When the Time Comes
When the Time Comes
"Are you sure it's safe?" Harry heard Ron ask. He glanced quickly out the door and saw his friend gesturing at the door to the balcony.
Harry hadn’t seen Ron or Hermione since he’d moved out of the house they’d shared since the end of the war and into his own flat. It was a bit more modern than he would have preferred, but there was a doorman, which kept wizarding folk from loitering about, and it was within walking distance of St. Mungo's.
"Yes, Ron. It's perfectly safe." Harry was relieved that Hermione sounded amused rather than frustrated. Tonight was going to be difficult enough without his best friends arguing the whole evening.
He picked up the strand of hair Hermione had provided and held it over a goblet filled with treacle-thick, sluggishly bubbling liquid. He stood there for several moments, considering. "Is this really necessary?"
"Harry, we never see you anymore!"
He hadn't thought he'd spoken aloud, but he looked up to see Hermione in the doorway.
"I've been busy. We’ve all been busy."
"You've been working non-stop." Harry turned to her incredulously, but she waved off his rebuttal. "Yes, I'm aware that sounds hypocritical from me, but you've spent years telling me that work can't be everything. Someone needs to do the same for you, and if it's bad enough that I can see it's a problem...."
"It's not a ‘problem.’"
"Harry, you've made excuses for the last three dinners at the Burrow! It's not like you. If you were doing something, seeing someone, it might be different, but…. I know you don't go out, but in the month you've been living here, how many days have you been home before ... ten o'clock?"
He shrugged. "I don't know."
"Because it's most of them or too few to notice?" He blushed, and she continued. "Exactly. But if you don't want to, we don't have to go." She returned to the lounge without waiting for a reply, not that he bothered to dignify it with one. She’d been badgering him since before his move to join them for a night out, and if he backed out now, he fully expected Ron and Hermione to move in with him, or, more likely, he'd leave work tomorrow to find he'd been moved back into their house. He dropped the hair into the goblet.
The potion turned a sickly shade of yellow and began to smell somewhat like Aunt Marge's favourite perfume, though it tasted like mouldy grapes. The transformation was as painful as ever, and when it was finally over, Harry turned to the mirror.
"Hermione!" He carefully made sure the bathrobe was closed completely as he stepped out of the bathroom. "You are NOT allowed to obtain hair for Polyjuice EVER again.” He crossed his arms over his unexpected breasts and glared.
"Oh." Hermione coughed a bit, trying to hold back a laugh. Ron had no such compunction and was doubled over, trying not to fall off the sofa. "It's a very thorough disguise."
He hadn’t minded too terribly when Hermione insisted he go out dancing with them – one night would get her off his case for a while at least – but as a woman? "In this get up, I’ll be pulling straight blokes and lesbians!" Pretty much all the groups in which he wasn't interested.
"Or possibly someone as open-minded as you are! But you're just doing this to get me off your back, so why does it matter?"
Harry began to protest lack of suitable clothing, but Hermione handed him a shopping bag. He took it from her with a put-upon sigh and headed for the bedroom.
In the bag, he found a skirt, stretchy black trousers, a couple of silky bits of material he would have appreciated as shirts on another body, and underthings. He vetoed the skirt – he thought it would require a type of awareness of his physical self he didn't have – but he wasn't certain the trousers were any better. "These don't fit," he said when he joined Ron and Hermione in the lounge.
"Nonsense!” Hermione replied. “They fit perfectly. You look lovely."
Harry gaped at her. "You're insane."
"I am not! Ron, don't you think—”
Harry raised a hand at Ron. "Don't answer that, Ron. Please.” Ron nodded gratefully, and his jaw, slack since Harry had entered the room, snapped closed. Harry turned back to Hermione. “I didn't mean you personally. I meant girls generally. Women. You're all insane. How can you breathe in these?" Realizing a bigger problem, he cut off her attempt to reply. “And how am I supposed to hide a wand in this outfit?" He looked up at Hermione in a panic. "I am NOT going out without a wand."
"Of course not," Hermione assured him. "We all know that would be a bad idea." There was an awkward moment of silence as each of them remembered why but no one spoke of it. They still pitied him, Harry knew, and he despaired of his friends ever accepting that his decision to leave the Aurors – despite the hellish catalyst – had engendered something good, something better. "We can disguise your wand as a wrist watch. You'll be able to get it easily."
He held the wand out to her, and she transfigured it, then set about charming his hair and makeup into something appropriate for the evening.
When she’d finished, she handed him a small purse. "I’ve put an Extension Charm on it,” she said, “so there's room to keep quite a few hours’ worth of Polyjuice. I’ve put the extra hair in there as well, in an envelope."
The purse wasn’t the one she’d taken with them when they were on the run, nor was it much heavier than he expected it to be. "I'm not going to knock over a library trying to find it, am I?" he asked regardless.
She smiled. "The Charms aren’t nearly so elaborate."
In a moment when neither Ron nor Hermione were watching, Harry slid the miniature portrait of Healer Taeri into the purse, so that, in case of emergency, St. Mungo’s would be able to contact him. He did have obligations, even if he could grudgingly concede that Hermione was right about needing to have a life outside of work.
Even if it isn’t exactly my own, he thought, considering his reflection. She was pretty, the woman he’d become, with honey-coloured hair, wide brown eyes, and a generous mouth. She’s also, Harry realized with some disgruntlement, taller than I am. “So I'm all set. As long as I don’t meet someone who knows her. Or the woman herself.”
“Not much chance of that, mate.”
Harry would have let it go at that – Ron was probably right, after all – if Hermione hadn’t hissed “Ron!” so quietly Harry thought he wasn’t supposed to have heard.
“Her-mi-o-ne.” He drew out each syllable of her name. “Whose body am I wearing?” He wasn't sure he wanted to know, but it was probably best he did.
She glared at Ron before answering. “Julia’s.”
‘Julia'? Who was – “Your mate from primary, Julia?” Hermione nodded, but Harry continued. “Julia, whose wedding you attended last weekend? Does she know I’m taking her body clubbing on her one week anniversary?”
“Of course not! But she’s in South Africa for the next month, and she’s not been to London since her family moved to York when we were twelve.”
Less confident than she, Harry nevertheless allowed himself to be drawn out of the flat.
The club Hermione had found was dark and loud and crowded.
It would take more than the pint of ale Harry had ordered to get him to agree to dancing, so the three of them found a small table not far from the dance floor. It was too loud for any sort of real conversation, but when they weren't making eyes at each other, they were scoping possible pulls for Harry. It was highly uncomfortable.
Harry finished his drink and gestured with his empty glass toward the bar. Ron nodded, but Hermione began to stand. "I'll go with you. You'll watch my glass, won't you?" Ron nodded, but Harry waved her back.
"I'll be fine, Hermione. And if you're so determined that I meet people, I’m better alone – much less terrifying to approach – something you girls never seem to realize." Remembering the horrible days leading up to the Yule ball, he shared a grin with Ron.
"Be careful, Harry." It was a serious warning, more so than Harry thought a simple trip to the bar warranted, but he responded in kind.
"Of course." He touched the watch. "I'll be careful."
She didn't seem entirely reassured.
Fifteen minutes later, he found out why.
Rather than getting another drink straight away, he’d decided to take a walk around the club. It wasn’t large, but it was sufficiently crowded and dark that it was difficult to see much of anything further than a few feet away, and he was curious. Between Voldemort and training – first as an Auror, then as a Healer – he hadn’t had much opportunity for this sort of social experience, and in the wizarding world, at least, he’d have been mobbed, photographed, and written about if he’d even tried. What ‘normal people’ considered a normal evening out was exotic to him, and he wanted to experience it – the good and the bad.
He thought he understood now at least part of the reason why girls travelled in packs and why Hermione had warned him about going off on his own. The club was crowded, certainly, but not so much so to warrant the number of hands ‘accidentally’ brushing against his – her? Pronouns were confusing but he felt like ‘Harry’ still, despite being in female form so he decided to keep ‘his’ – breasts and arse, and that certainly didn’t account for the pinching of the latter. It was intrusive and discomfiting, but there were also a number of admiring looks and smiles which, even if they were intended for Julia, were flattering to receive.
But he hadn't expected to be grabbed from behind by a drunken idiot.
The garish lights and deafening noise faded into black and the pounding of his heart. He wanted to thrash, to fight, to pull away, and he felt his magic, a tidal wave rising to answer his call. He knew what that would mean, knew what would happen, knew it had happened before, and he would Not. Let. It. Happen. Again.
He was not going to kill anyone else.
Caught up in the desperate battle being fought inside his head, Harry didn't notice, didn’t resist when the stranger turned him around.
As he knew it would, as it always had, the black melted, giving way to sprays of blood and barely recognizable bits of flesh. He focussed on the body he knew to be Ron’s though there was nothing recognizable left; on the flat, lifeless gaze that had belonged to the man who had taught him that sex could be joyous; on the charred remnants of the robe that had belonged to his most formidable instructor.
Remember to breathe, Harry. The memory of Healer Pallia’s voice was as low and calming as it had been in each of their sessions and just as effective.
He forced himself to take a slow, deep breath, and then a second. Then he made himself to examine the details of the scene, to face and to accept the carnage. It was no less real for being made of mind and memory than the original incident had been for being constructs and Glamours. It had been a simulation exercise that had gone horribly, horribly wrong because when Harry was restrained against his will, his magic tried to free him in an explosion of power. It wasn’t an isolated incident, and the more frequently it was tested, the more difficulty Harry had restraining it. That had ended any chance of a career as an Auror. It had been devastating, but it had also obligated him to develop the precision and control that were the key to containing his magic and the cornerstone of his future as a Healer. Remembering it in detail reminded him that he could control it, and what could happen if he failed to do so.
His wand was a tangible reminder that his magic was a tool he could control and a means of directing it. He reached for the familiar length of holly – or tried. The hand wrapped around his wrist wouldn't release him. The wavering of his concentration cost him a measure of control, and his magic broke, a wave rushing to escape the confines of Harry's body that he kept contained by sheer force of will.
