Prompt Number: 17
Title: Come Back to Me
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione
Summary:Lily Malfoy-Potter could ask Father Christmas many things: a beautiful doll with glittering pink and purple robes, a stuffed kneazle just like her cousin Rose’s or even a colour-changing diadem like the princesses in the bedtime stories her Papa tells her.But she won’t. No, this year, she will only ask for one thing: for her Papa and Daddy to get back together and be happy again.She just can’t wait.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Explicit sex, bad language
Epilogue compliant? No.
Word Count: ~28k
Author's Notes: Dear Drarryxlover, I think I have respected what you wanted in your prompt and I really hope you will like it!
I have been listening to many songs during the writing of this fic, among them Everybody Hurts Sometimes (REM), Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word (Elton John), Still Loving You (Scorpions), It’s a Heartache (Bonnie Tyler) and Unchained Melody (Righteous Brothers). A huge, immense thank you to my betas and pre-readers C, L and I for their patience and precious advice!
Come Back to Me
Three very simple words.
They hit Harry hard and make him freeze on the spot, as he slowly lets them penetrate his fogged brain.
I want out.
Out of Harry's life.
"Harry?" Draco's voice makes him realise he has been staring into the void for a long time.
Finally, he swallows hard and asks in a raspy voice. "What- what do you mean?" He knows perfectly well what Draco means, but you never know. There's a slight chance it won't mean what he thinks it does. A small part of his brain still wants to believe that Draco will smile his gorgeous smile at him and say, "Just kidding, I love you!" and come and hold him tight.
But of course, it doesn't work like that. Draco's words are cold, devoid of any warmth, as once again they hit Harry in the face.
"I want out. I just can't do this anymore. It's killing me. Hell, it's killing us. We're hurting each other. It has to stop."
Still Harry doesn't move. He can't say anything. He just stands there, his mind blank, completely numb, and lets the words lash at him with the force of doom and the desperate feeling of having lost a limb. Only worse. Much worse. Because one could adapt to losing a limb. Harry isn't sure he can live without Draco.
Draco scrutinises him for a while, but Harry is already far away. In some place where nobody can hurt him. He's retreated into himself, and tries hard not to think, not to let the words touch him. But of course they do.
Draco sighs a heavy sigh and leaves the room.
He comes back a while later to find Harry still sitting on the same spot on the couch, in the same position, although now night has fallen and Harry sits in the dark.
Draco flicks his wand to shut the curtains and bring some light to the room. He then sits next to Harry. He knows he has hurt him, but he had no choice.
He just couldn't go on like that.
"Daddy, where is Papa going?" Lily looks up at him, tugging at his sleeve, and his heart sinks. It seems to happen quite a lot lately. The decision is only a few days old, but Draco is already on the go. Harry has watched him pack a few belongings in a couple of boxes, his heart growing heavier with every thud a familiar object made as it hit the cardboard.
"I'm going to stay at the Manor for a while, with your grandmother, but you'll come and visit me there, Lily," Draco patiently explains again. Harry remains unable to utter a single word in what used to be their living room. Which is now only Harry's, apparently. It hurts too much. Not only is this tearing his heart and soul apart, but it's also affecting Lily. Their beautiful, smart, incredibly sweet daughter. The living evidence that there has been tremendous love between them at one point. Because there has been, and there probably still is. Harry needs to believe it anyway.
"But- why? Why do you have to leave our house? You don't like it anymore?" Lily insists, and Harry's heart clenches painfully.
Draco sighs and looks up at Harry, trying to get him to help, before turning to his daughter again. "Yes, I do, Lily, very much so."
Draco drops the box he is still holding onto the armchair and gets down on his knees so that he is at eye-level with their precious little girl, patiently answering questions they have been through at least a thousand times already.
"Well, Lily, you see, your Daddy and I no longer get on very much, we fight a lot and we make each other unhappy, so we've decided to live apart for a while. But we both love you very much, my angel," he says as he takes her in his arms and holds her tight. But the little girl pushes him away, an accusing look in her eyes.
"I don't understand. Why you don't want to live with me anymore if you love me like you said?" Draco makes a weird sound deep in his throat, and desperately looks up at Harry again.
Harry finally finds it in him to speak. For his daughter. For their daughter. He reaches far inside himself.
"Lily, your Papa and I will always, always, no matter what, love you very, very much. And don't think that just because we won't-" he closes his eyes briefly to regain his composure- "we won't be living under the same roof that this will change, because it won't. Never ever, Lily. Do you understand that?" he manages to say.
"So I will have two homes, now?"
"Well, your Daddy will live here, and I will live at the Manor for a while, and you will come and see me there as often as you want, Lily. And we'll play with the peacocks in the garden," Draco promises with a smile. The smile that had melted Harry's heart the first time he had seen it on Draco's face. At that time, he didn't even know Draco could smile. But then Harry had said something, he can't even remember what, and Draco had smiled this incredibly gorgeous smile of his, and Harry had known at that precise moment that he was lost.
Lily doesn't speak anymore, and just looks at them intensely. Her big blue-green eyes first fix on Draco, her stuffed hippogriff held tight against her chest, before diverting her gaze to Harry. Merlin, how can they do that to her? Their beautiful, generous, full of life daughter will never be exactly the same again after this. Harry knows it deep inside. He knows she is not the only one seeing her parents falling apart and she certainly won't be the last, but still, the taste of failure is very bitter on his tongue.
"I love you, Lily, never forget it," Draco finally says. "And I'll always be there for you, no matter what." And he kisses her on her forehead, before taking his box with him, and stepping into the fireplace. Harry stares at the empty hearth for a while after Draco has gone, Lily by his side, before feeling a tiny hand reaching for his and enveloping him with its warmth.
"Okay, what do you suggest? You're the one who caused this situation, so I hope you have at least thought things through," Harry seethes that night, once Lily is fast asleep in her bedroom, and hopefully doesn't hear a word they say.
He is so angry. Here they are in their living-room, discussing the practical points of their separation. It is one thing for Draco to want to break up with Harry, but it's not just the two of them, there is Lily to take into consideration. Harry doesn't want her to be more affected by the whole thing that she already is. It breaks his heart, it really does. He can deal with his love life going to waste, but it's hard to see his family fall to pieces.
"Of course I have, what do you think?" Draco snaps.
God, it is so hard! Times like these make everything uglier. It makes all the worst personality traits of people resurface. It's hard for him to see the Draco he fell madly in love with in the man that is currently facing him, his beautiful face distorted by anger and incomprehension. Harry knows he is somewhere underneath the surface, behind the walls Draco has built up incredibly quickly as a defence, but it's still hard. It's as if nothing had ever happened between them in all those years. Back to the very beginning.
"Right, I'm listening," and Harry goes and sits on their sofa. The beige, incredibly comfortable leather sofa they have chosen together, a long, long time ago.
Draco is standing by the fireplace, sipping his tea absentmindedly. He puts his mug on the mantelpiece, looks deep into Harry's eyes and finally says, "Okay. I was thinking that, since you're barely here during the week and you have this crazy schedule of yours, I could maybe have Lily stay in the manor on weekdays, and-"
"What? No fucking way!"
"NO! You're the one who got us in this situation, and now you're telling me you want to have Lily during the week? Like in the whole five days?"
"Harry, please listen to me!"
Harry sends him a dark look, and wants so bad to shake Draco hard and shout at him. But he knows better and just sits there, arms folded and a look of defiance on his face while Draco continues. "Seriously, how do you think you'll be able to take Lily to school every day and come and pick her up on time?"
Harry flinches. Shit, Draco is right. There is no way he could be there to take Lily to and back from school. No way at all. But still. There must be a solution!
"I could have someone do that for me?" he suggests weakly.
"Oh, come on, Harry! Why would you have someone else while I could do it, like I always do?"
"Right," Harry concedes.
They remain silent for a while, both lost in their thoughts, as Draco sips his tea. Finally, Harry speaks again. "The more I think about it, the more I think it best for Lily to stay here. I don't want her to go and live in the manor, that's absolutely not fair to her. I think," he adds hastily, preventing Draco from stepping in at this point, "I think it would be better for her to stay in her familiar environment, and that we both adjust around that."
Draco looks at him blankly, and Harry knows his words have hit home. "Okay," he finally says, and Harry lets out a deep breath, waiting for the rest. "You're right. It's better for her to stay here. However," Draco flicks his tongue and rapidly passes it over his bottom lip, "We still have to take her to school and pick her up. So what I suggest is that I take care of that, like I always do." He pauses, looking at Harry who has raised an eyebrow but is letting Draco continue. "I'll stay at the manor and come to look after her before you leave in the morning, and then go and pick her up from school, come back here, put her to bed and stay with her until you come home. After that, I'll leave you two alone for the night. Does that sound reasonable to you?"
Harry sighs. "Yeah, I think that's much more reasonable. That way, Lily can stay in her familiar environment, and not be too disturbed."
For the first time, realisation that this is indeed happening, that they are breaking up, suddenly dawns on him and hits him hard. Fucking hard. Draco really means it. He really does want out of their relationship. They are over. There is no longer Draco and Harry, he is single now, and so is Draco. And suddenly another thought surfaces, one that hurts Harry even more than the rest, that scares him shitless and makes his stomach churn.
"Is there someone else?" he asks in a breath, more calmly than he would have thought himself capable of. His hands are shaking though.
Draco looks slightly amused by the question and raises an eyebrow. Harry knows this expression on his lover – ex-lover – too well. He is trying to find the right words and not let on too much about what is really going on in his head.
"No, there isn't. I'm not leaving you because I've met somebody else. I'm leaving you because this relationship isn't working anymore, and this is not the life that I want."
Harry lets out a sigh of relief. Because no matter what, the idea of someone else putting their hands on HIS Draco – well, yes, he doesn't care what Draco thinks, he is still Harry's, at least for now – kissing the sweet full lips of HIS Draco, and making love to HIS Draco, makes him shiver.
"But what is it that you want? Do you at least know?" Harry asks defiantly. He can feel the blood coursing right under his skin as he tries very hard to remain calm. Draco comes and sits in the armchair facing Harry, and looks deep in his eyes.
"I don't know," he says, "I'm not sure precisely what it is I want from life at the moment. All I know is that this isn't working anymore, and I need time to think things through," he pauses, and looks up at Harry. "I need time away from you, Harry, to sort things out. And in the meantime, I want to do what's best for Lily. I love her so much, and believe me, that last thing I want to do is hurt her." Harry lets out a little nervous laugh. "Oh, for fuck's sake, Harry, don't you dare go there. You know we're not working anymore, and that we haven't for months, and yet, I'm the bad guy for taking this decision? You could at least acknowledge the fact that I'm trying to do something, not just sit there and watch our relationship deteriorate until there is nothing left to save anymore!"
"Right," Harry says.
"So, do we agree on the fact that I'll take care of Lily, and take her to and from school every day?" Draco asks.
"Yeah… but what about the weekends?"
"You have her every second weekend. Lily spends one weekend here, and the next at the Manor."
"Right, that's settled then," he sighs again. "I'm off to bed," and he bites his tongue as he is just about to add, are you coming?
But of course, Draco won't come to bed with him. Not tonight, not the following night, not even the night after.
"See you tomorrow morning then," Draco says, stepping into the fire, and grabbing a handful of Floo powder. Harry turns the lights off with a flick of his wand, and is already on the stairs when he hears Draco say 'Malfoy Manor.'
The following days pass in a blur. Harry's brain is in denial, and he jumps whenever he hears a sound somewhere in the house. He expects to see Draco everywhere he goes. Every single piece of furniture, object, or small noise is a reminder of a life that was once full of joy and deep love. The sofa by the fireplace where they had passionate discussions, sometimes late in the night. The kitchen where they would meet after a long day at work. Or the dining table, the first piece of furniture they had christened the day they had moved in together, having been too impatient to get to the bed.
But these days are gone. Harry has to get on with his life, his new life without Draco and it's hard. It's fucking hard. The first few days, whenever Harry makes tea, he takes out two cups, before realising that things don't go in twos anymore in his life. But reality slowly sinks in, whenever he goes to bed and it's empty and cold. For some reason, he now sleeps on Draco's side, on his pillow, trying to catch the fading scent of the man he is still so deeply in love with, it drives him crazy.
The news of their separation spread incredibly fast. Despite all their efforts to keep things normal, people start noticing things aren't quite right, and ask questions. Eventually everybody knows, and it makes things even harder, more real. And of course, everybody has an opinion on the matter, and they are very eager to share it with Harry, as if he could care about what they think of it.
And so, every time Harry meets people, he braces himself for the inevitable pat on the shoulder, the sympathetic glances, and the bland phrases of "there's plenty more fish in the sea." Harry knows people mean well, but it drives him crazy because his insides burn with the knowledge that no matter how plenty more fish there are out there, Draco is - and will remain - his one and only love.
His friends are, obviously, very supportive, and he hates to see the worry he causes them. They surround him, force him to go out, and take turns to keep him company. But it doesn't help at all, because he can see Ron and Hermione are trying hard not to display their affection in front of him, and it hurts to realise that no matter what, years of complicity and love radiate from them.
And then, he tries to move on.
Harry hadn't intended on resuming his studies after the war. He wanted to move on, and going back to the castle where so much had happened seemed too hard. But in the end, he had changed his mind. As much as he wanted to become an Auror, he hated the idea of receiving special treatment for it and being accepted in the corps without his NEWTs. So that's why he had gone back, after making sure Ron and Hermione would come along as well. He couldn't see himself back without his two best friends by his side.
Eighth year had ended up being rather eye-opening on many levels. He discovered a passion for Potions. As weird as it sounds, when you think about how he hated them when Snape had been their teacher, he now found them quite fascinating. Perhaps Slughorn's approach had finally helped him realise that the subject was indeed worthy of attention, but Harry doubted it. His sudden passion for Potions had probably more to do with the fact that he had been randomly paired with a certain blond Slytherin for the year, and the fact that, along with potions, he had also discovered an unexpected interest for boys, and one aristocratic pointy git in particular.
The moment that was to change their lives altogether happened on a cloudy day of November as they were fighting again. They had started very well with a good choice of insults and spiteful words.
"Such a filthy mouth, Potter, you should be ashamed of yourself! I can't believe your mummy raised you like that! Oh no, wait a minute, she didn't! She was too busy being dead!"
"Well I'd rather be raised by a whole bunch of Flobberworms than by a pathetic loser who will spend the rest of his days rotting in Azkaban!"
Draco had then launched himself at Harry and they had fought. A proper fight. With fists, kicks, and even hair-pulling, like girls. They had ended up rolling on the floor, until Harry was pinning Draco's wrists on the cold stone floor, his whole body flush against Draco's. Draco had not relented one second, narrowing his eyes in defiance, panting hard and Harry had tightened his grip. And then, out of nowhere, a slight movement of his hips on Malfoy's firm body had sealed their destiny. The second after, they were snogging like mad and rubbing hard against each other. They had snogged just like they had fought: with intensity, biting lips and banging teeth, neither wanting to concede an inch of power to the other.
Of course, it had not been simple for Harry to, one, acknowledge the fact that he was gay, and two, that he was falling for the biggest prat ever. It had taken time for them to get over their past. At first, they couldn't stop fighting and bickering, like they had always done. It was familiar territory, and Harry realised he quite enjoyed being rubbed the wrong way by Draco – only Draco could get under his skin like that, not that he would have admitted that out loud.
After their NEWTs - and a blissful few months spent in Draco's arms - they had decided to move in together. The revelation of their relationship to the public had been chaotic, to say the least. On a general basis, people resented Harry for dating an ex-Death Eater, and Draco was often insulted or even hexed whenever he left their house in Diagon Alley and ventured outside.
Their families – because no matter what, the Weasleys were definitely Harry's family now – had been quite reluctant to accept their relationship as well. But as the months passed, both sides had to admit the two boys were pretty serious about each other, and when they had moved in together everybody had finally understood that this was no fling, but that their explosive relationship was somehow pretty strong. From then on, their families had been quite supportive.
