Title: Labour of Love
Summary:When unexpected events throw Draco and Harry's routine off its established track, they have to work hard to find a new way of fitting their lives together.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant? No.
Word Count: ~9,300
Author's Notes: Dear sassy_cissa, I really enjoyed writing this fic for you! I tried to include many of your prompts and preferences, including mpreg. Thank you to my wonderful betas for all their help and to the mods for such a great fest!
Disappointment rose in Draco when Harry wasn't there to meet him in their usual spot. He blinked a few times to shake off the last effects of Apparition and looked around the small grove of trees for a flash of Harry's blue coat, but the only thing he could see were the brightly coloured jackets of the Muggle children playing on the other side of the trees.
Maybe Harry was running late; he often liked to pick up ginger cake topped with lemon icing from the bakery down the road as a post-work treat. Draco closed his eyes and felt the setting sun on his face. It was getting stronger every day and even the wind, icy just a few weeks earlier, was starting to smell of spring, of new leaves and flowers and longer days.
After a few minutes Draco had to concede that Harry wasn't going to show up. Unwilling to endure Muggles giving him funny looks, Draco slid out of his green Healer robes and shrunk them to fit into his pocket. His jumper and scarf would have to be enough for the short walk to Harry's flat. And if he got cold on the way, he and Harry could find a way to warm up.
"Harry?" Draco called out when he let himself into the flat that they, for all intents and purposes, shared.
A peek into the living room revealed Harry asleep on the sofa, curled in on himself.
Draco shook his head. It hadn't been the first time he'd come home in recent weeks to find Harry sleeping in the middle of day. Or afternoon. Or early evening. "Harry."
Sleepy green eyes blinked up at him. "What—what are you doing here already?" Harry sat up and fumbled for his glasses.
"It's past five." Draco sat down on the coffee table.
"I'm sorry. I was so tired today and thought I might take a brief nap." Harry pulled his glasses off again to rub a hand across his face. "That was at three." He sighed.
"You've been tired a lot lately," Draco replied softly. They'd been at this point before—Draco observing that Harry looked exhausted, only to have Harry brush him off with an excuse.
Almost a concession. Interesting. "If you wanted, I could run a scan on you. Just a few standard diagnostic spells. Call it a perk of being with one of St. Mungo's best."
"Okay," Draco repeated, a little dumbfounded at Harry's quick agreement. He'd been ready to put down his foot about this after Harry had rejected his previous offers. Worry sparked in Draco—what if Harry had been experiencing symptoms other than fatigue? St. Mungo's had been busier than usual the past few weeks, especially with the new potions research Draco had started. But surely he would have noticed if Harry was genuinely sick?
"Do I need to do anything, or...?" Harry fidgeted a little.
"No, you're fine." Draco shook his wand out of the sleeve of his jumper. "You probably just need a bit of Pepper-Up with added vitamins."
Harry nodded, staring off to the side as Draco began casting spells. Nothing unusual came up until Draco checked Harry's magic levels. While they had always been somewhat out of the average range, they were spiking beyond what Draco knew to be normal for Harry.
"That frown can't mean anything good," Harry observed.
Draco inwardly reprimanded himself for letting a frown slip past his guard. He knew better than to allow a patient to see his immediate reactions. But Harry wasn't any other patient. "It's your magic. It's a little off. Nothing to worry about, I'm sure, considering that your magic has never stuck to anything close to normal levels."
Harry rolled his eyes, but seemed appeased.
Draco called up a spectrum analysis of Harry's magic to get a better sense of what might be causing the spike. "That's your magic," he explained to Harry as a rainbow-coloured band of light began to flutter in front of them. "See all the red there? That section is usually much smaller."
That was Harry's standard reply for, 'I have no idea what you're talking about, Draco, but I believe you.' Draco suppressed a smile. "Let's take a closer look at those reds." With a wave of his wand, the red section expanded. Draco peered closer at the different tones revealing themselves—carmine, magenta, fuchsia, burgundy. There was a strange shimmer to them, almost as if—Draco magnified the section even more. Yes. There were actually two bands of reds intertwining. The first one bright and strong; the second one almost translucent, but definitely visible.
Draco pulled back and swallowed.
"What is it?" Harry asked.
"Well," Draco began. "It's nothing alarming. As such. But I didn't think I'd see this kind of fluctuation in your magic."
Harry pushed his glasses farther up his nose. "Meaning?"
Draco met Harry's gaze. "I've only seen this in witches who are—" He paused. "Expecting."
Draco almost wanted to laugh at Harry's unsuspecting question. "Babies."
"Babies?" Harry blinked. "But—Draco, that's impossible."
"You should be the last person to say something's impossible where magic is concerned," Draco retorted. "But you're right, that is only the standard explanation. Considering it's your magic, Merlin knows what it might be."
"Right. Yeah." Harry tugged at the edge of his jumper. "But it could also be, well, the standard explanation?"
"Yes. Although I have no idea how we would have managed that without a potion or a spell."
"Knowing my luck, that wouldn't have mattered." Harry looked up at Draco with uncertainty in his eyes. "What if it's really...what if..."
Draco laid his hand over Harry's. "Then we'll be fine."
"C'mon, let's sit down here for a moment before going home." Draco nudged Harry into the direction of a bench. They had just Apparated back from a very discreet appointment with Hannah Abbott and Draco could tell that Harry's thoughts were racing.
They sat down. Draco leaned against the back of the bench, stretching out his legs. Harry remained seated near the edge of the wooden slats, clutching the pamphlets Hannah had given him. What to Expect When Your Wizard is Expecting was already a bit frayed around the edges while Top Ten Do's and Dont's for the Pregnant Witch and Wizard had a tear halfway down the front cover.
