For Love of a Family

~~

“There’s no vocabulary For love within a family, love that’s lived in But not looked at, love within the light of which All else is seen, the love within which All other love finds speech. This love is silent.”

—TS Eliot

::1::

A loud bang echoed through the room, drumming against Harry’s ears and rousing him from sleep. He rubbed his sleepy eyes and sat up in bed, reaching to the nearby night table for his glasses. Normally, he liked to sleep in on a Saturday, but Draco had other ideas. He took in his surroundings and sighed. The left side of the bed, Draco’s side, was untouched. Last night, Harry had tucked himself into bed and not disturbed the other half. It wasn’t unusual for Draco to rise obscenely early on the weekends. Harry was certain that Draco was a masochist and perhaps even a touch insane. He had suspected that Draco would sleep on the couch again and avoid him. As much as he hoped to be wrong, the proof stared him in the face.

Harry shook his head and dragged himself out of bed, brushing his hand against the cool side of the bed, wishing it were warm. Harry knew that his relationship with Draco wasn’t real—that it was a farce for the Ministry’s sake. But that didn’t make his feelings any less real. His heart clenched every time he noticed how far Draco continued to pull away. Apparently, just the thought of having to share a bed with Harry repulsed him.

He made the bed, straightening out the sheets in the way that Draco had showed him, and then stood up straight, reaching his arms behind his back and stretching. Although Draco’s bed was one of the most comfortable beds he’d slept in ages, if not ever, he wasn’t used to sleeping on such a soft mattress. Sometimes, his back muscles protested. Perhaps it was from stress.

After alleviating his aching back, Harry put on his slippers and examined his appearance in the full-length mirror. For a bloke who claimed he didn’t have time to care about his appearance anymore, Draco seemed to have a mirror in every room of his house. Frowning, Harry ran a hand through his sleep-tousled hair and tried to flatten it. Half of his hair was standing on end as if he had rubbed a giant balloon against it. His fussing with it only seemed to make it stand up more.

He shrugged; his hair was less than cooperative after a long shower and Draco’s special conditioning treatments. In the morning, his hair appeared to be as grumpy he was. Oh well, Harry thought. It’s not like Draco even wants to be in the same room with me. It’s doubtful he’ll even notice my hair.

: : :

“Potter? Is that you? Get your arse in here.”

Harry yawned. With his hands rumpled in his dressing gown, he shuffled down the hallway and toward the living room where Draco was waiting for him.

“What?” He stifled another yawn. “Why are you yelling at this god forsaken hour?”

Draco blanched. “Are you kidding me, Potter? It’s 8.35!” He widened his eyes and cupped his hands behind his neck, elbows pointing outward. “Don’t tell me you forgot what day it is?”

Harry sighed. He did not want to argue with Draco so early in the morning, especially since arguing was all they did lately. Sure, Harry knew this marriage of theirs wasn’t real—that it was two adults and a child playing house—but a part of him had hoped that they would grow closer and not bicker at each other’s throats like children.

“Of course, I haven’t forgotten,” he said, keeping his voice even. “That lady from the Ministry is coming today for an inspection.”

Draco threw his hands in the air. “A lady? You mean Agent Rebecca Summers, Head of the Department of Family and Social affairs.”

Harry shrugged. “Yeah, that’s the one. The social worker.” He ignored Draco’s dirty look and sat himself on the couch. “The meeting isn’t until 11. We have plenty of time. Why don’t you relax? It won’t kill you.”

“I don’t want to relax, Potter! You’ve been no bloody help at all.”

Harry bit down on his lip and regarded Draco closely. Draco had always been attractive. Even when he was the biggest prat to walk the planet back at Hogwarts, he was still a gorgeous annoying prat. He had always been immaculate and fastidious about his appearance, always put together without a hair out of place.

In the past few years, Draco lost some of that fastidiousness, at least when it came to clothing, preferring to dress for comfort rather than fashion. He claimed that single fathers and Healers had more pressing matters to deal with than keeping up with the latest fashion trends. Usually, he strolled around in his oversized Healer’s robes, and if not, he seemed to adapt a more casual style of jeans and a jumper.

Harry loved this more down to earth and simplified Draco. But he might have to eat his words.

This morning, Draco dressed in a grey striped button-down shirt and a fitted pair of black trousers. A crimson red tie hung around his neck, and his chin length hair that he usually kept tied behind his neck fell in loose layers around his face, softening his angular features. He was breathtaking. Without realising it, Harry must have opened his mouth, causing Draco to narrow his eyes and scowl.

“Not one word about my tie, Potter.”

The intensity in Draco’s glare disturbed him. That look was too familiar. It brought him back to their school days when Harry found himself on the wrong side of Malfoy’s wand more times than he’d like to admit.

“I wasn’t,” Harry lied. “I didn’t even notice.” He offered Draco an innocent smile. “I think you look nice.” Nice was an understatement. The truth was Harry wanted to bend Draco over the couch and fuck him right there. He couldn’t actually say that. But damn, did Draco look good in red.

Draco softened his glare but still regarded Harry coolly, as if he were deciding whether Harry was joking or not. “Thank you,” he said, after several seconds.

“You’re welcome.” Harry continued to stare at Draco, smile on his face, until he noticed a faint shade of pink spread down Draco’s cheeks. For someone so gorgeous, Draco didn’t know how to take a compliment.

As he widened his smile, Draco turned away from him, and Harry felt saddened by the loss of contact. That short conversation about Draco’s tie was the most civil conversation they’d had in days. Even though he looked delectable in his outfit, Harry knew that Draco was stressed. Dark shadows hung under his eyes, which were bloodshot and heavy-lidded. Harry wondered if he had slept at all.

“What time did you get up?” Harry asked, trying to keep the concern out of his voice.

The scowl returned to Draco’s face, his lips pressed into a thin line and his brow creased. “At six, Potter,” he snapped. “I apologise for disturbing your beauty sleep, but today is a rather important day for some of us. Not all of us can rely on our—” he puckered his lips and stared at Harry as if deciding what type of insult he wanted to spew, “charm, to get us through life.”

“Right.” Harry fidgeted with the string on his pyjama bottoms. “You could have woken me up. I wouldn’t have minded.”

Draco snorted. “Oh yes, you’re such a morning person, Potter. Spare me.”

Harry blushed. “Well, no, but I still would have got up. For-for Scorpius.”

Draco blinked and looked away. “Well, you better get ready then before the little monster comes storming in here and sees you. You only have—”

“Three bloody hours to get ready. How will I ever manage?” Harry attempted to raise an eyebrow and smirk, mocking Draco with his favourite expression.

Draco was not impressed. “Stop that.” He sniffed. “You look ridiculous. Now go get dressed. I’ve already picked out your outfit. It’s hanging on the back door of the closet.”

Harry raised an eyebrow again.

“What? You actually think I’m going to trust you with something this important, Potter.”

Harry frowned but didn’t respond.

“Besides, if this is supposed to be real, no bloody husband of mine would ever be caught dead in,” he wrinkled his nose in disgust and gestured at Harry’s outfit, “whatever that is. Now, go and change.”

Harry opened his mouth to protest. Really, Draco had no business criticising his choice of pyjamas not when Harry had seen him sleep in an oversized tee shirt that said “Number 1 Dad” just days earlier. Then he noticed the deep creases in Draco’s brow, the worry lines that were starting to etch themselves into his forehead. Draco was too young for those lines. He had an overabundance of stress in his life. It wasn’t fair for Harry to add to it.

“Fine.” Harry grumbled, avoiding Draco’s eyes. “But first I’m going to need some coffee.”

: : :

Three extremely weak cups of coffee later, Harry found himself back in what he was starting to think of as his bedroom since Draco never seemed to sleep there. His head still throbbed from all the orders Draco had barked at him, but he decided to let his aggravation slide, believing that Draco was just concerned about his son. Harry was about to plop down on the bed for a quick rest when he realised that there was a large bump underneath the covers that hadn’t been there earlier. He was certain that the bump was indeed a miniature Malfoy since it was round and squirming, yet he decided to play along for Scorpius’ sake.

“What do we have here?” Harry asked, clearly amused. He scooted to the end of the bed and poked the lump with his index finger. “I have no idea what that could be. But it sure is squishy.” He gave the child-shaped lump another poke. “And warm. I hope it’s not a monster.” He bit down on the corner of lip to fight back his smile.

A few moments earlier, he had been in a foul mood, but Scorpius always found a way to put a smile on his face. “Especially not a ferocious one.”

He pulled back the covers and then let out a high-pitched screech when Scorpius jumped out and attacked him. Harry made a fuss of falling on the bed and letting Scorpius think he frightened him. “Oh, no,” he cried, “please don’t hurt me, scary monster.”

“Rooarr!” Scorpius could not manage a complete growl as he collapsed into a fit of giggles.

“Ahh!!” Harry attempted to hide his grin by covering his face with his hands. “What kind of monster are you anyway?”

“Tickle monster!” With a loud thud, Scorpius jumped on top of Harry’s chest, knocking the wind out of him and starting tickling him furiously, starting at his sides and working his way up to his chest.

“Stop, stop!” Harry failed to escape Scorpius’ tickle attack and instead dissolved into his own fit of giggles.

“No!” Scorpius pouted. “Not until you surwender.”

Harry grinned. The boy was too adorable for his own good. He was brilliant for a five-year-old, but sometimes when he became too excited, he had problems pronouncing certain words, especially ones with double consonants. “I surrender, I surrender.”

After stealing a few extra giggles out of Harry, Scorpius stopped tickling him and then crawled up further into Harry’s chest, wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck and cuddling his face into his chest. Harry looked down at the small boy and sighed contentedly. He stroked the pale white-blond hair out of his face, which was so much like Draco’s, and smiled. No matter how much Draco frustrated him, whenever Harry looked at Scorpius – or worse yet – when he snuggled into his chest like this – Harry could not regret his decision to take part in this fake marriage. This so-called marriage might be hard on Harry’s delicate ego, but this wasn’t about him. It was for Scorpius.

Harry would do just about anything for this little boy, who had won him over since the first time they met. Scorpius Malfoy might look like a miniature Malfoy clone, but he hadn’t inherited the Malfoy sullen disposition since he was such a sweet and loving child, who always had a smile on his face. Harry liked to tease Draco that since Scorpius inherited all of his father’s physical traits then he must have inherited his personality from his mother. As expected, Draco did not find the joke amusing and claimed that he had directly influenced all of Scorpius’ best qualities.

Although Harry agreed, he would never admit it to Draco. The git’s head was already big enough. Still, the man Draco was today – a brilliant father and compassionate Healer – was worlds away from the smarmy pointy-faced git he had been at Hogwarts. It made Harry wonder what had happened in Draco’s childhood to cause such a drastic change. Perhaps Draco had also been a sweet and loving boy. Either way, staring into Malfoy silvery grey eyes made Harry’s heart flutter and his head spin. It was sobering that at least one pair of those eyes didn’t flinch away and regarded him with wide, adoring eyes.

“Love you,” Scorpius whispered into his chest.

“Love you too,” Harry replied, still stroking Scorpius’ soft hair. The words just slipped out of his mouth, but they were true. Even if Scorpius had only been in his life for a few short months, he loved this little boy with all his heart. It wasn’t fair that Scorpius was sick, and it was unreasonable that he was treated like a second class citizen only because of his parentage.

For months now, the new Ministry AV, had been passing unreasonable laws against former Death Eaters. They had once again taken things too far by no longer allowing Death Eaters or any of their immediate family members to be treated at St Mungo’s. Luckily, Harry had found a loophole around the law. Since he didn’t have an heir, if Draco and him married and he legally claimed Scorpius as his heir, Scorpius would no longer be subjected to the unfairness of these laws. In the Ministry’s eyes, continuing the Potter line was more important than punishing a former Death Eater. No matter what happened with Draco, Harry knew that he would make sure that no harm came to this precious child.

Things had not always been so complicated. Harry could still remember a time before these two Malfoys had squirmed their way into his life, before they had stolen his heart. Six months earlier, Harry hadn’t been in contact with any Malfoys for years. Sure, he assumed that Malfoy was still alive somewhere. He figured that he would have heard if he died or something.

And Malfoy wouldn’t bugger off and die. There were so many people that he still had to annoy. Harry was certain that the universe would never allow it.

::2::

Harry walked down the street, keeping his head glued to the pavement in front of him. It was a stupid habit. For the most part, people left him in peace now, but for the longest time he couldn’t even walk the streets without getting mobbed. He had realised early on that if he didn’t make eye contact with people, they were less likely to come up and bother him. Besides, he knew exactly what types of people he was avoiding and he didn’t want to be late for his lunch date with Hermione.

It seemed that wherever he went there were couples of all sorts: young, old, gay, and straight. Everyone in the entire universe seemed to have a partner except for Harry. And it was awful. Harry believed that the universe willed every overly sentimental couple in the wizarding world to flaunt their happiness in front of him, to remind him that he would never find someone, and that he would never have that.

Harry sighed, much louder than necessary and continued walking, hands in his pockets and head still facing the ground. A child next to him caught his eyes, laughing and counting the cracks in the pavement. He was innocent and free. Harry wondered if he had ever been like that. Probably not. The Durselys never would have allowed it.

Children were another sore spot for him. For as long as Harry remembered, he dreamt of having a family. As a child, he would wrap his arms around chest at night and wish that his parents weren’t dead, hoping they would show up one day and take him away from his awful aunt and uncle. When he was older, he realised his childish fantasies would never come true, so he instead focused on future daydreams of marrying a beautiful redheaded witch like his mother and starting a large family. Harry knew that it wasn’t normal for young boys to dream about marriage and children. He wasn’t a witch, but he longed for it with all of his heart.

Until he realised he was gay.

Several years ago, he came to terms with his sexuality. Being gay was not a big deal in the wizarding world, but it still shattered his dream of being a father and having a large family. As much as it pained him, he would have to settle for being Uncle Harry and never having a real family of his own.

Finally, the small cafe, Harry’s Place, came into view. Even though it was a Muggle cafe, the name irked him. He supposed that Hermione had chosen the location out of spite since she was still on his case to find a new job.

Harry walked straight through the entrance and into the back patio, nodding politely at all the people around him. When a couple of blokes gave him strange looks, Harry cringed. How silly of him. He had forgot that this was a Muggle establishment. They didn’t know him. He was just Harry, a complete stranger, creeping out the customers. No wonder they were giving him dirty looks.

He shook his head. No matter. All Harry wanted was to feel like he fit in somewhere. He was tired of being stuck between the worlds, having one foot in the Muggle world and one in the wizarding world. No matter where he went he was still a freak. He closed his eyes and tried to banish all the negative thoughts from his mind. If not, Hermione would start pestering him to see a Mind Healer.

It was easy to find Hermione. Although she usually tamed her hair for work, since today was her day off, she was wearing her hair loose, wild strands noticeable even from a distance. Hermione hated her hair; she said it was untameable and made her look unprofessional. Harry disagreed. He thought it gave her character. Made her beautiful. Unique. Different from the other girls, Harry saw walking around with pin straight hair and oversized sunglasses.

“Harry, hi.” Hermione greeted him with a smile and motioned for him to sit down. He returned her greeting and offered her a kiss on the cheek.

“Nice place,” Harry said, turning his head and taking in the small but cosy cafe. Harry placed his jacket on the back of his chair and sat down, grateful that Hermione had requested a corner table. She knew him too well.

“Thanks. I knew you would like it.”

Harry frowned. “Well, I wasn’t crazy about the name, but I guess you can’t have everything.”

Hermione laughed, tilting her head back and swaying her long curls off her shoulders. “What, you don’t like it?” She pursed her lips. “Harry is such a charming name, don’t you think?”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Oh, yes, it is royalty and all.”

Hermione laughed again, this time more of a high-pitched giggle. “Absolutely.”

He had missed her. It had been three weeks since he had last seen Hermione. He would deny it to his grave, but he had been avoiding her. Usually, that made Hermione less than pleasant to be around, so he was glad that he had caught her in such a light-hearted mood. It was nice to relax and have lunch with his friend. It felt like old times before all this Ministry craziness had started.

“So how have you been?” Hermione pursed her lips again, puckering them into a sour expression. “I know you’ve been busy. How’s the job search coming?”

Harry gulped. Damn, it appeared his reprieve was short-lived. She was just going to jump into the interrogation. She caught him off guard. This must have been her master plan all along.

“It’s fine.” Harry took a sip of his glass of water and avoided her eyes. “You know, it’s a tough market. And I’ve sort of been banned from any Ministry jobs after my little incident with Robards.”

Hermione frowned.

“Yes?” Harry put down his water and looked up, meeting her eyes. He tried to give her his most innocent look. It was hard to fool Hermione, but he was going try anyway. “Didn’t you have some big news for me?” Harry smiled. “We always talk about me. I want to hear about you.”

Hermione looked him over dubiously. “I do have news.” Her frown disappeared and a small smile crept onto the corners of her mouth again. “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this because Ron wanted to tell everyone on Sunday at the Burrow together, but since you’ve mysteriously missed the last three dinners...”

Harry dropped the fork he had been fiddling with in his hand. “What is it?”

Hermione leant over and grabbed his hand. She gave it two squeezes. “I’m pregnant!”

Harry blinked. “Pregnant?”

“It’s a little earlier than expected.” Hermione removed her hand from his and looked away bashfully. “An entire year off the plan but...”

“Screw the plan, Hermione. It’s brilliant!”

Hermione’s face lit up, embarrassment fading away. “I’m so glad because Ron and I want you to be godfather.”

Harry blanched; his heart lurched to the back of his throat. Ron and Hermione were having a child. They wanted him to be a godfather. Again. Memories of Teddy flashed through his mind. His adorable godson, who had been cruelly taken from his aunt’s care and disposed of with all the other children of dangerous Dark breeds by the new Ministry without Harry’s knowledge. Harry already wasn’t fond of the new Ministry’s oppressive regime. He quit on the spot but not before destroying his Robard’s office.

