Prompt Number: #32
Title:A Second Chance at First Love
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, past Harry/Ginny and Harry/Oliver. No one else matters.
Summary: ". . . I just wanted you to know that you weren't the only one who'd had a shitty existence for a time. Maybe I hated that you thought I was someone I wasn't. Maybe . . . maybe I hated that I thought you were someone you weren't, but never realised it until Voldemort gave me those glimpses of your life. Our experiences, they weren't so different after all."
Disclaimer:I'm unemployed, don't sue.All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s):Stubbornness. Angst.If you want them to hop right into bed after the first frisson of UST, this fic isn't for you. Also, there's a kid, and he's a wee bit sneaky.
Author's Notes:For thenerd1026, who asked for 'slow in the beginning' and I might have really run with that, hence the word count. I was 99% faithful to your prompt (don't worry, a happy ending was definitely part of that 99%), and I hope you get something from all of the heart that I poured into this story. Love to my betas S and C. I guarantee you that any mistakes are totally mine, because I just could not stop revising and adding to this fic. It ate my soul.
"Please, I need a Healer," he called out to the Welcome Witch on duty as he approached the reception desk. His eyes burned, blinking back hot tears of fear as the little boy moaned weakly. "My godson, he needs help, please."
"Name of the patient?" the witch asked in an overly formal yet cordial tone.
"Teddy. Teddy Lupin. Please, he needs a Healer right now."
"Eleven – miss, plea–"
"Symptoms?" she interrupted again, more loudly this time but still smiling.
Harry stifled the burst of errant magic that was threatening to wipe the grin off her face. "Fever," he choked out, swallowing past the terrified lump in his throat. "He isn't responding to me, his eyes keep rolling back in his head–"
"Pediatrics, second floor, ward fourteen. A mediwitch will be waiting."
Harry turned toward the adjacent elevator doors, pressing the button several times. Agonising moments later, the doors opened and a pleasant–sounding voiced asked, "Destination, please?" Harry responded, and the elevator lurched upward.
"Gran?" Teddy said weakly from Harry's arms, his eyes closed.
"You're going to be okay, Teddy, I promise," Harry answered as the elevator continued to whisk them to and fro en route to pediatrics. "I won't let anything happen to you."
Teddy had been fine earlier that evening, if maybe a bit tired. It was two days into Christmas hols, and Teddy seemed to be adjusting well enough. Harry had magicked a foot of snow into the back garden of Grimmauld Place, and he and Teddy had spent a good hour building a lopsided snowman after dinner. He had sent Teddy off to bed after the boy's fourth yawn when they'd sat watching the evening news, and Harry had stayed up late with a crime novel and a finger of Glenfiddich.
As the clock struck two in the morning, Harry finally gave into his own tiredness and had gone upstairs to check on Teddy and finally fall asleep himself, but instead of finding Teddy sprawled out and half–uncovered like he usually did, the boy was curled into a ball, wet with perspiration, and unresponsive to Harry's attempts at waking him. In a panic, Harry had pulled Teddy into his arms and immediately Apparated to the sidewalk just outside St. Mungo's secret entrance behind an abandoned red brick department store.
The elevator finally stopped and the doors opened with a pleasant bell. Harry stepped out, Teddy's unmoving body growing more and more heavy, and was immediately met by a bustling, slightly overweight mediwitch in a bubblegum pink apron.
"Hello, dearie, you must be the boy with the dreadful fever," she said sympathetically as she reached out to touch Teddy's forehead, barely sparing Harry a glance. "Oh dear, you are worse for wear, aren't you lovey?" she added, her lilting Liverpudlian accent sounding far too chipper for how Harry felt.
"Please, you have to help him, he's burning up."
"No need to panic dear, the Healer will see him right as rain in no time. He's the best, he is, don't you worry."
She led Harry down a short hallway to an open exam area, directing him to place Teddy on one of the beds and pulling a pale blue curtain that hung from the ceiling across the space for privacy. Harry placed him gently on the crisp white sheets, smoothing his brown hair off his forehead as she asked Harry for information about Teddy – name, age, allergies. A hot tear escaped, running down Harry's cheek and he quickly wiped it away. The mediwitch didn't seem to notice and, raising her wand, cast three spells in quick succession. A complicated web of pale yellow, red, and a murky purple surrounded Teddy, and the mediwitch clucked her tongue as the diagnostic charms did their work.
"Fever's over forty, we'd best get the Healer in here quickly."
Before Harry could ask any questions, she'd disappeared with a soft pop. He leaned over Teddy's still form, wishing he would open his eyes and look at him, and kissed the top of his godson's head.
"Please, Teddy, please be all right. Please be okay," he whispered, a fear unlike he'd ever known coursing through him. Teddy was his now, and if anything were to happen . . .
Harry heard the sound of the curtain being pulled back again and looked up, but rather than the plump mediwitch and her bubblegum pink apron, there stood Draco Malfoy, chart in hand.
"No, but Teddy isn't one to complain anyway. He's more the grin and bear it type. Especially since . . ." Harry trailed off.
"Since his grandmother died?"
"How did you–"
"She was my aunt."
There wasn't time to be shocked about seeing Draco Malfoy after so many years, or that Malfoy was the previously mentioned Healer that the mediwitch – named Muriel, he found out – said was 'the best.' Harry didn't care who was treating Teddy, as long as they could make him well again.
Malfoy was writing notes in the chart from where he stood at the foot of Teddy's bed while Harry sat there, awkward and nervous and afraid all at once. The only comfort that Harry had at this point was that Malfoy didn't look nervous or afraid – he just looked . . . well, like Malfoy always looked. Serious and stoic. But Malfoy was also acting as if he and Harry didn't share any history – as if Harry was just any other panicked parent with a sick child, and not the man whose nose Malfoy had once smashed in an empty train car, who he blamed for landing his father in prison, or who once pulled him out of a fire intent on killing them all. There hadn't even been the briefest of pauses when Malfoy first pulled back that curtain to find Harry standing there.
"His fever registers at just under forty–one, which is nearing the threshold that I'd rather not see him cross." Malfoy walked to the opposite side of the bed and lifted Teddy's pyjama top.
"That– that wasn't there before. I mean, I don't remember seeing it earlier. But I didn't– I wasn't with him when he took his bath." Harry said this in a rush, not wanting Malfoy to think that he hadn't even noticed his own godson had developed a rash.
Malfoy leaned forward, taking a closer look at the large cluster of tiny red bumps that covered the surface of Teddy's stomach. He turned the boy slightly, seeing that the rash extended to his back. Malfoy laid the chart down on the worktop behind him and pulled open one of Teddy's eyelids, waving his wand near his face as he activated yet another diagnostic spell.
"You aren't wearing shoes, Potter."
"What?" Harry looked up, confused.
"Oh. I . . ." Harry looked down at his socked feet, realising for the first time that in his rush to get Teddy to hospital, he'd forgotten to put his shoes on.
"You were right to rush him here. It's a good thing you checked on him before morning."
"If you're trying to make me feel better, it's not working," Harry replied, swallowing past the lump in his throat as he straightened Teddy's shirt.
"I'm fairly certain that I know what this is, but I'd like to check on something first. He's a Metamorphmagus, correct?"
Malfoy nodded, then pushed the curtain back, turning to leave.
"Malfoy?" Harry stood, taking two steps toward him. "He's all I've got."
Malfoy stared back at him, and just as Harry was starting to feel as though the other man could have cared less about who Harry did or didn't have, Malfoy's face softened.
"Doubtful as that is, Potter, he's going to be all right. You got him here in time."
Harry felt every muscle in his body relax – muscles he wasn't even aware were tense until they let loose – for the first time since he'd found Teddy unresponsive in his bed.
Malfoy said he was going to be fine, and he had no reason not to believe him.
He couldn't see anything beyond Teddy's bed due to the privacy curtain that cordoned off the exam area, but there was a great deal more noise than there had been earlier that night. Or morning, as it were. He could hear the usual hustle and bustle of hospital staff, and apparently they'd taken in new patients. When Harry had first arrived, both the reception area and exam area of the pediatrics ward were seemingly deserted. With Hogwarts students home for winter hols, Harry thought it would be busier.
He stood, flexing his arms above his head to stretch aching muscles that weren't designed for sleeping in stiff–backed hospital chairs. The pale glow of the amber web of charms that surrounded Teddy's body pulsed at regular intervals, keeping time with the beat of his heart. Meningococcal meningitis had set in quickly, but according to Malfoy, it was one of the downsides of Metamorphmagi. Something to do with their genetic makeup at the cellular level. Harry didn't quite understand it, only that people with Teddy's gift were prone to infection spreading at a far more rapid rate than they do in others. Not only did infection spread fast, but at an amplified level. In retrospect, it made sense. On the rare occasions that Teddy did get sick, it hit him fast and hit him hard. But nothing like this had ever happened before. A dose of Pepper–Up and Teddy was usually back to normal.
And it scared Harry half to death. What if he hadn't checked on Teddy before bed? To think that . . . No. Harry wasn't going to let his mind wander anywhere near there. Teddy was going to be fine. He had to be. Knowing the potential complications of an infection such as this was bad enough. Deafness.Seizures.Loss of vision. The information pamphlet that Malfoy had given him was terrifying.
Harry heard footsteps approach just before the curtain was pulled back, and mediwitch Muriel was smiling brightly at him.
"Well look who's awake after all. Did you have a nice nap, dearie?"
"As good as can be expected in that chair," Harry smiled weakly. "Thanks for the blanket and slippers, by the way."
"Oh, don't thank me. That was Healer Malfoy," she said as she checked Teddy's heart rate. "Came in to check on you two on the regular, he did. Should be making his rounds again any moment now."
Harry was startled into silence at the thought of Malfoy putting slippers on his feet, and as if on cue, the man appeared. He and Muriel greeted one another with a friendly nod before Malfoy began to run another set of diagnostics. His brow furrowed.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Harry nearly barked at him, clutching the blanket.
"His temperature isn't where I'd like to see it by this point in his treatment," he answered, looking back down at Teddy's chart and making more notes. "Muriel, would you set up a room, please?"
"I'm admitting him, Potter. He isn't progressing as well as I would like, so I'm afraid you're going to be here a while longer."
"Oh." Harry's face fell, and the fear that had left him earlier swiftly returned.
"It's necessary, Potter."
"It's just . . . it's nearly Christmas."
Malfoy stared at him, lips pursed in irritation, and Harry realised how it must have come across.
"It's his first Christmas since Andromeda died. I just hate that he has to spend it like this."
Malfoy's expression softened. "We'll have to see how he responds once I adjust his regime of potions, but you may have him home by Boxing Day."
Harry shoved his hands in his pockets, and Malfoy turned to leave.
The other man looked back at him.
"Thanks for the . . ." Harry trailed off, suddenly struck by his piercing stare. He gestured with the blanket. "For this.And the slippers."
Malfoy nodded. "Muriel will be back shortly to transport Teddy to his room."
Things were perfect until Muriel came bustling into the supplies closet where he'd been digging for sterile dosage vials and informed him that an eleven–year–old boy named Teddy Lupin had been brought in, unresponsive and with severe fever.
Draco knew that the list of those likely to have brought the boy in was short, and Harry Potter was right at the top of said list.
Therefore, it was no surprise for Draco when, pulling back the curtain, Potter had been the one leaning over the boy whispering reassurances and looking as good as Draco remembered. Better, even, damn the man.
It had been nearly a decade since Draco saw Potter last. For a brief moment in time, Draco had thought that Potter would have still been a part of his life now. But that was before Potter faded out of his life like everything – and everyone – else had.
Draco refused to give Potter any satisfaction. The man had made his choice years ago, and Draco was nothing if not an expert grudge–holder. He should be thanking Potter, really. Had their friendship not been tossed aside by Potter barely before it even began, Draco might not have had the fortitude to leave everything behind and start his life over in Australia.
But then Draco saw Potter, and true to form, he buckled like a belt when those earnest eyes looked at him, and this time it was coupled with a desperate need for help. When Draco had later gone to check on his patient and found Potter asleep in that dreadful chair, glasses askew and not even having the good sense to wear shoes in the dead of winter, Draco begrudgingly tossed a blanket over his sleeping form. But as he magicked a pair of slippers onto Potter's socked feet, he got some satisfaction out of the fact that Potter was going to wake up with one hell of a back ache.
Potter was just another parent with a sick child. Draco would treat him as such.
And he did fancy it. Aside from his mother who wanted to live life as if the prior year had never happened, Draco had no one but house elves to talk to. On the outside, Draco was quiet and getting on with things, but inside, he was screaming. On more than one occasion, Draco had Apparated to an empty field simply to scream himself hoarse. Until it felt like his throat was bleeding. No one had lived through what Draco Malfoy had been forced to live through. No one had seen the torture and murder that Voldemort and his brutish thugs, his father included, inflicted not only on strangers, but people that Draco knew . . . people he'd sat in classes with or received poor marks from on an essay. No one knew what it felt like to literally have the Dark Lord's breath, stale and eerily cold, skitter across your skin when he spoke to you; his face so close that you could practically count the pores on his serpentine nose. No one knew the bitter, acrid fear that burned constantly at the back of his throat.
No one.Except Harry Potter.
When Potter came through the Manor's Floo that night bearing a bottle of cheap Muggle whiskey, Draco said nothing and fetched two glasses. Barely five sentences were exchanged before he left hours later, and yet Draco felt more at ease than he had when faking normalcy with his mother. What more needed to be said, really? Their grievances had already been thrown at each other, but despite their history, Draco knew that not even the closest of Potter's friends could relate to his experiences with Voldemort in the way that Draco could.
It wasn't until Potter's third midnight visit that week that any real conversation happened.
"I fucking hate this house."
Potter looked at him over the rim of his newly–filled glass, taking a slow sip.
"I do." Draco walked slowly along a row of ancient tomes on potions. The library seemed like the only room in the Manor that didn't have memories of Voldemort.
"Then why do you stay?" Harry was sprawled out on the oversized chair that had been his favourite as a child.
"My mother. She . . ."
"Does she even know I've been coming here?" asked Potter when Draco couldn't find the words to explain what he himself didn't fully understand.
"She retires early, and I see no point in telling her."
"I'd light a match and walk away, myself," Potter replied, and Draco realised that he was serious.
He couldn't help but laugh. "Yeah, I'll just bet you would."
There was a brief silence as Draco dropped fresh ice into his tumbler.
"Trials will be starting next month."
Draco swirled the amber liquid around the glass, watched as it coated the fine crystal, unsure how Potter expected him to respond.
"You weren't arrested because I told Kingsley to leave you and your mother alone. But I won't speak up for your father."
Potter's words were very matter–of–fact.
Draco took a drink. "I wouldn’t expect you to."
And that had been the end of any conversation regarding the trials. Draco later learned that he had attended every single one of them, testified in several (including his father's), but never again commented on the matter to Draco.
Two weeks after Potter's nighttime visits had started, Draco had been surprised by the owl that had arrived shortly after breakfast.
Lunch? I'm at 12 Grimmauld Place. I believe you're familiar with the address. –HP
Draco had gone, not explaining to his mother where he was off to despite her demands to know, and sat with Potter in his kitchen, eating his stew like they hadn't once fantasised about beating the other into an unconscious bloody pulp. Which, for Potter, had nearly come true.
