Chapter One: The Beginning of the End
Harry James Potter lived a life of constant excitement and his "eighth year" at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was of course no different. He was eighteen, a grown man to all governments whose laws he followed (mostly), and the savior of the wizarding world. Of course, he was also the best friend of the man trying to seduce the most stubborn witch in Gryffindor, the only auror-to-be currently failing potions, and the ex-arch enemy of the liveliest ex-death eater he knew to date.
So maybe that was a bit too harsh. Harry did know the full story, and didn't blame Malfoy for trying to protect his family. Honestly, he admired him for it; who else did he know who was willing to put his life in danger and betray a school's worth of people for the people he loved? Draco Malfoy, with the exception of the late Severus Snape, was probably one of the bravest people who had fought in the Second Wizarding War.
He and Malfoy—Draco, he corrected mentally as he thought to himself—were actually almost friends now. They were civil to each other at the very least, and Draco was actually the one trying to help him keep up in potions. It had never been his best subject, and the replacement for Professor Snape was far too fast-paced for him to keep up with. He seemed to forget that they hadn't done any proper potions work in the year before him and treated them as if they had encyclopedias in their brains. Even Draco only barely kept up, and that said something, because in that class at least, he'd always been top in their year. Honestly, the guy got on his last nerve, and on top of being pants at his job, he also spent most of class hitting on the girls... and Harry, loath as he was to admit it.
"Harry, do you plan on getting out of bed before first hour?"
Without looking up from his pillow, Harry grumbled, "Well, I'll be honest, I'm not exactly excited for Transfiguration... nobody wants that first thing in the morning. Not even Professor McGonagal."
Neville laughed, pulling his blankets down to his knees. "Get out of bed, you idiot. Luna is expecting us at breakfast and you've bailed on us for the past week." Since Ron had taken the ministry's offer of joining the auror program early and Hermione had begun an apprenticeship at the Daily Prophet, he spent most of his time with his favorite inter-house couple. It had been surprising when the blonde had taken his friend's offer of lunch some weeks after school started up again, but he didn't think he'd met another two people who suited each other quite as well as Luna and Neville did.
Harry groaned, but he did get out of bed and figured that counted for something. Neville was laughing at him still, probably because of his bed head, which seemed to always be worse when someone actually took the time to wake him up and be there to see it. Putting on his clothes took a little while, and three tries at tying his tie, while Neville watched, trying not to laugh. "Jeez, Harry, what were you doing, contemplating the meaning of life?"
"Could have," he grunted, a bit put out and Neville just laughed at him again. To tell the truth, he did do quite a bit of thinking in bed, though not necessarily about life, and his friend knew it.
"You're grumpy this morning," Seamus commented from his own bed, where he lay fully dressed, watching them cheerfully with a wide grin. "Don't be so cross, Harry. You've been far too stiff lately." Harry tried to glare at his friend, but ended up sighing.
"Sorry," he said sheepishly. "I guess I have been a bit testy lately."
"A bit?" Neville snorted, shaking his head. "Ever since the inheritance from Sirius came through, you've been in a right foul mood." He watched Harry wince speculatively and sighed himself, his voice softening. "Look, Harry. I feel for you. Seeing your name on all the papers, the official lord Black as well as being lord Potter... it's bound to bring back memories."
"I get what you're trying to say, Neville," he interrupted, slightly taken aback. After having two friends who often had to guess at what was wrong several times, it was different having someone as perceptive as Neville around. "And thanks for understanding. Sorry for being such a prat lately."
Neville shrugged. "We all have our days. Just hurry up, will you?" Harry snorted and nodded, picking up the pace and following him out.
A lot had changed since the end of the war- more than Harry had initially thought he could take- but the one thing that hadn't changed was Hogwarts. The building had helped the wizards rebuilding it, doing as much of the repairs as it could, cutting the restoration time in half and putting Hogwarts back in business before the next year. The old stone looked newer, magic erasing years of wear and the building still groaned at night sometimes from its own exhaustion. The staircases didn't switch around half as often as they used to because of it, and quite a few of the old decorations- paintings, suits of armor- were missing, lost in the battle. Most chose not to complain or even acknowledge the slight differences because they were all just glad Hogwarts had been left standing. Harry ran his hand against the stone as they descended the stairs to the Great Hall, almost as a caress, and the stone warmed against his palm affectionately.
