Gift for: dacro
Word count: ~9100
Summary: For eight years Harry's been hunting Malfoy. Now Tonks has found him living as a Muggle with his daughter.
Warnings: References to past character death. Also, smut-wise it's pretty tame. The boys were more interested in plot than smut. Curse them.
Disclaimer: The usual. I mean whom are we really kidding here? Please.
Author's note: This fic was amazingly easy and difficult to write at the same time. As soon as I got the assignment I had bunnies hopping rampant but getting them to stop hopping long enough to actually get on the paper proved to be rather trying. Not to mention the fact that they kept growing, and having babies and being very insistent. I can't tell you how much I appreciate my various teacher friends, betas and the incredibly patient legomymalfoy. dacro I tried to include as many of your wants as I could. Happiest of holidays.
"We found him, Harry"
Harry's too stunned to notice the odd timbre in Tonks' voice. "Malfoy? You've found Malfoy?" Her affirmation is a stiff nod. Harry blinks at her for a moment before asking in a daze, "Where? When? And how soon's the team bringing him in?"
"He was spotted around Mayfair." There's an awkward pause as Tonks shuffles her papers. "About three months ago," she finally adds.
"What? You captured him three months ago and no one told me? Where have you been keeping him? When -"
"No, Harry. We found him about three months ago, or rather Cormer glimpsed a man who he thought might be Draco Malfoy around then. Further investigation has proven him right," explains Tonks.
Harry begins pacing in front of Tonks' desk. "It took you three soddin' months to figure out if it was Malfoy?" he fumes. "Why didn't you bring me in on the case? I can recognise the prick at five hundred paces."
"Harry-" Tonks' tone holds a warning.
"Sorry, I know," Harry interjects before she can say anything more. "But you realise I've been searching for him for more than eight years."
"Well, that's over." Tonks is still subdued. "We know exactly where he is."
"Right," Harry says with too much enthusiasm trying to override the odd tightness in the room that he doesn't understand. "So when do we go get him?"
Tonks' pause lengthens until Harry looks at her questioningly. She says merely, "It's complicated, Harry."
Anger burns through him. He's been waiting too long, ever since that night on the Astronomy Tower so many years ago. Through three years of war and five years of peace, he has never forgotten Malfoy's hand in things. Never ceased in his desire to see him punished for it. "It is not complicated," Harry grinds out as the glass in the framed photo on the desk between them begins to rattle.
Tonks doesn't flinch. "Harry, calm down," she admonishes as she picks up the picture of Remus.
"I will not calm down. Malfoy is a murdering bastard and a danger to Muggle and Magical alike. No amount of money or political power can change that. Whatever he's done, Tonks -"
"There's a girl -" Tonks manages to interject before Harry cuts her off.
"I don't care what bint he's shagging. Obliviate her. It'll be a kindness."
"Not a woman, a child - daughter it seems - just turned five years-old."
Dark emotion twists in Harry's gut at the inequity that someone like Malfoy could have a family, something Harry desperately wants and yet always eludes his grasp. "Who's the mother?"
"A woman named Rose. She's dead now, though, it's just the two of them."
Harry scrubs his hand through his hair. He despises the fact that they're still orphaning children with the war even now, but there really isn't a way around it. "It doesn't matter, Tonks. We'll foster her until she's old enough for Hogwarts. If she's a Malfoy, much as I hate to admit it, I doubt she'll be a squib. We'll just have to be more careful about how we grab them. I'll gather a team." Harry turns to leave the office. "Who's the best person to brief me on what's been learned about Malfoy?"
Tonks stops him. "That's not all."
Harry's trying to be reasonable, but what's left of his patience is wearing thin. "Fine. What else?" The tone is sharp.
She's silent for long enough that Harry begins to wonder if she's going to tell him. "There's evidence that he's the spy Remus died to protect," she says eventually.
"Malfoy?" Harry's voice is too loud for the small office. He shakes his head with unnecessary force. "No. Can't be. That was a woman. Cheryl. Or Serena. Or something."
"Shanti. The spy's code name was Shanti. That's what the little girl's called."
"You're saying he used his daughter's name? That's your evidence? Even Malfoy's not that dim," counters Harry.
Tonks' sighs tiredly. "No, I'm suggesting that the child was named as a reminder of what they'd been through, or perhaps after her mother. If you look at the timeline, you'll find she wasn't born until a few months after Remus died."
"What kind of a name is Shanti anyway? Sounds poncy enough for Malfoy at least."
"It means 'quiet, peace, and tranquility' in Sanskrit," responds Tonks.
Harry snorts disgustedly. "Well, if it is Malfoy, there's no way he was doing it for any reason other than his own personal gain. He's Lucius' son for fuck's sake. Remus was stupid to trust him and a fool to die for him."
Tonks is on her feet and around the desk before Harry even registers her anger. Her hair has changed to a vibrant red. "Don't you dare pretend to know more about who should and shouldn't have died," she hisses. "Remus was not some soft-hearted, too-trusting idiot that Malfoy could have easily played. If it was Malfoy that he gave his life for there was a bloody good reason and I intend to find out what it was. I've argued with the team that you've enough respect for Remus that you'd be willing to put aside your ridiculous obsession long enough to help. I'm sorry to find I was wrong. I'm sure one of the other Muggle-borns in the department will want to aid in the next step of the investigation." Wrenching the door open, she adds tightly, "I'll ask Maxwell to assign you to a different case."
Harry is stunned and hurt and admittedly a bit ashamed by Tonks' words. It's been a while since he's seen her so upset and he's only just beginning to understand how difficult all this must be for her.
"Wait… I…" he doesn't know what to say to repair his unthinking words. Looking at her rigid stance, he curses himself. "I… I'm sorry," he settles for at last. Then, "What can I do to help?"
