This is my Fandom for LLS 2013 piece... I hope you'll enjoy!
The timesline for the story can be found in the group Yulliah's Corner on FB...
It has all the children in the story, when they were born, and to whom!
OMG, I CAN'T BELIEVE I FORGOT! NANCY! YOU ARE THE BOMB! AND THE MOST AMAZING BETA EVER!
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Draco Malfoy in any shape or form, I just enjoy making them dance to my tunes...
It's been three years, five weeks and three days. I know, because it will be Scorp's third birthday in a week. James remembers, he was only six at the time, but he remembers what it was like before. Lily doesn't, she was only two. Three years, five weeks and three days. A lot of time has passed since I lost my husband.
I stay strong, because that's what I do, that's what I'm supposed to do. I have three children, no 4 children now, to think of, but damn it if it isn't hard to get up in the morning, get James and Lils ready for school and watch Draco dress his youngest brother. Because that's what Scorp is to him now, as Lils is his sister, and James, well, not James. Like I said, James remembers.
My son looks at me sometimes, when I yell for all four of them to behave themselves. James looks at me and smiles sadly, knowing what he's lost, trying to understand what it is I lost.
We're lucky that Scorp even survived. The healers managed to keep him from being born for six weeks and three days. Six crucial weeks in which I paced the halls of St Mungo's restlessly, tirelessly and reluctantly hopeful. And so alone, because my husband wasn't there with me. They kept him in a magically induced coma. For how do you tell a four year old he's pregnant, and how do you keep said four year old from moving around, to prevent early labour. You can't, and even I had to agree that forcing a mind that young through labour would be traumatic to say the least.
I could say those six weeks were the longest of my life, and at the time I would've been completely honest, but the weeks since then have been so much longer. Only three years, though every single day of that has felt like an eternity without him.
He's there, of course, and the love he feels for me is clear on his face whenever he smiles. Whenever tears fall down his cheeks as he tells me he really doesn't hate me, that he was just saying that because he really truly wanted to go to school with his brother and sister.
How do you explain to a five year old he's already been to school, or to a seven year old? I know now. I never in a million years thought I'd have to.
I'm coming down the stairs with Lils on my hip when I hear James. "Pa?" he asks and Dray hums in response. Jamie only ever calls Dray Pa. They other two call him Draco, but James remembers.
My husband asked me once why Jamy called him Pa, and it's one of the mistakes I made with him. Clearly everyone else told me afterwards that you do not tell a six year old the other kids are his. He became impossible after that, until Moine finally decided to Obliviate it from his mind.
I make a lot of mistakes like that, never knowing what to tell him and what to keep. Let's face it, I'm the forever Gryffindor one. He was always the clever one out of the two of us.
"Can you sign this slip with your name for me?" Jamie asks Dray.
"I donf fink they'll be fooled, Sjames," Dray replies with his mouth full. "I says pwawents or gwa– gwadiuns."
"Yes, but technically–" James starts, but I interrupt him right away.
"James Lucas Potter–Malfoy!" His eyes widen as I stride into the kitchen. "You better not be trying to do what I think you're doing!"
"But dahad!" he wines. "All the other kids are allowed!"
"All the other kids don't have s–single parents looking after four chi– people! I explained this to you," I reply, taking the permission slip for the junior Quidditch league from him. Katie Bell and Maxine O'Flaherty started it up a few years ago. A team that requires drive, passion and commitment from both children and parents. Coaching, overseeing and refereeing matches every other week were only part of the things parents had to help with.
I try to flatten his wild blond hair and let Lils down to her feet as I make my way to the kitchen counter. "I told you that I would ask uncle Ron and uncle Blaise to take my responsibility to the team if you join, but until that, I can't sign that slip, Jamie."
"S'not fair," he sulks.
I turn and crouch down in front of my eldest son. "I know honey, I know it's not fair. It'll be easier once your Papa comes back to us, I promise."
"He's right there," my boy whispers, tears in his bright green eyes. "S'not fair, because he's right there, but not really, is he?"
"No, sweetie," I reply. "Not really."
And my heart aches, because it isn't fair. Not to James, not to me, and not to my other two children who don't even really know their father. Not really.
I curse him in my mind for being so stupid, so fucking careless. For caring about his bloody Potions more than caring about his family. Though I know he didn't, he just hadn't seen this coming. None of us had, or could have.
We always figured that if something happened to either one of us, it would be me. I was the one with the dangerous job, the one who put his life on the line in the name of justice on a daily basis. But when did my life ever run the most likely course?
It's not fair. I want my children to have their father. I want my husband. But all we have is Dray. And we love him, we love him truly for who he is, but it's hard. At least it's hard to me and Jamie, for we remember.
The Floo flares and Molly steps through. "Harry?" she calls.
"Kitchen!" I reply. Molly takes care of Dray during the day, while I take care of his business. My husband would've scowled at the idea of Molly coddling over him, but Dray loves it, loves her. Two peas in a pod those two are, and I wished they would've gotten along this well before.
"Gran!" Lily flies into Molly's arms.
"Hello there, little princess," she replies warmly and hugs my precious girl. "Looking forward to school today?"
"Yes!" Lily cries out and babbles on about the little excursion to the Hogwarts greenhouses today.
I rest my head in my hands for a moment, wondering how I'll get through another one of these long days.
"It's okay, dad," I hear Draco say and I wince while my heart clenches. I fight to keep the tears inside, because I don't want to upset him. "Sorry." I kick myself mentally for showing too much when I hear his voice tremble. "Sorry, Harry," he repeats in a bare whisper.
I reach out and stroke the back of his neck, it still calms him down and he knows he's loved, even if I can't help him feeling unworthy. I just can't handle him calling me dad, and he doesn't understand why.
"I love you, Dray," I whisper and kiss his cheek. "More than life, okay? Always more than life."
James throws an arm around his shoulder and smiles that sad smile at me. Knowing and understanding more than any boy his age should. "You know, Pa, you're special, the most important of us all."
Draco smiles, indulging us, not wanting us to feel upset, but I can see it flashing in his eyes. He thinks he's not a part of us, he thinks he's on the outside looking in and I don't know how to fix it. I know what it feels like to be part of a family, but not really. I know how it feels to not really belong.
Only my Dray does belong, he's the centre and heart of our little family. He's why we're all here together. He's just out of place, not who he's supposed to be. And I don't know how to fix that either. It makes me feel useless, and I can't stand being useless.
For six years I was the Chosen One, The Boy Who Lived, and I hated it. In the twelve years since the Battle of Hogwarts the Wizarding world named me their saviour, and I hated that even more. But how I long to be that saviour now, how I wish I were what the world thinks I am. Because if I were as omnipotent as I'm believed to be, I would've saved him.
And I've tried, I'm still trying as hard as I can to find the cure to Draco's condition. It's a huge part of the reason I gave up being an Auror. The truth is I never really liked Potions, that's why I wasn't very good at it. It was too much like cooking, and professor Snape only added to the problem by being as vile as my relatives used to be. Still I go to the laboratory every day, brewing like it's my only goal in life.
It took me and Hermione two years to figure out what caused this. Draco was always very secretive with his research. That wasn't strange, given his life and the man who inspired his career. First a year before Hermione broke the code of Dray's research notes, and another before we figured out what went wrong.
Draco was working on a curse breaker, a potion that would remove all remaining holds a suffered form of mind control could hold. The Ministry asked him to do this after victims of the Imperius curse started randomly acting on behalf of their former and often long dead offender.
It turned out one of the reasons the Imperius was an unforgivable as opposed to other forms of mind control, was that the curse planted a sort of seed, growing stronger the longer the curse lasted.
In the past, after the first war, these fits of control often resulted in the incarceration of the victim. They were often just believed to be Death Eaters after all. But when Amos Diggory was caught sabotaging the Aurors in their investigation of the Lestranges, no one truly believed him to be a supporter of Voldemort, and he was sent to St Mungo's.
According to Draco's notes, he was working on a potion that would reset the mind to a Tabula Rasa. A clean slate, according to Hermione. I just took to calling it 'the factory settings', as Latin wasn't my first choice of language in any situation. Dray's main problem was that he couldn't find a way to keep the person's memories intact. Theory suggested that the potion would reset the mind to the point just before the mind control, but all the memories since would be lost.
His only suggestion was to place the most important memories in a pensive, and return them after the potion had run its course.
The problem remained, that this whole thing would not explain what had happened to my husband. There was nothing about this potion that would've resulted in the mental deaging of his mind to the age of four.
Until it came to me.
Hermione wouldn't believe me, she couldn't fathom that someone would've used the Imperius on four year old child, but I could.
I went to visit Narcissa in her pompous Manor in France. We went along fairly well since Draco and me got together a year after the war ended. It wasn't that she was really unhappy with me being me, more that she was uncomfortable with the fact that I was a man. Or rather that Draco's partner was a man. It was a bit hypocritical, to say the least, with the way the wizarding world accepts and celebrates homosexual unions in the same way they do hetrosexual ones. But for all the accepting and celebrating, no one really wants their own child to form a same sex bond. Not that I understand why.
All the same, Narcissa warmed up to me, especially after James was born and we named him after both our fathers. We didn't of course, not really. I couldn't call my son after a man who had wanted me dead and all but ruined my husbands life. So we called him Lucas. Not to represent Lucius, but to represent Draco's heritage and family.
Then came Lily, who we called Emenara. Eme for grandmother, Nara to represent Narcissa herself. She cried when we asked her to be the Godmother of our daughter and even hugged me. Many people think her to be cold, and in public she is, but behind all the facade is a brilliant mother who has too much love to give, and now enough people to give it to.
After the war Narcissa and Lucius avoided prosecution and incarceration in Azkaban, but were asked kindly, but firmly, to leave England. I know the Ministry wouldn't mind if Narcissa comes back now that Lucius has passed, but she remains a proud woman. She isn't going to plead for her chance to return, and frankly, she's very happy in France, where the Malfoy name is still an influential one.
When Draco had his accident, she wanted to have him with her, and she asked me and the children to come join her. I would have, if the children had been a bit older and not that easily influenced. It would've been nice to have someone else to rely on besides myself. But for all the love Draco's mother has to give, and though Lucius is dead and Narcissa has never really been a supporter of Voldemort as much as a supporter of her husband, she is a prejudiced woman. She doesn't believe Muggles and Squibs should be our slaves, or that Muggle-borns are dirt, but she does think her pureblood heritage makes her better than the rest of us. I don't want my children growing up with those ideas.
She welcomed me in her bright and sunny reception room and pulled me into a warm hug. "Didn't you bring the children, dear?" she asked me and called a house elf to bring us some tea.
"No, I'm sorry, I'll bring them to visit soon, but there's something I need to ask you," I replied. "Hermione Weasley and I have possibly found the reason for Draco's accident, but there's some things that puzzle us, and I hope you are able to help us."
Narcissa smiled and nodded for me to go on.
"You see, the potion that he was exposed to, was supposed to reset the mind to a state just before a form of mind control was used on them," I explained. "The samples we gathered were sound, they were exactly what they were supposed to be, so we couldn't figure out why Draco was deaged to a four year old."
Narcissa's face paled and she looked away from me. Her frail fingers clutching her teacup forcibly to a point where I could be certain it was spelled unbreakable.
"I have to ask," I said softly, looking down at my own fingers.
"Lucius thought-," she started and sighed shakily. "He didn't believe in time-outs or persuasion. If he wanted his son to do something, the boy would do it, even if he didn't want to."
I felt bile rise in the back of my throat.
"When Draco was six, Lucius was trying to teach him to swim, but my son was terrified of water. I caught him. At first I was proud of my little Draconus, because he was swimming in perfectly gracious strokes and I thought he'd done it, but he didn't respond to my cheering him on. Only when Lucius called him out of the water did I notice the dazed and slightly absent haze in his eyes. He was under Imperius," she told me softly. "It was the worst fight my husband and I ever had, and he swore to me it had been the first time and that he would never curse my son again."
I swallowed, unable and unwilling to mention the elephant in the room, and I was reluctantly thankful that she herself was the one to say the words out loud.
"Now I can only hope it was the second time," she said and stood up. "I'm sorry, Harry, I do not wish to be rude, but I'd like to be by alone now."
I rushed to her side and pulled her into my arms. "You were a good mother," I shushed her, feeling the wetness of her cheek against mine. "You're a great grandmother and you really were always a wonderful mother."
"Thank you, Harry," she mumbled against my shoulder. "Will you come and bring Draco and the children next weekend?"
I pulled back and returned her watery smile. "I will," I promised. "And I'm sorry."
So there's the reason my husband thinks he's seven. There's the reason he's reluctant to leave the Malfoy Manor in France when we visit his mother. There's the reason my husband slept in a separate bedroom for the past three years. The reason I wiped spilt food of my husband's face, and the reason I had to check if he wiped his arse properly after a 'number two'.
Lucius Malfoy's outlook on parenting involved casting unforgivables on your child.
"So I'll bring Draco back at three so you two can be at St Mungo's at four," Molly says running her hand over Jamie's head and smiling down at Draco. "You want me to drop off Scorpius at Ginny's this morning?"
Ginny Zabini, the woman I once thought I'd marry, started her daycare straight out of her pregnancy, and she'd cared for both James and Lily before they were old enough for school. It used to be a great way for the children to play with other children, but since the accident, she's been a Godsend.
"No, that's okay," I reply. "I promised Jamie I'd talk to Blaise about something."
James beams and nods vigorously, his somewhat behaving hair reverting to the wild bird's nest I see in my own mirror every morning.
"Alright, dear," Molly says and gives me a short hug. "I'll be back at three! Draco? Are you ready, love?"
"Yes, Grandma," Dray answers with a more genuine smile now. Molly pats his head, not at all baffled by the title he thrust upon her. I wish it were that easy for me.
He picks up his bag and stands up from the table, cramming the last of his breakfast in his mouth, managing to smear the jelly of his sandwich across his cheek.
"Oy!" I call after him when he turns for the Floo. "What do we say when we leave the house?"
He shuffles his way back to me, throwing an embarrassed glance over his shoulder to Molly. "I love you, Harry," he whispers, the truth of his words clear in his eyes, despite his embarrassment.
"I love you, Dray," I answer, wiping his breakfast from his face and pulling him into a tight hug. I feel slightly disgusted with myself, that his body still stirs a longing inside me, while his mind was only a child's. I need these short hugs and the kiss he plants on my cheek, though I'm unable to tell myself it's okay.
He lets go of me and kisses the top of Scorpius's head. "Love you, Scorp!" He exchanges the platitude with the other kids as well while I miss his warmth already.
It was one of a set of clear rules in the Potter-Malfoy house. We never went to bed angry with one another, and we never left the house without telling each other we loved them. You never knew what could happen while you were away.
Once Molly and Draco left through the Floo, I make lunch for James and Lily, keeping a careful eye on Scorpius in his high-chair.
"Yes, honey?" I turn my head towards my daughter slightly as the last of the sandwiches and fruit disappear into a set of 'Martin, the Mad Muggle' lunchboxes. Ron gave them to all the kids last year for Christmas, and they were adamant on using them.
Her eyebrows nearly meet in the middle of her forehead. "Why is Dray not allowed to call you Dad?" She looks so much like her Papa when she Frowns like that. His hair, his eyes and his expression.
I put the boxes on the table for them and sit down next to Scorpius.
"It's not that he isn't allowed, honey," I tell her. "It's not as easy as that."
I think about my next words carefully, not really knowing how to explain it to her in a way she will understand and accept.
"You know you're my daughter, and Papa's daughter?" I ask her.
"Yes," she replies. "But Papa had an accident and now we have Dray."
The logic of a five year old, infallible.
"Yes, Papa had an accident, and he became Dray," I say, taking a deep breath to fortify my thoughts. "And we take care of Dray, but he's not my child like you, Jamie and Scorp are."
"I know that," she interrupts. "But Ms Clearwater told about 'doption' last week, when a kid gets a new Daddy and Mommy."
"Adoption," I correct her without thinking. "Yes, sometimes a child has no parents and another family adopts him or her, and they have a new mommy and daddy, but not Dray. Dray already has a mommy, honey. Grandma Malfoy is Dray's mommy."
"But," Lily says, her eyebrows once again scrunching. "Why doesn't Dray live with Grandma then?"
"Because he's a part of our family now," I say. "Dray is still your Papa, and when we cure him, he'll be your Papa again. Do you understand?"
James seems only interested in his breakfast, but he's sitting unnaturally still, and I swear his ears are actually pointing towards me and Lily.
"I think so," she says. "Does Dray have a Daddy as well?"
"No, baby," I answer her question. "Dray's Daddy died a few years ago."
"But then, if he has no Daddy, why can't you be his Daddy? I mean, he's really sad that we call you Daddy, and he can't. He said so."
My heart gives a sharp stab again, it hurts so much to know that he's hurting like this, but I can't lose him. I can't lose him as my husband as I know I will if he thinks of me as his father.
"I know, Lils, I know." My hand cups the side of her face, and I bury mine in her blond hair. "But I can't be Dray's Daddy, not even for a little while."
When this problem rose, I wondered if it wouldn't be better for him to live with Narcissa. Maybe it would've been easier and less painful in the short run, but I had to think of the man he was and will be again. What if he wakes up and missed three years of his children's lives? At least this way he got to see Scorpius's first steps, got to wave Lils off to her first day of school.
What am I even saying. Not if he wakes up, when he wakes up, because I refuse to believe my husband's lost to me forever. I know it's been three years, and that both St Mungo's and the Malfoy Chemical and Magical Research Centre haven't been able to find a solution yet. I know this, but I won't give up.
I won't go out and date someone because Ron thinks all hope is lost. I actually clucked him when he opted it last months and I'm not sure I'll be ready to talk to him again anytime soon. Hermione is as angry with him as I am, she even slept at the Burrow for a fortnight after he'd said it.
He apologised to me, of course, but I'm not ready to forgive him just yet. Though I know I'm not being fair to him, he's only looking out for my best interests and it's not as if he's the only one thinking it. But if I say it's okay for him to think it, it's as if I tell myself it's okay to give up hope. And hope is the only thing I have left that keeps me sane enough to face him every day, to kiss the top of his head, or hug him only once or twice as the day goes by, and tug the covers around his adult body as I kiss him goodnight and leave him in his own bed.
It's not like my life is hell all day, every day. I'm fine, really, we're fine. We have fun, like any other family. Laughs and giggles as we play games, and celebrate on special occasions. There's even times that border on normalcy, like when Jamie came home with an award from school for his excellent work on an art project. Draco picked him up, swung him around a few times and told him how proud he was. For a second both me and Jamie could pretend we had him back the way he was. Honestly, for a seven year old, Draco is very mature. It's like his memory is still there inside him somewhere, begging to come out. And it lights a new fire underneath that flame of hope that does get smaller each day we don't manage to find a solution.
"Dad?" Jamie jerks at my sleeve. "Dad! We've got to go or we'll be late!"
I nod and pick up Scorp from his booster seat and position him on my hip. "All ready? Got your bags and lunch?"
They tell me that they are and grab a tight hold on my waist. I apparate all three of them to Hogsmeade, where my children go to school and where Ginny and Blaise live.
"Love you both, alright?" I tell my eldest two and give them each an awkward hug they seem reluctant to undergo. Of course, kids and peer pressure. Nothing that can kill a reputation as fast as showing you love your parents.
"Yeah, yeah, I love you too," Jamie says softly. "Can we go in now?"
I chuckle and send them off, giving a little nod and wave at Percy's school sweetheart, Penelope Clearwater, Lily's teacher.
I'm ready to turn and walk the short distance to the Zabini residence when I see her stride over, beckoning me to wait for her.
"A minute, Harry?" She never managed to get rid of the nasal sound of her voice after Hogwarts.
"Sure, Penny," I say, and place my squirming son on the ground, where he's seen a couple of colorful stones he wants to play with. "What can I do for you?"
"Lily is a wonderful girl, is she not?" She's looking back over her shoulder to where my daughter dances her way through the entrance of the school. I don't answer, knowing the question to be rhetorical. "I'd like you to consider dancing lessons for her. She's not particularly talented, but she's shown both interest and excitement for the ballet lessons during PE. I think it would do her good."
I'm already shaking my head before she can finish. "I'm sorry, Penny," I say, and I am truly sorry. "I can't, I wouldn't even begin to know how to get her to and from those classes without having to lean even more heavily on Molly Weasley. I've got four people to keep my eyes on. Jamie is only barely old enough to Floo to junior Quidditch practice, if I can get Blaise or Ron to take over the parental responsibilities. Lils is too young to go by herself."
"Relax, Harry, I can understand how hard it is for you to juggle the entire family on your shoulders all the time. I'm not asking for you to take responsibility for it, just your approval. My cousin goes to the same dance classes and I take her from here to the classes and then bring her home. If you agree with the lessons, it wouldn't be any problem for me to take Lily as well and bring her home right after."
I breath in and out, carefully. I'm still overwhelmed by the support I get on a daily basis from people who have no reason to help me other than their loving and caring nature. All those people I wouldn't be able to do this without. "Are you sure?"
"Of course, it's hardly a disposition, and your daughter really is a joy to be around," she answers, laying a hand on my arm and looking into my eyes with a sparkle in hers that briefly reminds me of Albus Dumbledore. "Harry, I really hope that you cure Draco soon, but I'm here for you for as long as you need help. I've had Jamie in my class, now Lily, and I'm sure that in a few years, I'll have the joy of teaching this young rascal."
I look down to where she's pointing and see Scorpius is clearly trying to break his milky teeth on the hard stones. Sometimes it's like looking in a mirror with him. Lils and Jamie look mostly like Draco, even though Jamie's hair is as messy as mine, and he's got my green eyes. Not Scorpius though, he's my own personal mini-me.
I smile sheepishly at my daughter's teacher and quickly pick up my son, despite his protests.
