The Spare Wand
Author's Note: I probably should have gotten someone to beta this since I lost track of wands and time and inserted some really bad metaphors, but I never do, so I didn't.
About this story: A couple of months ago I realised that my tenth anniversary of being on this site was coming up so I started a poll to see what people would like me to write as a present. Ninety percent of people picked an H/D fic (unsurprisingly). This is that fic.
x X X x
There was a weight in Harry's pocket just waiting to be released. It went with him through every change of clothing, and every night lay under his pillow next to his wand. Harry couldn't get rid of it. He imagined it felt something like the engagement ring sitting in Ron's pocket, waiting for the perfect time to be united with its owner. Except that Harry shouldn't have been waiting for the perfect moment. He didn't need to accompany it with a question and a promise of forever.
Returning Draco Malfoy's wand wasn't something Harry should have been afraid of. But he was.
Harry didn't understand his own feelings. It wasn't like he had to see Malfoy and talk to him. He could owl it. (But what if it got lost?) Or just drop it on Malfoy Manor's doorstep. (In some weird form of ding-dong-ditch?) He could even send it with Kreacher. (But Kreacher was a Black house elf. What if he didn't come back?) But all of those options seemed so impersonal.
Harry knew that it was only through a series of flukes and Dumbledore's planning that he'd managed to defeat Voldemort at all, and the biggest fluke was that he was the master of the Elder Wand only because he happened to snatch Malfoy's from him when he'd happened to have been Snatched himself. Harry felt the need to apologise and thank him, and he knew he had to do that in person.
Except that Harry couldn't work up the courage to just show up at Malfoy Manor. (What if Lucius Malfoy answered the door? What if his son wasn't home?) Or owl to arrange a meeting. (What if Malfoy didn't show up?) Harry had no idea what to say, anyway.
Officially, Harry told himself he was waiting until he'd come up with the right words to explain how he felt. So he wouldn't come off as a pompous jackass or just a complete fool. (Never mind that that was exactly what Draco Malfoy already thought of him.) But the longer he left it, the harder it was to think of the right words, because now he'd have to explain what had taken him so long, too. Harry wished he'd just done it while the high from the last battle was wearing off.
And when he was honest with himself, he was afraid that letting it go would mean letting go of Malfoy. Harry just hadn't quite worked out why that was so hard for him to do. On nights when he acknowledged this, Harry would have nightmares. Malfoy slipping off his broom, into the Fiendfyre in the Room of Requirement. Or worse, Malfoy's glassy eyes staring at him from a bathroom floor, his guts spilling over the tiles.
So Harry carried the wand in his pocket, and waited for a time when passing it over might be done organically.
x x x
Harry was in Diagon Alley looking for an engagement present for Hermione and Ron. Ron had finally proposed the night before and Harry had awoken to Ron's owl. He figured he'd best buy a present before his auror training exam period started. Unlike at Hogwarts, Harry actually had to spend a lot of time studying because he actually wanted to pass. Failing one exam would put him back six months in his training and if you failed more than three times you were automatically kicked out and would never be allowed to become an auror.
Of course, Harry had actually been thinking about an engagement present for Ron and Hermione ever since Ron had picked out a ring, but the two of them were so different from each other that it was near impossible to find something they could both appreciate. Harry was hoping some gift would just jump out at him when he saw it. So far nothing had.
The thing that next popped out at Harry was Draco Malfoy, between Eeylop's and Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. It was the first time they had set eyes on one another since Harry had taken to carrying Malfoy's wand around. Now that Harry was in this situation, he had absolutely no idea what he was going to do. No matter how many times he'd imagined this scenario.
Malfoy nodded at him. "Potter," he said.
Okay, thought Harry. The pretence of civility. He could handle that. "Er, hi," said Harry. He blushed. Since when was he this awkward around Malfoy?
"Eloquent as ever," said Malfoy with a smirk that seemed closer to a smile.
Harry shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant. "We can't all be as charming as you." That was supposed to be vaguely insulting, but came out too complimentary. Harry winced.
"So it would seem." Malfoy raised an eyebrow at him, and for a split second Harry was sure he saw a smile.
Deciding to get this over with, Harry started reach for the weight in his pocket, hoping to thrust it at Malfoy and run away before questions could be asked. As he did, Harry noticed the glow of a spell heading their way. "Get down!" he yelled and Malfoy, and went to grab his own wand, instead.
Malfoy did not comply. "What are you on about, Potter? Nothing's happening."
Harry goggled, reaching for Malfoy with his left arm, ready to pull him into the gap between two shops. "Didn't you see the-?"
Harry couldn't finish his sentence because he couldn't move. He could only watch helplessly as a man threw all manner of vicious spells at Malfoy. A Malfoy who was using his frozen body as a shield, and what? Why was Malfoy taking Harry's wand?
Harry started as Malfoy used the emergency spell that called for immediate auror assistance. A couple of aurors arrived within seconds and Malfoy finally released him from the body bind. Harry snatched his wand back, adrenaline sending his thoughts into overdrive. "What did you do that for? Don't tell me you never replaced your old wand." Harry's eyes were glued to Malfoy's even as he heard the fight go on in the background.
"Of course I did," said Malfoy. "But the auror assistance spell is keyed to wands. If I'd used mine do you really think these people would have shown up as fast as they did? To help a Malfoy?"
As much as Harry wanted to say he was wrong, he couldn't make Malfoy believe that lie. "Where's your wand then?" Harry asked.
Malfoy pulled out a length of ebony as dark as Harry's hair.
Harry had to make sure. "Expelliarmus," he said.
"What the hell, Potter? I just saved your life." Malfoy actually looked betrayed, and Harry felt guilty.
"I suppose you might have," said Harry. "But that will teach you not to touch another wizard's wand without permission." He handed Malfoy's ebony wand back with the other one he'd been carrying.
Malfoy blinked at him. "This is my wand. You had my wand. Do you always carry my wand?"
"A spare always comes in handy."
"And now?" said Malfoy.
Harry was saved from answering when the aurors returned. "We got him," said the man. "If you just tell us what happened we can all go."
Harry explained, and though the aurors looked at Malfoy suspiciously, they took Harry's word.
"What did he hope to accomplish by attacking in broad daylight?" asked Malfoy.
Harry was wondering the same thing himself.
"Funny thing," said the man. "He failed his auror entrance exam. Thought attacking a Death Eater in front of Harry Potter would serve as a replacement."
"I can see why they failed him," said Malfoy, brushing invisible lint off his sleeve.
"Perhaps he needs to be reminded that aurors go after criminals, not people found innocent by the Wizengamot," said Harry.
The aurors didn't quite look like they agreed with Harry, but didn't say anything. "Well that's everything," said the woman. "Just the paperwork to file. Enjoy the rest of your day."
"We will," said Harry. The aurors apparated on the spot, leaving Harry alone with Malfoy. That was definitely not a position he wanted to be in. "Bye Malfoy," he said, and apparated before Malfoy could ask anymore questions.
x x x
It was only when Harry saw the gigantic rock shining on Hermione's ring finger that he remembered he hadn't actually bought a present.
"Congratulations," said Harry. "Have you set a date yet?"
"Next September," said Hermione. "It's just enough time to plan a wedding. Your auror training will be over and I can take the month off before I start my internship."
"Sounds like a plan," said Harry.
"Don't I know it," said Ron, looking a little green.
"Is that why you didn't propose sooner?" asked Harry. "Afraid of planning a wedding?"
"Shut up, Harry."
"Sorry," said Harry, then stage whispered to Hermione. "He's been carrying that ring around for months."
"Months!" said Hermione. "I could have had months more time to plan this wedding?"
Harry sat back and watched them argue like the old married couple they would one day be.
When it was over, the three of them set the table and began to eat.
"It's too bad Ginny couldn't be here," said Hermione.
"She just would have complained about that diet she's on anyway," said Ron.
"Yeah," said Harry. "Sometimes it doesn't feel like I'm even dating Ginny during Quidditch season. It's like I'm dating her coach."
Ron laughed. Ginny's coach really brought the term 'harpy' to life.
Hermione frowned. "Are things going okay with Ginny?"
Technically she and Harry lived together, to Molly Weasley's continued consternation. Part of Harry's joy at Ron and Hermione's engagement was rooted in the belief that Molly would lay off him and Ginny for the moment. Next September he could worry anew; though he would no longer have Ron and Hermione to sympathise with him. Sometimes Harry agreed that it was too soon to be living with Ginny, but if he didn't, he'd probably never see her.
"Things are good," said Harry. Besides Quidditch, he really did have no complaints. The fact that Ginny could not cook and sometimes left wet towels on the floor had nothing to do with their relationship.
"Lay off him, Hermione," said Ron. "Can't you see he's practically glowing? I guess Ginny was home last night."
Harry hadn't realised he was glowing. Ginny had been home last night, but she'd been too tired to do more than collapse into bed next to Harry. This morning she'd been gone before he woke up. The Harpies had to beat the Falcons this weekend of they'd have no hope of remaining in the competition. As it was, they were desperately hoping for a few other matches to fall their way, too.
"You'll never guess who I ran into today," said Harry, as his train of thought continued from that morning.
"Professor Lockhart," guessed Ron.
"Lockhart?" said Harry. "Why would you even think that?"
"He was the subject of a new experimental therapy," said Hermione. "He still doesn't remember anything about the past, but he's regained enough of his wits to rejoin society."
Harry didn't like the idea. Whether he remembered or not, Lockhart had been stealing people's memories for years. What if he started up again?
"And of course Hermione knows everything about it," said Ron. "And had to share it with me on more than one occasion."
Hermione did not blush. "I was monitoring his case because I wanted to know if they could get his memories back. That's all." She sat up. "Who did you see, Harry?"
"Draco Malfoy," said Harry.
"Oh," said Hermione. She sounded almost disappointed. "You didn't make a scene, did you?"
"It wasn't my fault," said Harry immediately. He launched into the story of the attack before Hermione could argue that it was entirely his fault. Harry did leave out the part about returning Malfoy's wand, though.
"Harry are you sure you disarmed Malfoy after he took your wand?" asked Hermione.
"Of course," said Harry.
"But you gave it back to him," said Hermione.
"Well what else was I supposed to do?" said Harry. "I couldn't just steal his wand."
"But there's no record of anyone getting the wand's power back after he or she got it. Who knows what the consequences would be."
"Well if you can't take the wand back," said Harry. "Then Malfoy can't get it back. I got it from him in the first place, remember."