Pacing around the empty classroom, Harry wonders again why he's agreed to this. Sure, Tonks needs an Auror with some experience who also has enough familiarity with the Muggle world for the next part of the investigation to work. And sure, the fact that Harry's young enough to remember what it was like in a Muggle classroom adds to his qualifications, but certainly someone else would have been good enough.
That thought brings him up short and he shakes his head to clear it. This is Malfoy. And there is no way that Harry can allow anything to jeopardise this case, even if he has to dance naked at a Muggle strip club to prove to Tonks that her erstwhile cousin is not a misunderstood abandoned spy for the Order.
Tonks had called a briefing immediately after Harry had agreed and he'd learned what they they'd discovered so far. Malfoy is currently going by the name of Robert Catesby and owns a small Muggle art gallery in Mayfair. The girl, Shanti, has just turned five and by Muggle law is required to start attending school, which is why Harry is now Peter Whitworth, a Muggle who teaches Key Stage 1 at the school where Shanti's registered. Frankly, Harry's surprised that Draco's at all conscious of Muggle law and even more shocked that he cares enough to follow it.
Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, Harry turns sharply and examines the image in the mirror that drew his attention. The man is of similar weight and build to himself, but with less defined muscles, a slightly rounder midsection. The face, too, is wider. The eyes that meet his gaze are hazel. The hair a soft brown. Lifting his hand, he rakes it through his dark mop and watches as his reflection combs through neat toffee-coloured strands.
He's not sure he'll ever get used to his magically altered appearance. Twisting the ring around his finger, he wants to pull it off, yet knows that he mustn't as Hermione's explanation replays in his mind.
"This ring will cause anyone who looks at you to see the persona we choose. It will last indefinitely, as long as you have the ring on. And it's not dangerous to wear for extended periods of time. Its magic is virtually undetectable - there's a reason why these items are banned by the Ministry. Oh, except in special cases, of course." Hermione handed him the plain white-gold band. "But for heaven's sake, don't play with it, or do anything that might draw people's attention to it, especially Malfoy's. If there's anyone that'll recognise it or know a spell to reveal or negate its power, Malfoy will be the one."
Recalling her admonishing words when she gave it to him, he lets go of ring guiltily.
"Peter? Peter? Peter?"
Lost in his musings, it takes several seconds for Harry to realise that Karen Wong, the other teacher, is talking to him. "Oh, sorry. I was just…" Harry trails off, unsure what to say and barely stops himself from grabbing at the ring.
Waving her hand dismissively, Karen smiles. "No need to worry. The first day gets to me sometimes, too. You'll be fine. I'm sure."
Harry grins back weakly and fervently hopes she's right.
When the first child arrives with her mother moments later, Harry's stomach clenches in a familiar way and he has to remind himself that he's not about to enter a battle, at least not a physical one. There's no danger that Malfoy will recognise him or see through the magic, and that's assuming it will even be Malfoy that brings Shanti.
Fifteen minutes later the classroom is bustling with activity as children bounce in, many of them seeming to know one another, giggling greetings to each other as the settle in and begin to play.
Harry's finally managed to detach one of the few tearful tots from an equally tearful mum and is just leading him over to a group building a tower of blocks when he catches the end of a sentence that stops him in his tracks. Part of him is surprised that after not having heard the voice for well over three-quarters of a decade, Harry knows without a doubt that it belongs to Malfoy. Turning, Harry finds Karen walking towards him, behind her a man with dark brown hair is crouched talking to a tiny blonde girl with wide blue eyes.
"Here, I'll take this one," Karen's saying as she retrieves the sniffing child's hand from Harry's. "Will you see if you can get that little girl to let go of her father? I seem to frighten her for some reason."
Harry can only nod dumbly as the two walk off towards the rest of the students. Approaching Malfoy, it's all he can do to keep from drawing his wand, even as he's listening to the calming sound of Malfoy's reassurances to Shanti. The sight of Malfoy as a caring parent is bizarre, to say the least.
"It'll be alright, pumpkin, I promise. You've got your Mum's locket right?" Malfoy queries. Shanti shifts her frightened eyes to Harry, but manages to dip her head slightly in agreement, clutching her hand even more tightly around her necklace. "Your Mum will always protect you."
When Malfoy follows the girl's gaze, Harry's startled to see blue eyes in the hated, yet familiar face. He wants to study the other ways Malfoy's changed in the last eight years, the most unnerving being that the pointy-faced prat's grown into a rather attractive man, but Harry's very aware he's already stared too long.
"Peter Whitworth," he says, thrusting out his hand, vividly aware of the irony in the action. Malfoy accepts the proffered hand without standing, keeping his other arm protectively cradled around Shanti. His sure but gentle touch is so unexpected that Harry wants to snatch his hand away from the warmth. Disconcerted, Harry asks, "And this is?"
"I'm Shanti," she declares stepping forward to peer at Harry more closely. "You won't let the black lady get me." It's more of a statement than a question.
Malfoy looks a tad embarrassed. "She's extremely frightened of women with long black hair. Complicated story," he explains somewhat nervously. "I'm afraid she's going to want to stick close by you until she gets used to Miss Wong." He finally stands. "Name's Robert Catesby."
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Catesby." The name sounds odd on his tongue, out of place when he knows this is Malfoy in front of him. Harry's about to ask for clarification on why she's afraid, when Shanti distracts him by pulling on his trouser leg. "Do you have your own stick? Uncle could loan you his if you don't," she notes, her expression serious. Malfoy's cheeks flush a light pink and Harry can see his mind racing to come up with plausible explanation as to what she means. Several things strike him. First, that though Malfoy may be living as a Muggle, he's used his wand enough around Shanti for her to know it's uses and second, that she called Malfoy uncle.
