Title: Life Isn’t a Fairy Tale - Part 1/2
Pairing(s) : Harry/Draco, brief Ron/Hermione
Summary: Harry is in dire need of a life, so he heads off to America and the Salem Institute in the hopes of finding one.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): MPreg, torture, horror – all in the past tense
Word Count: 20,092
Author's Notes: I’ve tried to use some of Hannah’s favorite tried and true clichés, but in a new and interesting way. Many, many thanks to jamie2109 for her outstanding, superhuman beta skills, as well as her encouragement, support and friendship. She and nqdonne have done a great job with hd_holidays, so give a round of applause for both of them!
“Do you have everything, Harry?” Hermione asked for the seventh time in the last five minutes. “Did you remember to pack that book list I made for you, the one with the names and addresses of the local bookshops closest to campus?”
“Yes, Hermione,” Harry sighed. He was really going to miss her, but it drove him crazy when the woman acted like he was a kindergartener who needed his name pinned to his jumper before being allowed out into the world.
“Hermione, you practically packed for him, so I’m sure he has everything. Besides, if he needs something, it gives us an excuse to go over and visit him,” Ron said, smiling from his position in the doorway. Leaning heavily on his cane, he limped across the room and pulled his wife away from their best friend, as she was now trying to smooth Harry’s still untamable hair.
Harry hated that cane, but he loved Ron all the more because of it. During their quest to find and destroy all of the Horcruxes, Ron had once again sacrificed himself for the greater good, just like with McGonagall’s chessboard all those years ago. Healers were able to repair much of the damage he sustained during the capture of Hufflepuff’s cup, but some of the curses were too powerful and obscure for them to reverse. As a result he had to give up his dream to join the Auror corps with Harry, but after the war he had found his niche as an assistant coach to his beloved Chudley Cannons. Harry still felt guilty that Ron had been the one hurt instead of him, but he had no doubts that his friend was truly happy with his life.
Ron and Hermione had married, and she worked in the Ministry as the Head of the Department for the Control of Magical Creatures. House elves, centaurs and other sentient creatures had turned the tide of the war with their assistance and support for the side of the light, so her department was now more of a community education and outreach center than a controlling body. Hermione had even succeeded in repealing most of the discriminatory laws against werewolves, although she would be the first to remind anyone who would listen that there was still a long way to go before prejudice was erased and equality was achieved.
Harry was sad to be leaving them, but there was little left for him in England, now. He had joined the Aurors immediately after the war, needing to be involved with the search and capture of the remaining Death Eaters. People had tried to convince him that he had other options available to him as he, Ron and Hermione had been through special tutoring and sat for their NEWTs, but he never considered any other career. Fighting the darkness was all he really knew, and revenge was a motivating factor, even if it took him years to acknowledge that to himself. His friends were able to intervene before Harry succumbed to the bitterness and the hatred, but he had a rough few years. Naturally the press was there for every misstep, alternately portraying him as a demigod or an unbalanced potential mass murderer.
The people of Wizarding Britain treated him accordingly. There were those who literally bowed down before him, or fell all over him with tears and gratitude for being their savior. Harry didn’t like that very much, but he liked the suspicious reactions even less. The remaining Weasleys and surviving Order members were the only ones who saw him as a person, so it was nearly impossible for Harry to find any peace.
Having a decent relationship was virtually impossible, unless he wanted to go to the Muggle world. That wasn’t worth the trouble, as he’d have to hide his magical side from his lover. He’d had enough of hiding who and what he was, thank you very much. A lifetime with the Dursleys had given him his fill of denying his magic, and a very nasty bout of publicity when he came out as bisexual made him determined to be himself from now on and damn the consequences. Honestly, didn’t people have more important things to worry about than whether he liked to bag birds or blokes, or both?
Five years as an Auror and a celebrity had Harry burnt out and fed up with his life. Then, McGonagall had offered him the position as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for a year. Tonks, of all people, had been teaching the class for several years, and she was going to need maternity leave. Thrilled at the chance to return home to Hogwarts, Harry happily accepted. During that year, he realised that he really loved teaching, and that he was actually good at it. He had not been looking forward to vacating the position and going back to the Aurors at the end of the school year, but with Tonks returning, there were no available positions at Hogwarts. Harry didn’t speak French, so Beauxbatons wasn’t an option, and Durmstrang was too focused on the Dark Arts for Harry to be comfortable there. Besides, Hermione would kill him if he joined the staff at a school that did not admit Muggleborn students.
Then, out of nowhere, he was offered a position at the Salem Institute in America. Unbeknownst to him, Minerva had sent an owl to their Principal and inquired if they had a need for a teacher with his skills, and they’d jumped at the chance to add him to their faculty.
Now Harry found himself just a few minutes away from Apparating to the Ministry to catch an international Portkey to Salem, Massachusetts, of all places, where he’d be living for at least a year and teaching students about DADA. It seemed improbable, and more than a little overwhelming, but a fresh start might be just what he needed.
Kissing Hermione on the cheek and slapping Ron on the back, Harry prepared to Apparate away and take the journey that would lead him to his new life.
Harry landed with a thump in the office of his new employer, staggering slightly on impact. He was much better at Portkey travel than he used to be, but going across an ocean in a matter of seconds was more than a bit disconcerting. Thankfully his luggage had gone by a separate Portkey, so he didn’t have to worry about dropping something en route.
Harry barely had a chance to get his bearings before his hand was grasped in a firm, hearty handshake. He realised that a small, gray haired woman was standing in front of him. She was wearing a simple Muggle business suit and pearls.
“Welcome, Harry,” she said, smiling as she continued to shake his hand. “I’m Carolyn Stout, Principal here at the Salem Institute. We’re so delighted you could join us here.”
“Thank you, er, Principal Stout,” he replied. “I’m glad to be here.”
“Please, call me Carolyn,” she said, letting him go and indicating for him to take a chair in front of what must be her desk. “We don’t stand on ceremony very much around here.”
As Harry sat, she moved around the desk and sat down. Indicating a full tea set on her desk, she asked, “Would you like some tea? I can’t guarantee it will taste like it does at home, but we want you to be as comfortable as possible.”
Smiling, Harry accepted a cup and sipped gratefully. He’d been worried that this American coffee obsession Hermione had told him about would make it impossible to find a decent cup of tea in his new home, but Carolyn’s offering was quite good.