"Hang on," said Ron. "Didn't you give Malfoy back his first wand after the war?" Harry cursed himself for ever mentioning the plan to Ron. But how could he have known he'd be incapable of returning the thing?
"Harry, you didn't!" Hermione seemed horrified by the idea. Harry supposed it was justified. If Hermione thought he'd returned the wand years ago, the wand's power could have been transferred through dozens of people by now. It would be impossible to track down and they'd have no hope of letting the wand's power die a natural death.
"Actually," said Harry, feeling like it was time to come clean. "Today was the first time I'd seen Malfoy since I decided to give it back. So I only returned it today."
"But it's been years," said Ron.
"Well I don't know what you were thinking, Harry Potter, but we'd better go and make sure Malfoy isn't he master of the Elder Wand."
"In the morning," said Harry. "It's bad enough we'll have to open Dumbledore's tomb. We can't do it in the middle of the night."
x x x
When Harry got back to his place, Ginny was already in bed asleep. There was an eagle owl waiting for him, and if he hadn't seen Malfoy earlier that day, he would have thought nothing of it. Now Harry wondered if this was the same owl Malfoy had kept throughout Hogwarts. Harry looked at the owl sadly as he took the letter and fed it an owl treat. He missed Hedwig.
Harry turned the letter over and unsealed the wax Malfoy crest. Well that settled that.
"I think it best we meet as I have a few questions to ask you. Hence you are invited to tea at Malfoy Manor tomorrow afternoon at three. Your prompt arrival is anticipated.
Typical Malfoy, expecting Harry to drop everything to speak to him. Well Harry had no intention of that ever happening. He most certainly did not want to discuss anything to do with wands. The owl hooted at him, waiting for an answer. Harry penned it with a Muggle biro quickly.
"No thank you. - Potter."
The owl took off with it, but seemed to know that Harry had refused its master's request. It seemed to snort at him as though to say he was only wasting his time. Harry bit down on the urge to stick his tongue out at the owl. Malfoy could try all he wanted, but Harry's lips were sealed on that subject.
x x x
Harry awoke to an empty bed, an unimpressed eagle owl, and Ron and Hermione chatting in his living room.
"Sorry," Harry said to the bird as he got dressed. "That's going to have to wait."
Hermione had made coffee while she waited and there was a plate of breakfast on the table for him. At first Harry thought Ginny had left it for him, then realised the plate with its floral border was not part of his set. "You brought me breakfast?"
"Good thing we did," said Ron. "Gin was in a real hurry to get out of here. Said she had trouble getting out of bed." Harry liked to cuddle. Ginny liked that Harry liked to cuddle, but didn't much appreciate the act itself.
As Harry ate, Hermione mentioned that she'd owled Professor McGonagall to mention their visit.
"Did you tell her we planned on opening Dumbledore's tomb?" asked Harry.
"No," said Hermione. "Just that we were paying our respects and that Harry would prefer not to be disturbed."
"Everyone should be in class anyway," said Ron. Hermione had taken the morning off work and Ron and Harry were supposed to be on study vacation in preparation for their end of term exams.
"He says as though he never skipped a class in his life," said Hermione.
Ron ignored her. "If there's one thing I've learned from auror training," he said. "It's how to put up a privacy ward."
"Oh really?" said Harry. "I thought it was how to eavesdrop from the next room."
"If Fred and George knew you didn't need an Extendable Ear..." None of the Weasleys ever referred to Fred as dead, or in the past tense. But Fred-and-George had died in the war. And there was nothing they could do to bring him back.
"If Fred and George knew there were no spells to detect Extendable Ears..." said Harry. When Ron had asked that question in their first year of auror training, their teacher had sheepishly replied that a physical examination of one's surroundings was always required.
Harry finished his breakfast and the three of them apparated to Hogsmeade. They decided to enter through the Shrieking Shack, just in case anyone happened to be watching the front gates.
Once inside the shack, Harry paused for a moment to pay his respects to Snape and Lupin. The shack was exactly the same as it had been the last time Harry was here; when he'd shown the wizards from St Mungo's where Snape's body lay. Snape probably hated that he'd had to die here of all places, but it was now an official war memorial... if an ill-tended and less frequently visited one.
With practised ease they went through the tunnel and into the school grounds. It looked so different now. McGonagall had taken the damage sustained after the war as an opportunity to refurbish the place. Three-quarters of it was no longer considered old by Wizarding standards. Muggle-born students would still think they were travelling back in time a couple of centuries.
Skirting the castle, they ended up in the graveyard. The trio maintained a minute's silence for Dumbledore, then began casting privacy wards.
"Sorry," Harry apologised, and lifted his wand to move aside the stone sealing the tomb. That was as far as he got. He couldn't do it.
Hermione took over while Harry examined the grass. Ron was patrolling the perimeter of their privacy wards.
"You have to be the one to do it," said Hermione, when the task was done. She wouldn't dare touch the Elder Wand.
Harry kept his eyes fixed on the robe Dumbledore had been buried in. He lifted the wand from beside him. "Lumos," he said, and the light cast overwhelmed that of the sun. Possibly even their privacy wards.
Harry set the wand back into the grave, his grief now overwhelming his concern. He's disturbed his mentor's grave for no reason. "Satisfied, Hermione?" She too looked a little guilty. Ron said nothing.
Hermione shut the tomb quickly and the three of them were off before they even thought to step in and say hello to Professor McGonagall.
x x x
When Harry got home, a peevish owl pecked him on the nose. "Alright," said Harry, taking the letter and swatting the owl away.
"Before I met you, I always wondered if mudblood boorishness really was genetic. When one is issued an invitation to tea, it is considered polite to accept it. Had your blood traitor father lived, you might have stood a chance.
"You will be at tea at Malfoy Manor at three p.m.
Harry rolled his eyes. Typical Malfoy, again. Just the same as that day in Madam Malkin's. Harry caught a glimpse of his reflection off a mirror and was surprised to see a smile. Had he changed so much since then?
The owl hooted at him.
"I get it," said Harry. "You want a reply."
"I am heartily sorry to have to inform you that I am unable to make it to tea this afternoon. I have a prior engagement.
"Have your secretary call mine to reschedule."
The reply was quick.
"A Malfoy handles his own personal affairs. Which Weasel is your secretary?"
Harry laughed out loud, leading the owl to turn its head to look at him.
"Learn to take a joke."
There were no more messages that day.
x x x
Malfoy was up to something. The Quidditch season was over, so Ginny was back to normal and Harry couldn't even enjoy it because Malfoy was everywhere he went. He hadn't stopped inviting Harry to have a conversation with him. Each time attempting a different venue, date and time.
Harry also seemed to run into him in person far more often. He couldn't have been imagining it, he'd been carrying the man's wand for almost four years. He would have noticed the man. Something had to be up. Before the run in at Diagon Alley, Harry hadn't seen the man since Crabbe's funeral. Now he was everywhere.
Apparently he'd set up shop as an apothecary and recently the Ministry had decided he was trustworthy enough to be their main supplier of the potions they didn't want their potions masters wasting their time on, which were still necessary for day to day activities.
Maybe that explained the first time he had run into Malfoy in the Ministry Atrium. It didn't explain the next dozen times. Surely Malfoy had underlings for that, and why would he need to make deliveries so many times a week? Did Malfoy truly have nothing better to do than stalk Harry?
x x x
Ginny frowned at Harry from across the dinner table. She'd really made an effort with dinner and Harry wasn't eating it. Sure it wasn't Molly Weasley perfect, but it was at least edible.
"What's wrong?" she finally asked him.
"Nothing," said Harry.
"Oh come on," said Ginny. "I know you better than that. Is it training?"
Harry had passed all his exams and they'd started the next round of courses with nothing more than a weekend to get his head around the change. But that had been almost a month ago. "I just wish I didn't keep running into Malfoy everywhere," he admitted.
"So do I," said Ginny, setting down her fork.
Harry looked up. "What do you mean by that?"
"Well it doesn't really seem like you're making much of an effort," she said. "If you stopped sending him owls he might actually think you don't want to talk to him."
"I'm just refusing his invitations."
"You feed his owl so often it's like we own a second one." As a couple they'd purchased a barn owl and Ginny had named him Mercury.s
"I'm sure Malfoy feeds his owl. We give treats to all the owls your coach sends."
"Once a week," said Ginny. "Not every bloody day."
Ginny was more upset than Harry had seen her in a long time. It made his heart ache. He hated seeing her like this. He wanted to fix it, but he wasn't really sure what was going on. "This isn't about Malfoy's owl, is it?"
Ginny sucked in a deep breath. "I'm pregnant."
x x x
It was easy for Harry to ignore Malfoy after that. Ginny and Harry were talking now. More than they had since the last Quidditch season had started up. They were going to keep the baby of course, there just didn't seem to be any reason not to. Of course Ginny's Quidditch career would have to pause for a season, but the Harpies had already agreed they'd be taking her back for the next one. Provided Ginny still wanted to, of course.
Babies inevitably led Harry to think of that which he'd always been taught was supposed to come first, but Ginny absolutely refused to get married. She wasn't going to force Harry into something he wasn't ready for, and Harry let her believe it because he knew she was the one who wasn't ready yet. She was afraid of losing her independence entirely, so Harry didn't push her. He didn't want her to see him as the enemy.
Then one afternoon, Ginny got tired of sitting around the house. She took her broom and though at first she was flying, soon she was falling.
x x x
Harry clutched Ginny's hand tightly as she lay in the bed at St Mungo's. He didn't need to hear the healer say it, but the man did anyway. The baby was gone.
Harry didn't know how long he sat there, just clinging to Ginny's hand as she slept her healing sleep. All sorts of crazy thoughts flew though his head. He wished that he'd been the one to carry the baby instead. Ginny wouldn't have minded. His mother had protected him, and so too would she protect the baby. Unfortunately, now that protection was only to be gained in the afterlife. Afterlife? The baby hadn't lived. The afterlife would be his baby's life... forever.
The next day, when Ginny was pronounced fit and well, as though she'd not been pregnant the day before, she walked out of St Mungo's and didn't go home with Harry.
x x x
With Ginny gone, all Harry had to focus on was his job. Somewhere between finding out about the baby and losing it, Harry had managed to graduate auror training. It was now the only thing he had left. He started spending strange hours at the Ministry, looking for cases when he wasn't out patrolling. And maybe Harry was just looking for crimes everywhere, but he started noticing Malfoy again.