It was particularly true of Draco's mother. The pain of losing her husband a few months after the war, while Draco was still at Hogwarts, had made her reconsider her priorities in life, and she had been really grateful that Harry was in her son's life during that very painful time.
Over the years, the two men managed to make their relationship stronger, and once Harry had finally entered the Auror corps after his intense three-year training, they had talked about starting a family.
There weren't many options for two males who wanted to become fathers, even as wizards, so they turned to adoption. The procedures to adopt a baby in the Wizarding world weren't much different from the Muggle way, Harry discovered after a bit of research, and it took them years to navigate through a rather complicated system before finally being allowed to adopt their little girl. By the time Lily entered their life, they had been together for six years, and had had time to mature their desire for a child as a couple.
Harry would never forget the very first time they had met their daughter. Even now, he couldn't describe the feelings that assailed him when he first held her in his arms. She was only a couple of hours old and so tiny. She looked so fragile and vulnerable that Harry was afraid of hurting her just by holding her in his arms. He still remembers the look Draco and he had exchanged at the sight of their beautiful baby, as they realised their lives would never be the same from then on.
The choice of their daughter's name had been an obvious one to them. They both wanted to honour their mothers. And so, Lily Narcissa, their beautiful flower, settled into their life.
Their first few years were full of joy and daily discoveries, although raising a child had proven much more difficult than Harry was ready to admit and they had had their share of sleepless nights and helpless moments. But they had managed, and Harry is incredibly proud now to see how their little girl has grown in those five years. He often wonders what the hell they used to do with their lives before she was born. He couldn't imagine his life without her now. But the same had been true of Draco, and yet here they were today.
"My son is an idiot."
Harry exhales sharply at the statement. He certainly doesn't expect to find Narcissa Malfoy, of all people, in his kitchen on a Saturday morning at the end of November, as he managed to drag himself down the stairs in Draco's old pyjama bottoms and a shapeless faded old tee shirt, his hair even messier than usual.
He raises an eyebrow and considers his mother-in-law, shit, EX-mother-in-law, for a while, before coming back to his senses enough to offer her tea.
"How is Lily?"
"She's fine. Draco and she have gone to feed the peacocks," Narcissa answers with a shy smile.
Harry puts the water to boil, takes out two (two!) mugs from the kitchen cabinet, throws a tea bag in each one of them, and finally turns around, facing Narcissa. He waits patiently by the kettle, leaning on the counter, arms folded on his chest.
"I mean it, Harry, he is an idiot to leave you like that. He loves you, I know he does, it's written all over his face, but he's too proud to say so." She looks deep in his eyes, and shit, it's hard. The kettle boils, making him jump a little, and he swiftly turns to pour the scalding water into the mugs, taking advantage of it to try and keep the tears at bay. He won't cry, not in front of her.
"Thank you," she says, as he hands her the mug and comes to sit across the table from her. "Harry, what happened?" she asks in a soft voice, her hands clutching the mug tightly.
Is that why you're here? To know what happened? Well, you really should ask him then. That's the answer that instantly comes to mind. But he can't talk to her like that. She has nothing to do with Draco's decision.
"It's- It's complicated," he sighs, mirroring her and cupping his mug to try and get some comfort out of the warmth. "We were fighting like we always do and I don't know. It wasn't any different; this has always been our way to communicate. But this time, he just- I don't know, he snapped and decided to call it quits," he finally says.
She looks at him intently, as if searching for the right words. "Well, all I can tell you is that he's not happy. He misses you dearly." She pauses, playing with the little tea bag before finally taking it out and discarding it on a small plate Harry has placed in between them. "Harry, when you first started dating my son, I- I didn't like it because I was scared you weren't serious and honest with your feelings." The look on his face must have shown his surprise. "Yes, Harry, that's what I thought. Draco had already been hurt so much during the war and right after when his father" -she took a deep breath, "when his father died, that I didn't want him to hurt any more than he already had. But then- then I saw what you did to him, how happy you were making him, and how much you knew him and cared for him. He's a different man now, much more confident, more open with others, happier. And it's all thanks to you."
"And yet, he's decided to leave me," Harry says bitterly.
"I'm sure he'll come around eventually. You know my son, he's stubborn and proud, and when he decides something doesn't quite work the way he wants it to, he makes sharp decisions and it's hard to make him see reason. But there's hope, Harry. If you want Draco back," she pauses, looking at him deep.
"I do, I really do," he sighs.
"Well, don't give up on him. He'll come around in the end, I'm sure."
When Draco and Harry decided to move in together right after their NEWTs, they had immediately discarded Harry's house at 12, Grimmauld Place as they wanted something that wasn't steeped in dark history. Harry had kept it though, even if they never intended to live in there at all.
So they had started house hunting. They wanted somewhere quiet, preferably in the Muggle part of London, even though Draco hadn't been completely comfortable with the idea at first. In the end, in light of the Wizarding community's reaction to them as a couple, he had reluctantly admitted that it might be a good idea.
They had visited many houses and flats, but there always seemed to be something the matter with them: the places were either too small, or too big, or not receptive enough to magic of any kind, which was a problem when one was supposed to ward the place. They had almost given up, when on a bright Saturday morning in July, as they were shopping in Diagon Alley, a sign caught their attention.
At the far end of the alley, right next to Ollivander's recently reopened wand shop, stood a tiny, slightly twisted house, that was apparently for sale. They stood in front of it for a while without talking, before Harry felt Draco take his hand and squeeze it gently. They looked at each other and didn't need to speak to know this was exactly what they were looking for. They smiled at each other, and contacted the proprietor right away.
If the outside of the house looked tiny, the interior was rather spacious. The front door opened to a long corridor, with a wooden staircase at the far end. On the left were two doors; the first one led to the living-room, with a fireplace on the opposite wall, while the second one led to a kitchen big enough to hold a huge dining table.
Under the stairs was a tiny door, that wasn't – as Harry had feared – a small cupboard, but led to a small stone staircase going down to a rather large basement.
On the first floor were two spacious bedrooms and a bathroom, and under the roof on the second floor, were two more small bedrooms.
Draco and Harry instantly fell in love with it. It wasn't flawless, it was shabby even, having been unoccupied for years, but it was homely. Since it was located at the very far end of Diagon Alley, very few people wandered by and it was a fairly tranquil spot. So they had the peace and quiet they wanted while being in the very heart of Wizarding London and not too far from the Ministry of Magic for Harry.
It was their dream house.
It was perfect.
They had spent the rest of the summer happily restoring and decorating it, and by the time Draco had started his apprenticeship and Harry his Auror training, it had become their love nest, the place they were very happy to come to after a day of work, curling together in front of the fireplace, quietly sipping their tea.
"Daddy, can we have ice-cream?" Lily asks in her tiny little voice. Harry crouches in front of her to place her woolly hat firmly on her long fair hair, fastening her purple scarf around her neck. He checks on her mittens.
"I don't see why not," Harry replies with a smile.
As they open the front door, they are assailed by the colourful lights and Christmassy decorations scattered all over the little street. The light snow that is now falling adds a festive look to the scene. The tiny alley is surprisingly not too busy for once, and they manage to navigate through it, Lily talking non-stop, commenting on each and every decorated shop-front. At the very far end of the alley, right by the apothecary, stands the gigantic and beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
Harry feels Lily tug at his coat's sleeve. "Daddy! Daddy! Can we go and look at the tree? Please, Daddy, please!" she bounces excitedly.
"Well, I thought you wanted an ice-cream?" he frowns, pretending to be slightly confused.
"Oh!" In her excitement, Lily seems to have forgotten all about the ice-cream. But then her face lights up again. "That's okay! We can have ice-cream and take a closer look at the Christmas tree after! Oh, please, Daddy, please say yes!" she beams, and Harry can't hold up a smile, his daughter's happiness warming his heart so much he almost forgets the rest. Almost.
"Okay, let's do that, then."
They resume their walk, pass the entrance to Knockturn Alley, and soon reach Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour. Harry had loved the place when he was younger. Mr Fortescue had always been very nice to him, and Harry had been happy to learn his son had reopened the little shop after his father's death. Despite the biting cold, Harry is surprised to see the place is packed. They push the front door and a little bell chimes.
The place is warm and welcoming, Christmas songs playing softly in the background. An impressive display of colourful ice-creams with many different flavours runs along the right-hand-side of the shop.
"Look, Daddy! Chocolate Frog flavour! Oh! And candy cane flavour, look, Daddy, look!"
The little girl's eyes jump from ice-cream to ice-cream. When it's finally their turn, Harry opts for a chocolate and raspberry ice-cream, his long-time favourite, while Lily chooses a rather odd combination of candy cane and white chocolate.
They settle on a small round table. Soon, Lily's face is all covered in ice-cream, and Harry smiles. He's really enjoying this little outing with his daughter. His face drops as he realises he cannot remember the last time he has done something like that with her. They live right there on Diagon Alley, and yet, he never joined her and Draco whenever they went out. He always had more important or urgent things to do.
Lily seems to read his mind. "I like it when we do that. Can we do it more often?" her big blue-green eyes wide open.
He looks at her, her beautiful round face expectant, and answers softly, "of course, Lily, we will!"
Her face lights up, and she resumes eating, no, devouring her ice-cream. When they're all done, Harry performs a couple of cleansing charms on both Lily's face and hands, and they finally leave the little shop.
After a while, they finally reach their destination. Harry has to admit that the elves have outdone themselves this year. The tree is magnificent, and even he has difficulties in diverting his gaze from it.
It is huge. Bigger than the tallest shop in Diagon Alley. Gilded garlands, glowing baubles, glittery ornaments in every shade available, and hundreds and hundreds of colourful lights, everything is simply beautiful, breath-taking. The tree is topped by an enormous, incredibly bright star, which must have been spelled to shine so much.
Lily's eyes wander from branch to branch, her mouth and eyes wide-open, as she is oddly quiet for once.
After a while, they decide to go home. When they arrive, Harry prepares a steamy hot chocolate for the two of them. Lily is still awkwardly silent, and Harry starts to worry he has done or said something wrong.
"Are you okay, Lily?"
She jumps a little at the sound of his voice.
"I was thinking about Papa," she answers sadly, her eyes on the cup in front of her.
Harry's heart clenches painfully. Shit. What can he answer to that?
"Well, I'm sure your Papa is thinking about you too."
"Yes, but he's not here. I wish he was here with us. Why is he not here with us?"
Harry sighs. No matter how many times they explained it to her, she still doesn't understand. And to be honest, neither does he.
"Because he needs time to think about important things, that's why."
"I hate him."
Merlin. Harry considers her for a moment. "Lily, your Papa loves you very much, and whatever he does, he always thinks about you, no matter what!"
He can see tears forming in her determined eyes. Oh God.
"Oh, Lily, no, don't cry, honey!" He kneels next to her, brushing a strand of hair away from her face, and rubs his thumbs on her cheeks to erase the tears. He hugs her tight, his head resting on her frail shoulder, but she forcefully shoves him away, jumps from her chair, and storms out of the kitchen.
"I hate you, both of you, I hate you!" she yells as she climbs the stairs. Harry hears her bedroom door slam shut and he sighs heavily.
He closes his eyes.
Merlin, they really have fucked up.
As soon as she enters her room, Lily grabs Zoe, her stuffed hippogriff, and lies down on her bed. She didn't really mean the words she told her Daddy. But she is very sad. It hurts to see her Daddy and Papa apart.
She remembers the bright decorations and the enormous Christmas tree down in Diagon Alley. Christmas has always been wonderful, a beautiful moment spent with her family. She sighs. Is she going to spend Christmas with both her fathers? Or will they have to be separated again, even on this special day?
And that's when she realises there might be something she can do. Something to bring her fathers back together. Yes, of course! How come she hasn't thought about that before?
Excited, she jumps off her bed and gets straight to work. She grabs a piece of paper from the stationery set her Aunt Hermione gave her on her last birthday, and starts writing.
'deer fader chrismas,' she pauses, her pencil in her mouth, thinking hard about what she wants to say next. She needs to get this right.
She could ask for many things. There's this beautiful doll with glittering pink and purple robes she has just seen during her walk with her Daddy. Or a stuffed kneazle, just like her cousin Rose's, the one that was so soft under her fingers the last time she was over at the Weasley's.
But no. Things like that – mere toys – are for babies. And Lily is five now, she's no longer a baby. And she knows she cannot ask for too many things if Father Christmas is to bring her what she really wants.
And what she wants is simple. It cannot be found in shops. She sighs dramatically, and gets back to work, carefully forming each letter, making sure she's doing it right.
It takes her a while to write the three sentences, but when she's finished, she proudly looks at her letter and smiles.
'deer fader chrismas,
for chrismas, I only wont my daddy and papa hapi togeder agen.
Im not a baby, so no toys, just daddy and papa and me.
pleese, I will be a good girl, I promiss.
Lily Narcissa Malfoy-Potter'
Lily reads the letter again and, satisfied, folds it in two, her tiny tongue poking through her lips. She then grabs the envelope and places the letter inside, before carefully writing: to: fader chrismas, nors pole on it.
She then gets up from her chair, clutching her letter in one hand, her stuffed hippogriff in the other, before leaving her room and heading downstairs.
Harry is cooking when Lily finally comes down from her room. Spaghetti and meatballs, her favourite meal, a pathetic attempt to soothe her somewhat. It's been a while since he has cooked. It is always Draco who cooks for them now. Shit. Who used to anyway. Harry has been way too busy lately to spend time in the kitchen.
He turns around to greet her, and is relieved to see she doesn't seem as angry as she was earlier on.
"Are you all right, Lily?" he asks, switching off the cooker and wiping his hands on the nearest tea towel, before walking to her and kneeling in front of her, reaching to take her tiny hands in his.
"Yes," she answers, gazing up in his eyes. She does look better, but still doesn't smile.
"Good. Listen, Lily," he takes a deep breath before going on, "I know you're upset, and I can't blame you for that. These are pretty tough times for the family, for everyone, really, and it's normal to feel… unsettled by what is going on." She listens to him intently, her head slightly tilted on the left, just like Draco does in the same situations. Funny as, even though Lily has been adopted, she still has taken from both her fathers in terms of attitude and personality.
"And I'm glad you can express your feelings, but-"
"Can you post this for me, please Daddy?"
Harry takes a look at a crumpled pink envelope Lily is holding tight. So long for the responsible father speech.
"Sure, Lily, what is it?"
"It's my letter for Father Christmas. It's very important, Daddy, can you please send it now, please, Daddy, please?"
Harry smiles at his beautiful daughter.
"Of course, Lily, I'll owl it as soon as possible, okay?" He holds his hand out to grab the letter, but Lily frowns.
"Why don't you send it now?"
"Because right now, I'm busy cooking for you, but I promise I'll send it very quickly, okay?"
Lily seems to think hard about the whole thing, and finally hands her letter to Harry, who takes it and sticks it in his back pocket.
"Are we gonna be together for Christmas?" she says. His question disconcerts him. They haven't even thought about that. But it definitely is a good one.
"I don't know about that yet, Lily," he says, squeezing her hands, "I need to discuss this with your Papa."
"Well, I hope we will. 'Cos I don't want to have Christmas at all if we're not together." She withdraws her hands from his, and folds her arms on her chest. Her look is dark, and her face determined.
"Right, I can't promise you anything, Lily, since I still need to talk with your Papa about it, but I hope we will be able to work out something by then. Okay?"
She nods, and her beautiful face suddenly softens. She seems to hesitate before unfolding her arms, and placing them around Harry's neck. He closes his eyes, gently rubbing her back. She rests her cheek on his shoulder, before finally saying softly, "You know, Daddy, I don't really hate you and Papa."
Harry smiles and murmurs, "I know, sweetie, it's all right, okay? Let's not talk about that anymore. Now what about we sit down and eat the spaghetti, before they get cold?"
That night, after Lily has gone to bed, Harry lies all alone in his empty bed, in his empty room, and it's a long time before he is able to fall asleep.
