This chapter is the last of Learning Life Over. It could have a sequel, I suppose, but the open-ended nature of it is deliberate; I wanted to show the various directions the ending could go, rather than confine it to one path. Thus, there won't be a sequel to this, though eventually there may be more stories.
Many thanks to all the reviewers and the readers; part of the fun of writing this was that other people also thought it was fun.
"You'll consider it, then?"
Harry nodded, and stretched out his hand to accept the sheet of parchment Bancroft held. It listed the exhibitions of stunt flying he and his partner would put on in the next few months, only two of them in Britain. From what Harry had seen of the office, he knew that Bancroft's tastes ran to dark wood and expensive furniture and elaborate magical alarm systems—and, thus, that he did well enough for himself to be able to afford hefty payments for his flyers.
Bancroft had told him, frankly, that he'd receive more than others, as long as he flew more dangerous maneuvers and sold more brooms. If Harry's popularity dropped, they would adjust his Galleons accordingly.
That was if Harry accepted this job permanently. No one said he had to. Draco had awakened him this morning complaining about the danger of some of the moves Harry had flown at Hogwarts, specifically leaping off his broom. And Harry wasn't sure that he wanted to travel all over Europe, and be away from Draco for weeks at a time.
Of course, we've only lived together for three weeks or so. That might be all I can stand of him. Harry grinned, thinking of the way he'd managed to get Draco over his complaints about the danger of falling off his broom: a rousing row, followed by equally rousing forgiveness and then sex involving the ropes on Draco's bed. Though I doubt it.
The wonderful thing was that he didn't have to make a permanent decision. He'd told Bancroft he would contact him tomorrow with his choice, but he'd warned him that, even if he accepted, it might not be forever. Bancroft had seemed perfectly happy with that.
"Something amusing?" Bancroft asked him.
"It's private." Harry stood up, inwardly marveling at how easy it was to tell people something was none of their business now. Yet another trade Draco taught me how to practice.
"Of course." The man looked less than interested, anyway, already turning to answer a Floo call flaring to life in the fireplace behind him. "I'll speak to you tomorrow, then, Potter."
Harry nodded to his back and walked out, tossing the folded parchment lightly up and down in his hand. He wasn't sure either he or Draco could stand the constant dangers of stunt flying.
On the other hand, if it led to more arguments…
He really did need to stop grinning like an idiot, Harry told himself sternly. It earned him several nervous stares as he left the building.
Harry pulled his Nimbus up, staring curiously. Angelina was heading towards him—they'd agreed to meet above the Quidditch Pitch near his old flat that afternoon—but he'd thought she'd come alone. Instead, a heavyset older witch accompanied her. When she came closer, Harry could see that this witch, much like Madam Hooch, must have years of flying experience, but she still didn't look familiar. Her unblinking, gray-eyed stare made him incline his head in a slight, instinctive bow, instead of reaching out to shake her hand.
"Harry," Angelina said briskly, "this is Vesta Freshwater. She just took over coaching the Montrose Magpies, and she's sacked their Seeker. He wasn't winning games. Freshwater only demands the best."
"That makes sense," the woman said, in a voice like an owl's screech, "as I wish to win games." She leaned forward to study Harry. Harry stared back at her, wondering if she wanted to hire him as a trainer for a new Seeker. He'd have to warn her he hadn't played the position in twelve years—
And then Vesta sniffed and said, "Yes, I think so. His forearms are unused to the strain right now, of course, but his natural flying posture is excellent, and I saw what he did at the exhibition." She looked at Angelina. "You were not lying to me."
Angelina rolled her eyes, but she was grinning. "Freshwater, when have I ever lied to you?"
"What are you talking about?" Harry demanded, a bit miffed that they spoke as if he couldn't hear them.
Vesta sniffed again. "Johnson told me that you might make a good Seeker for the Magpies, Potter. I declined to believe her until I had seen you for myself. Good flyers are not always good Quidditch players." Bitterness lurked in the back of her voice, as if this were an opinion she was in the habit of defending. "But yes, you would. I want you to play on the team."
Harry blinked several times, then said, "But I'm too old for professional Quidditch, Madam."
"Hardly," said Vesta. "Yes, ten years ago twenty-eight would have been too old, but the new salves for the hands and shoulders are wonderful, and there are some legal spells that we may use to ease the strain on older players. When can you come to a practice?"
