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The Years Before Love

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“There’s no reason for you not to come live here.”

Harry pushes his hair out of his eyes and blinks. He and Andromeda were discussing how much bigger Teddy has become in three months, how he smiles now and seems enchanted by his hands. They were discussing, as always, around the huge hole where Remus and Tonks and Ted used to be.

“I—what?” 

“You told me how much you hate the old Black house. It killed Sirius. I don’t want it to kill you.”

Andromeda keeps her head turned away, her hand bustling with the sugar and the tongs and the small, fine porcelain teacups that Harry knows she doesn’t need to bustle with. She has a house-elf who takes care of all that. But Harry knows lots of things now, and has learned to keep his mouth shut on some of them.

Right now, he wants to say that it was actually Bellatrix Lestrange who killed Sirius, but that’s not the kind of thing he can say to Bellatrix’s sister. “That house killed Sirius only because he couldn’t go outside it. I can, you know. Any time I want. Like now,” Harry adds, and gestures around the dim little drawing room where they sit, hoping to make her smile.

He doesn’t. Andromeda turns back towards him, and her large, black eyes—so much more direct and bright than Bellatrix’s, Harry doesn’t know how he ever could have compared them—fix on him. “And are you happy there?”

Harry taps his fingers on his knee.

“That’s the only important question.”

“But no isn’t the only important answer,” Harry retorts, a bit nettled. “I mean, I still haven’t even cleaned the whole house up yet. And I think I need to live alone for a while. And I inherited the bloody thing.” Andromeda’s eyebrows twitch, but she lets the language pass in a way that Harry knows neither Headmistress McGonagall nor Mrs. Weasley would have. “It feels like—like running out on what Sirius left me if I don’t live there.”

“You don’t need to live alone,” Andromeda says. “Anyone can see that who looks at you. You’re paler and more silent than you were right after the war.”

“I had to speak at funerals then.”

Andromeda ignores this as she ignores a lot of statements that Harry can use to vex most other people. “And if you’re going to talk about the Black family legacy…” A sly smile comes onto her face, one that makes Harry blink, and then blink harder, because it looks so much like some of the ones Tonks wore. “Did you know there used to be a legal custom of making Black heirs adults at twenty instead of seventeen like the rest of the wizarding world?”

“Er? No. Why?”

“Because the people who saw the taint of madness in our family thought it would be a good idea to see whether a new adult was going to combust, or settle down and act sane.” Andromeda leans forwards. “It was good for them to wait for a few years. So they could have the companionship of their parents, and learn more about the world around them.”

Harry stares at his teacup. It’s blurring no matter how many times he tells himself that’s stupid. “You’re not my mum or my guardian, though. You don’t need to.”

Andromeda’s hand comes to rest on his knee. “Harry.” He looks up at her. Her face swims, too, but he thinks he sees the compassion in her eyes. “When are you going to stop thinking that you’re someone I would only do things for because I have to?”

Harry nods. And he can’t even listen closely to Andromeda’s cheerful talk about how this is just as much for her as it is for him, how she could use someone else to help with Teddy and how Harry could bring Kreacher with him and then they could have a second house-elf around the place. It’s just—

There’s too much in him. And for once since the war, it’s not heartbreak or uncertainty. It’s a lot more like relief.

*

“This is going to be so good for you, Harry. I’m glad you’re doing it.”

Harry blinks at the back of Hermione’s head as he floats another stack of books down from the library shelves. He’s taking them to Andromeda’s to help him figure out what to do with his life. Being an Auror is now off the table. It’s just—not something he wants to do anymore.

“Really?” Hermione and the Weasleys have been perfectly supportive of him moving in with Andromeda, but so far they haven’t said anything to suggest that he had a problem living by himself.

Hermione makes a little sniffling sound, and when she turns around, her eyes are wet. Harry runs over to her and grabs her. He tries to suppress the impulse to panic. They aren’t in the middle of a war anymore. Whatever’s upset Hermione, it isn’t life-threatening.

Then Hermione grabs him in a hug back and huffs into his ear, “I’m glad, you idiot, because you need someone. And I know you have us and you’ll always have us, but Molly’s a little preoccupied and Arthur’s so busy at the Ministry and I need to spend time with my parents and George is shaken by Fred’s death and Bill and Fleur are busy with the baby and Charlie’s out of the country again and Ron is studying like mad and Percy is—Percy, and—”

Harry interrupts with a shaky laugh of his own. “I never blamed you for any of it.”

“I know. You don’t have to. But you need someone, too. And I think this is going to be great.” Hermione pulls away and actually uses her sleeve for a handkerchief for a second until Harry conjures one for her. Then Hermione wipes her face clean and points one finger at him. “I know why you interrupted me then, too.”

Harry shrugs. The less said about the utter apathy he has towards Ginny, the better, as far as he’s concerned. He likes her and wants to be with her the same way he wants to be with Molly and Ron, but it’s like the war ate all his passion. It’s just hard to care that much about dating anymore. It seems small and silly in the face of funerals and decisions and the rest of his life.

“Come on, then, let’s get this mess out the front door.”

Harry smiles a little as he watches the books float out the door under Hermione’s wand. Like they’d dare do anything else, with her here.

*

Harry groans and sits up. He didn’t count on one particular side-effect of living with a baby when he moved in with Andromeda.

But he and Andromeda have an arrangement. It’s harder for Harry to get to sleep early on, harder for her to wake up towards the morning, so Andromeda gets up with Teddy if he fusses during the early part of the night and Harry does it if it’s after four. And it’s four-thirty by the watch Molly gave him. Harry leaves his room and hurries down to Teddy, past the closed door to a room with a single bed and posters of famous Aurors on the walls. It’s going to stay closed and under a Preservation Charm for a long, long time.

“Shhh, Teddy,” Harry murmurs as he gathers Teddy up and rocks him against his chest. Teddy’s surprisingly strong little hands reach up and yank on his hair. Harry rolls his eyes and reaches for the bottle. He can already tell—and here’s something he never expected to be an expert in—that Teddy doesn’t need to have his nappy changed.

Harry leans back in the rocking chair next to Teddy’s bed and listens to his happy sucking on the bottle. It’s quiet and still, a stillness that Harry thinks is probably sort of unusual for Andromeda’s house. It’s a big house, with two extra bedrooms even besides the unused one, Andromeda’s, Teddy’s, and Harry’s. Harry wonders if she had family visiting often before the war, or friends.

I don’t know all that much about her, outside of what she’s told me about the Black family. I ought to ask.

Harry looks around at the pictures on the walls of the room. There’s a wedding picture of Andromeda and her Ted, and one of Remus and Tonks that he still can’t look at without his eyes starting to blur. The rest are paintings that she asked Harry to bring from Grimmauld Place, though, a few landscapes and a portrait frame that Phineas Nigellus Black can pop in and out of. She’s told Harry that she wants Teddy to know both sides of his heritage.

Or all three. Although Harry doesn’t know much about the Tonks family, either.

Teddy’s mouth pops off the nipple of the bottle, and Harry looks down to find him asleep, with one hand twined in Harry’s shirt. Harry smiles, puts down the bottle, and pats him gently on the back. Teddy hiccoughs but doesn’t bring anything up. Andromeda says that only happens a lot with overfed babies, and Teddy doesn’t often overeat. 

“You cry in the middle of the night and you turn your hair blue when you’re upset and Andromeda’s afraid you cry louder at the full moon,” Harry whispers to Teddy as he tucks him back into his cot, “but you don’t overeat.”

Teddy rolls his head limply to the side in what might be a comment on Harry’s words. His sparse hair is green right now. Harry kisses him and goes back to his own room, large, with a shelf for the books he brought from Grimmauld Place and a deep green quilt on the bed. Andromeda had simply given it to him because it was warm and big. No nonsense about House colors or anything like that.

As Harry snuggles down under the quilt, he realizes he has another feeling in him, an unfamiliar one. He watches it, and it swells and breaks like a wave, and pulls him down into sleep after it.

