Family Of Sorts
Family of Sorts
"Your ten o'clock has rescheduled to eleven," Pansy informed Draco as they strode along the long entrance hall of Malfoy Manor, her heals clacking on the marble as he sipped his coffee and skimmed the FT headlines. "But the car is still ready outside as I figured we could use an extra hour in the office anyway." She scrolled through her iPhone, briefing notes tucked under the arm of her Zadig et Voltaire blazer, sweeping a lock of black hair behind her ear absently as she gave that little frown that made Draco know something 'Casual' was about to get mentioned.
"Oh," she said, not disappointing. "And there's another au pair here for an interview."
Draco sighed and stopped walking. He loved Pansy like a sister, but sometimes his near telepathic PA didn't know when to stop meddling in his personal life. Just because his professional one would fall apart without her, didn't mean he needed the same thing at home. That's what his mother was for.
"All the girls I've seen have been impossible," Draco said bluntly. "Intimated by staying alone in the house with no one else around for miles, not coping with Scorpius and his…issues, one of them even made a pass at me Pans. I'm not looking for a wife."
His voice caught a little but he swallowed it down with another mouthful of coffee. After three and a half years, he'd got pretty good at hiding his emotions. Instead, he appreciated Pansy's look of disgust at that particular choice of nanny.
"True," she said practically. "But this isn't about you, it's about Scorp. He needs something constant in his life, and I think this one might actually surprise you."
I'm constant, Draco thought irritably, but even he knew that wasn't really true. He tried his best, but he'd found it hard to bond with his son in the wake of his grief. And Scorpius could be a little…different. He struggled with children his own age, suffered from anxieties, and Draco didn't know how to help that. As usual, Pansy was probably right. He needed someone dedicated, but Draco was starting to suspect he needed something a little more psychological, rather than some twenty-one year old gap year student who reckoned she was good with kids because she happened to once be one.
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Let me guess, she's fluent in French, plays the harp and happens to be single."
"Haven't got a clue about any of that," Pansy said with a shrug and a glint in her eye that immediately made Draco nervous. "But I can tell you she is in fact a he."
Now that, Draco definitely hadn't been expecting. "A male au pair?" he asked uncomfortably.
"Don't be so old fashioned," Pansy admonished. "He has excellent recommendations, CRB clearance, and a degree in behavioural sciences." She arched an eyebrow, knowing full well that would impress Draco. "He's here now, don't you want to at least meet him?"
Draco sighed and admitted defeat. He might as well see the man before dismissing him outright. "Lead the way," he said.
They wound their way via the kitchen where Draco dropped his coffee mug and newspaper, then Pansy took him back upstairs to Scorpius' playroom.
A peel of laughter rang out as they approached the door, and made Draco's heart skip a beat. "You left him alone with Scorpius?" he accused, but Pansy looked just as panicked.
"No," she hissed back, hurrying to the door. "He was by himself, I swear-"
They pushed into the room, then simultaneously pulled up short.
A man in his early twenties with a tousle of black hair, wire rimmed glasses and dark stubble greeted them. He was lying on the floor, chuckling in delight as little Scorpius Malfoy dove on him, roaring in a way the three year old clearly thought was absolutely terrifying. "I'm the guard dragon and this is my castle!" he crowed, jumping on the man who didn't seem to mind his shirt getting rumpled or even pulled from his jeans by the toddler's assault. "I'm going to eat the princess and you can't stop me!"
The man though retaliated with a fierce tickle to the tummy and Scorpius tumbled back to the carpet, shrieking in joy. "But she's my princess!" the man argued back as the little boy giggled and squirmed. "I'm going to rescue her and marry her and we're going to live happily ever after!"
Scorpius wriggled out of the man's grasp and balled up his fists, suddenly unhappy. "What if she doesn't love you though?" he demanded. "You don't even know her."
The man raised his eyebrows, his mouth curling into a half smile. "Very good point," he admitted, holding his hands up. "I guess I'll have to take her on a date first. But only if you promise not to eat her for dinner."
He held out his hand for Scorpius to shake, and he responded by wrapping his two little hands around the man's fingers, pumping them once to seal the deal.
Pansy cleared her throat, and by that point Draco had almost forgotten she was there, he was so entranced at seeing his son the happiest he'd been in months.
"Daddy!" he squealed, scrambling to his feet and sprinting over to where Draco had crouched to the ground, scooping him up in his arms. "Daddy, this is Harry, I found him in my playroom and he said he'd play dragons with me and I like his glasses because they're skinny so is he going to stay and can I have some juice and can Harry have some juice too?"
Draco laughed and ruffled his son's hair, as soft and white blond as his own. Even the grey eyes were his, a perfect little copy. It was his kind heart and happy smile that reminded Draco of Astoria, her goodness still shining through in the gift she'd left behind when she had had to leave her boys too soon. He squeezed him in a tight hug, then released him to stand and address the stranger.
"Draco Malfoy," he said, extending his hand to where the man had wandered over to join the other three.
"Harry Potter," he said, straightening out his shirt and returning the handshake. "And you must be Pansy Parkinson, we spoke on the phone?"
Pansy nodded as she also took his hand and Scorpius swung off Harry's leg. "He seems very taken with you," she commented, having the good grace not to give Draco a too obvious 'I told you so' eyebrow. "When can you start?"
"Oh, hang on," said Harry a little taken a back. "We haven't done the interview yet?"
Draco shrugged. "True," he said, looking down at Scorpius who was giving his full adoration to Harry from his position sat on his trainer. "But Scorp seems convinced, and I'm sure Pansy gave you a thorough background check?"
Harry gave them a bashful smile. "No disrespect," he said. "But if I'm going to be joining your family, you're not the only one who needs to do an interview. I need to decide if I'll be happy here, before I disrupt Scorpius' life by changing my mind after a few weeks or months if it doesn't work out."
The negotiator in Draco was impressed by this. So was the father. And there was just something about this man that made him feel comfortable, which he realised was a terrible reason to make a business decision. So they would keep it formal, Harry could have his interview.
But Draco was pretty certain he was already hired.