Draco knew that he needed to wait for Harry to start talking, but that didn't mean he had to sit idly by while Harry was tense as a bow beside him. Sliding his hand up Harry's back, he settled his fingers at his nape, stroking back and forth.
Harry's head dropped forward and he let out the breath he'd probably been holding since they left Hannah's practice. "Nine weeks, Draco," he mumbled.
"That's what she said."
"I don't know what to do now," Harry admitted.
Draco moved closer to Harry. "You'll get very round right about here," he gently poked Harry's ribs, "but I'll still love you loads, I promise."
Harry mustered a smile. "Be serious."
"I am." Draco waited until Harry's eyes had found his own. "You've wanted children, haven't you? I've seen you with Rose and Hugo. You adore them. And the kids in your flying lessons, too."
Harry's gaze drifted away. "This is different. And I don't even know—what do you think about all this?" The pamphlets in his hands were subjected to a new round of twisting.
The next words would be crucial, Draco realised, and as much as he disliked not being able to ponder carefully what he would say, he knew that Harry wanted his thoughts without any extravagant rhetorical wrapping. "It's certainly a surprise. And it'll be difficult—you heard what Hannah said. But it'll be worth it in the end. More than worth it."
Harry nodded slowly. "So much is going to change. I won't even be able to Apparate in another three weeks. What about my lessons? What is Molly going to do about that? We were going to have a little Quidditch tournament for her school in June, too. And how am I even going to leave the flat? Using glamours is a top ten 'don't' after six months, according to this." Harry held up the crumpled list.
Draco summoned the calm he'd learned to project while talking to patients and their families after a difficult diagnosis. He took Harry by the shoulders to make sure he had his full attention. "We'll figure this out. Together. You could use a Portkey—"
"Also not advisable after—"
"Yes, but it means you could hold your lessons for a few more weeks after you have to give up Apparition." Draco paused, aware that his next suggestion would not go over very well with Harry. "We could also temporarily move into my flat. It's hooked up to the Floo network, after all. Or you could consider having a Floo at yours."
"I'm not sure I want that," Harry replied quietly. "You've got a nice flat, but...."
But it was in a mostly Wizarding neighborhood and Harry enjoyed being able to walk down the street without being recognised. Draco imagined Harry would want that even more in the coming months and after the baby was born.
"There's still time to think about that," Draco said. He stood up and held out a hand to Harry. "For now, I think your lovely sofa is calling our name for nap."
Harry allowed himself to be pulled up. "I'm not really tired."
"Perhaps I am." Draco took Harry's hand as they started walking. "After all, I had that five o'clock wake-up call for an urgent case of scrofungulus."
"All right, I suppose I can indulge you."
Harry's smile was encouraging; it made Draco's heart feel lighter. "Ever the gracious one."
The Wizarding Wireless blared right into Draco's ear and he couldn't reach for his wand fast enough. Effective as it was for an alarm, Draco still hated being torn from deep sleep by an annoyingly chirpy Lavender Brown, the Wireless' "morning sensation."
Silence settled over the bedroom and Draco rolled over to bury his face between Harry's shoulder blades. Surely he didn't have to get up already, did he? Especially when Harry was so warm and inviting next to him.
Harry groaned—not the usual "it's too early" kind of groan, but more of a "the room is spinning" one.
Draco pushed himself up on one elbow and reached for Harry's forehead. No fever. "Everything all right?"
"No." Harry's hands were curled into the edge of the duvet, which he had pulled up to his chin.
Draco stroked Harry's side, down to his hip and back up. "Feeling sick again?"
Draco suppressed a sigh. After feeling fine for weeks, tiredness aside, Harry had been hit with all-day nausea last week. He deemed it punishment for gloating to Hermione that he'd almost made it through his first three months without any indication of morning sickness. A premature call, as it turned out.
"Hate this," Harry muttered.
Draco lay back down. "Me, too." He pulled Harry close. They could spare a few more minutes before getting up, especially because the soft rain that trickled down the windows made the morning seem more like March than May.
"You've got to get up, Draco. It's nearly seven already."
"You're evil," Draco groused.
Harry turned onto his back. "No, I just know you hate being late."
Draco took a good look at Harry. He looked pale and there were shadows under his eyes even though they both had got enough sleep. Or so he thought. "I hope you feel better than you look."
"That bad, huh?" Harry didn't wait for Draco to respond. "I don't think I can get over to Molly's today. Will you Floo her from Mungo's and tell her I won't be there today?"
Draco's chest tightened with a flurry of worry. Harry was going to take the children to see the Gryffindor v. Ravenclaw match at Hogwarts—a last big hurrah before the twelve-week Apparition cut-off date. "Of course."
"Thanks." Harry pushed at Draco. "You really need to get up now, Healer Malfoy."
Reluctantly, Draco sat up. "D'you want me to stay with you?"
"No. There are people who actually need your help. I don't need help lying in bed." Harry managed a small smile.
"All right. But call me if you start feeling worse." Draco had finally caved and learned how to use a mobile. He had even succeeded in charming it to still work at St. Mungo's.
Draco worked through a pile of patient charts in his office before heading down to his research lab, Harry's drawn face at the back of his mind the entire time.
One of the trainee Healers was presenting her required Potions research this morning, and while most of her work was good, Draco found himself unable to focus. After he had to ask Anna to state the results of her tests on a new variation of the standard Invigoration Draught for the third time, he decided it was utterly pointless.
