"I spy with my little eye something….green."
"Oh….dare's too many gweens in your home….can you gives me 'nother hint, Unca Dway-co?"
Draco looked down into the precocious face of the little boy sitting beside him. His jet-black hair curled around his head like a halo, indicating his mother's influence and the telltale emerald eyes revealed his father's. The handsome son of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger was watching him with an expectant expression.
Smirking, he indulgently gave in. "Oh, all right. I spy with my little eye something green….near the fireplace."
As the boy looked eagerly in the direction of the hint, Draco couldn't help but be reminded of all the times he had seen the boy's father push his glasses up his nose just like his son had just done. Little James had not just inherited his father's eye color but his eyesight, too, the poor little tyke. The round glasses perched on his nose looked too thick to belong to a boy of four, but Hermione had said part of the reason for his poor vision was James' love of reading. Well, at least that part was Hermione's fault. Draco didn't think he even knew what the alphabet was at four, but James always had his nose stuck in a book.
"Is it that vase ova dare?" he pointed.
Draco shook his head. "Try again."
While James searched, Draco thought back to how and when Harry and Hermione had become a couple. The war had changed many lives in the wizarding world. It had changed the Weasley's immensely. Unable to overcome their grieving for Fred, they had transferred their hatred of Voldemort to Harry. It was his fault Fred had died. If he had only conquered the Dark Lord sooner, their son might still be living. The feeling was irrational, it was wrong, but it was also unfortunately pervasive. Before long, the only Weasley who would speak to Harry was Charlie. Ron shunned him; Ginny gave him up. All he had left was Hermione, who had been given an ultimatum by her adopted family. Disgusting them all, she chose to stand by the Boy Who Lived.
Ginny had been particularly vindictive. "You've been waiting for this chance, haven't you? You always wanted him."
Draco shook his head. The youngest Weasley had been just as delusional as her older brother.
Ron had had a fit when Hermione stood staunchly by Harry. "I get it," he seethed. "Just like before when we were hunting horcruxes; you wouldn't leave him then, just like you won't now. I never had a chance with you, did I? Ginny was right."
Draco wondered at the Weasleys' intelligence. Didn't they realize they had effectively pitted Harry and Hermione against the lot of them? Of course, they would band together. Common sense should have told them they would eventually become a couple.
It had been a big sensation when Harry and Hermione announced their engagement. The Brightest Witch of her Age and the Chosen One were not back page fodder. The press had gone wild. Draco remembered seeing the headline in the morning's paper five months after his sentencing. Thursday, November 12, 1998 had been a cold day, he recalled. It had been two months since his father had received The Kiss for his crimes in the war. Draco had been been eating breakfast with his mother when the house elf brought the paper with the toast.
"Well, well, well…..," he'd said.
"What is it, Dear?"
Draco leaned over to hand the paper to his mother. "It's just what I predicted."
Narcissa hummed in sympathy. "Those poor dears. The way that Arthur's family is treating them is abominable. I do hope they will be happy together."
"Why shouldn't they be? Look at this article...they've got the whole wizarding world groveling at their feet."
Narcissa looked at him shrewdly. "Is that sour grapes I'm hearing, Son?"
Draco's face darkened. His mother could always read him like a book. But instead of confirming her suspicions, all he said was, "I don't know what you mean."
"Come now, Draco. There's no need to dodge my question. I'm not your father, bless his misguided soul. You've fancied Miss Granger for awhile, haven't you?"
Draco wasn't willing to admit to anything. Why should he when nothing would ever come of it? Especially now with the announcement of their engagement. "Me? Fancy a mud…"
"Don't say that word, Dear. Besides, that just proves my point. You never really believed that dogma, the same as I. For you to revert to your father's language meant I hit close to the mark."
Narcissa watched Draco as he sighed, then rested his face against his palm. At that moment, he didn't care that his elbow was on the table. "Mother…..what is the point of all this? Hermione is marrying Potter. With our history, she never would have considered me as a suitor. I was a loser before I started. Face it, Mum…..when have I ever been able to compete against The Boy Who Lived?"
"True losers are not those who try and fail, but those who fail to try." Then she gave her son a pointed look. "Don't hate others for trying when you would not."
