This chapter is dedicated to my roommate for her birthday. It's what she said she wanted, the weirdo. I realize few will be reading this, as book five comes out tomorrow, but still… Best to get it out now before everything changes. Author notes at the bottom. Enjoy!
It only took a few days staying at the Burrow before Harry's antics drove him and his friends to distraction. Although Ron and Hermione were patient and supportive, and despite the fact that Mrs. Weasley plied him with endless amounts of comfort food, frequently of the chocolate variety, Harry was moody and on edge. Harry eventually decided that he would prefer to go back to his flat; hopefully the familiar routine would help settle his nerves and keep him from worrying too much.
" You'll contact me the minute you hear anything?" Harry asked, as Hermione returned him to his flat. Hermione stifled the desire to roll her eyes at the query (Harry had asked the question several hundred times already), and simply replied in the affirmative. After a fierce hug, Hermione disappeared with a slight pop, and Harry was left alone.
A quick glance out from his balcony confirmed Harry's concerns that there were still a number of reporters waiting to speak with him. He pulled the curtains closed again, and headed into the kitchen for some coffee. With the reassuring thrum of caffeine in his system, he picked up the phone and dialled Tim, and told him the latest developments.
" Come here and stay," Tim said in a tone that brooked no argument. " I'll be by to pick you up in an hour."
" Thanks Tim," Harry said, before hanging up the phone. He didn't need to spend much time packing; he simply replaced the clothes he'd taken to the Burrow with fresh ones from his closet. He then took a long shower, dressed comfortably, and proceeded to wait for Tim. Harry scarcely recalled pushing his way through the desperate media people, and climbing numbly into the passenger seat of Tim's car. Mike, sitting in the backseat, was staring agog at Harry's celebrity treatment.
" Are you famous or something?" Mike asked curiously, after Tim had successfully manoeuvred the car back into traffic and away from prying eyes.
" I'd rather not talk about it," Harry said softly.
" But just think, I've been intimately acquainted with a celebrity and I didn't even know about it! It's almost like I'm famous. I'm… famous-in-law, maybe."
Tim looked over at Harry's ashen expression, and although he too was curious about Harry's circumstances, decided that Harry would tell them when he was ready. Tim tactfully changed the subject,
" I'm afraid you'll have to sleep on the floor. We've been moving and selling furniture the last few weeks, and the new stuff is going straight to the new place. Still, it means there's plenty of room."
Mike, in a rare moment of perceptiveness, added in gently, " You can have my Winnie the Pooh blanket, if you want."
Harry felt a watery smile forming on his face, and he turned to Mike. " Thanks, but I think I can manage without it."
Mike plastered a bright smile on his face, and pretended to wipe his brow in relief, " Whew! That's lucky, as I really don't like sleeping without it."
" It's true, he carries that thing everywhere. It's quite hideous by this point, and no doubt germ-infested."
" Hey! Me and my blankie can still find somewhere else to live, you know," Mike said teasingly. Tim just grinned, and Mike winked back at him: they were both glad to see that Harry had been successfully distracted by their bickering.
The following morning, Harry woke-up in the unfamiliar surroundings of Tim's home, and found it decidedly odd how life seemed to keep moving no matter what was happening. He had to get up, eat breakfast, and go to school, even though Draco was out there somewhere, alone, and possibly in danger. As he wandered the halls between his classes, Harry wondered if anyone could tell just by looking at him that he was scared to death for Draco. For the first time, he looked at his fellow students, and considered what sort of lives they were living beneath their blank exteriors.
On the weekend, he helped Tim and Mike move into their new place. Tim's old home still had two weeks left on the lease, and Harry decided to stay there for the remaining time, while he figured out what he wanted to do. He got into contact with Hermione, who handed over a crumpled letter from Draco. Harry waited until he was alone to read it.
This will have to be short and sweet as I have little time, and I'm worried someone might be monitoring what I write. I have been fortunate, and have met some people who share my views regarding my father. It'll be good to have some help. It's going to take more work then I had originally thought, and I know you'll understand when I say that I'm disappointed that I won't be coming home soon. I miss you. Are you all right? Of course, you can't answer me. I mean that; don't try to contact me, until I tell you it's safe to. I'll console myself with what I think you would write, if you could. Long letters filled with how much you miss my sparkling wit and charming personality, I imagine. Eat right while I'm gone, I don't want to have to fatten you up all over again when I see you next. I will try to write again soon, but I make no promises.
The letter alleviated some of the immediate concerns Harry had, but he was upset that Draco was going to be gone for an extended period of time. Not for the first time, he wondered if it had been a good thing to let Draco go alone. While yes, it would be decidedly more difficult for Draco to blend-in and hide, if he had the instantly recognizable Harry Potter trailing behind him, but surely they could have figured some way around that? But it had all happened so fast. Weeks spent ignoring the problem, had eventually come back to bite them in the ass.
Harry drifted through his days with as little thought as possible, turning his mind to problems like laundry and groceries, rather than anything more serious. Thus final exams arrived and caught him by surprise. School was over? When had that happened? Harry studied and crammed, gratefully throwing himself into long hours of revising. Finally, the last exam was written, and Harry was a free man again. He had no idea how well he had done on his tests, but he couldn't bring himself to feel anything besides relief now that they were over. He had more important matters to consider.
Having moved back into his home after the two weeks at Tim's were up, Harry had discovered his own lease was close to ending. There was little point in keeping the flat, now that every reporter worth his or her paycheque knew where Harry lived. An exotic, vividly coloured parrot sent by Sirius made Harry's decision still easier. Sirius's letters always contained an invitation to come and stay, and Harry figured that with school over, now was as good a time as any to visit. Besides, visiting Sirius would be a good way to fill the idle hours, and keep Harry out of trouble. Harry knew that left to his own devices, the temptation to do something rash and 'heroic', like striking down Lucius in the middle of a crowded street, would likely become too much. Plus, he could be just as easily reached by owl if he was with Sirius than if he were here.
Decision made, Harry had the few bits of furniture he actually owned put into storage, left some personal belongings with Tim and Mike, and headed off for warmer climates. His godfather, having been fully pardoned by the ministry, had been dully compensated for his wrongful imprisonment, and therefore had money enough to live a life of leisure. He had developed a fondness for tropical islands during his brief time as a fugitive, and rarely left the beach if he could avoid it. Remus Lupin was never far from Sirius's side, and despite all Harry's troubles, or perhaps because of them, Harry was looking forward to seeing them both.
