(fic) HP -- Oath Breaker II: Dawn and Twilight, pt. 3
Disclaimer: I wish I owned Harry, Draco and all the rest; they'd do a lot more stuff than they do in the books and it'd all be rated R through X. Alas, however, I do not.
Other info: Draco-centric. Sequel to Oath Breaker. Harry/Draco, Lucius/Narcissa/Severus (she insisted).
Summary: Harry learns to live with the Malfoys. The Malfoys learn to live with Harry. The rest of the world learns to deal.
Part 1, Part 2
Almost every morning Harry woke up first, but anxiety woke Draco well before he wanted to. He blamed the strip of sunlight that just happened to fall over his face, but even turning and burrowing deeper into the blankets didn't help. How early was it? He refused to get up. Even though he was wide awake, he put his arm and leg over Harry and squeezed his eyes tight.
Something heavy thumped on his back, followed by a rustle of feathers behind him. The Daily Prophet, Draco realized, which he wasn't in the mood for. When Draco didn't react, his owl hooted and nudged the small of his back. Draco grumbled and scooted closer to Harry.
"I'll give you treats later, Ilmauzer," he mumbled. "I'm tired--"
He grunted as the eagle owl nudged him harder, with enough force that he bumped Harry. About to turn and shove his owl off the bed, he froze when he felt Harry shift, groaning as he woke and slowly sitting up.
"Now look what you did, stupid owl." Draco readjusted to pillow his head on Harry's lap.
"He just wants a treat for bringing your newspaper in," Harry said, yawning and stroking the eagle owl's feathers. "Isn't that right? Good thing I'm here, Ilmauzer, or else you would've starved by now."
Draco spoke over his owl's answering hoot. "They've already had breakfast. Filly feeds him and Hedwig and Kiskil and Grim--don't indulge him, you'll spoil him."
"Sad no one ever thought about that with you," Harry said, running his free hand through Draco's hair. "You gonna sleep all day?"
"Yes," Draco snapped, "and you're staying with me even if I have to stun you."
Harry's laugh didn't improve Draco's mood, but at least he made no move to leave the bed. Harry opened the nightstand and gave the owl a tidbit. A second later, Ilmauzer flew back out the window and Harry waved it shut again. He had to lean over Draco to grab the Daily Prophet, sitting back against the headboard as he opened the paper.
Draco waited for him to start reading aloud. When he didn't hear anything, he craned his head enough to see the edge of the paper near his face.
"What's the headline?" he asked.
"Opera House Attack," Harry read. He paused, curling Draco's hair around his fingers. "Want me to read it to you?"
"If you don't mind..." Draco murmured.
Harry snorted but read anyway. "An attack at Bredgett Opera House left seventeen dead and seventy three injured during last night's performance of La Candela di Maledizioni. Few details are known at this time. The crystal chandelier above the audience exploded and sent fragments of crystal slivers flying like knives into the people below. Those who escaped injury either fled or began apparating the wounded to St. Mungo's.
In a sign of new cooperation, Ministry Aurors worked side by side with Knights of Walpurgis, their dark wizard equivalents. Despite generations of fighting and ill-will, practitioners of both dark and light saved countless wizards and witches on each side.
No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, but an anonymous source in the Ministry reported that the spell that made the chandelier explode is similar to those used by Death Eaters. Our source would not reveal who examined the chandelier and recognized the spell, except to say that former Death Eaters made the identification. Although this raises questions about the level of trust the Ministry places in former enemies, perhaps some comfort can be taken in their willingness to put aside the past and work with the light.
If our readers have any information about the explosion or the whereabouts of the remnants of Voldemort's Death Eaters..."
Harry paused, thinking for so long that Draco grew curious and turned just enough to see him from the corner of his eye. His husband didn't often grow contemplative.
"How many Knights does your father have?" Harry asked.
"Around thirty-five," Draco said, laying down again. This wasn't something he or his father liked to think about.
"Thirty five?" Harry repeated. "Is that all? It seems like so much more..."
"Most families can only give one person," Draco said. "Maybe if the light wizards don't turn against us, we might gain more Knights over time. But for now, our family is unique in that there's three of us."
"Mm..." Harry absently stroked Draco's hair, letting the paper fold down in his lap. "I thought your mother was a Knight."
