Pairings: Harry/Draco pre-slash (Yes, you read that right…), mentions of Harry/Ginny, Harry/OMC, Draco/his wife, Ron/Hermione
Summary: Remember book six, where Harry said he didn’t like love potions? Well, he hasn’t changed his opinion about that.
Rating: PG-13 (for mentions of drug abuse)
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warnings: This fic contains house-elves and spells that I made up
Deathly Hallows compliant? Yes (including the epilogue)
Word Count: ca. 7300
Author's Notes: For frayach who wanted something plotty. Be careful what you wish for – now you've got a SWS (Sex? What Sex?). I hope you like it anyway.
December 4th, 2020
"What's wrong, Albus? You've been staring at this letter for the last half hour. What is it?"
"It's from my Dad. He says that our house-elf has died."
"Oh, I'm sorry about that. Does it say what from?"
"Old age. He hadn't been well for at least a few months now, so it's not really a surprise. But…"
"But you didn't want to think about it because you really liked the old bat, even though he always tried to feed you these disgustingly healthy things he liked to call food!"
"Scorpius, you're impossible! Do you have to try to make me laugh right now?"
"If it's working – why not? I won't let you mope around here for the rest of the year. I bet Kreachy –"
"Kreacher, then – he wouldn't have wanted you to be miserable, don't you think?"
"Well, I, I guess…"
"That's settled then – he died, you were sad and now you will remember him fondly as a friendly but vegetable-obsessed part of your childhood. And I've finally got the perfect idea what to get you for a Christmas present."
"And what would that be?"
"A new house-elf, of course! Oh, don't look at me with this disbelieving face! My father's got one who's just about old enough to leave the house. I'll owl him right now and then you can pick the elf up when you're visiting me during the holidays!"
This conversation (or one very like it – I hadn't been present for it, after all) in the Hufflepuff common room was the beginning of the end, even if its participants didn't know it at the time.
December 28th, 2020
Even after all these years, Harry still felt more than a little uncomfortable when he had to visit Malfoy Manor. The huge house hadn't significantly changed since the day he, Ron and Hermione had been held captives here during the war, and the memories of dungeons, blood and screams somehow always managed to crawl back into his mind as soon as he set foot onto the property. Plus, there was always the danger of running into Lucius Malfoy – though the man lived rather withdrawn in one of the Malfoys' smaller residences nowadays, he and his wife were visiting Draco and his family regularly. Harry'd run into the two just last summer, when he'd come, like now, to pick up Albus. And as far as Harry was concerned, that awkward meeting was the last he'd want to see of the elder Malfoys ever again. But since he'd decided years ago to not let his history interfere with his son's friendship to Scorpius Malfoy, he stood once again in front of the Manor's doors, prepared to be polite to whomever might open them.
Luckily for him, that was just Draco.
"Potter," the other man said in that carefully neutral tone of voice he usually reserved for Harry. "Why don't you come in for a moment? Your son's not ready to leave yet."
"Of course," Harry replied with a barely concealed smile. He hadn't expected anything else; Albus never was on time when it came to leaving his best friend's company.
"Do you want something to drink in the meantime?" Draco asked while leading them into a small parlour. "Tea? Coffee? Pumpkin juice?"
That particular emphasis stung – and more than Harry liked to admit. "Tea would be fine, thank you," he said defensively. "I'm alright – you don't have to…" Not really knowing how to end that sentence, Harry just breathed a deep sigh and repeated: "I'm alright."
"Are you?" Draco obviously wasn't convinced. He snapped his fingers and told the appearing house-elf to bring them two cups of tea before he turned to Harry again. "You seemed edgy lately."
Harry had been feeling queasy and restless for a few days now, but wasn't about to admit that. It wasn't as if he'd had a relapse after all. So he just murmured something along the lines of 'stress at work', when the door suddenly burst open and his son rushed into the room, followed by a much more composed Scorpius Malfoy.
"Dad! Couldn't I stay for a day longer, please? I was about to teach Scorpius how to play poker and we wanted to do our Ancient Runes homework together this evening…"
"I don't know, Albus. We really shouldn't umm… strain Mr Malfoy's hospitality."
"Nonsense, Harry," Draco cut in without hesitation. "Albus isn't straining anything here. If you're fine with it, then he can of course stay."
"Okay then, if it really doesn't bother you…"
"Fine," Harry gave in. "When should I pick you up tomorrow?"