For a few months, things had been . . . nice.
He couldn't get a good read on Malfoy. It had been so long since he'd seen the other man, and Harry had long harboured regrets over how he'd left things between them before Malfoy had up and left the country without so much as a goodbye. It was his own fault, Harry knew, seeing as how he'd been the coward. He had come to consider Draco a friend, and then things got . . . complicated. In every possible way. After Harry had skipped out on their third planned lunch, Malfoy had shown up on his doorstep while Harry was in the midst of an argument with Ginny, and after the abrupt dismissal Harry had given him, Harry never saw him again.
It hadn't been his intent to make Malfoy feel tossed aside, though in hindsight he knew there was no other way to take it. But he hadn't wanted Ginny to know that it was Malfoy at the door, because that would have unleashed a whole other stream of expletives from his ex–girlfriend that, at the time, he just didn't want to deal with.
And that was nothing to the reaction that Ron had when Harry finally told him and Hermione that he'd been meeting up regularly with Malfoy. Harry just didn't want to deal with any of the old animosities or hatred. The war was over, he was absofuckinglutely exhausted from all of the our side versus their side bullshit. Things were never as black and white as certain people made them out to be. Harry did know what Malfoy had gone through, he'd seen it with his own two eyes courtesy of the parasite that resided in his head. Their world was never going to be the same again, and few people recognised that as well as Harry knew Draco Malfoy did.
Dumbledore believed that goodness existed in Draco Malfoy, and Harry had wanted to find it.
Malfoy looked much the same as Harry had remembered. Older, to be sure . . . he was no longer the skinny seventeen–year–old boy that clung to him while escaping the Fiendfyre. The years had been particularly good to Malfoy – Harry wished he could say the same for himself. He still felt like a gangly teenager, despite years of Auror training and fitness trials. Malfoy no longer bore the severe visage of that Pureblood Slytherin who desperately wanted to be acknowledged as superior to his peers. Harry noticed while staring unashamedly at Malfoy every time he came in to assess Teddy's progress that the sharp lines of his face had softened, and Harry felt something warm inside him uncurl whenever the other man's soft blond fringe fell in his eyes.
Harry found that he was focused as much on Malfoy as he was his godson, and felt more than a little guilty for it.
"Did I wake you?" Draco walked over to check the levels on the most recent dose of potions, noting those which would need replenished before his next round of checks.
"I was just contemplating whether or not to go and grab a bite, actually. If I don't eat soon, this headache will never go away."
"You're in a hospital, Potter. I'm fairly certain that we could scrounge up a headache potion for you if you require it."
"Unless they've improved the taste, I'd rather let food cure it," Harry said with a light laugh.
"You're in luck, then. They'll have Welsh cakes today."
Potter looked down at Teddy, biting his thumbnail.
"He'll be fine, Potter. He's asleep and won't wake until I want him to. He won't even know that you're gone."
Potter stood and walked toward the door, and hesitated.
"Do you want me to bring anything up for you?"
"No," he answered him, thinking it strange that Potter would even offer, "but thank you." Draco kept his eyes on Teddy's chart, making notes.
"I'll be back in an hour to wake him up."
Harry watched him leave without even a glance and sighed. He ran his fingers through his hair, which was badly in need of a wash, and headed to the cafeteria.
Three cups of earl grey, two Welsh cakes (which were lovely), and one long internal argument later, Harry went back to Teddy's room. He was going to get to know Malfoy again whether Malfoy liked it or not.
"It's fucking Malfoy, mate! Why are we even arguing about this? We all know what he's done! You hate him!"
"No, Ron, you hate him. I'm done hating. It's exhausting and I'm sick of it. The war's over."
The shouting match that they'd hadwhen Ron found out that Harry had been seeing Malfoy was the worst fight they'd ever faced.
Hermione had been torn – wanting to understand Harry's desire to get on with life without any of the baggage of the war, but unable to forget that Malfoy had been one of those staring down at her and standing idly by while Bellatrix Lestrange carved Mudblood into her skin on the floor of Malfoy Manor. She had an easier time acknowledging that he, like so many others, had been forced into that position and unable to see a way out. Harry didn't expect her to understand, but was grateful that, unlike Ron, she hadn't been hell bent on making Harry see things her way and only her way.
Harry hadn't been sure when – or even if – he'd ever planned on telling Ron and Hermione about this strange . . . whatever he had going on with Malfoy. Were they friends? He didn't know. Had you asked a perfect stranger, they likely would have said yes, considering how often they'd met up for drinks or a meal. Never in public, mind. Harry hadn't gone back to the Manor after that first lunch at Grimmauld Place. Malfoy didn't seem to like spending any more time there than Harry did, and just as Harry was keeping Malfoy a secret, Malfoy had never told his mother about Harry. It just seemed to be easier that way.
If it was friendship that had been growing between them, they both seemed to know without saying that any outside interference would be the end of it. Too much had happened.
And Malfoy seemed to have no one. Immediately following the war, their Slytherin classmates and their families – those who hadn't been arrested, anyway – scattered throughout Europe and beyond. Only a small handful remained in England, and they, like the Malfoys, had rarely ventured outside their homes as if under house arrest. Harry had supposed that in the eyes of the rest of the Wizarding World, they were. Malfoy never talked openly about it, but there had been comments here and there that implied even the most basic of tasks, like getting a new set of robes, had become impossible due to who he was.
Harry had been successful in keeping Malfoy a secret until the day of the final trial – Lucius Malfoy's trial on the last day of August, 1998. The man, by then a shadow of the imposing figure he once was with his stringy graying hair and sunken cheeks, had been dragged away ranting by two Aurors while Draco and Narcissa literally turned their backs on him. Harry, with Ron and Hermione in tow, had approached the closed courtroom doors, hearing the cacophony of reporters and onlookers on the other side who were eager to hear the verdict. He glanced on either side of him, hand on the door, and it was from the corner of his eye that he saw Narcissa standing behind them. Harry turned around, saw Draco with his eyes downcast, and said quietly,"Stay behind me." Draco nodded, and Harry had opened the door to a wall of noise.
It wasn't until they'd arrived back at the Burrow that Ron had turned on Harry.
"What the hell was that back there?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Harry lied.
"You, protecting Malfoy!"
After less hostile prodding by Hermione, Harry eventually told them that he'd been meeting up with Malfoy several times a week ever since he'd given him back his wand. Ron had exploded while Hermione grew silent. Ron's reaction hadn't really bothered Harry. He'd expected it. But Hermione had been visibly hurt by the revelation and, despite her more rational response, Harry had never quite forgiven himself for making her feel that way.
It had been the beginning of the end that Harry wasn't ready to see. But it had been easier, and Harry was just so tired. He'd needed Ron and Hermione and the rest of the Weasleys at that time in his life more than ever before, and while it hadn't been a conscious decision at the time, he'd started to shut Malfoy out that day.
By the end of that September, Malfoy's owls, gone unanswered, had stopped coming.
Draco looked up to find Michael, one of the mediwizards in training leaning over the desk and looking down at the chart that Draco was currently writing notes into. Michael was a shameless flirt, and all of Draco's discouragement didn't seem to matter. Muriel's shift had ended a short while ago, and Draco hadn't been best pleased to see Michael taking over her workflow.
"Shortly, yes." Draco turned back to his notes.
"I hear Harry Potter's in with him. That true?"
Draco sighed and put his quill down. Michael was grinning at him as if there was some shared secret between them. The mediwizard flipped his floppy golden brown fringe out of his eyes and pursed his lips.
"He's quite fit, don't you think?"
"No, I don't think, actually. Don't you have work to do?" Draco eased up the pressure on his quill, ink starting to bleed.
"Liar," Michael said, grin growing ever wider. "And I've already done my rounds and refilled everything that was on the list that Muriel gave me."
"Then perhaps you should put your time to good use and study. You have an exam next week, do you not?" Malfoy asked him, not looking up as he grabbed another file from the stack in front of him.
"I'll ace'em, no worries."
Draco couldn't deny that that was likely true. Michael Clarke was one of the brightest in this latest crop of trainees, and he never let anyone forget it. He was incredibly good at his job, but he still irritated Draco endlessly.
"Wonder if Potter likes 'em a bit on the younger side. I could definitely give that a go, if you know what I mean."
Draco ignored him, but he continued prattling on.
"I still have daydreams about the thought of him and Oliver Wood together. Hell, I'm pretty sure I still have that picture of the two of them somewhere in my bedside table, and it was barely a kiss." Clarke propped his elbows on the worktop, a lascivious glint in his eyes. "Quite a scandal that was, eh? Back then, anyway. No one gives a toss anymore, but when it first came out that Potter was playing for both teams? Nearly went through an entire bottle of–"
"MediwizardClarke, do you mind?" Draco interrupted him loudly, standing up. "Potter is the godfather of our patient. You'd do best to keep that in mind and behave accordingly, and not as though you're writing a column for Inches weekly." He slammed shut the folder he'd been working on, grabbed his robe from the back of his chair, and walked away, ignoring the smirk on Michael's face.
"His temperature is decreasing steadily and should be within normal range by sunset. The sooner we wake him, the sooner we can ascertain if there were any complications caused by the infection."
Harry took a deep breath and released it in a heavy sigh. He hadn't even told the Weasleys yet about what had happened, wanting to wait until Teddy was awake and Malfoy had given him reassurances that his godson would be all right.And maybe not even then. Molly would only want to end their trip early and come home.
The web of charms that encircled his body began to fade under Malfoy's wandwork, and when the last spindly strand disappeared, Teddy's eyelids began to flutter.
"Give him a moment," Malfoy said softly as Harry leaned forward, raising his hand to brush Teddy's hair back.
Teddy began to stir. Harry could feel small fingers start to move within his grasp.
Harry looked up at Malfoy who was making notes in Teddy's chart, and when he looked back at his godson, sleepy brown eyes were looking back at him.
"Hey, little man," Harry smiled at him as an overwhelming relief washed over him, feeling elated even as his eyes began to fill with tears.
"Harry?" Teddy blinked several times, seeming disoriented.
Harry removed his glasses, roughly wiping away tears before they could fall.
"Yeah, I'm here, kiddo. I'm always here." Harry thought his heart would burst with the overwhelming amount of love he felt for Teddy just then.
Teddy moved to sit up, but Malfoy place a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"Easy there." The boy looked over at him, his head falling back on the pillow. "How are you feeling, Ted?"
"Okay, I guess," he shrugged. "Am I sick?"
Harry let out a soft laugh. "Yeah, but you're going to be fine. Healer Malfoy here has made sure of that."
The rush of gratitude and, dare he say affection, that Harry felt for Malfoy in that moment, with Teddy's big trusting brown eyes looking over at him wasn't unwelcome. He owed Malfoy everything. Teddy was awake and responding, just as though he'd awakened from a normal sleep and hadn't been fighting a potentially fatal infection for the better part of twelve hours.
Teddy was looking over at Malfoy now, almost as though he knew him.
"I'm going to run a few tests on you now, Teddy, if that's okay with you."
The boy bit his lip, hesitating. "Will it hurt?"
Harry rubbed his forearm soothingly.
"Not even a little bit," Malfoy replied, retrieving his wand from his sleeve once more.
"Can Harry stay?"
"I rather think he'd insist even if I tried to make him go," Malfoy winked at him, and Teddy gave him a weak smile.
Harry sat back, watching as Malfoy cast yet another set of diagnostic charms – some familiar and some not. Malfoy seemed pleased with the results, which was all that Harry cared about.
"There don't seem to be any lasting effects from the meningitis – eyesight and hearing appear to be in full working order, and the infection levels in his blood are a fraction of what they were."
"Does that mean we'll be home for Christmas?" Harry gave Teddy a hopeful look.
"Unfortunately, no." Malfoy patted Teddy's foot in sympathy, directing his next words to Harry. "Until his temperature reaches normal levels, I'd prefer that he stay here. Due to the unpredictable nature of infection in a Metamorphmagus, I'd rather keep him under observation for another day or so.
Teddy's face fell in disappointment, and Harry tried to be encouraging.
"It's no big deal, Ted. We can have Christmas when we get home."
Teddy seemed placated, but was obviously disappointed. Harry's heart broke for the boy. It was already going to be a rough Christmas, what with it being his first without Andromeda, and all of the Weasleys in Egypt to visit Bill and his newborn daughter. Teddy wouldn't even have little Rose and baby Hugo around.
It would just be Harry and Teddy this year.
"I'm going to go out into the hallway for a few minutes, little man. That all right?"
Teddy hmm'd and nodded without looking up, and Harry went off to find Malfoy.
A few moments later, Harry found him talking to another member of hospital staff – a mediwizard judging by the colour of his robes – and approached.
"Sorry, don't mean to interrupt, but Malfoy, would it be all right if I went home for a few minutes to grab something for Teddy?"
"I'll watch him for you, if you like," the mediwizard smiled brightly at him before Malfoy could answer.
"You have other duties to attend to, Clarke. I will watch over the patient in Mr Potter's absence."
Harry picked up on a definite note of contention in Malfoy's tone, but Clarke didn't seem at all fazed by it. He continued to smile in Harry's direction, a definite gleam in the other man's eyes. Oh, Harry thought. He knew that gleam. Harry sighed, keeping his attention focused on Malfoy.
"Thanks, I'd appreciate it. Only tomorrow's Christmas and I'd like for Teddy to have a little something to open, seeing as how he's stuck in here."
Malfoy told Harry not to worry about Teddy, and heheaded off to the reception areaso that he could Apparate to Grimmauld Place.
"You're my cousin, aren't you?" he suddenly asked, his voice sounding small.
Draco didn't let his shock at the question show.
"That I am. How did you know that?"
"My gran told me about you. Your picture is on the big tree on the wall at home with all the other faces." Teddy set the comic on the edge of the small table by his bed, and it fell to the floor. Draco bent down to retrieve it, and replaced it securely on top. He could only wonder what Andromeda Black had had to say about him while she was still alive.
"I'm sorry about your grandmother," Draco offered gently.
Teddy looked down at that, picking at a thread on the edge of his blanket and frowning slightly. Draco sincerely hoped that Potter would return soon – he didn't know how to deal with a crying child if it came to that.
"Is your gran dead?"
"Yes. It was a very long time ago."
"Do you remember her?"
"Of course," Draco answered, pouring a small cup of juice for the boy from the bedside carafe, holding it out for him.
Teddy went silent again as he took the cup, all his emotions written on his face like an open book.
"When I was a little bit younger than you, my grandmother used to sit me on her lap and read to me. I can still remember the sound of her voice. She used to sing to me sometimes, too, when I would sleep over at her house. I remember a lot about her, even the smell of her perfume.Gardenias."
"My gran used to sing all the time. Sometimes it sounded sad."
"Well, sometimes people sing the way that they feel."
"I only had one gran and didn't have a grandpa at all. Did you?" Teddy took a sip of his juice.
"I had my father's parents, but I don't remember much about my mother's parents. They died when I was still very young."
"Mr Malfoy, do you think I'll still remember my gran when I'm old like you?"
