Chapter 9—Two Steps Forward
A/N: Thank you all who stuck by me while I've been MIA. I guess I shouldn't make promises I can't keep in terms of updating this story. I will tell you that unlike when I began this over seven years ago, I actually have it fully outlined. I know exactly where it's going and what I want it to do. Now, if only I can maintain my motivation for writing.
Draco couldn't imagine his life being any better at that point. Well, unless having Harry officially free was feasible. Having Harry back to full health wouldn't be bad either, but he would take what he could get for now.
They had arrived at Viktor Krum's manor in Romania early in the morning of 16th September and met with the Bulgarian Seeker. Viktor was more than accommodating, setting up rooms and ordering food service for the guests in their company. He showed Draco and Harry, with Aidan, to their own suite of rooms in the west wing with some of the more dire escapees and Severus. Viktor's own personal medic came and attended to McGonagall, Flitwick, and Arthur Weasley who had slipped into unconsciousness after a sudden, unexplained seizure shortly after the flight.
Aidan was healthy and happy after a day of ear drops, and Harry was well on his way to mending. He'd definitely settle for this pseudo life they were making for themselves.
Once they arrived in Romania, Harry had been through four days of torturous, screaming pain as his wrist, hand, and ankle were regrown, pushing through the scar tissue that had grown around his broken bones. He had been feverish, incoherent, and heavily sedated, but it had still caused him so much pain. Draco felt like he was dying as he watched helplessly as Harry feebly tried thrashing through the pain. He felt like he was worse than the Dark Lord as he held his love down as he cried and pleaded for them to stop.
For two of those days, Draco sat unmoving beside Harry's bed, fearing the man would fall into unconsciousness and never wake. He didn't sleep, couldn't eat. The only thing that gave him a small comfort was Aidan. Everyone in the manor believed that Draco was wholly responsible for Aidan's care whilst Harry was out of commission, and most of the time, Draco agreed. It was during the times after Harry had fallen back into unconsciousness that Draco felt so out of sorts that he knew he would kill or maim his baby accidentally. He couldn't be a father without Harry.
Those four days had allowed Draco and Aidan to bond. Harry for the most part wasn't able to teach Draco much of anything the first week they were in Romania. He was in and out of unconsciousness, feverish from his body fighting infections, exhausted, and oftentimes suffering through flashbacks of the last two months in prison and his dangerous labor and delivery of Aidan.
Draco remembered the day Harry woke sobbing as his memory unlocked the day he had been beaten so severely a normal man would have died. He shuddered as Harry recounted everything from the beheading of Fossy to the man stomping his ankle so thoroughly that the bones had shattered beyond repair.
His boyfriend had gone through too much pain. Too much suffering. Draco decided to make it his mission in life to make it up to Harry and Aidan for the rest of his life. He was going to make sure they had the perfect life, for the rest of their lives. To hell with Fudge and the Ministry. He would take them down.
He glanced over at Harry, whose bare newly healed foot was pressed against his thigh. The scars from the bones that had pushed through the skin were an angry red color, resisting magical healing due to the excess of magic already pulsing through his body. The man looked exhausted. He was curled up on his side, his head resting on the overstuffed back cushions of the couch as he watched Aidan babble happily in Draco's lap. Harry had a goofy smile on his face as he watched Draco play patty cake with their son, but Draco could see fear and longing battling on his love's face. Harry tried too hard to be brave sometimes.
Harry's thin, shaking arm reached out and his fingers grasped Aidan's waving hand. The baby instantly latched on with an excited gurgle as he pulled at his daddy's fingers trying to get them to his toothless mouth. A soft snort escaped his love, and Draco grinned at the sight. Harry hadn't held Aidan since the escape, and Draco could see the desperation to do so; it was practically pouring off Harry.
"Sit back," Draco ordered, scooping Aidan into his arms. He gently pushed Harry back against the cushions more comfortably and helped him move his legs off the couch before he set Aidan down into his lap and sat directly beside them. He supported Aidan's back and neck, making sure their son wouldn't fall from his perch. Harry was nearly as weak as a newborn, and it was taking all Draco's patience not to demand Severus fix him immediately, knowing the order was futile. Nothing but rest, good nutrition, easy exercise, and mild strengthening potions could help Harry right now.