"I haven't said that I would become your Seeker, yet," Harry said, his mind working to comprehend all that had happened. He'd been expecting no more than a friendly flight with Angelina when he came out this afternoon. "I don't know that I want to. I haven't played more than casual Quidditch games in a decade, and it's flying I love, not the sport in and of itself."
"Oh, bollocks, Harry." Angelina waved her hand. "The way that you dove after that fake Snitch we enchanted for the exhibition? It's in your blood. You'd easily learn it again, I know."
Vesta bobbed her head hard enough to hurt, Harry thought, if her neck wasn't so thick. "You are right for us. I must insist that you come to at least one practice so that I can see how you work with our Chasers and Beaters before I hire you, of course."
Harry's first thought was that Draco was unlikely to want him flying among Bludgers, though it might be a bit less frightening than watching him fall off his broom.
His second thought was that he might want to play Quidditch again, and he wouldn't know until he actually tried it, or thought about it more than his scrambling brain could do right now.
"Can I give you a decision tomorrow?" he asked.
"I would expect a decision no later than that," said Vesta, and then turned her broom and soared abruptly away. Harry shook his head at Angelina, who looked as pleased with herself as a cat that had eaten all the cream.
"Why?" he asked.
"You'd be perfect for Quidditch, Harry, and you know it."
Harry stared at her for a moment more, until she snickered and admitted, "All right, I think the professional Quidditch scene is boring right now. The established teams are too established. The players are lazy, and they don't make an effort because they understand their opponents too well. Freshwater reorganizing the Magpies is going to change that, but with you as Seeker, things will become far more exciting for a longer period of time."
"You don't think I'd take over the scene and make everyone lazy again, competing for second place instead of flying against me?" Harry asked wryly.
"Oh, Freshwater will make sure that she works up the stories of you not playing for twelve years and being good at stunt flying but not the real game," said Angelina. "It'll be a long time before they stop listening to her. And, in the meantime, I am entertained."
Harry snorted. "I suppose I'll think about it."
"Do," Angelina advised him, and began to spiral upwards. Harry shook his head again and followed her.
Sometimes, Draco thought, he and Severus understood each other so well that they could walk along the paths of his garden and have whole conversations without saying a word.
And, sometimes, they didn't. This was one of the latter.
Severus had stopped to face him, his expression twisted into what most people would call a horrific snarl. Draco had seen the horrific snarls, though, and they were far worse than this. Severus was only mildly upset with him, instead of truly angry. He reserved his anger for Harry, as far as Draco could tell, and clients who defaulted on their payments—and Draco himself only when he still wanted to be a Death Eater.
"He is wrong for you," Severus insisted. "Potters are selfish, Draco." The shadow of memory lay long on his face, and once, that would have impressed Draco enough to keep him silent. But, just as the times when Severus became truly angry at him had passed, so had those. "He will corrupt and ruin you, make you trust him and then—"
"He will not," Draco said quietly. "Yes, he will hurt me. I know that. I know it will never be a peaceful relationship. It will never be what my parents had. But that's too cold and quiet for my tastes, anyway. Don't you see, Severus? I want what Harry can give me."
"How can you know that?" Severus snapped, quick as lightning. "You've had so many lovers before, Draco, most of whom you controlled. When did your tastes begin to run to storms?"
"When I woke Harry again, and saw how passionate he was." Draco touched a hand to his hair, but didn't run his fingers through it. He didn't want to do that in front of Severus, who considered it an unclean habit. "If he had been quiet, though, my tastes would run to the quiet. I'm in love with him, not some ideal vision. And that's what I have, and what I'll fight to keep." He paused. "And if you plan to set traps to drive him away from me, then I'll fight you."
"He is not worthy of you."
"It has little to do with worth, and more to do with what I want."
"I do not wish to see you hurt," Severus said. "I protected you throughout the War, Draco, and since as well. You are—you know what you are to me." There was no way that Severus could admit aloud they had something like a father-son relationship, Draco knew; it was hard enough for him to call Draco his protégé. "I will not have your heart broken by a Potter."
"And if he hurts me irreparably, I promise that you can inflict all the bloody vengeance you like on him." Draco reached out and clasped his teacher's left arm, holding it so that his fingers pressed into Severus's Dark Mark, a silent reminder of what else they'd shared. "But I don't think he will."