"Ready?" Draco asks, and Lily nods, lying silently under her covers, her tiny plump hands resting on top of the blankets, a very serious look on her face. Draco loves the way Lily's beautiful turquoise eyes wander on the wall facing her bed, as he starts reading her bedtime story, and she focuses on what he tells her. It has always been their special moment; Harry never managed to make it home in time to read Lily her bedtime story. Draco loves it: it is his favourite part of the day. He revels in it, and tonight is no exception. He sits on the edge of the bed, opens the book, and starts reading.
"'The Brightest Star,' " Draco starts.
"Is that the title?" Lily asks with her cute high-pitched voice, casting him a sideway glance.
"Yes, sweetie, that's the title," Draco smiles. Lily always likes to comment on the stories he reads her. He has picked this one because he knows she likes princes and princesses' stories. "'Once upon a time,' " he goes on, 'there was a prince, who was always feeling sad.''
"Like Daddy?" Lily asks, and Draco winces.
He puts the book down on his lap and turns to Lily who gazes back at him, an expectant look on her face. "You think your Daddy always feels sad?"
"Yes, he never smiles anymore," she states very seriously.
Draco ponders that for a second, choosing his words carefully. "Well, you know, sometimes grown-ups have things on their mind and are very serious about them, and that makes them look sad. But you shouldn't worry about your Daddy, he's going to be fine."
"Okay… go on," she presses him.
"What's the word?"
She sighs dramatically. "Please, Papa!"
"Right, now where was I? Oh yes. 'The prince was living in a Magnificent castle, surrounded by very fertile lands amongst which stood the most beautiful garden one had ever seen: thousands of flowers, trees and neatly-trimmed bushes were elegantly scattered in each and every corner of it. If one would venture in the forest beyond the garden, one would no doubt encounter the most fascinating creatures ever. The castle itself was grandiose. It had four hundred rooms-'"
"Four hundred? That's a lot!" Lily exclaims and starts counting on her fingers, her tiny hands all spread out in front of her, a frown soon forming on her serious face as she focuses on the task.
"You're right, that is a huge castle."
"It's bigger than the manor, then?" she asks again, intrigued.
"Oh, yes, it's definitely bigger! There aren't four hundred rooms in the manor!"
"I don't know," Draco thinks about it for a second. That's one thing he loves about children: they always seem to ask questions no adult would even consider. "You'll have to ask your grandmother, or count them yourself."
"Can we do that tomorrow, Papa?"
"Well, we'll see. Shall I continue?"
"Yes, Papa, carry on," Lily says, her small hands back on the blanket.
"''It had four hundred rooms, all sumptuously decorated. There also was a gigantic ballroom with an enormous crystal chandelier in the middle. The grand staircase facing the main entrance was delicately adorned. But despite living in this beautiful castle, the Prince wasn't happy. He wasn't happy, because while his castle was magnificent-' "
"What's magsificent?" Lily interrupted again.
"What does it mean? It means beautiful."
"Okay, go on."
Draco smiles. "'While his castle was magnificent, grandly decorated, and with amazing colours, the prince's life was all black and white.' "
"How could his life be black and white?"
Draco starts to think he should have picked another story. "It's an image, Lily, it's not for real. It just means that his life was so sad and lonely, that he didn't really pay attention to the colours, and all the beautiful things around him, because he was unhappy."
Draco quickly goes on, afraid of being interrupted again. "'He couldn't see the beauty surrounding him, because love was missing from his life, and he felt very lonely.' "
"Is Daddy lonely? I know you're not, because you've got Grandmother, but what about Daddy? Is Daddy lonely now you don't live here anymore?"
Merlin, Lily is not going to make things simple for him! He takes a deep breath, and finally answers. "Well, yes, I guess he is, when you're not with him." Nothing but the truth.
"I don't want him to be lonely."
"I know," Draco sighs, reaching out to brush back a strand of hair from her face, before going on. 'So he went to see an old wise witch, who told him that to get what he wanted, he needed to find the Brightest Star and make a wish to make his dream come true. The Brightest Star, she said, had the power to grant any wish,'" Lily was listening intently now, finally lost in the story.
'So the prince went on a long journey to try and find the Brightest Star, but his expedition was long and perilous. He travelled for years on end without ever finding it,'" Draco lifts his eyes from the book and looks at his daughter, she's so beautiful!
"Papa! Don't stop!"
He laughs. "Right. 'He was ready to give up, when finally, on Christmas Eve, he met a beautiful princess and fell deeply in love with her. He looked at her, but she couldn't see him. He touched her, but she couldn't feel him. He talked to her, but she couldn't hear him. The prince was once again in deep sorrow. He realised that the weight of his sad and lonely life had rendered him invisible to her eyes.'
'Late at night, as he looked at the sky above desperate for his impossible love, something unusual happened. There was a brilliance among the darkness that soon grew bigger and bigger. That night, the Brightest Star finally revealed itself to him. He realised it had been there all along, all those years, but that he had never been able to see it because his heart had been too dark. Now that his heart had found love, and was not so cold anymore, he could finally see the Star and make his wish. So that night, he wished for the princess to see him.'
Lily is all ears, now, completely taken by the story.
'The next morning, it was Christmas Day and a thick layer of snow covered the ground. He mounted his white stallion and rode to the princess's castle. As soon as he arrived there, the princess looked at him and instantly fell madly in love with him. The Brightest Star had granted his wish. The prince took her for his wife, and his life wasn't black and white anymore, it was full of the colours of love. The prince and the princess had many children and lived happily ever after.' " And with the last sentence, Draco puts the book down.
"The end! You didn't say 'The end', Papa!" Lily says indignantly.
Draco chuckles. "The end. Now time to sleep, princess!"
"I'm not a princess! I'm a witch!"
"Right, time to sleep, my little witch-princess," he tickles her gently on her sides, making her wriggle and giggle. He leans over her and places a light kiss on her forehead, pulling up the covers right up under her chin and tucking her tightly.
"Good night, my angel, sweet dreams."
"Good night, Papa."
Draco walks out, making sure to leave the door slightly ajar as Lily could get scared in the complete darkness.
"Fuck, Harry, I'm trying to make an effort, here."
Lily blinks a few times, as she is slowly waking up from her slumber. She is in her bed, and it is still dark outside. It is not morning yet. She holds Zoe tight.
Oh! It's her Daddy's voice! Although he doesn't seem to be happy. He and Papa are talking a bit too loud. And Papa said a bad word. Which is not good. Bad words are bad. And why isn't her Daddy coming to kiss her good night?
"I'm listening," Harry says, looking already pretty tense.
Draco stands in their living-room, a hand on the mantelpiece, and takes a long look at Harry, who is sitting on their sofa, jaw clenched and arms crossed. Draco knows this isn't going to be easy, but they have to do it.
"Harry, first of all, I'm sorry for hurting you. You know I never meant to."
"And yet, you did," Harry snarls.
Draco sighs. "We couldn't go on like that, you know it. Like I told you the other day, we're hurting each other. Our relationship is slowly dying."
Harry opens his mouth to reply, but Draco doesn't let him. "Harry, please, let me say this, and then when I'm done I'll listen to you, okay?"
"Well, apparently I don't have much of a choice, do I?"
"Right. Go on."
Draco takes a deep breath. "Okay. You have changed. We have changed. We have slowly drifted apart. Your job- well, you spend a lot of time working, and less and less time with Lily and me-"
"That's not true!"
"Really? When was the last time we managed to spend more than a half hour just the three of us, without being interrupted by some emergency from the Auror Office?"
"But I am the Head of the Aurors, Draco! What did you expect?"
"I know that, we discussed it when Kingsley suggested you for the post. And at that time, you had assured me it wouldn't change anything, you remember?"
"Yeah, so what?"
"But it has! Since you've been appointed Head of the Auror Office last year, we barely even see you, Lily and I. And the rare moments you spend with us, well, you're not really with us."
"What do you mean?" Harry frowns.
"I mean that while you are indeed physically present, you're somewhere else in your head. You don't listen to us. You zone out and get distracted. So it's just as if you weren't here, really."
Harry doesn't answer right away. He simply glares at Draco. "So, I get it, all of this is my fault, because I'm conscientious with my job and want to do things well? That's rich coming from someone who barely knows what it is to have a job anymore."
Ouch. That hurts. Draco cringes. When attacked, Harry always reacts by attacking back. Draco knows that, but it still hurts. He narrows his eyes, and plants them firmly into Harry's, who has the decency to look a tiny bit sheepish. Harry knows it's a low blow, and a sore point for him.
"Well, you know perfectly well why I hardly work anymore these days. I chose to reduce my workload, to turn down important positions and sell my lab. I only installed my own in the basement here to be able to work from home and look after Lily."
Harry sighs. "I-"
"But that's all right, Harry, it's perfectly fine, because I don't regret it one second. It is true that sometimes I wish I could have a little bit more to do, because I love my job. But it was a choice, and anyway, one of us had to make some compromise to take care of Lily, and since obviously it wouldn't be you-"
"Right, I'm sorry, Draco, I shouldn't-"
"No, you're right, you shouldn't have," Draco replies coldly.
Harry sighs heavily, and covers his face with his hands, his elbows resting on his lap.
Draco goes on, feeling the anger building up inside of him. God, only Harry can ruffle his feathers like this! "Anyway, this is not the family life I wanted. I told you how it was when I was growing up, and you know I wanted something completely different for Lily. I want us to be a real family, to share moments together, and not to have a lover who comes home too late to even kiss his daughter good night, and who is too exhausted to even acknowledge my presence. I'm not a fucking piece of furniture!"
Harry slowly removes his hands from his face, a dangerous look in his eyes. A look Draco is only too familiar with. "Right, so this is basically all my fault? I'm the bad guy who's too selfish to consider his family's feelings? You're full of shit, Malfoy," Harry stands up, his face red with anger. Draco winces when Harry calls him by his surname, because he knows it's never a good sign.
"For fuck's sake, Harry, I'm trying to do the right thing, here! I just think we need a little bit of time on our own to figure things out! I can't do that while still living here with you. So that's why I left in the first place. But believe me, I certainly wouldn't be standing here talking to you if I thought it was too late and there was nothing left to do to save our family. So, please, let's just try to work things out, for everybody's sake!"
Harry looks at him and says nothing for a while. Draco sighs heavily, and comes to sit next to him. He refrains from touching him, however much he is dying to, because he knows it would send the wrong signal.
"Well, I've told you what I had to say, so it's your turn, now." And they unconsciously trade places, as Harry stands up and starts pacing the room.
Harry hates what Draco said. And he hates it all the more knowing there's a bit of truth in those words. Draco's right. He is barely even home anymore. But he has such a weight on his shoulders! After all, he is the youngest Head Auror in all the history of the Department. Failing is not an option.
Harry has always wanted to prove that he deserves what happens to him, that things aren't handed to him simply because he is Harry Potter, the Chosen One, the Saviour-of-the-Wizarding-World. He always has to be the one who works the hardest, who stays the latest, and who has eyes on everything. The result is that people rely on him for everything, and it is hard for him to delegate. And he realises he doesn't know how to say no.
So, yes, there is truth in what Draco says, because Draco is the person who knows him best. They have been together for eleven years now, and Harry is amazed and a little scared at how well Draco knows him. He seems to be able to read his mind sometimes. If he didn't know better, he would think his lover was a Legilimens.
But even so.
Yes, they have undeniably fallen apart over those last few months. No, they are not as physically close as they used to be. For one thing, it's harder to be spontaneous when there's a five year old wandering about the house and demanding attention. So, no more lovemaking on the dining table in the middle of the day. And it's also true he is exhausted and that when he comes home, all he wants to do is go to bed and sleep.
He blinks as he realises he hasn't spoken for a while and Draco is still patiently waiting for him to talk. He takes a deep breath, braces himself, and finally asks, "So, what is it you wanna do, then?"
Draco frowns. "What, you're not even going to say what you think of everything I've just told you?"
"Well- I-," he sighs, and resumes his pacing, nervously running his hand through his hair.
"Could you please stop doing that, Harry, you're making me even more nervous than I already am."
Harry stops and puts his hands in his pockets not to fidget so much.
"There might be a bit of truth in what you've just said," he finally admits.
Draco tries to hide his smile, but it's there somewhere. Harry chooses to ignore it.
"But I'm not the only one responsible for the situation. You've- somewhat you've managed to push me away from the two of you-"
"What?" Draco's smile is gone now, and he frowns instead.
"Let me explain. It's true that I'm not very present since my promotion last year, and that I have neglected Lily and you, I realise that now. But you've also tried to compensate for my absence. You've somehow slipped into a routine that only includes the two of you, and I sometimes feel like I don't belong here anymore. That you're better off without me."
"What do you mean? Are you trying to insinuate that-"
"I'm not trying to insinuate anything Draco, but just look at the facts. Every time I want to do things my own way in the house, you always manage to do it for me. Whenever I suggest something, it's never the right time, or the right thing to do. When I tell Lily off, you always, always have to say differently, and in the end, I feel like I don't have a say in her education anymore!"
The silence that follows Harry's rant is oppressive. Draco has blanched at the words and shut down. Shit. Harry knows that it probably means the discussion is over, that Draco is just going to stand up and leave. And that's exactly what happens. Draco gets off the sofa and without a second glance grabs a handful of Floo powder, and disappears to the manor.
This is not good. Lily is scared. Her Papa and her Daddy have just had a fight, a big one. They were shouting very loud, and now her Papa is gone. Lily is feeling so sad and so lonely, why can't her Daddy and her Papa be friends again?
Lily wishes she understood the grown-ups better, as she feels silent tears running down her cheeks. Why can't her fathers be in love again?
She gasps as the door opens and her Daddy appears. She tries to dry her tears. She must be strong. Her Daddy must not know she is sad, it would make him even sadder and he is unhappy enough right now. Especially after the fight with her Papa.
"You're not sleeping, sweetie?" he asks in a gentle tone, and it is so different from the one Lily has heard only a few minutes ago that she almost thinks it's a different person.
She bites her lower lip to stop it from trembling, and lets her Daddy hold her tight in his arms. She throws her arms around his neck and holds him very close to her. She loves her Daddy, and she loves his smell, and the way he strokes her back. It makes her feel good.
Daddy pulls back, and looks into her eyes. He then removes a strand of hair from her eyes.
"I'm sorry, Lily, I really am. I wish-" he sighs, "I wish things were different, and that you didn't have to go through all this right now."
Lily can see how her Daddy hurts, and it hurts her as well. She wants the sad look from her Daddy's face gone. She places her hands on her Daddy's cheeks and kisses him. He smiles. Good. Lily will do her best to be a very good girl from now on, so that her Daddy and Papa don't fight anymore and will be in love again.
Yes, that's it. No need to cry. After all, she has written her letter to Father Christmas and, with his help, everything will be like before. She is feeling much better now. She smiles at her Daddy, and he kisses her good night one last time, before leaving the room.
The next morning, Harry heads for his office at a good pace. It's not a very long walk – the Ministry is not far from Diagon Alley, but the cold is biting, and he is thankful for his warm scarf, the colourful one that Draco gave him a couple of Christmases ago. Harry remembers the proud look on Draco's face when he had put it on straight away, and kept it all day long, parading in it around the house. Even now, it still feels like taking a little bit of Draco with him wherever he goes.
He sighs as he wonders if things will ever get better between them, but he already knows the answer: they both have to think things through and learn to make compromises if they want to have another chance.
In the end, Draco is partly right, even if Harry has a hard time admitting it. It is a shame it took them to fall apart for him to see the big picture. Harry has let himself go, and has neglected both his partner and his family life, burying himself in an emotionless routine. Things have to change. And he will try his best to fix them from now on.
His mind is still trying to sort things out when he reaches his office. Lydia, his assistant, is already there, skimming through the impressive amount of mail Harry receives on a daily basis.
"Good morning, Harry," she replies with a smile, without really lifting her eyes from the amount of papers in front of her. She's a short woman in her forties, with long, mousy brown hair, always held back in a strict ponytail. It was difficult at first for Harry to have someone working for him, but he has to admit it is quite convenient. He already works hard, and since he became Head Auror he's been so loaded with paperwork that he couldn't possibly survive without her. Lydia is the perfect assistant for him: she's not intrusive, she's efficient and she always manages to anticipate his needs.
