AUGUST 31, 2009

Dawn was spending the day with the ever-expanding horde of Weasley grandbabies, and Opie was down for his nap. Harry's day was free. "Take the rest of the day off," Draco told the nanny. The woman gave him a knowing smirk and Apparated away. Kreacher and Posy knew instinctively when to make themselves scarce, of course, like any half-way decent house elf would.

Harry was sprawled on the couch watching 'Dr. Who'. Draco shucked his clothes quickly and got on all fours on the floor in front of his husband: chest down, rump up. "Very subtle," Harry said dryly.

"We don't have time for subtlety. Do you know how long it's been since we've had sex during the day? Ten months and six days." Draco wiggled his bottom.

"You keep track of that?"

"Of course." Draco smiled over his shoulder at Harry kittenishly. "Are you going to join me, or do I have to do this myself?"

Harry was just starting to undo his belt buckle when Narcissa's voice drifted up from the kitchen. "Boys! I have wonderful news!"

Harry used some of the creative swear-words he had learned from the other Aurors. "I'm going to board that fireplace up. I really, truly am."

Draco scrambled for his clothes, and was just pulling his jeans on when his parents came into the room. The older coupled exchanged amused looks as their son hurriedly zipped himself up. "You two still act like a couple of newlyweds," Narcissa said coyly.

Seated on the couch again, Harry made an exasperated noise. "Well, we were trying to."

Narcissa sat beside him and patted him on the shoulder. "This is big news. Dawn and Opie have both been accepted into the Wee Wizards Academy! Opie will be in the pre-school program, of course, with other three-year-olds. Dawn will have to be tested to see what grade she'll be placed in. I'm sure she'll do well. She has her papa's brains."

Harry frowned in perplexity. "We never applied to a school, did we, hon?" He looked at Draco, who just shrugged.

"I took the liberty of applying for you," Narcissa replied. Lucius made the small noise that he used to signaled disgust; he was far too refined to snort. Narcissa smiled indulgently. "Grandfather does not approve of the new schools for younger wizard children."

"Home tutoring was good enough for the rest of us," Lucius harrumphed.

"Yes, well, progress happens, dear. If we don't get our grandchildren into the best school, they will be at a disadvantage socially and academically."

"I'm sure that Granger girl is behind this. Nothing but a trouble-maker, that one is." Lucius fixed Harry with a glare, as if he was to blame for what his friend got up to.

"Yes, I agree, it's terrible how she's dragged the wizarding world kicking and screaming into the nineteenth century," Harry said, imitating Lucius' drawl. The older man narrowed his eyes.

Narcissa turned to her son. "It's a good thing you don't work, dear. Wee Wizards expects a lot from its students' moth-primary parents."

"I still work," Draco interjected. He was ignored.

"Now, orientation is tomorrow morning. You'll need to be there at eight o'clock sharp. Make sure you make a good impression. We've got to go now. I'm a little tired and want to get a nap in before we play whist with Amalthea and her new boyfriend."

"Golly, I wonder who will win," Harry muttered. Greg Goyle's mother had a taste for stupid men.

There was a flurry of air kisses, and Narcissa and Lucius were gone. "Now, where were we?" Draco started to undo his jeans. That was when Opie started to wail, the way he always did when he woke from a nap. "Ten months and a week," Draco sighed.

"I'm not going to board up the fireplace," Harry mused. "I think the way to go is to build a large underground aquarium beneath it and stock it with man-eating sharks."

SEPTEMBER 1, 2009

"You're wearing that?"

Draco frowned at Harry. "Why? What's wrong with it?"

"You're going to be with housewives, not fashion journalists. It's a bit much."

"You think so?" Draco had on an exquisitely tailored suit (dove gray with hints of purple) over a lavender silk shirt with a couple buttons undone. He slipped the suit jacket off and popped a couple more buttons. "How's that?"

"Perfect, if you're offering your services as a gigolo. How about this?" Harry held out a pair of sweatpants and a Chudley Cannons tee shirt.

Draco stared at the garments, utterly horrified. "I'd rather go naked than wear that in public."

"You have gone naked in public," Harry muttered. "Okay, how about jeans, then, and a tee shirt that doesn't feature a crap team?"

"Fine," Draco grumbled.

As he waited in the school auditorium half an hour later, watching Dawn and Opie get acquainted with the other children, Draco realized that he had made a mistake. He had a policy of ignoring Harry's 'fashion' advice, and he should have followed it today. The short, curvy blonde woman who held out a perfectly manicured hand in greeting was dressed in a Chanel suit and high heels. Her big blue eyes looked Draco up and down, obviously finding what he was wearing to be lacking. "Oh my," she said in a Southern American accent, "I wouldn't have thought that a fashion model would dress so... casually. Hi, I'm Sophie McLaggan. That's my Elena in the blue dress."

Cormac McLaggan's wife. There were things that Draco was very good at, like dancing and sex. He was also very good at small group politics. He could tell at a glance if someone was an alpha or a beta. Draco knew what Sophie was at first sight: a queen bee. But Draco was married to Harry Potter. Without a doubt, he would be the top dog among the parents, which would put his children at the apex of the school's social hierarchy.

