Word Count : 3,218
Harry was pacing back and forth in his office tugging on his tie. He'd been working away at the material for so long it was almost completely undone, but Draco did not feel like moving from Harry's very comfortable chair to fix it just yet.
"Harry, calm down. You're going to do great. We've already issued a statement with the particulars of the school and its mission statement. This is just for you to publically give your support for the cause. You'll smile...or grimace," he acknowledged when Harry practiced grinning and failed at executing a natural smile.
"You'll read off the speech, look pretty and then Hermione and I will field any questions."
Draco leaned forward, reaching his arms back to try and work the tense muscles in his lower back. He'd just finished the thirty-second week of his pregnancy, and was dealing with back pain now his belly was growing larger.
"Here." Harry was at his side immediately. "Let me."
Draco gave him a grateful smile, leaning onto the desk, his head pillowed on his folded arms. He groaned with relief as Harry's skilful hands roaming over his back, kneading into the areas he needed the most relief.
It had been a month since their wedding, and in those four weeks they'd managed to make a lot of progress establishing Le Jardin. The Ministry had approved their plans, and they were ready to begin remodelling the manor, but Hermione and Draco were wise enough to know it was in their best interest to address any concerns raised by the public in a press conference as soon as it became public record to avoid rumours from forming and spreading.
"Hmm?" the pregnant man murmured.
"I'll be late tonight, so I was thinking you could have dinner with Ron and Hermione so you don't have to eat alone?" the brunet proposed.
"You've worked late every night this week," Draco complained. "What are you doing in here?" He feebly reached out, petulantly pushing a folder across the desk to the very edge.
"I know. I'm sorry. It's just I'm working on this really interesting case. I finally got permission to search the house." Harry's enthusiasm was evident.
"Why are you going into anyone's home, Potter? That seems a lot more hands on than reviewing files." Draco straightened, withdrawing from those magical hands and turning the chair around to face his husband, his face full of suspicion.
"The man in my latest case has been missing, so I'm going to look for clues. It's not like I'm going into a lair of Death Eaters, Draco. It's just an abandoned house," he reassured his protective husband, straightening the folder before it fell over.
"Why is finding this man so important, though?" What was driving Harry to spend extra time and effort toward this case in particular? The oath Harry signed did not allow him to reveal the identities of his cases, so Draco didn't even have a name to go on.
"I need to know if he can be salvaged, if a second chance is possible. No one else has bothered to give him a second look," Harry tried to explain.
Draco looked up at him from beneath his lashes. He didn't like deflating Harry with reality, especially since he was gaining some of his confidence back, but he knew he had to say something. "You can't save everyone, Harry. Not everyone wants to be saved."
"You did," Harry said softly. The more and more he reviewed the file, the sadder he felt for the man. He'd lost his wife shortly after Theodore was born, he'd already been well on in years when they had him, and then ended up losing his son.
"Harry, whoever is in that folder is not me," Draco pointed out firmly. "I can imagine how different our lives would have been if you had not given me your hand, and if my mother had not done what she did. I probably would have found myself a Death Eater. You would have spat at me, possibly even killed me in some classroom for doing something heinous for the Dark Lord."
Harry's face filled with horror, and he grabbed for his hand, holding it between his own.
"I don't mean that," he corrected himself. "You wouldn't have killed me. Injured me possibly, just as I would have done to you. What I need to make sure you understand is that you had a right to fear and hate some of us. Please don't be disillusioned if this one turns out to be irredeemable," Draco implored, squeezing back in return.
"I won't, Draco, I promise. He wouldn't be the first," Harry revealed.
"Have you seen Luna?" the blond asked suddenly.
Harry hedged for a bit. The last time he'd seen her had been at the wedding. He'd not resumed their lunches because he'd started eating at his desk while he reviewed his files.
"Umm, not for a bit," he answered with a sheepish smile.
"Harry, don't get so involved you forget to unwind. This is supposed to be a cathartic experience for you." Draco's expression grew slightly pinched with concern.
"I won't. I'll call her tomorrow, I promise," Harry vowed, giving him a soft kiss in part to distract him, but mostly for the comfort he drew from it himself.
"All right," Draco reluctantly accepted before going back to his original concern. "Who's going with you to this house?"
Harry didn't want to lie, but he knew if he told him he was going alone Draco would only worry more. He shrugged and replied, "Not sure. Shaklebolt is going to tell me tonight."
"It better be someone competent." Draco held his hands up to get assistance in rising to his feet, and reached for the briefcase he'd left in the office earlier.
"I'm not going to bother Hermione. I'll just go home," he decided.
"Please don't do that. I don't want you alone," Harry pleaded. So far when he'd worked late he'd managed to convince Draco to spend the evenings with his friends; he usually made it back by the time Hermione and his husband were ending their meetings.
"I'm not a child, Harry. I hardly need someone to mind me. I can take care of myself," Draco informed him, resting back against the desk.