Draco had no comment to that.
About a month after their wedding, Hermione discovered she was pregnant. Draco found out when she came into the potion shop he had just opened in Diagon Alley. His house arrest finished, he'd been busy stocking the store with potions he'd made while confined at the manor. Hearing the door magically tinkle to alert him to a customer, he'd gone to the front to see Hermione looking at different items on the shelves. When she saw him, a startled look appeared on her face.
"Malfoy….I…..I didn't realize…...you work here?"
He grinned. "It's worse than that…..I own this store."
Hermione's eyes widened in surprise. "You do?'
"The name over the door didn't clue you in on that, Granger?" he said, chuckling. He watched as her cheeks blushed crimson. "Er…..I didn't notice it…..sorry."
A myriad of emotions danced over her face. Taking pity on her, he said, "Congratulations on your marriage to Potter." He felt like a liar saying it, but it seemed to steady Hermione's nerves.
A small smile flitted across her features. "Thank you. It's uh….sort of the reason I'm here, to tell you the truth."
"Oh?" Draco didn't see how their marriage and his business had anything to do with the another.
"Er...yes. You see, it's just that I found out...um...that is, we were told that….well….," she looked at Draco's uncomprehending grey eyes, "I'm pregnant, Draco. And I need a potion….to help with morning sickness."
Draco felt like he'd received a punch to his gut. Hermione had called him Draco. Of course, she had to say it when announcing her pregnancy. Pain seemed to be Draco's lot in life…. his secret love was carrying Harry Potter's baby.
Well, whose else would it be, idiot? He asked himself.
Still, it hurt. Try as he might to stomp out the flame within him that burned for the Gryffindor Princess, it wouldn't go out. He'd resigned himself to a solitary life. His mother had attempted to set him up with other witches, but even she knew it was futile. Draco's heart, like hers, would love only once. It was the Black way. Just because he wasn't loved back wouldn't change it.
"Are….are you alright?" Hermione's concerned voice brought him back to the present. She gently touched his arm.
Draco softly sucked in his breath. Misinterpreting it, Hermione hastily moved her hand.
"I'm sorry," she muttered. "I didn't know you still felt that way."
"I don't," he interrupted as he reached out to grab her hand. "I was just surprised. That's all."
Hermione's face brightened hearing that. It was torture for Draco to see it. Quickly letting go of her hand, he said, "I don't have what you need at present, but if you come back this afternoon, I'll have it ready."
Nodding, Hermione picked up her bag but before she began to make her way out of the store, she stood on her tiptoes to give Draco a soft kiss on the cheek. "Thank you, Draco. Harry and I don't get much support. The Weasleys have a strong influence in the wizarding community, and you know…..we're not very high on their list."
Draco bristled in anger. Potter and Hermione should be the darlings of the Wizarding World, but thanks to the Weasley's campaign of blackballing them, they were now practically friendless. He put his hand on her shoulder. Hermione looked up questioningly at him.
"Not everyone follows the dictates of that House. You and Potter come to the Manor tomorrow night. Come be a part of our circle."
Hermione looked at him with wide eyes, but nodded. Once she had left his shop, Draco groaned.
I'm in for it now, he thought.
That had been the start of their friendship. Draco still didn't care much for Potter, but for Hermione's sake he bit his lip and pretended he did. On the evening of their first dinner at the manor, Draco invited Blaise Zabini, Theo Nott and Pansy Parkinson. He didn't know that the three he asked would bring others, but after he'd told them why he wanted them there, they lost no time in filling up the spaces around the Malfoy's dining table. Pansy brought Neville Longbottom with her; Blaise made sure Luna Lovegood was included. Theo, bless him, had remembered Hermione's friendship with Viktor Krum from their fourth year and dropped him a line, filling him in with Hermione and Harry's plight. The good-natured Bulgarian had brought his entire Quidditch team to the meal.
When Hermione and Harry arrived, Narcissa was the first to greet them.
"Welcome to the Manor, Mr. and Mrs. Potter," she said. "We're so pleased you could come."
Hermione and Harry looked around at the changed appearance of the manor. Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. There was nothing there that reminded her of her previous visit and torture at the hands of Bellatrix.
