Actions

Work Header

If Wishes Were Children

Work Text:

A/N: I had never written an mpreg fic before, but when hd_inspired was having their first mpreg fest, I threw my hat into the ring with some trepidation. This was the result, written for the lovely sassy_cissa. Enjoy!

 

“If Wishes Were Children

It was a perfect day for a wedding.

The sky was blue, the fields radiating from the ramshackle dwelling that was the Weasley ancestral home were the new, fresh green of early spring, and there was a fragrant breeze that lifted the scent of the riotous banks of blooming flowers and spread it gently through the milling crowd. Laughter lifted on the same breeze: laughter and cheery greetings and the sounds of happy children. In fact, the scene was so utterly festive and perfectly blissful that it gave Narcissa Malfoy the beginnings of a rather nasty headache.

She stood on the rise looking down the dirt road at the monstrosity that Arthur Weasley called a house, clutching a rough wooden fencepost for support, her feet aching, and her body weary. Never had she experienced such an exhausting and lowering experience as she’d just endured to get to this ruddy, filthy little corner of Britain, and now, it seemed it had all been for naught.

For at the centre of the merry little throng before her, standing with his arm around what had to be the youngest Weasley (who else would have such dreadful hair?), dressed nattily in stylish formal dress robes and sporting a white flower in his lapel, was the man she’d sought. It didn’t take even her vast intellect to put the pieces together. He was wearing formal robes, the chit was in an appallingly plain but clearly significant white gown and holding a bouquet of daisies of all things, and they looked the picture of newly wedded bliss. And for a moment, Narcissa was nearly overcome with the desire to sink to her knees, right there in the dusty road, and howl with grief. He was married, and she was too late.

********

“Here you go, Harry,” Neville Longbottom said cheerily as he approached with two glasses of champagne in his hand. He held one out and Harry took it from him with a subdued smile.

“Thanks, Nev,” Harry Potter answered, the smile that curled his lips not quite reaching his eyes. The Man Who’d Vanquished Voldemort lifted the glass to his mouth and took a sip, his eyes moving warily over the crowd. They were holding back for the moment in deference to the occasion, but he knew it was only a matter of time before he’d find himself surrounded by women with their suggestive touches and sly smiles and men wanting to offer him a drink, all anxious to hear first hand about the heroics of the Battle of Hogwarts. He didn’t want to talk about it; the war had been over for years, and he never wanted to talk about it. He avoided crowds for just that reason, but of course he had not been able to avoid today. When he felt a hand settle gently on his lapel, he turned and looked down into a pair of kind cinnamon brown eyes.

“Are you all right?” Ginny asked softly, concern apparent on her pretty freckled face, and he felt a tendril of guilt sneak through him. She should not be worrying about him, not today of all days. He forced a smile and covered the hand on his chest with one of his, squeezing gently.

“I’m fine,” he said bluffly, but she narrowed her eyes. She was too smart by half, and he didn’t fool her a bit. “Really, Gin,” he said firmly. “I’m fine. And you shouldn’t be worrying about me today at any rate. Here.” He squeezed her hand one last time and stepped back, gesturing for Neville. “Get in here next to your wife, Nev. People are getting confused about just who the groom is.”

There was scatted good-natured laughter from those nearby.

When the Battle of Hogwarts had been relegated to the history books, and the dead had been buried and mourning had begun, Ginny had come to Harry, all tears and apologies to tell him that during his absence she’d fallen quite helplessly in love with Neville Longbottom. At first, Harry had been a bit hurt, but upon reflection he’d realized that he was not as hurt as he should have been, had he actually been in love with the pretty Ginevra. That gave him pause.

The Weasleys, of course, had been devastated. Molly had long fancied Harry as a son-in-law, and she’d been all but inconsolable. That was, until she really got to know gentle, stalwart Neville and had seen how he and Ginny complimented one another. Ron had been angry on Harry’s behalf, until his best mate had managed to convince him that it was all for the best. And Hermione had been determined to give Ginny a good talking to, until Harry had taken her aside and confessed something that he’d been trying to hide, even from himself.

Soon thereafter, when Harry had gathered his courage and embarked upon first an unlikely friendship, and then new relationship, all and sundry had realized that he probably wouldn’t have made a very good spouse for Ginny, given that he actually preferred the company of men. They were dismayed by his choice of partner, and had tried to talk him out of it, but the fact that he hadn’t been going to marry the youngest Weasley was no longer an issue for debate. And now, almost three years later, it was no longer even a subject for discussion. Ginny had married Neville, and Harry’s relationship had been over for months. Those closest to him knew that he still grieved over its failure, and missed his ex dreadfully, but found they couldn’t really comfort him. After all, they’d all tried to warn him…

“Harry.”

He turned when he heard a soft, melodious voice near his elbow, and looked down to find the gentle, slightly protruding blue eyes of Luna Lovegood studying him mildly. She looked slightly mad, as usual, in periwinkle blue robes dotted with large peonies, a single pink peony perched upon her cascading blonde curls as a hat, but Harry was genuinely fond of Luna, and his expression softened.

“Yes, Luna?” he asked.

She turned and gestured up a nearby hillock, and Harry followed the movement with his eyes. Standing at the very top of the small knoll was a woman in dusty travelling robes. “Isn’t that Narcissa Malfoy?”

Harry’s eyes widened a bit when he saw the distinctive white blonde hair. Only two people he knew of had hair that colour, and one of them was indeed Draco’s mother. The sight of her hovering in the middle of the road just up from the Burrow was so startling that Harry went very still, but moments later when she turned and started to walk away, the breeze lifting strands of that unmistakable hair, Harry thrust his glass into Luna’s hand and went after her.

********

“Mrs Malfoy!”

Narcissa heard the shout, heard the sound of feet rapidly approaching on the road behind her, and stopped in her retreat, a sigh falling from her lips. She couldn’t out run him, and as she was no longer allowed to Apparate… Turning slowly, she straightened her spine and lifted her head, her cool blue eyes surveying Harry Potter as he hurried towards her up the steep incline of the road. He really was quite handsome, she thought as she watched him approach. His inky black hair gleamed with vivid blue highlights in the sunlight and his square chin was set. His shoulders looked very broad in their covering of black wool. The robes parted down the front to reveal the taut waist and flat stomach neatly defined by his fitted waistcoat, and the long slender legs in the finely tailored black trousers.

“Mrs Malfoy,” he said upon reaching her, not even winded from his rapid trek up the hill. “What are you doing here?”

“Nice to see you, too, Mr Potter,” she said primly, her lovely mouth pursed tightly. She saw a rusty stain spread across his high cheekbones.

“I’m sorry,” he said quickly, green eyes wide behind the lenses of his glasses. Lovely green eyes, she thought absently, with thick black lashes. He really was nearly as beautiful as her Draco, even in that he was his polar opposite. “It’s just…” his brow furrowed. “What are you doing here?”

She studied the earnest young face for another moment, and then sighed, shaking her head. “It doesn’t matter,” she murmured, once again taking in the formal robes, the boutonnière. “Not any more.” She was absolutely horrified when she felt tears fill her eyes, and she quickly turned away. She was startled when a hand curved around her upper arm to prevent her leaving. She sniffed and pulled at his hand. “Unhand me, young man,” she said tightly.

“Not until you tell me why you’re here, and why you’re crying,” Potter said tightly. He’d dropped his voice and it sounded very deep and faintly commanding. She looked up into his face in surprise. “Is it Draco?”

Hearing her son’s name fall so casually from his full lips sent a surge of anger through her, and its affects were strengthening. She yanked her arm from his grip. “What do you care, Mr Potter? I should think my son might be lying bleeding in the middle of this road and you would step over him for all that it mattered to you.”

Harry recoiled as if she’d struck him, and she saw him pale. “That isn’t true,” he breathed, shaken. “I couldn’t… I never…” he paused as if to get his bearings, and she struck out at him while he was trying to regroup.

“Oh, please,” she spat, her eyes blazing. “Draco told me what happened, how you turned your back and walked away from him.” Her fury burned itself out just that fast, and was replaced by despair. “How could you?” she said brokenly. “I know my son can be… difficult. He can be arrogant and selfish…” She paused to draw a deep breath. “No one knows better than I how careless Draco can be with the feelings of others. He is, after all, his father’s son.” She looked so devastated in that moment that Harry could only stare. “But, how could you do that to him, knowing he had no help, no money, knowing that St. Mungo’s wouldn’t provide him with the potions or… or even treat him for that matter, because of the Mark…”

Harry held up his hand, his face a picture of confusion. “Mrs Malfoy,” he said staunchly. “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, but if there is something wrong with Draco, I’ll do whatever I can. Please, tell me what this is about…”

She stared into the guileless green eyes, saw the confusion and the lingering hurt and the very real concern, and felt like a child’s balloon slowly deflating. She leaned heavily against the fence, her eyes studying his pale face. “He didn’t tell you,” she breathed, her voice hoarse. “He lied to me… He didn’t tell you at all.”

