Chapter 1: It's a Wheeze
Disclaimer: Not mine. Rowling's. No profit being made, no offense intended, no point in suing. Really.
Thanks, Sam and CD, for the beta. And thanks, Samayel, for Bewitching Changes, which convinced me that where Draco Malfoy has a stuffed dragon, it must be named Grr.
Nothing but an ordinary office door, separating him, a herd of mischievous magical toddlers, and the Ministry's main potions lab, was there? Honestly, how Bennington hadn't blown himself up yet with wits like that was nothing short of baffling.
"Why are you telling me this?" Draco looked at Minister Shacklebolt in the vague hope there'd be a better explanation coming. Surely they hadn't called him away from his cauldrons for idle chatter.
"Two of those children are my best Aurors," Shacklebolt said, eyes narrowing. "All four are close personal friends. I want this fixed and I want it done last week, Malfoy."
Like Draco was somehow responsible for the continued idiocy of Potter and his friends. He stared blandly and feigned patience until Shacklebolt grunted what he supposed was Auror approval and continued.
"I can't let them out of the Ministry, not even for St. Mungo's. The Prophet would love this one — they've only just stopped calling him the Boy Who Lived." Shacklebolt cast a telling glare at the office door.
Okay, Draco could see his point. Having finally convinced the wizarding world to treat him as an adult icon rather than, well, a child icon, really, Potter probably wouldn't take it well if they saw him as he currently was…about four years old and drinking pumpkin juice from a sippy cup.
Still. For all the shit he took routinely, Draco wasn't caving that easily.
"Again, why tell me?" If the Malfoy, Slytherin, and Dark Mark weren't incentive enough to choose someone else, the potions lab peon status should have been.
Shacklebolt looked like the words were mild Crucio to speak aloud. "We're told it's a potions-based problem, which requires a potions-based solution. Since the maker is currently — " Another vicious glare at the office door " — indisposed, we have to rely on someone in-house."
"And my name came up, did it?" Because it never did come promotions time, though he'd aced the testing.
Bennington turned an unbecoming shade of chartreuse. Shacklebolt straight grimaced. "Your name came up."
Draco considered that, cast his own glance at the office door and frowned. "Who else is on the team?"
"No one," Shacklebolt snapped. "We're trying to keep this quiet, Malfoy. That doesn't happen with teams."
"Pfft. You're telling me you've lost Potter and several Weasleys, and the only person you're asking to get them back is me?"
"No one's lost anyone," Bennington said, hands fluttering in mad panic. Shacklebolt's eyes narrowed.
"Mrs. Longbottom and Mrs. Granger-Weasley asked for you personally, Malfoy," he said, and his tone promised that if Draco didn't produce adequate results, Shacklebolt looked forward to dealing with him personally, too.
And much as Draco hated his boss and the stuffy bureaucracy of the Ministry, he did rather like his job. Maybe not enough to pull off a miracle to save Potter from his own idiocy yet again, but Shacklebolt had accidentally stumbled on the magic word, so…
"Yeah, all right." Bennington sagged with unearned relief. Shacklebolt's posture eased. Draco smirked. "But what's in it for me?"
Right on cue, Bennington whimpered and Shacklebolt blazed. Merlin, it was good to be Slytherin.
The wee Weasleys thumped each other as though it was some strange fist-borne form of conversation. Tiny Potter sat dwarfed by his chair, both hands on the tiny handles of his sippy cup, eyes downcast. Draco spotted and dismissed these three, sought out the one he'd agreed for.
He found little Longbottom hiding across the room, as quiet as Potter and without the consolation of the juice.
Draco crouched by Longbottom and moderated his tone to keep from scaring the boy off outright. Lovegood would never forgive him.
"Longbottom?" Those cautious eyes lifted to his, hangdog expression in place. "Do you know who I am?"
Longbottom's chubby little face screwed up in thought. "Are you my dad?"
Oh, this assignment was going to be a charm.
"Was that part of the wedding service, or just a general requirement for joining the family?"
Granger frowned. "Wheeze."
His brows rose. "This sort of thing happens frequently then, does it?"
Granger sighed. "It's been known to, yes. They like to test the new products personally before they put them to market."
"Contain the damage, you mean?"
Granger smiled. "So to speak."
Lovegood — Longbottom now, but he'd always think of her as Lovegood — turned her vague attention his way. "I knew you could fix it, Draco." Her half-smile hadn't changed since her first year at Hogwarts, not even with the horrors of her last. He thought Lovegood far stronger than anyone guessed.
"It's not done yet," he said. He'd only just agreed, after all. "I'll need access to their lab and whatever formula they were using. Do we have any idea what they've taken?"
The Weaselette still couldn't meet his gaze. No surprise there. "It was meant to be a Childhood Chew," Granger said. "As best we can tell, they meant a sort of second childhood feeling from, erm, chewing gum."
The top Aurors in England, brought down by chewing gum. Yes, he could see why they might want to keep that quiet.
"Well, it worked."
"Not like that," the Weaselette said, mild annoyance colouring her freckled cheeks. "It wasn't supposed to physically make them children, it was supposed to make them feel like children."
He cast a glance at the office door. No point repeating that it had indeed done that. "How long was it meant to last?"
"Again, as best we can tell, until they stopped chewing the gum." Granger shifted in impatience. "They stopped chewing it four hours ago."
He found their recipe in, of all things, a hat box tucked beside a stack of Skiving Snackboxes and atop a collection of Exploding Wand packages. The Weaselette hovered at the doorway while he searched — though surely her need for a re-aged Potter would have diminished her apparent misery that he was poking through her brothers' things during their mutual incapacitation — and by the time he'd found what he was looking for, she'd huffed and sighed and sneered her way through an afternoon.
She'd warned him against a vague Accio in that room, because Merlin knew what might happen should any of this mess be dislodged in the process, but they really didn't have time for an ineffective Muggle search, so as soon as her freckled red head was turned, he flicked his wand and muttered his summons.
Which was good, because damned if he'd have gone near those wands any time soon.
Fixing this was not only going to be relatively simple, it would likely be fun. Perhaps he could talk to the Weasleys when this was done, make arrangements to look over…no, best not to think that. He had enough on his plate as it was without looking to add more.
And anyway, what were the chances the Weasleys would even agree? He suspected if The Weasel knew who was brewing his remedy, they'd have trouble convincing him to take it.
"You've found something, then?" Granger's voice caught him off-guard. He looked up from his purloined parchment grudgingly and nodded. "Something helpful?"
"Very." Much as he wanted to hold it his own secret until he'd worked through it all, the worry in her posture convinced him otherwise. "I'll have some research ahead of me, as your lot bunged up some fairly common theory in ways I've never seen before, but it's nothing I can't handle." Merlin help him, he even spared her a smile. "Don't worry, Granger. You'll have your Weasel safe and legal in no time. I swear."
"You swear?" She shot him a dubious look, then wrecked it with a slight smile of her own.
He held his wand hand up, held the other over his heart. "Malfoy honour. You'll have him back." Draco twisted to scan for onlookers, aware it was all quite beyond what he wanted his co-workers to spot. "Look, I've work to do and you've children to mind. I'll find you if I need you, yeah?"
Then he hurried back in to his lab, where he'd have no more dealings with compassion-causing Gryffindors.
"Look, we're thinking of taking them back to the Burrow for the night if you can't sort this out before bedtime," Granger said, glancing around the lab. "This really isn't a place for children."
"So I've heard." He didn't point out how much of his childhood he'd spent in the Malfoy lab with Severus or his mother. Four years after the Battle of Hogwarts, Severus' name was still somewhat touchy among those who'd fought.
"So you're all right if we leave, then?" She watched him; Merlin knew what for. He rubbed his temples to clear the fog of research gone too far and winced at the sound of squawking children when the door opened again.
"Well?" the Weaselette hissed. "Are we taking them home now or what? I think they're getting hungry and it's long since past their nap."
"What? Yeah, yeah." He waved a hand in dismissal, then cursed his own impetuousness. "No, sod it, not yet. It's a rush job, yeah? So I'll need access to at least one of them to monitor any changes in their condition." He thought it best not to mention the possible solution testing. Parents were notoriously squeamish about that sort of thing and under the circumstances, he thought he should consider these parents particularly attached. "Shall I ask Lovegood if she minds Longbottom staying?"
"We were hoping to keep them all together," Granger said. "You know, around children their own age so they wouldn't be as frightened." She glanced around his lab again, obviously disapproving of it as any place for children long term. "Were you planning to keep him in their little conference room, then?"
"No, I thought I might look through the Malfoy library for a bit. He can stay in Teddy's wing if he likes. There's loads of space there." Besides which, Pansy was due back with Teddy shortly and he could only imagine what she'd make of this mess if he wasn't there to collect the boy. Bad enough he'd had to call her in to Teddy-watch when he'd been called in to work. Right inconvenient, the Black sisters naffing off to the Continent like this, extended holiday or no.
Something glinted in Granger's eyes, something almost…Slytherin. Only years of Malfoy training kept him from gulping. "How much space?"
The wee Weasleys held Granger's hands in what appeared to be momentary docility. Wouldn't last, he suspected, but it was better than instant rampage and wild magic, which was good.
Little Longbottom held Lovegood's hand, sheepish and smiling sweet.
Tiny Potter held the Weaselette's hand all right, but only a total twit would miss the way the boy shuffled uncomfortably, the shy looks he gave his surroundings. Tiny Potter, Draco suspected, wanted to bolt.
Well, wasn't that interesting?
"C'mon, you lot, let's find the nursery and get you all settled, yeah?"
The wee Weasleys looked at each other — and there was trouble, right there — and beamed. Little Longbottom moved closer to Lovegood, hiding behind her robes. Tiny Potter shuffled his feet and cast a quick, frightened glance at the Weaselette, who's face pinched at something.
"You have a nursery?" she asked.
Draco raised a brow. "You're in the Malfoy ancestral manor, She-Weasel. Home of every Malfoy heir for centuries. You thought we were hatched from pods ready for Hogwarts?"
Granger opened her gob, undoubtedly to chastise him for something, but Lovegood stepped up instead.
"Now now, children, let's play nice, shall we?"
It grated only slightly that Lovegood wasn't looking at the nursery schoolers when she spoke.
"Teddy Cub." He caught the small projectile cousin and squeezed, part crush, part rib-tickle, just to hear Teddy's infectious laughter rolling through the Manor's too-quiet halls. How his parents had managed once he'd outgrown such sounds was beyond him — without Teddy there to lighten the atmosphere, he sometimes thought the place would stew in its own bleak memory.
As always, he found Teddy's face a rough, childish mirror of his own when he pulled back. Another Metamorphmagus for the family tree, he supposed, good-natured as Lupin — what he'd heard of the man's memory, anyway — and irrepressible as tales of his cousin Dora.
"Not Teddy Cub," Teddy pouted, then grinned and rubbed his now-pointed nose against Draco's. "Teddy Bear."
Draco pulled back further for inspection, cocking a brow and assuming feigned skepticism. "No, not just yet, I don't think. Still too small to be a proper bear." He pressed Teddy's nose like a button and watched it shift.
Teddy giggled again, then looked away, playing coy at the sound. Almost as soon as he'd done that, Teddy gasped and turned back, wide-eyed and incredulous. "There's kids in the Manor, Uncle Dragon," he stage-whispered.
"I know," Draco stage-whispered back. "They're friends of mine and they're staying here tonight. Is that all right?"
"In my room?"
"In your nursery."
Teddy considered that with all the solemnity Draco supposed a four-year-old might give the situation. The boy looked back at the group warily, then back at Draco to nod. "Yeah, all right. But just for tonight."
"Merlin, Draco, where've you been?" Pansy strolled through the doorway from the parlour, something he suspected was only pretending to be a proper cuppa in her hand. He knew the moment she spotted the group behind him – she was too Slytherin to react much at all. "Hello, Luna. Draco, are we having some sort of Gryffindor slumber party and I've forgotten?"
"Hullo, Pansy," Lovegood said, dreamy smile in place. "There's been an accident and Draco offered to help us fix it."
"Accident? What sort of accident?"
"Please, sir, could you find the Dursleys?"
She sought some nuance in him before answering. "What brought them up?"
"Potter wanted me to find it — them. What am I looking for?"
"They're his Muggle relatives."
"Oh." Draco frowned in thought. "Dunno how to get Muggles to the Manor. Maybe if you could get them to your Burrow, we could Floo them over? Can Muggles Floo? Or should I be trying to crack the Muggle repelling wards on the gates?"
Granger's expression softened. "You'd do that for him? Let Muggles in Malfoy Manor?"
"He's a child, Granger. Bad enough he's surrounded by things he doesn't recognize and things he doesn't understand. Even I'm not cruel enough to keep him from the people who'd make him feel safe."
She looked away then; he didn't know why, but he understood the need to compose one's self with a modicum of privacy. When she turned back, something steel showed in the set of her mouth. "I appreciate what you're trying to do, really I do, but trust me on this, the Dursleys won't make him feel safe at this age. How much do you know about Harry's childhood?"
Several minutes later, Granger's hand laid atop his while he absorbed what he'd learned.
His first question — and only, he swore, it wasn't his to discern Potter's deepest darkest secrets without the man's leave — seemed to surprise her.
"Was Dumbledore trying to make him a Muggle hater?" Because really, Draco couldn't see any other rationale.
Granger frowned. "Let's not ask Harry that, shall we?"
"Would you mind?" Lovegood asked, laying a hand on her belly. "I would, I mean, but I'm right knackered. Maybe if I just have a bit of a sit?"
Lovegood, pregnant. With a real Little Longbottom. Something inside him softened. "Yeah, yeah, you go have a kip, yeah? I've got a handle on these little monsters."
"Yeah, I'll be fine. Or rather, we will be. Won't we, lads?" He turned back to the boys, who stared at him silent and unblinking until Teddy agreed, at which point both little Gryffindors followed suit. Really, the whole thing was remarkably soppy and if he didn't watch himself, he'd make Hagrid look stalwart in the face of adorable danger.
On no planet did Draco believe three four-year-olds harmless.
Draco wasn't surprised — but all the boys were — when Tiny Potter caught each one he chased.
Then it was out and dried and into pyjamas, soft and fluffy. Teddy's had snitchy spots, Longbottom's had dancing stripes, and Potter's had…oh. Tiny fangless serpents. Which, apparently, he was trying to talk to.
While Teddy gushed that he'd only ever met one other Parselmouth and Longbottom asked how Teddy even knew one, Tiny Potter snuffled Grr, Draco's old stuffed dragon, hiding in well-worn green fur.
"I see you've met Grr." Draco crouched down, aware that standing tall over this lot cowed all but Teddy. Potter froze, then nodded, nose burying into the toy, fingers curled to white knuckles. "D'you like him? He was always my favourite." Those big green eyes were killing him. Just doing him in right there. With eyes like those, Draco really had to wonder how anyone saw the scar first. Tiny Potter was…scared? Waiting? Something solemn, far more so than any child that age should be. At four, Draco remembered playing with the house-elves and Pansy while their parents talked downstairs, not bracing like any word could be a strike.
Ideological shift aside, he thought maybe Muggle hating wasn't all bad. Just needed to find the right Muggles to hate, hadn't he? "D'you want to hear a secret?"
Tiny Potter's eyes shifted. Gor, they were near impossible to look at properly like that, open and honest and broadcasting his ache. "Yes," Tiny Potter said, mumbling quiet into the fur. Draco smiled and thought maybe Tiny Potter did, too.
"When I was little, Grr used to sleep with me. And before I went to sleep, I'd crawl into bed, snuggle up close, and ask him to tell me a story."
Somehow, Tiny Potter's eyes widened. "And did he?"
"Yeah. Yeah, he did."
Tiny Potter thought that over. "Will he tell me a story, d'you think?"
"Maybe. If you're good." Like Potter, tiny or not, could be anything but. Draco ruffled the boy's hair absently, irritated with the Muggle gits again when Tiny Potter stiffened.
"Oh." Tiny Potter frowned. Wrong as it was to see that expression on Big Potter's face, it was worse on this one. "I'm not very good."
"Bollocks. You're very good and anyone who says different should be…" He paused to find some child-suitable punishment, aware hexing madly wouldn't cut it with someone this skittish. "…should be turned green and left to stay that way."
"Green?" Tiny Potter giggled. "People aren't green."
"But some of them should be." And because it worked with Teddy, Draco poked Tiny Potter's adorable tiny nose. Tiny Potter scrunched his face accordingly.
Then Tiny Potter thought something over. "Will you tell me a story?"
"Would you really like one?"
Tiny Potter nodded. "If that's all right."
"From me, I mean, and not from Grr? He tells them brilliantly." He couldn't, in good conscience, allow a man who generally hated him — when he wasn't avoiding him — to snuggle up for a bedtime story over a potions mishap. Not feeling as he did.
But he found he couldn't say no to the boy, either, which was something of a dilemma.
Tiny Potter swiped his foot across the floor, toeing the carpet as he squeezed Grr.
