Harry poured himself a liberal amount of coffee. His doctor already told him not to drink caffeine, said it would only make it more difficult to sleep. He gave it a week then decided since he obviously wasn’t going to sleep either way he needed to be able to function. Having children, while wonderful in many ways, was downright exhausting.
He tilted his head slightly at the sound. For a minute he’d thought that Draco Malfoy—
Draco Malfoy was handing him the cream.
He hadn’t really aged in the 15 years since he’d last seen him. Same pale skin and blonde hair. Same lean build and bony features. Maybe his skin was stretched a little tighter. His eyes looked cloudier than he remembered them. They looked…well, they looked sad. His eyes looked old and out of place with the rest of his face. He’d noticed it with a lot of the people who’d survived the war. Malfoy’s looked different though, distant and alone.
He shook his head and reached out for the milk. “Yeah. Thanks.”
They stood in silence for a minute stirring their coffee.
“So. Single Parents Meeting. Hogwarts has changed a lot since our day.”
“It has,” he agreed. “Your kid?”
“Cassiopeia. Her mother passed away a year ago. She just started last week,” Malfoy said proudly, then looked towards the ground, probably remembering such a fresh loss.
He cleared his through, feeling the need to respond, “Jamie as well.”
He’d known that was going to be the next question. It always was. “No. Ginny died right after my youngest was born. It’s just me, Jamie, and Lucy now.
Malfoy nodded knowingly.
“Jamie’s a Gryffindor, I assume?”
“Yeah, guess it runs in his blood. Slytherin?” he asked, but he was fairly certain he knew the answer. Weren’t Malfoys always?
“Ravenclaw actually.” That stopped him for a minute. A Ravenclaw?
“She must be smart then?”
“Brilliant. And a better person than I’ll ever be. She was never going to be Slytherin. I’m glad she won’t be like any of the old Malfoys. She has brighter things ahead of her than we did.”
Somehow that sounded odd coming out of his mouth. When he remembered Malfoy, it was usually what an prick he’d been. When they were here he had been so arrogant and conceited. Humbleness suited him. In fact, it was a breath of fresh air. It was a nice reminder that things, that people, changed. These days he felt increasingly more stuck. He used to have hope for an amazing future and in some ways, he had that, but there was also this nagging feeling that something was missing. Sometimes he felt like he’d never reach that something.
“There are a lot of us,” Malfoy observed, surveying the room which was mostly full now. He’d noticed the same thing.
“The war, I think. Some kids lost their parents,” he looked at Andromeda. Teddy had just started his fifth year. “Some got married because they felt the need to, but it didn’t last,” he looked towards Hermione and Ron, who were standing at opposite ends of the room glaring at each other. It hadn’t ended well. “Some people couldn’t live with the trauma anymore,” he looked sympathetically to where Neville sat alone. Hannah had only been twenty-eight when it happened. Their daughter, Hazel was only six and the twins were hardly a year old. Harry had watched it crush Neville.
“A curse.” Draco said curtly. “That’s what happened to Astoria. Something with her ancestors…well, it resurfaced in her.”
“It was an illness for Ginny. Something to do with Lucy’s birth. It usually only kills muggles, but they didn’t catch it soon enough. One of those things that is so rare that you never thought it could happen to you, until it does.”
They stood there a minute longer then made their way to the circle. Draco sat a few seats away with Daphne and Harry momentarily wondered what her story was. Then Hermione sat down next to him and he gave Ron an apologetic shrug. It was a constant battle between the two of them, and more often than not Harry ended up in the middle. They were both still his best friends and it seemed strange that they would never spend time together again, all three of them. So much for The Golden Trio.
The counsellor the school had hired spoke to them briefly about the difficulties they might face and the best way to handle them. She gave them all fliers with more information and a calendar of all their meetings. There was one big one every month and smaller ones every week for parents who wanted the extra support. Questions were asked and answered and then they were invited to stay for refreshments.
Hermione hugged him quickly and promised to bring Aiden over for a playdate when she had a day off. She made her way to the floo before Ron could so much as look towards them. Harry proceeded to make the rounds. There were too many familiar faces. There were too many kids forced to live without a parent. He knew first hand how horrible that was.
“Jamie settling in okay?” Ron asked from behind him.
“He writes every day. Sounds just like we did when we first got here, so full of excitement and hope,” he answered honestly. “Do you think Rose is happy to be back?”
“Anything to get away from us I reckon.” Harry could hear all the pent up frustration in his voice. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that. Just comes out sometimes.”
Harry nodded. The divorce hadn’t been Ron’s idea and nearly two years later he was still angry about it. He refused to acknowledge the part he played in the end of their marriage, but, with him always away with the Chudley Cannons and Hermione left home with the kids and her own demanding position at the Ministry, it had only been a matter of time. They had fallen in love with the idea of each other, however, Harry thought they had never actually fallen in love with each other.
He stayed another few minutes then made his way to the queue for the fireplace. The whole meeting hadn’t really changed anything, still, it was nice to see that he wasn’t alone.
Someone tapped his shoulder and when he turned around he was stunned to see that it had been Malfoy.
“Do you think you’ll come back?”
“Probably. Maybe not every meeting, maybe just the big ones.”
“This is going to sound very strange, but would you want to have a pint sometime? I know we never got along when we were here. Things change though, people change,” he looked down at his shoes nervously. “It would be nice to talk to someone who understands.”
“Yeah,” Harry said, before he could even process the oddness of his response. “Yeah, that would be nice. Um, here’s my address. Send me an owl.”
“Well, goodnight Malfoy.”
“Draco,” the name sounded strange and new, but not necessarily bad. “Harry,” he said and extended his hand.
“Harry,” Draco repeated, shaking his peace offering.
Wondering if you wanted to grab a pint at The Leaky Cauldron tonight. Around 8?
Respond if convenient.
It had been a little more than a week since the meeting and, much to Harry’s surprise, he had been anticipating an invitation from Draco. No matter how much he thought about it, he couldn’t quite figure out why. Perhaps it was the prospect of a new acquaintance or a new confident, but that didn’t really account for it.
Draco had changed. As far as Harry could see, there was barely any semblance of the old Malfoy in him. In some ways it seemed good. He was humbler and—dare he say—compassionate. In some ways, though, it was unnerving, like some piece of him was missing. He seemed very far away.
He scribbled out a response, in his atrocious, Auror handwriting.
Sounds good. I’ll be in the office late anyway. You could meet me here if you like.
Here’s the thing: Harry didn’t hate his job. He’d become an Auror because it seemed like the best option. He had basically trained to fight dark wizards his whole life, so he reckoned he’d be good at it. Which he was, but he had taken the job because it was what was expected of him. Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived, was supposed to keep doing what he did best: protecting the wizarding world. However, if he’d felt he had the option he would have liked to do something else. At one point he had wanted to follow in Lupin’s footprints and become the Defence against the Dark Arts professor.
There was also the issue that it was a dangerous job. There were cases that put his life in danger and that terrified him. Jamie and Lucy had no one except him. He could never put himself in a position where they might lose him. These days, he mostly took small, safe jobs and desk work. Still, he was very aware that the threat continued to exist.
It was a job though. It paid well, even though that had never really been an issue. Most importantly, it gave him something to do every day. He felt guilty about every hour he spent away from his family, but if he didn’t have something to focus on he thought he would probably lose his mind. There were too many terrible things to dwell upon if he had the time to.
A tap at the window alerted him to what was probably Draco’s response.
I’ll see you then.
He checked his watch. He still had a few hours. He figured he could at least try to get the paperwork on last week’s Muggle memory tampering fiasco.
Draco walked nervously into the ministry. He avoided coming here at all costs. It brought back only bad memories. The last time he had been here was for his probation hearing, when, after three years of close monitoring and rehabilitation lessons, he had finally been cleared and given permission to purchase a new wand. Before that, it had been his father’s death trial.
The nice part about so much time having passed was that few people recognized him anymore. And if they did, they didn’t feel it necessary to stare and whisper once his back was turned. He was happy that he had been forgotten. He didn’t need any more reminders of the past.
The receptionist at the front desk didn’t seem to recognize him either, which was a welcome relief.
“I’m looking for Harry Potter’s office.”
“Of course. You’ll need to sign in and then press A in any of the elevators.”
She did, however, widen her eyes a little when she saw the name he had written in the visitor’s log. He walked away quickly.
Elevators were not his favourite thing, nor were any confined spaces for that matter. He hated feeling trapped. Although he had only spent a few weeks in Azkaban before his trial, he could never forget the feeling of being so caged in.
Work hours were over so no one else stepped into the elevator. All the better, no one would notice his nervous ticks. They’d started when he was still in school and had only gotten worse as his life had become increasingly darker. When the Voldemort had lived in the manor they had been completely uncontrollable, which had gotten him into a lot of trouble.
His father would snap, “Draco! Stop fidgeting! Do you know what an honour it is to be in the presence the Dark Lord himself?”
Astoria had been his saving grace. She would hold his hands when they were shaking or twitching. She would massage his shoulders when he started to curl into himself. She always knew just what to do. If he was tapping on a table, she would do the same and create a rhythm and instead of being anxious he would laugh while they played a song only then knew. He missed that.
He missed her. Every second of every day. It was still difficult to imagine that he would never wake up next to her or sit across from her at the breakfast table or hear her bubbly laugh. He missed having her to talk to. He missed the plans they would make for the future. A dozen kids and just as many dogs, she used to say. After Cassiopeia was born they had tried. There was one pregnancy, but they had lost the baby at five months. That’s when they found out about the curse.
