"Albus, are you sure you want to leave him here? I watched these people all day and they´re the worst muggles possible!" Minerva McGonagall looked at her old friend and superior doubtfully. "Lots of wizarding families would be glad to raise him!"
"These people are the only relatives he has left. He has to stay with them." Albus Dumbledore stooped to lay the bundle he was holding on the doorstep of number 4, Privet Drive.
"I don´t think so, Albus."
The old wizard turned around. "Cornelius! What a surprise! Shouldn´t you be organising the victory celebrations?"
"It is seen to," the young minister for magic reassured the older man. "But my most noble duty this night is to find a proper place for our saviour, of course. I will not be remembered as the minister who left Harry Potter with muggles."
"These muggles are his only living relatives," Dumbledore pointed out.
"Albus," replied Minister Fudge with an apologetic smile, "they may be that, but Lily Potter´s estrangement with her muggle sister is legend. No witch or wizard in their right mind would believe that she wanted her son to end up with that person."
"Cornelius..." the old wizard started weakly.
"Cornelius is right for once," Minerva stopped her colleague. "Harry Potter can´t stay with these people, and as I said, finding a family who will take him will be a piece of cake."
The minister nodded and took the sleeping baby from a reluctant Albus Dumbledore.
"I insist on a hearing of the full Wizengamot!" Albus Dumbledore glared at the young minister. "This," he motioned at the room at large, "is not acceptable."
"Albus, I appreciate your concern, really," replied the minister, speaking up to be heard over the wails of the baby held by a young ministry employee in the background. "But the ministry is not equipped to care for a baby for several days or even weeks! The child needs a family, and he needs it now!"
"May I remind you that he´d be sleeping at his aunt´s house, weren´t it for your interference!" grumbled the older wizard. "As I said, I insist on a hearing. Get them away from the parties, if you must. But this," again he motioned at the room at large again, "can not be allowed to happen."
"Now, Albus,..." the minister turned and looked at the man behind him for help.
"If I may, Cornelius," Lucius Malfoy stepped forward. "Headmaster Dumbledore." The blond wizard hinted a bow. "I wouldn´t try to get the child without a hearing weren´t it for the boy´s distress. Let me assure you that young Mr. Potter will be well cared for."
"I will not agree to Harry Potter be given to a deatheater!" Albus Dumbledore stood his ground.
The blond wizard stopped the minister from interfering on his account with a raised hand. "Headmaster, neither am I nor was I ever a deatheater! The minister himself will vouch for me!"
"Of course, of course, Lucius! Albus, only last week Lucius made a huge donation for St. Mungo´s. His untiring work to help the victims of You Know Who´s attacks is well known! He´s one of the best respected members of the wizarding community."
"And, as I may point out," continued Lucius Malfoy, "one of the best apt to foster one Harry Potter. Forget your hatred for just a minute, headmaster. I can offer a father and a mother as well as a brother to young Harry. I have the financial means to ensure he will never want for anything and my position within the community will grant him access to the highest social circles." He smiled.
"You see, Lucius is the best choice." Cornelius Fudge beamed at the headmaster.
"But..." started Albus Dumbledore.
"If babbling about deatheaters is your only objection, I´ll bring my foster-son home now," Lucius Malfoy interrupted. He looked at the headmaster with a broad smile and a raised brow. "Well, as it´s settled, I will be back for the paperwork tomorrow." He went over to the young witch holding the baby and took it with the certain moves of a man used to holding a child. "I got you, little one. Everything will be alright." He cooed over the baby, who stopped his racket to look at the foreign man.
"Good bye, gentlemen."
Lucius Malfoy turned in a flourish of robes and left.
Lucius kicked the door open, his arms wrapped around the now sleeping child.
The elf appeared with a crack.
The creature bowed, its nose touched the floor.
"How may Dobby assist Master?"
"Stop babbling and take him!" Lucius shoved the sleeping child at the creature.
"Oh! Another young master!" breathed the elf, staring down at the sleeping boy reverently. "Young master is hurt!" He pointed one of his long fingers at the boy´s forehead. "Does Master want Dobby to heal young master?"
"Don´t you dare!" cried Lucius. "This is Harry Potter. He will live with us. Prepare one of the smaller guest rooms. Make it a nursery."