"I'm sorry, Anna, I'm afraid we'll have to reschedule your presentation. I've a difficult case to handle and it's foremost in my mind at the moment."
Anna looked confused, but quickly said, "Of course, Healer Malfoy, I can present this again next week."
"Thank you." Draco gathered his quill and parchment. "I promise I won't be as scatterbrained then."
Stewart called out to Draco as he was hurrying down the hall.
"It's Harry, isn't it?"
Draco gave a curt nod. Stewart was one of a handful of people who knew about the pregnancy. "He hasn't been feeling well, and I suspect he's downright miserable today. He wouldn't say, of course. Ever the Gryffindor martyr."
Stewart saw right through his facade, of course. "Why don't you go home? Take a personal day."
It was tempting. Especially because he'd had the niggling feeling all morning that he shouldn't have listened to Harry about needing to go to work. What he really needed to do was to be at home. "If you'll cover for me?"
"Thank you." Unwilling to waste more time, Draco turned on the spot and Apparated.
The light rain from earlier had turned into a downpour. Draco's robes were drenched by the time he reached the flat, and he sent them straight to the bathroom to dry out.
Harry was still in bed, and still looked as pale as he had a few hours ago. Not caring about his clothes for once, Draco dropped his trousers and shirt on the floor before climbing in next to Harry.
Draco pressed himself close, trying to soak up some warmth. "Hey," he whispered.
"Hmm, Draco, what..." Harry mumbled as he woke from his dozing.
"Took the day off."
Draco gathered Harry into his arms. "Because I wanted to be here with you."
"Can take care of myself," Harry protested weakly.
"You can. But that doesn't mean you always have to."
Harry didn't reply, which Draco took as a concession. He drew the duvet a little tighter around the two of them and appreciated the rare opportunity for a lie-in. It was nice not having to deal with the usual weather-related emergencies—broken limbs, rain-repelling charms gone wrong and the like—and to be at home instead.
The fat drops splattering against the window lulled Draco's thoughts into a haze between waking and unconsciousness. Draco was about to tip over into sleep when Harry tensed against him.
"Merlin's balls," Harry bit out, struggling to get away from Draco.
Alarmed, Draco moved away, giving Harry room. "Talk to me."
Harry shifted until he was kneeling on the bed, hunched over, and head cradled on his arms. He groaned.
"Are you going to be sick?" Draco reached for his wand, ready to transfigure the glass on the bedside table into a bucket.
Harry shook his head.
"But it's nausea?"
"'s bad," Harry whispered.
Draco could see that. Harry was sucking in shallow breaths. His heart rate was most likely elevated, too. "Didn't you take any anti-nausea potion?"
Harry shook his head again. "Shouldn't."
"Harry," Draco replied sternly. "I realise you won't ever shake off those self-sacrificing ways, but you'd have to drink gallons of anti-nausea potion before it adversely affects the baby. Besides, the stress you're putting on your body trying to fight off the nausea is more harmful than a bit of potion."
"This'll pass. Soon."
Draco ignored Harry and summoned the flask from the bathroom. He measured ten drops into a glass of water. "All right, can you sit up?"
Harry slowly uncurled himself until he was mostly upright, kneeling next to Draco on the bed.
Draco passed the glass to him, holding on to it when he noticed that Harry's hands were shaking. "Bottoms up."
Harry managed most of the diluted potion before pushing the glass away. He pressed one hand over his mouth; the other fisted into Draco's T-shirt.
"The potion will kick in soon, I promise," Draco said. He rubbed the small of Harry's back in the hope that it might be soothing. "Brewed it myself."
After agonizing minutes, Harry slumped over against Draco. "There," Draco whispered. He held Harry close and brushed the damp fringe off his forehead. "All better now."
"Thanks. 'm glad you're here."
Me too, Draco added silently.
"I remember Hannah saying the nausea could become really bad, but I never imagined this," Harry observed. He sounded exhausted.
"Your magic is completely rearranging itself trying to support the baby. Not to mention the actual physical changes in your body. And considering we didn't plan this, you never had the chance to go through the potions regimen that wizards usually take to prepare their bodies for a pregnancy." Draco felt calmed by stating those facts. Explaining what was happening to people's physiology was familiar territory.
"Yeah. But no more shagging me after you've accidentally been doused with an experimental potion and haven't had the time to take a shower."
Harry was teasing, and Draco knew Harry didn't put any blame on him for what had happened, but he still beat himself up about his carelessness. He should have considered that Harry's magic was unpredictable, that anything was possible, before bending him over the kitchen table after a particularly long day in the Potions research lab.
"I'll promise to scrub myself from head to toe after each shift in the lab," Draco replied, matching Harry's tone.
"Good." Harry lay back down. He looked better; some colour had returned to his cheeks and he seemed to be more at ease overall.
"I'll make us a cup of tea if you think that'll agree with you?"
Harry nodded. "Tea would be fantastic."
As Draco walked towards the kitchen, he decided to request an Emergency Medical Portkey. There was always the possibility of something happening in the next few months that would require immediate transport to Mungo's, and considering Harry's refusal to have a Floo connection installed and the impossibility of Apparition, an EMP would be the safest option.
Relieved by the decision, Draco flicked his wand at the kettle and reached for the cupboard to pull out the tea pot and cups.
Summer sun stung Draco's eyes as he found his footing after Apparating to the Burrow. The light was much brighter here than in London, where it had been overcast. As it was Harry's last day before paternity leave, Draco had decided to surprise Harry by picking him up at the end of his lessons. Draco started walking towards the ramshackle house and squinted against the blue sky, trying to make out the figures zipping back and forth on brooms.