The Great Hall was a bright, happy place as always, house tables orderly and filled with food, as always. Luna waited for them at Gryffindor table, engrossed in a magazine, Ginny sitting next to her going through the sixth year Transfiguration course book. Harry considered himself an "eighth year" student, but the truth of the matter was that everyone had been held back a year. The first year class was twice as large as normal (which said very little because the classes were generally tiny anyway), and everyone was re-doing the year they'd been in during the final year of the war. The teaching the year before, Harry had heard, was scanty—all theory, no practice, and often enough, classes would be cancelled for Death Eater business.
"Hello, Harry," Luna greeted him calmly, her smile bright, her eyes still focused on an edition of the Quibbler, looking away only to cut a bite of her pancakes. He took his seat across from her and Ginny looked up, flashing him a bright smile. After the war, they had thought about getting back together, but Harry was a different man than he had been before. He hadn't thought about anyone in a romantic sense since his sixth year, and even before that he'd had only a scant interest. There was just too much going on; he couldn't have someone on the side to worry about as well.
Ginny was doing well, though—she and Dean had reconciled and were in the process of trying to make a relationship work. Harry was happy for them, he really was. He enjoyed being on his own now, so there wasn't a fuss, and he was glad that Ginny was relatively happy. She was a good woman, and a good friend, and he felt no need to kick up a fuss.
"He's staring at you again," Luna remarked as Neville took his own seat on her left, prompting her to look away from the magazine for the two seconds it took to give him a kiss. Harry rolled his eyes, not even bothering to look at the Slytherin table. Because of his recent friendship with the blonde, Luna was convinced Malfoy was always starting at him. Neville had even told him a few times he'd caught him watching him as he passed, but Harry hadn't seen it once.
"Of course he is," Harry agreed calmly. Honestly, he'd expected his friends to take their friendship a little bit better, rather than assume there was something going on behind the scenes.
"Um, Harry," Ginny said, her eyes widening. He looked up at her, confusion painting his expression. She looked a bit startled, which was unusual—normally, she took Luna's ramblings in stride. "Harry, she's not joking."
"She never is," he responded with another roll of his eyes. "She's always sure of it, isn't she?"
"No," Ginny said slowly, and Neville was nodding with Luna, who had a smug little smirk tracing her mouth. "No, Harry, I mean she's being serious. Malfoy is staring at you—smiling, actually. He's—Harry, turn around." Harry sighed.
"Seriously, you guys—"
"Harry, don't be such an idiot. I've been over there trying to get one of your friends to make you turn around for the past five minutes, and you're over here, telling them I'm not. Rude."
Harry blinked, looking back at the blonde with his laughing mouth and bright grey eyes, so unusual but so welcome on his face. "Oh. Hello, Draco," he greeted him, feeling a bit stupid for obvious reasons. Draco just rolled his eyes, clearly agreeing with his errant thought, his expression friendlier than Harry could ever remember it being before the war. He couldn't think of a single time when it had ever been that open before. "Do you need something?"
"I was going to ask you to meet me so we could talk about our study session tonight without kicking up a fuss—" He gestured around at the many students whispering, watching them warily. "- but you were being difficult." It hadn't been so long ago that they would have been fighting ere they met, and their peers were still a tad cautious whenever they spoke in public, however amiable they seemed. Draco was friendly enough on his own, however—without Crabbe and Goyle at his sides (both of whom had not returned to the school and were now somewhere abroad, dealing with the falling out from the war on their own time), he was far more approachable than he had been beforehand. There were few "eighth year" Slytherins that had returned—Draco, Blaise Zabini, and Pansy Parkinson being among them, but those who had were far kinder than they'd been before the war.
"Well, sorry for being a dunderhead. What did you want to discuss?" Harry asked, grinning for the first time. Draco rolled his eyes at him, smacking him lightly up the side of the head.
