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Systemic Morality

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November, 2005

On Bring Your Child to Work Day, there was a struggle over the rightful ownership of one Edward Remus Lupin, a child of seven years. Though he was the recognised godson of Harry Potter, he was also the recognised heir of his cousin, Draco Malfoy. As Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy were partnered together as Junior Aurors in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and would therefore be, in theory, taking Teddy to the same place, the true owner of the child was unimpressed by the squabbling.

Andromeda eyed them flatly as she leaned against the kitchen counter. Teddy was mowing through a bowl of Frosted Niffler Nuggets, watching the men in question curiously. Saint Bartholomew, Tonks’ orphaned Kneazle, stared disdainfully at them from the kitchen table while a heavy, grey rain beyond the window set the soundtrack for Harry’s morning.

“Has it not occurred to either of you that you could, dare I say it, share Teddy today?” asked Andromeda.

Harry and Draco gave one another disgusted looks. Draco was the first to speak. “I already have to share an office with Potter. I’m not sharing an heir, as well.”

Harry nodded in agreement. “We also have to share cases and coffee in the breakroom. Honestly, there’s so much sharing going on between us already that we might as well be re-sorted into Hufflepuff.”

Andromeda remained unimpressed. Teddy finished his Niffler Nuggets and pushed his bowl aside, trading it for his homework from day school. Andromeda flicked her wand and sent the bowl to the sink, not taking her eyes from Harry or Draco.

“Are you kidding me,” she finally said.

“Aunt Andromeda,” Draco began, “I assure you that Teddy would have a better time with me, anyway–”

“No,” Harry interrupted. “He’d have a better time with me, wouldn’t you, champ? I’ll show you all the fun things Aurors do and then when you’re all grown up, maybe you can be an Auror, too.”

At this point, even Teddy was unimpressed. “I want to work for Gringotts like Uncle Bill,” he said. Harry and Draco shared a look of mutual distaste that Bill had beat them out in the ‘I want to be just like you when I grow up!’ category. Teddy continued: “I’m working really hard on my maths and Granny’s signing me up for Gobbledegook lessons.”

Andromeda beamed. “He’s already learning his multiplication tables. Tell Harry and Draco what number you’re up to now, Teddy.”

“Seven!” said Teddy. “Want to hear how far I can go? One times one is one. One times two is two. One times three is–”

Wow,” Draco interrupted, dragging the word out in the most uncharacteristically exaggerated display of being impressed Harry had ever seen from him (and he’d seen Draco interview a lot of annoying arseholes that he’d had to be nice to).

“Anyway,” Harry said, “How about I just take Teddy this year, and Malfoy can have him next year.”

“I think not,” said Draco. “Next year he’ll be eight and he won’t be interested in going to something as stupid as Bring Your Child to Work Day.” Harry and Andromeda both gave him a Look. Draco rolled his eyes. “Well if you’re so sure he will, then you take him next year, Scarface. I want to show off my heir!”

“And I want to show off my godson!”

“Gentlemen!” Andromeda snapped. They jumped to attention.

“Ooh, you’re in trouble!” Teddy sang, not looking up from his maths homework.

“You will take Teddy jointly or you will not take him at all,” said Andromeda.

They sighed. “Fine,” said Harry. At the table, Teddy was working hard on his homework, folding down his fingers and counting to help him with his nines. His little pink tongue poked out in concentration. Harry bit his lip to keep from smiling. He was a cute little brat.

“We’ll take him together,” Draco agreed, reluctantly.

“Good,” said Andromeda. Then, to Teddy, “Get your things together, Teddybear. Want to see where Draco and Harry work?”

“I suppose,” said Teddy. He gathered his things into a tidy little pile, shuffling to make sure his maths worksheet was on top. Harry supposed he could see the banker in him already. Remus would probably be delighted, he thought with a sigh.

-x-

“And this is the floor that we work on!” Harry told Teddy as the lift dinged, signalling that they’d arrived on the second floor. The doors slid open and Harry and Draco both put a hand on one of Teddy’s shoulders to lead him out and into the DMLE, passing a number of unfortunate, soaked souls who’d been caught in the chilly rain that morning.

They stopped to show Teddy off to the receptionist, Sephora, who cooed appropriately over him. They detoured by the break room where they found Nancy, Aloe, and Sergeant Boden chatting over a cuppa. He was to be shown off there, as well.

“Sergeant, have you met my heir, Edward Lupin?” Draco inquired.

“And my godson,” Harry quickly added. “Teddy, this is Sergeant Boden. He works for the Obliviators.”

“Cool,” said Teddy. “Do you think you’ve ever been Obliviated but you just don’t know it?”

Everyone laughed, and Harry and Draco beamed with (unfortunately shared) pride.

The Auror Department was further back, through a maze of bureaucracy that only served to remind Harry of the slog his life had become. There was one bright spot in dragging his arse out of bed for work every morning, and unfortunately it was Draco. Their partnership in the Auror Department was going on four years now, ever since they’d finished training and been awarded Junior Auror Status. It was both four years too long and not nearly enough.

They set Teddy up at the worktable in their office, where he immediately started in on his homework. Harry and Draco shared a look of dismay.

“What do we do now?” Draco asked under his breath.

Harry shrugged. They watched Teddy silently; the boy was completely oblivious to all the cool Auror stuff around him as he recounted, “Seven times one is seven, seven times two is fourteen, seven times three is...er, twenty-one.”

“Hey, Teddy,” said Harry.

“Hm?” Teddy asked without looking up.

“Want to see where we keep evidence for our cases?”

Teddy looked up. “Can I finish this first?”

Harry pasted on a smile. “Sure thing, kiddo.”

The door opened and Dawlish stuck his head in and barked, “Malfoy! Potter!”

Teddy jumped. Dawlish eyed him beadily for a moment and then returned his attention to Harry and Draco. “Every time I turn around it’s blasted Bring Your Kid to Work Day,” he muttered. Then, “Got an assignment for you two. Get to my office.”

“As you just said, it’s Bring Your Kid to Work Day,” Draco protested, pointedly eyeing the kid in their office. “We can’t just leave him here to do his homework alone.”

“I like doing homework,” said Teddy. Harry and Draco both despaired.

“Not to worry,” said Dawlish. “Sephora! Get in here!” She peeked her head around the door, too, and beamed at Teddy. “Sephora will watch the boy while you’re out. Should only take a couple hours.”

“But––” said Harry.

Dawlish sent him a glare and Harry immediately snapped his mouth shut. Dawlish grunted in approval. “Now, my office.”

-x-

Draco didn’t bother to sit at Dawlish’s request (command), just loomed in an annoyed fashion behind Harry. Dawlish ignored this, as Draco was frequently conducting tiny rebellions against the Ministry in general and the Auror Department in particular. It was a coping mechanism for stress; given that Draco was consistently high-strung, there was a lot of that to be found.

“Need you two to check out an identity theft at Gringotts. Somehow, someone managed to fool the anti-Polyjuice wards they put up after Potter’s tour through the countryside of ‘98. Goblins are furious, of course. Try not to piss them off even more, Potter.”

“How the fuck is he supposed to do that?” asked Draco. “They still hate him from the War.”

Dawlish scowled at Harry. “You might try apologising.”

Harry did not dignify that with a reply. He would apologise just as soon as they stopped charging him inflated interest on his investments.

“Just don’t fuck this up,” Dawlish said, passing them the case file. “The victim’s the Minister’s step-daughter.”

“We won’t,” Harry promised. Draco nodded.

-x-

Draco pushed Harry into their office, slammed the door, and erected Azkaban-level silencing spells with an angry flick of his wand. “Goddamn it, Potter!” he said. “What did Dawlish tell you? What did I tell you? I said––”

“‘Under no circumstances are you to call the goblins rude, swindling, fugly little con-artists, Potter,’” Harry recited boredly, shucking is raincloak and tossing it over a random chair.

Draco’s face was red; he was seething. “And what did you call the bank manager?” he bit out.

“I left out fugly,” said Harry. “I was being polite.”

Draco strode closer, his chest heaving with anger. The hairs by his face, those that hadn’t been protected from the rain by his hood, were plastered to his skin. Harry’s gaze zeroed in on the pounding pulse at Draco’s neck and he unconsciously licked his lips.

“What,” Draco growled, “is your problem?” He leaned right into Harry’s face, adding, “Are you trying to get me sacked? Because we all know it won’t be the fucking golden boy who goes if we don’t figure out who’s trying to steal Liesl Shacklebolt’s identity.”

“No,” Harry whispered, his voice raw with a sudden onslaught of desire.

He couldn’t take his eyes off Draco’s mouth, his lips pulled tight in anger, his nostrils flaring with each furious breath. Fuck, this was not good. He found it difficult to deny the impulse to kiss Draco on the best of days, but whenever Draco got pissed off at him (most days) it became impossible. Harry usually took an impromptu tea break during Draco’s rants. But now Draco was right in his face, his breath fluttering against Harry’s mouth, and how was he was so sexy when he was angry, so delectable, his cock probably tasted delicious, and––

“POTTER!” Draco said. “DO NOT IGNORE ME.”

Harry wrapped his hand around the back of Draco’s head and pulled him in, kissing him roughly and not giving a single fuck about it. He tongued Draco’s lips and moaned at the feeling of it, and when he felt Draco relax against him, he grinned in delight and spun them around, pushing Draco back against his own desk.

Harry kissed over his jaw, behind his ear, and Draco made the sluttiest little ‘unf’ sound and tilted his head sideways. Harry practically melted into him, thinking of nothing but the taste of Draco’s skin beneath his mouth, how Harry could almost taste the anger and primness in his sweat. He began unbuttoning Draco’s Auror robes, kissing down his neck and chest with each loosened button.

Draco sat back on the desk and spread his legs as Harry neared his belly button. “Potter,” he breathed. “Potter, what are you doing?”

Harry ignored him, and Draco didn’t seem to mind, as when Harry unhooked the last button and let his Auror robes fall open, exposing his tight leather work trousers and the heavy erection underneath, Harry bent down and nuzzled it, and Draco moaned loudly. His fingers tangled in Harry’s hair and tugged, forcing Harry to look up at him.

“Are you sure?” Draco asked. His eyes were bright and dangerously focused.

In answer, Harry bent down again, and tugged on the laces of Draco’s trousers. They unravelled easily, and his cock sprang free. Harry immediately engulfed it in his mouth. Draco’s hips moved in the most obscene ways as he helped feed his cock to Harry. He moaned in sync with Harry’s every solid lick and his fingers grabbed rhythmically at Harry’s hair.

Harry, for his part, had never had more fun in his life. To finally taste Draco, to finally try him and have him, was the stuff of daydreams. Years of daydreams. Every day that they’d been Auror partners had been an exercise in restraint for Harry. He’d wanked in the office loo so many times that he was sure there were blokes who’d only recognise him by his shoes and the pattern of his strokes.

Draco got closer and closer to orgasm, and Harry squirmed, feeling his own cock respond to the sound and taste of him. He might come himself from Draco’s cries. Then Draco surged up, his mouth falling open, and Harry closed his eyes happily as he began to flood Harry’s mouth with hot come.

“Oh god, no!” Draco said.

Harry looked up at him, bewildered, and frankly, annoyed. But Draco’s eyes weren’t on Harry, they were staring straight at the door, even as his body convulsed and his come flooded Harry’s waiting mouth.

“I’ll go see what Ms Sephora’s doing.” The door shut quickly.

Harry stiffened. His eyes widened. Come was dribbling down his throat and he started to choke on it and then on Draco’s cock. He slipped off it and stood, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand and feeling as though he’d never been as turned off as he was the moment he heard his godson’s voice while he had his partner’s prick in his mouth.

Harry spun around, stared at the wooden door of their office and then put his head in his hands, trying to make sense of what had just happened. He grabbed his fringe in frustration, only belatedly realising he had a splotch of come still on his hands, and it was now stuck in his hair.

“Fuck!” he said. Could this get any worse?

Silently, Draco cleaned the come from Harry’s hair and hands. He tucked himself back in and buttoned up his robes with efficiency, his hands trembling.

“He saw?” Harry asked, but that was stupid because of course he saw, how could he not have seen? It wasn’t like the desk was all that far from the door.

Draco nodded mutely, his eyes wild and panicked. “He must have been standing there for at least half a minute,” he said. “I didn’t hear the door open, I just saw movement when he shifted his notebook to the other hand.”

“Oh my god,” said Harry, pacing back and forth. “This is horrible. What are we going to do?”

Draco’s trembling spread from his hands to his voice. “He’s going to be scarred for life. He won’t want to be my heir anymore, and then Mother will make me marry,” he said worriedly.

Harry spun around. “You’re worried about that? He’s my godson! He’s not going to ever speak to me again after that!”

“Does he even know what that was?” asked Draco. “Has Andromeda explained sex to him yet? Maybe we can convince him you were helping me with a tailoring spell on my trousers.”

Harry looked at him askance. “Even seven-year-olds wouldn’t believe anyone, much less you, would trust me with a tailoring spell. Especially on your trousers.”

“Right,” said Draco. The trembling had been abruptly replaced with that voice that Harry heard on raids and high-magic chases. It was the determined voice, the voice that made Harry question Draco’s sorting if he could project such calm command when Harry himself was often nervous as fuck. “We have to find out what he knows.”

Harry nodded decisively. It was the voice. It settled his nerves in dangerous assignments, and it settled them now. “Right.”

-x-

“Hello, Teddy,” Draco said jovially, which wasn’t weird at all, Harry thought, rolling his eyes.

Teddy was again set up at the worktable in their office, again working on his blasted sevens. If he didn’t know the fucking things by now, Harry thought in frustration, he’d never learn them.

Immediately, he felt guilty. Teddy was only seven himself, and doing a fine job with multiplication on the whole. Harry was just upset, and mentally lashing out. Of course the one time he had the nerve to make a move on Draco would be the one time Teddy was around to catch them. Outside, the rain continued to pound against their office window, which was just fucking like Harry’s life.

“Hi, Draco,” said Teddy.

“Teddy,” Draco began awkwardly. He looked to Harry for help, but Harry shrugged. How the fuck was he supposed to know what to say? He was a wands man, not a words man.

Finally Draco continued, “Teddy, has Granny told you where babies come from yet?”

“Yes,” said Teddy, who said no more. He was putting numbers into boxes and making a pattern with them that would create a colour-by-numbers picture when he finished. When he coloured it in, it would make a unicorn, allegedly.

“Er, where’s that?” Harry asked. He wanted to clarify before they jumped into something horrific, only to find that what Andromeda had actually explained to Teddy was that Hippogriffs brought them and left them on doorsteps.

“When mums and dads want a baby, the dad puts his penis in the mum’s ver...vergina, and then sometimes they get babies and sometimes they don’t, which is why they like to practise a lot.”

Harry and Draco shared a horrified look.

“Vagina,” Draco absently correctly, clearing his throat.

“Vagina,” Teddy repeated. “Vuhhh-gina. Got it now, Draco. Thanks.” He looked up at them and they quickly schooled their expressions. “Draco, can you help me with this one? I can’t remember seven times twelve.”

“Well, there’s an easy way,” Draco began. “You know seven times ten, right? And seven times two?” Teddy nodded. “And ten and two is twelve, isn’t it?” Again, Teddy nodded. “So all you have to do is take seven times ten and add it to seven times two.”

Teddy did this and Harry and Draco went back to giving one another speaking looks, though whatever Draco was trying to communicate to Harry was lost on him. For his own part, Harry was trying to say ‘Mother of Merlin, have mercy on my soul, save me from Andromeda’s wrath.’

“Eighty-four!” Teddy said triumphantly.

“Teddy,” Harry tried, and Teddy hummed to show he was listening, though most of his focus was on carefully writing 84 in the square on his paper. “Do you know what me and Draco were doing when you came in a little while ago?”

Teddy paused and considered this. His forehead scrunched. “Erm… did you have Draco’s penis in your mouth? Because it looked like you did.”

Harry’s face went hot. He looked to Draco for help, but Draco only gave him an annoyed look. “...Yes.”

Teddy nodded sagely. “That’s not how you get babies,” he said thoughtfully. Suddenly, he turned to face them. “Do you need me to tell you how to get them? Because you’re doing it wrong.”

“We weren’t trying to get babies,” Draco interjected quickly.

“Oh, good, because if you couldn’t figure that much out, I don’t know if you’d be very good mums and dads.”

Draco sent Harry an angry look, but Harry thought that was rather unfair. If Draco wanted to assume that Teddy would put Draco in the mum position, then it really had nothing to do with Harry, and anyway, Draco was probably just projecting his own feelings of inadequacy.

“I can get Granny to explain it to you?” Teddy offered. “Oh! Or I saw Aunt Hermione here with Rosie while me and Ms Sephora were getting a snack from the canteen. I bet Aunt Hermione knows.”

Such a helpful child.

“No, no!” Draco said. “Just finish your homework.” Teddy nodded and proceeded to ignore them.

They retreated to the other corner of the office to whisper furiously at one another while not listening to what the other was saying. Harry erected a Muffliato around them and slumped down into his office chair. “We have to Obliviate him.”

Draco looked relieved. “Thank Merlin. I thought you were going to go on a moral rant and I’d have to do it behind your back.”

Harry shook his head. “No, no, in this case, morality is irrelevant. It’s only a matter of time until he really understands what he saw and then he’ll be scarred for life. Let’s do it now before my conscience closes in.”

Draco nodded. “Shall I or would you rather?”

“By all means,” Harry said.

Draco nodded and pointed his wand at their shared kid. “Obliviate,” he whispered. For a moment, Teddy looked up at the wall in front of him, as if he’d forgotten what he was thinking, then he looked back down at the maths-and-colouring page before him and started again.

Harry and Draco let out collective breaths of relief. Thank Merlin that crisis was averted.

-x-

For a few weeks, everything was fine. Andromeda wasn’t suspicious when they dropped Teddy off at home that evening, and Teddy was in good spirits, declaring Harry and Draco’s job ‘Cool, but not as cool as Gringotts’. Harry supposed that was as high of praise as they could expect.

Despite the awkwardness of their first sexual encounter, Harry and Draco managed a few evenings out after work and for the first time in years, Harry felt like he had something to look forward to when he woke up each morning. Though they’d been Auror partners since the beginning, Harry’s crush had never seemed to have even a glimmer of hope. Now that there was, he was taking full advantage.

They went to dinner and to see a few local wizarding bands play at seedy pubs, and at weekends, they’d go flying low over London with only Disillusionments over them, in another of Draco’s tiny rebellions.

Harry quickly grew accustomed to the heart-stopping crinkle at the corners of Draco’s eyes when Harry made him laugh, and the frenetic rush in his veins whenever Draco would grab his hand while they walked together. Harry’s lungs would collapse under the vividness of Draco’s gaze on him, and it would take half a minute before he could breathe again. Draco was everything Harry had fantasised he might be, and worse: he was more.

And the best part about it all was that Draco was more than willing. Their unconventional beginning was the source of many embarrassing and ridiculous quips on the job and off. Draco was especially fond of reminding Harry, ‘Try not to choke, Potter,’ before scouting missions, and ‘Let’s not get caught with our pants down on this report, Potter,’ when Harry was prone to putting off the paperwork.

And so, all through the month of November, Harry was in high spirits. At one point, Hermione stopped by to ask him to lunch and caught him whistling while he was completing paperwork — a singularly suspicious occurrence. She had narrowed her eyes, but let it go when he refused to give her any details.

By the time Harry and Draco’s monthly dinner with Andromeda came around on the first Sunday of December, Harry’s crush had gone from a steady, underlying niggle in his brain, to a rushing, sparkling burn all over his body.

Being with Draco physically had not done anything to reduce his desire for him; it had increased it. Instead of satiating Harry, sex with Draco made him desire it more. He could hardly go a day without wanking off to him twice — and that was if they had a date that day. On days they couldn’t make their schedules fit long enough for a romp, Harry was back up to three to four wanks a day. It was not helping his productivity.

He just hoped that Draco could tell what he meant to him. He hoped Draco saw everything he felt, even though he was afraid of saying it.

Soon, Harry promised himself. At Christmas, maybe. That would be a good time to tell Draco.

When he arrived at Andromeda’s that night, he’d already put in two wanks, and was feeling confident for the evening. They had plans to go running through Belgravia, where Draco’s flat was, afterwards. Harry had recently found that Draco-sweaty-from-Auror-training was particularly irresistible. It was even worth a five kilometre run in November. Then it was back to Draco’s flat for a hot bath in his obnoxiously large tub, sex in the tub, and perhaps some humping afterwards if Harry had his way, which he usually did.

“Harry!” Teddy exclaimed when Harry Floo’d in. He’d barely stepped out of the fireplace before he was tackled by his godson.

“Hey, champ,” Harry said, ruffling his pink hair. He’d taken to colouring it like Tonks’ after Mothering Sunday this year, and had yet to change it to another colour. “What’ve you been up to?”

“Granny and me made a model of Gringotts with the Legos Uncle Arthur gave me for my birthday, and Granny charmed the goblins to move around inside! Listen to this: Grrkvu Khik u provka!

Harry blinked several times. “What?”

“It means ‘Welcome to my home, Honoured Sir!’ I learned it in Gobbledegook lessons last week! Mr Durjtak, my teacher, says my accent isn’t abominable but I need to growl more! I’ve been practising growling at Saint Bartholomew but he just looks at me and then knocks my Legos off the table.”

Harry laughed. “That sounds like Saint Bartholomew.”