He has every difficulty focusing on his job today though, his mind being very far away from anything Auror-related. He tries to concentrate on his paperwork, but Draco's words keep coming back to his mind.
You spend a lot of time working, and less and less time with Lily and me. True.
Since you've been appointed Head of the Auror Office last year, we barely even see you, Lily and I, and the rare moments you spend with us, well, you're not really with us. Yep. Fair enough.
I'm not a fucking piece of furniture! Nope. Definitely not.
He decides to go into Muggle London for lunch and to get some fresh air. He grabs a tuna sandwich at a local deli, and wanders aimlessly, his mind still on Draco. How it hurts to see him every day without being able to touch him, to be close to him, to just sit there and casually talk to him like before. How he misses every little thing that made them a couple, all those tiny gestures he used to take for granted. How he regrets not taking more time to kiss Draco properly goodbye every morning before going to work, or paying more attention to him.
He sits on a bench and the cold enveloping him helps clear his mind. They have let their relationship settle into an emotionless routine, and in the end, it damaged the very strong bond they had when they got together, back when they were both doing their best to make their relationship work.
When he comes back to the Ministry, it is for a never-ending meeting he has to attend, but he merely sits there, waiting for the time to pass. They have been through these points over and over before. He sighs as realisation hits him: the Auror Office is not well organised, not as efficient as it should be. They lose precious time in pointless meetings. How come he never saw that before? It feels as if Draco breaking up with him finally allowed him to see things much more clearly, as if he had been deeply asleep for years and suddenly got a goddamn hard wake-up call.
He has to make some drastic changes. It won't be easy, but he needs to do it. Merlin, he's not even thirty yet, and he already feels like an old man.
When the meeting comes to an end, Harry does something he has never done in years: he decides to go home early. It is not a hard decision to take; his mind is not on his work anyway, so he'd rather go home and spend time with Lily. And with Draco, he adds in the back of his mind.
When he enters his hallway, he is assailed by sounds of laughter, coming not only from his daughter, but also from the man he is still madly in love with, no matter what is going on between them. Draco's laughter is deep and sincere. This is the real Draco, the one without the huge walls built to keep people at bay and to avoid getting hurt.
Harry walks the few feet separating him from the kitchen without a sound and takes in the scene.
Lily is standing on a chair, covered in flour from head to toe, her pink apron almost white, her hands clapping furiously in a vain attempt to dislodge the small bits of mixture stuck to her fingers, and her eyes are closed as she laughs her heart out. Right behind her stands Draco, as covered in flour as Lily, a hand on her back to keep her from falling, a look of pure joy on his beautiful face.
The kitchen counter is an absolute mess, but it doesn't seem to be a problem to either of them, even if Draco is usually pretty uptight concerning the tidiness of their home. Harry smiles at this happy image of domestic bliss, and can't help thinking that this is what he is missing every day, working his arse off. This is what his life could have been like had he sorted his priorities a little better.
"Daddy!" Lily jumps from the chair to run to him, and throws her arms around his neck as he lifts her up. His Auror robes are now covered in tiny white handprints, but he doesn't care, and he closes his eyes, lost in his daughter's embrace.
When he opens them again, he sees Draco gazing at him with an indecipherable look on his face, and they stare at each other for a while, before Lily snaps them out of their reverie.
"Look what we're doing, Daddy, look!" she disentangles herself from Harry's grip and grabs his hand instead, dragging him to the table excitedly before climbing on to the chair again. "It's a cake!" she states, a proud look on her face.
"Great, what's the occasion?"
"It's for you, Daddy, here!" and she scoops a bit of mixture from the bowl in front of her with her greasy fingers and hands it for Harry to taste.
"Yum, this is delicious!" and Lily beams at him. He turns to look at Draco and his bright smile is replaced by a much shyer one. When has he started to be intimidated by Draco's presence? "You have a bit of flour there," he tells his ex-lover, and on an impulse, he brings his hand to Draco's face to brush it off his cheek, but Draco steps back and removes it himself with the back of his hand.
"Thanks," Draco says, and Harry feels his heart sink at the coldness in his voice and the hard look in his eyes. Shit. What was Harry thinking? This is not the time for intimate gestures anymore.
Completely oblivious to the very palpable tension between her fathers, Lily tucks at Draco's sleeve. "Can we put it in the oven now, Papa?"
"Yes, let's do that," he says in his deep, rich voice, focusing on his daughter again.
"Right, I'll go and get changed," Harry says and starts for the stairs.
As he enters his bedroom, he can still hear Lily babbling happily, and Draco putting the cake in the oven. He discards his Auror robes and work clothes on the nearby chair, and slips on a black t-shirt and jeans. He stops in his tracks as he feels something stiff in his back pocket.
Lily's letter to Father Christmas. He completely forgot to send it the other night, having been too distracted by the whole scene with his daughter. My goodness, he is a terrible father, on top of all the other things.
He takes the letter out of his pocket carefully, and smiles at the cute handwriting, the letters all in different sizes and shapes. The envelope is not sealed, and Harry is very tempted to take a look at the letter inside. He hesitates for one second before opening it and taking the piece of paper out. After all, he already deserves the 'Crappiest Father of the Year' title, so it can't be much worse.
Harry starts to read and soon his smile fades. He lets his hand down and looks up at the ceiling.
He reads the letter again and lets the words slowly sink in. He sighs as he folds it and puts it back in the envelope, then in his pocket, before heading back downstairs.
Draco is pretty tired as he steps into his living-room again that night. It has been three weeks since he broke up with Harry, and it is much harder than he would have thought. He is the one who called it quits, who wanted out, who needed time to think, and he is supposed to feel better now, but the truth is, he doesn't. Not one bit.
He can hear Harry fumbling in the kitchen, but he doesn't go and see him yet. Instead, he sits in the armchair by the fireplace. His armchair. The one they had bought back when they had been furniture shopping to fill their empty house all those years ago. He remembers fondly how they had argued about this very armchair. It isn't a fancy one, by any standard: its shape is pretty traditional, and it is rather big, too big in Draco's opinion, and at the time, he didn't want to have such a giant piece of furniture in their living-room. He thought it would cramp the space and make the room smaller.
In the end, he had not been able to refuse Harry's puppy eyes of course, and they had bought the ugly armchair, and Draco had realised that night, while he was taking Harry hard on it, that it was a rather good thing it was big enough to hold them both. Draco shivers at the memory of a very aroused Harry kneeling on the armchair, legs spread wide, Draco pounding him restlessly. Yep, this armchair had proven to be pretty solid.
He is vaguely conscious of his body reacting to the recollection, but discards it at once. He runs his hands on the armrests. He isn't sure Harry has used it more than twice in eleven years. Once Draco had discovered how comfortable it really was, it had become his, and nobody else ever sat in it. Draco suspects Harry knew him enough to see that he would love it and eventually keep it all to himself, and that's why he had insisted on buying it in the first place.
Because it is always like that with Harry: he will go to great lengths to please Draco, however extravagant or unjustified his demands are. Harry is a very attentive lover, and invariably places Draco's needs before his: if there is only one piece of his favourite cake left, he will say he isn't hungry anymore, so that Draco can have it. If it is raining outside, and Draco has to go out, he will discreetly place a protective charm around him so he won't be soaked. Harry is the most selfless person Draco has ever met. But this selflessness also leads him to being incapable of saying no to anyone, and Draco knows that people take advantage of that, particularly at work.
He is taken out of his reverie when Harry enters the living-room.
"Oh, you're here, I didn't hear you coming in," Harry says and he turns around, flicks his wand and a steaming cup of tea flies all the way from the kitchen directly into Harry's hand. He holds it out to Draco, and their fingers brush briefly, sending shivers down his spine. He hates to admit it, but Harry still affects him like crazy. He can feel his body react to his presence, the way it isn't supposed to anymore, not now they are estranged.
It's just like what happened this afternoon, when Harry had tried to remove the flour from Draco's face: Draco had nearly forgotten that they weren't supposed to have these kinds of affectionate gestures anymore, and had nearly given in. His mind had caught up in time, and he had managed to back off at the last moment, but he realises his body had been craving for the contact. And right now, as Harry curls up on the sofa with his blue mug, in his favourite position, Draco can't take his eyes off him. For the umpteenth time, he wonders if he really has done the right thing.
"Draco, are you all right?" Harry frowns.
Shit, he has just been caught staring. "Yeah, I'm just- just tired, that's all."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Harry answers. "Anyway, the reason I asked you to come back here tonight is because I have to show you something." He sets his mug on the coffee table, and thrusts his hips upward to retrieve a piece of paper from his back pocket. It's an envelope, and it's a bit crumpled, probably from staying in Harry's jeans for too long.
Draco raises an eyebrow. "What is it?"
"Just read it," Harry replies, handing him the pink envelope and taking his mug back, before settling on the sofa again.
Draco leans in and sets his mug on the coffee table. He recognises his daughter's handwriting on the envelope and looks up at Harry.
"Is this Lily's Father Christmas letter?"
Harry nods. "Open it."
Draco opens the envelope and isn't quite sure what to expect. Over the last few weeks, he has heard a lot about the whole Father Christmas thing, Lily talking about it nonstop. The fact that their daughter goes to Muggle school has certainly helped fuel her imagination, and her fathers have found the whole thing rather endearing.
Draco remembers Harry spending an entire evening telling him all about the Muggle traditions of Christmas, in an animated voice, like only Harry knows to. Harry is always so passionate about every little thing that his body literally gets alive with the tiniest evocation. A stark contrast to Draco's always reserved and quiet manner. But Draco loves to see the fire in Harry's eyes, always had, he loves to see how easily outraged, or excited – or aroused – he can be, jumping happily from one emotion to another. That evening had been the last one they had spent snuggled up together, in this very room, and although it has only been a few weeks ago, it feels like years to Draco.
"Draco?" Harry snaps him out of his reverie for the second time that night.
"Sorry, I was, er, somewhere else."
"Yeah, I can see that," Harry replies with a weird look on his face. The look Draco defines as 'I know more than I will tell' look.
"Right," Draco quickly comes around and carefully unfolds the letter.
'deer fader chrismas,
for chrismas, I only wont my daddy and papa hapi togeder agen.
Im not a baby, so no toys, just daddy and papa and me.
pleese, I will be a good girl, I promiss.
Lily Narcissa Malfoy-Potter'
"Shit," Draco finally says, letting his hand rest on his lap, and looking up at Harry again.
Draco sighs and reads the letter again. Lily apparently suffers more with the situation that she really lets on.
"And that's not all," Harry adds and Draco looks up. "She asked me if we were going to spend Christmas day together or separate."
Of course. Christmas is only ten days away, so it's normal Lily would worry about it. Although Draco must admit he has not thought about that once.
"What do you think?" Draco asks after a while, reaching for his mug, although he knows he's the one who's supposed to be in charge, having put them all in this situation in the first place.
"Well, I don't know, it's up to you, really. I don't mind either way, although I think it would be better for Lily that we spend Christmas all together like we always do. The situation is complicated enough already."
Draco doesn't answer right away and sips his tea thoughtfully. "When is the Christmas party at the Burrow this year?" he asks.
Back when Bill and Fleur had had their first child, Victoire, a year after the end of the war, it had been decided that everybody would spend Christmas day together at the Burrow every other year, and that the next would be spent at everyone's in-laws. Since they had been together, Harry and Draco had thus spent Christmas day alternatively at the Burrow and at the Manor. But the Weasleys still insisted on bringing the whole family together once a year no matter what, and so organised some kind of a pre-Christmas party.
"It's this Saturday."
"This Saturday? But Lily's supposed to spend the weekend with me at the manor!"
"Well, you know you're still invited."
"Yeah, but I'm not sure I really want to spend a whole evening surrounded by resentful Weasleys who will want to rip me apart for making you unhappy," he sneers.
Harry remains surprisingly calm. "It's up to you, really," he shrugs, as if his decision didn't matter much in the end. "But I can't have Lily miss this, and you know it."
Draco is thinking hard. He knows Harry is right. It's already hard enough for Lily that her parents separated just before Christmas without adding something else to the equation. He could always leave her there with Harry, but he knows she would be highly disappointed. In the end, there's no real way out, and Draco knows it. He will have to attend the goddam party. Great. He can't wait.
"Fine, we'll all go together then, and you're invited to the Manor on Christmas day if you want to join us." Harry smiles. "But that doesn't mean anything," he adds hastily before Harry can get the wrong idea. "I'm doing this for Lily."
"I know," Harry sighs, his beautiful smile fading away.
"Oh, come on, Harry, you know what I mean."
"Yeah, unfortunately, I do," Harry replies, running his finger around the top of his mug.
"Well, that's the way things are… at the moment."
"Right, I will come to the Manor on Christmas day then. For Lily." He seems to hesitate before asking. "Have you… have you done any thinking?"
It takes Draco a short while to find the right answer. "Well, yes, I have, a little bit."
"And, I don't know Harry, it's still very complicated," Draco leans back in the armchair.
"But you still have feelings for me?" Harry blurts and Draco jumps in his armchair, and gazes at him, surprised by the question. Harry takes advantage of Draco's silence and goes on. "I mean, I know I do, I- I still love you like mad, and it's fucking hard to be in this situation, but what's even harder is not knowing if I have any hope it will get better." He pauses, apparently trying to find the right words. "I just keep hoping you will come around and we can be together again. I just- I just have a hard time accepting it's over. I try, I really try hard, but I can't. I'm sorry, Draco."
Draco is speechless. He certainly didn't expect Harry to speak his mind like that. But he should have known. Harry has always been the kind to share his emotions and feelings, unlike him. He looks deep into Harry's eyes, and can't help feeling it's been a long time since he has looked at him properly like that.
He sighs. "I don't know what to say, Harry. Really, I don't. I think-" No, that's a bad idea. This is no time to open up and confess his own doubts. "I think I should just go now." And with that, he stands up. Harry does the same.
"Draco, wait!" and he squeezes Draco's arm hard, to prevent him from leaving. "Oh, no you don't, not again! Could you please stop running away every time we get to the heart of things?"
Draco knows Harry's right, that this is exactly what he is doing, but he can't stay. He has never been good at talking about his feelings, he hates the whole idea, really, because it makes him weak and vulnerable, and he certainly doesn't want to do that tonight. So he disentangles himself from Harry's grip, grabs a handful of floo powder and disappears to the manor without another glance at Harry.
Harry has great difficulty falling asleep that night, and wakes up exhausted once again the next morning. He doesn't want to think about the argument he had with Draco the night before, and heads for the shower. The hot water helps him clear his mind, and soon he is dressed and feeling a little better.
He goes to wake Lily and takes a few seconds to look at her, fast asleep, her tiny face completely relaxed, and he marvels at her beauty. "Hello, sweetie," he finally whispers in her ear and places a tender kiss on her cheek. "Time to wake up." Lily opens her eyes, instantly awake. He is always amazed at how – unlike Harry himself – she seems to go from fast asleep to fully awake so easily. She wraps her arms around his neck.
"Did you sleep well?"
"Yes! I had a dream about a princess in a castle, a bit like in the story Papa told me the other day, and it was a nice dream."
"Good, I'm glad you've slept well. Now let's get you ready, okay?"
When Lily is all dressed – purple woollen dress over pink leggings, along with black leather Mary Jane shoes ("and my colourful necklace, Daddy!") – they go down to the kitchen to have breakfast. Lily's constant babbling prevents Harry from thinking too much once again, and he is very thankful for the distraction it provides him. He tenses at once, though, when he hears the familiar sound of the floo and Draco steps into the kitchen.
"Papa!" Lily runs to greet him. "Kiss, Papa!" and he scoops her into his arms. She throws her arms around his neck and he plants a deep kiss on her cheek.
"Kiss Daddy too?" she asks Draco, who pales at the suggestion.