The idea of Ron and Hermione having children stirred irrational jealousy in his gut. It wasn’t their fault that Harry would never be a father. Deep down, he was happy for them. Ron and Hermione deserved it, but asking him to be godfather was like a slap in the face.

“Harry, say something.”

Harry pushed his chair back and stood from the table. “I’m sorry. I can’t. I need to leave—”

Hermione pulled on his arm. “Harry, wait, don’t go. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just didn’t want you to hear the news from someone else.”

Harry shook his head. “I’m fine. I just forgot I have somewhere to be.”

“Please stay. I have a new career idea for you. I think you’ll really like this one.”

Harry jerked his arm out of her grip. “No thanks. I’m keeping my options open.”

“Harry, you promised.” Hermione’s voice was soft, eyes pained. “You have nothing else to do. You just sit around all day feeling sorry for yourself. It’s been over six months since you quit the Aurors. That’s more than enough wallowing. It’s time for you to do something substantial with your life. Do you really just want to waste away in that awful house like Sirius did? You know what happens when you spend too much time locked up.”

Harry started feeling dizzy. He hated when Hermione made him feel guilty. “Whatever you want. Just send me an owl. I really do need to go.”

She beamed at him. “It’s perfect for you. With your saving people thing.”

“I don’t have a saving people thing.”

Hermione snorted. “Congratulations, you’ve been accepted in the new Healer-in-Training programme. First year. I already put down your first term tuition.”

“Hermione, you’re mad. Absolutely not. I hate school.”

“You did ask for a book on Healing the last time we chatted. Think of it as a more hands on experience. You can never go wrong with knowledge, Harry.” She shrugged. “Besides, it’s non-refundable.”

:: 3 ::

The classroom was not as intimidating as Harry imagined. It was a simple room with rows of wooden desks, a blackboard, and squeaky chairs. Harry didn’t know what he had been picturing, perhaps a torture chamber of some sorts. This room was so utterly normal, however, that he let out a massive sigh of relief as he settled into his desk. Hermione advised him to sit in the front row, so he would be forced to focus on the lesson at all times. Harry had assured her that he would. He wanted to make a good impression on his new professor, but as soon as he entered the empty classroom, all thoughts of sitting in the front row fled his mind.

When Hermione signed him up for this first year Healer-in-Training programme, she failed to mention that modules had started three weeks earlier, so he was already behind. If he knew that detail, he never would have agreed, which was why she had not told him in the first place. His best friend was not only book smart; she had a wicked devious streak that no one would ever believe. Even if it was years after the war, Harry hated using his name to gain favours. He couldn’t even imagine what rules and school regulations Hermione must have broken to get him enrolled in the Healer Training programme so late. This wasn’t the manner Harry liked to do things, but he was already there, so he might as well make the best of it.

Against his better judgement, he took a seat in the third row, right in the middle and unpacked his things. He was twenty minutes early for his first lecture. An Introduction to Magical Biology and Healing. Of all his modules, he assumed this one would be the easiest. It was a new module that was taught by Dr Franklin Edwards, who was both a certified Healer and Muggle doctor. The course objectives stated that Dr Edwards had revolutionised Modern Magical Healing and Therapy by incorporating Muggle medical techniques and improving them with magic. This module would not only teach about the human body, in the way that Muggles would learn, but also explain how magic affects all the biological systems of the body.

When Harry had attended Muggle primary school, he never paid much attention during science lessons. However, he assumed that he understood the Muggle world and Muggle science more so than the average witch or wizard. This module should be easy. At least there was no clinical lab work like in his other core subjects.

Oh, how wrong he was.

Once Harry organised his desk—neatly stacked parchment, extra ink for his quill, and easy access to his textbook—the desks around had become occupied. Hushed whispers and accusations filled his ears, so Harry kept his head down, pretending not to notice that the other students were talking about him. God, how he hated Hermione. Being the new student in a class was hard enough, but being Harry Potter, Saviour of the wizarding world, whether or not he wanted to accept the title, was mortifying. He could feel every set of eyes in the room boring into the back of his head. He was certain that his entire face was burning as red as Ron’s hair, but he tried his best to remain calm. Hopefully, the professor would be there soon. Harry had never been so desperate for a lecture to start in his life.

Finally, after snapping two quills in half, the professor made his way to the front of class. Harry dropped his last quill and looked up at his new professor, a wide, stupid grin on his face.

“Good morning, class,” Professor Edwards said, bowing his head in greeting.

“Good morning, Healer Edwards,” the class grumbled in reply.

Professor Edwards was not what Harry expected. He was a short middle-aged man with a sour face, beady black eyes, and a crooked smile. He had dark hair that was visibly thinning at the sides and a wide, shiny forehead. He dressed in lime green Healer robes, which had seen better days from the fringe noticeable at the sleeves and were stretched tight around his paunchy stomach. A set of eyeglasses hung around his neck and he wore his wand in a leather harness on his belt. When he eyed Harry, the crooked smile disappeared.

“Ah, Mr Potter, you actually made it.”

Harry gulped. There was something disarming about the way this man looked at him—as if he were reading his mind.

“Yes, sir,” Harry answered, the uncertainty in his voice making him cringe.

“I wasn’t sure you would be attending today.” Edwards pursed his lips. “When my assistant informed me that I was getting a new student, I couldn’t quite fathom it. I informed Elizabeth that she must have been mistaken. It is not our policy to accept late students, regardless of merits.” He narrowed his eyes and then looked Harry up and down.

Harry’s pulse quickened. He had only known this professor for all of two minutes and already the man despised him. So much for special treatment. No one had looked at him with such contempt since Snape. Bloody fucking Hell.

“I’m sorry, sir.” Harry bit his lip and tried to look as solemn as possible.

Professor Edwards ignored his apology.

“The art of Healing takes a certain skill and dedication. Most of you in this room will not last the term. You cannot complete Year 1 without passing this module.”

Professor Edward’s lips curled into a sneer and Harry felt his heavy breakfast slosh around his stomach.

“A few of you,” he nodded to the two girls, who sat in the front row and stared at him adoringly, “will have what it takes and my lessons will open doors for you. However, I expect complete dedication and motivation from my students.” He turned away from the blonde girls and locked eyes with Harry again. “We have never accepted a student in the Healer programme after the programme has commenced.”

Harry gulped again. Here it comes, he thought, he’s going to ask me to leave the classroom. This must be a record. He hadn’t even made it through his first module of the day and he was already being dismissed.

“Imagine my surprise, when former Minister Shacklebolt asked me to make an exception.”

Edwards’ eyes were burning into Harry now, smouldering and fierce. Harry matched Edwards’ glare, refusing to back down. His stomach was doing flip-flops that he hoped the rest of the class could not hear. Sitting with the entire class gawking at him made him feel as if he were that same eleven-year-old boy in Snape’s dungeon. It was humiliating.

“Kingsley is an old friend and I could not refuse. But—do not make me regret my decision, Mr Potter. There will be no special treatment in my classroom, regardless of past achievements.”

Harry drew in a quick breath. He needed to respond and quickly, to say the right thing, so this professor that didn’t even know him yet, wouldn’t think he was an utter idiot. The last thing he needed was another Snape in his life.

“Yes, sir,” he said, his voice firm but kind. “Thank you for the opportunity. I will not let you down.”

“I don’t give second chances, Potter. And I do not repeat my lessons. I expect you to catch up on your own.”

Harry nodded.

“Excellent.” Professor Edwards spun around and walked toward the blackboard. “Let’s start today’s lesson on blood typing. Everyone will stay an extra ten minutes to make up for this time we have wasted.”

A soft murmur filled the room.

“I hope no one has a problem with that?”

“No, sir,” the students grumbled weakly.

“Excellent,” Professor Edwards repeated, the same crooked smile spread on his thin lips. “Now, who can tell me how blood types and magical levels are related?”

: : :

Harry had not heard a single word of Professor Edwards’ lecture on blood types. He had attempted to take notes but his hand was shaking and his stomach was still all in muddle. The professor had called him out in front of the entire class. He told the class that Harry didn’t deserve to be there and had only been accepted because of his connections. Because of Kinglsey. If they hadn’t resented him before, Harry was certain that they would now, getting accepted into Healer School was not an easy task. Each applicant needed a certain number of OWLs, glowing recommendations, and relevant work experience.

According to Hermione, Harry did have the adequate OWLs for the programme but not the work experience. All his work experience was relevant to the Auror corps, and even then, he had done very little fieldwork and never any medical training. Perhaps this had been a mistake. Harry had been interested in healing since the war, but he hadn’t actually prepared for this, not like the other students, who were now glaring at him. When he first entered the classroom, he knew that at least some of the whispers about him had been positive. Now, he felt like he was back in fifth year again with everyone talking about him and all of it negative. If the glares that the two blokes sitting on either side of him were any indication of how the class felt about its newest student, then Harry would not be joining any study groups any time soon.

He sighed and looked down at his jumbled mess of notes, which he didn’t understand. Perhaps that was the professor’s intention with his little speech, to get the rest of the class to turn against him too, so he wouldn’t be able to catch up.

Rh proteins, + / - groups, alleles and blood types.

In theory, Harry understood that everyone had a different blood type, but he hadn’t imagined that it would be so complicated. He figured there were only the groups A, B, AB, and one more he couldn’t remember. What was all this nonsense about alleles and positive and negative proteins? How and why were they related to the magical levels of the witch or wizard? And what about the magic levels? Were they innate or inherited from the parents?

So many questions ran through Harry’s mind. He had thought that he was prepared—that it would be one of his easier modules. He had even read the first chapter of the textbook, which he had never done before in his life. Merlin’s saggy tits. He was fucked. He needed help. And it didn’t look like he would be sleeping any time soon.

The thought of all the readings that Harry had missed for this one subject — 10 bloody chapters — was making him dizzy. How would he ever catch up from being 10 chapters behind? And what about his other modules? His palms were sweating so profusely that he could barely hold his quill without dropping it.

Edwards’ deep voice echoed through the room, but to Harry, it sounded as if he were lecturing in another language. The little bit he had understood had fallen apart once the professor stopped lecturing and went straight into problems with theoretical applications.

Maths? Harry hadn’t done maths since he was a child. At Hogwarts, he had avoided Arithmancy once he found it involved maths and problem solving. Why hadn’t anyone told him that Healer training would involve Maths? That detail should bloody well be in the syllabus!

He bowed his head and took a deep breath.

It would do him no good to lose control. Going barmy on the first day, in his very first lesson, would only prove Healer Edwards right. Harry wanted nothing more than to prove the old bastard wrong. He thought that he was an easy person to get along with; he was easy going and friendly. It was rare that he didn’t get along with someone, but Professor Edwards had rubbed him the wrong way. He hadn’t disliked someone this much on first contact since Snape and that was not a good thing. Then again, Snape had turned out to be a good guy, a traitorous voice reminded him in the back of his mind. Somehow, he didn’t see that happening with Edwards. He had that self-important look about him that screamed arsehole. There was no doubt in his mind which house Edwards had belonged to at Hogwarts. Snakes stood out and Harry was no longer afraid of them. He picked up his head and decided to listen more carefully and try to follow along.

Professor Edwards asked a question about alleles, which Harry still didn’t exactly understand as he had never heard the term. But then, an all too familiar voice filled his ears. He would know that cold and lazy drawl anywhere.

Malfoy.

Harry spun his head around, and sure enough, Draco Malfoy was sitting in the back corner of the room. He answered the question in his lazy dismissive drawl as if it were the most obvious answer and the rest of the students were clueless idiots. In Harry’s case, it might have been the slightest bit true, but he was certain from the glowers that were directed his way that the rest of the class did not hold warm and fuzzy feelings toward Malfoy either.

What was Malfoy doing here? Harry had not heard from Malfoy for years. It was as if he had fallen off the planet, but then all of a sudden there he was again. Just as blond and annoying as ever. Merlin’s beard, he had the worst luck in the world. He already suffered through six years of Potions lessons with Malfoy. The last thing he wanted was for Malfoy to see him struggle in Healer Training.

Harry hadn’t paid attention to Malfoy’s answer. He had been far too shocked at his presence to listen. Whatever he said was correct because Healer Edwards nodded his head and gave him a grim smile.

“Very good.” He gritted his teeth. “At least someone has been paying attention.”

The rest of the two-hour lecture flew by. Harry had lost track of the topic and hadn’t been able to solve a single one of the problems, but it was only because he was behind and the problems were complicated. It had nothing to do with Malfoy’s presence, which had unnerved him. He did not spend the rest of the lecture sneaking looks at Malfoy and trying to read his expression.

There was something odd about Malfoy. In many ways, he was still the same old Malfoy, same white-blond hair, even if it was longer and tied behind his neck, same annoying pointy face. Still, something about him was different. Harry couldn’t put his finger on it, but his bored expression didn’t quite make sense. He pretended to be bored out of his mind, muttering answers under his breath and scowling fiercely into his parchment. Yet, he scribbled furiously and took extensive notes.

The two other times he answered questions, he responded in that same bored tone, but Harry turned around to look at him and noticed a glimmer in his eyes. His answer had sounded flat but the passion in those clear grey eyes was unmistakable. Harry had never seen that look in Malfoy’s eyes. It disconcerted him. And even worse, he wanted to see it again.

He had an urge to speak with Malfoy, to ask him how he knew all the answers? What in the hell was wrong with him? He was already cracking under the pressure. Malfoy had always found a way to get under Harry’s skin. Their last meeting had been civil. Maybe it would be best not to dredge up the past. After locking eyes with him briefly, he turned back to his notes. He didn’t look up for the rest of the lesson.

By the time he packed up his things to leave, his curiosity was too high. It wouldn’t hurt to take one more look at Malfoy, to nod politely and acknowledge his presence. They were adults now and hadn’t hated each other in years. But when Harry stood to leave, Malfoy was already gone.

Harry pretended that he wasn’t disappointed.

::4::

Draco sat on the couch, his knee brushing up against Potter’s. Scorpius was wedged between them, sitting perfectly still. Draco knew it was challenging for him. He smiled. When Astoria first fell pregnant, Draco panicked. Yes, he had always wanted children, but at the same time, he never had a healthy relationship with his father. He didn’t have a role model to base his parenting skills on. He feared that he would be a horrid parent. Luckily, Scorpius was wonderful. He could not ask for a better son even if he was a bit high energy. Meeting this social worker was probably as daunting to Scorpius as it was to him. His little boy was trying so hard to be on his best behaviour.

Potter turned and gave him a besotted smile. Thank Merlin that Potter played the part of smitten husband well. Who knew that Potter could act?

Agent Rebecca Summers sat across from them in Draco’s favourite white leather chair. She sipped at her tea distastefully — as if she were certain it was poisoned — and watched them. Her gaze was unnerving. Draco knew that it was part of her game. She was trying to make them as uncomfortable as possible. Too bad it wouldn’t work. A couple snotty remarks and rude gestures were pleasant in contrast to all the atrocities Draco had witnessed. Nothing would stop this meeting from being successful. Scorpius’ life hung in the balance. And no price was too high to save his son. He had already proven that by marrying Potter.

“Is everything alright, Miss Summers?” Draco motioned to the tea spread, complete with an assortment of freshly baked scones, homemade jam, biscuits, and clotted cream. “Would you prefer something else?”

Rebecca wrinkled her nose, her face taking on a pinched, hollow expression. “It’s fine.” She raised her chin and gave a derisive snort. “After all, we’re here to discuss your marriage not tea.”

Draco heard Potter inhale sharply, felt his knee shake against him. He had the urge to roll his eyes but refrained from doing so. Potter had defeated the Dark Lord, but as soon as he was placed in an uncomfortable situation, especially with women, he fell to pieces. Draco needed Potter to relax. They had to present a united front, not allow this bitch to see through their charade.

She was the worst type of woman too: a high society wannabe. New money perhaps from the size of the rock on her finger—with high sunken cheekbones, an elaborate weaved updo and bright red lipstick. She wore a corseted and high-end robe, which Draco suspected was from last season. Overall, she was the type of woman his mother would have despised. Luckily, Draco had been around high society long enough that he knew how to handle her.

He flashed a brilliant smile and then reached across Scorpius’ lap and cupped Potter’s knee. “Well, we’re happy to answer any questions you might have Miss Summers. Aren’t we darling?” Draco turned his smile on Harry and tilted his head, giving him what he hoped was an adoring expression.

Potter tensed underneath his touch, but then he visibly relaxed and nodded. “Absolutely,” he said with his own bright smile.

“Marvellous.” Rebecca took another delicate sip from her teacup and then placed it on the coffee table. “It’s Mrs.” She waved her obscenely large rock. “Five years now.”

Draco heard Potter gulp, and he once again had to avoid rolling his eyes. Potter really was a useless twat—even if Draco did enjoy the feeling of his muscular thigh underneath his hand.

“My apologies, Mrs Summers. You are such a young, lovely vision. I imagined you were fresh out of Hogwarts.” He smiled again and winked at her. Salazar, he was laying it on thick. Rebecca was closer to forty than thirty, but all women adored being flattered. At least those etiquette lessons his mother forced him to sit through would actually be useful.

The sour look on Rebecca’s face thawed and her thin lips curved into a smile. “Aren’t you sweet?” She patted that feathered atrocity on her head that could not be called a proper hairstyle. “I’m thirty-five.”

Draco winked again, trying to ignore the bile that was ramming its way up his throat. “You don’t look a day over twenty.”

Potter was breathing heavy. Draco didn’t understand why the git always breathed so loudly as if he were the only person in the room. Perhaps he was surprised by how charming Draco could be when he tried.

Rebecca let out a coquettish giggle, which made her sound like a schoolgirl rather than a grown woman. She covered her mouth with her hand. “Stop.” A light blush spread down her cheeks. “Now, let’s talk about the two of you.” She regained her composure and turned to Harry. “You’ve been strangely quiet, Mr Potter. What did the cat get your tongue?”

