"I'm not a nervous flier, I'm not!"
Harry picked the paper Ron had brought out of the seat pocket in front of him and decided to try to drown out Seamus with the power of concentrating very hard.
"It's the first time you're flying, of course you are!" Dean argued.
"Oi, keep it down!" Ron shouted. "Some of us are trying to sleep!"
The paper was not at all interesting today, the headline news being Celestina Warbeck's retirement from the music industry. Harry willed himself to read it anyway, and by the time he'd made it through the financial section, sports section, culture section, read all the obituaries (nobody he knew) and upcoming weddings (amongst which: Draco Malfoy and Astoria Greengrass), Seamus' sleeping pills had kicked in and he was mercifully quiet.
So was the rest of the plane.
It was a little like chasing the sun, flying this late in the day, the sun low in the sky, setting, setting, setting. And they flew after it, all the way to America, and all the way to the other side of America, to a city that never sleeps - or so the tourist guide told him. Harry folded it up and put the guide and the paper into his bag and tried to sleep a little.
Ron woke up twenty minutes before the plane touched ground. "Oi, look at that," he said, leaning over Harry to look out the window. The lights of the city spread out underneath them.
The five of them piled into a cab noisily. Harry took the place in the middle, as usual, trying to avoid elbows and knees.
He wasn't sure whether he was still drunk or if he still had a hangover, or maybe some strange mixture of both, but he was rapidly reaching a point where he couldn't handle any more strip clubs or brothels or bungee jumping. Seriously, what the hell.
He was never trusting Dean again.
"Last night in Vegas," Ron said happily (as the only one of the party who didn't have a hangover. Bastard). "What's the plan?"
"No more strip clubs or casinos," Harry said, somewhat desperately. "Can we, I don't know - go to one of those Elvis things? Just. No more strip clubs, please."
"Is that the guy in white and gold?" Neville asked. "With the hair?"
They went to one of those Elvis things.
"Muggle music is kind of weird," Seamus commented after two different Elvises had delivered two very different performances. Harry didn't really know what to think of Elvis himself, but the place they'd gone to was a lot less crowded and noisy than strip bars, and he was having fun.
"I don't know, I like it," Neville said. "It's very gaudy."
"That's because it's Vegas," Dean said, with a put upon air of sufferance. "Elvis is super cool normally. My mum used to play his stuff on the radio all the time."
Harry tried to tune out the commentary and pay attention to the next Elvis. He looked deep into his glass of pink sugary drink (courtesy of Seamus, who seemed to believe that Harry would be offended by pink sugary drinks) and then emptied the glass. He looked around for a waiter, but quickly got distracted by something across the room.
"Is that Malfoy?" he asked, looking at a small band of loud drunk guys decked out in Elvis costumes and, in one case, a showgirl costume. He could clearly see a blonde head in the group, the owner of which was standing up in the middle and swaying dangerously, while belting out something that may have been an approximation of the Elvis song that had been performed just a few minutes ago. Harry wasn't really sure. The world was a little fuzzy and anyway that couldn't possibly be Malfoy -
"It bloody is," Ron said.
As Harry stared at the group, the person in the showgirl costume (was that Blaise Zabini? That had to be Blaise Zabini) got up and then promptly stumbled over nothing, and fell into the laps of two of the nearby Elvises. Malfoy lost his balance and fell on top of Zabini, laughing.
Harry flagged a waiter down and asked him to bring a round of drinks over to Malfoy's group and then another round for his own party.
Harry woke up because the sun was bothering his face. He made a disgruntled sound and turned, or tried to turn, rather, but found himself tangled in bed sheets and some of Malfoy's limbs.
Right, yes. That had happened.
"Stop moving, Potter," Malfoy mumbled from where his head was buried under a pillow. "You're disturbing my hangover. Also, why are you still here?"
"This is my hotel room," Harry told him. "Also, this is bizarre."
Malfoy groaned and retrieved all his limbs and some of the sheet Harry was still tangled in. Then he sat up, rubbing his pillow-creased face. His hair was plastered to his cheek on one side, on the other it stood up in weird angles. Harry was sure he didn't look much better himself.
"I've had bizarre…r." He yawned. "Why are we in your room? I'm sure mine is much nicer."
The sunlight highlighted a few thin, white scars crossing his chest.
"I don't know." Harry regarded him warily. "Why are you not freaking out?"
"I freaked out in the bathroom for half an hour before you woke up, Potter," Malfoy said, blandly.
"...And then you came back to bed?"
"I figured you would do the right thing and respect me in the morning and get me breakfast. Was I wrong?" Malfoy's eyes were glittering with mirth, or something like it. Harry wasn't wearing his glasses, so he wasn't sure. Maybe it was sarcasm. Probably sarcasm. Definitely sarcasm.
"I'm not sure if I should be offended or not," Harry told him. "But no, you're not wrong."
"Great!" Malfoy poked him. "Are you going to freak out?"
Harry considered this. "No," he said. "I reckon I'm past that stage."
"Fair enough." Malfoy yawned. His adam's apple moved.
Harry briefly entertained the idea of asking for another round, but quickly dismissed it. He was crusty and nauseous and hungover sex had never been his favourite thing in the world. "So, before I kick you out and go catch my plane, want some breakfast?"
"Are you still drunk?" Malfoy looked at him. "I didn't think you were serious, before."
"I'm always serious about breakfast. And I'm not still drunk." Harry frowned. "I'm okay, actually."
Malfoy narrowed his eyes at him. "No hangover?"
"Sure. Could've been worse, though." Harry got out of bed and went to find his glasses and the room service menu. "I meant it. I'll treat you to breakfast before you leave. Least I can do."
"Scrambled eggs and bacon," Malfoy said, and let himself fall back onto the bed. "Maybe some toast."
"Mmmh. Coffee or juice?"
Harry called in Malfoy's order, then added a full English breakfast for himself. "Actually, make it a whole pot of coffee," he told the person on the other end of the phone. "Thanks."
"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?" Malfoy asked. He'd buried himself under the sheets and pillow again. "I recall you saying that last night."
"Yeah, Dean said that's how things usually work," Harry agreed and went over to join him. Their clothes were strewn all over the floor. He noticed some wrinkled sheets of papers sticking out of a pocket in his jeans. He picked the papers up. "Are you regretting this already?"
"I wouldn't say regret." Malfoy sighed. The pillow over his face moved. "More like tired. I've been here for a whole week. Shagged so many people."
"You said, last night," Harry said, smoothing out the papers he'd picked up. He frowned at them. "You're getting married next weekend, right?"
"This is my bachelor party," Malfoy said. "More like bachelor week. Stag week. Whatever. I'm never drinking again." He looked out from under the pillow. "How did you know I was getting married? Did I tell you?"
"Saw it in the paper. Anyway, I think that might get a little difficult. Look at this," Harry said, and handed him the papers he'd found on the floor.
Malfoy looked at the papers. "Huh," he said. "So that really happened. I thought I'd dreamt it."
"Do you not remember the hour we spent in a cab trying to find that damn marriage licence office?" Harry asked him. "We got the licence at like, five to midnight. I remember it because the clerk was very annoyed. He'd almost closed up the office when we got there."
"I don't remember that," Malfoy said, frowning. "I remember a drive-thru. Did we get married there? Or did we get burgers?"
"Both," Harry said. A tiny ball of worry settled in his gut. Or maybe that was just the hangover. "Are the papers legit, do you think?"
"They look like it." Malfoy nodded. "Not a problem. We'll just get a divorce once we're back home. I'll come straight from my flight and meet you at the lawyer's office, get it done and over with. Nobody needs to know."
Harry shrugged. "Yeah, sure. Think we can push the papers before your wedding on Saturday?"
"Probably." Malfoy shrugged. "It's just a formality, I suppose." He handed Harry back the papers.
"All right, then." Harry put the papers on the bedside table.
Malfoy pulled the pillow over his face again. "Did our friends put us up to the shotgun wedding thing?"
"I don't know."
"I bet it was Blaise."
"I don't know, as far as I remember we were both pretty keen on it." Harry tried to think back really hard. He couldn't remember much after the first hour their parties had joined up. There'd been drinking. And Malfoy being really handsy in the cab. "Or, maybe it was Blaise."
There was a knock on the door, and Harry sprang out of bed, taking the sheets with him (Malfoy yelped and threatened blue murder) to answer the door.
"Breakfast is served," he said, coming back to the bed with the tray. He gave Malfoy back half the sheets.
They ate in silence.
"I need to leave for the airport in about an hour," Harry said. "I'm meeting the others downstairs at quarter to."
"When are you flying back?"
"Not until later today. I'll be in London at noon tomorrow, so can you book an appointment for us at, say, one thirty? Try not to find someone very skeevy."
"I'll find someone who's only a little skeevy," Harry said.
Malfoy threw his pillow at him.
"I'll leave you an owl at the airport."
"Well, then, Potter," Malfoy said. "This all has been fun, but." He hopped off the bed and started looking for his clothes. "Time to get back to real life and all."
"Yeah," Harry said. "Those are - nevermind, just take them."
"Yes, I'm bloody well not going back in this," Malfoy - now in Harry's jeans - told him, holding out a part of his Elvis costume by his fingertips.
Harry was waiting outside the office when Malfoy showed up, bags under his eyes, clothes wrinkled, his hair in slight disarray, and suitcase in tow.
"Hello, Potter," he said, briskly. "Let's get it over with?"
"After you," Harry said, gesturing into the office.
He'd brought the Vegas marriage papers and had them ready in hand. The lawyer, a young woman with her hair in a bun, looked up as they entered her office. "Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Potter?"
"Hello," Malfoy said, shaking her hand.
Harry did the same.
"We'd like to file for divorce, effective immediately," Malfoy said. "Did Potter ask you to draw up the divorce papers? I hope he did."
"I...nevermind. Our marriage records." Harry handed over the Vegas papers.
The lawyer - Beatrice Birkenhead, the sign on her door had said - looked at the papers. "You were married on August the 6th, in Las Vegas, America? Yesterday?"
"I suppose it was technically yesterday," Harry said, fidgeting. "Though it feels more like...I don't know. A week ago?"
"My jetlagged face will tell you it was yesterday," Malfoy said. "How are you not jetlagged?"
"Hmmm." Beatrice Birkenhead tapped her pen against the Vegas papers, interrupting them. "I'm afraid I can't give you a divorce," she said. "The law is very clear. If the marriage has not been consummated, it cannot be annulled until a hundred and one days have passed. If the marriage has been consummated, it's a matter of a year and a day."
Malfoy paled. "But I'm getting married on Saturday," he said.
"Oh dear," Beatrice Birkenhead said. "That's a spot of bother."
"You didn't know about this?" Harry asked Malfoy. "I thought you said it was just a formality. Wouldn't you know? You're getting married - didn't it come up?"
"It didn't come up!" Malfoy was now even paler. "I wasn't planning on divorcing Astoria, so I never looked into that bit of the law! It wasn't going to be relevant!"
Beatrice Birkenhead took down a book from the shelf behind her and opened it. After a few pages of searching, she found what she was looking for. "Gentlemen," she said. "If you would like to see for yourself."
Malfoy took the book from her and read the paragraphs she'd indicated. "Bloody hell," he said, putting it back down. He ran his hands through his hair, putting it in further disarray.
"Wait," Harry said, getting an idea. "Does Wizarding Law recognise Muggle marriages? Muggle marriages from abroad?"
"As of January 2nd this year, in fact," Beatrice Birkenhead told them. "I'm sorry, gentlemen, but I'm bound by the law. I'm afraid you'll have to postpone your wedding, Mr. Malfoy."
"Is there nothing we can do to expedite the process?" Harry asked.
"I'm afraid not."
"Okay, uhm. Then. Is there any fine print we should be aware of?" he then asked. "When we come back a year from now, is there anything that could possibly prevent us from getting a divorce? Anything at all?"
