gwendy1: icon of Lucy Lawless (xena2)
[personal profile] gwendy1
Author: [livejournal.com profile] gwendy1
Title: Seeing The Snitch
Pairing(s): Draco/Harry
Summary: Post-war AU: Draco must reconcile with loss and Muggles in Malfoy Manor.
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Some harsh language and non-graphic character death (NOT Draco or Harry).
Word Count: ~5700
Author's Notes: This fic was written as a gift to [livejournal.com profile] audient for Glompfest! :) Special thanks to the wonderful betas: [livejournal.com profile] drarryxlover and [livejournal.com profile] lusiology! ♥
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(Also available HERE at [livejournal.com profile] serpentinelion or on AO3)

Narcissa Malfoy has a weakness for chocolates. Gourmet truffles, filled with all manner of exotic flavours. She makes it a hobby to taste as many of the various flavours as she can find. On every occasion for travel, Narcissa is certain to stop in one of the local confectionaries to sample the chocolates. She has developed quite the list of her favorites, ordering them regularly for events and holidays. She also enjoys sharing her findings with her son, Draco, routinely sending him care packages of interesting new chocolates she discovers along with a few of their old standbys to enjoy while at school.

When it comes time for charges to be levied and trials to be conducted, Harry Potter testifies many things. One of them being that Narcissa Malfoy had saved his life.

A week later she drops dead in the entryway of an apothecary. When picking up a small box of chocolates while tending to errands – collecting them in person rather than waiting for her next delivery, she samples one. It had been poisoned.

Lucius Malfoy, having already been sentenced and delivered to Azkaban, hears about her death from within the claustrophobic confines of his cell.

He pens a quick letter:

My Dearest Draco,

My choices have cost the people I love too much. You and your mother mean everything to me. I never wanted you to see the dark things that I had been involved in. And while I undoubtedly do not deserve it, please forgive me.

Your Father,

Lucius


The same guard who delivered the newspaper to his cell finds him not long after, hanging by a rope fashioned from the linens of his prison cot.

~

Draco stands wearily, numb from the shock, going through the motions as he does his duties to uphold the traditions of Black and Malfoy burials.

Andromeda cradles a thankfully quiet Teddy in her arms and sniffs, dabbing at the corners of her eyes with a handkerchief. Tucking the damp cloth neatly in her pocket, she steps closer to Draco and grips his shoulder to show her silent support. She may not have been a presence in his childhood, but she will be there for him now. Draco and Teddy – well, they’re the only family she has left.

She quietly turns and makes her exit to allow him a few moments to himself. As she walks, Andromeda smiles softly in gratitude when she passes Harry, who has stood silently in the back throughout the service to pay his respects.

Harry watches the solitary figure of Draco stand solemnly before his parents’ final resting place and frowns in sympathy. But before he can convey his condolences, Draco has Disapparated away.

~

It’s been two weeks and everything is still such a blur. None of it feels real anymore. Everything went so fast and before Draco knew it, his parents were dead and the Ministry was holding the hearing to seize Malfoy assets – reparations, to fund the rebuilding of what was damaged in the war, they said.

All of the Malfoy assets would have been seized, but Harry Potter and Andromeda Tonks spoke up and managed to persuade the Wizengamot into exercising some leniency.

Draco can remember, though, the desperate feeling that came over him when they announced the confiscation of the manor – to be sold at auction – and how he jumped up to cry out ‘But—’

And then came the lie.

The lie that got him here - working with the Ministry-hired specialist contractors to renovate and retrofit Malfoy Manor, replacing magic with the basic Muggle utilities (plumbing, electricity, and the like) for the new Muggle family that had purchased it. A Muggle family with a Muggle-born daughter. They’re eager to be supportive and involved in this ‘new community’ their child is a part of.

Draco wonders if his father is turning in his grave at the very thought. Personally, he’s just glad that he will be allowed to stay on as a handyman of sorts, working for the Muggles once the contractors are gone. His quarters are small and confined to an annex of the house, but at least he’ll have access to the rooms his parents would frequent. He’s perfectly alright with letting go of the rest of the manor – too many unpleasant memories of the Death Eaters and their cruel Dark Lord – but the manor is a family heirloom. It was built with Malfoy magic and Malfoy hands; it’s been passed down from generation to generation through the ages. And it’s what he has left of his parents.

