated because you want them to be," Harry accused, glaring at Draco.

"No, Harry. Things are complicated because that's exactly what they are. You and me, we're not on the same page. I seriously doubt we're even in the same book anymore," Draco said tersely and turned to look out over the garden.

"Well, if we're not, it's not all my fault. The moment your father left you all the estate business, you turned into a different person," Harry said and crossed his arms defiantly. "The fun and outgoing guy I used to be married to was gone. Suddenly you turned into Mr Responsible and Serious."

"It's called growing up, Harry. You should try it sometimes. It's not exactly fun finding yourself married to Peter Pan either," Draco said dryly. "But just for the record, I know I am partly to blame for the mess we're in, it takes two to tango. The fact of the matter, Harry, is that we make each other miserable. I really don't want to be angry with you anymore, I don't have the energy. If we're no longer married, I don't have a reason to be angry, and you get back the freedom to do whatever you want, without having to put up with my nagging. Isn't that what you called it?"

"If that's truly the way you feel, why did you make love with me last night?" Harry threw Draco a hurt look. "You are sending out a lot of mixed signals, excuse me for failing to interpret them."

"What we did last night had nothing to do with making love. It was sex, Harry, nothing else," Draco said with a shrug, ignoring the look of hurt on Harry's face. "And I'm sorry if my signals have been mixed. I've been feeling very lonely lately, and last night I gave into temptation. It doesn't make it right and it never should've happened. It was a moment of poor judgement on my part, it certainly won't happen again."

"How can you stand there and say it will never happen again? You love me, and I love you, doesn't that count for anything?" Harry asked, his voice rising.

"You are right, I do love you. And I actually believe that you, in some weird way, love me too. But that's not enough, because we're no good for each other. I really can't see myself building a life with you anymore, Harry," Draco said plainly. "I'm going over to Pansy and Theo's to pick up Emilia in a bit. I will drop her off at the Weasleys' later, for the picnic, you can meet her there. Please have Hermione or Mrs Weasley bring her home afterwards. I don't want to see you for a while, Harry. I think that's best."

"But, Draco...," Harry started.

"No buts, Harry! That's the way it's gonna be! I'm going to go upstairs to shower and change now, when I come back down I want you gone." With that Draco left Harry standing there, both humiliated and shocked by the sudden turn of events.

When Draco was halfway up the stairs he heard a distant pop of Apparition; for once Harry had actually done what he was told. Draco shakily sat down on a step, a mix of relief and grief rushing through his mind. He put his face in his hands and finally let go of the cool facade he had been putting up that morning. Harry would never know how much this conversation had cost him.

Before Draco went to pick up Emilia, he changed the wards around the manor and closed off the Floo connection between Malfoy Manor and number 12, Grimmauld Place, effectively shutting Harry out.

---

Harry was in a right foul mood later that day. He would've given anything to get out of going to the Weaselys' annual family picnic, but then he would've disappointed his daughter, and he simply could not do that. When Emilia was present, he feigned cheerful, but it was clear to the others that he was brooding.

After a while he found himself drawing a little back from the others, while he watched Emilia and Victoire flying their kites. He was taking sips from his bottle of Butterbeer, yearning for something stronger. His thoughts kept wandering back to the conversation with Draco that morning. He could not remember ever seeing Draco that cold and distant before, not in all the time they've been together anyway. When Harry had realized that Draco regretted what had happened and told him it meant nothing, it had been like being slapped across the face. Actually, a slap would've been better. So now, instead of being closer, they were further apart than ever. The only card he had left was the marriage counsellor. Draco would at least not be able to get out of that one. Harry made a mental note to book an appointment as soon as possible.

"Cheer up, Harry. It might never happen." Ginny sat down next to him in the grass and nudged his arm, obviously trying to shake him out of his bad mood.

"Hey, Gin. How's life with the Harpies? When did you come home? And where's Wood? Did he finally come to his senses and break up with you?" Harry nudged her back. Ginny had a weird way of ignoring his bad moods, she absolutely refused to let him brood. It could be really annoying at times, but it usually worked.

"What's this? Twenty Questions? And I'll have you know, Ollie worships the ground I walk on, we're still very much sickeningly in love, thank you," Ginny said with a grin and gave him a whack over the head. Like Harry, she had also become a professional Quidditch player after finishing Hogwarts. She was currently a very successful Chaser with the Holyhead Harpies. Her fiance, Oliver Wood, was still a Keeper for Puddlemere United.

"But to satisfy your endless curiosity, life with the Harpies is good. Our last match brought us up to fifth place in the League, you better watch out. And I just arrived at the Burrow yesterday. Ollie couldn't make it though. Puddlemere has a practice match against Appleby tomorrow that he couldn't get out of. He says 'hi' by the way." Ginny snuggled into Harry's side and he automatically put his arm around her. Ginny had turned out to be one of his very best friends, but he didn't see her very often, their careers kept them busy.

"Well, I'm happy at least one of us has a happy and healthy love life," Harry said, bitterness evident in his voice.

"Ah, you and Draco are definitely over then? No chance of you guys reconciling?" Ginny asked and looked up at him.

"Nope, doesn't seem like it. I've tried, but he doesn't want to even hear about it. Last chance is the marriage counsellor we're going to go and see. I'm hoping he will change Draco's mind," Harry said with a sigh.

"I'm a bit confused here, Harry. Why don't you just go along with it? That way you'll get your freedom back and you get to do whatever you want," Ginny said with a shrug. "Don't get me wrong, I like Draco, but come on, you've been a disaster waiting to happen for a while now. To tell you the truth, I didn't think you were even in love with him anymore."

"What? Why would you think that?" Harry looked at Ginny with confusion.

"Well, the papers often print pictures of you with one guy after the other. You're often seen out partying, but never with your husband. Seems like you're off doing your thing, and he's off doing his. I know opposites attract, Harry, but one should at least have some common ground. And I'm sorry, but when your husband turn into your room-mate, then it's time to call it quits." Ginny stood up from the grass and ruffled Harry's hair before she dusted off her jeans.

"It hasn't been that many guys, and besides, it was only blow-jobs, it's not like I fucked them or anything. Life with Draco hasn't been very fun the last couple of years either, not since he became Lord of the manor," Harry said and picked angrily at the grass.

"Then I don't get why you're trying to hold on so tightly, it's clear you don't see eye to eye anymore," Ginny said. She then bent down in front of Harry and lifted his chin so he was looking directly into her eyes.

"But I will tell you this, Harry Potter. If I ever found Oliver with his prick in anybody's mouth but mine, he would be out on his arse so fast it would make his head spin. And instead of playing Quidditch, he would be singing the soprano in the London Opera, because he'd be a eunuch. Consider yourself lucky that Draco settled for throwing you out. Now, I'm gonna go help my nieces get those kites up in the air, you coming?" With that Ginny set off towards the girls and their kites, her long, red hair bouncing behind her.

---

Harry was exhausted when he came home that night. It had been a very long day. First all the drama with Draco, then the picnic and the conversation with Ginny. And the worst part, when he said goodbye to Emilia and Hermione took her back to Malfoy Manor. Originally, he had intended to take her himself, but thought better of it. It was not the right time to be antagonizing Draco, not if he wanted to work things out in counselling. Luckily, Emilia had been so tired that she hadn't protested when Harry didn't come along. What broke his heart was when she had given him a long hug goodbye and told him she'd see him in the morning. When in fact, he wouldn't be seeing his daughter in two weeks.

He also had a hard time forgetting the chat he'd had with Ginny. As usual, she had been very straightforward, a trait he actually appreciated about Ginny. He could always trust her to tell him the cold, hard truth. Beating around the bush was not Ginny's style.

Had she been right though? Were he and Draco really better off going their separate ways? Maybe there was some truth in it; he and Draco hadn't acted much like husbands the last year or so, and he could certainly do without all the fighting. Maybe it was easier if he just let go, because when he thought about it, was it all really worth all this trouble?

Harry poured himself a much needed drink of Scotch and slumped tiredly into a chair, but quickly got up again when he realized he had sat on something. He smiled and picked the item up. It was a plush toy zebra he had bought for Emilia when they had visited the London Zoo last weekend, she had obviously forgotten to take it with her to the manor. Harry sat down and squeezed the soft toy in his hands, memories rushing back like a tidal wave. Memories of himself and Draco picking up Emilia from the orphanage, of the two of them teaching her how to walk and how to say 'Daddy' and 'Papa', all the birthday parties, he and Draco kissing while Emilia hid her face in her hands in embarrassment. They had all been good times and now stood in very harsh contrast to the gloominess of the present situation.

They had been a family once, that had been real. They had been happy, all three of them, together. There had been laughter and love and a sense of belonging. Was that worth fighting for, people wondered? Hell, yes!

The next morning, Harry booked an appointment with the best marriage counsellor in wizarding Britain. This was his last straw and he was determined not to fail.

 

TBC

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in?


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 12 - A Reason to Be Cross

 

Bertram Aubrey, one of the most respected counsellors in the business, observed the two young men in front of him while he arranged his stack of notes from the individual sessions he had had with each of them a few days ago. Sessions that had been very enlightening indeed.

On the one hand, he had Harry Potter. The wizarding world's Golden Boy, star Seeker, vanquisher of Lord Voldemort. Harry had been very eager during their private session, impatient to get started on 'fixing his marriage' as he had said.

On the other hand, he had Draco Malfoy-Potter. Also famous in his own right. Former Death Eater, Lord of Malfoy Manor and heir to one of wizarding Britain's most considerable fortunes. A very private person and very reserved. Mr Aubrey recognized reluctance when he saw it, and he noticed that Draco was seeing him very unwillingly. In the beginning of their session he had been almost hostile. He had, however, been a bit more forthcoming a bit into their talk when he had let his shoulders down a bit and Mr Aubrey had convinced him that he wasn't an enemy, but an impartial party. And who's only agenda was to see if there was any way Harry and Draco's marriage had a living chance, and to give them some advice along the way.

Did this marriage have a living chance though? Bertram Aubrey was doubtful. So much relied on what came out of today's session with the both of them present. He had gotten them both to agree that they could talk open about anything inside the walls of this office, also the results of the individual sessions. All the cards needed to be put on the table if they were to get anywhere.

In all his years as a counsellor, Mr Aubrey had yet to face a more complicated challenge than what these two represented. Whereas Draco Malfoy-Potter was more than ready to sign the divorce papers and move on with his life, Harry Potter wanted nothing of the sort. But at the same time the latter's actions during their separation had only served to drive them further apart. Yet Harry refused to give his marriage up as a lost cause. And it would all come down to how Harry Potter dealt with the situation at hand, it was with him most of the issues were buried. Not that Draco Malfoy-Potter was perfect either, he also had issues that needed work, but they would be easier to solve.

---

Draco shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He was sitting next to Harry in front of the desk of Bertram Aubrey, and he wished he was somewhere else, anywhere else really. Draco had reluctantly agreed to go after Blaise told him that it would be next to impossible to get the court to grant him a divorce without seeing a marriage counsellor first. Especially since one of the parties, in this case Harry, insisted upon it. Blaise had reassured Draco that Mr Aubrey had an excellent reputation and would surely not be biased in his opinions as he was professional to his fingertips. In the end he had agreed to keep the appointment just to get it over with. He must admit that the private session he'd had with Mr Aubrey had gone better than he anticipated, but he still wanted this over and done with.

He noted with rising irritation that Harry didn't seem either uncomfortable or nervous. Instead his separated husband was the picture of quiet arrogance and calmness, where he looked expectantly at their counsellor, probably hoping that he was some angel sent down from the heavens to help patch up the marriage Harry hadn't seemed interested in for so long. Harry remained an enigma to Draco sometimes. He was so agitated about the situation that he hadn't noticed he was bouncing his knee while fidgeting with his keyring, until he noticed Harry looking at him intently and Mr Aubrey spoke to him.

"Please, Mr Malfoy-Potter, just have some coffee and relax a bit. We have already established that I am not your enemy and I am not here to make life difficult for you." Mr Aubrey poured Draco a cup of coffee and smiled at him. He then poured one cup for Harry and one for himself. He took a sip from his cup and contemplated Harry and Draco for a bit. When he thought Draco looked sufficiently relaxed, he leaned forward in his chair, folded his hands on the desk and looked at the two men seriously.

"Gentlemen, I cannot save your marriage," Mr Aubrey stated.

Both Harry's and Draco's eyes shot up and they looked at him with surprise, not expecting him to dismiss them so easily. He put up a hand to silence any comments and went on.

"Firstly, it is the two of you that have the power to save your marriage, I cannot do it for you. I can, however, help you along the way. Secondly, your marriage cannot be salvaged unless the underlying problem of what is causing all the trouble between you is dealt with. But that is going to take a lot of understanding and patience from one of you, and a lot of soul searching and undergoing therapy from the other. Your case, gentlemen, is a complicated one. And you need to know that this is not going to be easy, on any of you. Now if you..."

"Mr Aubrey," Harry interrupted impatiently, "you're talking in riddles. Can you please get to the point!"

"I agree. What do you mean 'undergoing therapy'?" Draco asked, bewildered.

"Very well, gentlemen. Mr Potter, you are suffering from a severe case of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder," Mr Aubrey said and looked seriously into Harry's green eyes, now knitted together in confusion. "It is not hard to detect, not at all, not when you are a trained professional and know what you are looking for. Any counsellor worth a Sickle would have picked up on this in an instant. But I am guessing that you have never talked to a counsellor or a therapist, am I right?"

"Well, no. Never heard about this Post-traumatic Stress thingy, and I feel just fine, so why should I?" Harry still looked confused while Draco looked at Mr Aubrey with dawning comprehension.

"Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a disease, Mr Potter. It can develop after events that results in psychological trauma. Events that may threaten harm, danger or death to either yourself or somebody close to you. Have you ever been in a situation like that, Mr Potter?" Bertram Aubrey eyed Harry's reaction carefully.

"You bloody well know that I have! Don't patronize me!" Harry shouted and jumped up from his chair and glared at Mr Aubrey. "But that was years ago, and nobody ever suggested that I'd see a therapist, like I was a bloody lunatic!"

"Then, Mr Potter, if I were you I would be very cross at the authority figures in my life," Mr Aubrey replied calmly and gestured towards the chair. Harry slumped back down in it, his anger seething beneath the surface. "And I can assure you, you are not a 'lunatic' as you say. But PTSD does not just go away on its own, you need to work through it with a professional therapist."

"Maybe if you explained this more thoroughly, Mr Aubrey, it would make us understand better," Draco interjected. He looked over at Harry and clearly saw the lingering anger on his face.

"Okay. Let us start at the beginning," Mr Aubrey conceded and picked up his notes. He consulted them for a couple of seconds before going on. "Mr Potter, when you were only one year old and your parents were killed by Voldemort, what happened afterwards?"

"Didn't we cover this at the session the other day?" Harry asked, irritated. He then tried to compose himself a bit and sighed. "And as I said then, I was placed under the care of my mother's Muggle relatives."

"And were these nice relatives? Did they welcome you with open arms and treat you like you were their own son?" Mr Aubrey wanted to know.

"Ha! Hardly," Harry snorted. "They treated me just about as nice as my beloved father-in-law treats his house-elves. I didn't even have my own room until I was eleven, then I was given one of my cousin Dudley's, he had two rooms you see. Up until then I had slept in a cupboard under the stairs, having the spiders keep me company. The Dursleys made me cook and clean, they locked me up on several occasions and I often received a whack over the head from my uncle. I don't see how this is relevant though, I haven't thought about them in ages, and I certainly don't plan on ever seeing them again."

