This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoat Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
This is the sequel to Close to the Heart, in the Birthday Gift story arc. It picks up three months after the Birthday Gift, but it's meant to be read AFTER Close to the Heart. If you didn't read the warnings on the summary, let me reiterate … this contains non-graphic MPREG. It's quite out of character for me, but Bets is my muse on this one, and her enthusiasm put the idea in my head. So blame her, not me. *grins*
Oct. 2, 2009
It started out as a bizarre feeling of malaise that just wouldn't go away. He'd been so, so tired when the term started, but Harry figured that was just because his class load was bigger than usual and he'd spent too many late nights planning his classes. Except it didn't go away after September, as he'd expected it would, when he'd fallen into his routine. Then he blamed late nights spent grading essays. Except that wasn't strictly true. McGonagall had given him an assistant, a seventh year with extreme promise in charms and a free period during the day, to help him keep up with all the extra marking.
No, if he'd been honest with himself, he'd have known there was a problem much earlier. Harry sighed in disgust, his fingers worrying the frayed edge of the blanket Poppy had draped over his legs to ward off the chill that always seemed to seep into the infirmary, no matter what the season. It was only early October, but the fickle Scottish weather had already turned damp and cold. He looked out the window, the low, gray clouds matching his mood.
Harry tossed the blanket aside, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and getting to his feet. Ron and Hermione would be here any minute, and he didn't want to be lying in bed like an invalid when they arrived – even if he felt like an invalid. He brushed the thought aside, hurrying into his own clothes. His friends had seen him in infirmary-issue pajamas often enough in school; they certainly didn't need to see him in them now.
He'd even shuffled into his own shoes by the time the infirmary doors swung open. He could hear the click of racing feet against the stone, and he had to suppress a sigh. He knew she'd meant well, but he wished Poppy hadn't been so quick to call Ron and Hermione. She'd said he needed support, and he knew that was true, but he'd have liked to have a few days to wrap his own mind around what was going on before having to explain it to someone else.
Merlin, he thought, letting his head loll forward as he sank into the plush chair Poppy had placed by the bed. How was he going to explain this to them? He hardly understood it himself. Even Poppy, who'd seen all sorts of things in her decades in the Hogwarts' infirmary, had been completely shell-shocked. She'd been the first to say that what he was facing was well out of her area of expertise; right after she'd tucked him into bed with potions for the shock and exhaustion, she'd hurried to her office and started Firecalling experts to help. And Ron and Hermione, of course.
Harry tried school his features into a look of calm determination, but he could tell he'd failed as soon as his oldest friends appeared in the doorway. Hermione's eyes immediately filled with tears, and even Ron looked pale and frightened.
"Harry?" Hermione murmured, walking into the small room and crouching in front of him. Harry had been pleased to find that the infirmary had a small wing of private rooms reserved for professors when he'd started years ago, but now he felt his stomach plummet at the thought that he'd be getting to know this room very well over the next six months. He had a feeling he might be here more often than his own quarters, at least if Poppy had anything to say about it. She'd already insisted he stay overnight so she could monitor him until his appointment with the Healer from St. Mungo's tomorrow.
"Madam Pomfrey wouldn't tell us anything, she just said to get here as quickly as we could," Hermione said, her slim hands reaching for one of Harry's, cradling it between them. She looked up at him from her position on the floor, the naked fear in her eyes giving him the courage to dive in head-first.
"No need for these," he said softly, using his free hand to wipe away a tear that was tracking its way down her cheek. He looked up at Ron, his attempt at a smile falling short. He grimaced, sucking in a deep breath. On with it, he told himself. "You might want to sit down, mate."
"Oh, Harry," Hermione whispered, her breath hitching at his expression. "Oh, no. How long do you have? Do they know?"
Harry's small, genuine smile at her question didn't reassure her at all. She tightened her grip on his hand, her eyes wide as she watched him consider his answer.
"Six months at the most, maybe less. It's a rare, very rare, so they don't know how my body will react," he said. He knew he was misleading them, but maybe they'd take the real news better if they thought the worst first.
Hermione dropped his hand, hers flying to her mouth as she sobbed at his words. Even the normally stoic Ron looked as though he might faint.
"After that, of course, all bets are off. I expect the Healers will be able to help me through the preparations, but they won't be there to guide me afterward, will they?" he asked, swallowing past the rising panic in his throat. "But that's what I have you two for. And I'm sure Molly will be more than happy to help. At least, I hope she will. And hey, it's only for seventeen years, right?"
