Author's Note 1: OK, well, here's the end. I hadn't thought of writing anything beyond this... but then a few readers had some suggestions and... um, yeah. A sequel of sorts may pop up someday. Or not. We'll see ;)
Beltane, May 1, 2007
"When did you get here?" Harry asked, yawning and checking his watch. "You weren't here for the sunrise-greeting, were you?"
"Yeah. Out of sight, though. I put Ben by the grove with the Invisibility Charm and got him to sleep while I watched from over there."
"Anything to report?"
"Nothing. Other than a very nice sunrise with rather a lot of odd waving of flags."
"Wasn't it a Wiccan group greeting the sun?" Draco nodded. "Wouldn't you know what they were doing?"
"Wiccans are rather eclectic. And I was only involved with the one group, for a few years. This group did nothing recognizable to me. Where's Alec?"
"Sleeping too. He's under my Invisibility Cloak in the south grove. Mind if I put him near Ben?"
"No, go ahead."
"I'll, erm, do a walk-through after that."
"I already have, but go ahead. Let me know if I missed anything."
Harry went to pick up Alec and wondered if Draco felt as self-conscious as he did. Wondered if there was any chance of picking up their relatively comfortable coworker relationship, now that the boys had so helpfully brought to light what Harry at least had been trying to not admit, even to himself.
It did explain why Draco had been so ill at ease with him the last few days, though. Harry started his rounds on the charms and wards around the Hill, glancing back at where Draco was sitting by the tree near where the boys were hidden, reading a book and looking perfectly comfortable. Harry envied him his composure.
He looked amazing today, too. Completely Muggle, of course, and he'd replaced his regular small gold loop earring with a small star in a circle, but those jeans were really rather... erm...
Harry glanced over at the small knots of people arriving on the Hill, trying to classify them. There was a group of Muggles, judging from their mobile phones and radio, and probably tourists, judging from the proliferation of cameras. A larger group of Muggles, probably pagans, carrying tambourines and waving incense around. Then there was a small wizarding family, obviously trying to dress like Muggles and failing utterly: the mother wore a pair of leather pants, t-shirt and tiara, the father wore jeans and a tuxedo jacket, the child wore what looked like a Jedi costume, and all of them sported bright yellow fishing boots.
Harry snickered. The funny thing was that had they simply dressed as wizards, they would have blended in, as more than a few Muggles were dressed in archaic clothing today. He made a mental note to remember to point that out to any wizards who contacted him for next year's Beltane. Assuming he took the Liaison post again.
He wandered over to one of the wizarding groups, introduced himself and jotted down what they were there for, reminding them about the restrictions in place for the Hill. Chatted for a while, then glanced over at Draco and saw that apparently Ben and Alec were up and watching the wizard jugglers near the low west wall.
Continuing to walk around, he checked to make sure that everybody who was looking in the direction of the jugglers was a witch or wizard, and continued to make his presence known to newly arriving wizards until he saw that Draco and the boys were done with the jugglers and had been joined by Kara. Draco spotted him and waved him over as he approached the group.
"You didn't see the sunrise, then?" Kara asked Ben as Harry approached. "That's too bad. Next Beltane, yeah?"
"Having a good time with yer Da?"
"Have you seen anything interesting?"
Ben shook his head and Harry frowned. He'd seemed fascinated by the jugglers they'd seen; why wouldn't he - right. Wizard jugglers.
"That's too bad."
"But Harry and Alec are here!"
"I noticed," Kara said, and smiled. "Alec, do you know anything about the rituals around Beltane?" Alec shook his head. "How about I take you two to the top of the Hill, and I'll tell you about them?"
"The child-friendly version please, Kara," Draco said in a pained voice.
"Aye, I'm not so daft as all that," Kara said impatiently. "Run up, boys, and I'll catch up to ye." They ran off and Kara stepped a bit closer to Harry and Draco. "Listen, I've no idea what's going on between the two of ye, but ye'd best talk it out before we come back down the Hill. Ye both look like ye haven't a clue what to say to each other, and it's a bit pathetic." She started to follow the boys, but paused for a moment. "And mind ye keep it to talkin' only, yeah? 'Tis a holy time, not a day to indulge in things that don't show honour to the day."
Harry felt somewhat flummoxed and was gratified to see that Draco looked the same way. There was a strained silence.
"I ought to be used to her doing things like that to me," Draco finally said. "She does it often enough."
Harry chuckled nervously. "Should I ask?"
"Pretty much what she said. She'd like us to talk."
"What was the bit about the holy day?"
Draco shook his head impatiently. "Wiccan rubbish. Or rather, Kara rubbish. Kara thinks that because Beltane is a celebration of fertility, that any kind of sex that doesn't have anything to do with fertility is a 'desecration'." He rolled his eyes. "Don't ask her to elaborate on that when there's other Wiccans around, please. You really, really don't want to get Wiccans arguing over who's the most connected to the true tradition of Wicca."
"Right." There was another uncomfortable silence.
"Is she - with Alec, is she going to tell him about the rituals that, erm-"
"She'll tell him about the regular Beltane rites; the Red Men and the White Women and all of that, ending in the symbolic thing between the May Queen and the Green Man. That's the one that Waleran's Warriors for Innocence are going to protest and the funny thing is the people in it aren't even Wiccan, for the most part. They're just actors. The real Wiccan ritual is done in private. Well, relatively private. It's only for the coven members, since they don't want to be arrested for indecency." Draco smiled. "Poor Waleran. Frothing at the mouth over a play, without having a clue that a few yards away there's public sex going on. It's hysterical."
