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Fifth time's the charm

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After the debacle that is that last tea together, Harry keeps his life between work and the isolation of his house. He manages to avoid Draco and he manages to send back the first two owls Narcissa tries to send him. After the first two, she just stops trying.

Andromeda asks him if everything’s okay but doesn’t press the subject when she understands he doesn’t really want to talk about it. And it’s pretty clear, to be honest, that he doesn’t want to talk.

Even Ron and Hermione steer clear of him, to the best of their abilities - it’s not the first time since the end of the war Harry needs some time alone, and they both learned to accept that.

It takes Harry some time before he can manage to understand that Narcissa Malfoy deserves at least some explanation.

Harry goes back to the Manor for the first time in order to explain himself. He somehow does, even if he doesn’t go into the details of what exactly happened in his mind the last time. Narcissa seems to understand, even though Harry immediately spots a hint of disappointment in her eyes.

“What about Draco?” she asks, while Harry does his best not to think about the implications of that particular question.

“You don’t have to worry, I’ll be civil with him.”

Narcissa bows her head, defeated, and Harry tries to squash down all the bad feelings that rumble inside his chest.

“We could still have tea together, if you think that’d be possible. Not every week, I realize now that I asked too much of you. Just a few times, nothing more. Whenever you want.”

“I’d like that,” Harry smiles briefly, because he’d really like that. Strangely enough, as terrifying as she is, Harry really likes Narcissa Malfoy. And he owes her. And having tea just a few times isn’t bad, is it? It’s not like he’s going to see Malfoy and harbor more complicated feelings. He already went down that road and look where it took him.

So they have tea together and then Narcissa excuses herself, leaving Harry to find his way out of the Manor.

“Potter?”

“Malfoy. I was just going-”

“Yes, I know. You don’t want to stay here longer than necessary. And you certainly don’t want to stay anywhere near me, you made that abundantly clear.”

“Look, Malfoy-”

“No, don’t bother. I don’t need an explanation, you don’t owe me an explanation. This is exactly why I tried to stay away from you, because I didn’t want what you feel about me to ruin-”

“I don’t feel anything about you, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Harry interrupts him, angrier than he intended to. “I don’t feel comfortable near you, not after everything you did. Your mother has nothing to do with this. And I don’t feel anything about you.”

“You know what, Potter? I like to think that I grew up. I imagine this doesn’t really matter to you and I can’t really be upset about it, can I? I was horrible in school. I understand why you feel like you don’t want to be near me. But I won’t spend the rest of my life apologizing for the things I did and said when I was a kid. I won’t spend the rest of my life explaining that I’m not a monster, that my mistakes have roots in my whole childhood, that I was a stupid kid who didn’t know any better. Who didn't know anything else. I apologized to everyone, I helped rebuild Hogwarts, I served the term of my temporary house arrest without complaining because it was the right thing to do. I’m going to live the rest of my life with the reminder that my family decided I was expendable to the cause etched on my arm and I think this is enough punishment. I won’t go around cowering for the rest of my life. I won’t do it.”

Harry’s heart is beating so fast in his chest he’s almost afraid Malfoy can hear it. He doesn’t know what to do - or what to think or what to feel, and the things he has inside are terribly loud. Everything Malfoy said just makes sense. Everything Malfoy said sounds right and fair and Harry understands, really, he does understand. Malfoy is looking at him, slightly flushed and silent, like he’s hanging on whatever Harry will say - and there’s hope, behind his eyes, Harry can see it. 

And yet there’s this thing, right inside his chest, that pulls and stretches and holds him - this thing that tells him don’t trust him, just go away, it’ll be easier, you can’t trust him, you can’t trust anyone, especially not Malfoy.

“Yo can do whatever you want, Malfoy, I don’t really care.”

He leaves, once again, trying to erase Malfoy’s hurt look from his mind.

 

The second time Harry returns to have tea, Narcissa is adamant he leaves sooner than usual. They chat for quite some time and Harry can’t help but notice the way she keeps fidgeting with one of her rings - most unbecoming for a pureblood lady - and the way she keeps glancing at the antique grandfather clock on the other side of the room.