" Harry, you may very well be the only teenager in the world capable of sitting on a glorious, sun-drenched beach and brooding," Sirius chided, handing his godson a frosty, pink-coloured drink adorned with a little paper umbrella.
" Are you kidding? Teenagers are exceptionally good at brooding. Also at angsty, whiny, pouty, and moody behaviour. I'm perfectly normal," Harry replied.
Sirius smiled, but gave a weary sigh, " I wish you were a little more normal. Still no news?"
Harry doubted that Sirius really understood how deeply he felt for Draco, but at least Sirius had made no jokes or criticisms about his choice of lover.
" No, nothing. I talked to Ron just this morning, and there's still no word from Draco. Ron says to say hi, by the way."
" Sometimes, no news is good news," Sirius said, hoping he sounded sincere. " At least there have been no reports of him being hurt or found…"
" It's just the 'not knowing', you understand?"
" Talking to a one-time fugitive, remember? I know exactly how you feel," Sirius said. " Powerless."
" I miss him," Harry said, taking a sip of his drink, and staring out at the waves. Sirius had no reply to that, and the two men slipped into silence.
Harry did miss Draco, missed him dreadfully with a dull ache that seemed to grow with every passing day. He missed waking up next to a warm body, and falling asleep to someone else's rhythmic breathing. When something exciting happened, or something unusual, he immediately went to share it with Draco, before remembering Draco wasn't there. He would then catalogue the thought, determined to share it with him the minute they were together again. Harry missed the little things Draco used to do to show he cared: the coffee in the morning, laying Harry's clothes out for him, the reminders Draco gave him when he was acting more disorganized than usual. God, he even missed the sarcastic comments, and the sharp retorts when they argued.
Though it shamed him to admit it, even to himself, he also missed sex. It seemed like such a petty thing to be missing, considering there were far more important matters to think about, but the thoughts were there regardless. For eighteen years there had been little enough in that area of his life, but somehow in the time that Draco had been with him, he had gotten accustomed to the smouldering looks and the burning touches. During the day, he recalled the details of their time together: Draco's smile, Draco's laughter, Draco's voice. At night, in the privacy of his room, Harry remembered Draco's eyes glowing silver with impending orgasm. He remembered how smooth Draco's skin felt under his fingers, how solid Draco's body felt under his, the exquisite sensation when their arousals brushed together. And when he remembered all that, other things besides his heart ached.
Sometimes, Harry would worry about the future. Was it: 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' or 'out of sight, out of mind'? Would Draco still want him when all this was over? Or was their relationship just one of those things that worked only for a certain time, under certain circumstances? Did Draco love Harry, as much as Harry loved Draco? Did Draco think about him at all?
Draco did indeed think about Harry. He thought about Harry every time he slipped on Harry's invisibility cloak, or swung a leg over his Firebolt, or… To put it simply, Draco thought about Harry all the time. Even when he was crouched outside Malfoy manor, painfully restricting his breaths so they would go unheard by the perimeter guards, he was thinking about Harry. Once, when he had been stealthily moving around the manor's kitchen (the house-elves were not fooled by the invisibility cloak, but they recognized him and didn't know enough to be suspicious of him. Either that or they held no loyalty for Malfoy Senior; Draco rather hoped it was the latter), he had spied a plate of scones, and instantly wondered what Mrs. Cooper had done about the café nook at the bookshop. The thought was so incongruous with what he was doing, those two aspects of his life so radically different, that he had had to stifle the urge to laugh out loud.
For once, however, Draco's mind was entirely focussed on the task ahead of him. For months he had been gathering information about his father and his father's followers, and leaking it to a group of individual's who were covertly working against his father's campaign. In the beginning, they had voiced their opinions loudly, and had sent up opposing candidates. When their third candidate turned up dead under mysterious circumstances, they decided to make their resistance movement a little less public. It was safer that way; at least until they could discover just how many people Lucius Malfoy had working for him. That's where Draco's contributions had proved invaluable. Simply listing his father's acquaintances had been enough to uncover several high up officials who were acting illegally on Lucius's behalf. The resistance group moved to slowly for Draco's liking, though he understood the need to take precautions. Allies, however, were few and far between and Draco was not about to dismiss their help. Finally, the group had agreed to let Draco undertake the most important, and consequently the most dangerous, of missions. It was time to take down Lucius himself.
Flying carefully, Draco came over the tops of the fences and hedges that guarded the manor house, and landed swiftly in a small thicket, near to the cellar door he had escaped through when he had been a prisoner. It seemed like centuries ago to Draco, like it had happened to someone else entirely. Draco propped the broom up against a nearby wall, and whispered the unlocking spell to open the cellar doors. He had gotten into Malfoy manor this way a dozen of times in the last few weeks, but tonight he was more cautious than usual. He could feel Harry's wand buzzing slightly in his palm, as though to confirm that there was indeed something to worry about tonight. Draco clutched the wand tighter in his grip, enjoying the reassuring tingle that shot up his arm briefly, before slipping inside his former home.
The house was dark, the atmosphere cold and gloomy. In other words, exactly the same as it always was. Draco shivered, wondering how he had managed to grow up in such a hostile environment. Draco by-passed the main staircase in favour of a secret passage that would lead him up a spiralling staircase to the third floor. He needed direct information linking Lucius to the murders of other candidates, or at the very least confirmation that Lucius was, and had been, a practicing Death Eater. Personally, Draco wanted to know if Lucius had killed his mother. On previous visits, he had kept mostly to the main floors, specifically the library and the study. The room he sought presently was Lucius's private den. The small room was connected to Lucius's bedroom and private sitting room, and if there were anything incriminating to be found, it would be there, where Lucius could have ready access to it. Draco knew that in the den there was a small, iron vault, hidden behind a password-protected portrait. What he didn't know was that Lucius was also there, waiting for him.
Draco was standing in the centre of the small den, his dusty feet no doubt ruining the expensive and fragile Turkish rug beneath his feet. He was waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dark, when the sconces on the wall suddenly flared into light, and his father's heavy, leather chair turned towards him.