Once he had recovered sufficient control of the magic unleashed, his awareness of his physical self and surroundings returned. He was being held, tightly, by a man who resembled Marcus Flint to an unfortunate degree. Nearly twice Harry’s size, the man was trying to nuzzle Harry’s neck but wasn’t managing much beyond smearing slobber and sweat on Harry’s exposed skin.
Before he could panic again, Harry brought his free hand to the stranger's chest to push him back. “I’m flattered, thanks, but I'm with someone.”
“He can't be that into you if he's gone wandering.” The man leered, proud of his logic, and grabbed Harry's other wrist. Harry's magic swelled again.
As the power coursing through his veins swelled again in escalating waves, Harry fought to contain his magic, wondering if women had to deal with this sort of thing often and what the hell he was supposed to do without magic. Julia may have been taller than Harry, but she wasn’t much sturdier. Harry hadn’t felt so powerless in years, and the threat of Child Protection Services wouldn’t prevent this man from leaving visible bruises – or worse.
“I assure you I'm very into her, and I'll thank you to get your hands off my girlfriend.”
Gratefully, Harry began to twist so he could see the speaker. It would be worth even the hassle of trying to explain why Julia wasn’t on her honeymoon to her…. Oh, Merlin, it was a case of mistaken identity, and the man who'd spoken would apologize in a minute. Harry tried frantically to figure out how to convey that Harry needed him to play along.
His panic was nothing compared to the shock of seeing the idiot turn around to confront his saviour: Draco Malfoy.
The stranger was significantly larger than Draco and trying to use his bulk to intimidate, but whatever Draco had been doing in the years since the war, it hadn’t lessened his arrogance in a confrontation. His biting remarks were recognizable as insults even to someone as drunk as Harry’s captor. They were also successful in getting the man to release Harry’s hands, if only so he could clench them into fists and wave them menacingly in Draco’s face.
The situation was building to a fight, and Harry wondered how to stop it without getting the Ministry involved. While it would be better than Harry’s magic decimating the building, it would take far longer than the Polyjuice would last.
When he stepped forward to try and calm things down, however, Draco glared and waved him away. Harry would have gotten upset, but between the two of them they’d drawn the drunk's attention back to Harry, and he grabbed again for Harry’s arm. He missed, but only because Draco caught Harry first and pulled him out of the other man’s reach.
Instinctively, Harry glared and tugged to free his arm. Draco let it go easily.
"She doesn't look that into you."
"I'm very into him." Harry wound an arm around Draco – not something he'd ever thought he'd do. Or like. Draco was tense, as expected under the circumstances, sinewy and firm. Unfortunately, the show of unity didn't make the drunk back off, it just made him more aggressive.
Before punches were thrown, before either wizard got so frustrated he drew his wand, two men pushed their way through the gathering crowd. They were obviously friends of the man who’d taken a fancy to Harry and far less drunk. Apologizing profusely for their friend’s behaviour, they led him away, despite his protests.
Leaving Harry alone with Draco. Around whom he was still wrapped.
Harry pulled back and ignored the regret he felt at having to do so.
"You're very welcome." Draco smiled. It was soft and genuine, Harry thought, and
sexy as hell a little creepy. "Are you all right?" He touched Harry's wrist lightly. Unfamiliar muscles clenched, and Harry pulled his wrist back reflexively.
Draco’s expression closed slightly. “Should we find that boyfriend of yours?”
He needed to get the slobber off his neck and to take a second dose of Polyjuice. He also needed to know what Draco Malfoy was doing in a Muggle club. His former rival had kept a very low profile since the war had ended – grateful, no doubt, that he'd gotten off as lightly as he had in the trial. “There’s no boyfriend, actually.” He considered mentioning he’d come with friends, but that might lead to Draco Malfoy insisting on taking Harry to them. He smiled instead. "And I owe you a drink at the very least."
Draco’s expression warmed again, but it was tempered with concern. "Are you sure you're all right?" he asked, gesturing to the arm Harry hadn’t realized he was still cradling to his chest.
Harry shook it out and wiggled his fingers. “It’s fine. I just need a minute to freshen up, I think, and I’ll be right as rain.”
Draco walked her to the nearest ladies’. “I’ll wait here.”
Deciding the Polyjuice was the more pressing concern, Harry queued for a stall. Once inside, Harry opened the purse.
“It’s about time!” Healer Taeri hissed. In truth, he was yelling, but it was a loud room and a very small portrait. “I’ve been trying to reach you for twenty minutes.”
Heading for the door, he collided with a woman; he apologized and tried to continue but was stopped by a hand on his arm. He looked up into Hermione's exasperated face.
“I’ve got to go to the hospital,” he said.
"Harry!" Her exasperation was obvious, and he cut her off before she could reproach him, explaining. "It's Padma."
Hermione tightened her hand, then released him, nodding. "Go. Give her my best."
He had no idea what he was going to say to Draco, but the point was made moot when he discovered Draco wasn't waiting for him in the appointed place. Harry was insulted on Julia's behalf, but grateful on his own, since he didn't know what sort of excuse he could have given for leaving.
In his office at St. Mungo's, he took off the clothes he'd borrowed, put on the healer's robes he left there for emergencies, and paced restlessly as he waited for the Polyjuice to wear off. It shouldn't have been more than five minutes – and it wasn't according to his watch – but his concern for his patient made it feel five times that.
It was his first pregnancy as primary healer, and the most complicated he’d assisted. Padma had asked for him, though, partly because he was a friend and a war hero, but primarily because he was familiar with her history. He'd been apprenticed under her previous healer during her last pregnancy – her third miscarriage.
Padma was alone in the room, which was highly unusual. Her husband accompanied her on nearly all scheduled appointments and hadn’t wanted to leave her side for even a moment the last time she’d been in for one of these scares.
“He’s on his way." Padma explained when Harry asked, mostly to distract her as he performed the initial scans. "I convinced him to go out for drinks with his friends. 'It's a few hours; what are the chances something would happen,' I said.” She started to sob, softly, and Harry reached for her hand. "You're fine, and the baby's fine." For the moment, at least.
“Thank Merlin!” Greg Goyle rushed to Padma’s side, where she already had her free hand extended toward him. The other, she kept clenched with Harry’s. He looked up to avoid the deeply personal moment and saw Draco standing in the doorway, which, Harry realized, explained why he hadn’t been waiting for Harry earlier. He would have been responsible for making sure Greg was fully sober and possibly even for Apparating him here.
He stared back at Harry, his expression far less open than it had been at the club but with far less hostility and resentment than he'd shown to Harry at any other time. They stared at each other for several moments, a long, even look that was disconcerting.
Harry blinked eventually and was left with two separate realizations that he pushed aside process when he had time. The first, that Draco Malfoy had changed in the last seven years and was now an unknown quantity. The second, that no matter how much Harry had been hoping it had simply been a trick of the light in the club, at some point in the same period of time, Draco Malfoy had become really, really attractive. Neither thought was comforting.
Harry forced himself to turn back to Padma when Greg who spoke. “She’s really all right?”
Harry nodded. For now. He didn't say it aloud – they all knew this pregnancy was not going well, and after the scare they’d just had, it was better not to dwell on the danger just yet. “But we should do a thorough examination to be certain.”
Greg and Draco stepped out to allow Harry and Padma privacy.
"For what?" Draco asked, then realized what his friend meant. "Greg, you and Padma are more important than some girl I just met."
"She wasn’t your usual type." Greg pointedly eyed the door to Padma's room, and Draco, not for the first time, rued the decision not to Obliviate his best friend after a certain night of alcohol-fuelled confessions. Before Greg said things that shouldn’t be heard by Harry Potter – or his co-workers Draco thought, nodding a greeting at a passing medi-witch – he tried to deflect the conversation.
“Well, yeah, I’ve been seeing mostly men lately, but it’s not as though I’ve never been attracted to women.”
Most days, Greg allowed himself to be diverted; today wasn’t one of them. “True enough. But regardless of gender, your partners are never blond and rarely tall.”
Draco huffed in exasperation. “I liked you better when you humoured me.”
“I like you better now.”
Before Draco could respond to what was a very rare reference to the evolution of their friendship, the door to Padma’s room opened. "We're ready for you," Harry announced.
Greg started to move forward, but Draco held back. "I'll just...." he waved toward the waiting room.
"She said you're welcome to come in," Harry said softly.
Draco looked at Greg to gauge his preference.
His friend nodded. "Please."
They followed Harry into the room, Greg moving quickly to stand next to Padma, who had clearly been crying. He put one hand in hers, and the other around her shoulder, pulling her to his chest. Draco stopped to loiter uselessly near the foot of the bed, trying to give them as much privacy as he could.
"It's not good. I'm not going to lie."
Padma choked out a laugh and reached out to clasp the back of Harry’s hand. "You never do," she said.
Smiling ruefully, Harry took her hand in both of his. "You'll need strict bed rest. I mean it, Padma." He looked at Greg, who nodded in understanding. It wasn’t the first time she’d had her movement restricted this way, and she didn’t care for it.
"If you promise me," Harry’s tone was low and serious, "that you’ll follow my instructions, you can go home."
Padma sighed. "For how long?"
"In all likelihood, the rest of your pregnancy."
She grimaced but nodded.
Harry clasped her hand tightly before releasing it. "I'll check in on you every day."
“I want this baby,” she said with determination.
“Babies,” Harry corrected.
She looked up at Greg, and they both turned to Harry, doubting what they had heard. Draco less burdened by hope, was already smiling. “You’re carrying twins.”
As promised, Harry visited Padma every day – during lunch usually, but after his shift if it was particularly busy. She was getting antsy, but she recognized the seriousness of the situation and was keeping her word.
For the first few days following the incident at the club, any free time Harry had after his work at the hospital and his visits to Padma was usually devoted to metal work.
Following the incident that had made it clear that his wild magic wasn't compatible with his dream of becoming an Auror, Healer Pallia had suggested it as an exercise in control. It had been a while since he’d needed to practice, however, so he hadn't done much in the last year or so. He’d learned to enjoy it for its own sake, but he hadn’t had much time for simply enjoyable pursuits in the last year of his training.
