Harry stood in silence by the fire, turning some Floo powder over and over in his fingers. In the end, he lowered his hand and let the powder dribble through his fingers back into the bowl they kept on the mantle.
Draco had said Harry could come to the Manor. Had said it several times, in fact. Casually five days ago, when he was looking at himself in the mirror to make sure that his hair was perfect for his next appearance in court. Less casually two days ago, when he had had Harry in a corner with his hands wound in his hair, and Harry was kissing him hard enough that he’d hoped Draco wasn’t thinking about anything else. Least casually of all when he and Severus were standing next to the fireplace in holiday robes, and the bowl of powder Harry had just touched was in his hands.
But Harry saw too much. He saw the way his own dress robes made him look like a scarecrow. It wasn’t that Draco, who had chosen them, had picked colors that didn’t suit Harry; Harry knew the royal blue was supposed to make him appear dashing. But he didn’t have the right build for them, and the robes hung off his shoulders and puddled around his feet and especially dangled around his skinny, bony wrists. It wasn’t a conscious unkindness.
Neither were the darting glances Narcissa Malfoy gave him every time they met. Harry wondered if she knew she was giving them, in fact. But Harry saw too much, and he saw this, too. He saw the way her lips wrinkled when she extended her hand to him, and the way she smiled involuntarily when she firecalled the other day and Harry said he wouldn’t be coming to her annual Christmas dinner.
She didn’t look the same way at Severus, even though Severus was as halfblooded as Harry was, and as male. (Harry shifted a little, distracted by the thought of how male Severus was). It was—Harry was just too much, he thought. Severus fit the black dress robes, he knew the right way to behave, he hadn’t exactly fought on the wrong side of the war. Harry’s presence at Draco’s side made Narcissa think of too many things she would rather forget, especially at this time of year, when nothing more strenuous than the arrangement of decorations and the buying of gifts should occupy her attention.
So Harry stayed behind. And Draco and Severus had both stared at him, although Severus had looked away first, his lips clamping down on the words that might have escaped them otherwise, his head moving in a curt nod before he took the powder from Draco and cast it in. They looked perfect.
And they didn’t see.
Harry moved away from the fireplace at last, deeper into the house the three of them shared. Three floors above the ground one, enough for each of them to have their own space when they were getting on each other’s nerves, but it was to the bedroom they shared on the ground floor that Harry went, to sit on the edge of the bed and trail his hand over the sheets.
The sheets were so soft and smooth that Harry sometimes slid off them when they were making love on top of them. And sometimes they stained with blood from the scratches that he inflicted on Draco’s back, and sometimes they dripped with liquids spilled from Severus’s careless fingers, and sometimes Harry woke up to find his head mashed into the pillow and his face dangling over the edge, unable to move with two snoring weights behind him.
Harry closed his eyes and shook his head, then buried his face once in the pillow where Draco usually slept, once in the pillow where Severus slept.
They didn’t see that, either. They saw Harry touching their cloaks sometimes when he passed the front door, or pausing in the doorway of their labs—Severus’s Potions lab, Draco’s spell creation lab—because he wanted to absorb the atmosphere coming out of those rooms, holy and strong and secret, and they mocked him for it. Most of the time, Harry didn’t mind that. If he was as sensitive to mockery now as he was when he was a child, he would never have chosen these two men as his lovers.
But now, he had to wonder. If they were blind to so much of what mattered to him, and if they could go to the Manor together without him (and to gatherings of Draco’s friends now married, and to gatherings of Potions teachers and spell creators, and to clandestine meetings of former Death Eaters who would offer each other help in surviving in this changed world) and be happy, what place did he have here?
Harry sighed and straightened up from the bed. This realization had been coming for a long time. He had done his best to put it off, but now it was here.
He was an Auror, but Draco and Severus had never been subtle with their suggestions that he quit. They had no idea what he would do afterwards, and Harry liked his job, but they didn’t understand why he wanted to risk his life.
He was immersed with the Weasleys at birthday parties and Christmas celebrations, but Draco and Severus had never wanted to come with him, had received his urgings to do so in cold silence. They said, questioned, that it was because the Weasleys didn’t like them. But they asked him along to the Manor even though you would think two people so observant would never miss the cold and halting pauses in the conversation.
Blind, or they just care more for their own comfort than I do for mine?
Harry sighed and rubbed his face. He didn’t want to leave, so there was that. He thought he would have to, though. It was just—there wasn’t enough room. They wanted different things. And sometimes, from the way Draco stalked away from an argument about quitting his job or Severus shut the door silently between them when Harry asked him to come to Victoire’s fourth birthday party, it really did seem they would be happier without him.
Harry would try it just a little at first. Leave them a note now and move his things out to a little room in the Leaky Cauldron that he sometimes stayed in when the silence of the house got to be too much for him. If they were okay without him—and he thought they would be—he’d try a few more days, and another note.
He stood up.
And became aware of someone moving in the outer room. Harry frowned. Why would Draco and Severus have come back already? They were usually at the Manor until two or three in the morning. But it had to be them because no one else would have the ability to get past their locking wards.
Harry moved cautiously into the drawing room, and saw Draco brushing soot off his robe. Harry blinked. He had never seen that before. Of course, most of the time he saw Draco when he was already decloaked and seated with a glass of wine in his hand, but he had never pictured Draco getting soot on his robes. That was something that happened to Harry, not Draco.
At least that law of natural perfection held true for Severus, who stepped out of the fire just behind Draco. He fixed Harry with a quiet, stern eye, a different look than he would have given him had he caught him sneaking around the corridors in Hogwarts, and said, “Going somewhere?”
