Harry snapped his fingers in front of Knox’s face. “Hello? You still with me?”
“What? Oh. Yeah, sorry,” Knox sighed.
“What’s wrong?” Harry asked. “You’ve been distracted the whole time we’ve been here.”
The pair sat in the library, looking up new and interesting ways for the students to practice charms and spells for the following year’s curriculum. Knox didn’t mind the work at all, as it gave him the opportunity to sit with Harry occasionally--without Draco hanging about.
If he was being honest, he wasn’t trying too hard so the project would take longer. But they’d been working on it for over a month and Harry had said he felt they had come up with enough new spells to spice up the classes.
Knox needed something else to keep Harry’s attention.
“Just boy trouble,” Knox sighed.
“Oh.” Harry’s reply was noncommittal.
“Yeah,” Knox went on. “I don’t know if it’s going to work out. He’s sort of clingy. He always wants me to reassure him that I’m having a good time with him.”
“Have you been dating long?” Harry asked politely.
“Burt and I? Well, we’re not dating exclusively or anything. We’ve gone out a few times. He’s nice but . . .”
Knox shrugged. “It’s not so much that, as like I said before-- he’s clingy. How do you stand it?”
Harry blinked blankly. “What do you mean?”
“I mean Malfoy. He’s that way, isn’t he?”
“No. Draco isn’t clingy. He’s . . . affectionate.”
Knox smirked. “Oh. Okay,” he said sarcastically.
“Well, I guess sometimes he needs me to give him a little encouragement and assurance. But that’s normal isn’t it? Everyone has doubts, don’t they?”
“Oh, sure,” Knox said. “It’s the constant whinging and uncertainty that gets annoying. You know, I think I’d like Burt a lot more if he showed some confidence. Confidence is sexy. Don’t you think?”
“Not too much, though. I don’t find cockiness attractive at all.”
“It can be a fine line between confidence and cockiness,” Harry said.
“You seem to have mastered it,” Knox commented.
Harry laughed. “It’s not that I’m so confident, so much as I don’t give a fuck what people think of me anymore.”
Knox shared a few ‘invented’ facts about his friend Burt, prompting Harry to open up about his relationship with Draco. Burt was actually a friend, but he was a straight friend. He and Knox never shared more than a casual friendship. However, in his attempt to get closer to Harry, by playing on his sympathies, Knox embellished quite a bit.
Every so often, Harry would say he understood Knox’s situation. He cited Draco’s lack of self-assurance in certain areas. He told Knox about the difficulties with Draco’s father. Even after Harry prostrated himself before the man, he still hadn’t lived up to his end of the bargain. Lucius hadn’t publicly acknowledged his son’s relationship with Harry or reached out to him.
Unfortunately, Knox took all the information Harry shared as a sign that things were strained between the pair. Harry was merely venting a little since he didn’t want to further burden Draco with his feelings about Lucius. He figured Draco didn’t talk about his father for a reason.
When Harry and Knox parted ways, Harry suggested that Knox could write up the proposal for the new curriculum on his own. Disappointed, Knox agreed. But he’d find a reason to get together with Harry alone somehow.
Before going back to his chambers, Knox decided to take a quick trip to the kitchens for a snack. As he walked down the corridor in the dungeons, he heard hushed voices. Creeping nearer to the Potions room, he realized the sounds were coming from the classroom. Stealthily peeking in, he spotted Draco with his arms around Casper Montague. The boy was clutching at the Potion professor’s robes.
“You should probably go back to your room now, before somebody sees you,” Draco said softly.
Casper shook his head, which was buried in Draco’s chest. “Everyone will see that I’ve been crying,” he said, his voice muffled.
Draco gently pushed the boy back and lifted his chin up. “You don’t look so bad. Why don’t you go into the lavatory and splash some water on your face? You need to pull yourself together.”
“I know you think I’m silly,” Casper pouted. “But I’m dead serious. It’s love, and I’ll never feel this way about anyone else. Ever.”
Knox covered his own mouth to keep from gasping aloud.