The letters had stopped coming once Harry had stopped responding, and with his mind full of thoughts of the baby, Harry hadn't noticed Malfoy and had barely spoken to him. But now Harry's thoughts were on Malfoy again. Fully focused as they were, Harry stopped seeing anything suspicious.
Malfoy's apothecary was small. He had only two employees and one worked solely on the books while the other tended his store front. The Ministry would never deign to send someone to retrieve the order, and so Malfoy had to make the deliveries.
The reason he came so frequently was that Malfoy only produced small batches of potions and there were some which could not be placed under stasis charms and therefore expired quickly. Harry found this information simply by reading Malfoy's file- not the criminal one, simply the one kept for each of the Ministry's employees and contractors.
Feeling mildly guilty for being so suspicious (even if it was Malfoy), Harry began acknowledging Malfoy when he saw him. Just a nod here and there, but apparently that was too much for Malfoy.
Soon after Harry began nodding at the blond, he ran into Malfoy as they were both leaving. Not one for missing an opportunity, Malfoy walked right up to Harry, grabbed his elbow and did not stop pulling at it until they were out on the street in Muggle London. Of course, Harry could have stopped him at any time with his auror training, but as was always the case with Malfoy, Harry behaved contrarily.
"I've had enough, Potter," Malfoy said as they walked down the street together.
Malfoy's overcloak looked enough like an overcoat that the Muggles didn't stare, and having never got the hang of wizarding robes, Harry had gotten into the habit of changing out of his auror robes before he left the Ministry.
Malfoy frowned at Harry, and Harry found himself momentarily distracted. "You're going to explain to me what exactly you think you're doing. This hot and cold business is starting to wear thin."
"Hot and cold?" repeated Harry. He was puzzled but he ignored it. "I haven't been doing anything."
"Oh you have," said Malfoy. "Don't deny it. First you give me back my wand, then you give me the run around by never being available for tea, then you ignore my like yesterday's news. Suddenly you're civil again? I don't like it, Potter, and I'd appreciate it if you would just stop."
"When have I ever done anything you like, Malfoy?" said Harry, not entirely sure what Malfoy was asking of him.
Malfoy's frustration boiled over and he pushed Harry up against a wall in a parody of their Hogwarts days. It was familiar and comforting to Harry, and he made no move to push Malfoy off. One of the passing Muggles yelled something about faggots and Malfoy took a step back. It was never good for a wizard to attract any sort of attention in the Muggle world. "Just tell me what happened, Potter."
Maybe it was the earnest expression on Malfoy's face, maybe it was the setting sun, or maybe Harry just needed to tell someone. Harry answered his question. "Ginny had a miscarriage."
Malfoy almost fell backwards before he regained control of himself. "She was pregnant with your baby?"
Harry nodded. "We'd only told the Weasleys."
"I'm sorry," Malfoy said and Harry almost believed him.
"Don't say things you don't mean."
An ugly expression crossed Malfoy's face. "Just go back to ignoring me, Potter." He pulled out his hawthorn wand and thrust it at Harry. "And take this with you."
Malfoy stalked off. Harry watched as he turned the corner. He felt like he should follow him, but knew that Malfoy would already be gone.
Harry slipped the wand back into the pocket it had occupied for years. It felt familiar, but no longer burdening in the way it had felt before. Actually, now knowing that Malfoy wasn't still holding out for an explanation, Harry felt lighter all over.
Light enough to go and talk to Ginny for the first time since the miscarriage.
x x x
Ron and Hermione's wedding was happier even than Harry had imagined. He and Ginny, after starting out slowly, were back together again. Ginny anchored Harry, whether she was lying next to him in their bed, or halfway across the world playing Quidditch against Australia. She kept Harry form just floating away and he needed that. Because if he floated away, he didn't know where he would end up. He would be ten years old again, staying with the Dursleys because he had nowhere to run to... no reason to run away.
It didn't start until the reception, but as anticipated, Molly Weasley turned her eyes to Harry and Ginny and asked the question: "When are you two finally going to tie the knot?"
Ginny withdrew into herself as she always did when the subject came up, leaving Harry to fend off the question. "We're not quite ready yet," said Harry. They'd gotten through the tragedy of the baby, but could they get through it if it happened again? "A few years, perhaps." Because to Harry, it felt inevitable. He and Ginny would get married one day, most likely in the next ten years. He felt like they couldn't go through what they had without it meaning forever.
"Your children will be beautiful," said one of Molly's cousins who was sitting with her.
Both Harry and Ginny paled. Ginny fled from the room, and with a nod acknowledging Molly's sympathetic smile, Harry went after her.
When Harry caught up, Ginny was staring over the balcony, out across the ocean. Harry stood beside her and slipped his arm around her waist when she leaned in to him. She turned to face him and he pulled her in closer. They locked eyes. There were no tears in hers. In fact, Ginny seemed resolved. She wrapped her arms around Harry's neck and he slid his around her waist. They were almost dancing.
"Let's do it," said Ginny.
Harry froze. Did she mean what he thought she did? "Don't let anything they said get to you," he said. "It's your decision. Our decision. They don't get to bully us into something we're not ready for."
Ginny looked thoughtful. "Do you not want to? I don't mean tomorrow. I don't mean right now. Some time. Any time."
"I do," said Harry.
"Then let's make it official."
"I want you to be sure," Harry said, examining her eyes for doubts. "This has nothing to do with what your mum said, or the fact that we just watched your brother marry the love of his life."
"Nothing." She turned to scan the horizon again. "Well maybe a little. Who could resist this view?"
Harry laughed. Then Ginny unclasped her hands and slid her fingers through his. "Harry Potter, will you marry me?"
Harry laughed again. "Of course, Gin. Will you marry me?"
She flashed a perfect smile at him. The one her fans would never see. "Just say when."
They sealed the deal with a kiss, Ginny never realising that the wand digging into her abdomen belonged to Draco Malfoy.
x x x
Harry and Ginny were married almost exactly one year later. The year after that, they celebrated their first wedding anniversary by going island hopping with Ron and Hermione. It was a perfect holiday, so much so that the two couples promised to make it a yearly tradition.
But the following year, Ginny got pregnant again and the yearly holiday couldn't become a tradition. Ginny retired from Quidditch and started writing about it instead.
And that was when Draco Malfoy married Astoria Greengrass.
For reasons Harry didn't quite comprehend, this information made him want to seek out the blond man and talk to him. He felt like he should be telling Malfoy that it was a stupid mistake because he couldn't possibly be marrying for love. But Harry had no right to say that. He didn't have any idea what Malfoy and Astoria felt for each other. It had seemed to come out of nowhere, but perhaps it hadn't. The thought made his gut clench.
But Harry didn't speak with Draco Malfoy. There was Ginny to worry about, and baby James, still so fragile within her womb. He respected Malfoy enough to respect his wish to be left alone.
x x x
Though James' birth had gone smoothly, Harry couldn't help feeling worried when Ginny revealed she thought she was pregnant again. Unfortunately, all he could do was sit with James in the waiting room of the maternity healer's office while Ginny went in to see him. Ginny never liked having Harry with her during the appointments. Harry respected that even if he didn't fully understand it.
Harry was alone, save for James and the healer's receptionist, when Draco Malfoy flooed in, also surprisingly alone. Malfoy's eyes landed on him immediately, as Harry had sat facing the floo. Malfoy was obviously going to choose to wait on the other side of the room when Harry grinned at him and waved him over. Harry's respect for Draco Malfoy was always greater when he wasn't in the man's presence.
Knowing a lost cause when he saw one, Malfoy frowned and sat beside Harry. At least that way they could speak without the receptionist overhearing them.
"I told you to ignore me," said Malfoy, not looking at Harry.
Harry shrugged and lifted James, smiling at the baby. "Everything changes when you have a kid."
Malfoy eyed James curiously. The boy blew bubbles at him. "He looks perfectly healthy."
"Is that your way of asking why I'm here?"
"Actually, Potter," said Malfoy, again avoiding eye contact. "That was my way of saying it looks like things worked out."
And that, thought Harry, was Malfoy's way of saying he was glad that things worked out. "Ginny's in with the healer. She's having a pregnancy test done," Harry explained.
Surprisingly, Malfoy didn't launch right into a joke about Weasleys and their ability to procreate. Instead he said, "Astoria's pregnant. I'm early for her appointment, unfortunately. Not only is the healer not ready, my wife isn't here."
"Right," said Harry. He was glad Astoria wasn't here. He wouldn't know what to say to her and thus would have had to ignore Malfoy.
Just then the floo flared and Malfoy stood, thinking it was his wife. But it was a man who stepped out of the fireplace and he disarmed Malfoy before he could even arm himself.
If Harry weren't currently carrying his son, the man wouldn't have gotten that far, but all Harry's auror instincts were currently focused on protecting his son. Harry felt extremely vulnerable. He'd only been a little older than James when his parents died. What if that had started some sort of family curse? He prayed that Ginny would take her time with the healer.
"Wands where I can see them," the man said, training his wand on Harry and glaring at the witch who was quickly placing hers on the desk in front of her.
Not liking the wand pointed so closely at his son, Harry handed James to Malfoy without a second thought. He slowly reached for his wand and set it down on the ground, kicking it away from both himself and the man.
"Stand next to her," he said, training his wand on Harry and gesturing toward the receptionist with Malfoy's wand.
"Please," the receptionist began begging. "Please don't do anything stupid, Mr Robards."
The man wasn't a Robards Harry had ever met before, but he noticed comprehension dawn in Malfoy's eyes. James began to cry and Harry reached for him. As Malfoy passed him back, Harry almost jumped when he felt Malfoy's hand inside his jacket. Luckily he contained himself when he realised Malfoy was just going for the hawthorn wand. He frowned. How had Malfoy known it was there?
Harry used his body to shield James and the wand from Robards' view. The man occupied himself by demanding the receptionist tell the healer to see him.
Malfoy silently disarmed and bound Robards before the receptionist could send the inter-office memo.
"That's twice I've saved your life now, Potter," said Malfoy.
"Really?" said Harry, feeling almost hysterically relieved to have the immediate threat removed. "You're keeping track?"
"It's not everyone who personally gets to save the life of the great Harry Potter."
"It's not everyone whose life needs saving by the great Harry Potter."
Malfoy smirked. "You've been keeping track, too."
"You know what I've been keeping track of, Malfoy? That's the second time you've taken my wand without permission."
"But Harry," drawled Malfoy. "This is my wand."
Harry rolled his eyes, but couldn't stop the corners of his mouth quirking into a smile. "I suppose that's why you gave it back to me."