He had converted the second bedroom of his flat into a workroom when he moved in and had added a number of protection charms; working with such extreme heat and metal was a dangerous combination. He cast additional ones now to protect both the room and himself. They were stronger than he’d used in months but he hadn't come so close to losing control in over a year, and the more recently he'd done so, the more likely the wild magic was to flare again.
He heated the silver, increasing the malleability, allowing him to draw it out in a wire, cool, and shape it. He’d begun to craft a bracelet in a complicated pattern of woven metal that forced him to concentrate on detail and precision. It would suit Hermione, he thought, though he knew he wouldn’t be able to give it to her – it held a strong association for her with his therapy and what she still thought of as a tragedy in his life, too strong for her to be able to receive it or to wear it comfortably.
The magic settled eventually, moving through his wand in a steady, even flow, just the way it ought.
As he repeated the wand movements, felt them become familiar and comfortable, Harry found himself – unsurprisingly – thinking of Saturday evening: not simply the near explosion of magic that prompted his task, but the good parts as well, and those that were ambiguous. About Draco Malfoy, who fit each of the categories. Wondering what he was doing in Muggle London, wondering if he was up to something. It felt like sixth year all over again.
The incident with the drunk aside, he'd enjoyed himself. It had been nice, being on the receiving end of looks that were appreciative, not worshipping; being greeted with smiles but not constantly interrupted with awkward conversation. Hermione, unsurprisingly, had been right: it was a good disguise.
He didn’t know whether she’d asked Julia’s permission to use her hair, but if she had, it would have been for the one evening only, and it shouldn't be used a second time. He knew that. The more often he went out, the more likely it would he would meet someone who knew her. More than that, it would be wrong to use her body without her consent, especially for something so frivolous.
When Harry caught himself, not for the first time, considering risking it anyway, he burned Julia’s hair.
It was two days later that he decided to brave Diagon Alley to see George.
Diagon Alley was crowded, as usual for a Friday evening, and as Harry made his way through the Leaky Cauldron, the whispers started.
"Look, it's Harry Potter!"
It had been seven years, with no sign of people letting up.
"...defeated You Know Who...."
He understood that they were grateful that Voldemort was gone, but Harry hadn't done it alone.
"...in my house at school."
Even those who should have known better.
It took a great deal of effort, but he managed not to yell at anyone nor to turn and leave.
The obvious pleasure on George’s face when he entered Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes wiped the scowl from his face, but the equally obvious surprise caused a spasm of guilt. It was further proof that Hermione had been right: he had been pulling away from people.
He enjoyed his work at St. Mungo's but it was busy and unpredictable, and every time he went out, it became a media event: the first made scheduled meeting difficult and the latter made impromptu socializing in public places uncomfortable.
It would be easier if he were disguised.
Harry forced the thought into a dark corner of his mind and locked it there.
The lock, unfortunately, wasn't alcohol resistant.
After dinner and far too much Firewhiskey, Harry turned to George. "Do you remember an evening in the common room, not long before you left? It was late; most of the younger students had already gone up to bed. A number of upper years were talking – well, Hermione was studying for OWLs and trying to get us to do the same, but it evolved into a conversation about no one understanding the opposite sex."
George thought a moment, then grinned. "That was the night Seamus suggested a sex change gag, yeah?”
Harry nodded. There'd been an enthusiastic response to the suggestion, but it hadn’t been mentioned since. “Did you ever... explore that?”
A spasm of pain crossed George’s face before he could hide it, and Harry knew the answer before he spoke. “There were a few ideas, but it was mostly... it was Fred’s thing, really.” George swallowed. It was still difficult for him, but he was determined to use his twin’s name, no matter how much the loss still hurt. His eyes narrowed on Harry then, and the corner of his lips twitched. “Why? What are you plotting?”
Harry felt himself flush, but tried to demur, to claim that it was just reminiscing. George wouldn’t let it go, however, and Harry found himself recounting most of what had happened Saturday night. He didn’t mention Draco Malfoy.
George, once he’d stopped laughing, grew thoughtful. “I have his notes. Maybe I should look into it. In his honour.”
Harry’s brief visit to Diagon Alley fuelled a four-page spread in Witch Weekly and three separate stories (Harry refused to call them articles) in The Daily Prophet. He retreated into work and sleep, and – assisted by a flurry of pre-term physicals for the students preparing for Hogwarts – he nearly forgot why he’d gone in the first place. He surfaced on Saturday to visit Andromeda and Teddy. No matter how busy things got, he made certain he saw Teddy at least once per fortnight. He had faith in Andromeda, of course, but he wanted to make sure Teddy knew he had someone in whom he could confide if he wished and that Teddy would feel comfortable enough with Harry to take him up on the offer if it were necessary.
Having visited them and George and having missed dinner – again – the previous week, Harry knew he had to be at the Weasleys’ on Sunday. It wasn’t that he didn’t love them – hell, it wasn’t even that he thought he wouldn’t enjoy it. It was just so awkward, the way conversations about the Ministry and especially the Auror division stopped when people thought he was paying attention, as though the subject would hurt him. The careful way they spoke when they asked about his work at the hospital wasn't much better. What he forgot – or rather gave less weight to – when he was away for too long was the love.
“Harry! Come here!” Molly hugged him. “We’ve missed you.” More guilt wrapped around his heart as tightly as her arms enveloped him.
George, Ron, and Hermione were already there, as was Percy, but neither his children nor Bill’s were present – a disappointment to Harry, since they were useful as a buffer. Ginny was on tour with the Harpies, however, and her upcoming match against the Chudley Cannons proved to be the recurring joke that got them through the uncomfortable moments.
Once the meal was over and the family began to disperse, George pulled him aside and handed him a vial. It was slightly larger than the ones they used in Potions class and filled with a thin, shimmering liquid. “One sip will do – definitely don’t take more than a mouthful. When you want to switch back, place your wand on your throat and say ‘vera forma.’” He grinned. “It wouldn’t do to have the prank spoiled if you got called to the hospital early.”
Harry stared in disbelief at the vial he'd been given before he looked back to George. "I hadn't expected anything to be ready for ages yet."
“He – We were focussing on projects that could be useful in the war, that last year, and it had potential as a disguise. Fred nearly had it done; the trickiest bit left was incorporating the cancellation spell.”
"Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes wouldn't have existed without you; I'm glad to be able to help." Harry started to demur, but George brushed aside his protestations. “Let me know how it goes. It has product potential, when you’re done with it.”
Harry was confused. “Why wouldn’t you...?”
“Once I put this on the shelves, once people know about it, it’s a possibility. People could suspect. Get what you need from it, and after, we’ll see.”
“Thank you,” Harry said again.
It took another week before Harry could bring himself to try it.
Harry tilted the vial slowly, watching as the light caught and refracted. He couldn’t have said what, exactly, was keeping him from trying it, any more than he understood what made him ask for it in the first place.
He removed the stopper and took a cautious sniff. It was far less pungent than standard Polyjuice, though not particularly pleasant. It smelled like creamed honey, he decided finally and tasted like cotton. The change was nearly instantaneous and more than a little disconcerting. Instead of putting him in a woman’s body, George’s potion seemed to transform his own features into something more traditionally feminine. As a result, he looked enough like ‘Harry’ that it didn’t feel strange to look in the mirror, the way it had when he was Polyjuiced as Julia. But it’s just different enough, Harry thought, that people wouldn’t expect it to be me – I don’t look like Harry done up as a girl. But if I’d had one, my sister might have looked like this.
His height and frame were the same; despite this, nothing Harry owned seemed to fit properly, and after years of Dudley’s cast offs, Harry was fussy about things fitting. He decided that clothes shopping seemed like a safe first activity; it was a straightforward interaction with straightforward social cues. He was partially right: no one even looked at him twice – not people on the street nor attendants in the shops – but it was more complicated than he’d expected. He hadn't paid attention to how much more variety there was in women's clothing than in men's. As a woman, it was much easier to present an entirely different image of one's self particularly when hair and makeup were taken into consideration. His own unruly mop was generic enough that it didn't look out of place on his female form, but changing it would help divert suspicion.
When he had a break at work, he took advantage of the opportunity to investigate options. Bypassing the most obvious option, the magazines in the hospital lounge, Harry searched through clinical reference books until he found charms for makeup and hair.
He went back to the club twice in the following weeks. He felt sixteen again, stalking Draco Malfoy, but he couldn’t ignore his misgivings about what he and Greg Goyle had been doing there. Greg had to be more intelligent than he’d appeared in school – the fact that Padma Patil had married him would be proof enough of that, even if Harry hadn’t had his own conversations with the man to rely on – but Draco had always been the leader, and he was the one who had disappeared almost entirely from the wizarding world since the war.
The mystery wasn’t as engaging as he’d expected it to be – proof that his career change had been a good idea or possibly just that it was less fun trying to solve it without Ron and Hermione. He certainly wasn't going to ask Hermione and Ron to join him, however: that would require confessing. Despite Hermione's goading him into it the first time, he was certain she wouldn't approve.
Eventually, he had to admit to himself that as much as he wanted to know what Malfoy was up to, he wanted to continue because he enjoyed the disguise – the freedom that came with not having to watch every person, every shadow, looking for hidden reporters or cameras.
The loud club wasn’t really conducive to the sort of socializing he was preferred, however, and fearing a repeat of the incident with the drunk made it that much less comfortable, especially alone. He didn’t see Draco again – which made it even less likely he’d rescue Harry twice – so there wasn’t much point in continuing to go.
When the victims of the Knockturn Alley explosion began arriving at St. Mungo’s in the early hours of Thursday morning, Harry knew there was no chance he’d be finishing his shift on time, and he was right. Four hours after he had been scheduled to leave, Jenouise handed him the next patient file with a sympathetic smile. “This will likely be your last, but it’s a complicated one: an Auror with several broken bones, splattered with Swelling Solution. He’s in examination room three.” Harry knew it wouldn’t be Ron – their friendship was too well known for that, especially when there were multiple Healers on duty, but he was worried now that Ron’s name might be in one of the folders given to one of his colleagues: using Swelling Solution – the cure to which interfered with Skele-Gro – was a favourite weapon of a band of thugs Ron had been chasing recently. Distracted by his thoughts, Harry entered examination room three without reading the file Jenouise had given him. That was a mistake.