His rapid calculations were interrupted by a group of six women and one man coming down the aisle in a flying wedge formation. The woman leading them had a face that was well-known to the wizarding world: Veronica Wood, wife of Quidditch star Oliver Wood, former Queen of the Ravenclaws, and mainstay of the Daily Prophet's society pages. Next to top-bitch Veronica, Sophie was just a little puppy. Draco had a sinking feeling in his stomach as violet eyes looked him up and down. "I suppose you don't need to dress well, now that you're not modeling any more."

"I still model," Draco said, drawing himself up to his full height and raising his chin. It was a move he had learned from his father.

"Really? What have you done lately?"

Draco opened his mouth, ready to mention the shoot he had done with a hot new young actor for Interview, but realized that it had been over six months ago.

"It's not much of a job for a man, now, is it, mincing around in silly clothing? But I suppose you couldn't have gotten yourself a decent job, what with dropping out of school," Veronica said with a shark's smile.

"I didn't drop out. There was a war," Draco said icily.

"And what side of the war were you on again, Malfoy? Oh, that's right, the Dark Lord's side." Veronica smirked as her gang feigned shock. "Really, I'm surprised that your children were admitted with your family background."

"Crash and burn," Draco heard Sophie murmur.

Veronica's attention was immediately riveted on the blond woman. "My, that's a very... youthful shade of pink you're wearing. I'm Veronica Wood. And you are...?" Sophie started to speak, but was interrupted by a titter. "Oh, you people from the American South talk so slow! I have to speak fast so I can keep up with my thoughts. I suppose if my mind worked slower, I would talk slower, too." Veronica looked over Sophie's shoulder. "Oh, I must go. There's my friend." Draco looked, but there was no one actually there.

After Veronica and company had left, Sophie smiled ruefully and shook her head. "We're toast," she said to Draco.

...

Posy was very good at looking worried. Her mud-brown eyes were wide and tearful as she twisted at the moth-eaten mink stole she had taken to wearing lately. "Master Draco has locked himself in the bathroom and will not come out," she squeaked.

"What's wrong?" Harry asked.

The house elf wailed a little. "Posy does not know!"

"Don't cry, Posy," Harry said, but he knew it was pointless. The little elf was with child, finally, and her hormones were going crazy. It made Harry quite glad that Draco wanted nothing to do with the male pregnancy magic that was being perfected by wizards in the United States. A pregnant, hormonal Draco... The very thought made Harry shudder.

When Harry rapped on the bathroom door, Draco didn't answer at first. "I won't stop knocking until you answer me. What's the problem?"

"I talked to my agency today," Draco said faintly, before lapsing back into silence.

"And?" Nothing. "And?" Harry started rapping on the door again.

"Nobody wants me. I'm too old."

"Well, that's normal for the modeling business, isn't it? You're just a year away from thirty. You had a good run, don't you think? Especially since you got started a bit late. Don't most models start when they're fetuses?"

"You think I'm old, too?"

"You're almost two whole months older than me. Merlin, you're positively ancient."

"It's not funny!"

"You can find some other line of work. You've got brains, even though you like to act like you don't sometimes. You could use them for the Ministry."

"That's not the point!"

"Then what is?"

Draco didn't reply. He opened the bathroom door and walked to the bedroom, where he spent at least an hour inspecting himself in the full-length mirror.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2009

"What are you doing?" Draco asked as he watched Harry stuff his pockets full of tissues.

"They're for when you cry."

"I'm not going to cry!"

"We'll see."

Today was officially the first day of school. Parents were invited for a light breakfast, and Harry took some time off work to accompany Draco. Today, Draco ignored all fashion advice from Harry and wore the outfit that he had planned on wearing the day before, complete with the jacket. The family Flooed to Wee Wizards (with Harry complaining that, what with the outrageous tuition being charged, the school ought to send a fancy horse and carriage around to pick up pupils), where they sat at a rickety card table and ate tiny servings of eggs and sausages in the cafeteria. "There she is," Draco said darkly when he spotted Veronica clacking around in her Christian Louboutins, holding a coffee pot.

Harry glanced at the petite woman with the retroussé nose and tastefully expensive jewelry. "Merlin's knickers, she's terrifying. She might, oh, I don't know, try to redecorate or something."

"She's coming this way. You'll see."

"You look nice today, Malfoy. One really needs to make more of an effort when one gets older," Veronica said as she flicked her eyes at Draco. "Oh, the famous Harry Potter. How nice to meet you. I think it's interesting that someone so famous decided to become something as ordinary as an Auror." As soon as she had slopped a miniscule amount of coffee in their cups, she sashayed away.

"She's really not the cuddly type, is she?" Harry said as he watched her ignore Sophie, who was holding out her empty coffee cup.

Draco was fuming. "She's unspeakable. Yesterday, when we were decorating the pre-school room, she went on and on about how Dawn doesn't look a thing like me and implied that her birth-mother was fooling around. She brought up my old... relationship with Greg. And she said something about Mother."

"Goodness, no!" Harry said in mock horror.