Draco had been on the phone for several hours to Tokyo, and his rusty Japanese and his patience were both exhausted. He was very relieved to close the call and sag back into the leather chair in his study, pinching the bridge of his nose whilst taking a deep breath to calm the buzzing in his brain. The sun had risen a few hours previously, illuminating the vast frosty grounds of Malfoy Manor, and he watched absently-mindedly as the gardeners trundled about the rose gardens that he could see from the window. His stomach gave a loud rumble, and he figured he could probably do with some breakfast, or was it lunchtime yet? Whatever the case coffee was definitely required.
Unused to being around the house during the day, he almost felt uncertain making his way down to the kitchen in search of something to make his stomach quit complaining at him. Even more so when he walked in to find Harry stood alone at the central island counter, chopping baby tomatoes in half, surrounded by cheese and bread and butter and crisps.
"Oh," he said cheerfully. "Hi." He smiled genuinely as Draco came to a halt, unsure of what to do. "Your maid said you were working from home today, a conference call or something? Scorpius has been beside himself, I practically had to put him on a lead to stop him banging down the study doors."
He chuckled, a soft, melodious sound that instantly made Draco feel a little less uncomfortable. "Yeah," he said, going over to the coffee percolator and pouring himself a cup. "Trade negotiations with the Japanese. Brutal."
"Well I was just making Scorpius some lunch, do you want something too?" Harry asked, slicing up slivers of cheese to lie on the bread he had buttered.
"Oh, no," said Draco awkwardly, shaking his head. "That's fine, I'm sure I can throw something together."
Harry shrugged. "I was going to make my own anyway – leak and potato soup with crusty rolls – it wouldn't be any trouble to just make a little extra?"
It had been a long time, Draco realised, since he'd indulged in much domesticity. That was always Astoria's forte, running the Manor with the same efficiency as he had run the business. He was worried it might feel disrespectful to step back into any kind of routine again, but in all honesty Draco just felt warmed by it. "That would be lovely," he admitted. He'd achieved the bulk of his work for the day by starting it at 4am, he could afford to have a proper lunch break.
Harry dropped a handful of crisps onto Scorpius' plate, and fished a carton of apple juice from the fridge. "How about you take Scorp his lunch, and I'll get started on ours?"
Wanting to savour the surprise, Draco crept quietly up the stairs to the playroom, easing the door open and peeking inside. Scorpius had his back to him, and was thoroughly captivated with the battery operated train he had going round an elaborate track that Draco guessed Harry had spent an age piecing together. The red train made little chugging noises that Scorpius was accompanying with shrill "Woot woot!" sounds. "Controller," he rumbled in a voice as deep as he could manage. "This is the driver, it looks like we've got some trouble up ahead!"
"This is the controller," Draco replied, making Scorpius jump and turn. "It looks like I've got your lunch."
Scorpius forgot all about his train as he raced over had threw himself at his father's knees. "Daddy! Daddy!" he squealed. "Harry promised you'd come see me! He said today you made your work be at home and you had to talk to lots of people but then you'd come and now you're here!" He stood back and eyed the plate of food as Draco decided not to bother with the couch in the corner, and just sat on the floor next to the rail track. "Is that for me?"
Draco nodded and waited until Scorp sat beside him before handing him his lunch. "It's cheese, cheese is your favourite isn't it?"
Scorpius nodded, mouth full of sandwich. "It's the best in the whole world," he affirmed once he'd swallowed. "Even better than honey roast ham and peanut butter."
"Eww," Draco teased. "You have ham and peanut butter sandwiches, no wonder you prefer cheese!"
Scorpius told him off for being a silly billy, then Draco sat and listened to him jabber on between bites about the games he'd been playing that morning and the TV shows he'd watched. Really, he reasoned with himself, on days like this when business could be conducted over the phone, he should make more of an effort to work from home. He should be making the most of his son before he was older and off to school.
How much had he already missed, leaving the day to day to nannies and au pairs and, when he was lucky, his mother. She took every opportunity she could to be with Scorpius, but distance was an issue, and anyway that wasn't the point. Draco stroked Scorpius' hair and worried how many memories he'd missed by throwing himself into the company, by trying to avoid heartbreak, by watching his son grow up alone.
"Get off Dad!" Scorpius moaned, swatting his hand away and making Draco laugh. Just like him, not keen on people fussing.
How was it any better to deprive him of both parents though? he rebuked himself. No, from now on Draco was going to make more of an effort at home he decided. Scorpius was still very young, Draco still had plenty of time to become a bigger part of his life, to learn considerably more about this little person he'd helped to create. Let some of those old codgers who'd been in the business a lifetime take some more responsibility for the day to day in the office. Most of them resented being usurped by someone barely in their thirties, why not let them prove how much better they really were, give Draco some room to breathe.
He hung around a little longer after Scorpius had finished his lunch, playing with the trains (there had been a particularly nasty avalanche apparently) and watching some cartoons. When he said he had to take his leave, Scorpius pouted, but relented when Draco promised he'd be back in a little while. He went to stand, but was accosted by a toddler yanking his shirt to pull him down once more, and allowed himself to be kissed on the cheek. "I liked playing trains Daddy," he said softly, before skipping off to yank some dressing up clothes out of the big chest under the windows.
"I liked playing trains too," he said, slipping out the room.
Draco was so completely ensconced writing his latest report, he practically jumped out of his skin when a knock came at the door. Coffee sloshed over the rim of his mug as he jolted, and he grabbed the nearest few sheets of paper to mop it up before any dripped onto the floor. It was only then he realised that the papers were in fact part of a contract he was supposed to sign, and groaned loudly thinking about how much Pansy was going to shout at him.
"Come in?" he called to the closed door of his study. One of the perks he'd enjoyed most about working more from home was the peace and quiet. He and Scorpius had struck a deal that he had to wait for Daddy to come out to see him, that he couldn't just bang on the door whenever he felt like it. In return, Harry had set up egg timers in the study that went off at regular intervals to remind Draco to stretch his legs and come visit them. Draco had thought he might find that irritating, but actually every time the bells went off from the novelty chicken-shaped timer, he would feel flush with happiness, and drop whatever he was doing to go find them both.