Harry’s frustration sent some colour back into his cheeks. “He didn’t tell me… what, exactly?”

She stared at him for a long moment, and then glanced back towards the Burrow. People had noticed Harry’s absence, and she could see both the ginger-haired youngest Weasley boy and the Granger girl headed stalwartly up the road towards him. Interesting that his wife wasn’t with that group, she thought vaguely.

“It doesn’t matter, now,” Narcissa whispered. “It’s too late, anyway.”

Harry’s alarm showed on his handsome face. “Too late for what? Mrs Malfoy, please…”

“Harry, what’s going on?” Young Weasley called. “Need some help there, mate?”

Harry glanced over his broad shoulder in irritation. “No, it’s all right,” he called. The two people hiking up the road in their incongruous formal wear paused. “Go back. I’ll tell you about it later.”

“You’re sure?” the Granger girl called nervously, eyeing Narcissa with mistrust. She didn’t suppose she could blame her: one of the last times she’d seen the girl, she was being tortured in her drawing room by Narcissa’s sister.

“Hermione, I’m fine. Go on.” With one last lingering look at their friend, the two young people turned, their hesitation clear, and started back down towards the reception. The wedding reception. Narcissa straightened with a will; there was nothing more to be accomplished here.

“I really must be going,” she said with as much dignity as she could muster. “I’ve… a long way to go and I must be getting back.”

“Wait,” Potter said intently, green eyes pleading. “Please. If there’s something wrong with Draco, I need to know.”

She studied the guileless face for a long moment, saw nothing but true concern reflected in those vivid green eyes. Yes, she could certainly see what it was about this young man that had so completely captivated her son. “Mr Potter,” she asked cautiously. “Who ended your relationship with Draco?”

She saw the eyes cloud with anguish, and had her answer. “He did,” he answered softly, his voice tight, but she hadn’t needed to hear the words. She’d seen the answer on his expressive face.

“Did he tell you why?” she asked softly. She saw him swallow deeply.

“He said he was bored,” he answered starkly, and she could see that the words still had the power to hurt him. “He said that it had been fun, a lark, but that he couldn’t continue to try to educate me and that he was tired of my – Muggle upbringing.”

She sighed heavily. “Foolish boy,” she murmured, staring over Potter’s shoulder and shaking her head. “Foolish, foolish boy…”

“Listen,” Harry countered, his brow lowering and his expression darkening. “I know that there are – limitations in my background, and that sometimes I don’t know everything there is to know about being a wizard, but I hardly think that makes me foolish…”

“Not you, Potter,” she said wearily, sighing, one pale hand coming up to her forehead. “Good Lord, what a mess.”

“Mrs Malfoy, please,” Potter said, his voice dropping. “Please tell me what’s wrong.”

She lifted her cool blue eyes to his distressed face, and then slowly shook her fair head. “It’s too late,” she whispered. “Your wife would never permit… No, Potter. It’s too late.”

To her complete surprise, he looked baffled. “What wife?”

She stared at him, fully as confused as he was. She gestured to his robes. “Your wife, Potter. The one you married just earlier today.”

He shook his head quickly. “Mrs Malfoy,” he said, gesturing down the dirt road. “That isn’t my wedding. I was the best man.”

“But I… I saw the youngest Weasley, the girl. You had your arm around her…” Her words trailed off into silence.

“She’s like a sister to me,” he explained softly. “I was her husband Neville’s best man. She married…”

“The Longbottom boy,” she breathed. “Oh, my God…” She clutched at the fence post with both hands. “Then – you aren’t married.”

He shook his head slowly, as if he were beginning to question her sanity. For her part, she thought he had good cause. In that moment, she felt the conflicting emotions of anxiety and a tiny spark of flickering hope. “Mr Potter,” she said, her voice sounding tight with suppressed emotion. “I don’t suppose that you could – come somewhere with me?”

He frowned. “Does this have something to do with Draco?”

“Oh, yes,” she wheezed on a gust of air. “It has absolutely everything to do with Draco.”

He dampened his lips with the tip of his tongue, glancing back towards the party, and then turned back to her with a brisk nod. She nearly sagged with relief.

“Can you – perhaps Apparate us?” she requested with as much dignity as she could muster. “I am – unable to do so, and it would be far easier than repeating the journey that brought me here.”

He took in the dirty, dusty condition of her robes and her haggard face, but didn’t remark upon them. “Of course,” he said, extending his arm. She curled her pale hands about his sturdy elbow with relief. “Where are we going?”

“Just – take us to the gates of Malfoy Manor,” she answered. “I can take you the rest of the way from there.”

Harry nodded, stepped into a slight turn, and they disappeared with a soft ‘pop’.

*****

When they appeared moments later at the massive wrought iron gates that led to the huge Manor House in the distance, Harry had to pause for a moment to both gather his bearings and settle his stomach. Even now, years after the journeys he’d taken as a side along passenger with Dumbledore, Apparition was his least favourite form of travel. He took several deep breaths, fighting the inevitable nausea that always resulted. Once he felt the dizziness fade, he reached forward to open the gate for Mrs Malfoy, but to his confusion, she took hold of his robe at the elbow and pulled him away from the gates and along the edge of the massive stone wall that surrounded the Manor’s grounds. Harry frowned slightly, but followed without comment.

He could not say why he had come with her so willingly. The argument that had ended his and Draco’s relationship had been acrimonious and hurtful. The things that had been said to Harry hadn’t been new: he was used to being called useless, and ignorant. But to have someone you thought yourself in love with spout the words that his Uncle Vernon had turned into a regular Sunday afternoon litany had damaged something profoundly in Harry’s soul. From the moment that Draco had walked away from him seven months before, he’d vacillated between cursing his name and grieving his memory.

He’d replayed the last two weeks of their relationship endlessly in his mind, thinking surely he must have missed something, some clue as to what had turned the love that he knew Draco had felt for him to ash, but he couldn’t find a single thing. They’d been happy, he’d thought. They had taken it slow, becoming friends first, not becoming lovers for nearly a year after the end of the war. It had been like something out of someone else’s life, the time that they had spent together. They both had demons, gifts of their pasts. Draco covered the scars left by an abusive childhood in sarcasm and occasional cruelty, and Harry was insecure and needy by turns, but it had worked. At least, Harry had thought that it had.

And then had come the evening when he’d gone to fetch Draco from his flat in Diagon Alley to take him out to dinner. He was ready to defy the opinion of his friends and suggest they make their affair more permanent. They had been discussing the possibility of moving in together and Harry had a key made to the front door at Grimmauld Place for him. He’d rung the bell with a long stemmed white rose and the gift wrapped key to mark their one year anniversary in his hands. And Draco had not been at home.

He’d not been at home for nearly the next week, and Harry had begun to panic when the man he’d come to think of as his lover had finally opened his front door. But instead of explanations for his absence, Draco had merely coldly told him that he’d moved on to someone else, that he was bored with Harry’s ‘ignorance and complete lack of class’, and that he had found someone more to his liking: someone ‘polished and sophisticated and more on his own level’. Harry had left without even putting up a fight, blinded by tears and wounded in a way only Draco was capable of delivering. He’d not seen him since. But he’d been unable to get past him, either.

His friends had tried to cheer him up, even going so far as to arrange dates for him, but Harry had refused to go out with anyone. He had accepted an offer to play Seeker for the Chudley Cannons and had been mostly on the road playing Quidditch for the past six months. He’d purposefully stayed away from London and its environs, refused all invitations to come home and wouldn’t even have returned this weekend, but he couldn’t refuse to attend Ginny and Neville’s wedding, not when he’d agreed to be best man nearly a year before. He’d not even heard Draco’s name mentioned in all of that time, and he certainly had not sought out information. He was still aching from the barbs Draco had pinned him with, knowing just what to say that would hurt Harry the most.

So what, he thought to himself as he followed Narcissa Malfoy down the dirt road that circumvented Malfoy Manor’s grounds, was he doing here now? Curiosity, perhaps? Or just masochism? He was beginning to seriously doubt the impulse that had brought him with Draco’s mother when she paused by a wooden gate, nearly hidden by ivy, in the rock wall and, turning a rusting metal handle, put her shoulder against it and shoved. It was heavy, and she was struggling when Harry pressed his hand flat against the rough surface and helped her push it open. He followed her through the resulting opening into an overgrown, woody thicket, at the centre of which was a tiny, rundown cottage. He frowned when she headed toward it.

He pushed aside some low hanging branches to follow her, mystified when she stepped up onto the crumbling step. “Mrs Malfoy,” he said in confusion, “why aren’t you in the main house?”

She paused with her hand on the tarnished doorknob and looked back at him, her lips tight. “Because, Mr Potter,” she said with as much dignity as she could muster, “the new owner of the Manor is in residence there, and he’d rather we weren’t.”

Harry’s brow furrowed. “I don’t understand,” he said faintly. She studied him for a long moment as if searching for signs of his veracity.

