“Can we get one of those? Please? Please, please, please?”
“I don’t think it’s going to fit into our house, sweetheart.”
Draco tried to hide his smile as Teddy folded his hands in front of his chest and looked at Andromeda with pleading eyes.
“Teddy,” she said, sighing, “I don’t think we’re equipped to take care of a giraffe.”
“But they just said we can adopt them!”
“What they mean by that,” Andromeda said patiently, “is that you pay the zoo some money so they can take care of the animals, but we’re not allowed to take them home with us.” She gently brushed her fingers through his turquoise hair as he looked at the ground, crestfallen.
“Hey, hey,” Draco chimed in, getting down to his knees. “I’ll buy you a plushie instead, okay?”
“It’s not the same,” Teddy pouted. He almost looked like he was about to cry. Draco was tempted to tell him he was a big boy now, it was his sixth birthday after all, and big boys didn’t cry, but Draco had always hated it when his parents had told him that. It had taken him a long time to realise there was nothing wrong with crying. But it always broke his heart a little, seeing those silent tears roll down Teddy’s face.
“We can always enchant the plushie,” Draco winked. “And we do have another surprise for you.” He chuckled when Teddy gave him a cautious glance.
“What kind of surprise?” he murmured.
“Well, your great—” Draco broke off when his mother cleared her throat. Very loudly. “Your auntie organised for us to visit… err…”
“Some very fluffy and cute animals,” his mother finished. Draco gave her a lopsided smirk. Apparently, they had both forgotten what they were called.
Teddy cocked his head to the side, his brows furrowed in deep thought. “Do you mean… sheep?”
Draco simply shook his head.
Andromeda smiled. “No, sweetheart. We’re going to play with some koalas.”
Draco watched as Teddy’s eyes became impossibly wide and his mouth formed a big ‘o’.
“Can we go now?”
Draco snorted. It was fascinating how quickly Teddy’s mood could change.
“This is Malleey, there’s Edmund, Thackory, Goonaroo—”
Teddy followed the keeper’s finger attentively as she pointed to the koalas.
“— and… Hey, where did Baxter go?” She craned her neck and narrowed her eyes as she pushed aside some of the leaves. “That’s strange.”
Everybody’s heads whipped around to Teddy.
“Is—Is Baxter a boy or a girl?"
“He’s a male koala. Why?”
“I—I think I found him.”
Draco gasped when he spotted something furry wrapped around Teddy’s leg.
“Oh! Oh, sweetheart, is it hurting you?” Andromeda asked, getting down on one knee.
“No, no,” Teddy said, stretching out his hands. “He’s very… soft.”
Andromeda didn’t seem convinced.
“That’s so weird,” the keeper said. “Baxter usually doesn’t like human contact. At all.”
“Does that mean he likes me?” Teddy asked with a huge smile on his face.
“I guess so.” Draco tried not to laugh at the keeper’s very obvious irritation. She had probably tried and failed numerous times to hold… that thing.
“Does that mean I can keep him?” Teddy squealed.
“Sweetheart, that’s not how this works,” Andromeda said. “He belongs here with the other koalas.”
“But he likes me! Look!”
“I’m sorry, kid,” the keeper said, shaking her head.
Teddy’s face fell. He looked down at the koala and tentatively petted its head. “I know you like me,” he murmured, stubbornly. “I like you, too.”
Draco raised an eyebrow. If he didn’t know any better, he’d say the koala was leaning into Teddy’s touch; it even closed its eyes.
“So weird,” the keeper said once more. “Alright, kid, I’m sorry, but Baxter wasn’t trained to be held by humans. He could seriously hurt you.”
Andromeda made room for her as she got down on her knees.
“Come on now, Baxter,” she said and placed her hands under the koalas arms. “Come on, let go.”
The koala didn’t budge.
The keeper let out a breathy laugh and tentatively tried to unwrap the paws from around Teddy’s leg. “Tell me if you feel the claws,” she told him. He nodded silently, but with a very sour expression on his face. He clearly wanted the koala to stay where it was.
And it did.
“Baxter,” the keeper sighed in exasperation. “What is going on with you?” She put both hands on one paw and tried to pry it loose. The second she somewhat succeeded, the koala opened its mouth and screamed blue murder.
“Dear Merlin,” Narcissa said, startled, and covered her ears with her hands.
“Baxter,” the keeper said, gritting her teeth, “don’t be like that.” At that, the koala only screamed louder.
“Stop it,” Teddy yelled. “You might be hurting him! He doesn’t want to let go!”
“But I can’t leave him there,” the keeper said sharply.
“He wants to be with me,” Teddy insisted.
“Teddy,” Draco said. Teddy’s eyes found his, and Draco tried to ignore the trembling of his lower lip. “You do like… him, don’t you?” Teddy nodded. “Then you’ll have to do what’s best for him.”
“And what’s best for him, is being around his friends.”
Teddy looked like he was on the verge of tears again.
“Alright, this isn’t working,” the keeper said, straightening herself. “I’m going to get some reinforcement.”
They all watched her stomp outside.
“Should she really be leaving us alone in here?” Andromeda wondered out loud.
“I’m sorry, this is all my fault,” Narcissa said, raising one hand to her forehead.
“Don’t be silly, Cissy.”
“But it is! I just… wanted to do something nice.”
“I know that.” Andromeda pulled her into her arms and patted her shoulder.
Draco sighed. Why did every single family outing end up like this? He shook his head before he dropped his gaze to Teddy, ready to comfort the crying child. “Hey, where did the koala go?”
Teddy shrugged. “He went back to his friends.”
Draco narrowed his eyes in suspicion. Teddy looked far too cheerful, considering he had just been about the cry at the prospect of the koala leaving his side.
“Honestly, I have no idea what’s gotten into him, he— Oh!” The keeper stopped dead, causing her colleague to bump right into her. “What happened?” she asked, staring at Teddy’s bare legs.
“Baxter went back to his friends,” Teddy repeated, crossing his arms behind his back. He twisted his upper body from left to right with an angelic smile on his face. That only made Draco more suspicious. But he couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary. Strange. Very strange.
“Alright then, I’ll go back to the penguins,” the second keeper said. Before he turned to go, he gave Teddy a thumbs up. “Cool hair, kid.”
“Thanks,” Teddy beamed at him. A lot of people had stared at his bright turquoise hair; some even found it more interesting than the animals.
“You want to go see the penguins?” Andromeda asked Teddy.
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “Can we go home? I’m… tired.”
Draco crossed his arms in front of his chest. Now he definitely knew something was up.
“Okay, sweetheart,” Andromeda said, stretching out her hand to Teddy.
“Thank you and… sorry for the inconvenience,” Narcissa told the keeper, who simply nodded.
Draco kept his eyes on Teddy as they left the koala territory, still convinced the child was up to something.
“Are you limping?” he asked, furrowing his brows.
“No?” Teddy squeaked. “I’m… just very tired.”
Suspicious, Draco thought. Very suspicious.
“Teddy! Dinner’s ready!”
“Mother,” Draco chuckled, “you realise he can’t hear you, right? He’s upstairs.”
“Then go and get him,” she instructed.
Draco snorted but hurried up the stairs and made his way to Teddy’s room. Of course he had a room at the Manor. The second Narcissa and Andromeda had made up, she and Teddy became frequent guests. It hadn’t taken long before Teddy had asked to sleep over. And while he had been content with sleeping in Draco’s room the first few years, Narcissa insisted he get his own as he had grown older.
“Teddy?” No response. “Teddy!” Draco knocked three times but the child didn’t answer. “What are you doing in there? You’ve barely left your room in days.”
As soon as Draco opened the door, his mouth fell open.
“TEDDY! WHAT IN MERLIN’S NAME—”
“Shhhh! You’re startling him!” Teddy shot him an accusatory glare which, in Draco’s opinion, was completely inappropriate. He was the one sitting on his bed with a fucking koala in his lap.
“Edward Remus Lupin,” Draco growled, to which Teddy gasped. He knew he was in trouble when Draco used his full name. “How—When—Did you steal that thing from the zoo?”
“It’s not a thing,” Teddy shot back. “His name is Baxter!”
“Baxter?” Draco exclaimed. “This—How—Are you insane?”
“What was I supposed to do?”
“Not smuggle him out of the zoo?”
They stared at each other while Draco prayed this was only a dream.
“Please—Please don’t tell grandma and auntie.”
Draco pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling a migraine clawing its way to his forehead.
“Promise you won’t tell.”
“Teddy, I can’t—”
“Draco, please. I need your help.”
“Did it hurt you?” Draco asked, rushing to Teddy’s side.
“He didn’t hurt me. But I think he’s hurting.” Teddy looked down at the koala, which was snuggled against his chest, and softly stroked its back.
“How do you figure?” Draco asked. “It—He looks fine to me.”
“He hasn’t been eating,” Teddy said quietly. “I brought him lots of food, but he didn’t eat any of it.”
“Oh Teddy,” Draco sighed. “Didn’t you listen to the keeper? She said koalas eat eucalyptus.”
“What’s that?” Teddy asked, his brows furrowed.
Draco let out another sigh. “Hold on.” He drew his wand, concentrating hard, and flicked it three times.
“Oooooh!” Teddy’s eyes were wide as several thick branches appeared at the far end of the room. “Those are just like the ones in the zoo!”
Before Draco could say anything, he hopped off the bed and practically ran to the other side of the room.
“Here, Baxter,” he said softly and tried to put the koala on one of the branches. “Ugh, you’re heavy.”
“Here, let me,” Draco said and walked over to him. He gave the koala a speculative glance before he reached out. He hadn’t even touched the animal before it suddenly began screaming.
“Oh,” Teddy said, cradling the koalas head protectively. “I don’t think he likes you very much.”
Draco scoffed. He watched as Teddy, with a lot of heaving, put the koala down, probably hoping it would find its own way to the eucalyptus. Surely enough, within seconds, the koala climbed onto a branch, grabbed a few leaves and stuffed them into its mouth.
“He’s eating,” Teddy squealed in delight.
“Now,” Draco said, shooting Teddy a stern glance, “care to tell me how in Merlin’s name this,” he pointed at the koala, “ended up in your room?”
“Um…” Teddy bit his lip.
“Um… I’m… not really sure.”
“You’re not sure?”
“I mean… he was clinging to my leg the whole time, but…”
Teddy beckoned Draco down to him. When he leaned closer, Teddy put his hand beside his mouth and whispered, as though he didn’t want the koala to hear.
“I think I made him invisible.”
“Nobody could see him! He was still on my leg, but nobody could see him.”
“But—But—That’s—” —impossible, Draco wanted to say. Only, it wasn’t. Children accidentally using magic wasn’t uncommon. Draco closed his eyes and tried to stay calm. “So you’re telling me he’s been in your room this entire time?”
Slowly, Teddy nodded.
“He likes me,” Teddy said defensively. “And now he has a real place to stay!” He motioned to the branches.
“Teddy, we have to take him back. The zoo is probably looking for him.”
“But—But look!” Teddy stepped closer and took the koala’s face in his hands. “Doesn’t he have the prettiest eyes?”
Draco scoffed again. “Teddy, that’s not—”
“This is a living, breathing animal, Teddy. One you shouldn’t keep as a pet.”
“But… he’s so fluffy. And he likes to snuggle!”
“Of course he does,” Draco murmured. “Look, you’re supposed to visit your aunt Adele tomorrow, remember? You can’t possibly take him there with you.” Draco straightened himself with a smug look on his face. The kid couldn’t argue with that.
“Can you please take care of him while I’m gone?”
“Can you take care—”
“I heard you the first time,” Draco snapped. It was ridiculous. Draco glanced at the koala, which was still chewing. With one eye closed. Weird. “He doesn’t like me,” Draco pointed out, hoping this train of thought would convince Teddy of how impossible this was.
“Well,” Teddy said, his lips stretching into a big smile, “we have the whole night to make him like you.”
“Teddy, slow down. You’re going to get a tummy ache.”
“Draco promised me we’d play after dinner,” Teddy said and continued to wolf down his peas and mashed potatoes.
“Still, there’s no need for lack of table manners,” Draco said cooly. “We’re not playing until I’m done.”
Teddy pushed his lower lip forward in a big pout but, to Draco’s and Narcissa’s satisfaction, he did slow down a little bit.
“Andromeda will pick you up at eight tomorrow,” Narcissa said. “Did you pack your things?”
“Not yet. But Draco said he’d help me.”
That little rascal. Draco knew exactly what was about to happen. He’d be the one packing Teddy’s bag while he played with that wretched koala.
“All done,” Teddy announced loudly and dropped his fork. “I’ll wait for you upstairs, Draco.”
Before Narcissa could chastise him, he bolted out of the room.
“Goodness, that child is a force of nature,” she said, smiling to herself. “He’s so different from you.” She reached out and put her hand on Draco’s. “You were such an obedient child.”
Draco cleared his throat. That wasn’t exactly a compliment. He wondered if that was the reason he often found himself unable to break any rules. And while Teddy keeping a koala in his room was definitely more than a bagatelle, his mother’s words echoed in his head like a taunt.
“You know,” he said, dabbing his napkin against his lips, “I’d better go check on him and make sure he really does pack his things.” He kissed his mother’s cheek and sauntered out of the room, not exactly looking forward to what was awaiting him upstairs.
Teddy’s head whipped up as Draco entered and he motioned for him to quickly close the door.
“He’s looking so much better already,” he beamed. “He really likes the U—Uku—lele.”
“Eucalyptus,” Draco corrected with a grin. Darn it, he couldn’t really be mad when Teddy was this happy.
“Okay, now,” Teddy said, suddenly looking very serious. “There’s a few things you need to know.”
“Oh boy,” Draco sighed.
“This is important!”
Draco snorted but sat down on the floor cross-legged across from Teddy.
“He likes it when you scratch the spot behind his ear. You can also pet his head and stroke his back. Do not,” he raised his index finger, “touch his tummy. He doesn’t like that.”
Draco peeked at the koala and raised an eyebrow.
“Also, when you take him to bed with you, make sure—”
“Excuse me? I’m not letting that thing sleep in my bed.”
Teddy crossed his arms in front of his chest and gave him a stern look. “You promised you’d take care of him.”
“I didn’t, actually.”
“Listen, I’ll take care of him, but that only means making sure he’s fed and… not screaming, I guess.”
“But he needs to be cuddled,” Teddy said, incredulously.
“Not a chance. Besides, the keeper said he doesn’t like human contact.”
“Oh yeah?” Teddy said in a challenging tone. He turned and stretched out his arms to the koala. It blinked at him a few times before it crawled off the branch and into his lap. “Then how do you explain this?”
“Tsk!” Draco watched, grudgingly, as Teddy petted the koala’s head. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” Draco groaned when the koala closed its eyes and waggled its ears.
“You have to admit,” Teddy smiled, “he’s pretty cute.”
“Cute, my arse,” Draco grumbled. He couldn’t possibly admit that Teddy was kind of right.
“Come on, you try it,” Teddy said.
“He doesn’t like me.”
“He won’t if you don’t show him how much you like him.”
“I don’t like him.”
“Shhhhh,” Teddy hissed, covering the koala’s ears with his hands. “He can hear you!”
“This is ridiculous,” Draco murmured under his breath.
“Please, Draco. Try. For me?”
Now that wasn’t fair.
“I want you guys to get along while I’m gone.”
Draco heaved a sigh and grudgingly moved closer until his and Teddy’s knees were almost touching.
“Now, don’t make any hasty movements,” Teddy instructed. “Just… raise your hand slowly and then… put it on his head.”
Draco suppressed the urge to roll his eyes but did as he was told. He paused when the koala turned its head.
“He’s looking at me,” Draco whispered. “What now?”
“Just… move slowly.”
That didn’t really help. The nearer Draco’s hand moved to the koala, the more noises it made until it finally screamed again as though it was being chased by a dragon.
