The decimation of Draco's strict morning regimen happened rather quickly. One day, he was rising early on his first morning in his new home, getting completely ready before leaving his rooms as he always did. Then, before he could baulk at the change, he realised he was walking around his ex-nemesis' home in his pyjama pants, shirtless, with wild bed head every morning.
He wouldn't have been caught dead looking like that by anyone at school, but his housemates didn't have room to judge.
Draco's second night in Harry's home had been interrupted by the two men stumbling into each other in the hall, both bleary-eyed and panicked, as they rushed to comfort a crying Teddy, who had suffered fairly frequent nightmares since Andromeda first fell ill. Draco was uncomfortably aware of the other man's state of undress and took a moment after Teddy had been coaxed back to sleep to mutter, "Holyhead Harpies boxers, Potter? Really?"
Harry had merely grinned sleepily, squinting since he hadn't bothered to put on his glasses, and murmured back, "I might not date their star chaser anymore, but she's still one of my best friends." He wiggled his eyebrows as he added, "They all have a little crush on the beloved Boy Who Lived, and the Weasleys and I share a box. Don't deny you enjoy watching a fit witch who knows what she's doing on the Quidditch pitch every now and again."
Draco had laughed, shaking his head at the unexpected quip from Potter as he made his way back to bed.
But where Harry merely slept in his boxers, Hermione seemed to have made it her life's mission to wear as much oversized clothing to bed as she could. Draco wandered into the kitchen early one morning to find her perched on a kitchen chair, legs tucked beneath her, wearing oversized flannel pyjama pants, an old Gryffindor Quidditch jersey—bearing the name Potter instead of Weasley now that she and Ron had gone their separate ways—and a large, lumpy cardigan. She was sipping tea and taking an occasional bite of a croissant as she went over a file from work.
It had only taken a few instances like those to make Draco realise that Gryffindors did not care about their appearance during the sleepy hours of the morning and decided he could relax enough to let go of that too. He'd always done as he wished around his own rooms at the Manor, but his mother wouldn't allow him to wander the house without proper attire. It was freeing to have the world of the large townhome as his oyster in only his boxers and pyjama pants. The others laughed less when he wore that than when he was dressed to the nines before breakfast anyway. They never got ready before they ate, so he didn't see why he should.
He wondered what his mother would have to say about the development.
He didn't have to wonder long.
Narcissa's first visit came a little less than a month after Draco moved into Grimmauld Place. She gracefully swept from the floo, early one morning, and made her way toward the kitchen.
The scene that greeted her made her jaw drop open in a most unladylike fashion, her lips forming a perfect 'O.' Draco couldn't remember a time when his mother had looked so shocked and couldn't help the little chuckle that escaped his throat. He knew he and his merry band of Gryffindors looked quite the sight, as they always did in the morning. Teddy was perched on Hermione's lap in one of the kitchen chairs, munching a piece of toast and ignoring the eggs his Uncle Harry said, were good for growing future Quidditch stars. The toddler probably looked the most presentable of the group, since he was wearing his usual short-sleeved shirt and pyjama pants. Granger was wrapped in a blanket, which hid her baggy shirt (probably Harry's or an old one of Mr Granger's), flannel bottoms, and most of Teddy's lower half. Harry had at least had the decency to throw on a pair of joggers before he came down for breakfast, and Draco took a moment to thank all the deities he knew of, Muggle and magical alike, that he had not had to deal with the fallout that surely would have come from having a nearly naked Boy Who Lived face off with his painfully proper mother.
Draco himself stood at the stove, clad in only his emerald silk pyjama pants, making a fresh batch of tea. Granger had a habit of drinking more than her fair share by the time the sun came up, leaving either Kreacher or one of the boys to make a second batch most mornings. When the Malfoy heir noticed his mother in the doorway, his laugh at her shocked face faded into a silent, stark awareness, suddenly uncomfortable with how very bare his chest was.
For the first time in years, if not the first time ever, Draco stuttered. "M-mother? What are you doing here so early?"
Narcissa carefully closed her mouth, lifting a perfectly groomed eyebrow as she said, "You haven't called or brought my favourite nephew to visit in weeks. That is so very unlike the son I raised that I thought perhaps something more sinister than a case of laziness might have befallen you. Apparently, I was wrong." The tilt to her perfect pout let Draco know she was teasing while also getting her point across: You don't just get to ignore your mother, Draco. Ever. I birthed, fed, and raised you; the least you can do is come 'round and visit me once in awhile.