" You might as well take off that ridiculous cloak, Draco. I've wards against its magic in this room – you should know better than most that I take no chances."
The blood rushed away from Draco's face and body, leaving him feeling chilled and exposed. He didn't really want to take the cloak off, whether or not it was still rendering him invisible. He compromised by pulling the hood down, and throwing the thin material slightly off his shoulders.
" Lucius," Draco acknowledged, pleased that his voice didn't waver. He waited for Lucius to make the first move, as he tried to calm himself down. He would need to be at his best to come out of this situation alive.
" You used to call me father," Lucius said, a quirk to his eyebrows. He gestured for Draco to sit down in a chair set in front of the desk. Draco did so, not altogether surprised at the civil gesture – even in the most trying of situations, a Malfoy was faultlessly polite.
" What can I say? I was young and impressionable then."
" Hmm," Lucius replied. He slid a blown-up, glossy, moving picture across the polished lacquer of his desk. Draco picked it up and saw that it was a photo of him and Harry kissing. It was the shot that the first reporter had taken, before the others had swarmed up to them. Apparently the sun hadn't ruined the picture after all. " Seems you're still young and impressionable. Swayed by Harry Potter? Tsk, tsk, Draco. I thought you had some taste."
Draco's jaw clenched, " I didn't see this in any of the papers. In fact, there was no mention at all regarding Harry and I being lovers. How much did that cost you?"
Lucius gave a small, unconcerned flick of the wrist, " The reporter worked for me. Most of those that arrived at Potter's domicile that day did. I let them report only what I saw fit."
" Didn't fancy the public knowing your only heir was in love with a man? Or was it because I was with the great Harry Potter?"
" Why, neither, my darling son," Lucius said silkily. " I'm merely holding this information until it can do me the most good, which is something I've always taught you to do. If I can't blackmail Potter, then at least this should secure me a few more votes from the homosexual crowd. Though my advisors tell me I'm already quite popular with that demographic; they tell me it's the hair. Does Potter comment on yours?"
Harry did comment on Draco's hair, often while running his fingers through it after a particularly tiring tryst. Lucius's comment made Draco feel dirty, and he squirmed in his seat before he could force himself to stop. It was a struggle for Draco to pull on his indifferent façade again.
" You seem quite interested in what I do with my life. If I didn't know better, I would think you cared."
" To give credit where credit is due, I must say you surprised me Draco. You know how much I hate to have my plans waylaid, and when you left, I was more than a little perturbed. I didn't think you would go far, however, and I concentrated my search to the surrounding villages. That was my first mistake. I was also on the lookout for your signature magic, knowing you wouldn't last long without it. That was my second mistake; all that wasted energy and not a single spark from you. I was quite dumbfounded, let me tell you, when it was revealed that you were in the muggle world. That was quite a stroke of genius you had there. It was exceedingly hard tracking you down in that hovel."
" How did you find me?" Draco asked, for the first time genuinely interested.
Lucius smiled a truly wicked looking smile, and stood up. He walked across to the portrait and muttered the password, revealing the vault. Lucius opened the vault using the combination, and he reached into the depths, pulling out a small glittering object. He held the item out to Draco, who instinctively grabbed it. It was his watch, the one he had pawned when he had arrived in muggle London. A sick feeling came over him.
" What did you do to the man who gave you this? He was an innocent muggle, he didn't know anything," Draco said tightly. He remembered how nice Pat had been to him, showing him how to use the telephone, and how to get to Harry's on the underground. Pat had given him biscuits and tea. It had never occurred to him that Pat was in any danger just for helping him.
" Really, Draco. Must you always assume the worst of me? I admit it was incredibly frustrating to chase that man from place to place, only to find out the man wearing your watch wasn't you. I wasn't aware you even knew that your watch carried a locating spell. Very clever of you to get rid of it."
Hold on. His watch had a locating spell? Draco nodded knowledgeably, even as his mind began making the necessary connections. Pat must have sold the watch to someone, and this person had inadvertently led Lucius's spies on a merry chase around the world. To think, he hadn't planned any of that at all. He had just wanted some muggle money to work the telephone.
" Of course, once we caught up to this gentleman, it was a simple matter to get him to confess where he had gotten the watch from. It was even easier to get the shopkeeper to talk. Did you know he has a niece that attends Hogwarts? Small world, isn't it? Well, we barely had to hint at what could happen to his niece, and he told us everything. About a skinny blond boy looking for the home of one Harry Potter. Imagine my shock when I heard that piece of information; certainly the last place I had expected you to run to. You certainly provided more of a challenge than I had anticipated. Under different circumstances, I might even have been proud of you."
Draco scowled, unsurprised his father had threatened Pat, but angered about it all the same. He didn't even blink at the backhanded compliment his father had bestowed on him.
" Did you kill my mother?" Draco asked bluntly, through with the niceties. His father's genial expression faded, and his features hardened.
" No. She also disobeyed me."
" Good for her," Draco said, smiling slightly. " Must have driven you mad, knowing you lost control of two of your possessions."
" I know what you've been up to.
I know how you and your little rebel group are trying to keep me from
being elected, and I don't appreciate the damage you've already done to my
supporters, but I'm prepared to be magnanimous. I'm going to win, Draco, no matter what, and I'll let you have a
choice. You can be at my side when I
do, or you can be dead."
Draco started to laugh. " That is by far the most cliché big villain speech I have ever heard. If I didn't know better, I'd accuse you of watching too many muggle movies. No, Lucius, I don't think I'll be joining you any time soon."
" You're mocking me? I've killed bigger men than you, Draco. Don't think I'll hesitate just because you share my blood," Lucius spat out, his temper rising.
" Oh, I have no doubts you'll try. After all, it takes a certain kind of man to lock his son up for two years, don't you think?"
" I can make that abuse seem like a holiday. You are sorely testing my patience," Lucius said. His hand started twitching, and Draco knew he was reaching for his cane, the one that contained his wand.
" I do believe you are losing your composure. Tell me, is murder your solution to everything?"
" It's worked in the past. Let's see if it'll work again," Lucius said with a snarl. The wand was in his hand, a spell on his lips. Draco raised his own wand, muttering the first defensive spell he could think of.