“Casper, you’re young--”
“Don’t treat me like a child. I’m old enough to know how I feel.”
“Fine,” Draco said, losing patience. “You’re in love. I don’t know what you expect me to do about it.”
“You could be a little more sympathetic,” Casper jutted out his chin.
“I think I’ve already given you far too much leeway.” Draco placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. His demeanor softened. “Believe me, Casper, I understand your feelings more than you know. But unfortunately, sometimes our feelings are not returned.”
Casper’s bottom lip began to quiver again.
“Now don’t start crying again,” Draco said. “I know you don’t want to hear this, but you will get over it. And in the meantime, you have to keep up your studies. Especially in my class. I can’t show you any more favoritism.”
Casper nodded and sighed. “All right professor. I’ll try not to be so distracted from now on. I don’t want you to get into trouble because of me.”
“I’m not going to get in trouble. Go on to bed.”
Knox quickly hid in the shadows as Casper walked past on his way to his House.
“I knew it,” Knox whispered to himself.
Now all he had to do was get Harry alone so he could tell him about the encounter he’d just witnessed. Surely, it would be enough to make Harry see that Draco was still just a low life Death Eater, preying on a young boy. He was no good for Harry. Knox had to play it right, though. As the messenger, he didn’t want to get hexed for his troubles.
Harry walked into his room and glanced around. Though it was mid-week, he was hoping to find Draco there. He was finding it more and more lonesome during the week when his lover wasn’t with him. The pair had even taken to staying in one another’s quarter on weekends they had duty. Not that Harry had been trying to actively go against McGonagall’s rules. He simply found that he was much less distracted with Draco by his side than he was thinking about the man when he wasn’t.
A knock came on the door.
“You don’t have to knock,” Harry said when he opened the door and saw Draco on the other side.
“I didn’t want to catch you doing anything obscene,” Draco smirked.
Harry gave a fake pout. “You didn’t? Then why are you here?”
“You’re incorrigible.” Draco stepped closer. “I truly have never met anyone who could wear me out the way you do. But I only came to say good night.”
“Oh.” Though Harry sounded a bit disappointed, he thought Draco’s gesture was very sweet. “By the way, Hermione owled. They want to get together this weekend. Do you have plans?”
Furrowing his brow, Draco replied, “What plans would I have without you?”
Harry’s expression mimicked Draco’s. “Draco, you don’t have to spend all of your time with me, you know. You don’t turn down other things for me, do you?”
Glancing away, Draco shrugged. “Not really.”
“I don’t want to keep you from doing things you want to do.”
“You haven’t mentioned Blaise or Pansy in a while. Weren’t you going to invite them here so I could get to know them?”
Draco scratched his head. “I don’t know. You and Blaise might get on all right. But Pansy’s a pill.”
“I want to get to know your friends, the way you’ve gotten to know Ron and Hermione. I want you to be part of your life, not take it over.”
Sensing that Harry was inwardly rolling his eyes at him, Draco was regretting visiting Harry. He wasn’t looking for a chiding.
“You’re not taking over my life. I’m choosing to spend it with you,” Draco responded. “If you’d rather not spend so much time with me--”
“I didn’t say that,” Harry cut him off and pulled him closer in order to kiss him. “It would be so easy for us to shut ourselves off from everyone else. I could spend the rest of my life locked in the bedroom with you.”
Draco couldn’t help but smile.
“But,” Harry continued. “Like it or not, we need to live in the real world. We need our friends. We need other people, including family.”
A frown replaced Draco’s smile. “If you’re talking about Knox--”
“I’m talking about your parents.”
“You want to spend time with my parents?”
“They’re part of you. I want to be part of your whole life.”
“You know my father disdains you.”
Harry nodded. “Perhaps your mother would be more accepting. What if we went to visit her this weekend instead of getting together with Ron and Hermione?”
His brow still knit together, Draco thought about Harry’s suggestion. “You’re serious?”
“Yes. I want your parents and friends to accept us. What do you say? Shall we visit the manor for the weekend?”