“Hey, hey, it’s alright,” Teddy said, rocking the koala back and forth. “Draco is a friend.” It took some time until the koala calmed down again. It was securely wrapped around Teddy’s little body, its head nestled against his neck.
“Teddy,” Draco began, “I think we should really consider taking it back to the—”
“No! We’re going to make this work,” Teddy said determinedly. He put his hands on either side of the koala’s face, looking at it intently. “Listen, Baxter, you don’t know Draco yet, but he’s a very nice person.”
Draco snorted under his breath.
“He’ll never let anything bad happen to you.”
Draco peeked at Teddy from under his lashes, at his soft expression, which made his heart swell.
“He’ll play with you, do silly things with you even though he thinks he’s ‘too old’ for that.” Teddy chuckled. “He’ll buy you toys and read you bedtime stories… and he’ll teach you a bunch of things. He’s very smart.”
Draco could feel himself blush.
“Just give him a chance, okay?” Teddy said, holding the koala’s gaze. “He’s one of my favourite people in the world.”
Draco couldn’t suppress the choking sound bubbling up in his throat. Overcome with a wave of strange emotions, he crawled forward and wrapped his arms around the child, momentarily forgetting about the furry creature in his lap.
“You’re one of my favourite people too, you know,” he murmured.
Teddy smiled and leaned his head against Draco’s shoulder. Draco kissed his turquoise hair before he pressed his cheek against it. He paused when he found the koala looking straight at him.
The koala cocked its head, as though it was considering whether or not it could trust him. He started sniffing at Draco’s arm while he and Teddy watched him. Draco didn’t dare to move. Was this it? Was this the moment the koala would finally—
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake!” Draco cast a quick silencing charm, so his mother wouldn’t be alarmed by the koala’s squeaky screams. As he tucked his wand away, he noticed Teddy sniffing at his neck. “What are you doing?”
Teddy wrinkled his nose. “When was the last time you showered?”
“This morning,” Draco exclaimed indignantly. “If anything, I smell too good for his crude nose. When was the last time he had a shower? Hmm?”
“I don’t know,” Teddy admitted.
“For all we know, his fur could be infested by—”
“It’s not,” Teddy said, frowning.
“Just… hold on.” Draco drew his wand again, determined to cast a cleansing charm on the koala. Before he got the chance, however, the koala suddenly moved.
“Oof!” Draco screwed up his eyes as he hit the floor, a sharp pain shooting down the back of his head. “Ouch.”
“Bad Baxter! Really, really bad Baxter!”
Wincing, Draco propped himself up on his elbows, glaring at the koala. “Did you seriously just headbutt me in the chest?”
“I’m sure he didn’t mean to.”
“Yeah, right,” Draco grumbled. “Keep that thing away from me.” He pointed at the koala as he slowly sat up and carefully backed away.
“Hey, don’t be afraid of him.”
“I’m not afraid,” Draco muttered. “But I think it might be afraid of me.”
“There’s no reason to be afraid of Draco,” Teddy told the koala. “He’s very sweet, I promise.”
The koala made a weird sound. It almost sounded like a scoff.
“That’s it,” Draco huffed. “We’re taking that thing back to the zoo!”
“You’re leaving for Ireland tomorrow, so there’s really no—Hey!”
Draco tried to fight the koala off as it climbed onto him. His lap… his chest… his… face.
“Get off me!” He toppled over backwards, the koala sitting on his face, practically smothering him.
“Oh, I think he wants to play with you,” Teddy said, sounding excited. “Yaay! You’re becoming friends!”
“Teddy, that’s not—Ew, he smells!”
“He does not!”
“He does! Believe me.”
The koala wrapped its paws around Draco’s head and hugged itself tighter to his face.
“Aww, he’s hugging you!”
“Teddy, he’s smothering me! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”
“What? Oh. Oh! Baxter, no!”
Draco gasped for air when his face was finally fur-free again. He turned his head to find the koala nestled against Teddy’s torso, shooting him a dirty look.
“You little beast,” he hissed, slowly sitting up. “This isn’t working.” He brushed a few strands of hair out of his face. Teddy looked pensive while he stroked the koala’s back and placed kisses on its head. Seriously?
“Try giving him some Uku—lele,” he suggested.
Draco shook his head but reached up to break off a little branch. The things he did to keep Teddy happy.
“Put it in your lap,” Teddy said, slowly loosening his grip on the koala.
Draco tried to tune out the voice in his head which kept telling him how bloody ridiculous this whole situation was, and put the branch in his lap.
“Okay, Baxter, here we go,” Teddy said and tentatively detached the koala from his body. Heaving, he put the koala on the floor between them and turned it towards Draco. The little button eyes were blinking at him innocently. But Draco knew it was just an act.
“Talk to him,” Teddy whispered and gestured for him to get on with it.
“You, err—You want some food?” Draco asked, feeling utterly uncomfortable. The koala just continued blinking at him. “Teddy, I don’t think this is—”
“Wait for it,” Teddy said, anticipation ringing loudly in his voice. He gave Baxter a little push and, surely enough, the koala slowly crawled onto Draco’s lap, wrapped its little paws around the branch and instantly began nibbling at the eucalyptus leaves.
“Really?” Draco deadpanned. “One minute you hate me and now you’re sitting in my lap, just because there’s food? Merlin, you’re so… primitive.”
“Hey, Baxter is really smart,” Teddy interjected.
“Oh yeah?” Draco glanced at the koala. It was eating with one eye closed again. Creepy. “Doesn’t look very smart to me.”
“Don’t insult him. You’re supposed to make him like you, remember?”
“Alright, alright,” Draco sighed. He studied the koala as it chewed and stuffed more leaves into its mouth, its little pink tongue peeking out every now and then. Okay… maybe it wasn’t that bad.
Hoping the koala would be distracted enough, Draco moved his hand to its head and carefully began petting him. He was almost shocked when the koala didn’t scream. He paused, however, when the koala opened its mouth, readying himself for the ear-piercing squeak.
“What—What is it doing?” Draco asked, confused. It looked like… It looked like the koala was yawning. Experimentally, Draco scratched the fur behind the koala’s ear. It didn’t waggle its ears as it had when Teddy had done it. Instead, it made an extremely weird noise.
“I think he likes it,” Teddy said in amazement.
“You really think so?” Draco asked. Before Teddy could answer, Draco let out a gasp. The koala suddenly leaned forward and for a second, Draco was sure it would scratch his eyes out.
“Oh Merlin! Oh Merlin! Oh—Oh!” Draco blinked, flabbergasted, as the koala pressed its nose against his. It was over so quickly, Draco wondered if he had only imagined it. But if Teddy’s shrieking was any indication, it had indeed happened.
“He booped your nose,” he squealed. “You did it! You did it! He likes you!”
Draco laughed nervously. He didn’t like that this made him feel… cheerful. On the other hand, it was… kind of nice.
“Now I don’t have to worry about you two,” Teddy said, sounding relieved. “I’m sure you’ll get along great.”
“For the love of Merlin, Baxter, I’m only going to say it one more time. Get—out—of—my—BED!”
The koala only gave a sleepy squeak and stayed curled on its side, right next to Draco.
“Just because Teddy let you sleep in his bed, doesn’t mean I’m—WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?” Draco raised his hands as though he was being attacked. He kind of was. The koala was crawling onto him and before Draco knew it, it had wrapped its arms and legs around his midriff. “Are you fucking kidding me? I can’t sleep like this. You can’t sleep like this. Get off me!”
The koala only yawned.
“Don’t act like you don’t understand me! You did what I said earlier when—STOP SNUGGLING UP TO ME! DON’T YOU DARE—”
The snuggling only seemed to be intensifying.
Frustrated, Draco dropped his hands and let his head fall back onto the pillow.
“This isn’t happening right now,” he murmured, staring at the ceiling. The koala made a little squeaky noise. If Draco didn’t know any better, he’d say it was a noise of contentment. He blinked in the darkness, wondering what had become of his life. What did he do wrong to end up here?
Oh dear, don’t open that can of worms, he thought, and waited, stiffly, for sleep to claim him.
As much as it irritated Draco how clingy the koala became when it was time to go to sleep, it irritated him even more that the little beast completely ignored him during the day. He felt so… used. He knew it was irrational and stupid. He should be glad the koala left him alone most of the time. It would give him a chance to work on his potions. Only, he couldn’t exactly leave the koala alone… could he?
He had moved the eucalyptus from Teddy’s room to his, not wanting to go back and forth. But could he really risk it? What if the koala threw a tantrum? What if his mother found it? But he couldn’t take it down to his lab, either. Huh. Maybe he could. All it did was sit on one of the branches all day, either eating or napping.
“Alright, Baxter. I’ve got some work to do. Come here.”
He stretched out his arms, just the way Teddy had, and waited for the koala to crawl over to him. Only, it didn’t. It didn’t even acknowledge him.
“Whatever,” Draco grumbled and moved to grab the koala around its midriff. His mouth fell open when the koala kicked one of his hands with its foot. “Seriously?”
The koala didn’t even look at him.
“Are you pouting?” Draco asked, raising an eyebrow. He dropped his hands, feeling immensely frustrated. “Did I do something wrong?”
As soon as the words left his mouth, he mentally slapped himself.
“Sweet Salazar, what is wrong with me?” he muttered to himself. He was talking to a koala! No, worse! He was talking to a koala, wondering why it didn’t like him. Why did he even care if it liked him?
Grumbling under his breath, he threw himself into his favourite armchair and picked up the Daily Prophet. He instantly sighed when he saw the front-page article. Granger. Of course. There was a picture of her in the middle of what seemed to be a very heated speech. Draco didn’t have to read the article to know it was probably about house-elves. Again. According to the Daily Prophet, she had made it her life’s mission to free every single house-elf in existence ever since she joined the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.
“Pfft, how foolish,” Draco snorted. He took a sip of tea, not taking his eyes off the picture. He spotted Weasley in the background, clad in his ridiculous Auror robes. Automatically, Draco’s eyes scanned the picture for the person completing the formerly infamous Golden Trio, even though he knew it was pointless. Nobody had heard anything from Potter in years. He had vanished after the Battle of Hogwarts, and while there was still a special unit searching for him, many believed him to be dead. As for Draco, he didn’t know what to believe.
“What the—” A splash of tea landed on his trousers when he jerked and turned his head. He stiffened when he realised Baxter had climbed onto his shoulder. The koala didn’t seem to want to cuddle, though. Its eyes were fixed on the Daily Prophet.
“What, you want to free some house-elves, too?” Draco quipped. He watched as the koala leaned forward and sniffed at the paper. Draco frowned. What was it doing? He paused when the koala stretched out one of its paws and gently put it on Granger’s bushy hair.
“It may seem fluffy,” Draco drawled, “but really, it’s just a mess.”
The koala didn’t seem to be listening. Of course not. Instead, it kept staring at the picture. Draco sighed and let his head fall back. He wrinkled his nose when he caught a whiff of… Baxter.
“Ugh, I don’t care what Teddy says, you do smell.” He gave the koala an appraising look before he made up his mind. “Time for a bath, little beast.”
Casting silencing charms wherever he went had become an automatism at this point. After locking the bathroom door, it was the first thing he did. He had a feeling the koala wouldn’t exactly be cooperative. And, boy, was he right.
“Why are you screaming? The water is the perfect temperature!”
The koala scowled at him before it started thrashing around, splashing water everywhere.
“Stop it!” Water was dripping down his face and he felt his shirt clinging to his chest and stomach. “Great,” he grumbled. With a flick of his wand, he vanished the water. “Now hold still.”
He grabbed his favourite shampoo and squeezed it directly onto the koala’s head. It squeaked and tried to get it off with its paws.
“Don’t you dare,” Draco warned. “Do you have any idea how expensive this is? I can’t believe I’m using it on you.”
He tried to move quickly, hoping the koala wouldn’t scratch his hands, and began massaging the shampoo into the fur. The koala squeaked again, but, to Draco’s surprise, it slowly lowered its paws. It took nearly ten minutes until Draco was sure every part of the koala was cleansed. He grabbed the shower head, checked the temperature of the water, and moved to wash off the foam.
He should have known better. The koala slapped the shower head out of his hand with a loud squeak. Water was spraying everywhere.
“I hate you,” Draco yelled. Fuming, he grabbed the shower head once more, took a step back and pointed it at the koala. It continued making horrible noises, covering its eyes with its paws and turning its back on Draco.
“Don’t be so dramatic,” he muttered after he finished. He quickly drew his wand and cast a drying charm on the koala and his clothes. “See? Much better,” he said and picked up the koala. It refused to look at him, to which Draco rolled his eyes.
He marched into his room and put the koala down on one of the branches.
“Hold on, something still smells,” he said, putting his hands on his hips. “What is it?”
He looked around, frowning, until he paused to sniff at his own clothes.
“Yuck! I smell like you!” Shuddering, he quickly unbuttoned his shirt and slipped it off his shoulders. He let it fall to the floor and moved his hands to his trousers. As he worked open the zip, his eyes locked with the koala’s. It was staring at him, watching him.
Draco swallowed, suddenly feeling extremely uncomfortable. He turned around, still feeling the koala’s eyes on him.
“It’s just an animal,” Draco reassured himself. “There’s nothing weird about this.”
Only, there was. He peeked over his shoulder, frowning when Baxter was nowhere to be seen.
“Where did you—Oh!” He almost stumbled when he felt something warm on his leg. “And what exactly do you think you’re doing?” he asked, fixing the blinking button eyes with a glare. Before he could move to put the koala back where it came from, it curled its little paws around a trouser leg… and yanked.
Draco yelped, his hands automatically flying to cover himself, even though he was wearing pants.
“Are you nuts? What’s gotten into you?” He quickly stepped out of his trousers and fled to the other side of the room. His eyes widened when he saw Baxter was following him.
“You’re kidding, right? You ignore me for days but as soon as I get naked—” He pressed his lips together, mentally chastising himself. He had to stop speaking to that bloody koala. It couldn’t understand him anyway, even if it sometimes did what Draco said.
He shook his head and started to move towards the door. He needed a shower.
As he reached for the doorknob, his eyes fell to the koala once more. It had stretched out its little arms. Was it… asking to be picked up? To be cuddled?
Draco found himself hesitating. Why was it that this thing could be so irritating but so cute at the same time? He shouldn’t give in, though. Right? What kind of message would that send? He shouldn’t reward the koala for acting out and practically ripping off his trousers. But… oh, those eyes. Those cute little eyes. And that nose. And those ears!
“Ugh, fuck it,” Draco grumbled and bent down. The koala instantly wrapped its arms around his neck and pressed its head against Draco’s jaw. Draco rocked the koala back and forth, marvelling at the softness of its fur. Ah, and now it smelled like lavender. Much better.
“Honestly, I don’t get you,” he murmured. He chuckled as the koala waggled its ears. “Seriously, what’s your deal?” He shifted the koala’s weight, so he could pet him with his free hand but stopped when the koala suddenly stilled.
Draco blinked, wondering what had caught its attention. His eyes widened when he followed the koala’s gaze. The Dark Mark. It was staring at the Dark Mark. Before he could decide what to do next, several things happened at once. The koala let out an awful screech and suddenly, Draco felt a sharp pain in his left arm.
The koala landed on the floor with a loud thud. Draco’s face twisted as he clasped his now bleeding forearm with his right hand. The koala screeched again and darted over to the eucalyptus branches. Draco stared after it, completely baffled, wondering what the hell just happened.
Draco turned over in his sleep, cursing under his breath. He didn’t want to admit it, but it felt strange lying in bed without something curled around his midriff. Four days had passed since the Dark Mark-incident and since then, Baxter hadn’t looked at him once. Draco snorted whenever he saw the koala’s back turned to him. It could mope all it wanted. It had attacked Draco, not the other way round. Still, he had expected the koala to crawl into bed like it usually did.