The doctors told them there was no cure, that it was only a matter of time. He refused to accept it for a long time and pursued every option he could find, but Astoria had just taken it in stride. She was never angry about it. She decided that she would live every day she had left like it was her last. That was the beauty, she had said. Some people never knew when they would die and so they would waste years doing nothing of any importance. She knew she didn’t have long so she had the gift of doing the things she loved while she still could.
She spent every day with Cassiopeia. Draco took a leave of absence from the potions lab and all three of them would go on adventures. He hadn’t forsaken a single second had to spend with her. Still, when she started getting weaker, he couldn’t help but feel cheated. They should have had decades ahead of them. As it turned out, they only had a year. She spent her last two months confined to a bed with healers doing everything they could to make her comfortable. Draco spent every day reading to her and every night holding her while she shook from the strain her body was going through.
He held her hand until she was gone and told her he loved her for the last time.
He never doubted how much she loved him, and she would never doubt how much he had loved her.
A loud ding alerted him to his arrival and drew him back to reality. Right. She had wanted him to keep living his life. Maybe this was a start.
Harry’s office wasn’t difficult to find. It was close to the entrance and had a big sign on the door. Harry Potter. Chief of Auror Operations. Not Head Auror? He would have guessed that by now he would have run the place. The Potter he’d known in school would never have taken a management position. He’d always assumed Harry would want to be on the front lines of every mission.
He knocked on the half open door. “Harry?”
“Draco, yeah, um…come in. I’m just finishing some filing. Give me a second.”
“Take your time,” he said as he entered. The office was uncharacteristically neat. It was still cosy and comfortable, but everything was in its proper place. Robes on the hook, books on the shelf, papers in straight piles on the desk. He noticed the line of frames on the desk full of smiling faces.
“May I?” He gestured towards the pictures.
The first one he grabbed seemed fairly recent. Harry was standing behind a boy blowing out candles on a birthday cake. He was beaming and holding little girl who had an equally large grin on her face. They all looked happy.
“Jamie and Lucy, I presume?”
“Yup,” Harry said from where he had moved behind Draco. “It was Jamie’s eleventh birthday. Just a few weeks days before he got his Hogwarts acceptance letter.”
“I see they got the Weasley’s red hair,” he noted, hoping it sounded kind now, unlike the way it had sounded the first time he’d met Ron on the train.
“Of course. My mom actually had red hair though, so maybe they got a bit of her too.” He looked proudly at his family.
“Your eyes though. Ginny’s were brown?”
“The eyes are all my mother’s. Snape told me once I had the same eyes as her, actually.”
He gawked a little at the thought of his late godfather being so sentimental, but then again, still waters run deep. He reached for his wallet and pulled out a picture of him and Cassiopeia right before they left for King Cross Station. “Here. This is mine.”
Harry looked at it for a second before he burst out laughing. “Draco, she looks exactly like you. Honestly, same hair, same eyes, same face.”
He laughed a little too. She was the spitting image of him. Sometimes he wished she looked a little bit like her mother so that he still had a small piece of her, but maybe it was for the best this way. “Well, she doesn’t look as obnoxious as I did at that age. See? No Malfoy sneer at all.”
Harry laughed loudly at that. It was a nice sound. In all their years at school together he didn’t think he’d ever heard him laugh. Well, maybe when he was turned into a ferret, but that hadn’t been a genuine laugh, more of a snicker. It felt strangely good to be on the receiving end of Harry’s amusement, not the subject for it.
“Thank god for that,” Harry said with one last chuckle. “Should we head out? I think I’ve put in enough over time today.”
Draco gestured for Harry to exit first. “Still as chivalrous as ever, I see,” Harry commented as he locked the door behind them.
“What can I say? Some of us were raised with good manners.”
“Well, I raised by muggle, so you can’t hold my lack of etiquette against me.”
They continued their witty banter as they left and for a minute Draco didn’t feel quite so alone.
“Hold on, Weasley plays for the Chudley Cannons?”
“I know, I tried to talk him out of it. The Holyhead Harpies even tried to recruit him. He still has this fantasy that he’s going to be able to change their losing streak. Do you know the last time they won the League Cup?”
“Exactly!” He exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air. “Do you mind?” He gestured towards Draco’s uneaten chips.
He shook his head, he’d never really developed a taste for potatoes, but fish and chips were still his standard order. Astoria used to take his chips and give him half her fish. When she had been pregnant with Cassiopeia she craved potatoes constantly, in any form.
The Leaky Cauldron was busy tonight but they had managed to snag a booth near the back. What the pub lacked in cleanliness and décor it more than made up for with its wide selection of beer and ale. Personally, he preferred liquor, but on more casual occasions he’d been known to have a few ciders. Harry seemed to have no preference at all, simply ordering “whatever’s on tap.”
“Ginny died six years ago,” Harry said bluntly.
Draco didn’t know quite how to respond but “I’m sorry” seemed like the most appropriate response.
“No, what I mean is I’ve been living without her for a long time now. If you ever want advice or something…well, the first year is the hardest. I remember that much.”
He nodded. “November 13th,” he hesitated before continuing, “so far, every day has been the first date that I’ve lived without her. The first Christmas, first New Years, first birthday. I mean, we’d known for a long time, but that didn’t really make it any easier.”
“That was always the weird part for me too. It felt like there wasn’t a time before her, that my whole life, she’d always been there. I’d have these moments where I’d want to tell her something and realize that she was gone. I don’t really have them anymore. Sometimes I want to tell her about the kids, about how wonderful they are, about how proud she’d be of them. I don’t know about an afterlife, but I think she’s still watching us. Don’t get me wrong, I wish she could be here every day, it’s just nice to believe that she’s out there somewhere.”
Draco finished off his cider and listened. Maybe that was how all the one’s left behind felt, but he could understand everything Harry said. “This might sound crazy, but sometimes I feel like she’s still here, that her energy isn’t gone yet. I’ll be standing in a room and I swear she’s right next to me.”
“I don’t think it’s crazy at all.” Harry looked down at the table before taking a deep breath. “Merlin, okay. I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anyone else,” he gestured for Draco to lean closer, “During the Final Battle, I went to surrender myself to Voldemort. Dumbledore’s last gift to me was the resurrection stone.”
“Hold on, like the Deathly Hallows? From The Tales of Beetle the Bard?” He asked in disbelief.
“Exactly. Long story short: all three existed, I had all of them at one time or another. Anyway, I found the stone before I went to Voldemort. I was standing in the woods and I turned it over in my hands a few times. The shades of the people I had lost appeared: my mom and dad, Sirius, and Remus. They gave me the courage I needed. The point being: they still existed somewhere, all the people I had loved and lost. Their spirits were out there. They said I’d been brave and that they were proud of me. They’d been watching me the whole time. That’s how I know Ginny is still out there. Because the people we love never truly leave us.”
Draco felt his chest fill up with a warmth he hadn’t known in many months. It gave him hope that Astoria was still out there, that maybe some day he would get to see her again. It was probably the most relief he’d felt in years and he couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face. When he looked at Harry again he was staring at him.
“Sorry, I just…I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile.”
Draco tried very hard not to blush, but knew that, in all likelihood, his cheeks were bright red. It was an odd sensation and to think that Harry Potter had caused it only made it stranger.
When they left at the apparition point Draco went home with a warm satisfaction. It wasn’t just because Harry had told him about the real possibility of an afterlife, it was because he’d felt something new that night: companionship. Purely in the sense of a friendship, of course. Still, it was a relief to have someone to talk to. Harry knew what he was going through. He was kind, but also funny and interesting in a way that Draco understood. They had talked about Quidditch for nearly an hour and not once had the conversation lapsed.
He had asked Draco about his job (“a potions master”) and what it involved (“primarily researching and developing new potions”). He’d, in turn, asked Harry why he’d taken a desk job (“being in the field was too dangerous”). They’d cringed over their Hogwarts days and their juvenile rivalry. Harry had shared some stories about Jamie and Lucy and he’d reciprocated with his own about Cassiopeia. Draco couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed so much.
Miraculously, he had slept soundly that night.
Ron had stopped by for a few days, and since he rarely did so, had insisted on inviting Harry out for drinks. Well, that and to repay his hospitality. Harry hadn’t really had any choice in putting Ron up since he had yet to find his own place after the divorce. He had plenty of rooms, that hadn’t been the issue. It was just then whenever Ron came to stay, he was either complaining about Hermione or reminding Harry of everyone they lost during the war. It was like he was incapable of moving on, so no matter how much Harry loved him, he was always glad that the visits were short.
Ron had just placed the pints on their table when he sent Harry and intense and serious stare. “Harry, I’ve heard a pretty distressing rumour just now. The bartender said that you were here with Draco Malfoy last week. I told him that it was impossible, but he was rather insistent.”
Merlin, Ron was really still living in the past. It had been fifteen years since their Hogwarts days. “I was here with Draco. We grabbed some food together. I think we’re doing it again this Thursday. Who knows, it might turn into a regular thing.”
Ron gawked in both horror and confusion. “You’re joking, right? You can’t seriously be meeting up with that Death Eater. Tell me this is some plot to reveal his dark secrets.”
“Ron,” Harry sighed exasperatedly. “You know that people have the ability to change, right? Look, I met him at the single parents meeting and we just got to talking about things. He lost his wife less than a year ago, I figured I could help him out. Plus, he isn’t an altogether unpleasant person anymore. Quite the contrary, actually.”
“Harry, I say this because I love you, but I think we should have you checked for the Imperius curse or some sort of coercion potion.”
“Is it that hard to believe that someone can feel remorse and move on, or is it just that Draco Malfoy can’t possibly change?” Ron opened his mouth to agree with the latter, but Harry cut him off. “Listen, I don’t need your approval to have friends. I owe you a lot, so I’m not going to let this come between us, but I recommend you modernize your opinions a bit. Otherwise, you’re trapping yourself in a world that died a long time ago.”
