Just shy of two weeks into it and with an end well in sight, the baby developed some sort of infantile illness, almost overnight. Sniffling, coughing, wheezing—terribly fretful.
For two days running Potter seldom appeared at the breakfast table, much less supper nor after, though he was always prompt to show his scarred face in the Library, already hard at work when Draco set foot there. Teddy alternatively either slept fitfully and feverishly in his ducky yellow basket or mewled piteously from the safety of his caretaker's arms, terrifyingly ill but unable to be comforted. And Potter, despite it all, continually dazzled Draco with a whole array of highly specialized spellwork, all designed to meticulously sort, shelve, and repair. He worked like a fiend, did bloody Potter, but it was clear his attention wasn't fully on his task-for-hire.
Draco held his peace, but barely. Clearly Potter didn't see fit to confide in him.
"What's wrong with him?" he barked, stepping through the door into the Library on the morning of the third day of his cousin's illness and coming to an abrupt halt the instant he took in Potter's raccoon eyes and the gaspy, wet breathing of little Teddy. "Is he really that sick?"
"Dunno, Malfoy," Harry replied, dully, shrugging. Both he and the baby were heavy-eyed; they looked exhausted. All the fine hairs on Draco's nape rose automatically; he was used to a cheery, smiling duo of combined cuteness. "They say not."
"But, clearly—!" Draco protested. "I mean, look at him—listen to him!"
Potter interrupted Draco's warm-up rant with a sad little finger wave.
"Erm, look, don't worry about it, will you, Malfoy? I should be finished here soon—maybe even today. Won't be your problem."
"No! No, that's not what I meant, Potter!"
That set Draco back a pace. It wasn't like that! Not that having a sick kid around was any great shakes in a bachelor household, but he was worried—or rather, understandably concerned as to the welfare of his employee and his employee's dependent. No—scratch that; he was fucking frantic! Potter was scrawnier than ever; he looked as if he'd not slept in weeks, and all the cumulative good Draco had done by covertly pampering him had gone by the wayside in only seventy-two hours.
"He needs a Healer, damn it!" Draco exclaimed, horrified. "Why haven't you called for one, Potter?"
For Teddy's condition frankly terrified him. The baby was pale as his snowy-white nappies—excepting the two spots of scarlet fever flush centred on his normally candied-apple cheeks. His tiny fingers flexed fretfully and his breathing was horrible to hear: it skipped and gurgled, falling almost to nothing until the mite started up again with that heart-wrenching hack.
And Potter—Potter wasn't smiling. Potter looked as if he'd never smile again.
"I know," Potter nodded wearily. He turned blank eyes to meet Draco's anxious grey ones, a hand always on the braided rushes of the baby's basket bed, smoothing nervously at the weave. "And he's seen one—"
"When have you?" Draco snapped, chin lifting arrogantly. "You've not left the house, Potter! When could you have gone? The wards won't allow it!"
"Last night, Malfoy, lateish" Potter replied, muttering sullenly. "And I don't know why exactly, but they did, alright? S'not my fault, either. It's not like I asked them to. I had to go."
"They—you—what?" Draco struggled with the concept. "I don't understand it—that's impossible! You can't have done, Potter."
"Well, Malfoy," Potter rolled his tense shoulders, his whole body sagging where he sat cross-legged on the floor by his frail, unhappy charge. "I did, though—sorry."
The Malfoy wards were both ancient and intimately tied to Draco's person, as head of House pro tem. It was a form of Blood Magic and none but a Malfoy by blood or by marriage should be able to pass through them easily—not without him knowing. It was completely unheard of—but.
That wasn't important, not at the moment.
"What did the Healer say, Potter?" Draco demanded, rapidly crossing the plush carpeting to drop to his knees before the infant's portable bed.
He gazed down upon his cousin, nearly the last of his living relatives in Britain, and frowned ferociously. He was overcome by the insanely frustrated desire to do something—anything—to fix it up…to force Potter to stop looking that way, all forlorn and beaten down. To make little Teddy feel better!
"Is he alright, then? Will he be? Does he need anything? Medicinal potions? Extra blankets? The elves—I daresay they can do something about this disgraceful state of affairs, Potter! Why don't we ask them?"
"No, Malfoy, really—it's okay, mate." Potter waved dusty fingers at him, his lips twitching in a piss-poor attempt at one of his usual grins. Draco winced, examining Potter intently, not wanting to miss a single word. "Or it will be…eventually. Healer used some sort of charm on him at St. Mungo's—Nursery Magic, Healer called it—and it brought his fever down some, but mainly he just has to ride it out. And take regular draughts of Crowley's Cough-Ease, too—in fact, I must administer another dose in an hour and then an hour after that, and so on—"
"Oh, but that's neither here nor there, is it?" Potter heaved a full-body sigh, rubbing his furrowed forehead and knocking askew his stupid classy new spectacles. Draco's forensic stare missed not one detail of his guest's state of overall neglect; he abhorred it. "Doesn't concern you. I am sorry, though, for bringing you trouble. Didn't mean to, really. Still, I should be finished in here shortly, so we won't be bothering you after today. You can simply owl me the payment for the reckoning after I send it—"
"Potter!" Draco kept his voice to a muffled roar by sheer will, not wishing to disturb the baby any more than it already was. "Potter, I don't care about that, you arse! The Library can go hang—and so may your wretched bill! You, Potter, need rest—and food—and a little help." He swallowed, waving his hands about in a flurry, seeking reasons to keep Potter—and Teddy. "Who's going to care for Teddy if you fall ill, too?" he hissed, triumphant, having landed upon something likely. "You can't go! I expressly forbid it!"
