Three days later, Draco was discharged from St Mungo’s. Harry took him back to Grimmauld Place through the floo. It was difficult to manoeuvre because Draco had insisted on transfiguring the efficient wheelchair St Mungo’s had provided for him (Draco was too weak to walk more than a few steps) into a more aesthetically pleasing, Victorian wicker contraption.
“If I’m going to be an invalid, I’m going to do it with style,” he said.
He was certainly the most stylish invalid Harry had ever seen. Ron had brought him clothes from his flat, so he was exquisitely dressed as always. Harry wheeled him out to the garden, because it was a miraculously sunny day for late November.
Draco turned his face up to the sun.
“I used to play here when I was little,” he said.
“Is it weird to be back?”
Harry wanted to ask more, but Draco has closed his eyes and fallen asleep.
The first few days that Draco lived in Grimmauld Place were among the most peaceful of Harry’s life. Ron came over and played a quiet game of chess with Draco. Draco read Harry passages from Thomas Hardy, his favourite muggle author. (Harry was disturbed to learn that the main reason for this was Draco’s assertion that Hardy understood “what life was really like”. As far as Harry could tell, Hardy’s worldview was unremittingly bleak. But Draco told him it was beautiful, and honestly Harry didn’t care too much what Draco read him, when his voice was so rich and lilting.) They drank copious cups of tea. Draco fell asleep constantly, in the middle of sentences, halfway through meals, or while Harry pushed him through the garden.
They kept touching each other. Little gestures, at first— Draco tapped Harry’s arm to get his attention. Harry brushed a strand of Draco’s hair out of his eyes when he fell asleep. Draco rested his head on Harry’s shoulder when Hermione came to visit, and talked about the Reconciliation Act for forty-five minutes without pausing for breath. (It had been hard for Draco to see Hermione again, anyway. He did not apologise to her—Harry noticed that he rarely apologised to anyone for his role in the war; Harry suspected because he did not want to be forgiven—but he blanked out several times when she first arrived, and was so polite that he made everyone uncomfortable.)
Harry helped him in and out of his wheelchair. There was often a moment when they lingered in each other’s arms before Draco groped his way to or from the chair.
He was using it less and less, anyway. By the time he’d been at Grimmauld Place a week, he walked with a cane, and they only used the wheelchair if he got one of his headaches.
“I’m sorry I can’t give you career advice,” said Draco one day. They were sitting on the balcony overlooking the garden. Draco wore a thick, quilted dressing gown and shabby monogramed slippers. He clutched his cup of tea for warmth. He was always cold, since the attack.
“I didn’t ask you for career advice,” said Harry.
“I feel as if I ought to be able to say, Aha, I’ve got it, your true calling is… wand making!”
“No. I don’t think you have a true calling.”
“I do. It was to kill Voldemort. I did it already,” said Harry, emptily. He didn’t know why they were talking about this.
“You barely even killed him. He killed himself.”
“You should write my biographies. ‘Harry Potter and the Anti-climax.’”
“Don’t tempt me. No, listen, Potter. You haven’t got a calling. Most people haven’t. But you need to feel needed. Don’t you?”
“So? What kind of job should I get, then? How can I be professionally needy?”
“No need to get defensive.”
“It’s just useless, that’s all. I’ve thought about all this already.”
“All those things you did in school— killing the basilisk, learning to cast a patronus at thirteen, the Triwizard Tournament— all of it—you did because you had to. An external force pushed you.”
“Yeah, and it turns out if there’s no one pushing me I’m a total fucking waste of space; I know, Malfoy.”
“I’m pushing you.”
“No, you’re not.”
“I am. You’re to stop feeling so sorry for yourself and get a job.”
“Or I’ll lose respect for you.”
Harry surveyed him over his tea cup. Draco was watching him steadily, and Harry’s pulse quickened.
“You’re being a dick,” he told him.
“Mhm. It’s what I do best,” said Draco.
