Draco nervously jerked his head forward, assuring himself his fringe was masking his features. His hair had grown longer, easily reaching his shoulder blades, but he didn’t tie it up. Not due to any sort of vanity—if anything, Draco was extremely self conscious about his appearance—but because it hid his visage, his long neck, his angular face. Everything that made him, him.
And in public, without mother or Thuban to accompany him, Draco appreciated all the anonymity he could afford without glamouring or polyjuicing himself.
And he was doing well, if he did say so himself.
Scanning the apothecary aisle for the necessary ingredients for his newest potion idea, Draco barely noticed the witch mumbling to herself until it was too late.
“Oh, god,” Draco cursed, “I apologise for nearly toppling you—Merlin, I'm a clutz.”
The witch waved him off, looking more startled than annoyed. “It’s no issue, it was an accident.”
Draco froze at the familiar voice, and after noticing him tense up, none other than Astoria Greengrass stared back at him.
“Draco?” she whispered.
“I,” Draco faltered, “yes. Hi. How do you do?”
“How do I...?” And then the dreaded anger sparked in her eyes. “How do I do ? How do you do, you bastard ? How do you do that to someone? I bloody loved you! And you just up and left England?”
“I didn’t, actually,” Draco mumbled, feeling the hair on his arms rise. Her volume was drawing the attention of onlookers, despite their rather secluded aisle, and he didn’t like that at all. “I was still in England, but among the, erm, Muggles.”
“It doesn’t matter! I—Well, I bloody waited three years for you!”
“I’m sorry,” Draco whispered, ducking his head. “I haven’t been vacationing or anything, if that's what you think. I needed... I needed time. To heal.”
“ Seven years -”
“Since before I left,” Draco admitted, shifting on his feet. “I left seven years ago, but this... I haven’t been okay since before. Since the War. Hell, since before the War. Since Vince. Since Voldemort. It had all been building up, and I couldn’t... I thought about...” Draco hunched his shoulders, shakily gripping the wallet inside his sweatshirt pocket for well needed support. “I contemplated suicide, Astoria. I could barely function, let alone give you the love and attention you deserve. I should have told you, I should have-”
“You bloody well should have,” she hissed, but it sounded choked, and then she threw her arms around him, and Draco stiffened further.
Draco didn’t like hugs. He didn’t like people touching him, let alone encasing; suffocating; entrapping him.
But, like Mother, Draco suspected Astoria needed it, and so he persevered.
“I still love you,” he told her, hesitantly wrapping his arms around her.
“I still love you too,” she sobbed into him, and she was shaking.
He held her until she calmed, and politely averted his eyes when she wiped her eyes and, with a wordless spell, retouched her makeup.
“Well,” she then addressed, clearing her throat delicately. “How do you do, Draco?”
He laughed softly. “Better. I'm... still recovering, but now I'm here. In England.”
“I'm...” she paused. “I'm married now.”
Draco smiled at her. “I heard. Congratulations, darling. Who’s the lucky bloke?”
Astoria blushed prettily, and her delighted smile only made his heart ache.
He wasn't in love with her anymore, though he did love her platonically. To see her happy and healthy filled him with nothing but affection and pride. But to see her happy, healthy, and in a blossoming relationship, made him the tiniest bit envious. He wanted what she had.
But she didn't have Thuban.
She didn't have depression, nor was she an inept veela, or a recovering smoker or alcoholic.
But she didn't have Thuban.
“You'll never guess,” Astoria declared. “In fact, you'll just have to wait and see.”
“You'll have to visit, of course.”
Draco felt his throat close up. “I can't,” he whispered.
From the smoking, and the screaming, and the bouts of month-long muteness in between, his voice was already raspy. But it had been a while since he sounded quite like he did just then, admitting that to her.
She seemed to sense this, judging by the softening of her features.
“Of course,” she amended. “Sometime,” she said. “Until then, maybe we can catch up for tea? Just you and me,” she assured.
Draco forced a weak smile. “Yeah?”
She nodded resolutely. “Of course. Just the two of us. We’ll drink, and we'll catch up, and then I won't feel like such an utter ingrate when I accidentally say things that are sensitive to you.”
“Merlin, Astoria, you aren't an-”
“Come on,” she prompted, gently, gently taking his arm. “Do you need to buy that before we go?”
Anxious, he shook his head and replaced the jar among the rest on the shelf. “Just the two of us?” he rasped.
“Just us,” she said, and it was fierce. A promise.
He thought of Mother, and he nodded.
