Notes: Apologies for the long wait - those words don't really cut it, do they? The fact is I wasn't aware I hadn't uploaded it, and due to back problems I haven't been able to sit at a computer for months. But here you go, and fingers crossed I might be able to get back into writing more.
Harry let the door close behind him and leaned back against it with a sign that stole his last strength. He wasn't finished, but those in danger were out of it. He hoped it would be enough to appease Shacklebolt. Besides, Hermione's voice had begun to remind him of McGonagall, and that was a sure sign it was time to leave.
Ten hours later he was rudely awoken by a polite knocking on the door. He realised he hadn't made it upstairs, and his back hurt like hell from the sofa. He groaned as he hobbled like an old man to the door and opened it a crack, glaring out into the sunlight.
Two Malfoys stood on his front steps, one bouncing cheerfully with a basket, the other looking far too tired to be up and about.
'What are you doing here?' Harry asked, opening the door wide. Draco frowned, and Scorpius stopped bouncing. 'Sorry, that didn't come out right. I only meant you should be in bed.'
'I'm fine,' Draco said, adjusting his shirt a bit. 'Scorpius insisted we come over with some food. I checked with Healer Weasley and she said you would be mad if they allowed you to sleep any longer, so we volunteered to get you ready.'
'Ready? Wait, how long have I been out?' Harry checked his watch and cursed. Scorpius raised an eyebrow. 'Sorry, uh, come in then.'
He led the way to the kitchen, where he was forced into a chair while Draco and Scorpius laid out a very well-made breakfast. Everything from bacon and eggs to croissants. Harry's eyebrows rose as the basket kept producing more and more variants. He also realised the bag was heavy, because Draco could not have spelled it light. When he looked at Draco he noticed a distinct red blush creeping up the pale neck to his cheeks, making him look very... red. Harry felt his own face heat as if in commiseration.
'We didn't know what you'd like,' Draco said. He had even brought tea in a muggle container.
'The croissants are amazing,' Scorpius said. 'We usually only have them on Sundays, but today's special'
'Special how?' Harry asked as he took one of the aforementioned treats.
'You saved everyone, just like you promised.'
'I think you and Draco, not to mention Hermione, did far, far more saving than me.'
'Nonsense,' Draco said, pouring tea into Harry's old mugs, some of them cracked and badly mended, which made Harry embarrassed. 'No one else could have removed the marks.'
'But I just said the words. You figured it all out. I should be bringing you breakfast in bed.' He hadn't meant that last part, and he accidentally caught Draco's eyes just as he said them. Draco's eyes seemed particularly wide and clear, perhaps because Harry had only seen them dull and in pain. With flushed skin and a pleased smile, for a moment Draco looked like he had been recovering for a week instead of a day. 'Uh, I mean- you know.' Harry gestured to the feast.
'Well, you did save me, before I figured out anything at all. That part was all you.' The kitchen had to be getting warmer. 'Come on now,' Draco took pity on him. 'Eat up. I'm not letting you get back to work until you've finished.'
After he'd stuffed himself to bursting, and topped it up with tea, Harry felt ready to take on the rest of the Death Eaters.
'You should probably have a shower first,' Draco mentioned as they put everything back in the basket. 'You stink.' Scorpius hid a laugh as Harry sniffed at himself.
Embarrassment rising to new levels, Harry stepped away so it wouldn't be quite so offensive. He walked them to the door.
'Thank you for breakfast,' Harry said. Draco turned in the doorway. He opened his mouth to say something, but Scorpius spoke up instead.
'You should come to dinner. We're making Beef Wellington.'
'Oh, erm-' Harry was sure Draco wouldn't approve of Scorpius inviting him out of the blue.
'Yes, do come,' Draco said.
'You've already made me breakfast.' Harry had no idea why he was arguing.
'Please?' Scorpius winged, giving his best impression of a puppy dog.
'I'm afraid he won't stop until you've agreed.'
'All right, if you're sure?'
'Excellent, see you at eight. No working late tonight.' Harry watched them walk down the front steps and begin down the street. When Draco glanced over his shoulder, Harry waved awkwardly at him and shut the door, his embarrassment burning to new unknown heights.