Only he doesn’t actually have it anymore, does he?

No, the Wizengamot was not about to back down from making an example of the Malfoys. So he has access, he has room and board, and he will be happy with that. Happy? Ha! Still, struggling on the knife’s edge between relief and devastation, he can’t help but ponder whether he’s getting off lightly. His regrets eat away at him, demanding a harsher punishment. A deserved retribution, for his failures and for his habit of fucking everything up.

What was the lie?

Well, the lie that afforded him even this begrudging allowance on the Ministry’s part was the existence of a curse.

It was myth that the Malfoy Manor was cursed to remain with the Malfoy family. A Malfoy many generations ago had attempted to construct magical defenses and embed them into the manor itself. He had failed, but having already touted his grandiose defenses to the neighboring Lords, he merely built up the lie, of course. Specifying that the manor had to have a Malfoy by blood residing there or it would collapse into a sinkhole that would take the whole village with it, he discouraged any attempts on his land because those were the concerns at the time. Ridiculous, really, but his neighbors believed him. It figures, they’d said, that old Malfoy fool was known for his dark and experimental magic.

Draco latched onto this bit of family history and desperately argued the need for him to remain in his home.

Unfortunately, one of the members of the Wizengamot suggested that perhaps he could reside there, but not own the property – thus, ensuring their ability to collect their funds from the sale. The other members quickly ran with the idea, willing to gamble on the loophole and risk the consequences of being wrong. The neighboring manors were unoccupied anyway, they crowed.

It’s not a good idea to build resentment over this, Draco internally cautions himself. His previous reactions, ideology, and way of handling things led to being in this mess in the first place. Led to so many of his friends and family being dead.

While he aches with mourning – it’s practically vibrating in his chest – and laments the effective loss of Malfoy tradition and wealth, part of him thinks… I deserve this.

Draco grunts with exertion and twists, lining up the plasterboard and holding it in place while Jason secures it with screws. They are manually replacing the shower walls, after having installed the plumbing, because the Muggle family will not have the magic required to maintain it.

When wizards build anything with magic, they naturally and subconsciously power the stability of their creation. Over time, the constant presence of magical residents reinforces and replenishes the magic needed to sustain its structure. However, when Muggles inhabit the area, the magic is not replenished and eventually it degrades and erodes, leading to the structure giving way and collapsing.

Intellectually, Draco knew to expect the glamourous and finished nature to disappear along with the magic – but ugh, did it have to turn everything so bland? The colours on the walls were summarily removed, revealing dull grays.

The tiles slid like shattering plates as they fell from their walls. Draco grimaced at this and persuaded the foreman to preserve and collect them to re-install later. A few of the workers looked sheepish – this was Draco’s former home, after all – and agreed to be more careful in the magic removal process.

Well, more like the friendly Matt – “Call me Matt; everyone calls me Matt” – had nudged Damon forcefully and agreed on both their behalf.

Draco lets go of the plasterboard and steps back with Jason to admire their work.

“Looks good,” Jason remarks. “Now we just have to put the shower pan in and seal it with a rubber mat before we get the mortar ready to re-tile these walls.” He sets aside the “power drill” he’d been using and grins at Draco. His eyes are drawn to Draco’s messy pants and he snorts with laughter, pointing.

“What?” Draco grumbles and looks down. His most casual pair of trousers – the “fancy” high-quality slacks they had mocked him mercilessly for – were indeed hopelessly dirty. There was dust and filth smudged all over them-- and was that slime? “Ergh.” It was definitely slimy, probably some mud that had rubbed off on him while they were putting in those pipes – all the way out of the manor and underground leading to a “septic tank”. At least they were able to magically move and displace sections of the earth before returning it smoothly where it had been after installing the tank with that “crane” thing.

Sam sticks his head into the bathroom, leaning his shoulder against the doorway, and addresses them. “Break time, boys. Damon’s back with lunch.”

Jason grins and slaps a beefy hand on Draco’s back.

