Thank you very much for your continued support for this story. I realise it had been a while since my last update and I apologise for that. Hopefully this chapter will make up for it!
It was Ginny who found him in the end. After a frantic castle-wide search that included all available Weasleys, friends and teachers she discovered Harry sitting on a window ledge in the Owlery, Hedwig perched on his knee and nipping affectionately at his fingers. He appeared to be lost in thought, gazing out into the distance morosely. Although he was no longer crying, his face was damp and the lines of tension around his eyes and the clench of his jaw told her that he was still upset.
She picked her way through the mess of owl droppings and straw to stand by him and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, careful not to alarm him. "Harry?"
He turned to look at her. She gave him a small smile which he returned reluctantly.
"Everyone's been looking for you; you've been missing for hours. Charlie's been running around frantic," she scolded gently.
He ducked his head sheepishly. "Sorry," he mumbled, "I didn't mean to cause any trouble. I just needed to get away for a bit." He turned to look back out of the window.
Ginny sighed and brushed down the stone on the other side of the ledge before sitting down delicately to face Harry. "I know this is hard for you, Harry, we all do, but you can't just run away every time things get a little difficult. That's not the kind of person you are."
He turned towards her sharply. "Maybe that's exactly the kind of person I am! All my life I've had to stand up and fight because I had no choice, people were going to die. And I did it, I faced the enemy and I won. And are people grateful? Are they prepared to let things go now that they can sleep easy in their beds at night? No! People are just as eager to judge me now as they were when I hadn't done a thing."
"People are always going to judge you, Harry; they judge everyone. Do you think it was easy for me when I decided to get together with Neville? People were angry with me for deserting you! They said that I was a slut and a whore for leaving the Boy-Who-Lived to be with the guy I loved. No matter that you had no interest in me anyway," Ginny said angrily, frustrated.
Harry looked immediately contrite. "I'm sorry, Ginny; I didn't realise. You shouldn't have had to go through that because of me."
The redhead growled in annoyance. "That's not the point! The fact is: everyone is judged and looked down on by someone else. No one is able to get by without being slighted by some idiot who thinks they're better. Smith has always been an arse and that's exactly why you shouldn't take any notice of him. So many other, more important people are thrilled for you and want you and Charlie to be happy. You are a much better person than him, Harry, in so many ways. Don't let him ruin this for you."
Harry sighed and nodded, causing Ginny to slump back against the stone behind her in relief. "You're right, Gin. It's about time I stopped worrying what everybody thinks and just live my life. Maybe being pregnant is a little unorthodox but that just makes it even more special, right?"
Ginny grinned and nodded. "Never let it be said that you've ever done anything normal, Harry."
"Hey!" Harry said, unable to stop the laughter that followed.
"Come on," Ginny said, standing and offering Harry a hand to help him up. "There's someone who'd very much like to see you right now."
Harry opened the portrait to Charlie's suite and tentatively stepped over the threshold, closing it quietly behind him. Charlie was slumped over in one of the armchairs by the fire, his back to Harry and his head in his hands. He was unnaturally still and Harry could tell he was upset just from the set of his back. Sighing to himself, Harry slowly approached the other man and, seeing no way of getting his attention without startling his quiet reverie, gently placed a hand on his arm. As he had predicted, Charlie jumped, springing to his feet and turning to face Harry.
"It's just me," Harry said quickly. Charlie sighed as recognition sunk in and his war-learned reflexes relaxed and they stood staring at each other silently for several moments as they each tried to read the other's emotions.
Neither one was sure who had moved first but suddenly they were in a fierce embrace. Harry's head tucked neatly under Charlie's chin, Charlie's face buried in his thick locks.
"I'm sorry," Harry mumbled into the warm skin of Charlie's neck.
Charlie shook his head. "Don't be, Harry. You were right to be upset; Smith said some very cruel things."
"I suppose," Harry conceded, leaning his head back to look into Charlie's warm eyes, "But there was no need to react the way I did. I shouldn't have shouted at you and I definitely shouldn't have run away; that was a childish thing to do." He dropped his gaze and scowled, seemingly at himself, and Charlie couldn't help but chuckle at the look on his face.
"Maybe it was a bit over the top but I think you're entitled to some theatrics considering your condition," Charlie said with a smirk which only broadened further as Harry rolled his eyes and shoved him away. Charlie caught his hand before he could get too far and brought it up to press a kiss to the skin of his palm. "You don't have to worry about what other people will think, Harry," he told the younger man, "We're in this together, okay? The only thing that matters is me, you and that baby of ours."
Harry nodded; feeling slightly overwhelmed, and allowed himself to be pulled in for a kiss.
