During the Christmas holiday, Harry and Draco split their time between Malfoy Manor and The Burrow. The difference in households was night and day. While they had tea by the fire in the Manor with Narcissa and Lucius, they had lively debates and raucous card games with the Weasley siblings.
Percy’s daughter, though only two months older than Rose, seemed to have grown a distinct personality already. She smiled easily, and took in the world around her with wonder. But Harry had a special place in his heart for Ron and Hermione’s daughter, and he suspected no other little girl would be able to wiggle her way in, no matter how adorable.
Rose wasn’t crying as much these days. However, Ron still hadn’t figured out the secret to soothing her. Occasionally, Hermione didn’t have any better luck. Christmas day was one of the baby’s good days, though, and everyone was happy to take a turn holding the seven week old.
Dominique, it seemed, had forgotten all about her personal narrator from Easter, and hid behind Bill when she saw the tall blond. Harry was disappointed, as he was hoping she would bring out Draco’s fatherly tendencies again.
“I guess it’s been too long for her to remember you,” Bill said to Draco, a bit embarrassed by the girl’s reaction.
“Quite all right,” Draco smiled. “Clearly, I’m not one of the clan, and she senses that. Children are very perceptive.”
Bill nodded. “Come Nikki, let’s go find Grammy.”
Fleur kissed each of Draco’s cheeks as she greeted him. “Lovely to see you,” she said.
“Likewise,” he returned.
Beside him, Harry grinned. After saying their hellos to him, Bill and Fleur had received Draco without hesitation. When the Weasleys accepted someone into their lives, they did it whole-heartedly.
“And what are you grinning at so goofily?” Draco asked.
“I’m happy,” Harry answered. “Isn’t that a good enough reason?”
“For most people,” Draco smirked.
“Here.” Harry held out Rose to him. “I have to go to the loo. Can you hold her?”
“See, I knew there was something.” But Draco took the baby nonetheless.
She was beginning to fuss and working her mouth. He suspected that Harry simply didn’t want to deal with a potential crying fit. Her lip curled and she began to whimper.
“Thanks, Harry,” he muttered to himself.
Putting a finger to her mouth, he noticed an almost desperate attempt on her part to get it. He immediately sought out Hermione, who was sitting at the kitchen table peeling potatoes with Ginny.
“I’m afraid Rose appears to be hungry. Not much I can do to help her there.”
“I’m surprised she’s lasted this long,” Hermione said. “She should have eaten almost an hour ago. Come on baby,” she cooed as she took Rose out of Draco’s arms. Hermione disappeared up the stairs for some privacy.
“Looks like you’ve just volunteered for potato duty,” Ginny laughed, holding out a peeler.
Draco scratched his head, unsure whether or not she was serious. After a moment, he shrugged and sat down in the chair vacated by Hermione.
“I confess that I’ve never done this before,” he told Ginny.
“It’s easy. Just swipe the blade over the skin until it peels off.”
“Why don’t you do this with magic?” he asked.
“Because it tastes better if you have to work for it,” Molly said.
Still unsure if they were teasing him, Draco got to work peeling. Before long, twenty pounds of cut up potatoes were on the stove, boiling in a large pot. Draco was fascinated by some of the other food preparation going on and stayed in the kitchen to watch.
When they all finally sat down to dinner, he passed the bowl of whipped potatoes to Harry.
“I helped with these,” he whispered. He picked up a forkful and put it in his mouth, a slight frown of concentration on his face. He glanced up to see that others were watching him chew very slowly. After finally swallowing his bite, he announced, “I think they do taste better when you have to work for it.”
Molly and Ginny were the only ones who burst out laughing. Everyone else seemed to think it was simply an odd comment.
Feeling the need to explain, so Draco wasn’t embarrassed, Molly said, “Draco helped us peel and cut the potatoes. He asked why we didn’t use magic to do it. I told him they taste better when you do things by hand.”
“That’s how you get the love in there,” George said. “Mum puts it in everything she does,” he told Draco.
Draco nodded and looked over the spread on the table. “She must love you a lot.” He blushed at the ensuing laughter at his innocent comment.
Harry leaned over. “They’re not making fun. It’s just that Molly has a reputation for going a bit over the top.”
“A bit?” Ron raised an eyebrow.
During dinner, Draco and Harry told them all of their honeymoon visits. Arthur was especially fascinated by the amusement park. He had all sorts of questions about how the rides worked. But everyone else was more interested in the city on the water or the private villa.