"Forgiven," he said primly, settling his offensive hand back into the pocket of his robes. "I was wondering if we could meet for dinner in the potions lab, instead of during free hour. Something came up, and Professor Reich is busy, but he says he won't mind too much if we drop in and have dinner in his room, and study there. Get a little potions work in outside of all the bookwork."
"I didn't have any other plans," he agreed, nodding. "Sure. Just meet there during dinner?" He was a little antsy about intruding on more of Professor Snape's free time (really, for a painting, he was so easily irritated), but he had no other reason to refuse and Draco knew it.
He nodded in agreement. "I'd say about eight?"
"Sounds good to me," Harry said, shrugging. "That all?" He nodded again and turned to go. "I'll see you later then, Draco."
"Later, wonder boy," the blonde replied, a small smile twitching his lips upward. Harry gaped after him, trying to appear offended when all he could feel was vague amusement. Draco hadn't been rid of his snark when they'd become tentative friends and honestly, Harry was glad for it. It made him so much more interesting to talk to, and he knew Draco would never hesitate to tell him what he really thought. A remarkably honest fellow, Harry thought idly.
"You two are utterly ridiculous," Luna commented happily with a grin. "All this dancing around the subject, and with such obvious chemistry!" Harry ignored her, knowing that his cheeks were just the slightest bit pink. "I'm glad he's here, though," she continued. "You've been so bleh lately—you only liven up when he's around!"
Harry grabbed a bagel, giving Luna the barest of smiles. "I haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about," he said calmly, but his grin widened when Neville laughed. "Look, you guys. I know it's kind of weird, having Malfoy around—"
"Didn't he ask you to call him Draco?" Ginny teased and Harry gave her the look. "Luna's got a point, you know. I think being friends with him is good for you. It gets your mind off of how you're starting your life over again—because we all know that in a normal world, you and him would never be friends. Since this is obviously not a normal world now, being friends with him should help you get your bearings."
"Perhaps Ginny is right," Luna said sweetly, nestling into Neville's side, who had thrown an arm over her shoulders. "It makes sense. If Malfoy is willing to help you ground you, then why not let him? You've been all up in the clouds, Harry."
"I have not," he argued. "Just because I've been a little out of it doesn't mean I've been in the clouds."
"So maybe you're not in the clouds," Neville conceded. "But Luna's right— you haven't been yourself lately. Instead of enjoying that the war's over, you're wallowing in how different things are." Neville raised an eyebrow when he just looked at him and reached over the table to pat him on the shoulder. "Think about it."
"I always do, since you give me this talk about every other day."
Neville and Ginny laughed loudly, attracting the attention of several Ravenclaws and about half the Hufflepuff table—of course, the Slytherins weren't interested in the least, though he noticed as he glanced over his shoulder that Draco was raising an eyebrow at him. Luna just smirked smugly at him over her copy of the Quibbler, which had been on the same page for the past ten minutes. He had a feeling Luna was using it for effect. She always looked more mystical when she was talking to you while focusing on something else.
"Well, you're not listening to me!" Neville chuckled as students and teachers finished up their breakfast to go to their first classes. Professor McGonagal gave Harry a look when he didn't immediately stand and he sighed. "Go on," Neville sighed. "McGonagal will flay you alive if you're late."
"I'll talk to you later," he said with a half-grin. "I've got torture to attend to." His bad joke made his friends laugh and really, Harry knew they were right. He was a little unsure about letting go of the past, no matter how horrible it was at times. He would get there. He just needed a push, and he wasn't quite sure what it was yet.
The figurative clock was ticking, and Harry anxiously awaited the moment when Professor Flitwick released them for dinner. He'd been on edge all day, eager to get out of class and into an environment where he could get into a fistfight with Draco Malfoy and then make a potion with him that would, admittedly, have them bonding and laughing like friends again.
Okay, the fistfight had happened once, and there hadn't been laughing until the next session that had, admittedly, almost not happened, but the point remained. Bickering with Draco was probably the most releasing part of the day. He couldn't be openly nasty to anyone else, not that he was as much nowadays.