"Oh, yes, she did! She said that my mother's charity balls are not in good taste."

"Obviously, she deserves the rack and thumbscrews."

"It's not funny!"

"Yes, it is. Honestly, it's not the end of the world if that harpie doesn't like you. She's just bitter because her husband spends all his free time chasing nineteen-year-olds."

"I don't care if she likes me or not! I just want to be popular. So our children can be popular."

"Do you really think it matters that much?"

Draco jutted his chin out stubbornly. "Yes."

When breakfast was over, the parents were allowed to go into their children's classes to say goodbye. When Draco and Harry left Opie's classroom, Draco started blinking and sniffling. Harry held out a tissue.

"I'm not crying! I'm just having allergies."

"To what? Fingerpaints?"

Instead of heading for the fireplace, Draco went to the front exit, which opened onto Diagon Alley. As they walked down the street, Harry took his husband's hand. "Veronica never gave us a proper refill. Want to stop for coffee?"

The Witch's Brew was one of the newer businesses on Diagon Alley, and was shabbily cozy inside, with sagging couches surrounding battered coffee tables. The barista, a boy who looked fresh out of Hogwarts, was flipping through a copy of the Quibbler. "Can I help you?" he said in a bored voice, not looking at them.

"We'll take two pumpkin lattes," Harry said.

The barista grunted and set the paper down reluctantly. He moved at a snail's pace until he happened to glance up at Harry and spot the scar. "You're Harry Potter!" he exclaimed, setting the half-full cup down.

"Yes, I am. Ah, are you going to finish wi-"

"Wow, you're even better-looking than your pictures." The boy was positively radiant with youth, his skin smooth and taut and perfect, and his hazel eyes bright.

Draco was outraged when the boy openly looked Harry up and down. What sort of trollop cruised a man right in front of his husband? "Yes, well, he's also married."

The boy blinked at Draco. "You used to be a model or something, didn't you?"

"Come on, we're leaving," Draco huffed as he grabbed Harry's arm and dragged him toward the door.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2009

Harry pulled off his jacket as he stepped out of the kitchen fireplace. Draco was rummaging around in a cupboard; Harry came up behind him and wrapped his arms around him. "Hey, beautiful." Draco shut the cupboard and turned in Harry's arms, smiling. Harry sprang backwards. "What the-er, are you all right?"

Draco's face was strangely red and shiny. "I'm fine. I modified an old family cure for spots, made it a little stronger."

"You haven't had spots since you were fifteen."

"It's not for acne. It's like a Muggle chemical peel. The top layer of skin is removed, and the skin underneath is much younger-looking."

"But it looks like a baboon's arse."

"You're a baboon's arse. The red goes away."

"Merlin, I hope so. Doesn't it hurt?"

"Like a bad sunburn. But one has to suffer to be beautiful. I think Shakespeare said that." Harry looked dubious. "Ummm... Harry? Umm..." Draco twisted his hands together.

Harry frowned slightly. Draco was usually never at a loss for words. "Spit it out."

"I want another baby."

Harry thought a moment. "You do, or your mother does?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" A hint of frost in the air.

"I thought it was a simple question. I know your mother wants millions of grandbabies. Do you really want another child, or would you just be doing it for her?"

Draco's nostrils flared and his eyes went icy. "My mother had five babies die before she had me. She was told that carrying me could kill her, and it nearly did. That's how much she wanted children, and you would begrudge her more grandchildren?"

"So I take it you've already made up your mind, then?"

"I don't like the tone you're using. Is there something wrong with wanting children? If you didn't want the first two, you should have said so." Draco turned his back on Harry and stomped away.

Rendered momentarily speechless, Harry finally said, "How could you ever think that I didn't want Dawn and Opie?" But Draco had already gone into the bedroom and slammed the door shut. It looked like Harry wasn't going to get to sleep in his own bed tonight, which would give him plenty of alone-time to try to figure out what the hell had just happened.

SEPTEMBER 11. 2009

The next morning, Harry came down to the kitchen and found Draco scrambling eggs. Thankfully, his cooking skills had improved over the years. Harry walked up behind him and slid his hands around the slim waist, tucking one into the front of Draco's silk robe and nipping at an earlobe. "Watch it! You'll make me burn something," the blond protested, but he pressed his rear end against Harry's pelvis.

"Ahem." The nanny stood in the doorway with her two charges.

Reluctantly, Harry pulled away from his husband. "Good morning, Marlena." He took Opie, who was still as torpid as a sloth, from her arms and kissed his forehead. "Morning, jelly bean." Harry could feel Draco's eyes on him, and knew exactly what was going through his mind.

...

The man's name was Mick Cranston, and he was the life partner of of some high-ranking Ministry muckety-muck. He was a member of Veronica's gang, but Draco thought he had figured out an angle. It was the school's weekly Mummy Meeting, and after tea Draco approached Mick while the man was gathering up dirty plates and cups. Hooking a thumb at a group of women cackling about their husbands' foibles, he said, "The estrogen gets awfully thick around here sometimes."

Mick sniffed and looked down his long nose at Draco. "That's sexist."