Harry talked them through each day of their visit, adding his observations and opinions about the people and places they saw. He described the gondola rides, tours of the major attractions and the fresh seafood they ate daily in mouthwatering detail.
“I ate eel for the first time,” he told them. “And they have this crumbly almond cake sort of thing, freg-a-la-tto,” he sounded out slowly.
“Fregolotta,” Draco corrected, in a spot on Italian accent.
“Oh, right. Anyway, if you can ever get there, I highly recommend the trip. It’s very romantic,” Harry said.
“Harry, that was all very entertaining,” Ginny said. “I never knew you had such a wonderful way of telling a story.”
“He’s a wonderful story teller,” Draco began, until Harry nudged him with his knee. Getting the point that Harry wasn’t quite ready to announce his aspirations, he added, “Harry has told me about his many adventures while at Hogwarts, some that most people have never heard, I reckon.”
Later on, when they arrived back at Hogwarts, Draco asked why he wanted to keep his story writing a secret.
“Because I tried it, and it hasn’t panned out,” Harry explained. “I don’t want to advertise that I’m a failure.”
“You’re hardly a failure, Harry. How many queries did you send out? Ten? Twelve?”
“Eight? That’s hardly trying. I’ve read that some of the muggle best sellers had been rejected dozens of times before they were picked up. You just need to find the right agency.”
“Well, that’s the muggle world. There are only so many English speaking wizarding publishers.”
“Then send out to the muggles,” Draco suggested.
Harry shrugged. He was hesitant after his rejections.
Not one to take no for an answer, or no answer at all, Draco took control instead.
“Where is one of your manuscripts?”
“Why?” Harry asked.
“Because I’m going to re-edit. And then you’re going to do some research on muggle agencies and write a new query letter. And, you’re going to use your real name.”
“But . . .”
“Like it or not, you’ve got a great name. It’s simple and easy to remember. It’s likable. And if it helps to sell your book, why not use it?”
“I, uh . . .”
“I’ll not have you moping around,” Draco said firmly. “You’re Harry Potter, dammit. You’re a Gryffindor, you don’t just give up.”
Shocked at first by Draco’s reprimand, Harry smiled. It was probably the kick in the arse he needed after feeling sorry for himself for so long.
“All right. But this time I want you to really be brutal. I think you went easy on me the last time you helped me edit.”
Nodding, Draco agreed. “I already have some ideas.”
“Oh, don’t look so worried. It’s going to be great.”
Harry sat in the Great Hall, speaking with McGonagall during dinner. Draco told him to go ahead without him as he was offering extra practice to some of his Fifth Years preparing for OWLs.
“And this year’s dance may prove to be an even bigger hit than last year,” McGonagall went on. “I’ve put some of the Seventh Year girls in charge of decorations, and they’ve come up with some wonderful ideas.”
“Minerva, any chance that Draco and I can beg off chaperoning this year, since we did it last year? It is Valentine’s Day, after all.”
She smiled. “Well, seeing as it’s your first as a married couple, I think I could arrange for other professors to chaperone this year.”
He nodded. “Thank you.”
“Do you have special plans?’ she asked.
“I was hoping to do something a little more unorthodox,” Harry answered vaguely. “I want it to be very special.”
“Sorry, I’m late,” Draco said, sitting down. “I didn’t expect to be this long.”
“Your students just not getting it?” Harry questioned.
“On the contrary. The ones who stayed after class today are some of my top students.”
“Is there a problem, Draco?” asked Minerva.
“Yes, I seem to have a few Hermiones on my hands.”
“What do you mean?”
Harry laughed. “I think he means they’re a little too enthusiastic about their schoolwork. Am I right?”
“Yes. O.W.L.s aren’t for another four months. And yet these students are already stressing over them. Not that any of them need to. So far, they’ve all got Outstandings for the year. Was Granger, er, Hermione this bad?”
“She was always on about how Ron and I should have been studying harder,” Harry said. He paused. “Speaking of them . . . I’ve offered to babysit Rose so they can go out. They haven’t had much opportunity since she was born.”
Draco put down his fork, and regarded Harry. “I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“Well, I was hoping we could babysit her together.”
“Mhm.” Draco arched an eyebrow, waiting for Harry to continue.