For some strange reason the later seems more important.
"Uncle? Shanti's not your daughter?" blurts Harry.
Perhaps Malfoy's so grateful for the diversion from the 'sticks' that he overlooks the rudeness of the question, or maybe he's just shocked into answering by the bluntness of it. "Not by blood, though legally I am. Her father was killed a few months before she was born." He stops abruptly. "I need to be going." Crouching down again, he buries his face in Shanti's blonde curls as he hugs her goodbye. "See you soon, sweetheart."
With a final nod, Malfoy strides out of the classroom, leaving Harry staring after him, a confused roil of emotion churning in his stomach.
For the first few weeks of school, Harry gathers no more information. Malfoy has taken to friendly, but clipped greetings as he picks up or drops Shanti off at school, leaving no opening for Harry to pry more information out of him. And though, as Malfoy predicted, Shanti rarely lets Harry out of her sight, preferring to be physically close as well if she can arrange it, she's quiet and withdrawn.
He's dying to ask her about her uncle's 'stick' and why she thought Harry might have one of his own, but he's pretty sure Malfoy will have given her a talking to about mentioning that again. Besides, Harry's a tad nervous that Shanti may accidentally clue Malfoy into the fact that her Muggle infant teacher is actually a wizard. So Harry tries to ask some leading questions about her life and her uncle, however she mostly just smiles or shrugs and answers "Yes" or "No," so after a few days he gives up.
Instead, Harry spends hours going over the file that Tonks' team's put together since spotting Malfoy, as well as every moment he's spent with 'Robert Catesby'. Truthfully Harry's having difficulty reconciling Shanti's uncle with the boy he's been chasing all these years. The Aurors' research shows that Malfoy's been living in Muggle society for as long as Shanti's been alive, and though he and his wife 'Rose' moved the small family around quite a bit in the beginning, there's no record of any odd or unexplained happenings in connection to them. The team couldn't find much on 'Rose' herself, except that she appears to have died of a heart attack about a year and a half ago.
After that Malfoy and Shanti stayed put. Now Malfoy's involved quite heavily in the Muggle art community around London, and his gallery, the illuminated illustration, is highly respected despite the fact that it's only been open for a little over a year, a relatively short time to be so well known. Malfoy's already shown genuine interest in ways he can help with Shanti's Muggle education and has also signed up with the school as a chaperone for class outings.
On top of all of that, every encounter Harry's had so far with 'Robert Catesby' has been pleasant. He's polite and sincere. It's apparent that he cares deeply for Shanti and there's no trace of the snide disdain for the unworthy that always got under Harry's skin so much in the past.
This man has nothing in common with the arrogant prat Harry knew at school, nor even with the frightened boy he'd seen in the girls' loo during sixth year or that last fateful night atop the tower. Much as he hates to admit it, it's obvious that Malfoy has changed a great deal, and Harry has to acknowledge that he knows nothing about who Malfoy became after he and Snape escaped into the night. Despite all his earlier resistance, Harry's beginning to think Tonks might be right.
Something keeps niggling at Harry's mind as he goes over yet again his only real conversation with Malfoy. For some reason the sentence Her father was killed a few months before she was born keeps replaying through his brain. And suddenly he recalls Tonks' words, If you look at the timeline, you'll find she wasn't born until a few months after Remus died. For a fleeting instant Harry entertains the idea that Malfoy could be raising Remus' daughter, but he discards it immediately. Remus would have made sure the mother was well protected by the Order if Shanti had been his.
However, Harry had been with the team that had found Remus' body after the Death Eaters had raided the supposedly safe meeting place. Feeling slightly ill even now, he knows he'll never forget finding the Muggle that was there as well. He'd obviously been tortured before being killed. At the time, he'd thought the young blond man had somehow been tragically caught in the crossfire despite the residual protection magic surrounding him. Now he wonders if it was Shanti's father who knowingly gave his life to allow time for his heavily pregnant lover to escape, leaving her in the guardianship of Malfoy who was much better equipped to deal with the danger that pursued them.
More than a month into the term, Shanti is still acting as Harry's shadow. And while Harry doesn't really mind per se, he knows Karen is distressed by the continued fear Shanti shows whenever she approaches. Shanti also seems to be having a bit of trouble integrating with as much ease as the other children in the class.
Wondering how he can help her, Harry quietly observes as Shanti unconsciously grasps her locket while she watches a few of the other girls playing with the wooden blocks. By now he expects the gesture whenever Shanti is unsure of herself.
"That locket's pretty special, huh?" Harry asks gently.
Shanti ducks her head with a murmured, "Yes, Sir."
"Did your mummy give it to you?"
A small nod.
Harry debates if he should push further. The necklace seems of great importance to the tiny girl, and his desperation for even a minor piece of the puzzle wins out. "Can we look inside?"
Shanti's eyes light at the prospect, yet there's an odd air of reluctance about her.
"Is there a picture of your mummy in there?" he tries.
Hesitantly, Shanti nods again.
Harry thinks of the photo album Hagrid made for him all those years ago. "Does it make you sad to look at her?"
When Shanti vigorously shakes her head no, Harry renews his efforts to persuade her to open the locket. Though he's reticent to do anything that might hurt the girl or cause her trouble with Malfoy or the other students, his request seems harmless enough. Finding something out about 'Rose' might be the break he's been looking for.
"Was she pretty?"
"Oh, yes." Harry's startled momentarily that of all the questions he's asked, this is the one that elicits a sure spoken answer.
Tapping her nose, he presses on. "As pretty as you?"
She's back to nodding, though this one is accompanied by a shy giggle.