"Let me see." Beatrice Birkenhead tapped her pen against her chin thoughtfully. "You have to fulfil the conditions of a valid marriage, of course," she said. She pointed at the appropriate paragraph in the book. "The married couple must reside together and have lived a married life before an annulment can be considered," she recited. "I'm very sorry about this, gentlemen. This is medieval law, written to prevent scam marriages and things like that. And to prevent people from getting divorced left and right, it was very unseemly back then, you must understand. The law was never updated. It didn't seem...relevant, I suppose."
"Wait," Malfoy said, also getting an idea. "If we don't fulfil these conditions, the marriage is never valid, so it technically doesn't exist? It nullifies itself?"
"No," Beatrice Birkenhead said, looking at him like he was stupid. "That just makes you stuck in limbo. You're wedded, but your marriage isn't fully valid, and so cannot be annulled. Actually, nothing can really be done with it. It's like...like cake that isn't completely baked! It's soggy in the middle and you can't eat it or do anything with it, because it's not a valid cake. You'll just have to put it back in the oven and give it another year and a day."
"That's stupid," Malfoy said.
Harry agreed with him.
"I don't make the law," she said, not unkindly. "Look, the best you can do is just stick it out for a year and a day, and then come back. Make sure you have proof of residence with you, when you do."
"You're not going to...check up on us? Unannounced visits and the like?" Harry asked, suddenly feeling very trapped.
"No, silly. But we will require formal statements from your friends and family, and possibly your neighbours if you have any, that you have lived together, as well as receipts for any and all joint bills and expenses related to your married life," Beatrice Birkenhead said. "We're not unreasonable, you know."
"Er," Harry said.
Malfoy looked ready to faint.
"Would you like some water?" Beatrice Birkenhead asked. "You don't look well."
"No, thank you," he croaked.
"Well, maybe you would like to sit for a bit," she suggested. "My next appointment will be here in fifteen minutes, but you may use the couch outside my office."
Harry took back their Vegas papers and led Malfoy out of the office, and to the couch. Malfoy sat, heavily, elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. Harry sat with him.
"What will you do?" he asked.
"Freak out," Malfoy answered. "Then talk to Astoria."
"This might be completely inappropriate," Harry said, "but...how is she gonna… I mean, you cheated on her. Right?"
"No I didn't." Malfoy shook his head. "Ours is an arranged marriage, Potter. We're not in love," he said, with a dramatic flourish, followed by a sigh. "We're not in a relationship. I imagine Astoria spent her hen week in much the same manner as I did."
"Oh." Harry frowned.
"Don't do that," Malfoy said, elbowing him. "It's not that kind of arranged marriage. We both agreed to the whole thing. It's not like we're entering a loveless marriage for the rest of our lives against our will. We're friends, and we agree on some very important things." He sighed. "I was looking forward to marrying her."
They sat in silence for a bit.
"Want some lunch?" Harry offered. "I don't know about you, but I'm starving, and… maybe we need to sort out a few practical things."
Malfoy shook his head. "No...yes. Let me owl Astoria first. She should be there." He winced. "Let's also not do this in a public place," he added.
"Have lunch at mine, then," Harry suggested. "I'll get us some take-out, or ask Kreacher to make us something."
"Kreacher? That sounds like a house-elf name. You have a house-elf?"
"He's my house-elf," Harry confirmed. "What? He came with the house!"
"What house?" Malfoy gave him a suspicious look.
"Er, Grimmauld Place? Number Twelve?" Harry said. "Sirius willed it to me. Do you know it?"
"Un-fucking-believable," Malfoy said. "Of course. Of fucking course."
"Shut up about it," Harry told him, and got up. "Are we meeting at my house then?"
Malfoy sighed. "Yeah, I suppose we are."
Malfoy had changed his clothes and sorted out his hair before he appeared at Harry's doorstep, Astoria by his side.
"Is this place Unplottable? It was bloody hard to find," Malfoy complained, when Harry opened the door.
"It is, actually," Harry told him. "Stop complaining, I gave you directions. Hello, er, Ms Greengrass?" He held out his hand.
"Astoria," she said, shaking Harry's hand. "Please."
"I'm Harry," Harry said, somewhat lamely.
"Nice to meet you, Harry," Astoria said, smiling warmly.
"Er. Okay. There's food in the kitchen, this way please." Harry led the way downstairs, to where Kreacher had whipped up something light. "Do you want to eat first, or did you already…?"
Malfoy looked between Harry and Astoria. "Let's eat first."
They ate in silence. All attempts at small talk failed. The kitchen, though large, felt small and the air oppressive. Harry could barely stomach the food.
"I don't mean to offend, Harry," Astoria finally said. "But I was expecting...more lively company. I didn't know the two of you were friends," she added.
"We're not friends," Harry and Malfoy said simultaneously. "It's just…"
"There's a small problem," Malfoy said, pushing away his plate. "I'm afraid we'll have to postpone the wedding."
Astoria stared at him. "You're joking."
"No." Malfoy glanced at Harry, then looked back at Astoria, at her hands. "The thing is, when I was in Las Vegas…I...ahhh...how do I put this..."
"We got drunk and had a drive-thru wedding," Harry said, cutting to the chase. "We tried to get divorced, but. Uhm." Harry shrugged awkwardly. "It turned out that wasn't as easy as we thought."
"Hang on," Astoria said, looking between the two of them. "You two got married? In Las Vegas?"
"In our defense, we were really drunk and didn't know what we were doing," Malfoy said. "I am so, so sorry -" He cut himself off abruptly when Astoria started laughing.
"Oh, Draco," she said, in between laughs. She wiped tears of laughter from her eyes. "I don't know what to do with you."
Malfoy looked so bewildered that Harry had to suppress a smile.
"But the wedding," he said, helplessly. "I thought you'd be mad!"
"I'm too busy being amused that you two fucked up so badly you're legitimately married," Astoria said. "Tell me, how did it happen? Why were you in Las Vegas, Harry? I assume you weren't there for Draco's stag week."
"I went with some mates to celebrate my 21st birthday," Harry told her. "We ran into Malfoy's party at this Elvis thing. Malfoy was in an Elvis costume."
"What's an Elvis?"
"You don't want to know," Malfoy said, still somewhat bewildered. "The point is. There was a lot of alcohol and a lot of bad decisions all around. Theo spent the entire night with food poisoning after Greg dared him to eat a goldfish out of an aquarium, and I…"
The silence spread between them.
"I'm sorry," Harry eventually said. "I didn't want to mess up your wedding. And I certainly didn't want to marry Malfoy."
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Malfoy said, with a sigh. "Through the brown haze of whiskey and Muggle fizzy drinks." He rubbed his face. "Astoria. I am genuinely sorry about this mess."
"Draco, darling," Astoria said gently, putting her hand on his shoulder. "We'll postpone the wedding. My dad will be a little upset, but he'll deal."
"Are you sure?"
"I was in no rush to get married, to be honest," she said. "You needn't look so hurt," she added. "It's nothing to do with you."
"I was looking forward to it," Malfoy said, somewhat petulantly. "Are you sure you're really okay with postponing the wedding?"
"It's not like there's a choice, is there?" Astoria smiled wide. "How long do we postpone it for? A hundred and one day? We can have a winter wedding, then, I think my mum'd like that - wait," she stopped abruptly, at the awkward look on Harry and Draco's faces. "Oh gosh. That's. That's amazing." She cracked up laughing again.
"Astoria!" Malfoy exclaimed in alarm. "That's not funny!"
"Oh, but it is. Sorry, love, but it's absolutely hilarious. That must've been a helluva lot of alcohol, to make you two forget your differences," she said, giggling happily. "I can't wait to tell my sister."
"Do not tell your sister!"
"Pansy, then. Who will tell my sister."
"No, no no, no…" Malfoy hid his face in his hands.
"Didn't we settle our differences after...your trial?" Harry asked carefully. "Because I thought we had."
Malfoy looked at him, tired and even less put together than he was in the lawyer's office, despite the change of clothes. "We did, Potter. Wouldn't have gone near you in Las Vegas, drunk or not, had it been otherwise. No offense."
Astoria patted Malfoy's shoulder. "I wasn't really gonna tell my sister," she said. "But anyone who knows the law is gonna figure it out, you know."
"I know." Malfoy looked at Harry. "So, Potter. Can you live with the public finding out you shagged a former Death Eater? Married a former Death Eater?"
"I lived with the public believing I was Undesirable No.1," Harry said. "I'm pretty sure I can handle you."
Astoria giggled. "Already handled him, I think," she said, then winked at Harry.
Malfoy shot her a dirty look, and Harry's cheeks turned red.
"As I was saying," Harry said, coughing. "I can ha- deal."
"I suppose that's it, then." Malfoy slumped in the chair. "I suppose that's my life now."
"Yeah, yeah," Astoria said. "Honestly, Draco, it's not that bad. It could've been worse. You could've been married to a troll. Or a hag. Or a -"
"Please stop." Malfoy shuddered.
Harry looked between them. "Uhm. So... I take it you're not...unhappy?" he asked Astoria.
"God, no. You just gave me an extra year to continue being a shameless slut," she said, carelessly. "In all seriousness, though, Draco." She turned to him. "If I get a better prospect than you in the next year, I'm calling the right to marry that guy instead."
"But -" Malfoy looked at her, brow creased. "I thought we agreed?"
"Mmmh, I said if." She patted his cheek. "Cheer up. You also get an extra year to be a shameless slut in."
"I'm not a shameless slut anymore," Malfoy argued. "As of yesterday I'm a married man."
"You can be a shameless slut," Harry told him. "I won't hold it against you."
Malfoy stared at him. Then he stood up. "I haven't slept in what's probably forty hours. I'm going home." He rubbed his eyes. "When should I move in? Friday? Does Friday work for you? I'm moving in on Friday."
"Friday's fine," Harry said.
"The press -"
"I'll handle the press," Astoria said. "I'll put in a notice today that I've decided to call off the wedding. Then, after an appropriate period of time, you and Harry can put in a small announcement if you'd like. Or not. All good?"
"I could kiss you," Malfoy said.
"Please don't." Astoria patted his cheek again. "Well, this was lovely! I hope to see you again soon, Harry. You have a lovely home."
"Er, thanks?" Harry followed them towards the front door, a little like a lost puppy. "It was nice to meet you," he said awkwardly, extending his hand for a shake.
Astoria ignored his hand and pulled him in for a polite hug, kissing both of his cheeks. "Don't be silly," she said. "Friends of my friends are my friends. Though in this case I suppose it's the husband of my ex-fiancé is my friend." She grinned.
Malfoy sighed and rolled his eyes. "I'll see you on Friday, Potter," he said, and then he disapparated them.
Harry closed the front door.
Harry waited as long as he possibly could - which was approximately two days - before he broke the news to Ron, Hermione and Ginny. He invited them over for dinner, and as they sat with their desserts, he told them.
Ginny laughed until her stomach cramped and Hermione stared at him in bewilderment.
"So that's what you two got up to," Ron said. "I'd wondered where you'd disappeared off to. Turned my back and then you were gone." He shrugged, then grinned mischievously.. "Congrats."
"Thanks," Harry responded dryly.
Teddy dropped his spoon on the floor and Hermione bent down to pick it up. "There you go, sweetie." She turned to Harry. "Are you moving in together?"
"We have to." Harry shrugged. His stomach turned, so he put down his spoon and pushed his dessert away. "So, yeah. He's coming here."
"When?" Ginny was still wheezing from laughter.
"Ohh, can I watch?"
Harry glared at her. "No."
Ron offered to get drunk with Harry to commiserate. Harry politely declined this offer, on grounds that recently, getting drunk seemed to have pretty unwanted consequences.
Telling the rest of his family and friends could wait until he was a little better equipped to deal with it all.
Malfoy moved in at three o'clock in the afternoon with four suitcases. Ginny had kept her word and hadn't shown up to watch.
Harry gave him the spare bedroom on the second floor.
