Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
the knock came on the door it surprised everyone given that the entire clan was
already there. And even if they weren't they certainly wouldn't knock on the
front door; they'd apparate to the back yard or floo into the sitting room.
Harry bristled at the knock. It had been years since the war and all was quiet but he was still overly cautious; he couldn't help it. He looked nervously around the room and his eyes fell on George. They'd become close since the war ended and George lost his other half and Harry had lost…well, himself.
"I've got it," George said getting up and saving Harry the need to do so.
Harry heard the door open and George make a rather large sound of surprise. After a moment his curiosity won over and he cautiously went to the front door to see what was happening.
When he saw who was there you could have knocked him over with a feather. Never in a million years did he expect the Malfoys to be standing on the front stoop of the Burrow.
Lucius stood tall with his arm around his wife. They looked a tad more than apprehensive. Draco was there too, he was off to the side of his parents but also stood tall. However, the look on his face was almost sad.
Harry decided almost immediately that they weren't there for any nefarious reasons and took a small step forward, Lucius spoke.
"Good afternoon Mr. Weasly, I do apologize for our intrusion and I promise you that we mean you no ill. We were hoping to speak with you and your family, as well as Mr. Potter, if he is here. It's only that we heard Tom at the Three Broomsticks saying that all the Weasley's were gathering today at the Burrow and we thought it'd be more than a safe assumption that Mr. Potter would be here as well. I do hope that the reason for the gathering is a joyous one."
"Not that it's any business of yours but we're celebrating Mum and Dad's anniversary," Ron was suddenly at Harry's side; apprehensive if not downright pissed off.
"Yes, it's been over 40 years the two of them have been married, hasn't it? Almost 10 more than Cissy and me. We wish them nothing but joy," Lucius' words seemed to be nothing but honest and heartfelt.
"What gives Malfoy?" Ron wasn't holding anything back and Harry jumped in before he knew what he was doing.
"Mister and missus Malfoy, Draco, hello."
The Malfoys seemed to take almost a collective breath. Was that relief Harry saw?
"What are you doing here?" Ron's question was sharp and to the point.
"Ron, let's give the Malfoys a chance to say what they came here for," Harry moved to the doorway and stood next to George effectively blocking Ron. "It doesn't appear they mean us any harm. Right?" This last was directed at his former schoolmate and rival. Harry didn't have any ill feelings left for Draco, not after everything that happened during the war. They had all gone through far too much to hold onto past differences.
Draco however remained silent; instead he just gave Harry and sharp nod of his head.
"We're here," Lucius started, "to apologize and ask for your forgiveness," he gave everyone in the doorway and foyer, which by now was the entire family, a long look. "The way we behaved in the past was beyond reproach. The past few years have been quite a learning experience for us and we have been shown, in glaring detail, the error of our ways. We realize that this may be unwanted but we truly mean it and hope you can, some day, forgive us, or at the least accept our apology."
"Thank you," Harry wasn't sure how to process this. "We," he shot Ron a glance, "appreciate you coming here and thank you for your apology." Ron just stood there with a dumbfounded expression on his face, Harry was sure that Ron's mind was going a mile a minute trying to figure out what was unfolding.
Mr. Weasly was quicker with his processing, "Lucius, please, would you and your family like to join us?"
The Malfoys beamed at him. "Yes, very much," Narcissa spoke for the first time, emotion clear in her voice.
Harry was nervous as they entered the house. Not because he thought they were up to something, to the contrary he was sure that they were telling the truth. Well, he was sure of Lucius and Narcissa; Draco still hadn't spoken. He just stood there looking tense. They seemed truly sorry for what happened in the past and wanted to mend fences. No, he was nervous because these were the first "outsiders" he had to see in some time. His palms started sweating and he could feel the perspiration growing on his brow.
He settled himself on a low chair in the corner, where he'd be out of the way, and safe.
To say that the meeting between the Weasleys and the Malfoys was odd was the understatement of the year. At first it had been tense, and then it was uncomfortable as Lucius recited his speech of apology again. Then it was just plain old funny, it was just too odd for everyone, but never ones to back down; the Malfoys settled in for a celebratory glass and strained conversation.
