Actions

Work Header

Signed and Sealed

Chapter Text

Dear Harry,

I know it might come as a surprise to have me use your first name. But maybe not as surprising as me writing this letter in general, I suppose.

I won't send it to you, and it's silly for me to say I won't send it to you when I'm the only one who's reading it anyways. I don't know why I said that. Or all of this.

Oh come on Draco, get it together...

Alright, anyways. Let me try this again.

Dear Harry,

It's been a lot of years. Since school, since the war. Since.. everything. And I see you twice a year at King's Cross Station, but that's it. Normally.

Last week I saw you in Diagon Alley, but I don't think you saw me. Which is fine. I didn't really want you to see me. In fact, being the terrible coward that I am, I stepped into Florian's and hoped like anything you were not there to get ice cream. I watched you walk down the street and go into Eeylops. And I stood there the whole time you were inside, waiting until I saw you come out again with an owl in a cage.

I couldn't help wondering if this owl was for someone or if it was for you. And if it was for you, was it the first one since Hedwig that you bought for yourself?

I imagine it wouldn't have been. You've been married for awhile, you have kids, I can't imagine that you haven't bought another owl. Unless maybe your wife bought them because you didn't want to.

I know it's strange to wonder something like that. And strange for me to know Hedwig's name, and just how attached to her you were. She stood out among the other owls. There were no other Snowy Owls at the school so everyone knew her. Including me.

Would it make you angry to know I was sad when I found out she'd died? And how she died. That was probably the worst part. I really did feel terrible. She didn't deserve that death. None of the people who died in the war deserved those deaths.

I didn't want that war. I've wanted to tell you that for years. Since school. Early in school. A lot earlier than you might think. I know what a prat I was. And I know that 'prat' is an exceptionally mild and almost even complimentary thing to say about me given just how terrible my behaviour and personality were. But it doesn't mean I wanted that war.

I know who my family was. Is. I know what they stood for. Except for my mother, and except for me. There's a lot you don't know about me, about my family. About what that lineage actually is. I didn't expect you to know then and I don't expect you to know now. But I wish you understood just how little say my mother, and subsequently me, had in anything that was happening.

My mother did as she was told. I did as I was told. That was how the family worked. And when my father went to Azkaban... Harry, I was actually thrilled. I know I didn't make it look like I was. But you know now what I was up against in the 6th year. I'm not using it as an excuse for my awful behaviour, but I want you to know that at the start? When my father was first sent to Azkaban, before anything else happened, I was HAPPY about it.

I thought that with him there maybe my mother and I could break away from things. I knew she wanted to and I wanted to more than anything. It hurt how badly I wanted out.

But instead of getting out, we got tied in even deeper than before.

I did not want to become a Death Eater. I either said yes to it, and yes to killing Dumbledore, or my mother would have died. He threatened to kill her right in front of me.

So I said yes.

But I didn't want it. I never wanted it.

Look... The thing I want to tell you isn't all of this. I don't want any sympathy. I don't even want you to understand me or to know I didn't mean any of the shitty terrible things I said and did. I just want you to know how sorry I am.

Because I am so incredibly sorry.

It follows me everywhere. It's in everything I do. The deaths of all those people. Your Uncle. Dumbledore. The people you knew, the ones you cared about. The ones you didn't know. I feel sorry and responsible for all of them.

I know, logically, that I didn't really have much to do with any of them. I take full responsibility for almost killing Katie Bell and Ron Weasley. Those two are on me, but I never, not once, actually killed anyone.

Neither did my mother.

It doesn't absolve us of all the bad things that happened. We were still involved with the wrong side.

Which is why I'm sorry.

Part of me wishes I'd been sent to Azkaban. I still don't know why I wasn't. Why my mother wasn't. But my father went back, and knowing he's there and will be until he dies is a comfort. It makes me feel like the right justice was served. Even if...

Well... Even if many days I feel like I should be there as well.

I wonder how you are. And I wondered even harder as I watched you walk away from Eeylops. I saw the look on your face as you carried the owl and it seemed.. Grim, maybe. Just a bit.

You nodded politely to everyone you saw because everyone spoke to you. I could see in your eyes even from that distance how much you wished everyone would stop. I can't imagine having to be THAT social every time you went out. And if it's at that level now, I imagine how terribly intrusive it would have been in the more recent years after the war.

I waited until you were well gone, only then realizing that Florian had been clearing his throat in my direction for several minutes.

I had to buy ice cream. In November. Just to stop him frowning at me.

Truthfully I don't even like ice cream in the middle of summer, let alone forcibly purchased ice cream in November.

And he watched me eat it. I sat there with ice cream I didn't want, eating it while Florian Fortescue watched me, knowing he would take it as a VERY personal affront if I didn't eat it all. And even though I don't personally care if I had to stop going there (aside from using it as a cover to hide from you), my son would be incredibly and unbelievably angry at me if we had to stop going.

He likes ice cream. But there... He is quite normal....

And not spoiled despite my VERY earnest attempts to do so. Can you imagine? A Malfoy who doesn't act like a spoiled brat? I know the very idea might border on impossible.

Anyways. I don't mean to ramble on about my son. Or complain about the ice cream, it was just kind of silly. I shouldn't even have been hiding from you. I could have just nodded at you as we passed, the same thing we do on the train platform twice a year.

I appreciate that, by the way. SO much. I have since the first time it happened. That was the first time I had seen you in years. First time you had seen me. I thought my heart was going to stop when I looked up and you were looking at me. And then you nodded to me. With that slight-but-not-quite smile that adults use to acknowledge you when they aren't sure how their greeting would be received. I hope I nodded back. I was so shocked I realized later that I wasn't sure if I had or not. I meant to.

I hope you're well. I hope your family is well. I hope you like your new owl, if it is for you.

I hope, more than anything, that you're happy. Of anyone in the whole world, you deserve to be happy now.

Best Regards,

Draco Malfoy

Draco sighed as he signed his name, sitting for a moment as the ink dried. He'd written dozens of these letters over the years. The first one just days after the war ended. He wanted to talk to Harry. He felt like he absolutely NEEDED to and would burst if he didn't. He actually fully intended to mail that first letter to him.

But he didn't. It sat first on his desk, sealed and waiting in the silent house that was occupied only by himself and his mother. Then he put it in a drawer.

Then he wrote another letter. And then another, and another and another. They added up over the years, he had a drawer full of them.

All of them sealed and all with Harry's name on the front as though he really did expect to send them.

It had become therapeutic. Each time he wrote, he said many of the same things. That he was sorry. That he really hadn't wanted the war. In some letters he went into more detail about his family dynamics and why things were the way they were. In others, like the one he'd just finished, he felt like he shouldn't bother Harry with too many details. So he skimmed over them lightly.

As he sealed this letter, writing Harry's name across the front in long curving script, he heard Astoria call to him.

He got up, leaving the letter on his desk instead of putting it in the drawer.

A few minutes later, a small House Elf entered his study to clean. While Dobby had belonged to Malfoy Manor and had been freed, Astoria had a House Elf of her own, and when they married that Elf came with her.

This House Elf was perfunctory and not nearly as capricious as Dobby. So when she saw the letter on Draco's desk, sealed and titled, she figured she would do Draco a favour.

She carried the letter outside and tied it deftly to the leg of an owl in the small Owlery on the Malfoy Manor property.

Then she went back inside to clean the study.

Draco, once returning to his study a few hours later, had long since forgotten that he hadn't put the letter in the drawer.

And thus the letter, which was never actually intended for Harry to read, was sailing through the skies towards him.

Chapter Text

Dear Draco,

Look mate.... Well... not really mate, I suppose. We aren't mates and never were. Just.. go with it.

Mate, I don't know what happened. Clearly this letter said you weren't going to send this to me and it was just you reading it but I have it now?

It was sealed and had my name on it in your handwriting- did you change your mind?

I don't think you would have sent it with that start to it, did someone in your house maybe send it?

I feel pretty shit for having read it even though it said right at the beginning it wasn't really for me. To me, but not FOR me. And I knew as soon as I read that that I should continue but...

It isn't often I get correspondence from Malfoy Manor. So rare that THAT was the first time. So I was curious.

So I read it.

Sorry for that. Erm... I suppose I just thought I should tell you what happened.

~ Harry

PS> The owl was for me, you might recognize the one delivering this letter as the one in the cage in Diagon Alley. An Eagle Owl like you had in school, I liked him. Do you still have Ulysses? Yes.. I knew the name of yours as well...

------------------------------------

Dear Potter,

That was never supposed to get to you. I think we've covered that though.

I don't know how it left here, it should have been in the drawer.

I apologize for the intrusion.

Sincerely,

Draco Malfoy

--------------------------------------------

Dear Draco,

I thought we might be using first names now, can we?

Your handwriting looks dead shaky. I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, I thought it would be better if you knew that somehow I'd gotten the letter.

I understand that it was really personal. It WAS really personal, clearly. But I'm not laughing over it or anything. I'm not showing it to anyone else. I've seen it and you've seen it and that's it.

Can we talk about it?

~ Harry

PS> DO you still have Ulysses?

--------------------------------------------

Dear Harry (if you insist),

I do still have Ulysses but he's retired now as you might guess since it isn't him delivering these letters. It's surprising you knew who he was. Hedwig stood out in the crowd of owls, it was easy to find out who she was, I didn't realize that Ulysses did as well.

It was personal. Beyond personal. I don't know what you might want to discuss about it but... I suppose I'm open to that.

You really haven't shown it to anyone?

Sincerely,

Draco

--------------------------------------------

Dear Draco,

Ulysses was impressive and incredibly agile. It was hard to miss him. Besides, I spent a good portion of school watching you, waiting for you to suddenly do something really suspicious (like you would have in the Great Hall, I don't know what I was thinking with that...) so I saw him deliver to you almost daily.

No I haven't shown it to anyone. There isn't anyone around to show- and even if there was, it would have been clear within a few lines that it wasn't even for MY eyes so I would have taken it away before anyone else saw.

There's a lot of things that you should maybe (and I said MAYBE) feel guilty about, but the deaths in the war aren't one of them. Last I counted, you killed absolutely no one. (And Crabbe does not count.)

Whereas me? I'm responsible for six deaths in the war. Directly responsible, I killed them.

You, Draco, saved me. Your mother saved me, as well. Without you and without her there is a very good chance that war would have ended differently.

You killed no one. The almost deaths of Katie and Ron, and at a stretch the potential attempt at the death of Dumbledore were you, sure, but you didn't kill them. And you were acting under some pretty extreme duress. I thought this BEFORE your letter, and I think it even more after having read it.

You don't have anything to personally apologize for but... if it would make you feel better, I can tell you whole heartedly and without a shadow of a doubt, I accept your apology.

~ Harry

--------------------------------------------

Draco was shaking as he read the last letter from Harry, dropping it once he finished to press both hands to his face.

He took several deep breaths, pushing his hands up into his hair, fisting in the strands tightly for a few moments before sliding his hands back down over his mouth, staring at the parchment on his desk.

He wasn't sure what to think. At all. His emotions and his thoughts all rammed into each other at once over and over again, pulling him in fifty different directions at the same time.

He wanted to scream, he wanted to cry. He wanted to laugh and smile and bang his head on the desk. And also he kind of wanted to apparate as far away from everything in his life as he possibly could and just BREATHE for awhile.

Instead, he swallowed the lump in his throat, leaning forward with his elbows on his lap and his face still in his hands and he thought. He tried to organize everything he was thinking and feeling and sort it appropriately.

Harry said he hadn't killed anyone. Technically he was right, there was nothing Draco could argue there. He had not directly killed anyone, but he still felt responsible for the deaths of everyone else.

Was that wrong? No... That responsibility weighed heavily on him and probably always would. It had changed him, though he was changed long before that. But the war itself, it changed him entirely.

Harry himself, to his own admission, had killed people in the war. But surely he had reason to. Did he feel bad about it? Probably not since he offered the information so openly. He'd killed Death Eaters and Quirrell. Quirrell had been quite innocent, he thought. But there was nothing to be done, really. Voldemort had attached himself quite literally to Quirrell, Harry couldn't have decided to not do as he needed to just because of that.

He said that he and his mother had saved him. He knew what his mother had done, how she had lied to Voldemort once confirming that Draco was still alive. That with her lie it had given Harry the cover needed for the last leg of what had to be done. But had he, himself, saved Harry? He didn't think so. Harry thought so, but he didn't think he had.

The biggest part. Harry accepted his apology.

Just... accepted it. Said he had nothing to apologize for but if he wanted it, he accepted his apology.

It didn't change anything in Draco's mind. Harry had always been too nice and too forgiving. Too ready to believe the good in people without the bad, but still...

He said he forgave him.

With a long, low shaky breath, Draco sat up again, shifting his chair forward and back to the desk. He touched the letter Harry had sent him, just lightly with his fingers, then pulled another sheet of parchment forward.

Dear Harry,

Thank you.

I can't say that you've magically cured my guilt and absolved me of all sin, but it really means a lot that you've said that.

In future I'll be more careful with my correspondence. I always have before now, nothing else ever accidentally got to you, why this one did I don't know. It won't happen again.

Sincerely,

Draco Malfoy

Draco leaned over to tie the letter to the leg of his owl once it was sealed and Harry's name was on the front.

Watching as the owl fluttered out of the window, he sighed. He knew his letter was odd and curt and was drawing a line at the end of this correspondence so Harry didn't have to write back. He'd already, purely by accident, taken too much of his time with those letters.

Certainly, Harry had seemed perfectly genial and even friendly (which thrilled him to no end, but no one need know about THAT) but that was just who he was. Same as accepting his apology, he liked to find the good in everyone, he liked to be friendly.