"Mother's--different. She commands us when father isn't here, but otherwise she doesn't do anything." Draco pushed himself up and stretched until his whole body went taught, then relaxed bonelessly across Harry's legs and waist, scrunching the paper under himself. "S'better that way. Otherwise they'd argue all the time."
Harry didn't reply, too busy trying to tug the newspaper out from under Draco without tearing it. Steadfastly refusing to move, Draco wondered about the way his father ran the Knights. Having his wife as second in command was a break with tradition. The second was usually the next eldest Knight. But dark wizards were used to scattering for survival, and Draco understood the need for absolute trust, too. He loved his parents and cared about his friends, but he trusted his life to Harry. If his life depended on the casting of a spell, he wanted the wand in Harry's hand.
A pop by the door made them both snap to attention, but they relaxed when they saw Filly, who took a small step back as they looked at her. Draco let out a small sigh when he saw that. If she was getting back her old fear, then she was slowly losing her feral nature. He'd be happy when her claws shrank.
"The mistress is saying to tell you that breakfast is served," she said.
"Oh good," Draco said, his voice muffled by the covers as he lay down again. "Breakfast in bed sounds nice."
Filly made a small noise that sounded like she'd swallowed something sour. "Filly's sorry, master, but the mistress is also saying that we's isn't unciv'lized, and that meals is taken at the table or not at all."
Slowly raising his head with wide eyes, Draco's voice choked in indignation.
"'Not at all'? When did that happen? After all the times I ate alone because they were too busy--what about father's late mornings or mother's beauty sleep--"
"Please tell her we'll be right down," Harry said, dismissing Filly so she didn't have to wait for his tantrum to end. She disappeared before Draco could order her to ignore Harry, and Draco glared at him in betrayal.
"We're already awake," Harry explained, sliding out from under him and heading for the dresser. "You might as well get up."
"Bloody morning person." Draco flopped back onto the bed and grabbed the blankets, curling around them. "I could make you keep decent hours, you know. There are potions for that."
"Considering your hours, you'd have to make me nocturnal." Harry quickly dressed, and he tossed Draco's clothes beside him as he opened and closed each drawer.
"You say that like it's a bad thing." Draco refused to move. "S'proper hours for a potions master. Almost everything we need is best picked at night. Roots, flowers, sleeping muggles..."
"If you can try to bait me, you're wide awake," Harry said. "Get up. Time for breakfast, and then we can go to Diagon Alley."
"I--Diagon Alley?" Draco poked his head out from behind the covers. "Really? It's not a joke to get me up?"
"We need to get a wedding present for Hermione and Ron," Harry said, standing in front of the mirror to get the buttons on his robes right. He ignored Draco's dismissive tsk. "And you always want something from that dark book shop."
Abandoning his blankets, Draco leaned up on his elbows and watched him for a moment. "Are you offering to go to Sortileja's with me?"
Harry kept his voice even, but Draco heard the difference. He knew when his husband forced himself to sound normal. Draco frowned. Harry sounded different every time he mentioned Knockturn Alley and all its dark shops. Even in its most innocent candy store, his husband was wary. But to be fair, The Devil's Delights carried things like caramel poison toadstools, hard candy eyes that blinked before you bit into them, and still-beating hearts coated in chocolate.
Lost in thought, Draco slowly sat up and put on his pants and socks, then pulled on his robe. It became form fitting as the buttons fastened with a gesture of his hand, following his fingertips up to the collar.
"You suddenly went quiet," Harry said from the other side of the bed. "Are you all right?"
"Just thinking," Draco replied slowly. "You've been practicing our spells for months. And living with us for half as long. If you're still nervous around dark magic, I can't imagine this insane lecture idea working out very well."
"It will work," Harry said. At Draco's disbelieving snort, he came around and stood in front of him, looking into his gray eyes.
Draco straightened and held his breath, meeting Harry's gaze without flinching and holding still as Harry touched his cheek, letting him inch closer. So hard to allow him this close without turning away or closing his eyes. His memory of being violated, his torn thoughts and burned emotions, ached even now. His occlumancy would never be strong enough to defend himself against Harry's legilimancy, and he felt that vulnerability every time they shared a look, when Harry became the snake mesmerizing him like prey.
"You trust me with this," Harry said softly.
Frightened--and even without looking into him, Harry had to see his fear--Draco nonetheless nodded.
"Then believe me. It will work."