"Oh really, Dad," Albus said, embarrassment clearly written all over his face. "I'm old enough to take the Floo on my own!"
"Okay, okay!" Harry had to repress the urge to laugh at his son's offended expression, since he didn't want to damage the boy's dignity any further. "Then make sure to come by before dinner, would you?"
"Yes, Dad. I'll see you tomorrow!" And as if afraid that Harry could suddenly change his mind, Albus turned around and hurried out of the parlour, leaving Scorpius hardly enough time to say a "Goodbye, Mr Potter!" before they both vanished.
"'Mr Malfoy'," Draco mimicked as soon as the two boys were out of earshot. "I wonder if that burnt your tongue or something."
"Don't play stupid, Draco, how do you think I speak of you in front of the patients?" Harry said, louder than intended. "I can hardly refer to you as 'that big, snotty ferret we keep at the Potions lab' at work, now can I?" As soon as he'd said this, Harry wished he could take it back. He wouldn't normally throw any ferret references around, not since he and Draco had gotten over most of their school-time issues, and that had been nearly 15 years ago.
But instead of getting angry, Draco just looked at him thoughtfully. "No need to yell, Potter. It was just a joke – usually you take these a lot better than that. But, like I said, edgy."
Harry would have liked to argue the point, but couldn't see how without giving Draco even more ammunition, so in the end he just looked away and shrugged. "I'd better go now. See you at the hospital."
"Wait! There's something I wanted to give you. And you haven't even had your tea yet."
As if on cue, the house-elf from before appeared with a tea tray in hand. Another elf, much smaller than the first, stood behind it as if trying to hide.
Draco took one of the cups and offered it to Harry. "Here you are."
"So, my son told me that your only house-elf has died some weeks ago."
"Yes," Harry replied, glad that they were back on a neutral topic. "Kreacher. I'd inherited him from my godfather during the war, and even then he was already old."
"Yes, yes, Potter, no need to go into the details. What I wanted to say is that we have a young elf that's really not needed here and Scorpius wanted to give it to Albus as a Christmas present. He didn't know that you cannot just give a house-elf to somebody – they have to be integrated into a family by the head of that family." Draco deliberately waited a few seconds before he suddenly smirked and added: "That's you, by the way."
"I know that, Malfoy."
"Well then, go ahead. There's the elf." Draco pointed at the little house-elf that looked as if it would start crying any moment now.
"I can't bring a house-elf home like that, without talking to Ginny about it first," Harry said, caught unawares by this turn of events, and highly uncomfortable about it. "I mean, I can't just replace Kreacher as if he were a broken piece of furniture. He was a part of the family!"
Draco looked at him as if he were mental. "You live in this really big, really old house that needs constant maintenance, yes?"
"Yes." Harry sighed. He knew where this was headed; Ginny had not so subtly hinted at that topic for at least the last two weeks, too. "And yes, I know that both Ginny and I have time-consuming jobs, and that we really could use a new house-elf."
"So the wife has already spoken and you're just talking nonsense about needing to talk to her about it," Draco said matter-of-factly.
"But I don't have anything for you in return!"
At that, the other man couldn't hold back a smile but he covered it hastily with a stern frown. "Potter, now you're really grasping at straws. I don't think that either of us should start keeping tabs on favours."
Harry couldn't deny that. "Okay, I'll take the elf. Just tell me how to – what did you call it? Integrate it into the family?"
"That's a simple spell; first I have to release the elf from its link to the Malfoy family without setting it free generally, and then you just picture the house-elf on one side and the members of your family on the other clearly in your head, point your wand directly at the elf and say 'Meis Servabis'."
"Why? When I got Kreacher I didn't have to use any spell on him."
"Yes, but you said you'd inherited him. That means that his former master had given him the order to obey you via the testament. And now stop stalling! If you want to know about house-elf laws so desperately, go get a book about it!" And with a flick of his wand, Draco shot a spell at the small elf, who tried to cringe away and began to sob loudly when it was squarely hit in the chest by the silvery thread of light. "Your turn, Potter."
"Uhm, okay. What's his name anyway?"
"It's a female. I think. We called it Binka, but you can of course rename it once it belongs to the Potter family."
"No, that's fine. Binka. Alright." Harry stared at the wailing creature for a long moment and then tried to do as Draco had told him. "Me Servabis," he said very quietly, still not convinced that this was such a good idea. The spell that shot out of his wand was visible as a spark of soft red that lengthened into a band of light when it hit Binka, coiling around her before it sunk into her skin.