The following Saturday, the story hit the press. Harry was eating breakfast with his friends and laughing as a groggy Seamus fell asleep in his scrambled eggs when the post arrived and chaos broke out. A flock of about fifty birds was heading towards his place at the Gryffindor table and explosion of food and feathers went up as they each landed and tried to deliver their letter. Harry was being pecked all over as he tried to free each one of their burden and was unbelievably relieved when Hermione called out in a no-nonsense voice, "Don't just sit there you imbeciles, help him!"
Immediately the Gryffindors sprung into action, removing letters from the frustrated owls and sending them back on their way. By the time that Harry was dealing with the last one there was a huge pile of mail in the centre of the table, a Daily Prophet right at the top. Harry looked up at the staff table nervously and was disappointed to see the large pile of steaming red letters that Charlie had collected. Charlie looked up and gave Harry a wry smile before pointing his wand at the smoking stack of paper and destroying them with a quick Incendio. Harry smiled back and shook his head before picking up the Prophet, feeling a little more confident about confronting what it had to say.
Sure enough, there on the front page was a photograph of him, taken just after the end of war celebrations, and a large headline that read:
HARRY POTTER TO HAVE ILLEGITMATE CHILD WITH HOGWARTS PROFESSOR
Today, sources from within Hogwarts have revealed that Chosen One/Boy-Who-Lived/Destroyer-Of-The-Dark-Lord Harry Potter is pregnant with the child of the recently appointed Care of Magical Creatures teacher, Charlie Weasley. While it is widely known that Potter is close with the Weasley family, few were aware of the true extent of this relationship. Dumbledore has yet to release a statement on how this has come about but we rumours say that he fully supports the couple and has allowed them to room together within the castle. What do you think of this latest development from our saviour? Is it true love or a tragic plea for attention? Please Owl your responses to....
Harry stopped reading and put the Prophet back on the pile that seemed noticeably smaller than a few minutes ago. Hermione, noticing his confused expression, answered before he had asked the question.
"We thought that it would be a good idea to see what the general response is from the public. Judging from the number of Howlers Charlie got this morning, it isn't all good but so far most of the letters you've received are positive. A few seem to be angry that you've betrayed the love that you share with them but we've estimated that those aren't exactly reliable," she added with a chuckle. "I wonder how the story got out, anyway. I thought Dumbledore would want to keep it quiet," she pondered, tapping her wand against her chin.
A glance at the smug face of Zacharias Smith told Harry all he needed to know and he snorted. "I think Smith is feeling particularly satisfied with himself this morning," he told Hermione, who's eyes narrowed as they settled on the laughing Hufflepuff.
"Well that won't last very long," she replied slyly with a slightly terrifying smile in the oblivious boy's direction.
Harry quickly moved the conversation on. "So, what do the supportive ones have to say?"
Hermione smiled and picked up a few letters. "Well this one says that she is 'pleased that you have finally found happiness', which is nice, and this one sends his 'congratulations and good wishes for the baby'."
Harry felt warmed to his very core from the support and was surprised how pleased he was that people were willing to accept this new part of him. He smoothed a hand over the flatness of his stomach and shared another smile with Hermione.
Later that day, Harry was enjoying a rare afternoon of October sunshine by relaxing with a book against a tree in a remote part of the grounds. Despite it being Saturday, Charlie still had duties to attend to and so Harry had been left to entertain himself. After the mania of the morning he had decided that a couple of hours peace by himself would be the perfect way to wind down, though he knew it was only a matter of time before someone found him.
As if his thoughts had been some kind of premonition, a few seconds later he heard the distinct sound of approaching feet and looked up to see Draco Malfoy walking gracefully towards him.
It was common knowledge that Draco and he had an odd relationship. After the Slytherin's defection to the Light side during the war, they had formed a kind of awkward truce whenever they were around each other that closely resembled the Muggle teaching 'If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all'. Of course they still managed to argue and get into childish brawls every now and then; one particularly memorable fight had them rolling down the stairs at Grimmauld Place, still throwing punches. But it wasn't until Blaise Zabini, who had also switched sides with Malfoy, was kidnapped by Death Eaters that their relationship really changed.
It was well known amongst the Order that Malfoy and Zabini were an item, though Harry was unable to see any signs of true affection between them. They never kissed or held hands or did anything that most other couples did which left Harry to the conclusion that it was some kind of casual sex arrangement and little more. Over the two weeks that Zabini was missing, Malfoy became increasingly agitated. He had taken to pacing the hallway by the front door, despite the constant threat of Mrs Black's portrait booming into life to scream at him, and only the bravest members of the Order dared to speak to or question him for fear of being hexed. Tonks told Harry that he was worried about Blaise but Harry was still unconvinced that Malfoy could feel anything other than contempt for another person.
The night Blaise returned, Harry was on his way down the hallway, studiously avoiding Malfoy's daily ritual of pacing by the front door as he walked past him. There was a knock at the front door and Malfoy opened it in an instant to find Blaise, battered, drenched from the rain but mostly fine, standing dripping on the doorstep. Harry watched as Malfoy let out a cry and threw himself into the other boy's arms. Blaise, obviously still fairly weak from his abduction, barely had time to shut the front door behind him before the two sunk to the ground, wrapped up together. Harry was unable to tear his eyes away, especially once he realised that the trembling of Malfoy's body was due to the wracking sobs that were shaking him.