Ron sat moping over his beer until their food arrived. “Fine, but tell the ferret I’m watching him.”
“I will do no such thing. Anyway, lets get off the subject. Have you had a chance to see Aiden yet?”
Ron sighed even more. “No, Hermione doesn’t think it’s a good idea to disrupt his home life. She said she would bring him over for a playdate with Lucy and that I could see him then.” His face looked resigned, but his voice mocked her with every word.
“You know you don’t have custody of him, right? You got visitation rights during the trial, but beyond that you don’t have a say in where and when and how you can see him.”
“That’s only because she’s such a manipulative and brilliant lawyer!”
“No, that’s because you are never around. Don’t pretend it wasn’t fair. If you ever decide to settle down, she said she would be open to renegotiating the terms.”
At first, Harry had indulged Ron’s constant rants about Hermione’s tyranny. Perhaps that had been a mistake, because Ron had taken his silence as agreement. The truth was, Ron hadn’t been jilted out of anything. If Hermione had wanted more, she could have easily gotten it. She intentionally left the conditions open to amendments later on. Contrary to his belief, she didn’t want to deprive him of his children. She just wanted to protect them and make sure they grew up in a stable environment.
“Well, would Ginny have done the same thing to you?” Ron spat, although his face changed to show instant regret at his words. Too bad Harry wasn’t in a forgiving mood.
“That was a low blow, Ron.” He stood up and put a few coins on the table. “Do not ever use my dead wife, my children’s dead mother, not to mention your own dead sister, as a way of justifying your guilty conscious. You can find somewhere else to spend the night.”
He turned and left, the cold autumn wind doing nothing to cool his temper. While the rest of them had moved on and grown up, Ron had done the opposite. He resorted to maintaining his childhood prejudices and grudges, resorting to immature outbursts to make his point. Until now, he had tolerated it because of everything they had gone through together. He wasn’t sure if this was something he could forgive so easily.
When Hermione stepped out of his Flue holding Aiden’s hand, she quickly scanned the room before deciding it was safe to enter. She put up a brave front, but he knew the divorce still hurt her every day.
“I thought Ron would be here.”
“No, I kicked him out a few days ago. I think he’s gone back for training already. Sorry, I should have written, but you’re welcome to stay while they play if you have time.”
She nodded, releasing a relentless Aiden from her grasp. He bolted up the stairs and they both heard the delighted squeals when he found Lucy. “I have the day off, so I can spare a few hours. What happened this time?”
“The usual, I suppose. He arrived already complaining about you and his life. I almost put up with it, but we went to the pub one night and he had the audacity to use Ginny to justify his anger. I sent him his things the next day and I haven’t heard from him since.”
She shook her head in a way that meant she believed it, but it still saddened her deeply. In fact, Harry could make out small tears building in the corners of her eyes. “I wonder sometimes if I had done things differently, if I had fought harder, maybe he wouldn’t be like this now. Maybe this is my fault.”
Instantly, he was next to her pulling her into a tight embrace. He knew how much she struggled to reconcile her feelings, but she rarely showed it. “Hermione, you can never blame yourself for this,” he whispered and brushed the few fallen tears off her cheeks. “Ron handles his own demons in his own ways. The war changed us all, this is how it changed Ron. Maybe someday things will change, but for now this is how it is. It’s no one’s fault, okay?”
She nodded and hiccupped a few times before settling into the couch. “Enough talk about sad things. How are you? How’s Jamie? Rose wrote home a few weeks ago to assure me that she was making sure he wasn’t getting into too much trouble. Although, he does seem to have a knack for it, just like his father.”
“Don’t remind me, I already got a letter from McGonagall. Apparently, he thought it would be funny to set a stink bomb off in the boys bathroom.”
Hermione laughed loudly, clutching her side. “Sounds like he got a bit of Fred and George too, then.”
Harry chuckled half-heartedly. “Sometimes I wonder, do you think they got anything from Ginny? They barely knew her, but she was still their mother. I wish they were more like her, you know?”
Hermione smiled kindly. “You don’t see it, do you? Well, let’s start with the fact that Ginny absolutely adored you, which they both clearly do. Jamie is far too calculative, just like Fred and George, but you always throw caution to the wind. Lucy has the same kind spirit that her mother had; there is not a single person who she couldn’t find some good in. They have so much of her, you just have to know where to look.”
“I know I shouldn’t do this, because it’s important to keep moving forward. I try to stay in the here and now because what’s happened in the past is over. It’s just that sometimes I let myself imagine what it would be like if she was still here.” He hadn’t realized how intense the conversation had gotten, but he couldn’t stop now. “We had plans to move to the country side, have a whole Weasley clan, enough for an entire Quidditch team. It was just so sudden, there was so much I never got to do and say.”
“This may sound hard to believe, but on some level, I understand that. I had a whole life planned for me and Ron. It was crushing to let go of something I was so attached to, that I believed in so much. I still don’t know what I’m doing. Most of my time is spent completely immersed in work or the kids, that way I don’t have to think about it.”
Even though he and Hermione had always had an unspoken sense of solidarity, it was nice to vocalize their feelings every now and then. It didn’t ease the burden, but it felt like someone was carrying part of the load. Sometimes you just needed to know that you weren’t alone.
“Do you ever think about moving on? You know, finding someone else to be with?” The words had left his mouth before he even had time to process the thought. In all the years since Ginny had died, the thought had barely crossed his mind. What had caused it to surface now?
“If this is you attempt at asking me out, you’re in for a disappointing response.” Harry had all but jumped up to protest before he realized that she was only teasing him. “The thought has occurred to me before, but only in the sense that in the far future it might be a possibility. I have no interest in finding anyone new right now, the divorce is still too fresh. Although, I’ve subtly been trying to get you to go on dates for months now, and you’ve shown absolutely no initiative. What’s changed?”
He couldn’t answer her, because he didn’t have the answer himself. “To be honest, I have absolutely no idea why I even said it. Until this moment, I hadn’t even considered what that would mean or if I even wanted to see someone. Just for the record, neither your receptionist nor your paralegal, nor any of the other women you’ve pushed me towards, are really my type.”
This was something he had never said to anyone. He didn’t fully understand it himself. He had truly loved Ginny, in every sense of the word, but he just didn’t feel the same way about other women. He had known he was interested in men since his fourth year, when he had met Cedric in the Prefect’s bathroom. He couldn’t explain why he had been attracted to a woman. Maybe he had loved her so much it felt natural, but otherwise those feelings could only be applied to other men.
“Harry, is this your way of coming out?” Hermione gave him a sly smile and lifted an eyebrow.
“Of course you bloody knew. Can I hide anything from you?” Her smile widened. Sometimes her brilliance was just annoying. “Merlin, how long have you known?”
“You remember our dear friend Myrtle? Well, she had a habit of floating to other bathrooms. I used to go visit her when I had time, mostly just to hear all the gossip. I believe there was once mention of a certain Hufflepuff and some kind of golden egg.”
He gaped, although he couldn’t exactly say he was surprised. He knew Myrtle had seen them in a very compromising scenario. “Well, at least you didn’t know before I did, that would be rather embarrassing.”
“Oh, I knew, I just had no concrete evidence until then.” He tilted his head, inviting her to explain further. “Do you honestly believe that your obsession with Draco Malfoy was purely adolescent rivalry? Harry, you followed him constantly, you found a way to interject him into every question, and not to point out the obvious, but you eye fucked him across the Great Hall at every meal.”
“I absolutely did not!” He gasped, truly stunned by her obscene accusation. He had never once “eye fucked” Draco. The only reason he was so interested in Draco was because he knew that scheming Slytherin was up to something.
“Okay dear, keep telling yourself that.” She patter his hand in mock support. “Although, while we’re on the subject, one of my interns told me you were eating with his at The Leaky Cauldron last week. Care to share?”
Well, at least she didn’t sound as upset as Ron had, or upset at all, really. “We bumped into each other at the single parents meeting and started talking. I mean, I knew that everyone changed after the war, but I just never imagined him changing. He had though, a lot. He lost his wife last year and his daughter is a first year as well. I think the whole thing has humbled him a lot. He’s easy to talk to, and as strange as it sounds, a bit funny as well. We just grabbed drinks once, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world to have another friend.”
Hermione smiled at him with a look that was both kind and suspicious. “Well, let me know if you go out again. I’ll tag along and report back any eye fucking I catch.”
“Hermione!” he cried indignantly. She had burst into a fit of hysterics, and for a second it almost felt like the old days.
When Harry went to the second Single Parent’s meeting, he didn’t think twice before approaching Draco at the refreshment table. They’d grabbed drinks or had dinner a few more times in the month that had passed, even went and saw a preliminary quidditch match once. He couldn’t quite put a label on why he felt compelled to send Draco another owl just hours after their last meeting, but somehow spending time with him was…comfortable.
There was no pressure or air of intrigue with Draco. They could simply have a meal and a good laugh, their whole interaction oddly relaxing. There was nothing forced with him. It was strange to think that what was once a rivalry could so easily be replaced by a friendship. Actually, it was strange to think that any sort of relationship with Draco was possible. Then again, people changed, and maybe his own prejudices had gotten in the way all those years ago.
“Cream?” he offered Draco, much the same as Draco had offered him at the last meeting.
“Yeah, thanks.” Draco smiled widely at him, something Harry had grown to appreciate, and dare he say, intentionally try to gain.
“Tea?” he asked, noticing the change in beverage.
“Thought maybe if I stopped drinking so much caffeine, I’d be able to sleep for a change.”
“How’s that going?” Harry noted sceptically.