As he got closer, he could make out one flyer with unruly black hair. Oh, Harry hadn't. Annoyance prickled over Draco's skin and, storming into the Burrow's garden, he yelled out, "Harry! What the bloody fu—what on earth do you think you're doing?"
Apparently Harry was too high up to hear him because he started a steep dive. Draco was ready to hex him off that broom.
Molly poked her head out the back door. "Draco, dear, what is going on?"
Draco pointed up at Harry.
Molly's eyes narrowed. "HARRY JAMES POTTER, YOU WILL GET OFF THAT BROOM RIGHT THIS INSTANT!"
All brooms came to a stop and heads turned in Molly and Draco's direction. Harry's included.
Once Harry was safely back on the ground, he mumbled, "Umm, I didn't see you there."
Draco barely held back the many, many inappropriate expressions that came to his mind for the sake of the children who were beginning to land around them. But his frosty glare had communicated his anger quite effectively if Harry's slumping shoulders were any indication.
"Harry, really, was that necessary?" Molly asked with a disapproving shake of her head. "I'm sure you and Draco have things to talk about." She began herding the children toward the back door. "Come on, everyone, I believe there's some cold pumpkin juice waiting for you."
Draco took Harry's arm and led him out of earshot. Once they were a good twenty yards away, he grasped Harry's shoulders. "What the bloody fuck were you thinking? You are sixteen weeks pregnant and you are playing Quidditch?"
Harry huffed. "I was being careful."
Draco hated it when Harry was unreasonable. "If you're playing with children who can barely steer a broom, it doesn't matter that you're the one who's careful! And I can't believe you let them use real Quaffles. Do you have any idea what would happen if one of them hit you with that?"
Staring defiantly back at Draco, Harry countered, "I'm not an invalid just because I'm pregnant! I can actually do things and be fine. This is my last day here and I wanted to enjoy it! Is that so difficult to understand?"
"No! But that doesn't mean you have to show off and possibly drive your broom straight into the ground!"
"I wasn't doing any of that! I was in complete control of my broom!" Harry's fists clenched tightly at his sides.
"Complete control? You could have easily—" When Draco noticed that he'd begun pushing at Harry's shoulders, he halted. They needed to stop, or they'd be wrestling on the ground within the next twenty seconds. He took a deep breath. And then another one. "I know you're a good flyer. Excellent, even. But you've got to look out not only for yourself, but for someone else." Draco glanced at the bump that had become rather noticeable recently.
Harry turned out of Draco's hold, facing away from him. He sighed. "It's just that—that now that I finally feel well again, I don't want to have to think about being careful and watching out every single minute. There's so much I can't do already and—never mind."
Draco's anger threatened to flare up again. "And what?"
Much quieter than before, Harry said, "And flying makes me forget all of that. It's been a brilliant day, Draco."
One day, Harry would drive Draco spare with his ability to be infuriating and lovable at the same time. The month during which Harry had been sick almost all day every day had been hard on both of them, and it had been wonderful when, one morning about a week ago, Harry had woken up without any nausea. But it seemed as if all the energy Harry had lacked the month prior had been stored up somewhere and now he was bursting with it. The limitations placed on him—no Apparition, and, after today, no more Portkeying as well as a restriction on certain difficult spells—were doubly difficult to bear.
"You can still fly," Draco said. "But closer to the ground and not near children with heavy, blunt objects."
"Right." Harry kicked at a fallen branch.
"It's only for a few more months." Draco stepped up behind Harry and settled his hands on Harry's hips. He could understand Harry's frustrations, certain that he'd feel similarly if he was the one whose life was suddenly guided by the needs of someone else. "You nearly gave me a heart attack with that dive."
Harry leaned back against him. "Sorry. Didn't mean to worry you."
Draco swallowed his overly soppy reply of how he'd worry regardless. He wrapped his arms around Harry instead. He could tell when calm had replaced the last bit of anger and annoyance in both of them. Their bodies slotted into place, a fit brought about through years of togetherness.
Harry felt sun-warm against Draco. The tips of his hair curled at his nape, slightly damp from the recent exertion. A flush stained his cheeks. The deep pink was a marked contrast against skin too pale for July. Draco leaned forward to press two wet kisses there, smiling when Harry tried to squirm away. But Draco had a fast hold on him and continued to kiss his cheek, then his neck. Harry finally had enough and turned around, nuzzling along Draco's jaw before kissing him within an inch of his life.
Breathless, Draco whispered, "Home. Now. Portkey's in my pocket."
Harry grinned as he took way too long to find said Portkey, and then held Draco close as the world began spinning around them.
"Make the baby kick again, Uncle Harry!" Rose whined, both of her hands on Harry's belly.
Harry laughed. "I have no influence over her, I'm afraid."
Draco watched the two of them from the doorway of Ron and Hermione's living room. Rose had been glued to Harry's side ever since he and Draco had arrived for tea. Harry had been far more patient than Draco would have been, answering innumerable questions about the baby. Fortunately, Hugo was enthralled by his new toy train, or Harry would have had two inquisitive toddlers on his hands.
"Did you and Uncle Draco make the baby?" Rose asked.
"Umm, Rose, I, ahh—"
Draco congratulated himself on picking just the right time for returning from a quick trip to the loo.
"Mummy says that she and Daddy made me and Hugo because they really love each other, and you love Uncle Draco, so is that why you made the baby?" Rose looked up at Harry expectantly.
Draco was about to intervene when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Tea's just about ready," Hermione announced.