It shouldn't have worked. Draco hadn't cast a serious spell in years, and his knowledge was limited. The spell his father cast was a complex Dark Arts one, meant to cause a maximum amount of pain, for a minimum of effort. Draco's attempt had been a shield-spell from his fourth year textbook, dimly remembered from Hogwarts. It shouldn't have done much, but it did. The shield had shimmered like white gold, and his father's spell had rebounded, knocking Lucius from his chair. Lucius lay stunned on the floor for a moment, and Draco stared with wonder at his wand. He could still feel the tingles of energy running through his arm from the spell.
Lucius yelled something else out, and raised his wand from his prone position. Draco again deflected the spell, and his father writhed in agony on the floor. His wand slipped from his fingers, and Draco kicked it completely out of reach. His father tried to speak but all that came out at first were gurgling murmurs.
" Harry's wand," Draco explained off-hand. " He said it would protect me, so long as he willed it so. Means he loves me. I must admit I like the irony of it all: Harry's love causing me to destroy the one person who should have loved me most."
" You're nothing but a pathetic, ungrateful, useless…" Lucius had to stop his insults in order to breathe. He hacked unpleasantly, small flecks of blood-laced saliva appearing around his mouth.
" Save your breath, Lucius. You'll want to be at full strength when the authorities arrive," Draco said. There was water on the sideboard, sitting in an expensive cut-glass decanter, and well within reach. Draco didn't offer his father any.
" What authorities?" Lucius rasped out. His eyes widened in fear when he realized his body was paralysed from the neck down.
" You didn't think I'd come here without backup, did you? No, once we weeded out those Aurors of yours, it was safe to go to the authorities with our suspicions. They cast a listening spell, and heard everything you just told me."
Lucius attempted to sneer. His busted lip and bruised face made it look rather grotesque. " There are wards against listening spells."
Draco snapped his fingers, " Oh that's right. Well, I guess it's a good thing I brought this with me then."
Draco retrieved a small black box from his pocket. Draco explained to his father: " It's a tape-recorder. Muggle invention, works almost like a listening spell. It records our conversation for playback later, though it runs on batteries not magic, so it works perfectly well despite your wards. I can tell you how batteries work while we wait if you want; they're really quite fascinating. Of course, I doubt the recording will stand up in court, but I imagine it'll be enough to severely damage your reputation once I give it to the papers. As for the rest, I really must thank you for leaving the vault open. I imagine you were so busy gloating over finding my watch, and reliving the thrill of tormenting a few harmless muggles, that you completely forgot to lock it again. Oh well, works for me. Now you just rest for awhile, while I disengage the protection spells and let the Aurors in."
Draco stood up, and calmly placed a binding spell on his father, just in case Lucius happened to regain his mobility. Draco looked down at his father, and studied him for a moment. His father looked angry, but frightened as well, and he looked nothing like the imposing figure Draco was accustomed to dealing with. Lucius was struggling to rise, but other then twitching spasmodically, his limbs remained unresponsive.
" At least mother went out with a little dignity. Who's pathetic now?" Draco asked rhetorically, before giving into impulse and giving his father a vicious kick to the kidneys. " And that's for saying I have no taste. Harry's quite the catch, I'll have you know."
Draco walked steadily towards the door, head held high.
" Too good for you then. He'll drop you now; you were never anything but a charity case. Irresistible to someone with a hero complex, you have to have realized that?"
Draco flinched but didn't turn around. He's just using the only weapon he has left: spite. Harry loves you. He said so. Harry said his feelings would never change. Never.
Through the stressful weeks that followed, Draco repeated these words to himself, trying to make himself believe them. The paparazzi were everywhere; Lucius's trial was the trial of the century. Even with all the evidence of the numerous crimes Lucius Malfoy had committed, there were still those few who extolled him, and claimed he was falsely accused. Fortunately, common sense won out. The majority of people were tired of the Death Eater threat, wanting to eradicate that particular evil once and for all and get on with their lives. There were many cheers when Lucius was handed a sentence of death; Draco's voice wasn't among them, though he was not unhappy with the results.
Draco was required to participate in some of the trial proceedings, and he was compelled to give testimony, some about his imprisonment, and more about his father's dealings. The media followed him everywhere, but he shied away from them; at one time he might have liked the attention, but he was still leery of strangers and large crowds, not to mention that his one brush with the media in front of Harry's flat had possibly scarred him for life. Though he had appropriated the photograph from that occasion for himself; he looked very good in that picture.
Malfoy manor was now his property, as was everything in it, save the Dark Arts materials hidden inside. He gave those over to the authorities. He didn't know what he wanted to do with the house; he had no emotional connection to the house, and most of his memories of the place were harsh ones. When he thought of the future, he really didn't see himself living in the mansion. Problem was, he couldn't decide what house he would like instead. Everything about his future seemed so murky, and Draco couldn't remember a time when he had been so indecisive. He still hadn't written to Harry. Harry hadn't written to him either, though he must have known from all the news coverage that he could.
Draco spent the time following Lucius's trial getting his affairs in order. There were endless amounts of paperwork to see to, and a lot of little details to take care of now that he was in charge of the Malfoy assets. He was working in the drawing-room, papers spread about him in organized chaos, when a house-elf appeared and told him someone was waiting in the floo arrival chamber. Draco was surprised, though he probably shouldn't have been, to greet Hermione.
" So here's where you've been hiding," Hermione said coolly. Draco nodded, feeling distinctly out of place, despite being in his own home. " Harry's back, you know. The minute we heard about Lucius going to trial, we sent him word, and he came home instantly. We couldn't get in to see you, what with the trial and all, and we didn't want anyone to think we coerced your testimony, but he sent you letters. He says you never wrote back."
" I didn't get any letters," Draco said shakily. He suddenly felt the need to sit down, and he looked around for a chair. He ended up sinking to the floor.
" Bullshit!" Hermione said, tears of anger on her face. " You promised not to hurt him, and you did. You are."
" I didn't get any letters, I swear!" Draco replied.
" It doesn't matter, because you still could've written to him. He keeps asking us why you don't write, why you haven't contacted him. What do I tell him?"
Draco let his head fall into his hands, " Tell him he's better off without me."
Hermione felt her jaw drop. " You bastard! Don't you dare do that to him. You're everything to him, can't you see that?" Draco didn't answer, didn't even look at her. You were nothing but a charity case… Irresistible to someone with a hero complex. Draco started shaking, banging his fists against his skull as he tried to drown out the taunting voice in his head.