“Isn't this moving too fast?” Draco asked nervously, wringing his hands in front of him.
Pansy, who Astoria had gently introduced into their weekly meet-ups, rolled her eyes.
“Salazar, Draco. We're going to yoga, not a bloody nightclub. Kindly untwist your knickers.”
When Draco merely nodded meekly, she looked faintly disappointed, and pouted.
“You're no fun anymore,” she whined, unaware of or simply ignoring Astoria’s sharp look.
Draco hadn't sat down with Pansy and told her every little thing, like he had Astoria. Instead, Pansy had simply acted like no time had passed. As though they were simply reuniting after a summer away from each other, like during school. Draco actually really liked that, so when Pansy said things like this, he merely smiled. It was true, and he missed his old confidence, but at the same time, he was sure he had changed for the better, in some cases. Surely. Hopefully.
Besides, she was just as smitten with Thuban as he was, so yes, Draco rather liked spending time with Pansy as well.
“Of course,” Astoria assured, “we can stay here, if you'd like.”
They were currently at Pansy’s, in her room, clad in their ‘yoga apparel’, which apparently consisted of a loose fitting shirt and tight-as-a-second-skin pants.
Draco shook his head. “No, I... I want to go. I'm just. I do hope there aren't too many people.”
“Why?” Astoria asked innocently. “You look so cute with your hair tied up. I can actually see your face.”
Draco flushed bright red, stuttering incoherently until Pansy cut in with a huff.
“Even if there are thousands of people, Draco,-”
He paled at the mere thought.
“-none of them will be looking at you. We're always too busy trying not to break our backs in an attempt to imitate that pretzel of an instructor, thanks ever so.”
Draco sniggered at that, and Pansy smirked.
Astoria sighed, albeit fondly, before ushering them to the floo. “You can borrow my extra yoga mat, Draco, but trust me. You'll love this.”
He wasn't so sure.
Admittedly, joining the class included very little fanfare, as though people joined all the time—though the small number of experienced members suggested they let just as frequently.
However, there still were twenty or so other witches and wizards, which made him uncomfortable, and then there was the actual yoga part, which made him even more so, because he didn't want the others to look at him, to watch him making a fool of himself.
But then, it happened.
“Sarvangasana?” Pansy groused. “Isn't that pose a little advanced? He's just starting out.”
Draco shook his head. “It's fine,” he told her, “I don't want her to go slowly just for me.” Or to call me out, he thought.
He followed Pansy and Astoria’s lead, lying on his back in the pose Savasana, before lifting his legs, balancing them with his arms, and then arching his back, until most of his weight rested in his upper back, shoulders, and arms.
“Good, good,” the instructor praised. “Everyone is doing so well! Now, for the more advanced members, follow my lead. We’re going to lean forward—slowly, like this—into the pose Halasana.”
“Good grief,” Pansy huffed, dropping from her Sarvangasana. “I’m about as flexible as a metal rod.”
“So you bend when you get hot and bothered?” Draco mused, sending her a smirk.
She looked momentarily startled. And then her eyes watered a bit, but she wiped them quickly before laughing.
“Good one, Draco,” she commended, and he wondered if, like Astoria, like Mother, she had missed him.
“Now remember, guys!” The instructor continued. “Look at your navel, to protect your neck. Plug your toes firmly into your mat. Lift your kneecaps to engage your legs muscles—Great job, Astoria!”
The brunette grunted a reply, too busy following the instructor’s words to a T, even though her face was red, and she was clearly struggling.
Feeling a little competitive, Draco tried to bend as well.
Pansy scoffed. “Draco, you can’t attempt yoga in one day, and expect to come out an expert—Oh, sweet Salazar,” she breathed, and Draco understood her awe.
At first, his body had been rigid—shaking, even, as he attempted to slide his legs forward without a) breaking his damn neck, or b) losing balance completely. And then when he haphazardly managed that, there was the simply fact that his muscles weren’t as agile as they used to be, and fuck , this was starting to hurt.
But then, he felt a shiver go through him. It were as if his body recalibrated, adjusted to the strain, because suddenly, he was pliable. He bent forward with ease, and grace, and then, just like that, his toes were on the mat, his arms outstretched behind him, and he was gazing at his navel, numbly aware that his head was below his thighs.
“Holy fuck,” Draco wheezed.
“This is your first time?” Pansy asked dryly, disbelieving. She didn’t know he was veela, like Astoria did. At least, that’s what Draco was blaming his sudden flexibility on.