"And then at the end of your fourth year at Hogwarts, after you witnessed the death of your schoolmate, Cedric Diggory, and the resurrection of Voldemort, and nearly being killed twice in the same evening, what happened after that?" Mr Aubrey went on in a calm voice.

"Uhmm, well, I had a talk with Albus Dumbledore, with my godfather, Sirius Black, present, and then I spent a night in the hospital wing. After that it was almost time for the summer holiday," Harry said thoughtfully. Draco frowned and silently took Harry's hand. He was beginning to understand where this was going.

"So after all this you were just sent back to your Muggle relatives, where you suffered both neglect and at times abuse, is that right? Nobody made sure you talked to a professional about the trauma you had just gone through?" Mr Aubrey noticed Harry clutched Draco's hand. He wondered if Draco was aware of the true horrors of Harry's past, if Harry had ever talked about it at all. He guessed the answer to that would be 'no'. "Was that a good summer, Harry?"

"Not really. I spent it trying to find out about Voldemort's doings on the news, and at nights I had lots of nightmares about Cedric. My cousin teased me about him being my boyfriend I remember," Harry said quietly. "Guess the highlight of that summer was when we were attacked by two Dementors. Dudley threw up all over his mother's pristine doormat afterwards."

"And then, the year after, you witnessed another death. This time it was your godfather, Sirius, being killed by Bellatrix Lestrange in the Department of Mysteries, am I correct?" Mr Aubrey asked in his calm voice.

"Yeah, you got it right," Harry whispered, squeezing Draco's hand a bit harder.

"And what happened afterwards then? Seeing your own godfather being killed like that, it must've been truly horrific? Did you talk to a professional this time?" Mr Aubrey went on.

"Well, no, but I had another talk with Dumbledore. Then it was time for the summer holiday again and I had to go back to the Dursleys. But I spent much of that summer with the Weasley family. It was really good actually. Until I ran into Blondie here at Madam Malkin's," Harry said and tried for a weak joke, jerking his head in Draco's direction. Draco shook his head and smiled sadly. He still did not let go of Harry's hand.

"With all respect to Albus Dumbledore, he was neither a counsellor nor a therapist, even if he was a brilliant wizard," Mr Aubrey pointed out. "Moving on to yet another year later, when you saw Severus Snape kill Dumbledore, your mentor and Headmaster, what happened after that?"

"Again, Mr Aubrey, I was sent back to the Dursleys to spend the summer, at least until my seventeenth birthday," Harry answered tersely.

"And none of the grown-ups in your life, like Mr and Mrs Weasley, Remus Lupin or Minerva McGonagall thought it would be a good idea for you to talk to somebody after what you had just witnessed? None of them insisted upon that? Not even after the war and the final battle, and the duel that finally killed Lord Voldemort? And please bear in mind that I have not taken into account the happenings where you were almost killed by Voldemort when you were eleven and bitten by a Basilisk when you were twelve." Mr Aubrey leaned forwards and looked intently into Harry's eyes.

"No. Nobody ever mentioned that I should talk to a therapist, not in all my years," Harry answered truthfully.

"And after the war was finished you just walked away, trying to build a life for yourself?" Mr Aubrey asked while Draco just looked shocked. How could the people who were close to Harry back then not have thought about this? Harry was only human for Merlin's sake, did they honestly think that Harry could just move on from all this unscathed? It was beyond comprehension.

"And where, Mr Potter, on this green Earth, is it even close to acceptable that a boy, still only a child really, goes through severe traumas like you did, without making sure they are dealt with afterwards? Where, Mr Potter?" Mr Aubrey asked, his voice now stern and rising a bit. "I shall answer it for you. Nowhere! People should have made sure you had worked things through so you had a chance of coping later in life. So you see, you have all the reason in the world to be crossed, because the PTSD that you suffer as a result of all this is the reason that your marriage is now falling apart!"

---

After taking a little break in their session, Bertram Aubrey again faced the two men. Harry had stayed quiet during the whole break, his mind working at a frantic pace. He had a hard time taking in what he had just been told. Draco had gone out to get some fresh air, needing to calm himself before going any further. Not once, in all the years he'd been together with Harry, had he ever suspected that Harry suffered from a mental illness. But then again, Harry hardly ever talked about his past, maybe that was part of the problem.

"Mr Aubrey, you say Harry suffer from PTSD, and I will admit it seems plausible given his history. But what real symptoms are you drawing this conclusion from?" Draco asked when they were both seated in front of the counsellor's desk again.

"Well, avoidance for once. Reluctance to talk about the events that lead to the traumas is a very normal symptom. And I guess from your reactions earlier that Harry had never talked to you, his own husband, about any of the things he went through?" Mr Aubrey asked Draco.

"Hey! Stop talking about me like I'm not here," Harry said angrily.

"But he's right, Harry. You never said a word about any of this to me," Draco said quietly.

"What's the use? It's over and done with, isn't it? No need dragging up old ghosts," Harry said and gritted his teeth in frustration.

"Other symptoms I have managed to uncover are sleep problems, nightmares, detachment, anger. I am also afraid that you are well on your way to develop a substance abuse problem concerning all the alcohol you consume. So you see, Mr Potter, the ghosts have already shown themselves. If you do not deal with them it will all blow up in your face one of these days and you could end up with a nervous breakdown," Mr Aubrey said with a sympathetic look at them both.

"What do you mean 'nervous breakdown'? And if I'm such a mental case, why haven't anything come up before? All the things you mentioned are way back in the past. Why would this PTSD thing suddenly decide to show up now?" Harry asked, clearly agitated.

"It has been there all the time, Mr Potter, but it has been dormant. It has not really had a reason to reveal itself before now," Mr Aubrey answered gently.

"I'm afraid I don't really understand, Mr Aubrey," Draco said. "What's different now than from before?"

"Harry, Draco, may I please call you by your first names?" When they both nodded their heads Mr Aubrey went on. "When Harry married you, Draco, and you adopted Emilia, Harry's dream came true. He now had his very own family. It is the one thing you have always wanted more than anything, is it not, Harry?"

Harry didn't answer, he just nodded and swallowed hard, looking away.

"But by finally having your own family, your worst fear re-surfaced, did it not? You know of what fear I speak?" Mr Aubrey asked gravely.

"Yes," Harry just whispered. Draco found himself reaching for Harry's hand again, squeezing it gently.

"The two feelings you have are in direct conflict with each other, Harry. It is why you, without really wanting to, with one hand do all you can to destroy your own marriage, and with the other refuse to let go. Maybe you want to tell Draco why you are doing things you know will push him away? Like all the partying and being absent. Not to mention the cheating, that you surely knew would end up being the deal breaker for Draco - the thing he would absolutely not accept. Why is it that when you finally experience the joy of having the family you always wanted, you decide to drive them away? What fear makes you behave like that? Tell him, he deserves to know," Mr Aubrey pushed.

Harry righted himself in the chair and gave Bertram Aubrey a hard and icy look while he pulled his hand away from Draco's.

"Because, Mr Aubrey, people close to me die! My parents, Cedric, Sirius, Dumbledore, Fred Weasley, Lupin and Tonks. They were all killed because of me! It can't happen again, I won't allow it."

Draco drew in a shocked breath and closed his eyes. He felt the tears burning behind his eyelids. Everything made sense now, all the pieces of the puzzle that was Harry Potter suddenly fell into place. Harry's most treasured dream and worst nightmare were tied to each other, and it was now tearing him, and them, apart.

"And this is the true nature of your PTSD, Harry," Mr Aubrey said in a grave voice. "Your traumas and fears have never been dealt with. The war is over and your loved ones are not in danger anymore, but your fear for this is so real, so imprinted in your brain, that it makes you act irrationally. It is not your fault, like I said earlier, the authority figures in your life should have made sure you were taken care of. The PTSD also surfaced around the same time your Quidditch career took off, these two factors combined have not been very fortunate for you I'm afraid."

"You forget that I was placed in the Dursleys' care out of need, Mr Aubrey. While I could call the Dursleys' home my home, I was protected by my mother's sacrifice. Dumbledore, McGonagall, the Weasleys, they did it to protect me," Harry defended them, still with a hard look on his face.

"I do not find that to be a very good excuse. Arrangements could have been made for you to receive aid from a wizarding therapist while you were staying with your Muggle relatives, but it was never done, it is quite shocking really. The good news, however, is that it is not too late. But it will take a great deal of commitment and a lot of therapy." Mr Aubrey put his notes aside and took off his reading glasses and looked expectantly at the two young men.

"I understand that Harry has to deal with his PTSD before we can think about fixing our marriage, am I right?" Draco asked and rubbed at his eyes with his hand, feeling a headache coming on.

"That is correct. But about your marriage, it all depends on your will to forgive Harry for his wrongdoings, Draco," Mr Aubrey answered with an intent look at Draco. "You need to think long and hard about if that is something you can do, but you need to be sure. I know it is going to take time and work to rebuild the trust, but you need to be sure you can forgive. If not you should go ahead with the divorce and let Harry work out his issues so he also can move on. You can absolutely not give him any false hope."

"I understand, Mr Aubrey," Draco said in a low voice and looked over at Harry, whose expression was still that of a stone.

"Good thing one of us does," Harry said with icy sarcasm and stood up. "I'm not gonna bother with this rubbish, there's absolutely nothing wrong with me. Good news, Draco, you can have your divorce, I'm not gonna stand in your way anymore."

With that Harry pulled on his jacket and walked out of Bertram Aubrey's office, slamming the door behind him.

 

TBC... Some more truths, and some more denial next.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in? And not all things are always what they seem.


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You’re Gone

Chapter 13 - Sometimes Grown-Ups Are Afraid Too

 

Draco sat curled up in his favourite chair in front of the fireplace in his study at Malfoy Manor. It was past midnight, but sleep had not come to him. His mind was a whirlwind of thoughts from the session with Mr Aubrey earlier, and they would not leave him alone to sleep. In the end he had given up and gone downstairs to make himself a cup of tea; he felt chilled to the bone, and he knew it had nothing to do with the temperature.

He had continued the conversation with the counsellor after Harry had stormed out. He was deeply worried about his separated husband. Mr Aubrey, however, had said that the decision to get help for his traumas would ultimately have to be Harry’s. Harry would have to come to terms with his problems and seek help to sort them out, Draco could not do that for him. All he could do really, was be supportive. Mr Aubrey had said that until Harry had gotten help to deal with his PTSD, he would not take on the task of aiding them through the troublesome labyrinth that was their marriage. As the PTSD was the main reason for their problems, it would be pointless. The next move was up to Harry, they would just have to wait and see.

Draco was not at all certain he even wanted to try to repair their marriage. If he would be able to forgive Harry for his neglect and infidelities was very much an open question. He might be able to forgive, but he seriously doubted he would ever forget. And if he couldn’t get past this, what kind of marriage would they have? It really wouldn’t be fair to any of them, and they could very well end up being miserable - all three of them.

Then there was the question of his own issues. Issues he hadn't been aware of, but after hearing about them from Mr Aubrey he had to admit that it probably was some truth to it.

Harry had, in his private conversation with Mr Aubrey, pointed out to the counsellor that Draco always did what was expected of him, instead of doing the things Draco wanted to do. Instead of following his own path, he tread the one that was already laid out for him, without question. Harry had told Mr Aubrey that what sometimes struck him as sad about Draco was that he didn’t seem to have any dreams of his own, instead he blindly followed others', or, more specifically, his father's.

Mr Aubrey had also told Draco that after their talk, he couldn’t help but get the feeling that Draco was afraid of conflicts. Instead of taking them on, like his elusive spouse, he would rather shy away from them. Mr Aubrey thought that this was probably the reason why he hadn’t broken out of their marriage sooner.

Draco had asked the counsellor if he thought he would need therapy to work through this, but Mr Aubrey didn’t think that would be necessary, unless Draco felt the need to talk to a professional himself. What was important was that Draco now had become aware of these issues, and in the end it would be up to himself if he wanted to turn them around.

What very few people knew, was that Draco had undergone therapy before. After the war, and after having been under Voldemort's thumb for so long, Draco had found it hard to just move on, even if he was freed of all charges. In secret he had been in therapy for almost a year back then, always afraid that his father would find out. Lucius would surely see it as yet another weakness.

According to Mr Aubrey, one didn’t exactly need to be a therapist to figure out the reason as to why Draco had developed these traits to his personality. It was all related to his father and his upbringing. Draco knew this, and he saw no point in digging it up. His relationship with Lucius was more or less non-existent and he really wasn’t looking to remedy the fact. Too many things had happened, things Draco knew he would never forgive his father for, things that were now best left alone. Lucius didn't really have any influence over his life anymore, even if he had in the past.

---

A loud crash of thunder broke through Draco's musings and he jumped in his chair. He loathed thunderstorms, always had. Draco was reminded of one time when he was a little boy, maybe around five years old. He had been woken by thunder in the middle of the night and in fright he had run to his parents' bedroom to seek comfort. Narcissa was about to let him crawl into bed next to her when his father, his voice dripping with disgust, said that no Malfoy had ever been scared by such a mundane thing as a thunderstorm. He had gripped Draco's arm and hauled him back to his own bedroom where Draco was left alone in the dark, with flashes of lightning and loud crashes of thunder closing in on the little, terrified boy.

Ever since that incident, Draco suffered through the storms on his own, shivering under his blankets. The fear of thunder had taken hold in him, and it had never really diminished. He was haunted by a sudden flashback of Harry, holding him in his strong arms and whispering soothing words into his ear during one of the storms, gently calming him. He had felt safe then, Draco realized. Harry's presence had made the storms bearable. Another loud crash made him jump again, and he was suddenly aware of tears falling down his cheeks, of both fear and longing.

"Daddy?"

A small voice from the door made Draco hastily dry his eyes and turn around to face his daughter. Emilia stood in the doorway to the study, her favourite teddy bear in hand. Well, it wasn't really a bear, it was a plush lion Harry had bought her the day they picked her up from the orphanage. It was named Mr Lion and she hadn't slept a night without it since.

"Did the thunder wake you up, sweetheart?" Draco asked and held his arms out, gesturing for his daughter to come and join him. Emilia just nodded and shuffled her way over to her daddy while she rubbed at her tired eyes. She crawled up into Draco's lap and made herself comfortable.

"Were you crying, Daddy? Were you scared too?" Emilia asked and looked at Draco with concerned, blue eyes.

"Yes, honey, I was," Draco answered truthfully, wincing at another loud crash. He made a huge effort to pull himself together for Emilia's sake, there was no reason she should have to go through life being terrified of thunderstorms too. "You see, sometimes grown-ups are afraid of things too. You know, like your Uncle Ron is really afraid of spiders."

Emilia giggled at that, finding the thought of her big Uncle Ron afraid of anything utterly hilarious.

"But now you don't have to be afraid anymore, Daddy. Mr Lion will protect us, Papa has said so," she said and snuggled into Draco's arms, squishing her lion.

"Yeah, honey, Papa's right. Mr Lion will protect us," Draco whispered and gave her a kiss on the forehead, feeling her go heavy in his arms as she fell asleep. As he picked her up and carried her back to bed, he thought he'd heard a noise from inside the Floo, but figured it was just the sounds of the storm raging outside and thought nothing more of it.

---

Harry stood in front of his Floo at number 12, Grimmauld Place, glaring angrily at it. He had heard on the news on the Wireless that a terrible thunderstorm was headed towards Wiltshire and he had wanted to make sure that Draco and Emilia were all right. He remembered that Draco was terrified of thunder, and despite their separation and disagreements, he didn't want Draco to have to face it alone. Now for some reason he wasn't able to Floo to the manor, as it looked like Draco had closed off his Floo. Maybe he hadn't wanted visitors after the rough day they've had, Harry thought.