He picked up Teddy from the daycare at four and accidentally gave Malfoy a fright when Teddy barrelled into Malfoy's room shouting at the top of his lungs.
"I forgot to tell you," Harry said, not at all sorry, "I have custody of Teddy."
Teddy jumped onto Malfoy's bed and launched into a story about his friend Malcolm and the ladybirds they'd found in the rosebush in daycare.
"Okay," was all Draco said, staring at Teddy as if he was a small dragon. Harry thought he was right to fear the child. "How long…?"
"About two years," Harry said. "Teddy goes to stay with Andromeda every other weekend, but I've got him the rest of the time."
"Teddy," Harry said, gently. "Let your cousin unpack his things in peace, yeah? He'll still be here after."
Teddy reluctantly crawled off Malfoy's bed and followed Harry out.
Malfoy'd been living with Harry for a week when Teddy threw his first tantrum in exactly eleven days and twelve hours. He screamed about his porridge and his clothes and his fruit and the daycare. All Malfoy had done to "help" was commandeer the entire coffee pot.
How he managed to completely ignore the noise Teddy made on difficult mornings was completely beyond Harry. Although, maybe it was related to the massive case of bedhead Malfoy was sporting...
"A little help would be appreciated," Harry said through gnashed teeth, as Teddy flung his entire bowl of porridge onto the floor.
"I'm in my zen zone," Malfoy told him. "Your nightmare, your battle. Nothing can breach the zen."
Harry glared at him and resumed wrestling a screaming Teddy back into his chair.
Eventually, after much dithering and back and forth and lengthy discussions with Malfoy, Harry put in a small notice in the paper about his and Malfoy's marriage. Three weeks had passed since the drive-thru (Harry refused to call it a wedding, and Malfoy actually agreed with him), and Malfoy assured him that adequate time had passed since the annulment of the engagement.
Harry was pretty proud of the announcement, if he was honest with himself. It wasn't a lie, exactly, but "impulsive elopment after a brief period of dating" and "private ceremony with only one witness" covered the truth, if a bit...embellished. Malfoy had shaken his head at the draft Harry had shown him, but eventually he'd accepted it.
The announcement went almost completely unnoticed; they received only eighty-three owls from strangers about the matter, and only one journalist tried to get a statement.
Harry did not receive a howler from Mrs. Weasley, though he almost wished he had. The little letter of disappointment she'd sent was making the guilt churn in his stomach.
"That went reasonably well," Harry said. Teddy was playing with Victoire outside, and Harry had volunteered to join Ginny and Fleur on the patio in keeping an eye on them.
"You mean, my mother didn't rip you a new one because you didn't invite her to the wedding?" Ginny asked. "Good job on avoiding her, by the way."
"Thanks." Harry made a face. "I didn't mean to, I just…" he trailed off, and didn't finish whatever excuse he was going to come up with for not having told Mrs. Weasley earlier.
"It is very strange," Fleur commented. "You did not bring your husband to introduce him to us?"
"Er," Harry said.
"Possibly not the best course of action?" Ginny asked.
"I do not see what the problem is," Fleur said. "The war is over! I have been reading a lot of war literature, you know, and I think you're doing the right thing, Harry."
Harry frowned. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"It's healthy for the society," Fleur said. "Muggle studies of societies that have been through civil wars as well as non-civil wars show that people who do not talk about the war and who keep sides after the war, have a much bigger risk of going through another war, or have a lingering war trauma in their collective consciousness," she explained. "One study showed that it takes until the great grandchildren of people who fought in a war for this trauma to fade."
Harry and Ginny stared at her.
"Oh, don't look at me like that," she said, impatiently. "I believe the second war happened in part because the fallout of the first one wasn't dealt with properly! And in order to prevent the same thing from happening again, we must take conscious action." She was gesticulating as she spoke. "That includes making sure nobody is ostracised or left behind"
"You mean, can't let the losers get trodden on," Harry said.
"No," Fleur answered. "That's not what I think. In a civil war there are no winners, Harry, only losers. We may have won the war, but we lost it too." She gave him a significant look. "The only difference, in the end, is that the victors aren't put on trial and only the losers are punished for their crimes of war."
Harry felt his cheeks grow hot. "You think I should have been tried in court."
"I think we all should have," Fleur argued. "We all did terrible things. You can't tell me you didn't."
"I suppose I did," Harry said, his guts twisting. "I'd rather not talk about it."
"Yes, let's not talk about the war," Ginny interjected. She was twirling her hair anxiously. "And go back to the funny part where Harry and Draco Malfoy are married."
"No -" Harry said, but the girls ignored him.
Fleur shrugged. "As you wish. It is funny." She paused, thoughtful. "Though I don't suppose you had to marry him, just out of principle."
"I didn't marry him out of principle," Harry protested. "It just happened! Because we were drunk."
"It does not matter," Fleur said and shrugged. "You are married. The public does not care about the reasons. It is just fact."
"Can I maybe borrow some of those books you've been reading?" Ginny asked.
"Of course! I will owl them to you. Harry, do bring your husband next time, will you?"
"Er," Harry said. "I'll ask him?"
"Good." Fleur nodded with a terrifying air of finality about it. "I will look forward to meeting him."
Hermione stepped out to join them, looking a little wild-eyed. "Say something sane," she begged. "Please."
"Fleur was just telling us about the effects of civil wars on society," Ginny told her.
"Oh! Did you get around to reading the book I sent you last week? What did you think of it?"
"Alas, I did not," Fleur said. "I was busy looking after Victoire when she was ill. I have read the first chapter, but I do not feel comfortable discussing it yet."
"Oh," Hermione said, a little dejected. "That's okay. We'll talk about it later - Harry!" she exclaimed.
"Yes?" Harry gave her a weird look. "I have been standing here this whole time, you know."
"I wanted to ask you how your marriage is going," she said. "How is it going? It's been, what, a month?"
Harry suddenly found himself under the scrutiny of the three most terrifying women he knew.
"Er," he said. It was rapidly becoming his new favourite word. "It's not much of a marriage? I barely see Malfoy as is, he's always home late." Harry shrugged. "And when he's not at work, he's still not home."
"Hm." Hermione looked strangely disappointed. "Where does he go, do you know?"
"How would I know? Hanging out with his friends?" Harry shrugged again. "Look, it's like having an elusive roommate. Absolutely nothing has changed since he moved in, except he drinks all my coffee in the mornings."
"Doesn't sound much like married life," Ginny said.
"Well, I don't want a married life with Malfoy, so I'm not complaining," Harry said.
Teddy had been particularly fussy, so when he finally slept at around half past nine (half an hour later than usual, which meant he'd be a right terror in the morning), Harry fetched his satchel and went to the library.
Where Malfoy was sitting at Harry's desk.
"Shoo, Malfoy," Harry said. "I need the desk."
"I'm using it," Malfoy said. "Go somewhere else."
"It's my desk in my library in my house," Harry said. "And I need it." He kicked over a couple of building blocks that Teddy had left lying about earlier in the day.
Malfoy looked up, sighing dramatically. "I'm finishing my paper on the properties of Preacher's Porridge in potion-making," he said. "It's to be published in Alchemy Annual. What scholarly wonders are you working on?"
"Last week's mission reports," Harry responded curtly. "So if you don't mind, I have work to do."
"I do mind." Malfoy picked up his papers and moved them over to one side of the desk, and then his chair. "But seeing as you asked so nicely, I'll let you share the desk."
"Gee, thanks, Malfoy," Harry said, dumping the contents of his satchel onto the other half of the desk. He fetched a spare chair. "You don't have to go that far out of your way to be nice."
"I do my best."
Malfoy returned his attention to his parchment, and Harry got started on his half-finished reports. They worked in silence for about half an hour, the quiet only broken when Malfoy got up to tend to the fire in the fireplace.
"Potter," he said, as he returned to the desk. "There's the matter of my parents' samhain celebration next month."
"What's the matter with it?"
"Your presence is expected. We will receive a formal invite by owl this week," he said. "I spoke to my mother about it yesterday."
Harry looked up, more than a little confused. "So?"
"So, we need to go to the celebration," Malfoy said.
"There are no words sufficient to explain how little I want to go to your parents' samhain celebration," Harry said.
Malfoy's lips formed into a thin line. "It's a formal event," he said. "Surely you must understand?"
"I understand that I'm not going."
"The hell you are!" Malfoy looked like he wanted to slam his fists into the table. "If you don't show up, it'll reflect badly on me, it'll reflect badly on you, it'll reflect badly on my parents and it'll reflect badly on your family!" he said. "It's like - it's so crude - there's no excuse short of death -"
"Tell them I have Dragon Pox," Harry said. "I don't care."
"Do you know nothing of social etiquette?"
"I was raised by wolves, remember?" Harry retorted. "I don't give a shit."
"In that case, might I remind you that we are married," Malfoy said, coldly, "and that in order to live up to the requirements of the arbitrary marriage law we are bound by, we must absolutely live by it. You are escorting me to my parents' samhain celebration whether you like it or not, if you want that bloody divorce."
Harry glared at him. "Fine," he bit out.
Malfoy glared back. "Fine."
"You're home early," Harry said when Malfoy flooed in at quarter past two in the afternoon. Harry had only just made it home himself, and was brushing soot off his cloak.
"You're home early," Malfoy said. "Is it true then? What people are saying?"
"The wizarding community got hit too," Harry confirmed. "I'm going to pick up Teddy from the daycare. Want to come?"
Malfoy froze. "Is it another...You-Know-Who-like situation?"
"I don't know. They're keeping a lid on it over there. Shacklebolt is talking to their people, I expect we'll be briefed soon." Harry gave Malfoy a look over. "You're white as a sheet," he observed.
"Why are you home? Is there any danger?"
"Just a precaution," Harry told him. "Because my name is Harry Potter. It's no big deal. Whatever is happening in America right now has nothing to do with me."
"But you just said it yourself," Malfoy pointed out. "You're...who you are. How do you know it's nothing to do with you?"
"Because what happened with me and Voldemort was personal," Harry explained. "He made it personal. This isn't."
"Yeah, well." Malfoy shrugged, visibly steeling himself. "You said you were going to pick up Teddy? Let's go."
"Are you okay?" Harry frowned. "Why did you come home early?"
"It's nothing. Let's go."
"It's not nothing," Harry protested. "What happened?"
Malfoy's mouth formed a thin line. "It's nothing I can't handle. Let's just go."
Harry dropped the subject and led Malfoy out of the house. They walked to Teddy's daycare in silence, Malfoy quietly brooding and Harry shooting him looks every now and then.
"You know, you never actually told me what you do for a living," Harry eventually said, when the silence got unbearable.
"I go to Carmarthen Academy of Alchemy," Malfoy said. "I'm a research fellow in Potions."
"I have no idea what that means," Harry told him.
Malfoy smiled. "It means that I get a stipend for dicking around a cauldron," he said. "It's an eight year programme and by the end of it, if I've done good work, I get a doctorate."
"You voluntarily took on another eight years at school?"
"Oh. Okay. What happens when you've finished?"
"I don't know." Malfoy shrugged. "Depends. Is that it, then?" He gestured at a brightly painted garden gate.
"Yeah." Harry checked his watch. "And we're right on time. He'll be waking up from his nap about now."
The kids were actually all awake already, and were sitting at the dinner table, eating yoghurt and carrot sticks. Teddy's hair stuck out in all directions and was raspberry blond in that moment, though it looked like it was going auburn in the back.
"Hey buddy," Harry said, from where he was standing in the doorway, watching the lot of them. "Want to come home early today?"
Teddy looked up from his little bowl of yoghurt, then his eyes travelled from Harry and fixed to a point just behind his right shoulder. "Draco!" he yelled and dropped the carrot he'd been munching on, crawled down from his chair faster than Harry had ever seen him do before, and came running at Malfoy.
"Hi," Malfoy said, awkwardly. Teddy had wrapped himself around Malfoy's legs.
"Is it okay if we take him out early?" Harry asked Marlene, who currently had her hands full feeding a toddler half Teddy's age.