"I suppose that's why you're still carrying it around."
"A spare always comes in handy."
"I guess I'll be keeping this, then," said Malfoy.
Harry went to retrieve the only wand he'd ever used that he actually considered his. The receptionist was thanking Malfoy profusely, with a rather more than friendly hug.
And that was the scene Astoria Malfoy flooed into: Harry Potter squatting on the floor, holding his son, a man bound on the floor, and a receptionist suffocating her husband.
Harry straightened. "You're lucky you didn't get here sooner," said Harry.
Astoria looked down her nose at Harry and he could see why Malfoy had married her. He'd certainly never been able to look down his nose at someone taller than him. "I don't recall being introduced."
Ah, thought Harry. A nineteenth-century pure-blood.
Malfoy was the epitome of cool as he extracted himself from the receptionist's grip and went to greet his wife with a perfunctory kiss on the cheek.
"What is going on here, Draco?" she asked, though Harry suspected she didn't want to know the answer.
"This man," said Malfoy, poking him with the metal-capped toe of his boot. "Was rather upset that his wife hadn't yet become pregnant. Fortunately he had to be stopped before he resorted to violence."
When had Malfoy worked that out? Harry was supposed to be the auror.
"Will you be getting rid of him any time soon, Auror Potter?" asked Malfoy. Harry didn't need to look at him to know he was smirking. Yet he hadn't taken the opportunity to brag about his victory to his wife.
Harry glanced between James and Robards. Before today he'd never felt so much conflict between his job and his family. Not even when death threats were sent to his home. "In a minute," he said. Ginny would be out soon since Astoria was here. It didn't seem worth the effort of explaining the situation to someone who was actually on duty.
"All hail the efficiency of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement," said Malfoy.
"Feel free to take my job, Malfoy," said Harry. "You can take him in and say Harry Potter sent you."
"Not likely," said Malfoy.
Ginny entered the room, followed by the healer. Ginny frowned, her eyes swinging from the body to Harry and settling on James. Only then did she drop her hand from the hilt of her wand. She strode over and pulled James from Harry.
The healer was a lot less calm about the situation. Harry supposed he was one of those lucky few people who'd managed to stay out of Voldemort's war. "Why is Mr Robards tied up on my floor?" he demanded to know.
It looked like Mr Robards wanted to explain himself. Harry stepped between the two men. "It seems he wasn't particularly impressed with the service you provided him. He was rather too insistent upon seeing you, even after your secretary told him you were busy."
"Oh," said the healer.
"Thankfully," continued Harry. "Mr Malfoy was able to disarm him." He turned to Ginny. "Can you take James home? I'd better get Mr Robards to the Ministry."
Ginny nodded at Harry, but not before shooting Malfoy a distinctly dirty look. "You can't be near him for five minutes without needing to hex someone," she said to Harry.
Harry was unapologetic. Nothing she could say could stop him from feeling light-hearted. "Let's go, Robards."
x x x
Harry and his three children were at the Quidditch World Cup. Actually, Harry thought, the entire English magical population was at the Cup. It was the first time in a hundred years that England's team had made it to the final and was hosting it. Wandering around camp everyone seemed to think it was a foregone conclusion that England would win. It helped that they were playing against Thailand; the home side advantage was wildly out of proportion.
Though Harry had refused special treatment in the Minister's box, the seats they had were just as good. They were the best seats Harry thought money should be able to buy. Private boxes with house elf service just weren't keeping with the spirit of Quidditch.
Albus had wanted to stay home. Quidditch wasn't really his thing and he intensely disliked crowds. As much as Harry liked to spoil his children, he wasn't going to let Al miss out on the World Cup. Harry hadn't dared take them all the last time the cup was played. But Harry did feel bad making Al do something he didn't want to do. He was always so good tempered about it that somehow Harry always felt he was abusing him, more so than one of Lily's tantrums or James' fits. But neither of them was going to complain about going to the Quidditch World Cup final.
Ginny, of course, was working and had a seat in the press box. Ron, Hermione and their kids had gotten more reasonably priced tickets and weren't sitting near them, though the entire Weasley clan had tents right beside each other. The kids were running around entirely on adrenaline, because of it (even Al).
Against Harry's better judgement, Ginny had volunteered to have all the Weasley cousins sleep in their tent last night. Victoire had decided not to, but Dominique and Louis were there. As were Fred and Roxanne, Molly and Lucy, and of course Rose and Hugo. It was chaos, but the sort of chaos that Harry loved. The sort he'd wished he'd known growing up.
Officially, the kids had all been in bed at ten o'clock. Unofficially, Harry wasn't sure if any of them had slept at all. They were all wide eyed when he got up to make breakfast.
Although the kids were excited to be at their first World Cup, they were also a little lethargic and crabby. Harry practically had to push James up the stairs and Lily was begging to be carried. That was when Harry's little family stumbled across an eerily familiar tableau. Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy were patiently awaiting the start of the match, and beside them was a tiny, blond Scorpius Malfoy. Beside him was his father, but Astoria was missing. There were only four empty seats beside him and Harry knew they were for him and his children. Harry supposed Astoria was not one for Quidditch. Doubtless she found it unladylike or something equally ridiculous.
Harry nodded politely to Lucius and Narcissa as they walked past to get to their seats. After the war, Lucius had had the good sense to refrain from antagonising Harry in public. Harry owed his life to Narcissa, so politeness was the least he could offer her.
Before Harry had time to wonder how much he should say to Draco Malfoy as they passed him, Albus dropped his drink all over Scorpius' lap. Al was mortified. Scorpius was pale with shock. Harry was only sorry that Al would take this mistake to heart and give it more weight than it deserved.
"Sorry," said Harry, taking out his wand to clean up the spill.
"Don't," said Malfoy. "Do you know how much those pants cost?"
Scorpius had the decency to look embarrassed by his father. Harry shot him a covert wink that he was sure Narcissa caught sight of.
"I'll clean them," said Malfoy. With a wave of his ebony wand, the mess was gone. Meanwhile, the kids had sat down, leaving the seat beside Malfoy empty. That screwed up Harry's plan to separate James from Al and Lily.
"I'll go get another drink," said Harry, then realised he couldn't just leave his kids unattended. They weren't the best behaved at the best of times. Unsupervised, it was Weasley twin level chaos, though more malicious. But if Harry brought them all with him, it was likely he'd have a drag his kids arguing through a crowd.
"I'll watch them," said Malfoy, noticing Harry's hesitation.
Harry stared at him. Had Malfoy just offered to do him a favour? "Watch my kids?" He eyed his troublemakers. "There are three of them."
"I'll watch them for you, Mr Potter," said the woman sitting on the other side of Al. Harry had never seen that woman before in his life.
Well, that settled it for Harry. He wasn't leaving his kids anywhere near any helpful strangers. "Al," Harry hissed. "Let's go get a refill." Al stood reluctantly. "Come on James, Lily."
"But dad," protested James. "We might miss the beginning of the match." That the Potters were only just getting to their seats was also a result of that Weasley sleepover.
"I don't want to talk up all those stairs again," said Lily.
"Seriously Potter," said Malfoy. "It's fine."
It wasn't Malfoy he was worried about anymore. It was the strange woman with the over eager smile on her face. Malfoys were the devil he knew.
But Malfoy smirked at him, and Harry realised he could trust the man to fend off that complete stranger. "All right," Harry said finally. "Al, you come here and sit next to Mr Malfoy. He's going to watch you while I get a new drink."
"Can't I come with you?" asked Al. "It was my fault."
"I don't want you to miss the beginning of the game."
Poor Al seemed to take that to mean he was being punished as he slumped into his new seat with a pout.
"James, mind your sister and all three of you listen to Mr Malfoy if he tells you something."
Something like horror crossed James' face. "Malfoy? But Uncle Ron says-"
"I know what Uncle Ron says," said Harry. "He was exaggerating. I'll only be a minute."
"I'll be a good girl," said Lily.
"Thank you Lily," said Harry. He turned to Malfoy. "Are you sure?"
"Potter, the drink witch is just there." He pointed to the bottom of their section. "What do you really think is going to happen?"
"Well," said Harry. "At the last World Cup held in England, I seem to recall an invisible Death Eater stealing my wand and using it to cast a Dark Mark." The Malfoys' part in the rest of that situation remained unspoken.
Malfoy rolled his eyes. He pulled out his hawthorn wand and handed it to Harry. "Now you have a spare."
Harry handed it back. "You're the one watching the kids."
But the wandplay put a smile on Harry's face which didn't leave even as he stood in a ridiculously long queue for a drink. While he was there the pre-game show started.
When Harry returned with drinks and snacks, the seating arrangements had changed. Malfoy was sitting beside the overly helpful woman with Scorpius and Lily beside him. James actually seemed engrossed in conversation with Narcissa Malfoy while Lucius pretended he wasn't equally interested in the conversation. The empty seat was now between James and Albus. Harry wondered whether James had moved away on his own or if something had happened to separate them.
Since everything seemed settled, Harry sat down. He mouthed a thank you to Malfoy over the kids' heads. He hadn't fancied sitting beside that woman for however long the game went on.
"Here's your drink, Al," said Harry, settling it into the cupholder.
"Thanks," he said quietly.
"Guess what dad," said James.
"What?" said Harry.
"Mrs Malfoy says they've got peacocks at their house. And not just any peacocks, albino ones! Do you know what that means, dad?" Well that explained James' interest in the conversation. He was enamoured of animals of every kind. Harry tried to keep him away from Hagrid as often as possible.
"Why don't you tell me," said Harry.
"It means they're all white! There's no colour on them anywhere. Can we get peacocks, dad?"
"Look," said Narcissa, saving Harry from having to answer that question. "It's about to start."
It was surprisingly pleasant watching Quidditch with the Malfoys. It was funny to see Lily get so excited when England got the quaffle.
Scorpius spent the whole match goggling at Lily until she managed to goad him into cheering whenever England score the way she did - by jumping up and down and pumping her fists in the air.
Lucius ignored the fact that anyone else was watching the game with him. He clapped politely when England scored and otherwise pretended to be unimpressed by everything.
James ate as he watched the game exactly the way Ron did. Harry thought it was the strangest thing to find out how like his best friend his own son was.
Narcissa actually seemed to be mothering James. She'd slide his drink aside if it looked like he was going to bump into it, though Harry thought it may be more for her own protection, and James actually listened to her, whatever she told him. He'd sit while drinking, and keep his mouth shut while chewing.