"A'dan," Harry murmured, his arms weakly wrapping around his son in a hug. Aidan allowed himself to be pulled into his daddy's chest without fuss. Tears began rolling down Harry's pale cheeks.
"Harry?" Draco hated seeing the raw emotions playing over his lover's face as he began silently sobbing into his baby's soft hair. His eyes were closed so tightly, and his hands trembled as they tangled in Aidan's outfit and blanket. Draco carefully placed his hand on the back of Harry's neck, his other still supporting Aidan. "Harry look at me," he tried coaxing to no avail.
Harry often went through these issues. One moment he'd be happy and sleepy and the next he'd be sobbing, not accepting any comfort from anyone. Draco had learned early on not to get too close when Harry was going through this emotional upheaval. It only made the sobbing worse.
Instead of wrapping his boyfriend in his arms and whispering soothing words into his ear like he wanted to, Draco slipped his hand under his lover's chin, lifting his tear-stained face to his. Slowly, Harry's eyes blinked open. "Talk to me," Draco urged. It was what the healers kept advising him. Force Harry to talk. It exercised his damaged vocal cords and forced the man into figuring out and putting into words what was wrong.
Like usual, Harry lowered his gaze and shook his head ever so slightly. Draco allowed his fingers to tighten just slightly on Harry's chin drawing his lover's attention once more. He allowed his desperation and helplessness to gleam through his eyes. "Harry, talk to me. Please. Why are you so upset?"
Harry lowered his gaze again, pulling out of Draco's gentle grip. "I don't know," he whispered, barely audible.
"What don't you know?" Draco asked softly, folding his legs beneath him to face Harry. Their thighs were touching. Draco was always touching him in some way, subconsciously afraid that if he didn't, Harry would disappear.
Harry loosened his hold on Aidan, allowing the baby to sit more comfortably in his lap again, but the boy was subdued, sensing his daddies' moods. Harry watched his fingers gripped tightly in his baby's fists in fascination and shook his head negatively.
"Come on, Harry. Please, talk to me. What are you feeling right now?"
Harry took a shuddering breath, releasing it slowly. His eyes never left Aidan. "It's so much." He rested his forehead against his baby's soft, black hair as more tears fell from his eyes. "I've dreamed about this for so long," he whispered.
Draco placed his hand on Harry's head, gently running his fingers through his love's soft, thick locks. "I've done nothing but dream about you since you've been gone."
Harry's teary green eyes, brighter than Draco had seen in ages, locked on his, and Harry gave a small smile. With his cheek resting atop Aidan's head, Harry continued. "I couldn't decide if I wanted you to move on with your life and fall in love again or pine away for me like I was you."
Draco was stunned speechless for a moment. He would have never been that selfless had their situations been reversed. Harry was his, and if he had the slightest hope of getting out, he would have probably killed whoever took his Harry from him. As it was, Fudge and his lackeys weren't going to survive. He just needed to figure out how to kill the man and make it look like an accident. That's where Harry and his knowledge of defense and the Auror department came in to play.
"There is no one who could ever compare to you."
Harry smiled sadly, as he often did these days, and closed his eyes.
"I love you, Harry," Draco said, still running his fingers through Harry's hair.
Aidan must have decided that they had been sad for long enough because he reached his tiny hand up and grabbed Harry's nose harshly his little thumb going in his nostril. "Ba!" he screamed playfully as Harry pulled away, moving more quickly than Draco had seen in a long time. Harry laughed and poked Aidan in the belly, the baby screaming with delight. He clapped happily before leaning over to grab Draco.
Draco scooped him up quickly as he was falling sideways and placed him back into Harry's lap. "Stay with Daddy, Aidan, he misses you."
"He's really taken with you," Harry commented, smiling genuinely at Draco. The smile made his stomach flutter with want.