He took the quickest, coldest shower he could manage and apparated to St. Mungo's. Hermione was there, assuring him that the last of the patients understood he needed rest as well. They were functioning fine on pain potions. Harry would be able to clear out the ward before lunch.
'Have you seen the Prophet today?' Hermione asked as they headed down the corridor to the first patient. She held up a copy: Harry Potter Removes Voldemort's Last Legacy.
'Huh, that almost sounds good?'
'I know, they've completely changed their tone, for the first half of the article, at least.'
'They emphasize several times that you haven't cured those in Azkaban.'
'What?! I'm going there the moment this ward is cleared!'
'i know, it's just their way of making you the hero while keeping their villains. I think once the Mark is gone for good, people will actually be able to move on.'
Harry stopped walking as a thought occurred to him. 'Harry?'
'We need a place for those too scared to come forward,' he said. 'Some place for marked Death Eaters to have it removed without anyone knowing they came for help.'
'You're right.' Hermione looked upset she hadn't thought of it herself. 'Some of them might suffer in silence rather than expose their secret.'
Hermione and Harry continued to brainstorm possible options while he removed the last Marks in St. Mungo's. Most were understandably so grateful they couldn't express it. Some sobbed uncontrollably, some became almost catatonic, staring at their unblemished skin, but most simply fell asleep, pain free at last. The day before had been mostly the latter, since Harry had started with those closest to death. The last few were coherent and therefore more expressive. Harry tried to be accepting of their thanks, but such scenes had never gone well. He thought he might prefer the resentment he was likely to receive in Azkaban.
After a quick lunch with Ron, it was decided that they would contact all the patients who had been in the ward and tell them to spread the message quietly to anyone they might know of who still had the mark. They could come to Hermione quietly and would receive help without prosecution. Having a mark was not a crime in itself, and Harry was determined that no more would suffer Juhlin's fate.
Shacklebolt caught up with him in Azkaban.
'Minister?' Harry greeted, wondering if Shacklebolt had intended to enter the prison proper, or simply stand in the arrival courtyard all day waiting.
'Potter, I'm glad I caught you. I thought I might find you here. I was told St. Mungo's is empty…?'
Shacklebolt sighed at Harry's clipped tone.
'I have a letter for you, it should make it easier for you to get your wand inside to remove the Marks.' Harry took the scroll without comment and read it over. The Warden wouldn't like it, but he might agree just to get all the moaning to stop, and to stop the extra rounds for the pain potions.
'Is what all?' Harry asked, pocketing the scroll. Shacklebolt looked genuinely sad, shaking his head in dismay.
'I know we won't come back from this, you and I, Harry, but I want you to know I am sorry. I've managed to sweep your arrest away. Officially, you were let go without charges. I told the press it was a misunderstanding. I won't be able to erase the record, of course, since it was front page news.'
'I don't care.' Harry stepped around the Minister, about to walk up the steps to the enormous metal doors that sealed off the prison from the apparition zone. For some reason Draco came into his head. How would Draco handle the situation? He turned back to the Minister, who looked up hopefully from his shoes.
'Minister, I think I understand why you reacted the way you did. I don't accept it, but… See, we don't view the Death Eaters in the same light because I genuinely believe the Second War had far more forced followers than the first. I know the trials after Voldemort's first fall were full of the likes of Lucius Malfoy, lying about being Imperiused, but... Draco never truly knew what he was getting into. I don't even think he really believed in their ideology. I don't agree that anyone should be prosecuted for their ideology instead of their actions, but I understand why people like you were upset about this whole situation.'
'Thank you, Potter. That is far more understanding than I deserve.'
'Tell the press we've done the right thing, will you?'
'I will. I'll make sure they know where I stand now, with you.'
Harry couldn't help but smile. 'I'm never running for office, Shacklebolt.' The man cracked a smile, said something about never say never and apparated away. Harry knew he would never trust the man the same way again, but at least things had ended well.
Azkaban's prisoners were waiting, so he hurried through the doors.
Harry had been thrown out of Azkaban at the end of visiting hours. He was utterly exhausted. Hermione was sure he wasn't giving back any power, but Harry still felt like he had been wrung out like an old wash cloth.