"Oh, come on, you must get tired of all the relentless womanliness of this place, too. We two blokes, we ought to stick together, don't you think?"

"If you think we're going to be friends, you're wrong. My brother was killed by Death-Eaters. I don't like your sort." He gave Draco a nasty look. "And there's something wrong with your face."

As Mick walked away with a tray full of dishes, Draco called out, "It's only temporary!" But he knew a lost cause when he saw one.

"So, it's decided then," he heard Veronica say to her minions.

"What's decided?" he asked. "Did I miss something?"

"Oh, Malfoy, you're so blond," Veronica replied so airily.

SEPTEMBER 21, 2009

"Dammit, Draco, you know you get Posy all upset when you do this. Come on out." Harry tapped at the locked bathroom door. "What happened today?"

There was a long silence. Finally, Draco said, "I went to my agency to show them how I look. I mean, I could pass for twenty again, don't you think?"

"Yeah."

"They didn't care. They said that people don't want my face, younger, they just want new faces. I'm boring."

"Well, so you find something else to do with your life. Like I keep telling you, you're brilliant. Your OWLs-"

"But what if I'm just not that intelligent any more? I don't think I am. I'm not sure I ever was, really, in the first place."

Harry hit his head on the door in frustration. "Son of a- ten years you've been away from Robert, and the bastard is still in your head." Draco made a scoffing sound. "Be honest. Did you ever doubt your intelligence before you were with him? You were pretty damned sure of your cleverness in school. It was tremendously annoying, really."

"I talked to my father today."

Uh oh. What fresh hell was this? "And?"

"He found a surrogate mother for me. She's working on a Master's in International Human Rights Law at Oxford. She's brilliant. And look." A photograph was slid under the bathroom door. "Our baby would be beautiful."

Harry picked the picture up. A dark-skinned woman with an exquisite oval face shifted uncomfortably. Her enormous eyes were lovely but sad. "Why does she need to be a surrogate mother?"

"Oh, there's a war- a Muggle war- going on wherever she's from. She needs to get her family out of there."

"Draco..." What he had to say was not going to go over well. At all. Harry braced himself. "This doesn't seem... exploitative to you? Taking advantage of the misery of these women? I didn't say anything the first two times because I knew your father would get his heir one way or another, but I just can't... not speak up now."

Silence again. It somehow felt chillier.

"I mean... do you think these women enjoy carrying a baby for nine months, giving birth to it, and then never seeing it again?"

The bathroom door flew open, the knob slamming into the wall hard enough to crack plaster. Draco ran past Harry, too swift to be caught, and headed for the kitchen stairs. Harry rubbed his face hard and sighed. No doubt he was going to his mother for sympathy.

OCTOBER 14, 2009

"Is Draco still spending most of his time at his parents? It seems like I hardly see him any more," Hermione said.

Ron poked his head out of the kitchen. "I'll bet his father is hearing about all sorts of things."

"Ron."

"I'm starting to think that the only reason he's still with me is that he won't leave without Opie and Dawn, and he also doesn't want to separate them from me. I don't know what's going on." Harry was slumped at Hermione's dining room table, staring into a coffee cup. The past couple of weeks at 12 Grimmauld Place had been frosty. "Just a month ago, we couldn't have been happier, and now we're utterly miserable."

"Quarter-life crises," Hermione said. "Well, he's a wizard, so it's more like a one-eighth-life crises."

Harry looked up, eyes wide. "We barely say ten words to each other a day. I try to touch him and he flinches. I'm afraid I'm losing him."

"Are you joking? Draco would never leave you. All couples go through hard times. Ron and I, well, I've told you all about it. Try to think about it from his point of view. How would you feel if you couldn't be an Auror any more?"

"But he could be so much more than a bloody model!"

"Harry, I know that you think you understand how damaged he's been by his past, but I don't think you fully grasp it. When you got married and had your happily-ever-after, it didn't magically erase all of that. He's used to dealing with his self-confidence issues by using his looks. The thought of becoming less physically attractive must be terrifying for him."

"But the baby thing?"

Hermione laughed. "He's a lot like his mother."

"I'm starting to think he should have been born female so he could just pop babies out by the dozens."

"Well, it's not unheard of for people who had unhappy childhoods to compensate that way. But I do agree with you, Harry. Surrogacy bothers me. It is exploitative. As a mother, I can't imagine..." Hermione looked thoughtful. "You heard about what they're doing in the US, right? Wizards can have-"

"Merlin, no! Pregnant Draco? No. And how do they even- NO."

Ron poked his head back out. "Remember how 'Mione got when she was preggers? You sure as hell don't want to go through that with Draco." He vanished before Hermione could throw anything at him.

Harry tried to laughed, but could only managed a wobbly smile. "So, what do you think I should do if letting him have another baby is the only way I can keep him?"

"Do you really think it will come to that?"

"I don't know. I keep thinking that there's more going on that he's not telling me."

OCTOBER 15, 2009

Harry was sitting at the kitchen table filling out some paperwork for his job when Draco returned from the latest Wee Wizards Mummy Meeting. Draco was seethingly angry, but it wasn't Harry he was upset with, thank Merlin. He was so irate, he forgot that he was barely talking to his husband. "Veronica has gone too far!"