“What kind of job?”
“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You can get a different one in six months if you don’t like whatever you choose. You just have to try something.”
Harry leant back in his chair.
“What if I’m bad at it?”
“You probably will be. You’re a dunce; I’ve always said so.”
“It’ll be in the papers. CHOSEN ONE IN OFFICE FAILURE.”
“You don’t read the papers.”
“I don’t need a job. I’m rich.”
“Your biography doesn’t have to be top-heavy, Harry,” said Draco, his voice suddenly gentle. “So you’ve taken a few years off, so what? You have decades and decades to accomplish things.”
“Why should I listen to you, when I haven’t listened to Ron and Hermione, and—and everyone else?”
Draco cocked his head.
“Has it occurred to you that you could improve my standing in society? Only if you’re a member of society yourself, of course.”
“You’re such a Slytherin.”
“Surely you didn’t think I was motivated by anything other than self-interest.”
“No—I mean, because you’re a conniving, slippery bastard. You don’t want me to improve your standing in society. You just know that if I think you want that, I’d do anything to help you. Including getting a job.”
Draco tapped his fingers on his teacup, clearly confused.
“You didn’t think I knew you so well,” said Harry.
“There’s a muggle novel called The Bell Jar. In it, there is a description of a girl in a fig tree, trying to decide which fig she should eat. She takes so long to decide that all the figs rot and fall off the tree.”
“You miss your job,” said Harry, realisation dawning on him. Draco’s expression closed, and he put his cup down.
“I’m afraid I haven’t got a job anymore,” he said, sounding about six times posher than normal. “Nick was unable to convince the shop owner that my leave of absence was legitimate.”
“I have savings. You won’t be short of rent.”
“You know I couldn’t care less if you pay rent. I’d much rather you didn’t.”
“I’m not your pet,” snarled Draco. Harry snapped his mouth shut.
Draco rubbed his eyes.
“I’m sorry. My head hurts. It’s hard—”
“I like teaching,” said Harry. “I think I would feel… useful…if I could teach.”
Draco smiled wanly.
“Well, then, Professor. Let’s get you a teaching job.”
Harry thought the only teaching jobs available in the wizarding world were at Hogwarts. Draco soon showed him that he was mistaken. There were a few wizarding universities; there was auror training, there was tutoring, magical primary schools, and homeschooling.
Draco helped him pour over newspaper want ads and draft out a CV.
“Defeated Dark Lord: May 1998,” wrote Draco. “Skills learnt: dedication & teamwork.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“Do you think we can put Dumbledore as your employer for that? Shame he can’t give you a reference.”
“Sorry. Have you any special skills?”
“That’s a first year spell, Harry.”
“My patronus is good.”
“Can produce corporeal patronus,” wrote Draco, biting his lip in concentration.
Predictably, Harry got the first job he applied for, as a tutor for a fifteen-year-old witch who had to be homeschooled for health reasons.
“I’m going to be crap,” he said, ten minutes before the first session.
“Yes,” agreed Draco. “You’ll probably spoil her entire education.”
“What if I just… panic…and shout at her?”
“You’ll scar her for life. I certainly would never let you forget it. Haven’t you got any robes that fit you properly? Here, take mine.”
“You’re taller than me.”
“Not by much.”
As it happened, Harry did not panic. Homeschooling Mabel Manning was very similar to teaching the DA. She was a shy girl who had suffered a traumatic head injury, and so couldn’t focus for long periods of time. Harry was used to dealing with that sort of thing, because of Draco. By the end of the session, he felt confident that not only was this something he could do, but it was something he could do well.
“Oh, were you perfect? What a big fucking surprise,” said Draco, upon his return.
“You got a job?” asked Hermione, when Harry told her about it on her next visit.
“I’ve had a job for years,” said Draco.
Hermione ignored him.
“But that’s wonderful, Harry, really wonderful!”