He had no idea why Baxter had freaked out like that. And honestly, he didn’t care. That much. At least that’s what he kept telling himself, until a letter from Teddy arrived the next day. Draco smiled at the untidy handwriting.
I’m having a lot of fun at aunt Adele’s. She has a sea turtle. Her name is Marula. She is really funny. I gave her a raspberry yesterday and some lettuce. It took almost half an hour until she finished eating it. It was so much fun watching her. But I miss Baxter. And you. Are you getting along? Did you make sure he’s not sleeping under the duvet? He needs to breathe, Draco! Grandma says we’re staying another week. I can’t wait to see Baxter again! Take good care of him!
PS: I drew a picture for you!
Draco shook his head, his smile widening as he looked at the drawing. He instantly recognised Teddy and his turquoise hair and also himself. Wedged between them was Baxter; Teddy and Draco were each holding one of the koala’s paws. His heart sank a little at the sight. Teddy was counting on him.
Are you getting along?
Draco sighed and put the letter down on his desk. He let his gaze drift over to the eucalyptus branches where Baxter sat with its back turned to him. That koala was really stubborn.
“Alright, look,” Draco burst out, pushing himself out of the chair. He marched over to the koala, his arms crossed in front of his chest. “I’m sorry I dropped you, okay? But you scratched me!”
The koala didn’t move.
“I know you can hear me,” Draco said, feeling a little foolish. He tapped his foot impatiently and waited several moments, but nothing happened.
Exasperated, Draco stomped away and threw himself on his bed. He pushed back his left sleeve and examined his skin. There was no trace of the koala’s scratch. Draco had put essence of Dittany on the wound right away.
“Maybe I should have let it scar,” he murmured. “I wish it would fade completely.”
His chest tightened the longer he looked at it.
“I was scared when I got this. Father said it was an honour, but, really, they didn’t give me a choice. It was either that or die.” He let out a sigh. “I considered it, dying. But I couldn’t leave mother alone. Sometimes I wonder if that was the right choice.” He let his arms drop to the mattress and blankly stared at the ceiling. “I think I deserved to die. At the time. Maybe I should have died.” He let out a humourless laugh and covered his eyes with his hand. “I don’t even know why I’m telling you this, I’m—” He broke off when he felt something on his stomach. Hesitantly, he peeked through his fingers and saw a mass of grey fur. “So, you decided to forgive me?”
The koala didn’t look at him; its cheek was pressed against Draco’s torso.
“You little beast,” Draco snorted and carefully pet the koala’s head. He felt the little paws dig into his sides; it almost felt… like the koala was trying to comfort him. That was ridiculous, of course, but… Draco had to admit… it was kind of working.
Feeling much more relaxed, he let his eyes fall closed, not realising his lips were stretching into a smile.
Draco almost jumped out of bed, yelping, when something sharp jabbed him in the back. And what the bloody hell was this awful noise?
“Holy—” The scream died in his throat when he realised there was something on his chest. And it was moving. “What the—Oh! Baxter!” Draco fumbled for his wand on the nightstand and flicked on the lights. The koala, now wrapped around Draco’s neck, was panting.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Carefully, Draco stroked the koalas back, hoping it would be soothing. “Did—Did you have a bad dream?” he asked, feeling incredibly foolish. Were koalas even capable of having dreams?
Exhausted, he rolled onto his back, wincing when he felt a sharp pain where Baxter had jammed its claw into his skin.
Draco lifted his head, examining their position. “Did—Did I—” He must have. He must have tried rolling over in his sleep which meant Baxter had been squashed. “I’m sorry,” Draco murmured. His fingers automatically found their way into the koala’s soft fur, caressing its back. “I knew it wasn’t a good idea for you to sleep in my bed.”
The koala was still panting. It was also slightly trembling.
“Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay.” Draco wrapped his arms around its body and pressed his cheek against its head. “I’ll try to be more careful, okay?” He held his breath when he felt the koala lifting its head. Baxter looked at him with its brown button eyes as though it really understood what Draco had just said.
There was just something about this animal that made Draco’s chest feel warm. He brushed his finger against its forehead, smiling when it opened its mouth as though it was chuckling. Shaking his head, Draco briefly touched his nose to the koala’s.
“Huh. Teddy was right. You do have pretty eyes.” They weren’t just brown, Draco realised. There was a little bit of hazel in them and… from certain angles, there was an intriguing green shimmer.
As Draco kept examining them, the koala held completely still. Draco snorted at his own foolish fascination with the creature.
“You know,” he murmured, “you’re not so bad.” His breath caught in his throat, his body going rigid, when the koala lowered its head. It was now snuggled against the crook of Draco’s neck. “You really do like to cuddle, don’t you?” Draco laughed, making sure not to hug the koala too tightly. The last thing he needed were more scars on his body. Speaking of…
“Hold on,” he told the koala and gently pushed it away. “I need to check if I’m bleeding.” It was only then he realised he wasn’t wearing his pyjama. He had fallen asleep in his normal clothes. “Apparently, you make me forget my manners,” he said to the koala before he pulled his jumper over his head.
He had to bend his arm at an awkward angle to reach the spot on his back that still stung a little. Luckily, there didn’t seem to be any blood.
“Good,” he muttered. “That one time you made me bleed was quite enough, don’t you… think?” Draco frowned when he noticed the koala was staring at something. Something on his chest. “What?” Draco asked in a defensive tone.
The koala kept staring at a specific spot, not moving its eyes. Draco looked down, wondering what had caught its attention. His lips parted when a little paw touched his skin and slowly followed the line of one of his scars.
“Oh, that,” he sighed. “I got them a long time ago.”
The koala was still staring, its paw gently pressed against Draco’s skin. Draco cocked his head, studying the koala. He knew it was impossible, but… it almost looked… sad.
It quickly withdrew its paw when Draco shifted and even backed away a little.
“Hey, where are you going?” Draco sniggered, grabbing the koala and placing it back in his lap. It lowered its head, as one would if they’re trying to avoid the others gaze.
“Are you still pouting because I nearly squashed you?” Draco smiled. “I am sorry about that.”
They sat there in silence for a while, the koala still pointedly not looking at him, and Draco wondered what was going on in its little head. Eventually, he hesitantly opened his arms. The koala peeked at him which made Draco smile. After long moments, it finally crawled closer and wrapped its arms and feet around him. Draco realised the koala was trembling and gently put his hands on its back. Whatever was going on with this little beast, it made Draco’s heart squeeze.
“It’s okay,” he murmured, wondering if it was a good or a bad sign that he felt less and less foolish about talking to a koala.
“Blaise says he wants to come over for tea in a couple of days.”
“How nice, dear.”
Draco quietly snorted as he and his mother resumed their breakfast in silence. His head whipped up, however, when he heard something over by one of the windows. Had Baxter escaped his room? His panic quickly subsided when he spotted an owl outside. He walked over and opened the window. He didn’t recognise the owl, but he took the letter that was tied to the owl’s foot and watched as it swiftly took off again.
Draco opened the letter as he sat back down again, his eyes scanning the somewhat familiar handwriting.
“Who is it from?” his mother asked.
“Um… Professor McGonagall,” Draco said in astonishment.
“What does she want?”
“She—She wants to see me. Apparently, it’s about a job opening.” Draco frowned.
“Oh, darling, that’s wonderful,” his mother said, dabbing the corner of her mouth with a napkin.
“She says I should come as soon as possible.”
“Well, then what are you waiting for?”
His mother smiled at him reassuringly. Draco nodded absentmindedly and excused himself to get changed. Well, that was unexpected. What kind of job would McGonagall want to offer him? Was Filch retiring? No, McGonagall wouldn’t be as petty as that. Would she?
He quickly got changed and inspected himself in his dark blue robes. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Baxter crawling over to him.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t play with you right now,” Draco said, bowing his head. “I have to go somewhere.”
The koala squeaked and plopped down beside him.
“Please don’t make a scene,” Draco pleaded. “I’ll be back in a bit.”
Mind reeling and heart pounding, he hurried out of his room and down to the parlour to floo over to Hogwarts.
The second he stepped out of the Headmistress’ fireplace, his eyes fell to Dumbledore’s portrait. It was empty, for which Draco was eternally grateful. One awkward conversation was more than enough.
“Ah, Malfoy, that was quick. Good.” McGonagall waved him over to her desk and gestured for him to sit down across from her. “I’m glad you decided to come, I—”
Draco paused when she broke off, her eyes fixed on something behind him.
“Malfoy, is that… yours?”
Draco frowned in confusion and turned around. Oh no!
“Baxter! How the hell did you get here?”
The koala blinked at him and cocked its head.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Draco muttered under his breath and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I’m assuming… this is your pet?” McGonagall asked.
“Um… something like that,” Draco said, shooting her an apologetic look over his shoulder.
“Well, then. I think it wants you.”
McGonagall pointed at the koala. Draco turned back around to find the koala’s paws stretched out to him.
Mentally cursing, he bent down and picked it up.
“Maybe I should come by another time,” Draco said, feeling a blush creep onto his cheeks as the koala wrapped itself around him.
“No, no,” McGonagall said, gesturing once more to the chair in front of her desk. “I’d like to discuss this with you now.” She gave the koala a speculative glance. “I’m sure you trained your pet well enough to behave.”
Right. That’s why it followed him here.
Draco stayed silent as he took his seat, picturing how ridiculous he must look.
“Now, let’s get straight to it,” McGonagall said, folding her hands on her desk. Draco had to give it to her; if she thought him sitting in front of her with a koala wrapped around his waist was weird, she didn’t let it show. “Professor Slughorn has informed me of his plans to retire after the current school year is over.”
Draco’s mouth dropped open.
“I already have a few candidates lined up for his position, but—” She gave him a piercing look. “—it has come to my attention that you have become quite the expert in this particular field.”
“Where did you hear that?” Draco asked, flabbergasted.
Longbottom? Yes, Draco talked to him from time to time and even met up with him occasionally. He was one of his best suppliers when it came to potions ingredients. But… he recommended him to McGonagall? Really?
“He told me I’d be a fool not to ask you,” McGonagall said and it didn’t escape Draco that her mouth curved into an amused smile.
“Oh,” he said simply. He didn’t even realise he was stroking Baxter’s back while his mind had gone completely blank. McGonagall wanted him to be a professor? Here at Hogwarts? She really wanted him to replace Slughorn? Really?
“You’ll have to show me your credentials, of course. And we’d have to set up some test lessons, to see if you’re suited for the job. But if Longbottom is right, that shouldn’t be a problem at all.”
“You’re actually serious,” Draco muttered before he could stop himself.
“Of course I am,” McGonagall said, leaning back in her chair.
Draco just stared at her, still not completely convinced he wasn’t actually dreaming. He jumped when he heard a squeak coming from his lap. Oh, right. For a moment, he had completely forgotten about the koala. His mouth opened in horror, however, when he realised it was climbing onto McGonagall’s desk.
Damn, that little beast could be fast sometimes. Before Draco could grab it, it had crawled over to McGonagall and jumped into her lap.
“Merlin’s beard,” she exclaimed, raising her hands. The koala looked up at her, but fortunately, it didn’t try to hug her. Instead, it opened its mouth and waved its paws in the air. It almost looked like a toddler. “Malfoy, as endearing as your pet is, get it off me, will you?”
“I’m so sorry, Headmistress,” Draco said, hurrying around the desk. He heaved the koala out of her lap and waited until it had wrapped its paws around his neck. “Well…” he felt incredibly awkward. “Thank you for the opportunity and um… I guess we’ll stay in touch?”
“Very well,” McGonagall said in her usual stern tone, but when Draco caught her eye, he noticed they were much warmer than he was used to. “You’ve done well, Malfoy,” she said. “I’m looking forward to welcoming you to the staff.”
Draco smiled at her gratefully and nodded before he stepped into the fireplace.
Who would have thought?
“Now, as for you,” he said to Baxter once they were back at the Manor. “I can’t believe you did that!”
He rushed up the stairs, hoping his mother wouldn’t catch him, and locked the door after he reached the safety of his room.
“You realise you almost ruined this for me, right?”
Okay, maybe he was being a little dramatic. But the koala had to learn some boundaries. It couldn’t just do as it pleased.
Draco’s anger melted away quickly, however, when the koala’s head was nestled in the crook of his neck and he felt its slow and steady breathing.
“You’re going to be the death of me.”
“This is where I scraped my knee for the first time… at least from what I remember. This is where mother usually sets up the Christmas tree… That over there is the dining room… and this is the kitchen. That’s pretty much all of it.” Draco grinned as he watched the koala turning its head this way and that. It felt exciting to be out and about without having to worry about getting caught.
Andromeda had invited Draco’s mother to Ireland. She had left the following morning, which gave Draco the chance to show Baxter around the Manor. But he had to make some tea now. Blaise would be arriving any minute.
“Here we go,” Draco groaned as he put the koala down on the worktop. “Stay here, okay? I need to—” As soon as Draco had taken a step back, the koala stretched out its little paws. Draco snorted, shaking his head with a smile. “I can’t carry you around all the time.”
The koala only raised its paws higher. What was even worse, its little button eyes seemed to be pleading with him.
“Don’t do that to me,” Draco said, throwing his hands in the air. “That’s really not fair.”
The koala didn’t seem to care.
“This is ridiculous,” Draco mumbled while he picked the koala back up. “You have me wrapped around your little paw.” He leaned forward and briefly brushed his nose against the koala’s. He couldn’t help but chuckle when it opened its mouth and stuck out its little tongue. “You’re too cute for your own good.” He raised a disapproving eyebrow. “And you’re shamelessly using it against me.”
“Who are you talking to?”
Draco whirled around and the koala gave a little squeak. Blaise was leaning against the doorframe, his eyes full of curiosity.
“Ooooh, what do we have here?”
Draco stiffened as Blaise walked over to them and bowed his head until he was face to face with Baxter.
“Well, aren’t you adorable?”
The koala squeaked again and hid his face in Draco’s chest.
“Aww, it’s being shy,” Blaise crooned.
“Hello to you, too,” Draco said chidingly.
“Yes, yes, you’re adorable as well,” Blaise sniggered with a wink and playfully cupped Draco’s cheek.
“Ha ha, very funny,” Draco said dryly. Before he could lean away from Blaise’s touch, the koala suddenly started pounding its paw against Blaise’s arm.
“What are you doing, little fella?” Blaise asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I think—” —it’s trying to get you to take your hand off me, Draco wanted to say. He decided against it. It would probably seem weird. “I think it’s just hungry,” he said with a shrug.
“Speaking of which,” Blaise said, leaning against the worktop, “I’m starving. I hope your mother made some of her delicious scones.”
“She did, actually,” Draco said with an amused smile. She made them before she left, knowing Blaise was going to visit while she was gone.
Draco ignored Blaise’s comments about the koala while he was making tea. He knew bloody well how ridiculous he must have looked with Baxter wrapped around his torso. Especially because he had to make sure the koala didn’t accidentally bump its head anywhere or burn itself with the hot water.
They decided to go to the conservatory, sit in the late April sun for a bit.
“So,” Blaise started as he poured some milk in his tea, “are you going to tell me where you picked up that little fella?”
“It’s a long story,” Draco said.
“You two seem… very close,” Blaise observed with a chuckle.
“Yeah, well.” Draco petted the koala’s head with a fond smile. It opened its mouth wide, and almost looked like it was laughing.
Tea with Blaise turned out to be exactly what Draco needed. He hadn’t even realised how little human contact he’d had over the last few days. It was nice, talking and laughing with him. They spent nearly three hours in the conservatory, until Blaise stretched in his chair.
“I have dinner reservations, I’m afraid,” he told Draco.
“As if a whole afternoon with you isn’t enough,” Draco quipped. They both got up and Draco carefully put the koala down in one of the chairs.