Draco felt odd accepting that gesture and thinking that it was real. Better to stop the connection now.

The next morning as Draco sat down at the table, empty aside from himself and the cup of coffee waiting for him, his owl soared through the window and landed lightly on the table. One leg held out with another letter, Draco's name on it in Harry's writing.

Potter always did have to have the last word.

He took the letter and set it on the table, tapping his fingers against it. He almost didn't want to read it. The final words from Harry that dissolved this communication and sent them back to their own lives, apart again...

But he set his coffee cup down and picked up the letter, breaking the seal and unfolding it to read:

Dear Draco,

I can tell from this letter you just sent that you consider this matter closed now. You never wanted this correspondence, you never meant to send that letter to me. I get that.

I really do.

But it would mean a lot if maybe we could keep writing.

Since you've (accidentally, but still..) been so open and personal with me, I will too-

I'm lonely as hell. Ginny and I split up, I suppose you might not have heard that. The kids go with her when they aren't in school. And since the split was, truthfully, my fault, I'm not in the good books of any of the Weasley's- Hermione included.

Hence the need of a new owl.

So please. If... If we could still write. I won't take up much of your time. You don't have to write often just...

I'll understand if you don't have time. Or even if you simply don't want to. I just thought I'd ask.

~ Harry

Draco felt his chest ache slightly and rather unexpectedly as he read Harry's letter. Even if the words were simple, there was such obvious raw emotion there.

He hadn't heard about Harry and Ginny. But then, Astoria didn't keep him up to date on gossip anymore. Both because he wasn't really one to enjoy it and because of the fact that she was, in fact, rarely present in his life either.

They stayed officially married for appearances. They were seen out together at important social functions and to see Scorpius off at school and arriving home again. She appeared, with Scorpius who lived with her, for holidays and was perfectly gracious and an admirable actress in making all appear well in front of family.

But she and his son didn't live at Malfoy Manor anymore, not really. Her appearance there the night that Draco had written that letter to Harry was a surprise and he'd left from his study abruptly to see what she wanted because it was such a shock to hear her call for him.

Harry, it seemed, was in somewhat of the same boat, although he and Ginny clearly didn't feel the requirement to appear together for the family. Different families and different circumstances, though...

It was strange to think of Harry lonely. The hero of the Wizarding World who couldn't walk down the street without everyone speaking to him. Although Draco knew deep down how hollow those interactions were. And that they probably made Harry feel even more alone because of shallowness of it.

He'd finish his coffee, first. Then he'd write back to him.

If Harry openly wanted to keep in touch, he certainly wasn't going to say no.

Chapter Text

Draco-

I've beat my last record. I had to go to Diagon today to pick up a book and 23 people stopped to talk to me. TWENTY-THREE. My biggest record before now was 14.

I was shocked at first, but then it became clear why so many people were making conversation. Word is getting around about me and Ginny.

It became abundantly clear when a lot of the Witches that stopped me, expressed their sympathy about my marriage not working out. And to volunteer a daughter, a cousin, a sister or a friend that they thought would be just PERFECT for me.

They don't even know me, but of course I would think they knew who was perfect for me, right? Ha...

What a delight life is going to be now if this is what is starting. It was bad enough before, but now I'm going to have girls thrown at me every time I need to go out and about.

I'm going to have to dig out the invisibility cloak or I won't get any peace...

How's your day been?

~Harry

--------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

I'm really sorry but I'm having a good laugh at your trip to Diagon Alley. I don't really think it's hilarious and I feel really bad that you had to endure it. But it also is really funny to picture you trying to smile your polite smile while someone you've never met tries to make you their son in law.

You really are too polite, you know. If you stopped being kind to everyone even when they're being unbearable intrusive you might not get pestered so much.

I say that like I have any idea about whether or not that would actually work. Don't take my advice, actually, I don't want to be responsible when it just makes people like you more, somehow.

My day was quite average. I had a couple of Ministry meetings to go to. I won't ever understand what my father found to do there all the damn time. Meddling, more than likely. Nothing he should have been doing, without a doubt. I go to meetings because I'm supposed to but I have no interest in staying or getting more involved. Part of me, and please don't get on my case about correcting my views on this, part of me feels like I have no business being there in the first place given my history. But I suppose they have to have me there.

I counted how many times Ackles said "In accordance with.." and realized that had I made it a drinking game I would have been quite liberally intoxicated by the end of the meeting.

Which would have made the second meeting a lot more fun.

So how many dates did the polite saviour of our world accept from these strange women?

Sincerely,

Draco

--------------------------------------------------

Draco,

NONE. ABSOLUTELY NONE.

By the end I was being a rather cheeky and nasty World Saviour. When one of the women suggested her daughter to me, I made a face like I was SO sorry and told her I actually fancied older women. Which got her patting her hair and flashing me far more beaming smiles until I put a hand on her arm and told her she was lovely, but that when I said older I meant OLDER and was, perhaps, her own mother still living.

She is not still living. And mother-of-daughter went off looking extremely worried.

Let's see if that rumour takes hold and finds it's way back to me. I will honestly have a much more interesting time with flirting grannies than mothers tossing their daughters at my head.

I will respect your wishes and not get on your case about your extremely wrong views of thinking you have no business at the Ministry when you have every right to be there. (Yes I am smiling very smugly about that backhand right there, no you cannot get shirty with me about it, I did as you asked.)

What do you do with your time if you don't spend it hanging out at the Ministry? Do you shop? Drink heavily? Ballroom dance? (You were rather top at it during the Yule Ball in year four...)

I have to sort out something for dinner now. Might just go and get chips from a Muggle chip shop...

~Harry

--------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

I'm not even going to scold you for turning that thing about the Ministry around on me. Not only was it very artfully done and quite impressive, but I'm far too busy howling with laughter at you telling some middle aged woman you rather fancied a shot at HER mother.

You may still be polite Harry Potter but you do have an edge now, don't you.

Out of curiosity, and perhaps this is a little too personal- you can ignore it if it is, why are you not actually interested in meeting any of the girls? Chances are most of them are horrid, but you never know when you might meet someone you do like?

I don't have many hobbies to spend time with. I garden... I even do it the Muggle way because there is something incredibly unsatisfying about pointing my wand at things to garden. I like to actually get my hands dirty in the earth. It's grounding and calming.

I don't ballroom dance, but am flattered you thought I was good at it at the Yule Ball. My mother made me take classes the summer before fourth year. My parents, being my parents, told me about the Tri-Wizard Tournament as soon as it had been settled and knowing there would be a Ball, my mother wanted me to represent the family well. I hated it.

I only drink heavily on a night out. Which is infrequent, at best.

Muggles have chip shops? Like stores with all different kinds of chips you can order? Fancy things or.... You know, I'm not going to go any further because I know that I must have the wrong picture in my head so I'm just going to wait for you to tell me what they are.

You'll likely be reading this in the morning, so I hope the day finds you well.

Sincerely,

Draco

--------------------------------------------------

Draco,

You are a riot, you know that? I know you aren't even trying to be funny, you just are. Part of it I think is just how your letters now clash with the Draco I knew in school. Who couldn't say Muggle without making a face let alone write it out and ask questions.

And garden like a Muggle. That's actually kind of cool... What kind of plants do you grow? You were always really good at potions, Hermione often talked about how you beat her out, do you grow ingredients and brew things? Or maybe roses? I could see you growing really impressive roses.

Makes sense your mother would have made you take lessons. Who did you practice with? Was the instructor awful to dance with? Did she smell like moth balls? My mind is going odd places with this. Regardless, I'd say you did your family proud, you looked completely at home when you danced.

McGonagall tried to teach us how to dance. She was so uncomfortable and we did not want to learn. The only one of us who took it seriously was Neville, and he looked good on the dancefloor as well. I sort of regretted not trying harder. But then, I was about as interested in my date as I was in one of Hagrid's Blast Ended Skrewts. So...

I'm not interested in any of the offered females because they are female. That is my extremely to the point reply and I don't think anything more needs to be explained, does it?

Oh but I want to hear all about these Muggle chip shops in your head. I'm not going to tell you what they're actually like until you give me a very detailed account of what you're picturing.

~Harry

--------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

You guessed it, actually, I do grow roses. It's stereotypical in a lot of ways, I know. But I do love to grow them and...

I was trying to be polite, and I was going to answer everything you had written out but I just cannot, I have to address this right away--

You're gay?

Is that what... you and Ginny? Oh well of course it is, never mind, I don't need that confirmed, really. That would be a contributing factor if it wasn't the whole reason you split up.

Sincerely,

Draco

Second owl from Draco sent half an hour later--

Harry,

I apologize for that first owl. It's so rude, I shouldn't have said what I did. You said in your owl it didn't need to be explained and you were right, it doesn't. Please disregard my incredibly probing reply, I meant no offence.

Draco

--------------------------------------------------

Draco-

You worry too much, mate. I'm not offended at all. You make it sound like you were asking for details about my sex life when really you were just asking for clarification. Pretty politely, too.

I'll be blunt for you- Yes I'm gay, and yes that was what ended things with me and Ginny.

Really it likely wouldn't have been so bad if it was a later in life realization... But I've known I was gay since school. I just had it in my stupid head that as stupid Harry Potter I needed to live that perfect little happily ever after life that everyone expected me to. So I married Ginny and had a family with her while knowing that wasn't who I really was. I eventually realized that she didn't deserve to have a relationship like that with me based on a big fat lie so I told her. Everyone is pretty angry at me. I'm pretty angry at myself, it really is all my fault. I never should have married her.

So there's the story for you. And I don't mind you knowing so don't feel like you forced it out of me or think I felt I had to tell you. I know I didn't have to tell you, I wanted to tell you.

~Harry

--------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

In my mind I immediately pictured a Muggle chip shop kind of like Honeydukes but for chips.

All different kinds of displays for different kinds of chips. Specialty and strange flavoured chips. Really premium ones that you have to buy one at a time and more normal ones that you can buy in bulk.

And chip related things like chip butties on all different kinds of bread and types of butter you could choose from...

How far off am I?

Sincerely,

Draco

--------------------------------------------------

Draco,

First- You are SO far off...

Second- You are so incredibly nice to just take what I said and let it lie. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that.

Third- Do you maybe want to go to a Muggle chip shop with me and see what they actually are? I can promise you will be TERRIBLY disappointed with what you see, but hopefully happy with some really great chips.

~Harry

--------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

You want to take me to a Muggle chip shop?

Sincerely,

Draco

--------------------------------------------------

Draco,

If you want to go, I very much would.

~Harry

--------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

I'm free tomorrow... Tell me where to meet you?

Sincerely,

Draco

Chapter Text

"Oh..."

Draco said the one word, and then ducked his head. He knew that just that one syllable had come out with such a disappointed inflection that Harry could not have missed it.

He couldn't help it, though. Stepping into the Muggle chip shop had been, just as Harry said it would- very disappointing. It was small and dim and incredibly dingy. It reeked of frying oil and vinegar which wasn't unpleasant, exactly, but it certainly was not part of the mental image he'd had.

"I did tell you..." Harry smiled as he moved in to stand next to him. "But what it lacks in frills it makes up for in taste."

"Mm.." Draco nodded a bit, smiling at Harry but looking away quickly.

It was a little awkward. Okay, much more than a little. Aside from the nods they gave each other at the train station, and the owls they'd sent each other recently, they'd had absolutely no interaction what so ever since Harry had been captured and in Malfoy Manor. Which was not the best time at all. Terrible, to say the least

So... awkward.

"What do you want on them?"

Draco looked up as Harry's voice broke through his thoughts and he smiled a little more as he moved up to the counter with him, trying not to look nervous and like he had no idea what was going on.

"Salt and vinegar. Please."

Harry turned to the person standing at the counter and Draco watched him as he ordered, handed over some funny looking paper that the person at the counter took, banging buttons on some contraption that dinged and shot a drawer forward full of the funny paper. Harry's went into it and the person fished some odd little coins out of the drawer before slamming it shut and handing the coins back to Harry.

He moved to the side, further along the counter when Harry nudged him down, thinking of a million questions he wanted to ask but certainly couldn't while they were surrounded by Muggles.

"You okay?" Harry asked, looking at Draco and raising his eyebrows a bit. "I was surprised you agreed to come with me."

"I'm fine. This is just.. Very different." Draco smiled at Harry, getting a little jolt every time he looked at him. It was arresting to see him there. Talking to him, interacting with him. After so many years of animosity and then so many years of just not seeing each other or interacting at all.

"You're a good sport."

"I like new experiences." Draco said with a shrug, smiling a little more warmly and genuinely at Harry. "I don't know that I'd ever have the opportunity to do something like this without someone like you with me."

"No one else you know has ties to the Muggle world?"

Draco shook his head, pushing his hands further into his pockets. "No. But I don't really associate with that many people to be honest. Not anymore."

The silence stretched between them, long enough that Draco looked up to Harry's face to make sure he hadn't somehow offended him. Far from offence, when he met Harry's eyes he saw something softer there, almost sympathetic. It made his heart hammer a little harder in his chest and he watched as Harry took in a breath, clearly about to say something before he was interrupted by their boxes of chips being set down on the counter.

"Cheers." Harry said to the person he set them down, picking up one and handing the other to Draco. "Come on, we can go to the park."

Draco hadn't noticed until then that there was no tables in the rickety and ramshackle little shop and he frowned a bit as he fell into step with Harry, waiting until they were outside to speak.

"So people go in, buy food and then... leave with it?"

"Mm hmm." Harry nodded, already chewing on a chip from his box as he led the way down the street. He swallowed and then continued. "It's called Take Away."