"You're doing a great job, Harry," she says and gently strokes Scorp's hair. "But no one can do it completely alone." She looks over her shoulder, the schoolyard now completely void of children. "I'd better get inside before they burn the classroom down."
"You better," I chuckle and lay my hand on her upper arm. "Thanks, Penny, truly. I'll think about the dancing lessons and let you know by the end of the week, okay?"
She smiles another brilliant smile. "Sure, Harry, have a great day! Bye Scorpius!"
I stare after her until she disappears inside the school before I leave to drop Scorpius off at Ginny's. There's a strange warm coil in the depths of my chest. No one can do it completely alone.
True, of course, but a lesson that's still hard for me to learn. I never had any help until I got my Hogwarts letter. No one ever cared enough about me to want to help me, honestly. And by the time I got to school, I was so used to do everything by myself, I never asked for help. Ron and Hermione were always quick to give it to me, but even then I did so much alone. Thinking it over, mulling inside my mind, sending the others off when things got too difficult. I took all that responsibility upon my own shoulders, while it was never a child's job in the first place.
No one ever told me I couldn't do it alone before Draco. They didn't even think to tell me I didn't have to do it alone until Hermione and Ron forced their company on me during the year we hunting for Horcruxes. The concept of asking and accepting help was still so foreign to me. It was easier with the Weasleys, because they were family, but I never would've asked Penny to give me any sort of help. She just gave it to me, and that was more important and special than any thankful note or worshipful stare the nameless faces in the streets gave me.
It made me feel cared for. Worthy.
When I ask Blaise if he could take the parental responsibilities for the Junior Quidditch League for me, he exchanges a look with Ginny and tells me he will if I can get Ron to share the load.
I roll my eyes, I'm fairly certain he will still do it if Ron says no, but this is their way of trying to get me to talk to Ron again. Still I tell him I'll ask and hand Scorpius to Ginny who smiles and listens to his excited babbling as they leave the room.
"Have you made any plans for Scorpius's birthday yet?"
I sigh, I haven't. I've been so busy with the kids and additional Potions research the past few weeks that I hadn't had the time to think about it yet.
"I don't even know what to give him yet," I say miserably.
Blaise chuckles and slaps me on my back. "Don't worry about it, you find your boy a gift and show up with the entire pack at the Burrow around noon come Sunday and we'll take care of the party."
Merlin, I feel like a failure sometimes, and I know this is a responsibility I should take myself, but I truly don't know where to find the time to plan. "Thanks, Blaise," I just say, guilt secretly eating at my heart. "That would actually be a huge relief."
"It's fine," he says. "Big appointment at St Mungo's this afternoon I heard?"
It is, actually. The healers at St Mungo's called us in to discuss Draco's situation. They said they had news. Probably came up with another possible cure, the seventh so far. I'm reluctant to hope it works, because it devastated me before, when the first, second and third cure didn't take.
"Yeah, at four."
"Look, Luna asked if Jamie and Lily could come for a sleepover again soon. If you want, we'll keep Scorp here and pick up the other two after school, give you and Draco the night off," Blaise offers, but I shake my head.
"I can't be alone with him, Blaise." I cringe as I notice my voice faltering. "If you could pick up Jamie and Lils from school and let them play here for a while, that would be great, that way Molly won't have to look after them this afternoon, but I really need them home tonight."
"Sure, mate." He slaps me on the back again. "Want me to Floo Molly and let her know?"
"Nah, I'll tell her when she brings Draco home." I bump his shoulder with mine. "Thanks again."
"Bye, Gin!" I shout through the empty hallway that leads to the daycare.
"Bye, Harry!" I hear shouted back at me and I turn back to Blaise.
"I'll pick them up around half six, okay?"
"Sure thing, good luck at St Mungo's!" he replies and I apparate back to London.
On Diagon Alley I make a quick stop at the post office. Thank Merlin that I managed to remember Teddy's birthday. He was heartbroken when during his first year at Hogwarts, we didn't even send him a card. Of course he understood later, that I hadn't even been aware what day it was, let alone what date. Still I vowed to never forget one of his birthdays ever again.
I've bought him a pair of smooth Dragonhide Quidditch gloves, knowing how proud he was to finally make Keeper on the Hufflepuff team, and the kids made him a fantastic birthday card. Hermione charmed it for them, so that it shows all four of them jumping out of a yellow iced cake in a constant loop.
The lady behind the counter smiles at me when she sees it, and I quickly pick an Owl to deliver the gift to Hogwarts. I could never really move myself to replace Hedwig.
Once the Owl is well and truly out of sight, I turn and walk the short distance to the Malfoy Chemical and Magical Research Centre, or in short the MCMRC.
Hermione is already there when I walk into the small kitchen, and she hands me a large mug of coffee without looking up from her Daily Prophet.
"Thanks, Mione, anyone else come in yet?"
She absently waves her hand through the air. "Ermie came in, but I think he was immediately off to the Apothecary to file our order personally and complain about the quality of last week's Horned Slugs. I haven't seen Parvati yet, but Leanne called in sick this morning, so I imagine that's where she is."
Hermione pauses before adding with a sneer: "Oh, and Draco's charity case hasn't come in yet either."
I roll my eyes, there's really no love lost between Hermione and Pansy Nott néé Parkinson. It's true that Draco hired her more out of friendship than for her Potions skills, but she is excellent at taking care of orders and research notes. She's a great theoretical analyst as well, maybe that's why Hermione can't stand her. Back when I took over the MCMRC it had been just Pansy and Draco. I pulled in Hermione, who was ready to start working again after having Rose and Hugo, and attracted some other mates from school.
Actually, I attracted members of the DA; Ernest Macmillan, Parvati Patil and her longtime partner Leanne Smith. All three exceptional Potions students with a degree from Ireland's Magical University, like Hermione. Even Draco couldn't complain about the level of competence our employees held. At least, I hoped he couldn't.
I look at my watch, the Prewitt family heirloom Molly gave me for my seventeenth birthday and notice it's already well after nine. I'm rather late myself this morning. "You sure Pansy hasn't arrived yet? She's always very punctual."
"If you don't trust my words, why don't you go look for yourself!" Hermione snarls and throws her Prophet on the table.
"You okay?" This isn't like her at all.
She drops her head on the table and sighs. "Sorry, I've had a really long couple of nights. Hugo's been vomiting all night, every night this weekend, and he kept screaming for me each time Ron tried to soothe him."
"Bloody hell! Why didn't you just call in sick?"
"I can't!" Her voice sounds a little shrill. "The full moon is in eight days, and I've still got sixteen orders of Wolfsbane Potion due to deliver tomorrow at the latest. You want to have sixteen rampant Werewolves on your conscience?"
Ah, yes, of course. Wolfsbane. It needs the brewer to temper their Magical core, as it's the most sensitive Potion in the history of Wizardkind. I've been trying to get the one right for the past three years, but essentially out of the six of us, only Hermione and Leanne can concoct a fully functional Wolfsbane Potion. With Leanne going through a very difficult pregnancy and calling in sick every other week, it's Mione's sole responsibility at the moment. Actually, even if Leanne was here, she couldn't do it while her baby's wild Magic is going rampant throughout her body.
"No, I really don't," I say and deliberate for a second. "All right, I'll chop, dice, slice and grind, you brew. We can get those orders well on their way by noon, and then you can go home and be with Hugo, okay?"
Hermione throws me a thankful smile. "Well, I left Hugo with Molly this morning and Draco seemed very willing to keep him occupied for the day. But I could use a few hours sleep until he comes home."
"Great, now grab yourself another coffee, finish your Prophet and I'll check to see if Pansy is okay."
I'm halfway out of the kitchen when I hear Hermione's guilty voice. "Pansy Owled to say that she has an appointment with Poppy Pomfrey this morning. Apparently she's not satisfied with the current Potion teacher's brewing skills."
I just shake my head and realise the world has become a harder place since Severus Snape died. He was a bastard, true. A cantankerous caricature of a teacher, also true, but he was the best Potions Master since Paul Ehrlich, who was also renowned in the Muggle world and won a Nobel Prize at that. Draco's good, he's better than any of us. He's without a doubt the best Potioneer in the world right now, but he's only mediocre compared to Snape. The man was a genius, and I never truly saw that. Never wanted to see it, really.
The professor would have cured Draco in a heartbeat. Not spent three years researching and failing at every twist and bend.
But that's all very selfish of me. Snape hadn't deserved to live because we needed him to. He deserved to survive the war because it was his chance to be happy. He'd lived in other people's pockets from the time he was born. His father's, my mother's, Lucius Malfoy's, Voldemort's and Dumbledore's. He was finally free, and it wasn't fair he had to buy his freedom with his life.
But then, life isn't fair; the only thing Snape managed to teach me during my Occlumancy lessons that stuck.
Life isn't fair, and whining about that doesn't make a difference.
It's a quarter past twelve when we decant the last bit of Wolfsbane and I send Hermione home. I should go on and make the skin Regrowth Potions that were ordered by the St Mungo's burn unit, but I know I won't be able to keep my concentration right now. I'm happy to see Pansy back at the front desk and bring her a cup of tea.
"Madame Pomfrey wants us to supply her with Skele-Gro and some other Potions until they manage to find a suitable replacement for Professor Dally." I place the mug next to her arm and snort.
She scares me sometimes, when her voice is impatient and sharp like this, like she'll bite my head off at the slightest provocation.
"Nothing," I reply quickly. "It seems like even I would be more suitable to teach Potions at Hogwarts than Professor Dally."
"They'd ask you in a split second if they thought you'd have any interest." She turns her attention back to the owl invoices in front of her.
"Haha, very funny," I say. "Do you have Draco's notes on the Dragon Pox balm for me? I want to ask Leanne if she could look at them and see if she can do something that reduces the scarring."
Pansy turns in her seat and faces me properly. "Harry, you do realise that you're an excellent Potioneer these days, don't you?"
"Oh please, Pansy, I still need Hermione to make the Wolfsbane because I bollox it up." I make my way to the filing cabinets to find the notes myself.
"There are only five Potioneers in the world who can temper their Magic enough to make Wolfsbane," Pansy says, rushing towards me to shove me away from the cabinets, afraid I'll mess with her filing system. "Two of them work here, one is your husband and the other two don't even share the same continent. You have skills, my friend, and you're actually good at teaching if I can believe Ernie."
"It doesn't matter, Pansy," I say, taking the folder she hands me. "I can't work at Hogwarts, I have a family and a Research Centre to run. Besides, I don't even like Potions."
Now Pansy snorts and I look at her with a surprised frown.
"Maybe when you took over the centre you disliked Potions, but not anymore!" She doesn't let my dry chuckle deter her from her speech. "No, really, Harry. I've seen your interest grow in the past few years. You dislike failing to cure Draco, but you've grown fond of brewing. You're relaxed when you're bent over a cauldron, thinking of ways to change a recipe."
"Maybe you're right, but the other reasons are still valid." I don't really know why my voice sounds so resigned. I'd always wanted to be an Auror, the thought of being a teacher never crossing my mind before.
"True, but Draco will get better, and he will come back. You need to think of what you'll want to be doing once that happens," she responds. "Maybe you'll want to stay here and work together with him, but somehow I think the two of you would kill each other."
I chuckle. She's got a fair point. Draco and I were a good match, equal, passionate, but sometimes volatile. As much as we loved to spend time together, we also loved our time apart during the day. And maybe Pansy was right, teaching was something I really liked. Of course Potions wouldn't be my first choice of subject, but I can see myself trying to keep a bunch of first years from exploding their cauldrons. But I've got no energy to dream a future for myself, not now, not while Draco is Dray and I've got other responsibilities.
"Do we have any pressing orders going?"
Pansy leafs through a big tome and shakes her head. "There's a few Potions running low at St Mungo's and the Ministry needs Veritaserum, but nothing too pressing. Why?"
"I think I'll take the afternoon off. I need to buy a birthday gift for Scorpius and visit Ron at the Ministry," I say and put the Dragon Pox folder in Leanne's inbox with a hastily written note.
"You're talking to him again?" She was just as put out at his advice as I was when I told her in a fit of anger.
"No, but this has gone on long enough, I should accept his apology and get over it. I can't stay angry with him forever."
Pansy closes the tome with a snap and looks up at me without any emotion showing on her face. "Sure you can!" she says, raising an eyebrow.
"No, I can't."
"Yes, you can!" she says vehemently. "He's an arse the size of England, and one in need of a thorough spanking, if you ask me!"
I snort, the line of her mouth wrinkles, I chuckle, she flexes the muscles of her jaw, and a second later we're both laughing. "No, really. He's an arse, but an arse with a good heart and he always cheers you up. Go talk to him."
Apart from the blow-up I had with Ron, he and Pansy get along perfectly. Maybe that's another reason Hermione doesn't like her. She's become slightly more jealous since the birth of Hugo.
"Oh!" Pansy cries out shuffling through a stack of parchment. "Do you know what to get Scorp yet?"
"Not really, I planned on looking through some shops in Diagon." I'm curious as to what she's looking for on her desk.
"Perfect!" She enthusiastically hands me a piece of brightly colored parchment. "I got this by owl yesterday and thought it would be perfect for the little tyke!"
The folder shows a beautiful treehouse that seems to be integrated with the tree itself.
"It's the latest rage," Pansy explains. "A treehouse tree! You plant it, and two weeks later you have a fully grown tree that has space inside and holes for windows and ladders and a swing, and the best thing is, the entire thing is wardable so a child cannot fall off and hurt themselves."
"Wow," I say, looking more closely at the pictures. "That's really something, and Lils and Jamie might even like it as well."
"Great, I'll just mail-order it for you and have it sent to your house by Friday. Now go off and have some Harry-time."
"Yes, well, if I got a present, I'll just work on the skin Regrowth for St Mungo's," I reply, but Pansy ushers me to the door.
"Out with you," she says. "When was the last time you had some time to yourself, hmmm? Go look at some new broom models, have an ice-cream at Fortescue's, I don't care, but get out!"
Pansy is right, of course, I haven't taken any time off in a long while, but I'm not about to waste time on useless window shopping. I make my way through Laeva Alley, round the corner at Flourish and Blotts into Diagon, and head straight for the Apparation point.
The Ministry is the same as always, bustling and hurried and I still haven't gotten used to the magnificent wealth of the place. Not in the years I've worked here, and not in the years since.
Ron's still an Auror, even though Hermione wishes he'd give it up like me, and seek a less dangerous job. She doesn't get it, she never really did. Being an Auror isn't a job, it's a way of life, it's part of who you are even if you're no longer active. Ron's an Auror, and even though I've hung up my crimson robes, I'll always be an Auror. Not that I have any desire to return to the MLE when Draco is back, I retired, and I'm happy with that.
Teaching sounds good, to be honest. Maybe I could offer Minerva an apprenticeship program for her NEWT Potions students at the Centre. I should discuss it with Hermione, see what she thinks. It could be a great idea to tie the more promising students to the Centre before they go off to university. Invest in their future and in ours.
A few of my former colleagues wave at me when I step out of the elevator and cross the floor to the offices of the senior Aurors. Ron did well for himself. I was good, but he's better. Where I'm raw power and speed, he's level headed and strategic. Of course he's still a hot head when it comes to emotional things, but when on the job, he has this eerie calm I envy. They are the perfect traits for a leader, and Ron is a leader if there ever was one.
The sad thing is that the Ministry didn't see that at first. They wanted to groom me for the Head Auror position from the moment I applied for training. They wanted a figure head, not a leader. I would've made the worst Head Auror of the century.
Now that they can't have me, they've finally pulled their heads out of their arses and noticed what was right in front of them all along. Or rather who was in front of them. Ron will probably take over for Gawain Robards within a year or two, as he's already doing the man's job behind the scenes. It'll make Hermione happy. The Head Auror rarely goes out into the field, and it's most definitely a less dangerous job.
Sometimes, when I think about it, it makes me feel weird and unimportant, how the gaps of my absence are quickly and brilliantly filled by others. How the roles I would've played had I not made the choices I made, have been given to other more suitable candidates.
But I'm not unimportant, not at all. Maybe the die could've been cast any other way, and I would've found my place as well, but I'm happy with the roles I've come to fill. Father to my children. Husband to Draco. I wouldn't trade any of it for all the gold in the world.
I knock on Ron's door and he calls me in. "Harry!" He jumps up from behind his desk and it seems like he's about to hug me, but thinks better of it and eyes me warily.
I smile broadly, I've missed him more than I thought I had. "I had this whole thing I was going to say," I start. "But it's unimportant, really." And I hug him.
"I really am." His words are a bit muffled against the fabric of my robes. "Sorry, I mean. I just had to go and put my foot in my mouth. I just want you to be happy, but when I truly thought about it and imagined what I'd do if it happened to Moine-."
He sighs and pulls back before he looks me in the eye. "I don't know how you do it, mate. I wouldn't be able to cope."
I close my eyes for a second and school my face into a mischievous grin. "Well, luckily my sole survival wasn't based on Draco's cooking skills."
"Arse," he responds and punches my shoulder. "Does this mean I get to see my Goddaughter again?"
My eyes widen in surprise. "I wouldn't keep my kids from seeing their favourite uncle, Ron! I was angry, but I never said you couldn't see them!"
"Oh." He smiles sheepishly.
I chuckle. "You're an idiot."
"Yeeeeeah," he drawls. "About that."
Uh-oh, I think. What the hell did he do now? I raise an eyebrow in a way Draco learnt from Snape, and he in turn taught me.
"I planned a romantic weekend for me and Mione, for our anniversary next week. But I accidentally mixed up the dates. We have a Portkey for Thursday evening instead of Friday evening," he explains. Well, that's not too big of a problem.
"You want to know if Hermione can have the Friday off?" I fill in and he nods and he turns his puppy dog eyes on me. Those might work on his wife and mother, but I'm immune, I'm happy to say, and I can drive a hard bargain. "You got the kids a place to stay?"
"Well, not exactly." Predictable. "Rose is going to Percy's, wouldn't go anywhere else. I'm afraid she and Roxanne plan on marrying the same man if we don't watch out, but I haven't found a solution for Hugo yet. I think I'll just ask mum."
"Tell you what," I say. "I'll take Hugo for the weekend and give Hermione the Friday off, and you share my responsibilities with Jamie's junior Quidditch League with Blaise."
Ron smirks. "Deal! I can't wait for Rose or Hugo to join! It would be a pleasure to do some coaching and refereeing! I'm surprised you don't want to do it yourself!"
"I would." And that's the truth of it. I'd love to coach my boy through his first real Quidditch games. "But I can't be in multiple places at the same time. If I make this exception, I'd have to make it for Lily and Scorpius as well. They all want to do stuff that requires my sole attention, and without a time-turner, there's just no way."
"Sorry, mate," Ron says. "Hey, you up for lunch? It's already half one and I'm starving! We could grab a bite at that new Italian place on Haymarket?"
"Sure," I reply, handing my friend his Muggle coat and transfiguring my own robes into a casual jacket. "I've got an hour or so."
We exit on Whitehall and raise our heads to the sun shining through the spare clouds. It's a rather pleasant temperature, not as warm as yesterday, but maybe the spring is finally setting in.
It's a bit of a walk to Haymarket, but I like not having to rush for a moment, and me and Ron always manage to find a topic for conversation. Today it's frustrations over Ministry dealings.
Ron's current position involves quite a bit of politics, something I can't make head or tail of. With powerful Pureblood families even fighting amongst themselves, it was impossible to keep everyone happy. Apparently old Wizarding etiquettes were supposed to be followed while investigating members of certain standing, something I used to know, but conveniently forget. Those rules of society made investigations more time consuming, but it always came back to the head of office when they weren't followed.
"It's not like it's bloody law." Ron's face is a bit flushed and there's some spittle as he talks. "If they wanted their Pureblood superiority, they should've supported Voldemort, instead of hiding in their well warded Manors."
I snort and raise an eyebrow. "I'm rather happy most of Pureblood families kept from joining Riddle's side."
"Yeah, well you know what I mean," he says as he pushes through the narrow door of the restaurant.
"Do I?" I gesture to a table in the far corner, a bit away from the other clientèle. Wouldn't be the first time Ron almost violates the International Statute of Secrecy in his enthusiasm or frustration. Having grown up around Wizards, he's never really gotten used to living, working and acting amongst Muggles. He's not as bad as Draco of course, who developed an Arthur Weasley kind of obsession with Muggle stamps for a while.
"So you just stick them on?" he asked, fascinated with his collection of colorful sheets of glossy paper from all over the world. "But how do they get your letter to the recipient? These can hardly fly, now can they?"
And then with Muggle coins.
"A hundred pence to a pound? What kind of logic is that?" he exclaimed. "And why is it called sixpence if it's only two and a half pence?"
And eventually Amusement Parks.
"Why does Muggle Magic always involve sparkles?" he asked while shaking hands vigorously with the three fairy Godmother's of the Sleeping Beauty in Disney World. Making the women eye him rather curiously. "Look, Jamie! A Moving tea-set! Genius! We should get mother's china to dance for us next time we visit!"
I miss him. I want him back.
"Yeah, mate, I hate bigotry," Ron says when we sit down. "But I hate nothing more than self-serving pricks who don't give a toss about anyone other than themselves."
"While not interdependent, the two go together more often than not, I'd say." I pick up my menu, paying attention to his cringe from the corner of my eye.
"Stop hanging around my wife. One Hermione is more than enough for me."
I can't keep the smile from tugging at the corner of my mouth.
A young waitress comes up to the table and I order a cold pasta salad, while Ron chooses an extra large pizza with at least four kinds of meat. I chuckle, the man really is a bottomless pit when it comes to food. I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up eating half my lunch, if it weren´t a salad, or vegetarian.
"So how are the kids?" he asks, playing with the miniature tower of Pisa salt shaker.
"They're fine. Scorp's got a new friend. Her name is Mila, and apparently she's an invisible pink unicorn."
Ron chuckles and taps against the salt shaker a few times with his fork to see if it will topple over.