"No, I can't be certain," Draco said. "But, as he pointed out to me just recently, certainty is overrated. And if I did think this would last forever, I might be careless with it, and ensure it didn't. As long as I know how easily I could shatter this bond, I'll fight harder for it."
Severus scrutinized his face for a long time in silence. Draco bore the searching gaze patiently. He couldn't blame Severus for being skeptical, and not only because of his long grudge against Harry. There was also Draco's grudge against Harry, while they were still schoolboys, and the many complaints he'd uttered about Harry defeating the Dark Lord just at the worst point for him, meaning he spent time in Azkaban. Severus had always been suspicious of change, and sure it would be for the worst long after it had shown it probably wouldn't be.
Draco could only offer the answers in his own eyes and soul, and hope they were enough. He wouldn't sacrifice his relationship with Harry for peace with Severus, but he would like it if they could be in the same room without shouting at each other.
At last, Severus nodded, a motion so tiny that anyone but Draco would have missed it, and then turned away. "Did I show you the cluster of new flowers I am growing?" he asked. "It turns out that Longbottom does not have quite the incompetent hand with blossoms that he has with cauldrons."
Draco smiled, and listened. His thoughts stayed sometimes on Severus's speech, and sometimes on the owls he'd sent and received that morning. Good news from Blaise, who had arrived in safety with Sarah in the Azores, and renewed his marriage vows with her just that morning. Draco had sent a letter of congratulations to them, along with a piece of his mother's jewelry for Sarah. The knowledge that one of her rings sat on a Mudblood witch's finger would burn Narcissa. Draco hadn't yet chosen the best time to employ that revelation.
And then he'd sent a far different letter to Gloriana Zabini, accompanied with certain select wizarding photographs.
It turned out that one of her suspected murders was more than suspected, after all—but the person with certain knowledge was not inclined to go to the Ministry. She had, however, sold the evidence to Draco for a pretty sum. Draco had thoughtfully made copies of some of it for Gloriana, and explained that, as long as she stayed away from him and Harry, he would stay away from the Ministry.
Gloriana had eyes. She would understand, and see the resulting happiness of everyone staying in their respective places.
Of course she would try to fight back. But she wouldn't find a counter to that weapon soon, and by the time she did, Draco would have a new one in his possession.
I do enjoy politics.
Harry rose slowly. He'd been asleep next to Draco, deeply enough that he hadn't heard the owl pecking for admittance at the window at first. But the wards had let the owl through, meaning it carried nothing dangerous. He opened the window, and took the message from the owl's leg, finding he had to Summon his glasses before he could read it. Trippy came in to take the bird away and feed it, no more fazed by the sight of Harry's nakedness than she ever was. Draco didn't stir.
Dear Harry, the letter began, making him think it was from Neville or Dean, or perhaps Angelina. But as he read on, he realized the official Hogwarts crest was at the top. It had come from McGonagall.
She wanted him to come back next year and teach Defense Against the Dark Arts; as their current professor was leaving at the end of the term.
Harry closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall. For a moment, he thought he would laugh, but then he blinked back tears, and realized he was simply overwhelmed.
He'd gone from nothing to an embarrassment of riches in such a short time. And there were advantages everywhere he turned, possibilities blossoming and paths opening. He didn't know where they would end, because it seemed they wouldn't end. He closed his eyes and swallowed.
He didn't know which one he should choose, yet.
When he opened his eyes, he saw that Draco had shifted, and now extended one hand, beckoning. "Come back to bed, Harry, and tell me about whatever it is in the morning," he said. His voice, though slurred with sleep, still managed to sound imperious.
Harry laid the Headmistress's letter carefully aside, and then padded across the room to the bed and slid under the covers. Draco's arm curved around his shoulders, and he drew Harry in for a kiss.
Harry went willingly, and then Draco dropped them both to the bed, his head resting firmly on Harry's shoulder, his hand still curled possessively around the shoulder where it had settled. Harry knew from his soft snores that he'd already fallen asleep again.
Harry kissed his hair. Then he lay back and grinned at the ceiling for a moment before he closed his eyes, the better to concentrate on the warmth of the man he was in love with.
He chose tomorrow.