"That's settled," Draco said into the sudden silence with the air of someone who has other things to do. "I bet Mrs Potter will be glad to hear that the housework will once again be in professional hands."
"And speaking of Ginny, why didn't she come with you?"
"She doesn't like you," Harry said with a slight smirk.
"I don't like her either," Draco replied without missing a beat. "But that doesn't keep me from being polite and inviting her together with you."
Harry's only answer to that was a questioning look. Although Draco had stopped dropping insults about any of the Weasleys as soon as the war had ended, it wasn't the first time that he'd casually mentioned his particular dislike for Ginny in front of Harry. And Harry never knew if the other was serious or just trying to rile him up. It didn't really matter; if it was some kind of bait, he wouldn't rise to it.
After the silence had stretched into awkwardness, Draco finally broke it with a huff. "Whatever. If we're quite finished here…"
"We are. See you at work."
Harry had to think for a moment. "Probably not before January sixth; I'm on nightshift this week."
Draco nodded once and then turned around to lead Harry and Binka out of the house. "If you need anything before then, you know how to send me an owl."
And again, Harry didn't have any words to answer. He'd said that he was alright just minutes ago, and if Draco hadn't believed it then, he had no reason to believe it now, just because it was reiterated. They reached the door without talking any more and Harry left, not looking back.
As soon as he had walked the path that led outside and closed the gates behind him, he got ready to Apparate home – but stopped himself just before he could work up the determination to get to his destination. He looked down for the house-elf and and found her directly behind him. "Er, Binka?"
"Master Harry Potter, Sir!" the tiny creature squeaked. She didn't sound near tears any longer, but still had the expression of a kicked puppy.
"Do you know where to Apparate to? Or should I maybe take you Side-Along with me?" Harry asked. He'd never really thought about the details of house-elf magic before and Draco's explanation about the binding spell had left him feeling somewhat stupid.
"Binka will follow her new Master on her own. Master Harry Potter isn't needing to trouble himself with her!" Binka exclaimed, shaking her head so wildly that the tips of her long ears flopped against Harry's knee.
"Okay. Then I'll just Apparate now." And with a sharp crack, Harry let his magic transport him into the kitchen of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Not even a second later, a much softer sound announced the arrival of his new elf. "So, um, this is your new home, I guess," Harry said, unsure what to do next. "Maybe I should go get Ginny, she'll know what to do now…"
"But Binka knows what is to do! She is been trained well! She will look after her Master and his house. When will Master Harry Potter want to eat dinner?"
The hint of desperation in Binka's voice convinced Harry to just let her do as she saw fit. Maybe he didn't know much about the technicalities of their magic, but he'd known enough house-elves to be sure that one thing they couldn't stand was to have no purpose in life. And Binka seemed eager to sort her new duties out with as little help as possible. "We usually eat around seven," Harry just told her.
And this simple acceptance seemed to be exactly what Binka had needed. She smiled tentatively at Harry and then popped out of sight.
Standing alone in the kitchen, Harry suddenly realized that he and Ginny now had the rest of the day to themselves since James and Lily were at the Burrow and, like Albus, wouldn't come back before tomorrow afternoon. Harry had quite a few ideas of how to spend this unexpected alone time with his wife and stormed grinning out of the kitchen, unwilling to waste one more moment alone there. Shouting Ginny's name at the top of his lungs, he noticed only peripherally that the sudden rush of anticipation seemed to have soothed away the restless feeling that had itched along his nerves for the past few days.
January 15th, 2021
As soon as the green flames of the Floo fire flickered out after Ginny had whirled away, Harry sagged against the nearest wall. He tried to beat the building nausea by breathing deeply and evenly, face contorted by something that wasn't exactly pain, but unpleasant nonetheless. Some minutes of this brought him back into a state in which he probably would manage to Apparate to work without throwing up immediately afterwards but he stalled for a little while longer, just standing there, trying to somehow convince himself that nothing was wrong. But the prickly sensations that had been running down his spine and into his limbs constantly for well over a week now and his still shaking hands just wouldn't let Harry suppress the knowledge that something definitely wasn't as it should be. He needed help.
The little bright green role of parchment with his name on the wax seal found Harry in the middle of an examination. A Mrs Eusebia Flowerfield was trying to explain to him how exactly she, her owl, a teapot and half a set of gobstones had come to be in the odd state they were in now, but was somehow hindered by having to speak through a porcelain beak. Harry had to concentrate hard to be able to understand a word she said, and so he missed the flying note first.