"I hear Oliver has a new bit of crumpet, so of course she has to get nasty. Now what?"

"She told everyone that I used to be a stripper!"

"Well, you were."

"That doesn't mean I want everyone to know about it!"

"You're embarrassed about it now? Back then, you were all, like-" Harry got out of his chair and stuck his arse out, shaking it. "I'm Draco, look at my pretty bottom!" he said in falsetto. "Put some money in my pants!"

"Oh, shut up!" Draco laughed for the first time in two weeks.

"Let me give you a lap dance!" Harry pushed Draco down on a chair and straddled him, bouncing on his lap.

"You're crap at that!"

Harry wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. "Give me a lesson, then."

"I'll give you something all right," Draco growled, pulling Harry to him. He nipped at his lips, and then, in a reversal of how things usually went with them, sexy playfulness turned tender. Draco buried his face in Harry's neck and hugged him almost painfully hard. "Don't leave me," he said, his voice muffled.

Harry jerked his head in surprise. "What? Why would I do that?"

"Because I'm stupid and annoying and selfish and I've been horrible to you lately and I'm a mess."

"I thought you were going to leave me." Harry stroked the tender spot at the nape of Draco's neck, under his shoulder-length hair, enjoying the way his husband wriggled into the touch. "What's going on, babe?"

"Mother is sick."

"Oh."

"She's tired all the time. Today, she didn't even get out of bed. She goes to St. Mungo's, but she won't tell us what's wrong. Why wouldn't she tell us, unless it's something really bad?"

"I... don't even know what to say."

"What am I going to do without her? What will Father do?"

"Oh, I'm sure Lucius will be fine. He doesn't seem to need anyone."

Draco pushed Harry back a little so he could look him in the eye. "You think that what you see is all there is to him?"

Harry sighed. "Draco, we've been married the better part of a decade, and I still can't say I know the man. He's an elf-kicking enigma to me."

"If Mother... goes, we'll have to move in with him."

"What?" Harry fell backwards off of Draco's lap, landing painfully on his rump.

"He can't be all by himself in the Manor. He'll be so lonely."

"Ten years ago, you didn't want to be anywhere near the Manor."

"Yes, well, I've grown up." The way Draco lifted his chin defiantly would have made Harry laugh if he wasn't still utterly horrified by the thought of living with Lucius.

Harry got up slowly, grimacing. He'd done a number on his tailbone. "Um, don't take this the wrong way, but does your mum being sick have anything to do with you wanting another baby?" Oh, son of a... He should not have asked that.

Draco huffed and got up off the chair, heading for the fireplace. Harry's heart sank. Not again. "I'll be back after nine," Draco called just as the green flames whooshed up. Harry smiled in relief. Draco was still talking to him, at least.

OCTOBER 16, 2009

He was just about to bring Dawn and Opie home when he heard it: "So, what are you going to bring to the bake sale?"

Draco turned and looked at Veronica, who was talking to one of her minions, a beige woman with a name too bland to remember. "I'm going to make a red velvet cake," replied Beige.

"Bake sale?" Draco demanded. "What bake sale?"

" 'What's a bake sale'?" Veronica tittered back at him.

"I know what a damned bake sale is!" It was a Muggle fund-raising tactic that certain witches had adopted. It was a way to demonstrate that, because they were married to wealthy wizards, they had the leisure time to master the art of baking. His mother had been an avid participant before she had... started to decline. But it wasn't about plain, homely pies and biscuits, oh, no; not like anything Molly Weasley made. Rich Pure-Blood witches competed to build the most decorative, complex confections, with the most expensive ingredients. When his mother had made red velvet cake, she had somehow made the frosting look like red, pink and white rose petals. Draco was sure he had gained three pounds from one slice. "When was it decided that the school is having a bake sale?"

"It's not my fault if you're not paying attention. Do you even know how to bake?" The tone of Veronica's voice said that she doubted he was able to tie his shoes by himself. "You could just have your house-elf make something."

Of course, he didn't know how to bake. "I can learn," he snapped.

"In one week? The bake sale is next Thursday." She got the twinkly look she always got when she was about to say something especially nasty. "No one expects very much from you, Malfoy." Head high, she tip-tapped away on her ridiculous shoes.

Draco's heart sped up, hammering against his sternum, and he broke out in a sweat. He dashed out to the street and found an alley to duck into while he breathed in, out, in, out... Another bloody panic attack. He hadn't had one for years and years, and now he seemed to have one at least once a week. It was Veronica.

Somehow, she had divined Draco's weakness; every little jab about dumb blonds, each insinuation that he had gone into modeling because he didn't have the brains for any career that involved intelligence, every condescending pat on the head... Draco had thought that he was long over his twisted, suicidal relationship with Robert, but Veronica had a way of putting him right back into those old feelings of inferiority. Robert was a man of immense, quicksilver intelligence, and he had used it to undermine Draco's self-confidence to the point where he had started doubting that he knew how to do anything at all besides offer up his body. Veronica did the same thing, then implied that he was losing his looks. It gave him flashbacks, which gave him panic attacks, and he had to take it because of his children.

