There is a prequel to this story; it is called The Aftermath Before The After and I would suggest, if you can stomach a bit of het (it's a Ron/ Hermione story) you give it a try! It may help with a bit of context, but I should hope that if you don't want to read it that this will still make sense.
I feel like it is my responsibility to tell you at the outset a little bit of what to expect when reading this story. It is not going to be a happy, fluffy romance, I'm afraid! I feel like these boys are both in quite a dark place in their lives and coping with it in their own ways. There is going to be dark themes and angst along the way. There will be romance and intimacy, but maybe not in the way you would expect! This is, of course, a new venture for me. As always- expect the unexpected...
Many thanks to a wonderful girl called Kira who has read this for me and put her finger right on the exact spot of what was missing, and therefore injecting the soul back into the story.
Thank you so much for reading! - HFS xx
Chapter 1- The Past Before The Storm
There was a spider crawling across the wide expanse of white ceiling that made Harry recall the tiny, cramped cupboard of his childhood. He looked like a black inkspot as he made his way determinedly across the room to a corner to settle in.
Harry sighed heavily, fluttering his fringe out of his eyes. It was two o' clock on a Tuesday afternoon. He had nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to see. Well, Harry supposed, that wasn't quite true. There were people who he could see, if he had the inclination to do so, but the crux of the matter was he didn't actually want to see anyone. He'd been given his wish and was being well and truly left alone. It was indisputably lonely.
He huffed again and the spider waved a leg at him, in greeting or reprimand, he wasn't sure. In his peripheral vision a familiar, golden ball fluttered reassuringly, just out of his reach. The golden snitch that Dumbledore had returned to him stayed close these days. It was a friendly presence that reassured Harry that despite everything, things were going to be okay.
From the bowels of the house, a clock chimed. Harry checked his watch. Half of the damn clocks in this place weren't telling the right time these days. He had a wayward thought about summoning Kreacher back from Hogwarts; he could do with the extra help with the housework and decorating, but the thought of there being a house elf around made him feel sort of sick. Plus, Kreacher was undoubtedly better off where he was. Any move to bring him back would be a selfish one on his part.
He could start cleaning the next room if he really wanted something to do. He'd been back at Grimmauld Place for about three weeks, although the concept of time was flexible, running away like water through his fingers or sticking there like treacle. With the help of his friends he'd made a total of three rooms habitable; his bedroom, one of the bathrooms and the living room. When it came to the kitchen, Harry decided that he liked the scarred wooden table and chipped work surfaces, it gave the place a familiar, homey feel. So nothing had been done there except to add a permanent cooling charm on one of the pantries to serve as a refrigerator.
It was an unfortunate situation where there was just so much to do, Harry didn't have a clue where to go next, or where to even start with the renovations of the house. The ground floor hadn't been touched. Nor had the attic. The 'spring clean' that Molly Weasley had lead four summers before had gone some way towards ridding the house of dark artefacts, unfortunately, in all the time Harry had been absent, the dust had crept back in.
He really did need a house elf, Harry thought and sighed again.
"Harry?" a female voice called from the floor below.
He scrambled off the bed, shamefaced at the fact that at half past two on a Tuesday afternoon he was wearing only a black t shirt and boxers. Then again, there were only two females that the Floo would allow to pass into his house and that was Hermione and Molly. The thought depressed him further.
"Up here," he yelled as he hopped on one leg, trying to drag on a pair of jeans.
Hermione flung open his bedroom door, looking frazzled.
"You need to come," she said, out of breath. "Right now."
"Why? Where? Who is it?"
"Mrs Tonks," she said, collapsing down on to the end of his bed and holding the stitch in her side. "She's been cursed. St Mungo's. Need to go to the Ministry now… Teddy…"
Something swooped low in Harry's stomach. Something very unpleasant.
"But… oh shit. When did it happen?"
"Yesterday!" Hermione wailed. "I only just heard! Well, Ron heard someone talking in the Auror office and he told me straight away, I've been running around between the hospital and the Ministry trying to figure out what's going on, and there's a hearing now, Harry! We have to go!"