Harry jumps out of his chair and mumbles, "Right, gotta go," and heads to the hallway to retrieve his cloak, pretending he hasn't heard his daughter's not-so-innocent request and waiting for his heart to regain a more regular beat.
When he comes back into the kitchen, Draco is sitting at the table with Lily on his lap, one arm safely placed on her tummy as he summons the strawberry jam closer wandlessly.
"I'll see you tonight, Lily," Harry says, leaning in to kiss his daughter on the top of her head before stepping back. "Draco," he says next.
Draco looks up and nods. "Yeah, see you tonight." The tone is as cold as ever, as if nothing had happened the night before, and Harry hadn't spilled his heart out to him just a few hours ago.
"Are you not going to kiss Daddy goodbye, then Papa?" Shit. Here we go again. Thanks a lot, Lily.
"Er, no, not today, Lily, your Daddy and I don't really kiss anymore. Do you remember why?" Draco explains in a gentle voice.
"Because you don't live together anymore?"
"Well, it's a little bit more complicated than that, but mostly, yes."
"Right, goodbye then, see you tonight," Harry says, very happy to leave the house.
When he arrives at his office, he doesn't waste time getting into gear. He had plenty of time yesterday during the boring meeting to rethink the whole organisation thing, and intends to move quickly.
After greeting his assistant, he gets straight to the point. "Lydia, there is going to be a slight change of plan for today. I'd like you to reschedule or cancel all my appointments for today and meet me in my office in an hour."
"I'm not sure it's going to be quite possible…"
"Well, please make sure it is, Lydia," he insists.
Harry locks himself up in his office, settling down to get his life back on tracks.
He spends the morning categorising, organising and sorting things out in order of importance.
Getting himself into this kind of work is a revelation. He realises he has never thought about the general organisation of the Auror Office, never even questioned it. When he took over the position the previous year, he walked straight into the job, but never took a moment to assess his Office's real needs and consider a different organisation. He now realises how big a mistake that was, and how much time and energy he could have saved had he done just that. He sighs as he wonders if accepting this position had really been a good idea after all, if he was really fit for it.
But he loves his job. He just doesn't want to sacrifice his family for it anymore. He hopes that by getting more organised and efficient, he will have more time for his family, at least for Lily. She deserves it. If Draco breaking up with him has taught him anything, then this is it.
Harry picks up Hermione at her brand new office at the Ministry, saying hello to Kingsley on the way, and they join Ron for lunch in a Muggle pub a couple of streets away. With all the happenings of the last few weeks, Harry hasn't had time to see his two best friends much, and he realises he has missed them dearly. Ron and Hermione have both been pretty tied-up too: the holiday season is always the busiest time of the year at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, leaving Ron with very little time to himself, and Hermione's recent integration to Kingsley's Office has added an incredible amount of extra work to her already impressive workload.
After greeting Ron and ordering two bacon burgers along with a chicken Caesar salad at the counter, Harry heads back to their table, three pints of fine ale in his hands. He slips next to Ron on the leather seat.
"So, how are you feeling, mate?" Ron blurts before Harry even manages to bring the pint of cool beer to his lips. He can't help noticing the stern look Hermione sends her husband. He supposes she has asked Ron to wait a bit before getting straight to the point, but he knows it's asking too much of his best friend. And that's precisely what he likes about Ron: his truly honest, straightforward personality. No faking, ever. Ron is the exact opposite of Draco in that respect. While Ron's emotions are clearly visible on his very expressive face, Draco's are always kept under control, safely hidden behind the carefully built walls meant to protect him. Harry and Lily are probably the only ones capable of making these walls crumble, even if lately they are rising back up at an alarmingly quick pace. He snaps back to reality as he realises his two best friends have been waiting for him to answer.
"I'm, er, doing okay, I guess, all things considered," he shrugs, his eyes fixed on his cool beer.
"How are things between you two? Did you manage to talk?" Hermione asks.
"We have, but you know how it is with Draco, as soon as we get to the heart of the problem, he just shuts down and leaves the room, so it's not easy to work things out."
"Yeah, well I sympathise, mate. I wouldn't like to have to deal with an upset Malfoy."
"Ron, you're not helping," Hermione says, before turning to Harry again. "And did you manage to tell him how you feel?"
"Well, yes. I did, yesterday night, in fact. I told him-" he stops when the waiter brings in their meals.
"Anything else?" the waiter – a rather good-looking bloke, Harry notices – asks in a friendly tone.
"No, thank you, we're all right," and Harry waits for him to leave before carrying on. "I told him I could not go on like that, that it was driving me crazy not knowing if there was something we could do to salvage our relationship, but he's not- he's not being completely clear about the whole thing and it just unsettles me."
"Well, I hope you'll manage to talk some more, it is so important to be able to tell your partner how you feel!" Hermione says.
"Good luck doing that with Malfoy, mate!" Ron sneers, his mouth full.
Harry sighs. "I know… and it's not as if I didn't know what I got myself into when I started dating him years ago."
"Well, I'm sure he'll come around at one point, when he realises how much he loves you, because I'm sure he does," Hermione says, her hand on his arm and her eyes looking deep into Harry's.
"Funny that's what his mother told me the other day."
"Really?" Hermione looks surprised.
"Yeah, she even called him an idiot for leaving me in the first place."
"Well, that means something, if even the cold-hearted shrew is on your side!"
"RON!" Hermione says indignantly, dropping her fork and knife at once, and giving him her darkest look. Harry knows what Ron thinks about the Malfoys, even if the antagonism is not as strong as during the war, especially since Lucius Malfoy's death. The Weasleys tolerate Draco because of Harry and Lily and because they have learned to know and appreciate him over the years, but the same doesn't go for Narcissa Malfoy, who never wished to mingle with them even if Harry is surprisingly close to his mother-in-law – or ex-mother-in-law, he is not so sure anymore.
"Sorry, I'll take back the "cold-hearted" part then," and he laughs, which makes Harry laugh as well.
"What about Saturday? You coming, right?" Ron enquires.
"Yeah, of course, I wouldn't miss that for the world!" Harry smiles.
"Liar! You're just afraid of what my mum would do to you if you didn't show up!"
Harry laughs some more. God, it's good to be with friends again!
"What about Draco? Will he come too?" enquires Hermione, breaking the mood as Harry's smile fades instantly.
He inhales sharply. "Well, he didn't want to at first, but then we talked about it and he realised it wouldn't be fair to Lily, so, yeah, he'll show up."
"Good. I have three days to prepare, then!" Ron says, rubbing his hands together in satisfaction, an evil grin on his face.
"Ron, please, don't plan any pranks. I don't want Draco to regret his decision to join us and then refuse to attend future events."
"Oh, come on, not even a tiny-?"
"Ron, please!" Hermione and Harry say at the same time.
"Right, sorry mate, I'll behave, I promise," and Harry notes the hint of disappointment in his voice. "It's too bad though," he mumbles.
They finish their meals, talking about this and that and soon they say goodbye. Harry goes back to his office and resumes his work with Lydia. He doesn't lift his head for a few hours and then he decides to head home, satisfied by all he has managed to achieve in such a short time.
Harry knows this is only the beginning, and that he'll have to implement more changes and give his Aurors more responsibilities. But all in all, he feels hopeful for the first time in weeks.
Harry is always happy to go to the Burrow: it is, most of the time, warm and welcoming, messy and loud, full of joy and laughter, and it really feels like home. This Saturday night – the Weasley's pre-Christmas party – is no exception.
People arrive little by little, and soon the house is full of the noise Harry is so familiar with. He puts on the mask of the 'normal Harry' – at least, the Harry he reserves for the outside world – and forces himself to take part in every conversation, trying not to look at the door more than once every fifteen seconds, anxiously waiting for the two most important people in his life to arrive.
As usual, the house seems too small to accommodate the huge family, but in the end everybody fits in. The children have been sent upstairs, as the noisy stomping of their feet on the ceiling verifies. Harry is squeezed on the couch between Ron and George and the conversation inevitably revolves around Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Hermione is busy talking to a very pregnant Ginny and Charlie is standing by the fireplace, laughing his heart out along with Bill and Fleur.
An awkward silence suddenly falls as Lily and Draco set foot in the house. Harry can feel everybody's eyes on the two of them, going from one to the other, and it feels like time has stopped in the room. Harry can't divert his gaze from Draco's, who doesn't seem to be able to take his eyes off his either. Finally, someone has the decency to clear their throat, and a slow murmur soon rises and is soon replaced by the previous loud chatter.
Harry stands up and approaches the two of them. Lily runs to jump into his arms and he catches her.
Harry lifts her up and holds her tight, burying his head in her long hair, cupping her head, and closing his eyes for a moment. "Hello, sweetie," he murmurs. "I've missed you today, you know?" He places a deep kiss on her cheek.
"I've missed you too, Daddy!" she says, backing up a little in his arms to look at him, a wide smile on her face. It isn't long though, before she wriggles to disentangle herself from his embrace and run to her grandmother.
The evening passes smoothly, everybody eating and drinking merrily. Gifts are exchanged, in a cacophony of "oh!" and "ah!" and "thank you!" and Harry receives his traditional Christmas jumper from Molly, as does everybody else, including the children.
Harry can't take his eyes off Draco though. He never gets close to him, but he keeps an eye on him from a distance, watches his every move, and it's as if it were sixth year all over again. Draco moves around the cramped living-room like he has no worry in the world, patting Arthur's shoulder and complimenting Molly on her food and making her blush, all irresistible smile and deadly charms, as if he owns the place. He is stunning, simply breath-taking. He is dressed in impeccable brand new robes falling all in the right places, marking the lines of his still incredibly fit body, making Harry look like he has just been trampled by an angry Hungarian Horntail in comparison. And speaking of dragons, Draco seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time with Charlie.
Charlie Weasley, the Dragon Tamer.
Charlie Weasley, Ron's older brother.
Ron's handsome, gay, older brother.
Shit. He feels a surge of jealousy as he sees them deep in conversation, Charlie visibly doing most of the talking while Draco nods from time to time, in between sips of his firewhiskey.
What on earth could these two be talking about, he wonders as he fills his glass again. They seem to be so different! Charlie is as short, stocky and tanned as Draco is tall, slender and pale. Charlie is definitely an outdoorsy, physical kind of man while Draco is brainy and won't go out unless he absolutely needs to. As Charlie suddenly puts his hand on Draco's arm, Harry feels anger slowly creeping up inside of him. He doesn't have time to dwell on it though, as things get to a whole new level when Charlie leans in to murmur something to Draco's ear and the two of them leave the room together.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
"Harry, are you all right?" Hermione asks next to him.
"Er, yeah, I'm fine," he says, as if the love of his life had not just left the room with another man to do Merlin knows what. "Just need- I think I just need some fresh air," he blurts and stands up, glass still in hand, as he crosses the room, reaches the hallway and opens the door to the front yard.
He stumbles outside in the icy-cold air of this clear December night, kicks a heap of earth made by a garden gnome on the way, and gulps his Firewhiskey in one go, burning down his throat and bringing up tears in his eyes. This is fucked up. The whole situation is. Because Harry doesn't know how he is really going to make it. He could never pretend. He could never act like Draco, as if he didn't care, as if he didn't hurt. Because he does. This is the ugly naked truth. He hurts like hell.
Fair enough, Draco is an arrogant, spoiled bastard, who only thinks about himself most of the time and doesn't hesitate to kick right where it hurts.
But he is Harry's arrogant, spoiled bastard.
Not Charlie Weasley's.
And Harry fucking needs him in his life, needs him like he needs air to breathe. He needs to be close to him, he needs to see him smile because when Draco's smile is directed at him, everything else could crumble to pieces, Harry wouldn't notice. Harry needs to hold Draco in his arms, he needs his warm body against his, and God how he needs to make love to him! He needs his conversation, the long talks in front of the fireplace, the dry humour and the constant bickering. Merlin, he even needs the fights that take them late into the night, that make them push their boundaries, that make them scream and shout, and make up and fuck so hard afterwards! Nothing is bland in their relationship, and it's exhausting. But it's also exhilarating. It makes Harry feel alive, it keeps him on his toes. And fuck how his life is now empty and meaningless without Draco.
He jumps as he suddenly feels somebody's warm hand on his shoulder, and he turns around swiftly.
"Harry," Hermione says in a soft voice, before enveloping him in her arms and holding him tight. He rests his head on her shoulder and sobs quietly, finally letting all the tears he had refused to shed until then run freely down his face. He feels completely drained and knows he can't stay here any longer. It hurts too much.
He disentangles himself from Hermione's embrace and swiftly wipes the tears from his face with the back of his hands.
"I can't- I can't stay here, I gotta go home."
"Harry… please talk to me… you mustn't be on your own, you need to-"
"The only person I need to talk to right now keeps running away every time we get anywhere near the core of the problem," he groans.
Hermione sighs, "I know…"
"Right, I'm gonna go and kiss Lily goodnight."
"Oh, is she not going home with you then?"
"No, it's Draco's turn to have her for the weekend, and he'll take her back to the manor once the party's over, so I won't see her before tomorrow night," he sighs. "This whole thing just sucks."
"Right, I'm so sorry, Harry, I just-"
"That's fine, Hermione. How do I look?" he asks wearily.
"You mean can people tell you've been crying? Well, just let me…" and she flicks her wand to his face and murmurs, "netteo!"
Harry feels a tingling on his face and touches it. It's dry.
"There you go! Good as new!" she smiles.
"Thank you so much," he gives her a hug.
"You're very welcome, Harry. I just wish I could do more, help you." She breaks the embrace to look at him.
"I'm afraid there isn't much more to do at the moment. It's just-" he sighs. "Never mind."
He finds Lily in a bedroom of the first floor and kisses her goodnight. After a quick hug – Lily is very busy playing pretend with her cousins – his heart clenches at the thought that he won't see her until tomorrow night. When he goes back downstairs, Draco and Charlie are still nowhere to be found, and Harry feels the knot in his stomach tighten badly. Merlin, they have been gone for a while now!
He quickly says goodbye to everyone, thanks Molly for the food, and manages to floo back home despite everybody trying to make him stay a little bit longer.
He stumbles in his living-room and crumbles on the couch, setting himself into a foetal position, his head buried deeply in the crook of his arms. He tries, without much success, to push back unwanted pictures of Draco pressed hard against a wall somewhere in the Burrow, head back, trousers around his ankles, being fucked senseless by Charlie. He has every difficulty breathing normally and his stomach is clenched so tight now, he thinks he might throw up. He knows there's nothing rational in all that, that technically Draco is not his anymore, that he has every right to go and fuck whoever he wants to, but it just hurts too much. He stays like that for a while, curled up on the sofa of his dark and empty living-room.
A rumbling sound in the fireplace makes him jerk his head and he freezes. Someone is coming through the floo that he forgot to lock. Great.
Draco steps into the living-room and flicks his wand. The lights switch on at once and his eyes fall on Harry and Merlin, he looks a complete mess! A pang of guilt makes Draco's stomach clench as he knows pretty well he is probably the one responsible for Harry's poor state.
"Harry?" he takes a step closer.
"What are you doing here? Where's Lily? Has something happened to her?" A jolt of panic flickers through his bright green eyes.
"What? Oh Merlin, no, she's fine, she's still at the Burrow with her cousins." Draco takes another tentative step towards Harry, and when Harry doesn't react, he settles on the sofa next to him. He keeps his hands to himself, burying them deep in between his knees, and asks in a soft voice. "Harry, what's going on? Why did you leave the party like that?"
Harry's expression changes as he turns to face him. "What's going on? Well, I could ask you the same!" he snarls.
Draco frowns. "What do you mean?" He is confused: what has he done? The evening has passed rather smoothly, with nothing special happening. There has been the food, the gifts, and then he has started talking with- Oh. Shit. Charlie Weasley.
Draco feels the blood leaving his face and realises Harry has seen it too.
"Yeah, that's what I thought." Harry says coldly. He gets up and starts walking away to the kitchen.
"Harry, wait!" Draco follows him and grabs his arm to stop him from leaving the room.