"She actually comes in quite handy, to be honest. The temper tantrums have all but disappeared since she came to live with us," I explain. "He's got a hard time expressing his own emotions, but he's very aware of hers, and has no qualms telling me how she feels. Luckily, her emotions are an exact copy of his."
"I remember Rose's imaginary friend." There's a fond gleam in his eyes. "Tigger caused more tantrums than he solved."
"You never should've told her the majority rules." I roll my eyes as I say it. "Of course she gains an instant friend who agrees with her on everything. The second mistake was to call Tigger 'imaginary' to her face."
I wink when he rolls his eyes right back at me. "It's always easy for the parents who can learn from their friends' mistakes."
I just raise my eyebrow and glare Him down. He soon realises what a stupid thing that is to say, seeing my eldest was born way before his, and he had experience with no less than five nieces and nephews by the time he made his first parenting mistake. You should think the man would've known how to change a diaper by then. Hermione was not amused when the sticking charm he'd eventually used to fasten the diaper to Rosie's little baby bottom in frustration, caused her acute obstipation. It's like taping the tab shut with duct-tape and then turning on the water.
"At least Hugo doesn't try to outsmart me at every turn." Ron sighs and gives the salt shaker a harder tap, but it still stands firm in a 4° angle. "He's fine with everything I say, it worries me sometimes."
"He'll surprise you, that one." I chuckle. It's always the quiet ones. "Look how Hermione turned out. Just don't expect your kids to automatically sort into Gryffindor."
"Why not?" He looks genuenely affronted. "All Weasleys sort into Gryffindor!"
I reach out to grab his arm in warning, as the waitress comes back with our food and drinks. They must have everything half prepared, because we haven't even been sitting here for more than fifteen minutes.
"Not all Weasleys sort into Gryffindor," I say airily and waving him off.
"Yes they do!" he replies. "They have for generations!"
I spear a bit of pasta with arugula and mozzarella on my fork and turn my attention to my friend. "Ron, for someone who's the next in line for Head Auror, your powers of deduction leave much to be desired."
He eyes me with a look on his face that shouts 'what have I missed?'.
"Do you really think Victoire will sort into Gryffindor?" I try to keep my amusement from showing on my face, but it's hard.
Bill's oldest is anything but Gryffindor. I sometimes wonder if being the first grandchild to be born in two families didn't ruin her forever, spoilt little brat she sometimes appears to be, but it's mostly an act. She knows her own worth, she's very aware of her good looks, and most characteristic is the fact that she knows exactly how to use that knowledge to get what she wants. She never treats others as less than her, and she absolutely adores her sister and little brother, but on most days, she reminds me strongly of Draco when he was young. Without the cruel streak of course.
No, Victoire is one of two kids in our extended family, that will surely sort into Slytherin. The other being Luna, Ginny's daughter. Though I'm sure there are more little snakes hidden amongst our ranks. Out of Molly's thirteen grandchildren, I don't see more than a handful sort into my old house. And if anyone is daft enough to expect our brood to invade the Lion's den, they'll be in for a shocking surprise.
"No, you're right," Ron says. "But my children have what it takes to be a Gryffindor!"
Pride really does make him look like a goofy cartoon character, but it's cute, in a silly sort of way.
"Ron, you do realise that sorting into Gryffindor isn't an accomplishment equivalent to winning a gold medal, right?" I say hesitantly. "Just because we were Gryffindors, doesn't mean it's the best house. Children are sorted by their character traits, and being a Gryffindor certainly translates to quite a few character flaws as well."
"Yes, but heroes are from Gryffindor and Dark Lords are from Slytherin," Ron says and I punch him against his shoulder.
"I can't believe you're still spouting that housist shite!" I reply angrily. "I hope you're not teaching that to your children!"
Ron has the grace to look ashamed and looks up from under his eyelashes, murmuring a soft apology.
"Where do you think James will sort then?"
I smile broadly. "James will either sort Gryffindor or Slytherin. He really is a balanced mix of Draco and me, isn't he?" I ponder for a second. "But I'll be proud no matter where the hat sorts him, it's not his future house, but the person he is, that makes him a wonderful kid."
Ron shrugs. I know he'll always be proud of his children, but I also know he'll be very disappointed if they end up anywhere but in Gryffindor. But that's okay, as long as he keeps it to himself, and praises them both to heaven, as I suspect he will. It might be good for him if Rose sorts Hufflepuff.
I decide to let my friend in on a little secret. "I almost sorted into Slytherin, but I talked the hat out of it."
"What?" Ron's voice is loud enough for half the clientele to look at us and he blushes bright red before he leans into me and whispers; "You never told me that."
"I didn't?" My smile seems innocent, though I know full well I never had. To be honest, back then Ron would probably not have spoken to me for a couple of months, had I told him. "Oh, well, I did. Looking back I think I made the right choice though. According to Draco I am horrendously Gryffindor in almost everything I do, from forgiving easily to rushing in without thinking."
"What makes you a Slytherin then? I've never seen any snake traits in you," Ron seems very interested in my answer.
"You wouldn't." I look down and rake my fork through my salad a few times.
"What's that supposed to mean?" He's looking at me like he's not sure he's just been insulted or not.
"That means that you're too much of a Gryffindor to have noticed," I answer, going on quickly when I see him opening his mouth to protest. "It's not a bad thing, really. At least not something you did on purpose, but you've got to admit that Mione is the sharper one out of the two of you."
I take a bite of pasta and give Ron some time to think about what I said.
"Are you telling me I'm daft?"
"No, I'm not," I shake my head. "You're absolutely brilliant. You know every single thing that can go wrong, and you're always thirty steps ahead of the rest of us."
"But," Ron pushes, his jaw clenched.
"But," I repeat. "You always expected people to behave in a way that seemed logical to you. Your parents were good people, so everyone should trust them and tell them all their problems if they needed help. That's how you grew up. They were always there to care for you and keep you safe."
"Yeeeeea?" Ron gestures me to go on.
"Well, I grew up learning that I couldn't trust anyone. Not really. I was completely alone against the rest of the world."
"Of course not," Ron says. "Maybe you were before Hogwarts, but once you met us, we were there for you."
"I know, Ron," I say with a smile. "And I'm not saying I didn't trust you two, but still I kept most of my secrets and feelings to myself. I even warded my bed so you and the other guys wouldn't know about my nightmares."
I shove my salad away, not really hungry anymore, even though I've only had a few bites.
"That's my Slytherin side," I continue. "The instinct that tells me only the strongest survive, and I can't really count on anyone but myself. In the end it was the Lion that stepped into the Forbidden forest and marched up to its death, but it was a Snake that had me fight Voldemort in the first place. He was always going to come for me, my only chance was to get him first."
"It's a good theory, now that I think of it." Ron's narrowing his eyes and a rare, but intelligent looking frown crosses his face.. "Maybe it's not Dark Lords that are sorted into Slytherin, but Einzelgängers. Dark Lords are essentially all Einzelgängers, while not the other way around. There certainly were quite some heroic wizards and witches in Slytherin, like Snape and Merlin. It's just unfortunate that being a heroic Einzelgänger usually leads to a horribly tragic death."
I wince, the man's got a point. "My sort of death was terribly tragic."
He shrugs and cuts off a chunk of pizza. "At least it wasn't permanent," he says before picking up the slice and taking an obscene bite. It's a Ron thing, to eat with his hands in a somewhat fancy lunchroom like this one.
"The only thing that really bothers me about Slytherins, is that they are all so extremely paranoid!" Truly, the sight of Ron talking through a mouthful of half masticated pizza, is enough to make anyone feel nauseated.
"Well, let's just say it's no wonder things such as Veritaserum, the Fidelius Charm and Unbreakable Vows were created by Slytherins." I take a sip of water and try my hardest to look anywhere but at my friend. "They do tend to be slightly more careful with whom they trust."
Ron coughs in amusement. "Understatement of the century." He pushes my plate back towards me. "Eat, you're still a skinny runt."
"Am not," I reply, flexing my muscles childishly, but picking up my fork anyway.
"I wonder what Draco would sort, were he to sort again."
I snort and take a bite. No wonder there, Dray's still the epitome of a Slytherin.
We quietly talk about Ron's surprise trip to Paris while I force down my lunch and I realise my solitary way of dealing with my emotions hasn't really changed over the years. I only ever really trusted one person with all that I was, but those secrets are locked up deep within my husband's mind. It seems ironic to me, that someone with as much family and friends as I have, could be this lonely.
Three years is a long time to not really share yourself with anyone, and I miss it. Of course I've gone without for more than half my life, but that was before. As with everything, you can't miss what you've never had. I never knew how good it feels to have someone to lean on, but now I remember. It feels like a gaping hole in the centre of my soul.
It's five minutes to three when I get home and I hastily clear the kitchen of any leftover breakfast mess. I know Molly doesn't really care about the state of cleanliness in my house, and she's always quick to help tidy it up, but she's Super-mom. I can't help but feel like a horrible parent when she starts cleaning my home for me.
"Harry!" is the first thing I hear after the Floo flares to life. Within five seconds of that exclamation I'm being hugged by two arms that don't seem to know their own strength. My breath in knocked out of me and my face is filled with wild mussed up platinum blond hair. Damn it feels good to have those arms around me, to smell that wonderful musky smell and bask in that wonderful warmth.
I kiss the top of Draco's head, run my hand down his back and conjure a smile. "Seems like someone missed me, hmmm?" I fill my nose once more with his delicious scent.
Molly meets my eyes over Drake's head and gives a tiny shake of her head with a sad smile. I raise an eyebrow, but don't ask anything.
"Why don't you go up and bring your bag to your room," I say, gently trying to pry my husband's arms from around my waist.
He looks up at me for a second, confusion and sadness fighting for control in his eyes. He strains his neck and it almost seems like he's going to kiss me, before he closes his eyes and buries his face in the crook of my neck. I look back up at Molly worriedly and mouth my question without sound. 'What's going on?'
"Draco, dear," she says. "Go bring your bag upstairs, I need to talk to Harry for a second. Okay, love?"
He sighs and squeezes me one last time before letting go and picking his bag up from the floor.
"There's a good lad." She looks at him fondly and pats his shoulder. "And why don't you change into a clean shirt, there's still some egg yolk on your sleeve."
He nods and looks back at me for a second before he leaves the kitchen.
I cast a Muffliato on the two of us as soon as the door closes behind him. "What was that all about?" Molly sits down heavily on one of the kitchen chairs.
"He had quite an episode this morning," she says. "I'm not sure what happened, because he was playing out back with Hugo, but all of a sudden he was screaming for Jamie. I had to stun him to keep him from Flooing here."
"Screaming for Jamie? What do you mean? Why?"
"It was like he thought something was wrong with him, like he was sick, or missing," she explains. "Harry, he didn't know where he was, or who Hugo was, but the strangest part was, that he asked me where the hell his son was."
I collapse into one of the chairs and swallow hard around a lump in my throat. It's almost too much to comprehend. He's still in there somewhere, my husband, I just know it. What Molly just told me only strengthens my belief. He's trying to come back to me, to us.
"What happened after?" I ask in a whisper, my hands clenching the seat of my chair to keep myself from running upstairs and hugging Draco until he wakes up and holds me like he used to.
"Not much. As soon as my stunner hit him, it was like his eyes glazed over, and when I released him a minute later, he was back to usual. Except-"
"Except for the fact that he wanted to know when he could go home," she answers. "I managed to keep him distracted by baking muffins together, but he kept eying the clock like he was willing time to move faster."
I inhale deeply and let the air back out in stuttering breaths. "I'll mention it to the healers." Trying to calm myself, I press my nails into the palms of my hands. "It must mean something."
"I hope it does, dear." Molly stands up. "I've got to run, Hugo's taking a nap, but I don't want to leave him alone at the burrow for too long. We'll talk more when I bring the kids by tonight."
"Oh, you don't have to," I say, almost forgetting the play-date at Ginny's. "Blaise is picking them up and keeping them till after dinner."
"Oh, all right." She smiles, but the smile doesn't reach her eyes. "Well, Floo me when they're in bed then. I'd like to know how the appointment went."
I round the table and pull her into a hug. "I will," I say. "And thank you for everything you do for us, I couldn't do all of this without you."
"Now, now," she chuckles, cups my cheeks with her soft hands and smiles. It's like I'm a boy again, and she's the first woman I can remember to touch me with care and warmth. Only now her hair is streaked with grey, and the lines around her eyes have become more prominent. Eyes that are glistening with emotion, though I'm not sure if they are happy or sad. "No need to thank me, that's what family is for."
She presses a gentle kiss between my eyes and slaps my cheek affectionately before she pulls away and opens the kitchen door. I cancel the Muffliato and walk her to the Fireplace.
"Good luck at St Mungo's," she says, and calls out her farewell to Draco who's just coming down the stairs.
And then she's gone. And I'm alone with my husband, who's standing in the doorway to the hall, biting his lower lip, one foot rubbing the calf of the other leg, with his eyes looking down on the floor in front of him.
There's few moments where I'm alone with him like this. The house quiet and empty, and I almost snort, remembering how we used to be starved for these short intermezzos where we could spend our attention on each other and only each other. With a business, a demanding job and two kids between us, we were lucky if we found a moment to just the two of us outside the four walls of our bedroom late at night.
Now I'm just out of my league, completely unsure of what I should or shouldn't do, so I just stare at him.
"Harry?" He looks up at me from underneath those silky bangs. He needs a haircut. "I'm scared."
I'm beside him in a second, laying my hand on his shoulder and forcing him to look up into my eyes with a single finger under his chin. "What are you scared of, Dray?"
He shivers like he's cold and I run my hand down his shoulder, rubbing his bare arm. He's wearing one of my old shirts, a maroon one the old Draco wouldn't want to be caught dead in.
Tears form in his eyes and he's looking so young, so lost. "I don't know," he says and I have no trouble believing him. This isn't one of those times where he's reluctant to tell me something. He truly doesn't know why he feels this way, and that just makes him even more afraid.
I can't help reaching out and pulling him into my arms. He tenses immediately, and I don't know why. Is he picking up on my feelings? It feels so wrong to have a thing like this feel so bloody good.
Then he pushes his nose into the crook of my neck again and inhales sharply, his hand sliding down my back to the swell of my ass. He actually moans softly and I pull away like I´ve been burnt, noticing my body´s reaction to the almost forgotten sound.
He shakes his head and stares down at his hands, his eyes wide in shock and confusion.
I clear my throat and run my hand through my hair awkwardly. What the hell was that? What the hell do I do now? Is he remembering? Would it be alright to ask him what happened?
Before I can figure out what to do, he shakes his head again and looks up at me with that innocent smile on his face that tells me there's something he wants. The one that tells me that he knows I'll probably say no.
"Harry?" he asks, drawing out the 'a'.
"Yes, Dray?" I answer with more quasi-nonchalance than I would've thought myself capable to feign.
"May I have a pastry?"
I chuckle. "Are you hungry?"
He shrugs and bites his lip. "Well, I imagine you've had quite a few muffins at Molly's house, knowing you, but if you want to eat something, you can have a few crackers with cream-cheese." He used to love those crackers, not being a sweet tooth like me, but that's something the accident changed. He's worse than Lily now, always sneaking an extra spoon of sugar into his tea when I'm not looking, nicking Chocolate Frogs from the cupboard while the rest of us are fast asleep, and using his incredible charm to liberate his mother and Molly of snacks and treats wherever he can.
He's lucky I'm all but immune to his manipulative tendencies, or the man would've been as wide as Uncle Vernon by now.
He protrudes his bottom lip a little and makes his way to the larder.
I sit down and summon the pile of Draco's research notes on the anti-Imperius Potion. Hermione and I've spent a lot of time researching ourselves and adding to it. We just can't seem to figure it out. We've tried healing damage, we've tried reversing the affects, we've bloody well tried everything, but it's like we're missing something.
I chance a peek at Draco and see him trying to lick a smear of cream-cheese that runs from his mouth down over his chin. There's a blob of it on the collar of his shirt, the shirt he just changed into. I stiffle a sigh and wave my wand inconspicuously to clean him up.
I wonder if this is how Muggles feel when their partners succome to the more advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease. When they see their husbands or wives become unable to take care of themselves. Sometimes I think it would've been easier for me if Draco's de-aging hadn't just been his mind, if the presence of his adult body isn't one too many forbidden temptations for a man like me. A man that can't help himself having excruciating sexual dreams about Draco as he used to be, still. I desire my husband, even after more than three years of pre-adolescent behaviour.
He takes a plate from the rack and sits down at the table next to me, glancing at the parchment between us and leaning in for a closer look.
It's okay, Molly only just started teaching him how to read, so there's no chance he'll get himself into trouble with the formulas he's looking at.
He takes a bite of his cracker and pulls the top sheet of parchment closer to him while I sift through a few pages describing Draco's early experiments.
From the corner of my eye I barely notice it, but as soon as I do, I look up and stare at him. He's doing it, that little thing he used to do while concentrating on his work. It used to be a quill in his hand, but now it's a half-eaten cracker that's stuck between his middle finger and thumb. He runs the side of his pinky over his eyebrow in a lazy side to side stroke.
He hasn't done that since the accident.
And his eyes, running over the parchment like he knows exactly what he's reading, like he's trying to come up with the answers as he reads.
He shocks the hell out of me, when he shifts the parchment with his free hand to read what's on the sheet that's underneath.
"This is very advanced stuff, Potter," he says with a hint of a sneer. "Don't hurt yourself trying to figure it out."
I hitch a breath and he looks up.
It's not my husband looking at me, not my Draco, but it's not Dray either. The way he rolls his eyes at my obvious shock reminds me of the Draco I repeated my 7th year at Hogwarts with. The Draco I fell in love with, despite his haughty and somewhat hostile attitude towards everything Destroyer-Of-Voldemort.
I just sit here and stare, my mouth agape, trying to decide between blind panic and relief. He's pushing through! He's coming back!
"What?" He stands up, dumping the remainder of his cracker on the plate and wiping a non-existent crumb from his sleeve.
He turns away from me, takes a step and drops to the floor like a sack of potatoes.
"Draco!" I yell and rush to his side. I check him for injuries, his pulse, his breathing, and try to Rennervate him. He doesn't wake, just lays there looking pale and fragile.
Wasting no time, I conjure two Patronuses, one for Hermione, and one announcing our early arrival to St Mungo's.
The healers and Medi-Wizards fuss over us as soon as we step through the Floo and take Draco from my arms. For once it doesn't irritate me, as they are doing all they can to figure out what's wrong with him.
I'm hardly coherent in my explanation of what happened, not until Hermione slips an arm over my shoulder and asks me clear and useful questions that only need a yes or no answer.
No, he didn't have an accident.
Yes, he hit his head on the floor as he fell.
No, he didn't just fall down.
No, he hadn't said anything about feeling dizzy.
Yes, he'd eaten.
No, he wasn't feeling sick this morning.
"He was remembering," I mutter into my hands covering my face.
"What's that, Harry?"
"Just before he fell," I explain. "He was remembering. Reading our research notes and commenting on the unlikeliness of me understanding something so complicated."
"H-he," she started.
"He's coming back, Mione," Tears are filling my eyes, and for once I can't be arsed to try and stop them from rolling down my cheeks. He'll be fine. I don't have to be so bloody strong anymore, he's coming back.
"Mr Potter?" Healer Weston, the man Draco and I had an appointment with, asks and my head snaps up. "He's fine, at least there's no physical damage, but he hasn't woken yet."
"Why not? If there's no damage, he should respond to a Rennervate, shouldn't he?" Hermione is quick to voice the questions roaming my head.
"Well, that's where we come to the reason for your initial appointment," he says before calling an elf to bring us some tea. "We've had a new Healer in our team for the last couple of months, who's done extensive research on Muggle maladies and treatment during her apprenticeship. We've been very lucky to welcome her to the Hospital, as she brings us groundbreaking new insights to treatment of Magical issues."
"More to the point, she had us approaching Mr Malfoy's condition from a different angle. Instead of focussing on the difference between his accident and Muggle conditions such as Amnesia and Dementia, we've been exploring the similarities and we've had a bit of a breakthrough."
I perk up at his words, the nudge of hope festering in my heart raging into a full blown fire. "What kind of breakthrough?"
"A breakthrough in diagnosing him," Healer Weston answers. "We've been working from the angle that Mr Malfoy's brain was damaged, that there was something that was changed, and needed to change back. However, we recently learned that this was a misconception. The seed, or tangle that the anti-Imperius Potion removed during the accident, was thoroughly integrated with every single memory your husband had since the initial curse, and in every part of his neurological developement since then. The Potion acts like a very localised version of what Muggles call an Electroconvulsive Shock, or ECS. It caused the seed or tange, being Magical rather than Physical, to wither and disappear. ECSes are known to cause temporary Retrograde Amnesia."
I frown. I'm too tired, too wound up to even try and understand what the man is telling me.
"Can't you just give me the short version? I'm having a hard time keeping up." I rub my forehead to try and hold back the Migraine that's bound to pop up at any second now.
"Well, what I'm trying to say, is that Mr Malfoy's brain wasn't reset to the Tabula Rasa your formidable colleague referred to in her notes," the Healer says with a respectful nod in Hermione's direction. "The amnesia has nothing to do with the time the initial curse was cast, and everything to do with the fact that the seed or tangle was so integrated in Mr Malfoy's entire cognitive development since."
"I'm not following you at all," I say, pulling my hair and fidgetting in my plastic chair. Huh! St Mungo's is looking more like a Muggle hospital by the day. "What difference does it make?"
"Watch." Healer Weston takes my hand. He presses his thumb against the palm of my hand, hard. When he releases it, I stupidly watch as the skin, white from the pressure, turns slightly red, before returning to its original color.