"Come on, Harry," Draco said with a roll of the eyes as he came up to Harry's desk. "You've been fidgeting since the beginning of class." It wasn't the first time that he'd done it, but it was the first time that he'd picked up Harry's book and snagged his bag from beside his desk. He tossed it over his shoulder and raised an eyebrow down at the brunette. "Maybe we can duel a bit before Professor Snape yells at us to get on with it."
Neville patted him on his shoulder from his left and shooed, telling him to go on without words. Harry rolled his eyes and stole his bag back from Draco, leaving him the book, which he was hit in the chest with as they left the room. Laughter followed them out, some of it Harry's, some of it their classmate's, and Draco just snorted at him in response. "Have I ever mentioned how much of an idiot you are?" Draco teased and he grinned, nudging him with his shoulder.
"You might've," he answered playfully, tweaking Draco's nose with a wide smile. He was received with a not-so-friendly punch in the shoulder and pink cheeks as they made their way down. Their walk was quiet and pleasant, filled with the barest amount of conversation. They passed by several students in the lower years- some of whom avoided them, some who went up and asked for high-fives that never failed to make Draco laugh.
"I'm not sure when we became the top dogs at this school," Draco snorted. "But I think I like it!"
They both laughed, but as they rounded a corner and saw their destination just a few feet away, the laughter quieted. He looked over at Draco, whose expression was becoming very blank in his effort to hide his pain. "I miss him, too, you know," he said to the blonde as they stood outside Professor Snape's potions lab, as they always did. Just because some half-French nitwit had invaded the room of a master didn't mean they considered it his room, because it wasn't. Draco took a deep breath and gave him a weak smile in return. Years would pass and students would no longer remember the brave man who had fought so hard or them, but Harry and Draco always would and Harry knew that Draco took comfort in that fact.
"I know," he said softly and pushed the door open. "Hello, Severus!"
Just above the new professor's desk- a replacement for Severus's, which was revered in it's own room in Malfoy Manor- Severus Snape stared down at them with raised eyebrows, a small smile on his lips despite how many times he tried to cover it with a scowl. "Back again? During dinner?" He sighed. "Hello, Draco, Harry." The first time Snape had used his first name, despite being only a portrait, Harry had been stunned into silence. Now, he only grinned and waved.
"Hello, professor," he greeted Draco's painted godfather and set his things down on his desk.
"I do hope the only two students I can tolerate at this school don't plan on blowing up my lab." Harry wasn't quite sure when he'd become tolerable, but he wouldn't protest.
"I'm sure you realize that I haven't exploded a cauldron to date, and that Harry hasn't since he began lessons with me... and you." He added the last bit grudgingly, and Harry knew why. Snape didn't interfere that often, but when he did it was with crucial advice that Draco would often resent simply for the fact that the professor was helping more than the blonde was. Maybe it was a pride thing, maybe it was because he wanted to be able to say that it was all because of him that Harry passed potions that year, or maybe it was just because he wanted time to develop a friendship with Harry without Snape making fun of him (which happened often), but Draco always got sulky when Snape helped out.
Snape sat primly at his painted desk, giving them only a brusque wave toward Harry's cauldron, stacked with the others on the side of the room. Harry rolled his eyes when Draco huffed, pulling out his cauldron and raising an eyebrow at Draco, who was meant to be getting the ingredients for the potion they were going to work on. "Do you wanna duel for a bit after all?" he asked with a raised eyebrow and Draco sighed. He had been under the impression the duel had been a joke, but maybe it would do his blonde tutor some good...
"No, sorry, that's okay," he grunted, his cheeks darkening a shade or two. "Look, let's get started, okay?" Harry raised his eyebrows at him but agreed.
The art of potion making was a very exact science- at least, that was what professor Snape kept harping on about, but Harry enjoyed it all the same. Granted, he wasn't good at it, but he still enjoyed the process. He and Draco laughed over their sleeping potion- a second year potion, but they were starting easy.