"Alec told me what he said to you," Harry finally blurted out. Oh, that was so very much not how he'd wanted bring this up. Twenty-six years old and still reverting to doyouwanttocometotheballwithme. He stared at the ground, rather mortified.
"About me being... erm, attracted to you," Harry said, and tried to will his cheeks to not heat up, to no avail.
Even deeper silence. Draco wasn't saying anything. Anything at all. Bugger.
"Yeah," Draco finally said.
Nicely noncommittal. Very helpful.
Harry took a deep breath. "I, erm..."
"Did he tell you that Ben thought I was attracted to you too?" Draco asked, and Harry envied the steadiness of his voice.
"Erm. Yeah. He did." Harry paused. "I... I didn't mean to - that is, I didn't ask him to say anything like that. I hadn't talked to him about anything like that."
"Are you saying it wasn't true?" Draco asked.
"No! Erm. I mean." Harry swallowed hard and forced himself to look up. "I didn't talk to him about any of it. I don't know where he got the idea." He paused. "The, erm, right idea."
"Oh." And now, to Harry's utter shock, Draco was blushing. His fair skin was rosy red and he was dropping his eyes.
"I know your son said-" Harry began.
"I didn't tell him anything either." Draco cleared his throat. "Not that he got it wrong."
This was rather excruciating. Partly in a good way, because it was always flattering to find that somebody fancied you, and Harry felt an odd sort of disbelieving joy at the thought, but...
"I don't think," Harry began. "I mean, I would like to, very much, you know, but I think - it's not really a very good situation for-"
"No, it's not." Draco broke in. "It's not, I agree."
"Right. We'll just, erm... not do anything about this, then." He cleared his throat and looked away from Draco, though he suspected he probably had the same expression on his face that Harry had.
Draco glanced past Harry and winced. "Damn. One of the jugglers just dropped his Fizzing Whizbees in front of three Muggles. You'd best go Obliviate."
He gazed at Draco for a moment, trying to express how sorry he was for this, because he'd probably done something to encourage Draco despite knowing it couldn't go anywhere, and it wasn't that he considered Draco's past a problem but it was just the situation...
He hesitantly touched Draco's arm, realizing it was the first time he'd touched Draco since the day they'd started working together, much to his shock. In his mind, they'd touched so often - especially in the last week or so since Harry's fantasy life had sort of taken on a will of its own.
"Yeah, me too," Draco said quietly, and gestured towards the open-mouthed Muggles and sheepish juggler. "I think you need to deal with those people before they start screaming."
Harry turned around. "Hermione?" he said, surprised, then frowned warily. "What are you doing here?" He glanced from her to Ron, who was standing behind her looking torn between embarrassment and irritation.
"We found out about the monument to McGonagall," Hermione said a little too brightly. "So we came to see the dedication ceremony."
"Don't forget the Alchemists too," Ron muttered.
"And the Alchemists, of course," Hermione added. "That sounded very interesting as well."
"Yeah." Harry rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Look, don't you two have a child you should be taking care of?"
"He's fine. They're both fine, actually," Hermione said cheerfully.
"Yeah. Both fine," Ron repeated. "So we're here to see the monument and the Alchemists. And for no other reason at all."
Harry nodded. "Right. Hermione, you're a terrible actress."
Hermione dropped the chirpy attitude. "All right, Molly made us come."
"Yeah, well," Ron said sourly. "Fred ran off at the mouth yesterday."
"Honorary Weasley, I'm telling you." Ron shrugged.
Harry blew out his breath in annoyance. "Look, nothing's going to happen. We talked already."
"We talked. His - Kara, Ben's mother, sort of pushed us to talk and we did, and nothing's going to happen, and everybody's clear on that."
"What exactly did you talk about?" Hermione asked curiously.
"That we both... erm, you know, are interested. And that it wouldn't be a good idea. And that's that."
"He is interested, then?" Hermione asked.
"Yeah." Despite the situation, Harry couldn't stop a smile at the thought. It was a bit of a thrill, knowing that another person wanted you. Being desired, not by some poor deluded groupie who'd read one too many columns on the Boy Who Mourned, but by somebody who knew you. It had been a bloody long time. "But nothing's going to happen."
"That's... that's good, Harry." Hermione patted his arm comfortingly and cleared her throat. "So how has the day been so far?"
"Fairly good," he said, and moved aside as an almost nude woman painted bright blue and wearing leaves in her hair wandered past, leading a goat on a leash and talking animatedly on a mobile phone. "Only one problem with a juggler accidentally dropping some magical stuff in front of Muggles."
"Where's Alec?" Ron asked.
"With Draco and Ben, watching the Mummers." As if on cue, Harry suddenly heard his son's voice, raised in anger over the music from the Mummers.
"No! I don't want to!" Alec said, and Harry felt a start of alarm. He quickly located Alec, Ben and Draco in the audience and hurried towards them.
"Ben, he doesn't want to. You can't have your way all the time," Draco was saying as Harry came closer. "And Alec, if you don't tell him, he can't know you don't want to play that game."
"But I don't want to! And he's being mean!"