"Take Away." Draco nodded a bit, thinking that over. "Do other places do it?"

"Lots. You can get Chinese or pizza or curry or.. just about anything really. It's a big business, people use it instead of cooking for themselves."

"They could just go to restaurants, though. Nice ones where you can sit down and eat.." He wasn't sure about this whole thing. But he was game to try whatever Harry suggested since he was the one who knew what he was doing.

"Sure they could, but this is more casual. You know like... You get out of work and you don't feel like cooking and you don't want to go and sit and be proper in a restaurant. So you get a take away and bring it home so you can sit in your comfy clothes and watch TV."

"TV?" Draco was listening and looking around at the same time, taking in the park where Harry had taken them. It was dark and small with odd metal and wood structures with bars and such.

Harry moved towards a bench under a tree to sit down and Draco sat down next to him.

"TV is... Hrm..." Harry scrunched his mouth to one side as he thought. "That's a hard one to describe... Without trying to get into all the mechanics behind it- A TV is a box that displays moving pictures on it with sound and everything. Like a play but in your own home and not live in front of you, it's just pictures, the people aren't really there. Merlin, thats a tough one to explain. I'll just show you sometime."

Draco smiled a bit, opening his box of chips as they got settled. He wasn't going to take that as an absolute invitation, but he certainly liked that Harry had said he'd show him sometime. He picked up a chip to put into his mouth, then made a low noise as he bit into it.

"Oh that's so good..."

Harry laughed, leaning forward a bit as he watched Draco eat another one. "I know. It's the places that look the absolute WORST that have the best chips. A place that looked like Honeydukes for chips like you were thinking would probably be all pretty and fun to see but wouldn't have anything that tasted this good."

"I believe you. Completely." He was sold on the whole idea, and quite content to relax a little more as he ate and Harry did the same beside him.

They were quiet for a long time, Draco looked around a lot but never saw any other Muggles or anything that was different from the Wizarding world. That was a little disappointing, but it was quite late in the evening. Likely this was a much busier place during the day.

He was in the middle of contemplating what the weird wood and metal structures were when Harry broke the silence.

"How's Astoria?"

Draco swallowed too fast, coughed on the chip he was trying to eat. It took him a few moments and a couple wipes of his eyes before he could speak again, and he answered honestly.

"I really don't know."

"You don't....?"

Draco swallowed again, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth. He could feel Harry's eyes on him, without even looking at the other man he could tell that he was looking right at him. He was glad for the darkness because he could feel a hot blush staining his cheeks.

"No. I don't." He stopped there again, then sighed softly. "We really aren't together. We are for show, according to anyone who knows us we're together and happy. But she and Scorpius live... I don't know where, actually. I've never been to where she lives now."

"Merlin." Harry said the one word with surprise and Draco felt him lean back against the bench heavily. "You do a good job of that show. I know I rarely see you, but you looked a happy together family at the train..."

"I think the relief of not having to live together makes it easy for us to pretend when we have to. We spent more than a few years living together and pretending that everything was fine. It was a relief to actually split the way we did. No drama, no family craziness. We just went our separate ways and get on fine when we need to pretend."

He was met with silence after he spoke and he carefully turned his head to look up at Harry. When he saw the other man's face he couldn't help but laugh.

"Oh go on... Ask.." Draco shook his head a bit as he laughed. It was clear from Harry's expression he wanted to ask something personal about it but was trying his best to be polite.

"I just..." Harry chuckled as well, running a hand through his hair and seeming a little fidgety that he'd been that easy to read. "I just wondered... why?"

"Why we split up?" Draco asked, raising his eyebrows a bit, smiling when Harry nodded. "It was a few things, really..."

He looked down again, fiddling with the chips left in his box, then looking out across the park. "Most of it, was that I really wasn't the Draco Malfoy that she had known in school. Or that Daphne had told her about. We really didn't date, the marriage was sort of arranged in a lot of ways. Families do that... The nasty pureblood ones, anyways. She told me much later that the times we did spend together she figured I was just being very polite. She expected when we got married I'd be the same person she assumed I was."

"That's bullshit." Harry said, frowning a bit and setting his chip box down, brushing his hands off. "The arranged marriage thing, but also that she just assumed you'd be someone else."

"Well I can't really blame her." Draco said, smirking up at Harry and shaking his head. "I presented myself as a completely different person in school, I never gave any inkling about what I really thought or felt because it just 'isn't done'. After the war and being away from school and with my father in prison for good I didn't feel like I had to be quite the pureblooded little viper I had been before. It isn't her fault that she was expecting someone else. It was mine."

Draco watched Harry's face, always so open and easy to read, and he saw a mixture of different emotions parade across it while the other man clearly processed what he'd said, eventually meeting Draco's eyes again to speak. "So she wanted out because you weren't the person she thought you were."

"And the gay thing."

"Pardon?" Harry spluttered the word out in shock, then started laughing at himself for it.

"You can't be THAT surprised." Draco said with a chuckle, feeling the redness in his cheeks get even hotter. "And I mean.. you are..."

"I know. I know, I just... I wasn't expecting that. Are you really? Or are you just joking with me because I am?"

"No I really am. I mean.. really." Draco arched one eyebrow at the other man, feeling a great deal of satisfaction when Harry laughed again far more genuinely.

"So Draco Malfoy is super gay..."

"Draco Malfoy is really super gay." Draco echoed Harry's words, chuckling as he turned his head to look away from the other man.

"So does she know? Or did you just let her think what she wanted about you and..." Harry trailed off, waving his hand a bit.

"I didn't outright tell her. We had enough reason to go our separate ways without it, I didn't feel like adding something on top of it. I think she suspects."

"Yeah?" Harry leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees as he looked at Draco with interest. "Why do you think that?"

Draco stayed quiet for a few moments, smirking a bit to himself. An expression that was reminiscent of his days in Hogwarts. Eventually, shifting to cross his legs at the knee more comfortably he spoke again, careful with how he worded things.

"I was intense about my male friends. She commented once or twice about that... 'You're so intense with your friends, Draco. They'll get the wrong idea...'" He paused and chuckled, folding his arms in his lap. "She said it once and I just looked at her. Just silently met her eyes and held her gaze... She never said it again. So I think that was enough to either tell her what she needed to know, or give her an inkling that she didn't WANT to know and to leave it be."

"That was how Ginny started finding out." Harry said, knitting his fingers together a bit. "Not to change the subject and make this about me..."

"No.. Please tell me." Draco smiled, neither of them looking at each other but sharing such personal things. It was really rather nice.

"Mm.. I never cheated on her. Never. I wouldn't do that.. But I couldn't help seeking out new male friends. That I could have been into if it wasn't for her. And I'd never tell them anything. Ever... But you can just tell sometimes with the right people and so we'd get really close and get really... borderline obsessive, to be honest. One day, during one of these friendships, she was so angry at me for focusing so much on him and not on her. She said 'Why don't you just go and marry HIM then!?' And I just..."

Harry paused, shaking his head a bit and Draco heard him let out a soft sigh. Instinctively he reached over, touching the side of Harry's knee without looking at him. A small gesture and connection of solidarity. That he understood... Because he really did.

"I didn't say anything." Harry continued, moving his pinky finger to touch Draco's fingers on the side of his knee. "The look on my face must have been terrified. At first she had this look like she thought she was getting through to me and I was scared I'd lose her. But then.. it sunk in and she knew. She's so smart, she knew what that look really meant. We did talk more about it. Not a lot, though, she was so angry. And with every right to be."

"You can't help who you are." Draco said quietly, keeping his hand where it was with the small warm touch of Harry's finger against his.

"No you can't. But I dragged her into a marriage and children with me knowing from the start that it wasn't what I wanted."

Draco nodded, sighing softly. He understood what Harry meant. If he, himself, had had much choice in who he married or even IF he married, he wouldn't have gotten involved with Astoria, it would have been cruel. But he also understood the pressure Harry was under with the whole world watching him.

He chuckled softly, turning his head a bit so he could see the other man. "You know... In a way our situations aren't that different. I didn't have a choice, I had to get married. It's what is done, there was no way around it. You aren't in a pureblood family that would force you to marry, but you had the whole world waiting for you to settle in to your... what did you call it in your owl?"

"My perfect little happily ever after..."

"That's it." Draco nodded, sliding his hand a little further onto Harry's knee. "The whole world waiting for you to settle into your perfect little happily ever after and you didn't feel like you could do anything else. "

"I suppose you're right." Harry bobbed his head a couple of times slowly, his eyes turned down to look at Draco's hand on his knee. "And now we're both.. Well I suppose you're still married but you're also not."

"I'm not." Draco shook his head, smiling a bit. "I know Astoria dates. I don't spend a lot of time with Scorpius but he tells me about them. On paper we're legally married but that's just a piece of paper."

"And do you?"

"Do I what?" Draco looked up to Harry's face again curiously.

"Date."

He ducked his head, looking away and suddenly very aware fo the hand he had on Harry's knee. He pulled it away as he shook his head. "No. Do you?"

"Not yet." Harry shrugged his shoulders, then chuckled. "But maybe if the right granny comes along..."

That made Draco laugh and broke whatever tension he was feeling. "I forgot about the grannies.."

"Oh I hope that rumour starts circulating wildly... Honestly, I'll flirt my pants off with an old lady. But I can only be so polite towards actual 'eligible' girls."

"I totally understand."

Draco smiled, letting out a soft sigh. It was fully and very dark now and while he knew he had to get home, he was reluctant to do so. The whole evening had been rather wonderful. A slow start, neither of them had known how to interact with each other. But they'd overcome that awkwardness faster than Draco would ever have expected. The years at Hogwarts didn't seem to matter anymore. Whatever issues they'd had with each other... it was like they'd been between two different people than the ones that sat here now.

"I should get home." Draco eventually said, looking over at Harry and smiling. "But thank you. This was actually a lot of fun."

"I'm glad to be able to show you a bit of the Muggle world. Thank you for agreeing to come."

Draco stood up, brushing off his pants and straightening the jacket he wore. "Can I apparate from here? Are there rules about it?"

"No.. so long as you aren't seen, and no one is around."

Draco nodded, fiddling with a button on his jacket for a moment, something on the tip of his tongue to say but he couldn't quite figure out what it was. After a few moments he smiled again at Harry then raised a hand to wave before he turned on the spot and apparated home.

A few hours later he was getting ready for bed when he heard an owl tapping against the glass of his bedroom. He let it in and took the letter from it, sitting down on the edge of his bed to read it.

Draco,

Thanks for tonight. I haven't been out in ages and really haven't had much of a chance to speak frankly with someone about me and about Ginny who wasn't also related (and extremely biased) to her.

Hope if you have Ministry meetings tomorrow they aren't too awful. Maybe keep track of how many times Rezar coughs before he speaks? You really should make it a drinking game...

Sleep well,

~Harry

Chapter Text

Draco-

Oh Merlin. Have you seen The Prophet today? I am in The Prophet. The flirting with grannies thing has gotten way out of hand. It's only been three days, I know I said I hoped the rumour would spread but I didn't mean like this!

This is worse than Rita Skeeter making it sound like I was a weeping twat in fourth year.

I'm never setting foot outside my house again. Not ever!

~Harry

----------------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

I think you might be over reacting a little...

Skeeter writing about you was SO much worse. Her columns were epic, I looked forward to them all through school. So much fodder for discussion in the common room.

I actually haven't seen the article, I don't really read The Prophet daily. But if you're famous all over again for wanting to hook up with grandmothers I might have to go out and get a copy.

Sincerely,

Draco

----------------------------------------------------------

Draco,

You are absolutely no help at all. You are decidedly an UNhelp. I now feel self conscious not only about the current article about me, but 'extra retroactive self conscious' about all that stuff Skeeter wrote about me. I should have guessed from the things you DID say to me that worse was happening where I couldn't see you.

Don't give The Prophet more money by buying a copy. I'm including the page for you in this letter. If you HAVE to read it, and I rather preferred that you hadn't seen it even though I asked if you had, then read it from here.

~Harry

----------------------------------------------------------

 

Dear Harry,

I can't read this article, you've scribbled all over it and corrected it and added a dozen notes around the edges that I can't even read.

I'm going out to buy a copy right now.

Sincerely,

Draco

----------------------------------------------------------

Draco-

The point was to read MY version of it! The true version! Not the trumped up piece of tat that they're calling news! It's not even true!

Well, most of it isn't true. I mean, I did say I liked older women. And I did ask her if her mother was still living.

But I wasn't LEERING at her! At least I don't think I was. If I was, it was accidental...

Don't buy it!

~Harry

----------------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

I bought it. And I laughed so hard I could barely breathe.

You CLEARLY need to get out a little more. That woman you were talking to and asked after her mother was Constance Wademont. She WRITES for The Prophet, and is doing a bang up job trying to be as silkily poisonous as Rita Skeeter was.

You really might want to consider that hiding forever, that might be your only way of surviving this nightmare. She's practically got a full on dating advert for you going on here.

Sincerely,

Draco

----------------------------------------------------------

Draco-

Oh Merlin. Oh I am so stupid... Of all 23 of the people who talked to me that day, I had to get all cheeky bugger with her, didn't I. If it wasn't for bad luck I wouldn't have any luck at all.

I'm expecting a Howler any moment from Mrs Weasley about how this is going to affect Ginny. Ginny's name hasn't been dragged in yet, but everyone knows who I was married to, so that mention of "Potter's first wife, who perhaps used an Age Potion to snatch him up just after the war" is going to leave nothing a mystery.

Bollocks...

