SAVING DRACO MALFOY

By

Dayspring

Prologue: The Plan

It was during the Christmas hols that he knew for sure. He'd had doubts and suspicions earlier, but the matter solidified into concrete proof and slammed against the side of his head just days after coming home from Hogwarts.

Being that he was of age at seventeen and would be initiated as soon as he finished Hogwarts in the spring, his father had taken him along to the Death Eaters' Annual Yule Revelry. Three days. Three days of listening to screams, of being splattered with blood and other bodily fluids, of feeling the dying pulses of hearts ripped living from chests...of watching children being raped...of raping children and women who pleaded for the lives of their children...of doing things that only a life of hiding his true feelings had allowed him to get through.

On the fourth day, he and his father had apparated home. His father had staggered off to his bedroom, tired and satiated. He himself had staggered off to the bathroom where he paid homage to the porcelain goddess and cried.

He thought about suicide, but really, the whole idea of just ending it all...well, it sucked.

That was when Draco Malfoy knew he needed a Plan. He couldn't, wouldn't become a Death Eater. It wasn't that he gave a damn about the muggles and the mudbloods--they were a waste of space, but hell, so were ninety percent of the Death Eaters in his opinion--and no one was going around dismembering them. Then again, the Dark Lord did have his moments... Which was another thing. The Dark Lord was ugly and creepy and--and he didn't like the way the man looked at him. Like he was one of the muggle sacrifices. Like he wanted Draco up on the altar, impaled on the Dark Lord's strangely snakelike cock. It was too narrow, had a peculiar S-like bend to it, and the head set upon it like a mushroom on a too small stalk. Dark Lord or not, there was no way in Hell that thing was ever going up him. No way. No how. Imperius, Cruciatus, nor Avada Kedavra was going to make him accept the Dark Lord's stalky mushroom in his mouth, arse, or any other incidental cavity.

So he had three choices: die, hide, or go over to the other side. He'd already dismissed die. Not enough people to remember him yet. Dying and being forgotten within a few years was just a waste. Hide was impossible: he was blood kin to the Dark Lord's right-hand man--a simple spell would point him out like the North Star. Joining the other side--the side of the self-righteously stupid--was not exactly appealing, but it was his best chance.

But he needed a compelling reason for changing sides, a reason that the other side would believe without question, because he was not about to spend the rest of his life under close scrutiny and suspicion. Merlin, the first seventeen years was bad enough.

Hmm. He could pretend to fall helplessly in love with Harry Potter. Snort. Or maybe with Potter's pet mudblood. Okay, that thought had him spitting into the toilet.

He could claim Lucius had abused him his entire life and that would score him some sympathy points. But then they'd probably want him to talk about it and cry and bemoan his tragic fate. Like he was going to talk to them any more than he had to.

Damn, there had to be something he could come up with that would be believable enough to make him give up everything, but wouldn't require constant maintenance.

Then Draco Malfoy smiled as a Plan unfolded in fairy lights in his mind. A flawless Plan. A perfect Plan.

He showered and hurried to Lucius's private library.

Chapter 1: The Boy-Who-Raped

Harry Potter drank the last of his pumpkin juice, said goodbye to his friends, and left the Great Hall to go to detention. Damn Malfoy and his goons. Crabbe had tripped Hermione, Draco had laughed, and the next thing Harry knew, Professor McGonagall was pulling he and Malfoy apart and sentencing them to detention with Filch. It was sad to think he'd spent seven years at Hogwarts, gone up against Voldemort numerous times and survived, yet he was still dancing to Malfoy's tune. Damn it. Somewhere in all the confusion of being the Boy-Who-Lived and Voldemort's favorite target, he'd become Malfoy's bitch. And he wasn't even getting all the benefits that entailed, which he probably wouldn't mind if he could close his eyes and pretend it wasn't Malfoy. Malfoy might be a prat, but he was an attractive prat and, like Harry, batted for both teams. Not that Harry had batted often. Okay, he hadn't batted at all. Well, not all the way, anyway, but he'd snogged both sides and it hadn't put him off his feed.

He heard footsteps behind him and caught a glimpse of white blonde hair in his peripheral vision. With matching glares, the two boys walked silently to their punishment.

"Wands," Filch demanded, and they handed them over. "Clean," he ordered and opened the door to a storage closet. Mrs. Norris hissed and the door closed behind them.

The room was filled with cobwebs. Harry removed his robes, grabbed a broom and started swiping at the top shelves. Malfoy, he noticed out of the corner of his eye, had grabbed a bucket and a rag and started working on the opposite end of the room.

"You make a lovely house-elf," Harry heard himself say, surprised because he'd planned on ignoring the other boy.

"Auta miqula orqu," Malfoy muttered.

"What was that?"

"Shut it, Potter."

Something rippled through Harry and without any conscious thought, he felt himself move toward Malfoy, pressing the other back against the shelves. "Make me."

Malfoy shoved at him. "We're already in enough trouble. Just go back to where you were so we can get out of here."

"Giving me orders now, Malfoy?"

"Bugger off, Pot--"

Harry panicked inside as his body leaned forward and pressed its lips against Malfoy's, his tongue invading the warm, open mouth. His lower body also pressed forward, grinding against Malfoy in a very suggestive way. What the hell?

His first thought was imperius, and he tried to throw it off like he had in class. However, nothing he did stopped him from ripping Malfoy's shirt open. Nothing stopped him from cuffing him against the head when Malfoy fought back. Nothing stopped him from pinning the stunned boy to the floor and stripping off his trousers. Nothing stopped him from laughing as Malfoy lunged for the door and found it wouldn't open. Nothing stopped him from unzipping his trousers and forcing himself into Malfoy's dry arse. Nothing stopped him from grinning as Malfoy's fingers scritched helplessly against the stone floor, his knees bruising and tearing as Harry pounded into him. Nothing stopped him from laughing in Malfoy's ear as his nails sank into delicate skin and his teeth savagely bit, both actions drawing blood.

By the time Harry could make himself do what he wanted, Malfoy lay whimpering beneath him. He eased from Malfoy with a sickening pop and stared in horror at the stream of semen and blood which oozed out in his wake.

"Malfoy," he whispered. He gently forced Malfoy to turn over and stunned gray eyes stared up at him.

"Why?" Malfoy asked, his voice scratchy.

From the screaming, Harry surmised. From all the screaming. "It--it wasn't me. I--I tried to stop. I really did. I wouldn't--Merlin, Malfoy, I couldn't--"

"You did."

Harry shook his head in continued denial. "No. I-- No. Something had to cause this. Imperius or..." His words drawled to a stop as a thought struck him. "You! You did this!"

Malfoy got even paler. Then gray eyes flashed at him. "I did what, Potter? I raped myself?"

"Yes! I mean, no, but--but you said some kind of spell or something, didn't you? I heard you mumble something and then I--I couldn't stop. I couldn't stop. What did you say? What did you do!"

"It wasn't a spell." The voice was a harsh whisper, which went well with the wet trails glistening on his face. Crying. He'd made Draco Malfoy cry. "It was just an Elven insult. Auta miqula orqu. 'Go kiss an orc'. I'm--I'm doing an independent study in Elven Magic. I like how the language flows. I like how no one knows what I'm saying, including the professors. I-- Look at me, Potter. Is this something I would do to myself?" He held out a bloodied, swollen hand.

Harry flinched. "First things first. We need to get you to the hospital wing."

"We need to do nothing," Draco hissed. "You've done enough."

Harry nodded sadly. "I'll just head on to Dumbledore's office then. I've heard that Azkaban is lovely this time of year," he added self-deprecatingly. He went to try the door, hoping it wasn't under a time spell or only opened for Filch.

"Wait. We can't walk around the halls like this," Malfoy pointed out as he slowly gained his feet, and Harry realized neither of them was fully dressed. He remembered brutally removing Malfoy's clothes, bending parts of him that shouldn't bend, ripping fine fabric with his teeth and fingers. He'd used Malfoy's shirt to secure his hands awkwardly behind his back. He glanced at Malfoy's swollen shoulder, dislocated no doubt. He'd jerked upward on the shirt, while jabbing his knee in Malfoy's back to give himself freedom to unzip his own trousers. Oh, God. How many times had he assaulted Malfoy? How many times had Malfoy tried to crawl away, only to be dragged back and raped again? He looked at the thin body across from his. Bruises were already forming. Scrapes dark with blood and dirt. A lump in the center of the pale forehead, signifying that his repeated slamming of Malfoy's head into the floor wasn't just a bad dream. Teeth marks in the general vicinity of his nipples. His nipples? When had he-- In his mind, he saw himself kick Malfoy over onto his back before sliding into the hole that was no longer tight, nor dry. Yes, there was the bruise from the kick. Probably a broken rib lay beneath the mottled skin.

His eyes followed a trail of pale, fine hair to Malfoy's dick, which hung limply in a nest of matted, platinum strands, discolored in places by a pink mixture of blood and spunk. Harry stared until Malfoy's hands covered himself. He looked up to find the silver eyes were focused on the floor as if Malfoy was embarrassed and humiliated.

Harry wanted to vomit.

He put on his clothes and helped Malfoy into the tatters that remained of his own. The Slytherin's robes managed to cover most of the damage. Once again Harry reached for the door. Once again, Malfoy stopped him.

"Potter."

He waited for the hexing and condemnations.

"This wasn't-- you."

"No, it wasn't," Harry agreed, wondering at the lack of anything in Malfoy's words. Was he in shock? Could he make it to the hospital wing by himself? Maybe he should help him, then go to Dumbledore's office.

"You feel like doing it again?"

Harry violently shook his head. He'd geld himself before he let this happen again. There had to be spells to stop a man from...

"Then let's let it go. You don't do it again, and I won't say anything."

He felt a flicker of hope. Then it died. "You need medical attention, Malfoy. I--you're hurt." He'd had basic healing training. But not for something like this. There was probably--internal damage.

Malfoy shrugged. "I'll tell Madam Pomfrey I don't know who attacked me, that I was coming back from detention and was assaulted in a hallway."

"Why?" Harry demanded. This could get him out of Malfoy's life for good. Isn't that what Malfoy wanted? Had Malfoy--

"Do you really think I want people to know I was raped by you, Potter? That I couldn't protect myself from you? That I couldn't stop you from..." He clutched at his robes. "No, it's best for both of us if we just forget what happened here. We'll clean this stupid room and get our wands back. Then you'll go back to your common room, complain about detention, and go to bed. That's all you need to do."

"But shouldn't we, I don't know, try to figure out what happened? Somebody or something made me do something against my will," Harry argued. "I need to know what it was."

"I don't give a fuck about your needs, Potter! I'm the victim here. I'm the one who's going to be ridiculed and laughed about if this gets out. My father-- Damn it! You owe me your silence!"

Harry hung his head. Malfoy was right. He owed him. But-- "I need to know if I'm a danger to the other students. What if I'd been with Hermione or Ginny or--"

"So it would have been worse if you'd raped them, I suppose?" Malfoy sneered.

"No! That's not what I meant."

"What did you mean, then?" Harry looked away. "It's better to rape a bloke than a girl? It's better to rape a Slytherin than a Gryffindor? It's better to rape an enemy than a friend?"

Frustrated, Harry slammed his hand against the wall. He didn't even feel the pain as Malfoy's frightened jerk registered. Malfoy was well and truly scared of him now. That should have made him happy.

It didn't.

"You sit, and I'll finish cleaning up in here." He'd cleaned up bigger messes at Privet Drive with less cleaning supplies.

"I think I'd rather stand," Malfoy said in a hushed voice.

Harry grimaced and went to work.

*****

Draco spent the night in the hospital wing. He told the story of his attack in the corridor to Pomfrey, Snape, and Dumbledore. He was given healing and sleeping potions. His housemates were informed he was in the wing because of a terrible splinter he'd got while doing house-elf work.

Despite the sleeping potion, Draco woke early and watched the sun rise over what he hoped was a brand new world for himself.

*****

In Gryffindor Tower, Harry Potter told his friends he was tired and fell into bed after a prolonged and rather hot shower. But he found it difficult to fall asleep and after everyone else had settled in for the night, he snuck out of the dorm and up to an abandoned room at the top of the tower. He closed his eyes and let a single tear fall as he considered the fact that not only was he the Boy-Who-Lived, he was also now the Boy-Who-Raped.

Had Voldemort set this up? But why involve Malfoy? Surely if he was trying to demoralize him, Hermione, Ginny, or even Ron would have been a better target. Or maybe he was trying to get him expelled, and Malfoy's pride was something Voldemort hadn't counted on. Probably as soon as word got out that Malfoy hadn't accused him, Malfoy would be getting an owl from his dear daddy. That had to be it!

Then again, maybe Harry hadn't been the one supposed to be hurt by this. Maybe someone was after Malfoy. Much of the school hated him, and there was a continual power struggle among the Slytherins. Maybe it hadn't mattered who attacked Malfoy, but that he was attacked. Maybe someone he'd raped wanted it to come back on him. Maybe someone had used Harry for revenge.

Or maybe Harry had used Harry for revenge. Had he really tried his best to stop? Was there some tiny place in his mind that had enjoyed Malfoy's submission, his screams, his tears? Malfoy was the enemy. Maybe some part of him had decided to put Malfoy in his place, to humiliate him, to make him cower...

Harry watched the sun come up, wishing that it was yesterday's world and not today's.

Chapter 2: The Role of a Lifetime

The cramp caught Draco just as he was getting out of bed and instead of making his way to the bathroom for his morning ablutions, he found himself curling up on his duvet and biting his lip to keep from crying out. As his stomach muscles relaxed, he went over the past two months.

He could tell Potter was surprised when he'd walked into Potions the day after, calm and collected and healed from the damage. He could tell that Potter was even more surprised as the days went by and no one came to question him. Their relationship, his and Potter's, had become one of avoidance. There'd been no more confrontations, no more posturing, no more hissed threats. Neither openly acknowledged the other's existence, but Draco could feel Potter's eyes on him at times and knew that if the super brat's friends actually cared about him, they would see the guilt written all over his face. But Mudblood and Weasel were caught up in their own petty dramas, so they didn't see, they didn't want to see.

A shadow fell over him and Draco looked up to see Goyle and Crabbe standing over him. "Go on to breakfast," he ordered. "I think I'm catching the flu that's going around. I shall be in the hospital wing if anyone asks."

He watched them leave before he struggled upright and into his robes. The cramps were rhythmic and if he breathed just right, they weren't too debilitating. Thankfully, he'd done his research and had expected the pains. If he hadn't, he would've been in a panic. He didn't have time to start another Plan.

He made his way to the wing, stopping before the door to adjust his appearance before he went in. Anxious, but brave. That was the approach he was going to take.

"Mr. Malfoy?"

He looked at the nurse and swallowed hard. "Madam Pomfrey," he began, then deliberately let one of the cramps have full rein. He curled over the arms wrapped around his middle.

"Ah, another case of the flu. If I could just get you children to come to me before you caught it, I--" She stopped as he shook his head. Then she frowned as he let his anxiety show in his eyes. "What is it, child?"

He wrung his hands and dropped his eyes. "I'm a Progenitor, Madam."

Pomfrey gasped. "Are you certain, Mr. Malfoy?"

"That I'm a Progenitor, yes. Of the other, no. That's why I've come to you."

She pointed him toward a cot. "You should have said something...earlier."

"I wasn't thinking too clearly that night," he said, shame and defeat heavy in his voice. She nodded compassionately. "Afterwards, well, I didn't want to face the possibility. The worst had already happened. Surely, I couldn't go beyond that."

She squeezed his shoulder, then whipped out her wand. She performed a series of precise flicks and swishes and gave a sad smile as a soft light engulfed his abdomen. "I'm sorry, Mr. Malfoy."

Draco trembled and sighed. "I feared as much."

"I want to do a complete examination, then we'll have to inform the Headmaster and your head of House. And your parents."

"No! Please, Madam Pomfrey, not my parents. They can't know! They'll kill me--or worse."

"Shh, child. We can discuss it later with the professors. Now, let's get that exam out of the way."

An hour later, Draco sat in the Headmaster's office, Snape standing behind him protectively. Dumbledore was staring at him closely, and Draco was grateful that he'd mastered Occlumency at an early age. Blocking his thoughts from Lucius was the first bit of magic he'd learned on his own.

"I am deeply saddened by your troubles, Mr. Malfoy," the Headmaster said. "That this happened while in my care is inexcusable. But while things look dark, there is always light."

"Like the fact that we can now ascertain who attacked you," Snape said, his voice full of vengeance. "A simple Pater test and the culprit will be named and dealt with."

"Do we have to?" Draco asked, making sure it wasn't a whine. "It will complicate everything."

"Why do you say that, Mr. Malfoy?" Dumbledore inquired. "How could knowing who--"

"It's better if he remains unnamed. Trust me," Draco warned.

"You know who it is." Snape made it a statement, not a question. "You found out?"

"I've always known."

Snape was furious and moved to stand in front of Draco. "Why have you been hiding this? Was this some kind of--what do the Muggles call it--a date rape? Is it a fellow Slytherin?"

"No. No, it wasn't a date rape. No, it's not a Slytherin."

"Then why are you protecting him?" Dumbledore asked gently.

"Because it wasn't his fault, sir. He was under the influence of a hex or a potion."

"How do you know this?"

Draco looked up at his head of House. "Because this person is not the type to do something like this. It goes against his very nature."

Snape paled. "A Gryffindor."

Draco nodded.

"You had detention with Potter that night, didn't you?" Snape continued. He eyed Draco speculatively. "The assault did not occur in a corridor."

"No, sir." Draco dropped his head in dramatic defeat.

"Harry is the one that attacked you?" Dumbledore questioned for clarity.

"Yes, sir."

"Why the fuck were you protecting Harry Potter?" Snape spat out, and Draco knew his teacher must be furious to use such a word, much less use it in front of his superior.

"I wasn't protecting Potter; I was protecting me. If I had accused Potter of raping me, no one would have believed it. Even with the magical snapshots Madam Pomfrey took, it would have been my fault, Professor. It was a prank gone wrong. I was secretly after Potter and a lust spell went out of control. The Dark Lord made me do it to break Potter. I--I asked for it. I begged Potter to be rough with me. I'm a perverted bottom-boy... You know how it would have been. I'm a Slytherin--we hurt people, but we can't be hurt ourselves," he said angrily.

"This bloody House system," Snape muttered.

"Perhaps we should have heeded the Sorting Hat's warnings," Dumbledore said sadly. "Or perhaps this is the way we can start to work together. We need to inform Mr. Potter and your parents, Draco."

Draco knew the next minutes were crucial to his Plan. "We can't tell my parents, sir. How do you think my father will react to finding out I allowed Potter to brutally assault me?"

"You allowed no such thing," Snape sniffed.

"And you think that will make a difference to Lucius?" He watched their faces and waited until he was sure they agreed with him. "I'm of age. I don't have to return to their care."

"But--" Dumbledore began.

"But what, sir? You know who my father is, what he is." Draco gave a bitter laugh. "Can you think of a better way to hurt Potter than to control or murder his child? The Dark Lord would be ecstatic." He shook his head. "I can't go home. Ever."

"Do you understand what you're saying, Mr. Malfoy?"

"I don't have a choice, sir." He wrapped his arms around his middle. "This is all I have left. I won't risk it. I can't." He could feel the single tear trace its way down his face. He tilted his head slightly so it would glisten in the light.

"You have us, too, Draco, and Harry as well, I don't doubt," Dumbledore said with all the reassurance his twinkling eyes could confer. He summoned an owl and tied a hastily scribbled note to its leg before sending it on its way.

*****

When the owl appeared at one of the windows opening into the Gryffindor common room and flew straight to him, Harry wasn't surprised. He also wasn't surprised when he read its directive. He'd been waiting for it ever since he'd read the note that Potions had been canceled. That, added to Malfoy's non-appearance at breakfast, made him both apprehensive and relieved. He was tired of hiding the terrible secret. It haunted his dreams at night and kept him on edge during the day. There hadn't been a second occurrence, but the first had been enough. He was ready to be punished.

That Malfoy had stayed quiet for two months was astonishing. The way he'd whined about the cut from the hippogriff, Harry had figured Malfoy would've milked the attack for all it was worth as soon as the initial feeling of humiliation had worn off. He'd been shocked to see the boy in class the next day and startled by the lack of blackmail attempts. But recently he'd noticed he seemed paler than usual, maybe a bit haunted. He figured the memories were getting to Malfoy and pretty soon the secret would be spilled.

"Harry?"

Harry smiled at Hermione. She was the only other Gryffindor in Advanced Potions, and they'd returned to the Common Room to study during the unexpected free period. "Dumbledore wants to see me."

"Has something happened?"

Harry shrugged. "He probably just needs me to save the world. Again," he said cheekily. "After all, I'm Potter, Harry Potter."

Hermione laughed. "I'm glad Ron's not here. He never gets our Muggle references and it sort of takes the fun out of them when you have to explain."

Harry smiled at her, wondering if he'd get a chance to come back and say goodbye...or would he immediately be taken into custody. "Have patience with him, 'Mione. He's worth it."

She looked at him curiously. "Of course he is, Harry. Are you sure you don't know why the Headmaster wants to see you?"

"Could be anything," he lied. "See you later, okay?"

"Sure. If you're late to lunch, I shouldn't worry, right?"

"Right."

He left the tower and refused to dawdle as he made his way to the gargoyle statue. "Goobers," he said, making use of the password that was in the note. He walked up the stairs and into the Headmaster's Office, not surprised to find Malfoy and Snape there.

"Harry, please have a seat," Dumbledore motioned toward a chair next to Malfoy's. "I think you may know what part of this meeting is about."

Harry nodded. "I--sexually assaulted Malfoy, and I'm glad he told you because if he hadn't, I would have."

Dumbledore looked at him gravely. "I've no doubt this has weighed heavily on your mind. I knew you were troubled, but you have become so good at Occlumency--both of you--that I could not get a handle on what was so pressing. I'm glad that it's all in the open now."

"I am too," Harry agreed. "Does there have to be a trial, or can I simply admit to it and go directly to Azkaban?"

"Eager for prison life, Potter?" Snape asked from his seat on the other side of Malfoy.

Harry flushed. "No, but I'm guilty. What I did to Malfoy... I deserve whatever I get."

Dumbledore shook his head. "There will be no imprisonment, Harry. Mr. Malfoy is not here to press charges against you."

"What?" Harry shot Malfoy a glance. "What's going on?"

"I told you I didn't blame you, Potter."

"But--but I'm here. Why are we having this discussion?" Was Malfoy merely trying to make him look bad in front of Snape and Dumbledore? That was sort of petty, but it was Malfoy, after all.

"There's been a complication."

Harry looked at Dumbledore. "What kind of complication?" Oh, Merlin, he hadn't given Malfoy some kind of venereal disease, had he? Didn't you have to have sex before you could give someone something though? But he could have picked up something from a toilet seat, right? Shit. Dudley. Dudley could have brought home anything. Oh, hell, he'd given Malfoy some Muggle disease, and now they both were going to have to go to a Muggle specialist, and Malfoy was going to kick his arse up and down the entire wizarding world.

"Potter, I'm a Progenitor."

It was a disease. But it didn't sound Muggle in the least. "They can cure that, right?"

Dumbledore laughed, Snape smirked, and Malfoy just rolled his eyes. "It'll clear up with time," he replied dryly.

Harry was relieved. "Good. I'm glad, Malfoy. So we can just forget what happened, right? Go back to our original plan?"

Malfoy glared at him. "Potter, you stupid tit, I'm pregnant."

Chapter 3: Doing It All For My Baby

Harry blinked, grinned, looked at all the sober faces staring at him, and blinked again. "Malfoy, you have bits. You can't be pregnant," he reasoned.

"Harry." He looked at Dumbledore, certain that his faithful mentor would let him in on the joke. "Do you remember studying the First Great Persecution in History of Magic?"

Harry nodded. He vaguely recalled Professor Binns teaching it. No, actually he remembered Hermione making him study about it. "It was when the Muggles first found out about the Wizarding world. They didn't take it--well." They killed off as many as they could find, which Voldemort loved bringing up to his followers.

"No, they didn't. But some of the Muggles were slightly misinformed. They thought only women were magical, so the number of witches killed was disproportionate to the number of wizards who were sacrificed. Afterwards, they were not certain there were enough witches left to sustain a wizarding population. A group of extremely gifted wizards came up with a very complicated spell which enabled them to bear young. Of course we have potions today that can assist in a wizard becoming pregnant, but this spell was different in that it was permanent. A wizard only had to have unprotected relations with another wizard to achieve conception. These wizards called themselves Progenitors."

Whipping his head around, Harry stared at Malfoy. "You're pregnant?"

"So the annoying cramps tell me."

"Cramps? Are you okay? The baby?" Harry asked frantically.

"Nothing me or my child can't handle, Potter." Malfoy shot Harry a look. "And if you ask me if it's yours, I swear I'm going to hex you prickless."

Dumbledore smiled and stood. "I think you two gentlemen have things to discuss in private. Severus?"

"Headmaster, I'm not sure it is wise to leave Mr. Malfoy alone with Mr. Potter. Need I remind everyone here that the incident in question was nonconsensual? Since we have not ascertained why Mr. Potter felt the urge to savage a fellow student, I don't think it's proper to allow him unchaperoned access to said student."

"I'm afraid Professor Snape has a point," Dumbledore began.

"But Professor Snape is forgetting that I have my wand this time," Malfoy interrupted. "Potter can't get the best of me if I'm armed."

"Don't be overconfident, Mr. Malfoy," Snape warned.

"I'm not, sir. Just because I get to keep my wand doesn't mean that Potter gets to keep his."

"Hey, that's not fair!"

"And is it fair, Potter, that I'm pregnant? That I can't go home? That no matter my mindset, my beliefs, I now have to side with the Light just to protect my child?"

There was nothing Harry could say to counter that so he reluctantly handed his wand to Dumbledore, because there was no way in hell he was giving it to Snape.

They stared awkwardly at each other after the adults left. Harry thought Malfoy looked paler than usual, but that simply could be because his sight wasn't tinted with the red of anger.

"So this is all true? You're--"

"Pregnant, Potter. With child. Enceinte. Up the duff. Preggers. Two months gone. Knocked up. What? You want Madam Pomfrey to perform the test in front of you? I'm sure she'd oblige. Let's go to the wing--"

"You sure you're okay? The cramps and everything, I mean," Harry interrupted the rant softly.

"It's normal. My insides are shifting around so that the baby has enough room to grow."

"Did you know?"

"Know what?"

"That you could get pregnant."

Malfoy sighed and absently rubbed his stomach. "I was diagnosed a Progenitor on my seventeenth birthday. I was taught the spell to prevent pregnancy just like witches."

"So why didn't you use the spell?"

"When should I have used it, Potter? When I was pleading with you not to rape me? When I was struggling to get away from you? When I was screaming because you jammed yourself up my arse without even a bit of spit? At what time during your attack do you think I had the wherewithal to think of a bloody spell that I'd never used before? Oh, and let's not forget my lack of a wand."

Harry wondered that if he hadn't given Dumbledore his wand, could he have possibly charmed the earth to open up and swallow him whole. He hadn't just stuck his foot in his mouth, but his entire leg. "I'm sorry. I'm just a little stunned."

"Join the crowd. At least your whole future hasn't suddenly fucking changed."

"That's not true. It's my baby, too. I now have an obligation to--"

"To do what you always had to fucking do--kill You-Know-Who. That's the obligation you owe this baby. Because you and I both know what that fucker would do to a baby of yours."

"And what obligation do I owe you, Malfoy? How will you get along after Hogwarts? I have money, you know."

"I don't need your begrudgingly-given support. I have my own personal vault that Lucius can't touch. I won't be Malfoy-rich, but neither will I be Weasley-poor."

Harry ignored the dig at Ron. "It won't be begrudgingly-given. I want you and the child to live comfortably. I want the child to know that his father is taking care of him. I want to be part of this child's life, Draco." The name didn't flow easily off his tongue.

"And I don't want to be a pariah. I may lose everything, Pot-Harry. I don't want to be viewed as the albatross around your neck."

"You won't--"

"Your friends, especially Weasley, will treat me like shit and you know it. They'll blame me for getting pregnant. They'll accuse me of working for the Dark Lord. They'll watch my every move, waiting for me to stab you in the back. Or worse, they'll laugh at me and call me your bitch. They'll mock me cringing beneath you as you raped me. They'll ask me…if I cried. I can't live like that, Harry. If that's what my future holds, I may as well let my father kill me now."

"Stop it, Draco. They won't treat you like that. I won't let them."

"And how will you stop them? Sure, they'll respect you for teaching me a lesson, but--"

"I'll tell them I love you. I'll tell them it hurts me every time they hurt you."

"Like they'll believe that," Malfoy snorted. "I know for a fact that you hate me. I felt it when you attacked me."

Harry slumped in the chair. There was some…truth to what Malfoy was saying. He could feel something forcing his body into doing the terrible things he'd done to Malfoy, but at times he'd found pleasure in some sound that Malfoy had made or some twitch of his body.

He really didn't want to think about it.

"Passion," Harry said abruptly.

"What are you on about?"

"I overheard Hermione and Lavender talking one day when I got back from seeing Madam Pomfrey after one of our fights. Lavender said that we were passionate about each other. And Hermione said that yeah, maybe if we just shagged there would be a whole lot less violence. So see, we just let our passion get the best of us, we shagged, and now there's a baby. There's no evil plan, nobody is anybody's bitch, and we're both determined to do what's best for our child."

Malfoy pursed his lips for a moment, then nodded. "That could work. The whole 'thin line between love and hate' saying plays to our advantage. Just make sure you sell it proper, Potter. None of that half-arsed Gryffindor lying."

"I'll pretend I'm Slytherin," Harry said dryly.

"Do that."

"What are you going to tell your housemates, Mal-Draco?"

"To mind their own fucking business."

"Oh. They won't wonder?"

"Of course. But everyone sixth year and under know better than to ask me directly. As for my fellow Seventh Years--I can handle them."

"Remember what Snape said about overconfidence."

"You're quoting Snape now?" Malfoy responded with a smirk. "I know what I'm doing, Potter. Trust me."

"Just because you're knocked up doesn't mean you're not still fucked up, Malfoy. Trust you? What happens when you get orders from your father or your master?"

Malfoy leapt to his feet. "Fuck you! Have you not listened to a single word that's been said here? I no longer have a father, and I never had a master! So busy ripping my arse bloody that you didn't notice the lack of a mark on my arm?"

"And what will you give to have your father back?" Harry argued.

"Not my child." He placed a protective arm around his stomach. "I was a fool to think that you could get over yourself for the sake of our baby. You know what, Potter? Just go back to your fellow Gryffindors and bitch about Slytherins being all that is evil. I don't need you, and my child doesn't either. After all, he or she is half scum-sucking Slytherin." With a swish of his robes, he headed for the door.

"Malfoy, wait! Cut me some slack. This is hard for me to accept."

"Hard for you? Well, owl me when you're waddling around like an overfed erumpent. Until then, fuck off."

Harry would have sworn that Dumbledore had charmed the door not to slam, but somehow Malfoy managed to do just that.

Chapter 4: The Truth (Or A Reasonable Facsimile)

Draco was ticked off, but not furious as he made his way to the medical wing. Potter was a right prat, but he was unknowingly following The Plan, so he wasn't going to bitch about him much.

"Things didn't go well?"

Draco was surprised to see Snape in the wing's hallway, apparently waiting for him. "About what I expected from Potter."

"Just what I wanted to talk to you about--your expectations. Please accompany me to my office."

"I need to get some potions from the nurse to help ease the cramping."

"I have them ready for you--in my office."

Fuck. He hadn't grown up in Malfoy Manor for nothing; he could spot the onset of a very unpleasant conversation from the inflection of a single word. Snape was in confrontation mode. Was he still upset that he'd covered for Potter? Or that he'd agreed to be alone with him? Aware that nothing of importance should be said without a well-placed silencing spell or two, Draco quietly followed his professor to the dungeons and watched as he set the wards.

"When I first found out about the rape, and your perceptions of it, I started investigating spells and potions which could have facilitated such an act upon your being," Snape began as he sat behind his desk. "I narrowed it down to two lust potions. One causes the victim to succumb to desire already present. Copulation will occur, however, violence is not necessarily a factor. The other is a Dark potion--a rape agent, pure and simple. It was created in 1791 to avenge a rape of an Italian wizard's daughter. He took a possession of the rapist, incorporated it into the potion, then slipped the potion to a half-giant living peacefully in the woods nearby. The half-giant then attacked the rapist, literally buggering him to death.

"Both potions are extremely complicated and far beyond anything any student at this school could master--with the exceptions of you and Miss Granger. Indeed, up until today, Miss Granger has been my chief suspect. I surmised that she prepared one of the potions and fed it to someone in order to 'put you in your place.' In her defense, you have treated her and her friends harshly during her tenure here at Hogwarts. Still, the simple lust potion would have got her expelled and the darker one would've landed her in Azkaban."

Draco had been trained by the best not to show any reaction. "What happened today to change your mind?"

"Miss Granger would have not used Harry Potter to carry out her plan. The boy is--unstable. She wouldn't have added that guilt to his already heavily-laden shoulders."

Draco nodded. "The potion could have been purchased by someone totally inept in Potions," he offered.

"That would require an extraordinary amount of money. And I've contacts with the only other three wizards who could have possibly brewed the darker of the two potions--which is the one, from the state of your condition afterwards, that was used."

"Potter was an animal, but considerably less endowed than a half-giant," Draco agreed. He looked into his teacher's eyes and made a decision. Snape knew the truth. The professor wouldn't have brought up the subject if he'd had any doubt. So he could make a fool of himself, and an enemy of Snape, if he continued with the misdirection, or he could confess and possibly make an ally of a very powerful wizard. "I was in no danger of dying," he said casually.

Snape accepted the admission without any outward reaction. "Why, Mr. Malfoy?"

"I didn't want to become a Death Eater."

"I carry our Master's Mark."

Draco laughed, hearing the "you idiot" Snape had silently attached to his statement. "I excel in Arithmancy as well as Potions, Professor. Adding one plus one is not a problem for me. I know you're a spy for Dumbledore. I applaud your ambition." He kept his eye on the drawer where Snape's wand lay. Being obliviated would play hell with the Plan.

Shaken, Snape poised on the edge of his chair. "Who else knows?"

"In my family? No one knows for sure, but Father is wary of me talking to you about anything other than schoolwork. I have, on occasion, backed up some of your intelligence reports about the school and Potter."

"Hedging your bets?"

"Always, sir."

"You are very astute."

"I owe it all to the teachers in my life."

"Your greatest teacher has been your father."

"Yes."

"Yet you do not want to become what he is?"

"I am not my father. I wasn't aware that you had bought into that particular Gryffindor fallacy. You've been around Dumbledore too long."

Snape ignored the slight. "Why this sudden change in loyalties?"

"I saw the Light?" Draco teased dryly, then sighed as Snape merely rolled his eyes. "Father took me to the Yule Revelry."

Snape paled. "Did you--participate?"

"What do you think? I wouldn't have made it out alive otherwise. Were you there?"

"No. The Headmaster and I attended a MAAS conference."

A Magical Academies and Schools get together was a convenient out. It was considered quite the honor to get chosen to attend. "Lucky you."

"It did not meet your approval?"

Draco began pacing, aware that it broadcasted his uneasiness, but not really caring. "I am a pureblood, superior to half-bloods, mud-bloods, and muggles. Why do I need to waste my time killing everyone to prove a point that is already proven? If I'm naturally on top, why then do I have to forcibly place everyone on the bottom? It's redundant, it's messy, and it distracts me from doing what I want to do. If Voldemort--and yes, I can say his freakin' name--is having an identity crisis, why do I have to get involved?"

"Your father--"

"My father got himself into this mess long before I was even conceived. It's not my problem."

"I see. And this all occurred to you because of the revelry?"

"That, and the Dark Lord being a perv."

Snape covered up a snort with a cough. "I must say that no matter the reason for your actions, I'm pleased that you are no longer bound to be part of the Dark Lord's court. But your solution to the problem leaves me confused."

"I needed a way out that was believable. The Light side believes that the parent-child bond is the strongest bond in existence. Potter's mother protected him from Avada Kadavra by it. Surely, my bond with my child would lead me to drastic, sacrificial measures."

"But…Potter?"

"You would prefer Dumbledore?" Draco asked, his nose wrinkling in distaste. Then he shrugged. "Potter may be a self-righteous, moralistic, do-gooder, but he has a hot body and is not old enough to be my great-grandfather. I could have done a lot worse."

Snape shuddered. "So why didn't you just seduce him? Why the Rabidus Potion?"

"The higher guilt/lower blame factor. If I had seduced him, I would be partially to blame. With the rape--my injuries catalogued by you, the nurse, and the Headmaster--Potter's completely at fault. It makes manipulating him easier."

"And what of the War, now that you are on the other side? Can you in all honesty face your father in battle?"

"I won't be fighting. The pregnancy will keep me on the sidelines for the next several months. And after that, well, Potter's survival is constantly in question. It would not be fair to our child if both his or her parents are in mortal danger."

A smile snaked its way onto Snape's face. "Fifty points to Slytherin for excellency in scheming."

Draco relaxed. He figured that Snape would approve once he knew of the whole Plan, but he'd still been anxious. And he hadn't wanted to blackmail him with the whole, "I'll tell Daddy you're a spy" thing. It would've been a lame threat at best because he had no intention of telling his father anything but to fuck off. "Thank you, sir. May I have my potions now? I think the earlier ones are wearing off."

"Of course." Snape stood and went to a large wooden cabinet. "I hope you took into consideration the difficulties that may arise from this pregnancy. For you to be a Progenitor, the original spells must run heavy in your blood. You will have to take care."

Draco looked down at the floor and then up at his professor. "I was hoping, sir, that you'd, as the mud-bloods are fond on saying, 'have my back'?"

Snape bowed his assent. "As you have had mine, Mr. Malfoy."

Chapter 5: Po-tay-to or Po-tat-o

Harry was in a daze as he made his way to the Great Hall for lunch, having missed the rest of his morning classes. He was still in a daze when he made it back to his common room at the end of the day. He still wasn't quite sure he believed all he'd been told, but Dumbledore's presence indicated it was all true. He'd...impregnated Malfoy. During a rape. He'd raped Malfoy and knocked him up.

Sweet Merlin!

"Harry, you wanted to talk to me?"

He nodded. He'd told Ron and the others that he couldn't go out to the pitch with them because he had to get the notes he'd missed earlier. But actually he just wanted to speak to Hermione alone. Because she was Muggle-born and so smart, he figured she'd be the easiest one to approach first.

"You want my notes, right?" Hermione continued. "When you didn't make it to class, I actually charmed my quill to make a copy automatically. So, here."

He accepted the bundle of parchment with a mumbled thank you. When she turned to go back to the girls' dormitory, he asked her not to leave.

"Is this about your visit to the Headmaster?" He nodded. "Don't tell me you actually did have to save the world?"

Harry shook his head. "That would have been too easy." He glanced around, then dragged her over to a sofa in the corner. Thankfully, the common room was nearly empty. Following classes, most students either napped, studied in the library, or searched for trouble to get into. " I want to talk to you, but I don't want this getting back to Ron just yet."

Hermione grabbed his hands. "What is it, Harry? You know I can keep your secrets."

"What--what do you know about Progenitors?" he nearly whispered.

"They were created during the First Persecution in order to ensure that the Wizard World survived. They are wizards capable of pregnancy without the aid of potions or direct spells. The enchantment they used was so complex that it flowed within the blood of their offspring, thereby making the male offspring Progenitors as well. This trait was eventually bred out due to existence of more witches and normal pregnancies."

"But just like with Muggles, there can be throwbacks?"

"Two recessive Progenitors could have a Progenitor, but the odds are astronomical," Hermione said, scoffing at the notion. Then she studied Harry a bit longer and paled. "Oh, Harry, you're not--"

"No, I'm not." She looked relieved. "Malfoy is."

"Malfoy? Figures. Repeated inbreeding can cause all sorts of nasty recessive traits to appear. But why were you told this?"

Harry slumped back against the sofa. "Malfoy's pregnant."

"So?"

Harry stared at her.

"Seriously, Harry, what does it matter to us that Malfoy's a slut who--"

"Don't," he said forcibly. "Don't call him that."

She frowned. "You're not making any sense. Why are you defending Malfoy? And why are we talking about him in the first place? So what that he's up the duff? It couldn't have happened to a nicer person," she sneered. "Wonder what his dear old dad's going to say? Maybe he'll hex him--"

"This stops now," Harry said firmly. "He was right, you know. He knew this was the way everyone would react. Slytherins don't look at the world with blinders on. They see so clearly."

"What are you on about? Malfoy's preggers. Let him deal with it."

"It's not an it!" Harry shouted, then looked sheepish as everyone stared at them. "It's a child," he said much softer.

"Malfoy's child," Hermione pointed out.

"And mine."

Hermione froze. Then she opened her mouth. Then she closed it. Finally, she decided she could speak. "What?"

"I'm the father, the other father, I guess."

"What? How?"

"The usual way."

Hermione shook her head. "No, I don't believe you, Harry. This is some sort of mind game you and Ron are playing on me, right?"

"I wish. Look, Hermione, you know that my relationship with Malfoy has always been...intense. We just went too far one night."

"But..." She couldn't think of anything else to say.

"You know I thought I could be gay or bi or something."

She nodded. "But..." she sputtered to a stop again.

"It's not his fault. What we did was unexpected, and he wasn't used to having to do a contraceptive spell. It's not a trap or anything. Dumbledore and Snape both sat in on the meeting. He's pregnant, 'Mione, and it's mine. I mean, he or she is mine."

"Are you certain? He's--"

He placed two fingers quickly against her lips. "Mine, Hermione."

"The baby...or Malfoy?" Hermione asked when her lips were freed.

"For the moment, both. This situation is my responsibility. I have to take care of both of them."

"You're seventeen, Harry."

"And I'm being trained to kill a wizard that even Dumbledore can't touch. So what does my age have to do with anything? Admit it. If this was Ginny we were talking about, or Cho or anything other non-Slytherin, you'd be harping on me to take responsibility."

"But Malfoy..." She shuddered. "You know his father is going to want to give the baby to You-Know-Who."

"Which is why Draco has decided to join our side. He's really protective."

"Malfoy?" Hermione snorted.

"You know, if we knew the Slytherins half as well as they know us, we wouldn't have to rely on some stupid seventeen-year-old to win a war."

"You're not stupid, Harry, and what do you mean?"

"When it comes to being prejudiced, we Gryffindors are worse than the Slytherins."

"We are not! How can you say that when every other word out of Malfoy's mouth is mud-blood."

"And every other word out of our mouths equates Slytherin with Death Eater. They are not one and the same."

"Everyone knows dark wizards come from Slytherin House."

"Except we seem to forget Peter Pettigrew was one of my dad's best friends and a Gryffindor."

"But--but that's different! He was an anomaly."

"He was a Gryffindor and now he's Voldemort's right-hand man! How many other anomalies are there in Gryffindor? Or Ravenclaw? Or even Hufflepuff? Voldemort has tricked us into watching all the Slytherins, while the real evil could exist somewhere else."

"Is that what your precious Draco whispered in your ear while he seduced you?"

Harry laughed and it was not a nice sound. "There you go being prejudiced again. Why do you assume Draco was the one doing the seducing? Maybe I started it. Maybe I--attacked him."

Hermione lay her hand on his shoulder. "Oh, Harry, Malfoy's certainly done a number on you."

He shook off her hand and stood up. "I really hoped that you of all people would understand. You live in the real world. You know what it feels like to be labeled because of where you live or how you dress or what your parents do for a living."

"I don't hate Malfoy for where he lives or how he dresses or what his parents do for a living. I hate him for what he himself has said and done."

"And you've never said anything nasty to someone or played a dirty trick on someone or got someone into trouble because you didn't like them?"

"I had my reasons," she pouted, folding her arms defensively.

"And Draco had his. But none of that matters now. Not to me, and not to him. We have a life we're responsible for, and if you and my other friends can't accept that, then being with Draco isn't the only mistake I've made in my life."

"Aha! So you admit it was a mistake," Hermione gloated.

"I'm seventeen. Getting anyone pregnant would be a mistake! But that doesn't mean being with Draco was a mistake." He shook his head in frustration and started to walk away.

"Harry, wait. I'm sorry about Malfoy." Hermione gave him a feeble smile.

Green eyes made sure they stared directly at her as he said, "I'm not," before turning and leaving the common room.

Chapter 6: Are We Slytherins or Hufflepuffs?

"What did you do to Potter this time?"

Draco didn't look up from the text he was reading. One of Snape's bloody potions had put him to sleep for the rest of the afternoon. He had a whole day of classes to make up. And no time to waste chitchatting with Pansy Parkinson. "What are you on about, Pans?"

"Both you and Potter were missing from morning lessons. That usually means trouble."

"Or it could just mean Potter and I were somewhere shagging."

She snorted. "Riiiight. You and Potter? I don't think so."

"Why? Haven't you noticed the body he returned with after the summer?"

"Sure I have."

"And you know firsthand that I go both ways, or are you forgetting that weekend with Blaise?"

Pansy blushed. "I'll be 120 and still remember that vividly, Draco. But we're talking Potter. You wouldn't shag Potter merely to satisfy an itch. So if you are shagging Potter, I want to know why."

"Why should I tell you shit?" he asked as he turned a page.

"Because we're Slytherins and we know when something's up," Blaise Zabini said and Draco looked up to see the seventh year Slytherins surrounding him: Pansy, Blaise, Millicent Bulstrode, Daphne Greengrass, Tracey Davis, Theodore Nott, Gregory Goyle, and Vincent Crabbe. "You and Potter have been acting oddly ever since we came back after Christmas."

"Yeah, no fights or nothing," Goyle pointed out.

Sighing, Draco closed his book. Goyle talked a bit too loud at times, and he could tell that they weren't going to take "fuck off" as an answer--not when they were ganged up as they were. "Let's take this to the dorm."

Unlike the Gryffindor tower, the dungeon didn't care what sex went into which dorm. Chairs were transfigured around the bed which Draco sat upon like a throne. "Potter and I are shagging," he said first, getting that out of the way.

"Why?" Pansy inquired again. "Potter isn't someone to fuck around with for kicks. He's not only a Gryffindor and has a tendency to take things like that seriously--"

"But he's powerful and can squish you like a bug," Blaise added. "And if he didn't squish you, his friends would for breaking the Golden Boy's heart. Too much of a risk for a random fuck. So what's the real story? Is this some sort of--plan?" Blaise's eyebrow went up for emphasis.

Draco made a rude noise. As if he'd allow his father and that mutated half-blood to use him as a whore. "Yes, it's a plan--my Plan. I've made a decision and Potter's part of it."

"What is this all about?" Blaise asked impatiently.

"Tell me something, Blaise. Do you want to be branded, to run around in a mask like some lowlife bandit, killing people in order to prove you are better than they are, when you already know for a fact you are? Do you want to kill and maim at the command of another? We're Purebloods. We give orders. We don't follow."

"We've talked about this before, Draco, and you know how I feel, how we all feel. But--"

"Our parents--" Millicent Bulstrode interrupted.

"Are fools," Draco said bluntly. "Instead of banding together to get rid of a powerful threat to themselves, they joined Him. They became His slaves, His army of sycophants. I, for one, am no one's toy to command. If I am to kill, it will be because someone is in my way, not His. Besides, our parents forgot one crucial matter--if the world is rid of half-bloods, mudbloods and muggles, who will we be superior to?"

Pansy paled. "We'll be average...ordinary," she said with a shudder that spread through the other Housemates.

Blaise rubbed at his temples. "You're advocating... Are you saying you're joining the side of the Light?"

"If we follow our parents' lead, the future holds two options for us: 1) we end up dead or the equivalent thereof in Azkaban, or 2) we end up slaves to a master who wanks to the sound of his own voice saying 'Crucio!' That's not my idea of a secure future."

"And being Potter's slut is?"

"If it gets me to my goal, then yes. Potter's not about to crucio me for looking at him the wrong way. Potter's not about to hand me over to my fellow comrades and tell them to do whatever they want to me because I displeased him. And if I get put in Azkaban, Potter's not going to sit around and let me rot there like You-Know-Who did with my father!"

"What happens if you go with Potter's side and the Dark Lord wins?" Pansy asked.

Draco laughed. "The Dark Lord and Potter have gone up against each other almost every year since Potter's been at Hogwarts and Potter's still alive and kicking."

"But the Dark Lord was weakened. He's getting stronger every year."

"And so is Potter," Draco countered. "Do you really think the Light would put up with Potter's antics if they didn't seriously have evidence that he can defeat You-Know-Who? Potter fucking owns Dumbledore, Dumbledore who defeated the dark wizard Grindelwald. There's no way Potter can lose." Especially not with me prompting him along a bit.

"You're the son of Lucius Malfoy. You really think the Light is just going to accept you into its sanctimonious midst?" Blaise pointed out.

"The Light needs Potter. Potter needs me. Therefore, the Light needs me. They keep me happy, I keep Potter happy, and the whole fucking world rejoices. I don't foresee any problems."

"Maybe not for you, but what about the rest of us? Do we all need to go find a Gryffindor to shag?" Millicent snarled.

He thought about it. Did he want to go this alone? Shuddering at the thought of being the lone Slytherin in a nest of Gryffindors--Snape the Spy not included--he altered the Plan a bit. He gave Millicent a mocking half-bow. "My single sacrifice is enough to secure a place for all who want to join me."

"I know you're a good shag, Draco," Blaise said, "but let's be realistic. What happens when the mudblood and the weasel convince Potter that he's better off shagging a hippogriff than you?"

"Aw, Blaise, I'm wounded by your lack of faith in me. See, I can give Potter something that a hippogriff can't." He paused dramatically. "I'm a Progenitor."

"Holy fuck," Pansy hissed.

"You? Let yourself get knocked up and all stretched out of shape? Not bloody likely," Millicent snarled.

"You forget the number one rule of Slytherin: do what is necessary for your own survival," Draco reminded her. Then he frowned. "I'll stretch back afterwards, right?"

The witches in the group just looked at him and laughed.

He hated being laughed at, but made a mental note to look into the lingering cosmetic effects of pregnancy. He'd searched the physical effects, knew that there was a risk of internal hemorrhaging, loss of the use of his magic, and systemic sepsis in the case of a dead fetus before birth (he wouldn't have any means of expelling the fetus before the birth canal formed). But he never realized he might be...imperfect after the birth.

Damn.

"So, you're gonna let Potter knock you up?" Crabbe asked, finally understanding what was going on.

"No. Not 'gonna.' Have."

Pansy squealed and reached out to touch his belly. "There's a tiny Malfoy in there?"

Blaise took a step back. "Damn, mate, you're serious about this."

"You bet your arse I'm serious. You should be, too. If your idea of fun is dodging lethal curses and being knee-deep in hot, sticky muggle blood, go home and enjoy yourself. Oh, and don't forget the painful brand of a half-dead and all-crazed dark lord you'll be sporting on your arm so that he can keep track of all your movements and yank you to his side like some faithful bitch any time he wants to."

"Well, aren't you Potter's bitch?" Nott snarled.

Draco bared his neck. "Do you see a leash on me? Do you see me at Potter's beck and call? Just because we're fucking and I'm carrying his whelp doesn't make him my bloody master. In fact, it's just the opposite. He dances to my tune."

"Prove it," Blaise dared.

Draco sniffed. "I'll not do shit just because of a stupid dare. What do you take me for? A First Year? If you want something, make me an offer."

Blaise angled his head toward the other Slytherins and they moved to a corner of the room. Draco watched them, huddled and whispering with gestures. Although there were many at Hogwarts that would refute it, they were truly his friends, and he didn't want to see them mixed up in the shit he'd endured during Yule. He didn't want to see any of them end up like their parents. Like his parents. Besides, "the gallant saving of his comrades from a life of evil service to the Dark Lord" would probably score him some points with Potter and his followers.

Life just kept getting sweeter all the time.

The Slytherins seemed to come to an agreement and they walked back to Draco. Blaise and Pansy looked at each other, both used to being spokespersons when Draco couldn't be. Finally Pansy nodded to Blaise.

"Here's the offer," Blaise said. "Get Potter to agree to a binding--"

"The whole ceremony, Draco," Pansy interrupted. "Dress robes, attendants, and Dumbledore doing the honors--"

"And we'll pledge ourselves to you," Blaise finished, scowling at Pansy. "But not to the Light."

A binding. He glared at the witches, figuring that kind of romantic shit had to come from them. Bitches. But Slytherin bitches. However, he was a Slytherin, too, and a bitch when necessary. "Accio quill and parchment." He took a minute to write out a contract which he handed to Pansy. "Read it aloud," he demanded.

"'If Draco Malfoy gets Harry Potter to consent to a full ceremonial binding, officiated by Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Magic, we, the undersigned, do hereby agree to swear our loyalty, fealty, and allegiance to Draco Malfoy.'" She looked around at her fellow Slytherins. "That sound right?"

Everyone nodded, except for Nott. "We're just exchanging one master for another," he said angrily.

Draco smirked. "Comparing me to the Dark Lord? Thanks for the compliment, Theo."

"Draco's no dark lord," Pansy said. "At least he's giving us a choice."

"Is he?"

Draco rolled his eyes. "If you don't want to sign this, don't, Theo." He pulled his wand. "I'll just obliviate this entire conversation from your mind and leave you to your wretched future. Makes no difference to me."

Nott looked around at his various friends and sighed. "Fine. I'll sign the damn thing."

The parchment was passed around and signed with a pen charmed to siphon the writer's blood as ink. With a bow, Blaise presented the parchment to Draco.

He rolled it up carefully and put protective spells on it. "Consider it done. But know this--I will not accept betrayal on any level. I may not be my father's perfect son, but I learned how to hex, how to scheme, how to make people rue the day they ever dared to cross a Malfoy, all that I learned at my father's knee. In other words, don't even think about fucking me over. Is that clear?"

"We'll be as loyal as fucking Hufflepuffs," Pansy quipped with a smirk.

"You fucking better be," Draco said and dismissed them all with a wave.

Chapter 7: Keep Your Friends Close

"Harry! I've been looking all over for you."

Harry looked up from the big tome he was flipping through. "Let me guess--the library is the last place you looked."

She pulled out a chair and gave him a sheepish look. "Yeah. Guess I was getting you and Ron confused. What are you doing here?" Flipping the book to its cover, she glanced at the title, Magical Maladies, Mysteries, and Myths.

"Progenitors, Chapter 19," he said by way of explanation.

"Oh. About that, Harry--Listen, I'm sorry. I should have reacted better."

Harry shrugged. "You said what you felt."

"But only children do that. None of us are children anymore, Malfoy included, and this problem you have is wholly an adult one."

"It's not a problem, Hermione. I won't have you treat it like one, okay? It doesn't need a solution. I'm not here trying to research my way out of it. I just want to know what's going to happen and how I can best help Mal-Draco."

"That's very decent of you." She grinned and gave him a nudge. "I always knew you'd make a great boyfriend. It's time for dinner. Why don't we head down, then come back here afterwards and I'll help you figure out the best way to pamper Malfoy through this."

He brushed his shoulder against hers. "Thanks."

"I'm your friend, Harry, no matter what. Speaking of...are you and Malfoy going to tell anyone?"

He took the book back to its shelf before returning and making his reply. "Isn't it bad enough Snape knows?"

"He must be furious."

"Yeah, but I think that he's a little relieved, too. Not about me and Draco and the baby, but because Draco's not going to serve Voldemort. He's been on the inside for a long time. He knows what it's like, what kind of stuff Draco would have to do. I'm guessing it really hurts him to teach these wizards and witches, then watch Voldemort destroy them bit by bit."

"Have you thought about it, Harry? Thought about facing our fellow Hogwarts students on a battlefield? It's going to be like a civil war--families fighting against each other, maybe dorm mates, lovers..."

Harry sighed. "That's why I wish--I mean, this is about Voldemort and me. Why does it have to involve all of you? No other deaths, not Cedric's nor Sirius' nor yours nor Ron's nor anyone else's is going to make one bit of difference. It's him or me. I just wish..."

"Stop it, Harry! Yes, it may come down to just you and--him, but you can't fight this war on your own. It doesn't work that way. Going off on your own--"

"Is just stupid and gets people killed," he mumbled bitterly. Like Sirius.

"Going off on your own," she began again patiently, "is courageous and brave, but just as--" she paused and took a deep breath, "--Voldemort is not alone, you aren't either. Do you see him trying to fight without the Death Eaters?"

"Don't you mean 'hiding behind his Death Eaters'?"

"Harry! You're not hiding behind anyone! You're the one who pointed out you're only seventeen. You've just reached age in the Wizarding world. Give yourself time and I promise you, together we will figure out a way to kick Voldemort's arse. You, me, and Ron, remember? The brain, the strategist, and the hero. They'll be writing books about us, Harry, and they'll end up in Muggle libraries. Our kids will read them and laugh because they'll know us as simply Mom and Dad and Auntie and Uncle."

Harry snickered at the images Hermione's words were drawing. "Your kids will laugh. Mine will probably just roll his eyes and mutter something about Gryffindors and their egos."

"Who knows? You and Malfoy just might have a Gryffindor," Hermione pointed out.

"As if Draco would allow that," Harry said with a grin.

Hermione sobered. "This is really happening. You and Malfoy and a baby. This is not the type of thing that can remain a secret for long, Harry. How are you planning to handle the inevitable?"

"I'm not sure. It's really up to Draco mostly. The risk is all his."

"Don't let him run a guilt trip on you, Harry. It's takes two to tango, you know."

But only one to rape. "The book said the pregnancy would be physically demanding. There're going to be a lot of magical adjustments made to his body, a body that has barely got used to being a Progenitor in the first place. I just want to make it as easy as possible for him. No matter who did what, the burden of this is firmly on him. I have to support him fully. Not to mention the fallout with his family and the other Death Eaters."