Draco chuckled softly at the accidental insult. "I'm hardly old. I'm as old as Harry and he's not very old at all, is he?"
Teddy appeared to think it over, then shrugged. Silence fell for several moments.
"Mr Malfoy, if you're my cousin, how come you never came over for a visit? Didn't you like my gran?"
Draco took a deep breath. He wasn't expecting that question, not at all. He had no idea what to say that wouldn't reflect badly on, well, everyone.
"Sometimes, Teddy, people have disagreements over things that they just can't mend, even if they try. Your gran and my mother were sisters, and a long time ago, they had a disagreement like that." Draco chose his next words carefully, wanting to make sure the boy understood. "I know that my mother was very sad when your grandmother died, and had always loved her in her own way."
"I quarrel with Harry sometimes."
"Who hasn't?" Draco said wryly.
"Do you think that me and Harry could ever quarrel like that? Where he would stay angry at me for a long time?"
Draco leaned forward, making sure that Teddy's gaze met his. "I think that Harry loves you more than anything, and Harry could never stay angry with you."
"I felt poorly after we'd played outside, and didn't tell Harry. You don't think he'll be angry at me for that?"
"I know he won't."
"But I ruined Christmas." Teddy's bottom lip started to tremble.
"Nonsense. Christmas will wait. It's a very patient holiday."
Teddy sighed heavily, and Draco felt a surprising amount of sadness for what the boy was going through. He wasn't without sympathy where his patients were concerned, but there was something about Teddy in particular that unsettled his emotions. Perhaps it was the familial tie.
"Me and Harry are by ourselves this year. All of our other family went away. Do you have a family, Mr Malfoy?"
Draco paused thoughtfully before replying. "My mother is the only family that I have left, but she lives in another country now. I usually spend my Christmas here, helping people like you."
Draco leaned back, crossing his legs at the ankle and trying to find a more comfortable position. One of these days, he would talk the administration into outfitting this ward with new visitor chairs.
"Harry worked very hard on our tree."
"Did he?" Draco saw the forlorn expression on the boy's face, and an idea blossomed. "Why don't you close your eyes, think very hard about what it looked like, and describe it to me."
Teddy did as he was told, and as he began to tell Draco about all the different ornaments, colours of the twinkling lights, and the way the crisp pine smell permeated the rooms at Grimmauld Place, Draco was busy Transfiguring a miniature likeness from the pitiful pottedplant that sat in the corner of Teddy's hospital room.
When Teddy opened his eyes, they lit up brighter than the twinkling lights on the tree.
"Wow!" Teddy exclaimed breathily, sitting up fully. Draco could see his wide eyes taking in every detail as the boy's hair turned from ordinary brown to a vibrant, Christmassy red within seconds. The unadulterated happiness on Teddy's face made Draco feel, strangely enough, proud of himself. Such a simple gesture for Draco, but it made this sick child – his cousin – a little less sad that he was stuck in hospital for Christmas instead of at home. Draco decided then and there to do the same for all the children on the ward.
At that moment, Potter walked through the open door, stopping suddenly when he saw the metre–high tree in the corner, twinkling and suffusing the room with a festive glow. Potter looked at Teddy, who was grinning widely at his godfather, then over towhere Draco was still sitting casually in that god–awful chair.
And when Potter smiled at him, Draco tried not to blush.
He hadn't expected to come back and find Malfoy sitting on the edge of Teddy's bed, an impressive Christmas tree twinkling in the corner. Teddy was positively beaming, and Harry could've kissed Malfoy for putting that smile on his face.
"Looks like we're going to have Christmas tomorrow after all, eh little man?" Harry ruffled Teddy's garishlyredhair as the boy tried to slap his hands away. Teddy was at that age where public displays of affection were starting to embarrass him, but Harry didn't care. He would have given anything for someone to have shown him affection at Teddy's age, and he planned on drowning Teddy in hugs and kisses until the day he died.
"Mr Malfoy made it!"
"Well unless first year Charms class is far more advanced than it was when I was your age, I'd suspected as much."
Harry sat Teddy's overnight bag on the edge of the bed and unzipped it, first pulling out the slippers that Malfoy had given him when he'd first arrived.
"Don't need these anymore, but thanks." Harry held them out, and Malfoy took them, placing them in his lap atop Teddy's chart.
"I'll be sure to return them to their original form. A bedpan, if I recall correctly."
"Ew, gross," Teddy laughed.
"Shut it, you, or I won't give you the rest of what's in this bag."
"I'll leave you to it." Malfoy stood and walked over to the door.
"Wait, I . . . you can't stay a little while longer?" Harry asked, stopping Malfoy with a hand on his arm. He didn't know why, only that in that moment, he wanted him to stay. He'd made Teddy so happy.
"Yeah, you should stay, Mr Malfoy."
"Teddy, we're cousins. You can call me Draco. And unfortunately I've got other patients to attend to."
"Oh," Teddy said, crestfallen.
"I'll be back around to check on you."
"Thanks for the tree, Draco." Teddy gave him another bright smile, and Harry thought this Christmas might not be so bad after all.
Malfoy glanced back at Harry, then down where his arm was still in his grip.
"Erm, sorry," Harry hastily let go, and Malfoy quickly walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him.
"So," Harry said, rubbing his hands together eagerly sitting on the edge of Teddy's bed, "want to see what else is in the bag?"
The door opened, and Harry was disappointed when it was mediwizard Clarke and not Malfoy who walked through the door. Malfoy always knocked first, so he should have known.
"Evening, Mr Potter," Clarke said, his tone overly friendly. Harry didn't like him instantly.
"Where's Healer Malfoy?"
"Oh, he's kipping on one of the empty beds down the hall. They have to sleep sometime, I suppose." Clarke smiled at him. Harry realised he did that a lot.
"I could use some time in a bed myself," Harry yawned.
Clarke's grin turned salacious. "That can certainly be arranged, Mr Potter."
Harry sighed. "Look, I–"
"I'll just go and fetch one for you, shall I? You can sleep in here with young MrLupin."
Harry's dismissal was stopped short. He couldn't deny the thought of having a proper bed to sleep in right now wasn't immensely appealing, even if he did have to put up with Clarke's leering to get it.
"That's very kind of you, thank you."
"Back in a tick."
He returned moments later wheeling a narrow but perfectly suitable bed in front of him, and placed it next to Teddy's. A blanket and plump pillow were stacked in the middle. Just looking at it made Harry's eyelids heavy.
"I'll just check his temperature, and then be out of your way. He should be right on schedule to leave tomorrow evening.Might even make it in time for Christmas pudding."
"Tomorrow?" Harry asked, genuinely surprised. "But I thought that Malfoy said it wouldn't be until Boxing Day?"
"Healer Malfoy likes to under–promise and over–deliver. It's his thing," Clarke winked at him. "By the way, my name's Michael. You don't need to call me Mediwizard Clarke. It's so formal."
Harry gave him a stilted grin – the man did procure him a bed, after all – but otherwise stayed silent while Teddy's temperature was recorded.
When Clarke finally left, Harry made sure the door was fully shut before removing his shoes. He briefly contemplated removing his jeans as well (it would be so much more comfortable sleeping without them) but then Clarke's leering grin flashed before his eyes and he thought better of it. Too bad there wasn't a lock on the door. Harry would just have to trust that he would wake up unmolested.
Harry lay on the bed, pulling the blanket up over him and adjusting the pillow beneath his head. It was another half hour before he finally fell asleep, and the last thought that he remembered having was that tomorrow, Christmas Day, he would get Malfoy alone for a conversation one way or another.
He wasn't entirely without family, of course. His mother was living in Belgium and, according to her last letter from the week prior when she had begged Draco to come and visit for Christmas, spending quite a lot of her ample free time with a man who had more money than brains. And Narcissa certainly enjoys having ample money. He didn't begrudge his mother the companionship, though. Lucius Malfoy was as good as dead, rotting in a cell in Azkaban where he would remain until the day he drew his last breath. They had tried, in the beginning, to keep up some semblance of family ties, but Lucius refused to give up his poisonous mindset. Draco wrote him off long before his mother finally gave up as well. The man refused to acknowledge that he'd nearly got his own wife and child killed by the psychopath that Lucius himself had invited into their home.
Lucius used to write him letters, but after the twenty–second missive had gone unanswered, the letters finally stopped. And not long after, nearly a year after the war ended, when Draco had left behind everything and everyone he knew to start life over in Melbourne, his mother had merely wished him well and said that she hoped that he would come back one day.
He still wasn't entirely certain what the catalyst had been that prompted his return to England. If he was honest with himself, it was because he'd had something to prove. Three years after having earned his Healer's certification in Australia, and working in their wizarding hospital, he had been sitting on a park bench during one of his breaks when two English teenagers walked by talking about going home for the upcoming ten year anniversary of The Boy Who Lived having saved them all a second time, and a wave of homesickness washed over him that just wouldn't go away.
Exactly twenty–three days after that, he'd resigned and come back to London, hoping that with nearly a decade between him and the fall of Voldemort, he could just get on with things without being ostracised.
Now here he was, just seven months after leaving Australia behind, and he was content. Oh, it took him some time to secure the position at St Mungo's, but a surprising recommendation from Poppy Pomfrey landed him the job. He had treated her sister, Agnes, in Melbourne, after she'd been bitten by one of Australia's illustrious eight–legged citizens, and apparently waxed poetic in a letter back home about the 'charming young man' who had treated her. Poppy had later written Draco personally to thank him.
Draco would be lying if he'd said he hadn't thought about Harry Potter over the years. Ego still bruised from when Potter had so obviously shunted him to the side, he had been glad to get out of England and the ever–present Potter worship that still pervaded the country even ten months post–war. But Potter wasn't just famous on their small island – he was famous all around the world. Oh, they weren't as obsessed with inane details like what he'd purchased at the local café or the colour of his most recently purchased set of robes in the way wizarding Britain seemed to be, but even the editors of wizarding publications Down Under knew that Potter's face on the front page or cover guaranteed at least a thirty–percent increase in circulation.
Indeed, Draco knew very well of the photograph that mediwizard Clarke had referenced earlier – the one of Potter and Oliver Wood, and a very friendly parting of ways after that disastrous World Cup qualifying match in 2006. He could remember feeling angry when he saw it. Angry and something else that he refused to acknowledge as jealousy. After all of the things that Potter had confessed to him – and Draco had certainly divulged his share of secrets in turn –Potter had never once told Draco that he was . . . curious. Bisexual.Whatever.
It wasn't as though the subject hadn't come up. In fact, it came up in a big way one night over their third glass of Firewhiskey. Potter had asked Draco if he was going to marry Pansy, and Draco had matter–of–factly replied, "I would, except I like cock and Pansy isn't big on sharing."
Potter had just stared at him for several silent minutes, his face a blank mask (too blank, when Draco looked back on it, which was more often than he'd like) and then finished off his drink before saying that he was packing it in for the night. Potter had gone up the stairs, and Draco had shown himself out as he had becomeused to doing by that point. Early the next morning, Potter's owl had arrived. 'I don’t want to marry Ginny.'
Draco replied,'Then don't.'
It was the last discussion they'd had about it. Draco saw Potter's wedding photos in Australia's equivalent of Witch Weeklyin August of 1999, just five months after he'd emigrated. And just over three years later in October 2002, he had read about their divorce.
Teddy was practically bouncing in excitement on his hospital bed as Potter sat in the chair opposite and looking very pleased with himself. Draco hated that Potter looked as edible as he did, especially in that ridiculous jumper – honestly, who wore a jumper bearing their initial like that as though they were a child who couldn’t remember the first letter of their own name? Even if it did look as soft as cashmere. It was ridiculous.
"You're just in time," Potter said, pouring a cup of tea from the tray on Teddy's bedside table."Happy Christmas." Potter held the cup out, offering it to him, but Draco declined.
"I can't stay, I'm just here to check on the patient."
Draco caught a flash of what could have been disappointment Potter's eyes, but it disappeared too quickly for him to be certain.
"Aw, but Draco, you have to stay," Teddy pouted, turning his Christmas stocking upside down. A cascade of small wrapped packages and what looked like one of everything from Honeydukes rained down on the boy's blanket, and his frown quickly disappeared.
Draco's eyes narrowed at the overabundance of sweets and pointedly looked at Potter who grinned sheepishly in reply.
"I won't let him eat them all, I promise. Not in one sitting, anyway."
Teddy wasn't paying attention, too engrossed in one particular tubular package wrapped in green paper with a gold ribbon around it.
"Harry, is this what I think it is?" he said reverently.
"Can I open it?"
Potter began to gather the sweets into a sizeable pile near Teddy's feet.
"Why don't you wait until Healer Malfoy does whatever he needs to do, hmm?"
Teddy looked up at Draco, eyes wide and anxious.
"He can open it while I work. I won't be but a moment."
Teddy looked back at Harry and pleaded, "Can I Harry, pleeeease?"
Potter nodded, sipping his tea, but his eyes were still on Draco. It was unnerving.
Draco cast his charms as the boy untied the ribbon and carefully undid the wrapping paper. The contents unfolded, and what looked like a comic to Draco was held tightly to Teddy's chest.
"I knew you'd find it for me!" He set the comic down carefully before leaning over, arms open, and falling easily into Potter's waiting embrace. They held onto each other for a long moment before Teddy pulled back and Potter ruffled his hair, clearly elated that Teddy was so happy with his gift.
"Look, Draco, it's Loki, volume three. It's Muggle. There's four altogether, but this was the only one I didn't have and I haven't even read the fourth one yet because I've been waiting for ages to find this one and Harry found it." Teddy looked at his godfather as though he'd drawn the comic himself.
Draco could remember a time when he looked at his father that way, but Lucius Malfoy never smiled at Draco the way that Potter was smiling at Teddy. A certain sadness started to creep up on him, but Draco swiftly stamped it out.
"Who's Loki, then?" Draco asked him, sheathing his wand.
"He's the original Slytherin," Potter answered instead, wearing a wry grin. "The God of Mischief. That's right up your alley, eh, Malfoy?"
"I'm in Slytherin," Teddy said proudly. Draco didn't hide his surprise. He'd pegged the boy for Ravenclaw.
"Are you? And what does your godfather, Eternal Head of Gryffindor, think about that?" The question was directed at Potter.
"Harry told me that the bravest man he ever knew was a Slytherin and that I should feel lucky to be Sorted there, didn't you, Harry?"
Potter was still grinning that damned grin at him, and Draco didn't know how to respond. He just stood there, frozen, trying to figure out which alternate universe he'd landed in where Potter could have said something so preposterous. So . . . un–Potter like about Severus Snape of all people. Proud? Teddy was in Slytherin and happy about it because Harry Potter told him he should be?
"That I did, and as you know, I'm never wrong."
Teddy was already flipping through the pages of the Muggle comic, all the other unwrapped presents ignored. Potter, however, was still staring at Draco.
"I'm pleased with how he's doing on the revised dosage. I'm going to scale it back a bit and monitor him a little while longer." Draco straightened the collar of his Healer's robes. "Enjoy the rest of your presents, Teddy. I'll be back shortly with your next round of potions."
