"Okay, kiddo, I broke you out, now I want some answers." Sirius had to admit he had bitten off more than he could chew when he brought Harry and Draco out for dinner. His little cousin had pointedly ignored Harry which only served to stilt conversation and irk Sirius. Even when Harry tried to draw Draco into a game, Draco found something to complain about. By the time they returned, Sirius half wanted to throttle Draco. Still, he had promised Narcissa that he'd try and get through to the boy so he sat in Draco's room, watching as the boy climbed into bed.
"Don't what me, Draco." Sirius held his arms out, offering the boy a seat. "Our secret."
Draco looked guarded, but crawled into Sirius' lap anyway. "I'm in big trouble," he muttered into Sirius' shoulder.
Sirius rubbed Draco's small back. "Oy, you could have done to eat a little more at dinner," he joked. He gently pushed Draco so that they could look at each other. "You know, your dad got on my nerves loads when we were growing up." He thought he'd get a chuckle, but Draco only looked sadder. "Okayyyyy. No comedy. Got it." To his relief, Draco did give him a tiny smile then. "He wants you to apologize," Sirius said frankly, "And you don't want to. Do you think he'll just forget and unground you?"
"No," Draco admitted. "But I…" He sighed. "I don't know."
"Look, baby cousin." Sirius traced Draco's cheek with his thumb. "Like it or not, your parents make the rules and you have to obey them. They have the cards, kiddo. Why not just say you're sorry and move on?"
As a Slytherin, Draco knew Sirius spoke the truth. He had absolutely no cards to play. "Do you think I'm getting any pressies?"
Sirius had to laugh. "Oy, kid, your parents aren't that mean."
Draco leaned back into Sirius' arms, holding tightly. "Oh, kiddo."
"I'm sorry," he sobbed. "I ruined the whole day!"
"Oh, don't be so dramatic." Sirius kissed his cousin's head as he hugged him even harder. "Shhhh. No, little one, don't cry. Shhhh." Sirius really didn't know what to do other than sit there and hug the poor thing.
"Everyone HATES me!"
"No one hates you," Sirius argued. "No one."
"YES THEY DO!" Draco yelled, pulling away so fast, he fell on the floor. "Mum and Dad and Harry and Ron and my House and---"
"What's going on in here?" Narcissa hurried in with James at her heels. "Baby, why are you on the floor?"
"He fell," Sirius explained as Narcissa enveloped Draco into a huge embrace. He looked pointedly at James. "I was talking to him about some things. It was a bit of a rough night."
James held a hand up. "I get it, I am sorry" he mouthed.
"I want to go to bed!" Draco twisted out of his mother's arms, diving for the bed, but was only rewarded with bumping his head on the frame.
"Draco!" Narcissa exclaimed.
"Oy!" James scooped the crying boy up before anyone could say anything else. "What did I tell you about watching where you are going, hmmm?" He hoisted him over his shoulder. "Easy, baby. Easy. Daddy's here." He patted Draco's back.
"No!" Draco coughed and hiccupped as he rubbed his head.
"Let me see." James touched the tender area. "Here." He uttered a spell, watching the bump and bruise dissolve. "There, that's better, yeah?"
"I want to go to bed," Draco repeated.
"Enough to try and break your head apparently." James smiled, but Draco's watery eyes showed no amusement. "I have an idea. It involves hot chocolate."
"That sounds nice," Narcissa added, "Doesn't it, sweetheart?"
Draco blinked his weary, wet eyes. "Here." Narcissa handed him a tissue. "Blow it all out."
"Go away!" He screeched, twisting in James' arms.
"Let him down," Sirius insisted despite James' thunderous look.
"Kiddo here thinks everyone hates him," Sirius continued, ignoring his friend in favor of that "greater good" people always told him about. He placed his hands on Draco's shoulders, but the boy pulled away, glowering all the while.
"Traitor!" Draco accused.
"Well, you are just earning yourself all sorts of mates," Sirius retorted.
"Honestly, Sirius." Narcissa wondered how many times she uttered those very words in a week. "Sweetie, what's wrong? Please tell us."
The little boy looked up at the three towering adults and shrunk back against his bed. "Just go away then."
"I think I'll go say goodnight to Harry," Sirius offered. He bent down to whisper into Draco's ear. "Oy, you, don't they teach you self-preservation in that House of yours? Tone down the sass before you get a good smacked bum and some mouth washing besides." He smiled even though Draco was still clearly mad at him. "Love you, kiddo," he said louder, kissing his cheek. "Now, I'll go talk to the kid who still likes me."
When he was gone, James turned to Narcissa. "Just a few minutes?" He asked. He caught her concerned expression, but squeezed her shoulder. "I only want to talk to him," he promised.
"Alright," she relented. "Behave, Draco." She hugged her son and gave James a, "you punish him and deal with me," look.
Draco's stomach hurt a little as Narcissa left the room. He knew his attitude hadn't been stellar, but he didn't want to face the music.
"Baby," James said quietly, surprising Draco, "I miss you." He sat on the bed, watching as his son avoided eye contact.
The child had been expecting a spanking or, at the least, a soaping so he didn't quite know what to make of his father. "YOU grounded me."
"So I did," James granted. "Usually that works." He shrugged. "It's not so I suppose we ought to try something different."
There it was. "Fine," Draco answered defiantly. He made to move across his father's lap, but James pushed him back.