Not for long though. The parchment was obviously charmed to get his attention as fast as possible. It poked him in the back of his head until he whirled around and snatched it out of the air. After one quick glance at the seal, Harry tried to put the letter into a pocket of his robe to read it after he was finished with the examination, but it wouldn't stay there. Instead it zoomed out again, looped around him a few times and began to hit him everywhere it could reach. Determined not to lose face in front of a patient because of a charmed piece of parchment, Harry just shot a Stunning Spell at it and laid it aside, gesturing at Mrs Flowerfield to continue her story.
She did. And after nearly half an hour of listening to her, the realization that she'd been sent a cursed letter by her sister and a first attempt to get rid of the curse (that at least succeeded in removing the feathers), Harry finally found the time to open the green parchment. The only thing written on it was a time: 6 p.m. More wasn't really needed since it was clear who'd sent it and where they would meet, but it probably meant that Draco was really pissed at him; he'd never before failed to at least sign his missives. Well, Harry would deal with that at 6 p.m. tonight; for now he had to send an owl to Ginny that he'd be home late and then the still bizarre-looking Mrs Flowerfield was counting on him to get her back to normal.
Harry had been standing in front of the flat that he and Draco usually met in when one of Harry's 'episodes' occurred for nearly half an hour before the other man finally showed up.
"Potter," Draco said with a nod in the direction of the door that he was about to open. "Come in." Once inside, Draco wordlessly led Harry into the living room and gestured him towards the leather couch while he himself leaned against the wall that faced it.
Harry didn't exactly know how to begin. "Uhm… I've got a problem, I think."
"I've noticed," Draco cut in sharply. "If I'm informed correctly, you nearly got yourself killed two days ago during the removal of some stupid cursed bracelet!"
"It really wasn't all that dramatic…"
"That's hardly the point!" Draco nearly yelled. "You're usually better than that! What the hell is it this time? Something with dragon blood in it if your shaking hands and the paleness are anything to go by. This new stuff, Phoenixfire, maybe? We've had quite a lot of cases of that lately. There's doxy dust in it, and you really should know better…"
"Something Muggle then?"
"No!" Harry tried to get a word in, knowing that he'd have little chance to do so once Draco had talked himself into a rage. "Listen, Draco, it's not like that! I didn't take anything."
A look of disbelieving anger formed on Draco's face. "Potter. Harry. You know I owe you. Whatever it is, I won't tell anybody. But how am I to help you if you don't tell me the truth?"
"But I am! When have I last lied to you? I really don't know what's happening with me."
The clearly audible desperation in Harry's voice seemed to cause Draco to give him at least the benefit of the doubt. "Fine," he said, crossing his arms across his chest. "You don't know what it is. But these are definitely withdrawal symptoms. When did they start?"
"I don't know, some time before Christmas, I guess. It started with me being 'edgy', like you said, but it got worse, especially in the last few days. I'm restless and shaking all the time. My arms and legs prickle. I'm not hungry and I don't sleep well."
When Harry was finished counting off his symptoms, Draco pulled out his wand, pointed it at him and muttered a couple of spells in rapid succession. When the last of their lights had faded, he stood there and frowned. "Nothing that easily recognizable, I'm afraid," he said while summoning an empty crystal vial. "I'll need a blood sample from you for any further tests."
"Okay." Waiting for the stinging sensation of the blood-sampling spell, Harry watched Draco's face instead of his wand movements. It still held a fair amount of anger, but seemed to soften bit by bit while Draco filled the vial, smoothing out some of the lines on it and rearranging the others into a guarded expression.
"Finished," Draco finally announced. "I'll start brewing a Dependency Detecting Draught right now, but it takes a good three days to have it ready. We'll meet again next Tuesday, you have that off, right?"
"Yeah, I have."
"Well, with any luck we'll know what's in your system then and can start to work on getting it out."
"Thanks," Harry said, willing the sincere gratitude that he felt into that one word. He didn't know what more to say and the uneasiness in his chest wouldn't let him concentrate properly.
Draco did seem to get the message though. He reached out to squeeze Harry's shoulder lightly and then turned him around and pushed him towards the exit. "Get out, Potter, and try to catch some sleep."