"My thumb applying pressure is the shock of the Potion. The rest is Mr Malfoy's brain protecting itself, coping with the change and returning back to a healthy state without there being any curable damage," he says. "Both the shock of the Potion and the removal of the seed or tangle was rather traumatic for Mr Malfoy's brain, so as with regular Muggle Amnesia due to ECS, the brain needs time to adjust and cope."
"What are you saying? How does this help Draco getting better?" All I'm hearing is that they still have no way to help Draco.
"We've tested Draco's test-subjects. He had them put their important memories in a pensive, so they wouldn't lose much in the process of removing the seed or tangle, but it seems like they recovered the rest of their memories without exceptions. Their minds are as whole as they were before the procedure." The healer pauses and binds me to my chair with a stern look. "We are confident that Mr Malfoy will regain complete recollection of past events, without the aid of any Healing Spells or Potions, because frankly, there aren't any. The cures we tried in the past may have actually set back his recovery due to the additional trauma to his brain. All your husband needs is time, and from what I could determine from today's occurrence, he is already accessing parts of his brain that were previously lost to him."
"So you're telling me that you finally know what the hell is wrong with him, but there's nothing you can do?" I growl. "How is that a breakthrough?"
I know I'm being unreasonable. The man basically told me the best news I've heard in three years. I'm going to have him back. He's going to be my Draco again. My husband, my lover, my partner. I'm just being impatient. When the man said breakthrough, the stupid part of my mind took over, telling me I'd have him back in my arms tonight.
Hermione lays a heavy hand on my shoulder, forcing me to calm down. "Mr Potter," the Healer says. "It's my professional opinion, that Mr Malfoy's collapse earlier today was caused by an inability to connect his flash-back with his recent past. He is trying to access his memory, but it won't make sense at first, bringing him stress he could certainly do without. This can't be avoided, however."
I slump back into the chair, feeling a little subdued. "How do I help him? Can I help him?"
"I was told the sudden return of a memory or a set of memories can lead to panic, confusion and severe headaches. Follow his lead, when he's looking for comfort, give him comfort. When he wants space, give him space. Just keep an eye on him, because fainting spells like today are likely to repeat itself." The man pulls a strip of Muggle pills from his robes and hands them out. "Paracetamol, I advise you to give him these against headaches. They're hardly as effective as headache draughts, but less invasive to a recovering brain. He can have a draught if the pain becomes unbearable, but try to avoid them."
"Do you have any more questions, Mr Potter?" I shake my head minutely. "Alright, once your husband is awake, he's free to go home. A nurse will come in a minute to help you with the paperwork and guide you to Mr Malfoy's room. I'd like to see him at least once a week for the foreseeable future, you can make a new appointment with either the nurse or at the front desk."
Truthfully, I´m lost in my own mind. Hermione takes care of the paperwork, and I sign a release form when she bumps my shoulder. Time flies by in a way it hasn't for ages. Draco's safe in a hospital bed around the corner and the kids are at Blaise's, there's no one to be responsible for right now, except myself. The repose makes me feel empty, useless. I've felt so bloody useless for such a very long time.
I rest my head in my hands, my elbows digging into my knees for support, and I feel Hermione's hand slide up and down my spine for a moment before she stand up.
"Come on," she says. "Let's go see Draco, hmm?"
I'm on my feet in a second, following the nurse down the hall and into Draco's room. He looks so ethereal with his pale translucent skin almost the same color as the crisp white sheets of the hospital bed. His fair hair fanned over his pillow and a soft content smile on his face.
It's a smile that is both Dray and Draco, though neither shows it very often while awake. It's not the smile of a Malfoy, you see. It's not the smile of a Pureblood aristocrat. It is, however, the smile of someone who is so happy, that they forget themselves and their obligations for a moment. It's my smile, and Jamie's, and Lily's, and Scorpius's.
I realise as I look at him, smiling that private smile, that whatever happens, we'll always be a family. We'll always have each other.
"I'll be back in a minute." Hermione leaves the private room Draco's been given and I sit down on the edge of the bed, taking his hand in mine and rubbing my thumb up and down his wrist. Now, after today, it doesn't feel wrong, though I know it still is. I reach down and brush my lips lightly against his, wanting, no needing, for a second to feel him, and taste him, and love him.
His lashes flutter against his cheeks and he draws up a knee before turning slightly to his side and settling back down. I reach out and stroke the lock of hair that's fallen against his nose back behind his ear.
He's so beautiful. Soft skin and hard angles. Skinny, but toned.
He knows he's gorgeous, but he'd felt dirty and tainted for a long time. Not ready to forgive himself for the sins of his father, nor his own. Not ready to accept the way the rest of the world forgave and started to forget.
It pains me to know Lucius never apologized for the way he pulled his family into the service of a madman. I never cared for the man's penitence, or lack thereof, but he didn't even apologize to his own son. Though, honestly, I never expected him to.
He should have. He knew he was dying when they left for France. Azkaban and Voldemort had all but sucked the life out of him by the time he went on trial. I don't think he would've escaped as he did, had it not been abundantly clear to the entire Wizengamot, that Lucius Malfoy wasn't long for this world.
If not for himself, he should've done it for Draco. He claimed he loved his son, but he apparently loved his pride more, and pride he took to his grave, a mere six months after Voldemort's defeat.
I sit back and keep on watching him, watching over him.
I don't notice when Hermione gets back, but after sitting there a while, holding Draco's hand, I notice her reading a magazine in the corner of the room. She looks up and I smile faintly at her. She's always there for me when I need her, and I need her now, even if it's just her presence comforting me. She doesn't need to talk, or hug me. She helps me by just being there.
It's half past eight when a pair of lashes flutter and part. His blue eyes open, unfocused and confused. It only takes a moment before he sees me and whispers my name in a croaked voice.
I smile and run my hand down his cheek in a quick stroke. "Hey there, how are you?"
He looks around and frowns. "Sleepy," he murmurs and closes his eyes again.
A chuckle escapes my throat. "Hey now, none of that, I need you awake, so we can go home."
Sighing one of those melodramatic sighs of his, he opens his eyes again. "Okay," he says in a hushed tone and slowly sits up.
He looks cute like this. His hair all mussed and sticking up the side of his head. A bit of color returning to his cheeks, telling me he's warm and drowsy.
"Come on. Let's get you into some clothes and Apparate you home," Hermione says, standing up from her chair and picking up Draco's shirt and trousers from the bedside table. "Harry, do you want me to bring Draco home, or pick up the kids from Ginny's?"
Fuck! I completely forgot I would pick them up two hours ago. I stand up and run a hand through my hair, tugging at the ends frantically. I'm such an idiot! How could I forget my own children?
As she helps Draco into his shirts, he keeps trying to bat her hands away, but there's not much conviction in it. "Don't worry, I Owled them hours ago to ask if they could keep them a bit longer. They said they'd take them for the night if necessary."
Don't worry, she says. How can I not worry? It's not like she forgot her children.
"Stop it, Harry!" she admonishes. "How about we both take Draco home, and I'll stay with him while you pick up the kids?"
I hand Dray his shoes and socks. He's quiet, but then he's always quiet. "Are you in pain, Dray?" I ask, remembering what the Healer said about headaches.
"No, I'm thirsty." He's fumbling with the laces on his shoes. He never seems to be able to get them tight enough.
Without a thought I conjure a glass and cast and Aguamenti on it, watching as he takes a few big gulps and dries his mouth with the back of his hand. I don't even feel like correcting him at the moment. I'm just happy he's finally awake.
The rest of the evening passes me by in a daze. I pick up the kids, listen to Lily and James chattering on about school, making appropriate noises at the right moments while settling Scorpius on my hip and preparing to Apparate.
Hermione has Draco in bed by the time we get home, and she offers to bring Scorp to bed as well. I accept, because frankly, I'm too washed out to do anything.
I take care to refrain from snapping at my two eldest, as they keep up their account of their day. I hug Hermione before she goes home and thank her for everything she's done, only remembering her own difficulties with Hugo when I tell her to hug her kids for me.
When Jamie and Lily finally head up to bed, I collapse on the couch and close my eyes for just a minute, and wake up the next morning with a kink in my neck.
The week is mostly uneventful, days going by as they've done before: slowly. I bring the kids to school and work at the Centre, going out to lunch with George or Ron when I find the time.
I tell Penelope Lily can have her dance classes, and sign Jamie's permission slip for the junior Quidditch team with just a tiny tug at my heart. They are growing up so fast, and it's just a few years before I see them off to Hogwarts.
There's only two incidents where Draco remembers something, both minor, but leaving him tired and brooding. I can't reach him when he retreats into himself and walks around like the world is ending. I know it's about him, and not about me, and I feel awful for feeling that way, but I can't help but feel rejected when he doesn't come to me with his issues.
I'm selfish, I know, but I feel so useless, so unworthy of the people I love, when I see them in pain, unable to help them. Draco always said I have a 'Saving-people-problem'.
And God, I'm a bastard. Not at all the noble self-sacrificing Gryffindor the world thinks I am. When the day before Scorpius's party Draco launches himself at me, kissing my forehead, my cheeks, my neck, and finally my mouth, I kiss back. I take his bottom lip between my teeth and take full advantage of his surprise, shoving my tongue between his slightly parted, gasping lips.
His tongue tentatively comes out to play, and I moan at the feeling of kissing the man I love. Oh, I love him. I've loved him since the moment he smiled that wicked smile at me when I finally managed to get a complicated bone-mending Potion right during 7th year Potions class.
I swear I could've brewed anything at that moment, as long as he would smile that smile at me.
In the beginning he was furious we were paired up for class, but then again, it was me or a first time 7th year Hufflepuff, who was too scared of him to even talk to him. There were still Slytherins in our Potions NEWT class, but the ones who had supported Voldemort, hated him for defecting, and the ones who hadn't, hated him because he had.
It had taken Pansy and Blaise a while to come to their senses. Pansy being one of the former Slytherins, Blaise one of the latter. In the end it didn't matter though, they were children, we were all children.
But we aren't children anymore, not now. At least, I'm not. It's once again hammered home that my husband currently is. All of a sudden he plants his hands against my breastbone and shoves, for lack of a better word.
His fingers rise shakily to his lips and he stands in front of me, shivering. There's confusion in his eyes, his shockingly young looking eyes. I take a step towards him and my heart breaks when he shies away from me.
"D-dad?" he whispers. There's accusation in his voice.
"Dray, I-" I take another step, but he turns and bolts from the room.
A nerve wracking sounds penetrates my ears, it scares me, but I'm horrified to learn that it's coming from me, my pain and guilt hacking its way through my chest, threatening to rip me apart. I'm on my knees in a second, my hand reaching up to pull at my hair, and I sob. I have just enough peace of mind left to flick my wand at the door to close and ward it. A silencing charm topping it off so my children won't come and find me as I'm falling to pieces.
Twelve years ago, I took a vow. To honor, to love and to protect, in sickness and health, to put his needs before mine, and to respect him for everything he is, was and will be. And now I've hurt him, more than I ever meant to. I betrayed his trust, and the trust our friends and family put in me. I've hurt him in a way even his own father never had.
I take this moment to calm down, to come up with a way to make this right, but how does one make something like this right?
Not exactly sure about what I should do, I lift the wards and open the door. Right outside the room is Dray, sitting with his back to the wall and his knees drawn up to his chest. He looks up when he hears me and his steel blue eyes bore into mine.
"It hurts," he says and points at his head. "It hurts in here."
I crouch down in front of him and feel relieved that he doesn't draw away. I accio the Paracetamol and a glass of water for him. He takes the pill and washes it away with big sobby gulps.
"It'll be better in a moment, Dray, I-" Again choking on my words, I sigh in frustration. Should I bring it up? Should I let it go? What the bloody hell am I supposed to do?
"I'm sorry, Harry."
I have to strain to even hear it, there are tears rolling down his cheeks and he's wearing an expression that tells me he can't wrap his head around anything.
"No, no, Dray," I say and gather him in my arms, "you have nothing to be sorry about." I rock him back and forth and let him cry silently against my shoulder for a moment.
"There's pictures in my head, Harry," his says softly in my ear. "Pictures of you and Jamie. Pictures of me, but it isn't me, yelling really loud. Where do the pictures come from?"
I pull him away from me a little so I can look him in his eyes. "It's complicated, but I'll try to explain."
He looks intently at me and draws his bottom lip between his teeth. I have to actively keep myself from drawing my thumb over it and pulling it back out.
"You know that you're a lot bigger than Jamie and Lily, right?" I ask, and he nods. "That's because you're a lot older than they are."
"No," he says, counting off his fingers and holding them up to my face. "Jamie's nine! And I'm seven!"
"I know, Dray," I say, and point my finger at his head. "In there, you are, but that's because you've had an accident."
He crosses his eyes in an attempt to look at his own head and I can't help myself, I chuckle.
"You're as old as me even." I chuckle again when I see his horrified face.
"But you're really old!" I try to glare at him, but I'm mostly amused, to be honest.
"Yes, well, thank you," I say. "I guess that makes you really old too."
He scrunches his nose like he's smelling something disgusting. "No, I'm not!"
"I'm sorry, Dray." I sit down next to him with my back against the wall. "You really are. Three years ago, you had an accident, and you went to sleep for a little while."
"What kind of accident?" he asks and looks at me from under his bangs. He really does need a haircut.
"A Potions accident. It hurt your head and you lost a lot of memories." I explain best as I can. "The pictures in your head, they are memories that are coming back. It hurts your head because your mind is trying to put them back in the right place, so you understand them better."
"That can't be right," he says. "'Cause, 'cause, no!"
"What is it Dray? What can't be right?"
He hides his head in his hands and draws up his knees tighter. When I rest my hand against the back of his neck, he flinches violently and scrambles away from me.
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no," he whispers, and a tight fist squeezes around my heart. I don't understand it, any of it. What has he remembered that upset him so? His father? Voldemort?
"Draco," I say softly, but he curls into an even tighter ball. "Will you talk to me?"
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no." It's like it's his own personal mantra, and maybe it is, for now.
"I'll go get Molly, okay?" He doesn't respond, so I hurry downstairs to the Floo.
Within two minutes I'm exchanging Lily and Jamie for a concerned looking Molly Weasley. Scorpius is playing with his shape-shifting blocks in the corner of the living-room and pays us no mind.
"What happened?" she asks me in a no nonsense tone.
I raise a hand to the back of my neck and start pacing. "I don't know! One moment we're kissing, and next we're sitting on the landing, talking about his accident and memories."
"Kissing?" she bellows, "Harry James Potter! How could you?"
"I know, Molly," I say. "I know, okay? I'm trying here, I really am. I'm not a Saint, you know? As long as he keeps his distance, it's hard to stay away from him, but I do it! But when he jumps me and kisses me and runs his bloody hands all over my body-"
I sigh and run my fingers through my hair. "I lapsed, for a second. He kissed me and for a second I kissed him back."
Molly shakes her head with a sad look in her eyes.
"Three years, Molly, three bloody long years!" I growl. "Do you know how hard it is to stay away from your husband for three years? Of course you don't, judging by the size of your litter!"
She gasps and I know I've gone too far. I'm angry at myself for my lapse of judgement and my shame in having to admit how wrong I actually was. It has nothing to do with her or her rightful judgement of my actions. I'm grasping on straws here, trying to justify something that isn't justifiable in the least. I drop my tired body into one of the kitchen chairs, a clear sign of defeat.
"I'm sorry, you're right," I say. "There's nothing that can make what I did right, and I had no business taking it out on you. I understand if you're too angry with me right now, but Draco really needs you. He's drawn away from me, and I can't reach him."
She reaches out and slaps the back of my head lightly. "Right you are, to apologise. I wasn't judging you, dear. I can understand the difficulty of what you're going through, and I'll thank you to not drag my own sex-life into that, young man!"
I flushed red from my head to my toes. "Yes, Mrs Weasley," I say like an admonished eleven-year-old. I don't even know why I brought it up. Frankly the thought of Arthur and Molly going at it makes my stomach turn.
She laughs lightly. "Back to Mrs Weasley, are you? Good, lets me know you feel properly chastised. Now where's Draco?"
I point towards the stairs and force myself to stay seated. Eavesdroppers never hear good of themselves, and I trust Molly to tell me everything that I need to know.
I can't keep still though, the tip of my foot is tapping restlessly against the kitchen floor, my hand drumming on the table top, while the other rotates my wand in my hand over and over and over and over and over.
Fuck! Why can't I be the one he talks to? Why is it taking so long?
"Daddy?" Scorp calls from the corner. Distraction, good.
"What is it, sport?" I ask and crouch down next to him.
"Look, house!" He points at his blocks. These Wizarding blocks still amaze me. They train the child's mind by changing shape according to the child's memory, creativity and concentration. The house Scorpius created looks eerily like the Burrow. It's not an exact replica, mind you, that will come with time, but the general rickety outline is there, as is the bright red colour of the Burrow's roof.
"It's wonderful, Scorp," I say proudly. "Is that Grandma Molly's house?"
He nods excitedly and points again. "It's a house!" he says loudly and prattles on nonsensically in a way that tells me he's talking to Mila, his unicorn. I'm fine with that, he seems happy, not at all affected by the tension in the house.
I could almost forget he'll be three years old on Monday.
Time is a strange thing. It can go so fast and travel at a snail's pace in perfect synchrony. It seems like it's yesterday that the Healer lay my youngest son in my arms, tiny and fragile, while at the same time I sometimes feel like a lifetime has passed since then.
I have an overwhelming urge to grab him and hug him tight, but I let him play all the same. I've always been a bit paranoid about the people I love, the prerogative of a war veteran, I think, but for the last three years there's been a ball of unease in my heart. I almost constantly worry about losing Draco and the kids. If I'm not one hundred percent sure I know where they are at every single moment of the day, I'll go mad as a hatter.
I can't always know where they are though, and I can't have them within arm's range at all times, though if I could, I would grab them all, hug them close and never ever let go.
"Harry?" Molly pushes a hesitant Draco through the door. His backpack is slung over a slumped shoulder, his eyes looking all over the place, except at me. "I'm taking Draco to the Burrow with me. I think it'd be best if he gets some time to come to terms with his memories."
I raise my eyebrows, silently begging her to elaborate, but her attention is on my husband, who is now eying me wearily from underneath his fringe.
"You want to go with Molly?" I ask just to be sure.
His minute nod is more telling than the barely audible 'yes' he mutters. He shifts his weight to the other leg and hooks his foot behind his calf, biting his lip as he lowers his eyes to the floor.
"Okay." I inhale deeply through my nose and sigh. "Okay."
I follow after them when they hug Scorpius and say goodbye. The soft ringing in my eyes is distracting me enough to forget about the rules of the house, but Draco turns in front of the fireplace.
"I love you, Harry," he says. His shoulders are stiff, and his hands held tightly against his sides.
I frown and chance a look at Molly, who shakes her head with a sad smile. He always hugs me, but now it's clear he doesn't want to, and that hurts.
"I love you too, Dray. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
He doesn't respond, he just takes a pinch of Floo powder and calls for the Burrow as he steps through.
Molly rubs my shoulder for a second, and kisses my cheek. "I'll Floo you later tonight, when he's asleep."
And then they're gone, leaving me standing in front of the fireplace. I jump back slightly when it flares, and for a second I'm idiotic enough to hope it's Draco, that he decided he'd rather stay home after all. It's Lily's smiling face that steps through instead, followed by James, who's frowning and has a determined look in his eyes that tells me he's just as worried about Draco as I am.
"Time for bed," is the first thing I say, hoping to avoid the questions that are bound to come from both my inquisitive daughter and her too-smart-for-his-own-good brother.
"Don't be silly, dad," Lily says haughtily. "It's the weekend, and it's only half seven. I want to know why Dray is sleeping at Grandma Molly's house tonight."
Of course she does, and judging by the way James is nodding so vigorously, that his hair is flying around his head, so does he.
"That's all very well," I repply sternly. "But tomorrow will be a busy day as it is, I won't have you two whining from over excitement and fatigue tomorrow afternoon."
I cut her off in a tone that holds more anger than necessary. "You will see him again at the party."
They go upstairs and get ready for bed, but under softly muttered protest, and I follow with Scorpius. Even he's adamant on knowing why Draco isn't there to tuck him in like he always does. My husband hasn't spent the night apart from me since before James was born, even if his nights are spent across the hall.
Bedtime is a mess. James keeps asking questions I either don't want to answer, or don't know how to. Lily bursts into tears when I tell them off for continuing their inquisition. Scorpius throws a tantrum because he's upset Lily's crying, and I go from frustration, to agitation, to absolute desperation.
But in this house we never go to bed angry with each other, so in the end, I decide to scoop them up and deposit them on my own bed, where we curl up as a family. It's not until an hour later, that I find myself used as a pillow by three softly snoring children, redness still surrounding their eyes, but looking happy and content with their eyelashes fanning their cheeks, and their thumbs firmly lodged in their mouths.
I'm exhausted and I feel drained, though sleep keeps eluding me. It doesn't matter that my head feels like it's stuffed with cotton wool, and that my yawns are clearly telling me that the end of this day is long past its due. I haven't got my entire family together, safely asleep under my roof. I guess this is the moment I descend into hatter-like madness.
I'm finally dozing off when the sound of the Floo startles me, and when I hear footsteps on the stairs I try to quickly, but carefully, extract my body from underneath my children. I don't want to rouse them, but I'm in no position to protect them like this.
It's only when I hear a soft 'Harry?' in Molly's warm voice, that I fall back and relax.
"In here," I softly call out, and only Jamie moves, his eyebrows knitting together in a frown, his little hands briefly clenching.
She appears in the doorway and raises a hand to her heart with a soft smile on her face.
"How's Draco?" I ask her, and my heart clenches as her smile falls slightly.
"I considered giving him a dreamless-sleep Potion, but ended up doing some meditation exercises with him instead. He's asleep for now."
"Good." I close my eyes and run a hand over Lily's soft hair. "Don't give him any Potions, the Healer said it could set him back."