A sudden vision of a pale and terrified Draco, face lit up by the lightning, came over Harry. Okay, if he couldn't use the Floo, he could always Apparate. He concentrated on his destination, turned on the spot and the next second he was standing outside the gates of Malfoy Manor. Harry was confused, why on earth hadn't he landed on the doorstep? He tried again, but this time nothing happened. Harry realized that Draco must've changed the wards, shutting him out. Probably after the little incident with Adrian Pucey, Draco had been pretty angry about that.

It slowly dawned upon Harry that he was actually closed off from his family. He could always announce his presence with the gate and be allowed, or denied, entrance, but the manor had actually been his home for about three years as well. It was a hollow feeling now standing outside like a guest. At that moment Harry realized that he had never felt so lonely in all his life as he did just then, standing outside the manor gates in the pouring rain and crashing thunder, looking in.

Harry sat down on a rock by the road and contemplated the situation, not noticing that he had started to shiver from the coldness of the rain. He hadn't meant what he said earlier when he had stormed out of the counsellor's office. He really didn't want to give up on his marriage and grant Draco his divorce, he had let his temper get the better of him and had spoken in anger and frustration. He didn't see how he could stand in Draco's way anymore though, not if the divorce was something Draco still wanted. His only hope was that Draco would change his mind, which Harry considered doubtful. Harry certainly wanted to give him a reason to change his mind, but how could he do that when he couldn't even get in to comfort his Draco through the raging storm?

He had spent most of the day trying not to think about what Mr Aubrey had said, but it gnawed on his brain like a bad tune. He tried to convince himself that this PTSD thingy was just a load of crap, and the accusations against what Mr Aubrey had called his 'authority figures' were uncalled for. He refused to listen to the little voice inside his head that questioned why nobody had acted against the Dursleys' mistreatment of him, that asked why they all left him alone in that hellhole when his head was full of dreadful things he had just witnessed. Of course all those people hadn't let him stay there because they wanted to. No, it had simply been a necessary evil to keep him under his mother's protection.

But why didn't anybody ever come to visit you? To make sure you were all right after everything that happened? They knew the Dursleys abused and neglected you after all. If they really wanted to, they could've come, the little, annoying voice harped on, making Harry's head hurt.

"Shut up!" Harry said out loud and stood up. He started pacing in front of the gate, trying to collect his thoughts. He should probably go, he figured, before he caught pneumonia. But the thought of going back to Grimmauld Place with nothing but his thoughts to keep him company was not particularly appealing, he could really use somebody to talk to. In his present state, there was really only one person he even wanted to talk to, besides Draco. He turned on the spot and Apparated away, moments later finding himself on Hermione's doorstep.

---

"All right! I'm coming already!" Hermione yelled as she put on a robe and hurried down the stairs to answer the insistent ringing on her doorbell. "Who on earth could be visiting at this time of night? Hope it's nothing wrong," she muttered worriedly to herself as she unlocked her door and found a sopping wet Harry Potter outside, looking utterly miserable.

"Sorry, I know it's late. I just really needed somebody to talk to," Harry said, his teeth chattering.

"You can visit me anytime, night or day, you know that, Harry," Hermione said and pulled her friend inside and started fussing over him. She cast a drying charm, smiling when she heard him mumble to himself why he hadn't thought of that.

After a while they were both snuggled up under a blanket on Hermione's couch, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate.

"What's wrong, Harry?" Hermione asked, looking intently at him. "You look upset and, well, sad."

Harry sighed and pulled a hand through his messy hair. Originally he hadn't meant to talk much about what had happened at the counsellor's office, but suddenly he blurted out with the whole story. He told her in a shaky voice about Mr Aubrey thinking he had PTSD, the reasons for it, and Harry's resentment towards it. Hermione listened to him, comprehension dawning as he spoke. She didn't interrupt him, not once, she knew this was a rare moment as Harry hadn't shared much with her the last years.

At last he told her about how he had tried to see Draco earlier, but found himself shut out from the manor, closed off from his family. She noticed him swallowing hard and biting back tears. Hermione could honestly say that she had not seen Harry this upset in a very long time, if ever. During their years at Hogwarts, he had never really talked much about what was bothering him, they always had to drag it out of him. If Harry was now willingly opening up to her, it must be because things had finally gotten too much to handle for him, his mind was obviously boiling.

"Oh, Harry," she said and pulled him into a hug when he had finished talking. "But do you really think it's not true? That you don't have PTSD? Because, when explained the way your counsellor did, I must say it sounds plausible."

"That's what Draco said too. I just don't know, Hermione. I don't know anything anymore," Harry said, resting his head on her shoulder, feeling her fingers carving soothingly through his hair. "Am I really crazy?"

"Of course you're not crazy, honey. You're just a good guy that crazy things have happened to, and now they've come back to haunt you. But maybe this is really a blessing in disguise, Harry. Because now you know, and then you can do something about it, get your life back in order. That's not so bad, is it?" Hermione said gently, coaxing him to lay down with his head in her lap.

"Maybe, but it's yet another hurdle, isn't it? Something else I have to overcome to deserve the right to live my life, and I don't know if I have the strength this time, Hermione. I am tired. I am so incredibly tired. And it feels like a tiredness that comes from deep inside, you know. Like it's buried inside my marrow," Harry said in a low voice while he rubbed his eyes with his hand. "It's like my life has been a crazy merry-go-round for so long, with Quidditch and everything that comes with it. And losing Draco, losing the custody hearing, losing Emilia. It's too much. I think I'm going to take a long holiday after the league's final next Sunday."

"I think it's your mind that's about to shut down, Harry. It's trying to shield itself from everything that has happened lately. Just get some rest, okay? Maybe when you're not so exhausted you'll be better equipped to deal with your issues, and maybe everything won't seem so chaotic." She tucked the blanket around him when she still felt him shivering. "And you're not alone, not ever. I'll help you through this, I swear."

"Thanks, 'Mione," Harry said and yawned, his eyes drifting shut. She heard him mumble a muffled 'love you' before he fell into a deep sleep.

She remained seated on the couch with Harry's head in her lap. Absentmindedly she played with his hair while her brain contemplated everything Harry had told her. She was not able to hold back the tears. Those were tears for the lonely boy Harry had been, the messed up man he had become, and the friend she had felt more and more alienated from. And they were tears of guilt, because how could they not have seen this coming?

But she had her friend back, Harry had come back to her. There was hope still.

 

TBC... Quidditch final next.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in? And not all things are always what they seem.


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 14 - Demons

 

Wizarding Britain was buzzing with excitement before the upcoming match between the Chudley Cannons and the Montrose Magpies. None of the teams had lost a match during the season and as such were tied on points. The match between them would settle the winner of this year's Quidditch league as it was the last of the season.

The Chudley Cannons' fans, and the bookmakers, did not doubt the outcome. The odds that the Cannons would come out victorious were an all-time low, and for one reason only: The Cannons had Potter, currently the best Seeker in the world.

Harry's star in the world of Quidditch was higher than ever. If the Chudley Cannons were to sell him, they could ask for an astronomic amount and nobody would argue the price. The sales of Harry Potter Quidditch effects alone brought in about 500 million Galleons a year. And that was on top of the sponsor contracts. It had been a lucky day when Harry Potter had decided to try out for the Cannons all those years ago, thanks to him the club owners could laugh all the way to Gringotts.

And the Chudley Cannons knew how to keep their star player happy. Harry Potter had the highest salary in history of Quidditch, he was provided with the best brooms and gear long before it hit the market, he had access to the best Healers and physicians Galleons could buy, and he received 10% off the income on all the Harry Potter effects. On top of this came all his personal sponsors. He had currently six of them in all: jeans, soft drinks, hair products, men's cosmetics, sunglasses and watches. Harry Potter was their golden goose, the sales would go through the roof of any product his name was connected to. Harry Potter had become and icon and a brand, and the Galleons were pouring into his vault at Gringotts. The fact that he also was the Saviour of the wizarding world only served to build up under his fame, the sky seemed to be the limit. Never was a pedestal higher than the one Harry Potter had been placed upon.

The Montrose Magpies knew what they were up against, the task of beating the Cannons with their killer Seeker seemed formidable. But the Magpies' fans gritted their teeth and convinced each other that the Cannons' winning streak would have to end sooner or later, Potter or no Potter.

---

Harry had tried to block all things not Quidditch from his mind the last week before the match. He had promised Hermione he'd go back and see the counsellor, Bertram Aubrey, after the match, he had even promised she could come with him. She had let the issue rest after that, giving him the space to prepare for the year's most important match.

Harry was glad he had opened up to Hermione, but she had been wrong about him feeling better after he had rested. He had slept for fourteen hours straight at Hermione's, but when he woke up he still felt tired to the bone. It seemed he couldn't bring himself to do anything but sleep lately. He had to drag himself out of his bed and give himself a huge dose of Pepper-Up Potion before going to the Cannons' practices during the week leading up to the match. Then he'd go straight home where Kreacher would force him to eat something, before he fell into bed again. He was up to sixteen hours of sleep a day and had never felt more exhausted.

He left it to his manager, George Weasley, to handle the press and all other enquiries, saying he had to concentrate on the match. The truth was that he didn't have the energy to deal with anything other than what was strictly necessary. George thought this was strange, and he noticed how tired Harry seemed, but he didn't question him. He chalked it all up to Harry being exhausted from all the stress around the divorce and the upcoming final, it was only natural. Thus most of George's days consisted of appeasing the press and the sponsors, who became more and more agitated because Harry suddenly had made himself totally unavailable. George knew all would be forgiven though, as soon as Harry caught the Snitch and secured the Cannons' seventh league championship in a row.

Harry had not spoken to Draco since their session with Mr Aubrey. He had thought about sending Draco an owl and suggest they'd talk, but every time he sat down to write, all he could see was the closed manor gates. He had decided that their talk could wait until after the match. It seemed like his exhausted mind could only handle one thing at a time right now. He missed Emilia so much it almost hurt, but he had decided to stick to the decision made by the court for now. He would see her next weekend, and he could hardly wait. He sometimes pondered about the irony that spending quality time with his daughter seemed much more important now than it had done when he and Draco were still living together and he could see her any time he wanted. He could not help feeling that his life had been a gamble these last couple of years; a gamble he had somehow lost. He had sent Draco three VIP tickets to the match though. Draco used to love coming to the games and Harry hoped he'd see him on the stands.

---

Harry was never particularly nervous before a match, not even an important final like the one they were playing today. His own confidence in his Seeker skills was unwavering. It was not, however, normal for him to feel so indifferent as he did today. Harry had barely made it out of bed that morning and he felt exhausted and weary beyond anything he'd ever felt before. Not even the Pepper-Up Potion had done much good. He should've been buzzing with excitement, like his team-mates, instead he felt drowsy and could hardly wait for the match to be over so he could go back to bed.

It was a clear autumn day, the air was crisp and there was only a light breeze; it was a perfect day for Quidditch. As Harry was about to walk into the locker rooms at Chudley Stadium, he heard a rustling in some bushes nearby. When he turned towards the sound, he saw a big, black dog walking by, sniffing at various rocks and trees as it went. If Harry didn't know any better, he could've sworn it was Sirius in his Animagus form, but that was impossible of course. His godfather was long since dead and the dog was probably just a stray.

As he turned towards the locker room entrance again, he heard the distant laughter from a couple of witches who was probably there to see the match. One of them had such an annoying laughter, more like a cackling, who also seemed eerily familiar. In a sudden rush of flashback, Harry heard the laughter of Bellatrix Lestrange, after she had killed Sirius.

Stop it! Harry thought angrily to himself and pushed the door open. Once inside, he walked straight to his locker and sat down on a bench, trying to calm himself and focus. His team-mates were changing into their gear while talking and jeering, they hadn't really noticed yet that their Seeker wasn't his usual self.

The flood gates had opened, and there was really nothing Harry could do to stop what was happening to him next. Because the memories suddenly came rushing towards him like a tidal wave, knocking the wind out of him. Memories he had tried so hard to suppress ever since he was a teenager now flashed before his eyes in slow motion: The Dursleys and the miserable years he had spent with them. Venomous Basilisk teeth digging their way into his arm, leaving him on death's doorstep. Dementors trying to suck the life out of him while everything grew icy cold. An old cemetery, a flash of green and Cedric Diggory's unseeing eyes, his voice in Harry's head pleading with Harry to bring his body back to his family. A snake-like, pale face with blood red eyes appeared and a long finger touched his forehead, making him scream in agony. Suddenly he was back at the Department of Mysteries, duelling, when Sirius disappeared behind the veil, leaving Harry forever. The broken, old body of Albus Dumbledore at the foot of the Astronomy Tower, the twinkle gone from his blue eyes never to return. The image changed to a bleeding Severus Snape, his voice asking Harry to 'look at me' in his moment of death.

All their faces flashed like silent statues before Harry's eyes. Fred Weasley, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Colin Creevey, Dobby, his parents. Everywhere he turned, there was death, death, death. And blood. His vision seemed to go red as he saw an image of Draco, lying on his back on a wet bathroom floor, clawing at his chest while the blood flowed out of his body and coloured the water sickly red. Harry had been the cause of those deadly injuries, using a spell he never knew the consequences of.

In his now state of delirium, Harry did not notice his team-mates shouting for the team's Healer. He had not noticed that he had slumped down on the floor, clawing at his own chest while the sweat was seeping out of every pore in his body and his heart pounded like mad in his chest. He tried to concentrate on getting air into his lungs, but he was hyperventilating and trembling heavily and was only able to gasp for air.

The locker room was now full of commotion. Harry's team-mates, the Cannons' manager, the physical team and the Healer tried to get through to him, but none of them were able to make eye contact. Harry's eyes seemed to look right through them and into some sort of unknown horror.

The Healer finally saw no other option than to Apparate Harry to St Mungo's, this kind of thing was way out of his field. The rest of the team was already screaming sabotage and that Harry must've been cursed or poisoned.

"Silence!" The manager's voice broke through the noise. "Get it together! We still have a match to play, we won't be allowed to postpone it just because one player's fallen ill, not even if the player is Harry Potter. Davies, you will substitute Harry as Seeker today. Now, I'm going to notify Harry's family if I can find them, I think I saw Draco on the VIP stand. Then I need to contact the Aurors' Office. If a crime has been committed, they need to know as soon as possible. Now, get out on the pitch and do your best, for Harry."

"For Harry!" the team said in unison. They then took their places and marched determined towards the pitch, knowing that they had just lost their greatest advantage.

---

Draco had indeed made his way to the match that day, together with Blaise and Theo. Pansy was watching Emilia at the manor, she had no interest in Quidditch. The seats Harry had gotten them on the VIP stand gave them a spectacular view over the pitch, and there was a steady stream of witches in skimpy little uniforms serving champagne, Butterbeer and various snacks. Draco noticed some of the other Cannons players' wives and partners looking at him rather curiously. His and Harry's separation wasn't exactly a secret and he guessed he must have been a fool if he thought his presence would go by unnoticed. He was determined to have a good time, however, and tried to ignore the stares and whispers and occasional flashes from cameras coming from the press stand.

Apparently, there had been some sort of delay on the Cannons' part. The Montrose Magpies had marched out on the pitch, but the Cannons were yet to show themselves. The public stared impatiently towards the teams' entrance way, their voices making the stadium buzz like a hornets' nest.

Finally, there was some movement in the entrance, and the Chudley Cannons made their way on to the pitch. All the players looked grim and anxious. The buzzing reached new levels as people in the orients started shouting in shock and disappointment.