"Okay, okay," Harry said, pulling an Oxford shirt on over the top of his t- shirt and fumbling to make sure he had everything. "Let's go, you can update me on the way."
From the lazy listlessness of his afternoon to this frantic panic that hurt his heart, Harry knew which one he preferred. It was almost welcome, this frenetic energy that made him think on his feet and rely on his instincts. He'd lived with this sense of unease for years. He knew how to deal with it.
They Flooed straight to the Ministry and Hermione dragged him through the familiar Atrium to the lifts, babbling about custody claims and petitions and procedures. He grabbed Hermione by the shoulders and shook her slightly as they descended to the courtrooms.
"Hermione. You're about to throw me to the lions. What the hell am I walking in to?"
She took a deep breath. "A hearing."
"A hearing. Excellent. A hearing for what?"
"The custody of Teddy Lupin."
"Right. And I'm here… why?"
"Because if you don't take him there's no one else! You're family! Otherwise he'll be thrown into the foster system and who knows how long it would take for us to try and get him back."
Harry felt sick again. "You're sure that there's not anyone else?"
"No, Harry," Hermione said, reaching up to cup his cheek in her hand. "You're his godfather. He doesn't have anyone else."
"Just like me," Harry said hollowly.
"Just like you," she echoed.
Harry took a deep breath, steeling himself and took her hand. "Are you coming in?"
"I can watch from the public area, but I can't come in with you."
"Okay. See you in a bit."
Harry wondered whether he loved or hated his friend as he grasped the door and pushed it open. There were three people sat at a slightly raised desk, then two smaller desks set in front of them and a public area to the rear. At the furthest desk from the door sat a tall blonde man Harry didn't know. The people behind the taller desk were clearly Ministry officials; one was wearing dark burgundy robes, another in the pale blue that signified the position of Nurse at St Mungo's. The only man at the desk wore a dark, imposing Muggle suit; he wore a thick moustache that reminded Harry of Uncle Vernon, although this man was olive skinned, tall and thin. He twirled a wand between his fingers musingly.
"Mr Potter," the witch in the burgundy robes said in surprise. "Please, come in."
"Thanks," Harry mumbled. He took a seat at the empty desk and glanced across at the blonde man who had a file of papers in front of him. Harry looked back at where Hermione was the only person watching the proceedings, she shrugged in confusion, clearly not knowing what he was doing there either.
Turning his attention back to the room Harry noticed with a start that the blonde man was, against all odds, Draco Malfoy. Harry swallowed thickly, but his alarm was justified. Malfoy looked like a different man to his schoolboy enemy, and a different man again to the scared teenager who had refused to out Harry to the Death Eaters back at Malfoy Manor. His hair, rather than being slicked back like Harry had only ever seen it, was now loose and cut in a fashionable crop which completely changed the look of his face. He had retained, however, the cool, arrogant demeanour that Harry was used to seeing; the upturned nose and hard gaze of disdain as the two men caught each other's eyes.
Harry was shocked as he took in Malfoy's attire. All the way through their school years and after, Harry had only ever seen him wearing the height of wizarding fashion; dark, well cut robes. Now, complementing his new haircut, he was wearing what looked like very expensive Muggle jeans, a pair of boots and a long sleeved white shirt. It was a world of difference and Harry couldn't help but wonder what sort of point he was trying to make.
"Well, I don't think we're expecting anyone else?" the witch said, looking around. "Let's begin. I hereby call to order this custodial meeting for the temporary custody of the infant child, Ted Remus Lupin."
Harry watched with a sinking feeling in his stomach as she introduced the two other people at the table as Nurse Ruth Finch and Mr Tiberius Howsham; she herself was Madame Lenore O' Connell, a round faced, mousey brown sort of woman who had an air of complete control underneath her smiling exterior.
He was completely and utterly unprepared for this.
"Mr Malfoy, would you like to begin?" she offered.