"I thought you were dead," the distraught boy said. Blaise simply pressed a kiss to his hair, rocking him gently in his arms and whispering words of comfort into his pale hair.
Realising that he was intruding, Harry quickly slipped out of the hallway, surprised to find tears in his own eyes, and left to tell the others that Zabini was back safe.
Since that night Harry had made a positive effort to befriend the other boy. He understood that there were real feelings under that cold Malfoy exterior (Blaise and Draco were still going strong today, though they remained fairly unaffectionate in public) and, after some time, the two had become good friends. They still had their moments, of course, but Harry was thankful that he had had a chance to get to know the real Draco Malfoy.
"Hey, Potter," the other boy said as he got closer.
Harry rolled his eyes. "For Merlin's sake, Draco, how many times must I say 'call me Harry'?" he sighed.
Draco shrugged as he folded himself into position next to Harry and leant back against the bark. "I can't help it! I spent six years calling you 'Potter'; it's a hard habit to break," he said reasonably and Harry shook his head. "What are you doing hiding out here anyway? You shouldn't really be off on your own in a remote part of the castle in your condition. What if something happened?"
"Aw, worried about me are we, Draco?" Harry said in sickly sweet voice.
It was Draco's turn to roll his eyes. "Of course, Harry. Sometimes I can barely sleep at night for thoughts of you," he replied sarcastically.
Wrinkling his nose, Harry asked, "Really? Doesn't Blaise get jealous?"
Draco turned and glared at him. Harry held his gaze seriously for a few seconds before bursting into laughter, the other boy following him before long.
"Seriously, Harry. It's not safe for you to be on your own, especially now you're pregnant. You never know who might come creeping out of the Forest. Where's Charlie?"
"He had things to do for his classes, sorting out the creatures or something," he answered nonchalantly.
"Well I'm waiting on Blaise anyway so I can stay with you until he gets back," Draco said decisively and Harry knew he would not be allowed to disagree.
He went for small talk instead. "Oh, what is Blaise up to then?"
"He had to deliver an essay to Flitwick."
The conversation remained light and friendly for a good hour as they discussed Blaise and Charlie, their classes and their friends until Draco brought up a subject that was clearly playing on his mind.
"I saw all the post you got this morning in response to the article," he said with a searching look as if he was trying to judge Harry's emotions.
The Gryffindor nodded. "Yeah, it wasn't too bad. Charlie got a load of Howlers but most of my letters were positive," he said with a pleased smile.
"Are you going to release a statement?"
Harry frowned. "I don't think so. To be honest, I wouldn't know how."
"You don't know how to issue a statement?" Draco asked incredulously and Harry shook his head. "Well how do usually deal with the press?"
"I normally just ignore them and hope the give up," Harry replied truthfully
Draco tutted. "That's no way to do it. Honestly Potter, I can't believe you don't have a proper system for coping with your media persona."
"Well I have no idea what I should do! And I don't care about my 'media persona' for crying out loud," Harry whined.
"I can see that I am going to have to take over seeing as you are, frankly, incompetent."
"Hey!" Harry cried. Draco ignored him.
"I'm sure I could get an owl to the Daily Prophet before nightfall and tell them to send me a list of questions and such," Draco continued, seemingly to himself. "And maybe a few photos of the two of you and some responses from the other Weasleys. Yes. That might work. What about a..."
Harry huffed and closed his eyes, reclining more comfortably against the tree and just listening to the sound of Draco's musings.
The next thing he knew was the sound of quiet conversation nearby. He sat up rubbing his eyes and the talking stopped. He opened his eyes to see Draco and Blaise sat close together on the grass doing what must be homework, knees touching but with no other sign of affection, and Charlie kneeling next to him.
"Come on, you! You've been asleep for over three hours. Good job these two stayed to watch over you or you would have frozen to death!" Charlie scolded him. It was then that Harry realised that it was nearly dark and that he had a large black cloak draped over him, the remains of a warming charm still keeping the fabric pleasantly snug.
Charlie helped him up, thanking Draco and Blaise once more before leading him back to their suite. Harry felt extremely tired which seemed odd seeing as he had just slept for several hours but he had just enough energy left to call back to the two boys.
"Goodnight, you two. Thanks," he said, ending the words on a yawn.
"Goodnight, Potter. You idiot," Draco's wry voice called back.
"It's Harry!" he grumbled before giving up on words altogether. He shut his eyes, holding tightly to his lover's hand and trusting Charlie to get them home safe.
Thanks for reading. Please review and tell me what you think of this latest update. I still have no intentions of abandoning this story and your support only encourages me!