Hermione was too furious to talk more. She slapped a package down on the floor next to Draco, and hurried out to the fireplace, and took the floo back to the Burrow. Once he was sure she was gone, Draco glanced at the plain brown package. He tore the paper off carefully, and revealed a photo of him and Harry. It was unmoving, a muggle photo, in a gaudy gold frame, with the words 'true love' written in glitter along the bottom. Even in the state he was in, Draco had to smile. Mrs. Cooper could be so ludicrous sometimes. The photo wasn't of the dramatic, back-bending kiss Draco had staged, but rather of the look he and Harry had shared just after. They were holding each other tightly, with their noses practically touching, and they were staring so intently into each other's eyes… They were completely unaware of anything but themselves.
Draco ran his finger down the photo softly. God he loved Harry, why was he hesitating? It wasn't too late. One little owl message, and they could be together again. As long as Harry still wanted him… And that was the problem wasn't it? Draco was afraid it had all been some dream. Why would Harry look twice at him now?
It was a few days after Hermione had visited that Draco found himself in Diagon Alley. He was there to sign a few more documents for the lawyers, and when he arrived at their offices he was given the letters Harry had written to him. Apparently, his lawyers had been filtering all his mail for possible threats. They apologized for any inconvenience.
Afterwards, Draco decided to take a look around. The first thing he noticed were the posters of Harry everywhere. Harry claimed that he was no longer the hero people looked up to, that after the war, people had been disillusioned and unimpressed with him. Draco saw no sign of that. They loved him more than ever. Every signpost featured some picture of him, every store claimed some endorsement by him, and every third person seemed to speak his name. And they never said 'Harry'; it was always the complete 'Harry Potter – the Boy Who Lived'.
Draco found himself staring longingly at the glossy posters of Harry, though he felt they didn't really do him justice. His eyes were a far more vivid green than the pictures could hope to reproduce, and besides that, the photos were of a younger Harry, when he was still a boy. There were no pictures of the more confident man Draco knew.
Draco ducked into a nearby pub, ordering a butterbeer as he gathered his thoughts. He took a window seat, sipping pensively on his drink. At a nearby table, a mother and her young son sat, eating lunch.
" Clear your plate, you want to grow up big and strong like Harry Potter, don't you?"
The young boy, who Draco judged to be approximately ten or eleven years of age, rolled his eyes, obviously well familiar with this statement. " I'm full."
" Nonsense. You should at least eat your vegetables. I'm sure Harry Potter always eats his vegetables."
Draco smirked; knowing full well there were more then a few vegetables Harry wouldn't eat. He could just imagine Harry wrinkling his nose in distaste if he had been facing a plate full of turnip, as the boy was.
" 'I'm sure Harry Potter eats all his vegetables'," the boy repeated obnoxiously. " In fact, he's so great, maybe that's all he eats. He's the 'Boy-Who-Lived-To-Eat-Veggies'."
The mother's expression soured, " Well he certainly didn't talk back to his mother so rudely."
" Well, of course he didn't. He didn't have a mother, did he? Lucky sod," the child muttered under his breath. Draco burst out laughing, and the mother turned in her chair to glare at him. Draco let his gaze fall away into his mug, but once the woman was faced forward again, Draco let the grin steal back over his face. He liked this kid; reminded him of him.
" I won't have you using that kind-of language, young man. It's bad enough you talk to me that way, but to disparage Harry Potter who has done so much for our world… It's disgraceful."
" Well, how do you know he's so perfect? Have you ever met him?"
The mother spluttered, " Of course I haven't actually met him. Nobody just meets him. But I don't have to meet him to know the sort-of person he is. He's polite, well-mannered, brave, considerate…"
" … Doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, does all his chores, goes to bed at a respectable hour, never stays out late, does his homework promptly, always gets up on time… I know, I know. You've only told me a hundred times before," said the boy.
" Actually, Harry rarely gets up on time; he likes to have a bit of a lie-in. Also he has some atrocious eating habits, which includes a disgust of all things with raisins and a dependence on coffee," Draco said, speaking up. The mother whirled on him again.
" Do you mind? I am trying to talk to my son."
" I just don't think you should be filling your son's head with all that dribble. Harry's just a person, like everyone else."
" Oh, what do you know?" The woman asked, clearly exasperated. She gestured at her son, " Get your jumper, we're leaving."
As the woman settled the bill, the child turned and looked at Draco.
" Is Harry Potter really the way you say?"
" Yes, he's quite different from the rumours."
" I think I like him better, knowing that," the boy said. His mother hollered at him, and the boy rolled his eyes again.
" Thanks," Draco said, standing up and leaving money for his butterbeer on the table.
" For what?" asked the child.
" Reminding me," Draco said. The boy gave him a quizzical look, before hurrying after his mother, and Draco just smiled happily.
Everything had suddenly just clicked for Draco. All the confusion, all the uncertainty… It was because he had forgotten the most integral thing of all. That the Harry Potter he loved was not the person gracing the posters, and magazines around him. That other Harry Potter was a fiction, a myth, a legend, that the people had created in order to get through the day. Of course Draco wasn't worthy of the love of that Harry Potter – nobody was. So it was fortunate that Draco wasn't infatuated with that other Harry Potter; he was lucky enough to be in love with the real Harry, the Harry that loved him back. He was in love with the silly, goofy, downright clueless Harry. He was in love with the Harry that had taken him in when he'd had nowhere else to go. He was in love with the Harry who held him through his nightmares, who laughed and teased him, who encouraged him, and supported him. He was in love with the Harry who made him excited with just a breath of warm air over his ear, or a stroke along his neck. He was in love, and he missed Harry. His Harry.
" Damn, I can be such an idiot," Draco said to himself. He hoped Harry could forgive him for his moment of temporary insanity. He wrote a letter to Harry directly, needing to start over three times before it was at least somewhat coherent. He wanted to say how sorry he was for making Harry question his motives, and he wanted to say how much he loved him, but he couldn't find the right words, so in the end, he simply told him he was coming home. He would say all the things he needed to when they met in person.