~Harry

----------------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

Oh nevermind the Weasley's.. Honestly if they can't see how utterly absurd this whole article is and that it's clearly not the truth then they never knew you properly to begin with.

Even if I had read this article in fourth year I would have known it was just shit journalism. I would have teased you ENDLESSLY about it and acted like I thought it was truth but no one in their right mind would take this as fact.

If they want to be angry about it they should be angry at Constance, not at you.

I could get you in touch with an actual reporter from the Prophet, you could offer them an actual interview to address this whole thing and put it to rest?

Sincerely,

Draco

----------------------------------------------------------

Draco-

That's really kind of you...

And a lot of that last letter from you actually sort of had tinges of the Draco Malfoy I knew in school... How interesting..

I don't know that it would be that simple. To put it to rest I'd have to talk about why my marriage actually broke up and everything, I expect. And I don't want to talk about that.

It's one thing to talk to you about it and the reason things ended with Ginny and the state of everything right now. It's another to tell the whole world.

Living at Grimmauld keeps me in the Muggle world easily. I can get the things I need from shops here and just avoid the Wizarding World for awhile. Things I need I can get by mail order, I didn't often go to shop in Diagon or Hogsmeade anyways.

I really appreciate the thought though. REALLY.

~Harry

----------------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

The Draco Malfoy you knew still exists, he just isn't as shallow as he was in school. I can still snark and spite and be quite vicious. I just do so with reason now. And a lot less ego.

You're living at Grimmauld Place? I didn't know that. I kind of figured you had a flat or something in London, also assuming that Ginny stayed living in the house in Godric's Hollow that you got together.

Is it weird to be there? It was a weird house when I was a child, I don't imagine that it's improved with age and everything.

Sincerely,

Draco

----------------------------------------------------------

Draco-

Is it weird that I'm actually quite glad thats harp side of you still exists?

It is a little strange to be here. A lot of memories, a lot of history.

A lot of tricks and traps and 'rules' to get around and get along here without causing a ruckus and making things worse.

It completely slipped my mind that you likely knew this place and visited it and everything. You say it was a weird house when you were a kid. How so? I'm just curious if how it is now is how it's always been or if it has gone downhill.

~Harry

----------------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

It might be a little strange. But it's also a relief to me that you are. Since it comes out whether I want it to or not sometimes.

It was always dark and rather murky inside. Oddly quiet all the time, except for if the portraits started shrieking, I'm sure you know all about that. But when they weren't it was muffled like everything was wrapped in cotton wool.

And because it was so quiet you felt you had to speak quietly and tiptoe around and not touch anything. I would almost think that the good Lady Black cast some spells on the house when company came over to make it feel that way and encourage a rather meek brand of visitor. Power trip, most likely. She did like to be seen as immensely powerful.

Kreacher was awful. I mean, you knew both him and Dobby rather well, so you know the difference I would have seen living in a house with Dobby versus that house with Kreacher.

Is he still there?

Sincerely,

Draco

----------------------------------------------------------

Draco-

I'm going to watch for it to come out now.

Kreacher is still here. I'm guessing that you knew him as a dour and gloomy elf which he certainly isn't anymore. He is actually very pleasant and jovial and keeps a very clean house....

I'll tell you the story of how that happened sometime. It's actually an interesting tale.

But no matter what he does and what attitude he has, the house is still weird. I'd give anything to be able to remove the portraits but Sirius was sure they'd been put up with a permanent sticking charm. So I'm stuck with the sodding lot of them...

~Harry

----------------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

They aren't up with a permanent sticking charm. They got moved around a lot, I saw them get transferred from room to room. Giving everyone a new space, rewarding the portraits that served Lady Black well and punishing those that talked back.

But they have to be removed and moved around by a pureblood family member who is 'worthy'. Sirius wouldn't have been able to move them because he'd been cut off from the family and he'd all but renounced the Black name. And no one else that's been through there would have been able to move them either.

I'd be willing to bet I could, though.

Sincerely,

Draco

----------------------------------------------------------

Draco-

Oh that makes so much sense... I never would have thought of that but as soon as you said it.. Yeah.

Do you really think you could move them? Could you try? I don't want to take up your time, but it would make such a difference if I could just stack them all in the basement and forget about them. It might actually give me the drive to do something with the rest of the house. Right now it's like 'sure I could put up new curtains but the hook nosed, beady eyed old man in that portrait is still going to be there glaring at me so what's the point?'.

~Harry

----------------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

If you hadn't asked I was going to offer to give you a hand. We could do a sweep through the whole house and get rid of and move anything you don't want around.

I know how you feel, honestly. About wanting to change things but 'why bother'. I live at Malfoy Manor (obviously...) and wish I could change so much of it. But it would be such a massive undertaking, and even if I did I'd have to endure my mother when she visited. Touching things and looking around and sniffing about it. Telling me in that patronizing way that she has that if I'd wanted to change things I could have consulted her for advice so it wouldn't look so 'bohemian' (translation - 'Horrid and Tacky'). So I leave things alone. I only ever use a few rooms anyways, I'm just one person here.

Sincerely,

Draco

----------------------------------------------------------

Draco-

Funny we're both in the same boat again. Both of us living on our own in houses way too big for us, neither of us liking them much but are too apathetic to do anything about it.

We're clearly 'living the high life', my friend. Ha...

But, I really don't want to be apathetic anymore. I'm likely going to live here for a long time so if you don't mind helping me out, I'd really really appreciate it?

Are you free any time this week?

~Harry

----------------------------------------------------------

Dear Harry,

I don't have any other meetings until Friday afternoon.

I could even come tomorrow if you like?

Sincerely,

Draco

----------------------------------------------------------

Draco-

Come tomorrow. Mid morning? We can have lunch and figure out what we're going to do with all these... lovely... paintings.

Kreacher will be pleased to see you, I bet. And I'm quite interested to see what you think of him now.

~Harry

Chapter Text

"Oh shut UP, you deranged old BAT!"

Draco shouted over the indignant shrieks and screams and insults of the Lady Black as he and Harry, accompanied by a worried looking Kreacher, hauled her portrait down the stairs into the depths of the basement.

"Kreacher..." Harry said, trailing off with a grunt as he hefted the portrait a little higher. "I don't want to put your Mistress where you can't see her, but I don't want her interfering with the rest of the house. Where can we put her down here for you?"

Draco couldn't help but smile faintly to himself that even amid the blood curdling screams, as though they were torturing the old lady, Harry was making sure that Kreacher was happy.

He HAD been surprised when Kreacher answered the door. He was used to him being utterly filthy, stinking and completely unkempt. But the House Elf that greeted him was clean and his pillowcase immaculately pressed. Not to mention that he smiled at Draco and at Harry and served them both tea with obvious happiness. He had to remember to ask Harry what had happened.

Later, though.

They hefted the portrait across the long basement where Keacher directed them, leaning it against the wall facing inwards, but on enough of an incline that Kreacher could slide between it and the wall to see his old Mistress.

"And that's enough space for you?" Harry asked the House Elf, crouching down to look into the small space where Kreacher was. "We'll get you a cushion that fits in there to sit on."

Draco could have sworn he saw Kreacher's bulbous eyes brim with tears at such a kind gesture. He nodded to Harry without speaking and the dark haired man straightened up then.

"That's the last of them. Thank you, so much."

"It was really no trouble." Draco said, taking off the work gloves he had put on (and endured a bit of teasing from Harry over) and brushed his hands off. "You should have an easier time with the house in general now."

"What do you mean?" Harry led the way back up the stairs, pressing his hands into his back and leaning a bit to stretch out his muscles.

"I mean that the house would have been getting a lot of mixed signals from the presence of those paintings. They were more than just the moving portraits like the ones at Hogwarts, far more magical and with far more influence. Even though you're the rightful and legal owner of the house, it probably only recognized that in a very small way. The influence of the portraits was greater, the Black family magic would have hung around."

"Is that why it always felt cold and smelled funny and everything stayed dim?" Harry brought Draco back into the kitchen where Kreacher had left a feast on the table for them for lunch.

"It's entirely possible. Houses that have had magical families in them for long periods of time, like centuries and centuries of it, tend to be a little bit sentient. A little bit alive... They actually develop their own personalities and have their own sort of magic."

"Is Malfoy Manor like that?"

Draco nodded as he sat down at the table, then got up again to go to the sink and wash his hands, speaking as he scrubbed. "Very much so. Malfoys have lived in it for as far back as any of us know. Scorpius will take it over either when he gets married or when I just don't want to live there and be in his hair anymore."

He moved back to the table and sat down, then looked reproachfully at Harry who was holding a biscuit.

"What?" Harry asked, frowning at Draco who was looking directly at his hands. "Oh you're so fancy... Fine."

Draco smiled as the dark haired man got up to go to the sink and wash his hands as well. "It's not fancy to wash your hands before you eat. It's actually the most basic of hygiene."

"My hands weren't even dirty."

"You've been lugging filthy portraits around with no gloves on for several hours. Your hands were filthy..."

"Whatever, Little Prince."

Draco laughed, scrunching his nose up at what Harry said, shaking his head as he reached for a sandwich. They ate in silence for awhile before Draco broke to ask something he'd been dying to since they exchanged owls a few days before.

"So... Did you get your Howler from Mrs Weasley?"

Harry grimaced openly and sighed, waiting until he was finished chewing before he replied. "No, it was something much worse."

"What's worse than a Howler?"

"An owl from Hermione. A really long one. Talking about how I was free to live my life how I pleased, and she had nothing against me being gay, but could I please give some thought to Ginny and her family if I was going to start letting preposterous rumours about me fly around in lieu of the actual truth."

"Ouch... That's the really long winded version of 'I'm not angry at you, but I am disappointed in you.'"

"No kidding." Harry said, reaching for a handful of carrot sticks. "I was going to write back and explain but I figured it didn't really matter. I couldn't undo the article being printed, and even if it was an accident, it still happened."

"I was going to say you could still apologize, but I get the feeling you've already done that so many times the words have lost all meaning."

"Pretty much."

"Difficult place to be in." Draco said, nodding a couple of times, toying with a biscuit on his plate. "Although I have to admit I'm a little angry that they're treating you that way."

"Why? It is all my fault, I sort of deserve it."

"See, that's the problem." Draco said, straightening himself up in his chair a bit. His shoulders set back and his chin raising a slight bit. He looked every bit the arrogant boy he was in school though he didn't know it and couldn't control it even if he'd wanted to.

"I understand that you're responsible for the break in your marriage. But you didn't DO anything terrible to Ginny. Yes you married her when you knew you were gay. You pursued a life with her that you felt you had to. If the Weasley's want to be mad at something, they should be mad that you felt so pressured by everything and everyone around you, and the weight of who you are, that you couldn't be honest about what you really wanted. Being angry at YOU for feeling like you were backed into a corner because of the wizarding world's expectations of you is ridiculous. They're making you a scapegoat."

"I could have told them, though. Ron and Hermione were my best friends. Ginny was a good friend too. I could have told them I was gay and they could have helped me figure out what to do."

"Sure." Draco said, tilting his head a bit and raising his eyebrows. "Between figuring out the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Or dealing with Umbridge and no one believing you that Voldemort was back. Or maybe in year six when you were having those extra lessons and learning all about Voldemort's history. At the very LEAST during the year you were on the run looking for the Horcruxes. I'm sure it was weighing very heavily on your mind to have a discussion about your sexuality in the middle of all of that..."

Draco stop talking then, furrowing his eyebrows a bit at the look Harry was giving him. "What?"

"Nothing." Harry said, shaking his head and chuckling a bit as he leaned back in his chair. "I've just not seen the sharp tongued Draco Malfoy in a very, very long time. And I never in a million years would have guessed I'd see him again while he was angrily justifying something I'd done."

Draco ducked his head a bit, smiling and going slightly pink. "I told you, the arrogant prick still exists. Just not quite the same way."

"Clearly." Harry said, his eyes staying on Draco.

"Well... Anyways." Draco said, clearing his throat and softening his tone a bit. "The point I'm making is that you didn't really have the luxury of being able to explore something like that, given everything else you were up against. You got shunted into normal life when you were 20, after all the trials were done, all the clean up and all the rebuilding of the world was finally finished. With the pressure of the whole WORLD watching to see what you were going to do next. I think the Weasley's expectations of you are a little too high."

Harry was quiet for a few moments and Draco let him be. He could see he was thinking and thinking hard, he just hoped some of what he said would sink in a bit.

Eventually Harry raised his head again and looked at Draco curiously. "Did you apologize to Astoria for things not working out with you?"

Draco shook his head, smiling a bit. "No I didn't. Because none of it could have been helped. Even if I was the person she had been expecting, and even if I was openly gay, we still would have had to get married. We both knew that, neither of us apologized to each other."

"It was really.. that arranged? When you said it before I thought it was just sort of... Well I don't know what I thought, but I didn't think it was that set up." Harry fiddled with his napkin as he watched Draco.

"It was going to be Daphne, but she refused and her parents told her that if they could find someone more suitable then she wouldn't have to marry me. She ended up with someone her dad's age in need of a wife after his first one passed away. So Astoria got stuck with me because one of the Greengrass' had to marry a Malfoy."

"Is Scorpius going to have to do the same? Marry someone you say he has to?"

Draco shook his head almost before Harry was finished speaking." Absolutely not. Astoria and I are in complete agreement about it, as well. It's funny.." Draco chuckled a bit, picking up another biscuit. "We absolutely did not work as a married couple, but as parents we are extremely good together. We've rarely had even a minor disagreement about Scorpius. That much is nice..."

Draco exhaled softly, taking a bite of his biscuit. Once he'd swallowed it his eyes found Harry's again and he smiled. "We have very heavy conversations, you and I."