“Do you want me to go?”

“Nonsense, my dear boy, I’m so glad to have you here,” Narcissa goes for her usual charming smile but her gaze falls once again on the clock. Harry takes that as his cue to leave.

“Now that I think about it, I need to be somewhere else-”

“Of course, of course! Let me walk you to the door!” Harry doesn’t even have the time to point out that she has never showed him our, let alone walked him to the door. 

“… Narcissa?” Narcissa pales slightly as the familiar voice grows heated. “You didn’t tell me we had guests.”

Harry recognized the voice the minute he heard it say Narcissa’s name - but even if he hadn’t, the way Lucius Malfoy just sneered the word guests would have been quite telling. 

So this is why Narcissa wanted him to leave. 

“I was just leaving,” Harry replies without even looking at the man - he doesn't really want to, if he's being completely honest. Especially not after what he just heard. 

“Yes, I believe that would be preferable for all parts involved,” Lucius Malfoy replies stiffly. 

“I can find the way out on my own.” 

Except it turns out he definitely cannot. The Manor is even bigger than he remembered and every hallway looks the same if you're not been living in the place for at least your last ten years. After what feels like hours of wandering, Harry decides it's best if he just asks for help - not for his pride, maybe, but if that takes him out of the Manor he'll gladly accept the loss. The problem is, he doesn't have the slightest idea where the fuck he is now or how the fuck to go back from where he came.

It’s in that exact moment Harry hears two familiar voices - so, naturally, he decides to hide behind the corner, just hidden enough for him to be able to peek.

Lucius Malfoy is positively fuming, pacing down the corridor, while an unimpressed looking Draco Malfoy stands before him.

“How dares he? I can barely understand your mother thinking this might be the right thing to do, but how dares he come into our home-”

“You mean the home we still have because of him?” Draco drawls back in a way that almost makes Harry loose his balance.

“Yes, well. That was a minor inconvenience.”

“Talk about minor inconvenience.”

“Don't talk to me like that, I am your father and I demand respect. I thought you learned that lesson quite some time ago,” Lucius sounds every bit the angry and demanding man Harry knew in the past but the true surprise is something entirely different. Harry remembers quite well the way Draco used to react to those intimidations - quiet, subdued, silent - and this? The way he stands proud and tall right in front of his father? This is something completely different.

“You know what, father? I've learned something in the past few years. I don't owe you anything. I don't owe you respect just because you're my father. You have to earn my respect just like I have to earn yours, and you have done absolutely nothing in order to earn it.”

“You lived under my roof for your entire life, I fed you and I clothed you and-” 

“You did what you were supposed to do as a parent. Congratulations. I worked my ass off to keep our home, while you were rotting in Azkaban for the stupid fucking things you did. I’m managing our whole fortune because you can’t touch a single knut, so I’d watch my mouth if I were you.” Draco’s voice is dripping in sarcasm. “And you know who else lived under this roof? Voldemort. For two whole years since I was sixteen years old.”

“That has nothing-” 

“That's the truth, father! Everything I did, everything Mother did was for you! Because we loved you and we trusted you and we believed you knew better than anybody else!”

Even Lucius seems taken aback from Draco’s sudden outburst. The older man doesn’t seem so confident as before - not when he steps back and looks at his son with something Harry can’t really explain behind his eyes.

“You are my father and I love you. I'll always love you. I came to visit you while you were in Azkaban, even though I was still mad at you, because it was the right thing to do. Because you didn't deserve to be abandoned by your only son. I'll always love you, but that doesn't mean I forgive you. You're back, now, and you're gonna have to step it up if you want us to have any kind of relationship at all.”

Draco is quiet, now, and somehow that makes everything even worse. He sounds quiet and sad and resolved at the same time. Harry has never heard him like this, has never seen that look in his eyes. And he doesn’t pretend to understand everything - he doesn’t at all, their situations don’t compare in the slightest way - but at the same time he does know how difficult it is for a son to accept his father isn’t the perfect human being he thought he was. 