So he wasn't sure who to expect when the door tentatively opened, but his face split into an unrestrained grin when he recognised the woman before him. "Mother!" he cried, standing at once to embrace her. She looked as regal as always, signature Malfoy blonde hair coiffured in an elegant bun, with Hunter wellies and Burberry macintosh over her favourite slacks and cashmere jumper. "What a lovely surprise."
She kissed his cheeks and held him by the shoulders to get a good look at him. "Oh Draco," she sighed. "I told you last week I was coming to visit, did you forget?"
Draco looked back at the mountain of work on his desk. "Possibly," he said guiltily. "But that's why I have Pansy, I did wonder why she insisted I didn't need to come into the office today."
Narcissa Malfoy swatted him playfully with her soft leather gloves. "That girl deserves a raise," she proclaimed.
"I'm sure she would agree," Draco conceded. "Have you seen Scorpius yet?"
His mother beamed. "Yes, he and Harry met me at the door. What a charming young man you've found yourself there."
Something about her tone made Draco raise an eyebrow. She had an alternative meaning lurking under her words, but he wasn't confident precisely what it was. "He is outstanding with Scorpius," he said warmly, dropping the issue for now. "And he's certainly brought a breath of fresh air into the house."
"I agree," she said. "We were actually wondering if you'd like to join us for a walk?"
Draco frowned. "A walk?" he repeated. The weather outside wasn't exactly balmy, but it was dry and bright for a change. That wasn't what surprised him though. "Scorpius wants to go for a walk?"
For the past year or so, Draco had worried his son had stuck meticulously to the same rigid routine, becoming very distressed if anything had threatened to disrupt it, and that generally included leaving the house at all. But in the past couple of months, he and Harry had managed to convince him to try out a playgroup in the nearest town. He now attended three mornings a week, but he still didn't like too much change to his daily ritual.
"Yes," said Narcissa brightly. "Harry asked him if he wanted to show me the bridge where they play Poohsticks. I think they've wandered over there a few times."
Draco blinked, a small lump forming in his throat. He assumed bridge in question was the little wooden one that crossed over the creek that bisected the Malfoy estate, near the woods. It had to be at least a fifteen minute walk; that was practically an expedition by the youngest Malfoy's standards.
"Harry hadn't said they'd managed to go that far," he said, trying to disguise the thickness in his voice with a cough. "That's lovely."
His mother gave him a sympathetic smile that crinkled fine lines around her eyes. "Well, are you going to come join us?"
Draco coughed again and rubbed the back of his neck. "Um," he said, suddenly feeling a little wrong footed. "I uh, well I have to get this report finished, and probably draw up a new contract with slightly less coffee on it."
"I understand dear," his mother said kindly, squeezing his shoulder.
Draco felt flustered. "I wish I could, I just-"
"Darling," she interrupted firmly. "Don't worry yourself about it. I rarely get to see my only grandson nowadays, we shall have a splendid time and rejoin you for supper perhaps?"
He nodded. "Yes," he said stiffly. "That sounds wonderful."
She gave him another kiss on the cheek, then swept out the door, closing it softly behind her.
Draco blinked a couple of times, then turned back to his desk, looking at the document glowing on the computer screen, the various papers and files littered over the wooden surface and the slowly drying coffee. Why didn't he want to go for a walk, what was he afraid of? He wasn't sure and began to chew his lip.
He guessed he had just been surviving for so long. It had taken him a long time to piece his life back together after Scorpius' birth, to come to terms with the fact that what should have been something joyous had turned to tragedy in the blink of an eye. And so he and his son had slowly reconstructed the world around them, a fragile equilibrium that had most definitely been lacking in any much joy.
And then Harry had come along. With his papier-mâché and stories of talking dogs and endless patience for the Malfoys and their firm habits that had protected them so far, but perhaps were not enough anymore. Perhaps flexibility were what both Draco and Scorpius needed if they were going to start living, rather than just surviving.
Sod the report, he thought with a thrill of defiance. What was the use of being the boss if you couldn't bend the rules every now and again? Before he could change his mind he flew out of the study, bounding down the stairs and heading to the back conservatory which lead directly out into the grounds.
"Daddy!" cried Scorpius in surprise, vaulting into Draco's legs with only one boot on. "Grandma said you couldn't come!"
Draco glanced over at his mother, who gave him an appreciative look back. Harry stood by her side, wrapped up in a chunky knit scarf over his jacket, a lop-sided beanie hat attempting to cover his mane of black curls. He looked something akin to proud, and Draco had to shy away, almost embarrassed by both of their approval.
"It turns out all my work is finished for the day after all," he said to Scorpius in mock surprise. "And I heard you found a secret bridge that I had to come see immediately."
"It's a magical bridge," Scorpius exclaimed, swinging on his arm as Harry took the distraction as an opportunity to sneak the second boot onto his foot. "Harry says that there's a friendly troll who lives under there, but he only comes out at night and he keeps the house safe from all the spooky monsters and he eats crumpets and jam, and he helps me win when we play Poohsticks because I always win."
Draco had managed to one-handedly pull his own boots on, and was now negotiating a coat and gloves. "Is that so?" he challenged his bouncing son. "Well I think today I'm going to win, because I think Mr Troll likes me better than you."
"No!" squealed Scorpius. "He's my friend, you'll see – come on, come on!" he tugged and tugged as Draco allowed himself to be pulled out the door, into the fresh, cool air, Harry and his mother laughing and following out behind them.
Yes, thought Draco to himself as they ventured out into the grounds, wind whipping their hair, birds chirping above their heads. Maybe a little flexibility was exactly what they both needed.
That, and a friendly troll to keep them safe at night.
"Maybe we should call the doctor?" Draco asked for what he knew was probably the hundredth time, but he couldn't seem to help it. "Or the hospital? Should we try A&E?"
Harry gave him a very patent squeeze on his shoulder as they hovered around Scorpius' bed. "It's just a fever," he said, slipping the thermometer into Scorp's mouth as he dozed fretfully. "It's not great but we just need to keep giving him the kid's cold medicine and helping him to drink lots of water. It will break soon, then he'll be okay, I promise."
But Draco couldn't seem to think straight, unable to reply and instead dropping into the chair that sat by the bed, cupping Scorpius' hand in his own. It was just so small.