"Is everything all right?" she asked, giving the three of them a concerned look.
"We both got some time off," Harry answered evasively. "Figured we'd do something together as a family. Go to the park or something."
"Oh." She looked between him and Malfoy. "It's true then? You two are really..."
Malfoy had picked up Teddy and was eyeing the yoghurt stains on his face warily. Harry fished a ratty paper towel out of his pocket and gave Malfoy to deal with the mess, then looked back at Marlene, eyebrow raised.
"Oh, go on then." She blushed a little, gesturing for them to leave. "We had a spot of rain this morning and Teddy's things are all wet. They're in the drying cabinet."
"Thank you, Marlene. See you tomorrow. Teddy, say goodbye."
"Bye!" Teddy said, waving enthusiastically.
Harry got him wrangled into his outerwear, most of which had dried since morning, and they were back outside in only a few minutes.
"Doing something like a family, huh?" Malfoy asked in a low voice. Teddy was skipping ahead of them, and was out of hearing range for the time being.
"I thought it'd sound better than 'my boss sent me home early because of terrorist attacks in America'," Harry said. "Do you disagree?"
"No." Malfoy shook his head. "It just didn't occur to me until now that we are legally a family."
"Yeah, well…" Harry shrugged. "Better get used to it. Oi, Teddy! Wait for us!"
Teddy stopped short up ahead, then skipped back. "You're too slow," he scolded. "Walking is boring." The lock of hair that had freed itself from under his cap was bright turquoise.
"I'm sure it is," Harry agreed. "But stick close."
"Why does his coat have his name on it in big letters on the back?" Malfoy now asked. "Did you stitch it on there?"
"Yes I did, and you do not get to criticise my stitching. I did it by hand all by myself," Harry said, then went on to explain: "I had to put it on there because sometimes he likes to pretend he's one of the other kids. A couple of months ago one of the other parents accidentally took him home instead of their own kid."
Malfoy turned to stare at him. "You're joking."
"Not in the least." Harry said. "Teddy, of course, was having the time of his life. I, the other kid, and the other parents...not so much."
"I suddenly have a lot of respect for that kid."
"Do not encourage him," Harry told him. "Seriously, don't. He gives me enough trouble as is."
It was awful, what happened in America, but Harry didn't get involved. He followed the news coverage and picked up a Muggle newspaper every now and then, as supplement to the Prophet.
It looked a lot like a war was afoot, and Harry was tired. He looked at his colleagues and he saw the same weariness and fear in their faces that he felt.
Malfoy had been coming home early (well, according to Malfoy standards anyhow; he was home before dinner) for about four weeks, in a foul mood to boot, and tight like a clam about what was the damn matter, so Harry decided he had to to Do Something, if only to restore the peace in his home.
The fact that he might've been a little worried about what was up with Malfoy was inconsequential, or so he told himself.
So, he was now standing in front of Carmarthen Academy of Alchemy, a very excited Teddy with him, and trying to work out which direction to go to find Malfoy. Harry stared in despair at the sprawling building, and then flagged down a student passing by.
They got directions for a particularly odd looking wing of the building; it had several towers and turrets growing out of it like mushrooms on trees. "The reception's on the left when you're in."
"Thanks." Harry took Teddy's hand. "Let's go find him, then."
"Is Draco in there?" Teddy asked, pointing at the largest tower on the wing.
"Maybe," Harry answered. "We'll find out in a bit. What do you think his office looks like?"
Teddy considered this as he and Harry crossed the lawn to reach the entrance. "I think it's going to be very nice," Teddy finally said. "Because all of Draco's things are nice."
"What kind of nice?"
"Tidy," Teddy answered promptly.
Harry laughed. "That's probably very true." They'd reached the reception desk. "Want to ask?"
The woman behind the desk gave him a curious look, but Harry just lifted Teddy up so he could see over the desk.
"Where is Draco?" Teddy asked. "I'm visiting him!"
"He means Draco Malfoy," Harry added. "Is he here?"
"There's only the one Draco in the building," the woman answered, small smile on her lips. She consulted a scroll. "His office is in Turret D on the third floor. It's on the right once you reach the third landing."
"Thank you," Harry said as Teddy squealed and squirmed out of Harry's arms and onto the floor. He took off towards the big staircase instantly. "Oi, wait for me!," Harry shouted and ran after him. "Teddy!"
Teddy stopped on the first landing for Harry to catch up with him. Before he could take off again, Harry had swept him up.
"Brat," Harry told him. "Remember what we talked about before?"
"The other thing."
"That I should behave nice," Teddy said. "And then ice cream."
"I said you could have ice cream if we go out for dinner, and we're here to ask Draco if he wants dinner," Harry said. "All right?"
"I knooow," Teddy said. "I want to walk by myself."
Teddy shook his head.
"Okay, then." Harry put him down. They'd reached the third landing by now. "But you've got to hold my hand instead then."
"I'm too big to hold hands," Teddy stated, very imperiously for such a small child. "I'm three and a half."
"Yes, but you are still this tall," Harry said, holding his hand at level with the top of Teddy's head. "And I'm this tall," he added, moving his hand up to the top of his own head. "So I'm in charge, and you have to do what I say."
Teddy took Harry's hand reluctantly, and they turned down the hall to find Draco's office. It was pretty easy to find; the hallway was short, and of the few doors in there, only one was labelled Turret D as well as Draco Malfoy.
The door was closed, however, and there was a handwritten note pinned to it that said in lab 4 today.
"Hmmm," Harry said.
"What does it say?" Teddy piped up. He jumped, as if a slight height advantage would make him able to read.
"He's not in his office…" Harry looked at the other doors around them, but none of them lead to laboratories as far as he could tell. "Right, come here, we're going back to the reception - hey! Can you tell me where lab four is?"
A young man had exited one of the offices further down the hall. He paused to look Harry up and down. "What are you doing here?"
"We're looking for Draco!" Teddy piped up. "We're going out to dinner! If he wants," he added hastily. "But he should come to dinner with us because Harry said we could have ice cream after."
The man's eyes shot up to Harry's forehead. "What do you want with Malfoy?"
"He's only my husband," Harry said dryly. "Can you tell me where he is?"
"Uh, lab four was it?" the man floundered. "Uhm. You'll want the next floor up, there are, uh, signs. Uhm. See you! Or… Er."
"Thanks." Harry tugged on Teddy's hand and they were off, Teddy waving at the man as they went.
"Is Draco my dad now like you are?" Teddy asked.
"Kind of," Harry answered. "I'm your godfather and your legal guardian, not your dad, remember. But Draco's married to me, so that makes him your legal guardian too. It's kind of like being a dad but without being a dad."
"So he's my dad and my cousin," Teddy said, forehead scrunched up in concentration.
Harry's heart clenched. "Stop right there," he said, pointing at the landing. "Sit down."
"It's important." Harry himself crouched down. "Sit."
Teddy sulked, but sat down compliantly. "Why?"
"You know that Remus is your dad, right? Not me."
Teddy shrugged. "I knooow, but -"
"It's important to me that you understand what I'm saying," Harry told him. "Your dad - your real dad - died when you were little. Your mum too. You were this little." Harry held his hands apart.
Teddy was squirming. "I don't want to talk about it. Can we go see Draco now -"
"Teddy," Harry said, firmly, and Teddy stilled. "I'm not your dad. Draco isn't your dad either. I'm your godfather. That means I look after you because your own parents have died. Draco is your cousin. Do you understand that?"
"Okay." Harry nodded. "Let's go find Draco, then."
"Do you have a godfather?" Teddy asked, bouncing to his feet, clearly much more comfortable with the topic when it no longer concerned himself.
"I did. He was your dad's best friend," Harry told him. "When my parents died he wanted to take care of me, but I lived with my aunt and my cousin instead."
"Were you little too?"
"Very little," Harry said. "But not as little as you. Even then I was bigger than you were."
"No you weren't!"
"I was," Harry argued, laughing. "I was this much bigger than you." He held his hands impossibly far apart.
Teddy giggled. "Babies aren't that big!"
"That's true," Harry admitted. "I really was very small. You know, sometimes children whose parents have died live with their cousins instead of their godfathers, like I did. And now you live with me and Draco, so you get both."
"I like it," Teddy said, then shouted "I found him!" Before he could run off, Harry had swept him up in his arms. On the fourth landing, the first door to the right was open, and Teddy had caught sight of Malfoy through it.
"No running in laboratories," Harry told Teddy. He knocked on the door frame, and then walked in. "Hello?"
Malfoy was the only one who didn't look up. He was at a table in the back of the room, which incidentally looked like the inside of a big tower - possibly the one Teddy had pointed out earlier. The small handful of other researchers scattered around the room had gone back to their work within seconds, once they realised the newcomer wasn't there for either one of them.
The atmosphere in the room was strange, Harry thought.
"Draco!" Teddy shouted, before Harry could tell him to be quiet. He was squirming in Harry's arms, waving at Draco and trying to get down to the floor at the same time.
"What did I say about running in laboratories," Harry told him, crossing the room. Malfoy had looked up at the sound of Teddy's little voice, and was now staring at them like they'd grown second heads.
"What are you…?" Malfoy cleared his throat and started over. "Hi, there kiddo," he said to Teddy, not looking at Harry at all. "Fancy seeing you here."
"We're going out to dinner!" Teddy told him excitedly. "Harry promised ice cream after!"
"Dinner." Malfoy was strangely pale.
Harry was acutely aware of the entire room now staring at them, so he gave Malfoy a brilliant smile. "Dinner," he confirmed. "I wanted to treat my husband to a nice dinner, and then this little one got the bright idea to come along to ensure there would be ice cream for dessert." Harry grinned. "With no ulterior motive, of course."
Malfoy smiled. "Of course," he said. "I - yes? I suppose. Sorry, I'm a bit," he gestured vaguely at himself, shaking his head. "I wasn't expecting visitors. I'm a little…"
"Surprise!" Teddy shouted, before Harry could say anything.
"Yes, a little surprised," Malfoy told him. "But it's a very nice surprise," he added. "I need a few minutes to finish up here, so why don't you go to my office and wait? There's a couple of lollies in my desk drawer."
"One," Harry said sternly, immediately extinguishing any and all hopes Teddy might have had for getting all of the lollies.
"One," Malfoy agreed, and handed Harry his office key. "I'll be down in a few?"
"Mmmh." Harry moved in as if to peck his cheek. "They're staring at us," he whispered. "Just make it look natural."
The other researchers weren't the only ones staring. Teddy was staring too, eyes wide.
Malfoy pulled back and ruffled Teddy's hair. "Okay, now go. I need to finish this."
Harry and Teddy went back down to Malfoy's office, and true to his word, there were a few red lollies in the drawer on the left. Teddy sat on the desk, kicking his legs in the air and sucking happily on his lolly, and Harry sat in Malfoy's chair.
The office was just as tidy as Teddy had said it would be, but there wasn't much in way of decoration. Malfoy's N.E.W.T. results were framed on one wall, and on the wall opposite there was a poster with various poisons and their relations on it. It looked like a tree.
Malfoy came down after only a few minutes.
"I'm a little confused," he said. "What is this about?"
"It's about dinner," Harry said. "And ice cream," he added, before Teddy could open his mouth and shout about it.
"I wanted to cheer you up," Harry then said. "My ulterior motive is that I wanted to see your workplace."
"Huh." Malfoy sighed, rubbing his face. "All right. Consider me cheered up." He took off his lab coat and hung it up. "Let's go."
Later, while Teddy was trying to eat his ice cream with an elephant trunk for mouth, Malfoy leaned over and asked: "Why did you really do this?"
Harry looked at him. "Are your colleagues giving you grief?" he asked. "I noticed...things."
"That's -" Malfoy's mouth formed a thin, sharp line. "I don't need your help."