He came home to find an owl sitting on the fence in front of Grimmauld Place, with a letter. Harry recognised it as Poofy, Ron and Hermione's owl. Harry took the letter and let the owl inside. It flew down to the kitchen in expectation of snacks. Harry wondered what Hermione could possibly be sending him mail for. When he ripped it open, however, he was met with Draco's fine script.
Healer Weasley kindly sent Poofy to me after I met with her this afternoon. It occurred to me you might be too fatigued to come to dinner, and I wanted to make sure you didn't come out of a sense of duty - I know how strong that sense is. If you don't feel up to it, we can have dinner later in the week.
Thank you again for everything,
Harry had, of course, completely forgotten, and he suspected Draco had known he would. He quickly fed the owl, scribbled a note that said he was on his way, and ran upstairs to change.
He had never taken so long to change in his life.
He arrived on the outskirts of Canterbury, feeling like he was going for a job interview for some reason. He walked briskly to the Malfoys' door. Why on earth was he nervous all of a sudden? He had dressed in his nice jeans, a button down (one of the few he owned for special occasions) and a knitted v-neck sweater. Mrs. Weasley (senior) had gotten a lot better at knitting in her older days, and even Hermione had said it suited him, though that might only be because of its green colour.
Maybe he was too formal looking? But Draco was the type to wear a button-down to work, so surely this was appropriate? He realised he had been so long in the wizarding world, Draco Malfoy might know better how to dress for the muggle world.
Then again, perhaps Draco expected him in robes, and was looking forward to a fully wizarding dinner?
Draco had opened the door, but Harry realised he had never knocked. 'I saw you from the window, are you all right? How long have you been standing here?'
'Not long!' Harry said. 'Sorry, I got lost in thought for a second. Eh- Here, I got these, or rather, I had these-Not that I just keep them around to give away, they're good, I've been saving them.' Harry thrust the box of Honeydukes chocolates forward a bit too forcefully, and Draco almost dropped them, saving them at the last second. Harry muttered more apologies as Draco thanked him.
'Please, come inside, dinner's almost ready.'
Draco sent Harry to the living room, where Scorpius waited. He was quite the host, it turned out, offering Harry a seat and asking how his day went. Harry suspected Draco had told him to entertain their guest while he finished the dinner.
By the time they sat down at the tiny dining table in the kitchen, Harry was far more relaxed. The food was good, his fatigue from the day was almost gone.
Draco asked about Azkaban.
'It went well. In fact it went a lot smoother than I thought it would thanks to Shacklebolt. He gave me a letter of authorization. He also apologised for the whole ordeal. I think he genuinely saw the error of his ways.'
'Hmm,' Draco sounded skeptical. 'Has he told the press anything? I wouldn't believe an apology from that man unless it was on record.' Harry smiled at that, thinking Draco had a point. 'Perhaps I might get some attention from him, now I'm going to be in the paper.'
'The Prophet asked me a few questions,' Draco shrugged. 'I thought it might help my little cause if I got in a line in about my work. They probably won't even mention it.'
'God, I'm so sorry Draco, I completely forgot about the site- again. I'll have a word with Shacklebolt tomorrow, I promise.'
'No, you don't have to Harry.'
'I want you. I want to save the site too.'
Draco smiled, and it was so soft and genuine, and free of pain.
Scorpius made a noise and Harry jumped slightly, realising he had been staring. 'I'm full to bursting!' Scorpius sighed in pleasure.
'You're free to go then,' Draco said. 'Harry can do the washing up with a flick of his wand, so you're off duty.'
'Oh, can I watch?' Scorpius bounced with excitement at the prospect. Draco looked at Harry expectantly, gesturing to the food. Harry waved his wand and sent the dishes to wash themselves in the sink. Scorpius went over to the counter and stared at them for a while.
Harry hadn't sent the wine glasses (that would have been embarrassing), so Draco poured some more. After a while Scorpius got bored of the magic, and went upstairs to play a videogame.
'I'm coming up to put you to bed at ten,' Draco called after him.
'He's such a good kid,' Harry remarked.
'The best. I don't know how I made him,' Draco chuckled self-deprecatingly.