“Help me?” he whimpered, and she relented, shuffling over to aid him in getting his arse back on the mat.
They stared at one another.
“Bloody hell,” he said, eyes still wide. He was shook.
The yoga meetings, and the regular outings with either Astoria and/or Pansy must have been doing him some good. He couldn’t imagine, even a mere month ago, that he would find himself in a public, wizarding park.
To be fair, Draco had only gone to entertain Thuban, not to be social with other human beings, but it still counted in his book.
Said dog butt his head against the backs of Draco’s legs, just above his knees, too shy yet too excited to do much more than whine and push against his guardian.
“Go run around or something, you asinine creature,” he admonished fondly, stepping away from the dog. “Look, there are some other dogs over there. Or, over there, some more tiny humans. And their much larger counterparts. Or, look, I can see some geese. They’re nearly as loud as you are, pup. You’ll like them,” Draco assured.
The blond jumped, clearly startled. “Salazar, Potter,” he groused while turning around to face said man.
Draco jerked his head a bit to get his fringe out of his face. He had cut his bangs recently, so they stylishly framed his face instead of tumbling all over in a haggard fashion. Now, the way his hair fell looked deliberate and artistic, which, he hoped, drew positive attention away from his visage.
“What a pleasant surprise,” Draco drawled.
Potter laughed. “S’good to see you too, Malfoy. How have you been? Your hair’s longer.”
Draco, self consciously, brushed his fringe out of his eyes and behind his ear. As Astoria had encouraged, he did tie his hair back for the day. His only line of defense against people, against their eyes, like the deep green ones staring back at him, were his bangs, which he had just brushed away from his face. Why? Because he kind of wanted Potter to look at him.
“Yes, well,” he began wearily, “hair does that.”
Potter shrugged. “Grew rather fast, is all. Taking your dog out?”
Draco threw an exasperated look at Thuban, who, after all the hoopla over finally going to a public park, seemed completely content merely laying by Draco’s feet and watching the other occupants having a good time.
“He’s supposed to be socializing, but, it is what it is. Before your arrival, I was attempting to convince him that he may, in actuality, be related to a goose considering his obnoxious vocal cords, but I think he’s a little disheartened by the lack of a beak. And feathers.”
“And wings?” Potter offered, looking quite serious.
“Yes, he’s missing his wings.”
“I think he’s gorgeous, either way. He doesn’t need wings to be a great dog.”
“But he’s not a dog, he’s a goose.”
Potter smiled at him lopsidedly. “Well. Wings are overrated, anyway. Looks like he’ll have to be a goose who takes his dumps on the ground, like any polite animal would do, instead of in the air.”
Draco laughed faintly, but he wanted to cry.
“What’s his name?” Potter asked, sticking his hands in his pockets. It occurred to Draco that they were just standing, talking, and that there were vacant benches nearby. But he wasn’t sure he had the courage to ask Potter to sit down with him.
“Thuban,” Draco said belatedly.
“That’s an interesting name,” Potter commented, but just like their first reunion, he didn’t seem to be judging, merely curious. Genuine.
“It’s a star in the Draco constellation,” Draco admitted awkwardly.
Potter’s smile was brilliant. “I think that’s fantastic, that you did that. If only my name weren’t Harry.” He sighed dramatically.
Draco smirked. “I’m sure we can come up with a more creative one, should push come to shove. Nincompoop, perhaps?”
Potter nodded sagely. “Should that day come, I’ll definitely owl you, Malfoy.”
“See that you do,” Draco sniffed. “Can’t have you naming another person James, after all.” Potter glanced at him, and, realing how that might have sounded, he quickly added, “I mean. What if you have another son? Some random name wouldn’t be nearly as special as your father’s, after all, and you can’t name him Lily, now can you? Well, I suppose you could. He’d definitely have a unique name, then. Unless, you would change the form? Lilian? Lilium?”
Potter shook his head, but he was smiling. “Why are we discussing baby names, again?”
Draco’s heart pounded. “You were complaining about your name, in your usual woebegone manner.”
“Usual?” Potter asked, mock-affronted.
“Even though Harry is a perfectly fine name, Potter.”
Harry smiled at him in that lopsided manner again. “I’m glad you think so.”
Fuck. Why was he so charming?
“So why are you here, anyway?” Draco asked, quick to change the subject. He was married, for Christ’s sake.
Potter pointed in some general direction. “James. He’s playing with a few of his friends from preschool. Many of which, actually, are named Harry.”
Draco put a pensive expression on his face. “How peculiar.”