Joining the rest of the crew, they each take a seat around one of the larger tables just off the rear of the house. The veranda stretching out from the first floor and across the back affords them some nice shade from the hot sun.

“We’re in luck, mates. The pub down the way offered takeaway.” Damon distributes the sandwiches. Sam steps up to hand out the cups and fill them from a jug.

Matt notices the state of Draco’s once-pristine trousers and shakes his head. “We’ve got to get you some sturdy work clothes.”

Damon perks up and looks over to peer at Draco’s trousers through the glass tabletop. He laughs and smirks at Draco in delight. “Mate, you need some jeans.” He gestures toward the nearby village. “There’s a new shop in the village – Grand Opening, I passed it on my way – sells jeans. And some nice work boots, too; I was thinking of getting myself a pair.”

Draco nods, acknowledging the merit of the idea. He takes a sip of his drink.

Matt grins at Draco. “Grand Opening is usually good for some deals. I’ll go with you both.”

Jason finishes chewing and swallows a mouthful of food. “Work boots, you say? I could use a new pair of those. Perhaps I’ll join all of you.”

“Alright, you lot!” Sam reaches across the table to refill his cup. “Wait until the work day is over before you go off on any shopping sprees now, you hear?”

“Of course, Sam.” Jason glances at Draco. “We’ve still got to seal and tile the loo.”

Draco finishes his sandwich and sighs. These trousers are pretty much done for. He can almost hear Professor Snape deriding his every mental complaint.

~

Stepping into Flourish & Blotts in jeans of all things – his other trousers were all unwashed and he hadn’t gotten the hang of the laundry quite yet – Draco quickly ascertains where the Home & Garden section is and goes there. He doesn’t want to linger and have anyone he knows see him in these awfully formfitting jeans now, does he?

Hurriedly, Draco scans the spines of the texts along the aisle. He can’t help but pause over several, though. Hmm. There are actually quite a few books here that could prove useful to him. He’ll have to come back later with a few more Galleons.

“Ah!” Finally spying what he’s been looking for, Draco snatches the book from the shelf.

Gilderoy Lockhart’s Guide to Household Pests.

If he’s going to maintain the upkeep of his mother’s beautiful gardens, then he’s going to need to know how to handle the de-gnoming and getting rid of other pests and the like.

He checks the price on the back – one of the many harsh realities he’s still getting used to – and determines that he has enough for one of the books on home repair that caught his interest.

Draco takes his two purchases in hand and darts toward the front of the shop to pay for them.

Someone with a pile of books in one arm and their head turned to focus on the open book in the other steps in front of him, halting him in his tracks. The force of the collision knocks their books to the floor.

Bugger.

He kneels to pick up his books, glancing at the other customer only to discover Harry Potter.

“Draco!” Harry exclaims in surprise. “Hi.” He is startled at the appearance of Draco in a pair of tight Muggle jeans and he stutters before he reaches for one of Draco’s books and hands it to him after spotting the cover. “Um. I heard about how you’re working with Muggle renovation and repair now – maintaining the manor and all.” Harry rolls his eyes at himself. “Well, I mean, of course I heard; I was at the hearing. But—um—“

Part of Draco wants to snap at Potter and verbally tear him down for being in the way, but a sense of logic prevails somehow. He’s not sure if it’s the bizarre sound of his first name being spoken by Harry Potter or the inkling that his late mother wouldn’t be very happy with him if he did. Draco tries his best to live up to what he thinks she would have wanted him to be now.

He hands Potter the last of his own fallen books, allowing them both to stand and address each other. Having caught a glimpse of several of the titles on Potter’s books, Draco asks, “Reading up on Quidditch, are you?”

“Oh, I’m working as a sports columnist for the Quibbler.” Harry shrugs at the pile of books. “Hermione suggested I look into what past successful sports writers have done.”

Draco wonders, “And how is Luna?”

“Uh, she’s good,” he answers. “Gardens—“ Harry stammers. “I’ve done some garden work before. I could… come over,” he finishes awkwardly.

“Um, sure.” Draco frowns at him. It is utterly strange to be speaking so civilly with Potter, though doing otherwise would be just useless at this point. Did he just offer to come to the manor?