He is happy.

*

“Um, Harry…”

Harry looks up curiously from his cornflakes. He hasn’t heard Andromeda this uncertain since she asked if he was going back to Hogwarts in the autumn, and then she smiled as soon as he told her no.

From the way she closes her eyes now, lines of tension radiating out from them, he suspects this matter isn’t going to be resolved so easily.

“What is it?” Harry leans over and dangles a conjured rattle for baby Teddy. He’s getting stronger, better able to grip with his hands, but sometimes he still does what he’s doing now, reaching for something and then staring at his fingers with a surprised expression. Harry smiles.

“I want—to make connections with the rest of my family, too.” Andromeda’s picking at her plate when Harry turns to her again. “That means reaching out even to the people who aren’t as pleasant. I just want you to know that my sister’s visiting this afternoon.”

Even months after the war and her death, Harry’s mind always flies to Bellatrix first. But then he shakes his head and asks, “Do you mean the Malfoys?”

“Yes. You do get along better with them, don’t you? Especially after you testified at their trials.”

“Yes.”

The bland reply hides a lot of things. Harry wants to say that he only testified because he owed them his life, or Narcissa his life, and he still doesn’t like them. He thinks Lucius, who went back to Azkaban for breaking out and also for the Mark on his arm, finally, deserves everything he got. He thinks big fines and removal of their wands for a year is about the minimum punishment anyone with a Mark should get.

But he isn’t their sister or their aunt, the way Andromeda is. He can’t blame her for wanting to know them.

He just plans to stay out of the way when they’re here.

*

“What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to meet my little cousin.”

“Funny, you never wanted to meet him before,” Harry says, and he leans back and squints up at Malfoy, who’s standing in the door of Teddy’s bedroom. Harry’s been upstairs playing with Teddy while Andromeda visits with the Malfoys downstairs.

Malfoy looks around before answering. Harry thinks he probably knows the value of all the furniture within the room to a Knut. And his lip curls a little before he turns back to Harry, which just proves the point.

(Harry’s not sure what the point is. But Malfoy’s lip proves it).

“You know perfectly well why that is.”

“Yeah,” Harry acknowledges, and swallows down the instinct to protect Teddy. He doesn’t think he needs to hide him away from the Malfoys. Well, not until they get their wands back, anyway. He holds Teddy up.

Malfoy crosses the room to them with slow steps and sinks down next to the chair. Somehow, he only looks at Teddy even though he’s right there. Harry finds himself grateful for that.

“Can I hold him?”

Harry nods and extends Teddy, although he watches tensely in case Malfoy accidentally drops him. What would he know about holding a baby?

Maybe a lot, Harry has to concede after a second. Malfoy tucks Teddy against his shoulder in the posture Harry uses when he’s feeding him, and considers him for a long, solemn moment. Teddy stares back. Harry wonders if he’s going to change his hair from its current pink color, but apparently he doesn’t know what to make of his newfound cousin, because he doesn’t do anything.

“Hello, little cousin,” Malfoy finally whispers. “I hope we can learn about being Blacks together.”

Harry blinks, but doesn’t say anything. Maybe that’s the way Andromeda is reconciling with her sister, emphasizing the last name they used to share instead of their current ones. And probably avoiding the whole subject of family tapestries and marrying Muggleborns and werewolf sons-in-law, of course.

“I hope we can all learn about it.”

Malfoy is looking at him now, which startles Harry after all the effort he took to avoid it earlier. He responds immediately, “What? I’m here to help raise Teddy. I can’t tell you much about being a Black.”

“Funny. I could swear someone told me that Sirius Black made you his heir.”

“That’s not the same thing as being born one,” Harry says, and rolls his eyes so Malfoy will get the point.

This one, Malfoy doesn’t take. He cradles Teddy against him and says again, “Funny. I could also swear that you had a lot of experience with families being more than blood, Potter.”

Harry stands up. He doesn’t even know why, but he’ll punch Malfoy if he stays here.

“Don’t keep Teddy up too long,” he says over his shoulder as he leaves the room. “We’re trying to get him on a regular schedule of afternoon naps so Andromeda can do some shopping with her friends.”

“Today, she’s going out with my mother. Or didn’t she tell you?”

The point’s apparently that she wants me to reconcile with the bloody Malfoys, too, Harry thinks, and he’s proud of himself for not slamming the nursery door.

*

Harry is eating a peaceful dinner in a blissfully Malfoy-free house later that evening when Andromeda comes in, gives him a single glance, shakes her head, and says, “I did mean to include you as part of the family, too, Harry.”

“I know that,” Harry says, sitting back and blinking at her. “But I would just make everything awkward if I was there. I mean, life-debts and history in school and everything. And I’m sort of indirectly responsible for Lucius being in prison.”

“I meant more than that. I meant that I’ve taken you in, and you’re part of the Black family as far as I’m concerned.”

“You told me it was just—”

“Not formal adoption. I did say that. But you’re welcome around other Blacks. And Narcissa wants to meet you properly. Somehow, she doesn’t think lying on the floor of a dark forest while she lies to save your life counts.”

Harry has to smile, even though he suspects that’s more Andromeda’s sense of humor than Mrs. Malfoy’s. “Okay. Well. When they are supposed to come over again?”

“Tuesday. Do try to be nicer this time, Harry. Narcissa told me she’d liked to meet you, and even Draco told her how good you are with the baby. Let’s make it a family afternoon. You can think of Narcissa as a cousin, if you like. I know some of your history with aunts.”

And cousins, Harry thinks, but even as he thinks that, a sort of thrill runs through him. He reconciled with Dudley at the end, too. He wasn’t that bad. Having other cousins…

It could be a good thing, even if he would just as soon never have another aunt.

He nods. “Okay.”

*

Narcissa Malfoy is so pale and quiet on the Malfoys’ fourth visit it’s more like sitting at the table with a ghost than a person. 

Harry eats more of the small sandwiches that Andromeda thinks she needs to serve whenever the Malfoys come over and watches her. Narcissa—as she said he should call her, instead of Mrs. Malfoy—sits at the big dining room table and stares out the window. There are trees changing their leaves out there, but it’s mostly a dull tapestry of red and orange. Harry doesn’t think it really holds her attention.

Then he winces at himself and decides to make sure that he won’t mention tapestries in front of her any time soon.

“Harry?”

The sandwiches are still big enough to choke on, Harry discovers. Luckily, he bolts down the mixture of sauce and tomatoes and lettuce and whatever else is on the thing, and says, “Narcissa?” before she can do more than look at him in concern.

“I understand that you lived with a—very bad Muggle family before you went to Hogwarts.”

Harry feels a flicker of betrayal, but he knows Andromeda didn’t talk. Details about the Dursleys started showing up in the papers a month ago, courtesy of the Order members who guarded the Dursleys during the war. Apparently Vernon and Petunia didn’t stay silent enough, even when around “freaks.” Harry hid away from owls and didn’t read the Prophet for a while, until something else scandalous about Dumbledore showed up and it quieted down.

“Yes, I did,” he says, and waits for the next question.

“Why did it make you not hate Muggles?”

Harry wants to answer the way Hermione would, with a lecture about how Muggles aren’t all bad people because of this any more than all pure-bloods are bad because of Death Eaters, but instead he sighs and thinks about it. Then he says, “I never thought about them as Muggles. I didn’t grow up knowing I was magical. I knew I was different from them, but I just thought that was me and three people I—didn’t like.” He doesn’t think he ever hated the Dursleys, not now, not with what he’s felt towards Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange. “I never thought I was different from anyone else. I dreamed about my parents coming back and finding me, or some other relative once I knew my parents were dead, but I also dreamed about escaping from them and finding another life. It was—different, you know? It wasn’t about hating a whole group of people.”

“And when you knew you were magical?”

“I didn’t spend a lot of time around other Muggles after that. The Dursleys told all their neighbors I was mad and a criminal, and so I didn’t spend much time with them even during the summers. They stayed away.”