"I know you can. It just makes me nervous if you're not with someone. What if you go into labour?" Harry looked aghast at the possibility.
"That's a while off," Draco replied, but the conversation with Hermione last week suddenly returned to him.
"There have been wizards having legitimate visions without prior sign of precognition. They never lasted for long, and usually it was to warn them of a particular possible future event. No one knows how to explain it, but less than two percent of wizards ever experience it." She had relayed the information backed up with notes and citations.
"Why am I not surprised Harry is one of the lucky ones?" he'd commented dryly.
"Harry does have a habit of defying small odds," she nodded.
"The difficult and annoying," she stressed with a frown, "thing about visions is they don't normally show you everything. You're left with impressions and images. From what I've gathered from the various texts and examples, I'm positive Harry's vision points to a complication with the pregnancy. I think we should make sure you see Poppy at least once a week to make sure everything is okay."
Hermione was not in complete agreement about keeping their findings from Harry, but it did not stop her from fully devoting herself to help him. She'd even taken the extra precaution of charming a galleon to alert her immediately if something went wrong.
"Please." Harry's plea brought him back from his musings, and he did not hesitate to pull out the kicked puppy look to get Draco to agree.
"Fine," Draco answered. He was tired and longed to go home, but he figured if it granted Harry some peace he would intrude on Hermione for another night, though she'd repeatedly denied he was a bother. It was probably better for him and the baby anyway; if any complication reared its head, it was better for both of them to have help a shout away.
"Thank you." Harry leaned forward, pressing him a little firmer against the desk and tenderly moving his mouth over Draco's, giving his belly a quick rub before moving back.
"I think we need to go," he murmured.
Draco nodded, reaching to adjust Harry's falling tie until it rested neatly once more. "Let's go and network, Potter."
X x x X x X
"I've never been good with speeches. I don't really like speaking in public, and I don't like being the centre of attention, but I think you lot know that." The assembled reporters laughed. Harry smiled a bit, blinking to adjust his eyes from the random camera flashes.
"Yeah! We didn't even get to see your wedding!" someone called out.
"Congratulations, by the way," someone was polite enough to add.
Harry nodded. "Hermione even tried to coach me. She helped me write a speech, but I don't think I can read the stuff she wrote. It's loads nicer than what I would have thought to say, but I think it's best if it comes from the heart, I guess." He laughed nervously.
"Look, I'm just a simple man. I count myself lucky I was able to marry the love of my life, and now he's even giving me a son." There was some twittering at that, but no one tried to interrupt him. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm taking a break to enjoy the fruits of my life. However, Draco is only just getting started. He and Hermione have worked long hours into the night getting this ready. Draco has even managed to get Severus Snape, one of the world's best Potions Masters, and Remus Lupin, who has to be one of the best professors I ever had, to be part of this. They believe in this school, and I have at least ten note cards here that will tell you fifty reasons why it's a good idea," he said, waving the aforementioned papers. "I think you'll agree and support them because who wants to continue advocating hate? I for one am proud my son will have this, and will be a part of a generation much smarter and kinder than our own."
Questions started to fly through the air too quickly for Harry to grasp. Draco went to his rescue, standing next to him on the podium followed by Hermione.
"We will take questions in an orderly fashion. Please raise your hands, and we will call on you," Hermione instructed.
And so the questions started, the first confirming Harry's surprising announcement.
"So Draco is pregnant?"
"I would have thought that was obvious," Draco replied blithely, patting his stomach. "This is certainly not the result of eating too many cauldron cakes."
There was laughter in the room before someone called out, "What are you going to name him? Is he going to be a Potter or a Malfoy?"
"Was he planned?"
"We are very happy about our son, but we ask that you respect our privacy and keep all questions relevant to the project, please," Draco answered.
"Next!" he called out after ignoring a few more questions about the baby.
"When will it be ready?
"Work will begin immediately."
"Is it true it's going to be at Malfoy Manor?"
"Yes, the extensive grounds are perfect for what we need."
"But what about the dark artefacts?" Draco raised his eyebrow at the idiot who would bring that up just to cause a stir.
"As you should know, the Ministry has already done a complete sweep of the manor, and can verify it is perfectly suitable for use. I will be there to supervise every part of the construction myself."
"I'm surprised you're willing to do away with the legacy your family fought so long to maintain," Rita Skeeter asked with false concern. "What would your parents say?"
He could feel Harry stiffening against him, and reached for his hand using the podium and his robes to hide it.
"I cannot think of a better legacy than providing an institution that will help bring up more knowledgeable and well rounded witches and wizards."
"Are you really going to have a werewolf teach the children?" The reporter looked horrified at the very thought, and it was apparent in her voice.
"No, we have a man who turns into a werewolf. First and foremost he is man, a very good one, and a decorated hero who put his life in danger to protect everyone from a dark future, even people like you...and I who were too ignorant to know the difference between a man who holds back a monster and those who cannot blame their actions or cruelty on the pull of the moon."