"I've never seen him this sick before," he pleaded. "Not even when he had that ear infection. I can't," he said, choking down a sob. "I can't lose him too."
Harry pulled the thermometer from Scorpius' mouth, checked the reading then placed the glass rod carefully on the cabinet. He perched on the bed and took Draco's free hand in his own, making Draco jump. It had been so long since anyone other than Scorp or his mother had touched him, even Pansy knew to keep her distance physically. But oddly he didn't seem to want to pull away, so he just let Harry hold him, looking back to Scorpius.
"That's not going to happen," Harry said softly but firmly. Draco might have once been ashamed to cry in front of another man, but not in that moment. In that moment he was terrified for the small little boy lying helpless before him, and Harry's voice was the only thing anchoring him, telling him it would all be okay, thumb rubbing the back of his knuckles comfortably. "But we can call a doctor in if you want, there's no harm in being cautious."
Draco nodded, releasing Scorpius gently and dragging his sleeve across his face, catching most of the tears from where they'd fallen. "Yes," he breathed. "Yes please, it doesn't matter what it costs, I want a paediatrician, as soon as possible." He blinked, looking around Scorpius' room, filled with all his colourful toys and baby mementos. Draco couldn't remember where the clock was though. "What time is it, will they-?"
"Leave it to me," said Harry, giving his hand a squeeze. "I'll sort it. What about your trip?"
"Pansy cancelled the flights," Draco said resolutely. "If they can't close this deal without me I don't know why on Earth I'm paying them six figures each in the first place." He stroked Scorpius' hair, plastered to his forehead with perspiration. "There are more important things to worry about."
Harry had of course been right. After a day or so, Scorpius' fever had broken, and then they'd just had to deal with a cranky, snotty toddler for a few more days. But Draco had taken the time off work gladly, filled with relief that his little man was okay. He understood now that he'd probably overreacted somewhat, but Harry never once admonished him or told him he'd been ridiculous. He had just helped Draco to sleep in shifts, soothing Scorp with cherry flavoured paracetamol syrup and rocking him to sleep when he felt too ill to stop the room from spinning himself.
And then of course, Draco had come down with the same damned thing.
He was used to sharing colds with his little germ factory, kids did that, they caught everything going so their systems could work out how to fight it off. But this wasn't a normal cold, and Draco felt a resurgence of sympathy for Scorpius as his body shook with tremors and his throat felt like a cactus plant.
"Here," said Harry, who had appeared from nowhere in his bedroom with fresh water and proper, gown up painkillers.
"You don't have to," Draco rasped, struggling to focus. "Look after me. You're here for Scorpius."
"Scorpius," said Harry firmly. "Is a good little boy who does what I tell him, and that's why he's now better. His father on the other hand seems to want to wallow in the dark and die from man flu with honour." He held out the glass and the tablets, arching an eyebrow at Draco until he relented and swallowed them both. "Drink all the water too," Harry said as he left, leaving the door of the master bedroom ajar. "I'll be back in an hour."
Draco drifted back off into an uneasy doze, that soon became a deep, heavy sleep. He roused several hours later to rain lashing in the night against the window pain, his room lit only by the light coming from the corridor outside the half open door. An armchair had been pulled into the room, and there, curled up and equally sound asleep, was Harry with Scorpius fitted comfortably in his lap. They breathed deeply, Scorp's head nuzzled under Harry's chin, a hand resting protectively on the little boy's back.
Draco did as he'd been told, and gulped down a new pair of tablets and most of the glass of water that was waiting for him on the bedside cabinet. He struggled to smooth out his thoughts, but at least his throat was feeling better as he fell quickly back to sleep, a relaxed smile on his face despite the pounding headache and nausea. His family was where he could see them, he thought, a little muzzy. Everything was okay.
"Draco," Pansy growled, tapping her manolo blahniks on the wooden floorboards. "We're late."
"Oh Pans," he moaned, standing only in black trousers, throwing one shirt and then another onto his bed as he slowly disregarded everything in his wardrobe. It all felt too stuffy, too restricted. "No one ever shows up on time to these things."
"I think it's slightly different when you own the company," she shot back, scrolling through her iPhone out of habit. Draco would have bet stock shares that she was looking at absolutely nothing, it was just the better option when faced with Draco's increasingly bad temper. He decided not to point out that really it was his father's company, that he had done all the hard work and Draco had just inherited it. That he could turn up early if it meant all that much to him.
There was a knock at the door, but before Draco could say anything it was swinging open to reveal Harry chasing after a tearful and trembling Scorpius. "I'm so sorry," he began, before realising that Draco still had no shirt on. "I, uh..."
"It's no problem," said Draco, giving up and just going for a classic white. It's Armani, he thought irritably. I don't care what any of those bloggers have to say about it. "Hey mate," he said softly to Scorpius once he'd got it over his shoulders, not bothering to button it as he crouched down, prioritising his son over a bit of bare flesh. "What's the matter?"
Scorp didn't reply, just threw his arms around Draco's neck for an angry hug. Draco looked up at Pansy, who managed to deflate a bit in sympathy and put her phone away. She didn't mind giving him a hard time any minute of the hour or day of the week, but she would never begrudge a few extra moments where Scorpius was concerned.
"I think," said Harry carefully. "Me and Scorp were worrying you were going to have lots of fun without us."
Draco glanced at him, then pulled back to try and catch his son's eye, but he was having none of it. "Oh," said Draco a little louder than his normal tone. "Harry, didn't you tell Scorpius about all the boring people who I'll have to talk to. Did you know not one of them believes in dragons?"
Scorpius perked up fractionally at this, clinging just a little looser to his neck.
Harry nodded dramatically. "Yes I did Daddy," he said. "I also told him they don't even have any proper food, just a lot of icky things like olives and crab sticks. No nice cheese and crackers like we'll be having."
"Oh yeah," added Pansy, rolling her eyes and huffing. "And the music is just terrible. You know last year I asked them to play Uptown Funk and they told me they'd never even heard of it!"