"Now, Malfoy, really—" Potter seemed shocked by Draco's order…and a little bit pleased, as well. Draco blushed hotly at the warm look cast upon him. Those eyes were just so very…Wait! Was that merely gratitude glinting behind those lenses? Draco didn't want that sop—he wasn't offering his aid, all his many resources and the sanctuary of his home just for a mere 'Thanks, ever so nice of you'! Followed shortly, no doubt, by a blithe 'See you later, Malfoy!'
"Don't you dare 'Now, Malfoy' me, Potter!" he growled, clenching his fingers into fists. He sprang up and thrust out a hand to help Potter to his feet. "I will not accept your excuses! Now, off to bed with you, this instant—get some sleep, damn it. Merlin knows you need it."
"I'll stay with Teddy," Draco hastened to add. He bobbed his head firmly, adopting a positive air, as if he actually knew exactly what he was doing. "Yes, yes, I agree—he certainly does need to be monitored, but you need sleep more, Potter! You look as though you're about to fall the fuck over! We can't have that, Potter. That's not to the point at all."
"We—we can't?" Potter faltered. "But I can't, Malfoy—I can't sleep yet, and really, it's fine." Potter flapped a hand at Draco's scowl, disregarding it entirely. "I'm used to it, alright? This isn't the first time he's been through this sort of thing—it's his nose, you see."
Draco stuck his hands on his hips, glaring down at his recalcitrant hired help.
"And you've dealt with all the other times all by yourself, Potter?" Draco retorted. "With no help at all? No assistance? That's buggering ballsy of you, isn't it? Taking on an unfamiliar infant's requirements with absolutely no guidance!"
He snorted disbelievingly, eyeing Potter askance.
"Well, no," Potter had the grace to look sheepish. "I mean, I was at the Burrow for a bit early on and Molly lent me a hand with him the first time it happened. She's says it's common with Metamorphagi. Something about how they continually change the shape of their bodies leaves them a little less resistant to these upper respiratory infections. Her third cousin Gilly on her father's side was one, turns out, and he—"
"Potter," Draco insisted softly, bending to place both hands beneath the baby's basket bed and raising it carefully, essentially snatching it right out from under Potter's twitching nose and clingy fingers. "Potter, I could care less about Molly Weasley's Cousin Gilly. Go back to bed—NOW!"
"Oh!" Potter jumped, arms and legs scrambling across the carpet after Draco and his retreating charge. "Oi! Malfoy, wait up! Where are you taking him?"
Draco turned about to give Potter a look.
"Your suite, Potter. And I'll be planted right square in your sitting room, alright? I can watch over him there just as well as anywhere else. Don't worry about a sodding thing, Potter. Now—get some rest!"
"You, Malfoy?" Potter's eyes were very green indeed as he scrabbled across the floor. He'd been plopped in such a tired little heap that Draco's chest ached yet from seeing it; he was having trouble even finding his sea legs to walk properly, which panged worse. "You would? For me?"
Draco only snorted, for otherwise he'd be forced to call Potter out for not taking better care of himself. Potter was needed; could he not see that?
All about them, though, Potter's library magic was still hard at work, never flagging. Books still busily whirred through the air; flapping pages, dusting themselves with invisible cloths, and scurrying off to their agreed-upon places. The Library, after just shy of two weeks passing and one Hades of a lot of effort on Potter's part, was nearly pristine.
"But why?" Potter whined, nearly upon Draco's heels by the exit. He stuck out a hand to stay his employer, snagging a stray sweep of house robe hem. "I—I don't see why you'd want to? I'm nearly through here; we can go, likely this afternoon. Besides, Healer gave me a spare Pepper-Up—"
"I do want to, Potter," Draco stated firmly, peering intently down at the restless infant and adjusting his coverlet by a fraction…for fear of draughts. Because there could conceivably be some, even in his Manor. He did not meet Potter's eyes; no force on earth could impel him to do so at that moment. "I want to very much. And you shouldn't be looking a gift Malfoy in the mouth, git. Go on with you; off to bed this instant, please. I'm right behind you—or before you, actually—and I'll be sure to wake you if there's any question at all. Not that there will be, naturally; I'm more than competent, I daresay. But I will—you have my solemn word on it, Potter."
Potter blinked up at him—once, twice, thrice—in slow motion, so his gloriously long sooty black lashes fanned across his pale cheeks each time. They were the exact same shade as his marvellous rumpled hair—and Draco would wager they were just as silky to touch. They were so long the tips touched the lenses of his spectacles, crooked on his nose; Draco had an excellent view as he stood over Potter.