“So if your wife decides to invite a whole muggle’s neighborhood for dinner, you’ll smile and nod and let her. The next time you see Harry Potter you will behave like a decent human being, because he has done nothing but help us and you, more than anyone, should be grateful. And you becoming a better person also means I won't tolerate any hate towards towards muggles and half-bloods. I had enough of that shit during my whole life and look where it got us.”

“Draco,” Lucius tries to intervene and his voice sounds so broken Harry doesn't really know what to think. It's the first time in his whole life he thinks of Lucius Malfoy as a human being and not as an enemy or a danger. He doesn't look like either of those things, right now. He looks like a father who fucked up and is realizing only now how much he really fucked up. 

“Earn my respect, father. Because you sure as hell didn't when you pushed me into a war I didn't want to fight. You didn't when I had to take that fucking mark to protect my family from your mistakes.”

Draco leaves, after that last sentence, and Lucius Malfoy leaves as well, looking more haunted than Harry would've care to notice. He almost jumps when he feels a hand on his shoulder and certainly doesn't relax when he turns to find Narcissa, right behind him. She doesn't seem angry, though, so Harry figures he's not in too much trouble.

“Lucius hasn't always been like he was when you first met him. I'm not going to justify what he did, believe me. But he was a completely different person before Draco's second year. A doting father, a loving husband. Maybe I'm just being naive but I can't help but hope he'll go back to what he was,” Narcissa sounds thoughtful and sad and Harry doesn't know what to say. “I think it's better if I show you the exit, now.”

But Harry can't stop thinking about what Narcissa just said. He was a completely different person before Draco's second year. He doesn't want to think about this, doesn't want to try and find an explanation for the awful man he knows - but his instincts tell him there's something there. Something in the way Draco and Narcissa still love him, something in the way they're both suffering and yet resolved to try and make Lucius Malfoy a better person.

Do people change? Is it possible for Lucius Malfoy to change? And if it's possible for Lucius Malfoy, why shouldn't it be possible for Draco?

Harry is more confused than ever - and the fact that he keeps dreaming about Draco Malfoy doesn't help at all.

 

“Is everything okay?” Harry just has to ask, because Narcissa is looking a bit unfocused and it’s the first time she has this look on her face - and if something is happening, Harry just has to know. “Did something happen?”

“Oh- nothing you need to worry about, dear.”

“Are you sure?” he insists, because he’s really concerned - not because he has this spasmodic need to know if something happened to Draco. Of course not. He just wants to be helpful. And his damn curiosity doesn’t help at all.

“Well, you see… Draco is feeling, one could say, a bit under the weather.”

“Has he gone to St. Mungo?”

“Oh, no, no. His… condition isn’t strictly physical. He was seeing someone, you see. I always thought it wouldn’t last, I definitely did not like his choice of partner. But Draco seemed to be fairly content and I didn’t want to see him unhappy so I didn’t say anything. And now he’s positively heartbroken.”

“… Someone dumped him?”

“Yes, exactly. And with a letter, of all things. Draco doesn't want to talk about it, of course, but I can see his pain. I’m his mother, after all.”

When Harry is about to leave, he can’t help but notice a slightly open door and known voices coming from the adjacent room. And it’s not like he’s snooping, not at all. He just wants to make sure everything’s okay. That’s it.

“How are you holding up, babe?” Pansy asks with a smile and a weird voice, almost like she’s making fun of him, that would probably make anyone sneer back. Draco, however, doesn’t sneer. At all. 

He smiles - softly, Harry notices - and hugs her and he looks the most vulnerable Harry has ever seen him.

“Like fucking shit, Pans.”

“Well, you shouldn’t. Plenty of fishes in the sea and all that. You’ll find someone new in no time.”

“But he’ll be a replacement. I’m not sure I see the point in finding a replacement. It’s not like it’s gonna work out for me.”

“Okay then maybe just wait a bit. Have some fun and when it won’t feel like a replacement you-”

“But it’ll always feel like a replacement.”

“Surely he wasn’t that-” Parkinson suddenly stops talking and for one moment Harry’s almost sure she sees him standing right outside of the room. But her eyes are fixed on Malfoy and Malfoy looks... wretched.