Teddy led him into the kitchen where Draco was already waiting, leaning against the island and chatting with Andromeda as she put the baked apples they were having for afters in the oven. He gave Harry a saucy wink and went back to his conversation.

Draco was in jeans and a t-shirt, as Muggle clothing was always required at Andromeda’s events. Having discovered the internet in 2002, Andromeda had in recent years become a Mummy Blogger with a popular blog, ironically titled ‘Our Magical Home’. She therefore insisted that they be Muggle appropriate in case she wanted any photos for her blog. Teddy’s hair colours were explained away as liberal parenting.

“Anyway, Mother says she’s willing to host Christmas again this year, but you have to host New Year’s. I expect she’ll tell you herself when she gets here, but I just want it noted that I did my duty as son and delivered the message.”

Andromeda closed the oven and straightened up, sending Draco an amused look. “Is that so?”

Draco shrugged. He had a glass of wine dangling from one elegant hand, and Harry had a sudden flash of him doing the same thing, only in their home that they shared, with them hosting New Year’s. His heart clenched in want. Someday they’d have that, he thought. If things kept going so well. He really, really hoped they did.

“I’m not saying you have to host New Year’s,” Draco said. “I’m just saying that Mother told me I had to tell you that you were.”

Andromeda rolled her eyes, wiped her hands on the kitchen cloth, and then came to give Harry a quick hug. “Hello, Harry,” she said, smiling. “You haven’t come to deliver more familial obligations, too, have you?”

“None whatsoever,” said Harry. “I’m obligation-free.”

Draco snorted. “That sounds like you.” He turned back to Andromeda and added, “He was particularly obligation-free this Thursday at work, when he somehow managed to avoid the semi-annual all-staff meeting by claiming ‘women’s issues’.”

Harry shrugged. “The memo said you could decline for your own death, immediate family member death, or women’s issues. I didn’t think anyone would believe I had immediate family, and I worried my paycheque might stop if I said I was dead personally, so I ticked the box for women’s issues and sent the form back. No one noticed I’m not actually a woman so I figured they also wouldn’t notice if I actually didn’t show. It’s not my problem that Draco’s annoyed I thought of it first.”

Andromeda shook her head, looking skyward. “Merlin have mercy upon those of us who live under the domain of the British Ministry.”

“Hellooo!” called Narcissa from the Apparition Foyer.

“In the kitchen, Cissy!” Andromeda replied. Draco gave her a pointed look, and she nodded, though she looked rather exasperated.

Narcissa appeared around the doorframe in her riding clothes, beaming. “What ho, sister!” she exclaimed. “Terribly sorry for the delay. I’ve just come from Abraxans at Bagshot Park and you know how Sophie and Birgitte are. I didn’t even have time to change out of my gear. Heavens, it’s raining Crups and Kneazles down here!”

Draco shared a look with Harry. Narcissa’s friendship with the Royal Family wasn’t new, but her exuberant demeanour was. The Healers at St Mungo’s suggested it was a coping mechanism for PTSD. After Lucius’ unexpected death in Azkaban only six months after the war, she’d rekindled a number of friendships, including those with the Muggleborn Sophie Rhys-Jones and the Pure-blood (but regrettably foreign, if Lucius were consulted) Duchess of Gloucester, Birgitte Eva van Deurs Henriksen. The happy-go-lucky personality came shortly after the late Lord Malfoy’s death and showed no signs of reversing, to no one’s disappointment.

“Well!” said Narcissa, looking them all over. Her smile intensified when she spotted Teddy. “And there’s my handsome grandnephew! I’ve brought you a little gifty.” She reached into her clutch and pulled out a model albino dragon much larger than the clutch itself. “I heard you and Granny built a little Gringotts. Do you suppose your vaults need a guard dragon?”

“YES!” Teddy said, jumping up and retrieving the dragon from her outstretched palm. “Wow! It looks just like the one we saw when we went to our vault last week, doesn’t it, Granny?”

“It sure does,” Andromeda said. She added to them, “Teddy’s learning a lot at his Gobbledegook lessons. He greeted every single banker when we walked by, didn’t you, Teddybear?”

He nodded, already back at the table and prodding the white dragon around. It sneezed on Saint Bartholomew and singed his tail, causing him to yelp and scramble off the table, sending pages of homework flying.

Unconcerned, Teddy told them, “I said, ‘Hruudra, Grig’ to everyone. It means ‘Hello, Honoured Sir’. Well, I said, ‘Hruudra, Khik’ to the lady goblins.”

“They seemed impressed, but one never really knows with goblins,” Andromeda added. The kitchen timer beeped. “Ah, casserole’s done. Teddy, why don’t you, Harry, and Draco go set the table while Aunt Cissy and I get the salad ready.”

These dinners were always nice. Being Teddy’s godfather made Harry feel like part of this family in a way that he couldn’t quite manage with the Weasleys. They would always be family to him, but when Ginny had not wanted to get back together with him (and frankly, he had not wanted to either) a subtle distance had developed. Hermione said it was all in his head, but regardless, he was no Weasley.

He was, on the other hand, Teddy’s back-up dad. And that made them family.

He glanced at Draco; and if he were to marry Draco, he’d really be part of this family…

They all settled in at Andromeda’s large kitchen table, with glasses of wine for the adults and rhubarb juice for Teddy, as that’s what goblins drank in winter so it was therefore what Teddy drank in winter.

Andromeda made them all wait before digging in so she could get out her (Muggle) digital camera and take a few lifestyle photos for tomorrow’s post. They smiled up at her, and were soon allowed to actually eat, with Andromeda snapping a few action shots of Teddy spooning casserole to his new dragon, and all of them laughing when Narcissa regaled them with tales of the Countess disciplining her heritage Aegean Abraxan with threats of volunteer work at a petting zoo.

Harry toed Draco’s foot, and when he looked up, Harry grinned slyly. Draco rolled his eyes, but Harry didn’t miss the pleased smile on his face or the pink tinge to his cheeks.

“How’s work?” Andromeda was asking them. “Did you ever catch the person trying to steal Liesl Shacklebolt’s identity? I haven’t seen anything at all in the paper.”

“We got her,” said Draco. “I had to go back alone to talk to the goblins,” he added pointedly to Harry, and Harry ignored, “but they released the magical records to me and I was able to find a link. In fact,” he added, turning to Teddy, “I think it was an offhand mention of my favourite little heir that convinced them to hand them over.”

“Really?” said Teddy happily. “Who’d you talk to?”

“Director Griphook,” said Draco. “He seems quite fond of you.”

Teddy beamed. “He’s the one who recommended Mr Durjtak for my Gobbledegook lessons. They’re related.”

Sometime into the baked apples they were having for pudding, Narcissa directed her attentions to Teddy’s newest artistic creations on the refrigerator. “What’s that one, Teddy darling?” she asked.

Harry followed the direction of her finger and frowned. It looked like the same paper he’d worked on at the Ministry, with the blocks that were coloured in depending on what number was put in there… but this didn’t look much like a unicorn.

Teddy scowled at it. “It was supposed to be a unicorn, but I think they messed it up.”

Indeed, there were a number of purple squares that were out of place, making the unicorn look more like a manticore with purple spots floating around it. Harry glanced at Draco, who’d taken on a thoughtful look, and stood to take a closer look at the paper. After a few moments, he pulled it off the refrigerator and said, “Teddy, could I borrow this for a couple days? I want to show it to Ms Sephora at work.”

Teddy shrugged. “I guess. Don’t you want to take her a good one, though?”

Draco made a dismissive sound. “This one’s great. She loves purple. I think she’ll like it best.”

He gave Harry a significant look as he tucked the paper into his jacket. Harry bit his lip, took a sip of his wine to cover it. Something was wrong.

He had no idea how he got through the remainder of that dinner without giving himself away; his worry for Teddy was palpable, so strong it had to be visible. But the women didn’t notice it, and more importantly, neither did Teddy. They continued to eat, but the easiness of earlier was gone, and each sip of wine he swallowed felt thick with worry.

-x-

Draco wanted to skip their run and go back to his flat. Normally this would’ve been a turn-on, but tonight it was nerve-wracking.

“What’s wrong with Teddy?” Harry asked as soon as they landed in Draco’s Apparition Foyer.

Draco shucked his jacket, grabbing the parchment from the pocket and gestured Harry to follow him into the living room. He fell back onto the couch, staring up at the ceiling and sighing. “Potter,” he said tiredly. “I may’ve fucked up royally.”

Harry stopped dead in the doorway. “What?” he said. “How?” He rushed forward again, snatching up Teddy’s misshapen unicorn colouring. “What did you do?”

After a long moment, Draco looked at him. “Notice the blocks that are out of place. Read the clues for those squares.”

Harry pursed his lips, frowning as he did as directed. The clues were straight-forward, on par with the maths Teddy was already doing with ease.


‘If a hag has seven children and wants to feed each of them three Muggle children, how many Muggle children must she steal to feed her family?’

‘If the Minister of Magic’s got six employees and he wants to add one more and then double it, how big will his new staff be?’

‘If the Orient Express has seven carriages with six seats in each carriage, how many travelers can ride on the train at once?’

Teddy’s answers, respectively, were: 24, 12, and 36.

Harry scanned the rest of the incorrect squares, unease growing. Finally, he looked up at Draco. “He can’t do sevens. He’s missed every question that asks him to multiply by seven.”

Draco nodded wearily. “He was doing them fine, mostly, when we took him to the Ministry with us.”

Harry was coming to the same conclusion, and horror-struck by the implications of it. “He was working on sevens when we Obliviated him. You Obliviated his knowledge of all the sevens on the multiplication table.”

Draco scowled. “Don’t get testy with me, Potter. That I had to do it at all was your fault. If you hadn’t got me all worked up by being a prick to the goblins yet again then we wouldn’t have found ourselves in such a revealing position. Also, you didn’t lock the door.”

“You shoved me in there and cast all those high-grade privacy spells! You could’ve locked the door, too, you know!”

“I didn’t think you’d drop to your knees and swallow my cock just because I was yelling!” Draco said.

“So you’d rather I’d just not’ve sucked you off, is that it? Would you’ve rather I didn’t come onto you at all? Then we’d still just be Auror partners and—”

“Oh, give me a break,” Draco snarled, standing up and pacing over to him. “Don’t even pretend like you being a cocksucker to the goblins — and, by the way, getting me reprimanded for them refusing to speak to us about the case — was the only reason you were a more literal cocksucker afterwards! If you needed the excuse of annoyed goblins to act on your interest in me, then you’re a shit Gryffindor.”

“Fuck you, Malfoy,” Harry snarled, feeling his face heat with anger… and maybe some humiliation, too. “You knew I wanted you all this time, didn’t you?”

Draco rolled his eyes. “You’re as subtle as the portable swamp Weasley put on Granger’s side of the bed after that row they had last month.”

Harry deflated. “You really knew?” he said. “All these years?”

Draco shrugged.

Harry’s brow scrunched; it seemed he was unable to hide the feeling of confused disappointment that admission brought to him. “Didn’t you… feel anything, too?”

“Obviously,” Draco said. “But I also had a job to keep and a reputation to protect. The Ministry doesn’t need an excuse for giving me the shit cases; do you think fucking their Saviour would put me in any higher regard? I wasn’t about to make a play for you and jeopardise not only my career, but my family’s safety if you reacted badly to it.”

“But I wouldn't’ve,” Harry insisted.

Draco shrugged again. “Frankly, Potter, I can’t even trust you to apologise to the goddamn goblins to help solve a case, how could I trust that you’d react like a normal person if I asked you on a date?”

“Like a normal person?” Harry said incredulously. “Seriously, Draco? Seriously?”

“Yes, seriously!” he said. “For some incomprehensible reason, your fucking godson wants to work for those annoying little bastards, and do you think I like their passive aggressive remarks anymore than you do? Of fucking course not, and yet I somehow manage a polite ‘Hello, Sir,’ whenever I visit my vaults because I give a fuck about how they’ll treat my heir when he leaves Hogwarts and, as an aside, not getting ripped off with outrageous trading fees on the markets!

“And then there’s you, who’s let them gouge you with every investment because you’re too much of a self-righteous twat to just go up to Director Griphook and say, ‘My bad, man. I was a total git and completely shat all over your culture because I didn’t understand your ways, didn’t care to, and frankly I had a war to win; by the way, here’s the Sword of Gryffindor I never returned, not because it has sentimental or financial value to me, but because I don’t want to give you the pleasure of getting your treasure back after the legal end of lease. It’s just been sitting in my umbrella stand for seven sodding years.’”

“You weren’t too worried about your heir’s Gringotts ambitions when you Obliviated his sevens!” Harry said, incensed.

Draco stood up so suddenly Harry took a startled step back. “I wasn’t worried, was I?” he said lowly. His eyes were flashing in a way Harry hadn’t seen directed at him in years and years.

“You think I wasn’t worried? Every fucking thing I do is to make Teddy’s life better. You think I don’t know he’ll take shit for being the Malfoy heir? I fucking know it, Harry. You think I like going to all these charity events when I could just write a cheque? You think I like making speeches at St Mungo’s and volunteering in the irreversible spell damage ward every weekend? You think I like working as a fucking Auror when I could’ve gone into a Potions Mastery? No, I do all of this shit, take all of the humiliation the public throws at me, to save our name, so that my family, Teddy, will be respected when he comes of age and takes my title. So fuck you, Potter. Go be self-righteous with Weasley and his passive-aggressive pranks on the wife he obviously regrets marrying, and leave me be. I’m done fucking around with you. You aren’t worth my reputation, much less Teddy’s.”

Harry’s stomach dropped seven miles. He should’ve said ‘Sorry, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it,’ or ‘Please, don’t, no,’ but he didn’t. He just flung Andromeda’s leftovers at him at him and left.

-x-

On Monday, Harry called into work, claiming an upset stomach. He sat in Grimmauld Place reading about Obliviation accidents and scowling at the rain pounding against the library windows.

On Tuesday, he dragged his arse out of the house, determined to apologise to Draco and fix this thing with Teddy. He resolutely ignored the Sword of Gryffindor in the troll leg umbrella stand as he grabbed his raincloak from the peg by the door. When he got in, Sephora raised her eyebrows.

“Who killed your Crup?” she asked.

Harry scowled. “I don’t have a Crup. Is Draco in yet?”

“Nope,” said Sephora. “Said he had an errand to run with that super cute heir of his. He’ll be out all morning.”

Harry stopped on his route to their office. “Really?”

Sephora hummed an acknowledgement, ignoring him in favour of a stack of surveys Human Resources had sent down for the annual self-evaluations. She made an awful face at the parchments and Harry knew he’d get no more out of her. He continued on to his office, and spelled the door unlocked. Draco was usually in first, and their office felt cold and abnormally still without him.

He settled into his desk and pulled the stack of files from his inbox. There was a robbery at wandpoint, an investigation for two Muggle children who’d gone missing near a known hag residence, and a break-in at the shop next door to Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Harry paused on that one, wondering why he hadn’t heard anything from George about it, or even Ron or Hermione.

Then he remembered Ron had taken a two-month assignment in the Outer Hebrides and wouldn’t be back until Christmas. He was always taking long assignments. As he was thinking this, his self-evaluation survey popped into his inbox. Harry scowled, snatched it up, and ticked ‘Outstanding’ for every question, then popped it into his outbox. It disappeared a moment later.

There was a knock on his open door and Hermione poked her head in. “Time for a cuppa?” she asked.

Harry gave a relieved smile and tossed his case files back on his desk. “Definitely.”

“They’re giving out biscuits in the canteen for anyone who returns their self-eval by noon,” Hermione said as Harry walked with her to the lifts. “I figured we could go snag all the florentines and chocolate bourbons before everyone else opens their inboxes.”

“Brilliant idea,” said Harry. The day was turning up already.

Hermione chatted about her caseload as they took the lift down to Level Eight, and the canteen directly beyond the Atrium. She was arguing against Padma Patil again, and the working relationship those two had was one that still baffled Harry. Padma was one of the DMLE’s top prosecutors, and Hermione was DMLE’s Jr Lead Public Defense. Somehow, they managed to be very good friends outside of work while being completely vicious in the courtroom.

“I think she’s dating Theodore Nott, but I can’t be sure,” Hermione was saying. “I almost asked her last Sunday when she was over to listen to the Head Witch in Charge broadcast with me and Rosie, but I decided to wait and see.”

“That’s surprising,” Harry teased.

Hermione grinned. “I know.” She shifted her briefcase to the other hand with a huff. “To be honest, it was more because I had court the next morning and didn’t want to get into an all night giggle fest. It’s been ages since I’ve had a decent sleep. Ron’s been on assignment more often than not, and when he’s home, we—” She broke off abruptly, smiling at him in apology. “Sorry. Ignore me. I’m just a little tired right now.”

Harry nodded, though he felt a twinge of something uncomfortable with her words. Despite all Harry’s attempts at ignoring the problem, Draco’s angry rant had some truth to it, at least in regards to Ron and Hermione. They weren’t doing well. And Harry hated that.

“Can I help at all?” he asked instead. “Teddy spends the night with me on Tuesdays and I take him to day school the next day. Maybe Rosie would like to come, too? Make a sleepover thing out of it? It would give you a night off when Ron’s on assignment.”

Hermione stopped right in the middle of the corridor. Confused, Harry did, too. But it was Hermione’s expression that really surprised him. She looked shocked, and so grateful that he felt guilty for not thinking of it sooner. “Really?” she said. “You wouldn’t mind?”

In truth, he wouldn’t. Rosie was his goddaughter. With his godson over, he could have a full set every week. Having both of them might be more distracting, might make it harder for him to focus on how much he wished Draco would still come over on Tuesday nights, too, but that he probably wouldn’t after having casserole thrown at him.

Anyway, he adored both of the little brats. He shrugged. “Yeah, why not?”

Hermione tackled him, her arms coming up and nearly squeezing the life out of him. “Oh, Harry! I’d really appreciate it! Even just every now and then. It would mean so much to me!”

Harry felt his face heating. He hugged her back, and then gently steered her back in the direction of the canteen. Those chocolate bourbons were calling his name. “Well, I’m picking Teddy up after work. Why don’t you and Rosie come over for dinner and then she can stay? I’ll get her to day school tomorrow and you’ll have the night to yourself.”

Hermione did not stop smiling at him until they reached the canteen, and the table set up to pass out biscuits to those poor Ministry employees who’d bothered to complete their self-evals before the due date at the end of the month. Then she switched her smile to the florentines, sliding a dozen into a yellow interoffice envelope and staring down the middle-aged Ministry witch who gave her a stink eye for it. With the hard work out of the way courtesy Hermione, Harry followed her, scooped up half the bowl of chocolate bourbons, and smiled innocently at the witch manning the table as he turned, whistling, to follow Hermione back out of the canteen.

They got tea from the trolley on the way back, and by the time they reached Hermione’s office and she left him to continue onto his own alone, Harry was in high spirits. There wasn’t much that a few free chocolate bourbons, mediocre tea, and a gossip-fest with Hermione couldn’t help.

He opened his office door with a pleasant smile still on his face, but it began to slip when the magical window behind his desk showed that the morning’s drizzle was now a full-blown storm, and it descended further when he caught sight of Draco seated at his own desk. The look on Draco’s face was as cold and distant as it had been that first day they were partnered together in Auror training.

“Er, hi,” he said hopefully.

Draco’s eyes flicked to him, but his expression didn’t change. “Good morning, Potter. Although to call it morning is a stretch; it’s nearly noon. Feeling better?”

“I went for tea with Hermione,” he protested.

“At least twenty minutes ago, since that’s when I arrived to an empty office,” Draco replied.

Harry frowned. “Draco, can we—”

“I took Teddy to a specialist this morning. Hopefully Andromeda won’t find out that he was late getting to day school,” Draco interrupted.

Harry paused, then quickly continued to his desk, dropping the biscuits on a spare piece of parchment and setting his tea on a well-ringed patch of wood. “Who?”

“A retired Obliviator, someone who owed my me a favour.”

Harry nodded. When Draco was being secretive, there was no use asking him for more detail. “And?”

Draco’s lips pursed. “Under guise of interviewing him for something heir-related, she tested his mind to see where the Obliviation was blocking his ability to learn multiplications by seven. He did brilliantly with every other number that she tested him on; she said his mind lit up like fairy lights when he was doing maths.”

“But?” asked Harry woodenly. There was going to be a but.

Draco looked away, briefly. His eyes were hard when he turned back. “But the Obliviation did not block his ability to learn multiples of seven. Because of the exact thought he was thinking when I erased his memory, and the fact that I… that I was scared when I cast it, it did more than hide the memory of multiples of seven existing, as a normal Obliviation would do. It, in fact, obliterated the value of the number seven entirely from his mind. He can see a seven written and recognise its name as ‘seven,’ but he can’t remember how many ones make a seven, and so therefore, he can’t do math by sevens.” Draco swallowed. “The worst part is… he knows it. He’s starting to figure out that there’s something wrong with his ability to do sevens, and he’s starting to think there’s something wrong with him.”

Harry stared. “But surely we can just teach him what seven means again. Just like we did a few years ago when we were teaching him numbers the first time.”

Draco shrugged miserably. “We can try,” he said. “My contact said there’s a fifty percent chance he’ll recover any use of his sevens. And even if he does, it’ll never be a number that comes naturally to him. He’ll always have to count that number out on fingers, or write it out in tallies.”

Harry’s stomach turned to ice. “Forever?” he whispered. Draco just looked at him, expression unchanging. Then Harry nodded. “Then we’ll just teach him again, and if he needs tricks and mnemonics to get it, then so be it. I’ll start tonight. Hermione’s coming over. I can see if she has any tips from when she was teaching Rosie. Without letting on.”