Hermione sucked in a breath, her brown eyes dropping from his face to his abdomen before returning to stare at him in shock. She looked torn between anger and relief, though she obviously chose the former since she slapped him hard on the knee before getting to her feet. He resisted the urge to rub his leg, which was stinging from the impact.
"I'm pregnant," Harry said simply, looking first at Hermione and then at Ron. The redhead was so shell-shocked that it took a few moments for the words to sink in, but before long, two bright spots of color appeared on his pale cheeks.
"Poppy has only the vaguest of ideas about how it's possible, but apparently it is," Harry continued, watching as Ron sank into a nearby chair, his eyes still wide with shock. "There have only been a few cases of male pregnancy in recorded history, but luckily one was fairly recent, so I'll have the benefit of working with a Healer who's done this before."
He could practically hear the gears whizzing in Hermione's head as she shifted through thoughts, and the pensive expression on her face – one he'd seen thousands of times, always precluding a frenzy of research – was oddly comforting.
"The risks are greater than they would be for a woman, of course," Harry said, determined to get it all out there before either of his friends gathered their wits enough to start firing questions at him. "I don't know all the details, but male pregnancies tend to end in premature delivery because the body can't handle the stress. Most of the early cases ended in the death of both the man and the –" he faltered, his mouth going dry as he struggled to wrap his tongue around the word. "– baby, but Poppy assures me that the last six male pregnancies on record, going back about a hundred and fifty years, all ended successfully."
Ron had progressed from pale to flaming red as he spoke, and Harry braced himself for whatever was about to come. Ron accepted that he was gay, but he'd always studiously avoided any details of Harry's sex life – and now he'd been handed a huge detail Harry was sure Ron would rather not know.
"You're – that means you – but –"
"He's pregnant," Hermione said crisply, glaring at her husband. "And no matter how he got that way, he is."
Ron nodded, unable to make eye contact with either of them. Harry exchanged a shrug with Hermione, his discomfort growing when he saw the speculative gleam in her eyes.
"The father –"
"The other father," he cut in, giving her a warning glare. "Was a one-night stand in a club a few months ago. In June."
Hermione's lips moved silently as she mouthed the words to herself, obviously putting it all together. Ron, luckily, had no idea who Harry had spent that night in June with.
"Well," she said, clearing her throat.
"He bloody well better step up, no matter who he is," Ron said suddenly, his expression fierce. "No decent bloke would knock someone up and then disappear and leave you a single mo–" Ron stumbled over his words, his blush returning in full force. "Father."
Harry paled at his words. He hadn't once thought about asking Malfoy for any sort of help with the child in the hours he'd known it existed. Malfoy was a non-entity; there was no way he was going to tell him about the baby growing inside of him. The quelling look Hermione shot him let him know they would definitely be discussing that soon, but he knew she wouldn't say anything in front of Ron. It was bad enough he was a pregnant man; if Ron knew the father was Draco Malfoy he might explode.
Oct. 4, 2009
There was no way around it. He had to tell Malfoy. Harry sighed, stirring sugar into his third mug of decaffeinated tea of the morning. No matter what Hermione said, it just didn't taste the same.
He frowned at the parchment in front of him, completely at a loss for words, just as he had been the other twelve times he'd tried to write this letter. The discarded attempts were stacked haphazardly in a box in his desk, since he couldn't bring himself to throw them out.
Short and to the point, he reminded himself, dipping his quill in his pot of ink to start on a fresh sheet. No need for small talk or pleasantries; just relay the news.
Minutes ticked by as Harry stared at the blank parchment unseeingly. In theory, it should be easy. "Dear Malfoy, Apparently men can get pregnant, surprise!" Or he could take the approach Ron was advocating, despite the fact that the redhead still didn't know who the father was. "Dear Malfoy, You've gotten me up the duff. Your parental responsibility begins in roughly five months and will last for seventeen years. I await your owl with the details of your Gringotts vault."
Harry looked up when the clock chimed, reminding him it was time for breakfast. He sighed heavily, scowling at the messy ink drips on his clean parchment. He Banished it to the bin, replacing his quill and standing to throw his robes on. Poppy told him he'd likely start showing any day now, and he shuddered at the thought. He'd have to find a way to conceal his pregnancy; there was no way he wanted the school – and by extension, the whole of the wizarding world, since the students and some of the professors gossiped like hens – to know.