He saw Ron and Kingsley, both standing by the bed sporting what appear to be self-bandaged, minor injuries. That was a blessing, but before he could fully absorb his relief that his friend was all right, he realized who his patient was likely to be. “Elliot.”
Elliot Carsey, Ron’s recently assigned Auror partner and Harry’s former lover, didn’t say a word. That could have been because he was in a great deal of pain, of course, but it wasn’t likely: he hadn’t said a word to Harry since he’d accepted that Harry’s decision to quit Auror training had been final.
“Harry.” It was Ron who spoke, when the silence had stretched a bit too long, but Harry had already moved to begin his examination.
Three hours later, Harry was finally able to return the file to Jenouise and leave.
Elliot hadn’t spoken a comprehensible word the entire time, grunting inarticulately when Harry made it clear a response was necessary, and any questions about Elliot’s treatment had come from Kingsley. Unfortunately, the older man had sponsored Harry’s application to the Auror program and had taken his departure personally. He addressed his words to the wall near Harry’s head, making him feel invisible in a way he hadn't since he left the Dursleys'. Ron had stood by awkwardly, obviously torn between the loyalty he owed to his best friend and to partner and boss. Harry had understood, had even sympathized, but it hadn’t made things easier.
By the time he'd returned to his flat, Harry was exhausted, but he was also too keyed up to sleep and desperate for simple social interaction. Under normal circumstances, he would have dropped in on Ron and Hermione; today, Harry swallowed George’s potion, dressed, and left the flat before he’d consciously decided to do so.
He remembered seeing a pub when he’d been exploring the neighbourhood, a week or so after he’d moved in. It wasn’t on the route between his flat and St. Mungo’s or King’s Cross, but it wasn’t far away, and it looked congenial.
It was open, though not terribly crowded – not unexpected as it was early yet for dinner. There was a piano he hadn’t noticed when he’d looked through the window and a corner with comfortable seating and selves of board games.
Harry made his way to the bar, which was tended by an older man with grey hair and twinkling blue eyes. Harry's heart clenched – he still missed Dumbledore – but he smiled warmly and placed his order.
"Haven't seen you here before," he said matter-of-factly as he handed Harry his drink. Harry had no doubt that the man remembered every face that came through.
"I've moved into a flat just around the corner," Harry confided. If he wanted to meet people, he was going to have to get used to being more trusting than he could be as himself. "I was in the mood for a bit of company, and this place looked friendly."
"Do you not have plans for dinner then?" he spoke with exaggerated shock.
Harry shook his head, grinning.
The bartender shook his as well, but mournfully, though his attempt at gravity was belied by the twinkle of his eyes. "That's a shame, lovely girl like you." He patted the end of the bar. "Have a seat then. I don't mind telling you the food's simple but good and hearty." He winked and continued sotto voce, "And I'd say that even if it weren't my Ellie in the kitchen."
He placed a menu on the bar in front of Harry. "Give that a go over, and I'll be back to take your order after I've seen to Clyde." He nodded toward the man who'd just perched on the stool at the other end of the bar.
When the bartender returned to take Harry’s order, he introduced himself as Pete, and Harry panicked for a moment. He hadn’t decided on a name, though it was clear ‘Harry’ wouldn’t be suitable. He’d been fingering the wand sheathed under his sleeve, and said the first thing that came to mind.
“Pleased to meet you, Holly. You've picked a good night to stop in. Mal will be in to play in a bit, and there's quiz night starts at eight." He started talking as he began washing glasses at the sink near Harry. He spoke about the pub he co-owned, about his wife, Eleanor, who worked in the kitchen, about some of the more colourful characters who patronized the pub. Harry’s food arrived, and he was so focussed on not choking with laughter at Pete’s commentary that he was nearly finished before he noticed the music from the piano. Whoever was playing was good – choosing pieces that added to the congenial atmosphere of the place without overpowering it. Harry probably wouldn’t have thought more of it than that if the next song hadn’t been so very disconcerting.
"Something wrong?" Pete asked when he noticed Harry’s brow furrowed in concentration.
Harry shook his head. "Sorry. No, it's the song."
He grinned. "Don't even try to place it. He claims they're not original, but nobody's ever heard them before."
Harry had, though. On the wireless at the Burrow. Unless he was very much mistaken, the pianist was playing Celestina Warbeck's “You Stole My Cauldron but You Can't Have my Heart.”
Harry excused himself, asked for the loo, hoping it would take him past the piano so he would get a decent look at the person playing. Depending on who it was, he might need to find a new retreat.
Pete pointed the way, then asked him to take a drink to Mal on the way.
Even better, Harry thought.
He reached out to put the drink on the coaster on the piano, and found himself unexpectedly looking once again into the grey eyes of Draco Malfoy.
He nearly spilled the drink.
Draco caught it. “Thanks," he said with a flirtatious smile, "But, while I don't mind people falling at my feet in principle, I was hoping to drink it, not wear it." He winked, "And Pete's awfully touchy about his piano."
Two separate sightings of Draco Malfoy in two separate Muggle locations? Harry’s intuition was screaming, and while he knew that wouldn’t be enough for the Aurors to investigate, he thought he might have a way to do it himself. He smiled back. "But you'd protect me, wouldn't you?"
Pete was trying to coax Harry into ordering from the dessert menu when Draco finished playing and sat at the bar next to him.
“The usual for you, Mal?”
Draco nodded. “Please. And her name if you have it.” He tilted his head toward Harry, in case he hadn’t known whom he’d meant, and grinned.
Pete chuckled as he raised the hinged area of the bar – Draco’s usual must include food – “If you can’t manage that yourself, lad, you’re not the man I took you for.”
Harry wished he’d chosen something less like his own name. “Holly.”
Draco blinked but didn’t denounce him as a wizard in disguise.
“You play well.”
“Thank you, though that's more my mother's doing than mine.” He looked as though he was going to continue speaking, but he was approached by one of the other patrons – an older woman who was obviously a regular – and drawn into a conversation. He tried to indicate that Harry would be welcome to join in the conversation, but Harry’s lack of sleep had caught up with him. For that matter, he was too exhausted to be confident he wouldn’t give his suspicions or his identity away. He knew where to find Draco now and could return when he was better able to process information.
When Harry stood, Draco turned from his conversation. “You’re not staying for the pub quiz?”
Harry shook his head. “I'm knackered, and it’s not really my sort of thing.” He had too little in the way of education or experience in either the Muggle or wizarding world to be any good at that sort of thing.
“I’d like to see you again.”
Harry hesitated. Despite his desire to know what was going on, he had a bad, bad feeling about this, one that may have resembled, just slightly, guilt. It had been years since the war, and there’d been no hint that Draco had been involved in anything nefarious. It would be wrong of Harry to say anything but no. Wrong and completely reckless.
“I’d love to.”
Draco smiled, and Harry’s insides squirmed again, though not unpleasantly this time.
“Saturday? I have a commitment in the morning, but perhaps at two? We could meet at the coffee shop across the street? I'm assuming that's convenient for you; if you're not from this area, anywhere you're comfortable.”
Harry had assumed Draco had meant dinner, and it was a surprise – not an unpleasant one – to discover otherwise.
“That would be perfect.”
Draco Malfoy’s idea of a venue for a first date was the zoo.
It was unexpected and brilliant. It allowed them ample opportunity to get to talk, and provided ready topics of conversation should it lag. Harry was surprised to find it didn’t: when he wasn’t talking to Harry Potter, it seemed Draco could be witty and engaging, and Harry nearly forgot why he’d accepted the invitation.
“So what do you do when you’re not playing piano at the pub?”
“I'm a grad student in social work, and I volunteer at a youth centre,” Draco replied, then paused a moment, considering, and waved at the monkeys in front of them, “Which is probably what prompted me to suggest the zoo.”
Harry laughed reflexively, but his curiosity was caught. This was Draco Malfoy. "Why social work?"
Draco narrowed, and Harry realized how that must have sounded. "I didn't mean anything by it. Just that it's not the typical sort ambition one latches onto from childhood nor is it lucrative." He shrugged. "I just thought there might be a story there."
Draco was smiling again, though not so easily as before. "Oh, there is, though it’s probably not suited to a day such as this."
"I'd like to hear it, now or later," Harry invited.
Draco searched Harry's face, looking, Harry supposed, for evidence of sincerity. He seemed to have found it.
"I was the only child of loving, attentive parents, and I had an idyllic childhood. Once I became a teenager, though, things became much more complicated. My father and others had very clear and very high expectations for me, and I came to realize that, no matter how hard I tried, I wouldn't be able to meet them. Even if I wanted to, and I wasn't entirely sure I did.
“Things were particularly bad through my teenage years. I was charged with a variety of crimes, but thanks to the intervention of … certain influential people who had no reason to want to help me, they were fewer and lighter than I deserved. I was lucky, though I never would have admitted it at the time," he said with a rueful smile. “I was required to participate in community service and counselling, both at the Wandsheath Youth Centre. It was a long, frustrating battle for many people, but in the end, it taught me a great deal about becoming someone other than who I was expected to be. I want to do the same for others. Even the ones who act like monkeys.”
Harry, reeling emotionally, was nevertheless able to find a smile. "Especially the monkeys?"
He shrugged elegantly, but his cheeks were tinted pink. "Perhaps."
They had dinner afterwards at a small, family-run Greek restaurant that Harry probably wouldn’t have even noticed on his own.
There had been a few awkward moments: when Draco mentioned Doctor Who, for example, which Harry remembered listening to from his cupboard. (He was pretty sure Vernon only watched it because he thought it would give Harry nightmares.) Draco had looked at him oddly when he admitted he hadn't known it was airing again. Realizing it had likely been well publicized, Harry had explained that he'd spent most of the previous year buried under medical texts – which was largely true. Draco seemed to accept that and suggested they might watch it together.