"Shouldn't you be working?" Weaselette asked.
"Taking a break," he said. "Union rules." He flashed her a false smile, watched Granger titter. Clearly, she'd had more than enough of whatever they'd been adding to their cups. "Actually, just letting a few of the ingredients combine. Need time to steep, yeah?"
"Steep?" Oh, the Weaselette was going to be a right charm, he could tell. Git.
"I could give you the long, drawn-out explanation of Potions theory involved, but I thought you'd prefer the prettied up version. Most don't like hearing just what they'll be ingesting. Or, erm, feeding loved ones."
Granger nodded like that was sage. Weaselette rolled her eyes.
"I thought so." Then, because it was bothering him just a tad, he said, "Granger, Shacklebolt said you'd asked for me personally." And Merlin, wasn't that awkward as hell?
"Luna said you'd be able to do it. Said she trusts you with her life. Or Neville's, as it happens. Is she wrong?"
"No." He frowned. "Just seems a strange choice is all. Me, helping your lot."
Pansy slid in then, goblet in hand and tipsy smile in place. "Oh, Dragon, now what did you do?"
If he didn't need her help with Teddy — well, and if they hadn't that twenty-year friendship to consider, as well — there were times he thought he'd hex her horns on general principle.
"What makes you think it's me?"
"S'always you." He scowled. "Unless it's Potter." Pansy beamed, tipped her glass to drain it. "Or you on Potter. Darling, I love you dearly, but if you don't sort yourself soon, he'll straight himself into marriage and you'll be the sad old git trolling the clubs for your monthly blow."
Then she cackled, the Weaselette swore, and Granger nearly fell off her chair.
"Worse than her bloke turning preschooler?"
"More like her bloke turning bent," Pansy muttered. Draco's brows didn't quite launch off his forehead, but it was a close thing indeed.
Pansy turned to Granger and Lovegood, and said, conversationally, "Honestly, s'like he never wants to get shagged, this one. Staring since fourth year and can't work up the stones to say. Been my life's work, I tell you, convincing him Potter's as bent as, well, a really bent thing. Rainbows and belly shirts and terribly cheesy dance music." Draco worked to reacquire speech. Pansy turned to him. Laid a hand on his knee and said, as though he were a particularly dim child himself, "Draco, honey, like I keep telling you, Potter is gay."
"Potter. Is. Four."
"Yeah, but you'll fix that soon, won't you?" Pansy smiled. Draco groaned.
Pansy, for obvious reasons, was not among them.
"So I've solved the problem, I think," he said, waving at the nearest cauldron absently.
"Already?" Weaselette frowned.
"Child's play," he said, and he smirked a bit when Granger snorted. "Oh, honestly, Weasley, it's not that difficult. Your brothers blew a fairly simple rule. Once I had their notes, it was mostly a matter of recreating what they'd done to test the possible solutions."
"And you've done that? We're taking them home now?"
"Not quite." He frowned himself. "I've a bit of testing left."
"What sort?" Weaselette shuffled her feet. Granger cocked her head.
"Thought you said you'd need them by for that. Shall I wake them?" Granger offered.
"No, no, not yet. I don't run live subject tests first." Not to mention his newfound love of all things afternoon nap. Even if, technically-speaking, it wasn't quite afternoon.
"So what, you test the dead ones?" Weaselette turned nasty, ginger-clashing pink.
"Where it's possible, I test it on myself," he said, and watched the others fall into fluster.
Like sodding clockwork, that.
"Yeah. Sure as I can be." That ball of nerves lodged in his throat was a good thing, really it was. Adrenalin or whatnot. Nothing to worry about, all part of his process.
Though he rather thought he'd take it harder than normal should this fail.
"If anything happens to you, Malfoy, we've no other choices. I mean, no one else even knows aside from your boss and Kingsley, and the only reason we told them was because we couldn't just pull you off your job for however long this took without informing your superiors. Not even Molly knows."
"Nothing'll happen to me, Granger."
Odd, having that Gryffindor concern for himself. Strange, but nicely so.
"Dead," he said, and he ran through his plan one last time, a final check before he launched into what he hoped would prove mere mild entertainment rather than overt disaster. "There's more."
"This should fix your hair," he said, handing her the yellow phial. "The colour, anyway. Not sure it'll do much for the rest, but it should fix the ginger."
She sniffed suspiciously, then frowned bemusement. "Lemons?"
"Drink it or don't, I leave that to you. But, well, as I'm sorting Wheezes anyway…" He trailed off because really, what was he meant to say? Nice things for Gryffindors. Honestly. Draco pulled out the rack of potions he'd set cooling, set them on the counter beside his notes. "And, if you're up to it, something else to test."
Her brows shot up. "What's this?"
He smirked. Handed her the blue, then hefted his red. "It's a Wheeze," he said, and slugged his back before he could think better of it.
Chapter 2: It's a Wheeze
What's a Tiny Potter without a Mini Malfoy? Featuring Polly Mums, secret silly shuffle dances, and a gripping game of Aurors and Death Eaters
Author's notes: What's a Tiny Potter without a Mini Malfoy? Featuring Polly Mums, secret silly shuffle dances, and a gripping game of Aurors and Death Eaters
See first chapter for disclaimers and plot and such.
Thanks, Sam, for the beta.
Warning: this one makes sap look sour.
Draco woke in Mum's lab, wearing Uncle Severus' robes, and standing beside a strange, ginger woman holding a phial and reading a note. She swallowed something, and stared at him, then back at the note, then back at him. He smiled because it was only polite, Mum would like that, him being polite to her friends, but he was just a bit worried about it all.
"It worked," she said, like he'd understand, and then her grip on the blue phial slipped.
He reached for it because Uncle Severus had been very clear on potions and Things We Don't Do in the Labs, Master Malfoy, and Draco really didn't want to be sent to his room for playing in the labs again because the strange ginger lady was clumsy.
"Does Uncle Severus know you're here? Or Mum?" Ginger Lady looked like Mum when he and Dad used French. Draco would have ignored her like he did with all Mum's odd friends, but they were in the lab and Draco was tired of being sent to his room for Things We Don't Do. "We're not supposed to be here without Uncle Severus or Mum."
She shook herself and looked pretty gobsmacked for a grown up, really. "You're right," she said with a shaky smile. "Let's get you to the nursery, shall we?"
"Is that where Mum is?" He squinted. "Are you Mum? Is that Polly Juice? Are you Mum pretending to be Polly?" Yes, yes, that was it. He smiled, glad he'd figured it out. Dad would like that, how smart he'd been. "C'mon, Polly Mum. Let's go to the nursery."
Like he still needed the nursery. Almost five, wasn't he? Far too big for the nursery, whatever Polly Mum said.
Still, they were new kids. Strangers. In his nursery. So when Polly Mum squeezed his hand and tried to step further into the nursery, Draco looked up and shook his head just a little, sure Polly Mum would understand. She frowned like she didn't, like it was more French, but she leaned over all the same.
"What's wrong, Malfoy? Er, Draco?"
"Strangers," he whispered, moving in close, "in the nursery."
"It's okay. They're friends of mine," Polly Mum said. That didn't help.
"What if they don't like me?"
"I'm sure they will."
"They might not."
"I'm certain they will."
"You said that already." Really, Mum was much better at this sort of thing than Polly Mum; Draco didn't think she should drink any more of that Polly Juice if it was going to make her stare and such like this, and when he said so, she laughed. Which was nice, he liked making Mum laugh like he liked making Dad proud, but it was nicer when she sounded like just regular Mum.
"C'mon, Draco, let's go introduce you to everyone, shall we?" she asked, and the next thing Draco knew, he was face-to-face with the new kids in his nursery.
"Testing." Polly Mum waved about that note she'd had in the lab, the one that made her look at Draco funny, and the dark-haired mum grabbed at that, too.
"You shouldn't grab people." Draco frowned at his blocks, which were a bit of a baby toy, really, but that's what the dark-haired boys were playing with and the ginger boys were a bit scary, so that's where Draco stayed, right there by the blocks and away from the scary gingers. "It's rude. Not polite at all."
"Hurts, grabbing," said the boy with the glasses, rubbing his wrist. Draco thought he might be a bit of all right, for a speccy boy.
"Does she grab you, too?"
"What? No." The boy's cheeks went all red. Draco liked that, so he smiled. The boy smiled back at first, then frowned and rubbed his wrist again. "Why would you think she did?"
"Isn't that your mum?"
"Oh. Sorry." Draco concentrated. "Which one's your mum, then?"
"She's not here."
"Are you sure? Maybe she's had Polly Juice, too. My mum looks all wrong, but it's still her 'cause we were in the lab and I'm not allowed in the lab without Mum or Uncle Severus, and Uncle Severus would look pretty silly in a dress, don't you think?" Draco thought so, anyway, and he giggled. He expected Glasses Boy to do the same, because Uncle Severus in a dress? So silly.
Glasses Boy shuffled his feet a bit. Draco thought it looked like a silly little dance, but dancing was fun and Dad wasn't around to tell him Don't Shuffle, Son, so he did the same. And it was fun. Then Glasses Boy said, "My mum's not here, she's dead; she died when I was a baby," and secret shuffling wasn't fun anymore.
Draco thought that one over, because he wasn't sure what to say to people with dead mums. He didn't see any dads anywhere, and there weren't any house-elves, either, and Draco was knackered with this puzzle. "Then who brought you?"
"Erm, her." Glasses Boy pointed at the ginger mum who wasn't Polly Mum. "But I don't know her. I don't know anybody. Aunt Petunia's going to be mad I'm gone, I'm not to leave my cupboard without asking."
Draco thought that was pretty silly, too, a boy in a cupboard like the toys, but that probably meant he'd be all right at playing, really, so Draco asked if he wanted to play Aurors and Death Eaters.
"What's that?" Glasses Boy asked, so Draco explained about good guys and bad guys, because Dad said not everyone understood about Aurors and Death Eaters, so it was really a game for special friends, and Draco thought anyone with a dead mum and silly secret shuffle dances was pretty special indeed.
Except that no one could decide who they wanted to be. Well, okay, Harry couldn't decide, because he'd only just heard of the game. Everyone else wanted to start already, so couldn’t Harry just pick something already? But Draco didn't want to play with the others. He wanted to play with Harry, who was too polite to tell the others to shove off even if Draco thought Harry just wanted to play with Draco, too.
Harry seemed pretty scared about all the yelling and such Ron and George and Teddy were doing, too, so Draco stepped in like a proper host should. Mum would be proud. He glanced at Polly Mum for that smile, the "you've been good, wait until I tell your father about this" one she had, and noticed Polly Mum wasn't ginger anymore. Still didn't look like Mum Mum, but she did look pleased, so that was something.
"What are you lot arguing about now?" Polly Mum's ginger friend asked. Draco thought ginger people were far too loud, but he didn't say so, just explained about the game.
"And he wants to be a Death Eater with me, don't you, Harry?" Ron threw an arm over Harry's shoulder and Draco didn't like that. Friend-stealer. He'd have said, too, but Harry didn't look like he liked having Ron's arm on him, so Draco just glared at Ron and folded his arms over his chest and puffed out like Dad did sometimes.
"Nuh huh," Teddy said, shoving in. "He wants to be an Auror with me and Nev, don't you, Harry? You, too, Draco. It'll be fun."
Harry backed away from them both, closer to Draco. "I don't know." Harry looked at Draco for help, and Draco nodded a bit because he could see why someone would want help, with the ginger mauling and such. "What team are you going to be on, Draco?"
Draco really didn't want to pick something until he knew which team Harry would be on, because Harry was his friend and he didn't want to be on the other team from his friend, but Harry wasn't picking and Draco didn't like how Polly Mum's ginger friend was standing so close, really, didn't ginger people understand space? Ron was no better.
"Nobody's going to be a Death Eater," Polly Mum's ginger friend snapped. "Honestly, George, Ron, I'm ashamed of you. And you, Neville. And you, Harry. What are you thinking, Death Eaters?" She snorted.
Well, that was it, then, wasn't it? No game without good guys and bad guys, and Draco really wanted to play, so he said, "I will."
"You will not." Polly Mum's ginger friend glared. Draco glared back.
"I will. You're not my Polly Mum."
"Draco," Harry said, and he looked upset about something, so Draco moved in to block out the scary gingers. "Draco, are you sure that's a good idea? She looks mad."
"Someone has to be the bad guy, Harry, or there's no game. And if this lot's too chicken to do it themselves, I will." Harry didn't look convinced. "Besides, bad guys have more fun. You can Stun people. And tie them up and stuff. All the Aurors can do is poke at you a bit and ask you silly questions." Dad said so, didn't he? And Dad was always right, Dad knew everything.
Harry thought that over. Big thinker, Harry. Draco liked that in a friend. "Okay. Okay, I'll do it, too. We'll be bad guys together." And Harry smiled. Took Draco's hand all on his own.
"Leave them, Gin, they're just playing," Polly Mum's blonde friend said from her armchair. Draco thought Polly Mum's blonde friend might be a bit of all right, too. Maybe that was how it worked, scary gingers and all right blondes. Mum was all right, too, and she was blonde. So was Draco, so maybe that made him all right, too.
"Yes, but did you hear what they're playing? Harry's a sodding Death Eater, Luna. Harry Potter's a sodding Death Eater."
"Well, I expect that'll take some imagination, then," Polly Mum's blonde friend said, and Polly Mum's ginger friend looked all white and funny, like she'd swallowed a bug.
But while they worked on making George tap out and George was laughing that someone called Fred would be so jealous he'd missed all the fun, Neville and Teddy came in behind them and then it was Draco and Harry being tickled, and Harry giggled like a girl so hard, he knocked off his glasses.
He didn't like other people tickling Harry like that, but he really didn't like Harry's glasses being on the floor where just anyone could step on them or something, so he called for an Immobulus like Mum did when she wanted him to Stop That Right This Second, Draco Lucius Malfoy, Before Someone Gets Hurt.
He had to explain that to Harry, too. Really, Draco was starting to question what sort of wizarding house he lived in, if his mum didn't Immobulus him sometimes to keep him safe, but then he remembered Harry didn't have a mum, so maybe that explained it?
So it was a mystery.
Anyway, Neville's Polly Something Luna called them all in for a snack and a story, and Harry got rather excited about the story bit and kept looking around for someone, which Draco didn't like. He liked Harry excited, stories were fun, but he didn't like Harry looking around when he should have been looking at Draco.
"Who are you looking for? Is your Aunt Petunia coming?" Draco really didn't like that, strange Aunt Petunias who didn't know how to do Immobuluses coming around to take Harry home when Draco'd only just met him and hadn't even said they were best friends yet.
"D'you think she might be?" Harry didn't look like he liked that much, either.
"You can't leave yet," Draco said. "You've only just got here." He'd talk to Polly Mum about it if he had to, Harry couldn't go.
Harry smiled. Shy. Draco smiled back because someone ought to, smiles were best in pairs. "D'you think he'll be back for story time?" Harry asked.
"Teddy's Uncle Dragon," Harry said, and Draco barely knew Teddy, let alone his uncle, though Draco had to admit that was a pretty cool name. "He read us a story before. With Grr. I liked it."
Harry shuffled again and smiled at the floor. Draco thought that was pretty silly, Draco wasn't on the floor, no one was, Harry wasn't smiling at anyone, so Draco took his hand and sort of hopped a bit because it was exciting, new friends.
"I'm sure of it," Draco said, and Harry looked up with an even bigger smile, and Draco swung their hands a bit, then raced off for where Neville's Luna was setting out a blanket for them.
So, he thought, did Harry.
Polly Mum came over when the story finished, and the dark-haired Polly Mum no one belonged to disappeared when Polly Mum took Draco's hand. The one Harry wasn't holding. Harry squeezed tighter, like Draco was going away, and because he understood that, the importance of not going, Draco squeezed back.
"C'mon, you lot," Polly Mum said, "it's time for your nap."
But she wasn't looking at "you lot", she was just looking at Draco and Harry and their hands, and she smiled like she was sad and happy at the same time. Draco thought Polly Juice did very strange things to his mother and maybe she shouldn't take it again if it was only going to make her sad like this. Not all potions were good potions, after all.
"I promise, just this once," she said, then she looked at the ginger Polly Mum, who sighed a bit and pulled Ron and George off for their naps, too.
"Can Harry come over again? To play? He's awfully good at it. Best Death Eater ever." Draco smiled at Harry, who squeezed his hand again.
"Is he?" Polly Mum bit down on a smile of her own. "I quite think that's up to you and Harry to decide, Draco. C'mon, bedtime. You've had quite the day."
Polly Mum said this potion was just for Draco, Harry could have one of his own later if he liked, and Draco thought that was all right, then, so long as he wouldn't be big without Harry it was okay.
She put them all to bed, even made Draco a nice new one out of Harry's spare pillow, and warned about fooling around once the lights were out. As soon as she'd left, Draco tried to talk to Harry about being best friends and such, but Teddy hissed, "Be quiet," and Neville was already snoring, so Harry snuck from his bed to Draco's with only a little prodding.