Finally managing to shift my children away from me, I sit up and scoop Scorpius up in my arms.
"Here," Molly says, holding her arms out to take him. "I'll take him back to his bed, shall I?"
I nod and I bring Lily back to hers myself, hovering slightly longer than necessary and kissing the top of her head before I go. When I step back into the hallway, Molly is holding a drowsy James.
"Dad?" he asks.
"G'night, Jamie," I say and kiss his cheek before Molly brings him to his own room.
The decision to go to Dray's room is unconscious, but that's where Molly finds me when all three children are fast asleep and tucked in their own beds.
"He's remembering your marriage," she says and takes my hand as she sits down next to me on Dray's bed. "He's having a hard time trying to rhyme his husband with his father figure.
I guess my jaw looks like it's about to drop off my face by the way it's hanging so far beneath its regular pose. I'm gobsmacked. It wasn't the memory of an insane Dark Lord, or a sadistic father, that sent him into a full out panic attack. No, it was me, or rather his memory of me.
Isn't this what I've been trying to avoid the past few years by having him call me Harry? By forcing him to not see me as his father?
"It's understandable, honey. He'll come around when he's able to get everything into perspective. You've found each other against all odds, you'll manage to find each other again."
I burry my face in her shoulder when she wraps her arms around me. I can't help the tears escaping my eyes, though I try my very best. It hurts. It hurts so much. It's like the tight band that's been around my chest for the past few years is only getting tighter, making it harder and harder to breathe.
Because Draco is my air, I can't be without him. I can't lose him, not now, not after all we've been through trying to get him back.
It's the doubts that hurt the most. I can hear what Molly's saying, that he'll be back when his memories are fully returned, but I can't help but feel that nothing ever really went my way. I've always had to pay a high price for my happiness, and I've been waiting for the hammer to fall ever since Draco and I got married. With having James, Lils and Scorp, Draco's accident just hasn't been enough to tip the balance.
But that's my fear talking, the fear of ending up alone. I can't let that fear strike me down. Gryffindors are brave, they fight their fears and stand strong in the face of defeat. So I do the only thing I can think of and pull back from that comforting hug and dry my tears.
"Yes, we will. I'm not going to give up on us, not ever."
Molly pats my cheek and smiles encouragingly. "There's my Harry," she says, and pats my cheek some more. Her smile is forced though. She's worried about him. About us.
"Try and get some sleep, honey, you'll need it. I hope you realize what you are in for, giving Blaise and Ginny carte blanche on the party?"
I groan when I remember their wedding. Their grand, two-day-wedding. The one that had all the guests needing a honeymoon to recover from. With Blaise and his Italian traditions, and Ginny as the family's Benjamin, not wanting to be outdone by her elder siblings. They know how to throw one hell of a party. Why hadn't I thought about that when I so thankfully accepted their offer to organize Scorpius's birthday bash?
Once Molly leaves, I can't get myself to leave Dray's room. His scent lingers here, and I feel like he will walk in any second, making me feel silly for being this dramatic and mushy. I wouldn't care though. He's allowed to make me feel silly all day, every day, if it only means I get to have him back.
I lay down and wrap an arm around the fluffy pillow, breathing in deeply and letting myself drift off into oblivion.
I feel like I just fell asleep when I open my eyes to look into a pair of steel blue ones. "Lily," I croak and close them again.
"Dad! You've got to get up!"
She shakes my shoulder, which hardly moves with the strength she's able to unload onto it. "Why are you in Dray's bed anyway?"
My groan tickles my throat. Right, this is Draco's bed. That might be the reason there's a lump underneath me that is sure to put my back in a spasm if I overexert myself today. I reach underneath and yes, I pull out my husband's purple stuffed dragon, courtesy of Pansy Nott.
She remembered he used to have one like this when he kept asking for Dobby, and I tried to explain to him that Dobby died years ago. So much for Draco's lack of respect for house elves. He'd named his most prized toy after one, much to Lucius disgust, as told by an amused Narcissa.
"Are Jamie and Scorp up yet?" I ask, ignoring her own question.
"We've all been up for ages!" I should really discourage her of those eyerolls, the cheeky little thing.
An uneasy feeling hits me. "What time is it?"
Lils climbs on top of me and grabs playfully at my nose, "Little one's between ten and eleven!" She continues to pull at both my ears at the same time. "Big one's on six!"
When she takes two full hands of hair, I reach out and tickle her sides.
"Noooooooooo!" she screams. "Daddy! Stohop! Daddyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!"
I don't relent immediately, but then I hear a battle cry of 'Get him!' from the doorway, and suddenly I'm being poked, prodded, tickled and choked by three little pyjama clad brats.
I grab them tight and squeeze them to me while I get up, dragging every single one of them from the room and to the bathroom. "Oh oh! I think I've got three children in need of a cold shower!"
"Not cold!" Jamie shouts as Lily lets loose a shrieking 'nooooooooooooooo' right next to my ears. It's Scorpius's wheezy 'too tight' that makes me loosen my grip immediately, but I still manage to dump them in our large comfortable bath, turning the shower on them straight away, pyjamas and all.
By the time I'm properly stripping them and washing their hair, I'm as wet as they are, and the bathroom looks like it's the stage of the National Merfolk Water Ballet.
I usually bathe Lily and Scorp together, with Jamie wanting more privacy and me feeling it's inappropriate to bathe Dray with the kids. So now that all three of them are in the tub, with Lily sitting on the edge as I'm rubbing shampoo into her hair, I'm somewhat stunned to see Scorp reaching out and tugging at James's privates.
"No, Scorp!" he cries immediately, and pushes his brother away.
Scorpius isn't one to be brushed off, and points at Jamie while smiling broadly at me. "Like me!" he says and then points down at his own little penis.
I laugh despite James's horrified grimace. "Yes, Scorpius. He's like you, but it's not okay to touch Jamie there, okay?"
He looks pensive for a moment and then nods to James's obvious relief. "Why's Lily not like me?"
I close my eyes in embarrassment, and try to come up with an explanation that my son will understand, without having to go into the entire 'birds and bees' issue by myself.
"That's because I am a girl, silly!"
Alright, that's one way to explain it. What does it tell me, that my five year old daughter is better at parenting than I am.
"You and Jamie are boys, so you are all dangly!"
"Lily!" Jamie cries before turning to me. "Can I go dry off? I'm clean enough now, right, dad?"
His pained expression has me pulling him out of the bath and quickly covering him in towels and a blue bathrobe. I want to say something to make him feel less embarrassed, but Lils interrupts.
"Dad! The soap is dripping in my eyes!"
And then: "Stop it, Scorp!"
Scorpius is trying to get his fingers near Lily's crotch, while she is fending him off with one hand, the other one wiping shampoo away from her forehead. I quickly swoop in to get Scorpius out of the tub and onto my own bathrobe, so I can rinse Lily's hair without any trouble.
The rest of the washing ritual goes by fairly smoothly. Lils is chatty and sits down on the toilet in her bathrobe as soon as she's dry, watching me bathe my youngest, and do my best to explain how he's not to touch other people's genitals.
James tells me he'd prepared them all yoghurt and cereal hours ago, the only thing he's allowed to make without the help of an adult. Knowing the kind of lunch spread we're likely to find at the Burrow, I forgo the breakfast ritual and chance a quick shower myself.
At a quarter past twelve, because honestly, getting three overexcited children ready for a party is hard, we step through the Floo and get greeted by a chorus of 'Happy birthday to you!'
I bite back a sigh and search the room with my eyes for Draco. He's there, but as soon as he notices me watching him, he hides behind George.
After the song Scorpius goes from hip to hip, arms to arms and lap to lap. He's cheery and chatty, ripping his presents open and giggling when Ron makes the discarded balls of paper dance around his little raven haired head.
I watch proudly as my youngest gets on his first training broom, and flies hesitantly around the room by himself. I know Draco would've had him on a broom by the time he could crawl, but I think three's young enough to start flying. These little vixens are fast enough on foot, never give a child a way to outrun you before you have to.
When all gifts are given and exclaimed over, we sit down for lunch. The birthday boy sits proudly on a risen chair next to his big brother, who sneaks him kisses and cuddles every once in awhile.
Dray's been deftly avoiding me all afternoon, and I honestly don't know what to do about it. I've tried to go and talk to him, but everytime I try to get close to him, he seems to disappear.
When I see him looking at Scorpius, I can see something's changed. There's a longing in his eyes that puzzled me at first; not anymore. He figured out Scorp's his son, and he's trying keep himself from picking him up and never letting go. He looks at Lily and James as well, but Scorp's different. He's never really held him as a father, and he's now realizing what he's missed.
When lunch is over, I see him quietly retreat up the stairs. I'm worried and I want to go after him, though I realise that he really doesn't want me to. Healer Weston told me I should give him space when he needed it, and he's making it quite clear that he needs it.
I feel a bit lost in the crowd. Conversations are going on all around me, and the children are screaming and singing and basically just being kids. Still, there's a headache starting at the back of my head, so I do what I do best. I watch as my family has fun.
James ran off with Luna Zabini as soon as lunch was over, only Merlin knows where they are now, or what they're doing. I think I'd rather not know. Lily's playing loudly in the corner with Rose and Roxanne, while Lucy, Percy's youngest, sits by, quietly watching them with a smile on her face.
I'm sitting on one of the Weasley's lumpy couches with Louis, Bill and Fleur's three year old, on my lap. The boy was a happy surprise to the entire family, his parents included. Victoire will be going to Hogwarts in the fall, and Dominique is only a year younger than James. Fleur is sitting next to me, keeping one eye on her son, and one eye on Blaise, who is playing a game with the rest of the children. It started with a song and a dance, but at the moment, he's swirling Dominique through the air by her wrists. I just know Fleur is ready with a cushioning Charm in case something goes wrong, and by the look on Molly's face, she's got her Wand at the ready as well.
I'm relieved to see that Charlie coming down the stairs with Draco in tow. They quickly disappear into the kitchen, but Charlie's a good sort. A great listener, and he's got a talent for making you see things clearly. I can only hope he can persuade my husband to come home.
When Hugo comes over and asks Louis to join them in a game of 'sardines', he jumps off my lap and is immediately replaced by a worried looking Lily.
"Daddy, they're being mean," she says and points at the corner where Rose and Roxanne are ganging up on a teary Lucy. The little girl's got a doll in her hands that Roxanne is trying to pull away from her.
Hermione's on her feet in a second and I follow with my daughter on my hip.
Mione's quite scary when angry. "What's going on here?"
Rose and Roxanne are both silent, but my Lils has no issue with ratting out her cousins in defence of someone younger and outnumbered.
"Lucy wanted to play, but Roxy doesn't want to share her dolls."
"Roxanne Weasley!" Angelina obviously caught Lily's explanation of current events and seems livid. "You know better than that, young lady!"
"You're awfully quiet, Rose, what's your role in all this?" Hermione asks, pulling a still crying Lucy to her chest and nodding confidently to a quickly advancing Audry. She's got this. Mommy mode is fully activated.
"I didn't do anything!" Rose cries, glaring accusingly at my daughter.
"Give me your pinky," Hermione orders and Rose's eye grow huge.
I have to hold in my laughter, or everything will be ruined. Mione's dreaded pinky test is legendary, and as expected, guilt washes over Rose's face when she sticks out her pinky for her mother to hold. Mione's face hardens and the girl's eyes drop to the floor.
"You're lying, Rose. Now tell me the truth, what did you do?"
"I might've pinched her so she'd let go," Rose says, her voice barely audible.
"Right! Rose, go sit on the stairs! Roxanne, kitchen! You're both not to move until we tell you time-out's over!"
"How does aunty Mione do that, daddy?" Lils whispers in my ears.
I smile wickedly. In truth, Hermione doesn't do anything, she doesn't have to. The children always betray themselves when my friend feels their pinkies.
"She's got a special power, sweetie," I say honestly, even if Lily doesn't need to know that power is pure cleverness. "Just make sure she never has to use it against you."
My daughter shakes her head vehemently. I know she's no little angel either, but today I have to commend her for solving the problem in a smart and responsible way.
Everyone seems happy with the way the issue was handled. Well, probably not Rose and Roxanne, but they know the rules of the Burrow.
With thirteen children between six sets of parents, we quickly agreed to a general set of rules that covered every single child as well as a clear list of consequences for every offence. It doesn't work when one child gets spanked for bullying, when the other has to stand in a corner for half an hour.
As far as I know, we now all use that same list of consequences at home as well as here.
After twenty minutes, Mione and Angelina have a quiet talk with their daughters, making sure neither Lucy nor Lily become the victim of their retaliation. It seems to work, as they all end up playing in the same corner and sharing the dolls without further commotion. From what I can see, Lucy even gets to choose which one she wants to play with first.
The game of Sardines is still going on around us, and leads to much hilarity when Scorpius thinks it's a good idea to hide under his Grandmother's skirts.
Hugo only just manages to squeeze himself next to my son without being seen, but when Freddie tries to join them, Molly starts laughing and swatting the kids softly for moving around too much and tickling her legs.
When little Molly, Percy's eldest, comes to check up on the noise, Scorpius sticks his head out, red-faced and softly panting. His hair is a mess, it's sticking up even more, now that static electricity has a hold on it.
Fred's head follows fairly quickly.
"Eeeeeeeeeeew, Scorpius pooped!" he says with a scrunched up nose.
I get up and pick up my son upside-down, smelling his bottom while he's screaming and laughing to be let go. He's started his potty training a while ago, but he's still forgetful of letting me know he needs to go when he's excited or tired. I'm rather convinced he's both at the moment, and sure enough, he desperately needs a diaper change.
When we walk into the kitchen, Draco and Charlie look up and I see my husband trying to hide his glass. The bottle of Firewhisky on the table tells me all I need to know though, and I glare at Charlie, who has the decency to look guilty.
"I don't think alcohol is a wise choice while recovering from brain damage, do you?"
I'm clearly talking to Charlie, but Draco stands up and huffs, a frown on his forehead and fury in his eyes. "You're not my father, Harry, so don't tell me what I can and cannot do! I'm thirty-two years old, for fuck's sake, I don't need you to make my bloody decisions for me! In fact, I don't need you at all!"
With those words he turns and heads out the door, slamming it behind him as he disappears outside.
"That could've gone better," Charlie says.
"Ya think?" I snap, though in truth, I'm not angry. I'm hurt.
I conjure a changing pillow to cover part of the kitchen table and lift Scorpius, who I now notice is rather upset by the volatile atmosphere in the room.
"Go and cool off, Harry," Charlie says. "I'll change Scorp for you. Just don't do anything stupid, like going after him."
"Fine!" I say and leave my son as I turn on the spot and Disapparate.
I shouldn't have. I know it's mere luck that I didn't Splinch myself, Apparating upset and unfocused, without a clear destination. Though I shouldn't be surprised that this is where I'd end up.
The gates of Hogwarts are as formidable as they've always been. More than twice as tall as I am, and two winged swines breathing down on me. The forest surrounding the gate is not the one I came here for, though dark and foreboding in its own right. It's hundreds of years old, reaches sky high and keeps out most of the light.
I don't have any illusions that I'll be able to open the gates without asking Minerva's permission, so I'm pleasantly surprised when the heavy Iron moves under my hands and allows me to pass.
The unpaved path goes on for quite some time, rounding the Black Lake to the castle, though that's not where I'm going. No, my destination is just around the first bend, past the clearing. I can see smoke rising from Hagrid's hut, the turrets of my former school standing proudly without any sign of their previous destruction. It took them years of hard work, but Hogwarts healed. Hogwarts prevailed.
As soon as I step into the density of the Forbidden Forest, I feel my anger, hurt and anxiety drift away. I've made this walk exactly three times since Death Eaters invaded the grounds. Once that same night, once the year after, when I couldn't seem to shake the guilt of being alive, and feeling responsible for the death of those who protected me, and once the night Draco asked me to marry him.
Now I'm back, because this is the path I take when my problems are insurmountable, because my thoughts have never been more clear and simple, than the night I went to meet my death here.
This is also the last place I saw my parents, Remus and Sirius. All I've left of them now, are memories and fading photographs. They were my family in a way the Weasleys couldn't be. My heritage, my roots, and the pain of that loss has been achy, but bearable, for I had my own family.
Now all that is falling apart. What if Draco actually leaves me? What if he takes our children?
When I reach Aragog's lair, which has been void of spiders for a long time, the scars of that night are still clearly visible. I don't think anyone but me has ever been here since the battle. The wood is still burnt and black where Bellatrix's celebratory curses hit. Ropes and chains still hanging from the tree Hagrid was bound to, and there are still traces of the monster's web left, if you look closely.
When I come here, I feel like everything stopped. That I'm the only one left in the world. Like someone cast a spell that made everyone, Wizard and Muggle alike, vaporized into thin air. It's like for one moment, the universe will wait for me, give me a break to figure things out. Unpressured, unburdened and calm.
I get to choose all over again.
Not sure if it's been minutes or hours, I come to a decision I already made last night. I'm not about to give up. I'm a fighter, and the fight's not over until all hope is lost. Even then, I'll give it my everything.
The band around my chest has loosened a little, the air is that tiny bit easier to breathe. Things don't seem to bleak anymore.
On my way back to the gates, I send a Patronus to the Headmistress, thanking her and the school for their hospitality. Letting them know I'm fine and on my way out.
With my hands on the Iron gates that closed behind me, I whisper a heartfelt 'Goodbye, until we meet again.' I know I'll be back one day, when my heart is heavy and my mind needs clearing.
Arriving on the lawn outside the burrow, I'm immediately confronted by an irate Draco.
"Where've you been? Don't you know how worried I was? You've been gone for almost two hours! You can't do that to me, you asshole!"
He pushes me back and I can only stare at him in shock. This is Draco, alright, the one I'm married to. He's standing there, breathing heavily, eyebrows raised and eyes wide open. Anger is radiating off him in waves of Magic. I'd be scared if I wasn't so relieved to see him like this.
"I thought something happened to you! You can't just up and leave!"
Of course the first thing I do is put my foot in. "I thought you didn't need me?" I say flatly and flinch when he punches my shoulder. It doesn't really hurt, but it's hard enough to punctuate his displeasure.
"I'm confused, you idiot! I'm an adult with the recent memories of a seven year old! I'm allowed to say things like that! You're supposed to deal with it!"
I'm about to respond when he roughly grabs my head and kisses me. My heart skips a beat before pounding away happily in my chest. Joy. Everything's still fucked up, but if he's kissing me, it's going to be alright, right?
Wrong. He pushes away from me suddenly. Eyes wild and shining with unshed tears. He steps backwards, his hands raised as if to ward me off, before he turns and flees.
The reception inside is a lot less dramatic. My children are happy and hug me, asking me where I've been, and the adults nod at me with a clear sense of relief in their eyes.
Charlie bumps the shoulder Draco just punched. "Thought I told you to not do anything stupid?"
My confusion must be clear on my face because he laughs softly.
"What? I didn't go after him," I whisper.
"No, that would've been better, truth be told. Draco came back after five minutes, wanting to apologise, only to find you gone. I've been trying my hardest to keep him from worrying the children."
He catches my gaze and narrows his eyes. "Let him lead on this, Harry. He needs time, and if you want your husband back, stop acting like an overprotective parent."
"I wasn't acting like an overprotective parent!" I huff. "Hermione would've said the same thing to Ron."
"Exactly," Charlie replies with a smug smile.
"That makes no sense, you know that right?"
"Actually it does. You managed to make my point for me." He lifts the bottle of butterbeer to his mouth and takes a swig. I shake my head minutely, raising my shoulders and gesturing him to go on.
"As you just said, Mione would've told off Ronnikins for being stupid, only you scolded me. Like a parent does when he finds his child drinking alcohol, you directed your anger at the only responsible adult in the room. Completely forgetting the fact that Draco is, in fact, an adult as well."
I close my eyes and rub my eyebrow with the palm of my hand. He's right. I did hold him responsible for Draco's drinking, and that's probably what set my husband off.
When we first started dating, Ron, Hermione and I had a lot of fights about my choice of man. I defended my boyfriend vigorously, like he couldn't defend himself, even when he was in the room with us. He hated that. He wanted to stand up to the world and hold his own. Without my help, and it's a part of him I came to admire.
"Harry!" Hermione scolds, holding a sleepy Hugo.
He's not the only one dozing off. While James and Luna are being shown George's newest WWW tricks, the youngest children seem to have found someone to curl up against. Even Lily, who usually has the energy of a Cornish Pixie, is resting against Ginny's side, head lolled back. Her eyes are opening groggily every ten seconds or so.
Draco came back in at some point, and is eying me wearily from the corner. When I make my way over to him, his shoulders stiffen, but he doesn't move from his spot and I sit down on the floor next to his chair.
"I need to apologise."
He doesn't say anything, nor does he respond in any other way.
"In the kitchen," I explain. "I know this is very difficult for you, and I respect that, but it's hard on me too."
His fingers dig into his knees and he doesn't look at me, but as long as he's not shouting or leaving, I know I'm on the right track.
"Not that that's an excuse for failing to treat you like the adult you are. It's just that it's not easy to change my behaviour overnight. Yesterday I was still taking care of a seven-year-old."
He jerks away slightly and digs his nails in even harder. "Well, I'm sorry for getting my memory back!"
His tone is sarcastic, a clear signal that he feels unsure and hurt. He doesn't do sarcasm when angry.
"Thats-" I start. "That's not what I meant."
I sigh and slump further against the wall. "I want you recovered, Merlin knows how hard I've worked to fix you. I've missed you, Draco."
"I feel so weird," he says softly, and he finally looks at me. "Like I just woke up to find the entire world has moved on."
"I know, but you're the only one with whom it can't just be like it was before."
That was to be expected, only I never expected it. Was it so naive to think we could just go on where we left off?
"Would you please come home with us?"
He looks panicked by my question, and I can understand why.