Harry noticed from his perch that gone were the pompous gits who held themselves higher than everyone. They had explained that they realized that blood status didn't have any bearing on if a person was good or bad. Just look at the way so many pure bloods behaved during the war, if that wasn't proof positive they didn't know what was. Harry found he enjoyed the time they spent at the Burrow that afternoon, even if he remained silent and unnoticed through most of it. But it felt good, like that last post-war hurdled had been jumped and now he could truly relax and just be.
The Malfoys left after an hour, thanking their hosts for they graciousness and hospitality. Molly asked that they not be strangers and Narcissa returned the offer. Harry thought that the Weasleys sitting around the great hall of Malfoy Manor was even crazier than the scene he had just witnessed.
Harry joined the group that saw the Malfoys to the door and spoke, quietly but assuredly, "Thank you for coming today. I need to apologize as well. I should have come to see you long before this. I know you were in a difficult position with Voldemort and by the end it was more than apparent none of you were happy with your roles. Thank you for making the right choice; and Narcissa, I owe you my life. I don't know how I could ever repay you."
With glistening eyes Narcissa rushed forward and gathered Harry in a tight hug. "Thank you, thank you so much. You've no idea what that means to me." She drew back but grasped Harry's hands, "Please come see us soon. You've turned out to be a wonderful man; I'd like us to get to know each other better."
Normally Harry would be in full on panic attack mode by now. Someone basically new to him in his personal space, hugging him and touching him. But for some reason he felt only the faintest nervousness, "Thank you Mrs. Malfoy, I'd like that." Harry squeezed her hands back.
Lucius spoke then, "It's settled then, we shall see you soon Mr. Potter."
Harry interrupted him, "Harry, please call me Harry. Or Potter if you prefer," he gave Draco a smile who still hadn't said a word, "we're friends now."
Smiling Lucius continued, "Very well then, Harry. We shall expect you to call on the Manor soon." He held out his hand and Harry shook it feeling more and more comfortable.
He turned to Draco, "It was good to see you Malfoy. See you soon yeah?"
Draco smirked at the use of his surname but nodded in agreement.
As the Malfoys turned and began to walk down the drive of the Burrow Harry called after Narcissa and started walking toward her, "Mrs. Malfoy!"
She turned and walked back to Harry, meeting him halfway between the Burrow and where her family was standing, "Yes Harry?"
"Is Draco okay? Is he okay with being here today? He didn't say anything the entire time."
"I might have said the same thing about you Harry if not for your sudden outburst just now," she smiled at him warmly, "I assure you that this trip was as much his desire as it was ours. Draco is," she looked off into the distance for a moment, "dealing with some things, much as I think you might be. I look forward to your visit." And with that Narcissa was off, leaving Harry wondering just what things Draco was dealing that would prevent him from talking. He was also wondering if tomorrow would be too soon to visit the Manor.
As it turns out Harry wasn't able to get his courage up to visit the Manor until three days later.
Harry sent an owl to Malfoy Manor asking if he could visit that day at 2pm. The response was immediate and in the affirmative. Harry went immediately to his wardrobe to find something to wear. He didn't think the Malfoys would judge him based on his wardrobe but he wanted to put his best foot forward.
He arrived in a long sleeved black tee and dark denims. He finished the outfit off with a pair of black dress shoes. He looked nice but not dressy, casual but not sloppy.
Narcissa and Lucius greeted him with enthusiasm and led him to a drawing room. Draco was already there, lounging on a sofa and reading a book. He looked up when the trio entered; he took a long deep breath and gave Harry a simple, "Hello."
It wasn't much but at least Harry knew he could speak, and he couldn't help but notice the beautiful smile that accompanied it.
Harry had always known Draco was beautiful. Back in school, sometime around fifth or sixth year he had become keenly aware of just how attractive the boy had become. It was around the same time that he also realized that he may just prefer boys to girls. It didn't take long for him to confirm that he did indeed prefer men. Things had been sticky with Ginny but in the end she understood. The rest of the Weasleys couldn't have cared less telling him that gender didn't matter; they just wanted him to find someone who made him happy and was good to him.