'Potter's not there!' 'Where's Harry Potter?' 'Potter's not playing?'

Draco felt himself gasp when he, too, noticed that Harry indeed was not in the Cannons' start-up line. And he was not on the bench either. Harry would never willingly miss this match, Draco knew that much. Something must have happened. He was about to look around for Hermione or any of the Weasleys to ask if they knew what was going on, when the speaker's voice interrupted all the noise.

"We have a last minute substitute for the Chudley Cannons. Roger Davies will substitute Harry Potter as Seeker today," the speaker's voice said, leaving the stadium in a shocked silence for about two seconds before the buzzing started again, higher than ever.

Blaise and Theo looked at Draco in disbelief, but he was just as bewildered as the rest of the people in the stadium. He was about to get up from his seat when he suddenly noticed the Cannons' manager, Travis McKenzie, making his way over towards him, a serious expression on his face. When he met Draco's eyes, Draco knew he had been right in his suspicions and that something was horribly wrong.

"Draco. I'm afraid I have some bad news," McKenzie said when he reached Draco. Draco unknowingly gripped hold of Blaise's arm for support. "Harry has been rushed to St Mungo's. He became... ill in the locker room a little while ago, and the team's Healer couldn't figure out what was wrong. He seemed to have trouble breathing."

"Trouble breathing? What happened?" Draco said in a disbelieving voice, his fingers digging into Blaise's arm.

"We really don't know yet. All we know is that it seemed to happen very quickly. I'm on my way to notify the Aurors, it could be some kind of curse or poison," the manager said and shook his head. "I have to get going, Draco. I'll come by St Mungo's and see how Harry's doing after the match."

"Thank you for notifying me, Mr McKenzie. I'm going to St Mungo's straight away. Theo and Blaise, could you please try to find Hermione or any of the Weasleys? I'm sure they're around here somewhere," Draco said with a coolness he wasn't feeling. "And then go back to the manor and make sure Emilia is okay. I don't want her accidentally hearing about this on the Wireless. I'll be home as soon as possible."

Theo and Blaise nodded in understanding and in a hurry disappeared through the crowd.

The shock of the information seemed to hit Draco like small sparks of electricity behind his eyes. He and Harry was separated and had not seen eye to eye on much lately, but that didn't change the fact that they were still married and that Harry was Emilia's other father. That was all that mattered in a world where everything suddenly had turned into chaos. Draco, who really didn't like changes or disturbance in his life, felt himself almost crumble under the weight of it all as he walked towards the nearest exit where he would be able to Apparate.

---

Harry Potter never made it to the Quidditch pitch that day. The Montrose Magpies beat the Chudley Cannons and took home the league, but nobody paid the result of the match any attention, it barely even made the headlines. All the attention was instead directed at St Mungo's and the apparently very ill Harry Potter.

Harry's hospitalization did not stay a secret for long. The wizarding world was buzzing with rumours and speculations before the day was out. Harry Potter was a pillar of strength, he was their Saviour - powerful, indestructible and untouchable. So what force had brought their Hero down? Some blamed Dark Magic, others thought he had fallen victim of some kind of sabotage, and some even blamed Draco.

It never crossed anyone's mind that the thing that had finally brought the Boy Who Lived to his knees, was his own demons.

 

TBC... St Mungo's and the aftermath next.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in? And not all things are always what they seem.


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 15 - Serenity In the Chaos

 

It was at long last evening at St Mungo's Hospital. And with the evening came the blessed silence. It had been a very hectic day for the poor staff, but now most people that really had no business being there had gone home.

The press had been removed by the Aurors and the hospital's security staff after George Weasley had released a statement saying that Harry Potter was doing just fine under the circumstances, but that he was resting and would be kept at St Mungo's for observation overnight. A press conference would be held once they received some new information about Harry's condition.

The Healer in charge of Harry's case could not detect any curses, spells, hexes or poisons in any of his tests. He told the Aurors that no crime seemed to have been committed and that Harry Potter simply had fallen ill. The Aurors would still need to talk to Harry, but the Healer told them that it would have to wait until at least the next day. The Aurors then decided to call it a day and left the hospital. One Auror stayed behind to assist if there was any more disturbance from the press or the crazy Harry Potter and Cannons fans.

Harry's real condition was kept a secret from everybody, except his immediate family. Once Draco had arrived at the hospital and had found out what had happened in the locker room from the team's Healer, he had contacted their counsellor, Bertram Aubrey, and asked him for assistance. Mr Aubrey had come right away, and after a long discussion with Harry's Healer, they found it highly plausible that Harry had suffered, if not a total nervous breakdown, a severe panic attack.

Legally, Draco was still Harry's husband. And since Harry was currently asleep because he was under heavy medication, Draco would have to make the decisions for him. Draco demanded full confidentiality from the hospital. He even had Blaise Zabini threaten them with a lawsuit if a word about Harry's condition came out. He knew Harry eventually would have to deal with the Aurors, the Cannons, his friends and the public, but at least then it would be on his own terms, not because some money-grabbing staff member at St Mungo's couldn't keep his or her mouth shut.

---

Draco was sitting in a comfortable wing-backed chair inside Harry's hospital room. The only light came from a small lamp on a table next to him. The only sounds in the room were Harry's heavy breathing, Emilia's occasional sniffle, and the clicking coming from Molly Weasley's knitting. From the looks of it, another Weasley jumper was in the works.

Unfortunately, Blaise and Theo had taken a bit too long getting back to Malfoy Manor that afternoon. Pansy, as per usual, had kept the Wireless on in the background while she and Emilia played with Emilia's doll house. Suddenly the music they had been listening to was interrupted by the news, saying Harry Potter wasn't playing today's Quidditch final and that he was rumored to have been rushed to St Mungo's Hospital.

There had been no calming Emilia down after that. She had heard three words of the news announcement: Harry Potter and hospital. Her papa was sick!

So when Blaise and Theo finally made it to the manor, it had been to a devastated Pansy trying in vain to comfort a crying and screaming Emilia. They had tried for what seemed like hours, all three of them, but nothing worked. Emilia just kept screaming for her papa while clutching Mr Lion.

At last, in pure desperation and deeply worried about the little girl's health, Blaise had taken Emilia into his arms, Mr Lion and all, and Apparated to St Mungo's. There was nothing else for it; he had to find Draco. He had had to push his way through the chaotic reception area, hiding Emilia's face from all the photographer's lenses. But the press, of course, immediately recognized both him and Emilia. The flashes from their cameras were blinding. Blaise sneered at them that if one picture of Emilia was printed without consent, he would make sure they would have to print their rags on toilet paper in the future, because that would be all they had left once he was finished with them in court. Finally, rescued by the Aurors, he had been ushered through and pointed towards the waiting room where Harry's family and friends were gathered.

Hermione was shocked when she saw Blaise Zabini walking into the waiting room, trying hopelessly to comfort a clearly distraught Emilia, almost tears in his eyes in frustration because he couldn't calm the little girl down. When he spotted Hermione, he gave her a mixed look of both relief and desperation. She had taken Emilia from Blaise's arms and tried to talk to her in a soothing and comforting voice, but neither Aunty Hermione, nor any of the Weasleys present, was able to calm her.

Draco had heard his daughter's screams from inside Harry's room. He immediately stepped out and went over to the nearby waiting room. When Hermione saw Draco appearing in the doorway, she hurried over and handed Emilia over into his waiting arms. Only after Draco had been sitting with her in a quiet corner of the hospital for almost an hour, softly rubbing her back and reassuring her that her papa would be just fine, did she finally calm down. But she had refused to let go of Draco, so he had had no other option but to let her sleep on his lap in Harry's room. He would have taken her home to the manor, but the Healer thought Harry might wake up some time during the evening, and Draco wanted to talk to him before he went home.

Draco had been worried that it would be too traumatic for Emilia seeing her papa in a hospital bed, but she took him by surprise. After she had seen her papa for herself, given him a kiss and assured herself that he was indeed just asleep, she had settled down quietly, only sniffling a bit now and again in her sleep.

---

"She's such a brave little girl," Mrs Weasley suddenly said in a low voice, breaking the silence in Harry's hospital room.

"Yeah. She takes after her papa. The last couple of months have been confusing and difficult for her though, with mine and Harry's separation and all," Draco said sadly and hugged his daughter close.

"You've done a wonderful job raising her, Draco, dear," Mrs Weasley said and patted his arm. "Merlin knows you haven't had much help from Harry the last years. With his consuming Quidditch career, endless parties and lord knows what else. But I don't think he ever really intended things to get like this."

"No, I don't think he did either, Mrs Weasley. The PTSD combined with all the hero worshipping and the Quidditch superstar status got too much for him to handle." Draco shifted Emilia a bit on his lap and looked over at the sleeping Harry. "There is one thing I need to know though, and I apologise if this is inappropriate. But why didn't anybody react to the way he was treated when he was a boy? Why was he always sent back to his cruel Muggle relatives when everybody knew they weren't treating him well?"

"It's okay, dear, I understand why you ask. Harry stayed with us as much as possible during summer and Christmas. We would have loved to taken him in permanently, as would Sirius before he... was killed, but we couldn't. Until the protection provided by his mother's sacrifice lifted at his seventeenth birthday, he was safe as long as his home was with the Dursleys. Keeping Harry alive and Voldemort away was always the first priority, you must understand that. Besides, he wasn't really our son, so we didn't get a say in anything. We tried to stop his participation in that ridiculous Triwizard Tournament, but nobody would listen to us. If they had, Harry wouldn't have had to experience the horrors he did in that cemetery, and Cedric Diggory would most likely be alive today." Mrs Weasley dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief.

"And things just seemed to snowball from there." Mrs Weasley cleared her voice and went on. "I know the traumas he went through, and after Sirius died he came to stay with us for most of the summer. He seemed fine, he didn't want to talk about what had happened much, but other than that he acted just like he always did. Of course, later I've found out that Harry is a master at hiding his true feelings. Arthur and I will always feel some sort of guilt about this though, we should've been more insistent that he'd been better taken care of. That guilt will always be our cross to bear. I'm afraid that Dumbledore didn't quite think about all this. He was busy finding a way for Harry to get rid of Voldemort and still come out alive. That was the first and foremost priority. Unfortunately, in all of the chaos, nobody thought about what kind of life Harry would have afterwards. People don't always live happily ever after, even if they win a war."

"Is that why you accept his behaviour? Is it because of the guilt?" Draco asked.

"Draco, dear, I don't condone his behaviour, and he knows this," Mrs Weasley answered with a small sigh. "But we consider Harry our son, Arthur and I. And no matter what your children do, you always forgive them and you never give up on them, we made that mistake once with Percy. And after Fred, we don't have any more children to lose. Besides, we really have no business telling Harry how to live his life as an adult, even if we disagree with his choices. He makes mistakes, yes, but they're still his mistakes to make. Maybe we're treading more carefully around Harry than the rest of our children, perhaps precisely because he's been through all those horrors. However, I know Ginny calls him out on his behaviour, she's not opposed to whacking him around the head either."

Draco smiled at that last statement. He knew Ginny was not afraid to voice her opinions out loud, and he had a very vivid memory of that Bat Bogey Hex. His smile faltered though.

"He's hurt me, Mrs Weasley," he said, for the first time really admitting it. "He's hurt me very deeply. And despite of it all, I still love him. But I don't know if I can ever forgive him for the fact that he has cheated on me on several occasions. Sometimes, I think I can, when he lets me see a glimpse of the person he can be. But then something happens to remind me, and I'm back at square one, feeling betrayed and angry and spiteful. How can we build a marriage on that?"

"I don't know, dear. I don't have the answer to that. I think that's for you and Harry to find out," Mrs Weasley said with a sympathetic look. "But if I understood you correctly earlier, Harry needs to deal with his problems before anything else. So why don't you take the opportunity to take a step back and find some serenity in the chaos. Just let the whole matter rest for the time being. Then, when Harry hopefully is doing better, you can figure out if you still want a divorce or try to repair what's broken between you. Because, Draco, those glimpses you have seen, those are the real Harry Potter."

"I know it is. I've never really known the real Harry, because when we started going out, he was already infected by all the fame and glory, the glimpses just weren't that rare then. Besides, I wasn't much better myself. I was a conceited and arrogant playboy back then. I'd like to think I have changed though. My father isn't a factor in my life anymore, that has certainly helped, and Emilia has made me see sides to myself that I never knew existed." Draco looked lovingly at his sleeping daughter and gave her a soft kiss on the top of her blond curls. "But I'm going to take you up on your suggestion and let matters rest while Harry work on his demons. I also need to think about Emilia and her needs. I want my daughter to be happy, all of this must be affecting her do some degree too."

"I think that's a wise decision, dear. And don't worry about Harry, I'm going to insist that he'll stay at the Burrow for the time being, so he'll be well looked after," Mrs Weasley said and took Draco's hand.

"Good. I don't like the thought of him living alone at Grimmauld Place. I will bring Emilia around to visit. She still thinks her papa is the greatest, and it will just bring Harry grief to be separated from his daughter for too long. Deep down he is terrified of losing her and I'm afraid that fear will just make his PTSD worse. Harry is still her father, and that's the way it's going to stay, no matter what happens between us." Draco smiled at Mrs Weasley and squeezed her hand.

"You've turned into a fine man, Draco Malfoy," Molly Weasley said and smiled at him. She wondered if Harry really was able to grasp what he stood to lose.

---

Draco must have nodded off, because he was suddenly awoken abruptly by Emilia's squeals.

"Papa! Papa! You're awake!" With that the little girl jumped down from Draco's lap, and before Draco could stop her, she threw herself at Harry and hugged him for dear life.

Draco checked the time and saw that it was almost eleven pm, he did not see Mrs Weasley and figured she must have stepped out for a while. When he looked over at Harry he saw that Emilia had been right, he was indeed awake. Harry's tired, green eyes met Draco's over Emilia's head, he smiled weakly at Draco.

"I am so sorry, sweetheart," Harry said and sat up and righted Emilia so she was straddling his lap. "Were you worried about me?"

"Weeell, first I was really really scared, but then Uncle Blaise took me to find Daddy and Daddy showed me that you were only sleeping so then I wasn't worried no more. And Mr Lion looked after you too." Emilia pointed proudly towards the plush lion next to Harry's pillow and beamed happily at her papa.

"Mr Lion's done a good job. And Papa didn't mean to scare you and Daddy, angel." Harry smoothed down Emilia's soft curls and smiled fondly at her. She crawled into the nook of his arm and made herself comfortable.

"We weren't that scared, were we, Emilia?" Draco asked in a light tone and sat down on a chair next to Harry's bed. "I just think Papa's trying to make Daddy grow wrinkles and go prematurely grey, that's what I think."

"Daddy's being very silly," Emilia laughed at Harry.

"Very, very silly," Harry confirmed with a smile at Draco. "And I think Daddy would look beautiful, even with grey hair and wrinkles."

"'Course he would. Daddy is the most beautifullest in the whole world," Emilia said with a yawn and snuggled into Harry's side.

"Indeed he is," Harry said with a wink at Draco. Draco damned himself when he actually felt himself blush. Nobody could make him blush, except Harry. It was very annoying.

"How do you feel, Harry?" Draco asked after a while, when he was sure Emilia had fallen asleep. "The truth, please."

"Honestly? I feel like I've been wrestling with a Blast-Ended Skrewt," Harry said and rubbed his eyes. "And I feel tired I guess, and drowsy. I'm always tired these days it seems."

"The drowsiness is probably because of the potions the Healers gave you. Do you remember anything at all about what happened, Harry?" Draco asked seriously.