Harry swiftly turns around. "So, did you enjoy it? Was he better than me, then? Come on, say it, that you just loved having his cock-"
"Are you insane? What do you take me for, for Merlin's sake? Are you crazy enough to think I would jump some guy at the first opportunity? Do you really think the reason I left you is because I wanted to get off with other people?" Draco is shouting in Harry's stupid face now.
Harry has a dangerous smile and narrows his eyes, his face now so close to Draco's he can feel his warm breath on him. "Well, I don't know, I can only guess, since you fucking refuse to discuss the reasons you left in the first place!" He pauses and stares at him. "For fuck's sake, Draco, I've been trying for weeks to reach to you, to talk to you. I've done a fucking whole lot of thinking and reflecting, to try, just try to grasp what on earth is wrong between us and try to fix it. Whereas you," he plants his index into Draco's chest hard, never leaving his eyes, making Draco gasp and step back a little, "You never ever managed to tell me what the whole thing is about, and I have to fucking guess, because every time I try to understand what is going on in your head, you fucking leave!" Harry screams.
Draco freezes on the spot. Harry's words lash at him like a thousand tiny needles entering his body all at once. He can feel Harry's warm breath as he is panting so close to him, eyes still deeply planted into his, expecting an answer.
Harry snorts. "Yeah, that's what I thought, you don't have the balls to-"
And that's when Draco snaps. He grabs Harry's shoulders and shoves him back hard until they hit the wall and Draco pins him brutally against it. All the rage, all the feelings he has kept safely locked away, the fears, the insecurities, all that is eating him from inside suddenly rushes to the surface. At this precise moment, Draco hates Harry, he hates him with all his might for making him feel like this, and all he wants is to hurt him, because this is all just too much.
"What the hell you think you're doing, Draco?" Harry asks menacingly.
"You have no right to say-"
"What? What is it I can't say? That you're too fucking chicken to tell me for once what is going on in your head?" Harry spits.
Draco pins him harder on the wall, rage boiling right under the surface of his skin, ready to take off. "Just shut the fuck up, you- you have no idea-"
"Well why don't you tell me then? Why do I always have to fucking guess? We've been together for eleven years for fuck's sake-"
"I WAS LOSING YOU, OKAY?" Draco finally bellows, and Harry blinks a few times, and then there it is, out in the open. "I was fucking losing you! And how am I supposed to live like that anyway, when you're never with me, when you treat me like I don't even exist, like I'm nothing, I'm worth nothing and-"
He feels Harry's hands on his cheeks, and his lips pressed hard against his own and he stays like that, completely dumbstruck for one second before he closes his eyes, placing his hands on Harry's waist, bringing him closer, and finally kissing him back.
Oh dear God. There are no words strong enough to describe the tsunami that hits Harry right at this moment, when Draco finally, finally opens up to him and lets go of all that has been tormenting him for weeks. Harry knows he probably should have let Draco finish, but he just couldn't help himself. It has been so, so long, and there have been so many hard feelings between them, that Harry just goes with what feels good, goes with the flow, acting first and leaving the thinking for later, like he has always done, and this kiss, this one simple, deep kiss, is the centre of his universe right now and Harry never wants it to be over as he moves his hands from Draco's cheeks to his beautiful hair and revels in the familiar feeling that is finally, finally back.
Draco soon breaks their embrace though. His cheeks are flushed, his usually perfectly combed hair a mess from where Harry's hands have been tugging at it wildly, and he is panting hard. He looks at Harry as if he can't believe what they've just done and right at this moment, Harry knows it's a make-or-break situation. He holds his breath, planting his gaze into Draco's once again, trying his best to convey all the emotions he is currently feeling, and hoping against hope that Draco will not try to leave again, not now, please, don't let him leave!
"We should talk," Draco says, and Harry just wants to jump and do a crazy happy dance around the room. Finally!
"Right," and he tries to hide his smile as he takes Draco to the sofa again, holding his hand the whole time, and God, this feels amazing. They settle next to each other on the couch, and Harry hesitates before looking at Draco and entwining their fingers together. He is so happy about this warm physical contact after these long four weeks, that he can't help caressing Draco's hand with his thumb over and over again.
"Harry… you know how hard it is for me to acknowledge things, especially feelings," Draco starts.
"That's okay, Draco, I know you can do it," and Harry tries to give him his best reassuring smile.
"Right," Draco says again, and he takes a deep breath, staring down at their entwined fingers. "I was… I was scared, because you were working so much, and you were barely home anymore, and then I felt it was harder for us to connect, because you were always so tired, and you looked unhappy, and it was just like…" He takes a deep breath and continues. "We weren't lovers anymore, but mere roommates. I mean, we were living in the same house, but not sharing anything, apart from the practicalities of everyday life. And I started to think that maybe I wasn't- maybe you were working so hard because you were tired of me, that you didn't want to spend time with me anymore, and I started feeling awkward around you…"
Harry sighs and looks down at their hands. "Draco, I know it's been hard for you, and for Lily, when I got promoted last year. And that's why I've done quite a lot of thinking about the whole thing and the truth is, Draco, I love my job."
"Of course you do! But that doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice everything else for it!"
"You're absolutely right about that, and that's why after our last argument I went back to work and started changing a few things around."
"You did?" Draco sounds slightly sceptical.
"Yeah, I mean, it's not much, but I've reorganised the Auror Office and given more responsibilities to my Aurors so that I wouldn't have to do everything myself. You know it's hard for me to let go of things, particularly in my work. But I've decided to change that, so that everybody is more efficient."
"Harry, I don't- I don't quite know what to say…" He feels Draco's look on him but he keeps staring at their entwined fingers.
"Well, it's been pretty hard for me to see you go like that, but at least, it's helped me see what my priorities were. And you are, Lily and you." Harry looks up into Draco's eyes now and just stares at him.
After a while, Draco finally breaks the silence. "Do you remember how it was during our first few years together?"
Harry frowns, not knowing where this is going. Draco continues. "We were just that – together – all the time, we would do absolutely everything together, and I was the most important thing in your life back then, whereas now… well, it's changed. There's your work, of course, but there's Lily as well. Lily is the most important thing to you now, and I'm not anymore…"
"Well, that's normal, Draco, she's our daughter, don't you feel the same about her?"
"Well, yeah, of course I do, and nothing is more important to me than Lily. But you- well, you are as important to me as she is, not less."
Harry ponders that for a while. "I'm sorry Draco, I know I've neglected you, and that's why I want things to change. I mean, I realise I am lucky enough to have a family, and I want to spend more time with you. So from now on, I promise to come home in time to have dinner with the two of you and put Lily to bed every night."
"Please don't make promises you won't be able to keep, Harry."
Ouch, that hurts. "No, Draco I will keep it. I know it will take time for you to trust me on this, but I will make my best to prove to you I can do it. I need you in my life, I really do."
"Well, I hope you do. Cause I need you too, you know?" Draco has a strange look on his face.
"Yeah," and with that, Harry leans forward and kisses Draco once again, tightening his grip on him and holding him close, and God, this just feels too good.
Draco breaks the kiss and runs his hand on Harry's cheek. "You know, at one point, I thought- I thought that maybe you had found someone else to make you happy, since I didn't seem to be the one to do that for you anymore and you were away so often."
So, that's what this is all about, then. Harry takes his time to find the right words. "Well, there's nobody else, and there won't be. I love you way too much for that, even if you act like an insufferable prat most of the time."
Draco squints his eyes. "Who are you calling insufferable prat, Potter?"
"I mean, it's not as if I had the time to take a lover on top of everything else!"
Draco frowns. "Oh, because it's only a problem of time then? Good to know!"
"You're a git, you know what I mean!" Harry chuckles.
"Are you quite done insulting me, Potter?" Draco sneers and it feels so good to have the Draco Harry knows and loves so much back. It's definitely an improvement from the cold personae Harry had been facing the last few weeks.
"Well, if anyone should be jealous around here, it should be me! Are you gonna tell me what the hell you've been doing with Charlie Weasley the whole night?"
Harry holds his breath as Draco suddenly blushes hard. "Oh God, it's not- it's absolutely not what you think!"
"Well, tell me, then! I mean, one moment I see the two of you getting all cosy and talking like nothing else around you exists and the next, you leave the room together for hours on end!"
"Right, put like that I admit it sounds suspicious, but- we just left the room because we couldn't talk properly with all this noise, so we went to Charlie's old bedroom upstairs."
Harry blinks hard and feels his heart clench. "His bedroom?"
"Yeah, but, oh, Harry, nothing happened, absolutely nothing, okay? I'm not even attracted to the guy, I mean, come on, he's a Weasley for Merlin's sake!"
"A very attractive Weasley."
"Right, I believe you. Please go on." And Harry does believe him, he can't really say why but he does, and it feels good.
"Okay, Charlie has been in a similar situation and he'd heard what had happened between us and he just- he talked to me. The thing is, he'd been with this guy for three or four years, and then it all started to go awry. The guy was increasingly becoming jealous of Charlie's work and was telling him nasty things, that he was spending too much time with his dragons, that-"
"Wait a minute: the guy was jealous of the dragons?" Harry snorted.
"Yeah, I said the same. But then, I can totally relate to that, because I've been in the same situation as the poor guy. And talking with Charlie has helped me see the other side of the problem, how important your work is for you, how you need it because I admit I couldn't see it then. And as Charlie was talking to me, all of the pieces have finally started to get into place, and I realised what it was all about, why I had really left you in the first place." Draco looks up and searches Harry's face worryingly.
"So why did you leave me, then?" Harry braces himself as he is finally about to know what has been bothering Draco for weeks.
Draco takes a deep breath and looks down at their hands. "I left you because I was afraid you would leave me first, and I knew I couldn't handle the rejection."
Harry cautiously asks. "So you decided to leave me because you were afraid I would leave you? You do realise that sounds kind of twisted, don't you?"
"Yeah, I know, it's just-" Draco sighs. "Back in eighth year, when we got together, I was completely desperate. My father was dying, and I basically had nothing to lose when I kissed you for the first time. But then I started to develop, well, feelings for you, and I got scared that you weren't sincere, that maybe you were doing that to get back at me, that you were making me pay for all that I had done to you all these years."
"God, you are twisted!" and Harry can't hide his smile anymore. Merlin, he is so relieved that Draco is finally baring his soul to him!
"Well, not everybody is as brave as you are, Harry, and I'm a Slytherin, remember? I'm used to people scheming to get their way. But anyway, that was how I felt at first, and then slowly, I started to believe that maybe, there was a slight possibility in the end that you really loved me, and God, I was so happy! I was so incredibly happy, even if, from time to time, there was this tiny voice at the back of my head telling me it wouldn't last, that I didn't deserve to be happy, that I didn't deserve to be with someone like you."
"But, why would you even think that?"
"Harry, you were the fucking Saviour-of-the-Wizarding-World, and I was just a Death Eater! What do you think it looked like?"
"Well, I know that people were giving you a hard time for 'perverting' me like they were saying, but we didn't really care about that, did we?"
"Harry, they hated me! And they showed me they did, too! You have no idea how many times I was scowled at, how many times random people came to me to tell me what a scumbag I was, and how I didn't deserve to be with someone like you and that I should rot in Azkaban for all the terrible things I'd done."
"But, Draco, you know better than to pay attention to what people say! I mean, come on, surely you know you're worth much more than that?"
But does he really? Harry thinks. Draco is certainly always bragging about how amazing he is, but deep inside, he is still a scared insecure child seeking other people's approval.
"Well, I don't know… I couldn't help thinking that they were kind of right. I don't deserve you. I don't deserve someone like you to be with someone like me."
"But that's ridiculous! I'm very far from perfect, and you know it! I'm the most flawed person I know, I'm not-"
"Merlin, just look at you!" and Draco's face is very much alive now, slightly flushed again, as he looks deep into Harry's eyes. "And before I say anything else, if you ever repeat what I'm about to tell you, to anyone, I'll have to hex you all the way to hell and I'll deny every single word of it, okay?"
"Right," Harry chuckles.
Draco's face is now serious. "You are a generous, loving, caring, intelligent, sexy, brave, brave man. For Merlin's sake, you defeated the greatest Dark wizard of all times at the ridiculous age of seventeen! You fucking died to save us all! And it's not only that! You're making me a better person, because you believe in me and you make me feel special."
"But that's because you are special! God, Draco, I still can't believe after all these years, how you can't see the person you really are deep inside!"
"No, Draco, it's my turn now. You are amazing." He sees Draco rolling his eyes. He knows he is getting all sappy, but he doesn't care. Draco needs to hear what he really thinks of him. He thinks that maybe he should have done it more often in the past few years. "No, listen to me! You are incredibly intelligent, so dedicated, precise and meticulous in everything you do. You are curious and attentive and have an impressive, extended knowledge on all things magical. You are captivating, God, I could listen to you talking for hours! And you are the funniest person I know, you make me laugh like no one, and on top of all that, you are drop dead gorgeous and sexy, Merlin, Draco-"
And then Harry can't speak anymore, because Draco silences him in the best way possible. The kiss is even better than the first one tonight, because things are finally all in the open, and they take their time. Soon, their hands are running all over their backs, waists and arses, and it makes Harry moan, and every part of his body Draco touches feels like it's been awoken after a deep long sleep. Harry knows they have to slow things down before it gets out of control. But God, it has been so long!
"Draco…" Harry tentatively says, but Draco sucks on his neck and Harry whimpers. "Draco!" this time Harry pushes him gently away and swiftly stands up. "Draco, we should- we should just stop now, I mean, it's getting late, and Lily-"
"Oh, come on, Harry, it's not very late yet, and I'm sure Lily can stay there a little bit longer!" Draco looks at him now, and God, how Harry wishes they could do more right now! If he could have his way, he would tear Draco's clothes apart and take him right there on the couch! Draco kisses him hard again, pulling the hem of Harry's shirt out of his trousers and running his hands all over his skin, raising goose bumps all over it in the process.
Harry gasps, but no, they really shouldn't. Not now, it's too soon.
"Draco, no…" and Harry hopes Draco will play along and not get mad at him.
Draco stops at once, and places a gentle hand on Harry's cheek, and caresses him, panting slightly. "Fine, you're right, yeah, maybe I should just- I will just go and take her back to the manor," and he stands up.
"Yeah." God, it's hard, but it's the right thing to do.
"And what about…" Draco bites his bottom lip. "What about, us?" he says gesturing at the two of them.
"Well," Harry takes his time to answer, because he knows he has to say the right words otherwise Draco could misinterpret them again. "I think, maybe we should keep this to ourselves for now, just to sort things out between the two of us, until we're sure this is what we both really want."
"Why, are you having second thoughts?" Draco frowns.
"Oh no, that's not what I meant! I mean, I want to be with you again, badly, but I don't want to rush it, because I don't want to lose you again. I'd rather we took our time to talk some more before we tell anyone. It will be easier to do so without the pressure of the outside world, don't you think?" Harry hopes Draco won't feel rejected again.
They face each other for a while, and then Draco moves closer and kisses him hard again. "All right, then. We take time to talk things through over the next few days, and when we're sure about the whole thing, we can tell Lily and the others."
"Okay," and Harry can't help grinning.
Draco kisses him again, and Harry finally relaxes and allows himself to drown into that hot, deep kiss, running his hands along the hard lines of Draco's back, touching every inch of his warm skin through the shirt, and, God, how amazing it feels just to be back in his arms again!
After a long while, they finally manage to stay away from each other long enough, and Draco leaves to put Lily to bed.
That night, Harry goes to bed with a smile on his lips and has trouble getting to sleep. When he does, he sleeps better than he has in months.
Harry puts the lid on the casserole and turns down the heat with a flick of his wand, before taking his cup of tea and heading for the living-room. As he settles on the sofa, he can't help thinking about what happened the night before, in this very room.
The memory brings a smile to his face. Finally, after weeks of fighting, Draco and he have managed to have a whole conversation without hurting each other. And it feels good, even if Harry knows they still have a few things to discuss, and after all, nobody can guarantee things are really going to work, but at least, they've managed to talk again, and Harry feels very hopeful for the future.