Narcissa is staring at him. “And yet you still didn’t hate them?”

“I was thinking about other things.”

And that’s really the whole point of it, Harry thinks. He’s not a saint. He can be a coward sometimes. He doesn’t have an open mind like Hermione, and he doesn’t forgive easily. He still doesn’t know if he’s forgiven Aunt Petunia or Uncle Vernon. He doesn’t know if he ever will.

But he had Voldemort to think about, and Sirius, and his friends, and getting better at magic, and the dream of escaping from the Dursleys while Sirius was still alive, and his grief when Sirius was dead, and Horcruxes. There was so much, and it just made the Dursleys’ world seem very small and cramped, and worth ignoring.

“I see.” Narcissa looks back at her hands. Harry looks, too, and sees she’s toying with her wedding ring. “Then—I suppose I have part of my answer as to how you can sit here with me and not strike me.”

“I think I could learn to like you. I don’t know if I could ever learn to like my aunt or uncle. But I did reconcile with my cousin Dudley before the end. I saved his life. That changed him.”

Narcissa looks up with a small smile. “And you could consider me a cousin?”

“Yes.” Harry says, and takes another sandwich. After a minute, so does she.

*

Harry has come to accept Malfoy’s presence when he’s playing with Teddy and Narcissa and her son arrive. Malfoy comes and holds Teddy, and Harry stays there and answers questions about how much Teddy’s eating and the kinds of faces he makes and all the cute things he’s done since Malfoy last saw him.

But peace is as much as Harry thinks there’ll ever be between them, and he and Malfoy only have Teddy in common. Which is why he’s really surprised when, on the sixth visit, Andromeda and Narcissa come into the nursery, Malfoy hands Teddy to them to coo over, Harry leaves the room, and Malfoy follows him. 

Not just down to the kitchen, either, which could be excused as wanting something to eat. All the way out to the garden, and the small bench there where Harry likes to sit when he’s outside with Teddy.

Harry sits on it and stares determinedly at the trees, thinking Malfoy will take the hint and leave him alone. But Malfoy sits down beside him and says simply, “You can think of me as a cousin, too. Can’t you?”

Narcissa must have told him what we talked about. Harry picks up a yellow leaf and shreds it, shrugging a little. “I—there was a lot more between us.”

“But she told me that you’re a forgiving type of person.”

“You want me to forgive you?”

“Yes.”

Malfoy turns his head and catches Harry’s eye, and Harry sees emotions there that make him relax and think. Malfoy might only want Harry’s forgiveness because it would mean he has one less enemy. Or because it would make these visits more comfortable. Or because he’s bored and doesn’t have anyone else to talk to. Harry doesn’t think he and Narcissa visit many other people besides Harry and Andromeda.

If any at all.

“Okay,” Harry says finally. “It won’t happen all at once, but I’ll try not to hold those things against you anymore.” 

And really, when he thinks about it, it’s what Malfoy did to others that he resents most: hurting Ron and Katie Bell, calling Hermione a Mudblood, letting Death Eaters into the school. His taunting and teasing and the way he dressed up like a Dementor in his third year are so far behind them now. Harry knows what it’s like to be hunted with real hatred, and the same way that Dudley could never compare to Voldemort, neither can Malfoy.

“Thank you, Harry.”

Harry jumps, the same way he did when Narcissa called him by his first name, but then he manages to turn around and say, “Okay—Draco, if you want?”

Draco, who apparently does want, nods, and they lapse back into silence. Harry watches the wind whip leaves to the ground. The garden is almost completely covered, even the little pond that Teddy likes to splash in. And Draco breathes gently beside him, and shows no boredom in Harry’s company, or urge to talk further.

As the silence settles even deeper, Harry realizes that he was mistaken before, in thinking he and Draco would only ever have peace between them. Because they didn’t have this, and this is peace.

Chapter Text

“You look like you’ve slept.”

Harry raises both eyebrows at Ron and yawns pointedly as he reaches for a cup of Molly’s great tea. It’s one of the things Harry would like to learn to do for himself but never has, make a cup of tea that good. And what with the cold wind blowing straight through him when they played Quidditch, Harry especially savors it. “You wouldn’t say that if you knew what nursing Teddy was like.”

“Not slept-slept. Rested.”

Harry considers that as he sips. He suddenly can’t remember if he told Ron that he and the Malfoys are sort-of friends now. He’d mentioned they were visiting Andromeda, and Ron made faces and all the right sort of sympathetic noises. But this would be different.”

“What’s on your mind, Harry?”

“If I made a truce with the Malfoys, what would you think?”

“So long as it’s not with Lucius.”

Harry shakes his head. “He’s in Azkaban and I don’t know if he’ll ever come out. But Malfoy and his mother are over at Andromeda’s all the time, and—well. I call them Draco and Narcissa now.”

Ron nods back. “As long as it’s not a truce with the man who tried to kill my little sister, I don’t care.”

“Even though Draco tortured you all through school?” It’s hard for Harry to remember that, sometimes, when he’s sitting with Draco in the nursery and watching Teddy change his hair colors. But if Ron was in the room with them, he might change his mind.

“There are some things that more important than others. Giving Ginny a diary that’s going to possess her is one of those things.”

Harry nods slowly, impressed. Sometime in the interval when he wasn’t looking, Ron grew up. Like Hermione says, they all got busy with other things and it—changed. 

But that doesn’t mean they have to be bad changes.

He and Ron sit and talk for a little while more, but after about ten minutes of Ron talking about his NEWTS (which he’s doing private studying and tutoring for, instead of going through Hogwarts) and what marks he might get and what jobs he wants, Harry raises his hand in mock surrender and stands up.

“I’ll think that Hermione’s possessed you if I stay here much longer.”

Ron laughs, but then he gives Harry such a serious look that Harry can’t just walk out the door of the Burrow the way he planned on. “Mate. I know you don’t want to go back to Hogwarts or take your NEWTS right now, but what are you going to do?”

Harry shrugs and smiles at him. “I’m figuring it out.”

And Ron grins, like he understands exactly what that means, and Harry goes home happy. Everyone seems to understand him better now. Even if what Teddy mainly understands is that Harry feeds him.

*

“What’s wrong with you, Potter?”

“Harry,” Harry corrects with a scowl, but before he can work up the rant that Draco deserves, an enormous sneeze both interrupts him and tells the story for him.

Draco, who’s been leaning on the doorframe of Harry’s bedroom (and honestly, who invited him there? He’s supposed to be with Teddy), straightens up at once, his face going blank. Harry scowls at him again and flops over to face the wall. Stupid cold. It’s only supposed to be the running nose and maybe a slight cough that Harry used to get all the time when he was with the Dursleys. It’s not supposed to be a headache and a fever and a throat that feels as though someone’s scraped it raw with frost, too.

“Andromeda didn’t mention you were sick.”

Harry jumps in the air, even lying on his side, and his carefully accumulated handkerchiefs float down towards the floor. Harry groans and reaches for his wand. Most spells are agony to speak right now. At least he thinks he can manage a decent wordless Accio.

But Draco’s there instead, picking up the handkerchiefs and staring at the side of Harry’s face as if it’s the front. Harry finally, reluctantly, rolls around to face him.

“Seriously, she didn’t mention it. Why?”

“She knows. It’s a cold. She knows that.”

Draco raises one eyebrow and looks at the handkerchiefs and the small blanket that Harry’s rigged up to prevent the late autumn sunshine from stabbing at his eyes. It’s nearly December, it’s not supposed to be this ridiculously sunny, Harry thinks, but tell that to the weather.

“And she didn’t offer you a Pepper-Up Potion?” Draco leans over and puts his hand on Harry’s face, then pulls it back with a hiss. “Or a fever reducer? Potter, your fever is dangerously high.”

“Does that mean you’re a hallucination and you’ll turn into a purple elephant soon?”

Draco walks around the bed and stands between it and the window, staring at Harry. Then he shakes his head. “Aunt Andromeda doesn’t know.”