Al, of course, seemed bored by the proceedings and Harry spent his time trying to get him to enjoy it by explaining the plays. As it was, Al fell asleep.
And then there was Malfoy himself, making the snide comments he was famous for. But when they weren't aimed at Harry or his friends, he couldn't help but find them amusing.
As the sun set, the game was still going strong and Harry suddenly felt he and Al were suddenly swimming in a sea of red-gold. The sun lit the Malfoys' hair on fire and added to that of Lily and James'. It was beautiful and for a second, Harry could imagine no more perfect family moment.
Then Thailand scored against a hail of boos. It was enough to wake Al who then desperately needed the bathroom, and that was that.
The kids started dropping at eight, and Harry began to wonder whether it was better to let them sleep here or to return them to the tent if the game went on much longer. But Malfoy said they wouldn't want to miss it, and Harry decided it was less trouble to stay seated.
At about ten-thirty, the Seekers started toward something that actually looked like the snitch, so he shook James and Al awake, while focusing his ominoculars on the snitch race. Malfoy shook Lily awake as the English Seeker caught it and the match was over. The kids were suddenly bubbling over with energy again.
The two families walked back to the campground together. Harry found himself holding Al's hand and watching Lily and Scorpius walk hand in hand behind Lucius and Narcissa with James. His shoulder brushed Malfoy's and he found it strangely comforting amidst the post-game pandemonium, like solid ground after an afternoon of swimming.
"This was fun," said Harry.
"It wasn't the worst Quidditch match I've ever been to."
Harry grinned. He watched James suddenly race off and saw him join Fred and Louis who were setting off red and white firecrackers. Malfoy drew away from him and Harry realised he'd been leaning on the other man. That threw him off balance physically and mentally.
"Come along Scorpius," said Malfoy, taking his son's free hand.
And though Lily screamed, Scorpius left like a good little boy. The chill of the night air seemed to get to Harry just as he reached the Weasley tents.
x x x
It was the twentieth anniversary of the opening of the fist Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and George wanted to make sure it was twice as big as their tenth anniversary celebrations. It was a family affair. Not content with the presence of his siblings and their offspring, George had invited every other Weasley alive. As a result, though the celebration was open to the public, every second head was red. Harry's was too, since George had insisted. Al's was too, and Harry worried he seemed almost too happy about that.
Harry had long ago lost track of his children in the chaos of the celebration carnival. It extended through half of Diagon Alley and through the entire Wheezes building, including its brand new fourth storey.
Ginny too, had ditched Harry. She'd run off with an also red-headed Hermione because she said seeing Harry that way reminded her too much of her brothers. She'd added that if he wasn't going to take the spell off (Harry couldn't, George had been very specific when casting), then she was not going to look at him.
Ron had abandoned him next, when Hugo had come crying that some of his more distant cousins were bullying him.
Though he could have felt alone, surrounded by so many people, Harry was simply enjoying the anonymity that came with his new hair colour. Anyone who didn't know Harry immediately dismissed him as another Weasley. No one had approached him for any reason, and the double takes were few.
Figuring he might as well enjoy the carnival while it lasted, Harry found himself waiting in line to play some sort of shooting game which was actually a race.
"I knew it," said a familiar voice in his ear. "Weasleyness is contagious."
"Malfoy," Harry acknowledged, not even wondering how the other man had recognised him from behind. He wasn't sure when it had happened, but the man had become something of a friend over the years. Most of the time it was as though there had never been any animosity between them.
Still, neither went out of his way to see the other; they merely spoke cordially when confronted in situations like these.
"Where's Scorpius?" asked Harry. He couldn't imagine that Malfoy had turned up to a carnival like this without his son.
"He and Astoria have gone into one of those noise capsules." Harry had been in one earlier with Lily. It was like a virtual reality game where you popped bubbles and different sounds were made. There was a game to it, too, a competition to see who could pop a given melody first. "I couldn't stand the sound."
"So you came out here?" said Harry. The joyful screams of children were around every corner.
"Well I couldn't leave completely," said Malfoy.
Harry stepped forward in line as the current competitors finished their race. He counted the heads in front of him. He and Malfoy would be in the next round. When they got to their appointed stations, Harry said, "Care for a wager?"
"What could you possibly have to offer me?" asked Malfoy.
"Ten galleons?" suggested Harry, as he slid his wand into the machine. Each game was powered by a wizard's own magic. Something George had been perfecting for years. Kids could either borrow their parents wands, or rent toy wands which only worked with the games.
Malfoy laughed as he slid in his own wand. "Make it twenty." He looked up and saw that his avatar was a hippogryff. "Swap with me, would you? Hippogryffs are bad luck."
Harry thought about saying no just to be infuriating, but decided against it. "Be my guest. You need all the luck you can get."
The race began. Each player had a pistol which shot a bubble of light at the target. The closer to a bulls eye, the faster each winged beast went. Harry and Malfoy got the hang of it quickly, but they were both bested by a six-year-old using his dad's wand.
"I beat you," said Harry, tucking the hawthorn wand into his pocket. "Time to pay up."
"No thank you," said Malfoy, pocketing a wand himself. "Neither of us won, so neither of us get a prize."
"Everyone's a winner today," said the game's attendant. He handed them each a pygmy puff. Malfoy's was pink and Harry's was a pastel purple.
Harry laughed as he stared at the thing.
"Hey," said Malfoy, as he watched the others get their prizes. "That kid got a green one."
"Oh grow up," said Harry, as they vacated the stall. "If you really wanted a green one you would just buy one."
"And line the Weasley's vault with galleons? I don't think so."
"There you are," snapped Astoria. "That game gave me a headache. It's time we went home."
"Here's your wand, father," said Scorpius, handing over the ebony wand.
Reflexively, Harry patted his pocket and found a familiar weight and shape there. The Malfoys left without a goodbye and Harry went to find his own wife and children. Or, he thought, perhaps just the kids.
x x x
James had been at Hogwarts for all of one week and Harry already missed him terribly. The almost daily letters helped, but Harry almost felt the pain was worse, realising he could only talk to his son via indirect owls. But if they helped James then Harry would write as many letters as necessary.
Harry was careful to spend as much time with his younger children as he could, now hyper aware they they too would soon be gone. Harry made sure he and the kids always breakfasted together. Ginny usually had to get to work earlier than the kids could manage to wake up. She'd pick them up after school while Harry still worked and most nights they had family dinners.
"Hey dad?" said Albus as Harry levitated the jug of water onto the breakfast table.
"Yes Al?" said Harry.
"How come you don't use your other wand anymore?"
"What other wand?" asked Harry, filling Lily's water glass.
"Your old wand," said Al.
"What?" said Harry, staring at the wand in his hand. It was Draco Malfoy's hawthorn wand. Harry swore silently. He was using Draco Malfoy's wand. For how long? Ginny was going to kill him. Harry fumbled for an excuse. "I'm testing this one out."
"Oh," said Al, picking at his pancakes. "For Mr Malfoy?"
Harry's eyes snapped from the wand to Al. "How did you know this was Mr Malfoy's wand?"
"He gave it to you at the World Cup, remember?"
That had been over a year ago. Al's memory was astounding. But Harry knew he hadn't been using this wand since then. When had he picked it up? He'd seen Malfoy last week at the Ministry, but that had been nods. They hadn't spoken...
The wand passed between the two of them so often that Harry couldn't pinpoint who was even meant to have it at the moment. Apparently it had been passed so often that Harry hadn't even noticed that it didn't belong to him. Harry patted his pockets, looking for his holly wand. He couldn't feel it. His wand was missing and all he had was Draco Malfoy's.
"I'm surprised you remember," said Harry, trying not to let Al see his panic.
"I remember lots of things," said Al.
"Well, if I tell you a secret will you remember to keep it quiet?" Harry asked. "You too, Lil."
Lily looked up from her pancakes. "What?"
"Never mind," said Harry. He turned back to Al. "Can I tell you a secret?"
"Oh, yes," said Al.
"And you'll promise me you won't repeat it to anyone."
"I promise," said Al.
Harry leaned closer to his son. "This is the wand I used to defeat Voldemort."
Al's eyes widened. "Mr Malfoy's wand?"
"Yes," said Harry. "That's why even though it's his, it's mine, too."
"Wow," said Al.
While the kids got dressed, Harry ransacked his bedroom. Where was his holly wand? How could he be so stupid? He'd been so careful to keep his wand from being taken from him. He'd never thought to check that the wand he was using was the right one. And why hadn't it felt any different to him? When Harry first used that wand it had never felt right, but now it was effortless to use. Anything else and Harry would have noticed.
Harry bit his lip as he realised he didn't have his holly wand anywhere. Maybe he'd left it in his locker at work. He was always changing his clothes, it would be easy to leave a wand in the pocket after he had the right one.
At the end of the work day, Harry had to admit that no, he did not have his holly wand. Which meant that he now had to go and see if Malfoy had it. The best case scenario was now that Draco Malfoy had his wand... and wouldn't that have been the worst case scenario twenty years ago?
x x x
Harry knocked on the door to Malfoy Manor rather impatiently. The elf didn't answer quickly enough for Harry's mental state. So he knocked again before it opened. "I need to see Draco Malfoy," he said quickly.
"Master Draco is having dinner with Master Scorpius," said the elf who answered the door. "Would sir like to see Mistress Astoria?"
Harry shook his head. That would not do at all. "Just Draco," he said. "I'll wait." Harry strode past the old elf and began pacing the entryway. The elf showed him to a parlour and Harry began pacing out that room instead. He was on his sixth turn when Astoria Malfoy walked in, head held high. Despite his better judgement, Harry continued to pace in front of her. She gracefully sat in an armchair.
"Harry Potter," said Astoria. "What a surprise."
"Yes," said Harry. "I'm sorry about this but I really couldn't wait to see Draco."
"I'm afraid he'd rather busy at the moment. With our son." Harry's auror brain thought the emphasis odd, but the rest of him was wrapped up in his pacing.
"I'm sorry," Harry apologised again. "But I really do need to see him."
"Draco and I have no secrets. You can share with me anything you might share with him." The idea of that was strange to Harry. How could it be possible that Draco Malfoy could share all of his secrets with anyone? Even his wife of over a decade.
"I'd still much rather speak to Draco privately," said Harry. "If he chooses to tell you afterward that's up to him. Frankly, I don't know you."
All Astoria's pretence fell away like a dropped cloak. "You'd better go, Potter. I'm Draco's wife and I have no intention of giving him up."