“Maybe I could even help explain some of the Muggle stuff.”

Draco raises a bemused eyebrow. “Didn’t your relatives deprive you of most of that stuff?” He tips his head pointedly to gesture at one of Rita Skeeter’s unofficial biographies stacked on the shelf across from them.

“Oh. Yeah.” Harry shuffles his feet. “I suppose I could just get Hermione to answer any questions you have.” He ducks his head.

Draco nods. “You do that. See you, Potter.” He shrugs and finishes his journey to the front to pay, unaware of Harry smacking his own forehead and mentally berating himself for forgetting to offer any condolences.

~

Draco pats the soil with his hands and brushes the fingertips of his right hand softly over the petals of the delicate flower closest to him. There’s no way he’s letting his mother’s garden go to ruins.

He can hear a quiet rustling as someone approaches.

“It’s me – Greg.” He knows not to startle Draco.

Smiling bemusedly, Draco replies, “I know. I got your owl, Greg.”

Turning, he sees that Goyle has brought a basket and a jug, which he hefts, and smiles. “I heard they dismissed your house elves. Brought food.”

“Thank you! Merlin, you’re a life saver.” Draco dusts himself off and joins him at one of the patio tables. “Manual labor I can deal with, but having to make my own food is driving me insane.”

Goyle nods, taking a seat and shoving his hand into the basket to pull out a sandwich.

Draco plucks a couple of crystal goblets from the basket – Greg’s mother must have packed it - and pours them each a drink from the jug. “Did you know the Muggles have some devices that do some of the work that the house elves would do? Sam says the family is having a few appliances delivered before they get here. He says we’ll install them tomorrow and he’ll show me how they work.”

Chewing and swallowing, Goyle pauses to respond, “What’s an appliance?”

“I don’t know. One of them is a dishwashing machine – whatever that is.”

Draco takes a refreshing sip of his drink – chilled pumpkin juice. “Greg…” He looks out over the vast garden and his gaze lingers on a water fountain. It’s a decorative water feature his mother spent two days spelling into the garden in his third year. The water is still, the magic having been systematically removed from many sections of the manor including that one. Sam was bringing him a small electric engine that afternoon along with instructions on how to install it to get the water running and cycling through the fountain again. It would serve as a test of his progress; Draco would have to be able to make some repairs and finish the renovations himself, after all. “Do you ever feel that the wrong people paid for our mistakes?”

Goyle sighs and glances around the garden before returning his focus to Draco. “We did what we could to survive. My mum says it’s okay to have regrets, but that I ultimately did what I was supposed to by surviving.” He shrugs. “She says that she’s proud – a parent should never have to outlive their child.”

Draco can recall how desperately he tried to make his father proud. It reminds him of a Greek tragedy where the father uses unsavory means in an attempt to provide a better life for the son and the son falls prey to the same unsavory means in an attempt to earn the father’s respect – a respect he unknowingly already had. He mulls over all of his choices and the ‘what if’s. What if he had never tried to follow so closely in his father’s footsteps? Would his family still be alive?

Such a waste. It’s all such a bloody waste.

The sun shines brightly in the clear blue sky and the breeze blows lightly, wafting the tops of the surrounding trees and the ends of his hair. Draco exhales slowly and reaches for a sandwich.

“Sad about Fred Weasley.”

Goyle nods and takes another bite.

“Even though they could be right bastards at times, I admit I respected the twins the most out of all those Weasleys.”

Draco unwraps his sandwich and lifts it to his mouth, pauses to stare blankly at the table. “And Nymphadora Tonks. It might’ve been nice to know her.” He takes a bite.

The sharp regret over Crabbe remains unspoken.

~

Sam made sure to explain how magic tended to short out the electricity in the building and show him how to reset the circuit breaker.

Thankfully, the Floo Network will not affect the electricity and so will be left intact.

Patting him on the back, Sam wishes him a farewell. “Good luck, kid. And remember – Floo me if anything major comes up that you don’t think you can handle. There’s no shame in getting someone with a little more experience to double check with the important stuff.”