"Dobby will make it a great nursery!" promised the elf and padded off towards the marble staircase leading to the upper floor.
"Dobby!" cried Lucius. "We need something practical! Don´t exaggerate! A cot and a wardrobe will do."
"No trunk for toys?" asked the elf, his ears hanging.
"A small one."
The elf beamed at his master before he proceeded upstairs.
"What is that racket about?" Lady Narcissa stepped out of the parlour. "Lucius, you should know better than to shout in this house at this time of the day! Draco´s asleep!"
"I´m sorry, love," apologized the master of the house. "I had to give Dobby instructions."
"For the boy."
"What boy? What have you done now?" Lady Narcissa didn´t wait for an answer, but hurried upstairs, following the low voice of the house elf assuring somebody that it was going to give him the most beautiful nursery. When she reached the door of the blue guest room, she stopped short. On the bed lay a sleeping baby.
"Lucius," the lady said icily, "whose is this baby? Explain!"
The wizard stood behind his wife and wrapped an arm around her waist. She wriggled free. "I demand an explanantion! Now! Where does this child come from? Who is the mother? And why dare you bring your illegitimate offspring to my house?"
"My illegitimate..." spluttered Lucius. "How can you think that of me, beloved. I will work harder to ensure you of my devotion in the future! This is no child of mine! It´s Harry Potter!"
"The child who was orphaned when he vanquished the Lord."
"Vanquished the Lord? And wasn´t his mother a mudblood? Lucius, why would you bring such a creature to our home?" The witch watched the house elf pick up the sleeping baby carefully and transfigure the bed into a cot.
"Narcissa, beloved! This child will be considered the saviour of the wizarding world by those fools celebrating the Lord´s downfall! Just think of the prestige that will come with fostering him!"
"I can see that," admitted the witch, "but I don´t like Draco to grow up with a filthy half-blood."
"Let´s not see our little guest as the half-blood he is, but as our ticket to the highest circles of society. The doors our money won´t open, this little guy will. Think of the opportunities for Draco!"
"You may have a point, Lucius," admitted the witch. She snuggled up to her husband and allowed his arm to sneak around her waist. "For Draco´s sake, we will put up with the little brat."
Lucius pressed a kiss at her temple. "I knew that you would understand." He beamed at his young wife.
Harry Potter slept the morning away in his new cot. The night had been exhausting for the little child. First, the ride on the magical motorbike, then the apparition to the ministry, more than an hour held clumsily by a ministry undersecretary while men quarrelled nearby and finally the apparition back to his new home, Malfoy Manor.
When the child woke, he made himself heard with a loud, irritated howl. Above his little bed was a high, white ceiling instead of the mobile of stars and snitches he was used to. Harry was in a room he didn´t know.
A loud crack announced the presence of somebody. A greenish creature, with large yellow eyes and pointed ears, looked into the cot.
"Hello, master," Dobby greeted the crying baby. "Dobby is to bring young master downstairs to mistress and young master Draco." The small servant stood on tiptoe to lift the baby out of the cot.
As soon as he was freed of his confinement, the little boy wiggled to get free of the elf. Dobby did his best to hold the baby wizard, but had to give up soon. Harry padded out of the room on his besocked feet, the house elf on his heel. Dobby hurried after the child and grabbed his hand just in time before he reached the staircase.
"Let me assist you, young master!" cried the elf and overtook the small child to proceed him on the stairs. With a lot of babbling and coaxing the elf navigated the toddler down the stairs and to the parlour, where Lady Narcissa played with her own son, Draco.
"Mistress, Master Harry is awake," the elf announced when they entered the room.
"As if I could have overheard that," huffed the witch. "Draco, darling, come here." She offered a teddy bear to the little boy, who was as blond as herself and her husband. The child accepted the toy and sat by her feet to examine it closely. "Now show me that boy."
The house elf coaxed the black-haired boy towards the witch. The boy stood in front of the woman and looked at her curiously.
"He looks like a common peasant, with his hair sticking up all over the place. Why didn´t you brush it, Dobby?" snapped the witch.
"Dobby is terribly sorry, Mistress," howled the little elf, grabbed a toy and hit himself with it. "The young master was so eager to come down here, Dobby could barely follow!"