"Speaking of fallout, when are you going to tell Ron?" she asked as they left the library and walked toward the Great Hall. It was time for dinner.

"How about never?" He could feel her glare without even looking in her direction. "I just found out this morning, Hermione. I need to get it straight in my own head before I go to Ron with it."

"Fair enough. Besides, he's probably not going to take it too well."

"He and Draco are a lot alike, you know."

"Bite your tongue, Harry Potter!" she said in defense of her boyfriend.

"They're both stubborn and opinionated and quite unbending at times. I wonder if that's the pureblood in them."

"Which is why Muggles have laws against that sort of thing--inbreeding, I mean," Hermione said with a giggle. "But I guess we're fine ones to talk, considering we both fell for said purebloods."

Fell for? He hadn't fallen--Oh, yeah. Hermione thought it was about passion. Not force. Not cruelty. Not...pain and humiliation and a child conceived in spilled blood in a dusty cupboard.

Maybe he never should have been freed from his cupboard.

Hermione tugged at his arm, and he looked up to realize he'd almost walked into a wall. "Thanks," he mumbled.

She squeezed his hand. "You're not alone in this, okay? Nor is...Malfoy. You...both can count on me."

He smiled at her determined look. "Is it really that difficult?"

She thought about it for a moment. "No. It's not. It doesn't have to be, and it shouldn't be. You're both acting rather mature about this whole situation, and I should learn from your example. Besides, we've handled angry trolls and three-headed dogs and killer chess pieces--"

"Stop, or you'll be naming things all through dinner," he teased.

She leaned over to whisper in his ear as they stepped into the Great Hall. "So a pregnant Malfoy should be a piece of cake, right?"

"Think I can trade him in for the angry troll?" he whispered back.

Hermione glanced over at the Slytherin table where Draco sat. "He's got better hair than the troll."

"And a better body," Harry said without thinking.

Hermione just snickered and agreed.

*****

Because Draco was always, always, aware of when someone was looking at him, he knew immediately when Potter and the mudblood walked in. Since she looked, he figured Potter had told her about the baby. That wasn't surprising. Potter could barely find his dick without her help. What was surprising was the lack of daggers in her look.

And what got him pissed was the snickering afterwards. What? Did they think this situation was funny? This wasn't some fucking joke. He was pregnant, for fucking sake! The body that he had cultivated for years was going to be turned into a fucking parade balloon that might not deflate properly. He had let Potter maim him, had let Potter fucking fill his arse with his fucking inferior semen, had let Potter's half-blood sperm join with his absolutely perfect egg...

"Jealousy looks good on you," Blaise commented.

Draco glared at him. How dare he mistake justifiable rage for mere jealousy. "The day I'm jealous of a mudblood is the day I give Dumbledore a fucking blowjob." Not that he wouldn't, if he had to. Even Dumbledore's dick had to be better than Voldemort's. Besides, at least he'd get a lemon drop afterwards to clear his palate.

"So is he two-timing you?" Pansy asked as she followed the pair's progress toward the Gryffindor table. "Or three-timing?"

Draco looked to see the two joining Weasley at the table.

"That's why we're insisting on the binding," Pansy explained. "We don't want to be left hanging if Potter gets an itch other than you."

"But since you are so sure of your control of him, having him bind won't be a problem, will it, Draco?" Millicent asked with fake sincerity.

Draco wanted to tell her, tell all of them to kiss his Pureblood arse, but he didn't. There would be a time for getting even, a time after they had pledged themselves, their very futures to him.

Idiots all.

Despite their obvious mental deficiencies, the idea of getting him to bind with Potter was a worthy challenge. Unlike a mundane, even-muggles-do-it marriage, a binding could only be done by two who had wizarding blood in their veins. Binding required the actual linkage of magic and souls, not just a recitation of pretty, but generally meaningless words. That's why a binding wouldn't occur unless magic itself ordained that the two participants truly wanted it, were inarguably "in love", and were absolutely committed to each other.

Which might prove to be a slight problem when it came to Potter and him.

However--his oh-so-clever friends' specific challenge had been to, "Get Potter to consent to a full ceremonial binding." There was no mention of "achieving a successful bond" and all the lovey-dovey crap that involved.

It was all in the details.

Draco dragged out his dinner until he saw Potter getting ready to leave. He made sure they got to the Great Hall doors at the same time.

"Meet me at 9:00. Potions Lab."

He didn't wait for acknowledgment.

Chapter 8: You Didn't Even Ask

"What's he on about?" Ron asked, his voice dripping with disgust.

"Huh?" Harry was too busy thinking about why Draco wanted to see him to pay attention to Ron. Draco hadn't been at lunch, nor had he attended his afternoon lessons. Now he wanted to talk. Was something wrong with the baby?

"Malfoy. The git whispered something to you. What was it?"

"Um..." Harry scrambled to come up with something--anything.

"Hush, Ron. It's probably something to do with the potions project Snape assigned them to."

Bless you, Hermione. "Yeah, we have to get together and, you know, work on the assignment."

"Is Snape still up to that same old shit? Partnering you up with Malfoy?"

Harry shrugged. "I guess he has to get his jollies some way."

"How about you, Hermione? You got one of those slimy Slytherins for a partner?"

"No, just Harry. Maybe Snape likes seeing Harry and Malfoy together."

"Eww. That's just--eww!" Ron said, gagging.

"Don't, Ron."

Ron frowned. "Don't what, Harry?"

Harry took a deep breath. "I don't like thinking that Snape gets off on seeing me and Malfoy together, but I don't think me and Malfoy together is such a bad deal overall."

"What?"

"Draco is kind of hot."

"What?"

"I might be kind of--" Harry's voice dropped to a whisper, "bi-sexual."

"What?"

"I swing both ways, Ron," Harry said emphatically.

"Yeah."

Harry blinked. "You knew?"

Ron shrugged. "I always kind of wondered. But, you know, it's, like, cool with me."

"So why all these 'whats'?" Harry asked in exasperation.

"You think Malfoy is hot. That's the what, mate."

"But he is. Don't you think so, Hermione?" Harry flinched as she glared at him. Oops.

"He can be considered...attractive," she hedged. "If you like the bottle-blond type."

"It's not from a bottle," Harry murmured, remembering the platinum hair, stained with the blood oozing from the deep tears within.

Ron sat dead in the middle of the corridor.

"Subtle, Harry," Hermione said dryly.

Fuck.

After a long, uncomfortable silence, Ron finally spoke. "I guess this means the two of you are not meeting up to work on a project?"

"No." Harry took a step back, just in case Ron came up swinging.

But Ron merely climbed to his feet and brushed off his robes. "Guess you should get your studying done, then. What time does he want--what time do you have to meet him?"

"Nine o'clock."

Ron nodded. "Don't worry about coming back to the dormitory late. I'll cover for you."

"You will?" Harry looked at Hermione whose face was mirroring his own shock.

"Sure. You'd cover for me if the situation was reversed, wouldn't you?"

"Of course. But--you're okay with this?"

"No, but I have five older brothers, Harry. You think Mum has approved of all their shag partners? Her fussing just made them mad enough to stay on even when they were ready to end it. When you get tired of Malfoy, I don't want you staying on just to spite me."

"That's terribly grown up of you, Ron," Hermione praised. "And rather pessimistic."

"We're talking about Malfoy," Ron replied. Hermione nodded.

Harry sighed. Too bad they didn't know Malfoy was the one in danger from the relationship. It had to be disturbing, if not downright scary, to keep meeting privately with the person who had attacked you. Malfoy's guts through all of this had surprised him. Far from being the little coward he'd been in the past, the Slytherin had faced the rape, pregnancy, loss of his parents and status, and now this prolonged contact with his assailant, with courage and dignity. He hadn't run away or had a screaming fit.

Was this because he was going to be a parent? What had the priest said on one Christmas Eve (the only time the Dursleys ever went to Mass, and the once they'd taken him along had been when the neighbors had seen Harry and knew he was too young to be left alone)? "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." [I Corinthians 13:11] The words had stuck in his head because at that moment he'd wished he was a man so he could leave the Dursleys and live by himself. Had the prospect of having a child himself caused Draco to become a man? And if he had, if he could, then it only stood to reason that Harry could do the same.

He hoped.

At five till nine, Harry walked toward the Potions Lab. Before he reached the door, a hand stuck out of the wall and pulled him straight through the stone.

"What the--" He looked around the small room, noting it was completely empty, except for-- "What's going on, Mal-Draco?"

"Snape has the Hufflepuff third-years in detention, so the lab's off-limits."

"Oh. Why did you want to see me?"

"To tell you I won't be alone in this."

"Of course not. I--"

Draco shook his head. "I've talked my friends into not following Voldemort. They'll need protection from their families for a while."

Harry frowned, then reluctantly nodded. "I'll talk to the Headmaster..."

Draco stamped his foot. "What's the problem, Potter?"

He knew Draco wasn't going to like his next question, but it had to be asked. "Your friends. Are you sure that this is what they want? That they're not--"

As expected, Draco exploded. "What do you take me for? A foolish Hufflepuff? Of course I know this is what they want! This is my life, too, Potter. How could you possibly think that I wouldn't be one-hundred percent sure of their leanings? I know you and your friends think of me as some kind of git, but I didn't know you thought I was stupid as well!!"

"Never stupid, Draco. But--"

"There are no 'but's. I don't risk my life on 'but's. If you don't trust me on anything, trust me on that."

And...yes, Draco's self-preservation ability was something he did trust. "Okay. I'm sure Dumbledore won't mind."

"Why should he? More fodder for the slaughter, right?"

"That's Voldemort's way, not Dumbledore's," Harry said adamantly.

"War is war, Potter. People die no matter whose side they're on."

The truth of that stung quite a bit. "At least they won't die by their leader's own hand."

Draco shrugged. "Just by his orders."

Harry wanted to defend Dumbledore, but as he'd said before, Slytherins saw very clearly. "Is there anything else you wanted?"

"Just this." He shoved a scroll in Harry's direction.

"What is--" Harry unrolled it and read. "This is a binding ceremony." He frowned in confusion. He only recognized what it was because the words "Binding Ceremony" were written across the top in very formal script.

"Yes, it's the simplest I could find. I didn't want to task your brain too much."

"Task my-- What are you on about, Malfoy?"

"We're. Going. To. Have. A. Binding. Ceremony. Potter," Draco said slowly.

Binding ceremony? That was like, marriage or something, right? "No," Harry said loudly.

"No?"

"No. I'm not going to bond with you." Married to Malfoy? No way.

"Why?"

Why? He had the gall to ask why? "Because you're a git and even though you're really hot, I don't like you. You've been mean to me and my friends from the beginning. You've got me into trouble, talked about me to my face and behind my back, and led your Slytherins to treat me like shit!" Harry spat the last word. "How dare you just hand me this parchment like it's a done deal. Like it's an order. Bond with you? Bloody hell, you didn't even ask!"

"Neither did you!" Draco retorted.

Harry stepped back as if slapped and then his eyes narrowed in anger. He could see the future, and he didn't like it one bit. Hermione had warned him that Malfoy would use his sense of guilt against him. "You are not going to play that card every time you want something your way," he charged furiously.

"My way? Forgive me, Potter, if I want our child to be called a bastard because he takes after you, not because he is one!"

Draco's caustic remark acted as a Petrificus spell, freezing Harry in both movement and thought.

By the time he recovered, Draco was partially out of the room. In a panic, Harry grabbed Draco's shoulder and yanked him back inside. With a snarl, Draco turned around.

Harry found himself face to face with a drawn wand.

Chapter 9: What's Done Is Done

Draco was furious. Furious that Potter had his hands on him, furious that Potter had refused to bond, furious that nothing was going right. Furious that at the moment he was actually trembling with fear because Potter had touched him. "No! You will never manhandle me again, Potter," Draco said between clenched teeth, his wand aimed squarely at the broad chest heaving in front of him.

Blanching, Potter let go immediately and backed away. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he said, his hands up so Draco could see them.

Draco eyed him warily, took a deep breath, and sheathed his wand. "Don't do that again."

"I won't."

He took another calming breath and stared haughtily at Potter, focusing on his absolute knowledge that Potter had only attacked him because of the potion. It wouldn't happen again. Potter wasn't like that. Potter didn't do things like that. Potter was good and light and all that sickening stuff. "So why did you drag me back in here?"

"I wanted to tell you--I wanted to say okay."

Draco felt some of the tension leave his body. Maybe Potter wasn't going to be a complete arse about everything. "Okay what?"

"Okay to the binding." Potter held up the parchment. "I'll memorize it."

Ah, it was time to smirk. "And get decent robes?"

"And get decent robes."

"You'll ask Dumbledore?"

"Yes."

"And get permission to use his office. We'll need privacy."

"Okay."

Draco had to fight the urge to pump his fist in victory. That could wait until he was alone and savoring his victory. Except-- "Why the sudden change of heart?" he asked suspiciously. "You aren't pitying me, are you?"

"No. I see--your point about the baby, and I think it'll be good for both of us."

Draco frowned, unconvinced of Potter's sincerity. "That's not what you said a minute ago," he argued. Helpless devotion? Yes. Pity? No. He was still a Malfoy, damn it!

Potter's eyes dropped to the floor. "I reacted without thinking. It's a habit of mine that I'm trying to break."

Oh, just normal Potter stupidity. "Try harder."

"I will. Draco, I want us to be a real family. I'm hoping that you know what that is, because I don't. But I don't want our child thinking he's a mistake or a burden, and I don't want you thinking that either."

Draco gave a solemn nod and turned to leave. He had no idea what a real family was either. Did a real family lead their child into a life of slavery and bloodshed? Did a real family want their son to become a killer and a rapist?

He was just as lost as Harry.

"Draco?"

At least Potter didn't try grabbing him again. "Yes, Harry?"

"What would you have said--if I had asked?"

His first thought was a sneering, "No." But Potter had a body to die for and a sexy mess of hair that just begged to be tugged one way and then the other. Not to mention the magical power he exuded was definitely a turn on. Would he really have turned down a chance to shag the Boy-Who-Lived? And if he had shagged him, would he have had to come up with this desperate solution? Potter would've probably willingly served as his protector and defender after two or three bouts of sex. He seemed like that type. But... "I don't know. But what's done is done, and we can't change it, Harry. We can only make the best out of what is." He folded his hands over his belly.

"We've already made the best," Potter said softly, looking at Draco's hands.

"Maybe, Harry, maybe."

*****

Harry took his time getting back to Gryffindor Tower. Being a Seventh Year had its advantage--a much later curfew, so he went outside and sat on the huge front steps to think. Reviewing the whole conversation with Draco in his head, Harry came to the conclusion that he'd acted like a ten-year-old Dudley having a temper tantrum.

So much for that "putting away childish things" proclamation.

Draco assumed they were going to get married--bound or whatever. It was a reasonable assumption. In the Muggle world it was known as "taking responsibility." Having two daddies, one being the Boy-Who-Lived and the other a son of a Death Eater, was going to be enough of a burden; making him a literal bastard was asking too much of the child. He could already hear the taunts and see the bruises on his child from a number of scuffles the first days at Hogwarts. Someone would know that he was Harry Potter's son and take that as a challenge. Someone would know he was a Malfoy and take that as an excuse to abuse him. Someone would know that one of his parents was too selfish and would call him an unwanted bastard. The first two reasons were unfortunately unavoidable, but the third... How could he explain to his child that "I'd do anything for you, except marry your other father and make you legitimate"?

Also, the baby deserved to be legally linked to the Potter name. There was a chance, a huge chance, that he wouldn't survive the final confrontation with Voldemort. If they were married, Draco and the baby would inherit his stuff without someone making an issue of it-- and the two would inherit Sirius's legacy as well. Which was good because Draco had Black blood in him and deserved to be Sirius's heir.

And it wasn't like he had something better waiting for him. There was no girl--or boy--he was secretly fancying. No dreams to be shattered because he was tied to Draco. No future plans deferred because he was a teenage father. No big sacrifices at all.

Not much of a life at all.

So why had he jumped on Draco like that? He'd accused him of using the rape as leverage, and that was the one thing Draco hadn't done. Ever. Even when he should have. And, O God, the fear in Draco's eyes when Harry had grabbed him... No one except Voldemort should ever look at him with that kind of fear.

It was killing Harry that he didn't know what happened. Maybe he needed to ask Snape to investigate. No, he was sure Snape had already investigated. He needed to ask Snape what he'd found out...and if he'd already secretly taken care of the problem. Snape was a Slytherin and Harry had no doubt at all that he'd handle a threat to one of his own. Especially if the threat was toward Draco. There was some connection between the two. Maybe Snape had known Draco since he was a kid. Maybe he saw himself in Draco. Maybe he saw a future Potions Master in the making.

Hell, maybe Snape and Narcissa, or Snape and Lucius--

Harry forced the thought to leave his mind.

So, if Snape wasn't chaperoning their every meeting or demanding he turn in his wand, then Snape must already know he wasn't going to hurt Draco--which Harry knew had nothing to do with trusting Harry and everything to do with knowing why the rape had occurred. That made Harry feel a whole lot better, but from Draco's reaction, apparently it hadn't completely eased Draco's mind. However, Harry realized, he shouldn't have grabbed a rape victim.

Boy, wouldn't Draco be having a fit if he knew Harry was thinking of him as a "rape victim." But that's what he was, and in between looking up stuff on Progenitors he'd read a couple of things about the way rape affected people, about the post-traumatic shock they suffered long after the incident. He didn't know whether Draco had talked about it to anyone or been counseled. Surely Madam Pomfrey-- But maybe things were done differently in the Wizarding world. It wasn't like he knew much about it, even though he'd lived in it the past seven years. He didn't know this world and quite frankly, he didn't know Draco. He knew Draco's father. He knew Draco's father's allies and associates. But he knew nothing about Draco, the man he was engaged to.

Except that he was carrying his baby.

And that he'd turned his back on his family to protect that baby.

And that he was willing to share the baby with him.

Harry knew Draco could have demanded Snape, Dumbledore, and Madam Pomfrey keep his secret. Since he had his own account at Gringott's, Draco could have run off and had the baby somewhere else, probably living quite comfortably. But he hadn't. He'd told Harry about the baby and was willing to let him be a part of their child's life--even when it increased the danger to both Draco and the baby.

That probably admitted more about Draco than Draco would ever admit himself.

Maybe he did know enough about Draco. And maybe a binding with Draco was exactly what he needed.

*****

Draco concluded, as he made his way back to the Slytherin Common Room, that dealing with Harry Potter was exhausting. He was as predictable as Draco had first thought, but it always took a while for Harry to find the predictable response. That was rough on the nerves. Especially pregnant nerves. Especially pregnant nerves which had been unnerved by Potter grabbing him. He shouldn't have reacted like that. Sure, he'd been frightened that night when Potter was under the influence of the potion, but he hadn't expected that fear to last. It was stupid and giving Potter way too much control. He was a Slytherin and a Malfoy. The fear had to stop.

Thinking only of reaching one of the calming potions Snape had made for him, Draco didn't see the foot that one enterprising Sixth Year Slytherin stuck out. And after his head slammed into the stone wall of the dungeon, he didn't see anything at all.

Chapter 10: Awakenings

Harry stared in surprise at the progress the moon had made in the sky and knew it was long past curfew. With a sigh, he stood and stretched. Although it was late spring, the huge stone steps still retained some of their damp, winter chill.

"Potter! There you are! I've looked everywhere for you."

He jerked around to see Pansy Parkinson standing in the doorway. "What do you want?" Damn it. He really didn't need detention from the prefect this week.

"It's Draco. He's in the hospital wing!"

Harry froze. "What happened?"

"Mitchell Flint. He's a Sixth Year who thought he'd get a leg up on being head Slytherin next year by making Draco fall like a prat."

"He fell?" Oh, hell, the baby! He scooted past her in the doorway and started to run.

"Gregory and Vincent took him to the wing, while Blaise and I sorted out Mitchell," Pansy said as they raced toward the infirmary. "I think--I think the baby's okay, Potter. Draco's head took the brunt of the impact."

Harry stopped running. "You know?" He knew Draco had told them that they were, um, shagging, but telling them about the baby was totally unexpected. And worrisome.

She nodded and didn't stop running so Harry had to catch up to her. "All the Seventh Years in our House know," Pansy explained when he was beside her again. "That's why I was sent after you."

"And it doesn't bother you?"

She shrugged. "Draco is capable of making his own decisions."

Stunned, he barely kept up with her.

Crabbe and Goyle were standing at the entrance of the infirmary, and opened the door to let Harry pass. "Madam Pomfrey! How is he?"

"Shh! He has a nasty bump on his head and doesn't need loud noises," the nurse scolded.

"Sorry. How is he?" Harry questioned again, this time in a whisper as he neared the bed in the back. Draco looked like he was sleeping and there was a big red splotch on his forehead.

"I just have to--" She waved her wand and the splotch disappeared. "There. He's going to be fine. I would let him go back to the dormitory, but because of his delicate condition, I'm going to keep him overnight."

"The baby?"

"Fine, Mr. Potter. Most of Mr. Malfoy's magical powers are focused on protecting the baby, which is why he probably fell like he did. Instead of his arms going forward to catch himself, all his actions were directed at guarding his abdomen."

"So you're saying Draco won't protect himself, only the baby?"

"Yes. You have to remember that when Progenitors first came into being, the emphasis was on maintaining the wizarding line. The babies were what was most important."

But Draco's important to me. He startled at the thought. "Can I sit here and wait for him to wake up?"

"Ordinarily, I'd say no. But I know how worried you are, so I'll let you stay only until he wakes. You must promise me you'll go back to your dormitory afterwards. This has been a very trying day for you as well, and you need your rest." She put a flask on the table. "Make sure he drinks this when he wakes."

Harry nodded. He went out and told Draco's friends what was going on, then pulled up a chair and stared at Draco. There was no tell-tale bulge yet, but his baby was there inside this boy--man. The man he was engaged to. The man he had insulted and frightened earlier. The man he should be protecting and...hadn't.

Who was this Flint character and why had he attacked Draco? Could Draco's friends be trusted? God, he'd told them about the baby. What if--How many junior Death Eaters were in Hogwarts? Could he and Dumbledore protect Draco until the end of the year? Maybe Draco should be sent into hiding or something.

Harry sighed and rested his head in his hands, his shoulders curling under the weight placed upon them.

*****

Draco opened his eyes and scanned the room. The infirmary. Harry Potter seated next to his bed, looking lost and sad. With a gasp, he grabbed his stomach. "The baby!"

"Is fine," Harry quickly assured him. "You're supposed to drink this." Harry helped him sit up and drain the flask. Then he lay back weakly against a rather unfluffy pillow.

"What happened, Potter?" Had he fainted?

"Some Sixth Year--a Flint, I think--tripped you. You hit your head, but Madam Pomfrey's taken care of that. She's keeping you overnight, just as a precaution."

Draco blinked, letting his anger push aside his disorientation. "Mitchell Flint is a dead man."

Harry shrugged. "Probably. Pansy said that she and Blaise sorted him out afterward."

"Good." Pansy could be a real bitch when she wanted to and Blaise could go toe-to-toe with Greg and Vince when he was angry.

"So, you told them? What happened to 'I can handle them'?"

Told-- Oh. Potter knew his friends knew about the baby. And of course, he was going to be a baby about it. Draco rolled his eyes. "I told them to handle them. By telling them myself, I controlled what they learned and their perception of the facts."

"What exactly did you tell them--so we don't get our lies confused and stuff. You Slytherins probably don't believe in passion and the likes."

Prejudiced much? "I told them we shagged, and I got knocked up." He gave his visitor a tolerant smirk. "The key to successful lying, Potter, is not to do it unless you have to--and if you have to, keep the embellishments down to a minimum."

Potter grimaced. "The wisdom of Slytherins?"

"Unlike you Gryffindors, rushing off to save the day, we save ourselves. By any means necessary. You like to call that evil. We call it survival."

"Supporting Voldemort is survival?" Skepticism dripped from Potter's voice.

"For those who are already pledged to him? Yes. For those living in the households of his supporters? Yes. For those few who have a choice? A decision is made and our subsequent choices match accordingly."

Potter cocked his head to one side, probably straining against thinking so much. "Your decision was our baby."

"Yes."

"But what about the people you've told? What if they haven't really decided? What if they run off and tell their parents about the baby, and their parents tell your parents, and your parents tell Voldemort?"

Well, that was--insulting. Draco sat up. "Are you accusing me of something, Potter? Are you accusing me of putting my child in danger?"

"I'm just saying that maybe telling your dorm mates might not have been...wise?"

"I sincerely hope that Gryffindor stupidity is not a hereditary trait," Draco scoffed. "Do you actually think I would have told anyone without being utterly sure that I wouldn't be betrayed? My friends would have been curious, Potter. They would've followed me, cast listening spells, set charms in my room. They would've discovered my secret and used it against me because it was my secret. Now, it's their secret, which they are bound to protect. Do you get it now, Potter?"

Potter stared at him, his eyes wide behind the round lenses and dark frames. "You Slytherins are a complicated lot," he mumbled.

"And you Gryffindors are not." Draco fluffed his pillow and leaned back. Then he sat back up, fluffed again, then settled with a satisfied sigh. "Now that you've grasped the basic tenets of life, tell me why you are here."

"When you got hurt, Pansy came and told me because of the baby."

"But the baby's fine?" Potter nodded. "Then why. Are. You. Here?"

Potter looked puzzled. "I didn't want you waking up alone. Madam Pomfrey told me I could stay until you woke up, but I had to promise I'd go back to the dormitory as soon as that happened. So I can't stay, but I'll be back in the morning, okay?"

Draco nodded, his turn to be dazed and confused. Why did Potter care if he woke up alone? He wasn't in any danger in the infirmary, and Pomfrey had wards up to let her know when her patients woke. Why had Potter wasted time sitting beside him? Uncomfortable with his lack of understanding--how the hell did Snape put up with these Gryffindors year in and year out--he turned his head and closed his eyes.

"Goodnight, Draco," Potter called softly as the door closed behind him.

"Goodnight, Harry," Draco said to the empty room. Maybe tomorrow he would make sense of Potter's actions. Maybe tomorrow he'd have brilliant insight into the workings of the Gryffindor brain. Maybe tomorrow he'd grow wings and turn into a snitch, and then Harry would catch him and cradle him in his big hands and...

And maybe tomorrow he'd find out what batty Pomfrey had slipped him to cause such weird thoughts. From now on, he was only accepting potions from Snape.

Chapter 11: That's Our Baby!

Despite his late arrival to bed, Harry was up long before his fellow Gryffindors. He smiled as he passed by Ron's bed. Last night he'd thrown back his curtains when Harry came in and mumbled a, "Harry, that you, mate? All's right?"

"Everything's good, Ron. Go back to sleep."

"'Kay."

Maybe Draco had the right of it, Harry thought as he showered. The baby should be Ron's secret, too. Hadn't Ron proven himself by not freaking out about Harry's supposed relationship with Draco? And if there was something Ron knew about, it was the responsibility of a parent to a child. Ron had told him that because Weasleys were so virile (Mr. Weasley's word), his dad had sat down each of his sons when they'd reached puberty to explain to them about the need to be cautious as they "explored" (another Mr. Weasley's word, complete with quotation marks). Ron had excitedly passed on the information he'd learned, and the varied contraceptive spells taught to him by his brothers, to his best friend. Which Harry hadn't thought to use when he--oh, yeah, he hadn't had sex with Draco; he'd RAPED him.

Harry hurried through his shower and dressing. In less than fifteen minutes he was riding the staircase up to Dumbledore's office. A knock got him a quick, "Come in, Harry. Top of the morning to you."

"Good morning, sir."

"I hear Mr. Malfoy is doing well. I'm glad he was not seriously injured." Dumbledore motioned him into a chair.

"Me too. That's why I'm here."

"You're worried about his safety?"

Harry shook his head. After going over his conversation with Draco, he'd concluded that if Draco trusted his fellow Slytherin Seventh Years with the truth about the baby, then it was reasonable to assume they would protect him within his House. "Before the accident, Draco wanted me to ask you if you would officiate at our binding ceremony. Oh, yeah, and if we could use your office for it."

"A binding ceremony?" Harry nodded. Dumbledore, instead of taking his normal seat behind the desk, sat in the chair next to Harry. "What do you know of bindings, Harry?"

"Wizards have bindings instead of marriage like Muggles, right?"

Dumbledore gave a small smile. "Not quite, my boy. Wizards usually marry exactly like Muggles."

"So what's the difference?"

"A wedding is a legal and spiritual commitment between two people who agree to the dictates of such an arrangement. A binding is a magical occurrence, whereby Magic itself decides whether to unite the witches or wizards present. If Magic doesn't approve, the binding doesn't happen and that is not only costly, but embarrassing. These days most of the Wizarding world just goes with the safer and more reliable option of marriage. I'd be proud to officiate at a marriage between you and Mr. Malfoy."

Harry frowned. "You don't want to bind us?"

Dumbledore's hand patted his shoulder. "It's not a question of 'want', Harry. There has to be certain conditions met for a binding to occur."

Harry knew he had to be firm, and explain his request clearly. "Draco stated a binding, not a marriage, so he must believe the conditions will be met because, you know, he wouldn't humiliate himself like that--not even to get back at me."

"Harry--"

"I'm sorry, sir, but when it comes to Wizarding ritual, especially old, traditional ones, I'll have to trust Draco's judgment over yours. He's been trained up in them all his life." And while he had no doubt that Dumbledore was well-versed in archaic Wizarding code, or whatever the hell all this ritual shit was based on, knowing such shit and living such shit like Draco had, were two different things. In other words, Draco had to be an expert.

"That may be so, Mr. Potter, but--"

Harry shook his head, not really wanting to argue with the Headmaster. "No 'buts', sir. If you won't do the ceremony, I'll just have to find someone who will. Draco wants a binding, so I'll give him a binding."

Dumbledore stared at him, eyes suddenly going from saddened to twinkling. "Well," he said heartily after a moment, "perhaps you're right about Mr. Malfoy being more astute in these matters. Tell him I'll gladly officiate at your binding, and I'll even have the house elves decorate the office a bit."

Harry gave a sigh of relief. He hadn't wanted to face Draco with Dumbledore's refusal. "Thank you, sir. Here's the ceremony he wants done. I don't have a copy for you to keep--I have to memorize my lines--but if you can do a magical copy real quick..."

Dumbledore peered over his glasses at the offered parchment. "This is what Mr. Malfoy wants?"

Harry nodded. "He said it was the simplest he could find. And that I need new robes." He eyed Dumbledore's garish purple and orange garment. "I think I'll ask Hermione to help me with that."

Dumbledore waved his wand and the parchment duplicated itself. "Very well, Harry. If this is what Mr. Malfoy wants..."

Smiling, Harry stood. "He's very clear on that, sir. That's one of the things I admire about him. You don't have to guess with him."

"I'm sure that's very refreshing in a relationship," Dumbledore agreed. "But I have a feeling that there are layers to Mr. Malfoy, and the only thing clear about him are his mysteries."

Harry shrugged. Dumbledore wouldn't be Dumbledore if he didn't add something cryptic at the end of every conversation. "Do you know a good date for this?"

"Mr. Malfoy didn't say?"

"No, but it probably needs to be as soon as possible."

"The new moon is a wonderful time to start such an adventure as this, Harry."

"I'll discuss it with Draco. Thank you for your help. I'm going to the infirmary now to see if Madam Pomfrey has released him yet."

"Tell him I said good morning and congratulations."

"I will. Talk to you later."

Feeling accomplished, Harry headed to the infirmary.

*****

Draco was knotting his Slytherin tie as Harry burst through the infirmary doors, obviously excited and eager to share.

"Draco, he said yes! The Headmaster will perform the ceremony and let us use his office."

"That's wonderful, Potter. Planning to announce it to the whole school, are you?" Draco said dryly, pleased that Potter was being so obedient. Quite different from the Potter of the night before.

"Sorry about that," Potter said in a much quieter tone as his eyes scanned the large room.

"Thankfully there are no other patients here, but really, Potter, do be careful."

Potter bounced onto the bed, lying in the exact spot Draco had vacated. Draco found the sight...distracting. "I promise. And oh, he suggested we do it during a new moon. He says that's a good time for stuff like that."

Draco tsked. "How many years have you taken Astronomy? Of course the best time to start a new adventure would be during a new moon. If I'm not mistaken, the next new moon will be in a favorable lunar mansion as well. It's decided then: the ceremony will take place during the next new moon. Which is good--I won't be fat yet."

"It won't be fat; it'll be our son or daughter."

"Says the guy who won't be waddling around in a few months. And it's our son."

"What?"

Draco stopped in the middle of putting on his robes. Potter's tone sounded odd. "It's a boy. Madam did the Revelo Genus spell earlier this morning."

"Oh."

Draco frowned. "What's the matter? You wanted a girl?"

Harry quickly shook his head. "Girl or boy didn't make a difference to me."

"So why are you upset?"

"I'm not upset!"

"Well, something has your knickers in a knot! Spill, Potter. I haven't time for this." And the books had said he would be the moody one.

"Neither of us do. Not if we're to have breakfast before lessons start. Besides, it's stupid," Potter concluded with a shrug.

"Don't make me have to explain to my son why I had to kill his father before his birth." Draco sat heavily on the bed, waiting for the Gryffindor to clear up this mystery.

"I just wish I'd been there--when she told you, that's all."

"Why? She pointed her wand, said the spell, and the symbol for a male appeared. Nothing spectacular about that."

"I told you it was stupid. I'll head down to breakfast first so we don't arrive at the same time." Potter stood and took a step toward the door.

Shit. Somehow he'd fucked up, but Draco had no idea how. There was a long way to go in the pregnancy and he needed--no, had to have Potter's full cooperation and protection. Okay. Potter was upset because he wanted to be there when Pomfrey found out the baby's sex. Did that mean Potter expected to be there when anything was found out about the baby? Was that what he was pouting about? "Stay," he quietly ordered Potter, then turned around and called out, "Madam Pomfrey?"

She appeared immediately. "Are you ready to leave, Mr. Malfoy?"

"Not quite. You said I could see the baby whenever I wanted to? Could you do it now, with Pot--with Harry here?"

Pomfrey gave a wide smile. "Of course, Mr. Malfoy. Come here, Mr. Potter, and I'll show you how to do this so that you and Mr. Malfoy can see your child whenever you like. Lift your shirt, Mr. Malfoy. Although the spell can be done through clothing, the image is often clearer without the extra layers."

Potter stood slowly and drew his wand. "Are you sure about this, Draco?"

Draco nodded and unbuttoned the lower part of his shirt, lifting it and the jumper to bare his stomach.

"All right, Mr. Potter. Hold your wand as such." She manipulated his wrist into position. "And say these words-- 'Manifesta germen!'"

"Manifesta germen!" Potter recited obediently.

A cloud formed in the air in front of his stomach. The mist started clearing and an image appeared. Draco had no idea what it was.

"That's your baby, gentlemen," Pomfrey said, seeing their confusion. "He's just a tiny little thing now, but there's his head and the beginning of his hand. Can you see it?"

Draco was not impressed and was a bit disgusted seeing such a thing growing inside him. It sort of reminded him of the slugs he'd made Weasley belch up back in second-year.

"Hey, baby," Potter was crooning to the image, and Draco wondered if he expected the little slug to make a reply. Hell, at least that would make the little parasite interesting. "That's our baby, Draco!"

Draco nodded and tried to look attentive. The image faded and with relief, he re-buttoned his shirt and smoothed down his jumper. Harry was still staring at the spot where the image had been. "Potter, go to breakfast."

"Okay." He started out of the room, then turned back to give Draco a sun-rivaling smile. "Thank you!"

Draco smirked. Gryffindors were so easy.

Chapter 12: I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

How Harry managed to find the Great Hall, he himself wasn't sure. Seeing the baby had been...damn, was there a word for what that had been? Sure, he was kind of tiny and wormlike, but he was his--and Draco's. And how great had Draco been, asking Pomfrey to do that and then she'd shown him how...A baby. A son. It should be scary. He should be petrified. Draco probably was. Draco--had looked rather good getting dressed.

"No need to ask you how your night was."

Harry looked over at Ron as he sat down at the table beside him. "Huh?"

"You're positively glowing, Harry," Hermione said softly from his other side.

"I guess the ferret's good at something. I should've figured fucking would be his best subject next to Potions. Maybe they're one in the same," Ron muttered.

Harry quickly lost his good mood. "Ron, either get the fuck over yourself or stay away from me."

"Sorry, Harry."

"Ron said you got in late last night. Did everything go well?" Hermione asked, obviously trying to distract him from Ron.

"Draco got mixed up in some kind of power struggle in Slytherin. I was in the infirmary with him."

"Infirmary? He's okay, right?"

Harry heard her unvoiced question about the baby. "He's completely fine, Hermione. I just saw him a few minutes ago."

"We'd wondered where you'd disappeared to so early. And we're glad he's okay. Aren't we, Ron?"

Ron nodded and patted Harry on the shoulder. "Sorry, mate. Just habit, I'm afraid."

Harry nodded and finished his breakfast. They all had habits they were going to have to break. He had to get over expecting Draco's pregnancy to be like a Muggle one. Maybe it wasn't a big deal in the wizarding world to find out what the baby's sex was, or maybe wizards didn't take such a keen interest in every little detail of a pregnancy. In fact, he knew nothing at all about wizarding pregnancies. Were they nine months long? Were the babies born in the same way as in that BBC special he'd seen at the Dursleys? Wizards could cure injuries that would kill Muggles, so surely they'd come up with an easier to get a baby out, right? And how much did it matter that Draco was a wizard and not a witch? Oh, God, he was so far in over his head. "I need help," he wailed softly.

"What is it, Harry? You know we're here for you," Ron said quickly. "You run out of lube, condoms, what?" Harry stared at him. Hermione stared at him. "Five brothers--and not a single sister-in-law," he explained with a wink. "Although I'm pretty sure most of them are bi. Except maybe Percy. But Percy's probably still a virgin. What's it called when you think the only one good enough to be with is yourself?"

"Lonely," Hermione said with a snicker.

The boys laughed.

"It's nothing like that, Ron," Harry said. "It's, um, complicated. Can we meet tonight and talk? Just the three of us?"

His two best friends nodded and they all headed in different directions to class.

*****

Draco was exhausted. He'd been warned that the changes his body was going through were going to be draining, but he figured that since he was in good physical shape (seventeen and a Quidditch player), he'd sail through it without too much notice.

He wondered what other parts of the pregnancy he'd miscalculated.

"Draco."

He nearly stumbled when someone called his name as he stepped through the entrance to the Slytherin common room. Wearily, he looked at the assembled crowd and sighed. Apparently going to bed was not in his immediate future. He made his way to the leather chair Pansy obviously wanted him to take and with effort, pushed his exhaustion to the background.

"Someone has something he wants to say to you, Draco," Blaise said as he shoved Mitchell Flint forward.

The Sixth Year was tall and dark, sort of like a Potter wanna-be. Draco grinned; he didn't need a substitute since he had the original. "All right, Flint. I'm here. What is it you want to say?"

"I'm sorry," the boy muttered.

Draco cupped a hand to his ear. "Sorry, didn't quite catch that."

"I'm sorry," the boy spat loudly.

Draco settled back into the soft leather. The chair was quite comfortable. He wondered how long he could draw this out before he had to get up. "Sorry for what?"

"For tripping you."

"Oh, so I take it you're not sorry for violating the one steadfast rule of Slytherin. The Slytherin common room, as you were informed your first night here, is a 'safety zone' for all Slytherins. Day in and day out we are targeted by the other three Houses of this institution. Day in and day out we have conflict with our families and with our fellow Slytherins because of beliefs, because of ambitions, because of beliefs and ambitions of our families. All of that crap is to be left out of this room. It is our haven, the one place in this bloody school where we don't have to watch our backs.

"And you violated it, Flint. You attacked one of your own here in this room. I would have been on the lookout for a foot, a wand, a shove anywhere else in this school, but here I thought I was safe, that I was protected by something the rest of the world doesn't think we have--Slytherin honor. And all you can say is that you're sorry? Well, I'm sorry, too, Flint. I'm sorry that you will never have what you want. I'm sorry that you will never have any leadership position in Slytherin. I'm sorry that you'll have to explain to your brother that you won't be following in his footsteps as Quidditch team captain, that you will never sit at the head of the Slytherin table in the Great Hall, that even the First Years will look upon you with derision and not listen to a word you say."

Flint rolled his eyes. "You won't even be here next year, Malfoy."

"That's Mister Malfoy to you, Flint," Draco said harshly. "And do you actually think it makes a difference where I am? If you believe that, then you're even more of a pitiable fool that I thought you were." Flint reached out to grab him, but Vince and Greg were there to hold him back. "If I were you, I wouldn't try that again."

"Or what, Malfoy?" Flint sneered, struggling against the muscle holding him in place.

"Or I'll have to step in," Snape said.

They all stared at the professor who'd entered the common room without their knowledge. Flint paled, as did all the other students in attendance.

"I'm sure you all have tasks that need doing," Snape continued as he crossed to the leather chair. The room emptied immediately.

"Professor," Draco said as he reluctantly moved to the edge of his seat.

Snape waved his wand and created a bubble of silence around them. "Is this sudden attraction to danger because of your--relations with a Gryffindor, or are your questionable relations because of your sudden attraction to danger?"

"The chicken or the egg theory, sir. Unsolvable."

"As is your continued association with Potter. You met with him last night."

Draco didn't even bother to feel surprised that Snape knew about that. "We are having a binding ceremony the next new moon."

The professor snorted. "Impossible."

"The ceremony itself is not impossible."

Snape stared at him. "What are you up to, Mr. Malfoy?"

Draco explained the magical contract he had with his fellow Seventh Years, and their inattention to detail.

Snape shook his head. "Have we really taught them that poorly?"

Draco shrugged. "I'm sure it's the Headmaster's influence, sir. The atmosphere here is just not conducive to thinking outside the box of human kindness and trust. Thankfully, I was well-trained at home."

"How do you think Mr. Potter will respond to the failure of your binding?" Snape asked.

"More guilt. I've found him to be more stubborn than I like. This should put an end to it."

"Keep this up and he may suffocate you with his eagerness to prove his 'Gryffindorishness.'"

"As long as he keeps my father and You-Know-Who away from me, I don't care what he does."

"Do tread cautiously, Draco. Mr. Potter is not a Hufflepuff. You may get more than you asked for."

Draco nodded, knowing that his professor probably knew more about the mindset of Gryffindors than he did. After all, he'd worked with them for years. And while he had Snape's attention... "Will you stand for me at the binding ceremony, sir?" It was a position of importance, often reserved for a special relative or best friend.

Snape nodded solemnly, then belatedly smirked. "Of course. After all, you'll need someone by your side to see you through your keen disappointment afterwards."

Draco dramatically wiped his brow, then returned the smirk. "How kind of you to offer, sir."

Chapter 13: Confessions And Revelations

"What's the problem, mate?" Ron asked as he and Hermione entered the room.

Harry sighed, swinging his feet to hit against the desk he was sitting on in the empty classroom. He remembered years ago when he'd had to boost himself up on a desk and his feet just naturally dangled. Now he had to bend to sit on the desk, and to dangle even a little, he had to lift one of his feet while the other rested on the floor. What had happened to that scared little boy who thought Hogwarts was going to be his salvation? In ways, it had been. But in other ways, Hogwarts and the Wizarding world had condemned him, putting a seal on his fate that would only be broken by killing him or making him a murderer.

"We're getting old," he murmured. He was getting old.

"We're only seventeen--" Hermione looked at Ron-- "and eighteen. That's not old."

Harry shrugged. "Maybe if we were Muggles, but here we're legal to do whatever we want. We're leaving school, going into careers, and starting families," he said pointedly. "We're old."

"Is that why the First Years look like babies to me?" Ron asked. "I just feel like patting one on the head and telling him to toddle off to naptime."

Harry grinned. At Ron's height, he could pat anyone on the head. He looked at his best friend--his first friend--and decided to be straightforward. "Ron, Mal-Draco is a Progenitor."

Ron's eyes widened. "So you need a reminder of the contraception spell, because I don't trust--"

Harry stopped him with a shake of his head. "Too late for that."

Ron sat heavily on one of the chairs, its braces creaking in annoyance. "The slimy bugger!"

Harry moved to cut him off before he got started down the wrong road. "It's not entirely his fault, Ron. We weren't--we weren't expecting what happened between us to happen. Things got out of hand quickly."

"So this happened your first time?"

Harry nodded.

"Fuck your luck, mate," Ron said sympathetically. "So when's the wedding?"

"What?" Hermione shrieked. "He's only seventeen, Ron!"

"But he--there's a baby, Hermione," Ron argued. "If you're old enough to play, you're old enough to pay. That's the rule."

"What? What kind of stupid rule is that?"

"The Wizarding kind. I take it that it's different in the Muggle world?"

"Well, sort of. I mean, you can get married, but you don't have to. Not anymore."

"And you let your children be born--bastards?"

Ron said the word with such disgust that Harry felt twice as bad about his reaction to Draco. Apparently being a bastard was a big thing in Wizarding society. The Slytherin had only been thinking about the baby. "We're having a binding ceremony," Harry said quickly, so his friend wouldn't think too badly of him. "The upcoming new moon."

Ron's eyes widened even larger. "You're that serious. I thought--wow. I--I thought it was just about sex, but if you're having a binding--wow."

Hermione shook her head. "It won't work, Harry. You and Malfoy aren't--If you had those kinds of feelings toward each other, we would have known."

Harry held out the parchment. "Draco thinks it'll work and he knows more about this kind of stuff than you do, Hermione." She huffed indignantly. "Even Ron knows more. He knew what a Progenitor was without having read it in a book."

She tapped her foot angrily. "So, Ron, since you're such an expert, do you think a binding can occur between Harry and Malfoy?"

"I didn't even think a shag could occur between Harry and Malfoy, so I'm not the person to ask," he said neutrally.

"See? It's a pureblood thing," Harry said. "Draco says I need new dress robes for it. Want to take me shopping, Hermione?" he asked, hoping it would take the scowl off her face. She hated not knowing everything.

"Sure, Harry. But I'm going to research binding ceremonies so that you'll know I know what I'm talking about."

"Won't that interfere with studying for the N.E.W.T.S.?" Harry asked, blinking innocently behind his thick, round lenses. Ron snickered.

It took them an hour to figure out how to remove the duck feet she gave them.

*****

"What are you telling your parents, Draco? About your decision not to go home for Easter?" Blaise asked as they prepared for bed.

"That I'm staying to work on a potions project. I'm sure Professor Snape will cover for me if they start asking questions."

"So he knows?"

"Has there ever been anything that occurred in Slytherin House that he didn't know about?"

"Does he know why? I mean, he's a you-know-what."

At least Snape's cover was still intact. "He only knows that I'm having Potter's child and has been sworn to secrecy. Besides, I think that melted his mind too much for further questions."

The other guys in the room snickered. "I wonder how he's going to take it when he finds out you're switching sides."

"We're, Blaise, when we're switching sides. All of you who signed that contract are coming along with me. I'll not be thrown to the wolves without my own pack."

"But that's only if--" Goyle began.

"What part of 'Potter agreed to the binding' that you don't understand?" Draco snapped. "Stop playing the idiot. That's not going to get you out of the contract."

"I don't want out," Goyle said quickly. "I'd rather follow you than You-Know-Who anytime. At least I know you won't throw me in a cell and starve me just because I tripped over a shoelace."

Goyle had never got over what You-Know-Who had done to his father. Beatings, Cruciatus, and hexes of all manner were mere pranks to the Goyles compared to not getting their three meals a day, plus snacks. "Your lard arse protects me in so many ways, Gregory, that I would never even think of starving you."

"Thanks--" and because Goyle wasn't a total idiot-- "I think."

"So I guess we'd all better say our goodbyes to our families during the break. I'm sorry you won't get that chance, Draco."

Draco shrugged. "It can't be helped, Blaise. There are too many things that could go wrong if I were to return to the manor. My parents have never appreciated goodbyes anyway, and when I left after Christmas, I was already sure I wouldn't be returning."

"You really thought this through then, this turn to the Light?"

"Being a pawn for a madman and acting as cannon fodder in a war that is completely unnecessary, is not a future I'd wish upon anyone--and certainly not my heir. I don't know what my parents were thinking when they got caught up in all this. Following the Dark Lord had to be the stupidest idea they ever had."

"I daresay he was a bit more powerful back in the beginning, and possibly charismatic," Blaise pointed out.

"So is Potter, and you don't see me burning his mark into my arm."

"No, you just burned it into your arse."

Draco tossed a pillow at him. "Fuck you, Zabini."

"With or without Pansy?" a deep voice called from behind closed curtains.

Draco laughed. "I thought you were asleep, Vincent."

Crabbe spelled back his curtains. "You only get interesting when you think I'm asleep."

"Maybe that's because you're boring," Draco replied.

Crabbe pointed his wand and muttered a spell which Draco ably dodged before stomping across the room and punching Crabbe soundly.

"What the fuck's wrong with you, Draco?" Crabbe asked, holding the side of his face. "It was only--"

"I'm pregnant, shithead!"

The other three in the room froze. Then there was a frenzy of activity as two scrambled from bed, shouting, "Alright there, mate?" and "You want to sit down, Draco?" and "Crabbe, you fuckwad!" and "I'm going to rip you from limb to limb!"

And in the middle of the chaos stood Draco with a hand splayed protectively across his stomach and Crabbe sobbing on his bed.

"Draco?" Blaise asked.

Draco walked slowly back across the room. "I'm going to bed now."

As he climbed beneath the covers, he could hear Crabbe still sniffing quite emphatically and Zabini and Goyle furiously whispering. But none of it mattered to him. Not now. Not after...

In that one instant when he saw the wand, saw the curse headed toward him, he realized something. Something quite odd. He hadn't dodged because he was protecting his ticket into the Light. He hadn't punched Crabbe because he was endangering the Plan. He had been protecting and defending--his son. Who meant. Everything.

Shit, he was so fucked.

Chapter 14: Peace In the Midst of Storm

Harry wondered what was wrong. For the past several days Draco had been--"subdued" was a good word. "Distant" was another. So was "detached." He'd tried talking to Draco, and they'd even met last night, but Draco had merely stated that, "No, I'm not getting cold feet," and "No, the baby's doing well," and "No, I'm in no danger from my House." This last one had been added because Harry had noticed how attentive and solicitous Draco's gang of Slytherins had been. Crabbe in particular had stayed as close to Draco as possible, even waiting at the doorway at the end of the classes they didn't have together.

"Why is Crabbe acting like he'd wipe your arse if you asked?" he'd finally asked, blunt but frustrated.

"Penance," Draco had answered and left it at that.

So it was understandable that Harry was worried. He'd gone so far as to ask Madam Pomfrey if Draco was just being "hormonal." After advising him never to ask that question directly to Draco, she'd explained that Draco was "in flux." Everything around him and inside him was changing, and Harry should have patience with him.

"Ready to go?"

He smiled at Hermione. They were going to Diagon Alley to shop for robes for the binding ceremony. Ron had bowed out, citing that he needed to study for the N.E.W.T.S. It was an obvious lie, but Harry didn't mind. Ron would've been a complete bitch while they were shopping, and Harry just didn't have the patience for it. Besides, now he could get Ron new dress robes and present them as a done deal just before the binding ceremony.

The ceremony was scheduled for the fourth day of the Spring Holidays. Ron and Hermione were going home but would be back for the ceremony and stand with Harry. Since this would be the last time some of them would ever be with their families, all of Draco's friends were going home and only Snape would be there to stand for Draco. Draco had been rather lackadaisical when he mentioned it to Harry, but Harry figured being without his friends had to sting just a little.

"I want to buy Draco a gift while we're out," Harry said as they walked to the outskirts of Hogwarts to apparate, one of the perks of being of age.

"Why? I mean, is this a wedding present or something?" Hermione asked.

Harry shook his head. "He's a little down. Hasn't insulted me the whole week."

She placed a hand on his arm to stop him. "This can't be a healthy relationship, Harry."

You have no idea, he thought. "The situation is rather bizarre, and we're doing the best we can. Neither of us expected to be together."

"Forcing the two of you to get married or whatever is simply archaic," she fussed.

He laughed and they continued toward the front gates. "The entire Wizarding world is archaic. Surely a smart witch such as yourself has figured that out."

She nodded, frowning. "I don't understand why they are a century or so behind us in so many areas. They are just as smart and capable as we--"

"You're switching your 'we's and 'they's," Harry warned.

"What?"

"We are the 'we' you're complaining about, Hermione, not 'they.'"

It took her a minute to figure out what he was rattling on about, and then she grinned sheepishly. "I do just the opposite with my parents. At home, I'm so obviously a witch and here, I'm just as obviously a Muggle-born. It's a dichotomy I don't think I'm ever going to transcend."

"Welcome to my world," Harry said sympathetically. "There are so many times, especially when I'm with Ron, that I feel so out of place here. My relatives kept me in the dark, and even after I found out, I still had to 'forget' everything each summer. I don't think I'll ever be completely comfortable with being a wizard."

"It's one of the reasons I study so hard," Hermione confided. "I always feel like I'm playing catch-up to everyone else."

"You are, and all the rest of us who weren't brought up in this world. But I hate to tell you, you're not going to find every answer in a book. There are little things wizards take for granted that they wouldn't even think about putting into a book. It's like if we were trying to make a manual for wizards about the Muggle world, we'd probably forget to tell them about common things like how to flick a light switch." They reached the gates and went through. Drawing his wand, he said, "Meet you in front of Madam Malkin's."

He grinned as he appeared at his destination. God, he LOVED apparating. A loud crack signaled Hermione's successful trip.

"So is that why you're acquiescing to Malfoy about everything? Because, you know, the books say that a binding won't work between you two," Hermione said, continuing the conversation as if they hadn't stopped.

"Think about it for a minute. Can you honestly say you've met someone who's more a wizard than Draco? Ron, at least, had some exposure to the Muggle world from his father. The Wizarding world is the only one Draco knows. I would be a fool not to follow his lead when it comes to something like this. I mean, you saw Ron's face when he said the word 'bastard.' Legitimacy is a big deal around here and neither of us knew that. Think of my little boy being ostracized just because I was too much of an idiot to listen to his other father.

"I can't afford to stumble around on my own anymore, getting by just on luck. I'm going to have a son, someone depending on me to make the right choices, the right decisions."

Hermione gave his shoulder a squeeze and rested her head against his arm. "I think that's the same in both worlds, Harry. And you're right; we should let the purebloods in our lives guide us through the tricky parts of this world."

"And then we can take them to the other--and let them flounder around for awhile," Harry said impishly.

Hermione laughed. "I think I'm starting to see what Malfoy sees in you."

*****

Draco sat studying in the Slytherin common room for one reason--if he was in his dorm he'd fall asleep. He was exhausted, and not just because of the baby. Well, it was because of the baby in a way. He was doing a marathon study session because he had to take the N.E.W.T.S. over Spring Holidays due to his pregnancy. By the time the rest of the students took the exams, in two months time, he'd be six months gone, which meant practicals were out of the question and the theory, written, parts--well, there was a concern that the magics of his particular pregnancy might affect his memory.

Most of the concerns stemmed from the fact that very little was known about a Progenitor pregnancy. After there were enough witches to sustain the population, being a Progenitor fell out of favor and was looked upon negatively. Being homosexual was fine--love was love. But a pregnant man was unnatural and frowned upon until recently, after potions and spells made male pregnancy more acceptable. So the few legacy Progenitors that appeared sporadically through history were well-kept secrets, the knowledge of their confinements shared only with family members and very much undocumented. For all Draco knew, he could turn purple and grow wings.

He really should have done more research.

Damn Voldemort.

"Draco."

He looked up to see Pansy standing before him. "I'm awake." He'd asked his friends to keep a check on him. He wasn't really worried about passing the N.E.W.T.S.; between having the best Dark professors every summer and wintering with the best of the Light, he was certain there wasn't much he couldn't handle. The only reason he was studying so diligently was to keep his mind off the fact that he now cared about the life growing inside him. It was a complication that he didn't need, and it made him...uncomfortable. The only reason his father cared for him at all was the opportunity to make a living image of himself. If what he was feeling now was because he knew he had a son to mold into himself... He shuddered.

"Potter's outside making a nuisance of himself trying to contact you."

"He's here in the dungeons?"

"He was, but I sent him out to the lake. I thought you could use the break," Pansy said, concern in her eyes. "You know this information inside and out. Why are you pushing yourself so hard?"

"It's a distraction."

She nodded as if she understood. "Go see Potter."

Straightening his robes, he left the common room and headed toward the lake. It was a warm, early spring Saturday, something he'd failed to notice earlier. Soon it would be summer and everyone would figure out that he'd switched sides. Hopefully by then, Potter and Dumbledore would have him stashed somewhere safe.

"Draco."

"Harry." Silence. "Pansy said you wanted to see me?"

"Here."

He looked at the slim, silver-wrapped package Potter held out. If it was some cute, baby something, he was going to kill him. The baby was already too real; he didn't need any more reminders. He ripped off the paper and revealed a book of blank pages.

"It's a journal," Potter said, his hands crammed into his pockets in an undignified manner. "It's charmed to become invisible at the password you set and it will only open at your touch. I thought that since you can't talk about certain things even with your friends, that maybe this would help."

Certain things. The rape. Which he would never talk about even if he could because...well, just because. "Thank you, Harry." He stuck the book in the folds of his robes. "So, is there some muggle gift-giving opportunity that I've missed?"

Potter gave him an unreadable smile and motioned for him to sit down. They sat beside each other, resting against the wide trunk of a tree. "No, Draco, I just thought--you needed cheering up."

"I'm okay, just tired."

"Because of the baby? Have you told Madam Pomfrey or Snape?"