“Thank you, Sam, especially for being so patient with me.” Draco ducks his head a little bashfully. Sam has really been a helping hand in a rough time for Draco. “I really appreciate all that you’ve taught me.”

Sam smiles. “You’re welcome, Draco. You were a good sport and you pulled your own weight. Don’t be too hard on yourself; you’re a kid that’s been forced to grow up too fast. You still got a lot to learn.”

He nods reassuringly and tosses the Floo powder, following shortly after.

~

Draco can hear them come rumbling down the road in one of those Muggle contraptions – a car.

It looks like a Thestral-less metal carriage.

He stands in front of the manor to greet them and hand over a set of keys. Traditional Muggle door locks were one of the first things installed.

Draco stands up straight in his freshly laundered shirt and slacks. Luckily, Sam had taken some time to explain how to use all of those appliances they had installed. Choosing to forgo robes, Draco wants to present a smart yet approachable appearance – hopefully leading to a good first impression.

He takes a deep breath and steels himself.

The big blue automobile stops next to him in the drive and the engine silences. Small doors open on either end of the contraption, but he can already see the family through the windows that surround the car.

He can see a young boy peering curiously from a back seat as he unstraps himself and triggers some latch to open the small door beside him.

A woman with short dark blonde hair – the mother - steps out and shuts the door behind her. She glances at him briefly, but is busy gaping at the manor behind him. “Oh, John, it’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Mary. You are the one who picked it out after all.” John gets out of the driver’s side and shuts his door. He smiles in greeting to Draco.

The young boy has climbed out of his seat and stands on the drive, fiddling with a toy and staring inquisitively at Draco. “Hi, I’m Bradley,” he says with a grin and gives a little wave, while an older and taller young girl climbs out of the car behind him.

The girl must be the Muggle-born who got the Hogwarts letter. She looks about eleven years old.

Draco smiles politely at them and the girl blushes bright red. She stands shyly slightly behind her younger brother.

John finishes helping an old man out of one of the back seats and shuts the door after him.

Mary firmly closes the last door, the one the children had emerged from, and turns to Draco, stepping forward and holding out her hand. “Hello there. You must be Draco Malfoy. We’re the McCalls.”

Draco shakes her hand. “Yes, I’m Draco Malfoy. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

John has made his way around the car and Draco shakes his hand as well. “I’m John, this is my father, David, who will be staying with us,” and he gestures to the two young kids beside them, “and this is Bradley and our little magical miracle, Melanie.”

“Dad!” The girl cries out, embarrassed. She scuffs the tip of her shoe against the ground and looks up at Draco. “I go by ‘Lanie’.”

Bradley laughs. “’Cos then her name doesn’t sound like you’re sayin’ ‘Melody’ with a stuffed up nose.”

“Shut it!” Lanie screeches and shoves Bradley’s shoulder.

“Kids,” their father warns in a stern voice.

Draco nods at them. “Well, I can show you the property,” he gives the set of keys to Mary and gestures to the manor behind him, “and let you get settled in.”

Mary smiles brightly. “That would be lovely, Draco. Isn’t this exciting?” she asks the children before remarking to him, “I have so many questions.”

After touring most of the inside of the manor, they settle in the dining room.

“Oh, dear,” Mary addresses her husband. “We’ve forgotten the takeaway in the car.” John heads off to retrieve it. “Would you like to join us, Draco?”

He smiles warmly at the thought of this nice Muggle family enjoying a meal in the room that Charity Burbage, the unfortunate Muggle Studies professor, had been killed in. It feels a bit like they are taking back the space from all those dark times. Giving the manor a sense of closure. Or maybe that’s just him. But it feels good, oddly enough.

“No, thank you,” Draco says. “I’ll be in the annex over there,” he points, “and you can just let me know if you need anything.”

The elderly Muggle, who had slumped tiredly into a chair, pipes up, “Well, if you could lend a hand moving the furniture tomorrow, young man.”

“Oh, yes!” Mary catches on. “If you would, Draco – our furniture will be arriving tomorrow morning by lorry. We’d appreciate any help with the arranging.”

“Certainly.” Draco nods. “I’ll be here.”

“Thank you,” she replies.

He exits the main house, hearing them continue to converse as he goes.