While he thought he was good looking Harry had never truly given Draco any consideration; what with the war and their long lived feud. But now he was finding himself pulled in Draco's direction. Pulled toward his delicate yet muscular hands as they held his book. Pulled toward the smile that he'd never really seen before. Pulled toward those eyes that were somewhere between gray and sky blue and seemed so expressive.
Harry was roused from his musings when Lucius offered him a seat and tea. The rest of the visit was delightful, with surprisingly little anxiety on Harry's part. They spoke about the past and what they'd all been doing since the war and the last time they'd seen each other. The Malfoys had a long struggle to get rid of the prejudices that came along with being ex-Death Eaters but they were persistent and were making a good name for themselves. Harry on the other hand had his own challenges with the press always at his heals, and coming out to all of his friends and family. When he mentioned the fact that he was gay he saw Draco's eyebrows shoot up and a soft, "Oh" escaped his lips.
"Draco?" Harry inquired, anxiety washing over him, "Is it a problem that I'm gay?"
Draco paused for a long moment before uttering a determined, "No."
Narcissa joined in at that point. "Harry, I would certainly hope that Draco would not have a problem with it given that he is subject to the same proclivities."
"Really? Wow, Draco, you were always such the ladies man back at school," Harry mused, not just a little excited that Draco was gay. Harry was suddenly feeling emotions he hadn't felt in years.
Draco just laughed and shook his head while his father piped up, "One does what one has to in order to get by. Now that none of us has to answer to the Dark Lord we're free to think how we want and be who we are."
Harry was truly enjoying himself. He never thought any of the Malfoys could be so open or interesting. He planned on spending more time getting to know them. And he never dreamed that he'd be so at ease at the Manor.
All too soon it was time for Harry to take his leave.
"This has been lovely; I hope to see you again very soon. Perhaps I can have you over to my flat; it's nothing compared to the Manor but I like it." Harry looked a little embarrassed.
"We should like nothing more. Just let us know when is good for you." Narcissa turned to Draco, "Draco, why don't you see Harry out?"
Draco looked horrorstruck and seemed to pale to a lovely shade of green. Harry didn't know what that was about; his heart sunk a little bit, the time they had spent together seemed nice enough. He decided to let Draco off the hook, "That's not necessary, I can see myself out, or one of the house elves…"
"Of course Draco will see you out," Lucius said looking meaningfully at his son, "it will be all right."
After Harry said his good-byes to Lucius and Narcissa, Draco got up from the sofa and gestured for Harry to move through the door first. They walked for a moment in silence before Harry spoke up, "Draco, is everything okay? It's just that you hardly say anything and from the look on your face it was pretty clear you didn't want to see me out. I'm sorry if you're not happy I'm here, I won't come back if you don't want me to."
Draco stopped walking and Harry had to turn back around. Draco looked thoughtful, as though he was contemplating something deep. He spoke up then. "I-I d-don't talk much. It's em-em-embarrasing."
Harry understood at once. Draco was stuttering. And he was ashamed of it. The last time he had seen Draco had been after his defeat of Voldemort. Draco had looked small and unsure and scarred. When had his stuttering started? Before he knew it he was asking, "When? When did it start?" Then he caught himself and immediately apologized, "I'm sorry, you don't have to answer that. You don't have to say anything."
Draco gave him a half smile, "Long t-time."
"I'm sorry." It was all Harry could think to say. Draco simply smiled again and started walking once more.
When they reached the doors Draco turned to Harry, held out his hand, and said, "Thank you." There wasn't a hint of stutter, Harry wondered if had taken the rest of the walk to the doors to steady himself to say two simple words.
Harry took Draco's outstretched hand and shook it. "See you soon?" He couldn't help it, he wanted to get to know Draco better and his curiosity was getting the better of him, he wanted to know what had happened to cause his stutter. And he wanted to see that smile again. He kept a firm hold on Draco's hand, not wanting to let go of the heat and the softness.
Draco nodded. He squeezed Harry's hand before he dropped it and opened the door.
That night Harry found he couldn't stop thinking about Draco. He wanted to know what happened to him. What horrible or fantastic thing had happened to affect him so? Was it the same thing that happened to Harry himself? Harry had always thought that Draco was indestructible. Even up there on the Astronomy Tower, when he had been vulnerable, he had still shown such strength. What had broken him down?