And then Potter smiled, and oh, but that, too, was glorious: that exact quirk of lip and the peculiar-to-Potter tiny nose wrinkle. The way the skin grooved about his mouth; the glitter in the dimmed malachite lakes always lurking behind his concealing specs. Draco nearly ceased all respiration on the strength of it—and suddenly understood exactly why the Weasel and the Brain had followed Potter about like twin mules all those years—stubbornly, yes, but with no question, no second-guessing. For a smile like that, Draco would happily shift the Alps—fuck, he'd level them!
"Thank you, Malfoy," Potter breathed, smiling beatifically from his crouch at Draco's feet. "So much. I didn't expect—I mean to say…well. Thank you."
"Get up—stand up! No more kneeling like some stupid supplicant—it's hardly as though I'm doing you any favours, Potter—and be off with you, to bed," Draco gabbled gruffly. Furiously, flat-out refusing to look. He frowned heavily when Potter made no move to do anything of the sort, gesturing an impatient hand. "At once, please. You're wasting valuable time yapping when you could be resting." He mustered up a sneer, though it was but a feeble effort. "And—and don't be forgetting this, Potter—the sooner you two recover, the sooner my Library will be ship-shape. I'm counting on you for it. What's more, I'm paying you for it."
"That's so kind—unexpected, really," Potter swallowed hard, finally stumbling fully to his feet and practically falling into the doorway, his eyes locked upon Draco's. It was only Draco's agile hand on his jutting elbow that saved him a nasty bruising. "I don't quite know what to say—how to say—"
Draco juggled the basket of baby with care and tightened his steadying grip on Potter's arm.
"You can say where his Crowley's Potion is, git," he growled, urging Potter gently forward into the connecting corridor. "Finite Incantatum!" he snapped over his shoulder, in the general direction of Potter's fancy-schmancy magical handiwork. "Finite, I say!"
The whirling books instantly lowered themselves gently to find available surfaces, aligning themselves in neat little piles by subject.
"Right, then, Potter. Hand it over forthwith and then you can pop off to sleep."
"Oh! It's here, Malfoy," Potter grubbed about in the pocket of his wrinkled robes as he lurched on; robes which he clearly hadn't changed out since the day before. "Here."
But then the idiot was so befuddled he quite forgot to turn the flask of potion over.
"It's got chamomile," Potter blathered instead, sloshing the bottle as he peered at it, walking sideways and not watching where he was going at all; Draco held onto him for dear life. "And honey, anise seed, feverfew, fenugreek and horehound—those are all effective, right? Right, Malfoy?"
Up all night then, Draco concluded darkly. Just as I suspected. He's babbling—the poor sod. Punch drunk, likely.
He set his thin lips in a grim line, tightening his grasp and actively propelling Potter in the direction of his private quarters. They were nearly there and Draco was ever so thankful. He'd be Stunning Potter next, to force him to rest!
"Yes, thank you, Potter; I do know the drill for a common cough syrup. Step it up, alright?" he urged, increasingly afraid his pro tem librarian might very well fall down and not be able to get up again. "You've no need to concern yourself with the Crowley's potion; it sounds exactly as Snape would brew it for Pomfrey, so, er—shake a leg, now. And for Merlin's sake, relax, man! I know what to do and I'll be sure to do it."
Potter ignored that aside handily, intent on telling Draco what must be done.
"One half teaspoon every hour on the hour, till the coughing eases," Potter chattered, making his infuriatingly meandering way to his rooms. "He's really due for a nappy change any moment now, Malfoy. And he'll need a regular feeding, too; in fact, it's nearly time for that and I can—"
"Alright, okay," Draco cut in hastily. "Don't worry about it, Potter. I've got it all covered," he added, finally leaving go to snatch the vial out of Potter's wavering hand. "Now, we've arrived, so shut your trap and grab some shuteye, please. Go on, now."
He gave Potter a tiny nudge towards the suite's bedroom, the door of which opened invitingly upon a whispered word, the massive bed just visible beyond.
"Oh, but—I could give him his feed, Malfoy," Potter protested, stalling. "I'm not that badly off, really. And he's not exactly used to others—"
"Now, Potter," Draco reproved him, narrowing his eyes in a dangerous way. "Cease dawdling—he'll be fine with me."
"If you're sure—"
"Very sure." Draco was; he'd managed to winkle out more than one opportunity to feed and diaper Teddy under Potter's possessive eye over the course of this last sennight. It wasn't the latest broom technology, caring for an infant—one simply had to take very good care. He could do that, no problem. He'd been taking care of family treasures all on his own for ages now; he was quite proficient. "And I'll be right here," he made sure to repeat, sliding his assessing eyes over the cushy L-shaped divan in the guest suite's sitting room, "well within earshot. No more nattering, Potter—rest!"
He earned himself another weak Pottery smile for his growly, snarly order, which was more than enough recompense.
But it wasn't even an hour later that Potter was back up again, jittering hesitantly in the archway between bed and sitting rooms and looking beautifully rumpled in cheap cotton pajamas, his spectacles discarded. He blinked at Draco enquiringly.