“Yes, she does, I just told you—”

“She doesn’t know how bad it is, does she?”

Harry looks away. He can feel his face burning, not from the fever.

He doesn’t—know why he didn’t tell Andromeda. Except that it wasn’t as bad this morning, and Teddy was fussy all night, and he knew the Malfoys were coming, and just, she had enough to deal with, and it’s not that bad. It’s not like he’s going to die. Draco and his muttering about dangerously high fevers notwithstanding.

“She may not have a Pepper-Up Potion,” Draco continues briskly. “That’s all right. I’m sure she won’t mind going to Diagon Alley and either buying one and a fever reducer, or the ingredients to brew them. I’ll do that, because you would be pants at it even if you didn’t have a fever.”

“Hey—”

“And then I can use some of the leftover ingredients to make you a draught to soothe your throat. They overlap a lot. And even a potions lab as underused as this one is has to have some essentials.” Draco looks almost happy, although Harry doesn’t know why. Maybe he’s just delighting in Harry’s suffering. “Then you can actually start recovering like a wizard should.”

“I took care of myself just fine for years.”

“Yeah,” Draco says, taking a step towards the bed and then away, as if he hasn’t made his mind about what direction he wants to go. Harry would definitely taunt him about that if he felt better. “But now you don’t have to.”

Harry gapes at him. Draco smiles a little and adds, “But I don’t know what potion you need to heal a dislocated jaw, so you’d better close it.”

Harry obliges, his head still spinning. Later, he will decide a lot of it was the sickness. Because Draco is strange.

But he knows he doesn’t imagine the Malfoys staying that night, and he doesn’t imagine the hand on his shoulder when his fever is at its worst, and he doesn’t imagine the potions he swallows that make him feel better almost immediately. He even thinks that when he drifts into the first untroubled sleep he’s had for two days, there’s a hand cupping his cheek or stroking his head. Maybe both.

*

Harry finds his tea fascinating. There’s colors in it from the potions Draco insisted he take for the next two days, even though Harry already feels so much better that he thinks the cold is all gone. They make swirls that Harry can mistake for milk and cream, maybe, if he concentrates.

Of course, when he actually drinks the tea, he’s going to taste the difference at once, but he tries not to think about that.

“Harry.”

And then there’s the thing that he dreads even more than the prospect of foul-tasting potions. He drags his gaze up to Andromeda’s face. She has one hand on the table as though she started to reach for him and then stopped.

“Am I really that terrible, that you didn’t want to face me?” she whispers.

Harry catches his breath. He should have known she would feel something like this, even though it hadn’t occurred to him. 

“And stop blaming yourself for this.” Andromeda stirs her hand between them, eyes bright with a spark of Black temper. “Just explain why you didn’t tell me how bad your cold was.”

Harry manages a swallow of tea after all, but it doesn’t do its work by making his throat close up so he has an excuse not to talk to Andromeda. And in the end, he doesn’t want to avoid talking to her. He just doesn’t want to sound stupid.

Well, if he can’t avoid it, he’ll have to go ahead and do it, as Hermione would say.

“I always took care of myself when I was sick,” he muttered, eyes on the cup. It has a pattern of roses around the top that makes him think it must have belonged to the Tonks family instead of being a Black family heirloom. Catch a “proper” Black drinking from a cup that doesn’t have deadly nightshade on it or something like that. “I mean, as a kid. I was pretty much never sick at Hogwarts.”

“How did you do it?”

How, not why. Maybe he can do this.

“I had a blanket I blew my nose on. And I took pieces of it with me to school. And I had a little bowl I kept water in so I could rub my face when it got sore and drink some to soothe my cough. And I lay there and dreamed about my parents.”

Andromeda says nothing. Harry finally looks at her when he can’t stand it any longer, and finds that she looks as if she’s not angry, but rather, terribly sad.

“I want you to know,” she says, when a few drops of rain have splattered the window and Harry has almost started wishing the Malfoys back, “that you can always come to me with something like that, Harry. If I don’t have the potions, I’ll go and buy them. I want—I want you to feel at home, here. And you don’t need to suffer.”

Harry blinks and relaxes. It’s a lot better than he thought this confession would go. Less embarrassing.

Of course, who knows how much Draco is going to taunt him the next time he shows up? But that’s not today.

Today is rain, and a second cup of tea without nasty potions in it, and Andromeda talking softly to him about her own childhood—it was hemlock, but otherwise his guesses about what plants would be on Black teacups were right on the mark—and then Teddy crying imperiously to remind them what’s really important here.

*

“You’re up for some Quidditch, Harry?”

At least Draco is back to calling him Harry. But that doesn’t mean Harry can’t tease him. He doesn’t look up from his book on the theory of Transfiguration. “Hmmm.”

Draco throws the Snitch at him. Harry twists back in his chair, startled, and catches the little ball before it can slam into his head.

“Come on, then,” says Draco, and grins at him as he turns away. “I’m not going to let you catch it so easily next time.”

Harry hesitates, fingers sliding over the Snitch. The wings thrum against his fingers.

It’s not that he doesn’t want to. For one thing, he knows Andromeda and Narcissa are downstairs and have Teddy with them, and Harry doesn’t need to worry about him needing something. For another, he’s always ready to play.

But he worries about the bad memories the games might bring back for Draco. Harry always won at Hogwarts, after all.

“I’m not going to tell you again, Potter.”

Harry immediately stands up and goes around the corner of the bed to grab the replacement Firebolt he bought himself a month ago. He isn’t going to let Draco retreat toPotter, the way he tried to do when Harry was sick.

He thinks about bringing up that moment as he runs out through the door into the back garden—waving absently at Andromeda’s yell to wrap his scarf around his throat—but Draco is taunting him, already off the ground, and Harry lets it slip away for the excitement of the game and the first dancing snowflakes of the season.

*

It’s a game.

Harry swings his broom around and around, and dives, and laughs, and watches how the wind streaks Draco’s cheeks into a brilliant flush, and corkscrews, and finds the Snitch in his palm a second later.

He’s almost sorry to turn and show it, both because it means the game is at an end and because Draco might feel bitter.

But Draco is already heading towards the ground, calling over his shoulder, “I think I’ll be the first to a cup of hot chocolate.”

Harry can’t let that stand, either. If Draco can put up with it, there’s going to be no victory for him today. Harry dives, and the snow beneath him sparkles and flurries up around him as he lands, and he runs for the door.

“Are you crazy?”

That’s Draco’s voice, from behind him, a little awed. Harry looks back. “That was a perfectly ordinary dive!”

“Not that way you do it.”

Draco’s voice is lower, still tinged with that strange emotion. Harry ends up snapping his gaze away and heading for the doorway of their house. His skin prickles, and he feels as if someone’s sliding a warm hand up and down his back.

Inside, it’s easy to laugh and forget about it, especially with the way the hot chocolate slides warmth through him instead and Draco makes rude comments about Harry’s Firebolt being the only reason he succeeds so well.

But it comes back to him when he’s tucked in bed, and Harry decides he’s not warm enough and flicks his wand at the fire. He rolls over, cheek pressed against his roasting pillow, and thinks about Draco, who can’t build up the fire so simply without a wand, who might be lying in his bed right now and shivering.

Don’t be stupid. He would have house-elves to do it for him.

But the image still troubles Harry for a few minutes before he succumbs to sleep.

*

“I was thinking of getting this for Teddy,” Andromeda says, and holds out the glossy pamphlet to Harry. “But then I remembered his age. It might be something to think about for when he’s older, though.”

Harry picks up the pamphlet and manages to drag his eyes away from the pictures of extremely colorful toys by telling himself he’s too old for them. Well, but on the other hand, he has plenty of money, and owl post can be discreet. He might order them and just not tell anyone that he’s ordering them. It doesn’t have to be anyone else’s business.

Andromeda has to tap the page before Harry can actually focus on what Andromeda intended for Teddy’s Christmas gift. And then he blinks. It looks like a practice wand, but there’s a shiny yellow handle on it and a hole in the top that looks like it’s stuffed with paper.