Narcissa had her elves take their coats. Hermione was wearing a lovely heather-colored gown. The soft material showcased the small bump that was just beginning to show.
"Thank you for having us, Mrs. Malfoy," said Harry.
"No need to thank me, dear. This was all Draco's doings," she said.
Harry raised his brow at that. Hermione grinned and whispered, "Told you."
Narcissa led them from the foyer into the massive dining room. There, already seated was the group waiting for them.
"Blimey," Harry murmured as he looked at the faces looking back at them. "You didn't tell me, 'Mione."
"I…..I didn't know myself," she stuttered, tears beginning to form in her eyes at the overwhelming support.
Pansy was the first one who spoke. Rising from her chair, she haltingly said, "I would like to apologize for my...er….bad behavior, Potter. I'm glad you defeated that monster. Truly, I am."
He and Hermione could both see the sincerity in her eyes.
"I appreciate that, Parkinson," he said.
"It's Pansy to all my friends."
Both of the Potters understood Pansy's offer of friendship. Harry nodded his head, moved, but Hermione walked over to give Pansy a hug. "Thank you…..Pansy," she said gratefully.
"Aw, gee…..I'd forgotten what a huggy bunch you Gryffindors were," drawled Blaise while watching the tender scene.
"You don't have room to talk, Blaisey," Theo smirked. "You and your Ravenclaw are the definition of touchy-feely."
"Did you know the term touchy-feely's origins were from a Muggle politician's..…," was all Luna was able to get out before Harry cried out joyfully upon seeing his friend.
After that, the formal dinner became more like a family reunion. Hugs and kisses and thanks abounded. Hermione went over to give Viktor a hug and a chaste kiss, Neville clapped Harry on the back and told him Ron had his head in his arse and Theo pretended to pout while saying loud enough for everyone to hear, "What about me? What about me, huh? If anyone deserves to be kissed by Granger, it's me."
He was finally silenced when Hermione grabbed his arms and planted a big, fat, wet kiss right on his mouth.
Hoots and whistles filled the air. Harry laughed, shaking his head at the expression on Theo's shocked face. When Hermione finally released him, he said, "Whoa…. Potter, you're one lucky man."
Harry kissed his wife on the temple. "That I am, Nott."
Through it all, Draco kept quiet. He observed the flush of happiness on Hermione's face. Though he would never benefit from it, her joy made him happy. She and Potter would not be friendless anymore. Draco was pleased.
He had finally made a right choice.
After making that initial decision to help Hermione, other opportunities began to present themselves to Draco. When Harry had needed an endorsement from a member of the Wizengamot to apply for an Auror position, Draco had taken the seat left by his father and given Harry the backing. While there, he found out why that obscure regulation had been applied to Potter's case. He hadn't been surprised to find that Percy Weasley, acting on behalf of his father, had rooted out that requirement from a case back in the seventeenth century. Being Slytherin, Draco knew how to fight fire with fire. He immediately used his position and influence to retaliate with an equally obscure clause that restricted members of the same family having positions within the Ministry at the same time. Percy and Ron lost their jobs because of it. That seemed to subdue the Weasley's passion for persecuting the Potters. At least, for a time.
After that, Harry and Hermione enjoyed blessed peace. It was a good thing, too, for by then Hermione's due date was upon them. She had grown, lovely in her motherhood, thought Draco, until she resembled a walking bludger. Draco had teased her about it; Harry heard him and laughed. He told Draco he was right; she had become a bludger in other ways, too. Harry admitted to being slightly afraid of Hermione whenever her hormones took a downward turn. Draco had laughed. Without realizing it had happened, he and Harry had become friends, and not in name only. He finally learned why Hermione was so dedicated to the boy-who-lived. Harry was a good man. He had a kind heart. He was also humble, much to Draco's surprise. He wasn't afraid to admit his needs.
When Draco received a fire call a few nights later, Harry was panicking. "Help me, Draco," he panted. "Hermione's water broke. She's in terrible pain."
Draco immediately sprung into action. "Move over," he shouted as he entered his fireplace. He arrived with ash all over him to find Hermione doubled over in agony.