Draco’s expression did change at those words; the studied blankness of before shifted into confusion before hardening again, all in the span of milliseconds. “Yes,” Draco finally said. “I believe that’s our best course of action.”

Harry nodded, feeling somewhat better. They’d fucked up with Teddy, but they could make it right. Together.

“If you want to come help,” Harry began.

“I’ll work with Teddy on Monday nights,” Draco interrupted, turning to his desk work. “When he spends the night with me. Now, Sephora’s given us the files on that break-in by Weasley’s shop. It reminded me of that case we worked last month in Hogsmeade. Did you see the resemblance?”

“Er, I haven’t looked at it yet,” Harry admitted.

Draco didn't even scold him. He just stood from his desk, and said, “I’ll let you read it over while I get some tea. We can talk about it after.”

“Oh,” said Harry.

So that’s how it was to be. He nodded. Then, slowly, methodically, he pulled the first case file to him, opened it, and began to read. Professionalism he could do. He would have to. He didn’t know what else to do when Draco was so obviously uninterested in continuing on with him.

He supposed he deserved it. It didn’t make it any easier to bear.

September, 2009

Harry arrived late to Andromeda’s on September first, having snoozed through his wand alarm so many times it stopped bothering to wake him. He really should’ve gone to bed earlier, but last night, he’d had to smile through another monthly family dinner with Draco, and he’d promptly gone to the Happy Dementor to drown himself in goblin-made gin afterwards.

It wasn’t easy keeping up this facade for Andromeda and Teddy’s sakes. It wasn’t easy working with Draco day by day, missing him night by night, and having to fake something that should’ve been real once a month. They used to be so good together. They used to have the highest solve rate in the Auror Department.

It had been four years. Why couldn’t Harry just fucking move on?

He’d tried. He’d really, honestly tried. He’d even gone to the therapist Hermione recommended, the same one who’d helped her through her and Ron’s separation last year. He’d even taken the fucking serotonin-boosting potions. They got him through the day, but at night, he’d sit on his couch watching telly and thinking up new excuses he could use to call out of work the next day.

“Hello?” he called, rushing in from the Floo Parlour. “Teddy? Ready for your first day of Hogwarts, champ?”

He turned the corner to the kitchen, already apologising, “Andromeda, I’m so sorry, I overslept—” And stopped dead in his tracks.

“What are you doing here?”

Draco frowned at him. “Taking Teddy to the train. What are you doing here?”

“Taking Teddy to the train!” Harry said, furious. “You knew I was doing this. I put in for the time off last month!”

Draco stalked over to him, and whispered, “How the fuck am I supposed to know what days you’re taking off to drink and what days you’re taking off to be an adult? You take off every other week!”

Harry could’ve punched him right then. Instead, he did his mental affirmations, as Hermione had taught him to. I am better than this, he told himself. I deserve to be happy.

It helped a little. Enough to keep him from getting arrested, anyway.

“Good morning, Harry,” Andromeda said pointedly. She already had her raincloak on and Teddy’s draped over one arm. “I hope I don’t have to remind either of you that Teddy’s my grandson, and I will, of course, also be taking him to King’s Cross for his first ride on the Hogwarts Express.” She smiled, in that polite-almost-evil way that only Blacks could, and grabbed her magical camera from the table on her way out of the kitchen, calling as she went, “Teddybear! Let’s go! You don’t want to miss the train do you? Jesus and Merlin, look at all this sodding rain,” she said, her voice trailing off as the distance between them grew.

There was the sound of an Erumpent running down the stairs, a soundtrack to the angry looks Harry was sharing with Draco.

“Hruudra, Harry! Hruudra, Draco!” Teddy yelled. “U Hogwarts gukk jagik druv! Frig a druv!”

Harry laughed. “Hey, kiddo. I bet you are,” he said, piecing together only a few of the Gobbledegook words. Teddy’s enthusiasm over the years had forced him to learn some basic phrases, but the best he could do in this situation was infer Teddy’s excitement at finally going off to school.

“A gukk friggikz uurzungek gja?” asked Draco, who had a much firmer grasp on languages, much to Harry’s infinite displeasure.

“What does that mean?” Harry asked Andromeda.

She smiled. “Draco asked him what he thought his favorite subject would be.”

“Kuunctedj,” Teddy answered promptly.

“Maths,” Andromeda translated. “Arithmancy.”

That was obviously the limit of Draco’s fluency, for he continued in English, “You can’t take that until third year. Don’t you think you’ll like anything before then?”

Teddy shrugged as they hustled towards the Apparition Parlour. Harry and Andromeda checked and re-checked his trunk and made sure Saint Bartholomew was tucked away as comfortably as a Kneazle could be in a travel crate. He looked furious, so all was as it should be.

“Transfigurations, probably,” said Teddy, who was immune to St Bartholomew’s moods.

They chattered on as they lined Teddy and his things up to be Apparated, and then they popped out. To Harry, it was the strangest feeling of both an outing with his family and group Apparition with a stranger.

-x-

Harry was the first to arrive in the Apparition lounge at King’s Cross, and hurriedly stepped out of the way for Andromeda and Teddy to come through with his trunk. He could already see from the windows looking out onto Euston Road that it was still pouring. And he’d left his raincloak at home in his hurry. Great.

They made it onto Platform 9 ¾ without incident, Teddy’s hazel eyes wide and excited. He looked in every direction, taking in all the sights and sounds, and nearly walked right into a young, confused Muggle couple and their similarly cautious son.

“Hi!” Teddy chirped. “Sorry!”

They nodded vaguely at him, and then he proceeded to explain how the train worked and managed to teach the son two words in Gobbledegook all in the span of three minutes. Andromeda floated Teddy’s trunk along until they found Ron and Hermione getting Rosie settled into a compartment near the middles of the train, and then Teddy and Rosie were lost to everyone as they chattered excitedly about going off to Hogwarts for the first time.

After they got Teddy’s trunk in and found a dry seat away from the door for Saint Bartholomew’s carrier, Harry pulled Teddy aside and kneeled down before him, brushing his hot pink hair off his face as he smiled up at him.

“You got so big,” he said wistfully. He favoured his mother most of the time, but his patience and his pragmatism were Remus all over.

Teddy rolled his eyes, and even that looked like Tonks.

“Be good, champ,” Harry said. “And do a spectacular job. Let me know right away if you have any trouble with… with any of your studies. Make lots of friends, learn lots of magic, and kick everyone else’s arse. Except Rosie. Tie with Rosie for the top.”

Teddy laughed. “We’ll take over the world. And then Gringotts!”

“Perfect plan,” Harry acknowledge. He looked over his shoulder and saw Andromeda patiently, and Draco less patiently, waiting for their turn at goodbye. Harry stood up, gave Teddy a fierce hug, and then went over to Ron, Hermione, and Rosie, to give her a pep talk and a hug, too.

“Uncle Harry!” Rosie chirped. “I’m going to Hogwaaaarts!”

“You’re going to Hogwarts!” he agreed, snatching her up and spinning her around before depositing her, dizzy, back on the ground. He gave Ron and Hermione a sideways smile, and then stepped back to chat with Ron while Hermione read Rosie a list of requirements for her first year at Hogwarts, to include studying hard, not taking any nonsense from boys or other girls, being respectful to all of her professors, thinking for herself, and being sure to write.

“Hey, mate,” said Harry. The words were light, but underneath them, Harry was still kind of annoyed from an incident the month before. Ron was his best friend, and always would be, and he tamped it down as best he could. “You look rough.”

Ron rolled his eyes, but even that movement was tired. “Thanks, git. I’ve been sleeping in a swamp for two weeks.”

Harry laughed. “Thought you got over camping in seventh year.”

“I never learn,” Ron said, smirking a little.

A moment passed and Harry decided to ask a question he’d been biting off for months. “Mate,” he said. “You take a lot of long-distance assignments, you know?”

Ron tensed, his eyes on Rosie, though his words were only for Harry. “I know.”

Harry cleared his throat. “Do you want to… ah…”

He didn’t get the chance to finish, as Hermione, exhaling in a very bracing manner, approached. “Your turn, Ron,” she said. Her words were polite, too, but there was an undercurrent to them. A strain that Harry hated.

Ron nodded, gave Harry a brief pat on the shoulder, and went to see his daughter off.

He stepped back, watching Andromeda and then Draco saying their goodbyes to Teddy, but he couldn’t leave yet. How were Rosie and Teddy already eleven? Were Harry’s own Hogwarts years really that long gone?

“Hey, Harry,” said Hermione, tiredly, sidling up next to him.

Harry blinked. “Hey.”

She nodded her head towards the train, where Ron was gently cuffing Rosie on the shoulder and giving what looked to be a very Gryffindor-inspired pep talk. “They get on so well.”

Hermione looked so alone, with her daughter and estranged husband having family time while she stood back and let them, not interfering. They were both alone, Harry supposed. Even with their families right there.

“How are… things?” Harry asked, after a moment. At their last lunch together, Hermione had broke down crying, having just received another passive aggressive “joke” from Ron — this time an ad in the Prophet with her face taking up a whole page in the Sporting section and a headline that read, ‘Attn dressage lovers! Need a trainer who will ride you hard, not letting a single mistake pass un-commented on? Call Hermione Granger-Weasley!’

“Oh,” Hermione said listlessly. “You know.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah.”

They stood there a moment longer, Harry watching Draco boosting Teddy’s confidence in broken Goobledegook, Hermione watching Ron run his hands over Rosie’s auburn hair while he knelt down and hugged her tightly.

The train’s whistle sounded, signalling only two minutes left until departure. Children and parents scrambled to get them into the train, and windows all along the side opened, little hands and heads sticking out to say their goodbyes. Harry and Hermione were not the only ones with shiny eyes.

Hermione made a little sound in her throat and rushed over to Ron and Rosie, dropping to her knees and enclosing Rosie in another hug. Her fists clenched by Rosie’s shoulders, hugging as much of her as she could without, somehow, managing to touch Ron at all.

Finally, Teddy and Rosie were on the train, and Hermione returned to Harry’s side to wave her off. Harry smiled and waved at both of the kids, but his eyes kept flicking back to Draco’s back and his own waving and his secret calls of encouragement that only Teddy and goblins could understand.

“You want to grab some lunch?” Harry asked, eyes still on Draco.

Hermione exhaled heavily. “Yeah,” she said. “That sounds nice. I don’t think I can handle going into the office just yet anyway.”

Harry nodded. The train began to pull away, and Teddy and Rosie’s waves became more and more enthusiastic. Hermione let out a little sob, smiling through her tears as she waved and called, ‘I love you! Be good!’ to Rosie.

He tried to look away from Draco. He still couldn’t.

-x-

Hermione ordered banoffee pie and a cappuccino for lunch. “Don’t tell anyone I’m eating dessert for lunch,” she told him, as soon as the Muggle waitress left their table. “I’ve lost some weight, from the stress,” she added. “I figured I could use the calories, and frankly, I’d just really like some pie.”

Harry could not argue with that. He’d gotten a fish and chip with a piece of apple pie himself. Their coffees came, and they sipped them quietly, watching the rain come down outside in London. The landscape of the day felt much like Harry’s life for the past four years.

“So things haven’t got any better, I take it,” he finally said.

He watched Hermione’s face change in the reflection of the window, how it tightened around her eyes before she exhaled slowly, draining some of the tension with her breath. “We’re getting a divorce,” she said, without any inflection.

Harry turned away from the window to find her watching him keenly. They were only twenty-nine, though Hermione was days from thirty. Their eyes should not look as sad as they did.

“Wow,” said Harry, for lack of anything better. He found he was at a loss for more meaningful words.

Hermione nodded, sipped her cappuccino, and slowly, ironically, repeated, “Wowww.”

Their food arrived. Ever pleasant to everyone who hadn’t pissed her off, Hermione smiled and thanked the waitress, leaving Harry to nod distractedly when she set his plate down.

“Well, really I’m not surprised,” Harry said slowly.

“Is anyone?” Hermione asked with a little smile.

“The Weasleys, I imagine,” said Harry.

Hermione pursed her lips. “Molly’s furious. Said it’s scandalous.”

“She’ll get over it,” Harry said.

Hermione grinned at him. “She’s furious at Ron, actually. For that… that despicable betrayal of his wedding vows and common decency in the paper last month.”

Harry’s eyebrows rose. He leant back in his chair, shaking his head. “I have no idea what’s come over him,” he said. “I’m still angry with him myself, after that.”

Hermione nodded, poked at her pie. “Thank you for being angry on my behalf, but don’t hold it over him forever. He just… wasn’t ready for marriage when I got pregnant with Rosie. And frankly, neither was I. We might’ve…” She looked away, brushing her eyes discreetly, and swallowed. “We might’ve had a chance if we’d waited. I used to think we should’ve been more careful with the contraception spells, but we just didn’t think. It felt like we’d die any day. And now I know I’m better off with Rosie and without Ron than either of us would’ve been the other way round.”

She cleared her throat. “Anyway,” she said, finally taking a bite of her pie. “We’ve an appointment with our attorneys next Wednesday. We’re hoping for a quick, amicable split, now Rosie’s off to school.”

“If you ever need anything, just to talk, or… you know, watch Manchester on telly with me, you can come over anytime. Anytime, Hermione.”

She smiled at him again. “I know, Harry. Thank you. I may just do that.” She sipped her cappuccino again and said briskly, “So, tell me what’s wrong with you. I saw you watching Malfoy.”

Harry frowned. “I hate my job,” he said, instead.

Hermione’s eyebrows went up. “Did you ever really like it?”

“Not as much as I’d thought I would,” he admitted. “But I kept showing up because I didn’t know what else to do.”

“And because Malfoy was your partner,” Hermione added, a slight question in her voice.

Harry huffed. She would weasel it out of him eventually if he didn’t just tell her. “We had a… thing. A few years back. It didn’t end well.”

Hermione seemed less surprised at this admission than Harry would’ve liked. She just nodded, drank from her cappuccino, and watched the rain outside the window for a bit. She turned back to take a bite of her banoffee pie and asked, “Not to be insensitive, but how in the world did you and Malfoy work together for years after a messy break-up?”

Harry scowled.

“I need to know for educational reasons,” Hermione protested. “Ron and I still have to manage to get Rosie to seventeen alive, after all. And somehow we’ve got to cooperate on that.”

Harry laughed, though it felt brittle in his throat. “Malfoy’s really good at ignoring uncomfortable things. It’s all that pure-blood upbringing.”

Hermione nodded slowly. “And you?”

He sighed. “I spent four years wanting him before I had him, four weeks with him, and another four wanting him after I’d had him. Really, it was nothing more than a return to status quo. And I am very good at being a martyr for those I love.”

Harry froze. Had he really said love? Had he really thought it? Carefully, he relaxed his muscles before she noticed.

Hermione’s face scrunched in confusion. “A martyr? How so? Are you… doing something for Malfoy?”

He shrugged. “You could say that.” He looked down at his barely touched chips. They were cold now and not worth bothering with. He bit his lip, wondering where his appetite had gone and if it, like Hermione's, was caused by stress. “Did you know he’s only an Auror to help clean up the Malfoy name? He hates it. He does it for Teddy, so that when Teddy inherits his title, it’ll be a title to be proud of. And a lot of people still treat him like shit, you know… and Dawlish’s assistants like to give Draco crap cases. The only times he gets good ones is when it’s a double assignment with me. I don’t want him to hate his job even more than he does, so I stay, so he can get good cases. I think I would’ve quit a long time ago if it weren’t for that.”

Hermione’s eyes were wide. “Oh, my god,” she said. “Harry.”

“I thought about asking for a partner change a few times,” he went on. “Maybe they’d let me work with Ron again, or even Susan. But every time I think that, I realise that there’s no point in being an Auror if I’m not Draco’s partner. If I’m not his partner, I might as well quit.”

“You should quit,” Hermione said firmly.

“I can’t quit,” he said. “I don’t know what else to do.”

She pursed her lips. “Sometimes, I think I should quit the DMLE, too. I’m so tired of staying up until two every other night, trying to put together a defense for some ungrateful thug. I think my boss gets pleasure out of only assigning me the obviously guilty and violent ones.”

“We should both quit,” Harry decided glumly. Their waitress came over with his pie, and Hermione ordered a second piece of banoffee and two more coffees for them.

Suddenly, her eyes lit up. “Harry!” she said, leaning across the table and nearly upsetting the fresh coffee their waitress had brought. “I’ve got it! Let’s start a business!”

He looked at her askance. “...Doing what?”

“Something happy,” Hermione decided firmly. “Something that will make us happy and other people happy, too.”

“Like making mince pies?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Nothing kitchen-related,” she said, and Harry knew her adamance came from Ron’s fondness for experimenting with such. “Look around,” she said, gesturing to the cafe and rainy Muggle London outside. “The magical world is so different from the Muggle one. We could adapt something Muggle, something that wizards don’t even know they need yet… fill a void they don’t even realise they have.”

Harry thought about that. “I really miss the convenience of telephones,” he said. “Being able to walk around with them instead of kneeling the whole time.”

“Good idea,” Hermione said, writing that down on a napkin. “And then there’s televisions, too, of course. I imagine loads of men would like to actually watch the professional Quidditch matches instead of listening to them on the wireless… Ooh! And computers and the internet—”

“I wish we had things like this,” Harry broke in, “but I’m not really much of one for making things. I’m more of a doing things sort of person.”

Hermione lifted her head and hmm’d. “You’re right,” she said. “As am I. Well, then… not a product. A service. We’re both great at lots of things. We could surely adapt our talents to a new service for magical people.”

“Feng shui consultation?” Harry suggested, grinning. “Sephora’s really into that right now.”

Hermione gave him a look. “The point is something that makes us happy,” she said. “Not something that makes me want to pull my hair out.”

Harry laughed. “Okay, what makes you happy? Besides telling people what to do, if I were to ask Ron.”

She scowled. “I am good at giving advice,” she said primly. “What are you good at?”

He chewed his lip, thinking. “Being an Auror, Quidditch, running, working with people I don’t want to work with, forecasting Quidditch league standings, suffering in silence, aging gracefully—hey!” he said, as Hermione whacked his arm.

“You can’t claim that as a skill until at least fifty,” she said. “How about practical skills?”

“Well,” he said, hesitantly. “I’ve picked up a pretty good eye for design, from working with Draco. He’s always commenting on the colour schemes of people’s homes when we investigate, and telling me everything he’d do differently. I’ve got good enough that I can almost always predict what he’d change and how he’d change it before he even opens his mouth.”

Hermione sat back, thoughtful. “Okay, that’s a start... I’m quite good at negotiating, haggling, and persuading,” she said. “And I love reading Andromeda’s blog, so I’ve been exposed to creativity. We could start a home redecorating business.”

Harry shook his head. “Too much time spent in the company of one set of people,” he said. “We’d have to go into their homes for weeks at a time, and we’d see all of their dirty laundry, their tense moments and fights. I don’t want other people’s stress on top of mine.”

Hermione nodded as if this made perfect sense to her. “Good point. Design for a short period of time, then…” she said, trailing off. Then, suddenly: “I’ve got it! Do you know what I really wish I’d had eleven years ago? A wedding planner.”

Harry recoiled. “You want me to be a wedding planner?” he said, incredulously. “Are you trying to stereotype me?”

She swatted him again. “Stop,” she said, laughing. “I’m serious. Think of how fun it would be to put together the happiest days of people’s lives. We’d get to go in and make their big days perfect, and then we’d never have to witness all the fights that come after it… or the ‘jokes’ in newspapers,” she added darkly. “And I love planning things. I might not be the most creative person ever, but I’m really good at research, and bringing ideas together, and I bet I could learn some creativity over time.”

Seeing his expression shift to thoughtfulness as she made her points, she added, “Oh, please, Harry. Think of how fun it would be. Think of how happy it would be.”

He hesitated again. “It would be happier than the Ministry,” he agreed slowly.

“It would be great,” Hermione insisted. “There’s a void in the market, and we can fill it, Harry. Wizards and witches don’t even know they need wedding planners, but remember what a spectacle the Montague-Kilgore wedding was last summer? The Prophet made fun of it for weeks. They had no idea what they were doing. They could’ve used a wedding planner, if only the magical world had such a thing.”

“What if no one wants one?” Harry asked.

Hermione pursed her lips. Firmly, she said, “They will. We just have to show them that they need us. Ooh! Padma at work just got engaged to Theodore Nott. We can offer to do theirs gratis, to build our portfolio. It’ll be a big society wedding, so we’ll get lot’s of exposure.”

Theodore Nott. Harry swallowed. He was Draco’s best mate, and frequently stopped by their office to chat on his way to court. If they did their wedding, then he’d surely have to work with Draco again frequently.

But not as an Auror.

And not permanently.

He could give up this daily torture, and wean himself off Draco little by little. And by the time Padma and Nott married, Harry would be done with him. It was a clean end. A happy end, for how could a wedding be anything but?

“We’d have no fucking idea what we were doing,” he said, just to remind her.

She waved him off. “Give me a week, access to the internet, and three years of Vogue Wedding back issues and I’ll know it inside and out.”

Harry didn’t doubt her. He breathed in, then let it all out in a rush. “Okay,” he said, feeling his heartbeat triple in time. Was he really going to do this? Was he really going to quit his job and go off into the sunset with Hermione to be a wedding planner?

It seemed that he was.