“No,” she whispers softly and Malfoy lets out a strangled noise and a humorless laugh. Harry doesn’t understand what the fuck is happening.

“How could you possibly still be in love with him? After everything that happened? After the way he treated you! After-”

“You think I don’t know that? You think I want this? It’s not my fault, it’s not like I actively decided to fall in love with him when I was fucking eleven and never forget him. It’s not like I decided to fall in love with the one man who would never look at me that way.”

The room is completely still after Draco’s words and Harry still doesn’t know what to think.

“Fuck,” Draco lets out a shaky breath and an even shakier laugh. “I’m a complete and utter joke. So much for Malfoys don’t show weakness. I’m sorry.”

“You’re not a joke. I’m sorry, love, I shouldn’t have. I know it’s not your fault. I know.”

“It’s okay, Pans. It’s bound to go away at some point, isn’t it?”

“Of course. But in the meantime, I’ve got you.”

“What’s this?” Draco asks with an annoyed voice but a glint in his eyes - and Harry wonders when exactly did he became the local expert on what the subtle details in Draco’s face mean. Hermione would probably tell him it’s because he’s a bit of a stalker. Harry would obviously deny it and now he almost scoff at the thought. Stalking, him! as he hides behind the door, still looking at what is happening inside the room. Insane.

“I brought alcohol, chocolate and I’m going to call some company. Millie, Daphne and Astoria. That’s exactly what you need to feel better.”

“Well, at least the part about chocolate sounds good.”

“Fuck you.”

“Love you too.”

 

The next time Harry goes to the Manor, there is definitely something going on. It’s later than usual, for once, and he still doesn’t know why since Narcissa didn’t bother with any explanation.

It’s later than usual and Narcissa’s eyes gleams with the same mischief Harry was used to see during their first meetings.

“I think Draco is feeling a little bit better.”

“Oh, is he?”

“Yes, I would imagine so. He organized something of a… meeting with some of his friends.”

A meeting with Draco’s friends is exactly what Harry’s instincts need to start screaming Draco Malfoy Is Probably Up to Something. He doesn’t know if Narcissa knows that, doesn’t know what she knows. The only thing he does know is that it’s better if he, as an Auror, checks on Malfoy. It’s his duty, after all.

And that’s why he finds himself going to the west wing of the Manor, hidden under his invisibility cloak - the one he always brings with him, just in case.

(He can almost hear Hermione quip something like just in case you need to stalk Malfoy? but he chooses to ignore her voice in his head.)

He can feel the casted silencing spell as soon as he walks through it without disrupting it. Silencing spells sound pretty shady, honestly, even Hermione would have to agree. Or maybe she’d tell him that maybe Draco just wanted some privacy from his parents. It doesn’t matter now, not when Harry comes closer to the source of the noise he can suddenly hear.

He’s this close to find out what Draco Malfoy is up to - this close to find the proof he need to stop tormenting himself about the way he acted. If Draco is actually up to something, it means that Harry didn’t do anything wrong. It means that he was right when he tried to distance himself front the Malfoys, it means he was right when he told Draco he didn’t care. He just has to find some proof that he wasn’t wrong.

“Everyone ready for today’s meeting?”

Malfoy’s voice drawls familiarly and Harry can’t help but feel a little bit hopeful - and a little bit saddened - hearing those words. There’s no way a meeting organized by a former Death Eater could mean any good. And, as he notices when taking in the rest of the room they’re in, anywhere he looks he sees other Slytherins.

It doesn’t look like a meeting, though. There’s a whole lot of junk food and alcohol, there’s music - Muggle music, Harry realizes - and they’re all dressed like they’re going to a party. Knowing Slytherins - and their reputation as party people -, this probably is a party. But it doesn’t explain Malfoy’s words and it certainly doesn’t give Harry any proofs of their illegal activities.

“I demand compensation!” Blaise Zabini shouts from the other end of the room, clearly looking at Draco. “I always bring all the food and it’s not fair!”