Draco walked out of the room without looking back at Potter, but within moments, the other man was calling his name as he walked briskly down the hall toward him.
"Listen, that mediwizard, Clarke? He said that Teddy might be released later today. That true?"
"As long as his levels don't elevate after receiving the decreased dosage of potions, I don't see why he should be stuck here on Christmas. Surely the Weasleys are missing him."
"Yes, but not because he's in hospital. They're in Egypt. Bill's daughter was born last week and they're all there to celebrate. Actually," Potter hesitated, running his hand through his hair, "they don't even know he's here. I didn't want to worry them until I knew what was happening, and now thanks to you, there's nothing to worry about."
Draco had forgotten what Teddy had said regarding their Weasley-free for Christmas this year. "Just doing my job, Potter."
Potter continued to prattle on about how grateful he was, but all Draco could think was 'Why is Potter still talking to me?' They weren't friends. They weren't anything, because Potter himself made sure of that many years ago.
"I'm grateful. Truly. Teddy means the world to me. And he's had a rough year, yeah? What with his gran dying and all. It's his first Christmas without her."
"Yes, you told me that already."
"Well. It's true. I am grateful."
"You've said that as well."
Potter bit his lip, looking down at the floor. Draco was starting to feel awkward.
"Say, Malfoy, I was thinking–"
"I need to prepare Teddy's next round of potions."
Draco turned and walked away, cutting off whatever Potter was going to say.
Why do you have to be so damned irritating, Malfoy? Harry chewed his jagged thumbnail, a nervous habit when things didn't go the way he wanted them. He had been perfectly pleasant with Malfoy – down right nice, really – and Malfoy wasn't budging at all. Always so professional. Stiff. Closed off.
Teddy snickered at his comic, amused by whatever he was reading. And then Harry had an idea. One worthy of the God of Mischief himself, even.
"You're going to wish you'd saved that for after you take the potions, Teddy," Malfoy admonished him gently.
"That's all right, Draco" Teddy said, mouth full of chocolate, "I've got plenty more."
Harry couldn't help laughing at the expression on the other man's face, but Malfoy waited patiently for Teddy to finish chewing before holding out the first of three vials of potion.
Teddy grimaced after swallowing the yellowish liquid. "Blech, why do they always have to taste so horrible?"
"Be glad you're not drinking Skele–Gro. I'm pretty sure that stuff is at least fifty percent dragon's piss."
Teddy giggled. "Heh, you said a naughty word, Harry."
"This one isn't quite as vile." Draco held out the second potion, a pleasantly pink concoction that reminded Harry of Muriel's bubblegum apron from two days ago.
"Draco," Teddy took the proffered vial, "do you want to come over for Christmas pudding tonight? We're having pudding tonight, and then tomorrow we're going to have a huge Christmas feast even though it's Boxing Day, on account of me being stuck in here, but tonight is definitely pudding and you should come."
Harry watched Malfoy closely as Teddy finished rambling, keeping his face as blank as possible while waiting for his answer. The third potion bottle in Malfoy's hand lowered slightly, and his usually stoic expression was visibly startled.
"Molly Weasley makes the best Christmas pudding in all of England, and she gave us one before she left, didn't she, Harry? I think that you should come over and eat some of it with us after I go home today."
Malfoy was apparently stunned into silence, and Harry couldn't help feeling pleased. Teddy would keep at him, he was sure of it, until Malfoy said yes. He knew his godson. When he'd suggested the idea to Teddy not long before Malfoy came back, Teddy's eyes had lit up in excitement. He'd been chattering on and on about 'cousin Draco' ever since he and Malfoy had spent that time alone while Harry had gone back to Grimmauld Place the day before.
He wasn't above using Teddy to get to Malfoy – they were family, after all. It would do Teddy good to have that link to his grandmother's family around. Well, the normal side of the family, anyway. And Malfoy was a good man, Harry knew that much. He knew it back then, and he knew it today.
Harry knew without a doubt that what transpired between them years ago, specifically the way Harry had let it fall apart, had bothered Malfoy. It was obvious from his standoffish behaviour toward Harry.
And there'd been the slippers. So Malfoy didn't hate him. You don't give a man slippers if you can't stand the sight of him.
"You'll come, won't you, Draco," Teddy prodded him again after drinking the pink potion and holding his hand out for the final vial.
"I'm not sure that I– that is to say, I, well . . ."
"Malfoy," Harry added, feeling the weight of his next words, "Teddy would love it if you could come. We both would." He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands. "Do you have other plans?" he challenged gently, already knowing the answer because Teddy had revealed it to him yesterday.
He watched as Malfoy swallowed once, then again, looking back and forth between himself and Teddy. Malfoy was trying to evade the request, but Harry wasn't going to let him.
"I still live at number twelve. I believe you remember how to get there?"
Malfoy nodded tersely. "Drink your potion, Teddy. That's the most important one," he gestured, voice sounding less steady than before.
Harry kept him pinned with his gaze, and then Teddy – bless him – delivered the coup de grâce.
"Not until you say yes."
Malfoy moved his attention back to the boy, his gaze sharp. "Slytherins are usually much more subtle, Teddy."
The boy gave him an indulgent smile. "Well, I'm new at it, aren't I."
Malfoy arched his brow, then glanced quickly at Harry before narrowing his eyes at Teddy.
"I suppose it would be negligent of me as your Healer to allow you to so casually neglect your health, so . . . yes, I will stop by for a short visit," Malfoy emphasised that last bit, looking pointedly in Harry's direction.
Teddy swallowed the final potion, smacking his lips loudly when he'd finished, then reaching for a sugar quill.
After Malfoy left, Teddy looked at Harry and grinned around thesweet in his mouth. Harry winked back.
And Potter. Potter. If that man thought for one second that Draco hadn't seen through their little charade . . . Potter's oh so innocent expression when Teddy asked him to visit them at Grimmauld Place was a dead giveaway. Potter had put the boy up to it. He'd bet a month's wages on it.
Still. Teddy was his cousin, and thus the only real family he had living in the country. He had been curious over the years about his Metamorphmagus cousin, at first only from a clinical standpoint when the topic had come up during one of his early training courses. His mum had rarely talked about her sister, let alone the rest of that branch of the family. What little he knew of Andromeda and NymphadoraTonks were gleaned from the final months of the war. He knew even less about his cousin's son aside from the fact that he'd been orphaned just a few months into his life.
He knew from those early conversations with Potter that the boy lived with Andromeda simply because Potter's life was too much in disarray. Grimmauld Place was literally a grim old place, not at all a proper home for an infant.
As Malfoy stood there, Floo powder in hand, he wondered what Potter had managed to do with the place. He grimaced at the thought that he was likely about to enter the equivalent of the Gryffindor common room.
"Fuck it," he said to the empty room, and threw the powder into the fire, taking a deep breath as they turned green. "One hour. One hour and I'll leave."
Draco stepped into the flames.
Yet another reason why this would be a short visit. He was damn near dead on his feet. Half of his remaining energy had been spent on showering and changing into something respectable, but not too . . . too. Still, one mustn't walk around like they acquired their clothing from the lost and found, either, unlike some people who might be named Potter.
Draco took in his surroundings, vaguely wondering if anyone else was even in the house as he tightened his grip around the bottle of wine he'd brought. He should have left it at home, but he had always come to Potter's before with alcohol of some sort, and perhaps nostalgia got the best of him. He regretted it now, though, as he stood there feeling foolish. The exceptionally large tree that stood proudly in the corner, only slightly crooked, was shockingly similar to the one that Draco had Transfigured for Teddy's hospital room. The boy had been quite thorough in his description, but even Draco was impressed with how similar they were.
He heard loud footsteps from overhead, and seconds later Teddy came barreling down the stairs opposite and calling Draco's name.
"Draco, you're here!" Teddy ran over to him and grabbed his free hand, dragging him through the doorway and into the hall that Draco knew led to the kitchen. "Harry!" he bellowed once more, "Draco's here!"
He followed him, pulling back slightly on the boy's hand to slow him down. "Don't make me regret releasing you, young man. You need to take it easy over the next few days, do you understand?"
Teddy shrugged off the admonishment but did as he was told. Their slower pace meant that Draco could look at the pictures that dotted the hallway, its walls done up in the same blue as the drawing room from where Draco'd arrived. There were many of the Weasleys, of course, and even more of Teddy that spanned from infancy to the present. There was even a photograph of Teddy waving wildly from Platform 9 ¾ with Harry grinning widely beside him.
They entered the kitchen, and Draco inhaled deeply. The aroma of cinnamon and brandy and the slightly citrus tang of candied orange and lemon peel filled the long, narrow room. At the opposite end, standing in front of the large black Aga cooker that Draco could remember Potter fixing many a meal in, stood the man himself. Draco suddenly felt overdressed in his dark gray trousers and black lambswool jumper. Potter was wearing jeans, and Draco couldn't not look at how the denim hugged the other man's arse, momentarily grateful that the long–sleeved tee (red, of course) had ridden up enough to give Draco a prime view. But then he remembered who he was ogling at, and promptly looked anywhere else.
The cooker was the only thing familiar about this kitchen, though. The walls were a muted white, except for the gleaming forestgreen tiles that ran the length of the impressive black granite worktop. All of the furnishings were black as well, and the wood flooring was the perfect complement. The room didn't feel dark or imposing at all. It felt . . . cozy.
Teddy let go of his hand and walked up to Harry, yanking hard on his sleeve. Potter finally turned around, yanking two thin white wires seemingly from his ears.
"Sorry! God, sorry, I didn't hear you come in. Were you standing there long?" He pulled something small, white, and rectangular out of his front pocket – whatever it was still connected to the wires he'd pulled out of his ears – and tossed it onto the dinner table.
"What is that?" Draco asked, ignoring Harry's question in favour of his own.
"Oh, that. It's a Muggle thing. Plays music so only you can hear it. Never mind that," Potter said, wiping his hands on a checkered cloth and walking toward him, "let's open that wine." Potter pointed to the bottle still in Draco's hand.
"Do you wanna see my room, Draco?" Teddy asked excitedly.
Draco looked down at him, feeling slightly overwhelmed. He was in a familiar place, and yet it didn't feel familiar at all. And Potter was grinning at him like they were old friends – which they definitely were not–reaching out for the bottle while Teddy's hand grabbed hold of his wrist and tugged impatiently.
"Go on, I'll finish up the brandy butter," Potter gestured with the wine. "Teddy will give you the tour, won't you, little man?" he said to the over–excited boy.
Draco nodded and let himself be led once more back out into the hallway to see the rest of the house.
He'd be lying if he said he wasn't at least a little bit curious about what the rest of the old house looked like, particularly the room containing the tapestry of their family tree that Teddy had recognized his face from on that first day. If the drawing room and kitchen were anything to go by, he was starting to suspect that Potter had hired a professional.
"Molly really does make the best Christmas pudding, but I may have overdone it with that third helping."
"I'm about to be ill from the mere thought, Potter," Malfoy said from where he sat opposite. "Do stop talking." Harry chuckled.
Teddy was sprawled out on the floor near the fireplace, his hair currently the same shade of blond as his favourite new cousin's, glowing softly from the warm glow of the flames. Harry let his head loll to the side, looking at Malfoy as he watched Teddy play one of his handheld video games.
"There's quite a lot of Muggle items in your home, Potter, were you aware?"
"Don’t you think we could drop the last names now? Isn't that standard practice after you've broken bread with a man? Or pudding, as it were."
Draco turned his pensive gaze on him. "I don't know, why don't you try it out."
"Draco. See? Easy." Harry reached for his coffee and took a sip.
"Maybe I will have a coffee after all."
"If you ask nicely, I'll fetch it for you."
"May I please have a coffee? Just a touch of cream, no sugar."
"Did that hurt? Was it painful coming out?" Harry teased him as he got up to make Draco's coffee.
"You guys are weird," said Teddy from his spot on the floor.
Harry heard Draco laughing from the hallway. It had been a strange evening. Good, but strange. It didn't feel at all the way that Harry thought it would – familiar and easy. Once Draco had got settled, that is, Harry thought that they would easily slip back into their old pattern from so many years ago, but then Harry was always a bit of an optimist. Granted, with Teddy a constant presence, he hadn't really had a chance to talk to Draco. Not properly, anyway.
Draco had relaxed considerably after the first few bites of Molly's pudding, for which Harry was grateful. He could tell that Draco initially didn't want to be there, and had only come out of obligation to Teddy. But even after Teddy had shown Draco around the house while Harry remained out of the way, still working on the brandy butter, the other man had re–entered the kitchen with a small smile and his shoulders not as stiff as before. Harry had nearly gone searching for them after almost half an hour had passed, but apparently Teddy had spent quite a lot of time showing Draco his ever–growing comics collection.
It was a fairly newfound interest of his godson's, but like he did with everything else, Teddy went from minor interest to full–blown obsession in the span of a week. Harry didn't mind indulging him, though, no matter how temporary his latest thing might last. Harry still had more boxes than he'd care to remember of Gobstones and Legos in the attic from Teddy's younger years. Sadly, the boy had yet to be bitten by the Quidditch bug, but Harry had high hopes.
Harry made his way back to the drawing room with Draco's coffee. He walked through the wide doorway and found Teddy sitting next to Draco on the couch, showing him his game. Harry offered the mug, and Draco took it, their fingertips brushing for the briefest of moments. Harry watched expectantly while the other man took a careful taste.
"Perfect, thanks," he said, and Harry sat back down, pleased.
"Won’t that keep you awake tonight?"
"I'm so tired, Potter, that I doubt an intravenous drip of espresso would make much difference in how I sleep tonight." He took another sip. "I see it didn't stop you."
"Caffeine has no effect on me, sadly," Harry shrugged, stretching his legs out and resting his feet on the matching cushioned ottoman.
A comfortable silence fell, the only sounds coming from the crackling flames and the occasional muted explosion from Teddy's game.
"So tell me about that Clarke fellow."
Draco frowned slightly. "He's a bloody nuisance. Too smart for his own good, and I'm just waiting for the day when he gets slapped with a harassment charge."
Harry laughed. "Yes, he certainly makes his, er," he glanced down at Teddy, "wishes known."
"Let me guess . . ." Draco trailed off, taking another sip of his coffee and watching the fire.
"Not my type."
"Harry likes boys," Teddy proclaimed, not looking up from his videogame. Harry shoved his arm good–naturedly. "Oi, you made me miss my target!" the boy cried.
"Quidditch players, last I heard." Draco drawled, and Harry noticed that he'd kept his eyes averted.
"That was three years ago. How do you even know about that?"
"News travels, Harry, even to Australia." Draco did look at him then, but Harry couldn't decipher the sharp look in his eyes.
A certain awkwardness settled over them suddenly, and Harry searched for a change of subject.
"So, are you on shift again tomorrow?"
"No," Draco answered, placing his half–empty mug on the table next to the sofa, "but I should be going. I've had a long day, as has my patient."
"I don't feel poorly at all, Draco," Teddy said, finally looking up from his game.
"Be that as it may, you need your rest, and so do I." Draco stood, smoothing the front of his jumper.
As Draco moved toward the fireplace, Harry got up quickly and walked toward him.