He shook his head and yawned politely into his hand. "I'm taking the N.E.W.T.S. next week."

"What?"

Draco explained to him why his exams had been moved up. "Some of the practicals will have to be altered, of course, but they'll still show I have mastered the principals of the magic."

"What's this about your memory?"

"A wizard's magic is intrinsically bound to his physical being. Any break in the normal flow of my magic, additions or subtractions, could cause things to go wonky. I could lose control of my magic, control of my body, or control of my mind. The odds are great that none of these things will occur, but I guess it's best to err on the side of caution."

Potter's eyes widened. "And you're not--frightened?"

Draco laughed, then yawned. "Scared shitless." Potter reached out toward him, but pulled back sharply. Draco sighed. "According to the gossip we planted, we're supposed to be lovers. You can touch me, Potter, just don't make sudden moves, all right?"

Potter touched his hair. "You're growing it longer."

"The girls say my face is going to get fat. Even though it makes me look more like my father, I'll need it to hide behind."

"Why hide? You're beautiful."

Draco felt the warmth of a blush touch his face and scowled at the absurdity. He'd been told he was beautiful before. Why the hell was he reacting this way? "Yeah, well, tell me that again when I'm all swollen and looking like Goyle."

Harry laughed. "You'll never look like Goyle." He glanced at Draco, then pulled out his wand. "Can I...?"

Draco leaned back against the tree and nodded. "But shield us first."

Harry nodded. "Privatus." The area around them shimmered, then steadied. "Manifesta germen."

"He's so much bigger," Harry said after studying the image.

"Babies grow, Potter." At least it sort of resembled something similar to a human being now.

"But he's our growing baby," Harry commented softly.

Draco couldn't come up with a good counter-argument so he just sat there and let Harry do his communing thing. After a while, the warmth of the afternoon and the shade of the tree proved to be too much, and as Harry continued to coo at the oddly-formed lump, Draco fell asleep.

Chapter 15: Pick On Draco Day

Harry ended the spell and glanced at the man sleeping beside him. He didn't like the faint smudges beneath Draco's eyes, and when he noticed Draco's body was slouching towards him, he wrapped his arm around his shoulder and urged his tired companion to lean on him.

Our first hug, he thought. We've had sex but never hugged. I've stuck my dick up his arse, but I've never touched him with any tenderness. This is so incredibly wrong, even though it sort of feels right. I mean, shouldn't it be making me crazy that I have to marry Malfoy? Shouldn't I be looking for someway to escape this fate? Why aren't I? Why do I like the weight of his head on my arm? Why can't I wait to see his stomach swollen with our baby? Why am I as happy about this as I would've been if it had been planned, if we were really lovers, if he actually liked me?

Out of all the things he'd done and had done to him, this had to be the worst/best. Raping Draco was definitely the worst. Sirius' fall and Cedric's death had both been quick, over in seconds. The rape had gone on and on. Draco's heart had felt like it was going to beat right out of his chest. There had been blood on his lips where he'd bitten them in what was to be a futile attempt to keep from crying out. He remembered forcing Draco to open his eyes so he could see the fear in them, whispering threats in his ear so that the fear would grow. Every night he seemed to remember more and more, and unlike with Sirius and Cedric, it wasn't just his imagination playing tricks on him. It was real. He'd been that cruel. He'd been that sadistic.

He'd been just like Voldemort.

But it was the best thing, too. He was going to have a child. No matter what Voldemort did to him or the rest of the world, the Potter line would go on. Sure, Draco pretended that he needed Harry and Dumbledore to protect him, but Harry knew that Draco was perfectly capable of protecting himself and his child. Draco had chosen the baby, which meant he wouldn't care about fair play, whether magic was dark or light, to whom he had to lie, or who he had to betray. Draco would fight to save their baby no matter what, and Harry not only respected that, but was counting on it. If Voldemort ultimately won, only a Malfoy would be able to turn it around to his advantage. Harry was absolutely certain that no matter the outcome, Draco would survive and so would their child.

"Harry? Malfoy?"

Harry looked around in search of the familiar voice. Ron. He'd run into him and told him about Parkinson getting Draco for him. Ron was standing almost right in front of him and Harry grinned; his privatus spell must be pretty damn decent. Picking up his wand, he called softly, "Resero! Ron, we're here."

He watched his friend do a doubletake when he saw Harry was right there at his feet. Ron did another when he saw Draco draped against him. Harry put a finger to his lips, signaling Ron should talk quietly.

"Sorry, mate. We're getting together a pick-up Quidditch match. Thought you might want to play."

That sounded good to Harry. Flying always took his mind off his troubles. "Sure. Give me a few minutes with Draco and I'll meet you on the pitch." Ron nodded, turned to walk away, then turned again. "What is it, Ron?"

"I didn't--" Ron began. "I thought it was just about getting off between you two. But it's not, is it?"

Harry looked at the blond head resting on him. "I'm not sure what it is between us."

"It's like that, then? He does it for you?"

Harry nodded. It was like that. And he was tired of trying to make sense of it.

"He's certainly fit," Ron continued, "although I don't envy you none. He's high maintenance, that one. But if he's the one you want, bun in the oven aside, I'll not be an arse about it."

"Thanks, mate."

"I'll see you on the pitch."

Ron was halfway back to the castle when Draco spoke. "What's the whole 'arse' thing? I thought he was going to stand for you at the ceremony?"

"He was--is. But I think it was with reservation and now it's not."

"Because I fell asleep and drooled on your arm? I'll never understand you people," Draco added as he sat up.

"I am sorry about that, you know."

"About what?"

"About you having to understand us, about you having to give up so much because of what I did to you." He looked at Draco shyly. "Everybody's looking for me to be their hero, but I want you to know that you're mine. You're strong, powerful, and I think you would've made a very good Dark wizard, Draco Malfoy."

*****

Draco stared at Potter in horror, then scrambled to his feet. "You're a fucking piece of work, do you know that, Potter? A bloody fucking piece of work." How dare he compare him to those spineless, baby-raping, arse-lickers!

"I was trying to give you a compliment," Harry said, confused.

"By assuming I wanted to be a Dark wizard? For your information, I never intended to become a Dark wizard." Well, that was a lie, but only a partial one. He'd never intended to be a Dark wizard once he had all the facts and was old enough to not automatically believe what his father told him. And once he figured out a way of not becoming a Dark wizard. "I don't need to kill mudbloods to know I'm better than they are. I don't need to bow to some snake-eyed Dark lord, who's no more than a half-blood himself, to validate my superiority. I AM superior, damn it!" He brushed off the back of his robes with a furious gesture. "You know, you're about as fucking bigoted as my father. I don't need his shit, nor yours. I have revision to do. Have fun with your high and mighty Gryffindors, Potter."

He stomped off, cursing Potter under his breath. Why was he such a bullock-brain? He let him point his stupid wand at his stomach any time he wanted. He hadn't hexed him for all the stupid staring the Boy-Who-Didn't-Have-Sense-Enough-To-Die had been doing all week. He hadn't even rejected the bloody diary he'd given him. As if he'd be foolish enough to write anything down.

Arsehole!

He walked impatiently through the Slytherin common room and into his dormitory. Before he could slam the door shut, Pansy and Blaise were in the room with him.

"Draco?" Blaise asked hesitantly. "What's wrong?"

"Harry Fucking Scarhead Potter is what's wrong! Stupid prat!"

Pansy sighed. "What did he do?"

"He said I'd have made a very good Dark wizard."

"That's it?" Blaise shared a glance with Pansy and Draco tossed a pillow in his direction.

"He hurt your feelings," Pansy said sympathetically.

Draco nodded. "Not to mention...it's such a lie. I don't like killing. It's messy, even using Avada Kadavra. And I...I threw up for days after the Revelry."

Pansy gave him a shrewd look. "Is that the real reason behind this plan of yours?"

Draco sneered at her. "It'd take more than a weak stomach to make me give up everything I've been expecting all my life, Parkinson. You don't get it yet, do you? This--war is wrong. There's no reason for it, no real reason why we or our parents should be running around in white masks killing and maiming and terrifying the countryside. The Dark Lord has made us into muggle-style monsters. Scaring children and animals should be beneath us. If we rule, we rule by power, by might, by right, but not by fear. That's how they rule, not us."

"They are powerful," Blaise argued.

"And they show this how? By attacking the helpless? By leaving floating skulls in the sky? By imagining Potter's death over and over, yet fucking up every attempt? Sure, Potter's an arsehole, but he's a powerful arsehole who won't scuttle around in the dark like a cockroach. The Dark Lord is turning our parents into caricatures--buffoons and cartoons. Yes, I hate killing, but if I thought it was making a point, the point I wanted to make, then I'd suck it up and go ahead with being a Death Eater. But I'm not going to kill just because He likes seeing his name in the press." Draco took a deep breath and slowly let it out.

"You talk a good game now, Draco, but what happens when your father finds out?" Blaise challenged.

What was it? Pick on Draco day? "Fuck my father and fuck you!" he growled. "You think this was an easy decision for me? You think I didn't go over this again and again in my head? My life, as I once knew it, is over! My parents are fucking dead to me. There will be people--multiple people--after me because in their opinion I've betrayed them. I will be despised by the Dark and distrusted by the Light. Even having Harry Potter's child is only going to give me so much slack. So yeah, Zabini, this is just a lark for me. Next time I see my father, I'll tell him I was 'just kidding,' and we'll both have a good laugh," Draco spat out, disgusted with his so-called friends and life in general.

"This is a big deal for us, too," Pansy warned.

"And you think I don't fucking know that? You are the ones who made the deal, not me. If you're that scared, back the fuck out. I'm trying to save your arses and all I'm getting is grief. I don't need this. Not today. Not this week. Not fucking ever." He fell back across his bed and buried his head in his pillows. What good was staying awake? If he wanted to feel fucked over, he could always just let his dreams have at it.

"We're sorry we upset you, Draco," was Pansy's tentative reply. "It's just that we got to talking today and realized that next week's holidays may be the last time we see our families--not across a battlefield."

"I know." Draco's voice was muffled by fabric. He knew how hard it was to turn against family. He knew how hard it was to look at your mother and try to imprint her voice, her mannerisms, her scent...into your mind so that you wouldn't ever forget her. He knew the difficulty in picturing the disappointment and possible disgust in your father's eyes when he discovers you aren't following in his footsteps, that you're actively going against everything he stands for, everything he's taught you....

"Our position in the Light depends mainly on you."

Fuck. They were trying to make him into a Slytherin-style Potter. Didn't they know him well enough to realize he wasn't doing shit for them? It was all for him. The fuckers should know that. "I know," was his soft reply. And speaking of soft, his pillow was very inviting.

"We had to be sure you were sure."

"Uh-huh." Damn it! Hadn't he just woke from a nap--drooling on Potter's shoulder no less? Why was he still so sleepy?

"We are sure now," Blaise said.

"Uh-huh," Draco managed to utter.

"We won't question you again."

"Uh-huh."

"Want me to draw your bed curtains so the light doesn't disturb you?"

That was a bad idea. Wasn't it? "I have more revision to do," he rallied enough to say.

"It can wait. We'll wake you for dinner, okay?"

Wait. Sleep. Dinner. "Uh-huh."

He heard the curtains close around him and sank into the silence the darkness offered.

Chapter 16: Some Days Just Suck

"So how are you going to spend the time without us, mate?" Ron asked as he, Harry, and Hermione stood next to the Hogwarts Express, which was idling in Hogsmeade Station. As soon as all the students going home for the Spring holidays were loaded, it would make its way to King's Cross Station.

"He has the N.E.W.T.s to study for, Ron," Hermione said in exasperation.

Ron rolled his eyes. "So what are you going to be doing?" he asked again.

Harry laughed. "Actually, I am going to be studying, Ron. I have to memorize the binding ceremony."

"It's just one line," Hermione pointed out.

"Draco said he chose a simple one for me."

"There's simple, then there's ridiculous. You're just as bright as he is, Harry. But it doesn't matter, anyway. There's no way that you and he can have a binding ceremony."

"Draco--" Harry began.

"Yes, I know. Draco is a pureblood and thus knows more about magic than I, a Muggleborn, will ever know," she said scornfully.

"I'm impressed, Potter. At least you're teaching your faithful little band of groupies something useful. Draco will be pleased," Pansy said as she approached the trio.

"We're not--"

"They're not--"

Pansy cut them all off. "Potter, a word with you in private."

Harry looked at his friends and shrugged. Since Draco had been deliberately un-rude to his friends lately, he figured he should do the same. "See you in three days. Enjoy yourselves."

"And you take care," Hermione reminded him, looking pointedly at Pansy.

He assured them he would be careful, then followed Pansy off to the side. She handed him a rolled piece of parchment.

"Here's everything you need to know, and the password to the common room is 'Draco's Pet'--we thought it fitting."

Harry gave a disgusted snort. "So why do I need the password and what is this?"

"Directions for Draco's care, of course. Surely you weren't thinking you'd allow him to languish in the dungeons by himself while we were gone, did you?"

"Um..." He hadn't really thought about it. Sure they were getting REALLY married in three days, but he figured Draco had as much stuff that needed doing as he did. Actually, even more because he was taking the N.E.W.T.s.

"So The-Boy-Who-Lived is just a typical wizard. Knock up your partner, then turn the other way," she accused. "I would hex you, but Draco needs you too badly. Don't cock this up, Potter. Despite popular Gryffindor opinion, Slytherins are human. We feel pain. We feel hurt--just like Draco felt last week when he came from that assignation with you."

Harry was still confused about that. He didn't know why Draco had reacted the way he did. He'd finally decided it was just "hormones" and left it at that. But if Pansy knew... "I still don't understand why he got so bent over what I said."

She rolled her eyes. "Gee, Potter, I can't figure it out either. If someone had told me I'd make a good mass-murdering arse-kisser I think I'd be delighted."

Oh. He hadn't thought of it that way. "I didn't think--"

"Well, it's past time for you to start! Stop comparing Draco to his past. It's not his fault. Children emulate their parents--oh, but you wouldn't know about that, would you? For your information, Potter, children believe the carefully crafted stories whispered in their ears at night. They overhear conversation at the dining table and vaguely understand. They know the words and deeds that make their parents proud of them, that earn them a smile or a hug. Then, they grow up and make decisions for themselves. Have you grown up, Potter? Are you yet making decisions for yourself, or are you merely aping back the words and deeds of your mentors?" The train whistle blew, signaling imminent departure. "Grow up. Learn to think. Stop hurting Draco, or the Dark Lord will be the least of your worries. Do you understand?"

He nodded as she boarded the train, too overwhelmed to make a verbal reply. The threat was easily dismissed, but not the words about children and parents. Once he'd learned the truth about his parents, he'd tried his best to do what he figured would please them. Their memory was always in the back of his mind, prodding him toward this action or the other. He only had pictures and memories to please. Draco had living parents who had guided him and filled his mind with their own desires and views.

I never intended to become a Dark wizard. I don't need to kill mudbloods to know I'm better than they are. I don't need to bow to some snake-eyed Dark lord, who's no more than a half-blood himself, to validate my superiority. I AM superior, damn it!

Not exactly the words of someone who fully embraced the Light, but also not the words of a future Death Eater. Draco was thinking for himself...and for their child. Was Harry doing that? Or was he just spouting back what would make Dumbledore and Sirius and his parents proud? Did he believe in this fight/war/whatever, or was it just reflex? Killing was wrong, especially the ethnic cleansing type of killing the Dark was doing. That much he was sure of. But even though Voldemort's methods were wrong, did that mean his message was, too? He had proof that the shit about Muggleborns was wrong. There wasn't a finer, more capable witch than Hermione. And no one was truly superior to anyone else. That was just pureblood bigotry. But what about the unfairness of forcing wizards and witches to suppress themselves in order to blend in with the Muggle world? Why should they have to blend? Why did they have to make the sacrifices, hiding what they were just to get along with the Muggles? Muggles ridiculously outnumbered them. Those of wizarding blood were the endangered species, not the Muggles. They should have the special protection. The Muggle Ministry should be making allowances for them, like they did for the whales or whatever, not the other way around.

Look at what he'd had to put up with living with his "family." He'd been kept in a cupboard and hidden away like a bad secret. He'd been lied to and labeled a freak. Why had the Ministry called him on a couple incidents of "underage" magic, when the Dursleys had treated a lump of dog shit better than they'd treated him? He hadn't even had anything to do with the stupid pudding and he'd saved Dudley from Dementors, but the Ministry had birthed cows. However, when Uncle Vernon had barred and locked him in his room, only the Weasleys had cared enough to get him out. Where had the Ministry of Magic been then, or even the Muggle Ministry? Apparently, Aunt Marge was more valuable as a person than he was. After all, she was human and he was just a wizard...a freak. Fuck. No wonder Voldemort had such a following.

He blinked when he realized the gates of Hogwarts were just in front of him. He couldn't remember the walk back, so lost he was in his thoughts. Why hadn't he had these thoughts before? Why hadn't he examined the other side of the war? Hadn't Ron taught him anything about strategy? To outthink his opponent, he needed to understand his opponent. But he hadn't tried to understand Voldemort and the Death Eaters. He hadn't tried to understand Draco and the Slytherins. He'd just blindly followed Hagrid and Ron and Dumbledore, making their opinions his opinions. They treated him differently than the Dursleys had and that had made them right by default.

Damn it. Did this mean he was fighting Voldemort just because everyone was expecting him to? Was it all just because he was The-Boy-Who-Lived? Sure, Voldemort killed his parents, but Voldemort had killed a lot of parents, and he didn't see any other wizards or witches queuing up to be drilled in how to kill the fucker. This--this wasn't going to work. To defeat Voldemort he needed more than just mere revenge pushing him. He needed more than just the expectations of the Light. He needed more than just guilt. He needed to know that what he was doing was right, that he was fighting because he BELIEVED in the cause he was fighting for.

And since he'd never questioned it, the question remained. He faced the cool dungeon wall.

"'Draco's pet.'"

*****

Not normally a heavy sleeper, Draco had been sleeping like a log ever since his second month of pregnancy. So he was very surprised when he woke as someone entered his room.

But since he was the only Slytherin remaining over the holidays, maybe he was right to awaken.

With a subtle movement, he drew his wand from underneath his pillow, then sat up suddenly. Potter, sitting backwards against a chair next to the bed, didn't even blink. "What are you doing here?" he asked, lowering the wand.

"Draco, why do you think purebloods are better than everyone else?"

Draco sank back against his pillows. It was too bloody early to deal with Potter. "How did you get in here?"

"Pansy gave me the password. Cute."

"Why did she give you the password?"

"So I could tend to the duties she gave me."

"Which are?"

"Making sure you eat, rest, and get to your exams on time. She even gave me a daily schedule."

"Fuck."

"Probably that, too."

Draco grimaced, then yawned. "Am I supposed to be up yet?"

Potter consulted a piece of parchment. "No. You have a short while."

"Then go the fuck away."

"Not until you answer my question."

Whatever Potter was on about, he was looking all stubborn about it. Fuck, what could he say that wouldn't get him into too much trouble? "Fine. I didn't say purebloods were better--I said I was. After all, Weasley is a pureblood and everyone knows Granger is slumming as his girlfriend." He hazarded a look at Potter. His answer hadn't been the most diplomatic, but what did one expect early in the morning. Snape had informed him that the reason why the Hogwarts Express left so early was not because it took all day to get to London, but it was because the students soon fell asleep, which kept trouble to a minimum. Potter shouldn't be expecting him to function properly. However, Potter was showing no outward signs of anger. Strange.

"So you don't believe in Voldemort's main arguments?" Potter prodded.

"How many times do I have to tell you--"

"I know you weren't going to become a Dark wizard, and I'm sorry I implied that you were, but are you saying you don't believe in any of Voldemort's arguments for Wizardry purity?"

Draco sighed. Potter was determined to make him think--or blow the whole Plan. "Muggles have treated wizards and witches like shit throughout history. At some point in time, we could have possibly taken them. As it is now, we are seriously outnumbered. I believe our best chance at not dying out is to isolate ourselves--draw up the bridges and practice several centuries of inbreeding. I believe that getting the muggles involved in a matter that should be settled among those of Wizardry blood is sheer stupidity and more of a case of showy grandstanding than a strategic battle plan. But what do you expect when the leader of the Dark is nothing more than a half-blood himself?"

"So that's common knowledge among the Death Eaters?"

"Yes, it's right up there with 'do not say his name.' A rather dramatic bastard, isn't he?" And why was he telling Potter all of this? Oh, yeah. It was morning and Potter had ambushed him. Half-blood prat.

"You don't know the half of it when it comes to Voldemort's dramatics," Potter mumbled.

He waited for Potter to explain further, but the bloke remained quiet. Fine. He had better things to do. Like sleep. He closed his eyes.

"Draco?"

"What the fuck do you want now?"

"According to the schedule, you have to get up now."

Well, fuck.

Chapter 17: So Very Screwed

Draco knew he should get up and leave. The exam was over, all his exams were over. Three days of transfiguring and charming and manipulating runes and manipulating numbers and plotting star movements and fighting his father (also known as Defense Against Dark Arts)... His brain hurt to remember his other subjects. Why had he decided to go for thirteen? Because the mudblood was going for twelve and when he'd set this particular academic course, he'd still been trying to impress his father. If he'd known then what he knew now, he would've stuck with just Potions, Arithmancy, and Runes. He liked how "pure" those subjects were. Numbers were right or wrong. Potions were right or wrong. Rune interpretations were right or wrong. There was no leeway, no points given for "good effort," no points taken away because of "attitude." Which was why this last Transfiguration N.E.W.T. had completely wiped him out. The old Gryffindor bag, McGonagall, ignored the fact he was pregnant with the Golden Boy's child and had worked him until his wand arm trembled.

Bitch.

"Draco?"

Potter. He was always there after each exam to either take him to one of the meals or to escort him to his room for mandatory rest periods. At night Potter "tucked" him in, then sat next to the bed in a transfigured chair. It was an odd piece of furniture: fat and squishy and when a lever was tugged, it fell back and the bottom came up to support legs and feet. Against his will (damned curiosity) he'd asked Harry about it.

"Hermione says it's called a recliner chair. I've never actually seen one, mind you, so I might have things a bit muddled. But I've wanted one ever so much after seeing it in Aunt Petunia's Argos catalogue. It's sort of a bed and chair, you see, and would have fit nicely into my cupboard."

Draco had no idea why Potter would want a chair in his cupboard. Where were his clothes to go--around the dining table? However, the chair did look as comfortable as a bed, and he wondered if Potter slept there. He'd tried to stay awake to see if Harry indeed stayed the entire night in the chair, but the Slytherin couldn't manage past five minutes before he dozed. By the time Potter woke him each morning, the squishy chair was back to being Zabini's trunk and the Gryffindor was freshly dressed and urging him to breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.

He was going to kill Pansy when she got back.

"Your head of House is an evil, sadistic bi--witch," he said in answer to Potter's hail. Potter seemed to take the insults to his friends well enough, but he wasn't confident enough to try anything extreme about one of his mentors.

Harry laughed. "She can be a bit--thorough, but it's because she wants to make sure we know the material. Especially now. With Voldemort hanging around."

Seeing that he was getting no sympathy, he tried to stand and failed. "I think she broke me."

Harry snorted and grabbed Draco's elbow. "Come on, you faker. I'll help you toddle back to your room for a rest."

"This is all your fault," Draco whined, then muttered a curse when he felt Potter stiffen. "You know that's not what I meant, Potter, and I refuse to monitor what I say just because you like to indulge your guilt. I've told you that I don't blame you for that. I'm not going to repeat myself anymore. All right?"

Potter nodded.

"But I am going to blame you for knocking me up. It's a standard and acceptable practice among witches to blame the bloke who did the impregnating. I get to call you all sorts of names, whine, nag, etc., and all you can do is ask if I need a foot rub." Draco fixed a smirk on his lips. "I knew there had to be an upside to this or no self-respecting witch would go through with it."

"You are so full of yourself," Potter said as they started out of the room at a slow stroll.

"Are you insulting me? I think that requires," Draco yawned, "a foot rub."

"If you stay awake long enough," Potter muttered.

"I--"

"Draco!"

He looked down the hall to see Pansy running towards them. "Pansy, what are you doing back? Afraid Potter isn't up to the job of taking care of me?"

"Draco, he knows!" she wailed as she drew closer.

"Who knows what?"

"Your father." Pansy stopped to take a breath. "He knows about you and Potter."

*****

Harry was glad he had a grip on Draco's arm, because that was the only thing that saved the blond from collapsing to the floor. Instead, he slowly sank down, Harry going with him.

"Draco! You okay?"

"Just a bit dizzy. It'll pass. Tell me, Pansy. Who talked?"

Harry wasn't about to say, "I told you so." But he wanted to. Badly. Draco's friends should've never been told.

"Mitchell Flint. Apparently he was pissed about your retribution, so he sat about spying on the Seventh Years. When he got home, his father started in on him for the incident, how he had violated the Slytherin House rule and got what he deserved. So to make his arse look better, he wanted to bring you down. Then Mr. Flint decided to use the information to score points with your father."

"What--what did Mitchell say?"

"That you and Potter have been sneaking off together and doing 'things' behind a privacy shield."

"Harry, I'm going to be sick."

Harry managed to transfigure one of Draco's books into a basin just in time. A few spells got rid of the mess but Harry didn't like how clammy Draco's forehead felt. "Come on. We're going to see Madam Pomfrey, then we'll talk to Professor Dumbledore."

"And Snape," Draco said, and Harry knew he must be feeling bad if he wasn't complaining about a trip to the infirmary. "Snape can handle Father better than the Headmaster. How did you find out, Pansy?"

"My dad was with yours when Mr. Flint told him. He couldn't wait to come home and ask me about it." She walked along with them. "I told him you were probably just having some kind of private altercation, that you'd learned fighting Potter in public only got you into trouble, not him."

"You think he bought it?" Harry asked eagerly. If Mr. Parkinson bought it, then maybe they could sell the same thing to Mr. Malfoy.

"Dad's an old fart who thinks women are completely daft and the only thing they're good for is procreating, so probably not. I apparated to the gates as soon as he went back to work after lunch."

"Any hint about...you know?" He pointed at Draco's stomach.

"No. Mitchell wouldn't have even known to look for something like that."

"Whatever he was looking for, I hoped he looked well," Draco snarled. "Because by the time I get through with him, he won't have eyes to look anywhere."

"Speaking of looking, you look like shit, Draco," Pansy said, "and you looked like that before I told you about your father. Are you going to make me hurt you, Potter?"

Harry shook his head. "Don't blame me; blame the professors."

"Thank you for the hint, Harry," Madam Pomfrey said, and that was when Harry realized they'd reached the infirmary. "You look like an albino thestral that's had a bad day, Mr. Malfoy."

Harry took a quick glance at his...whatever Draco was. He was pale and slightly skeletal as he removed his robes, displaying bony wrists. He was pregnant. Shouldn't he be--fatter?

"I've had a bad day, Madam," Draco replied wearily. "And I'm afraid it's only going to get worse."

"Nonsense," the nurse scoffed. "I warned your professors that this could happen. The magics initially used to create Progenitors were bordering on the dark end of the spectrum."

"Blood magic," Draco said as he sat on the bed Pomfrey indicated.

"Yes...among other things. Several of the spells and charms were dedicated to protecting the baby at all costs."

"You said something about that when Draco fell," Harry said. "But he didn't fall or anything today." He looked sharply at Draco. "Did you?" Draco shook his head.

"The baby, by design, Harry," Pomfrey explained, "is very, very selfish. It will take what it wants from you, Mr. Malfoy. Your physical, magical, and mental energies are now controlled by the will of the child inside you. He does not care that you have spent your reserves taking exams from professors who are going to have a good talking to once I get through with them. Your son wants what he wants when he wants it."

"Is that because of the magics, or because he's a Malfoy?" Draco asked with a tired smirk.

Pomfrey smiled. "Maybe a little of both. Let's see about getting you some restoratives." She marched over to her shelves and began pulling down flasks and jars.

Pansy stood at the end of the bed. "I need to go back before I'm missed, Draco. Potter, the next time I see my friend, he better be in the pink of health. Do you understand?"

Harry opened his mouth to say that he'd followed her instructions to the letter, but thought better of it. He would learn how to get along with Slytherins, even if it killed him. And really, he and Pansy had the same goal: taking care of Draco. He nodded to the witch and watched her leave.

"You need to go tell Dumbledore about our problem," Draco said, frowning at the pajamas Pomfrey tossed in his direction. "Apparently, I'm not going to be going anywhere for a while."

"You need to rest, Mr. Malfoy."

"But he'll be out tomorrow?" Harry asked. The binding ceremony was scheduled for twilight the next day, a time divined by Professor Trelawney and seconded by Professor Sinistra.

"If Mr. Malfoy follows my orders, your affair will take place as scheduled, Harry."

Harry's eyes widened. "You know?"

"The Hogwarts staff would never miss a celebration--especially in these troubled times. The Headmaster is very excited to be officiating."

Harry groaned. His entire life was apparently cursed to be one public spectacle after another. People would no doubt transfigure chairs and blankets so they'll be comfortable watching him and Voldemort go at it. Taking one glance at the horrified look in Draco's eyes, he decided it was time to see Dumbledore. Carefully, he began backing out of the room. "I'm off to the Headmaster's office."

"Don't forget Professor Snape," Draco called after him.

Harry sighed and slowed to a walk.

*****

Draco drifted off to sleep, still tasting the foul potion Pomfrey had forced down his throat. He decided right then and there if he ever went into potions-making, it would be with the intent of making palatable medicines. The current ones were simply disgusting.

When he woke up, he was instantly aware that he hadn't slept long and that he wasn't alone. Hoping it was just a bothersome, lurking Harry and not a potion-wielding Pomfrey, he cracked open an eye. Years of training kept him from gasping aloud, but it didn't matter. His visitor knew he was awake and greeted him with a stern look.

"Hello, son."

Chapter 18: Daddy Issues

Draco felt himself being drained and knew that the baby was instinctively cocooning himself in layer after layer of protections. Unfortunately, that left little of anything for Draco to work with. "Father?"

"Why didn't you come home? Why are you here in the hospital wing? What have you been up to?"

Blinking, Draco tried to get all the questions in order and remember all the answers. All the proper answers. Damn, he hadn't been this terrified of his father since he'd incendio'ed the Library back when he was six. The flames had been very pretty, by the way. "I owled about the potions project, didn't I?"

"Is that the reason you're here?"

Yes? Then his father would want the details. No? Then he'd have to come up with a reason. "I don't know." God, that was lame.

"You don't know why you're in the hospital wing? What's wrong with you, boy?"

"I--" Shit. Fuck. He couldn't think. He couldn't lie. When was the last time he couldn't come up with a lie? This was. Bad.

"Ah, Mr. Malfoy, I didn't know you were coming to visit."

Dumbledore. Thank God!

"Headmaster, Harry Potter."

Potter. Oh, shit.

"What is going on with my son? Why is he here? Why is Mr. Potter here?"

"Young Malfoy here passed out. Harry helped him here to the infirmary. He just wants to see how he's doing. Has Madam Pomfrey made a diagnosis yet?" Dumbledore inquired.

"Why would Potter know if my son passed out?"

"Project," Draco said loudly, his thoughts finally clearing. Apparently the baby decided to give him back a few brain cells since Potter and Dumbledore were there to protect him. "Potter and I are working on a project together."

"Potter and you? A potions project together?"

Well, when his father put it like that... "Not potions. Transfiguration. We're working on a secret transfiguration project. A surprise for the end-of-the-year-feast."

His father looked skeptical. "I see. And this--project--caused you to pass out?"

"No, that would be the touch of Wizard's Flu that he has," Madam Pomfrey said, bustling in with a hunk of chocolate. "I thought it was over for the season, but young Malfoy has always been a special one. Must be his--breeding."

Draco watched his father bristle at the implied insult and held back a snicker. Pomfrey never backed down from anyone. It was annoying--except when it wasn't directed at him. "I'll be fine, Father, after a short rest."

"Perhaps I should take you to St. Mungo's for a more competent opinion," Lucius said, sneering at the nurse.

Before Pomfrey could reply, McGonagall strode into the wing. "Poppy, what--" The thin woman stopped, staring at the wing's inhabitants. Her eyes quickly fell on her superior. "Headmaster?"

"Minerva, I'm glad you're here. As you can see, Mr. Potter and Mr. Malfoy's project is going to be delayed slightly. Mr. Malfoy is a bit under the weather."

"Their pro-- Of course, Headmaster," she said, surprising Draco with her quickness.

"After all, we wouldn't want to overwork Mr. Malfoy, would we, professor?" Pomfrey added meaningfully. Draco had told her how grueling his transfiguration exam had been when she'd asked about his day. He couldn't lie to the nurse, now could he?

Lucius eyed everyone suspiciously before glaring at his son. Draco made sure his mind was fully shielded. "I would like a moment alone with my son, if that isn't too much to ask?" Lucius said coldly.

Everyone looked at Draco, and he bitterly wondered how he'd ended up in a room with so many obvious Gryffindors. Although Pomfrey seemed more like a Ravenclaw. "Of course, Father. I'm sure Madam Pomfrey would be clearing the room soon anyway. I need my rest." Could she catch the clue?

"I must insist that you don't linger, Mr. Malfoy." Pomfrey said smoothly. "Your son has had enough excitement for one day. Draco, I shall check on you in a few minutes and I expect you to be sleeping."

"Yes, Madam."

His father waited patiently for everyone to leave, then leaned over his son and said, "What is the meaning of this, Draco? Why are you engaging in a project with Potter?"

Draco was ready for the question. "It's the only way I can possibly outscore that mudblood, Granger, Father. McGonagall despises me, as well you know, but she adores Potter. We will receive the same grade on the project. She cannot penalize me without penalizing her favorite student." He gave his father a wicked grin. "By partnering with Potter, I have assured myself of a grade you can be proud of, sir."

"And this is why you've been in private sessions with Potter?"

"Private sessions with-- Father, has someone been gossiping about me?" He made sure to rein in his innocent look. Lucius always noticed if he laid it on too thick.

Lucius frowned, but eased off the looming. He stood back from the bed, as if remembering Draco might be contagious. "Just idle school chatter. Nothing for you to worry about. Very well, Draco, I will leave you to your recovery. And I expect to be very pleased by your final grades."

"Yes, sir."

With a swish of his robes, Lucius stalked out.

Draco curled his lip at the departing figure. The grades were going to be spectacular, but he doubted his father would be pleased by anything else at the end of term. In fact, he was going to be about as opposite from pleased as one could get. Not only was his son NOT going to follow in his footsteps, but had also managed to fool him completely. No, Lucius was not going to be a happy man.

That had never bode well in the past.

"The Headmaster will make sure he's gone," Pomfrey said, entering the room to hand him a potion.

Draco nodded. "What is this?" he asked, frowning at the flask whose smoking contents he was supposed to consume.

"Something to calm your nerves."

"I'm not--" He stopped, noticing the smoking contents were about to splash over the sides because his hands were shaking. Okay. Maybe Lucius had unnerved the baby a bit and the brat was imposing his anxiety onto Draco. He downed the potion--for the sake of his child.

"A house elf will be bringing you your pajamas, and I want you to get comfortable." She patted him on the shoulder. "Sleep, Draco," Pomfrey advised. "Everything will be okay."

He changed out of his clothes, then slipped into bed and obediently closed his eyes. But he knew she was wrong. Nothing was okay. His lies had merely bought him a bit of time.

And time had a history of running out just when it was needed.

*****

Harry sat staring at the sleeping Draco. He'd returned to the wing after dinner, needing to see that Draco was all right. He'd had quite the fright earlier. He'd barely reached Dumbledore's office before the older man was shooing him down the stairs and urging him back to the wing. It wasn't until he saw Lucius standing over Draco that he realized why Dumbledore had been in such a rush. The bottom had dropped out of his stomach.

Draco had been amazing. So calm and cool in the face of danger. Gone was the sniveling little coward who'd run in the Forbidden Forest. With the help of their professors, Draco had played Lucius like a violin. If he hadn't been so petrified, Harry would have laughed as Dumbledore's spell allowed them to hear the conversation between the son and father. He knew at that moment that even if he'd been given the choice, he couldn't have chosen a better other parent for a child of his. Draco was brilliant.

And now just as parentless as Harry.

If that was a sobering thought for Harry, he realized how devastating it must have been for Draco earlier. A childhood of expectations, of dreams, soon to be gone. Already gone, actually.

You have quite a heritage to live up to, Draco.

You're going to be just like your father, young man.

You'll be THE Malfoy one day.

Harry was sure Draco had heard all that, just as he'd heard similar things once he'd been introduced to the Wizarding world. But he hadn't had years of listening to it, of dreaming about a future with those images. Now that future was gone, and Draco was going to be surrounded by people who didn't like him, who didn't trust him, who didn't understand him.

Yet, Draco hadn't faltered. He'd lied smoothly to his father's face, had totally given himself over to securing the future he now had, the future which Harry's actions had forced upon him. That took guts...and courage. He chuckled silently. He'd witnessed Draco's inner Gryffindor.

And it had been beautiful.

Maybe...maybe Harry's inner Slytherin wouldn't be so horrible either.

He settled into his chair a little more comfortably and concluded that it wasn't just Draco's future which had changed.

*****

Draco woke suddenly, stiffening when he felt a presence nearby. In the pale glow of candlelight Pomfrey had left about the room, he made out the soft contours of Harry curled up in the squishy chair, glasses dangling dangerously on the end of his nose.

Safe.

Protected.

He fell asleep with his smile still in place.

Chapter 19: Seconds' Opinions

"Are you ready to go, Draco?"

Draco turned from the hospital wing's mirror where he was adjusting his robes. After a good night's sleep, and no exams, he felt better than he had in days. "Here to escort me to my dorm, Professor? It's unnecessary."

Snape shrugged. "As your attendant for this evening's affair, it is expected."

"My attendant? I thought perhaps you had changed your mind after your non-appearance yesterday." Draco was still sore that he'd had to face his father with no Slytherin support.

"I was not informed that there was a problem until after the problem had occurred."

"But I told Potter--" Draco closed his mouth. Snape hadn't abandoned him; he just hadn't known. Of course Potter would have gone to Dumbledore first and Lucius had arrived soon after. Satisfied with his appearance, and his companion, he started toward the door. Snape held it open for him.

"I'm sorry that I wasn't here, but I heard you handled yourself admirably."

Draco nodded. Desperation was often the source of inspiration. "How did my father get in the wing without anyone knowing?" The hallway was empty and he hoped there were no surprises around the corner.

"If the castle is not told otherwise, it will allow entry to the blood kin of its students. The problem has been corrected."

Draco relaxed his guard marginally. "Good."

"I stopped by the wing briefly before I retired, but you were resting."

"Mc--Professor McGonagall's exam was exhausting."

"So I heard. I have spoken to the Headmaster. You will not participate in any practical applications in any of your classes from now on. You also have permission to miss any theory classes, as well. You have taken your N.E.W.T.s. You are no longer a student at Hogwarts."

Draco halted their progress toward the dungeons. "That doesn't mean I have to leave, does it?"

"You have been named as a teaching assistant. That will give us leeway in figuring out what to do with you this summer."

"As long as I'm safe." Snape looked at him peculiarly. "And comfortable. I thought that was a given."

"Never assume anything with Gryffindors. Speaking of, when I was in London yesterday, I bought these." Snape reached into his robes and pulled out a small velvet box. Inside were two platinum rings. "So that when the binding fails, you'll still have the safety of marriage. Dumbledore has the authority to perform the legal ceremony."

"Thank you, professor. I will, of course, repay you."

"You are repaying me by not following in your father's footsteps."

"I could have," Draco said as they stepped into his dormitory. "If Father had not taken me to the Revelry..."

"You would have come up with some other excuse. Although you talk excessively and are quick to draw your wand, I have never seen you torture animals or find pleasure in blood sports. You are a bully, a braggart, and a bigot. But none of those make you a Death Eater."

"I'm not the one we have to convince," Draco said fatalistically. He was always going to be suspect in the land of Light.

"Are you sure, Draco? I have watched you set Slytherin House's agenda year after year, bending the will of your Housemates to your will. The 'Weasley is Our King' campaign even went beyond the House. And you have Potter himself catering to your every whim."

"Are you suggesting I let myself get knocked up by every Gryffindor on the side of Light?" Draco interrupted, eyes wide in feigned shock; he knew there was no way his professor was advocating getting intimate with even more Gryffindors.

"I'm suggesting that set your mind to being accepted, not rejected. You have the gift of leadership. Use it."

"Now that I'm not going to be a Death Eater, you mean?" Draco joked, uneasy with the compliments of his Head of House. Everyone knew he'd only been able to lead the Slytherins was because of his father. It was reflected power and nothing more. As far as the Weasley thing went, it was funny so of course it was popular. No, Draco Malfoy was just a moon--a moon about to lose its sun. The only way to secure that he had a future was to keep his head low and have a successful pregnancy.

"Now that you don't have your father to use as a crutch," Snape said pointedly.

Draco shot Snape a glare. "So I hear the Headmaster is going to turn my humiliation into a spectacle for the entire staff," he said in order to change the subject.

"Think of them as unimpeachable witnesses to your marriage to a willing Potter."

"So I should make sure he's the one who comes up with the marriage idea after the binding fails."

Snape gave a real smile. "It has been an honor to be a teacher to such an apt pupil."

"And just think, Professor, in eleven years--a Malfoy-Potter." Draco patted his stomach.

The smile faded.

*****

"Roooon! Stop admiring your bloody robes and help me!"

"But, Harry, I've never had robes so nice," Ron said, fingering the fine fabric. Black, trimmed in red and gold. Formal Gryffindor robes. "This is a great gift, mate! You know, if it wasn't your wedding day, I wouldn't accept."

"But this is my bloody wedding day and I can't fix this bloody tie thing, so come over here and help me!" Harry stared at the offending piece of white satin. Everything was bloody white. His very high and very stiff-collared shirt. The brocaded vest. The white trousers with the satin seam down the side. And of course, the stupid ascot!

"Here you go, mate." Ron wrangled the cloth into something resembling an ascot, then shoved in the diamond tie-pin.

Harry looked in the mirror and figured it was still wrong, but at least it was on. Now all he had to do was don the white robes that completed the ensemble. And comb his hair.

Maybe he should just get a buzz cut, leaving just a single dark curl to cover the you-know-what.

God, where was Hermione when he needed her? Oh, yeah, doing all those frilly things girls liked to do when they had to dress up.

"So, you're sure the wards have been changed? No scary Death Eaters are going to show up at the ceremony?"

Yesterday's run-in with Lucius was the first thing he'd told Ron and Hermione about when they arrived. "Dumbledore said he made sure only invited guests can attend."

"Mum's going to have a fit, you know. The first of her boys getting married and she's not even invited."

Harry paled. "I'm sorry I'm disappointing her. Under normal circumstances--"

"But there's nothing normal about this, is there?" Ron questioned shrewdly. "And I'm not talking about Malfoy not being a girl, but Malfoy being Malfoy. And preggers. Only Harry Potter would poke a bloke and end up a dad."

"'Poke a bloke'?" Harry laughed, leaning against the wall to keep from rolling in the floor and messing up his clothes. Then he sobered. "Oh, God. I am going to be a dad. I don't know how to be a dad, Ron. I've never had a dad. And I'm really fucked up, you know? I grew up in a cupboard. I'm either going to be murdered or become a murderer. I ra--" He shut his mouth quickly. "I don't know anything about babies. I've never been a big brother or babysat or-- Fuck all, Ron--I've never even held one of the little buggers!"

"Well, if the neck doesn't break, then you've supported the head properly," Ron said.

"Neck break! Their little necks break?" Harry's mouth hung open in horror.

Ron laughed. "Relax, Harry. Both me and Ginny survived Fred and George, so babies can't be all that fragile. I was just teasing you."

"Yeah, Fred and George, right. But they had your mum to guide them."

"You have her, too, Harry. Any child of yours she will certainly consider a grandchild, so she'll have advice--whether you want it or not."

"I want it," Harry mumbled with a note of desperation.

"But what about the ferret? He might not want a Weasley 'tainting' his heir."

That was a good possibility. Or maybe Draco wouldn't want to have anything to do with direct raising of the child. Did people as rich as the Malfoys actually participate in the day-to-day care of a baby? Was Draco expecting to hire a house-elf or nanny? God, he didn't know what Draco thought about childcare. They hadn't-- They were about to be bound and they-- What were they thinking? They couldn't do this. They barely knew each other and what they knew, they didn't like.

"I can't do this."

Ron brushed an imaginary speck from his robes. "Can't do what?"

"Go through with this binding. Raise a child. None of it."

Ron shrugged. "Barn door's open. Horse is gone. Nothing to it, but to go on from there."

"But--"

Ron turned and Harry could swear he saw Mrs. Weasley instead of her son. "But nothing, Harry. Get over yourself and start thinking about your family--Malfoy and the baby. You've been a man since I met you, mate. Now is not the time to start having doubts."

Harry blinked at his friend. Then he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "You're absolutely right, Ron. I'm sorry for falling apart like that."

"You're entitled. It's not every day a Potter binds himself to a Malfoy. Oh, Merlin, now I'm petrified," Ron moaned.

Swiping harmlessly at his friend's head, Harry went to look in the mirror one last time. If he squinted real hard, he no longer saw the tattered little waif he'd been the first night at Hogwarts. A man stood before him, aged not only by what had been done to him...and for him (God, he would always hear his mother’s cries, even without Dementors being nearby), but by what he’d seen, what he’d done, what he still had to do. Then he relaxed his eyes and the man disappeared. Instead, there was just Harry Potter--overdressed, uncomfortable, and smiling at himself like an idiot.

The ascot was still wrong, however, and he had the perfect solution to that.

"Let's go bother Hermione."

Chapter 20: In Full Accordance Of My Own Will And Desire

"Are you ready, Mr. Malfoy?"

Draco stared at his Head of House. He was dressed in his finest robes, his hair was done impeccably, and he knew what he was supposed to say when he stood in front of Dumbledore and the assembled witches and wizards. But he was far from ready. "What the fuck am I doing?" he whispered to himself.

Apparently he didn't whisper as softly as he thought because Snape answered him. "Saving yourself and the Malfoy line."

Was that enough of a reason to marry Harry Potter? The same Potter who had rejected him, hexed him, been the constant thorn in his side for nearly seven years. Was this the best solution? Couldn't he just--run away and hope for the best?

"I did not think well of this course of action when you first confessed to me," Snape said. "I thought it extreme and desperate. However, upon later review I saw the inherent strength in your plan. You are securing an alliance through the confluence of blood in the form of offspring. Your plan honors the traditions of Wizardry. Your House, which now includes not only future Malfoys, but Parkinsons, Zabinis, Crabbes, et al, will be held in esteem for its dedication to the code by which all of us should live. You have done yourself proud, Draco. I'm honored to stand with you today."

Draco stared at his professor. He looked sincere, but the man was a spy--looking sincere while lying your arse off was a tool of the trade. But. There was no reason to lie, no reason to butter up to him. He was nothing these days. Not Lucius's son. Not the Malfoy heir. Nothing but a sprogged up freak who'd allowed himself--no, to be honest--who'd set himself up to be Harry Potter's bitch. Why would Snape try to curry his favor? Why would Snape say he was honored...unless he really was?

Well...shit.

Draco squared his shoulders and followed Snape into the hallway.

*****

Harry opened the door to Dumbledore's office hesitantly, until four hands against his back propelled him inside. After glaring backwards at his so-called friends, he looked around the room, surprised only to see Dumbledore there. The master wizard was in surprisingly tame (and diplomatic) gold robes, trimmed in green.

"Hello, Harry. You're looking very smart."

"Um, you, too, Headmaster. Am I early or something?"

Dumbledore smiled. "No, you're right on time. The others are waiting inside." He gestured with his hand and Harry saw a set of double doors he hadn't seen before--doors that hadn't been there before. Oh, great. Now the castle itself was getting into the act. "We'll wait here for--oh, here they are now. Right on time, gentlemen."

Harry turned to see Draco and Snape enter the office. Snape was dressed similarly to Ron, except for Slytherin trim. Draco was, supposedly, dressed just like Harry--except Harry knew he didn't look as good. The white of the robes accented Draco's coloring, making his eyes more silver and his hair more...just more. "Draco," he whispered, not even fully aware he was speaking.

"Harry."

They shared a look, then both looked at Dumbledore.

"Time to get started," the older wizard said. "I'll go in, then Miss Granger afterwards." He smiled at Hermione who was also dressed in formal robes, although hers were more form-fitting than the men's. "The four of you will follow. All right?"

They nodded and the doors parted magically, revealing rows of occupied chairs. Music started playing and the guests stood. Dumbledore started a slow walk down the aisle, smiling and nodding to his faculty. When he reached the end, he stood and beckoned for Hermione. She hoisted a staff from Dumbledore's desk and a banner unfurled, half depicting Gryffindor's Coat of Arms and the other half, Slytherin's. Proudly, she held the staff upright as she walked down the aisle.

Harry felt a moment of panic, and without thinking about it, he reached out for Draco's hand. He was even too numb to be surprised when warm fingers interlaced with his, and he was only aware that he was walking after a hissed, "Posture," from Snape.

They and Dumbledore ascended a small dais. In the center of the platform was a pedestal holding an orb of light with a coil of golden rope in its center. The rope writhed as if it was a living thing and Harry shivered.

"My friends, I am pleased to be standing in front of you today to officiate at a ceremony that has never been held at Hogwarts. Today, you and I are here to witness the binding of two of our students, a Unitas Binding. As you are aware, a binding is a sacred event, for there can be nothing more sacrosanct than the union of magic to magic by Magic itself. Harry, Draco, are you here by force, falsehood, or folly?"

"No, Headmaster."

"No, sir."

"Can you verify that, Mr. Weasley?"

"Yes, sir. Harry is here of his own free will."

"Professor Snape?"

"Draco is here of his own free will."

"Gentlemen, please turn to the Orbis Magus to make your requests."

Harry went first since Draco, as the person who mentioned the binding first, was in the role of the suitor. Therefore Harry was the one whose petition was the most iffy and if he couldn't continue, then Draco's solicitation would be worthless.

Magic was sometimes very practical.

Harry pushed up his glasses and faced the glowing ball. "Sum of All Magic, I, Harry Potter, do beseech you to search my mind, my heart and my soul, and harnessing the power of the truths unveiled and laid bare, unite all that I am to Draco Malfoy. This I so ask, in full accordance of my own will and desire." He quickly glanced at Draco, then looked at his feet.

"Sum of All Magic, I, Draco Malfoy, do beseech you to search my mind, my heart and my soul, and harnessing the power of the truths unveiled and laid bare, unite all that I am to Harry Potter. This I so ask, in full accordance of my own will and desire."

When Harry looked up again, Draco was staring at him and there was something almost sad in his gaze. Before he could figure it out, there was a gasp from the audience and twin nodules of light shot out of the orb. They swirled around Draco and him, weaving a dense curtain of pulsating sparks. It was strange, but Harry felt no malevolence in the light that was blocking him from seeing the rest of the room. In fact, he felt calm, at peace. He smiled at Draco who was sharing the small column of privacy. Draco smiled back.

Then, the two nodules which had formed the column floated in between the two of them. As they watched, the nodules exploded, blinding them. When vision returned, Harry saw that the light around them was gone. He looked quickly at Draco, but Draco wasn't paying him any attention. Instead, the wizard was staring at the braided rope around his left wrist. Harry looked at his own wrist and saw that it was similarly adorned. Touching it, he found it to be some kind of soft metal, maybe?

"As so it has been ordained by Magic, so it must be," Dumbledore said, his arms outstretched. "Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy have been examined by Magic and found flawless in their devotion to each other. Magic has made hallow their union by placing upon their persons visible ties, warnings that it will not tolerate interference in what it has made one. You, as witnesses, are hereby charged to protect this union, to administer to its care, to defend it against detractors, deceivers, and disputants. Signal your understanding by saying, 'we heed the wisdom of Magic'."

"We heed the wisdom of Magic," the audience said in unison.

Dumbledore smiled. "Witches and wizards, I present to you the bound pair of Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter."

*****

Draco was in shock. The binding--had worked. How? Why? As he stood in the receiving line, shaking hands of people who DID NOT LIKE HIM, he pondered all the imponderables and couldn't figure out if he'd been blessed or screwed. He just didn't know.

"Ask Potter to dance."

He looked blankly at his Head of House, who had been standing protectively behind him and avoiding any and all handshakes.

"You need to lead the first dance, then you can fall apart," Snape told him, rather gently for Snape.

"Okay." He turned to where Potter was standing on his left. Years of training served him well. "Harry, may I have this dance?"

Those who overheard tittered with delight. Draco felt rather nauseated.

"I'm not very good at dancing," Harry warned.

"I am. Just follow me, okay?"

Harry nodded and he guided him out to the floor of the Great Hall which was where their reception was being held. A reception. Dumbledore had gone all out for his golden boy. Well, if he had to be bound to someone, at least it was someone with good connections.

The string quartet drew the song to a close and Draco couldn't even remember dancing.

"You look flushed."

Draco realized he was tired. "I think I'll sit the next one out. Go ask one of the female professors to dance."

"What? I don't know how to dance, remember?"

"Pretend you're me. And don't count under your breath."

"Can I start with Hermione first?"

Draco shrugged. "Whatever. I'm going to sit down."

"You okay?"

"Long day." Long week. Long month.

He sank into one of the banquet chairs that had replaced the usual benches. Ah. Relief.

"Here."

He reached up and took the cup of punch offered by Snape. "Thank you."

"Quite a coup you pulled off." Snape took the seat beside him and sipped on his own full cup of punch.

"Wish I knew how."

"It's simple. You asked Magic to look inside you and it found something you'd apparently hidden from yourself. Understandable if you take into consideration the outside pressure both you and Potter were under to hate each other. When we are young, we are easily influenced. As we age, however--and if we are quite lucky--we discover who we truly are. Or, as you and Potter are concerned, an outside force looks inside and tells you the truth about yourself. You are loved, Draco. Enjoy it."

Draco eyed his Head of House cautiously. "You seem to be taking this well."

Snape's lips thinned in a parody of a smile. "I spiked the punch with a calming potion."

Draco stared at him, flabbergasted by Snape's audacity.

Then he tossed back the whole cup.

Chapter 21: Draco And Harry Forever

Snape got them both a refill and sat again. "I learned long ago to never question the wisdom of Magic. It gains you nothing."

Draco nodded. And drank.

"You can live with this."

Draco nodded again. He really didn't have a choice, did he? And the Plan was still proceeding--just differently from what he'd envisioned. In fact, if he looked on the bright side, it was a better Plan. Now, he was protected by more than just the baby. He wasn't just the parent of Potter's child; he was Potter's bondmate and the Light couldn't interfere, couldn't get rid of him after the baby was born, couldn't push Potter to get rid of him. The Light was just as bound as he and Potter. You, as witnesses, are hereby charged to protect this union, to administer to its care, to defend it against detractors, deceivers, and disputants.

Ha!

"You're smiling. Did I add too much potion?"

"Just trying to 'live with it', Professor."

Snape grunted, but said no more. They sat quietly as the musicians switched from classical to more popular tunes, Draco absently fingering his new "bracelet" and Snape keeping them well-supplied with punch. It seemed--fitting--to sit there brooding with his professor. In fact, it was the only fitting moment he'd had all day.

Bound to Harry Potter. He shook his head. It was truly inconceivable. Sure, he'd thought about shagging Potter. Hell, ninety percent of the school had thought about that. But for the binding to occur, there had to be more than just lust. There had to be--he shuddered--affection...love. Magic had found love inside him for Potter? And vice-versa? That was so wrong. Maybe it was the baby. He was destined to be a powerful being and maybe he wanted his parents to be together. Infant magic was wild and incredibly pure. Convincing Magic itself that his parents loved each other was probably pretty easy.

Way easier than accepting that he might--might--have feelings for Potter.

"Severus, dance with me."

They both looked up at McGonagall. Her expression made it clear she wouldn't take no for an answer.

"I'd be delighted, Minerva."

Draco took a sip of punch to hide his amused snort.

"Malfoy. Or I guess it should be Draco now."

"Whatever, Granger," Draco replied as the girl took the just vacated seat. Leave it to a Gryffindor to ruin a good brood. He hoped Snape had brewed the extra strength version of the calming potion.

"Why aren't you dancing?"

"I just got out of the hospital wing this morning."

"Right." Pause. "The weather's nice this time of year."

"Yes."

She tsked like a fishwife. "For Harry's sake we need to get along. You can start any time you feel like it."

He sighed. Anything was better than Voldemort, right? "Thank you for being our standard bearer today."

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, although I didn't know it at the time. So, is that the standard of your new household?"

"What is?"

"That." She pointed at the banner. Instead of the two coats of arms, it was now one with the griffin and snake intertwined.

Almost suggestively.

"When did that happen?"

"When you two disappeared behind that screen of light."

"Interesting." His mother would die if she knew he was doing such a bad job at small talk. Then again, she'd die if she knew he was trying to make small talk with a mudblood.

"So now that we're practically best mates," she said dryly, "tell me how you did it."

"'How I did it?' Which 'it' are you referring to?" he asked, feeling rather comfortable reinstating his Malfoy sneer. He could always tell Potter she had started it--and he'd actually be telling the truth.

"You and Harry shouldn't have been able to bind."

"And you think I what--performed some dark magic ritual right under the watchful eye of not only the Headmaster, but every professor at Hogwarts? Gee, Granger, I didn't know you thought I was so powerful."

"You had to do something. According to all the books, two people can only bind if they are really in love."

"Then you have your answer."

She rolled her eyes and huffed. "I'm still not sure what you did to make this possible," she muttered, obviously giving up the fight for now.

Draco was too tired to keep the fight going on his own. "Harry and I are now bound, and you yourself vowed to heed the wisdom of Magic. I'd say it was time you got over whatever it is that bothers you about me."