"You will brush the child´s hair in the future before he´s allowed to leave his room. If anybody saw him like that, they´d think we neglect him! Oh no, you don´t!"
Harry had sat down beside Draco and had tried to take the other boy´s teddy bear. Lady Narcissa snatched the bear from the boy and gave it back to her son. Harry wailed at his loss. Draco watched the new boy with interest and after a little while decided he didn´t want him to cry. The blond boy held out his teddy bear to the other child.
Harry sniffed and took the toy from the blond boy. He reached behind him and took one of the toys lying on the floor and – in exchange for the bear – offered it to Draco, who took it with a giggle.
Lady Narcissa watched the exchange in surprise and ordered Dobby to bring some food for their new charge.
After Harry´s meal the two boys played with some of Draco´s toys. Narcissa had to admit they were cute together, one fair as herself, with ivory skin and nearly white blond hair, the other dark, with golden skin under a raven mop of hair.
The boys´ games were interrupted by a visitor. Bellatrix, Narcissa´s sister stormed into the room.
"It is true!" she cried after a glance at the two children. "Praise the fates for giving you such a clever husband, sister!" She bent down and picked the dark child up. "So, you withstood the Lord!" The woman, dark in colours just like the boy, glared at the child. "It won´t spare you your fate, of course," she continued, setting the child back on the floor. "Rodolphus, I and some others are going to look for the Lord. We have an idea who could possibly know about His whereabouts. Tell Lucius to be prepared to hand over the child once our Lord is back."
"This was my plan from the very beginning, Bella. It´s good to have you here." Lucius handed his cloak to Dobby and pecked first his wife and then his sister-in-law on the cheek. "You were careful not to be seen?"
"They´re hunting down His faithful," replied the dark witch. "Not all of us were assigned to work in secret for Him. I rarely go anywhere without a notice-me-not charm."
"It´s not my fault He thought I´d be more useful through my connections than my wandwork," Lucius said defiantly.
"I didn´t say that," Bellatrix lay a hand on the wizard´s shoulder. "We all know how much you achieved for Him through money and social standing. You truely are one of his most highly esteemed. Handing over the Potter brat will strenghten your position with Him even further." The witch smiled. "But I haven´t come to discuss children´s business. Our Lord gave me something to watch over and I want you to take over while I go looking for him. It´s too important to lose on my quest."
"We will be honoured." Lucius hinted a bow.
"Take it and keep it safe!"
"I´ll protect it with my life!"
"This will be wise." Bellatrix handed her brother-in-law a small, battered book.
Lucius stared at it reverently for a minute or two. "His diary? He trusted you with his diary?" he whispered finally.
"I´m his most faithful, don´t forget," beamed Bellatrix. "I will be back within the week." That said she picked her nephew up and kissed his forehead. "Whatever auntie´s reward is, she will share with you."
After a short hug for her sister and a pat on Lucius´ shoulder she was gone.
"Was that the plan, Lucius?" Narcissa asked as they sat down for dinner. "To hand the boy to the Lord when He came back?"
Lucius helped himself to some carrots. "There is no plan. A win-win situation presented itself and I took advantage. If He comes back, I am his loyal follower who took hold of the child, and if He doesn´t, I am the citizen who volunteered to foster the saviour when he was in need." Lucius smiled. "They called him The Boy Who Lived in the Prophet today."
"Dumbledore was against us getting the child," Narcissa reminded her husband. She fed Draco, who was sitting in his high chair, a spoonful of mashed potatoes. Beside her, Dobby did the same with little Harry.
"I heard that some are against it, but honestly, who would be able to give him a better home? Here he has a family, including a child of his own age. Nobody can claim to be able to give him the same. Rumour has it that Dumbledore tried to convince your cousin Arthur to take the boy, but they have seven of their own. Nobody in their right mind would give them an eighth child. The only people I could think of are followers of the Lord and none of them would speak up to get the boy from us."
"We have to make sure they find no reason to take the boy from us," Narcissa added. "Let´s make sure whoever checks on the child finds him happy."
Lucius sipped his wine before he took his wife´s left hand and breathed a kiss on her fingers. "I love your understanding for schemes, my beloved," he purred.