"I find that hard to believe, you're awfully pretty," he says, and crows inwardly when Shanti opens the locket to prove her point. Looking eagerly at the photographs inside, Harry's unprepared for the emotions that wash over him.
In the left frame, sits a Muggle still of a young blond man, his eyes the colour of Shanti's. The thought that this could indeed be the same man Harry found after the raid flashes through his mind again and he feels sick with the knowledge. However, it's the Wizarding picture in the right frame that's shocked him so. The woman gazes adoringly at her Muggle companion in the opposite frame, smiling and blowing kisses. Harry wants to kick himself for not realising sooner who Shanti's mother is. As if 'Rose' wasn't clue enough.
The woman's image turns her attention to Harry and Pansy Parkinson winks at him.
Barely registering the sound of Apparition just outside the classroom door, it's still enough to cause Harry's training to kick in. He calmly closes the locket before any of the Muggles see something they shouldn't and is facing the door, Shanti behind him, wand palmed up his sleeve, as a visibly shaken Malfoy strides into the room. It's only then that it dawns on Harry that the locket must be charmed in some way, and that he and Shanti have inadvertently sent an alert to Malfoy. Perhaps Shanti's desire to show him the picture of her mum has allowed her innate magic to get into a locket that was spelled shut and would warn Malfoy if someone managed to open it. Harry notes that he'll have to keep an eye out to see if she performs any other accidental magic.
When Malfoy walks over, still obviously out of sorts, an unexpected wave of guilt sweeps through Harry at causing him unwarranted distress. Musing as to how Malfoy will explain his sudden presence, Harry finds himself wanting to help somehow.
"Mr. Catesby, we weren't expecting you this early. Does Shanti have a doctor's appointment you forgot to mention?"
Malfoy's eyes flick back and forth between Harry and Shanti, who's huddled close beside her teacher and his tense stance relaxes considerably. Harry's fairly sure that Malfoy's not fooled into thinking Harry believes the flimsy excuse he's come up with, but he takes the cue anyway. "Dentist. I forgot to put it on the calendar and just found the appointment card. Sorry for the abrupt arrival."
"Not to worry, things like this happen sometimes." Harry crouches down by Shanti. "You be a good girl for your uncle, and I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
Shanti nods, her eyes wide. Suddenly she flings her small arms around his neck in a quick hug before scurrying to take her uncle's hand. Malfoy looks as if he's about to say something more, but seems to think better of it. He searches Harry's eyes - for what, Harry can't hope to guess - before giving him small but genuine smile that causes Harry to forget how to breathe for a moment. With a slight incline of his head, Malfoy turns and leads Shanti towards the door.
The startling knowledge that of the dozen of times Harry's conversed with him, this is the first time he's actually seen Draco Malfoy, that all the other times he's been chatting with 'Robert Catesby', a persona that Malfoy wears like a comfortable suit, bowls through him. Watching the pair leave, Harry tries to ignore his awareness that, despite everything, he wants nothing so badly as to see Malfoy smile at him again.
Less than a week later, Karen approaches Harry during art time. "Have you seen the pictures Shanti's been drawing recently?" she asks in a rush, as if wary to bring it up. At Harry's negative gesture she continues. "Ever since we gave that assignment for the children to draw their families, she seems to be drawing various versions of the same scene over and over." Harry grimaces slightly at the mention of family, but Karen doesn't seem to notice. "At first glance, they seem to be typical pictures for a child her age, yet if you look more closely they seem a bit sinister. I can't explain why exactly." She laughs nervously. "I'm probably being overly concerned, but I was hoping you could talk to her about them."
"Of course," Harry responds immediately. "I'll go talk to her now." Berating himself for not having thought of looking for clues in Shanti's drawings earlier, Harry makes his way over to the corner where she sits absorbed in her latest creation. She's so intent on her colouring that Harry gets a chance to examine the page before she notices him.
Grateful he's had the moment to cover his shock, he manages a friendly smile when she turns to him. "Wow, this is really interesting, do you have any other pictures like this?" An absent-minded nod. "Could I see them?" As Shanti turns to collect the requested assignments Harry stares at the one she's been working on, a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
The illustration is a group of stick figures. Every one has that same simple smile: one stands to the side with a triangle skirt, and the smaller one next to her has yellow spirals for hair. There's one with square trousers who seems to be lying on the ground, and a fourth one who stands over him with a long rectangular dress and two large triangular sleeves. A Muggle looking at the drawing might think the looming figure is pointing at the man with an oversized finger. However, Harry knows it's a wand. It's not the child's version of the wizarding robes that draws Harry's eye to the central person. It's the long black hair with a distinct streak of white through it.
Harry would bet his last Galleon that he's looking at Shanti's depiction of her uncle being held under the Cruciatus Curse by none other than Bellatrix Lestrange.
Shanti carefully sets out her other drawings, and another piece of the puzzle clicks into place. While Harry can tell why Karen sees them as versions of the same thing - since all of them contain the same four people in varying, yet similar, positions - Harry's fairly sure they represent different moments of a horrifying memory. From what he can pick out, they illustrate a battle that ended in the death of both Pansy and Bellatrix. A part of him wonders what Malfoy did with Bellatrix' body.
"Sweetheart? Is this the black lady?" queries Harry gently. Shanti murmurs an affirmative sound. He doesn’t want to ask. "She had a stick like your uncle's and she used it to hurt your mummy, didn't she?" Shanti's eyes brim with tears. "Oh, sweetie, I know it must have been terribly frightening, but I'm sure your uncle's made sure she can never hurt anyone again."
Harry wants to gather Shanti in his arms and go to Malfoy and make sure that Bellatrix really is dead and that both Shanti and Malfoy are safe from any further terror on her part. He settles for putting his arm around the sniffing Shanti and working on an explanation to tell Karen about the drawings.
