Harry eyed the seating chart and tried not to feel disappointed that Malfoy was not at his table. Curiosity didn't make for good dinner conversation, and it was nothing but curiosity that had him tracking Malfoy's pale hair among the sea of Ministry bigwigs, society darlings, and people who nailed tapestries of their family tree to the wall. These big events always left Harry uncomfortable and bored, and it was for that reason alone that he had hoped to be seated with Malfoy. Of course he would want a little mystery among the tedium.
And Malfoy was indeed a mystery, Harry thought as he allowed himself a second flute of champagne. He usually limited himself to one drink before dinner, but tonight's cocktail hour felt endless. It didn't help matters that, for once, Hermione wasn't with him. Oliver had finally convinced her to take a short vacation with him, and they had booked a Portkey as soon as his Quidditch schedule had been announced. Harry had been happy for his friends until he realised what he was left to face alone. If the damn ball weren't for orphans, he would be home drinking beer with his bare feet up on the coffee table.
Harry startled to realise that he had not only lost sight of Malfoy, he had let Malfoy sneak up behind him. He ignored the additional realisation that he could recognise Malfoy's voice from one word after seven years apart.
He turned and saw Malfoy up close for the first time that evening. The years abroad had been kind to him. He was still pale, despite moving to France, but his skin looked warmer and softer. There was a glow to his cheeks and a twinkle to his eyes that had not been present when they had last met in the months after the war.
"Malfoy." Harry nodded his head and raised his glass. "What brings you back to England?" He was proud of how casual he sounded. Best not to betray how eager he was for the reply.
Malfoy shrugged and gave him a small, slanted smile. "Paris was never forever. It was good to get away, but this is home."
Harry could understand why Malfoy had left. The year after the war, people were angry and some were thirsty for blood. Narcissa's hearing had been largely ignored, but there had been an uproar when Lucius received ten years instead of life in Azkaban and Draco walked free. There had been plenty of newspaper articles about the injustice of it all, and Harry had to intervene on Draco’s behalf during a nasty scene in Diagon Alley that he suspected was not an isolated incident.
But Draco had handled the public scorn admirably, and admire Harry did. After months of abuse, Draco had given a public statement expressing his remorse for his actions and his understanding that people resented seeing him walk free. He volunteered for a five year exile, one of the punishments the Ministry had handed out to low-level supporters who were not seen as actively dangerous. Some complained that Paris was too cushy for an exile, but others were appeased. Almost everyone seemed to forget Draco existed as soon as he ceased to walk among them. But not Harry, who was still reminded of his classmate by everything from a Snitch to a package of Ice Mice.
The exile had been for five years, but for seven years Draco had not been seen on British soil. Until tonight.
"Welcome back." Harry would have said it to most anyone from their year at Hogwarts, but Malfoy looked so pleased with the simple words. The appreciation encouraged Harry to continue. "What will you do when you return?"
Malfoy’s eyes lit up. "That is why I wanted to speak to you." He stepped closer. "I wanted to speak to you about Granger's work."
Harry felt his brow drop. Why could Malfoy be interested in Hermione's work with house-elf and werewolf legislation? It couldn't be out of support, so it couldn't be good. "What of it?"
Malfoy's eyes widened and his hands came up in a gesture of submission. "I mean no harm. I don't exactly agree with her about house-elves, but I’ve come to see she has the right of it with werewolves. What I don't agree with is her approach. She isn't going to get things past the old establishment by harping on about how they should free their house-elves and how their children should play with werewolves."
Harry tried to keep his anger in check, but images of Dobby and Lupin came rushing to mind, along with images of a jeering young boy with pale hair and pointy features.
"Now, now," Malfoy went on, "Don't get all explosive. I want Granger's legislation to pass, no matter how terrible she is with names and acronyms. I just want it to happen without the establishment getting up in arms and starting the usual hoopla about Muggle-borns destroying our ways. That kind of rhetoric didn't work out so well last time." His lips formed a wry smile, but there was a tightness around his eyes that reminded Harry that Malfoy had suffered as much as anyone in the war.
"You want to help Hermione." Harry didn’t manage to sound very convinced, but he was surprised to realise that he wanted to be. Deep in his stomach was a hope that Malfoy really had grown, that he was the man who had protected Harry and his friends during the war and not the snotty boy who had seemed to delight in the misfortunes of others.
Draco nodded. "I do. And I want you to get her to let me help. I want her to pass her legislation without polarizing politics around blood status. It's in my interest for people to move on."
Before Harry could reply, dinner was announced, and they were shepherded into a large ballroom lit with dozens of crystal chandeliers. It was only Harry’s Auror training that had him noting the gold-trimmed vaulted ceiling and the floor to ceiling red drapes that could easily hide an assailant. But there were Aurors who were there to provide security. Harry was there to provide good company and loosen the purse-strings of wealthy benefactors.
He found the red-draped table he had been assigned and looked for his own name on the ornately inscribed cards set behind each golden plate. He was sat between one of the more tolerable Ministry bureaucrats and a woman who spoke almost exclusively about her cats, but he ignored almost everything either said. He listened just enough to know when to nod or make a sound of disapproval and gave the rest of his mind over to watching Malfoy at the next table.
Malfoy was sat between two elderly women who seemed completely charmed by him. They were all blushes and giggles, and Harry wished he were closer to hear what Malfoy was saying. He hardly noticed the waiters topping up his wine again and again as he watched.
* * *
Malfoy and Harry were dancing. Harry couldn't remember exactly how that came to pass, but he was thoroughly enjoying the feeling of Malfoy’s strong arm around his waist and the long fingers of his other hand tangled with Harry's. Malfoy was light on his feet and seemed to lead Harry effortlessly around the room in time with the strings playing from somewhere.
When their eyes met, Malfoy's cheeks would turn pink and his smile made Harry's heart melt. Was he mad? Was he fancying Malfoy? The flutter in his chest was answer enough. And would it be so bad? Malfoy said he planned to come back to England, and Harry hadn't found anyone better in the past seven years. Why not see where this led?