"Oh, good." Draco nodded in Harry's direction. "Harry's in need of a break from your frighteningly articulate daughter."
"He'll need to learn how to handle these kinds of questions," Hermione replied. "And from the looks of it, he's been giving her the right answers."
Draco smiled fondly. "He's been holding his own, yes."
"How have you two been? I haven't seen either of you in ages."
Draco's smile widened as he thought back over the summer months. Harry had taken a liking to walking all over Muggle London to work off some of the seemingly endless energy he had, and while Draco had complained at first, he'd started to enjoy their daily walks. And then there was the shagging. Loads of it. Which he wasn't going to tell Hermione. "We've been well. Busy."
"I see." The expression on Hermione's face was far too knowing.
"Sometimes, though..." Draco began, but then thought better of it. He might have become friends with Hermione over the years, but he still didn't feel entirely comfortable sharing details about his life with Harry.
"Sometimes what? There haven't been any complications, have there?"
On the other hand, she was one of the people who had known Harry the longest. She might have insights that Draco didn't have. "No, nothing as far as his health is concerned."
A frown formed on Hermione's face. "Then what?"
"Well, Harry has a tendency to brood, as I'm sure you're aware." Hermione nodded. "Recently, there have been a few times when I've noticed Harry staring into space, but as soon as he notices me, he'll be almost forcefully cheerful."
"Have you asked him what's on his mind?"
"Not yet. In my experience it's better to wait until Harry starts talking about what's bothering him."
Hermione crossed her arms. "You may be waiting a really long time in that case. Harry's rather good at keeping things bottled up."
"He is, but—"
Rose's loud squeal interrupted him. "She's doing it again! Wow, she's kicking a lot!"
"Excuse me," Draco said to Hermione, "I can't let your daughter have all the fun around here."
"Talk to him," Hermione urged as Draco crossed into the room.
"All in good time."
When Draco returned home from an unplanned double shift on a dreary October evening, he found Harry sitting on the sofa, playing with the floppy ears of a yellow plush bunny that was perched on top of his belly. The telly was on, but the volume was too low to make out anything.
"You're home," Harry said, sounding distracted. He kept fidgeting with the bunny.
"Potion and Plant was an absolute madhouse today." Draco had explained the situation to Harry on the phone earlier, but he felt the need to repeat it, in part to stifle his own guilt for having been gone for so long.
"You don't have to apologise. It's your job to be there when so many people are sick." Harry sounded earnest, but the look in his eyes said something else.
Draco skimmed his fingers across Harry's cheek and kissed him on the lips. "I've tomorrow off as compensation. Who is this?" He pointed at the bunny.
"Oh, erm, Hermione sent it. Apparently, Rose picked it out and insisted that the baby needed it." Harry's expression brightened.
"Very thoughtful." Draco sat down on the coffee table and pulled Harry's feet into his lap. He kneaded his thumbs into sock-clad soles and smiled when Harry let out a pleasurable groan.
"Hmm, yeah, that's—ohhh."
Draco laughed. "I didn't realise your feet were that sensitive, Potter."
"They are now, believe me. Merlin, that feels amazing." Harry's eyes closed.
"I'm glad. How's your back?" It was good to see Harry so relaxed. The strain of advanced pregnancy was making itself known more and more and Draco tried to ease Harry's discomfort as much as possible.
"Awful. So tense you could probably chop wood on it."
"Did you try a localised warming charm?"
Harry shrugged. He opened his eyes again. "Didn't help much."
Draco leaned forward and placed one hand on Harry's belly. "So small and yet such a big troublemaker already." He felt a roll under his palm. "You're clearly taking after the Potter side of the family."
Harry's hand closed over Draco's. "Hey now, the Malfoys don't have an entirely unblemished history, either."
Harry linked their fingers. "Can I—can I ask you something?"
"Do you think we'll be good parents?"
Draco's instinct was to evade Harry's firm gaze to buy himself more time and to find just the right words, but he didn't want to give off the impression that he wanted to avoid the question. "I believe so, yes."
Harry tugged on Draco's hand. Following the silent plea, Draco settled himself on the sofa next to Harry.
"Sometimes I'm not so sure," Harry admitted. "About me, not about you. You'll be a wonderful father," he added quickly. "But I have no idea what that means."
Draco suspected that all the brooding in recent weeks had swirled around that concern. Of course Draco had asked himself the same question, but perhaps he had a more pragmatic approach—or better repression skills—and had decided he and Harry would figure it out together.
Letting his head drop onto Harry's shoulder, Draco said, "I'm not sure I have a better idea. My father wasn't exactly the ideal role model."
"But he loved you," Harry replied softly.
That he had. Even when barmy in old age, Draco's father had loved him. "And you'll love our little girl. You already do." Draco could see the corners of Harry's mouth lifting.
"Yeah," Harry whispered. "I do."
"I really want lemon sorbet." Harry wiggled his toes against Draco's thigh, nearly dislodging the stack of parchments on his lap.
"There's some in the fridge," Draco answered distractedly. He patted Harry's ankles. "The ten steps into the kitchen won't kill you."
"We're out of sorbet. I had the last serving of it after lunch. I even scraped the lining of the container."
Why was Arabella Hutchinson still in Potion and Plant Poisoning? Wasn't she supposed to have been released? Draco made a note in the margins to double-check with her Healer in the morning. "Uhuh."
"We could always go to Tesco Express." Harry poked Draco's thigh with his big toe.
Draco lowered his file. "You're bored, aren't you?"
"Maybe a little bit. But mostly I want sorbet."