She had the decency to look ashamed. "Good party," she said gamely.

He shrugged. "Courtesy of my new in-law--Dumbledore."

"I guess he is sort of like Harry's family. So are the Weasleys."

Like that was a big secret. "Yes, I know."

"I'm part of Harry's family as well. If you're just using him--"

Draco waggled his wrist in front of her, the binding bracelet glittering in the candlelight.

That shut her up briefly. Then she sighed. "You and the baby are important to Harry, so you're important to me. Harry says you're worried about what's going to happen once your father and the other side find out you've defected. Harry and the Headmaster won't let anything happen to you. And...I'll help any way I can."

Draco nodded. She was a mudblood, but also one of the smartest the Light side had. And help was help. "Thank you."

"Hermione!" Ron came and stood behind her chair. "Malfoy."

"Weasley."

"Wanna dance, Hermione? Finally a song I recognize."

"Sure. It was nice talking to you, Draco."

He nodded and distracted himself by looking at Snape who'd been snagged by Madam Hooch. It seemed his professor could benefit from a rhythm potion.

"Hey."

Potter. Good. He needed another cup of punch. "Refill this for me."

"Hermione said you sounded depressed or something," Harry said as he handed over the fresh cup.

"Tired."

"Madam Pomfrey said you needed your rest."

"I agree. Walk me to the dungeons?" He was about to fall asleep and Malfoys never fell asleep in public.

He knew something was up when Potter turned an interesting shade of red. "Professor Dumbledore has given us a room for the night. The honeymoon suite, he called it. I don't know why. I mean, he knows."

Knows it was all a sham. All the professors knew about the pregnancy, but only Dumbledore, Madam Pomfrey, and Snape knew it was the result of a rape. "Yes, well, the old coot has never played snap with a full deck, has he? Just show me where it is. You can come back here if you want."

Potter reached out to help him up. As a testament to how tired he was, Draco didn't complain. "I'm tired, too. Been on pins and needles all day."

"Not to mention sleeping in a chair all night."

Another blush. "I just wanted to make sure you were safe."

"Thanks."

After endless goodbyes, they left and Draco was grateful that the room was apparently on the same floor. He wasn't sure he could tackle even one flight of stairs.

"'Draco and Harry forever.'"

Draco rolled his eyes at the password, but was pleased to see the room itself. A very large canopied bed. Pajamas laid out on a light duvet. He walked over to a door. Better bathroom than the prefects had. Too bad he was so tired. He picked up a pair of the pajamas and went into the bathroom. Five minutes later, he was came out and saw Potter messing with the bracelet on his wrist.

"It can't be removed. Even if you cut off your hand."

Potter looked horrified. "Someone actually tried?"

"Someone's ex-girlfriend thought the binding was in error. She slipped the man a potion, then cut off his hand. The bracelet still wouldn't move from his wrist. Her scream of frustration woke the rest of the house. The man slept through it all and when his bondmate touched his wrist, the hand grew back."

"What happened to the ex-girlfriend?"

"She died."

Potter gave him a look. "You mean they killed her?"

"There wasn't a 'they' involved. Magic does not look kindly upon anyone messing with it improperly. She was found skinned in a room locked from the outside with two guards on duty. Inside there was no knife and no blood. You figure it out."

"Fuck."

"Magic can be used for good or bad, but it cannot lie, Harry. Its warnings and its truths should always be heeded."

"So this means?" He plucked at the bracelet.

"That Magic considers us one entity. Neither of us can ever be with anyone else."

"You, um, you mean...sexually?"

Draco thought Harry did the shy blush thing quite well. "Yes."

"Oh."

Draco didn't particularly appreciate Potter's disappointed tone. "Someone you wanted to fuck, Potter? Sorry, too late. Should have done so last night. Unless you want to see what the Weasel or mudblood look like skinned alive," he said bitterly. Damn, he should have brought some punch with him. Maybe a house-elf could...

"Don't call them that and no, I don't want to--God, I can't even think about doing something like that with them," Potter said with a shudder. "They're like my sibs."

"Then who? That bitch you panted after fifth year, Cho Chang?"

"She wasn't a bitch--and no. There's nobody in particular I'd like to...have sex with. I just wanted to do it at least once, you know, voluntarily." He ducked his head and yanked off his shoes.

Draco looked at him, wondering what the hell he was going on about. That didn't make any sense. Why would he-- He rolled his eyes as he realized what Potter was thinking. Of all the-- "Listen, Potter, if you think I'm going to be celibate for the rest of my life, you've got more wrong with your head than a fucking scar."

Potter looked at him with sad green eyes. "Draco, sometimes you still flinch even when I warn you I'm going to touch you."

Damn weakness. "I'll get over it in a bit. Besides, I won't be pregnant forever. All I need is a few firewhiskys to relax a bit." And there were several potions that he could take if that didn't work. His Plan did not entail him getting pregnant and losing the true use of his dick, too. Fuck it, at this rate he might as well buy some frilly pants and a bra. "We'll have sex one day, Potter, lots of sex--after the application of every known contraceptive spell, potion, and/or charm, of course."

"Okay," Potter said hesitantly. "But only when you're ready." He stood and headed for the bathroom.

Ten minutes later, he heard Potter come out of the bathroom and-- "Potter, if you don't get your arse out of that squishy chair and into this bed, I'm going to hex you as soon as I wake up." It was one thing for the idiot to sleep in the chair when there was only a single dormitory bed, but it was another when all four of his usual roommates could have fit across the mattress. In fact. the bed was so damn huge, he sensed rather than felt when Harry slid under the covers.

Besides, it was their "wedding" night. "Comfortable?"

"Yes." Potter was scrunched onto the very edge of the bed.

"If you fall out because you're a stupid prat, I will transfigure a squishy chair of my own and bash you over the head with it."

Harry immediately scooted closer to the center.

"Goodnight, Harry."

"Goodnight, Draco."

Draco gave a short, satisfied hum and went to sleep.

Chapter 22: Real and Unreal

Harry watched Draco sleep. Despite the long day and restless night, he himself lay wide awake, fully conscious of the fact that he was in bed with his--husband, mate, whatever the hell Draco was now. In bed with--but not sleeping with. Despite Draco's earlier assurance of "lots of sex," Harry was pretty sure that was just typical Malfoy boasting. In his opinion, there were at least three things standing in the way of that being true: 1) Draco was still, and might always be, affected by the rape; 2) Draco was pregnant, which would probably keep him cranky during the pregnancy, and make him think twice about sex after the delivery; and 3) Draco was Draco: once he thought about the actuality of having sex with Harry Potter... Well, according to the Weasley twins, wizarding porn was almost as good as the real thing. That and an agile hand.

He sighed, then stilled as Draco's mouth twitched and the blond rolled toward him. He truly was a beautiful man. It was a good thing he had a nasty disposition; otherwise he'd be mobbed every time he moved. Maybe that was Fate's way of evening the score for those like Harry. Yeah, right, Fate being fair. It was common knowledge at Hogwarts that Fate was a bitch, but this was almost laughable. Draco--the arsehole that had made six and a half years at Hogwarts a pure hell for him every day--well, maybe not every day and Voldemort certainly had played a large part of everything that had gone wrong... Okay, Draco hadn't been his major pain in the arse, but a pain in the arse no less, and now he was--they were bound and having a child. It sounded a little like those shows Aunt Petunia liked to watch when he was doing her household chores.

Moonlight fell through the window, and he wondered if it was real or just a charmed image. Sometimes that was an aspect of magic he didn't like--the lack of separation between real and unreal. At times, the ceiling in the Great Hall creeped him out. Like a skylight, but not. And if it could be charmed to show the real sky, that meant it could be charmed to show whatever the charmer wanted it to show. It was like--fake nature. The Muggle-born got it when someone complained about it, but those brought up in magic never understood what the problem was.

And that was the problem itself.

Draco, his hair bathed in the real/unreal moonlight, would laugh himself silly, or most probably just sneer, if he knew what Harry was thinking about. Draco would never understand that there were some things magic shouldn't mess with. Like the sky. The moonlight. Their relationship... In a world devoid of magic, he'd never have a chance with a guy like Draco. Someone like Draco wouldn't have taken the time to piss on a burning Harry--if magic hadn't taken everything out of their control. They were together because of a magically-induced rape leading to a magical pregnancy. It wasn't real, but Draco didn't, couldn't, understand that. Even if their relationship went back to the combative way it had been, Draco would never leave Harry, would never turn his back on what Magic had decreed. He was stuck with a scar-headed killer or murder victim. When he should have had a prince or something.

So he had a lot to make up for with Draco. If Draco didn't want to have sex, they wouldn't have sex. If Draco wanted a staff of house-elves, he'd get house-elves. If he wanted to be treated nicely by Harry's friends, he'd be treated nicely--or the offenders wouldn't be Harry's friends anymore. If he wanted his Slytherin friends to hang around all day, they'd hang around. Whatever he wanted, Harry would try to get him--including not being so "Gryffindor" when it came to heading full speed into dangerous situations.

He wanted Draco not to always regret being bound to him.

He just wanted Draco to be happy.

*****

Draco awakened in a strange, but highly comfortable, bed. Then he remembered it was his "marriage" bed. He and Harry Potter had been bound yesterday. Life definitely had a sense of humor.

"Potter? Harry?"

Potter stuck his head out of the bathroom door. "You awake?"

"Yes, and I have to pee."

"Oh." Potter scooted out of the door and out of the way.

Minutes later, Draco came out and flung himself across the bed. "This is still Easter holiday, right?"

"Right."

"Wake me in an hour or two."

"Um..."

Draco turned over to look at him. "Don't tell me Pansy's damn schedule prohibits me from going back to sleep?"

"Not Pansy: Madam Pomfrey. She says you need to have breakfast every day. You're too skinny."

"Too skinny? Look!" He pulled up his pajama top, exposing his stomach. "Look at this lump of fat!"

Harry shook his head. "That's not fat, Draco. It's the baby."

Draco stared at his stomach. The baby. Right. Why hadn't he figured that out? Of course it was the baby.

"Draco? What's wrong?" Harry sat on the bed beside him.

"Fuck all, I'm pregnant," he said, not caring about the awe in his voice.

Thankfully, Harry seemed to understand. "It's real now that you're showing, isn't it?"

Draco shook his head. "It was always real, but I could just...put it aside for long periods of time. Now, I'm going to be lugging it around wherever I go. Life in Egypt is over, Harry."

He watched with a secret smirk as Potter figured that one out. For a moment, he wondered if growing up with muggles had left the wizard with no knowledge of the Nile and foreign lands. Who knew what passed for education among that kind?

Harry reached out tentatively until Draco nodded. Then he placed his hand on the baby lump. "We can do this, you know."

"Yeah. I'm a Malfoy: I can do anything. But..."

"But?"

"Shit. A baby, Harry. I don't know anything about babies. I'm an only child. The only baby I've ever known is me."

"Well, I knew my cousin Dudley. And I can guarantee that our child won't turn out like him."

"How can you make a guarantee like that?"

"Because, although he might get spoiled rotten, we won't overlook his faults. And we won't be afraid to tell each other when one of us is allowing him to get away with too much. Sometimes I think my aunt knew that Dudley was getting up to mischief, but she was too afraid of confronting Uncle Vernon. Sometimes I wonder if I was part of that fear."

"What do you mean?"

"I--I wasn't wanted. Dumbledore sorta bribed them to keep me. Maybe--maybe Aunt Petunia put up with Vernon's shit all those years because she was afraid Vernon would kick me out."

Draco frowned. "If they didn't want you, why didn't you live somewhere else? You were the Boy-Who-Lived. I'm sure most Wizarding families would have welcomed you with open arms."

Harry shrugged. "It was a blood protection thing, keeping me safe from Voldemort. But it didn't keep me safe from Vernon or Dudley."

"What--what did they do to you?" Draco asked hesitantly. He was pretty sure he wasn't going to like the answer.

"Vernon hates magic, hates the very idea that magic exists. They never told me my parents were Wizards, that they were important people. They told me they died in a car crash and that's how I got my scar. They told me I owed them because they'd been kind enough to take me in--as if they were doing anything else with the cupboard under the stairs."

The cupboard again. "Why do you keep mentioning this cupboard?"

"It was my room until I came to Hogwarts."

"It was your WHAT?"

Harry shook his head and absently rubbed Draco's belly. "I grew up in a cupboard, Draco. I was no more than a house-elf to my aunt and uncle and a punching bag for Dudley and his friends."

"But--but," Draco sputtered, "you like muggles."

"And I like most Wizards, even though Voldemort is one. Labeling a group because some of its members aren't fit to be around is just wrong. Vernon hates me because I'm a wizard and he hates wizards. I don't want to be like Vernon. I don't want to be like Voldemort."

"You hated me because I was a Slytherin," Draco pointed out.

"No, I hated you because you treated Ron like Dudley treated me. And then I hated you because Ron hated you. That was wrong, but by the time I grew old enough to figure that out, you and I had a history of mutual hatred, and I was too stubborn to give that up.

"I hate the reason why I was forced to get over myself, but I'm glad I did. It's nice to have family that's mine and not borrowed from someone else."

Draco felt something well in his throat, but figured it was just gas from Potter petting his stomach. "You mentioned breakfast? Let me go get dressed." He stood, then turned to look at Harry still sitting on the bed. "I don't like muggles, Harry. But I won't undermine whatever you teach our son about them. However, I suggest for your muggle family's sake, you keep them far away him. And while they're at it, they might as well keep the hell away from you, too."

"When I turned seventeen, I was officially free of them. I won't be going back, and I won't be exposing my son to them."

"Good. Because if they hated your magic, I'm quite fucking sure they wouldn't want to tangle with mine."

*****

Forty-five minutes later Draco found himself seated at the Gryffindor table. Remarkably, he found he had an appetite anyway.

"How did your N.E.W.T.s go, Draco?" Hermione asked, apparently continuing with that whole "let's get along for Harry's sake" idea.

"Can't say--literally. Charmed to keep my mouth shut."

"Oh, of course. So the professors won't have to write new questions. Will you still be attending lectures?"

"Professor Snape says it's optional. But I suspect I'll get bored without somewhat regular attendance."

Weasley's mouth dropped open. "You can skive off classes and you're just going to waste it?"

"What do you expect me to do, Weasley? Sit in the dorm by myself and practice the Dark Arts?" he replied dryly. Jam. He needed jam. Next to Potter, of course. Did he have to go through Potter for everything he wanted? "Pass the jam, Harry."

"Ron didn't mean anything by his comment," Harry said softly as he handed over the container.

"I didn't either."

"Oh."

This was going to be a looong life, and he didn't mean in a good way. Thank God his friends were coming back soon.

"Anybody want to go flying after we finish?" Weasley asked, apparently trying to make amends.

"Draco?" Potter asked, also attempting to make up for prior stupidity.

"Madam Pomfrey has put me on 'no flying' restriction." Potter looked like he was going to say something lame. "But you go ahead. It's time I headed back to the dungeons anyway. Mid-morning nap and all that."

"Didn't you just get up?" Ron asked, puzzled.

Hermione punched him in the arm. "Draco's condition," she hissed.

"Oh. Sorry," Ron said with a shrug. "I don't know much about being preggers."

"Join the club," Draco said dryly. "All I know is that apparently I skipped the upchucking stage, praise Merlin for small favors."

"There's not much information on Progenitor pregnancies," Hermione said knowingly. "I hope you're helping Madam Pomfrey to document this event. It might be a good idea for you to keep a journal of your experience."

Draco shared a quick look with Harry. It wasn't like he was doing anything with the journal Potter had given him anyway. "I'll think about it. Have fun on the pitch, Harry." That was the proper thing for a newly bound partner to say, right?

"Thanks, Draco. Do you want me to wake you for lunch?"

"What? That's not on Pansy's schedule?" Draco did a poor job of appearing shocked and Harry laughed, while the other two just looked confused.

"Have a nice nap, Draco." Potter raised a hand to clasp it on Draco's shoulder, but hesitated until Draco gave a slight nod. "I'll see you in a bit, then." He and Weasley walked out, talking animatedly.

"Weasley's handling this better than I thought," Draco mused to Hermione, who stood when he did.

"He's a pureblood; apparently all animosity must stop when there's a baby involved."

"Is that not the way it is for your kind?" Draco winced when he realized how that sounded. Well, at least he hadn't specifically stated, "mudblood."

"Muggles, and therefore Muggle-borns, I suppose, don't necessarily equate being pregnant with an automatic marriage proposal."

At least she didn't sound offended. "But-- that's barbaric. To force a child to suffer because of the sins of its parents."

They started out of the Hall together. "Being a bastard isn't considered so bad in the Muggle world."

"You aren't teased about not having a father or being unwanted?"

"I'm sure some people are attacked by the truly ignorant, but--"

"But nothing. If it's all the same to you, I think I'll stay in the Wizarding world, where my son will have both his fathers and he can earn the names he'll be called--not just inherit them."

Hermione sighed. "This is an argument I know I can't win, so I'm not even going to try. Have a good nap, Draco. I'm headed to the library for a bit of research. If I find out anything about Progenitors, I'll let you know."

"Thanks, Gr--Hermione. See you at lunch?"

She waved and he continued toward the dungeons alone. If only his father could see him now: bound to Harry Potter, having conversations with mudbloods, pregnant with the Potter heir...

Now that, he thought to himself, was an acceptable way of being a bastard.

Chapter 23: I Have Minions

Draco artfully arranged himself on his bed, knowing that his Slytherins would come directly to the dorm as soon as they arrived back at Hogwarts. His Slytherins. He liked the sound of that. Even better, the Malfoy Minions. Maybe he'd make them get a mark. A sensible stylized "M" rather than some tacky skull and snake. Whatever had his father been thinking when he allowed something like that to befoul his flawless skin?

Knowing he'd never figure out the answer to that, he went back to his "artful arranging." Should he conjure low stools around the bed for them? Or maybe just cushions to make it easy for them to kneel in his presence? He looked at the wand Pomfrey had threatened to take away if he used it too much. Fuck it; if they wanted to sit, they could conjure it up themselves.

Hearing voices flooding into the common room, he tugged the cuff of his robes over his wrist and waited. Seconds later, the door flew open and his friends poured in.

"Well?" Pansy asked eagerly. "What happened?"

Rude, but he gave her points for enthusiasm. "Before or after my father showed up?"

Mouths dropped open. "What? Why didn't you owl me? Oh, God, Draco, what happened?" Pansy dropped on the bed beside him.

Draco shrugged. "I lied. Very well, I may add. He thinks Potter and I are working on a transfiguration project together."

"I'm lost," Blaise said, quietly demanding an explanation.

Pansy told about Mitchell Flint's attempt at revenge.

"How could you know this and not hex the little shit on the train?" Blaise asked Pansy angrily. "Why didn't you tell us and let us hex the little shit?"

"Because I knew Draco deserved that honor."

Draco nodded, pleased at his minions' righteous anger on his behalf. "She's right. The little shit is mine. But enough about that insignificant speck. I think you were inquiring about a certain binding ceremony--and your subsequent oaths of loyalty, fealty, and allegiance."

"So are you--" Pansy began, reaching for his wrist.

He jerked away from her. "We had the ceremony. Dumbledore officiated. Therefore, the terms of our contract were satisfied and all of you--belong to me."

"But--" Nothing else came out of Blaise's mouth as the contract materialized in front of him. He grabbed it and read, then passed it on.

"Did you at least get married?" Pansy asked. "That'll give us some protection."

"Not like we'd had if they had been bound," Millicent groused.

"You were right here when we drew up the contract, Millie," Pansy pointed out.

"Well, you're supposed to be the smart one!"

"Draco's the smart one!" Pansy and Blaise shouted together.

Draco laughed. "That I am. Now, grovel at my feet like good little minions."

"Are we screwed, Draco?" Greg asked as he dropped to his knees at the edge of the bed like the rest of the Slytherins. No one conjured a pillow.

"Would I do that to you?" Draco replied, with a slight tsk. "Behold, the power of a Malfoy." With those words he allowed his cuff to slide back, revealing the binding bracelet.

"You sneaky shit," Blaise muttered.

"How?" was the only word Pansy could manage.

"Hell if I know," Draco said in all honesty. "Guess it's what the fuck you get when you fuck around with the fucking savior of the universe."

"Cool," Millicent said, summing it all up.

"So now what?" Vincent asked as he lifted his bulk from the floor, his knees creaking.

"Now," Draco said, patting the edge of his bed. He could be generous in private. "We talk, and we plan."

*****

"You miss being with him."

Harry looked over to where Hermione had plopped down beside him. It was a beautiful day and most of the students had headed outside to study, except for Ron and Seamus who were in detention for some prank pulled in Divinations. Harry was sitting beneath what he, Ron, and Hermione considered "their" tree. Draco was across the lake in the "Slytherin zone." Harry knew this because he'd been studying Draco for most of the hour he'd been sitting there. Was it because he missed being with his bondmate? Classes had resumed three days ago and Draco had been constantly surrounded by the Slytherins. And while it was true that they were never really together, maybe Hermione had a point. Maybe he was missing the contact they'd had during the break. "They take good care of him."

"His year-mates?" Harry nodded. "They're almost Hufflepuff-like when it comes to him," Hermione murmured. "Are they truly going to join the Light side?"

"Yeah. They're just trying to figure out the safest way of doing that."

She opened the book she brought, but even knowledge right there in the palm of her hand couldn't distract Hermione from the sheer pleasure of being outside. She gave up and transfigured a leaf into a blanket. Harry joined her on it, both sprawled in the direction of the Slytherins.

"At first, I thought it was all a ploy," Hermione said. "Draco getting involved with you, getting pregnant. I just knew it was You-Know-Who--"

"Voldemort," Harry corrected familiarly.

"I thought it was a plan by Voldemort to make you vulnerable. But when the binding ceremony worked, I knew it was real. I'm happy for you, Harry."

Harry gave her a smile and went back to staring at Draco. He'd sussed out some things as well. Fact: he'd been under the influence of something when he'd raped Draco. Conclusion: somebody had fucking planned something. He didn't know whether it was to set him up for Azkaban, humiliate Draco, or even if a pregnancy had been part of the original thinking or just an added bonus. Fact: Draco and Snape had figured out who the fucking planner was. Otherwise, they'd be so bloody vigilant that it'd make Mad-Eye Moody come in his trousers. Fact: The two had been quick to drop the investigation. Supposition: it must have been a Slytherin of good standing with the two of them. Otherwise, the perpetrator would have been systematically hunted down and pinned outside the Great Hall by his/her entrails. Fact--no, Supposition: Draco and his Slytherins had been pretty desperate to get away from Voldemort. Sure, Draco had made his final decision based on the baby, but Harry could tell he wasn't devastated by having to give up being a Death Eater. The other Slytherins didn't seem that broken up either.

So, the culprit who had caused him to rape Draco was a Slytherin that Draco and Snape liked, and who desperately wanted a way out of serving Voldemort. Even a Gryffindor, he thought with a smirk, could figure out that it had to be one of Draco's crew who'd done the deed. If not all of them. He reasoned that the others had got together and sacrificed their leader, knowing that if anyone could salvage a bad situation, it was Draco. Draco had probably been furious when he figured it out, but he and Snape would have done their own brand of retribution and considered the matter settled. Harry itched for his piece of the miscreants, too, but realized he'd be crossing the line if he interfered. He and Draco might be bound, but the other Slytherins were still off limits.

And, of course, he was supposed to know nothing about this. Just how mentally challenged did the Slytherins think he was? His poor, betrayed-by-his-friends-for-the-greater-good Draco was in for a rude awakening one day.

Poor Draco. Yeah, right. The git, after his initial anger, probably got off on being the "sacrificial lamb" for the Slytherins. A noble martyr and all that rot. Or not. "I wish I knew him better," Harry mused aloud.

"You're going to be spending the rest of your lives together. I think you'll figure him out sooner or later."

Harry unclenched the fingers he found suddenly digging in the dirt. "I might not have that much later, Hermione."

"Harry!"

"It's true and you know it. After Sirius... I wasn't suicidal or anything, but I came to accept that I probably wouldn't live to see twenty. My only concern was that when I went, I took Voldemort with me. But now... My child might grow up like me. I mean, with Draco changing sides, his odds of survival are nearly as low as mine."

"He won't grow up like you, Harry," Hermione said, smiling wistfully at him. "No matter what happens, he'll know he's the son of Harry Potter. The Wizarding world will make sure of that. Even Voldemort can't wipe out all the Weasleys."

Harry laughed. "Said by the most probable candidate for being the newest Weasley."

She blushed. "Ron and I haven't got that serious quite yet."

"Well, maybe you would be if he could keep his arse out of detention," Harry pointed out helpfully.

"Hush, Harry. Ron and I are right where we want to be. And speaking of being in the right place, I think you're going to be there in a minute."

He looked up to see Draco approaching them. Pansy Parkinson called out something to stop him, then she joined him in the walk to the Gryffindors.

"Harry."

"Draco." He wasn't too sure how he was supposed to act in public. Sure, Parkinson had seen him with Draco but both times had been in emergencies.

Draco seemed to understand his reticence. "Don't worry about Pans. I was coming to talk to you by myself, but she said if you were going to have your fag hag with you, I needed one, too."

Harry turned quickly to Hermione, ready to soothe her ruffled feathers. But he found her grinning at her counterpart.

"Want to get T-shirts?" Hermione asked wickedly.

"We'll talk," Pansy said with a smirk.

Women. Maybe there was a reason he was married to Draco. "Have a seat," Harry offered. The two Slytherins elegantly folded their limbs onto the blanket.

"My min--compatriots and I have been discussing the future, and although none of us are seers, we know that we won't have a future if Voldemort is not defeated," Draco said quietly.

"None of us will," Harry replied.

"The Sorting Hat has been admonishing us for years, cautioning us that the Houses had to unite inside Hogwarts. It's time to heed its warnings."

"But you and Harry have," Hermione pointed out.

Draco shook his head. "Not inside Hogwarts we haven't. To our fellow students, we're still archrivals."

"Are you saying what I think you're saying?" Harry queried. Surely Draco wasn't advocating...

Draco sighed. "It's not my first choice or my second, but it is the best choice. We're not like you Gryffindors. We study a problem first, then act. So believe me when I say this is the best solution, given the information that we know."

"I study first," Hermione protested.

"Time-turner," Harry said, reminding her of how they had saved Buckbeak and Sirius. Dumbledore had made the suggestion, but it had been Hermione's caper all the way.

"So we--" Harry stopped, unable to say it.

"Unless you have an objection?"

He shook his head. He didn't care who knew--unless it put Draco in danger. "Is this safe? For you?"

Draco stared off into the distance. "I gave up 'safe' the moment I chose you, Harry."

There was a drawn out, painful moment of silence.

"This will work," Pansy declared. "It's time we stopped ignoring those who would help us simply because it goes against what we've been taught. We need to go back to the old ways, to trusting the signs, to listening to the omens and warnings. We know Potter is the key, that he will defeat You-Know-Who. But this--conflict, war, whatever, is not just Potter and the Dark Lord. We all have to play our parts."

Harry was impressed, and he could tell Hermione was also. They'd been so blinded by Voldemort being a Slytherin that they hadn't considered that shrewdness, cunning, and ambition weren't bad traits to possess.

Harry reached slowly for Draco's shoulder. "Your father?"

"Will be pissed, especially after lying to his face the other day. But I think I've devised a way of delaying his knowing."

Harry nodded, trusting Draco to do what was in Draco's best interest. It was very liberating not having to worry that someone was possibly sacrificing himself or herself for him. "Then that's what we'll do--play our parts. How do you want to do this, Draco?"

"With wands fully drawn?" Draco muttered. Then he lifted his head proudly and gave a full-blown Malfoy smirk. "Like I do everything, Harry--with style."

Chapter 24: Great Hall Encounters

Draco surveyed the view from the Gryffindor table--and was not impressed. Hmph. You'd think Dumbledore's Golden Boy would have a decent view. But no, the Great Hall was just that and nothing more. Pity.

It was early yet and the sunshine was tempting the majority of the students to stay outside as long as possible so the room was empty, except for a trio of young Hufflepuffs who were giggling over something and not paying any attention to the room's other occupants. Such silly creatures. He and Blaise had a bet that Hufflepuffs would giggle even under Cruciatus. If he'd become a Death Eater, he might have found out.

Hmm. What was the size of that bet?

"Gryffindors on approach," Blaise hissed from his position further down the table. Draco, of course, was next to Harry. Blaise had decided to play gentleman and sat at the end of the row of "traitorous" Slytherins, protecting the others from possible furious Gryffindors. Draco thought his whole explanation was pure bull; Blaise just wanted to be closest to the door.

Draco looked up at the four approaching Gryffindors. Finnigan, Thomas, and the two tarts--Brown and one of those Indian twins. The tarts were giggling like Hufflepuffs and the blokes had their heads together, probably plotting something "brave." They were almost at the table before they noticed that something was different. Their eyes shot to Potter, then Granger, before going back to Potter again. Potter, brave idiot that he was, just smiled at them.

"Slumming, Harry?" Finnigan asked in what he probably thought was a suave manner.

"Sitting with friends, Seamus. Nothing's wrong with that, is it?"

Draco was impressed. Harry's voice had the right amount of casualness with a hint of challenge tossed in for good measure. And apparently, Finnigan wasn't as big a fool as he appeared.

"No, Harry. Nothing's wrong with that." He shrugged at the other three standing with him, and the four of them sat down with no other comments.

"You have them nicely trained," Draco whispered to Potter.

"They're not--" Potter began. Then he just shook his head. "They've known me a long time. They're giving me the benefit of the doubt."

Draco rolled his eyes. Did Potter not understand the amount of influence he had? People would always kiss his arse in hope that he'd save theirs.

"Slytherins."

Draco stiffened at Blaise's new warning. This could be...tricky. Why had he agreed to this--coming out/Houses uniting thing? He didn't care about saving Hogwarts or as Pansy said, "the next generation of Slytherins." Why had he listened to his minions? Why had his minions even dared to request such behavior from him? Minions were supposed to listen, not make suggestions that risked his life and limb.

Nott had been wrong; he'd make a lousy Dark Lord.

"Mr. Malfoy?"

Draco turned to look evenly into the eyes of a Second Year Slytherin. Fifth and Sixth Years stood behind him. Cowards. "Yes, Bennington?" He knew them all by name. It added to the terror they had of him.

"Why--" the youngster stopped, scared to complete the question. Then one of his companions elbowed him in the back. "Why are you sitting here instead of at our table?"

"Because this is a Hogwarts table, which means it's mine, too. Nothing here belongs to just one House. We don't have to sit at just one table. We don't have to only befriend those in our own House. A House is just the place where your dorm is; it is not your life."

"So...So are you saying Potter is your friend now?" The boy's confusion was mirrored on the faces behind him--and on every other face in the large room. Poor Bennington. Everyone was hiding behind a twelve-year-old. Draco smiled. Bennington was going to make a hell of a Slytherin.

"Yes, Bennington. Harry is my friend. Say hello to Mr. Potter, a Hogwarts student just as you are."

"Hello, Mr. Potter," Bennington said obediently.

"Hello, Bennington. You can call me Harry if you want to. What's your name?"

"Og--Ogden, sir."

"You want to have a seat, Ogden?" Potter slid down to offer a space beside him.

"No--no thank you, sir. But I appreciate the offer." Ogden took a big step backward and nearly ran to the Slytherin table.

"That was fun," Draco said, grinning sharkishly.

"What a polite boy," Hermione gushed.

"Petrified is more like it," Harry said dryly. "What did you do to them, Draco?"

"Manners are a sign of good breeding," Draco replied. He started to add "but I'm sure that's a foreign concept to you lot," then he considered his current location and kept his mouth shut.

The Hall continued to fill with students that stared, mumbled and pointed. Just when Draco was wondering which hex would be the most effective--and he was seriously considering starting with the professors' table since they knew and still stared-- Ron Weasley walked in. The resulting quiet was so sudden and so complete that Draco looked around to see who cast the Silencing spell.

But it was no spell; merely a crowd waiting to see what Potter's best friend and Malfoy's most bitter enemy would do. Weasley took no heed of anything around him as he slumped into an empty space beside Granger. "I hate detentions," he muttered to no one in particular.

"But it was a good prank you pulled in Divinations," Crabbe, sitting on Weasley's right, said.

Ron grinned without a trace of repentance. "Yeah, it was, wasn't it?" He sat up and looked around. The crowd drew in a breath.

"Malfoy?"

The crowd leaned forward in anticipation.

"Yes, Weasley?"

The excitement level increased.

"Pass the sausages." The plate was handed across. "Thanks."

"You're welcome."

The Hall exploded.

"Noisy today," Weasley observed, blithely chomping on one of the requested items.

"Spring fever," Draco replied.

"Oh. Wouldn't know anything about that. Too busy polishing crystal balls."

"Speaking of," Hermione interrupted. "Why were you so much later arriving than Seamus?"

"I accidentally cracked one of the balls, so I had to scrub teacups afterwards."

"Not fun," Goyle murmured sympathetically.

"Scrying bowls are the easiest," Crabbe observed.

The background noise level increased.

"Harry?" Draco whispered.

"Yeah?" Harry whispered back.

"Kiss me."

"What!" Definitely not a whisper. He looked around nervously, then continued whispering. "Um, maybe we should wait until they've got over this first shock."

"This is the perfect time. Trust me."

"I--"

Since timing was extremely critical, Draco decided to take the bull by the horns, so to speak. He grabbed Potter's ears and pulled him close. The kiss was tentative at first, then Potter seemed to figure out he was supposed to participate and it was--not bad. Potter looked a little dazed when Draco released him, and the Slytherin smiled.

"All right there?" he asked.

Potter nodded dumbly.

Draco laughed delightedly.

Harry blinked and grinned. "Your definition of 'style' is going to take some getting used to."

"Not quite the same word as 'subtle,' huh?" Draco teased. It was a good kiss, not frightening in the least. Maybe they should try another one in the very near future.

"I think you broke everybody."

Draco glanced around the room. All eyes were fixed on the two of them. Mouths were frozen in various position, as were hands, and all eating was halted in progress. "They'll 'unbreak' soon."

"Huh?"

Just then the doors of the Hall flew open and Mitchell Flint stumbled in, his hands pressed tightly against his forehead. He first went to the Slytherin table and glared. When no one reacted, he searched the room and found Draco. He marched over to the Gryffindor table.

"What have you done to me, you son of a bitch!"

"What are you on about, Flint?" Draco asked, blinking innocently.

"This!" He dropped his hands and the Hall gasped. Instead of a forehead where a forehead should be, there was a pair of rounded buttocks. Two seconds later, there was a sound and the mounds of flesh shuddered.

Mitchell Flint had farted from his head.

Draco wrinkled his nose and waved the air. "My goodness, Flint, has no one taught you any manners?"

Flint went for his wand. Before he could completely draw it, there was an entire table of wands pointed at him. Draco briefly wondered if he should be grateful to the Gryffindors for their support, then decided it was just them being Gryffindors.

"You should get someone to look at that, you know. I think muggles call them...proctologists?" He looked at Granger for confirmation. He'd overheard some of the mudbloods talking about different types of medi--um, doctors--and had become curious.

Flint threw down his wand and went for Draco's throat. He got a handful of Potter instead.

A handful of angry Potter.

Draco thought his bondmate rather impressive. Green eyes flashed behind the stupid glasses. The right hook landed solidly. And the dive to follow Flint to the floor could have easily been done on a broom. Harry apparently didn't need a lot of tutelage in style himself.

"Enough, Mr. Potter!"

Professor Snape stood over the fighters, his wand drawn but not in use. Harry got in another punch, then stood up with a snarl. "You're on my list, Flint!"

"He-he's threatening me, Professor," Flint whined to the head of his House.

"You started the threats, Mr. Flint. Potter was within his right to defend his--fellow classmate."

"But-but Malfoy did this to me!"

Draco snorted. "You made an arse out of yourself, Flint, when you took it upon yourself to inform my father of my personal business." He made sure everyone heard his threat. Not that he had any hope in hell that this wouldn't make it back to Lucius. He was just giving them--and Harry--fair warning that retribution would be forthcoming.

"Let's get you to Madam Pomfrey," Snape said. "You seem to have the worst case of acne I've ever seen."

Flint's head farted again.

"Cover yourself!" Snape ordered and dragged the boy out of the Hall.

Ron waited until the doors closed before he burst out laughing. The rest of the students followed.

The whole Potter and Malfoy kiss was sort of forgotten in the merriment.

Well, not really. But it was safer to just laugh.

Chapter 25: Not Exactly A Country Cottage

Harry thought the silence between him and Draco to be companionable as they walked together to Dumbledore's office. The past several days had been a lot more peaceful than he'd expected after their display in the Great Hall. But what happened with Flint not only put their kiss on the backburner of the students' minds, it also served as a direct warning of what could happen if they spread Malfoy business without Malfoy permission. Harry had no doubt that it would eventually make the Daily Prophet, but it had yet to appear.

Ron's reaction also helped. It was well-known that nobody hated Draco as much as Ron. So when he accepted the presence of Slytherins in Gryffindor territory and Harry kissing Draco, it sort of took the wind out of many outraged sails. Harry had thanked him afterward, and Ron had just shrugged and mumbled something about how his father had warned his sons about the dangers of having dinner with the in-laws. Considering the shudder Ron concluded his mumble with, Harry briefly wondered about Mrs. Weasley's side of the family.

"Harry, Draco, come in. Lemon drop?" Dumbledore held out a candy dish with one hand while stroking his beard with the other.

Both declined the treat. "You wanted to speak with us, Headmaster?" Harry asked politely, but tensely.

"I know that both of you have concerns about what will happen after you leave Hogwarts. I would like to ease those concerns by telling you that you don't have to leave."

"Sir?" Harry was confused. He wished Dumbledore would get to the point faster when he made pronouncements like that.

"Hogwarts is a very vital part of the Wizarding community. Within its halls are much of the Wizarding future, students who will one day be the next Minister of Magic, the most sought after mediwizard, or even the next Headmaster here. It is also a symbol of strength in these trying times, and I fear if Hogwarts were to fall to the machinations of Mr. Riddle, the entire Wizarding population would lose heart. Therefore, I think Hogwarts should be protected at all costs, which out of necessity does not mean Aurors, as they are needed elsewhere and are spread too thin as is. No, Hogwarts needs to be defended by its own, which is why I have proposed the formation of H.O.M.E."

"Home?"

"Hogwarts Organized Militia Ensemble. It will consist entirely of former Hogwarts students, who will be trained by not only the professors here, but have a revolving offering of outside instructors. Pay will be similar to the Auror system and room and board will of course be included. At one time Hogwarts was the only European Wizarding academy and enrollment was so large that it was divided into a lower school and then an upper school for those who had passed their O.W.L.s. With the opening of other academies, the lower school section sealed itself off. Now it will re-open to become dormitories and training facilities for the militia."

"And you want us to be members of the militia?" Harry asked, hoping that's what Dumbledore was getting around to.

"The founding members," Dumbledore said solemnly.

Harry could hardly believe it. He'd basically get to be an Auror without leaving the only home he knew. He looked excitedly at Draco who seemed considerably less excited. "Draco?"

"I'm in no condition to be some kind of soldier, Harry. Madam Pomfrey has already threatened to take away my wand if I cast too many times a day."

"Draco, your binding to Harry assures your place at his side, so your being here, your condition not withstanding, is not an issue. However, wars are won with thought as much as action. Your insight and intelligence will serve us well," Dumbledore explained gently.

"Until my mind turns to goo, and I spend my days drooling and looking like I swallowed Hagrid's pumpkin patch," Draco replied bitterly. "That's what you're expecting, isn't it? That's why I had to take my N.E.W.T.s early. That's why you've set monitoring spells on me."

Harry looked at Draco in shock, then he turned to look at Dumbledore. He knew by the lack of twinkle in the Headmaster's eyes that what Draco had accused him of was true.

"The pregnancy has strengthened your magic a great deal if you're aware of what I've done," Dumbledore said conversationally, as if he hadn't violated Draco's rights or whatever.

"Take them off," Harry demanded on Draco's behalf.

"He can't," Draco responded, dryly. "After all, the Boy-Who-Lived-In-Order-To-Save-Their-Arses could be attacked by his bonded and who would save their arses then?"

"It's as much for your protection, Draco, as it is for Harry's," Dumbledore said.

Harry couldn't believe the Headmaster had just admitted to. Draco was being watched like a criminal in order to protect the-Boy-Who-Lived. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair. It totally pissed him off. "Take them off, Dumbledore!" Dumbledore's candy dish rattled on the desk.

"Please calm yourself, Harry. You don't want to accidentally hurt Draco."

"Don't use me to control him," Draco warned.

But Harry knew Dumbledore had a point. He couldn't let himself get too out of control. "It's all right, Draco. I don't want to hurt you and if I'm not careful, I could."

Draco nodded. "Fine. Then let the matter drop. If I'm not watched, I could hurt you. So I guess it means we're even."

Harry dropped his eyes to his hands, the braided rope around his wrist seemingly glowing. "You don't have to stay here with me, you know. You could go into hiding or something."

"Do you really think there's somewhere safer than Hogwarts?"

"No," Harry answered honestly. Hogwarts had always been his sanctuary.

"Then, we stay. I'm assuming this group is open to Slytherins as well?" Draco asked, directing his question to Dumbledore.

"Of course, my boy! After all, that's what the 'E' stands for-- Ensemble: a unit or group of complementary parts that contribute to a single effect. That means I want representatives of all of Hogwarts--Slytherins, Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs--involved in this endeavor. We must unite, and thanks to the two of you, the unification has started. I'm hoping that you will continue to lead Hogwarts in such a manner."

"Will there be an open call to join, or is this by invitation only?" Harry asked.

"It will be announced at the final Seventh Year meeting. That should give students time enough to think about it and make their decisions. Of course, if there are particular students you wish to discuss this with before the official announcement, you have my permission." Dumbledore stood and rounded the desk until he was standing just before them. "Gentlemen, I do not want you to think that this is your only option. You both have my full support and protection no matter what you do following the end of your studies here."

But Harry knew that this was the best way to keep Draco and the baby safe. Harry looked at Draco and saw that he'd come to the same conclusion. "We accept your invitation to be a part of H.O.M. E., sir."

"How exciting!" Dumbledore beamed brighter than the sun coming through the office windows. "The moment the two of you entered these halls, the walls whispered to me that you would be the authors of change. Given your history here, I wasn't sure that was a good thing, until I witnessed your binding and sensed the beginning of a new era for this venerable institution, as well as the entire Wizarding world. You will both do great things, gentlemen...great things."

Uncomfortable with what sounded like another prophecy, Harry stood, Draco following suit. "Thank you for considering us for your, um, project, Professor. Know that we will defend Hogwarts to the best of our abilities."

"I already know that, Harry."

Harry gathered Draco with a glance and hurried out of the office before Dumbledore could go on. He didn't want to know there was something else he was supposed to do; killing Voldemort was enough.

*****

"Don't let the old coot unnerve you," Draco said as they rode the staircase down. It was a Saturday which meant no classes. They headed outside.

"I wasn't--" Potter began, then sighed. "Sometimes I just wish I could live my life without any expectations at all."

"That's what you're doing."

Potter rolled his eyes. "Oh, really?"

"You're bound to me and I'm having your baby. You can't tell me that was in anyone's expectations," Draco pointed out.

Potter smiled. "I guess you have a point. So, you okay with this H.O.M.E. business?"

"Despite what the Headmaster said, we didn't have many other options."

"We could just run away. America, Australia..."

"What about your 'expectations'?"

"To hell with them. All I want to do is keep you and the baby safe."

It was Draco's turn to sigh. Potter could be so--earnest. "We already know the best way to do that."

Potter nodded. "I kill Voldemort."

He sounded so resigned and sad that Draco couldn't help but pat his shoulder. "I'll help, you know. For as long as I can."

"Thanks," Harry murmured. "I'll help you, too, if something goes wonky because of the pregnancy. But it's all just speculation, right?"

Draco shrugged and flushed. "Something's already happened."

"What? Something bad?" Harry asked anxiously.

"No, not bad--just odd. Remember Pomfrey saying the baby is very protective of itself? I could feel it take over my magic when my father appeared in the hospital wing."

"Draco! Your father could have--"

"But you and Dumbledore came running to the rescue, so he didn't," Draco said matter-of-factly. "And that's not the odd thing that's happened."

"Tell me."

"Two nights ago, I had a nightmare. I can't even remember what it was about, but I woke up and my heart was pounding. All of a sudden, I felt the tug on my magic again and every candle in the dorm lit itself. I guess the baby got scared, too, and for the past couple of nights, even though I haven't had a nightmare, the candles are lit when I wake in the morning. Blaise has started sleeping in a mask, and nothing bothers Vince or Greg once they're asleep. But it's...weird knowing that it's my magic doing it, but not my will."

"It sounds like--"

"Imperius. I know--and I really don't know why I got so angry about Dumbledore's monitoring spells because they really are for my own safety. Hopefully, now that we have some idea about the future, the baby will feel safer and not draw on my magic so much."

"The future. Not exactly a country cottage, is it?" Harry said as they angled toward the lake.

"Why would you want a country cottage?"

"It's a Muggle thing. In all the great romances, the couple gets together and go live in a beautiful cottage with roses around the door, a big yard and a magnificent front garden. Oh, and a swing hanging from a big tree. It's all nonsense, really."

Nonsense Harry apparently believed in. Draco felt a hint of guilt for his part in denying Harry his muggle fantasy. He blamed the baby for the hereto unfelt feeling. "Maybe we don't have a country cottage, Harry, but we have the strongest wards in the magical world. And we can't complain about a castle instead of a cottage, can we?" He gave Harry an indulgent smile. "Instead of a garden, we have herbology greenhouses and the lovely Forbidden Forest. And--" he tossed three acorns in the air and waved his wand. A rope and plank swing hung from a nearby branch.

"Pure nonsense," Harry repeated with a grin as he ran ahead and jumped on the swing.

"Utter nonsense," Draco agreed as he applauded Harry's first venture into the air.

Chapter 26: A Day In Hogsmeade

It was the Saturday before the beginning of N.E.W.T.s and every seventh year Hogwarts student was in Hogsmeade. Tomorrow would be spent revising, but today was THEIR day and they were going to enjoy it. No longer hampered by House divisions, the groups of witches and wizards were larger and louder. The residents of Hogsmeade weren't sure what was different, but that something was. That was evident by how hard they stared at the sight of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy sitting side by side in The Three Broomsticks. Some even peered through the doorway and windows at them.

"Where's Flint when you need him?" Draco grumbled as they left the tavern. Although Pomfrey had managed to return the dumb shit's forehead to normal, Draco could always hex him again. It had been a good hex: a combination of a transfiguration and a charm. Professor Flitwick had complimented him on it. McGonagall had merely looked down her nose at him.

Some things never changed.

"As much trouble as you used to cause in Hogsmeade, I'm sure this isn't the first time you've been stared at, Draco," Granger said as she angled toward the book store. Weasley grabbed her elbow and steered her toward Honeydukes instead.

"Yes, well, it's the first time I've been six months pregnant and stared at," he replied defensively. Being stared at because you were a Malfoy was one thing; being stared at because you were a freak was another.

"Isn’t that the reason we're all wearing our robes? So you won't stand out?" Weasley asked.

"No one can tell, Draco," Potter said gently.

Draco grimaced. Maybe they couldn't tell, but he certainly could. His clothes were all charmed to stretch, and his body no longer moved the way he expected it to. He knew witches got big when they were carrying, but this was ridiculous. Three more months to go. He didn't think he was going to make-- "Oh, God." One step into the candy shop and the sugary smell was about to make him throw up.

"Draco?"

He shook his head and backed out. "I'll wait out here for you." He'd avoided morning sickness, but sometimes strong odors got to him. "Maybe I can't take the smell of the store, Potter, but I still like chocolate," he hinted when Potter moved as if he was staying outside with him.

Potter grinned. "I'll get you something."

Draco felt like patting him on the head for being a good Potter, but instead gave a weak smile and walked across the street to window shop at Glad Rags. Of course there was no way he could fit into anything there now, but he could look and remember the good times when he was slim and always impeccably dressed.

"Draco."

Draco looked at his reflection in the window and saw Lucius' looming over him.

Fuck.

He automatically reached for his wand, then remembered Pomfrey had confiscated it because, in her vaulted mediwitch opinion, he was using too much magic. Not that having a wand would have done any good--all his magic was now centered at his stomach. "Father," he said politely. He could feel the bracelet around his wrist throbbing frantically and realized Harry would know something bad was happening. Rescue was coming; he only had to bluff his way into living until it arrived. And hope that his father wasn't angry enough to do something "unforgivable" in public.

"Come with me. We need to talk, son. I tried to see you at Hogwarts, but the wards wouldn't let me in. That's quite strange, isn't it?"

It was reassuring that Snape hadn't lied to him about the problem being solved. It was also reassuring to have a reassuring thought when one's life was in jeopardy. Still, it would have been better all around if Snape himself, and not just the reassuring thought of him, was present. "The Weasley twins have been playing pranks lately, so I think the wards were changed to keep relatives out unless specifically invited," Draco lied smoothly.

"I see. It's a good thing, then, that I remembered that this was the last Saturday before your examinations. I was sure that you'd be here in the village, and I was correct."

That's what he got for hanging around with predictable Gryffindors. And speaking of such linear-thinking creatures, where the hell was Harry? "Why are you here, Father?"

"Why am I here? That's a ridiculous question and beneath your level of intelligence to ask it. Take this, son." He held out a coin. "It will take us somewhere comfortable to talk. Conversing on the street is for muggles and commoners."

Draco shook his head. "I'm waiting for my friends. I don't want them to think I've abandoned them."

"Like you've abandoned your parents? How can you ask why I'm here to see you? You owl and say you're not coming home for the Spring holidays because you have a project. That's fine. Then you owl and say you're not coming home ever again. That's...that's unacceptable."

"Accept it, Father, for it's true."

Lucius held out his hand beseechingly, like Draco was supposed to forget the coin that it held. "I don't understand. At least tell me something to explain this to your mother. She's heartbroken."

More like furious, Draco thought. Before he could fake concern, and tell Lucius to keep his damn hands to himself, Harry sprinted across the street, wand clutched tightly in his fist.

"Draco?"

"Everything's okay, Harry. My father was just concerned over the contents of my last owl to them." He turned back to Lucius. "Tell Mother that she isn't to worry about me. I've merely left the shadows and am now basking in the Light."

Lucius drew himself up to his full height and took a step in front of Draco, his wand raised. "So the rumors are true," Lucius spat. "You are consorting with the likes of him. Have you been hexed? Or are you merely being a slave to your teenage hormones? There are--establishments--to take care of that sort of thing, if that's your motive in all this."

Draco rolled his eyes. "Like the proper Slytherin that I am, I've carefully weighed my options...and have discovered I have no options at all."

"Nonsense! And stop cowering behind Potter."

"I'm not cowering. I'm merely standing where I choose to stand."

"Draco, this foolishness must stop now. If our Lord--"

"Your lord, Father, not mine. I am a proper Malfoy. I bow to no one, especially not to a crazed half-blood, whose wanton taste for blood and lust for the kill has decimated his own following, whose delusions of grandeur have blinded him to the reality of his opposition, and whose arrogance and presumption of superiority is leading him toward a defeat so absolute that it has never been equaled in the annals of history."

"How dare you lecture me on being a Malfoy!"

Draco stood tall as Granger and Weasley moved in behind Potter and him. And he felt absolutely fearless when he saw his Slytherins fall in behind them. "And how dare you disgrace our name by enslaving yourself to Voldemort! But don't worry; after the defeat of your master," Draco sneered, "I shall restore our legacy and ensure that my descendents live in fame, not infamy."

"It will not be your legacy for long."

"Disown me and you pave the way for the Ministry to take everything you and every other Malfoy have worked for. Do you really want that? Do you really want to languish in Azkaban or in Hell, knowing that the Ministry is profiting off of you?"

Lucius cocked his head to one side. "Are you really that sure of Potter?"

"Yes."

"And am I'm to take it that you have corrupted your friends, as well? Their parents are quite concerned."

"Their parents should be concerned about themselves."

"Draco, I forbid--"

"I'm seventeen. I don't have to listen to you anymore. I can think for myself. I can act for myself. And I have thought. And I have acted. And you, Father, have to live with that."

"You forget yourself, son."

"No, I think I'm just discovering who I am."

Lucius snorted, reached inside his robe--

And sailed across the street to slam into a wall where a witch, who was selling headache potions in a painted ad, pointed her product toward him and smiled.

Draco looked at Harry in shock and admiration.

"Whoa! I didn't do it," Harry said quickly.

Draco's eyes widened. "Well, I didn't do it. I don't even have a wand!" They looked at their friends who all shook their heads. Then Draco looked at his stomach and cringed. "Oh, shit," he whispered.

"Oh, shit," Harry agreed.

They looked back across the street--and saw Lucius apparating away.

Draco felt his heart racing and knew he had to get away before he did something stupid like faint...or cry. "I want to go back to Hogwarts," he said softly.

"Okay," said Harry.

*****

Harry waited for Draco to move and when he didn't, he took hold of his hand and gently tugged his bondmate in the direction of the school. After a few steps, the tugging stopped but the hand-holding didn't. It frightened him to see Draco so complacent, but he had to admit Draco had reason to be rattled. Lucius Malfoy now knew for a fact that his son had turned to the Light. Nothing good could come from that knowledge.

"We can't leave the school grounds ever again, can we?" Parkinson asked. She, the other Slytherins, and the Gryffindors had formed a phalanx around them and Harry hoped it was making Draco feel more secure.

"You can all expect owls from your parents," Draco murmured and Harry was grateful that he seemed to be coming out of shock. "I wouldn't touch anything they send with your bare hands. It could be a portkey...or worse."

"Worse?" Ron asked.

"He means poisoned," Zabini answered.

"Their own kids?"

"They'll do whatever that foul, maybe once human, piece of erumpent shit they serve tells them to do!" Draco spat. "It was all fucking lies! I can see that now. All that shit about protecting the future for purebloods. They don't care--He doesn't care--about blood. He's just using that to fucking lead them around by their fucking noses. We're supposed to be fucking cherished, not fucking sacrificed for He-Who-Should-Be-Fucking- Put-Down-Like-The-Fucking-Dark-Creature-He-Is!"

"Draco, you need to calm down," Hermione encouraged anxiously.

"But he's right," Ron said softly. "All Wizarding children are supposed to be cherished and celebrated. The magical population grows smaller every year and when it's increased, it's a time for rejoicing. You and Harry don't get it. You were surprised when I accepted that the two of them are together. But the rest of you understand, right?" He glanced at the Slytherins and they nodded. "There's a wizard growing inside Malfoy. The future, our future. I'm happy about that, no matter who his parents are, no matter how he came to be. That's why we avoid having bastards. Children--happy, safe, well-loved children with two parents to look after them--are the only way we can ensure that there will be wizards and witches after us and forever."

Harry stared open-mouthed at Ron. He--he hadn't known. God, he was so lost when it came to the Wizarding world sometimes. But as he glanced around, he saw that he wasn't the only one feeling lost. The Slytherins were looking absolutely shattered. Standing up to Lucius Malfoy must've been like confronting their very own parents, parents who had once treated them as the most precious of possessions, and now threatened them because they didn't want to follow a madman.

Harry didn't know what it felt like to be cherished as a child, but he did know what it felt like to have Voldemort rip your parents away from you. He looked back at Draco and saw the pale hand resting protectively against his stomach. Placing his own hand over Draco's he vowed that Voldemort would never survive to devastate another generation.

A very subdued group, lost in memories of what was and what should be, made their way back to the castle.

Chapter 27: Fully-Trained Wizards and Witches

Harry alternated between rushing to the dungeons and crawling toward them. He'd taken his final N.E.W.T. and while he would have loved to have gone to his dorm and slept for the next thirty-six hours, he was highly aware of the fact that he'd ignored his bondmate for the better part of a week. Yes, taking the N.E.W.T.s was a valid excuse for his action, but--and this was a big but--Draco had to be still hurting from the confrontation with Lucius. He was frightened...and Harry had left him to worry alone. Well, he hadn't been alone alone. Draco's year-mates had kept an eye on him and Harry had remembered to ask them about Draco every day. According to them, he was keeping busy. Since he couldn't help his friends with their N.E.W.T.s, he'd coached the Fifth-Years through their O.W.L.s and helped several others with their finals. Harry thought it sounded like Draco was coping well, until Parkinson made the observation that she didn't know what Draco was going to do once he ran out of things to do when he couldn't find anything to do other than think.

But how did someone cope when his father was probably plotting his death?

"Parkinson," he called as she was disappearing into the Slytherin common room.

"Potter. It'll probably be best if you didn't come in at the moment. I'm sure some of us are in foul moods after such exhausting tests. I'll send him out to you." Harry nodded in understanding. Even Gryffindors weren't on their best behavior when tired. "And, Potter?"

"Yeah?"

"Do try to be kind. The encounter with his father has left him feeling like shit. He needs to feel loved for a bit."

"What? Why didn't you tell me that when I asked about him earlier?" Harry nearly yelled.

"He knew you had N.E.W.T.s and we were under strict orders to keep you away. If it makes you feel any better, he kept us at a distance as well. For a selfish, egotistical bloke, Draco can be surprisingly considerate if he wants to be." She gave a tender, sad smile and disappeared into the common room.

He wondered how much of her caring about Draco was guilt over what she and the others had done to him by giving Harry the rape potion. Sure, they had reason, and it wasn't working out too badly, but it had been a big risk they'd taken with their leader. What if he'd accidentally killed Draco, or Draco hadn't been strong enough to live with being raped? Some people as loud and brash as Draco were mentally weak underneath. What if Draco had tried to commit suicide or tried to get rid of the baby? What if--

"Potter, if you're going to fall asleep, at least have the decency to do it in private."