So when Malfoy suggested stepping out for fresh air, Harry agreed. They pressed though groups of other people laughing and bragging in their finest robes until they reached a set of French doors that opened to the gardens. Harry didn’t know if they were really outside or not, having Flooed to the party. He didn’t even know where in the country he was. He paused to marvel at the ways of the wizarding world, and Malfoy stopped to look back at him. There was a hint of question and, perhaps, nervousness in Malfoy’s features. Harry tried for a smile that was reassuring, but feared it might have just looked goofy. It didn’t matter because Malfoy smiled back and squeezed his hand lightly. Then he led Harry into the cool spring air.
As they strolled the tidy formal garden, Harry tried to focus on Malfoy’s words. He was saying something about a charitable garden party he and a friend helped organise each year, but Harry could only hear the smooth tone of his voice and the way he pronounced the Latin names of flowers with a French accent. Harry wondered if Malfoy would help him with his own garden at home. Neville had helped some, but he didn’t understand that Harry was more interested in how the flowers looked and smelled than in what they could do. In fact, Harry would rather they not do anything, like make horrible noises when he was trying to sleep or grab at him when he walked by.
He mentioned it to Malfoy and was rewarded with more delicately articulated Latin names as Malfoy suggested plants that would grow well in the West Country. Harry’s fuzzy mind filled with images of Malfoy in his yard with bulbs and seedlings. Malfoy wouldn’t be in his nice robes for gardening. Would be wear casual robes or had he discovered Muggle fashion in Paris? Muggle styles were certainly more popular in London these days, at least among their generation.
Harry pulled his mind back to the present where he and Malfoy were still walking under a starry sky with the cool air heavy with the smells of the blossoms around them. In fact, there were only blossoms around them. They seemed to have wandered away from the ball and its crowds and were now in a small clearing surrounded by lilacs. It was too early in the year for lilacs, and Harry smiled at yet another reminder of the magical world. He couldn't see the distinct pale purple of the blooms in the low light, but the sweet scent was wrapped around him like a mist. There they were. Alone together. In the moonlight. Malfoy’s hair and eyes shining in the darkness.
Harry leant forward and kissed him.
Malfoy paused for only an instant before he pressed back eagerly. Soon they were grabbing at each other, pulling each other closer and closer as their mouths met again and again. The smell of lilacs was gone, replaced by the overwhelming awareness of Malfoy. Harry could taste Malfoy's breath, the very air within him, and it left him craving more. He wanted to be within him. Or have Malfoy within him. Or anything that joined them together completely. When Malfoy gasped out an invitation to his hotel room, Harry gratefully accepted.
* * *
Harry woke to the sound of a body sliding against crisp sheets and the lift in the mattress as someone got up. He blearily opened an eye and found Draco watching him.
"Good morning, sleepyhead." Draco dropped a kiss onto Harry's brow. "Room service coffee is dreadful here. I'll pop out and get us something real. Feel free to sleep."
Harry watched in appreciation as Draco slowly dressed himself, cruelly hiding his lean muscle and porcelain skin with more and more fabric. As soon as Draco shut the hotel room door behind him, Harry had to decide whether to moan in longing or dance for joy because that fabulous creature was actually coming back.
He got up and stretched before stumbling to the bathroom to relieve himself and brush his teeth. He made use of Draco's toothbrush, figuring they had shared enough the night before for the toothbrush to seem like nothing. It was then that the owl tapped at the window.
He expected to receive the Prophet as he paid the bird, but the paper in his hand was all in French. Poor bird must have flown across the Channel to deliver Draco’s paper. Harry shook his head. Crazy magical birds. He carried the paper back to the large bed to distract him from waiting for Draco to return.
Harry couldn’t make out more than a word or two, but there were lots of photographs moving on each page. There was a large one on the cover of the French Minister shouting at some other politician Harry didn’t recognise. The photograph on page 3 made him laugh as he watched the Crup in a young girl’s arms repeatedly lick her ear despite her silent protests. On page 7, Harry watched the French national Quidditch team race across the sky.
It was the photograph dominating page 15 that made his breath draw short. It was of a group of wizards and witches gathered in a garden bursting with blooms. Front and centre stood Draco with his arm around a pretty, young woman. In the woman’s arms was a small boy with hair as pale as Draco’s. Despite the baby-fat softening the child's features, the resemblance to Draco was striking.
As Harry watched, the woman lifted the child, kissed his cheek, and passed him to Draco. Draco took the child and kissed him as well before turning a beaming smile on the woman. On his wife. Because surely that was who the woman was. Draco’s wife. The mother of his child.
Harry’s stomach clenched, and his skin felt tight and dirty. He looked again at the sweet young woman who must have no idea what her husband had been up to the night before. Where had she been while Draco—no, Malfoy—had been out drinking and dancing? Was she home minding their child like a dutiful wife, never questioning her husband's intentions?
Harry all but leapt from the bed that no longer felt luxurious. He threw on his clothes and Apparated away before he could see the lying cheat again.
* * *
Draco popped into existence on the walkway to the Château. The morning air was crisp and clear, although he still found it hard to breathe. The weight on his chest still bore down on him no matter how many times he scolded himself. What was had he been thinking? Did he really expect Harry Potter to wait in his bed for them to share breakfast and a cuddle? Potter might have been friendly and flirtatious while trying to get into Draco’s bed, but there was no reason for him to bother the morning after.
Draco took a deep breath to compose himself. He had made a mistake—hardly the first in his life—and he would move on as he had before. He wouldn’t worry Scorpius by being sullen. With his head held high and a stiff smile on his face, he walked up the path to the large house his great-grandfather had built in the countryside outside Paris. The oak door swung open as he approached, and he stepped into warm air scented with baked sugar. His stiff smile melted into something real. Astoria must have been baking again. She knew he didn’t approve of encouraging Scorpius’ sweet tooth, but she clearly didn’t care. At the moment, he didn’t either. He just wanted to be home with the people who cared about him, who saw him as more than his past mistakes.