“You really don’t, do you?” she mused, and then sighed. “Mr Potter, while you’ve been off becoming the darling of thousands of rabid Quidditch fans, my son and I have been stripped of our home, our fortune, and our Magic for ‘crimes against the Ministry’. We live here,” she gestured to the derelict little cottage, “because my husband’s cousin did not wish it to be known that he turned us out into the streets when he took possession of the Manor.”

Harry blinked, astounded. “‘Crimes against the Ministry’,” Harry parroted. “What in hell does that mean?”

A bitter smile curled the corner of her lips. “Apparently, the only thing that had kept the more zealous of the Wizengamot’s prosecutors from our door for the two years after the war ended had been fear of your displeasure. Once your relationship with my son was over…” she let her words trail off into silence, her cool blue eyes on his face.

“I don’t mean to appear dim,” he said, clearly confused, “but I still don’t understand.”

“We were tried and found guilty of war crimes, Mr Potter,” she said wearily. “Our home and my husband’s fortune were seized, our wands confiscated and destroyed, and these ¬--” she lifted the hem of her robes, revealing a slender ankle with an odd, heavy looking piece of metal encircling it “-- were placed on us. They track our every movement. If we are very, very good and don’t irritate anyone for the next ten years, they will be removed. Even then, we will be little better than Squibs, living off of the paltry stipend we are allowed by the Ministry of Magic.”

Harry felt his temper beginning to rise. “That makes no sense,” he said darkly. “You saved my life. People knew that.”

She shook her fair head tiredly. “There were no witnesses on our behalf. No one, apparently, wanted to be seen as advocates for people who had allowed the Dark Lord to take up residence in their home.”

“Like you had a choice,” Harry said darkly. Her answering smile was wan.

“It no longer matters,” she murmured, turning back to the door.

“Why isn’t Draco living in his flat?” he asked the back of her head. Her shoulders stiffened. “Did they take that, too?”

She shook her head without turning. “My son is with me because…” she paused, turned slightly. “He is with me because he doesn’t want anyone to see him.”

Fear washed over Harry’s skin like ice water, raising gooseflesh along his arms and his spine. “Why?” he wheezed. “What’s wrong with him?”

She looked about to speak, then firmed her lips and opened the cottage door. When she stepped through into the dim interior, Harry had little choice but to follow her.

The cottage consisted of one large room with a cast iron cooker and a battered sink in one corner, a mismatched set of scarred dining room furniture near it, and a soot stained rock fireplace wherein an anemic fire burned. Even so, the room felt chilled, and was dim. The scarred wooden floor was bare of rugs and the dingy windows were empty of curtains. One lamp burned low on a table near a sofa that faced the fireplace, there was a threadbare arm chair sitting next to the hearth, and on a far wall he could see an open doorway that led to a bedroom beyond. It appeared that all that was in it was a sagging mattress on a rusted brass bed frame. The whole appeared spartan and uncomfortable, and a sick sinking feeling squirmed through Harry’s stomach. Draco and his mother lived here? How had this happened? And why in hell hadn’t anyone told him?

Narcissa took off her travelling cloak and hung it on a nail near the door and moved past him, and Harry could see that her robes, which had once been very fine, were faded and slightly worn. He watched her move around the sofa, her eyes going to the front of the piece of furniture, the back of which blocked the seat from Harry’s view. He felt a jolt of alarm when she knelt next to the sofa on the floor and leaned forward.

“Draco?” she whispered, and Harry’s heart slammed into his throat. Almost as if sleepwalking, he followed the path she had walked and came around the edge of the large piece of furniture.

She was gently touching a head of nearly white hair. He watched as her slender fingers carded gently through the baby fine strands, remembered doing just that himself, and it felt as if a fist were tightening around his heart. But there was something not quite right. Draco’s hair had always gleamed as if sunlight was captured in the strands, but this hair was limp, and dull. Stepping closer to her back, he studied the figure lying on the couch with growing alarm.

Draco was covered with a heavy blanket to his chin, and he was lying on his side facing the fireplace, one painfully thin, colourless hand under his pale cheek. Draco had always been fair and thin but now he looked ashen and wasted. There were dark circles bruising the skin beneath his eyes, and he looked gaunt and careworn, and ill: very ill. His skin was covered with a fine sheen of perspiration, and he looked to be breathing shallowly. And something inside of Harry’s chest twisted hard. Good God, was he dying?

“Draco, darling,” Narcissa repeated, still stroking his hair. “Wake up, love. You’ve a visitor.”

Draco made a noise in his throat, a fussy childlike sound, and tried to pull his head away from his mother’s hand.

“Now, now,” Narcissa soothed. “Don’t do that. Come, darling, wake up.”

Harry watched movement behind the paper thin eyelids, saw the pale lashes flutter, and then saw them lift over eyes the colour of a moonlit stream. Draco blinked slowly as he focused on his mother’s face. She cupped his cheek in her hand.

“There you are,” she said warmly, and Harry could tell that she was striving to speak lightly. “Have you been asleep the entire time I was gone?” Draco closed his eyes for another moment, then sighed and nodded before opening them again. “Are you feeling all right?”

“Just ducky,” he answered sardonically, dampening his pale pink lips with his tongue. Something about that sarcastic tone reassured Harry: how ill could he be if he was still being snotty?

Narcissa straightened the blanket near his shoulder, and then smoothed her hand down the arm hidden under the comforter.

“Stop fussing, Mother,” he said a bit tightly, frowning, shifting his arm away from the press of her hand. “What was it you were saying about…?”

Harry moved then, and the floorboard beneath his feet creaked. Draco’s eyes lifted, and widened, and what colour there was in his face simply leeched away. He stared, stricken, into Harry’s eyes.

“Oh, you did not,” Draco’s eyes shot back to his mother’s face, wide and almost panicked. “You did not do this.”

“Sweetheart, he can help,” she said in a placating tone, her hand reaching out towards him. He shifted away, forcing himself back into the sagging couch cushions.

“How, Mother?” he asked, his voice rough, filled with something Harry couldn’t name. “It’s too late. You know it’s too late.”

“Darling, we don’t know that,” his mother said quickly. “He can get you in to see someone…”

“No!” Draco cried, lashing out with his arm and pushing her hand away. “How could you do this?” He was nearly weeping, and Harry felt his heart turn over hard. “You know why it had to be this way; you know…”

“Draco, I simply cannot sit by and just watch this and wait for it to happen,” she said, her own voice weighty with anguish. “I will not do nothing!”

“Will someone please,” Harry said, raising his voice to be heard over the other two and hearing it echo back in the nearly empty room, “tell me just what is going on?”

Silence followed his question, thick and waiting like a living thing as Draco Malfoy and his mother stared at one another. “Tell him,” Narcissa finally said sternly, and it was not a request. “You lied to me when you told me that he knew, that he’d made a choice. You made the choice for him, and you didn’t have that right.” Draco’s eyes brimmed with tears, and his mother’s voice softened. “Sweetheart, the man has a right to know. Tell him.”

Gray eyes stared into soft blue, and a lone tear slipped down a pale cheek. “I may never forgive you for this,” Draco whispered hoarsely. Narcissa’s shoulders slumped a little.

“I know,” she breathed. “It’s a chance I’m willing to take.”

There was another long moment while they communicated with just their eyes, then Draco sighed heavily in a combination of irritation and resignation and began to push himself into a sitting position. When Narcissa reached forward to help, he paused long enough to send her a black look and she held up her hands and sat back on her heels. After what was clearly a struggle, Draco swung his legs over the side of the ancient sofa and pulled the thick comforter from around his body. His ankles looked almost delicate, he was so thin, and the tracking anklet was loose just above his bare foot. He was wearing grey pyjamas, and as he straightened and leaned against the back of the sofa with a weary sigh, Harry frowned. His wrists and ankles looked so thin, and his face was all planes and angles, but he seemed to have put on a lot of weight right around his middle. The buttons on the pyjamas were straining the holes just over his abdomen. In fact, Harry thought, as those pale, slender hands smoothed the fabric from his chest down, he would swear that he almost looked…

“What the hell?” Harry breathed, taking a half step back. Draco pushed at his long fringe with one unsteady hand, and then looked from beneath it into Harry’s startled face.

“Congratulations, Potter,” Draco said dryly, brushing the dampness from his cheeks with fingers that weren’t quite steady, the corner of his lips twisting in a shadow of his trademark smirk. “It’s not everyone who can say they got a Malfoy up the duff.”

There was an odd rushing sound in Harry’s ears and he felt all of the blood drain from his face as he stared at what was incontrovertibly true. Draco Malfoy, the Prince of Slytherin, only surviving heir of the House of Malfoy, was unmistakably pregnant. Very, very pregnant, and Harry could only gape.

“I don’t…” Harry began as he stared at Draco’s misshapen form. “I mean….” He lifted his hand and covered his mouth, his eyes unnaturally wide. They lifted to Draco’s face, only to find the grey returning his stare. “How?” he wheezed.

Draco’s smirk deepened. “You really want me to answer that in front of my mother?” he said wryly, one brow lifting.

“I… don’t understand,” Harry said slowly, shaking his head from side to side.