Scorpius broke away from his death grip with a gasp, eyes wide at Auntie Pansy. Poor Harry had been forced to play Uptown Funk on a continuous loop for weeks on end now, and Scorp had been shouting the lyrics up and down the house at the top of his lungs, attempting the dance moves and wearing his sunglasses inside even though it was barely Springtime. Harry had also devoted a lot of his time to ensuring Scorp pronounced the 'n' properly in 'funk', much to Draco's amusement, lest there be any unwanted misunderstandings.
Scorpius still didn't say anything, but at least now he was looking at Draco. "I'll be back before the little hand is on eleven," he promised his son. "And the big hand is on twelve." He picked him up and walked over to the clock hanging on the wall. "You know what that means yeah?" Scorpius pointed a small finger at the two numbers near the top of the dial, and Draco beamed at him. "Yep, that's right. So only a few hours. How about, you be a good boy and get changed into your pyjamas, and then you and Harry can have your snack and watch Despicable Me 2?"
Harry gave him a look like he wanted to kill him, but it did the trick marvellously. Scorpius broke into a huge smile and nodded vigorously. Draco leant quickly over Scorp's head and mouthed "Sorry!" silently at Harry, who would no doubt now have to endure the film for the seven hundred and forty ninth time. Harry though melted into a warm smile, ruffling Scorpius hair with affection.
"That sounds like a great plan," he said to Draco. Out of nowhere, something flittered up Draco's spine, making goose bumps flurry over his skin. It was then that he remembered that his shirt was still undone.
He cleared his throat and popped Scorpius back on the floor. "And," he said, like he was sharing a big secret. "Seeing as you're being such a good boy, I think you two can watch the film in Daddy's bed, that way you can be asleep here when I come home?"
Scorpius was only ever allowed in Draco's bed under extreme circumstances; all the parenting books had advised against letting him in all the time in case he became a clingy child. So at the prospect of this rare treat Scorpius' excitement caused him to rise onto his tiptoes, before he tore out of the room back to his own, presumably to change into his pyjamas and fetch the DVD.
Harry let out a deep breath and took his glasses off, massaging the bridge of his nose. "Thank you," he said sincerely, putting them back on. "He just got this idea in his head…anyway, that was great." He arched an eyebrow as Draco fastened his buttons hastily up on his shirt. "Even if I have to sit through that blasted film again."
Draco grinned and shoved his feet into his shoes, aware that Pansy had got the iPhone out again pointedly, and found his favourite cufflinks. "I know I know, I'm sorry, I thought he needed familiarity. He knows I go to work but he never likes when I'm out in the evening. I think…" he blew out a heavy breath. "I think he worries I won't come back."
Harry didn't respond to that, other than to give a small, sympathetic smile. "He'll be alright now," he said. "You did a good job."
"And you," Draco said with a frown, fumbling with his bloody bow tie. He'd never been able to get the hang of these things.
"And me," said Pansy petulantly.
Harry laughed. "Yes," he said. "I'm sure to have another three solid weeks of Bruno Mars after that, so thank you very much indeed."
He winked at her and she poked her tongue out at him, making Draco smile. He liked to see them getting along. He then pulled the tie apart again, starting over to try and make the stupid thing behave.
"Here," said Harry suddenly, stepping over and slipping his fingers over Draco's, taking the silky material from him. "Let me do that."
Draco watched mutely as Harry made short work of it, fixing him a perfect bowtie, before stepping back to admire his work.
"I better go see where the munchkin is," he said. "I'll let him fall asleep here then, and keep my door open. Actually I'll move the monitor in here once he's gone down, just in case." He beamed at Draco, then slipped out of the room in search of a certain three year old.
"What?" asked Draco, grabbing his waistcoat to button it up before rescuing his dinner jacket from the back of the chair by the desk.
Pansy looked purposefully at the door where Harry had disappeared, back to Draco again, then raised an eyebrow.
"Nothing," she said innocently, leaving the room expecting Draco to follow. "Nothing at all."
The sun was being uncharacteristically generous for the time of year, and it hadn't taken Scorpius much time to persuade Draco and Harry to uncover the swimming pool for a dip. Draco had set himself up in one of the deckchairs with his laptop and iced tea, enjoying the warmth on his skin.
Harry, unsurprisingly, had jumped right in with Scorpius, and their shrieks and splashes wafted over Draco as he worked. He was focusing very hard on his screen. And not on Harry's tanned and toned chest.
Draco figured, if he didn't acknowledge these thoughts, that meant they weren't really happening, so he didn't have to pay attention to them. It's not like he was ashamed of looking at another man like that; one of the perks of boarding with such an outrageous homosexual such as Blaise Zabini was that his education had been wide and extremely varied from his early teens onwards. He hadn't been the only one either, there had been a few boys as well as a few girls before Astoria had come along and tamed his heart.
But since her passing, Draco couldn't say he'd much looked at any one the way he was looking at Harry now. Or not looking. Because this was Harry. It was wildly inappropriate, not to mention grossly clichéd to fancy the au pair. But he had strolled out of the house in no more than his swim shorts; colourful, tropical things that reached down to his knees and might have looked dorky on someone else, but with his lithe, muscular frame and golden skin tone (that must have had more to do with partial exotic heritage than any real sunshine, he mused) Draco had felt something kick in him he hadn't felt for years.
He'd watched as Harry had dropped his and Scorpius' towels onto the sun lounger next to his, removed his glasses, and methodically began to apply sun tan lotion. At that point Draco had had to stop watching, because whatever the thing was in his gut kicked again. Harry had managed to snag Scorpius as he bound around the pool edge, frantic to get his arm bands on so he could cannonball into the water. But Harry had creamed him up to within an inch of his life first, jamming a small baseball cap on his head as well before he'd let him go in.
"Look how high I can go!" Scorp had cried, before throwing himself into the pool, then demanded Harry do the same. And now his hair was slicked back and his skin was glistening as he chucked a delighted Scorpius about, and Draco was determined to find his charts and graphs in front of him absolutely captivating.
Everything would be absolutely fine as soon as Harry put a shirt on again. A sensible part of his brain suggested he could easily go inside until that happened, but yet he remained where he was.
"Daddy!" Scorpius cried, hanging off of Harry's elbow, his inflatable arm bands in Harry's other hand. "Daddy look at me!"