“Thank you, it’s wonderful,” Harry said, taking a biscuit from the offered tray and nibbling on it.
He took a moment to look around the office, taking in his surroundings. It was quite nondescript, looking on the surface like a regular Muggle office. Only upon looking closer did Harry notice that the pictures on Carolyn’s desk were wizarding ones, and that the resident of the painting over the fireplace seemed to be snoring softly. The titles on the bookshelves that lined two walls of the office were decidedly un-Muggle as well. He recognised a few titles from his Auror training days, but most seemed to be unfamiliar to him. There were some ancient looking volumes that would probably make Hermione swoon, and quite a few of what appeared to be history books.
“I was the history teacher before becoming principal,” Carolyn said, seeing which titles Harry was looking at. “I think that we can learn a lot from the past, so it’s important to study it in order to prepare for our future.”
“You should tell that to the history professor at Hogwarts,” Harry said with a grin. “He’s a ghost who is so caught up in the past that he hasn’t even realised that he’s dead yet.”
Carolyn looked as if she wasn’t sure whether she should believe him or not, so Harry nodded.
“It’s true. Professor Binns is a ghost who was so old and set in his ways that one day he woke up in front of the staff room fire and went off to teach class, leaving his body behind. He has yet to notice the change,” Harry said dryly. “It makes no difference to the students, as he drones on about the countless Goblin uprisings in the same boring monotone he used when he was alive. History of Magic was good for a nap at Hogwarts, honestly, but I’m sure that it’s much more interesting here.”
Harry tacked that last part on hurriedly, realising that he was probably severely insulting his new boss and her area of expertise before he’d even been at her school for five minutes. Thankfully, she seemed inclined to overlook his slight.
“A ghost teaching! We don’t have anything as unusual here at the Salem Institute,” she said with a smile. “I’m afraid that we’re mostly stereotypical educators, a bit boring and prone to embracing academia at the expense of other, more exciting pursuits.”
“We had a centaur too, and a werewolf, oh, and a half-giant,” Harry shared. “Professor Dumbledore was willing to give anyone a chance if he thought they deserved it and were up to the job.” He smiled sadly, remembering his mentor. “He even had a Death Eater on staff for more than fifteen years.”
“Severus Snape, correct?” Carolyn asked gently. Harry nodded.
Snape had turned out to be Dumbledore’s man to the very end. He had been following the Headmaster’s wishes that night on the tower. He had killed the already dying man to make the unavoidable death serve many other purposes, as had been Dumbledore’s plan. It enabled him to keep his position as a Death Eater and funnel vital information to the Order up until the end of the war. It also enabled him to meet the terms of his Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa Malfoy, which Dumbledore knew of all along. Snape had gone to the man as soon as he heard of the Dark Lord’s plot, and Dumbledore suspected that Narcissa would come to Snape for help. At that time Dumbledore had already suffered the effects of destroying the piece of Voldemort’s soul in the ring, and knew his life was coming to an end because of it. He told Snape to agree to anything to protect Draco, including committing the murder himself.
Snape had been bitter about being forced to kill the man he had respected and admired, and angry about being unable to cure the curse damage his mentor was suffering. He vented all of his frustration and pain at Harry two nights before the final confrontation, when he came to deliver the final Horcrux to Grimmauld Place. The two had dueled fiercely, both drawing blood, and Snape had once again bested Harry. Then, instead of killing him, he had thrown Tom Riddle’s Award for Special Services to Hogwarts at Harry’s feet and then broken down. Eventually he had used Dumbledore’s pensieve, which Harry had taken from the late Headmaster’s office, and shown Harry the memories of all Albus’s scheming and planning for his own murder. After a long night, Harry accepted his story and Snape stood with the Order for the final confrontation.
He had died protecting Neville Longbottom from a curse Bellatrix Lestrange threw at Nev from behind. Neville had killed her in return with Sectumsempra, and then held Snape in his arms as the man died. Later, Neville told Harry that all Snape had said before dying was “Tell Potter I’m glad it’s over.”
Afterward, Harry made sure that Snape was honored for his years of service and sacrifice, and Snape was hailed as one of the brightest heroes of the war.
Shaking his head slightly, Harry emerged from his memories to remember that he was in America, sitting in front of his new employer and woolgathering.
“I’m sorry, Carolyn,” he said.
“Not at all, Harry,” she said with a sympathetic smile. “You’ve been through some incredibly difficult circumstances, and remembering the people you’ve lost must be painful for you. I’m sorry I mentioned Professor Snape.”
Before things could get more awkward, she changed the subject.
“Now, do you have any questions about the Salem Institute, or about your duties here? I know we didn’t have time to discuss many of the specifics before requiring an answer about the job offer, so please let me know what I can fill in for you.”
“Well,” he answered,” I understand that I’ll be teaching defense, and that it’s taught with a different focus here. I know that I’ve come over in July to get the lay of the land, as it were, and to work with you on lesson plans. I also know that I’ll be assisting with typical supervisory duties, like making sure students aren’t sneaking about after hours and seeing to their safety and well-being outside the classroom.”
Carolyn nodded, pleased with his assessment.
“Yes, Harry, you have the gist of it. Our system of magical schooling is different here in America,” she explained. “Our society is much more integrated with the Mundanes here – that’s what we call your Muggles – so we mirror their educational system in most ways. Children are selected at birth and receive an invitation to attend when they’re entering sixth grade, which is at approximately age twelve. We have seven years covering grades six through twelve, with most students graduating at age eighteen.”
“Graduating?” said Harry curiously.
“Yes. Here in the US, students are considered graduated when they leave school. We make a fuss, actually. Schools hold ceremonies to bestow diplomas or certificates, with lots of speeches and awards given out. Students dress in gowns and mortarboard caps, or in our case, traditional Wizarding robes and hats. Many graduating students will be given a large party by their parents, and everyone close to the graduate gives a card or a gift. We really make a huge deal of it all, as a sort of coming of age ritual.”
“So, the students aren’t of age at seventeen then?” Harry asked.
“No,” Carolyn replied. “We use the Mundane majority of eighteen, and it really does simplify things. Our country’s laws for minors govern students even when they turn eighteen during the school year, so they don’t really attain all the rights and privileges of an adult until they’ve graduated from school.”