Draco definitely liked that.
Harry climbed up, and Draco had to help him, and they fell back once Harry'd reached the top of the bed. Draco couldn't help the giggling. Teddy hissed again.
When Harry hissed back, it sounded just like a snake. So Draco hugged him, because Harry looked upset about something and Draco quite liked snakes.
"You have to be my best friend," Draco said into Harry's shoulder. "I like you too much for you not to be."
"Really?" Draco nodded. "Okay."
"No, silly, you say, 'I like you, too, Draco.'"
Harry blinked. Polly Mum had taken off his glasses, so he looked different but still just like Harry. Eyes like dragon scales, Draco thought, and Draco meant dragon. Obviously, they were meant to be friends, just look at Harry's eyes.
"I like you, too, Draco," Harry said.
"Go. To. Sleep," Teddy said, like he was the boss of them, and he thumped a bit on his pillow so Draco pulled Harry up so they'd be resting properly.
Funny, he was sleepy. Soon as his head hit the pillow, Draco yawned, and Harry did, too, and they looked at each other for a moment before giggling again until Harry shushed them before Teddy could.
"You have a nice bed," Harry said.
"We can share," Draco offered.
"We are sharing."
"Next time," Draco said. "Next time you come, we'll share." Merlin, he was sleepy. "Sleepover, m'kay?"
Harry blinked lots like he was sleepy, too. "M'kay." Then Harry sleepy-frowned and said, "He didn't ever come back," like that made any sense, so Draco thought about it.
Remembered Harry looking for somebody's Uncle Dragon, and Draco thought Uncle Dragon wasn't very nice, not coming when he'd said and making Harry sad and all. When Draco was sad at bedtime, Just Regular Mum tucked him in and gave him a kiss goodnight right on his forehead. Polly Mum's juice must have mucked that up, too, because she hadn't done it at all, even to sad Harry.
So Draco did it for him and they fell asleep smiling.
Chapter 3: Draco un-Wheezed
Growing up is hard to do. Draco does it anyway.
Author's notes: Growing up is hard to do. Draco does it anyway.
See first chap. for disclaimer/warnings/inspiration/etc.
Of all the horrors waiting to greet him back to adulthood, clingy, sleeping Potter was the worst. He knew that because it felt too comfortable, this, like something he could do regularly, just being quiet and calm with Potter, and Merlin knew that wasn't bloody likely, so Draco scrambled to detach.
He had, he suspected, only moderate success.
"Are you here for Grr?" Draco froze, half out of bed already, and looked back to find Tiny Potter watching him, that big-eyed, tentative expression on his face again. Which, for some ridiculous reason, made him feel guilty about sneaking away in the dead of night. Then Tiny Potter held out the dragon, the boy's scarred, spec-less face screwed in resolve, and Draco's heart broke a bit. "Thank you for sharing him with me. He was very good."
Of the numerous arsehoods to which Draco willing consigned himself, stealing things from children wasn't yet on the list, so he waved off Tiny Potter's offer and said with all the dignity he could manage, because it seemed such a solemn thing for the boy, "No, it's all right, you take care of him for me, yeah?"
Tiny Potter frowned a bit. Looked away. "I'm sorry."
"Why? Don't you like him? You don't have to keep him if you don't want to."
"Whatever I did that made you not come for story time, I'm sorry." Tiny Potter's grip tightened on Grr, who'd seen far better days. Poor thing, Draco thought, and wasn't at all sure which of them he meant by it.
"You didn't do anything, pet, I'm sorry I was busy. I should have been there." Because yes, he remembered how that felt, waiting on a broken promise. His father hadn't broken many, but Draco thought it said something about them both that he still recalled each one.
"Where's Draco? Did he leave? I didn't get to say goodbye." Tiny Potter looked outright worried at that, fingers mangling Grr's fur something fierce in awkward twists. The boy's breathing was deep and panicked, but Merlin, how could anyone this controlled now possibly grow up to be as reckless as Draco knew him? Baffling, that.
And what the sod was Draco meant to say to that? "He'll be back." Which was sort of true. Mostly.
Hurt flared before Tiny Potter's face went stubborn. "If he left, you can just say. S'all right. I'm too bad for friends, Uncle Vernon says so."
Draco rather thought he could find a fourth Unforgivable for Uncle Vernon just then. "You'll see him again, I promise." Though Draco wasn't willing to make promises on how well that meeting would go, he wasn't fool enough to believe he could avoid Potter forever. Not after this.
"Uncle Dragon?" Teddy said from the next bed over, and Merlin, if they'd woken Teddy, it was only a matter of time before Little Longbottom woke, too. Draco didn't want this day to progress, not at all. He wanted to keep Tiny Potter just like this, sweet and innocent and friendly.
Because once he'd had that potion, Draco was under no delusion Potter would do anything but hex him senseless.
Still, Granger seemed intractable about conversation, despite Draco's poorly-hidden annoyance at the interruption.
"It works, then," he said, striving for professionalism he didn't feel. Nothing about this had been professional, had it? "Fantastic. I'll just finish up here and you can be on your merry way."
"Are you all right, Draco?" Granger asked, rather maternally for someone who'd loathed him not that long ago. Clearly, six years of insults and hexing paled in comparison to six hours of calling her 'Mum'. Something about Granger using his given name sat funny, squirmy discontent in a pit of uncertainty.
"I'm fine." He cursed himself for making a full set before he'd gone into testing, because Merlin, he could have used the solitude bought by brewing. Granger didn't move, not one sign she planned to leave, and he thought he might need to provoke her into it, which would be a shame, he supposed, as she'd turned out a bit of all right once you got behind the know-it-all demeanour. "Was there something you wanted, then?"
"Draco, you shrunk yourself to toddlerhood, then ballooned back twenty years in less than twelve hours. Both on experimental potions, might I add. Is it really unthinkable I'd actually be concerned about you after all that?"
"My potions," he corrected, and when she blinked and frowned at him, baffled sympathy, he continued his explanation despite himself. Didn't owe her a thing, did he? And yet there he was, explaining. "They might have been experimental, yeah, but they were mine. I tend not to ingest things I believe to be life-threatening."
"That hardly negates the fact that you've put yourself through a lot, physically, Draco."
It was, in retrospect, one "Draco" too many.
"Stop. That ridiculous thing you're doing, calling me 'Draco' and acting all concerned for my welfare, it's not necessary, so do save your breath."
"It's not ridiculous," she said, and she showed every sign of launching into some tirade or another, so Draco cut her off. The absolute last thing he intended to do was discuss this with a Gryffindor emissary.
"It bloody is, so shove off. You don't like me, I don't like you, everybody's happy. We express our mutual dislike through various methods, including disdainful use of surnames. It's the natural order of things. Now you've got what you came for and I have no reason to feign tolerance."
"But…" She squinted at him like concentration meant Legilimency. He Occluded like a mad thing and glared back until she gave up with a soft sigh. "Don't you remember?"
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"You…Yesterday. Once you'd taken your Wheeze, I mean. Doesn't that count for anything?"
"Granger, don't make me get Muddy, I'm certain they'd sack me for it and I rather enjoy my job."
One point in Granger's favour, he supposed, was that she required no explanation on just how he'd meant to use "Muddy". Instead, she struggled to swallow some new realization, then said, "Fine then. We'll get them fixed up and be out of your hair, Malfoy."
Surely that hollow feeling was merely exhaustion. Too long near Gryffindors, even grown ones, was too bloody draining. "Lovely," he said. "Your phials are just there." He pointed at the cooling rack and turned away to busy himself with nothing, to kill time until she left. Merlin, he'd called her Mum. And she'd let him. What was he meant to do with that?
But she didn't leave. He heard glass clinking against wood, quiet footsteps and the brush of cloth in motion, but he didn't hear the door creak. Told himself he'd missed it in his random flipping of pages and nearly believed it until she said, "Well? Are you ready to go, then?"
"Go where?" He cursed himself for speaking. Best to leave her alone, likely, he was in no shape for another spar. "I trust you can find where you've left them, but if you can't, I'll call Moggy for you."
"But…you're coming with me, aren't you?"
"No, Granger, I'm not. I thought I'd made that clear. Take your antidotes and run along now. I've better things to do."
"You're joking." Granger stared like he'd cave under pressure, which went to show how little she'd paid attention over the years.
"I'm absolutely not joking," he said. He refused to do her the credit of joining in her little stare-off. "There's no need for me to be there. From a research perspective, I mean. I've already tested it and all, so I'm certain it works."
"And if there's a reaction you're not expecting?"
He shrugged. "It's not like you'll be alone, is it? You know where to find me if things go pear-shaped."
Granger growled. Honest-to-Merlin growled, which just went to show Gryffindors were mental. "But you've put in all this work, Draco, why wouldn't you want to see it through to the finish?"
How to answer that? He felt disarmingly uninspired. "Well, it's sure to be horribly awkward now, what with me having kissed Scarhead and such when we were tykes," he thought. "I'm certain they'll hex me as soon as they're all grown." No, no, equally disastrous.
"Do you really need me to spell this out for you, Granger? I. Don't. Want. To. See. Them." He had no eloquence for what Tiny Potter did to him, nor did he have the vocabulary to explain what seeing Tiny Potter's trust disappear into Scarhead's spite would do to him.
"Not even to say goodbye?" She looked rather like he'd slapped her. He felt all-too-monstrous.
"And who do I need to say goodbye to, I wonder? The ones who'll hate me as soon as they're right again, or the one who'll come visit next Thursday like normal?"
She seemed on the verge of asking who'd come visit him, and he wasn't sure whether it would slant more to the sympathetic or the cruel, so he made a production out of ducking back to his work as though it were important. As though there was anything there.
"You're being an arse about this. Did you know?"
He lifted his gaze. "Yes. Now get out of my lab. I've work to catch up on."
"Granger tells me you're not planning to come upstairs." Pansy's eyes were Avada.
"No reason I should, is there?"
Her lips twitched in suppressed hex. Granger's arms folded across her chest. Only thing missing here was a peeved Weaselette glaring accusations at him from Pansy's left.
"Don't be stupid about this, Draco. I realize it's challenging for you, but do try to behave like an ordinary person. Someone with feelings, perhaps."
"I've done my part." He jabbed a finger at her. "Said I'd help you and I have. Put my whole life on hold to fix up yet another one of Harry bloody Potter's bloody mistakes, ventured into the heart of Weasleydom to do it and all. Hell, I've even had the lot running wild through my Manor, so I hardly think I've been bloody unfeeling about anything."
"Oh, it's no bloody use, he doesn't remember," Granger snapped. Pansy went Slytherin in survey.
"Give us a moment, could you, Hermione?" Pansy asked, and by some miracle, Granger went.
"Hermione now?" He lifted a brow as Granger shut the door behind herself. Pansy shrugged.
"When in Rome. We can't all be arseholes every second of every day."
Quiet with Pansy felt less revealing than quiet with Granger, so Draco allowed himself to relax after a bit.
"Look, I need to catch up on a few things down here." There. That was a perfectly reasonable explanation for why he needn't show himself above stairs for any length of time until well after they'd cleared out. When that didn't lead to imminent explosion, he said, "Actually, I was rather hoping you wouldn't mind taking Teddy for a few hours…"
Pansy looked rather amused about it all, which Draco wanted to believe boded well but secretly suspected meant something Slytherin afoot. "I've got plans," she said, voice as casual as a twirled wand. "You'll have to watch him yourself."
"Plans? You?" Which was possibly a tactical error, as she looked rather bloody about it. "With who, then?"
"Granger, if you must know. And Weasley."
"Aren't they rather small to be articulating a social calendar?" But really, was he surprised? Weasleys wrecking his plans were right as rain on a Hogsmeade weekend, once upon an education.
"The girl one." Pansy tipped her head and smiled horribly. "So as I say, you'll have to mind Teddy yourself. As you've a calendar barer than a Playwitch spread, that shouldn't be an issue, should it?"
So there went his blissful day of playing with toxins, then. Fantastic. "Fine. You're right." His gaze narrowed, all Slytherin ploy. "Teddy's been on about the Muggle zoo. Perhaps today we'll go, charm a few animals free in Lovegood's honour. Free the Nargles and such. Or the Muggle equivalent, whatever that is."
Granger would have been all over that one, he was sure, but Pansy shrugged like it didn't matter, him and Teddy freeing Muggle things. "Oh," she said as he hung his lab smock, "and you'll need to come get him."
"I told you, Girl Weasley, it wasn't that challenging. For someone who knows their way around a lab, that is. I've no doubt your gitty brothers would still be at it, but then, I am not your gitty brother. Thank Merlin."
She snarled. He snarled back, feeling like himself for the first time since this whole silly affair had begun; at least She-Weasel understood the importance of years of mutual antipathy. Granger cut them off with an aggrieved wave of a dismissing hand.
"Nothing else for it, then, Draco, you'll have to deliver it in person. Stay for the fallout, as it were." Honestly, Granger's smile was unholy. Yet one more reason – two more, really, if he was being honest – why he wasn't the witch sort.
And Pansy, who should have known better, said, "Too right," and swapped triumphant looks with Granger, and Draco mentally added one more reason to prefer blokes.
The Wee Weasleys took that as some manner of death sentence and began pantomiming such. George shoved a pair of fingers down his throat and doubled like he'd swallowed Puking Pastilles for an hour. Ron clutched his neck and staggered like he'd keel at any second. It was, alas, rather amusing, but for the implied slight on Draco's potions skills. Though he doubted at this age they'd had much beyond their mother's mixes, and if Mother Weasley brewed like she birthed, Draco thought they might be right to fear.
Little Longbottom and Tiny Potter exchanged looks, and Draco thought there was far too much look-swapping in this house of late, really, could no one simply be themselves without looking to others for approval? Teddy giggled like the Wee Weasleys were the greatest show ever, which started Little Longbottom laughing, and Tiny Potter buried his face in Grr, most likely to hide a smile.
Tiny Potter, he noticed, was still clutching Grr for dear life.
Then Teddy spotted him properly and barrelled away, arms out, yelling, "Uncle Dragon!" like the hellion hadn't seen him in years, and Draco had a split second to see Tiny Potter's face fall before he had an armful of clutching cousin and wobbly balance to correct.
It was Tiny Potter, though, so really, how much more than a split second of that did he need? Already felt like hell, Tiny Potter sad only made it worse. Fuck. He'd been right to stay away from this; he didn't need this at all.
"Where've you been, Uncle Dragon?" Teddy asked, and Merlin, Teddy was a bit of a climber, too, when had that started? "You've been gone for ages, were you working again?"
The room fell to chaos, the Weaselette scolding her brothers and trying to catch them in their attempts to escape imminent potions-taking, Luna having a rather patient discussion with Little Longbottom, Pansy lining the phials like being near the children might be something dread and catching. Which was Pansy all over, that last, no matter how much she tried with Teddy.
Granger, he noticed, kept silent sentry over them all.
"I'm all done now," Draco said, because Teddy was bouncing to tell him what he'd missed and Draco didn't think he wanted to hear those stories with Tiny Potter in the room. When he glanced up, over Teddy's shoulder, he found Tiny Potter staring. Squirming, and Draco thought of silly secret shuffles that had been impossibly awkward reluctance expressing itself. Thank Merlin he'd lacked that insight at five, then, or he might never have spoken to the boy at all.
He couldn't regret that bit, much as he wanted to. Tiny Potter destroyed him, still bloody was doing, but at least it hadn't been all bad, even if it had gone too far.
"Is that my potion?" Teddy asked, and before Draco could answer, Teddy was off in a ramble. "Isn't it too early still? Does it taste like Ice Mice again? I liked the Ice Mice, can I have it again next time? Can we go to Hummydukes? Can Nev come with us? Ask his Polly Gran, please, Uncle Dragon, I promise we'll be good – "
"Ice Mice?" Granger asked, and Draco said, "Wolfsbane," because that said enough, didn't it?
The Wee Weasley who'd nabbed his sister's wand stopped dead in his tracks, eyes wide in apparent awe of Teddy. "You're a wolf? Like a werewolf?"
Clearly, fear of dark creatures wasn't exactly common in Wee Weasleys, because it stopped the other one, too, and the Weaslette only looked a little grateful for the interruption. "Wicked," Other Wee Weasley said – Ron, maybe? Draco couldn't tell from this distance, they'd rather looked like blurs of ginger and freckles there, and he'd lost track of who'd run where.
"No, Ron, don't –" The Weaselette dove for the wandless Wee Weasley when he darted toward Teddy, which was all sorts of entertaining as wanded Wee Weasley hit her with a spark of spell that sent her tripping and cursing words not meant for children. Little Longbottom moved closer to Luna like the whole thing was disaster waiting to happen. Tiny Potter looked petrified. Had Grr been new to childhood crises, Draco doubted he'd have survived this moment intact.