"He better be! That brat demanded all my attention while you were healing. Never let me put him down except when he was trying to get to you. I swear you've spoiled him," Draco replied indignantly, crossing his arms like a petulant child.
Harry gazed fondly at Aidan. "He saved my life."
Sensing the change of mood again, Draco sweetly petted his son's head. Aidan reached up and grabbed his thumb bringing it immediately to his mouth to gum it. "Eww! Aidan! Come on, I don't want baby slobber all over me!" He didn't struggle much until something sharp stabbed the side of his thumb. "Ouch!" He pulled his hand to his chest, cradling it like he did when he had gotten attacked by the hippogriff in third year. "He bit me."
"He doesn't have teeth. It can't have hurt that bad."
"You stick your finger in there, and tell me he doesn't have teeth!"
Harry got a delighted smile on his face as he bent over Aidan and coaxed the baby into opening his mouth. Aidan's gums were still all pink and gummy. "He still doesn't have teeth, you're just a baby," Harry teased.
Draco couldn't help but revel in the playfulness Harry was exuding, but rolled his eyes in amusement. "I told you the little bugger bit me. Just you wait until you're nursing him." He moved his face so close to Aidan their noses were nearly touching.
"Ba!" Aidan screamed slapping his hand at Draco, who pulled away quickly.
Harry chuckled. "I don't think he liked you calling him a little bugger."
"Ba! Ba!" Draco grabbed Aidan and held him standing on Harry's thigh. His legs didn't support him and he kicked with them as Draco held him in place.
"Listen here, you little brat—"
Harry slapped Draco's hands away and sat Aidan back down on his lap. "Don't be an arse. He's a little angel."
Aidan seemed amused at his parents' silly smiles and teasing, but he seemed even more delighted that Harry was holding him again. The baby had been quite fussy the last few days, constantly reaching for Harry whenever he was in the same room. He had grown since they had been rescued. He was no longer gaunt and pale, and his body no longer looked emaciated. Aidan glowed with healthy color.
After several moments of silence as they teased and tickled their baby, Draco became serious again.
"I'm eternally grateful for Viktor. He's done so much. His healers, though, they don't think McGonagall or Flitwick are going to make it."
Harry looked away from Draco and Aidan. "I don't want to talk about this," he whispered. Draco could hear the weight of the world in his voice, and he placed his hand on Harry's shoulder.
"Ok, we won't talk about it." Draco took a deep breath and stood up, reaching out for Aidan. "Come on, little bugger, time for a nap." He picked Aidan up from Harry's lap and cradled him as he reached out for his lover's hand to help him from the couch.
Together, hand in hand, Harry and Draco made their way into their bedroom and placed Aidan down in his cot. The baby immediately tried to get picked up again, but Draco just smiled, patted his stomach gently and covered him with a blanket. After a few moments of them watching him, Aidan's eyes grew heavy, and Draco helped Harry into their bed.
"I missed you so much," Draco whispered, pulling Harry to him and wrapping an arm around Harry's thin body. Harry curled against his side, his head pillowed on Draco's shoulder.
"Missed you, too. Missed this," Harry murmured, his eyes closed and breathing deepening with sleep.
Draco continued to watch him before he, too, was lulled to sleep by the sounds of his lover's and his baby's soft breathing.
He awoke the same way he fell asleep, watching Harry and listening to Aidan's breathing. A soft knock, what he had assumed had woken him, dragged his attention to the door, and he carefully extracted himself from around Harry.
Severus was at the door and Draco closed the door softly behind him. "What's going on?"
"Minerva passed about an hour ago." Draco felt his stomach drop; he could see the devastation hidden behind the stoic mask his godfather always wore. "I wanted to warn you before someone blathered it to Potter."
"Thank you," he replied, his heart heavy. They knew for a week that the end was probable for his former transfiguration professor and headmistress, but now that it had actually happened, Draco wasn't sure how to feel. He knew his lover was going to take the news especially hard. Professor McGonagall had been almost like a grandmother to Harry.
"How is Potter? I haven't had the time to see for myself."