"I wasn't offering it," Harry told him. "Look, you've been in a bad mood since that thing that happened in America, and it's starting to affect Teddy. I wanted to do something nice, see if it changed something. Then I got there, and… people were less than pleasant. What's up?"
Malfoy sighed. "My past is what's up," he said. "They didn't use to care so much, but then what happened in America happened, and things have been a bit frosty in the labs. It doesn't matter to them that the Muggles weren't aiming for the wizarding community, and that it was...well. Collateral damage. Some people just… Look, I can deal with it. I'm fine."
"All right. But you know, if you want, I can bring the kid round a couple of times, make you look cute." Harry winked. "It always works for me."
"You're the bloody saviour," Malfoy muttered. "Of course it works for you."
"Because the kid is adorable," Harry pointed out. "Just say the word. It'll be less of a surprise when we show up, yeah?"
"Yeah, okay." Malfoy shook his head, then gave him a little smile. "It was a nice surprise."
Teddy got ice cream stuck up his elephant trunk and snorted violently, ice cream going everywhere. Harry sighed and picked up a napkin, and mentally prepared himself for the inevitable hissy fallout that would come with putting a stop to the whole elephant trunk thing.
Harry's skin was itching. It was itching in that way where his skin seemed to not quite fit, as if he wasn't who he was supposed to be - he didn't want to be in this place, with these people, most of whom he'd already forgotten, and his skin was itching.
None of that mattered. This samhain party wasn't awful as such, but Harry could think of ten other places he'd rather be - Malfoy had spent the morning lecturing him on etiquette, Teddy had gotten a sudden bout of stomach flu and had thrown up all over Andromeda when she showed up, having turned down her own invite to the samhain party to babysit instead.
Harry would rather be at home mopping up vomit than in Malfoy Manor.
"When can we leave?" he whispered to Malfoy, who was as straight-backed and put together as if he were made of marble, and had been nothing but pleasant towards everyone. Harry was feeling spectacularly out of place. The charm he'd put on his own hair had probably lost its hold, too.
"Not yet," Malfoy responded.
Harry tried not to punch him. "Can we go over to the buffet then? I'm starving." He pulled at his collar. "I haven't had anything to eat for hours and it's just sitting there."
Malfoy gave him a look, then sighed. "Just don't… do anything…" he trailed off, gesturing vaguely.
"I wasn't actually raised by wolves, Malfoy," Harry told him, offended. "I can behave."
"Don't call me that," Malfoy said. "In public, I mean. Married people don't call each other by their last names."
Harry didn't even bother answering him, and went straight over to the buffet table. He saw out of the corner of his eye that Malfoy had already found somebody else to talk to.
The buffet consisted of various types of finger foods, large trays with little mouthfuls of weird looking things, but it smelled heavenly. He'd picked up a small plate and was contemplating which things to try, when there's a little cough by his left shoulder.
"If you grab that tray over there, I'll take this one," Astoria whispered, nudging him with her elbow. "I know a place we can go hang out."
Harry eyed her warily. "What -"
"The food," Astoria whispered, impatiently. "I'm starving and dying to get out of here. Aren't you? Come on." She looked over her shoulder. "Quick, no one's looking." She expertly slid an unopened bottle of champagne into her robes discreetly, followed by two clean flutes. Then she picked up a tray of food and walked away quickly, vanishing behind a set of thick curtains just to the left of the buffet table.
Looking around quickly, to make sure he wasn't being watched, Harry picked up another tray and followed her, trying not to look like he was stealing food and sneaking away with it.
Astoria had led him down a hidden hallway. Turning a corner, they found themselves in a large solarium. There were plants everywhere, but most importantly, there was a tea table and chairs in the centre of the room.
"Perfect," Astoria sighed happily, depositing the food and alcohol on the table. "Did anyone see you?"
"I don't think so?" Harry looked over his shoulder, but nobody had followed them.
The sun was setting and the solarium was painted with golden red and pink rays. Astoria lit a couple of lamps and set them to float about. Her dark hair shone golden in the light. Harry belatedly set down his own tray.
"I'm tempted to ask," he said, "but I'm not sure I'm going to like the answer."
"I thought I'd rescue you." Astoria told him, and gestured for him to join her at the table. "And I also needed to get rid of my date, he was so dull. He hasn't talked about anything but his biceps since we got here. Cormac McLaggen, do you know him? He's from your house." She made a face.
"We've met," Harry told her, amused.
"Isn't he dull?" She surveyed the trays. "Oh, good, you brought the sushi tray!" She cheerfully picked a piece off the tray and popped it in her mouth. "Mmmmhmh, try it, it's good."
Harry, who'd never heard of sushi before, carefully picked a piece and bit into it.
"No no no, you put all of it in your mouth at once." Astoria popped open the bottle of champagne and poured them both some. Meanwhile, Harry complied and shoved the rest of the sushi bite into his mouth and chewed it down.
"It's okay," he said.
"Pleb," Astoria said, but she sounded far more affectionate than Malfoy did whenever he used that word.
"So!" Astoria put her feet up in the spare chair, leaning back. She'd pulled the sushi tray closer, so it was more or less resting in her lap. "How's married life treating you? Tell me all about what an amazing husband Draco is."
Harry paused. "Er -" He frowned. "I don't know about amazing."
"Well, okay, tell me what he's like in bed, then." Astoria sipped her champagne. "I need to find out if the rumours are true."
"Rumours?" Harry eyed his own flute of champagne. "I wasn't aware there were...rumours."
She gestured. "Not rumours exactly. I slept with one of his old flings the other day, and she told me he has this trick with his tongue -" she stuck out her tongue and wiggled it, "and then demonstrated it for me. Tell me about Draco's tongue. I'm marrying the guy, I need to know these things."
Harry froze, his flute of champagne barely touching his lips. He stared.
"Don't tell me you're a prude," Astoria said, now suddenly giving him a wary look.
"Ah, no." Harry cleared his throat. "It's just. Uhm. I thought you two had already...uh. Done that. Seeing as you were engaged and all."
"Heavens, no." Astoria selected another piece of sushi and then held the tray out for Harry. Harry took a piece. "Draco is a bit silly about these things. Takes traditions very seriously and all that, so no sex before marriage. Well," she paused, amending that statement, "between us, that is to say."
"So, how's sex with Draco?"
Harry almost choked on his mouthful of sushi. "I don't know," he eventually said, after Astoria had whacked him on the back and he'd washed the sushi down with champagne. "We don't do that."
She gave him a weird look. "You're joking."
"I'm not joking." Harry frowned. "Why would I have sex with Malfoy?"
"You're married," she said, slowly, as if Harry was stupid.
"So?" Harry shrugged. "What's that got to do with anything? It's not like we wanted to be married. You know that."
She continued looking at him weirdly.
"Really," said Harry.
"It's just that Draco takes these things very seriously," she said, delicately. "He doesn't cheat. You may not have married for love, but you are married, and Draco…" she trailed off. "Well, you know."
Harry stared at her. "Can we not talk about Malfoy's sex life? I'd rather not know. He can fuck around for all I care. What with how often he stays out, I wouldn't be surprised if he did."
"Oh, he's hanging out with us, those times," she said. She refilled her flute. "Bemoans the lack of sex, the noise level in the house, the food, the smell of your shoes, that sort of thing. And then gets thoroughly drunk." She grinned. "What's up with the noise thing?"
"Teddy." Harry downed the rest of his champagne and then refilled his flute. He surveyed the other food tray, discovering it was full of fruit, cheese and charcuterie. "He can be a real nightmare sometimes."
She scrunched up her nose. "I'm not having kids for another long while," she stated.
"No? I thought that was the point of marrying Malfoy." Harry picked up a whole handful of grapes and ate them, one by one.
"Honestly," she huffed. "I'm nineteen! I'm not having kids until I'm like, thirty." She gave the sushi tray a critical eye. She'd already demolished what amounted to roughly a third of its contents. "This is the time to eat, drink and have lots of sex."
Harry shrugged. "I can still do those things and be a parent."
"Because you're a dude. Anyway." She shoved a piece of sushi with black rice in her mouth, then moaned as she chewed it down. "I could eat this food for the rest of my life and never need another orgasm."
"Sure." Harry smiled. "If that's what you say."
"Don't mock me. This sushi is heavenly."
The sun had almost gone down completely, and it was growing steadily darker. Harry tasted a few more pieces of sushi and then stuck to the little bits of sausage and Italian ham from the other tray for the rest of the evening.
Malfoy found them four hours later, drunk on champagne (Astoria had somehow managed to get her hands on three more bottles of the stuff) and laughing about the latest piece of stand up comedy by Lee Jordan on the WWN.
"Hello husband," Harry said. "I swear this does not count as doing whatever you said I couldn't do." He offered him some cheese. "Try this, it's good."
Malfoy looked between Harry and Astoria, who was giggling.
"Cheese?" Harry asked, causing Astoria to giggle even louder.
Malfoy sighed, rubbing his face. "We're going home. Think you can make it to the front door without making a scene?"
Harry considered this. "I don't know."
"I am flooing home," Astoria said imperiously, standing up and brushing crumbs off her robes, and swaying dangerously as she did so. Malfoy caught her before she toppled over. "Did you see my date?"
"I think your date went home with somebody else," Malfoy informed her. "You're free."
"Yaay," Astoria cheered. She kissed Malfoy's cheek, then turned to find Harry, who'd also gotten to his feet. "Lunch on Wednesday!" She gave him a loud kiss on the cheek as well. "Don't forget!"
"Won't," Harry assured her.
Astoria stalked off to find the nearest floo.
"Should I be worried that my husband and ex-fiancée have become friends?" Malfoy asked.
Harry shrugged. "Dunno. I like her." He grinned. "She's funny."
"Yes, she's very funny." Malfoy shook his head at Harry, then sighed. "Come on. Let's go home."
Harry woke up with a debilitating headache after the samhain celebrations.
The month progressed slowly and darkly. Malfoy looked after Teddy a few nights while Harry was at the pub with Ron and Neville. Teddy's tantrums increased to the point that not a day went by without screaming, Harry and Teddy took Malfoy out for after-work dinner twice (Malfoy's colleagues seemed to warm up incrementally after every pick up, thus improving Malfoy's mood along the way) and Harry had lunch with Astoria every other Wednesday.
He hadn't taken Malfoy to the burrow to meet his family yet. He wasn't sure he ever would.
Things changed on a cold and snowy Tuesday morning a couple of weeks into December. The snow flurried heavily outside and Harry was majorly sleep deprived, having had a late evening at work (stake out), and was very much not in the mood for a Teddy Tantrum.
"Morning, buddy," Harry said, knocking on the door frame to Teddy's room. "Time to get up."
Teddy didn't stir, so Harry went and sat on the edge of his bed, gently shaking him. "Good morning, Teddy," he said. "It's time to get up."
This time Teddy reacted, blinking tiredly and burrowing closer under the covers.
"Hey, now," Harry said, pulling the covers off Teddy's face. "It's morning. Marlene's waiting for you to come to daycare."
Teddy sat up, yawning. "Okay," he said.
Harry mentally prepared himself for the tantrum to come. "Great. Let's find you some clothes." He picked a pair of jeans Teddy hadn't worn in months, in the vain hope that he wouldn't instantly hate them on sight, and a blue jumper that Molly had knit. He was looking for clean socks when he heard Teddy make a noise behind him.
"I don't want these," Teddy said.
"You have to wear clothes," Harry told him. "You can't go to daycare in your pyjamas."
"But I don't want these clothes!" Teddy pushed the clothes off the bed and onto the floor. "I don't like them!"
"They're your clothes," Harry said. He abandoned the sock drawer. "Don't you like the jumper? Mrs. Weasley made it for you."
Teddy shook his head stubbornly.
"Put the clothes on," Harry told him, trying for a non-stern approach. "Kreacher made breakfast ready."
"I don't want to!" Teddy's lip wobbled. "I don't like them! I hate them!" He kicked the trousers. "I don't, I don't!"