“Why that?” Harry asks, even as he tries to read the description. It’s tough. The letters twine around the top and sides of the picture, and everyone in the wizarding world seems to like calligraphy without actually knowing how to write in it.

“Because it’s a sort of practice wand that you can implant with spells,” says Andromeda. “Three of them. You write the incantation for the spell on the paper and put it in the hole in the top, and then you use your own wand to cast the spell on the practice wand. After that, the spell happens whenever a certain specific stimulus happens—for example, if Teddy cries, then the wand might Summon his bottle. If we put the Summoning Charm in the wand with the word ‘bottle’ written after it. Apparently, it can get complicated describing what you want to happen. There’s all sorts of warnings.” She leans around Harry to look at the picture again.

She’s right that it’s far too complicated a toy for Teddy, Harry decides. And Teddy can’t give enough distinctive cries for the wand to respond to, anyway. He doesn’t always fuss when he needs his nappy changed, for example. From the wistful look on Andromeda’s face, she was mostly thinking of being able to have a spell do that for her from a distance.

But Harry thinks of something else, someone else who might need something like this. He sneaks the pamphlet away when Andromeda isn’t looking, and places his owl order.

And if he orders some things for himself along with the Christmas gifts, that shouldn’t matter. They’ll be his toys, anyway.

*

“Happy Christmas, Harry!”

Bill, of all people, grabs Harry around his waist and lifts him off the ground. Harry laughs and lets Bill spin him. Fleur is standing behind him, smiling and holding out Victoire. Harry seizes her when Bill puts him down, expertly balancing her the way he’s learned to hold a baby, snickering a little at Fleur’s astonishment.

“I had not known that a man could do that,” Fleur says, and looks at Bill in a way that he might dread if he was paying attention. He’s not. He’s gone off to greet Ron and Hermione, piling through the fireplace behind Harry.

“How have you been?”

“Good.” Fleur examines him for a second. “And Bill, he was telling me about the Black family adopting you as one of their own. It has done you good.”

Harry doesn’t get another chance to talk to her, because then Hermione hugs him, and Ron comes after her, scolding her mildly for not noticing the baby in Harry’s arms, and Molly comes out and gets flour on everyone with her hugs, and then she herds Ron and Bill into the kitchen to help her with the cooking, while Harry settles down to talk about her parents with Hermione. He must have done something right with the way he’s bouncing and cradling Victoire, because Fleur smiles and drifts off to the kitchen, too.

The meal is enormous, the kind Harry used to dream about when he was lying in his cupboard at the Dursleys’. There are biscuits of so many different kinds that Harry thinks he’s going to rot his teeth out—Hermione looks somewhere between blissful and disapproving, as the daughter of dentists—and a cake so high he can’t see anyone over it and a couple whole chickens and bread soaked with melted butter and marmalade spilling from multiple jars and sausages that Ron chokes on, and the sounds of laughter and joking and Exploding Snap and Hermione pounding Ron on the back are everywhere.

It’s so noisy and hot and happy that Harry almost melts. And there are piles of Christmas presents for him, everything from a new jumper from Molly to a complete set of seventh-year textbooks being used at Hogwarts that year from Hermione to a fierce little “attack hawk” from George that will supposedly only attack his worst enemies, to an actual diamond ring from Fleur’s parents, as “gratitude for saving the world that includes France.”

It’s everything he’s ever dreamed of.

But—and it almost feels disloyal to think of—he’s still happy to go home to the small, private Black family Christmas they’re having that evening.

*

“Thank you, Narcissa.”

Harry admires the small necklace he’s opened. Well, maybe an amulet more than a necklace; he can see there’s a small silver circle at the end of the chain where he could put a jewel. Knowing Narcissa Malfoy, Harry doubts the stone will be merely pretty.

And in fact, the next package he opens, from Andromeda, turns out to contain a cut topaz that will fit it perfectly. The stone is crawling with so much magic that Harry’s fingers zing from touching it. He smiles at Andromeda. “Protective enchantments?”

She nods, beaming, and then moves her foot again to rock the cradle Teddy is lying in. He wakes up and fusses if someone interrupts for one second, although he’s perfectly quiet even through all the unwrapping if he’s rocking.

Then again, it’s not like the Malfoys are loud.

“Thank you,” Harry repeats, and turns to Narcissa as she opens her gift. He doesn’t know her well enough to choose anything personal, and he hesitated over clothes and jewels before rejecting them because he doesn’t know what would they would say to her. But with her long and perfectly groomed hair, a hairbrush—one that contains enchantments to smooth and soothe and make her hair warm and dry after a bath—seemed a safe bet.

Besides, it’s made of silver and has a small representation of the Black coat of arms on the back that Harry managed to enchant there after a strenuous evening of working with several spells. He knows Narcissa will appreciate the personal touch there even if she doesn’t think much of the gift on its own merits.

“Thank you, Harry,” Narcissa murmurs back, and her fingers keep touching the Black coat of arms as if she can’t leave them alone. Harry smiles again and turns to watch Draco open his “practice” wand.

Draco freezes as he stares at it, and Harry speaks quickly before Draco can think it’s a joke. “I know it looks awful, but I did enchant the handle to be a Golden Snitch. See?” he added, as small wings extend from the sides of the handle and flutter once.

Draco smiles, a fragile thing. “So what does it do?”

“You write the name of a spell you want on a piece of paper and stick it in the top.” Harry feels his tongue tangling around itself, although he ought to know what the stupid thing does; he read the description three times before he ordered it. “Then you have someone else cast that spell on the wand. After that, you can use the toy as often as you want to cast that particular spell.”

Draco freezes again, but Harry knows it’s for a different reason this time. “So it can be anything I want,” he whispers.

Harry nods. “Sure. Lumos and Incendio and Accio some specific item, or anything else. And there’s three more of the wands in there.”

Draco looks up. Harry’s unprepared for what he sees burning in Draco’s eyes. “You got me a wand.”

“Well, a toy.”

“You got me a wand,” Draco repeats, and Harry has to glance down. He doesn’t know what to do with the words, the silence that follows them, the tone in Draco’s voice, anything.

He would say “Sorry,” just in case, but Narcissa opens the package of toy wands that he got her then, and Andromeda opens the small clock Harry chose which will measure the time between Teddy’s feedings and reassure Andromeda that yes, he is eating correctly, and their pleased exclamations distract Harry from what’s happening in front of him.

At the same time, he can’t help noticing that there’s no gift for him from Draco. But Draco brushes his fingers across Harry’s wrist and murmurs, “Later,” and Harry feels his heart lift to the point of soaring.

*

“I wanted to give this to you in private.”

Harry turns from contemplating the stars to watch Draco. It seems fitting that, once again, they’re in the back garden, but this time, under the light of fierce stars and a fiercer moon and snow that glitters and sweeps across the grounds. Harry heard Teddy start to cry when he came outside, but Andromeda gave him a significant glance as she picked Teddy up.

Harry thinks he now also knows why Narcissa went over to help Andromeda at once, something she does a lot but not always so promptly.

“What is it?” Harry asks, holding out his hand, because Draco’s package is small. He could make a lot of tasteless jokes, but he won’t.

“Nothing to what you gave me,” Draco says softly. “Aunt Andromeda cast the spell for me, since I’m not—I wasn’t allowed magic.” He gives Harry a grin as fierce as the stars. “But I chose the rock and the memory myself.”

Harry unwraps the package, surprisingly heavy for its palm size. Of course, if Draco chose a rock, that makes sense. But he still catches his breath when it’s revealed.

It’s a piece of quartz, so crystalline that Harry can see his hand and the snow and the trees through it with barely any blurring at all. When he turns it, though, there are colors flashing in the bottom of it that make him wonder if it’s an opal or something. Red and green and black. He glances at Draco.

“Not like a Pensieve,” Draco says softly. “You can’t view the memory. But you can feel what I felt when you hold it.”

