Harry couldn’t believe how much time had passed since the end of the war, or how much had changed. He and Ron had both been offered jobs with the Auror department off the back of the battle, but had declined in favour of returning to Hogwarts with Hermione. At first they’d been excited at the prospect, but once everything had died down, Harry realised that after battling for the last year to defeat Voldemort, all he wanted was to be a normal teenager who only had to stress about exam preparation and not avoiding being hit with stray curses. Ron had wanted to return simply because he didn’t feel ready to become an Auror yet.
At times, Harry had wondered why he’d bothered going back to school. When he’d found out that since there was no room in the individual house dormitories for them as eighth-year students, they’d be having their own common room and dormitory, regardless of which house they’d been in prior to the war, he hadn’t known what to think. He hadn’t ever thought that returning to Hogwarts would mean sleeping somewhere other than the Gryffindor dormitory.
He’d had to admit that the idea itself wasn’t too bad. It was only when he realised that, among others, he’d have to share a dormitory with Draco Malfoy that he’d protested. Despite testifying for Malfoy and his parents after the war, he couldn’t fathom sharing a living space with the boy who’d done his best to make Harry’s life a misery for the first five years at Hogwarts. Unfortunately for him, his protests had fallen on deaf ears and Professor McGonagall had told him, in no uncertain terms that he either got on with it or he could go and join the Aurors as he’d been asked to, because there was no possibility of making changes to the arrangements now.
He’d taken some comfort from the fact that he hadn’t been the only one protesting; though, much to his surprise, Malfoy had kept himself mostly to himself. Gone was the swagger and cockiness that Harry remembered, replaced by a quiet, almost humble persona that Harry found intriguing. Ron had been suspicious, sure that the former Slytherin was up to something, but Harry wasn’t convinced. He’d quickly returned to his old habit of keeping an eye on Malfoy using the Marauders Map and rarely saw the boy anywhere other than where he should be at any given moment.
Classes had been another thing to get used to, with their altered format for the smaller amount of students. All houses were now sharing the class, rather than being squeezed into the current seventh-year classes because it was felt that would be too disruptive. For the most part, people had stuck with whoever they’d shared a desk with prior to the war which meant Harry was usually sat next to Ron, which he’d been happy with. It helped him to readjust to school life much more easily.
A couple of weeks into the term, both Ron and Blaise had ended up in the Hospital Wing due to a Potions experiment carried out for homework going wrong, covering them both in painful boils. This had led to Harry being paired with Malfoy for the day’s classes. Before the war, such an event would surely have ended in chaos. There had been tension at first with stiff, awkward conversation, but by the end of the day, they’d found themselves able to not only cooperate but to have a civil conversation that didn’t end with them pointing their wands at each other. There had even been a couple of shared laughs, much to Harry’s surprise.
After that day, Harry had invited Malfoy and, by extension, Blaise to sit with them more often and somewhere along the way to completing their N.E.W.T.s, Malfoy and Potter became Draco and Harry when the two were talking. Ron maintained the stance that it was weird and refused to call Draco anything other than Malfoy. Something that Draco mirrored by refusing to call Ron anything other than Weasley, and oddly enough, Harry found that he didn’t mind this - it was familiar and comforting.
Hermione, though she had more reason than most to dislike Draco, had been perfectly civil to him - not friendly, but not hostile. Harry thought it would probably take a long time for the two to get past what had happened between them, but he fully expected it to happen. After all they’d been through together, the eighth-years understood each other more than anyone else. Harry and Draco seemed to understand each other even better than any of the others since they’d realised they’d both been playing similar roles in the war.
It was for this reason that Harry had found himself talking to Draco when his relationship with Ginny hit a rocky patch, rather than to Ron. It felt easier to talk to someone who wasn’t so close to either him or Ginny, and when Draco had started seeing Astoria, Harry had been the one to give encouraging words while Draco worried about what she really thought of him and his reputation. Harry had reassured Draco on countless occasions that he did deserve to be happy, that he didn’t need to be alone forever.