"Maybe, but he just wants to play." Their voices dropped and a group of longhaired tourists smelling of patchouli came between Harry and Alec, blocking his view. By the time he reached them, Alec and Ben were happily playing together again as if nothing had happened.
"What's going on?"
"Oh nothing," Draco said. "Ben was trying to get Alec to play some kind of shooting game, only Alec didn't want to."
"What did you say to stop the fight?"
"Nothing much, just reminded them they'd been playing just fine before their argument and told them to get back to it. Though I did think Alec was going to hit Ben for a moment there."
"He's got a good punch, mate," said Ron, who had followed Harry. "Most of the time he just hides or runs away, but when he's angry, look out."
"You've told me that, but I never see it."
"That's because when you're there he just runs to you," said Hermione, arriving at the scene. "He doesn't like confrontations."
"Hello," Draco said warily.
"Hello," Hermione answered politely. "We're here for the dedication of the monument to McGonagall," she said, elbowing Ron as he made a disgusted sound.
"Yeah, that should be a lot of fun. How's it supposed to be kept from the Muggles, though?" Ron asked. "A whole monument?"
"Charms," Harry said. "All over the place. It'll look like a small shrine to the goddess Athena to Muggles."
"And why here, anyway? She was Scottish."
"She came here during the war," Draco said. "Used the ley lines to help figure out where Delphina Macnair was."
Ron and Hermione stared at him. "How do you know that?" asked Hermione.
Draco shrugged. "I heard it from Delphina," he said evenly.
Ron and Hermione reddened slightly and Harry winced. Three guesses as to where he'd heard it.
"Draco!" Kara called out, dodging past a troupe of burly men with Celtic knotwork tattoos all over their chests and arms, and reaching Harry's group slightly out of breath. "Listen, we've got enough people here to sing the Freedom Trilogy but we need a tenor-"
"Not interested. How d'you figure you've enough to sing anyway?"
"Well between the ones from our choir, and the MoonShadow Coven members who sing in the Cork Choir, and my friends Claire and Phylisha, we've got just enough. We've even got drums and a keyboard from the Handstand Band! We really need a tenor, though."
"Draco, I need you," she said, cocking her head to the side and pouting a bit.
"Good for you. I need to watch Ben."
"You can watch Ben, can't you Harry?" Kara asked, to Harry's slight alarm. "Draco, it's important. There's a man from the WindMusic label here, I want him to hear my solo."
"Oh for God's sake. I told you, I've got things to-"
"Well I've things to do too," Kara said doggedly, and Harry could see how Draco had ended up having a child with her; the woman had almost no sense of boundaries whatsoever.
"Come on, you've got plenty of friends to watch Ben, can you not do this for me?"
Harry choked back a laugh at the pained expressions on Ron, Hermione and Draco's faces. "Sure, we'd be glad too," he said brightly. "After all, what are friends for, right?"
The Handstand Band wasn't bad, thought Harry as he looked over the crowds near dinner time. Not really his kind of music, but it was all right. Alec was of course enjoying the concert very much, though he didn't listen with the same rapt attention as he did for choirs or traditional Celtic music, and Ben had actually successfully drawn him out to play during part of the set. Very different from the impromptu performance by Kara and her entourage; Alec had been spellbound as they wove together some medieval-sounding chants with African music and a gospel-like solo, belted out rather impressively by Kara. Even Ron and Hermione had been awed.
As for Harry, he'd been staring at Draco the whole time. And it seemed Draco looked at him fairly often too, especially when Kara began her solo, and he'd grinned at Harry's astonishment.
Rather unsettling, finding yourself that focused on one person.
Harry looked at his watch. Almost the end of the Band's performance, and almost dinner time. Hermione had gone back to St. Mungo's a few hours ago, though Ron had stayed and Harry was now glad he had. Everything had been going relatively smoothly, but the Liaison posts appeared to be fairly time-consuming and it had been handy to have Ron and Kara as back-up child-minders.
It was nice to sit and listen to some music for a while and just enjoy the day, knowing that for a couple of hours at least there was little chance of simultaneous Muggle-wizarding events coming into conflict. In fact, most of the wizards on the Hill were being very helpful and considerate of Muggles and had cooperated with Harry and Draco without a hitch. Mostly.
He yawned, noticing that the Band had begun a new song. Something about the Green Man. Appropriate, he supposed, though the lyrics didn't seem to have all that much to do with Beltane.
Bad idea, listening to the song, though. Because now Harry couldn't seem to stop imagining Draco as the Green Man, Kara as the May Queen, pagan dancers and music and fire and possibly tongues and this was a bad idea and he should stop very soon.
Right. He sent his mind off elsewhere. For example, off to imagining what it must have been like for Draco to enter the Muggle world, and how afraid he must have been, if he'd consider public sex no problem after successfully overcoming the terror of interacting with Muggles.
"I hadn't thought of it before," Harry had said.
"It shows," Draco had shot back.
Harry ran a hand through his hair and sighed as he tied it back again. Why the hell did he want Draco, anyway? He might have learned some manners and not be deliberately obnoxious any more, but he was no angel. Still prickly, defensive, sarcastic...
He had changed, though. He wasn't the same malicious, bigoted prat he had been. There was warmth and caring and honesty there that Harry hadn't seen before.