"Not really. I remember walking into the locker room, after that, it's blank. Oh shit! The match! What happened?" Harry's eyes widened in shock.

"After you came into the locker room, you became ill, Harry. The Cannons' Healer brought you here to St Mungo's. They thought you had been cursed or poisoned, but nothing of the sort showed up in the tests. Mr Aubrey has been cooperating with your Healer, and they thought that most likely you had suffered a severe panic attack. They thought you might had seen or experienced something right beforehand that served as a trigger." Draco poured Harry a glass of water from a jug on the bedside table and gave it to him. Harry looked thoughtful while he took a few sips.

"The dog!" he suddenly exclaimed. "I saw a big, black dog in some bushes before I went into the locker room. For a moment I thought it was Sirius in his Animagus form, but of course it couldn't have been."

"Well, that was probably what triggered the attack. But you need to realize you have a real problem and address this now, Harry. If seeing a black dog is enough to make your demons come up to the surface, then it's time to get help, or this will surely happen again," Draco said and rubbed Harry's arm.

"Oh god! I had this panic attack in front of the whole team? This is a disaster," Harry groaned. "How did the match go?"

Draco snorted. Typical of Harry to think about Quidditch at a time like this. But of course, it was Harry's career on the line, and this could prove to be disastrous for him.

"Davies substituted you as Seeker, and you lost," Draco replied dryly. "But don't worry. Nobody except me, Mr Aubrey, your Healer and the Weasleys knew it was a panic attack caused by your PTSD. I've threatened St Mungo's with a lawsuit if they blabber to the press. But the Aurors will need to be informed, they were called in because McKenzie thought a crime had been committed against you. You will be able to deal with this on your own terms, Harry. Unless you want this knowledge to be public, it won't be. The Healer seems to think you can get away with claiming you had food poisoning."

"Okay. Thank you. I will deal with this later. Right now I'm incredibly tired, Draco. God, my head hurts, I can't think." Harry rubbed his temples. He looked tired, and worn, Draco realized. He was pale and had huge circles around his eyes. And the eyes themselves looked dull and had lost their usual sparkle.

"Shh. It's okay, don't worry about it right now." Draco took out his wand and whispered an Engorgio, making the bed expand itself. Then he sat down with his back against the headboard and urged Harry to lie down with his head in his lap. He carefully massaged Harry's head and felt the tension slowly dissipate. Harry sighed in relief as his eyes fell closed. Feeling his daughter sleeping soundly by his side and hearing Draco hum softly while he threaded his fingers through Harry's hair, it felt like heaven. Right now he did not want to think about anything else. At that moment, everything seemed somehow right again.

"I don't deserve you," Harry whispered to Draco as he fell asleep.

"No, you don't," Draco whispered to the silent room, not quite able to keep the bitterness out of his voice. But he still stayed with Harry the whole night.

 

TBC... Addressing the demons next.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in? And not all things are always what they seem.


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 16 - Cannot Ask You to Wait

 

Harry was seated by the window in Ron's old bedroom, now redecorated into a cozy guest room, at the Burrow. The rain was drizzling down the window glass, making his view over the garden a bit blurry. He was covered by a soft blanket and nursed a mug of hot tea. He felt chilly most of the time now, but at least he wasn't sleeping sixteen hours a day anymore. Mr Aubrey had told him that the tiredness was normal though, and that he should just sleep whenever he felt like it, eventually he would feel better from it.

Harry had left St Mungo's after that one night of observation. By some sort of miracle, Draco and Emilia had still been there when he had woken up, along with Molly Weasley. He had been too tired to put up a fight when Molly more or less ordered him to come and stay at the Burrow for a while. He had not expected Draco to suggest he should come and stay at Malfoy Manor. But even if he knew he had no right, he felt the disappointment settling in his stomach when Draco told Emilia to give her papa a kiss goodbye and left, promising Harry that he'd drop by the Burrow with their daughter occasionally. He knew deep down that he should be grateful that Draco volunteered to do even that much, but the night before he had felt a tiny spark of hope when Draco had stayed with him. A fool's hope, apparently.

He had stayed at the Burrow for two weeks now, and he felt a bit better after being treated to Molly Weasley's cooking and fussing. He had been to see his counsellor, Mr Aubrey, four times. Bertram Aubrey had agreed to continue as Harry's counsellor, even if he was primarily a marriage counsellor. For some reason, Harry seemed to trust him, something that was crucial for the further treatment of Harry's PTSD.

The Healer at St Mungo's had insisted to give Harry a sick leave for the time being. Harry knew that the Chudley Cannons' manager had not been too happy about that. He still had not informed his employer of his condition, or anybody else for that matter. He had been totally unavailable to everyone, except his family and closest friends. He had not given the press any statements, leaving George to appease them. Harry knew it was unfair, but he simply had not the strength to deal with it all at the moment.

It was all very gloomy, and unfair, Harry mused. But then again, when had his life ever been fair? He snorted to himself and took another sip of tea. He had been branded by that damned scar when he was only one year old, that had sealed his fate and made sure he could never be just a normal boy, or a normal man for that matter. Mr Aubrey had informed Harry that he felt Harry's anger, resentment and bitterness simmering just under the surface all the time. It was to be expected, Mr Aubrey had told him, since Harry had suppressed his feelings for so long.

Harry felt like he was slowly waking up from a dream. Like he had been surrounded by a haze ever since he was seventeen years old. He was now able to see that he had completely lost his footing, and when he thought about how he had behaved the last years, it was all he could do not to cringe. It was one thing to want the freedom to do what he wanted with his life after the war, to throw away the burdens of expectations and finally have some fun.

But it was a whole other thing when people was hurt in the process - people he cared about, loved even. Draco and Emilia were constantly on his mind these days, and Harry almost felt physical pain when he thought about how he had let them down. He could never undo that, even if he did everything right from now on.

---

Harry was shaken out of his musings by a soft knock on the door. Hermione carefully peeked inside, not wanting to wake Harry if he was sleeping again. She smiled when she saw that he was awake. After the previous three sessions with his counsellor, Harry had crashed and slept for hours afterwards, but he had seemed a bit calmer today.

"Hi, 'Mione," Harry said and gestured for her to come in. She closed the door behind her and went to sit on the edge of the bed.

"I just wanted to see how you were doing. And hear if you had given what Mr Aubrey said today any thought," Hermione said. She had followed Harry to all his sessions so far, patiently sitting in the waiting room until his appointment was over. She didn't quite trust that he wouldn't skip the sessions otherwise, besides, Harry could use all the moral support he could get.

"I feel better than after the other sessions, and I don't feel so tired all the time. I will take Mr Aubrey up on his suggestion, it sounds like a reasonable solution. I'll do anything to make this PTSD thing go away, it just feels a bit... scary, I guess," Harry said and fidgeted with his mug.

"I just wanted you to know that if you decide to do it, I will come with you, at least for a while. You're not going to be alone, Harry," Hermione said, her voice thick with emotion.

"Why, Hermione? I mean, I am eternally grateful for the offer, but I don't understand why you're doing all this for me. I've been a terrible friend the last couple of years." Harry picked at a thread in the blanket and carefully met her gaze under his long fringe.

"You lost your way for a while, that doesn't mean you stopped being my best friend. I've taken all other journeys with you, Harry, why should this be any different? I promised you, a long time ago, that I'd help you get rid of Voldemort, that promise still stands. Because as long as he's still here," she tapped Harry's forehead with the tip of her finger, "he's not gone, not to you."

"I love you for offering, Hermione, I really do, but not this time. This is something that I need to sort out of my own. You cannot chase these demons away for me, only I can do that. Mr Aubrey has made me understand that much. It is also a chance for me to get away from everything and take a long, hard look at my life. I already feel myself changing, but I'm afraid it's too little, too late." Harry looked sadly at Hermione and reached out and took her hand in his.

Neither of them spoke after that. They just sat there silently, holding hands, while the rain outside continued to fall.

---

Three days later

One of Draco's least favourite things, was when he was delivered a message by Ron's little owl, Pigwidgeon. Not that Ron ever sent him any messages, but Harry borrowed it on occasion. The blasted bird was so proud it had found its receiver that it fluttered excitedly around, forgetting to deliver the actual letter. Draco started chasing it around the breakfast table, accompanied by Emilia's giggles, until he remembered he was a wizard. Draco pulled out his wand and Accioed the bird. Pigwidgeon flew into his hand and Draco was finally able to untie the letter from his leg.

Draco put the little owl down on the table, where it settled down, obviously instructed to wait for a reply. Emilia squealed at how cute it was, petted it carefully on the head and fed it cereal from her plate. Draco recognized Harry's writing and curiously opened the letter.

Draco,
I have a couple of things I need to talk to you about.
Could I come to the manor tonight? Around seven o'clock?
You can send a reply back with Pig.
Hope to see you later.
Love, Harry.

"It's from your papa," Draco said to Emilia. "He wants to come and visit us tonight, isn't that nice?"

"Yay!" Emilia whooped, making Pigwidgeon jump into her cereal, splattering milk everywhere.

"Okay," Draco said, wiping milk off his face. "Let's send Papa a reply as fast as humanly possible, before that little piece of feathery madness tears the house down."

As he stood and watched Pigwidgeon fly off with the answer to Harry, he pondered the fact that Harry had sent a letter requesting to see them, instead of just using the Floo or Apparating. Draco had made sure he wasn't barred anymore after all. It had seemed too polite somehow. Like Harry was nervous or apprehensive to see him. Well, he would find out tonight, one way or the other.

---

It had been a quiet and comfortable family evening. To an outsider, it would seem like nothing was amiss and that this was how it always was, with the two handsome wizards doting on their beautiful daughter, without a care in the world.

Harry had arrived right before seven o'clock, just in time for dinner. The three of them had enjoyed a nice meal, followed by ice cream for dessert, to Emilia's delight. Afterwards Harry had played with his daughter to her heart's content. When it was time for her to go to bed, Harry made sure she washed up and brushed her teeth before he tucked her in. He read her a story and then sat and watched his daughter sleep for a while, before going back downstairs to talk to Draco.

Harry had dreaded this moment; he felt he wasn't ready for any of this. But there was no easy way out of this mess, not this time. He had a feeling this would be the hardest part anyway.

Draco looked worriedly at Harry while the latter was pacing around the living room, looking for the right words.

"Harry? You said we had some things to talk about, and I can see that something is bothering you. Please just tell me what it is," Draco said softly. He stood up from the sofa and walked over to Harry, stopping his pacing.

"I will. What I'm going to say is... hard, is all," Harry whispered and took Draco's hand and guided him back to the sofa where they sat down.

"Just take a deep breath and get it out, Harry. Straightforwardness has always been your take on things after all," Draco said and looked at Harry expectantly. Harry sighed and finally relented.

"I'm going away for a while, Draco. Mr Aubrey has recommended a facility in Canada that specializes in trauma victims. It's all wizarding, and they are very discreet and professional there. It's an opportunity for me to get away and maybe get some perspective, while I work on my issues. You were right, I need to address them, and I need to do it now. I've finally realized that this won't magically go away on its own," Harry said with a small shake of his head. He then reached inside his jacket and pulled out some papers that he handed over to Draco. "I just had to give you these before I go. I leave in the morning and I couldn't go without saying goodbye to you, and try to set at least some things right."

"You're going away? And this is the divorce papers! You signed them?" Draco looked at Harry in disbelief.

"I cannot ask you to wait for me, Draco. I lost that right when I cheated on you the first time," Harry said and swallowed hard. "I won't stand in the way of the divorce anymore, I just hope we can come to some agreement about Emilia when I return. And yes, I'm going away, for a while at least. Mr Aubrey seems to think that is the best thing for me, and I agree with him. I've left my contact information among the papers, in case you need it."

"Why are you doing this, Harry? Why now?" Draco asked, still slightly in shock over Harry's turnaround.

"Because it's the right thing to do. I love you, Draco, so much. But I realize it's not enough anymore. I need to go away to fix what's wrong in my head, and you need to get on with your life," Harry said, forcing back the tears. "I cannot begin to say how sorry I am for all the grief I've caused you, words don't seem to cover it. But like they say, actions speak louder, that's why I'm letting you go. I want to see you smile again, Draco, and if this is what it takes, then I'm giving it to you. I want you to be happy, even if it isn't with me."

"I love you too, Harry, you know that. And I want you to get well. For both Emilia's sake, as well as your own." Draco put the papers down on the table and took Harry's hands in his. "And if this facility in Canada will help you along the way, you're doing the right thing in going. You deserve to be happy too."

"I was happiest when I was with you. Unfortunately, I threw it all away for some cheap thrills. I know you still love me, like I love you, but what we had was destroyed. I destroyed us. And I'm sorry for that, Draco, please believe me when I say that." Harry clutched Draco's hands to his chest, his green eyes shiny with tears. "I have to go now, because if I don't, I never will. Take care of Emilia, tell her that her papa loves her and will come back to her soon. I wanted to sit her down and explain everything, and tell her goodbye myself, but my emotions are a bit too raw now. It would do her little good to witness her papa having a breakdown."

"I will explain things to her in the morning, Harry, it's going to be all right. She will be upset at first, but she's a very sensible little girl, she'll understand," Draco said and cupped Harry's cheeks with his hands, his eyes full of emotion. "As for the two of us, you're probably right; this is where we draw the line. I wish things could be different, but too much hurt has passed between us. About Emilia, we'll work something out when you return, please don't worry about that right now. Just concentrate on getting better, okay?"

"Thank you, Draco. And remember, despite all, I loved you." Harry leaned forward and gave Draco a passionate kiss, his lips desperate on Draco's. He then tore himself out of Draco's arms and Apparated out of the manor, the familiar smell of his aftershave lingering.

 

TBC

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in? And not all things are always what they seem.


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 17 - It Wasn't Supposed to Be Like This

 

It was now six weeks since Harry had left for Canada, and the situation was starting to take its toll. Emilia missed her papa and reacted by acting out. The previous night had been particularly bad, and even though Draco hated disciplining her, he had ended up sending her to her room without dessert. When he later had gone upstairs to put her to bed, she refused to do absolutely everything he told her. She didn't want to put her toys in their box and she didn't want to put on her pyjamas, instead she ended up throwing them out of the window. She clamped her mouth shut when Draco tried to brush her teeth, and she screamed like a banshee when he wanted to give her a bath. Nothing he said or did worked; her daddy was definitely the stupidest daddy in the world that night.

Eventually Draco gave up and ended up letting her go to bed wearing the Cinderella outfit she had dressed up in earlier. Her teeth remained un-brushed, he had only managed to wash her face and hands, amidst a lot of squirming and screaming. Draco really didn't want his daughter to go to sleep so upset, and he tried to talk soothingly to her and give her a goodnight kiss when she finally was in bed. It didn't work, because Emilia just pulled the covers over her head and yelled that she hated him and wanted her papa and Mr Zebra. It took a while for Draco to wheedle out of her that Mr Zebra was the plush toy zebra Harry had bought for her at London Zoo, and that she apparently had left it at Grimmauld Place. She calmed down a bit after he promised her he would go and fetch Mr Zebra for her tomorrow. After that he left her be. His patience was wearing thin and he had almost reached the end of his tether that night.

"Mr Zebra," Draco muttered to himself while he was going downstairs again. "I'm definitely never buying her a pet, they'd only be named Mr Dog or Mr Cat."

When he checked on her a bit later, he was relieved to see she had fallen asleep. Draco prayed that things would settle down come morning. He went to bed early, feeling utterly exhausted, but sleep did not come as easy as he had hoped, he had too many thoughts and doubts in his head.