“It’s only four hours a week,” said Draco.
“Fine!” said Harry, exasperated. “I’ll get another student!”
“You’re a lazy shit until you’re working at least ten hours a week,” said Draco.
“Malfoy!” exclaimed Hermione.
Draco’s smile dropped. He cleared his throat politely and left the living room.
“He wasn’t being—that’s just how he and I are, Hermione.”
“I want him to support you.”
“He is. Trust me.”
“I’ve done something that’s going to piss you off,” Harry told Draco, that afternoon. Draco was leaning against the kitchen counter as Harry filled the kettle.
“I don’t care if you can afford to buy a Firebolt, that’s an absurd broomstick to give a twelve-year-old, and anyway I’ve been saving up to buy Scorpius his Nimbus for years now—”
“I’m not buying Scorpius a Firebolt. I’ve bought a storefront on Diagon Alley.”
Draco stopped mid-rant.
“I want you to run a muggle bookshop.”
A variety of expressions crossed Draco’s face, so quickly that Harry couldn’t track them properly.
“You bought me a shop,” he said, finally.
“No,” said Harry. He had had time to think, ever since Draco had told him he’d lost his job. “The shop is mine. I want to hire you to manage it.”
“I see. You think that will make me feel less indebted to you.”
“Christ, Draco, I don’t know, maybe you’ll always feel indebted to me.”
Draco laughed unhappily.
“But what I do know is that people will be more likely to go to our bookshop than to yours. And it’s a great idea, you know it is. A pureblood guide through muggle literature? People will lap it up.”
Draco nodded slowly.
“It is a good idea.”
“You’re thinking of reasons to turn it down…”
“…none of which outweigh the benefits it could give Scorpius, if I was less of a social pariah, yeah,” finished Draco.
“So? What do you say?”
Draco groaned and pressed his forehead into Harry’s shoulder.
“I get to pick the name,” he said. “You’d probably just call it BOOKS.”
“Hang on, BOOKS sounds like a great name for a shop,” said Harry, putting an arm around Draco’s narrow shoulders and squeezing.
“‘Bookshop’? ‘The Place Where You Can Buy Books’? ‘Come In Here, We Have Books’?”
“Shut up,” said Draco, and Harry pressed his mouth to the top of his head. “Imbecile.”
“You’re going to be so rude to the customers.”
“I won’t, actually. I’m not rude to people who hate me. Anymore.”
He peeled away from Harry, their moment of contact broken by whatever sadness had reawakened in him.
“They won’t always hate you,” said Harry, softly. Draco didn’t look at him.
“Black tea or mint?”
“Black,” said Harry.
Draco made the teas in silence. He didn’t drink his. He fell asleep at the kitchen table, his head in his arms.
It was snowing, and Harry couldn’t find Draco. He wasn’t in any of his usual spots— the library, with its roaring fireplace and dark green sofas, or the kitchen, or the cosy study where Draco sometimes sat to jot down notes on his books
Finally, Harry tried the garden.
The sun had set, but it wasn’t dark. The moon cast too much light on the fresh, white snow. Draco stood, straight-backed and tall, his arms wrapped tightly around himself, shivering and coatless.
“It’s freezing,” said Harry. Draco didn’t turn around. Harry took off his jacket and slipped over Draco’s shoulders. He left his hands on Draco’s arms, and Draco leant back into his chest.
“What are you doing out here?” asked Harry.
“It snowed like this when I got out of Azkaban,” said Draco. Harry hooked his chin over Draco’s shoulder so that they were cheek to cheek. “I’d always liked snow, before then.”
“I wish I’d tried harder at your trial,” said Harry. “You shouldn’t have gone to Azkaban.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. The fact you spoke at all halved my sentence.”
“You didn’t have a place to stay when you got out. It must have been so cold.”
“Blaise told you,” he said, tonelessly.
Harry nodded, his chin digging into Draco’s shoulder.