Hermione beamed at him. “This will be good for us,” she said, nodding. “A good distraction from… from all the other shit. Like our love lives, and… and that I really miss my little girl, and it’s only been a few hours.” She paused, and then said, “If we can’t have romance, then we’ll make sure everyone else can.”

For some reason, that hit Harry hard. It struck his chest like a blow and settled into the flesh there. It gave him the confidence and the determination to return to work that afternoon with a letter of resignation for Dawlish. He didn’t see or speak to Draco while he was there.

And it was perfectly fine.

It was a new life, and he was ready for it. He’d been ready for it.

-x-

Hermione wasted no time convincing Padma and Nott to let them plan their wedding. While skeptical at first, Padma was good friends with Hermione and had come to trust her during their years together as colleagues.

‘If you suggest something I hate,’ Padma had reasonably said, ‘then I can always just tell you no.’

And that was that. Their first wedding was secured and Hermione had indeed learned the ins and outs of the wedding planning industry in just under a week. Beyond back issues of Muggle magazines and the internet, she’d also conducted a number of interviews with top London Muggle wedding planners, posing as a wealthy bride-to-be who was looking to choose a planner for her own wedding.

“I got loads of insider secrets,” Hermione explained one evening at Harry’s flat, while they ate curry from takeaway boxes and read each other the letters from Hogwarts that their kids had sent them. Both Rosie and Teddy had ended up in Ravenclaw, to no one’s surprise.

Teddy had immediately sussed out Flitwick’s part-goblin heritage and had delighted in writing all his Charms assignments in Gobbledegook, also to no one’s surprise. Flitwick, for his part, was very enthusiastic to have a student so interested in goblin culture, according to Teddy.

“So on Friday,” Hermione continued, scrolling through her magic-adapted planner, “We’re meeting with Padma and Theo at the Graceful Hag Cafe to discuss what they want for their wedding. I want us to get there twenty minutes early to settle in at the table and get our thoughts in order. We can’t afford to look nervous, even if we are.”

“And will be,” Harry said.

She nodded. “Most likely. But we have to project calm and confidence, and most importantly, we have to really listen to Padma and Theo… really figure out what they want their wedding to be like, so that we can come back here and brainstorm… oh, maybe we should get an office space.”

“Why don’t we make sure we can do this before we do that,” Harry suggested. “And we can always make the office here at Grimmauld a working one.”

Hermione nodded. “You’re right.” She set her curry on the coffee table, and took a long drink from her beer. “Okay, so the worst part of magical wedding planning for me was the Seven Struggles.”

“The what?” said Harry, who’d never heard of such a thing in his life, unless one counted his school years. He tried to ignore the flinch he gave at the word ‘seven’. He was getting better, but even after four years, the guilt over Teddy’s struggling ability to use that number took a toll. Teddy was getting by, but it took constant reinforcement of the definition of the number and dozens of mnemonics.

Hermione made a disgusted face. “Oh, it’s absolutely vile,” she said. “It’s a set of wizarding wedding traditions, and they’re wretched and barbaric and should be outlawed, but unfortunately they’re required to make a magical marriage legal in Britain…” She trailed off, no doubt running through ways to have such laws overturned, but then she shook her head and muttered, “No, I’m done with that,” she added to herself.

Hermione cleared her throat and returned her attention to Harry. “Anyway, Ron and I had to go through them when we were planning our wedding. It’s a set of seven tasks that the marrying couple must perform, one per month, in the seven months leading up to the wedding. They’re meant to be celebrations, but I absolutely refused to do ours in front of other people. I suspect Padma and Theo will want theirs public, though. It’s traditional. A bunch of parties, really.”

Harry blinked, then scowled. “Really? You never even told me! Ron didn’t either!”

Hermione waved him off. “Honestly, Harry, you didn’t miss much, and they were humiliating. The first month, we had to switch wands for the entire month. The second, we had to perform this absolutely barbaric vow of loyalty to one another’s families and we had to sit down with one another’s families and go through our net worths with them! With a Gringotts representative there to witness!” By the end, Hermione’s voice had gone shrill with anger.

“Wow,” Harry said, eyebrows raised. He was imagining Ron trying to explain the balance of his Gringotts vault in galleons and sickles to the Grangers, and having very little luck.

“See?” said Hermione. “It really only got worse from there. In the third month, we had to jump from brooms and trust that our partner would save us from the fall. I honestly wet myself then.”

“You did not!” Harry said, laughing.

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. Harry immediately stopped laughing. “I was pregnant,” Hermione said, primly. “Rosie’s feet were on my bladder.”

“Of course,” Harry agreed, though it didn’t take much effort to do the mental math that told him she would’ve only been four months pregnant at the time. A wave of shame overcame him when he wondered if Teddy would’ve been able to do the same math.

Hermione sighed. “And after that, there was a joint dunking in a cold river, to wash away the heat of our past loves, assuming we had any, and in the fifth month, we had to light 7 candles outside on a rainy evening and watch them all night to make sure none of them were blown out by wind or rain—without magic. In the sixth month we had to cover ourselves in mud and stand before a fire until we dried out. When the mud cracked off us, it symbolized the flower of our love bursting from the ground in search of new life.”

“This really does sound like it sucked,” Harry said. “I’m starting to be very glad I never married.”

“There’s time yet,” Hermione said ominously.

Harry shuddered. “Then what?”

“In the last month, assuming we survived all the other ordeals, we had to submit our union to the highest judge of all: wild magic. If we received a magical blessing, we could go ahead and get married. If not, and we still wanted to go through with it, we could get a handfasting instead. Fortunately — or unfortunately — we received a wild magic blessing, and eleven years later, here we are.”

Harry was appalled.

“So our job, as wedding planners, will be to organize each of these events for Padma and Theo, as well as do their wedding. The event itself should be much easier by comparison.”

“I should hope so,” Harry said faintly.

There was so much more to weddings than he’d ever thought. He’d only been to two wizarding weddings — Ron and Hermione’s, and Bill and Fleur’s — so he knew a little about the Muggle parts (the ceremony itself). He knew less about all of the traditional wizarding parts. So that sucked.

His homework, per Hermione, was to read through a year's worth of back issues of Bride and Broom magazine. And Merlin have mercy, it sounded like he’d need it.

-x-

That Friday, Hermione and Harry arrived early to the Graceful Hag, only to find that Padma and Nott were also early arrivers. He didn’t have to look over at Hermione to know she’d have tensed upon seeing them. She hated being caught wrong footed. On top of that, it was pouring outside, and her hair was likely to frizz when she pulled her hood down. Harry mentally prepared for a tough afternoon.

“Don’t worry,” he told her, sotto voce. “You’ve got this.”

Hermione nodded once, determined, and strode briskly forward, beaming at the couple. “Padma!” she said happily. Padma squealed, jumped up to hug her. Nott stood as well, waiting for his chance to shake hands. Harry took the opportunity.

“Hello, Nott,” he said, reaching out to shake.

Nott took his hand, smiling ruefully. “Potter,” he said. “You and Granger do nothing by halves, do you? The news you both had turned in letters of resignation on the same afternoon sent an uproar through the entire Ministry. It’s been two weeks and people are still talking about it. Draco hasn’t shut up about it since.”

Harry tensed, tried to look nonchalant. “Oh? How’s he?”

Nott shrugged. “Oh, fine, I’m sure. You know Draco. Complains about everything.” Nott hesitated, but then added, “They put him with a junior Auror. He’s back on the kiddie investigations.”

“Harry!” Padma said, before Harry could begin to feel guilty about the systemic immorality of the Ministry, and how they apparently never trusted Draco unless Harry was there to supervise him. Padma embraced him briefly and then stepped back, hands on his shoulders while she scanned his face.

“You look good,” she decided. “Much better than last time I saw you in court.”

Harry laughed a little. “I always hated going in that courtroom.”

Padma smiled. “And you’ve met Theo Nott, my fiancé,” she said. He and Nott nodded, which caused Padma to smile even more. “Wonderful! So! I’m really excited about all of this. When Hermione told me she was starting a wedding planning business, I was all over it. I’d already started worrying about how Theo and I were going to plan all those damned Struggles with our caseloads, and the wedding on top of that! Shiva help me, I thought! And look, he did!”

Hermione laughed, saying, “Let’s sit while we talk. God, I could use a cup of tea,” she added, shucking her raincloak. Her hair poufed up in a halo around her head, and everyone politely ignored it. “It’s a nightmare out there.”

“Tea, yes, definitely,” said Padma, tapping their table with her wand to call the waitress.

When tea and cake were ordered and on the way, Hermione pulled out a biro and a huge notebook with coloured tabs stuck to a number of pages. “We’re really excited to do this,” she said. “I know it seems unusual, but this sort of thing is very popular in the Muggle world. I think we can make your wedding one everyone talks about for years to come, and you won’t have to worry about a thing.”

Padma and Nott gave one another looks of relief. Nott turned back to them and said, “I’ll tell you that that was what sold me on this idea. Normally, I’d find it gauche to bring an outsider’s help into such an intimate production, but both of us are under a lot of pressure right now, and I’m up for partner at my firm. We don’t have time for any of this, but we wanted to get married now instead of later since married witches get an extra week’s holiday at the Ministry, and Padma needs it so we can go to Hawaii and see the volcanoes.”

“...Why?” Harry asked.

Both Padma and Hermione rolled their eyes. “To encourage witches to wed,” Hermione said, disgustedly. “I was going to lose mine with the divorce, but now they won’t get the satisfaction of taking it away,” she added smugly.

Harry chose not to continue that line of inquiry at present. He cleared his throat. “Have you set a date yet?” he asked, which seemed like a safer question.

“Not yet,” said Padma. “We need to get some chickens first. It’s auspicious that we marry on a day that rains,” she added, “so we have to divine it.”

Hermione very stoically said nothing on that topic. “Great,” she said, instead. “November, December, and January are typically the wettest in London, so if you go with one of those, it gives us a few months to start planning your Struggles.”

“We’re aiming for late December or early January,” Nott said. “We’re both Capricorns. It seemed fitting.”

Hermione nodded, taking all of this down in her notebook. “So,” she said, looking up again. “Have you thought about a theme?”

The couple looked at one another. “A theme?” said Padma.

Having read many issues of both Vogue Wedding and Bride and Broom, Harry understood where the confusion came from. Magical weddings didn’t have themes like Muggle ones did. There weren’t any colour palettes, no venue viewings, no caterers to choose from. Everything in the wizarding world, so far, was homegrown. Families brought out the good china and steam cleaned the carpets in their manor houses.

It occurred to Harry then that he and Hermione were perhaps about to commit a great sin: that of creating a wedding industry where there had, before, never been need for one. Well, whatever made people happy. And that was his and Hermione’s new life goal, after all.

“Muggle weddings often have themes,” said Harry. “Like ‘Winter Wonderland’ or ‘Under the Sea’, where the whole wedding is designed kind of like a fancy dress party, except the fancy dress is in the decorations.”

“Ooh,” said Padma, biting her lip. “That sounds really fun. I haven’t been to a fancy dress party in years. I’m always working.”

“What better time than your wedding?” Hermione said brightly. “So, do you have any ideas for a theme? Perhaps ‘Endless Love’ or, hmm, ‘Love is in the Air’?”

Padma and Nott looked at one another. They looked back at Harry and Hermione, and said simultaneously: “Volcanoes.”

“Volcanoes,” Hermione repeated slowly.

“We really love volcanoes,” Padma explained. “I have a volcano calendar on my office wall and the cutest little volcano-shaped Floo powder dish. Oh! And last Christmas, Theo gave me a quill that writes with real lava, although I have to charm it cooler to use it in court, but it’s fantastic for distracting the defense. So volcanoes are our favourite. We’ve already been to see Krakatoa and Vesuvius.”

“Okay…” said Hermione, writing ‘VOLCANOES’ on her notebook in large block letters. “Volcanoes are hot, like love,” she said to herself, then nodded decisively. “We can make volcanoes romantic. And if you don’t want to have to prepare the Patil home for a wedding, or enlist all your family into cooking, then we can also find you a venue to have the ceremony and reception and people to cook for it.”

Padma beamed, and even Nott looked pleased. “Great!” said Padma. “Anything that’s less work for us is good.”

Nott’s wand chirped and he said, “Ah, bugger. I really must run. I’ve got loads of paperwork and a client meeting at three.”

“Me, too,” Padma added, sighing. “I’m in court in an hour. We’re doing the divination this week, though, Hermione. I’ll owl you with the most auspicious date!”

Harry and Hermione looked at one another when they’d gone. Harry let out a long breath. “Are we in over our heads?” he asked.

Hermione did not hesitate. “Absolutely,” she said. “But it’s always more fun when you are.”

Harry allowed himself a grin. That was definitely true.

-x-

December, 2009

The best date for the wedding turned out to be the Winter Solstice of the following year, which would fall on 22 December, just inside the Capricorn zodiac, and predicted by both Farmer’s Almanac and chicken entrails to rain heavily.

The state of Hermione’s hair and mental well-being improved exponentially with the news that she had over a year to plan. Nott and Padma both insisted on paying them for their services, too, which made Hermione’s transition to singlehood a lot smoother, and prevented Harry from worrying about his own lack of real job.

On the afternoon that Ron and Hermione finalised their divorce, Harry met his best mate at the Happy Dementor for a few pints. They’d not spoken much in recent months — Ron and Susan Bones being out of the country for several weeks on a case, and Harry still being miffed at him for that ad in the Prophet — but Harry could admit that he was dreadfully glad to see Ron when he walked in the door, wet from the drizzle.

It was just two days before Christmas, and Ron was preparing for a nice long week off from work. Harry was preparing to spend a Christmas at the Weasleys with both Hermione and Ron present and unmarried. One task was easier than the other.

They hugged fiercely when Ron reached the bar. Harry’s robes soaked through from the contact, and Ron gave him a brief, apologetic smile.

“Merlin, what a day,” Ron said tiredly, as he shook his cloak out and hung it on a nearby peg. He ran his hands through his hair, and sighed, holding a finger up to the barkeep for one of whatever Harry was having.

“How’d it go?” Harry asked.

Ron shook his head. “‘Bout as well as you’d expect,” he said. “It was… amicable.”

Harry’s expression didn’t change. He wasn’t surprised. Regardless of how their marriage had turned out, Ron and Hermione had always been, first and foremost, friends. They’d do whatever they could, bury their difficult emotions, to keep that possibility open for the future. And for Rosie.

“Have you told Rosie yet?”

Ron nodded. “Hermione’s at Mum’s telling her it’s finalised now. Thought it best if we visited her separate, so she’d be able to ask us questions individually and not worry about the awkwardness of honesty.”

That sounded like something Hermione would suggest.

“Mate, are you… are you okay?” Harry asked after a long, strange pause.

Ron’s face seemed to tense at the question, though he kept his eyes on the glass in front of him. He lifted it, took a long sip, and set it back down, running his fingers along the condensation rim it left on the bar. “I’m… we’re going to be fine,” he said at last.

His hand clenched around the glass, and he added, as if forcing the words out through cement, “We fucked this thing up long ago. We should’ve taken a step back before we got married… let things from the war settle, before we jumped into married life. We weren’t ready for it, and it brought out the worst in both of us. But it doesn’t mean Hermione’s not the love of my life. It just means that sometimes, it’s better if you don’t stay with the love of your life, so that they can be in your life at all.”

Harry swallowed heavily. It made him think of Draco, suddenly, and then his body began to hurt all over, as if emotion were a physical thing. He’d quit the Aurors on September first, and here it was nearly Christmas. That was almost four months he’d gone without even seeing Draco’s face, save for at the increasingly awkward (now that Teddy was at Hogwarts) monthly family dinners Andromeda hosted.

And tomorrow night was another one of them. If he really loved Draco, which he was beginning to suspect he very well might, then how was he going to make it through tomorrow night? How was he going to make it through Christmas? It was bad enough when he’d thought he simply wanted Draco, that he was simply mad at him for hurting Teddy’s chances at Gringotts.

He was mad at Draco for that. Four years on, his blood still boiled whenever he thought of how far behind Teddy was getting on his studies, all because of those damned sevens. But quitting the Aurors, being separated from Draco on a daily basis, didn’t help him conquer his want. It didn’t come close to conquering his need.

Had they destroyed something precious for guilt they’d never be able to assuage? Had Harry come to work every day, eaten uncomfortable lunches with Draco every day, gave half a mind to solving cases every day… for nothing? For a colossal fuck-up that they’d never be able to fix?

It had been his fault, too. He’d allowed it. He’d jumped Draco at work on Bring Your Child to Work Day. He’d been the first to suggest Obliviation.

It was funny how a man’s ethics worked. It was funny how his ethics worked when he was scared.

Hindsight being twenty-twenty, Harry knew now what he’d been scared of. Not of awkward questions from his godson, certainly. But from the possibility that Teddy walking in on them could ruin the fragile thing they might have just begun. He’d been desperate to keep Draco. And in doing so, he’d thrown him away.

And then he’d left Draco to the tender mercies of a Ministry that didn’t give a fuck about him, just because neither of them were adult enough to settle things after four fucking years.

“Ron,” Harry said, shaking himself out of these shitty thoughts. He reached out and patted Ron’s hand in a very manly and supportive way. “I love you both. You’re both going to get through this. You’re both always going to be my best friends. And I’m here for you always, anytime. You know that.”

Ron gave him a sideways grin. “I know, mate,” he said, and even though he was smiling, there was sadness in his voice. “There’s time for happiness yet. For all of us.”

Harry nodded. There was. And if none of them could have happiness right now, then at least he and Hermione could give it to other people. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try for his own. His heart was pounding with the realisation… that he could try again.

-x-

“Harryyyyy!”

Teddy slammed into his chest, much taller than he had been when Harry dropped him off at King’s Cross in September. “Great Merlin,” Harry exclaimed, struggling to get his breath back. There was a mass of pink hair against his ribcage and two little arms trying to squeeze the life out of him around his waist. “I thought we sent you to Hogwarts to learn spells, not warfare tactics.”

Teddy peeked up at him through his hair, grinning. “I learned loads of stuff.” He detached himself and started leading Harry back towards the kitchen, chattering all the while. Harry nodded along, trying to give Teddy his full attention, but unable to quite do so with Draco’s voice drifting out from the kitchen. His body was on high alert. There was something in him that both resisted going in that room and couldn’t wait to get there.

“And anyway, Professor Flitwick says everyone’s got areas they struggle with, and if my area is sevens, then that’s just the way I was born,” Teddy was saying.

Harry jerked to attention as he crossed the threshold, and, distantly, he heard Draco stop speaking mid-sentence. Teddy hadn’t noticed the awkward silence, but Andromeda’s gaze was narrowing thoughtfully, and even Narcissa, peppy as she was, sensed something amiss.

“Teddy are you still having trouble with sevens?” Narcissa asked, brows furrowed.

Teddy flushed a little bit. “I just don’t get it,” he said, frustrated. “I can mentally multiply six digit numbers, but if even one of those numbers is a seven, I can’t get it right. It’s like… it’s like my brain doesn’t even know what a seven is, even though I can look at a seven and recognise it… but if I see one, I have to count it out on my fingers to remember what the value of seven is. I don’t get it,” he repeated glumly. “And I wanted to do some extra work for Flitwick, but it involved mathematical wand flicks, and I’m having a real tough time with it.”

Andromeda gave Narcissa a sisterly look, shaking her head where Teddy couldn’t see her. She dried her hands off on the dishtowel and ran them affectionately through Teddy’s hair. “It’s just one of his quirks,” she said. “He’ll figure it out, won’t you, Teddybear?”

Teddy nodded determinedly. “I have to if I want Gringotts to hire me, and I do. Professor Flitwick’s spoken to Professor Vector about getting me some extra reading next term, so I can catch up before third year when I take Arithmancy.”

Quite unwillingly, Harry and Draco shared a look. The kind they hadn’t shared in four years. Harry was a swamp of guilt, all heavy and weighed down by the muggy weight of it. He knew his life had taken a turn somewhere. He knew that somewhere had been the day he and Draco took Teddy to the Ministry. It had been both the best and worst day of his life.

Somehow, they settled into dinner with little more being said about Teddy’s academic abilities. Neither Andromeda nor Narcissa suspected anything amiss with Teddy, but the worst thing… the worst thing was that even Teddy didn’t suspect. He went right on trusting the both of them, having no idea whatsoever the guilt and anger that had eaten up any possibility of love between Harry and Draco.

They’d tried. They’d both tried for years to repair the damage of their mistake, and still Teddy struggled.

After dinner, Harry sucked it up and caught Draco by the elbow as he was heading for the Floo. Draco’s entire body tensed, and when he turned back to face Harry, he’d lost all expression from his face.

“Yes?” he said.

“I…” Harry said. He swallowed. “Can we talk?”

Draco scowled, but eventually nodded once. “Where?”

Harry bit his lip, and then, rather bravely he felt, said, “Come to mine.”

Draco stared hard at him for a long moment. “Fine,” he said. Harry nodded, took some powder from the dish on the mantle, and tossed it in the flames. “Grimmauld Place,” he said, and stepped in, hoping Draco would actually follow him through.

-x-

“Can I get you anything?” Harry asked. “Tea? Coffee? Gin?”

Draco narrowed his eyes. “I’ve work in the morning,” he said pointedly, and Harry felt a new wave of guilt at leaving him alone to the Auror Department. “I’ll have tea.”

“Tea it is,” Harry said with forced joviality.