“For the whole weekend? I don’t think so,” Draco chuckled. “How about tea on Saturday? An hour or two may be all we can take of Mother.” Draco paused. “Are you sure you want to do that?”
Nodding and smiling, Harry answered, “Yes. I’m sure. I’ll owl Hermione and tell her they’ll have to take a raincheck.”
“No, don’t do that. We can still see them Saturday night. Or Sunday.”
A slow grin grew on Harry’s face. “You like them. You actually like them.”
“Don’t get sappy on me again, Gryffindor,” Draco teased.
In truth, he did like them. Hermione in particular. But Ron wasn’t as stupid as he’d always assumed. After all, he managed to catch the brightest witch of their age. He worried that his sentiments weren’t returned, though, and looked forward to doing his best to make a favorable impression. The last time they visited, he had been taken off guard, having fallen asleep before tidying his room and dressing to impress.
Draco didn’t suppose Blaise and Pansy would be as open to a friendship with Harry. They would be curious, for certain. However, it would take a great deal of effort on Draco’s part to bring them together.
“You don’t know how happy that makes me. I couldn’t bear it if my best friends and my love didn’t get along,” Harry said. “And I’ll make every effort with your friends and family.”
“I’ll send Mother a message tonight.”
“Brilliant.” Harry leaned forward and kissed Draco. “I can’t wait.”
“I’d better be off,” Draco said. “Good night.” Which is what he came to say in the first place.
He walked back to his quarters a little less optimistic than Harry but looking forward to proving to his mother that Harry was right for him. Though more open-minded about his sexual orientation than his father, his mother had been skeptical that a relationship with Harry Potter would work out. Still, Harry was willing to give Narcissa the benefit of the doubt and reach out to her. Draco sighed. It didn’t matter if his mother didn’t accept his relationship with Harry. Nothing could keep him from falling even more in love with the man.
Holding hands, Harry and Draco apparated to the front gate of Malfoy Manor.
“It’s not too late to back out,” Draco said.
Harry smiled to himself. “I don’t want to back out. Do you?”
“Yes,” Draco answered. He turned to Harry. “I’m not nearly as brave as you.”
“I don’t think it’s bravery so much as stupidity,” Harry chuckled. “Come on. I see Jenkins on the grounds. He must be the Auror on duty.”
Draco raised his hand at the gate. It took on an ethereal appearance as he stepped through. It became solid though, once he crossed the threshold. Harry remained on the other side, hand still joined with Draco’s through an opening in the wrought iron design.
“What the devil?” Draco muttered.
The Auror hurried toward them.
“Oi! How’d you get in here?” he called as he did. As he drew nearer, he recognized Draco.
“Oh, Mr. Malfoy. I didn’t know you were coming today. Hi Harry,” the man smiled.
“Why can’t I get him in?” Draco asked.
“The wards were strengthened,” The Auror told him. “Only a Malfoy or a select few Aurors can get through.”
“But Harry and I are having tea with my mother. Can you change them so he can come in?”
“No, but I can make a temporary hole for him. He’ll need the same to get back out, so come look for me when you’re ready to leave,” Jenkins said.
The Auror held up his wand and whispered an incantation. The front gate shimmered. And when Draco felt the change around his hand, he pulled Harry through.
“Thanks Jenkins,” Harry smiled and waved, then continued to walk hand in hand with Draco to the front door of the Manor.
As Draco reached for the doorknob, he felt Harry stiffen.
“Are you nervous?” he asked.
Harry nodded. “A bit.”
“Because of meeting my mother, or being in the house.”
Smiling sheepishly, Harry replied, “A bit of both, I suppose.”
“Inside, the Manor looks quite different from when the Dark Lord took over. Mother has done some renovations. I still wouldn’t call it cheery. But it’s not nearly as creepy as it was.”
Harry relaxed and nodded, prompting Draco to open the door. As they walked in, Harry marveled at the transformation. No longer dank and dark, the large entrance way was predominantly blue. Windows charmed to stream in sunlight, even on a rainy day, made the room bright. Ironically, cheery was the word that came to Harry’s mind.