“It was good seeing you,” Blaise said with a clap on Draco’s shoulder. “Don’t be a stranger.”
Draco pressed his lips together, feeling caught. He knew he holed himself up in the Manor far more than was probably healthy. But he liked it that way. Well, if he was being honest, it was also because going outside still felt strange and overwhelming sometimes. People still gave him condescending looks and whispered behind his back.
“I’ll try,” Draco said with a weak smile. He let himself be pulled into a tight hug and briefly closed his eyes, letting Blaise’s warmth seep into him.
“Ow! What the—” Blaise instantly let go of Draco and looked down at the floor. “Did your koala just slap my leg?”
Draco tried to stifle the laugh that was threatening to leave his throat. “Be grateful it didn’t do worse,” he said, trying to keep his face impassive.
“What is wrong with—Hey!”
When the koala forcefully bumped its head against Blaise’s shin, Draco couldn’t keep the laughter to himself anymore.
“What is your problem?” Blaise said, although he didn’t seem as irritated as he sounded. “Everything was fine when we—Oooooh!”
Draco arched an eyebrow at Blaise’s smirk.
“Are you jealous?” Blaise asked the koala while he put his hands on his hips.
As if to answer his question, the koala gave a loud squeak.
Blaise sniggered and shook his head. “You need to get out more, mate,” he told Draco before he waved goodbye.
As soon as Blaise had vanished, Draco’s gaze dropped down to the koala. He snorted when he saw it had its paws stretched out to him once more.
“You know this isn’t healthy, right?” Draco quipped, but bent down to pick up the koala nonetheless. He let out another laugh when the koala instantly snuggled up against him and rubbed its cheek against his chest.
Merlin, this was too endearing. While stroking the koala’s back, Draco sat down in one of the armchairs. Closing his eyes, he pressed his cheek against the koala’s head and let out a contented sigh. Even though he was consistently chastising the koala for being so clingy, he couldn’t deny that he secretly loved it. He had always wanted a pet as a child. And no matter what his father said, those ferocious peacocks most certainly didn’t count.
But if he was being honest, it was even more than that. He felt needed. And even a little loved. He might have been coddled as a child, but neither his father, nor his mother were ones to show their affection in a physical way. They hadn’t let him sleep in their bed when he had nightmares, they hadn’t held him when he had been crying. He knew they loved him, but physical contact had been a very foreign concept for Draco for a long, long time.
He remembered his surprise when Blaise had hugged him for the first time, when Pansy had held his hand for no apparent reason at all. It had taken some getting used to. He still wasn’t completely comfortable with it sometimes. He had a hard time reciprocating. But it wasn’t like that with the koala. With Baxter, it was easy. He didn’t need to wonder about some ulterior motive with the koala. It simply wanted to be held, feel Draco’s warmth, he supposed.
“You know, I wouldn’t let just anyone do this,” he murmured, brushing his fingers through the koala’s soft fur. “And as much as you irritate me sometimes,” he narrowed his eyes in mock-anger, “you—” He hesitated, suddenly feeling foolish again. He wanted to say the koala had become one of his best friends. Wasn’t that pathetic. But the things he had told Baxter! He had practically bared his soul to the little beast, had opened up to it and confided in it in ways he hadn’t done with anyone before.
Sighing, Draco cupped the koala’s cheek and brushed his thumb against it. No matter how pathetic it was, the koala really was one of his best friends now. His smile faltered and his eyes widened when the koala stretched out its arm and put its paw on Draco’s cheek, mirroring his gesture. Something warm bubbled up inside his chest, mingled with regret and a deep sense of sadness. He knew he couldn’t keep Baxter forever. He knew the koala had to go back to where it belonged. And no matter how much Draco wished things could be different, it didn’t belong with him.
They stayed in the armchair for hours that night, simply holding each other while Draco choked up several times. Maybe it would be best to try and keep his distance a little bit from now on. Maybe that would make the separation easier in the end. He didn’t know if he could do it, but it was the only thing he could do to keep his sanity intact.
He never should have become this attached to the koala in the first place.
Aside from letting the koala sleep in his bed, Draco tried to be resolute about keeping his distance. He didn’t pick the koala up when it silently asked him to, he didn’t talk to it anymore… and he felt absolutely miserable about it. Several times he almost caved and quickly left the room before his yearning got the better of him.
He locked himself up in his lab for hours, working on his potions, trying to concentrate on the task that was awaiting him. He still wasn’t sure he was cut out to be a teacher, but if McGonagall believed in him… There really wasn’t a bigger compliment, was there?
He heaved a sigh and flicked his wand to clean his workplace. He should be checking on Baxter. Who knew what the koala was doing all by itself.
Reluctantly, he climbed the stairs and made his way to his room, bracing himself for finding it trashed. He frowned when he couldn’t spot the koala immediately. It usually sat moping on one of the branches these days. Where had it gone?
Draco paused when he heard the shower running in his bathroom. Was Baxter in there? But how in Merlin’s name would the koala have managed to get the shower running? Maybe by accident? Oh! Was it drowning in there? His eyes darted over to the bathroom door, which was ajar. Draco lost no time in rushing over and pushing the door open.
His heart nearly jumped out of his chest at the sight he was met with. Someone was in his shower alright, but it wasn’t Baxter. It was… a human. A man. He had his back turned to Draco and was apparently unaware of his presence. Hadn’t he heard him? The glass door of the shower was wide open.
Draco gulped. Who was this? Who had broken into his house? And who would break into a house and use someone else’s shower? Was this a homeless person? Was he dangerous?
Draco slowly backed away, unsure of what to do. He drew his wand and pointed it at the man, his hands slightly trembling. Was this even a wizard? He had to be. There were no—
Hold on. The Manor was guarded by wards. No one could enter the premises, at least not unnoticed. Draco’s heart only beat faster. Because that meant this man was either a very, very powerful wizard, who had somehow found a way around the wards or… he had been in the Manor… for how long? But that didn’t make any sense.
Squaring his shoulders, Draco tightened his grip around his wand. He was armed, the man in the shower wasn’t. He had the upper hand. Still, he felt his throat closing up right before he opened his mouth to speak.
“Who are you?” Good. His voice was low, threatening. He readied himself for the man in the shower to turn around, to attack him, but he didn’t give any indication he had even heard Draco.
“Who are you?” Draco repeated, louder this time. The man still didn’t move.
Was this a trap? Was he waiting for Draco to lower his guard? Well, he didn’t exactly look like he was about to attack. He was… just standing there, completely limp, while the water drizzled down on him. He couldn’t have been much taller than Draco. In fact… he almost looked a little smaller. And he was skinny. Maybe a little too skinny. His black hair reached down to his shoulders; it looked knotted and unruly. Something about it seemed familiar but Draco couldn’t put his finger on it. Nobody in his circle of friends would neglect their hair like this. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling he had seen it before. He let his eyes wander lower, down the man’s back… His body looked… almost fragile. With a few pounds more, he would have had the perfect physique of a seeker.
Draco’s eyes widened inadvertently as his mind went into overdrive. No, it couldn’t be. It couldn’t be! He had been missing for years. There was no way on earth he would, out of all the places in the world, turn up in Draco’s shower. Why would he? And how?
Draco held his breath as he slowly approached him. Steam curled around the frail figure eerily; the sight made Draco shudder.
“Potter?” he whispered, his voice cracking. He felt his heart hammering against his chest as the curtain of black hair slowly moved. Tired eyes blinked at him, eyes he would have recognised anywhere. “Holy fuck,” he said, breathlessly. “It is you.”
They stared at each other in silence; Draco had so many questions but found himself unable to speak. Aside from being utterly confused by this turn of events, he felt uneasy and almost a little irritated. Potter’s eyes were so empty. He was looking at Draco as though he didn’t recognise him.
Just as Draco wanted to ask what the fuck he was doing here, Potter opened his mouth. He looked like he finally wanted to say something, but before he could, his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he crumpled to the ground.
“Potter!” Draco bent down and grabbed his shoulders. “Potter!” He was completely lifeless. Draco pressed two trembling fingers against Potter’s throat, right under his jaw. It took several seconds until he finally felt a pulse. “Merlin’s beard, you scared me,” he muttered.
His eyes lingered on the scar on Potter’s forehead. What the fuck had happened to him?
A part of Draco wasn’t even surprised to find himself once again entangled in the yet unknown mess Potter had undoubtedly made for himself. More than once he had caught himself thinking that things had become quite dull without Potter around. Still, weariness crept up inside him while he stared at Potter’s lifeless body.
Whatever it was that had brought Potter here, it sure as hell couldn’t be good.
Draco made a face, stretching his neck. Sleeping in an armchair was far less comfortable than he would have thought. His eyes immediately darted over to his bed where Potter was still sound asleep. Unless he had woken up during the night, he had now slept for almost 24 hours. Was he under some kind of curse?
Slowly, Draco rose, regretting it immediately. His entire body ached. He rolled his shoulders experimentally, wincing when his sore muscles protested vehemently.
He stopped dead when his gaze drifted over to the eucalyptus branches. It was like an icy knife was cutting through him. Baxter. He had completely forgotten about Baxter. He rushed over, pushing the leaves aside to look in every corner… The koala wasn’t there.
Panic washed over him. Where had it gone? Draco hadn’t seen it since… since before Potter had shown up. How could he have forgotten about Baxter? Granted, the whole situation with Potter had been quite distracting, but still! Draco couldn’t believe himself.
“Baxter,” he called out, hoping the koala would come crawling to him from under the bed, out of the bathroom… But nothing happened.
Draco’s pulse quickened. Had something happened to the koala? How could Draco have been so reckless?
He paused when he heard something rustling on the other side of the room. It took him a moment to realise it was Potter. He was finally awake. Draco slowly walked over to him, suddenly feeling like he would vanish, like it had all just been a dream.
“M—Malfoy?” His voice sounded hoarse and weak. “Is that you?”
Draco raised a disapproving eyebrow. “Really, Potter? You’re going to act like you don’t—”
“Everything's so blurry,” Potter said and narrowed his eyes. “Where are my glasses?”
“How the hell should I know?” Draco retorted.
Potter blinked at him. “What are you doing here?”
“What am I doing here?” Draco stared at him incredulously. “You’re the one who just showed up here and made himself comfortable in my shower!”
“I—What?” Slowly, Potter sat up. It was agonising to watch. “Where are we?”
“Really?” Potter looked around, his face unreadable. Draco suddenly felt exposed. He rarely let people into his room. “How did I end up here?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Draco said, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
Potter’s eyes found his, no longer expressionless. They were wide and Draco thought he detected something resembling fear in them.
“I—I—” Potter gulped. “I don’t remember anything.”
“What do you mean ‘anything’? You must remember something.”
“But I don’t.”
Draco frowned when he saw Potter clutching the duvet. If he was taking the piss, he was doing it in a rather convincing way. Draco decided to play along for a while, see if Potter was indeed up to something.
“What’s the last thing you remember?” he asked, trying not to sound too patronising.
Potter’s forehead creased. He was silent for several moments, either racking his brain or trying to stay in character to keep up this ridiculous charade.
“I—I killed him,” he finally murmured.
Draco gasped, his pulse quickening. “You killed—What? Who?”
Potter looked at him, his face ashen. “Voldemort.”
Draco’s eyes rolled up to the ceiling. “Potter, there’s no need to state the obvious, you—”
“No,” Potter interrupted him. “That’s… um…” He bit his lip, looking unsure. “That’s the last thing I remember.”
Draco stared at him in bewilderment. “You—What?” Was he being serious right now? “Potter,” he said quietly, “that was six years ago.”
All of Draco’s suspicions melted away when Potter’s face twisted in shock. He had never been very good at hiding his feelings. Years of watching him, even from afar, had at least taught Draco that much.
“Six years,” Potter echoed under his breath. He sat back against the headboard, his eyes fixed on the duvet.
Draco wasn’t sure what to say. Or feel for that matter. He wouldn’t go as far as saying he felt sympathy for Potter, but this sounded pretty messed up. And very confusing. He couldn’t have just vanished into thin air; he was sitting right here after all. So where had he been? Had someone wiped his memory?
“Do you think someone did this to you?” Draco asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you think someone Obliviated you?”
Potter frowned. “I don’t know. Why would they, though?”
Darco shook his head and sighed. “No idea.” He studied Potter from under his lashes, taking in his gaunt figure. Something was seriously wrong with him. “You know, I think it might be best if you talked to a professional.”
“Just go to St Mungo’s and—”
“Potter, don’t you think—”
“Well, you can’t stay here.”
“Are you kicking me out?”
“I never invited you in!”
“You know what, fine! I’ll go then!” He threw back the duvet in a rather unnecessarily dramatic manner and swung his legs over the edge of the mattress. Draco watched him as he pushed himself into a standing position. “Oh.” Before he could even take one step, his knees gave way and he tumbled onto the floor.
Draco pinched the bridge of his nose. “This isn’t happening right now,” he grumbled under his breath.
“Just give me a minute,” Potter snapped weakly. “I’ll be out of here in a moment.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Stop being ridiculous and get back into bed, Potter.”
“But you just—”
“And do it silently, will you?”
Potter pressed his lips together, looking uneasy. “Um…”
“What now?” Draco sighed.
“I—I don’t think I can get up on my own,” Potter murmured with a sour expression.
“Of course you can’t.” This was just Draco’s luck. He stretched out his hand to Potter, who hesitated a moment before he took it. Draco felt like he was holding one of his mother’s precious vases. It was disheartening, seeing Potter like this. And while Draco knew he was under no obligation to help him, he also knew he didn’t have much of a choice. What was he supposed to do? Leave him withering in his bed?
“What—What’s this?” Potter asked, after he was safely tucked in Draco’s bed again. He was examining his pyjamas. Well, Draco’s pyjamas. “Are these yours?” he asked.
“Would you rather still be naked?” Draco countered.
“Naked?” Potter echoed.
“Well, you were when you were in my shower.” Draco threw his hands in the air. “And then you collapsed. What was I supposed to do?”
“Oh.” Potter blushed and absentmindedly brushed his fingers against the sleeve.
“I have no idea what happened to you,” Draco said, “but you look like you haven’t eaten in days.” He let out a dramatic sigh in an attempt to let Potter think he was more than annoyed. “I guess I could get you something.”
Potter frowned at him and slowly shook his head. “Why are you being nice to me?”
“This is… weird,” Potter said.
“As if you wouldn’t be doing the same if the roles were reversed,” Draco pointed out and tried to hide his own blush.
“I guess,” Potter said thoughtfully.
Not knowing what else to say, Draco just shrugged before he left the room. He’d have to keep an eye out for Baxter. Maybe the koala was lost in the Manor somewhere. But first, he had to make some bloody porridge for bloody Harry Potter.
It was strange, sitting at the dining table with Potter. Even after a whole day with him, Draco still couldn’t believe he was actually here.
It was astounding, how much healthier he looked. His face wasn’t as ashen anymore and, fortunately, he was now able to walk on his own.
“Thanks for dinner,” he said with a little smile. Draco just nodded. They were still very awkward around each other, but that was to be expected.
“You can have the guest bedroom,” Draco said after clearing the table. “It’s right next to mine.” He waited for Potter to say something. At least he looked like he wanted to say something. Instead, he just stared at Draco without blinking. It was kind of creepy.
“What?” Draco snapped.
“What? Oh, yeah, sorry. I just… I just thought I remembered something.”
Draco looked at him expectantly, but Potter just waved a dismissive hand in the air.
“It was nothing.”
Somehow, Draco didn’t believe him but he decided not to push it. After all, Potter wasn’t obligated to tell him.
They climbed the stairs in silence and after Draco opened the door to the guest bedroom, he quickly bid Potter goodnight.
There was only so much awkwardness he could take in one day.