Harry blinked at the figure standing in front of him. When had Draco come out? "So--sorry," he stuttered. "I just got lost in thought for a second."

"Please tell me you're relying on instinct, not intellect, to kill Voldemort. After all, it wouldn't do to get 'lost' then, would it?" Draco commented, starting down the hall. "Outside is probably going to be rather crowded. Do you want to do this in an empty classroom?"

Harry pushed his glasses up. "Do what?"

"Look at--" he pointed at his stomach. "Isn't that why you hurried to the dungeons? It's been nearly a week since you had your last peep show."

Harry touched Draco on the sleeve to get his attention. "I won't mind seeing the baby, but I was coming to check on you," he explained.

Draco's eyes widened. "Oh. I'm fine, as you well know. They told me you asked about me."

"But hearing it from them and seeing you for myself are two different things."

Draco looked as if to argue, then just shook his head. "Pomfrey says I'm fine."

"Pomfrey? You went to see the nurse?"

"Just a regular check-up, Potter."

Harry relaxed. "I would have gone with you if you'd told me."

"You were in the middle of N.E.W.T.s, and I'm not so addled yet that I can't find the hospital wing on my own," he added sharply.

Harry wondered if he should conjure a sign to hover above Draco's head: Caution--Prickly Malfoy Below. "That's not what I meant. We're bound and we're having a baby. I should be with you, supporting you."

"I'm not some helpless witch."

"I didn't say you were." Harry sighed. Maybe he had it all wrong. The Slytherins hadn't caused him to rape Draco to save themselves; they'd done it to torture Harry Potter.

Like that was something new.

They let themselves into an empty classroom. Draco undid his robes and unbuttoned his shirt. Harry took out his wand and performed the incantation. An image formed, looking more like a baby than a worm.

"I'm sorry," Harry said as he watched his son. "Back in the beginning, when I accused you of maybe giving up the baby to get back with your father. I didn't know you--well, the whole Wizarding world--thought that much of children. I insulted you, and for once, I didn't even know I was doing it."

Draco stared at him. "Don't muggles cherish their children?"

"My Muggles didn't," Harry murmured.

Draco's eyes widened. "I know you said you had to live in a cupboard, and I thought it was because the muggles you lived with were cheap or had little room. But that's not it, is it?"

"My cousin Dudley, who's my age, had two bedrooms--one just for his broken toys."

Draco's hand settled on Harry's shoulder. "And what did you do with your broken toys?"

Harry dropped his head. "The only ones I had were those I sneaked out of the broken toy room."

Draco inhaled deeply. "And remind me once again why we're fighting against Voldemort?"

"Because all Muggles aren't the Dursleys. Just like not all Wizards are Death Eaters."

"Or all Malfoys," Draco added and Harry could hear how badly Saturday's encounter still haunted his husband's thoughts.

"Some Malfoys are smarter than others," Harry said with a smile.

"Damn right," Draco replied with a shaky grin. "So how did your N.E.W.T.s go?"

Harry shrugged, comfortable with changing the subject. "With the pressure off about having grades good enough to become an Auror, they were much easier than I expected." Tomorrow would be the Leaving Feast. After that, there was a week's break, then H.O.M.E. training would begin. In addition to his friends in Gryffindor and Draco's Slytherins, there had been a number of Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs who'd decided to join. Draco hadn't been too impressed by the Hufflepuffs, stating they only decided to join H.O.M.E. because it gave them a chance to stay "best friends forever," he'd quoted in a falsetto voice.

Harry didn't tell him that was part of the Gryffindor motivation as well.

"You know you don't have to stay here with me this week."

The Slytherins had no where to go, especially after Lucius had informed their parents of their defection to the Light. "Where else would I go?"

"Home with Weasley?"

Harry shook his head. "I'm where I want to be." And he truly was.

"Well, I'm not."

That hurt.

"I'd much rather be, say, in the south of France. We could walk along a beach or just drink butterbeers by a pool."

The "we" went a long way in soothing the hurt. "Maybe next year, Draco."

Draco nodded. "Yeah, maybe next-- Look!" he said, pointing to the floating image, "I think he's trying to wave."

Harry squinted at the image. "Actually, I think he's giving me the finger."

Draco grinned and murmured, "That's my boy!"

Harry thought he'd never looked prouder.

*****

The Great Hall was decorated in equal amounts of red and gold, green and silver, blue and bronze, and black and yellow, which was good because, unlike previous years, each table had an assortment of students. In fact, if there was any separation, it was more into year groups, the Seventh Years occupying the more "prime" spots.

"I wonder who won the House Cup this year?" Hermione asked. "Does anyone remember the levels of the hourglasses?" Everyone at the table shook their heads.

"It really hasn't mattered that much, has it, now that we're united," Pansy observed. “I wonder what it would’ve been like if this has happened earlier?”

“We wouldn’t have been of age for this to have happened earlier,” Blaise said. “Remember, this unity comes with a price to some of us.”

“It’ll be worth it, Blaise,” Draco said quietly. It had to be. Before Potter, who impulsively grabbed his hand, could open his mouth and make a rash promise, Dumbledore stood and called for their attention.

“Students, never have I been so proud as I am this moment. You have achieved what has not been achieved here at Hogwarts for two hundred years. War nor famine nor tragedy nor uprising has brought together the four Houses here at Hogwarts. I'm sure that when the Founders started this institution, they did not plan for it to be at all times and in all ways Slytherin versus Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw versus Hufflepuff. The Founders were friends; they expected the Houses to be friends and friendly rivals. But the idea was corrupted into a parody of its original intent and as it is well known, a house divided cannot stand. The Sorting Hat wisely pointed this out and you, my beloved students, heeded its warning. On behalf of Hogwarts, I thank you. Pettiness, spitefulness, and separatism have no place in war. And let's be clear on this, there is a war. Voldemort does exist and his armies even now are in battle, using their power against innocents.

"But thanks to you, Hogwarts will be a safe haven, a respite in a time, in a world of tumult. So to you, I humbly bow." As a prince before a king in times past, Dumbledore dropped to one knee before the assembly. No one breathed until he stood again.

"But there is a purpose to having Houses and those of you who have been fortunate to study under the tutelage of Professor Snape know this purpose." His eyes twinkled at the scowling Snape. "In regards to that, we get to the highlight of the Leaving Feast--the awarding of the House Cup. Current amounts, please." McGonagall handed him as scroll and he adjusted his glasses as it unfurled. "It seems that Ravenclaw leads with 500 points. Hufflepuff is closely behind with 400 points, followed by Gryffindor at 300 and Slytherin at two hundred. Now, as Headmaster, I would like to make a few adjustments. To all four Houses, for your spirit of unity, I give each House 100 points.

"For their delightful enthusiasm and general cheeriness, I award Hufflepuff 100 points." The Hufflepuffs squealed and started hugging each other.

"To Gryffindor, the winners of the Quidditch Cup--" There was a bout of cheering and even Draco deigned to clap--after all, he'd been sidelined, so Slytherin hadn't stood a chance-- "I award 100 points. For having the student with the highest combined score on N.E.W.T.s, I award 100 points to Gryffindor. Congratulations, Hermione Granger."

Draco rolled his eyes but clapped anyway. It had become an annual ritual for Dumbledore to give the House Cup to his precious Gryffindors. It had always been a thorn in his side, but this year, he had too many other things to worry about.

"For having the student who successfully passed the highest number of N.E.W.T.s, I award 100 points--to Slytherin. Congratulations, Mr. Malfoy."

Draco grinned and gave a mock bow. His grin grew as he saw Granger's stunned face.

"For extreme courage, for strength of heart and mind, for soul-rendering sacrifice, for fighting a war within their hearts that we of the Light can never fully comprehend, I award to Slytherin House--"

Draco knew what was coming. Dumbledore was going to make the numbers even, in respect for their newfound unity.

"--300 points." The multi-colored decorations turned to green and silver.

Everyone was stunned. Until Harry stood and began clapping. The Gryffindors joined him, as did the other two Houses a moment later.

It took several minutes for the excitement to die down enough for Dumbledore to say, "Seventh Years, please stand. As of this moment, you are all fully trained Wizards and Witches. It has been a pleasure and an honor to have been your Headmaster. And now, dinner is served."

The tables filled with food and the Hall with laughter and talk.

Another year at Hogwarts had ended.

Chapter 28: H.O.M.E.

"How'd you do it, Draco?" Granger asked as she passed him a bowl of figs. He'd never liked figs until the pregnancy.

"Please don't accuse me of being in league with our dotty Headmaster. Why he gave us 300 points--"

"No, I actually agree with that. I'm talking about the N.E.W.T.s. How did you get more than I did?"

"Oh. I took an independent study in Elven Magic."

"Why? Just to get more N.E.W.T.s than me?"

Well, yeah. But that was beside the point. "Not everything is about you, Granger."

She frowned but continued anyway. "But we can't access Elven magic. It's useless to us."

"Not totally useless. It's true we can't use the magic they use. Wizarding magic is internal, unique and intrinsic to the wizard, while Elves tap into the magic around them, boosting their own magical signature by accessing the inherent power of nature. But there are some aspects that we can use. Like if they tap into an ash tree for a healing spell, should we think about using ash trees in healing potions?"

She nodded. "I get it. If a particular item boosts their spells, maybe it could boost ours as well. That's brilliant. Why hasn't it been done before?"

"It has--to a limited degree. The problem is with the translation of Elven spells. They're mostly thoughts instead of words, and are hard to write down properly. It would help if we had an interpreter, but as we learned from Binns, the Elves haven't been friendly with wizards since 1955."

"And they've never explained why that happened," she agreed with an air of frustration so profound, that he wondered just how hard she had looked for the explanation. How very muggle of her. Any wizard could tell you that Elves did what they wanted to when they wanted to. "So which translation spell are you using? Something new?" she continued.

Draco shook his head. "I'm not using a spell."

"Then how--"

"Draco is fluent in Elven," Harry interrupted and Draco noted he was beaming with pride.

How odd.

"I wouldn't say 'fluent,'" Draco said modestly. "I haven't actually had a conversation with an actual elf. One of the few species our balmy--er, esteemed Headmaster hasn't hired as a professor here."

"Did you learn the language for this course?" Granger asked.

"Of course not." That would have been silly--and impossible to do. Did she have no concept of just how difficult a language Elven was? "I've been speaking Elven and five other languages since I was a child. The Malfoys have business interests all over the world. Father thought learning different languages was only prudent."

"But no wizard has business with elves anymore."

He shrugged. Lucius had left orders with his tutor and so he had been taught. He'd soon exceeded his tutor's knowledge and learned more on his own. "There's always the future," he said casually.

"Are you going to continue your studies?"

A nosy chit, wasn't she? He nodded. "Since I'm only allowed to do theoretical magic at the moment anyway, I thought I'd continue."

"I'm glad," she said, smiling at him. "Perhaps your work will help us protect Hogwarts."

Draco smiled politely while mentally rolling his eyes. Other than the fact that the castle was his home for the foreseeable future, he couldn't give a mustard seed care about protecting Hogwarts. It was all about protecting Draco Malfoy.

The baby kicked his bladder.

Harry smiled at him.

...Wasn't it?

*****

He still didn't have the answer to that as the dungeons emptied the next morning. Excited Slytherins were headed home to tell their parents about winning the House Cup while he and his merry band of minions stood in the shadows and watched them go. It was all suddenly so real, what they had chosen, how different their lives were going to be this summer.

"You think the Great Hall still has our colors up?" Nott asked as they trudged to breakfast.

"No one else is here so why bother changing?" Pansy asked. Because the school was empty, they could finally walk around without their robes since no one would see Draco in his "natural" state.

"Maybe the magic was only designed to last a certain number of hours," Nott countered.

Draco only half-heartedly listened to the discussion. His mind was too full of "should have been"s. He should have been on the Hogwarts Express, bugging the younger students and annoying Potter & Company. He should have been anticipating seeing his father and exclaiming proudly that he'd single-handedly won the House Cup for the Slytherins. He should have been wondering why his mother had re-decorated his rooms for the umpteenth time.

He should have been wondering how the fuck he could get out of getting the dark mark burned into his arm.

Maybe the should-have-been's were better off that way.

"Morning."

He looked up to see Potter coming through the large doors that led to the grounds. "Morning, Harry. Did you see the Hogwarts Express off?"

Potter nodded. "It was odd seeing it go off without me. But I'm definitely not sad about that."

If he lived with muggles, he wouldn't be either. "Any idea of when Dumbledore will come to collect us?" The Headmaster had told them they would be moving to their new quarters in the old Lower School.

"You know Dumbledore," Harry said as an answer.

Which meant no one had any idea, including the doddering professor himself. Sigh. Surely the other side was more efficient than this. He could see Voldemort winning simply because Dumbledore gave Harry the wrong directions to the war. Or the right directions to the wrong war.

But then again, Voldemort was as mad as a hatter, too, and maybe between the two of them, everyone would take the wrong turn to the war, leaving the world to spin in one big happy piece.

Yeah, right. "Pass the chutney." He ignored the strange look his fellow breakfasters gave him. So what that he now liked chutney on everything. And the hotter the better, he thought as he burped and a stream of flame jetted out of his mouth. He grinned at Crabbe and Goyle. At least they'd figured out not to sit directly across from him.

"Want to hang out at the lake today, at least until the Headmaster shows up?" Pansy asked.

That was followed by a discussion of asking the house elves for a picnic lunch, who knew the protective charms to keep the squid out of the way, and how cold the water might be.

It was all pretty mind-numbing.

"We could stay inside if you want."

Draco awoke from his light dozing, grateful to whomever had moved his plate out of the way. If he'd fallen asleep in the remains of his breakfast, he'd have to obliviate the entire table. And he could. His father had taught him how two summers ago.

That certainly said more about the Malfoy family than he was comfortable with.

He looked blearily at Harry, who had made the comment about staying in. "I can sleep down by the lake as easily as here," he said self-mockingly.

"Should you be sleeping this much?"

Draco nodded. "Pomfrey says it's pretty common among witches. Besides, lately it's just been the mornings. By afternoon, I'm back to normal. At the lake you'll have to cast the sun shield on me and make sure I have plenty of water. Oh, and you'll have to come down to the dungeons and carry my down-filled duvet. I couldn't possibly lay on anything else."

"Okay. I could transfigure one of those beach umbrellas, too. Just in case it's too bright outside."

Draco cut his eyes at his companion to see if he was being cheeky, but all he could see was utter sincerity. This being pregnant had its perks.

He burped some more flames and watched Nott duck out of the way.

Plenty of perks.

It was only after they'd had lunch by the lake that Dumbledore ambled down to the shore and invited them to follow him to their new living quarters.

"If we don't get there soon, you're going to have to cast Mobilicorpus on me," Draco panted twenty minutes later. They had gone through arbors on the grounds, tunnels in the dungeons, and moving staircases in no less than five different towers, and Dumbledore looked like he was ready to break into a skip.

"Ah, here we are," Dumbledore said excitedly as they entered a long corridor that looked exactly like the last ten corridors they'd traversed.

"How are we supposed to protect the other students if we can't even remember how to get to them?" Blaise muttered, slightly bent over as he tried to catch his breath.

"Oh, the more familiar areas of the Upper School are right through this door," Dumbledore said as they passed a heavy carved door. "Opens into the area just outside the Great Hall--I think. "

"Then why--" Draco started to hiss, then realized he'd just be wasting breath he didn't have.

Dumbledore continued blithely down the hall and into a large room with a fireplace, sofas, and assorted tables. "On the right are the Witches' barracks." He opened a pair of doors. A double row of beds lined the long room. "And here on the left, the Wizards' barracks." The rooms were identical except that the girls' colors were pastel and the boys' were jewel-tone. Draco was debating the best spot in the room--closer or farther away from the washroom--when Dumbledore continued.

"And here," he paused in front of a third set of doors, "are Harry and Draco's rooms."

Rooms? They had their own set of rooms? Of course they did, he realized as he flung open the doors. They were a bonded pair. They needed privacy for sex and the like. The front parlor was kind of small, but big enough to confer privately with the other Slytherins if needed. Off to the side was a glass door that led to what looked like a small private courtyard. He exchanged a grin with Harry; they had a back garden and even though there wasn't a large tree, they'd put up a swing somehow. They moved toward another door. The bedroom--which was the exact same as their "honeymoon" one, as well as the bath. Which made him wonder... No matter. He sat on the bed with a satisfied smile. This was working out perfectly. The Plan was perfect. And the bed was--inviting.

Just as he started to lay back, Dumbledore's voice called out-- "Come along, Harry, Draco. We must continue the tour. There are classrooms for you to visit and the Dining Hall, as well as the library and..."

Draco sighed and allowed Harry to pull him to his feet.

*****

"These will be your training fields," Dumbledore said as he pointed at a large stretch of clear land. "Much of your physical training will take place here."

"Physical?" Pansy asked with a concerned sneer.

"I've heard that war can be very physically demanding, my dear, so we must have you in fighting form," Dumbledore replied, his eyes twinkling at the horrified looks he was getting from the Slytherins.

Harry tried to look sympathetic, but really, in his opinion, the purebloods were too reliant on their wands. Draco was constantly fretting without the use of his wand--which quite frankly, was working out pretty well from Harry's point of view. Draco never thought much of "Savior of the Wizarding World" Harry, but he was very appreciative of "helpful, attentive, still-has-a-wand" Harry.

"What will our studies be?" Daphne asked.

"It will be a full summer for you. These are the nine classes you will be taking--" he handed out rolls of parchment, "--four a day, plus the last one which will be every day. After Sunday morning training, you will be free to enjoy the rest of that day as you see fit."

Harry read the scroll:

*Arms Charms: Making Weapons Out of Common Household Items
*Battlefield Transfigurations
*War Potions
*Offence Against the Dark Arts
*Strategic Arithmancy
*Magical Masses and Messes: The Art of Crowd Control
*Skulls and Skulking: The DMLE Official Guide to Investigations
*Introduction to Magical Law
*Wandwork, Footwork, and Headwork: Physical Fitness for the Warrior Wizard

"These are eight-week beginning courses to see where your strength lies. After eight weeks, you will be evaluated and guided into curricula more suited to your individual expertise. You will also at that time begin to patrol and defend Hogwarts. The students will return and it will be your duty to make sure they are safe."

"How many members of the militia will there be?"

"Just the twenty-seven of your year-mates. You are our test group. At the end of the year, we will open the organization to any former graduate. Are there any more questions?" No one spoke. "In case you form more later, I will be available to you at any time this week. The password is 'candied snotballs.' Oh, and by the way, the Lower School and the grounds have been charmed so that whatever is spoken of here cannot be spoken of beyond here."

"You think we might have spies, Professor?" Harry asked worriedly.

"I think, dear Harry, that there are certain--facts," he looked pointedly at Draco's stomach, "that will have to come out, but will be knowledge we don't want spread around."

"Oh." Well, that made sense. Everyone was going to have to know about the bonding and the baby. If the information leaked and Voldemort found out... Harry shuddered.

"I'll leave you to get used to your new environs. All meals will be served on the usual Hogwarts schedule in the Dining Hall. Enjoy your week. Hard work starts next Monday."

The witches and wizards scattered into their designated barracks to lay claim to the bunks they wanted. While not one of them, save Harry, wouldn't have preferred to be at their childhood homes with their families, they clung to the belief that this was the only future that ensured they had a future.

Harry just hoped he wouldn't fail them.

Chapter 29: Home

"Quite frankly, I'm concerned about who's taking the Offence post. We had some real losers as Defense professors," Blaise said and Harry, sitting opposite of the Slytherin at the dinner table, had to agree. He knew better than his companions how bad most of the Defense instructors had been, especially the one who'd been carrying Voldemort around on the back of his head.

They had just about finished the evening meal which had been punctuated with discussion, and guesses, about who would be teaching the various classes. The only one they were all sure of was the Potions class. Another class with Snape. What joy, Harry thought.

"I just hope Magical Law isn't as boring as magical history. Although after all this physical training, I could probably use a nap," Gregory Goyle said, causing everyone to laugh.

"We shall endeavor to see that no one is bored, Mr. Goyle," Dumbledore said as he appeared in the Dining Hall. "Not intentionally, anyway."

Goyle turned bright red and in defense of his new friend, Harry tried to change the subject. "We're about finished, Professor, but I'm sure the house-elves would supply you with dinner if you want to join us."

"I've already eaten, but thank you for the offer, Harry. Actually, I'm here on a rather serious matter. For security reasons, you will not be receiving owl posts in the mornings. All mail will have to be put through a variety of charms in order to assure the safety of its content."

Harry frowned. "Was there trouble with the mail today?"

Dumbledore sighed. "Unfortunately, no." He waved his arm and four owls flew through the door, a heavy box dangling between them.

"Who is it for?" Draco asked and Harry turned to see that his husband had turned paler than usual.

"For all the Slytherins, I'm afraid."

Draco nodded, hearing exactly what Harry was hearing. Whatever the package contained, it was bad. Very bad.

"Do we need to take defensive positions?" Harry already had his hand on his wand.

Dumbledore shook his head. "I'm not going to stay. I just--You each have my deepest sympathies. Don't let it discourage you. What you have chosen is right. You know that in your heads and in your hearts. Courage, dear children, courage."

"Open it, Blaise," Draco demanded as soon as the doors closed behind the Headmaster.

A wave of a wand and the sides of the box dropped outward. A pile of something tumbled out. It took Harry a few seconds to realize what he was seeing. It was mainly baby stuff--cuddly toys, dolls, various action figures, blankets, some tiny statuettes, and papers. Why had Dumbledore--He heard a strangled cry and turned toward the sound. It was Pansy. And then Millicent and Daphne. Blaise was red-eyed and so were the other guys. He turned to Draco and saw his bondmate was glaring at the pile of stuff, his eyes gleaming with unshed tears. What the--Harry stared at the contents again...and it all came into focus. The cuddly toys, dolls, and action figures were all decapitated. The statuettes had parts broken off. The blankets were shredded. The papers were ripped and torn.

"My Boo-Boo," Pansy murmured and buried her head against Blaise's chest.

"Bubbie," Goyle said sadly as he reached out toward the head of an action figure.

Oh, God, Harry thought, as he realized what he was seeing. These were--the remains of childhood favorites. The Slytherin parents had apparently raided their children's rooms. Teddies. Dollies. Dummies. Rattles and teething rings. Even pre-Hogwarts awards that had animated pictures now grotesquely disfigured. He looked around at the heartbroken Slytherins and his own heart broke in sympathy. His own favorite toy, a stuffed elephant that Dudley had de-stuffed and tossed into the second bedroom, resided in the bottom of his trunk and went wherever he went because he didn't trust the Dursleys. But the Slytherins hadn't known any better. They hadn't known how truly vicious their parents could be.

The last remaining veils had been brutally ripped from their eyes.

"Your wand, Harry," Draco demanded.

Harry did as commanded, not even thinking about Draco's condition and Pomfrey's ban.

"Redintegro." The box reformed. "Mobiliarca archa." The box floated behind as Draco marched out of the Hall and into the courtyard outside the Lower School's main doors. Red-eyed, everyone followed. "Incendio."

The box burst into flame.

"Crabbe, Goyle, get the stash." The two headed off while the rest watched the box and its contents turn to ash. "Nadorhuanrim! Amin delotha lle, Atar! Qualma! " Draco spat, his voice trembling.

Whatever Draco had said in Elvish was probably the same thing Harry was thinking in English, but enough was enough. Draco's arm was also shaking and Harry reached out to retrieve his wand. "It's done," he said gently. "Let's go inside."

Draco jerked the wand back into his possession and muttered something. The ashes disappeared. "Return to sender, bastard!" He gave Harry the wand back and strolled into the castle without looking back.

*****

The "stash" ended up being crates of butterbeer and a few bottles of firewhisky. The girls had conjured up some decorations for the common room and said it was a celebration of freedom and housewarming party. But Harry knew a wake when he saw one. After the initial blast of loud music and feigned excitement, the room quickly fell into a somber depression, helped along by the firewhisky. Moody music played in the background while the Slytherins sat in two's and three's, talking quietly or just leaning on each other.

"Dance with me."

Harry looked up at his demanding husband. Draco, due to his condition, was the only one completely sober. The un-tempered pain in his eyes made Harry eager to do anything he wanted and he quickly got to his feet. As Draco's arms wrapped around him and the blond head dropped to his shoulder, he realized that what Draco wanted was more of a hug than a dance. He was happy to supply either. And when the hug turned into kisses, he had no complaints as well.

There was a second of brief concern when he found himself in their bedroom without a single memory of how he got there, but Draco's kisses wove this haze of pure sensation so dense, so all-encompassing, that his mind just couldn't seem to claw through and the concern vanished along with his shirt. When Draco's shirt didn't disappear as well, his mind surfaced enough to realize what the problem was and his body, his lips in particular, bent to caress the bulge that his bondmate was apparently ashamed of.

"Mine," he whispered against Draco's soft skin.

The shirt joined his own.

There was one more hesitant moment when his conscience fought against the tide to point out that there was a chance he was taking advantage of a grieving, heartsick Draco. But he was seventeen and his body was in good physical shape; his conscience didn't stand a chance. Soon there were touches in places never touched save his own hands. Soft touches and hard touches and touches that sounded like cotton upon cotton and other sounds that reminded him of the lake lapping upon the shore. Oh, and the tastes. Salt and bitter and tartness and something that was so Draco...so very, very Draco. And he knew that he was supposed to hold back, that he was supposed to wait for Draco, that it would be better if he peeled himself from the edge. But he couldn't hold on. He couldn't not give in. He couldn't not succumb to the power building up inside him. He was going to--

--shiver from the breeze on his privates?

He opened his eyes and even without his glasses, he could make out Draco sitting on the far side of the bed, hunched over and breathing heavily. What the fuck?

He realized he'd said that aloud when a timid, "I'm sorry," answered him.

He found himself out of breath as well. He'd seen that hunched figure before. Heard that timid voice. Oh, shit. Oh, God, Merlin, or whoever the fuck was in charge, what had he done?

"You pushed me down. You were on top of me and I--"

Told you so, his conscience taunted.

Bugger off, he told it as he tried to pull himself together enough that he could lie to Draco and tell him it was okay, that he understood. Well, he wasn't lying about the understood part, but the okay... He was still so hard that it hurt and his conscience was blithely telling him how wrong that was, that he had to be a very dark wizard indeed to still be hard in the face of the utter misery that was wafting from Draco.

"I need to--I have to--" he stammered. He looked around the room frantically and gave a gasp of relief when he saw the bathroom door. "I'll just be a--"

But when he stood, Draco was in front of him, blocking his way. "Harry," he said softly. And then, Draco touched him again.

Harry came. And came. Until his knees buckled and he was a humiliated lump at Draco's feet. He found himself crying, not just because he'd made an utter fool of himself and he had completely blown the first and only chance he'd ever have at having consensual sex, but also because it had felt so good.

"Fucking virgin," Draco muttered above him. "Come on. Let's clean you up, and then give it another go, eh?"

Huh? He looked at the hand Draco held out to him and shook his head. Draco was trying to be noble and strong and all that Gryffindor crap again. For him. And he wasn't worth it. Not after-- "No, Draco. I should have stopped a long time ago. You're upset about not being able to go home, and I was taking advantage of that and--ouch!"

Draco again pinched the ear he'd grabbed, before letting it go and jerking Harry up by his arm. "Get on the fucking bed, Potter, and here's your wand--clean yourself!"

Harry obeyed and then Draco was kneeling above him, his hair dangling down in the candlelight to tease him. "You have neither the inclination nor the balls to take advantage of me, Potter. If I don't want you, I will say so. But apparently, because you're so fucking dense sometimes, I have to do the same when I do want you. It seems that kissing you and licking you and dragging you into the bedroom does not fit your concept of foreplay!"

"But you--" Harry started.

"Obviously, I'm going to have to top for the foreseeable future. You have a problem with that?"

Top. Which meant he had to bottom. And bottom meant sex. He shook his head. Nope. No problem at all. "Draco?"

"Yes, Harry?"

"Fuck me."

And being the obedient bondmate that he was, Draco did just that.

*****

Although he'd been thoroughly exhausted by the time he fell asleep, Harry woke early, strumming with energy and excitement. He was in bed with his husband, his lover. How absolutely extraordinary.

And Draco had been so gentle with him. Considering what Harry had done to him, he would have been within his rights to just plough his way into Harry--regardless of their bond. But he hadn't. He'd been cautious and encouraging and dare he say it--sweet. No wonder Draco had had so many previous lovers.

"Harry, if you look at me like that all day, they're going to know you're a despoiled virgin," Draco said without even opening his eyes.

"So?" Harry grinned.

"So I was supposed to have despoiled you a bit ago."

"Oh." Harry thought a moment. "Maybe it was really good because we didn't have to sneak and do it?"

"You're a Gryffindor; they'll probably believe you," Draco replied with a snort. He raised himself on his elbows to look down at Harry. "So, it was really good?"

"The best!"

"And you would know because...?"

"Because it's not just my body that's happy. I'm happy, Draco, and it's been so long since I've felt that way."

"You didn't mind that you didn't get to--?" Draco's hands came up and did a complicated, but clear, movement.

Harry blushed. "No. If I don't ever get to, it'll be okay."

Draco laughed. "You're so agreeable after you get some. I'm going to have to remember that."

Harry opened his eyes wide and blinked innocently. "You'd take advantage of me like that?"

"Every chance I get."

Harry grinned. "Sounds like fun. I'm glad you do have the inclination and the balls, Malfoy," he said, remembering what Draco had told him last night.

Draco dipped his head to kiss him. "About you taking advantage of poor, homeless me... I can't miss my home when I'm there, can I?"

"Draco?" Harry didn't have to feign his wide-eyed wonder this time.

"I've a new life now, and I don't mean just the one I carry inside me. You and the sprog, you're my family now. My family. My home."

"As the two of you are mine," Harry vowed, losing himself in the gray eyes that stared down at him.

Draco finally broke the stare as he rolled to the edge of the bed. "I swear this son of yours thinks of my bladder as his personal squishy chair. Wonder where he gets that from," he muttered as he stood. "And he wants breakfast in bed, by the way," he added as he disappeared into the toilet.

Harry grinned as he scrambled into his clothes to go get breakfast for the two--three--of them. Well, it looked like his summer hadn't changed very much. He was home. His family was making demands: Harry, do this. Harry, do that. Harry, cater to my every whim--and be quick about it! But Draco was right; although the demands were the same, his family had changed. He had a new family. A family that was his and apparently proud of it. Draco had told the Slytherins about him. Draco had kissed him in the Great Hall. Draco had married him in front of all the professors. Draco had threatened him if he hadn't slept in the same bed with him.

No cupboard.

No hiding.

No hint of shame that Harry existed in the first place.

Instead, he had a massive room and bed.

Public displays of affection.

Arrogant, smug, "yes, Harry Potter belongs to me and you better damn well respect that" open ownership.

"Don't forget the chutney, Potter," came the yell from the other room.

Yes, Harry was home for the summer.

And there was nowhere else he wanted to be.

Chapter 30: Student Warriors

Harry collapsed in a panting heap, grateful beyond belief that he'd finished his last lap of the day. He thought the Dursleys were slave-drivers. He was wrong. He thought since he'd done manual labor every summer, he'd be in better shape than everyone else. He was wrong. He thought the toughest thing about the war would be facing Voldemort. He was wrong again. He was sure that next to the physical training he was subjected to every fucking day, offing Voldemort would be like Ron beating him at chess--a sweatless, bona fide given.

"Crabbe, get your arse in gear or I'm coming out there to get it in gear for you," Draco yelled. "Goyle, step it up! Even Greengrass is outrunning you--and she's still worried that her make-up charm won't stand the heat! Put that compact away, Greengrass. If you want to run with something, try your wand. What are you laughing about, Parkinson? You have a Hufflepuff getting ready to pass you. Move it!"

If Harry had any extra air, he'd be laughing. Everybody hated the physical fitness class, except Draco. Their coach was a Muggle-born who'd left the Wizarding World when he'd married a Muggle. He'd been a successful football coach in a little spot outside of London known for its American population until he discovered his new baby was a wizard. He didn't want his son suffering the culture shock he'd had when he received his Hogwarts letter, so when the offer came to get Dumbledore's Warrior Wizards in shape, he'd jumped at the chance to re-enter the magical world. And when he found out that Draco couldn't physically participate, he'd made him an assistant coach. Of course, the position went to the Slytherin's head.

"Your name is Longbottom, not Lardbottom. Pick up the pace! Weasley, court the witches on your own time. With those long legs and big feet, you should've been the first one finished!"

At least Harry had figured out how Draco had learned so many languages. He was a natural mimic. He'd picked up Coach Andrews' American-tainted slang quite easily, not the least bit concerned that he had no idea what a gear was. And Harry had found out he was so good at mimicking any of the professors, that he'd tutored most of the Slytherins for their full seven years at Hogwarts.

"Get your arse up, Potter, and do a proper cool down. Finnigan, I saw how you were frowning at the text in class. The revision session starts promptly at seven. I wouldn't be late if I were you."

Now, he was tutoring any of the Ensemble that appeared at his sessions. Hermione had been ticked at first when the Gryffindors started sneaking off to study with Draco, but she was soon grateful. Hermione wasn't a mimic; she didn't pick up knowledge naturally. Hampered by being Muggleborn, which meant she was just as behind as Harry was when she received her letter to Hogwarts, she studied diligently over the summers to stay at the top of her classes. Since she didn't have time to study for, or even know what to study for, in training, she had her own revising to do, and once her pride gave in, she was thankful that the others had Draco to turn to.

"Potter," Draco said softly against his ear, startling him, "When you moan in my bed tonight, it better be because of something I've done, not because your muscles are knotting up because YOU HAVE NOT COOLED DOWN PROPERLY. Do you understand?"

Harry scrambled to his feet and began to stretch.

"Hey, Potter, guess we know who wears the robes in your relationship," Seamus yelled with an impudent grin.

"Finnigan, if you have that much air left to talk, you have enough for another lap. Let's see it!"

Seamus sighed. Draco had been listed as an assistant professor after he'd taken his N.E.W.T.s and no one had bothered to remove the title from him, so he was to be obeyed like any other instructor. Harry sort of felt sorry for his former dorm-mate as he started running. Almost.

"Hey, Seamus, guess we know who wears the robes in your relationship, too!"

His friend flipped him the bird.

*****

Harry sat on the floor and against the wall in one of the rooms reserved for practice and watched Draco review the day's classwork with several of their fellow militia members. They were going over the Offence lesson, a couple of hexes Harry had learned last year, so he just decided to sit back and observe. And what he observed was--unsettling. Draco demonstrated the motions for the hexes with a wooden pointer, and the others were supposed to repeat the actions together. Inevitably, however, those with Muggle ties were just a beat behind. After a minute he figured out why. Muggleborns and the Muggle-reared had a built-in hesitation when it came to magic, a wonder and awe that lingered despite seven years of training, a momentary disbelief that the purebloods and those raised in Wizard homes didn't have. It was quick, almost imperceptible, but it was there.

"They believe, but they don't believe," he murmured to himself, realizing that he was in the same position. He knew the spells, could duel with Aurors several years his senior, but...but as he reviewed the duels in his mind, he realized he was always consciously aware that he was performing magic. Those who'd grown up in the Wizarding world did magic instead. There was no question, no doubt that what they'd been asked to do could be done. They'd seen it, or something similar, done. They knew it was possible, and any doubts they had pertained to their individual skills, not to the magic itself. A subtle difference, but one which, given that the Death Eaters were almost all purebloods and Wizard-reared, could be devastating on a battlefield.

"Why are you sitting here all by yourself pouting, Potter? I didn't yell once at your precious Gryffindors," Draco said.

Harry looked around and saw that everyone was gone. "What would you say, Draco, if I told you I knew a spell that could change ordinary animals into dragons?"

"A particular type of dragon? Or would cats be one species and dogs another?"

Harry nodded. "Come with me." They headed to the common room and the corner where Hermione sat, using highlighting spells to mark her text. "Hermione, I know a spell that will change ordinary animals into dragons."

She frowned and lowered her wand. "Whoever told you that is just kidding, Harry. You can't turn animals into dragons. The elements that make up a dragon--"

Harry held up his hand to hush her. "Draco believed me."

"Well, he's your bondmate."

Harry shook his head. "He believed me because he believes everything is possible. That's the key to true magic, Hermione. And we, you and I and everyone else who didn't grow up in a Wizard household, don't have it. We're just...magicians, faking at being wizards and witches. Until it becomes real to us, we're not real."

She glared at Draco. "What crap have you been telling him, Malfoy? Was this your scheme all along? To get Harry alone and feed him all this blood superiority...bullshit?"

"Don't blame me," Draco said quickly. "I have no idea what he's on about."

"Draco has nothing to do with this, Hermione. Just watch, okay? Ron, come here for a minute."

Ron, who'd been waving his wand menacingly at a laughing Seamus, loped over to them. "So, what are we planning? You look like you're planning, Harry."

"I've found out how to turn ordinary animals into dragons."

Ron grinned. "Wicked. Think we can train them to fry You-Know-Who's arse?"

"Dean, could you come here a minute?"

"Oooh, invited to a top strategy meeting, am I?" the black guy said, unfolding his long body from a chair in front of the fireplace. "Must be moving up in the world."

"I've found out how to turn ordinary animals into dragons," Harry said again.

"What? How? I mean, is it true?" Dean turned to look at Hermione.

Harry sighed. A hand landed on his shoulder.

"Harry, what's going on?" Draco asked, looking concerned.

Harry tried to give him a reassuring smile, but merely managed a grimace. "We need to talk. All of us."

"About the dragon spell? Does it require some sort of...sacrifice?" Draco inquired gently.

Harry shook his head. "Let's talk, all right?"

*****

Harry paced the bedroom while Draco slipped between the covers.

"I wish I could say I understand, Harry, but I don't. How can you not believe in magic when you've studied it and practiced it for seven years?"

His 'revelation' had been discussed until everyone decided to call it a night and sleep on the problem. "You can't understand because you've never doubted magic at any time in your life. We--we lack faith, Draco. That's the easiest way to explain it. We believe when we see it, when it occurs, but..."

"When it's out of sight, it's out of mind?" Harry nodded. Draco understood more than he gave himself credit for. "Do you think Granger will figure out how to cure you?"

Harry gave a sad laugh. "I don't think there is a 'cure,' but hopefully a visit to a muggle library might help us. They've done a lot of work in psychology."

"We don't have si-kol-ogee here."

"That's because you have mind healers who can actually go into the human mind using Legilimency. But I'm hoping this can be solved in a less invasive manner."

"And this just all came to you tonight?"

He shook his head. "I noticed something was strange with everyone's reactions to our bonding and the baby. Your Slytherins, Ron, everybody raised with magic, were, like, 'Wow, okay, congratulations.' The others were questioning the baby, the bond, and our sanity."

"Actually, your sanity; my taste," Draco pointed out with a smirk.

"Ha ha. I'm serious about this. On the battlefield, the slightest hesitation could mean the difference between life and death."

Draco yawned. "I know that, Potter. But you keep adding yourself into this, and I've never seen you hesitate at all. And I should know; I dueled with you enough."

Harry gave a sheepish look. "I cover well."

"However, I have noticed you doubt yourself a lot. You are bonded to me now. You no longer have to doubt."

"Gee, that should be a big help when I'm dueling with Voldemort."

Draco rolled his eyes. "Why are you even worried about that?"

"Why do you think?" Harry asked dryly.

"According to what you told me, Voldemort was raised in a muggle orphanage. Won't he have the same disadvantage?"

Harry stilled, grinned, and with Draco giving him a baleful look, threw himself on the bed. "You're bloody brilliant."

"Of course I am. Now, come to bed like a good wizard so you can get your nightly shag before I fall asleep."

Harry leaned over and kissed him. "You're too good for me."

"Of course I am. But since I have no equal and have never wanted to live my life alone, I've been long resigned to marrying the next best thing. You should be proud of yourself for getting me, Harry." He yawned again.

Harry noted the yawn and the faint smudges beneath the gray eyes. It had been a long day. "You know, I could stand a good cuddle instead of a shag tonight."

"But soon I'll be too big."

"Draco, in our bond, shagging is a privilege, not a duty. I won't get all pouty because we don't fuck."

"If you're sure..."

Harry slipped into bed and curled up against Draco. "I'm sure. Give us a kiss and toddle off to dreamland."

"Silly Potter." Draco gave him a kiss and turned over to spoon back against him. "I'll shag you tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay." Harry grinned as Draco's breathing evened out quickly. Soon, they were going to have a terrible row about decreasing Draco's coaching and other activities. He was going to have to indulge his inner Slytherin and get Pomfrey on his side first, and Snape as well, if he was to have a chance of winning. Hmm. Draco would be so proud of him when he realized what he'd done.

Just as he was proud of himself for winning the honor of being with Draco Malfoy. No matter the circumstances, it was a great achievement indeed. Wrapping his arms around his bondmate and child, he followed him into sleep.

Chapter 31: His Best Birthday Ever

Harry reached for his Magical Law text, then sighed, drew his wand and levitated the book to him. It would've been easier just to lean forward and pick it up, but Hermione's "cure" for their Muggle-influenced problem was total immersion into the wizarding world. Magic was to be done whenever and wherever possible. The purebloods were encouraged to discuss their childhoods (if it didn't upset the Slytherins too much--which it didn't because their parents' "care package" had made the bitter break with their families a definite two-way street). Everyone was to read only wizarding magazines or novels in their spare time (what little they had), and use of such Muggle items as portable electronics and grooming items was discouraged. Instead, grooming charms were patiently taught by those who had used them forever, wizarding fashion and sports were the number one topics, and if Harry had to listen to one more story about the goings on at Madame Puerilis's Academy for Well-Bred Young Wizards and Witches, he was going to Avada Kadavra himself.

"Harry," Ron said as he plopped down on the couch next to him.

"Ron," Harry replied, looking expectantly at his friend.

Ron looked at his hands. "You know I got an owl at dinner."

Harry nodded. With such a large family, Ron often got mail. Everyone had learned to duck when an owl came from the twins. And they never accepted Ron's offer of sweets. "Everything's okay, isn't it?"

"Depends on your definition of okay."

Well, that didn't sound good. "What's going on?" Harry demanded.

Ron sighed. "Your birthday is Friday."

Harry nodded impatiently. For once he wasn't stuck at the Dursleys, wondering if was going to be sprung by his friends or spending the day lonely and searching the sky for owls. No big plans were scheduled since their days were completely filled, but he expected a couple of gift exchanges after dinner.

"You're going to be eighteen," Ron continued with his useless information. "Hermione says that's a special age when you're a Muggle."

"It's like being seventeen when you're a Wizard. You're finally an adult in the eyes of the law."

"Oh."

Harry tapped his wand against his thigh. "Are you going to tell me what's going on or do you want a demonstration of what I've been learning in my Defense class?" he threatened. It had finally been decided that Harry was wasting his time in regular Defense and was now being tutored by three Aurors in a private area of the school. Rumor had it that Harry was learning not only how to kill, but how to cover up the crime. Draco had just scoffed at that, saying, "Why would he need Aurors to teach him what he could learn at home in our rooms?" Needless to say, that started other rumors.

However, the threat got absolutely no reaction from Ron. So he thought to go the sensitive friend route. "Is there some reason why you're sitting here being silent with me when you could be studying or with Hermione? Wait, that's sort of redundant, isn't it?" Harry grinned.

That at least got a reaction--and a smile. "She'd punched you if she heard that."

"Nah, it'd be a hex. Total immersion and all that," Harry teased. Maybe what Ron had to tell him wasn't so bad.

"She might make an exception."

"And you might be stalling," Harry pointed out. "Spill, Ron."

"Since we're so busy during the week, Mum and Dad are coming to visit you Sunday for your birthday."

Harry started to smile. Next he frowned. Then he paled. "Draco."

Ron nodded. "Draco," he agreed.

"Do they know--anything?"

"Ginny let slip that you were involved--with someone male."

"Oh. Any problem with that?"

"Of course not. But neither did Ginny explain the 'someone' was the son of a Death Eater and the bane of our existence for the past seven years. There may be some problems with that. Then again, Malfoy's pregnant. Mum's a sucker for babies."

"You don't they'll think badly of me for knocking him up?"

Ron grinned. "Well, you did put the cart before the horse, but who knew your stallion was a filly in disguise."

Harry looked quickly around the room. "At least we know Draco isn't within listening distance."

"What? No girly squeal?"

"No slashing hex through your neck."

Ron snorted. "He doesn't even have a wand."

"Do you honestly think he'll need one if he overhears you questioning his masculinity? Despite being knocked up, he's not a girl, you know."

Ron held up his hands in mock surrender. "Don't get bent out of shape, mate. Being a Progenitor kind of makes him legendary. But don't tell him that; his ego's big enough."

"Don't I know it," Harry sighed.

"What exactly is it you know, Harry?" Draco asked, entering the common room from their rooms.

"Um, that I couldn't have a better husband?"

"Ah, thinking clearly for once. How's the sword transfiguration coming along, Weasley?"

"I can manage the single-edge, but not the double yet."

"Blaise had the same problem. Maybe you should ask him how he managed to get over it."

"Good idea, Malfoy. Thanks. He and the others are in the library, right?"

"Last I heard."

"Okay. I'll see if I can catch up with him. See you guys later."

Harry watched Ron leave and wondered if he should warn Draco about the Weasleys' visit now or later.

"You know I didn't buy that whole 'bestest husband' thing, right?"

Harry automatically stood to help lower Draco onto the chair next to the sofa. Draco had learned the hard way that the sofa wasn't pregnant-friendly. "Ron's parents are coming to visit on Sunday." Well, guess he was going with the "now" option.

"Oh." Draco squirmed until he was comfortably situated. "I'll tell Blaise to switch some of his stuff with yours so they won't figure out you're not sleeping in the dorm. And the castle is so big that I can easily stay out of your way."

Harry stared at him. "I don't want you out of my way."

"But they don't know about us."

"I want them to. Don't--don't you want to meet them?" Harry asked worriedly. Was Draco ashamed of their binding?

"I don't mind meeting them, Harry," Draco said. "I was just trying to make it easy on you."

"You think it's easier to hide you?" Draco shrugged. "You weren't by yourself in that kiss in the Great Hall, you know. I'm not ashamed to be with you."

"But being with me and being bound to me--with a child on the way-- are two different situations. I know the Weasleys know what my father is. And I'm sure they've heard my name mentioned by you and the other Weasleys in less-than-kind terms. They will be suspicious and worried."

"Ron has taken it well."

"Weasley is closer to the situation. He's seen for himself how things have changed between us."

"Then they'll just have to take his and my word for it that we're great together."

Draco's eyes widened. "You think we're great together?"

"I think that I couldn't have a better husband." This time it was a declarative sentence.

Draco grinned. "Everyone's in the library, you know."

Harry tried to act coy. "I have to study for Magical Law."

"What if I tell you I can make you come by reciting the International Apparation Codes?"

Harry aced his Magical Law exam the next day.

*****

Harry grinned as he watched the others limp back in from the grueling cross-country course Draco had set up. Because it was his birthday, Draco had announced to the group that Harry was exempt from training. Some had started to complain, but other, saner minds, whispered that backtalk usually ended in extra laps or push-ups. Everyone had taken off without sassing Draco, and Harry had been rewarded with an extended snogging session in the equipment room.

"Your mate is a sadist," Michael Corner said, as he slipped off one of his trainers to examine a blister.

"And this is news?" Harry asked with a smirk.

Corner shook his head. "And you're supposed to be our bloody savior."

"From Voldemort," he said, chuckling at the involuntary shudder the name caused, "not Draco."

"Everyone did a good job today," Draco praised loudly, shocking all. "So no extra laps and no revision sessions. Have dinner, then leave Harry and me the hell alone."

Corner grinned. "Someone has plans."

Harry kept his blush to a minimum.

Regardless of Draco's machinations, it was much later before the two of them were alone. As expected, Ron and Hermione came by with gifts and it had been fun just to sit around with them and discuss the "old" days. Draco had been indulgent, for Draco, and hadn't shooed them out or made unsubtle hints about the time.

"Thank you," he said after Ron and Hermione left. "It was nice having a birthday where no one complained about my friends or anything."

Draco shrugged. "We're going to need babysitters."

Harry laughed. "And here I thought you were going soft."

A very dramatic eye roll. "Insults will get you nowhere."

"And where will compliments get me?" Harry whispered in his ear.

"Inside me," Draco replied quietly.

"You--I--you?"

Draco nodded hesitantly. "I think I'm ready, and it's getting cumbersome trying to figure out how to do you without this stomach of mine getting in the way. How do big-bellied men do it?"

Harry mentally pictured his uncle attempting to... He shuddered. Hard. Not an image he wanted at any time, but especially now. "Are you sure, Draco? I mean, I have no complaints and if it gets too awkward, there's other stuff we can do."

Draco just kissed him and said, "Happy Birthday, Harry."

*****

Harry stared at the bathroom door--which was currently locked and harboring Draco, who apparently hadn't been as ready as the Slytherin thought. Things had proceeded well from the sitting room to the bedroom. Worked up quite nicely, Draco had been carefully propped on his side by pillows so there would be no strain, and he'd lubricated Harry himself. It was only when Draco had tensed as Harry inserted a lube-coated finger into him that Harry became concerned. But Draco had talked him around, saying it had been a while, etc., and the tension eased enough that Harry could put in two fingers. At his first attempt at entry with his cock, however, Draco had skittered away, then apologized and eased back into position with a nervous laugh. The second time, through the hand he had on Draco's back, he'd felt Draco's heart start to race and a slight tremble snake through his body. He pulled back, but Draco insisted that he go through with it. The third time, he entered Draco maybe an inch before a kiss revealed the salty tears running down Draco's face. Harry had pulled away and put on his pajama bottoms.

"This is stupid, Draco," he'd said, sitting on the edge of the bed.

"I know. I'm sorry I'm so weak." Draco also sat on the edge of the bed, his head dropped so low that his hair covered his face.

"No, not that. You're--entitled to feel the way you do. I'm talking about trying to force this. There's no reason that we have to do this."

Draco had looked up then. "Maybe not for you."

Harry had suddenly been angry. "What is this about? Malfoys can't be scared? Malfoys must be fucked? What?"

Of course, he knew it'd been the wrong thing to say even as it was leaving his mouth. Draco's eyes... The hurt he'd never voice showed so clearly in his eyes. And he'd run naked to the bathroom and locked the door.

Harry knew he could open the door with a flick of his wand, but he figured he'd violated Draco enough for one night. Maybe he should just let him be, but... "I'm going to bed," he called loudly. "So come out when you're ready. You need your rest."

Silence.

"For what it's worth, there's nothing wrong with being scared. It doesn't mean you're weak or worthless or whatever it is you have running around in your head. It means you're human, Draco--just like me."

The door opened and Draco came out. He'd taken to wearing a nightshirt because of its generous fit, and Harry wordlessly helped him into it. Then they climbed into bed, sharing a timid kiss before rolling to their respective sides of the bed.

As Harry fell asleep, he realized that despite what had happened in the past hour--no, even with what had happened--this had been his best birthday ever.

Chapter 32: Meet The In-Laws

Draco was in a bad mood and he didn't mind sharing. Nobody knew that better than his instructors and fellow trainees. They'd been tiptoeing around him all day and while their hesitation was a bit amusing, it was not enough to jostle him into feeling better. He'd humiliated himself not just last night, but in general by not being able to get over the rape. And then this morning, he'd noticed something strange, gone to the hospital wing, and was informed that his swollen ankles and wrists were due to...retaining water. He wished it was enough to drown in.

"Whatever you did, you better undo it now, Potter," he overheard Pansy hiss to Harry.

"I didn't do anything," Harry whispered back, frustration obvious in every word.

"Then do something," she replied.

"And how would you disband an unruly group at a Weird Sisters concert, Mr. Malfoy?" asked the current Auror instructor of Magical Masses and Messes, interrupting his bout of eavesdropping.

He glared at her. "Incendio," he replied with a snarl. "Burning robes smoke really well and people tend to run."

The Tri-M teacher stared at him, opened her mouth, closed it, and turned to the student beside him. "And your solution, Mr. Thomas?"

Draco dropped his head on the desk and took a nap.

Later in the day he watched the football match Coach Andrews was coaching the trainees through. The idea had started off rocky enough a week ago. The coach had dropped the little black and white ball on the field and all the Wizard-reared had watched to see what it would do. When Coach had kicked it, they had expected it to kick back. But it just--rolled. When it became apparent the ball didn't do anything on its own, they'd immediately grown bored. It took the muggleborn putting together an impromptu match to show that it really was a fun sport, and the Slytherins came to appreciate the physical spirit of the game.

It was as Harry was making a penalty kick that Draco remembered the Weasleys were coming the next day.

Harry scored.

Draco whimpered.

*****

"You're in a mood today, Harry. That nervous about Mum and Dad meeting Malfoy?" Ron asked as they walked to the gates of Hogwarts to meet his parents Sunday afternoon.

Harry shook his head. It wasn't his mood anyone had to worry about. Frustrated by his perceived "weakness," Draco had been a bitch all day Saturday and then Saturday night, he'd disappeared with his Slytherins, appearing at bedtime without a word of explanation. He really had no idea whether the Weasleys were going to meet his bondmate or not.

"You know, fighting Voldemort is looking better and better," he muttered self-pityingly.

"Mum's not that bad."

"Draco is."

"Oh. Well, he was in a bit of a mood yesterday, but that's to be expected. You try lugging around a bludger in your belly all the time. Besides, if the twins are to be believed--and yes, I know how impossible that sounds--Saturday would've been a good day for Mum when she was carrying Ginny. According to them, they did a magical sacrifice so that Mum wouldn't have any more girls."

"Draco's having a boy."

"Draco is a boy. He's bound to have his days of trouble. And quite frankly, Harry, he's Malfoy. What were you expecting?"

God, he hated it when Ron sounded more reasonable than he. The truth of the matter was that maybe he, too, was a bit frustrated by the aborted attempt Friday night--and he felt like shit that he was frustrated because he was the reason why Draco was scared in the first place. Not to mention Draco hadn't been the only one that night suffering from flashbacks. When Draco had scooted away from beneath him, he'd remembered the same movement from...before.

"I cannot wait until you and Hermione are married, Ron, and I can throw all this advice and wisdom back in your face." He said it with a smile and a jab of his elbow to let Ron know he was joking. "I do appreciate it, though."

Ron shrugged. "It's in the best friend's manual--Thou shall not allow thy friend to climb the walls and make an arse of himself if he hasn't ticked you off lately."

Harry laughed. "And if he has ticked you off?"

"You sell tickets and let him have at it."

They were both still laughing when double cracks alerted them to the Weasleys' arrival.

Molly Weasley crammed her wand into her oversized bag and looked around, breaking into a smile when she saw them. "Arthur, these can't be our boys. Why, they're men!" she exclaimed. "Come here you two and give your mum a hug!"

They rushed over to her and she hugged them both. "Ron, are you ever going to stop growing? We're going to have to raise the ceilings at the Burrow if you keep this up. And, Harry, how handsome you've become. Your young man must be earning his keep."

Harry blushed and Arthur thumped him on the back. "Molly doesn't have a subtle bone in her body, I'm afraid, Harry. Still, you are looking well and happy."

"I am, sir."

"So, will we get to meet this miracle worker?" Molly asked as they started down the path toward the castle.

"He's, uh--well..." He looked at Ron pleadingly.

"He's not just Harry's young man, Mum."

"What? He's being passed around? Shared? What are you saying, Ron?"

"We're married," Harry said quickly. "Actually, we're more than married, we had a binding ceremony." He pulled back his sleeve and revealed the bracelet.

"You're--you're bound, Harry? You can't be bound. We'd know if you've been bound, wouldn't we, Arthur?" She turned to her husband, her face scrunched in confusion.

"He's wearing the bracelet, Molly."

Her countenance cleared and she waggled her finger at him. "One of the twin's inventions, I imagine. You certainly had us going, Harry."

Harry held out his arm. "It's not a fake, Mum Weasley. I am bound and...we're having a baby. He's a Progenitor, you see."

Molly's knees gave away and only Arthur's quick actions kept her from falling. "What are you saying, child?" she panted, her hand clutching her ample bosom.

"Mum, I was at the binding and the baby's pretty obvious once you meet--" Ron stopped, glancing at Harry.

"So, he is here? Of course, he is," Molly corrected herself. "He's your bondmate; where else would he be? And speaking of 'he,' who is he? And don't be thinking I didn't notice you've left that to be said."

Harry ran his hand through his hair, knowing Draco--if Draco made an appearance--would be furious with him for doing so. Harry, your hair is already a rat's nest. Why add to it? I've my fingers crossed this baby has my hair. "My husband is Draco Malfoy. And yes, I know who his parents are and what a brat he used to be. But Magic saw fit to bind us, and he's carrying my child. The past, his and mine, has no bearing on our present or our future. We are together and will remain so until one of us dies." It'd all come out in a rush and it sounded defensive, but he felt he had to make it clear to them before--or if--they met Draco.

Molly's mouth opened and closed. Arthur took advantage of the rare opportunity. "Congratulations, Harry! This is exciting news. Isn't it, Molly?" He nudged her with his elbow.

"Exciting, yes," she parroted, still shaken. "Where are you staying?"

"Professor Dumbledore has graciously given us rooms near the dormitories. Come inside with us. I'm not sure where Draco is at the moment. He's very busy. He tutors and coaches. A great asset the militia, isn't he, Ron?"

Ron nodded, eager to back up his friend. "His father is really pissed--um, sorry, Mum. His father isn't happy about him being with Harry, but Draco is one-hundred percent committed to our side. He doesn't want his father or You-Know-Who to grab his baby or anything."

Arthur frowned. "Do they know about the binding and the child?"