“Shit. It’s going shit.” Draco muttered. Draco had confided in him a few weeks ago that he rarely slept nowadays, not that any of them did really.
“Have you tried any potions?” he offered.
“I work in potions and believe me when I say that any sort of sleeping draught comes with their own batch of negative side effects. Since I don’t yet plan on forming an addiction, nor do I want to live in a constant haze, I think that option is safely off the table.”
It was true, and of course Draco would know that. “Well, would it help if I told you I was in the same boat?”
“Nightmares?” Draco asked, and Harry got the feeling that’s what he was currently being plagued by. “Or loneliness?”
Harry snorted. “Both.”
Draco nodded sympathetically. He took a sip of his tea and cringed, probably because the main priority of the event was clearly not providing adequate refreshments. Harry looked down at his own mug of coffee and thought longingly of his high-end drip machine back home.
“There’s a bigger crowd this time,” Draco commented, eyes scanning the noticeable larger assembly.
From what Harry could tell, there were several more divorced couples. There was also the addition of Luna Lovegood, who he hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. She’d married another whimsical zoologist of sorts, and they’d galivanting across the globe trying to locate mythical creatures. Harry had heart from Hermione that her husband had recently been killed on one of these expeditions, and she’d moved back home with their children. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), she looked like one of the happiest people in the room.
“There are too many of us,” he said quietly. Draco nodded across the room to a familiar figure. “I was wondering last time, Daphne Greengrass…?” he let the question trail off.
“Now there’s a story,” Draco laughed, turning away from the woman in question. “She and Crabbe were engaged, before…Well, she found out she was pregnant shortly afterwards. Her daughter, Iris, is a fourth year now.”
The name immediately clicked. “Iris is hers? That’s who Teddy is always talking about.” Draco looked at him in confusion. “My godson, Remus and Tonks son. His grandmother—I think she’s here somewhere—and I take turns caring for him. He’s always on about this Slytherin girl…to be honest, I think they might be dating.”
“This Teddy, is he a respectable character?” Draco asked, almost possessively.
“I helped raised him, didn’t I?” Draco eyed him as if that meant very little. “He’s a good kid. He had a rough start in life, but he’s come out of it surprisingly kind and caring.”
“Let me guess, Gryffindor?” Harry nodded and Draco rolled his eyes, huffing a bit at the notion.
“Pansy Parkinson?” Harry continued the line of questioning. He thought she was a new addition to the crowd.
“Purely here as emotional support. Don’t expect her to come to many more. She’s a single mother, but happily so. She swore off all men after one too many failed relationships, namely me, as it would happen. Had all three kids by herself. Her eldest, Daniel, just started this year as well.”
“Slytherin?” Harry guessed.
“Obviously,” Draco answered with a laugh.
The meeting passed with the expected tension and strain. It wasn’t just the larger number of divorcees that contributed, but Harry knew that many of the attendants were equally uncomfortable discussing their lost partners. It wasn’t a situation any of them expected to find themselves in. It was one of the worst events in life, to lose someone you loved so much. In a way, being left with children was a small mercy, but it was also a heavy burden.
He knew first-hand that having to constantly compartmentalize your own grief to look after your family was taxing, emotionally and physical. You always had to put up a front and make sure that no one sensed how much you were suffering. It was difficult to cope with the expectation that you would be okay so quickly, or ever really. Still, life had to go on, and the only way to survive was to adapt and change to your circumstances.
The early years were the worst. There was a strange divide between continuing the life you had planned without the person you had planned it with. It took time to change the way he went about even the smallest things, like shopping for clothes or picking primary schools. Perhaps Harry had an advantage in that way. His whole life had changed moment to moment, and there was nothing predictable about it. The things he believed, the people he trusted, the things he knew as true, were constantly altered without warning.
“Should we try somewhere new next time? I’m getting sick of the Leaky Cauldron,” Draco said once the speaker had finished.
Harry hesitated. “Actually, I was wondering, would you like to have dinner at my place? I mean, it seems silly to be paying for a meal when I’m such a fantastic chef.”
Draco looked at him with a clearly dubious expression. “Somehow I find that very hard to believe.”
As it turned out, Draco was completely right. Harry was a terrible chef, and he glanced at the clock anxiously as his latest attempt at a half decent meal spontaneously combusted. Lucy was watching with something bordering on amusement, and he shot her a look as she burst out laughing at his burnt meal.
It was too late to try to make something new, nor what there enough time to owl Draco and recommend eating out after all. He would be here any minute, and he had only the charred remains of a steak to offer.
“It smells horrible in here,” Draco said as he exited the fireplace with surprising grace, not that Harry noticed that kind of thing.
“There may or may not have been a small fire,” he mumbled sheepishly.
“I thought something like that might happen. Here,” Draco said, placing a takeout bag on the counter.
“You were so confident that I would fail that you brought a backup plan?” Harry asked, slightly offended.
“Call it intuition.”
Harry shook his head, although he was secretly grateful that Draco had been so pessimistic. “Lucy,” he called his daughter, who had conveniently left the room. She reappeared, peaking around the corner shyly. “Introduce yourself to Draco. I promise he won’t bite. Well, he probably won’t bite.”
Draco shot him a glare but crouched down to Lucy’s level as she approached nervously. “Pleasure to meet you. My name is Draco Malfoy.”
Lucy cocked her head as she looked at him contemplatively. “My name is Lucy Potter, and you have very nice hair. It’s very…bright.”
Draco chuckled. “Thank you, it is very bright, isn’t it? I like your hair too.”
Lucy cracked a smile, something she rarely did around strangers. The simple gesture made Harry’s heart fill with unexpected happiness. “All my cousins have it too. Except for Victoire, Alexandre, Louis, and Gabrielle. Their hair is sort of like yours, but darker.”
“Do you have a lot of cousins then?” Draco continued. Harry took the opportunity to unpack their food while the conversation went on. Draco had gotten Indian, a secret guilty pleasure of Harry’s.
Lucy began counting on her fingers. “Fifteen, but that’s only my real cousins. I have bunches more that aren’t Weasleys though.”
“That sounds like a lot of fun. It’s just me and my daughter in our family.”
“That sounds lonely,” Lucy said confidently.
Draco’s smile faltered a bit, but he recovered quickly. “It’s not so bad. We have each other anyway.”
Harry froze as he watched what happened next. Lucy had always been able to pick on other people’s moods unnervingly well, and Draco’s act didn’t fool her for a moment. “It’s okay, you can be a part of my family then. Daddy always says that it’s nice to share with people, and I have tons of family to share.”
Draco practically gaped at the small girl. Her words may have just been another casual sentence, but they meant so much more to him. It wasn’t even that the prospect of sharing her family, which was incredibly unlikely, but that she had been so quick to offer it. She was too young to know what he’d done, but she wasn’t even a little bit put off by him.
He stiffened as she wrapped two small arms around his neck, but after a moment returned the gesture and gave her a tight hug. She laughed when he squeezed her suddenly and stood up with her still clutching onto him. Without even thinking about it, he pretended to drop her, the way he had so many times with his own daughter. The joyful shriek that erupted made him smile wider than he had in many, many months.
Harry observed the whole interaction with a strange combination of pride, relief, and something bordering dangerously on contentment. Draco had interacted with his daughter so easily, and Lucy, who had always been shy, reacted to the situation with a comfortable air almost immediately. It was almost like Draco was a missing puzzle piece, but he quickly banished the thought and what it implied.
He cleared his throat and both of them halted in their playing and turned to him. “Who wants some food?”
They gather around the small kitchen table, a circle, which he’d bought because he never wanted anyone to feel left out. Often dinners were a quiet affair, just him and Lucy sitting in relative silence. Tonight, the table was loud with rapturous conversation. Lucy recounting everything she learned at her muggle school, and Draco returned with his own private wizarding education. Lucy decided that was silly because how was he supposed to learn maths and reading without a teacher. Harry murmured agreement with his daughter’s assessment, and Draco just laughed and admitted his jealousy.
After dinner, Draco sat and coloured with Lucy while Harry, at his strong insistence, cleaned up. When Harry announced that it was bedtime, Lucy looked at him with disappointment, but eventually conceded.
“Can you come back soon, Mr. Draco? I’ll teach you maths and how to colour better.”
Draco smiled fondly at the offer. “Okay, I’ll come back, and maybe I’ll show you a trick or two about magic.”
Lucy accepted the agreement happily, and ran upstairs to get ready for bed, something she was very set on doing independently. It wasn’t long before the hurried footsteps and slamming drawers silenced, and within fifteen minutes Harry decided she was probably asleep.
“I usually have a nightcap right about now, would you like anything?” Harry asked, opening the small cabinet only containing a handful of bottles, granted very expensive bottles.
“Whatever you’re having, on the rocks though.”
Harry was a bit surprised, only because in his head Draco would easily be drinking the most pungent liquors, full bodied, in easy gulps. He added a few ice cubes to one tumbler and put a few fingers of ridiculously expensive whiskey in both.
“You’re very lucky to have such a brilliant daughter,” Draco said as he accepted the glass.
“I am,” Harry noted gladly. “You’re great with kids.”
“I just have some experience,” Draco answered, shooting down the compliment.
“No, I’m serious. Lucy never takes to new people that quickly. She’s really very shy, but she got on amazingly with you.”
Draco looked into the amber liquid contemplatively. He was clearly uncomfortable with the compliment, but he didn’t move to reject it again.
“November 13th next Wednesday,” Draco murmured, changing the subject.
Harry almost slapped himself for forgetting. It would be the one-year anniversary of Astoria’s death, and if it was anything like Ginny’s, it would be a miserable affair for Draco.