Harry obediently closes the quartz in both hands—it seems to be the thing to do—and shuts his eyes. He wonders for a second what Draco means. Will it be the cold of Malfoy Manor, or the heat of lying in a deliciously warm bed and watching the fire?

It’s neither. Emotions swirl up and flood Harry.

There’s deep-welling horror, first. And then cleansing shock. And then breathless tension that makes Harry feel as if he’s going to fly over a cliff, and flashing and surging over that, joy, and triumph. Finally, relief, sweet as peaches.

Harry opens his eyes, dazed, to find Draco standing in front of him. He smiles at Harry.

“What memory is that?” Harry asks.

“The emotions I felt when I watched you come back to ‘life’ and duel the Dark Lord for possession of the Elder Wand,” Draco says quietly. “And then what I felt when I saw you destroy him.” He inclines his head. “I wanted you to know.”

“It’s beautiful,” Harry says. “I’m sorry my gift wasn’t more personal.”

Draco reaches out and seizes his neck, then his chin, then his cheek, his hand slipping and scrabbling clumsily. Finally he settles on Harry’s chin after all. His fingers are trembling, and it seems he has a hard time keeping them still long enough to hold Harry’s face there. 

“You gave me magic back,” Draco whispers. “Against that, my gift is—it’s what I wanted it to be.”

“It’s beautiful,” Harry repeats.

There’s such a long moment when Draco stands there, in the snow, and looks back at Harry, and Harry shivers in anticipation of something more. But in the end, Draco only bows his head, and drops his hand, and whispers, “Thank you.”

Harry nods, and smiles, and leads Draco back to the house. He opens his mouth on the way there, wondering if this is the moment to bring up the way Draco touched him during his illness.

But Draco turns around to look up at him in the light falling through the dining room window, and Harry realizes it’s not.

No, now is the moment to bend down a little and kiss Draco lightly, on the cheek, because that’s what was missing. And Draco shivers as though someone’s strung a wire through him, and doesn’t back away.

Chapter Text

“So much of this is so interesting.” Harry rolls on his bed until his head comes to rest against Draco’s hair. Draco has been sprawled on his back on Harry’s bed for the last half-hour, holding a huge book above him. Apparently his arms don’t get tired. “But it’s obscure.”

“Mm.”

“Someone needs to make it clearer. I think lots of people would be interested in Defense theory if it wasn’t so hard to understand.”

“Mmmm.”

“I think I’ll move out and go on the road with Teddy. Maybe become part of a traveling circus and see what kind of people will pay to gape at my scar.”

“Try and I’ll follow you and tell them there’s nothing worth paying to see there.”

Harry laughs softly and lets his head fall back so that he’s looking up at Draco’s book more than his own. “Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.”

“I always am.” Draco puts out an arm without looking at him and curls it around Harry’s waist. Harry sighs and turns his head a little. This is the way it’s been since Christmas, this quiet casualness and accepted silence between them. “But right now, I want to read this book, and not your face.”

Harry closes his eyes. Outside the window, faint snow, sometimes wavering into rain, drifts down. The garden is entirely buried now, and when Harry takes Teddy out in the morning, he often cries to go back inside in a few minutes despite the Warming Charms.

Far away, in Scotland, Hogwarts students are taking notes in Charms class, or learning how to Transfigure shoes into rats, or running in and out of the Great Hall with their House ties whipping behind them.

Harry doesn’t envy them.

*

“Writing magical theory textbooks interests you?” Andromeda takes a thoughtful bite of the cheese sandwich she makes for lunch each day. Well, cheese is something of a misnomer, Harry supposes. There are also slices of tomato on there, and ham, and a huge variety of green vegetables Harry can’t even name. The sandwich always totters like it’s going to fall over if Andromeda leaves it alone for a minute. “Well. That’s something I wouldn’t have said would catch your attention. But it’s a perfectly respectable thing for a Black to do.”

Harry opens his mouth indignantly, and then realizes she’s making fun of him. It still takes him a minute, sometimes, to catch on to that. He leans over and hands little Teddy a small piece of cheese to cover his embarrassment. Teddy gums it enthusiastically and gets half of it on his face. 

“I think I might enjoy it. All these things I want to learn, and maybe other people want to learn, but how can they when the books are so horribly-written? Not to mention rare and heavy and hard to hold and mostly in other people’s libraries.”

“Do be careful about some of the laws the Ministry’s passed,” Andromeda says mildly, not looking at him. “There are books in the library at Grimmauld Place that would be considered Dark, and some magical theory that’s Dark Arts.”

Harry snorts. “I know that. And believe me, I’ll make sure of it. I’ll ask Hermione if I really can’t figure it out. She’ll be delighted to help.”

“I think she would,” Andromeda murmurs, and leans over to offer Teddy some more food and clean him up at the same time. “Especially if you then write some books about magical creatures.”

“Maybe about something like the theory behind werewolf transformation. I’ll leave the actual laws and campaigning to her.”

Andromeda says nothing, but for a second—a second when Harry thinks she thinks he’s not looking—her gaze lingers on Teddy.

Harry leans forwards and catches her hand. “Except if someone close to me needs help and protection. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for people like that.”

Andromeda takes his hand and squeezes it for a second. Then she says, “And those people include my nephew, don’t they?”

“They do.”

“I’m glad.”

This isn’t the way he ever imagined his first conversation about a girlfriend or boyfriend going, Harry thinks. He thought there might be a highly awkward conversation with Molly and Arthur about Ginny, or maybe—back when Sirius was alive—he vaguely imagined getting Sirius’s name cleared and then introducing a future girlfriend to him. But never more than that.

Instead, there is a surprising lack of advice, and a slight burble as Andromeda drinks her tea, and a louder one as Teddy smacks his lips, and patterns of frost on the windows. It’s all right. It’s more than all right, in fact, Harry thinks in contentment, and fetches a piece of lettuce for Teddy to watch the faces he makes. He doesn’t approve of vegetables unless they’re orange or yellow, and sometimes not even then.

This is wonderful.

*

“Watch, Harry. You have to watch.”

Harry smiles and stands to follow Draco out into the garden. Andromeda and Narcissa are deep in gossip that Harry suspects is thirty years old, all about people they knew at Hogwarts. They don’t even look up as Harry trails Draco out onto the hard grass. There’s no more snow now, hasn’t been for a few weeks, but the ground and the sky look equally grey and forbidding, with the trees only adding a note of brown.

Draco turns around with the practice wand with the Snitch handle in his hand. He waves it, and there’s a large pop of light at the end when he says, “Lumos.”

Harry smiles as he watches the light spread around the garden, glittering off ice and sullen bark and mud and stone. Draco’s spinning in a circle, as enchanted as if he just turned on all the chandeliers in the Great Hall, and his smile is something out of stories.

“Watch,” Draco demands again, and adds, “Aestas.”

Harry blinks as he watches some of the mud melt around Draco’s feet. It’s the incantation for an incredibly powerful Warming Charm, one that’s meant to mimic summer sun for plants and so on. “I didn’t expect you to pick that one.”

Draco shrugs. “I’m cold all the time.” He indicates the gloves and cloak and thick boots he put on before they came outside. “I want something that can make me think it’s summer. This weather sure doesn’t.”

“You are cold?” Harry takes a step forwards, and then another, until he’s standing right next to Draco. “How strange. I didn’t know that. And yet I think I can warm you up as well as any wand.”

Draco goes still and speechless, staring up at him with parted lips. It still satisfies Harry, even though he’s seen Draco do it several dozen times by now. It’s as though Draco thinks every time Harry kisses him is actually a wonderful dream.

Harry kisses him again now, and chafes Draco’s hands lightly until Draco drops the wand and flings his arms around Harry’s neck. The heat of the charm migrates inside Harry, and soon Harry can feel sweat sliding down his back inside his own cloak.

It doesn’t matter. Nothing can convince him to pull away from Draco. Harry wraps his arms around Draco’s shoulder and waist and draws him closer, kissing him with all his might. Draco responds with a little moan, and the kiss only stops when they stagger back and end up slipping in the melted mud.