At least he'd have a chance to think about the wording of the letter over breakfast, he told himself, hurrying toward the Great Hall. His appetite was returning, which was a good thing. His stomach was settling, too, which was even better. He'd even stayed awake until nearly 11 p.m. the night before, which was a feat he hadn't managed in months. Apparently everything Poppy had told him about the second trimester being easier was true.
He'd just decided that perhaps it was best to simply tell Malfoy he had something important to discuss and ask for a face-to-face meeting when the screech of the morning mail had him looking up into the rafters. His lips curved into a smile when he saw Molly's familiar-looking owl swooping toward him, a large package tied to its leg. She'd taken to sending him care packages of homemade sweets and vitamin potions every week, and now that eating no longer made him nauseated, he actually looked forward to them. He petted the owl affectionately, offering it a slice of bacon before turning his attention to the owl delivering his morning copy of the Daily Prophet. He slipped a few Sickles into the pouch on its leg and untied his newspaper, barely sparing the bird another glance as he unfurled the paper.
Ex-pat Malfoy Named Swiss Minister for Potions
Harry nearly choked on his pumpkin juice as he read the headline that stretched across the front page. A large color photo of Malfoy shaking hands with the Swiss Minister for Magic was underneath. He skimmed over the pictures and headlines, noting that it seemed that most of the page was devoted to Malfoy's new career move.
It wasn't the news that Malfoy had quickly risen through the ranks of Swiss politics – or the revelation that he was one of the youngest wizards to earn the highest level of accreditation as a Potions Master – that had Harry running for the loo, his breakfast threatening to make a repeat performance. No, that was due to the smaller article tucked toward the bottom of the page.
Malfoy Heir Has No Plans to Continue Bloodline
By Alethia Nashida
Not only does new Swiss Minister for Potions have no desire to settle down and get married, he also fully intends to let the Malfoy family line die out with him. Mr. Malfoy is adamantly opposed to procreating, a stance he said is unlikely to change over time.
"It has taken quite a bit of time and effort to remove the smudge on the Malfoy name after my father's actions during both wars against Voldemort," he said. "I have no desire to bring a child into this world to continue on the legacy he wished to leave. The best revenge I can take against Lucius Malfoy is to let our line die out, the one thing he feared the most."
The elder Mr. Malfoy's involvement with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was well documented in the trials that followed the dark wizard's defeat at the hands of Harry Potter some ten years ago. His belief in pure-blood supremacy is also well documented, and apparently something his son does not share.
Mr. Malfoy has a well-documented preference for men, though he has been seen on the arm of women from time to time. The big surprise there is that he has been romantically linked to both magical and Muggle lovers over the years.
"Why narrow my potential pool by eliminating an entire gender?" he said with his trademark smirk when asked about his apparent bisexuality. "The same goes for not dating Muggles. We're all the same when the lights go out, I assure you."
If he intends to never have children, why bother with dating women at all? Mr. Malfoy said it all goes back to variety.
"I love Swiss chocolate, but I couldn't imagine limiting myself to only eating one kind of sweet for the rest of my life," he said flippantly. "The same goes for my choice in partners. Besides, I've made it perfectly clear to all of the witches I have dated over the years that I do not want children."
And if one of these lovely ladies has disregarded his wishes, either on purpose or by accident?
"I don't want to know," he said with a laugh. "Is it possible there are little Malfoys running around out there? Absolutely. Do I have any desire to know about them? No, none."
And there you have it. The apparent end of another pure-blood line. Narcissa Malfoy had no comment about her son's revelation.
Dec. 31, 2009
Ron stopped short when the whispered conversation abruptly came to an end the moment he stepped into the room. He sighed, turning around and walking back out. This had been happening more and more frequently, and he was starting to get annoyed.
"Would you just stop?" Harry hissed at Hermione as soon as the door swung shut behind the redhead. They were holed up over mugs of hot cocoa in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place. Harry had spent the first week of the Christmas hols at the Burrow, but Molly's well-intentioned hovering had quickly driven him insane, forcing his retreat to the house he so rarely used. He hated being at the castle over the holidays now that he was a teacher; it meant being assigned to rounds and watching over students.
"Would you just stop?" Hermione whispered back, a fierce light in her eyes.