“I wrote McGonagall and asked if Cassie could be excused for a few days, so we could go visit her grave,” Draco continued, trailing off at the end.
“I could come, you know, to…” The words had slipped out of his mouth before he could stop himself, totally unsure of where he was going. “The four of us could have dinner or something. I know how hard it is.”
Draco was looking at him in surprise, and Harry was suddenly terrified that he had greatly overstepped some line. “That would be nice. I mean, the company would be appreciated.”
They fell into an awkward silence, neither really sure of what to say next. Harry was the first to speak. “Jamie wrote about Cassie in his last letter. He said that she was a ‘know it all’ Ravenclaw that kept answering questions before he could.”
Draco smiled. “Cassie wrote and told me that there was an impulsive Gryffindor named James who thinks it’s funny to play juvenile pranks on everyone.”
“Yeah, that’s my son alright,” he chuckled. “I think they’re going to be good friends.”
Harry was almost sad to see Draco go as he stepped into the fireplace. They had spent hours talking about nothing of any importance, but it was one of the best evenings he’d had in a long time. He very nearly leaned in for a hug, or perhaps something else, but quickly restrained himself. Instead, he collapsed into his chair as soon as the green flames had died down.
Whatever these feelings were, he needed to forget them. It was just a friendship, something they both needed. They could understand each other, and not just because they’d both lost their wives. Their lives had been oddly parallel. Granted, their paths had been very different, but there was still something familiar in the way Draco talked about his childhood, and all the unfortunate events that had followed.
He told himself that it was a strictly platonic relationship. Sure, Draco was an attractive man with undeniable assets, but that was merely an observation. Harry had always been attracted to men, he’d even had a few brief relationships with them. It seemed that the only woman he’d been interested in was Ginny. That didn’t change the fact that there was no way he could ever pursue any sort of romantic partnership with Draco. It was an impossibility, and he tried very hard to remind himself of that.
Unfortunately, thus far, it was a fruitless mission. He groaned loudly as his head fell back against the chair.
Harry had two children, so he was more than accustomed to being woken up early as one, or more likely, both, of them took up residence in his own bed. Normally, he wouldn’t bat an eye at it. Except the child who had just jumped onto him and began playfully smacking his face was certainly not one of his own.
Luckily, it was at least a face he was familiar with. Then he groaned at the thought, because if Aiden was here, then Hermione was here, and any unplanned event with her was never a good sign.
“Hermione?” he called out nervously, motioning for Aiden to go wake up Lucy, an invitation he gladly accepted.
She didn’t respond, but he knew from the scent of bacon filling the entire house that she was cooking them all breakfast. His stomach growled excitedly at the prospect of some of Hermione’s homecooked pancakes and eggs. It must have been years since the last time she’d cooked for him, or him for her, not that his own cooking skills were anything exceptionally.
Sure enough, Hermione was standing in his kitchen, happily flipping pancakes as she danced to something, she’d found on his much-neglected muggle wireless.
“Morning,” he said cheerfully, coming up next to her and pouring himself a glass of orange juice.
Hermione jumped a little at his sudden appearance. “You weren’t supposed to wake up! Aiden’s spoiled the surprise, hasn’t he?”
“You were going to surprise me with breakfast? What’s the occasion?” Not that he wasn’t happy just to have breakfast with his oldest friend, but it wasn’t exactly a common occurrence for Hermione to drop in unannounced.
“Can’t I make my best friend breakfast without any reason?” she asked, trying very hard to act offended. Harry eyed her dubiously, and she conceded dramatically as she reached past him for the eggs. “There was eye fucking, at the meeting that is. Between you and a certain pale, blonde Slytherin.”
“Hermione, please stop, I can’t have a conversation about this right now. Is that really all you wanted?”
Hermione made a face and he could tell that she was holding back, so he nudged her sharply in the side. She sent him a murderous glare. “The truth is, I can’t sit about the house thinking about it anymore. I think I’ve slowly been driving myself in to madness second guessing every conclusion I come to. A part of me thinks I should feel guilty, or at least that it’s wrong. It’s just so infuriating—”
“Hermione,” he interrupted, stopping her halfway through her ravings. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Can you speak a bit slower and then maybe give me a bit of background information?”
Hermione looked at him with a relieved smile, but instead of answering, she just offered him a plate heaping with food. “Pancakes?” she asked weakly. He accepted the peace offering but made sure he caught her eye in a way that meant “we will talk about this later.”
With two fully fed, but nonetheless energetic, children no doubt tearing his house to shreds, Harry sat back in his chair and relaxed. It was nothing out of the ordinary really, and the sounds that might panic anyone who hadn’t had children, were merely white noise to him now.
“I’ve been asked out on a date,” Hermione blurted out, finally getting around to the reason of her impromptu visit.
“That’s good, right?” Harry asked cheerfully, but the look on her face refused to confirm nor deny it. “Or bad?”
“It’s both, I think. On one hand, it feels wrong, and not because I’m still in love with Ron or because I want to get back together with him. It’s just…weird, to think that I’m allowed to be with other people. It’s not just about us though, it’s about the kids, and the Weasleys, and it’s all just so complicated, isn’t it?”
She stopped a moment to collect her thoughts before continuing. Harry didn’t interrupt her but let her take a moment. He had the feeling she desperately needed to get out what she was trying to tell him.
“And then a part of me thinks it’s great, you know, that someone could still fancy me that way. He’s a nice guy really, he’s funny and intelligent. If I’m being completely honest, he’s quite good looking too. He’s always taken such an interest in my work and he always take the time to help me with my proposals, even though he has his hands full with his own projects. I think being with him would be easy, or dare I say…good.
“But none of that changes the fact that I’m not some unattached teenager anymore, does it? I have a family, I have children, I have an incredibly difficult ex-husband. I come with a lot of baggage. He has a kid of his own too, a son, just about Aiden’s age. It could be nice, but it could also be so, so complicated and messy.”
“Life’s messy,” Harry said with a small shrug.
“Are those your brilliant words of advice to you best friend in this time of immense difficulty?”
He chuckled but sat up taller in his chair and looked at her with unmistakable sincerity. “You want my advice? Okay, fine. You’ve spent too much of your life sacrificing your own wants and desires to take care of other people. You helped save the wizarding world, you’ve been an amazing friend, you were a good wife, you’re a wonderful mother, you’re brilliant at you job, so how about you start doing things just for you? Life’s too short not to grab onto the things you want.”
He sent her a challenging look, and she rolled her eyes at him. “Okay, calm down, it’s only a first date.” He moved to leave at such ungratefulness, but she had burst out laughing, just teasing him again. “Incidentally, have you thought of taking your own advice recently?”
“What are you on about now?” Harry asked, hoping she wasn’t trying to get him to talk about Draco again.
“Nothing at all. Only, I did see one of Lucy’s drawings pinned to the fridge, and unless I’m mistaken, I believe there was a large figure labelled as ‘Drago.’”
“He might have come over for dinner the other night,” he mumbled, hoping she wouldn’t hear him, but she did, of course.
“Oh, you are in trouble, aren’t you?” He glared at her. “What? I said ‘trouble.’ I didn’t say it was hopeless. So, what are you going to do about it?”
“When are you seeing him next?”
“What are you doing?”
“Going to visit Astoria’s grave.” That put a rather abrupt halt to the light-hearted, rapid-fire questioning.
“That’s very…” she drifted off.
“Yeah,” he answered simply, any of her endings would have been adequate.
“Daddy, I don’t like this colour, it’s too dark,” Lucy complained loudly as he laid out a navy dress for her to wear. They were going to visit Astoria’s grave, and he wasn’t sure if colours were appropriate or if black was a bit too miserable.
“I told you we’re going to visit Draco’s wife’s grave. We have to wear dark colours, it’s a sign of respect.”
Lucy wasn’t the least bit satisfied with this explanation. “That’s silly. We should dress in bright colours, so she knows that we’re still happy.”
Harry smiled down at her affectionately. Life was so simple in the eyes of a child, and yet so much kinder at the same time. “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you pick out a colourful ribbon for your hair?”
She accepted this compromise and rooted around through her drawer for a moment before returning victoriously with green ribbons in hand. They were nearly the same colour as Slytherin, and he wondered if she might have chosen them knowing that. He ran a comb through her hair, the same untameable mass of curls he had, and received the usual amount of pained faces and noises.
It wasn’t a familial responsibility he ever imagined having, nor was he particularly good at it, but he would be damned if he was going to let his daughter walk around receiving the same amount of criticism he had for his own unruly hair. He couldn’t do the same intricate designs some of the other girls at Lucy’s school boasted, but he could certainly manage a neat braid or two. Two green hair ribbons securely tied the whole look together, and he stood back to make sure the whole outfit was acceptable.
“We should get flowers,” Lucy announced, a reasonable idea that hadn’t even occurred to him.
“Let’s cut some from the garden then.”
Lucy followed him out, her child scissors clutched in one hand. Immediately, with somewhat mysterious certainty, she headed for the small patch of daffodils they hadn’t really planted, that had just sprung up by happy coincidence, and thrived in the magical-maintained constant summer climate he had in place.
“Why daffodils?” he asked as he tucked them neatly into a makeshift wrapped.
“No reason,” she answered with a small smile that could only meaning she was up to something.
Still, with less ten minutes remaining until they needed to meet Draco, he didn’t have time to worry about her plotting. He glanced down again at the address Draco had owled him and noted that it wasn’t the same as Malfoy Manor. That was ridiculous though, Draco was a thirty-three-year-old man, of course he didn’t live with his mother anymore, if she still lived there at all.
He picked Lucy up and stepped into the fireplace, making sure to clearly say the address before the disappeared into the flames.