Eventually, after a few months of trying, the problems between Harry and Ginny became bigger than they could get past and they’d broken up. Harry had done much soul-searching after the breakup and had finally come to the realisation that he was bisexual, something that had not been a surprise to Ginny. When Harry had told her, she had simply given him a smile and a shrug and had told him that she’d had her suspicions. It had been Draco who had reassured Harry that his realisation was nothing to be ashamed of, and that Ginny’s reaction didn’t mean she blamed him. It had been Draco who helped Harry talk to Ginny and make sure that they remained friends even after breaking up. Ron had struggled more with the breakup than he had done when Harry and Ginny had first got together, but agreed that it was best they broke up if they weren’t making each other happy.
Despite several dalliances over the years, that he enjoyed very much, Harry never entered into another relationship after breaking up with Ginny. It was something that confused both Ron and Draco to no end, though neither of them would ask Harry about it since he seemed happy enough as he was.
Having gone on to get jobs after completing their N.E.W.T.s, they all still saw each other regularly and went out as a small group. Harry sometimes felt slightly awkward, being the only single one in the group, but it was never any real trouble. He’d celebrated just as much as everyone else when Draco had announced that he and Astoria were expecting their first child together and had teased that he hoped the child would end up in Gryffindor.
After Astoria was weakened by her pregnancy, it was Harry who was there for Draco during the many times he needed to cry, shout about how unfair it was, or just get plain drunk to forget about the inevitable tragedy looming. Shortly after Scorpius was born, Astoria was growing weaker and weaker, and Draco had turned up at Grimmauld Place already two sheets to the wind, crying and not making much sense.
Harry had ushered him inside and, despite his misgivings, they’d got through another bottle of Firewhisky between them. Draco had slumped against Harry on the sofa, one hand absently carding through the dark hair that fell across Harry’s forehead. It was on this night that Draco confessed that he’d also been attracted to men, that he’d married Astoria because it was the right thing to do, and that once he’d made the commitment, he couldn’t go back on it.
It was that night that Harry had found himself making a confession of his own; that he’d found Draco attractive for a number of years and that he wished things had been different between them. It was that night that Harry and Draco shared a first, clumsy, drunken kiss followed closely by a second.
And it was the next morning that Harry and Draco had shared their first argument since they were at school. It was that morning that Draco had stormed out of Grimmauld Place without a backwards glance. Harry hadn’t seen him since then, save for bumping into him at work where Draco was civil, but not friendly and it was safe to say that things weren’t quite the same between them.
Straightening his robes, Harry glanced out of the window. The rain was beating a steady rhythm against every surface it touched. The puddles forming on the pavement were slowly growing in size. Frowning, he turned back to the mirror to check his appearance once more.
“Ready to go?” Hermione’s voice broke through his thoughts and he turned to look at her.
“Yeah,” he said, his voice hoarse. Clearing his throat, he nodded. “Yeah.”
Hermione gave him a sad smile and rubbed his back lightly as they headed downstairs to the kitchen, where Ron was waiting for them.
“Are you okay, mate?” Ron asked, looking up as Harry and Hermione entered the kitchen.
“I’m a lot better than Draco will be,” Harry said with a sigh. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
“I know,” Ron replied, standing up to join them. “I know I’ve never seen eye to eye with him, but I can’t imagine what he must be feeling like right now.”
“I don’t even know if I’ll be welcome,” Harry said. “Last time I saw him, we argued.”
“Well what’s new there?” Hermione asked with a small smile. “You two were always arguing, it’s what you do best.”
“Yeah, but we’ve been better since leaving school, you know that. I wasn’t expecting the next time I saw him to be at his wife’s funeral,” Harry replied. “I won’t even… I won’t be able to say what I really want to.”
“There’s plenty of time for that,” Hermione replied reassuringly. “Just let him know you’re there for him if he wants to talk or anything. He might appreciate a more… impartial pair of ears than Pansy’s.”
“I suppose so,” Harry said, though he didn’t sound convinced. “Let’s go then or we’ll be late and he’ll think I’ve done it on purpose.”
Ron gave a snort but held his arm out to Hermione who took it and, in turn, held her hand out to Harry.
Harry gripped Hermione’s hand tightly, waiting for the stomach-churning feeling that he always got with Apparition.