So while the Weaselette harangued her brothers on why they weren't to jump on werewolves, even ones they'd played with yesterday, Lycanthropy Is Not A Joke, Ron Weasley, Get Back Here, George, Or I'll Hex You Something Fierce And Tell Mum And She'll Hex You, Too, and Granger and Luna talked Little Longbottom into drinking his spiked sippy cup, Draco explained to Teddy that no, no, it wasn't Wolfsbane time yet, this was a potion for the other boys.
Teddy asked did it taste like Ice Mice, because clearly that made all the difference, the tasting like things.
"Well, it might taste a bit like chocolate," Draco speculated. Couldn't really recall, actually.
Then Tiny Potter said, "When I take it, can I see Draco?" Like that was all separating them, just a potion away from best-friendship.
Which, Merlin, did him in.
"Well, as you've got this under control, I think it's time Teddy and I made ourselves scarce," Draco said, because he couldn't answer Potter, he had no words for that sort of thing. Teddy's jaw jutted far too much, Metamorphmagus in a Malfoy pout, and before he could bring up a trip to Honeydukes again, Draco said, "I rather thought we'd do the Muggle zoo today, if that's all right," and Teddy's stubborn melted as Draco stood up and took his hand.
The Weaselette had a brother in each hand, by the scruff of the neck, it looked like, and that Bat-Bogey temper raged in her eyes. Pansy looked like she'd been mentally at the Chianti all morning, even if she hadn't, and Draco suspected it was only a matter of time before she'd done it for real. Lovegood and Little Longbottom looked precisely as they should, he thought, sweet and peaceful, and when he thought about the real Little Longbottom involved, his gut twisted at how very right it all seemed for them, how bloody lucky Longbottom was, even if he'd been four for two days, he had this to grow up to.
And there was Granger's knowing look, the one that said she'd never call him anything but Draco now, the one that said she knew why he was running and even if she disapproved, she'd not say a word about it until it suited her, because if he meant to be an arse, she meant to let him suffer for it.
Draco didn't look back.
Chapter 4: Mates His Own Age
When Britain's top Aurors are brought down by chewing gum, it's up to Potions peon Draco to sort out the mess. If it's gone this wrong, it's just got to be a Wheeze. Featuring Tiny Potter, Wee Weasleys, Little Longbottom, and a ginger Granger.
Author's notes: When Britain's top Aurors are brought down by chewing gum, it's up to Potions peon Draco to sort out the mess. If it's gone this wrong, it's just got to be a Wheeze. Featuring Tiny Potter, Wee Weasleys, Little Longbottom, and a ginger Granger.
synopsis, disclaimers, etc. in first chapter. thanks, bella, for the beta, and thanks, readers, for your patience.
Mates His Own Age
Their gratitude came by owl, post after post of thanks he didn't read. No point, really, and the less he spent wondering, reliving as it were, the happier he thought he'd be.
No bent Potter, no reason to reflect, just a hellish past he'd put behind him until reliving it in an hour brought it all home.
Merlin, he had no idea how he was meant to absorb all he'd done. Death Eaters in Hogwarts, werewolves and all. Dead headmasters and such. Months appealing to a madman and denying himself, just sinking further and further into a hell admittedly of his own making, and even in retrospect, Draco couldn't see a way out.
He'd much rather have avoided the whole disastrous affair, and having lived it once and relived it again, he wanted to hide himself in a corner of the Manor until he'd suppressed it again, only Teddy wouldn't let him.
Teddy, who'd gone and attached himself to Longbottom like they were destined to be best mates forever. Draco could hardly argue the sentiment, much as he wished otherwise.
So he caved. Explained about aging potions, and how Teddy's friend Nev was Draco's mate, Longbottom, so they could invite him to play, but Teddy shouldn’t expect…And while it lingered, tip-of-his-tongue, that Longbottom no doubt had more pressing concerns than games with small boys, the winsome woe in Teddy's swift-shifting eyes held his words.
"You know he won't look the same," Draco said, his best caution. "Not small anymore, our Neville, he's all grown like me."
Teddy scrunched in thought. "That's all right," he said, all benevolence of a sudden. "He can look different if he wants." Then Teddy's face scrunched anew, turned something rather Longbottom, truth told, and Draco supposed that evidence Teddy put little stock in appearances.
Which, when Draco thought about it, seemed rather obvious.
He tried again. Explained that no, behaving wouldn't guarantee an afternoon of playtime with Neville, because Neville was big and had plans of his own, maybe, and sometimes the things big people did meant they couldn't be with kids like they wanted, and when Draco reached the end, he half-expected some sort of snit.
Instead, Teddy blinked. "Like work, you mean?" Teddy beamed genius that he'd sorted as much. "Like you in your lab?"
"Well, yes, I suppose, but it's more than that, too; it's…" Draco waved a hand, a swirl of reality, Lovegood and teaching and kids on the way, and before he found a way of explaining an adult's priorities, Teddy cut him off.
"He can't work all the time." Like that was it, that was the answer. Teddy leaned in, conspiratorial. "Even you don't work all the time, Uncle Dragon."
"Well, yes, but it's not just work, it's everything, he might not have time for coming over to play, we shouldn't get our hopes up so we're not disappointed, yeah?" Draco tapped a curled finger under Teddy's chin, lifted that frowning, avoidant face up to his. "I know it's not fair. I know and I'm sorry. We should never have involved you in it," he said, and Teddy looked absolutely bereft.
"I've been so good." Teddy's face morphed, became something sad and solemn and bloody Malfoy, and Draco's heart broke in bits he hadn't expected.
"I know, I know," Draco said, patting Teddy's back in ridiculous parody of consolation. "We'll find you mates your own age, yeah?"
"I want Nev," Teddy sniffed. "Best blocks, ever. D'you know he made Hogwarts castle for me?"
So Teddy was smitten with his brilliant mate and Draco was fucked. Royally.
She patted her belly like the child in utero was part of the discussion.
"When did you want him?" she asked, smile just shy of impish.
"You're all right with this?" Because Draco wasn't. Or wasn't sure that he was. Or something. Merlin, it was a mess, and Lovegood had it sorted before Draco had even listed the rules. Which was precisely true to form, damn it.
"You should read your post," she said in response, and wouldn't explain, no matter how mental her comment.
Bah. "I've explained to Teddy about the mix-up."
Lovegood smiled and nodded like of course he had, any normal person would have. "You were very good with them," she said. "All of them."
Her brow hiked. Draco heard "Potter?" in the gesture, even if she hadn't articulated.
"Yes, well, they were children." He cleared his throat and grasped his robes to dry his hands, secure that she couldn't see the gesture. Her eyes sharpened like she saw beyond what he'd shoved into the Floo and he remembered all over again that this was Lovegood, that absolutely nothing got past Lovegood, that he was an idiot to think he'd escape a Potter-rescue unharmed.
Bloody buggering hell, really.
She nodded again, like Dumbledore, like his mother, like she'd somehow joined the list of people who knew best in his life and merely hadn't informed him of her omnipotence until this very moment. He hiked a brow of his own.
"You really should read your post," she said, laughing quietly in the words, and she cut the conversation before he had a single bloody answer in spite of his efforts.
Though, he noticed, not before she'd promised to have Longbottom at the Manor come half-ten Saturday morning.
Well, that was something, at least.
"Thanks for doing this," Draco said as Teddy pulled out his tiny train set and made appropriately horrifying noises. Longbottom grinned crooked.
"It's no bother, really. He makes a mean locomotive derailing."
"I always thought it was the Malfoy side that got so excitable," Draco mused. "Apparently not."
"Have you heard nothing about Sirius? It was obviously the Blacks."
"Weren't they just mental?"
"You'd know that better than I would, I expect."
And that was what you got with Longbottom. Patience enough to play train wrecks with Teddy and occasional insight delivered with that serene half-smile he'd picked up from his wife.
"I'll take that under advisement, then, thanks." Not that he had any intention of talking to Potter, no matter how nicely Longbottom prodded. He'd withstood Pansy's poking for years, hadn't he? Easy, to do it again.
"Stop that. At least pretend you're still somewhat Slytherin, even if you've buried it in Weasley whatever."
"Oh, come on," she said, those venomous fangs bared over her saucily-held glass. Honestly, Draco considered it a splash of fortune she wasn't carting the bottle, such was her mood of late. "Teddy's bonded with Longbottom like you bonded with me. It's adorable."
Draco cringed. Hid it in a sneer, which, thankfully, his brief sojourn through misbegotten youth renewed. "Hold your tongue, wench. You're in Malfoy Manor; adorable is punishable by death between these walls."
She laughed like wine, like whiskey, sharp hints in sweeping mellow, and he noticed her grip on the bottle somewhat relaxed. "Spoken like a man who hasn't Pensieved himself playing Aurors and Death Eaters with Potter."
The laughter that followed had no place outside of hell, honestly.
Draco attempted to steer the conversation right; that Longbottom was still the epitome of grace and tact despite his sweeping ineptitude at Hogwarts, that Teddy remained implacable despite all odds until even Draco was ready to crawl ten kilometers over broken glass in appeasement, that Lovegood was uncannily brilliant and that Draco had no bloody clue how he'd been outmanouevered, merely sure that he had.
Pansy laughed for ages. Just swilled her wine and looked and Draco and laughed again, and every time he thought himself due a reprieve, she sobered long enough to lower her bottle, took her moments of watching, then started up again.
When he'd hexed her in sheer frustration, she smirked. Said, "Bent as a really bent thing, remember that," and Floo'd the sod off before Draco had anything approaching an answer.
He'd tell her, too. Just as soon as he'd sorted what he was meant to do with Teddy.
"So who were the others, then? George said he has a twin who looks just like him. Doesn't Mr. Weasley have one of those? I'm sure Uncle Harry's shown me pictures."
"A twin?" Funny, how he hadn't thought about that. "He did." Fred, as Draco recalled, and suddenly George laughing at what Fred was missing in that pile of tickling Aurors and Death Eaters felt intense and bittersweet.
"Did he lose him? Maybe he could talk to George so George knows how not to lose his?"
Draco felt ill, and there wasn't a potion in the world that could fix it.
His plan was brilliant. Flawless, in fact. Then the Weasleys showed up to speak to him and it all went to hell.
"You missed the match," Ron said, and Draco thought it odd, calling the Weasel anything but his mammalian moniker, only his older, less sane brother stood at his side and if they'd trained the youngest Weasley in vicious Bat Bogey, he shuddered to think what they'd taught the elders. Didn't one of them work with dragons? Draco was mildly malcontent — it was, after all, a job with the Ministry — but suicidal? Hell no.
"What match?" Behind him, Draco heard a lab-full of incensed co-workers as the identity of his guests — always a rarity in these parts, guests, as so few could gain Ministry admittance to this level — spread like Dementor fog.
"The one on your tickets," Ron said, like that explained a thing.
George — Gred? Draco didn't know, but the one with no ear — preened in blatant mimickry of his brother. Draco nearly caught the smirk in time.
"Yeah, Malfoy, the match…on your tickets," Wheeze Weasley said, an obvious mock of his brother's tone.
Draco conceded his first non-scary ginger. "What tickets?"
"The ones in the owl I sent," Ron said. Draco missed calling him "the Weasel" because that had been good, funny and familiar, but once he'd seen the git run headlong at a known werewolf cooing, "Wicked" like lycanthropy was the epitome of all things brilliant, the lifelong mockery of Ron Weasley had died a swift, silent death.
"Won-won here sent you…Quidditch tickets to thank you…for saving him from being…Toddler Twat from now to eternity," Wheeze Weasley said, and Draco grinned as Ron huffed himself scarlet.
"Won-won?" Oh, so much better than the Weasel. "Is that a second name you've been hiding? A family name, perhaps?"
"No, no, it's still Bilius," Ron — Won-won, the joy! — said to his shoes like Tiny Potter smiling and that quickly, Draco's joy in Won-won died.
"Cavorting with the enemy, Malfoy?" McGregor hissed from behind him. Hissed, despite the lack of sibilants, which didn't bode well.
Draco twisted a bit, just enough to make a little "Sod off, not now" eye contact, and said, "Discussing with a client, if that's all right?" in a tone that clearly said there'd been no question.
McGregor did not go easily. "Those are the ruddy Wheeze gits," he said.
"So they are." He might officially have no standing in the Ministry, but he damned near ruled the lab when Bennington wasn't faffing about. Or rather, when he was. "I believe you've lacewings to add?"
One last vile glare at the Weasleys did it, then McGregor was off and Earless Non-Won-Won lifted his brows, folded his arms across his chest.
"Very impressive, mate," he said, as Won-Won said, "Cor, d'they take you aside sometime in Snape's class and say you're only allowed your Potions NEWT if you're a ruddy prat about it?"
"Actually, Won-Won," and oh, yes, that would indeed live forever, or, at least, until he remembered how easily the git had accepted Teddy for what he was, and bloody hell, couldn't any of the sodding Gryffindors be awful? "It's more a case of us cleaning up your messes. Or did you think this the first time we've done Wheeze Recovery? It's practically a specialty around here."
George beamed all manner of pride. Won-Won turned back into Ron, turned into something solemn. "We live to please," George said, but Ron glanced about the room sharpish, then said, "Malfoy, if I send them again, will you come?"
Draco nearly required explanation, because why would the git want to send him to a match? "You've said your thank yous, Weasley. Ron." Buggering fuck, he missed surname slurs. "You sent them, I blew it, we're square, all right? So you can tell Granger you're off the hook."
Ron looked very severe. "Who said they were from 'Mione?"
"You know what I find most interesting about post?" Again that ruddy half-smile. No point answering, she'd have some wild creature no one had ever heard of or some blast of logic to heave accidentally, and either way, Draco stood no chance of winning this, so he held up his hands in mild surrender and sipped at his cuppa.
"How much of it's Howlers?" he quipped. Hero, he reminded himself. She didn't get them.
"The ones that aren't there."
And then they were talking about Quidditch and Draco's utter lack of society, and from the other room, he heard Teddy giggling with Longbottom long into the day.
So yes, he should have Incendio'd, and no, no he hadn't done, and there he was, sitting on his heels in his bloody sodding nursery with aging gratitude.
Wheeze Weasley and Girl Weasley and Weasley Weasley and Granger-Weasley, who'd thanked him in crisp, civilized language then scrawled in about Gingers without mentioning a bloody word about Polly Mums, and the fact that she'd thank him for it was…he lacked words.
Weasley the brewer sent a stack of Snackboxes and a note promising more where that came from when Draco had the heart for testing again. Not stomach, not mind, heart, and Draco rather thought by now they ought to know that answer, but there it was. Black and parchment, declarative statement.
Won-Won sent tickets, and they were good; nice seats, private box, precisely the sort he'd have chosen had he the mind for an afternoon out with Teddy. Draco stared at the date and tried not to think about how they'd come looking first thing the next day. Show one of them up and they did their best to ignore you. Stand one of them up, and they were right there.
She-Weasel's post was terse. Thanks for not killing my brothers, I'm aware that's a challenge. Longbottom's was Lovegood's, hand-delivered and without page, just that half-smile and an invitation to be godfather when the time came.
He'd gawked a bit, tried to say, "But I'm bloody Malfoy, don't you have heroes for this sort of thing?" only Lovegood's eyes twinkled and Draco lost heart.
He thought then of testing and wanted to shake proof at the Wheezes.
Even Shacklebolt sent one, with thanks from the Ministry and the implication that a word to The Prophet would be…unpleasant.
And maybe for Lovegood, who seemed far more interested in it than he cared to admit to being himself, Draco noted the missing.
Hardly surprising, though, was it?
You still have Have you seen Where did you leave Grr's not in the nursery
Thank you for You fucking lied to What were you Uncl Dra Malf I still have your dragon. Didn't seem right, leaving him in Shacklebolt's office like that and I didn't notice until
Owl me, you git.
I'm not bringing a stuffed
"Tosh. You don't mean that, you're just feeling skittish is all."
"No, no, I'm serious. He's…"
"He's sent nothing, is more the thing. D'you know every one of them thanked me — even sodding Shacklebolt thanked me, and I'd bet that burnt his arse, but could the Great Harry Pot—"
"If this is the rant I think it is, darling, you're going to have to find a new audience because I can't take any more. You had a perfectly lovely time with him — despite yourself, might I add — then you remembered you're a big arsehole instead, and now you're all miserable. I've said I can't even recall how often that you. Must. Grow. A. Pair. There's not a thing we can do until you have, Dragon, nothing."
"He's holding Grr hostage, the bastard."
"Your dragon?" Pansy loved hearing that, her face bloody said so. "Well, I should think so. Wouldn't let go of it for ages, poor thing. Took it with him when he left and all."
"And you didn't think to stop him?"
Pansy laughed like Draco'd turned comedian, which only soured him more. "Stop Harry Potter in a strop? For your silly old stuffed thing? See, just when I think I can't take more whinging, you say things like that and I fall in love with you all over again. Pity about the bloke thing, really, you'd be fantastically catty at wedding showers and such."
Draco rubbed his temples, trying to scrub her out of his head. He wanted, oh, Merlin, but he wanted to let it all go, but when he closed his eyes, he saw Tiny Potter clutching Grr and for the life of him, Draco couldn't age the git, and this was getting bad, was getting recklessly soft-headed, Draco needed to be stopped or he'd spend bloody ages stuck on that bloody image.