By the end of the evening, he was certain Draco’s intentions regarding the Muggles weren’t at all nefarious, and he could even understand the reasons living his life largely amongst them might be appealing: the anonymity and possibility of a fresh start certainly weren’t available options in the wizarding world, not for either of them.
Draco walked Harry to his building but refused Harry’s invitation to go upstairs, which was disappointing. Harry may have started the day hunting for information, but it had become – from his perspective at least – a very pleasant date.
When Draco leaned in to give him a light kiss, Harry reconsidered that Draco might have enjoyed it as well.
“I’m playing at Pete’s tomorrow. Will I see you there?”
Guilt held Harry frozen. It hadn’t been a date; he knew that. It had been a day of Harry fishing for information because he was a suspicious bastard. He’d admitted Draco’s story made sense, knew he’d created a life for himself in the Muggle world for good reasons, and there was no reason to prolong the charade.
The only proper thing for Harry to do would be to confess the truth and never use the George’s potion again. Or at least avoid the pub as Holly.
But he didn’t want to spoil the day. He could wait until tomorrow. It was Sunday, so he was expected at the Weasleys' for dinner, but he could leave early and tell him then.
"I wouldn't miss it."
Draco smiled, warmth reaching his eyes, and he leaned in for another kiss.
Harry felt a bit awkward arriving at the pub on Sunday. Draco was already playing, but he looked up though as the door opened, and he seemed genuinely pleased.
Pete had seemed pleased as well. "I hear you spent the day yesterday with our Mal."
Harry nodded. "It was fun."
"I'm glad to hear you had a good time. He's a good man, Mal is." There was a warning in it, and Harry didn't have to look very hard to find it. His stomach squirmed, and he tried to keep the guilt from showing in his face. "I know he is.”
"Good.” He smiled then, and the contrast was pronounced. “Now, what can I get for you this evening?"
When Draco was finished, he approached the bar, pleasure showing in his smile. "You made it," he said, as he moved to sit on the stool next to Harry's. As he settled, he leaned toward Harry, and at the closest natural point, he paused, looking from Harry's eyes to his mouth, and back. Harry smiled a bit, accepting the invitation. Draco placed his hand on Harry’s shoulder, and they leaned in together to share a light, lovely kiss of greeting.
His hand caressed Harry's back as Draco pulled away, and Harry felt his nerves tingling where Draco had touched him for far longer than biology would have explained.
Bantering with Pete, Draco reached for Harry’s hand, and Harry realized he’d been wrong.
It wouldn’t be at all fair to tell Draco in public.
Somehow, the time and place never seemed to be right, and the need to confess became smaller and was buried deeper in the back of Harry’s mind, tucked next to the idea that he should simply walk away.
They visited the British Museum, which Draco thought was a crime he’d never visited, given how close to it he lived. They spent a day explored the Mayor’s Thames festival and watching the Great River Race, which Harry had heard of but had never had the opportunity to see. They browsed more antique markets than Harry knew existed because watching Draco’s face light up when he found a bargain and listening to his scathing commentary about everything else was more fun than Harry could remember having in years.
They talked about how complementary their professions were, and the challenges that came with healing mind and body. They commiserated – guardedly, since they were both keeping secrets –about the pressures of family and expectation. They found common tastes in world politics, in books, in music.
When Harry made certain all evidence of the wizarding world in general and ‘Harry Potter’ specifically were confined to his workroom and charmed the door to be hidden to anyone but himself, just in case, he knew he wasn’t planning to tell Draco anytime soon. It was wrong, he knew, and he couldn’t – didn’t – expect to be able to keep up his double life forever, but he wanted to enjoy it for as long as possible.
Harry hadn’t had a romantic relationship that wasn’t complicated by the war or expectations of who he was or who his partner thought he should be. Draco was interesting and amusing and fun, and Harry was tired of being honourable and sacrificing.
If he was going to be dropped for not being what his partner wanted, well, at least this time it would be his own doing.
And when his heart was broken, >Harry wouldn’t be able to find solace in martyrdom or vengeance.
They’d been out to dinner and a play, the first time Draco accompanied Harry up to his flat.
After pouring wine in the kitchen, Harry picked up the glasses and returned to the front room. Draco hadn't turned on the lights, so it took a moment for Harry to find him, standing at the large window, staring out at the city.
"Lovely, isn't it?" Harry said, passing over a glass.
Draco locked his eyes on Harry's. "Very," he replied, holding his gaze as he sipped.
Harry was flattered, but he knew that he couldn’t compare – in either form – to Draco. He was gorgeous, bathed in moonlight. They stood enjoying each other for a few minutes longer before Draco turned back to the view from the window.
"I don't often take the time to appreciate the city from this perspective."
Given how few wizarding areas were well populated, Harry wondered if he'd ever seen it before from this height. Draco’s own flat, Harry knew, was a on the first floor of a converted townhouse. He hadn't been gaping in the lift the way Ron had, but he hadn't been completely comfortable either.
Harry’s musings were interrupted when Draco took the glass from his hand and placed it next to his own on the window ledge, then placed his hands on Harry’s hips, drawing him closer.
He tasted like Merlot and heat and impossible dreams.
Harry wound his own arms around Draco and enjoyed the contrast of firm muscles under soft cotton before sliding them further up and into Draco’s hair. He let his nails graze lightly along the nape of Draco’s neck, loving the way it made him groan and pull Harry more tightly against him. With one hand on each cheek of Harry’s arse, Draco clenched his fingers, and Harry nearly came apart in the best possible way.
They hadn't been enjoying each other nearly long enough when the chill of the cool night air through the glass of the window and the unforgiving, hard plane of glass behind his head became distractions he could no longer ignore.
He pulled away regretfully, quickly considering the options. He wasn't ready to commit to the offer that would be implied by suggesting they move to his bedroom nor did the confines of the sofa appeal.
He grabbed the blanket folded over the back of the chair next to them, spread it on top of the thick rug, and pulled Draco down with him.
Smart man than he was, Draco was reaching for the buttons of Harry's blouse before he'd fully settled, though he waited for Harry's impatient agreement before he began to undo the buttons.
When he grazed his teeth gently on Harry's nipple, Harry inhaled sharply. Draco looked up to grin wickedly, his eyes dark with desire, and resumed his exploration, planting light, wet kisses randomly down Harry's abdomen, periodically gently blowing air, always moving further down.
His hands explored the way the denim moulded the curve of his arse, teasing fingers following the seams down the outside of his legs and up the inside. Were women’s inner thighs more sensitive than men’s? Harry thought they must be.
Any pretence of rational thought abandoned him when Draco cupped him between the legs. His hand, warm and hard, pressing against the seam of his jeans made unfamiliar muscles clench, others seemed to melt, and Harry gasped.
Draco chuckled, a low, pleased sound, and Harry might not have forgiven him, had he not brought his face up for a kiss. It was deep and languid. He moaned when Draco pulled away to drop kisses along Harry’s jaw – light, fleeting ones and others that were wet, teasing with teeth and tongue – randomly.
Draco’s hand was moving now, rubbing the seam of Harry’s jeans with the heel of his hand, Harry’s awareness narrowed to that one spot and the pleasure that emanated from it. He begged, shamelessly, but Draco continued to tease him mercilessly, bringing him so close to the edge but not over. Desperately needing it to stop, needing to come, he reached down to grab his cock and ended up with his hand wrapped firmly around Draco’s wrist.
Draco lifted his head so it was no longer touching Harry and raised his head so he could see Harry’s face.
"Are you all right? Did I – ?" his voice was soft with concern
Harry smiled, trying to sound reassuring and sincere rather than confused and embarrassed. "Not at all. It’s lovely. I'm - I'm just feeling a little spoiled."
"Are you sure?" His eyes searched Harry's face. "Because we can stop – "
No matter how much Harry knew stopping was the right thing to do, he couldn't bring himself to do so. Most of Draco’s weight was balanced on one arm, so it was easy enough for Harry to push him onto his back. As Holly, his mouth and hands were the same or nearly, and maybe if he didn’t have to think about the differences in his body, it wouldn’t feel as strange. “Very sure,” he said and began to explore Draco’s body as thoroughly as Draco had his.
When he reached Draco’s cock, long and purple and weeping, Harry placed a light kiss on the head. Draco moaned and bucked a little, and Harry knew Draco would react to the grin on his face the same way he had to Draco’s laugh. Harry took the head into his mouth.
Draco gasped in surprise and pleasure both when Harry ran a wet, teasing finger around the edge of his hole, and he came.
When Ron and Hermione announced their engagement to the entire family at once, at Weasley dinner, Harry wasn’t certain whether they were brilliant or quite mad.
"Have you told her parents?" Harry asked Ron.
Hermione was barely visible, engulfed in a hug from Molly that looked as though it might never end and surrounded by a throng of equally enthusiastic future in-laws waiting to do the same.
She had been slowly rebuilding her relationship with her parents after what, from their perspective, had been a gross betrayal. Harry had hoped they'd be able to put their remaining reservations aside and share her joy, but their absence – when they had occasionally attended other Sunday dinners – suggested otherwise.
"Yeah. They're trying to be happy for her, but..." Ron sighed. "They see this as losing her completely to the magical world. I think they'd been hoping she might give it up eventually."
Until recently, Harry wouldn't have been able to consider that as a possibility. What were the problems he had with the wizarding world when he compared them to a life without magic. Now, though, he thought about what his life would be like if he really were Holly and if Draco were a Muggle, and he couldn't be positive he'd never choose to leave.
He didn’t reply with anything but a noncommittal sound that Ron could take as approval if he chose. Watching Hermione being passed from Molly’s arms to Arthur, Harry wasn’t prepared when Ron changed the subject. “How are things with… whoever it is you’re seeing?”
Harry started, and Ron laughed. “Really, Harry? For the last… Since we left Hogwarts, really, you’ve been caught up in school or work to where Hermione has to drag you out. Then out of the blue, you’re nowhere to be found when we try to reach you out of working hours? We hoped that was why. Bird or bloke?”