"What?" That stopped Harry's pacing. He gaped at Astoria.
"I know about your affair," she said. "Draco tries to hide things but I know him too well. It's much easier for me to turn a blind eye to his dalliances, but this? No. I will not stand for you coming into my house as though you own the place. I don't care if you're leaving your wife. You will never have Draco."
Harry couldn't gather even an ounce of humour from that statement. "I'm not leaving Ginny," he said, starting with the part that made the most sense to him. "Malfoy and I are not having an affair."
"Am I supposed to believe that when you're flaunting it in my face? Was I supposed to be blind to the fact that you'd traded wands like lovesick schoolboys."
So Malfoy did have his wand. That was one worry out of the way.
"Why do you think we're having an affair?" Was Malfoy having an affair with someone else? Why did that feel like a knife in the gut? There was no reason why Draco would tell him if he was. They were barely friends.
"Don't bother trying to deny it," said Astoria. "That you're even here is more proof of the fact."
Malfoy saved Harry at that point by entering the room. "Potter," he said.
"Malfoy," said Harry.
"It's like I'm not even in the room," said Astoria. She stood, then pointed a finger at her husband. "I want him out of here. Make sure he does not return."
Malfoy watched her leave, then turned to Harry. "What did you say to her?" he asked.
"Nothing," said Harry. "She's under the impression that you and I are having an affair."
Malfoy paled. "I'll straighten that out."
"Er, thanks," said Harry. But he couldn't resist asking the question, "Are you having an affair?" As soon as he said it, Harry knew better than to expect an honest answer, but to his surprise, he got one.
"Do I love Astoria with all my heart? No. But neither am I having relations with anyone else."
"That's good," said Harry, wondering why he felt relieved.
"I don't need your approval, Potter," said Malfoy. "Why are you here? I'm assuming you didn't come to tell Astoria we were having an affair." Malfoy gestured and they sat in matching wing back chairs.
"No," said Harry. "I, uh... need to ask you some odd questions and I'm really hoping I won't have to explain myself to you."
"Well I can't promise I won't be curious," said Malfoy, surprisingly understandingly.
Harry had known that Malfoy would be curious. How many times had he owled Harry after the first time they'd swapped wands? But how would he begin? He slipped the hawthorn wand from his pocket. "You have my wand," he said.
Malfoy looked at the hawthorn wand as though he'd never seen it before in his life. Silently he slid his hand into his robe pocket and pulled out two wands. The ebony one was immediately returned, but the second one was made of holly and he turned it over in his hands. "I have your wand," he said.
It was obvious to Harry that he too hadn't noticed. He hadn't switched them on purpose.
"I don't understand," said Malfoy.
"I think we accidentally switched them at the Weasley carnival."
"That was months ago," said Malfoy. "I would have noticed."
"Are you sure about that?" said Harry.
Malfoy lifted Harry's wand, then flicked it. Sparks shot out of the end. "It feels exactly the same as my wand."
"Expelliarmus," said Harry, then threw Malfoy the hawthorn wand. Harry flicked his wand and it felt exactly the same as the hawthorn one. They weren't the same size and shape or even the same weight. It should have been impossible. "I need to know if you've been disarmed since you've had my wand."
"Of course not, Potter," said Malfoy.
"Has anyone borrowed it? Scorpius? Astoria? Your parents?" asked Harry.
"No," said Malfoy. "Might have noticed I had the wrong wand sooner if I had."
"Astoria noticed," said Harry. "She told me we'd swapped wands like lovesick schoolboys."
Malfoy was silent for a moment. "She always read too many romance novels. But no, no one borrowed it."
"Has your magic felt different?" asked Harry. "Stronger perhaps?"
"No," said Malfoy again. There was a thoughtful look on his face, but he didn't elaborate, so Harry relaxed.
"Thank Merlin," said Harry.
"Is that it?" said Malfoy. "You just wanted to make sure no one unworthy touched your wand. I suppose you'll have to disinfect it now."
"That's not it at all, Malfoy," said Harry, but he suspected Malfoy was actually joking with him.
"Maybe you should. I might have dropped it in the loo." Malfoy demonstrated by dropping the hawthorn wand into his lap. Harry watched the length of wood slide through slender fingers and suddenly Astoria's accusations of infidelity didn't seem so farfetched. "You know me," Malfoy continued. "Butterfingers."
How had Harry never noticed those fingers before? They were long and pale, slender and strong. What sort of grip would they have? What if they were lubricated with butter?
Malfoy raised his eyebrows at Harry. That was it. Harry needed to leave right now. He was not thinking about Malfoy in a sexual manner. He was in love with Ginny. Happily married. No problems to speak of.
Harry stood. "Thanks," he said, though he was mentally cursing Malfoy and his perfect fingers and arching eyebrows and Astoria Greengrass for putting the thought into his head.
"Leaving so soon?" said Malfoy, and Harry would swear the man was encroaching on his personal space. Why hadn't Harry noticed the chairs were so close together?
"Yes," said Harry. Ginny, he thought. Ginny. "Ginny's expecting me. I've been longer than intended." Harry's mind turned his sentences inside out. Sex, it whispered to him. Sex.
"She can wait a moment or two longer."
"For what?" said Harry. He didn't want to know? Why had he asked?
"For me to ask you a few questions. Turnabout's fair play."
"How Slytherin of you."
"Why thank you. For that I'll sweeten the deal for you. I'll answer the question you've been dying to ask since I walked in."
The only questions Harry wanted answered he'd already asked. Except... No! He was not thinking about that question. Or that answer. He did not want to know because he was a happily married man and it was none of his business.
"No," said Harry, stepping away from Malfoy. "I'm leaving now. For Ginny."
"For Ginny? What about you?"
Harry shook his head and almost ran from the house, apparating the second he was allowed.
x x x
Ginny was waiting for Harry when he returned home. "Where were you?" she asked without accusation.
Harry wasn't about to lie to her. "Malfoy Manor," he said.
"Malfoy Manor?" she repeated.
"Uh, yes," said Harry, flushing red. "I'm really tired. Can we talk about this later?"
"Harry," said Ginny with a sigh.
"Later," he promised, then faked a yawn.
So Ginny nodded. "Okay," she said.
Another fight averted. Because wasn't that what their marriage had become? The Ginny of twenty years ago would never have let Harry skirt around something so suspicious. She wouldn't have let him keep a secret from her without at least an explanation and only then if someone's life was at stake. They were no longer as close as they once were, even when they slept in the same bed.
A marriage with no problems to speak of, because no problems were ever voiced.
When had this happened? Harry wondered, as he raided the refrigerator for leftovers. When had he and Ginny stopped talking?
Tears filled Harry's eyes as he remembered. Things had not been the same since the baby.
x x x
Ginny left early the next morning. Harry almost didn't care but Lily stared up at him with Ginny's eyes and he wished she'd stayed so that they could talk.
Over lunch, Harry visited Hermione's office. He brought lunch with him and they ate together.
"What's going on?" she asked him when she saw him.
"How much do you really know about wands?" he asked.
"Is something happening to your magic?" she asked.
"No," said Harry. "Why? Do you know something?"
Hermione shook her head. "The Elder Wand has never ended well for anyone. I don't want anything to happen to you."
"I don't want anything to happen to me either," said Harry. But there wasn't really any way of preventing it from happening. He was as prepared as any wizard could be.
"Why do you want to know about wands?" asked Hermione.
"Something strange happened to me," said Harry. "And it involves Malfoy."
"Malfoy?" said Hermione. She frowned. "Maybe you should be talking to Ginny about this."
"Ginny?" said Harry. "What does she know about wands?"
Hermione looked at him. "This is really about wands?"
"Have you not heard me say 'wands'?"
"Never mind," said Hermione. "What's this about wands?"
It was Harry's turn to frown. What had Hermione thought he was talking about? Why should he have to talk to Ginny? About Malfoy? And wands...? As the image of a wand sliding through Malfoy's fingers replayed in Harry's mind, he put it together. "You think I'm having an affair with him, too!"
Hermione looked startled by his outburst. "I don't think you're having an affair," she said. Harry relaxed. "I know you'd never cheat on Ginny. But that doesn't mean you aren't feeling things for him."
"What?" said Harry. His face was red with rage, not embarrassment, he told himself. "You actually think I have feelings for Draco Malfoy?" He was maybe feeling the smallest amount of aesthetic appreciation toward the man. What of it? It was the same way one would an unattainable movie star, or your extremely good looking, much older cousin. Something entirely innocent in nature.
"Feelings?" No. They had nothing to do with this. Malfoy was just someone Harry occasionally didn't mind spending time around. It wasn't like Malfoy was always in his thoughts or anything.
"You're obviously not ready to talk about this, and my lunch break's almost over. What happened with your wand?" asked Hermione.
Harry's lunch break would soon be over, too, and it wasn't like he actually wanted to talk about what Hermione thought about his relationship with Malfoy. "We swapped wands," said Harry. "Completely accidentally, months ago, and I didn't notice. It was Al who did and when I went to get my wand back, Malfoy didn't know anything about it either."
"You let him take your wand again?" said Hermione, in that disapproving way that made Harry want to make it up to her in any way possible.
"It was an accident," he said. "Besides, I asked him if he'd been disarmed since and he said he hadn't. The Elder Wand's find."
"And you don't think he would lie to you?"
"Why?" said Harry. Though even if Malfoy had lied, Harry was certain of his own ability to detect that.
"Maybe he was embarrassed," said Hermione.
"I gave him the opportunity to say he'd lent it to someone. Besides even if he had, he had the wand, so he must have disarmed them."
"But you said you didn't feel any different," said Hermione.
"I don't remember feeling any different the last time he used my wand," said Harry.
"And Malfoy didn't notice anything either?"
"He didn't mention it." He held up his wand. "This feels like the same wand I've had since I was eleven. But the other wand, the hawthorn one I took from him when we were at Malfoy Manor- it felt exactly like this. But I remember how awkward that wand felt when I first used it. There was no way I could have mistaken the two, but it happened."
"Do you think maybe he was trying something? Maybe he glamoured your wands."
"Why would he do that?"
Hermione looked at him as though he should know the answer to that. "How did you accidentally swap wands in the first place?" she asked. "You and I have been friends for years and we've never picked up each other's wands accidentally."
There was an insinuation in that statement that Harry didn't like. "It was at the Weasley carnival. We played one of those games you had to stick your wand in."