“It was fine,” said Draco. “I was fine. It was my first experience among muggles.”
“Not much of an introduction.”
“Actually, I was shocked by how many people were kind to me. A teenage girl brought me a hot chicken sandwich and told me I was handsome, once. It’s silly, but it meant a lot, that someone could still think that of me.”
Harry wrapped his arms all the way around Draco’s slender body and squeezed.
“Fucking hell, how could anyone not think you were handsome,” he said into Draco’s throat. Draco breathed a laugh. “Sorry,” added Harry. “That probably wasn’t the most important part of the story.”
“I’ll never turn down a compliment, Potter.”
Draco’s hands were on Harry’s arms. They were knotted around each other, Harry pressing all the way up Draco’s back. Draco was trembling and fragile— except he wasn’t. He never seemed to break, no matter how many times he was dropped.
“You’re incredible,” said Harry.
Draco turned around. Harry caught him and pressed him even closer. Draco’s arms slipped around to rest, flat-palmed, on Harry’s back.
“When people tell you that, do you believe them?” asked Draco. Harry shook his head. Draco’s mouth jerked into a smile and Harry was suddenly aware of how very, very close their lips were.
“I…” said Harry. It was hard to think when Draco Malfoy was just letting him hold him. “I think I’d believe it if you said it.”
Draco looked completely bewildered.
“Because,” said Harry, leaning in so that their lips touched as he spoke. “Just… because.”
And then they were kissing, a cold, stuttering kiss that set Harry’s insides on fire.
Draco pulled away first.
“I—Harry—this was such a bad idea. I shouldn’t—fuck, oh—”
“Draco, darling,” said Harry, drawing him closer, tucking Draco’s head under his chin. “Talk to me.”
“You just called me darling.”
“Harry…” Draco broke free and took a step away. His eyes met Harry’s with a burning look. “I can’t do this. I’m in love with you.”
“That’s convenient. I’m in love with you, too.”
“No, you’re not.”
“No!” Draco took another step backwards. “You’re not, Potter, you absolute fucking idiot! You’re you and I’m me and you already said we can’t be together and this isn’t a fun game for me!”
“I was an absolute fucking idiot. We had the best sex of my entire life—”
“We didn’t even finish, Potter.”
“Doesn’t matter. It was with you. Draco, fuck, I’ve been obsessed with you since I was thirteen!”
“Because you thought I was up to something! And I was! I was trying to murder your fucking father-figure!”
“Yeah, look, I’m not saying we don’t have shit to work through! But… Draco, look at me. Look at me!”
Draco reluctantly looked at him, and Harry took a tentative step forward. When Draco didn’t shy away, he took another, closing the gap between them. He plunged his fingers into Draco’s hair and tugged their faces together, so that their foreheads touched. Draco’s hands rested on his chest.
“I’m so sorry that I freaked out after we slept together. If you don’t want to be with me, or if we try this and it doesn’t work out, I promise if won’t change me helping you and Scorpius. But I love you,” here, he shook Draco’s head a little, as if to emphasise his point, “and I want to be with you. I want to be part of your family. I want you to pretend to let me look after you while you’re really just looking after me. I want to take you places and get into fights with you and have sex with you and listen to you talk about books and make fun of you. You make me feel like the rest of my life isn’t a fucking afterthought. I just want you. I think I deserve you.”
“I don’t deserve you,” said Draco. He spoke so quietly that Harry had to strain to hear him.
“The war is over, Draco. You have to forgive yourself.”
“I will never forgive myself,” said Draco fiercely. “Never.”
“Okay,” said Harry, kissing him chastely, soothingly. “Okay. We’ll revisit that later. Fine. You think you don’t deserve me. But what if you’re the only thing that can make me happy? Do I deserve happiness?”
“You manipulative little pseudo-Slytherin,” said Draco. He was trying not to smile.
“I know I deserve you. You’re my happy ending, Draco. Let me have it. Please.”