“Bloke,” Harry admitted reluctantly, but only because he wasn’t sure he was ready to answer the questions that were likely to follow.
But he was talking with Ron, not Hermione, and when he didn’t press, Harry was grateful. “Well, when you wrap your head around it, bring him ‘round. We need to make sure he’s good enough for our Harry."
He wasn’t ‘good enough’; instead, he was far too good, though Ron would dispute that.
It had been weeks since Draco and he had first begun exploring the physical side of their relationship, and Harry still wasn’t comfortable with genital contact. Once the dissonance caught his attention, it would trigger feelings of guilt and betrayal that would overwhelm his desire. Draco noticed, of course, but he was generous in his response, both during sex and afterward. He accepted Harry’s deflection, though he was obviously both concerned and disappointed, and he suggested in carefully chosen words that Harry ought to consider counselling, but when he refused, Draco didn’t press further.
When he was alone, Harry had tried masturbating, hoping that familiarity with his female form would alleviate his reaction. He found it interesting and pleasurable, physically; emotionally, however, it felt like practicing his lies. The guilt was such now that even the thought of touching himself as Holly was enough to kill any hope of arousal.
He didn’t know how to get past it without confessing, which would mean losing Draco all the sooner, and that was the one thing he couldn’t bring himself to risk.
“Draco! What are you doing here?”
Draco froze. He’d hoped to time his visit so that he didn’t run into his best friend; that’s why he’d made his appointment for Monday, when Greg’s schedule was filled with near consecutive meetings. He turned with a smile. “I was in the area and hoped you might be free for lunch.”
“Not on a Monday.” You know that was left unsaid. “I have a few minutes before I meet with Granger, if you want to step in.”
There was no way for Draco to avoid it.
“I was planning to stop by yours this evening actually,” Greg said as he waved Draco toward a chair.
“Oh?” Greg’s tone was too serious for him to have meant a social visit. “Is everything all right? Padma?”
“They’re all fine, Padma and the babies.” Greg reassured him, then spoke bluntly. “You have to stop seeing her.”
Padma? Surely he didn’t think…
"I saw you."
Draco stared at him, still confused.
"Last night, my sister Zari was visiting with Padma, and the two of them decided I needed a break. I went down to that pub of yours, thought we could have a drink after you finished. I saw you with her. You have to end it, Draco."
“Why in the name of Macha and Nemain would you– ” Draco cut himself off. “You don’t even know her!”
"Does she know she's virtually the twin of your long-standing unrequited crush?"
“This has nothing to do with Harry Fucking Potter.” If his former rival weren’t Padma’s Healer, Draco was sure he wouldn’t have even thought of him in months! He was willing to admit – to himself – that he may have, when he first met Holly, thought her smile looked familiar, but it had long ceased to remind him of anyone but her. “I think I love her, Greg. Holly– ”
“‘Holly’?” Greg repeated incredulously. “That's convenient. Makes it easy enough to convince her it was a slip of the tongue, yeah? 'No, really, darling, you must have mis – " He stopped speaking abruptly; most do with a wand pointed at their throats.
It hadn’t been a conscious move on Draco’s part, and when he realized what he’d done, he stepped back. Greg was staring at him in shock, so Draco confessed the one thing he thought might convince him Draco was serious and not out of his mind.
“I'm here to look into marriage regulations... and adoption.”
“Marriage?” Greg knew as well as he himself did the Malfoy expectations, so Draco knew it was the thought of Draco marrying a Muggle that had him so stunned. "Adoption?! You mean, to guarantee a magical child?”
Draco choked. "Will it convince you that I'm serious if I tell you that hadn't even crossed my mind? She – she hasn't confided in me yet, but it's obvious she's uncomfortable with... that aspect of our relationship.”
In the weeks since the night in Holly’s flat when they’d first moved toward... ‘penetrative’ sounded so clinical, but he refused to belittle what they'd already shared and call it 'real' sex, they hadn’t gone further. Holly seemed to be as enthusiastic as Draco, but she would inevitably tense if Draco touched or even referred to her genitalia.
But if she wasn’t comfortable enough speaking about it with Draco, she certainly wouldn’t want it shared with someone she still hadn’t met. “I think she may have experienced... something traumatic. I want us to... have options."
Draco looked at Greg, hoping to find the calm, steady gaze that had always convinced Draco he could do anything. Instead, he was pretty certain the other man was thinking the same thing he was, though probably for different reasons..
After the longest shift he’d ever worked, Harry was feeling like he’d been the bludger in a match between hippogriffs and dementors when he finally left St. Mungo’s with orders not to return until Monday. He’d been at the hospital for four days straight, fighting – unsuccessfully, as it happened – to save the life of a wizard whose body was being consumed by his own magic. Harry had caught naps when he could, but there’d been few of them and each too short. By rights, he should be snug in his bed and dead to the world. As it was, he already regretted his decision not to take Pepper Up before leaving: his head was pounding. He hadn’t, though, not knowing how it would interact with the sex-change potion, and he, more than anything, didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see Draco for the first time in days.
By the time he arrived at the pub, Draco had finished playing, but he wasn’t in his usual spot at the end of the bar. When asked, Pete directed him to a booth at the back. He looked like he wanted to add something, but he was called away before he found the words.
Harry thought he might know what it would have been, when he saw the people sitting on either side of Draco.
“Holly,” Draco’s tone was pleased, at least, even if he couldn’t reach him, "Have a seat."
"Yes, please, do join us." It was the man who spoke, a handsome brunette in a suit that even Harry could tell was bespoke, and he waved a hand to indicate the seat on the bench opposite, next to the woman. She was equally over-dressed, but she had a warm, friendly grin that the man lacked.
“Holly, this is Claire and her brother, Trent.”
That told Harry absolutely nothing, but he smiled as best he could. “I’m pleased to meet you.” He wasn’t certain anyone actually heard, since Trent spoke at the same time.
“Not simply that, surely.”
Claire giggled and turned to Harry. “Have you known Mal long? We’ve been friends for ages and he’s not mentioned you.”
Before Harry could respond, she kept talking, explaining how she’d met Draco at an estate auction years ago and introduced him to Trent and recounting numerous tales of their friendship. Harry would have felt guilty for not holding up his share of the conversation, but Claire talked enough for all three of them. Which was for the good, really, since Trent and Draco didn’t participate either, at least not with the table generally. Any time Trent spoke, it was to Draco alone, so quietly no one else could hear. Draco had the grace to smile at Harry apologetically one in a while, but he didn’t deliver the scathing rebuke Harry expected.
"Are you all right?" Draco asked, when Trent was distracted by the waitress.
"I’m fine, Mal," Harry twisted his mouth into what he hoped was a smile and not a grimace. "Just a headache."
“I have paracetamol if you’d like?” Claire offered helpfully.
He couldn’t take Muggle medications, not if he was going to take a potion as soon as he returned home and certainly not as Holly. "Thank you, but I'm allergic."
"I might have –" She didn’t finish the sentence, distracted with rummaging through her bag.
Harry stopped her. "Actually, I'm allergic to pretty much everything."
"You poor thing! I have a friend who...." She went off again, and Harry tried to listen politely, but he didn’t manage much more than wordless noises of encouragement; even nods were too painful to waste. When asked, he ordered food. He wasn’t the slightest bit hungry, but it might help.
It didn’t. Rather than getting better, the food making him nauseous. Coupled with the pounding in his head, it was too much to bear. As much as he hated the thought of it, he was going to have to head back to his flat.
He was pleased when Draco offered to walk him home and gratified when, in the face of Trent’s cajoling, he insisted.
Draco hadn’t been so grateful for an escape since the end of the war. It wasn’t fair, of course – Trent had been the injured party in their break up, and, under other circumstances, he would have been delighted to have Trent appear ready to forgive him and attempt to salvage their friendship and possibly more. Unfortunately, between the newness of his relationship with Holly and, if he were being honest with himself, Greg’s accusations, the timing was rather bad.
He could just imagine explaining it to Holly.
’You’ve nothing to worry about: I broke it off when it became patently obvious, even to me, that I was using him as a substitute in a substitute as I tried to live out a childhood fantasy.’
’And what did they have in common, Mal, Trent and your childhood crush?’ Draco imagined her tone to be teasing..
‘A lot of physical features – slight stature, dark hair, delicate build, though they were very different in personality. Trent was very reserved; Harry was more like you, I think.’
With his luck, she’d walk out before he could explain that he didn’t know, for sure, since Harry and he had communicated only in schoolboy taunts and desperate situations: they hadn’t known each other. If they had, and if Harry had been half as suited to Draco as Holly was, Draco would have been happy dating him.
Now, though, he couldn’t imagine choosing anyone over Holly.
He was happy to help, simply to be with her, even under these circumstances. He wondered if Greg would believe he loved her, if he heard that.
Holly was violently ill for longer than Draco thought reasonable, and he tried to convince her to let him take her to the hospital or consult a medical professional. She pointed out rather sharply that she was a medical professional, and it was a perfectly normal illness, however unpleasant.
So Draco held her hair, rubbed her shoulders, and dampened cloths. She kept trying to convince Draco to leave, but her protests were feeble at best, and she didn’t have the strength to sit upright on her own. When it appeared things had settled enough that she could move, Draco helped her change and settle into bed. When he suggested he could leave her to sleep, she agreed with such reluctance that he offered to stay. That, she accepted readily.
They talked a bit, though her words slurred, and she was drifting in and out of consciousness. Either way, he enjoyed holding her.
"You're a hero," she mumbled.
He laughed lightly, careful not to jostle her too much. “Hardly.”
"You are,” she insisted as firmly as someone could when she was nearly asleep. “It's what made me interested."
"You being a hero. It was unexpected."
That didn't make any sense, unless he was talking about their flirty over the drink she'd nearly spilled on Pete's piano. He didn't think she was. "When was that?" he asked, trying to keep tension out of his tone and his body.
"You know, with the guy in the bar. The first night we really met." She shifted to a more comfortable position and settled in to sleep.
He kissed her temple and lay holding her ... for what he was afraid might be the last time.