“Clearly,” Draco drawled, grimacing. “And do sit down before you fall down, will you please?”

Draco gestured towards the chair near the hearth, and Harry took two stumbling steps before collapsing onto the edge of it. The whole time, his eyes never left Draco’s face. They stared at one another for a long time, during which Narcissa pushed herself from the floor and crossed to stand behind the sofa near her son’s shoulder. Harry took a deep breath, his hands clenched on the arms of his chair.

“I didn’t even know something like this was possible,” he said faintly, his eyes dropping once again to Draco’s stomach.

“Well, Potter, that makes two of us,” the blond said, leaning his head back as if it were too heavy for him to hold up any longer and closing his eyes. Narcissa put her hand on his thin shoulder and squeezed.

“Mr Potter, if I may?” she asked tentatively. He tore his eyes from Draco’s belly to find her staring at him in apprehension.

“Yes, of course,” he said, his voice a soft rasp.

She twisted her hands in front of her nervously. “I’m afraid this whole thing may be my husband’s doing.”

Harry’s brow furrowed in a deep frown. Lucius Malfoy had died in Azkaban over a year before: he hadn’t seen Draco once he’d been taken into custody following the Battle of Hogwarts. “How would he have managed that?” Harry asked darkly.

“Well, perhaps not Lucius specifically, but his line.”

Harry stared at her in complete incomprehension, and she sighed, twisting her wedding ring round and round her slender finger. “You see, the Malfoys have never been particularly… adept at procreation…”

Harry frowned. “What, exactly, does that mean?”

Draco let go one tired bark of sardonic laughter. “It means,” he said dryly, lifting his head, “that the men of my line tend to shoot blanks.” His lips curled. “Something, apparently, the Potters don’t have a problem with.” Harry felt his cheeks fill with heat. “There’s also the little matter of most of the male Malfoys preferring… other men.”

Harry’s widened eyes shot to Narcissa, and saw that a delicate pink stain had spread across her cheekbones. “It’s true,” she said so softly that Harry had to strain to hear. “Most of the men of the Malfoy line have been, well…” she gestured helplessly.

“Homosexual,” Draco provided in irritation. “Poufs, Shirt lifters, tossers, and queers. He knows the words, Mother. He is one.”

“Draco,” Narcissa scolded when she saw the flush in Harry’s cheeks darken. “Please don’t antagonize the man. He was good enough to come with me.”

“Re-thinking that decision yet, Potter?” Draco shot at him.

Harry didn’t respond, but that was the understatement of the year. He wasn’t able to think at all, and was just this side of complete panic. He still couldn’t seem to wrap his head around the reality before him. Draco was pregnant, and he was going to be… no, no, not ready for that thought yet: even getting near it made him feel as if he couldn’t breathe properly.

“As I was saying,” Narcissa went on archly, “when it became obvious that if something wasn’t done to secure the Malfoy line that it would eventually become extinct, one of Lucius’ ancestors placed an enchantment on all future generations of Malfoy men, guaranteeing that there would be at least one male heir per generation, even if the carrying parent was… a man.”

Harry held up his hand. “Wait,” he said tightly. “One of the Malfoy ancestors placed a curse on his descendents?”

“Not a curse, exactly.” Draco laughed dryly when his mother said that.

She spoke over him. “An – assurance that the line would continue.”

“Feels like a curse from in here,” Draco said darkly, rubbing the side of his distended belly, and for some reason, the comment hurt Harry.

“If this is true,” Harry said, pulling his eyes from the place where Draco’s hand stroked his swollen stomach, “why didn’t Draco know about it?”

Narcissa sent him a wry look. “Well, Mr Potter, for much of Draco’s formative life, we were embroiled in a war. And frankly, his father and I didn’t know that Draco preferred men until… well, fairly recently. He did an extremely good job of covering that up.” She shot her son a dark look.

“But you knew about us,” Harry said, his eyes on her, his voice sharp. “You knew about us the entire time. Didn’t you think that this was something we might need to know about?”

“It never occurred to my mother that I was the ‘bottom’, Potter.” Draco said with a world weary laugh. “Shows you what she knows.”

“That wasn’t it, Draco, and you know it,” his mother retorted sharply. Draco fell into silence with an expressive roll of his eyes. “There was supposed to be a sort of – ‘safeguard’ within the spell that was designed to prevent accidental pregnancy, but clearly, in this case, it failed.”

“What sort of safeguard?” Harry asked, studying the mother and son who looked so much alike.

“According to family lore,” Narcissa said carefully, “this enchantment is only supposed to be activated when one of the partners involved in…”_-- she swallowed delicately -- “the act… actively wishes for it to result in the production of a child.”

“What?” Harry wheezed.

“Oh, it’s not that complicated, Potter,” Draco spat. “According to ‘legend’,” he went on with a healthy dose of sarcasm, pointing towards his belly, “this is only supposed to happen if one of the people fucking decides they want a brat. As I find it difficult to believe that you were longing for an offspring while you had your cock up my arse, I’d say that something went sideways.”

“Draco, there is no need to be unnecessarily coarse,” Narcissa scolded.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, mother,” Draco began, a hint of colour spreading across his cheekbones. “There’s no need to be unnecessarily squeamish, either. Potter knows who the sexually dominant partner was in our relationship. He was there, remember? And I will not…”

But whatever he was or wasn’t was never revealed because he suddenly stiffened, his eyes going very wide and his hands curling over his belly in clear distress. His fingers clutched the grey silk of his pyjamas, and he gasped aloud.

“Draco?” Narcissa leaned over the back of the sofa, her hand on his shoulder. “Draco, what is it?”

Draco just shook his head, his long fringe falling over his eyes, his mouth open in obvious pain, and yet no further sound emerged from him. He began to tremble visibly, clearly suffering, and Harry stood slowly.

“What is it?” he asked, his eyes on Draco. “What’s the matter with him?”

“Draco,” his mother said a bit more insistently. “Draco, please, love. Tell us what’s wrong?”

But again, Draco just shook his head, his hair swinging before eyes that were now clenched shut. He bit down on his full lower lip and slowly lay down on his side, his legs curling up protectively over his belly. Harry crossed to him then and knelt by the sofa, reaching out and curling his hand around one of Draco’s slender wrists.

“Draco,” he said softly, his face near the blond’s. “Draco, tell me what’s wrong.” He reached up with his other hand and, unable to help himself, smoothed Draco’s fringe back from his eyes. They opened slowly, and found Harry’s just inches away, studying him with concern. “Tell me,” Harry repeated. “Please.”

Draco dampened his lips with his tongue. “Hurts,” he gasped.

“What hurts?”

He slipped his wrist from Harry’s, then clasped his hand and brought it down to the distended belly and pressed it there. Harry stiffened for a moment in alarm at the gesture, but realized almost immediately why Draco had done it and his anxiety at touching it was forgotten. The stomach below the silk pyjamas was as hard as a rock. His eyes shot up to Narcissa’s.

“Should this be hard?” he asked, and her brow furrowed. She leaned over the back of the sofa and laid her palm next to Harry’s. After a moment, she looked into her son’s distressed eyes.

“How long, Draco?” she asked softly. It was clear that she was trying to sound calm, but Harry saw the fear in her wide eyes.

Draco swallowed heavily. “Since – this morning…” he answered breathlessly. “But this – is the worst.”

“How often?”

He closed his eyes, his back arching a bit, forcing his stomach forward into both of their hands. Harry gasped aloud when he felt something roll beneath his palm.

“What was that?” he asked, his own eyes wide. Draco opened his eyes and there was something in them Harry hadn’t seen before: a sort of sad resignation that it hurt to look at.

“Well, if legend… proves to be true,” he answered, panting, his voice thin. “That’s your son.”

Harry went very still, his hand still on Draco’s belly when he felt the movement again, a slow rolling press from left to right, and he stared at the swollen shape of the man who had been his lover for a year and felt as if he might burst into tears. His son? Oh, God…

“Draco,” Narcissa said again, more stridently. “How often?”

Draco looked up at his mother wearily. “Does it matter?”

“Of course, it matters!” she cried. “Tell me!”

Abruptly the stiffness left his body and he sagged into the couch beneath him, taking in a deep breath and then slowly releasing it. “I don’t know,” he finally. “Every ten… maybe fifteen minutes.” He closed his eyes again on another deep breath, but didn’t push Harry’s hand away from his stomach, and Harry was pathetically grateful for that small favour. There were times when he’d thought he’d never be able to touch Draco again.

“Oh, Draco,” his mother was saying, leaning over the back of the couch, her hand going to his face. “Why didn’t you tell me before I left you?”

Draco’s eyes closed on a tired sigh. “What’s the point?”

“What does that mean?” Harry stirred himself to ask. “That he has pain like that every few minutes?”

Narcissa looked at him sternly. “He’s nine months pregnant, Mr Potter. He’s at full term. Even you can figure out what that means.”

Harry blinked rapidly. “He’s in labour?” he gasped. “But, shouldn’t we be – taking him to St. Mungo’s?”