Lowering his gaze, Harry released him and touched his collar, trailing his palm beside the line of buttons on his robe. The touch paradoxically made Draco feel naked and he leaned closer, listening to Harry's breath beside his ear.
"Your magic does scare me a little," Harry whispered. "But only because it's so intense. It feeds off you. I worry you'll lose yourself in it."
Smiling, Draco turned slightly and pressed a kiss to Harry's throat, hooking his fingers in his husband's loose robes and pulling the cloth down to reveal more skin.
"Not if I'm careful," he replied. "Not as long as you're there."
"Always," Harry said, trying to catch his breath as it ran away from him. With ease born from practice, he plucked open Draco's robe, then moved his hand back behind his neck to hold him still, pressing him close. "My bad faith...false dragon..."
By the time they finally made it out of the bedroom, Draco was sure they'd missed breakfast entirely. Redoing his buttons and looking over his shoulder at Harry to ask if he'd done them up wrong, Draco rushed down the stairs as fast as he could without sounding like he was stomping down each step.
"Sorry we're late, we lost time talking and--"
He froze in the doorway. Something was wrong. His father, his mother were seated, but--Severus was not at the table. Draco looked around to see if Severus was at the bookshelves or at the hearth--
"He's outside," Narcissa said. "In the garden."
About to ask why, Draco thought better of it and kept his mouth shut. Best to stay out of arguments between his parents. Then he noticed that his father had finished breakfast already and was standing to leave.
"I'm afraid I'll be indisposed for the next few days," Lucius said, pushing a strand of hair from his eyes. "Your mother is in charge until then. Try to stay out of trouble."
"Yes, father," Draco said, nudging Harry in the ribs to remind him to nod as Lucius left, disappearing upstairs.
"Indisposed," their way of referring to their time spent forced into a half-serpent shape, the result of their ancestors crossbreeding themselves with wyverns. Draco wished he could tell when he was about to transform. Every time Draco had to shed his skin, he only knew he was transforming when his teeth turned to fangs and his tongue became forked. After that, his skin became scales in a rush. If he was lucky, he made it to a pool or bathtub before his tail formed.
As Harry sat down, visibly relieved not to have Lucius nearby, Draco hesitated by his chair, first glancing at the table, then at the window.
"Of course you may go," Narcissa said before he could ask. "I took the liberty of having Filly set your breakfast in the garden. And I've been hoping to speak with Harry in private for awhile. You don't mind, do you, dear?"
"Um..." Harry's eyes opened wide and he looked at Draco, who offered no help, and then Narcissa again. "No, I don't mind."
Leaving Harry to the merciful clutches of his mother, Draco went outside. Any dark wizard would have recognized the garden as belonging to one of their own if for no other reason than the lack of snow. White flurries simply fluttered away, leaving a patch of grass ringing the house.
The garden couldn't rival the one that used to thrive around the manor, but Severus and Narcissa had been planting and tending all sorts of herbs and poisons to replenish their destroyed supplies. Belladonna, hemlock, and other poisons filled the flower beds, while clover grew in thick clumps around the house. Fairy rings of mushrooms sprung up near the edges of the yard, which made Draco wonder what his parents had buried to encourage them. And mistletoe threatened to choke one of the yew trees, beneath which he spotted his former master.
Severus sat at the garden table, absently sorting piles with one hand. An assortment of bottles covered the table, but he made no move to fill them. Though his stare was fixed on the house, Severus' eyes didn't seem to focus on anything.
Draco paused, wondering if he should join him. Severus rarely fell into quiet moods, and they were never a good thing.
"You might as well have a seat," Severus said, still staring at nothing. "I know you're there. You can help sort these, at least."
Chewing his lip, Draco came closer and sat in the other chair, uncorking the remaining bottles. For a few minutes they separated the plants, brushed off damp soil still clinging to the roots, and stripped leaves and petals. While they worked, Filly appeared and set his breakfast plate onto the table, vanishing as Draco nudged the plate aside. The last thing they needed was food spilling across the hemlock.
"Did your parents send you after me?" Severus finally asked.
"No," Draco answered. "At least I don't think so, but with mother, there's never a way to tell."
Severus nodded once without reply.
Another minute passed. As he corked a bottle of henbane, Draco glanced sideways at Severus.
"Did you and mother have a fight?" he mumbled, rushing the words out before they could catch in his throat. "Or was it...?"