"Are you okay? You look a bit pale." Karen gives Harry a fortifying pat on the arm. "I know these school festivals can be a nuisance, but we needs the funds, the children enjoy it and it reassures the parents that we're treating their babes right. It's only for a one day anyway. Monday it'll be just us and the sprogs again and we can relax and have fun." Karen picks two delicious-looking homemade cakes off of the table. "Can you help me set up?"
They spend the next half-hour aiding the other teachers and organisers as they arrange the various stalls.
The whole time Harry frets.
After the last debriefing with Tonks, they'd come to the decision that Harry needs to try and get closer to Malfoy. Though Harry's discovered some key information, and Tonks is pursuing other connections to learn more about Pansy and how her known rebellion against Voldemort might strengthen their case, they both agree that they need more than a child's drawings to take before the Wizengamot. Besides, Harry wants to do everything in his power to protect Shanti from being used as a witness and being forced to answer questions about watching her mother be killed.
Harry isn't at all sure how he's supposed to get any useful information out of Malfoy. It's not as if Malfoy's likely to tell his daughter's Muggle teacher about how he defied a powerful dark wizard, or killed his Aunt after she had cast Avada Kedavra curse on his wife. However he never expected art time to be so fruitful either, so he's willing to try.
Besides, he has to grudgingly admit, if only to himself, that the more time he spends around Malfoy, the more time he wants to spend around him.
Contemplating how he's managed to get himself into such a fix, he leaves Karen to peddle the homemade treats to enthusiastic families and takes his place minding the secondhand bookstall.
It isn't long before he feels a tug on his sleeve and looks down to find a familiar blonde head.
"Hello, Shanti. What've you got there?" She holds up a book with a purple cover, adorned with a lady in a pointed hat riding a broom. "The Worst Witch, huh?" Harry comments, mind racing as to how to respond to this tiny witch among Muggles. He has no idea what Malfoy's told her about magic or Muggles or witches or brooms. He wonders idly what house she'll get sorted into once she reaches Hogwarts and if she'll be as good on a broom as her uncle. It hits him suddenly that Malfoy believes she'll never have those opportunities, that they've left all that behind and is curious as to how Malfoy can stand it.
Almost as if Harry's musings have conjured the man, Malfoy's soft voice asks, "You're not bothering Mr. Whitworth are you?"
"Never," Harry quickly replies. Grinning mischievously, he bends down to whisper loudly to Shanti. "If you smile nicely, maybe your uncle will buy you the book."
Malfoy sends him a mock-glower. "What’s the book, pumpkin?" Upon reading the title, his mouth quirks up into a grin. "Leave it to you to find that first thing." He ruffles her hair affectionately. "All right, give it here. But I have to look for my own books before we pay."
Malfoy peruses the other books with Shanti humming quietly beside him. Having no other customers and nowhere else he's supposed to be, Harry uses the chance to really look at Malfoy. He's wearing charcoal slacks and a light grey jumper that Harry can't help but think would bring out the natural colour of his eyes. He moves with the same easy grace that Harry remembers Lucius had, but without the arrogance that had spoilt the beauty of it.
Malfoy picks up a book to examine its contents and Harry's drawn to his slender hands. Suddenly he can see those same hands slicing potion ingredients with deft precision. And holding a wand aimed directly at him. It takes Malfoy's soft "Peter?" for Harry to realise the hand is now waving in front of his unseeing eyes.
"Oh! Sorry, I was just thinking about… um… the lesson plans for the next week. Are you ready?" At Malfoy's nod Harry tallies up the small pile of books, hiding his grin at Shanti's choice.
Malfoy collects their purchases. "Well, I promised this one we'd go do the treasure hunt. I guess I'll be seeing you later."
"Want to go out for coffee sometime?" Harry blurts then blushes furiously.
Malfoy looks surprised for an instant and then extremely pleased. "Yes, I'd like that very much. Maybe over next weekend? You could stop by the gallery and we'll find a café near?"
Harry tries to will the flush still burning on his cheeks to dissipate. "That would be nice."
"Great! I look forward to it," Malfoy's saying as Shanti drags him off towards the treasure hunt.
It's not a date, it's just for the case, Harry admonishes himself. But it doesn't matter; he can't keep the silly grin off his face.
Harry fears that the only thing he's really accomplishing with his continued association with 'Robert Catesby' is a growing desire to do things best not thought about whilst teaching small children.
Because while he's learning very little about what had happened during the war and subsequent years to Draco Malfoy, Harry's becoming quite addicted to the witty, charming, generous man Draco's become. Hoping Tonks' leads will be more successful, Harry tries vainly to pretend that Draco hasn't been flirting with him. Tells himself Draco was married. To a woman.
However, the more time they spend together, the more certain Harry is that it was a marriage in name only. That it was done for protection and disguise, and the love they shared was that of friends. 'Robert Catesby' might not be gay, but Harry's dead sure that Draco Malfoy is.
Knowing this is not helpful. Harry'd had a devil of a time concentrating at work today knowing that he'd be meeting Draco directly after class.
Currently they're chatting amiably at a quaint coffee shop in Mayfair near the gallery. Watching Draco take a sip of his mocha and then lick a stray bit of foam from the corner of his mouth, Harry's cognitive capabilities stutter to a stop. He's just imagining what it would be like to taste those inviting lips himself when he realises Draco's saying something to him. Scrambling to catch up with the words, the only one he really hears is the last.
Harry tenses, eyes wide, wand at the ready. "I'm sorry, what did you just say?"
Draco repeats himself, staring at Harry quizzically. "I was just asking if you're familiar with the early works of Beatrix Potter."
Feeling foolish, it's all Harry can do to keep from bursting out into hysterical laughter. "Can't say as I am," he finally manages.