"Papa!" A little figure rushed into the hallway from the kitchen door and stumbled toward him. Draco fought back a laugh at his son’s waddle of a run. He looked at the smile on Scorpius’ face, and the weight in his chest lifted completely. He could endure anything if he could come home to that smile.
He scooped up his son and kissed him on the nose. "Hello, son. Have you been good to Auntie Astoria?"
Even though his ex-wife had given birth to Scorpius, Astoria had always viewed herself as more surrogate than mother. She had insisted on being called Auntie so that Scorpius wouldn’t be confused or hurt that his mother had moved away to marry a man who wasn’t his father. "I’d rather be the best aunt than the worst mother," she had told him. And like most things, she got her way.
"Yes, Papa. Biscuits!" A smudge of red jam on his fat cheek gave Draco a hint about the filling.
Or maybe the jam was from the Victoria Sponge Cake he saw on the table as he entered the kitchen. At the other end of the kitchen was the friend who had helped him rebuild himself after the war and had given him the best thing in his life: his son. Astoria’s hair was swept up in a messy bun, and there was a bit of flour above her left brow. She looked and smelled like the comforts of home, and he couldn’t wait to hug her.
"Come back to England with me," he pleaded into her hair. "They are so dreadful. Don’t make me go back alone."
She laughed and swatted his shoulder. "Not in a million years." She pulled back and then halted as she studied his face. She could read him almost as well as his mother, and she would see the disappointment and humiliation in his features. He didn’t waste any effort trying to hide them. "What happened?"
Draco shrugged and took a lemon biscuit from one of the cooling racks on the counter. "I saw an old ... acquaintance. It seemed like he was pleased to see me, very pleased"—he gave her a look to convey what could not be said in front of Scorpius—"but come morning…" He felt an echo of the pain in his chest when he had returned to his empty hotel room. No note. No sign that Potter had been there at all. All the hints that maybe Potter had actually cared were clearly either imagined or vanished when Potter woke up to remember who Draco was and what he had done. Seven years, and clearly nothing had really changed.
Astoria lifted his chin with her hand. "Give people time, Draco. They haven’t seen you in years. They don’t know who you are now." Her soft eyes sharpened. "I suspect few of them really knew you then."
He smiled at her to show he was all right. And he was. Disappointed, yes, but all right.
Astoria passed him another biscuit. She knew how he loved lemon biscuits. "Well, if it really doesn’t work out in England, you can always move to Italy with Luca and me." She pinched Scorpius’ cheek lightly. "I’d get to see more of my favourite nephew."
Scorpius giggled and pulled away, rubbing his jammy cheek against Draco’s robes. Draco held him tighter. He almost felt himself again as Astoria held up the morning’s paper and showed the article about their upcoming charity garden party. They had run the event together for the past six years, and it was one of his greatest sources of pride. He would continue to organize it, even after he moved back to Britain, because it was so successful at raising funds for the Parisian magical hospital.
At least the French like me, he mused, as he read the flattering article under the photograph of Astoria, Scorpius, and him from the previous year’s event.
* * *
"You’ll never guess who wrote to me."
Harry looked up from the menu as Hermione slid into the booth across from him. He feared he might have a good guess, but he pretended he didn’t. He had deliberately not spoken of Malfoy to anyone, and luckily no one had mentioned them dancing at the ball together. Or, more likely, the other attendees had been too deep into their own cups by that point in the night and simply hadn’t noticed.
Harry did his best to feign surprise. "What did he want?"
Hermione’s brow furrowed in the way it did when she had yet to solve some riddle. "That’s what I can’t understand. He claims that he wants to help me pass the Directive Upon Magical Beasts. At first I thought he was joking or that it was a trick, but some of his advice is really good. He said that we should include centaurs with werewolf and then focus the media attention on centaurs since people are less afraid of them. He pointed out that Firenze is one of the most popular teachers at Hogwarts and suggested recruiting him as a spokesperson. Do you think Malfoy really wants to help with D.U.M.B?"
Harry did his best not to remember The Orphans’ Ball. He didn’t want to remember Malfoy’s earnest eyes or his warm skin. Malfoy had seemed sincere about helping Hermione, but he had also seemed sincere about Harry. And maybe he had been. Maybe he intended to keep Harry as a bit of fun on the side. Harry pushed aside thoughts of Malfoy naked and smiling down at him through pale strands of messy hair. This was about whether Malfoy wanted to help pass legislation regarding magical beasts. "I guess he does."
It was almost fun watching Hermione struggle with a question she couldn’t answer. Harry decided to save her from herself. "All the talk of werewolf rights has been stirring up old rhetoric about the superiority of wizards. Maybe he is afraid of how far that rhetoric will go."
Hermione looked impressed. What? Like Harry didn’t have good ideas now and then? So what if he was cheating by having Malfoy’s own words.
* * *
Harry should have lied. He should have said that Draco was up to no good. He should have convinced Hermione never to contact Draco again. Anything was better than having his best friend talk about Draco endlessly.
And it had to be Draco. Hermione wouldn’t let Harry call him "Malfoy" any more; she would deliberately pretend Harry meant Lucius. Because apparently calling Draco by his first name helped Hermione remember how much he had changed, and she wanted everyone to like her new friend as much as she did. The worst part was: she was succeeding. Seamus had commented that Draco was funny. Ron had mentioned that it was nice to have proper competition for chess. And bloody Luna was always going on about darling Scorpius and how Harry should bring Teddy and join them for a picnic or a trip to the zoo. As the months passed, it was getting harder and harder for Harry to avoid Draco Malfoy.