Draco couldn't even mention his father. Severus sighed and glanced at the windows again to make sure no one was eavesdropping. There was a flutter of a curtain on the second floor, as of a hand suddenly drawn back, but Severus didn't pay it any attention. Lucius might be watching, but he certainly couldn't hear.
"We did not have a fight," Severus said. "None of us did. We simply had to change some of our more long-term plans."
He didn't elaborate. Draco waited for him to go on, biding his time as he sorted poisons and nibbled at his breakfast, but when it became clear that Severus wasn't going to continue, Draco had to resort to delicate prodding.
"Long term?" he asked. "Is it because of Harry and me?"
Severus paused, resuming his bottling after he ordered his thoughts.
"It...only tangentially," Severus finally said, studying the nightshade in his hand more than necessary. "I will not be returning to Hogwarts after it is rebuilt."
The only reason Draco didn't drop the bottle in his hands was because he nearly cracked it in his grip. Not return? Severus was best situated to watch Dumbledore and the Ministry's dealings at the school, especially when they weren't reported to the school governors.
"But Hogwarts won't be rebuilt until next season," Draco asked in a rush. " Are you sure--?"
"Quite," Snape cut him off.
Draco's mouth snapped shut. Severus' tone made it clear he didn't want to be questioned. He set the bottle down before he broke it and stared at the grass, too nervous to say anything.
"Really, it's for the best," Severus said softly. "I will be able to work more directly with Lucius and Narcissa. And no more whining children. No more second guessing the headmaster behind his back in his own school. The Ministry won't be able to watch me so openly."
And all of that might be true, Draco thought, but there had to be an unspoken, true reason--
Draco turned the idea over in his head. The more he thought about it, the more obvious his parents' reasoning became. Dumbledore was not to be trusted, and despite Snape's paranoia, he'd developed a weakness in confiding with the old wizard. Last night's sudden idea of exposing themselves to the rest of the world, and worse, serving up Draco as their representative, must have been the last twig off the broom.
His parents allowed his endless scheming, but only if he never crafted plans with anyone else. Their dark blood was too mistrusting, too suspicious of outside interference.
Still, there were other things they could have used him on, research or ingredient gathering in far off lands. The family was used to him being gone for the entire school year, so time apart would have been easy to get used to again. Draco finished filling a bottle of twisting, curling tanglevine roots as he wracked his brain over his father's reasoning. As he corked the bottle tight, he understood.
Severus had been in Hogwarts with Draco. Now he would be home with Draco. He didn't think that was entirely due to his mother's worries for her son's safety. No, there was only one pressing reason to keep two potions masters in the same house.
"Oh God," Draco groaned, "how soon do they expect us to start brewing a child?"
Finishing with his own ingredients, Severus gave a low laugh and gathered the bottles together.
"I was wondering when you'd figure it out. I'm glad it didn't take you long." After summoning an elf to whisk away the remnants of his breakfast, Severus gathered their work into a basket and stood.
"We only just got married," Draco said, his voice creeping towards a whine. "Does she really want to be a grandmother so soon?"
"She's been wanting grandchildren since you were in diapers," Severus said. "Besides, if you were from any other family, you wouldn't have had all this time anyway. Even a Malfoy can only use politics as an excuse for so long."
"I was hoping to put it off a little longer," Draco said. "It takes so long to make a child, and you can't go anywhere while you do it. How did other wizards manage?"
"Many times they didn't," Severus said, glancing back at him. "You don't have to start yet. Narcissa and Lucius wish to wait until the manor is rebuilt so we don't have to risk moving the cauldron. I suggest you use the time to acclimate Potter to this new revelation."
Draco snorted. "That two wizards marrying is no excuse not to have children?"
"Not to our kind, in any case. But I'm glad he hasn't asked before now."
"He was raised by muggles," Severus said, carefully choosing his words. "And muggles--as I've come to understand--wouldn't view your relationship as we do."
Draco didn't care what the muggle vermin thought one way or the other, but that brought up something he'd wanted to discuss for months now. He simply hadn't had a good opening, and Severus' mixed parentage required delicate handling. Although his lineage demanded that anyone in his family be pure, he accepted that the taint on blood sometimes came more from culture than birth. And cultures could be renounced.
"Sev'," he said, speaking slowly and deliberately. "Muggle opinions will never matter to me. Their world is vile and should be shunned. Your opinion, however, I will always hold in high regard. I was fortunate enough to be blessed with three pureblood parents."