“So no drinking or leaving the grounds without permission regardless of how old the student is, right?” said Harry.
“Absolutely,” Carolyn answered. “In fact, the drinking age here is twenty-one, so students who are caught indulging in alcohol are breaking the law and can be expelled.”
“Wow,” said Harry. “I didn’t realise how different everything would be. I mean, I knew that America was a foreign country and I expected some differences, but…” he trailed off, a bit overwhelmed with so much information.
“Well, some things are very similar, I’m sure,” she reassured him. “I expect that our academic standards are very similar, with the addition of traditional subjects like English, math, science and physical education. I understand that none of those are covered in European schools of magic?”
Carolyn went on to explain to him the letter grading system that was used at the Institute, as well as that there were state and federal standards that must be met by the students in their traditional Mundane subjects.
“What about discipline?” asked Harry. “Do I give detentions, take points, or what?”
“We do not have Houses here like you do at Hogwarts. Students are grouped by year and at least two teachers are housed in the same wing with each class. Each person is responsible for his or her own behavior, so there are no consequences to the year as a whole if one student is a troublemaker. However, we do offer intramural activities to allow students to compete with one another and come together as a group.”
Carolyn paused and looked thoughtful for a moment.
“In fact, Harry, do you think you might be willing to work with some of the students on Quidditch? Quodpot is the traditional sport here, but Quidditch is beginning to catch on and we’d like to offer it as an intramural this year. Our flying instructor is familiar with it, being one of your countrymen, but with so many kids to teach I’m sure he could use some help. Would you be able to help with coaching, and maybe serving as a referee?” she asked hopefully.
“Sure!” Harry said brightly. He’d been bracing himself for the loss of his beloved sport, so this came as a welcome surprise. He’d have to send an owl to Ron and have him offer some suggestions.
‘Speaking of staff members,” Carolyn went on, “I’m afraid you won’t be meeting many of them until August. Very few of us remain here over the summers, but I will introduce you to those who are here. Faculty members start to return around August 1st, and our first staff meeting is set for August 11th. The first day of school is August 14th.”
“Why so early?” he asked.
“Again, we follow the Mundane school calendar in most respects. We do board most students, but some Portkey in each day from their homes. It helps them blend in better if they have similar school schedules to their non-magic peers. However,” Carolyn added, “Starting earlier also means finishing earlier. The last staff day is May 31st, and then you’re free for the summer.”
The two went on to discuss the details of his classes, and to their mutual relief, Harry’s Hermione-enhanced plans would dovetail nicely with what the school had already been offering. Getting lesson plans finalised shouldn’t be difficult, and textbooks had already been assigned. Harry could change them if he felt it necessary, or add to them with supplemental materials, but he didn’t have to start from scratch. He was pleased to hear that.
Harry soon found himself leaving Carolyn’s office with a small stack of papers to go over, along with a map of the school and its grounds. She had offered to show him to his rooms, but he had politely declined in order to do a little exploring on his own. The buildings were a mix of original and modern, since the Institute had added on through the years as needs dictated. The dormitories and faculty rooms were apparently the most modern, with heat, air conditioning, electricity and plumbing that were the same as one would find in any Mundane home. Harry reminded himself to ask Carolyn later why electricity was no problem here like it was at Hogwarts. Maybe it had something to do with the age of Hogwarts versus the age of the Institute, or lack thereof? That would make sense, he mused as he traveled the corridors aimlessly, checking out classrooms and other facilities as he wandered.
Through the windows of a hallway, Harry saw a large field. Taking the nearest door, he went to see what it held. He was surprised to find equipment for a number of Muggle sports, like football – soccer, they called it here, he remembered – tennis, a running track and a paved area with two basketball backstops at either end. He wondered where they’d put the Quidditch hoops, but it was a nice, large area and he thought he’d enjoy being out there with his students.
Wandering back inside, Harry finally made his way to his own quarters. Since his early years were spent in a cupboard, and his formative years sharing a dormitory with four other boys, Harry was easy to please when it came to accommodations. He found his rooms to be quite nice though, with windows that overlooked the field he’d been admiring earlier. The bedroom was nothing special, although the bed was large and seemed comfortable enough when he tried it out. He had his own bathroom, which was a luxury he hadn’t even considered, and a well equipped kitchenette that featured both a stove and a refrigerator, as well as a microwave that he’d have to ask Carolyn how to use. There was a small dining area that consisted of a table with four chairs, and it led to his sitting room. Living room, they called it here, he remembered. It had a fireplace, a sofa, a comfortable looking chair and a low table. All in all, the place reminded him of a hotel suite he’d stayed in once when Hermione had forced him to splurge on a first class vacation to Hawaii. There was no beach, sadly, but the rooms were more than serviceable and Harry thought he could be at home there.
After spending the rest of the afternoon unpacking and settling in, Harry met Carolyn in the dining hall for dinner. It was a bit of a disappointment after spending so many meals in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, but the food smelled good and he was eager to meet some of his fellow teachers.
Carolyn was waiting for him, and she introduced him to the three other staff members who had stayed over the summer. Harry shook hands with Emily Goodacre, the herbology teacher; Frank Williamson, the Vice Principal; and Marianna Peters, the librarian.
“Are you finding your way around well enough, Harry?” asked Carolyn as he took the empty seat she had indicated.
“Quite well, thanks to your map,” Harry answered. “I think I’ve seen much of the school already.” He unfolded his napkin into his lap and tried not to look too eager as his stomach let out a deep growl.
Carolyn laughed. “I see you’ve definitely worked up an appetite. I hope you’ll like the food here.”
Different platters and bowls appeared on the table as she said this. Each staff member took the dish that was closest to them, dished some food onto their plate, and then passed the dish on, family style.
“What wing are your rooms in, Harry?” asked Emily. She was an older witch, perhaps in her sixties, with close cropped salt and pepper hair and bright blue eyes. Her rosy cheeks made it obvious that she spent a great deal of time outdoors, and Harry found himself liking her immediately. Perhaps it was that she reminded him a bit of Professor Sprout.
“The eighth grade wing, Professor,” he answered, taking a dish of potatoes from her as she passed them on.
“Professor! Oh, that makes me sound so much more sophisticated than an old lady who likes to dig around in the dirt all day!” she said with a broad smile. “You’d better just call me Em or Emily, or people will think I’m putting on airs.”