Draco had the decency to look chagrined but quickly came up with a plan of action for getting back in his mother's good graces. It wasn't usually hard, smitten as Narcissa was, with her only child, but it couldn't hurt to throw a rather adorable young metamorphmagus into the mix.
"Teddy's just figured out a new trick on his broom, Mother."
The pale blue ice of Narcissa's eyes lit up with happiness. She went over to Teddy, still ensconced in his throne atop Hermione's lap, snug in the cosy blanket they shared. His bedhead changed to a shock of white blonde hair, sticking up in all directions—rather like Draco's own hair did in the mornings.
Narcissa bit her lip, but a snicker still slipped out. She covered it as best she could by clearing her throat and crouched down to speak to the boy. "I would very much like to see your new trick, darling."
Teddy's eyes flicked to each of the other adults in the room, making sure he had each of their approval. Harry firmly said, "Five bites of eggs first," which was followed by a painful-to-watch rendition of Teddy attempting to suffocate himself by shovelling eggs in as quickly as he could swallow them. Narcissa stood and stepped out of the line of fire, knowing her favourite house elf would have a fit if she came home with eggs and grease stains on her robes. When Harry's need to give Teddy a moderately well-rounded breakfast had been appeased, Teddy leapt from Hermione's lap, racing out the door to grab his broom.
This time no one in the kitchen managed to hold back their laughter, but Narcissa's sharp gaze flicked to her son as they all enjoyed a moment of amusement at Teddy's antics. She was pleasantly surprised to see him so comfortable here, and the way Teddy looked to each of them for an answer before leaving the table made it seem as though the Gryffindors and her son were doing a fair job of splitting the task of parenting their young charge, even if they were each working and taking turns watching Teddy as their schedules allowed.
Raising a child—especially one from the Black family line—could be a daunting task under normal circumstances. On top of that, Teddy was an orphan who had experienced the deaths of his three closest family members in less than five years. Narcissa didn't envy Draco and the others the task of dealing with the emotional baggage one bit, though she was grateful the boy had all of them—and herself—to help him along the way.
Her gaze turned to Harry, and she wondered at the similarities of their circumstances, both orphaned before they were even old enough to remember their parents. Yet, Harry, if the Prophet was to be believed, was raised by Muggles who despised and mistreated him. Teddy had a whole slew of people who adored him, starting with his godfather and blood relatives, lapping over into the extensive ranks of the Order. The Weasley family and the Granger girl, especially, had a soft spot in their hearts for Narcissa's grandnephew.
Speaking of Miss Granger, Narcissa finally turned to study her as the younger witch moved to clear the table and start the process of spelling the dishes to wash and dry themselves. It was wandwork Narcissa had never bothered to learn since the house elves always saw to the chores in the kitchen and elsewhere around the Manor. There had never been a need to get her immaculately manicured hands dirty. But it was good to see someone here had a penchant for running a household since it appeared both of the young men in the home weren't even awake enough to locate and don a shirt at this hour of the morning. If the hefty stack of parchment near Hermione's place at the table was any indication, she rose early to get a head start on the day before anyone else came downstairs.
All of this was observed in a few short moments as the residents of Grimmauld Place cleaned up all evidence of breakfast and ushered Narcissa into the drawing room, which was the main area Teddy was allowed to fly, despite its rather diminutive size. All the other rooms in the house had too many breakables or were not the right size for the circles and twirls Teddy enjoyed executing when he was allowed to bring his broom out to play.
Though he wouldn't say it aloud, Draco didn't really think Grimmauld Place was the best place to raise a child. His thoughts must have been echoed in Narcissa's mind, for her lips pulled tight into the barest hint of a grimace as she watched Teddy do his latest trick - a complete loop that almost had his feet touching the ceiling at the top.
The Manor had more places to play. Draco would have pointed that out if he had the courage—or stupidity—to take it up with his co-parents.
Teddy proudly showed off his tricks, zooming up and down and all around the room. He attempted one more loop, a little lower to the ground than usual, and snagged the back end of his broom on the back of one of the chairs. All four of the adults felt like time had slowed, but none of them were close enough to catch Teddy as he tumbled from the broom and rolled onto the rug, narrowly avoiding the hearthstones and immediately bursting into tears.