The logical part of Draco's mind knew that she was just lashing out because of her feelings of inadequacy from be married to a philanderer. But it was hard to hold on to that when the flashbacks and the panic came. Draco squatted with his back against a stone wall and put his face between his knees, willing himself to calm down fast. Opie and Dawn were still at school, and he wouldn't let them see him upset. I'm in a bloody field of fucking daisies. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Veronica is trussed up like a roasting pig and begging for mercy.

Draco unfolded slowly, standing back up, and walked back into the school. "Dawn, Opie, time to go home."

As they headed for the fireplace, Draco heard, "I thought you'd forgot them." His mouth flattened in a grim line as he forced himself not to acknowledge it. I will not let her get to me again. I will smile when I get home. He would not let Harry know how bad things really were.

...

"What do you want, Draco?"

"Is Hermione there?"

Ron grunted. "This isn't going to be one of those conversations that ends with Hermione swearing and throwing the phone across the room, is it? My mom has the kids tonight, and I was hoping to get some action, if you know what I mean."

"Oh, yeah. Harry and I got some action last night. We were in bed and he was on top and-"

" 'Mione! It's him!"

There was a brief pause. "What is it, Draco? I'm in the middle of making dinner."

"You know how to bake, right?"

"Ah, no, actually. I don't have time."

"But you're female. You have to know. Don't you just automatically know how once you grow tits?"

"I'm going to hang-"

"I need you to teach me."

"But your moth-"

"She can't. Please, Hermie"

"Don't call me Hermie. And, honestly, since you were always good at potions, baking ought to be child's play for you. Buy a book or something."

"What book?"

"I don't know! Go to a bookstore! Oh, blast, dinner's burning. For Merlin's sake, Ron, can't you- I'm hanging up, Draco."

"I love you, Hermie."

"I love you, too. Now go away." Click.

Draco stared at the phone in his hand for a while before placing it back on the hook. His mother was sick. Millicent was too busy opening up a small hotel with her wife. Pansy's idea of baking was eating pre-made frosting straight out of the container with her fingers. Molly was busy with two new grandbabies, and Ginny was in South Africa playing Quidditch. It looked like Draco was going to have to have Kreacher bake a cake for him. Useless, Robert said, scorn in his icy blue eyes. Useless, Veronica giggled.

OCTOBER 17, 2009

Draco stared into the Thames. It was a windy night, full of gusts from random directions, and the surface of the river rippled. The lights of the city reflected on it pointillistically. He imagined tossing his wand as hard as he could, watching it go end over end until it landed in the middle of the river. He imagined filling his pockets with stones, climbing the fence, and jumping in the water. Only the first was possible, as his father had put that spell on him that made him unable to commit suicide. It would be an unpleasant way to go, anyway. The river was probably filthy.

His hair was tangled and none too clean; he had been living rough for the past couple of weeks, since the end of the Battle of Hogwarts. Every so often, the Ministry tracked him down just to let him know that they could find him. There were trials and tribunals and interrogations and so much blah-blah-blah. Draco was pretty sure he wasn't going to Azkaban. Potter was taking his side for Merlin knew what reason, and, right now, Potter could demand daily virgin sacrifices if he wanted to.

Draco wondered if Potter fancied him, if that was the reason he had convinced the Ministry that they didn't need to keep Draco in custody while all the poking and prodding went on. He let himself daydream a little, about catching Potter alone somewhere and offering himself up. Potter would never, could never love Draco the way Draco loved him, had loved him in pained hopelessness for years, but a good, bone-rattling shag... You don't deserve it. You don't deserve him, said the voice in Draco's head.

"You're not going to jump in, are you?" The voice was sardonic and a bit condescending. Draco turned and saw an extraordinarily handsome dark-haired man who must have been about the same age as his father. His square jaw was complemented by his neatly trimmed goatee, and his pale eyes were surrounded by ridiculously lush eye-lashes. He gave Draco an up-and-down appraisal. "Have you even eaten today?"

He hadn't. He didn't eat much at all, really. It had been months, perhaps even years, since he had actually had an appetite. It made his mother fret endlessly. But when the well-dressed stranger offered to take him to dinner, he accepted. He got into the man's slate-blue Jaguar, knowing that those well-manicured hands could wrap about his thin neck and squeeze the life out of him. It was what he was hoping for. Oblivion. Draco had run away from home so he could destroy himself. Or, rather, find someone to destroy him, to do what he could not.

They were stopped at a traffic light. "What kind of food do you prefer?" the man asked. He turned his head to look at Draco, and his face was a grinning skull.

"I love you," Draco said.

Draco sat up in bed, willing his heart to slow down. Bloody hell. Dreams were supposed to be silly, random things that evanesced away as soon as one opened one's eyes. This dream was, until the very end, a perfect recreation of the night that he had met Robert, complete with the emotions, and he had been having it nearly every night lately. It took a few minutes to shake off the feeling of emptiness that the dream left.