‘Eighth graders, that’s not so bad,” said Frank approvingly. “They’re too old to get homesick all the time but too young to get into the real trouble. Carolyn must be starting you off easy.”
“We’ll see about that,” answered Harry wryly. “I remember what I got up to as a Third Year, and I’d not like to deal with anybody who was like me.”
‘Trouble, were you then?” asked Frank. He seemed amused, but it was a bit hard to tell. He was a gruff man in his fifties, it seemed. He was heavyset with hair so close cropped it was impossible to tell what color it was, and he gave off an aura of control and strength.
“Well, I didn’t usually go looking for it. It just seemed to find me,” Harry protested.
Frank snorted. “I just bet it did. You’ll be a fun one to work with when it comes to outthinking the kids and staying one step ahead. Let’s put some of that “youthful indiscretion” to practical use, eh?”
“Frank is in charge of our security and discipline,” Carolyn said. “He retired from the Bureau of Wizarding Affairs a few years ago, and we were able to snap him right up. He’s been wonderful at helping us update our wards and security plans. It certainly doesn’t hurt that his reputation frightens most of the children into rethinking the majority of their plans for mischief.”
“Reputation?” asked Harry.
“BWA is similar to your Auror Corps, although we’re mostly used inside other government agencies like the FBI or the Secret Service. We provide both the muscle and the magic to deal with major crimes and protect the Mundane bigwigs from magical attacks,” Frank explained.
“Wow. I guess that would be intimidating to most of the students,” Harry mused.
“Only to the ones with any sense. Unfortunately, that covers hardly any of them,” Frank replied with a grimace.
The others at the table laughed. Conversation dimmed for a few minutes as everyone enjoyed their food.
“This is wonderful, Carolyn,” Harry said, pausing to drink some of his ice water. “Do you have house-elves in the kitchens?”
“No, we don’t,” she answered. “House-elves were never widely used here in the United States. A few of the wealthiest families have them, usually because they’re descendants of the original elves brought over when the family emigrated from Europe, but most of us have never seen one.”
“Really? I didn’t know that,” said Harry.
“It wouldn’t be practical anyway,” said Emily. “Our world and the Mundane one overlap so intimately that having magical creatures as servants just wouldn’t work.”
“Do American wizards do their own cooking and cleaning?” Harry asked. ”Who cooks and cleans here at the school then?”
“Yes, most of us do for ourselves. Very few Americans have servants at all, so it’s the norm to do one’s own housekeeping and cooking in both the magical and Mundane worlds. Some of the wealthier families have housekeepers or cooks, but it’s not standard practice,” Carolyn shared. “Here at the Institute, we hire the magically disabled. They know about our world already, so we don’t have to worry about confidentiality or Obliviation like we would if we hired Mundanes. They benefit from finding employment within the magical world, and we do have a generous compensation and benefits package. It works out well for everyone.”
“’Magically disabled’?” Harry questioned. “What does that mean?”
“Those born into magical families who don’t have magic of their own,” Frank answered in a very matter-of-fact manner.
“Oh, Squibs,” Harry said, finally understanding. This garnered a gasp from Marianna Peters, a small, elderly woman with glasses who had been silent throughout the meal.
“How dare you use such language!” she hissed. She looked as if she might slap him.
Harry looked around the table, dismayed. Everyone was looking at him with disapproval, or at least discomfort. Carolyn had a frown, and her brow was wrinkled.
It was Emily who broke the uncomfortable silence.
“Do they still call them that in England?” she said calmly, sipping her coffee. “I knew that British magical community was somewhat behind us culturally, but that term went out of favor here some thirty years ago.”
“I – I’m sorry,” he said weakly. “I didn’t know.”
“We have another British teacher who didn’t know any better either when he first arrived. I should have remembered and mentioned it to you earlier,” Carolyn said apologetically.
“Another British teacher?” Harry echoed, grateful for the change of subject. “Where is he from?”
“We’re not sure exactly,” Emily shared. “Dante is rather tight lipped about most of his past. He has a silver tongue, and he always manages to turn the conversation round so that you don’t realise he’s avoided answering your questions until after he’s walked away.”
The five of them spent the rest of the meal chatting amicably about absent staff members, acquainting Harry with most of them. Everyone seemed to forgive him, with the exception of Miss Peters. She remained silent, occasionally glaring at Harry as if he was about to say something else she found unacceptable or insulting.
‘Well,’ Harry thought to himself as he went back to his rooms after dinner, ‘You can’t win them all.’ He was quite used to being disliked, but he’d hoped to leave all that behind when he came to the Institute.
‘Maybe the rest of the staff will be easier to get along with,’ he thought to himself as he got ready for bed. ‘I guess I’ll find out soon.’
The next few weeks flew by for Harry. He met daily with Carolyn to hammer out lesson plans and familiarise himself with the state and federal regulations regarding educational standards. He even sat for the teacher’s licensing examination, which was nerve wracking. Suppose he failed? He was beginning to like it here, and he had no desire to return home with his tail between his legs if it turned out that he wasn’t up to snuff.
Harry spent his downtime wandering Salem and exploring the world around the Institute. Naturally he toured the Salem Witch Village and Salem Witch Museum. They turned out to be purely Muggle, much to his surprise. The Salem Witch Trials Memorial had a magical section though, and it chronicled the madness from the Wizarding perspective. He enjoyed learning more about the city and sightseeing via the Salem Trolley tour. He saw what felt like a dozen museums and pioneer sites, but his favorite was the Spellbound Museum, which passed off everyday Wizarding items as supernatural memorabilia, much to the delight of tourists. He had even found a comfortable bar just about 15 minutes walk from campus, and to his delight he discovered that it was a gathering point for most of the gay men in the area. There wasn’t much of a nightlife per se in the area immediately surrounding the Institute, but The Cellar was what passed as a hotspot and Harry had come to enjoy his evenings there very much. He still wasn’t much of a dancer, but he did like watching. He had gone home with a couple of blokes once or twice and quite enjoyed the experiences. Nothing serious had come of his encounters, but Harry was having a lot of fun, and for the first time in a long time he felt young and carefree.