"Are you all right?" Draco asks, his face suddenly unreadable.
Composing himself quickly Harry replies, "Yes, fine. Really. I just thought I'd heard… Never mind. You were saying? About Beatrix Potter?"
"Oh, yes. Everyone thinks she just drew rabbits. And she did, but she also drew other wonderful things, like flowers and plants and insects. Amazingly intricate and heaps of them."
Harry nods bemusedly, not sure where this is leading, but finding himself caught up in Draco's enthusiasm anyway.
"This new artist whose show I'm putting up next week adores her work and has patterned a lot of his own style after hers. He even has a few of her original pieces that he wants to hang with his show as a tribute." Draco stops and looks at Harry expectantly.
"Er, that's great, I guess," he says, grasping for whatever response Draco's hoping for.
"Of course it'll be great, it's going to be a exhibition at the illuminated illustration after all." Draco looks so smug, for a flash Harry sees his old nemesis, and then he's gone as Draco laughs. "You great git, the point is the artist draws for children's books. Just like Beatrix Potter did. I thought it would make for a brilliant class outing, you know to replace the museum trip that had to be cancelled."
"Oh! Oh, yes. That would be marvelous. We've been trying to find something to fill in. You're right this would be perfect. Thanks for offering, Robert. I really appreciate it," Harry gushes, meaning every word.
Draco's cheeks flush pink with pleasure and Harry has the sinking realisation that he's not going to make it out of this case with his heart intact.
Harry had fought with Tonks long and hard, but it hadn't made much difference in the end.
"We can't do this to him, we have no right."
Tonks had stared at him incredulously. "Harry, he's wanted by the Ministry. We not only have a right, we have a sworn duty."
Harry had opened his mouth to retort, but really, there was nothing to say. Nodding miserably, he'd slumped down in the chair, head in his hands. "They're both going to hate me."
Tonks' voice had softened. "The case is a good one. Malfoy will be acquitted, and he and Shanti can go on with their lives as they are, but with more possibilities. He'll understand why you did what you did."
"And he'll hate me. Promise me you'll do everything you can to not frighten Shanti."
"Of course, Harry. I would never -"
"And let me tell him before you take them."
"I don't know if we can risk him making a run for it."
Harry had looked up. "He won't. I know he won't. Besides, as long as you're between him and Shanti, you're fine. He won't go anywhere without her."
Tonks expression had been doubtful.
"Please, Tonks. If I'm going to lose them, at least let me tell him what I did."
Finally she'd agreed with a curt nod.
Harry paces backstage, the argument with Tonks replaying in his mind. It's an hour before the Nativity play the Key Stage 1 students are performing is due to start. Shanti's one of the shepherds. It's an hour and a Nativity play-length until the Aurors escort Draco and Shanti back to the Wizarding world for Draco to stand trial.
Wondering what in Merlin's name he's going to say to Draco, Harry's contemplating the suggestion that Tonks should talk to Draco instead - she's his cousin after all - when Shanti comes bounding towards him, an oddly shaped fluffy object in her grasp.
"Look, Mr. Whitworth, I've a sheep!" she bursts out.
"That you do." He crouches down to her level, choking back the sadness. "Why don't you introduce me to him." He's in no shape to process her excited chatter, but he gratefully lets it wash over him nonetheless.
When Draco joins them moments later, he clasps Harry's shoulder in greeting. The touch is brief, but Harry knows he'll remember the feeling that sweeps through him for a long time. Taking a deep breath, Harry pastes on a smile and stands.
"Hey there, I see you've met 'Sheep'," Draco laughs, his eyes sparkling with mirth. He's dressed casually but impeccably and Harry wants to memorise everything about how he looks tonight.
"Can we go somewhere to talk for a bit?" Harry asks nervously.
Draco's expression lights up. "I'd love to go somewhere to… talk," he says with an impish grin. "Shanti, I'll be back in a little bit, you'll be okay with the other shepherds, right?" At Shanti's enthusiastic nod, he turns his attention back to Harry. "Lead the way."
Heart beating double time, Harry ushers Draco toward a more deserted portion of the school and away from Shanti, betrayal burning in his stomach.
As the sound of children dims, Draco takes Harry's hand and edges closer, though still allowing Harry to take them a bit farther on. Knowing he can't keep walking forever, much as he'd like to, Harry stops and turns. Draco immediately pushes him up against the wall, hands framing his face.
As much as Harry longs be with Draco, to taste and hold him, he's unwilling to maintain the lie in order to have him. "Wait, Robert. We need to talk."
"All we've ever done is talk. Tired of talking." Harry shivers as Draco's thumb ghosts across his lower lip. "Want you to do other things with your mouth," he says leaning forward.
"Please." For a moment Harry's unsure if he's asking for Draco to stop or continue. But when Draco whispers, "Peter," Harry tries to twist away.
"Wait, I have to tell you -"
"Tell me later," Draco says and presses their lips together.
Both men moan at the contact and Draco moves impossibly closer, every touch needy and urgent and Harry can't help but respond with equal fervour. Draco leaves his mouth and begins a trail of searing kisses down Harry's neck, nipping at the pulse point when he reaches it.
No one has ever been able to ignite passion in him the way that Draco always has, no one. Harry's head is reeling, his breathing erratic and he doesn't want to stop to think let alone to talk, but he can't allow this to happen before Draco knows the truth. Besides, time is running out.
"No, Draco. Stop," Harry pleads, not realising he's said his given name until Draco freezes in his arms.
Calmly disentangling himself, Draco moves back. "Let me guess." His tone is guarded. "You were going to tell me you're a wizard."
Harry nods. "Yes." He almost chokes as he whispers, "And that I'm an Auror."