"No!" Teddy screamed. "NO NO NO NO NO-"
He stopped abruptly because just then, the thunderous sound of somebody running up the stairs carried through the door. Half a second later Malfoy stood in the doorway. "What," he said, angry, "is going on?"
Teddy just stared at him. The tearful tantrum he'd just been launching into, had died in his throat.
"You, uh…" Harry gestured at his face. Malfoy's face was still half covered in shaving cream and his feet were bare.
"I know," he said. "What's the problem here?"
"The clothes," Harry said, which prompted Teddy back into action.
"I DON'T WANT THEM," he cried. "I DON'T!"
"Teddy -" Harry started, but Malfoy cut both of them off.
"Quiet, both of you," he said. Harry'd never heard that tone of voice before. "Sit down," he said to Teddy, who sat down immediately, not being used to getting ordered around by Malfoy.
Malfoy squatted down in front of Teddy. Harry decided, very wisely, he thought, to keep quiet and just watch.
"What's wrong with the clothes?" Malfoy asked Teddy.
"I don't like them," Teddy answered, lip wobbling.
Teddy sniffed. "They're boy clothes."
"They're boy clothes," Malfoy repeated. Teddy nodded. Malfoy turned to look at Harry. "They're boy clothes," he repeated, again.
"Yes…? Boy clothes for a boy?" Harry shrugged. "What else would they be?"
Malfoy narrowed his eyes at Harry. "I see," he said, and turned back to Teddy. "Teddy," he said, his voice gentle. "Are you a boy?"
Teddy shook his head.
"Are you a girl?"
"That's why you don't want the boy clothes?"
"I see." Malfoy paused, regarding the child in front of him. "How about this: Let's take this jumper here and transfigure it into a dress. Would you like that?"
"Yeah," Teddy said, voice small.
"All right. We'll do that today, and then later we'll get you some proper girl clothes. How does that sound?"
Teddy nodded. "Yeah," she said.
Harry's head was spinning and he was vaguely aware that his mouth was hanging open and that he looked like an idiot, but he was having difficulties comprehending what was happening. All the trouble he'd had with Teddy these last couple of months made sense all of a sudden, it was always the clothes, it was always violent reactions to how he was spoken to - Harry swallowed, kicking himself inwardly for not having known, for not having so much as thought of it all before.
Malfoy had transfigured the blue knit jumper into a cute blue knit dress, which Teddy was very happy to put on while Malfoy looked for socks. He found a pair of white knee socks and helped Teddy put them on.
"How's that? Do you like it?" Malfoy asked, once Teddy was dressed.
Teddy spun around, looking at the tiny swishes the dress made, huge smile on her face.
"Great! Go downstairs and get started on breakfast, all right? Kreacher will help you. I need a word with your godfather."
Once Teddy had vanished out of sight, Malfoy turned to Harry, arms crossed in front his chest. "Well?"
"I had no idea," Harry stammered. "I don't…" He ran a hand through his hair. "Did that really just happen?"
"Your godson appears to be a goddaughter," Malfoy said. He looked like he'd punch Harry if he said one word wrong.
For some strange reason, Harry's insides went funny. Maybe it was the shaving cream on one side of Malfoy's face, or the serious look in his eyes, or the gentle way he'd been with Teddy, but… Harry was seeing him in a very different light all of a sudden.
"Looks like," Harry said. "I…"
"Never thought to ask, did you?" Malfoy loosened up a little. "You might've asked the kid why she didn't like the clothes -"
"I did!" Harry protested. "I've asked him - her," he hastily corrected, "why she didn't like the clothes and I never got another answer than 'because I don't like them'." He sighed. "Thank you. I don't know that I'd ever…" He rubbed his face, suddenly very tired. "I was going crazy."
"Yeah, you're not the only one," Malfoy said, dryly. "I was getting really fed up with all the screaming." He shook his head and turned to leave. "See you at breakfast, Potter."
Harry took a few minutes to take a few deep breaths, then he went downstairs to join Teddy at the breakfast table.
Teddy was praising her transfigured dress and showing it off to Kreacher, who wasn't even attempting to look interested.
"Morning," Harry said. "Teddy, do the others in the daycare know you're a girl?"
"I don't know." She scrunched up her face. "Maybe?" she added, uncertainly.
"We should tell them, then." Harry dished up some porridge for himself. "Eat your porridge."
Teddy ate in silence for a while, then burst out: "But I'm not alwaysa girl," she said. "Yesterday I was a boy."
Harry paused, spoon halfway to his mouth. It was true that yesterday Teddy hadn't made any fuss whatsoever about anything. He scrunched up his forehead in thought. "We can tell them that sometimes you're a girl and sometimes a boy?" he offered, a little uncertainly.
In that moment, Malfoy came downstairs, fully dressed and with a cleanshaven face. Harry was suddenly acutely aware of his own two day stubble. "That's a good idea," Malfoy said. "Kiddo, you make sure you let us know, so we can find you the right clothes in the morning, yeah?"
Teddy nodded solemnly.
"Want to walk with us to the daycare today?" Harry asked Malfoy, surprising himself. Malfoy had never dropped Teddy off before, whether on his own or with Harry.
When Malfoy smiled and said yes, Teddy squealed in excitement. Harry suppressed his own.
Malfoy had toast and coffee while Harry fiddled with changing the colour of Teddy's snowsuit, under Teddy's watchful guidance. In the end he managed to change it from dark blue into dark purple - he'd been aiming for pink, but colour changing spells apparently weren't his forté. The hand-sewn letters on the back of the snowsuit were at least tinged pink.
Teddy was happy to hold hands with both of them all the way to the daycare.
Andromeda took the news well - actually, she wasn't at all surprised, and said her daughter had been through a similar thing in her childhood.
When Harry brought Teddy over to Mrs. Weasley's for Sunday dinner in a lovely red dress and rattails (Teddy had concentrated very hard to get her hair long enough for rattails only to lose the concentration after about an hour, her hair reverting to its original length), she was instantly accepted and with minimal fuss. Ron was a little confused, but he just shrugged and went along with it.
Malfoy wasn't there, as usual, and Harry realised he had no idea what they would do about Christmas, which was just two days away. It occurred to him that officially introducing him to the family at Christmas was a little late...and awkward.
He should've brought him sooner.
"Harry, what did you do with that elusive husband of yours?" Fleur asked, and Harry startled, not having noticed her approach him.
"Ah…" he shrugged helplessly.
Fleur gave him a look. "You will bring him for Christmas, no?"
Harry shrugged again. "I don't know," he answered truthfully. "We haven't talked about it."
"Honestly." She shook her head, but gave Harry an affectionate smile. They weren't the best of friends, but she'd been invaluable to Harry during the last couple of years after he got custody of Teddy.
"How do you raise a girl?" Harry blurted out.
Fleur's eyebrows went up. "Like you'd raise a boy, I expect," she said. "Teddy isn't any different, you know."
"I suppose not…" Harry sighed, rubbing his face. He'd cocked up the pronouns more times than he could count in the past few days (although Teddy didn't seem to notice when it happened, so long as the clothes were all right), and he was having difficulties figuring out what to do now.
"Look at them," Fleur said, indicating the children.
Victoire was sat next to a big box of toys, pushing at colourful building blocks. Teddy, being a year older, had finer motor skills and was patiently helping her place the blocks in some semblance of order.
"Do you think your child's gender has anything to do with this?" Fleur asked.
"No, I guess not," Harry answered. "It's...confusing, sometimes. I just want to get it right, you know?"
Fleur smiled. "That's called being a parent, Harry. I've had that conversation with my mother several times." She sighed, rubbing her belly. She was due with her second child in january, but looked ready to burst. "A parent always worries. You're not going to break her."
Teddy had realised her rattails had vanished, so she'd grown them back. She ran over to Harry, leaving Victoire behind with the toys, and asked him to make rattails again. Harry tied her hair back (if the rattails were a little lopsided, Teddy didn't seem to care - or notice), and sent her off again.
"Please teach me how to braid hair," Harry said and Fleur chuckled.
Christmas ended up a compromise.
Malfoy had insisted they go to the manor, which for Harry was completely out of the question, and Harry wanted them to stay overnight at the Burrow, which for Malfoy seemed to incite panic attacks.
In the end, the three of them went to the Burrow on Christmas Eve for dinner, which proved to be remarkably uneventful (Fleur had roped Malfoy into a lengthy discussion about potions and child rearing, at one point, and Malfoy had survived relatively unscathed).
Fleur gave Harry a book about children and gender.
Christmas morning was spent at home, and then Andromeda and Malfoy's parents came over for lunch. That was also less disastrous than Harry had expected, possibly because of the child. Teddy was on his best behaviour and managed to charm even Lucius to play hide and seek.
Harry was never going to forget the image of Lucius Malfoy hiding behind curtains in the living room.
(Malfoy rolled his eyes at him.)
The new year brought slush and depression seeped into Harry's bones.
Ron and Hermione spoke of marriage and children. Harry advised them against both.
Malfoy said: "Go for it."
Hermione said: "Thank you, Draco."
Harry did the dishes while Malfoy put Teddy to bed. When he made it upstairs, Malfoy had just finished reading the story, and Teddy was very close to falling asleep. He stood in the doorway, watching as Malfoy got up carefully, doing his best not to jostle Teddy.
Malfoy put the book back in the shelf, and Harry held the door for him before pulling it closed. He left a crack.
"I didn't realise you and Hermione have become friends," Harry said in a low voice, following Malfoy downstairs to the library.
"We had lunch," Malfoy explained. "She wrote an article about our work for the Quibbler as a favour to Luna."
"Then we continued having lunch," Malfoy said, smiling wryly. "I reckoned that if you can have bi-weekly lunches with my ex-fiancée, I can have them with your bestie."
"I - ah, of course." He followed Malfoy into the library. Harry had eventually put in a second desk so that they didn't have to fight for the space every other evening. "Does it bother you? She's great - Astoria, I mean. I can see why you'd want to marry her."
Malfoy gave Harry a look. "I'll be bothered if she decides to marry you instead," he said.
"Not happening." Harry leafed through the nearly finished reports on his desk and decided he didn't actually want to finish them tonight. They could wait another day. "You know what, I'm just going to turn in. I'm too tired for this."
"Mh, all right. Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Draco." Harry closed the door the library behind him.
That hadn't been as weird as he'd expected. Draco. He could get used to it.
Bill and Fleur needed half a day off from small children and Harry being the only one free to babysit on that particular day, naturally led to Harry trying to transport three somewhat unruly children to the park. It was raining and the kids had just woken up, so Victoire was still a little grumpy and Teddy was finding it difficult to decide between running around untamed and just lying on the floor and whining.
"You're a big boy now, Teddy, so think you can stick to one look for the day?" Harry asked, eyeing the turquoise locks of hair sticking out from Teddy's beanie. "The Muggles get confused when they see people with elephant trunks for noses."
Teddy nodded enthusiastically. "I'm being human today!" he said. "But if nobody is looking can I show Victoire my beak? I learned how to do it in daycare."
"Maybe." Harry looked the twin pram over, double checking that he had everything. He had the bag Fleur had packed for him, snacks for all of them, water, and a liberal arsenal of bandaids for Teddy, who was really good at injuring himself in new imaginative ways every day. Little baby Dominique was fast asleep, but Victoire was awake, grumpy and still nibbling on the red pepper stick Harry'd given her to keep her quiet. "All right, we're ready to go. Teddy, you hold on to the pram, all right? All the way to the park, then you can let go."
About an hour later, when Harry had explained to three worried Muggle mums that of course Teddy's hair hadn't been dyed turquoise and that he was wearing a dress up wig, yes it's a colour changing wig, very fancy, it changes when it gets wet, no I don't know where he got it, his grandmother gifted it to him, thank you, oh no, no, these aren't all mine, I'm just babysitting, no really, yes I'm married, no I don't have a wife, no she's not dead, I have a HUSBAND - he was getting really fed up with the park.