"Daddy! Father! Wake up! You said you'd take us to the park today!" Two small bodies hurtled onto the bed. Opie climbed on Harry's chest to rouse him from sleep, while Dawn impatiently pulled the covers off of Draco. A grin spread across Draco's face. At times like this, the Draco that had climbed into that slate-blue Jaguar was a stranger, someone he couldn't have possibly ever been.

...

Harry leaned out the front door to pick up the morning paper, giving the neighbors an eyeful of him in his boxers. He unfolded it as he padded to the kitchen and his eyes widened. "Draco! You've got to see this." He tossed the paper at his husband, who was cutting up Opie's sausage.

Putting the knife down, Draco picked up the paper. He seemed to stop breathing when he saw the photo and the screaming headline. He put a hand over his mouth as he read the article, and he made an odd sound.

"Draco? Is something wrong?"

Draco lowered his hand from his face. He was pale, but smiling. "No. I think I'm good."

Harry took the paper back. 'Financial Wizard Arrested for Biggest Ponzi Scheme in History!' said the headline, just above a picture of an infuriated Robert lunging toward the photographer. "The bastard was always blathering to the media about how bloody brilliant he is, but he got caught running a scam like a common criminal. Not so smart after all, I guess."

Draco was very quiet as he helped Opie eat and finished his own breakfast, but Harry could tell by the enthusiastic way that he was eating that it was a good silence; Draco's appetite tended to shut down when he was upset or feeling down. Harry watched his husband wipe their son's face clean and cajole Dawn into eating the rest of her eggs. Now that pottie training was done, Saturdays were no-nanny days. Harry had to admit that watching Draco with Dawn and Opie made him feel warm and squishy inside, and just a little sad about not having another baby.

"Let's get dressed so we can go to the park." Draco hustled the kids out of the kitchen and up the stairs, leaving Harry by himself. Harry downed the rest of his coffee in one gulp and hurried after them, not wanting to be left behind.

As they sat together on a bench with peeling paint, watching Dawn swing Opie, Harry noticed that Draco still wasn't very talkative. He inched his hand over and laid it on Draco's. Draco turned and gave him the lovely, heart-stopping smile that had made Harry fall in love. Somehow, Harry knew that everything was going to be alright.

OCTOBER 18, 2009

Harry was lounging in front of the television on Sunday morning when a blast from the lower floor of the house nearly knocked him from the couch. "What the hell is going on?" he demanded as he bounded into the kitchen.

Opie, who was on the floor floor with a bowl of frosting (half of which he was wearing), wailed. The oven door was half off its hinges, and the kitchen was coated in cake batter. Kreacher was wiping his eyes off. "Master Draco has ruined Kreacher's pillow case!" the elf whined.

Draco looked sheepish. "Well, you know how potions brew faster when you add powdered dragon scales?"

"You're... baking?" Harry noticed a two-foot-tall stack of cookbooks on the counter, with titles like 'The Big Book of Cupcakes.' So that was where Draco had gone the previous afternoon: the bookstore. "And you used dragon scales?"

"Hermione said that baking is a lot like potions."

"You might have taken that a little too literally. But I guess you don't know until you try." Harry repaired the over door- he used a more sophisticated version of the spell he'd learned from Hermione all those years ago to repair his glasses. "So how long before I can eat cake?"

Draco slapped a mixing bowl in Harry's hands. "Shut up and stir."

OCTOBER 22, 2009

"You actually baked that yourself? How nice you tried." Veronica took the cake from Draco and started tippy-tapping toward the kitchen.

"I thought the bake sale was out here in the cafeteria," he said.

"Oh, it is," Veronica tossed back over her shoulder. "But a photographer from the Prophet is coming, and I think we should have only the very best creations representing our school."

Draco fumed as he followed behind Veronica. Sure, it was no volcano with chocolate lava. It wasn't a dragon that shot sparks from its mouth. It didn't have marzipan butterflies or fondant flowers. But it was a perfectly respectable carrot cake. Draco found out he was very good at making tasty carrot cake. He was sure that Harry had already gained ten pounds, he was so good.

"Oh, Sophie, should you really be eating that? Women with your sort of figure do tend to run to fat." Sophie merely glared and took another bite of something delicious-looking that dripped honey and butter. As soon as Veronica was gone, Sophie shoved the plate at Draco. "The dragon-lady says to me, 'Oh, I should have specified English biscuits, not American!' The lying snake. I told her all about my grandma's special buttermilk biscuit recipe."

Draco bit into a biscuit, and it was a fluffy bit of heaven. "Let's stay in here. We can eat my cake next." For the next twenty minutes they made up horrible ways for Veronica to die. Stabbed to death by her own shoes. Poison in her Guerlain lipstick. Troll herpes in her Botox were interrupted by Dawn dragging a sobbing Opie into the room. "What's wrong, jelly bean?" Draco asked Opie, but the boy was crying too hard to speak.

"Janice said something mean," Dawn explained.

Oh, Merlin. Janice Wood was a tiny copy of her mother, complete with the attitude. "What was it?"