"Do you want to come round tomorrow? I'm making a proper Christmas dinner."
"Yeah, with turkey and everything. And Harry makes the best roast potatoes. Extra crispy. And then presents!" Teddy was sprawled out on the sofa now, one leg propped up against the back, foot in the air as he held the game in front of his face.
Almost a repeat of earlier in the day, Draco seemed both surprised and hesitant to accept as he shifted his weight from one leg to the other.
Draco sighed. "Harry, I'm not entirely certain that would be wise." He kept his voice low, seemingly for Teddy's sake.
Harry took another step toward him, close enough that he could smell the sharp clean scent of him. Harry felt something stir inside him as he leaned in.
"You're the only real family he's got." Harry knew that, despite the circumstances of the past, family meant a lot to Draco Malfoy. He hoped that was still the case – he was counting on it as he chose his next words. "I think that having you around could be good for him."
Draco's eyes widened just barely at Harry's last statement, and Harry knew he'd made an impact. Harry meant it, though. Every word.He leaned back, giving Draco his space.
"He's right, you know. I do roast a mean potato."
Harry could hear the tick of the clock as Draco took a deep breath.
"What should I bring?"
"Just yourself," Harry smiled.
And it was torture. Thoughts and emotions that Draco had buried years ago bubbled up to the surface with practically zero resistance. Draco had convinced himself just before uprooting his life for Australia that Harry had likely done him a favour by buggering off the way that had – Draco hadn't been sure at that point that he could trust himself around Harry for much longer. He'd chalked it up to loneliness. To the chaos that his life had been at that time. He'd spent the year before the war ended in a near constant state of fear, frustration, and exhaustion. Then Voldemort was finally gone, his father dragged off to prison to await trial, Howlers being dropped outside the Manor walls almost constantly . . . and in waltzed Harry Potter. Bold as brass to return Draco's wand, shout at him for a bit, and then pop round days later to get drunk.
Was it any wonder that Draco had been as angry as he was when The Boy Who Lived To Irritate Him suddenly decided Draco wasn't worth his time anymore?
And now here he was again. Making Draco want to both suckerpunch him and snog him until he couldn't remember his own name in equal measure.It didn't help that he had gone from the small, slightly awkward in his own skin, reluctant hero of their Hogwarts days (and even then, Draco knew his stares had always lingered too long) to the broad–shouldered, incredibly fit, confident Saviour that knew just how much cream Draco liked in his coffee of today.
Now Harry wanted him to ingratiate himself into their lives as if it would have little to no effect on his own life. Maybe family complicated things. Didn't Potter ever think of that? There was a reason why he didn't follow his mother to Belgium. And with Teddy came Potter – a package set. But with Potter came . . . complications.
Draco sighed heavily, pulling out the cream v–neck and laying it on the bed next to the dark, well–worn jeans he favoured on the weekends. He was already running behind schedule, having overslept and then lingering over a patient file with that morning's toast and tea.
He moved into his bedroom's en suite – the selling point of this particular Knightsbridge flat – and turned on the shower before removing his pyjamas. Waiting for the water to heat up, Draco recalled how excited Teddy had been to share every detail of his life with him the day before. He seemed to trust implicitly, and Draco wondered if he had ever allowed himself to be that open, even as a child. And Draco wondered how much of Teddy's way of being was a result of Harry's influence. Maybe Teddy was the type of eleven–year–old that Harry would have been had Voldemort never existed.
Draco stepped into the shower, letting the hot water ease his tense muscles. He reached for the shampoo he favoured, applying a liberal amount to the palm of his hand and lathering it through his hair. As the bergamot scented bubbles cascaded down his body, he decidedly pushed all thoughts of Potter to the back of his mind.
Potter took them both graciously and after depositing the present under the tree, led Draco into the room directly opposite instead of turning left toward the kitchen as expected. What had once been a disused sitting room full of old junk – most of it cursed, if Draco's memory served –was now a formal dining area done up in soft yellows and classically styled warm mahogany furniture. Draco thought the table would nearly buckle under the weight of food that was spread out atop it.
"Christ, Potter, did you invite the entire neighborhood to join us?"
He laughed, the sound rich and deep, and it sent the slightest of shivers down Draco's spine to hear it coming from so closely beside him. Draco shifted away from him, lest their shoulders touch.
Quick footsteps sounded behind him, and Teddy was suddenly at his side, grabbing his hand.
"Come and sit by me, Draco." He was pulled to the chair furthest from the door and ordered to sit as Harry walked around the other side, taking the seat at the head of the table. Draco looked out across the spread – a roast turkey large enough to feed a family of six (at least), what looked and smelled like sage and onion stuffing, Brussels sprouts covered in melted butter and sprinkled with bits of chestnuts, the celebrated roast potatoes (looking very crispy indeed), parsnips, a veritable mountain of Yorkshire puddings, enough gravy to fill a cauldron, and sliced bread that was still steaming.
"Sorry to rush you to the table like this, only Teddy won't stop whinging about how I'm apparently starving him, despite the three bowls of cereal he had this morning."
"It's good that his appetite has returned." Draco unfolded his napkin and was about to place it across his lap when Harry stopped him with a hand atop his own.
"Would you like to do the honors?" Harry was offering him the carving knife and fork, and after a moment's hesitation, accepted them with a nod.
"So, Harry, Teddy tells me that you're not ridding the country of evil–doers at the moment," Draco prodded as he sliced into the breast, pleased to see its juices flowing as Teddy held out his plate eagerly for the first piece.
"Technically I'm on a leave of absence, but I've been acting as a consult on cases from home since Teddy started at Hogwarts." Harry cleared his throat and continued. "It's what was best, all things considered." At his softened tone, Draco glanced up from his carving to find Harry giving him a pointed look as he spooned sprouts onto Teddy's plate. Oh. Harry must have taken his leave after Andromeda's death to be there full time for Teddy. Draco changed the subject.
"How are you liking Hogwarts?" he directed at the boy who already had his mouth full.
"Chew, swallow, then answer," Harry gently chided when Teddy had started to speak.
"It's okay, I guess. Everyone in my dorm is obsessed with Quidditch, though. I don't get what the big deal is."
"You wound me, child," Harry said dramatically, hand over heart, as Draco laughed.
He sat back down, turkey sufficiently carved, and Harry offered him a slice of warm buttered bread.
Draco bit into it and nearly moaned, eyes closing as he savoured the delicate crumb and slightly sweet taste, made that much sweeter by the butter. It was, quite possibly, the best slice of bread he'd ever had. He opened his eyes to find Harry staring at him, smirking, and looking quite proud of himself.
He couldn't wait to try the potatoes.
As Draco spooned the leftover parsnips into a plastic container for the fridge, Harry took his chance.
"You enjoyed Australia, then?"
Draco seemed a bit startled by the question, pausing briefly before placing the lid on and sealing it shut.
"I did, yes. Could've done without spiders the size of a small dog, though. I'm pretty sure someone in Australia's history had been cross–breeding with Acromantulas. It's the only explanation."
Harry laughed as he popped a cold piece of potato in his mouth before dumping the rest into their plastic bowl. "Ron's terrified of spiders. Teddy, too."
"They don't scare me, but I'm not about to make friends with one, either."
"Might want to stay out of the third story loo, then," Harry grinned at him.
There were a few beats of silence as Harry thought how to phrase his next question.
"What made you decide to leave England?"
Draco was silent for so long that Harry wondered if he was being ignored, but Draco did eventually reply, his voice soft.
"I needed to get away. Start my life over."
"I can relate."
"Can you?" Draco asked, that familiar Malfoy derision coming out.
"Yes, I can. Maybe I didn't leave the country, no. I got divorced instead."
"That's not usually why people get divorced."
"It's why I got divorced," Harry answered.
"Surely that's not the only reason." Draco gave him an incredulous look.
They both knew what he was talking about.
"I'm not gay, Draco. Not strictly, I mean. I'm not anything, really. I just . . . I like who I like, okay? I liked Ginny, and then I liked Oliver. And after that it was–"
"I don't need a rundown of your sexual partners, Potter, really." Draco nearly slammed the refrigerator door shut.
"It's none of my business, and frankly I don't care. Maybe there was a time when I did, but you made certain to disabuse me of that notion rather efficiently a long time ago."
Harry stopped Draco from nearly mangling the bread by curling his hand gently around Draco's wrist.
"I'm sorry about that. I truly am."
Draco's ire seemed to ebb slightly.
"What?" he shot back brusquely.
"I am sorry. I regret how we ended things." At Draco's expression, Harry amended himself. "How I ended things."
"It doesn't matter now."
"Doesn't it?" Harry challenged him.
"We were kids."
"No, we weren't. We stopped being kids the day Cedric died."
Draco turned to face Harry full–on, cocking his head. "What are you trying to accomplish here, Potter? What do you want? Forgiveness?Fine. I forgive you. Move on."
"Has it occurred to you that that's what I'm trying to do?"
The other man rubbed the back of his neck wearily. Harry wondered if he was pushing too far, too fast.
"I didn't think that we'd get into all this tonight, but maybe ripping it off like a plaster is what needs to happen. I don't want you to go, Draco. I don't mean right now, tonight, I mean . . . I don't want you to go at all. Not from Teddy's life. Or mine."
Draco pulled out one of the chairs from the table and sat down wearily. He traced his finger along one of the knots in the wood grain. Harry followed suit, keeping Draco at eye level.
"I was a prat back then, I know that. I was a coward and didn't stick around when things got complicated. I was just . . . I was so tired, Draco. Of all of it.All the fighting. And Ron, he–"
Draco barked out a harsh laugh, rolling his eyes. "Of course."
"He left us in the forest you know. Me and Hermione. I know it was partly because of the Horcrux he carried, but that wasn't all of it. I knew. I think that Hermione did, too, deep down."
Draco looked at him, confused, and then Harry saw realisation dawn.
"Don't judge him. He was more sorry for that than I think anything else at the time, and he did come back. That's what mattered. But for a while, it changed us. Changed our friendship. And when he found out that you and I had become friends–"
"Were we? Friends?"
"Yes. I think so. Maybe I didn't at the time. I didn't know much of anything at the time except that Voldemort was dead and fuck if I knew what to do with my life at that point. But yes, I know now that we were friends. I told you things, Draco. Things that only two other people in this world know. I don't even know why – maybe I just wanted you to know that you weren't the only one who'd had a shitty existence for a time. Maybe I hated that you thought I was someone I wasn't. Maybe . . . maybe I hated that I thought you were someone you weren't, but never realised it until Voldemort gave me those glimpses of your life. Our experiences, they weren't so different after all."
"I need a drink." Draco stood and walked over to the sideboard, grabbing the bottle of port he'd brought with him earlier and two glasses. He poured the dark liquid into both halfway, and sat back down, pushing one in Harry's direction while taking a drink from his own glass.
"I wanted to hex your balls off for ignoring me like that, you know."
"Yes. I'm sorry."
"Stop fucking saying you're sorry."
They seemed to have come to an impasse, and Harry knew that it was up to Draco to cross over.
"Why did you really divorce the Weaselette?"
"We should have never got married, for a start. I was fighting with her that day you came over – that last day, I mean. I was ready to end things with her then. I just didn't know how. She couldn't understand why we hadn't got back together now that the war was over, and I suppose I felt torn between what I'd wanted in years prior – a family of my own and some place where I belonged –and what this new reality kept trying to show me. I needed to make my own life, not slot myself into someone else's."
Harry traced the rim of his glass with his index finger. "All I knew was that I didn't walk into that forest to die only to walk back out and settle for a life that was merely 'all right.'" Harry sat back in his chair, inhaling deeply.
"But, like I said, all the fight had been drained out of me. Ginny gave me an ultimatum, and I bended her way. The one thing that I never stopped wanting, however, were children, and Ginny wanted to wait until her Quidditch career was over. At that point, she'd only just begun. She had a good twenty years in front of her before she would have retired. Eventually we just . . . grew apart. Or rather, she realised that I was never fully invested, and let herself drift away."
"And Teddy?" Draco asked.
"Andromeda had lost her husband and child. I would have never taken him away from her. We had a good arrangement. She let me have Teddy during my two days off, and I promised not to get myself killed. Now, with her gone, I knew he'd need me full time, so I took an indefinite leave. Honestly, I don't even know if I want to go back. Been kind of nice not having to deal with all the politics and bureaucratic bullshit."
Draco swirled the port in his glass, his face contemplative.
"Are we good?" Harry interrupted the silence.
Draco stared at him a long time, and Harry held his gaze.
"I haven't spoken to my father since 1998. I stopped replying to his letters, and he stopped writing them."
Harry was startled by the sudden shift, but went with it. "Do you miss him?"
"I miss the idea of him that I'd had as a child, but that was never reality."
"We fool ourselves about a lot of things when we're young." Harry took a drink of port, savouring its rich flavor. "I try every day to be what Teddy wants and needs, even though I know I sometimes fail miserably."
"He's a good kid."
"Better than you were," Harry teased lightly, trying to lift the heavy mood that had overtaken them.
Draco lifted his chin. "I was a prince."
"You were a ponce," Harry smirked in reply.
The other man shrugged, swallowing the last of his wine. "That, too."
Draco stood, brushing the hair from his eyes. Harry wanted to touch it. To see if it felt as soft as it looked.
"We should go and check on Teddy."
"Draco . . ."
"He's probably been shaking all of the packages under the tree."
Harry blocked his path to the door. Their eyes met, and held, and Harry was filled with the desire to kiss him. He'd wanted to since last night. The feeling wasn't unwelcome, but he ignored it. Harry had no idea where they stood.
"You'll stay? For Teddy, if nothing else?"
Draco licked his lips, and Harry couldn't have looked away even if a fire had erupted at the back of the kitchen.
"For Teddy. We'll see how the 'nothing else' goes."
Harry could accept that, and he moved out of the way, following Draco as they went down the hallway to the drawing room where Teddy was, sure enough, inspecting presents under the tree. When he heard him and Draco enter, he scooted away guiltily, face the very picture of innocence. Draco gave Harry an 'I told you so' expression and went to sit in the high–backed chair near the tree.
"All right, Teddy," Harry said, clapping his hands and rubbing them together, "which one of these do you want to open first?"
"Draco's," Teddy answered eagerly.
Harry retrieved the small rectangular gift that Draco had brought with him earlier, and passed it into Teddy's greedy little hands. They both watched as Teddy tore the paper off, and Harry was worried that what was very obviously a book wasn't going to interest his godson who had never quite taken to reading anything other than comics. He hoped that Draco wouldn't be too disappointed if Teddy's reaction wasn't what Draco expected.
Sure enough, it was a book, and as Harry leaned down to read the cover, he understood why Draco had given it to him. 101 Tales from Norse Mythology was embossed across the front in faded gold.
"Teddy," Draco said, crossing one leg over the other, "did you know that Loki once gave birth to an eight–legged horse?"
Wide brown eyes looked up at Draco in awe. "But Loki's a boy!"
"Please tell me that book is child–friendly, Draco," Harry laughed.
Draco winked in reply.