"Perfect, just perfect." The sneer of old is back and it makes Harry's heart ache. "The only thing that would top this would be for Potter to walk in." His voice is laden with anger and disgust, but it's the barest hint of fear leeching through that Harry hears.
"Wait, Rober- Dra- Malfoy, it's not what you think," Harry says in a rush, wanting to alleviate that fear. "I'm here to help prove you're innocent." He's tugging at the ring as he talks, angry with himself for allowing this to get so out of hand. He'd wanted to explain it all calmly and rationally. The ring finally slips off his finger and he hears Draco gasp.
The next instant his head's knocked aside from a stinging slap. "There's nothing innocent about me, Potter. Get out of my way, I'm leaving."
"You can't, I -" Harry starts.
Draco stands up straighter, looking for all the world like his dead father. "Do not try to tell me what I can and cannot do," he spits out.
As Draco goes to sweep past him, Harry says quietly, "Tonks'll take Shanti if you go back there without me."
Stopping abruptly, Draco turns disbelieving eyes on Harry. "You bastard."
Unable to handle the look of utter betrayal, Harry drops his gaze. "This place is crawling with Aurors," he explains tiredly. "After the Nativity play finishes they're going to accompany you and Shanti back to Hogwarts to stay while your name's being cleared. The school thinks you're taking Shanti out a few days early for holiday. Tonks has arranged for people to stand in for you at the gallery." He glances over at Draco, but he's staring straight ahead stonily. "Listen, I know you hate me right now, and I'm sorry for having deceived you, but we've put together a good case. What with Pansy being Shanti's mum and you having to fight and kill Bellatrix Lestrange, not to mention the code name, it should all be sorted in a few days, maybe even before Christmas."
Draco is staring at him in open-mouthed bewilderment. "How did you…"
"I did do more than admire your stunning arse during my time as Shanti's teacher," jokes Harry, promptly cursing his stupidity as Draco's jaw snaps shut and his fist clench. "Sorry, I just… " Harry rakes his hand through his hair. "Shanti draws a lot of pictures of the fight you and Pansy had with Lestrange. I recognised Lestrange because of her hair. She seems to be unique even in stick figures. The Ministry had been wondering why Bellatrix Lestrange stopped wreaking havoc. Others thought perhaps she'd just gone into hiding." Harry snorts at the thought. "I figured she must be dead, but never would have pegged you to be the one that killed her. Shows how little I knew." Harry knows he's rambling, but he can't seem to stop. He wishes Draco would speak or yell or fight or do anything to break his icy silence. "Come on, let's get you back to Shanti."
Harry slips the ring back on and escorts Draco with heavy steps.
"Thomas, so glad you could make it," Draco says, clapping Harry's old dorm-mate on the shoulder. "I've been wanting to invite you to one of these openings for simply ages, but self-preservation and all. I'm sure you understand." Dean smiles and nods. "Convenient to have that all cleared up now, I was having the damnedest time avoiding you."
Harry perks up at the last remark. Having seen neither Draco nor Shanti since the disaster at the Nativity play has left Harry miserable. He's found that, not only has he grown used to seeing them both every weekday, without them life has dulled considerably. He understands Draco's anger, knows it's completely justified, yet wants forgiveness all the same. Draco's not acknowledged Harry, not even looked at him once since Dean arrived with Harry tagging along as his guest to the invite-only New Years Eve Opening of the illuminated illustration's newest show. So Harry takes minor solace in the fact that perhaps Draco sees at least some benefit to Harry's actions.
The one plus side to being entirely ignored is that Harry feels no qualms about gazing his fill of his once enemy. Having been cleared by the Ministry (and given an Order of Merlin) due to Tonks' team's findings, Draco no longer has to worry about being recognised. He's stopped dying his hair, and removed the coloured contacts. Harry's been aware of how attracted he is to 'Robert Catesby' for some time now and part of him has believed that the alteration in Draco's appearance was one of the causes. However, now that Draco's returned to his natural look, Harry realises that's not the case, because while he thought him good looking before, quite frankly, now he finds him stunning.
"Potter, it's really very rude to stare."
Jolted out of his musings by Draco's words, Harry blushes and stammers, "I'm s-sorry, I- I mean it's just that you- I- I didn't mean-"
Dean places a calming hand on Harry, silencing him before drawing Draco's attention back to their conversation. "I'll call you about coffee. I'd love to do a show here, I'm sure we can work something out. We'll not keep you any longer, I can see that others want your attention." Dean proffers his hand, which Draco accepts. "Really nice to finally get to talk to you, Catesby," he finishes, lips quirking at the name.
Draco turns to greet someone else and Harry impulsively reaches out and grabs his wrist. "Dra- Robert, please. Five minutes." The glare that Draco levels on him after glancing at Harry's grip has Harry releasing him as if burned. Unwilling, unable to let it go, Harry whispers, "Please…" as Draco turns again to leave.
The quiet plea has an effect and the other man stops. "Later. After I've taken care of the gallery's guests. If it's that important, you'll be willing to stay." Without waiting for an answer, Draco strides off to greet an older couple who immediately start cooing over this latest artist.
For the next few hours Harry trails after Dean and tries his best to fit in. Though completely out of his element, he's grateful Dean was gracious enough to let him horn in on his invitation. If Draco gives him even a few moments, it will make all this nodding and smiling worth it.
As the evening wears on, the crowd starts to thin out a bit and with midnight approaching, Harry manages to catch Draco's eye.
"Still here are you? Fine. Have your say and then leave me be."
Harry gestures to a more secluded section of the gallery. "Perhaps we should move somewhere where we're less likely to be overheard."
"I'm fine right here, there's nothing I care to hear from you that needs privacy."