"Is he alright? Teddy?"
The soft query startled Draco out of his musings. Teddy had had a bit of a late liquid breakfast, his allotted dose of Crowley's and then dozed off in the warmth of Draco's arms. Draco had stowed away the damnable ducky-decked basket almost the instant Potter had toddled off and hadn't let go of baby Teddy for even a single second after. He'd figured the sound of his own heartbeat was likely soothing to the fretful mite. His small cousin urgently required his rest, or so Draco reasoned, right along with that great stubborn-arse Potter. Might as well ensure the infant was as comfortable as he could possibly be—and what could be better than a spot of human touch for a cranky tot?
Really! Draco fumed. They both needed keepers, the two of them. Shouldn't be allowed out in the world, noddys like Potter and the baby. Disgraceful! Someone would be sure to take advantage. A Weasley, maybe. Or worse.
"What? What're you doing awake already?" he hissed, not at all anticipating Potter quite so soon again. Poor sod had to be dead on his feet; Draco was fully prepared to camp out on the settee for ages. Bodley, Draco's primo major domo elf, was on the up-an-up, just awaiting his master's orders for luncheon, clean nappies, or whatever. All was well in hand—naturally.
"Go back to bed, Potter!" he scolded softly. "He's perfectly well—recovering nicely, thank you. Much better off than you, from the looks of it." Draco sniffed haughtily, glaring, until a notion struck him. "Oh! Unless you're hungry? It's nearly luncheon. If that's it, then alright; I'll allow it, this time only—you do need to eat. You're much too thin for your age, Potter—it's utterly disgraceful. Can count your ribs, rather. Well, come sit down, then," he snapped. Drew a fast, calming breath and quietly bellowed: "Bodley! Come here, please."
Potter blinked, clearly bewildered by the verbal onslaught, but Draco paid no heed, focussing on the trusty Bodley. Both men blinked as the elderly elf popped into a very quiet existence before them. Potter even jumped at the silent 'pop!', clutching at the moulding round the bedroom door for balance. Malfoy house elves tended to unsettle him, yet. They were a class unto themselves, Malfoy elves—poor departed Dobby had been an anomaly.
"Yes, Master Draco?" Bodley murmured, bowing quickly at each of them in turn. "Luncheon for Master Harry now? Or a light brunch instead, sir?" He spun a heel to cock his huge bald head at a rapidly blinking Potter, who only looked utterly blank. "Would you care for an herb omelette, Master Harry? Or perhaps eggs Benedict?"
"I, ah—ah—ah?" Potter shook his head at first and then nodded, blearily. "Um, I don't know, sorry?" The usual green brilliance was murky as a foggy bog. Draco frowned at his librarian-for-hire: Potter clearly required more rest and less confusion of choices. But Bodley was correct; Potter was also in need of nutrition. "Whatever's easiest, Bodley, alright? Anything you like, really."
"Potter," Draco commanded, clutching the sleeping infant and fixing his employee with a stern stare. "Potter, choose something you'll actually have an appetite for, please. Now, which do you fancy? Breakfast or lunch? You may have anything you desire."
"Oh? Oh…well." Potter leant against the doorway…or rather, he used it for propping, he was clearly that drained. "I—er, but you see I don't know, Draco. Not really all that hungry, sorry."
"Huh!" Draco huffed disagreeably. "Fine, dunderhead. I'll choose for you, then."
"'Kay," Potter slumped a shoulder, his shirt rumpling to reveal supple skin at neck and waist. "Whatever, Malfoy—thanks."
Draco closed his eyes briefly, pretending he'd not seen. Potter was well nigh fagged to death and of course he hadn't meant to give Draco any ideas—
"Master?" Bodley's bulgy eyes were curious. "What manner of courses shall we prepare for Master Harry, sir?"
Draco adjusted Teddy's dangling booties gently over the inconvenient bulge in his lap whilst he considered, attempting to shield his tiny shell-like ears from the quiet noise of their conversing with his other hand. The baby slept peacefully on, undisturbed.
Brunch or luncheon? But no tea—excess tea would keep Potter awake and Draco wanted him back to bed as soon as he'd eaten.
Wait—had Potter just addressed him as 'Draco'?
Bodley jittered a bit, his monogrammed white linen apron flapping in tune with his ears. Even the most elite of house elves had the tendency to bounce whilst awaiting orders.
…No. Couldn't have. Draco had just misheard Potter—that was all.
As a matter of interest, Draco had recently noticed his family's elves were extremely careful about his small cousin, especially now that he was feeling poorly. The loud crack of their normal apparations—which usually served as a bit of warning to their masters—had been muffled. Bodley and his fellows were all about allowing Master Teddy his rest, unaffected by their continual comings and goings.
Hmm. Draco nodded to himself, feeling oddly conspiritous with his own house elves. It was true, then, about them—they were a very sentient group; nay, thoughtful. Of course, Bodley was a bit of an aberration, having attended Butler School, but still…it left Draco smiling faintly. He enjoyed knowing he wasn't alone in his concern for his…his guests.
Potter quirked his ruffled black brows at them both, puzzled.