"This isn't funny, Pansy. This is my life."
She gentled immediately, claws retracted to lay her hand on his arm, and this, this was why he loved her. If they'd had compatible bits…but they didn't, so that was that, really.
"I know, I know," she crooned, and before he'd done much more than lower his hands, she'd wrapped him in a hug.
"You're much better with grown ups," he said.
"Well, yes, when the bitchery doesn't work, the shoulder usually does, and when all else fails, there's drinks and such. Can't go wrong with a bottle of red and a mate's ear, can you?"
Teddy, of course, clung like a limpet.
"Can we go back to the Muggle zoo, Uncle Dragon? Nev's never seen the lellyphonts."
Draco pictured himself leading little Teddy and full-grown Longbottom through the London zoo in some bizarre nursery school outing, and no, no, that was impossible. When he tried to explain, Teddy scowled like a Malfoy and pouted like a Black, arms folded over his small chest.
"You've only just been," Draco tried. "What could possibly be left to see? Or have you forgotten the animals already?"
"But I haven't been with Nev yet," Teddy said, and clearly that made all the difference, who was holding his hand while he toured. Draco worked for a reason, something rational and honest, why bothering Longbottom for yet another trip to the zoo was a poor plan, but before he'd said a thing, Teddy said, "You're just mad because Harry's not here," and that was bloody that.
"Who told you that?" He'd hex Pansy for this, he swore it.
Teddy's disgust was beyond childish mien. "No one told me, I saw you. Barely even noticed I was here when you were small."
"That's not…" But it was true, quite likely, and Draco cursed the things Mini Malfoy hadn't known. "I'm sorry, Teddy Cub. I should have been…"
"No, it's all right. He's your best mate, right? Like me and Nev. And I know how I feel when Nev can't come play—" he glared hexes, unsubtle reminder about the zoo, quite likely, "and I don't like it, either. But you have to owl him if you want him to come over, Uncle Dragon. That's how it works, playing."
"That's how it works with children."
"And Nev, and don't tell me he's a children, you've just said he isn't."
"It's different with Harry and I." Draco surprised himself most by not choking on the name. "We're…I'm not Neville."
Clearly, Teddy thought him beyond thick. "No, that's Harry."
"I barely survived my last visit, Weasley, why by Merlin would I do it again?"
That grin was just evil. "Never did say thanks…for the rest, did w-I?" And Draco remembered owling the corrected formula over once he'd grown, meticulous notes and all.
"Don't mention it." He'd needed something to keep him busy while Teddy napped after the zoo, and it had been a miserable choice indeed. No trace of the entire affair left in the Manor, save that bed he'd shared with Tiny Potter and those notes he'd made in his research. It was nothing, the flick of a wand, to banish the bed — Merlin knew he'd never be able to use that pillow again — and then…"Was cluttering up my desk, yeah? May as well send it on so you'd less chance of maiming yourselves again."
"So thoughtful," George said. "Why, Dragon, I'd almost think you cared."
Draco glared a bit, did his best to look reproachful, and faltered when he realized two things: George Weasley was asking him to brew wicked things — wicked, legal, inventive things — and he'd done it without waiting for anyone to finish his thought.
Next to that, what was being caught in a Weasley headlock by one of his lab mates?
Draco was bloody sick of mysteries. Had enough of that shit at Hogwarts, hadn't he?
"Still nothing, then, I take it?" Longbottom eyed him over the rim of his glass. Longbottom didn't seem to have that same disappearing Firewhisky problem Draco did, which was ruddy impossible. Cursed again. Draco swore it was Potty-related.
Draco attempted another sip to kill time, to sort how he'd get around talking about this with yet another too-interested mate, and found his glass empty. Again. Sod it to hell and back.
"I've no clue what you mean."
Longbottom wasn't Longbottom of old, because he didn't fluster to silence for the rebuke. Rather, he lifted a brow, considered a moment, then said ever-so-quiet, "It's about Dumbledore, yeah?"
Draco froze. "I…"
"S'all right, I won't make you say it. Just, someone should." Longbottom's gaze drifted to Lovegood, or maybe Teddy, or maybe both. It went wistful, at any rate, and Draco set his glass down with an awkward thump. "Eventually, someone will, right? Think about it, Draco. They're not as bad as you think."
"Yeah, they are. On this, they are."
He pitched in with the Wheezes, bonded with George over spattering puss and ill-used Stink Sap. Talked Quidditch with Ron when he stopped by for a bit, talked theory with Granger when she did as well. He learned Girl Weasley's name — Ginevra, the shame, what was wrong with the Parents Weasley that they'd resort to such atrocities? — and sometimes, he even used it.
All Draco asked was one small concession: no Potter, period.
No saying his name, no bringing him up, just the quiet delusion he didn't exist, and somewhere in that lie, Draco regained himself as he'd been at that summons. Sure, they thought him odd for it, and he absolutely believed they talked about him while he wasn't there, but they were his mates at the moment, it was all well-intentioned, and he honestly couldn't be arsed to bring all that up. Not when he'd so effectively suppressed it, a-sodding-gain.
Teddy, of course, blew that all to hell.
Chapter 5: The Play Date From Hell
Britain's top Aurors, brought down by chewing gum? Potions peon Draco to the rescue, whether he likes it or not. Special guest appearances by Tiny Potter, Little Longbottom, Wee Weasleys, Ginger Granger, and a Mini Malfoy.
Author's notes: Britain's top Aurors, brought down by chewing gum? Potions peon Draco to the rescue, whether he likes it or not. Special guest appearances by Tiny Potter, Little Longbottom, Wee Weasleys, Ginger Granger, and a Mini Malfoy.
Beta by bella_white, mistakes by me. You find, I fix, deal?
the play date from hell
"You owled who?" Draco tried for calm, really he did, because he was the adult here, no question about it. But either Teddy Lupin was thick as a stump or he was a manipulative little shit, and frankly, Draco'd bet on that last.
Teddy, for his part, seemed utterly unconcerned. "You said I could have a play if I was good," Teddy said, eminently reasonable as only a guiltlessly misbehaved child could.
Draco rubbed his temples. Tried not to twitch.
"Yes, Merlin, a play, not some sort of Gryffindor extravaganza this weekend."
Teddy scowled at that. "S'not an eggstra…egg…one of those. S'a play. Like you said."
Somewhere in the far reaches of this Manor, his father's ghost was no doubt laughing long and hard about this, Draco and his scowling, stubborn insubordinate.
"You can't even write yet, how the bloody hell could you owl?" There were many, many things wrong with Teddy's plan, from his reckless inviting of all who'd been Wheezed smallish for a day of games and such at the Manor to his surprisingly stealthy posting of said invitations.
Teddy beamed pride and pleasure. "Oh, that. Moggy helped me. And read me my replies."
His own house elves were turning on him, he'd no choice now. Draco pinched his nose at its bridge and whimpered silently a bit, to which Teddy said, "They're all coming," like that was the most brilliant news in the history of the world.
A house full of bloody Gryffindors. Again. And yeah, maybe he'd been all right with most of them recently, but they'd kept their distance, been friendly acquaintances more than real mates, he'd not been converted to Gryffindordom or anything, and he'd liked it that way, having that space as a buffer. And in one set of covert owlings, Teddy had stripped it. Like it was nothing.
"Really, Uncle Dragon, it'll be fun, you'll see. Just like last time, only better because we'll know our own teams and everything already." And Teddy smiled like it was Christmas, and Draco's resolve drained, and Teddy said, "Didn't you say I needed mates?" and Draco was sunk.
Merlin Almighty, this day was going to shit.
"I don't play," he sneered. Tried to, anyway, but it was bloody hard, a decent sneer, in the face of such blatant railroading. "Particularly not with Gryffindors."
"So don't. After all, it's Teddy's invitation, is it not?" She beamed all the wrong answers. "No one's going to force you to join in if you don't want to."
Just there, on the tip of his tongue, locked under flummoxed fury, lay the reminder that, yes, Teddy would absolutely force him to join in, and anyway, he'd had more than enough gratuitous Gryffindoring in his manor as it was, and as soon as he'd sorted a way around said fury, he planned to say as much. Only, the fury didn't seem to be unflummoxing itself, so his communication was in rather an unfortunate tangle.
Story of his life, that.
She flashed her ever-present bottle obscenely. "More than you, I'd think," she said. "After all, darling, I know what Ginny and Potter had in common." Then she sing-songed that ridiculous, "bent as a really bent thing," again and honest to Merlin, one of these days, Draco was going to snap and do something tremendously violent with that bottle.
Mates, he thought, may have been overrated.
"Ron, I…I shouldn't be here," Potter said, tugging on Ron's sleeve and looking quite young. Skittish, even.
Ron looked impatient, a thin sort of disgust, really, and said, "Are you telling Teddy, then? Because I'm not." Then Ron looked up and grinned brilliantly and said, "There he is, the other Wheeze, how's it going, mate?" like Draco wasn't just a potions rat, like Draco was maybe family.
Which was odd as hell, but somewhat familiar.
Bloody hell, they were mates. Mates with the Weasel, where had he gone wrong?
Teddy came in from the kitchen with Nev, chattering happy like he hadn't a care, and wasn't that nice, everyone comfortable but the man of the house and the boy bloody hero? Then Nev said, "Hi, Harry," and Teddy stopped talking and kind of scraped across the floor in a burst of indoor running, only to stop short a couch-length away.
"Where is he?" Teddy asked. "Where's Grr? Did you forget him? I asked you special."
Potter flushed. "Erm, yeah. Sorry."
Draco found five synonyms for "liar, liar, pants on fire" before Potter'd said a word. What's Grr?, his arse.
"S'not right, taking things," Teddy scolded, and Potter made a good show of looking suitably chastised. Draco felt just as awkward as Potter looked, uncomfortably aware that everyone had heard, and before Pansy could say a thing about strops and silliness, Ron muttered, "Harry, give up the stuffed thing? Not bloody likely, is it?" in a tone which said far more than his words. Like those hadn't said enough.
Lovegood hummed a tune Draco swore was Pansy's "bent as a bent thing" and Granger rocked on her heels smugly.
Draco felt like he'd missed the plot until Teddy said, "S'all right, you can bring him next time, right?" in that bright chirp, at which point Draco became convinced the boy had it in for him.
Potter squirmed. Hardly the most anticipatory motion, either, more evasion than enthusiasm, which Draco didn’t like.
“Yeah,” Weasley said, wary eyes on Potter. “We’re real Aurors and everything.”
The smile Weasley spared Teddy, though, that rang sweetly genuine. Draco considered the unimaginable reality wherein the chief gits of Gryffindor had smiles for wee Malfoys and their ilk, then wanted to kick himself for where that thought had gone. Nowhere good, but something awfully Tiny Potter.
Teddy nodded like that was it, it was settled. “So you’ll be the Aurors, then, because you’re really really Aurors—“ he hopped then, looked about ten seconds from some form of spontaneous magical incident. Then he turned a lowered-lash smile at Draco and the Hufflepuffery so captivating the others cracked just a bit, went small Slytherin sly. "But if we have really real Aurors, we need really real Death Eaters for them to catch or it won't be fair. Right, Uncle Dragon?"
Oh, Merlin, no.
“Loads,” he said. “On me.”
Weasley flicked his own ear awkwardly. “Yeah, all right, so it’ll be a night out at the Broomsticks and Obliviate all ‘round, yeah?”
“Perfect,” Potter muttered as Draco said, “Lovely.”
Longbottom just said, "I thought I was your partner, Teddy," in that mild tone of his, and Teddy's eyes went wide as he clapped a tiny hand over his own mouth.
"Count me in for it, too, then," George said, eyes lifting flirty and focused to find Draco's directly. "Care to partner up, Dragon? We've two for the DE."
Somewhere in that mess was most assuredly a jab at somebody, because George always did, but try as he might, Draco couldn't find the jab at him. If anything, he thought it might be friendly. Overtly so, perhaps, and in his present situation, Draco found that swampingly sweet.
"No, no, that's not your team," Teddy said, obvious frustration, and Ron and Neville swapped looks, amused and baffled. "You can't be a dark git, s'not allowed." He glared up at George like there was no height difference.
George stared back. "Not allowed? Says who, little monster?" And before Draco could take offence on Teddy's behalf, George hauled him up for a quick swing to dissolve the boy to giggles.
Those lasted until George dropped him square back on his feet, at which point Teddy braved a look in Draco's direction, then seemed to screw up his courage. "You're silly, Mr. Forge, but you still can't be a Death Eater. We've teams from last time, remember?"
The silence that flooded the room after that was anything but quiet, memory and extrapolation bouncing unvoiced through the room. Everyone bloody knew those teams, everyone, and what the hell was Draco meant to do about that?
"Now, Teddy, that's hardly fair, you'll have all Aurors and just the one…" George twitched a wince at Ron's phrasing, couldn't quite look at Draco.
Teddy huffed displeased command. "We had two before."
"Right, yeah, but Harry, he's one of your really real Aurors, isn't he? Can't be both, so you're one short."
And Teddy said, quite deliberately, "Not. Today."
Draco flinched. He wasn’t the only one. In the small, terrible silence, he felt the world turn, felt his answer be weighed before its arrival.
“Yes,” he said, as Potter said, “No.”
Their voices cracked. Their eyes met.
Draco Occluded like a mad thing and prayed Potter hadn’t learned Legilimency.
Potter cleared his throat. "I'm sure I wasn't a good—" but Teddy wasn't having it, Teddy just cut him off.
"Oh, but you were. Uncle Dragon said so, didn't you, Uncle Dragon?"
Draco was Determined. Draco was Deliberate. So he had to assume his problem was Destination, then, because when he stepped, he stayed in the room, just right where anyone—Potter—could see him.
"You can still be a Death Eater, even if you're an Auror now sometimes, too, can't you?"
"Well, I…" Draco refused to watch Potter gawk and garble his way free of this, really he did, so he made to leave bipedally, as his spellwork hadn't, only Pansy stopped him with a grip of claws.
"Do it and I castrate, I swear," she hissed, ever-so-quiet, and he wanted to think she was joking but her eyes said she wasn't.
Draco wanted to snarl a "shove off" and make free anyway, only there was Wrath Of Pansy to consider, Pansy and his bits, and that was a bad bloody combination, that, in dozens of ways.
"D'you forget how? Merlin, you must forget a lot, then?" Teddy asked, and Draco turned sharp, wrenched subtly out of Pansy's hold, just in time to see Potter flush furious heat, all frustrated humiliation. The trouble with Potter was likely the Deliberate.
Only, he looked up at Draco, those awful Slytherin eyes, and held for a moment, held the whole world, all Draco's breathing, all Draco's thought, just all of Draco in that hard, bitter stare, and Potter said, "Not enough," all quiet for Teddy without moving his gaze. "Not nearly enough."
And if Potter looked better by sunlight, mussed hair gleaming hints of red and gold like he was Gryffindor root to tip, him, and eyes like glassy grass and that faintest hint of tan, so utterly lickably bare just there at his jaw, how was Draco meant to ignore that, it felt bloody required he make use of it, preferably without speaking at all or mentioning Grr…
Well, if that was the case, and it was, then that was Draco's problem to avoid, wasn't it?
Fucking brilliant, that tackle, and not just for how he'd taken brush to the face on his way down.
No, what made it perfect, just terribly, horribly, destiny-mocking-him right, was that he'd rugby tackled Potter.
Who, perhaps predictably, was something less than pleased to find himself pinned.
"Sod off, Malfoy, fuck." Harry shifted, tried to wriggle away. Draco held firm. Purely form's sake, that, nothing at all to do with how it felt being this close to the object of his elusion.
"Ah, no, Potty, I caught you fair and square." And fuck, wouldn't he like to try that bloody tackle again, only this time, he'd fully look before he leapt because, Merlin, if he'd known it was Potter, he wouldn't have done.
Accidentally breeched their mutual hands-off policy, him, and he'd likely regret it for ages.
Harry's eyes turned dangerous, hard as bottles, but he stopped wriggling. Stopped bloody breathing to just stare for a moment. "You really think this is wise?" he asked, oh-so-quiet, a low rumble that did bad things to Draco's head. Heads.
Wise? This was a half-dozen things, good and brilliant and bad and awkward and hot and right, but wise? Oh, hell no.
When Harry moved again, it was no wriggle for escape. No, that was all bloody writhe, and Merlin, it felt good, and damn it to hell, Potter did it again and Draco had no fucking distance for this, had no fucking plan, and he wanted to be surprised when Harry twisted them both, pinned Draco underneath him on his back like oh but all he could really do was gasp. Try not to grind back.
Surely it wasn't meant to be this comfortable, pinned underneath Scarhead, but it bloody was and when Harry turned grimly intent, utterly serious, and said, "See, thing here is, Malfoy, don't know whether to hex you stupid or kiss you back," Draco couldn't even answer. Couldn't even swallow.