“On . . . um, Valentine’s Day.” Harry bit his lip. “I know. It’s our first one since we got married. But it’s Ron and Hermione’s too. And they don’t get to go out the way we can. And nobody else offered . . .”
Draco sat with his mouth open. “Babysitting? That’s how you want to spend Valentine’s Day?”
“It’s just a day, Draco. Made up as a holiday by someone. Simply think of it as just February fourteenth. We can go out the next day.”
“The fourteenth? Oh, damn,” muttered Draco. “I hadn’t even made the connection.”
Harry frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“You’re not going to believe this, but that’s the day of my father’s review.”
“One of the stipulations of his release last year was a hearing to review his case. A sort of parole hearing, if you will. It should be just a formality as my father has adhered to all of the conditions placed on him. But, the date they’ve chosen is February fourteenth.”
“When were you going to tell me you need the day off?” Minerva smirked.
“Oh, I won’t. I’ve asked that the hearing begin after my classes that day so I can accompany my father to court.”
Harry pouted. “So not only can you not help me babysit, we couldn’t have gone out anyway?”
“Harry, you just said yourself that it’s just a day. We can go out on Saturday. Any place you’d like.”
Harry shrugged. He knew Draco didn’t understand his motives. And Harry didn’t exactly want to explain them. He was hoping that the pair of them, alone, caring for a child, would spark some sort of yearning in Draco. It frustrated Harry that Draco seemed to have some innate ability with children that he was blind to. Dominique, Rose and Percy’s daughter, Molly all responded to him positively. Not to mention the students at Hogwarts. He was very popular, and not just for his dashing good looks. He had a patience with them that he hadn’t ever displayed as a youth himself.
Draco’s soothing voice disrupted Harry’s thoughts.
“It shouldn’t take too long. Why don’t I go to Ron and Hermione’s flat afterwards. I can bring supper.”
“All right,” Harry replied. It was better than nothing.
“May I have your wand, Lucius?” the Interrogator asked.
“My wand? What for?”
“We’re going to test it for Dark Magic.”
“Father,” Draco whispered. “Just hand it over. Protesting will make it look as though you’ve got something to hide.”
“But I don’t have anything to hide,” Lucius snorted. He removed his wand from his pocket and handed it over.
“Thank you.” The man walked away and went into another room.
“Mr. Malfoy, just a few more questions.” Another Interrogator sat at a table with two other members of the Wizengamot, while the Chief Warlock presided at a large desk that loomed over the others. As it was simply a hearing, and not a trial, the full Wizengamot was not present. Draco sat by Lucius’ side in the middle of the room. They’d been questioning Lucius for nearly an hour already.
“There is the small matter of your Gringotts accounts,” one of them said.
“I have only one account at Gringotts,” Lucius said. “My wife and son have separate accounts.”
“I see. That would explain why you haven’t claimed them as assets.”
“I was told that only my own property, or property owned jointly with my wife were subject to investigation,” Lucius said.
“True. When did you open the account for your son?”
“Upon his birth. It was held in trust until his eighteenth birthday, when he gained sole control over it.”
“There is an awful lot of money in that account,” the Interrogator said, not exactly accusing but hinting at impropriety.
One of the other Interrogators nudged him and nodded in agreement.
“I didn’t hide my money there, if that’s what you’re insinuating.”
The Interrogator smiled insincerely, “I wasn’t insinuating anything. I was merely pointing out that it was a rather large sum of money. But . . . now that you mention it, transferring money into your son’s or wife’s account would be a good way to avoid losing your money, should the courts decide it was obtained illegally.”
The sole Interrogator in the room representing Lucius finally spoke up.
“That is something that should have been ascertained during his trial and initial sentencing, which, I believe, was. It has no bearing on his actions of the past year. That is all this hearing is about.”
“Very well. I agree,” the Chief Warlock said. “Move on.”
The bald man in the middle stood.
“Have you left the country since your release?”
The man leaned forward as if to drive his point further. “Mr. Malfoy, it is imperative that you answer these questions with one hundred percent honesty.”
“Yes, I understand that,” Lucius replied.
“So, I’ll ask again. Have you left the country, for any reason, since your release from Azkaban?”
“No, I have not.”
Looking at a parchment in front of him, the man pursed his lips. “I have information here indicating a Mr. Malfoy traveling in Venice, Italy. There are hotel records as well as restaurant receipts. Also, the same for Triora, Italy during a consecutive time period.”
Draco raised his hand. “Excuse me. That was me, not my father.”