People changed. Who knew when or how or why it had happened to Draco, but he had changed, mostly for the better.
Harry started as a small owl landed on his shoulder and hooted at him softly, gently pecking his ear.
"Trouble?" Ron asked. "Hey, isn't that the owl you and Malfoy are using to contact each other here?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "Not sure there's any major problem, though; she doesn't have a message and she doesn't seem all that upset..." He glanced around, saw Draco and a young woman in robes arguing near a grove of trees, and he set off towards them, Ron behind him. The owl hadn't been alarmed, and it looked like whatever had happened wasn't a big problem, but Harry still wanted to check it out personally.
"What the hell is the matter with you?" Draco was saying angrily to the haughty-looking young witch. "You've scared the piss out of him-"
"Fine one you are to talk about scaring the piss out of Muggles, Malfoy," the witch said snidely.
"You'd like a taste of what I got, then?" Draco shot back without missing a beat. "Because I'll be happy to call the Aurors if you'd like. They're right over there."
"Bit of power's gone to your head, has it?"
"Absolutely. I've got Aurors working for me for a change. I think I'll do this for the rest of my life. And having you arrested would be an ideal first step."
"Nice place for the last Malfoy to end up," she sneered at him. "Errand boy for the Ministry."
"Thank you, I think so too." He smirked at her. "Now, would you please keep arguing for just thirty more seconds, so I can justify calling the Aurors? And if it's not too much trouble, I'd appreciate it if you'd hex those bloody bagpipers too, do us all a favour-"
"Piss off," the witch said, and Disapparated.
Draco blew his hair off his face, looking angry and tired.
"You all right?" Harry asked.
"Stupid twit decided to turn an old man's cane into a serpent. I called the Obliviators and put a tracking spell on her wand. Hopefully she's disgusted enough with me to stay away for the rest of the day. Excuse me," he said, and pushed past Ron and Harry to where an elderly man was sitting on one of the benches, looking bewildered.
"It was a snake," he was saying dazedly.
"I think you've had too much sun. D'you want me to call your daughter?"
"It was a snake," the old man insisted, looking at his cane.
"It just looked like it, Philip," Draco said impatiently, "because you've had too much sun. There's a nurse on duty - oh, here she comes." The old man looked up as an Obliviator approached and sat down next to him, murmuring comfortingly to him and nodding a dismissal to Draco.
"Do you know him?" Ron asked curiously.
"Who, Philip? Yeah, he's a bass in my choir. Half-deaf and often nods off during rehearsals, but he's still got a fine voice and he remembers lyrics. Not a lot else, though. Perfect target," he said, curling his lip in disdain. "Oh, wonderful, his daughter's here." He headed off to intercept the daughter while the Obliviator did her work.
"That's the young Malfoy, isn't it?" said a witch behind Harry.
"Yeah," another replied. "The son. Draco."
"What's he doing here?"
"Muggle Liaison, I think."
"Yeah, he's Muggle Liaison," Harry confirmed, turning around to see a group of three women and one elderly man.
"Why? Is he a Squib now? Or is this part of his sentence?" one of the witches, a blonde, asked.
"Yeah, working with Muggles as part of a sentence," the old man said scornfully. "Justice the Ministry way. Replacing prison time with going to a park and talking to Muggles."
"As a matter of fact, he's doing this as volunteer work," Harry said mildly.
"Should've been kept locked up, like his parents," the youngest witch in the group said bitterly.
"The boy didn't do much," the blonde pointed out. "Just let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts."
"That's not enough for you? My niece was there that night," the old man said. "He could've gotten her killed."
"He was under duress," the blonde said mildly. "And he served his time. Besides, you know what they said at his trial. Dumbledore offered him sanctuary; he would've wanted him out."
"How inconvenient that Dumbledore didn't have a chance to tell us that."
The oldest witch, who hadn't spoken yet, clucked her tongue at him. "Who knows. He may turn out to be a decent sort."
"I won't hold my breath," the young witch answered.
"He's on parole for the rest of his life," said the old woman.
"Sure. For magic," the old man spat derisively.
"Oh dry up, Francis," said the old woman. "It's Beltane; time for new beginnings and all that."
Ron gave Harry a thoughtful look as the group moved away. They made their way back to Alec and Ben, as the Handstand Band finished their performance to wild cheering from the crowd.
Kara approached them running. "Have you seen Draco?"
"Um, no, he's - oh. He's done now," Harry said, pointing out where Draco was saying goodbye to Philip's daughter.
"Oh good. I've a favour to ask him," Kara said, hurrying off to intercept him. Harry rejoined Ron and the two little boys, leaving the place where the Handstand Band had performed.
"Ron," Ben was saying. "You've got the baby in the bubble, yeah?"
"Brilliant! Can he talk yet?"
Ron shook his head. "He can't really do much, yet. He-"
"When will he be out of the bubble?"
"Erm. When he's ready, I suppose. In a few weeks."
"I'd love to see that. Muggles have nothing like that."
"Mam doesn't want another baby, but I like them. D'you know about Chocolate Frogs?"
"Alec showed one to me. One was of a really powerful wizard. What was his name?" he asked Alec.
"Dumbledore," Ron corrected automatically.
"Did you know him?" Ben asked.
"Yeah, he was our Headmaster at school," Ron said.