Before he knew it, August 4th had arrived. Harry had enjoyed meeting more of the staff as people had arrived back at the Institute, but he had yet to meet everyone. This would be his first gathering with all of his new colleagues, and he was nervous. There was an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach, one he’d come to identify as a warning of trouble to come, and Harry was unsettled as he approached the staff room. Slipping inside, he found a seat next to Frank and nodded in acknowledgment to the teachers he’d already met.
“Let’s come to order, please,” Carolyn said, her voice cutting through the conversation and noise bounding around the room.
“Wait, where’s Dante?” asked a thirtysomething woman with dark blonde hair and cat’s eye glasses. “Has anyone seen him yet?”
“I don’t know, but he knows we do not wait for latecomers,” Carolyn said brusquely. “Let’s begin the meeting.”
Papers shuffled and chairs squeaked as people got comfortable, settling in around the large table. When she was satisfied that she had everyone’s total attention, Carolyn continued.
“First on our agenda is the introduction of our newest Defense teacher, Mr. Harry Potter. Harry is from England and most recently taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He has passed his teaching licensure exam,” with those words she shot a smile at Harry, who grinned back in relief, “and is all set to go on Monday. I expect you all to welcome him as a colleague and treat him with the respect due every member of this staff.”
There was a smattering of polite applause from around the table, and a few comments of “Welcome!” or “Nice to have you, Harry!” rang out. Harry blushed, and waved feebly.
“I’ll introduce you individually after the meeting. Now, let’s move on to this year’s housing assignments,” Carolyn said. “For the Sixth Graders, we have…”
Harry tried to pay attention, but he was mostly trying to put names and faces together when Carolyn called out the assignments. He did note that he would be paired with Dante Mallory, the tardy British teacher, as well as an older, kindly charms teacher named Abagail Moorehead. She seemed nice, if a bit hard of hearing and rather doddering.
Carolyn efficiently moved them through the material in the booklets she’d had owled to each of them earlier in the week. They were going through patrolling schedules, sports schedules, town trip chaperoning, changes to the Student Code of Conduct and school calendar when a noise in the hall drew their attention.
“Ah, that will be Dante,” said Carolyn.
“I wonder what the excuse will be this time?” said Emily, laughing. “For someone who seems to love teaching so much, he is always so reluctant to return each August.”
“I bet he blames the boy again,” said Frank knowingly. “It’s a foolproof excuse, and has a fifty-fifty chance of actually being true.”
Harry was about to ask what they were talking about, when Draco Malfoy burst into the room.
“I apologise for my tardiness, Carolyn, Frank, everyone. You wouldn’t believe that the airport was like in New York! Our flight was delayed for hours,” he said, all in one breath, as he strode toward the table and found a seat. “Then Xavier wasn’t feeling well, so I didn’t want to leave him until he was soundly asleep…”
Harry didn’t remember consciously deciding to stand and draw his wand, but somehow he was standing at the table, his chair toppled over behind him, brandishing his wand with a shaking hand.
Draco must have seen the movement, because he turned toward Harry. When he saw who it was, all color drained from his face, and he gripped the edge of the table to stay upright.
“Potter…” he whispered, beginning to shake badly.
“I thought you were dead, “Harry said in a voice he didn’t recognise as his own. “You deserve to be dead.”
“Gentlemen! Stop this at once!” Carolyn cried, jumping to her feet as Frank forced himself in between Harry and Draco, pushing down Harry’s wand arm.
Emily and Catherine, the blond who had been asking about Dante earlier, were each on either side of Draco, holding him up. Everyone looked confused.
“I think I need to take these two to my office and sort it out,” said Frank, steering Harry towards the door as he continued to force Harry’s wand down at his side. “C’mon, Dante.”
Draco seemed to visibly pull himself together slightly, and he nodded. Harry allowed Frank to manhandle him out the door, with Draco trailing along behind silently. He numbly registered that the room exploded into chaos as they exited.
When they arrived in Frank’s office, he dropped Harry unceremoniously into a chair and snagged his wand. Motioning for Draco to sit in the other chair, he took a bottle of firewhiskey out of his desk drawer and poured three glasses. After handing one to each of them, he downed his own drink, and turned to Harry.
“Want to tell me what the hell that was all about?” he asked.
“Want to tell me why you have a fugitive Death Eater teaching at your school?” Harry shot back, downing his whiskey in one shot.
Frank raised one eyebrow, and poured them each a refill.
“Dante? Anything you want to tell me?” he asked the other man.
Draco looked as if he was about to be ill. Throwing back his own liquor, he slammed the empty glass down on the desk.
“What do you want to know, Frank? My real name? If I was a Death Eater? What the fuck I’m doing here? Tell me where to start, and I’ll give you everything you want to know.”
Frank refilled Draco’s glass and said mildly, “The beginning is usually the best place to start, especially if it’s a long story.”
Draco sighed, downed his whiskey again, but refused the proffered refill this time. Slumping down in the chair, he began to speak.
“My name is Draco Malfoy. I became a Death Eater at the age of 16. My first task was to murder Albus Dumbledore and get a group of Death Eaters into Hogwarts. I failed on the first one, but succeeded on the second. As a result, the Headmaster was killed, students were attacked, and the war began in earnest.”
He sat forward, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.
“Where did you go after that night?” demanded Harry.
“Back to the Dark Lord. Where else was I to go?” Draco answered, raising his head to look Harry in the eyes. “He was holding my mother hostage, threatening to kill both her and my father if I didn’t complete the tasks he’d given me, and what would have happened to them if I’d run? Not that it mattered in the end,” he added bitterly. “My father didn’t survive the night.”
“What about your mother?” Frank asked, in an oddly gentle voice.
“He let her live for another month or so, mostly to make each of us watch the other suffer.”
Harry was taken aback. He had not seen or heard of Draco Malfoy beyond that terrible night on the tower. He knew Malfoy was willing to take Dumbledore’s offer, willing to lay down his wand and take up refuge with the Order, but that didn’t change the things that he’d done. He knew that Snape’s killing of the Headmaster was preordained by Dumbledore himself, but the man was far from innocent. Malfoy was the reason Bill Weasley was maimed, why Ron had been poisoned, and Katie Bell cursed. He’d let Death Eaters into Hogwarts, turned them loose amongst innocent children, and the results had been ugly. He’d never been caught, never tried or brought to justice, and Harry itched to make him pay for his transgressions right here and now.