How was it that the park was so full of people? It was raining, for Merlin's sake, and he didn't have three sets of eyes or arms to look after three children, either.
Teddy was climbing all over the play house-slide-tunnel-whatever-combo in ways that were making Harry very nervous, and Victoire insisted on going down the slide over and over again. For all of her almost-three-years, she couldn't be trusted to get up there and down again safely on her own, so Harry had to help her up, then run around and be ready in time for her to come down again, then help her up again, and run back, all the while keeping half an eye on Dominique's pram and half an eye on Teddy, wherever he was.
He eventually persuaded Victoire that the sandbox was much more fun and settled back on a nearby bench, from where he could watch both Teddy and Victoire, and check on Dominique in the pram easily.
The mums, when not asking him about Teddy's hair, or his children, or his marital status, were giving him looks that he didn't quite know how to interpret. Nobody was glaring, but yet he couldn't help but feel vaguely threatened.
When they'd been at the playground for an hour and a half and Dominique was in need of a changing, Harry realised to his horror that Fleur had forgotten to pack wet wipes for him. Or maybe Fleur was counting on him knowing an appropriate spell, but he was in public, he couldn't just point a wand at the baby's bare butt and magick her clean. The mums in the park would do much more than give him odd looks, he was sure.
"Excuse me? Hey!" Harry called over to a mum on the neighbouring bench, who was giving a baby a bottle. "Do you have wet wipes I can borrow? I mean - er - you probably don't want them back, but. Er. Fleur forgot to pack them…" Harry gestured at the baby. "It's…"
"Of course," she said, and reached into the bag by her side, pulling out a small pack of wet wipes. "Take as many as you need."
"Thank you," Harry told her, relieved. He fetched the pack, finished changing Dominique - which wasn't as difficult as he remembered it being with Teddy, who never could lie still - and gave her back the pack. "Much appreciated."
"Making friends, I see," said Draco from right behind Harry. He sounded amused. "Hello there. Pleasure."
Harry nearly cursed. "I thought you were visiting your parents?" He gently put Dominique back into the pram. The mum smiled apprehensively at Draco, but returned her attention to her baby. (Harry totally saw her give them furtive looks.)
"Hello to you too, love," Draco said, sardonically. "I was, but then my father had an attack of racism, so I left early. I thought I might find you here." He eyed the dirty nappy in Harry's hands. "I see I missed all the fun."
"You don't know the half of it," Harry told him and threw the nappy into a bin. He nodded at the mum he'd borrowed the wet wipes from, and led Draco back to the bench he'd appropriated for himself. "Although Teddy's not hurt himself yet, so there's more to come."
"Mmh. I brought coffee." Draco seated himself next to Harry, handing him one of two take away cups. "I got the nice one you like."
"Oh, thank you." Harry leaned back, taking a sip from his coffee, and surveyed the playground. Teddy was still where he'd last seen him, and Victoire seemed to have made friends with another toddler in the sandbox.
The rain had cleared up while he was changing Dominique, and the sun was tittering out from a tiny crack in the clouds. It was a bit warmer out, if still wet, and he had coffee.
Draco leaned back, his arm nudging against Harry slightly. "Have you had a good day?"
"Mmh," Harry replied, taking another sip. Warmth spread from his gut to his toes and it wasn't all because of the coffee.
He could handle another hour in the playground.
Teddy's fourth birthday came. In the morning, before all the guests arrived, Teddy had a crisis in that he didn't want to choose between being a boy or a girl anymore.
Teddy was late to his own birthday party because Draco had to give him an hour long talk about how one didn't always have to choose and if he didn't want to choose at all, that would be fine too, but going to the birthday party naked was not an option.
"Look," Draco said, as patient as ever, "these clothes are your clothes. They're not boy clothes or girl clothes, they're Teddy clothes. They're yours. Boys can wear skirts and girls can wear trousers and it's all clothes."
In the end Teddy said maybe he was a little bit a boy and agreed to get dressed, but he got dressed in one of the dresses that Harry had gotten him for christmas. It was yellow and had sunflowers and kittens on it and Teddy adored it.
Harry and Draco got him a little broomstick for his birthday. (Draco made sure there was a child safety on the broomstick.)
The door to Harry's bedroom was never closed, in the event that Teddy had nightmares, or woke in the night needing the toilet or a glass of water, and Harry needed to be able to hear when Teddy was up.
This night, Teddy woke up not needing anything in particular and, making very little noise, crawled out of bed and made her way to Harry's bedroom, where she crawled into bed and curled up next to Harry.
It wasn't unusual for Teddy to wake up at night and crawl into Harry's bed to sleep, but she'd done it less and less over the past year, and Harry'd reckoned she'd grown out of it altogether.
About three minutes after Teddy had curled up (and instantly fallen asleep again), Draco barged into the room.
"Wha -?" Harry stirred, then accidentally elbowed Teddy as he sat up. He looked at the still-sleeping Teddy in confusion, then at the door. "Draco?"
Draco blinked. "Sorry," he eventually said, breathing out. "I heard a noise and went to check on Teddy, and found the bed empty." He rubbed his eyes. "I thought...I don't know what I thought. I'm sorry, I'm tired - I was up late finishing a paper. I'll go."
Harry glanced at Teddy, then back at Draco. "This happens," he said, not feeling awake enough to explain why there was a child in his bed.
"Yeah." Draco nodded. He hadn't moved yet.
"Go to sleep." Harry yawned. Then he held up the edge of the duvet, inviting Draco to join them. There was plenty of space in Harry's bed for two grown people and a child (until Teddy started kicking, that is).
"Ah," Draco said. "I." He cleared his throat. "I need to wash."
Draco turned and left, and Harry's sleep-addled mind decided he wasn't coming back, so he went back to sleep. He almost didn't notice when Draco returned, having changed into pyjamas and smelling faintly of mint, but the bed dipped on the other side of Teddy, and the sheets rustled.
"Night," Harry mumbled. Draco didn't answer.
In the morning, Teddy's feet were in Draco's face. Harry left them both asleep and went downstairs to make breakfast.
Harry was putting away groceries when Draco came home from work. He sat heavily at the dinner table, watching Harry.
"Have a nice day at work?" Harry asked, back still turned.
"You have a house-elf, you know," Draco told him.
"It's his day off."
"He's a house-elf," Draco said.
"We're not having this argument again," Harry informed him. He emptied a large bag of apples into the fruit bowl, carefully so they wouldn't be bruised.
"There's also a spell for that."
"Did you have a nice day at work?" Harry repeated the question pointedly.
Draco cracked his joints. "I did," he eventually said, his voice tinged with something like disbelief. "They invited me to the summer picnic."
"You look funny in the face." Harry tried to suppress a grin, but it wasn't quite working.
"I don't look funny in the face!" Draco huffed.
"So do." Harry returned to unpacking the shopping. "Are you going to the summer picnic?"
"I don't know. Maybe."
"I think you should." Harry looked over his shoulder. Draco had that funny look on his face again, like he didn't believe that he'd really been invited. "Things are going well at work, yeah?"
"Mh." Draco got up to fetch himself a glass of water. He leaned against the counter. "It's been...okay. Oh, did I tell you - I got another paper accepted, and a grant for the conference in July."
"Congrats. Is that the conference in Spain?"
"Yes." He took a large sip of his water. "The leading scholar in my field is giving the keynote lecture, so…" he smiled. "I'm looking forward to it. Want to come? My grant covers a hotel room for two people, and the conference is right before your birthday."
Harry paused to look at Draco. "Really?"
"Yes, really. When was the last time you took a holiday?" Draco raised an eyebrow at him. "So, want to come?"
"I...don't know?" Harry furrowed his brow. "I mean, I don't know - I want to, but I'll need to ask for the days off... would I have to listen to people talk about potions?"
Draco chuckled. "Well. No. You can do fun stuff while I'm stuck at the university with all the other nerds." His eyes sparkled. "It's a two day conference and I've got the evenings free, so. I've been once before, I can show you a couple of places."
"Thank you." Harry bumped his hip against Draco's. "That's nice of you."
"Ah, well…" Draco shrugged, then chugged down the last of the water. "It's no big deal." His face had turned a little pink.
"I appreciate it," Harry told him. He'd put away all the groceries save for a few. "Come on, help me with dinner."
"You have a house-elf," Draco said, with the air of someone who knew he wasn't going to win this argument but nonetheless wanted to make a point. He looked around, then stared at the ceiling as if he had x-ray vision. The house was quiet. "Where's Teddy?"
"Sleep-over with Malcolm from daycare," Harry told him. "So we've got the house to ourselves tonight."
"Oh. Oh!" Draco went over to the wine cabinet. "That means I can have wine tonight." He sighed happily, looking at the selection. "Want a glass? What are we cooking?"
"Steak and kidney pie."
Draco selected a bottle. "This one, then. It should go down well."
Harry handed him a corkscrew. "You're helping me with dinner then?"
"If I must," Draco responded with a fake sigh. "So, how was your day at work?" He opened the wine and poured them both generous glasses.
"Full of paperwork. Although I got called out to a domestic dispute after lunch, so that was a lot of 'fun'." He shrugged. "It's low season for crime. Yesterday all we had was disorderly conduct. A bunch of drunk teenagers were setting off magical fireworks in Birmingham."
"Beats the alternative." Draco nudged Harry's glass closer. "Tell me the good stuff. Is Rowland still in the outhouse? And what of this alleged affair between Abney and Cross? Pansy and I are positively dying to know."
Harry took a slow sip of the wine, deliberately dragging it out. "Well," he eventually said. "The word goes that it's not Abney and Cross we should be focusing on, but rather Hewitt and Daniels. You know, Daniels? Cousin to -"
"Want to bet on it?" Harry got out a chopping block. "Parvati told me and you know as well as I do that Parvati's sources are infallible."
"True," Draco conceded. "How is she doing? I haven't seen her at the pub in a while. Astoria said her hours changed?"
"Come to the pub with me Sunday and ask her yourself. Teddy will be at Andromeda's this weekend, so we're free. Unless you have other plans?"
"No, no I'm good. I'll come." Draco sipped his wine. His shoulders were relaxed and he'd opened the top button of his shirt. "What do you want me to do?" He indicated the groceries and chopping block.
Harry regarded him. "Weeell. Would you rather chop veggies or make the pastry? The choice is yours."
"I'm up for a challenge." Draco had a gleam in his eye. "What have you got?"
"Pastry." Harry pushed the recipe book over. "No magic allowed."
"That's not entirely fair," Draco complained. "I'm at a disadvantage without magic!"
"I'll remind you that you're the one who said 'challenge'," Harry told him with a grin. "Are you backing out?"
Draco narrowed his eyes at him. "Absolutely not."
The pie turned out just fine.
"I'm sorry I'm late." Harry dropped into the chair across the table from Astoria. "Had a thing drag out at work."
"And here I was starting to worry you'd left me for that husband of yours," Astoria said, twinkle in her eye. "I near dissolved into tears. I did eat all the bread." She indicated the empty bread basket. "I may never forgive you."
"You've already forgiven me," Harry said. "So, are you going to show me photos of your niece or not?"
"I may just withhold the adorable baby photos for the crimes committed against me," Astoria informed him. "But because I'm such a kind and forgiving person, I'm going to show you anyway."
She was briefly interrupted by the waiter when he came to take their order and refill the breadbasket.
Astoria pushed the breadbasket over to Harry. "Daphne hasn't decided on a name yet and Richard is, quite literally, a Dick, so the poor thing is still nameless." She'd pulled a small stack of photos from her purse. "I've made the suggestion that Astoria is an excellent name, but Daphne remains unconvinced."
Harry looked at the photos. The baby girl was only a few days old, and so looked like every other newborn baby he'd ever seen (which...wasn't that many, considering). "She's beautiful," he said.
"I'm in love," Astoria said, sighing happily. She took the photos back, but gave them a loving look before she put them back in her purse. "Your blue-haired tomboy doesn't stand a chance."
"Obviously." Harry grinned at her. "So, what else is new?"