"Perhaps soup, sir?" Bodley suggested solicitously, his habitual bounce amped up to a rather boisterous to-ing-and-fro-ing. "Soup is being very nice, sirs."
Potter edged warily back from his doorframe; Draco frowned, undecided.
"We've a very fine garden-fresh pease-and-carrot stew, Master Harry, with slivers of Westphalian ham from the Home Farm. With some buttered toast or crackers, sir. Lighter fare, to settle Master's innards."
"Oh, um…" Potter nodded feebly. "I—er—sure, I guess. Whatever works, eh? You don't have to trouble yourself over me, Bodley—or you either, Malfoy." He blinked, swiping a palm over a shadowed jaw. "I'm alright."
"No, you're not, Potter," Draco said firmly, slewing his chin about to glare reprovingly. "But you will be in a trice. So, come—sit and eat and then sleep some more. The scamp's just dandy, see? I've not gone and murdered him while you weren't looking."
He waggled his brows at the baby nestled tight against him and snoring faintly, his tiny pink lips parted and a thin line of drool dampening Draco's silk ascot. There was a throw arrayed over them both, to maintain warmth. Potter took a step forward, only to stall again, apparently caught up with watching Draco and the baby. He hovered uncertainly between the long and short legs of the 'L'. Draco huffed.
"Here!" he ordered quickly, patting his section, the long one. "Sit by me, Potter, not way over there. You can at least see him that way, as much as you so clearly must."
"Oh, ta, Malfoy."
With a sleepy grin Potter obliged, plumping his narrow arse right on the next cushion over. Close enough that Draco could inhale the scent of lavender and fresh ironing clinging to him; near enough that he could count those sinfully bushy eyelashes.
Draco learnt quickly to regret his impulsive offer. Potter, as it turned out, had the trick of watching a person in a clandestine manner, his thoughts veiled by the cover of half-lidded eyes. The brief nap he'd partaken of had spiked his luxuriant eyelashes, leaving them curl at the tips and tangle. His disordered mess of a hairstyle was all over tufted and poufy, flattened on the one side and wavy on the other. The pyjamas were barely staying on him, falling open across a very nice chest and a flat stomach. In fact, it was a most maddeningly adorable sight—Potter looked to be all of three years of age, what with his stripy misbuttoned pajamas and his hedgehoggy hair. Excepting of course that it was a man's body beneath the thin fabric.
Draco's jaw literally ached clenching against his urge to reach out a curious finger. He desperately wished to smooth all of Potter's attributes flat and tidy once more.
Make them stop hauling his diaphragm into odd shapes; settle Potter so that he, too, could settle.
Fruitless effort; Draco blinked his frustration over it. Bodley waved a hand and Potter's light luncheon appeared, along with a convenient lap tray.
"Go on, then," he ordered abruptly, shifting discreetly beneath the folds of the quilt. With luck, Potter was too sleepy to notice his very real prurient interest. "Eat up, Potter. Teddy's right here—and he's fine where he is, thanks."
"Um," Potter quirked his lips—always moist and often nibbled upon, but not by the likes of Draco, sadly—and stalwartly took up his spoon. "M'kay, thanks."
It was a curiously strong urge, this one Draco suffered from, and not one he'd experienced before…nor expected to. But this was Potter, forsooth, and Draco should bloody well know by now to anticipate odd urges. Had been the case since the git had stepped across his doorsill, had it not?
Draco sighed for no reason at all, damning his all his many and varied urges to Hades for the duration. Potter only blinked at his shiny soup spoon reflection and shifted his narrow but very fine arse a smidgeon closer.
Soon enough, Potter had been duly victualled and shooed off to bed; baby Teddy was dozing, tiny blond head pressed confidingly to Draco's chest, clean and dry, and Draco was returned to his former state of comfortably nodding off on the settee, replete and satisfied that his duties as host were well in hand. For, feeling constrained by Potter's slight show of hesitance, he'd consumed twice as much luncheon as he normally did, matching bowl for bowl of soup in a silent but concerted effort to encourage Potter's flagging appetite.
He'd his wand charmed to wake him for the baby's next draught of potion and all seemed well on all fronts, but it was Potter—again—popping up like some damned circus freak show attraction, and rousing him.
"Malfoy? Is he alright? Ted?"
"Gah! You, again, Potter?"
Draco jolted three feet off and up from his slouch on the divan, heart caught in his rapidly working throat. His wide eyes took in Potter's gaping open pajama top and the sag of his drawstring pants. The git's hair was tumbled every which way, worse than ever; he looked as though he'd not slept a wink in the meantime.
"Tempus! What? It's only half past one! Merlin, Potter, you frightened ten years off my life! I thought you were fast—"
"No," Potter sighed as he fell clumsily onto the divan next to Draco, crumpling against the cushions after a quick check up on little Teddy. "No, I just couldn't. I don't like it when I can't—"
"See him, Potter?" Draco lifted a corner of his mouth in a wry grimace. "Look, er, you're pale as a ghost, Potter, and I've seen better kempt Inferi. You mustn't worry so much. I'm here; Bodley and the elves are but a word away. Your bothersome little charge is better already. I've been listening to him breathe and his lungs are a thousand times clearer than they were. The Crowley's is working, Potter, as it should do. Go back to bed, for the love of Merlin."