"D'you think my father knew him?" Ben asked, and Harry and Ron exchanged a startled look. "Me Dad never says anything about the wizarding world, but I think it's brilliant. Did you know that his parents didn't like half-bloods? That's terrible, don't you think?"
Harry traded a worried glance with Ron. It was not a good idea to continue down this route without knowing what Draco wanted to handle it, but he had no idea how to divert Ben.
"Er, so Ben," Ron said. "Have you ever seen anybody play chess?"
"Ever seen Wizard Chess?"
Ben's eyebrows went up. "Is it different from regular chess?'
"Oh yes," Ron said, and launched into an animated description of his favourite pastime, much to Ben's delight. Harry excused himself, going in search of Draco and spotting him fairly quickly, talking to Kara near a group of musicians. He called Draco's name and hurried towards them, realizing neither one had heard him as Kara's words were blown Harry's way by the stiff breeze.
"How is it going with you and Harry, then?"
"Fine," Draco said flatly.
"Augh, lad, that's no 'fine' tone of voice there. Will ye be getting into his knickers?"
Harry stopped, realizing neither could see him and feeling guilty for spying on them, but not guilty enough to make his presence known.
"And why not?"
There was a silence. "Too much history."
"What, between the two of ye?"
"Draco, me darling, ye have to let go of history sometimes, right? It's Beltane. Time for new beginnings."
"I can't. And he wouldn't want to, even if I did."
"That's a lie as big as my ego, darlin'. He's a step away from bending you over the nearest rock and taking you without lube. Or possibly falling flat on his back for you, or using that pretty mouth of his on you, it's hard to tell."
"I think you're maybe a wee bit dramatic," Draco laughed, and Harry was amused at the hint of Irish accent in his voice. "But no, it's not that he doesn't want to. He just doesn't want to act on it."
"That's a bit of a crime, pretty man like that going home alone. That little one needs his Da paired up, too. Needs another adult in his life."
Draco shrugged. "Maybe. Won't be me, though," he said, sounding bitter. "Even if I wanted to be."
Draco looked away.
She nodded and put a hand on Draco's arm sympathetically. "Well, I'm off to Kerry's. You'll be all right?"
"Yeah, of course. Don't forget to say goodbye to Ben."
"Of course." She sighed. "I can't believe I'm missing Beltane."
"WindMusic Record's too big an opportunity to pass up."
"Don't I know it. They've no promised anything, mind. Just want to talk to me tomorrow early."
"Thanks, love," she said, and kissed him before leaving.
Harry stood for a moment, debating whether he should go to Draco or not, then crept away.
"It's been a long day, little man," Harry said at sunset as he picked up Alec, who nodded tiredly. "Nothing but the ceremony and the bonfires left."
"Well, I'm off," said Ron. "D'you want me to take Alec?"
"Do you want to go home with Uncle Ron?"
Alec shook his head. "I wanna watch the fires," he said softly.
"He says he'd like to stay."
"Are you still working?"
"Not really. There's no more official wizarding events going on. And there's Aurors here in case of random problems."
"Well, I'm off then. Bye, Ben," Ron said, and Ben grinned and gave his hand a firm shake.
"Good night, Weasley," Draco said politely.
"Bye, Malfoy. Harry," Ron said, turning to him and pausing for a moment. "Happy Beltane, mate," he said and gave Harry a clap on the shoulder, a brief glance and a resigned shrug at Draco, which Harry understood to mean, "Well - if you must."
"Good night, Ron," said Harry, and Ron Apparated away.
"What are they doing?" asked Alec as the Blue Men gathered at the bottom of the Hill. "Kara told me but I didn't really understand."
"It's supposed to symbolize the new year," Draco said. "Beltane celebrates new life, because it's springtime, so there's new flowers and plants, and a lot of animals have their babies in the spring. The story they act out is about life and death, and order and chaos. Those are the Blue Men," he said. "They're leading the May Queen in."
"Who are they?"
"The Blue Men are the Guardians of Order and the May Queen is a symbol of women and fertility - that's having babies."
"And the goddess," Ben added.
"And the goddess," Draco agreed, his eyes shadowed for a moment. "Goddess of growth, and new beginings."
"And who's that?"
"The Horned King. Some people say he represents the old year."
"Why are they lighting a fire?"
"That's a new flame," said Ben. "It's for new life."
"They say in the old days, all the lights of the year would come from that one flame lit here," Draco told Alec. "All the flames you'll see in the procession today - the torches, the bonfires - will come from the one they're lighting right now."
"Who's that?" Alec asked, having to speak louder as a large group of women in white walked past.
"That's the May Queen and the White Warrior Women," said Draco. "They're going to greet all four elements."
"You mean like Earth, Fire, Air, and Water?"
"Yeah, very good," Draco said, smiling.
"Auntie Hermione taught me about those," Alec said proudly, then turned to Harry and whispered into his ear. "I can't hear Draco very much. Can he carry me?"
"Oh. Erm," Harry said, and leaned closer to Draco. "Alec's having trouble hearing you," he said as Alec held out his arms, and Draco took him, giving Harry a small smile.
Harry took Ben's hand, keeping him close as the crowd got thicker, and he and Ben followed Draco and Alec as Draco talked him through the greeting of the elements, the stop at the Fire Arch to mourn all that had been lost in the last year, and the appearance of the Red Men leaping from a grove.