Malfoy stood and took long, confident strides to the desk where he handed over the file of papers. "Ladies and Gentleman," he started as he stood behind the desk again, his fingertips resting on the smooth, polished wood. "My petition for custody of the infant child Ted Lupin is due to my familial connection; my mother and his grandmother are sisters, making him a cousin to me. Although my aunt and mother lost touch many years ago, I recently made contact with Mrs Tonks again."
He paused and looked down at his notes. "I am able to offer a warm and stable home. I have no other commitments that would take my time away from him, except for Thursday afternoons for an hour and Saturday afternoons." He glanced at Harry for the fist time. "The details of which can be found in the file in front of you. During this time I believe I can find suitable, Ministry approved childcare.
"I have a past, Madame O' Connell, which I am not proud of. However, I am repaying my debt to society and I think I should be afforded the same opportunity to take custody as anyone else." Malfoy took a deep breath, thanked the assembled people and sat down.
Harry now most definitely felt sick. Madame O' Connell smiled at him reassuringly, and he stood, clearing his throat.
"I don't have anything prepared," he started in apology. "I've only just heard that Andromeda- sorry, Mrs Tonks was taken into St Mungo's. I'm here… I suppose I'm here because I thought he didn't have anyone else. No, wait, I didn't mean it like that." He sighed and rubbed his face in desperation, unable to help thinking that this was not going very well at all. "I know what it's like to grow up without parents. And I don't want him to think that no one wanted him. Remus, I mean, his father Remus Lupin, he made me Teddy's godfather before he died. And I want to be there for him.
"That's all I have to say."
He slumped back in his seat, feeling for sure that he wasn't going to get anywhere. The only, consoling thought was that they couldn't possibly consider giving a child to Malfoy. That was just ridiculous.
The witch removed her glasses and set them in front of her with a sigh. She rubbed her temples absently as she scanned through the notes which had been passed to her and Harry tried desperately to calm down and look like he was in control. She was clearly thinking the decision through, which meant that it wasn't a foregone conclusion that he would be given Teddy at all. It was even harder to stop his eyes from straying to Malfoy who, of course, looked as calm and controlled as ever.
"Mr Potter," Madam O' Connell said eventually. "Mr Malfoy. You have both made fair appeals as to why you feel that the child should be placed in your care. My concerns are thus; that you are both barely adults and it would be negligent of me to fail to consider the sufferings you have both recently felt. I cannot pretend to understand why two teenage boys- men," she corrected herself, "would even want to take on a child in these circumstances. Nevertheless, the child needs a home. And I have to decide if it is better for him to be placed with family, extended family or with another wizarding home where he would be cared for by those with more experience than yourselves.
"At this time, I can only see one fair and reasonable course of action. The infant child Ted Lupin will be placed in the joint custody of Mr Harry James Potter and Mr Draco Malfoy for a period no longer than six months without review."
"What?" Harry and Malfoy exclaimed at the same time.
"Gentlemen. In the absence of any other adult family members on either side of the child's family I am left with little choice than to grant joint custody. I understand you both have your own place of residence, and I urge you now to decide on one location which you will share- to care for the child together. I do not want a back- and- forth arrangement, here."
Draco caught Harry's eye again. "I don't care."
"I don't want to leave London," Harry said immediately. There was no way he was going to go live at Malfoy Manor. No way.
"Lovely," Madam O' Connell said, smiling serenely. "Mr Malfoy, I take it moving to London won't be a problem?"
"No," Malfoy said in an ice cold voice.
Harry watched in abject horror as Madam O' Connell signed her name on the documents and tapped her wand next to the signature where the Ministry seal appeared moments later. Draco stood and brushed off his robes, but the witch stopped him with a raised hand and a dry laugh.
"I want to leave it here just as much as you do, Mr Malfoy. But unfortunately there is much left to discuss."
Through his panic, Harry was relieved that this wasn't it.
"What about the press?" Harry said desperately. "They'd go mad with this sort of information."