For a moment Severus didn't move. Didn't speak. For his master who always had a comeback, the effect was unnerving, and he glanced sideways to make sure he wasn't about to be jinxed. Instead Snape's eyes were wide, not so much in surprise as in wonder.
"I don't think I'll ever get used to hearing that from a Malfoy," Severus whispered.
"Third time?" Draco asked, breathing out in relief. Had to be the third. His parents knew, but he didn't think his grandfather would have. Previous generations hadn't shown any flexibility about blood.
"Third time," Severus nodded once, and some of the wonder left his face and he glared at Draco. "And the third time I didn't tell anyone. How the hell did you find out?"
Though tempted to enjoy Snape's discomfort, he sat straight and faced him.
"Potter found an old potion's book with some rather genius notes in the margins, and the name Half Blood Prince scrawled inside. Fortunately he doesn't have our education in bloodlines." Draco shrugged. "I don't think anyone else would've realized it. Mother made sure I knew your family tapestry."
"She knows the lineages best," Severus murmured, briefly setting down the basket as he paused. "Draco, this goes no further. Potter wouldn't be able to keep his mouth shut."
"Not if he got angry," Draco agreed. "I promise. Besides, I have to get him used to the idea of a child first."
"I don't think he'll mind all that much," Severus said. "He's always struck me as someone who likes a large family."
"Oh yes, rub it in a bit more," Draco muttered. "I'll be stuck in the basement brewing children for years."
"I don't think it'll be that bad," Severus said, turning to leave. "By the way, where does Potter keep that book?"
Draco shook his head. "I'll get it for you. If Harry finds out you were in our room, we'll be sleeping by the pond again."
Not that spending a night or two by the pond was unpleasant. A handful of times, he'd taken Harry back to bower of vines that served on their marriage night, but waking up damp from dew with the occasional bug creeping across his leg made him happy to see his bed again.
Pushing aside the rest of his breakfast, Draco leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the table. How to tell Harry they were going to have children? Severus was right. Harry would be happy to have children, but it was the how of it, the way dark families created their children when nature failed...he worried what his husband would think. And would it affect how he saw Draco?
He was no closer to his answers when someone leaned close behind him and held him, pressing a kiss to his ear that made him smile and shy away.
"Stop that, it tickles!"
"Oh no, you don't." Harry tipped his chair backward a few more inches, effectively trapping him. "You left me all alone. With your mother. Your mother!"
"Didn't go easy on you, did she?" Draco grinned. "Let me down, you're going to drop me."
"It'd serve you right," Harry said, giving the chair a wobble and making him yelp. "She asked me how we're doing, how I'm adjusting, what life was like with muggles--not that she wasn't nice about it, but I still felt like it was an interrogation."
"It was," Draco said. He put his hands over Harry's head and pulled him down for a kiss, hoping he'd keep the chair steady. When he let him pull back, he didn't release him but held his face inches away. "Mother likes you, but that just means that when she manipulates you, it's for your own good."
Harry frowned. "I don't like being manipulated. I thought everyone knew that after I made your father yell."
"They know. Doesn't mean they won't try." Draco sighed. "Please don't be mad. We're Malfoys. It's our nature. It--it's the only way we know to keep safe."
"I know..." Harry's frown vanished into a rueful smile. "I suppose that's a good thing, then. I'm part of the family if they're trying to keep me safe."
"A very good thing," Draco said. He shrieked when his husband pretended to drop the chair only to set it right again. "Very funny. And they all think I'm the brat of this family."
"You are. A very fun to play with brat."
Stretching as he stood, Draco stepped close to Harry, purring as he was held. Harry's robes felt soft and swallowed him up whenever Harry put his arm around him. It was just the contrast to his own robes that made him feel that way, but he loved the feeling nonetheless.
When Harry let him go, they were in Diagon Alley.
Magic and snow couldn't erase all the signs of war. They'd washed away the blood, buried their dead and burned all the dead giants, hags and other creatures, but scorch marks covered the alley where spells had blasted dark blotches across the shops. Deep gouges in the cobblestones showed where sharp claws had dug in, scraping by as something chased its prey.
Not content with the vampires or werewolves long held in disdain by the light, Voldemort had summoned creatures hidden even deeper in the dark. Only a rawhead's long arms could reach into a second story window for a screaming child, its claws scratching into the frame. Only a black annis made such deep punctures in stone, using her nails for purchase on the smooth surface as she moved.