Harry laid the boy down, Draco helping to pull the covers back as Harry situated Teddy into a comfortable position. He watched as Harry carefully tucked him in, smoothing the hair – back to its plain brown colournow that he was asleep – and kissing his forehead. Fatherhood, Draco realised, looked good on Harry. Satisfied that Teddy was still sleeping soundly, he gestured toward the door with a nod and he followed Harry out, and back down the stairs.
Draco helped Harry to pick up the discarded paper and ribbons from Teddy's presents – of which there were quite a lot, but seeing as how there was an endless supply of Weasleys providing gifts, Draco shouldn't have been surprised –and when the clock on the mantle struck twelve, Draco decided that it was past time for him to leave.
He turned toward the other man, watching him place Teddy's new toys under the tree and suddenly feeling out of his element in this home. Because it was just that, a home. Not a house, not a flat, but a real home, and Harry had created this for Teddy as much as himself. Draco had faint memories of when the Manor had felt like home, but they were just that – memories.
He thought back to what Harry had said earlier that evening in the kitchen, about feeling as though he was trying to slot himself into someone else's life instead of making his own. Was his request for Draco to be a part of Teddy's life Harry's way of letting Malfoy know that he was welcome here? Not just because his name was on that tapestry linking to Teddy's, but as part of the family Harry'd created for himself . . . as part of Teddy's family? Blood wasn't a factor, and Draco acknowledged that no one knew that better than Harry Potter, a man whose entire life had been made up of a family of his choosing because the only blood family he had left had been the ones who treated him deplorably.
Draco's contemplation was interrupted by the realisation that Harry was looking at him expectantly.
"You looked a million miles away just now."
"It's late. I should go." Draco moved toward the fireplace, Harry following him.
"Are you working tomorrow?"
"I go in at three for a fourty–eight hour shift."
Draco shrugged in reply. "It's not so bad."
"At least you can have a bit of a lie–in," Harry offered, his hand reaching up slightly as though he was going to touch Draco's arm.
"Thank you for inviting me." Draco reached for the Floo powder on the mantle, but Harry beat him to it, pulling the bowl toward him.
"We're glad that you came." Harry was suddenly too close to him. "We'll see you soon, yeah?"
Draco nodded as Harry held out the bowl, and Draco took a handful, throwing it into the flames to step through.
When Draco was standing back in his own flat, the green fire dying out behind him, he realised that this had been the best Christmas he'd had in years.
He was on his way back to his office to check a few reference books when he heard a familiar young voice from around the corner.
"Do you think he'll be surprised?"
"I do," said the adult who, as they rounded the corner, Draco knew would be Potter.
Draco was immediately concerned. "What's wrong? Is his temperature back up?" Draco kneeled down, pulling Teddy toward him and placing his hand on his forehead as the boy gave him a wide smile.
"Hi, Draco," he said, not feeling overly warm, much to Draco's relief. Draco cast a temperature charm regardless. It was normal.
"Potter, this boy was released mere days ago after fighting off a formidable case of meningitis, or have you forgotten?" Draco was irritated and didn't bother hiding it. "And in his pyjamas, no less," he continued, briefly opening Teddy's coat before standing and looking accusingly at Potter. "What are you smiling at?"
"You," he laughed at Draco, which only incensed him further.
"Draco," Teddy interrupted, tugging on his sleeve. He did that a lot. Draco was going to have to teach the boy that he didn't like being tugged at like a dog. Draco took his attention off of a thoroughly amused Harry and looked back at Teddy. "We brought you dinner."
Harry held up a paper sack, still grinning from ear to ear. "Hungry?"
"It's nearly eleven o'clock at night," Draco replied incredulously.
"Yeah, but yesterday you said you weren't coming in until three, and I figured you might not be eating dinner until late, so . . ."
"Well hello again, Mr Potter. How lovely to see you again."Mediwizard Clarke sauntered down the corridor, stopping in front of them.
"Er, hello," Harry replied kindly, but Draco was pleased to see his smile falter.
"How's our favourite patient doing?" Clarke directed at Teddy who suddenly went all shy.
"Not now, Clarke." It was now Draco's turn to tug as he pulled on Harry's elbow, leading them towards his office around the corner whence they'd just come.
He shuffled them into the small room and shut the door behind him, knowing Clarke would only meander outside the doorway if left open.
"Is this your office, Draco?" Teddy asked, looking at all the books and medical journals that cluttered the room.
"It is. Now sit." Draco pointed to the chair opposite his desk and turned on Harry. "He should be at home, in bed. Staying up late for Christmas is one thing, but he needs his rest and–"
"Draco, relax, he's fine. He slept late and took a nap before dinner.
"Sure did," Teddy added, swinging his feet and kicking the chair legs repeatedly. "Hey Draco, did you know that Loki was also the dad to a giant serpent? That's pretty Slytherin, isn't it? That's even cooler than the eight–legged horse."
"He loves the book. I'm afraid to look in it, myself." Harry sat the paper bag on Draco's desk, and Draco noted he was careful not to displace anything. "There's a turkey sandwich, roast potatoes, sprouts, and I also threw in a couple Yorkshire puds. I like them cold myself with a bit of jam. Wasn't sure if you did. Oh, but I forgot the jam. Dammit," Harry frowned. "Oh, and no parsnips, though. I noticed you didn't eat any yesterday."
"Harry said a bad word," Teddy giggled.
Between the giant serpent and the parsnips that Harry noticed he hadn't eaten, Draco didn't know what to say. He was too distracted by the fact that Harry had brought him food. A home–cooked meal.Here.At work.At eleven o'clock at night. Just because.
"Teddy, stop kicking his chair," Harry gently scolded the boy before turning back to Draco. "I realised after you left yesterday that I completely forgot to ask you if you wanted to take any of the leftovers home, so here we are. Oh, and the last piece of Molly's pudding is in there as well. Just pop a heating charm over it for a few minutes and it'll be perfect. Unless you like that cold, too."
Harry shuffled his feet, placing his hands in his pockets.
"Hey Draco, do you wanna come over tomorrow and play Exploding Snap? Or I could teach you how to play one of my video games. I got the new Mario Kart."
"Draco has to work, Ted."
"I, uh . . . yeah, sorry, I can't. Maybe another time."
"When?" asked Teddy, always so insistent on getting firm answers from Draco when he wasn't ready to give them.
Both Harry and Teddy were looking at him expectantly.
"Well, I . . ."
"What are you doing for New Year's Eve?"
"I don't know at the moment," Draco lied. The truth was nothing. Draco knew it was nothing, because it was always nothing. He loathed New Year's Eve. All that pomp and circumstance simply because another year was upon them? Time moved constantly, there was no need to celebrate it as far as Draco was concerned. It was just another excuse for people to get pissed out of their minds and do stupid things that landed them in hospital. Luckily, he wasn't working that shift this year.
"You should spend it with us. The Weasleys won't be back until New Year's Day and–"
"I'm not going to be your stand–in, Potter."
A look of hurt passed Harry's face, and Draco regretted how harsh that had come out. He still meant what he'd said, though.
"I didn't mean it like that. Just that we," he gestured between himself and Teddy, "would be having a fairly quiet night in."
"Harry makes bacon butties on New Year's Eve."
Harry nodded in agreement.
"How do you not weigh twenty stone?"
Harry laughed, and moved to re–zip Teddy's coat.
"Let's go, little man, and leave Draco to his work. You'll see him again on New Year's Eve."
"I haven't said yes."
"You'll be there."
He followed Harry and Teddy out of the office and watched them start down the corridor.
"Might not be!" he called after them.
Harry looked back at him, still smiling.
The response that Harry got after the first letter was simply 'Maybe. –DM
The second letter earned Harry a wordier response in the form of the dictionary definition of the word 'maybe,' etymology included. Harry had a pretty good laugh at that.
The third letter came back with 'If you think you're endearing yourself with this constant pestering, you're mistaken. –DM
Harry didn't know what Draco's replies to Teddy contained, only that he had responded. He suspected that Teddy's letters to Draco had consisted mainly of details from the stories he'd read in that Nordic mythology book, because it was all the boy seemed to talk about of late. He didn't know if he should be concerned about Teddy's fascination with this apparent villain whose presence was peppered throughout those comics, and when Harry had said as much to him over porridge and toast the other morning, Teddy had got a very serious look on his face and said, "He's not evil, he's just misunderstood."
New Year's Eve day had finally arrived, and when Harry still hadn't heard from Draco by lunch time, he genuinely started to worry that the other man wasn't coming after all. Maybe Harry had been too pushy. But then, Harry hadn't exactly set a time, either. Perhaps he should send another owl, just in case. Surely Draco wouldn't let Teddy down like that.
"Harry, can we get a dog?"
Teddy bounded into the small makeshift office that was once a spare bedroom. Harry put down the case file that Kingsley had sent him to review – suspicious death in Bristol had the local team stumped, and he wanted Harry to review it to see if anything might've been missed or overlooked prematurely.
"A dog, eh? That's something to think about. What would you name it?"
"Jack, I think."
"That's a very solid–sounding name."
"Yeah, I like it." Teddy came around the desk and leaned against Harry's chair, and he put his arm around the boy's shoulders.
"Harry, do you think Draco's gonna come?"
"Certainly hope so, kid, but he might get held up at work." Teddy looked up at him, hopeful. "I'm sure he'll come if he's able."
"I knew you'd come," Teddy said, voice muffled by Draco's shoulder.
Something was wrong – Harry felt it instantly. Draco's face was paler than normal, and he looked weary. Not the kind that came from being tired, but the kind that came from being emotionally drained.
"Ted, why don't you go into the kitchen and fetch Draco a glass of juice. Use the plastic cups, all right?" He waited for Teddy to disappear into the hallway.
"What's wrong?" Harry was at his side instantly.
"You're not fine," Harry said, brushing a bit of Floo powder from Draco's shoulder, letting his hand linger.
He saw Draco swallow hard, glancing at the doorway, and then back at Harry. "I lost a patient."
"Oh." Harry didn't know what to say.
"Little girl. She came in on Boxing Day with dragon flu, and we couldn't contain it."
"I'm sorry." Harry placed his hand back on Draco's shoulder, squeezing gently.
"She was only four–years–old."
"You didn't need to come. Teddy would have understood."
"Maybe I needed to come," he answered Harry quietly.
Moments later, Teddy came back, plastic cup nearly overflowing with pumpkin juice. "I didn't spill any, Harry," he said proudly.
"Thank you, Teddy," Draco said, taking a drink from the cup before smiling at the boy.
Teddy seemed to pick up on the melancholy mood that had settled over the room, because his next words were spoken quietly.
"Hey, Draco, do you wanna build a snowman? Harry can make it snow outside."
Harry was about to decline on Draco's behalf, but was interrupted.
"You know, Teddy, I think that sounds like a brilliant idea."
"Really?" Harry and Teddy said in unison, genuinely surprised by Draco's agreement.
"Only, I didn't bring my coat with me through the Floo. I'll need to go back."
"You can just borrow one of mine. I've collected a few over the years and never seem to get rid of any."
Within minutes, they were making their way through the house and out the door from the rear of the kitchen that led to the back garden. The fence that surrounded the property was high, concealing them from any nosy neighbours, and Harry always added a privacy charm besides. It wouldn't do for the Muggles on either side of them to look out a bedroom window and see two feet of snow in their back garden when there was still green grass on their own plots.
Harry made sure to add extra warming charms to Teddy's coat, gloves, and hat. It was just this side of freezing, and he didn't want Teddy getting sick again. Draco had sent them home with enough antibiotic potions to last two weeks from his discharge on Christmas Day, but Harry couldn't be too careful.
Draco stood beside him ina green woolen hat that Hermione had knitted him last year, and the nicest coat that Harry owned. It was one he only wore on formal occasions, which were far and few between. Teddy was already running toward the middle of the garden where he always went, then turned around, arms outstretched, and called out.
Harry took out his wand, and performed the charm that Professor Flitwick had taught him several years back. Harry had gotten the idea when Teddy was six–years–old and had asked Harry for a white Christmas that year.
Translucent grayish–white clouds began to spill forth from the tip of his wand and blanket the surrounding area, just inches above their heads. And then it began to snow. Big fat flakes fell rapidly, piling up quickly on the ground. He looked over at Draco whose mouth was hanging open slightly, lips curving upward.
"You have got to teach me this charm, Potter."
So Harry did.
"You need tightly compacted snow for that. Harry's snow is too light and fluffy."
"Who's hungry?" Harry asked, needing the distraction.
"It's bacon time, yeah!" Teddy cheered as Harry retrieved his preferred frying pan from the cupboard, setting it atop the cooker.
"Can I help?" Draco offered as he stood.
"Um, grab the bacon from the fridge, and if there's anything else in there that you'd like on it, help yourself. We're purists in this house, but I hear ketchup is pretty popular."
"Well I wouldn’t want to offend anyone's culinary sensibilities."
"Can we have chips, too, Harry?"
"Only if you provide the potatoes."
Teddy scrambled from his chair and went into the pantry, reappearing moments later with far more potatoes than were necessary bundled in his arms.
Draco came up behind him, bacon in hand and watching the proceedings over Harry's shoulder. Harry could smell the now familiar scent that Draco always carried with him, the one that faintly reminded Harry of his morning cup of earl grey.
"This is how you turn it on," Harry said, matter–of–factly.
"Shut up, you," Draco lightly jostled Harry's shoulder with his own. "I don't cook, okay? That's my big secret."
"Oh, I'm sure there's a bigger secret than that," Harry laughed.
When Draco answered with, "There might be, Potter," the voice was a lot closer to his ear than before, and Harry could feel the faint whisper of breath against his cheek. When he chanced to turn around, Draco was already helping Teddy deposit the potatoes into the sink, turning on the faucet while Teddy picked up the ones he'd dropped.
Harry realised it was going to be a very long night.
"You're going to make me fat, Potter," Draco said from the opposite side of the tree that they were both clearing of ornaments and tinsel. Teddy's over–exertion saw him heading to bed a half hour earlier, and at this rate, it looked like Harry would be ushering in the first moments of the New Year by undressing the Christmas tree. He tried not to think about undressing other things. Or people. People named Draco.
Draco seemed to be sufficiently distracted from the loss of the patient that had him arriving in such a sombre state. Tragic as the circumstances were, Harry couldn't help but feel gratified by the fact that Draco had wanted Teddy near him afterward. Harry supposed it was similar to the way that Harry felt when he saw news stories about injured (or worse) children. Those nights, he'd always hugged Teddy a little bit tighter than usual.
Draco had gone quiet again, though, and Harry wondered what he was thinking about. Their eyes met occasionally as they worked their way silently around the tree, noise coming faintly from the television in the corner as it showed footage from various British cities as they celebrated in the minutes leading up to midnight.
"Ten minutes to go," Draco said softly as he glanced at his watch, breaking the silence.
"How do you normally spend New Year's?"
"Working," Draco finally said after a long moment. "Or, if I'm off that year, I'm usually in bed by now."
Images of Draco, asleep, spread out among the soft sheets of Harry's bed flashed in his mind.
"Draco, can I ask you something?" Harry made his way to Draco's side of the tree, standing next to him as he pulled on a string of popcorn and cranberry garland that Teddy had made.
"You just did," Draco answered lightly. He placed another bulb in the box at his feet.