“You love me?”
“I was on my way to tell you the night you were attacked. I was so scared I had missed my chance.”
“It’s cold,” shuddered Draco, closing his eyes and leaning into Harry.
“Shit, let’s get you inside.”
The kitchen was bright. Harry conjured blankets and swaddled Draco until all that could be seen of him was his pale, pointed face and his slippery, white-blonde hair. Draco’s delicate hands poked out of the blanket folds to clutch at the cup of tea Harry brought him.
“Better?” asked Harry.
“No. Okay.” Draco looked at him, and Harry’s heart soared at the smug expression on his face. Draco and Scorpius both—he loved it when they were smug. “Okay, you can be in love with me.”
“You’re in love with me, too,” said Harry.
“I never said that.”
“Hmm, don’t think so. Doesn’t sound like something I’d say.”
“You love me.”
“Dream on, Potter.”
“Do you mean it? You’ll try?”
Draco’s eyes were wide and frightened.
“I think it’s doomed. But fuck it.”
“Darling,” said Harry, and kissed the tip of Draco’s nose. “You’re wrong. You’ll see.”
Harry lay curled around Draco, his head on Draco’s chest, almost asleep. They had had sex twice, and he was so happy and tired that he almost couldn’t stand it.
“Since that letter you sent me,” said Draco, quietly. “When you told me I was a good father.”
Harry tilted his head up to look at Draco.
“A wonderful father,” he corrected. Draco smiled.
“Yeah. Since then.”
“I was hurt you didn’t answer me.”
“I couldn’t answer.” He stroked Harry’s sweaty hair. “How about you?”
“I didn’t realise until I had dinner with Blaise,” admitted Harry. “But I’ve fancied you since sixth year.”
“I’m not. I hated you, but I also couldn’t stop thinking about you. Drove Ron and Hermione spare.”
“I just hated you. Until the battle, and the trial, and…everything. Having time to think, in Azkaban. All those fucking muggle novels.”
Harry ran his hands over Draco’s scarred chest.
“Please don’t. If you apologise then I’ll have to, and my apologies are always hopeless.”
“Okay. No apologies.”
“You are incredible, Harry,” said Draco.
Harry buried his face in Draco’s chest, embarrassed.
“Your capacity for compassion and generosity astonishes me,” went on Draco.
“I’m washed up.”
“You’re free,” said Draco sleepily, his fingers soft and tingling against Harry’s scalp. Something clicked in Harry’s brain. It was as if, for the first time, the full realisation that he didn’t have to do anything really, truly registered.
“Yeah,” said Harry. “I am.”
BOXING DAY, TWO YEARS LATER
You are cordially invited for a Boxing Day lunch with the Malfoys. RSVP.
Grimmauld Place had outdone itself, thought Harry. It clearly liked being full, even if it was mainly with Weasleys.
Everyone was in a food coma after the sumptuous feast the house had provided (“It’s fascinating that your house can cook, Harry. That’s really unusual, even in old magical houses!” said Hermione), and they were lounging around the living room in varying states of digestion.
Scorpius, Titus, Teddy and Fran were outside flying. (Technically, muggles weren’t supposed to fly on broomsticks, but Fran was so good at quidditch that no one ever stopped her.) Andy and Anthea were talking quietly by the fireplace, their heads bent towards each other. Nick and Flora had already told Eve that she wasn’t to tease Andy about his feelings for Anthea, which were apparently quite intense. Mr Weasley was engaged in an in depth conversation with Flora about muggle plumbing.
Andromeda and Mrs Weasley were sampling the cheese platter. Draco and Andromeda still avoided each other, although Harry knew it was because Andromeda felt guilty for having kept Teddy and Scorpius apart all those years. Draco, too, was overwhelmed by guilt about Teddy’s parents. Harry hoped they would get over it one day, but so far the best either of them could do was nod politely at each other before moving to opposite sides of the room.