Draco didn't fancy going out at night when icy winds were sweeping down the street, but as per usual, he found it difficult to say no to Harry. "All right." At least Tesco was just around the corner. "But you will wear both a scarf and a hat. Don't need you catching a cold."
"Yes, mum." Harry held out both his hands to Draco. "Help me up?"
Draco stood and pulled Harry off the sofa. He couldn't resist giving the belly a brief rub as Harry was stretching his arms over his head to work out the ever-present kinks in his back.
"You're besotted with her already," Harry observed with amusement.
"So are you. We've every right to be." Draco watched as Harry cast a glamour over himself. It would be fine for the quick trip to the shop, and at almost eight months, he was too large to pass his belly off as "one pint too many." Draco thought that even Muggles wouldn't be able to deny that Harry was pregnant. It secretly sent a thrill through him. A few more weeks and and he'd meet his daughter.
"Draco, come on," Harry wheedled from next to the door, already dressed in his heavy coat, scarf and hat.
Draco rolled his eyes but hurried to follow suit.
Maybe if Draco hadn't been so intently focused on the decision between coffee crunch and chocolate ice cream, he could have done something to prevent this. Or maybe there wasn't anything he could have done. All he could recall later was how fast it happened.
There was a loud crash accompanied by squealing wheels and loud cursing. Draco turned his head in time to see a woman trip, her fully loaded trolley slipping out of her hands to hit Harry's hip. Jerking forward, Harry lost his balance and fell against a shelf stacked with tins of fruit and treacle. Harry's fingers scrabbled for a hold on the shelf, but without any luck. They lost their grasp and Harry fell to the floor, landing on his side. Dislodged tins rained down on him, seemingly bouncing off air, but Draco knew they'd hit Harry's belly. Hard. Too hard.
Draco was by Harry's side in an instant, pushing away the Muggle woman whose trolley was the source of everything that had happened. "Harry!" Draco knelt down beside him, shaking his wand out of his coat sleeve. Harry's eyes were squeezed shut, his mouth a thin line of lips pressed together. A few whimpers slipped past them, but he seemed to be in so much pain that he couldn't even vocalize it. His entire body had locked up.
"Is he all right? Do you need any help?" The woman asked, peering over Draco's shoulder.
"I'm a Hea—a doctor. Please step back," Draco grit out. He had to assess the damage right away. Then take Harry to St. Mungo's as quickly as he could.
"I think he might need an ambulance," the Muggle said.
"Why don't you call one," Draco replied curtly, certain he would hex her if she stood next to him for another moment. As soon as the woman began to rummage through her bag, he cast a strong Notice-Me-Not charm combined with a Confundus around himself and Harry. It worked; the woman seemed disoriented, then walked away.
The air around Harry shimmered, then the glamour fell away.
"Fuck," Draco muttered. If all of Harry's magic was being corralled to protect the baby, then the situation was severe. Draco decided against the diagnostic charm; he could save that half minute in favour of Portkeying them to Mungo's. Rifling through his pockets with one hand, he used his other hand to gently smooth down Harry's hair. "It'll be all right, Harry, just lie still, we'll be getting help in a moment."
Where was the fucking Portkey? Draco patted down his trouser pockets when he suddenly remembered that he had never changed out of his work clothes that evening and that the Portkey was still in the jeans he'd worn yesterday.
For a moment Draco considered the option of making a new Portkey, but looking down on his shaking wand hand, he dismissed it. He'd never be able to focus enough for such a complex spell. What was he supposed to do now? He couldn't Apparate them out of here. Even the smooth Apparition techniques taught to Healers for emergencies were out of the question considering that Harry's placenta might have been ruptured.
"Draco," Harry whispered in a broken voice.
"Shhh." Draco couldn't speak; the tightness in his throat didn't allow for it. He clasped Harry's hand tightly. When he tugged Harry's coat more firmly around his side, something clattered out of his pocket and onto the floor.
Harry's mobile. Of course! Draco grasped it and dialed Hermione's number with jittery fingers.
"Hermione, Harry's had an accident. He needs to go to Mungo's right away, but I left the Emergency Portkey in our flat. You need to either Apparate to Harry's and get the Portkey, or..."
"I've an EMP as well. Ron and I requested one after Rose was born. Where are you?"
Draco appreciated Hermione's quick thinking. "Tesco's, down the road from the flat. D'you know—"
"Yes." She hung up.
Less than three minutes went by before Hermione came rushing down the aisle towards them, but to Draco they had seemed endless. He took down the Notice-Me-Not charm and reached for the wooden spoon Hermione was holding out to him, folding his and Harry's hands around it. He closed his eyes as the Portkey took them away.
The hours that followed were among the darkest in Draco's life.
It was past three o'clock in the morning when Draco made his way down a corridor in the Paternity ward. He hesitated only a moment outside Harry's room, then opened the door. A small lamp on the bedside table emitted a soft yellow glow that illuminated the bed. As Draco had expected, Harry was asleep. Most likely, Harry wouldn't even wake up during Draco's visit, but that didn't matter. All Draco wanted was to sit with Harry for a little while when everything was quiet around them, so different from the frantic yelling and hurried instructions of a few hours ago.
Draco sat down on the edge of the bed. Harry was lying on his side, looking pale and fragile, but breathing evenly. Draco's hand trembled when he rested it over the swell of Harry's belly. They had both fought so very hard for their daughter tonight, and they had won.
The tears that Draco had held back all night finally overwhelmed him. He pressed a hand over his eyes and stifled his sobs into harsh breaths, but he couldn't hold them back any longer. He'd been so worried for Harry and the baby as he'd stood and watched St. Mungo's paternity specialists work on them, casting spells and weaving charms.