"I just want to apologise, explain why I did what I did, Draco."
Grabbing Harry roughly by the arm, Draco hauls him over to the corner he'd been indicating before. "There is no Draco. The Malfoy line is dead. I'm Robert Catesby," he hisses.
"That's not true. You're no more Robert Catesby than I am Peter Whitworth," responds Harry vehemently. "Robert Catesby is a very nice, rather good looking Muggle man with a beautiful daughter and a successful art gallery. I found him interesting and would certainly have gone out with him a time or two, maybe even tried for a bit of an actual relationship. But Draco Malfoy, Draco Malfoy is a powerful and talented wizard. He's adaptable, intelligent and loyal. He's raising his best friend's daughter as if she were his own. He's willing to risk his happiness, his security, his very life to do what he knows is the right course of action. He's also absolutely gorgeous. I'd give my eyeteeth to spend some time with him, even if it is only for a coffee. A man like Robert Catesby is a rare find, but there are others like him. I know with a certainty that there's no one else like Draco Malfoy."
Draco stares at him, then sighs, the anger seeming to drain out of him. "You should have told me, Harry. When you realised I'd been the spy, you should have come to me, given me a choice."
"You know I couldn't, I was following orders." Deep regret colours Harry's voice. "I fought with Tonks about it for simply ages. I did wring the promise from her that they wouldn't approach Shanti until you were with her."
"Oh, sure. Now you follow the rules." There's a hint of a smile. "What happened to all that reckless Gryffindor courage?"
"You could allow me a little slack, you know. I wasn't really at my best. After hunting you for eight years, intent on bringing your downfall, it took rather some getting used to to be forced to admit that not only weren't you evil incarnate, but that Draco Malfoy was the only man I could actually see myself with for more than a casual fling."
"Yes, well at least you knew who I was." Draco says with a self-depreciating grin. "Imagine my shock when I discovered that I hadn't finally found a Muggle I could love, but instead had fallen arse over tea kettle for the sodding Boy Who Lived."
"Hey, at least I'm one of the good guys."
"So? I'm one of the good guys, it's just not widely known."
Harry's relieved to see Draco give him a genuine smile. It gives him the courage to ask what he needs to know. "Listen, Draco, I know I really fucked up badly, but even you have to admit there were extenuating circumstances."
"Such big words, Harry," Draco interjects, but he's still smiling.
"Shush you, let me finish. I miss you and Shanti. Please tell me I've not lost the chance to be your friend. I mean there's no need to tell Shanti I was Peter. I can just start over with her, and… What?" Harry glares half-heartedly at a snickering Malfoy.
"Honestly, Potter, just because she's five, does not mean she's stupid."
Trying his best not to sound as desperate as he's feeling, Harry starts again. "I know that. I thought maybe…"
Draco stops him with a hand on his arm. "Harry, she knew you were a wizard the first time she met you, why did you think she expected you to have a wand?"
"Wait, if she knew, why were you so surprised?"
"Because I can't see magic the way she can, and she didn't tell me."
Harry stares at Draco, uncomprehending for a moment. "She can see magic?"
"Yeah." Draco's lips quirk into a half-smile. "She's never explained it in so many words. Thought everyone could do it." Draco shrugs helplessly. "She asked me about your ring. She's rather fond of it. Says it glows all pretty."
"Wow." Shaking his head in bewilderment, Harry murmurs, "Hermione will be dying to talk with her."
"Granger, huh?" Draco considers the prospect. "Hmmm, yes, I think I could allow that. Only Granger though, you'll see to that?"
Hope flares in Harry's chest. "You'd trust me to arrange it? Really?"
Draco snorts. "Because I'm a daft bugger, yes. I trust that you'll protect her and make sure it's only Granger."
"Does this mean you're going to give me another chance?" Knowing he might be pushing too hard doesn't mean Harry's able to refrain from asking. "Allow me to be your friend?"
"I don't think it's possible for us to be friends," replies Draco softly.
Harry feels like he's been punched. "Oh. I- I'd hoped- But, no, of course not. Silly really, I- I understand." Closing his eyes against the onslaught of emotion, he hopes Draco will leave soon since he can't seem to make his own legs work.
"No. No, I don't think you do." And then Draco's kissing him tenderly, hesitantly, almost as if he's asking permission.
Harry's breath catches in a sob as he returns the gentle pressure, winding his arms around Draco and pulling him close.
The kiss is everything and nothing like their first. The intense passion is there, but it's banked with the knowledge of who they are and what they've been through. There's a sweetness that comes with that understanding as well, and a tentative promise.
Almost overcome with the joy of finally having Draco in his arms, Harry's stunned when he realises Draco's trembling against him. With a choked moan, he deepens the kiss, running soothing hands up the other man's back. In response, Draco spears his fingers through Harry's hair, tilts his head farther and delves his tongue into Harry's mouth. Need rockets through Harry, erasing all else. His pelvis bucks forward without conscious thought, thrusting against Draco's.
The sound of several voices counting down from ten snaps Harry's awareness back to the gallery. Breaking the kiss, he gulps in a few lungfuls of air, trying desperately to rein in his desire.
Draco looks thoroughly debauched as he smiles at him lazily. "Happy New Years, Harry."
Even though he knows they need to rejoin the others, now that Harry's tasted Draco, he can't seem to stop. This would worry him if Draco didn't seem to be having the same difficulty. Draco's nose is once again buried under Harry's collar and he's laving a path along his clavicle.
"You know," gasps Harry, "they say that what you're doing at midnight on New Years foretells how the rest of your year will be spent."
Draco stops worshiping Harry's neck for long enough to smirk. "You wish, Potter."
Capturing Draco's face between his hands, Harry leans forwards and whispers against his lips, "With all my heart, Draco."