Madam O' Connell looked to her colleagues with the sort of calm dispassion Harry was starting to expect from the stoic witch.
"There are things that can be done," the wizard, Howsham, said slowly. "We could put a blanket ban on any information pertaining to the child…"
"Would that not stoke their interest in the case?" the nurse suggested.
"But it's surely the easiest course of action," Howsham argued.
"If Mr Potter is involved I'm sure Rita Skeeter will find a way to report on it," Nurse Finch countered.
Harry felt like he was watching a tennis match, the two officials sparring off against each other with their verbal warfare.
"If I may interject," Malfoy said, standing with a calm confidence. Madam O' Connell nodded to him. "If I am, as you've suggested," (the word 'suggest' seemed to stick in his throat), "to live with Mr Potter in order to care for the child, then I feel that we, as much as said child, need the Ministry's protection. Not just from the press. There are few places that I feel safe these days..."
"I was under the impression, Mr Malfoy, that you had been cleared of any wilful involvement in the war," Howsham said coldly.
"There's a tattoo on my arm which marks me as guilty in the eyes of many," Malfoy responded bitterly.
"Now is not the time to debate war crimes," Madam O' Connell interjected. "Or, lack thereof. I appreciate your concern, Mr Malfoy, for your own safety and that of the child. I am sure we can come to some suitable arrangement."
It was nearly an hour later that Harry and Malfoy emerged from the hearing room.
"I need to go back to the Manor," Malfoy said in a calm monotone. "I'll pack up some stuff and then come back to your place."
"That's fine," Harry said, surprised that the other man was being so civil. "Is the Floo okay? I'll make sure it'll let you in."
"Yeah, fine," Malfoy shrugged.
Harry stared at his rapidly retreating back, wondering how on earth they came to be in this situation, and how he was possibly going to survive raising a child and living with Malfoy at the same time.
There wasn't time for him to do everything he wanted to do before Malfoy would be back. After saying goodbye to a shocked and dumbstruck Hermione at the Ministry he raced back to his home, still panicking wildly. He wanted to change the sheets on all of the beds and clear up the mess in the kitchen and the main living room and clear some space for the bloody bastard, but there wasn't time. Instead of doing anything productive, Harry paced the living room where Malfoy would undoubtedly appear in the Floo, and occasionally flicked his wand at offending items in his way, sending them zooming back to their proper locations.
This was not what was supposed to happen, Harry thought as he furiously paced. He could just about cope with the possibility of bringing home a baby to look after for the next few months, but to have Draco sodding Malfoy live with him for the privilege? That was just beyond… beyond.
The soft rush of green flames alerted him to the presence of another in the room. He hadn't changed from his stylish Muggle clothing.
"Hi," Harry said stiffly.
"Hello," Draco replied.
Harry sighed. "Come on. I'll show you around."
He lead the other man silently though the house, up another flight of stairs to the third floor.
"Uh, I was thinking I'd make this one Teddy's room," he said, indicating to a smaller bedroom that had been Ginny and Hermione's when the Order were occupying Grimmauld place. It had been empty for a long time though, and through lack of use a thick layer of dust had reclaimed its place over the bed and furniture. "Mine is next door, and you can go opposite?"
"Fine," Draco said. Harry gnashed his teeth together in frustration. Five minutes into this horrendous situation and Malfoy had given him a total of two words. Three syllables. Nine letters. Zero emotion.
Harry pushed the door open and showed him into Regulus Black's old childhood bedroom. He thought he heard a soft snort of derision from behind him but when he turned back, Malfoy's face was carefully schooled in neutrality.
Whatever was wrong with Regulus' old bedroom, Harry never did find out as Draco swung a soft leather case onto the bed, emitting a soft puff of yet more dust.
"I've only been back here a few weeks," Harry explained. "We've only cleaned out a few rooms."
"Obviously," Malfoy drawled.
"Well, I need to sort out Teddy's room. Shout if you need anything."