"I'll give you all the time and space you need, honestly, but you belong with us. It doesn't matter if you're Dray, or Draco, someone in between, or even someone completely different. You're part of our family, and we miss you when you're not around."
He breathes in deeply, as if to fortify himself. "Fine," he says. "But you're going to explain to them that I'm their father."
I nod and stand up, holding out my hand to pull him from his chair. He ignores it and gets to his feet by himself.
"Take them home and talk to them. I'll be there later tonight, after I helped clean up the party."
I stop him from walking away by laying my hand on his forearm. "I'm sure Molly wouldn't mind if you left with us."
"I know she wouldn't, but I would. You said you were going to give me the time I need. Are you already backing out on that promise?"
His face is so emotionless, I feel out of my depth. He hasn't used the Malfoy mask against me since we got married, and it hurts that he's shutting me out now.
"No, I'm not, I just didn't realise."
He squares his shoulders and pulls his arm from my light grasp. "There seems to be a lot of that going on lately."
I bite back my response. That's anger, and it wouldn't do to get into a useless fight right now, though I'm dying to know what he means.
I gather Scorpius's presents and shrink them down to fit into the pocket of my cloak. The boy's asleep the moment I pull him up to my chest, and Lily clings to my trousers as I make my rounds to say goodbye to everyone. Once I finally manage to drag James away from Luna and George with promises of sleepovers and playdates, I tell him to hang on tight and Apparate us home.
Even though I know they are tired, I sit them down at the kitchen table and prepare a light soup. Yes, spiking your kids' dinner with a little Pepper-Up Potion is widely considered a bad parenting decision, but putting them to bed at five-thirty without their dinner, can be considered even more of one.
In any case, I need to talk to them before Draco gets here, and it would hardly do to have them niddle-noddle through the conversation.
"Guys," I start. "You all know papa had an accident, right?"
James and Lily nod their heads while Scorp is looking from his brother to his sister, and back. That's fine though, him and Jamie I'm not worried about.
"Well, papa lost his memories, and now he's got them back."
"Pa's better?" James asks with a broad smile on his face. He's barely concealing his excitement, and I cannot begrudge him that. It's hard though, because him and I, we've always been in this together, and now he gets to have his father, while I still have to miss my husband.
"Yes, Jamie." Running my hand over his head, I switch my attention to Lily.
"That means Dray's going to be different when he gets back tonight, you understand, Lils?"
She's crunching that little brain of hers again, deep frown on her forehead and eyes nearly closed. Then she nods slowly. "Can we still call him Dray?"
"Well, he's your father, so he would probably rather have you call him papa."
I'd get it if that was a bridge too far, and too soon for our daughter, but I know she'll try.
"But here's the thing, guys," I say, leaning forward conspiringly. "This change will be weird for us, but it's weird for him as well, so we all have to try to make him feel like a papa, okay?"
All three of them nod, though the dazed expression on Scorpius's face betrays his lack of understanding. I'll have to explain it to him more clearly when I bring him to bed after dinner.
"This means you three have to listen to him."
"Okaaaaay," Lily says. "But who's going to punish him when he does something bad, like steal a cookie?"
Smashing my head against a wall sounds like a good plan right now. I close my eyes, inhale deeply and slowly let out the air in an attempt to not succomb to that idea.
Looking back up at Lils, I try to school my face into a serious expression. "What's stealing?"
"When you take something that's not yours without permission." I should really ask Molly how I get our girl to stop rolling her eyes like that.
"And whom do the cookies in the pantry belong to?"
"You?" she answers.
"They belong to your papa and I. Which means he doesn't have to ask permission to take one, those rules are just for children."
"But that's so unfair! Yesterday he had to ask like us! How come he doesn't have to follow the rules anymore?"
I pull her onto my lap and hug her. "Because your papa is an adult."
"Tell you what," I say after a moment. "When you're not sure what to do, pretend like he's me, okay? Every rule that goes for me, goes for him as well. So he still has to brush his teeth, and wash his hands before dinner, but he gets to stay up late, and choose his own clothes."
Lils protrudes her bottom lips and sulks. "I want to be an adult too."
"I'll remember that for when you have kids yourself," I chuckle, and pour them some more, unspiked, soup.
After dinner I bring Scorpius upstairs and change him into his pyjamas, but instead of laying him down in his bed, I sit down with him on the floor.
Transfiguring a deck of playing cards into a miniaturized version of our family, I brace myself for the explanation of the century.
I play our entire history with him from the time Draco and I got married. I play him being pregnant first with Jamie, then with Lily and finally Scorpius. The accident is a huge part of it, and the years since. A huge bandage around Draco's head symbolises his memory loss. In the end I explain how his papa recovered.
"Now who's this?" I ask my son playfully, after producing a little puppet with dark raven hair.
"That's Scorpius!" he exclaims happily while pointing at himself.
"Yes, it is!" I say. "Now who's this?"
I smile and ruffle his hair. "That's right, this is your brother Jamie. And this one?"
"Hmmhm, that's your sister, Lily. And what about this one?"
"Daddy!" he shouts and nearly stabs my eyes out as he first points at me and then swings his little arms around my neck.
"Right, so now that we have a little Scorpius, a little Jamie, a little Lily and a mini-me, who's this?"
"Dray!" He takes the little puppet of my husband and hugs him close.
"And Dray is your?"
He looks pensive for a moment before he looks up at me smiling. "Dray's mine!"
I chuckle. "Dray's your papa."
"He's not brother?" he asks, still slightly confused.
"No, honey, that's your papa. You were in his belly until you were big enough to come out, okay?"
Even though I'm not entirely sure he understands, I'm relieved to see him nod and look down on the little Draco doll.
"I love you, papa," he says, and kisses the puppet's little head.
I pick him up and lay him down in his bed, quietly talking about his party until I see his eyes droop. He's already softly snoring by the time I'm ready to leave the room, and I kiss his forehead before I go.
Lily and Jamie are both drawing on the same sheet of paper in the kitchen and I lean over to see what they're making. It's fairly easy to see who's done what, but I think it's beautiful.
In the middle of the picture, Lily's drawn an easy recognizable Draco, with on either side a smaller, but equally blond child. They're all holding hands and smiling bright red smiles. On top of the drawing Jamie's written 'We love you papa' in greens, blues and reds. At the moment they are filling the background with our house, the school and the Burrow.
"Do you think papa will like it?" Jamie asks, his eyes huge and hopeful. Lily looks up at me as well.
I ruffle their hair and move to the counter to make myself some coffee. "I'm sure he'll love it, guys. It looks great."
Summoning this week's Potions Weekly, I sit down at the other side of the table and start to read, though the words barely penetrate my mind. I'm waiting for him to come home. What's taking him so long?
I'm already through my second cup when the Floo in the living room finally flares, and Jamie is out of the kitchen before I can even move. Lily looks up at me uncertainly, like she's not sure how to act now that he's actually here.
I raise her to my hip, her hand clutching the picture they've been making, and follow after my son.
It's clear that James flung himself at his papa before Draco had time to recover from his Floo-induced vertigo. He's keeping the boy balanced under his bum, while being half strangled.
Jamie's cheeks are wet with tears, and he's softly mumbling about all the things they can do again now that Draco's back, like throwing the Quaffle, flying and having his papa teach him how to play Wizard's chess.
My husband is staring bewildered at the crying boy that's clinging to his neck, only now understanding that I'm not the only one that hasn't moved on.
Lily's half hiding her face in the crook of my neck, so I let her down and I push her forwards a little. "Jamie and Lils have been working on a 'welcome home' present," I tell Draco before turning to our daughter. "Don't you want to give your papa the picture, honey?"
Draco gently lets James down and crouches to the floor in front of Lily. "Hey Lils," he says softly. "Let's see what you two made, shall we?"
He oohs and aahs, and asks who did what part, praising them both into the sky. James is smiling so broadly, I'm afraid he'll have a painful jaw tomorrow, and Lily is slowly breaking out of the shell she's been in since dinner.
I'm so happy for them, but at the same time I'm so bloody jealous. I want to be a part of it, to hug him and welcome him and kiss him. He's so close, but at the same time so far away. I've got to bite back that feeling and keep from retreating to my bedroom to lick my wounds. It's so unfair. He remembers, so he knows what we mean to each other. He knows how much I love him and how much I wish to hold him.
The final straw for my self restraint hits when Jamie asks if everything will be the same as it was before. I can see that Draco doesn't understand what he means. He thinks Jamie is talking about having his papa back.
"Yes, James, everything will be back to normal."
He grins and throws his papa a pleading look. "Please, please, can I sleep in the big bed with you and daddy tonight? Like when I was little?"
Draco frowns and looks at me shortly before answering. "I won't be sleeping in the big bed, Jamie, but if you want you may sleep in my room tonight, okay?"
The boy accepts, but throws me one of those way-too-understanding looks, and I have to avert my eyes.
"I'm knackered," I say, though it's mostly an excuse to flee and give Draco some time with the children. "Don't stay up too late, you two, I don't want to be Owled that you fell asleep during school tomorrow, okay?"
"Good night, Dad," Jamie says, rushing over to give me a hug and tell me he loves me. Within a second I'm hugged by Lily as well.
"Love you guys," I whisper before kissing both their noses. "Be good for papa, okay? And listen to him!"
They both nod, and I smile at Draco before I rush up the stairs and lock myself into my bedroom, warding the door as to not let the others know I'm crying. I'm a fully grown man for Merlin's sake, why can't I just bloody well keep it together?
I end up spending the entire night mulling over everything that happened the past few days, unable to fall asleep or even have a moment's rest.
In the following weeks we seem to be a normal, fully functioning, happy little family, though it's mostly for show. Draco takes care of the breakfast ritual and drops the children off at school and daycare, while I get into work early. If James notices I avoid Draco when I'm kissing my children goodbye and telling them I love them, he doesn't let on.
Draco usually joins me at the MCMRC around eleven, where Pansy continues to bring him up to speed with the day by day workings of his business. He was surprised by what I'd done to his lab, pleasantly surprised, but surprised nonetheless. It made me feel proud of what I'd managed to accomplish in his absence.
Leanne, Hermione and Draco get on great together, sharing their lunch and talking about Leanne's pregnancy. Parvati isn't very comfortable with my husband, but then again, she's not very comfortable with most men. Ernie and myself only being exceptions to that, because she's worked with us for such a long time.
Ernie's quite ambivalent towards my husband. Every single one of us has had to fight their own demons since the war, and Draco's been one of his. Though he wasn't able to take his NEWTs from a Ministry holding cell, while awaiting trial, Draco had in fact spent the year at Hogwarts. Ernie's role in the DA, and Draco's role as a Death Eater often had them casting curses at each other on equal ground, until the night the Hufflepuff spent 20 minutes under the Slytherin's Cruciatus, coached by both Carrows.
The first thing Draco did when he saw him at the Centre, was apologize for that, without making any excuses. Ernie mumbled something about me, and that if I could love the man, he might as well forgive him.
I don't have much contact with Draco at work. I'm still running the Centre behind the scenes, making orders and writing out assignments. I pass it all down to Pansy, who's giving them to my husband to hand out. The two of them have also taken to holding meetings with the major buyers. Reviewing current contracts and discussing minor changes that might make the whole process run smoother.
I'm feeling less and less useful, as I notice the assignments changing from what I wrote down, and the orders coming in being slightly different from the ones I passed to Pansy.
Draco's taking over, and that's how it should be, right? That's what I've been working so hard for. Then why does it feel like everything I held dear is being taken away from me?
It's the same with the kids. In the evenings I take them through the bathing and tucking in ritual, while Draco reads through the Centre's research notes from the past three years. The children, especially James, ask for their papa. 'Could papa tuck me in tonight?' 'Can I play one more game of Wizard's chess with papa before bed?' 'Will papa come up and give me a kiss before I fall asleep?'
I'm becoming the stern parent, the one who enforces the rules. They all want him for hugs and cuddles, and that hurts, you know? Who am I then? Are my kisses not good enough? Have I been such a horrible parent the past few years that they are happy to have some respite?
The weekends are even worse. Draco decided to take some one-on-one quality time with each of our children. Taking James flying, going to the park with Lily and introducing Scorpius to the Zoo.
I get to stay behind with the remaining two whenever he's off, having to listen to them asking when it's their turn. They never ask to go with me, and that hurts as well. I've never had the opportunity to spend time with just one child, so why does he get to have it?
And then the way Draco's been acting himself. I could take it if he was just ignoring me and staying away from me, but he's been blowing hot and cold on me all the time. I know in my head that he's still out of bounds, but the regaining of his memories has certainly removed the block off thinking about him sexually. I've been wanking like a bloody teenager and walking around like a frustrated timebomb.
I just want to scream at him, tell him to finally just make up his mind! I can't deal with the casual touches and out of the blue snogging sessions, that end up with him fleeing to his room and me standing in the hallway, rock hard and wanting to tear my hair out. So now I just retreat to my room as soon as James is tucked in.
Things change about five weeks after Scorpius's party, when late on a Monday night a knock comes at my bedroom door. At first I think it's one of the kids having a nightmare, but it's Draco standing in the hallway with his bottom lip between his teeth when I answer.
"Yes?" I ask, because it doesn't seem like he's going to say anything.
"Harry, I-" He squeezes his eyes shut and crosses his arms across his chest, grabbing his shoulders. Taking a deep breath, he shifts from one leg to the other and opens his eyes. There's desire in those eyes, and when he takes a step towards me, I take a step back.
"Draco," I say, my voice a little higher than normal. "Please don't do this to me."
He cups my cheek and runs his thumb over my lips. "It's okay, baby, I know what I want now."
I hold my breath as he leans in and starts peppering little kisses all over my face. When I exhale, it's in stutters, and I can feel my heart beating wildly in my chest. Is this true? Is this really happening?
He pushes me back into my room, no our room, and closes the door behind us. His grin feral, the little red tip of his tongue coming out to slide over his lips, the way his hips sway as he advances on me, all of it, it's got me mesmerized.
And then his hands are all over me, tugging at my pyjama bottoms, lifting my shirt and scraping his nails over my chest and nipples. I moan and pull his head in for a passionate kiss. I'm lost. Lost in his arms, in this feeling, in my happiness that he's finally mine again. I'm so lost that I barely notice him pushing me onto the bed and crawling over me.
I'm clinging to him, my arms around his chest, fingers digging into the soft skin of his back. And the kissing, his taste, his warmth, all around me, penetrating me to my core. In this moment nothing matters but him and me, I'm complete once more. Home, that's what it feels like, I've come home.
There's more frotting and touching and tasting. My mouth, his mouth, both our hands, fingers, noses. It's frantic, and rushed, and calming at the same time. My senses running away with him to whatever height he'll bring me. His tongue in my navel, making me arch up from the bed and fist his hair. The scrape of his day-old stubble against my skin, oh there's so much skin: sweaty, musky and so hot.
I want to touch him, make him feel as good as I'm feeling. Pulling him up, sucking on his neck, which I know drives him wild. My fingers feeling, mapping, reacquainting themselves with the slopes of my husband's body. And oh, his arse, his wonderful round and firm arse. I buck up at him, thrusting my cock against his groin. Fuck, that feels good.
But then things change in a second. With one hand still on his arse, I slide the other one between us and slip my fingers inside his pants. As I touch his erection, he freezes up and stops kissing me. I'm not ready to have this be over, and I struggle when he pushes himself up against my chest.
"No, no, no," I whine. This can't be against his will, he has to want to do this, but I can't just let go. I don't know how I'll be able to let go.
I try kissing his cheeks and jaw, and run my hands back up his back, holding him close.
He pushes again with more force and manages to get away from my frustrated arms, while I'm sitting up to chase the last bit of his warmth as he gets off the bed. "I'm sorry, I-"
"Fuck!" I growl, and fall back against the pillows, running my hands over my face and willing my body to calm the fuck down.
"I just can't," he starts with a broken voice. "I wanted to. Honestly, you've got to believe me, I'm not trying to drive you mad. Harry? look at me! Please? I thought this would work, okay? Will you please look at me?"
But that's the thing I can't do. If I look at him now, I'll either pounce on him, or attack him. I'm not sure which one would do the most damage, but I'd rather not find out.
"Go! I don't want to hurt you, but I'm hanging onto the last tatters of my self-restraint here."
The door closes behind him and I curl up into a ball.
The next morning he's being his happy little self, like nothing happened. He's juicing oranges, baking pancakes and preparing lunch boxes. He even has the audacity to smile at me and I'm fuming inside.
Scorpius is singing the breakfast song he's learnt from Ginny, and Lily is humming quietly along while munching on her peanut-butter covered pancakes. From the corner of my eye, I see James reaching into the pantry, and taking out a pack of chocolate frogs he tries to sneak into his lunch box. I'm about to say something about it when Draco catches the boy's wrist.
"I said no, Jamie, you and Lily are not taking chocolate frogs to school. Now go and finish your breakfast!"
James looks up at me with a pleading look, and though I know I'm being petty, I can't stop myself. Let Draco be the stern parent for once, after what he pulled on me last night, he has it coming. I'm not losing my sanity and my children to my husband. I deserve more than that!
"One chocolate frog each, no more." Draco spins around, dropping the spatula.
I refuse to look at him and pick up the Daily Prophet, while James hesitantly drops a frog in each lunch box. There's really nothing interesting in the paper. Some drivel about a possible betting scandal in the National Quidditch League, but since it's written by Rita Skeeter, it's probably codswallop.
"Papa? Can I have another pancake with syrup?" Lils asks.
"I don't know," Draco answers sharply. "Why don't you ask your dad?"
I can feel his eyes burning holes in the back of my neck, and I decide this is a good time to be leaving.
"I'm off, guys, love you!" I kiss the tops of the children's heads, and quickly Apparate to the Centre.
I quickly set my mind to brewing Veritaserum for the Ministry. They've rushed through an order yesterday, when one of Mundungus's confiscated bags of Dark Artifacts blew up in the Auror office, destroying half their Potion's storage. It's boring work, but it requires one's full attention and precision.
I don't even notice how much time passes until I'm ready to decant and Pansy walks into my lab.
"What have you done?" she says. "Draco's in a foul mood, and by the way he ripped up your lists of orders and assignments, I've got the feeling you're the reason."
That's the last of my control out the window, and I throw my ladle across the room, kicking the leg of my work station in the process.
"Oh, now it's my fault, is it?" I yell, hurling a handful of vials after the ladle. "I'm supposed to be the perfect Gryffindor, all noble and sacrificial, while that bloody arse has the right to take away everything that's important to me!"
There's nothing more I can safely throw, unless I want to tip over the Cauldron of Veritaserum, but I want to break things. I want to shred the world to pieces and destroy! I can feel the Magic ripping through my skin, stars popping up in front of my eyes, and I see red.
"He's stolen my friends, the Centre, and even the kids like him best! They're always whining for him, wanting their papa instead of me! Well I want him too!"
Glass jars of ingredients blow apart in the cases lining the walls, and Pansy throws a quick shield around the Cauldron and herself. I slam my fist into the wall and bite my lip as pain shoots up through my hand and arm.
"But no, Harry can't have the things he wants. He can't ever have what he wants. And why not? Tell me, Pansy, why the hell not?"
"Harry! Calm down!"
"Why? I'm tired of having to be calm, and collected, and having all the responsibility! It's not fair!"
"Because you're scaring me!" The broken sound of her voice makes me turn to face her, and I can see tears in her eyes, her hands raised in front of her in defence.
Well, that puts a full stop on my fury. I didn't want to scare her, not really. She's a tough one, she's never scared of anything.
I glance around myself in a daze and only then notice the full state of the lab. Burst windows, glass shattered across the floor. The cupboards all exploded and smoke rising from a shredded pile of parchment on a nearby desk. Photo frames holding the panic-stricken faces of my loved ones, battered and broken, laying around me.
"I'm sorry," I say stupidly. "Fuck! I didn't-, I mean-, what the hell do I do now, Pans?"
Thinking it safe to cancel her shields, she waves her wand and rushes to my side as I all but collapse on the floor.
"Go home, Harry," she says. "You're exhausted. Go home and rest. He's not stealing your friends, we're your friends too. And he's not stealing the Centre, it was always his, you knew that. You wanted it that way. Isn't this what you were working for all these years? To have Draco back to himself?"
"I know. I know, alright?" I take a deep breath and dig my nails into my palms. "I just figured he'd be my husband again, you know? That it would all be the way it was before."
"Give him time, sweetie, all he needs is time."
"I hope so," I reply, and glance around the room once more.
Pansy chuckles and promises me to clean it up if I only go home. I gladly accept, knowing I truly need some sleep if I'm going to face the oncoming storm with Draco. I was being childish this morning, and my husband's got every right to be angry with me. This is something I should really make up for. Once I'm not bound to go into a fit as soon as I see him.
I Apparate home and take two Dreamless-Sleep Potions, knowing that will knock me out for sure, and curl up in my bed, waiting for oblivion to come.
When I wake up, the room is dark and I wonder who could've come in to close the curtains. It takes me a moment to figure out the curtains aren't closed, and that I've slept through the entire day. The house is eerily quiet though. No light thumps of children's feet. No clattering noises of kitchenware being used to prepare dinner. No quiet voices drifting up from downstairs.
I get up, sniff my armpits and decide on a quick shower before I go and find my family. Once I'm fresh and changed, I make my way for the living room.
Draco's sitting in his recliner, a trunk next to him and a stack of parchment on his lap.
"Going anywhere?" I ask, and he looks up at me without speaking.
"Where are the kids?"
"In France, with my mother," he says. "I'll be going there as well, but I didn't want to just leave without telling you."
"You can't just take the kids and leave," I reply, dread rising in my heart.
He shoves the stack of parchment into the trunk and stands up, turning his back on me. "This is hard enough as it is, can you just let me explain for a second?"
"Fine." I wish he would just look at me. I know I was wrong this morning, but that doesn't mean he has to leave!
"I need more time and space then you can give me here at the moment. I apologize for my lack of judgement last night, I honestly thought I could do it, but I can't."