"They look kind of scary," Alec said, his voice almost lost in the wild tumult of sound from the actors and the crowd.
"They're supposed to look scary. But you'll see, they'll try to catch the May Queen for the Horned King, but they won't be able to."
"I can't see, Harry," Ben shouted from somewhere around Harry's waist, and he picked him up, noting that he was a great deal heavier than Alec. Draco must have developed some pretty good arm muscles. "The Red Men are brilliant, aren't they? When I'm grown up, I want to be a Red Man!"
Harry chuckled as they went past and laughed at Ben's happy shout when they were defeated by the White Warrior Women, who killed the Horned King and presented his body to the May Queen.
"Is he really dead?" Alec asked, his eyes wide.
"No no, he's just acting. Now watch, the May Queen will bring him back to life, but he'll come back as the Green Man, the force of new life."
They headed up the Hill with the procession, to watch the symbolic marriage of the May Queen and Green Man and the lighting of two bonfires, signalling the end of Winter and the coming of Summer, as the Horned King costume was thrown into the fire and the entire procession danced around it.
"Is that the end?" Alec asked, as people from the audience began to join the actors around the bonfires.
"That's it. That's the last ritual of Beltane. From here on it's mostly just watching the fire and dancing."
"That's brilliant," Alec said, rubbing his eyes and laying his head against Draco's shoulder.
"And that's how come I was born," said Ben sleepily.
"Who are they?" Alec asked, yawning and pointing at a group of people nearby. Draco turned to look, and smirked.
"They call themselves Warriors for Innocence."
"They don't like the ceremony. They're protesting against it. Saying it shouldn't be put on."
"They look funny, don't they?" Ben said. "Waving those sticks and papers about and pretending to shout."
Harry stifled a laugh. It seemed Draco had been a bit too enthusiastic with the muffling charms, not that Harry was complaining.
"Why don't they want the ceremony?" Ben asked.
"I'll tell you when you're older," Draco said.
"Where's the more... literal ceremony?" Harry asked him, his voice low.
"Probably back there," Draco said pointing to a dark, secluded area at the base of the Hill.
"Not as public as I thought."
"No, and the other participants don't actually look. Well, they're not supposed to. It's anybody's guess whether they do or not. It's still nothing the poor Warriors would approve of."
"No, I suppose not," Harry chuckled.
"Can we go sit, Harry?" Ben asked.
"Yeah, come on, let's go over there," Harry said, leading them to the Neolithic wall, close enough to see the bonfires but not close enough to be trampled by the increasingly frenzied - and somewhat drunken - dancing. He and Draco put down the children and sat, and Alec crawled into Harry's lap, facing the fire.
"I'm thirsty," Ben said, and Draco pulled a small flask out of his pocket and surreptitiously enlarged it before passing it to Ben, who gave it to Alec once he was done.
"D'you want any?" Draco asked Harry.
"Brought something better," Harry said. "Butterbeer?" he asked, taking two bottles out of his own pocket.
Draco's eyes lit up and he grinned as he took a bottle. "Haven't had one of these in a long, long time," he said, taking a long drink.
Harry drank his beer, gazing into the bonfire as the dancing grew merrier and the flames rose higher, their heat feeling very pleasant in the slightly chilly night air. Alec's movements gradually grew more and more infrequent, until he was still, a warm, soft presence on Harry's lap, sleeping peacefully even as the noise grew louder. Harry glanced at Ben, leaning against Draco, his own eyelids drooping, and marvelled at the ability of tired children to sleep through almost anything.
They gazed at the bonfires, at the Beltane actors and the other revelers who'd joined them dancing around and between them, and Harry felt incredibly tired. Worn out from the long day, the Liaison duties, the events, and the ideas and desires and emotions that he'd spent most of the day pushing away.
He carefully pointed his wand at the ground next to him, Transfiguring a patch of grass into a small quilt, and placed Alec on the ground next to him, then nudged Draco and pointed at the quilt. Draco nodded and carefully placed his own sleeping child next to Alec, and they sat back with their backs to the wall. The Butterbeer sat warm and comfortable in Harry's stomach as he gazed into the fires, with their fascinating patterns and ever-changing colours; at the couples and wizards and Muggles and pagans and protestors and tourists, and what looked like a nun wearing a t-shirt that said "God's blessings on our Wiccan brothers and sisters."
He sighed, his mind reaching a perfect plateau of blankness and calm. Turned and saw a quiet, peaceful look on Draco's face as well and almost decided not to say anything. But... well, Gryffindor and new beginings and all that.
He licked his lips nervously and made himself speak. "Draco?"
"About that 'not a good idea' thing we were talking about this morning?"
Draco stiffened slightly and Harry almost regretted disturbing his serenity. "Yeah?"
"Is that... is that set in stone for you? Or can we change our minds?"
Draco's brows drew together, but he didn't turn or look away from the fire. "Yeah, I suppose," he said slowly. "Why?"
"Because," Harry said, clearing his throat. "I think - I've done a lot of thinking today."
"I know this is probably very stupid and a very bad idea." And bound to end badly, and bound to hurt other people, and he - they - both had responsibilities and both knew better...
"And it would be hard to explain to people."
"We'd be being selfish."
"But I... I think that..." He moved closer hesitantly and Draco frowned, looking at the fire, and opened his mouth, about to speak, then closed it. He seemed to be debating himself, and Harry waited patiently for a while before finally speaking again.
