A/N: Here we are, m'dears! It's always a challenge to pick up a project after so long. Happy holidays to you all!
Harry wakes the next morning in what is officially his room. It is small for a bedroom at the manor, but it is part of a suite of rooms that includes a library and the second largest bathroom meant for one person that Harry has ever seen. The walls and floor are light, but the furniture is black and the fabric hangings are a color that Harry had thought was a deep red in the firelight, but turned out to be a very dark purple. Initially very confused, Harry decides that he likes the color. It is different, and things, he decides, are going to be different.
The wardrobe is full of clothes, courtesy of James and Michael, who were only too happy to inflict their tastes upon Harry. He sorts through dress robes, blazers, frock coats, and shirts that with too many ruffles in an attempt to find something suitable for breakfast. He pulls out a shirt that isn't too ruffled and uses a severing charm to cut the ruffles from the cuffs. Next time, Harry will have to do his own shopping.
The sudden image of being swarmed by reporters and fans in Diagon Alley springs into his mind.
Or maybe Harry will let Lucius do his shopping. Yes, that would work. If only he could convince Lucius.
He steps out of his room feeling ridiculous, but he'll just have to get used to feeling ridiculous until all of this- the clothes, the manners- started to feel natural.
He pauses at Lucius's door and knocks before entering. "Good morning," Harry says.
"Good morning to you, Mr. Potter. I trust you slept well?" Lucius asks, his tone light, formal. Harry struggles to hide a frown.
"Very well, thank you. Has Gabriel been in to see you yet?' he asks.
"Been and gone down to breakfast, in fact."
Harry stands beside Lucius' bed and peers at Lucius with interest. Lucius' color is better today, less blue and more like his natural shade of pale. "Did he leave any charms for me to cast?"
" A few," says Lucius, waving a hand at a piece of parchment on the bedside table. Slowly, Harry approaches the table. This close to Lucius, Harry can feel the crackle and hum of the magic between them.
"A few! There's a dozen charms on here, at least!"
"You're not supposed to cast them all in one go, you great idiot," says Gabriel, entering with a cup of coffee that Harry can smell across the room. He snatches the list from Harry as soon as he's close enough, and pulling a quill from what Harry can only assume is a hidden pocket up his coat sleeve, scribbles additional notes on the piece of parchment.
"You cannot call my heir an idiot," says Lucius.
"I can't call him an idiot in front of non-family members, but here, in front of you, I can call him an idiot if I please."
"No more than I could call you a great bullying git in front of your mother," Harry says, remembering something from the reading he did while waiting for Lucius to recover. "Not unless you intended to declare yourself our enemy."
Gabriel turns round and fixes Harry with large hazel eyes. "Declare myself your enemy? Declare myself— you know that the last time that particular piece of etiquette was enforced was before the last Goblin war, and no wizard in his right mind or who wasn't looking for an excuse to start a blood feud would actually- oh." Gabriel turns back to Lucius, who has the slightest smile on his face. "You're pulling my leg. You bastard, feeling better, are we?"
"Much better," Lucius replies. "Thanks to your efforts."
"And you—aiding and abetting him already, that bodes well for the future."
Harry gives a slight bow to Gabriel and Lucius. Gabriel shoots him a feral grin. "With a bit more polish, you're going to be a perfect Malfoy."
Harry's jaw drops. He looks to Lucius, who nods at him. "I'll do my best," Harry promises.
Becoming the Malfoy heir turns out to be the hardest thing Harry has ever had to do. Fighting Voldemort was hard, but that had a clear objective. In this, the clearest goal Harry has is to not embarrass Lucius horribly. The others, who have decided to embrace Harry as a cousin, are all too happy to help, and supplementing Lucius' lessons in the history of all the old wizarding families that are considered to be important are lessons in deportment, matters of taste, and dance.
Harry hates the dancing most.
He will only dance with Evan, who never seems to mind when Harry missteps, curses, and trods on his partner's foot. Perhaps that's because Evan is the only partner Harry's ever had that always manages to get his feet clear of Harry's path of destruction across the dance floor.
"Again," Evan says. Harry glares up at Evan from his position seated cross-legged on the floor. Evan extends a hand to Harry, who grudgingly takes it and allows himself to be hauled to his feet and into Rosier's arms.
"Would it help if I were smaller?" Rosier asks. He morphs into a petite, female version of himself. Harry jerks at the unpleasant sensation of Rosier's bones and skin reforming underneath his hand. "You lead," Rosier says, her voice is soft and surprisingly husky for a woman of her size. Harry's face gets warm. Harry puts a hand on Rosier's now-tiny waist and leads his partner in a waltz.
"Relax, Harry," Rosier chides, smiling.
"I am relaxed," Harry retorts.
"You're counting in your head instead of listening to the music. Listen." Harry listens, forgets which foot he moved last and bumps knees with Rosier, barely missing Rosier's foot, again.
"I quit!" Harry says, throwing his hands up in the air. He lays down on the floor and sighs in defeat. Rosier comes to stand next to him.
"You can't quit," She? He? says.
"Watch me," Harry huffs, squirming to find a comfortable position on the hard wooden dance floor.
"You're tense, my friend. What's the trouble?" Rosier is himself now. He settles on the floor next to Harry, folding his long legs under himself.