He couldn't watch Potter's eyes long for the burning so he watched Potter's mouth, drawn by deep, tongue-slicked red. Felt Potter watch his in return, gaze so intent, it weighed.
Draco tried to exhale but it came out in words, came out like, "So do it, then," and he flinched and met Harry's eyes, and Harry said, "Which?" like a whisper, licked his lips again, and Draco's lids fluttered low as he said, "Either," and he bloody felt Harry's struggle to decide.
"Pity I don't have m'wand, then, yeah?" Harry said on a light laugh, turned grasp to hold in a way that ruled out hexing, and the kiss he had coming, the one he could almost fucking feel, it wasn't going to be a peck on the forehead.
Draco closed his eyes. Lifted his chin. Waited.
And when all he could smell was Harry, his whole world gone Potty, he heard Teddy say, "No fair, Apparating," and bushes rustled and Teddy shouted, "Oi, you two, no fighting your mates, that's not the game at all."
The words Draco thought when Harry rolled off had no place verbalized around small ears, but by Salazaar, he meant every one.
Draco did his best to rub clear through his temples. At this rate, he'd rub himself bald.
"Progress?" Draco snorted. Sneered. "Yeah, it's a lurve match, us; thumping each other silly, that's romance all over. Girl Weasley will be crushed."
Pansy slanted him a look, all cool survey and thoughtful mouth. "No, darling, I think she's rather resigned herself by this point. After all, who'd compete with Potter?"
Snickering like he did was perhaps not the slickest of responses to that particular bit of information, but really, it felt required. Honest, which was something. "Lay off the wine, love, it's mangling your words."
She jerked his chin, turned him to meet her gaze head-on, and stared enough to subdue. Her smile was lovely, if somewhat self-serving. "Oblivious git," she said, with heavy affection.
Then she shoved him into the sitting room.
Bloody gits. Clearly, then, the Gryffindor was wearing off, because even the Weasleys were in on it, even the bloody Longbottoms, and Draco wanted to ask how this could go wrong with Longbottom in on it, Longbottom wasn't the malicious sort, but Longbottom was Gryffindor and they weren't exactly known for their reason. Neither was Lovegood, when it came down to it, so Pansy was his best choice for salvation from the Potterness, and Pansy, Pansy was humming that bloody "bent thing" tune for strength and guidance. Which didn't bode well.
"S'all right, mate," Ron said, spoke to Potter, and Potter sort of grunted back, not at all happy from the sounds of things, so Ron said, "No, really, Harry, you'll see. It's…You'll thank us later, yeah? Only, just, y'know, don't kill each other or anything first." And that big, tentative grin splitting the freckles, that was all Hogwarts Weasel, that, and Draco couldn't watch anymore because it felt too personal.
The second was somewhat more distasteful.
Chances Potter knew anything at all about small talk were slim at best; he'd no doubt learned from Muggles and Granger and Weasley and, well, Draco supposed that lot might be beyond abusing, but conversing? Equally to be avoided, yeah?
He'd self-injure before he'd resort to talking Quidditch standings or the price of gillyweed, and if he had to hear a second of Potter's Great Girl Weasley Love, he'd fucking self-Crucio, he was not without skills.
Draco swigged pumpkin juice like a shot, like it burned all the way down. Said, “You’re meant to hate me,” and instantly cursed himself for bringing that up. Wondered just what the Gryffingits had put in his drink and decided it if was some experimental Wheeze Veritaserum variant, they'd be lucky to both get out alive.
Potter, he noticed, was brilliant at avoidance. Possibly sharp on the uptake, too, because he had to know something was wrong, that Draco wouldn't go years without speaking to him, really, and then start with something like that. Aurors knew something about Veritaserum, right? So maybe…Maybe if they could just avoid eye contact, maybe keep this short and terse, they'd actually make it out of this room with their unspoken mutual vow of evasion intact. Maybe. Then Potter said, "Same goes, yeah?" and Draco scrapped that.
But you didn’t kill the second coming of Merlin.
"Well, your Grr-thieving tendencies aren't endearing, precisely," Draco said, awkward but trying, damn it, and Potter cut him off with a look.
"Don't." Potter's voice wasn't so much sharp as brittle, shards of sound. "Do you still hate me?"
Despite all he knew to be true, Draco gave that question the deliberation it deserved. "I'm trying."
"Malfoy." Potter closed his eyes. Squeezed. Looked stark in it, internalized hell, and didn't Draco know that just fine? "If you're not going to answer the question, fine, don't but don't make light of it, yeah? S'fucking serious, this, and—"
"Yeah," Draco said. Cut Potter off because feeling it was one thing but hearing it aloud, that was too much. Just too bloody much.
Potter cracked a look, wary understanding. Barest hint of a smile on that too-red mouth, and Draco thought the world wasn't bloody fair, giving him a mouth like bloody that and all those years.
"Yeah?" Potter raised a brow. Gave Draco an aborted once-over, cheek-to-chin, like all the answers he'd ever need were there somewhere in Draco's face. Maybe they were. There were an awful lot of answers on Potter's face just then, too, Draco thought it might be going 'round. "Yeah, you'll answer, or…?"
"Yeah, I hate you." Draco looked away. Couldn’t do the rest without that much, at least, because hate was something but it wasn't everything and he'd hex himself dumb before he'd admit that. "Do you still…?"
"Yeah," Potter breathed, and there it was, a rush of catharsis on whispered sound. Potter cleared his throat. "Yeah, I do."
Draco nodded. Swallowed hard. "For Dumbledore," he said by way of explanation, as Potter said, "Snape, yeah?" and they just let the names linger, that guilt they couldn't shake.
"I knew you would," Potter said finally, and Draco heard movement, the quiet rustle of Potter straightening in his seat under the near-pleasure of that tone, and when Draco looked back, could bring himself to do that much, he found Potter watching him like they'd suddenly declared best mates.
Which was so bloody wrong, Draco strangled a laugh.
"Bloody told Ron we should just leave you be, yeah? Stop, I don't know, picking at it, I guess. You didn’t want to talk about it and I didn't want to talk about it and Ron, he doesn't even want to think about it, so belting up's the best course." Potter sounded strange; passionate and wary and oh-so-bloody tired. Which Draco thought he could understand, really, for as insane as it had been, growing up Draco "Bad Decisions Unlimited" Malfoy, it had to have been as bad growing up Potter. Fucked if Draco could see how, mind, but he had his suspicions.
"There's no telling Weasley, though, is there?" No telling Weasley a thing, really, not about this, and maybe Draco could have said it didn't matter but truth was, it did. Had. Was. Dead mentors, they mattered. Living when you shouldn't, that mattered, too, and even if the rest of the world had done their best to bury the discussions, Dumbledore and Severus and sacrifices, he'd sworn he never would, because really, how the fuck could he?
One thing when the Ministry arseholes who controlled the lab and the promotions and such tried to rebuild the world in the post-war ideal, but when those who'd worked the front lines did it, pretended all was well because the Dark Git was gone, thinking that was it, Draco had trouble shaking the rage.
Funny, how rageless hating Potter seemed to be.
How very fucking comfortable.
"Well, wasn't that foolish of him," Draco murmured. Potter's nod was swift, his smile, grateful.
"Melodrama, thy name is Severus."
"Was," Draco corrected. Felt giddy with relief. Or possibly that was something in the pumpkin juice; he really couldn't tell.
Potter smirked. Slow, shaky, yeah, but a smirk all the same, and Draco was glad to see it. Proof of life, that. "Rather the point, yeah?"
And because they were sharing, because if Draco could see past Potter's survivor's guilt to the git underneath, the least he could do was return the favour, Draco chimed in with his own.
"Second coming of Merlin, Potter. For me. What kind of daft git exchange was that to make?"
He couldn't quite read Potter then, but then Potter said, "From where I am, about as good as Mum for me," and Draco thought maybe he didn't need to.
"Not bloody likely, that. Still the same heartless arsehole I've always been."
"Just, y'know, trying t' make up for Dumbledore, too, yeah?" Potter said. Not really asked, no matter the phrasing, bloody said, and Draco gripped the armrest to anchor himself in reality. Whatever impossible version he'd found.
A dozen thoughts fitted then, from sheer joy to utter sorrow, and through them all was regret, the lasting sort which called to his ruddy teenaged self, cursed it for shutting out the world to block his own miseries, because if he'd known. Just fucking known…And he hadn't known because he'd never fucking asked and he'd had no one to tell him, he'd shut them all out.
He couldn’t say it would have made a difference, thought he'd always wear the headmaster's loss as one of his own, but it would have explained at least part of it because yes, going early was noble tragedy, but the other, the giving up untold years to save someone, that sat heavier on the saved. Made him responsible for living up to the implied promise that worthwhile things would be done with that life, that it might have been martyrdom but it wouldn't be meaningless.
"Snape did. 'S how he finished out the year. Or mostly."
Which, Merlin fucking damn it, made things worse, because now Draco had one more sacrifice to earn and he still hadn't managed the first. Thought maybe he never would and wondered if this was why Potter clung to those parents he'd never known.
"Like I said, I'm trying. Sometimes I do, but it's not for that."
"What, then?" Because Draco didn't hate Potter for Snape, not like he should, it had worn down over time, ground low by affection, and wasn't that horrifically Hufflepuff? And now maybe he could hate Potter for knowing when he hadn't, but it was so bloody hard to hold, a thought that wouldn't catch, mild slick with the grease of regret, the flood of secrets melting.
Potter thought about for a long while. Nursed his drink while he did, more holding it loosely than actually drinking, which was fine, Draco was going through his fast enough for both of them.
Then Potter said, "You didn't ever save yourself, did you?"
Because now Potter knew and he knew Potter knew and how was he supposed to avoid it now; Potter knew everything, Potter knew Severus and Dumbledore and Unbreakable Vows and unpayable debts.
Potter knew him, all those bits he'd never said, and Draco couldn't take it back, wasn't sure he would. Just, now he had even less clue how to take the man.
"Does it help, hating me?" Because it helped, hating Potter. A bit.
"Makes a nice break from hating m'self, yeah," Potter said, voice thick and unruly, pitched low like wandless hexing, like fighting with mates in Teddy's game, and Draco's next breath made Potter look downright stable. This time, those eyes weren't anything hard, just bright and on him like they'd never leave. Potter's mouth tugged into a smirk, as slow and awkward as his speech.
Good look for him, the smirking, and Draco might have said, but Potter hiked a brow like maybe he knew that, too, and leaned in, tipped his shoulder into Draco's, wild fringe brushing Draco's forehead, hand creeping up as if to touch, moving achingly slow. Or maybe that was just Draco's impatience showing. Hard to tell, really.
"Don't suppose they've left us our wands," Draco said, and Potter didn't even check, just shook his head a bit and frowned like for once, he didn't know what Draco did, where Draco was going. No one smirked like a Slytherin, practically a house requirement, and he was only too pleased to prove it. Potter whinged, "Malfoy," a pleading pet of a thing, and Draco swallowed hard. Said, "Well, suppose that cuts down our options, doesn't it? Pansy will take up bit-thievery if I've left a mark on you," and hoped that appropriately called up their game.
Then Potter looked at him with those eyes, which weren't at all Dumbledore twinkly or Lucius determined Death To Malfoy, and said, "No marks? Can't promise that, can we?"
And Draco, Draco couldn't swallow, really, he'd lost the power of saliva, how strange was that? Couldn't speak to Potter yet, couldn't really think past those eyes, which were ten kinds of shag and six kinds of trouble and so utterly, perfectly Potter anyway.
Accio glass, though, that was easy, with the promise of Firewhisky at its end, and yeah, Merlin, Firewhisky was good, Firewhisky was brilliant, Potter had to stop staring now or Draco was going to maul him, damn it, Gryffindors really weren't fair.
He reached blindly for his glass and gulped hard, tried to wash that wave of heat with cool, sharp burn. He felt his mouth twist in grimace at an unexpected twinge of sweetness lingering, an uncommon aftertaste, and Potter looked stricken, just absolutely hexed, so Draco said, "Cheers," and tipped his glass. Drained it as Potter yelled, "No, no, wait," but Draco finished before Potter did, so that was that.
Potter looked like Draco'd gone Poly, maybe, or sprouted tentacles and a second Dark Mark, and when Draco said, "What?" Potter said, "George left the juice," like that explained everything.
Maybe it did.
Explained, at least, why it hadn't been Firewhisky in that glass.
Far too drained for that, wasn't he? So he flushed and he yawned and he tried to stay conscious, but it couldn't last, really, his head felt like granite and the whole of him ached. He leaned himself back, closed his eyes and tried to steady his breathing. Not that it worked, mind, but he did try.
Potter, it seemed had taken to fussing and yelling at no one, gits who weren't even there, and Draco tried to say, "Shh, I'm sleeping," but he slurred it too badly, so Potter didn't stop.
And the last thing Draco heard before the world's worst-timed nap ever was Potter shouting at nothing, "No, no, we're making bloody progress, change him back, damn it."
And then, well, napping had its uses.
Even if it was Wheeze-induced.
Chapter 6: Draco Malfoy and the Polly Puzzle
Britain's top Aurors, brought down by chewing gum. Potions peon Draco to the rescue, whether he likes it or not. Featuring Tiny Potter, Wee Weasleys, Little Longbottom, and Polly Mums. Now with added Mini Malfoy and A Very Special Guest.
Author's notes: Britain's top Aurors, brought down by chewing gum. Potions peon Draco to the rescue, whether he likes it or not. Featuring Tiny Potter, Wee Weasleys, Little Longbottom, and Polly Mums. Now with added Mini Malfoy and A Very Special Guest.
Beta by bella_white, mistakes by me.
Tooth rot ahead. Be warned.
Draco woke to the sound of one man thumping, and for a minute, he just sleepy-scowled and rubbed at his eyes and listened for Mum.
When he got to looking, he did it one-eyed, peeking cautiously over a fist and ducking his head so he wouldn't be caught. The one man thumping didn't look like anyone Draco knew, and for a bit, he thought maybe he'd been stuck in with strangers in his manor, he'd best tell mum. Then he remembered about mums and strangers and Polly People, and anyway, he was home, wasn't he?
Home was safe, home always had been.
So maybe this was Polly Mum, only Polly Mum was a Polly man, which couldn't be right.
"Polly Mum?" he whispered, and the man slowed down in his yelling, Polly man was mad, those weren't nice words at all, but he didn't stop or answer or anything. So not Mum, then, not even the Polly kind. That was a bit of a puzzle but Draco liked puzzles, so it was all right. "Polly Dad?"
"Erm, no, not really." Polly man turned around, looked at Draco a bit sheepish like he'd broken something by accident, and he had very green eyes and very nice glasses and a wicked scar right above them.
Draco didn't know many big people and he really really didn't know many big people with potions, but he knew sad smiles when he saw them and he knew big men who weren't dads who sometimes tugged their own sleeves and were quiet.
"Polly Uncle Severus," he said, certain as he could be, because if anyone was going to take potions they shouldn't, of course it would be Uncle Severus.
Dad would like that, how smart he'd been. No Polly-fooling him.
"Oh, God," Polly Uncle Severus said, like it hurt, just saying that. "Oh, God, Mal—Draco, just…"
It must have hurt too much, saying things, because Polly Uncle Severus stopped.
"It's all right," Draco said, and patted his hand. "Dad will know what to do, Dad always does." Then he squinted to make the thinking about things easier, because this was a lot to think about, really. "Or maybe Mum? She was Polly Mum for a bit, she'll know how to make you Uncle Severus for real again."
Then Polly Uncle Severus started yelling "My-oh-knee, my-oh-knee," at the door and Draco giggled because what were oh-knees, anyway? but before he could ask, there was Polly Mum at the door, looking sad and quiet.
Polly Uncle Severus said, "What?" as Polly Mum said, "Oh," then, "No, no, I didn't mean to, it was a mistake, someone — " and she looked mad at a big ginger man with one ear, mad like she'd go for her wand, and Draco moved closer to Polly Uncle Severus to hide because Mum mad was Not Good. It worked, too, hiding with Polly Uncle Severus, because Mum didn't look down at him, she looked up at Polly Uncle Severus like Draco wasn't even there. " — put something in the juice because he's a big git who'll be apologizing from now until forever about it, won't he, George?"
One of the big gingers went all red and the other one went shifty and one of them said, "Oi, they got on when they were small, if you leave them alone, they'll sort themselves out," and a dark-haired lady Draco thought he'd seen before smacked the ginger right on the arm and said, "You'd best hope they do, because if they don't…your balls, my ear bobs, am I clear?" She was scary, too, worse than the gingers, and the one she'd just smacked smirked a bit and said yeah, yeah, she was clear, there was no call to be threatening his bits but she could have at them anytime she pleased, really, and when he'd said that much, she smacked him again.
Polly Uncle Severus said, "Erm, yeah, I figured," and rubbed at his neck. "Any chance it'll end soon?"
"Sorry, no. Not as long as last time, but he says he's not tried it, just heard M-A-L-F-O-Y talk about it."