Draco didn’t move. He was standing in front of the window, staring out at the rain, which was still falling steadily. He couldn’t find it in himself to feel angry, though. In fact, he didn’t know what he felt.
“Coming, Mother,” he said finally, turning away from the window. “Where’s Scorpius?”
“He’s being taken care of, don’t worry,” Narcissa said, her voice soft. “He’s with Andromeda.”
Draco nodded, fiddling with the collar of his robes.
“Draco… it is alright to cry today,” Narcissa continued, sliding one arm around his shoulders. “You need to grieve.”
“I know, Mother,” Draco replied, shrugging her arm away. “I will grieve in my own way. Is Pansy here?”
“She’s outside,” Narcissa answered. “She arrived half an hour ago but didn’t want to bother you.”
Draco nodded once.
Narcissa placed her hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently. “The Greengrass family are here too, of course.”
“I did love her, Mother,” Draco said suddenly, his voice soft. “Perhaps not in the way a husband should, but I did love her.”
“I know you did, darling,” Narcissa replied. “And so did she.”
“I hope so,” Draco said, his voice no more than a whisper now, as a lone tear slipped down his cheek.
“Oh, Draco,” Narcissa whispered, pulling her son into a warm hug. “Come, now, we need to go.”
Draco took a deep breath and nodded, straightening up again. He took his mother’s hand and allowed her to lead him out of the room.
The ceremony official cleared his throat at that moment, and Harry stopped gazing at the back of Draco’s head, giving his full attention to the speech that was being given. He wasn’t sure why, but it felt important to him to take notice of what was being said.
As the speech continued, Harry was aware of the occasional sniffling sound from somewhere in the congregation. Although he was trying his best to pay attention, he didn’t understand a lot of what was being said and supposed it must be related to old magic. He found his eyes being drawn back to Draco, who hadn’t moved at all and was sitting stiffly between his mother and Pansy. Harry wished he could tell what the other man was thinking.
A few moments later, the ceremony official stepped aside and Astoria’s father got up. His speech was much more personal, and Harry felt it was better than the ceremony official’s speech. But still, Draco hadn’t moved. Harry couldn’t see properly, but he didn’t think that Draco had even blinked.
The rain was still beating its tattoo all around the congregation. Although there were anti-weather spells placed on the area, the rain still created a unique atmosphere for the ceremony. The enchantments didn’t stop Draco from being able to smell the rainfall, which he was oddly grateful for. Astoria had loved rainstorms, she would insist that the windows were opened the moment rain started falling so that she could sit by one as she read.
Draco was shaken from his trance by his mother patting his knee. He turned to look at her almost in surprise.
“It’s your turn, darling,” Narcissa said softly. “Do you have your speech?”
Draco nodded. He felt numb as he stood up and made his way to the front. Clearing his throat, he unfolded a piece of paper he’d taken from the pocket of his robes. “Astoria was the most beautiful person I know,” he began. “Although many people didn’t believe it, I loved her with all my heart. She was - is - the mother of my child and she was the best mother she could be. Scorpius will always know how wonderful his mother was, I will never let him forget her. I would be doing her a disservice if I did,” he broke off and looked up. As he did, his eyes met Harry’s and he thought that time had, momentarily, stopped.
Clearing his throat once more, Draco turned his attention back to his speech, though he found the words harder to form now. Bloody Potter, he thought. I didn’t even invite him.
Somehow, he managed to get through his speech and back to his seat without making any further eye contact with Harry. He’d often thought of Harry during the last three years. He’d wondered how the man had managed to stay single since his breakup with Ginny, when he was one of the most desired wizards in the world - by men and women alike.
Before Draco knew it, the ceremony was winding down and people were beginning to leave. He shook hands with many people, all of whom expressed their condolences and well wishes. He noticed, though, that Potter and his friends did not approach him. He was grateful for this, and this time, when he caught Potter’s eye, he nodded in acknowledgement.
“We should go and give Draco our condolences,” Hermione said as she stood up beside him.
Harry shook his head, his hand on her arm to stop her. “No. If we do that, those are the pictures that will be in the paper,” he said. “I don’t want that to be how he remembers this.”
“I didn’t think of that,” Hermione said softly. “You’re right.”