"Can you apparate with her to St. Mungo's?" he asked.
"Can't," Harry said, his voice quivering with worry. "It would hurt the baby."
"I'll go and bring a healer back here," said Draco.
"No….let me. I don't know what to do if something goes wrong."
"And I do? You need to stay with your wife, Potter."
But Harry, in a blind panic, hadn't listened. With a pop, he apparated away to St. Mungo's.
Just then, Hermione let sound a tortured moan that soon became a scream.
"It hurts!" she yelled.
Draco didn't know what to do. Then he recalled what had helped him the times he'd been crucioed by Voldemort. Taking Hermione's hand, he said, "Squeeze my hand at your next contraction and I'll talk you through it."
Hermione looked at him like he was crazy. "What good will that do?"
"Just do it, okay? I promise it will help."
Hermione didn't have to wait long to find out. It seemed no time had passed before the next contraction began to build. Doing what Draco had said, she squeezed his hand.
"Alright. I need you to keep looking at me. Look at me, Hermione," he insisted when her eyes started to close from the pain. "Relax your stomach muscles. Don't fight against the pain. Do it!" he demanded.
Shocked by his raised voice, Hermione tried to relax against the grip that was squeezing her body.
"That's right, love. Slip beneath the pain. Let it storm above you. You're underwater and not affected by the wave," he crooned in a soothing voice. So intent was he in helping Hermione, he didn't notice his slip-up of calling her "love". But behind him, Harry heard it. He'd just come back with the healer.
"You've done a good job, Mr. Malfoy...but let me take over now," the middle-aged woman said in a professional voice. "That baby needs to come out now." Soon she had Hermione breathing correctly, and before the two nervous wizards knew it, the sound of a newborn's cry filled the room. Draco slumped back against the wall in relief.
"You have a son, Mr. Potter," the healer said proudly. Harry took the wee bundle into his arms. A small little face, red from its ordeal, stared back at him.
"He's yours, alright. Look at his hair," Draco teased when he saw the dark strands standing up in every direction.
After the healer cleaned up Hermione, she let Harry and Draco come close.
"He's beautiful, 'Mione," Harry said as he sat down beside her on the bed. Giving her a heartfelt kiss, he added, "Thank you, Sweetheart."
Draco knew he needed to leave to let the couple before him enjoy their special first time as a family, but his feet wouldn't move. He was riveted by the scene before him. Pureblood families always used their house elves as nannies. Once the birth occurred, the baby would be given into their care. But with Harry and Hermione, their son stayed with them. Kreacher came in once to peek at the newest addition to the House of Potter, then padded off, muttering to himself that his Mistress had done a good job despite being a muggleborn.
"Draco….don't just stand there by the door, come and hold your godson," chuckled Hermione in a tired voice.
"You want me to be his godfather?" he asked, disbelieving.
Hermione snorted. "Who else? Did you think we'd ask Theo?"
Draco laughed. "I guess not."
Moving to stand over the couple, Harry offered their son to him.
"What will you name him?" he asked.
Hermione smiled at Harry; seeing him nod in approval, she murmured, "You tell him."
Harry pushed up his glasses. Draco was beginning to think it was a nervous habit of his. "James, after my father. And Leo, in honor of his godfather's constellation name."
Draco looked up from staring at Little James. "Leo? You're giving him a constellation name….because of me?"
"The only reason we didn't name him Draco was because we thought you might want to name your own son that one day," explained Hermione, grinning.
Draco swallowed hard. "I…..I don't know what to say."
"Well, that's a first," quipped Harry.
Draco stayed with the small family for a few more minutes. Then he excused himself with the promise to visit the next day.
After he left, Harry nestled close to his wife and said, "He called you Love earlier; did you notice?"
Hermione looked up from nursing their baby. "What? When?"
"During one of your contractions."
"I don't think he meant what you're thinking. He calls Pansy that all the time and you know how smitten she is with Neville."
"Yeah….but this sounded different somehow."
Hermione gave Harry an amused look. "Are we searching for things to worry over now that James is here, safe and sound?"
Harry conceded it might be that.
But he didn't think so.