"We have a lot to catch up on." Harry said in return, smiling back at the other man. "There's been quite a few years between Hogwarts and now where we never saw each other aside from the train. And there wasn't much information passed in the polite nods we gave each other."

"That's true..." Draco nodded, then got to his feet. "Let's take another look through the house and see if there's anything else that needs my help."

Harry got to his feet and joined him and they both started going room by room, poking into things that Harry had barely even looked at, let alone touched. Harry offered Draco anything he wanted to take from the house since the things there were technically family things, but he didn't want anything.

They filled some sacks with trinkets and odds and ends and things that were distinctly strange and that Harry didn't want to look at. He left out a few silver framed photos of Regulus, which Draco found odd and filed away to ask about sometime, like what happened with Kreacher. But they were too busy sorting things for him to dwell much on it.

When they got to a room on an upper floor that had been a study, Harry paused in the doorway, hesitating as he stared at the desk against one wall.

"What's wrong?" Draco asked, setting his sack of things down.

"Mm.. When we were here the first time, there was a Boggart in that desk." Harry said, moving halfway across the room and stopping.

"Is it still there?" Draco was reaching for his wand, but stopped when Harry shook his head.

"No. No, I was just remembering what happened. I forgot all about it until I saw the desk. Mrs Weasley had come up here to take care of it. It was the same day I'd had that horrible trial about whether I'd even be allowed back into Hogwarts after using a Patronus in front of my cousin.."

"Add that thing with your cousin to the list of stories I want to hear about sometime." Draco said and was happy when Harry smiled. "But go on..."

"So she came upstairs from the party we were having and I went up awhile later and she was in here. She kept pointing her wand at it and saying Riddikulus and all that, but it just kept changing into people in her family but showing them dead. Eventually it turned it me, dead and bloody on the floor. I was trying to get her to leave but then Lupin and Sirius and Mad Eye came in. Lupin took care of the Boggart and they just shooed me off. I never did talk to her about it afterwards."

"That's awful." Draco said, moving to stand next to Harry, looking at the desk. "Even if you know it's a Boggart, some of the things it can turn into... It's terrible just to see it, you can't get your head to wrap around turning it into something funny."

"Did Lupin find a Boggart for Slytherin to practice on in third year? He did for us."

Draco nodded, turning his eyes away a bit. "He did, I hung back, I didn't want to fight it. Cowardly..."

Harry furrowed his brow as he looked at Draco and shook his head. "I don't think it's cowardly... You must have known exactly what it would turn into. Most people do, you shouldn't feel like a coward for not facing off against it."

Draco nodded slightly, still feeling a bit of that sink in his stomach he'd had in third year when Lupin had explained the Boggart and the process of defeating it.

"Was yours Voldemort?" Draco asked Harry, moving towards the desk so he could open the drawers, checking for anything inside just for something to do.

"No. Dementors..." Harry said, watching the other man. "What would yours have been?"

Draco hesitated only for a second before speaking just above a mumble. "My father."

He didn't say anything else, banging the drawer he was looking into shut a little too hard. It was only a couple of moments after he spoke before he felt a hand on his back. Turning he looked to Harry's face in slight question. "I thought it would be kind of obvious."

Harry shook his head, pressing his hand a little harder against his back. "No. I thought you adored your father."

"Terrified of him." Draco said, shaking his head. "Oh he provided well, he paved the way for anything I wanted. But it all came at a price."

He couldn't keep the bitter and dark note out of his voice and Harry's fingers flexed against his back. He focused fully on the warmth of that hand on him, seeping through his clothes and into his skin. Like an anchor keeping him there.

"Is this the last room?" Draco asked after a long minute of silence, not wanting to discuss the subject further.

"Unfortunately not, there's still another floor. But we can do it another day." Harry said, dropping his hand down from Draco's back.

They both picked up their sacks of trinkets and carted them back downstairs. Draco got to watch as Harry gave them both to Kreacher and told him he could decorate the basement with any that he wanted.

Draco thought Kreacher might keel over and die from sheer joy at that moment. He had to work hard not to laugh as he watched the tiny House Elf try and drag BOTH full bags towards the basement door, despite them weighing at least twice what he did.

After they'd helped Kreacher down to the basement with his new treasures and watched for a few minutes while he rummaged in the bags and started hopping around cramming things on dusty shelves and rock ledges, they went back upstairs and Draco got his coat on.

He was reluctant to leave, but he did need to get home again.

"Thanks for your help today."

Harry was leaning against the open doorframe, his arms crossed loosely over his chest while Draco stood on the front step. He couldn't help his mind wandering ever so slightly to how good Harry looked standing there. That casual lean against the house that looked so natural and so...

Never mind. Never mind all of that.

"It's no trouble at all." Draco said, nodding with a smile to Harry. "I'll come back and help you with the rest of the house soon."

"Very soon, I hope."

Draco smiled back at Harry, giving him a wave before he turned on the spot and apparated back to Malfoy Manor.

He walked in, closing the door behind him and handing off his coat to the House Elf when she greeted him greeted him, asking for a cup of tea in his study when she had a moment. He was deep in pondering what he could do for his own House Elf that could possibly make her look as blissfully happy as Kreacher did that day, but his thoughts were rudely interrupted when he stepped into the study and realized he wasn't alone.

His mother was sitting at his desk, in front of her were stacks of letters. Letters in his handwriting.

Letters addressed to Harry.

"Hello Draco." She said cooly, resting one elbow on the desk, touching a finger to her chin. "I believe we need to talk."

Chapter Text

Draco-

So... I haven't heard from you for a few days. Just wondering if you're okay?

~Harry

---------------------------------------------

Draco-

Seriously, are you okay? It's been five days since I last heard from you. I don't want to go all weird on you and act like you owe me letters when you don't but... Just let me know you're okay?

~Harry

---------------------------------------------

Draco-

Okay I waited longer. It's been almost two weeks now. Did I say something wrong?
Should I have not asked for your help here? Whatever it is, I'm really sorry...

~Harry

---------------------------------------------

Draco-

I don't know if you're mad at me or what. But I kind of feel like I should at least have a chance to talk to you about whatever it is. If I don't hear back from you in two days I'm just going to come to Malfoy Manor.

~Harry

---------------------------------------------

Draco sat at his desk, his elbows on the surface and hands squeezed tight in his hair as he looked down on the latest owl from Harry.

Guilt coursed through him, as it had with each letter he had received in the past two and a half weeks. He hadn't replied to any of them even though he had desperately wanted to.

But the argument he'd had with his mother still rang in his ears...

She had never turned up unannounced at Malfoy Manor before. It wasn't proper to do so, so he had never had to worry about trying to come up with excuses for why Astoria wasn't there if she couldn't turn up for the visit. He'd always had time to prepare.

But this time his mother had come without warning. She had come because she'd heard a rumour that Draco had been seen with Harry sitting in a park eating chips and looking very comfortable together.

He hadn't seen a soul in that park when he was with Harry but... He must have missed something.

So his mother came to Malfoy Manor to talk to him. Finding him gone, she had asked the House Elf where he'd gone. When she heard he was meeting Harry at Grimmauld Place she started to snoop in the study. Had found the drawer full of unsent letters.

Had opened more than a few and read them.

That was when Draco had found her and they'd had a discussion. A very heated and pointed discussion that involved a lot of probing questions from her that he hadn't wanted to answer. And by virtue of him not wanting to answer, she actually got the information she was looking for.

"You will not see Harry Potter." She said icily near the end of the conversation, sweeping her bangs out of her eyes. "People are always watching him. If you want to ensure that your marriage still looks intact, and trust me Draco, you do want that, you will keep your head down. And not associate with people that have a spotlight pointed directly at them."

She swept to the door then, Draco following after her without saying anything.

"Our family has enough troubles as it is, Draco. Don't go looking for more."

And with that she had left him to try and figure out what exactly had just happened. Through the entirety over the conversation she had managed to find out that Astoria and Draco lived apart and had been for quite a long time. That Draco had been writing letters to Harry since just after the war had ended. That their friendship was new but they had seen each other twice.

And that Draco did not, as it happens, want his mother to try and find a second wife for him. That Astoria was a lovely girl but she was a girl and therein lay the problem.

She had taken the information well, or had at least presented herself as taking it well and he was grateful for that.

But she had also made it clear that no matter what, he had to continue to appear dedicated to Astoria. And not be seen with Harry...

Harry, who had sent him letters repeatedly over the past couple of weeks. Worried about him and trying to seek him out. Worried enough that he was ready to come to Malfoy Manor, a place he was sure the other man did NOT ever want to come back to, just to make sure he was okay.

It stung to see someone care about him so much when he didn't deserve it. He didn't... And not just because of his past, but because he was cowardly in the present as well.

Someone brave would have stood up to their mother, who he had always felt understood how backwards this Pureblood nonsense really was. Someone brave wouldn't have waited for Harry to write to him, they would have written to him first and told him everything that his mother had said. Laughed it off and continued their friendship.

Someone brave would not have clutched at each of harry's letters like they were life preservers and laid awake at night in agonies of guilt for letting them go unanswered.

But now... Now he had to try and figure out what to do. Harry was threatening to turn up at his door and he knew the other man would make good on that. He either wrote back to him, and made it obvious that he had been not replying before this. Or he let him come to the door and risked him being seen here and STILL come up with a reason for not writing back to him.

He wanted to do nothing. He wanted Harry to just come to the door. He wanted to see him, not brush him off....

But instead he pulled a piece of parchment towards himself and started trying to write Harry a letter. Tried to think up good reason for his silence that wasn't the truth... Tried to find reasons to keep him at arms length.

He was so absorbed in what he was doing he didn't hear the knock on the front door. He was completely unaware that he had company until he heard someone clear their throat in the doorway of his study. He looked up, slightly annoyed and very distracted, expecting the House Elf, but faltered when he saw who it was. Made an incredibly embarrassing noise of surprise. And just stared for a few moments before speaking.

"You said you'd come in a couple of days if you hadn't heard from me."

"I know." Harry said, smiling a bit from where he stood across the room. "But I'm bad with time."

"You're... Bad with time." Draco couldn't help but laugh, it fell out of him in a low chuckle as he shook his head, reaching to start balling up his attempt at a letter to the other man.

"Was that for me?" Harry asked, gesturing to the parchment as he stepped further into the room. "You were actually going to write back to me? Why haven't you before... I was worried about you..."

Draco stilled he hands, setting the ball of parchment down as he sighed. "My mother.." He started, trying to bolster the courage up to actually explain it. To be brave and just spit out the whole story.

"Your mother.." Harry sat down in one of the leather chairs facing Draco's desk, leaning forward with his forearms on his knees. "What about her?"

"She was here. When I got back from Grimmauld Place. She never comes unannounced but this time she did. She snooped around. She found all the letters I had written to you."

"How?" Harry said, leaning forward a little more. "I have all the letters you've been writing to me. Did she find the ones I wrote you, you mean?"

"No, I..." Draco trailed off, sighing a bit as he realized he'd just outted himself to Harry on something else. At this point he figured he was already in this, he might as well just tell all.

He leaned over and opened the desk drawer that was full of the letters he'd written to Harry but never sent. He raised his eyes to the other man's, tipping his head towards the drawer. "These letters. The one that got to you accidentally wasn't the first. I've been writing you letters since just after the war."

Harry said nothing for a few moments as he looked at the contents of the drawer. Dozens and dozens and dozens of folded letters were inside of it. Enough that it looked overfull, looked like Draco was going to run out of room in it soon.

"She found the letters." He eventually said, pointedly not making a big deal about them existing in the first place. "So?"

"So she read some of them. And apparently someone saw you and I together in that Muggle park..."

"Ahhhhh..." Harry nodded his head slowly and with a bit of a smile. "Alright, now I understand. Someone saw us together, she heard about it, now people are talking. It is a very unlikely thing to see. Our animosity towards each other at school wasn't a secret."

"I know." Draco said with a nod, sighing softly. "But I don't understand why it matters so much to her or to anyone at this point..."

"I don't either." Harry said, sitting back in the chair. "But I'm guessing she has to do with why you haven't been writing to me."

"She told me I couldn't see you. That our family has 'enough trouble' as it is and adding this into it... So I didn't write. I honestly didn't think you'd be so persistent, though. I thought if I didn't answer you that would be it."

"Do you think I'm that shallow and fickle?" Harry asked with a smile, raising his eyebrows.

"No.." Draco smiled, slightly embarrassed. "No I don't. I just didn't think you were quite so pushy."

"Pushy!" Harry laughed, rubbing his nose with the back of his hand. "I should be insulted, but it's actually a pretty accurate description. I am pushy. I definitely have been pushy with you in the past two weeks. Showing up here totally unannounced kind of just cements it, doesn't it."

"Kind of." Draco agreed, raising his head so he could see the other man, sighing out a short breath. "Look... I don't want to not see you just because of my mother."

"I don't want that either. You could have just explained it to me, we could have figured it out together."

Something about the way Harry said that send a little jolt through Draco's veins. His cheeks coloured a little darker and he shook his head at himself. "I'm not used to that."

"Used to what?"

"Having someone to help me work something out. Figuring something out 'together'. It's a new concept."

"Well you do." Harry said, his voice a little more gentle after Draco spoke. "You're a friend to me now. Friends work out problems together. But even really good friends still have to at least give each other a heads up about what's wrong. I was crap at Divination, you know."

Draco laughed at that, feeling tension melt away from within him that had grown every day he hadn't been talking to Harry. He shook his head a bit, fixing Harry with a cheeky look. "What subjects WERE you any good at?"