Draco nodded, but still hesitated. "All right, I don't really know how to say this, but... don't play with me," he said stiffly.
"I - I'm risking rather a lot, mostly things I shouldn't be risking, like my son's future. Don't - I'm not expecting promises or forever or anything, but don't-" he stopped. "Don't do this on a whim, all right?"
"I'm not doing this on a whim," Harry said, a bit annoyed. "I... I'm risking some things too. I mean... for one thing I haven't been with anyone since Ginny died, all right? This isn't a whim."
Draco's eyebrows went up. "Four and a half years? You've not..."
"I went to some Muggle bars," Harry said, turning away, his voice low. "All right, two bars, to be exact. I... it didn't go terribly far. I don't even know what I'm doing," he confessed, wishing he didn't feel so bloody exposed and uncertain and vulnerable.
"How far did you go?"
Harry shrugged. "I... hand job, blow job. I... I've never even done that to somebody else-" He stopped. "I don't know what I'm doing and if you're worried you're going to get hurt, well so am I."
The silence from Draco was almost palpable. Then Harry felt a touch on his shoulder, a gentle tug, and slowly turned around, unable to meet his eyes.
He heard Draco take a deep breath. "You're not playing around, then."
"I don't need your pity, either," Draco said quietly. "If you're going to try to 'rehabilitate' me, or-"
"I'm not. And I don't need your pity either," Harry said, somewhat stung.
Draco nodded. He moved closer and Harry swallowed nervously.
"What?" he said, feeling stupid and lost in the face of Draco's serious gaze, the flames from the bonfire flickering before them. Draco's eyes searched his, and Harry swallowed hard when Draco picked up his wand and quietly, without looking away from him, cast a discreet visual concealment charm around them. Felt his heart skipping beats as Draco put down his wand and dropped his gaze to Harry's mouth.
Lean forward. Let go. He could almost hear the words out loud, but neither of them seemed able to take that step.
He took a deep breath, leaned forward, and gently pressed his lips to Draco's, closing his eyes, and relief flooded him as Draco made a small sound in his throat and accepted the kiss. It was hesitant and nervous, and Harry was torn between relief that he hadn't been pushed away yet, terror at going any farther, and a burning need to do just that. He shyly parted his lips, feeling Draco sigh into his mouth and open his own, their tongues touching tentatively.
Suddenly he nearly felt like crying, everything was too sharp, too raw and he wanted it all far too much. He started to pull back, but as their mouths drew apart felt Draco's fingers on the back of his head, tangling themselves in his hair. He breathed in, shocked to realize that Draco was trembling, his breathing rapid and shallow.
Draco pulled back slightly and Harry instinctively brought up a hand to his cheek to still him, both suspended motionless for a moment before Draco relaxed slightly and came closer again.
Harry drew in a shaking breath, his fingers caressing Draco's face slowly, feeling the slight roughness of stubble and the almost undetectable outline of the scar that ran along his jaw, and leaned forward again.
Draco moved in to the kiss, parting his lips again and slowly exploring the inside of his mouth, running his hands down Harry's back, then pressing him gently back against the wall. Harry moaned, mortified as soon as he heard the sound, but Draco smiled against his mouth and brought both hands into Harry's hair, undid the tie that held it back and ran his fingers through it. Harry shivered; that felt rather spectacularly good, for some odd reason. It seemed such an intimate thing, somebody combing through his hair with his fingers. Never had anybody done that, since he'd kept his hair short while he was with Ginny and hadn't indulged in anything resembling intimacy with either of the nameless Muggle men he'd snogged at those bars.
He reached up to remove Draco's glasses and his own and carefully set them down next to them with a glance at the sleeping boys.
"They're all right," Draco whispered before capturing his mouth in another kiss.
"I know," Harry murmured between kisses, hardening with alarming speed. Oh, God, he'd missed this so much. Four and a half years without it. He felt dizzy, shivers racing through him as they kissed deeply, drawing closer, one of Draco's hands now cupping his cheek, the other caressing the back of his neck, and he ran a hand down to Draco's waist, pulling him a bit closer.
And then he was lost. Hands roaming tentatively over his body, stroking his face, threading through his hair, lips caressing his, exploring his neck and up to his earlobe. Draco's lean body shivering under his touch, Draco gasping as Harry kissed his way down the side of his neck, his skin salty and warm under Harry's tongue.
"Oh God," Draco moaned softly, dropping his head back, and Harry gasped as he found himself almost painfully hard. God, yes, he wanted to say, but couldn't figure out how over his racing heart. How long had he been cut off so completely, not feeling another heart beating against his or the thrill of making another person gasp and shiver, making do with nothing but his own hand touching him, such a completely inadequate substitute for this overpowering heady rush of sensation... and he needed so much more, felt such an overwhelming urge to move so that he ended up in Draco's lap and felt how hard he was, so they could thrust against one another...
The thought flitted across his mind that he was about an inch away from coming in his pants, in public and next to two sleeping children, from nothing more than Draco's lips and hands touching him almost chastely along his face, neck, and hair, bringing him to the brink without so much as undoing one button of his clothing. And judging from the way Draco was panting and softly moaning, he was getting close as well, which probably wasn't anything he wanted to do in public either, concealment charms and previous experience with Wiccan ceremonies aside.