“I know,” Harry replied as he caught Draco’s eye. He gave a small smile as Draco nodded. “He knows we’re here though. I’m sure he’ll be ok with us not going over.”
Hermione turned to see Draco looking in their direction and nodded. “Alright,” she said. “Let’s go, then. There’s a small wake being held inside, do you want to make an appearance?”
“You go ahead,” Harry said, still watching Draco. “I need a few minutes.”
Hermione squeezed his hand gently before turning to take Ron’s arm again. Harry watched as they made their way into the manor house. He turned back to watch as the Malfoys and the Greengrasses stood in a small group, preparing for the burial.
He knew he should go inside, but something was stopping him. He wanted to be there for Draco, but he wasn’t sure he would be welcome. He knew where the burial was taking place, of course. Working in the Ministry had its advantages. Even though the burial was to be private, it had still had to be registered with the authorities.
Harry watched as the two families made their way out of the grounds of Malfoy Manor and towards the burial site. In half a second, he’d made his mind up and he followed at a distance. He briefly wondered if he was making a mistake, but continued to follow, kidding himself that he was going in his capacity as an Auror.
It wasn’t long before they reached the place that Astoria had requested she be buried. Harry found himself looking around, thinking how beautiful the area was - almost Utopian. Not that he was surprised, Astoria always had an exceptional eye for beauty.
Standing beside a tall sycamore tree, Harry realised that he’d forgotten to cast an Impervius charm on himself and he was getting soaked. Though, he noticed, the women ahead of him were successfully staying dry, Draco was not. Harry could see the white-blond hair of the other man slowly turning golden as it plastered itself to his head.
From his place beside the tree, Harry watched as Mrs Greengrass and Daphne openly sobbed as the burial took place. He could see that Mr Greengrass was also crying, though in a much quieter way. Even Narcissa Malfoy could be seen dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. But what hit Harry hardest was the sight of Draco, standing motionless with a contorted expression on his face, as though he was trying his hardest not to cry.
As the burial was completed, Harry could see Draco speaking. Then, a few seconds later, everyone else turned and walked away. Narcissa was last, squeezing Draco’s shoulder as she walked away. Harry slipped around the tree as the Greengrasses and Narcissa approached. He wasn’t sure if any of them would approve of his presence.
As he got closer, he could hear Draco speaking softly and he hesitated. He didn’t want to intrude on a private moment, but then he heard Draco let out a sob and he was moving again. He continued moving until he was standing beside the blond.
Without saying a word, Harry reached out and caught Draco’s hand in his own. The blond started and looked to his right, his gaze softening as he realised it was Harry.
“Sorry,” Harry whispered. “I know I shouldn’t be here.”
“Don’t,” Draco replied softly. “I’m glad you are.”
Harry squeezed Draco’s hand gently. “I know we haven’t… I didn’t want you to do this alone.”
Draco gave Harry a small smile, understanding the unspoken meaning. “I miss her, Harry,” he said, tears beginning to fall again. “Merlin, I miss her so much. How am I supposed to raise Scorpius without her?”
“Draco,” Harry began, before pulling him into an embrace. “You’re a great father. You can do this.”
Draco found himself clutching at Harry’s robes as the tears continued to fall. Now that they’d started, he didn’t seem to be able to get them to stop.
Harry held Draco, rubbing his back slightly to try and comfort him. He knew that right now, he just needed to be there. He didn’t need to do anything other than let Draco do what he needed to do.
Draco’s chest heaved as he continued to sob, his forehead pressed against Harry’s neck as the dark-haired man held him.
They stayed like that for what seemed like a long time. Eventually, Draco gave a sniff and brought one hand up to wipe at his eyes. “How do you do it?” he whispered, his voice hoarse from crying for so long.
“Do what?” Harry croaked, his own voice not working properly either.
“This,” Draco sniffed, gesturing between them. “You, being here, knowing what to do?”
“Draco, I have no idea what I’m doing,” Harry said softly. “I just… you needed this. I wanted to be here for you.”
“I wanted you to be here too,” Draco whispered, fisting his hands in Harry’s robes again. “I should have apologised a long time ago.”
“There was no apology needed,” Harry said. “I was just as much at fault. We were both drunk, but I shouldn’t have let it happen.”