"Defence Against the Dark Arts." Harry said, scooping up the ball of parchment on Draco's desk, tossing it into the air to catch it for himself. "Potions, when I had Snape's old textbook."

"Impressive academic career." Draco said, crossing his legs and settling into his chair more comfortably. "And you fancied becoming an Auror with a record like that."

"Well it never happened, hm? So maybe we don't have to rehash my poor academic performance."

Draco smiled, just watching the other man for a few moments before he spoke again. "I can't be seen with you in public. At least.. not right now."

"So we don't go out in public." Harry said, catching the parchment once more and then holding it as he leaned forward. "We can meet here or meet at Grimmauld Place."

"I really fancied those chips, though. I had wanted to ask you if we could go back."

"Ah, now see...". Harry grinned, leaning his arms onto the desk so he was closer to the other man, pointing a finger at him. "This is a perfect example of why the Take Away business for food is a good idea. I go pick up the chips and bring them to wherever we're meeting."

Draco couldn't help but laugh again, realizing Harry was totally right. "And to think I was skeptical of it as a business model."

"Well, you live and you learn. And really... I don't 'go out' places all that often as it is. It's not like us getting together privately is going to put a crimp in my lifestyle."

"Mm.. I just don't like that I have to hide being friends with you. I don't like making it a 'thing' that we have to meet in secret."

"Some secrets are good."

Harry said, his voice a little lower than before. A tone that made a tingle slither up Draco's back for some reason as he raised his head to meet the dark haired man's eyes.

"Some secrets are very much worth keeping."

Draco couldn't breathe for a minute, and when he did it can in an embarrassingly obvious rush. There was nothing leading in what Harry said, not really. And yet....

And yet...

"So all those letters you wrote to me. Do I get to see them?"

Harry had moved on to a different topic, and one that startled Draco and shook the fog in his head away.

"Absolutely not." He said, putting a hand against the front of the drawer protectively. "Just like the one you got, they were to you but they weren't actually for you. Well.. Except for the very first one. I did intend to send it, I just never did."

"Then... Can I see that one?"

Draco hesitated for a moment. Trying to remember clearly what was in the letter but it had been so many years he only had a vague recollection. Part of him wanted to clamp his hand against the drawer and then once Harry left, move all of the letters somewhere else.

But another part of him was prodding him to do it. Since he had always intended for Harry to have that one... And now he could just hand it to him in person.

He looked at Harry, really looked at him. Met his gaze and held it, measuring those steady dark eyes with his own.

Then he opened the drawer again. It took him a full couple of minutes of sorting through the letters until he found the one he had written first.

It was a little worse for wear, having been handled so many times and so long ago, but Harry's name was still on it, it was still sealed and it still had... everything he'd always wanted to say to him within it.

He set it on the desk and pushed it across to Harry, nodding slightly. "Just don't read it until you go home. I don't want you to read it in front of me..."

Harry nodded. He picked up the letter carefully, turning it over in his hands a couple of times before he just held it flat between two palms.

"Thank you." He said, smiling warmly and genuinely at Draco. "I know this is a very big gesture..."

Chapter Text

"So I was in the park not far from my Aunt and Uncle's house... I spent a lot of time there in the park over the summer. There and in the flowerbed under the living room window."

"In the flowerbed... Why?" Draco shook his head, shifting a bit to settle more comfortably in the arm chair.

They were sitting at Grimmauld Place in front of a roaring fire while snow pelted down around the house outside. Already the atmosphere had changed since the last time Draco had been there. There was no bleakness to it, no dingy and grubby look. Everything looked new and looked more cozy.

"They wouldn't let me sit in the living room with them to watch the news. If I laid in the garden outside the window I could hear the tv. I was listening to hear if anything weird had happened that might be attributed to Voldemort."

"You still have to show me tv sometime. And what 'watching the news' entails, but keep going.."

Draco was finally getting around to asking Harry about the Dementor attack. A story he really wanted to hear to compare to what his father had said happened.

"So I was in the park and my cousin, Dudley, and a bunch of his mates turns up. They were kind of a gang, a bunch of tossers acting on their increased testosterone. Dudley turned out okay in the end but at the time we hated each other's guts. So they see me and I said something not nice. I don't remember what it was but it was pretty much to cause problems. I was so fucked up that summer, I was looking to antagonize. Anyways, he responds in kind, we get into a bit of a scuffle when he says something about me talking in my sleep, about my mom and about Cedric..."

"Even at the time I wondered how you were doing that summer. Being a Malfoy and everything, we knew Voldemort was back. We knew everything you said happened at the Tri Wizard Tournament was real. Made me sick to think what you faced and then everyone was trying to smear you as a lunatic..." Draco shifted uncomfortably in his chair, frowning a bit then waving his hand. "Sorry, continue.."

"It's fine. I actually... I like hearing that. Not just about THIS in particular, but I like hearing what was going on in your part of the world at the same time as what was happening in mine. It rounds things out a bit. Things I never knew that actually fit into my timeline... Anyways.." He shook his head, smiling as he went on. "So we get into a bit of a scuffle and I pull my wand on him. Which makes all his tosser mates howl with laughter, but Dudley just shuts the fuck up immediately. He knows what the wand does and he's had a few run ins with wizards that didn't go well. Then all of a sudden the weather turns. The wind just goes crazy... Dudley is yelling at me asking me what I'm doing but I didn't do anything. We run... And we're racing for home when all of a sudden there's dementors..."

"Dementors right in your Muggle neighbourhood?" Draco asked, then let out a low breath as Harry nodded.

"Dementors in my Muggle neighbourhood. And they're coming for us.. One's got Dudley and is leeching off his energy so hard and fast... I was terrified. I cast the Patronus without thinking twice because what else could I do? I sent them away, I got Dudley up and we limped home... But not before finding out one of my neighbours that I'd known my whole life there was a witch. That was baffling, but not quite as much as the Dementors."

"So you got home. Then what?" Draco was leaning forward now, listening to what Harry was saying avidly.

"My Aunt and Uncle flip out, thinking I've done something to Dudley. Dudley thinks I've done something to him as well. And at the time it seemed massively unfair but looking back now I understand why they thought that.. So we're having a bit of a row and then I get a message from the Ministry saying I've been expelled from Hogwarts for the use of underage magic and that Ministry Officials are going to be turning up to take my wand."

"No!!" Draco said, shocked. He shook his head, smacking his hands on his legs. "That's ridiculous!"

"I know." Harry said, nodding and smiling as he watched Draco take all this in. "But then right after that I get another message saying that I'm to attend a hearing to decide if I'm going to be expelled instead.. A few days later some of the Order of the Phoenix show up and gets me out of the Dursley's. They brought be here for the first time... Everyone was here and I learned about the Order and went to my trial. You know how that turned out."

"Thankfully yes... Although I had no idea what actually happened." Draco said, leaning back in his chair again and picking up his mug of tea to sip. "All my father said was you were brought in some charges and with any luck you'd be wandless in a week."

"Certainly would have helped HIS cause if that had happened." Harry said, nodding his head a bit.

"I can't imagine. Fudge was so corrupted by that point, half fear and cowardice and half just complete delusion about the whole thing. He'd want you written off, though he didn't have anything to do with Voldemort."

"I always wondered if Fudge had any dealings with Voldemort..."

Draco shook his head, sipping his tea again before setting the mug back down. "No he didn't. My father kept him in his pocket, of course. Paved the way with money and outlandish lies and promises that he never intended to keep. He instilled most of the doubt into Fudge about what you and Dumbledore said about Voldemort being back. But Fudge wanted to believe him anyways, which made his tactic pretty effective..."

Draco watched Harry carefully, as he always did when he started talking about his family and their involvement in the other side of the war. He knew Harry didn't hold him personally accountable for any of it. But he couldn't help being worried that at some point he'd say something that went too far, that revealed something that Harry didn't know and couldn't stomach. That even if he didn't hold Draco accountable or responsible for any of this, he wouldn't be able to stand being around him once he knew too much. So far, Harry had never flinched, not once.

"Fudge was always a coward. And Scrimgeour was a ridiculously pompous figurehead. We've done so much better with Kingsley."

"I couldn't agree more." Draco said honestly, relaxing a bit as the conversation wound away from what he'd said quite naturally. "He's spent time in both the Wizarding World and the Muggle world, it's surprising just how beneficial that is."

They sat in silence for a little while, digesting the conversation. When Harry lightly cleared his throat, Draco brought his attention back to the room. "Hm?"

"I was just... Wondering... If your mother has spoken to you again?" Harry asked, his eyes seemingly unable to stay on Draco's for more than a moment.

"No..." Draco said warily, shaking his head a bit. "She hasn't been to see me or sent any owls since she turned up at the Manor unannounced. .... Why?"

"I saw her out yesterday." Harry said, clearly speaking in careful tones.

"And?" Draco, on the other hand, spoke sharply. He frowned, leaning forward in his chair again to watch Harry closely. "Did she say anything to you?"

"Erm... Yes." Harry said, looking down at his hands in his lap. "She made very polite small talk for a few moments. Which she's never done before. Normally she looks through me if I'm not there, I see her out fairly frequently."

"Just small talk?"

"Until she was taking her leave. Just before she left she said 'I trust you're keeping your nose out of my son's business, Mr. Potter. It would serve you well to do so.'"

Anger burned through Draco's veins, leaving him absolutely speechless as he looked at Harry, his eyes as blazing as grey eyes could be. "That nasty... Of all the...." He spat the words out in unfinished sentences, absolutely livid.

He got to his feet, pacing in front of the fire as he tried to find the words for the anger he felt. "I can't believe she'd speak to you like that. I don't understand her right now. I absolutely don't. She's never been like this before. Certainly she's been careful about doing things 'proper' that are seen publicly, but this is.. This is absolutely NONE of her business. And she has no RIGHT to speak to you that way...."

"It's alright, Draco..."

Harry's words were gentle and soft. A cool wash of water over the heat of his anger. He stopped his pacing so he could turn and look at the other man.

"It's not alright." He said, sighing softly. "It isn't."

"Maybe not exactly alright. But she didn't say anything that was truly terrible.."

"She IMPLIED, though." Draco said, practically throwing himself down into the chair he'd just jumped up from.

"Implied, maybe, but she wasn't awful. And it hasn't stopped us being friends. I could have taken her implied threat seriously and not had you back here to visit, but I didn't."

Draco was quiet for a second, smiling after that moment of thought. Warmed in a different way now as it was clear Harry had no intentions of getting riled up by whatever venom his mother spouted at him. Or implied at him.

"I'm glad you didn't." He said quietly, relaxing a little.

"Draco..." Harry said after a moment, making a soft noise and surprisingly colouring red in his cheeks. "Draco, do you remember everything you put into that first letter you wrote me?"

It was on the tip of his tongue to say yes, not wanting to admit that he had, actually, forgotten. But he didn't want to lie to Harry, not about this or anything really. So he shook his head a bit, smiling slightly. "No... I remember the general idea. I remember how badly I wanted to send it to you. It drove me nuts wanting to make sure you got it, I just never found the courage. Why?"

Harry went silent again for a few moments, seeming to debate within himself before he got up and went to a desk in the corner of the room. He looked through what was obviously the pages of the letter Draco had sent, picking up one and bringing it back over to him.

"Most of it is a variation on what was in the letter I did get from you accidentally. But you should read this part again." He put a hand against Draco's as he started to unfold it to read right there. "Maybe later. When you get home."

Later it was, when Draco was home and settled into an armchair in front of his own fire. He took out the worn piece of parchment and unfolded it to read.

---------------------------------------------------------

...never would have thought things would end the way they did. If it wasn't for you, I'd be dead. If it wasn't for you, we'd all be dead.

I didn't want to live in a world where you didn't. I didn't want to even think about a world, surviving in a world where you weren't there. Because that's all it would have been. Surviving.

I wasn't far when they carried you out of the woods. When everyone thought you were dead. I saw you. Limp and lifeless.... Seemingly lost to us. Lost to the world. Lost to me...

I wanted to scream, it hurt so badly. Everything in me was on fire in pain and agony at the idea that you were dead. You were gone. I'd never hated the world so much as I did right then. I'd never wanted to die so much as I did right then. I wished that the curse you'd set on me in Sixth year had killed me if it was going to end like this.

I really thought you'd win. I was banking everything on you winning. And there you were dead.

And then you weren't... And then you WEREN'T. And the pain stopped... And I watched you, my ears ringing. I didn't hear anything you said. Time slowed down, burning every move you made into my mind. Into my memory forever. I watched you kill Voldemort. I watched you kill the man that had been using me and my whole family as trivial puppets. I watched you finish the darkest wizard our world will likely ever know. Freeing me. Completely... Freeing the world, but I'm a selfish bastard and I could think of nothing but the fact that you.. were freeing me...

And I knew then. I knew it so clearly. So achingly clearly...

That there would never be anyone I loved as much as I love you. And that I had loved you for years...

Chapter Text

"Draco, come on... Just open the door..."

Harry's voice was muffled through the thick wood of Malfoy Manor's front door. Draco stood on the other side of it, chewing on his lower lip.

After he'd re-read the page of his first letter that he'd given Harry, he'd just about melted into the floor with hot embarrassment. Humiliation, practically. He had forgotten he'd written that...

Certainly, he hadn't forgotten the feelings, but he'd forgotten he'd written it. Forgotten that at one point in time he was desperate to tell Harry. To be completely and totally honest with him. As time went on he'd changed his mind about wanting to say it. Changed his mind about that level of honesty. He'd never written it in another letter....