January 18th, 2021
Harry dreaded the end of his shift. He'd have to go home then and pretend that everything was alright with him. Here in St Mungo's he'd at least always something to do, which kept his mind from going into odd directions. And if he wasn't able to hide the fact that he felt beneath the weather from his colleagues, he could always say that some complicated case or other grated on him.
Ginny, on the other hand, wouldn't be fooled that easily. She'd voiced her assumption that something was up with him just yesterday and Harry knew that she wouldn't just leave it alone. It had been like that the two times that he hadn't managed to conceal the effects of his addictions from her, too. Both times he'd caved in in the end and confessed his drug problems and her months-long tight rein on every single little part of his life afterwards had been humiliating. He guessed he could blame his wife neither for wanting to know what was wrong nor for doing what she thought she had to do to put a halt to it, but right now Harry just didn't have the nerve to deal with her.
So he purposefully took his time writing the reports of the day. But even that didn't last forever, and about an hour after the Healers of the night shift had arrived, Harry couldn't avoid leaving any longer. He changed from his Healer's robes into simple Muggle clothes and then Apparated to Number 12, Grimmauld Place.
Harry found the house quiet and dark and let out a sigh of relief when he realized that he was alone for now. He'd managed to nick a strong Sleeping Draught from the hospital's store, so he could just take it and sleep through the night. Even if Ginny would try to wake him when she got home, Harry would be too out of it to be properly interrogated.
Smiling despite the unpleasant effects of whatever it was, Harry readied himself for bed. Tomorrow he'd surely know what he was up against, and maybe Draco would even have a quick and simple antidote for it. Then Harry'd just have to convince Ginny that she'd been mistaken in her suspicions and he could have his normal life back. A life in which he didn't feel like a stranger to himself.
January 19th, 2021
Harry blushed a bit. "Uhm, yeah. I'm sorry if I woke you."
"Never mind." Draco yawned loudly and stepped aside to let Harry into the flat. "Let me just get some decent clothes and then we can check on the Dependency Detecting Draught. Why don't you have a seat?"
"Okay." Harry walked the few steps to the living room. The low couch table in the middle of it had been put aside to make room for a medium-sized cauldron in which a clear liquid emitted small puffs of bright yellow smoke. Staring at it in a mixture of dread and anticipation, Harry didn't hear Draco stepping behind him. He whirled around and nearly stumbled when the other man tapped him on the back.
"Oi, Potter, no need to be so jumpy."
"You startled me!"
"You'll survive. Now sit down and let me add the last ingredient to the Draught." Draco withdrew a little jar filled with some kind dried leaves out of one of his pockets, took four and crumbled them in his hand before throwing them into the cauldron. "There. The potion should be ready any second now."
As if on cue, the smoke that came out of the cauldron changed its structure. The little clouds now seemed much more solid and they slowly began forming the shape of runes in the air.
"Draco? What do they mean?"
Harry looked disbelievingly at the other man. Draco's face was tense and white and he had his gaze fixed on the spot where the smoky runes had appeared. "But… but that doesn't make any sense! Can one even become addicted to Amortentia? And wouldn't I be feeling its effects if I was?"
At that last question, Draco whipped his head around and stared at Harry with an intense look. "Potter," he whispered. "For once in your bloody life use your head!"
Harry slowly crossed his arms in front of his chest. "You mean I am under its effect."
"But that's ridiculous!"
Draco just continued to stare at him and Harry suddenly couldn't control the leaden feeling in his stomach any longer. He tried to run towards the bathroom, but stopped after only a few steps and vomited on the floor. Reaching out his hand for something to hold on to, Harry found himself suddenly gripped by Draco who pushed him gently in the direction of the bathroom. "Come on, Potter. We'll clean you up and then we'll look for an antidote."
One hour later Harry would have liked nothing better than to hide under a nearby rock and pretend that all of this was just One Big Nightmare. Draco had given him a potion that had quieted down his stomach and then searched through the book-shelves until he came up with a dusty old tome on love potions. Harry had read the detailed entry on Amortentia twice and then given the book back to Draco who had just now finished reading the relevant pages.
"I don't want to believe that," Harry managed to say.
"What do you want then?" Draco sounded honestly curious. When no answer came, he breathed a deep sigh and let his head fall back. "The last traces of the Amortentia should be out of your system in four to six weeks. I can whip up something that keeps the withdrawal symptoms down. Should be ready by tomorrow."
"Thank you." Harry stood up from the couch, glad that his legs shook only slightly, and prepared himself to Apparate. "I have to go now."