Draco's hope that the next morning would be easier, proved to be in vain. After much struggle, yelling and persuading, he was finally able to drop Emilia off at her preschool. She refused to kiss him goodbye, she just stomped inside, giving him her best glare. Harry had sometimes joked that Emilia had inherited Draco's 'Malfoy Glare of Death', but he hadn't seen it before. Now Draco had to admit that Harry had a point. He made his apologies about Emilia's behaviour to her teacher, but she just waved him off, she knew that the Malfoy-Potter family was in a tough spot at the moment.

---

Draco didn't want to go back to the manor after he had dropped Emilia off. Instead he Apparated to Blaise's house, desperately hoping that his friend had not left for work yet. He needed a cup of strong coffee and someone to talk to.

The Apparition point was a couple of blocks from where Blaise lived in a rather large townhouse in Chelsea, London. It was not hard to see that this was one of the most upscale neighbourhoods in the town. The houses were beautiful and well kept, the hedges neatly trimmed and the people he met mostly wore designer clothes and drove very expensive cars. Oh yes, this was a neighbourhood that probably suited Blaise just fine, he thought.

When he finally arrived at Blaise's, he opened up the wrought iron gate and walked up the steps leading to the door. Blaise had obviously put up wards around the place, because when Draco reached the door, it swung open by its own accord. The wards had clearly recognized him as somebody that should be let straight in. Draco smiled, stepped inside and closed the door behind him.

"Hello!" Draco shouted, but nobody answered. He heard music coming from the direction of the kitchen and started walking towards the sound. Blaise probably hadn't heard Draco with the music turned on so loud.

When he opened the door to the kitchen, Draco was met by a very surprising sight. He could not see Blaise anywhere. Hermione, however, was dancing around, wearing only a over-sized shirt, probably Blaise's, singing into a spatula while eggs were frying in the pan. She had made an effort to put her hair up in a ponytail, but strands still bounced around her head when she danced.

"Caan't read mine, can't read mine, no, he caan't reead my poker faaace..." Hermione sang along to the song playing on the radio, and twirled around, stopping dead in her tracks when she saw Draco standing in the doorway, looking thoroughly amused.

"Uhmm, hey, Draco. Heh, didn't see you there," Hermione stammered and blushed.

"Well, I kind of got that, but thanks for the show anyway," Draco said with a laugh.

"Do I even need to explain this?" Hermione asked, looking very much like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

"Not really. Your choice of... ahem, outfit, and the bed-hair, sort of speak for themselves," Draco said with a wink. "Oh, and by the way, Blaise likes his eggs fried over easy, not cremated."

"Shit!," Hermione exclaimed and pulled the frying pan off the stove. She looked at the burned eggs and scrunched up her nose. "Damn! They're ruined."

"What's going on? And what is that smell? Is something burning?" Blaise came walking into the kitchen. He had obviously just stepped out of the shower as he was wearing a bath robe and his hair was wet. "Oh, hello, Draco. Did we have any plans this morning?"

"No, I just came by for a cup of coffee and a chat. Then I ran into the lovely Ms Granger here," Draco said and gestured towards Hermione.

"Hmm, guess our secret's out then," Blaise said and picked some coffee mugs out from a cupboard and put them on the kitchen table. He then picked up a pot with freshly brewed coffee and poured some for them all.

"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone," Draco assured them and sat down by the table. "But I can't say I'm all that surprised really, I've seen this coming for some time. How long have you been seeing each other anyway?"

"Since the day Harry was sent to St Mungo's," Hermione answered and threw the ruined eggs in the bin. "Blaise seemed so upset after dropping off Emilia at the hospital, and I thought he could use a break, so I invited him out for a cuppa. Then, a couple of days later, he invited me to see a Shakespeare play with him. Guess you can say that one thing led to another."

"Ah, seduction by Shakespeare. How romantic," Draco teased and winked at Blaise over his steaming coffee mug. Draco had thought Blaise and Hermione were a perfect match for a long time, and he was really happy for them. He envied them a bit though. Draco could hardly remember what it felt like to fall in love, when all was fresh and exciting. His face fell a bit.

"Is everything all right, Draco? You seem a bit off," Hermione said and sat down next to Blaise, taking a sip off her coffee mug.

"Yeah, you look terrible. Ouch!" Blaise rubbed his arm where Hermione had whacked him for his tactlessness.

"Thank you, Blaise. Now I feel so much better," Draco said sarcastically. "You are right though, I do look like shit. Things are... bad right now."

Before he knew it, Draco had blurted out everything to them. He told them about how Emilia's longing for her papa had turned into tantrums and acting out, and how guilty he felt when he yelled at her or disciplined her. How he felt like a total failure all the time, and that he hardly slept at night.

"It's not fair," Draco said and rubbed his tired eyes. "She almost never acts like this around Harry, and when she does, all he has to do is crouch down, look her in the eyes and say 'that's enough, Emilia!' He doesn't even have to raise his voice. And she magically turns into a perfect angel. I don't know how he does it, it certainly never works for me."

"Well, he does have that authoritative flare about him," Hermione said. "I first noticed it during our fifth year at Hogwarts, after we founded Dumbledore's Army. There is something about him that makes people afraid to contradict him. I secretly think he picked up more from Severus Snape than he likes to admit."

"It wasn't supposed to be like this, dammit!" Draco suddenly exclaimed and banged his fist on the table. "Harry was supposed to help me! I never saw myself as a single parent when we adopted Emilia, it was supposed to be the two of us, together. Not just me, alone. I'm not cut out for this."

"Oh, Draco," Hermione sighed and took his hand, trying to calm him down. "And don't think so low about yourself, I think you're doing a wonderful job with Emilia. It certainly can't be easy right now. It will get easier, I promise you. When Harry gets home, things will be different, I'm sure of that."

"God, I hope so, Hermione. And I'm sorry if I sound petty and mean, because I know it's not Harry's fault, and I know he's doing his best to get well. But I'm just so tired of everything right now, because it's not my fault either. And certainly not Emilia's. We adopted that little girl, hoping to give her a better life. Now look at us. They won't exactly be lining up to give us the 'Fathers of the Year' award." Draco shook his head sadly.

"Nobody can predict what's gonna happen, Draco. Who knows where Emilia would've been if you and Harry hadn't adopted her," Blaise said and reached out and patted Draco's arm. "And you and Harry aren't bad parents, you're just in a really tough spot right now, it will pass. Remember, I'm a solicitor, and I've seen my share of shitty parents. Trust me when I say that you're not it."

"Thanks, Blaise. I really appreciate you saying that." Draco drew in a shaky breath, got up from the table and put on his jacket. "I gotta go now. I have to drop by Grimmauld Place to fetch a Mr Zebra, then I have to get to Diagon Alley and find a costume for Emilia, she's going to a dress-up birthday party on Saturday. And tomorrow there's the preschool's bake sale and I have to organize the making of 200 cupcakes by tonight. And I still have to pick up Emilia after school and then drop her off at the Burrow, because there's a PTA meeting tonight. And all this on two hours sleep. If my father could see me now, he'd be laughing his arse off."

"Hush, Draco, don't think like that. You're doing a wonderful job," Hermione said and went over to Draco and gave him a hug. "Why don't I pick up Emilia after the birthday party on Saturday, and then she can spend the rest of the weekend with me? I think you could use the time off, maybe catch up on some sleep?"

"Thanks, Hermione. That sounds like a good idea. She would love to spend some time with Auntie Hermione anyway," Draco said and gave her a thankful look. "But now I really have to go. Thanks for the coffee, and the chat."

"Anytime, Draco," Blaise said and gave his friend a hug. "Feel free to drop by whenever you need to talk, relax, watch my amazing girlfriend burn my eggs, anything."

"I will, Blaise," Draco said with a small laugh. "Oh, and, Hermione? About that Lady Gaga number you did earlier? Don't quit your day job, okay?"

Draco was able to slip out the door before Hermione could throw the spatula at him.

---

Draco felt a bit weird being at Grimmauld Place when Harry wasn't there. It had been his home the first two years he and Harry had been married, before they moved to Wiltshire. Draco missed it sometimes, but now it felt cold and empty. Kreacher was not around either, Harry had sent him to live at Malfoy Manor while he was away.

Draco really admired what Harry had done with the place. He remembered how dark and scary he had thought this house was when they had been to visit when he was a child, but now the place was unrecognizable. The floors were shiny, the cream coloured walls stood in perfect contrast to the dark wood in the furnishings, and the furniture itself was modern, but comfortable. It was all very tasteful, and it suited Harry perfectly.

Draco decided to start his search for Mr Zebra at the top, and then work his way downwards. Harry's bedroom covered the entire top floor, and was perhaps Draco's favourite room in the whole house. Before it had been two bedrooms. They had belonged to Sirius and his brother, Regulus at one point, but now the walls had been knocked down and it had been turned into one big room. When you reached the top of the stairs you simply walked straight into it. A huge window had been installed in the roof, making the room look light and airy. It felt just perfect lying on the huge bed and looking up at the sky, Draco remembered.

As he stood there, lost in his thoughts, somebody suddenly cleared their throat behind him. Draco jumped almost two feet in the air, then pulled out his wand and whirled around.

"Well, well. Look what the Kneazle dragged in. I thought you had vowed to never set foot in this place again, when you dumped Harry." Seamus Finnigan was leaning against the banister, looking at Draco with contempt.

"Ah, Finnigan. Aren't you a sight for blind eyes. What are you doing here? Last I checked this was Harry's house," Draco said tersely, lowering his wand. He couldn't stand Seamus Finnigan, and the feeling was very much mutual.

"Me and Harry are very close friends, he lets me come and go as I please," Seamus answered smugly. "Actually, I'm looking for Harry. I haven't seen him since before the Quidditch final, and I knew he's been sick, so I didn't want to bother him before. Just thought I'd see how he was doing now."

"I see. You are such close friends that he didn't tell you he was going away for a while?" Draco shot back, his voice dripping with irony. "He's been living at the Burrow since he was released from the hospital. Now he's on... vacation."

"Actually, he did mention he was going to take some time off after the season was over. I hope he's having lots of fun, the poor guy needs it after putting up with you for so long after all. And I thought you weren't Mrs Potter anymore, so what're you doing here anyway?" Seamus crossed his arms and threw Draco a dirty look.

"Not that it's any of your business, Finnigan, but I was fetching a toy that Emilia had left here. Harry and I do have a daughter together in case you've forgotten." Draco gritted his teeth, doing his best to stay calm. Getting into a fight with that skank, Seamus Finnigan, had definitely not been on his agenda today. He was too exhausted to deal with this right now.

"You know, I never understood what Harry saw in you," Seamus said and schooled his features into a mock thoughtful look. "Sure, you're blond and beautiful, sexy even, but many guys are that. Beyond that, you're not all that hot. A guy most gays would love to shag, yes, but that he actually went ahead and married you? He must've been Confunded. Personally, I think he could've done much better."

"You don't fool me for one second! You love the fact that Harry and I are separated, because that leaves the road wide open for you, doesn't it?" Draco sneered, finally losing his temper. "Oh, you'd love to become the next Mrs Potter, wouldn't you? I cannot believe Harry hasn't seen through you ages ago. It's a pity he let trash like you influence him. You probably whispered sweet nothings into his ear while he was getting all those blow-jobs, didn't you? You made damned sure you always pushed him in a direction that would destroy his marriage faster."

"My sweet, sweet, ignorant Draco. If you want to know what made him go to others, take a long and hard look in a mirror," Seamus said with badly concealed venom in his voice. "You're all high and mighty, aren't you? It's easy putting most of the blame on him, but at the end of the day, it was your own stupidity and neglect that pushed him into it. Talk about hypocrisy."

"What the hell are you talking about, Finnigan?" Draco asked, desperately trying to not use an Unforgivable on the prat.

"You stopped supporting him, didn't you?" Seamus pushed away from the banister and walked up to Draco, looking him straight in the eyes. "You stopped coming to the matches, stopped joining him at the parties, you never went out with him. You simply couldn't care less about his life or career anymore. No, instead you locked yourself away in your study, playing Lord of the manor, always tending to your so-called estate business. He even moved to Wiltshire when that was the last thing he wanted, for crying out loud. You became a boring, frigid little copy of your father. Harry is very much a man, you know, he has needs and feelings too. And you honestly stand there and wonder why he went to find distractions elsewhere? Wow, you really live up to that 'blonds being stupid' cliche. When you've got a man like Harry, you've got to be an idiot to leave him high and dry. And may I remind you, Draco? Lots of guys, including myself - I'll admit it, would love to take your place."

Draco didn't answer. He knew he should try to raise himself above it, but Finnigan's words cut into him like tiny shards of glass. It was hard hearing spoken out loud the things he silently lay awake each night blaming himself for. He shot a look at Seamus and saw clearly the smugness on the other man's face. Seamus obviously relished the fact that he had managed to rattle Draco so much that the latter didn't have a comeback for once.

"Hurts to hear the truth, doesn't it, Draco?" Seamus asked with a little smile and walked towards the stairs. "But don't worry your pretty, little head about Harry. A man like him won't be lonesome for long. Because you don't seriously think he's gonna spend the rest of his life pining away for you? If you do, then you're even more stupid than I thought. I'd love to stay and chat, but I've got things to do and people to see, so I gotta go. Have a nice day."

With that Seamus sauntered down the stairs, leaving Draco on his own.

He knew he should not listen to what that man-whore, Seamus Finnigan, was saying. And he knew that Seamus had his own very selfish agenda, and was just trying to push Draco further away from Harry because he wanted Harry for himself. But still, his words echoed in Draco's ears. Had he really pushed Harry away? Had he driven Harry into cheating?

Something inside him broke. He could never be sure how it happened, but he suddenly found himself on his knees next to the bed, sobbing out all his sorrow, bitterness and frustration into one of Harry's old t-shirts that he had found, desperately sniffing in the familiar scent. Everything that had happened the last months finally had caught up with him. The argument with Seamus Finnigan was the straw that finally broke the camel's back. Draco shakily pulled himself up off the floor and dropped down on his back on the big, soft bed.

After a while the sobs subsided. Tears were still glistening on his face as he lay there on the bed, staring up at the sky through the roof window, contemplating his situation. At that moment, Draco Malfoy had never felt more alone.

Oh, Harry! Please come back soon, I cannot do this all by myself anymore. Exhausted, Draco finally fell asleep, his hand still clutching Harry's t-shirt.

 

TBC... welcome home, Harry.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in? And not all things are always what they seem.


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Chapter 18 - Illusion and Dream

 

It had been a long and miserable day for Emilia. She had been quiet and subdued, not at all her cheery self. She really only wanted her daddy to come and pick her up so she could tell him she was sorry for being such a bad girl that morning. He had looked so sad when she had refused to give him his usual big goodbye kiss. She hadn't been a good girl at all lately, her papa would definitely not be proud of her.

She wished things could go back being the way they had been before. Before Daddy and Papa had been fighting all the time and Papa had moved out. Why did grown-ups have to be so stupid? Why couldn't they just kiss each other and act all funny like they used to? And now her papa was gone. Daddy had told her that Papa had needed to go away to see a Healer, because he hadn't been feeling well, but that he'll be much better when he returns, it would just take some time. But now Papa had been gone forever, and Daddy was angry with her. She clutched Mr Lion to her chest and silent tears pooled in her eyes. Everything was so confusing.

It was the end of the school-day, and the parents had started to arrive to pick up their children. Emilia's teacher had noticed that Emilia had been sad and withdrawn that day, and decided to have a word with Draco about it when he showed up. It was to be expected though, Emilia's teacher had seen enough divorces and knew about the effects it had on the children who were stuck in the middle. And with a very public divorce with celebrities such as Draco Malfoy-Potter and Harry Potter involved, it was bound to be even worse. Even if she had to give them credit for the way they have always shielded Emilia from the press and public eye.