“No offense, but I wouldn’t name any of my children Harry.”
Potter snorted. “Neither would I.”
“Well, there’s one thing we agree on. But, just to be clear; if you had a daughter, would you name her Lily? Or would it just depend on which child comes next, male or female?”
Potter looked amused. “Why does it concern you so much?”
“Maybe I’ll place a few bets with my friends.”
“You have friends?” Potter asked, grinning.
“Eat shit, Potter.”
“Such colorful language.”
“Answer the damn question.”
Potter laughed again. “Well, since you’re so curious, I suppose I would want to name my daughter Lily, if we had one. But, of course, it depends on what Ginny thinks, as it would be her child, too. And then there’s the fact that we haven’t talked about having more kids, so it’s not really worth thinking about just yet.”
“But you want more?”
“I don’t know. I’ve always imagined myself with a large family, but I don’t think we have time for it at the moment. Ginny’s always working-”
“What does she do?” Draco probed. “Pardon me for interrupting.”
Potter waved it off. “She’s Seeker for the Holyhead Harpies. She’s always off playing some game across England, which is fine and all, and I’ll support her no matter what, but James is only three, you know?”
“You feel she’s not being as present as she should be?” Draco asked, and he didn’t have to try very hard at all to have the question coming out the way Potter’s did. Non-judgemental, and genuine.
Potter glanced at him, and for a second he though Potter would brush him off, but then the Gryffindor turned thoughtful. “I feel like she’s missing out,” he corrected. “My break from the Aurors will end soon, so I won’t be able to stay home with James all day. We’ll have to call in a nanny for him then, and already I miss him. I’m know her career is important to her, and we already discussed that it wouldn’t fall on her to become a stay-at-home mom or anything—just like I don’t fancy being a stay-at-home dad just yet—but I don’t think it would be as bad as she thinks it would be. I don’t want her to stop following her dreams,” Potter assured, “but I wish she would take a break to just be with him. I don’t want her to come home one day and find a stranger in her home.”
“Fuck,” Draco said quietly, “I’m sorry, that was a terribly invasive question.”
Potter shrugged, not denying it, but not seeming too bothered. “You’ve been honest with me. I’m just returning the favor.”
“Well, you don’t have to,” Draco mumbled, uncomfortable. “Next time I ignorantly step on a landmine like that, kindly tell me to fuck off, yeah?”
Potter laughed. “It’s really not any information I mind sharing. Landmine?”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Muggles and their euphemisms. Oh, look, here comes James.”
And come he did. As soon as he was within range, the child tackled a startled Thuban, who barely staggered up before James was clambering on his back as one would a horse.
“Go, horsey, go!” James cheered, giggling as he slapped Thuban’s side in an attempt to persuade the dog to run.
Draco just smiled, but he noticed Thuban begin to shake.
“Thuban,” Draco murmured, crouching down before the petrified animal. “Thuban, he’s only playing,” Draco continued, using soothing, musical tones he hadn’t even known he could make anymore. But, almost entirely, the rasp from his voice was gone, replaced by sounds not unlike birdsong as Draco cooed to his dog. “Can you look at me, love?”
Thuban did, quickly, look at Draco. His ears drooped, his tail tucked, and he began to tremble violently.
“Oh, boy,” Draco sighed.
“Malfoy?” Potter asked gently.
Draco waved him off, then turned to James, who was watching him attentively. Good boy. “James, I’m going to need you to hop off, alright? Thuban’s a little spooked.” He held out a hand for the boy who, rather maturely, nodded his head.
James took Draco’s hand, and the blond helped the boy slide off.
“What’s spooked Thoob’n?” James asked sweetly. “I’ll p-otect him,” he assured.
Draco smiled at him. “Sweet boy,” he complimented, and James smiled. “He’s just a big baby, really,” he said, then turned to his trembling, crying dog. “Do you need to be comforted?” he asked the dog.
Thuban shook harder, looking at Draco with droopy, sad, puppy eyes.
“Merlin, just look at the theatrics,” Draco teased, but leaned forward and cradled Thuban more gently than anything he had, ever, in his life. He hoisted the dog up, despite the strain on his arms, and laughed when Thuban tucked his wet, sniveling nose into the crook of Draco’s neck.
I need to protect him, Draco felt, more than he thought, and then, as if by mere willpower alone, Thuban felt lighter.
James, as if jealous, made grabby-hands at Potter, who snorted but scooped him up, anyway.
“Well, look at you,” Potter ribbed. “Practically a parent already.”