“Sorry.” Potter’s eye grew wide behind his glasses, making him look owlish. “I suppose I’m a bit ner-”

“Oh, he’s just shy.” Draco squeezed Potter’s thigh, hard, hoping that Potter would come to his senses. “Isn’t that right, love?” What an idiot! He couldn’t tell the Ministry agent that he was nervous. Draco restrained the urge to smack him.

“Yeah, shy.” Potter looked down at his hands.

Rebecca looked between them, her blue eyes studying them closely. After several seconds, she spoke. “There’s no reason to be shy, Mr Potter. I’ve heard that you’re the strong silent type. But we’re all friends here, aren’t we?”

“Daddy says I can’t be friends with strangers!” Scorpius gasped and covered his mouth with his hand. Draco had taught him not to interrupt adults when they conversed.

“Scorpius? What did Daddy tell you about adult conversations?”

“To stay quiet unless someone asks me a question.” Scorpius hung his head. “Sorry.”

“Nonsense.” Rebecca’s eyes lit up with amusement. “It’s quite alright.” She beamed at Scorpius. “You’re absolutely right, dear. Listen to your father.”

Fathers.” Draco scooted closer to Potter and threw an arm around his shoulder, enveloping him in a half hug.

“How silly of me, fathers.”

Scorpius picked up his head and grinned. “I like having two dads. There’s always someone to play with.”

Draco sent Scorpius a sharp look. Clearly, his excitement was getting to him.

“That’s lovely.” Rebecca’s voice took on a sweeter tone and she leant over the coffee table, edging closer to Scorpius. “Tell me, dear, are you happy that your father remarried? It was kind of sudden.”

Scorpius tightened his lips and turned his head. He locked eyes with Draco and then waited for guidance. Draco sighed again. Now, his son decided to listen. He raised his eyes toward the ceiling. “It’s okay, Scorpius. You can answer, Mrs Summers. She’s a friend.”

“I’m happy!” Scorpius giggled. “Harry’s really fun. He knows such good stories. And he loves me.”

Potter chuckled. “Thanks, Scorp.” His smile faded. “And it’s not sudden. Our marriage.” He leant into Draco’s embrace. “We’ve known each other since we were children.”

“Exactly.”

Rebecca frowned. “But weren’t you rivals? That’s what I read in—”

“You can’t believe everything you read,” Draco said, his voice a little too enthusiastic.

“That’s right. I don’t make a habit of speaking to the press, so all those official biographies are actually rubbish.” Potter shrugged. “I never authorised anything.”

Rebecca did not look convinced but nodded. “Then you weren’t rivals?”

“Not exactly—”

“Of course not.” Draco waved his hand in a dismissive manner. “Harry and I—” He turned and looked at Potter, trying not to get lost in those absurdly green eyes, “have always had a passionate relationship.”

It wasn’t a lie per se. Even when they hated each other, his complicated relationship with Potter had always been passionate. Perhaps that was why he was feeling so uncomfortable with their friendship and this marriage. Potter didn’t help the situation by giving him a smouldering look and licking his bottom lip.

Draco tried to ignore the uncomfortable heat that stirred in his groin. He unwrapped his arm from Potter and crossed his legs. Then he reached forward and grabbed the tray of scones, offering them to Rebecca with a forced smile.

“No, thank you, dear.”

“Can I have one?” Scorpius asked, his eyes wide and hopeful.

“Of course,” Harry said, “you don’t have to ask, silly.”

Draco scowled. Scorpius certainly had to ask. He wasn’t allowed treats before dinner. But he couldn’t get into an argument with Potter. That would hurt their chances, and it appeared that the visit was going well.

“You may have one.” Draco grabbed a small plate and placed a medium sized scone on it, blueberry, which he knew was Scorpius’ favourite. He handed it to his son.

Harry opened up a napkin and spread it on Scorpius’ lap. “Don’t forget a napkin.” He smiled. “For the crumbs.”

“Isn’t that precious?”

Draco snapped his head around and locked eyes with Rebecca. “Pardon?”

“The three of you,” Rebecca replied, using a matter-of-fact tone, which reminded him eerily of Pansy. “I had my doubts. The Ministry told me to keep an eye out for false contracts. However, it’s obvious how much the three of you love each other.” She sighed dreamily. “You’re so at ease with each other. A real family.”

“Family!” Scorpius cried, his mouth full of half-chewed scone.

Draco felt a sharp pang in his chest. A family. He supposed that over the past few months he had become rather fond of Potter. Strangely enough, he didn’t hate the idea of Potter being family.

“Yes, we are.” Potter pulled Scorpius into his lap. “Rebecca,” he said, voice serious, “look I know this marriage seems improbable. But trust me, when I say that I love this little boy as if he were my own.” He hugged Scorpius and then kissed him on top of the head. “I would do anything for him. And want to make sure he gets the proper care he deserves.” He furrowed his brow. “He’s just a boy after all. He shouldn’t have to suffer.”

“I understand. But what about-?”

“I’m not finished.” Potter angled his shoulder and then cupped Draco’s cheek with his right hand. “And—Draco...” He let out a shaky breath. “I’ve loved this man since I was a boy. Most days, he drives me absolutely mental, but I can’t imagine my life without him. Without either of them.”

Draco’s heart pounded against his ribs, blood flushing to his cheeks. Having Potter say these things about him, even if he knew it was an act, overwhelmed him.

“I—”

Potter leant forward and silenced him with a soft kiss, their lips barely brushing. Before Draco had time to taste the kiss, Potter had pulled away.

Rebecca squealed. “My, my.” She shook her head. “That was quite a speech, Mr Potter.” She rose from her seat and straightened out her robe, brushing off imaginary lint. “I think I’ve heard enough. You’re a lucky man, Mr Malfoy.”

Draco beamed. “I certainly am.”

“How about we just skip to the paper work then?”

::5::

Draco paced in Head Mistress McGonagall’s office. Although it had been five years since the war, and even longer since he let those damned Death Eaters into Hogwarts, he still felt guilty as he stood in what he would always remember as Dumbledore’s office. He already made his peace with McGonagall. And even Dumbledore.

McGonagall and him were on friendly terms. Since Astoria passed, McGonagall had taken pity on him and allowed him audiences with Severus whenever he requested them. She never gave him a hard time anymore. Draco almost preferred the suspicious glares to the pitying looks people gave him once they heard about his dead wife.

This time, McGonagall even acquiesced to Draco’s request for privacy and ushered the other portraits out of the room. She offered him 15 minutes or so of uninterrupted time.

Why in Merlin’s name was Severus not around?

Severus and Draco always had a complicated relationship. In some ways, Severus had been more of a father to Draco than Lucius, a better role model at least. He scoffed. Pretty much anyone else would have been a better role model to him than old Lucius, but that was a different issue entirely.

Until Severus arrived, Draco panicked.

“Severus.” Draco greeted his former Head of house with a polite nod.

“What is that you want brat?” Severus sneered as he entered his portrait, his black eyes glowing fiercely as they always had when he was alive.

It was uncanny how the portrait captured his exact likeness. Draco thought the artist was kind to Severus; his hair was still limp but not as greasy as it had been in real life. His hooked nose was not as long as he remembered it, and his sallow complexion held a bit of an olive tinge instead. Overall, being a portrait suited the man. He was more attractive in death than he ever had been while alive.

“You disrupted me from sleep.”

Draco shook his head and gave a small chuckle. “You’re a portrait. Portraits don’t sleep.”

“Portraits most certainly sleep, Mr Malfoy.”

Exasperated, Draco sighed. Usually, Severus amused him, but he wasn’t in the mood to deal with his snark. “Yes, but you don’t need to sleep. It’s a foolish waste of time. You’re dead. Get over it.”

Portrait Snape crossed his arms in front of his chest and sent Draco one of his infamous Snape death glares.

Draco shrugged. “That was more intimidating when you were actually alive. What are you going to do to me now? Strangle me with paint?”

“I see you’re still as charming as ever, Draco. Does this visit have a purpose or might I return to my afternoon schedule? I have a full day planned.”

Draco threaded a hand through his hair, tugging at the long strands and trying to find some patience. “The only thing you have to do this afternoon is torture the new first years. You can save first year baiting ‘til later.”

Portrait Snape sniffed in a manner so reminiscent of a child that Draco couldn’t hold back a laugh. “Really, I have no reason to put up with this. Good day to you, Mr Malfoy. Come back when you remember some manners.”

“No wait,” Draco cried. “I’m sorry. There’s a reason for my visit. A serious one.”

Snape raised an eyebrow, obviously interested.

“It’s Scorpius.”

Portrait Snape frowned, his thick black eyebrows creasing. “Ahh.”

“He-he—”

“He has it,” Snape said in an even voice.

Draco blinked. “How did you know?”

Severus shook his head and sighed. “I suspected.”

Draco tugged at his hair again. “Severus, you don’t understand. I can’t. I cannot lose him too. Not after Astoria.”

“Pull yourself together. You’re a grown man, Draco. It is no longer my responsibility to coddle you nor do I care for your tears.”

“You’re right. I apologise. I wasn’t sure whom to talk to. I’ll go.”

Draco spun on his heel and started walking out the office. He hoped that McGonagall wouldn’t question why there were tears in his eyes.

“I never told you to leave, you insufferable wretch. Get back here.”

Draco turned around, trying to hide the unshed tears in the corner of his eyes.

“I was afraid this would happen.” Snape bowed his head. “But I’m prepared.”

“What?”

“Will you let me speak?”

“Sorry.”

“I have been developing a few blood replenishing potions stacked with some purifying agents that I think will be useful to Scorpius. There’s no cure, yet, but these potions will—”

“Keep him alive.” Draco’s voice lilted. This old wretched man — who had spent half of his life making Draco’s life hell and the other half saving it — was doing it again. Even from the grave, he still looked out for him.

“I—”

“Stop. Whatever premature thanks or glorification you’re going to extol is unnecessary. It’s for Scorpius.”

“Thank you.” Draco felt tears well up in his eyes again but this time of relief.

Portrait Snape sighed. “It’s not a miracle cure, Draco.”

“I know that...but you’re right.”

They spent several minutes discussing the properties of the blood replenishing potions. As usual, Severus was right. In theory, it seemed plausible to attempt to trap the extra bits of magic that were floating around in Scorpius’ bloodstream and snatch them before they accumulated in his blood and poisoned him. He could not believe his luck. Draco might not have many people left who cared about him, but the few that remained were amazing. Fiercely loyal did not even begin to describe them.

He cleared his throat. “Thank you, Severus. I’ll give McGonagall your love and then be back tomorrow to work the details out.”

Severus sighed. “It’s not that simple.”

“What do you mean?”

“What exactly are you doing in your free time?”

Draco shrugged. “A little of this and that. Scorpius takes up most of my time.”

“I can imagine he does, but Draco, you need to do what’s best for him, especially under the circumstances.”

Draco frowned. Severus was excellent at reading him, but he could never figure out what Severus meant when he didn’t spell it out for him.

“You’re a Death Eater.”

Draco snorted. “Former Death Eater.” He ran a hand through his hair again. “I hate to break it to you, Severus, but you were one too.”

Severus sneered, his thin bottom lip curled. “I know that, you wretched creature. Haven’t you been keeping up with the news?”

“Not really.”

“I’m a bloody portrait and I know more than you. What’s happened to you Draco?”

Draco felt his cheeks warm. “My wife died.”

“Almost a year ago.”

“That’s a relatively short amount of time to grieve.”

Snape scowled. “Don’t act like she was your great love. Your marriage was arranged.”

Draco angled himself away from the portrait and closed his eyes. “She’s the mother of my son.” His voice was pained. “She gave me the most precious gift. I don’t deserve. It should’ve—”

“Don’t give me any of your self-deprecating bullshit. Astoria’s illness was untreatable.”

“I know.”

“Listen to me. And don’t interrupt. Whatever is left of your inheritance, if you want your son even to have an inheritance, get it out of England. Get all your paperwork in order. Muggles have been killed again. Five of them. All of them young. Wizards had a hand in their deaths.”

“So what? Muggles die all the time.”

Severus glowered. “The Dark Mark was spotted at every scene.”

Draco gulped. “Surely, you don’t? I mean...Potter killed him—”

Severus rolled his eyes. “I can assure you that Voldemort is dead. It’s not him. Copy cats. They’re calling them—” Severus crinkled his nose in disdain, “neo-Death Eaters.”

“But that’s impossible everyone else is either dead or imprisoned.”

Severus gave him a pointed look.

Draco blanched. “Except...me.”

Severus stared at him for several seconds before he spoke. “Perhaps it’s a couple of idiots and its memory will soon fade. But—you should prepare yourself for the worst, Draco. If this continues, the Ministry will be out for blood. Whom do you think they’ll go after first?”

Draco started to feel dizzy. The notion of new Death Eaters — of once again being unwillingly tied to them — was too much for Draco to stomach. “What should I do?”

“Think of Scorpius. In the grand scheme of things, no one...not even the Ministry cares about five Muggles. However, be prepared. Do not get lazy. Return to your studies immediately. Finish your Potions Mastery and take up Healing.”

Draco arched an eyebrow. While he wasn’t opposed to the branch of Healing, it was never a profession he imagined for himself. He was hardly the compassionate type.

“Foolish boy, if the time comes when you and Scorpius need to leave, you must be able to care for him. His illness is lifelong. You know this.”

Draco bit down on his bottom lip and hung his head. “You’re absolutely right, Severus. I never—” He shook his head. “Thank you. For everything.”

::6::

Draco stood outside of Healer Anderson’s office. Healer Anderson was the Head of Magical Bugs, and although they got on quite well, Anderson had never requested a private meeting in his office since Draco’s first day. Originally, Healer Anderson had not trusted Draco, which was understandable due to his background. The Head of Bugs was not happy with having a marked Death Eater on his rotation, and he had no qualms about keeping his feelings secret.

Once Draco proved that he was serious about his work and more than competent, Anderson slowly loosened up. They had been working together for three years now, and even though they were on friendly terms, or at least as friendly as one could be with the boss, Draco was concerned. He had a terrible feeling about this meeting.

His stomach grumbled in protest. Draco was certain it wasn’t because he had skipped breakfast. He tugged on the oversized sleeves of his green Healer robes and straightened out the collar of his shirt. Even though he was nervous, he needed to remain calm and look put together. He hadn’t done anything wrong.

The new Ministry was placing all these restrictions on former Death Eaters and anyone connected with Dark activities (DEDAS). Death Eater and Dark Arts Sympathisers. But Draco no longer had any unsavoury ties. Merlin, outside of work, the only person he ever spent time with was Scorpius and occasionally Pansy and Daphne. They might be annoying, but Pansy and Daphne were harmless.

Draco was clean. He made sure that his post-war image stayed that way. He had his son to think about. Scorpius was the most important person to him in the entire world. He would do anything for him. It had taken him years to build his reputation as a reputable and respectable Healer. He could not lose that now.

The wooden door in front of him opened and Anderson greeted him with a smile. “Healer Malfoy, come in.”

Draco was pulled roughly from his thoughts but showed no notice of discomfort. Instead, he nodded his head politely at his boss and accepted his invitation.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Please take a seat.”

Draco sat in the large leather chair that was closest to the door and across from Anderson’s desk. He felt safer with the door in sight.

“What can I do for you, sir?” Draco folded his hands in his lap and tried to keep his face calm and expressionless. Regardless of the outcome of this meeting, he could not let Anderson see him panic. Even after everything, Draco still had his dignity.

Anderson sighed and leant back in his chair. “I don’t know how to say this, Draco, but I just received the results of your latest examination.”

Draco pressed his lips into a tight line. He did not like Anderson’s tone. He knew that tone. His boss only used that tone of voice when he was delivering the worst of news to patients.

“And?”

“And...” Anderson shuffled through the papers on his cluttered desk. “According to the Ministry results, you failed.”

“Failed?” That’s impossible! I could have written that bloody exam.”

Anderson bowed his head. “I know. I know. You’re the second best Healer in our department. But this is out of my hands.”

Draco’s stomach wrenched, his insides protesting fervently. This could not be happening. He had known every sodding question on that exam. He was certain he passed it.

“John—” Draco pursed his lips, “there must be some sort of mistake . You know me. That exam was child’s play.”

“I believe you. But it’s not up to me. I already tried to appeal and received an owl signed from the new Minister himself. New Ministry policy effective immediately states that all examinations and results are confidential.”

“But this is absurd! I should not have been required to take the exam in the first place. You know this brand new refresher examination had nothing to do with improving the quality of patient care.”

Draco was livid. He could feel sparks of angry magic building in his fingertips. The new Ministry had not been in power longer than a few months and already they had passed hundreds of new regulations and sanctions, especially on places of employment. Conveniently, those businesses that hired DEDAS were the first targeted.

A ten-hour refresher exam had been sprung on Draco without notice. He was brilliant at his job and had breezed through the exam. The idea that he failed was preposterous. The Ministry had messed up his test results on purpose.

“Draco, calm yourself.” Anderson scowled. “Of course, I know that, but there’s no sense in getting so worked up.”

Draco took a deep breath. His hands still shook on his lap, so he tucked them into the pockets of his robe. He had never been fond of his hideous lime green Healer robes. The only colour he could imagine to be more unflattering would be a ghastly shade of orange or Gryffindor red. Still, Anderson was right. This was not Anderson’s fault. He should not be taking out his anger on his boss.

“My apologises.” Draco bowed his head. “That was inappropriate of me. I just—”

“I understand. Trust me, I had a few choice words myself with the new Head of Testing Regulations for not allowing me to access the results of your examination. How convenient that all of my incompetent Healers passed that very same exam.”