The door to the classroom swung open again. Emilia looked up and her eyes lit up with surprise and happiness. She jumped off her chair and ran towards her father.

"Papa!" she yelled, and threw herself into Harry's waiting arms.

---

To say that Harry had been surprised when he had returned home to Grimmauld Place that afternoon and found Draco sleeping in his bed was an understatement. It was a very welcome sight indeed, until Harry noticed the fatigue in Draco's features. He was paler than usual, he had dark circles under his eyes, and, usually being a light sleeper, Draco seemed dead to the world.

Harry found that he hadn't the heart to wake Draco up. Instead he went into the closet and found a spare blanket and tucked around him. The house felt a bit chilly, Harry thought. After silently watching Draco sleep for a while, he went downstairs and called Hermione on her cell to inform her that he was home again. Harry felt a bit worried after their conversation. Hermione had told him about the talk she and Blaise had had with Draco earlier that day, and it seemed like both Draco and Emilia were having a rough time.

Not to mention that his mind was still reeling from the 'Hermione and Blaise' thing. Hermione had sounded really happy though, and Harry wanted his friend to have all the happiness in the world. Besides, Blaise was a good guy, even if he and Harry never had become particularly good friends. It was very much like Draco and Ron, Harry thought. Maybe that was another thing that had gone wrong in their marriage, they had never been able to fuse their lives together, they had both had too much of their own agendas. Come to think about it, Hermione was actually their only mutual friend. Aside from that, they merely tolerated each other's friends. Not much of a foundation for happiness that. Ultimately, things like friends and family mattered, it was not something they could expect to keep separate from their relationship, they had been naive to even think they could.

Harry decided to let Draco sleep. He left a note on the bedside table in case Draco woke up, and went to pick up Emilia first. Then he'd see what he could do with the rest of the chores Hermione had told him was on Draco's to-do list today. He had called Kreacher back from the manor, and the house-elf was already busy with the two hundred cupcakes for the bake sale. Harry had insisted that he'd help out later, but Kreacher had chased him out of the kitchen, deeply offended. He'd let Emilia help with the icing when the cupcakes were done, but that was it.

---

"So, have you been a good girl while I've been away, sweetheart?" Harry asked Emilia. They were seated by the kitchen table, putting icing on some of the cupcakes. Harry was a bit concerned about Emilia after a little chat he had had with Emilia's teacher. He thought it would be easier to talk to his little daughter while they did something nice together. Draco was still asleep last time Harry had checked in on him, and Harry was reluctant to wake him up, so he had decided to let him sleep a bit longer.

Emilia squirmed a bit on her chair, she obviously avoided looking her papa in the eyes, because she kept her eyes glued to the cupcake in front of her. She then shook her head sadly.

"I was really mean to Daddy this morning, and now he hates me," she whispered, tears clinging to her eyelashes.

"Oh, Emilia, honey, Daddy doesn't hate you," Harry said and went around the table, picked Emilia up and put her on his lap. "I think both you and Daddy have been a bit unhappy lately and maybe that made you say things you didn't mean. Am I right?"

Emilia sniffled and rested her head against Harry's chest and just nodded.

"You see, Emilia, Daddy and I, we've had a lot of grown-up problems lately, mostly because your Papa's been a bit of an idiot. But believe me when I say that Daddy doesn't hate you, he loves you so much, we both do," Harry said and gave his daughter a kiss on the forehead. He was more sorry than he could ever say about the fact that his and Draco's issues had caused Emilia distress.

"Papa's right, honey," Draco said, having silently listened to the conversation from the doorway. He now made his way over to Emilia and Harry. He crouched down next to Harry and looked Emilia in the eyes. She suddenly flung her arms around Draco's neck and started crying her eyes out while she tried to tell Draco how sorry she was.

"Hey, it's okay, sweetheart. We're okay. Daddy's sorry too. We were both really stupid, but now everything's fine again, okay?" Draco held his daughter close while he rocked her carefully back and forth, giving Harry a warm smile and mouthed the words 'welcome home' above Emilia's head. Harry smiled and winked in return. "Now, why don't we ask Papa if he wants to order a pizza for us? Then we can have a nice time, all three of us. How does that sound?"

Faced with the possibility of pizza, Emilia stopped crying and turned to look expectantly at Harry, giving him her best puppy-dog eyes, Harry laughed and ruffled her hair.

"How can I possibly say no to an offer like that?" Harry said and picked up his cell to call in the order. "Oh, and Draco, the PTA meeting tonight was cancelled. Apparently, the teacher who was going to lead it has fallen ill with a bad case of vanishing sickness. He's been sent to St Mungo's, but now it seems they can't find him so they can start the treatment. And because he was also in charge of the bake sale tomorrow, that's cancelled as well. So we now have two hundred cupcakes and nowhere to go."

Try as he might, Draco could not stop a snort of laughter, which in turn made Emilia giggle as well, and it all sort of escalated from there. All three of them had to wipe tears from their eyes from laughing so hard before Harry went to order them a pizza. It felt good laughing together again, Draco thought.

---

Harry and Draco had put Emilia to bed in her room at Grimmauld Place, and they were now seated on the comfy sofa in the living room, each of them sipping on a glass of wine while the music played softly in the background. It was a quiet and cosy atmosphere and they had talked about many things, during which Draco somehow had ended up curled up next to Harry, with Harry's arm around his shoulders.

Harry had told Draco about Canada; about how beautiful it was there and how the facility he'd been staying at had used activities in the nature as part of the therapy. He'd been river rafting, hiking and mountain climbing while he was there, and he had really enjoyed it. Draco told Harry about all the things that had happened at home while he'd been away. Like Emilia's achievements in school, how Harry's disappearing act had caused a right ruckus with wild speculations in the press, and he made Harry laugh when he told him about Hermione's Lady Gaga act in Blaise's kitchen that morning. Draco didn't talk much about himself though, something Harry made a mental note of.

"So, Harry, how are you feeling?" Draco asked, finally getting down to the serious stuff. He put his wine glass down on the table and righted himself up on the sofa so he could look at Harry. "You seem much better than you did before you left, you know. Looks like you might've made the right decision about going there."

"I can honestly say that I feel much better than I've done in a long time. I'll probably be seeing Mr Aubrey regularly for a while still, but I'm well on my way towards a full recovery," Harry answered with a smile. "They were really professional there, Draco. And even if the PTSD still isn't all gone, at least they were able to help me sort out my thoughts and get some perspective of my life. It made me realize that I'm not very happy with the person I've turned into."

"Really? What made you see that?" Draco asked, surprised.

"Because it isn't really me. When I was younger, I never wanted the fame, Draco. Remember that blasted Triwizard Tournament? Sure, I dreamt about becoming school champion, like all others, and to have all that honour and glory. But it was only a dream, and I was secretly happy that it wouldn't be me. Then, when it turned out that it was me after all, all I wanted to do was run and hide. That was where it all began, I've realized, the press and stupid articles. And I never wanted any of it, hated it even." Harry sighed and pulled a hand through his unruly hair. It was a bit shorter now, Draco noticed.

"I remember that, and unless my memory fails me, it was sometimes me and some of my Slytherin friends that helped feed the press with some of the stories," Draco said and shook his head, he didn't like to think about the person he had been back then.

"I know. You were a right menace you know," Harry said with a wink. "Anyway, after the war, I turned my back on it all. I didn't want to be the Chosen One anymore, I didn't want to be saddled with the burdens and expectations that came with it, truth is, I was sick of it. I felt I had done my duty to society and that it was finally time for me to have some fun, I felt like I've earned that. But I could never turn my back on my name, that lingered, I was already branded. So when I became a professional Quidditch player, I let myself be pulled in by it. People now saw something else in me than the goddamn Saviour. And when it turned out that I was a huge success, I became the illusion I once hated. But it's not real, none of it is, I see that now. It's not something that really matters, it's just an image, a very profitable image, dishonest at best."

"Wow. Sounds like you've had quite the eye-opener while you've been in Canada," Draco said in disbelief.

"I needed to get away to get some perspective I guess. It was like seeing myself from the outside. My therapist over there also helped me realize that I need to start accept that I am Harry Potter," Harry said with a small smile at Draco.

"You never really wanted to be him, did you?" Draco asked sadly.

"No, not really. I've been running away from the person I am all my life. But I can't keep running from him, Draco. My therapist said I had no choice really. My only chance at happiness is to accept that I am who I am, and to realize that I can't change neither what I'm born to be, nor my past. I need to learn to live with the fact that I am Harry Potter, and that I'll never be just your average wizard or an anonymous face in the crowd. I can, however, decide how I want to live my life as Harry Potter." Harry drew in a deep breath and fidgeted with his wine glass.

"So, have you then? Decided how you want to live your life I mean?" Draco asked and leaned forward and took Harry's hand.

"Well, kind of, but there are things that need to fall into place before I can really talk about it. I'll know more soon," Harry answered and squeezed Draco's hand. "How about you? How are you doing? I noticed you weren't really saying anything about yourself earlier."

"Aside from taking care of Emilia and tending to the tedious day-to-day estate business, I've had a lot of time to think. I've decided that what you said to Mr Aubrey was true. I always do what's expected of me, instead of what I really want. I never follow my dreams. The trouble is that I really don't know what my dreams are. But I've more or less decided to hire an estate manager to take care of the manor business, with that out of the way, maybe I'll have a chance of finding out," Draco said and gave Harry a small smile, not letting go of his hand.

"Sounds like a really good plan," Harry said and smiled back. "I've missed you, you know, like crazy."

"Ah, you're making crazy-jokes, you must be feeling better then," Draco teased, before he became serious again. "I've missed you too, Harry, I'm not used to you not being a presence in my life."

"So, are you... seeing anybody?" Harry dreaded the answer, but he had to ask, had to know.

"I went on another dinner date with Adrian Pucey, we had a good time I guess," Draco answered honestly, noticing Harry gritting his teeth in jealousy. Draco decided to put him out of his misery. "I knew, however, that nothing would ever develop between us, I couldn't make myself have feelings for him, so I broke it off before anything ever really happened. It wouldn't have been fair of me to lead him on."

"God, I wish I'd come to my senses sooner. I threw away all we had. I had everything I ever dreamed of: my very own family, and I ended up destroying it. And now we're divorced. It's unbelievable." Harry clutched Draco's hand tighter. Even if things had not worked out with Pucey, Draco would eventually find somebody else. The thought was unbearable.

"We're not."

"What?" Harry was shaken out of his musings and looked at Draco, shock evident in his green eyes. "What are you talking about? I signed the papers!"

"Yes, you did. But I didn't, Harry. I never signed them and I never gave them back to Blaise. We're not divorced." Draco dropped Harry's hand and looked away.

"But... why?" Harry asked, not believing his ears.

"I don't really know, Harry. I have a hard time letting go I guess. And the fact is, Merlin help me, I still love you." Draco got up and picked up his jacket.

"What are you doing? You can't just say that and then leave," Harry said and grabbed Draco's arm.

"Nothing has really changed though, Harry. All it means is that I'm not quite ready to close the door to us. But you have to give me a reason to keep it open. I need a commitment from you," Draco said tiredly. "It's time for me to go home, can you please drop Emilia off at school tomorrow?"

"Please, stay. Let's talk about this," Harry pleaded and grabbed Draco around the shoulders from behind, keeping him from going, his lips automatically seeking out Draco's neck.

"I don't think that's a very good idea," Draco said, damning himself for reacting to Harry's ministrations by tilting his head slightly, giving Harry's searching lips better access.

"Stay," Harry whispered, his tongue sensually tracing the shell of Draco's ear, smiling when he felt Draco shudder.

"We both know what will happen if I do. Sex doesn't solve anything, Harry." Draco pulled himself together and gently removed Harry's hands from his shoulders, freeing himself. "I need something more from you this time, something to show me that you're serious about this and that things won't go back to the way they were. If not, then we've gotten nowhere. Please, just think about this."

With that Draco stepped out the door and Apparated away, leaving Harry to his thoughts.

 

TBC... Harry makes a comeback in the wizarding world next.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: NOW COMPLETED! Something that once was beautiful is about to turn ugly. Does really love conquer all or is it just a load of crap when reality kicks in? And not all things are always what they seem.


Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

 

When You're Gone

Epilogue - Getting There

 

The wizarding world was again buzzing with excitement. Harry Potter had apparently returned from his vacation after not being heard from since before the Quidditch final, and he had agreed to give one single interview. WireNews, the news channel on the Wireless Network, had announced that Harry Potter had agreed to give them an exclusive interview at six o'clock in the evening the coming Friday. They expected their numbers to go through the roof, it was not often they landed a scoop like this. The thing was, nobody knew exactly what Harry Potter was going to say, except the man himself.

Speculations were running high. Many thought Harry would announce his transfer to another Quidditch team, others thought he would announce that he had prolonged this contract with the Cannons. Others again thought he would announce the fact that he was seriously ill. The Quibbler's editor, Luna Lovegood, speculated that he would reveal how he had managed to escape after being abducted by a vicious Crumple-Horned Snorkack. The only people who knew the truth were Harry's family and closest friends.

---

"Are you sure about this, Harry?" Ron Weasley asked his best friend. Harry was almost due in the studio, where the Head of the WireNews, Lee Jordan, was getting ready to interview him.

"I've never been more sure about anything in my life, Ron. I cannot wait to get this over with though," Harry answered and opened a bottle of Butterbeer that he had been served by one of the studio assistants.

"Are you nervous at all?" Draco asked. Like Ron, he had come with Harry for some moral support. Besides, Harry had promised him dinner at a cozy Italian restaurant afterwards.

"Not particularly, no." Harry said with a shrug. "I'll say what I need to say, and if people don't like it, too bad for them."

"Good to see that that place you stayed at in Canada didn't do anything to shake your confidence," Ron said with a laugh and clapped Harry on the back.

"No, they really didn't. Guess we'll just have to accept that your over-confidence is a part of your natural charm, Harry," Draco said with a wink to his husband.

"Pfft. You know you love it, baby." Harry dropped a quick kiss on Draco's lips. Ron pointedly looked away and whistled.

"Get over it, Weasel. I'm not going anywhere," Draco said and smirked at Ron.

"This is just great. Just when I thought I'd live in a ferret-free zone from now on, he comes bouncing back," Ron said with a shake of his head, mirth shining in his blue eyes.

"Will you two ever get over the 'Weasel' and 'Ferret' thing?" Harry rolled his eyes at them.

"I wouldn't count on it," Draco answered, Ron nodding in agreement. "It's how we express our new-found and mutual respect towards each other."

"Right. Well, good for you guys then. You're probably gonna drive me bonkers before the week is out though." Harry said with a snort.

"Yeah, I'm not overly worried," Ron said with a shrug. "If you go bonkers, you already have a shrink on speed dial, so you're well taken care of."

Draco snorted with laughter at that. Harry tried to give them both a stern look, but ended up laughing more than anyone.

"You realize they're gonna ask questions about us, don't you?" Harry said to Draco after the laughter had died down. "I know we talked about this, but are you comfortable about me talking about our private life?"

"I think keeping silent is just going to lead to more speculations. So you just answer the questions as honest as you can, but don't say any more than what you feel comfortable with. If needed, go with Luna's Snorkack theory," Draco smiled at Harry and attempted to straighten out his fringe.