With the dark lord dead, his monsters had disappeared, but people still walked by and shuddered at what they left behind.
Before they joined the crowd, Draco put up the hood of his robe. It gave him some small sense of security, as if he could hide from the rest of the world behind a thin layer of cloth. Harry always accompanied him here, but everyone knew the Boy Who Lived and stared at his dark husband, either in curiosity or hostility. His hood blocked out their looks, if not the whispers that followed after.
As they headed for their first stop, Scribbulus Everchanging Inks, Draco took comfort in the handful of other dark wizards in Diagon Alley. Some of the other families, following the Malfoys' lead, had revealed themselves at his wedding and now nervously shopped wearing their own hoods. In coming into public, Draco liked to think he was serving two purposes, shopping for much needed sweets and reassuring the dark community that his family hadn't abandoned them. If Draco was willing to share in the risk, the other dark wizards felt much better about their own choice.
People turned and stared when they walked into the shop. Conversations stopped until the owner and a few customers smiled at Harry and called him over. Draco didn't follow. They wanted to reassure themselves that Harry hadn't changed or been cursed, and behind their friendly smiles were wary eyes watching him near the back of the store.
Draco browsed their best merchandise. A stack of fine paper and a handful of parchment rolls, and then on to sample the quills. His family went through stationery like water, writing letters and RSVPs and potion recipes until their hands cramped and refused to unclench properly. Running his fingertip along the edge of a long feather, he tested its edge and then its tip. Good self-inking quills, in his opinion, were worth their weight in gold.
Browsing by the shelves of good quills neatly displayed in their own boxes, unlike the quills filling barrels near the door, he paused in front of a writing desk nestled in the corner. It resembled the one lost when their home burned, and he lightly touched the top, imagining where the quills would stand, where the inkwell would sit, how he would fill the tiny drawers with notes, envelopes, a quill knife, a wax stick for the seals.
Footsteps came towards him, picking through the clutter. "You've been wanting a desk again, haven't you?"
Sighing, Draco nodded.
Harry pressed close behind him, whispering in his ear. "It might fit in the corner of our bedroom."
"No," Draco said mournfully. "There'd be no room for the chair. The cottage was built for short holidays, not for working. I'll just have to use the table like mother and Sev until the manor's rebuilt."
"If your family spends any more time cooped up in that parlor, I think you all may start throwing things at each other."
Draco laughed and pressed his hand to his mouth to stifle himself. Inwardly he agreed, and he hoped it happened at dinner, not when they were writing. Flying mashed potatoes hurt a lot less than a flying paperweight.
"When I have my own chambers again," Draco promised himself. "Our chambers. Then I'll have my desk again. And my own potions workshop, and--"
He broke off, reminded of what he would soon have to create. And of course Harry noticed how he hesitated and turned him around to face him. Draco dragged his feet and stared at the corner, aware that the store had once again fallen silent as people listened to their conversation.
"What's the matter?" Harry asked, brushing his fingertips under Draco's jaw and bringing his look up. "Is it something bad?"
"No, nothing bad," Draco rushed to assure him. "But it's...delicate. Time consuming. I should have brought it up before, but I didn't think it was going to happen so soon."
About to ask another question, Harry closed his mouth and took a step back. Not now, not here. A few months with Draco had taught him to keep quiet unless they were alone.
"I'll go pay," Harry said. "Wait for me outside?"
Draco nodded once and handed over his handful of parchments, leaving before Harry reached the register. He had no doubt the whole store was watching, but watching approvingly, glad to see Draco obedient to his husband. In a way, Draco was glad for the display. Let them see how he listened to Harry, how he wasn't a threat. Either they would relax around him or they would underestimate him. He could use both.
He waited beneath the shop's overhang, kicking at the snow. When Harry came out, Draco didn't move. His husband didn't have any bags, so he'd sent their purchases home by owl or elf. Wonderful. He had his husband's full attention. He didn't mind that in bed, but when Harry had questions with uncomfortable answers, he wished he could distract him with something else.
"All right," Harry said, stopping in front of him and smiling to take the edge off his words. "What's the latest secret? I believe you that it isn't bad, but looks like it's enough to make you nervous."