Draco was sitting at his table when they burst out, ungracefully as ever, a little girl sitting to his left. Lucy immediately wiggled out of his arms.
“Harry, you showed up.” Harry tried to ignore the hint of surprise in Draco’s voice.
“I said I would, didn’t I? Uh, these are for you,” he offered, extending the flowers. A sense of recognition registered in Draco’s eyes, and now Harry knew Lucy had been up to something.
“Do you know what daffodils mean?”
“Um, no. Lucy picked them from our garden.”
They both turned towards Lucy, who had now taken up residence in Draco’s abandoned seat, talking quietly with Cassie. “Just the same,” Draco mumbled.
“Have you eaten yet?” Harry asked, shuffling his feet nervously.
“No, I thought we would afterwards. We should get going, though,” he finished, glancing at his watch. Too late for breakfast, but not late enough for lunch.
With four of them in total, Draco had somehow procured a portkey to take them to the graveyard. A nonthreatening looking ball, as it would turn out. It certainly wasn’t Harry’s favourite method of magical transport, but it beat having his arm splinched off if they tried to apparate in too large of a number. Unlike the very first Harry had used a portkey, he at least managed to stick the landing, somewhat. Much to his embarrassment, the other three members had landed easily on their feet, even his six-year-old daughter.
“Such grace,” Malfoy laughed, offering him a hand up from his kneeling position. “Good effort though.”
“Thanks,” he mumbled, taking a look around where they had landed. His stomach flipped as he took in the familiar scene. “This is…Ginny is…Merlin, I haven’t been here in ages.”
Suddenly, he felt like a terrible father and a terrible husband. He should have brought the kids here every year, he should have come here a lot more often than he did, yet he hadn’t even thought to bring flowers to Ginny’s grave in months. No doubt the Weasleys had visited since then, but still, he should have done something.
“Where?” Draco asked, drawing him back from his moment of panic.
“Just there,” he answered, pointing to a small plot near a large willow tree. Draco laughed softly, taking Harry by surprise.
“Astoria’s just there,” Draco said, pointing to another plot not far away, under another willow tree.
Lucy walked up to him and took his hand. He looked down at her small braids and guilt washed over him like an unrelenting wave. She probably didn’t recognize the place. He had only brought her a handful of times, and even those were nearly three years ago. True, she never knew her mother, but she had been the one to bring her into this world, and Harry knew wherever Ginny was now, she loved their daughter very much.
“We’ll visit them both, then,” Draco noted quietly, pulling Harry out of his trance. It was such a bizarre situation, such a small offer, and yet somehow it made all the difference to Harry.
He cleared his throat as they began to walk through the large field of wizard graves, shifting his attention to Draco’s daughter. “So, Cassie, I hear you know my son?”
“James? He’s—” she started boldly but wrinkled her nose and looked at her father as if asking for permission to speak frankly.
“It’s okay, you can be honest,” Harry laughed.
“He’s very…Gryffindor,” She stated simply, probably choosing not to elaborate out of respect.
“Like father, like daughter,” Harry added, with a small smile. He distinctly remembered a small, blond Slytherin making some similar, although more explicit, comments about a Gryffindor’s true nature. Next to him, Draco rolled his eyes.
When they reached it, Harry was more than a little surprised to see how simple Astoria’s grave was. Purebloods, especially Malfoys, always seemed to be entombed in giant, ornate mausoleums, their family names boasted in big stone letters overtop the remains of their magically-pure ancestors. However, Astoria Malfoy was remembered by a simple, elegant, granite grave stone, and careful, beautiful variety of flowers.
Amor animi arbitrio sumitur, non ponitur
Astoria Greengrass Malfoy
11 May 1982 d. 13 November 2012
“Amor animi arbitrio sumitur, non ponitur,” he repeated out loud, never having conquered the Latin language.
“We choose to love, we do not choose to cease loving,” Draco whispered from behind him, the words coming out strained with unspoken emotion.
It was simple memorial, but Harry couldn’t imagine anything more fitting. It showed elegance and affection, and love above all else. Astoria didn’t need expensive monuments to be remembered, she had two people in front of her now who would preserve her memory better than any display of wealth ever could.
Lucy moved first, laying down the small bundle of dandelions over a woman she had never known, yet cared for because of the people she had left behind. Merlin, how had he been so lucky to have such a compassionate daughter? Not that he didn’t love his friend’s kids, but he really felt like he’d won the lottery. Well, most of the time, unless she was being an absolute terror.
The four of them stood in silence for a long time. It was tense and full of sentiment, but not awkward. There were no words spoken, although it hardly felt like they needed to. Harry tried to focus on what he would say if he had known the woman but fell short with only the vague sense of gratefulness. Then, much to his surprise and alarm, the words echoed that he would look after them for her, that they would be okay now.
It wasn’t entirely that the thought made him uncomfortable, but he felt like he was very much encroaching on a private moment. He gave a little tug on Lucy’s hand and she followed him without protest. He turned as they left, just in time for him to see Draco kneel down and gather his own daughter in his arms. Perhaps that was natural, but it only went to show just how much Draco had changed from the boy he remembers. Then again, maybe those memories had never really been accurate to begin with.
“It’s mommy!” Lucy said with excitement, even before they stopped at Ginny’s grave. She took off ahead of him and plopped herself down happily, immediately beginning a conversation about her life with the remaining evidence of her mother’s life.
She did remember, he thought with a small chuckle. Of course, she did, he would expect nothing less. More than that, she seemed happy to be here. He’d have to bring them both back soon. Now that he thought about it, it was almost seven years, come March. Time had passed quickly, compared to those first few agonising, painfully slow months. He’d been so sceptically that things would get easier, but they really had, in the end.
“…and I met daddy’s friend Draco, whose wife is just a little way away from you,” he heard Lucy chattering away as he caught up to her, “and I think you should go visit her and keep her company. She’s only been gone a little while, and you should tell her that her family misses her very much, but it’s okay because I’m going to be their family now.”
How was it that his daughter was so quick and bold in expressing something he was so reluctant in even thinking? Wherever Ginny was, she had probably fallen over laughing by now. The horrible thought struck him that he couldn’t really remember her laugh anymore, nor the sound of her voice. The glint of her red hair in the sunlight, the twinkle in her eyes as she teased him, the playful smile that she reserved just for him, he would never forget those, but maybe that was only because of the photos that still plastered his walls.
“Oh! And James started school, but I don’t think he’s been behaving very well. Cassie goes there as well, I think I’ll ask her to take care of him since daddy and I can’t right now. He got sorted into Gryffindor, just like you and daddy. I think I want to be sorted into Ravenclaw though, like Cassie and Aunt Luna.”
The terrible thought occurred to him that Luna had, in fact, visited earlier in the week with her own children. Luna, who had always been an expert on all things whimsical, who was a pureblood, who certainly knew the meanings of every last flower. He made a mental note to look up the exact meaning of dandelions the next time he visited a library.
“This is Ginny’s?” Draco asked as he arrived as well, his eyes noticeably redder and puffier. Harry knew better than to point that out, though.
Harry nodded a silent affirmation. Ginny hadn’t been immortalized in the same elegant way as Astoria, but it was certainly more fitting for the fierce Weasley.
Ginerva Molly Weasley Potter
“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”
Born 11 August 1981 Died 13 March 2007
Beloved daughter, sister, mother, and wife.
Well, perhaps it was fitting, but she would have hated him for the last bit. Still, he felt the need to make sure people remembered just how wonderful she had been, even if it was just in a few small words. The landscaping was more rugged, reminiscent of the Borough’s gnome infested grass. He had wanted her to feel at home here, he remembered.
Draco, with all his previous snobbish opinions, didn’t look fazed by the resilient grave. He looked contemplative, and somewhat peaceful. He stepped forward and conjured a bouquet of dandelions, much like those they’d just left with Astoria. He placed them silently among the wayward grass, and it made Harry even more anxious to find out the exact implication of the flower.
“I’m thinking Chinese,” Draco decided simply, and with that they left. For all the emotion that had just occurred, a feeling of calm and satisfaction descended around them, and the result was a very cheerful and loud meal, much to the dismay of the restaurant.
Hours later, after a desperate letter to both Hermione and Luna, he discovered the meaning of dandelions.
Joy, healing, and new beginnings.
“Daffodils, eh?” Hermione asked, taking a seat next to him in canteen. She raised one eyebrow suggestively and he groaned.
“Lucy picked them, okay? Luna probably told her what they meant, and…” he trailed of and let his face fall into his hands. He had been humiliated by his own daughter.
“Oh, Harry, I’m sure it’s fine. I do worry sometimes, if Lucy might be a bit too smart for you to handle,” Hermione continued, in a light, far off voice.
He glared at her, even though she was only teasing. So, what if he never actually finished his education? He was smart enough to keep up with his six-year-old daughter, or at least, that’s what he told himself.
“I went out with him,” Hermione blurted out quickly before she could stop herself.
Harry’s eyes got very wide at that admission. “And how was it?” he asked, trying to sound casual and nowhere near as curious as he was.
“It was really great,” she said, but her voice sounded miserable and not at all happy about the outcome.
“That’s good, right?” Honestly, Hermione was in one of those moods where he couldn’t quite predict what she was thinking.
“Right. Could you explain that again, without being cryptic this time?”
She just sighed loudly and dramatically, in a very un-Hermione way. “It was wonderful. He brought me flowers and took me out to a nice restaurant. We went for a walk through the park afterwards and just spent hours talking about absolutely nothing. I felt…like someone was paying attention to me, for the first time in…well, maybe forever. He even asked if he could kiss me before I went home, and I said yes, and it was there, that…that…spark.”