Draco couldn't ignore him, so he raised his eyes with a smile, and once Scorpius was convinced he had his full attention he took an exaggerated breath, pinched his nose, and disappeared under the water.
Leaving Draco to just look at Harry.
"He thinks he's a merman," he told Draco with a grin, sweeping his hair back without any hint of being self conscious as the water lapped around his navel.
Draco was spared having to reply by Scorpius noisily re-emerging and gasping for air. "Did you see?" he squealed shaking his head and rubbing his eyes clear.
"I did," Draco assured him as Harry slipped the bands back on. "Very impressive."
"How long can you hold your breath for?" he asked, kicking his feet and bobbing his way over to the edge nearest to Draco.
He shook his head. "Not as long as you, I don't think," he told him.
"We should have a contest!" he suggested eagerly.
But Harry waded over to him, touching his shoulder. "How about us two have a contest Scorp, Daddy's working."
Scorpius just narrowed his eyes at him though. "Harry can hold his breath for ages," he informed Draco. "Can you beat him?"
"Scorpius," said Harry, a warning tone to his voice. "Daddy has work to do, plus he hasn't got his trunks on."
Scorpius looked between them both, reproachfulness creeping on to his face. "Okay," he said sadly, and Draco felt like a big bad ogre. He couldn't just drop work whenever his son wanted him to, he knew that, but if he was honest with himself he wasn't getting much done anyway, sat out in this glorious weather with his attention being dragged elsewhere.
He stood up, putting his laptop on the table and pulling at his chinos. "Oh I think these could do for trunks, don't you Scorp?"
His whole face broke into a giddy smile as he nodded vigorously. "Jump in, jump in!"
Draco laughed and purposefully didn't look at Harry as he pulled off his polo shirt and kicked the sandals from his feet. These were rather expensive trousers he was about to ruin, but something mildly reckless had taken over him as he strode over to the deep end and the diving board. "I'll do you one better," he said, telling himself he was showing off for his son and his son alone.
He stood on the middle of the board. He hadn't done this for years, but he felt the familiar bounce under his feet and knew he could still do it. With a burst of movement he sprung at the end of the board, launching himself in the air as he turned in a summersault and crashed into the water in a perfect dive. The water rushed around his head as adrenaline lit up his blood, and he couldn't help but laugh as he broke back through the surface into the air, shaking his hair from his eyes.
Scorpius screamed and rushed forward to him as quickly as his little legs would allow in the water, babbling on about how that was the highest jump in the whole world, and could he do it again and then teach him?
Draco only caught the briefest look of Harry's face before focusing entirely on Scorpius, but what he saw made the thing in his gut kick again and rattle up his spine.
Yeah. Definitely just showing off for Scorpius.
"I think that actually went very well," said Narcissa, surveying the carnage before them.
Scorpius had surprised them all by asking for a birthday party when he turned four. He'd been to several of his friends' parties from playgroup, and apparently quite fancied one of his own. Unlike last year, when he hadn't seemed to enjoy his birthday at all, receiving presents quietly and not even wanting his grandma to visit.
So Harry had helped Draco set up the lawn by the conservatory, piling food onto several tables covered with bright cloths, dozens of chairs, plastic windmills and flowers driven into the ground, and as many balloons and streamers that they could attach to the outside of the house. Then there had been a croquet set, large trampoline, scooters and plenty of champagne for the parents. Harry had run the day, hosting several rounds of pass the parcel, musical chairs and sleeping lions.
Draco and his mother had enjoyed meeting his son's friends and their families, and even Pansy had deigned them with her presence, suffering thirty screaming children with good grace.
But the last guest had melted away as twilight began approaching, and Narcissa held a sleeping Scorpius in her arms, patting his back and admiring the mess the party goers had left behind.
"You go put him down," said Draco, kissing her cheek. "Rest your feet, Harry and I will tackle the worst of this."
She smiled and wandered back into the house, and Draco went to find Harry scooping up paper plates into black bin bag. "Leave that," Draco said warmly, taking the rubbish from him. "You've been working all day, take a break."
Harry frowned. "It won't take long," he assured him as Draco dumped the bag by the side of the nearest table. "I'd rather just get it done."
Draco rolled his eyes. "We can do it later, or ask some of the other staff to help. It's ages since we've had a party here, it doesn't hurt to be decadent every now and again." He grabbed one of the chairs and plonked in down beside Harry. "Sit," he ordered, fetching one for himself before picking up a half drunk bottle of champagne and two clean flutes.
Harry never drank as far as Draco was aware, unless he did on the days off he actually left the manor for, which weren't many. But he took the champagne that Draco pressed into his hand without protest, and they chinked glasses, settling back into their chairs. "Thank you," said Draco quietly after a few moments of comfortable silence.
Harry smiled and shrugged. "I've organised a few birthdays in my time," he said dismissively.
Draco shifted in his seat and squinted at him in the glare of the setting sun. "I don't just mean that," he said. "I mean…well I guess I mean everything you've done since you've been here. He's so different." I'm so different, he added to himself.
Harry toyed with the stem of his glass, but he seemed pleased. "He's a good boy," he said fondly.
"He was lost," Draco sighed, not afraid to admit his own failings. "It was so much easier for me to distance myself, let him drift. You found him again, brought us back together."
Harry looked bashful, and rolled his eyes. "I mostly make pasta necklaces and load the dishwasher."
Draco took a sip of champagne, analysing him. "You've not good with praise are you?"
A look crossed Harry's face that Draco had trouble identifying, but then it was gone and Harry was taking a gulp out of his own glass. "Sorry," he said.
"Don't apologise," said Draco. "I just want you to know you're very appreciated in this house. I don't know what it's like compared to your other jobs before, we're probably a very strange family."
Now it was Harry's turn to shake his head. "Nowhere's like here," he said warmly. "I've been with two other families, both in London, multiple kids, multiple parents and step-parents. They treated me like an employee, the children were spoilt no matter how hard I tried, and there just wasn't any…love. They all seemed to exist to tear each other down." He swallowed, perhaps regretting saying so much, but then appeared to change his mind and carried on. "And then I came here, and it's none of those things. There's a lot of love in this house."