"That would be kind of fun actually, just to see Lee's reaction. Okay, he's signaling that it's two minutes until we go on the air now, so I better get into the studio. Wait for me, and then we'll go straight to the restaurant afterwards, okay?" Harry gave Draco another quick kiss. "And I'll talk to you tomorrow, Ron. Thanks for the support, you know I appreciate it, mate."

"No problem, Harry. I'm off. Got a date with that pretty studio assistant, she's getting off work now. See you. And you too, Ferret." Ron waved absentmindedly as he left the room.

"See you in a bit then, Harry. I'll just wait out here in the meanwhile. Good luck." Draco gave Harry an encouraging smile as his husband opened the door to Lee's studio.

---

Lee: "And now the moment you've all been waiting for. We've been joined in our studio by none other than the wizarding world's Golden Boy, Harry Potter. He has agreed to give WireNews an exclusive interview after staying out of the limelight ever since his hospitalization the day of the Quidditch final. I must say, Harry, it's a pleasure to have you here with us tonight."

Harry: "Thank you, Lee. It's good to be here, good to be back."

Lee: "Now, our listeners can't see this of course, but you look exceptionally good. Looks like you've had a good vacation."

Harry: "Well, to be honest, I haven't exactly been on a vacation. But yeah, I feel pretty great actually, better than I've felt in ages."

Lee: "Okay, Harry. Now to the question the whole wizarding world has been asking ever since the Quidditch final. What happened?"

Harry: *clears throat* "I arrived at the stadium, with every intention to play the match, but I hadn't been feeling well the last couple of weeks or so leading up to it. Anyway, after I entered the Cannons' locker room, I... collapsed, and the team's Healer rushed me to St. Mungo's. I don't really have any recollection of what it was that actually happened, this is stuff I've been told afterwards. Anyway, when I arrived at the hospital I was put under heavy medication. I didn't wake up again until late that night."

Lee: "You must've heard all the rumours flying around about what caused your illness. Many said it was sabotage and that you had been poisoned or cursed. St. Mungo's haven't revealed anything, and your manager, George Weasley, said you suffered from food poisoning. You want to tell us the real story here?"

Harry: "Actually, Lee, no. I debated going public with this information, but my health is really no one's business but mine and my family's. The press have been invading my privacy for the better part of my life, but this is where I draw the line. All I'm going to comment on is that it wasn't any sabotage. All you really need to know is that I've been away for a while to take care of my health issues, and that I'm now on my way to a full recovery. I should be bad as new in no time."

Lee: "You realize that this will just make both the press and the population of the wizarding world speculate even more?"

Harry: *snorts* "I've been victim to speculations my whole life, so what else is new?"

Lee: "Okay, Harry, I can understand your desire to keep your health a private issue, so I won't push it. Besides, I know you can do some wicked wandless magic, so I dare not."

Harry: *laughs* "I appreciate it, Lee. Thanks."

Lee: "Now, let's talk about Quidditch. What're your expectations for the Cannons next season then? Are you looking forward to getting back on your broom?"

Harry: "I expect the Cannons will have a successful season, but that's really not up to me anymore. Because as of today, I'm no longer a part of the team."

Lee: *flabbergasted* "So the rumours are true then, you've signed with another team?"

Harry: "Perhaps I should elaborate. As of today, I am no longer a part of any team."

Lee: *confused* "So, you're a free agent now you mean, browsing for another team?"

Harry: "Lee, please. I swear you've never been this slow. Let me elaborate further, I am giving up Quidditch. Quitting. Finito. End of story."

Lee: ...

Harry: "Uhmm, Lee? Aren't you supposed to say something? This is the radio you know, people get confused when it's silent for too long."

Lee: *splutters* "But, you can't quit! You're like the best Seeker in the world!"

Harry: "Don't get me wrong. I've loved playing Quidditch, and I am forever grateful that the Cannons took me in on the team all those years ago. It's with their blessing I'm announcing this today. I informed them of my decision in a meeting yesterday, and they acted like true professionals and respected it. It's time for me to move on to other things now. Quidditch is a great profession, but it's not exactly family friendly. And it's time I spent more time with my family, especially my daughter. I've shirked my responsibilities for a long time now, and it's time I made up for that. But I cannot do that when I'm away most of the time."

Lee: "Does this mean that you and your husband, Draco Malfoy, are not getting a divorce anymore? There have been some rumours about a reconciliation lately."

Harry: "We are working very hard to repair our marriage, but it's not done overnight. Much of the trust between us has been destroyed, mainly by me, and it's going to take some time for me and Draco to rebuild that. But, like I said, we are working on it."

Lee: "Is that why you're quitting Quidditch then? Because he demands it?"

Harry: *angry* "I resent that statement, Lee. It's true that one of the reasons I'm giving up Quidditch is to regain some stability in my marriage, but ultimately it was my decision, mine alone. Draco never asked me to give up anything. Besides, I got a very interesting offer the other day, an offer I found it hard to refuse."

Lee: "Okay, now I'm really curious. Looks like you've got another surprise for me. Spill, Harry."

Harry: *mock haughty voice* "Actually, that's Professor Potter to you, or at least it will be soon. I'm joining the Hogwarts staff as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher next fall."

Lee: ...

Harry: "I must apologise to all you people listening. Your host seems to have lost his ability to speak tonight, a really bad trait for a radio reporter that. Oi! Earth to Lee!"

Lee: "Err, right, sorry. A Hogwarts professor? Aren't you kind of... Well, young for that?"

Harry: "Headmistress McGonagall didn't seem to think so when she approached me with the offer a couple of weeks ago. She seemed to like the idea of a bit of diversity among the staff to be honest. Besides, Neville Longbottom is teaching Herbology and he's the Head of Gryffindor House, and he's my age."

Lee: "Sorry if I'm a bit blunt, but are you qualified for that position?"

Harry: *disbelieving* "Uhmm, Lee? With all due respect, there are plenty of things I do not know. But believe me when I say that there are things I know of the Dark Arts that would make Rita Skeeter's crocodile handbag shrivel up and crawl into hiding under her wig. The war and Lord Voldemort are thankfully long behind us now, but I have a vivid memory of most of it. Besides, I don't start until next fall, I have plenty of time to prepare for the position."

Lee: "But why? I mean, from Quidditch to this? What's the reason behind it?"

Harry: *pauses* "There's Dark Magic everywhere still. Britain is not alone in the wizarding world you know. We were fortunate that we weren't much affected by the doings of Grindelwald back in his glory days, because that took place in another country. Just like the rest of the wizarding world, with a couple of exceptions, wasn't affected by Voldemort. Dark Magic is practised daily, in order to hurt people. I know, because I've seen some of the consequences during my time away. And another dangerous Dark wizard will attempt to rise to power again, it's not a question of if, it's a question of when. This is a chance for me to use my knowledge to help young witches and wizards to detect Dark Magic, and to defend themselves against it."

Lee: "Well, that is very honourable of course. And I know it's something you feel deeply about. But how will you spend more time with your daughter if you're going to be living at Hogwarts most of the year?"

Harry: "One of my stipulations for taking on the job was that I would not be a resident at Hogwarts. The fireplace in my office will be connected to the Floo Network, so I can arrive in the morning and go home in the afternoon. And I have the weekends off. There will be correcting of tests and term papers of course, but to be honest, I'm not all that fond of the theoretical side. Defence Against the Dark Arts has always been more of a practical subject. Good luck disarming a foe with your nose stuck in a book."

Lee: "And this is okay with the Headmistress?"

Harry: "We've discussed it, and she's familiar with my view on things. Perhaps she thinks it's a bit unconventional, but she's giving me free rein, so we'll see how it goes."

Lee: "Hear that, boys and girls at Hogwarts? Seems like you have something to look forward to next fall. But how do you see yourself as a role model for the children? There's no denying the fact that you've been photographed in rather, shall we say compromising positions, from various parties and so on the last years?"

Harry: *pauses* "I've done things I'm not proud of during my Quidditch career, outrageous partying being one of them. Those days are behind me, however, and I have confidence that the wizarding world will forgive me for them. But to be honest with you, the only person's forgiveness I care about is my husband's. In the end, the only people that got hurt from my stupid actions were my family, as well as myself. I consider myself a very lucky guy though, because Draco found it in his heart to give me another chance, and I don't intend to throw it away."

Lee: "Well, this has been the day for the big surprises, Harry. Don't you think the press will jump on you the minute you walk out the building?"

Harry: "For one, I can put up a pretty strong shield charm, so I'd like to see them try to jump on me. Secondly, this is the only interview I'm going to give. I've said all there is to say, and I don't intend to waste my time answering the same questions over and over again. I don't expect everybody's going to be happy about this, but to tell you the truth, I couldn't care less, it's not my responsibility, and I regret I ever let it be. I realize that I am a public person, but that doesn't mean I'm public property. I've finally learned the difference."

Lee: "Okay. I'll let that be the final word, Harry. Thank you so much for sharing your rather err... surprising news with WireNews and our listeners. We won't occupy any more of your time, I'm sure you've got plans for the evening."

Harry: "Thanks, Lee. And you're right, I do have plans. I've got a dinner date with a beautiful blond, and I know better than to keep him waiting."

Lee: *laughs* "Right. Good luck then, Harry."

Harry: "See you."

---

Later that same night, Harry and Draco were seated in a small, intimate Italian restaurant in Muggle London, not far from Grimmauld Place. They had been smart enough to exit the radio studio through the back door, escaping most of the press. There had been a right circus in front of the WireNews' building, but they all had to leave the place disappointed. The few photographers who waited out by the back door hadn't even had the time to take a single picture, because the moment the couple stepped outside, Harry had grabbed Draco's arm and Apparated them away.

"I think that interview went really well, Harry," Draco said. They had just ordered their food and had been served a bottle of red wine.

"You don't think I came off as a bit... Well, arrogant?" Harry asked, biting his lip.

"Well, yeah. But, Harry, you are a bit arrogant." Draco laughed and took Harry's hand across the table. "Luckily for you, you've got me to knock you down a few notches when it gets too bad."

"Ha! Pot, kettle, black. I hate to break it to you, Draco, but you can be a bit arrogant yourself sometimes," Harry said and lifted his glass in a toast.

"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about," Draco said with a sniff, taking a sip of wine.

"This is good, isn't it though? Just sitting here, talking and joking and laughing? God, I've missed that, missed you," Harry said with a fond smile at his husband. "I think we've come a long way in the three weeks since I came back. Mr Aubrey was very happy with us yesterday at least. Oh, and before I forget, I had a little chat with Seamus yesterday. Remember you told me you had a little run-in with him the day I came back? I told him that if I ever hear that he'd talked like that to you again, I'll make sure to hex his arsehole shut. Then I told him to get lost."

"Good. He's scum, Harry, you're better off without him," Draco said, his grey eyes darkening at the thought of his fight with Seamus. Then his features softened. "You are right, though, we have come a long way. Maybe soon we can think about moving back in together too. And I agree, this is nice, I missed it too."

"I've been thinking about that. Maybe we should find a new place to live? You know, a place that isn't already mine or isn't already yours. Instead it would be ours. We could have a fresh start, Draco." Harry shot Draco a hopeful look. This was something he had been thinking about for a while now.

"Not a bad idea. I'm sure Mr Aubrey will agree too. One of Blaise's partners is taking care of the Malfoy estate business now, so I don't really need to live there anymore, maybe I never really did." Draco said and looked thoughtful.

"Just think about it, okay? We don't have to make any decisions right now, we've got all the time in the world," Harry said with another smile. "Besides, Mr Aubrey says we shouldn't rush it."

"Guess you're right, Harry. But I like the idea of us moving some place new. Although I don't want you to sell Grimmauld Place. I know how much the place means to you and what it symbolizes. It's a good place for us to stay when we're in London. Besides, I love the skylight in your bedroom." Draco winked at Harry above his wine glass.

"Is that all you like about my bedroom?" Harry teased. "I'll admit though, I love that skylight myself. I missed it when I had trouble sleeping when I stayed in Canada. Usually when I can't sleep, I lie and look up at the night sky."

"The other people there, didn't they recognize you?" Draco asked curiously.

"No. They have a way of concealing celebrities there. They used charms to change my appearance, and I was admitted under the name 'James Evans'. The only ones who knew who I really was were the head of the facility, and my therapist," Harry answered. Then he snorted. "You would so not have approved of my hair colour, they changed it into a dirty blond shade."

"You're right, it sounds like a terrible hair colour on you," Draco said with a shudder. "But I very much approve of their discretion and professionalism. Did you really see many badly hurt people there?"

"Yeah, I did. They were all sorts. Basically good people who'd been subjected to some form of Dark Magic. Either by curses or objects. Some were even recovering from an Unforgivable. They had all been traumatized. It opened my eyes, Draco, because after seeing what I did there, I realized that I'm in a position where I can actually do some good. I'm going to miss Quidditch, but it's not like I could continue doing that for the rest of my life anyway," Harry said and thanked the waiter who had just served their food.

"It's a pity that people have to go all the way to Canada to get treatment though. They must have a wait list that's a mile long," Draco said. He suddenly became very thoughtful, swirling his fork around and around in his pasta dish without really noticing what he was doing.

"What's going on inside that beautiful head of yours?" Harry asked, eyeing his husband with a frown. "Oi! Earth to Draco! What is with people tonight? First Lee and now you."

Draco snapped out of his thoughts and grinned at Harry. "Oh, nothing really. I just figured out what to do with the manor once I move out. It's about time that place were used for something good as well. And I can fund it from our Malfoy-Potter charity account. I bet St. Mungo's will be interested in becoming collaborators in the project. Remind me to call Blaise tomorrow, I'm going to need a legal advisor. Oh, and I just bet this is something Hermione would be very interested in becoming involved with, her being a wizarding social worker and all." Draco was almost jumping in his chair from excitement.

"Sounds like you just figured out what you want to work with in the future. And it's a brilliant idea, Draco, you're a genius. Please just don't involve me overly much though, I think I'm busy enough as it is preparing to become a professor next fall." Harry said, finding Draco's enthusiasm contagious.

"You're not going to grow a beard once you become a professor, are you?" Draco asked through a mouthful of pasta.

"If I say no, does that mean I'll get lucky tonight?" Harry asked cheekily.

"Hmm, you might," Draco answered, damning himself for blushing. Harry grinned at him from across the table. "Emilia's staying with Bill, Fleur and Victoire until Sunday anyway, so she won't miss us at all."

---

They ate their meal and enjoyed each other's company while they discussed Draco's plans for the Manor and Harry's teaching plans. It was past eleven o'clock when they finally left the restaurant. As they were walking the few blocks back to Grimmauld Place, Harry's hand found Draco's. They both enjoyed the closeness they felt just by walking hand-in-hand through the dark streets.

"Are we good, Draco?" Harry suddenly asked, a rare tone of insecurity in his voice.

Draco stopped and looked at Harry, then he smiled.

"We're getting there, Harry."

 

THE END

Author's note: That's it then, I hope you all enjoyed the last chapter. Thanks to all that have read and commented. A special thanks to Starryskies and Rawr, who have sometimes been my personal Wailing Wall through this, love you. Through this story I've been able to address my one big complaint about the books. The way Harry is treated as a child and teenager can best be described as a tragedy. The fact is that he's abused, neglected and exploited. I don't buy the feeble excuse that's given, that it's for his own protection. Protection from what? Sanity? In reality, nobody would come through everything that Harry did unscathed. I can only hope I did the issue justice. And I know some people don't think Draco should've forgiven Harry, because they think there's no excuse for cheating, ever. I wish the world was that black and white, but it's just not. And I didn't take the easy way out, trust me. Rebuilding a marriage that's been sullied by infidelity is actually sometimes harder than a divorce. And at the end of the day, here on Hex Files, Harry and Draco belong together.