Harry pressed his lips together, slowing them down a bit, feeling Draco gasp and nod as they separated slightly, still holding one another, unable to fully stop and bring themselves back from the edge too quickly.
"Not here," he murmured.
Draco nodded. "And not tonight," he said. "Have to get the boys back home."
"Right." He drew close for one last slow kiss before they parted reluctantly, leaning back against the wall.
Draco swallowed, taking one of Harry's hands in his, looking down at their clasped hands. "That was..." He shook his head.
"You all right with this?" Harry asked, finding words a bit difficult for some reason.
Draco nodded. "I mean it, though. This is... this probably isn't a good idea."
"I know." Harry sighed. "I want to try anyway, though."
"Me too." Draco glanced around. "Erm, discreetly, though. I don't much want to end up in The Prophet any time soon."
"Yeah, of course," Harry said, promising himself a long talk with Fred as soon as humanly possible.
They smiled at each other for a moment, then Draco broke their gaze. "I'd best take Ben home. I've got work tomorrow."
"Yeah, me too." They let go of each other and stood, and approached the boys quietly. Harry smiled down at Alec, sleeping curled up on the makeshift quilt, and carefully picked him up.
"Going home Daddy?" he mumbled, not opening his eyes.
"Yeah, little man. We're going home." He settled Alec against his shoulder. "How are you getting home?" he asked Draco, standing with a soundly sleeping Ben in his arms.
"Kara went home with one of her friends and left her car for me to take Ben home. You?"
"Portkey. I left one next to the tree with the Obliviating Thread."
"Let's go." They started out, walking down the hill in companionable silence, and stopped next to the tree, inside the Thread's influence.
"We're off, then," Harry said.
"Right." They gazed at each other shyly and then Harry stepped closer to kiss Draco as well as he could with two sleeping children separating them.
"I'll send you an e-mail?" he said.
"Yeah. I'd like that."
"I'll see you later."
Harry knelt down, taking Alec's hand and putting it on the Portkey, and murmured the spell to activate it. Draco and Ben disappeared in a whirl as the Portkey took them.
"Are we going home Daddy?" Alec mumbled sleepily as they landed in Harry's front hall.
"We are home," Harry said, taking Alec to his bed.
"Are we going to see Ben and Draco again, Daddy?"
Harry smiled. "Yeah, I hope so. Soon."
Alec smiled and snuggled down under his covers. Harry stroked his hair back and watched him sink back into a deep sleep.
"You were right, little man," he whispered. "I was being silly. Thanks for straightening me out."
He touched his fingers to the portrait of Ginny on Alec's wall, smiling as she waved to him. Then he gave his son a kiss and headed for bed.
Author's Note 2: Yes, I did semi-quote from HBP p. 499, and props to those of you who caught it ;)
Author's Note 3: In case anybody is in Ireland around Beltane some day: Uisneach Hill does indeed exist. It was once known as the physical and spiritual center of Ireland, the place of the goddess Eri, from which Ireland gets her name. It's an hour or so from Dublin, ley lines do converge there, rituals were carried out there in ancient times, there is a Neolithic wall, and on a clear day you can indeed see twenty of the thirty-two Irish counties from the top of the Hill.
"Ireland's very centre" (don't forget to remove spaces from all URLs):
www . hoganstand . com / general / identity / extras / heritage / stories / uisneach . htm
Photograph of Uisneach Hill:
i9 . photobucket . com / albums / a71 / AnnaFugazzi / HillUis . jpg
Likewise, Beltane rites and festivals also exist, and are much as they were described here, including the May Queen, Horned King/Green Man, White Women and Blue and Red Men, and various other entertaining things happening up to and on the day of Beltane (e.g. Celtic Knotwork workshops, Bards, Irish dancing, and seminars on Celtic ideas on ecology and global warming). About the wizarding events and um, semi-private Wiccan festivals, I will not opine ;)
Beltane Fire Society 20th Anniversary (this one's in Edinburgh):
www . beltane . org / en / festivals / anniversary . en . shtml
However, Uisneach Hill and the Beltane events? Apparently, never the twain shall meet. I have it on good authority from a fount of accurate knowledge (Skippy's Blog) that Uisneach Hill is now just a well-historied hill, and you can't even get in to see it because it's fenced off. It looks like it's state land, but for all I know, it's some guy's pasture. So if you're in Ireland during Beltane and go to Uisneach hoping to find cool stuff to do, you may only end up running into some mighty puzzled sheep.
Author's Note 4: The songs sung by Draco's choir and performed by the Mummers and the Handstand Band are the The Mummer's Dance, the Freedom Trilogy, and Greenman. I believe I got the Mummer's and Greenman from Skyeisfalling, so: thanks! I love your musical taste :)
You can find lyrics and dowloads at:
annafugazzi . livejournal . com / 41997 . html
Author's Note 5: (Last one, I swear!) Pic-link, my doodling superimposed over a background picture of a forest at dusk. I didn't draw the forest. I did draw the boys. Am happiest with how Ben turned out, least happy with Draco. Ah well.
i9 . photobucket . com / albums / a71 / AnnaFugazzi / VolunteersPicture . jpg
Same picture, no background:
i9 . photobucket . com / albums / a71 / AnnaFugazzi / VolunteersPictureNoBackground . jpg