For the next four years Draco watched on the sidelines as Harry had the family he wanted. He tried not to be jealous; his mother's words about never having even tried haunted him at times, but he did the best he could with the graces he'd been given. He was a devoted godfather to James, often taking him over to Theo's so the two could spoil him with all the sweets the little tot could eat. Hermione would complain that James was always hyper after a play day with his godfather, but it never stopped Draco from indulging James' sweet tooth.
His relationship with Harry grew, too. When the tide of public opinion turned once more to the Weasley's favor after a bungled rescue attempt by Harry's Auror team, Draco took out an ad in the paper for his successful store. He'd made sure the image in the advertisement had Harry in it. The same was true when Witch Weekly's annual Best of Britain's listing came out and Draco's store was given the Best In Apothecary Award. In the magical picture that accompanied the article, Draco was holding James with Harry and Hermione by his side. Still, Arthur Weasley and his ilk tried to tear Harry down. When Harry's team had been wounded on another assignment, Arthur and his sons talked privately to the injured Aurors. The result of that was that five of the seven team members asked to be reassigned to another Captain. The display of no confidence hit Harry hard. Fighting dark wizards was the only thing he thought he was good at. If that was taken from him...
Harry began to suffer from melancholy. Seeing his friend struggle, Draco suggested that he retire from Auror duty and join him at his potions shop. That caused Harry to confess to Draco that his excellence in their advanced potion class was due solely to having Snape's old book. When Draco learned that, he laughed long and hard at Harry's sheepish expression.
"I wondered how you'd gotten so good," he smirked, crossing his arms in front of him in amused satisfaction.
"Oh….bugger off," Harry said, play-pushing Draco's shoulder. "You sound just like 'Mione."
"Don't bring me into your deceits, Harry Potter," she said. "You know how I felt about you using that book." She had James on her lap, trying to brush out his wild mane. "James, if you don't hold still, I'm going to ask Uncle Draco to take you to get it cut."
The little tot put his chubby little hands on top of his curly head as if to protect it. With big green eyes, he pleaded, "No! Unca Dway-co…..puweeaze…..don't cuts my hayah!"
"Then mind your mother, Little Monkey."
James immediately put his hands down. He knew this game. "Is you's a monkey's unca, Dway-co?"
"What did you say?" Draco pretended to be mad, then with a quick swoop grabbed up the boy from Hermione's lap. James squealed with childish delight.
"Monkey's uncle, am I? Well then, this little monkey can swing from my tree!" Draco grabbed James by both ankles and gently let him fall to swing upside down.
Harry and Hermione smiled at the sweet-sounding giggles that erupted from their son.
Who would have thought Draco Malfoy would be so good with children? thought Hermione. Not her younger self, that's for sure.
"If his lunch comes back up from all that swinging, you're cleaning it up, Unca Dway-co," Harry chuckled.
Righting the boy back up, Draco held the tot in his arms. "You're okay, aren't you James?"
He nodded his head vigorously. "Do it 'gain!"
"I'm afraid not, Sweetheart," Hermione said, much to her son's anguish. "It's naptime now."
"No! No's sweepin'! I's wants to pway wif Unca Dway-co!" he protested.
"James, we can play again later. Now's the time to obey your mother...alright?"
Draco didn't often use that tone with James, but the little boy knew what it meant. His playful, precious Uncle believed him to be a big boy, was expecting him to behave like a big boy, and if there was one thing James hated to do, it was to disappoint his beloved Draco.
"Alwight," he acquiesced.
"Good man," Draco said, pleased.
"Cans I have a kiss before my nap?"
"Of course." Draco gave the boy a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek. Then Harry gave his son the same. Both men watched as Hermione carried James out of the room.
"He minds you better than he does me," Harry laughed.
"He's the best thing you've ever done….you know that, right?"
Harry looked at Draco. "Absolutely." Clearing his throat, he said, "Listen….while Hermione's out of the room, I've been wanting to talk to you about something."
Draco raised his brow. "Something you don't want Hermione to know?"
Harry shook his head. "It's not that I don't want her to know…..I just don't want her to worry."
Draco frowned. "What is it, Harry?"