After dinner the couple took the two boys to the library, where they sat on a blanket with the two toddlers and helped them build a tower of wooden blocks. Both boys were enthusiastic about the activity. When the tower got too high, it collapsed. Draco howled with misery when he saw the tower fall, but little Harry clapped his hands and giggled and started a new tower at once. As soon as he had assembled a couple of blocks, Draco stopped his protest and started to add blocks with new gusto.
The game was interrupted by the arrival of a guest.
"Severus!" Lucius scrambled to his feet. "What joy to see you here! What lucky breeze carried you to our doorstep?"
"Dumbledore," replied the black clad wizard.
"Dumbledore?" echoed Lucius.
"Who´d be better to check on a deatheater than another deatheater?" Snape smirked.
"He sent you to check whether we have killed the boy by now?" snorted Lucius.
"Exactly," the younger wizard accepted a tumbler of liquor and sat in one of the armchairs. "He wants me to keep an eye on the wizarding hero." He motioned at the blanket where Harry was just knocking down the tower the boys had built and giggling like a hinkypunk.
"Why does he think I won´t throw you out of the house?" asked Lucius as he sat beside his old friend.
"He knows we worked for the same company," drawled Severus. "And he suspects that you want to avoid a public interrogation about your loyalties. Here is the deal he offers: you allow him to check on the boy through me regularly and he allows you to keep him and your reputation."
"How dare he!" cried Narcissa.
"How dare he, indeed," mused Lucius, "but I guess it is acceptable as long as none other than you will come to the Manor, Severus. When you go back, inform him that I agree. But you and no other will be allowed access to the child. Tell him I think more people would scare the boy." Lucius smirked and raised his own glass.
The other wizard raised his glass in response and drained it in one.
Christmas was just around the corner and after several weeks with the new child at the Manor things had settled down to a routine. Lucius Malfoy left the house after breakfast to promote his house in the wizarding world, or at least the part of it he considered important. Most of the days he was found at the Ministry, Gringott´s or St. Mungo´s.
Narcissa Malfoy stayed at home to look after the two boys. She made sure to spend more time with Draco, while Harry was looked after by the house elf, but other than that she didn´t treat the foster child badly. Lucius never tired to point out that the boy needed to look happy in order to buy them the prestige they were hoping for.
Harry and Draco got along well. They shared their toys and played together. They even had invented a babbling language only they understood. Lady Narcissa was not very happy about that. Her own son was more than one and a half year old now and had to speak his first word yet.
Said first word was awaited anxiously, as her mother kept pointing out what a happy moment and precious memory it had been when her own daughters had spoken their first word, which had happened to be ´mother´ for all three of them. At the mention of her daughters, Narcissa´s mother had taken to bursting into tears lately. She had been unhappy about her eldest, Andromeda, running away with a muggle for years, but the youngest, Bellatrix, being sentenced to a life at Azkaban had been a bad blow. Mrs. Black had been hoping for more grandchildren. Bellatrix was the right age, after all. Instead the young woman had gotten herself arrested after attacking an auror and his wife.
Anyway, Narcissa was waiting for Draco to speak. There was some comfort in the fact that Harry hadn´t spoken yet either.
It happened three days before Christmas. Narcissa was embroidering a handkerchief for Lucius while she was watching the boys play, when Draco picked up a teddy bear, held it out in his little hand and said "Harry!".
Narcissa was devastated. She was still crying when Lucius returned home. Not even his reassurances that this first word would raise Draco above all others of his age could dry her tears. To be honest, he didn´t really mean it anyway. The wizard had been secretly hoping for ´Daddy´ as Draco´s first.
The boys got baby broomsticks for Christmas. Harry squealed with delight when he saw it and was flying around the room within the minute. Draco watched him for a short while and then copied his moves.
Lucius and Narcissa watched the boys race around the room. Dobby was busy catching vases, cups and small statues the boys knocked over. It looked funny, actually.
"It was a good thing to take Harry in," Narcissa said after a little while. "They´re goading each other on to do better and learn quicklier. Draco´s powers will develop so much better with a second wizarding child around."
Lucius kissed Narcissa´s temple as they watched the boys race.
"I told you it was a good move to foster the boy," Lucius nibbled his wife´s earlobe tenderly.
When the boys had had enough of their little race, they ran to the couple. Draco threw himself in his parents´ arms and Harry followed his lead. Both boys were picked up and hugged.