"I'm moving out." She picked up her napkin and spread it over her lap delicately, not looking at Harry. "I'm telling my parents today."
"Oh." Harry blinked. "Why?"
"Do you remember I told you about Ruby?"
"Yeah...you went out with her once or twice a couple of weeks ago?"
Astoria nodded. "I'm moving in with her."
"Oh. Is it serious then?"
"Maybe, maybe not." Astoria shrugged, but her fingers were shaking a little. "I suppose we'll find out."
"It looks serious."
Before she could answer, they were once again interrupted by the waiter, this time he was bringing their food.
"Did Draco tell you why we were going to marry each other?" she asked.
"Not really. Just said you're friends."
Astoria picked up her fork. "Yes," she said. "But that's not the whole story."
They ate in silence for a few minutes. Harry didn't say anything, not wanting to press her to talk.
"You know how Draco's dad was a Death Eater?"
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Trust me, I know. He's tried to kill me a couple of times. It makes the whole thing somewhat awkward, let me tell you."
The corner of her mouth lifted. "Well, yeah. My parent's never signed up, but that didn't mean they didn't agree with...well. You know." She took a sip from her glass. "Draco and I wanted to...escape that. We wanted to get away from that way of thinking, because we've seen how damaging it is. And with the way the country fell apart…" She gave a tiny shrug. "Seemed like the safest thing to do was stick together."
"I can see that. For what it's worth, I don't get the impression that anybody of our generation wants to repeat history."
"Mh. But our parents are still conservative. They may be able to see how batshit insane their side of the war was, but they still have those same political views. And my family… well, we're not as well off as the Malfoys, but we're from the same bullshit aristocratic ilk," she explained. "I've been raised to a life as a non-working aristocratic wife. I don't work, I don't study - and I didn't want to risk my only option being some guy from a conservative family and having to conform to those politics and beliefs."
"Enter Draco." Harry leaned back in his chair, comprehension dawning. "That's why it had to be Draco."
"Yes. We both want to be able to raise our kids in an environment which is a lot less politically toxic than the one we grew up in," she said. "Our plan was to do the traditional thing and move me into the Manor, then after a year or so we were going to move into our own place. Eventually get a couple of kids and...feel safe."
Astoria picked up her fork, then put it down again.
"I think I understand," Harry said. "But where does Ruby come into the picture? Doesn't that spoil things for you and Draco?"
"I…" Astoria picked up her napkin and covered her plate with it. "This past year has been a little strange for me. I was going to get married and then suddenly I wasn't and it's all been a little...confusing? Suddenly I didn't know what to do with myself."
"I recall the words shameless slut being used," Harry said, attempting to bring some humour into the situation.
Astoria rolled her eyes. "Obviously. I've been trying a number of different things. And I met Ruby! Who's a lovely person and really chill and muggleborn, so she has this really fascinating perspective on a lot of things that are just a given for me." Her lip wobbled a bit. "I...I don't know if I'm in love."
She burst into tears. Harry stared at her awkwardly, and then eventually gave her his own napkin.
"Er," he said.
"Sorry." Astoria took a few deep breaths. "I'm fine. I'm just about to give my parents the finger by moving in with a muggleborn girl." She dabbed her eyes with the napkin. "A year ago I would never have done anything as bold as that."
"You'll be fine," Harry said, for lack of anything else to say. "I'm sure of it."
"How do you think Draco will take it?"
Harry exhaled. "I don't know, honestly. Last I knew he was still pretty set on the idea of settling down with you."
She nodded. "He can be a bit...stubborn, sometimes."
"Do you want me to tell him?"
"No. I'll do it. We're having dinner on Friday." She took a deep breath. "It'll be fine. It doesn't rule out anything regarding me and Draco, after all."
Harry refilled her water glass. "If that's what you want," he said.
Draco had been in a sulk since Astoria broke the news to him, so Harry took him and Teddy to Shell Cottage the weekend before Draco's birthday. It was a balmy day and they took the kids down to the beach. Bill stayed at the water's edge, dipping baby Dominique's toes into the water and babbling to her, while Fleur, Harry and Draco rolled up their trouser legs and took Victoire and Teddy wading in a spot that Fleur said usually had a lot of shells.
"We're going to France next week to visit my family," Fleur told them. "Would you like to housesit for us? We need somebody to feed the cat."
"I'd love to," Harry responded immediately. "Right, Draco?"
Draco nodded, then shrugged. "If you want to."
Victoire let go of her mum's hand to fish a bright shell out of the water.
"Look a little enthusiastic." Harry elbowed him gently.
Fleur raised an eyebrow and Harry just shook his head.
"We were going to invite some people over for a grill party. A sort of birthday party for Draco," Harry told her. "Would it be okay if we held it here? It saves me the trouble of getting a temporary expansion permit for the backyard."
"Don't disturb the neighbours or set my house on fire." Fleur smiled. "It's fine."
Teddy and Victoire collected a decent amount of shells that day and Draco eventually let the sulk go.
Astoria brought Ruby to the garden-slash-beach pseudo-birthday and grill party. She was every bit as chill as Astoria had said, and Harry instantly liked her. Even Draco had to admit she was great, despite the imminent threat to his marriage plans.
Teddy was at Andromeda's for the weekend, so there were no children at the party and spirits ran high. At one point Dean, Seamus and Blaise set up an impromptu quidditch match over the water, and a few of Bill and Fleur's neighbours joined them for a few matches. (Nobody drowned.)
"Draco came around," Harry said to Astoria sometime past midnight. He'd built a bonfire on the beach and everyone who hadn't left early were sitting around it in mixed groups and drinking.
"I'm glad." She cracked open a fresh can of beer.
"How are you? I mean, how are things…?"
"Splendid." She smiled brightly. "You know, I don't know that Ruby is the one. We're having fun, but I...don't know. We haven't really defined our relationship."
"Do you have to?" Harry put a cooling charm on his beer, which had turned lukewarm and gross.
"I suppose not." She drew her knees up. She looked at Draco, who was deep in conversation with Ruby and Blaise. "You know what, though? What I realised?"
"I don't need Draco." She grinned. "I don't need him! I thought I did, I thought he was my ticket to relative freedom - but he's not."
"I'm never marrying Draco," She declared. "Unless I go ahead and fall in love with him, maybe," she amended. "But I'm not! I'm taking back the reins. From now on, I'm in charge of my life."
Harry smiled. "Let's toast to that." He touched his can of beer to hers. "Cheers."
"I'm going to university," she said, her eyes shining brightly. There was fire in her eyes, reflected from the bonfire, but Harry didn't think that was the only fire there. "I've sent in my application. I'm going to study," she leaned in, giggling, Muggle Relations!"
"That's great," Harry said, putting his hand on her back so she wouldn't topple over.
"And I'm having my nose pierced!"
"I'm sorry, Harry, but I'm going to steal Astoria away for a bit," Ruby interrupted, squeezing Harry's shoulder. Astoria stumbled to her feet and went with her, forgetting entirely that Harry was there. They disappeared behind some bushes.
Draco took Astoria's place. "She looks happy, doesn't she?"
"Yeah, she does." Harry shared his can of beer. "You're okay, right?"
"Yeah, I…" Draco sighed. He looked tired. "She's not going to marry me, is she?" He sighed again. "I don't know where I'll find someone like her. I had this idea…" he trailed off, then shook his head. "Maybe it was stupid.
"Maybe you should just stay married to me," Harry blurted out.
"Very funny." Draco took a sip of Harry's beer. "Thanks for the party, by the way. I had a good time."
Harry looked at him, the orange glow in his hair from the fire and the curve of his lip. "No problem," he eventually said.
"You'll sign the papers, yeah? I'll owl you the guidelines." Harry rubbed his face tiredly. "I swear getting divorced is a specific kind of hell. You would not believe the amount of forms we have to fill out."
Hermione gave him an odd look. "Isn't it a bit weird that you're going on holiday with Draco right before you're getting divorced?"
Harry blinked. "No?" He frowned. "It's a work thing, for him. I'm only coming because then he doesn't have to get me a birthday present."
"Hm. If you say so," Hermione said, reluctantly. "You are getting on, aren't you?"
"We're okay." Harry shrugged. "He helps with Teddy and stuff." He shrugged again.
"Oh. I thought maybe…" She gave him a small smile. "I thought maybe it was different, now."
Harry didn't answer for a while. "He's stopped hogging all the coffee in the morning, so I suppose it is."
Harry got a sunburn the first day in Spain and Draco laughed at him when Harry came to pick him up from the conference. Harry repaid him by making him taste every single weird-looking thing he came across in the market stalls for the remainder of their stay.
All the forms were filled, all the statements were written and signed, and a number of records concerning their shared life for the past year had been collected. It all had been sent to their lawyer in advance, so that everything could be reviewed and declared in order before the signing of the final papers.
Harry and Draco went to see Beatrice Birkenhead the day after their year and one day anniversary.
She had the divorce papers ready for them. "If you sign here and here," she said. "I've reviewed your documents and everything is in order."
Draco signed first, then handed Harry the pen. He signed his name on both pages, then gave the pen back.
Beatrice Birkenhead looked over their signatures.
"Are you nervous?" Harry whispered. Draco was clenching his fists.
Draco unclenched his fists. "I'm fine," he said.
"This is all in order," Beatrice Birkenhead said, and then signed as a witness. "Well, congratulations, boys. You are now divorced."
The silence in the office was thick. Harry felt a stone sink heavy into his stomach.
"Thank you," Draco said eventually. He thrust his hand out, and slightly bewildered, Beatrice Birkenhead shook it. Belatedly, Harry did the same.
"I'll owl you the legal copies," she told them. "Have a lovely day!"
They left the office. Draco was quiet, holding himself somewhat stiffly, and Harry felt a bit out of sorts as well.
"Come on, let's go for a coffee," he said, once they reached the street. His palms were itching. "I could use something strong and caffeinated right about now."
"Okay," Draco said, and followed him without question.
Harry ordered them both the strongest black coffees available from a coffee cart outside Fortescue's. The barista put a splash of Firewhiskey in their coffees.
Draco was silent during the entire exchange with the barista, and took his coffee without a single word.
"Say something," Harry said. "You're supposed to be happy about this."
"I don't feel very chipper." Draco blew on his coffee. "I feel weird."
Harry took in the heavy set of Draco's shoulders and the thin line between his brows. He was radiating unhappiness - the same unhappiness Harry was becoming aware of feeling himself.
"Should've stayed married," he said.
"What?" Draco looked at him, startled. "What did you just say?"
"We should've stayed married," Harry repeated. He blew on his own coffee, then attempted a sip. It burned a little. "I...we had a good thing going."
Draco was still staring at him. Harry's heart leapt into his throat.
"Go out with me," Harry said. "Dinner, coffee, whatever. Just...I'd like to. If you do too."
"You're doing this now?" Draco's voice was oddly high pitched and his cheeks were rapidly going splotchy.
"Yeah," Harry said dumbly.
Draco put down his coffee and covered his face with his hands. He was muttering something unintelligible. (Curses, Harry thought. Definitely curses.)
The barista was giving them worried looks and Harry willed himself to ignore her. Draco eventually removed his hands and picked his coffee up again.
"Yes," he said. "I'll go out with you."
"Oh." Harry froze. "You will?"
Draco snorted and shook his head. "I said yes, didn't I?" He bumped his shoulder against Harry's. "Let's go. I want to take the tube home."
Warmth spread in Harry's gut and his heart fluttered back into his chest, where it was meant to be. "I don't get your fascination with the tube," he said, barely able to keep the grin off his face as he followed Draco towards the Leaky Cauldron.
"It's wonderful," Draco said, and sipped his coffee. "What better way is there to watch the Muggles? It's like a zoo in reverse."
Harry smiled to himself. "It's rush hour. I don't think you'll like the tube then."
"How bad can it be?" Draco shrugged carelessly.
"You have no idea," Harry said.
THE MERRY END