“I’m going to help, too!” Bradley enthuses.

Mary chuckles. “Of course, you are. All the—“

~

Draco pants and sips from his glass of water. He slouches in exhaustion beside David McCall on a bench in the garden. He’ll pull out his wand and remove the sweat dripping from his skin before spelling himself with a cooling charm in a moment, but for now he’s too exhausted.

Draco tilts his head back and enjoys the slight wind that’s starting to pick up.

“So, how’d you get stuck with this?” David asks, looking over to pierce him with old eyes – eyes that have seen their share of tragedy. “This home maintenance bit. You’re young. You seem reasonably intelligent. What’s your story?”

Draco considers his response, then speaks succinctly. “My family got caught up in a war. A war we were on the losing side of. I lost most of my family. And this is what’s left of them.” He gazes pointedly at the manor.

“Wizards have war too, huh?” David gives a bitter chuckle. “Figures. Every civilization – same problems.”

He glances thoughtfully at Draco. “This isn’t what’s left of your family, though. That’s up here,” he touches his head, “and in here,” pokes meaningfully at his chest.

Frowning sympathetically, he says, “You’re too young to live a life of regret. That’s simply the nature of war – desperate times that fill most of us with regret. On all sides. Don’t dwell on it, kid. You’ve got to hold onto that search for happiness – the reason so many of us fight, to protect our happiness. Or at least that’s what we believe we were doin’ at the time.”

He speaks forcefully, direct with his words. “Keep searchin’. You need to keep your eyes open an’ let yourself see the big picture. Perspective – that’s what war gives you.”

Draco spells the sweat away and a cooling charm in place. He thinks over David’s words, contemplating as he whispers, “Aguamenti,” refilling their glasses of water.

David swirls his glass in delight and takes a sip.

“This magic - it explains a lot, it does. Why, I’ve seen plenty of strange things in my years – mostly during the Blitz – and this magic certainly explains a lot.” He smiles.

Draco grins and listens to the sounds of children laughing and chasing each other through the manor.

~

Teddy nibbles on the stuffed dragon Draco brought him, squishing it protectively to his chest.

Andromeda ruffles his hair and smiles at Draco. “So, how have you been? Last time I saw you – you were still learning how to operate Muggle appliances and that was several months ago. You really should come by more often, dear.”

Draco finishes his Christmas biscuit and the last of his warm mug of chocolate, before getting up to help his aunt clear the dishes and bring them into the kitchen. He would come more often - and he really should, Teddy’s growing up so fast – but his heart aches sometimes just looking at her and seeing the resemblance to his mother.

“I will,” he says. “I’ve been busy. This Muggle family, the McCalls, want to learn as much as they can about magic, so they’ve been asking me questions and advice. And if they’re not doing that, then they are having me fix something. The grandfather, David, especially likes to have me run errands for him. I’ve learned a lot and it’s nice to keep the garden in order, but it is arduous.”

“Well, you’re always welcome, Draco.” Andromeda smiles softly and tucks a lock of his hair behind his ear.

He smiles back faintly and resists the urge to hug her desperately.

~

“Hey, Draco. You wanna know what I realized?” Bradley lays in the nearby grass and kicks his feet behind him while maneuvering the plastic dinosaur in each hand to attack the other.

Draco wonders idly what the young boy would think of a dragon. “Hmm?” he asks and continues trimming the blossoming bush carefully.

“Lanie sounds like you’re sayin’ ‘Lady’ with a stuffed up nose.” Bradley grins at Draco. “Do you think if I told her she’d change her name again?”

Draco chuckles and, carefully following the instructions he had read, reaches into the soil to begin separating the roots and sectioning off a part of the bush to be transferred into the pot near his leg.

He reaches to pull the pot closer, but it slides mysteriously about half a meter away from him. That’s strange; it was as if it was propelled by magic, and he didn’t do it.

Bradley has come to stand beside him and tugs impatiently at Draco’s sleeve. “Hey, Draco?”

Accidental magic? Draco quirks his head with intrigue at Bradley. That’s interesting. It looks like someone else in this household will be getting a Hogwarts letter in a few years. “Yes?”