He knew that Draco was uncomfortable talking, anyone could see that. But he had to know. Had to know Draco. So he had an idea. He sent an owl off that night.
Thank you for having me over today; I truly enjoyed myself. I've been sitting here tonight and I find that I can't stop thinking of you. (Wow, that sounds creepy.) I'd like to get to know you better and I thought that this might be a good way to do that. I know you're not comfortable talking so I was wondering if we could write to each other?
What do you think?
It was nearly midnight when Harry sent off the note. He assumed Draco would get it when he awoke the next day, which is why Harry was so surprised when Draco's owl showed up a little over an hour later.
I have to say that I was surprised to get your note. I guess I should admit that I've been thinking of you as well. I was nervous when we went to the Burrow, I was convinced that you were going to chuck us out on our ears; I'm pleased you didn't. Thank you for giving us, giving me, another chance. I'd like us to be friends; I think it's long past due.
Having said that; this feels odd. I'm not sure what to say or where to start. I feel like we're friendly but not friends (yet).
Am I alone in feeling this way?
P.S. You know why I'm not comfortable taking, why aren't you? Don't think I didn't notice you hiding in the corner at the Burrow, and today you were much quieter than the Harry I knew at Hogwarts. What gives?
No. You're definitely not alone. I know this was my grand idea but I'm at a loss as well. I guess there's nothing to it but to just jump in eh?
You're right. I don't talk a lot, or rather; I don't talk to new people a lot. Right after the war I was always being followed by reports and being mobbed by people wanting to thank me. Don't get me wrong, I really appreciated it, but it started affecting me. I started getting claustrophobic all the time and having anxiety attacks any time I realized there was a reporter around or when even one or two people would approach me. I started staying in, only going out very early or late, when I knew there wouldn't be many people about, and even then only when I really had to, to get groceries or the like. I see the Weaslys but that's really it, I guess I've become somewhat of a hermit. I'm not proud of it but it's my lot right now so I'm dealing with it the best I can.
So that's a bit about me.
What about you?
Thank you for trusting me with that, it couldn't be easy for you.
So it's my turn then? You obviously know that I've developed a stutter. It all started when the Great Nose-less One was in residence at the Manor. It's not easy living with someone whom you're deathly afraid of, someone who might AK you just because he was feeling a bit bored. Never mind when he actually gave you a task to do and you didn't do it correctly. He made me pay for that night on the tower. Through all those days and nights I walked around in constant fear. Then the final battle; Harry, you've no idea what it was like watching you battle Voldemort. I was so afraid. Afraid he'd win. Afraid he'd continue to reign over the Manor. Afraid he'd hurt you or worse. But you won, and everything should have been wine and roses, but it wasn't for us. We were shunned, shouted at, cast out. I just couldn't handle it. I've tried everything to shake this damn stutter, I don't want it, HE caused it and I don't want him to have that power over me anymore. But like you said, it's my lot right now and I'm dealing with it the best I can.
Well, I think that's enough baring of my soul for one day.
Please, let's move onto lighter topics shall we?
And so it went, Harry and Draco told their stories of the war and life afterward. They talked about quidditch and who they supported. They talked about music and books, the latter of which Draco gave Harry a great deal of grief about since he'd been far from an avid reader at Hogwarts. They talked about their love lives, or lack thereof.
Neither one had seen anyone in some time; Harry because he couldn't get past his anxiety of being around people, Draco because he was ashamed of his stutter. Each of the men tried to tell the other that they shouldn't let it bother them and that they should get out there. Harry told Draco that with a smile like his no one would even notice his stutter, and Draco let Harry know that it was a shame to hide eyes like his away.
They went on this way for six weeks. Owling back and forth, talking about everything under the sun, and what Harry took as quite open flirting. At least it was on his part. It was nice and safe but Harry found himself wanting to have these conversations in person, we wanted to see that smile and this boy who'd he become so close to. So he decided to do something about it.