We trust him, and he is, after all, like a father to Harry." Draco was ready to pull out whatever they had in their arsenals to make this happen. "We are most lucky to have him."
He moved back so Hermione could field the rest of the questions, and she did not miss a beat, returning every question confidently.
"That went well," Ron said as soon as they left the crowd of reporters behind and went to Hermione's office to talk.
"It went just as planned, minus the slip about the baby." Draco looked sideways toward his husband.
"I'm sorry," Harry lifted his hands.
"I'm only teasing. We just confirmed what they already knew. At least this way it was more controlled than being chased down in the streets," Draco reassured, shifting closer on the couch. Harry grabbed his hands, resting them with his on his lap.
"If you don't mind, I'm going to sleep in Harry's office for a bit. When it's time for you to leave, do you mind waking me?" Draco asked Hermione.
"Of course not. I'll pass by for you," she confirmed with a small pat on his knee. "You're working late again, Harry?"
"Just for a bit longer," he was quick to explain.
"I hope so. Draco needs you, especially now that he's in his third trimester," Hermione pointed out.
"Why? Is there something wrong?" Harry asked, feeling his heart start to race, looking to his husband for answers or a clue something was wrong, his dream forefront in his mind.
"He's fine," Hermione assured him. "What I meant was this is the hardest time for his body, so he doesn't need to have any extra stress or worry. So you make sure you take care of yourself, okay?" She seemed a little flustered.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Harry asked his husband.
"Hermione has turned out to be a huge worrywart." Draco rolled his eyes. "She even obtained a medical wand on loan from Poppy, and she insists on pointing it at me at random intervals."
Harry relaxed at his gentle teasing. "Hermione just wants to help, and get in some practice," he added, slapping Ron on the back, "for when they start having their own kids. I don't think it will be too much longer."
X x x X x x X
Harry waited until Draco left with Ron and Hermione before preparing for his investigation. He'd met with the Auror Shaklebolt put in charge of preparing the house two days ago; he'd been chosen for the assignment because he specialised in breaking curses and wards.
It was either easier than he thought or Auror Presley really was that good, because it only took him two days after receiving his instructions to break the wards. He had even gone the extra step to provide one-way Floo access from Harry's office.
When he mentioned his surprise, Presley had modestly replied, "It's easier if the owner of the house has abandoned the home. It weakens the wards.
"We also checked the house, so you should be perfectly safe. I called a team to clear the dark artefacts we found. You should keep a look out for the house elf, though; it never revealed itself, but we think there's one in there. Are you sure you don't want me to come with you?" Presley asked hopefully.
"No, but thank you for offering."
Harry knew the level of cooperation he had received was probably not offered to other employees, but this task was important enough that he paid the preferential treatment no mind. There had to be some benefits to this otherwise maddening Boy-Who- Lived business.
When he arrived through the Floo, the room he stepped out into was dark. There was nothing to guide his way except the reflected light of the moon in the window, which provided just enough clarity to light some candles. He cast a quick lumos and surveyed the area. The dust covered couches...grimy tabletops...everything showed sign of abandonment.
An inspection of the other rooms revealed much of the same. He pushed open one of the doors and smiled gleefully. Nott's office! He was sure to find something in there.
Except...all the drawers were empty. Harry began searching through the bookshelf, picking up books at random and shaking them to reveal stowed away notes like he'd seen in a police drama once, but found nothing. When he reached for another book he stiffened. There was someone watching him.
He stilled his movements, deliberately reaching for his wand, ready to hex whomever was hiding in the shadows, but the room was small and he could not see anyone. Just as he was about to start sending hexes randomly around the room, he thought of Presley's warning.
Didn't Presley mention a house elf?
"Hello?" he called into the room. "My name's Harry. Could you come out please?"
There was no response, but the certainty he was being watched did not ease.
Well, if there was a house elf here, he wasn't answering. Maybe he should bring Kreacher back from Hogwarts, and ask him to check for the other elf, which reminded him to tell the house elf he was back. Kreacher had not been pleased when Harry left and instructed him to stay at Hogwarts. He wasn't looking forward to the complaining.
Wait...If the house elf had been alone all this past year, could he have eaten?
He pulled the bar of chocolate he saved for a snack from his robe, placing it softly on the empty desk.
"You're probably hungry," he said into the silence.
Maybe he knew where his master had gone. Harry decided he would come back tomorrow with a proper meal, and if he yielded no results, he would resign himself to the lecture Kreacher probably had in store.
X x x X x x X
How dare he look so happy?
On the cover of the Prophet, standing next to Potter going on about their trite little school and the unborn half-blood Malfoy carried.
He'd followed them all the way from New York, and had been forced to lay in wait.
It seemed Potter had grown very paranoid. Malfoy was never left alone. He would have to wait for the perfect opportunity, but it didn't worry him. He had nothing but time.
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