"Where to? Back to Grimmauld Place?"
Harry nodded, closed his eyes and stood a second later in his own kitchen where Binka was busy preparing lunch for him.
Seeing the tiny house-elf swish around the kitchen made Harry suddenly wonder – the love potions book had said that Amortentia had to be taken with solid food, not in liquids. And while Ginny and he had often drunk something alone together, their meals had nearly always been prepared and served by Kreacher.
"Binka?" he asked cautiously. "Is everything, er, alright? Have you settled in here?"
"Oh yes, Master Harry Potter! Everyone is being very nice to Binka!" The elf nodded fervently and her beaming smile made Harry realize that he hadn't spoken to her at all since she'd moved in four weeks ago.
"And, uhm, has anybody asked you to do something… unusual?"
The smile on Binka's face went flat. "Master James has asked Binka to hide some magazines for him," she whispered. "He gave them to her just before he went back to Hogwarts after the holidays. And Mistress Ginevra told Binka to put seven drops of a medicine into Master Harry Potter's food every Saturday, but Binka saw that she was lying about something and so she didn't do it…"
Harry was just quick enough to prevent Binka from beating herself over the head with the spoon she was holding in her hand and he forbade her to punish herself with a shaky voice. His mind refused to concentrate on the fact that he'd indeed been drugged by his own wife and came up with unimportant details. "So you know if somebody is lying to you?"
"Yes," Binka said, near tears. "If Binka has made a mistake…"
"No!" Harry hurried to say. "No, you didn't do anything wrong. I just wondered how you were able to ignore a direct order from Ginny, that's all. I mean, aren't you compelled to follow it?"
Binka shook her head very slowly. "When Binka was given away by her former Master, Master Harry Potter didn't bind her to his family, but only to himself."
"Oh." Harry didn't know what she meant, exactly, but that was something he could deal with later. Right now, he needed to talk to Ron.
"No, love potions aren't illegal, therefore somebody who uses them couldn't be prosecuted. Why did you ask?"
"Just curious," Harry said. Hearing that Ginny couldn't be brought to account for her actions made him angry and relieved at the same time. "One of my patients, uhm, had an accident. Sort of." Harry didn't like lying to Ron, but right now he didn't see much of a choice.
"One of your patients?" Ron asked sarcastically. "If they had an accident with a potion, shouldn't they be, I don't know, Malfoy's patient maybe?"
Harry blushed. "Er… yeah. Listen, I've got to go now."
"Hey, there's no need to run away like that. Come on, I won't say any more about you hanging around the ferret…"
"No, it's not… I really have to go, Ron."
"Sure. But mate? We haven't seen much of you lately. You and Ginny really should come over this weekend and have dinner with us."
Harry looked intently at his oldest friend and felt the fear of losing him running down his spine. No matter what he ended up doing, it would affect not only his relationship with Ginny but with the rest of the Weasleys, too. And especially Ron had always had the tendency to overreact when it came to his sister.
"I'm sorry, but I don't think I'll have time in the next few weeks. I'm… working on something right now and… I can't talk about it."
"Okay," Ron said slowly. He knew that Harry had sworn confidentiality when he'd taken the Healer's Oath und usually didn't pry if Harry said he wasn't allowed to talk about something. But it was obvious that he didn't believe that was the case here, because he added: "If you need help with anything…"
Harry forced himself to smile. "Don't worry, not every problem needs to be solved by the Head Auror."
"Yeah, I guess." Ron's laugh, too, didn't sound particularly natural. "Bye, Harry."
"See you." Harry exited Ron's office and walked towards the lift. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement seemed quite busy today and Harry had to squeeze into the lift together with a whole bunch of Aurors. Some of the older ones, who'd already worked here when he'd been an Auror-in-Training, answered his murmured greetings with half-hearted glares, like they always did when he came by. Harry wasn't overly bothered by that. He'd never regretted dropping out of the Auror programme even though it had caused all kinds of speculations and ridiculous rumours at the time.
The lift reached the ground level of the Ministry and Harry got out. He would have liked to walk back to Grimmauld Place, but he didn't have enough time. When he thought about how to go on now, more and more things that needed to be done today came to mind. Hoping that Binka had found something useful in the Black library, Harry Apparated home.