Draco waved off his godfather's quasi-apology. "He's getting better. He has nightmares. Frequently. And he's struggling to come to terms with being free, but he's doing as well as can be expected."
"And the boy?"
"My son, Aidan, you mean?" Draco smirked, not about to let his godfather distance himself. He felt his smile grow and his spirits lift just thinking about his wiggly son. "He's amazing. He's so in love with Harry. It's amazing to see."
Draco watched the pained smile crease Severus's mouth, and he wanted to laugh. His godfather had always hated smiling and would do everything he could to not show outward emotions. He amazed himself that he felt so light. He had worried that he would never feel this way again, but quickly, his life was changing. Even though Harry was still considered a felon in the UK, Draco was able to pretend at least for a little while that everything was fine.
"I'm going to return to the potions lab. Let me know if you need anything."
"Thanks, Sev." Draco watched him leave down the hallway. He took a deep breath, again warring with the emotions McGonagall's death was stirring in him. He reentered the room to find Harry watching for him intently.
"Something's wrong." Anxiety was pulsing off his love. He was scrambling to push himself up, and Draco rushed to his side.
He shushed Harry, helping him to sit. Draco folded his leg beneath him as he faced Harry. "McGonagall passed," he said quietly, arranging Harry's pillows behind him and holding his hand tightly. He saw the battle of emotions, the same emotions Draco was feeling, run across Harry's face.
Harry took a deep breath as a tear slid down his cheek. "We've got to stop him." His voice was strong, reminiscent of who Harry was before going to Azkaban. Draco knew without a doubt who the "him" was Harry spoke of. Fudge had ruined too many lives.
"Do you need to rest? We can stop here." Draco was anxiously holding Harry tightly beside him with one arm, Aidan in cradled snoozing in his other against his shoulder, as they walked through the manor towards the dining room. It was the first time Harry would join everyone at dinner since they arrived two weeks before.
Harry sighed and rolled his eyes. "Draco, I'm fine. I need to start walking again." His legs were shaking with effort, but he refused to let them fail him. He had been cleared to start walking again five days ago, and he was determined to get back on his feet. Draco, of course, was hovering and worrying. Harry had to remind him repeatedly that he wasn't going anywhere without Draco, that he wasn't going to disappear.
The nightmares were still prevalent. His mood stability was improving daily, and he was relieved that he wasn't crying at the drop of the hat anymore. He would still become overwhelmed with sadness and hopelessness at the most random of times, but just Draco's presence brought him out of it every time.
Harry and Draco still hadn't decided on a middle name for their son. They tossed a few names back and forth, but nothing fit. Aidan, Harry learned, meant fiery, and that definitely described Aidan's demeanor over the last couple of days. Ever since Harry was able to hold him again, Aidan would scream when one of them wasn't holding him. He would silence immediately with a coo when picked up. During the first half a day, Harry found it amusing, but now, his manipulative little Slytherin was grating on a nerve Harry didn't know he had.
Viktor's healers explained it was natural for babies to discover their voices and that he was perfectly healthy if still mildly underweight.
"Do you need to-"
"Draco!" Harry snapped slightly amused, but keeping his focus on the task of putting one foot in front of the other. Draco's grip on his waist tightened for a second, which Harry took as a silent apology. His breathing was heavy, but he could do it. They were almost there anyways.
The busy dining room went silent when they finally entered the door and Harry heavily fell into an open chair beside Bill. "Harry! Glad to see you on your feet!" Bill said. He passed filled plates to Harry and Draco when Draco sat across the table, Aidan in his lap.
Greetings came from all around the table and Draco responded while Harry struggled to regain his composure. The walk from their room had definitely took a lot more out of him than he was willing to admit and he was sure, despite the sweat on his face and back, that he was paler than usual.
"What drags you two lovebirds out of your room? We figured you'd be well on your way to another child before we saw you again." Bill choked on his drink at Tonks's comment and coughed as she patted his back with a snicker. Warmth flooded Harry's and Draco's cheeks.