“Hmm. Is that so?” The man was skeptical.
Another man at the table spoke up. “Easy for you to say. Can you prove it?”
“I wasn’t aware that I was the subject of this hearing,” Draco said. “The burden of proof is not on me.”
Lucius glared at his son’s impertinence.
“However, if your records were thorough,” Draco continued. “You would see that the name registered for those hotels is not Lucius Malfoy, but rather Draco.”
A shuffling of parchment at both tables gave Lucius a moment to speak to his son quietly.
“They seem to have it in for me.”
“They want to make certain this deal doesn’t come back to bite them in the arse. I just hope I actually did register at one of those hotels using my first name.”
“You mean, you were bluffing?”
“I see nothing to prove your claim Mr. Malfoy,” the Wizengamot member said. “Do you have anything to add?”
After a lengthy pause, Draco said, “Oh, were you speaking to me or my father?”
“You. You claim to be the one traveling,” the interrogator said, most annoyed.
Draco smiled condescendingly, “Forgive me. I was confused. Or perhaps you are. Mr. Malfoy is my father. I am Mr. Potter-Malfoy. My husband and I were traveling on our honeymoon in July of last year.”
One of the Interrogator’s cleared his throat. “Right. Um, I think we can move on.”
“Unless you’d like me to drag my husband in to testify . . .”
“That won’t be necessary.”
“He won’t be happy about it, but I’m sure Harry would be willing to take time out of his busy schedule to come in and corroborate my claim.”
Draco could practically see the lightbulbs go on over the other Wizengamot’s heads as they murmured amongst themselves. He glanced over at the Interrogator for his father, who gave him a wink and a smile.
Lucius whispered to his son, “I never thought I’d be happy that you took Potter’s name. Do you think he’d be willing to testify?”
“He won’t have to. I just wanted to remind them who’s family they’re trying to fuck with.”
Lucius wasn’t able to suppress a smile.
Clearly, Harry’s efforts to keep their marriage and private life private had proven successful. Of course, rumors were always circling about. But Rita Skeeter did not get an exclusive interview about the wedding and all she had was speculation. Neither Harry nor Draco’s names had appeared in print in months. Draco suspected that the higher-ups in the Ministry didn’t pay much attention to the gossip columns anyway.
Just then, the man who had taken Lucius’ wand returned.
“Give it back to him then,” The Chief Warlock said. He turned to the three Interrogators. “Do you have anymore questions for Mr. Malfoy?”
They all glanced at one another, and then their parchments. One spoke for all of them.
“No, sir. We recommend that Mr. Lucius Malfoy has satisfied the requirements of his release and should be free to go.”
Lucius’ Interrogator stood. “Free and clear. He is no longer bound to the terms of the agreement.”
“He still has to obey the law,” the Chief Warlock reminded him.
“Of course. But he is free to travel, conduct his business and live as any other free wizard.”
The Chief Warlock banged his gavel and declared it so. Lucius and Draco stood as the members of the Wizengamot exited the room.
“Well played,” Lucius’ Interrogator said. “Not that it was really necessary. There was nothing in those parchments that could have kept the hearing from ending any other way.”
“That certainly didn’t stop them from trying,” Draco pointed out.
The man held out his hand and smiled. “You’re a free man, Mr. Malfoy. Congratulations.”
“And, don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope I never see you in here again.”
“You won’t,” Draco answered for his father.
The pair left the Ministry and apparated back to Malfoy Manor. Narcissa greeted them with champagne.
“Well, since you’ve both returned, I suppose the champagne won’t go to waste.”
“Father is as free as any man,” Draco picked up a flute and held it up in toast.
“Clara has been holding supper for us. Draco, you must stay,” Narcissa said.
“I’m sorry, Mother. But it’s Valentine’s Day and I want to spend what’s left of the evening with Harry. The two of you have some celebrating of your own to do,” Draco smirked.
Without her usual protesting, Narcissa kissed his cheek. “Give him our love, darling.”
“To be sure,” he raised an eyebrow.
He downed his glass and headed for the front door. The wards around the house were still strong, and he had to step outside to disapparate. First, he went to Harry’s favorite cafe in Diagon Alley to pick up a late supper, then made a quick stop at Hogsmeade to get chocolate roses from Honeydukes. Finally, he went to the Three Broomsticks for butterbeer. Armed with the goodies, he used the floo to travel to Ron and Hermione’s flat.