Narcissa gave him a long suffering look. “Weren’t you listening to me earlier? They won’t treat him. They won’t even see him.”

Harry rose then, and looked down at Draco’s diminutive mother. “What do mean, they won’t treat him?”

“They won’t treat anyone with the Dark Mark,” she said, lifting her chin proudly, but her lips were trembling. “It’s a new law; we’re not to receive medical treatment of any kind.”

Harry looked down into Draco’s waxen face, then back to his mother. “That’s unconscionable,” he said tightly. “Who came up with that?”

“The Wizengamot,” Narcissa sighed, leaning against the back of the sofa. “The same people who took our home and our fortune and reduced us to this.” She gestured around the dingy little room. “While you and Draco were together, they didn’t dare touch us, but now…” She shrugged. “They won’t sentence us to death, but they won’t prevent it, either.”

“Death?” Harry frowned, the colour leaching from his face. “What do you mean?”

Narcissa seemed to sag before his eyes. “Mr Potter, male pregnancy is – not unheard of in our world, but it’s incredibly rare. There are – potions, treatments, things that should have been being done for months to make the birth of this child possible, but…”

“He hasn’t seen anyone?” Harry said faintly. Narcissa looked sadly into his eyes for a long moment, and then slowly shook her head.

“No one would treat him. I tried…”

“Did you tell them whose baby that is?”

“No.”

She hadn’t answered, but Draco had. When Harry looked down, he found the wide grey eyes on his.

“No, because I wouldn’t let her.”

“For God’s sake, Draco,” Harry said tightly. “What’s the point of having the bloody fame if it can’t be used when it’s important?”

Draco just shook his head. “It’s not my fame to use, Potter,” he said softly. Harry stared at him for a long moment in understanding mingled with exasperation, then turned back to Narcissa.

“What happens to him if he doesn’t get some help?”

Narcissa’s blue eyes filled with tears. “There’s no way he can deliver that baby,” she said tightly. “He’ll die. They’ll both die.”

Harry’s eyes widened and his nostrils flared, and he looked between the mother and son, his body rigid. “Bullshit,” he said finally.

He bent then and in a surprising show of effortless strength, slipped his arms beneath Draco’s slender form and lifted him against his chest. “Get a blanket and cover him,” he said harshly to Narcissa.

“Potter,” Draco said weakly, “what are you doing?”

“Taking you to get help,” Harry answered tautly as Narcissa hurried and fetched a blanket, then came back and tucked it around him.

“You can’t,” Draco argued, beginning to struggle weakly. Harry merely tightened his hold.

“The hell I can’t,” he retorted, then looked into Narcissa’s face, which for the first time since he’d met her earlier on the road showed signs of hope. “Get my wand from my sleeve, please.”

“Potter,” Draco protested, still wiggling. “You can’t. They’ll know!”

Harry, who had been turning his arm so that Narcissa could reach his wand, turned his head and looked down into Draco’s face. “What?”

“They’ll know! If you carry me in to St. Mungo’s like this, they’ll know!”

“Who will know what? You aren’t making any sense!”

“Everyone,” Draco answered, his eyes wide and fearful. “Everyone, Harry. If you carry me in there, they’ll all know that it’s yours!”

Harry frowned, shaking his head slightly. “What bloody difference does that make?”

“Harry,” Draco gripped the front of his robe. “If you take me to St. Mungo’s and demand that they treat me, everyone is going to know that this baby is yours. Think about what that means, for just a minute. Everyone will know that you knocked up a man, a former Death Eater, a fucking Malfoy, for God’s sake. You can’t want that. It will destroy you!”

His voice fell silent, leaving a ringing echo in the small, nearly empty room. Harry just stared into his anguished face, his own pale.

“Oh, Draco,” Narcissa sighed, her hand stroking over his shoulder. Harry swallowed heavily.

“You knew,” he breathed. “You knew. That’s why you told me to go, isn’t it? Why you said it was over. You knew.” Draco didn’t even pretend not to know what Harry was talking about, just returned his level look with one of his own. Harry shook his head slowly. “You idiot,” he breathed. “The only thing that could possibly destroy me was if anything happened to you. I don’t give a shit about the rest; I never have.”

“You should,” Draco said faintly. “You shouldn’t squander it…”

“Don’t you dare say that to me,” Harry interrupted him tightly. “Don’t you dare. You are more important to me…” Harry’s words choked off in a throat that felt too tight, and his jaw began to tremble, and Draco, seeing his distress, made a sound in his throat and pressed his face against Harry’s neck. “Don’t you ever say that to me again,” Harry finally managed, his hands tightening around Draco’s slender body.

“I’m sorry,” he breathed, his hand clutching Harry’s lapel. “I just thought….”

“Shut up,” Harry said roughly, blinking quickly. He held his hand out for his wand, which was no small feat while keeping his arm beneath Draco’s knees. When it was in his hand, he pointed to the side and firmly said “Expecto Patronum!” White vapor shot from the tip and coalesced into the shape of an elegant white stag, which landed gracefully before him, wise eyes on his face. “Go and tell Kingsley Shacklebolt to meet me in the emergency room at St. Mungo’s just as quickly as he can get there. And tell him to bring at least two Aurors with him.” The stately animal nodded once in comprehension, then turned and disappeared through the wall. Still holding his wand in his hand, he looked into Narcissa’s startled face. “Take my arm,” he ordered flatly in a no-nonsense tone, and she clutched it tightly in her hand. He spoke softly directly into Draco’s ear. “Hold on.” He felt Draco’s hands tighten on his robes, and he took a step forward into space.

*******

Harry sat in one of the uncomfortable chairs in St. Mungo’s waiting room, leaning forward, his hands clenched between his wide spread knees. He was staring at the floor, his right knee bouncing nervously.

When they’d arrived at St. Mungo’s, it had been exactly as Narcissa and Draco had feared. The Healer on duty had adhered rigorously to the new party line; no former Death Eaters were entitled to medical treatment, and that the still visible Dark Mark on Draco’s left forearm marked him clearly as a former Death Eater.

Holding Draco trembling in his arms as he fought another contraction, Harry had not been in the mood to negotiate. He’d pointed his wand directly between the frightened women’s faded blue eyes and told her to get her superior, immediately. When an older gentleman had arrived and begun to spout the same nonsense, Harry had quite simply lost his temper.

“And what about the child he carries?” he’d shouted, not caring one whit who heard him. “Does it receive a death sentence as well?”

“I’m sorry, Mr Potter,” the man had said, and he actually had looked regretful. “It will not be the first innocent that has suffered as a result of that Mark.”

Harry had stared at him, and the golden baubles in the four corners of the ceiling had exploded spontaneously with a resounding crash, sending burning candles flying around the room. As people screamed and ducked for cover, Harry had stood in the middle of the madness like the wrath of God, his legs planted, his brows lowered over eyes that were shooting green fire, and he’d met the Healer’s frightened gaze.

“Do not,” he’d said, his voice a deadly growl, “talk to me about the innocents who have suffered as a result of the Dark Mark. This man is my lover, and you will help him. Now.” Harry had paused, one brow arching, completely ignoring the shocked gasps that had sounded at his announcement. “That is,” he said, his voice a low hiss, “unless you wish to be responsible for the death of my child.”

The arrival at that moment of Kingsley Shacklebolt and two Aurors might have sealed the deal, but the Healer was already nodding as the sound of their Apparition faded.

They had taken Draco then. He had passed out from the pain moments before, and as Harry laid him on a floating stretcher and the Healer’s assistant had directed it through the doors with her wand, he’d begun to follow.

The Healer in Charge had stood in front of him, blocking his way, and clearly frightened to be doing so. “I’m sorry, Mr Potter,” he’d said nervously but held his ground. “This will be a delicate procedure, and your presence will merely distract me. You’re going to have to wait here.”

Narcissa had clutched his sleeve. “Please,” she’d pleaded with him when a muscle in Harry’s jaw flexed dangerously. “Harry, please.” It was her use of his given name that had finally gotten through to him, and he’d stepped aside. As the man had started to pass him, Harry had grabbed his arm none too gently.

“Save them. Both of them,” he said flatly, his nostrils flaring. He paused. “Please.” The man had met and held his gaze for a long moment, saw the fear in the green eyes, and nodded shortly before following the stretcher.

And now, four hours later, Harry sat on the unforgiving wooden chair, his eyes on the floor but his mind a million miles away. Kingsley had been at Ginny’s reception when his Patronus had found him, and so many of the guests had recognized it. Ron and Hermione had been the first to arrive at St. Mungo’s, followed by Arthur and Molly. He’d explained what had happened to them in a few short, clipped sentences, and while they all appeared startled to find out the reason for Harry’s presence at St. Mungo’s, it was a testament to their fondness for him that they’d all merely stated their concern and support. Molly and Arthur had lingered for a few minutes before returning to the Burrow, but Ron and Hermione sat on either side of him still. Narcissa had taken a chair across the room, her eyes on the double doors, her hands twisted nervously in her robes. Harry looked over at her, saw her so very alone, and turned to Hermione.

