With final exams behind them, the students of Hogwarts could finally relax. As a special treat, McGonagall had the house elves prepare a picnic supper by the lake for students and staff. As the end of the term approached, spirits were high.
Harry sat on a blanket watching Draco play a game of fanged frisbee with a group of Slytherins. The Potions professor had a smile on his face as he tucked his long fringe behind his ears. Harry briefly wondered if Draco was planning to grow out his hair like his father’s once more. He couldn’t complain either way. The man was handsome no matter how he wore his hair.
When pudding appeared on the large buffet tables, the Slytherin students abandoned the game, and Draco with it. He sauntered over to Harry with a lightness in his step Harry had noticed ever since his heart to heart with Lucius.
“It turned out to be a lovely day,” Draco remarked as he sat down next to Harry.
“Yes,” Harry snickered.
“Nothing. I do enjoy seeing you like this.”
“Like what?” Draco questioned, leaning his face close to Harry’s, but not close enough to touch, grinning all the while.
“Carefree,” Harry replied. “I’ve seen you happy. And I’ve seen you content. But there’s always been a . . . solemnness about you. I mean, it’s still sort of there, but you’re able to really let go for a bit now.”
Draco sighed. “I do feel as if a weight has been lifted.” he chuckled. “I should say another weight. I feel lighter every day I’m with you.” He leaned forward and kissed Harry softly on the lips.
“Draco,” Harry blushed. “There are students around.”
“It’s not as though they don’t know we’re married. I think it would be more odd for us to act as though we’re mere acquaintances.”
“You really have changed a lot.” Harry intertwined his fingers with Draco’s, deciding he was right.
“Yes, I certainly have.”
“Do we really have to go?” whinged Draco. “I’d really rather spend today with only you.”
“Sorry. Weasley tradition. You’re one of us now, and you have to celebrate your birthday with the family,” Harry told him. “Besides, Molly was horrified that she missed it last year and she wants to make up for it.”
“Merlin, she didn’t invite my parents again, did she?”
“I think so. But things went fairly well last time,” Harry reminded him cheerfully. “This time should be even better.”
“I suppose there’s no getting around it. I’m ready.” Draco slipped his fringe behind his ears. “Let’s go.”
They apparated to the Burrow and were greeted by Fleur and Victoire, playing outside with a white dog.
“New puppy?” Harry asked.
“We couldn’t resist,” Fleur giggled. “Victoire fell in love with her in Diagon Alley. We were looking to get a new owl when she saw this little white fur ball in a window.”
“Adorable,” Harry said, bending down to pet the dog. “Do you like dogs Draco?”
“We’ve kept dogs at the manor. But they were closer to watchdogs than pets,” he replied. He, too, bent down to pet the dog. “They’re not so bad.”
“You’re Uncle Harry’s husband,” Victoire announced. “I saw you get married.”
“Yes, I am. And you are as lovely as your mother.”
“We should go in,” Fleur suggested. “Supper will be ready soon. And I think little Babette here needs a nap. Come on girl.” She slapped her thigh a couple of times to coax the puppy. “Come Victoire.”
The four of them, and the puppy, went into the house. Draco’s parents were sitting on the sofa listening to Arthur tell them about a muggle device he’d come across recently.
“But when I put a fork inside and turned it on, it quite literally blew up,” Arthur laughed.
“It sounds like a dangerous contraption,” Lucius said.
“It’s not meant to be dangerous. I’m told muggles use them all the time to make quick meals. Almost as fast as magic.”
“Are you talking about a microwave oven?” Harry asked.
“Why, yes, Harry. Have you used one?”
“Yes, of course. But most muggles know not to put anything metal inside.”
Arthur laughed again. “I’m afraid I found that out the hard way.”
Narcissa stood. “Happy birthday, darling.” She kissed Draco’s cheek and handed him an envelope.
He stood awkwardly, not knowing if he should put the envelope in his pocket or open it. In his younger days, he would have eagerly torn into it to see his gift.
“Aren’t you going to open it?” Harry asked.
“Oh. All right,” Draco said hesitantly. He carefully opened the envelope to find a certificate to Twilfitt and Tattings for a sizable amount.
“I thought you could treat yourself to some new clothes for your upcoming holiday,” Narcissa smiled.