Yet this wasn’t the same arrogant, hateful boy he’d known. Something was different, but he didn’t know what. It confused Harry, made him hesitate.
“Am I still wanted by the Ministry?” asked Draco, interrupting Harry’s conflicting thoughts.
“I don’t know, Malfoy. The charges are definitely outdated, but I doubt they’ve been rescinded. There’s no statute of limitations on attempted murder, you know,” he said sharply, finding himself trying to hurt the other man.
“Please, Potter,” Draco said quietly, “Please, don’t report that you’ve found me.”
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t,” growled Harry.
“Because I don’t know what would happen to my son if I were dragged back to England and thrown into Azkaban,” said Draco.
Harry was floored. Malfoy had a child? How? When? With whom? His head spun.
He looked to Frank for guidance. Frank nodded, confirming what Malfoy had said.
“Xavier is a good kid. He lives here with Dante during the school year, even though he won’t be old enough to start for another few years.”
“Why can’t he live with his mother?” asked Harry, still trying to accept Malfoy as a father.
“He has no mother,” snapped Malfoy.
At that moment a knock sounded on the door. A moment later, it swung open to reveal Emily, who was holding the hand of a pajama clad little boy who looked to be about six or seven years old. The boy had dark hair and pale skin, and was rubbing sleep out of Malfoy gray eyes.
“Daddy, what’s going on?” said the boy. “I woke up and still didn’t feel well, so I went to find you in the staff room but you weren’t there. Why are you in here instead of at your meeting like you said you’d be?”
Draco crossed to his son, kneeling in front of him and feeling his forehead. “You’re a little warm. Is your stomach still upset?” he asked concernedly. To Harry, it seemed like no one else existed to Draco except his son. It didn’t go with the image he had in his head of the selfish, spoilt Malfoy he knew, and it was disconcerting.
Meanwhile, the father had reclaimed his chair and drawn his son onto his lap. He was whispering to the child and smoothing his hair off his forehead. The boy was snuggling into his father as if it as the most natural thing in the world, and Harry felt like an interloper intruding on their closeness by watching.
Malfoy looked up and caught Harry staring. He narrowed his eyes for a moment, but then seemed to come to a decision.
“Xavier, there’s someone here I’d like you to meet,” he said, drawing his son’s attention toward the other man. “This is Harry Potter. We were students together at Hogwarts.”
Emily and Frank seemed surprised to hear him offer up information about himself so freely, but Xavier just looked up at Harry curiously.
“You knew my dad when he was a kid?” he asked.
Unsure of how to proceed, Harry decided to just tell the truth and take it from there.
“Yes, I did,” he answered simply.
Xavier studied him silently for a moment. “Cool,” he finally answered, cracking a grin.
Harry couldn’t help but smile back.
The men eventually brokered an agreement of sorts, with Frank’s intervention. Harry was surprised that the former government agent wasn’t in favor of immediately taking the fugitive into custody and taking him back to England to stand trial. When he tried to ask him about it, all Frank would say was, “It wasn’t my war. It’s up to you to decide what’s right.”
Harry agreed to discreetly look into the status of the charges that might still be pending without tipping anyone off to the fact that he’d located the fugitive in question, and to give Malfoy a chance to prove why he deserved a second chance. Draco agreed to stay in Salem and not run away, and to abide by whatever Harry decided by the end of the school year. They would have to be civil to one another in the interim, working together as colleagues and getting to know each other for who they were now rather than who they were ten years ago. It was an uneasy agreement, but it would enable both of them to meet their obligations at the Institute while they decided what should happen next.
As the principal and head of the Institute, Carolyn had to be informed of the full details, but she was surprisingly unconcerned that she’d been harboring a fugitive Death Eater on her staff.
“Whatever he may have done in the past, Harry,” she said,” Dante is a good man now. He is an excellent flying instructor and he is very good with our children. He’s also a wonderful father to Xavier. I will stand by him and do whatever I can to support him during these difficult circumstances.”
Harry tried to shake her faith in Malfoy by telling her about what had happened their sixth year at Hogwarts, but Carolyn remained steadfast. Anything that may have happened in the past was done, and she was firmly on the side of the man Malfoy was today.
Harry encountered that attitude amongst virtually all of the staff. The full story hadn’t been shared, but they knew that Dante Mallory was actually an assumed name for a man who had fled after being brought up in a family that had been on the wrong side of the war. It probably helped that the US had never become very involved in the war itself, so there was no emotional reaction to the terms Death Eater or the sketchy details of Draco’s misdeeds.
‘How had Malfoy earned the trust and respect of all these people?’ Harry wondered to himself. He found it hard to believe that the boy he knew could have changed enough to become a person worthy of so much affection and loyalty.
Most of all, Harry wondered about Xavier. How had Malfoy raised such a great kid? Xavier was beloved amongst the staff, even with the foul tempered Marianna, who still scowled at Harry anytime the two were in the same room. Xavier didn’t take advantage of their affection or use it to get away with misbehaving. He was bright, inquisitive, quick to help others, accepted by the older students as an equal, and his smile made Harry practically melt into a puddle each time he saw it on the child’s face.
In the weeks after the confrontation at the staff meeting, Xavier had taken to following Harry around whenever he could slip away from his nanny, begging for anecdotes about his father as a child. At first Harry had a hard time coming up with stories to tell him that wouldn’t portray his father in a negative light, but eventually he was able to spin most of their rivalry in a humorous way. Xavier loved the story of Ron’s backfiring wand causing him to spew slugs (Harry had edited it a bit so that it was solely an argument over Quidditch), and the second year dueling face-off thrilled him tremendously. Now as they entered the middle of October, Xavier was after Harry to hold a rematch with his father.
“C’mon, Harry! It would be constructional, or something!” Xavier insisted as the two headed outside to the athletic field for Harry’s first turn at coaching Quidditch.
“You mean constructive, and the answer is still no,” Harry answered, trying not to laugh. Xavier was so eager, and very, very persistent.
‘I wonder if this is what Malfoy was like when he was that age?’ Harry thought to himself, and then mentally shook himself. Who cared what Malfoy was like as a little kid? He turned his attention back to Xavier, who hadn’t stopped begging during their entire walk out to the field.