He busied himself in the converted ground floor kitchen, setting the kettle to boil the non-magical way over a fire in his hearth, and arranging the tray with cups and the biscuits Harry always bought because Draco liked (but never ate and always ended up throwing away because he hated them and they went bad). But he had them now and that was good, wasn’t it?

When he’d taken as long as he feasibly could and had brought the tea things into the living room, he found Draco casually sat in the same chair he’d favoured every time he came to Harry’s before their… parting.

Harry smiled brightly.

“So,” he said, setting the tray down on the table between them. “Teddy’s still struggling.”

“I was sure those tutors I got for him had made progress.”

“He had,” Harry agreed. “I remember sitting down with him last year, and he could almost remember sevens most of the time. He just kept referencing his cheat sheet, with seven tallies on it.”

Draco nodded, frowning as he stared into the middle distance. “I don’t understand the block,” he said. “Learning is fluid. One little messed up Obliviation should not have caused such long-term effects.”

Harry sighed. “I know. But it has. And we need to help him.”

“He can’t carry a cheat sheet around with him for the rest of his life,” Draco said.

“No,” Harry agreed, thinking. The silence stretched out as they struggled to come up with a solution. Suddenly, it hit him. “I’ve got it!” Harry said.

Draco quirked a single eyebrow.

“Calculators,” said Harry. He stood up and paced back and forth in his excitement. “Why didn’t I think of this sooner? It’s so obvious. All he needs is a little personal calculator—”

“A what,” said Draco.

“It’s a Muggle device,” Harry explained. “It will do math for you. You just type in the numbers and the mathematical expressions you want to use, and it calculates an answer.”

Draco frowned. “Teddy needs to learn the math. Not be given the answers.”

“He will learn it,” Harry insisted. “You have to know how to do the math in order to use a calculator. It just helps you get the right number. Muggles use them for quick math, or when doing very large equations, where the potential for human error is high.”

“Hmm,” said Draco. “Are you sure it’s safe for Teddy to be around Muggle technology? What if it emits vapors that get into his brain? It might make the problem worse.”

Harry blinked at him, and then, so startled he couldn’t help himself, he burst out laughing.

Draco scowled at him, his expression so fierce that Harry would’ve cowered if it didn’t make him laugh anymore. “I will not submit myself to be mocked, Harry,” he said, rising from his chair.

Harry struggled to breathe, wiping tears from his eyes, and somehow managed to get out, “No, wait. Stay.” Draco glowered at him, and Harry calmed enough to add, “Please, Draco. I wasn’t mocking.”

Draco did not look entirely convinced, but to be fair, Draco never looked entirely convinced. Of anything. Slowly, he sat back down. “Where can we get him one of these calculators?”

Harry waved a hand. “Oh, I’ll pick one up in London tomorrow.”

“And it’ll help him?” Draco said suspiciously.

Harry nodded. “I think so.”

Draco nodded. “Good. I want Teddy to have the best chance possible with Gringotts. I don’t want our… indiscretion to harm his prospects.”

Harry sat back down. His tea had gone cold but he drank some anyway. “Draco,” he said, slowly, carefully. Draco tensed, but his expression remained blank. Harry ignored it. He’d seen Draco cornered enough times to know it. “About that. You know I—”

“Potter, we shouldn’t be talking about this,” Draco interrupted.

Harry pressed his lips together. “I think we should.”

Draco froze. “Why?”

Harry shook his head. “It… it wasn’t right. How we ended. It wasn’t right we ended at all.”

“You’re the one who ended it, in case you’ve forgotten,” Draco sneered.

“I did n—wait. What?”

Draco rolled his eyes. “I distinctly remember a broccoli and cheese casserole.”

“But, the next day,” Harry said.

Draco’s eyes narrowed.

Harry shook his head. “Are you serious? You wouldn’t even look at me that whole week. Are you saying you were… sort of still interested?”

Draco gave him a withering look. “You are incredibly thick, Harry.”

“I know,” Harry said easily. “But you’re incredibly prickly. And hard to read when you want to be. And we were both so eaten up with guilt over Teddy that neither of us were thinking clearly. Could we… maybe start again?” he asked hesitantly.

Draco was on the precipice, wavering between two directions, and Harry could see him leaning away, choosing the safer path, but Harry had never liked safe, and he was a terrible person for not wanting Draco to take it either. He leaned forward, and grabbed Draco’s hand.

“Draco,” he said. “We were supposed to have something. It was supposed to happen. It can still happen. I think of no one but you. For four years, you’ve been the only person I could think about. I want to try again. I want to do it right.”

“And by ‘right’ you mean…”

“Slowly,” said Harry. “Properly. I… I shouldn’t have done what I did that day in our office. I should’ve told you that I’d wanted you for years, that it was more than just sex. I shouldn’t have made you think it was only about a fuck.”

Draco pursed his lips. “Are you sure it wasn’t?”

“Positive,” Harry said, with feeling. He clenched Draco’s hand in his. “Draco,” he said. “I stayed in the Auror force for you. Just to see you every day, to work with you and laugh with you and eat shit pub lunches with you. Work was my escape when we were good together. And then afterwards, it was my penance. Because I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you would’ve wanted more, and I know it was stupid of me to leave it this long, but when am I not stupid? And also, I want to point out that you left it this long, too.”

“Potter,” Draco growled.

Harry grinned a little, his heart pounding furiously in his chest. He was on a cliff, and one word from Draco could send him in either direction, either plummeting into the gorge below or back to safety. Bravado had always worked for him in the past. “Give me a chance to show you that you’re worth it to me.”

Draco hesitated. He turned his head, focusing on the china cabinet full of taxidermied fairies that Harry kept meaning to toss. “I don’t know. I need time to think.”

“How much time?” asked Harry.

“I’ll make a decision by Theo and Padma’s first Struggle.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “That’s not until June. It’s six months from now.”

Draco shrugged. “I like to weigh my options.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Fine, Draco, fine. I’ll play your Slytherin game.”

Draco beamed at him, and it only looked a little evil. “Marvelous. See you in June then?”

“June it is,” Harry said, annoyed. “What about family dinners?”

Draco grinned again, took one last sip of his tea, and stood. “Oh, I’ll see you at those, too. But I’m not making up my mind then. Now I really do have work in the morning, because I don’t quit being an Auror just because I absolutely despise being an Auror. As my mother would say, toodle-oo, Potter.”

“Toodle-oo,” Harry repeated flatly, as Draco sauntered up to his hearth and delicately pinched a portion of Floo powder from the pink kitten-shaped dish (a gift from Rosie on his twenty-fifth birthday). Draco tossed it in the flames, and then he was gone.

Left alone in the gloomy interior of Grimmauld Place once again, Harry could think of only one thing:

“That sneaky bastard,” he said aloud. “He’s making me beg.”

Harry’s mouth pulled into a slow smirk. Well, the Hat hadn’t tried to put him in Slytherin for nothing.

-x-

“And you say he’s making you wait six months before he’ll even entertain the idea of dating you again,” Hermione said slowly, as she pulled at a piece of her sticky bun. They were at their new favourite cafe, the one in Muggle London where they’d first decided to quit their jobs with no safety net and become wedding planners, a job they had no experience in whatsoever.

Fortunately, given the long wait between turning in their notices and Padma and Theo’s Struggles and wedding actually taking place, they’d managed to hone a few skills with some themed party planning in the wizarding world, and a few small weddings in the Muggle one.

They were, by now, pretty excellent event planners if Harry did say so himself.

“Yes,” said Harry. “It’s despicable. Haven’t I waited long enough? I mean, I waited all through Auror training, and all the years we worked together, and then another four afterwards, and I really think that a man should have some intimacy in his life, Hermione. I haven’t had sex in four years!”

Hermione blinked rapidly. She stuck another piece of sticky bun in her mouth and chewed on it while she stared at him with large eyes. “Are you kidding?” she finally said.

Harry scowled. At her, at the slushy rain hitting the streets outside, at the lukewarm Earl Grey in front of him, at life in general. “No.”

“Good heavens,” said Hermione. She cleared his throat. “Your romantic life is truly tragic, Harry,” she said. “And I mean that in the most bewildered way possible, not in the Tristan and Isolde way.”

“Duly noted,” said Harry. “But what do I do? We still have family dinners every month with Andromeda. How am I supposed to wait six months for an answer? I can’t even wait for the kettle to boil without hitting it with a simmer spell!”

Hermione shrugged. “Learn patience, I suppose.”

Harry gave her a flat look. “I am twenty-nine, Hermione. If I haven’t learned patience yet, it’s not going to magically appear.”

“Other things appear by magic,” she said. “Why not patience?”

“Because,” said Harry. That was the end of his argument.

Hermione sighed and tapped her finger against his teacup to warm it up again. She had never bothered to learn wandless defense or offense spells, but put a cold cup of tea in front of her and the indignation alone could inspire her magic to fix it.

“Well, I don’t know then,” she said. “I’ll see if I can feel him out this Sunday when Rosie and I come to dinner.”

Harry nodded glumly. “Thanks.”

“In the meantime,” said Hermione, “we should talk about that New Year’s Eve party we landed with Fortescue’s.”

“Mrs Fortescue said she wanted ice-cream fireworks,” Harry said, grimacing. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

Hermione shuddered. “I’m getting hives just thinking about the mess. I was going to suggest we have George manufacture us some fireworks shaped like ice-cream cones instead.”

“Ron said George was working on scent illusions with some of his other products. I wonder if he could make them smell like ice-cream flavours?” said Harry.

Hermione, in true Hermione fashion, didn’t even twitch at Ron’s name. They truly were doing their best to keep things amicable, and Harry was proud of them… and relieved. “Really?” she said. “I’ll stop by the shop tomorrow and see if George can come up with something for us. We really need it in place in a few days, though. And this has to be good, Harry. Quilla Fortescue’s daughter works for the Prophet, and they’re inviting the press to the event.”

Harry shuddered. “Wonderful.”

“No, it will be wonderful,” Hermione said. “Or, at least, it can be. Think of how great it would be for us if we got some good press from this. It might bring in business before we even finish with Padma and Theo’s wedding!”

Now that sounded good. Harry had his inheritance to live on in the meantime, and Hermione had two years’ living expenses saved before quitting (she always planned ahead), but those funds wouldn’t last forever. And also, Harry got bored easily. They needed more work than the Patil-Nott wedding.

“We should advertise,” he said.

“We might not have to if we can impress Francine Fortescue,” said Hermione. “If we do a good job for her mum’s shop, then she might write a story on our business. She usually writes in the business section.”

Harry liked the sound of this. “It all needs to be perfect then. And speaking of…” He reached into his expandable pocket and pulled out the manilla folder where he kept the Fortescue event files. “I completed the colour scheme and booked both the caterers and ordered the alcohol. We’re doing an ice-cream theme for all of it—lots of cheese, cream, fruit, and creamy finger sandwiches from the caterers. We’re doing signature cocktails for the alcohol and Fortescue’s making those herself—boozy ice-cream floats, mostly. Invites went out two weeks ago and our RSVP list is filling up fast.”

He pulled that paper out of the file and handed it to Hermione. Even as he did so, another name popped up on the YES list.

Hermione grinned. “Excellent. We’ve got a hundred and twenty RSVP’d already. I negotiated the party tent vendor down to seventy Galleons per hour, so that saved us about two hundred Galleons. They’ll arrive at three that afternoon and start setting up in the courtyard in front of Fortescue’s where the tables usually are in summer. I even got them to throw in the area-of-effect warming charms for all the tents.”

“Brilliant,” said Harry. “I was starting to stress over having to re-cast warming charms every twenty minutes. Mine are such shit.”

“I know,” said Hermione. She read through her own checklist, finger skimming the paper as she went down. “You and I will arrive at three on the thirty-first and start in on the colour theme charms. Oh, and here’s a copy of the event timeline for you. Be sure to double check those firework and noise permits we secured from the Department of Community Affairs.”

“Already done,” said Harry. “Confirmed and in writing.”

“Good,” said Hermione. “I don’t want another tiff with the Ministry over a noise complaint.”

Harry shuddered. The Ministry’s bitterness over the both of them quitting had resulted in an excess of bureaucratic red tape whenever they went to apply for event permits. It wasn’t unexpected, but it was still annoying. The Ministry, it seemed, would always be the Ministry.

“Ah, damn,” said Harry, seeing his watch. “I’ve got to run. I’m picking Teddy up from Molly’s in ten minutes. He wants to see Avatar. I can get Rosie, too, if you want to pop over to George’s this afternoon.”

“Any nudity?” Hermione asked.

Harry shrugged. “Sort of looked like it. It’s all computer animated, though, and the details seemed to be missing. Like a Barbie.”

“If there’s any sex in it, be sure to make note of whether it’s healthy sex or unhealthy sex at the end of the movie. I don’t want Rosie getting any weird ideas about needing to submit to a man or that her virginity is a precious gift to anyone but herself.”

Harry laughed. “As you wish.”

“Okay,” said Hermione. “I’m sure it’s fine. Thank you so much, Harry! I’ll pick her up this evening from yours, and then we’ll be by Sunday night for dinner with Andromeda.”

“Great,” he said. There was a certain warmness in him at the thought of Hermione and Rosie becoming more permanent fixtures in the family dinners. Since the divorce, Hermione had come a couple times and Rosie once. He hoped it stuck. He liked the idea of his family growing. He liked the idea of choosing this family, and knowing everyone was there because they wanted to be.

-x-

Andromeda’s monthly dinner fell on Christmas Eve this year, which worked out perfectly for all involved. Hermione’s parents were still a little off from their Obliviate, and usually spent winters in Australia. Now that Hermione and Ron had divorced, she was no longer obligated to spend every day at the Burrow with the other Weasleys. The option of going to Andromeda’s instead turned a lonely holiday into a happy one.

‘It’ll be good to make your own connections,’ Padma had told her at one of their recent wedding planning meetings.

‘And besides,’ Nott had added, ‘You can’t sling a Crup without hitting a Weasley. You can see them anytime.’

So when Andromeda’s Floo chimed and Hermione’s voice called out, “Hello!” on Christmas Eve, Harry was very pleased to see her. Draco had not yet arrived, and Harry was grateful for the silent reinforcement he would have through Hermione’s steady presence.

He poked his head out of the kitchen and beamed at her. “You’re here!”

“We brought presents,” she said, levitating a stack of brightly wrapped gifts over to the Christmas tree by the window. “Under the tree?”

“Uncle Harry!” Rosie said, slamming into him. He huffed as all the breath left him in one moment, and then picked her up and spun her around.

“Oh, put them anywhere!” Andromeda called, bustling in to give them both a hug.

“How’s my favourite goddaughter?” he asked.

“Splendid,” said Rosie. “Mum got me a new astronomy set—the one I’ve been wanting that has a mini black hole that really eats objects that come near it.”

“Rosie!” Hermione said. “Did you peek?”

“Nope,” said Rosie, as Harry set her back down. “You should’ve muffled the box if you didn’t want me to know. I know exactly what a black hole sounds like when it’s being shaken.”

Hermione sighed and gave Harry a deeply exasperated look. “Well I guess you’ll just not have any surprises this Christmas.”

Rosie’s face fell.

“Don’t worry, kidlet,” Harry said. “I got you a present, too, and you won’t get a chance to shake it before you open it.”

“Smile!” called Andromeda, and they all turned towards the voice, as if on autopilot, beaming. Andromeda snapped a few photos and then put her camera aside as Draco, Narcissa, and Teddy arrived from some last minute shopping.

“You’re here!” said Teddy, running up to Rosie. In the presence of a more fun person (Rosie), Harry was relegated to the second round of hugs from his godson.

“What ho, sister!” called Narcissa. Harry and Draco shared a look. She’d been out riding with the Royal Family again, apparently. “I brought a Christmas cake.”

“Oooh,” said Teddy and Rosie simultaneously. Their eyes snapped to Narcissa and hungrily followed her progress into the kitchen behind Andromeda.

“I need to ask Granny a question,” Teddy said quickly, and rushed after them.

“Me, too,” Rosie said.

The adults were left in the esteemed company of Saint Bartholomew, who was presently cleaning his arse atop Andromeda’s couch.

Hermione broke the silence first. “It’s good to see you, Draco.”

Draco jerked, as if he hadn’t expected anyone to speak to him. “And you, Wea—Hermione.”

“I’ve returned to Granger,” she said. “But I certainly don’t mind the use of my first name.”

Draco nodded.

Undaunted, Hermione continued, “So, Harry tells me you’re playing hard to get.”

“Hermione!” Harry exclaimed at the same time as Draco said, “Potter!”

Hermione was unconcerned. “Will you really leave him to suffer for so long when you’re both obviously gagging for it?”

They looked at Harry. He quickly put on a deeply suffering face. Draco didn’t appear convinced.

“Yes,” he said.

Hermione nodded, as if she’d expected this. “Men.”

Just then, the Floo roared to life again, and another person stepped out. Draco turned quickly towards it, his expression changing as he said, “Mill! You made it!”

“Of course I made it, you twat,” said Millicent Bulstrode. “I said I’d come and I’ve come.”

Harry and Hermione shared a look. Of all the people to show up to Andromeda’s, Millicent Bulstrode had not been a consideration. Until now, apparently.

“Harry, Hermione, you remember my good friend Millicent Bulstrode,” said Draco to the both of them. “She’s recently divorced her wife of four years and finds herself at loose ends this holiday season.”

“You talk too much, Malfoy,” said Millicent.

Draco only beamed, in complete innocence. Harry’s eyes narrowed. He saw the way Millicent eyed Hermione when she noticed her presence, and furthermore, he saw the way Hermione eyed her back once she’d turned away. Hmm.

Ah, fuck, he was hmming. He was turning into a Slytherin for sure. And just in time for Christmas.

“Dinner’s ready!” Andromeda called from the kitchen.

They trooped into the dining room, where Teddy and Rosie, mouths darkened by what looked suspiciously like chocolate cake, were setting the table under Narcissa’s exacting tutelage.

“Ah ah, Teddy darling,” Narcissa said. “The forks go on the left. Littlest to biggest, if you please.”

Gudreegza-khik, Auntie,” Teddy said, and rearranged the forks as instructed.

Harry managed to secure a seat between Draco and Rosie, with Hermione across from him and, unsurprisingly, Millicent next to her. Harry smirked, and Hermione looked bewildered for only a moment before her eyes narrowed.

“You’re trying to set them up, aren’t you?” Harry whispered to Draco from the corner of his mouth.

Draco ignored him, but his lips did twitch upwards. He turned to Teddy instead and began grilling him on his progress with the Muggle calculator Harry had given him last week.

Well. Draco wanted a chase, did he?

Harry could do a chase. Just ask Voldemort.

 

June, 2010

June, and Padma and Nott’s first Struggle, came way too soon for both Harry and Hermione. Of the seven, this one was a small one, really. Just a small gathering of close friends and family. Hermione likened it to an engagement party, and Harry agreed with the notion.

But that was all whatever compared to what the day meant to Harry: Draco.

Monthly dinners with Andromeda had been awkward and stilted, and twice Harry had found an excuse not to come. He’d not had a chance to really talk to Draco again since Christmas, and today was the day that Draco would let him start the chase.

So it was a great day.

Harry loved chases.

Given the chosen theme, and the pleasant weather, it was being held in Bath, at a wizarding establishment called the Whelk Right Inn. Harry felt it should be noted that, despite strong evidence to the contrary, not all magical establishments had magical names. Those that didn’t, had puns.

It had to also be noted that while nine times of ten one could gather the purpose of such a business by the name, that was not at all the case with the Whelk Right Inn. Yes, it was an inn, and yes, they did have whelks on the menu (quite good ones, if Harry were consulted), but their open secret was that it was built directly atop a natural hot spring, and a large one at that. The Inn’s Roman bath was, further, tiled in a deep black stone that was reminiscent of basalt, and most importantly, the proprietors were willing to rent out the whole inn to their party for the evening of the Struggle.

Harry and Hermione arrived early to string up the bunting, which was shaped into erupting volcanoes, each with a letter spelling out P-A-D-M-A-&-T-H-E-O.

It turned out that Harry and Hermione both had previously undiscovered creative streaks, something that surprised everyone who knew them. With the success of their Fortescue New Year’s event, the press had got hold of their venture and done several pieces on their business, which they belatedly came up with a name for and registered with the Ministry, once Francine Fortescue asked them for it and they abruptly realised they’d forgotten it.

They were now, officially, Granger & Potter’s Grand Parties. As noted earlier, the wizarding world was built on puns and other lingual intrigues.

And Grand Granger-Potter Parties were indeed going for the volcano theme for Padma and Theo’s wedding. Hermione had insisted on adding ‘Celebrate the explosion of our love’ as its tagline, and Nott had reluctantly agreed to it.

Harry had wanted to add ‘hot, steamy, flowing’ before the ‘love’ part, but both Padma and Nott enthusiastically overruled him.

The best part of a volcano wedding theme was that volcanoes spewed out lava, which was red, and sparks, which were gold. Harry was very good at decorating in Gryffindor colours.

“This better not turn into a Gryffindor freakshow, Potter,” Nott said to him when he and Padma arrived.

“Not to worry, Nott,” said Harry, who was really hitting his stride after visiting a Muggle bridal show with Hermione that week. He had so many ideas. “It’ll be entirely volcano and not at all Gryffindor.”

“It looks quite Gryffindor,” Nott observed, staring round the spa and the gold-and-red decor he and Hermione had installed that afternoon.

“You’re seeing something that isn’t there,” Harry assured him, as he spelled some fresh monkshood red and gold.