"I don't want to fuck this up," Harry confesses. He sighs and sits up. "Yet, here I am—fucking it up."
"You're not," Evan says, mild amusement in his tone. Harry snorts. "Really, you're not. In fact, I would even venture to say you are trying too hard—to dance, at least." Harry flops back onto the floor, one arm tossed melodramatically over his forehead.
"I don't know how to try any less."
"Maybe you need a new partner."
"Who would you condemn to dance with me?" Harry asks.
"Lucius, maybe. He's a better dancer than I am," Evan says.
"High praise, Evan indeed," Lucius says. Harry resists the urge to groan at yet another witness to his humiliation.
"Truth only, "Rosier insists, grinning up at Lucius.
"How are the dance lessons coming?"
"Well,' says Evan.
"Miserable," says Harry.
"Which is it?" Lucius asks, smiling a little.
"I think it's going well. Harry feels miserable."
"It's going miserably. Evan is only being kind."
"Shall I see for myself?" Lucius asks, extending a hand to Harry.
It is impossible for Harry to refuse Lucius' hand, nor did he want to. He has discovered, since the day Lucius awakened, that touching Lucius, even casually, was addicting. It sent small shivers through Harry every time they touched and if they were in the same room, Harry could feel the magic between them. It made it extremely difficult to focus on his lessons.
Confident that this is going to be a disaster, Harry rises to his feet yet again. Evan starts the music, and Harry begins something that resembles more a Frankenstein sort of shuffle than any proper waltz.
"You hate this, don't you?" Lucius asks.
"Cruciatus would be preferable," Harry replies morosely. Lucius chuckles.
"I know you have some sense of timing in there somewhere. I've seen you dance." The memory of The Lady with the Spinning Head makes Harry blush. "That was different,' he insists, trying to will the color out of his cheeks.
"It's really not," Lucius says. "I'll show you."
He removes his robe. Underneath, he wears a blue shirt and black trousers. Harry, with his recent crash course in the finer things in life, recognizes both garments, though simple, as being hideously expensive. However, without the robes obscuring his view, Harry will be able to follow Lucius' movements with his eyes.
"You know the steps?" Lucius asks.
Feeling ridiculous is beginning to feel natural to Harry. A fact he notices as he shows Lucius the steps he has been attempting to practice with Evan.
"I see," Lucius says, clasping his hands behind his back. "When you do a Wronski feint, do you do each step separately? Stop flying, accelerate into a dive, pull up hard, and recover altitude?"
"No," Harry replies immediately. "A feint that choppy wouldn't fool anyone. Plus, you'd plant yourself on the pitch while you're busy judging when to pull—oh."
"Yes," Lucius says. "You are trying to break this down into step one and then step two, and then step three, and recover to step one."
"And I'm not fooling anyone that the end result is actually a waltz."
Lucius grins. "No,you're not. Allow me."
Without music or a partner, Lucius demonstrates the sequence of moves Harry has been trying to master. There is no discrete separation of steps, one step flows smoothly into the next and it takes a few repetitions for Harry to realize that the transition from one iteration of steps to the next was seamless.
"Now, follow my lead," Lucius says, taking Harry's hand. The music begins at once, startling Harry, who had forgotten Evan was there. Harry takes a deep breath and entrusts himself to Lucius.
It's not unlike casting a paired spell with Draco, the way he and Lucius sweep across the floor together. Lucius' arm is firm, but gentle on his waist and Harry never has any doubt about which direction to turn or step.
Lucius stops just as Harry is beginning to think this dancing thing could be tolerable.
"Now you lead," he says.
Harry nods, relocating his hand to Lucius' waist. He waits for the next beat in the music and begins. He tries not to think it through, to feel the music and the movement and the heat of Lucius' body through the fine fabric of his shirt.
He glides across the floor. "May I cut in?" Evan asks. Harry blinks at him. Lucius steps aside and Evan takes his place and then Harry is steering Evan across the floor, not quite as smoothly as he had with Lucius, but he is dancing nonetheless.
"You are doing very well," Evan says.
"You said that before, when I tripped over my feet and was lying on the floor."
"No, then I said you were doing well."
"You are doing quite well," Lucius says, slipping into his robe. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll let you two get on without me."
"So, what was that all about?" Evan says as soon as the door to the ballroom shuts.
"It wasn't just me?"
"No, that was different. Distant."
"He's been like that since this whole heir business became official."
"Odd," says Rosier.
"Odd? Until last week, almost every conversation I had with Lucius involved some sort of innuendo or attempt at flirting and now there's just that," Harry says, gesturing to the space where Lucius had last been standing. "And all you have to say is odd?"
"As I am neither a telepath nor an empath, yes. I'm going to stick with odd."
"Lot of help you are."
"You could try talking to Lucius about it?"
"And are you talking to Sebastian yet?"
"Point taken," Evan says, wincing. "So what are you going to do?"
"Nothing. This is all new. It will just take time for us to adjust to the role change, right?"
A long silence from Evan is the only reply.
Comments and criticisms welcome! Next update is tentatively scheduled for January 8th. If you are looking for something to read from me in the meantime, a link to my other active WIP can be found in my profile. It updates weekly.