Hermione stood in shock, hand over her mouth, but Harry was used to dealing with this kind of thing from years of Quidditch and Auror training. His hands shook a little more than they regularly would have in such circumstances, as he checked Teddy, but he was pretty sure that was a normal parental response. Scooping Teddy up, he brought the crying boy over to one of the settees and was about to sit when Draco appeared at his side, arms outstretched.
"I'll hold him. My healing and diagnostic charms are mediocre at best, but I'll do what I can to comfort him."
Harry nodded, realising that Draco may be in his own little wave of shock if he thought of that kind of thing, and gently handed Teddy over to Draco's outstretched arms. The taller man cradled his little cousin to his chest, making shushing noises while stroking his hair, which was the bright, neon green he saved for when he was in pain.
Harry's wand whirled, and it was only a moment before Hermione knelt beside him on the floor, adding her own healing charms to the mix. Teddy only had a few good-sized bruises and a mild concussion, but they did what they could to make him comfortable.
Narcissa suddenly broke the silence. "Where might I find a pain potion?"
Harry's eyes flicked to her briefly, full of gratitude, before he jerked his chin in the direction of the stairs. "There should be some in the bathroom cupboard below the sink."
She nodded and made her way from the room, sweeping up the stairs and digging through the rather well-stocked potions cupboard before pulling out a mild pain potion—the same brew she gave Draco as a child—and carrying it downstairs. When she arrived, Hermione was telling the story of the time Harry had broken the bones in one of his arms during a Quidditch match and asked that Teddy fly with care from now on. None of them wanted to see a repeat performance. Teddy nodded solemnly and took the pain potion with little fuss, much to Narcissa's surprise. Draco had complained until he was nearly blue in the face each time anyone had attempted to give him a potion. She was honestly surprised he took any as an adult, given the outrageous contempt he had for them as a child.
Once Teddy was calm again, Draco took him upstairs to get ready for the day. Narcissa smiled fondly at her two favourite boys and did her best to ignore the way her heart cracked and bled just a bit at the thought that Lucius wasn't around to enjoy it with her—and that he probably wouldn't have been willing to love Teddy even if he was. Squaring her shoulders to allow the heavy thoughts to roll off of them, she turned to face her son's housemates, who were now standing awkwardly in front of her, not quite sure whether it would be more appropriate to leave the room to get dressed or continue to entertain their guest in their sleep clothes...or lack thereof.
Narcissa daintily cleared her throat to speak. "I know Muggles live too close to make flying outside a possibility here in the city, but Teddy would be welcome to come visit the Manor and fly anytime." She gestured to Harry and upstairs where she knew Draco was. "All three of you."
Hermione still looked shaken by the incident, which Narcissa thought probably boded well for her cause. The curly-haired witch spoke up. "She's probably right, Harry. He's getting too big—and too good at flying—for this to be a safe place for him to fly anymore. He could have been seriously hurt today." She curled a fist into her oversized shirt as if doing so would help hold her together until she could properly process the trauma of this incident later.
Harry thought it over for only a moment, giving Hermione a questioning glance that Narcissa thought she understood before nodding his agreement. "You're probably right. He's nearly outgrown that toddler practice broom he has, anyway. He'll be moving up to a child size model any day now." He chuckled. "Good thing, too. That thing has taken quite a beating."
The women laughed softly with him. Narcissa spoke up. "Actually, Draco has a broom or two already picked out for him at the Manor. Flying together was one of Teddy's favourite things to do there. I'm a little surprised Draco never mentioned it before, but then I suppose the memories you both have of our home are not exactly happy ones. I can't blame him for not inviting you over sooner now that I think of it."
Harry grimaced, and Hermione tugged the sleeve of her oversized jumper down from where it had been pushed up to her elbow, covering the slur that had been carved there by Narcissa's sister. The older woman didn't miss the action, and she turned away from the Gryffindors, clearly upset. When she glanced back up to meet Hermione's eyes, her own grey-blue eyes bore a sheen of tears.
Harry and Hermione didn't know how to respond. It was one of the last things they had ever expected to hear from Draco's mother. She had happily ignored the past during all of their previous interactions, and Hermione had assumed she would continue to do so forever. Seeing the raw pain and regret in Narcissa's eyes was something neither member of the Golden Trio had anticipated, though Hermione felt several of the larger cracks that remained in her heart as evidence of her hardships amidst the whirlwind of war fill with warmth and start to heal. Her own eyes were damp as she tried to offer Narcissa a shaky smile.