He didn't write to Harry after he'd read it, but it hadn't stopped the dark haired man from starting to fire owls at him a couple days later. Each one saying roughly the same thing about wanting to talk to him about it. That he wasn't laughing at him about it behind his back. That he'd forget the whole thing, all of it, if Draco would just write back.

Anticipating Harry's next move as coming directly to the Manor as he had before, he instructed the House Elf to deny him entry and close the door. To come and get him if Harry turned up at the house.

Which he did.

Now they were standing on opposite sides of the door. Harry having predicted correctly that Draco was there and listening to him on the other side.

"Draco, please. I'll do whatever you want here. We can talk about it. We can not talk about it. I can forget all of it... Just put it out of my mind. It was years ago, tensions and stress and everything, I know that must have been part of it. I don't have to take it seriously.."

Draco let out a low sigh, closing his eyes as he leaned his head against the door. He didn't know what he wanted here... Half of him wanted to open the door and confront this. Half of him wanted to just call through the door and tell Harry to go away.

Half of him wanted the other man to just forget all of this, to claim it wasn't actually true, that it was just like he'd said... A stressful time, not thinking clearly... And half of him was angry that Harry would even suggest that when he knew those feelings were very real. Just as real now as they had been when he'd written the letter.

He wished they weren't. He wished that it HAD just been just stress and a highly emotional time. That would make this SO much easier.

"Draco..." Harry's voice was quieter and there was a soft thump against the door and then a slide and Draco knew Harry had just pressed his back against the door and slid down to sit on the stone front step. "Please talk to me. Please just tell me you're okay..."

Draco let out a bitter sort of laugh then, it slipped out without him realizing it or meaning to and he sighed, realizing he'd have to talk now. He then turned and did the same as Harry, sliding down the door to sit on the floor, his back against the door. "I'm not okay."

"Are you injured or half dead or sick?" Harry's voice sounded closer now, sitting where they were. He figured they were likely close to back to back with the door between them.

"No.."

"Then you're okay. I meant 'tell me you're okay' like you aren't mortally wounded or something. I know that... Not everything is okay."

"I'm not mortally wounded. I've never been mortally wounded."

"Except for Buckbeak..."

Draco couldn't help but smile a bit, looking down. "That might not have been as bad as I led people to believe."

"No. Really?"

Harry spoke in a deadpan of pretend surprise that made Draco smile even more, his cheeks going red. But he didn't say anything else, he didn't know what to say.

"Should I have just not reminded you that you wrote that to me?"

Harry's voice broke the silence and Draco thumped his head back against the door, his eyes actually pricking a bit as he chewed harder against his lower lip.

"I should have just kept it to myself. I shouldn't have... I'm so sorry.."

Harry sounded so sorry. So apologetic and so lost that it made Draco's chest ache. He swallowed hard a few times, clearing his throat to try and keep his voice from sounding thick and tight.

"I forgot I wrote that to you. But I didn't forget that I felt it..."

"It doesn't have to be anything. I understand why you would have felt it. Everything was so messed up, everything was so crazy..."

"Harry, I--"

"Merlin knows I was thinking crazy things for a long time. School for us was just never ending stress and threat..."

"Harry..."

"You can't put teenagers into situations like that and expect that they won't get a little messed up and--"

"HARRY."

"...Yeah?"

"Harry it...." Draco swallowed hard, clenching his fists and holding them tight against his stomach. "Harry it never went away. It wasn't just some stressed out misplaced feelings. I'd had them for years and.. they never went away."

Silence. Draco held his breath, counting the seconds that ticked past. Each one that went by without Harry saying anything else made fear rise higher inside of him.

"So.. Now..?"

Draco let out the breath he was holding when Harry broke the awful silence. His fear had started saying maybe the other man had just apparated away as soon as he spoke. But he was still there.

"In school... In the war. After the war. The years we didn't see each other. Every time you nodded at me at the school train. When I watched you go to Eeylops. When you told me about the Dementors and your cousin... Always been there. Hasn't changed."

Silence again. Draco's chest ached, partly wishing he hadn't said a word and lied about it. But he knew he couldn't. He knew if he tried any friendship they had would be totally fake. They'd try and get together and talk and act like nothing was wrong. But everything would be wrong. It couldn't go back to what it was before now.

"It doesn't have to mean anything." Draco ventured when the silence stretched again. "We've been getting along so well. It won't change anything that you know. I knew and we did fine..."

He was lying. Totally lying. But he wanted to do anything to cling to some part of having Harry in his life.

Draco heard a soft shifting and scraping sound and he could tell Harry was getting to his feet. Everything in him clenched as he imagined the other man walking away from the door. He put his face in his hands as tears welled up and over in his eyes, finally pushed too far, the fear dissolving into absolute devastation.

"You need to open the door."

Harry's voice came again, above his head now as the other man stood on the other side of the door. A lot firmer than before, rather no nonsense.

"Draco I swear to every god there is and some that don't even exist that if you don't open this door I will break it down."

Draco shifted, getting to his feet. He reached out and touched the door handle, then pulled his hand back again. "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why is it so important I open the door now?"

"Draco..."

He couldn't help but smile ever so slightly at the note of frustration in Harry's voice. Some things, like wanting to taunt the ever loving fuck out of him, never went away. No matter what the situation and no matter that he hadn't set out to antagonize him.

"Just tell me why."

"Open the door, you absolute prat."

He still didn't want to. He still wanted this whole thing to just go away. He still wished he'd never handed that letter to Harry to read without looking it over himself first.

But he took hold of the door handle again.

He pulled and opened the door, pushing it wide enough to see Harry on the other side. "You called me a prat."

"You're being a prat." Harry said, but he smiled a bit as he said it.

"Door is open now."

"I can see that."

"So what did you---"

Draco didn't finish that sentence because before he could Harry had stepped up into him. Had wrapped his arms around him and pulled him in tight. Had slid one hand up his back to pull his head down the small ways (Harry always was a little shorter than him) to his own so he could press their lips together.

Draco made a rather undignified noise of surprise. He hadn't been expecting that. He was prepared for almost anything else, steeling himself against rejection, preparing himself for a lot of padded conversation about how it didn't matter, they could still be friends.

He was not, however, prepared for the hot, hard press of Harry's lips against his own. And he was not prepared for the intensely visceral reaction he would have to it that meant he was only surprised for a moment before he was leaning into it. Before he was wrapping his arms around Harry in returns and kissing him back just as roughly.

It wasn't a soft romantic kiss as far as kisses went. It was demanding and hard and deep. Immediately deep. They clung to each other so hard and so tightly that both of their arms ached, but they still held on...

Draco's head spun as he kissed Harry, as Harry kissed him back. As lips parted to teeth and tongues, both of them seeming to try and jockey for control and yet at the same time yielding to each other as well.

They only stopped when the necessity to take a full breath of air forced it. Both of them panting, their faces close, foreheads pressed together, noses nudging together. Lips still close enough to catch together as they spoke.

"I would have broken your door down to do that." Harry said in a low voice Draco had never heard before.

"I would have considered having to replace the door worth it if you did..."

Harry chuckled softly, closing his eyes for a moment then shifting slightly. Draco felt his hands spread against his back and he shivered, tilting his head a bit to nudge their noses together.

"You don't have to do this." Draco said after a few moments, his voice a little thick.

"Do what?"

"Placate me... Kiss me to make me feel better."

"I wasn't. I'm not.." Harry sighed, glancing his lips more firmly to Draco's again, kissing him chastely but warmly. "Let me come inside and we can talk about it. We shouldn't stand here only half in the door."

"Quite right, Mr. Potter."

Another voice spoke. An icy, clear and posh female voice that immediate sliced through Draco's warm little bubble.

He loosened his arms around Harry, turning his head in what felt like slow motion to look over the other man as Harry's head turned as well. Both of them spotting at roughly the same time, the absolutely ENRAGED form of Narcissa Malfoy standing half up the stairs.

"Get. In. The house." She hissed, walking up the last few stairs and pushing past them.

"NOW. BOTH OF YOU."

She was yelling now as she strode down the hall and it made Draco jump, made his heart leap into his throat as he dropped his arms from around Harry and pushed the door closed again.

Then turned without another word or even a look to Harry to follow his mother up the hall.

Harry turned to go with him, following close behind Draco, close enough to he could whisper, close enough that he could slide his fingers against the inside of Draco's palm.

"Whatever she has to say, whatever she's mad about. You aren't alone. You have me here and I'll fight for you if I have to..."

Chapter Text

Narcissa didn't speak right away. She spent probably a good five minutes just LOOKING at Draco and Harry.

This was something Draco was used to, this was his mother all over, sitting and just waiting as though you had called her in to speak to her and not the other way around. It was a tactic Draco knew well and not one that was difficult for him to ignore now as it had been used against him so many times.

Harry didn't seem too moved by it either and Draco was rather pleased at that. The dark haired man sat next to him relaxed with a small and completely benign smile on his face.

"What do you have to say for yourself." Narcissa finally said, looking at Draco.

"It was my fault, Mrs. Malfoy, I--" Harry said, but he stopped speaking when Narcissa's cold eyes flicked to him so sharply they could have cut his flesh.

"I was not speaking to you, Mr Potter. I was speaking to my son."

She turned back to Draco again, looking at him and waiting, clearly not interested in or thinking it necessary to repeat the question.

"I have nothing to say." Draco replied to her, shifting to cross his legs and fold his arms across his chest.

It wasn't often that he got just as 'Malfoy' back at his mother, but he was not in any mood for this. Between dealing with his own feelings, dealing with that old letter and what he'd said to Harry and Harry KNOWING it all, and then dealing with the emotional upheaval of Harry being there...

And Harry kissing him...

He wasn't in the mood to play 'good boy' to his mother.

"I would like to hear some sort of explanation for this. You are married." She pointed at Draco, wagging a finger in his face like he was eight years old. "You have responsibilities to uphold in this world. Messing around in whatever you might think THIS is.." She gestured quickly to Harry and then the finger returned to point in Draco's face again. "It will do nothing but harm you."

"My marriage is a sham and it has been from day one." Draco said, letting out a short sigh. "Astoria didn't like me, didn't from the start once she realized I wasn't the nasty bad boy she thought I was. We gave you a grandson, we parted ways. Quite amicably as you've seen when we appear together. I highly doubt she cares in the LEAST what I'm doing. She dates, mother, and I'm quite happy for her that she does."

Narcissa made a noise somewhere between 'mouse' and 'strangled cat', her pale cheeks getting two very bright spots of red on them. "If you're lying to me.."

"Why in Merlin's name would I lie to you?" Draco unfolded his arms and set both feet on the floor, leaning forward a bit. He felt Harry shift next to him, felt a hand against his back very lightly. "What would I gain from lying to you? It isn't as if anything I do escapes your notice forever, I'd be doing nothing but buying myself the few minutes it would take you to write to Astoria and ask her who she's been dating or ask her if she even really likes me."

He shook his head, letting out a sharp rush of air, looking at his mother with frustration. "Why do you even care? What's happened in the past months that suddenly you're so incredibly wary about our standing in the community? You never cared for this Pureblooded family nonsense, not really. You never cared about how we looked or what we stood for before this?"

"Your father is being released from Azkaban." Narcissa spoke the words in a completely different tone than the cold one she has been using. Her eyes watching Draco carefully in a way they hadn't before.

"He... What?"

"I got a letter from the Ministry a few months ago saying they were looking into his case again." Narcissa looked down then, looking at her hands folded in her lap. "It explained that given how Voldemort had been using you as a pawn, and had basically set up within our home in such a way that we could not say no without being killed, they were reviewing Lucius' case. They felt his actions might have been in defence, not because he truly wanted to act as he did."

"That is utter bullshit." Harry said, speaking in such a bitter voice Draco almost cringed. "No offence to you, Mrs Malfoy, or you, Draco, but Mr Malfoy is not innocent of anything."

Draco held his breath, waiting for his mother to explode at Harry for speaking the way he was. Regardless of what he suspected his mother really thought about everything and about his father he did not expect her to take Harry's words very well. So he was shocked when she sighed and lowered her eyes, speaking to Harry in a much more quiet voice.

"I know that. Draco knows that. We all know that..."

"Then why don't you TELL them that? He was given life in Azkaban. LIFE." Harry pressed, leaning forward a bit though he kept his hand on Draco's back.

"I did tell them that." Narcissa said quietly. "I told them exactly what I thought. I told them exactly what I knew. They told me that I should be grateful they're reopening Lucius' case. And that my testimony was 'duly noted' from the first trial. As was Draco's. So now Lucius is coming home. From so many years in Azkaban... Knowing that both Draco and myself basically handed him over without a second thought in that first trial. Heard everything we said and he's had it with him for all these years in Azkaban to dwell on."

Draco couldn't seem to turn his head, or move, and could just barely breathe, but he heard and felt Harry's back thump against the couch as he sat back. He heard his exasperated sigh.

"I'll go to Kingsley." Harry said decisively. "There is no way that he should be allowed to come back from that. And even if he was, there should be protections in place for you."

Harry shifted and leaned over, Draco felt warm lips touch his cheek and somehow that spurred him to move again, shifting with a low noise to look at Harry who was pulling back from him.

"I'll be back." Harry said, smoothing his hand against his back. "Don't worry."

And he left, which left Draco and Narcissa alone in the sitting room, neither of them speaking for a very long time.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Draco eventually asked very quietly, his eyes on the fire in the grate rather than on his mother.

"I didn't think there was any way for them to overturn his ruling when I first got the letter. I thought perhaps it was due course and they were simply making sure they did all of their homework. That everything with the war was so far done now they were getting to the very last and final dregs that didn't even really matter. I didn't want to worry you for no reason."

"So you.. don't really care about me and Astoria. Me and Harry."