Malfoy merely nodded silently and Harry stalked from the room, pulling the door sharply closed behind him and pausing for a moment with his face in his hands, debating whether to go back and smack the ungrateful bastard in the face. But that wouldn't really achieve much, even if it would satisfy his more primal urges.
Since he'd said he was going to turn a bedroom into a nursery, that seemed like the most logical of things to do. They still had a few hours until they were due back at the Ministry and it needed to be done.
Harry had learned a few household spells from Molly Weasley and set about a dust excluding charm; it didn't work as well as it did for Molly but the little ball of orange light zoomed around the room, bouncing from surface to surface, turning steadily greyer before Harry opened a window and set it out into the afternoon air. Then he cast another one, just in case. A quick Scourgify on the windows rid them of grime and he attempted the same spell on the curtains and just set them on fire. They'd have to make do until he managed to order some more.
The more tricky spells were the ones he did to transfigure the bed into a crib, making the sheets smaller and the mattress slimmer. The walls desperately needed a coat of paint (or three), but that too would have to wait. Harry noted miserably that he had no baby clothes, no toys or bottles or, fuck, anything for the child that someone was going to hand over to him in, fuck again, about twenty minutes time.
Malfoy cleared his throat from the doorway and Harry spun around, his wand out and heart racing until his head caught up with his instincts and he remembered that the man was actually supposed to be there.
"Do you have anything ready for a baby?" Malfoy asked with a sneer.
"Ah. Regretting charging in headfirst with no preparation? I thought you would have learned that lesson by now."
"Fuck off, Malfoy," Harry said with a sigh. He sheathed his wand in the back pocket of his jeans and rubbed his hands wearily over his face. "We need to leave. I'll make a list in a bit of what we need to buy,"
"I have… things," Malfoy said, making Harry's head jerk up in shock.
"What sort of things?"
"Baby things, you stupid…"
"Okay," Harry interrupted before Malfoy had the chance to get the insult out. "I don't. That's fine. One or the other of us can get everything else later. We really do need to go."
Malfoy just nodded and silently turned, heading back down the stairs to the living room fireplace.
Despite the fact that it had been she who set up the regrettable arrangement, Madam O' Connell looked shocked that both men returned to collect the baby. She was accompanied by the St Mungo's nurse who had been at the hearing, Nurse Finch. She had a small, square bag slung over her shoulder and a bundle of blue blankets cradled in her arms.
"Ruth has been Teddy's carer since his guardian was taken into St Mungo's," Madam O' Connell said in introduction. "
Ruth nodded awkwardly. "Hi."
There was paperwork to sign, and countersign, and more paperwork to be filed the next day, but eventually the sleeping child was handed over to Harry, who was secretly pleased the Ministry official preferred to give the child to him rather than Malfoy.
Harry's throat felt thick as he looked down on the tiny boy, one who, like he, would never know his parents and how wonderful and brave and awesome they were. Teddy's paper- thin eyelids flickered in sleep and Harry held him tighter, just for a moment, as tiny fingers curled around the edge of the blanket.
"The first inspection will be the day after tomorrow," Madam O' Connell said warningly, pulling Harry's attention back to the present. "Circumstances being what they are, we'll give you that much time to make sure your affairs are in order. If they're not, gentlemen…"
Her words trailed off, not before Harry caught the implication. They were on probation. Fierce probation. One wrong step and Teddy would be taken off them and there wouldn't be any way of getting him back. There was no way he was going to let that happen.
Unsurprisingly, when the three of them returned to Grimmauld Place Ron, Hermione and Molly Weasley were there waiting for them. The trio jumped to their feet but held their respective tongues at the sight of the baby.
"I'll take him," Malfoy said softly, holding out his arms. It was the first thing he'd said to Harry since leaving the house for the Ministry. A pull in Harry's gut resisted handing the baby over; he was sure it registered on his face because Malfoy scowled, but he did it anyway.