Before Harry could counter his latest reason why a duel was a good idea, Draco spotted his son.
“Xavier! Leave Mr. Potter alone!” he called, frowning as he jogged over to the pair. “It’s not ok to follow him around and pester him like that.”
Xavier immediately moved to his father’s side, looking sheepish.
“I’m sorry, Harry. I didn’t mean to bother you,” he said, eyes downcast.
“It’s all right, really. Snidget is good company,” Harry said, chucking the boy under the chin and using the nickname he’d given him the first time the two had flown together. He was rewarded with one of those breathtaking smiles.
“Xavier, why don’t you go see if you can help keep the goal for the sixth grade soccer team? I bet they could use your help with their practice,” Draco said, ruffling his son’s hair. Turning his grin on his father for a moment, Xavier yelled “Okay!” as he dashed off to play with the other children. Both men watched him go before turning toward each other and standing in awkward silence.
“I’m sorry about that, Potter,” said Draco stiffly.
“S’alright, Malfoy,” replied Harry. He rubbed the back of his neck, searching his mind for something to say. “Er, he’s a good kid.”
“Thanks,” said Draco, his face lighting up a bit. “He really is, isn’t he?”
Harry snorted. “No false modesty there, eh Malfoy?”
Draco’s face darkened, and he opened his mouth to retort.
“I meant it, Malfoy,” Harry cut him off. “Xavier is a really great kid. I enjoy having him around.”
Draco bit off whatever he’d been about to say, and paused for a moment. “What was he after you about?” he finally asked, glancing over to his son to check on him.
“I told him about our duel in Second Year. He wants us to go at it again.”
Draco threw back his head and laughed, a full throated sound that startled the hell out of Harry. He had never heard the other man laugh before, not really. Nasty little chortles were a far cry from what he was hearing now.
“Oh, that would be a disaster! We’d probably lose all sense of where we were and what we were supposed to be doing, and just hex the bollocks out of each other until one of us passed out,” he laughed.
Harry couldn’t help but laugh at bit at the mental image Draco’s words created.
“You’re probably right. Still, maybe someday we’ll do a practical demonstration for my classes,” he found himself saying. Where had that come from?
“You’d want to duel with me, in front of witnesses?” Draco asked, raising an eyebrow and looking skeptical.
“Well, yeah, I guess,” backpedaled Harry. “They don’t really do formal dueling over here, so it would be a unique opportunity for the kids to see the traditional form in all its glory.”
“I suppose it might be interesting for them,” mused Draco. “If you decide to do it, just give me a week or two to practice. I’m really out of shape.”
Harry found himself thinking that Malfoy didn’t look out of shape to him. In fact, he looked quite fit. Wait – what? Was he thinking of Malfoy in that way? He’d have to get himself down to The Cellar that weekend and find someone to go home with. It must have been a little too long since he’d had some companionship if he was beginning to entertain thoughts about Malfoy’s fitness.
“I’m going off campus Friday night,” Harry said abruptly.
“So am I,” said Malfoy, apparently unfazed by the sudden change of subject. “I’ve already mentioned it to Abagail, so she knows to be on watch if any of the kids needs something.”
Abagail was the third teacher in their wing, and the three could take turns heading out for the night as long as arrangements were made for at least one of them to be on duty every evening.
“What about Xavier?” asked Harry.
“He is sleeping over with Jennifer’s son. He’s the same age and they get on well,” answered Draco. Jennifer was one of the magically challenged workers at the school who took turns serving as Xavier’s caregiver. Harry had wondered how it worked out when Draco was teaching or otherwise busy with job related duties, and Emily had told him that Draco had hired extra help when he first came to the Institute five years earlier. Now that Xavier didn’t need a full time nanny anymore, a few members of the support staff took turns minding him and Draco paid an additional wage to them for doing so.
At that point the team Harry was working with streamed onto the field, and the two men went their separate ways. Harry couldn’t help but turn back to watch while Draco collected his son, and the two headed back to the school hand in hand. He didn’t even realise he was smiling at the picture they made.
When Friday night arrived, Harry was ready for it. He dressed himself in his favourite jeans, which were relatively form-fitting and faded and worn in all the right places. He topped it off with his favourite red Manchester United t-shirt (their logo reminded him of his old Gryffindor badge).
“Not too bad,” he thought, checking himself out in the mirror. He rubbed some gel between his hands and finger-combed his hair into something resembling tousled rather than unkempt. Wiping off the excess gel on a towel, he exited the bathroom and sat on his bed to slip on his trainers. Grabbing his wallet, keys and wand off the bedside table and shoving them into various pockets, he went to the front closet and pulled out an old black leather jacket that had once been Sirius’.
The bar wasn’t too far from campus, and Harry usually enjoyed the walk. Soon it would be too cold to walk the city, so he’d have to Apparate or call a cab when he went out.
Once he reached The Cellar, Harry made a beeline for his favorite spot at the bar. It had a great view of the dance floor and it was right in front of the Guinness tap.
‘Here’s to you, Seamus,’ Harry thought, raising his glass in a silent toast before taking a long drink. Even all these years later, he still carried pieces of his old friends with him in his daily life and in his heart.
Swiveling around on his bar stool and using the wand up his sleeve to cast a discreet sound dampening spell around himself to lower the volume on the music a bit, Harry checked out the night’s offerings. He nodded to a few acquaintances, but didn’t notice any former flings he felt like revisiting. In fact, there was one over by the bathrooms that he definitely wanted to avoid, and Harry turned away quickly before the man could catch his eye.
“What’s the matter, Potter?” drawled an amused voice behind him. “Avoiding one of your fans?”
Harry spun around so fast that he actually felt dizzy for a moment.
“Malfoy?” he exclaimed. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“The same thing as you, I’d imagine,” Draco responded, seating himself on the stool next to Harry’s and signaling the bartender for a drink. The man must have known what Draco wanted, because a minute later he placed a Scotch in front of Draco, and was rewarded with a wink and a smile.
Harry was speechless for a moment, trying to collect his scattered thoughts. Finally, his brain began to function again.
“You shouldn’t be here,” he said. “It’s not your kind of place.”
“Well, it’s unexpectedly astute of you to acknowledge that I am far too refined to be mingling with Muggles in a dirty pub like this, but one must make do and endure, I suppose,” Draco responded. He sighed and took another healthy sip of his drink, savoring the taste of his Scotch in his mouth before swallowing it, and then licking a drop off his lower lip.