He hears rumble in the fireplace and soon his beautiful daughter steps out of it, followed by Draco.
"Daddy!" Lily jumps in his arms, and Harry manages to vanish his cup of tea just in time. It feels good to hold her tight. "We went to see the peacocks, and Grandmother let me feed them, and then we've decorated the Christmas tree, it is huge, and Papa was being a fool, he was making the ornaments fly all over the room!"
Harry can't help smiling at his daughter's babbling. "I'm glad you've had a great time, sweetie! Draco," Harry says while putting her down.
"Hi," his voice is so soft it's almost a whisper. "Smells lovely in here," he adds gazing at Harry, and Lily rushes to the kitchen.
"Daddy, you've cooked! What's in there?" Lily asks from the kitchen.
"Er, it's stew," Harry distractedly answers while Draco and he are gazing at each other.
"I'm going to my room!" Lily calls from the stairs, and the trance is broken.
Harry goes into the kitchen and Draco follows him there.
"So, you've cooked?"
"Yeah well, I had time, so I thought I would put something together for dinner," Harry turns to Draco, suddenly assailed by doubt. "You are staying, right?"
"Well, if that's okay, yeah, I'd like to have dinner here with you, very much so," Draco answers, and it's weird, really, this tentative conversation after all that has been said the night before.
Harry smiles. "Good," and he turns to check on the stew. As he is doing so, he feels two hands on his waist as Draco wraps his body around his. Harry leans on him and closes his eyes for a while, letting Draco place a soft kiss on his neck.
"Draco…" and Harry turns around and looks at him. "What about Lily?" he murmurs, indicating the door facing the stairs with his head.
"Well, she's upstairs, we would hear her if she were coming down, don't you think?"
"Yeah," and Harry just stares into Draco's eyes and brings his hands in his hair before giving him a slow, soft kiss.
As they are all having dinner together, the atmosphere is light and relaxed, and Harry is elated. He is feeling good for the first time in weeks and enjoys every minute of this time spent with his family.
Around the end of the meal though, Lily grows tired and gets cranky as she starts fussing about her food.
"Lily, please finish your meal, sweetie, it's getting late," Harry says, gathering what remains on Lily's plate in a small pile with her fork.
"No," Lily replies, rubbing her eyes like mad.
"Are you not hungry anymore?" he asks in a gentle tone.
"No! I don't like it!"
"Well, you said it was good earlier," Harry remains calm and composed, feeling Draco's gaze on him the whole time.
"Well now I don't like it!" she pouts and crosses her arms.
"Fine, I think it's time for you to go to bed then," Harry stands up and reaches for her plate, but she clings to it, preventing him from taking it.
"No! I'm not tired!" and her body immediately betrays her as she yawns widely.
"Oh yes, you are young lady," Draco steps in with a small smile. Harry smiles at him too. It's amazing how children can go to great lengths to deny the obvious!
"I'm not!" and she pushes the plate sharply away.
"Okay, that's it, Lily, time to go to bed," and Harry reaches for her, but she doesn't let him. He tries to be patient, but it's hard, and he never likes it when Lily starts acting like a brat. He knows she's tired, but it makes him cringe inside. Draco says nothing, but observes the whole scene and then starts clearing his and Harry's plates, brushing Harry on his way to the sink.
"No! I want dessert!" she yells, disentangling herself from his grip.
Harry lets her go and faces her, looking determinedly in her eyes. "No, Lily, you can't have dessert if you won't clear your plate. That's not the way it works. Now either you finish your main course and then you can have some dessert, or you go to bed now!" He sustains his gaze as she's looking daggers at him and he tries hard not to let it get to him. Behind him, he can hear Draco cast different spells to set the washing up in gear.
She seems to hesitate, and then reluctantly grabs her fork and starts eating again, not without sending him another dark look.
"It's cold," she says moodily.
"There, let me," and Harry grabs his wand and casts a warming charm on what's left of the food. He knows he should reprimand her for speaking to him like that, but he decides to let that pass for once, not wanting to push it now Lily is finally complying.
The rest of the meal goes rather smoothly, to Harry's relief and after dessert, Lily goes to bed without too much trouble. She is so tired that for once, they skip the storytelling.
Harry comes back downstairs to see Draco has completely cleared the kitchen. "God, I need a cup of tea!" he sighs and Draco laughs.
"What are you laughing at, Malfoy?"
"You. You have no idea how cute you look when you're annoyed," Draco replies, cupping his face and placing a soft kiss on Harry's lips. "I'm gonna kiss her goodnight."
"Right," and Harry sets the kettle on as Draco goes up the stairs.
"Shit, raising a kid is hard," Harry says as he snuggles up to Draco on the sofa with a cup of tea a few minutes later. "Sometimes I find the whole thing even harder than going after Dark Wizards! At least they don't throw tantrums over a piece of beef and veggies."
Draco chuckles. "Really? It's that bad?"
"Well, I must admit that it's hard to find the strength to face a cranky five-year-old after an already exhausting day at work."
"Er, Harry, it's Sunday. Please tell me you didn't go to work today?"
"No, I didn't, but- anyway, you know what I mean."
Draco looks at him with a funny expression on his face. "Is that why you're coming home so late every night, then?" There's no challenge in these eyes, just a need to get an answer.
"Of course not. I come home late because I have many, many things to do at work, but it's true that sometimes, after a tiring day, I'm feeling pretty relieved to come home and just have to kiss her goodnight. I mean, I love her, more than my own life and you know it, but the idea of having to face a tantrum is not really appealing to be honest. God, does that make me a terrible father?" and he looks up at Draco, slightly afraid he might have gone too far.
Draco takes his time to answer. "Well no, it only makes you human. I mean, nobody likes to face an irritable child obviously, but hey, that's part of the package. And for some crappy moments when you feel helpless, there are loads of others that make up for them, so in the end, everything is about balance really."
Harry stares at Draco for a while. He's amazed at how much he has grown and matured over the years. Fatherhood really suits him. "Well, you're right I guess."
"Of course I'm right, I'm-"
"Always right, yeah I know," and Harry grins at Draco's slightly discomfited expression.
"Right," and they remain silent for a moment, sipping their tea, as Harry ponders what Draco has just told him, content to be wrapped in his arms.
"You know she's not always like that," Draco says after a while. "I mean, we're having pretty good fun together. She's really bright, and never boring. I love having conversations with her. And she's very funny, she has a wicked sense of humour."
"Just like her Papa," Harry smiles at the slight expression of pride on Draco's face. It's true though. Lily has inherited Draco's dry sense of humour and taste for snappy repartees.
"Well… anyway, it's not a sacrifice you know," Draco continues. "I really love sharing all of that with her every day. And I don't regret working less to take care of her, not one second."
"I know. And I think it's great that you get to be in her life like that. I realise I miss that."
"There's always time to changes things, Harry. Nothing is set in stone."
"Yeah, well I hope that with all the changes I've instilled at work I'll be able to come home earlier than I used to, because I really want to spend more time with you, both of you."
"I think you'd be right to do so. She won't be five all her life, you know."
"True. Soon she'll go to Hogwarts, and we'll only get to see her for a few days at the time," Harry sighs.
"Yep, and she will meet all kinds of people, and then she'll start dating guys – or girls for that matter – and before we know it our little sunshine will be gone from home!"
They remain silent for a while, Harry trying to imagine how his little girl will turn out to be in the near future.
After a while, Draco breaks the comfortable silence they had settled in. "You did well with her. Tonight I mean."
"Yeah, well I tried to remain as patient as possible, but it was quite a feat I must say," Deep inside, Harry is touched by Draco's remark and he feels a jolt of pride at his words.
"I mean it. She was being really difficult, and you managed to remain calm, and stick to your guns."
"Oh, thank you," and Harry leans forward to put his mug on the coffee table, before kissing Draco.
They are both lost in their thoughts for a while, when Harry finally gathers his courage. He knows they are technically back together, but he still needs the confirmation.
"So, are we- I mean, are we officially back together, then?"
Draco gives him a funny look. "Well, considering we've spent the last few days talking like we hadn't done in months and kissing and groping, I think it's pretty clear, no?"
Harry smiled widely. "Yeah, sorry I just needed to hear it," and he kisses Draco deeply once again.
"When are we going to tell Lily about us?" Draco asks after a while.
"Well, since she wanted this as a Christmas present, why not do it on Christmas day?"
"I don't know, I don't want her to think that Father Christmas really has the power to grant any wish because next year, we might very well end up with a request to adopt a hippogriff and that's a wish I do NOT want to see happen!"
Harry chuckles. "True! So, what do you suggest?"
"I don't know, because on the other hand, it might make her sad on Christmas day for no real reason."
"So, Christmas day it is?"
"Right, and this way, we can also tell Mother when we go to the Manor."
"Great, that's settled then!" and Harry once again leans to kiss Draco.
The kiss soon intensifies as Draco's hand wanders down Harry's back to cup his arse and Harry moans as he feels Draco's hand slip inside his trousers. Harry revels on the soft caress of Draco's tongue against his, and he comes to sit on his lap, straddling his thighs. They kiss more passionately and soon they get lost in their embrace. Harry is dying to prolong the moment, to take the whole thing up to the next level, but he knows they should stop before it gets too far. There's this tiny, insistent voice at the back of his head that tells him that it is still too soon. Fortunately, Draco is the more reasonable of the two tonight and he breaks the kiss, panting heavily.
"I think- I think I should go now," he finally says, moving Harry back on to the couch and standing up swiftly.
"Yeah, as unhappy as it makes me, I think you're right," and he gets up as well.
"Right. I'll see you tomorrow then," Draco says, grabbing a handful of floo powder on the fireplace.
"See you tomorrow," and Harry leans in to kiss him goodnight.
As soon as Draco is gone, Harry switches all the lights off and heads for his empty bed.
On Monday, Harry goes back to work and Draco and Lily spend the three days remaining before Christmas Eve decorating the house and cooking, since Lily is now on school holidays.
Harry keeps his promise and comes home in time to have dinner with them every night and put Lily to bed. Once she's asleep, Draco and he move to the living-room, curl together up on the sofa and have long and intense discussions about their relationship, fatherhood and plans for the future.
Draco is happy to see a more relaxed Harry than he has seen in months, and says the stupidest things to make him laugh. He has always loved Harry's warm and deep, sincere laugh and revels in the sound of it. All in all, they are having a great time together, and Draco is delighted to see that the Harry he fell in love with is somewhat back.
He is not stupid though, and knows that it won't be that simple: heavy clouds still hang above them, threatening to burst at the first opportunity. He knows they will have to be particularly vigilant so as not to let their relationship deteriorate like it did recently.
But there's hope, and what words can't express, their bodies take over. On Monday and Tuesday, they keep close, but manage to stick to kissing and caressing, before Draco reluctantly goes back to sleep at the Manor.
Tonight though, things get to a whole new level. The brushing of a hand near a sensitive spot sends a jolt of arousal in Draco's body and soon, there is no stopping them. They gasp as they finally give in to their aching need of being as close as possible to the other.
"Oh, Harry, Harry, oh, I-, oh," Draco pants heavily as Harry presses his back against the wall of the hallway, moving against him like crazy and planting wet kisses on every patch of skin he seems to find on his way. Draco knows that despite their wish to take things slow, neither is going to be able to hold back tonight; it's been way too long. They have managed to spend the last few days with their hands to themselves, but right now, there seems to be nothing to stop them.
Draco closes his eyes for a moment, letting Harry lead, before turning him around and shoving him in the opposite wall. He then presses his erection hard on to Harry's arse and rolls his hips, pinning Harry's hands on the wall with his own. Draco shivers as Harry whimpers, overwhelmed by the return of such familiar sounds.
"Let's go upstairs," Draco murmurs in Harry's ear.
They enter the bedroom – their bedroom, Draco thinks with a thrill – and both seem incapable of taking their hands off each other. Draco manages to close the door and set silencing and locking spells, before motioning Harry to the bed and shoving him on it. He takes a moment to admire Harry, sprawled on the bed with hair messier than ever, propped on his elbows, shirt half open on his beautiful chest and eyes darkened with lust. Draco licks his lips and despite his own state of arousal, cock aching hard in his trousers, he wishes to savour the moment.
He undresses very slowly, making a show out of it, never leaving Harry's eyes and loving the reactions in Harry's body at the sight of it.
"Fuck, you're beautiful," Harry murmurs, his eyes roaming Draco's body as he crawls on to the bed. Harry sends his arms around his neck and Draco captures his mouth in a long, hard kiss, before taking hold of his hands and pinning them up above his head, never leaving his eyes.
Draco then attacks Harry's neck, his mouth nipping at it. "I'm gonna fuck you now, Harry, I'm gonna fuck you so hard," Draco whispers in his ear, and Harry gasps as he suddenly finds himself completely naked. Draco knows how much his wandless magic turns Harry on.
He lets go of Harry's wrists to let his hands run all the way up Harry's muscled legs and he is mesmerised by Harry's cock, so hard and ready for him, leaking pre-come all over his stomach. Draco can't help sticking his tongue out to taste it.
"Oh yes!" Harry lets out with a moan.
Draco revels in the well-known taste he has missed so much, and soon closes his eyes, engulfing Harry's prick in his mouth in one go.
"Oh, fuck, Draco!" Harry says again above him, and Draco can't seem to be able to stop himself now. He pulls the foreskin back, circles the head of Harry's cock with his tongue before taking him fully inside his mouth again. He knows precisely what drives Harry crazy, knows how to exactly place his tongue to make him shudder hard. He sucks him like mad, reducing Harry to a shivering mess, alternating between deep throating him and teasing the head, and he knows that with the rhythm he has set, Harry won't last long, as confirmed by the groans escaping Harry's mouth.
Regretfully, Draco stops and moves up to catch Harry's mouth in another kiss that is full of passion. He sucks on Harry's tongue before settling between Harry's legs that instantly clamp around his hips. God, this is simply amazing, to be back in Harry's arms like that, skin to skin, their erections rubbing hard together, feeling his lover's hands running all over his back and the incredible need they both feel, the need to connect, to become one, to be so close to the other!
"Oh, Draco, I-"
"Take me now, Draco, I can't- just, take me now!"
Draco lets his fingers trail on the soft skin under Harry's balls. "Really? You don't even want me to-"
"Oh, fuck, Draco, just- just do it, I need you inside me, please, I've been waiting for so long!"
"All right," and Draco can't help smiling at his lover's impatience, as he murmurs the incantation that soon gets his dick covered in slick lubricant. He holds himself in hand and strokes a couple of times to get himself ready, before he lifts Harry's legs up and settles them on his shoulders, opening him.
When Draco finally enters Harry after such a long time, he can't hold back a long, needy moan, and the feelings that assail him right then are amazing. Harry is so tight and hot, and God, this is like coming home after being away for a long time, where everything looks the same and yet, it doesn't exactly feels the same. Draco goes very slowly at first, thrusting in carefully, taking his time to admire Harry as the familiar expressions are back on his beautiful face.
Draco knows that things are not exactly as they were before, he can see it on his lover's face even as he is pulling out and pushing back in again. Something has changed between them, and Draco is very aware of that fact, he knows it will take time for him to get the old Harry back completely, if he ever does. He knows that things will be less spontaneous, more cautious between them for a while. They have both grown and changed, matured probably over the last few weeks, but they are still together and it's all that matters for now.
Draco starts thrusting faster and revels in the incredible sensations and soon, they find their pace. It feels as if every inch of Draco's body is aware of Harry, and it feels amazing. He leans forward and kisses Harry full on the lips, savouring the taste of him on his tongue, and tugging at his bottom lip lightly before pressing kisses all along Harry's jawline, right down to his neck, where he inhales the unique scent of the man he loves as he is pushing in and out of him. Harry moans with every thrust now, wrapping his legs around Draco, and running his fingers in Draco's hair and down his back, sending shivers all over the sensitive skin.
Draco cups Harry's face into his hands and looks deep into his eyes, before kissing him again hard, and murmuring against his lips: "Can I- can I take you from behind now?"
Harry's eyes darken with lust. "Oh, fuck, yes!"