And Draco—with mud on his cloak and his hair bedraggled and dripping from under his hood—laughs. Harry watches him and thinks that Warming Charms have nothing on this.

*

“Mr. Potter, I want you to know something.”

“Harry, please,” Harry says, and smiles at Narcissa. Draco is already almost gone, eager to get home and cast the final enchantments he’s chosen on the last of his practice wands. He wouldn’t tell Harry what they were. Evidently he wants them to be a surprise. 

“If I can call you by your first name, you ought to call me by mine,” Harry adds, as Narcissa stands there, apparently musing, for a moment, one hand curled around the back of her chair.

“Harry, then.” Narcissa’s lips twitch as though she’s secretly amused at something she thought of, but she goes on before Harry can ask her what’s wrong. “I want to thank you.”

“For what?” She’s already said thanks for her Christmas gifts, and as far as Harry can tell, there’s nothing else he’s done specifically for her. He welcomes her into Andromeda’s home, sure, but it was Andromeda who thought of that first.

“For making my Draco very happy.”

Harry’s astonished to find that he’s blushing, which nothing else Draco has done has made him do. He clears his throat. “I’m—glad.”

He can’t find more words, but Narcissa evidently can. “I see the shine in his eyes when he uses those practice wands. He’s reading new books, thanks to you. He doesn’t often talk about you, but he smiles so much more than he did before we started coming here.”

Harry looks at the floor. He wants to say that that isn’t all him, that Draco is taking responsibility for his own happiness, but he can’t bring himself to say it, in the end. He doesn’t know how much of it is him and how much isn’t.

And he doesn’t feel as much need as he once did, to disclaim all the things he might have done to help someone else. He isn’t facing someone who will judge him and find him wanting for lack of modesty, or rush to the newspapers with a scandalized tale of how Harry didn’t conform to all her expectations.

This is Narcissa.

“When you feel you can,” Narcissa says, speaking slowly, “we would welcome you to our home. I know Draco feels there are things he can only show you, or say, there.”

Harry isn’t ready to venture to Malfoy Manor yet. He still has nightmares, sometimes, of what Bellatrix did to Hermione. And the cellars, and how easy it might have been not to escape them. And the Snatchers, and the other people they Snatched who didn’t get away.

But he also knows that right now is not forever, and doesn’t have to be. He nods slowly to Narcissa. “Thank you.”

“Mother! What—” Draco has thrust his head back into the kitchen, but he falls silent and looks back and forth between the two of them. There’s a nervous tilt to his chin.

“I was only extending our invitation to Harry,” Narcissa says, and holds out her hand. Harry shakes it, and sees the shine in her eyes in the moment before she picks up her cloak and leaves.

Draco goes with her, glancing back at the kitchen now and then. But something Narcissa says takes his attention, and he’s smiling before they Floo away.

Harry leans back on the kitchen wall, and closes his eyes, and daydreams a bit.

*

“But that’s wonderful.”

Harry has to smile when he sees the way Hermione clasps her hands in front of her, as if she’s praying. “Why? Because you always secretly wanted me to write books and you never told me?”

Hermione leans across the table to subject his shoulder to a pinch that Harry dodges. “No. I only wondered if you could find something that would make you happy, and you have. And it’s something that you could research from the Black library, and stay at home with Teddy and Andromeda. I’m sure they’re happy about that.”

“I’m not sure Teddy would know enough to be happy about it. But I know Andromeda wants me there.”

“She’s a good mum.”

Harry blinks. “I’m sure she was to Tonks. I know she’s happy to have Teddy to take care of because she always wanted more children.”

“I meant to you.”

Harry blushes. Blushes. Sometimes he really wonders what’s going through his own head. It’s not something he puts there, he’s certain of that. Well. Relatively.

Hermione smiles and leans back to look around Andromeda’s kitchen. Andromeda has Teddy over at Malfoy Manor right now. Harry still doesn’t want to go, but he thinks someday soon, he probably will. “And I hope you don’t think we’re blind or that Ron is the only person you can discuss the Malfoys with.”

“Er,” Harry says, blinking hard. “No. I just didn’t think I had to discuss them with you. And blind to what?”

“You and Draco were flirting that day I dropped by for tea.”

Harry isn’t sure what’s the bigger shock, that Hermione is calling Draco by his first name or that she can use a word like “flirting” without frowning hard enough to set the table on fire. But he never once considers hiding it. He nods. “Yes.”

“Good. Then make sure Molly knows before next Christmas, so she can knit a jumper for him.”

“Do you think she would?”

“I know why you haven’t said anything to anyone but Ron,” Hermione murmurs, reaching across the table to clasp his hand. “But I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Molly hasn’t just tried to hold on to everyone since Fred died. She’s more forgiving. I haven’t heard her have any more arguments with Arthur, not big ones. I think she just wants people to live and go on living.”

Harry nods. “Then someday.” He doesn’t think he needs to hurry, any more than he does to visit Malfoy Manor. They’ll be there, and he’ll do something about them when the time comes. 

That’s one of the meanings of peace, he thinks, as Hermione hugs him and heads off for a meeting on the current state of house-elf rights. That he can do things slowly, softly, without worrying that they won’t be there tomorrow.

*

Harry dips his quill in ink and makes a note on the margins of the book he’s currently reading. It sprawls across the table in his room. Harry is determined to write a small book partially because these are all tomes, and they hurt his hands when he lifts them. He has no idea how Draco manages that trick of holding them above his face, he really doesn’t.

Next to him, Teddy makes a gurgling noise in his cradle. Harry sticks out a foot and absently rocks it. Teddy isn’t as bad now, in March, as he was at Christmas, when he couldn’t take a disruption in the rocking at all, but then, he’s full and sleepy now. Harry fed him most of a mashed apple and a lot of mashed potatoes for lunch. It’s Andromeda’s usual day to go to the shops and then to the café with Narcissa.

Everything traces itself in slow, pleasant circles. Harry writes in sunlight, which started returning a week ago. Teddy opens his mouth and shapes sounds now and then, his legs flopping around. He can crawl fairly well, but he doesn’t mind staying still. Harry doesn’t think he’ll be in a great hurry to learn to walk, either. All in all, since he started sleeping through the night, he’s become a laid-back baby.

A sharp fluting note from the garden startles Harry as he starts to write another comment. He leans around the book and looks out the window, wondering if Andromeda could have come back early, although he knows full well that she wouldn’t make a noise like that anyway.

There’s a black bird with a long tail standing near the rim of the sullen pond. Harry doesn’t know what it is, but it seems to have a hint of blue near its head. It tilts that head back and makes the fluting noise again, then bursts into a sharp run of notes.

At the same moment—they’ve probably been there for days, but Harry hasn’t noticed them—he sees green buds hazing one of the trees near the door. 

The black bird sings, dips its beak once in the water of the pond, and takes off again. Harry watches it go, and looks back at the tree, and rocks the cradle with one foot, and smiles.

When Teddy wakes up, Harry takes him out in the garden and sits with him on the bench near the pond, watching as Teddy reaches for the grass and the water and the other birds that streak by. They’re still sitting there when Andromeda gets home, and she joins them without hesitation. They sit there until sunset comes on.

*

“Watch. I want to show you what I can do.”

Draco’s voice is soft and intense. Harry is more than happy to sit down and watch him draw the last practice wand, the one Harry hasn’t seen since Christmas. It probably took this long for Draco to decide what spells he wanted to put on it.

Of course, he has the option to order more toy wands if he wants to. Harry wonders if he has. He would have enough money to do that. Or Harry would buy more for him in a heartbeat.

But Draco hasn’t said anything about it, and Harry is trying to learn not to leap to conclusions. He leans back, eyes carefully averted from the disapproving portraits that seem to occupy every wall of Malfoy Manor, even in this little sitting room Draco’s brought him to, and watches.