“Hermione,” he said softly, and she turned and looked at him, her brown eyes wide in her heart-shaped face. “I know you have no reason to feel kindly disposed towards her, but could you maybe see if Draco’s mother needs anything?” Hermione glanced at Narcissa, then back at Harry and nodded.

“Of course, Harry.” She touched his arm fleetingly, then stood and crossed the room, still lovely in her lilac bridesmaids dress. She paused a bit hesitantly before the blonde woman and spoke softly to her, and when Narcissa shook her head slightly, Hermione indicated the chair beside her, asking if she’d like some company. Narcissa stared at the young woman for a moment, then nodded, clearly grateful not to be holding her vigil alone.

Ron leaned forward and placed his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “It’ll be all right, mate,” he said softly. “You’ll see.”

Harry sighed and dropped his face into his hands. “This is my fault, Ron,” he said softly, verbalizing what had been eating into his psyche like acid for the last four hours. Ron squeezed his shoulder.

“I’m sure you weren’t in it alone,” Ron said bracingly.

“You don’t understand,” Harry sighed, and he knew that Ron didn’t. It probably sounded like something any expectant father would say if there were problems with the delivery; “It’s my fault.” But in Harry’s case, he knew that it was nothing less than the unvarnished truth.

He’d known it from the moment that Mrs Malfoy had spoken of the charm’s so called ’safeguard’. Her words echoed through his mind over and over again…

“…this enchantment is only supposed to be activated when one of the partners involved in the act actively wishes for it to result in the production of a child.” He could hear the words as if she were repeating them aloud. And when he told Ron that it was his fault, he meant it quite literally. He could tell them the time and the place of the conception of the child that Draco was even then struggling to deliver, because he’d wished it into being.

They’d been in Venice. The war had been over for two years, and the trip was a surprise that Harry had purchased for the two of them. They’d been together since the previous autumn, much to the consternation of many, and Harry had desperately wanted a chance to have Draco all to himself, away from the prying eyes that followed his every movement. And so, they’d gone to Venice, and stayed in an ancient Palazzo that had been turned into a Muggle hotel along one of the main waterways. For two weeks they had merely been a young couple in love. They received no more attention than any young gay couple might, and were enjoying the anonymity the Muggle tourist crowd provided. On the last night of their stay in the ancient city, Harry had bribed their gondolier to steer them into a secluded slip between two ancient homes and disappear, and then he’d eased Draco back onto a soft blanket in the bottom of the ornate boat.

They’d kissed and caressed for a long leisurely time as clothes were removed and fireworks went off overhead, painting the scene in blue, then green, then red, then gold. Draco’s smooth, pale skin had reflected each of the exploding colours, and as Harry had deftly pressed two fingers gently into the clinging heat that was Draco’s body, the blond hair had been alight with the colors of the fiery explosions but the passion in his wide grey eyes had been a reflection of nothing but his love for Harry. As Harry had raised his body above that smooth, pale perfection, and pressed into the hot, clutching grasp that squeezed around him like a velvet vice, he’d felt as if he’d come home for the first time in his life. He began to move slowly, surely, deep rolling thrusts of his hard hips that rocked the narrow boat, and he’d heard Draco’s breathy moan against his ear, felt his fingers gripping the hard muscles along his spine.

“I love you,” Draco had breathed.

“I love you, too,” he’d answered, his heart swelling.

He remembered it vividly; the memory had haunted his dreams for months. In that moment, as he’d sped up his thrusts in response to Draco’s breathy pleas, and he’d felt his release streaking through him, the lonely orphan in Harry had wished fiercely that there was a way to have children with the beautiful creature in his arms, that they could have something tangible of the magic they’d created between them. And as Draco had convulsed beneath him and Harry had felt the hot proof of his completion between their sweat slicked stomachs, and he’d lost himself in Draco’s body, he’d felt a vague sort of melancholy that it could never be.

He’d had no earthly idea that he was wrong.

So now he sat, his face in his hands and his fingers in his hair, terrified because of the results of a wish he’d not known he was making. If something happened to either of them, he knew he’d never forgive himself.

Ron was rubbing his shoulder and trying to think of something that might be comforting when the doors opened nearly silently.

“Mr Potter?”

Harry’s head shot up and he stared at the woman Healer they’d encountered when they’d first come through the door. He wasn’t aware he’d stood until he was staring down at her. She refused to meet his gaze, which caused Harry’s heart to plummet in his chest, and gestured towards the double doors. He saw Narcissa standing as well, twisting her hands in front of her, and he reached out for her arm as he stepped forward.

“No, I’m sorry,” the little woman said resolutely, lifting her eyes for the first time. “Just the spouse…”

“I’m not…” Harry began, but Narcissa clutched his arm and squeezed.

“Yes, you are,” she whispered fiercely, and he turned to look down at her. “You are. Now go. Just remember that I’m…” She glanced at Hermione and Ron, who had both come to stand behind her. “That we’re waiting, yes?”

His nod was jerky, and he entered through the doors. When they’d swung shut behind him, he turned to the Healer. “Is he all right?”

“I’ll let the Healer in Charge discuss the case with you,” she said noncommittally, leading him down a long hallway, and his heart sank further with each step he took. When they arrived at a door at the far end, she opened it and stepped aside.

Within there was one lone bed, draped in stark white linens. Harry’s breath caught in his throat when he saw Draco lying there on his back, pale and still as death, his stomach startlingly flat beneath the tightly tucked bedding. His hands were lying at his sides on top of the blankets, his white-blond hair was smoothed back from his forehead, and he reminded Harry of a fairy tale he’d heard Dudley being read as a child, about a beautiful sleeping princess who could only be awakened by true love’s kiss. Only in this case, it was a beautiful, fragile looking prince. He started to take a step towards him when something to his left caught his eye, and he turned.

The Healer in Charge was standing next to a young woman, clearly some sort of aide, who was holding a tightly wrapped bundle in her arms. The man was writing something on a clipboard but looked up when he saw Harry, and gave him a worn, weary smile.

It was the smile that did it. Harry’s legs began to tremble, and he reached out to grasp at something, anything but caught at only air until the smaller man’s hand closed firmly around his.

“Breathe, son,” he said with surprising gentleness for someone who’d been so unwilling to help just hours before. “It’s all right. They’re both all right.” Harry heard a rush of noise in his ears, and his vision began to grey around the edges. “Let’s get this man a chair, Mildred, before we have another patient on our hands.” His voice seemed to come to Harry from a great distance.

A chair appeared behind him and he was eased down into it, and he dropped his head between his knees and gasped for air. He felt a hand on the nape of his neck, gently massaging muscles he’d not realized were so tight. After a few minutes, he was able to lift his head with the room only spinning slightly, and looked up into the Healer’s faintly amused eyes. “All right, there?” the man asked, and Harry nodded jerkily.

“Sorry,” he said shortly.
The Healer merely smiled. “Not a problem,” he countered kindly. “You’re not the first new father who’s found himself about to hit the deck. It can be a bit overwhelming.”

“A bit,” Harry agreed wryly.

“Are you ready to meet your son?”

Harry looked up at him and swallowed deeply, unable to even form words in answer to that question, and nodded tightly. The young woman holding the bundle came forward then, and stood just to his right.

“Make a cradle of your arms, like this,” she said gently, showing him how she herself was holding her arms, “and remember to support his head.”

Harry did as he’d been shown, and then the bundle was being placed in his arms, so tiny, so light, and he was looking down into the folds of the blue blanket in apprehension. To his absolute wonder, he saw a head the size of a small grapefruit and a bright pink face with a faintly pointed little nose and chin. There were tiny perfect lips that twitched and pursed as if in irritation, and the whole of it was topped by a thick swatch of midnight black hair and miniature versions of his own elegantly arched black brows. He felt the little body swathed in the soft blanket squirm and he held his son closer in stunned awe.

“My God,” he breathed. “He’s so little.” Never had his hands felt so large, or so clumsy.

“He just seems that way,” the Healer said fondly. “Considering everything, he’s in remarkable shape: six pounds, five ounces, eighteen inches long, all in all a perfectly normal newborn, including all ten fingers and toes and the appropriate plumbing. Congratulations, young man; that boy’s a fighter.”

Harry stared into the tiny face and had to blink quickly to dispel tears of pure relief. He looked up to find both of the people watching him with warm expressions. “And Draco?” he asked, glancing toward the bed. “Is he...”

“He’ll be fine,” the man assured him. “I won’t lie to you; it was touch and go there for a while. We don’t perform many caesarean sections here at St. Mungo’s, but we were able to get the bleeding under control finally and heal the incision with no trouble. He’ll no doubt need to be careful for the first few weeks, take it easy, but within a month or so he should be just fine.”

Harry took and released what felt like his first full breath since he’d entered the dingy cottage hours before. “Thank you,” he said to the Healer, “for everything. And I’m sorry about earlier….”

“No need to apologize, son,” he said gently. “I don’t like the new rules, even if I am usually forced to follow them.” He glanced over at Draco’s still form, then down into Harry’s eyes again. “Perhaps you could put some of that influence you have to work and get them repealed.”