Draco and Teddy popped their heads back into the room at the same time, making Narcissa laugh. Teddy grinned. "Uncle Draco said I could look like a real wizard today. What do you think?" He strutted forward in a miniature dark blue set of semi-formal robes. Harry hadn't known he'd owned anything like them, but then he also had no idea that Teddy had an assortment of brooms waiting for him at Malfoy Manor. Apparently, Draco had a penchant for spoiling his young cousin. It wasn't as if he'd miss the money, but Harry still found himself applauding Draco for his thoughtfulness in trying to include Teddy in his world and brighten the boy's day in any way possible.
Hermione returned Teddy's grin. "Well, aren't you dashing? What's the special occasion?"
It was Draco's turn to smile. "Mother and I have been thinking of taking him out to do some shopping for his birthday next week. She may have surprised me with her early arrival—" he shot Narcissa a look "—but we were planning on taking him today while you two are at work."
Harry nodded and turned to look at Hermione, who was deep in thought, lip caught between her teeth and brow furrowed. Narcissa must have noticed the younger woman's face, for she said, "Draco, why don't you and Teddy go ahead and floo to Diagon Alley and start looking around? I just wanted to finish our conversation from earlier, then I'll join you."
Draco looked like he wanted to argue but nodded and led Teddy back out of the room.
Hermione only waited for the flare of the sound of floo travel before she voiced her concerns. "I just realised that we haven't made any plans for Teddy's birthday yet. It's a Wednesday, so we'll be doing our usual juggling of schedules. I'd rather have all of us home for the day, but I have a big case that I don't think I can postpone." She huffed in frustration, unused to forgetting much of anything, much less her favourite toddler's birthday. "I can't believe it slipped my mind. I've just been so busy with work and things…" she trailed off, and Harry knew she was thinking about Ron. The strain between them was taking its toll on Hermione, and she was avoiding the Weasleys and several of their mutual friends out of fear of confrontation.
Harry cleared his throat. "What if we threw a party for him on the weekend. Saturday is usually free for all of us. Should we have the party here?" he asked, directing the question at Hermione.
She tilted her head in consideration, but Narcissa spoke first. "I'd be honoured to host it at the Manor if you need a bigger space. My elves haven't hosted a children's birthday party in years! They'd be beside themselves with excitement."
The new twinkle in Narcissa's eye kept Hermione from stepping up onto her soapbox concerning house elves and their rights. Anyway, spending so much time with Kreacher had taught her that there was at least a little truth to the saying that a working elf was a happy elf. And it seemed that house elves who were kept busy running after children were the happiest of all. Kreacher had never looked as young or happy as he did when chasing after "Young Master Black-Lupin." Hermione had worried about how he would respond to having Teddy around all the time, but she needn't have feared. The amount of Black blood in Teddy's veins, in addition to the way Harry ordered the elf to treat his friends and family with respect, must have been enough to garner the old elf's favor, for he had taken to the little boy instantly and never thrown around any of the slurs he'd previously used on the Lupins and other members of the Order.
Throwing the party at the Manor would save Draco, Harry, and herself the stress over the course of the work week, and Narcissa was a legendary party planner. It was sure to be the event of the year if she was in charge. Though Hermione wasn't sure how Teddy would feel about such a big to-do, she didn't have the heart to say no.
"That sounds perfect."
Narcissa was beautiful on the darkest of days, but now she fairly glowed with happiness. "I'll send an owl with the particulars. It was lovely to see you both."
With that, the Malfoy matriarch swept from the room and followed her son through the floo.
A/N: Can I just tell you all how amazing you are? You're amazing. You've stayed with me through a rather excruciating bout of writer's block for this story, and I love you all for it. The kind words that have continually poured in through reviews, PMs, and facebook have just astounded me. I hope you continue to love where this story is headed! A lightning bolt of inspiration hit me this morning, so I'm hopeful that the next update will be out soon!
Part of the reason updates have been so slow is that I've been busy with comps and other plunnies, so keep an eye out for new stories! There's a Remus/Tonks/Hermione (triad) story I'm particularly excited about, so stay tuned. :)
One of my favorite people, Mahawna, has jumped on board as a second beta, so send some kisses her way. SaintDionysis has been my cheerleader every step of the way for this fic and has started to alpha read for me, so at least part of the credit for this chapter goes to her. ;) Thanks also to ombreerhinestone for her continued help and support for this story. I have the best support team ever!