Draco holds the wand in front of him. For a moment he stands with his lips moving, and then he closes his eyes and faces the far wall. Harry appreciates that that points his wand directly at one of the portraits, a haughty blond ancestral Malfoy who flees out of the frame the second Draco starts speaking.

Expecto Patronum!

The silver mist bursts out of Draco’s wand and spends a moment spinning on an empty spot at the center of the spiral. Harry finds himself leaning forwards without knowing how it happened, his hands wrapped around each other, feeling the way he does when he silently urges Teddy on to walk and crawl.

The shape that the mist forms is faint, but Harry can still make it out. Draco’s Patronus is a lion, who looks around and shakes its mane for a second before silently roaring. A second later, it’s gone.

Draco looks at Harry with inexpressible pride, and Harry makes his lips move. “What’s your happy memory?”

“Anything involving you.” Draco stands with his head tilted down and his eyes so wide open he looks stunned. 

Harry stands and crosses the floor to him in three strides. He kisses Draco hard enough that Draco gasps and says something about numb lips, but Harry doesn’t care. And Draco drops the practice wand, but Harry doesn’t care about that, either.

This isn’t the garden two months ago and the Aestas Charm. This is Malfoy Manor, and the roaring lion has infected Harry with some of its own boldness. When he links both his hands with Draco’s and pulls him towards the stairs that run up to the first floor, Draco moans and melts against him and makes Harry have to support him most of the way there.

That really makes the ancestral portraits flee.

*

And now it’s the bedroom, which Harry knows is cavernous, with soaring ceilings and windows that look out over vast vistas of gardens and flowers and mountains that are mostly unreal. But he doesn’t have time to look around and admire those things right now, or the pale blue color of the walls, or the soft lighting that mimics moonlight. He’s too busy with Draco.

Draco is pale. Draco has scars. Draco has hair that tends to sprawl around him as he lies on the pillows, and lungs that pant as if he’s actually scared of what Harry is going to do to him, and a mouth that opens for Harry’s fingers and tongue and everything else that Harry asks of him, without even pausing.

Harry does notice the way Draco hushes and stares when he takes his own clothes off. He blinks, realizing suddenly that he has no idea of what Draco thinks of him. Is Harry too big, is he too ugly, is he just not what Draco expected?

But then Draco exhales with a sound like a sob and reaches for him, and Harry smiles. Whatever the pause was, he doesn’t think it was a problem.

They tumble around the bed, kissing so long that Harry thinks he could come from that alone. But then Draco turns over and makes these insistent little motions with his hips that bring Harry even closer to coming, and it is for the best if they don’t hesitate. Harry gathers up the lube Draco put on the bedroom table and dips his fingers in.

He rubs generous amounts over Draco’s arse, and into his arse, and Draco stills and then bucks like he’s got something caught in his throat. Harry rubs his stomach soothingly, and Draco turns his head and smiles at him and mouths, “Go on.”

Harry nods and goes back to probing gently into Draco. It’s worth it, the long, motionless minutes of doing that, to watch the look on Draco’s face slump into bliss, and the way he hides his face against his arms, and the quiet moans that break out of him as he snuggles down deeper into the sheets and spreads his legs wider.

Finally, Draco pushes so hard against Harry that his arse cramps Harry’s fingers, and Harry supposes that’s his signal to stop being so gentle and taking so long. He wraps his arms around Draco’s waist and slides forwards. His own cock has a little lube on it, but Harry couldn’t touch himself for long because he thought he’d come.

It seems to be enough, though, from the way Draco hisses when Harry enters him. Harry knows it isn’t a hiss of pain.

Then there’s a long, delirious time when Draco keeps turning his head to look over his shoulder at Harry and arching his neck to kiss him, and Harry keeps kissing back, and there’s the bed creaking around them—it’s a huge bed, Harry spares a moment to think, they must be moving hard to do that to it—and there’s the pillow slipping underneath Draco’s elbow that brings him down with a whumpf, and there’s Harry laughing so hard that he finds a new angle of pleasure, and there’s the heat in his belly and the adoration in Draco’s eyes and the emotion that closes Harry’s throat.

He can’t speak the words of love, so he tries to show them with his body. The fingers he traces slowly along Draco’s shoulders, in contrast to his frantically working hips. The way he bends down and bites Draco’s neck when he has to, when the moment of orgasm finally arrives. The way he holds Draco as Draco shudders beneath him and makes his own contribution to the mess all over the bed.

The way they lie there, tangled together, Draco with his head turned and his breathing gradually slowing down, and Harry combs his hair back off his forehead and kisses him again.

Draco smiles at him, sated and brilliant, and falls asleep at once. Harry curls up with him and spares a single, sleepy second to hope that all the potentially scandalized portraits are far away.

*

“This is the other thing I wanted to show you.”

“I am a thing, then.” 

Harry halts, blinking. Draco led Harry through the Manor without speaking that morning, and opened the door of this little room with such a flourish that Harry expected to see at least some Dark artifacts heaped to the ceiling. But instead, there’s only a portrait frame with Severus Snape sneering at him from inside it.

“I suppose the Ministry hasn’t agreed to hang the portrait in the Headmaster’s office in Hogwarts yet?” The last time Harry paid attention to that mess was in October. He also stopped reading the Daily Prophet about the same time. Andromeda, or, lately, Draco, will let him know if there’s a story he should see.

“No, they haven’t. But he did so much for our family, and at the request of our family…”

Draco trails off. Harry understands why he doesn’t want to talk about the Unbreakable Vow and all the rest of it, and anyway, Harry thinks he knows that story all the way through. He pats Draco on the shoulder and walks forwards to stare at Snape face-to-face.

The background of the painting is dim, but Harry thinks he can make out at least one bookshelf, and maybe a table with a cauldron on it. He wonders for a second if that keeps Snape busy. Maybe he spends a lot of time with other portraits.

“Hello, Professor Snape.”

“You invest that title with such scorn, Potter. You might as well not use it.”

“Headmaster Snape, then.”

Snape stares at him, and Harry realizes with a little jolt of joy that he seems to have been expecting Harry to react to him with vicious hatred. He doesn’t realize Harry has moved on and changed a lot. Either Draco hasn’t told him about becoming part of the renewed Black family—which Harry can see—or portraits just get stuck in the past and assume everyone else gets stuck there with them.

Harry manages a short nod and says, “I was wrong about you. Thank you for what you did during the war.”

He doesn’t say anything about forgiveness because Snape would throw it back in his face. He doesn’t mention his mum because this portrait wouldn’t remember giving him those memories, and he doesn’t want an argument. He gives the shortest statement possible and leaves Snape gaping at him.

“So you’ll get along with him all right?” Draco is glancing back and forth between the portrait and Harry nervously.

“I think so,” says Harry. “There’s nothing that says he has to spend time with me if he doesn’t want to. I don’t think he’s confined to one frame, right?”

Draco shakes his head at the same time as Snape blurts out, “I didn’t give you permission to feel comfortable with me, Potter!”

Harry grins at him. “All right.”

“You are not to forgive me, either! Stop that grinning!”

Even Draco can hardly hide his smile. Harry decides to gratify the portrait’s wish, though. He doesn’t want to irritate him. “Come on, Draco. Let’s go and let Headmaster Snape think about the whole thing.”

“Stop being gracious!” Snape bellows as they walk out of the room.

They get a few steps down the corridor—and thus eliminate any chance that the portrait can watch them, Harry assumes—before Draco reaches out and catches Harry’s shoulder, spinning him around. Harry blinks and grunts as his back hits the wall, and then Draco is hovering in front of him, looking at him blissfully.

“You fit in so well,” he whispers. “You’re so much of what I wanted.” He pauses, then blushes. “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too—”

Then Harry can’t answer because his mouth is occupied with Draco’s tongue, and Harry is busy wrapping his arms around Draco again and pulling him flush against him, and feeling Draco shiver.

There is sunlight coming through the windows, and a small breeze. Harry closes his eyes and rejoices in the kiss and the sensation of warmth around him, deserved and offered and won.

The End.