Fingers closed around Draco's hand, squeezing firmly. Startled, Draco blinked and wiped at the corners of his eyes. Harry looked up at him with worry. "Everything's fine," Draco whispered. "Don't mind me. Didn't expect you to wake up."
"Is it that bad?"
Draco shook his head. "No, Harry. It was, but..." He halted, his voice wobbling again. "But you're all right. She is, too."
"She's moving. That's what woke me up, I think. It feels different than usually, so I thought that maybe—maybe something was wrong."
"It was touch and go for a while." Draco didn't know how much Harry had been told.
"Lie down with me?" Harry asked. "Or do you have to leave?"
Draco shrugged out of his robes. "I can stay." Even if it was probably better for Harry to get as much sleep as possible, Draco was glad that he was awake. Harry had seemed so far away the past few hours and there had been moments when Draco had feared Harry was slipping away from him for good. He lay down next to Harry, facing him. Exhaustion washed over Draco and he struggled to keep his eyes open. He allowed them to close, content to have Harry within reach.
"Can you tell me what happened? I remember something hitting me, but after that I don't remember much."
Draco felt Harry's fingers on his face as they gently wiped away the lingering wetness on his cheeks. It was such a small touch, but it made Draco's entire body tingle, keen with the awareness of how valuable even such simple gestures were.
"You fell. And there were some rather heavy tins that hit you. Your magic buffered some of the impact, but not all of it." Draco concentrated on the steady brush of Harry's fingertips against his skin. "There was a tear in your placenta, which caused internal bleeding and some rather severe contractions. We managed to repair that, but the contractions continued. The baby—she was under a lot of stress and some of the Healers thought it would be best to deliver her."
Harry inhaled sharply.
"But because she was already so distressed, they weren't sure that—that she'd make it through that." Draco's voice dropped to a whisper. "I may have been very insistent that they try another round of potions first."
"By 'very insistent,' do you mean 'threatened to hex their balls off'?"
"Something like that." Harry's quip was reassuring; he couldn't be in too much pain if he was teasing. "In any case, the higher dosage of potions eventually stopped the contractions."
"What happens now?"
Draco opened his eyes to look back at Harry. "You will be resting a lot. And only get up for the loo, or to move between the bed and the sofa."
Harry nodded. "Sounds doable."
"I'm sorry. I know you haven't been happy being so confined, and now—"
Harry quickly interrupted him. "It doesn't matter. She needs to be safe."
"I've already asked for reduced hours, so you'll have to put up with me as well, I'm afraid."
Harry's gaze softened. "You don't have to."
"I do. For my own peace of mind, Harry." Draco knew it would take a long time to forgive himself for forgetting the Portkey. He wasn't going to take any more chances during the next few weeks.
"Hmm, okay." Harry yawned.
"All right, that's our cue to go to sleep, I believe." He carefully wrapped his arm around Harry.
The last words Draco heard before falling asleep were, "Thank you for saving us."
"Draco, could you come here for a moment?" Harry's voice rang out from down the hall.
"Be right there," Draco replied. He directed used mugs and plates into the sink. They were remainders of yet another round of visitors. In the past few weeks, people had dropped by almost every other day. While Draco's nerves strained under the seemingly endless parade of overly earnest Gryffindors and other do-gooders, he knew it was preventing Harry from going spare. Today, it had been Loony Lovegood and Longbottom, who had left only thirty minutes earlier. At least they'd had the decency to bring an assortment of Honeydukes' finest chocolate.
With a last flick of his wand, Draco started the scrubbing charm and left the kitchen.
"Sit," Harry ordered as Draco entered the living room. He was fidgeting with a book and had that determined look on his face that meant Draco might not like whatever Harry was about to say.
Draco did as he was told, stealing a bit of the blanket that Harry had tucked around himself. "Please tell me you didn't fall in love with Lovegood's book on naming your baby after magical creatures."
Harry looked disturbed. "Erm. No. But I did find something in one of the books Hermione brought over."
"The book is on bond magic and there's a chapter on bonds between parents and children." Harry opened the book and handed it to Draco. "What do you think about this one?"
Draco quickly scanned the page, his heart beating faster as he read. The ritual was powerful—anchored in winter solstice and only feasible during the first year of a child's life. "This is a very strong bond," he observed quietly.
Harry looked back at him steadily. "Yes."
"It would bind our magic to her."
Harry nodded. "And your magic to mine."
Draco understood why Harry had been nervous to bring this up. This wasn't the kind of magic you did on a whim or could easily undo. It was very precise and aimed at permanence. "Are you sure about this?"
"Very," Harry replied. "And you should read this carefully, too, to know all the details, before you make a decision, but I thought I'd ask if you'd...well, if you're willing to consider this."
"I am." While the request was sudden, it didn't surprise Draco that Harry had read up on protection rituals. Ever since the Tesco incident, they had both done what they could to make sure their child was doing fine. Harry had settled into his new routine with a minimum of fuss, and Draco checked their daughters' vitals every day (more than once a day if he could discreetly get away with it). It surprised Draco a bit more that Harry had chosen this particular ritual that would bind them not only to their daughter, but to each other. "Did you choose the solstice rites because they are among the strongest?"
"Yeah. But also because...because I like the idea of that connection between us." Harry's fingers danced over the back of Draco's hand before closing over it.
"I like that, too," Draco whispered against Harry's lips, kissing away whatever reply Harry might have come up with and finding words wholly unnecessary to affirm their decision.