Draco stared at him for a few seconds, unsure of what to say. "There's been a lot of sadness too," he said. "But yes, what's life without love?"
Harry smiled shyly at him. "Thank you for letting me become a part of that," he said.
Draco held out his glass, and they clinked again, before the comfortable silence was back. But Draco didn't want silence, too much of his life had been swallowed by quietness these past four years.
"Well," he said. "I think that's the most you've ever told me about yourself, you're always talking about us," he joked. "Tell me something else, something not on your CV."
"Err," said Harry, raising his eyebrows. "I don't know, what do you want to know?"
"Why'd you become an au pair?" he asked. It was something he'd been wanting to know for a while. "All the others I saw were just earning money during their gap years, but you're fully qualified."
Harry finished his champagne, and Draco promptly refilled his glass as well as his own. "I love children," he said simply. "I could have gone into all kinds of careers, but doing this – it's close to teaching, but it's more than that." He shrugged. "Parents like you with high flying jobs can't always be around as much as they want, and I like to think I bridge that gap. Plus," he bit his lip and looked at his feet. "I guess I just like being around families. Homes."
Draco found he was nodding. "That makes sense," he said.
"Did you always want to run your father's company?" Harry ventured. Draco had to give him props. Most people assumed that was a taboo topic and were never brave enough to bring it up.
He scratched his chin. "That was always the plan," he admitted. "And I'm good at it. But the truth is…I've never really considered doing anything else. I'm not sure what I'd even want, or be interested in."
Harry rubbed his nose under his glasses. "Well, if you're happy, I guess there's no rush to change anything right now."
Not when things are finally beginning to settle, Draco thought to himself. But who knew? Maybe there was something else out there for him to put his dedication towards, something he would find more rewarding.
"Okay," he said, back to business. "What else makes you tick, Harry Potter? Music, films, books? Play any sports?"
Harry laughed. "Why do you want to know?" he asked genuinely, and Draco shrugged.
"Just because. Life here revolves around a demanding little three – sorry – four year old. I just thought it would be nice to get to know each other when he's not calling the shots."
"When he's asleep you mean," Harry said with a wink.
Draco groaned. "It's just so quiet when he sleeps!" he cried, shaking his head. "How can a boy that small produce that much noise!"
Harry was laughing whole-heartedly, looking up at Draco through long dark eyelashes, and he felt that kick in his gut again. "Okay," said Harry, finding his voice as the mirth died down. "Me. Um, well yeah, I like some sports. I tend to watch the usual, but I was on the water polo team at school, I loved that."
Draco's mind whipped back to Harry's toned body in the pool, his confidence in the water. "That's pretty cool," he said appreciatively. "I was on the diving squad, I also used to compete in back crawl."
Harry nodded with a grin. "No wander you wanted to show off on the board," he teased.
Draco scoffed though. "You want me to show off I'll take you to one of those ten foot high dives. Tom Daley has nothing on me."
Harry arched his eyebrow and took another sip of champagne, and something seemed to shift in the air. Draco cleared his throat.
The sun was setting, turning the sky into a riot of purple and orange. "Can I show you something?" he asked, before he had time to change his mind.
Harry licked his lips. "Yeah," he said. "Sure."
Draco stood and beckoned for him to follow, and together they strolled silently away from the party wreckage, champagne flutes still in hand. He lead them around the house and towards the stables; they were devoid of horses at present, but Draco kept them well maintained in the hopes of teaching Scorpius to ride in a few years.
The smell of fresh straw and summer heat greeted them as Draco heaved open the main doors, letting an evening breeze gust through and shake up the dust mites. "You don't mind getting a little grubby do you?" he asked.
Harry chuckled. "I've normally got mashed potato in my hair by this time of the day. I'm sure I can handle a barn."
They crunched over the dry straw, heading for the wooden ladder built into the second floor that jutted out from the west facing wall. It only came out a few meters over the horse pens, leaving the rest of the stable open and airy, but there was plenty of room to move about up there.
It had been years since Draco had shared this spot with anyone, not since he'd been at university probably. He led the way, climbing up the rungs with ease despite the glass still in his hand. Harry followed, making it up just as Draco lugged up the stiff latch on the double wooden door.
This thing probably violated all kinds of health and safety rules, and he'd certainly have to do something about it once Scorpius started coming in here, but for now he let the doors swing open, revealing the sun setting spectacularly over the grounds of Malfoy Manor. There was nothing to separate where he was standing from the drop outside, and he sat and draped his legs out into the air, like he was doing nothing more than sitting on a chair.
"Wow," said Harry, joining him by his side, apparently not bothered by the twelve foot drop below. "That is quite something."
Draco grinned, heart speeding up just a fraction with pleasure at having been able to impress Harry. "I used to come here almost every evening in the summer. It's very soothing."
He leant his shoulder against the edge of the stable wall, watching Harry watch the sunset. After a minute or so, Harry realised and blushed, a lovely rosy tint on his cheeks that made Draco want to reach out and stroke it with his thumb. "What?" he asked.
"Nothing," said Draco through the smile he couldn't seem to shake from his face. "I'm just glad you like it."
"Who wouldn't?" Harry said, looking back over the vista.
Draco shifted his weight away from the wall, pursing his lips. "It's nice, the way you appreciate things though," he said. "You see the world with a lot more enthusiasm than most."
Harry looked at him sideways. "Giving me more isn't going to make me better with praise," he said with good humour. "I'll start being grumpy unless you stop."
"Don't do that," said Draco, bumping their shoulders together. "I'll refrain from saying nice things. I'll try at least."
Harry chuckled and turned to face him again, and Draco realised just how close their faces were. Gradually, the grin faded from Harry's lips, but they were still looking at each other, and Draco could feel his spine rattling again and his skin seemed to burst into flames.
He wanted to say something. About how happy he was, because of Harry. Because having him close made him feel safe and excited and younger and more alive. He wanted to ask if the way he caught Harry looking at him was the way he felt when he looked at him back. He wanted to ask for permission, he wanted to close the gap, to tell him that the last person he had shared this special place with he had ended up marrying.
But he didn't get to do any of that. Because Harry leaned in, and Harry kissed him.