"We have to eat to keep our strength up, cousin." Draco responded without a beat. "No, Harry wants to start regaining the strength he lost, and we figured no better way than joining everyone for dinner." Harry could feel Draco's worried eyes on him despite his cheerful retort. He continued to focus on his breathing and slowing his heart rate back down. After a few moments, he felt controlled enough to eat, but he was exhausted. Maybe this wasn't the best idea.
He shakily grabbed for the glass of water, spilling some before he was able to take a sip. Thankfully, no one said anything and the drone of conversation went on around them.
He sat up straighter and looked around the room. Katie was on the other side of him, eating sedately, staring at her plate. Her eyes were hallow and haunted. Next to her were Dean, a man Harry didn't recognize, Cho, Lavender, Hannah Abbott, and Blaise Zabini. Harry was shocked when he had learned the Slytherin had attacked an auror when he was arresting Hannah. Further down the table Terry Boot, Remus, Oliver Wood, Ernie Macmillan, and Seamus were talking quietly to who Harry assumed was a Healer judging by the robes and Charlie Weasley. They all looked incredibly skinny and shell-shocked. Harry wanted to ask about the others: Neville, Luna, Ron, Hermione, the twins, but he was still terrified of the answer. Everyone was avoiding speaking about them in casual conversation. He felt like a horrible person for shying away from his best and closest friends, but he wasn't positive he could handle the answer.
Viktor entered the room a moment later, followed by Healers Popescu and Maldoveanu who had tended to Harry and McGonagall and were still tending to Arthur and Professor Flitwick.
"Harry, good to see you," Viktor greeted. "Ve are very glad you are here."
"Thanks," Harry responded. "Thank you for taking us all in. I really can never repay you."
Viktor waved it off. "Ve are behind you to the end. In talking vith de Bulgarian Minister, he pledges his support to see de Heroes of Hogwarts free in their home country once again. If dat is not possible, he has offered sanctuary. De Romanian Minister has offered de same."
"Thank you and please pass on our gratitude to the ministers," Draco replied. Harry saw the relief take the weight from Draco's shoulders at Viktor's support.
After dinner, Bill helped Harry back to their room while Draco dealt with the squirmy, fussy infant. Harry was exhausted and fought to keep his eyes open as Bill practically carried him back. He barely registered being pushed onto the bed, getting stripped of his shoes, socks, and pants, and manipulated into a sitting position against the headboard.
"No sleeping yet," Draco warned, snapping Harry from a doze.
When his eyes opened, he noticed they were alone once more, and he had little time to react when Draco plopped Aiden into his arms. "Wha?"
"He's hungry. He's been making that sucking noise with his fist for almost 15 minutes, and he's starting to fuss. Try nursing him. If it still doesn't work, I'll go make him a bottle." Draco helped him pull up his shirt and get Aiden into a better position to nurse.
It took only a moment before they could tell that Harry's body was once again feeding their son, and Draco stared in absolute fascination. The fatigue clouding Harry's mind dispersed at the simple pleasure of being able to bond with his son like this again.
"What about Leo?"
"Like the Gryffindor lion?" Harry asked in amusement.
Draco rolled his eyes. "Like the constellation. That would keep with the Black traditions on both our sides."
"Even though we both know our son is a Slytherin through and through?" Harry gave a lopsided grin.
"Yes. Even though he's a Slytherin. I thought maybe Scorpius, it's what I always wanted to name a son, but it doesn't seem to fit."
"I love it."
Draco scooted a little closer to get a better look at Aidan's face as he nursed. "What do you think, kid? Do you want to be Aidan Leo Malfoy?" When Aidan's hand moved to grab at Draco's face, Harry felt like his heart was going to burst out of his chest. The feeling of love and warmth he felt in this peaceful moment with his lover and his son was almost too much to handle, so when Draco looked back up to Harry, he wrapped his fingers around the back of his head and pulled him in for a crushing kiss.
A/N: Please read and review; let me know what you think! BTW, did you know that Regulus is Alpha Leonis, the primary star in the constellation Leo? And that it's located at the lion's heart? So the Slytherin pride of the Black family was the heart of the lion. I found that amusing.