"Right," said Hermione, almost as though she didn't believe him. Perhaps she didn't believe any of his story. She didn't seem at all concerned about what had happened. "I'll look into it. But wand magic can be pretty obscure. I'm not sure I'll be able to find anything more than I already have. There's a reason why Voldemort captured Ollivander."
Harry walked away from Hermione's office feeling out of sorts. He felt he would have been better off not talking the situation out with his friend. Never before had he gone to Hermione with a problem and come back with so little. She was usually full of advice, even if most of it was unwanted.
x x x
Malfoy sent Harry an owl in the afternoon. The situation echoed that of the encounter fourteen years ago. But this time Malfoy didn't invite Harry to the Manor. Instead he suggested they meed in a tea shop in Diagon Alley after work. And this time, Harry agreed to meet him.
As Harry walked down Diagon Alley, Harry realised it was because he was avoiding Ginny. When he peered in through the glass window of the tea shop and saw Malfoy's trademark blond, Harry realised he had actually wanted to see him. That was an entirely new concept. But last night's conversation had lacked the light-hearted tone their conversations had taken of late, so of course Harry had missed him though he'd only just seen him.
Malfoy was already settled with a pot of tea and two tea cups when Harry sat down opposite him. Harry ordered Devonshire tea from the overly helpful waitress more to send her away than anything else.
Neither man spoke. Malfoy sipped his tea and Harry fidgeted. Harry poured himself a cup, then fidgeted some more.
"Did you ask me here just to drink tea?" Harry asked.
Malfoy looked up at Harry as though he'd only just noticed him. "I invited you to see if you'd come."
Harry frowned. He didn't like to be tested. He sighed and went back to fidgeting, pushing his tea cup in a circle on its saucer. "Did you have no topic of conversation in mind?"
"Astoria," said Malfoy. "I've set her straight about us."
The waitress returned with Harry's scones and he quickly began spreading jam on them. "Good," said Harry.
"So I..." Had Malfoy just trailed off? "I thought perhaps I should set you straight, too. About me."
Harry froze, and rather more cream than anticipated fell onto his scone. "And you want to talk about this here?"
"You can't hex me in a public place."
"I can hex you anywhere," said Harry. Did that sound dirty to anyone else? "I'm Harry Potter and a well regarded auror. Everyone would think you deserved it."
Malfoy coloured slightly. "Well it's not the sort of conversation I'd like to have where my wife can hear me. Or yours."
"So you've gone with absolutely no privacy at all?" questioned Harry.
"I set up a silencing spell," said Malfoy.
How had Harry missed that? Auror or not, Malfoy still threw Harry off-balance. "Which wand did you use?" asked Harry, hoping to derail the conversation. He wasn't sure why, but he was terrified of what Malfoy might say to him. "Did you notice anything when you cast?"
Malfoy squinted at him. "What is your fascination with wands?"
"Don't you think it's odd that neither of us noticed we had different wands?" It was like his conversation with Hermione all over again. "What if someone was confunding us?"
"Do you feel confunded?" asked Malfoy.
"No," said Harry. "But I checked my wand with the spell techs at the Ministry today and they said no spells had been performed on it, so it couldn't have been glamoured."
"So you don't think someone swapped or pretended to swap our wands on purpose?"
"No," said Harry. At least, he didn't think Malfoy had done it. In the right circles it was common knowledge that Harry was the master of the Elder Wand. He'd never admitted it publicly, but he hadn't exactly been quiet when speaking with Voldemort in the last battle. Harry was pretty certain that Malfoy was one of the people who knew.
"Then why are you so worried?" asked Malfoy.
Harry clammed up. He wasn't sure how to say what he meant. He wasn't even sure what he was really feeling. He was mostly terrified that he was being paranoid... that there was something happening that would have farther reaching consequences than Harry could imagine.
Malfoy frowned. Or was that a pout? "After all these years you still don't trust me. Even though we've shared a wand."
"That's not it!"
Malfoy raised an eyebrow. "You shouldn't," he said. "I'm an ex-Death Eater. I could be the next Dark Lord."
And wasn't that truer than Malfoy knew? All he'd have to do was disarm Harry, the Wand would take care of the rest. "You wouldn't do that to Scorpius," said Harry. And though they'd never discussed parenting, Harry knew it was true. Malfoy loved his son. He wanted more for him than he'd ever had. He'd seen first hand what Voldemort was capable of and he knew his own limits. Malfoy was smarter than that.
Malfoy looked at Harry with such an open expression on his face that Harry hadn't the first clue how to translate. It frightened Harry, but even fear could stop him from gazing at it. He wanted to keep looking because he wanted to know everything Malfoy was trying to tell him. And for a moment, that intense want was enough to overcome Harry's fears.
"Okay," said Harry. "I'll tell you." He looked around at all the other patrons. But it has to be somewhere much more private than this."
And though Malfoy was surprised by Harry's sudden attempt at straightforwardness, for a split second he actually looked happy.
x x x
Harry took Malfoy to Grimmauld Place. Kreacher kept the place mostly liveable and still slept here, though he also took care of Harry's family home in Godric's Hollow. Kreacher was a little senile in his old age, but he still managed. Harry wasn't sure what he was supposed to do when Kreacher was no longer capable. He supposed Hermione would set up some sort of house elf retirement home.
They went into the parlour and sat on the couch together. "So what's the big secret?" asked Malfoy.
"It's not exactly a secret," said Harry. "You know I'm the master of the Elder Wand."
Malfoy blinked twice, and Harry realised he hadn't yet put it together. He did at that moment. "You're worried that all this, with the wands, has something to do with its power."
"Exactly," said Harry. "And, after losing my wand to you so many times, it makes it difficult to know if I'm still the master of it."
"Well," said Malfoy. "We'd best go check."
"I don't want to," said Harry, admitting it to Malfoy in the same moment he admitted it to himself. "It was hard enough to open his tomb the last time. I can't disturb Dumbledore again."
"He'd forgive you," said Malfoy. "He'd know this was more important than a decaying corpse."
Harry nodded but wouldn't look up. Not until he felt Malfoy's hand on his arm. Then his eyes shot up and locked on Malfoy's. Silver eyes peered into his soul and what Harry had spent so long hiding from himself came boiling to the surface. He found himself leaning in. He was getting from Malfoy what he hadn't from Hermione, what he hadn't wanted to ask from Ginny. Just someone telling him what he already knew, soothing his fear.
But it wasn't fair of him to take this from Malfoy. He should go home. Straight home to Ginny and explain everything to her. Because she was his, and Malfoy was Astoria's, love or naught.
But Malfoy didn't seem to be following Harry's train of thought because he kissed Harry.
Harry pulled away. "I'm sorry," he said.
"Sorry?" said Malfoy. "I'm the one who kissed you."
"I'm sorry I wanted to kiss you," said Harry, unable to look Malfoy in the eye.
"Well you're apologising to the wrong person," said Malfoy. "Because I'm not."
"I know," said Harry. When had this happened? When had he started wanted Draco Malfoy? When had he realised that Draco Malfoy wanted him? "But I can't do that to Ginny. She hasn't done anything wrong."
"Sometimes no one does," said Malfoy. "But everyone's unhappy anyway."
"I'm not unhappy," said Harry but it felt like a lie. "I love my kids." Truth. "I love Ginny." Truth. "I don't love you." Lie. Harry felt like crying. "Just go home."
"Sorry Harry," said Malfoy. "I can't."
"What do you mean you can't?"
"For one thing, you're gripping my shirt pretty tightly."
Harry looked down to see both hands were fisting the material over Malfoy's chest.
"And I'm not leaving you until we've sorted everything out with the Elder Wand," finished Malfoy.
"What do you care?"
"Well," said Malfoy. "I know I'm the only one who ever touched your wand while I had it, so I know you should be its master. But the whole thing about the wands feeling the same... after the war I remember wondering how I'd never known I had it. I never worked it out."
Malfoy paused, and stared at the landscape hanging over the fireplace. He continued, "But I remember how wrong every wand felt after that. I thought it was just because they weren't mine. It felt right to have my original wand back. But it also felt right to use my ebony one. I can't help wondering if, when you gave me the wand, you gave me power over the Elder Wand, too."
"Oh," said Harry, never even having considered the effect of this wand switching on Malfoy. They were in the same freaky boat. He looked at Malfoy and put his hands on his shoulders. "You have to be so careful all the time. You can't let anyone touch any wand you have. You have to disarm them if they do and if it happens more than once..."
"Calm down," said Malfoy, placing his hands on Harry's.
Harry drew back quickly.
"Calm down," Malfoy repeated. "First we have to find out if that's the case. And perhaps after that... well maybe this isn't a bad thing."
"Spoken like a true Dark Lord."
Malfoy actually looked hurt.
"Sorry," said Harry. "I'm listening."
"Maybe no one will ever take the power from us because if either of us is disarmed, the other will still have it. How could anyone take it?"
"Of we'll be doubly vulnerable," said Harry. "Worse, with all the wands between us. I can't watch you wherever you go."
"And I thought you trusted me."
"It isn't about trust," said Harry. "It's not even about power. I'm worried about you. If anyone finds out..."
"With your luck, no one will."
"With my luck," said Harry. "It's already gone."
x x x
Ginny wasn't pleased that Harry had left her alone with the kids with no explanation for the second night in a row. Harry knew this, but she didn't say anything. They slid into bed together, and neither of them tried to initiate closer contact. When had it become this?
"Ginny," said Harry, knowing she was still awake even though she wasn't looking at him.
"What is it, Harry?" she rolled over to face him.
Suddenly faced with her, he didn't know what to say. "Never mind," he said.
She rolled over again.
Harry stared at her back and watched as she relaxed into the bed. "I kissed Draco Malfoy tonight."
She tensed, but didn't roll over.
"Ginny?" he said, reaching for her. He knew she was still awake.
"Go to sleep, Harry," she said, knowing he wasn't going to drop it this time. "We'll talk about it in the morning."
x x x
But in the morning Ginny was gone before Harry awoke. It didn't surprise Harry. But it drove in to him how wrong the situation was. He'd basically admitted that he'd cheated on her and she hadn't gotten angry. Her hair had once been a warning about her temper, now it was a false prophet. Somewhere alone the way, Ginny had gotten lost. Harry wondered how he'd let her, and if he'd made her this way. If she'd noticed that his feelings toward her had become lukewarm before he had. If she'd only been waiting for this day to arrive.
x x x
That evening after work, Harry met Malfoy again. He made sure to keep the distance between them professional. They met in Hogsmeade, and silently walked into Hogwarts together. This time Harry set up the wards without any help and felt they were just as strong as last time. He purposely turned his back on the marble tomb. "Just see if it works," said Harry. "I'll make sure no one questions us."