“Mother, this is much more than necessary for a week long trip.”
“Then you can treat Harry, too.”
“It’s done. You may as well enjoy it.”
“Thank you. And you, Father.”
“Happy birthday son. Twenty-six. I was twenty-six when you were born,” Lucius commented, but said nothing more about the subject.
“Oh, there you are,” Molly squealed as she came into the sitting room. “The birthday boy is finally here. We can eat. Everyone else is already in the kitchen.”
Draco blushed for the attention but followed Molly into the kitchen where a feast was waiting. The table had been expanded even further from the Easter before last, to accommodate two more highchairs.
Once again, Arthur offered Lucius the head of the table.
Though Draco was still a little wary of his father saying something inappropriate, the gathering went well. With so many Weasleys at the table, conversation never ran dry. Topics ranged from dragons, as always, to children, potions, and the new puppy, as well as Harry and Draco’s upcoming holiday
“Oh, I would love to go to Greece,” Hermione said. She smoothed the light hair out of Rose’s eyes. “Someday we’ll travel again. But right now, we’re concentrating on our family.”
“Draco and I are planning to go somewhere new every summer,” Harry said. “It won’t be difficult for me because I haven’t traveled much at all. But Draco’s been all sorts of places.”
“Yes,” confirmed Lucius. “We tried to expose Draco to all sorts of cultures. We’ve been to Italy and Japan. And we’ve traveled to several countries, such as France, Monaco, and Belgium so Draco could practice his French.”
“You speak French?” Fleur asked excitedly. She began speaking in French to him before he had a chance to answer. He replied in French with a simper.
“Fleur, that’s rather personal,” Bill blushed, having learned to speak a decent amount of French over the years.
“What did she say?” Harry asked Draco.
He blushed himself a bit.
“I asked if he speaks French to you when you make love,” Fleur said. “And does it fill you with passion as it does my Bill?”
Harry admitted, “It is rather sensual.”
Draco glanced at his father, who appeared mortified by the topic of conversation, as did Ron.
“You’ll have to forgive Fleur,” Bill said. “They have a different perspective on the matters of love where she’s from.”
“Pas de problem,” Narcissa smirked, and winked at Fleur.
Draco’s eyes widened, and Arthur cleared his throat, to steer the conversation back on its course. “So, why Greece, Harry?”
After the previous talk, Harry had a difficult time coming up with answer besides his original reason for wanting to go. And he couldn’t very well say that he wanted to go to a nude beach with Draco. Fortunately, Draco intervened.
“For one, it’s a place I’ve never been,” he said. “And the Mediterranean is supposed to be breathtaking. Plus, Harry wanted to try authentic Greek food, as opposed to the inferior fare we’ve gotten in London.”
They continued to talk about places they’ve all been to, or hoped to visit in the future, while they stuffed themselves with Molly’s good cooking and the wine the Malfoys brought. Later, the men retired to the sitting room, as seemed to be customary, while the women remained gathered around the kitchen table.
Draco managed to make the other men look bad however, by offering to help clear and clean the dishes. Ginny recruited Harry and Ron to help as well. In the meantime, Molly brought out a large cake and several plates of biscuits and pastries.
Following an embarrassingly bad rendition of the birthday song, cake was passed around. Still a bit overwhelmed by the attention, Draco sat in the corner chair again and listened to everyone else talk.
Hermione bounced Rose in her arms until the girl fell asleep.
“Damn, I have to go to the loo. Where’s Ron?” she asked no one in particular.
“I think he went out with the girls and their new puppy,” Percy replied. “George and Harry, too.”
“I’ll take her for you,” Draco offered. “I’m just sitting here anyway.”
“Oh, thank you. I’ll only be a moment,” Hermione said gratefully. She lay Rose in Draco’s arms carefully so as not to wake her.
When she stirred, he knew precisely how to pat her to get her back to sleep. Hermione returned to take her back, but Draco insisted she let the baby sleep. He sat for an uncomfortably long time, having to use the loo himself before handing Rose over to Molly.
He was secretly disappointed that Molly refused to give her up and instead took Rose into the kitchen to feed her. By then, Narcissa and Lucius had gone, and Harry was still off somewhere with Ron. Babette was fast asleep in the corner of the room, completely knackered from chasing sticks and balls. Dominique was in a similar state.