But avoid him he did. Because every time Harry saw Draco across a room, his cock would stir and his lips would twitch into a little smile without permission. Draco just looked so good with his eyes sparking and his nimble hands gesturing as he spoke. Harry often found himself enchanted by the mere sight of him. And then he would remember Malfoy’s wife and his stomach would rebel. So far, Harry hadn’t seen the wife at all, and Hermione hadn’t mentioned her. Perhaps Draco kept her at home minding their son while he strode through the Ministry or showed up at pub nights that had once been Harry’s way to relax.
Now, as Harry sat with his friends at the Leaky, Harry was on high alert, checking the door whenever it opened in case he needed to make a quick escape.
Harry turned back to the table to see Hermione glaring at him. Neville, Ginny, and Oliver looked as confused as Harry felt, so there was no use asking them for an explanation. But he really didn’t fancy asking the friend whose usually-kind brown eyes were burning into him.
"Outside, Harry. We are going to talk." And with that, Hermione stormed to the door, flung it open, and turned back to Harry with a look that left him no choice.
Once they were shivering in the dark a little ways from the door, Hermione let loose on him. She had apparently noticed all his door watching and how he always left when Draco arrived. "You were the one who said I could trust him to help with D.U.M.B. Why are you being so mean to him?" Harry tried to object, but Hermione insisted that fleeing at the sight of someone as if they carried the plague did, in fact, constitute being mean.
Harry wasn’t sure how he had become the villain in this tale, but he was getting more than a little annoyed. He hadn’t lied to anyone. He hadn’t cheated on his wife. He was trying to do the right thing by staying away from the very attractive married man he still wanted to throw himself at whenever he had more than a couple of drinks. Harry was trying to do the right thing, but Draco—with his broad shoulders and soul-melting smile—was trying to lead him astray. Harry should be enjoying the warm pub with his friends while Draco got told off in the cold darkness. And why was it so bloody cold in August? It felt like the whole world was against him.
"You want to know why I avoid Draco?" Harry spat. He felt only a tiny twinge of guilt at shouting in Hermione’s face. "Why don’t you ask his wife?"
And with that, Harry Apparated away.
* * *
Draco smiled as he read over the article that would be printed in the next day’s Daily Prophet. It had taken some work getting Firenze to agree to talk about his treatment by wizards over the years, but the resulting interview was moving and should inspire sympathy for centaurs. He owed Pansy for making sure the interview was assigned to a young reporter who had been Firenze’s student for five years before graduating. He had known Pansy’s nose for gossip would make her a great reporter one day, and he was glad to have an ally with the major paper. The Quibbler was already writing articles in support of D.U.M.B. on a daily basis, but their readership wasn’t the demographic Draco and Hermione needed to convert.
He shifted in his armchair and took another sip of wine before rereading the section on Umbridge with relish. That had been Hermione’s idea, and an especially good one. Dolores Umbridge had stepped on a lot of toes to gain power before and during the war, and the owners of those toes had been more than happy to get their revenge during the trials. She had been blamed for any Ministry policy or procedure that the War Investigation Commission had deemed unjust, and she had become a favourite scapegoat for people on both sides of the war. Associating Umbridge with discrimination against magical beasts was a brilliant way to make most people uncomfortable and even angry. Hermione’s idea to have Firenze detail the ways that Umbridge had belittled and insulted him would surely work to their advantage.
And speaking of Hermione. Draco set down the article and leaned forward in his armchair. Yes, there was bushy hair in his fireplace calling for him. He moved to the chair by the fire and saw Hermione’s agitated face in flames. He felt a flash of worry. She had said she was going to the Leaky to see some friends before leaving on her trip to Romania in the morning. Why was she fire-calling him?
"Draco! Do you have a minute?"
He nodded, and she told him it was about Harry. Draco tried not to panic. Was Harry hurt? Or was this about how Harry clearly wanted nothing to do with him? Whenever they were in the same place, Harry would leer at him before suddenly looking disgusted and leaving. Apparently, he still found Draco physically attractive but otherwise repulsive. It was why Draco had declined Hermione’s invitation to the Leaky that night. He didn’t need Harry to remind him that he would never make up for his childhood.
"Draco, are you married?"
"What?" Draco was becoming more and more confused with each passing moment. Had Hermione had a few too many at the Leaky? What did this have to do with Harry?
Hermione didn’t move, silently informing him to answer her question.
"No. I was, but Astoria filed for divorce as soon as Scorpius was born. Making sure that he would be considered a legitimate heir was the only reason we were married in the first place." He didn't like to discuss the contract by which he paid the Greengrass family debts in return for a Malfoy heir. It all sounded so mercenary and didn't reflect the love and respect he and Astoria had for each other and for Scorpius.
Hermione nodded. "So then why does Harry think that your wife can tell me why he doesn’t like you?"
"Harry thinks...they’ve never even met...how would he…" Yes, they had been at Hogwarts together, but Astoria spoke about Harry as someone she only knew by reputation. Why would Harry bring her up at all, let alone to Hermione?
"No idea," Hermione interrupted. "But I think you should find out. I come back from my trip just in time for my birthday, and I know Oliver is throwing a surprise party for me." She held up her hand to forestall Draco’s attempt to object. "I know how to feign surprise, Draco. I love Oliver, but he thinks I won’t find things in his sock drawer when I do the laundry."
Draco shook his head at the idea of the cleverest witch of their age with anyone less than brilliant, but he supposed Hermione was never going to find anyone to match her intellect. And it must be rather flattering to be the one person who could distract Oliver Wood from Quidditch. And Oliver was rather fit, especially in those tight leather—
"What I want you to focus on is that I want all of my friends to be there. You and Harry. So if you want to give me a birthday present, find out what Harry’s problem is and fix it."
Draco nodded dully. He didn’t have much hope of success, but he couldn’t argue that she didn’t have the right to demand it of him. She had forgiven him for Hogwarts and the war when he had done nothing but torment her for years. He owed her an awkward conversation with Harry, no matter how much pride he had to swallow.