February 27th, 2021
Harry woke up to an uncomfortably prickling spell washing through his body. This had become quite a regular occurrence in the last two weeks, since Draco had a talent to Apparate into his hotel room when Harry was asleep and seemed to find it quite funny to wake him that way. What was new was the bright blue glow of Harry's skin. Up until now the spell had coloured it in an electric orange.
"Draco?" Harry asked excitedly. "That means the Amortentia's gone now, doesn't it?"
"Yes, it does. Do you want to use the Pensieve today, then?"
Nodding, Harry got out of the bed. "Right now, in fact. I want to put it behind me as soon as possible. I want to have my life back."
"Fine, I'll fetch it and then you can dive in."
"Well, actually I wanted to ask you if you'd go in with me. I think it's better to have a second opinion on some things."
"And you want me to be that second opinion?"
"I trust you," Harry simply said.
Draco couldn't argue with that, so he just went to get the Pensieve while Harry searched for some clothes to wear. When Draco had fetched the little stone basin from the top of the wardrobe, he put it onto the bed and then looked at Harry guardedly. "Ready?"
"Yes." Harry needed to see the events that had determined his life in the last two decades with the eyes of somebody who wasn't drugged with a mind-altering potion. He'd had a lot of time to think these last five weeks, but up until now he never had been sure if his conclusions weren't still influenced by the Amortentia.
Breathing in deeply, Harry took his wand and held the tip to his temple. He concentrated hard on the things he wanted to see, pulled their silvery images out of his head and deposited them into the Pensieve. When he was finished, he laid his wand aside and reached for Draco's hand. They fell into the device together and landed in a memory of the Gryffindor common room. Draco, who'd never seen the place before, let go of Harry and took a look around while Harry stood very still, waiting.
After a few moments a much younger Harry came down the stairs and let himself fall into one of the armchairs. He looked nervously around the empty and nearly dark room and got up again quickly when the sound of footsteps announced another visitor. It was Ginny.
Harry, who hadn't seen the real Ginny in nearly a month, watched the memory of her smiling that brilliant smile of hers. Memory-Harry on the other hand looked quite unhappy.
"So, Harry, do you really want to 'talk to me' like you said? It's the middle of the night and we're all alone here…"
"No! Ginny, I really need to talk to you."
"Well, what is it? Come on, Harry, you know you can tell me anything."
"Yes, I know. And I wanted to… But… I can't go on this way any longer. This has to end."
"What do you mean, 'this'?"
"This… us. Ginny, I'm not in love with you and I can't be your boyfriend anymore."
Harry watched the memory of Ginny go pale while the face of his younger self showed a strange mixture of fear and determination. He felt oddly proud of himself. Thankfully, the scene didn't go on to show the shouting match that had followed, but became blurry and morphed into the shapes of another memory.
A light tap on the shoulder reminded Harry that he wasn't alone in the Pensieve. "Potter, what is this supposed to mean?"
Harry and Draco stood in the entrance hall of Malfoy Manor which was occupied by the more than 20 years younger versions of themselves. Memory-Harry who wore the scarlet robe of an Auror was explaining to memory-Draco that he'd been sent to control the probation conditions of him and his mother.
Harry saw the face of his younger self slowly going nearly the same shade of red as his robes. It had been the first time he'd seen Draco after the trials that had followed the war. Draco and his mother had been sentenced to three years of house arrest, while Lucius had to sit the same time in Azkaban.
"This is shortly before I dropped out of the Auror Training."
"Yes, I am aware of that! It's also shortly before mine and my parents' sentences were done with, but what…"
But before Draco could complete his demand for an explanation why exactly Harry had wanted to see this particular scene, their surroundings changed again. Now they stood inside what seemed to be a very small classroom that was definitely not a part of Hogwarts. There were only six students, each of them sitting alone at a table and taking notes. One of them was Harry, looking to be in his early twenties. The wizard in the front was now ending the lesson and exited the room. Most of the students followed him. Only a tall, sandy-haired young man didn't seem to be in a hurry.
"Harry, wait! Do you have a minute?"
"Potter, what is…"
Harry quieted Draco with an impatient 'Shh!' and then watched himself close the door behind the last of the students. As soon as that was done, the other man walked straight towards the younger Harry and gripped him softly around the neck.
"You're a fucking tease."
"I… What? Peregrin, I don't…"
And then the man leaned in and kissed memory-Harry. Thoroughly.
At that, Harry could practically feel Draco go rigid. But no word was said and before the scene in front of them could become too intimate, the world around them once again broke into another shape.