“Though shit, Zabini,” Parkinson deadpans without even looking at him. “I always bring all the alcohol and you don’t hear me complain.”

“And you’re always here in my home and you don’t hear me complain,” Draco quips right after her. Harry recognize Theodore Nott laughing right next to Malfoy - he also recognize the two Greengrass sisters, Bulstrode and a few more Slytherins.

“Alright, fine. I despise you all.”

“The feeling is entirely mutual, Blaise!”

Malfoy whispers something to Nott, making him laugh ever more - and Harry doesn’t like it one bit. And it isn’t because Harry’s jealous, fuck no. It’s just because he’s sure Malfoy is plotting something and he’s even more convinced of it when he sees him whispering things to other guys. Fuck.

“What are we doing about the bulling?” Bulstrode asks abruptly and everyone immediately turn towards Draco.

“I’ve already talked to McGonagall about it. She said she’s doing what she can as Headmistress, but of course it’s a complex problem. I also talked to Professor Longbottom and I have his word that he’s going to look out for- mistreated Slytherins. Especially those in their first years.”

Everyone nods almost somberly and Harry finds it difficult to do anything than just watch. He’s not used to this. Not used to Slytherins caring about other people - even if they’re other Slytherins. He doesn’t exactly know if he just didn’t notice in school or if it’s a more recent development but something tells him that it’s far more likely that he didn’t want to see this part.

He almost doesn’t want to see it now.

“What about your parents, Theo?”

“Do we need to have more words with them?”

“No, they’re getting better. Well, better as in my father doesn’t talk to me anymore.”

“I’ve found that it’s better when they don't talk to me,” Parkinson intervenes with a bitter smile.

“You need to remember what I always tell you. None of our parents has the rights to treat us like this. Not after what they put us through,” Draco sounds very sure but Harry notices the shadow behind his eyes - almost like there's a sadness there, a sadness that never goes away. “We need to be better but fuck if they need to be better too. They need to be decent parents. And decent parents don’t sacrifice their kids to a cause. Decent parents care for their children.”

“Yeah but I mean, our parents weren’t as fucked up as yours,” one of the Greengrasses tries to argue.

“That’s not true. Okay, well, maybe your father didn’t fucked up so royally that you were forced to become a fucking child soldier,” Harry doesn’t know what the fuck is wrong with their sense of humor because the whole room is now laughing and he doesn’t find it funny at all. “But it doesn’t mean that they didn’t forced their stupid beliefs upon you. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t paying for their errors. They should’ve known better. They should’ve acted better.”

Draco and Astoria are now holding hands and everyone can see that what he just said is effecting her. Draco just... comforted someone. He helped someone. This is something completely different from what Harry is used to - from what he used to see in school, from the way he always thought about Draco Malfoy.

And this is exactly what he didn’t need to see.

“If you need anything, just ask. We’re here for you, even if you simply want someone to hear you.”

Harry slips out of the room with his own heart in such a turmoil that, as usual, he’s left without knowing what to do. He was sure he would’ve found something to justify what he did but instead? Instead he’s just feeling more awful than before.

 

The fifth time Harry returns to Malfoy Manor - after the Great Disaster -, he hears the high pitched screams of a familiar voice. And it’s not one of the Malfoys, no. Harry is sure, more than anything in his whole life, that that voice belongs to his godson.

So this means Teddy is inside the Manor. So this means Teddy is inside the Manor and he’s screaming for some reason Harry doesn’t actually know - but paired with the fact that Lucius Malfoy is once again living in the place, he doesn’t have a good feeling about this. Not at all.

And that’s why he sprints towards the sound of the voice, in full Auror mode - and the screams get closer and closer until he can make out what Teddy is saying and finally-

“Draco, no!” Teddy yells, pale blond hair and a huge smile stretching his lips. He’s trying to cover his whole body with just his own hands and Draco-

“Draco yes!” Draco is grinning wildly, trying his best to tickle whatever body part he can reach.

“You are the worst cousin ever!”

“Well, lucky you, I’m also your only cousin,” Draco snickers - Harry has never heard him like this and, honestly, he feels like his heart has stopped functioning correctly -, holding Teddy close to his chest. “So you’re stuck with me.”