"I…I can't, Malfoy," Potter regarded his hands blearily, slowly clenching and unclenching them in his striped, cotton-clad lap. Draco glanced there and then instantly away, nostrils flaring in reaction. The fabric was worn thin to transparent and, well, he could make out the faint dark outline of Potter's bits. Very nice bits, too. It was shattering, that, when he wasn't prepared for it. "I can't do that to him—not be there," Potter went on. "Er, here, rather," he flapped a hand, indicating their quiet surroundings. "Um. You know what I mean, right? I'm all he has, now."
Draco sighed. This wasn't the case; not at all. Little Teddy had his Cousin Draco as well, to call upon when in need, whether Potter realized it or not. But obviously Potter wasn't thinking of Draco that way, so…
"Back to bed with you, Potter. I'll bring Teddy along with and we'll sit in there. That way you'll be certain all's well."
"Oh! Oh, really, Malfoy?" It was as though the sun had dawned on Potter's drawn face, his smile was that brilliant. It panged Draco something fierce to witness it…and then the nameless emotion slowly dissolved inside him, sinking from his twisted-tight chest, so all he could feel was a heady, happy warmth seeping inexorably downward, heating his groin. "You're serious? But I'm keeping you—I mean, we're likely holding you back from—from whatever it is you do—er, normally. You don't need to do any of this, really—we'll be perf—"
"Come along, Potter," Draco snapped, catching up Teddy's basket and bag to take along with and rising most carefully, gingerly balancing the infant passed out against his thundering heart. "Shut your piehole and hit the rack. Pronto!"
Poor Potter did his best; really, he did, once he was tucked back beneath his satin duvet. But his toad-green eyes wouldn't stay shut and, after ten minutes, Draco absolutely couldn't stand a moment more of his erstwhile employee's infernal lack of sleeping.
"Here," he announced snarkily, cradling little Teddy in careful hands and plumping him down upon the pillows next to Potter's anxious face. "Shift over, arse. We'll nap with you."
The very thought was incredible—nay, staggering! Climbing into Potter's bed uninvited? Draco had never slept with anyone. Oh, he'd certainly shagged any number, but he'd not slept with them, after. Sleeping with Potter—well!
He wouldn't think of it. He just wouldn't. This was all in aid of Potter and poor sick little Teddy and had nothing to do with what he, Draco, wanted.
"Oh, ah…okay," Potter sent him a half-awake look from beneath the shelter of the Devil's tangle of lashes, a glance tinged with a fair glint of shy wariness. "Um, if you don't mind it, I'd be—"
It was too much to bear—Draco closed off his mind and stomped on his doubts and just did.
"For gods' sake, shut it, alright? No more! I don't mind at all and every one of us will be the better for it, after. And you! You have no more sense than Circe gave my peacocks, I swear! Now, rest."
He did, miracles of miracles. Potter, that was, not Draco. As did young Ted, except for those drowsy moments when Draco carted him carefully off to a corner armchair for his Crowley's and a clean nappy. It was a…charming…interlude.
So charming, in fact, even Draco at last succumbed to the lure of somnolence.
Until quite late in the afternoon, when Potter's stomach grumbled, long, low and loud. That woke all three of them.
The baby gurgled, kicking.
"Hey there," Potter whispered, rolling over immediately to seek out the whereabouts and status of his inherited infant, "my baby boy. You feeling more the thing now, Teddy?"
"Whoa! Oi! What's it? Is he? Oh! Oh, yes, right, right."
Draco hurriedly raised himself up on a wobbly elbow, blinking rapidly and attempting to peer narrowly at the two of them, his little horde of private patients.
"Hmmm, he looks it, I'd say," Draco leant across the wriggly, jolly-again child with utmost care, deftly avoiding the small feet endangering his nose, "as do you. Finally."
"Don't even say it, Potter," Draco snarled, baring all his teeth in a non-humorous flash. He drew back again. "I don't want your apologies."
Potter blinked. Caught his breath and headed off in a different—incorrect—tangent.
"Well, then, thank you for all you've—"
"Or your stupid thanks, either!" Draco snapped, yanking himself back from the tempting picture Potter made, lounging back against the pillows, his sleep-reddened lips parted.
He swallowed hard; he never should've considered entering a bed containing Potter and his tiny cousin. It had ruined him for sleeping alone—he knew it.
"Er, are you up for supper yet?" he went on gruffly, facing away abruptly and eyeing the suite's door with longing. The sooner he was out of this, the sooner he could wank off somewhere very private and regain his normal composure. "The scamp here likely requires another changing—"
"How 'bout this, then?" Potter asked of him artlessly, following Draco's retreat as swiftly as he ever did that tantalizing golden snitch. A manly hand clamped down upon Draco's bent elbow almost before he realized it; he was hauled summarily back into the bed again, flailing every which way as he desperately attempted to avoid squashing the giggling midget boy situated between them. "Would you want this, Malfoy? Tell me."