Bradley is excited; he’s come up with a new idea. “Do you think you could build me a tree house?”

“A tree house?” Draco is running out of work to do for the McCalls. He has been for some time now and he’s wondered how he’ll justify continuing to work for and board with them or what he’ll do instead. “That’s something I could probably do. Definitely! It sounds like a fun project.”

Bradley is ecstatic. “Yes!”

A shout from the house interrupts them, “Bradley McCall! Have you done your assignments?”

~

Later, Draco safely transfers the potted section of bush, with its blossoms still intact, into the soil of the back garden of the Tonks house, transplanting a piece of his mother’s garden to be closer to her family.

He successfully finishes grounding the plant into its new home and pats the soil before using his wand to spray a fine mist of water over it.

With a quick cleaning charm, he heads back into the house where Andromeda greets him with a glass of chilled water and a grateful smile.

Looking out through the back window, he spots the large sturdy tree that caught his attention. “Do you think Teddy would like a tree house someday?”

Teddy bangs away noisily with his blocks on the blanket next to them and holds one out, babbling sweetly in words that don’t quite yet form a language and insistently offering it for Draco to take.

“I think he’d like that.”

~

Once he’s finished building Bradley’s tree house, just in time for spring, Draco presents it to him and declares it ready.

Bradley hugs him tight and thanks him profusely, deeming it “the most wicked cool thing ever.”

He climbs into it immediately and explores it thoroughly before sitting on the edge and dangling one foot down towards Draco.

“Lanie’s gonna be so jealous that you built this for me.”

“Well, you could share it,” Draco suggests. “And why would she be jealous?”

Bradley laughs. “Because she’s got a huge crush on you. She still blushes every time she’s near you.”

Draco quirks an eyebrow and stares up at him from the ground below.

“Come up here! You’ve gotta come join me.”

~

Draco collects another bunch of materials – this time with his own Galleons – and sets up shop in Andromeda’s back garden.

Teddy’s talking now and can say his name. He’s also walking now and likes to toddle up to him and hug Draco’s legs, but currently, he’s napping.

Just as he’s finished installing the last board of wood, he hears someone climbing the ladder.

Harry Potter’s face emerges in the entrance and he climbs into the tree house with Draco.

He clearly intends to talk to Draco, but he just keeps hemming and hawing as he blushes deep red and can’t seem to look away from Draco’s work clothes – a nicely worn-in pair of blue jeans and a white cotton t-shirt.

Draco goes easy on him and starts the conversation. “You know, Luna’s been Owling me.”

“She has?”

“Yeah, she’s offered me a column in the Quibbler – about helping Muggle-borns and their families adjust to the wizarding world.”

“Are you—are you going to take it?” Harry is still shuffling awkwardly, but he appears to have calmed down.

“I might. And I might get my own place, too. I’ll be able to afford it then.”

“Oh? I thought, as a Malfoy, you had to stay a technical resident of Malfoy Manor.”

“I, well—that was a lie. I was desperate to hang on to what was left of my family; it’s still hard to let go. But that was based on a rumour one of my ancestors liked to promote,” Draco admits sadly.

Harry is wide-eyed and a bit taken aback that Draco is sharing this secret with him. “Yeah. Well, it wasn’t right—all that you lost.”

Draco shakes his head. “The war—cost a lot of people.”

“Yeah,” Harry acknowledges. “It’s changed you. You’re quieter now.”

“I meant to thank you, you know,” Draco has a bit of trouble putting it into words, “for returning my wand …and everything. I got caught up in all the—“ He gestures vaguely around him.

“It’s alright,” Harry responds. “I understand.”

He looks up and gazes directly into Draco’s eyes. And immediately blushes again.

It’s like suddenly seeing the Snitch.

Oh! Harry is attracted to him; he has a crush.

Draco smiles warmly at Harry; this is definitely happiness he’s feeling at the realization. This is a lot of happiness, actually. He huffs in amazement.

Harry can tell that something – he’s not sure what - has shifted between them and grins back in puzzlement.

Draco bites his lip and smiles innocently at Harry. “So, I’m having trouble with… cooking. Would you mind helping me out?”

-end-
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