* * *
Draco had assumed that his difficulties with making peace with Harry would begin once they spoke. What he hadn’t anticipated was that he would be unable to speak to him at all. When he had sought Harry out in the Auror office, Harry had scooped up a memo, waved it about with some comment about an emergency, and then fled. Three times.
And Harry wasn’t at Luna’s garden party, and he wasn’t at Seamus and Dean’s Football versus Quidditch party. It was as if he had ceased to exist, and Draco was running out of time before Hermione’s return and birthday.
A crash from the next room disrupted his thoughts and he held his breath until he heard the muffled shout from Scorpius that he was okay. Draco would repair the damage to the room later. Thunder-showers had kept Scorpius inside all day, and the boy was growing stir-crazy. If he didn’t get outside soon, he would be breaking bones instead of vases, and Draco couldn’t risk that. He glanced at the grey, wet world outside and hoped that he would be able to take his son out in the morning. Luna had told him about a wizarding playground near her house that was almost always empty. He knew that Scorpius needed to make more friends his age, but Draco still worried that Scorpius would meet a child raised to hate the Malfoy name who would take a family’s worth of anger out on Draco’s unsuspecting son. An empty playground would be better than one filled with enemies.
* * *
The sun was trying valiantly to fight through the clouds, but it was still grey and misty. Harry didn’t care. So long as there wasn’t lightning coming down from the sky, he was taking Teddy to the park. The night before had been maddening with Teddy climbing the furniture and refusing to go to bed. The boy needed a long run around and some fresh air to get him back to his usual sweet self. Harry hoped Andromeda was enjoying her weekend off because she had looked exhausted when she’d dropped Teddy off Friday night. And that was with Teddy at school much of the day.
Bill and Fleur had taken their kids to France for the weekend, so Harry had decided to take Teddy to the spooky playground in Wiltshire. Teddy called it the spooky playground because it was almost always foggy and empty, and the old equipment creaked and moaned. Teddy had abandoned the squeaky swinging broomsticks for a rope ladder, but Harry could still hear the eerie squeaking. He glanced back towards the swings, but he couldn’t see them through the fog. He never knew if the fog was a natural weather pattern or a Charm to discourage Muggles from nearing the magical play area. Either way, it certainly didn’t help a godfather keep an eye on his rambunctious charge.
"Look at me!" Teddy called, and Harry focused on the bright blue hair halfway up a pine tree where the rope ladder ended. Teddy grabbed a rope swing and flew off into the fog and out of sight. Harry hung his head in exasperation. There was simply no keeping an eye on Teddy in this place, but so long as Teddy didn’t break his neck, Harry could fix any injury with a flick of his wand. Even still, he followed a shuffling sound in the hopes of rediscovering his godson.
Harry pushed into the bushes and could make out a shape in front of him. He wordlessly cast a spell to silence his approach and sneaked towards Teddy. The form grew closer and closer. Teddy must be crouched because he wasn’t as tall as usual. And he’d changed his hair to match the white of the mist. A decent disguise, but not enough to hide from Harry. Just one more step and he could … pounce!
Harry’s delight in scaring Teddy quickly faded as he registered the small size of the child in his hands. He cast Lumos and nearly screamed himself at the sight of a small boy who was clearly not Teddy.
But he was still familiar. The boy had stopped screaming, looking up at Harry with wide eyes and a trembling lower lip.
"Are you the Malfoy boy?" Harry asked.
The boy—what was his name? Scorpius!—began to sob as he nodded. "I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Please don’t hurt me."
Harry let go. "No! No. I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was you. I thought it was—" Harry was spared explaining by Teddy’s arrival.
"Harry? What’s going on? Who’s that?"
Scorpius looked slightly less terrified at the sight of another child.
Harry stood up and offered his hand to the boy, who hesitantly allowed Harry to help him to his feet. "This is Draco Malfoy’s son," he told Teddy. He turned to Scorpius and tried to sound as gentle as possible. "Are you here with your dad? Your mum?" He hated the thought of having to speak to the woman he had unintentionally wronged, but the boy was too young not to be escorted back to his family. Harry’s concern for the potential awkwardness of meeting Draco or his wife almost distracted him from the confused look on the boy’s face.
"I don’t have a mum. I’m here with my father."
Didn’t have a … had she died? The boy didn’t look upset. Had it been some time? Was the newspaper article Harry had seen an obituary? Before he could begin to understand his feelings, Teddy cut in.
"I don’t have a mum either. I mean, I did, but she died."
Harry didn’t know whether to be proud or heartbroken that Teddy knew to offer his own loss to comfort other people. He was such a kind child. Perhaps he’d Sort Hufflepuff like his mother.
Scorpius shook his head. "No. I mean I never had one."
Teddy frowned. "Well, whose tummy did you grow in?"
A shout from the side caused them all to freeze. It came again, and Harry realised it was Draco calling for his son. The man must be worried sick. The boy could not be more than three or four and had vanished completely from the playground. Harry yelled back. "He’s here, Draco. He’s safe." He increased the power of his Lumos and raised it overhead.
Moments later, Draco entered the glow. "Scorpius!" He ran forward and dropped to his knees to embrace his son. Then he turned cautiously to look up at Harry. "Thank you for finding him." Draco seemed nervous, as if expecting Harry to shout or flee. Harry did have a recent history of fleeing, so that was fair. Draco turned back to his son. "Are you all right?"
Scorpius looked thoughtful. "Whose tummy did I grow in?"
Harry bit back a laugh at Draco’s surprised face. Draco shot him a look that was half question, half accusation.
"Teddy asked him," Harry explained. Yes, he threw an eight-year-old under the bus to save his own neck. "Scorpius said he didn’t have a mother."