Draco bit down on his lip. He was embarrassed and touched that his boss had stood up for him. “Thank you, sir. I appreciate your concern.” He sighed. “So where do we go from here? When can I retake the exam?”

Anderson paled; his entire face drained of colour and sorrow flickered in his blue eyes. “In a year.”

“A year! Are they insane?”

“Son,” Anderson said, voice soft and much kinder than Draco deserved, “I wish there were something more I could do. But there’s not. As of this morning, your Healer license has been suspended...until you retake the examination.”

Draco shook his head. He heard the words flow out of Anderson’s mouth, but he refused to believe them. He had worked so hard to become a Healer. And he was a bloody good one. The Ministry could not take this too.

“No. I refuse to accept this. I need this job.” His voice cracked. “My patients need me. You-you—”

Anderson stood from his chair and put both hands on Draco’s shoulders. He pressed him into his chair as if he were trying to ground him. “This department will be a mess without you. You know that you’re my second in command, Draco. I will do everything in my power to protest and appeal this. I’ll tell the Minister himself that I need you in my rotation. This hospital needs you.”

Draco just blinked at him. His entire world was falling apart — ripped out from under him — as it had so many times before.

“There is another way,” Anderson said. “But I need you to cooperate, Draco. No matter what, you have to keep your temper in check. Do you understand?”

Draco nodded.

“Good. I’m going to attempt to get you an earlier retest. In the mean time, if you go back to Training and take some refresher modules, you’ll be allowed to sit the examination in six months rather than a year.”

“Six months. And I have to retake subjects where I was already granted O’s,” Draco repeated, hoping that he hadn’t heard Anderson correctly. “That’s...that’s my best option?”

“It’s your only option.”

::7::

Two months had passed since his first day of term and after many sleepless nights, too much caffeine, and an overuse of Calming Draughts, Harry had wrongly assumed that he was caught up with all the work he had missed. He had four other core modules besides Magical Biology and catching up with all of those as well had been a nightmare. At least his other professors were more understanding than Edwards.

At first he had his doubts, but now he was certain that Edwards was Snape reincarnated. He had come back just to make Harry’s life miserable. There was no other explanation for his intense dislike of him. He always singled Harry out and made him look like an idiot. He was fairer than Snape though. If somehow Harry managed not to trip over his words and answer a question correctly, Edwards would nod and give him that eerie crooked smile with a “Very good, Mr Potter.”

Snape had never offered even a grumble of praise. Then again, Snape at least had his own twisted and flawed reasons for hating him. As far as he knew, his father had not beat up Edwards and he had not been in love with his mother.

His other modules weren’t going as poorly. He was at least passing them except for The Basics of Magical Healing: Practical Potion Application and Theory. Yesterday, he received a Dreadful on that examination. He needed to do something about his grades and soon if he planned to complete his first term. Healer Training was not like Hogwarts. He had already met his advisor, who warned him that his grades were below par, and that if they didn’t improve by the end of term, he would have to retake his basic lessons and not be allowed to take any subsequent modules until they were completed.

His advisor suggested Harry look into a tutor. He was not opposed to the idea. Harry even had a certain tutor in mind. The problem was that he might not be as amenable to the idea, so Harry needed to keep putting in the extra hours on his own.

At first, Harry entered the Healer Training programme because of Hermione. As usual, Hermione had been right. He wasn’t the best exam taker, but he had never enjoyed school as much as he did now. All of his modules were interesting. Yes, they were difficult, complicated, and gave Harry massive headaches, but they were also fascinating. For the first time in his entire school career, Harry paid attention in all his lessons, which is why he found it so unbelievable that he wasn’t performing well.

Magical Biology was still his hardest subject. However, Harry decided that it wasn’t all his fault. Sometimes, his attention waned in Magical Biology. He thought that had more to do with a certain annoying blond git’s presence than his lack of concentration.

Malfoy was not present in any of Harry’s other modules. He wasn’t sure how that happened since he seemed to share most of his modules with all the other Year 1 Healing students. Malfoy must be taking a different route.

Harry was not obsessed with Draco Malfoy.

This wasn’t Hogwarts and he wasn’t following him around because he thought that he was up to something. After their first lesson, Harry decided to ignore Malfoy, but the universe intervened. Anywhere that Harry went Malfoy was there too. The git might only be in one of Harry’s modules, but anytime he went to the library Malfoy was there. He studied at the same time. By the same window. Every day.

And every time Harry went to the canteen across the street to get a sandwich and a coffee, he managed to run into Malfoy. He always ordered the same thing: a soup and a cup of tea. How utterly boring.

Harry was not going out of his way to run into Malfoy. Not at first.

He was merely curious as to how and why his former rival always seemed to be alone. Other than when he answered questions in lessons, Malfoy never talked to anyone. He always sat alone at the library and sat alone at lunch. His habits were so peculiar and far removed from the boy he knew at Hogwarts that Harry had no choice but to follow him.

When other students and staff walked by Malfoy, they ignored him. Some of the more nasty students even bothered to insult him under their breath. Malfoy never reacted. His head was always stuck in some thick book that Harry didn’t not recognise as being part of the syllabus, and he always carried a small stack of notes that he read over and scribbled at furiously.

Sometimes, he would chew on the end of his quills. Others, he would run his fingers through his hair, pulling strands of pale hair loose from his short ponytail. Harry wasn’t sure why this amused him.

Seeing Draco Malfoy all dishevelled and lost in thought appealed to him. He differed than the perfectly put together boy that Harry had known at Hogwarts. Besides being quiet and keeping to himself, he no longer dressed in finely tailored suits or expensive robes. Most of the time, he wore plain white robes, which Harry knew were basic laboratory protocol. The other days, he wore Muggle jeans and oversized jumpers or long-sleeve shirts. Seeing Malfoy dressed so casually was strange, but at the same time, Harry found it enticing.

If only, he could get the git to talk to him.

: : :

“Mr Potter.” Healer Edwards scowled as he handed Harry back his latest exam. “I expected more from you. This is disappointing to say the least.”

Harry stared at the angry, red D that covered his exam. D was for Dreadful. He shook his head. Hell, he had studied so hard for this exam. He hadn’t left the house all weekend and even skipped his weekly dinner with the Weasleys. How did this happen? He did not deserve this grade.

When he took the exam, he knew that he hadn’t answered every question. There were more than a few challenging questions. But a D? This was not fair. A D was not acceptable. It was better than Troll but far from passing.

He felt tears forming in the corners of his eyes. Thank Merlin that Edwards had waited until the end of lecture to pass back the exams. He would have been mortified if all the other students had seen his grade. Luckily, his exam had been toward the bottom of the pile. There were only a handful of students in the room when he received it. Most of them seemed uninterested in Harry’s mark and had looks of despair on their own faces. Harry imagined they hadn’t fared much better.

Of course, Malfoy had to be one of the few students left. Malfoy always had to be around to see his humiliation. It was like an unwritten rule.

“I’ll do better,” Harry promised.

“You have two more exams to make it up, Potter. No one gets handouts in this programme. Understood?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, sir.”

There were still three students in front of Malfoy in queue, but he started walking toward the door. “Mr Malfoy,” Healer Edwards yelled at Malfoy’s retreating back, “don’t you want your exam?”

Malfoy stopped in the doorway and shrugged. “Nah. I have places to be and I already know my grade. You can keep it.”

Edwards raised an eyebrow and Harry just gawked. He could not believe that Malfoy had the audacity to speak to a professor like that, especially one who was as scary as Snape. Then again, Malfoy had never been afraid of Snape either.

“And what grade would that be?”

“Outstanding, of course,” Malfoy said in his lazy drawl. “Full marks on every question.” He turned around and faced Edwards and Harry. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and smirked. “Well?”

“Arrogance is not flattering, Mr Malfoy.” Edwards rolled his eyes. “But yes, you did receive full marks.”

“Marvellous,” Malfoy drawled, in that same bored tone. “Edwards. Potter. Ta.” He flung his rucksack behind his shoulder and walked away. Harry watched him leave in awe, not believing his sheer nerve. And most certainly not staring at the git’s arse.

: : :

On Tuesdays, Malfoy sat on a nearby park bench underneath a shady tree and read from 2-3. Harry assumed that it was his break because he had seen him sit in the same exact location for six different Tuesdays now. After watching Malfoy on and off for so many years, Harry had learnt that Malfoy was a creature of habit. He seemed to do the same thing every day at the same exact time.

He always ordered the same boring vegetable soup, exchanged his white roll for either a slice of rye or whole wheat bread and ordered a large tea, black. First, Malfoy would eat the soup, taking a bite of his bread in between every spoon of soup. Somehow, he always managed to make the slice of bread last for the entire cup of soup. He supposed that he had been eating the same boring cup of soup so often that he had the whole bread to soup ratio down to a science. Harry still found it disturbing.

Why was Malfoy so fucking weird?

After eating his soup, he would sip at his tea and read for the rest of his break, his eyes never leaving his book. The first time Harry had seen Malfoy sitting on that bench, he couldn’t ignore his urge to go over him and talk to him. Once he was there, he didn’t have much to say. He had so many questions to ask Malfoy, but couldn’t actually bring himself to ask any of them. Instead, he nodded a shy hello.

Malfoy looked up from his book, started at him for several seconds, and then greeted him with a tight-lipped, “Oh, hello, Potter.” He never did offer Harry an invitation to sit. When Harry couldn’t come up with any more suitable topics of conversation, especially after how is your mother doing was answered with a sharp “dead”.

Before he put his foot in it again, Harry decided to leave Malfoy alone. For some strange reason, talking to Malfoy made Harry seriously uncomfortable.

Perhaps it was due to their past or to Malfoy’s new taciturn attitude. After a couple awkward encounters, Harry decided to watch Malfoy from a distance instead. Talking to Malfoy felt awkward and uneasy, yet watching Malfoy from a distance felt natural and familiar. It was not a big deal and only a left over habit from their school days. At least that was what Harry kept telling himself.

Harry had no clue know why he reverted to watching Malfoy. He didn’t have a good reason. Malfoy wasn’t up to anything sinister. From what he had seen of Malfoy, he was still an arrogant git. At least he seemed to be putting his arrogance toward his studies instead of evil. He had never thought of Malfoy as a swot, yet every time he saw him, he had a book or quill in his hand. The git made look Hermione look like she was laidback. Even Hermione used to take breaks to hang out with her friends and relax.

Malfoy always had a serious almost pained look on his face, as if he were a man on a mission. Harry could not figure out what that mission might be. Maybe he was just serious about becoming a Healer.

It was the only plausible explanation.

Harry was fascinated by this new Malfoy. It made him think that he had never known the bloke at all. He wanted to know this new Malfoy, but Harry never found a good reason to speak with him. The few times he had tried to interact — Malfoy had never been rude — but he made it clear that Harry’s company was not appreciated. No matter how many times he smiled and said hello, Malfoy never once asked him to sit down with him or asked him about his life.

Clearly, he was hinting to Harry that he wasn’t interested. But Harry was too stubborn to accept no as answer. He could not understand how everyone walked around ignoring Malfoy as if he didn’t exist. As much as Harry wanted to, Harry could not ignore Draco Malfoy. Even from the first time he met the git, Malfoy had always attracted Harry’s attention, even if it was for negative reasons. Now was no different.

Harry had come up with a brilliant plan though. This time, he had a real reason to speak with Malfoy. He was going to start a conversation with the prat and not let him answer any of his questions with one-word answers. Harry might regret it afterward, but he was getting desperate. Not about Malfoy. But about his grades.

He had tried integrating himself with some of the other students. It failed. There were two types of students in his modules: those that hated Harry and those that worshiped him. There was no in between, and he had to admit that he actually preferred the students that hated him over those that worshiped him.

The one study group he had attended was a disaster where the students had just asked him questions about his personal life and Voldemort rather than focusing on studying. There were not enough hours in the day for Harry to catch up with all his work. He most certainly didn’t want to waste any of his precious study time with a study group that didn’t actually study.

That was where Malfoy came in. Malfoy was the top student in their class. He kept to himself and muttered answers under his breath when people were unable to answer questions. It was still obvious to everyone in the room that Malfoy knew his shit. What Harry had just witnessed with Professor Edwards only further emphasized his suspicion. The git had somehow answered every question right on their exam. He knew what he was talking about and Harry needed help. Desperately.

Chances were high that Malfoy would laugh in his face, but Harry decided to try to appeal to Malfoy’s ego. If he stroked Malfoys’ egos, he might just agree to tutor Harry. There was always the life debt card. Harry would never mention it for something as trivial as tutoring, but Malfoy did owe Harry. And he knew that Malfoy hated it. He doubted that as much he disliked Harry he would be able to deny his request.

: : :

Harry waited. At 2.30, Malfoy was halfway through his break. Harry needed to talk to him immediately, so that he wouldn’t be able to run off with the excuse of having lessons. He took a deep breath and walked over.

“Malfoy.” Harry didn’t wait for a response and sat on the end of the bench. It was foolish to wait for an invitation that would never come. He was tired of being polite.

Malfoy looked up from his book. “Potter, to what do I owe the pleasure?” His tone was only slightly sarcastic.

“I was wondering if I could discuss something with you?”

Malfoy sighed and looked back at his book. “I’m busy, Potter. Maybe another time.”

Harry scooted closer to Malfoy on the bench. “It’s important. Please.”

Malfoy bit down on his lip and then turned to face him. He snapped the book shut. “Fine, Potter, but make it quick.”

“I’ve noticed that you really know what you’re talking about in lessons.”

“And...”

“And...you’re brilliant.” Harry blushed and looked down at his hands. Damn it, he was fucking this up already. “I mean...with all this Healer stuff. You’re brilliant.”

Malfoy raised an eyebrow. His lips were pursed into a tight line but his eyes looked interested.

“Everyone knows you’re at the top of the class. And I know you’re not in any of my other modules, but I’m sure you’re as good in those—”

“Potter.” Malfoy scowled. “Not that I’m not enjoying this chat about my brilliance, but do you have a point?”

Harry blushed again; he could feel his cheeks grow hot. “Ermm...yeah. I was wondering if maybe...but only if you want—”

“Spit it out, Potter, I don’t have all day.”

Harry took a deep breath. “Fine. Could you possibly-tutor-me?” Harry tried not to cringe at how pathetic his voice sounded.

Draco looked at him for several seconds and said nothing. When he finally spoke, his eyes were wide and unblinking. “You want me to tutor you?”

Harry nodded. “I started term late and am sort of—” He looked down at his shoes, which he was rubbing into the grass. “I’m not doing so well.”

Draco picked up his rubbish from his lunch and then packed his book inside his rucksack. Harry’s heart hammered against his chest as he waited for a response. What was Draco doing? Was he going to leave? Harry supposed that was a nicer way of saying ‘go fuck yourself, Potter’. He flung his bag behind his shoulder again and stood from the bench.

“Alright. I’ll tutor you. Meet me in the library at two.”

Before Harry could respond, Draco walked away, leaving Harry to stare at his receding figure.

Had that really just happened?

::8::

Harry couldn’t quite believe that Malfoy had agreed to tutor him. Ever since he started Healing Training his life had become bizarre. He had left the Auror department because he was tired of fighting and couldn’t take all the injustices that were occurring within the Ministry. As a Healer, he would have the chance to help people, to save their lives without having to fight anymore.

For a while, it seemed like that dream would stay unfulfilled.

Malfoy had changed that.

He had been tutoring Harry for a little over a month. They would meet in the library every day from 2-3. A few times a week, they would study afterward also. Their midterm examinations hadn’t been returned, but Harry was certain that he had passed all of his examinations, including Magical Biology. In fact, he was certain he had achieved a least an E on his Magical Biology examination, which was such a far cry from his D of barely a month ago.

Harry never would have believed it, but Malfoy was not only smart he was also a capable teacher. He was patient — or at least as patient as Malfoy could be — and didn’t belittle him when he failed to understand something. During their first lesson, Harry had been sick to his stomach. He was certain that he had made a huge mistake—that Malfoy and him would resort to school boy hexes and get themselves expelled.

Nothing had happened.

Malfoy had been all business and tutored him without being condescending. Harry had been shocked and more than pleasantly surprised. Now, he looked forward to their study sessions. He couldn’t describe exactly when it happened, but during one of their sessions, Malfoy became Draco — not only his tutor — but a friend. Something they had never been.

He enjoyed his company and pretty much everything about Draco. He liked the way Draco laughed, how his eyes would crinkle when he found something amusing, and how his head tilted back and he let his hair fall down his back. He liked it when Draco wore blue.

Harry had never been partial to blue, but it was quickly becoming his favourite colour. Whenever Malfoy wore his old blue jumper, his grey eyes would pop. Harry noticed that Draco’s eyes were not just grey: they held all these specks of blue, gold, and silver. The combination was disconcerting. Sometimes, Harry caught himself staring at Draco. Luckily, Draco never seemed to complain. He would just look away and then start playing with his hair, a habit that Harry found much too endearing.

He was slowly falling for Draco. He wasn’t sure if it was just physical or something more. The few blokes that Harry had hooked up with were all blonds, so perhaps he had a type. Either way, he could not stop thinking about Draco. He was probably going mad, and it was doubtful that Draco returned his feelings.

Harry wasn’t even sure if the bloke was gay, but just in case, he had to try. He never had been good at hiding feelings.

“Draco?”

“Hmm?” Draco looked up from his notes.

“I was just wondering what you’re doing tonight?”

Draco put down the quill he was holding and turned around to face him. “What?”

Harry drew in a shallow breath. “I said...what are you doing tonight? You know after studying...”

Draco creased his forehead. “Well, I don’t have any set plans. Go home. Have dinner. Read.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. He found it amusing to turn Draco’s expressions on him. “On a Friday night?”

Draco shrugged. “I’m not exactly Mr Popularity anymore...if you haven’t noticed.”