It was barely a touch, but Draco's eyes fluttered closed and he waited, letting the moment drag. Carefully, he moved closer, putting more pressure between them, parting his mouth and fitting into the shape of Harry's, feeling warm and soft and right.
Harry's fingertips gently touched the side of his face, and Draco brought his own hand up to run through that thick black hair. His tongue pushed forwards, testing, skimming Harry's lips, only to be met a second later by Harry's answering touch, exploring his mouth with growing confidence. Draco moaned, overcome with serenity.
But the noise seemed to rip something apart, because Harry suddenly jerked back in horror, looking at Draco in extreme alarm and scrambling to his feet. "I'm sorry!" he cried, jumping for the ladder and hurtling back down in to the stable. "I'm so sorry!"
Draco was so shocked he took a moment to react. "What – wait!" he yelled, but Harry's knees had a good six or seven years on his, and he had slid down the ladder and sprinted out into the evening air before Draco had even swung his leg over. He cursed, loudly, as he dropped the last few rungs and ran out the same way. Harry had already vanished, so Draco followed his instinct and raced back to the house, darting through the conservatory and into the kitchen.
"Draco!" said his mother from where she was sat at the counter, lowering her cup of tea in surprise. "Is Harry alright, he just ran past looking distressed?"
He shook his head. "I'm not sure," he replied honestly. "But I'm going to find out."
He took the stairs two at a time, heading straight for Harry's room. The door was shut, and Draco paused outside it, wishing he could see through the wood. "Harry?" he said softly, tapping with a single finger. "Are you in there?"
Silence. Well, almost silence. Draco was pretty certain he could hear shuffling from the other side. He sighed. "Harry, please let me in," he said.
Mercifully, the handle turned, and the door opened a crack. Harry's green eyes peered from behind his wire-rimmed glasses, lower lip clamped between his teeth.
"Can I come in?" Draco repeated.
Harry gave him a weary look, before stepping back and opening the door so Draco could step through. He shut it again once he was inside.
He hadn't ever visited Harry's room since he'd moved in, wanting to respect his privacy. What struck him immediately were how many photos there were; in frames, tacked to the wall, pinned to the cork board. There were numerous ones depicting a red headed man with a mixed-race, curly haired woman, one of which looked like their wedding. In fact there were quite a lot of different red heads. Then there was a boy, possibly about the same age as Scorpius, mostly being held by a woman with artificially pink hair, a rumpled looking man, Harry himself and what were probably grandparents. Various shots captured groups of friends on the beach, on walks, in hot tubs, hanging from trees. "Is this your family?" he asked, momentarily forgetting why he was in this room in the first place.
Harry hugged himself and sniffed. "Sort of," he said ruefully. "An orphan's attempt at least."
Draco's heart plummeted. Orphan? How on Earth had he missed that?
"I'm sorry," he said, but Harry shook his head.
"I don't remember much," he said, brushing the sympathy off. "Of my parents I mean. I made my own family, it worked out okay." Draco pulled his gaze from the little auburn haired child, back to Harry, seeing the distress there.
"Harry-" he tried.
"I'm sorry," Harry cut him off. "That was unprofessional, it should never have happened. It won't happen again," he assured, before paling significantly. "Or…I mean, if you'd prefer…I can have my bags packed in an hour or so-"
"Harry what are you talking about?" Draco asked, exasperated.
"My resignation," he said thickly. "If you don't want me to stay."
Draco felt his shoulders sag, and he moved around the bed to stand in front of Harry. "Why on Earth wouldn't I want you to stay?" he said, cupping Harry's face in his hand. It felt so easy, so natural, or rather it would have if Harry didn't look so miserable.
"I was completely out of order," he said, refusing to look at Draco's face. Which was a shame, because it meant he missed the lop-sided smile that crept onto it.
"You were just quicker off the mark than me," he teased. "That's all."
That got Harry's attention, his head still hung but his eyes lifted to take a peek at Draco. "Huh?"
Draco laughed. "I was about two seconds away from kissing you," he said bluntly.
Harry chewed that over. "But, I work for you?"
Of all the things he could have said, Draco wasn't really expecting that, but he guessed it was the most obvious problem. "Harry, do you really see yourself as an employee round here?" he asked gently.
"But I am," he said without pause. "You pay me a salary, I provide a service."
Draco shook his head. "Okay, but it's not a service. Scorpius loves you. You said this house is different compared to your others and it is. You bring us so much joy and happiness, you never clock off, you give us everything. Is it so hard to believe that we – I – would see that as something else, something way more than a job. Harry you belong here, I can't actually believe it's taken me so long to do something to show that, but I guess I was afraid to disrupt the equilibrium."
"I don't want to change things," Harry said hurriedly. "I don't want to risk anything, Scorpius' happiness is too important, I said that, my first day, he deserves better than that."
Draco felt his heart contract at the worry lining his face, the concern he had for his son above all else. "So," he murmured, coming a little bit closer, hand still caressing his face. "You don't want me to kiss you again?"
Harry stilled, and Draco leant in, touching their lips gently, not wanting to scare him off.
Gradually, Harry relaxed into the embrace, unfolding his arms and tentatively taking hold of Draco's hips. The kiss grew in intensity, rekindling the heat from the stable, and Draco let his hands roam, feeling Harry's perfect body through his clothes.
He eased off before he could get too carried away, relieved to see Harry smiling shyly back at him. "We can take it slow," he said. "Baby steps. This is a bit scary for me too."
But Harry still looked unsure. "I just feel…" he said, searching for the words. "I feel it's crossing a line, you're my boss really."
Draco wasn't going to be deterred that easily though. "What if I wasn't," he suggested carefully, sweeping some of Harry's wayward hair back.
Harry frowned. "How do you mean?"
What did he mean? "What if…" he said, collecting his thoughts. "Things carried on as they are. Except, perhaps you sleep in this room less and less often. And the money that went into your bank account wasn't a salary, but an allowance. What if we took it in turns a little better to share Scorpius between us, and you could take time for yourself as and when you needed."
"So," said Harry, considering. "You mean I wouldn't technically be your au pair anymore?" Draco shook his head. "Then what would I be?"
Draco smiled, hope swelling in his chest like a balloon. Wasn't it obvious? "Family," he told him simply.