"No.." Narcissa said, shaking her head and sighing softly. "I care that you're happy. I don't care who it's with or not with. I knew you and Astoria would not make a romantic match, but I also knew that you would do well enough as friends that you would somehow come to an arrangement within your marriage. I've thought for a long time that you must not really be together anymore."

"How?" Draco asked, turning his head a bit then to look at his mother. "I thought we made a good show of looking very together."

"You did." Narcissa said, smiling slightly at Draco. "That's why I guessed. You got along far too well and far too easily and warmly to be with each other every day."

Despite everything, Draco couldn't help but laugh. It was a little bit of a weak laugh, but it was a laugh all the same. "Who would have thought that being happy would be the give away."

Narcissa smiled as well, looking towards the fire. "You know that no matter how okay I am with you and Harry, and I am, I still don't really want to walk up on you kissing as you were today."

"If you did that would be very strange for a mother." Draco said, scratching his cheek. "We aren't together, Harry and I. Not really."

"Yes you are." Narcissa said, then smiled a little more when Draco shook his head and looked at her seriously. "Draco, I'm sure you and he have a great many things to work out and understand, but there is no part of either of you that doesn't want it. That much is very clear. Has always been very clear."

Draco leaned back against the couch, letting out a very long breath that seemed to come from the soles of his feet. "I hope you're right." He said quietly.

"I am right." Narcissa said, and said it with the sort of no questions tone only mothers had, which made it impossible not to believe her.

"When is he being released?"

Narcissa said nothing for awhile. Draco knew she had heard him, but also knew that by the length of time it was taking her to answer that it wasn't going to be good. That they had very little time.

"A week from tomorrow."

Draco tilted his head back against the couch, looking up towards the ceiling. "We could just not be here."

"You know I can't do that." Narcissa let out a sigh of her own, shifting on the chair she was sitting in to look towards the fire. "Even if I'd like to, you know I can't."

"He could be so addled from Azkaban he won't know what's going on anyways. He won't know if you're here or not."

"He'll know."

"Yes..." Draco said quietly, rubbing a hand over his face. "Yes he will."

They sat silently in the sitting room, both mulling over their own thoughts, though they were very similar thoughts. Draco knew the underlying message in his mother saying she couldn't not be here at Malfoy Manor. She said very clearly she couldn't not be here. But he didn't have to be. She was saying she'd find any way she could to make sure he didn't have to live here with his father coming back.

He wasn't sure if he could leave her alone with him. But he also wasn't sure if he could live here with them both again. With Astoria and Scorpius as well, because they would have to come back. They'd have to pretend every day.

Astoria wouldn't be able to date anymore. Scorpius would grow up with the terrible Malfoy influence Draco had so carefully tried to keep out of his life.

And he... He couldn't see Harry. Couldn't write to him, either. There would be no more communication. No more anything.

But to avoid that would mean leaving his mother alone with his father.

Draco turned his head a bit to look over at his mother who was looking into the fire, sitting perfectly still. Something they both did when they were unnerved. She looked so strong and so tired, having gone through so much in the past few months and he'd had no idea.

He was worried that leaving her with his father would be a death sentence.

But staying... Staying was a death sentence of his own.

Chapter Text

Harry didn't come back the day that Draco had found out about his father.

He didn't hear form him the next day either, which was fine considering he and his mother had a lot to do.

When Astoria and Scorpius left, Draco stopped using most of Malfoy Manor and had half the house at least closed off with sheets over the furniture and spells sealing everything in place and against rot. He, Narcissa and the House Elf spent the next day undoing the spells, removing the sheets and getting everything looking well lived in again.

The third day Draco spent writing and re-writing a letter to Astoria, trying to find the right words to explain this when he, himself, didn't understand it.

The fourth day he got a letter from Harry, short and to the point, asking him to come to Grimmauld Place.

He didn't go.

Whatever Harry had found out, considering how long it had taken him, likely wasn't good. There was nothing that could be done.

He'd had some time to think about his options. He knew he could just not be here, he could find another house and claim that he and Astoria moved there when they got married. His father, having not been at the ceremony or been present for any of the years afterwards, would never know the difference.

But that would mean leaving his mother here at the Manor alone with him. And he didn't think he could do that. No matter the coward he knew he was, he could not let his mother live here alone with his father. Not when they had no idea what he would be like and what to expect.

The fifth day Harry sent another letter, pleading with him to come to Grimmauld Place, telling him that they had to talk and he couldn't put any of it in a letter but he had information and thought he could help.

"Go." Narcissa said, having moved soundlessly to read the letter in Draco's hand over his shoulder. "Hear what he's found out, if for no other reason than I want to know."

He went this time, but only because his mother asked him to.

"Oh thank Merlin." Harry said with relief when Draco walked into the kitchen and then stopped dead halfway to the table.

Harry was surrounded by stacks of paper, a rough edge of stubble over his jaw and he had very tired eyes.

"What is all this?" Draco asked, walking towards the table after he got over the shock, his eyes bouncing from paper to paper to Harry and back again.

Harry shook his head, running both hands through his hair. "You better sit down."

Draco sat, on the edge of a chair across from Harry after shifting some papers from the seat to the one next to him. "What's going on..."

"It's not good. It's... I don't know what it is. Kingsley doesn't know what it is. We're having to be really careful."

Draco could feel that leaden sort of stillness start crawling up his legs, the fog edging at his brain, wanting to pull him in. Just that, just hearing this was 'not good' from Harry, meaning it was even worse than what Narcissa had said about Lucius coming home. That was enough to make him want to just turn inwards and disappear.

"Look.." Harry leaned across the table, reaching for one of Draco's hands and holding it tightly in both of his own. "Kingsley had no idea what I was talking about. When I went to see him and started railing on him for even considering to let Lucius out of Azkaban he looked at me like I'd grown a second head. He told me there was no current or ANY future plans to release Lucius from Azkaban. I told him what happened with your mother. He started poking around and..."

Harry trailed off then, pausing to take in a breath and let it out slowly. "He found all the documentation. With his Magical Seal all over it. But he didn't do it."

Draco sat silently as Harry spoke, focusing as hard as he could so the words didn't just bounce off of him. "Then someone forged them."

"No one could forge them. Not the Minister's Seal... Only the Minister knows how to create it, they create it when they take office and never tell anyone else how it's done and what magic is in it so there is no possibility of forgery."

"Then.. How..?"

"Kingsley thinks he was imperiused."

Draco sucked in a sharp breath, sitting back in the chair, his arm stretched out in front of him because Harry had refused to let go of his hand. The implication here was clear. Draco could read between the lines easily even with the threat of his brain fogging over.

Kingsley had no recollection of signing off on the paperwork to release his father from Azkaban. He thought he might have been imperiused which meant that whoever actually wanted his father released from Azkaban was not only a very dark wizard, they wanted his father for a very specific reason.

"We're doing what we can to trace things, to try and find out who and what and WHY.." Harry said when the silence stretched and Draco could just sit there looking stunned. "But he doesn't think that filing an immediate stop to the release is a good idea. It would make it very clear to whoever is doing this that they've been found out. And then we'd likely have more trouble finding out."

Draco nodded, seeing how that made sense. But they were two days from the release, just two days until his father came home.

"Kingsley is going to wait for it to happen, and see who it is that goes to Azkaban to release Lucius. But you won't be without protection. The Ministry will be standing by, Aurors will be discreetly placed all through your area. 24 hours a day, Draco... Someone will always have eyes on your house."

Draco nodded his head, something in him warming a bit then, thawing his body and he smiled slightly. "That's very kind, considering who we are."

Harry chose not to comment on that. That was an argument for another day about who did and did not deserve protection.

"But I want you to come here. Astoria and Scorpius too if you want, or they can stay at their house. I don't want you in Malfoy Manor when he's there."

"I can't leave my mother alone with him." Draco shook his head, not even considering it for a moment, not even letting the idea sink in. Not even dwelling on the idea of staying here, with Harry, which was an option he had not considered.

Harry sighed, giving Draco a pained look at his response. "I was afraid you'd say that.."

"Wh---"

Draco only got half a word out before he saw Harry's wand point at him, heard him speak but didn't catch the words as his entire body felt wrapped in ropes. He struggled to get free and slid off the chair onto the floor.

"POTTER!" He yelled, the reflex of using Harry's last name when he was angry coming back full force. "What in Merlin's name do you think you're doing!?"

"Keeping you here." Harry said, walking around the table and crouching down on the floor with Draco.

"I can't stay here. I've just told you, I am NOT leaving my mother alone with him. Let me go right now or I swear to everything holy this WILL be the end of you."

Harry, maddeningly, chuckled at him, which just made him more angry and he struggled harder against the magical bindings.

"I can't let you go. Look, I'm in a bad spot here." Harry sat down on the floor in front of Draco and turned a sheet of parchment so it was in line with Draco's eyes. "You say your mother can't stay there with Lucius alone. But she wrote to me and told me that under no circumstances were you to be at Malfoy Manor when your father was released."

"So you're listening to her and not to me." Draco spit the words out, though he stopped struggling as he read the letter. Recognized his mother's slanting and perfect script telling Harry that he needed to get him there and then keep him there for however long Lucius was out of Azkaban.

"No offence, Draco, but she's scarier than you are."

As mad as he was, as absolutely rage filled as he was right then, Draco couldn't help but laugh. It was a tight noise that seemed reluctant to come from him, but it forced it's way out all the same.

"You aren't wrong." He said, and meant it. "But I can't stay here while she's there. What kind of son would I be if I did that?"

"What kind of son would you be to go against your mother's wishes? She must feel incredibly strongly about this to write to me directly. She'd never do that if it wasn't incredibly important to her."

Draco struggled for a moment more then stopped. Then sighed, then let his head tip down against the floor. "I hate the both of you."

"Well that's to be expected." Harry said, then got to his feet.

"Where are you going?! You can't LEAVE me here like this!" Draco yelled at Harry's retreating feet.

"I'll be right back, calm down." Harry said. "Honestly, what do you expect of me? That I'd immobilize you, maybe break your nose then leave you to whatever came next?"

Draco frowned. It was close to a pout really at what Harry said, making reference to the train at the start of sixth year. He tilted his head back further, calling louder so his voice would carry. "Hold a grudge much, Potter?"

He got a chuckle in return, then silence for a few minutes as he just lay there and thought.

It was clear that he was staying here. Harry was right that his mother wouldn't have written to Harry if she didn't honestly feel that was the only answer. And it kind of was, he knew that, too. Draco would not consider finding another house and pretending it was his own. But to just stay with someone else.. That felt more temporary. That felt like he wasn't abandoning his mother, he had no stake in Harry's house, it was his own. He was just a guest. He could do that...

"The house is secured against you leaving without me." Harry said as he came back, leaning over to see Draco's face.

"Where's the trust, Potter?" Draco groused at him without meaning it.

"Never any trust with you. You're far too slippery and far too conniving and smart to be trusted."

Draco smirked a bit, shifting as best he could against the floor. "Let me out of this then?"

Harry twitched his wand toward Draco again and released the bindings. Draco groaned as he shifted to sit up, rolling his shoulders and his head with a sigh. "You could have just secured the house against me without me knowing once I got here. Then told me I had to stay."

"Sure I could have. But this was far more fun."

"Ass!" Draco smacked the side of Harry's arm, getting up and brushing off his clothing, smoothing his hair again. "That was incredibly undignified."

"And that is what made it so much fun." Harry smiled, then went back to the table to sit down, seeming far more relaxed now that the matter of Draco not leaving was out of the way.

Draco, for his part, felt slightly guilty at how little he fought against the idea. He kept wanting to say something, kept wanting to argue, to refuse to stay, to start throwing things and shouting and screaming until he was let out again. But that coward in him, that lousy, stinking, nasty little coward inside of him was so relieved. So incredibly relieved.

"So.. What is all this?" He asked, sitting down in the chair he'd unceremoniously fallen out of, rubbing one of his wrists where it had hit the floor.

"The paper trail for your father's release."

"All of it?" Draco asked incredulously, looking at everything spread out. There was so much, so many different stacks, so many forms, so many letters...

"Normally there isn't this much but whoever is behind this is bulking it out with the deliberate intention of making it confusing. This is half, Kingsley has the other half. We're both working on retracing the steps backwards and then forwards again to try and find the actual and real trail."

"Kingsley is working on this..."

"Has been since the day after we found out. That first day we were just trying to figure out the how and make a guess as to what they were doing. Then we started pulling everything as quietly and casually as we could."

Draco was more than a little floored by that. That Harry and Kingsley had immediately jumped into action and were working so hard and so carefully for him and his family.

"I'll need to send a message to Astoria. I sent her a letter the other day, she's supposed to be moving back to the Manor tomorrow."

"You can use my owl, that's fine." Harry looked up at him and smiled, reaching a hand out again but just lightly touching the back of his. "It's going to be okay."

"You don't know that." Draco said softly, though he felt the warmth in him, that feeling of security and safety that seemed to come with Harry's presence and Harry's action on anything. He was the most trustworthy and capable person Draco knew.

"If we can't unravel this naturally within a week or so Kingsley isn't going to wait. He'd rather see your father back locked up properly and scare off whoever got him out then see him STAY out. There'll be other ways to find out who did it. Just not as straight forward as this.." Harry paused, looking at the mass of paperwork as sighed. "Not that this is straight forward."

Draco chuckled softly, turning his hand to touching his fingers against Harry's in return. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Harry said, smiling at Draco.

"There's just one thing..."

"Anything." Harry said, smiling a little more and leaning forward a bit.

"I am not, under any circumstance, sharing a bedroom with you, Potter."