After he had sent the post owl off with his letter, Draco hurried back to his mansion. He had a few last minute things to take care of, and then he had to pack. He was going home, and the sooner the better.
Harry wasn't too fond of his new flat. There was a funny smell to it that he couldn't identify, and the tenants around him were noisy. After two weeks there, he had already decided it was only going to be a temporary place, and he really couldn't bring himself to care about the cost of breaking his lease. When Draco came back, they could look for someplace better. If Draco came back, that is. Harry shook off that thought. Until he heard definitively from Draco, he would remain hopeful. Draco was simply busy, he would write once things were settled.
" Potter! Pick up your damn mail! It's overflowing from the box again!" yelled his disagreeable neighbour. With a sigh, Harry meandered down to the main floor, and checked his mailbox. Harry flipped through the stack of letters and advertisements as he climbed the stairs back up to his home, tossing most of it aside as unimportant. He dropped the entire pile, however, when he found the letter Draco had sent him. Still standing in the stairwell, he tore open the envelope, devouring the words.
I'm coming home! I know it's sudden, but there was so little time following the trial, and then there was so much legal stuff… But none of that matters. I'll explain everything when I see you, if you want to hear it. I can't wait to see you. I'll be taking the train into London, and from there I'll cross over into the muggle terminal. Will you meet me? This Monday, at twelve-forty, near the barrier. If you can't make it, or you don't get this message for some reason, then I'll try contacting you again when I arrive. At least I know how to work the telephones this time! And Harry? Never mind, I'll tell you when I see you. I'll be waiting, Draco.
Harry read the note over twice, then ran up to his apartment to check the time. It was twelve-thirty, and he had approximately ten minutes to get downtown to meet Draco's train. Harry cursed, and as he scrambled to find shoes and a coat, he vowed to never let his messages go unchecked for so long.
At the last minute, Harry switched coats. The one he'd been going to wear was too light, and he instead grabbed his heavier winter one. The weather had been unseasonably cold lately, and if Draco's train was late, there was a chance he would be standing around a long time. Grabbing his keys, Harry dashed out the door, and hurried to the train station.
Draco was thrumming with nervous anticipation. He hadn't heard back from Harry, but in truth, he hadn't given Harry much time to reply. Once he had made his decision, he hadn't wanted to delay his departure for anything. Malfoy manor was for sale, and there were already a number of possible buyers. It hadn't been a difficult choice to make.
The train pulled into the station exactly on time. Draco gathered his luggage, and heaved it onto a trolley, before heading for the barrier that separated the magical terminal and the muggle one. Strangely enough, Draco felt no unease when he slipped into muggle territory. Apparently, the muggle world wasn't the fearsome alien place it once had been. There was really only one problem: no Harry.
Draco tried not to get too despondent. Harry was usually late; there was no reason to get worried yet. Draco leaned his elbows against his trolley, and glanced at the large clock on the wall. He'd wait half an hour, and then he'd start looking for a telephone. Draco felt better for having a plan.
The minutes ticked by; Draco unable to look away from the clock for long. Without realizing it, he had begun to bite his lip. It was also getting chilly standing on the platform, the wind buffeting him as trains entered and exited. He shrugged his hands into the sleeves of his coat to try and warm them.
" Excuse me, you wouldn't happen to know if the last train to… Oh goodness me! I remember you," said a cheerful voice.
Draco turned, surprised that he was being addressed, and recognized the woman he had first met when arriving in muggle London.
" Hello, this is quite a coincidence," Draco replied politely. " I never did get to thank you properly for all your assistance."
" I assume everything worked out for you? You found your friend?"
Draco smiled, " Yes, I found him. Actually, I'm waiting for him again."
" Well, let's hope he does a better job of collecting you than he did before."
" At least I didn't lose my luggage this time, and I know his number. Things are slightly more in my favour."
" But I see you still are not dressing appropriately. Just where are your gloves, young man?" The woman chastised him. Draco shrugged sheepishly. Actually, Draco wondered now just what had happened to those red mittens she had given him. He remembered how important they had been to him, at one time. They had been a gift of kindness, something he had had little experience of until Harry. Harry. Where was he? Maybe he was angry with Draco for not writing? Maybe it had taken Draco too long to come to his senses?
" Oh you poor dear. You look like someone's trampled all over your feelings. It can't be as bad as all that?"
" I don't know… I mean, I won't know until he gets here," Draco said sadly.
" This young friend of yours, he wouldn't be about your height with black hair and glasses, would he?"
Draco's head lifted up, " Yes. How did you know?"
" Oh, just because there's a young man over there looking at the clock and acting quite frantic," the woman said. She pointed across the crowded platform, and Draco searched the throng of people.
" Harry!" Draco yelled. He turned to the woman, " Sorry, I mean, I have to go."
" Go! What are you talking to me for? I've got my own train to catch." Draco grinned as she made shooing motions with her hands, but then she was forgotten as he turned his attention to trying to get to Harry. When had all these people arrived? And why did they have to be between him and Harry?
" Harry!" Draco shouted again, trying to project his voice over the din.
" Draco?" Harry answered back uncertainly. Draco waved his arms wildly, and Harry spotted him at last. " Stay there, I'll come to you."
Draco watched as Harry began moving through the crush of people. Occasionally, they lost sight of each other and had to yell like maniacs. Draco was past the point of caring what other passengers thought of him, and he would wager Harry was feeling the same way.
" Draco!" Draco spun around, hearing the voice substantially nearer to him than before. And then there was Harry, three steps away from him, scruffy, and tussled, and absolutely wonderful looking. Suddenly, all the sounds of the train station: the voices, the squeal of machinery, the thuds of shifting baggage, disappeared, and all he could hear, smell, taste, and feel was Harry.
" I thought maybe you weren't coming," Draco said. His hands were shaking he wanted to touch Harry so badly.
" I almost didn't," Harry replied. Draco's heart skipped a beat; he had been right before, Harry was upset with him; Harry didn't want to be there. Harry saw how Draco's face fell, and he hastened to explain. " No, not like that. I mean, I forgot to check my mail, and I only opened your letter an hour ago. I nearly broke my neck getting down here. I was so scared I would miss you."
Draco felt incapable of words, so he simply propelled himself forward, covering the distance between them. Harry had the same idea, and they met somewhere in the middle, arms and legs tangling together, bodies knocking against each other with enough momentum to leave bruises.