“I certainly intend to try,” Harry responded firmly, and the Healer patted him on the shoulder.

“Good lad.” The man started to leave, and Harry spoke again.

“Could you please go and tell his mother and my friends that everything is all right? They’re anxious…”

“Not a problem.” He paused on his way towards the door to take one last look at the infant in Harry’s arms. “He’s a good looking boy, Mr Potter.”

Harry looked down into the tiny face and allowed himself a slight smile. “He looks like his father,” he said in wonder, watching the mobile little lips pucker.

“He does,” the Healer said in agreement. “Both of them.” He patted Harry on the shoulder, gestured for the aide to follow, and they both left the room.
*******

 

Hours had passed. Harry figured the sun must have gone down, because even the charmed window in Draco’s room was now dark. There was one lamp burning dimly from the corner, and that was the only light in the room; the one next to the bed was off so that both sleeping baby and father would not be disturbed.

Harry had transfigured one of the impossible wooden chairs into a cushy armchair with an ottoman, and now sat comfortably between the bassinet where “Baby Potter” lay sleeping and the still form of the man who had given birth to him. Draco had moved little in the hours since the emergency delivery, but he had moved. Each twitch and slight sound he made gave Harry hope, because even though the Healer told him everything was alright each time he came to check his vital signs, Harry would not be firmly convinced until the grey eyes opened, and Draco was able to smirk at him again.

Narcissa Malfoy had been allowed to visit; she’d exclaimed, teary eyed over the baby, clutched her unconscious son’s hand, and made Harry vaguely uncomfortable with her repeated, heartfelt thanks. He’d kept trying to decline until she’d clutched his hand and looked into his eyes.

“You saved my son’s life, Mr Potter,” she’d said emphatically, tears slipping down her pale cheeks. “Do not think that I will ever forget it.”

Ron and Hermione had stopped in briefly, and stared at the baby in awe.

“Oh, Harry,” Hermione had sighed, tears in her eyes. “He looks just like you.”

“He looks like a garden gnome,” Ron had said wryly as he’d studied the wrinkled little face, and suffered Hermione’s smacking him on the arm. Harry had laughed for what felt like the first time in months, and it had felt good.

The baby had only cried once; a thin, reedy little sound and the sweet Healer’s aide had been at his side with a bottle almost instantly. Holding his son while he fed had been a task that had filled Harry with a kind of quiet joy. Changing the nappy after, with the aide’s assistance, had been somewhat less enjoyable. The staff had all been quietly reassuring that ‘yes, it was perfectly normal’ for it to be that nasty. Harry had hoped he’d become more accustomed to it as time went by, because he just could not imagine Draco with his hands in the stuff. Just the thought had made him smile. And he had decided that he would be there to tend his son; he just hoped he could convince Draco of the same.

That had been hours ago, and now he sat dozing, long legs crossed, his chin on his chest. He’d long since abandoned the floor length outer robe, tie and vest, and now wore just the black trousers and the rumpled white shirt, open at the throat and rolled up on his muscular forearms. He stirred a bit in the chair, but his eyes shot open when he heard Draco sigh.

Pushing the ottoman aside, Harry leaned forward anxiously as Draco’s long, slender legs shifted under the white blankets, and his hands twitched, and then lifted to his stomach. Harry held his breath as the graceful hands slid over the flat expanse, and when they fisted on the blankets with a gasp, he quickly reached out to circle one wrist with his large hand. Draco’s eyes shot open, and he turned his head, and Harry leaned forward.

“It’s all right,” he said softly, his thumb stroking a pulse point that was fluttering beneath his thumb like a trapped birds wings. “He’s all right.”

Draco swallowed, and what light there was in the room seemed to coalesce for a moment in the pale, silver eyes. “He?” he breathed hoarsely.

“You said it would be a boy,” Harry answered with a slight curl of his lip.

Draco’s eyes quickly, almost desperately scanned the room and fell on the bassinet sitting next to Harry’s transfigured chair. “I want to see him,” he whispered. “I need to see him.”

“Of course.” Harry stood then and leaned over Draco, who looked up at him in wide-eyed question. “Here, put your arms around my neck and I’ll help you sit up. The Healer said that you’d be sore, but it should be okay.” Draco just stared. “You do want to hold him, right? You can’t if you’re lying down.”

That did the trick, and Draco was reaching up and wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck. Harry slipped his hands gently between his back and the mattress and lifted him until he was reclining on the pillows against the headboard, feeling his heart lift as he felt the slender body beneath his hands. Not knowing what the reaction would be, he fought the instinct to hug Draco and stepped back. He looked down into the pale face beneath the white blond hair and saw him wince.

“Is the pain too much?”

Draco looked into his eyes, so close to his own, and shook his head slightly. “No,” he whispered. “No. Please, just…” his eyes went longingly to the bassinet, and Harry understood. He turned and gently lifted the tightly wrapped baby, one hand beneath his head, the other beneath his padded bum.

“Here, make a cradle with your arms like this.” He demonstrated much the way the aide had for him hours earlier, and Draco did, swallowing nervously as Harry transferred the baby into his arms. Draco’s eyes were hungry as he stared into the tiny face, and he gasped when the baby wriggled, one tiny hand pushing its way from the tight swaddling, little fingers stretching and flexing as if he were reaching for something.

“Oh, my God,” he whispered shakily, touching the miniature hand. He inhaled sharply when the small fingers curled around his index finger and tightened. He looked up into Harry’s eyes, and tears made his silver eyes shine. “Oh, my God,” he repeated, his lower lip trembling. Harry lowered himself carefully to the side of the bed, his hip near Draco’s as the blond’s eyes went back to the infant in his arms. “He’s so tiny.”

“I have it on good authority that he’s… what did the Healer say again? Oh, yes, he’s ‘in remarkable shape: six pounds, five ounces, eighteen inches long. A perfectly normal newborn, including all ten fingers and toes and the appropriate plumbing’.” Harry reached forward and gently ran the back of his finger down the baby’s soft, downy cheek, and his little head turned toward the sensation, his tiny mouth opening like a baby bird’s. A soft smile curled Harry’s lips. “I think he’s hungry again.”

There were several bottles in a charmed warmer next to the bed, and he leaned over and picked one up, then held it out to Draco. He blinked, then looked up into Harry’s face, his own uncertain. “It’s all right,” Harry said gently. “Just put it in his mouth. He knows what to do with it.”

Draco extricated his finger gently from the baby’s grip, took the bottle and brushed the small lower lip with the nipple, and the baby latched on with enthusiasm, cheeks concave as he began to suckle noisily. Draco’s eyes widened a bit and Harry chuckled softly. “I think the boy has a hollow leg,” he said gently, once again touching the small face with just the tips of his fingers. They both watched the baby eat for a few minutes, then Harry lifted his eyes to Draco’s face. His expression was filled with so much tenderness that it made Harry’s throat tight.

“So,” he said a bit gruffly, “what do you think?”

Draco’s fair head shook slightly. “I think he’s amazing,” he breathed. “I can’t believe that came from me.”

“He did,” Harry assured him. There was a slight pause. “I think he looks like you.”

Draco frowned slightly, shaking his head as he studied the tiny face. “I was going to say that I thought he looked like you. He has your hair, and your eyebrows…” Grey eyes lifted to green. “I’ll bet his eyes are green.” A shadow passed over his handsome face. “I’m afraid there’s no way that you’re going to be able to deny him.”

A frown creased the skin between Harry’s brows. “Why would I want to deny him?” he said softly. “I already announced to anyone who would listen in the emergency room that he was mine.”

Draco’s eyes widened. “You really did that?” Harry nodded. “I wasn’t sure,” the blond said pensively, his voice a whisper. “I was so out of it… I thought maybe I’d imagined it…”

“You didn’t,” Harry said firmly. Draco’s eyes dropped back to the baby, but Harry had seen the quick flash of misery in them. “Draco, look at me,” he prompted quietly, but there was an unmistakable note of command in his tone, and Draco lifted his head. He looked so distraught that something in Harry’s chest felt tight. “What’s the matter? Did you not want people to know it was me?” The thought that maybe Draco hadn’t wanted to admit who had fathered his son made the tightness in his chest turn to an ache.

Draco frowned. “No, Harry. That isn’t it at all. I thought…” his voice wavered a bit, and he looked back down at their child. “I was afraid that you’d be – embarrassed…”

“Embarrassed?” Harry frowned. “Why would you think that?”

Draco looked up at him again, his expression faintly exasperated. “Come on, Potter. Admit it. Even for you, having a man give birth to your son is a bit outside of ‘the norm’.”

“Since when has anything I’ve done ever been ‘the norm’?” Harry asked a bit ironically.

“Potter,” Draco began with a sigh.