“I can’t imagine why. I-I-”

Harry stared into Draco’s eyes; they were so bright and clear and beautiful. Harry wanted nothing more than to lean over and kiss him. He knew that it would be wrong and unwelcomed. And would probably make Draco punch him in the face.

“You’re a good tutor,” Harry said after several moments.

Draco laughed. “You’re a strange bloke, Potter. Did anyone ever you tell that?”

Harry shook his head. “Strange is good, right?” Draco gave him a confused look and Harry decided to change the subject. “So, if you’re not doing anything, let’s go out. For a drink.”

“You want to have a drink with me? In public?”

Harry picked up Draco’s quill on the table and started fidgeting with it. Oh, no, he thought. That’s it I’ve blown it. He’ll never talk to me again.

“Yeah,” he said, voice casual, “it’s not a big deal or anything. Just a drink.”

Draco laughed again and looked at him as if he had sprouted another head. “You’re definitely strange, Potter. But..I accept. A drink. With you.”

Harry beamed at Draco, flashing him his most dazzling smile. “Brilliant. I’ll meet you at the Leaky at nine.”

: : :

Harry sat at a corner booth in the Leaky Cauldron. It was half past eight and he was already waiting. He knew that he was early, but it was better to be early than late. Besides, he had wanted to make sure they would get a private booth and he didn’t want Draco to think he was using his name for favours. Yes, they had become friends over these last few weeks, but that didn’t mean that their pasts didn’t exist. Both of them were careful not to talk about their pasts.

After their second tutoring session, Draco apologised to Harry for being an insufferable git at school and thanked him for saving his life. Harry had been so aghast at the apology that he hadn’t said anything at all. Draco had taken his silence as a refusal to accept his apology, so Harry quickly told him that the past was the past and he didn’t want to discuss it again. He wanted to start over. They had both reintroduced themselves and neither had mentioned the war or Death Eaters since.

Sometimes, Harry regretted it. With all the new Ministry reform, he was concerned for Draco and his safety, but it was such an uncomfortable topic. He couldn’t just bring it up and risk their friendship. Draco meant too much too him, and he didn’t want to lose him, especially now that he agreed to meet for a drink.

Harry was certain that he mucked up the asking. Even though Harry wanted it to be a date, Draco probably did not see this as a date. Harry tried to be positive. Getting drinks was a step in the right direction. Maybe this wasn’t a date yet, but it was at least a pre-date, which was much closer to an actual date than he had been yesterday.

He just hoped he wouldn’t put his foot in his mouth too often. Drinking might not have been the best plan. Harry would make sure to stick to lager, so he didn’t make an arse of himself and confess his feelings to Draco. That would be beyond bad.

Nine o’clock came and passed and Draco did not show. At about nine twenty, Harry was certain that Draco stood him up. He couldn’t believe that he had actually believed that the git would come. Draco didn’t like him. It was just tutoring to him, nothing more. God, he was such an idiot. Harry stood from the table and walked over to the counter to pay his bill.

Even though he wanted to drown his sorrows in a couple of firewhiskeys, he knew that it would be all over the front page of every tabloid and newspaper in the country. The-Boy-Who-Lived Gets Pissed. It had happened before and the consequences had not been pretty. His Auror team had taken the piss on him for weeks. He didn’t want that to happen with his classmates, who were less than crazy about him, or with his professors, who were finally starting to believe that he wasn’t an idiot. Instead, he paid his bill and walked out.

He started walking around the streets, feeling sorry for himself. He wanted to hex Draco. How dare he humiliate him? He could have said no if he didn’t want to come, or at least send an owl if he was having second thoughts. It was incredibly rude and irreprehensible for him not to show up. Harry wanted answers. He wanted to know what he had done wrong.

One way or another, he would get answers. Perhaps he’d regret it in the morning when he was actually rational again. But something about Draco Malfoy had always made him completely irrational and barmy. Now that he actually knew the git, it was only getting worse. If he didn’t get his answer tonight, he would drive himself mad all weekend.

As an ex-Auror, Harry had been privy to certain Ministry files. He knew exactly where Draco lived. They had made plans, so Harry decided it was perfectly acceptable to show up uninvited. After all, if Draco couldn’t be arsed to cancel by owl, then Harry couldn’t be arsed either.

::9::

Harry knocked on the door of Draco’s cottage. He knew that Draco lived outside of London in a more rural area, but he had imagined a big manor house on par with Malfoy Manor. Or at least as ornate. He had not imagined this. The cottage had a Spanish tiled roof and white stone walls. Its window shutters were painted a bright turquoise as was the door. Overall, the cottage was adorable with a small rose garden in the front and an ivy covered trellis, but it was not extravagant or Malfoyish at all. Like everything else that had to do with Draco Malfoy, Harry had been wrong.

After the third knock, Draco answered. He stood in the doorway in his pyjamas and dressing gown, fuzzy slippers on his feet and hair loose on his shoulders. Harry had never seen Draco wear his hair loose. If he had the urge to run his fingers through it before, to imagine just how silky those golden strands were, now his fingers almost itched with need. He had been so furious with Malfoy, but seeing this bleary eyed and pyjama clad Malfoy melted his heart. Of course, he was still angry, but his anger had started to dissipate and he felt foolish for coming all the way out here in the middle of the night.

“Potter?” Malfoy stared at him, opening and closing his mouth repeatedly, as if he were some type of fish.

“Hi,” Harry said, feeling like an idiot but not knowing what else to say.

“What are you doing here? Is everything okay?”

“Not really. We need to talk.”

“Yes, of course. Come in.” Malfoy opened the door further and ushered him inside. “I’ll make some tea.”

Harry blinked. He couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. The entire way there, he had visualised various scenarios as to what could happen if Draco were actually at home. He thought there might have been yelling, hexing, punching, or fighting. In none of his scenarios did he imagine Malfoy opening the door in his pyjamas and fuzzy slippers and inviting him in for tea.

“This is a nice place.” Harry sat on Draco’s couch and tried not to feel too awkward while he waited for Draco to return with tea.

“Thanks,” came Draco’s reply from the kitchen. It was one of those open plan kitchen and living room layouts, only a small counter separated them. “Sorry about the mess. I wasn’t expecting company.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. I was —” The words fell from his lips before Harry could stop himself. What was he doing? Why was he apologising to Draco when he was the one who had stood him up? And why was Draco being so civil, like nothing had happened?

“It’s no problem. You’re welcome anytime.”

“Thanks.” Harry fidgeted with his hands. A feeling of dread stirred in his gut. He didn’t understand what Draco’s game was, or worse yet, why he continued playing it. Harry shouldn’t have come. He needed to drink his tea quickly and find an excuse to leave. This was much too awkward.

Moments later, Draco reappeared in the living room, carrying a tray full of tea and biscuits. “Help yourself.” Draco smiled. “Just to warn you though...the biscuits contain various nutrition potions.”

“Nutrition potions?” Harry had never heard of biscuits dosed with nutrition potions. Why would anyone do such a thing? That would give them a chalky taste. He picked one up and brought it to his nose, smelling it cautiously, before taking a bite.

Draco sighed and then let out a small chuckle. “Yeah, sorry. Scorpius is a fussy eater. Some days, it’s the only way I can make sure he gets all his vitamins.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Scorpius?” Was that his dog? Some other type of pet? The Malfoys had been know to keep strange pets. Hopefully, it wasn’t poisonous with a name like Scorpius.

Draco poured Harry a cup of tea and then one for himself. “Yes, my son.”

Harry almost choked on the biscuit he was eating. “You have a son?”

Draco gave him a strange look. “What planet do you live on Potter? Of course, I have son. Everyone knows that.”

“I-I-” Harry was gobsmacked. In the last few weeks, he had spent a lot of time thinking about Draco. Somehow, he had never pictured Draco with a kid. He didn’t even think he liked kids.

“You have a son?” he repeated, as if he still didn’t believe it.

Draco shook his head and glared. There was no malice in eyes; they were bright and utterly amused. “Yes, Potter, I have a son. That’s why I couldn’t meet you tonight. I am sorry about that. Scorpius wasn’t feeling well and I couldn’t leave him.”

“You didn’t blow me off?” Harry asked, feeling like an even bigger idiot.

Draco’s eyes grew wide. “What? No.” He put down the teacup he was holding. “Didn’t you get my owl?”

“No.”

Draco sighed. “I sent it to your flat, Harry, earlier this evening. I thought you would have received it.”

Fuck. Harry had not been back to his flat since this afternoon. He had been too excited to go home and hung around near the Leaky in case Draco showed up earlier. He couldn’t mention that—not if he didn’t want to sound like a desperate freak.

“I didn’t get a chance to go home,” Harry lied. “I had dinner with some friends. I don’t know why I didn’t receive it. Usually, I get all my post regardless of where it was addressed to.”

Two pink spots started spreading down Draco’s pale cheeks. “Sorry,” he said, “But I’m sure you’ve heard of all the new reforms and—”

“And—”

“And people like me aren’t exactly allowed to send owls to public places anymore. Security reasons or some rubbish.” Draco tried to brush the whole thing off as irrelevant and unimportant, but it was obvious that he was embarrassed.

Harry put down his teacup. He angled himself so he faced Draco, and then reached out and placed his hand on top of Draco’s. Draco’s hand was cool beneath his, but the skin was so soft and smooth, the complete opposite of Harry’s calloused rough ones.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said. “You don’t deserve that.” He slowly rubbed the back of Draco’s hand with his thumb. “That’s why I left the Aurors. I don’t agree with this new Ministry. What they’re doing isn’t right. You can’t treat people,” he looked up from their hands and locked eyes with Draco, “good people like second class citizens. It’s exactly why I fought against Voldemort, and I refuse to stand for it again. They won’t listen to me this time.”

Draco stared at him for several seconds, his eyes shining with an openness that Harry had never seen.

“Thank you, Harry. That means more to me than you can possibly imagine.”

His heart started fluttering and his stomach flip-flopped. Any anger he had felt toward Draco earlier in the evening was forgotten. He hadn’t ditched their date on purpose. It was because of Scorpius. His son. He still hadn’t wrapped his head around that titbit, especially because Draco had never mentioned a son. A significant other of any kind. Nor did he wear a wedding ring. That had to mean his was single, didn’t it? Harry had to know.

“Do you have a wife?” Harry stared down at the coffee table and avoided Draco’s eyes.

Draco gave a deep, hearty chuckle, that wonderful laugh of his that warmed Harry’s heart and tickled his belly. “Merlin, Harry. You weren’t kidding when you said you don’t follow the press. I had a wife.”

An immense wave of relief rushed through him. “Oh. Are you divorced then?”

Draco shook his head, his eyes flickering with a deep sadness. “She passed.”

“I-I’m sorry.” Harry felt like an idiot for not being able to come up with something more comforting to say. He hated when people offered him condolences about his parents. How could he not know that the man he had been following around all term had a dead wife and a son? “I-really didn’t know. I can go if—”

“Don’t be silly. It’s fine.” He gave a heavy sigh. “Well, it’s not fine, but it was years ago. Scorpius was not even one when she passed.”

“That must have been difficult,” Harry said, choosing his words carefully.

“It was. But I wouldn’t change Scorpius for anything. Being a father is—” A bright smile lit up his face. “I don’t even have words to describe it.”

“I can imagine.” His entire perception of Draco changed again. Every time Harry thought he knew who the real Malfoy was — Draco did something — or Harry discovered something like Draco being a single father — that shattered his image. “How old is Scorpius now?”

“He’s—”

“Five and a half!” a small, high-pitched voice cried.

Harry whipped his head around and saw a small boy, who looked much younger than five, standing on the bottom of the steps. He had white-blond hair, as pale as his father’s, and a tiny pointed chin. His cheeks were puffy from sleep and he was dressed in tiny Golden Snitch pyjamas. The boy was utterly adorable.

“Scorpius,” Draco said, using a mock stern voice, “what are you doing awake? You’re supposed to be in bed.”

Scorpius hung his head, pale hair falling into his eyes. If it were possible, he looked even cuter. “Sorry. I just heard talking and—”

“It’s my fault,” Harry said, addressing the small boy for the first time. “I stopped by to speak with your father and we were making noise. I’m sorry we woke you.”

Scorpius hopped down from the stairs and rain into the living room, his small feet shuffling loudly on the floor.

“Scorpius, what did I tell you about running in the house?”

Scorpius ignored his father and stepped right in front of Harry, staring at him with curious, unblinking eyes.

“Hello, I’m Harry.”

“Nice to meet you,” Scorpius said. He stuck a tiny hand out, and even though Harry felt ridiculous, he shook it. “Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy.”

Harry raised an eyebrow and looked over at Draco, who was biting down on his bottom lip, trying to contain his laughter.

“It’s nice to meet you too, Scorpius,” Harry replied. “I’m a friend of your fathers.”

“Really?” Scorpius’ eyes grew rounder. “Daddy never brings friends over.”

“Scorpius,” Draco said in a warning tone, “mind your manners.”

“Sorry.” Scorpius looked bashful again and Harry was already enamoured. He looked between Harry and Draco and then said, “Daddy, can Harry read me a bedtime story? I can’t go back to sleep without a story.” He pouted his tiny lips and fluttered his long, silvery eyelashes. Merlin, if he was already manipulating adults at five, this boy was going to be a handful.

Draco sighed and raised his eyes to the ceiling. “I’m sure, Harry has better things to do, Scorpius. Just go back to bed and I’ll be up in a minute to read you a story, alright?”

Scorpius’ face fell; he looked crestfallen but agreed anyway. “Yes, Daddy.”

“No!” Harry cried, more enthusiastically than he had intended. “I don’t mind. I have some time.”

Draco turned to look at him, eyeing him curiously. “Harry, that’s a nice gesture, but you really don’t have to—”

“I want to,” Harry insisted, a big smile on his face. “I love stories and know some good ones too.” He turned to Scorpius, who was looking at him with wide, expectant eyes. “You want to hear my stories, don’t you, Scorpius?”

“Yeah!” Scorpius threw his little hands in the air and then looked at Draco with a pout. “Please, Daddy. Please.”

Draco rolled his eyes and then waved them off dismissively. “Fine, fine. Potter, it appears you’ve finally made a friend of your same maturity level. Have fun.”

Harry snorted and then took Scorpius’ small hand. “You lead the way, Scorpius.”

::10::

Draco sat on the couch, nursing a cup of tea in his hands. He took a few deep sips from the cup and closed his eyes, trying not to feel guilty about the double shot of firewhiskey he added. He never liked to drink around his son, but Potter showing up unannounced had unnerved him. Of course, he was glad that they were no longer enemies — that some weird sense of camaraderie was forming between them — but Potter always had a talent for surprising him.

First, there was his invitation to go out for drinks, which came out of the blue, as if they were old mates rather than former enemies. And then when he cancelled, Potter appeared on his doorstep. It was beyond strange. The git had even insisted on reading Scorpius a bedtime story. Twenty-something-year-old blokes did not like spending time with children. Even the few witches that Draco had met, who weren’t repulsed by his name, ran for the hills once they found out he had a son. Draco was certain he had fallen into an alternate dimension.

Draco did not understand Potter. Perhaps the idiot pitied him, wanted to save him? There was no other explanation. He shook his head and finished the last of his tea. Potter and Scorpius had been gone for over thirty minutes. It was rare that Draco let Scorpius out of his sight, but Potter seemed harmless. No explosions or screams were heard, so he assumed they were still alive. Just in case, he decided to check on them and relieve Potter for the night. Draco loved Scorpius more than anything in the world, but he knew that his son was a handful and quite exhausting.

He put down his empty teacup and stood from the couch. As quietly as possible, he crept up the stairs, making sure to skip over the two creaky steps that he hadn’t fixed yet. It wasn’t like he didn’t trust Potter, but Scorpius had a knack for getting what he wanted, and Draco wanted to know if Potter was immune to his son’s charm. Last week, Scorpius even managed to convince Pansy and Daphne to act out his favourite fairy tale: Babbitty Rabbitty, so he was doubtful.

When he reached the top of the stairs, he tiptoed to Scorpius’ room and pressed himself against the wall right outside the doorway. Just as he hoped, Potter had left the door open. He angled his head in order to peer inside.

Scorpius lay cuddled on Potter’s chest, his small arms latched around Potter’s neck. He was fast asleep and snoring lightly, his slight chest rising and falling in slow, steady breaths. Potter was telling him a story, about a young boy and his pet dragon. He had a ridiculous, besotted look on his face.

Not that Draco would ever admit it, but the sight before him warmed his heart. He always knew that he would be a father one day. It was his duty as the Malfoy heir to continue the line. However, he never imagined that he would adore his son so much. And even Potter had gained points in his eyes, surprising him once again. It turned out that he hadn’t needed saving after all. The idiot was actually enjoying himself.

Potter had taken off his glasses and looked much younger without them, reminding Draco of the small boy he had been at Hogwarts. He looked so natural with Scorpius, his arms wrapped around him protectively, a content glow on his face. They looked so peaceful together that Draco almost felt guilty for disturbing them. It was getting late though, and Draco assumed Potter had better things to do.

“Harry,” he whispered as he entered his son’s bedroom. It didn’t feel right to call him Potter when was holding Scorpius in such a tender manner.

Potter’s eyes snapped up and he fell silent. “Hi.”

A soft blush crept down Potter’s cheeks, and Draco tried to ignore that warmth that was stirring in his chest again. Seeing Potter with his son should not be having such a strong effect on him. It must be the firewhiskey, he reasoned. It had been ages since he last drank.

He pressed a finger to his lips and stepped closer to Potter, helping him uncurl Scorpius’ hands from his neck. Being careful not to wake him, he lay Scorpius down on the bed and tucked the covers around him, so he wouldn’t be cold in the middle of the night. Then, he motioned for Potter to follow him out into the hall.

“Thank you,” Draco said, after closing the door behind him. Potter leant against the staircase and smiled.

“It was nothing.”