“Mother?” Draco called out.
A small house elf suddenly appeared in front of them.
“Master Draco,” she bowed. “It is good to be having you home again.”
“Thank you Clara. Where is Mother?”
“Mistress Narcissa be waiting in the gardens,” Clara answered. The elf kept glancing up at Harry with large grey eyes. “Clara be taking Master Draco and . . . Mister Harry Potter to her.”
She led them through the Manor, past the dining room that once hosted dinners and meetings for Voldemort. The furniture had all been replaced and the room painted a soft yellow color. A vase of colorful flowers was placed in the middle of the table.
“Damn, I meant to bring my mother something,” Draco muttered.
“A peace offering?” Draco laughed.
“You could conjure some flowers,” Harry suggested.
“No, she likes real ones. Somehow, she knows the difference.”
Stepping out onto the paved patio, Harry could see why Draco didn’t bother conjuring flowers. Surrounding the terrace were rose bushes of every color imaginable, delphiniums and petunias and lavender orchids. He gazed around in awe.
“It’s the middle of winter,” Harry whispered. “How does she grow all these? Magic?”
Draco pointed up. “The glass keeps it warm in here all year round. Mother has Clara tend to the plants meticulously. Perhaps there is some artificial sunlight, but basically, these are muggle flowers.”
“Beautiful,” Harry said.
“Thank you,” Narcissa replied, standing up out of her chair. She startled Harry, who hadn’t notice her.
“Mother.” Draco smiled. “You look well.”
“Thank you, dear.” She held out her arms to him and enveloped him in a hug. “I’m feeling much better,” she said, once they pulled apart.
“No word from Father yet?” he asked.
She shook her head, then glanced at Harry. “It’s been a long time, Mr. Potter.”
“Please, call me Harry,” he smiled and held out his hand. When she took it loosely, she gave it one quick shake and released.
Harry waited for her to instruct him on how to address her, but she didn’t. She merely sat back down and motioned for him and Draco to join her.
“Clara, we’ll have tea now.”
The house elf blinked away and was back in a flash with a tray. She poured out for the threesome and placed a small platter of biscuits in the middle of the small round table.
Nervously, Harry stirred his tea, waiting for it to cool enough to sip. He was anxious for someone to start a conversation, and feared the longer they sat in silence, the more awkward the meeting would go.
Finally, Draco spoke. “I don’t like yellow for the dining room.”
“Psh, you never did like yellow,” Narcissa said. “What’s wrong with it?”
“I thought you were going with the red.”
She shrugged. “I decided to go with red for the sitting room instead.”
Draco made a noncommittal nod and took a sip of tea. Suddenly, he looked over at his mother. “You didn’t change my room, did you?”
“Your room? Draco, you haven’t lived here for several years.”
“But it’s still my room,” he said. “You have plenty of others to play with.”
She gave a teasing smile. “No, I didn’t change your room. It’s still pink and purple.”
Harry raised his eyebrows.
“It is not pink and purple,” Draco said to Harry with a snort. “It’s blush and mauve. And it’s mostly dark cherry wood anyway.”
Narcissa giggled behind her tea cup. Harry couldn’t help grin. But he didn’t dare laugh at Draco.
Eventually, Draco himself grinned. “Father nearly had a heart attack when I picked those colors.” He looked to Harry. “I think that was how I came out him.”
Narcissa put on her best ‘Lucius face’ and imitated him, “Boy, you can’t have a pink room. People would think you’re queer or something.”
“And then I said, anyone who would be in my bedroom would already know that.” Draco laughed. “Or something along those lines.”
Harry was amused by the interaction between Draco and his mother. For some odd reason, he assumed she wouldn’t have much of a sense of humor.
“What did your father say to that?” Harry asked.
“I believe Lucius had a drink. Or four. Actually, he may have finished the entire bottle of fire whiskey,” Narcissa said.
Draco snorted again, then took a sip of his tea.