Draco nodded slowly. "Okay. This wasn’t quite the setting I’d imagined …" He turned back to his son and gently stroked the fine hair back from the boy's forehead. "You grew in Aunt Astoria’s tummy." He said gently. "She knew I wanted you more than anything but couldn’t make a baby by myself." His voice was so earnest and he looked terrified as he waited for Scorpius’ reply. Harry could feel his own heart clenching as he watched.
Scorpius looked past Draco to Teddy and raised his chin in a way that was so much like his father as a boy. "Told you I didn’t have a mother." Then he leapt forward and swatted Teddy’s arm. "Your it!" He tore off into the mist with Teddy racing behind him. Draco and Harry were left standing in the growing silence.
Draco shook his head and released a small, slightly hysterical, chuckle. "When I think of all the hours of sleep I've lost worrying about his reaction to that conversation..."
"So you’re not married?" The timing might not be great, but Harry had to know. He was so confused, and there was a dangerous hope bubbling up in his chest. The hope brought with it the possibility that he would soon be very angry with himself for jumping to conclusions without the full story.
Draco shook his head. "I was for a year, but Astoria filed for divorce as soon as Scorpius was born." His eyes grew shrewd. "Hermione wanted me to talk to you about that, but you have been rather difficult to pin down."
Harry squirmed. Draco wasn’t married. He hadn’t cheated. Harry had just assumed the worst of him and left him to come back to an empty hotel room, and then avoided him like the plague. In short, Harry had acted like a complete arsehole. Oh shit. "I am so sorry, Draco."
Draco raised his eyebrows but remained silent. At least he seemed willing to hear Harry out.
"That night … the morning after. The French paper came, and it had a picture of you and Scorpius and your wife, and I just assumed—"
"That I was having an affair. Having not told you I was married." Draco’s cold, flat tone chilled Harry’s bones. Had he messed this up too much to fix?
"I’m so sorry, Draco. I should have asked. I should have…" Harry couldn’t find the words to make it right, and Draco just looked sad. He should be furious with Harry, but he looked like he felt he deserved such treatment. "Be angry," Harry pleaded. "I was horrible. I assumed the worst of you. Please, scream or Hex me or something."
The edge of Draco’s lip twitched.
"C’mon. You know you want to use the Bat-Bogey Hex on me."
The smile spread farther across Draco’s lips. "How juvenile, Potter." He gave into a smile. "Some of us have grown up over the years."
Harry smiled back and, in his relief, failed to block the Full Body-Bind Curse which sent him crashing to the ground. Draco rolled him over and smiled maliciously down at him. "Luckily for you, I’ve outgrown breaking noses." He looked over to where the boys had run off, and when he looked back at Harry, his eyes were serious. "I’m trying to be a better person. I’m trying to be someone Scorpius will be proud of. But my past keeps getting in the way. People keep thinking the worst of me." He flicked his wand and released Harry.
Harry sat up and clasped Draco's wrist before he could move away. "I didn’t think the worst because of your past. I thought the worst because of mine." Harry waited until Draco met his gaze, grey eyes full of confusion. "Since Ginny and I broke up, I haven’t had a single good relationship. People want gold or fame or to satisfy their curiosity. They think I’m some sort of god, so they either live in delusion or are sorely disappointed when they begin to get to know me." He begged with his eyes for Draco to understand. "You’ve never thought I was special."
Draco laughed. A crumb of encouragement.
"There had to be something wrong." Harry went on. "Don’t you see? I couldn’t believe that this handsome, charming man who sees me for who I am—full of flaws—" He smiled at Draco’s emphatic nod. "Someone like that couldn’t really want to be with me."
Emotion flowed across Draco’s face as Harry watched him process what had been said. Harry could only stay very still—but for the pounding in his chest—and look as contrite as possible as he awaited Draco's verdict. He couldn’t dare to imagine how it would feel if Draco refused to forgive him. After running from Draco at every meeting, Harry feared nothing more than Draco giving him the same treatment.
Draco took a deep breath and let it out with a weary sigh. "What do you want from me, Harry?"
There were so many answers to that question, but Harry decided to start small. "Dinner would be nice. I’m a pretty good cook."
Draco gazed at Harry, perhaps trying to read his intentions from his face. "My mother watches Scorpius during the week. Perhaps she could keep him one evening."
Harry could feel his smile explode across his face. "Any day you want. Just owl me. Do you like Italian? I’m good at French, but you’ve lived there for years so that’s too intimidating." He was talking rather fast, but his words seemed to want to keep pace with his pounding heart.
"Italian is fine. And I’m only staying for dinner." Draco’s eyes carried caution, and Harry knew he was the one to make Draco so wary. He still had work to do to regain Draco’s trust, but at least Draco would give him that chance.
Harry wanted to kiss him, but he settled for resting a hand on Draco’s shoulder and feeling the heat coming off his body. "Dinner is perfect."
* * *
Draco wanted to make Harry wait. He wanted him to squirm and suffer in payment for the months of confusion and hurt he’d put Draco through. Yes, Draco had matured, but he hadn’t changed completely. He still had his pride.
But his pride had to be sacrificed to his limited time. Hermione was due back in three days, and Draco needed to know where things stood before then. So it was that he send an owl to Harry arranging dinner for the next night.
Then he had the most daunting task of all: arranging for his mother to watch Scorpius without giving away any details. That didn’t work at all.
"You have a date!"
Draco flushed as he looked over to ensure Scorpius hadn’t heard Mother’s declaration. Luckily the boy was engrossed in building a castle with wooden blocks and showed no interest in the two adults finishing their tea. That was because the biscuits were all gone.
Draco turned back to his mother’s smug face. "All I said was that I want you to watch Scorpius tomorrow night. Maybe I want a night to myself. Maybe I want him to have alone time with his grandmother."
Mother nodded her head slightly. "Those are all plausible explanations for your request, but they are also false. You have a date."
Draco flopped back in his chair. Why did he bother? "Yes. I have a date." He sat up and raised a hand as if it could protect him. "And no, I don’t want to talk about it."