Draco returned to his increasingly favorite chair with a cup of tea and a small plate of biscuits. He had just taken a bite of a chocolate one when a young blonde girl appeared in front of him. She stared at him with her hands behind her back.
“Yes?” he asked.
“You’re a boy,” she said.
“But you were holding the baby.”
“Yes.” He was puzzled by her statement.
“The other boys don’t want to hold the babies,” Victoire noted.
Draco had no response.
She pulled a book from behind her back and handed it to him. They stared at one another, each trying to force the other into talking first. Draco could see that she was too stubborn to ask him to read to her. But he wasn’t about to volunteer. He could be equally stubborn.
After what seemed like an extraordinarily long time, Victoire squeezed herself into the chair next to Draco, forcing him to move over.
“Read,” she said, opening the book.
“I beg your pardon?” He gave her a stern look, causing her eyes to go wide, and Draco thought perhaps she was rethinking her request.
“Can you read this?” she asked timidly.
“Can I read this, what?”
“Can you read this, sir?”
Draco laughed out loud. “You call Harry, Uncle Harry, but you call me sir?”
“What should I call you?” she asked genuinely.
“You may call me Draco. And I was looking for a please.”
She cleared her throat. “Can you read this please, Draco?” Her demeanor had changed quite a bit from she first approached him. Not quite compliant, but respectful.
“Yes, I can.” He smiled, trying to put her at ease.
He opened the book, a fairy tale, about unicorns and a princess. He snorted when he realized it was a muggle book, but began to read anyway.
“It’s been too long, mate,” Ron said. “Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. But I need to get away once in a while.” He nudged Harry with his elbow. “Let’s sneak off to the Leaky.”
“Ron, I can’t leave Draco here by himself at his birthday celebration.”
“I know,” Ron grumbled. “Mione would kill me, too. But you and I don’t get to bum around enough. I miss you being at the Ministry.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “We should make it a point to get together more often. I’ve been trying to encourage Draco to spend more time with Blaise and Pansy.”
“Ugh. Zabini and Parkinson.” Ron made a face.
“They’re not so bad,” Harry laughed. “I haven’t gotten to know them nearly as well as Draco has gotten to know you and Hermione. But they’ve been good friends to him. Even through all the changes he’s gone through.”
“Yeah, I guess he has. But crikey, that story you told me about his family. No wonder he was the way he was.”
Harry frowned. He knew Draco had been a prat and a bully when they were young. But he almost considered Malfoy a completely different person from the Draco he got to know and grew to love as an adult.
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” Ron said.
“I know.” Harry’s expression softened. “You’re right. As messed up as the whole situation was, I think Draco was glad to know his father’s motives. They’ve gotten closer than they’ve ever been.” He sighed.
“Isn’t that a good thing?” asked Ron.
“Yeah, of course.”
Harry and Ron walked back from the marsh in silence. As an Auror, Ron knew when to ask questions and when to keep quiet to get information out of someone. Though Harry wasn’t a witness or a criminal, the tactics worked on him as well.
Ron paused at a patch of wildflowers and picked some to bring in the house.
“And you thought Draco had changed,” Harry laughed. “Never thought I’d see the day Ron Weasley collected flowers in a field.”
Pursing his lips, Ron tried not to smile. “Mione loves ‘em. I guess being a husband and father had changed me a bit. Which is why I need time with my mates. There are some things I can only talk about with you.”
A small smile crosseds Harry’s lips. “You forget I used to be an Auror. Classic manipulation of your subject.”
Looking just slightly guilty, Ron asked, “Did it work?”
Harry hesitated, then answered, “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to get it off my chest.” He glanced around to make sure no one else was around to hear. “I’m over the moon that Draco and his father have reconciled, don’t get me wrong. But, now that Draco knows the whole truth, his reasons for not wanting a family aren’t really valid anymore.”
“Well, he said he didn’t want to be a father because his father wasn’t . . . the most attentive. And the stories about his grandfather weren’t any more flattering. He figured it was genetic or something. Malfoy men simply didn’t make good fathers. So not only did he not want to become one, he didn’t want to pass the genes down to the next generation.”