A pine needle had found its way into Draco's hair, right by his temple, and Harry reached out to remove it. The move startled Draco into stillness, but he didn't stop Harry from running his fingers through his hair. Christ, it was soft. So soft, like silk beneath his fingertips. Harry watched as the needle fell to the floor, and looked up into dark gray eyes. Draco blinked, but he didn't move. Harry was so close to him that he could feel the warmth radiating from the other man's body.
"What if I don't want to be friends?" Harry asked, arm falling to his side.
Draco's brow furrowed and something shuttered in his gaze. Harry realised the fatal flaw in what he'd just said, but Draco'd misunderstood.
And Harry had to make him understand what he meant.
Just as Draco began to take a step back, Harry leaned forward, and felt the faintest brush of lips against his own. He felt Draco's sharp intake of breath, but he didn't move away, and when Harry didn't see rejection in the eyes looking into his own, he took that as permission to do it again.
So he did.
Draco thought his knees might buckle if he tried to move, not that he really wanted to . . . Draco could see the reflection of the remaining fairy lights in Harry's glasses, eyes opened impossibly wide behind them, and Draco knew that Harry was watching him carefully for any kind of reaction. Problem was, Draco was too stunned to properly formulate a reaction at the moment, which Harry apparently interpreted as Draco being perfectly okay with what had just happened.
Because Harry leaned in again, and this time, he stopped at the very moment before their lips would meet, a seemingly last minute chance for Draco to move away or turn his head or something. But Draco didn't, and this time when Harry pressed his lips against Draco's, it wasn't as much a question as it was a statement. A very declarative one.
Draco's eyes closed at the firm press of Harry's mouth against his own, and when tentative fingers grazed the line of his jaw, Draco felt warmth unlike he'd ever known before spread from the innermost recesses of his body and flow outward, and he was finally able to move.
Harry was kissing him, and Draco was kissing him back.
When Draco's tongue brushed against the seam of his mouth, almost shyly asking for permission, Harry knew the needy sound that escaped came from him. Both hands reached up and touched the sides of Draco's face as they tasted each other, the mutual give and take in the balance of power and control of the kiss ebbing and flowing between them in perfect tandem . . . Harry's entire body was on fire.It was as though he'd been kissing Draco for years, his mouth remembering what his mind could not.
Draco broke away for the seconds it took to remove Harry's glasses and toss them God knows where, and when Draco fused their mouths together once again, there was no question who had control. Draco did, and Harry had never been more happy to surrender it.
Through the ringing, Draco began to pick up the faint sounds of a clock announcing the midnight hour and, with it, the New Year. As the sound grew ever louder, Draco came more and more to his senses and abruptly pulled back. Harry leaned in again, as though a magnetic pull demanded it, a whimper escaping the other man when Draco continued to push.
Draco needed to breathe. Everything was a blurry, convoluted jumble of . . .
What are we doing? Draco didn't want this. No, he did, but he shouldn't. Couldn't. Draco couldn't trust Harry. Not with this. Not with his . . . heart. He'd been careless with it once before, and Draco didn't think it would be as easy to get past if Harry did that to him again.
This couldn't happen. He wasn't going to let it.
"Draco, what–" Harry started to say, voice breathy and lips red and slick from where Draco had let his tongue taste every inch.
"I have to go." He pulled at Harry's hands from where they were still fisted around the collar of his jumper, unable to continue looking in Harry's eyes. They were so open, so naked without those damned glasses.
"Draco, please don't–"
But Draco didn't hear the rest of what Harry was going to say as he pulled out his wand and turned on the spot, Apparating back to his flat.
He didn't understand why Draco broke away, and then pushed him away. Draco clearly wanted it just as badly as Harry had – no one takes that kind of control if they don't want it. Harry had felt the evidence of Draco's desire from him pressed firmly against his own. He had never been kissed like that before, like the other person's heart would stop beating if they didn't keep kissing him.
Something had made Draco stop, made Draco run from him. And with every second that passed, Harry became more and more angryat Draco for having left like that.
Glancing at the ceiling, knowing that Teddy was sound asleep upstairs, Harry weighed the risks in leaving his godson alone in the house, even if only briefly, to track Draco down. Draco had used his Floo enough times that, despite never having been there, Harry could get to the flat Draco owned in Knightsbridge. And if he wasn't there, well, Harry was an Auror. He knew how to track an Apparition spell done moments earlier.
Steeling his resolve, Harry opted for the tracker on the off–chance that Malfoy had never set up his Floo to work both ways between here and there. He summoned his glasses. Teddy wouldn't even know he was gone.
Harry swallowed thickly, wholly unprepared to see a nearly naked Draco.Especially not after what hadjust happened between them. Harry felt the anger that had been growing at Grimmauld Place get shunted aside in favour of an entirely different emotion, and the blood that had been racing through his veins during the onslaught of that kiss took a decidedly southward dive.
"What the hell, Potter! You can't just appear whenever you want to." Draco's face grew more and more flushed with every word. Harry was just glad to see the man feeling something."How the fuck did you even get here?"Harry noticed the white–knuckled grip that Draco had on the edge of his towel, sharply defined hip bone just barely exposed above it. His mouth felt dry.
Draco was fuckingbeautiful as he stood there, eyes blazing at Harry's intrusion into his private space, his normally immaculate hair in disarray from having undressed. Harry had never seen a half–naked heavenly creature spoiling for a fight before, but he was pretty sure this was exactly what one would look like.
"Auror, remember?" Harry shot back at him, and Draco sneered, baring his teeth. "You want to tell me what happened back there?" Harry felt his ire begin to dissipate as Draco looked away for a long moment. Harry chanced taking a step forward, and then another, until he was nearly within arm's length of him.
And that's when he noticed it. Them. They were faint, but with the light from Draco's lamp illuminating his skin, Harry could see them as clear as anything, and he knew exactly what they were. And who had put them there.Long, thin lines from the curse that Harry had thrown at him all those years ago had left their mark. The largest started from Draco's clavicle and travelled down the length of his torso, disappearing under the white cotton of Draco's towel. Another shorter scar intersected it, just below the breastbone and crossed over to his side. A third marred Draco's arm across his bicep.
"Draco, I–" Harry started softly, but Draco cut him off with a harsh wave of the arm not securing his modesty.
"Oh don't go all maudlin on me, Potter. I'm not dredging up that particular highlight of our past with you right now." Draco still wouldn’t look him in the eye. Harry was afraid that if he took another step, Draco would most certainly bolt into the bathroom and shut him out completely.
"Why did you leave like that?" he asked gently, setting aside his remorse for another time.
"What happened . . . " Draco started, then paused. "What you want, Potter, it can't happen."
"What I want? Was I alone in that room?"
"It's not going to happen." Draco's tone brooked no argument, but Harry was nothing if not persistent.
"What would be so wrong if it did?"
Draco's laugh was bitter. "I don't trust you, Harry."
"Because of before?"
"Tell me, does your darling clan of Weasleys know what you've been up to the past few days? Have you had a heart–to–heart with your best mate Ronald about your newfound toy?"
Harry knew that Draco was partly lashing out in defensive anger, but he was also partly telling the truth. Harry hadn't mentioned anything – hadn't talked to the Weasleys at all since they'd been gone. But he had every intention of letting Ron and Hermione know when he saw them after they returned tomorrow.
"Ron isn't eighteen anymore, neither of us are. I don’t need his permission or anyone else's to . . . fall in love."
Draco's mouth fell open, and the anger that rose up in the gray eyes nearly had Harry taking a step back.
"Fuck you, Potter," Draco nearly spat, "How dare you–"
"Do you honestly believe," Harry interrupted, nearly having to shout over him, arms wide in supplication, "that had we kept on that same path we were on nine years ago, that it wouldn’t have happened? That we wouldn't have ended up exactly where we were fifteen minutes ago in front of that tree? You neveronce wondered what if?"
"Before you barged your way back into my life a week ago, I'd forgotten you even existed!"
"You're a shit liar, Malfoy." Harry did take a step forward then, silently challenging him, hands falling to his side. His eyes never left Draco's. He almost had him. "You always have been."
Draco's glare turned from fiery steel to ice, and Harry wondered where he'd miscalculated. Draco's walls were going up, quick as lightning as the old familiar mask fell into place.
"What I've always been, Potter, is distrustful of people who decide on a whim whether or not I'm worth their time." Draco inhaled sharply. "I wasn't worth the effort then, so what you makes you think that I would have any faith in you now? You got yourself so entrenched in the life of your best friend that you married his sister to secure your place. How can anyone ever compete with that, even a decade later?"
"Are you asking me to choose?"
Draco stepped forward, raising his hand and pressing hard against Harry's chest with his finger, accusing. "I would never ask you to choose, because I already know the choice that you'd make. And that, Potter, is why this," Draco gestured between them, "cannot happen."
Harry was shaking his head, "You don't know them. Ron would never ask–"
"One fight, Harry. One fight was all it took for you to write me out of your life. Yeah, maybe it was only a few months, but a hell of a lot happened in those few months after the war and I didn't deserve what you did to me. I expected it from everyone else who looked at me like I was scum on the bottom of their shoe. They didn't know me." Harry got a sick feeling in his stomach as a sheen of tears started to cloud Draco's eyes. The other man looked away, blinking hard. "They didn't know what happened in that Manor. But you, Potter? You knew. You knew me like no one else did because I was stupid enough to let you."
Draco seemed to steel his resolve, and stared back at him. "You may have told me things that only Ron and Hermione knew, but I told you things that I shared with no other living soul. And you still threw me away when Weaselby snapped his fingers."
Draco turned away from him then, his back to Harry. He wanted so badly to reach out, to place his hand on the bare skin in some vain attempt to comfort him. But he knew it would be unwelcomed, and Harry didn't want that memory of Draco shunning his touch.
"And it's not that I'm bitter," Draco started, head bowed but still turned away, "but keep in mind that I've been holding this in for nearly ten years now. I'm not bitter, but nor am I going to be made a fool of again by you. I was wrong to have allowed myself to . . ."
"To what?" Harry asked, voice barely above a whisper. Needing to know.
"I was wrong."
Draco started to walk into the other room, but stopped and looked back at him.
"Will you let me keep seeing Teddy?"
Harry blinked. "Of course. I–"
"Please see yourself out."
And with that, Draco shut the bathroom door behind him, leaving Harry standing in the bedroom alone. Harry walked up to the door, placing his hand on it as though he could reach Draco through it. He felt as though the bottom had dropped out beneath him. Everything with Draco over the past several days – the renewing of their friendship, Draco's growing relationship with Teddy, and the start of something that Harry didn't know how much he wanted until the possibility of it was ripped away . . . all of it seemed to scatter around his feet like dust.
Harry could hear the turn of a faucet, and then flowing water from beyond the door.
He stepped away, andApparated back to Grimmauld Place.
It wasn't until the cake had been sliced that Harry finally gave Teddy permission to tell everyone about what had happened two days before Christmas, and as expected, Molly nearly took his ear off for not having told them straight away.
"I didn't want to worry you, and I only knew you'd feel guilty about not coming home to check on him. But he was fine." Teddy's corduroy–clad legs lay across his lap as they sat on the smaller sofa, and Harry patted his knee. "He's right as rain, see?"
And that's when Teddy revealed the next bit. "My cousin Draco fixed me right up, and then he had Christmas pudding with us, and came over to open presents on Boxing Day." Teddy's hair turned a familiar shade of blond at the mention of Draco. "George, wait until I tell you about Loki's eight–legged horse."
Over half a dozen pair of eyes were focused on Harry once Draco's name had been mentioned, and he just sat back and waited. Arthur coughed. His watchful gaze lingered on Ron and Hermione, however. They looked leery, to be sure, but that was the worst he could say about the expression on their faces, and for that he was glad.
Molly was the first to speak. "That's nice, dearie," she said to Teddy, and Harry could detect only the slightest apprehension in her tone. "It's always good to have family near."
Harry couldn't help himself. He stood up, dislodging Teddy from his lap, and walked over to Molly, hugging her for a long time.
Harry was sitting on the floor, his back resting against Ron's bed and arms resting atop his bended knees. Hermione was watching him from the bed opposite, looking pensive.
"Yeah." Harry waited a beat. "And I kissed him."
"So you said," Harry heard Ron reply on a beleaguered sigh, but he was watching Hermione's face to ascertain how she might feel about it.
"I suppose it's not entirely unexpected," she finally added, biting one of her fingernails, the diamond of her wedding band glinting in the candlelight. "You two always were drawn to another in some fashion. Maybe this is just the next logical progression?"
"He's still a sneaky git, though, Harry." Ron's words were without bite.
"Yep," he agreed, looking up at Ron, "but a really good kisser."
Ron looked like he might sick up on the floor and Hermione started to laugh.
"Oh, Harry. Only you would end up with the person who once smashed your face in."
"Hey, I gave as good as I got. Remember when I got banned from Quidditch for pummeling his face in?"
"That was a great day," Ron said, sounding wistful, and Hermione laughed again. "I will say, though, of all the people I would have reckoned you'd end up snogging one day, Malfoy was way down that list, mate. Actually, he wasn't even on the list. He was on the never snog list, right there at the top. Right below Voldemort! Maybe even above Voldemort," he whispered, then shuddered, clearly horrified at the imagery he'd managed to put into his own brain.
Harry did laugh at that, standing up and pulling Ron into a one–armed hug and clapping him on the back.
"I need a favour."
Maybe he was afraid that if he went back into the hallway, Ron and Hermione Weasley would still be standing there. To talk. Draco exhaled wearily. Their visit had certainly been unexpected. Understatement of the decade, that.
He sat up, rubbing his temples and wondering how things had gone so fantastically pear–shaped. Two weeks ago, his life was routine. He liked it that way. He'd wake up, eat breakfast, go into work, and then go home in preparation to do it all again the next day. He had sufficiently isolated himself while in Australia from all of the negative influences that used to plague him, and after his return to England seven months prior, that isolation had continued. He got the occasional second look from shop clerks who asked his name, but other than that, people were content to leave him be. His mother now living in Belgium meant that Draco was also blissfully free of her constant haranguing. She wasn't much for letter writing.
Then Harry happened. Again. And Draco's tidy routine had been snowballing ever since. He couldn't entirely regret it, though, because there was Teddy. The bright young boy whose history was forever linked to Draco's by their shared bloodline, but more than that, Draco had come to truly care about the child. So much so that, without Potter knowing, Draco had cast a wellness monitoring charm on the boy when he'd gone to visit Grimmauld Place for Christmas pudding on the night of Teddy's release.
Draco glanced over at the small crystal cube atop his desk, the pale green mist swirling within telling him that Teddy was healthy.
Draco replayed pieces of his conversation with Ron and Hermione from the past hour. When he first saw Muriel walking toward him, the last two people he'd ever expected to see following in her wake, Draco had prepared himself for the worst. But it was nothing like Draco had been expecting from Harry's two closest friends – particularly not the one who's judgment of Draco Harry had so easily deferred to in years past – and he was still trying to make sense of it all.
"We wanted to thank you personally for taking such good care of Teddy," Hermione grabbed his hand and held on. "He means so much to Harry, and he told us how wonderful you were with him."