“What—What—” Panicked, Draco fumbled around for his wand in the darkness. There was something in his bed. And it was moving.
When his hand brushed something soft and familiar, his muscles automatically relaxed and he let his head drop back down on the pillow.
“Baxter! You nearly gave me a heart attack!” He caressed the koala’s back, unable to stop himself from chuckling when he felt its head against the crook of his neck. “Thank Merlin! Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick!”
The koala gave a squeak and hugged itself closer to Draco.
“Don’t do that to me again,” Draco murmured, placing a kiss on the koala’s head. “Stay with me, okay?”
The koala’s answer was to bump its head against Draco’s jaw.
“Okay,” Draco smiled and wrapped his arms around the koala. Even though he knew he had to get used to the fact that Baxter wouldn’t be around for much longer, he tried to tune out all thoughts about having to give the koala back to the zoo. At least for now, he wouldn’t let go.
The first thing Draco noticed when he woke was that he had more trouble breathing than usual. He was used to having something heavy on his chest by now, but either Baxter had gained a lot of weight overnight or something else was going on here.
He tried to move, but found himself unable to. He was pinned down on the bed. What in Merlin’s name was going on? He had to blink a few times until his eyes adjusted, but when he saw who was lying on top of him, he suddenly wasn’t sure if he was still dreaming.
“Potter,” he exclaimed indignantly. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“What? What?” Potter looked around, disoriented, his eyes still hooded.
“Have you lost your mind? What gives you the right to come into my bedroom?”
“Why the fuck would you even get into my bed?”
“And where the hell is Baxter?” Draco looked around the room, only to find it koala-free. Where the hell did it go this time? It was highly suspicious. Before Potter had shown up, the koala had never vanished like this before. Was it scared of Potter? Was it hiding?
Draco turned back to Potter with a scowl. “Did you kick the koala out before you took its place?”
His own words echoed in his mind. He had said it without giving it much thought, but… it was exactly as though Potter had taken the koala’s place. He was wrapped around Draco like Baxter had been when they had gone to sleep. And now the koala was nowhere to be found… almost as though…
Draco could practically feel all the blood draining from his face as the impossible, and yet somehow compelling, indications clicked together in his mind.
“Oh. Oh no. No, no, no, no, no!” He jumped out of bed as fast as he could. He suddenly felt the need to get as far away from Potter as possible. “No. No, this can’t be.” He ran his fingers through his hair nervously, his mind reeling.
It couldn’t be. There was no way. But… the longer he thought about it… Baxter and Potter had never been in a room together. Since Potter had shown up, Draco had only seen the koala when he thought Potter was sound asleep in the next room…
“Oh Merlin, I think I’m going to be sick,” he groaned.
“Malfoy, listen, I can explain,” Potter said in a pleading tone.
Draco paused. “You knew? You acted like you didn’t remember any—”
“I didn’t. I don’t. At least not all of it.”
“What do you mean, ‘not all of it’?”
Potter pressed his lips into a tight line. He almost looked like a child who had been caught stealing candy.
“Last night…” He hesitated. “Last night, something suddenly popped into my head. But it was so strange. It didn’t seem like it was my memory.” He started wringing his hands and avoided Draco’s gaze. “But then I started remembering more and more—”
Draco felt himself blush. "Like what?” he snapped.
“Like you… trying to give me a bath.”
Draco gulped. This couldn’t be happening right now. He had never felt this embarrassed. Not even when Granger had slapped him across the face or when he had been turned into a ferret. This was so much worse.
He felt his left hand tremble and his knees going weak; it took so much effort to stay vertical and to school his features. Potter was Baxter… Baxter was Potter. Somehow, it felt like such a huge betrayal. Had Potter known from the start? Was this all part of some sick plan? What the hell was he up to?
“Why should I believe you?” Draco snarled. “Why should I believe you didn’t trick me into—into—”
“Into what?” Potter countered. “Why would I—”
“To gain my trust.”
“Doesn’t really feel like you’re trusting me right now.”
“Damn straight,” Draco barked.
“Hey, do you think I enjoyed being nearly drowned?”
“Don’t be so dramatic. You stank.”
“Look, I know this is… weird, but I swear, I had no idea what was going on. I wasn’t really… me when I was a koala.”
Draco didn’t know if that made things better or worse or if he should believe Potter at all. But at least it made some sense; there was no way Potter would want to be hugged by Draco.
“So… you weren’t aware of what you were doing… when you were a koala?” Draco asked, sceptically.
Potter shook his head. “And I didn’t lie about not remembering anything at first. But now…”
“What?” Draco asked, his pulse quickening.
“I remember… all the things you told me.” Potter’s voice was barely a whisper.
Draco stared blankly at the wall; his mind needed a moment to process all of this. “How can I be sure you’re not messing with me?”
Potter exhaled loudly before he spoke again. “‘The Wizard and the Hopping Pot’ was your favourite story as a child. You asked your mum to read it to you every night.”
Draco’s breath caught in his throat.
“You were thirteen when you finally accepted you like boys. It took you two years to build up the courage to tell your friends and you—”
“That’s enough,” Draco interrupted him. Heat was flooding through him, mingled with embarrassment and anger. Why was the universe so cruel? He had told all of his innermost thoughts and secrets to Potter? Was this Draco’s punishment for everything he had done?
“So… what, you’re an animagus?” he asked after a few moments.
“What? What do you mean—” Draco tried to calm himself. Nothing good would come out of shouting and breaking stuff, no matter how much he wanted to do exactly that. “You guess? How can you not know if you’re an animagus?”
“Because I never intended to turn into an animal.”
“But… how?” Draco asked, pressing a finger against his temple. “How could this—” He shook his head, his mind still reeling. “So you’ve been a koala for the last six years?”
This was so ridiculous on so many levels.
“I don’t know,” Potter muttered. “The last thing I remember… I was at the Burrow…” He bit his lip, his forehead in creases. “I—I think I was watching TV… Yeah, I remember Arthur got one.”
“One of those Muggle devices?”
“Yeah… I just… I just wanted to get my mind off things. I can’t remember what I was watching… There was something about… plants… and animals. Maybe there was even something about koalas. I have no idea.” Potter looked down at the floor, his shoulders slumped. “I don’t really remember anything after that. But I do remember you.”
“I see,” Draco said, in lack of anything else to say. “But you really don’t know how you ended up as a koala?” he pressed. He sensed there was something Potter wasn’t telling him.
“I wasn’t in a very good place,” Potter murmured. “It was a few days after… after I killed Voldemort. It was just too much. It was all too much. I wanted it to stop. The pain, the grief, the guilt… everything.”
“Guilt?” Draco echoed.
“So many people died because of me.”
“Potter,” Draco said, perplexed, “they didn’t die because of you. They died because of him.”
Potter didn’t answer. He was staring at his hands.
“So…” Trying to make sense of this was giving Draco a massive headache, but he was starting to feel… strange. Still no sympathy. Not exactly. But if Potter was telling the truth, this was really messed up. “We still don’t know how you turned into a koala. And why. All we know is you ended up in a zoo.”
“I did?” Potter looked surprised.
“Yeah. But I don’t know how long you’d been there.” Draco pursed his lips. “Why did you turn back? Why now? And how?”
“I don’t know. It wasn’t intentional.”
“You sound disappointed,” Draco remarked. He watched as Potter’s face twisted into… something. “Would you have rather stayed a koala?”
Potter said nothing, turning his head towards one of the windows instead.
“You’re not thinking about turning back into a koala, are you?” Draco asked.
“I don’t even know how to do it. And I have no idea where my wand is.”
Somehow, Draco got a feeling that wouldn’t be much of a problem. He had seen Potter do magic. He probably didn’t even need his fucking wand.
“But you want to. Turn back into a koala. Don’t you?”
Potter bit his lip, looking unsure.
“Potter, you can’t stay a koala for the rest of your life.”
“Why not? For starters, you’re not an animal.”
“But it was so much easier when I didn’t have to think.”
“Yes, well, we both know thinking isn’t your forte,” Draco scoffed.
“I’m serious. I can already feel everything creeping back. I don’t want to feel any of it.”
“You can’t run away forever, Potter.”
“I can try.”
“Running away doesn’t seem like you.”
Potter let out a humourless laugh and turned back to Draco. His eyes were full of sorrow and pain. “Why are you even trying to talk me out of this? Why do you care?”
Draco swallowed. That… was a legitimate question. Why did he care?
Then again, was he really capable of not caring, not feeling anything, when it came to Potter? He’d be lying if he said Potter’s disappearance hadn’t driven him mad. And now he was here, right in front of Draco.
“It just… It just seems like such a waste,” he murmured.
“If what you’re saying is true, you already lost six years of your life. And now you just want to throw everything away?”
“That’s not what I’m doing. I’m trying to survive.”
“Is it—Is it really that bad?”
Potter leaned back against the headboard and closed his eyes. “Honestly?” he muttered. “There’s nothing in my life that’s—”
That’s what? Good? Worth fighting for?
Draco could see Potter’s pain and it affected him more than he would have liked. Before he could stop himself, he sat down on the bed.
“I just… I just feel so… empty.”
Draco knew what that was like. That’s exactly how he felt after the war. For years.
“Everything seems so… pointless.”
They were silent for a while and Draco wondered what Potter was thinking about. Somehow, the fear he might vanish into thin air grew stronger with every passing moment.
“You know what’s funny?” Potter said, startling Draco out of his thoughts.
“The only times I didn’t feel this hopeless were when I was with Ron and Hermione… and Sirius…” He took a deep, shaky breath. “And you.”
Draco’s eyes snapped up to his.
“When we—When we—” He cleared his throat, his cheeks slowly turning pink. “When you held me—I—I—” Potter made a choking sound and it was clear he couldn’t finish his sentence.
Draco hesitated, wondering if he should really say what was going through his mind. “I think I know what you mean,” he finally whispered.
Potter looked surprised. Draco caught his eye and suddenly wondered how he couldn’t have made the connection sooner. Baxter’s eyes weren’t as green as Potter’s, but they held the same warmth, the same familiarity.
“It was… nice,” Draco said, feeling too flustered to say anything else.
“It was,” Potter said. “But… to me, it was more than that.”
“Oh?” Draco’s pulse immediately quickened, and even though he knew it was impossible, he still hoped Potter didn’t notice.
“You’re probably going to think I’m crazy.” Potter covered his eyes with his hands. Was he embarrassed? “The thing is… nobody held me like that before. Ever. Well, I guess my mum did, but…” He left the sentence unfinished and his sadness was almost tangible. “I could—I could almost feel—I mean, it felt like—like you cared about me.”
“I did,” Draco said, unthinkingly. “I—” —I do, he wanted to add. This was so confusing. Because it wasn’t really Potter he cared about. It was Baxter. But Potter was Baxter. And if he was being honest, he had felt something for Potter a long, long time ago. Was it still there? Well, if his heartbeat, thundering against his chest was any indication, then yes, the feelings might still be there, no matter how much he wished they weren’t.
“I know you had no idea it was me,” Potter said, his voice quivering. “You wouldn’t have done it if—if you had known—” He broke off, his eyes going wide, when Draco impulsively, and foolishly, covered Potter’s hand with his own. He just couldn’t bear Potter’s pain, the self-loathing that was seeping through his words. It was heartbreaking. And to Draco, it was also very relatable.
They stared at each other wordlessly for long moments, until Draco cleared his throat and withdrew his hand.
“You harassed McGonagall,” he said, hoping it would lighten the mood. “You remember that?”
“Oh, Merlin,” Potter exclaimed, hiding his face behind his hands. “I do remember that. It’s so weird. In that moment, I knew it was her, I remembered her, but… I also didn’t, because I wasn’t really me, so…”
Huh. Yeah, that did sound weird. But… oh, it made so much more sense now; why the koala hadn’t liked him at first, why it had scratched the Dark Mark… why it had looked so sad after seeing Draco’s scars. Merlin, he had thought he was being paranoid, but now that he knew the truth, he couldn’t believe he hadn’t put the pieces together sooner.
“Did you recognise Teddy, too?” Draco asked. Because Potter couldn’t have.
“Teddy?” he said, arching an eyebrow. “Oh!” Realisation slowly dawned on his face. “Oh man, he’ll be so disappointed I’m not a koala anymore.”
Draco gave him a disapproving frown. “We can always get him another pet. But he only has one godfather.”
Potter peered at him from under his lashes. “He has you.”
“And now he has you, too,” Draco said resolutely, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
“I’m sure he likes me better as a koala,” Potter said, sounding weary again.
“Potter,” Draco growled. He was getting sick of this. “Don’t you want to be there for your godson? Don’t you want to see him grow up? You already missed the first six years of his life!”
Potter flinched but Draco ignored it.
“Do you really want him to have the same fate as you? Growing up without his parents and without his godfather, too?” He knew it was a low blow, he really did. But he was hoping this train of thought would finally galvanise Potter.
“You think I’m being selfish,” Potter murmured. “But things are so much easier when I’m a koala. There’s no pain and… you and Teddy…”
“What? What about me and Teddy?”
“You like me as a koala.”
Draco arched an eyebrow. “And you think we won’t like you in your human form?”
“Malfoy,” Potter deadpanned, “you hate me.”
“Don’t be so dramatic, Potter. We’re not kids anymore. A lot of time has passed.”
“Not for me,” Potter sighed. He leaned back and started rubbing his forehead with the back of his hand.
“So… you still hate me?” Draco asked, trying to sound casual.
Potter shrugged. “Dunno,” he said with at twitch of his mouth. “Honestly? I’m so confused. Because… I still feel what I felt when I was a koala and…”
Without realising what he was doing, Draco leaned closer, as though that would encourage Potter to keep going.
“What did you feel?” he finally asked. Their eyes met and it was like the room was suddenly spinning.
“It’s complicated,” Potter said evasively. “I just—It’s going to sound stupid, but with you, I felt kind of… safe.”
It didn’t sound stupid at all. In fact, it sounded so heartwarming, Draco wanted to reach out and pull Potter into a hug. Merlin, how disgusting. How could he let Potter turn him into such a sop?
Clearing his throat, he got up and walked over to the bathroom.
“I’m not bothered that you feel this way,” he said without turning around. “Just don’t crawl into my bed uninvited again.”
He locked the door behind him and leaned against it. Damn it, those feelings for Potter never really went away, did they? And somehow, Draco was sure that was going to be a problem.
After lunch, Draco tried to busy himself in his lab, which was a lot harder to do with Potter watching his every move.
“Don’t you want to go outside… do something?” Draco said, after nearly dropping a vial.
Potter shrugged. “I kinda like watching you work.”
“What about your friends?” Draco pointed out. “It’s been two days, Potter. Don’t you want to talk to them?”
Potter kept his face impassive, but Draco could see the tension in his shoulders, his neck.
“I’m not ready,” he finally said, shaking his head. “It would make things… too real.” He walked over to one of the shelves and leaned his head against it. “But if I’m too much of a burden—”
“Shut up, Potter,” Draco said, irritated. This whole bloody situation was so conflicting. On the one hand, Draco liked having Potter around, especially having him to himself. But on the other, that was exactly what would undoubtedly get him into trouble. What would happen when Potter was finally ready to leave? Would he go back to his old life? Would he go back to resenting Draco?
“I like it here,” Potter whispered, and for a second, Draco wasn’t sure if he had heard him correctly. “I never thought I would say this, after everything that happened here.” He let out a humourless laugh. “But all that stuff you told me… I realised there are a lot of things I didn’t know about you. I think I understand it better now. You know, you becoming a Death Eater and… everything.”
Draco didn’t respond and acted like he was concentrating on stirring the potion.
“Actually, I can relate to a lot of things. Weird, isn’t it?”
“Our lives were completely different and yet… I never thought I could feel the same as you.”
Draco’s heart skipped a beat at those words. If only Potter knew. Draco doubted they shared one particular sentiment.