“Hmm,” said Nott, as, apparently, all Slytherins did. But he did walk off and rejoin Padma, who was talking with Hermione about the wand-switching ceremony that would start the celebrations off that evening.

As the time grew closer to when the guests would start arriving, Harry’s stomach began to knot in anticipation. They’d done a few parties in the wizarding world, and they’d done a few small Muggle weddings for practise, but this would be their first event for Padma and Nott.

This would be their first real wizarding wedding event.

And Padma was friends with Francine Fortescue, so there would likely be even more press after this. Everything had to go perfectly. Hermione was feeling much the same, if her franticly wide eyes were anything to go by.

“Harry,” she said anxiously, as she hurried over to his side. “I just remembered the permits. Did we get the permits?”

“We got the permits,” Harry assured her.

She nodded quickly. “And the caterers?”

“Coming at six,” he said. “Passed apps and cocktails from half-six on.”

“We have an allergen-free option, right?”

Harry nodded. “Nut-free, shellfish-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free,” he confirmed. “Oh, and it’s vegan.”

Hermione exhaled all in a rush. “We’ve got this,” she said.

“We do,” he agreed, and it wasn’t until that moment that he realised reassuring Hermione had also reassured him. They were going to be brilliant.

The guests started arriving at a quarter to six, and Harry’s eyes stayed glued to the door. Finally, Draco entered, escorting Millicent again, and Harry wasted no time in sidling over to him. Draco seemed to sense him even before he wound his way through half the guests, for their eyes met and locked over Parvati’s son’s head.

“Hey,” Harry said softly. Millicent took one look at them, rolled her eyes, and went over to greet the couple.

“Hello, Harry,” said Draco.

Harry put on his most winsome smile. “It’s the first Struggle.”

“Everyday is a struggle with you,” said Draco.

“But that’s what makes me exciting,” Harry insisted.

Draco’s lips twitched, and Harry saw his opening. “So? Am I getting another chance?”

Given the array of flowers, notes, and cashmere scarves he’d sent Draco every week since Christmas, he was feeling good about his odds. Especially since Draco was wearing the linen scarf Harry had sent him last week. It was in Draco’s favourite colour: soul-dampening grey. He was very specific.

Draco studied him for a moment. “Slow,” he said.

Harry’s heart leapt. “I can do slow.”

“We’ll see,” Draco said, but he did allow Harry to gently take his hand and lead him over to Padma and Theo, who were beaming as they greeted all their guests. Padma was wearing a beautiful orange-red robe that shimmered in the candlelight like lava, and Theo’s black robes were not the deep inky colour of a tuxedo, but the igneous, shifting colour of hardened lava.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Harry said.

“I’m here for Theo,” Draco replied.

“I know,” Harry said. “But I’m still benefitting from it.”

Draco snorted. Then they were to the front of the line, and Theo’s face broke into, if possible, an even wider grin. “Draco!” he said, hugging him. “I’m getting married in seven months!”

“No shit, Nott,” Draco said, but he was smiling.

Theo laughed and then Padma hugged Draco, too, and told him he was a little shit for leaving her with Robards as sole witness in that last case, as Robards was at least a hundred-twenty and should’ve retired decades ago.

At six fifteen, the ceremony began. It was brief and had very little to it.

“A complete waste of time,” Hermione whispered through a grin. “This is why I never told you about mine and Ron’s.”

At the front of the room, Theo and Padma stood facing one another. They summoned a golden Protego to encircle them and took hold of the ends of the other’s wand with their free hand, creating a circle of power between them.

“By giving up my wand into your protection,” Theo said, “I am giving up my life, heart, and soul also. I trust that you will take care of it as your own, and that it will serve you as it has served me.”

Padma repeated these words exactly. Then they let go of their own wands, tapped their new wands together once, and the Protego fell.

Everyone immediately started cheering.

“That’s it?” Harry said flatly. “Yeah, good job!” he yelled, as an afterthought, since everyone else was doing it.

“Yep,” said Hermione, clapping hard. They shared a look, and then Hermione stepped up to the front of the room and called, “If I may have your attention, we’ll be serving apps and drinks in the spa. Please go through to the baths and enjoy the evening. Thank you!”

Harry turned to Draco. “Bring your swim trunks?” he asked casually.

Draco was not fooled for a moment. “Interested in seeing me without my robes, Potter?”

Harry smirked. “Just looking,” he assured. “I’m taking it slow.”

Draco smirked back. “I see. Well, it just so happens that I did. See you in the baths, Harry.” And then he sauntered off through the crowd, not looking back once.

“Ooh, you slimy little Slytherin,” Harry said happily. And followed at once.

July, 2010

“I heard you're courting Malfoy,” Ron said, upon Flooing into the converted ground floor kitchen at Grimmauld Place.

Harry looked up from where he was frying Teddy and Rosie some grilled cheese sandwiches. “Who told you that?”

Ron hooked a thumb at Rosie, who was making a valiant effort at focusing entirely on her summer Astronomy homework. She peeked up at them when the silence had grown too long, only to find both Ron and Harry still looking at her.

“Daddy!” she exclaimed, in a voice much like Hermione’s at that age. “You aren’t supposed to tattle!”

Ron smirked. He turned back to Harry. “So it’s true? And can you add another grilled cheese to that skillet? I’ve been on a hellishly long assignment and I haven’t had a good meal in days.”

“Already did,” Harry said. “And yeah, it’s true.”

Ron scrunched his nose, then went over to the icebox and grabbed a couple of beers for them. He popped the corks, turned back, saw that Teddy and Rosie were staring at him, and then grabbed two pumpkin juices from the box, too.

“Pineapple, please, Daddy,” Rosie instructed.

“Why?” he asked.

“Goblins drink pineapple juice in the summer,” said Teddy.

Ron was bewildered for a moment, but apparently decided not to question it. He returned to the icebox a third time, exchanged the pumpkin juices for pineapple, and set one in front of each twelve-year-old. He handed the second beer to Harry, and leaned against the countertop as Harry finished frying up the sandwiches.

“Why?” he repeated, this time indubitably to the Malfoy question.

Harry shrugged. “Because I’m in love with him.”

“Gross,” said Teddy.

Harry glared at him over his shoulder, and Teddy bent back over his calculator and his summer catch-up homework from Flitwick. “But it really is gross,” Teddy couldn’t help adding. “When you’re in love, you have to kiss people.” He shuddered, and Rosie followed suit.

“With any luck,” Ron said to Harry, “she’ll keep thinking that for another twenty years.”

“Don’t hold your breath,” Harry said, sotto voce. “They think they’re sly, but I’ve seen them eyeing one another. Thirteen is just months away.”

Ron looked like he would sick up. “Anyway,” he said, “Malfoy.”

“I just told you,” Harry said. “I was in love with him all during the Aurors, and we had a fling, and I ruined it, and then I was in love with him some more, and then I quit the Aurors, and now we’re taking it slow.”

“Not slow enough, if you want to kiss him,” Teddy said. They ignored him.

“But mate,” said Ron. “Are you sure it’s a good idea to be in love with him?”

“Not at all,” said Harry.

Ron nodded, thinking. “But you’re insistent on being so anyway.”

“Apparently so,” Harry agreed.

Ron sighed. “That’s just like you. Plenty of more tolerable people you could fall in love with all over wizarding London, or even Muggle London, and you pick Malfoy. I suppose you can’t buy good taste.”

“Speaking of,” Harry said. “I heard you went to lunch with Lavender Brown.”

Ron cleared his throat several times. “Well, Rosie, it’s time to go! Get your things!”

“I haven’t had my grilled cheese yet!” she said.

Harry smirked at Ron. “I made you one, too, remember? Let’s sit down and have a nice, long catch-up before you take my beloved goddaughter away from me.”

Ron scowled at him, but it was hard to pass up beer and grilled cheese. And Rosie’s Hermione look, which was excessively intimidating.

“These beers are shit, by the way,” Ron added. Rosie gave him a narrow-eyed look and he quickly amended, “Not great, I mean.”

“I know,” said Harry. “But we’ll drink them anyway because it’s all I’ve got.”

Ron studied the label, shrugged, and took another sip. “Yeah, shit,” he agreed. Rosie rolled her eyes but he didn’t see her. “I wonder how you make beer. I bet I could do it.”

“Can I help?” asked Rosie.

“Obviously, crumpet,” said Ron. “Oh, Hermione said to tell you, Harry, that they’ve got to move Padma and Nott’s vow of loyalty ceremony to another location because rain’s forecasted this weekend.”

“Damn it,” said Harry. “That means I’m going to have to speak to that bastard little goblin again.”

“I’ll do it for you, Harry!” Teddy chirped.

Harry contemplated this for only a moment before nodding. “Okay, champ. We’ll do it shortly.”

“Yesss!” Teddy said. “I’ve never got to firecall a goblin before! Who are we talking to?”

“The Director,” Harry said.

“Mr Griphook!” Teddy’s eyes sparkled with undiluted joy. “Is he coming? Can I go, too?”

“Afraid not, kiddo,” Harry said. “It would be rude for me to take you without an invitation. But, hey, maybe we can stop by Gringotts later today instead of calling. I need to put a few things in my vault.”

Teddy’s face, which had begun to crumple, perked up again. “Brill! Maybe Mr Durjtak will be there, too.”

“Potter! Are you in there? Get over here!”

Harry jumped. Ron gave him a pointed look, and Teddy gagged.

Harry stood and walked round the table to the hearth and knelt down. “Draco?” he said. “What’s wrong?” Draco scowled at him from the flames.

“Stand back, I’m coming through.”

“Welp,” Ron said, shoving the last of his grilled cheese in his mouth and gesturing for Rosie to do the same. “Tha’s our cue. C’mon Rosie.” Draco arrived in the Floo, and before he could even get out a sneer, Ron had called out the name of his flat and shoved Rosie into the flames, following after her with a cheery wave to Harry, who could only roll his eyes and shake his head.

Teddy took one look at them, rolled his eyes, and went up to his bedroom, the one he slept in every Tuesday night and on the weekends Andromeda needed a break.

He redirected his attention to Draco. “What’s wrong?” he asked again. He looked at the clock. “And shouldn’t you be at work?”

“I should, yes, Harry,” Draco said patiently. “Only I’ve been forced to resign.”

“What? Why?”

Draco’s fight left him all in a rush, and he slumped down at the kitchen table, summoning Harry’s half-drank beer and finishing it off. Harry picked Ron’s up and sat down across from Draco, watching his long, pale fingers run rings around the condensation on the wood.

“My new partner was found in possession of opiates and sacked this morning. Given our ‘close association’ I was strongly encouraged to quit.”

“...What?” said Harry. “That’s bollocks. It doesn’t even make sense.”

Draco stared dully at him, and Harry added, “Okay, you’re right, nothing the Ministry does makes sense. But why didn’t you just tell them to fuck off?”

“Because if I insisted on staying, they would, they said, be forced to further investigate me to make sure I wasn’t complicit, and that would, of course, involve extensive interviews with extended family, reviews of my financial statements, et cetera. They’d find a way to take Teddy’s inheritance. You know they would. Somewhere along the line, they’d find some loophole, some place I’d accidentally toed the line, and it would be enough to seize it all.”

“Fuck the Ministry,” Harry said.

Draco nodded, chugged the remainder of Harry’s beer, and summoned two more from the icebox. “This beer is shit,” he added without emotion.

Harry sighed, and settled in for a long afternoon.

It didn’t take long for Teddy to grow bored of doing homework alone in his room, and in short order, he’d returned, peeking around the doorway as if he were afraid Harry and Draco would be fucking right there on the table.

Imagine that.

When he’d ascertained that the coast was clear, he came fully into the kitchen. “What’s wrong with Draco?” he asked.

“Despite the shit day he’s having,” said Draco, “Draco is capable of direct communication.”

Teddy nodded. “What’s wrong with you, then?”

“He quit the Aurors,” Harry offered.

Both of them glared at him. “Draco’s capable of direct communication, Harry,” Teddy chastised. He turned back to Draco. “You did? Really?”

Draco nodded.

Teddy came and sat at the table across from him. “The Ministry was boring anyway. Remember that time you took me? I can’t even remember most of the day. I was so bored I blocked it out.”

Harry and Draco shared a meaningful look. Teddy continued on: “You can go work at Gringotts instead! It’s way cooler! They’ve got dragons and gold and math!”

“Et Gobbledegook?” Draco asked, smirking.

“Gudreegza!” Teddy exclaimed. “Et Gobbledegook!”

Draco snorted. “You’ll make an excellent little goblin one day.”

“Ooh!” said Teddy. “Speaking of excellence. Harry said we could go talk to Director Griphook today. Do you wanna come?! I bet that would cheer you up!”

A slow, evil smile spread over Draco’s face as he looked over at Harry. “You know, Teddy,” Draco said. “I think you’re right. Harry, let’s do go talk to the goblins.”

-x-

Teddy all but bounced to the Floo, through the Floo, and out of the Floo into Diagon Alley. Draco, walking more sedately behind him, continued to give Harry very evil, very satisfied looks as they followed their hopping child up Diagon Alley to Gringotts.

At the door, Teddy heaved it open and stood jittering as he waited for them to catch up. “Come on!” he yelled.

They hurried. Once inside the bank, Teddy went straight up to the first free goblin, greeted her with a low bow, and then launched into rapid-fire Gobbledegook, of which Harry could only make out the words ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Griphook’ and many repetitions of the word ‘Frig’, which he well-knew by now meant ‘excited’.

The goblin side-eyed Harry while nodding along to Teddy’s explanation. It took only a moment for her polite smile to morph into one matching Draco’s. Teddy finally paused, and she grinned fully.

“Gudreegza, Grigget,” she said to Teddy. “Ag Griphook…” and then a lot more Harry couldn’t catch. She gave him a small bow and disappeared through the doors leading to the back of the bank.

A short while later, they were ushered through the same door, beyond which stood the Director’s lavishly decorated subterranean office. Griphook sat behind an imposing mahogony desk, his green hands folded sedately before him.

“Good afternoon, gentleman,” Griphook growled.

“Ag Griphook! U meggurt gukk frigoj a druv, Grig!” Teddy said, bowing so low his nose touched his knees. There was a lot more to it, with more repetitions of ‘frig’ every few words. Griphook smirked and said something to Teddy that made his eyes sparkle like stars.

“What a polite young man you’ve helped raise, Mr Potter,” Griphook said to him. “I find myself wholly surprised.”

“Yeah, me too,” Harry said. “He didn’t get it from me, that’s for sure.”

Draco elbowed him. Griphook smiled fiercely. “No doubt.”

Griphook gestured to three chairs before his desk, the one in the middle just a little higher so that Teddy could see over it. “Please, have a seat. Furleezja tells me that you must speak to me about the Patil-Nott financial review ceremony. Is there a problem?”

“Just rain,” said Harry. He was leant back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest. Honestly, the sooner he could get away from this sleazy, sneaky, thievish—

“Is there a problem with rain?” asked Griphook. “Does it not water the soil that grows the tubers?”

“It does,” Harry allowed, “but the couple doesn’t want to be rained out while they work through the vows.”

Harry,” Draco whispered angrily. “Stop being a prick. Don’t you remember what happened last time we argued about your communicative choices with the goblins?”

Harry scowled at him. It was hardly the place to bring up that day.

“I see,” Griphook said, in a tone that indicated he did not, in fact, see anything.

“Ag Griphook,” Teddy broke in. “What if they had the ceremony here? It would be so cool! Everyone could come to Gringotts and see how great it is, and then you wouldn’t even have to leave in order to do the ceremony!”

“Teddy, I don’t think—” Harry said.

“Shut up, Harry,” Draco said through his teeth. He squeezed Harry’s knee and that, more than the words, had Harry shutting up.

“What a novel idea,” Griphook replied. “Let me think… hmm… yes, I do think there is a conference room we could repurpose for this… for the right price. What would be entailed?”

“Brill!” said Teddy. “Maybe you could even charge a fee for hosting it, and decorate, and serve some food and stuff, and then every time wizards and witches got married, they could just book it with the bank, and the financial goblins would never need to leave and you’d make loads of money and it’d be great for public relations! People would be so excited if they got to see the inside of the bank, you know, the secret parts that wizards can’t normally go to!”

“A fee,” Griphook said, tapping his chin. “Hmm.” He tapped some more. Finally, he looked Harry directly in the eyes and said, “You may tell Ms Granger that Gringotts would be delighted to offer our brand new party space for the ceremony for the very reasonable rate of thirty-five Galleons per hour, plus, of course, the flat rate of seventy-five Galleons, for the services of the financial goblin.”

Harry grit his teeth. “How generous of you, Director. I will tell her at once.”

Griphook smiled, all pointy, evil teeth. “It’s been a singular pleasure working with you today, Mr Potter, Mr Malfoy. And,” he turned to Teddy, and his smile changed subtly, somehow more intrigued and more feral, “I have delighted in making your acquaintance, Mr Lupin. Please do say hello next time you’re in the bank.”

Teddy sparkled further.

The he chattered the whole way home, but Harry could only manage ‘mhmms’ and ‘wows’ every few sentences. His focus was on Draco, who’d sometime between Griphook’s office door slamming behind them and the first clack of steel-toed boots on the marble floors of the lobby, hooked his little finger into Harry’s.

It wasn’t quite a handhold. Wasn’t quite the commitment of a handhold, but Merlin did it make Harry want to vomit with happiness.

“Are you going to be okay?” he whispered to Draco as Teddy chatted along ahead of them.

Draco gave him a soft look. “I’ll figure something out,” he said. “I hated working there anyway.”

“I know,” said Harry.

They were quiet for a few minutes, listening to Teddy talk, and then softly, Draco added, “I only worked there for the people I loved anyway.”

Harry stumbled a few steps before getting himself together. He squeezed Draco’s little finger with his own. People, Draco had said. Not just Teddy. Not just one person. People. Did it mean what Harry hoped it did?

-x-

Teddy, it turned out, was a master of public relations. Harry intended to hire him to improve his own, if Gringotts didn’t snap him up after Hogwarts.

But they most assuredly would, because the performance he put on the week before had not only secured Director Griphook’s polite cooperation in the Patil-Nott Second Struggle, it had also resulted in the bank very enthusiastically designating a conference room just for couples performing the Vow of Loyalty. Instead of having a goblin come to their homes, engaged couples would be able to invite friends and family to Gringotts, where they’d be served an assortment of goblin wines, meads, juices, and snacks, as well as perform the Vows of Loyalty in front of licensed financial goblins. And with Teddy and Hermione’s help, the fee for Harry and Hermione’s company was made very reasonable.

“This is brilliant,” said Theo, glancing around the conference room.

It was decorated with pineapples, palm trees, coconuts, and the windows had been charmed to overlook Mauna Loa, the world’s largest volcano. It steamed gently in the distance. They were doing a Hawaiian volcano theme this time, to go with the pineapple juice goblins favoured in summer, and in honour of the honeymoon Padma and Theo intended to take.

Director Griphook came in presently, followed closely by Teddy, who was chattering in Gobbledegook a mile a minute. He’d managed to secure an invitation to this Struggle as thanks from Padma and Nott for his contribution, and had wasted no time convincing Griphook to take him on a tour of the lower vaults.

“Wow, brilliant!” said Teddy, seeing the decor.

Griphook came and introduced himself to Padma and her parents Mr and Mrs Patil. Nott’s grandparents arrived shortly thereafter and Harry was left to his last minute touch-ups as Nott left him to make introductions.

The guests started arriving shortly before five, and Hermione rushed in to grab Harry. “They’re about to start,” she whispered. “We’ve got to get out.”

For this struggle, only the couple, their immediate family, and the goblin officiant were allowed in the room. The friends and extended family invited to celebrate the Second Struggle had to wait outside until they got the goblin gave the all-clear on the finances, and they were allowed in for the Vows.

The door opened a short time later and Padma, Theo, and their families raised their joined hands. Cheers went up from the gathered crowd, echoing into the bank lobby and raising eyebrows at the teller stations in the area open below. Guests started streaming in

Harry didn’t much care about all that. He cared about the way Draco looked at him when Padma started speaking to Nott’s grandparents.

“We have seen the Nott finances and the Patils are satisfied that there is no undue risk inherent in the union proposed between Theodore and me. I, Padma Patil, on behalf of my parents and sister, do accept Theodore into the House of Patil from the day of our marriage on.”

“Romantic, isn’t it?” Draco whispered.

“Are all the Struggles this underwhelming?” Harry replied in the same whisper.

Draco nodded. “The first few are the worst. It gets slightly better.”

Theo repeated the words and the ceremony was complete. Goblins trailed into the conference room with silver platters of meaty hors d'oeuvres and goblin-made wine. These turned out to be extremely popular with the guests, especially Parvati’s twin sons, Kush and Kareem. She’d married a minor Kilgore who she’d met at a Divinations conference in Brussels, and according to Hermione, they were very happy and had even predicted the birth of their sons. Amazing.

Draco leaned in, making the hair on Harry’s neck stand on end. He whispered, “I want to show you something in my vault. Will you come?” Harry could only nod.

They grabbed two glasses of wine and Draco caught a goblin standing attendance by the door, and bent to whisper something to her. The goblin nodded and Draco jerked his head, gesturing for Harry to follow.

“Thank you for this, Haagresha,” Draco was saying to her. “I appreciate it very much.”

“It’s no trouble for you, Mr Malfoy,” she said. They slipped through the door that led down into the vaults and Haagresha called a cart for them. “You’ve your key?” she asked, and Draco nodded.