Harry had to say he appreciated it; he'd been worried that Draco would try to start with what they were currently working on in class, and he'd been lost since fifth year. Instead, the blonde had surprised him with an easy grin and a first year potions book, hoping he wouldn't get mad at him for starting him with easy potions. They did a lot of technique work for the first couple weeks, meeting whenever possible, and they'd been at it for a month and a half now. Snape watched them calmly, a knowing twinkle in his eyes that made Harry think of Dumbledore. He wasn't sure why- perhaps he was just pleased to see them getting along. Either way, Harry didn't complain.
"Harry," he sighed. "Not the mandrake root, not yet. We're still working on the main ingredients. We're not curing petrified muggleborns here." Harry blushed and set it down.
"Sorry," he muttered and Draco smiled thinly.
"You're getting better, you know. I think it was a lack of technique... I mean, you were fine in sixth year."
"Well, I had his book from school to help me out," he snorted, gesturing toward their professor, who made a small sound of indignation.
"I always knew it, Potter," he said snidely and Harry just grinned, drawing a soft chuckle from him. "I suppose it doesn't matter. If you still have it, I would suggest keeping it for these lessons. So long as you don't test-drive any spells without asking what they are..." The brunette winced and Draco looked away, his hand coming up to rub his chest.
"I'm sorry about that," he told the blonde, who just rolled his eyes.
"So you've said, Harry. If I was still angry, I'd not be here." He paused. "Besides, I had tried to crucio you. I deserved worse. I was just frustrated, and angry at myself on top of dealing with something I'd been trying to deal with for a year... I should be the one apologizing. It being you that found me was just too much, and I panicked." His eyes were sad, and full of a sort of strange longing that Harry didn't quite understand. "I've always hated the fact that we were never friends. I understand it was my fault, insulting your first friend... but I still wish we hadn't been so bitter towards each other all these years." Harry nudged him playfully, his cheeks feeling warm. He was in complete agreement and was sort of glad he'd told Draco a little bit about his childhood, and why he'd refused his friendship. It honestly made him feel much better about their current situation, knowing that Draco didn't hold a grudge against him for refusing the first time, and that he really regretted how cruel he had been.
"You tried to use the Cruciatus on him?" Snape repeated incredulously, drawing them out of their little bubble. "If I'd known that- Potter, you blasted little idiot, why didn't you tell me? I went far too hard on you." It relieved him to know that everyone there understood he'd only used the spell out of panic, instead of a desire to hurt him. Granted, Snape was probably still angry at him for using a spell when he didn't know what it did, but he would take what he could get.
"You were too busy pretending to be a dementor for me to even think about telling you!" he retorted and Draco laughed, hiding behind his hand as he continued to snicker after a sharp glare from his godfather. "Besides, Draco had been upset anyway. I'd freaked him out, and he'd already been close to snapping. I don't condone the use of the Cruciatus, but I've used it before and I understand." Snape's jaw dropped. "Not well, but I've used it. I can understand what it's like to be pushed to your limits, and I didn't want Draco to get into serious trouble for it. Draco looked speechless and Harry chuckled at his expression, reaching out for a new ingredient that looked just like the seeds they were supposed to add and dropped it in.
"Harry, no!" Draco cried, reaching forward to try and snag it before it fell, but he only managed to tip the cauldron, and in panic, Harry was shoved out of the way by the blonde's elbow. The cauldron tipped and Draco went down, covered in his botched potion.
Harry, having hit his head on the edge of another desk, was out of it for a few moments. It was only Snape's screeching that brought him back, a minute or so later.
"Harry! Merlin's sake, Mr. Potter! Of all the ridiculous things that's been the result of a ruined potion! Nothing mundane for the Potters, eh? Oh, lord. For the love of Merlin, tend to him, will you? His crying is going to drive me insane."
Harry sat up, feeling a little dazed and more than a little freaked out, only to be face to face with a whimpering child.
"Hawy," he said in a high little voice, tears welling in his huge grey eyes. "Hawy, I wan' my mummy!" A white-blonde head was buried in his chest and skinny little arms were wrapped around his neck as a four-year old boy in robes way too big for him made himself comfortable in his lap. As he tentatively wrapped his arms around the boy in return, who clung to him even tighter, his thought processes shut down, save for one thought.
What have I done?
The promised baby!Draco fic. I'm rather excited about it, so do keep reading!