Mrs Weasley had taken a while to warm up to Draco. In fact, it wasn’t really until she met Scorpius that she understood why Harry had married Draco in the first place. This was often the case, Harry had discovered. It was hard not to love Draco, once you knew Scorpius, even though Scorpius was being a right moody prat these days and rebelled against literally anything Draco said. Unless Draco and Harry had a fight. Then Scorpius would aggressively freeze Harry out, to demonstrate where his loyalties lay. Harry was a Malfoy now (Draco had been horrified when Harry had insisted on taking his name, but to Harry it was a no brainer. He had always longed to be part of a family; and the Malfoys were too firmly Malfoys to become Potters), but ultimately it was still Draco and Scorpius against the world.
“Contra mundum,” Scorpius told him fiercely, the last time he and Draco fought, because the awful little Ravenclaw was continually speaking in Latin.
But mostly, Harry and Scorpius got on wonderfully, even through Scorpius’ teenage rebellion. In any case, as rebellions went, it was pretty harmless. He seemed to think that the best way to distance himself from both Harry and Draco was to be the most Ravenclaw that ever did nerd. He quit the quidditch team (even though he loved it) so that he could study harder. It made Draco sad, but they both knew that Scorpius had a lot of repressed anger to deal with somehow or another. Contra mundum. Harry understood. Not all the Death Eater Catchers had been caught, and although public opinion had changed a great deal since Hermione passed the Reconciliation Act, people were often rude to Draco in the shop (BOOKS— Harry had worn Draco down in the end). Scorpius claimed he had nothing to do with the mysterious boils that bubbled onto people’s tongues all over Hogwarts if they said anything negative about Draco Malfoy. Hermione said it was an incredibly advanced spell, and that Scorpius had a promising future as an Unspeakable.
“It’s magic with no marker,” she said. “It’s honestly quite brilliant.”
“It’s Dark Magic,” said Draco, bitterly.
“No, it isn’t,” said Harry. “Stop assuming he’s about to morph into some kind of Super Villain. You know that just makes him worse.”
Hermione, Professor McGonigall, and Eve were the only adult figures who were able to get through to Scorpius at all, really. Draco was desperately worried about him. Scorpius told Harry privately that he was worried about how much Draco worried. Harry thought they were both adorable. So, fundamentally, the dynamics between them all remained unchanged.
Rose Weasley was crawling around the carpet, putting things in her mouth.
“Stop staring,” said Draco, falling into the seat next to Harry.
“I’m allowed to stare,” said Harry. “She’s cute.”
Harry was about to protest, but it was useless. He was.
“Yeah,” he said, letting his head droop onto Draco’s shoulder.
“You know,” said Draco, slowly. “We could get one.”
“A baby? What, from the baby shop?”
“Don’t be insensitive. We’d adopt.”
“We have Scorpius.”
Draco waved his hand dismissively.
“The first pancake is always rubbish.”
“Come off it.”
“I missed the first five years with Scorpius. You missed the first eleven.”
“Are you serious?”
“I’ve thought about it a lot.”
“I don’t actually want Scorpius to feel like a first pancake,” said Harry, frowning.
“He and I agree that it’s a good idea,” said Draco.
“You’ve talked to Scorpius already??”
“Of course I have. You don’t think I’d risk his ire, do you? He’d probably hex us both into oblivion, and no one would ever know who’d done it.”
“A baby,” said Harry dreamily. “I’d have to cut back on my students.”
“You’ve been trying to quit teaching Cuthbert for months now.”
“Yeah, well, he’s the most boring teenager on the planet. Fuck, Draco, a baby!”
“I take it this is a yes.”
“Good, because I’ve already filled out the paperwork. Happy Christmas.”
“You’re terrifyingly efficient, sometimes,” murmured Harry.
“Get a room, you two,” said George Weasley. Harry smiled and kissed Draco harder.
All was well.