When Harry joined Draco in the kitchen the following morning, Draco spoke softly. "How are you feeling?"
"Much better." Thanks to the Potion Harry was finally alone long enough to take, though that didn't lessen the gallantry of Draco's behaviour the night before. "Thank you for taking care of me."
“I was happy to do it.” Draco smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. "We have to talk."
Harry sat: Draco's tone made it obvious it would be that sort of discussion. He wondered why Draco had bothered leave the pub with him, let alone spend the night nursing him if he intended to break it off.
"How much do you remember about last night?"
Nothing that would warrant a talk. "Not much after we left the pub besides vomiting." The memory was enough to make his stomach roll again.
Draco nodded, then stared at Harry silently for several minutes. Harry waited impatiently for Draco to find the words he needed. When he did finally begin speaking, his words were hesitant and not what Harry expected.
“You mentioned meeting me at a club, called me a hero.” Harry could feel the blood drain from his face. Draco nodded slowly and continued with more confidence. “There’s only one incident I can think of that would qualify, and she didn’t look like you.”
Even if Harry had wanted to deny it, he knew his panicked expression had given him away, and he confessed that, using Polyjuice, he’d been the woman Draco had rescued. Before he could decide how to explain the greater of his transgressions, Draco was looking for other answers.
"You’re magical, obviously." Harry nodded. "Who are you? You’re certainly not from Britain, not from Hogwarts, at least. I’d have recognized you.”
“I did go to Hogwarts. This isn’t my true form either,” Harry admitted, answering the easier questions first.
"Don't. Lie. To me." Draco had to bite out each of the words, and it was then that Harry realized that his hand was hovering near where his wand had to be sheathed.
“I’m not.” He assured Draco earnestly. “It’s experimental, a revised formula.” Which was true in principle for as far as it went. When he tried to explain further, he found himself unable to push sound past the lump in his throat.
"Do you know who I am?" Draco asked abruptly.
Harry nodded, still unable to speak.
"Then why?" He waved a hand between the two of them. There weren’t many in the wizarding world who would have done such a thing with honourable intentions – Not even the great Harry Potter, Harry thought derisively – and Draco knew that, so it was little wonder he’d asked that first. He moved for his wand again, and Harry’s vocal chords were finally functional.
"Because you weren't what I expected in the club. Because I wanted to know who you were." Off Draco's sceptical look, he admitted the less ethical reason. "Yes, because I was suspicious, given your family history." Draco flinched, and Harry reached out to him. His heart ached when Draco stepped back so Harry couldn’t touch him. "But it took no time at all to be certain that you didn’t have nefarious plots, that you enjoy the anonymity or at least the lack of expectation." Like I do. "Mostly because I like who you are.”
“Why didn't you tell me?” He asked with less anger and more hurt. “Holly, it's been months.”
“I was scared. I was so scared of losing this."
Draco’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “You know I'm magical,” he said, working his way through the problem aloud, “You know I've moved beyond the blood-prejudice I was raised with – you know that, right?”
“Yes!” Harry put every bit of conviction he had into his reply. Even if Draco disregarded everything else Harry said, he had to believe this. “Draco, of course, I know that.” He reached out faster than Draco expected and caught his arm. “I do.”
Draco nodded once, then pulled away. “Who are you?” He asked bluntly.
And Harry knew it was over. He nodded in acceptance of that, closed his eyes and took a deep, bracing breath, then opened his eyes and mouth to respond.
“Wait.” Draco watched Harry carefully for several moments, and Harry wondered what he was trying to find. “It’s a simple question, yet you're terrified. That makes me terrified." The way his tone lightened between the two sentences gave Harry hope, but he wasn’t prepared for what Draco said next. “I trust you. And I'm willing to wait until you can trust me to find out."
Draco was true to his word: he didn't push for answers when Harry sidestepped them, though he looked, and he did his best not to make Harry feel like a mystery he was attempting to solve.
Harry felt overly self-conscious anyway.
With magic and the wizarding world no longer secrets between them, Draco was eager to include them in in their activities -- shopping in Diagon Alley, a Quidditch match, a visit to Malfoy Manor to meet his parents. He had mentioned doing research in the Muggle Relations office, ‘for the future,’ so Harry had a very good idea what that would mean. Keeping his identity from Draco who cared for Holly and hoped they could salvage their relationship as much as Harry did when the truth was known was one thing; keeping it from the very shrewd and very protective parents of his boyfriend was another thing altogether.
It was particularly uncomfortable because Harry couldn’t explain why he was so set against going, and Draco assumed it was because they had been Death Eaters. The argument was derailed when Harry began choking after Draco yelled that they may have done terrible things, but they were his parents, and more importantly, they loved him, and even Harry Potter admitted it was true.
In a compromise, Harry had agreed to attend the pub quiz night with Draco, though he’d been little help to their team. Draco had spent much of the night trying not to seem as though he were watching Harry, so he was unsurprised when Draco suggested playing a wizarding world trivia game a few days later. Afterwards, Draco had commented that Harry ‘seemed to have had no upbringing whatsoever.’
It was awkward and a bit tense in between the moment in which they forgot it mattered. There was no way it could last.
And it didn’t.
When Draco called to see if he could stop by, Harry suspected.
When he opened the door and saw Draco, he knew.
He held it wide so Draco could enter, neither expecting a kiss nor getting one, though Draco surprised him by hanging his jacket. Assuming that meant he intended to stay for at least a short while, and to give his hands something to do, he offered to make tea; he had poured the hot water over the leaves before Draco spoke.
“I don't know who you are.”
Harry nodded. “I know.”
“I’m not talking about the name you were born with.” Draco said impatiently. “I’m talking about who you are. We've talked about various forms of entertainment, current events, any number of things that take place out there.” He waved, a grand gesture that encompassed, the door, the window, and everything else. “What you haven't done is tell me about you: your childhood, your life experiences, your ambitions.”
“But you said it didn’t matter, that you were willing to wait.”
“I said I didn't need to know your name, and that's true. But what accomplishment are you most proud of? What are your friends and family like? Where have you travelled? These are all questions that can be answered without even hinting at your name.”
They weren’t, but Harry couldn’t explain that without revealing everything.
“You told me you studied medicine and that you hadn't yet chosen a field. Was that simply to avoid questions about medical technology or to avoid discussing magic?” Draco sighed, and it was a defeated sound. “Was any of it true at all?”
“Of course, it was.”
“There’s no ‘of course’ about it. I don’t see how anyone with medical training could ignore obvious trauma–”
“I haven’t been traumatized! If this is about your cock– “
“Holly! It’s not about what sort of sex we have! If you didn’t want it, that would be fine. But it’s clear that you do, until you don’t, then you pull away, and you won’t explain why. I don’t know what it is I’ve done or haven’t done, and you won’t tell me. I’m terrified of what’s happened to you.”
“Nothing’s happened to me, not like you mean,” Harry replied emphatically.
“Then why do you shut down?”
There was no answer Harry could give, so he said nothing.
“And that’s the problem. I know you’re not ready to tell me everything, and that’s fine. But you shut me out of everything. Who you are. You don’t have to introduce me to your friends, your family, but you don’t even talk about them.”
Draco pushed up from his chair and walked to the door.
“You’re nothing but a golem, created by that damned potion of yours and just as substantial. I can’t live like that anymore.” He left without saying another word.
The closing of the door seemed to echo, though Draco hadn’t slammed it, and Harry stood to clear the cups. They’re still warm, Harry thought incongruously.
He didn’t notice the tears running down his face.
It was the first time in a very long while that Harry was able to spend the afternoon at the Burrow with no mixed feelings whatsoever. There was no resentment that he had to make an appearance before escaping to Holly and the pub. No guilt for that resentment, nor the double life he was leading – had been leading.
He was still extremely guilty about what he'd done to Draco, and he was miserable, but each of those was a separate issue, and they could be soothed by home and family.
Not that the Burrow was particularly soothing today – they were gathered not only for the weekly dinner but also for Bill’s birthday, Charlie had just arrived home for a month-long visit, and Molly was ecstatic to have nearly the entire family together again. Ginny was still on tour of course, but she'd be home for Christmas.
In her honour and because they were Weasleys, an impromptu Quidditch match was taking place on the back field. Harry was playing Seeker, which was the only reason he saw it. As it was, he was nearly too late.
Victoire was clearly her father's daughter, and she'd also inherited the twin's capacity for mischief and Ginny's fierce independence. She’d broken the locks on the shed, retrieved an old broom and was flying toward them. Unfortunately, the broom – two decades old at least – was no longer capable of the speed or the height she was asking from it.
Abandoning the game, Harry flew toward her; Charlie, obviously assuming he’d spotted the snitch, was quick to follow and even quicker to see the danger. Victoire decided she didn’t want to be caught, and she banked sharply, or tried to. She tilted precariously for precious seconds before losing her grip entirely.
There was no way Harry could have caught her, not at that speed or from that distance, but it didn’t stop him or Charlie from trying. Their combined power may have slowed her descent, but they couldn’t do anything to prevent her from landing in Molly’s thornguard hedge.
It was a very bad landing, Harry could tell when he reached the ground; she had a broken leg at least, and a great many scrapes and splinters. He didn’t think any of the branches had pierced her dangerously, but he wasn’t able to tell for certain: the family members crowding around her made it impossible to see. He tried to move through them, tried to get their attention, but no one was listening to him; they seemed to have forgotten he was a healer.
He was about to scream in frustration – it might be enough to get their attention – when a piercing whistle broke through the din. “Oi!” Ron was using his Auror voice, the one Harry should have stayed in training long enough to learn. “Let Harry work. What do you need, mate?”
Harry issued orders to each of them according to their individual temperaments. Really, what he most needed from them was space and for them not to stare; the easiest way to ensure that was to move most of them somewhere else. He did keep Ron nearby however, in case his voice was needed again.
By the time the various members of the family had returned with the blankets and other things he’d requested them, Victoire was feeling comfortable, certainly well enough to listen to the lectures her parents and grandmother were calm enough to deliver now that the panic had passed.