Sighing, he said, "A couple of weeks ago, we rounded up a few Voldemort sympathizers. En route back to the ministry, they were able to overcome the Incarcerous we spelled them with. A fight broke out. The one wizard who wasn't killed finally confessed a few days ago. He said their group had been trying to get to me."
Draco nodded. It seemed his friend always had a bullseye on his back. "And….?"
Harry looked down, a worried frown filling his face. "He said they'd made a vow. If they couldn't take me out, they'd target my family."
Draco's face froze. Oh, God…..
Harry's forehead furrowed with worry lines. "I can't have that, Draco. I have to keep my family safe. That's why I can't accept your offer. I can't leave off being an Auror until the lot of them are found and imprisoned."
Draco's heart was beating a mile a minute. He'd known Harry was a lightning rod, but it had never occurred to him that Hermione and little James could be one, too.
"What can I do?" Draco had never felt so helpless.
Harry gave him a long look. "Promise me. If anything should happen….if they or someone like them are finally successful…..you'll see to 'Mione and James?"
"Don't….don't even talk like that."
Harry's emerald eyes pierced Draco's grey ones. "Please….won't you do this for me? No one loves them like I do…...except for you."
Draco's breath caught at Harry's implication.
Lowering the walls he'd always kept high, Draco let out a defeated sigh and wearily asked, "How long?"
"How long what?"
"How long have you known?"
Harry gave him a small smile. "Since the night James was born."
Draco tried to think back to that time, to what he had done that could have tipped Harry off, but he couldn't remember. "I promise on my magic….I never would have acted on it."
Clapping Draco's shoulder, Harry nodded. "I know. You…well," Harry chuckled, a bit embarrassed, "...you've become my best mate. I never blamed you for what you couldn't control."
Draco looked down at his shoes. He couldn't yet look Harry in the eye. "Does...does she know?"
"No. I wouldn't do that to you. As I said, you're our best friend."
Draco breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you. I owe you, Harry."
"Then give me what I want, and we'll call it even. Please Draco. I need that peace of mind."
Harry's face was so pleading, so earnest, Draco couldn't deny him. Or himself.
"All right, then. I promise."
Draco should have known. Harry had known more than he'd let on. Of course, he did. He'd always been such a martyr. Like before, when he left Hogwarts Castle to surrender himself to Voldemort, Harry, after receiving Draco's promise, left Hermione and James to finish the business his would be assassins had started. Only this time, they were the last ones standing. Intelligence had been received that the leader of the rebel group was ensconced in an abandoned barn outside of one of the smaller villages in Devon. Harry had gone with another team of Aurors to try to apprehend the rogue. They didn't know they had been set up and were walking into a trap. Instead of one villain to contend with, at least fifty wizards outnumbered the little band of seven Aurors. Harry and the others with him were ambushed. Harry was hit with so many Avada Kedavras, his spirit was long gone before his lifeless body hit the ground. Only one from the ministry made it out alive. Blaise Zabini had gone with them, not as an Auror, but as a prosecutor on behalf of the Wizengamot. He'd felt the explosion of power in the barn before he entered. Quickly disillusioning himself, he peeked in to see the carnage inside. Harry had been taken out instantly, but the other Aurors had not been so lucky. Instead of receiving a quick death, they were hit with Reductos and Diffindos. Body parts were everywhere. Blaise quickly backed out, overwhelmed with horror, but was nicked with a stray hex before he could disapparate. A large gash across his stomach appeared, bleeding profusely. Blaise barely made it to St. Mungo's in time.
Draco was in his shop, working feverishly. He'd just found out that morning that Harry had left to bring back the head of the gang. Draco couldn't shake the feeling of apprehension that had clawed at his insides. He tried to stay busy, resisting the feeling of doom. He was in the middle of testing a new potion when an owl appeared at his window. Opening it up, he received the message from the exhausted-looking bird.
Something must have happened. St. Mungo's didn't usually tax their owls unless there was an…...emergency.
Draco's fingers trembled, fighting against the wax seal. When he got the parchment open, he read what was inside it. A moan of grief came from him as the parchment slipped from his fingers.
Little James was now without a father. Hermione was a widow.
Without a thought to what he was doing, Draco let his magic guide him to them.
He had a promise to keep.