The week after, Harry was so crabby one morning that it almost made Draco reconsider the whole bonding business. Harry had woken up in mood and had started to complain about his back almost immediately. By lunchtime, Harry was so restless, getting up for the loo every twenty minutes, that Draco wanted to cast a Sticking Charm on him. In order to stifle that desire, Draco sequestered himself in the kitchen, door firmly closed.
When the handle creaked and Harry stuck his head in, Draco drew in a breath to dismiss him, but let it out when he saw how pale Harry was.
"I think I'm in labour," Harry said. "That backpain—it's getting worse, and I read—"
Shit, yes. How could Draco not have recognised this? "Let me see." Draco guided Harry to one of the chairs around their kitchen table. A quick diagnostic charm revealed that Harry was right. "I should have caught this earlier. I'm sorry."
"That doesn't matter now, does it?" He sucked in a breath. "Oh, this, fuck, this is really unpleasant."
"Just be glad that you aren't delivering the baby the natural way."
Harry's eyes widened.
Draco reached into his pocket and retrieved the Emergency Portkey. "Here. I'll get your bag and then we're off." He bent down to kiss Harry's cheek. "Everything will be fine."
Everything after their arrival at St. Mungo's was a bit of an excited blur in Draco's mind. Hannah had taken them to a delivery room, Stewart had brought the potions Draco had brewed specially for this day and Harry had drunk them down without complaint. Shortly after, the surgical team had arrived and before Draco had really processed everything that was happening around them, a squirming and screaming little thing had been laid on Harry's chest, covered in blood and gunk and looking thoroughly unappealing, really.
Nevertheless, Draco had wept openly in front of almost his entire staff and didn't regret it one bit.
"Are you sure she isn't cold? Maybe we should have put her in that little fur coat that Pansy sent." Draco tried to glance into the sling that Harry was using to carry their daughter.
"She's fine. The warming charm on her clothes is almost making me break out into a sweat," Harry replied.
"All right." Draco knew he was channeling his nerves over the impeding ritual into concern for the baby, but he couldn't quite help himself.
He'd been fine until they stepped through the gates at Hogwarts. A wave of jittery anticipation swept over him and he didn't seem able to shake it as they walked across the snow-covered grounds toward the lake. They'd decided on Hogwarts as site for the bonding because of the strong natural magic there. Draco thought Harry also had more sentimental reasons, but he hadn't asked.
"Here we are," Harry said when they reached the shore.
The setting sun bathed everything in light blues and pinks. The sky was so washed out from the frost that it almost appeared hazy. Draco set out the three candles they had brought, patting down the snow around them to make sure they wouldn't topple over. A quick swish of his wand lit all of them at once.
"Won't be long now," he said. They would start once the sun had disappeared behind the horizon. He stepped closer to Harry. "Let's get her ready."
Harry carefully extricated her from the sling, but she woke up nevertheless. She was such a light sleeper, but fortunately not a screamer. As Harry settled her in the crook of his right arm, she looked up at him and waved her tiny mitten-covered fists. Draco wound his arm around her other side, between her body and Harry's chest until she was cradled between them, her weight supported by both his and Harry's arms.
Harry gave an approving nod. His eyes were a vivid green in the pale light around them and there was a healthy flush on his cheeks. If Draco hadn't already fallen for Harry years ago, he would have in this moment.
As the sun disappeared, a path of golden light extended across the lake toward them. "It's time," Draco whispered. He drew his wand.
Harry held out his free hand, palm up. "Go on."
Draco gathered himself before drawing a rune across Harry's skin. It shimmered for a moment before being absorbed. "Feels warm," Harry mumbled. He took the wand from Draco and inscribed the same rune into Draco's palm.
The magic seeped into Draco's skin and tingled up his arm to his chest. His fingers closed over Harry's and together they drew another rune into the air just above their daughter's chest. They let Draco's wand slip into the snow. Capturing the hovering rune between their hands, they pressed down until their palms touched the small body under them.
Harry spoke first. "Rosalind Malfoy-Potter, I am your father and I promise to protect you."
The warmth between their hands intensified. It was Draco's turn. "Rosalind Malfoy-Potter, I am your father and I promise to protect you."
They uttered the next part together. "Rosalind, we are your parents and we will love and guide you on your journey."
The heat that had been building between their hands swept over into their little girl, who was looking up at them with her blue-grey eyes.
There was one more thing left to say. Draco had suggested that Harry should take on this last part, and he had agreed without hesitation.
Harry's voice was strong and clear. "Rosalind, welcome to this world. We thank you for choosing us to be part of your life."
As Harry finished, the golden light had reached the shore and spilled over them. Draco was keenly aware of Harry, not only as the man standing opposite him, but as part of himself. He felt as his magic wove around this new but familiar presence. Then there was something else—another piece he didn't know but that felt full of possibilities.
Harry's breath caught. "I think that's her."
Draco nodded. "Her magic."
"It's so distinct already." Harry sounded awed.
"She'll be a handful." Draco studied Rosalind as her eyelids drooped and admired the fine brows that he thought might be Harry's and the little nose which he felt might turned out like his.
They stood silently together until the light around them had faded first into orange, then into the purple-blue of dusk. When Draco let go of Harry's hand, he felt some of the connection ebb away, but he could still tell that he carried parts of Harry and Rosalind within him.
Draco bent down and picked up his wand, casting Lumos to light their way back to the gates. He watched as Harry settled Rosalind back into the sling. "Ready?"
Harry smiled and took Draco's hand. "Yeah, let's go home."