Their words slurred together; a jumble of 'I missed you', 'I love you', and 'I was so afraid'. Harry buried his face in Draco's shoulder, breathing in his smell, his warmth. He felt cold hands carding through his hair, and tucked Draco in closer, trying to share his body heat.
Draco pulled back, trailing a finger down Harry's face. " My Harry. I forgot how gorgeous you are."
Harry flushed at the compliment, cupping Draco's face with his hands, before lowering his mouth to Draco's slightly parted lips. " And I forgot how good you taste," Harry said, a tad breathlessly.
" Well, we can't have that," Draco said, closing his eyes, and leaning into another passionate kiss. They held nothing back, letting all their emotions flow freely between them. Harry basked in the sensations provoked by careful fingers that explored his face and neck with reverence. Draco revelled in the feeling of strong arms locked tightly around his frame. Their tongues slid and pressed against each other's; it was hot, and rushed, and tender… It was quite possibly the greatest kiss either had ever experienced. Eventually, they pulled away, resting their foreheads together, their gazes never faltering for a moment.
" Your eyes are glowing," Harry said softly, a pleased expression on his face.
" So are yours," Draco said, perfectly content. He arched an eyebrow: " Want to scare the locals?"
Harry snorted and untangled himself slightly from Draco's grip.
" Actually, I'd prefer to have you all to myself," Harry said, attempting a leer. The expression somehow ended up looking adorable instead of sexy. Draco merely laughed.
" Alright, let's take me home."
" Oh, right. Did you know I moved? The new place… Well, it's pretty gruesome to tell the truth," Harry admitted.
" Wonderful," Draco said.
" What do you mean wonderful?"
" We're going to buy a house, you and me. Something located in the muggle world, with a nice big, cozy kitchen, that's not too far from the bookshop, and that will have access to all the conveniences of the magical world."
" You've got it all planned have you?" Harry asked. He commandeered Draco's trolley, and started edging towards the exit.
" You don't like the idea?"
" I love the idea. I'm wondering how we'll afford it."
" Why Harry! Didn't you know? I'm filthy rich. I got nearly everything after the trial."
" Then why a house, and not your mansion? Why live in the muggle world at all?"
Draco stopped, and placed a hand on Harry's sleeve. Harry paused to look at him, and Draco smiled and placed a gentle kiss on Harry's mouth. " I'm selling the mansion. What I want is to be with you, to work the odd day in the bookshop, and just have a normal life. Is that okay?"
" But the mansion was your home, doesn't it bother you to know strangers will be living in it?"
" It was never a home, Harry. Wherever you are, that's my home," Draco said. " So? You willing to shack up with me?"
" Might as well. Especially now that you're rich," Harry teased.
The couple finally got outside the train station, and Draco and Harry divided up the baggage and began lugging it down the street. Harry noticed how red and chapped Draco's hands looked where they were wrapped around the luggage handles. He rummaged in his pockets, and surprised himself by pulling out two bright red mittens.
" Hey! Those are mine," Draco said, stopping and putting his luggage down for a moment. He looked at the red wool in wonder. " Where'd you find them?"
" I stuffed them in my winter coat that day we had our big argument. I decided that if you were going to leave me, I was at least going to have something to remember you by. I completely forgot about them, and I guess I haven't worn this coat since then. Do you want to put them on? You look like you need them."
Draco looked at the mittens, reaching out to rub the soft wool. " I don't need them Harry, I've got you."
Harry didn't really understand, but he stood still as Draco approached and wrapped his arms around him. As they began to kiss, Draco slipped his frozen hands beneath the warm layers of Harry's clothes, eventually finding soft, smooth skin. Harry yelped as Draco warmed his hands on Harry's torso.
" You manipulative little…"
" See Harry? When I'm with you, I have everything I need."
Harry sighed, and shifted slightly, bringing Draco closer into his body. Draco grinned as he realized he was going to get his way again – Harry was making no attempts to dislodge Draco's hands from their resting place. Harry smiled into Draco's shoulder, content to let Draco think he had gotten away with something.
They stayed that way for a long time, barely moving, not wanting anything but the other person they held. Finally, they truly did have everything they needed.
Two Months Later:
" Harry? I could use a hand, even one of yours," Draco yelled from the kitchen. Harry rolled himself off the couch where he had been talking to Sirius, and went to help. He smacked Ron lightly in the arm when Ron made a noise like a cracking whip as he walked past.
Addressing Draco, Harry asked: " What do you need?"
" Take these trays in, and see that everyone's served, if you would," Draco said, puttering around the kitchen with familiar ease.
" You're trusting me not to spill a full tray?" Harry asked incredulously, the corners of his eyes crinkling with humour.
" It has both coffee and chocolate on it. I figure the whole house could collapse with me inside and you'd find some way to make sure the tray survived. Now, go serve our guests, while I finish up dinner."
Harry took the tray and went back into the main room of their house. Ron took his coffee eagerly, hoping Harry would look away long enough at some point so he could steal the plate of chocolate biscuits. Not many of the guests knew how good a cook Draco was, and Ron was hoping to keep it that way. More for him, he figured. Hermione, however, seemed to have read his mind, and was on the alert for any biscuit thievery. Hermione smiled when she saw a delicate china cup filled with tea and a wedge of lemon, specifically for her. Who would have guessed Draco would turn out to be so thoughtful?
Sirius and Remus were staying with Harry and Draco for a few weeks, having come specifically to meet Draco. It was they who had suggested having a small party, so that Sirius could meet the rest of Harry's friends and learn a little bit more about his life. Draco had leapt at the chance to show-off, and what had initially been a small affair, turned into a meal for fourteen guests, plus Harry and Draco. Many of the guests had brought housewarming presents, since it was their first time visiting Harry and Draco's new home. Harry was a little embarrassed by their generosity, claiming the gifts of potted plants, toaster ovens, and photo frames, were not necessary. Draco, of course, gave Harry a dirty look, and gleefully inspected his horde, thanking everyone profusely.
Other invitations had been extended to all the members of Ron's family who were close enough to make the trip. Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were there, along with the Weasley twins. Harry was very, very, scared to discover that Fred and George were getting along fabulously with Mike. As Harry delivered them their drinks, he was relieved to hear that so far the conversation revolved around what a natural Hufflepuff Mike would have made. As Harry was turning away to attend to his other guests, however, he heard Mike ask to see their wands. Harry fervently hoped it was a literal request. You never knew with Mike.