"No," Harry answered. "Only the people here know and Professor Dumbledore has made sure that the secret cannot pass the boundaries of Hogwarts."

"Smart of him," Arthur murmured. "Well, come on, boys, show us this new home of yours."

They walked the Weasleys through the Lower School, showing them the various classrooms before going into the dormitories and the common room. Ron was surprised and a bit worried that Hermione hadn't made an appearance, and he whispered to Harry as they approached the entrance to his and Draco's rooms that he was going to find her. Harry nodded, then just flung the door open and muttered a silent prayer.

"Harry," Draco said, "Hermione and I were wondering when you were going to give our guests a break. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, how nice it is to see you. I'm Draco Malfoy." He held out his hand and Arthur shook it solemnly. Molly just stared at him--and his rounded belly. "Where is Ron off to? Tea is about to be served. Please, come in and have a seat. Harry, would you get Ron?"

Harry, totally bewildered, and quite frankly--scared, called Ron back while Draco escorted the Weasleys to where Hermione stood. He came back in with Ron and saw them having a good hug with their son's girlfriend, then they all sat down to tea. Tarts were served and Draco was a charming host, discussing with Mr. Weasley certain Muggle items he'd heard Coach Andrews talk about and asking Mrs. Weasley about what was needed in a proper nursery.

Harry just knew he'd fallen into another universe. He wondered if this one had a Voldemort, too.

"I hope you don't mind, but I arranged for us to have a private dinner here. Although there are only twenty-seven members of the militia, we can be a noisy bunch," Draco said with a self-deprecating laugh. "And apparently, the castle thought it was an excellent idea and provided a dining room for us." He nodded to a door Harry hadn't seen before. "Harry, if you would escort Mrs. Weasley, Mr. Weasley and Hermione, and Ron, I guess you and I will have to toss to see who escorts whom."

"Well, I'm tallest and not preggers, so..."

Draco laughed. "You have a point, Ron. Escort away, sir."

*****

"Draco?"

"Yes, Harry? And, ooh, that feels so good," Draco purred.

Harry added a knuckle to the sensitive point on Draco's foot. Their guests were gone, Molly insisting she had to get home to start the layette for the baby, and Hermione remembering she and Ron needed to review for tomorrow's lessons. "Your ankles are smaller."

"Mum Weasley gave me something for the swelling. It's amazing what she keeps in that purse of hers."

Mum Weasley? "Draco, do you know who Voldemort is?"

"What an asinine question, Potter. Did you and Weasley stop for a quick drink or three after walking his parents to the gates?"

So, back to the old universe. "You were amazing today."

"Of course I was."

"You made everyone feel so at ease at dinner."

"Madame Puerilis was paid an exorbitant fee to make sure we knew how to properly host a dinner party, Harry. This was child's work, nothing more. Pansy said it made her long for her practice wand and Little Wizard quill."

So that's where the Slytherins had disappeared to yesterday. Harry leaned forward and placed a kiss on Draco's big toe. "Do you know how happy you make me?"

"Falling at my feet sort of gives me a clue," Draco replied. Then he winked. "Help me to bed and you can give me other clues."

"Madam Pomfrey warned me you might go through an insatiable phase."

"It's been two nights since our--difficulty, Harry. It's not insatiability, just plain teenage hormones."

"Just what I said--you're a horny bugger."

"Mrs. Weasley told me that I didn't have to put up with any nonsense while I was pregnant. She gave me a spell to keep you in line, if I had to."

Harry rolled his eyes. "No, she didn't. I was with you the whole time."

"Except when you, Ron, and Mr. Weasley were out in the garden playing on the swing."

"We weren't playing--he was just admiring my transfiguration work."

"Uh huh." Draco got to his feet with a helpful tug from Harry. "Seven children, Harry. She was pregnant a lot. She learned things, things which no man, except maybe other Progenitors, have been taught. Trust me, you don't want to get cheeky with me."

"Yeah?" Harry asked, wrapping his arms around his husband and kissing his neck.

"Yeah."

Harry took out his wand and lit the bedroom as he doused the lights in the living area. "I guess I better listen to your orders, then. No nonsense, hmm?"

Draco's last words before the door closed were, "Well, maybe just a little."

Chapter 33: Tower Of Babel

Harry pointed his wand and silenced the alarm before it could ring. He showered, dressed, then tipped out and sat on the side of the bed next to his still sleeping husband. Although Draco wouldn't admit it, this eighth month was starting to wear on him, and Harry had taken it upon himself to see that Draco got extra rest.

"Draco," he called softly, shaking him just a little. "Time to get up, Draco." There was an indecipherable mutter. Typical. "Out of bed, lazybones. You have wizards and witches to terrorize." A gray eye made a brief appearance before being covered by its lid again. "Come on. Coach is off today, remember? You get to run us ragged without any supervision."

Draco frowned and sat up. With a peculiar look in his eyes, he said something in Elven.

"Stop playing around. We need to get to breakfast," Harry said, pulling back the covers.

Draco clutched Harry's arm and uttered more garbled words. With his free hand, he touched his ear.

The panic in the gray eyes assured Harry that this was no game. "Draco, what's wrong? Why aren't you--" Draco shook his head, brushing his fingertips across Harry's throat. Harry got it; not only could he not understand Draco, but Draco couldn't understand him. What the-- The pregnancy. Fuck. He wanted to panic, but knew someone had to keep it together for Draco's sake. He peeled Draco's bruising fingers from his arm and grasped his hand to pull him up. "We'll get someone to help us and it'll be okay. Okay?" Draco continued to frown. "We're going to see Professor Dumbledore. Dumbledore," he repeated, mimicking the stroking of a long beard. Draco nodded, allowing himself to be pulled out of the room. Harry knew the problem was serious when Draco didn't stop to put on a dressing gown or check his hair.

Hermione, bless her pedantic heart, was already studying in the common room. The crackle of the fireplace, which was always lit no matter the season, gave Harry an idea. "Hermione, fire call Professor Dumbledore right away!"

She took one look at the disheveled Draco and hurried to the fireplace. She threw in a handful of floo powder and called hurriedly, "Professor Dumbledore! Harry and Draco need you!"

A face briefly appeared in the flames. "I'm on my way, dear."

Hermione turned to them. "What's wrong? Is it the baby? Do I need to contact Madam Pomfrey, too?"

"Draco can't speak English. And I don't think he understands it, either."

Her nose wrinkled in consternation. "Draco, do you understand me?" she asked.

He blinked in her direction, then said something that she couldn't understand.

"What is that?" she asked Harry.

"Elven, I think."

She started to ask another question, but Dumbledore hurried in, dressed in an orange and black nightshirt that allowed knobbish knees to poke out.

"Harry? Draco?"

"Professor, he's only speaking in Elven. And he can't understand us," Harry said, feeling the panic well up again now that someone else was in charge.

"Quel amrun. Lle rangwa amin?" Dumbledore said to Draco, and the wizard sagged in relief and nodded. "It appears you are correct, Harry. I just told Draco good morning and asked if he understood me in Elven."

"You speak it?" Harry asked, as relieved as Draco.

"A little. Certainly not with the facility Draco possesses. Let's go to the hospital wing and see if we can't figure out what's going on." He repeated the plan to Draco, who nodded eagerly and was the one tugging on Harry as they headed to Pomfrey's domain. Hermione hurried along behind them, telling Millicent Bulstrode, who'd just stepped into the common room, where they were going.

*****

Draco was having a difficult time sitting still while Pomfrey waved her wand at him. Why didn't they just lock him up and be through with it. They'd warned him that he could go insane. He just didn't know how awful insane was going to be. It would be one thing if it was like he was in a foreign country and couldn't speak the language. But it wasn't like that. It was like Harry and the others weren't speaking--they were just making noise. There was no cadence, no rhythm that suggested they were actually trying to communicate with him. It was gibberish, but worse. Even the monkeys in his father's lab made more sense than the people around him.

And, yeah, something was wrong with him, because the memory charm his father had cast when he discovered Draco with the monkeys should have held better.

(Draco?) He turned to the headmaster, the only one he could understand although his intonation was shit. He was also the only one who didn't make his head hurt. (Draco, Poppy can't find anything physically wrong with you.)

Surprise, surprise. (So, I've gone mental, then?)

(It may be stress-related. She wants to give you a sleeping draught. Maybe things will be back to normal when you wake.)

Maybe the sleep would ease his headache. (Okay. Will you tell Harry what’s going on? He needs to get to class.) Pomfrey had shooed Harry into the hallway soon after they'd arrived.

(He'll want to see you before he goes.)

Draco reluctantly nodded. (Tell him not to speak. The words hurt my head.)

(I'll tell him.)

Draco had already downed the sleeping potion and become drowsy by the time Harry came in. Dumbledore must have passed on his request, because Harry didn't say anything. He just leaned over and kissed him.

Draco fell asleep to the feel of Harry stroking his hair.

He woke to the sound of someone crying.

He groaned and sat up, looking around to see who had been hurt during training. Did Longbottom have Potions today? Or had Tracy transfigured her ring into a two-edged blade and sliced her finger off again? No matter who it was, maybe a glare from him would make the crybaby shut up and he could go back to sleep.

The hospital ward was empty.

A nightmare then. He sighed and lay back down.

There was more crying.

He pulled the pillow over his head.

Help me, Father! Mother! So scared. So scared.

Draco whimpered along with the voice. The voice that was apparently in his head.

Run from the bad things. Run, run!

Trees. Draco saw trees and heard--galloping?

They're going to eat me. Hide. Must hide.

Draco sat up on the edge of the bed. Had he really gone this barmy so quick? Or could the voice be real? It was obviously a child's voice. A frightened child--and frightened little wizards could do all sorts of things. Look at what his own child was capable of and he was still in the womb.

No die, no die, no die...

Not even aware of what he'd done, Draco found himself standing outside Hogwarts and facing the Forbidden Forest. Frowning at his bare feet, he started to turn around, but there was distant gibberish behind him, which might mean being hexed back into bed, so he just went forward and hoped for the best.

*****

"Harry!"

Harry jumped to his feet as soon as Madam Pomfrey burst into the Arms Charms classroom, knowing without a doubt that something had happened to Draco. "What is it? What's happened?"

"He's gone into the forest, Harry. I tried to stop him, but my spells--they just bounced right off him."

He hurried her down the hall, the rest of the class right behind them. "Did he say anything?"

She shook her head. "But I wouldn't have understood him anyway."

"Where's Professor Dumbledore?"

"Order business. He thought it was safe to leave. Draco should have slept through the night. I gave him enough sleeping draught to last straight through till dawn. Oh, Harry, he's still in his nightclothes and everything."

"Did you see which way he went?" Harry asked as they ran outside. The sky was gray and overcast. He shivered as he thought about Draco out there, alone and half-dressed. Please, don't let it rain, he prayed silently.

"That way. I tried to put a tracking spell on him, but he threw that off, too."

Harry nodded and scanned the edge of the forest. He looked around and saw all the trainees were outside now. They must have heard them running down the hall. "All right. I want you to break up into teams of five. Each group needs to have at least one former Slytherin. He may respond better to one of his friends. If you find him, don't approach if he looks like he's going to bolt. Just signal with your wand and try to keep him contained. Be careful. We want to find him, but we don't want to lead anything else to him while we're at it.

"Crabbe, Goyle, Hermione, and Ron, you're with me. The rest of you, go!" Harry looked at his chosen group and rolled up his sleeve to expose his binding bracelet. "Hermione, help me figure out how to work this thing."

"Just think of Draco," Goyle advised softly.

Harry nodded, ashamed that he'd just picked Goyle and Crabbe because they were big and familiar to Draco. He closed his eyes and focused. When he opened them, he knew where Draco was. "Come on!"

*****

"Manke naa lle, hin?" Where are you, child?

Draco was tired. His feet hurt and his nightshirt was torn and dirty. God, he hated the Forbidden Forest. And if he was out here chasing a phantom his mind had conjured up, he was going to be royally pissed.

"Tua amin, Ohtar!" Help me, Warrior!

"Tula sinome, edhelelle." Come here, little elf.

A bush shook and out from beneath it crawled a young Elven boy. He reached out to help him and he climbed into his arms, shivering and crying.

(It's all right, child. You've been found now. It's all right, little one.) He rubbed his back as he spoke, disturbed by how hard his heart was beating through his thin skin. (Come, I will take you back to the castle and we will find your parents. Can you tell me your name?)

The child just continued to sob.

(Oh, well, you can tell me later. Let's just get out of this scary forest for now. That sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?) He looked around, hoping he remembered the way he'd come. He saw the broken branches of his trail--and a centaur standing directly in the middle of it.

God, he hated this forest.

*****

Harry held up his hand and the others stopped. They listened for a minute and Harry looked at Ron.

Ron nodded. "Centaurs." The galloping sound was unmistakable.

"Shit." Harry started forward again, moving even faster.

*****

Draco clutched the child in his arms and started backing up slowly. The centaur grinned and started walking forward just as slowly.

Draco bumped against a tree and turned to see where he was going. Another centaur stared back him. This one spoke when he saw he had Draco's attention.

"They told of you, you who are not all one, but mainly another. You will die or you will not."

"Either way, old wounds heal," the other centaur said.

Draco's headache, which had disappeared, came back in a rush. "Am I supposed to understand what you're on about?" he asked dryly.

"Your truths are lies. You know, but you don't know. Change is good, if not bad. Even the stars cannot decide. Only you."

"There's a reason I quit Divination," Draco muttered. "My decision is to get the hell away from you. So if you don't mind..."

"Draco!"

Draco had never heard a yell that sounded so good. "Harry! I'm over here!" He turned toward a crashing sound and saw his husband running toward him. "Harry, watch out for--" He looked around. The centaurs had disappeared.

"Draco." Harry was beside him with his wand drawn.

"They're gone," he said and whispered it again to the head upon his chest. (The centaurs are gone, little one, and my husband, who is truly a great warrior, is here to protect us.) He looked up at Harry. "Centaurs were here."

Harry nodded. "We heard them. Are you okay? Who is your friend?"

"The centaurs were chasing him. He hasn't told me his name." He shifted the child so that he could see his eyes. (What is your name? I wish to introduce you.)

(Hidan, my lord.)

"Harry, this is Hidan."

"Hello, Hidan."

(My husband gives his greetings, Hidan. May I present to you the great warrior of the Wizards, Harry Potter.)

"Saesa omentien lle, belegohtar." Pleasure meeting you, mighty warrior.

Harry smiled as if he understood what the young elf said.

"Harry, we should, um, be leaving," Weasley said.

"Right. Come on, Draco."

Draco took a step and stumbled.

Harry grabbed his arm. "What's wrong?" He looked him over from head to toe. "Shit, you don't have on any shoes. Your feet must be a mess. Hermione!"

"Centaurs aren't the only things in this forest," Weasley reminded them nervously.

"Don't worry about it, Weasley," Pansy said as she and her team joined them. "We won't let the creepy crawlies get you."

"What if you are the creepy crawlies?" he retorted.

"Don't start, Ron," Harry warned.

"Sorry, Harry, but you know what I'm talking about."

"I know, but Draco can't walk."

"Over here, Harry."

They looked over to where Hermione had conjured a simple but sturdy sedan chair. Draco and Hidan were loaded into it, and Draco felt so grateful that he told Granger thank you without a prompt from Harry. Not only were his feet cut and bruised, but he was completely spent. Greg and Vince picked up the poles with ease and they started out of the forest. He looked around as others started falling in line. All of the militia had come to his rescue?

"Hey, Draco?"

"Yes, Harry?" He looked out the open window of his chair. Harry walked within touching distance. His wand was still out and Draco knew he was on high alert.

"You're speaking and understanding English again."

Draco smiled and relaxed into the gentle sway of his ride. He wasn't crazy. Harry and his friends had come after him and were now protecting him. The little elf who had invaded his head--apparently little elves had wild magic like little wizards--was safe and more importantly, quiet. The sky was a bit cloudy when they came out of the forest, but it wasn't raining. And-- "Everyone gets full marks for physical training today."

"Are you sure you didn't fall and hit your head?" Harry teased with a grin.

Draco grinned back and reached out for Harry. Hand in hand, they made it safely back to Hogwarts.

Chapter 34: A Long And Tragic Tale

Harry looked at the pair asleep on the bed and was grateful for the look into a future he might not live to see. Except for the ears, Hidan could easily be Draco's son. The silvery hair. The pointed features. The look of disdain when Pomfrey had approached with a bubbling goblet of potion... Harry grinned at that thought. He'd watched anxiously as Hidan had screwed up his face for one hissy of a tantrum (he'd seen the expression enough on Dudley's face), but before the explosion could occur, Draco had whispered something in Elven and took the child's hand. The boy had quietly submitted to the indignities of having his light injuries taken care of, and returned the favor by holding Draco's hand while the nurse healed his feet and scratches. Now the two slept and Harry kept watch. It made him feel good, seeing what kind of father Draco was going to be. He'd been afraid that between the two of them, they were going to suck as parents for a really long time. Now he knew that no matter what, their son was going to have a hell of a dad.

"Harry."

He turned to see Dumbledore enter the room with two adult elves. They were both slim, but the male had hair that had a purple cast to it, while the female's hair was the same as Hidan's and Draco's. Hidan's parents, by the way they only seemed to have eyes for their son. He took a moment to catalog their white, gold-trimmed robes, thinking that maybe he knew what to get Draco for Christmas.

"Hi, Professor. Hidan's parents? Tell them that Madam Pomfrey says that he's fine--just tired from his adventure."

"We speak your language, wizard," the male elf said disdainfully. "Is this the one who rescued our son?"

Harry rolled his eyes. If the elf thought he was impressing him with his haughty attitude, he was wrong. After all, Harry was married to a Malfoy. "Yes, he faced great danger to save him."

"The Headmaster says that Hidan mentally spoke to this one?"

Gray eyes opened. "He did, and this one has a name--one I'm sure the Headmaster has already shared with you," Draco added dryly and Harry grinned. This was going to be interesting.

With an elegant turn of his head, Draco dismissed the adult elves and looked down at Hidan. He shook the boy gently and Harry could tell he was encouraging him to wake in fluent Elven. The two older elves stared at him, breaking their stupor only when Hidan almost literally flew into his father's arms. There was a flood of quick Elven among the four of them and Harry noticed that even Dumbledore seemed to have trouble following it. He decided the best way to keep up with what was going on was by watching Draco's eyes. There was some annoyance, a brief flash of confusion, but no anger. Having experienced the Elves' contempt for wizards, he knew the situation could be a lot worse.

Finally, there was a pause in the conversation and Draco held out his hand to Harry. "Anigon and Norna of the Royal Family of the Kherin, I present to you my mate, Harry Potter. Harry, I present to you, High Lord Anigon and Princess Norna of the Kherin, also known as the noble House of the Gray Elf. You already know their son, Prince Hidan."

Princess? Prince? Harry didn't know how long he would've stood there with his mouth hanging open if Draco hadn't immediately pinched him and hissed, "Bow."

Harry followed Draco's orders. "It's an honor to meet you," he remembered to say.

"It is you who honor us by participating in the rescue of our son," Princess Norna replied. "If you do not find it too rude, we would take our leave now. There are others who are eager to see the well-being of our Hidan."

"Of course," Dumbledore said. "If you permit me, I will escort to a point where you can safely open a portal back to your realm."

They nodded regally and after a long, lingering look at Draco, left with a final farewell from Hidan called over his father's shoulder. "No matter what his parents think, you've got a fan, Draco," Harry said with a grin. Then he sobered. "What do his parents think? I've seen Hedwig appear more grateful for a bacon scrap than they did for the rescue of their son."

Draco shrugged. "By nature, Gray Elves are a bit reserved and snobbish, often considering other elves socially beneath them. Even before the schism in '55, wizards didn't rank very high with them. In fact, I'm not sure we rank at all. In terms of inherent magical power, we're just a step--mind you, it's a very big step--above squibs and muggles. That actual royals deigned to come here themselves, and not send a representative, shows how much they care for Hidan."

"He's their son!"

"If I'd been the lost one, I couldn't see my parents reacting much differently."

Harry shook his head. "No wonder you can speak their language so well. They're just like you."

This time Draco was the one shaking his head, a hand curved around his stomach. "If our son gets lost, I can guarantee you won't find anything reserved about me. Now let's get out of here. Where are my clothes?"

"In our room--and you don't need them to get there. Madam Pomfrey said--"

Draco waved off the rest of the sentence. "It's time for dinner and I need some chutney. If you want me to wear a hospital gown to the Dining Hall..."

Harry sighed. "I'll go get your clothes. But you have to promise me that you'll go to bed right after dinner."

"Nonsense, I just woke from a nap. How about a compromise? The sofa in the common room."

"Deal," Harry said quickly, before Draco realized that if he sat on the sofa, he was stuck there until Harry helped him up.

Which he wasn't going to do until Draco was ready to go to bed.

*****

"Do you want to lie in this morning? I could get one of the house-elves to bring you breakfast."

Draco blinked up at a completely dressed Harry. Bloody hell, it must really be morning and not some sick joke. He groaned and reached for the hand that was automatically extended in his direction. He pulled himself into a sitting position and flexed his toes. Well, he felt them flex anyway; it'd been some while since he'd actually seen them. "I'm fine, Harry. Just give me a few minutes to get ready." There was an arithmancy equation that could reduce three hours into minutes, right? Because, damn he was stiff! Maybe he should take Harry up on his offer of breakfast in bed. No, that would start something he didn't want. It was already bad enough his wand had been taken away and his tutoring sessions minimized. Did he really want to be treated as a bedfast invalid?

His shower helped a lot and by the time they reached the Dining Hall, the aches and pains and creaking bones had eased considerably. He straightened his shoulders and walked into the hall.

"Oooh, look, everybody. It's the Incredible Slythindor," Blaise called with a grin.

Draco groaned. Last night his Slytherins friends had teased him about becoming an heroic Gryffindor--"This time a cuddly child, what next, Draco? Ickle kitty in a tree?" When he'd threatened to give them all failures in physical training for the next week, they'd declared that he still had Slytherin in his blood, thus he was a "Slythindor." Although he thought the sobriquet clever, he wasn't about to let them get away with the teasing. "Laps, Zabini. So many laps that you will recognize each tree you go by how many leaves have fallen in your many passes."

"Cranky this morning, are we? Potter, you must not be doing your husbandly duties properly."

Well, that stung, even though Zabini had no idea how much. Still... "Harry, your wand."

Harry shook his head. "No, Draco, this one's on me." Harry pulled his wand and muttered a curse. Zabini's morning oatmeal dripped from his head; Draco hoped that it was still hot. Zabini's subsequent scream was immensely satisfying.

Before there could be any attempts at retaliation, and probably a full-out food fight, a single owl winging through the doors stopped everything. Although they'd had seven years of them, they'd quickly grown use to not having breakfast owls. This had to be something important. The owl fluttered in front of Draco, sticking out its note-laden leg.

Draco removed the note reluctantly and opened it. "It's from Professor Dumbledore. He wants to see me in his office. Harry, he says you can come along, too."

"Is something wrong?" Pansy asked.

Draco shrugged. "Probably something about yesterday's rescue. Who knows? Maybe the elves think I had something to do with Hidan's disappearance in the first place."

"Draco!" Harry said sharply. "What makes you think that? You didn't say anything about that before."

"It's just a guess, Harry. You saw how they stared at me yesterday. And they asked some...interesting questions."

"Questions like what?"

"Who my father is." A Death Eater who worked for a mad man whose son had just happened to stumble upon a lost Elven child. Who wouldn't be suspicious?

"Fuck," Harry replied softly.

Draco nodded, seeing the concerned faces of the rest of the militia. "It'll be okay. The elves just probably need to question me further, use their form of veritaserum or something."

"They're not doing a thing to you without Pomfrey or Snape present, damn it," Harry muttered.

Blaise stood and placed his hand on Draco's. "If the elves want a fucking war, we'll give them one. Just say the word, Draco."

The other Slytherins added their hands on top of Blaise and Draco's. Harry put his there and so did everyone else. With a solemn nod, Draco and Harry left for Dumbledore's office, knowing they had colleagues, friends, who had their backs. No matter what.

Or who.

*****

Draco was nervous as they neared Dumbledore's office. He'd studied elves. He knew their strengths (so very powerful) and their weaknesses (so very few). He also knew he was innocent of any wrongdoing, but, God, his father was one of Voldemort's minions... Was he going to have to fight against that in two realms? Why the hell hadn't Lucius thought about his future progeny's reputations when he got involved with the fucker? Damn it!

"You okay?"

He figured his anger had him flushing and attracting Harry's attention. "I'm fine. Just mentally skewering my father on a hot poker."

"Need some help with that?"

Draco gave him a grim smile. "Gee, if only I were Harry Potter's son, then I wouldn't have to deal with this shit."

"First, ewww! We do things in bed, you know," Harry replied with amused disgust. "And second, it's just as hard to be the son of a good guy, trust me. I'm always getting compared to my dad and it's quite uncomfortable."

"Let's make a pact, then. We're going to let this little one be whoever the hell he wants to be--within the bounds of good taste, of course."

Harry snickered. "Of course."

They were in considerably better spirits by the time they rode up the moving staircase. For Draco the feeling did not last long. As soon as they stepped into the office and he saw the woman standing next to Dumbledore, he knew there was something far more wrong than a kidnapping investigation.

"Draco?" Harry asked when Draco stopped in the middle of a step forward.

"Kneel," Draco hissed quickly. Harry's knee had started to bend before Draco realized, "Help me down, Harry."

"Why are we down here?" Harry whispered as he assisted Draco to one knee.

"She--her--it's--she's the queen, Harry, the queen of the elves!" He hated that his voice quivered, but, hell, the queen hadn't left the elf realm since the late 1700's. If she was here now... He gulped anxiously and surreptitiously eyed the woman standing beside Dumbledore. She looked like she was just a bit older than his parents, but he knew for a fact she was well over a thousand years old. Her royal robes were silver, shot with gold. Her hair was silver as well, and her eyes--eyes which were watching him watch her--were a startling violet. He blushed and looked back at the floor.

Dumbledore cleared his throat before speaking. "Queen Arelia, may I present to you Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter. Draco, Harry, this is her majesty Queen Arelia, Queen Regnant of the Kherin, Ruling Monarch of the Elven Realm, and Commander-In-Chief of the Combined Armies of the Five Original Realms of Magic."

The queen looked amused at the recitation of her titles. "Rise, children. We have much to discuss."

Harry helped Draco up and they discovered four chairs placed around a tea set near Dumbledore's desk. When everyone had been served, Queen Arelia touched the long tip of her ear and winked. "Fear not, children, for I can hear the rapid beats of your hearts. The reason I am here you cannot suspect, but I mean no harm. Please note that I am authorizing you to speak freely in my presence. This is not state business and protocol has no purpose here."

"Is it to do with Hidan? He is well?" Draco asked cautiously.

She smiled. "Very well. It is good that you were near to hear his cries for help. It is a royal family trait we are all proud of, the ability to mindcall to our kin when we are in trouble. No, I am not here to speak of Hidan, although he did tell me to make sure you come to visit him, because he will not be allowed to even mention the word 'portal' until he is quite older, and I do mean quite."

"Why are you here, then?" Harry asked and Draco goggled at his boldness. His muggle rearing was so obvious.

"To impart a long and tragic tale not known in your realm." She turned to Draco. "Cormlle naa tanya tel’raa, astalder." Your heart is that of the lion, valiant one.

Draco smiled. She was almost correct--his heart belonged to a lion. He saved that thought to ponder later. "Diola lle." Thank you. He sobered and asked, "Naa rashwe?" Is there trouble?

She shook her head and switched back to English. "Your Headmaster said you were an apt student of our language and ways. These will be comforts to you in the future."

Draco and Harry shared a glance. That didn't sound too cheerful, did it? Then again, she'd said her tale was tragic. "Please, your majesty, just tell us," Draco said softly.

She put down her cup. "Once upon a time the elves held great respect for wizards. Although your magics were somewhat elementary, you showed wisdom and intelligence in your use of them. You showed wisdom and intelligence in all your actions, which cannot be said of the trolls, orcs, and other assorted races we often have to deal with. We traded freely, shared what knowledge we thought you could comprehend. When you need assistance, we gave what we could. It was an harmonious existence. But one day, my daughter disappeared, along with a wizard who was traveling in our lands. He was traced back to this realm, but was soon lost. I sought the cooperation of the wizards in tracking this man, but I was told he didn't exist and that perhaps my daughter had wanted to disappear with him. But Thisala wasn't like that. She was quite settled in her maidenly ways, often telling me that she would settle with a mate when she found one worthy of her. I knew she would not go off following her heart without thought. The wizards, in their immense wisdom, decided to ignore my mother's instinct. I grew angry and demanded the expulsion of every wizard from the realms I commanded and called back all elves from the human realm. Alas, it was not a very 'queenly' act, but motherhood is far more a calling than a throne.

"Ten months later, my daughter returned in a very poor state. She spoke of being kidnapped and held in a place concealed by dark magics. She spoke of rapes and an eventual pregnancy. She spoke of coming to term with only the wizard who had assaulted her in attendance, of having him take her child and leaving her alone and bleeding on the cold floor of her prison. She spoke of the strength that motherhood gave her, strength that allowed her to make it back to her home realm so that her family could help her retrieve her son. Alas, we had no better luck finding her child than we had finding her. We monitored your realm constantly and years later we finally sensed the existence of one with royal Elven blood. Thisala was beside herself with joy. She went to her son. A son who rejected her in the bitterest of manners, a son whose heart had been hardened against her, turned black with hatred. Thisala returned to the realm, heartsick and broken. She died in the bed she'd grown up in, the vial of poison she'd taken still clutched in her hand."

Draco gasped. Suicide was virtually unknown with elves. It was considered a human folly.

"You have her coloring."

Draco frowned, looked at Harry, then looked back at the queen. "Excuse me, your majesty?"

"Her eyes were silver as her father's. You inherited that and, of course, the hair. There hasn't been a child born into the royal family without our fair hair in at least ten generations."

He saw the sadness in Dumbledore's eyes and thought he understood. The queen's grief was making her confused. "I'm sorry, your majesty," he said kindly, "I'm not your grandson."

She smiled and reached out her hand to him. "I know that, young one. Thisala wrote of her son in the note she left beside her bed. His name was not Draco...but Lucius."

Chapter 35: Would've Been Ironic If I'd Taken Up Killing Mudbloods For A Profession

Harry stared at Queen Arelia in utter shock. Lucius "I'm so pureblood my parents were brother and sister" Malfoy was actually a halfblood? Holy shit. Before he could wrap his mind around such a startling revelation, a peculiar sound made him turn his head. He saw that Draco was also reacting. He was laughing, not chuckles but full-blown laughter that had tears streaming from his eyes. At first, Harry joined in but as the laughter continued, Draco's laughs became sobs and soon he was gasping for his next breath. Panicking, Harry pulled Draco into his arms and started whispering that everything was going to be okay.

"Would've been--ironic if I'd--taken up--killing mudbloods--for a--profession, huh?" Draco hiccupped in his ear.

It finally hit Harry how much the information had shaken Draco. Harry was just stunned because Lucius was such a big liar. Draco--Draco had lost the very foundation of his life. Although he was firmly on the side of Light, Harry knew Draco hadn't totally given up his racist beliefs. Blood purity was a big issue to him and now, as he'd just said--now he was, in his own head, a mudblood. No better than Hermione. Far beneath Ron.

"Mr. Malfoy."

The voice was sharp and commanding. Draco pulled back from Harry, and Snape held a vial up to his lips. Draco drank without hesitation, then leaned against Harry again. Harry could feel him calming, his breathing less erratic and his heartbeat slowing. In a few minutes, he sat up and wiped his eyes with the handkerchief Snape held out. "Forgive me for my unseemly behavior," he said to the room in general.

"When my brother was carrying his children, a cloud appearing in a clear sky could cause a crying jag that would last for hours," Arelia said with a fond smile. "Considering the size of the cloud that I put into your sky, dear Draco, you have done the House of Kherin proud."

Draco thanked her with a nod. "Now I have to ask you to forgive me again, this time for my rudeness. Queen Arelia, may I present to you my mentor and Hogwarts potions master, Severus Snape. Professor Snape, may I present to you her royal majesty Queen Arelia, Queen Regnant of the Kherin, Ruling Monarch of the Elven Realm, Commander-In-Chief of the Combined Armies of the Five Original Realms of Magic, and--my great-grandmother."

Snape did Slytherin House proud by merely freezing for a second before dropping to one knee. "I am honored to make your acquaintance, your majesty."

"As I am so honored, Professor, by your obvious affection for my great-grandson." She looked at Draco. "I tire of all these 'great's. Would simply calling me 'mother' be too confusing to you? You are, after all, the last of the direct line to my dear Thisala, albeit not the last for long."

Draco's hand went to his belly in acknowledgement. "Since I no longer have anyone to call 'mother,' I would be honored and delighted to bestow the title upon you, Mother Arelia."

She gave Dumbledore a puzzled look. "I thought you said both his parents were living."

"Draco's heart is not as dark as his father's. Therefore, Draco has separated from his parents," the Headmaster replied.

"It is good that you said he has separated from his parents--because he is not separated from his family," Arelia said firmly. "You are a member of the Royal House of Kherin, Draco. The Court will always be home to you."

"But I'm--just a mudblood, possessing only a quarter of noble elf blood," Draco protested.

"Even if circumstances were not as they are, as long as a drop of Thisala's blood runs in your veins, you are not 'just' anything," the queen said sharply.

Harry felt Draco grow anxious again. "What circumstances?"

Arelia shook her head. "I will leave you to discuss it with your headmaster and perhaps your mentor should be present as well. He may be able to verify certain points." She stood and so did everyone else. "Darling Draco," she said as she stood in front of him. "The one regret I have regarding my daughter is that I did not teach her properly about patience. As humans are fond of saying, good things come to those who wait. You, my new son, were definitely worth waiting for."

Draco smiled. "It's nice to be wanted, Mother. And please do not take my reaction as a rejection. I was just--" he paused, desperate for a tactful description.

"Thrown unexpectedly into a freezing tarn?" Arelia supplied.

"Yes, but I know how to swim. I just need to get my bearings."

She nodded. "Yes, I can see you will not falter long. That is not your nature."

Harry snorted at the understatement. He'd never seen anyone recover from anything as fast as Draco. He'd noticed that even before their current situation. No matter what he, Ron, and Hermione had tossed at Draco, the blond was always at the top of his game when they next met.

"Please allow me to escort you to the school perimeter," Dumbledore said, adding with a twinkling eye, "I'll even let you in on a shortcut. Severus, perhaps in the meantime Mr. Malfoy will allow you to perform a blood test on him."

Snape raised an eyebrow. "What shall I be looking for?"

"Percentage human."

*****

Draco gasped at Dumbledore's request but forced himself to focus on his departing great-grandmother. "Will I see you again soon?"

"Of course, my son. You know how to call to me, or if you wish to journey to the realm, you do not have to wait for an invitation. I will be delighted to introduce my newest son to the Court." She smiled at Harry. "And, of course, your mate will be welcome as well. Although he appears to be the silent type, I feel the strength of your union. You are well-matched. Cormamin niuve tenna’ ta elea lle au'." My heart shall weep until it sees thee again.

"Lissenen ar’ maska’lalaith tenna’ lye omentuva, arwenamin " Draco murmured as she kissed his cheek. Sweet water and light laughter till next we meet, my lady.

She smiled proudly and took Dumbledore's arm, glancing long at Draco as she allowed the Headmaster to guide her through the door.

As soon as Dumbledore and the queen left, Draco dropped his face into his hands. "I'm so humiliated by my reaction. What she must think of me," he whined.

"Actually, it appears she thinks quite a lot of you," Snape replied, taking an empty vial from his robes. He waved his wand and Draco felt a prick before he raised his head to see a drop of his blood floating through the air to sink into the vial. "Someone in your family had--relations with an elf?"

Draco expelled a puff of air. "Relations? Oh, you mean when Grandfather Melchizedek thought it'd be a really bright idea to kidnap an Elven princess, imprison her, use her as a breeder bitch, and then take her child away as soon as it was whelped, leaving her to die or save herself, whichever one came first? Then yes, someone in my family had relations with an elf."

He watched Snape do the time calculations in his head. "Ah, hence the banishment of wizards from the Elven realm."

Draco gave a grim smile. "Don't forget the part where poor Princess Thisala finds her long-lost son and he's such a bastard--forgive the pun--to her that she goes back to the realm and tops herself. It's a wonder Queen Arelia didn't just have me beheaded and end the whole evil line."

"You Malfoys never do anything by halves, do you?" Snape drawled as he used his wand to test the vial of blood.

"Half of nothing is nothing; half of everything else is just a waste of opportunity, resources, or revenue," Draco said, parroting his father's voice.

"I hope your recent circumstances have made you aware that Malfoy tenets are often without merit."

"I can quote them without believing them."

Snape frowned and did the bloodletting spell again.

"Unlike my father and grandfather, I have a heart," Draco said, getting nervous, "and a heart requires blood, so I ask very nicely that you save me some!"

"Perhaps I should check your hormone levels as well."

Draco tried to reach around Harry for the teapot, which he could envision bouncing soundly off Snape's head, but his husband held him back. "You like his potions, remember? He adds extra chocolate just for you," Harry whispered.

Hmm. That was a good point. It wasn't a good idea to piss off your own, personal potions master, especially when you were pregnant and in need of lots of potentially nasty concoctions. "I apologize for my tone, Professor Snape," he said sweetly.

"Save the sucking up for your great-grandmother."

Bastard. No, Snape wasn't the bastard; Lucius was. But what the hell was Lucius's game? He'd violently rejected his Elven heritage, yet he was the one who'd started and encouraged Draco's interest in everything Elven. He smelled a rat almost as foul as that Pettigrew idiot Voldemort had serving him.

He focused on Snape and saw that the man was finished with his analysis. "Well?" he asked, grateful when he felt Harry's hand settle around his.

"Before you tell us your results, Severus," Dumbledore said, coming through the door, "perhaps I should give a bit of explanation."

"That might be wise, Headmaster," Snape replied with a hint of curiosity.

"As Queen Arelia mentioned in passing as she spoke of her brother, Elven men can become with child. When our forefathers were in search of a way to propagate despite a limited number of witches, they looked to the elves for a solution. The Elven healers considered it a worthy challenge, and they discovered that the key to wizard pregnancy was one drop of Elven blood bound to wizard blood. Now, Elven blood is extremely aggressive, meaning that too much can set off a cascading production of Elven blood cells and the being affected will become a sterile hybrid, much like mule. So, although there were a number of magics combined to create the Progenitors, the single drop of Elven blood was the core of the procedure."

"How do you know all of this?" Harry asked. "I thought there was no information on Progenitors."

"It turns out that Queen Arelia was a healer before she was queen and knew very well of the origin of Progenitors. If we had been on better terms with the elves, I'm sure they would have been of great service to us earlier," Dumbledore explained patiently. "When your maturity triggered the Progenitor effect, Mr. Malfoy, that one drop of Elven blood appeared in your system--and met the quarter percentage of Elven blood already present. This started a cascade."

"You mean--" Draco started hesitantly, "that I'm a mule?" God, and he thought being a mudblood was bad enough.

Dumbledore smiled. "No, Draco, you are definitely not a mule. Because you were already one-fourth elf, the cascading merely made you more elf. How much more, well, I think Severus has the answer to that."

Snape held up the vial of blood. "Ten percent."

Draco frowned. "I went from twenty-five percent to only ten?"

"The Headmaster's first request was for percentage human."

"I'm ninety percent elf!" Draco's voice squeaked and his hands went quickly to the tips of his ears.

"I'm sure that's the ten percent that is human," Snape said dryly.

Draco ignored him and started to review what he knew. "That can't be right. With that much Elven blood, I should be able to perform at least a little Elven magic. Even half-elves can do a lot of things."

"So can you," Harry pointed out softly.

"What are you talking about?"

"The lights, Draco. And your father."

"That--that was the baby, Harry. I told you how it likes to protect itself."

Harry shook his head. "You're protecting him, Draco. It's been you who's been protecting our son."

Well, fuck. Better than carrying around a little power monster, but... Made it real, didn't it? He was no longer "Draco the Pureblood Wizard," but "Draco, the Almost Pureblood Elf." It was--ridiculous was what it was. He hadn't been wrong to laugh at the situation. Hell of a day and the morning had barely begun. "Guess we don't have to worry about a war with the elves."

"I beg your pardon?" Snape asked sharply.

"Idle speculation, Professor," Draco said dismissingly. "Can we go now?"

"Of course," Dumbledore said. "And when you're ready to visit the realm just let me know ahead of time, please."

Draco nodded, knowing the old man's monitoring spells would have a fit if he disappeared from the mortal world. He grabbed Harry's hand and tugged him out of the office. "If we were not bound and merely married," he said as the stairway descended, "you could file for an annulment on the grounds that I lied about my heritage."

"You know I don't care about that shit," Harry said impatiently. "And to be honest, I don't exactly get what your problem is. You're almost a full elf. You're now capable of more magic than any other wizard on the planet. What's so bad about that?"

Draco struggled to put it in terms Harry could understand since their backgrounds were so different. "You thought you were a normal little muggle boy until you were eleven, right?" Harry nodded. "When you found out you were a wizard, you were happy." Harry nodded again. "But even though you were happy, you were frightened by the knowledge that you were different? And you were angry because someone could have told you before? And you were sort of sad because whatever dreams you had were going to change and even though you knew the change was probably for the better, it was still change and it was still scary?" Draco sighed and closed his eyes for a few seconds. "Queen Arelia was right about the freezing tarn. It's scary in cold, dark waters, Harry."

Harry shrugged and draped his arm across Draco's shoulders. "I've seen you swim, Draco, and even though I can't be in the water with you, I want you to know I'm on the other side, waiting for you with a nice warm blanket and a winner's ribbon."

The image made Draco smile. "And some chutney? I need my chutney, you know."

"The baby's going to come out breathing fire," Harry muttered. "We’re going to have to name him Little Draco and cover the rooms in flame retarding charms. And he'll singe my hair and you'll say, 'Don't worry, Potter, no one will notice the difference.' I'll point out that he never comes close to burning your hair, and you'll just remind me that that's because Little Draco is going to be a Slytherin and therefore rightly has no respect for Gryffindors..."

Harry's lighthearted rant continued as they made their way toward class, distracting Draco from the tumultuous revelations of the morning enough that he could function and not shatter. Maybe his life had turned upside down. Maybe he wasn't who he thought he was. Maybe he wasn't what he thought he was. But he had Harry and their baby, apparently a new mother, and an assorted host of new relatives who may or may not loathe him--which was no different from what he was used to. Hmph. If life was a potion's cauldron, his overall ingredients hadn't really changed that much, had they?

"Ready for class, Draco?"

He looked up to see they were standing in front of the classroom's door. He gave a squeeze to the hand that was firmly wrapped around his. "I'm ready for anything, Harry."

Chapter 36: Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

"Have you seen Draco?" Harry asked the first former Slytherin he ran into. He had really great news to share and was eager to find Draco. Today, in his "special" class he had mastered an Unspeakable-level spell! Exaudio allowed the caster to eavesdrop even on conversations protected by a silencing spell. It wasn't a commonly known spell and was highly complicated to perform--the only reasons why the Ministry hadn't completely banned it, considering how invasive it was to public privacy. He was pleased with himself for learning it, and he knew Draco would be pleased as well. Although he wasn't very vocal about it to Harry himself, Draco was proud that his husband was a powerful wizard. Maybe it made up, in a tiny way, for what he'd lost when he'd turned away from his parents.

"He went to find Snape. Something about his hemorrhoid salve running out," Crabbe said in a loud whisper.

Harry frowned. Draco had plenty of salve; he'd seen it just this morning--ugh--next to the sink in the bath. So why was Draco going to Sna-- Oh. The elf thing. That was Draco's term. "Harry, don't tell the others about the elf thing. There's no point in bringing it up. It doesn't really mean anything," he'd told Harry yesterday just before they stepped into the classroom. Draco was royalty and just because he wasn't wizarding royalty or pureblooded royalty, he was ashamed of his status. He was acting almost as bad as Lucius, although he hadn't completely turned his back on the elves and told them to fuck off. But denying his connection to them was pretty close. Where was his cunning Slytherin who was supposed to use any means to achieve his goals? Power, privilege, prestige was right there for the taking, and he was in a mood because his blood wasn't pure. Harry just didn't get it.

Which was probably why Draco was talking to Snape. Snape understood these things, having not only been the head of Slytherin House for years, but an actual Slytherin. Maybe Draco would listen to him. After all, he was in need of a father figure since Queen Arelia had volunteered to be his new mother. Hmm. A whole new twist on the term "queen mum."

"Harry?"

He turned away from his musing to see Hermione staring at him. "Hi, Hermione. You seen Draco?"

"He said something about seeing Snape when we got out of class. Is everything okay?"

"Sure. Why?"

She shrugged. "He seemed...different yesterday. Are you sure the only thing that happened was that the elf queen came to thank him?"

Harry nodded, hating the lie. "She surprised him and Draco doesn't like surprises, that's all. According to him his hair wasn't done perfectly, his robes weren't his best, he's eight months pregnant and the size of a hippogriff, etc. You know Draco."

"I'm starting to, and that's why I think there's something you're not telling me."

Harry decided to be as honest as he could. "If it was just me, I'd tell you, but I can't betray Draco's confidence, Hermione. Just know it has nothing to do with me, and I really don't see it as much of a problem at all."

"Draco and his dramas, huh?" she asked skeptically.

"Right. I'm sure Snape is talking some sense into him even as we speak."

Hermione raised her eyebrows, then shook her head. "Fine. I'll see you both at dinner?"

"Of course. I want to tell you and Ron about what I learned in class."

Harry hurried down the hall and to the steps. The potions laboratory was again in the dungeons and Harry still wasn't sure whether it was a new laboratory or the one he'd spent seven miserable years in. He wished Draco hadn't been banned from potions due to his condition, because if anyone knew whether it was the same room, it would be Draco.

He stood outside the closed door to the laboratory and wondered if he should knock. Then he had the brilliant idea of testing his newly learned spell. Drawing his wand, he made the complicated movements and uttered the spell. Nothing. He did it again before realizing he wasn't hearing anything because the room was empty. Draco and Snape were probably in the potion master's office.

Remembering his agonizing Occlumency lessons in Snape's office, he easily found his way there and cast Exaudio. He was rewarded with the voices of his husband and their professor.

*****

"Professor Snape?" Draco had asked as he tapped on the door.

"Are you in labor?"

"No."

"Then go away. My research has already been hampered enough by having to teach you lot this summer." Draco stayed where he was until Snape looked up from the parchment he was scribbling on. "What is it, Mr. Malfoy?"

Draco stepped in, closed the door, and asked Snape to perform Silencio before he spoke. "It's about my heritage, sir."

"You're ninety percent elf. Deal with it because it is not going away. Besides, you're royalty. I'm sure that outweighs being a mudblood, even for you."

Draco smirked. "It does indeed, sir. That's not the problem."

"Then what is?" Snape didn't bother to hide his impatience.

"It's the 'mule' part."

Snape blinked. "You look like a wizard-sized plimpy, so I can say without any doubt at all that you are completely fertile."

If Draco wasn't so worried, he'd have been offended. "What if there are other...side-effects?"

Snape sighed. "Such as?"

"What if it--affectedyoursexualperformance?" he said in a rush.

Snape cleared his throat uncomfortably. "You're eight months gone. It's reasonable that you'd have, um, performance problems. Tell Potter to take cold baths and leave you alone."

Draco sat even though Snape never offered him a seat. "I can perform. I just can't let Harry...do me. I get scared every time he tries."

"And does he try--often?"

"No. He says--he says it doesn't matter, that it'll take time for me to get over the rape, if I ever do."

"He's correct. Come back in ten years if you're still having the same problem."

"Professor," Draco whined. "It's been eight months! I should be over it by now."

Snape sat back in his chair, tapping his fingers against his desk. "Do you want to know what I think the real problem is?"

"Yes, sir." No way he would have come to Snape about sexual matters if he didn't want the man's opinion.

"Guilt, Mr. Malfoy. Your guilt is keeping the incident in the forefront of your mind and therefore you can't 'get over it.'"

"Guilt because I--"

"Yes. You gave Potter the potion that made him rape you. It weighs on your conscience--the part of you that determines right from wrong, in case your father never explained the term to you."

"It wasn't wrong," Draco argued. If he hadn't done it, he'd probably be sporting a lovely skull and snake on his arm by now.

"It wasn't right, either."

Draco rubbed at his temple, a headache threatening to bloom. "So how do I get rid of this--guilt?"

Snape shrugged. "Do something good, I suppose. Appease your conscience. Show it that you know you did wrong and maybe it will shut up, allowing you to enjoy--" he shuddered-- "the affections of Mr. Potter."

"Good? I guess I could--" Draco frowned. "Any suggestions, sir?"

"A start would be leaving me in peace to complete my calculations."

Draco rose from the chair. "Thank you for your advice." Snape grunted and picked up his quill.

Something good, Draco thought as he left the office. Maybe he could invite Granger and Weasley over for a private dinner. Or he could-- "Harry?" He smiled as he saw his husband leaning against one of the walls. "What are you doing down here? If you're here to see Snape, I'd suggest coming back later. He seems to be in the middle of something important."

"I was looking for you. I had something important to tell you."

"I could use some good news," Draco said brightly.

"I learned a new spell today."

"Something dastardly?" Draco gave a dramatic evil chuckle.

Harry just shrugged. "Could be. See, I learned how to listen in on private conversations--like the one you just had with Snape."

Draco paled and looked closer at Harry. Why hadn't he noticed the tense shoulders and angry eyes. God, he was in the shit now, wasn't he? Maybe not. Maybe Harry hadn't heard everything. "I know I shouldn't be discussing our personal lives with Snape but--"

"Cut the crap, Malfoy! I heard it all! You--you made me fucking rape you! How could you? Oh, yeah, I remember now. You could because you are a fucking Malfoy with no more morals than your fucking Death Eater of a father!"

"Harry, please, let me explain."

"Explain how you made me into your fucking bitch? Sit, Harry. Heel, Harry. Bind with me, Harry. Let me fuck you, Harry. Give up your whole fucking life for me, Harry."

"Harry, I--"

"Don't! Don't use my name anymore. My enemies don't have the right to use my name."

"I'm not your enemy. I--"

'Well, you're certainly not my friend or anything else. No, I take that back. You're my fucking breeder--just like your grandmother was when she whelped your father!"

"Harry--"

"Shut the fuck up and DON'T call me that! No, I'm wrong. I'm not your grandfather, you are! You used me and locked me up in a fucking cage of a life that I didn't want. But you know what? I'm not going out like she did. In fact, now I'm going to be like your grandfather. I'm going to let you have this baby and then I'm going to take him away from you and never look back. Bleed to fucking death--see if I care!"

"Harry--" Draco flinched as a wand nearly stabbed him in the eye.

"Don't. Say. My. Name. Get. It?" The wand did not waver a millimeter. Draco swallowed hard and nodded. "I'm not sure which one I'm more disgusted with--you or myself? After all, I knew you were a fucking arsehole from the beginning. You played me but good, didn't you? Made me into the biggest fool on the fucking planet!"

"It wasn't about you. It was never about you," Draco murmured, scared to say much.

"That's right. Because you're a selfish bastard who only thinks of himself. Why didn't I remember that? Why did I ever believe that you lov--that you cared about me?"

"Magic doesn't lie, Harry." The wand poked at him again. "Potter, magic doesn't lie."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"The binding. It was--"

"How the hell did you fake that anyway? Hermione will want to know."

"I didn't fake--"

"Probably gave me the wrong ceremony. What did I really do? Give over my soul to you? Did you make me sign in blood, then give me a potion to make me forget it? After all, you love sneaking potions into me."

"Har--Potter, calm down and listen to me. I--"

"Didn't I tell you to shut the fuck up? I don't want to hear any more of your lies. Did you laugh when I told you how tired I was of being manipulated by Dumbledore and the Order and the whole fucking Wizarding world? Didn't know I was talking to the fucking master of puppet masters. You make me sick. You make me physically ill. The sight of you makes me want to puke. God, I want kill you right now, but I can't, can I?" Harry sighed and stuck his wand back into his robes. "Get out of here, Malfoy, before I forget you're carrying my son."

"If you'd just let me--" The wand was back out faster than Draco's words.

"Run, Malfoy," Harry warned, his tone dangerously flat. His eyes glittered eerily in the semi-dark corridor, reminding Draco of a cat he'd found in one of Lucius's cages at Malfoy Manor. The thing had been so feral, it'd broken its own neck trying to escape. The emerald eyes had frozen open in death, the madness still clearly visible.

Draco shivered and took a step back. "Pot--" he tried again, determined to be heard. He didn't know what he wanted to say; he just knew he had to try.

"Run now, or I won't be responsible for what happens next." The words were whispered, a sinister, sibilant sound that seemed to echo off the barren dungeon walls.

Draco, alarmed to see Harry shaking but the wand pointed at his throat completely steady, did the only thing he could.

He ran.

Chapter 37: Trouble Never Travels Alone

Draco was halfway back to his and Harry's rooms when he realized what had happened--he'd run from Harry. He'd never run from Harry before. Ever. Even when it would've been the smartest thing to do. But he'd never seen that Harry before either. That Harry--that must be the Harry who scared the shit out of Voldemort on a regular basis. How delightful for their side, but-- Draco couldn't let that Harry or any other Harry intimidate him and steal his baby. The baby was all he had left, the only person who might someday love him even when he wasn't perfect. He sighed. Who was he kidding? His son would probably hate him by the time he was five.

"Hey, Draco, did Potter find you? I told him you were with Snape because of your...problem."

Crabbe stood in front of him. Crabbe, who'd apparently told Harry where he was. Crabbe who had ruined his life. "Yes, he found me, you big oaf! And now, because of you, he's going to take my baby away."

"What?"

Draco took a deep breath. Standing here arguing with Crabbe was useless. He had to--he had to what? Get away? To where? He didn't have-- He grinned. Mother Arelia. He'd go to the Elven realm. They'd probably be pleased to keep a wizard from his child. Payback was always a happy bitch. Sweet, sweet revenge.

"Draco?"

"Get the hell out of my sight, Crabbe." Draco nearly ran to his rooms, He started packing, then realized he couldn't shrink his luggage without a wand. Fuck. Well, it wasn't like he was planning on staying forever. Just long enough for Potter to calm down, maybe start missing him a bit. So, he just grabbed the journal Harry had given him, a jar of chutney since he wasn't sure if elves ate chutney, and his book of Elven spells. There, he was packed.

Halfway out of the castle, he remembered his promise to Dumbledore about notifying him when he made visits to the realm. He didn't care about breaking the agreement, but the old fool might think he'd been kidnapped or something. Besides, Harry considered him a trusted adviser. It couldn't hurt to stay in the sugared up professor's good graces. With a very put out sigh, he trudged up to the owlery, trudged back down, then trudged out across the lawn and toward the freedom of the gates.

*****

Harry muttered a healing charm and waved his wand at his hand. At least it wasn't his dominant hand he'd smashed repeatedly into the dungeon wall. And the pain gave him an excuse for the tears that he could feel drying on his face.

So stupid, he decided. Believing in Draco. Believing in love. Believing that he was actually in control of some part of his destiny. Yeah, he'd always known it was a plot, but he'd thought he and Draco were both victims. It had put them on an equal footing. It had made them an "us" versus "them" team. Now, they weren't a team--just the usual "Boy Who Lived" idiot and his enemy, Malfoy. He'd thought everything had changed and nothing had. They might as well be First Years. And if that wasn't bad enough, Malfoy had involved an innocent in their war. A baby who'd done nothing more than come into existence. Another unwanted Potter boy.

No! He was wanted, damn it! Harry wanted him, and he was going to raise him and teach him how to tie his shoes and ride a broom and... And none of that was going to happen because Harry didn't know if he'd even be alive by the time his son was old enough to tie shoes or ride a broom.

"Fuck you, Draco!" he cried out. "Fuck your black soul to hell! You and Voldemort and your fucking father!"

God, what was he going to do now? No one knew the truth, and he certainly wasn't eager to tell Ron and Hermione. He could see the pity in their eyes. And he could hear Ron spout crap about making sacrifices for the baby. But, damn it, he was tired of sacrificing. He'd already lost his parents, Sirius... Couldn't somebody else, for once, give up everything?

Draco had, his conscience whispered.

Yeah, but he deserved it.

Because he didn't want to serve Voldemort?

Because he used me!

So it's all about you.

He made it about me.

And you call him a selfish bastard who only thinks of himself? Pot meet kettle.

Don't make him out to be a tragic hero.

No, that would be you-- the Boy Who Lived.

Shut the fuck up!

You shut me the fuck up. It's your head, remember?

Harry started to punch the wall again, but at the last minute saw the bracelet on his wrist. He stared at it for a minute, then leaned back against the wall, battling his anger and his conscience. He had every right to be angry, to feel hurt. But, for better or worse (and how ironic was that?), he was bound to Draco. Regardless of what he'd yelled at Draco, he knew it was a real binding. He could feel the magic of it. He'd relied on it to find Draco and it hadn't played him false. It was real and...Magic didn't lie.

He slid down and sat with his back against the cold wall. This was a fine mess Draco had got both of them into. Stomping off to hit walls wasn't going to solve anything. Hitting Draco wasn't going to solve anything. Crying and yelling about his fucked up life wasn't going to solve anything. He and Draco--because, yes he was going to make the bastard work with him--were the only ones who could straighten this out. They had to, for the baby's sake, hell, for all their sakes. He could just see himself cocking up the spell to kill Voldemort because he was too horny to think properly.

And if he was thinking of sex, then maybe the worse was over. Maybe he could face Draco without wanting to kill him. But it was dinner time. Could he face Draco surrounded by everybody? Wouldn't it be better if he just went to the kitchens and got a sandwich to take back to his rooms? That way he could confront Draco in private. With a full stomach. With Draco already having his daily allowance of chutney. Yeah, that would work.