"Come down to the kitchen," Harry said, leading them down another level and putting enough space between Ron and Draco Malfoy. Things were likely to turn combative between the two of them quickly if he wasn't careful. That, and he didn't want to have to yell at Malfoy for insulting his friends in his own house.
"I'll put some tea on," Hermione said weakly when they reached the kitchen. Harry sunk into a chair and put his head down on the familiar, scarred wooden table top. Then he thumped his head against it a few times for good measure. His golden snitch fluttered into the room and hovered reassuringly by his ear. Harry reached out to grab it and ran his thumb over the words engraved in the gold, a comforting gesture he'd developed for when he was feeling particularly helpless, which he was. In spades.
"Oh, Harry," Molly said, sitting down next to him and pulling him into a hug. "What have you gone and gotten yourself into?"
"I have no idea," Harry groaned.
"I can't believe that Ministry hag," Ron said. "I mean, Malfoy? Who in their right mind would ask him to even look after their puppy, let alone a baby?"
"Don't," Harry said instinctively. "I have to live with him. I don't know how I'm not going to kill him, but I do have to live with him."
"We would have taken him, me and Arthur," Molly said, rubbing Harry's back soothingly. "You should have called us."
"I'm his godfather," Harry said. "This is what I'm supposed to do. This is why Lupin asked me to do it, so I'm doing it."
"You're too young," Molly said stubbornly.
She clucked in sympathy. "What do you need?"
"I don't even know. Malfoy said he had some stuff. But I don't know what. I haven't really spoken to him."
"Well you should," Hermione said, setting mugs of steaming tea down on the table. Five mugs. Harry pondered that for a moment until he realised she'd made one for Malfoy too. He just shook his head in disbelief.
"I know I should," he said. "But right now I really wish I didn't have to."
"Makes two of us," Malfoy said from the doorway. He was leaning against the frame with his arms folded across his chest, looking for all the world like he owned the place. Which he very nearly did, Harry thought. Malfoy probably had more claim over the building than Harry.
"Weasley. Granger. Mrs Weasley," Malfoy addressed the three in the politest way he possibly could without actually being polite.
"There's a mug of tea there for you," Mrs Weasley said… tightly, not unkindly, but not in the warm voice Harry was used to.
Malfoy swallowed and nodded. Walked carefully to the table and considered sitting down, then picked up the tea and leaned back against a counter to drink it.
"Would you mind if Pott- Harry and I had some privacy?" Malfoy said. "There's a lot we need to discuss. No matter how much he wishes we didn't."
Ron started to snarl but Hermione grabbed his upper arm and hauled him to his feet.
"We'll be upstairs, Harry," she said tightly, dragging Ron from the room.
Harry sat back in his chair, rocking it back onto two legs.
"Go on," he said defiantly. "You're the one who wanted to talk."
"You're the one who decided to petition for custody of a child without any resources to actually care for that child," Malfoy snapped back.
"And you do?" Harry countered.
"I have more than you."
"Clearly," Harry said with a corresponding sneer.
"If I could leave, and watch you fail miserably at this, I would," Malfoy said, slamming his untouched tea down on the counter. "But I can't. I can't abandon the only family I have left because he's family, and I can't abandon him because of goddamn Ministry legislation."
"Fine," Harry snapped. "What do you have with you? I'll go out and buy the rest tomorrow."
Malfoy sighed heavily and rolled his shoulders back. "A few clothes. Some toys, and a mobile thing I found in the attic from when I was a child. Um, some bottles and things, but they could probably do with replacing. Oh, and some bed linen."
"Okay," Harry said. Then reluctantly added "thanks."
Malfoy mumbled something that sounded like "It's not for you," but Harry ignored it.
"I'll speak to Molly and find out from her what else we need. I think we'll survive the night."
"There were nappies and milk in the changing bag," Malfoy said, confusing Harry for a moment before he realised Malfoy meant the square bag the nurse had handed over with Teddy.
"Where is he now?" Harry asked.
"Sleeping," Malfoy said.
"Okay," Harry said again. "Okay."