The ride down was mostly silent—the cool, underground air blowing past his face and ears, forcing shivers into his skin as Draco’s warm breath had done. Draco sat before him in the cart, and Harry knew they were taking it slow, he really did, but he couldn’t help reaching forward and sliding his fingers down Draco’s spine. Draco gasped, his back arching and his wine coming dangerously close to spilling. Haagresha gave them a dour look before returning to the cart controls.

Down and down they went. Draco seemed to have forgotten the existence of No Spill Spells; either that or he’d wanted the excuse to focus on his wine glass and say nothing as he let Harry draw shapes on his back all the way down to the lower vaults. They slowed and Harry quickly readjusted himself.

Haagresha pulled the cart to a stop in front of Vault 77. Draco stepped primly onto the landing, and Harry followed on shaky legs. Haagresha took the key from Draco and slid it into the lock, adding her hand to the impression on the door. It glowed briefly, and then clicked. The doors slid aside.

“Give us a moment, would you, Haagresha?” asked Draco.

She nodded and closed the door behind them, locking the in the vault. The torches flickered on, illuminating the treasures within. Harry’s heart began to pound. What if they got locked in? What if they didn’t come checking for them for another ten years?

“Draco?” he said, shakily.

“This is my family vault,” Draco said, his voice reverberating against the stone walls and coming at Harry from a dozen directions at once. “It’s where we keep the truly priceless things.” There was no gold here. Instead, there were ancient portraits, chests, books at least as old as Hogwarts itself, a number of glass cases with bones inside, and what could have possibly been the Ark of the Covenant sitting daintily atop a pedestal next to a full size golden statue of a unicorn.

Harry looked around, swallowing. “It’s nice,” he said.

Draco quirked a grin at him over his shoulder. “Come here,” he said softly.

Harry walked to him, hearing his footsteps echo in the sealed vault. Draco stood before a painting, a very, very old one of a young wizard with golden hair. Not blond, but literally golden. He was sleeping. Harry gasped, and the wizard drowsily opened his eyes.

“He looks just like Teddy,” said Harry.

“I know,” Draco said. “This is Elias d’Malfoy. My great grandfather, ten times removed. He was a Metamorphmagus, and hanged for it shortly before his twenty-eighth birthday. At least he managed to reproduce, or else our line would’ve ended before Hogwarts.

“You needn’t speak as though I can’t hear you,” Elias said.

Draco smirked. “Good afternoon, Elias.”

“Perhaps it would be if you ever took me out of this bedamned vault.”

“Wow,” Harry finally managed to say. Then: “But… Teddy’s a Black.”

Draco nodded. “Elias’ daughter Celestria married into the Blacks, incidentally starting the tradition of naming Black children after astronomical bodies. I came across Elias’ portrait after Father died and I came into my full inheritance. When I saw it, I knew something was special about it, but I couldn’t put my wand on it until a few years later. When Teddy turned five, the resemblance really started to show, and I knew he was meant to be my heir.”

Harry stared at him. “You’re giving Teddy all this?”

Draco nodded, smiling. “And the money, too, of course. It’s meant to be his. I want him to do good things with it. I want him to be able to do good things with it. That’s why the Ministry can’t have it. It has to be his. Every last bitching painting.”

Elias gave him a withering look, then closed his eyes to feign sleep.

I love you, Harry thought fiercely, and both hoped and dreaded that Draco could read the words on his face. I love everything about you. I’d wait forever if I had to.

Cautiously, slowly, he reached out one arm and wrapped it around Draco’s waist. Draco leaned into him and Harry pulled him closer. He turned his face into Draco’s neck and just breathed, letting his heart settle. He squeezed him closer and Draco let him, and they just stood there, in the flickering torchlight and illuminated Malfoy riches, and Harry didn’t even notice when Haagresha opened the vault again. He wasn’t afraid of being trapped here anymore. Not if it were with Draco.

August, 2010

“Come over,” Harry said into the Floo.

Draco looked up from his writing desk and quirked a single eyebrow. “Why?”

Harry chewed his lip. It had been two weeks since he’d seen Draco at Padma and Nott’s vow ceremony, and stood with Draco in his vault, and he couldn’t sit still any longer. He knew they were supposed to be taking it slow, that he and Draco were really supposed to be limiting their ‘dates’ to the Struggles ceremonies so that they could both adjust to their new status.

But like he’d told Hermione, patience didn’t just magically appear.

“Because I want to be with you,” Harry said. “You wanna play Cluedo? The kids are coming over.”

“Cluedo,” Draco repeated slowly. His quill remained erect in his hand, the owl waiting ungraciously on the open window sill. A well-placed containment spell kept the rain pouring down outside from blowing into the house.

“It’s like being Aurors, except fun,” Harry explained.

Draco laughed. He set his quill down, and the owl gave an annoyed hoot and flew off. Draco came and knelt before the fire, his eyes sparkling. “You talk a lot of shit about the Ministry, you know.”

Harry shrugged. “I only worked there because you were my partner.”

Draco frowned at him, then sighed and stood up. “Step back, Harry. I’ll come through.”

“Brill!” Harry said, a saying he’d picked up from one of his godchildren. He scrambled back from the hearth and beamed when Draco stepped out of the flames.

“Incidentally, I’ve already set the board up,” Harry said, pointing to the coffee table.

Draco detoured to the whiskey cabinet and poured himself two fingers, as if he owned the place. Harry would be perfectly happy if he did. He poured a second for Harry and then brought them both over to the table. He sat, stared at the manor floorplan on the board, and then sipped his whiskey.

“How do I play?”

“Just a sec,” said Harry. “We have to wait for—”

“Hello?”

“In here!” Harry called. Hermione, Rosie, and Millicent entered.

“Fuck,” said Millicent, upon seeing the board. “Did you really bring me here to play Cluedo with Draco? This is going to be a nightmare.”

“It’ll be fun,” Hermione insisted.

“Language, Milly,” Rosie said.

“Are they here?!” Teddy called from upstairs. He pounded down the steps, yelling, “I want to be Professor Plum!”

The arrival of more bodies forced Draco into sliding closer to Harry, which was all part of his master plan. The other part of his master plan was that playing with other people would loosen Draco up, and then Harry could regurgitate his heart out to him and have a better chance of it going well.

Harry explained the rules. It was determined that Draco would play Miss Scarlett and go first.

“This is bollocks,” Draco said. “Why do I have to play the foxy woman? I want to be Reverend Green.”

“You are pretty foxy,” said Harry, who was playing Mrs Peacock. Draco’s face flamed. He cleared his throat and rolled the dice, ignoring all the sniggers coming from Millicent’s direction.

Hermione summoned a round of drinks — the kids were back on rhubarb juice for the season — and passed them around. Harry’s beer options were still lacking, according to everyone.

“This is shit,” Millicent said scowling at the label.

“I know, I know,” said Harry. “I keep trying new brands, trying to find a good one, but they’re all terrible.”

They played on. Several beers in, Harry was certain that the kids were joining forces against woozy-headed adults. Hermione was laughing and giggling at nothing, and seemed to lean against Millicent far more than she needed to. Millicent did not appear to mind.

Draco had snuggled up close to Harry and that was basically the most amazing thing that could’ve happened, and so Harry’s night was made.

“I suggest it was Miss Scarlett in the billiards room with the lead pipe,” Rosie said.

“It most certainly was not!” Draco squawked.

But, in fact, it was. The cards didn’t lie. Two rounds ago, no doubt seeing victory on the horizon, Rosie had managed to secure the promise, in writing, of a new telescope if she won. Her gleeful cackle as she waved the parchment with Hermione’s signature around set them all to laughing even more.

Draco ordered Floo-delivery curry for them and they settled into the comfy couches around Harry’s living room to eat, while Draco and Millicent complained of the interiour of Grimmauld Place.

“Feel free to redecorate it,” Harry said lazily. He was too happy being snuggled up next to Draco with a box of paneer to care about much of anything.

“I very well might,” Draco said.

Harry had thought a night this good could never end, but then Hermione said she had to get Rosie home as she had more summer homework to finish, and Millicent had gone with them. Andromeda called for Teddy to be returned, and then it was just the two of them.

“This was… slightly more fun than actually being Aurors,” Draco admitted.

Harry grinned. Then Draco continued talking. “I need to go home, too,” he said. “I’ll see you at the Struggle ceremony this weekend?”

Harry was momentarily speechless. “Yeah, of course. The, er, Great Fall.”

Draco smirked. “I must admit I’m looking forward to watching Theo jump from a broom.”

“Yeah, me, too,” Harry said, but it was an automatic reaction that had nothing to do with the confused thoughts swirling in his head.

Draco leaned in and nosed his neck, very briefly. When he raised his head again, his cheeks were pink. “Goodnight, Harry.”

Harry fought not to drag him in and kiss him for all he was worth. He swallowed, his throat heavy and thick. “Goodnight, Draco.”

Draco smiled one more time, and then he turned, called out ‘Malfoy Manor’ and stepped into the flames. Harry stood there watching the low-burning green fire for interminable minutes after he’d gone. He had no idea if this was a good end to the night, an appropriate end to a night when ‘going slow’ or not. All he knew was that he didn’t give a fuck who was jumping from brooms on Saturday; he’d been plummeting for years, and he still wasn’t sure if Draco was going to catch him.

November, 2010

The fourth, fifth, and sixth Struggles were about as exciting as one might expect, given the first three. Harry didn’t pay much attention to them, save for the fact that there was a running series in the Prophet after each one. People all over the UK were following the story of Padma and Theo’s nuptials, and for Harry and Hermione, business was soaring. They had dozens of letters every day begging them to take on someone else’s wedding, and they hadn’t even got to the marriage ceremony itself yet.

More importantly, he got to see Draco at each one of them. And at each one of them, it became harder and harder to walk away from him at the end of the night. There was no going back for Harry anymore. He really wished he knew whether it was the same for Draco.

In late November, the final Struggle came, and with it, the strange feeling that something had to be done with him and Draco, or he might never have the chance. If they got to Padma and Theo’s wedding, and he and Draco weren’t something ‘official,’ then… would that be the end of it?

Would Draco no longer have a reason to continue seeing him?

What if he fucked it all up again?

On the night of the Seventh and final Struggle, tensions were high. This one was traditionally performed at Stonehenge, so there was no need for caterers or venue rentals. In fact, there wasn’t much of anything for Harry and Hermione to do except show up in support, as friends. This ceremony was between the couple and magic itself.

Harry was especially on edge. Two nights ago, Draco had played footsie with Harry beneath Andromeda’s dining room table while Hermione and Millicent stared at them to let them know they weren’t fooling anyone. But that was two days ago, and Harry hadn’t spoken to him since. How slow was ‘going slow?’ Was he doing it right? Was he not?

As if summoned by Harry’s thoughts, Draco Apparated into the clearing. The ground was wet and squelchy, but there was no sign of rain in the forecast that night, for which Harry was grateful. He did not relish a cold November night outside in the weather they’d been having of late.

“Will you sit with me?” asked Harry.

Draco smirked. “I suppose,” he said.

“Don’t pretend like you aren’t gagging for my company,” said Harry as he spelled a patch of grass dry and laid out a blanket. They lay back and stared up at the stars as they waited for the ceremony to begin. Rosie would probably be doing the same thing somewhere in Cambridgeshire.

“I do like your company,” Draco said softly.

Harry turned his head to look at him and found Draco already looking back. “Yeah?”

Draco nodded. “I always did, you know.”

Harry shuddered. “I didn’t,” he said. “I didn’t know what you thought.”

Draco sighed and turned to look back up at the sky. “I hated what we became after… after what happened with Teddy. We used to be so good with one another. We were excellent Aurors, even though I suppose we both hated it. We had a good time together, I think.”

“We did,” Harry agreed.

The clearing began to fill with celebrants, already laughing and giggling from pre-gamed liquor. Many brought baskets of food and drinks to share. As the final celebration before the wedding itself, potlucks were common.

Draco turned back to him. “And then we fucked it up… with fucking.”

“Well, I don’t know if I’d put it quite like that,” Harry said.

“Cocked it up with cocksucking?” Draco suggested.

Harry hummed. “I suppose. But really, Draco. It might’ve been Teddy seeing us that started the downward spiral, but we screwed it up it in plenty of other ways. We fooled around that whole month when we should’ve been honest with each other. I’d trusted you with my life for years, and I was still afraid to tell you that it was more than sex to me.”

Draco swallowed. “It was more than sex to me, too. That’s why I’ve been so cautious with you. It’s too easy to lose myself in you. If we screw up again, it’ll screw me up again.”

“Attention, please,” Mr Patil called.

Everyone immediately quieted down. Harry and Draco sat up on their blanket and turned their attention to the Notts and Patils standing at the edge of the stone circle.

“Thank you for joining us tonight as we ask the wild magic to acknowledge our daughter Padma’s intended marriage to Theodore Nott. We welcome your good wishes for a positive outcome and encourage you all to pour a glass of whatever you brought and raise it in toast at the ceremony’s conclusion. Thank you, once again.”

“I know you like red, but I was in a rush, and this is what I found in my cupboard,” Draco said, pulling out a bottle of chardonnay and a corkscrew. “I figured anything was better than whatever beer you had to hand… Shit, I forgot glasses.”

“Works for me,” said Harry. Draco popped the cork and tipped it back. He passed it to Harry. “Cheers.”

Clapping erupted from the people gathered. Harry looked up to find that Padma and Theo had stepped up to the front of the stone circle and were holding hands. They were back in their volcano-themed clothing from the first Struggle, and it was catching starlight from every direction.

Where each Struggle prior to this had been lighthearted and even a little ridiculous, both of them looked entirely serious this time. The words they spoke this time were for only the two of them, inaudible to everyone else. Magic flared up suddenly behind them and Theo visibly tensed, but continued murmuring whatever words he was saying to Padma. She stared at him wide-eyed and silent as more and more flares of magic erupted around them.

The crowd was utterly silent, all eyes glued on the two people before them. Theo spoke some final words and there was a rush of magic shooting up from the ground behind him. It surged into the air and froze, curving over him like a wave ready to break. The light stayed there and Padma started speaking, her eyes flicking up to the silver-gold-green-blue magic framing Theo, and then back to his face.

The flares this time were different—softer, more curious and probing. They rippled along the grass all around in slow, meandering patterns. Theo began to smile and Padma mirrored him, still speaking, even as her lips curved up. Her flares were coming closer and closer, encircling them. And then they suddenly surged upwards as Theo’s had and froze there behind her, waiting.

She stopped talking. Harry could see her shaky exhale all the way from his seat. The crowd was leaning forward, waiting like the magic.

Theo swallowed, his throat bobbing, and he nodded to her. As one, they chanted a single word, and their magical flares crashed back into the earth. There was a deadened moment of dark, anticipatory silence. Padma and Theo had their eyes clenched shut and were visibly squeezing one another’s hands. And suddenly the magic surged upwards again, mixed and swirled together into one roiling pattern of silver and blue and purple and gold, both sharp and curious. It burst into a million tiny pieces and fell slowly to the earth.

Everyone cheered. Louder than they’d ever cheered for any of the other six Struggles, louder than they cheered at Quidditch games or races. It was a deafening roar that any nearby Muggles were bound to hear, but no one cared. Harry was screaming himself raw in his excitement. Little sparks of magic kept floating downwards. One landed on Draco’s nose and Harry, lightheaded from the atmospheric magic, leaned forward to kiss it off.

Draco made a tiny sound in his throat and pulled Harry into him. Harry fell forward, half-sprawled on Draco, half-not. His hand landed in the grass he hadn’t dried and his fingers sunk into the mud. He didn’t care. He kissed Draco hard, and it was so, so much better than the first time he’d kissed him, all those years ago. It felt unreal, like he’d disconnected with his body and joined Padma and Theo’s flares of magic.

He kissed all down Draco’s throat, and Draco threw his head back to let him. “Come…” he painted. “Come back with me.”

“Yes,” Harry said against his throat. He could feel Draco’s pulse thrumming under his mouth, and it was the headiest sensation he’d ever experienced. He didn’t want to ever move. Draco reached into his robes, pulled his wand from his sleeve.

A second later, they popped into being on top of a bed covered in plush indigo pillows and duvet.

Draco would have indigo bedsheets.

He spared only a moment for that useless thought before he was back to attacking Draco’s buttons, one by one. Draco writhed beneath him, his chest heaving as it had that time, so long ago, in their office. Harry’s throat closed up, and for a moment, he was desperately sad for the time they’d lost, before he shook himself out of it and, with shaking fingers, pushed Draco’s shirt open.

“I never told you how much I needed you,” Draco said, in between panted breaths. “I should’ve told you. I shouldn’t have let you think I hated you.”

“Shut up,” Harry said. Draco nodded, and lowered his head down to the bed, even as his hips rose to meet Harry’s questing fingers. These trousers were coming off and they were coming off now.

He gave up in frustration, and just banished both their clothes. Draco narrowed his eyes. “Where’d you send those?”

Harry shrugged. “Gringotts, maybe. Who knows? Why, do you need them right now?” To illustrate, he lowered his head and licked at Draco’s cock.

Draco made a seriously slutty sound and lifted his hips again. “I guess...I guess not,” he panted.

Harry hummed in satisfaction, and bent to swallow Draco whole. He liked the taste of him, the weight of him, the heat of his skin against his tongue. He was so happy he could purr, probably, which was not at all manly, but something that might happen anyway if Draco kept moaning.

Draco’s moans got closer and closer, louder and louder, and Harry knew he was close. But they couldn’t have that. Gently, he pulled his mouth off Draco’s cock, and slid up Draco’s body. Harry hovered over him, hands on either side of Draco’s flushed face, and then couldn’t help dipping his head to kiss him. Draco sighed and pulled him down. His arms came round and wrapped Harry tightly, his tongue slid between Harry’s lips, and Harry couldn’t help undulating his hips, feeling their pricks slide slickly together.

“Slow,” said Harry, against Draco’s mouth. “I promised I’d go slow.”

“Don’t. We don’t need slow.”

Harry trembled. Draco breathed against him, making little hairs all over his body stand on end. A sound he’d not recognise escaped Harry and he bent again to kiss Draco, this time roughly, putting all his want and longing and fuck you for letting me make us wait four years for this in it.

Draco’s legs fell open and Harry fit easily between them. Their hips moved together as they kissed, hands clenching in hair and against skin. Draco’s thighs wrapped around Harry and he moved against him, sending shocks of pleasure all down Harry’s spine. He was frenzied with want. It was all too much. It wasn’t nearly enough.

He pulled away, lifting himself on his hands to take in Draco’s face. Draco looked back at him, and without a word, spread his hips even further, lifted them enticingly.

“You little slut,” Harry whispered, grinning.

Draco smirked. He Summoned a jar of lubricant and offered it to Harry without a word. Harry’s breath stuttered in his chest.

“Help me,” he said.

Draco slowly unscrewed this lid, dipped his fingers in. He spread his legs further still, ran his hand down his body and below his bollocks. Harry watched in awe, equal parts turned on and watchful. It’d been so long since he’d done anything like this, a reminder wouldn’t go amiss.

Watching Draco’s fingers slide easily in and out of his body was torturous. He grabbed the jar and scooped some slick lubricant out, running his hand up and down his shaft to coat it. His thighs tensed with the pleasure and he couldn’t help letting out a little moan. The anticipation alone was setting his body afire.

“Do it, Scarhead,” Draco panted. His head was thrown back, his lip caught between his teeth. Harry could live off this view.

“Fine, git,” he said, and Draco was polite enough to ignore the breathiness of his voice then.

He slid slowly in, his breath held, watching Draco’s face anxiously as he fought to maintain the balance between not hurting him and getting the fuck in there right now. He bottomed-out and held there, balancing on his forearms and also the edge of a cliff where one side was his sanity and the other was losing himself entirely in this moment and this man and that hateful, vengeful part of himself that had never stopped needing Draco no matter how often Harry told it to fuck off.

Draco lifted his hips. Harry’s eyes rolled back. He gasped, rolled his own slowly forward, but Draco grabbed his hips and dragged him in, hard, and it was all over from there. It was too much to hold back and Harry was not a man built on a foundation of patience to begin with. Draco encouraged him, hooking his legs around Harry’s waist and rocking up into him with a talent Harry knew he didn’t have from experience. He could always tell when Draco was getting some, and it hadn’t happened in years. Not since them. Fucking quick learners.

“Harry,” Draco panted, his fingers digging into the flesh at Harry’s shoulder blades. “Don’t stop, don’t stop.”

“Won’t,” Harry promised. He was already sweating, the little drops running down the sides of his face and down his spine, the heat of Draco’s body overheating his own. He could do this forever if he didn’t come in the next twenty seconds.

He reached up to swipe at the sweat on his forehead with one arm, and the shift made Draco throw his head back, crying out. “Fuck, yes, there, there!”

Harry smirked. “Yeah?” he said, and hit it there, again and again, until Draco was nothing but a writhing, sobbing mess of pleasure on his well-coordinated indigo bedsheets. Draco’s long fingers tangled in the sheets, his teeth grit. The breath rushed in and out of him in time with Harry’s thrusts.

Harry reached between them and grabbed hold of Draco’s flushed cock with his slicked hand. He stroked it, feeling the throb of Draco’s pulse against his palm, and then Draco tensed, screamed, and it was a different pulse Harry felt, as he shot hot, white come all over his belly. Harry made the mistake of watching this happen and so surprised himself when he reached the edge and suddenly, he was coming hard into Draco, his fingers still wrapped around Draco’s sensitive prick. He doubled over, feeding every last drop to Draco, his vision darkening with the overwhelming pleasure of his orgasm.