He sounds so unemotional, so concise, like he's discussing a cleaning schedule, or a business proposal.
This is my life, you bastard! Look at me!
"I need time away with the children, because I need to learn how to be their father again, and they need to learn how to be my children. They don't listen to me, and it doesn't help that you're there to question my every decision."
"I'm sorry about this morning," I quickly say. "I was frustrated about last night, and tired of always having to be the disciplinarian. They like you better because I'm the one who enforces the rules, and you're the one that plays with them."
He chuckles darkly and stares pensively out the window. "Want to know why I don't enforce the rules? It's because they won't listen to me. Each time I try to tell them 'no', they turn around to check with you. Don't think I don't notice the little communication going on behind my back."
I never really looked at it that way. In my stupidity I just went with my jealousy, thinking we were in a competition for our children's affection.
"But that's not the only reason I'm leaving. This thing between you and I, it's not working. You're constantly there, reminding me what we had and what happened since then. I can't figure out what I feel and want when you're always near me. Even if you're hauled up in your room, you're in every single inch of this house and I can't get away from it."
"I get it, Draco," I respond. "It must feel like you've had sex with an uncle or something, but we can get past that, I know we can."
I sound pathetic, I know, but I can't lose him.
"I'd like to say it's not just our relationship in the past three years, because it would be so much easier if I just didn't love you anymore, but- Fuck!"
He finally turns to face me, and the emotion written on his face shocks me. He looks haunted. There's immense pain in there, and anger, and frustration. I'm the one who put that there. I'm the one that's responsible, and it breaks my heart.
"I do love you, but you've hurt me so bad, Harry. I'm not sure I can forgive you for that. It's not like I've had sex with an uncle. It's like I've had sex with my father, a father that doesn't want me. One that can't quite accept me for who I am."
He hugs himself and looks down, and I can honestly say I've never seen him so defeated before.
"I've felt so alone, not being able to understand why you didn't love me as much as you did them. And I've tried to make you proud, I've tried so hard, Harry. Still you didn't accept me, just sitting there, wincing like I disgusted you every time I accidentally called you 'dad'."
It feels like a slap in my face. I knew he didn't feel like a part of the family, but I never knew it was this bad.
"I was only trying to keep our relationship safe," I say softly, running my hand through my hair and trying to come up with the right thing to say. "I was only trying to keep you from seeing me as your father."
With those words he pulls his wand, reaches out for his trunk and Disapperates.
And I'm left behind, alone and chilled to the bone, in an empty house.
I've lost everything.
Time means nothing. Hunger means nothing. It doesn't matter if the world is burning, or the sky is falling. I wouldn't care if someone came in to rob me, or if a giant black hole opened up beneath my feet. It's all meaningless without them.
After two days, Pansy comes to shake me out of it, and I'm thankful for her ability to slap some sense into me. It's not like I won't ever see them again, Draco only pulled the kids out of school for a week, Pansy checked.
And while I was wallowing away in my drama and misery, the world made two full turns in which I was needed. With Draco in France, someone needs to lead the MCMRC, and it might as well be me, she tell me.
And what if they came back and found me on the couch in front of the Floo? Depressed, unshaven and stinking like I've been living in a pigsty? Was that the kind of example I wanted to give my children?
She tells me to 'buck up', and 'be a man'. She drags me to the bathroom and sets the shower on me before she searches the bedroom for clean pyjamas. She changes the sheets on my bed and prepares me a light dinner.
Then, when I'm all warm, and clean, and fed, she looks at me from the doorway, her hands on her hips and a commanding gleam in her eyes.
"You'll be at work at nine am tomorrow morning, or I'm calling Molly Weasley!"
I nod submissively and shove another fork full of steamy carrots in my mouth, swallowing hard when she waves her finger at me.
She closes the door behind her with an accursed 'Men!' and a moment later I hear the Floo flare.
The next morning I show up, freshly shaved and showered and wearing clean, if somewhat wrinkled, clothes. I figured my problems were bad enough without having Molly on my case.
Pansy nods, hands me the stockbooks from St Mungo's, the Ministry and Hogwarts, together with a stack of mail-orders.
I take the cup of coffee Hermione hands me and sit down at the kitchen table to hand out assignments. Normality is underestimated, after about an hour I feel slightly human again, though I dread having to go home again tonight. It doesn't make the house less empty, if I'm not there during the day.
Pansy also has a scheme for that. At three o'clock, George walks into the Centre, and tells me with a blank face that I'm having dinner with his family tonight, and that it's too late to cancel, because Angelina's already started on the Soufflé.
I sigh, pinch the bridge of my nose, glare at Pansy, and then thankfully accept.
The trend continues when I'm invited to join Blaise at his regular Saturday-afternoon Quidditch match, it's completely coincidental that his team is missing their Seeker this weekend. And the game is naturally followed by a BBQ and butterbeers with the entire team.
Sunday always means a family dinner at the Burrow, and even though I was originally planning on skiving out, I receive a missive from Arthur, that I'd better be there, or Molly will go spare.
Monday night I'm surprised to find I'm hosting a dinner party for Hermione, Ron, Pansy and Theo. Though I'm actually just providing the venue, as Pansy's the one who brings all the food and drinks. It's a pleasant evening, and even Mione and Pans seem to get along perfectly for the sake of seeing me smile.
And I do smile. I force myself to keep smiling, and I'm proud of the fact that I'm worse than I seem. It wouldn't do for them to be too worried about me. I'll manage. If this week's taught me anything, it's that I don't function without my family.
This just means that everything just became very simple.
I'm going to get them back if it's the last thing I do. I need every single one of those stubborn little jaws. All forty fingers and all four noses. I need their goofy smiles, and their passionate eyes. I need everything about them!
If Draco needs time? I'll give him time. If he needs space? I'll give him space. If he needs a pink Unicorn? I'll find him that bloody pink Unicorn and earn his forgiveness.
But I won't give him his freedom, because whatever he says, he belongs with me. They all do!
It's that resolve that strengthens my spine when Draco shows up on Tuesday night. I had a feeling he would, for there were no last-minute dinner invitations. It's what he has to say that shocks me.
"I want a divorce."
I stare at him for long silent moments, where he stares right back, his expression unreadable.
"You're not getting it."
"Harry, I told y-" he starts, but I interrupt him.
"No, last week I listened to you, but now you're going to listen to me."
I calmly sit down and gesture for him to do the same. He doesn't, he just takes the back of the chair in a deathgrip. His knuckles white, his jaw set and his eyes determined.
"You love me, you do, so it's not about that. It isn't even about the hurt, because you're going to forgive me."
He shakes his head and averts his eyes.
"You're going to forgive me, Draco, because I didn't malignantly set out to cause you pain. I did everything in my power to keep you safe, happy and cared for. I kept you here instead of sending you to your mother, because I wanted you to be a part of our children's lives. I've loved you to the best of my ability, when you were there every day, a reminder of what I'd lost."
He starts pacing, still not looking at me and he's balling his fists, trying to ignore what I'm saying. He can't. He doesn't feel it yet, but he knows I'm right.
"I'm sorry you got hurt, but you can't possibly say that you could've done a better job."
He doesn't say anything, and I can see tears escaping his eyes.
"I'm not giving you a divorce. I'll go if you need more time. Give me a day to find some place to stay and I'll move out for now. I'll remove my stuff from the Centre by Thursday so you don't have to see me there."
He nods minutely, and I don't know if I'm happy with his acceptance.
"I'll let you know where I'm going so you can reach me if you want. Take your time, Draco, take your space, but don't give up on us yet. Get back to me when you've really thought things through."
He nods again, stands up straighter and squares his shoulders.
"I want contact with the kids though."
He spins around and looks at me like I just said something incredibly stupid.
"Of course you can see the kids. Maybe they can join you in the weekends where you'll be staying, or I could stay somewhere else while you spend time with them here."
"I'll Owl you about it, okay?"
I know my eyes are wet, and I know that I'm expressing much more confidence than I'm feeling. Still, if I have to be the strong one for a little while longer, I will. We're too important for me to give up, and I won't allow him to just walk away.
It's what he does, when things get tough. He takes the easier way out. He's never learnt how to fight through. He has knelt at the feet of an insane Dark Lord, he's tortured classmates under the watchful eyes of his fellow Death Eaters, and he bent his head under the heavy weight of other people's judgement.
I'm not saying he's a coward, because I can't even imagine what his life was like during the war. And I'm not saying he didn't have a choice, because he did have other options. What I am saying, is that the choice was beaten out of him before he was even old enough to go to Hogwarts.
Now I have a hard time figuring out where to go. I don't have the funds readily available to buy another place, and in any case, I don't want to make this relocation permanent.
Renting a sleazy apartment in Knockturn Alley is the only other option to have a place of my own on such a short notice. Naturally that's not very appealing either.
Crashing on someone's couch would be okay, but besides turning to Molly Weasley, Ron and Hermione's seems to be the only realistic choice, and Mione can be as bad as Molly.
Scratch that, Mione is as bad as Molly.
Again it's Pansy who offers me a solution. A huge box with my possessions on the desk in front of me, I'm looking at brochures of rooms to let.
"Aren't they a little young to be moving out?"
I chuckle. "It's for me."
"You're not splitting up, are you? Harry, tell me you're not getting divorced!"
"No, not right now," I say and scratch another room off the list. This is a useless brochure anyway. All rooms with gossipy old hostesses. If there's one way to have your private life sprawled over the front page of the Daily Prophet, you rent a room with one of Skeeter's besties.
She sits on the edge of my desk and pulls the brochure from my hands. "Then why are you looking at gruffy old rooms to let?"
Leaning back in my chair, I sigh and tap a fast rhythm with my nails on the chestnut tabletop. "He asked me for a divorce, and I refused. Told him I'd move out to give him more space."
I'm uncomfortable with Pansy's compassion.
"Yeah, so now I need a place to stay where I can have the kids over. Even if it's just for a couple of hours."
I steal the brochure back, even though I know I'm not going to find anything in there.
"I don't want to buy anything, and the only apartments that are available on short notice are in Knockturn. So if there's nothing in here, I'll end up crashing with Ron and Hermione."
Grabbing the brochure again, she rolls her eyes and rips it in two. "You're staying with us."
I'm actually surprised and it must be showing on my face when I look up at her, because she starts chuckling.
"Yes, I can see you camping out with the Weasleys. Cosy, it'll be like you're having therapy in Hermione's laundry room." She slaps the back of my head. "We live in a Manor house, you idiot! Theo and I would love to have you stay with us for a while."
"If you're sure," I say hesitantly. It would actually be a perfect solution. Not only would the children be able to stay over, though Hermione has the same practicality, Pansy isn't prone to have me search the depths of my soul during dinner.
"That's settled then. Only I won't have you lazing about the house! We're going to get you a new job, and that's final!"
I groan and drop my head to my desk. I could've figured that sounded too perfect.
The following weeks pass slowly. I'm bored out of my mind, and Pansy's bloody house elves won't even let me help in the kitchen.
The job search didn't pan out. I don't want to make lasting decisions in my current predicament. But I just don't know how to do nothing.
Ginny's all but evicted me from her Daycare. I thought it would be a great way to spend some extra time with Scorpius, but she explained to me in unquestionable terms, that when small children experience a resolute change in their lives, it's important for them to stick to their daily routines.
Ron told me he couldn't possibly take any more extended lunch breaks if he wanted to be head of the department any time soon, let alone keep his job.
George begged me to stay away from the shop, because the general atmosphere of the place was starting to resemble the one found in a funeral home.
Bill's been out of the office every time I show up at Gringotts.
Blaise actually ignored my last three Owls, which might have something to do with the previous six, in which I complained in excruciating detail, about how depressed I felt.
And I haven't heard from Draco once since I left.
The children are upset, which is understandable, though I don't like them blaming my husband for our situation. Maybe it's him keeping me away, but it's not like he's doing it to hurt us. It's just hard on him, hard on all of us.
I enjoy our weekends together. The garden of the Nott Manor is beautiful now that summer finally set in. Roses blooming, grass greener than I've seen before and it smells heavenly. I fly around with James, have tea-parties on the lawn with Lily and Pansy, and teach Scorpius how to swim in the lake. It's like we're having a little weekly holiday.
Only I miss him. I miss him so much, that I hunger for every snippet of information my children can give me. I listen intently when Pansy raves about her day, hoping that she'll mention how my husband is doing, as I'm scared to ask her right out. I'm even so desperate, that I hang around Diagon during lunchtime, hoping to catch him in a lunchroom or a shop. He must have his lunch at the Centre though, because I never actually 'run into him'.
Ron mentions dating again over a quiet dinner in Muggle London: 'It's been months, Harry.' And I can't honestly fault him on it this time. Hermione even throws me an encouraging look.
"What?" I ask. "What do you know? Is he looking for someone else?"
Mione quickly shakes her head and Ron promises me he'd rip my husbands balls off if he tried. I can't say I agree with the violence, but I at least hope Draco would tell me if he actually moved on.
Pans is worried about me, I can easily tell by the glances she throws me. She's trying to cheer me up: taking me shopping, offering to send me and the kids to their summer home in Italy, she's even trying to solve things for me and Draco by talking to him. She doesn't tell me this, but I sometimes overhear her talking to Theo, when I go past their suite on my way to the kitchen.
When I receive an Owl from Minerva on a Monday morning in July, I'm positive she's behind that as well. I don't mind anymore though, if it makes her feel better to think that she's helping, I'm reluctant to begrudge her that. Besides, I haven't seen Minerva for a long time, and it would be rude to not meet with her.
I let them know at breakfast that I'm going to Hogwarts, and that I don't expect to be home before seven. The headmistress invited me around three, and she included a dinner invitation.
Theo helpfully reminds me of the night out I planned with Charlie, whom I haven't seen since Scorp's birthday party. He's still working with Dragons in Romania.
Pansy smiles at me before she leaves for the Centre and kisses my cheek. I feel a slight pang in my heart that she will get to see him again today, that he's going to be smiling at her, talking to her. I don't want to hate her for that, but I do, that's how messed up I am.
Minerva's the way she's always been, warm heart and tough love.
She tells me how hard it's been to find a qualified Potion instructor. Luckily the supposed curse on the DADA position fell with Voldemort, but there's a serious lack of Potion experts.
We stop by the dungeons where she shows me the new classrooms. The workstations have been improved with table heights that can be easily adjusted without magic, and Magical windows to make the space look more friendly and less daunting. The dungeons are still cold, but by now I know that's the best temperature to keep ingredients from reacting with each other outside the Cauldron. I'm relieved to see that the creepy jars of dead things were removed from the shelves lining the walls.
She also shows me the reconstructed Gryffindor tower. During my seventh year, the Gryffindors boarded with the Hufflepuffs on the other side of the castle, since half the tower was destroyed in an explosion that killed eleven students.
Hogwarts gained so many ghosts that day. Not all of the dead lingered, but some always seemed to be unable to move on.
When we retire to her office, she sits me down and looks at me gravely.
"I'm planning on retiring after next year."
"You are? Why?" I can't imagine anyone able to do a better job than Minerva. She's rebuilt more than just walls and towers.
"I'm almost eighty years old, Potter, I don't expect to live forever, and there are quite some things I'd rather be doing that working until the day I die."
I blink, and blink again. That actually puts some things in perspective. Minerva's one of those people that are ageless, like Dumbledore was. You kind of know they are old, but you still somewhat expect them to be around forever.
"Now then, I've spoken with Thomas Barbary, who has agreed to take over for me if the Board of Governors approves."
She's looking quite smug with her chosen successor. It is of course somewhat of a tradition now, that the new Headmaster would be both a Transfiguration teacher, and chief-Gryffindor, Severus Snape notwithstanding.
"Though professor Barbary has an excellent apprentice for his teaching position, we will be short one Head of House. Neville Longbottom already took over for Pomona in Hufflepuff, of course."
"Not to be rude, Headmistress, but if you want to ask me something, you could maybe just do it?"
It's hard not to laugh out loud at the expression on her face, but I manage by hiding my face behind my cup of tea.
"By all that's Magic, Harry James Potter, you're still as impatient as ever!"
"I apologize," I reply with a smirk.
"Yes, well, you would do Hogwarts a great honor if you would consider both the Potions position, and a future as Gryffindor's Head of House."
I smile warmly, because that would actually be something I think I'd rather like. It's just that I can't commit to a thing like that without consulting my husband, and seeing as we're not currently communicating in any way, I can't give her the answer she'd like to hear.
"You do flatter me with your offer, Minerva, but I can't accept at the moment. If you've got the luxury of waiting until I've had a chance to discuss it with Draco, I'll consider it seriously and get back to you as soon as I can."
"I'd like to say 'take your time, Harry', but I'm hoping you'll be able to answer me well before the first of September. I've not given professor Dally her notice yet, but I'm very reluctant to have her return in the fall."
Remembering Pansy's vehement monologues on the topic of the current Potions professor, I can't help but chuckle. "I can imagine."
"Well then, there's currently only three of us residents here, so I hope you're amenable to a hearty supper at the Three Broomsticks."
Dinner is very enjoyable. It's good to see Rosmerta again, and she treats me like a lost son, offering us her best table, her best wine and a broth that can win the hearts of every single man on the planet. The conversation is inspiring and I enjoy hearing about Minerva's plans for her retirement. It also seems like I never really knew anything about our professors when she tells me about Filius Flitwick's vineyard in Spain, and Septima Vector's love for the Ballet.
When we say our goodbyes, I decide I'm too tired to go out with Charlie tonight. Owling him my apologies, I suggest to meet up on Wednesday.
I can't actually Apparate into the Nott Manor, not being related by either blood or marriage, and I don't want to walk all the way from the edge of the Wards. Luckily Pansy has given me a password to freely Floo into the rooms she's given me, and I'm thankfull to make use of that.
I change into a comfortable pair of jeans and a green T-shirt the kids gave me for my birthday last year, and set out to find my hosts. I'm sure Theo, as the head of the family, knew I was home as soon as I Flooed in, but I should let them know I'm home despite of that.
When I reach the parlour Pansy favours for her after dinner coffee, I stop dead in my tracks.
That voice is unmistakably Draco's, and my heart starts trying to beat its way out of my chest.
"It can't just go on like this, Draco. Theo and I love having Harry here, but he doesn't belong here. He belongs at home, with you and the children."
"It's not that simple, Pans, I've tried, and I don't see any way to move past this. I really do love him, but every time I think about being with him, I-"
"We've talked about this. You told me you forgave him."
"I know! And I did! It's not that, it's just-"
I can hear him pacing the room through the door, and I have to physically hold on to the doorframe to keep from bursting into the room.
"When I think of being with him I feel so dirty."
My knees buckle and my breath hitches. It feels like the ground just fell away from underneath me.
"It's all tainted now, everything! He's not just my husband, he's also the man that wiped my arse and taught me how to properly hold my fork. My feelings are all messed up. Part of me wants to hold him and kiss him and fuck him, be fucked by him!"
"Draco, please, I don't need the details of your sexlife."
"But the other part of me wants to gag for even considering it! How can I sleep in the same bed with him, if I end up hating myself for it? What would it do to him if I find making love to him repulsive and unnatural? We've always been great together in the past, but I honestly don't think we ever could be again."
I've opened the door without realizing it, and a second later I'm looking him straight in the eyes.
"Is that really how you feel?" I ask.
It hurts, it really hurts when he nods and looks away.
I swallow around the words that I'm about to say, hoping that in the few seconds I remain silent, he'll retract his statement and tells me he wants me back. He doesn't, and I can't torture us both any longer. If he can't be happy with me, I have to at least give him a chance to be happy without me.
"I'll have the papers drawn up and delivered to you by the end of the week."
I turn and walk away as fast as I can without running, ignoring Pansy's pleading 'Harry!' and fighting hard to hold back my tears until the moment I'm alone.
Once I close the doors of my rooms behind me, I break down.
I don't think I'll ever be whole again.
After a few hours the knocks on my door stop. The Floo flares a few times, but as long as I don't answer, no one will be able to bother me. I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to see anyone. I just want to be by myself.
On Wednesday I reappear to have a meeting with my solicitor, Mr S.H. Farnsworth, at the Leaky Cauldron. We discuss my demands for co-parenting, the house and money, and it's hard to break down my marriage into pecuniary assets.
I learn that inherited property can't be shared through marriage, so the Potter and Black vaults will remain mine. The Malfoy vaults now only hold a fraction of their former wealth, reparations weighed down heavily on the fortune.
I offer him the house and our shared vault. For one, I don't care about the money, and it's mostly profits from his company anyway. The house is also impractical for me, as I'm positive I'll be accepting the teaching position at Hogwarts. It might be best if I buy a cottage in Hogsmeade. I don't fancy living up in the castle if I can avoid it.
On the topic of the children I'm not so generous. I want equal rights on all fronts. If my future employment doesn't allow for me to have them during the week, I want at least the weekends. The details have to be discussed at a later date, but he won't be taking away my remaining reasons for existing.
After four exhausting hours my solicitor leaves, and all that's left is to sign the divorce papers.
I shove them into a big manila envelope, add the document that has my proposal for the settlement agreement, and stare at it until a waiter comes to ask me if I'd like to order another drink. There's no reason to draw this out, not really, but it's so damn hard to see it through.
I stand up and make my way through Diagon in a daze. I don't want to pass on this task to an Owl or a courier. I nearly miss the turn into Laeva Alley, and drag my feet until I'm standing in front of the Malfoy Chemical and Magical Research Centre.
Taking a few deep fortifying breaths, I open the doors and walk in. Leanne is writing a note at Pansy's desk, and looks up.
"Heya, Harry!" she says with a smile, and I smile back at her, but it feels like I'm trying to smile through a the Cruciatus.
I've lost my courage. I can't make my way to my old office, and give him the envelope I'm clutching tightly in my hands. Instead I head over to the filing cabinets and shove it into Draco's inbox.