“Let me go!” Teddy yells as loud as he can, laughing like a mad man and trying to free himself from Draco’s clutch. “I’ll give you Bob the Lion if you stop!”

“You’d give me Bob the Lion?” Draco softly gasps, feigning surprise and finally stopping with the tickling. “I’m not worthy of Bob the Lion, Edward.”

“My name’s not Edward.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry, Tedward.”

“Draco!”

“Tedwin?”

“Stop it!”

They both start laughing and Harry has never felt more stupid in his entire life. He’s standing there, lurking in the corner with his wand raised for what? Draco Malfoy playing with his cousin.

And of course it’s in that exact moment that Teddy sees him.

“Harry! Harry come play with us!” the kid yells, completely unfazed by Harry’s stance. No one could say the same about Draco Malfoy though - Harry can pinpoint the precise second when the other man sees him and pales significantly.

There’s no way he didn’t notice what Harry was doing. There’s no way he didn’t see the raised wand and the combat stance. That’s probably why he slowly raises his hands, eyes fixed on Harry, like he’s going to surrender.

“Go join Andromeda in the drawing room, Ted. Harry will be with you in a minute,” Harry can’t even focus on how strange it is to be called by his first name by Draco. Everything that’s happening right now is far more complex than that. Draco looks defeated and tired and even a little bit sad.

“What about you?” Teddy asks with a frown - to which Draco smiles softly, hands still raised up in the air.

“I have something very important to do, we’ll play together another day, I promise.”

As opposed to feeling plain stupid, now Harry feels like an asshole. The realization hits him straight in the chest with the strength of a high speed train. Draco is afraid of him. Draco is afraid of him and he can’t really blame him - not after the stance, the raised wand and everything that happened before that.

When Teddy finally leaves, Draco doesn’t utter a single word. He doesn’t move, doesn’t talk, doesn’t do anything other than looking at Harry straight in his eyes.

“I’m sorry, I had no right to barge in here with my wand out.”

“You’re an Auror. I’m guessing you heard Teddy scream and thought we were harming him,” Draco sounds so utterly defeated and Harry doesn’t know anything more than the fact he doesn’t want to hear him like this never again in his whole life. If they’d ask him to choose between this and Draco yelling insults, he’d definitely choose you’re so bloody stupid, scarhead.

“Yeah, sometimes I can be a tad impulsive.”

“A tad. Would you mind terribly lowering your fucking wand, Potter? I thought we established I wasn’t torturing my cousin.”

“Oh yeah, yeah, of course,” fucking good move, Potter, amazing move. Forget about the wand you’re pointing at a completely innocent man.

“I know you don’t have any reason to believe me but I would never harm Teddy. Andromeda trusts me. And we wouldn't leave him alone with my father, even though he wouldn’t harm him either.”

“I know, I was just- I wasn’t thinking. I’m too protective of the people I love and I just wasn’t thinking.”

“Yes, well,” Draco sniffs, turning his back to Harry and taking a few steps forward. “As much of a pleasant visit this was, I believe you spent way too much time with me for your liking.”

“I’ve changed my mind,” Harry whispers, as calmly as he can, holding on to Draco’s wrist. He can’t let go. This is his one chance to make everything better - as he’s pretty sure Draco won’t give you a second one. Not after everything that happened.

“Well, does it work any better?”

“Ouch,” Harry instantly replies, trying his best to hold Draco right there without getting too imposing. “I mean it. I acted like a complete asshole and I shouldn’t have done that. I liked what- what was happening between us. I liked talking to you. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“And you decided you regret what you did in this last five minutes? Though shit, Potter, I don’t trust you. You’ll change your mind again in the next hour. You’ll convince yourself that you can’t to this anymore and then I’ll- then my Mother will suffer once again. Not likely, Potter.”

Draco leaves without saying anything else - and Harry can’t hold him there anymore. It’s not right for him to do that. He fucked up and now he has to give Draco time.

But this doesn’t mean he’ll stop trying.