With his plan in mind, Harry stood and went in search of the picture of the ticklish pear. He figured his best bet would be to find the Great Hall, which was maybe through the door at the end of the dormitory corridor. He was surprised to see Crabbe pacing outside the door to the wizards' dorm. He'd never seen one of Draco's former henchmen miss a meal or even leave one early. Since he wasn't in the mood to talk, he put his head down and prepared to mutter a greeting without slowing down.

Crabbe, however, had other ideas. As Harry passed, the larger wizard reached out and grabbed him by the collar of his robes. With a "This is for Draco," Harry felt pain explode on the side of his face.

Even as Harry was falling, he was drawing his wand. He winced as his elbow hit the solid marble of the floor, but he kept his enemy in focus. "What the hell's the matter with you, Crabbe?"

"Draco said you were going to take his baby."

"What!"

Harry turned his head just slightly to see everyone had returned from dinner and were standing in the hallway that his sprawled body blocked. Everyone but Draco, who was probably in their rooms incendio'ing all Harry's stuff. Great, this was just bloody great. "Draco and I, we--we had a fight." Understatement of the fucking year. "I might have--said something like that."

"But you didn't mean it, right?" Hermione pressed.

"I--"

"You found out, didn't you?" Pansy asked flatly. "That's why you threatened him with taking the baby."

Draco had told the fucking Slytherins? The anger he'd struggled to contain, exploded. Everyone ducked as the globes around the hallway candles shattered around them.

"Found out what?" Ron asked desperately. "What the effing hell did you find out that's causing you to lose it like this, mate?"

"He found out Draco got pregnant on purpose," Pansy answered, and it took Harry a second to realize that Draco hadn't completely confided in them. He hadn't told them about the rape. "He did it to save us, Potter. If you can't understand that--"

"Why should he?" Hermione interrupted. "Trapping someone with a baby is vile!"

Pansy glared at her. "Only a mudblood like you would think so. Carefully planned pregnancies have saved many a society from years of war and devastation. Read between the lines of your precious Hogwarts: A History, Granger, and see the truth behind all those fortuitous alliances and pacts. Someone--a Slytherin, no doubt--saw the need and took action! Your bloody muggles and their One Hundred Years Wars. That was real brilliant of them, wasn't it?"

"Oh, and one Slytherin whore could have stopped it by lifting her skirts or in Draco's case, dropping his pants?" Hermione asked scathingly.

"Yes, Draco dropped his pants and every single one of you should be kissing his arse because he did so. The lot of you are bloody useless when it comes to scheming, and if you think you can take on the Dark Lord armed only with earnestness and sincerity, you don't fucking deserve to win," Pansy replied with a disdainful sniff.

"Shut your gobs, all of you!" Harry had had enough. "This is between Draco and me. We'll--"

"No, Potter, you're wrong," Blaise said quietly. "It has never just been between you and Draco. Everything the two of you have done has always reached beyond you personally. You divided the Houses of Hogwarts far more than mere history did. Wherever the two of you were, there was drama and conflict and the taking of sides. Yet, in one kiss, you mended the rift as if it'd never existed. You are a leader, Potter, and people follow. Draco's the same, and if we're all honest here, none of us would be in this militia if the two of you hadn't led us here. So, sure, go find Draco. Fight, argue, fuck, whatever. But know that it's not just about you and Draco."

"Zabini," Harry started to protest...but the bloke was right, wasn't he? He and Draco led, and they all just followed. Everyone knew it. Everyone accepted it. Even the older students had fallen in line after a few years. It hadn't been Gryffindor versus Slytherin. It'd been Potter versus Malfoy. The good following Potter. The evil following Malfoy. Or maybe from the other perspective it was the stupid following Potter and the smart following Malfoy. Whatever it was, he didn't feel ready to deal with it. "Zabini," he began again. "I--" He hissed as the bracelet cut into his arm.

"Harry?"

"Potter?"

He ignored them and staggered to his feet. "Draco!" He started down the corridor in a dead run.

*****

As Draco hurried across the Hogwarts lawn, he frowned at the dark-clouded sky. Great. A summer storm was all he needed. He fumbled in his pocket for the book of spells and cursed the wind as it blew the pages around before he could find the directions of how to access the Elven realm. He knew how to do it in theory, but that wasn't very reassuring when he'd be stepping through the hopefully correct portal in a few moments. Ah, he thought as he looked at the drawings. In his mind, he'd switched the left rune with the right one. Maybe he better check the--

"Draco."

He was proud of himself for not flinching. Somewhere in the back of his head, he knew that with the way his day was going, this was bound to happen. He flipped his notes closed and crammed them back into his robes. "Hello, Father. How are you this lovely day? Voldemort here with you? Voldemort?" he called loudly. The Dark Lord's appearance would just add icing to his shit cake of a life.

"Draco!" Lucius reprimanded sharply. "Don't you dare speak our Lord's name."

Draco rolled his eyes. "A name's a name, Father."

"And a whore's a whore," Lucius said with disgust looking at Draco's dramatically different profile.

Draco opened his robes and patted his stomach. "You're going to be a grandpa. Aren't you thrilled?"

"I'd planned on being the grandfather of the next dark lord, not some mudblooded brat."

Well, that made it through Draco's fatalistic haze. "You what?"

"When the Dark Lord found out about your 'uniqueness,' he wanted to give you the honor of bearing his progeny."

"You expected me to cop-copulate with that--that--" Draco sputtered, utterly outraged.

"You copulated with Potter."

"At least he's human."

"The Dark Lord is--"

"The Dark Lord was dead for ten years; humans don't come back to life."

"He's powerful."

"He's a freak! Face the truth, Father. You've sold your soul to a half-blood freak, and you tried to sell your son to him as well. But considering you're a half-blood freak yourself..."

Lucius paled, then smirked. "So you've discovered my secret, have you?"

Draco snorted. "Secret my arse! What was the plan, Lucius? There had to be some reason why you wanted me to learn the Elven language and culture. Why didn't you want me to hate your mother like you did?"

Lucius shrugged. "There was no way I was going off with the bitch, but I figured if she wanted to start a war, I could give you in appeasement."

Gee, it was so heartwarming to know just how little he meant to his father. Still... "Try again, Lucius. That's only part of it, isn't it? Let's see. What value could I--Oh, I get it," he said, smiling as he figured out Lucius's plan. "If the Dark Lord was in danger of losing the war, you planned on offering me up as hostage for the elves joining Voldemort's side, didn't you?"

"Your grandmother is an Elven royal; she could end this so-called war in a heartbeat."

"My grandmother is dead."

Lucius looked startled. "Then, how do you know--"

"I saved the life of one on my--cousins. My great-grandmother, Queen Arelia, came to meet me. In fact, I'm on my way to her house right now. I'll be sure to give your regards. As her newest son, Mother will certainly want to comfort me with the head of the beast you wanted to give me to."

Lucius shook his head and drew his wand. "You know I can't let you do that."

"And you know I can't let you do that," Draco said calmly, raising his hand to the sky.

"What are you going to do? Call on your quarter Elven powers?" Lucius sneered.

"Let me pass on a piece of advice I recently received: run, Lucius."

Lucius lifted his chin stubbornly. "Avada Kadvra! " he yelled.

"Russe tuulo’ moriloomir! " Draco counter-yelled and brought his hand down in a slash.

*****

Harry paid no attention to the thunder and barely glanced at the rain as it beat down on him as he raced across the lawn to the Hogwarts gates. Through the filigreed metal he could see Draco. Lucius. The drawn wand. The raised hand. He even got close enough to hear the curses.

But he wasn't close enough to see what happened as the air in front of him flashed a blinding green and white.

Chapter 38: Tears

Harry felt as if he was fighting his way underwater as he continued toward Draco, his eyesight blurred by the bright light they'd been subjected to. Green light. Screaming. His mother. Tombstones. Voldemort.

A splash of cold water brought him back to the present. Rain. Big, fat drops of rain which created puddles even as he ran. He spared a flick of an eye at Lucius, who lay sprawled in a circle of black grass. But his main focus was Draco, who was on his knees and staring at his father.

"Draco?" he said softly but urgently as he knelt beside him. There was no hint that his husband saw or heard him. "Draco!" He reached out and shook him slightly.

One slow blink and the gray eyes left the sight that had held him enthralled. "Harry?"

Harry gave a sigh of relief. "Come on. We have to get back to the castle. We're getting soaked out here."

"It's raining?"

The relief fled. "Yes, and I know how you don't like to get wet without purpose. Let's go inside, all right?" Harry felt someone come up behind him and turned to see Ron dropping to one knee.

"He's dead, Harry," the redhead whispered, aiming his thumb at Lucius. "Hermione and Pansy have gone to get a professor. The rest of us are going to stay to make sure there aren't anymore Death Eaters around. You should get Draco back inside."

Harry nodded and whispered back, "I'm trying. I think he's in shock."

"Who wouldn't be?"

"You heard?" He wasn't sure how far behind the others had been.

"The Avada, etc. part? Yeah. We all did. Not exactly sure what killed Lucius, but Draco's in the clear."

"Maybe with the law, but I'm not sure his mind and heart will see it that way." Harry turned back to Draco. "Inside for a hot bath and hot chocolate, okay?"

Draco shivered. "I'm sorry, Harry."

Harry wasn't sure what Draco was apologizing for--giving him the potion, running away, and/or killing Lucius. "We'll talk about it later. You're going to get a chill."

A cold, clammy hand came up to trace Harry's cheekbone. "I'm sorry, Harry," Draco said again. Before Harry could respond, Draco's hand dropped to his and tugged it forward to press against his sopping robe. Then Draco slumped against Harry and Harry--

Harry just stared at his blood covered hand.

*****

Harry paced the perimeter of the hallway running along the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey had banished him from the interior as soon as he'd placed Draco on a bed, telling him that Draco didn't need him dripping water all over him. He'd looked at his own robes and couldn't tell what was just water and what was Draco's blood that had got on him as he carried his husband to the medical ward. Thankfully Ron had been there to keep him from toppling to the floor. Instead, he'd been led to a chair in the hallway and Hermione had placed a drying charm on him. When he'd recovered enough to go back into the ward, he'd found the door locked.

So now he paced...and thought. Why had Draco gone beyond the wards? He knew the dangers. Had he expected his father to be there? Had he been planning on going back to his father, with his father? Maybe he thought he could cut a deal with Lucius, allowing him to keep his child--since he thought Harry was going to take him away. Had he really meant it when he'd told Draco that? Could he have actually done it? And had he done it? If the baby was lost now, it would be completely his fault for causing Draco to run away.

"A lightning bolt through the heart," Hermione said eagerly as she came up the stairs and entered the hallway.

"What?" he asked, stomping toward her.

"Lucius Malfoy was killed by a lightning bolt straight through his heart. That must have been a high-level Dark spell Draco used."

"It wasn't Dark," Harry argued. Dark magic left an odor of sorts on its caster, a scent that Harry knew well, and he hadn't smelled it on Draco. Besides, he was starting to recognize Elven. A fitting end for Lucius, in his opinion.

"Well, it's nothing we learned here," Hermione began, but was interrupted when Dumbledore opened the door to the ward.

"Harry," he said solemnly and beckoned his former student inside.

Harry followed the Headmaster and saw someone who made his heart sputter in mid-beat. "Yo...your majesty?" Oh, God. Was Draco's condition so grave that they had to call in his relatives?

"Harry," Queen Arelia said calmly, then smiled. "Do not panic, dear child. I attend every royal birth."

A smile. Did that mean...? "Draco and the baby, they're okay?"

"The baby's fine; Draco's a little stressed. That's what caused the bleeding," Arelia explained. "There's a line here," she used her finger to trace a lateral line up her abdomen, "that we call the fissure of emergence. It separates to allow birth, then closes without scarring. With Draco being so close to giving birth, the fissure had already thinned. The stress of whatever happened earlier caused the fissure to separate in spots. That was the source of the bleeding."

"But everything's okay now? The fissure closed back up?"

Arelia shook her head. "The child will be born tonight."

She beckoned and Harry followed her to a room he hadn't seen before, which didn't surprise him; the castle was good at providing space as needed. Harry saw Draco in bed, Pomfrey keeping watch over him. "There's still a month left," he murmured worriedly.

"They will be fine," Arelia assured him. "Both are strong."

Harry looked at her curiously. "How did you know what was happening?" Was she somehow linked to Draco?

"I had just contacted her when word came of Draco's collapse," Dumbledore said. "I wanted to make sure Draco's first venture to the realm had gone smoothly."

First venture? Draco had planned on going to--Harry scolded himself for even thinking Draco would run to Lucius. He wouldn’t have risked all he already had to escape from Lucius and Voldemort only to run back to them. Nor would he have risked their baby like that. Despite all Draco's faults, thinking with his heart instead of with his mind wasn't one of them. "How did you know of Draco's plans, Professor?"

"Why, he owled me, of course."

Of course he did. Draco knew he was being monitored, and he didn't want to call undue attention to his actions. He wanted to be safely with the elves before--before what? Before Harry found out? Before Harry demanded his and the baby's return? Which, given what Lucius's father had done, would have been ignored or sneered at. Although the plan itself made him shiver, the brilliance of it impressed Harry. Draco thought on the fly very well. Maybe Pansy had a point about the necessity of Slytherins working for the Light.

"What happens now?" Harry asked, looking at Draco. The white linens made him appear paler and ethereal.

"I had your healer put him into a light trance to relax him before the birth. I am not sure what happened--"

"He killed his father," Harry said quietly. "Lucius tried to kill him and Draco defended himself."

"How?" Arelia asked.

Harry shrugged. "He held up his hand and said something, which I suspect was in Elven. Then he dropped his hand and I saw the flash of green from Lucius's Avada Kadvra, but there was also another flash of light. Hermione said Lucius died from a lightning strike to his heart."

"The lightning spell," Arelia murmured. "It is a difficult spell, except for--tell me, Harry, how was the weather?"

"There was a thunderstorm brewing and afterwards, it began to rain heavily."

Arelia pursed her lips. "An air mage." She looked at Dumbledore. "He must be trained."

The Headmaster bowed. "This is a school and any instructor you send from the realm will be welcome here."

"An air mage?"

"Yes, Harry. It means that an air elemental has claimed Draco as one of its own, opening a connection between Draco and the magick of the air, an emotional as well as magical connection. It is how he called upon the lightning to defend him, and I suspect he thickened the air to shield himself from his fath--from Lucius's spell. He will be treasured in the realm." Arelia suddenly glanced at Draco. "It is time. Harry, please go comfort Draco. There will be some slight--discomfort."

Harry walked to the bed, noting that Draco was starting to fidget a little. He reached out and brushed back a tuft of blond hair that stubbornly clung to Draco's cheek. "Hey," he said when gray eyes opened to see who was doing all the touching.

"Harry?" He sighed and blinked. "Thought you were a dream."

"I'm real." He perched on the corner of the bed next to Draco's head and grabbed his hand. Draco smiled and moved so that his cheek rested against Harry's thigh. Then he stiffened.

"Am I in danger? My father..."

"You don't have to worry about your father anymore," Harry said, hoping that was enough.

"But, Harry, he tried--he--I heard him. He said--he--"

Harry stroked the soft blond hair, trying to calm Draco. "I know. I saw."

"Then why aren't I--Did you stop him, Harry?"

"No."

Draco frowned. "I should be dead. Why aren't I dead?"

"You didn't want to be."

Draco closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I did something, didn't I?"

"Yes."

"It--incapacitated--him?"

"You could say that," Harry replied delicately.

"I--" Draco stopped, swallowing hard. "I killed him?"

"You wanted you and the baby to live."

"The baby!" His hands frantically grabbed at his large belly. "The baby," he repeated, calming as he softly stroked the familiar mound.

"You're going to have the baby tonight, Draco. Your mother, Queen Arelia, is here to oversee everything."

"Oh," Draco said and rolled away from Harry. "Is he hurt? From what I did?"

"No, he's just coming a little early because of the stress of the day. The queen says you're both healthy and strong."

Draco removed his hands from his belly and began entwining his fingers nervously. "What did I do? To Lucius?"

"According to the queen, you're something called an air mage."

"I can control the weather?" Draco looked up at him, his eyes wide with excitement and confusion.

"You did a lightning spell. And you also made the air shield you from--from your father's spell."

Draco gave a short laugh, full of pain instead of amusement. "He tried to kill me. The fucker got what he deserved."

"Everyone's in agreement with that," Harry reassured him. Draco winced. "What's wrong?"

"Stinging. Along my belly."

"Queen Arelia explained it to me. Your stomach is opening up to let the baby out. It only hurts a little. You can squeeze my hand if it gets to be bad, okay?"

Draco edged further away from Harry. "I'm fine."

Harry gave him a puzzled look. "Draco--" He stopped when Queen Arelia approached.

"Draco, my wonderful child, are you ready to bring your own child into the world?" she asked as she pulled back the linens far enough to expose Draco's belly. There was a red line bisecting the area, weeping blood and a pinkish fluid. She nodded as Pomfrey brought in a basin of warm, fragrant water. "I am going to help the skin peel back and the birthing sac will be revealed. When he is ready, your baby will kick through or reach through the sac, then I will lift him out. To protect his magic, only he can break the sac and expose himself to the world. It might take him a few moments to decide to join us. Do you understand?"

Draco nodded and Harry watched in equal parts fascination and horror as the queen placed her hand just above the emergence line. As her hand moved, the skin beneath parted, with surprisingly little blood, to reveal a translucent, shiny, bubble-like structure sitting inside Draco. Before Harry could figure out that what was moving beneath the surface was his baby, a hand and a foot poked through.

Arelia laughed. "Eager, this one, and very decisive. Very well, lirimaer, if you have no objection, I will assist you, yes?" She reached down and scooped the slimy, squirming being into her hands and pulled him out. "Welcome to the world--what is his name?"

Harry looked at Draco, but Draco had his eyes closed and his head turned away. "Draco? What do you want to name him?" he asked as he turned his attention back to his son. His son.

"James Salazar...Potter."

Harry looked at Draco in amazement. He was naming the baby after his father? Even after... "James Salazar Malfoy-Potter," Harry corrected. It was fitting that on the day one Malfoy left the world another would arrive.

Draco's eyes flew open, and he glared angrily at Harry.

Arelia ignored the reaction. "Welcome to the world, James Salazar Malfoy-Potter. Creoso, cormamin lindua ele lle." Welcome, my heart sings to see thee. The baby waved a fist at her and she laughed. "Now say hello to your fathers. They have waited so patiently for you. Come, Harry, wet the towel and clean your son while I take care of the final parting between him and Draco."

"I can't--" Harry stopped as Arelia plopped the baby into his arms. Then she wrung out a towel and put it in his hands before picking up a wicked looking dagger. He quickly focused on the baby, instead of the knife cutting the umbilical cord. "Hi, baby. Hi, Jamie," Harry cooed as he daubed with the washcloth. The baby turned toward him, shiny blue eyes peering at him suspiciously. "You came out of there like a proper Gryffindor," he said with a smile, "but I think I see the Slytherin in you as well. The Sorting Hat is going to have a problem with you, I bet."

"Clean the baby, Harry, not tickle it," Madam Pomfrey scolded as she edged in close to have a look. "A fine specimen of a boy he is, Harry."

"Thank you," he said with a grin. "Look at this little tuft of hair, Draco. He's going to be blond, just like you." He held the baby down to Draco, who had closed his eyes and turned away once again. "Draco?"

"Get out. Both of you...please," Draco whispered, a tear rolling down his face.

And that was when Harry finally got it. "Draco, listen to me. I was--" What? He hadn't been kidding. And he hadn't been lying, but... "I was angry when I said I was going to take Jamie from you. I'm not. I wouldn't. He needs both of us. Please, Draco, look at your son." He lay the baby on Draco's chest and Draco automatically reached up to hold him in place.

"You said..." Draco began.

"I said a lot of things," Harry interrupted as he used the towel to wash the baby's back. "I meant some of them, but not that. Never that."

Draco nodded and the baby cooed.

"He likes the sound of your heartbeat," Pomfrey said as she spread a light blanket over the baby. "It reminds him of his old home. Keep him there for a while. I'll go fix him a bottle."

Arelia pulled the sheet up over Draco until it reached the baby's feet. "You have already started healing, Draco, so I shall take my leave of you to spread the news to the realm. And, Headmaster, I think you, too, have news to spread."

Harry had forgotten Dumbledore was still in the room. "Sir, thank you, for giving us a home, a safe place for little Jamie."

"My pleasure, boys. I'll go inform your comrades of the good news and allow the three of you to get to know each other." Dumbledore smiled and patted Harry on the back as he looked down on Jamie. "What was once broken is now healed. In him, Hogwarts has been restored. The castle awakens. All within will be protected. This little one demands it."

Harry had no idea what the professor was talking about, and fearing it was some prophecy that Jamie would have to carry for the rest of his life, he pointed his head toward the door. "Please tell everyone how grateful we are for their help earlier."

"I will. Blessings upon the three of you." Dumbledore took the hint and left, escorting Arelia after she said her goodbyes.

Harry sat on the bed and looked at Draco and Jamie, both asleep. His family. Which he'd come so close to losing today. He leaned over and kissed the back of Jamie's head, then brushed his lips across Draco's mouth. He leaned back against the headboard and closed his stinging eyes. The day had had its share of ups and downs. The anger he'd experienced after learning of Draco's betrayal...it was still there and he knew it would have to be dealt with. Draco killing Lucius. It had been a kill or be killed situation, but it was going to hit Draco at some point...and that would have to be dealt with. Threatening to take the baby away--both of them were guilty of that, because he was sure Draco would've had the elves keeping him from seeing Jamie if he'd made it to the realm. That would have to be dealt with. Draco being an air mage, whatever the hell that was, meant that his Elven heritage probably wasn't going to stay a secret for very long...and that was going to have to be dealt with.

But none of that was the here and now. Tonight he was here with his son and the man who loved him, because--he looked at the bracelet on his wrist--magic didn't lie. Tonight, he'd become a father. A boy who'd never had a father was now one and he vowed to be the best he could be, even if he ended up like his own and barely made it past Jamie's first birthday. Tonight, he was at the only real home he'd ever known, and his only real friends were mere walls away. Tonight, his tears were those of joy.

The others could wait.

Chapter 39: Dealing

Draco dropped into one of the chairs in the common room, exhaustion clinging to him like a second skin. He was learning that elves were a sadistic lot. The instructor Arelia had sent was a perfect example. He was supposed to instruct Draco in controlling his emotions so that they didn't affect the weather. But his reaction to every emotion Draco displayed was a sneer that Draco knew from experience meant, "mudblood loser." So he tried not to show any emotion, which, according to the instructor, meant he wasn't trying to learn anything. So then frustration would take over and...well, Hogwarts was having a very wet autumn.

And, yes, everyone knew why the weather was being so fickle. It had been easier just to tell the sordid story than to watch his friends try to figure it out for themselves and pants things up. To his surprise, they'd taken his new heritage in stride. According to Blaise, "So you're Elven royalty. We've been bowing and scraping before you for seven years. How does this change anything?" Greg and Vince had other concerns, however.

"Draco," Greg had begun, "Binns mentioned in one of his lectures two years ago that Elven sweets were--"

Draco had thrown up his hand to silence him. "When were the two of you ever awake in History of Magic?"

"He was talking about food," Vince explained with an eye roll. Draco had made a mental note to keep his large friend away from Pansy for a while. "So do you think your new mum can, you know, hook us up?"

Draco had made another mental note to keep them away from any muggle-reared as well.

"Here you are. Knew you were out of class because the rain stopped," Pansy said as she sashayed in with Jamie in her arms.

The two-month old was probably the real reason why he hadn't received any grief over being a mudblood. His son had quickly become the militia's mascot of sorts. No. Mascot implied that he was merely a favorite toy. Jamie was much more than that. Jamie was the team captain, expertly controlling who was where and when. Hell, at times it seemed like even he and Harry had to schedule appointments to see their child. Jamie was the biggest non-Veela flirt to hit the Wizarding world. He cooed. He smiled. He babbled. He waved tiny little arms and legs while blinking big green eyes that sucked in hearts and spat out goo. Even Filch had been caught speaking babytalk to Jamie, and Jamie, instead of screaming in terror, had just given him a toothless grin and reached for his nose. As a result, there was no shortage of willing babysitters at any time of the day or night, including their former and current professors. Dutifully, each morning the day's roster was examined and a schedule of who got to look after Jamie was arranged. The boy was reluctantly handed off from caregiver to caregiver until he eventually reached one of his parents, who managed a few hours of bonding before bedtime. Draco would've been mortified to have such a beloved child, if he hadn't on occasion spied a look in Jamie's eyes that said, "Yes, puny humans, bow before me." He got a shiver every time he saw that. What a brilliantly manipulative child, his son.

And then there was the one exception to Jamie's goodwill--Theodore Nott. He didn't like Nott one bit. If he heard his voice, he would scrunch up his face. If Nott looked at him, he'd whimper. If Nott reached out for him, he yowled bloody murder. Harry and his friends thought it was hilarious that it was a Slytherin Jamie hated. Draco just thought he needed to keep a closer eye on Nott.

Draco reached out and took his son from his current sitter. "Hi, Jamie. Did you have fun with Auntie Pansy? Or shall I turn her into a toad for being mean to Papa's boy? Would you like that? Huh? Would you like to see Auntie Pansy hopping around the room?"

"Or maybe he'd like to see Auntie Pansy hop on Papa and beat him silly," she said sweetly. "Then you'd have more time to spend with Auntie Pansy. You'd like that, wouldn't you, sweetling?"

"You have a date with Blaise Saturday night," Draco said, just as sweetly. "I could make sure your hair charm wouldn't stand a chance."

"Being a weather mage--"

"Air mage," Draco interrupted.

"Whatever. Being an air mage is wasted on you. Should have gone to someone with imagination. Ski slopes open year round or something."

"You're such a b-i-t-c-h," Draco spelled in deference to his son.

"Takes one to know one, darling. I'll be back to pick him up right before his bedtime. I've already duplicated his crib in the witches' dorm. He'll feel right at home," she said, reaching out to tap Jamie's nose. Of course, she got a smile in return. "I'm glad you and Potter are going to have the night alone. You need it."

"And what does that mean?" Draco asked haughtily. But he knew what it meant. Although Harry hadn't mentioned the potions incident again, he'd stubbornly kept to his side of the bed since Draco's release from the hospital wing, and it showed when they were together. So Draco had arranged a special evening for the two of them. Since the reason for his guilt was gone, surely he was ready for Harry to top. And even if he wasn't, now that his hormones were back to normal, he was confident he could fake it.

Pansy just rolled her eyes at his question. "If you need contraceptive spells--"

"Why on earth would you know contraceptive spells?" Draco teased.

"Put down the baby so I may bounce things off your head," she replied sternly.

Both Draco and Jamie laughed.

It was late in the evening when Draco approached Harry about the plan. Harry and Jamie were on the sofa doing "exercises." Harry would hold out his hands and Jamie would kick at them. Jamie held onto Harry's fingers and with Harry's help, pulled himself up. Harry pretended to "pump" iron by raising and lowering Jamie. Both of them loved the evening routine and Draco just liked watching them.

"Pansy's coming by in a few minutes. Jamie's sleeping in the witches' dorm tonight."

"Why?" Harry kissed the bottom of Jamie's pajama-clad feet.

"You don't have patrol tonight, and I thought we needed to time clear up some things." Ever since Hogwarts had opened at the beginning of September, the militia patrolled twenty-four hours a day.

Harry nodded. "I guess it is time. The girls don't mind?"

Draco snorted. "This is the fifteenth time they've asked me to let Jamie spend the night, so no, I don't think they mind. We're probably going to get a request from the fellows for equal time, however. Our son is quite popular."

"I know. Peeves pointed out a stash of lost sickles to Ron the other day so that Ron could go buy Jamie a plushy from the Hogwarts Ghost Contingency. Didn't even know they had organized." Harry grinned at Jamie. "How about it, baby? Do you like the ghosts? I saw you giggle at Nearly Headless Nick. Interesting way he plays peek-a-boo, isn't it?"

Draco shuddered. He'd seen that, too. Instead of covering his eyes, Nick just swung his head off and on. They were definitely going to have to look into getting Jamie some real playmates. Before he could break down and ask Harry if any of the Weasleys had started breeding and the age of their brood, a knock sounded at the door.

As soon as Jamie was securely bundled off with Pansy and Hermione, Draco flung himself at Harry and kissed him deeply. Harry was thrown completely off-guard and Draco had walked him into the bedroom before Harry managed to break the kiss.

"I thought--I thought we were supposed to talk," he said breathlessly.

"We'll get around to it eventually," Draco said slyly, wrapping his arms around Harry's shoulders.

"No," Harry said and backed away. "We're not going to do this."

"Why?" Draco whined. "Is it about that potions thing?"

Harry deliberately peeled Draco's arms away. "Yes, that potions thing," he agreed.

Draco sighed. "Couldn't you just--get over it?" He knew when he said it, it was the wrong thing to say. But, damn it, he was so frustrated.

"Like you've got over it?" Harry said coldly.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"The rape, Draco. You just want me to 'get over' the rape."

"What rape? Did someone--were you raped, Harry? Who? Just tell me the fuck who!" Thunder rocked the castle.

Harry glared at him. "For fuck's sake, you did, Draco!"

Draco frowned, trying to understand what Harry was saying. "I most certainly did not! When did you not willingly give yourself to me? When did I force you into anything?" he argued.

"When you gave me that potion!"

"That wasn't rape!"

"The hell it wasn't! What's the definition of rape? Forcing someone to have sex against their will. That's what you did to me!"

"I didn't take you that night!"

"What aren't you getting, dumb arse! I did not want to have sex with you. You fed me that potion and I may as well have been under imperius. You RAPED me, you son of a bitch, and then had the nerve to say it was my fault!"

The candlelight either sputtered or lightning flashed outside. Whatever it was, it startled them both and Harry bolted through the bedroom door. Draco dropped onto the bed, his head throbbing in confusion. He hadn't raped Harry. Why was Harry thinking like this? Draco was the one who'd been assaulted. He could still remember feeling himself tear as Harry forced himself inside. He remembered panicking and wondering if he'd given the wizard too much of the potion or if he'd made the potion too potent. He remembered Harry's nails digging into him, holding him in place. His shoulder popping out of place because Harry had tied his hands behind his back. The rib snapping. His head banging against the dirty floor. He remembered every goddamned minute and it wasn't Harry who'd been suffering. Harry hadn't a mark on him!

But then he remembered the anguished look in Harry's eyes afterward. The way he tried to help him back into the torn clothing. The sad way he mentioned Azkaban. The careful look he gave Draco when they'd passed each other in the hallway or had class together. The dark circles and bruised appearance that signified loss of sleep...appetite. Had he--? Was it--? Against his will. Forced.

Fuck.

*****

Harry hadn't run far. Just to the small courtyard where he sat in the swing and dissected the confrontation. One thing was certain: both he and Draco were a lot better at controlling themselves than they had been two months ago. There was no broken glass and it wasn't raining. He knew Draco had been working with the elf instructor and he'd worked with Snape, of all people, because he didn't want to be losing it with Jamie around. The baby himself was going to manifest wild magic at times; poor Draco didn't need to be ducking magic from everybody.

Draco. He was so completely lost. Harry could tell from the look in his eyes that Draco had no idea of the true nature of his crime. Harry really wasn't surprised. After growing up with Dudley, he knew that some people couldn't see beyond themselves. In some the ability came naturally, but a lot of children needed to be taught to look at the world through others' eyes. Petunia and Vernon Dursley hadn't seen the need, nor had Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy. Draco was trying, and that had started even before he'd discovered himself to be a "mudblood." He'd befriended Hermione and Ron, and got along with the rest of the militia. Just last week, he'd caught him sending Mum Weasley an owl with Jamie's picture. He'd even thanked Filch for the un-requested clearing of a storage area to make a playroom for when Jamie was older.

Harry figured at some point Draco would be a good man, and maybe he should've just bedded him and let it go. But. Harry sighed and looked up at the sky as he considered the "but." But Harry had the feeling he didn't have much time left before the inevitable final confrontation with Voldemort. The death of Lucius Malfoy had sent the Dark side into chaos, revealing just how much of a role the man had actually played. To solidify his control of the Death Eaters, Voldemort was going to have to do something bold and commanding.

And Harry was going to have to stop him. One way or another.

He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He wanted to go into battle knowing Draco had everything he needed to be a good single parent. He wanted to know Draco wouldn't unconsciously mimic Lucius in how he raised Jamie. He wanted to know that Draco knew he was flawed and would accept help and advice from others. He wanted to know that he left Draco and Jamie well-protected--not just against others, but against themselves.

"Harry."

He turned in the swing to see Draco standing in the doorway. "Good job. Not a cloud in the sky," he praised.

"And nothing's broken inside," Draco replied, returning the praise. He saw Draco take a deep breath and square his shoulders. "I didn't know."

"I know."

"But even if I did know, I'm not sure it would've changed anything."

Well. He hadn't expected that. "Why?"

"I called you names, lost you House points, caused you to serve detentions... Not really up to current Death Eater standards, and lousy Death Eaters quickly become fuck toys and corpses. I didn't want to be either."

"You could've--"

"Could've what, Harry? Could've gone to Dumbledore? Could've spent the rest of my life being watched by Aurors? Could've spent the next few years as a fuck toy and a spy?"

"Your father--"

"Wanted to breed me to Voldemort." Harry stared at him. "You didn't overhear that part of the conversation? Yes, my dear father thought I would just jump at the chance to pop out wee dark lords for him to train and use."

"Is that why you--" Harry stopped, wondering how many dangerous waters they could cross safely in one night.

"Why I killed him?" Draco gave a sad laugh. "I don't know why. I don't even think I was trying to. He just--scared me, Harry, and I retaliated. I don't even know why I responded in Elven. I still wasn't totally convinced that I could perform Elven magic. But he raised his wand, and if I'd had my own... But I didn't, and I was frightened for me and the baby. It was just--instinctive."

There had been a very superficial investigation by the Aurors which had cleared Draco of any wrongdoing. Draco had been on edge for days after that night, but other than the official Auror report, he'd heard nothing. The body had been released to Narcissa and--and that was it, as far as Harry knew. There'd been no obituary or funeral announcement released to the newspapers, no owls from solicitors or Narcissa herself, no anything.

"Why me?" Harry asked, changing the subject when he saw a hint of guilt on Draco's face. Lucius's death was one thing Draco didn't need to atone for.

Draco snorted and the look of guilt fled. "When has it not been about you, Harry? From the moment I saw you, it's always been about you."

"So my name wasn't just drawn out of the hat or something?" Harry couldn't believe how relieved he was to hear that.

"No, and," Draco continued, anticipating Harry's next question, "it wasn't about you being the Boy-Who-Lived. As Snape pointed out to me, there was always Dumbledore."

Harry shuddered. "Surely, you didn't consider--"

Draco shook his head. "It was always you."

"Were you planning on telling me the truth one day?"

"No. What good would it have done? What good has it done?"

"We have truth between us now," Harry countered.

"Which has replaced trust. Forgive me if I don't see that as an improvement."

There wasn't anything Harry could say. It was true. He didn't trust Draco at the moment. "But when I do trust you again, it'll be real, not based on lies."

"If you trust me again."

"Planning on betraying me again?" Harry asked sharply.

Draco looked at him sadly. "I am who I am, Harry. You gave me a truth tonight. I raped you. I honestly didn't know that. That's why there's no way in hell I'm ever going to meet your lofty Gryffindor standards. I don't even having a working knowledge of what those standards are."

"I'm not asking you to be perfect," Harry charged.

"You're asking me to be perfect for you."

No, he wasn't. But--"Is that so wrong?"

"No. It's what you're entitled to, what you probably would've had if I hadn't interfered. We have a bond, something you wouldn't have had with anyone else, but you could've probably had a decent marriage with a witch or even another wizard. I'm sorry I took that away from you. But if you expect me to be sorry for saving myself from Voldemort, for Jamie coming into existence, for...for falling in love with you, I'll never be perfect for you. That's my truth for the night, Harry." Draco turned to go back inside. "We're tied together, by our bond, by our son. I won't leave you. I won't take Jamie away from you. I will always stand by you. But I won't rape you again, and since I can't tell the difference, you are now in control of that part of our lives. If you ever trust me enough to...love you, you're going to have to tell me. Until then, I won't burden you with my affections. This I promise with the little honor left upon the Malfoy name."

Harry looked away for a moment, not knowing whether he should be angry, hurt, or just satisfied that Draco had accepted and admitted what he'd done. When he looked back at the doorway, Draco was gone.

His feet scuffed softly on the grass as he swung back and forth, contemplating the nature of truth.

Chapter 40: War

"Harry Potter. Harry Potter, sir."

Harry slowly opened his eyes to see two large orbs peering at him from a very close proximity. Giving a squeak, because a squeal would be unmanly, he sat up in bed and reached for his wand.

"No hex Dobby, sir!" the house-elf said in the same loud whisper he'd been using, backing away.

Harry put on his glasses and frowned. "Dobby?"

"Dumbly sent me, Harry Potter. Called an assembly he has. I'se to stay with the baby."

An assembly? In the middle of the night? "Draco?"

"I heard," Draco said, sitting up. "Something's gone bad, hasn't it?"

Harry nodded and started dressing. Draco did the same. They left their rooms and joined the line of others who were headed to the Dining Hall.

"Harry, do you know? I mean, have you seen...?" Ron asked cautiously as he came up behind them.

Harry shook his head. There had been no visions nor even a twinge of his scar. "I'm in the dark with everyone else this time."

"Maybe it has nothing to do with You-Know-Who," Ron hoped aloud.

"Want to bet on that?" Draco asked dryly.

"And where would either of us get a sickle to bet?" Ron replied with a crooked grin, and Harry wanted to hug him. Ron joking with Draco about money. And the sky wasn't falling or anything...well, he didn't think it was.

"I don't know about you, but I happen to be married to a rich hero," Draco said impishly.

"Even with your new heritage, you're still a traditional pureblood, aren't you?"

"Well, you know what they say," Draco began, then he and Ron quoted together, "Just as easy to marry a rich wizard as it is a poor one." They laughed and patted each other on the back.

"The world is ending," Harry whispered to Hermione.

"No," she disagreed, eyeing her boyfriend. "I just think neither of them are fully awake. They probably won't even remember this conversation."

Draco yawned at that moment and Harry figured that Hermione had the right of it. They took their seats and looked at Dumbledore who stood at the head of the table.

"There's no easy way to say this," he began. "An hour ago, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement was attacked, specifically the Aurors' facility. They were changing shifts, so casualties...were high." Dumbledore paused to let the severity of the situation sink in. "Because of the reports of your stellar abilities turned in by the Aurors who have been instructing you, the Department has requested that members of H.O.M.E. be used to supplement the remaining healthy Aurors."

"What about Hogwarts' security, sir?" Hermione asked.

"First, all of you would not be on duty for the Aurors at the same time. At least a third of you would be here. Second, thanks to certain occurrences, Hogwarts' wards are now at ten times their normal strength."

While people gasped, Harry just nodded. The Houses were more united than ever thanks to Ogden Bennington. The fourth year Slytherin had come back to school with an attitude. Harry had been on patrol duty the night after sorting, and he'd watched Bennington cross over to the Ravenclaw table and sit next to a pretty witch. The Ravenclaws had stared but said nothing. The Slytherins hadn't been as diplomatic. A seventh-year, prodded by a struggling-for-power Mitchell Flint, had sauntered over to the table and asked Bennington what the hell he thought he was doing.

"Sitting with my girlfriend."

The seventh-year had grimaced. "It's bad enough that you're lowering yourself to dating a Ravenclaw mudblood, but you will not shame your House by sitting here."

Bennington had just smirked. "One, I'm not the one shaming my House. Two, Draco Malfoy himself told me that a House is just the place where your dorm is; it is not your life. So, I can sit anywhere I please and with whom I please. And three, Mr. Malfoy also left me a list of 'helpful' spells in case anyone had a problem with a Hogwarts student availing himself of what Hogwarts has to offer." He threw a glance over the older student's shoulder. "You might want to pass that last one on to Mr. Flint. Acne can recur at any time."

Harry had made sure to pass on what he'd overheard to Draco. After all, he deserved to know he'd chosen a worthy successor.

"Also, you have a choice whether you wish to work as a temporary Auror. The contracts you signed were for protecting Hogwarts and its environs only," Dumbledore said solemnly. "If you'd like to assist the Aurors, please go to the fitness gymnasium and sign up."

Everyone filed out except the Slytherins and Harry.

"Draco?" Zabini asked.

"He can't," Harry said quickly. "One of us has to stay here with Jamie. And we all know who has to be the one to go fight."

Draco patted his hand. "They're not asking about me, Harry. They're asking me my opinion about what they should do."

"Oh."

"We discuss things, Potter," Pansy said. "It's our way."

Harry nodded. No running out and signing their lives away on a whim for the Slytherins. Made sense. He sat back to listen. It wasn't like he had to race to sign up; everyone knew he was going to.

"You're liable to come face to face with your families," Draco cautioned.

"And we'll probably be separated, working with Aurors who may not trust us because we're Slytherin or we're kin to the very people who killed their comrades," Zabini pointed out.

"But they'll think we're cowards or Death Eaters ourselves if we don't," Nott inserted.

"And we care what they think?" Draco asked sharply. "What concerns me is that if none of us are in, we won't know what's going on. We can't protect ourselves if we're on the outside."

"There's also another reason," Daphne Greengrass said, startling Harry. He didn't think he'd ever heard her speak during one of their "councils." He was doubly startled when she gave him a pointed look.

"I wouldn't ask--" Draco began.

"I'll go," Goyle said and Crabbe nodded his agreement.

"Me, too," Nott said.

The rest of the Slytherins all showed signs of agreeing and started for the door, Harry just behind them.

"Pansy." She stopped at Draco's call. "I want to speak to you for a moment."

Harry looked curiously at Draco, but his husband gave him the nod that everything was okay. So he took off toward the gymnasium, reluctantly ready to start the fight that had dogged him his entire life.

*****

"Harry, we need to talk."

Harry was tired, but he nodded and sat down on the bed. The Aurors had not only signed them up, but ran them through a quick orientation so that it was hours before he returned to his rooms and Draco. "Is this about Pansy?" The witch had never shown up in the gymnasium.

"Yes." Draco moved around on the bed until he was sitting next to Harry. Next to, but not touching; he'd stuck to his word about letting Harry dictate any intimacy in their relationship. Sometimes it was hard not touching or being touched by his husband in the month since that night, but he wanted more than just sex and until he could trust Draco implicitly, it would only be sex. "Harry, neither of us may survive this war."

What? Of course Draco was going to-- With a shock he looked at the bracelet ringing his wrist. "You don't mean--"

Draco gave a tiny smile. "No, Harry. I won't die because you do. Our binding is not some kind of curse requiring a life-for-a-life sacrifice. It's based on love, and love cherishes life. If you died, I would mourn but live to raise our child."

Harry relaxed. "Then why are you talking about this? You'll be safe here. You can't possibly be thinking about joining the Aurors."

"I know I won't be fighting on the front lines, but I'm still a target. Maybe even a bigger one now that my father is--gone. His official cause of death was struck by lightning, but I'm sure the Death Eaters suspect something. In their minds, I'm the cause of all the confusion they're going through."

"You'll be safe here," Harry repeated adamantly.

Draco shrugged. "Things happen, Harry, and people die, with or without war. If we don't make it through this alive, I don't want what happened to you to happen to Jamie. I don't want Dumbledore or some other know-it-all wizard or ministry deciding what happens to him--who raises him, where he lives. That should be our choice."

Harry supposed Draco had a point, even though he believed the danger to Draco to be incredibly small. "Do you want to make out a--will?"

"I think it's necessary." Draco turned to stare closely at him. "I need you to listen to me for a few minutes, Harry, really listen."

"Okay," Harry said nervously.

"I want Pansy to take Jamie."

Harry's jaw fell open. No. Hell no, he wanted to yell. "I was thinking more along the line of the Weasleys," he said, forcing himself to speak calmly. Sure, Pansy was not a bad friend, but he wanted Jamie to be around--well, nice people.

Draco sighed. "I knew you would be, but I want Jamie with someone who will put Jamie first."

"And you think that person is Parkinson?" Harry exclaimed incredulously.

"Yes."

"You actually think she'll love Jamie better than Mom Weasley, that she'll be a better mother?" What the hell was going through Draco's mind? Was he trying to start an argument?

"I think Mrs. Weasley is already a mother and she has her own children to worry about. I think all the Weasleys have too many others to worry about. I want Jamie with someone who is only worried about him."

"The Weasleys will do everything in their power to care for Jamie," Harry spat out in frustration.

"Will they flee the war? Will they leave their family members to battle Voldemort while they get Jamie to safety? Will they turn their backs on everyone and everything to make sure Jamie is not in harm's way?"

Harry blinked, not following. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying, if something happens to both of us, I've asked Pansy to go to the Elven realm and seek asylum for herself and Jamie. She's agreed. Would any of your Weasleys or Granger?" Draco asked patiently.

Harry looked away because he knew the answer. His friends would probably agree if he pushed the issue, but it'd be against their nature; somewhere inside they'd end up resenting Jamie for forcing them to abandon the cause and their loved ones. Pansy, on the other hand... He'd told Hermione the Slytherins were "Hufflepuffy" in their loyalty to Draco. She'd do exactly what he'd asked her to do and be proud of it. Not to mention, she'd really get a kick out of being part of the Elven court. And the realm would be the only safe place if Voldemort won because if Harry Potter fell, the next target would definitely be Harry Potter's son. "We'll draw up the papers in the morning," he said softly. "I'll also explain why to Ron and Hermione so that they won't fight our decision."

Draco nodded and crawled back to his side of the bed. Harry put on his pajama bottoms and slid beneath the covers, hoping to get a few hours of sleep before reporting to the DMLE's temporary headquarters. Because the training dormitory had also been destroyed in the attack, the H.O.M.E. recruits would continue to live at Hogwarts, apparating to and from headquarters.

"Draco?"

"Yes, Harry?"

"We're truly at war now, aren't we? I mean, I knew it was coming, but..." He sighed. "They say we've signed on to be Aurors, but that's not true. We're soldiers, bloody fighters who are barely trained."

"You're more trained than when you took on the Dark Lord the first time and all the other times that followed. This time your job is even easier." Harry snorted. "No, listen to me. Voldemort is only doing this because he needs to re-gather his forces and reassure them. You don't have to win this time; all you have to do is to make sure his followers keep the doubts they already have."

"And how do I do that?"

Draco gave a small laugh in the dark. "Be Harry Potter. All you have to be is Harry Potter, and the rest will take care of itself."

Harry reached out and touched Draco's arm. "Can I hold you tonight?" Instead of answering, Draco rolled over and into Harry's embrace. "Can I kiss you?"

Draco was a little more unsure of that. "What is this, Harry? I mean, I know you're...edgy because of what's happening, and if this is what you need to wind down, I understand. I just don't want to...to think it's something more...if it's not."

Harry closed his eyes and considered the past, the present, and the future. He didn't like that Draco had used him, but he'd done it, in his opinion, to survive. He didn't like that he was agreeing to let Pansy Parkinson take Jamie, but it was so that Jamie would survive. He didn't like that he had to kill anyone, even if they were as bad as Voldemort, but it was for his own survival and that of Wizarding Britain. There were necessary evils in this world, and the faster he accepted that, maybe, just maybe, he'd be able to do what he had to do. He took a deep breath and let go of his remaining doubts and mistrust. Draco wasn't perfect. He was selfish and self-serving. He was arrogant and bigoted. He lied and he schemed. He made mistakes. But when all was said and done, he loved Harry...and Harry loved him.

"Make love to me, Draco," he said firmly and gave himself over to the magic of those words.

*****

It was Harry's third day of patrol when Draco looked up from the cauldron of pain potion he was brewing for Madam Pomfrey to see Weasley, Granger, and Blaise standing in the potion's class doorway. A vial of powdered monkshood slipped from his hand to smash on the stone floor. "Harry?" he whispered.

"I'm sorry, Draco," Blaise said, while the others looked like they were struggling to speak. "Harry's been captured."

Chapter 41: Betrayal and Sacrifice

Draco stared at the mess at his feet. He pulled his wand and cleaned it up. Then he turned back to the potion he was preparing. "I have to finish this or the whole batch will have to be tossed," he said numbly.

"I can--" Granger began.

"No," he said sharply. After seven-plus years of Potions, the stupid mudblood didn't know that changing the magic in the middle of a potion could alter its potency? Brightest witch of her age, his arse! "Just stay out of my way."

He was adding the last ingredient when the door to the room flung back hard enough to bounce off the wall behind it. "What the fuck's the matter with you!" Pansy yelled, her hair and clothes dripping on the stone floor. "I was crossing the yard under a cloudless sky, then it just started fucking raining and sleet--!" She stopped and surveyed the occupants of the room. "Oh, hell. Potter?"

"Taken," Blaise said. "We don't know if he's--"

"He's alive," Draco said as he tried to pour the potion into vials. It needed to be sealed in doses as quick as possible, but his hands--damn it, his hands were fucking shaking. "We're bound. I'd know if..."

Granger nodded and silently took the vial from his hand.

He let her.

When the vials were filled, he nodded toward the door. "Let's talk somewhere else." His control was getting shaky, something that wasn't good in a room full of potentially unstable ingredients.

They followed him to their rooms. His and Harry's. "Tell me," he demanded when he sat on the sofa, Pansy settling beside him.

"Where's Jamie?" she asked.

Draco glanced up at the clock Dumbledore had given them a few weeks ago. It had one hand which said Jamie and names were crammed around the edges. "With Dobby, I think," he said, squinting at the squished together list of names. He looked at Blaise and forced his fingernails to stop digging into his palm. "What happened?"

"We were in the muggle countryside at a farm. There had been an anomalous trace of magic there yesterday and the Aurors wanted it checked out." Draco nodded. Although they'd signed on as Aurors, none of the militia considered themselves to be Aurors. "We separated into three teams: Weasley, Granger, and I; Potter, Daphne, and Theodore; Greg, Vince, and Snodgrass, the senior Auror assigned to us. My group took the house, Potter's group the barn, and the others took another one of the outbuildings. We were in the kitchen when we heard noise and looked out to see magical tracings spewing from every opening of the barn. By the time we got there, Daphne was dead, Potter was missing, and Theodore was injured."

"Daphne's dead?" Pansy asked hollowly. She leaned over onto Draco's shoulder, but didn't cry.

"Where is Nott?" Draco asked sharply. "How injured is he? Why isn't he dead?"

Granger gasped and shot him a look, which, after a mandatory sneer, he ignored.

"He's in the hospital wing. And he's not that bad off, which is why I told Greg and Vince to stay with him."

"What is this?" Granger began, but Weasley stopped her by grabbing her wrist.

"The Slytherins," he said. "They were supposed to protect Harry, I'm thinking?" He looked at them and Draco nodded. "That's why at least two of them volunteered for every one of Harry's assignments."

"But why?" Granger asked. Then she looked at Draco, trying to glare, but not quite making it. "Did you do this? Did you force them to--"

"Shut the fuck up, Granger," Pansy interrupted. "Draco hasn't forced or asked us to do anything. We--all of us--decided to protect Potter. If you haven't noticed, he seems to be our best bet for getting out of this alive."

"But Daphne died," Granger said awkwardly.

"And will walk honorably among the Halls of the Dead for her actions," Blaise pointed out. "Besides, why are you so upset that we were protecting Potter? Wasn't that your goal as well? Are you telling us you wouldn't have died to protect him?"

"That's not what I'm saying!" Granger took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "A year ago you didn't even like Harry, and now, you're dying for him. I don't understand."

Draco shook his head and stood. "And I doubt you ever will. Pansy, would you stay here and see to Jamie when Dobby returns him? I'm going to have a visit with Nott."

"But--"

"Shh," Draco heard Weasley say. "It's about Wizard's Honor, Hermione."

"So you understand?" she hissed back at him.

"Yeah, yeah I do."

Draco made his way along corridors and moving stairs until he reached the medical wing. It was easy to find Nott; he was not only the lone patient, but Greg and Vince were standing solemnly at the foot of his bed with their wands at ready position. The bed was at the back of the ward, next to a large window which revealed the weather had not cleared up much. His eyes widened in horror. Shit, those weren't snowflakes, were they? Damned lack of control.

"Theodore, how are you?" he asked solicitously, strongly willing the snow to go away. But he was cold, cold down to his soul, and the flakes continued to fall.

"Better than I was, thanks to Madam Pomfrey." Nott gave a dramatic sigh. "I'm so sorry about Potter. I don't know what happened. One minute we were in an empty barn and the next, there were masked people apparating in and--" He shuddered. "It all happened so fast. Did they tell you about poor Daphne?"

"Yes, they did." Draco moved closer to the bed. Fuck the snow. Fuck everything. "Theodore?"

Nott looked up at him. "Yes, Draco?"

"Legilimens!"

Draco looked up from the floor of a dark and empty barn. Harry stood before him, struggling with two Death Eaters. As Draco opened his mouth to scream out a warning, the scene disappeared and was replaced by a Hogwarts corridor. Mitchell Flint stood in front of him.

"You make sure Potter is the one to check out the barn."

Another flash. "I know what I'm doing, Dad. Malfoy is a lot of talk. Seven damn years and Potter's still walking around. He can't do anything without his father. He's weak and pathetic."

The shattering of glass and the resultant icy breeze flowing through the infirmary brought Draco back to himself. He felt the wind blow through his hair that Harry hadn't let him cut after the pregnancy, and he wondered if that was why Nott was staring at him so oddly. No matter. There was business to take care of. "Crabbe, Goyle, fetch me Mitchell Flint."

He heard Granger spell the window closed with a soft, "Reparo." Then he heard Weasley ask Granger to go get Dumbledore. She argued briefly, but he was firm and she left in a huff. He heard all this because he couldn't see it. All he could see was Nott. Nott who had betrayed Harry. Nott who had betrayed him. Nott who was about to die a nasty, horrible death.

"Easy there, mate," Blaise said. "I take it we have a traitor or two in our midst?"

"He set Harry up. Flint was his go-between."

"Fuck, Nott. Death wish much?" Blaise asked dryly.

"I wanted the war to end," Nott whined. "You idiots were buying into this fucking nutter's idea of getting up the duff and forcing Potter into marriage--"

Granger's repaired window shattered again. Draco grinned as Nott flinched. "Go on, Nott, since you're set on forgetting who this fucking nutter is and what he is. Tell me, are you really sure who the nutter is in this instance? I mean, you know what happened to my father. You know who my new mother is. Yet you still go after my husband. Who's the nutter, Nott? Who?" The last word was emphasized by a bright flash of lightning.

"I--I didn't--You weren't when I committed myself to--"

"I might not have been a fucking elf, but I was still a Malfoy, damn it, and I warned you--do you remember that, Nott? I fucking warned you what would happen if you betrayed me. You committed yourself to me, you ignorant, backstabbing bastard! You swore oaths of loyalty, fealty, and allegiance. You signed in your own fucking blood! I could kill you right now, and no Wizarding court would find me at fault!"

Nott's eyes flew around the room, settling on the one pair of eyes he thought would grant him leniency. "Weasley, you can't--"

"Shut your gob, Nott! You set up my best friend. You endangered my life and my friends' lives. You forswore a blood oath. The only reason I would possibly stop Malfoy from killing you is that he's apt to do it too fast!"

"Blaise?" the condemned tried again.

"I read a story the other day about a man being killed in a hailstorm. Hey, Draco, did you know hailstones come as big as a football?" Blaise said slyly.

The door to the infirmary slammed open. Draco turned to see Greg and Vince enter. He started to complain, then saw they were pulling something behind them. It was Flint, trussed like a pig and being dragged by a leash.

"Finite incantatum," Greg mumbled and Draco realized they'd had the boy under a full body bind. One way to keep him quiet.

"What the fuck's going on!" Flint yelled as soon as he shook off the effects of the spell.

"Wizarding justice," Draco said flatly. "And since I want to be fair, I'm going to give you a chance to give me one good reason not to kill you where you stand."

Flint stared at Nott in a panic. "What--What are you talking about? Has he said something about me? Whatever it is, he's lying! Besides, it was all his idea!"

"Silencio!" Draco took a deep breath and realized he was shivering. He took another deep breath, trying to focus like his Elven instructor had taught him. The chilling breeze calmed slightly. "Reparo," he said, waving at the window. Flint cowered away from him. "Tell the Aurors to come get this. I won't sully my hands on such an insignificant piece of shit."

"The Aurors are on their way, Mr. Malfoy."

Draco didn't miss Nott's sigh of relief as Dumbledore made his way into the room, following by a panting Granger. She must have ran all over the castle looking for him. "Good, sir. I'm sure Azkaban has room for two more."

"Excellent work, Draco. Although you couldn't be in the field, I think you would've been an excellent asset to the Aurors in their time of need," Dumbledore said smoothly. "Look at how quickly you determined this conspiracy."

"Actually, I have to give Jamie some of the credit, Headmaster. He hated Nott on sight which stirred my suspicions."

"Ah, the young can often see more clearly than we with our years of loyalties and hatreds. Come now. I think Misters Zabini, Crabbe, and Goyle are capable of keeping the prisoners secure while we discuss more important matters in my office."

Draco nodded. But before he followed Dumbledore, he leaned over close to Nott's ear. "Blood oath. I can get to you at any time and in any place. If Harry survives, you will spend the rest of your life locked in Azkaban, and I guarantee by the time I've done torturing you, you'll wish the Dementors were still around. If he dies, you will die in a manner so foul and so protracted, you'll want to kill yourself. But you won't be able to because, see, I. Own. Your. Arse. Quanta yassen ‘kshapsa." He pulled himself up straight. "I wouldn't stand too close to him, my friends," he warned as he joined Weasley at the door. He heard Nott's retching as they moved down the hall. The poison spell was mildly administered; it wouldn't kill him, just make him sick for the next hour or so.