Harry thought it looked obscene, and he felt his pants tighten. So much for forgetting about those thoughts he’d been having about Malfoy. He had to get him out of here, and fast. There was nothing for it, so he’d just have to be blunt.
“Malfoy, it’s a gay bar,” Harry said, and sat back to wait for the reaction.
“Well spotted, Potter. Were you always this quick, or is it something new? I don’t remember you having much of a clue when we were younger,” said Draco, smirking.
“Wha…” stuttered Harry, spilling a bit of his stout on his lap. “It doesn’t bother you to be in a gay bar?”
“Oh, honestly, Potter,” Draco replied, dabbing a napkin in Harry’s lap to soak up the spilled drink. That was not helping the situation at all, so Harry snatched the napkin away and mopped up the mess himself.
Returning to his drink, Draco turned to scan the room. “Obviously I don’t have a problem with it, seeing as I am homosexual myself,” he said smartly.
Harry paused in his efforts to fix his pants, napkin hovering in midair, his mouth hanging open. “You’re gay?!”
Draco quirked an eyebrow at him in response, and sipped more of his Scotch.
“Why did I not know this?” Harry asked out loud, mostly speaking to himself.
“Because you’re an idiot,” was the response.
“Hey!” cried Harry, stung.
“Potter, you should be asking yourself how you, an accomplished Auror with well-honed skills of reasoning and deduction, someone who has known me since I was eleven years old and been privy to my impeccable standard of grooming and my marked lack of female companionship, could possibly not know that I was gay,” said Draco, looking at him over the rim of his glass.
“There was Pansy,” Harry protested.
“Fag hag,” replied Draco. “She loved to play with my hair and dress me up like a sister when we were small, and she never quite outgrew it.”
“Your father allowed that?” asked Harry, curious despite himself.
“Not if he’d known about it,” allowed Draco, finishing his drink and signaling for another for both Harry and himself.
“Well bugger me,” said Harry, overwhelmed by this new information.
“Is that an invitation?” asked Draco interestedly, causing Harry to choke on his drink.
Draco kindly pounded him on the back until his coughing and sputtering had subsided.
“If I’d known how easy it was to wind you up, I’d have taken this tack a long time ago,” said Draco, laughing. He thanked the bartender as another round was placed in front of each of them.
“So, you’re not gay?” asked Harry, totally confused, picking up his fresh pint.
“Yes, I am.”
“But, what about Xavier?” asked Harry.
Draco’s face hardened and closed off. “That,” he said, punctuating his words by setting his glass down so hard that it sloshed onto his hand,” is a long story.”
Harry knew well enough when to leave something alone, so he changed the subject.
“How did you end up teaching all the way over here in America, mingling with Yankee Muggles?” he asked. “There has to be a good story in there somewhere.”
“Good? I wouldn’t call it that,” Draco said darkly. Looking into his glass, he said slowly,”I’ve never talked about this before, and it’s not easy.”
Harry could understand that sentiment. He placed his hand on Draco’s arm and said seriously, “You don’t have to tell me. It’s alright.”
Draco looked at Harry’s hand, and then at his face. He looked at Harry for a long moment, and then glanced around the room. “This isn’t exactly the place for it, is it? Besides, I don’t think heavy conversation is what either of us had on our minds when we came in here.”
Was Draco coming on to him? Harry began to feel flushed.
“That gent over there has been eyeing you up for the past ten minutes,” Draco continued, and Harry’s stomach dropped even as he turned to look in the direction Draco had indicated.
“Don’t look! God, Potter, you’re completely lacking in subtlety or finesse,” Draco griped.
Looking again in a much less obvious manner, he checked out the man Draco had indicated. He was fit, with broad shoulders and sandy blond hair, but for some reason Harry didn’t feel any interest in him at all. The man caught his eye, smiling broadly and waving at Harry, but he just smiled shortly in return and quickly turned back to the bar.
“Not your type, eh?” asked Draco.
“Guess not,” said Harry, his stomach twisting uncomfortably. What was happening to him? Did he want Malfoy to be interested in him?
“Well, you’ll have a better chance pulling if I make myself scarce, so I think I’m going to go dance,” said Draco. He stood, swigged the rest of his Scotch and placed the glass back on the bar before resting his hand briefly on Harry’s shoulder.
“I think we should have a long talk back at the Institute sometime soon,” he said, looking at Harry seriously. “I think maybe it’s time I tell someone, tell you, what happened and how I got here.”
Squeezing Harry’s shoulder briefly, he dropped his hand and stepped away. He took a few steps toward the dance floor, then turned back with a grin and said, “Don’t wait up for me, ok?” before disappearing into the throng of bodies writhing and swaying to the beat.
Harry watched him go, miserable and confused. Why was he feeling like this about Draco Malfoy, his nemesis? He’d loathed the man when they were kids, and flat out hated him in their sixth year after the incident on the train where Malfoy broke his nose. Granted, he had been affected by Malfoy’s utter hopelessness in Myrtle’s bathroom, and had felt the urge to reach out to the other boy before things spiraled out of control and they began attacking each other. He had also seen Malfoy lower his wand on the tower that terrible night, and Harry truly believed that if the other Death Eaters hadn’t burst in at that moment, Malfoy would have surrendered to Dumbledore and accepted his offer of asylum. Still, the man had been responsible for letting Death Eaters into Hogwarts, and the mauling of Bill Weasley by Fenrir Greyback, and he’d hoped that Hermione would be a target in their second year when the Chamber of Secrets was opened… Harry could name so many malicious, painful or downright evil things that Malfoy had done through the years that the very idea of being attracted to him should have been impossible.
So why was he sitting here at the bar, alone, watching jealously as Malfoy danced suggestively with one man after another? Currently he was pelvis to pelvis with a gorgeous black man, who was gripping Draco’s arse with one hand and twining his other in that silvery blond hair. It was all Harry could do to keep himself from storming out on the dance floor and hexing the man off Malfoy.
Then the man bent down and kissed Draco, and Malfoy responded eagerly, mouth wide open, occasional flashes of tongue showing between their busy lips. That was it.
Harry threw some money down on the bar to settle his tab and left.