Draco had never thought of Potter as handsome. Really, Draco never thought any blokes were handsome since he wasn’t gay, but he always heard other witches mooning over Potter and giggling over his emerald green eyes and strong jaw. He had always assumed they were overreacting, throwing undeserved praises on the Saviour. As Potter stood there, trying to flatten out his messy hair that was even more unruly than usual from lying down, Draco had to reconsider.

Potter had an attractive quality about him. He wasn’t sure if it was the eyes, absurdly messy hair, or the way his dress shirt clung to his chest, but it caused a flutter in Draco’s gut. Again, he blamed the ridiculous notion on the firewhiskey and forced the idea out of his head. It had been ages since Draco last went out on a date. Perhaps he had been out of the dating world for so long that he grew excited by anyone, even Potter. He did not fancy blokes. He had always liked witches, petite beautiful witches like his mother. Even so, Potter needed to stop smiling at him.

“No really,” Draco said, trying to change the subject, “you were great with him. Scorpius can be difficult, especially with people he doesn’t know.”

Potter shrugged. “He gave me no trouble. Scorpius seems like a great kid.”

It was Draco’s turn to grin. He couldn’t help it. Any time someone praised Scorpius, he always broke out into a goofy grin. Scorpius was an amazing child and Draco didn’t deserve him. Besides, gloating was what parents did.

“He is.”

Potter looked down at the floor and started shuffling his shoes, black leather loafers, against the dark carpet. Draco blinked. He had never seen Potter wear anything but old trainers. How curious. Perhaps he wasn’t a lost cause and just saved his nicer wardrobe for the weekends. Besides, it wasn’t like Draco put as much effort into his appearance as he used to.

As a single father, he had more important things to worry about than keeping up with the latest fashions. Even so, a few fashionable robes were still hidden away in the back of his closet for special occasions.

“Well—”

“You’re probably tired. You should get home.”

Potter looked up and nodded, the wide smile gone. “Right.”

He gave Draco a strange look, his eyes shining brightly behind his glasses, almost as if he were disappointed. How odd? The silence hung thick between them, making Draco uncomfortable. A stray lock of hair fell over Potter’s right eyebrow, shading his eye. Draco had an urge to brush it aside. He needed Potter to leave before he said anything stupid or reached out and touched him. Merlin, he was never drinking firewhiskey again. Clearly, his tolerance for hard alcohol was shit.

“Thanks for stopping by.” Draco walked toward the stairs in hopes that Potter would take the hint and follow. “You’re welcome any time.”

Potter offered him a shy smile, nowhere near as brilliant as his previous one. “Yeah, sorry for just dropping over. Next time, I’ll owl.”

“Great.”

Draco avoided Potter’s gaze and scurried down the stairs, once again skipping the two creaky steps. He gathered Potter’s cloak, at record speed, and then stood by the door, waiting for Potter to catch up.

“Thank you,” Potter said, as Draco handed him his cloak.

“You’re very welcome. Goodnight, Harry.”

“Goodnight, Draco.” Potter grinned again, his eyes crinkling with amusement as he said Draco’s name. Apparently, the git found delight in the oddest of things. “We’ll try again for that drink?” he asked, staring at him with wide hopeful eyes.

“Sure.” The words fell from Draco’s lips before he could stop himself. “See you in class,” he told Potter as he closed the door.

Draco leant against the door and took a deep breath. His pulse raced and his cheeks were flushed. He hadn’t felt this out of breath since Daphne had told him he looked handsome in his dress robes in seventh year, before she hooked up with Pansy. Bollocks, he thought. What kind of trouble am I getting myself into? Note to self: never go out drinking with Potter.

: : :

Draco’s concern over Potter was short-lived. After Potter left, he checked on Scorpius. Once he realised that he was still fast asleep, Draco decided to go to bed too. It was still early for a Friday night, but sleep was a luxury he couldn’t afford to skip. The next morning, he woke early as usual. He had prepared a Hang Over Potion and placed it on his nightstand. It turned out to be unnecessary. The little bit of firewhiskey he imbibed had already worked its way out of his system.

An incessant tapping on his window pulled him out of the warmth of his bed. It wasn’t unusual for the hospital to send him post on a Saturday morning, but since he was still suspended, he assumed that any news forwarded could not be good, probably more regulations against former Death Eaters. The scowl that had formed on his lips lifted as soon he opened the window and let in the Snowy Owl. It was Hedwig II, Potter’s owl. Draco thought that Hedwig II was a barmy name for an owl, but she was a lovely bird that took to Draco instantly and landed on his shoulder. He nuzzled her on the neck and untied the letter from her leg.

“Thank you,” he told the bird. “If you hang around for a bit, I’ll fetch you a treat after I check on Scorpius.”

Apparently, Hedwig II had inherited Potter’s lack of patience because she flew off Draco’s shoulder and straight out the window. Oh, well. Draco shrugged. Perhaps she wanted to catch her own breakfast instead. He unrolled the parchment, which was tied with a green ribbon.

Dear Draco,

Thank you so much for a lovely evening and your hospitality. While a drink at the Leaky would have been fun, I enjoyed spending time with you at your home and getting to know your adorable son. Say hi, to Scorpius for me. Hopefully we can all get together again soon.

Harry

Draco blinked at the letter, reading it over for the third time. He tried to hide the wide smile that was plastered on his face. It was just a silly note, a common courtesy that any respectable wizard sent a host after a dinner party. While they hadn’t eaten dinner, perhaps Potter was feeling guilty for dropping in unannounced. Either way, Draco could not ignore the giddy feeling that was rising in his chest. Stupid Potter.

He placed the letter down on his nightstand, wrapped himself in his dressing gown and slippers, and then decided to check on Scorpius. With a bright smile, he nudged his son’s door open. It was half past eight and Scorpius never slept in after seven. The poor kid was probably wiped out from all the excitement of the previous evening. When he entered Scorpius’ room, his smile faded.

Scorpius was huddled underneath the covers, tossing and turning. His face was screwed up in anguish as he let out soft groans. A cold sweat dripped down his cheeks. Panic flooded Draco’s chest as he ran over to Scorpius’ side. He placed his hand on Scorpius’ forehead and noticed that he was burning up.

No. No. No. This could not be happening. Not again. Not so soon.

“Scorpius. Scorpius.” Draco shook his son gently, whispering into his ear and trying to rouse him from sleep. He cursed himself for not checking on Scorpius earlier. Thank Merlin he hadn’t overslept.

Pained grey eyes fluttered open and stared at him. “Da-Dad.”

“Shh.” Draco brushed his son’s sweat-drenched hair out of his face. “Daddy’s here. Don’t try to speak. I just need you to sit up.”

Draco placed a hand behind Scorpius’ back and helped him sit up, propping two pillows behind him. His heart hammered against his ribs, but he needed to remain calm for Scorpius’ sake. He offered a smile, hoping it didn’t appear too forced. “Are you dizzy?”

Scorpius nodded. “A little.”

Draco bit down on his tongue. Fuck. He had hoped that Scorpius’ attack had not progressed this far. Last night, he was fine.

“Alright,” Draco said in his calmest voice. “I need you to just sit up and try to stay awake.”

He reached over to the nearby nightstand and poured Scorpius a glass of chilled water, which he always kept handy. “Drink this. Take small sips.” He handed the glass to his son. “I’ll be right back. I’m just going to get your potions. Will you be okay for a minute?”

Scorpius took a shaky breath, panic obvious in his eyes, but nodded anyway. He was such a brave little boy. It broke Draco’s heart to see him in such pain. He didn’t deserve it. Draco rose from the bed and placed a soft kiss on Scorpius’ forehead.

“I’ll hurry. I promise.”

Draco left Scorpius’ room and went straight to his Potions lab. His cottage was small, much smaller than Draco was used to, but since it was just the two of them, Draco had converted the extra downstairs bedroom into a lab. With Scorpius’ illness, it was necessary.

His hands shook as he closed the door behind him. This wasn’t supposed to happen. It had only been three months since Scorpius’ last visit to St Mungo’s. The blood transfusion and filtration treatment he received was supposed to last at least six months if not a year. The toxins in Scorpius’ blood should not be replenishing themselves so quickly. He needed to run tests to be certain, but if the blood was high in heavy metal concentration, only one conclusion could be reached. His illness was progressing; it was not contained as he had believed.

Scorpius had inherited the same blood disease that killed his mother. Draco had known about it since his first birthday, but with Severus’ and Anderson’s help they were able to keep it under control. He had to take daily blood replenishing potions, kidney and liver regulating potions, and had to empty his extra untapped magic once a month.

Magic manifested itself at a wizard’s core. It intertwined to every cell of a wizard’s being. Magic might not be necessary for a wizard’s survival, but the symbiotic relationship that existed between the two was so strong that often times, when a wizard lost his magic, his body would shut down as well, not remembering how to function without it.

In a healthy wizard, the human body and magic cohabitated in perfect balance, neither interfering with the other. Magic flowed through the body, linking with its life energy, flowing through the blood, but not building up in the bloodstream. Any unused magic was released through the body’s normal everyday functions, like breathing. When a wizard had Scorpius’ blood disorder, ironically titled Pureblood disease, since it was once believed that only purebloods could contract it, magic did not eliminate itself from the body and instead slowly built up to toxic levels.

A witch like Astoria, who although book smart and beautiful but not gifted with strong magic, was able to survive for many years. It was only after the surge in her magic levels during pregnancy that she fell ill. Scorpius, on the other hand, was born with strong and unstable magic. Toxins had built up in his bloodstream more rapidly than normal. Draco needed to make sure to keep an eye on his blood toxicity levels at all times.

The potions were usually enough to manage his illness, but since he was almost six-years-old, the same age when Draco started coming into his magic, his magical levels were spiking out of control. The bursts of wild magic came without warning, so there was no way for Draco to be prepared. Scorpius had been feeling under the weather yesterday, but after a few Pepperup Potions he was fine. Draco had wrongly assumed that for once it was a run-of-the-mill cold. All his tests had been normal. Apparently, it was just a precursor to this attack.

If possible, Draco wanted to avoid brining Scorpius into St Mungo’s. Scorpius hated going to the hospital, and Draco was not ready to face the other Healers. He would never risk his son’s health in any way. However, he wanted to try giving him a stronger dose of a new Detox Potion that he had recently developed. Perhaps it would do the trick. With shaky hands, he measured out the right dosage for a child of Scorpius’ size and weight and poured it into a glass phial.

“Get a grip on yourself,” he said to himself. “Your son needs you.”

He closed his eyes and counted backward from ten, just as he had been taught in Healer Training. As a Healer, Draco never lost his cool. His impenetrable self-composure was part of the reason why he excelled at Healing. No matter how dire the case, Draco was never rattled. But around Scorpius he was a mess.

St Mungo’s had a policy against Healers tending to their own family. Draco had thought it absurd; however, it was starting to make sense. Having his son’s life hanging in the balance was drastically different than treating a stranger. He was no longer that same scared boy, who had failed to kill Dumbledore on the tower and cost his mother her life. His cowardice would never cost him another life, especially not his son’s, so Draco continued taking soothing breaths and focused on his counting.

Once his hands were no longer trembling, he left the potions lab behind, not bothering to tidy up his mess, and went straight back to his son. Scorpius needed him.

Everything else could wait.

::11::

Harry looked down at his untouched dinner plate and frowned. Draco was a brilliant cook, but he didn’t have much of an appetite. Two weeks had passed since the Ministry visit and they were still waiting for approval. Their visit with Rebecca had gone much better than Harry imagined. She seemed to like them and believed that their marriage was real. When she left, she even promised that she would put in a glowing report right away. He didn’t understand why the approval was taking so long.

Draco sat across from him at the other end of the table. He was also pushing the noodles around his plate rather than eating. Things with Draco were always so up and down. Ever since he signed the marriage contract and moved in, their relationship changed. Harry used to be able to read Draco at least some of the time. Lately, he never knew what to expect.

Some days, like right after Rebecca’s visit, Draco was all smiles and touchy feely. He would laugh at Harry and Scorpius’ impressions and even play with them. They would prepare dinner, then tuck Scorpius into bed together, and read him stories. A few times even acting them out.

But then there were days like today when Draco would be in a foul mood and just lock himself in his Potions lab until it was dinnertime. Even trying to talk to him would be as painful as pulling teeth. His moods were so unpredictable that Harry never knew if it was him that Draco was angry with or just the world in general. He tried to be patient, but eating every meal in stony silence was driving him mad.

Harry put his fork down, banging it against his plate. “How’s your research coming?”

Draco didn’t meet his eyes. “How do you think, Potter? It’s bloody awful.”

Harry closed his eyes. He knew that Draco was hurting. He was concerned for Scorpius, who had been too weak to take his meal at the table. If only the prat would let Harry try to offer some comfort.

“You’ll find something soon. I know you will.”

Draco snapped his head up. His eyes were heavy-lidded and shining with tears. “And if I don’t? Scorpius, he’s already late for his transfusion.”

Harry gulped. A deep pang twisted in his chest. Draco’s voice and face were so defeated. He didn’t deserve this, to see his son suffer and feel responsible. “He’s not in any pain though. We were just playing this morning—”

Draco closed his eyes. “He will be once the toxins continue to build up and the potions stop working.”

“You’ll find something.” Harry pushed his plate away from him. He couldn’t sit and watch any longer. He stood from his seat and walked over to Draco. “And if you don’t, then he’ll get his treatment like he always has. I’m certain we’ll get approved in no time.”

“It’s already been two weeks.”

Harry shrugged. “I have a good feeling. Good news always comes on Fridays.”

“Right, Potter. An owl is going to fly in that window right now just because you say so.”

“It might.” Harry pushed back Draco’s chair and held out his hand. “Come on,” he said, “let’s go outside and get some fresh air. You’ve been cooped inside your lab for days.”

Draco scowled and gave him a quizzical look. Reluctantly, he took Harry’s hand. “Alright, but only for a bit.”

: : :

“Potter! Potter!”

Harry felt cold hands against his neck. He opened his eyes and realised that he had dosed off. “What is it? Go away.” He groaned, rubbing his head and not quite believing that he fell asleep with his head against his books. Hermione would never let him live this down. Not after all the times he teased her for falling asleep while studying.

“You were right. It’s here.” Draco beamed at him and waved an envelope in the air.

Harry sobered, his sleep and annoyance forgotten. “From the Ministry?”

“Who else, you complete berk?”

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know. Be nice, I just woke up.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “That’s not my fault. If you had just used the study plan I set up for you, then you’d have plenty of time for rest and wouldn’t be—”

“Oh, shut up about the sodding study plan.” Harry groaned again. “What does it say?”

Draco arched an eyebrow.

“The letter?”

“Oh, I haven’t opened it yet.” He thrust the letter at Harry. “You do it.”

Harry’s eye grew wide as he accepted the letter. “Alright.” He broke the Ministry seal and then opened the envelope. His fingers shook and his stomach protested. This one tiny letter would change their lives. He took a deep breath and then unrolled it. I’ll read it aloud. He cleared his throat, which had gone completely dry.

Dear Misters Potter and Malfoy,

After careful consideration, we are pleased to announce that your marriage petition has been approved. From this point forward, your trial marriage certificate will be invalidated and both parties will now be have access to full marital rights in accordance to Ministry policy. You have two weeks from today to come in and sign the official—

Draco ripped the parchment out of Harry’s hands.

“Hey! I was reading that.”

“You take too long.” Draco ignored his protests and scanned the paper.

“Well?” Harry asked, surprised at how high-pitched and hopeful his voice sounded.

Draco flashed a brilliant grin. “We’ve been approved! Both our marriage and Scorpius as your legal heir.”

Harry tilted his head back and let out a relieved sigh. “Oh, thank god. I can’t believe it took—”

Before Harry could finish his sentence, Draco threw his arms around his neck and knocked him out of his chair, both of them tumbling onto the floor. “Thank you. Thank you,” he cried, burying his face in Harry’s shoulders. “This is all because of you.”

Harry felt hot tears tickle his neck. Draco was crying. He was so relieved that he was actually crying. Harry stroked his fingers through Draco’s hair, relishing in its softness. He swallowed back his own set of happy tears that were prickling his eyes. This moment wasn’t about him. It was about Draco, a man who would go to hell and back for his son. It was rare that Draco actually opened up and showed his emotions. Harry would not give up this opportunity to take care of Draco for a change, especially if it meant he got to wrap his arms around him.

They sat together in silence and Harry continued to stroke Draco’s hair, murmuring comforting words into his ear. He didn’t how long they stayed in that position, curled up together on the floor, but Harry could have stayed there all night. Listening to the steady thump of Draco’s heart against his chest and his soft breathing would never get tiring. Nothing else mattered.

When he was all cried out, Draco picked up his head and wiped his runny nose against sleeve. His hair was stuck to his forehead and his eyes were red-rimmed and puffy. Harry thought he looked adorable.

“Harry,” Draco said, his voice thick and hoarse, “I don’t know how I can repay you. I know that I’ve been a shit to you these past few weeks, but it’s only because—”

“You were worried about Scorpius.” Harry offered a shy smile. “I understand. I love him too. I don’t need an apology.”

“You do. Scorpius is my entire world. If something happened to him—” Draco’s voice was faint and strained; his eyes started to water. “If I lost him too, I don’t know—”

He hung his head.

Harry grabbed Draco’s chin and raised it up, so their eyes met. “Listen to me,” he said, voice firm. “You’re not going to lose him. The marriage worked. We got approval.” He released Draco’s chin and swept his hand down Draco’s cheek, caressing it. “He’ll get his treatment.”

“It’s not a cure.” Draco leant into his touch, his eyes wide and unblinking.

“It’s enough.” Harry continued to stare into Draco’s eyes; they were so bright, flickering with a complexity of emotion, which Harry had never seen. “I won’t let anything happen to him.” The intensity of Draco’s gaze was dizzying. Harry fluttered his eyes closed and bit down on his lip. “To Either of you.”