Leanne frowns at me, but doesn't say anything when I turn and leave the building.
I apparate straight to the Burrow, because despite all the reasons I've had to avoid Molly lately, I could really use one of those motherly hugs right now.
She fusses and hovers, making me eat and drink and talk. She doesn't pass out judgement, or tell me everything's going to be alright. Maybe she understands that this won't ever be right, or maybe she just knows me like only a few people do.
Draco, he knows me. I could say all these sappy things, like how it feels like there's a part of me missing, or that it's like my heart was ripped out of my chest, or that my soul is empty, and I'd be telling the truth. Only it would be just a part of it, and even the parts it touched on wouldn't be covered sufficiently. There's nothing, no sound, nor sight, nor taste, nor words, that could describe the way I'm feeling right now.
I'm afraid that if I move it'll get worse, and there's not much reason to more anyway, not until Friday afternoon. Not until I get to see the children again.
Is this what my life's going to be like now? Living in the dark, waiting until the kids come to brighten it up? Is that enough?
There's so much I gave up when Draco had his accident. Friends, nights out, the Auror corps, my sanity, and even Teddy. He used to be so close to our family, a big brother to James and a favourite cousin to Draco. He'd spent most of that Christmas with us, and I'd promised he'd always be welcome with me. He was, but I could never really manage having him stay for more than a couple of days. And the time I was supposed to spend with just him, went quickly down the drain.
At least I'll get to spend a good portion of time with him in the future, if I'm going to take Minerva's offer.
I should probably contact her with my answer, so I can start to prepare for my first day of teaching. I can't be bothered right now, though. I'm so very tired, so empty.
Molly pulls a light blanket over my shoulders and kisses my forehead. "Just close your eyes for a moment, dear, it'll make you feel better."
I do, and it does. It's just that better doesn't last long, because it only takes me two minutes of bliss to remember when I wake up a couple of hours later.
And then the hurt starts all over again.
On Thursday night, Charlie drags me out of the Burrow, where I've decided to stay until at least after the weekend, and tells me he's waited long enough for us to go out and get pissed together, and Charlie can hold his liquor!
I spend most of Friday morning regretting the fact that I never persuaded anyone at the MCMRC to research a hangover Potion, and most of Friday afternoon regretting the fact that I didn't persuade Charlie to go to a Muggle bar.
Bloody Skeeter and her dastardly Quick-Quotes Quill. Luckily everyone that matters, knows Charlie's straight, and I prefer blonds.
Ginny drops off the children, like she's done every weekend this past month, and gives me a tight hug. It once again makes me think what my life would've been like, had I married her. Would I have stayed with the Ministry? Would I have accepted the Head Auror position? Would I have been happy?
I loved her. Not in a way that a man should love his wife, not like Blaise loves her, but I did love her.
James won't even look at me and immediately heads up to Ron's old room without a word. Lily hugs me and kisses me, but she's definitely not her chatty self. Whatever question I ask, she answers with two or three words, and she disappears into the kitchen as soon as Molly starts on dinner. Scorpius seems to be the only one who isn't mad at me.
I wonder what Draco's told them.
The mood doesn't change during dinner, though James seems to want to talk to Arthur. His voice is so soft that I can barely hear him when his Grandfather asks him about his summer holiday so far. My daughter just sits quietly next to Molly, taking forever to eat what little she's put on her plate. When I tell her to have couple of buttered sprouts extra, she glares and takes exactly two sprouts from the pan.
I grit my teeth and tell myself it's to be expected. I've been telling them we'll all be together again someday, and now they know their dad doesn't know everything.
I failed them. I failed Draco, and most of all, I failed myself.
Before bed I sit down with the both of them in the bright orange room I used to spend my nights at the Burrow in. I'm very glad I can use Bill's old room now. At least I can actually stand up straight there.
"What's bothering you two tonight?"
Lily's biting her lip and Jamie's tugging at the hem of his shirt.
"Are you going to marry uncle Charlie and move to Romany?" Lily asks softly.
I don't think I've ever been this shocked in my life. That stupid, idiotic hag of a beetle! Merlin, don't my children have enough to cope with, without having to deal with the lies that-, that-, that bitch has the nerve to come up with?
"No, honey, I'm definitely not going to marry your uncle Charlie, and there is absolutely no way that I'm moving to Romania. Alright?"
James finally looks up at me with tears in his eyes, and Lily skiddles a little closer to me, grabbing my left hand with both of hers.
"It's all a bit weird, isn't it?" I ask and they both nod.
"Why can't you just come home and live with us?" Jamie sounds so sad, it breaks me up inside. I can only reach out and pull him closer, hugging him to my chest and kissing the top of his head.
"Your papa and I aren't together anymore, sweety. I wish we were, because I love you all so, so much!" Lily worms herself under my other arm and slides her arms around my waist as far as she can reach, tears running down her cheeks. "But I'm never ever going to leave you guys. I'm going to find a nice house near your school where you can come and live some of the time, and you'll always, always be welcome there, okay?"
I can feel them nod against my chest. Their two platinum blond heads turning to white smudges with every second my eyes well up more with tears. All of this is so messed up!
After a while I get up off the bed and crouch down in front of them, so I can look them in the eyes.
"There's something important I have to tell you," I say solemnly. "This idea that I would marry uncle Charlie, you got that from the paper, right? You saw a picture of us on the front page?"
"Yeah," Jamie says and Lily nods.
"Well, a long time ago, I did this thing that made me kind of famous."
Lily nods more vigorously. "I learnt in school, you vanished You-Know-Who!"
I awkwardly wave away the pride in my children's eyes. "Vanquished, and you should really call the bastard Voldemort."
Lily gasps loudly and James snorts.
"Daddy!" Oh, God, now she's starting to sound like Hermione. "You're not allowed to say that word!"
"No, no! The other word!"
I'm confused now and frown. Jamie snorts again and leans in close. "You said bastard," he whispers with a mischievous gleam in his eyes.
"Oh, my, I apologise, M'lady!" I say with a slight bow. Lily giggles, a huge and welcome change from the earlier tears.
"Anyway, because I'm a bit famous, there are people that want to know what I'm doing all the time. So some people, like Ms Skeeter from the Daily Prophet, make up stories about me so they can sell more papers. You understand? That means that you can't believe everything they write about me. So when you're not sure, just ask me."
"Okay," Lily says and frowns a little. "I'll tell papa as well, because I don't think papa knows about that."
I almost laugh. As if my husband would ever believe the shyte that's in the Prophet. "Why's that, honey?"
"It's why we even read it," Jamie explains. "Papa was crying when he saw it, so we nicked his paper to see what made him so upset."
Oh, Draco, you know better than that.
"You two okay to got to bed now?"
"But I'm not tired," Lily says through a yawn and I pick her up and lay her down on the other bed in the room.
"Of course you're not," I reply dryly. "If you're quiet, you two can talk for a little while longer, but you're to stay in bed, okay?"
I kiss both their foreheads and give my little girl an extra hug when she reaches her arms up to me. "Love you guys, good night."
"Dad?" Jamie asks when I'm about to close the door.
"Are you going to be happy again?" he asks, and it's suddenly hard to swallow.
I sigh deeply and close my eyes briefly, before I look my son straight in the eyes and lie.
"Yes, Jamie, I'll be happy again."
He smiles timidly. "Night, dad."
On monday I finally decide to take some action. I Owl Minerva that I accept the teaching position, on condition that I'm allowed to live off campus. I do point out that I'll most-likely not be able to commit to the full duties of being Gryffindor's Head of House, due to my preferred living arrangements.
She's already listing ten different solutions to the problem in her reply, and tells me my rooms and office will be ready in two weeks. The letter goes on and on about lesson plans that are due before the first of September, booklists that are being sent out on the third of August, and that I have to Owl Flourish & Blotts about any change in the required reading material before the twenty-eighth of July.
It seems like they're still using the books professor Snape chose, and who am I to argue with the Master? I'd like to add 'knowledge of ingredients' and 'invention' to the curriculum of the higher classes, but I'd rather ask Hermione to sit down with me and write those courses, than pick a book that's way beyond a sixth year's level of comprehension.
There's some other things I need to take care of before I can lose myself in my new job though. I need Grothan, my advisor at Gringotts, to free me the funds to buy a house, and I need Pansy's help finding one. Maybe I should also Owl Audrey and ask her to do the decorating, according to Draco, I have no taste.
Fuck, managed half an hour without thinking about him.
It doesn't matter, I just need to set my mind to something else and keep myself occupied. And I do, sending out Owls, making a 'to do' list and in my desperation, De-Gnoming the garden. Those annoying little fiends are a lot easier to remove when one's a Wizard with the full use of his Wand.
Pansy drags me to see the most impersonal houses that ever existed. She's clearly unhappy about my decision to agree with a divorce, and I've got the feeling she's trying to sabotage me in my quest to move on.
Luckily Ginny comes to my rescue, and tells me about about a house that'll be up for sale in a month or two. One of the families, whose children she looks after during the day, is moving back to England in October. It's a lovely house: light and spacious rooms, a cosy kitchen that's equipped with a combination of Muggle and Magic appliances, and a deep garden with a terrace facing the south.
The Travors are happy to sell before even having to put their house on the market, and I'm happy to wait until October, if that's the house I'm waiting for. So that's how I end up temporarily moving into a set of rooms at Hogwarts by the twenty-fourth of July.
In the meantime, I haven't heard from Draco. Not a peep, and I'm worried.
I can't talk to Pansy about it, because the last time I tried she all but bit my head off. Ron's too caught up in being aggressively supportive, to do anything other than come up with the worst possible scenarios and creative ways to take revenge. Hermione doesn't have anything useful to tell me either, all she says is that he's probably thinking the settlement agreement through very carefully. He is Draco Malfoy after all. Blaise tells me he isn't going to be caught between a rock and a hard place, and I'd better not try to push him.
It's useless, because I need someone to tell me he's not planning to fight me for custody.
I'm already giving him everything we have together. The only part of the agreement he could possibly disagree with, is the part about the children, and that has me scared shitless.
I can't really imagine him being that cruel, but then again, I couldn't imagine him wanting to divorce me either.
My solicitor told me the papers haven't been filed at the Ministry yet, so he's either postponing because he's preparing for the Wizengamot, or he's unsure about the separation itself. I know it's not the latter, so there has to be a third reason. There just has to be.
It doesn't help when Farnsworth tells me I have nothing to worry about, that my husband couldn't possibly have any grounds on which to keep me from my children. He doesn't get it. He doesn't understand that that's not what I'm worried about.
What would it do to our children, if Draco and I fight over who gets to have more time with them? If our entire marriage gets splattered over the frontpage of the Daily Prophet? Skeeter would have a field day!
Besides, I don't want to fight him. I love him, for God's sake!
It's not like I have a choice though. It's not like I've had any choice in the entire matter. I want to be with him, but he doesn't want to be with me. I don't want him to fight me, but if he decides to do so, I can't stop him.
I feel helpless, and useless. Merlin, how I hate to feel this useless.
I celebrate my thirty-third birthday at the Burrow. I'm smiling, and chatting, and eating, and I think I'm pulling it off. It's not completely convincing though, as Pansy hugs me at the end of the day, whispering in my ear, asking me whom I'm trying to fool.
More days pass. I'm glad that my rooms and office are in the tower instead of the dungeons. I need to see the sky when I look out the window, and a Magical reproduction just wouldn't do. I've been locked up in the dark my entire youth, and I can't do that anymore.
Most of the lesson plans I write outside, often joining Neville in the gardens next to the greenhouses. I like that he isn't much of a talker, though he's one heck of a listener, only making sensible suggestions every once in awhile. He waves away my apology for dumping all my heartache on him, and tells me the heart needs to breathe as well.
Once we start talking on Magical Herbs and Fungi, we actually find some common ground. He offers to grow whatever I need for my Potion storage, as the rarest ingredients are often the most difficult and thus pleasurable to grow.
It's a shame we've lost touch in the past, and I'm happy that I've regained a friend.
As Hogwarts is not the ideal location to see my children, I spend most weekends at the Nott Manor. It's two weeks before the start of the school year when I Floo into the rooms Pansy keeps ready for us.
The children are supposed to be here around dinnertime, but Pansy asked me to be there a little early, because she wants to talk to me about the exchange program I suggested back in March. Now that I'm the actual Potions teacher at Hogwarts, I'd be the ideal candidate to select the students deemed talented enough to consider for an apprenticeship and the scholarship that comes with it.
She's not there though.
After I search almost the entire house, I regain some of my wits and call for one of the elves.
Jitsy, while banging her head against the wall despite my protests, informs me her Mistress isn't at home, and that she doesn't know when she will be.
I'm about to pull my hair out when I hear the Floo flare in the parlor, and thinking it must be Pansy, I quickly dismiss the elf and open the door.
My breath catches in my throat though, and I take a step towards him despite myself.
He looks up at me from underneath his bangs, his hair a lot longer than it was a month ago. I never did get him that haircut.
"I'm sorry, I think this is Pansy's latest plan to-"
"No, it's not actually," he says and smiles that smile.
God, how my heart still aches for him. I can almost smell him, taste him in the air. It's torture, but one I can't and won't escape. I can't just stop loving him, it doesn't work that way.
I realise I haven't moved or said something for a while. His smile falters and he stares at me, that bloody lip disappearing between his teeth again, and that oh so familiar shift from one leg to the other.
"I asked Pansy to get you here. I needed to talk to you."
Yes, as expected, I stick my foot in. "Never heard of an Owl?"
He looks uncomfortable and runs his hand through his hair. "I guess I needed a situation where I could leave with my pride intact if I was wrong in my assumptions."
I raise my brows at him. What the hell is he talking about?
He signs and looks down at the floor. "I was going to blame Pansy for setting us up if this didn't work out like I thought it would."
"Bit late for that," I reply. "You've already confessed."
"No, no. I already know I was right!" he says and starts smiling again.
I don't understand what he wants. What the hell do you want from me?
"I'm over it, you see?" His smile turns into a wide grin and he takes a step towards me.
If it were possible, they would've heard my heart break back at Hogwarts.
Over it? You're fucking over it? Why the fuck would you feel the need to rub that into my bloody face? Guess what, asshole, I'm not fucking over you!
"Well, good for you!" I snap. "Was there anything else? Care to destroy the rest of me as well?"
"What? What do you mean, what?"
"Fuck if I know!"
I could throw something, anything! I'm breathing through my teeth here, because turning my friend's parlor into a warzone is not a great way to repay her for her hospitality. "Then what the hell are you still doing here?"
"I-I'm sorry," he says. I'm completely confused, because for some reason tears are welling up in his eyes. "I know I've been taking ages, I just thought you-"
"What exactly do you expect me to say?"
Come on, Draco! What do you want from me?
"Nothing, I guess." He turns away from me and rubs his sleeve over his eyes. "I wish it didn't have to end this way. I'm sorry, Harry, I wish I'd realised sooner what I wanted."
"I don't even know what you're saying!" I yell. "Good God, Draco! Will you just spit it out? What on earth is it you do want?"
He spins around and looks at me incredulously. "You."
My knees buckle, I completely forget to breathe and my heart skips several beats.
"I'm over it! I think I was over it the moment you signed those papers. That's why I haven't signed them yet."
"I'm a bloody coward, biggest arse in the country, dumbest idiot on the plant! Harry, I love you! I'm not confused anymore."
"B-but what about-"
"Listen to me. I've been thinking, a lot. You know what I'm like when I start thinking about things."
He does this little shake with his hands that's both dismissive and irritable, his nose scrunched up like he's smelling something disgusting. I love it when he does that. It's the Draco I've been missing for such a bloody long time.
"A month ago, I felt dirty and guilty whenever I thought about kissing you, horribly, horribly guilty. Not anymore though. I mean, I still feel uncomfortable sometimes when I think of the actual sex bit, but I just need to get through that, right? Like being a virg-"
I shut him up by pulling him towards me and closing my mouth over his.
He tastes fantastic, he always tasted fantastic.
There's nothing actually romantic about it. No exclamations of love and 'Oh! How could I ever have left you?' There's no soft kisses and gentle caresses.
I'm a man, I haven't had sex in over three years, and the past four months have been nothing but torturous foreplay. And I'm probably going to regret it in the morning, because I know I'll have bruises and scratches and aching muscles in places I never even knew existed.
Actually, that's codswallop. I'm not going to regret a single second of this. Not ever.
It's a bit awkward, to try and pull a shirt over someones head, while their hands are trying to open your fly. Especially when those hands are connected to arms that are still tangled in said shirt. We manage though, mostly because there's almost no angle my body won't bend in, if the goal is to get us both naked as soon as possible.
Hands roam, mouths lick and suck and bite. We're both moaning, and panting, and touching every inch of skin we can reach. Damn, he's so beautiful, and his body feels so good against mine.
I grind my cock against his, our precome not enough to make the movement smooth, but feeling all the better for it.
I slick my fingers with my tongue and reach down to run them down between the soft globes of his arse.
"Wait!" He pushes away from me.
Fuck, no! My stomach makes a triple salto and I think I'm honestly going to break into a million pieces. No, no, no, no, no! You're not doing this to me again!
"Do you really want to have sex here in Pansy's parlor?"
I look around me in a daze and burst out laughing. It's not actually that funny, but the relief that rushes through me makes me high with adrenaline.
"Fuck if I care," I growl, and pounce.
I pin him against the back of the recliner and drop down to my knees. He loves it when I suck on his balls, drives him crazy, it does. It sure as hell makes him babble like a drunken sailor.
"God! Oh, yes! Fuck, that's so good. Don't stop, Harry, don't, no! Yes, like that, yeah! Oh my- Fuck! God, that feels so, oh, oh, g-good, oh!"
It goes on and on, music to my ears.
I don't think saliva's going to be enough after all this time, and there's no way I'm spending my precious energy on a Wandless summoning Charm, so I'm reaching with my foot to drag my jeans to me. It takes a few tries, but finally I have my Wand in my hand.
A quick Spell has him clean and slicked and I revel in the feeling of sliding my fingers up and down the cleft of his arse. His breath hitches when I teasingly inch my finger inside him. His babbling becoming more incoherent by the second.
Slowly and carefully I stretch him until I know he's ready for me. A last suck on his balls, a teasing wet stripe up his cock, and a squeeze of his thigh later, I stand up and lift him up by the waist.
He wraps his legs around me and slides his hand behind my neck. With a turn and two steps I have him up against the wall, and in an extremely intimate moment, I push inside him as he looks me straight in my eyes. His lips are slightly parted, and I feel his warm breath fan my cheek as we make contact on more levels than one.
Then I'm fully sheathed and I grit my teeth. Holy mother of God! Calm down, Harry! It really wouldn't do if you came in three seconds flat right now!
"Don't. Move," he says and closes his eyes. From the way his eyebrows meet in the middle of his forehead, I know he's in exactly the same predicament as I am. As much as I wish this could go on forever, it's definitely been too long for this to last.
Thank Merlin that we'll have the rest of our lives to make up for that!
He takes a deep breath and nods, and I pull back and thrust.
Our moans are completely synchronised as Draco opens his eyes again.
"More," he whispers and I can only do what he says while I'm enthralled by his steel blue eyes.
I start building a rhythm: Harder, deeper, faster. He moves with me, clenching down on me whenever I pull out and canting his hips when I slam back in. It creates a delicious massage on my dick.
"Fuck, can't hold it off much longer," I pant, and Draco reaches down between us to grab onto his own cock.
He cranes his neck, kissing me deeply, his tongue battling mine in the same frantic tempo as my thrusts. And I'm coming, pulse after pulse my muscles contract as the shock of my orgasm shoots through me. He's right behind me, splashing his seed against my chest.
I ride it out, until I'm no longer able to stand on my legs and I turn us around and slide my back down the wall.
My head falls back and for a moment I can't do anything but pant, trying to catch my breath. He's much the same, and he rests his forehead in the crook of my neck, half kneeling with my legs between his thighs.
When he lifts his head, his eyes are shining and he reaches in to kiss me hard on my mouth. He shifts off me, sitting down next to me on the floor with his knees casually drawn up, his arms hanging over them like he won't be needing them for a while.
"Yeah, I'm definitely over it."
I chuckle. "I love you, you know that?"
He turns to face me and grins. "Yeah."
I close my eyes for a second, still not completely recovered and breathing irregularly. Maybe I should've kept up the exercise after I left the Aurors.
"Can we move?" he asks.
"From the floor?"
"No, it's nice here. I meant the house, I'd like a new start for us."
"Well, I've kind of bought a house in Hogsmeade."
"It's perfect, but if you don't like it we could always find someplace else. Anything you want, love."
Draco starts laughing softly.
"What?" I ask curiously.
"Nothing, I just realised something," he says, seemingly unable to wipe that silly grin off his face. I don't mind at all.
Pecking a kiss on his bare arm, I smile up at him. "Tell me."
"It's silly, but I only just realised," he starts. "You actually called him Scorpius."
I chuckle. "Yeah, I did, didn't I?"
He hums in contentment and rests his head against my shoulder.
"Refused to let 'Hyperion' be his middle name though."
He runs a finger down my arm and snorts. "Thank fuck for that! That one I just made up to mess with you."
I roll my eyes and decide to withhold the little fact that I seriously considered it for about an hour after Scorp was born. I'd never hear the end of it.
"What is his middle name anyway?" he asks.
I'm surprised, I figured he knew that. "Severus, thought you would approve."
"I do," he says with a little sigh and presses his lips against my neck.
I know we should probably get dressed and move to a more private area of the house, before Pansy decides to check in on us. I trust that Draco made sure the kids are cared for, and if Pansy is stupid enough to chance it, it's her own damn fault. I'm comfortable, and I really don't want to move.
I lift my arm from underneath Draco's cheek and wrap it around his shoulder, while he snuggles up closer to my chest.
This is what I've been missing for so very long: Home, I've finally come home.