“Are you really going to go back? To Hogwarts?” Potter asked.
Draco threw him a surprised glance over his shoulder. “Of course. It’s a great opportunity.”
Potter nodded, pensively.
It was then that the magnitude of Potter’s situation really hit Draco. Everybody had moved on, more or less at least. They’d had time to process, find their place, their peace. Potter hadn’t. In a way, he was still 18 years old and probably had no idea what to do with his life.
“You wanted to become an Auror, right?” Draco asked, watching Potter’s reaction carefully.
“It made sense,” Potter said, his face falling the tiniest bit. “At the time,” he added, emphatically.
“I have no idea.”
“You do realise you can probably do whatever you want, right?” Draco said, turning around to him.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re Harry Potter. The world is your oyster.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Because it’s more complicated than that. And I have no idea what I want.”
It was strange, seeing Potter like this; so weak, so vulnerable.
“I guess I need some time to figure it out.” He sucked in his bottom lip and started chewing on it. “And I know I can’t stay here forever. I’ll try to find somewhere else to go soon.”
It felt like someone had stabbed Draco in the chest. He wanted to roll his eyes at himself for being so dramatic but he couldn’t help it.
“Where will you go?”
“Dunno. I don’t feel like going back to the Burrow right now. But…”
Potter sighed. “The only place besides the Burrow that ever truly felt like home… was Hogwarts.”
“Then go there.”
“Talk to McGonagall. I’m sure she’ll figure something out.”
“I don’t know.”
“Just think about it. You’ve got nothing to lose, right?” Draco inwardly flinched at his poor choice of words. He hoped Potter wouldn’t misunderstand him.
When he gave no reaction, Draco turned his attention back to his potion. Maybe it was a little selfish to encourage Potter to go to Hogwarts. After all, Draco would be there come September. But was it really that bad, wanting to be around Potter?
Old habits die hard, he supposed.
Dinner was a quiet affair. Potter seemed to be lost in thought, even after Draco proposed they take a walk around the garden. They didn’t speak much and mostly kept it to small talk. Potter had been especially quiet after Draco told him Teddy would be home in two days. Worry had been written all over his face. It was all Draco could think about when he went to bed. Little did he know it would keep him up for hours.
He tossed and turned, cursing under his breath. He was just about to get up and get himself a glass of water when he heard a hesitant knock on the door.
Oh no. What did he want?
“What is it, Potter?”
“Can, um… Can I come in?”
Draco only hesitated for a second before he grunted a “Yes” in return. He sat up and saw Potter slip inside and rush over to his bed. He paused in front of Draco, wringing his hands.
“What is it?"
Potter’s face was only illuminated by the soft moonlight glistening through the windows, but it was enough for Draco to see the agonising expression on his face.
“I couldn’t sleep,” he murmured.
Well, that made two of them.
“And I know you’re probably going to say no to this, but…”
Draco raised an eyebrow when he saw Potter biting his lip. “Spit it out, Potter,” he said impatiently.
“Can I sleep with you?”
Draco almost choked. “Come again?”
“Can I sleep with you? In your bed?”
Draco just stared at him. He couldn’t possibly mean that. Could he?
“Um… I guess I’ve gotten used to sleeping in your bed,” Potter said sheepishly, scratching the back of his head.
“You—You want to—” Words and coherent sentences were suddenly such a strange and foreign concept. But how could Draco have been expected to think clearly after getting a request like that? He quickly shook his head, trying to gather himself. “Let me get this straight,” he said, briefly closing his eyes. “You want to sleep in my bed… the way I did with Baxter?” He gave Potter a speculative glance.
“To be fair, I am Baxter,” Potter pointed out. That wasn’t very helpful. “That’s why I was thinking…”
“Yes?” Draco said when Potter didn’t continue.
“Um… I was thinking… I could turn back into a koala.”
Draco’s eyes widened. “No,” he breathed without missing a beat. “You can’t control it. Even if you manage to do it, you don’t know how to turn back into… you.”
Potter gave a little shrug, as though he wanted to say it didn’t really matter.
“Potter, no,” Draco said, vigorously shaking his head. “You’re not going to run away again. I won’t let you.”
Potter blinked at him in astonishment. “But I—”
“No.” Determinedly, Draco pushed back the duvet and moved to make room for Potter. “Now get in here. And promise me you won’t turn into a koala.”
“That’s the promise you want me to make?” He sounded baffled.
“What else is there?”
“Um… I don’t know. I thought you might make me promise… not to touch you.”
“Oh.” Draco hadn’t even thought of that. Even though it was pretty clear what Potter was asking for. He didn’t just want to sleep in Draco’s bed. He wanted to cuddle. Probably. “Well…” Draco didn’t know how to finish that sentence. Somehow, the thought of Potter turning back into a koala, not knowing if he could ever turn into a human again, was much worse than the thought of Potter being wrapped around him. “Just… get in here and we’ll figure it out.”
Potter still looked hesitant, but he slowly climbed into bed and lay down, facing Draco. Draco cleared his throat before he let his head fall back down onto the pillow, pointedly looking at the ceiling. He could feel Potter’s eyes on him, the unspoken question he was probably dying to ask weighing down on Draco’s chest as though he was already lying on top of him.
“Go ahead,” he murmured resignedly. Potter lost no time. Draco felt him move closer, his body going rigid when Potter laid his head on his shoulder and threw an arm across his chest. He wedged one of his legs between Draco’s and wiggled himself into a comfortable position.
“Are you really okay with this?” he asked.
“A little late for that, don’t you think?” Draco grumbled. He felt the weight of Potter’s head vanish.
“If you’re not, I can—”
“Shut up, Potter.”
“No, really, I don’t want you to—”
“Why do you never do as you’re told?” Draco snapped and impulsively wrapped his arms around him. “It doesn’t matter if you’re human or a koala, you’re always such a pain in the arse!”
Potter laid his head back on Draco’s shoulder, pressing his forehead against his neck. Draco tried hard not to swallow. He had been too busy being irritated with Potter, he hadn’t stopped to think about the fact that Harry Potter was currently lying in his arms, snuggled up against him. Dear Merlin.
“Are you alright?” Potter asked after a few moments.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Draco grunted back.
“Your heart is beating really fast.”
“Go to sleep, Potter.”
He mentally berated his heartbeat for betraying him. His 15 year old self would be so smug and beyond himself to know he had finally done it; he finally had Potter in his arms. But his 24 year old self knew it was only because Potter probably had nightmares and was haunted by his past. It had nothing to do with Draco.
Still, it felt… kind of nice, knowing he was the one who had the ability to calm Potter. And the cuddling wasn’t all that bad, either.
On the other hand, who else could Potter have gone to? There was literally no one else in this house. But he could have gone to one of his friends… right? He said he wasn’t ready to face them, but still, he didn’t have to stay here. So why did he?
Draco stiffened when Potter exhaled loudly and pressed himself closer to Draco. Was he already asleep? Oh boy, this would be a long night. Draco had no idea how he was supposed to sleep like this. His body was already reacting to Potter’s proximity. Shit. This was torture. He took several deep breaths and tried to think of the most unappealing things he could come up with.
Pansy’s fruitcakes, Blaise’s ugly purple jumper, his mother’s stew, peacocks… peacocks, peacocks, peacocks…
He finally drifted off, dreaming about colourful feathers and being chased through the garden of the Manor.
Draco woke just like he had gone to sleep; slowly, and with a frown on his face. He was pinned against the mattress. And he was hot. Really, really hot. He could feel the sweat on the nape of his neck. Gross.
He tried to move, but instantly stopped when a sharp tingling rushed through his body, right down to his loins, and his mind belatedly supplied him with the missing pieces.
Potter had come to his room last night. Shit.
Draco’s eyes snapped open, only to find Potter sprawled across him. Damn it. Draco tried to move once more, biting back a groan at the highly unwelcome friction. Fuck. He was hard. And every tiny movement made it worse. Their position didn’t exactly help, either. Potter’s crotch was practically nestled against Draco’s while Draco was lying on his back with his legs spread. Perfect.
Merlin, if they weren’t wearing any clothes— No, no. This was not the time.
Fuck. What now?
Draco was already panting, his chest heaving. It was only a matter of time before Potter— Oh no.
Draco’s eyes widened in horror as Potter slowly lifted his head and blinked at him sleepily.
“Hey, good morning,” he rasped and clumsily rubbed at his eyes. “Did you sleep okay?”
Draco found himself unable to answer. He could only imagine how red and blotchy his face must have been.
“Oh, sorry, I’m squashing you, aren’t I?” Potter said. He propped himself up on his elbows, then on his hands, in an attempt to lift himself up.
Draco’s entire body went rigid when Potter paused.
“Oh.” He swallowed, his eyes locking with Draco’s. Draco drew in a sharp breath as he felt Potter’s erection pressing against his.
“Oh,” he echoed, breathlessly.
Potter was hard as well.
The silence stretched between them uncomfortably while Draco’s head pounded with the force of his frantic pulse.
“Well…” He cleared his throat, intending to propose they should both get up. He would have, if his hips hadn’t twitched.
Potter made a gurgling sound and bit down on his lip. Hard. The sight sent sparks down Draco’s spine.
“We—We should—” Draco gulped, too mesmerised by the flush on Potter’s cheeks.
“You—You didn’t wake up like this when I… when I was a koala… did you?”
Draco’s mouth fell open. “What? Of course not!”
Potter held his gaze and the intensity of his stare almost made Draco shudder.
“We, um—We really should—”
“Yeah,” Potter said, faintly. “We should.”
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Draco registered he hadn’t actually finished his sentence, so Potter had no idea what he had agreed to. Or… was it Draco who had now inadvertently agreed to Potter’s unspoken proposal? What was he proposing exactly? For a moment, Draco thought it might be something he had fantasised about more often than he’d care to admit. But after another moment of intense staring, Potter climbed off of him and jumped out of bed.
“Err… I guess I’ll err… take a quick shower,” he mumbled, scratching the back of his head.
“Yeah,” Draco said, clearing his throat.
As soon as Potter had bolted out of the room, Draco hurried into his own bathroom and stripped down in record time. The thought that Potter was probably touching himself right now sent his pulse into overdrive. He groaned as he stepped under the deliciously warm water and wrapped a hand around his leaking cock. He put the other on the wall, the only thing separating him and Potter right now. He closed his eyes and shivered as he remembered the way Potter had been staring at him, pinning him against the mattress with his entire body.
“Oh, Merlin,” Draco groaned through gritted teeth. He hadn’t had a wank like this in years. It felt like he was a teenager again. His movements were so sloppy and fast, but he couldn’t have cared less. In his mind, Potter was kissing him, grinding on him, until he moved his head lower… and lower… and lower….
Draco threw back his head, panting and relishing the pleasant tingle on his skin. He might have felt embarrassed about what he had done just now and how little time it had taken, had he not heard a noise that sounded suspiciously like a moan from the other side of the wall.
It did make things less embarrassing, but it didn’t make it less awkward. They both avoided each other’s gaze at breakfast while eating in complete silence.
After clearing the table, Potter announced he’d take a walk through the garden, and before Draco could respond, he had already vanished. Honestly, Draco felt relieved. He didn’t want to talk about it and he couldn’t have dealt with Potter peeking over his shoulder while he was working on his potions.
When he didn’t see Potter for the rest of the day, however, he started feeling a little edgy. It was one thing for Draco to ignore Potter, but being ignored brought back all the spiteful feelings from school. How dare Potter avoid him like this! Well, two could play at that game.
He prepared dinner much earlier than usual, wolfing it down quickly, and left a plate for Potter in the kitchen without bothering to cast a heating charm on it. He could eat his bloody dinner cold and stale for all Draco cared. Afterwards, he retreated to his room and indulged himself in some Shakespeare. It wasn’t as enjoyable as he had hoped, since his thoughts kept drifting to Potter, wondering what he was doing right now.
His heart rate instantly picked up when he heard a knock on the door.
“What is it?” Draco said, trying to sound as irritated as possible.
“Malfoy, there’s a package for you,” Potter said.
Oh dear. What now? Why did the package have to be delivered when he was in the middle of ignoring Potter?
“It’s for you,” Draco grunted, scowling at the book in his lap.
“The package, it’s for you, you prat.”
When Potter gave no response, Draco imagined his dumbfounded expression while staring at the package in his hands. Draco loved rendering him speechless, he always had.
Before he could stop himself, he crossed the room and opened the door. He inwardly chuckled when he saw Potter’s face. Yes, definitely worth it.
Potter had already opened the package and was staring at it wordlessly. Could he… not see what was in it? Well, that had been the point of ordering—
“These are for me?” Potter whispered, flabbergasted.
“I certainly don’t need them,” Draco drawled. He suddenly felt very awkward again. He crossed his arms in front of his chest, not knowing what else to do with his hands.
“But—” Potter slightly shook his head. “I don’t get it. Why are you doing this?”
“Why am I doing what?”
“Where is the taunt? Are these from a joke shop?”
“You being as blind as a bat is enough of a joke,” Draco snorted. He turned his head sideways, fixing his gaze on the family portrait on the wall and tried to ignore the heat on his cheeks.
Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Potter taking the glasses out of the package and sliding them onto his face. Not being able to resist, he turned back and took in Potter’s new appearance. It looked… wrong. The glasses weren’t round, they were rectangular, but it was the closest to Potter’s old glasses Draco could find.
“Oh wow,” Potter said, blinking. “This is so much better. I was getting headaches from not being able to see properly.”
Draco made a non-committal noise and suppressed the urge to shuffle his feet. He hated that he felt so nervous.
“Thank you,” Potter said, smiling at him. Draco swallowed, his heart jumping excitedly in his chest.
“Whatever,” he shrugged and started turning away. He paused when Potter caught hold of his wrist.
“I mean it. Thank you.” He looked deeply into Draco’s eyes and in that moment, it felt like the world around them disappeared, leaving just the two of them staring at each other.
For a few seconds, Draco allowed the warmth of Potter’s fingers to seep into him. He almost smiled as he nodded. Then, Potter let go and just like that, the moment was over.
“I never thought I would say this, but it’s actually good to see your face, Malfoy,” Potter grinned.
Completely taken off guard, a gurgling sound escaped Draco’s throat, which turned into a cough, which, in turn, made Potter laugh.
“Well, I wish I could say the same,” Draco scoffed, trying to at least gain back some of his dignity. His eyes widened when Potter leaned forward.
“Are you blushing?” he asked, sounding dumbfounded.
“Pfft, please, Potter,” Draco retorted. “If anything, your presence is getting on my nerves.”
Potter leaned back again, his expression turning sombre. “I tried to stay out of your hair today,” he murmured.
“Where were you anyway?” Draco asked, giving him a speculative glance. “And what did you do all day?”
“Nothing,” Potter said quickly. Too quickly.
Draco narrowed his eyes at him but before he could press for more information, Potter spoke again.
“Can I sleep here tonight?”
“Again?” Draco inwardly flinched at his high-pitched voice.
Potter simply nodded.
“I’m not sure if that’s a good idea,” Draco said.
“Why?” Potter looked genuinely puzzled.
“Um…” Well, shit. He couldn’t voice any of his concerns, because they’d all expose him. “Ugh, fine,” he snapped. “But no cuddling.” He pointed his index finger at Potter, as though that would make him keep his distance.
“Okay,” Potter shrugged.
As relieved as Draco was, part of him was also irritated at how quickly Potter had agreed. Wasn’t that what he wanted? Was he already tired of it? Well, it wasn’t like Draco was dying to be cuddled. Not even in the slightest. Especially not by Potter.
“Well, I guess since you’re already here,” Draco said, gesturing dismissively to the bed. He went into the bathroom to change into his pyjamas but stopped dead when he came back and caught sight of Potter, stripped down to his pants, slipping under the covers.
“Are you seriously going to sleep like that?” he choked.