Draco’s head whipped around, and he dropped the soot-stained cloak on the floor as though it didn’t matter. Harry blinked in confusion. Draco never treated his clothes like that; the one time Harry’d had to take him to St. Mungo’s since they’d been together, Draco had insisted on casting Folding Charms on his discarded robes before Harry carried him out the door.
“You were right,” Draco told Severus, and then said, “Yes, where are you going?” in Harry’s direction.
“I—” This was exactly why he had wanted to leave a note. Face-to-face, the thick, choking silence seemed to flow down his throat, and got in the way of everything.
Harry swallowed. Don’t be a coward. “I thought I’d leave for a little while,” he said, looking at the floor. “Let you have some time alone. See how you like it.”
He winced over the last words, because they were waspish and petty in a way that they hadn’t sounded in his head, but Severus took one quick step towards him from the right, and Draco from the left, and abruptly Harry was surrounded and contained. He stared at both of them. That was another thing they never did. They seemed to respect his Auror instincts and kept their distance with ease and grace.
“What makes you think we’d like to be alone?” Draco snapped at him.
“The same thing that made him want to leave in the first place,” Severus said, eyeing Harry up and down as if looking for symptoms of poison. “Whatever that was.”
“Of course,” Draco said. “But what—Harry, we invited you to the Manor. You always refuse to come.”
“It is not our company that he dislikes,” Severus said, and considered Harry from the side, a great, grave bird, bigger than a condor. “Is it?”
Harry put his hands up a little. He felt thoroughly bewildered. “I just,” he said.
Draco pressed close to him from one side, hand on his shoulder. Severus pressed in from the other, not touching him, because that was rarely his way unless they were in bed, but with the warmth of his presence undoing all the thick, tight strings, the hard hold, that Harry had promised himself he would keep on his emotions.
Harry bowed his head. Shit, he felt like he was going to cry, and although he usually didn’t, he hated that feeling.
“What is it?” Draco whispered.
“Tell us,” Severus echoed, a command but sounding less like one than normal.
Harry took a deep breath. He could handle this, couldn’t he? Especially if it kept him from crying.
“You always look so perfect,” he whispered. “And you like going places by yourselves, but you never want to go to the places I invite you to. I didn’t go with you to the Manor because I know your mother doesn’t like me, Draco, and I don’t want to ruin her evening. And I don’t go with you to the conferences and the meetings because either I would make everyone else uncomfortable or I wouldn’t understand what your colleagues were talking about.
“I don’t urge you to quit your jobs, I think your jobs are wonderful, but you don’t think the same about mine.” He was babbling now, but it seemed his heart had decided that if one thing was going to come out, it all was. “I try to get along with your friends when they come over here, but you just shut yourselves up in your rooms when the Weasleys are here. You wear better robes than I do, you sneer a little when I do things because I love being around you, and, it’s just not the same. I don’t want to leave, but it seems that you’d be happier without me, so what else should I do?”
He got that far only because no one had touched him, he thought, but he couldn’t get any further when Draco grabbed him and kissed him.
Severus was hovering off to the side, slower to touch as usual. Harry closed his eyes, though, and gave himself up to both the warmth beating from Severus and Draco’s kiss. He did have, in the back of his mind, that this wouldn’t persuade him to stay and that he would just have to refuse in the end and make Draco unhappy, but he was incapable of standing there like a statue against the way Draco touched him, clung to him, held him.
Then Severus was there, arms around both of them, head bowed as though he would keep Harry from leaving with the chin on top of his head.
“We always invite you because we want you there,” Draco whispered. “And if my mother hated you so much and didn’t want you to come along, well, she should have said so.” Harry felt Draco smile against his cheek. “Wait until I tell her that you noticed her bad manners. She’ll be mortified. And I promise she’ll improve after that, because she can’t stand the thought that someone else thinks she’s not civil.”
“We urge you to quit your job when you are injured, and because the work often makes you unhappy,” Severus whispered in turn. “Those are the only times.”
Harry blinked. Yes, perhaps that was true. He hadn’t thought of it before, but those conversations did tend to occur when he was recovering in hospital, or limping through the front door, or ranting about the Wizengamot’s stupid prejudices that demanded more proof in trials where their friends were accused.
“And your looks—your looks are perfect,” Draco said, tugging at his hair and making Harry shiver in spite of himself. “Never think they aren’t. We don’t just want people who look good in formal clothes all the time, Harry. You never look better than when you’re sprawled around in your old robes and we know that you aren’t going anywhere that day.”
“As for the Weasleys…” Severus sighed. “They are simply noisy, Harry. I would not be averse to visiting with the adults in controlled settings.” Unseen by anybody because of the way their heads were positioned, Harry grinned. Trust Severus to say it in that prissy tone. “I simply prefer not to be around children, with the shrieking and the chance that they might destroy something delicate. I spent too many of my best years around children for the prejudice to have left me.”
Harry nodded thoughtfully. Sometimes the Weasley children, much as he loved them, got on his nerves, too, and the times Ron and Hermione had come over by themselves, instead of tagging along with a baby of their own or at least a niece or nephew to watch, were so rare he could barely remember them.
“All right,” he said, unfolding slowly towards the belief, because this was the kind of thing he had wanted to be true all along, and it had to be edged up on carefully, because otherwise he thought it would disappear. “I—I accept this. I want this. I love you, so much.”
Severus murmured words that might have been the same. That was Severus, more reserved, more aloof, and with Harry hesitating to ask anything of him that might have made him uncomfortable.
Draco took Harry’s head between his hands and furiously shook him. “Yes, you idiot, of course we love you,” he said, and kissed Harry again.
Severus tightened his hold, and Harry closed his eyes. There was so much warmth around him, now, and the sensation was at last driving away the cold that had come to roost in his bones.
He might be wrong, he might not look perfect, but this—this was.