“You’re good at that,” Ron said when they were finally alone.
Harry looked at him quizzically, and Ron gestured back at the crow surrounding Victoire. Uncertain exactly what he meant, Harry kept his response simple. “Thanks.”
“I mean it,” Ron added earnestly, “and not just Victoire and the family, but Elliot and Kingsley and me…. Not just the healing but the dealing with people as well.”
“I like healing better, but it takes both.” He smiled at Ron. “Just like being an Auror in that.”
Ron made a face – dealing with hysterical witnesses and family of victims was his least favourite part of his job, and Harry knew it. “But you’re happy. Healing.”
“Yes. I am.” Harry was grateful that he finally understood that.
Harry felt the tiniest bit of his heart start to knit back together. It was a different kind of love, but a healing sort all the same. When Ron decided it was time to rescue his niece – and his stomach – by reminding Molly that she hadn’t yet served dessert, Harry decided it was time to get another difficult conversation out of the way. George had been trying to catch Harry alone for weeks now, and he’d been avoiding it long enough.
He found the other man coming back from the shed, where he’d been returning the abandoned brooms, and asked him to stop. “About the potion…” Harry began hesitantly.
“What about it?” George replied guardedly.
“I think, with a timed reversal, it has product potential. Without it….” Harry let out a deep breath.
“Without it, I think there are benefits, particularly in medicine, but… it needs to be a controlled substance.”
“Thank Merlin!” George said, much to Harry’s surprise. He reached over to give Harry a brief but heartfelt hug. “I was scared you were going to ask for more. The papers are already filled out; I’ll file them in the morning.” He moved toward the table where Molly was distributing plates and clapped Harry on the back as he went. “Good man.”
“What does it do?” Ron asked quietly.
Harry hadn’t seen him approach but wasn’t surprised. He explained about the potion itself but couldn’t bring himself to admit what he’d done with it. It turned out to be unnecessary.
“Your bloke found out, did he?”
Harry nodded, and it took a moment before he could force the words out. “He knows I’m magical, that it was a potion. Not that I’m me.”
“Bloody hell, Harry. You have a talent for getting yourself into the strangest scrapes; you’d think I’d
be used to it by now. What are you going to do about it?”
“Useless you are,” was Ron’s opinion of that. “If you do nothing, you’ve lost him for certain. Tell him, and you’ve at least a chance at keeping him.”
Harry barked a laugh. If only Ron knew. “There’s no way–”
“There’s no way to know unless you try.” Ron’s face contorted for a moment, as though he’d sucked on a lemon. “Besides, Malfoy’s been in love with you for years.”
Harry stared at him dumbstruck, and Ron laughed. “I am an Auror, highly trained in observation and investigation.”
Harry might have accepted that as the reason – it was true, after all – but he knew his best friend too well. Faced with Harry’s disbelieving stare, Ron capitulated. “Hermione may have overheard him talking to Goyle in the Muggle Relations office, figured it out, and mentioned it to me. A few times. But I was only spelled stuck to the floor the first time.”
It had taken nearly a week for Harry to decide Ron was right and to work up the courage to contact Draco, but he had. Harry raised a hand to ring the bell to Draco’s flat, trying to project more confidence than he felt.
Even before he pressed it, the door opened and Draco appeared wearing a coat and scarf, obviously on his way out.
“Holly.” Draco sounded as though he’d discovered the temperature outside to be off from the forecast by exactly one degree.
“Hi. May I come in?” He braced himself for a sarcastic retort.
Draco looked as though he were considering it, but he simply nodded and held open the door. This time, when they entered the flat, he didn’t take off his jacket, so Harry got straight to the point. “You were right.”
“Yes, I was.”
He didn’t say anything else, and Harry knew that he wouldn’t. Draco had given Harry his conditions, and it was up to Harry to meet them if he wanted this chance. “I’m not a woman. That’s what the potion does, transforms you into the opposite sex. So, it wasn’t trauma; it was mostly guilt.”
Draco nodded, then gestured toward the door. “Let’s go.”
It was better than ’get out,’ but Harry was disappointed. Draco stopped him before he reached the door, however. “Do you have gloves?” Harry checked his pockets then shook his head. “No. Why?”
Draco rummaged through a bin in the cupboard and emerged with a pair of sturdy gloves. “You’ll want these. It’s uncomfortable carrying branches without them.”
Harry stared at Draco, very confused, and Draco laughed.
“I said I was willing to wait to hear your name, and I am. I’m also willing to wait for the rest of the details of your life. I just need you to be willing to share those details as they become relevant.” He gave Harry the sort of light, quick kiss he usually reserved for greetings but came back quickly for a second, and this one was long and deep.
“Come on,” Draco said, trying for the breezy tone he’d been using earlier but too breathless to pull it off. “If we don’t leave soon, all the best trees will be sold.”
Draco put Harry in charge of setting out the branches they’d brought to lay out on the mantle and tables in the sitting room, while he started organizing the ornaments for the tree. Harry didn’t think anything of it, until Draco asked, in a very odd tone, what his colour was.
He turned to find Draco pouting with a yellow glass ball in one hand and a green one in the other. The red and the blue were still in the box beside him. Harry laughed. “You think I was in Hufflepuff?”
“You mean you weren’t?”
“Draco!” The Floo flared, and Greg’s head appeared. “Thank Merlin you’re there!”
Draco had put the ornaments down and had his head in the fireplace before he’d finished speaking. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s Padma. She’s in pain – we think it’s labour, and no one can find Potter.”
Harry instinctively reached for his message mirror and realized with horror that he’d left it at his flat.
“I convinced her to let me bring her to St. Mungo’s, but she’s got it into her head that if Potter’s not here they won’t make it.” Greg wiped a hand over his face. “It’s too early, Draco.”
“Go to your wife. I’ll be there in a minute.” Greg closed the connection without saying another word, and Draco turned to Harry.
“I have to go. You can stay, if you want, or I can–”
“I’m going with you.”
“Draco.” Harry caught Draco’s gaze and held it, speaking deliberately. “I’m going with you.” He caught the watch strap and released his wand, touching the tip to his throat. “Vera forma.” He felt Holly melt away and stood, for the first time, facing his boyfriend as Harry Potter.
Draco’s face was expressionless and told Harry even less than his perfectly even words. “After you,” he said, and made a sweeping gesture towards the fireplace.
Grateful that the jeans and jumper he’d been wearing were sufficiently unisex that he wouldn’t cause a stir at the hospital, Harry stepped into the fireplace.
The babies were small, but not dangerously so, with all the requisite parts functioning as they should.
Paperwork completed but for their names, Harry checked which room Padma had been assigned.
Draco, seated next to the bed, one of the babies asleep in his arms, Padma on the bed, cradling the other. Greg stood next to her, looking a bit overwhelmed.
“Thank you, Harry.”
“You did all the work. I’m just grateful I was able to be there to help.”
“We have a favour to ask.”
“We’d like you to be godfather to this little one.” Padma indicated the baby she held.
“God, Padma, that’s not a favour, that’s… an honour. I’d be honoured. Thank you.” Harry reached out to touch the cap on her head. “Does she have a name?”
Padma looked up at Greg, and they both smiled. “It’s a tradition in my family,” Greg said, “that children are named for their godparents.” Harry tried to contain his grimace, but Padma, Greg, and even Draco laughed. “Exactly,” Padma continued, “Not only will there be a record number of Harrys and Harriets at Hogwarts in ten years, I know you hate it. So we’d like you to name her.”
Harry tried to think of something meaningful and appropriate.
Padma gave him a watery smile, and Greg nodded.
Harry pulled out a quill to enter the names on the birth certificates.
Helena Parvati and Holly Zaria.
He started slightly when Greg spoke the second and directed a sidelong glance at Draco. If Draco had named his goddaughter – and his small smile and the name itself suggested he had, then maybe things weren’t so bleak after all.
"I have to cancel; I'm sorry." It would have been the first time seeing each other since the hospital. Draco had called him a couple of days after their goddaughters were born; it had been a brief, awkward conversation, but when it ended, they’d agreed to meet. It wasn’t supposed to be more than coffee, but ‘sorry’ didn’t begin to cover the regret he felt. “Andromeda needs me to babysit Teddy. I would have refused, but he’s ill, and she had him through the Floo before I could say anything.”
There was a long silence, and Harry grew very nervous. He was surprised, however, by Draco’s response. “Perhaps I could meet you there?”
Teddy was buried under blankets on the sofa reading quietly when the knock sounded. Harry took a deep breath before drying his hands on a towel and another before opening the door.
It wasn't the warm smile he would have received as Holly, nor the slight sneer he usually directed at Harry, and his eyes were serious but not cold.
"Hello." Harry said, somewhat belatedly. "Please come in."
The corner of his lip twitched, and he stepped in, but before Harry could offer to take his coat, his arms were pulling Harry close, his lips were on Harry's, and Harry was trying desperately not to cry. It wasn't anything but a gentle, quick kiss of greeting, but it was more than Harry had hoped for and more than he deserved.
"Hello," he said again, smiling warmly.
"Hello," Draco replied, and if his smile hinted at a smirk, well, he was Draco Malfoy.
"Are you Harry's boyfriend?"
Teddy had left his cocoon and was staring at them from the door to the sitting room.
Before Harry could think of an answer, Draco spoke. "Yes, I am." He turned back to Harry to see his reaction – a bright grin – before addressing Teddy again. "My name is Draco."
"I have a cousin named Draco."
Draco looked to Harry, before replying as though he were looking for permission to tell the truth.
"Well, that's a coincidence; I have a cousin named Teddy."
Teddy pulled a face at Draco's teasing. "Are you my cousin Draco?"
“Yes, I am. It’s very nice to meet you.” Teddy extended a small, slightly sticky hand, and Draco shook it.
The ritual of good manners that his grandmother insisted upon completed, Teddy had more questions. “How come I haven’t met you before?”
“There were a number of reasons – grown-up reasons,” he added when Teddy was going to interrupt and press for more detail, “why I wasn’t here. But I think we’re going to try to change that.”