'Don't say that,' Harry admonished softly. Draco looked away. The room suddenly felt off, like there was tension between them. It felt impossibly yet undeniably, like a date.
The fact made Harry equal parts terrified and excited - perhaps a bit more excited. Unless Draco didn't feel remotely the same, and why would he? What on earth was Harry thinking, that they could magically start their relationship over, that spending a week by his deathbed gave Harry some sort of insight? They didn't really know each other at all.
'Harry? You're lost in thought again, I think.'
'Sorry, I was just…'
'Thinking about whether this is insane or just plain stupid? I've been wondering that myself all day long.'
Draco couldn't meet his eye, but he was leaning closer, speaking softly. The tiny table made things rather intimate. 'I can't wait ten years to see you again.'
The words made all kinds of emotions flutter inside Harry, making him a bit sick to his stomach, but in a good way.
'I don't plan on staying away.'
Draco smiled, staring at Harry's hand on the table, inches from his own. 'Scorpius would like that. He fancies himself a bit of a matchmaker,' Draco let out a laugh at the last word, as if he couldn't let himself say it without laughing it away.
Harry had never made a move before, not since his school days. Perhaps that was a result of his fame. People he tried to date always felt they had a right to him, or wanted to make sure they at least got a snog out of it. Harry had never had a first date without someone trying to snog him. Not that he always minded, of course.
But he couldn't do it. It would be far too soon, probably inappropriate, and it would be amazing. Years for now they would remember that first kiss in the tiny kitchen, with distant sounds of videogame gunfire and magical dishwashing.
Instead of making a move, Harry tried to focus on the fact that Draco was smiling, blushing slightly, and looking healthier by the hour. Harry took a sip of his wine.
Draco smoothly changed the subject then, and they spent a few hours going over their lives, avoiding the sad stuff. Draco told cute stories about Scorpius' childhood. Harry told stories about the next generation of Weasleys and crazy stories from his Auror work.
They sat talking and drinking until Scorpius suddenly stood in the doorway in his pyjamas.
Yet still Harry did not go home. Draco put his son to bed and they moved their conversation to the living room. Harry didn't leave until it was well after midnight, feeling too drunk to apparate, but doing it anyway. He fell asleep on his couch for the second time.
Harry didn't see Draco for almost a week. He finished removing the Mark, slowly going back to his regular duties. Draco's interview appeared in the Prophet. It told the story like a detective mystery, a race against time, with Harry as the hero. Draco didn't say that outright of course. In fact the interview made him look strong and long suffering, but humble.
Harry thought about checking in with them, but he didn't have a valid excuse until he received the news by memo from the Department of Magical Spaces, Buildings and Areas that the heritage site would be mapped and protected from muggle intervention.
Harry rushed over, but found no one home. He apparated directly to the site and found Draco there alone, sitting on the rock. For a moment Harry was afraid for Scorpius, but then he realised the boy had to be in school.
'You heard?' Harry asked as he approached a smiling Draco.
'Yes. Thank you for saving the day, again.'
Draco rose and they ended up standing rather close. 'It was all your reports that did the trick, honestly, I just had to get them read by the right people.'
Draco shook his head. 'Accept the thanks without argument for once, will you?'
'Sorry- I mean, you're welcome.' Harry smiled sheepishly. Draco leaned in, and Harry's heart lept to his throat. He aimed to meet the kiss, only realising halfway that Draco had meant to kiss his cheek. Their lips met awkwardly, and Harry jerked back. 'Sorry, sorry.'
Draco placed a hand on Harry's cheek, forcing him back and planting a proper kiss on him. Harry sighed in relief and leaned into it, holding Draco around the waist.
As they kissed the magic of the place swirled around them, cradling them, and making Harry's nerves tingle even more.
Draco broke the kiss with a breathy laugh. 'Merlin, I hope we didn't seal a new vow of some sort.'
'I don't think so, but we probably shouldn't continue this here.'
'Oh?' Draco raised an eyebrow and Harry blushed. 'Very well.' Draco slung his arms around Harry's neck. 'Take me home, Potter.'
As soon as they disappeared, dozens of leaves and small rocks that had risen into the air suddenly tumbled to the ground, and the place lay dormant.