“No, really,” Harry interrupted, green eyes level. “When I was fifteen months old, a psychotic megalomaniac murdered my parents and attempted to murder me. He failed, but succeeded in planting a bit of his twisted soul inside of me, giving me sixteen years with a front row seat at ‘crazy-land’. I can talk to snakes, I’ve fought a dragon, hell, I’ve ridden a dragon, I watched aforementioned psycho resurrected in all his snake-like glory, and I died and came back again, which is a pretty neat trick. Far as I know, only one before me’s ever done it, and His pedigree beats the hell out of mine. Literally.” He paused thoughtfully. “Oh yes,” he went on, “and I blew up my aunt.” He shrugged one square shoulder casually. “So, having a pregnant boyfriend is pretty much just another day at the office for me.”

Draco’s grey eyes rolled, but Harry was fairly certain he saw his lower lip twitch. “Very funny, Potter. But this isn’t a joke, you know…”

“Draco,” Harry said intently, capturing the grey eyes and holding them. “I know it isn’t a joke.” They stared at one another for a long moment. “He isn’t a joke.”

Draco swallowed heavily then dampened his lips with his tongue. “Do you – want him?”

Harry’s heart felt as if someone had squeezed it, hard. He swallowed before he could answer. “More than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life.” Draco’s eyes fell to the baby, but not before Harry saw devastation flash through them, and he frowned. “Draco…” he said quickly.

“No, no it’s all right,” Draco murmured, but he sounded suffocated. “It will be better for him that way. I can’t really… give him anything…” Harry saw tears forming along his lower lids, darkening the soft brown lashes, and frowned.

“You misunderstood,” he said quickly, reaching out and covering the hand that was curled around the baby’s tiny body. “I don’t just want him…” He squeezed the cool hand. “I want you both.”

Draco’s head lifted, his eyes wide, as if afraid to believe what he was hearing. His fringe swung over one fearful eye, and Harry reached up and gently pushed it back. “How can you, after what I said to you?”

Harry studied the pale face. “Did you mean them: the things that you said?” This silence was charged with the memory of his cruelty on both of their parts, and Draco finally shook his head miserably. “Then why did you say them?”

Draco’s eyes drifted closed and he shook his head despondently. “I was so scared,” he breathed. “So afraid that you’d think…” his voice trailed off.

“Afraid I’d think -- what?” Harry prodded.

“That I was some sort of freak, or that I’d done it to trap you.” He shook his head again and sighed. “I don’t know what I was thinking, really, except that I was very afraid you’d take him away from me…” He stopped and bit his lower lip. “You could, you know. Legally, I don’t have any rights and wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.”

Harry stared at him. “Draco, I grew up without my parents,” he said flatly. “I’d never take one of my son’s parents away from him.”

They looked at each other again for a long time, Draco searching his eyes as if to divine whether or not Harry was telling the truth. At length, the tightness in his shoulders began to ease, and mindful of the baby on his lap, he curled his slender body and leaned forward until he could press his forehead against Harry’s shoulder. Something inside of Harry’s chest relaxed in that moment, a tightness melted away, and he reached up and gently circled Draco’s nape with his large hand, his fingers sliding through the soft blond hair that brushed his neck.

“I love you, you sentimental fool,” Draco whispered. “So much.” Harry clenched his eyes shut against the sting of tears.

“I love you, too,” Harry said in a harsh murmur, then he leaned back before his courage could desert him. Part of him just wanted to let it go, but the other part of him, the honourable part, knew that he couldn’t. “But, there is something that I should tell you...”

A slight wariness entered Draco’s damp eyes. “What?”

Harry looked down at the baby, who still suckled his bottle peacefully. He laid his hand on top of the tiny head, marvelling at the soft hair, at how large his hand looked in comparison. “This is my fault,” he said softly.

“What is?”

He looked up into Draco’s eyes. “The baby,” he answered. “The pregnancy, all of it…”

“How do you figure that?” the blond asked softly, eyes wide. Harry studied the pale face, full of shadows and planes and angles, the lines caused by recent pain and the gaunt hollows by worry and deprivation, but still so beautiful.

“I wanted it.”

Draco frowned, brow furrowing. “What?”

“Do you remember what your mother said, about the charm? That one of the people – involved – would have to actively desire a child?” Draco nodded faintly, and Harry could feel his face colouring. “I wanted it,” he said softly.

“Harry,” Draco began.

“No, it was me,” Harry said emphatically, then his voice and his expression softened. “I remember being… on top of you, inside of you, and wishing there was a way….” He shook his dark head. “You were so beautiful in the moonlight, and you were looking up at me and I remember thinking ’I wish I could have children with this man’.” He stopped when Draco bit his lower lip and closed his eyes, shaking his fair head. “I’m sorry, Draco. I didn’t know…”

“Stop,” Draco said softly. “Just… stop.”

Harry watched the pale face, his heart in his throat, waiting. When Draco’s eyes slid open and he looked into Harry’s there was not the condemnation that Harry had expected. In fact, there seemed to be a grudging sort of… amusement. He frowned.

“This was the last night, in Venice, wasn’t it?” Draco asked softly. “When we were in the gondola?”

“How did you know?”

Draco’s lips slowly began to curve in a soft smile. “Because I was doing the same thing,” he whispered, and Harry gaped at him.

“What?” Harry breathed.

“I was looking up into your face, and the fireworks were lighting the sky behind your head, and your eyes were so green, and you were looking at me as if I were the most important thing in the world and all I could think was ‘I wish there was a way to have children with this man’.” He paused, grey eyes full. “It wasn’t just you. It was both of us.” He looked down at the wonder in his arms, with his messy black hair and his perfect little brows and his faintly pointed nose and chin, a perfect amalgamation of the two of them, and smiled faintly. “Poor kid didn’t stand a chance.”

“That’s not true,” Harry said gently. Draco looked up into his eyes to find them just inches from his own. “His life is all ahead of him. He’s got infinite chances. The miracle of this is that he brought us another one.” He lifted his hand and cupped the fair cheek in his palm, his thumb skimming the full lower lip. “A second chance,” he murmured, his eyes lowering to Draco’s mouth. “Be with me; raise him with me. Take the chance. Please.”

Draco’s eyes dropped to Harry’s, and he dampened his lips with the tip of his tongue. The silence seemed to grow deeper with each passing second. And then, without making a sound, his lips formed a single word: “Yes.”

With a soft sound of both relief and joy, Harry closed the distance between them and covered Draco’s mouth with his own.

It was the most profoundly moving experience of Harry’s life. He sought the soft wet heat of Draco’s mouth with his tongue, and the other man responded with a slow, silky caress of his own. Their heads angled first one direction, then the other and they nearly forgot themselves until the baby squeaked between them, and Harry sat back with a shaky laugh.

“Sorry, son,” he said, gently retrieving the baby’s bottle from where they’d knocked it from his mouth and replacing it. He watched the little boy latch on and held the bottle as Draco leaned his head on his broad shoulder.

“So, what shall we call him?” he mused softly, studying the little face, revelling in the sweet weight of his lover’s head on his shoulder.

“Well,” Draco said a bit tentatively, “I’d given that some thought, actually. When I allowed myself to hope that he might actually make it.”

“Okay,” Harry responded quietly. “What did you have in mind?”

Draco reached out and touched the baby’s hand, and the little fingers caught his index finger again and squeezed, little knuckles whitening at the effort. “Well,” Draco said a bit tentatively, “I was thinking… James, for your father, and Arthur, for the man who raised you since you were eleven…”

Harry let his eyes slide closed, and had to swallow the lump that filled his throat before he could speak. “James Arthur,” he managed finally. “Mr Weasley will be — so pleased…”

“I thought about James Ronald,” Draco said a bit wryly. “I know he’s your best friend, but I’m sorry. I just can’t do it.”

The constriction in Harry’s throat dissolved when he laughed. “You’ll be glad about that decision when I tell you that Ron thought your son looked like a garden gnome.”

“What?!” Draco lifted his head and stared at Harry, his eyes widened in outrage, which just made Harry laugh harder. “Philistine,” he muttered, putting his head back on Harry’s shoulder with a huff and enjoying the sound of his fading chuckles. “He’s a beautiful baby.” He shook the little hand tenderly, and Harry pressed a kiss on his cheek.

“Yes,” he agreed fondly. “Yes, he is.”

They sat there in companionable silence for a long time, watching as their son drifted off to sleep. When his little lips went slack, Harry removed the bottle from his mouth and wiped at the milky corner of his lips with the edge of the blanket he was wrapped in. “So, any ideas on what we tell him when he starts asking where he came from?” Draco mused softly, turning his face into Harry’s neck. A slow smile curled Harry’s lips and lit his green eyes.

“We tell him the truth,” he answered serenely. “We tell him that his fathers, who are both exceedingly powerful and gifted wizards, wanted him very much, and wished him into being.”

Draco sighed softly, nuzzling his head further under Harry’s chin, his face inside the open collar of his shirt. “I love you, Harry,” he breathed.

“I love you, too,” Harry answered, looking down into the peacefully sleeping face of his son, feeling the sweet breath of his lover against his throat. He closed his eyes and knew he’d never felt so completely content before in his life. “Both of you.”