Harry smiled, even though Hermione sounded more pained that happy about how things had turned out. He could understand that she didn’t want to allow herself this small allowance, either because of guilt or fear. Still, maybe whoever this bloke was would be god for her.
“What’s his name?”
Hermione fidgeted in her seat, which was never a good sign. “Um, Roger Davies.”
The name sounded familiar, but he couldn’t place it right away. “Wait! Ravenclaw-asked-Cho-out-Roger-Davies?” Merlin, that took him back.
“Yes?” Hermione answered, although it came out as more of a question.
“Cool.” Harry decided it was better to act cool and calm about the whole thing, rather than start making her more anxious. “He has a kid?”
“Yeah, a son, Lucas. His ex-wife, well, she lives abroad now.”
Similar situations then, Harry thought, feeling only a tiny bit bad that he imagined Ron as living abroad. It was true though, for someone who primarily lived in England, he was never really around.
“Are you going out again?”
“Yes,” Hermione whispered, barely audible over the cafeteria chatter. Harry cupped his ear in a mime of being unable to hear her. “YES!” she yelled, loud enough for surrounding tables to turn and stare at them.
“Good, let me know when I can meet him.”
Hermione didn’t say anything else, just pushed her remaining food around her plate. She was trying very hard to not let herself be happy, he knew. Hopefully she’d give up soon, or he might just have to step in and have a talk with this Davies fellow.
“Where’s your mother now?” Harry asked Draco, both of them slumped at opposite ends of his couch after a very filling meal.
“Oh, I assumed you knew,” Draco muttered casually, and Harry was struck by the possibility that Narcissa Malfoy was dead. Then again, he was fairly certain he would have remembered reading that.
“She lives in France, somewhere in the countryside where no one will bother her. She’s not…well, she’s not really there anymore, not completely. The war, my father, it broke her, I guess.”
Harry grimaced as he realized he’d asked another question that only brought Draco pain. It seemed like he asked so many stupid questions without thinking, and Draco had to suffer through answering them. There was nothing he could do to fix any of them, either. Only sit there in mute silence and accept these were their lives now, broken, painful, and not at all what they imagined.
“Did you know she saved my life?” He asked, breaking the silence. It might be painful to talk about the people who were gone, but then again, isn’t that the best part about having known them? Having something left behind, something to remember them by.
“I was unaware you’d ever met my mother,” Draco murmured, disbelief clear in his voice.
“I told you about how I went to meet Voldemort during the battle? To die?” Draco nodded with a clenched jaw. “Well, I did, sort of. Except I came back, but I made sure to lie very still, in case…you know, he found out and killed me again. Funnily enough, he sent your mother to check if I was still alive.
“I thought I was done for. But then she leaned towards me and asked if you were still alive, and I nodded…having just left you outside the Room of Requirement. That’s all she needed to know, that you were safe, and she stood up and told him that I was dead. I probably wouldn’t still be alive if it weren’t for her.”
Draco was silent for a long time, although Harry could pick up slight changes in his presentation. His jaw kept clenching and unclenching, like he was holding back unspoken words. His fingers started tapping mutely against the armrest, another habit Harry had begun noticing. Maybe it wasn’t so much that Draco didn’t want to say something, but that he didn’t know what to say.
“There’s a strange sense of irony in it, actually,” Harry continued. “I was saved by my mother’s love for me the first time Voldemort tried to kill me and saved by your mother’s love for you the second time.”
“In inceptum finis est,” Draco whispered distractedly, almost as if he hadn’t meant to say it at all.
“What does that mean?” Harry asked, not at all surprised Draco could quote Latin verses at will, but still unable to understand them.
“Hmm...I suppose it means a circle. I always loved circles, growing up, cycles, beginnings and ends being one. I think a proper translation would be something along the lines of ‘in the beginning is the end.’”
It was a surprisingly beautiful sentiment, and somehow more surprising that Draco Malfoy had said it. True, he’d gotten wiser and more compassionate over the years, but he seemed…deeper too, or maybe he always had been, and no one had taken the time to notice.
“‘I open at the close,’” he said, realizing too late that it sounded like he was changing the translation. “No, I mean, that’s how I got the Resurrection Stone. Dumbledore gave me the first snitch I caught, with that inscribed in it. Only when I reached the end was I able to open it and get the stone. Now that I’m thinking about it though, there’s a whole other level to that—”
“It’s too late, and I’m too full and intoxicated to continue this intriguing philosophical debate,” Malfoy grumbled, and when Harry turned, he could see that it was true.
“How about some TV then?” Harry offered, grabbing the remote from the side table. Draco stared at him blankly. “Seriously? Muggle invention?”
Harry shuffled anxiously on the platform. He had been anticipating this exact moment for weeks. He had never imagined he’d miss Jamie as much as he did. That sounded wrong, he loved his son, really, but he had imagined enjoying the reprieve from managing two children. He hadn’t imagined the gaping whole Jamie’s absence would leave. The empty seat at the dinner table, the unnervingly neat house, the silences that were once filled with his nonsensical banter. As soon as December arrived, he was almost desperate for the winter holiday to begin.
He stood on the platform with Lucy and Draco, the latter of whom looked even more excited that he did. Draco had gone all out, bringing flowers and chocolates…it was one of the most endearing things he’d ever seen. If Lucy hadn’t been squeezing his hand so tightly, he wouldn’t be able to tell she was happy at all. Somehow, at her young age, she managed to look just as studious and contemplative as Hermione ever had.
The floor vibrated softly at first, and gradually grew until the thunderous sound of the Hogwarts Express barrelled into the station. Its brilliant red colour brought back memories from his own childhood. Back then, the train had been a symbol of hope and salvation. In the same way, the train now represented the joy of his family coming back together.
Jamie had written a few weeks earlier asking if he could stay over the break, to which Harry firmly replied no. His holidays had been nice enough there, but he’d had no home to return to. Perhaps it was petty insistence, but if Jamie had a loving home waiting, he was certainly going to be forced to enjoy it. Well, that and the fact that he couldn’t stand not seeing his son for another five months.
Jamie and Cassiopeia approached them together, clearly by choice, although it looked like they were trying very hard to appear as if they weren’t. Harry watched with amusement as Cassiopeia sent Jamie a warning glance, and Jamie immediately seemed to submit. Jamie, who had always been headstrong and stubborn. In four months, it looked like Cassiopeia had achieved what he could not: a healthy sense of authority over his son’s unwavering determination to do whatever he wanted.
He glanced at Draco, who had his head cocked in a contemplative sort of look. It looked like he noticed as well.
“Jamie!” Lucy shrieked, unable to wait any longer. She catapulted into her brother at a record-breaking speed, knocking not just the two of them onto the ground, but Cassiopeia as well. He cringed, waiting for some sort of outburst, but Cassiopeia merely laughed and accepted an equally enthusiastic hug from Lucy.
“I think they’ve forgotten about us,” Draco whispered to him, laughing a bit.
Another flaming red-haired child approached, and it took him a moment to decipher exactly which one it was. Hermione tailing behind was a tell-tale explanation though. She waved enthusiastically at both of them, and next to him he could sense Draco stiffen. It occurred to him that the two had never spoken. Well, not since…
“Draco! I have to have a word with you,” Hermione said sternly. Harry could tell she was only joking, but Draco clearly didn’t, as all colour quickly drained from his face.
“I think our daughters have formed quite the competitive rivalry. I mean, they clearly get on well,” Hermione said, gesturing towards the two girls, who were, in fact, talking in a way that only close friends did. Heads bent slightly towards each other and focusing only on what the other was saying. “But Rose keeps complaining that no matter how much she studies she can’t seem to best her in classes.”
A proud and slightly relieved smile replaced Draco’s look of panic. “Well, it’s about time a Malfoy bested a Granger. I never could beat you when we were in school.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “If I recall correctly, it was never more than a few points.”
“Still enough to disprove any of the pure-blooded nonsense my father spouted.”
Harry tensed, convinced that a comment like that would end any amiability the two had developed. Then, much to his surprise, Hermione laughed. A real, unrestrained laugh. She sounded…relieved. Maybe she still needed to be convinced that Draco had changed. Maybe such an honest admission of mistakenness was enough.
“Why don’t we all have dinner tonight?” Hermione announced. It was less a question and more of an order. Being as brilliant as she was, Hermione generally got her way. It wasn’t a bad idea. They had already made plans together, and the more the merrier, right?
“Does Chinese sound good to you?” Draco offered.
They hadn’t meant for it to turn into a massive sleepover party. The had only planned for a big dinner, but the chaotic mass of five children had quickly worn each other out. Or maybe they had plotted it all along. Either way, there was no sense in waking them all up. It was a miracle that they’d all fallen asleep, and none of the parents relished in the idea of struggling to do it again.
“I’m sorry to burden you, Harry,” Hermione said apologetically. He quickly brushed aside the comment.
“Please, I have plenty of space. It’s no trouble at all.”
“It’s nice,” Draco said softly, “they all get along so well. Different houses, different families, different blood. They were wrong after all, weren’t they?”
It was a sobering statement, and underneath its happiness lay the unspoken truth of their own childhoods.
“You know, if things had been different, you and I would have been friends at Hogwarts,” Hermione announced clearly to Draco. Both he and Harry balked. “What? It’s true. If you hadn’t been raised by prejudiced purebloods, we would have gotten on. We both loved classes, we both were constantly annoyed by Harry, and we were both clearly defined by our magical ancestry. You know what I mean?”
Hermione was slightly tipsy, having over indulged in the wine just a little bit. Otherwise, she probably wouldn’t have been so upfront. In fact, Harry had no idea she’d felt that way. He could see the connection, but it still seemed strange to hear the words out loud.