The more than familiar walls of St Mungo's were surrounding them now and a memory of Harry was pacing nervously in front of a room, glancing at his watch every few seconds. Suddenly the door opened and an exhausted-looking mediwitch motioned for memory-Harry to come inside. Harry and Draco followed them.
"Here you are, Mr Potter. Everything went smoothly, your wife is absolutely fine. And this is your firstborn son."
The mediwitch handed the baby to memory-Harry who took him gingerly and looked at him in wonder. Harry, too, could hardly look away from the not-yet-named James, and the feeling of pure joy that swept through him at the sight didn't differ from his memory of it.
The scene faded slowly and Harry felt himself get whirled out of the Pensieve. He landed on the bed, followed by Draco shortly after.
Draco got onto his feet as soon as possible, took some steps back and looked at Harry incredulously. "What was so special about that bloke that you needed to include him in your significant memories?" he spat.
"Huh? Oh, he is my firstborn child…"
"Very funny, Potter!" Although Draco sounded irritated, the odd tension between them had vanished and Draco didn't look any longer as if were about to hex Harry at the next moment.
"No, seriously, that was the first time I'd kissed a man."
"Been kissed, more like. And when you say 'first time', does that mean it wasn't the last?"
Harry felt the blood rise in his cheeks. "No, it wasn't." He wasn't sure how Draco would take that information.
"Interesting. How did you manage to keep that out of the Prophet?"
"Well, this happened only shortly before the end of my training to become a curse-breaker. We met a few times and… you know. But then… I started panicking, I guess, and refused to see him again. I was afraid of what my friends would say. I was afraid of myself, I think. And when I visited the Weasleys that Christmas – I was so glad that I'd become 'normal' again that I didn't think to question where these sudden feelings for Ginny had come from."
"I see." Draco fidgeted a bit, raking his fingers through his hair and letting his gaze roam around the room. "And the other memory?" he asked when he finally looked directly at Harry. "The one before. Why would that be special?"
Harry swallowed. So far Draco didn't seem overly bothered by the fact that Harry turned out to be gay, but he wasn't sure how the other man would react to this next confession. Maybe, Harry thought, he should have left that memory out of the Pensieve. "That was the first time I had seen you after the war and the trials. And the first time ever that the both of us had a civil conversation."
"And I developed a crush on you then! Happy now?" Harry jumped from the bed, scowling. "I think I need a drink."
"Don't you dare, Potter!" Draco yelled. He bridged the distance between himself and Harry with two steps and gripped Harry hard at the upper arms. "It took weeks to get you right again after your foray into alcoholism. You will not repeat that spectacle just because you're embarrassed!"
"Okay, fine. Malfoy, let me go; this hurts!"
Draco did, but made his point still clear by glaring ferociously.
"God, Draco, it was just a joke! And anyway, shouldn't I be able to have something alcoholic to drink, now and then at least? I thought this book of yours said that my susceptibility to intoxicating substances was a side-effect of the long-term use of the love potion. Doesn't that mean I'm okay now?"
"Potter, you've been drugged up to your eyeballs for the last sixteen bloody years. Do you really think…"
"Okay, I get it. No drinks." Harry sat back on the bed and averted his eyes. He didn't know what to say now.
"This inclination of yours, towards men in general and me in particular, why did that never come up in the last few weeks?" Draco asked. "We've talked about all kinds of emotional topics. I thought we were friends."
"We are," Harry hurried to say. "And I didn't want to lose this friendship! After all, you can't be very comfortable with the knowledge that I, er, have such feelings for you. Hell, I'm not particularly comfortable with it."
Draco stared at Harry with a pointedly blank expression. "You thought I wouldn't want to be friends with you any longer."
That hadn't been a question, but Harry nodded nonetheless.
"Potter, why would I… I mean, how could you miss…" Draco stopped himself, breathed a deep sigh and began anew. "Harry, when have you last seen my wife?"
"I don't know. Christmas before last maybe?"
"Yes. She divorced me not two months later. And Harry, she had her reasons for that."
The particular emphasis on that sentence suddenly shifted Harry's perspective on quite a few things. He stood up, but still held a noticeable distance to Draco. "Well, in that case, what are we going to do now?"
And this conversation in a little, second-class Muggle hotel room turned out to be the beginning of the beginning. And as one of its participants I must say that I did have a feeling that it would be.
A/N2: meis servabis means you will serve those, who are mine (i.e. you will serve my family), while me servabis means you will serve me