Draco carefully withdraws from Harry and turns him onto his stomach. He spreads Harry's legs wide and pushes his arse up in the air a little bit, pressing his hands on Harry's hips before entering him once again. "Fuck!" they say in unison, as Draco rolls his hips on top of Harry, placing soft kisses on his back, thriving on the taste and scent of his lover of eleven years.
"Oh, God, yes Draco, right there, oh this is- fuck, this- so good!' Harry stammers and starts meeting Draco's thrusts in earnest. Draco knows that Harry is as close as he is now as they move together as one.
He increases his pace, feeling Harry writhe and whimper underneath him and it is wonderful. He wants Harry like he's never wanted anyone else ever, and takes him like his life is depending on it, pounding him over and over again. He soon can't control his thrusts anymore and reaches for Harry's hands on the sheets, entwining their fingers together.
Draco whimpers endlessly now and closes his eyes as Harry chants his name, and suddenly, Draco feels him clenching tight around his cock as he is coming hard on the sheets, in what seems to last for hours, without even touching himself. That's all it takes for Draco to feel his orgasm rise up as he thrusts of few more times and he finally, finally comes deep inside of Harry, inside the man he's never stopped loving, the man he is so, so deeply in love with despite everything that has happened to them recently. He collapses on top of Harry, exhausted but so happy to be back where he now knows he truly belongs.
The next morning, Lily wakes up early. It's Christmas Eve and she is so excited! She gets up and puts on her dressing-gown, before heading downstairs, Zoe the hippogriff tucked tightly under her arm. Her Daddy can sleep in today, and she wants to prepare him breakfast.
As she goes down the stairs, she is full of hope: tomorrow will be Christmas, and she can't wait for Father Christmas to bring her what she has asked for: her Daddy and Papa happy together again.
As she reaches the last step, she freezes as something catches her eye on the coat rack. Among the dark cloaks she notices something pink sticking out of her Daddy's robe's pocket.
Her heart beats fast as she slowly gets closer, afraid of what it might be, although she knows perfectly well what it is. As she takes it out of the pocket, her heart sinks and her bottom lip trembles, silent tears running down her cheeks.
She is assailed by several emotions that rush through her body. First, incomprehension: how come her Daddy has not sent her letter to Father Christmas? Then she gets angry: how could he forget? He had promised her! And then, very quickly, anger is replaced by two other strong emotions, that overtake the rest: fear that Father Christmas won't have fulfilled her request, and despair at the thought that her fathers will never get together again. She falls to the floor, right below the stands, and lets the tears fall freely on her cheeks.
She had been so hopeful, so sure that her fathers would get back together, that she just had to be patient and wait for Christmas to come so that her life would be the same again! But now, there is no hope anymore. She looks at the pink envelope, takes out the letter, reads it one last time, before tearing it to pieces and getting up.
She rushes back to her bedroom, and throws herself on her bed. She starts crying, the sound of it muffled by her pillow. She slides her hands underneath it and her fingers meet a hard, flat object, and she remembers putting it there the other night after her Papa had read it to her again.
The Brightest Star.
She takes the book out, and stops crying at once. She crosses her legs and lets it rest on her lap, caressing the picture of the huge Christmas tree glowing on the cover. She loves the story of this prince who is always unhappy and who finally meets the princess and falls in love with her. She opens the book and starts skimming through the pages, hearing her Papa reading the story to her in her head, and trying to remember the words. She can't properly read yet, but she recognises small words.
Here: the magnificent castle. Oh, and the beautiful princess that cannot hear, see or feel the prince. And then on the next page, the star. The Brightest Star. The one that grants wishes. On Christmas Eve, Lily remembers as her heart seems to suddenly beat faster in her chest. A surge of excitement rushes through her veins. The Brightest Star! That's it! She just needs to find it, and it will grant her dearest wish, like it did for the prince!
But then she frowns again. Where can she find it? She turns the pages again and looks at where the prince sees it for the first time. Lily narrows her eyes and stares at the picture. The Brightest Star is high up in the sky. Lily lifts her head up and thinks hard. She pushes the book away and walks to her window, searching for it in the still dark sky.
And that's when she sees it. Far, far away – Lily has to stand on tiptoes and twist her body a little to be able to see it. She doesn't technically see it see it, but the glow surrounding it makes it impossible to miss.
There it is. The Brightest Star. Now she just knows what to do.
Harry slowly gets out of unconsciousness with a weird feeling in his gut. He can't exactly pinpoint what is bothering him, but it's there. It disappears at once though, when he realises a warm body is pressed hard against him. A thrill runs down his spine at the familiar sensation that has returned, and he can't help grinning widely.
He closes his eyes as he feels Draco shift slightly and light kisses are pressed at the nape of his neck. God, that feels amazing. He turns to face Draco and takes him in a long, lazy kiss.
"Good morning," he murmurs.
"Good morning," and the smile Draco gives him is enough to warm his insides.
They start kissing again, and soon Draco is on top of him, visibly very happy to see him.
"Draco, I- oh- I'd love to, but- we can't- Lily," he manages to say as Draco settles between his legs that open to him on instinct.
"Shhh, Lily's not here at the moment, just let me."
Harry closes his eyes and first tries to ignore the incredible sensations building up in his body as Draco starts moving against him. Merlin, this is too good! He finally gives in to Draco and grabs his mouth in a heated kiss, running his hands in Draco's soft hair and down his back.
When Draco starts working his way down his body, Harry turns his head and a fleeting thought crosses his mind as his eyes fall on the window, but soon Draco takes him whole in his mouth and Harry closes his eyes and arches his back, forgetting all about it.
He flicks his eyes open as suddenly everything falls into place. He quickly props himself on his elbows, making Draco groan and remove his mouth, and Harry takes a look at the time.
"What's wrong with you, all of the sudden?" Draco frowns.
"It's past eight already, Draco! Lily should be up, especially on Christmas Eve," Harry says as he gets up swiftly and puts his pyjama and dressing gown on, soon heading for the door.
"Wait!" and Draco dresses as well, following Harry closely. A weird feeling is clenching Harry's insides. It's probably nothing, he tries to reason himself, she might just be in her room playing, but he knows that Lily always, always comes to see him first thing when she wakes up. And she never gets up after half-past seven.
They push the door of Lily's room open and quickly cast a glance at it.
"Shit!" Harry shouts.
"Lily!" Draco calls and they frantically start searching every room on the first floor.
Nothing there either. "Lily!" they shout again, but there is still no answer. Fuck. "Go and take a look downstairs while I check upstairs!"
A cold shiver of fear starts rising up in his body as Harry rushes to the top floor and is about to check the first room when he hears Draco calling him from downstairs.
"Harry, quick, come down here!"
A thousand thoughts cross his mind as he dashes down the stairs, nearly falling in the process. When he arrives on the ground floor, he's alarmed by Draco's face, even paler than usual.
"Did you find her?"
"No, there's no one here, but look what I've just found."
Harry's heart skips a beat. Scattered in bits and pieces all over the floor are the remains of Lily's letter to Father Christmas. Harry crouches to take them in his hand and there's no possible mistake: Harry recognises Lily's handwriting at once.
He looks around hastily, trying to find anything that could tell them more and he shivers hard as his gaze falls on the front door.
It is half-open.
Draco doesn't know how he manages to transfigure Harry's and his night's clothes so quickly into more appropriate clothing, but he supposes the rush of adrenalin coursing through him at the thought of his daughter outside on Christmas Eve in Diagon Alley must have helped.
They rush outside as if their lives depend on it, and to be honest they do, he thinks with a pinch of his heart, their lives really do depend on them being fast enough to find their little girl.
Draco tries not to think of what might be happening to his precious little daughter as they frantically search every shop and every corner near the house. Harry is silent and focused on the task, and Draco knows his trained eyes are looking for the tiniest piece of evidence that would show their baby has been there.
After a while, Harry stops. "We're not doing this right, we need to just think for a minute," and he walks to a small stone bench before sitting on it. Draco comes and joins him.
"Did she say anything to you over the last few days that could explain why she would leave the house like that?" Harry asks him.
"Well, apart from the fact that she thought you had sent her letter to Father Christmas and now she thinks she won't get what she's asked for?" his tone is dry, but he doesn't care.
"Shit, I really am a shitty father. Fuck, fuck, fuck."
"Swearing won't bring her back, we need to keep on looking for her, come on!" and Draco tugs on Harry's sleeve, forcing him to stand up.
"But why- what I don't get is why she would go out?"
"What I'm wondering is how the fuck she managed to get out of the house! What with all the wards and-"
Draco stops in his tracks as he sees the blood leaving Harry's face at his words. And all of the sudden, all becomes clear. The wards. They usually set them just before going to bed but they didn't last night. Nope. Last night they had been way too busy to think about them at all.
"Shit!" he yells, running a hand through his hair.
"How could we forget about them?" and Harry hides his hands on his face, before turning to Draco again. "Okay, why don't you go back inside and try to find some clues as to where she might have gone while I continue to search for her here, okay?"
"Right, and that way, if she comes home, I'll be there," Draco agrees. "I'll send you my Patronus if there is anything."
Draco hesitates for a second and then cups Harry's head and looks deep in his eyes. "We're gonna find her," he kisses him briefly. "Now, go!"
Draco runs back to the house and starts calling Lily frantically again. You never know, he thinks with a sigh as he checks the rooms of the ground floor all over again, but of course, Lily's no more here than she was earlier.
Draco then collects all the small pieces of the letter and murmurs "gluttere," fixing them all together back in place. He then shoves the letter in his pocket and hurries upstairs, to Lily's bedroom.
He first goes to Lily's desk but he doesn't find anything meaningful on it. He stumbles upon a few drawings though, and feels his heart clench when he realises they almost all depict the three of them in more or less the same situations: Harry and Draco holding hands, Lily in the middle, tiny pink hearts all around them. They are all smiling widely. There are also two that show Harry and him kissing while holding hands, a speech bubble above them saying "I luv you."
Draco sighs and puts the drawings back onto the desk, before moving to the bed and sitting on it. He feels something under him and reaches for it. It's the book Lily keeps asking him to read to her. The one about the-
He freezes. God, how has it not thought about that before?
He hurriedly flicks his wand and says, "Expecto Patronum," and sure enough, a beautiful eagle spreads its wings as Draco is giving it orders. As soon as it is gone, Draco disapparates with a faint pop.
This is not working. The more time passes, the less chance they have to find Lily. And what if they're completely wrong? What if she has been abducted and not just left the house? Harry tries to focus again.
He arrives at the entrance of Knockturn Alley and a shiver runs down his spine. Could Lily have gone there? He doesn't think so, it is way too dark and creepy for a five-year-old to want to go there. Although you never know of course. A couple of hours earlier, Harry would never have thought his daughter capable of leaving the house on her own like that either. But his instincts tell him she has not gone there. He goes on Diagon Alley.
He is about to enter Florean Fortescue's Ice-cream parlour when his heart skips a beat: a silver eagle is rapidly flying to him and lands lightly next to him. Then the patronus opens its mouth and slowly says in Draco's voice. "Lily is at the giant Christmas tree. I'll meet you there." The eagle has not yet got a chance to evaporate before Harry is gone in a loud crack that makes the ice-cream parlour windows tremble hard for a second.
He apparates right in front of the Christmas tree, but there is no sign of either Lily or Draco.
"Right here, Harry!" he hears Draco calling him from the other side of the tree and he rushes there. Lily is not with him, but he's holding something grey in his hand.
Draco puts his hand on Harry's arm and squeezes it hard. "Shhh, listen!"
And sure enough, he can hear it too. Faint sobs coming from a small bush right behind them.
"Lily?" they start calling her. "Lily, where are you?"
The sobs stop at once and are replaced by a tiny trembling voice. "Daddy? Papa?"
"Oh my God, Lily! Come here, sweetie! What are you-"
And Lily crawls out of the bush, her face red and covered in tears and as Harry finally takes her in his arms, she cries so hard he can feel the tears dampen his robe. Harry closes his eyes and holds her tight as Draco checks their little girl has not been harmed in any way before casting a warming spell on her.
"Shhh, that's okay sweetie, that's okay!" God, Harry is so relieved he suddenly feels completely drained and barely realises it when Draco takes hold of his arm and apparates them all to their living-room.
"Lily, do you realise that you scared us to death, your Papa and I?" Harry says in a reproachful tone five minutes later, now they're all back home and Lily has dried her tears. He feels Draco's hand on his arm, and he knows he shouldn't talk to her like that, but God, he has never been that scared in all his life. Lily's disappearance makes confronting Voldemort look like a walk in the park in comparison.
"Lily," Draco crouches on the floor next to the sofa where their daughter is sitting. "Why did you leave the house like that?"
"I-" she starts but her bottom lip trembles and then sure enough, she is crying again, hiding her face in her hands. "I'm sorry!" she cries.
Draco sighs. "Shhh, Lily, that's okay now, you're safe, and it's all that matters to us, okay?" and he gently takes her hands from her face, removes the hair that has been stuck there and brushes his thumbs to dry the tears, before taking her in a hug.
Harry comes and sits next to them on the sofa, and sends his arms around the two of them.
They stay like that for a little while before Lily breaks the moment. "I'm hungry."
Draco chuckles. "Right, let's go and fix breakfast then, come on sweetie!"
"So, how did you find out where she was?" Harry asks Draco as he shoves a piece of bacon in his mouth.
"Well, I think you should ask Lily why she went there in the first place."
She looks down at her plate and starts pushing the remains of her scrambled eggs with her fork. "I wanted to find the Brightest Star to make my wish," she answers sheepishly.
Harry has a confused look on his face.
"Like in the story I read to her the other day," Draco explains. "Shall I tell it to your Daddy?"
"No, I do it," Lily says very seriously and turns to Harry. "Once upon a time, there was this prince who was very sad and his life didn't have colours in it because he was sad and he had no one to love." Harry raises an eyebrow and looks at Draco but says nothing. "And then he went to see an old witch who told him he needed to find the Brightest Star to make his wish come true. So he travelled far, far away but he didn't find it. In the end he found the princess and fell in love with her, but then she couldn't see him because he was too sad. And then he saw the Brightest Star and he made his wish and then he went to see the princess again and then she fell in love with him and then they married and they had loads of children and were happily ever after and then the end."
Harry smiles. "Well, that's a nice story!"
"And you went to find the Brightest Star to make a wish?" Draco asks innocently, glancing at Harry.
"Yes," Lily says hesitantly.
"And what was your wish?" Harry asks softly, his voice barely a whisper.
Lily doesn't answer and looks at the two of them for a moment. She then suddenly gets up and runs up the stairs to her bedroom.
"Shit, what did I say again? How come I never manage to find the right way to talk to her?" Harry asks looking bewildered.
"Shhh, Harry and look! She's coming back down!"
And Lily sits back on her chair, holding the book in one hand and a drawing in the other.
"Here, Daddy. This was my wish," and she hands him the drawing.
Harry swallows hard as he sees the two men on the picture holding hands and kissing, with the tiny pink hearts above them and the words "Daddy" and "Papa" written underneath.
He looks at Draco who nods slightly, before turning back to his daughter. "Lily, your Papa and I have something to tell you."
She props her elbows on the table and rests her chin on her hands waiting expectantly.
"Your Papa and I are no longer… fighting. We realised that we love each other very much and that we couldn't live away from one another."
Lily opens her eyes wider. "It worked!" she shouts. "It really worked!" and a big smile displaying two rows of tiny teeth comes across her face. "I knew it!"
"Lily, wait no, it wasn't- I mean, it doesn't have anything to do with the wish really."
She smiles at him. "Of course it does! I made my wish and it worked! Thank you, thank you Brightest Star!" and she takes the book with both hands and holds it tight on her chest. "It worked!"
"Well," Draco shrugs, before reaching for Harry's hand and holding it tight.
And right at this moment, Harry knows that despite everything they've gone through, and everything they still have to work on, they are going to be all right. Because no matter what happens from now on, this is where he belongs, this is what he has always wanted, and this is what he will never stop fighting for.