Harry heard Draco gasp and decided it was too much. Before he could stop himself, he leant forward and kissed him. Draco’s lips were soft and smooth, parting easily for Harry’s tongue. A faint taste of honey and citrus washed over him, coaxing a low moan from the back of his throat, sending a wave of pleasure straight to his cock. Harry explored the inside of Draco’s mouth, running his tongue against his teeth. He always knew that Draco would taste divine. Harry grew bolder and attempted to massage Draco’s tongue with his own. Draco released his own needy groan, but then pulled away and gasped for air.

He recoiled from Harry as if he had been struck, his eyes impossibly wide and panicked.

Fear started to stir in Harry’s gut. Oh, sweet, Merlin, what did I do?

“Draco.”

“Potter, I’m not gay!”

The words cut through Harry as if he had been slashed with a knife. “I didn’t—”

Draco shook his head and backed away, holding his hands up in resignation. “It’s fine. It’s perfectly fine.” He coughed and avoided Harry’s eyes. “I-I need to go. I should owl St Mungo’s and make an appointment for Scorpius.”

Before Harry had a chance to respond, Draco was gone.

::12::

Harry had not heard from Draco in eight days, five hours, and seven minutes. Or so he imagined. He wasn’t counting or anything. Either way, he was beginning to worry. After that night at his cottage, Draco had not shown up to class. Since his owl had gone unanswered, Harry foolishly assumed that Draco skived off class to avoid him—that Harry made him uncomfortable by showing up at his house uninvited. He tried to avoid torturing himself and pretended it didn’t bother him. If Draco wanted to ignore him, then Harry would do the same. He certainly was not brooding. Or missing the annoying prat.

When Draco failed to show for lessons for an entire week, Harry could no longer keep his composure. What if something was seriously wrong? He swallowed down the last bits of his pride and owled Draco. He must have rewritten and torn up seven different drafts before deciding on this. When in doubt, go with simple. That’s what Hermione always told him. It was good advice.

Draco,

Professor Edwards brought it to my attention that you have missed a few lessons. I was wondering if everything was okay? You can borrow my notes if you’d like. Or not since you probably know the material already.

I hope you and Scorpius are well.

—Harry

Although it was short and a bit of a lie, Harry decided that it was innocent enough and far better than his three other notes, which demanded to know why Draco hadn’t returned his owl and refused to show for lessons. He sent Hedwig II off with instructions to peck Draco until she received a reply. Even if Draco was brushing him off, Harry wanted to know. Within the hour, he had a reply.

Potter,

Your concern is touching. I’m flattered that you noticed my absence. I am fine. Regrettably, Scorpius has fallen ill. Tell Edwards that he should worry about his shoddy teaching skills rather than my presence. I’ve already found three mistakes in his readings for tomorrow’s lecture. He should expect my owl with annotations and corrections shortly. Make sure you stick to our study plan, Potter. Do not slack off because I’m not there to hex you.

Hope you are well.

—D. Malfoy

Draco,

Why do you still call me Potter in your owls? It’s quite strange, especially since you have no problem calling me Harry in person. Anyway, I’m sorry to hear that Scorpius is unwell. Give him a hug from me and I hope that he recovers quickly. Should I expect you at the library tomorrow? Edwards said if you miss one more class, you’re out.

—Harry

Harry did not receive a response to his second owl. He ate a quick dinner of curry takeaway and attempted to catch up on the all the readings he had missed. As usual, he was back to obsessing about Malfoy and it was making him barmy. At least he knew that Draco was not avoiding him, at least not on purpose. Draco was taking care of his son, which was far more important than lessons. It was commendable, but that didn’t mean that Harry missed him any less.

Before this week, he was able to deny his feelings. That night, however, as he stared at his Magical Biology textbook, rereading the same three pages, Harry realised that he was fucked. He had fallen for Draco Malfoy. Actually, fallen for the git. This was not a simple crush that would fade away. It was more than wanting a competent tutor or even a thorough shagging. Yes, Malfoy was attractive, and Harry wanted to run his fingers through those long blond strands, to kiss his full lips, and suck his cock right in the library stacks. But Harry also enjoyed spending time with the prat.

He missed Malfoy’s snide remarks and witty jokes, the way he would crease his brow when he was explaining a difficult concept, and that brilliant smile. Draco didn’t smile often. In fact, it was incredibly rare—since it appeared that Draco’s natural expression was a scowl—but the few times that Draco had directed it at him—that smile had tickled his heart and caused his stomach to cartwheel. This last week without him had been almost unbearable. Harry was certain that he could not go through it again.

If Draco didn’t show for lessons again tomorrow, then Harry would pay him another visit. They needed to have a serious talk. It was too easy for Draco to dismiss him in writing, but Harry had learnt that Draco’s growl was much fiercer than his bite. When they were alone together, like the other night, Harry saw a much softer side of Draco. He could not stop thinking about that Draco. One way or another, he was going to tell him.

In theory, Draco did not need to attend any of their lessons. He would still receive full marks on their final exams and complete the Magical Biology module. Harry was certain of it. The thought of losing Draco as a study partner — of never seeing him again and going back to being strangers — terrified him. Harry had never learnt how to hide his emotions. When he fancied someone, it was written all over his face.

He still wasn’t sure if Draco was gay, but the other night there had been such tension between them, friction. When they stood on those stairs, he had wanted to kiss Draco so badly. At least for a moment, it felt like Draco wanted it too. Perhaps he was imagining things, but if there was even a small chance that Draco returned his feelings, then Harry had to try. And if he didn’t, then it was better that Harry found out sooner rather than later. He had already wasted enough of his life obsessing over Draco Malfoy.

If he didn’t feel the same, then Harry needed to suck it up and move on. He was tired of being single, tired of watching everyone else around him marry and start having families. When would it be his turn?

::13::

Harry fidgeted with the bouquet of blue roses in hand and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself.

“You can do this,” he said to himself. “Just be natural.”

Draco had not shown up for any more classes. In fact, Harry hadn’t seen him since Scorpius had fallen ill. The only reason he waited this long to see him was because Draco was at least owling him daily. Draco had said that he wasn’t up for company, but Harry figured that he could at least help him out by watching Scorpius for a bit while he got some rest. Hopefully, he would invite him in for tea and they could chat for a few minutes afterward.

All he needed was five minutes of Draco’s time. He had an entire speech rehearsed. He was going to confess his feelings. He was tired of flirting back and forth in letters every day. It was getting ridiculous. They weren’t school boys any longer, so Harry was going to step up and make the first move.

After counting backward from ten, he finally knocked on the door. Three times.

Within seconds, Draco opened the door halfway, propping it with his knee. Harry’s bright smile faded as he took in his appearance. He had to bite down on his tongue to keep himself from gasping. Draco’s hair was dry and hanging limply on his shoulders. His eyes were bloodshot and sunken in as if he hadn’t slept in days. His entire face was pointier than Harry had seen it in years and he was still wearing his pyjamas and dressing gown at four in the afternoon.

“Potter—” Draco snorted. “I should’ve known it was you.”

“Draco, what’s—”

“Keep your voice down. Scorpius is sleeping.” He let out a disgruntled sigh and then opened the door. “I guess I should invite you in.”

Harry gulped and then followed Draco inside. The neat cottage that Harry was used to seeing was a disaster. There were piles of books everywhere. Half-chopped potion ingredients were lying on the counter and rolls of parchment and old newspaper were strewn across the floor. He couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing.

Draco shrugged. “Make yourself at home. I’m afraid I don’t have any tea or biscuits to offer.”

“That’s okay. I already ate.” Harry bit his lip. “I was worried about you. I got your letter about you quitting the program.”

Draco nodded.

“You can’t quit, Draco. If you don’t come back, then you can’t—”

Draco scoffed. “I can’t what? Get my Healer’s license back. That’s the least of my concerns.” He walked over to the only armchair that wasn’t covered in papers and plopped down on it.

Harry put the flowers down on what used to be the coffee table and then tried to make room on the couch. “You love being a Healer.”

“Things change.” Draco covered his mouth and yawned. “Nice flowers.”

“Thanks.” Harry scowled and studied Draco closely. He looked like shit, like a man who had given up on life. It didn’t seem like the right time to confess his feelings. “They’re for Scorpius.”

“How kind. I’m sure he’ll appreciate them.” He rolled his eyes. “Even if he is five.”

Harry felt his cheeks grow warm. “Shut up. And don’t change the subject.”

Draco put his head in his hands and sighed. “Clearly, you haven’t seen yesterday’s paper.”

“Huh?”

“Check the pile to the right of you. I don’t think I’ve burned them all yet.”

Harry turned to the large mass of papers beside the couch. He shuffled through old issues until he found yesterday’s paper and turned to the first page. Unfortunately, the paper was half scorched and he could only make out the beginning portion of the article.

New Ministry Codes Passed Against DEDAS

Before the AV Administration came into power, dangerous DEDAS (Death Eater and Dark Arts Sympathisers) were allowed to hold Ministry appointed and regulated jobs. Due to the increase in neo-Death Eater activities, the Ministry of Magic AV has decided that taking unnecessary risks with the safety of the wizarding community at large is unacceptable. Twenty-seven new Ministry decrees have been passed against DEDAS that are effective immediately...

“What the fuck is this?”

Harry crumbled the article and threw it on the ground.

“What do you think, Potter?” Draco sniffed and wrinkled his nose. “Surely, you’d understand that respectable wizarding society does not want marked Death Eaters treating their children at St Mungo’s.”

“You’ve been banned.”

Draco sat up straighter in the chair and bit his lip. His eyes were glassy and pained “I have. But like I said, my Healer’s license is hardly my biggest concern—”

“What other laws?” Harry rose from the couch and walked over to Draco. He knelt down in front of his chair and put his hands on his shoulders. “Something’s wrong,” he said. “It’s written all over your face. Just tell me. Let me help you.”

Draco hung his head. “It’s Scorpius. They refuse to treat him at St Mungo’s.”

::14::

Harry stood in front of the empty wardrobe. He double-checked to make sure that nothing was left behind. His suitcase was sprawled out on the bed, open-faced and neatly packed. Draco and Scorpius were at St Mungo’s and would be for the entire afternoon. Harry wanted to make sure he that was gone before they returned. He knew that it was a cowardly thing to do, to leave while they were away, without saying goodbye. After last night, Harry didn’t think that he could face Draco again.

Things were finally going well between them, and as usual, he had been an idiot and fucked them up. Draco had been vulnerable. He was actually letting go and trusting him. Instead of offering the solace he deserved, Harry took advantage.

All night, his dreams had been haunted by the fear and panic in Draco’s eyes. He had barely slept at all. For that single fleeting moment, Harry had been in heaven. He was kissing Draco, the man he loved, and he swore that Draco was kissing him back. Perhaps he had imagined it.

The “Potter, I’m not gay” was a clear indication that he had thought wrong. For months now, Harry had been harbouring feelings for Draco. On so many occasions, he had tried to tell him. He just never found the right moment. At least, he had his answer.

When Harry proposed this fake marriage scheme to Draco, he had promised himself that he wasn’t doing this for his own selfish reasons. It was for Scorpius. That was all. The marriage had nothing to do with Harry getting off on pretending that Draco was his husband and Scorpius his son. Those were just added benefits.

He had known that it wouldn’t be easy—that it would weigh down on his heart and cause him daily pain. It hadn’t occurred to him that it would destroy him. As difficult as they were, these past few months had been some of the happiest of Harry’s life. He absolutely adored living with the two Malfoys, feeling like he was a part of their family. The only problem was that Harry wasn’t pretending. Last night, had been the breaking point, a slap in the face to drag him back to reality. He didn’t belong. And now there was no reason to stay.

Harry made a few firecalls that morning and made sure that Scorpius was given the first appointment at St Mungo’s. It was rare that Harry ever abused his fame, especially since the Ministry no longer saw him as their poster boy. Seeing Scorpius almost pass out into his porridge at breakfast made Harry change his mind. Draco had been right to be concerned because Scorpius was getting weaker by the day. Harry dreaded to think how much longer the poor boy could have survived without his treatments. At least his suffering was over. For that, he was grateful.

Harry zipped the suitcase closed and pulled it off the bed. He took one last look around the room, savouring every detail. It was time to give Draco back his bed. He didn’t feel like imposing anymore. The two Malfoys no longer needed him. Their marriage had served its purpose. This chapter of his life was over. It was time to move on, to maybe find a family of his own.

He hung his head, heaved a heavy sigh, and dragged the suitcase behind him. Before he changed his mind, he needed to leave. He stole one last glance at the nightstand where his goodbye note to Draco rested and then walked out of the room, leaving his heavy heart behind.

: : :

“Harry, we’re home,” Draco called as he entered the house, closing the turquoise door behind him.

Scorpius was fast asleep, leaning against his chest, small arms curled around Draco’s neck. He hadn’t carried Scorpius like this in months since he always informed him that he was big boy and didn’t need to be carried. After being separated from him for eight hours while Healer Anderson performed an emergency detoxification, blood transfusion and filtration, Draco was not keen on letting his son out of his sight.

His treatment had taken longer than usual. In the past, it never ran longer than four hours. Then again, Anderson had told him that the level of septicaemia in Scorpius’ blood was double the levels that it normally was when he received treatment. If they waited much longer, he might have had internal organ damage.

Once again, Draco was indebted to Potter. Not only had Potter saved his own life, now he had saved his son’s life as well.

He had no idea what he was going to say to Potter. That kiss, unnerved him more than he would ever admit. He knew that it had been cowardly to run off, but he wasn’t ready to deal with it yet. Over the last few months, Draco knew that he was slowly developing romantic feelings for Potter. He longed to be close to him, to touch his hair, to breathe in his clean scent. But kissing Potter had been too much. Yes, he had enjoyed it, but wasn’t ready for anything more.

His life was far too complicated for him to jump into a casual relationship, especially with someone as experienced as Potter. When Astoria passed, he promised himself that he would never introduce someone into Scorpius’ life if it wasn’t for a long-term commitment. Scorpius became attached to people easily. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt his son.

Besides, Potter could have any bloke in the entire wizarding world. Why would he want to saddle himself down with a sick kid and an unemployed Death Eater? He had already done too much by coming up with this marriage scheme in the first place. It would be selfish to ask him to do any more. Instead, he was just going to have to apologise and explain.

Draco was surprised not to find Potter waiting for them in the living room. He figured that he would be a worried mess. Perhaps the git had worried himself into exhaustion and was taking a nap. Sleep would serve him well, especially since Draco was planning to help him cram for his final exams in the coming weeks. Now, that Scorpius was fine, they could resume their study sessions. It was the least that he could do.

With Scorpius still draped across his neck, Draco took him upstairs and tucked him into bed. He placed a soft kiss on his forehead and whispered, “I love you, son” into his hair. Lucius had never told Draco that he loved him. Deep down, Draco knew that his father did love him, but he always yearned to hear the words. He made sure to tell his son at least once a day.

After casting a couple of surveillance charms to alert him if Scorpius woke, Draco tiptoed down the stairs and then headed straight for his bedroom. He knocked on the door.

“Harry, are you awake?”

When he didn’t receive a response, he pushed the door open gingerly, so he wouldn’t wake Potter if he were actually sleeping. He wasn’t. The room was empty. Draco noticed that his extra set of towels and the dressing gown and slippers he had lent Potter were neatly folded on top of the bed. How odd. While Potter was not a slob, he certainly never left the room so meticulous. A quick inspection around the room confirmed his suspicions. Potter was gone. He had packed up all his belongings and left. Without saying goodbye.

Draco tried to ignore the sharp pang that was twisting in his chest. He couldn’t believe that this was actually happening. He sat down on the bed to try to calm himself and noticed the small white envelope with his name on it, scribbled in Potter’s messy scrawl.

With his heart in his throat, he opened the envelope and unravelled the note.

Dear Draco,

I apologise for leaving without warning. My departure must have caught you off guard. Believe me when I tell you, that I regret not saying goodbye face to face. There are things I need to tell you, which I could never say aloud.

First and foremost, I want to wish Scorpius a speedy recovery. Healer Anderson was kind enough to owl me this morning and informed me on Scorpius’ progress. He explained that although extensive, Scorpius’ treatment was running smoothly and no complications had arisen. Please give Scorpius my best and tell him that I love him very much. You need to understand that everything I did—this entire charade—it was all for him.

From this moment forward, I must cease contact with you both. No, I am not annulling the marriage. We will remain married in the eyes of the Ministry for as long as these ludicrous laws survive and Scorpius will remain my legal heir. I will speak with Healer Anderson and make sure that Scorpius’ treatments are scheduled and never late again. I made a promise to you that I would never let anything happen to him. And I meant it. However, unless another Ministry visitation occurs, I hope that you will honour my wishes and refrain from contacting me. I will do the same.

If I know you at all, you’re probably scowling at this note and tugging at your hair. Silently, or perhaps not so silently, cursing me out. For one of the smartest wizards I know, sometimes you’re hopelessly thick. I bet that you have no idea why I left and need to cut contact with you.

I’ve been trying to find a way to tell you for months now and harbouring these feelings for even longer. Well, here goes. I’m mad for you, Draco. Absolutely and irrevocably smitten. I’ve tried to ignore these feelings, to swallow them down and just accept your friendship, but I can’t play this game any longer.

You’re either completely oblivious to my feelings or are the most heartless bastard on the planet. I’m hoping it’s the former. Last night you pushed me off you, and told me you’re not gay. But bloody hell, Draco, you’ve been flirting shamelessly with me for months, stringing me along like a lovesick crup. And I can’t take it anymore. Everyone has a breaking point. Even me.

I know that I brought a lot of this on myself. Perhaps even all of it. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less. Yes, I was the one that asked you to tutor me. And I was the one who asked you out for a drink and then showed up at your house and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was even the one that came up with this fucking fake marriage idea. But you must have known, at least suspected.