Mother pouted. Not in an exaggerated way. Nothing tasteless like pushing her lip out, just the tiniest trace of disappointment and sadness across her features that few but her own son would even notice. But Draco did notice, and it made him feel like absolute shit for disappointing her after all she had done for him.
"Fine! Harry Potter is cooking dinner for me at his house. We met up at an event in the spring but he’s an idiot, so he thought I was married until this morning. Happy?"
The twitch of her lip suggested that she was happy indeed. "I told you to post a divorce announcement in the Prophet." Of course, she was happy; she had been proven right. "And I think Harry Potter is a fine young man."
Draco rolled his eyes at his mother offering her approval. "I’m not asking you for his hand, mother. It’s dinner. I’m just trying to make things civil so we can be at events together.
His mother took a long sip of tea that Draco suspected was to hide a smile or drown a comment. He decided he was better off not knowing.
* * *
Harry had cast every cleaning charm he knew since receiving Draco’s owl. He usually kept his place quite neat—he loved his cottage and enjoyed taking care of it—but knowing that Draco would see it had suddenly shown him every smudge and fleck of dirt. It was good that he had only a day’s warning, or he would driven himself mental by fussing and worrying. As it was, he barely had enough time to buy groceries on his way home from the Ministry and still be able to shower and have things bubbling away before the doorbell rang.
Draco stood on Harry’s doorstep looking absolutely edible. He wore dark trousers and a collared shirt with a snug grey waistcoat accentuating his narrow waist and hips. The look was crisp and polished, but the open top button or two on his shirt showed his pale throat and a glimpse of collarbone. Harry pulled his eyes back up to Draco’s smug smile. Apparently Draco could tell exactly how affected Harry was by that bit of exposed skin.
The bottle of wine Draco held out to him reminded Harry they were not to spend the evening in the doorway. He invited Draco in and led him to the kitchen. Conversation was awkward at first, but once they each had a glass of wine in hand and a safe topic (Quidditch), they fell into an easy exchange of opinion and gentle barbs. Harry was sure Oliver would lead Puddlemere to the cup, but Draco was too loyal a Falcon’s fan to accept that.
Harry set the table with the plates he had checked for obvious chips or cracks and then added candles that he Charmed to hover above them. He had even dug out a small basket for the garlic bread he’d made to go with the spaghetti bolognese. It wasn’t the poshest meal he could have planned, but he knew his home-grown vegetables and herbs would provide a rich flavour to the sauce.
Despite his confidence in his cooking, Harry held his breath as Draco took the first bite, but the genuine smile on those perfect pink lips set him at ease. He barely tasted his own meal as he gave in to watching Draco eat his. It was hypnotic the way Draco carefully prepared each forkful of pasta and brought it to his mouth without a single drop of sauce falling. The way he then pulled the empty fork from between his lips with a small noise of approval went straight to Harry’s groin.
Harry wasn’t sure if buying cannolis for afters was his best or worst idea ever. Watching Draco lick at the creamy filling oozing out of the phallic pastry was better than any porn Harry could imagine. He only wished he could touch himself as he watched, but he suspected Draco would not approve of him sticking his hand in his trousers at the table. Something for them to work towards, Harry decided as he imagined having his way with Draco over that very table. Draco’s smooth pale skin would look amazing against the dark and weathered wood.
Harry blinked himself from his fantasy as he realised that Draco’s plate was empty and he was delicately wiping his fingertips on his napkin. The meal was over. Now Draco would leave. Harry wished he’d planned more courses.
"Tea?" he almost shouted as Draco thanked him for the meal and began to rise.
Draco stood frozen, his hand still holding the napkin he was setting on the table.
"Coffee? Port?" Harry was sure there was some beverage that would get Draco to stay a little longer. He didn’t care if they didn’t have sex. Well, he did care, but he cared more that Draco be in the same room as him for as long as possible.
Draco shook his head and dropped his napkin. "No, thank you." The disappointment weighed on Harry until he noticed Draco walking towards him with a hungry look in his eye. He kissed Harry hard, his mouth still sweet from the cannoli. When he pulled back, he tenderly cupped Harry’s cheek. "Thank you for dinner, Harry. I had a wonderful time." He placed his lips to Harry’s once more before pulling away and heading for the door. Harry automatically followed as if his body could not be more than a metre from Draco’s. His mind whirled as he wondered what the next step for them was but worried to press Draco for too much too soon.
With a hand on the front door knob, Draco turned to look back at Harry. "Do you have a date to Hermione’s party?"
He barely dared to hope. "No. Why?"
Draco shrugged and gave him a coy smile. "Fancy going with me?"
Harry rushed forward to press Draco against the door as he kissed him hard and deep. Draco let him in, and Harry’s tongue was enveloped in the sweet, wet heat of Draco’s mouth. Draco wanted to see him again. Draco wanted to show up at a party of their friends as couple! He would have liked to kiss Draco forever, but he needed to accept the offer. "I’d like nothing more," he whispered against Draco’s wet lips.
Draco let Harry kiss him once more before he wiggled free and opened the door. "Good. I’ll pick you up then. For now, I have to go to the Manor and extract my son without waking him—all while dodging my mother’s prying questions." He looked exasperated for a moment before an evil gleam came into his eyes. "Maybe,” he smirked at Harry. “Maybe I will tell her the Saviour just shagged me over the couch and then kicked me to the kerb without dinner."
Harry felt his face go cold. "No! Your mother is scary protective." He hoped Narcissa didn’t know how Harry had been treating her son all summer.
Draco just laughed. "Now I know how to keep you in line." He composed his face in all it’s haughty glory. "My mother will hear about this!" With a cackle and a wink, he was gone, leaving Harry hoping he was kidding.
* * *
Teddy and Scorpius scurried around the back yard trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues. Harry had to keep the storm cloud low so that the people in the village wouldn’t see it and wonder why only his cottage was getting a white Christmas, but it was worth the risk to see the two boys laughing and squealing in delight.