Harry sighed, letting his head drop to the tabletop in exasperation. She'd been nothing but supportive of his pregnancy, but there was one point – one very important point – that they disagreed on; whether or not to tell Malfoy.
"He has a right to know," she said for what was probably the thousandth time.
"He doesn't want to know!" Harry answered, glaring at her as he raised his head.
Harry laid a hand over his growing abdomen, still amazed that the hard, round bump housed a life in there. A life that was half his and half Malfoy's and somehow miraculously growing inside him. He was still torn about what to do, even after the shocking revelation from Malfoy that he never intended to have children.
"He needs to know," Hermione said, fixing him with a hard stare.
"He doesn't want children!"
"It's a bit late for that," Hermione had said primly, folding her hands in her lap.
Harry closed his eyes as the baby delivered a particularly hard kick to his ribs, remembering the words Malfoy had used. He'd read them often enough over the last few months to have them memorized.
""Is it possible there are little Malfoys running around out there? Absolutely. Do I have any desire to know about them? No, none.'" Harry quoted, his green eyes dull as he opened them.
"Oh, Harry," Hermione sighed.
He knew her well enough to realize they would definitely be having this argument again – after all, they'd been having it for the better part of three months – but at least it seemed she was willing to drop it for the moment.
January 11, 2010
"I – I – I –"
Ron's stammering would have been amusing if Harry hadn't been so desperate. He never would have asked Ron if he hadn't been out of options. George and Angelina were simply too busy with their own children and the shop, Hermione couldn't because she traveled for work so often, and Molly and Andromeda were both too busy with grandchildren to devote that kind of time. Arthur was out of the question because – well, just because. And he could hardly ask Kingsley or his wife Ava to do something like this, could he?
So that left Ron, who was currently turning a very alarming shade of red and didn't appear to be breathing.
"Ron, please," Harry begged, feeling absolutely panicked that his best mate was about to say no. "I can't go through it by myself. Please."
Ron looked at him, making eye contact for the first time since Harry had asked him the question five minutes ago.
"The father. It should be the father. Tell the father."
Harry gritted his teeth. Things certainly couldn't get any worse, could they? And there was a chance that telling Ron could make him change his mind.
"The father is Draco Malfoy."
Ron's eyes widened, a look of sheer disbelief on his flushed face. Harry cringed, waiting for the inevitable explosion. He'd just asked Ron to be his labor coach – an ill-fitting name for what he would be called upon to do, since Harry would be having a Cesarean section and not a regular birth – and now he'd told him, after months of careful secrecy, that the father of the baby was their old archrival and all-around pompous arse Draco sodding Malfoy.
Ron gaped at him, his throat working violently as he tried to remember how to breathe and swallow, disastrously attempting both at the same time. When his coughing fit subsided, he raised his eyes to Harry's again, his jaw set in determination.
"I'll do it."
March 3, 2010
"He's so –"
"Small?" Hermione said, cutting Ron off.
"Perfect?" Molly offered, cooing at the tiny bundle cradled in Ron's arms. He had stoically stayed with Harry during the surgery, though he'd been beyond disturbed by the entire process. Especially when the Healer had handed him the baby to hold as he finished seeing to Harry.
"Red?" George piped in, earning himself a smack from Angelina.
"Wrinkly?" Bill suggested, yelping when Fleur pinched him. "What? I thought the same thing about Victoire, and she turned out just fine."
The rest of the Weasleys said nothing as they crowded around Ron, each taking their turn to peel back the blanket and look at the tiny baby while Harry, full to the gills with potions for pain and muscle regrowth, slept nearby.
Ron shook his head, cradling the baby in the crook of his arm as he raised his other hand to stroke his downy hair. Little Leo Potter was only a few hours old, but Ron was already much more comfortable holding him. In fact, he was the only one besides Harry to have held Leo at all since his birth.
"Blond," he said flatly, his blue eyes meeting Hermione's over the top of the baby's head. They, along with George, Angelina, Molly, Arthur, Andromeda, Kingsley and Ava, were the only ones who knew who the baby's other father was. "I was going to say blond."
March 2, 2011
"Do we have everything we need?" Harry asked, narrowing his eyes as he scanned the room. There were piles of brightly wrapped gifts in one corner and a table overflowing with streamers, balloons and other decorations that had yet to be put up.
"Harry," Hermione said, shaking her head in exasperation. "He's turning one. He won't remember any of this."