"She said no one should play with us because her mum says you're bad. She says if you're bad, we're bad, too." Dawn gave her father a searching look with her round green eyes. "But you're not bad."

A red haze formed at the edges of Draco's vision. Veronica had gone too far. Not the children. Not his children. Draco got out of his chair and marched to the kitchen door, cracking it open enough to stick his head out. "Oh, Veronica, you're needed in the kitchen."

Veronica looked annoyed at being interrupted in her conversation with a man holding a camera. "I'm busy, Malfoy." Her voice was tight. She really hated when he called her by her first name.

"It's a bit of an emergency. If we can't stop it, we might have to cancel the bake sale." That got her attention; she looked grim, not even noticing that the photographer was following her. Draco went back to the table and prepared.

OCTOBER 23, 2009

Harry couldn't stop staring at the photograph on the front page of the Prophet. He couldn't stop laughing, either. Over and over again, Draco hit Veronica Wood in the face with his carrot cake. 'Malfoy Gone Mad?' asked the headline. Draco looked so utterly gleeful, while the expression on Veronica's face when she realized what was happening- Harry was going to buy a copy of it from the paper and have it framed. "Our children can no longer attend Wee Wizards now, you know."

Draco, who was finishing up his eggs, shrugged. "I'll see if there are vacancies at Magical Mites."

"One a scale of one to ten, how much did you enjoy that?"

Draco smiled like a cat. "At least a hundred." He looked tired, but happy; he had been up all night after he had come back from his parents'. He had been in the office, shuffling papers, writing in his journal, and staring at the walls.

"What do your parents think? They must be scandalized." Harry knew that mashing a cake into a woman's face was not proper Malfoy behavior.

Draco laughed. "They hardly care at the moment. Mother finally revealed what her... problem was last night." Draco puffed out his cheeks and looked at Harry. "Can you guess?"

"Not a clue."

"She was undergoing a complete complex rejuvenation procedure. She was too embarrassed to tell us." Draco stabbed at his eggs as a line formed between his eyebrows. "I can't believe she would worry Father and me over simple vanity."

"Imagine someone doing that," Harry said dryly.

"Anyway, it just made it even more clear where my true calling lies."

Harry looked up, startled. He shouldn't have been surprised, really. Draco tended to keep his thoughts to himself until he made a decision. What seemed abrupt was actually gradual. Harry just wished that his husband would let him share in his burden of worries. "What are you going to do?"

"I want to produce a line of beauty and rejuvenating products, like the facial peel potion I made. Look, I'm still the very image of my twenty-year-old self." Draco leaned forward and turned his head every which way so Harry could admire his flawless face. "I'll come up with potions and procedures that won't make a person feel like they've got the hippogriff flu. Or frighten their families into thinking that they might be d... very sick."

Harry did his best to not smile. This was just so Draco. This moment was a distillation of pure Draco-ness.

Draco gave him a suspicious look. "What? Is something funny."

"Merlin's balls, I love you."

"Merlin's balls? You're such a romantic, Harry. Oh, and I'm going to give money to that woman, the one that needs to get her family out of Wherever-stan."

Harry was quiet for a minute, his happy mood tarnished. "So we're buying another baby?"

"Mm, no. I just did it because it seemed like the decent thing to do. I talked to Mother and she said that if she'd had to give me up, it would have killed her. She says I just can't understand unless I have a child myself and- eeep! What are you doing?"

Harry had Draco out of his chair and up on the table. "Nanny's gone with the children. How about it?" The table groaned a little as Harry eased his weight onto it, but they knew it would hold.

Draco bit his lip as Harry tugged his pajama bottoms off, and sighed happily as Harry kissed and licked his way down his stomach. Plates crashed to the floor unheeded as the table started to bounce. It hitched across the floor, bumping up against a counter. In a relationship with Draco, there would always be rough spots, but, oh, were they ever more than made up for by moments like this. Harry refused to stop until his husband was trembling and shouting.

Blinking up at Harry with heavy-lidded eyes, Draco smiled in complete satiation. "I have slivers in my arse, but it was completely worth it." He raised his head and nipped Harry's upper lip. "I have to go get dressed, though. Mother wants to go clothes shopping, now that she's got great legs again."

Harry reluctantly let Draco up; he could easily have gone another round. He finished his breakfast, then wandered to the room that he and Draco used as an office, intending to get some paperwork done. He was distracted by an envelope sticking out from under the debris that covered Draco's desk. What would he have got from the United States? Feeling like a sneak, but unable to curb his curiosity, Harry gently slid the manila envelope out without disturbing anything else. The return address label didn't give anything away. Inside, Harry found a flier with pictures of happy man/man couples with babies, and a letter:

Dear Mr. Malfoy,

The Families For All Institute is pleased at your interest in our program. In the enclosed flier, you will find details about how we have combined cutting edge Muggle medicine with advanced magic to make it possible for male couples to have their very own bundles of joy. We are willing to waive all fees, as we feel that having Harry Potter participate in our program will be the best possible advertising that we could ever hope for. We look forward to your visit.

Harry was out of the room before before the letter hit the floor. "DRAAAAAAAAAAAACOOOOOOOOOO!"