He heard the glass door slide open behind him before strong hands grabbed his waist and pulled him back into the warmth of the house. With a kiss on the back of Harry’s neck, Draco released him and returned to his baking.
"The children are fine," Draco chided, "I’m the one who needs a hand." The fact that he was willing to accept help was impressive. That he would actually ask for it showed just how exhausted Draco was. He peered down at a long sheath of parchment blinking more times than should be necessary with such clear penmanship and then fumbled with a jar of cinnamon sticks until Harry gently took it from him.
"Go lie down," Harry said softly.
"No! These are Scorpius’s favourite! He’s already so sad that Astoria can’t come for Christmas. I have to at least bake her biscuits!" He tried to pick up a measuring cup but sent it toppling to the floor where it shattered. He looked on the verge of tears as he stared blearily at the little shards of glass around his feet. "Why hasn’t someone invented a Portkey that pregnant witches can use?!"
Harry cast a quick spell to repair the measuring cup then pulled Draco in for a hug. Draco was too exhausted to resist, and he sagged against Harry as if he were already asleep on his feet. Harry kissed the soft hair on the top of his head.
"I will bake them.” Harry said in the firm voice he used when the children misbehaved. “Astoria sent very detailed instructions that even I can’t mess up." Harry was actually a rather good baker, but Draco always assumed that Harry couldn’t do anything that shared skills with Potions. He guided Draco over to the couch and draped a tartan blanket over him. "You take a quick nap so you don’t fall asleep at the dinner table."
Draco’s eyes shot open. "Dinner! Do you think we’ll have heard by then? Is Hermione still—"
Harry prevented Draco from sitting up with a hand on his shoulder. "The Wizengamot will take as long as they like. We may hear today. We may not. We may not hear until next week." He knelt down and stroked Draco’s hair back his brow so he could place a gentle kiss there. "You and Hermione presented a very strong case."
Even if it almost killed them both.
In the days leading up to that morning’s hearing on D.U.M.B., Draco and Hermione had fussed and fretted over every bit of expert testimony and legal precedent, at the cost of everything else. They only ate because they could do it while pouring over law books. They both fought sleep like an enemy, leaving Oliver and Harry with grumpy partners who wanted nothing to do with them if it wasn’t to help with D.U.M.B.
Luckily, Harry and Oliver were both popular public figures and could do a lot to help improve the public perception of beasts. Oliver had gotten Puddlemere to have a little girl with Lycanthropy release the Snitch to start the final game of the season. The sweet-faced child who had barely escaped Fenrir with her life melted the hearts of even the gruffest Quidditch fans in the stadium.
For his part, Harry had attended every ball and event there was so he could bend the ears of the politically connected. He usually hated anything that brought him more publicity or played on his fame, but he increasingly worried that stigma against werewolves might hurt Teddy, as the son of one. As Hogwarts grew closer and closer, Harry cared more and more what other wizarding families thought about werewolves and what they might teach Teddy’s classmates.
They had all worked very hard, and Draco and Hermione finished their efforts beautifully with their presentation to the witches and wizards that would either pass or reject D.U.M.B. Now there was nothing to do but wait, something Draco was absolutely rubbish at.
Harry continued to stroke Draco’s hair to Draco’s mumbled protests over something or other until those bleary grey eyes finally fell shut and Draco’s breathing deepened as he slept. Then Harry tiptoed back to the kitchen to finish baking a mountain of sweets that would turn Scorpius and Teddy into sugar monsters.
It was fifteen minutes before Hermione and Oliver were due over when Harry went in to wake Draco. He hated to interrupt the needed sleep—and Draco looked so stunning with his pale lashes against his flushed cheeks—but Draco would never forgive Harry if he didn’t have enough time to spell his teeth clean and his hair smooth before their guests arrived.
Draco’s eyes fluttered open as Harry called his name and squeezed his shoulder. "Wha …" And then he sat bolt upright. "Did they decide?"
The Wizengamot better decide soon, Harry decided. He didn’t want Draco on tenterhooks for days. "Not yet. It’s just that Hermione and Oliver are due in a few."
Draco’s hand flew exactly to the tuft of hair sticking up on one side. How did he always know when it was messed up and where? Maybe that was a normal talent that Harry lacked because his hair was always messed up everywhere. A mystery for another time. Harry had to get the children out of the bath and into their pyjamas before their guests arrived. They would want to see Hermione and Oliver before they went to bed—mainly so they could convince Oliver to read to them—but it meant Harry had to have them dry before the doorbell rang or face hallways lined with sodden footprints.
It was much later in the evening when Oliver finally came down from his story-reading duties to join the adults again.
Draco smirked as he handed Oliver a pint of stout. "How many stories did they get you to read?"
They never found out because, at that moment, a large owl pecked at the glass of the sitting room window. Draco and Hermione all but flew to open the latch.
Harry couldn’t make out much of what they said to and over each other, but a shriek from Hermione confirmed that it was from the Wizengamot. The two of them stood stalk still with their heads together—bushy brown hair like an invading army over straight, pale strands. Harry and Oliver shared a look of mutual hope and fear before Draco’s shout had them almost collapsing with relief.
"It’s signed! They signed it! It’s passed!" Draco and Hermione shared a very bouncy hug before they ran over to hug Harry and Oliver.
Draco pulled Harry tight, pressing his lips to Harry’s neck and cheek before kissing him hard on the mouth. "We did it," he gasped against Harry’s lips. "We did it." He grinned almost manically. "Let’s celebrate!"
Holding Draco in his arms, with two of his friends’ by his side, and Teddy and Scorpius in bed upstairs, Harry felt he had rather a lot to celebrate. He kissed Draco back, deepening the kiss to feel Draco’s tongue move against his own. He pulled back enough to see Draco’s face shining with pride and excitement. "Yes, let’s.”
* * *