Harry shrugged, using his wand to affix the streamers to the ceiling. Tomorrow was Leo's birthday, and he wanted everything to be perfect. His quarters looked like the aftermath of a party store explosion, but he didn't care.
Hermione watched him fuss with streamers and balloons, her lips quirking into a smile. It was so obvious how much Harry loved his son. He absolutely lived for him. He'd gone to great lengths to keep Leo's existence a secret to keep him safe from paparazzi and the public. It was hard, with Harry living at Hogwarts most of the year, to keep the baby a secret, but they'd managed. And any time Harry and Leo went out, Harry used a glamour to conceal his identity, usually adopting blond hair and blue eyes so he looked more like his son.
"It's only family," she said, helping him blow up balloons with a few quick spells despite her protest.
And it was. Only a few people knew about Leo's existence, and Harry considered all of them family. He'd told Neville and Luna shortly after Leo's birth, and a few of the professors knew as well. None of them knew who the other father was, of course.
Harry rolled his eyes, ignoring her. He knew she hadn't come tonight just to help him set up for tomorrow's party. He puttered around, affixing cardboard stars in a multitude of colors to the stone walls with his wand as he waited for her to say what she'd come to say.
"Harry," she started. He tensed, thinking that at least she'd had the decency to sound a bit tentative. "You really need to tell Malfoy."
He sighed, lowering his wand and turning to face her. He lounged against the low counter that separated his kitchen and dining areas, crossing his arms. They had this discussion every few months, and he'd known Leo's birthday would spark another.
"I really don't," he said, staring at her impassively.
He had no doubt she would have taken matters into her own hands ages ago if not for the binding spell Kingsley had put on her right before Leo was born. Everyone else had agreed that it was Harry's choice whether or not to tell Malfoy, and all of them understood why he had chosen not to. She was the only one to have such a constraint on her, and it rankled her to no end that everyone thought she wasn't trustworthy.
"No," he said again, pushing off the counter and heading into the kitchen to rummage through the cold box. The house-elves were taking care of the food for tomorrow's party, and Molly was bringing the cake, so all he had to do was make sure he was well-stocked on drinks and Leo's favorite apple sauce.
Hours later, Harry found himself sitting at his desk, his quill poised over a creamy sheet of new parchment. Despite what he'd told Hermione, he still had his doubts about whether or not Malfoy should know about Leo. Harry's heart clenched as he thought about how devastated he would be if he was missing out on all of Leo's milestones. He sighed, biting his lip as he dipped the quill into his ink pot and started to write. The letter would join the dozens that were locked in a box inside his desk, all chronicling the major events in Leo's life. It made Harry feel better to tell Malfoy about things, like the first time Leo had smile, the first solid food he'd eaten (pureed carrots, and he'd hated them), the first word he'd said, the first wobbly step he'd taken, even though he knew the letters would never be sent.
"Dear Malfoy," he began, biting his lip harder as he chose his words. "Leo turns one tomorrow, but from the way he's been acting lately you'd think he was turning seventeen instead …".
Harry sank into a plush chair near the fire, relaxing for the first time all day. The party had gone well – Leo had loved all of the decorations, amusing everyone by reaching out with his magic to pull the streamers off the ceiling so he could play in them. The guests had all Flooed over from the Burrow, since Harry's Floo was set up to allow access. Leo spent every week day at the Burrow with Molly, and McGonagall had let him have the permanent Floo connection for the sake of privacy. It worked out fabulously for things like this, too, so he could have guests over without the entire student body knowing about it.
He looked up, smiling as George handed him a glass with a generous dose of Scotch in it. Though most of the Weasleys had offered to stay and help clean up the mess, he'd only taken George and Angelina up on their offer. While he was still boisterous and fun-loving most of the time, there was a quiet calmness about George. Losing his twin had had a profound effect on him, and he and Harry had gotten very close as they dealt with the personal demons the aftermath of the war had left behind.
He'd even chosen George and Angelina as Leo's godparents, surprising everyone by overlooking Ron and Hermione. His friends had understood, though, and they agreed with his choice. They loved Leo as if he were their own, but they weren't in the position to take care of him should something happen to Harry. They were childless and focused on their careers, whereas Angelina and George had Freddie and Roxie. They took turns spending afternoons at home with the children, one there while the other manned the store. Molly watched them in the mornings, and would have happily kept them all day, but George and Angie refused to sacrifice their relationships with their children in favor of the shop.