"I..." Draco hesitated, looking down the street. The bright colored umbrellas over the cafe tables looked so inviting, especially as his stomach rumbled and reminded him that he hadn't eaten much of breakfast. "Why don't we talk over at Sava's Fruit Teas? It's more comfortable than standing here and--"
Harry leaned close, putting his hand on the wall by Draco's head. "Mm-mm. I know my Malfoy. Let's have it out first, then we can go sit, okay?"
Shifting to his other foot, Draco breathed out, staring at the ground as he gathered his thoughts and tried to think of how to broach the subject. After a moment, he raised his head.
"Did mother, when she was talking to you, happen to mention anything about children?"
"'Children'?" Harry echoed. He tilted his head. "Come to think of it, she did. Just in passing."
"Nothing much, just at the end before I left, that the Malfoy family now and after would always be there for me. At least I think she meant children." He half-shrugged. "But that'd be kind of hard seeing as how..."
As he looked at him, Harry's voice trailed off, and Draco saw the dawning realization in his husband's eyes. He strained to catch any hint of disgust or betrayal. Instead he only saw hope.
"Is it possible?" Harry asked. "I've never heard of anything--a spell?" He grimaced. "Oh God, does one of us have to get pregnant?"
Draco would have laughed if he could have. This still could've turned ugly.
"Not a spell," he whispered with a small shake of his head. "You've never heard because we've kept it a secret."
"What secret?" Harry asked, leaning closer. Their frosted breaths mingled in the air.
"A potion," Draco said. "Harry...my mother, she didn't bear me the normal way. She couldn't. Her family never crossbred with anything, and their women have a harder time having children. Mother couldn't at all."
Harry frowned in confusion. "Then...?"
"Potion," Draco said again, struggling to say the secret out loud. He stomped his foot, forcing himself to work up the nerve. "That's why Severus is so important to them. Mother alone didn't have the skill to--to bring me to term."
A sharp intake of breath as Harry understood.
"They made you like a potion," he whispered. "In a cauldron."
Draco nodded once.
"So...we could do the same?" Harry asked. "We could have children?"
Draco nodded again.
"Why didn't you tell me this sooner?"
"I..." Draco tried to find a reason and shook his head. "I was afraid. I thought you would feel sick or--maybe you'd heard the stories about homunculi. In the past the process was interrupted, and it was horrible and aurors would come back telling stories about evil little creatures shrieking and reaching for them, and they were really just dying--"
"Shh," Harry said, touching his hand and slowly curling their fingers together. "It's all right. I don't think it's disgusting."
"But...Severus said muggles don't see this the way we do," Draco said, only arguing halfheartedly. "And you were raised by them."
"Only in the loosest sense of the word," Harry said. "Even if I did, muggles have something a little like this. They call them test tube babies."
Harry smiled. "I'll explain it over lunch. And you can tell me more about how it's done?"
Letting himself smile, Draco nodded once and walked with him hand in hand, feeling much lighter than he had before. Harry took each secret in stride, faltering only once at their family hierarchy. Draco could understand that. Perhaps in time he'd encourage Harry to open up enough to talk about his own life and childhood. Then maybe he wouldn't be so nervous every time he revealed a new secret.
Although lost in his own thoughts, he was not so lost that he didn't sense the change in the air as they neared the middle of the street. Dark wizards with hoods drawn low seemed to clump together, either staring in a shop window or sitting on a bench, or conveniently stepping out of a store and drawing closer. None of them seemed to spare Harry and Draco a look, but he couldn't help but tense.
These dark wizards weren't nervous. If he looked under their sleeves, he had no doubt he'd find dark marks on their arms, and all of them still proud to bear it. He slipped his hand into his pocket, grasping his wand. If only they could apparate--too late, the wizards all turned to face them.
Time rewound. The same heavy pulse of his heart roared in his ears, the same stomach churning anxiety just before an attack. The same instinct to run or stand and fight. If he concentrated, he was sure he could hear Hogsmeade burning in the distance and the thunder of Voldemort's army coming to meet them. Harry let go of his hand.
By the time the dark wizards raised their wands, blue fire flew from Harry's hand, and Draco turned to face the nearest, calling out crepara.
Once more, Diagon Alley descended into war.
1. In the interest of full disclosure, the line about "if his life depended on the casting of a spell, he wanted the wand in Harry's hand," is slightly altered (yes Virginia, writers steal) from the Belisarius series. "If your life depended upon the cutting of a rope, in whose hand would you want the knife?" "My wife."