Malfoy didn't say anything, so Harry assumed he was complying. He shivered when a hand squeezed his shoulder gently before departing. Harry bit his lip in anticipation.
"Lumos," Malfoy said clearly. Harry almost cried when the light blinded him.
He turned around and avoided eye contact with Malfoy. Harry took the wand from him and repeated the spell. The light had the same intensity.
"Let me do it again," said Malfoy.
"No," said Harry. "That was enough." Any more would definitely get someone's attention, privacy ward or not.
Malfoy took it from Harry anyway. The light was just as bright. Malfoy stared at the wand in his hand. "Your wand. My wands. This wand. They all feel exactly alike."
"I know," said Harry, having held the wand again. "They all feel like the Elder Wand. Do you realise what we've done?"
"What?" said Malfoy.
"They all feel the same. Elder or not they're all Deathsticks, now. We should never have messed with magic we didn't understand."
"Messed with it?" said Malfoy. "We didn't do anything knowingly." Harry wondered if he realised he was stroking the Elder Wand with a finger.
"I knew I had the power," said Harry. "I should have gone and lived like a Muggle. And never given you your wand back." That was where this had all begun, hadn't it? The wands. Malfoy.
"But you aren't a Muggle," said Malfoy. "What sort of life would that have been?"
"Maybe it would have been one where I didn't destroy Ginny."
"You haven't destroyed her," said Malfoy. "I bet she's waiting at home for you."
"She isn't the woman she used to be," said Harry. "Twenty years ago if the same thing had happened I would have been the recipient of her bat bogey hex for the first time. Now..."
He suddenly realised he shouldn't be talking about Ginny with Malfoy of all people. Not with the way they felt about each other.
"People grow and change, Potter. It's not usually a bad thing."
Harry shook his head. "If you're trying to tell me that it's okay that my marriage is falling apart, then don't. I don't want to hear it. Especially from you."
"You know what gloating sounds like. Don't."
"Okay," said Malfoy. "Then let's go home." He set the wand back in the tomb, then levitated it shut.
Harry watched him with a hollow feeling in his chest. As Malfoy shut the tomb, Harry felt he was shutting the tomb of their relationship before it ever saw the light of day. That should have made him happy, but Harry felt more than a little sad.
On impulse, Harry hugged Malfoy. Their bodies aligned and Harry felt safe and secure. He sighed. Malfoy pulled back. "I can't be with you," said Harry. "Not while Ginny's still in the picture."
"I know," said Malfoy, a hard set to his jaw.
"I can't break up with her," said Harry.
"I know," said Malfoy.
"She's the mother of my children and they have to come first."
"I know," said Malfoy.
"And," said Harry. "Now that we know what we know, maybe it's better that we stay away from each other. I mean, if we both need to be disarmed..."
"I know we do," said Malfoy. "Or Scorpius would have it and I know he doesn't."
"How do you know?"
"Astoria and I had him tested. It's common for pure-bloods to do that the year before they start Hogwarts."
"Right," said Harry, though he'd never heard of the custom before. "So we're agreed. We don't spend any more time together."
"It will probably be easier that way."
"Most likely," said Harry.
"But before that," said Malfoy, looking up at Harry with his mercuric eyes. "A goodbye kiss."
Harry wouldn't have been able to deny Draco anything at that moment. Especially not something Harry himself wanted. It was a soft kiss. One full of mutual longing, but also of acceptance. In the moment the two of them knew each exactly who they were. There were no secrets. No pretences. No games. Just two mature adults trying to do the best for their children, even if it cost them each other.
x x x
When Harry got home, Ginny wasn't waiting for him. The kids were watching television on their wizarding set.
"Where's your mother?" he asked them.
Lily shrugged. Harry doubted she'd even heard the question.
"She's in the attic," said Al, without making eye contact with him.
The attic? Harry went up to find her. "Ginny?" he called, once he'd stuck his head inside.
She was sitting on the floor beside a box of things they hadn't touched since they'd moved into this house. The baby's things.
"Oh Ginny," he said.
"Harry?" She turned, startled. "I didn't expect you home."
Harry sighed. "I finished things with him. That's all, Ginny. I'm still one hundred percent committed to you and to our family. It was only a kiss and I really hope you won't send me packing because of that."
Ginny shook her head. "I could never ask you to leave," she said. "I'm too selfish for that."
"Selfish?" repeated Harry. "Ginny..." He reached for her, but she evaded his grasp.
"No," she said. "I told myself I wouldn't be selfish anymore- when we got back together after the baby. I thought staying together was best for both of us, but I was just being selfish again. I can't do to you, what I was always so afraid you were going to do to me. I loved our life together, but Al's about to start Hogwarts, and Lily will too soon..."
"Don't do this, Ginny. Don't tear our family apart."
"Don't you see?" she said, lifting out a baby blanket. "I already did."
"That wasn't your fault," said Harry.
"Wasn't it?" The look in Ginny's eyes was wild. "Look me in the eye and say that you believe that. I knew the consequences and I flew out into that storm. I flew farther and harder than I had any right to, even the way I was feeling. Ever since then I've tried to fix it, to be worthy of you. But I shouldn't have tried. You might have been happy."
It was as though she was repeating his words back to him, but he'd never said them to her.
"I've always known," she said. "I told myself you had to have a kid after the one I stole from you. I told myself I'd let you make all the decisions in our relationship. We got back together. We got married. We had James."
"Are you saying that you regret our children?"
"Of course not! I love them more than I ever thought I could love anyone. More than I ever loved you. But I knew he was in love with you. I knew you'd be in love with him too if I weren't in the picture. But I told myself you were better off with me because I could give you a child to replace the one we lost."
"Nothing could ever replace him."
"I know that now. I should have just let go."
"Ginny." Harry sighed. How had she seen what he hadn't? How had she seen Malfoy when he hadn't?
"I told myself I'd let you make all the choices," said Ginny. "I'm not asking you to leave. I'm telling you that you don't get to choose me. I'm telling you to choose him."
"But the kids-"
"Will always be your kids. I'll always be their mother. But I won't be your wife. I'll explain everything to mum and Ron. They'll come around once they understand what I did. You won't lose your family."
"But we haven't even talked, Malfoy and I. Not about what we feel. I don't know what he wants. I don't know what I want."
"I do," said Ginny. "I haven't lived with you all these years and not figured out a few things about you. You want your kids, and you'll have them. You want to stay friends with me, and you will. But you always want to figure out if there's something greater between you and Malfoy. Something more fulfilling because you're not in love with me anymore. But you could be in love with him."
"Astoria will never let us try."
Ginny looked at Harry. "Do you really think Draco Malfoy would let Astoria Greengrass come between you two? You might not have noticed her at Hogwarts but I did. She's got nothing on him."
"She's the mother of his son."
"If you can let me go," she said. "He can let go of a woman he never loved."
"I do love you, you know," said Harry.
"I know," said Ginny. "And I still love you. That's why I'm making you do this. It's your turn to be selfish, Harry. Take everything you want. I'm not going to stand in your way."
x x x
Telling the kids they were getting a divorce was the hardest thing Harry had ever done. He and Ginny had waited until Yule break for James to be home so that they could tell them all together. They'd stopped sharing a bed but were still sharing a room and Harry was all set up to move into Grimmauld Place the next day. The look of utter betrayal on the kids' faces hurt more than the insults and poisonous accusations they threw at him.
Harry knew they would get over it. He wasn't about to lose his children, but it made keeping his promise to Ginny a lot harder. So far he'd delayed talking to Malfoy with the excuse that he didn't want anyone to know before the kids did. But tomorrow he'd have a new life. One with no obligations to Ginny. Ginny fully expected him to seek out Malfoy by the end of the week. She'd threatened him a million different ways, but he was still afraid he wouldn't be able to do it.
The afternoon of the day Harry moved in, he found Draco Malfoy standing on his doorstep. Ginny be damned.
"Come in," said Harry, never having felt so far away from the man before. Although he and Ginny were divorcing, the same couldn't be said for the man in front of him. He was putting himself on the line for a man who might not catch him.
"Your wife said there was an emergency," said Malfoy. "I expected she'd be here to hex me."
"Then why did you come?"
"Maybe I deserve to be hexed by your wife."
"She'd not going to be my wife much longer," said Harry, throwing out the first piece of information.
"Oh?" said Malfoy with an eyebrow raise.
Harry couldn't look at him like that. "We're getting divorced."
"You implied that would never happen the last time we spoke."
"She didn't give me a choice," said Harry.
"Oh," said Malfoy. "And I'm here, why? Poor Potter can't bear to be alone so he thinks he can just, what? Steal me from my wife?"
"I don't think that at all," said Harry.
"Then what is this? A booty call?"
"Malfoy, listen," said Harry. "I'm not the one who asked you here, it was Ginny, remember?" But that wasn't the right thing to say either.
"Why, Potter? Why am I here?" There was that open look on Malfoy's face again, but Harry thought he understood it a little better this time. He saw trepidation. And hope.
"Because I think I could have real feelings for you," said Harry. "I want to find out how deep they run. I want to try to make something together and if that means ruining your marriage, I've come to terms with that. I don't care because it broke my kids' hearts to hear that Ginny and I weren't staying together and I have to show them that there's a good reason for it. I have to be the happiest I've ever meed and damnit Draco Malfoy, I think we might have that together."
Draco looked blown away. "What about the wands?"
"No one will ever know. Not Ron. Not Hermione... unless she figures it out."
"I could learn to love him, too."
"And Astoria?" said Malfoy.
"She has to go," said Harry. "I can't be truly happy if she's still in the picture."
"So you're telling me that I have to break my kid's heart for a chance at something with you?"
"I know it sounds incredibly arrogant and selfish," said Harry. "If things had gone differently with Ginny we wouldn't be having this conversation. But now- Now I'm not afraid anymore. I just want to be happy. I want you to be happy. I'm hoping we can do it together, so what do you say?"
"I say yes, Potter," said Malfoy.
A grin bloomed on Harry's face. "Yes, Harry," he said.
"My name's Draco, not Harry."
Harry kissed the smirk off Draco's face. "Draco," he said.
And they took their first steps toward being happy together right there, right then.
x X X x
A/N: Okay, so there was supposed to be an epilogue but I ran out of time. I'll probably post it sometime later depending on reviews.