Tim was entered into a heated debate; he barely paused in his diatribe to accept his coffee, before plunging right back into the conversation. Dumbledore was nodding along with Tim's arguments sagely, while slyly using magic to retrieve one of the trays of baked goods. From across the room, Ron's face fell. As Dumbledore happily munched on his lemon tart, Snape interrupted Tim to clarify a point. The discussion was politics, Tim's eventual major, and it seemed the magical world and muggle world were not so very different when it came to campaign elections. The elections in the magical world were in complete disarray thanks to Lucius's machinations, and Snape was actually interested in Tim's theories regarding possible outcomes. Draco had insisted that if they were going to invite Dumbledore that they ought to invite Snape as well. Harry had eventually conceded, since he knew Dumbledore was friends with Snape, and it would look like a direct insult to omit Snape from the evening. Aside from a sneer at Harry, Remus, and Sirius, when he arrived, Harry had to admit that Snape was everything a good guest should be. Damn. He owed Draco money now.
Harry arrived at the last couple of guests, and handed Mr. Cooper his coffee. He accepted it gratefully. Harry had previously explained to the couple all about the magical world, and both had taken the news rather well, though actually meeting with Dumbledore and the others was becoming a little overwhelming for Mr. Cooper. Mrs. Cooper claimed to have known all along, and was undaunted.
" Where's Mrs. Cooper?" Harry asked, setting the final cup of tea down on a nearby table for when she returned.
" She went to the car for more film," Mr. Cooper admitted.
" I thought she had three rolls already?"
" She did. She needed more."
The only thing Harry could think of to say to that was, " Oh." A camera flash then blinded him as Mrs. Cooper returned, fully prepared for battle again.
" You are such a sweet boy for inviting us Harry. We're having the most wonderful time; your friends are so… quirky. But charming! Absolutely darling. We must do this more often. Molly is an absolute gem. Did you know she promised to show me how to make these photos move? It's incredible! Do I smell roast chicken? I think I do. Do you think Draco would mind if I popped into the kitchen? I bet he looks adorable in an apron. I'll just head in there I think…" Mrs. Cooper was already moving out of earshot, still talking. Harry and Mr. Cooper looked at each other and laughed lightly.
In no time at all, Draco was calling them all into the dining room for the main event. Everyone looked appreciatively at the mounds of food awaiting them, and eagerly took their places. Harry came up behind Draco, who was standing in the doorway making sure everything was set out properly, and placed an arm around his waist. Draco grinned up at him.
" You've out done yourself, Draco," Harry said, indicating the table. They looked around at their friends: Ron, who was already heaping his plate; Mike, who was making obscene stick-men figures with his carrots; George, who was animating those same carrots into performing a lewd dance, while Fred urged him on, and Tim who was trying to get everyone to stop. Fred turned Tim's hair pink, to Mike's delight. Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling, Snape's were… not, but Draco assured Harry he was content in his own way, Mrs. Cooper was her usual self, finding it hard to sit still. It was wonderful to have everyone here, in their home.
" They grow up so fast," Draco said, wiping away a false tear. Harry smiled, pressing a kiss to Draco's temple.
" Oh, but they can always come back to visit," Harry replied.
" Yes, I like that idea," Draco said softly. He turned and met Harry's eyes. " Welcome home, Harry."
Harry returned the gaze, as he echoed Draco's words: " Welcome home."
It's over? How can that be! I've been writing this for ten months, what shall I do with myself now? Oh yeah, start another story! I hope you'll all be as positive about the next story as you were with this one. Over a thousand reviews… and not a veela anywhere! *snicker* Okay, I'm going to answer a few (hundred) questions now, but feel free to skip this part if you want. It's just to satisfy some of the more intrepid reviewers (and to help me not go into major withdrawal). To the rest of you, I can't thank you enough! And please, tell me what you thought of the ending?
Want to know about the story, do you? Well, here's what I had planned, and here's what actually happened. I hate choosing chapter titles, and when I noticed I had a 'something the something' pattern with the first two, I decided to keep doing it. If there were another chapter, I would have called it 'Stupid the Author'. While I always intended to have the red mittens, Draco's watch, and Harry's wand, come back into it in the end, I never planned on having all their friends gathered for a meal as the finale. I was going to end it right after the 'mitten scene'. Also, I wanted Draco to have a few problems, but only decided on downright phobia after I read a few reviews. The same thing goes for Tim and Mike – they were never intended to come back after the first few chapters, but people seemed to like them, and they were so much fun to write… My roommate wants a spin-off. The eighties night was a late-night inspiration, and no, I wasn't on anything at the time. Yes, Harry's coffee addiction was based on my own. Yes, I really do drink that much. Yes, it does make it hard to sleep. I can't, however, blame my sense of humour on coffee; apparently, I'm just naturally odd. I don't know where the bum-pinching scene originated. I had no idea this was going to turn into such a long fic, but I'm pleased that at chapter seven I hypothesized we were about half-way, and it turns out I was more or less correct. The double-sized chapters really helped. I think I improved as I wrote, and a lot of that is because of your reviews, so I thank you. I'm going to miss writing this, as I laughed, and cried, and blushed (I will never write a bedroom scene with someone else in the room, ever again!) my way through much of the story. My roommate thought I was nuts. She could be right.
I apologize for my many mistakes on homonyms, and also regarding English slang/culture/explanations… I'm Canadian, what can I say? I did my best, and I hope I didn't offend. Just wanted an interesting little story. I also apologize for all the information in this story that does/will conflict with canon – book five comes out tomorrow, so I'm claiming ignorance on that one! As it stands, I don't think I'll be writing a sequel, but I do plan on writing more H/D in future, and I hope you'll check it out. I've made some great friends from people writing to me about this story, and chatting with me on-line, so thanks for that! If anyone else wants to talk… Hey, I'm unemployed now, so plenty of time! It seems strange to think of all that's happened while I've been writing this story, and I really am sorry (though relieved!) it's done. Thank you seems vastly inadequate, but I'll say it anyway. Thanks! Yours Sincerely, IamtheLizardQueen