“I can’t sleep if it’s too warm,” Potter said. “And I get really hot during the night.”
“Tell me about it,” Draco muttered under his breath. He grabbed his wand and extinguished the lights before he climbed into bed and lay down, stiff as a board, making sure there was no contact with Potter whatsoever. He stared at the ceiling as Potter put down his glasses on the bed table and mimicked his position. They both lay there, completely motionless, until Potter softly cleared his throat.
“What?” Draco snapped, his testiness getting the better of him.
“I didn’t say anything,” Potter said, defensively.
“But you want to.”
Draco almost turned to look at him when there was no reply but thought better of it at the last second.
“Are you happy?” Potter whispered.
Draco blinked, taken aback, and then frowned. “What kind of a question is that?”
“Well, are you?” Potter pressed.
Draco opened his mouth, then closed it again. Was he happy? Well… on paper. He had his mother, Andromeda and Teddy… Blaise… Pansy… But still, there was something holding him back from answering the question with a confident “Yes”.
“I… don’t know,” he said instead. He felt Potter move beside him and kept his face stoic while Potter undoubtedly studied him.
“What did you do after the war?”
Draco briefly closed his eyes and let out a sigh. “Not much at first. After father was thrown into Azkaban, I took care of mother. She didn’t deal well with his imprisonment. But after a few months, I realised we couldn’t go on like this. Luckily, mother rallied and I was able to get an apprenticeship to become a Potions Master.”
“Did you finish it?”
“I almost didn’t.”
Draco inwardly smiled at Potter’s soft tone. “Mother got worse again. I remember it like it was yesterday. I came home and she was lying on the floor, sobbing. I thought she had hurt herself, but when I saw a letter lying beside her, I knew—I knew—”
“What?” Potter asked, and Draco felt him shifting closer.
“It was a letter from Azkaban,” Draco whispered. Without realising what he was doing, he clutched at the duvet and pressed his lips together.
“Hold on,” Potter said. Out of the corner of his eyes, Draco saw him prop himself up on one elbow. “Did he—Is… Is your father dead?”
Draco didn’t answer, trying to fight down the tears that were threatening to brim over. He still felt so conflicted about his father’s death. Part of him had felt glad, glad that he was gone. He had caused Draco and his mother so much misery. But it had instantly been mingled with regret, remorse and sadness. He hadn’t realised he still felt that way. He never talked about his father anymore.
“I’m sorry,” he heard Potter whisper.
“Save it,” Draco said weakly. “You always hated him. You—” He broke off when he felt warm fingers on the back of his hand. Potter was hesitant at first, his fingers lightly ghosting over Draco’s skin. But then he pressed his palm against Draco’s hand and brushed his thumb against his wrist.
It took so much effort not to move, not to break out into tears, not to shiver from Potter’s gentle touch.
“I may have hated him,” Potter said quietly, “but he was your father. I know a thing or two about losing parents.”
He didn’t want to turn and look at Potter, he really didn’t, but he couldn’t stop himself. Before he knew it, their eyes were locked in silent understanding.
It was almost frightening and strange, how liberated Draco felt after sharing. It usually didn’t feel like this. Was Draco’s mind playing tricks on him? Was it suggesting he could trust Potter, just because he had inadvertently shared his deepest secrets with him while he had been a koala? Or was it more than that? Potter had said before he could relate to how Draco felt, and Draco had come to a similar realisation. What was going on?
Well, whatever was going on, Potter seemed to be having some kind of epiphany himself. His eyes were wide and glazed, his lips parted as though he was in shock.
Draco carefully raised an eyebrow at his expression and turned his head fully to the side. That’s when he realised a single tear was trickling down his face. Oh. Was this why Potter was looking at him like that? Was this… pity?
He stiffened when Potter slowly reached out and brushed away the tear with his thumb. He tried to relax, thinking this was all Potter was going to do, but when he cupped Draco’s cheek and held his gaze, his heart started blustering like a thunderstorm. It was so intense, he was pretty sure Potter could feel the tremor of his heartbeat on his cheek. For agonising moments they stayed like that, with Draco unable to move, until he saw something flicker across Potter’s face. Before he could ponder on it, Potter leaned forward. His thumb caressed Draco’s cheekbone before he closed his eyes and softly brushed their lips together. It only lasted a few seconds, but within those seconds, Draco felt like a load of Weasleys’ Wildfire Whiz-bangs were exploding inside his chest. And they kept exploding, even when Potter pulled away and rested his head on the pillow again. His warm and soft gaze didn’t exactly help the matter. As well as him grabbing Draco’s hand and closing his eyes with a hint of a smile on his face.
What in Merlin’s name had just happened? And was Potter really planning on going to sleep now? Without explaining himself? If Draco hadn’t been so dumbstruck, he would have demanded an explanation. But all he could do was stare at Potter and try to keep the Whiz-bangs at bay while Potter’s hand slowly slackened in his.
It really shouldn’t have surprised Draco to wake up with Potter sprawled across him. Honestly, at this point, he should have expected it. And yet, he panicked when he realised he could only move his arms and his legs. Correction, his arms and one leg.
Still drowsy, he lifted his head, cracked open one eye and groaned when all he could see was a mass of black hair. Frustrated, he let his head fall back onto the pillow, only to be absolutely horrified. Was that… Potter’s mouth? On his neck? Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!
Moving deliberately slowly, Draco pushed Potter’s head away, hoping he wouldn’t wake up. His breath caught in his throat when Potter let out a soft groan and snuggled closer to Draco. Great. Absolutely perfect.
“Potter,” Draco hissed. He was so fed up with this, he was even willing to endure all the awkwardness that was undoubtedly about to unfold. Surely enough, when Potter lifted his head and blinked at him, Draco could instantly feel his cheeks heating up.
“Morning,” Potter said, his voice thick with sleep.
“Potter, get off me,” Draco growled, accentuating his command with a scowl.
“Sorry,” Potter said, sheepishly. “I have no idea why I keep doing that. It’s not like you’re very comfortable.”
“Excuse me?” Draco said, mentally slapping himself for sounding so affronted.
“Well, you’re still pretty bony,” Potter shrugged.
“You’re one to talk,” Draco muttered under his breath.
“But I have to admit, you felt pretty great when I was a koala.”
Draco’s eyes snapped to Potter’s, his heart skipping a beat. “Really?” he asked, unthinkingly.
“Yeah.” Potter’s voice was barely a whisper and Draco wondered why his eyes were suddenly getting glazed. “I mean… I guess you do feel okay like this, too.”
Before Draco could ask him what the hell he was talking about, Potter traced the line of Draco’s jaw with his index finger. Holy… shit. It was fucking embarrassing how that tiny gesture made his pulse quicken as though he was chasing the Snitch. And what was even worse, he had no doubt Potter could see how flustered he was getting. Did he also see how much Draco wanted to grab him and pull him into a kiss?
“You know,” Potter began, his eyes locked on Draco’s mouth. “I’ve never kissed a guy before.”
“What?” Draco had trouble following Potter’s words. All he could think about was his finger on his skin, his eyes on his lips.
“Last night… That was the first time I kissed another bloke.”
“Oh.” Draco had no idea what else to say.
“It’s not like I haven’t thought about it before, I just… never had the opportunity, I guess.”
“Uh-huh.” Seriously, why was Potter still talking?
“I haven’t had the opportunity to do a lot of things, actually.”
Draco slowly nodded but froze when Potter’s eye suddenly bore into his. Wait, what had Potter been talking about? Oh! So Draco was the first bloke he had kissed? Interesting. And what was it he said about opportunities? Not having… Whoa! Wait a second…
“W—Wait,” Draco stammered, hating himself, but mostly Potter for making him stutter. “Are you saying… you haven’t…”
Potter shrugged. “When was I supposed to? I was a little busy, trying to stay alive. And I guess between then and now… Oh Merlin!” Potter’s face twisted in horror. “Do you—Do you think it counts… you know, as a koala?”
“Oh. Well, I mean… Did you do it? With another koala?”
“Ugh, I hope not! I have no idea,” Potter groaned and hid his face in the crook of Draco’s neck. His face emerged again with a scowl when Draco burst out laughing, his entire body shaking.
“This isn’t funny,” Potter exclaimed.
“Merlin,” Draco wheezed, “this is just too absurd.”
“You know what, new rule. If I don’t remember it, it didn’t happen,” Potter announced. That only made Draco laugh more.
“Stop laughing,” Potter said, but the corner of his mouth was twitching and Draco could see he was only seconds away from joining in.
“Only you, Potter,” Draco howled. “Only you can get into a mess like that.”
“Shut up, Malfoy,” Potter grinned and playfully nudged his shoulders. “You know, I’ve never seen you laugh like this. Even when I was a koala.”
Draco’s laughter instantly died in his throat. Somehow, he felt caught. He usually wasn’t like this; he didn’t let people in that easily.
“I like it,” Potter said quietly. He had that look in his eyes again, the one he’d had the night before, right before he had kissed Draco. It would be so easy to just lean forward or grab him and pull him into a kiss… But it wouldn’t mean the same to Potter as it would to Draco. It was pretty obvious Draco was only some sort of experiment to him, probably to see if he really was into blokes. Granted, last night might have been more than that, but the only reason Potter had kissed him was out of pity. And that was the last thing Draco wanted.
So when Potter looked like he was about to lean in, Draco cleared his throat and turned away.
“We should get up. Mother and Teddy will be here soon.”
It took a moment before Potter answered. “Right. You’re right.” He sounded disappointed. It made Draco huff in anger.
“Experiment with someone else, Potter,” he growled after Potter had climbed off of him.
Without giving an answer and without a backward glance, Draco marched into the bathroom and slammed the door shut behind him.
He scrubbed himself a little more forcefully than was necessary, but he just couldn’t shake his anger. Even the warm water couldn’t relax him. Who did Potter think he was? Did he really think he could just use Draco like that? Without his consent? That prat. If he was still in Draco’s room when he came out of the shower, he would hex him.
As it turned out, there would be no need for that. Potter had indeed left Draco’s room. At least there was some sense left in that thick head of his.
After grabbing his favourite jumper and a pair of black trousers, Draco stomped down the stairs and into the kitchen. He was in desperate need of some tea. There had to be something that would calm him down again.
This was just typical. Potter had always made him so angry. Why would now be any different?
Instead of drawing his wand, he decided to make tea the Muggle way. He needed something to distract him. As he put the kettle on the stove, he realised he had to wait until the water was boiling. So much for distraction. Grabbing the sink with both hands, he looked outside the window and wondered how Potter had been able to turn his life upside down in a matter of days. Maybe he should have kicked him out right away. No, it had started before that. He never should have become that attached to that wretched koala.
Sighing, Draco bowed his head and closed his eyes. What an utter mess this was.
If he hadn’t been so lost in thought, he probably would have heard the footsteps behind him, rather than almost jumping out of his skin when two arms slowly encircled his midriff.
“You’re not an experiment, Malfoy,” Potter murmured into his neck.
“Oh yeah?” Draco said stiffly. “What am I, then?” He hated how vulnerable this question made him, hated Potter for putting him into this position in the first place.
“I don’t know,” Potter whispered.
“Of course you don’t,” Draco huffed. His shoulders tensed when he felt Potter’s warm breath on his neck.
“This isn’t exactly easy for me either,” he said, pressing himself closer to Draco. “I know I feel… something for you. But I don’t know what it is yet.”
Draco swallowed, willing his heartbeat to slow down. “Tell me,” he said quietly. “Tell me how it feels.”
Panic washed over him when Potter didn’t say anything. Instead, he turned Draco around in his arms. He placed one hand on the small of Draco’s back while the other reached up to cup Draco’s cheek.
“It feels like this,” Potter said.
Draco frowned at him and slowly shook his head. “That doesn’t make any sense, Potter.”
“Don’t you feel it?” Potter countered. “The knots in your stomach, your heart almost leaping out of your chest, your toes and your fingertips tingling?”
Draco inhaled sharply, blinking at Potter as though he was seeing him for the first time. He opened and closed his mouth several times, but no sound came out.
“Oh,” Potter said after a few moments. He withdrew his hand from Draco’s cheek and stepped back. “I—I guess you don’t—”
“That’s how you feel?” Draco asked, his head spinning.
Draco stared at him, his heart swelling in his chest. Could he really believe him? Was he being sincere?
Hesitantly, he moved closer to Potter, until their bodies were almost touching. He mimicked Potter’s gesture from before, cupping his cheek.
“It does feel like this,” he whispered.
Potter let out a sigh, as though the weight of the world had just been lifted off his shoulders.
“Thank Merlin,” he whispered and leaned forward until his forehead was pressed against Draco’s.
“So… last night…” Draco began, already feeling foolish. But he had to know. “Did you kiss me because… you felt sorry for me?”
Potter’s brows furrowed and for a moment, Draco thought he was getting angry.
“No,” he said, slightly shaking his head. “That’s not why I kissed you.” He wrapped his arms around Draco’s midriff once more and pulled them closer together. And then, to Draco’s astonishment, he pressed his nose against Draco’s. “That’s why I kissed you.”
“I don’t understand…”
“Don’t you remember?” Potter smiled. He chuckled when Draco frowned, but waited patiently while Draco racked his brain. It took him a moment, but when it finally clicked, when he finally understood Potter was talking about the bond they had formed while he had been in his animagus form, he got so choked up, he wasn’t able to hide it.
“I know it’s weird,” Potter said. “We kinda got to know each other… without you knowing it’s really me and I… wasn’t myself.” He shook his head as though it would help settle his thoughts. “But I’m glad it happened this way.”
“Because I don’t think you would have opened up to me the way you did if I hadn’t accidentally turned myself into an animal. I guess it helps that I’m such an adorable creature.”
“Get over yourself,” Draco said, rolling his eyes. “Adorable.” He snorted.
“Um, excuse me, everybody thinks I’m adorable.”
Draco cocked his head and studied Potter’s face. How come he was so confident when it came to his animagus form, but so insecure about his true self?
“You are,” Draco said, brushing a strand of hair behind Potter’s ear. “Even more so as a human.”
Draco felt, rather than heard, Potter’s sharp inhale. He wrapped his hand around the nape of Potter’s neck and searched his eyes for any remnant of doubt. But all he could see was wonder and curiosity.
Smiling, Draco finally leaned in. Apparently it didn’t matter he had kissed Potter before; his heart was jumping so violently, he thought it was going to burst in his chest. Or maybe it was because this time, it wasn’t just a spur of the moment kind of thing. It was a deliberate move. They both wanted it. And they were both acknowledging it.
Potter’s lips were hesitant against his at first. But soon, his fingers were digging into Draco’s back as they both sucked the air out of each other’s lungs.
Draco’s eyes snapped open and they both jumped apart so quickly, he nearly tumbled to the floor.
“Teddy,” he said, breathlessly, drinking in the child’s baffled face.
“Oh, darling,” his mother said, flicking her wand at the whistling kettle. “You really shouldn’t be using the stove when you—” She stopped dead when she finally got a good look at Potter. “Sweet Mother of Merlin,” she whispered, awestruck.
Nobody said anything for a few moments. The tension in the room was almost palpable.
“Draco,” his mother finally said. “What is going on?”
“Err…” Draco’s eyes flicked between Potter and his mother. Where would he even begin to explain this?
“I—I think I should go,” Potter murmured.
“Don’t even think about it,” Draco said, grabbing his hand. Potter gave him an odd look; his eyes were pleading, but there was a tiny smile forming on his lips.
When Draco turned back to his mother, he thought she was going to faint.
“But—But how—” She lifted a hand to her mouth, her face ashen. “We were just gone for a few days. How could this—”
“Who are you?” Teddy cut in. He was looking at Potter, but his eyes kept wandering down to their joined hands.
“Um… I’m… Well, that’s kind of a long story,” Potter said carefully.