The kiss Potter smacked squarely upon his sleep-puffed lips more than made up for it. Draco eased inelegantly backwards upon the mounded pillows when it was over, his eyes wide and very much shocked.
"Er, um," he remarked, inconsequentially. "Ah?"
"Like another?" Potter grinned triumphantly. "Malfoy? Say yes or no, please."
The second smooch was more of the real thing—the kind Draco dreamt of, waking. He returned it in kind, with interest, wrestling them both well away from where little Ted lay kicking his heels at the charmed canopy and smiling—yes, smiling!
Draco was smiling, too, by the end of it. Couldn't help himself.
"That was—that was," he stuttered, "I mean I—Potter!"
"One more?" the bright-eyed little git wheedled. "One, only."
"Just the one?" Draco countered breathlessly, never one to let a good thing pass him by.
"Oh, yes," Potter's evasive dimples made a showing. "I rather think so, Malfoy. I've been gagging after your arse for ages now but you're still my official employer. One more is really more than I even should."
"I can fire you." Draco offered instantly, catching Potter's chin to get a better gander at those damned dimples. "Immediately."
"Not yet," Potter replied airily. He smiled kindly, cocking his chin. "Maybe tomorrow, alright? Right now I think you owe me a bloody bonus, yeah? I'll take it in kind."
And he did, zooming across the tiny intervening space between their two mouths like a rocket.
That was fucking inspirational. The third kiss was a snog, and better than any Draco could ever recall: wet, wild, and setting various parts and appendages to a frantic throbbing—like a bloody jungle beat it drove them on. Prompted, they moved rapidly on to a more intimate level: Draco tearing off the dangly buttons of Potter's pyjamas and fumbling with the knotted drawstring on his pants, Potter jerking Draco's wrinkled jersey right over his head.
"Well!" Potter's lashes were practically raising a gale, they moved so fast. "I didn't know you cared, Malfoy."
"I care, you cretin!" Draco growled, batting Potter familiarly on the shoulder. "You'd know it, too, if you ever took your eyes off your little foundling for more than three seconds strung together."
"Codhead," Potter replied, without too much heat. He tilted his head, meditatively rubbing at his swollen cock with a damp sweaty palm, and regarded the small form of Teddy, stationed across the top of the bed like a tiny, slightly sniffy Cupid. "Is he alright now, d'you think? Honestly?"
Draco sobered instantly, manfully ignoring the strained fabric compressing his dick.
"Yes, likely. We can go back to St. Mungo's, though, if you'd rather—have him checked over again. But he looks good now. Much better than before."
Potter sighed, dropping his messy head on his folded arms and flopping onto his bared stomach.
"Babies are so devilishly difficult, Draco—can't tell you how much grief I've had—"
"Care to share it?"
Draco gawped, then clamped his lips tight and narrow—far too late, of course; the Abraxan was already flying—nodded decisively and then blurted it again, enunciating, all in a blink's worth.
"I said, Potter, 'care to share it?' So, er, would you?"
"As in what, exactly?" Potter stared at him as if he were mad. Which Draco admitted privately he might very well be, but it was a nice sort of mad. It sure as Salazar Slytherin's Skivvies felt better than the half-life he'd been living before Potter—and child. "Sort of…sharing?"
"With me. All of it. Him, you. Got it?"
Potter took a brief second to interpret that cryptic set of syllables. Then he, too, bobbed his head, ever so slowly.
"Ah…I see. To recap—just to make certain I've got this straight, Malfoy—you'd like for us to continue to stay here?"
Draco nodded. Also glared, but that was understandable. Potter was torturing him, just a bit, and given the way his green eyes were gleaming, he was relishing it.
"Yes, you arse. Will you?"
Potter treated Draco to the full Pottery show: grin, dimples, eyelash flutters—everything laid on in gobs of highly irregular (for an employee) come-hither charm. However, less than an arm's length away from them the recovered baby happily gurgled, waving his itty-bitty fists and teensy-weensy feet in an odd form of upside-down victory dance, turtle-fashion.
When Draco sneaked a glance up at Potter's small charge, he immediately noticed the smile. It was absolutely a smile.
"Potter! Potter, look there—he's doing it!"
"Doing what?" Potter asked irritably, shrugging. "Is this the time for that, Malfoy? Because—oh! Oh, he is, isn't he? Merlin!"
"Told you so, didn't I?" Draco retorted, with all the smarm he could stuff in. "Listen to me once every eon or so, will you? I'm not fibbing."
"Brilliant!" Potter reached out a hand to pet his godson on the belly, completely entranced. "Who's a brilliant boy, then? You are, luv—you are!"
Teddy—the Brilliant—changed from his natural blond, grey-eyed self to mimic Potteresque colouring for an instant and then reverted back again, his eyes dancing with infantile joy.
Potter was so overcome he scrabbled forward to blow raspberries onto the baby's chubby belly, exclaiming excited little murmurs of adoration.
Any part of Draco that wasn't already preternaturally hard melted.
"Ahem," he cleared his throat, which was all at once terribly froggy. "He is, actually. Brilliant. To be expected, really, considering his lineage. And his parenting. Er—you were saying, Potter?"