Finally, it subsided. He fell forward, uncaring of the sticky mess between their bellies. He was grinning stupidly into Draco’s hair. Draco’s arms came up and wrapped shakily around him. Their breaths began to even out. Draco stretched his toes and they popped, and then suddenly both of them were laughing.

Harry rolled off, grinned at the ceiling. “We had sex.”

He heard Draco snort beside him. “We did.”

Harry continued to grin. “It was pretty good.”

Draco squawked. “It was more than pretty good, you banshee!”

Harry turned to look at him, still smiling. “Oh, yeah? Liked that, did you?”

Draco rolled his eyes, tugged the blanket from under Harry and pretended to ready himself for sleep. “It was pretty good.”

Harry rolled over, tossing both an arm and a leg over Draco’s body and completely disregarding any silly notions of ‘personal space’. He sighed happily. “Let’s do it again some time.”

Draco’s hand rose to curl in his hair. He stroked Harry’s head softly, and he exhaled against him. It was such an intimate thing, to breathe against another person. It was more than a kiss, more than sex. And then suddenly, all of those dangerous feelings welled up in him again, and Harry could do nothing but cling to Draco, his eyes tightly shut, and let himself ride this out until he could sleep.

How could I have ever come to need you this much, you arsehole? Harry thought.

Draco didn’t answer. Even if he’d heard those mutinous thoughts, Draco always knew when to keep his mouth shut.

December, 2010

Winter Solstice arrived, and with it, the morning of Padma and Theo’s wedding. Harry woke up with a tremble that had nothing at all to do with the shitty warming charms in Grimmauld Place. Draco was still sleeping, which was unusual in itself. He was normally the first to wake.

But what truly had Harry’s nerves on high alert was the proposition he planned to make Draco that day. He fretted over it while he was brushing his teeth, and again while he was making coffee. He fretted while he made breakfast for the kids, who had spent the night so Hermione and Millicent could go to dinner, and he fretted while he read over the ingredients list on the back of a box of Frosted Niffler Nuggets. Draco had bought them the other week, and Harry still couldn’t figure out why.

But they had 72g of sugar per tablespoon. So… the kids weren’t eating that.

He turned the skillet on and started frying some eggs instead. He really had no idea how Andromeda let those Niffler Nuggets in her house. How did they even fit 72g of sugar in a tablespoon? The physics alone…

An Erumpent trundled down the stairs, or no, it was just Teddy, who skidded into the kitchen on his stocking feet. His eyes lit up when he saw the box of Niffler Nuggets, but Harry pointedly put it back in the cabinet and pointed to a chair.

“Eggs and toast for you, bucko.”

“Bucko?” Teddy questioned. “You’re such an old sometimes, Harry.”

“Better an old than having to do Potions homework,” Harry replied.

“That’s a fair point,” said Teddy. Harry set a plate of toast in front of him and Teddy immediately shoved some in his mouth. “Where’s Draco?” he asked around a mouthful of toast.

“Sleeping,” Harry said.

Teddy gave him a sly look. “Wore him out, did you?”

Harry grimaced. “Why are you twelve,” he muttered.

“Because our mums had us twelve years ago,” said Rosie, who always managed to sidle into rooms without anyone noticing her until she was ready.

“I hate Ravenclaws,” Harry sighed.

“Did you really wear Draco out, Uncle Harry?” Rosie asked.

“He most certainly did not,” Draco said, stepping primly into the kitchen and stealing Teddy’s entire plate of toast. He then summoned the box of Frosted Niffler Nuggets from the cabinet and started eating them straight from the box. “If anyone was worn out, it was Harry.”

“Gross,” said Teddy and Rosie together.

“Can we talk about something more interesting?” said Rosie. “Like what you got us for Christmas?”

“Of course,” said Draco. “We paid both your ways into sex-ed summer camp next year. You’ll both be thirteen then, and that’s plenty old enough to start learning about the Auguries and the Bees. It’ll be a valuable learning experience.”

Both of the children looked to Harry. “Is he joking, Harry?” Teddy asked.

“Please say he is,” Rosie added.

“He’s joking,” Harry said. They let out relieved sighs. “We weren’t sure if you’d like summer camp, so we just worked with the Headmistress to have the Heads of House give sex-ed talks instead. Professor Flitwick may have added insight on goblin relations.”

“Wicked!” said Teddy.

Harry and Draco shared a look. What a… unique child. Harry hoped Tonks and Remus were watching. And also that they wouldn’t punch him when they next saw him for being so liberal in his godparenting.

“You would enjoy that,” Rosie said, rolling her eyes. “They weren’t serious. Were you, Uncle Harry?”

“Alas, no,” said Harry. “The truth is… the truth is we didn’t get either of you anything.”

Teddy and Rosie gave him disgusted looks. “Come on, Rosie,” Teddy said. “Let’s leave these two to their jokes.”

They left with their noses up. Harry shared a smirk with Draco. The last two eggs finished. Harry summoned the Niffler Nuggets from Draco and set an egg in front of him instead.

“It occurs to me,” Harry said, as he was sitting in the chair opposite, “that we could’ve just not Obliviated Teddy at all. Twelve-year-olds are remarkably well informed. Or they think they are, anyway. He probably would’ve just rolled his eyes at us if we’d let him keep the memory.”

“Don’t say that, Potter,” said Draco. “If we start thinking like that, then it means we ruined his ability to learn sevens for nothing. It means the last five years were wasted for nothing.”

Harry sighed. “You’re right. I don’t want to think that. But maybe we should. Maybe we shouldn’t write the guilt off just because time’s passed.”

“We shouldn’t,” Draco agreed, “but we have to anyway. We fucked up, and when we tried to fix it, we fucked it up worse. It’s affected the rest of Teddy’s life, but you know what? He’s fine. Look at him. He’s smart and happy and is on first names with more goblins than I am, and I invest millions with them every year. He can’t do math by sevens, but so what? He’s got that calculator and it’s working for him. He’s going to be okay.”

“You’re right,” said Harry. He couldn’t help giving Draco a fond smile.

“I’m always right,” said Draco.

“Except that time you accidentally Obliviated—”

“Oh, fuck off. And go get ready. We have a wedding to attend.” He stood to take his plate to the sink. He gave it a cursory wash (dishwashing was still a new and confusing concept to Draco) and set it awkwardly in the drying rack. He gave Harry a saucy wink as he left the kitchen, calling, “Brats! Get showered and dressed and make sure you brush your teeth! We’re leaving in one hour!”

-x-

Wizarding weddings didn’t have bridal parties, but if they did, there was no doubt that Draco would’ve stood as Theo’s best man. As soon as they Apparated into the lobby of the Mermaid & Clam Inn, a bed and breakfast situated on a lovely strip of coast outside Yarmouth, where Padma’s family lived, Theo descended upon him.

“Draco.” Theo’s voice was so blank and devoid of emotion that Harry knew at once he was having one of those ‘Slytherin panics’.

He took one look at the two of them and said, “I’ll just take the kids with me. They can help me and Hermione with any last minute changes in the ceremony.”

Theo’s eyes flew to him. “Changes? What changes? Is Padma not coming?”

Harry gave him an exasperated look, rolled his eyes. “The fuck should I know, Nott? You saw me Apparate in two seconds ago. It was hypothetical.”

“Uncle Harry!” Rosie said, stomping her foot. “This is a beautiful day. Must you ruin it with such vulgar language?”

Theo nodded robotically. “Right, right.” Then, “Draco. Help me.”

“Come on, kidlets,” Harry said, putting a hand on each of their shoulders. “Let’s leave these Slytherins to their Slytherining. Rosie, do you see your mum?”

“She’ll be with the vendors, obviously,” Rosie said. “Look for the people with chafing dishes.”

“I knew I kept you around for a reason,” Harry said, guiding them towards a group of white-aproned wizards levitating silver covered dishes. They found Hermione directing their leader with a stern gaze and a firm hand.

“Oh, good, you remembered my child,” Hermione said, leaning up to peck Harry’s cheek and then bending to give Rosie a much more thorough hug and kiss. “Darling, did you have a good time with Uncle Harry?”

“He’s been swearing,” Rosie said, darkly. Hermione flicked her eyes up to Harry and Harry studiously ignored her.

“I suspect we’ll never break him of that habit, love,” Hermione replied. “I’m very proud of you for continuing to uphold your personal values. You can help me order around the caterers.” Rosie glowed with pride.

“Harry,” Hermione said, standing. “The florist was late and she’s still installing the flowers for the ceremony. I need you to go help her finish within the next ten minutes and also remind her that our contract clearly stated she would be docked for tardiness.”

“On it, my liege,” Harry said. “Teddy, come help an old arrange flowers, please.”

“On it, my liege,” Teddy echoed. They wound their way through the scurrying vendors and to the back door that opened onto the lawn and the coast beyond. Above them was a very dark, very heavy-looking sky. Teddy wrinkled his nose. “It’s totally gonna rain. Are they sure they wanna get married out here when it’s raining? Didn’t they not want to do their vows in the rain and that’s why we got to go to Gringotts instead?”

“Teddy, son, I suggest you never attempt to understand the ways of those engaged. I assure you that their minds work in wholly different ways than normal people.”

“Hmm,” said Teddy. “Oh, there’s the florist!”

She looked as frazzled as Hermione had in that first meeting with the soon-to-be-Notts. Harry almost felt sorry for her, except that this was her job and it was affecting his job on his and Hermione’s very first job.

“Good morning, Ms Pollen,” said Harry. “Friendly reminder that our magically-binding contract stipulated a ten Galleon penalty for every fifteen minutes late the flower arrangements were. I do hope we can continue to do business with one another in the future. How can my godson and I help you ensure it’s not another ten?”

Ms Pollen gaped at him for only a moment, then shook herself out of it and said, “The Champa and Magnolia arrangements need to be placed at the end of each row of chairs, alternating.”

They set about that task and in short order had the last of the flowers for the ceremony in place. Harry quietly charmed all of the flowers red and orange, and when Ms Pollen turned around and noticed them, he gave her a pointed look. They’d clearly said the theme was ‘Volcanoes’. Not ‘Ms Pollen’s special’.

It took no time to get the table arrangements settled in the dining room, which also needed to be charmed, and then Teddy was freed to take his seat with Andromeda, as the guests had begun to arrive. Harry still hadn’t seen any of the Patils, but Hermione wasn’t panicking so he was certain they were here, though probably off in one of the guest rooms getting ready.

Harry took care of a few last minute adjustments to the decor, checked that the food was being properly warming-charmed, decided to go up and knock on the door to Padma’s room and make sure she’d really shown up (she had), and finally found himself free of obligations. It was then that Draco came back down the stairs, looking exasperated.

“Hey,” Harry said, smiling up at him.

Draco glanced over. “Hey,” he said. “I think Theo’s going to make it through the ceremony without passing out. I gave him a Calming Draught.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “He’s not going to get woozy during the ceremony, is he? Because we’ve got the press here, and so help me, Malfoy, if we get a bad review because the groom can’t stand up straight—”

“Keep your pants on, Potter,” Draco said. “I brewed it myself.”

“Hm,” Harry said doubtfully. Once upon a time, he’d been a regular at Draco Malfoy’s Office Desk Drawer Apothecary, and those headache potions had always been strong. “He better make it through this ceremony.”

Draco stepped up to him, smirking. “You’re nervous,” he whispered.

“Shut your mouth,” Harry said, swallowing.

Draco smirked some more. “Why don’t you shut it for me?”

Harry could do that. “I want you to move in with me. At Grimmauld Place. I’ll let you redecorate.”

Draco gaped.

“You’re supposed to shut your mouth, not open it,” Harry said, but he was more nerves than his words betrayed. He chewed on his lip, waiting for Draco to react.

“Er, please?” he added, when the moment seemed to continue on longer than was really necessary.

“Harry, you cocksucker,” Draco finally said.

“True,” Harry allowed.

Draco pounced on him, kissing him full on the mouth right there in the lobby of the Mermaid & Clam. “Stop it. I mean you’re a cocksucker because I was considering asking you to move in with me, but I probably would’ve deliberated over it for another six to eight months, but here you are, jumping right in.”

“It’s how I roll,” Harry said, shrugging. “And also, you know I’m stupidly in love with you, right? Like, it’s really bad.”

Draco laughed and hugged him so tight he struggled to breathe. “You know that I’m elegantly in love with you, right?”

Harry beamed at him. “Brill!”

Outside, there was a large clap of thunder and many of the guests screamed in surprise. Harry and Draco continued to stare at one another, with doubtlessly silly looks on their faces. Hermione’s voice rang out through Sonorous, alerting the guests to a charmed weather-repelling spell dome over the lawn. Not a moment later, rain began to pour, pounding against the weather-dome.

The chicken entrails had been right, then. It was an auspicious day to start a new life.

New Years, 2016

Hermione and Ron arrived together, for the first time in years. Although, to be fair, it only happened because she was helping Ron transport all the beer in. RB Weasley Fine Whiskys & Wort was a staggering success, partially in thanks to generous start-up capital from a very bored Draco, who’d decided that employment didn’t suit him after all.

The greater success was seeing Rosie and her two stepmothers arriving together. It wasn’t often that one managed to get Millicent Bulstrode-Granger and Lavender Brown-Weasley to work together. Rosie had that effect on people; she just naturally made them happy, made them want to make other people happy, made them watch their language. It was a trait she’d picked up from her mother.

Harry, for his part, was just happy the house was in shape for polite company.

He and Draco had only moved into their new house last week, but he was determined that they should host New Year’s here this year. It felt important, like it was something too long in the making. This was the rightful end to a wide circle that had begun the moment he first saw Draco holding a wine glass in Andromeda’s kitchen… really saw him for what he was in Harry’s life.

“Business going well, Weasley?” asked Draco, as he always did when Ron came round.

“Fuck off, Malfoy. You got the quarterly statement last week and I’m not obligated to suffer your company beyond that.”

Draco smirked. Harry tugged him back into the kitchen and pulled him into an embrace. “Don’t be a git, Draco,” he murmured against Draco’s lips. Draco licked him, and Harry burst out laughing. “You’re so weird, Malfoy.”

“I’m also on the mortgage.”

“I know,” Harry said. “I like it.”

“I know what else you like.”

“We’re hosting. You can’t be slutty right now,” Harry protested, though weakly, for Draco was currently rubbing his cock through his trousers.

“Can’t I? Looks like I’m perfectly capable.”

“Ugh, gross,” came a voice from behind them. “Why am I always walking in on you two? Is this my curse? Is this my albatross to wear?”

“The exit’s behind you, Ravenclaw,” Harry said pointedly.

Teddy ignored him. He came and stood right next to them, making the both of them look awkwardly at him from the side while still hugging, and in Draco’s case, with a hand still on Harry’s crotch. Teddy cleared his throat and Draco removed his hand.

They were such wonderful guardians. Harry hoped Remus and Tonks knew how lucky they were to have put Teddy in Harry’s tender care all those years ago. He could only imagine the horror of Teddy’s life if he’d had a more… parental godfather.

“Listen,” Teddy said, obviously steeling himself. His fuschia hair had sparkles in it today. Sparkles that suspiciously matched Rosie’s party dress, come to think of it. “Harry, Draco, I wanted to tell you something before you found out from anyone else.”

Harry and Draco shared a look. They pulled apart but Draco’s fingers found Harry’s and squeezed. “Are you gay?” he asked delicately.

Harry rolled his eyes. “Look at his hair,” he told Draco.

Draco did, eyes narrowed, and then seemed to come to the same conclusion Harry had. “Ah, Weaslette the Second,” he said, nodding. “I knew I’d have to give my fortune to a Weasley sooner or later.”

Both Harry and Teddy rolled their eyes at this. “No, nothing about my dating life, which is private, thanks. This is about Gringotts.”

Harry was immediately on high alert. Had their tutoring not worked? Was he regressing? Had something failed? Did he lose his calculator? Was Teddy getting sacked–?

“I’ve quit my job as Equities Accountant,” said Teddy.

There was a moment of stunned silence. Teddy had wanted to work for Gringotts his whole life, and now he was just quitting? After only a few months? Then Draco hissed, “What did you say, young man?”

“But every time we asked you about it,” Harry added, “you said it was great!”

Teddy smirked. “I quit my job as Equities Accountant,” he repeated slowly, but this time added, “To accept a position as Assistant Director of Gringotts Public Relations and Marketing.”

“Holy shit,” said Harry, eloquently.

Draco was grinning ear to ear, which was a rare thing indeed. “That’s my little heir,” he said proudly.

“My godson!” Harry insisted.

“I’m not little,” Teddy reminded them, flinging his pink hair from his eyes like an irritated Abraxan.

“Smile!”

All three of them automatically turned towards Andromeda’s voice, beaming. She’d long since instilled in them a fear of not smiling when she was ready to take photos for her blog.

“Ah, perfect! My lovely boys, lined up all in a row,” she said, smiling at the display on her DSLR. She looked up at them and beamed. “I’m doing a post on New Year’s Eve traditions, both new and old. Did Teddy tell you his news?”

“Damn it all, where is that blasted, buggering, cumguzzling—oh. Hi, Auntie,” said Rosie, sheepishly. “I didn’t know you were here.”

“Hmm,” was all Andromeda said.

Rosie flushed deeper and said to Harry, “Uncle Harry, have you got a wine key?” She saw Teddy then, and somehow managed to grow a shade even redder. “Teddy.”

“Rosie,” Teddy said, just as stiltedly.

“Just so you know,” said Harry, “you’re fooling no one.” Draco and Andromeda nodded in agreement.

With identical sighs, Rosie and Teddy gave up their act. Ron wandered in with a case of RB Weasley beer. “Better than whatever Harry’s got in this place, guaranteed,” he said. Rosie reached for one and he swatted her hand. “Ah ah, crumpet.”

“Daddy, I’m eighteen,” she said, annoyed.

“Oh, let her have the beer, Ron,” said Hermione, sweeping in with a stack of dishes loaded up with food, both home-cooked and the super posh leftovers from the Parkinson wedding they’d done yesterday. Ron reluctantly gave her a beer.

“What you should really be worrying about,” Draco added helpfully, “is that she’s been cavorting with my heir, and you do know I have stringent requirements for any future Lady Malfoys.”

“Rosie’s plenty qualified to be a bloody Lady Malfoy!” Ron said before his words caught up to him, and he turned narrowed eyes on his daughter. “Cavorting?”

Ugh! Uncle Draco, why must you taunt my father and why must you always tell secrets?”

“Remember those times you told your father about Uncle Harry wearing me out?” Draco asked sweetly.

“We were twelve!” said Rosie.

Draco shrugged. “I’ve a good memory.”

“Well! This calls for a toast, I think,” said Andromeda, who was raised with the grace of a Black and the good sense of anyone but a Black. “To Teddy and Rosie.”

“We aren’t even public!” Teddy cried.

“You are now, bucko,” said Harry, clapping him on the back with one hand while he toasted him with the beer in the other.

Such an old,” Teddy muttered. “Bucko.”

“When’s the wedding?” Harry asked right away. “Your mum and I are coordinating it, right?”

Rosie screamed in frustration. Draco gave Harry a kiss on his cheek. He was always most affectionate when Harry helped him tease the kids.

“Happy New Year, darling,” Hermione said to her. “Wedding bells next year?”

Rosie’s expression turned sly. “Maybe,” she said. “I saw a ring box in Uncle Draco’s office desk drawer.”

“You little!” Draco said.

Harry turned to him, gaping. “What’s she talking about?”

Draco gave him a narrow-eyed look. “She’s talking about the secret she just spoiled.”

Rosie shrugged. “I have a good memory.”

Millicent laughed and clapped her on the shoulder. “Good girl. Draco, suck it up and do it proper.”

Draco glared at everyone. He held out his hand and bit out, “Accio secret ring box, fuckers.” They waited, Harry still gaping. A velvet ring box soared into the kitchen and landed in Draco’s hand. Draco curled his fingers around it, then cleared his throat several times.

“Harry,” he said. Behind them, Lavender began to squeal in excitement, and then the Floo roared to life and the Notts stepped into the kitchen, stopping suddenly when they saw everyone gathered there. “Harry,” Draco repeated. “Please save me from public humiliation by acquiescing to my request of marriage. With you. And me, obviously.”

“Uhh,” Harry said. He swallowed. “Yes, obviously.”

Draco beamed at him. Their friends cheered. Through it all, Harry managed to make out Rosie’s, “You’ll let Mum and me coordinate it, right Uncle Harry?”

“Of course he will, darling,” said Hermione. “He knows better than to not.”

“Get out of the kitchen,” Draco instructed. “We have to do some host things right now.”

“Gross,” Teddy said, and was the first to leave. Everyone else followed him, though most stopped to give them claps on the back, and Theo whispered something in Draco’s ear that made him blush to his roots.

When they were finally alone, Harry stepped up to Draco again and ran his finger down Draco’s chest. Draco leaned back against the counter, a beer in his hand, his eyes sparkling. It was just just what Harry had imagined all those years ago. The drink was different, but the emotion was the same—no, it was better. And here they were hosting New Year’s for the first time, about to start both a new year and a new chapter in their life together.

Things did not always work out the way one expected, but if the intent was there, they would always find a way to work out eventually. Sometimes, he even thought that messed up Obliviation was good for all of them. Struggle did bring people together. And it seemed they would have seven of those to prove it to themselves. The only thing that could’ve made it better was if Teddy could count them. But he had his calculator. It was fine.

— END —