"Wait, wait, what? S'one of Mal — M-A-L — his?" Polly Uncle Severus didn't like that, whatever Mal — his was.
"Yeah," Polly Mum said with a bit of a smirk. "Apparently he's made himself quite at home in the Wheeze lab."
"Well, yeah, s'a lab, yeah? Kind of his home territory, isn't it?"
"Polly Mum," Draco said sternly, this was important. "It is not time to chat. Uncle Severus Polly'd himself and he. Needs. Help."
"He thinks you're Severus?" Polly Mum asked, like it was funny. Polly Not Uncle Severus shrugged and said, "Yeah, I know, I can't…" but he didn't finish, so Draco didn't know what he couldn't.
"He's not Uncle Severus? Even the Polly kind?" Draco worried then, because who else could it be? He'd ask Polly Uncle Severus, only it wasn't Uncle Severus, and he hadn't said or anything, so maybe he didn't know?
"No, sweet, he's not," Polly Mum said, patient as ever. "He's a very dear friend of mine, though."
"Really? Is this like the nursery? Are these their dads?"
Polly Mum laughed a bit, but it was nervous, too. "Not quite."
"We can't, sweet, your Uncle Severus isn't here anymore," the blonde lady said, and she touched his hair like she was his mum, but she wasn't, she was Nev's Polly Someone Luna. It was nice, her touching his hair, she was all right, but there were those gingers by the door, all hovered about Polly Mum and her dark-haired friend yelling, and Draco thought gingers were very scary indeed but not as scary as mums on a tear.
Merlin, he missed Harry. And maybe Pansy, even if she wanted to play house all the time, because he didn't know anyone but Polly Mum and she wasn't even there anymore, she'd left him to yell.
And then he saw Teddy.
Teddy didn't seem too happy to see Draco, either, because he clapped a hand over his mouth and stared for a bit, even though it was rude, staring, then turned to the man beside him and said, "He's little? Why is he little? Nev, this wasn't in the plan."
Draco thought maybe the whole world had gone mad.
And maybe Polly Uncle Severus didn't think he really was Uncle Severus, but at least he wasn't yelling, so Draco stayed close to be safe.
"All right, then?" Polly Puzzle asked, sounding a bit daft.
Draco nodded. "There's an awful lot of yelling," he whispered. Polly Puzzle nodded back and relaxed a bit, like they were their own quiet little corner of the couch. "Are we in trouble?"
"Not really, no. It's just, it's a bit of a surprise, I guess."
"What is? Is it not a good surprise?" Surprises were fun, sometimes, but there was yelling, so he guessed maybe this one wasn't.
Polly Puzzle took a deep breath and leaned in a bit. Not much, not like Mum sharing secret stories, but just like Uncle Severus. Like getting too close might give him fits. "Just a surprise. We, erm, weren't expecting to see you today is all. Your, erm, your mum, she…" and Polly Puzzle flapped a hand about.
It was pretty silly, the hand flapping, but it was a pretty silly surprise, too, finding Draco Malfoy in Malfoy Manor, and when he said so, Polly Puzzle looked a bit daft, like he hadn't known that.
"I'm, erm, Harry," Polly Puzzle said, and he looked very serious even when he was joking, Draco knew Harry and Harry wasn't big, Harry was still just his size. Best mates knew these sorts of things about each other, whether they were big or small, he was certain. So Draco told Polly Puzzle, who said, "Look, Draco, I…" and his voice snapped like crackers at tea and he looked at the gingers again. Only this time, he looked at them like they'd stolen his biscuits. "I'm not who you think, all right? Not Sna — Severus or your mum or your dad or anyone. Just…I'm just Harry, okay?"
"Well, you smile like Uncle Severus," he said, because he'd been wrong maybe but he hadn't been silly.
"Well, yeah. Like it hurts. Does it?"
"Oh, God," Polly Puzzle said, and Draco said, "I'm not God, I'm Draco," and Polly Not Uncle Severus put his face in his hands and used words Mum didn't like.
"Go on, then," Teddy's big mate said, and Teddy kicked the carpet, Teddy was silly, Teddy was bullying the furnishings. "Ask him, Teddy. Maybe Draco wants to play, too."
Teddy kicked the carpet again and shuffled like Harry, only it wasn't fun when Teddy did it, it was just strange. "D'you want to play with us?"
"What are we playing?" Maybe Teddy wasn't yelling anymore, but he was bullying the furnishings, which wasn't much better, really, so Draco looked up to make sure it was safe. Polly Puzzle looked like he didn't know, either.
"Aurors and Death Eaters," Teddy's big mate said with another nudge and Teddy said, "You 'n Harry can be a team again, Uncle Dragon, if you swear you won't fight again."
Draco ignored the bit where Teddy had him confused with Harry because really, they'd only just met and they weren't best mates or anything, and anyway, there was something far more important to think about.
And when he did, it made sense. Draco looked up at Polly Puzzle, who wasn't such a puzzle anymore, and said, "You're Uncle Dragon?"
Which was a bit brilliant, when he thought about it, because he had a few things to say to Uncle Dragon.
"I really think I should go now," Uncle Dragon said, and he tried to get up but Draco grabbed his arm and squeezed so he'd know Draco was serious.
"You can't leave yet," Draco said. "You'll miss Harry."
"It'll be fine, I promise."
Draco scowled then, sharp and fast. "It won't. You can't make promises, you don't ever keep them."
"You don't. Didn't see you at story time at all, did I? With Harry looking and everything. And...and...and you shouldn't say things you don't mean, s'not right, lying to people, saying things you don't mean."
"You said that bit."
"Oh." Draco scowled bigger. Looked hard at Teddy, because Teddy should know about Uncle Dragons and such, Teddy seemed that sort. Only, Teddy didn't say anything, Teddy just shook his head and hid, so Draco was all on his own.
He wanted to poke at Uncle Dragon's lying with his wand like Dad did sometimes with his snake stick, only Draco didn't have a wand or a snake stick yet and anyway, Uncle Dragon's lies weren't things he could actually see, which made it tricky.
"Why would you lie? He missed you and he made me watch out for you and we might have missed story and snack and you weren't ever coming. And...and...m'dad, he's not perfect, he even says so and Mum says so lots, but when he says something, he means it, and I'd feel awful if he didn't, I couldn't trust a thing he'd said, and…and…" Uncle Dragons were tricky, they kept stealing his words. So maybe this was why Teddy was bossy, then, just trying to keep his words and everything. "And when you say something, you should mean it."
Teddy told his big mate he didn't think there'd be playing after all, and Draco thought maybe they shuffled off, but he wasn't really watching them, he was watching Uncle Dragon, who was pretty much just watching him back.
"I do mean it," Uncle Dragon said carefully, like he was finding his words, which was all right, Draco did that, too, especially when they were big ones. "I'm sorry about what happened with your friend — Harry, was it?" Draco scowled that Uncle Dragon wouldn't remember, Harry was brilliant, Draco couldn't imagine anyone forgetting him, and Uncle Dragon nodded a bit. "Yeah, all right. Look, I won't do it again. Okay?"
Draco peered again, peered like Dad when Draco offered to help Uncle Severus in the lab. "And you'll say you're sorry?"
"Harry really missed you. He was sad. I had to kiss him on the forehead and everything. So you should apologize." Uncle Dragon went a bit strange then, and hissed a bit, and Draco could understand that, it was a very big word. "That means you say you're sorry. And you have to mean it."
Uncle Dragon kind of smiled and kind of frowned and kind of nodded. "I will. This time, I'll mean it."
"He thinks I'm Snape with a identity crisis and Teddy thinks I'm a twat with a violence problem. Really, it's been my day for children."
The dark-haired Polly mum snorted a bit, and Draco said, "He is Uncle Dragon," and the dark-haired Polly mum sprayed her drink everywhere like she was a hose.
"Well, well. Moving up in the world, are we? It's about time, at that."
Draco didn't know what that meant, but he knew that slitty-eyed look, so he said, "It's okay, he's said he'll apologize to Harry about before."
"Has he?" The dark-haired Polly mum still looked slitty, but it didn't look mean or mad or anything, so Draco supposed that was all right, too. "Do tell."
"Leave off, Parkinson, please? This day's hell enough already. Just tell me when George thinks it might be over or leave us be."
"And miss this? Not for the world, Potter, not for all the Galleons in Gringotts. Been waiting for it since, I don't know, fourth year, maybe." The way Parksinson looked at him made Draco nervous, like she saw things he couldn't, and Uncle Dragon looked sad again, so Draco turned a bit and hugged his arm. "Don't suppose I need to say that if you hurt him, I'll do vicious wicked things to you, do I?"
Uncle Dragon said no, she really didn't, and then he said, "Fourth year?" in a very small voice, and Parksinson said it again, and said he'd have to find out the rest for himself, she'd done her bit, and they were quiet and strange until someone put a hand on Draco's back like a hug.
Uncle Dragon said sometimes people didn't get to choose whether they'd be portraits or not, and at least if they were, people could still talk to them sometimes, not everybody got to be a portrait, after all, so it wasn't all bad. Draco asked did Uncle Severus's portrait have a space for potions, because he thought Uncle Severus would like that, making potions any time he wanted, and Uncle Dragon said yeah, maybe it did, and Draco said that was okay, then, Uncle Severus in a portrait if he had potions to make him happy.
Uncle Severus liked potions, even if he didn't smile about them like Draco smiled about stories and mates and Grr.
Uncle Dragon said that was probably true, and he didn't ask about Grr or anything, maybe Uncle Dragons knew about stuffed dragons?
And Parksinson said that would be nice, a trip to the portraits might keep them busy until it wore off, and Uncle Dragon nodded a bit and Draco hopped because a field trip? Exciting.
Uncle Dragon said he thought so, too, and he looked at Draco like Draco'd taken his biscuits and Draco squeezed his hand and said, "You're making the wibbly face again," because maybe they were like smiles, wibbly faces, maybe they ran away on Uncle Dragon without ever saying.
So then Uncle Dragon just looked sad a bit, like he'd looked sad all day, but there was no wibbling, which was good-ish, and Draco wished he had Grr, who was brilliant like Mum at cheering up, 'specially when it was about things he shouldn't wibble over, anyway.
And he said so aloud, about wanting Grr and why, and Uncle Dragon made a squeak then, and Draco said, "No, no, he really does grrr, s'how he got his name, and he's brilliant at stories," and Uncle Dragon bit his lip.
Uncle Dragon did that lots, the lip-biting, Draco thought that was weird, that might hurt or something, but he didn't say that, he just held Uncle Dragon's hand and let Uncle Dragon lead the way.
"Sir," he said as Uncle Severus said, "Mr. Potter," in a very growly voice, and Draco thought that was silly, both of them pretending to be dragons when they were clearly both boys. When he giggled, Portrait Uncle Severus looked down at him and blinked and said, "Master Malfoy, I presume? Where is your father, boy, and why has he let Potter, of all people, in the Manor?"
"I dunno, really. Where's Dad, Uncle Dragon?"
"Uncle Dragon?" Portrait Uncle Severus looked like his name tasted like potions. The bad ones.
"Well, erm, yes, sir, there was…Draco and I were just—"
"Draco?" Portrait Uncle Severus rubbed his nose, and Draco said, "Yes?" and Portrait Uncle Severus said, "I pray, Mr. Potter, that this is some absurd form of narcissism and that you have not, as I suspect, brought me my godson like that."
"You have another godson? Is it Harry? I like Harry," Draco said, but Uncle Dragon shushed him and said, "Well, sir, there was this Wheeze…"
Portrait Uncle Severus looked like someone pinched his face and said, "Polly Mum?" to Uncle Dragon like he'd forgotten Draco again, and Uncle Dragon said, "Her-my-oh-knee," very quiet, like it was a secret, and Portrait Uncle Severus almost looked pleased. Well, pleased for Uncle Severus.
"Good. Then you haven't shrunk all the sense in the place, no doubt despite yourself."
Draco shook his head and squeezed hard on Uncle Dragon's hand so there'd be no going. "I'm sure you've loads to say to him, you've been talking m'ear off all afternoon," Uncle Dragon said. That didn't sound good, exactly, Mum said that thing about ears off when she saw her regular friends and they all cooed a bit like it was sad.
"Was that what happened to George?" Merlin, this was scary, dead mums and fallen-off ears might be going 'round, bad things happened with Pollys and Uncle Dragon, did they follow him? And when he asked, Uncle Dragon said yeah, yeah, he'd always been a bit of a magnet for trouble but he didn't mean that, either, and before Draco could ask about magnets, Portrait Uncle Severus said some people Accio'd trouble and some people were its Point-Me, and he said lots more, but Draco didn't do either so Draco didn't really understand.
He understood the yelling, though, and Mum really wouldn't like those words at all.
"Sorry?" Uncle Dragon said, which was silly, he didn't even have a portrait yet, and Uncle Severus said, "It is as tolerable as such things may be."
Which was Uncle Severus for "yes", Draco thought, but he had to think about it. "D'you need anything? A book or a juice or anything?"
"I prefer my afterlife devoid of Wheeze infestation, thank you kindly, Master Malfoy."
And Uncle Dragon said that wasn't fair, they hadn't meant it, and anyway, the ferret was in on it, he'd actually made it, and Uncle Severus said that meant nothing, they were a menace whose utter disregard for others would get someone killed or worse one day, and Uncle Dragon went all red and angry and he yelled that Snape didn't know, Snape hadn't seen that part but they'd lost Fred and George had no fucking ear and they'd bloody lost Remus and Tonks and a whole bunch of names Draco didn't know, and really, Draco was lost.
So Draco said, "Do the gingers scare you, too? Because they scared Harry, they were loud and they didn't know about space," and Uncle Severus said, "Do tell, Master Malfoy, I find that both plausible and promising," and Uncle Dragon called someone a git and there was more yelling.
And Draco'd had quite enough of the yelling, thanks.
So he put his fingers in his mouth like Mum sometimes and whistled hard.
When they both were looking at him and not yelling or anything, Draco told them about indoor voices and the having enough already, and asked could they be nice now or would they have to go to their rooms for a think?
He wasn't surprised at all when they said they'd be nice; he didn't think going to his room for a think was much fun, either.
"Oh. Erm. Really?" Draco nodded and held up his arms so it would be easy.
And it was easy, and it was nice, Uncle Dragon had a nice shoulder, and Draco thought he'd have known it wasn't Uncle Severus if Uncle Dragon had just picked him up before, because he didn't smell a thing like potions.
"Like to think I'm a bit of both, sir, and quite a lot of myself."
"You mistake me, idiot boy," Uncle Severus said. "He does not often get attached, but where he does, he is intractable. The things he's done for those he loves are…" but Uncle Severus didn't finish that, so Draco didn't know what. "Do not believe, Mr. Potter, that you know him."
Uncle Dragon said, "I know I don't, but I'm trying," and Uncle Severus was pleased, even if he looked rather angry.
"I believe you mean that."
Uncle Dragon cleared his throat and said, "I do."
"I remember, it wore me out. Haven't been that tired since the war, I don't think, so yeah — " Uncle Dragon brushed Draco's hair off his forehead a bit and half-smiled sweetly, and Draco didn't want to nap but he did like the petting so he snuggled in a bit, made himself tiny and there on Uncle Dragon's shoulder. "Think it's maybe bedtime for someone, yeah?"
"Careful with him on the stairs," Polly Mum said, and Parksinson said, "Oh my Muggle aunt, that's too adorable for words, that is, where's the camera?"
And another good thing about Uncle Dragon's shoulder? When he laughed, it rumbled funny through his chest, right in Draco's ear, and Draco really liked that, too.
"Are you sure about that? Because you're yawning an awful lot for someone who's not even a little bit sleepy."
"That's because I am sleepy." No Grr, no nap. Draco knew how this worked, Grr hadn't run off by himself.
"So then, nap time, yeah?"
"Nap time, no." Because what if he napped and Harry came, and Draco was sleeping so Harry went home? So he explained about missing Harry, and Uncle Dragon let him finish.
Thought about it. "Even this age, you're bloody Slytherin, aren't you?" Uncle Dragon said but Draco didn't think he'd been meant to hear, he thought maybe Uncle Dragon was talking to himself like Dad did sometimes when Draco was being silly. "Look, I'm pants at this kids thing. No clue, really, you should see me with nappies, it's horrible. Sticking Charms everywhere and crying babies and really, just chaos."
"You know I'm not in nappies, right?" Draco was worried, nappies were for babies. "I'm four." He held up his fingers. All of them, because he was almost five and thumbs were almost fingers, and he wiggled his thumb and explained about almosts so Uncle Dragon would know.
"Right. Erm. Right." Uncle Dragon nodded once like his head slipped. "So you tell me, then, what it's going to take to get you in bed."
And, well, maybe Draco wasn't Slytherin yet, but he might be someday, and he'd been practicing with Dad, so he smirked a bit and said, "Well, we'll start with a story."