The dark head swiveled back his way and he was caught in the full force of Potter's most devastatingly direct stare...which then softened, almost immediately.
"I was saying I would, Draco. Thank you."
The grin that split Draco's face rivaled the one his little cousin had just shared with them both, it was that brilliant. After a bit, Potter—by then most definitely Harry—blew some raspberries on Draco's belly, too. But only after he blew Draco's enthralled cock to an alternate universe.
Some thirteen months after that day, Draco's long-lost parents popped up on the Manor's marble stoop, surrounded by matching luggage and dressed to the utter nines.
They were greeted at the Manor's portico by not only Bodley and the elven cadre but also by Harry, who boasted a bit of a tummy—and also a perpetually curious, blond-maned, grey-eyed toddler attached to him, tucked well behind his godfather's trailing robes and almost out of sight of the newly arrived.
"Pardon?" Lucius Malfoy raised an arctic brow towards the soaring heights of the high-vaulted edifice before him. He stared at Harry as if he'd never before been introduced; perhaps he wished he hadn't. "Excuse me? And you are?"
"Harry? Harry Potter?" Narcissa Malfoy gasped incredulously at the same instant. She started forward, both hands outstretched, and caught up Harry's, grasping them warmly. "It can't be!"
Draco, who'd appeared by Harry's side the moment the wards pinged, stepped forward, gently nudging Harry slightly to the one side and behind him. The small blond boy fell back as well, disappearing even further behind the mingled robes of his elders.
"Oh, but, Draco, they've only just—" Harry began. "I mean, I was about to invite them in—"
"Hush, Potter! I'll handle this." Draco Malfoy cleared his throat and leveled an assessing look upon his parent's persons. "Now, Mother—Father. You'll remember Harry here and this is little Theodore Lupin, his godson, Mother's nephew and my godson, too, nowadays—and, well, ah—what a huge surprise! I've hardly expected you." His eyes narrowed menacingly upon Lucius Malfoy's appalled features. "After all this time."
"Draco," Lucius's hard eyes scanned the small greeting party, much askance. "Draco!"
"Darling," Narcissa twinkled, contrarily all smiles. "It's been far too long!"
Draco only bared his teeth, clearly in defense of his property. Teddy peeped out from the safety of his godfather's robes, blinking slowly at the tall blond couple who were examining both he and his godfather so freely. Harry nodded, amiably enough.
"Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy," he smiled politely, making another abortive move to usher them in. "It's a pleasure. Welcome home."
"What," Lucius demanded of his son, his nostrils flaring, "is the meaning of this, son? Why is Harry Potter cluttering up my foyer?" He glared at Harry with the fires of Hell blazing high in his pale blue eyes and stomped an irate heel to the marble flags. "Why on earth Potter, of all things? Draco! Explain yourself, this instant!"
"It really is you, isn't it?" Narcissa murmured. "Harry Potter, in my own home…and looking very well, mind you." She cast a weather eye over Harry, taking special note of the slight bump prominently displayed front and centre. "And—Merlin—Lucius, he's three months gone, too! He's expecting!"
Harry caught Draco's sidelong glance. It was a trifle anxious, but fiercely determined. Harry sent him a confident Slytherinesque smirk, giving his swollen belly a fond pat, and swiftly bent down to whisper a little something in his godson's ear as Lucius Malfoy launched into full rant-mode, gibbering about Potters, uninvited guests, squatters, rag-mannered sons and small noisy children, who were always about breaking heirlooms.
Teddy, who'd proved with age to possess all the fabled Black charm in generous helpings, plus a hefty dose of his godfather Potter's sweet wiles—and his great uncle-by-marriage Lucius Malfoy's bloody nerve—trotted forward on stubby little boy legs, right on queue.
"G'amma?" he chirped, blinking huge grey eyes the size of saucers. He'd a widow's peak in his ice-blond hair, was clutching a stuffed fuzzy dragon to his little chest, and resembled the wee Draco of yore to an amazing degree. "G'amma?"
Narcissa was felled in a blink and a heartbeat, down instantly upon her silk-stocking'd knees and enveloping him in a perfume-scented hug.
"Adorable!" she cried, beaming. "Precious little thing! Merlin, Circe, and Brede, darling—isn't he just precious, Lucius? And another on the way? Oh, my! Oh." She blinked rapidly, her eyes misty with emotion. "Oh, my dearest Draco—how marvellous for you both!"
But young Ted wasn't nearly finished the job. He fixed upon the towering figure of the Malfoy pater familias and smiled—and smiled, Potter-style. And piped up:
"Oh," Lucius blinked. He shifted uneasily under the wide-eyed stare of little Teddy. "Oh…well, if you're going to be that way about it…"
…And so the Malfoys immediately became five in number and then, in a matter of several ripening, productive months after that specific instant of introduction, six.
Six. Considered a very fortunate number by many, that one. There were books in the Library on the subject of the number six—and all manner of ready references on the art of Muggle numerology and its close magical relative, arithmancy. Organized quite nicely, thank you, by the Malfoy Family Archivist—Harry Potter.