"Not what I meant." James held him at arm's length, forcing Draco to look at him.
"Though you really do deserve a good one for the way you've treated us. Even Sirius," he scolded. "But I'd like to think you're getting old enough to mind without a sore bum."
"Oh? Then why don't you start by telling me why you are so mad at all of us?" James let Draco go.
"You don't care," Draco argued.
"SINCE ALWAYS!" Draco screeched.
"Watch your tone," James warned. "And don't dare tell me what I feel, young man."
"See? You don't!" Draco's resolve to be a big boy weakened as his father rebuked him. "You don't."
Sirius' warning about breaking Draco's will fluttered through James' mind as he saw Draco's face crumbling. "Baby boy, I love you more than anything in this whole world." He didn't give Draco a choice as he pulled him into his lap. "Yes, I do," he insisted against Draco's shaking head. "Stop saying no! How the he--- how could you think that?"
James closed his eyes as Draco's sobs soaked his shirt. "I can make this better if you tell me what's wrong." He hated feeling so helpless.
"You are not really my father," Draco choked out. "You just wanted Mum s-so y-you…"
"I what? Pretended to care? Pretended to worry every day you were at school? Pretended to miss you?"
"No!" Confusion overwhelmed Draco which just made the tears come faster and harder.
"Oh, Godric, Draco. How long have you felt like this?" What had James done wrong?
The only answer came in the form of a shrug which frustrated James more. "Draco," he said sternly, "What made you think I don't want you?"
"Ron said so! He is right! They are ALL right! If you wanted me, you'd have let me be a Potter too!" James had barely decoded Draco's hysterical words when Narcissa appeared in the doorway again.
"What in the world? Draco?" She looked peeved. Very, extremely peeved. "Harry's asleep," she added, "So he can't hear you. Tell me everything now, Draco. The Weasley boy said this?"
"Everyone, Mummy! No one likes me! No one, but Theodore and they are mean to him TOO!"
In a flash, Narcissa was at James' side, holding onto Draco like he was the last thing left in the entire world. "I don't understand," James said as if he was just waking up from a long slumber, "What do you mean I would have let you be a Potter? What are they saying, baby?"
"It's alright, angel." Narcissa stroked Draco's sweaty hair. "Tell us."
"Th-that you just want Mummy and Harry and that's why I'm still a Malfoy." He focused on his mother as he related the tale.
"You mean your name, don't you, love?" Narcissa squeezed James' neck. She felt awful for her husband.
"Draco…no. No." James swallowed hard, trying to fight against his desire to risk Azkaban in hexing every Hogwarts student and the tears that wanted to show themselves. "I didn't even…"
"Shh," Narcissa said, as much for her husband's sake as her son's. "Draco, there are papers, official papers, saying if, Salazar forbid, I was unable to care for you, that James has full rights as your adoptive father. Don't you see? James loves you, angel."
"What?" Draco's tears slowed as he tried to digest what his mother claimed.
"She means…" James hugged Draco hard. "Baby, I've been your father in the eyes of the Ministry since the day I married your mum." His eyes sparkled with humor. "Even before you liked me, see?"
"Huh huh." James poked at the child's stomach. "Buddy, we told you it wasn't going to be easy at school."
"Some out there really don't approve of our family," Narcissa said, "And they'll do all they can to make us feel poorly about our choices, but, darling, we are a family and we love each other."
"Which is why the things you told Harry and…" James's throat felt hoarse as he choked out, "And when you said I wasn't your real father…Draco, those are awful weapons to use, don't you see?"
Draco looked at his parents for a long moment. "I'm sorry," he said so softly that Narcissa and James barely heard him. "I really just thought…I thought you didn't want me. I don't know why I believed them." He looked down, shame clearly written all over his tiny face.
"Well, I wish you had asked, Draco. You can ask Mum and I anything." James wound his large hand through Draco's small one. "I never wanted you to think you had to choose between me and your…Lucius." Tears finally did trickle down James' face. Narcissa's heart swelled; it took quite a bit to make James cry. "Baby, if you want to have the Potter name, that's fine, but it is not going to make me love you more because you already have my whole heart. I promise, Draco. Absolutely pinky promise."
The boy threw his arms around his father. "I'm sorry," he wept, "I love you too and I'll be good!"
James laughed through his tears. "Oh, rascal, even when I want to throttle you, you are still my little boy."
By then, Narcissa was crying too and was more than willing to hold onto them both. "Oy, you crazy men. You are going to drive me bonkers, you lot."
"What we do best." James flashed his best innocent grin.
Draco finally disentangled himself from all the arms. "I'll tell Harry I am sorry. Do you think he'll like me again?"
"I doubt he ever stopped," Narcissa replied. "I'll swear I never told, but just the other day he was saying how much he wanted you to be allowed to play outside with him."
"Which, thankfully, we can all do tomorrow," James piped in. "Right after we take a trip to the Ministry." He rubbed his nose against Draco's. "If you still want to be Draco Malfoy Potter that is."
Draco's face lit up. "I like that! It's like…I can be both!"
"You are both," James affirmed. "And your mother and I couldn't be prouder."
((Author Note: I apologize to those who get alerts and were notified several times. The formatting did something odd so I had to break one long chapter down into three smaller ones. Thank you for your patience! Hope you enjoyed.))