Harry took a sip of the amber liquid, so used to the taste now that he didn't grimace at all as it burned a path down his throat. It had been his drink of choice since Leo had been born, for reasons he stalwartly refused to think about. Would things be different if Malfoy knew about Leo? Would the two of them have some sort of agreement that kept Leo home with them more and not with Grandma Molly so much? Harry had agonized over what to do with him when the semester McGonagall had given him off to recuperate had ended. After having Leo with him constantly for five months, it had been almost unthinkable that he'd return to work. He sighed, the familiar internal argument raging in his mind. He needed to work so he could support Leo, though that wasn't entirely true. His parents and Sirius had left him hefty inheritances, and while they couldn't live off of those alone, Harry could spend more time writing books about charms or on the guest lecturing circuit. Both options would allow him to spend more time with Leo. But he hadn't been willing to give up on teaching, which he loved.
He'd learned that life was all about balance. Work and home, friends and family. He knew Leo loved spending time with Molly and the other kids, just as much as Molly loved having him. And realistically, it was probably a good idea for Harry and Leo to spend at least some time apart each day. But every morning when he dressed him and carried him through the Floo to the Burrow, a niggling sense of doubt and guilt ate away at him. Would that be there if he and Malfoy were raising Leo together? If it was Malfoy Leo was spending his days with, instead of Molly?
Harry shut his eyes. It was pointless to go down this road again; he'd been over it many times before, and every single time he'd arrived at the conclusion that he'd been right not to tell Malfoy about Leo. And today he'd gotten verification of that from the nearest thing to Malfoy he could; his mother.
Harry took another sip of Scotch, letting it roll around his mouth before swallowing. Andromeda had shown up with two presents for Leo; a tiny racing broom and his paternal grandmother.
"Big day, eh?" George said, collapsing inelegantly in a chair just like Harry's on the other side of the hearth.
"Oi, tact," Angelina hissed, looking up from sweeping bits of streamer and ribbon up off the floor.
"I just meant Leo turning one," George said, holding up his hands.
"Right," Harry said, shaking his head and smiling in spite of himself. This was why he'd asked them, and not Ron and Hermione, to stay. They weren't going to force him to talk about things he didn't want to talk about or rehash old decisions that couldn't be changed. They were simply here.
"Good age, good age," George said thoughtfully, picking up the small broom that was propped against his chair and examining it. "So, Andromeda's present – a bit dangerous, yeah?"
Harry snorted with laughter, feeling calm for the first time in hours.
"Dangerous, yes. You could say that. Though she said she made Mrs. Malfoy swear a Wizard's Oath not to tell her son, and even she said she agreed it was best he didn't know."
George gave Harry an innocent look, stroking the finish on the broom one last time before putting it back down.
"I meant the broom."
"Of course you did," Harry said, rolling his eyes. "And you're right. I'm putting that away until next year, at least. He's way too small for something like that."
"I seem to recall a certain uncle buying one of those for Freddie for his first birthday," George said, quirking an eyebrow at Harry.
"Yes, and I seem to remember that you and Angie put it away until Freddie was four. Bit of an over-reaction, that."
Angelina laughed, lobbing a ball of wrapping paper at Harry.
"We'll just see how old Leo is before you let him on that thing. Next birthday my arse," she said, her muttering trailing off as she moved to tackle the dishes in the kitchen.
July 18, 2011
"It's only for a weekend, Harry," Narcissa said, jiggling a fussy Leo on her hip.
Harry looked around the Manor, his unease clear on his face. A few weeks after she'd met her grandson at his first birthday party, Narcissa had contacted Harry and asked that he allow her to get to know both him and Leo. They'd started spending afternoons on the Manor's sprawling grounds, and after a few months of that, she'd persuaded him to let her keep Leo two days a week, when Molly had her hands full with six grandchildren instead of just three. Molly had, surprisingly, been in favor of it, so Harry had reluctantly agreed.
And now Narcissa wanted to keep Leo for an entire weekend while he went out of town to deliver a lecture in Barcelona.
"I don't know," he said, looking away.