"We were all a bit screwed up back then, Malfoy," said Ron.
"Harry makes some fucked up decisions sometimes. I don't know why he chose then to listen to me, he hardly does any other time."
"We were all still stinging from the war, our wounds still raw." Hermione's eyes were tinged with regret. "Harry was just so weary. The war had changed him. He had no fight left in him, Draco."
"We're sorry for it, truly. We didn't understand, not fully, what had happened. Harry never talked much about the things he saw while Voldemort was in his head. It was easy for Ron and me to pass judgment back then, God we were just kids, Draco. Kids forced into a war not of our making and forced to make impossible decisions. We didn't realise that you were given just as little choice as Harry in the roles you had to play."
"Harry's solid. Good man. Good father. If you ask me, you're a right pillock if you don't cut the guy a break." Ron's earnest words seemed genuine. Honest.
"Teddy returns to Hogwarts soon. You should go and visit before he leaves. I know they'd both love to see you."
Draco stood, removing his Healer robe and tossing it across the back of his chair. He walked over to the Ever–Full kettle on the table by the window, and poured hot water into his favourite cup, dropping in a bag of white Darjeeling to steep. Fat, cold raindrops were beating steadily against the windows, and Draco hugged his arms across his chest as he felt a chill.
What was he going to do? He knew what he wanted to do, but Draco had long ago decided that listening to one's heart over one's head was best left behind in childhood. The heart could deceive. Make you think that things aren't the way they truly are . . .
Could make you believe that your father cares about your well–being when really he's just using you as another pawn or means to an end.
Could leave you unprepared for the crushing loss of a mentor and godfather, the only man in your life who had ever seemed to truly give a damn about you.
Could fool you into believing that the one person who seemed to understand you like no other would stick around.
Head over heart.That's how Draco chose to live. Following his head allowed Draco plenty of room to breathe.
But Harry . . . Harry made Draco breathless. Pushed and pulled and tugged at his heart until Draco wanted to let everything crumble and just give in.
When the insufferable man had Apparated into Draco's bedroom the other night, after that kiss that still made Draco's heart pound just remembering it, he had very nearly done exactly that. Draco knew that they could have so easily fallen into bed that night. Could have let Harry possess every inch of him, because that's how Draco knew it would feel – the man did nothing by halves, and Draco would go weak just imagining what it would be like to have Harry . . . to be beneath him, Harry inside him.
But then Harry had asked that question that brought everything back into focus.
"What would be so wrong if it did?"
What Draco had remembered in that moment was the way that Harry had looked at him that day on his doorstep nine years prior, when Draco had been so harshly dismissed as just another nuisance in Harry's life. Draco remembered letters that went unanswered. Most of all, Draco remembers how he felt like a fool for being so weak that he had let Potter through his defenses.
Draco sipped his tea, letting the naturally mellow sweetness coat his tongue as he sat back down on the sofa. Harry's face from when they'd tried building that snow fort flittered across his mind's eye, smiling and open and seemingly without a care in the world. Draco felt a sharp pang of loss.
Maybe Hermione had been right. She had always been a step ahead of Draco in everything else, something his father had never let him forget. "God we were just kids, Draco . . . we didn't realise that you were given just as little choice as Harry in the roles you had to play . . . Harry was just so weary . . . he had no fight left in him, Draco."
Harry didn't seem to have that problem anymore. Harry had come back to Draco this time, even as unwelcome as it had been at the time. Draco certainly hadn't planned on having it out with the man while standing there clad only in a towel. The way Harry had looked at him then . . . it nearly undid him.
And after they'd had it out, Draco having shut the door behind him, trying to find some room to breathe, he knew Harry had remained on the other side of that door. Waiting. It wasn't until several long moments after Draco had finally turned on the shower tap that he'd heard the crack of Potter's Apparition. And as Draco had stood there until the hot spray of water, angry at both Potter and himself, not a little bit ashamed for having revealed so much – for having let himself be so vulnerable with the other man, something that he never seemed unable to do when Harry was in front of him – he knew that not every droplet on his face was water.
"You're a right pillock if you don't cut the guy a break."
Draco set the half–empty cup of the now lukewarm tea on the table, standing and reaching for his Healers' robe. He was only a few hours into another three–day shift, and he knew he had to see Teddy before the boy got back on that train.
He didn't know how he was going to feel when he saw Harry again, only knew that he didn't have the energy to feel angry anymore. He felt . . . weary. Empty, and weary.
Maybe it was Draco's turn to give up the fight.
"Wait, I want to take this," Teddy said, placing 101 Tales from Norse Mythology carefully on top of his jumpers.
Harry had insisted before the holidays that Teddy needn't bring all of his clothes home, that the Hogwarts house elves took care of all that for him, but Teddy had said that he wanted to bring them back so that they would smell like home again after he'd returned following New Year's. After Harry's heart had pieced itself back together, he'd told Teddy to bring the whole lot home.
"Do you think that Draco will come back before I leave?"
"You wrote to him, didn't you?"
"Yeah," Teddy answered, voice sounding small. Harry had to believe that Draco meant what he'd said last week – he wouldn't forsake his cousin simply because he wanted Harry to . . . well, because he didn't want Harry, full stop.
But it had been nearly an entire week since that argument, and Teddy was leaving for Hogwarts in the morning. And it had been three days since Harry knew Ron and Hermione had paid Draco a visit at St. Mungo's to personally thank him for taking such good care of Teddy.
And to clear the air on a few other things, as well.
Harry had thought for sure that Draco would have reached out to him later that day. But with every hour that passed without word from Draco was an hour that Harry lost hope, and his reserves were running low. Maybe Draco was waiting for Teddy to get back to Hogwarts, and planned to visit him there.
"You quarreled, didn't you?"
Kids. Too damned perceptive when you didn't want them to be, and completely oblivious when you did.
Harry sighed as he closed the lid of Teddy's trunk and closed the latch.
"Something like that, yeah."
"Are you going to forgive him?" Harry started down the stairs, Teddy beside him.
"I'm the one that needs to be forgiven this time, I'm afraid."
"Did you tell him you were sorry?"
"What's complicated about saying you're sorry?"
Harry stopped at the foot of the stairs, wondering how to begin to explain the mess he was in – a mess that started nine years ago and was only now coming to a head.
"Sometimes the other person doesn't believe you, no matter how many times you say it."
"Oh." Teddy looked defeated.
"What sounds good for dinner, hmm?" Harry offered, wanting to change the subject. "It's your last night at home for a while, so you pick."
"Can we have bacon butties again?"
Harry nodded, and Teddy punched the air in triumph as they walked down the hallway leading to the kitchen.
He was going to miss having the kid around.
"Better than Hogwarts?"
"Just by a little bit, but yeah." Teddy dusted off crumbs from his shirt onto the floor, and Harry didn't bother scolding him.
"I appreciate your honesty."
"Too much will kill you, you know. Clogs the arteries."
Both Harry and Teddy looked up in surprise at the familiar voice from the doorway.
Draco was standing there in his Healer's robes, coming off the end of a long shift if the shadows under his eyes were any indication. Harry still thought he was the most handsome man alive. His pulse quickened just looking at him.
"Draco!" Teddy ran over to him, and the other man knelt down as eager arms wrapped around his shoulders.
Harry stood, but stayed put, letting him and Teddy have their moment.
"Why didn't you come sooner? I have to leave in the morning," Teddy pouted at him.
"I've been busy. I'm sorry."
"That's okay, I forgive you." Teddy let go, stepping away before continuing. "Because that's what people do when someone says they're sorry."
Draco looked taken aback, and Harry groaned inwardly. The boy's Slytherin tendencies were out in full–force today.
"Teddy, don't," Harry chided him softly.
"Well it's true," he said in Harry's direction. "Draco, Harry's really sorry that you quarreled and so you should forgive him, because when I come back at Easter, I want you to visit and I know you won't visit if you're still having a row."
"I should forgive Harry?" Draco was looking at Harry pointedly, but his words were directed gently at Teddy.
Teddy was nothing if not determined, but Harry cursed the boy's bad timing, silently trying to will him to drop it already.
Draco patted Teddy's shoulder, and stepped further into the kitchen, walking toward Harry. He felt warm under the weight of Draco's determined gaze as he drew ever closer.
"And if I do forgive Harry, will Harry promise to never do anything like that again?"
"He promises," Harry answered on a whisper before Teddy could open his mouth again.
Draco stopped in front of him, just inches away. Harry was now cursing Draco's timing as he could hear Teddy shuffle his feet near the doorway.
"Are you guys gonna kiss?"
Draco arched his brow, the corners of his mouth upturning slightly. "We might." He looked over his shoulder at Teddy. "Would that bother you?"
Harry placed his thumb and forefinger on Draco's chin, turning his attention back where it belonged.
"I thought we shouldn't care what other people thought about us kissing?"
Harry didn't give him a chance to answer as he closed the distance between them, his lips fitting perfectly over Draco's and silencing any reply.
"Ewww, gross," Harry heard Teddy say, feeling Draco smile into the kiss.
Draco pulled back, eyes bright and cheeks pink from . . . embarrassment? Harry didn't know, or particularly care. Draco was here, arms wrapped solidly around him. Teddy was gone, his footsteps from upstairs echoing in the kitchen.
"Weasley and Granger," Draco said after clearing his throat. "Your doing?"
"It's Weasley and Weasley, and I've no idea what you're talking about," Harry lied, masking his face into the very picture of innocence.
"You're a shit liar, Potter," Draco smirked. "Always have been."
"Shut up, Malfoy."
And Harry made sure he did exactly that.
Harry's body felt boneless as he sank into the mattress beneath him, releasing a satisfying moan as he exhaled. Draco's mussed hair peeked out from beneath the bed sheet as he moved up the length of Harry's body from where he'd settled in earlier, waking Harry in the most magnificent way possible. Sometimes it was quick and dirty, but other times, like this morning, Draco would settle into the vee of Harry's legs and treat him to a long, leisurely blow job.
"Good morning to you, too," Harry said, voice still rough with sleep as Draco lay his head on his chest, a long, pale finger brushing across Harry's sensitive nipple. He felt Draco smile against his skin.
"We need to stop for bacon before heading to the train station," said Draco before placing a chaste kiss on Harry's mouth and moving to get out of bed. Harry reached for him, but Draco was already out of arm's length.
"Is that all I get?" Harry teased.
"Until you brush your teeth, yes." Draco stood, revealing his bare backside for Harry's appreciative perusal as he headed in the direction of the bathroom.
"That for me?" Harry smirked as Draco turned to the side, cock still hard and needing attention.
"Well it's not for the dog."
"That's disturbing, Draco," Harry laughed.
The other man went through the doorway and Harry called after him. "Want me to take care of that for you?"
"Counting on it, Potter," Draco's voice echoed from across the hall.
Harry smiled, getting out of bed. Their dog, the Springer Spaniel pup that Teddy had picked out last Christmas, trotted after him. Harry blocked him from following him into the bathroom.
"Sorry, Jack, you're far too innocent to see what's about to happen."
Draco could hardly believe that Teddy was already through his third year.
Draco was worried that they might have missed the train's arrival, relieved to see it was apparently running behind. They'd lingered too long in the shower that morning, which meant they'd been late getting to the shops for groceries. Then Harry had waffled endlessly over which chocolate biscuits to buy, forgetting which ones Teddy had suddenly decided he no longer liked, and Draco had had to drag him to the checkout.
Just then, the loud scream of the train whistle could be heard in the distance. "Finally!"Harry exclaimed, seeming to relax a bit. Draco noticed he'd been anxious for the past hour, and he knew exactly why.
Harry squeezed his hand and smiled at him. They were both excited to see Teddy and tell him their big news. They hadn't told anyone, wanting Teddy to be the first to know. Draco winked at him, a frisson of nervousness starting to bubble up inside him as well. He had no doubts that the boy wouldn't be happy for them, but somehow, having others know made it more real. A done deal.'No takesiesbacksies,' as Teddy liked to say.
The train finally pulled to a full stop in front of them, and they held back from the rest of the crowd.The doors opened, and the students began to pour out of the carriages. Harry stood tiptoe next to him, searching for Teddy's technicolour hair – he'd told them he was partial to electric blue of late, and sure enough, they spotted him as he stepped off onto the platform. His searching gaze found Draco's, and he waved the boy over.
"Sweet freedom at last!" Teddy said as Harry pulled him into a bear hug. Harry was rocking him back and forth when Teddy started to wriggle out of his grasp. "Haaaarrrrrry," he whined, cheeks pink from embarrassment from the over-exuberant display. Harry let go, still grinning from ear to ear.
Teddy leaned into Draco, and he also pulled the boy into a hug, kissing him lightly on the top of his head. It was probably the last year he'd be able to do that without having to stand on a footstool to reach it.
"You didn't bring Jack?"
"In this chaotic mess, are you joking?" Draco took the bookbag that hung from Teddy's shoulder, hefting its weight over his own. "Wibble already fetched your trunk from school, so we can go ahead and leave unless you want to say goodbye to any of your friends."
Teddy shook his head. "I already did that on the train. I want to go home and stuff my face."
Harry led the way this time around the crowd, and through the barrier to reach the outside, the sun shining brightly and making Teddy's hair even more blue than Draco thought possible.
Teddy had been chattering about this and that as they walked toward the long line of black cabs parked in wait outside of King's Cross. Teddy loved taking the taxi home.
Draco was just about to open the door of a cab when Harry suddenly spoke.
"Teddy, what would you think about me and Draco getting married?"
"Harry!" Draco turned around, hands on hips. "You weren't supposed to just blurt it out like that!" he laughed at him, and Harry had the good sense to look abashed.
"Well, I was excited. I couldn’t hold it in!"
"We were supposed to discuss it like civilised gentleman over bacon butties, wasn't that the plan that you devised?"
Harry shuffled his feet, blushing, and Draco saw him watching Teddy.
But Teddy was just watching them, and smirking.
"Well?" Harry prodded, biting an already ragged thumbnail. Try as he might, Draco couldn't seem to break him of the habit.
"You already act like you are. Might as well make it official, I 'spose."
It was nearly an exact echo of the answer Teddy had given to them last year when they'd obtained McGonagall's permission to visit him at Hogwarts, and proposed officially adopting Teddy.
"So . . . you're okay with it?" Draco asked as Harry stood shoulder–to–shoulder with him.
"Yeah," Teddy shrugged. "'Course."
"You're an amazing boy, Teddy Remus Lupin," said Harry, voice thick with emotion as he pulled the boy into another hug.
Teddy looked at Draco from over Harry's shoulder, rolling his eyes. "He's like a girl with all the hugging, honestly."
Draco laughed as Harry cuffed him on the head, and opened the door to the cab, ushering Teddy inside. Harry kissed the corner of his mouth quickly before following him in.
On the ride home, Teddy didn't say much, and Draco asked him what was on his mind as they rounded the corner onto Grimmauld Place.
"I just can't seem to figure out," Teddy started thoughtfully, "how they're bringing back Loki for Avengers Assemble when he fell into the void at the end of Thor?"
Harry started to laugh, and Draco just shook his head. He should have known, really.