Poor, fucking Nott.

"I didn't know you knew Legilimency," Granger said when they caught up with her. She was just behind Dumbledore, who seemed to be deliberately walking ahead.

"Why would you know?" Draco asked snidely. "Contrary to your belief, you don't have to know everything."

"Cool it, Malfoy," Weasley said calmly. "I know you're worried about Harry, but you don't have to take it out on Hermione. Save it for the arseholes who caused this mess. By the way, what did you do to Nott?"

"Poisoned him. It'll work its way out of his system before anyone can figure out why he's puking his guts out on a regular basis."

"Nice. Sounds worse than that slug vomiting charm my brothers taught me. Too bad it's an Elven thing."

"There's a Wizard version as well. I'll teach it to you sometime."

"Thanks."

Sometimes Draco actually understood why Harry was friends with Ron. Sometimes.

"Would you care for tea, Mr. Malfoy?" Dumbledore asked as they settled into his office. "You really look as if you need a bit of warmth."

He took the tea if only to stop the coddling.

"Has the Order been informed, sir?" Weasley asked.

"Yes, that's why Miss Granger had such difficulty finding me. I'm glad that you and Mr. Malfoy had things well in hand here at Hogwarts."

"So, what has your precious Order discovered?" Draco asked. He had joined the Order simply because he didn't want to give Harry a reason to keep secrets from him, but he wasn't impressed with the membership or their methods.

"Harry has been delivered to Voldemort."

Draco couldn't refrain from rolling his eyes. What unexpected news. "What about rescue plans, sir?"

"This is a very delicate situation, and we cannot afford to go stumbling about, Mr. Malfoy. We have employed a number of resources..."

Draco tuned him out. At this rate, he and Harry would be dead of old age by the time the Order got around to a rescue. Dead. He wondered why Harry wasn't already dead. Why hadn't the Dark Lord-- He nodded as the answer came to him. Voldemort hadn't killed Harry on sight because he needed to make an example out of him. He needed to make a statement to his followers, so Harry's death needed to be public, and possibly ritualistic. A show. A spectacle.

"Mr. Malfoy!"

He jerked at the sharp call and focused on the others in the room. They, on the other hand, were focused on the window which revealed a...blizzard happening on the front lawn of Hogwarts. Oops. "Sorry, sir."

Dumbledore cleared his throat. "It's to be expected, Mr. Malfoy. Now, Ron, dear boy, what were you asking?"

"Why didn't Harry know what was happening? When the Aurors were attacked? He usually, you know." Weasley traced a scar on his forehead.

What the--Oh. Draco remembered Harry telling him that sometimes he could see what Voldemort was up to because of the scar. He'd told him because he didn't want to frighten Draco in the middle of the night. But, as Draco had informed him, while he was pregnant nothing woke him in the night--except for his bladder.

"Harry hasn't 'you know'ed for quite some time," Dumbledore said. "Mr. Malfoy has become a grounding force for him. Their binding connects them on all fronts. The mental connection overpowers whatever residual links Harry has to Voldemort."

"Is that why Draco knows Harry isn't dead?"

Did he seem so distant that they were comfortable talking about him in the third person?

"Yes, Mr. Weasley."

"Could we use that connection to find Harry?"

"In time, Hermione, but I'm not sure we have that much time," Dumbledore said hesitantly. "Rumor has it that Voldemort is calling his forces to gather tonight."

Tonight. He had only a few hours. To do what? He focused on the bracelet, trying to sense where Harry was.

"Should we recall all the militia here to protect Hogwarts, just in case?" Weasley asked, ever the strategist.

"Hogwarts is well protected. You see, the school was created by the combined magicks of the four founders and when Salazar Slytherin left, the magick was weakened. Throughout the ages, as the four Houses became more and more separate there was further weakening."

"That's why the Sorting Hat insisted that we had to come together," Granger murmured.

"But it can't be just because we're getting along that Hogwarts is stronger," Weasley argued. "I'm sure that there've been other instances of House unity in the past. What's so different about this time?"

"The creation of a new life," Dumbledore answered.

"Jamie," Granger said softly.

Dumbledore nodded. "The four magicks have been combined once again. Hogwarts is at full strength."

"Why didn't Harry say anything? Does he know?"

Dumbledore gave a tug of his beard. "Harry is...understandably cautious of prophecies and such. He didn't want to know his own son was the answer to one. But unlike Harry, Jamie doesn't have to do anything to complete his destiny. He is what he is."

A husband who is a child of prophecy. A son who is a child of prophecy. And an un-prophesied hybrid whose only talent seemed to be freaking out weather forecasters. Why was he even in the picture? What good was he? What-- It hit him in that moment. Why he was there. What he had to do. And the limited amount of time he had to do it in.

"I want to be with Jamie," he said loudly, knowing that was the one excuse they would believe.

He stood and left the office quickly. In his rooms, he glanced at the clock and saw Jamie was with Pansy. Good. He tore through the bookshelf, looking for--Got it. He flung himself across the bed and began to thumb through his well-abused copy of "Ancient Elven Magic."

His hand trembled as he turned the pages.

Chapter 42: The Things We Do For Love

Harry looked at the slimy, solid rock walls surrounding him and decided he was pissed. He wasn't quite sure whom he was most pissed at though: Draco, for making him trust the Slytherins, and therefore, Nott; Nott for betraying him and Draco; the Death Eaters for taking advantage of the advantage Nott had given them; or Voldemort, because it had to be his plan and he was truly tired of the fucker and his plans.

Since he couldn't see an opening, he assumed he'd been apparated into the cave/cell/hole in the wall. He wondered if he should try apparating out, but casting a few wandless spells wasn't the same as trying to wandlessly transport his body from one point to another. Hell, splinching could occur even with a wand. Besides, since they hadn't killed him on the spot, only hexed him until he passed out, it must mean he was going to have an audience with Voldemort himself, and if he was going to do any wandless shit, it was going to be against him. If having Draco as a coach had taught him anything, it was to pick and choose his battles. For instance, it was stupid to waste energy arguing about running two miles when it could be reasonably assumed you'd need to save that breath for the retaliatory five miles in the dark, with a cold rain falling on your head.

So Harry sat in the middle of his personal cavern, away from the damp walls and saved his strength for the five miles with Voldemort. He hoped that the Death Eaters had been satisfied with taking him and had left his other team members alone. God, they were probably going out of their minds looking for him. Dumbledore would've contacted the Order by now. Hermione would be in the library, trying to figure out how to track him. Ron would be concocting elaborate rescue plans. And Draco, Draco would be safely in the Elven realm with Jamie.

Which was why he had to take Voldemort out of the game permanently. He was sure the realm was a nice place, but he wanted Jamie to live here, to grow up with the Weasleys, go to Hogwarts, and play quidditch with the best broomstick money could buy. There would be no cupboards for his son, no secondhand clothes, no fat-arsed cousins picking on him, no surrogate parents treating him like yesterday's garbage... No, Jamie would grow up in the Wizarding world with Draco spoiling him and demanding that he has the best of everything. And Draco would make sure Jamie knew that his other father tried to be a good man, that he died saving their world from a homicidal freak, that his daddy had loved him and hadn’t abandoned him in some stupid accident.

Closing his eyes, Harry concentrated on his magic. He was at his best when he thought like a pureblood, when he didn't second guess his magic, when he let it lead him, when he trusted it. What had Dumbledore been thinking when he left him with the Dursleys? Hadn't he realized... Okay. Negative thinking--no. Positive thinking--yes. He was Harry Potter. He had survived every one of Voldemort's attacks. He was well-trained in defense and offense. He was a member of H.O.M.E. and the Aurors. He was married to Draco Malfoy.

Damn it, if he wasn't ready to kick Voldemort's arse now, he never would be.

"Come on, fucker," he whispered to the walls. "It's time to end this."

*****

Draco sighed as he closed the Elven magic book. The chance that his newly formulated Plan would have the optimal outcome he desired was slim, but there were levels of success with the Plan, and he was certain that it would achieve what it needed to achieve. Harry and Jamie would be safe and that was what truly mattered.

A bell sounded, signaling someone was requesting entrance to the quarters. Carefully putting the book under the bed, he went out to the main room and opened the door. He knew he should be surprised to see Weasley and Granger, along with Pansy and Blaise, but he wasn't.

"What are you up to?" Weasley asked, elbowing his way inside.

"You left Dumbledore's office because you said you wanted to be with Jamie. But we found Jamie with Pansy," Granger added.

"And left him where?" he asked curiously. He did intend to spend a little time with his son before...well, before.

"With the other witches," Blaise said. "He distracts them from thinking about Daphne."

"Is she--"

"The Aurors took her away. They said they'd contact her family."

"If--"

Blaise nodded. "If they're difficult about it, we'll handle it."

"Good."

"Yes, good," Weasley said. "And now if that's finished with, tell me what you're up to, Malfoy."

Draco sat on the sofa and everyone got comfortable. "What do you think I'm up to?"

"Planning a rescue."

Draco laughed and tossed a glance toward Pansy and Blaise. "You must have me confused with one of you Gryffindors."

Granger shook her head. "Don't be like this, Draco. We can help. You don't have to do it alone."

"Yeah, and you don't have to worry about us reporting you to Dumbledore or anything," Weasley said. "Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do."

All along he'd thought Harry was the ringleader for all the trouble the infamous trio seemed to fall headlong into, but now he was having his doubts. "What exactly is it that you think I have to do?" Draco asked curiously.

"Save Harry. Listen, we know you--well, you love him. All that moping around when you two had your disagreement or whatever, not to mention that binding bracelet on your arm. I was there when magic put it on, remember?"

Draco brushed his fingertips across the bracelet. "Since you think you know so much, Weasley, why don't you tell me what I'm planning?"

Weasley started to pull his feet underneath him, but stopped when Draco glared. Feet did not belong on the furniture--at any time. "I figure you're going to use the bracelet to find Harry, then use that Elven power of yours to create some kind of distraction, a storm or a blizzard or something, and then get Harry out. But you can't do it by yourself, man. You're going to need help. You find Harry, handle the distraction, and we'll get him out. You trained right along with us; you know we can do it."

Draco nodded. He knew the militia was well-trained. An assault on the place where Harry was being held was an option that could work...but, it would only be a temporary solution. His Plan was a lot more final. "Okay, but we'll have to keep manpower to a minimum. This is to be an extraction, not a battle."

"Understood, General Malfoy." Draco couldn't help but crack a smile. "Do you know where Harry is?"

"South."

"South?" Weasley frowned. "New moon."

"Yes, and...home."

"Symbolic."

"Yes."

"New beginnings."

"My thoughts exactly."

"Stop it!" Granger declared. "What are the two of you talking about?"

"Harry's to the south," Weasley explained patiently.

"Yes, I got that. Then you both went cryptic."

"Not cryptic--just Wizard-born," Pansy said.

"So you understood?"

Pansy nodded. "Potter's to the south, meaning he's probably in Wiltshire, Salisbury--home to Stonehenge, Avebury, Silbury Hill. Any of that ring a bell?"

Granger flushed. "Yes. So you're saying that since it's a new moon, You-Know-Who is going to use Harry in some sort of ancient rite at one of the stone circles."

"Or at Malfoy Manor," Weasley observed.

Draco shook his head. "Not on the property. With Father's...death, the wards of the Manor shifted over to me. Until I reset them for visitors, only Mother can come and go at will."

"Your father didn't disown you?"

"Disowning me would have brought about a lot of unpleasantness, not to mention creating sport for the common masses. Killing me was an easier option and in time, he could have created another heir."

"And that makes sense to all of you?" Granger asked. Everyone nodded. "Half the time I don't know whether to envy you or pity you," she said softly.

"Stick with the envy," Draco said flatly. "So, Captain Weasley, what are your suggestions?"

They spent over an hour discussing strategy until Draco managed to get rid of them by saying he needed to rest in order to create a spectacular distraction for the assault. As they were leaving, he asked Pansy to bring Jamie to him. When he opened the door to let her back in, he found Blaise standing with her.

"He's sleeping," Pansy said unnecessarily as she handed Jamie to him.

"That's okay. I just wanted..." He laid the baby gently against his shoulder.

"What are you planning?" Blaise asked in a whisper.

"You just left here, didn't you?"

Blaise's lip curled in one corner. "That wasn't a plan; that was the typical Gryffindor ploy of running in where angels refuse to tread. What's your real plan?"

"To end this whole fucking mess." He used his wand to accio the crib, then put Jamie down, and performed one of the useful spells Mrs. Weasley had taught him--a one way silencing spell. He could hear Jamie, but Jamie couldn't hear them. "There is some risk involved."

"How much?" Pansy asked. Draco just looked at her. "Oh."

"Potter's not going to take it well," Blaise warned.

"I know. The pisser happens to think he's the only one who can sacrifice himself for the good of Wizardkind," he said with a fond smile.

"Is that what you're doing?"

Draco sighed. "No, Pansy. If I end up being a sacrifice, I'm only doing it to protect Harry and Jamie. I trust you and the other Slytherins to look after yourselves; the rest of them can tumble into the Underworld for all I care. But Harry's just going to keep on trying to slay Voldemort until he gets the job done, and I'd rather he be here raising Jamie. If things don't turn out that way, if I can't save Harry, then I can be at peace knowing that Voldemort won't be dogging Jamie his whole life like he did Harry. On that note, if Harry or I don't return, I still want you to take Jamie to the realm until the Death Eaters are taken care of. Go to Dumbledore, ask him to open a passageway, and tell him to contact you when the coast is clear. Jamie needs to be raised here. He belongs at Hogwarts."

"We'll come back when it's safe," Pansy promised. "And, Draco, just so you know, you can fool yourself all you want, but we know you, you know."

Either there were way too many "know"s in that sentence or he was terribly tired. Or both. "What are you on about, Pans?"

"We know you care, Draco. You care about Jamie. You care about Potter. You care about your 'minions'--yes, we know about that, too. And you care about the Wizarding world."

"I--I don't," he sputtered defensively.

"You do. And I think you care too much to leave us poor, weak underlings on our own without your guiding intelligence." She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "Whatever you have planned, you'll succeed. Jamie will grow up embarrassed by his two heroic fathers and he'll say things like, 'Why couldn't you be ordinary?' And you'll answer, 'I'm a Malfoy and he's a Potter, how ordinary could we possibly be?' Then he'll come running to his Aunt Pansy and I'll tell him what an insufferable prat his father used to be."

"I won't have you talking about my husband like that," Draco mockingly growled.

"I won't be talking about your husband." She grinned and then threw her arms around his neck. "I know you're only doing what you have to do, so I won't be soppy about this. Just do your damnedest to come back. We do need you, Draco."

He ignored the wetness in her eyes. "I'll do my damnedest," he promised as he kissed her forehead. He held out his hand to Blaise, who had watched them quietly. "Take care of them for me?"

Blaise grinned. "Can I stupefy Weasley when he throws his major fit after learning you were just having him on?"

Draco laughed. "Have fun."

Blaise sobered and pulled Draco into an embrace. "It'll only be fun if you come back."

Draco felt something catch in his throat. "I'm going to try, but if I don't...I'll say hi to Daphne for you."

Pansy couldn't hide her tears anymore, so she just turned and left. Blaise patted him on the back, then followed her out the door. Draco took down the spell he had around the crib and picked up his son.

It was a long time before he put him down again.

*****

The crack of apparition alerted a dozing Harry that he wasn't alone. Hmm. Six Death Eaters. All with wands pointed at him. "A bit of overkill, isn't it?" he said as he yawned.

They didn't say anything, other than the one who muttered a spell that tied Harry's hands behind his back. Two of them grabbed his elbows and apparated him away. As soon as he felt solid ground beneath his feet, he was shoved to his knees and noticed that his companions--lots and lots of companions--too, were on their knees. Of course, that made him look up.

In front of him, on a stone dais, stood Voldemort. Still red-eyed and serpentine. He glared at Harry, daring him to look away. Harry did, only because something else caught his attention. A falling star. Actually, a lot of falling stars. He flashed back to Professor Sinestra's class. Mid to late November. The Leonid meteor shower. "Oh, Tom, you romantic bastard you," he said aloud. "And here I was, just expecting plain, old rose petals."

"Do you know where you are, boy?" Voldemort hissed.

Harry rolled his eyes. As if he couldn't recognize the stone monoliths of Stonehenge. Voldemort always had to be so flashy. Must be due his muggle upbringing. "Under the stars with the man of my dreams?"

Voldemort laughed. "I shall enjoy sucking out your wit along with your soul." He drew his wand. "Stand, my faithful! Stand and watch as this child who dared to stand in my way falls to he who is greater. Combibo animus! Combido auctoritas! Combibo spiritus!"

Harry saw a bright light grow at the end of the wand and he leapt to his feet. "Solvo! Contego!" The ropes fell and the white light hit the protective shield he'd conjured, bursting into millions of sparks that rivaled the falling stars.

Voldemort looked pissed, but he pulled it together quickly. "You are one; we are many. Death Eaters, defend!" he yelled.

Harry gulped as hundreds of wands pointed in his direction.

Chapter 43: Ends Are Beginnings And Vice-Versa

Draco signed his name to the bottom of the parchment, then rolled and sealed it as he had the others.

"Coo?"

Draco smiled and walked over to the crib. Bright green eyes shone up at him. He lifted Jamie and settled him on his lap as he sat in Harry's squishy chair. "You, my darling son, have perfect timing. I was hoping you'd wake before I left."

"Puh?"

"I know you don't want me to go, and I don't want to go, but...you need your daddy, so I need to save him."

"Blub."

"I know you love us both. But... Okay, here's the real deal, from one Slytherin to another: I was raised...poorly. I was not taught compassion or empathy. I was not urged to share. For the past several months, I've been faking it, using your daddy as a guide. But without him...without him I fear I will revert to what I once was, what at heart I am. You deserve...more, Jamie, and unlike my own father, I'm willing to give you what you need, be what you need me to be. I won't let a dark lord get his grubby hands on you, nor will I let him take your daddy from you. No, your papa loves you much, much more than that."

Draco sighed and adjusted Jamie's green one-piece with its red piping, tiny feet dancing in his hands as he made sure all the snaps were fastened. Considering what Dumbledore had revealed, red and green weren't going to be Jamie's only choice of colors. No, perhaps there would be Ravenclaw blue or, shudder, Hufflepuff yellow in his future. Oh well, at least that explained why the meddlesome old git hadn't blabbed to Harry about the maker of the potion, because if Snape had figured it out, so had Dumbledore. But by dosing Harry, he'd played right into Dumbledore's hands.

And wasn't that an humiliating thought.

"Already running and you can't even walk yet," he teased his son, tapping lightly on the rapidly moving soles. "Just wait until you get your first broom. I--I hope-- No, no matter what, I'll be there for that first broom ride, little one. That's a promise, okay, and I don't make many of them."

"Bah!"

"Okay, okay, I don't make any. But I have made that one. I'll be there." He lifted Jamie and kissed the little tow-head. "I'll be there." He laid him in the crib and snapped his fingers. "Dobby!"

Pop! "Master call?" the creature said, ears standing straight up.

Draco pulled himself up to his full height and glared at the house-elf. "Clothes or no clothes, you are still bound to the House of Malfoy and me, your new master. As my house-elf, I command you to take care of the new young master until such time that I, his father, or Mistress Pansy comes for him. Do you understand?"

"But I'se fre--" Draco gave him a look and his ears drooped to the floor. "I'se understanding, Master Malfoy."

"Good. There are--letters. See that they are delivered in the morning if I'm not here...or something."

"You is going somewhere?"

"Yes, that's why I need you to look after the young master. And Harry. You'll look after Harry for me, won't you?"

"Oh, yes, I'se liking looking after Harry Potter," Dobby said happily.

Draco nodded and took one final glance into the crib.

"Aaap," Jamie said.

"I love you, too," Draco replied softly and fled the room.

Moments later, he was outside the gates of Hogwarts and apparating to Malfoy Manor. It was close to where Harry was and heavily protected, so he knew he wouldn't be disturbed. It was also...home and he wanted to see it one last time. Besides, it was fitting that he should do this here. Life--one big fucking circle.

He drew his wand and opened the imposing front doors. Standing at the bottom of the long curving staircase, he pictured his mother coming down on his father's arm, heading to an evening out or ready to greet visitors. But that was never going to happen again. He'd made sure it of that, hadn't he?

Firmly focusing on the time, he made a quick stop in his father's study, then headed to his room. Bare except for the furniture. He shrugged, knowing that everything personal had been in that odious package sent to Hogwarts. He waved his wand and the candles that had automatically lit as he entered the room dimmed to a soft glow. He walked over to the tall window that overlooked the gardens and opened it. Cool November air rushed in as a falling star streaked through the sky in the distance. He shivered. An omen?

He shucked off his robes and removed his shirt. From his belt, he removed the small ornamental dagger he'd taken from Lucius's study. Although it was an heirloom handed down through generations of Malfoys, it was honed to perfection. Less pain was always good.

He dropped to his knees before the window. Glancing at the bonding bracelet, he raised his wrist and kissed it. It was the only reason that he knew this would succeed. The ritual called for a full-blooded elf, but he was certain that the existing bond he had with Harry would cover for the ten percent of him that was wizard. Using the dagger to pierce both palms, he began to sing in Elven. He sang of the beauty of the universe, the Elven land, and the Elven way of life. Then he slashed his chest and sang of his beloved, of the heart that had claimed his, of the soul that completed his own. He sang of his desire to become one with his other half.

Slashing his forearms, he held his arms up to the open window, shivering as the breeze connected with the warm, flowing blood. "To Harry, I give myself. To Harry, I give my power. To Harry, I give my magic. To Harry, I give all that I am. Take me into your soul, beloved. Use me. Meld my power to yours. Use it to destroy, to defend, to save. We are one, Harry. We are one." Blood trailed down his arm and pooled to the floor. As it had been when he was pregnant, he felt his magic shift and smiled. Power and magic would always exist; if he'd lost it, then it had crossed over to Harry as he had willed. Weakened, it took effort to dip a finger into one of the crimson rivulets and paint intersecting lines on his forehead. Now Harry would not only have his power and magic, but also the knowledge of how to use them.

"For you, for Jamie," he whispered and gave himself over to the beckoning darkness.

As Draco slumped to one side, he thought he saw the falling stars turn the sky to flame.

*****

By the time Harry finished gulping, he knew what to do. "Expelliarmus!" he yelled and didn't even blink as all the Death Eaters' wands flew straight up out of their hands. "Fracta!" The wands shattered into sawdust. "Incendio!" The dust burned, highlighting the plain in weird, eerie shadows thanks to the stones. The Death Eaters, some still on the ground from the powerful disarming spell, held up their hands trying to escape the falling embers. Before they could rejoice in the fact that the embers quickly burned out, a rush of hailstones had them cringing again.

"Impressive."

Harry turned around to face Voldemort who still held onto his wand and was protected by a magical shield, as was Harry. "Time's up, Tom. It ends now."

"How right you are," Voldemort hissed and aimed his wand at Harry. "Avada Kadavra!"

Harry shook his head, not even bothering to flinch. Somewhere inside, he knew the spell could not touch him. He was right; as the deadly green rush of power reached his personal shield, it dissipated into harmly green sparks. Voldemort called out three more spells, ones Harry didn't recognize, and all of them just blazed out around him. When the Dark Lord's red eyes were almost bulging out of his head due to anger, Harry smiled. "Let me show you how it's done, Tom."

He slowly slipped to his knees and held his hands up in supplication. "Amin yala onna en' vilya. (I summon the Air Elemental). Amin naa lle hin, Yaaraer. Amin naa tualle . Amin naa lle nai. (I am your child, Ancient One. I am your servant. I am yours to command.)"

He raised his head and stared at Voldemort. "Help me, my Lord Air. Destroy my enemy. Weaken the foul one. Pierce the soul of the son of snakes. Rend him to pieces so that he may not return to torture your servants. Save us, Father. Set us free."

A whirlwind formed behind Voldemort and knocked into him, jarring his wand from his hand. Instead of falling to the ground, the wand was swept up into the wind and snapped into a thousand pieces, much like those of Voldemort's followers. With the loss of the wand, the protective shield dissolved and Voldemort was pelted by the hail. Seconds later, the hailstorm changed into freezing rain and sleet. Before Voldemort could react, he was coated in ice and frozen in place. A bolt of lightning descended from a cloud directly above him. It ran through him, piercing his scalp and trailing out his foot. Everything stood still for a long, still moment, then Voldemort shattered like a delicate porcelain vase beneath the mighty blow of a mallet, pieces of him tinkling against the ancient rocks.

Harry stayed on his knees, breathless. This was it, then. Voldemort was defeated. Voldemort was gone. The storm quickly gave way to clear skies and the shield around him dissipated. He waited for the surviving Death Eaters to attack. But it didn't matter what they did or what happened to Harry. Voldemort was gone. The end for some. The beginning for others. That was more than enough for Harry.

"Bloody hell."

He turned suddenly at the familiar voice, and he adjusted his glasses to make sure he was seeing correctly. Ron. Ron was there. And Hermione. And the whole bloody Order, it appeared. Death Eaters were being unburied from the still melting hail, bound and apparated into custody. He had survived!

"Where's Draco hiding, Harry?" Hermione asked as she stepped over a sprawled Death Eater.

"Draco? Draco's not here. What are you doing here? How did you find me?" Harry asked quickly.

"Hailstorm. Ice storm. Lightning bolt. Of course Draco's here," she said huffily.

No. Draco was safe in the Elven realm. He wouldn't--

"What should we do with this?" an Auror asked, poking at one of the pieces formerly known as the Dark Lord.

Harry started to tell them to leave it, to let the carrion eaters come and peck out the choicest parts. But this was Voldemort and he didn't want to leave anything to chance. "Stand back," he ordered. "Sicco! Pulvis!" The bits dried out, then pulverized into powder. He concentrated and a mini tornado formed, sucking up the remains before skipping away and disappearing against the horizon. "It'll leave parts across the land until it reaches the sea and dumps the rest."

Everyone stared at him.

If he could, he would have stared at himself. The air was doing his bidding, but he wasn't-- His heart sank. What had Draco done? "Where is he?"

Ron understood immediately. "We don't know. We made rescue plans, but when we went to meet him, he was gone. He said that you were to the south, so we just looked for strange happenings and brought help. Like you needed it. Very impressive, mate."

Harry didn't have the heart to tell him Voldemort had said the same thing. "Draco's done something. He's--he's given me his powers. What does that mean, Hermione?"

She paled. "We need to find him, Harry."

Harry concentrated on his bracelet, then frowned. "Any ideas how to do that? I can't get anything from this dumb piece of jewelry."

Hermione went even paler. "Maybe if we start at Hogwarts we can trace him?"

Harry apparated.

He raced to his rooms and found Dobby with Jamie. "Harry Potter!" the house-elf exclaimed happily. "You is found!"

"Where's Master Draco?" Harry asked as he wracked his mind for a tracing spell. Where the hell was Hermione?

"He leave and say for Dobby to care for young master."

Harry nodded and went in the bedroom to find the Marauder's Map. No Draco anywhere on the grounds. Fuck. He headed back out to the main room just as a panting Hermione and Ron came through the door. "He's not here. Hermione, can you--"

"Wait a minute," Ron said. "I think I might know where he is." They looked at him expectantly. "Malfoy Manor. It was close to where you were, Harry, and he wouldn't be disturbed because, remember, Hermione? He said the wards were only keyed to him and his mother."

"Let's go," Harry said, racing toward the door.

"Didn't you hear what I just said, mate? The wards won't let us in."

"I don't fucking care," Harry growled. "I'm getting in no matter what."

"I can get you in, Harry Potter." They all turned to Dobby. "Master Malfoy, he be saying before he left that I is not free, that I is still bound to the House of Malfoy. That mean I can get through the wards."

"That's ridic--" Hermione began, but was cut off by Harry.

"And you can take me through the wards with you?"

"Yes, Harry Potter. You is being like food or something."

Of course, house-elves had to have the ability to apparate provisions through the wards. "Take me," he said without hesitation.

"Harry, you don't--" Hermione began.

"Take me now, Dobby. I order you."

"Yes, Harry Potter, we go now." Dobby touched his hand and suddenly he was somewhere else. A candlelit room. A bedroom. He moved closer and saw the bed was occupied. With a wave of his hand, the lights brightened. Damn. Here he was frantic about Draco and the man was tucked safely into bed. With a stuffed dragon in his arms?

"Foom-Foom!" Dobby squealed in delight.

"Huh?" Something wasn't right with this picture and Harry was desperate for "right."

"Foom-Foom was young master's favorite, but when he turned seven, old master said he was too old to sleep with toys. Said he would feed Foom-Foom to the fireplace if he found him in the bed again. Young master gave Foom-Foom to the house-elves and told them not to let old master find him. Since old master gone, Foom-Foom could be found. Charm must have brought him."

"Charm?"

"Young master often fall asleep anywhere. Mistress charm room to put him to bed if he still too long. Charm put young master into pajamas, give him hug toy, and put him in bed."

So Draco had exhausted himself giving Harry his power and the room had put him to bed. Interesting charm. Maybe Mom Weasley knew it and they could use it with Jamie. "Okay, Sleeping Beauty, time to awaken," he murmured and approached the bed.

"Harry Potter! New old master not be sleeping, I'se thinking!" Dobby called anxiously from near the window.

Harry hurried to Dobby's side and looked down at the dark pool of...blood. "Fuck!" He raced to the bed and drew back the covers. Draco was indeed dressed in pajamas--that were dark with blood. "Can you take us to the hospital wing?" he asked as he scooped the unconscious form into his arms.

Dobby answered by reaching out and grabbing his wrist. Draco's childhood room winked from sight.

Chapter 44: Saving Draco Malfoy

Harry was yelling for Madame Pomfrey even before the room solidified around him. She was next to him in an instant and he realized she must have already been in the main ward. "Massive blood loss and I don't know what else," he said quickly as he laid Draco on a bed. "He transferred his magic over to me and then we found him like this. Blood magic, I assume from the cuts. But there was something Elven, too. We need Dumbledore to call Queen Arelia."

Pomfrey tsked and expertly glanced over Draco. "The queen left me instructions on how to contact her if Draco was ever injured. Severus, attend to the young man while I call the queen."

Severus? He turned to see Snape rise from the bed where he was sitting. He was bare from the waist up and covered in multi-colored bruises. "Move aside, Potter."

Snape flourished his wand over Draco, muttering things, and Harry saw the wounds start to heal and the blood disappear. "Thank you," he said, too happy to care who was doing the healing. With Draco appearing to be better, curiosity got the better of him. "What happened to you?"

Snape stared at him for a second, then turned back to Draco. "Hailstones," he said flatly.

Hail--Oh. "You were there?"

"Yes. I was getting ready to cast a protective spell over you when suddenly my wand was snatched from me and destroyed."

Oops. "Sorry about that, sir."

Snape raised an eyebrow at the apology. "Thankfully, I keep a spare." He waved the wand artfully over Draco. "Impressive display of power, Potter. Then, I assumed, Mr. Malfoy took over. However, I take it that that was a false assumption."

Harry looked down at his husband. "He did something. I had his powers and I knew how to use them. I don't even know what an air elemental is, but I called it and it did what I asked--what Draco asked. He's going to be okay, isn't he?"

"I don't know. The bleeding has stopped, but his breathing is quite shallow and his pulse is weak."

"Well, do something!"

"I can't!" Snape hissed. "He's ninety-percent elf. He needs an Elven healer."

"You've known he's an elf since this summer. Why didn't you research or something!"

"Maybe I had other important things to do--like spy on a crazed dark lord!"

Well, there was that, Harry conceded. He was just so damn scared about losing Draco. "It's okay. Queen Arelia will be here soon and she's a healer, so..." He stroked Draco's pale cheek. The skin was smooth but too cool. Maybe he needed a blanket?

"What is that with him?"

Harry looked at Snape, then at what Snape was looking at. "Foom-Foom," he said matter-of-factly. Apparently when he'd scooped up Draco, the cuddly toy had come along for the ride. "I found Draco at Malfoy Manor. An old charm in his room put him to bed with his favorite toy."

"Something survived the wrath of his parents?"

Harry nodded, hoping that something else would survive--namely Draco. As he picked up the slightly battered dragon, a door opened and Queen Arelia glided into the room, Pomfrey close behind her.

"What has hap--" the queen began to demand, then stopped abruptly when she saw the cuts on Draco's arms.

Harry quickly touched her shoulder, instinctively knowing what Arelia was thinking, or maybe even seeing. Her daughter Thisala. "It's not what it looks like. It wasn't a suicide attempt." He went on to explain what he knew and what he guessed.

"Extraordinary," Arelia said softly when he finished. "This should have been impossible. The rite is only for full-blooded elves mated to full-blooded elves. He should not have been able to transfer to you--a complete non-elf."

Harry felt a lump in his throat. "Are you saying he should have died?"

"I'm saying he should not have had the power to even attempt such an act. The completion of the first arc of the ritual should have struck him down."

Harry didn't want to think about it. "Well, he did, so the question is--can you put him back the way he was?"

She hummed and laid her hands on either side of Draco's head. She then stepped back and looked at Harry. "I can save him only because he is of my blood, but..."

"But?"

"I will have to be the conduit between you and him, meaning that I will take from you and give to him. But there is a chance that I might take too much from you, and you might become--what is the word you use? A squib?"

Harry shrugged. "Okay."

"Potter," Snape warned.

"What? Do you think I love my magic more than I love Draco? For eleven years, magic was a burden, a thing to be shunned, to be hidden. Yes, I'm glad I found out about Hogwarts. Yes, I'm glad I could stop Voldemort. But there is no doubt, no question when it comes to me choosing between magic and Draco. The queen has my permission to do whatever she has to fix Draco. Besides," he added with less conviction, "killing Voldemort was all I was good for anyway and now that's done."

"I think my son might disagree," Arelia said softly. "But I will leave that to the two of you to work out. Come, child."

"Perhaps we should wait for Dumbledore," Snape said and Pomfrey nodded quickly.

Harry gave a little smile. "I trust my mother-in-law. Do what you need to, Mother Arelia."

"I will be as careful as I can," she promised before taking his face between the palms of her hands. Her eyes locked with his.

He felt a jolt and swayed slightly. Arelia's purple irises flashed gray and she stepped back.

"Put him to bed," she ordered before turning and cupping her hands around Draco's head.

The room spun slightly as someone--a hairy hand, must be Snape--guided him to the bed beside Draco's. Then darkness descended.

When he came to, woke, surfaced or whatever, he heard voices whispering beside him.

"When did Pomfrey say he's going to wake up?"

"Probably when I hear your big mouth, Ron," Harry said, forcing his eyes to open. His first motion was to look over at the bed beside him. Draco was still there, his chest reassuringly rising and falling.

"Sorry about that, mate," Ron said sheepishly. "How are you?"

"Fine. Just tired."

"What happened?" Hermione asked. "Professor Snape came to the common room and told us you and Draco were here in the hospital wing, but nothing else."

"Draco was at Malfoy Manor. He'd done some kind of blood magic and was almost bled out. Dobby got us back here and Queen Arelia took Draco's magic from me and put it back into Draco." He wasn't about to mention that she might have taken his magic as well; he just wasn't up to the argument that would cause. "I'm all right; just got a little dizzy."

Hermione nodded. "Magical shock, I assume. So, Draco's going to be okay?"

"The queen didn't seem to be too upset," Harry answered, sitting up a little. "Where is she?"

"She said she was going to see Dumbledore and that we were to watch over you and Draco. The honest-to-goodness Elven queen, Harry," Hermione gushed. "Can you imagine what she knows..."

"I'm sure if Draco puts in a good word for you, she'll give you an interview or something," Harry said with a grin. That was so Hermione--the war and its necessary search for knowledge of how to win was over, but here she was, in search of new knowledge.

"It's over," Ron said as if reading Harry's mind. "You did it, Harry."

"With Draco's help. I guess his was the power the Dark Lord knew not," Harry said, adlibbing from Trelawney's prophecy. "Mother Arelia says that he shouldn't have been able to do what he did, that the transfer shouldn't have worked, that the attempt should have probably killed him."

"Lucky wanker," Ron said. "He should have stuck with the plan."

"What plan?"

"He was supposed to cause a storm as a huge distraction while a handful of us stole in to save you. We had it all worked out, but he said he had to rest before he could pull it off."

Harry laughed. "And you believed him? Ron, that plan had 'Gryffindor' written all over it. No way Draco was going to go for that."

"Yeah, well," Ron said, flushing. "It probably would've worked."

"And got someone killed," Harry said dryly. He noticed Ron and Hermione sharing a look. "What? Someone...got killed?"

Hermione took his hand. "When you were captured--"

It hit Harry suddenly. "Nott! He's a traitor! We need--"

"We know, Harry," Hermione continued. "He was working with Mitchell Flint. The Aurors have taken both of them into custody. It's just that--the Slytherins were only in the Aurors to watch over you."

"Draco--"

Ron snorted. "No, just to save their own arses. They knew you were the only one who could off--Voldemort," he said with effort.

Harry doubted that the Slytherins were protecting him only for that reason. Being with Draco had taught him that Slytherins often had layers of reasons for everything they did. "What? Who?" he asked Hermione.

"Daphne Greengrass. The Death Eaters killed her when she tried to stop the attack."

"Fuck," Harry said sadly. He hadn't even known her as a person--she'd been just "one of the Slytherin witches."

"Harry, how are you, my boy?" Dumbledore asked as he appeared in the room.

"Fine, sir. Where's Queen Arelia? I want to ask her about Draco."

Dumbledore winced. "She's busy re-donning her velvet glove, I believe."

"Sir?" all three of them asked together.

"Beneath her velvet glove appearance, the queen definitely has an iron fist," Dumbledore muttered. "How do you students say it? Ah, yes--the queen 'tore me a new one' for not expressing clearly enough the dangers posed to Draco and Harry by Voldemort." Hermione discreetly coughed. Harry cleared his throat and covered his smile with his hand. Ron snickered. Very loudly. Dumbledore shot him a look over his glasses. "I'm sorry that I wasn't here when all this occurred, Harry. Perhaps I could've talked Mr. Malfoy--"

Harry shook his head. "When Draco's set on a course, he pretty much stays on it," he said, remembering the painful conversation about Draco not changing how he and Harry got together. If you expect me to be sorry for saving myself from Voldemort, for Jamie coming into existence, for...for falling in love with you, I'll never be perfect for you. That's my truth for the night, Harry.

"Nevertheless, I shouldn't have been so far away. I was attempting to negotiate with the werewolves to track your loca--"

"Remus?" Harry asked eagerly.

"Is well. He'll be here shortly. In fact, the whole Order will be meeting later to develop a strategy for reorganizing Wizarding politics and such."

"And the surviving Death Eaters?"

"Are being rounded up by the Aurors. I assure you that you and Mr. Malfoy are completely safe."

"And if that doesn't assure you, I give you the same promise," Queen Arelia said as she glided into the room. "I think everyone is now clear on how far I am willing to go to protect my family," she added pointedly.

"Yes, quite," Dumbledore said with false heartiness. "Well, I'm off to make sure things are going as expected. I just want to say, Harry, that I'm proud of you and Draco. The Wizarding world owes you both a great debt." With a bow, he left the room.

Harry was impressed. He'd thought Draco's "I control the universe" attitude was strictly from being a Malfoy, but apparently Lucius had got it from both sides and passed it down. "How is Draco?" he asked his mother-in-law eagerly.

"We will know when he wakes. How are you?" Harry shrugged and glanced at Ron and Hermione. Arelia got the message. "I am sorry, Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger, but I must insist Harry rest now."

"Oh, of course," Hermione said, grabbing Ron's elbow. "We'll be back to see you soon, Harry."

"Bring Jamie with you," Harry said.

"We will. Bye!"

Harry chuckled. Hermione was a smart witch; if Arelia could make Dumbledore jump at her commands, there was no way she was going to try to take the Elven queen on. The smile faded, and he turned to Arelia. "I didn't tell them anything. And I haven't tried to do anything. I don't--I don't even know where my wand is."

"You do not need a wand. Command, Harry."

He rolled his eyes at her order. Definitely Draco's family. "Accio Foom-Foom." The dragon lay still beside Draco.

"Hmm," she said. "I do not believe I would have responded to such a lackluster command either. What is it, child? Are you afraid that you have lost your magic? Or do you not want it at all?"

"I want it; I just don't need it anymore."

"I forgot how dramatic you wizards can be," Arelia said with a sigh. "Of course you need your magic. It is who you are."

"No, who I am, who I was, was the Boy-Who-Lived-To-Save-The-World-From-Voldemort. I'm not him anymore. He's not needed."

She took his hand and he felt her higher body heat flow through him. "But you are. Draco needs you. Your son needs you. That is who you are. The Boy-Who-Lived was...trivial."

He gaped at her. Damn, she and Draco were two of a kind. Heaven help both the Elven and Wizarding worlds now that they'd found each other. "I thought they were going to have to survive without me. He shouldn't have--"

"But he did. And now, they will survive with you. My son is very smart and very protective. You owe it to him to be all that you are. Call the dragon to you."

Harry held out his hand and focused. "Accio Foom-Foom!" The cuddly toy flew into his hand. He stared at it for a moment, then drew it to his chest and dropped his head, not wanting Arelia to see his tears.

"Harry?"

His head shot up and his eyes met familiar gray ones. "Draco!"

His husband smirked. "My plan worked, huh? Hi, Mother."

"Don't you, 'Hi, Mother' her, Draco," Harry spat as he climbed out of his bed and onto Draco's. "She's here because you almost killed yourself, you idiot!"

Draco rolled his eyes. "Voldemort is dead?" Harry nodded. "You're alive?" He nodded again. "My plan worked. Hi, Mother," Draco repeated.

Arelia's eyes twinkled like Dumbledore's. "Hello, son. After you and your mate are reacquainted, you and I need to have a talk about necessary and unnecessary risks, darling." She leaned over and kissed him. "I left the realm quite suddenly; I must return and explain. I shall be back shortly."

Draco watched her leave. "What'd you do to put me on her shit list, Harry?" he said, snuggling into the arms that had wrapped around him.

"Me? You and your plans, arsehole. What if Dobby hadn't been able to get me into Malfoy Manor? What if Arelia hadn't been able to take you out of me and put you into you again? What if---what if I'd lost you, you jerk?" Harry emphasized the "jerk" with a kiss to each of Draco's temples.

Draco directed Harry's lips to his and they lost themselves in each other for several long minutes before Draco pulled back. "Thank you for saving me, Harry Potter."

Harry should his head. "Thank you for saving yourself, Draco Malfoy. Thank you for saving the whole fucking Wizarding world."

"Purely coincidental," Draco said, sighing as he leaned against Harry. "It was all about me, you know--and well, Jamie, who's a part of me, so he's me, too. You had nothing to do with this so no indulging in guilt about what might have happened. And don't you dare think that I turned noble and self-sacrificing," he added sternly. "What I did has nothing to do with such Gryffindorish tendencies. As you've often stated, I am a Slytherin, and I have no qualms about doing anything to protect what is mine. Jamie is mine, and I've done what I've done for him. He deserves to have the best of the best, and if fate had determined that he should only have one parent, well, you know I would've fucked it up royally."

"No, I don't know that. Besides, I might have fucked up royally on my own, too."

"But your Weasleys and Granger would have stuck their noses in and straightened it out for you."

"They would've helped you, too."

"As if I'd let a Weasley help me," Draco snorted. "See? That's why you'd have made the better single parent."

All Harry could see was that Draco was so far from being Lucius, he would have made an excellent single father. Sure, he probably would have disdained Weasley advice publicly, but he would've followed it to the letter if it benefited Jamie. "Let's not argue this since, thanks to you and your mother, neither of us is going to be a single parent."

"You played a role, too."

"Yeah."

Draco entwined their fingers. "How did it feel? Having my power and yours?"

Harry remembered the cockiness he'd felt when he knew Voldemort couldn't touch him and the headiness of knowing Voldemort was finished. "Good. Maybe too good. I think...I think I know how dark lords are made."

Draco nodded. "But you don't have to worry about that. The darkness can't have you because you're mine."

"Oh, really? And are you mine?"

"I am. But Foom-Foom's not. Why do you have my toy?"

Harry looked down at the toy still clutched in his free hand. "You saved him, too."

"I did? Damn, I'm good," Draco said with a satisfied smirk, which was quickly followed by a yawn.

"Oh, you're awake!"

Harry looked up to see Hermione in the doorway with Jamie in her arms. She brought the baby to them and scurried out, saying something about having to get back to Ron.

"Tactful, isn't she?" Draco kissed his sleeping son on the forehead. "Draw the curtains around us, Harry. I want to be alone with my family for a while."

Harry moved the curtains with a flick of his hand. Then he cast a silencing spell and a room-darkening one. Although he didn't sleep, he did relax, knowing that he and his world were safe from harm.

*****

Draco Malfoy lay in his mate's arms and dreamed. He dreamed of a future with laughing children, a loving husband, and a new realm and family to get to know. There was no darkness that had no light, no pain than couldn't be soothed away, no sorrows that weren't balanced by overwhelming happiness. Later, he woke, dazed and disoriented. He looked down in his arms to find green eyes staring up at him. He looked behind him and saw green eyes devouring him with love. He looked around him and saw friends and family and professors, people he could count on. With a sigh, he leaned back against Harry's solid, broad chest and knew without a doubt that his Plan had worked.

Draco Malfoy was saved at last.

Epilogue

"I said SLOW DOWN! I'm only four. My legs aren't as long!"

"You can climb on my back if you want to."

"Or the prat ahead could SLOW DOWN!"

"You don't even know what a prat is."

"Maybe not. But you had to slow down to tell me that. So, HAH!"

Draco Malfoy slowly shook his head as he listened to his brood communicating in their diverse ways. Four-year-old Daphne Lily was just as Slytherin as her namesake, slyly getting her eleven-year-old brother Jamie to slow down in the forward motion he was always in. And then there was eight-year-old Thisala Molly who, in her heroic Gryffindor nature, had tried to make peace by offering Daphne a ride on her back. Finally, there was Sirius Albus who was currently still in utero, but kicking his legs valiantly in an effort to keep up with his siblings--a fetal Hufflepuff wanting to be with the gang. Draco rubbed his belly, telling Sirius it was all right, that there would come a day he could annoyingly tag-along with his sibs without Papa's help.

"You okay?"

He looked over at his husband and nodded. "I'm fine, Harry. This is my fourth pregnancy; I'm bound to have it down to an art form by now."

"Hey, you're the one all 'let's keep ahead of the Weasleys.' Just because Ron and Hermione have three children..."

"Keep on ranting and there will be no more children or sex in your future," Draco warned. He certainly wasn't going to try for the number the elder Weasleys had and besides, they were wealthy enough to afford however many they wanted. Anyway, Harry knew as well as he did that Sirius hadn't been planned. One minute they were at some Elven celebration of one thing or another (elves liked to party) and the next, they were waking up behind a clump of bushes minus trousers and pants.

"Aw, Draco, you know I'm just worried."

"And how many times have I told you, and Mother has told you, that I've become so Elven, pregnancy isn't a problem for me."

"Except when you get stuck in soft chairs and hunt for a bathroom every hundred meters."

"Fuck you, because I know who won't be doing it," Draco hissed as they trailed behind their children in search of a good picnic spot in the crowded London park.

"Even if I give you a foot massage?"

The problem with being bound to someone for nearly twelve years was that they knew you too well. "And a back rub."

Harry reached out and grabbed his hand. "And a back rub. You have tomorrow off, right?"

"Of course I do. The Ministry can do without their Minister of Elven-Wizard Affairs for one more day." He'd taken the week to spend this special time with his family.

"This spot all right, Papa?"

He glanced around. "It's a fine spot, Jamie. You can go off to the lake if you want."

"Can we go, too, Papa?" the girls cried.

Draco looked at his son. This was Jamie's day; he'd abide by his wishes. Jamie shrugged and smiled. "All right, but stay close to and listen to your brother. In a few years it'll be you going off Hogwarts the next day and you'll not be wanting your siblings to be a pain either."

Harry snorted as the kids took off toward the lake, Foom-Foom dangling precariously in Daphne's grasp. "Off to Hogwarts--like we don't live at Hogwarts."

Hogwarts wanted Jamie at Hogwarts. That much had been obvious long ago. Before Madam Pomfrey had confirmed Thisala was on the way, Jamie had woke them with a "Thank you for my very own room, Daddy and Papa." It seemed the castle had added a room, complete with everything a little boy could want. Thisala's room had appeared when Daphne did, and how they knew Sirius was on the way had been interesting. After waking up in the bushes, they had claimed their children and left the realm with the foggiest of memories. Ten-year-old Jamie, happy to be back at Hogwarts (Jamie loved Hogwarts, so actually it really didn't matter how much Hogwarts wanted him; he wanted it as much), had eagerly raced off to their rooms while his parents lagged behind. By the time they collapsed on the sofa, Jamie was perched on the coffee table, looking at them solemnly.

"Dad, Papa."

Draco knew that tone. That tone said that Jamie had something of a serious nature to discuss. He hadn't felt up to having a serious discussion, but as a parent, he'd sucked it up and plunged forward. "What is it, Jamie? You know you can tell us anything."

"Daphne has her own room."

Draco patted the round mound of his happy surprise of several months ago. "Yes, off to Hogwarts, off to live in a dormitory instead of their own beds. It'll be different enough, Harry."

"I know," Harry said as he helped Draco to the blanket-covered ground. "I don't even want to consider what our rooms are going to be like without him. No more spending the night in the realm for you for a while, all right?"

"Not without you," Draco agreed. "So how are the newest recruits looking?" H.O.M.E. had survived the death of Voldemort. Instead of just protecting Hogwarts, they now were "let" out to provide security for special events or to help out local constabularies who wanted to avoid the ministry-paperwork hassle of the Aurors. After five years in the service, Harry had been asked to head the militia--especially since he was such a celebrity that it made it hard for him to function as a mere officer.

Harry shrugged. "I think starting orientation after the summer was a good idea. It gives the ones who have just finished Hogwarts enough time to decide if the militia is really what they want to do. We also have a few from other magical institutions who couldn't have made this round if we hadn't pushed orientation back to the end of August."

"Just enough time to get the recruits settled before the Hogwarts students arrive. That was a brilliant idea, by the way," Draco said, lazily laying back on his elbows.

"Of course it was, since you're the one who came up with it," Harry said obediently. He sprawled out on his belly beside Draco. "I'm glad we got all Jamie's shopping done yesterday. I can only imagine how crowded Diagon Alley is today."

"At least he didn't meet any strange, scar-headed boys in Madam Malkin's," Draco said with a smirk. Harry didn't mind his scar much anymore; with Voldemort's death it had paled considerably and never hurt.

"Or a pale little haughty thing with sharp features and a mouth that won't stop."

Draco laughed. "Admit it, Potter--you like my mouth."

Harry moved closer. "Yeah," he said, proving it by attacking Draco's mouth with his own.

"Well, at least no one's going to wonder how I ended up in this condition," Draco said many moments later. He laughed when Harry looked around to make sure no one had been watching them. Harry still hadn't learned to live with their eternal gawkers. It was bad enough that he was Harry Potter, Savior of the Wizarding World, but he was married to Draco Malfoy--son of a Death Eater, only known Progenitor, Elven mudblood, and co-killer of the evil, dread Dark Lord Voldemort. Draco was pretty sure a picture of the kiss was going to grace the morning cover of The Daily Prophet. It was a good thing Jamie had learned to live with his family's infamy and would just laugh off the comments he was going to get on the Hogwarts Express.

"Are we going to do this every year?" Harry asked.

"What? Kiss? I was thinking about doing it more than once a year," Draco purred.

"No, silly. I mean, come to London so that the children can ride the train with the rest of the students. I like the idea."

Draco nodded. "I think it's important because, you know, there was a lot of groundwork for the year established on the train ride."

"Yeah, like which Slytherins to steer clear of."

"Quiet, you flatterer you."

Harry grinned. "You know, some show-off Seventh Year is going to be in for a rude awakening tomorrow, thinking Jamie is just a typical ickle Firstie. But I personally know his papa has shown him a few eye-opening tricks."

"Not to mention the ones his dear ol' dad had already taught him. Maybe they'll have sense enough to steer clear of him once he mentions his name."

"Didn't stop you from messing with the Harry Potter."

Draco sniffed rather loudly. "Actually, it made me mess more."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. Besides, I was talking more about the Malfoy part of his name more than the Potter part." He was counting on Jamie getting the message across that the Malfoy-Potter children were not to be trifled with. All the "Houses" in Jamie left him pretty balanced; sure, he rushed in Gryffindor-style, but with Slytherin subtle wiliness, Ravenclaw thought clarity, and Hufflepuff fair good-nature. The girls, on the other hand, in defense of their family, would perpetrate utter, unapologetic devastation upon their perceived enemy. Harry, bless his muggle-raised heart, thought the girls were mostly sugar and spice; Draco--who with one mother a witch, the other an elf, and an aunt who would've given the Dark Lord a run for his money if she had been anywhere near sane--knew better.

"You think your name inspires more respect?"

"More terror is more like it."

Harry sighed and dropped his head. "You're probably right." Then he brightened. "But at least he won't be a Slytherin."

The Sorting Hat had called for Jamie early in the summer. What all went on, only the Hat and Jamie knew for sure, but Jamie had come back to their rooms saying he was going to be a Ravenclaw so that his family would represent all the Houses. Since it was obvious which Houses Thisala and Daphne would represent, that left Sirius to be a Hufflepuff.

At least it wouldn't be such a shock come Sorting Day eleven years from now.

"What time is everyone else expected to arrive?"

Harry looked at his muggle watch. "Shortly. No one else has little ones old enough for Hogwarts yet so they're just in London for the afternoon. Next year will be different. Ron and Hermione's oldest will be eleven."

"She fancies our Jamie, you know."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Ariel just considers him her heroic older brother."

Draco rolled his eyes back at Harry. "Mark my words--that girl's going to be our daughter-in-law some day. She has her mother's brain and her grandmother's tenacity. Jamie is as good as wed."

"You make it sound as if our son is a pushover."

"Hah. Haven't you noticed? He fancies her, too."

Harry stared at him. "Where are you getting this from, Draco? I'm around the children as much as you are, and I--"

"Mark my words, Potter. At least their children will have the royal Elven hair and not that hideous red stuff."

"So have you added clairvoyance to your bag of tricks?" Harry twirled an aged dandelion in his hand and Draco glared at him. He did NOT want to spend hours brushing fluff out of his hair.

"Just preparing for an inevitable future, Harry." He scowled as a puff of air sent floating seeds in his direction. "The inevitable future without sex."

Harry laughed and picked another dandelion. "Try another tactic, Draco. You know you only married me for the sex. You are insatiable."

"I didn't marry you just for the sex; I married you for everything I ever wanted."

Harry dropped the dandelion and looked at him solemnly. "And how did that work out for you?"

"Better than I planned; better than I could have ever expected," he replied, just as somber. "What about you?"

Harry shrugged. "I'm not the kind of man who makes plans--I'm a purely fly-wherever-my-broom-takes-me guy. So you, my life with you, wasn't planned by any stretch of the imagination. But now that I'm here, with you and however many children you wish to grant me, I can honestly say there's no way I could be happier or more satisfied or more content. You saved more than yourself back then, Draco."

Draco sniffed and averted his eyes. "You know I'm carrying a Hufflepuff, Harry. He's totally co-opted my emotional system."

Harry laughed and laid his head on Draco's shoulder. "You're the biggest, fluffiest fraud I know."

"Please leave me my delusions," Draco begged. "Before four babies, I was an actual hard-arsed cynic, wasn't I?"

"One word answer to that, Draco: Foom-Foom."

"Shit," he sighed. "At least I'm a good parent, right? Jamie--well, Jamie's Jamie. Thisala is so you, it's not even funny. Daphne--Daphne has her moments, but have you noticed? Once she gets her way, she can be quite pleasant."

"Not a normal Slytherin at all," Harry agreed agreeably.

"And Huffie here, there's probably not much I can do to screw him up. So, good parent."

"Excellent parent."

"And a good minister?"

"Not anything like Fudge or the rest. No playing politics for you: your way or no way," Harry teased.

Draco shrugged. "Not like I can be bought or anything. No one's richer than we are."

"And your mum's her majesty Queen Arelia, Queen Regnant of the Kherin, Ruling Monarch of the Elven Realm, and Commander-In-Chief of the Combined Armies of the Five Original Realms of Magic."

"There is that. And while we're on the subject, I'm a good elf and wizard, too. I really want both sides to be comfortable with each other."

"Only having a limited number of gates for each to pass into the other's realm was a brilliant idea, a simple way to know who's where at all times."

"Thank you. I'm a good friend?"

"You demanded a nursery at the Ministry Complex because so many of our friends work there and have children."

"Actually, I demanded it because the Wizard Resource Office said it couldn't be done."

"You asked your mother for a wing of the Elven palace so that our friends could stay over whenever they want."

"Mother Arelia is so easy."

Harry snorted. "Tell that to the rest of the Ministry and Dumbledore."

"Amateurs."

"Draco?"

"Yes, Harry?"

"You're good, okay? It's nothing to be ashamed of. You're good. Live with it."

"Fine, but I'm blaming you, by the way. Whatever I am, it's all your fault."

Harry smiled. "I can live with that."

Before Draco could reply, someone called out their names, and they looked up to the Weasley clan descending upon them, closely followed by the recently wed Blaise and Pansy. Family. Friends. It wasn't what he'd Planned that traumatic Yule long ago, but Fate seemed to Plan well enough on her own.

He could live with that.

THE END

 

 

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