“I would have liked that. You know, if I hadn’t been such an arrogant prat,” Draco said softly, equally intoxicated, if not more so, after the dinner wine and some whiskey on top. The two began laughing for no reason in particular. Harry looked on with something bordering between confusion and surprise.
“I wanted to be your friend too, Harry, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be back then.”
“What do you mean?” Harry asked, furrowing his brow. They had never gotten along. In fact, they’d actively hated each other.
“You don’t remember? Our first night, I asked to be your friend. Although, I think I was rather rude about it, so I don’t blame you.”
“Is it true?” a white haired, small, pale boy asked excitedly. “They're saying all down the train that Harry
Potter's in this compartment. So it's you, is it?”
“Yes,” Harry said awkwardly, not sure who the strange boy was or what he wanted. He glanced nervously at the two boys standing behind the pale boy, both looking incredibly thickset and angry.
“Oh, this is Crabbe and this is Goyle,” the boy said casually, with a slight wave of his hand that meant it was of no consequence. “And my name's Malfoy, Draco Malfoy.”
Next to him, Ron sniggered slightly, and he tried to cover it up with a cough. It didn’t work.
“Think my name's funny, do you? No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford,” Draco snapped, suddenly more aggressive and intense than before. He turned to face Harry again, his cool, grey eyes piercing deep into his soul. “You'll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.”
Draco confidently extended his hand. He was offering friendship, guidance, and trust, and Harry just looked at it and shook his head.
“I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks.”
“You…you wanted to be friends? Way back then, didn’t you?” Harry whispered, a mixture of disbelief and remorse washing over him. The memory was so vivid, so poignant, and he could have slapped himself for now remembered it sooner. How could he have forgotten that vulnerable, devastated look on Draco’s young face?
Draco shifted the remaining whiskey in his glass but didn’t say anything.
“Actually, Harry, if I have the night off, there’s someone—something I’ve got to do. I’ll be back first thing for the kids?”
It didn’t take long to figure out what, or rather who, she had to do. It was just as well. Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe it was the feelings that had been building up for years, but he suddenly had the overwhelming need to understand Draco.
“No hurry, Hermione. They’re always welcome.”
Hermione smiled, kissed his cheek lightly, and was off in a flurry of green flames. Then it was just the two of them, and an ocean of unspoken words in between.
“I’d forgotten all about that night. I have no idea what possessed my eleven-year-old self to—”
“Harry, you had just been thrust into this unimaginable, mythical world of magic, with no family or friends. Then an arrogant, angry faced boy made a point of insulting the only acquaintance you’d made, insulted your ability to choose friends, and shoved his hand in your face. It’s not rocket science, and it isn’t something that needs any sort of remorse. It’s in the past.”
“Is it really that simple?” Harry asked, furrowing his brows. “All those years of taunting each other, was it all because of that?”
Draco laughed, not unkindly, but not happily either. “No, Harry. I don’t think it was all because you refused to shake my hand. We both had our destinies to fulfil. There would have been no forging an alliance, even back then.”
He made it sound so bleak, so hopeless, and for some reason, that made Harry’s blood boil. He was right. As children, their futures were already decided, in an almost parallel way. Always beside each other, but never touching. Everything they’d done, everything they’d been, had almost been mirror images. Like two sides of the same coin.
“We were a lot alike,” Harry murmured. It wasn’t a question, but it certainly invited debate.
“You, the shining light of the wizarding world, the boy who saved us from the darkest wizard there ever was, had something in common with me, Death Eater and humble servant of said darkest wizard there ever was?”
“You’d be surprised,” he said simply. “That day in the bathroom, in sixth year, I never—”
“It’s forgotten,” Draco interrupted quickly, but Harry didn’t miss the way he absently-mindedly ran a hand carefully over his chest. “I would have done worse to you, if I had the chance.”
Harry had always tried not to think about that day, the flooded tile floors becoming murky with dark, red blood, Myrtle’s normally moan becoming increasingly terrified. No matter what logical argument he came up with of why he did it or how it was justified, could ever assuage the guilt. Maybe Draco would have cast an unforgivable, or maybe he would have lowered his wand like he did when he was faced with murdering Dumbledore. That overwhelming sense of not knowing was what got to him the most, even after so much time had passed.
“I was a bit obsessed with you back then, I think,” Harry said bluntly, hoping it hadn’t come out nearly as desperate as he feared it had.
Draco laughed then, his normal, heavy laugh, the one he’d grown so accustomed to. “The feeling was mutual then, I suppose.”
“Even if it wasn’t meant to be back then, I’m really glad we’ve…become friends now,” he admitted, knowing it sounded sentiments, and not knowing if “friends” was what he wanted to call them anymore.
“You’ve been a surprising but not unwelcome presence in my life,” Draco reciprocated, offering a modest cheer to the notion.
A tight, aching feeling had been growing in his chest all night. Well, maybe it had been growing for weeks, if he was honest. He couldn’t remember being around Draco and not feeling some inexplicable tightness, as if he would burst if he didn’t say what he needed to. Maybe he hadn’t known what he needed to say until now, or hadn’t wanted to admit it, anyway.
“Draco, I think—”
“Don’t say it,” Draco whispered suddenly, pained, grey eyes snapping up to meet his green. Draco…knew but didn’t want to hear it.
“Why?” he asked, just as quietly, just as scared.
“Because if you do, you can’t take it back.”
“What if I don’t want to take it back?” he decided, before he even understood what he was saying.
“I need to go,” Draco mumbled, dropping his glass sharply onto the table. He was gone before Harry could say another word.
His long, black coat left abandoned on the seat. Draco had vanished into the wintery night with no explanation or goodbye. For the first time in months, Harry felt absolutely alone.
“Daddy? Where Mr. Draco?” Lucy asked, crawling on top of one of the kitchen stools. She was the first one awake, which wasn’t surprising. He hadn’t slept at all and had chosen to fill the time by cooking endless batches of burnt pancakes. He placed a plate of the least charred ones in front of her.
“He had to go somewhere last night.”
“When’s he coming back?” Harry paused and left a pancake frying just long enough for it to burn. He’d waited all night for some sign that Draco would come back, but he never had.
“I don’t know.” Those few words made the heaviness growing inside him exponentially worse. Would Draco ever come back? Had he ruined everything?
Behind him, Lucy climbed off her seat and walked away. His existential crisis had bored his daughter. Just the same, he didn’t need to air his grievances to a six-year-old.
“Here,” Lucy said, coming up beside him and offering him a handful of flowers.
He knew where Draco was, and he knew he needed to be there with him immediately.
“Lucy, you girls are in charge until Hermione gets here, okay?”
Lucy nodded as if she’d already expected it. He felt only a brief moment of parental guilt, that maybe leaving a home full of children alone was irresponsible. He quickly dashed it with the knowledge that at least three of them were mature, careful beings, and that Hermione would show up soon.
Then, he threw on his coat, grabbed Draco’s, and apparated to Ginny’s grave.
It had been snowing, and the dawn lighting made the thick layer of white sparkle. It made the whole graveyard look somehow happier. Only a month earlier, the late autumn lifeless grass and leafless trees had created a much more sombre atmosphere. Now, the whole place seemed clustered together into one small, silent, and peaceful universe.
He might have been alone, if he hadn’t spotted the tell-tale pale hair, nearly the same colour as the snow, not far away. He could see that Draco was shivering, coatless and clearly too distracted to caste a warming charm. He just sat unmoving in front of Astoria’s grave.
Harry approached slowly, not wanting to startle him. Even as he got closer, Draco didn’t seem to notice. Once he was within an arm’s distance, he dropped the coat across his shoulders with a loud thump.
“What’re you doing here?” Draco asked softly, not bothering to turn around. He knew it was Harry.
Harry didn’t say anything. Words would have failed him anyway. What could he say? He wouldn’t apologize, because he wasn’t sorry, and he had no intention of taking it back. No, there was nothing he could say now, not until Draco told him he could.
Instead, he handed Draco the bouquet Lucy had made for him. They weren’t tied up nicely, just torn straight out of their garden. Maybe it was better that way. The situation was clean or tidy. It was messy. It was—
“A new beginning, huh?” Draco mused dryly, accepting the flowers.
“I think so,” Harry answered honestly. Actually, he didn’t think so, he knew so. He wasn’t going to push Draco away again. This time, he would stand by his side. He didn’t know why, only that somehow it was always meant to be that way.
“You can’t take it back.”
“I don’t plan to.”
“Don’t you think you’re being a bit presumptuous?” Draco asked with a laugh.
“No, I don’t think I am. I think if I was, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Draco nodded, but his smile faltered after a moment. Harry followed his gaze towards the grave. The loss was still so fresh, he couldn’t imagine what Draco was feeling.
“She’d want you to be happy, you know. To move on, or whatever it is they say.” Harry felt a bit ridiculous, spouting such generic catch phrases. It was true though, at least for Ginny. She’d want him to have a happy ever after, even if it wasn’t with her.
“Let’s say you’re right then,” Draco started, then hesitated. “Let’s say I want a new beginning, what happens?”
The tight pain in his chest subsided suddenly, like the spring thawing the icy terrain. It was replaced by the nervous, butterfly-like sensations he’d known all too well when he was young. He never would have imagined feeling that same heart-racing warmth again.
“Well, for starters, you could kiss me.” It was bold, brave, and ridiculously juvenile, all at the same time.
“A bit cocky, aren’t we, oh Chosen One?” Draco murmured, but didn’t object. In fact, he turned suddenly, and without hesitating, did just that.
It was soft and insistent, slow and meaningful, and over far too soon. Still, in those few seconds, Draco managed to communicate everything Harry had needed him to say. It wasn’t an answer or a promise. It was just a new beginning.
And maybe that was enough.