“We haven’t talked about it since I told him I don’t want children anymore.”
“You did what?” Ron questioned. “When did you decide that? You were always going on about a family when Hermione was up the duff. You even volunteered to babysit, which I thought was completely bonkers.”
“That was before I knew how bad at it I am,” Harry gave a little chuckle. “I was only a year when my father passed away. He didn’t really have a chance to be a father. Maybe it’s the Potters, not the Malfoys who are pants at fatherhood.”
“Not a chance,” Ron said. “If I can be a decent dad, surely you can. But it sounds like you may have told a little white lie to your husband. If you really believed you’d make a poor father, you wouldn’t be upset that Draco doesn’t want kids.”
Harry shrugged. “I told him what I thought he wanted to hear. And I suppose I have to live with my decision. Maybe we’ll get a puppy,” he laughed.
“Maybe you should tell him how you really feel.”
“He’s been through a lot lately. I don’t want to make waves. And we truly are happy. I feel . . . never mind.” Harry gave an embarrassed little laugh.
“What? If you can’t tell me, who can ya tell? I’m picking wildflowers for Merlin’s sake. How can I judge?”
Harry sighed. “I feel like we’re more in love than ever. He kissed me in front of students and didn’t care. He’s finally free of the past. I love him so much.”
Ron laughed. “Maybe you should pick some wildflowers, too. What the bloody hell has happened to us? When did we become such saps?”
“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m gay,” snickered Harry. “Come on, we’d better get back. Draco is probably ready to throttle me for being gone so long.”
“I’m sure my father has been droning on about microwaves or sewing machines, or some other muggle device he’s obsessed with,” Ron shook his head.
“Oi, what’s going on in here?” Ron asked as he and Harry stepped through the back door into the kitchen. Molly, Ginny, Hermione and Fleur were all standing in the archway between the kitchen and the sitting room. “Spying on someone, are we?”
“Shush,” Molly scolded. “We’re trying to listen,” she whispered.
Ginny turned around and smiled sadly at Harry. “We shouldn’t be spying,” she said softly to the rest of the women.
Reluctantly, they began to walk back into the kitchen.
“What are you looking at?” Harry asked. He peeked around the corner to find Draco sitting in his usual chair. Beside him sat Victoire. On one knee was Dominique, and on the other was Rose. A large storybook was opened before them as they quietly listened to Draco read.
A feeling, like a stab to the heart, overtook Harry while he watched. He glanced around the room, noting that not only the girls, but the men in the room seemed to be enraptured by Draco’s voice.
Harry turned and quickly walked out the back door.
“Harry,” Ginny called after him. She caught up with him on the lawn. “Harry,” she said sympathetically.
“Let it go, Gin. I know what you’re going to say.”
“I have no idea what to say.”
“Because there isn’t anything to say. Draco and I have made our decision. He’s a wonderful uncle to the girls. And that’s that.”
“I’m sorry.” She put her arms around him for a hug.
He let Ginny hug him for a while. Her scent was comforting and familiar. And soon he found himself back from the edge of tears. He pulled back slightly and kissed her cheek.
“Thank you,” he said. “Especially for not trying to cheer me up.”
“Everything all right?”
Harry turned to see Draco standing in the doorway, a slight frown on his face. “Yeah. Ginny and I were just . . . catching up.”
“Are you ready to go?” asked Draco.
“Absolutely.” Harry put a hand on Ginny’s shoulder. “Next time we get together with Ron and Hermione, you and Owen should join us.”
“We will,” she smiled. “Happy birthday,” she called out to Draco.
Draco grabbed Harry’s arm as he tried to go back into the house. “I’ve said our goodbyes already. If you don’t mind.”
Though he did want to say goodbye himself, especially to Molly and Arthur for hosting, Harry nodded. Draco’s demeanor told him that his husband may have been upset by the exchange with Ginny.
“Of course,” Harry smiled and kissed him. “I love you.”
When they apparated back home, Harry wondered if Draco didn’t want him to go back in the house because he didn’t want anyone to tell him about Draco reading to the children. The more he thought about it, the more certain he became that was the case. He chose not to let on that he saw but would treasure the memory for himself.