The changes she'd made to the family wing of the Manor were nothing short of astounding. The first time Harry and Leo had visited, the rooms had been cold and formal, with countless priceless antiques, stuffy portraits and breakables that had made Harry's heart stop every time Leo toddled toward one. The second time, she'd removed the knickknacks and put safety charms on the furniture. By the fifth time, Leo had his own room, fully furnished and stocked with what Harry suspected was every toy in Diagon Alley. It was connected to a suite of rooms she'd given to Harry by a large, sunny playroom with comfortable, child-friendly furniture and bright paintings. Which is how Harry and Leo came to spend most of their weekends at Malfoy Manor, leaving Hogwarts on Friday night and not returning until Sunday evening, after their weekly Sunday dinner at the Burrow.
"Harry," she said, exasperated. He knew she had a point; Leo was as comfortable with her as he was with Molly, and she was certainly able to take care of him. Still, he'd feel better if Leo was at the Burrow while he was gone.
He looked up, frowning. They never talked about her son, not after the first time she'd met Leo and had told him he'd made the right choice. Her reassurances had made Harry feel better about keeping Leo from his other father, though he still wrote him letters from time to time, adding them to the growing collection stashed in his desk. He'd been reluctant to come to Malfoy Manor in the beginning, just in case Malfoy happened to visit. But Narcissa had assured him that Draco had vowed never to come back, and that even if he changed his mind, he was unlikely to drop by without giving her notice first.
Still, it was possible. Malfoy could come back. And if he came back while Leo was there alone with Narcissa, what would happen? Harry watched Leo pull at Narcissa's diamond necklace, shaking his head when she kissed his fingers and then pulled it off to give him, letting him clutch it in his chubby fist and swing it around as though it was an inexpensive string of beads instead of several thousand Galleons worth of gems.
"I'll change the wards," she said suddenly, inspiration lighting her blue eyes. "I'll change the wards to keep him out."
Harry stared at her in shock. He knew she loved her son and desperately wanted him to come home. She hadn't seen him at all since his brief visit two years ago, the one that had resulted in Leo. Though they never spoke of him, Harry knew that his absence left a hole in her heart. And how couldn't it? He looked at Leo, wondering how he would manage if his son turned his back on the life they had and deserted him. No matter how sound his reason – and Harry had to admit that Malfoy's decision, harsh though it was, was based on logic – Harry didn't think he'd survive such a separation from Leo.
For Narcissa to be offering to essentially cut off her son's access to his ancestral home – the home he was technically the Lord of, despite the fact that he'd renounced his title – was an enormous concession. Harry's expression softened, his chest tightening as he felt himself nod. He still had misgivings, but there was no question in his mind that Narcissa Malfoy loved her grandson and would do whatever it took to protect him.
"Alright," he said, laughing when Narcissa let out a shriek of triumph and held Leo high into the air, rucking up his shirt so she could pepper his belly with kisses when she brought him back down.
Yes, he thought, watching the elegant, reserved woman unabashedly enjoy herself, not caring how silly she looked; Narcissa Malfoy did indeed love her grandson. He just hoped it would be enough. Was having the love of an extended family enough to replace Leo's missing parent? He handed over Leo's diaper bag, knowing it had been unnecessary to pack anything for him; he had more clothes and toys at the Manor than he did at home. Still, he hadn't been sure if he'd be leaving Leo there or taking him over to Molly.
"He'll be fine," Narcissa said, rolling her eyes at Harry.
He shook his head, unable to get past how different she was when she dropped her Lady of the Manor act. There was no trace of the haughty, snobbish woman he'd thought she was. Part of him wondered if her son wore the same sort of armor; would Draco be this warm and caring if Harry knew him well enough to see past the facade?
"I know," he said, kissing both of their cheeks. He had a Portkey to catch, and if he left now he'd just make it.
"Love you both," he said, stepping back so he could Apparate straight to the airport. "I'll Floo when I get settled."
"Do, please," Narcissa answered, already preoccupied with making a stuffed elephant levitate in front of Leo.
He shook his head again, Disapparating with a pop. As he stood in line at the airport for his connecting Portkey, he couldn't help but pen another letter to Malfoy in his head, something he found himself doing whenever he was puzzling over something.
"Dear Malfoy," he thought, watching the line move slowly forward. "I've just come from your mother's, and I must say I can't believe that Lady Narcissa Malfoy knows how to pull up her skirts and play on the floor ...".
Author's note: Before the onslaught of demands for a reunion between Harry and Draco commence, let me just say that the fourth (and hopefully final) piece of the Birthday Gift series is already in the works. It will focus on Draco finding out about Leo and whatever the future holds for Harry and Draco as a couple. So no need for begging or death threats … though cookies and nice reviews are always appreciated. *grins*