I know that we were playing an adult version of house, but those smiles, caresses, and hugs were all real to me. I wasn’t acting. Not even a little bit. Not even that time I told Rebecca that I loved you since we were children.

You’re everything to me, Draco. You and Scorpius. You both crawled your way into my heart and stole it. I know it sounds maudlin and cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I’ve always been obsessed with you. Ever since we were children. And to an extent, I think I even loved you then too.

I may not have understood it at the time. You were the world’s biggest prat back then. You made me unbearably angry half the time. All the time. But I must confess that after a few of our explosive fights, almost every time , I wanked to you shamelessly. I just wrote it off as a sloppy mess of teenage hormones, angst, and sexuality confusion. Now, I realise that it might have been more. Either way, it’s more now.

You don’t understand what you do to me. Being around you, day after day, pretending to be your husband, Scorpius’ other father. It’s destroyed me, tortured me. Every night, I would lay in bed and wish that it were real. Maybe I’m not explaining this clearly. The two of you, you’re my people. My family. My entire world revolves around you, and I wanted nothing more than to make you both happy, to hear you both laugh. I think that’s what I’ll miss the most: your matching smiles.

The more time we spent together, the more I started to fool myself into believing that you actually felt the same. There were so many times when I swore you wanted me to kiss you, to ravish you, but I suppose it must have been me dreaming. I was in denial.

I’m not any longer, which is why I left. That kiss that horrified you last night, it meant everything. You kissed me back. I hope you realise that, realise how you gave me hope and then cruelly snatched it away. You have this power over me, a power that I can’t even begin to describe, but I won’t accept it any longer. I deserve to be happy. I wanted nothing more than to make you and Scorpius my real family. If I can’t have that, then I want to have a family of my own. Someone to love me. This is why I need to cut you out. I cannot move on with my life if I spend all my time with an emotionally unavailable bloke, in denial,and his kid.

I hope that you can understand this and one day forgive me. You and Scorpius will always have a special place in my heart, Draco. Never forget that. As much as it pains me to say this, I hope you find what you’re looking for too.

Regrettably yours,

Harry

Draco blinked at the absurdly long and heartfelt letter that Potter had written him. He couldn’t quite believe the words that were written on the page. They were for him. From Potter. The same Potter who usually had trouble stringing together more than two sentences. That man would never cease to amaze him. Apparently, he had the soul of a poet. Yes, Potter’s prose was clumsy, filled with grammatical errors, and sometimes failed to make sense, but every single word was filled with emotion, undeniable emotion that had twisted his insides.

If he were honest with himself, he believed that Potter had some type of feelings for him. He figured that he was infatuated—that he just wanted to shag. The actual depth of Potter’s emotion stunned him. He had called him family. Potter loved him.

But don’t you think of Potter as family too, a small voice asked in the back of mind. After all these months, he supposed he did. Scorpius certainly did.

But love?

Before these past few months, Draco had never even doubted his sexuality. He had always been straight. Or at least he thought so. It wasn’t like he had a lot to compare. The only person he’d ever been with intimately was Astoria, and they had been shy virgins at the time of their arranged marriage. Throughout their three year marriage, they had only made love a handful of times and always copious amounts of alcohol had been consumed. That should have alerted him. After Astoria, he shoved his romantic life aside and only focused on his work and Scorpius.

Potter loved him. The insane idea still hadn’t sunk in. He was an idiot. The idea of someone loving him had never even occurred to Draco. Marriage wasn’t about love. It was about convenience, providing an heir. Those were the ideals that were instilled in him since birth. Old families arranged pureblood marriages. Eventually, the partners would grow to love each other. That was what his mother had told him. In his way, he had learnt to love Astoria. She was a good wife. A good partner.

She never made him feel the way that Potter did. Stupid Potter, with those annoyingly green eyes and that atrocious hair of his. He had an obnoxious laugh. The few times they shared a bed he had hogged the covers. But Potter was also brave, strong, independent. He had stood up to Voldemort since he was a child and was now standing against the Ministry and slowly gaining support. Potter was a force to be reckoned with. But did he love him?

Draco closed his eyes. He tried to picture his life without Potter. The idea of never seeing or speaking with him again caused his stomach to revolt. Maybe he wasn’t at the madly in love stage that Potter was, since he wasn’t a reckless Gryffindor, but he thought that one day he’d get there. All he knew was that he couldn’t lose Potter from his life.

He needed to go and chat with the idiot before he did something irrational like move out of the country. Or find another bloke.

::15::

An incessant knocking disturbed Harry from his sleep. Once again, he fell asleep on his books. His final exams were coming up soon and he was afraid that he’d never be prepared. He looked up at the clock and realised that it was two in the morning. Who in their right mind would be at his door at this hour? He looked for his slippers since his feet were always cold and then walked over to the front door.

“Potter, open up! I know you’re in there and I refuse to leave until you see me. And I’m not kidding. I’ll—”

Harry flung open the door and sighed. There was only one person that could be that annoying and insistent. “You’ll what, Malfoy?”

“Wow, you look like shit, Potter.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Wonderful. Why are you here? It’s the middle of the night.”

Draco looked sheepish. “Sorry,” he said. “I couldn’t find anyone to stay with Scorpius until now. Pansy and Daphne are out of town. Can I come in?”

Harry yawned and stretched his arms over his head. “I suppose.”

Draco walked inside and examined the room. “Nice place.”

“Thanks.” Harry motioned for him to sit on the couch. “How did you find me?”

“Granger. She even volunteered to stay with Scorpius.”

Harry shook his head. “That bitch.”

Draco raised an eyebrow. “What was that?”

“Nothing.” Harry scowled. “So you read my letter.”

“Yes.”

“I suppose you missed the part that said not to contact me.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “You’re such an idiot, Potter. You can’t just leave someone a note like that. A bloody love letter and then say piss off have a nice life.” He creased his brow. “It doesn’t work that way.”

“How does it work then? What would you have done?”

“Well...I—” Draco sniffed and crossed his arms in front of his chest, wrapping his hands around his elbows. “Not that.”

“Right.”

Harry could not believe that Draco was in his flat sitting next to him on the couch. After he finished that letter, which he was starting to regret, he vowed to make his life Draco free and only focus on his schoolwork. Not even twelve hours had gone by yet.

“Look, Malfoy.” Harry tried to keep his tone casual. “Unless there’s something specific you want, I’d like you to leave.” He shrugged. “This is awkward.”

Draco scoffed. “So it’s Malfoy now I see? You write a bloke a love letter and then kick him out of your flat. I don’t get you.”

Harry ran both hands through his hair. “You call me, Potter. Why shouldn’t I call you, Malfoy?”

“That’s hardly the point. Why are you being so difficult?”

Harry arched an eyebrow. “I’m being difficult. You’re the one who showed up in the middle of the night just to annoy me.”

Draco shook his head. “I’m not here to annoy you, Potter. I just wanted to—”

“To what?” Harry narrowed his eyes. “Mock me? Tease me? Make up some hurtful songs.”

Draco shut his eyes and pressed his lips into a tight line. “Merlin’s beard, Potter! We’re not twelve. That’s not. I wouldn’t.”

Without any warning, Draco launched himself at Harry, knocking the wind out of him and pinning him on the couch. He stared at Harry with wide hungry eyes. “I wanted to do this, you idiot.”

Draco smashed his lips against his, mouth hot and greedy, teeth nipping against Harry’s lips. Harry felt Draco tangle his hands in his hair, twisting thick tendrils around his fingers and massaging Harry’s scalp. Harry was staggered. What had brought this on? Why had Draco had such a quick change of heart?

As long as Draco kept kissing him like that, devouring his mouth as if he were trying to suck all the air out of his lungs. Harry didn’t care.

They stayed that way for several minutes—all teeth, lips, heat, and sweat. Harry was reluctant to pull away, but eventually he needed to come up for air.

“Draco,” he said, after catching his breath, “why?”

Draco smirked. “What you’re only eloquent in writing, Potter?” His lips were bruised and his hair mussed. Harry thought that he had never looked sexier. Lust was pooling in his groin and he wanted Draco right then and there.

Harry shrugged.

Draco reached out and placed a hand on Harry’s cheek. “I’m sorry,” he said, voice soft, earnest. “I’m rubbish at this feeling stuff too. I should have never pushed you away the other night.” He stroked Harry’s cheek with his thumb. “I liked that kiss...this one too.” Draco inhaled a shaky breath. “I want you, Harry. I want everything you said in that letter.”

Harry’s eye grew wide. He couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. Draco wanted him too. “You love me?”

Draco frowned, creasing his forehead deeply. “I don’t know,” he said after several seconds. “I’ve never done this before. The whole love thing. And never with a bloke. I want to though.” He leant in closer, his face only inches away, those grey eyes sparkling. “I meant it when I said I wasn’t gay. I’ve never wanted another bloke.”

Harry gulped.

“Only you.” Draco pressed a soft kiss against his lips. “I think we can though. Make this work. Us. If you help me. If we take things slow.”

Harry broke out into a wide smile. He wrapped his hands around Draco’s neck. “Absolutely.” He rested his forehead against Draco’s and then placed a kiss on his nose. “We’ll go as slow as you need. I can wait.”

Draco wrinkled his nose and chuckled. “Patience is not one of your virtues, Potter.”

Harry shrugged. “I’ll work on it.”

: : :

Draco was right, Harry thought, as he lay on their bed completely naked.

He was terrible at being patient. They had been in a relationship for three months and Harry was going barmy. Taking things slow proved to be harder than he imagined.

After everything they’d been through together, he knew that he was incredibly lucky to have Draco as a partner. Of course, he treasured their kisses. They had even swapped a blowjob or two and participated in mutual hand jobs. Harry knew that it didn’t get much more intimate than having his partner’s cock in his mouth or jerking off both their cocks together in his hand, but Harry longed to have his cock in Draco’s arse.

Draco was a virgin. At least when it came to anal. And Harry wanted to be the first and hopefully only bloke to come inside Draco. Tonight it was finally going to happen. Harry’s stomach churned with both excitement and nerves. Draco had gone through the Floo to drop off Scorpius at Pansy and Daphne’s place. He said that he would only be gone five minutes, which is why Harry had got naked.

He’d been gone closer to half an hour and Harry was both annoyed and a little bit worried. If Draco wasn’t back in five more minutes, then Harry would get dressed and go find him. He decided to rest his eyes for a moment.

Feather soft kisses tickled Harry’s neck. “Mmmm.”

“Harry?” Draco’s voice was thick and raspy. “Did you fall asleep?”

Harry groaned.

“I thought we had plans.”

Harry opened his eyes and attempted to sit up.

Draco snorted. “That did the trick.”

“Sorry,” Harry said, yawning. “You took too long. I got tired.”

Draco smirked at him and then pulled the covers off Harry, sucking on his bottom lip as he took in Harry’s naked body. “I hope you’re not tired now.”

Harry shook his head. “Wide awake.” He curled his fingers around Draco’s wrists and then pounced on him. “Are you ready?”

A faint blush tinged Draco’s cheeks but he nodded anyway. “Yes.”

“Good. You’re wearing too many clothes.”

Draco raised his arms above his head and Harry helped him peel off his shirt. He tossed it on the nearby chair. Then he slowly tugged the black trousers and pants down Draco’s slim hips, past his ankles, and tossed them aside as well. They had been undressing each other for weeks now, and Harry had become quite skilled.

Harry had always assumed that Draco would be beautiful naked. And he was right. No matter how many times he saw him naked, Harry always revelled in the sight. Draco had these long muscular legs, a slight but strong torso, and a delicious pink cock.

Harry wrapped a hand around Draco’s cock and gave it a few firm tugs. He lowered his head and tucked his lips around the head and sucked, hard, massaging the head with his tongue just like Draco liked it. Harry felt Draco’s member grow harder in between his lips, which caused his own cock to twitch. He loved the feeling of Draco’s cock in his mouth, watching his cool facade unravel.

Draco let out a low moan and jerked his hips, pushing further into Harry’s throat. Harry didn’t mind. He was one of those lucky blokes, who didn’t have a strong gag reflex. He needed to stop though. This was just a little tease. He didn’t actually want to make Draco come until he was inside of him.

He released Draco’s cock and then lifted his head, locking eyes with him. Draco protested.

“Don’t worry, that was a warm up. Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

Draco licked his lips. “Yes,” he said, voice scratchy, “I want you.”

Harry smiled. “I’m going to cast a stretching and lube charm on you this time, so you’re extra comfortable.”

Draco nodded.

Harry cast the charms on Draco and then pressed a finger inside Draco’s arse. He slowly wiggled his finger around, trying to make sure that Draco was comfortable. “It might be a little cold. Are you okay?”

Draco nodded again, and then Harry carefully added a second finger, making sure to stretch him even further and eventually a third.

Once Harry felt Draco was relaxed and adequately stretched, he gave his own cock, a few firm tugs and then positioned it at Draco’s entrance. “Ready?”

“Yes,” Draco hissed, his face scrunched tightly. “Go slow.”

Harry pushed himself in, only about an inch or two, and relished in the tightness of Draco’s hole. He winced. “Are you okay?” Harry asked, concerned.

“It hurts. A little.”

“Just relax.” Harry cupped Draco’s cock and started rubbing it softly. “How’s that?”

The pained look on Draco’s face lessened and then Harry pushed the rest of his cock in. His cock was throbbing painfully and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to last. It had just been too long since the last time he fucked someone.

“I’m going to move now.”

“Yes, do it,” Draco moaned.

He thrust his cock into Draco, first in a slow steady rhythm and then quickened the pace. Draco wrapped those strong thighs of his around Harry’s waist, and Harry continued to pound into him each time harder and deeper, angling his hips so he could brush up against Draco’s prostate.

Draco squirmed and writhed beneath him, tilting his head back and moaning. The heady sight of Draco unravelling beneath him sent Harry dangerously close to the edge.

“I’m not going to last.” Harry’s voice was tight. “Touch yourself. I want you to come with me inside you.”

Draco obliged and wrapped a hand around his cock, jerking it up and down in sync with his thrusts until spurts of white leaked out of Draco’s cock and onto his stomach.

“Fuck. Yes. Harry.”

Harry felt Draco’s orgasm pulse through him and it was enough to make him come undone. He closed his eyes and with one final heavy thrust, he came deep within Draco’s arse and collapsed on top of his chest.

Harry’s head was spinning, his pulse raced. He could feel Draco’s heavy heart rate, thumping against his chest, his short breaths.

“You’re heavy, Potter.” Draco groaned. “Get off.”

“Shut up. You love it.”

“You wish.”

Harry took a few calming breaths and then rolled off Draco, landing in a loud thump on his half of the bed. “No, really. How was it? I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

Draco snorted. “No, it was bloody brilliant.” He leant over and gave Harry a quick kiss.

Harry returned his kiss and then let out a relieved sigh. “For me too.”

He sunk his head into his pillow and shut his eyes. Draco asked him something that he couldn’t quite understand, but he nodded his head anyway. A cooling sensation tickled his cock, and he muttered a quick thanks for the cleaning charm that he was too exhausted to cast.

“Here.” Draco poked Harry and offered him a clean pair of pants. “Put these on.”

Harry opened one eye and then closed it again. “Too tired. No pants.”

“In case you’ve forgotten, we have a rambunctious five-year-old, who has no qualms about jumping in bed with his fathers.”

Harry groaned into his pillow. “Fine. Give them here.”

Draco tossed Harry the red pants and they landed on top of his face. Harry was not amused. “Very funny.”

He removed the pants from his face and then slipped them on. Within moments, he was back on his pillow. Draco nuzzled himself into Harry’s chest and Harry buried his nose against Draco’s hair. It was his favourite position to sleep.

Harry’s eyelids grew much too heavy and sleep washed over him.

He slept soundly through the night.

: : :

The next morning, Harry slept in and felt a warm breath against his knee when he finally roused. Draco’s side of the bed was already empty. He was probably halfway through his morning errands, but Scorpius seemed to enjoy sleeping in as much as Harry did. He was cuddled on top of the comforter in a tight ball, resting his head on Harry’s leg. Pansy and Daphne must have dropped him off early. He felt a warm pang in his chest.

All his life, Harry had wished for a family, a family that was solely his own. Before Scorpius and Draco tumbled into his life, he had thought it would never happen. But these two boys flew in like a whirlwind and stole his heart. Now, he couldn’t imagine life without them.

Life was far from perfect. Draco’s Healer license still hadn’t been reinstated, and some days he was downright grumpy. Harry and Scorpius tried their best to keep Draco entertained and busy. They discovered that kept him in better spirits. On the days when nothing worked to cheer him up, Harry always suggested for him to visit Snape’s portrait. Snape was the only man who made Draco’s foul moods seem pleasant. Every time, Draco returned, he was happier, so Harry assumed that it helped.

Harry hadn’t told Draco yet, but he wasn’t going to accept his spot next term for Healer Training—even if he had worked so bloody hard to get it in the first place. His next term they would start Training at St Mungo’s and Harry could not support the hospital or the oppressive Ministry policies when they treated his husband and son like criminals. He was going to protest and he wasn’t going to be alone.

So far, twenty other Healers, organised by Anderson were going to join Harry in the protest. They were not going to return to their professions until the DEDAS restrictions were lifted or at least amended. Twenty people protesting together wasn’t much, but it was better than one protester or no protesters. He hoped that it would be contagious. That other rational, open-minded witches and wizards would see the protest and then get inspired. It was wishful thinking on Harry’s part and probably wouldn’t have any effect against the Ministry at all.

But he refused to give up.

He had more reasons to fight now. His friends. His two boys. His family. He knew that it wouldn’t be easy and perhaps it would take years before they saw any major changes. But as long as he had his friends, Draco, and Scorpius by his side, he knew that they would survive. For the first time since he was a child, Harry was truly happy. He finally had his real family.

~Fin

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