It's time. Meet me at the park off Diagon Alley. Saturday, 4pm. I'll be the handsome bloke on the blanket reading. Bring a book, we can read and enjoy the day. I won't force you to talk, but I want to see you.
Harry didn't hear back from Draco but went to the park none-the-less. He laid out a fluffy blanket and settled himself in a quiet corner. He opened his book and tried to read, but he was constantly scanning the park for Draco. He really hoped he'd show up. And then he saw him.
Draco was striding across the lawn, eyes fixed on Harry, book in hand. When he arrived at the blanket he smiled down at Harry, the sun giving him a golden halo. "I-it's good t-to see you, H-h-harry."
"Draco," Harry couldn't hide his glee, "please." He gestured to the empty spot next to him.
Draco lay down next to Harry and propped himself up on his elbows, mimicking Harry's position.
"Thank you for coming today Draco, you look fantastic." Harry didn't care. Draco was beautiful and he wanted him to know. "It's so good to see you."
Draco just smiled widely and nudged Harry's shoulder with his own and opened his book. Clearly he wasn't comfortable talking yet. That was okay, Harry was happy to be able to just be with him.
They lay in silence, reading, and enjoying the beautiful day. Harry saw Draco shift and watched him as he put his book down and rolled over onto his back. Draco closed his eyes and let out a long deep breath. "This is w-wonderful."
Harry put down his book, pillowed his head on his arms, and watched Draco.
He had grown very fond of Draco. The way he opened up in his letters about what he'd gone through during and after the war, the way he didn't hold anything back, opening himself up to Harry, the way he would joke and flirt. The way he would tell Harry about things he knew or the things he'd done, never seeming stuck up or pompous, he was a joy. And he was beautiful. Laying there with the sun on his face, Harry just knew that if he reached out Draco's skin would be soft and warm. So he did.
Harry reached out and ran a finger down the bridge of Draco's nose. Draco smiled. Harry ran the same finger over his cheek. Another smile. Harry traced the entirety of Draco's face memorizing each line and contour. At last he traced his finger over Draco's bottom lip and was rewarded with a sigh.
That gave Harry all the encouragement he needed. He raised himself up on his side, propping himself on his elbow and leaned over Draco. Draco's eyes opened and Harry looked into their beautiful depths. He slowly brought his mouth down and placed a soft, gentle kiss on Draco's beautiful lips.
When he pulled back he couldn't help grinning ear to ear. Draco was grinning right back at him. "Draco, you're amazing."
"S-so are you. Kiss me again."
And so Harry did. He pressed himself against Draco and felt Draco press right back. They kissed and kissed and kissed. Until…
"Oh My GAWD! Are you Harry Potter?" a young girl was shouting at him, surrounded by a group of her giggling friends.
Harry tensed up but immediately felt a reassuring and strong hand press into his lower back. Draco sat up and Harry followed. "Yes, h-he is," Draco took Harry's hand. "And he was r-right in the m-middle of something." Harry gave Draco a small kiss, thanking him; he knew that as much as Draco didn't want to speak in public he was willing to do so if it helped Harry. He could feel his heart swell.
"Sorry, we didn't mean to bother you. It's just that I've never met anyone famous." The girl was turning red with embarrassment.
Harry took a deep breath and after a meaningful look at Draco replied, "It's okay, I'm Harry, nice to meet you. This is Draco."
The girls giggled some more and nodded and waved their hellos back before the ringleader piped up, "Like I said, sorry to bug you but, do you think we could get your autograph?"
"Sure," he looked at Draco silently asking him to stay close.
The two of them stood, and all the while during Harry's autograph session Draco never stopped touching him and reassuring him.
Once the girls were gone the two men stood face to face, holding hands. Draco leaned into Harry and gave him huge hug. He brought his lips to Harry's ear, "You were f-fantastic. C-congratulations."
"Thank you, I couldn't have done it without you."
"You could, and you will," Draco pulled back. "You're strong Harry."
"So are you Draco," Harry brought Draco's palm to his mouth and placed a kiss on the center. "We'll both be okay, we'll do this. Together."
"Together. I'd like that."
It was all brand new. Things might wind up going pear-shaped. But as they settled back down on the blanket Harry felt something he hadn't in a very long time, hope.