“I wanted it just as much as you did,” Draco whispered after a few moments of silence. “Astoria knew, you know.”
“That I’m not strictly straight,” Draco replied, closing his eyes. He wasn’t sure this was the most appropriate place for the conversation he was leading them into, but it felt right.
“Didn’t she mind?”
“She never really said,” Draco continued. “We already had Scorpius. I think she just accepted that I’d always find men attractive, but knew I wouldn’t do anything about it. Not when I’d made a commitment to her.”
“Didn’t you ever want to do something about it?” Harry asked. He couldn’t help himself. He’d thought about Draco more than he cared to admit after their drunken kiss.
“Many times. But I would never do that to her - not without being horrendously drunk, anyway,” Draco answered pointedly. “I did love her. I wasn’t lying when I said that.”
“I know you weren’t,” Harry said softly. “Anyone who looked at the two of you could tell you loved her. The papers… you know what they’re like. They see what they want to see, whether it’s the truth or not. I never believed a word of what they wrote about you.”
“That… that means a lot,” Draco said, his voice thoughtful.
“I’ve been there,” Harry continued. “I know what it’s like. No-one deserves to be treated like that by those vultures.”
Draco smiled against Harry’s neck. “Astoria said much the same. She never acknowledged the lies they published. We always presented a united front, it was the only way. Behind closed doors, we could relax. Then, when she was diagnosed, we felt we had no choice but to hide away. She needed rest, she tired easily, and she didn’t want Scorpius to be exposed to all the rumours and lies.”
“You did the right thing,” Harry said, running his hand over Draco’s back. “I’m sorry for not... I wanted to owl you, let you know I was there if you needed anything, but I didn’t think you’d want to hear from me.”
“I probably wouldn’t have replied if you had,” Draco admitted. “Everything became about making sure Astoria was comfortable, that she didn’t have to lift a finger. I took over Scorpius’ care, but she was the one who read to him at night and who he ran to if he was hurt. We had our own little world inside our home. We didn’t want anyone else.”
“I can understand that,” Harry nodded. “I would have done the same.”
“Scorpius… I wanted him to be at the funeral,” Draco said, resting his chin on Harry’s shoulder now. “But I didn’t want the press taking pictures of him. He’s just lost his mother, that’s enough for a little boy to cope with, never mind seeing himself in the papers. Was I wrong?”
“No,” Harry said in a whisper, his hand still rubbing Draco’s back. “You weren’t wrong. How is he coping?”
“Better than me,” Draco admitted with a soft huff of laughter. “He’s clever. He said to me yesterday that he wanted to put his stuffed dragon into the casket with her so that she’d remember both of us - him because it was his toy and me because my name means dragon.”
Harry smiled. “Did you let him put it in with her?”
Draco nodded. “How could I not? His reasoning was sound,” he said. “I’m worried that he, perhaps, doesn’t quite understand, though. He hasn’t cried much.”
“Kids are tougher than you think when it comes to this kind of thing, I think,” Harry said. “Have you talked to him about it all?”
“No,” Draco whispered. “I’ve tried, but I got upset every time and had to change the subject.”
“Give it some time,” Harry said, his hand stilling on Draco’s back. “Maybe ask your mother to help?”
“I’d rather not,” Draco admitted. “I’d rather it was just me and him.”
“Then there’s no rush,” Harry said. “Wait until you’re ready.”
When Draco didn’t answer, Harry fell silent. He simply held Draco in his arms, listening to the sound of the rain against the ground. It was oddly soothing.
They stayed like that for a long while, and Harry had almost started to think that Draco had fallen asleep when the other man shifted slightly.
“I should make an appearance at the wake,” Draco said. “Andromeda will need rescuing from Scorpius, too.”
Harry nodded, pulling back slightly before letting go of Draco.
Draco caught Harry’s hand again before he could walk away. “Will you come with me?”
Harry looked down at their hands and then back up at Draco, nodding. “Of course.”
Their skin was suddenly warmed by a bright ray of sunlight that shone down on the site of Astoria’s burial, bathing them both in its golden light. Neither of them noticed the rain slowing as they walked back through the clearing and towards Malfoy Manor.