“How old were you, Draco?”
“Almost fifteen. Before all the shit went down here. My room was the last one redecorated . . .”
Harry reached out his hand to Draco’s subconsciously. “Is that why you didn’t want your mother to change it? Because it reminds you of how things were before Voldemort took over?”
A small gasp escaped Narcissa’s lips. It was still disconcerting for her to hear the Dark Lord’s name spoken aloud.
Trying to remain unemotional about it, Draco glanced at Harry, then his mother, then down into his teacup.
“Darling, why didn’t you ever tell me that?” Narcissa asked. “I would never have teased you about it. Why do you think I wanted to remodel in the first place? We’d all like to forget.”
She downed the last of her tea and put her cup down. Clara was immediately by her side, refilling it.
“So, it seems you have some insight into my son’s sensibilities after all, Mr. Potter.”
Harry didn’t correct her that time.
“And what does that mean, Mother?”
“Ever since you told me about the two of you, I’ve been trying to figure out what you could possibly have in common,” she said. “Frankly, I couldn’t think of two people less suited to one another.”
“May I also be frank?” Harry questioned. He continued when she nodded. “All that you think you know of me, most likely comes from books, newspaper articles written by Rita Skeeter, or legend. Some of which is true. But much of it is exaggerated, or out and out lies.”
Narcissa held up her hand to stop Harry.
“Please don’t take my skepticism personally.”
“Mother will never find anyone good enough for her little boy,” Draco snickered. “Not even the man who sacrificed his life and saved the entire wizarding world. If anything, Mother, I’m not good enough for him.” He paused and dropped his smile. “Or is that what you were getting at?”
She opened her mouth but hesitated to speak. Draco folded his hands in his lap while Harry looked uncomfortably between the pair.
“No, that wasn’t what I was getting at,” Narcissa said slowly. “But since you brought it up . . .” She turned to Harry. “Do you think Draco is good enough for you?”
Sitting up straighter, Harry answered, “Yes, of course. It’s not a matter of being good enough, anyway.”
“No?” Narcissa questioned.
Harry smiled at Draco. “Who wants good enough when you can have perfect?”
Draco grinned back. His mother sipped her tea, then took a biscuit from the platter.
“You think Draco is perfect?” Narcissa questioned.
Blinking, Harry was about to respond positively. Instead, he admitted, “No.”
A little shocked by his response, Draco swiftly turned and looked at Harry. He saw his mother’s smirk out of the corner of his eye and began to get up.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“I’m not going to sit around while you manipulate Harry into saying---”
“Sit down,” she instructed him. “You haven’t even had a biscuit. And I had Clara make your favorites.”
Harry put a gentle hand on Draco’s arm. He sat back down and made a show of putting a biscuit on his plate, though he didn’t eat it.
“Nobody’s perfect,” clarified Harry. “But Draco’s perfect for me. The more we get to know each other, the more I realize that. It’s rare to find someone who knows all about you-- the good and the bad-- and still wants to be with you.” He looked at Draco as if he were studying his face but seeing his soul. Though he kept his gaze on Draco, Harry addressed Narcissa. “When I’m with him, he makes me feel . . . normal.”
“How flattering,” Draco deadpanned.
Harry laughed. Perhaps at first thought, it wasn’t all that flattering.
“Do you know how many people have tried to put me on a pedestal, and keep me there? That’s not where I want to be. All I’ve ever wanted was a normal life, doing normal things, with normal friends. It’s why Ron and Hermione are practically my only friends. And you, of course. I don’t have to live up to any expectations with you, other than being a good boyfriend, which I hope I am.”
“You are,” Draco said quietly.
“Mrs. Malfoy, what else can I do to convince you that we are suited to one another?”
Again, Draco stood. “Mother, if you’re not going to support--”
She held up her hand once more. “Nothing,” she repeated. “I am convinced.”
Slowly, Draco sat back down.
“Anyone who looks at my son the way you do, Mr. Potter, deserves a chance.”
“Please, then, call me Harry.”