"Why was his name Puff? Isn't that a silly name for a dragon? Was he a silly dragon? Did the nother dragons make fun of him? S'not nice, making fun, it's im.pol.ite."
"There were no other dragons," Uncle Dragon said after a bit.
"No other dragons? Pfft. Of course there were, what about his mum? Wasn't she a dragon? Dragons can be girls, you know, they're not always boys."
"I know. Met one, haven't I?" Uncle Dragon kind of smiled and rubbed his neck a bit like Mum did when she talked about school.
"You've met a dragon? A girl one?" Uncle Dragon nodded and said yeah, yeah he had, he'd had to fly past her while she'd been defending her egg and she'd been mean a bit, and blown fire at him and chased him and everything, and when Uncle Dragon quieted down again because he was a bit excited talking about his girl dragon, Draco said, "That. Is. Cool."
Because someone should.
Uncle Dragon stopped his story and didn't even say Draco shouldn't interrupt or anything, just sort of petted him like Mum did when he was sick. "Yeah, I promise. You'll know the minute Harry gets here. Now…we've got a story to finish here and someone has a nap to take, I believe, hrm?"
So Draco thought about that, because Uncle Dragons and promises were tricky, but when he'd missed some of the story for thinking, he decided maybe Uncle Dragon had learned his lesson about lying. Maybe this time, it was all right.
"Thought we'd figured out I'm Uncle Dragon, yeah?" Uncle Dragon put their book down and poked Draco's nose a bit, pressed it and smiled a really real smile.
"Silly." Draco scrunched his nose and made a face. "You're not really a dragon."
Uncle Dragon gasped and clutched at his chest like he'd died, but he wasn't hurt, he was just fooling. Uncle Dragon was pretty good at that, fooling. "Not really a dragon? Not really a dragon? The hell you say."
"Well, you're not really a dragon, are you?" Draco grinned, it felt good, trusting Uncle Dragon, he liked Uncle Dragon and maybe they were friends, too. "You're really a boy. Because dragons, they say grrrr — " and he put on his best dragony face and made claws with his fingers. " — but boys, they say erm. And you say erm loads. So you. Are. A boy." And Draco poked Uncle Dragon's nose back, which made Uncle Dragon laugh.
"Some boys say erm, yeah," Uncle Dragon said. "And some boys say other things."
"Like, erm, rictusempra," and Uncle Dragon tickled him right on his belly and Draco laughed and laughed, and he couldn't make Uncle Dragon stop even when he wiggled and couldn’t breathe for giggling.
Which made Uncle Dragon look sad, and Draco didn't want Uncle Dragon sad, he liked Uncle Dragon laughing, so he sat up and said, "Don't be sad, Harry's coming back, he promised, Harry wouldn't lie about a thing like that, we're best mates," and he kissed Uncle Dragon right on the cheek.
He almost didn't notice Uncle Dragon hadn't ever said his really real name. Almost.
"Grr. With Harry. D'you think he misses me?"
Uncle Dragon made a face like he wasn't sure what to think. "I bet he does, yeah. You, erm, you know he's with Harry, then?"
Draco nodded and made a very serious face, because he knew exactly what to think. "I forgot, but he's not on my bed. He's always on my bed. And I remembered Harry on my bed, too, and now they're both gone, so that's all right, then, as long as they're gone together and they've not run off forever or anything." He really, really didn't want to ask, but he worried. "Have they?"
"They'll be back," Uncle Dragon said, and petted Draco's head again to mess up his hair. "Just, you have to nap first, all right? And if you still can't find them when you wake up, I'll show you myself. Okay?"
"Okay." Draco yawned big, so big he thought his mouth was bigger than his whole face maybe. "Can you stay with me? Don't like the dark by myself. S'scary."
"I'll just, erm, maybe sit here by the—" Uncle Dragon said, and Draco had to cut him off because he sounded a bit odd and panicky. Really, he was so much like Uncle Severus it was ridiculous.
"You have to stay where I can hug you, maybe. Like Grr does."
He thought he might have to explain that to Uncle Dragon, too, but he didn't. Uncle Dragon just said, "Sure, yeah, where d'you want me?" and he looked a bit funny when Draco patted Grr's pillow, but he didn't whinge at all.
Monster-guarding dragons were very good things, after all. Whether they were really dragons or not.
A long, very long time ago, I started a de-aging fic called Childhood Chews, which went on to become the epic wip o'doom lurking in my fannish experience. Several things went wrong with it, not the least of them that before I got the last chapter finished, I started writing fear and loathing at the Phoenix, which fucked my authorial voice up for these two significantly. Fast forward several years and a few furtive attempts, most of which have been scuppered by how very much I love bb!Draco's voice in part six and how very flat adult!Draco's voice felt after that, and we arrive at the not!fic not!challenge, which kicked me into gear.
This is not the pretty finish I’ve had in mind for years or the smexy epilogue of joy that propelled me through that fic, but clearly I am not ever actually going to get back and write the thing proper-like, so let’s pretend, shall we?
Okay. So Draco wakes up and he’s in a bed with Potter, which is alarming for oh-so-many reasons, and he’s thinking a bunch of jumbled, tangled things about how he knows it’s Potter even without looking—his smell, how does Draco know his smell, and also fuck, this promises to be awkward in a minute—and, like, how he most definitely should not be in a bed with Potter, of all people.
Because Potters are for scorning and staring at and such but they are not for cuddling or whatever it is he’s doing.
And Harry knows he’s up, of course he does, Harry’s an Auror of total BAMF, and Harry’s been patiently waiting for Draco to wake up because seriously, they have a conversation to finish and also, quite possibly some getting off to do now, thanks.
So Draco gawps and tries to scheme his way out of it but he doesn’t have his wand so no well-timed Apparation, Draco is stuck, and Harry leans over him and whispers, “Awake yet? Alert, adult, aware?”
Because Harry has had a few traumatic non-starter moments while Draco’s been aging up in his arms and Harry is hoping like hell that now he’s got proper-age!Draco so he can get the hell on with things, but it’s hard to tell. He’s had a rough moment trying to spot the differences between, say, 21 and right is all, and woe, Harry’s life.
Draco’s so busy panicking and worrying about what to do with Potter, Merlinfuck, that it doesn’t occur to him that maybe he’s been talking in his “sleep” or whatever, that maybe now Harry knows things about him Draco never meant to share, and when Harry speaks, Draco has a sharp chill jolt up his back.
Because fuck, that is Potter and that is close.
So Draco pulls some bullshit dialogue purely intended to be distancing, some sort of wildly misplaced surname use with scorn Harry just totally ignores because he’s had bb!Draco telling him off in defense of his bb!best friend and all, Harry’s had that convo with Snape without the confusion and Harry’s had ages to think the whole thing over for himself.
Harry is nowhere near as thick as Draco likes to think he is, and much as we haven’t really seen that in the fic so far, I think that’s more to do with Harry’s post-canon ability to keep things close to his chest.
Anyway, Draco pulls the arsehole dialogue and Harry sort of thinks it’s funny, it’s that transparent, and he says, “Good,” and then I think kissing, like Harry just diving in for it directly, steady and sure.
And Draco totally gets muzzy-headed about it, like mmmmm good before brain function kicks in and then he shoves Harry away and can’t quite bring himself to successfully pull off indignation, though he’s adorable when he tries.
Harry’s stupid-fond. It’s a prickly git thing.
So Harry’s all smirky and grinning despite himself, because he’s trying to be solemn to match Draco’s mood and also, because he’s picked up at some point that laughing at someone is probably not the best wooing strategy, and he has to wrangle his shit together. There may be more use of surnames here but Harry doesn’t mean them, Harry’s totally operating on the scale of Draco.
Which would alarm the fuck out of Draco if he knew, so it’s good Harry keeps quiet.
Then, idk, I think maybe Harry should be all “NO, you are not getting up yet, you are/have been unwell” but really, that’s just Harry being pragmatic about their luck. If they leave the room before they’ve got things sorted, it’s highly likely something else will go wrong. Harry thinks he’s picked this up from Hermione but really, it’s Ron and all his Malfoy-knowing ways.
(Because they are secret and reluctant mates in this fic, Draco and Ron, because Draco has advanced as a character beyond the EW ICK GRYFFINDORS stage but he has not gone nicely, Ron and Teddy and George and Neville have had to drag his arse into it, and so has Pansy with her wine.)
And Draco is sort of stupid because he’s confused and way too stubborn to admit it to Potter, that vicious Grr thief, and maybe Draco has vague memories of the two of them talking before that last potion kicked in but it’s all sort of gotten buried underneath all the really shitty memories he’s just regained. A decade of total snothood followed by another decade or so trying to move past it, to be someone better.
There is a thing about Harry, too, that makes Draco obnoxious, a self-defense mechanism he can’t kick for trying, so for all Draco’s getting on with people lately and being an adult, he can’t be that way with Potter. It’s more vulnerable than he can stand, though he’s not sure why it should be. Draco is parked firmly in denial.
So Draco says a total snothood thing and Harry sort of side-eyes him for its transparence and when Draco tries kicking out at Potter verbally again, Harry puts a stop to it.
Then Draco’s all “You don’t know that,” because he has a lot invested in Harry not knowing things about him and Harry’s like “Yeah I do” and maybe Draco mutters unpleasantly about how this is Neville lying to him, trying to make Draco seem respectable, and Harry says, “Actually, it’s Ginny.”
Which is when we get the conversational turn to Ginny Weasley and her infamous kink for heroes and how lately, she's been kinking Draco (which is why she's been such a berk all story, tbh).
And Draco has nothing to say to that because for serious, is Potter kidding, Draco is bent as a very bent thing, thanks, Draco is gay and always has been, and anyway, doesn’t everyone know Ginevra Weasley’s been pining over Potter since forever and a day, and Potter is a total emotional fuckwit who has clearly been pining back.
Which is quite probably when Harry laughs, because he’d be surprised into it, Harry totally thinks he’s been obvious, he has absconded with Draco’s childhood stuffed thing and he’s keeping it in his office, the whole of the MLE knows about Harry and his crush now and they think it’s hilarious and sort of adorable, and despite how much Harry thinks grown men shouldn’t be called things like adorable willy nilly, he can’t bring himself to counter it in any real, substantial way.
Originally I’d intended to do things with the Ginny/hero kink thing, like expand on what Draco did at Hogwarts that last year that would make her think he’s heroic and also explain how he’s such good mates with Neville and Luna, but I think I probably did that best in The Pensieve Project so what-the-fuck-ever, I am not reinventing that wheel. Suffice to say Draco has been helpful handling the Death Eaters or whatever and at least some incident he’s been involved in has convinced Ginevra he’s saved her life directly, and that if anyone asked, Neville could explain that Draco totally only did it for Harry, so he’d have his precious fairy tale relationship to come back to when the fighting’s over.
Neville would also clarify that this is because Draco’s an idiot with a big, huge blind spot where Harry’s concerned, but this is not Neville’s story and Draco would not acknowledge or appreciate the veracity of it.
The long-and-short of it is that Draco's a bit flummoxed at the concept of Ginny having some sort of crush on him, allegedly, and he’s trying to avoid the implications from Harry, so he’s like no no it is a a crush on you and Harry totally laughs at how completely ridiculous that is, like Gin’s long since given up the ghost there, everybody knows who and what Harry wants, and there would be staring.
And, like, I think Draco would just be sitting there in silent, terrible shock while Harry just slaughters all Draco’s defenses, picking them off by sort of easily talking about an assortment of things Draco’s done that make a mockery out of his claims on snothood, and at some point I think maybe Draco would ask how Harry knows, like the question would just be ripped out of him in silent desperation or whatever, and Harry would give him a gut-punch of a look and drawl out a reminder that Harry is the Ministry’s Top Auror.
This is not a thing that happens without some skill at evidence-gathering.
And Draco would be like making strangled noises or whatever, some indication of upset-panic-confusion-alarm, and Harry would be like “Not to be pushy, but are we back at the snogging time yet? It’s just, I’ve been waiting,” and Draco would maybe nod or something unconsciously and Harry would grin.
Then totally there would be making out, quite probably in some detail. Hard to say how much, though, because the whole rest of the fic’s been pretty PG so far and throwing some NC-17 in here feels random. IDK, IDEK, maybe like hard-PG-13ish stuff? Just, I think there’d be some sense of comfortable closeness and some surprise at how comfortable it is, like they’ve both put ages into steadfastly using each other as surrogates for their own self-loathing survivor’s guilt and while I haven’t really dealt with that and how it gets set aside, I think it would come up here, in how they touch.
Like I think Harry would be careful but deliberate, you know, and Draco would be like OKAY, we are making this a hormones thing, I can handle that and Harry would be like NO NO WE ARE NOT with just body language. Like I think Harry would make Draco acknowledge who he’s kissing and why he is, what precisely it is they’re both looking for, and I think it would have to be Harry because Draco’s still all fucked up from the whole miserable re-aging process and Harry, well. Harry’s had all that time to think and reach conclusions and stuff.
It’s not perfect. Draco’s pretty crap at this and Harry’s not fabulous at it, either, plus there’s this thrum of excitement playing out like nerves, and there’s this immediacy to Harry now that Draco doesn’t usually have to deal with: he’s used to watching Potter from a safe distance but this time, he can’t. Harry’s watching his mouth and laying on top of him, not even speaking, just staring and moving, and Draco’s gut flutters at how Harry’s holding Draco’s face.
It’s the sort of intimacy that should be fucking with him, because Draco really isn’t used to that, hasn’t even let himself hope he could have something like this, someone so utterly into him. Let alone Potter, who’s maybe been on the private wank list but who’s never seemed touchable, for oh-so-many reasons.
And, like, when Draco touches back, Harry’s breath hitches, and Draco’s only just running a palm down Harry’s back, stroking over his side experimentally, and Harry bites his lower lip because that’s what he does when he’s nervous or unsettled or whatever and Draco just. Cannot do another round of watching Potter abuse that pretty lip, so Draco kisses him again but it’s not hard or rough or restless at all, only just patiently correcting, and it’s far too easy to move with Potter while they kiss, to shift to one side and put Potter beside him, to ease in a little more and slip Potter beneath him.
Draco likes that a lot and Harry doesn’t argue, Harry just skims his own palms along Draco’s ribs like he’s mentally mapping territory. Harry’s a bit surprised-delighted by this turn of events, Draco taking charge, for all the flirting-from-a-distance and blatant eyeshaggery and near misses they’ve had, Harry’s still, you know, waiting for some sign Draco will meet him halfway in this, so this is where it really sinks in for him.
The sex is sort of bad, like fumbling and clumsy, but it’s all right because of how just into it they both are, so it doesn’t even matter that they don’t get past kissing and rubbing off on each other and maybe hands-in-trousers before they come because clearly, this is just the first time of many.
When Draco comes, he shuts his eyes and puts his face in Harry’s neck and clings, clutches tight to anchor himself. When Harry does, it’s just after that, when he’s got Draco all over him and holding fast, and it’s a bit like they’re the only two people in the whole world who’d understand what they need from each other but they obviously get it so it’s all right.
And Draco tries to move away afterward, like he considers it, and Harry’s not having that, Draco maybe getting all his prickly defenses back, plus Harry likes having Draco sleeping on him, like maybe they’re both secret cuddlers this once. Draco doesn’t even get to move away, he just holds his breath a moment and tenses up a little and Harry makes a sound that’s non-verbal protest straight through and when Draco peers up at him cautiously, trying to tell himself it’s all right if Harry wants a bit of space now, Harry says something about monster-guarding dragons and how Grr’s still not there.
Draco mock-accuses him of blatant Grr-thievery as he settles himself in, and Harry’s laugh rumbles through his chest when Harry invites him over to the Ministry office to pick Grr up later.
“It’s a Wheeze,” Draco says and Bennington stares blankly, because he’s still the utterly clueless boss, and Kingsley makes a sound of alarm he hides in a sigh.
“Of bloody course it’s a Wheeze,” Kingsley mutters, less than pleased by this turn of events.
“Why are you telling me this?” Bennington says, all ruffled affront, and Kingsley shoots a dubious look at him and says, “Because he’s leaving, I presume?” and Draco just nods. He’s worked his shitty Ministry post long enough to know there’s no advancement opportunity if he stays here, only just decades more playing potions peon to a lackwit, and the offer from George is generous enough to keep him in tea and biscuits for ages, so Draco is taking his considerable skills and walking them down the road to the Weasley labs.
Because he’s not stupid, because he’s got rather a lot invested in keeping the Top Aurors safe, Draco ends his resignation with a look at Kingsley and a quiet offer of help should they need it. Bennington sputters—he is not pleased Mafloy keeps going over his head—but they both ignore him, just sort of come to terms in the near-wordless way of two men who know the score, and when Kingsley’s thanked him and said he might take him up on it—that might is a will, Draco knows—Draco takes his leave and heads upstairs to pop by for a nooner and collect his stuffed thing.
~ the end the end ahahkakfkhjfdjkhfdjkhdf I am done now, I can throw this on my master list and maybe get bb!boys or Grr!fic for reeeeeeemix \o/ ~