“One we should discuss over breakfast,” Draco chimed in, hoping to break the tension. “Mother, why don’t you take Teddy to the dining room and Potter and I will join you in a moment?”
His mother looked at him incredulously and Draco knew she wanted to say something. But he also knew she hated to cause a scene. Surely enough, she nudged Teddy’s shoulder and ushered him into the dining room.
“I don’t know if I’m ready for this,” Potter said as soon as they were alone.
“You can’t run away forever, Potter,” Draco replied, squeezing his hand. “Besides, don’t you want to get to know your godson?”
“Teddy! Why aren’t you with your auntie in the dining room?”
“I want to see Baxter,” Teddy said with a pout. “I haven’t seen him in so long. Is he in my room?”
Well, shit. Draco peeked at Potter, who looked like he was going to bolt any second. Or maybe he was going to spew… Draco wasn’t sure.
“Teddy, about that,” he began.
“Oh no,” Teddy said, his eyes widening in horror. “You gave him back to the zoo, didn’t you? You promised me, Draco. YOU PROMISED ME!”
“Teddy, calm down, it’s not what you—”
“I HATE YOU!”
“Teddy, please, you—”
“I HATE YOU!”
“Um… hey…” Potter let go of Draco’s hand and got down on one knee in front of Teddy.
Teddy slowly leaned away, his face blotchy and his brows still set in an angry frown.
“I know you probably won’t believe this, but…” Potter bit his lip, obviously unsure of how to continue. “Um… the thing is… I’m Baxter.”
“What?” Teddy blinked at him and unclenched his fists.
“Yeah, um…” Potter turned around, silently asking Draco for help.
Draco mimicked his position and carefully took one of Teddy’s hands.
“We talked about different forms of magic, remember?”
Teddy hesitantly nodded.
“And we talked about your dad and his friends. Do you remember what they did for him?”
Before Teddy could answer, Potter’s head whipped around to him.
“How do you know about that?”
“Andromeda,” Draco shrugged. “Remus must have told her. Now, Teddy, do you remember what they did?”
“They… um…” Teddy tried to keep his eyes on Draco but Potter’s presence was apparently making him shy. That was odd. Teddy usually wasn’t like this around strangers. “They… they learned how to turn themselves into animals?”
“That’s right,” Draco smiled. “Do you remember what someone who can turn into an animal is called?”
“Animagus,” Draco said with an encouraging nod.
Teddy’s frown slowly but surely disappeared from his face and was replaced by a look of wonder and uncertainty. Draco watched him as he studied Potter, his mind undoubtedly reeling.
“Are you really telling the truth?” Teddy asked, sceptically.
“Just look into his eyes,” Draco said. “You’ll know it’s him.”
Teddy looked a little flustered, but he slowly leaned forward. He was chewing on his bottom lip, eyes narrowed, while Potter held completely still.
Draco saw the moment Teddy’s scepticism melted away and he realised they were telling the truth; it was written all over his face.
“Baxter,” Teddy whispered, his voice quivering. “It’s—It’s you.”
“Yeah,” Potter said, sounding sheepish. “Listen, I had no idea what was going on. I wasn’t aware that… I’m actually human while I was a koala. It sounds crazy, I know, and… I’m sorry.” Potter bowed his head as though he was ashamed of himself.
Draco wanted to grab his shoulders and shake him, tell him he had nothing to apologise for.
“Grandma told me about you,” Teddy said, his voice barely a whisper.
Potter almost toppled over backwards, his mouth hanging open.
“I’m not stupid,” Teddy declared, squaring his shoulders. “Draco said your name and I saw your scar.”
Slowly, Potter nodded, bowing his head again. It was infuriating to watch.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you,” Potter murmured. “I guess fate brought us back together. But… I’m sorry for disappointing you again.”
Draco could practically feel the sadness in his voice. This was the moment, he thought. This was the moment Potter had been afraid of.
You like me as a koala.
He was afraid Teddy would reject him in his human form, wasn’t he? What would happen if Teddy actually did?
“This is a lot to take in, for all of us,” Draco said, putting a hand on Potter’s shoulder. “Let’s have breakfast first and then we’ll take one step at a time.”
The next few days were filled with tension. After telling his mother what happened, she barely said anything. Meanwhile, Potter and Teddy spent a lot of time in the garden and while Draco had decided to give them some privacy, it made him edgy, not knowing what was going on. But they seemed to be getting along; Teddy’s laughter wafted through the windows and Potter seemed more cheerful when he climbed into Draco’s bed.
“Did you have fun with Teddy?” Draco asked carefully.
“Yeah. He’s a very sharp kid.”
“He is.” Draco gave him a speculative glance, contemplating if it would be rude to pry. “What did you guys do?”
“We mostly talked,” Potter shrugged.
The corners of Potter’s mouth turned down a bit. “His parents. My parents. Sirius. What happened to them.”
Draco inhaled sharply, his first instinct telling him Teddy was too young to have such serious discussions. Then again, Teddy wasn’t like other children, and he deserved to know everything. Draco, his mother and Andromeda had already told him the basics, but maybe it was a good thing he was talking about it with Potter. If anything, it seemed to be helping him, too. Maybe this was just what Potter needed; maybe talking to Teddy would help him cope.
“You’ll get wrinkles if you keep frowning like that,” Potter quipped, brushing his index finger against Draco’s forehead. “Are you worried about something?”
Draco held Potter’s gaze, warmth flooding through him, mingled with a hint of wariness.
“No,” he lied. He figured it wouldn’t do much good to pester Potter about his current situation, that Draco was indeed worried about him. As cheerful as he seemed now, Draco suspected it was only temporary; the darkness in him was probably still lurking right beneath the surface.
“This all seems like a dream,” Potter whispered while his hand found its way into Draco’s hair. “I never would have thought…” He paused, his eyes searching Draco’s. “I never would have thought we would end up like this.”
“Like what?” Draco murmured. He needed Potter to say it out loud.
“Well, you know…” Potter hesitated, a small smile creeping onto his lips. “That we would end up liking each other.”
“Pfft,” Draco scoffed automatically. “Who said anything about liking you.”
Potter blinked and was about to withdraw his hand when Draco quickly leaned forward.
“Merlin, Potter, can’t you tell when I’m teasing? Clearly, you’re out of practice.”
Potter visibly relaxed and resumed stroking Draco’s hair. “I guess I was a koala for too long,” he said pensively.
Draco studied his face, his chest tightening. “Is it that hard, being in your human form again?”
He caught something flicker across Potter’s face, something that made his stomach twist uncomfortably.
“Sometimes,” Potter murmured.
“But…” Draco gulped. “Do you think it’s worth… fighting through it?”
His heart thundered against his chest as he waited for Potter to answer. They both knew what Draco was actually asking. Was he enough for Potter to try and not run away.
“Come here,” Potter whispered and brought their lips together. The kiss was sweet and unrushed. Part of Draco relished it, lost himself in it; but there was still this tiny flicker of doubt in the back of his head, reminding him that Potter had evaded the question and it would probably blow up in Draco’s face sooner or later.
After three weeks, Draco’s mother finally seemed to be coming around. She started talking to Potter, asking him about his favourite dishes and actually served pork chops for dinner. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, except for the fact that Potter still hadn’t reached out to any of his old friends. It wasn’t like Draco wanted Weasley or Granger around, but they were Potter’s best friends, or had been at least, and it was just weird that Potter didn’t feel the need to talk to them. It made Draco more suspicious about Potter’s plans for the future. Was he going to hole himself up here forever?
He had noticed Potter vanishing more often than usual in the last couple of days. Most of the time he was with Teddy, so Draco hadn’t thought much of it at first. But when he had found the child playing in his room alone, panic had washed over him.
He didn’t feel like confronting Potter about it; honestly, it was none of his business. But he grew wearier with every passing day, feeling like there was a gaping abyss between him and Potter, which neither of them knew how to cross.
He probably should have known what was coming next, should have known it was kind of inevitable. Still, he stood there, rooted to the spot, the doorknob in his hand the only thing that was keeping him from falling over, while his insides turned to ice. He could feel his throat closing up, making it difficult to breathe.
“Oh, hey Draco,” Teddy smiled. “Look what Harry—Draco?”
He couldn’t respond, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think properly. All he could do was stare at Teddy, who was cradling a bundle of grey fur.
“No,” Draco choked, feeling his knees go weak. How could he? How could Potter…
He stormed across the hall into his room, slamming the door shut behind him and casting a locking spell on it. He threw himself onto the bed, pushing his face into the duvet.
Potter had turned himself into a koala again, without knowing if he could ever turn back. Did his life really mean that little to him? Did Draco? And what about Teddy?
You like me as a koala.
Draco slammed a fist against the mattress. How could Potter do this? How could he just throw everything away?
Not knowing what else to do, Draco snivelled into the duvet. He heard a knock on the door but ignored it. He didn’t want to talk to anybody right now.
Potter had just ripped out his heart. There was no coming back from that.
He cried himself to sleep that night, waking up with puffy eyes and a splitting headache the next day. He contemplated staying in his room, but what good would come from moping all day. No, he was going to confront Potter about this.
Driven by this new determination, he stomped over to Teddy’s room. The child was nowhere to be seen; he was probably downstairs for breakfast. Good. Draco didn’t want him to see this. The only person he needed for this was Potter.
Draco spotted him sitting on Teddy’s bed, waggling his ears. The sight was worse than a stab to the chest. Slowly, Draco walked over to the bed and sat down next to him. He avoided eye contact, staring at his hands in his lap instead.
“Why?” he choked after a few moments. “Why did you do it?” He felt new tears running down his cheeks and hastily brushed them away with his sleeve. “I—I thought—” A gurgling sound escaped his throat and he hid his face behind his hands. The room was silent for a moment, but when he heard something rustle beside him, Draco peeked over to his right.
Potter was crawling over to him and put his paws on his thigh. Draco made another noise he usually would have been embarrassed about. After a brief moment of hesitation, Draco picked him up and placed him in his lap. He gasped in horror when he saw Potter’s eyes. They weren’t his eyes anymore, warm and soft; they were cold, grey and empty. Did that mean…
“No,” Draco choked. “No!” He wrapped his arms around him and pressed his cheek against Potter’s head. “Please, Potter.” He hugged him closer to his chest, sniffling. “Don’t let go. Don’t let go of your humanity,” he begged, even though he knew it was probably too late. “Please don’t.”
Potter snuggled up to him and Draco could feel his paws on his sides.
“I thought we had something,” he whispered. “I—I thought—” His mind was screaming at him to stop, to not make himself more vulnerable. But what else did he have to lose? “Maybe I should have been more open about my feelings,” he murmured. He pulled back and tipped Potter’s head back, forcing him to look at him. “We could have found a way. Together. We could have—I mean, I didn’t really know what we were doing, but… you didn’t even give us a chance. Do I really mean nothing to you?” He stared into Potter’s empty eyes, panic and trepidation coiling in the pit of his stomach. “You selfish bastard.” He buried his face in Potter’s fur, his resolution not to break down sobbing crumbling more and more.
He jumped, his head whipping up so fast he suddenly felt dizzy. And… confused. Was he… seeing things? Was he just imagining Potter standing in the doorway? Or… was he actually going crazy?
“What—How—” Draco cringed as his headache intensified. This was just too much. What the fuck was going on here?
“Did you think that was me?” Potter asked, pointing at the koala in Draco’s lap.
Draco’s heart jumped at the sound of his name. Was he dreaming? None of this made sense. Suddenly, Potter was kneeling in front of him and putting the koala down on the bed.
“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but…” He gave Draco a sheepish look.
“Oh.” Draco still had no idea what was going on. “You—You’re not a koala.”
“I’m not,” Potter smiled.
“But… you didn’t come to bed last night.”
“You locked the door,” Potter pointed out. “I thought you wanted to be by yourself. I knocked a few times but you didn’t answer.”
Potter let out a sigh. “I guess I should have been more open with you.”
“What do you mean?” Draco said, still feeling dazed and confused.
Absentmindedly, Potter reached for Draco’s hand. “I didn’t want to burden you with my bullshit. I’ve been… trying to sort things out on my own.”
Potter hesitated, biting his lip. “I sent Hermione and Ron an owl.”
“Yeah. And I… I went to see McGonagall.”
“You did?” Draco was utterly speechless.
“I think I nearly gave her a heart attack,” Potter said with a little laugh. “But after I explained everything… she um… she said there might be…”
“She said there might be a job for me, at Hogwarts.”
Draco’s mind reeled. That was a lot to take in. Potter had really done all this behind his back?
“Yeah, I mean, she said I need to go to St Mungo’s first, get examined, and something about my magic being evaluated and—”
“Why didn’t you just tell me?” Draco interrupted him.
“I wanted to surprise you,” Potter said, sounding unsure. “Look, I know I’ve got a lot of baggage. I thought if I work through some stuff on my own first, this… thing between us might actually work.”
Draco stared at him, dumbfounded. “Oh.”
“Yeah, maybe that was stupid. What you just said… you know, working on it together… That doesn’t sound too bad.”
“Potter,” Draco whispered, shaking his head. This man was just full of surprises. “Hold on.” He turned around, narrowing his eyes at the koala. “Who the hell is this then?”
“Oh,” Potter burst out laughing. “That is actually a rock.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Yeah, I transfigured it for Teddy.” He said it as though it was no big deal.
“I thought you didn’t have your wand.”
“Err… I don’t,” Potter said, scratching the back of his neck. Something, Draco had noticed, he did when he was getting nervous or felt caught.
Draco crossed his arms in front of his chest and gave him a meaningful look.
“I’ve been practising,” Potter sighed. “I’ve been practising doing wandless magic and,” he shrugged, “it works better than I thought.”
“I knew it,” Draco grumbled. The prat was too good at magic for his own good. That’s probably how he had ended up as a koala in the first place; his magic had probably taken over without him noticing.
“So… now that we’ve got that out of the way,” Potter peeked at him from under his lashes, “would you maybe… err….”
“What?” Draco asked, his pulse kicking into overdrive.
“Would you be willing—I mean… um… Do you want to see where this is going?”
Draco sized him up, deliberately keeping his face impassive. “Well, since you’re practically begging….”
Potter burst out laughing, slapping Draco’s thigh. It was so nice seeing him like this. Before Draco could say anything else, Potter reached out and cupped both of his cheeks with his hands.
“I’m not running away anymore,” he said, his voice low. “I’m not saying it will be easy, but… I want to try.”
Draco couldn’t stop himself from smiling as he leaned forward and captured Potter’s lips with his.
“You know,” he mumbled against Potter’s mouth, “I should be appalled by this. You’re practically stalking me, following me to Hogwarts.”
He felt Potter’s lips stretch into a grin. “If I remember correctly, that was your idea.”
Draco threw back his head, laughing, and wrapped his arms around Potter’s neck. “If you ask nicely, I’ll let you stalk me in the hallways and my quarters as well.”
“Ha, I bet if I asked nicely, McGonagall will let us have shared quarters,” Potter said, wiggling his eyebrows.
Draco snorted, drinking in Potter’s cheerfulness. “You’ll finally be home again,” he said, slightly pulling back and brushing his fingers through Potter’s hair.
“Yeah, I know I’ve said that, but… it’s different now. I realised that in the last couple of weeks.”
“Realised what?” Draco asked. His heart skipped a beat when he saw the look on Potter’s face; warm and tender.
“Something I learned from Teddy… and you,” Potter said, brushing his thumb against Draco’s cheekbone. “That home isn’t necessarily a place, it’s the people in it.”
Draco rolled his eyes, not knowing how else to handle such a heartfelt but cheesy line.
“Now I’m tempted to run away,” Draco quipped.
“You can if you want to,” Potter said. “Believe me, I’d understand if you—”
“Not a chance, Potter,” Draco said, pulling him into another kiss. “Whether you like it or not, we’re in this together now.”