Chapter Sixteen

The Ministry of Magic’s head quarters were filled with people walking and running in all directions. Harry recognized very few of them – some were old Hogwarts students, just like Ron, Draco and himself, and others whose picture Harry had seen in the Daily Prophet. Most of the wizards and witches milling around were unknown to him, however, and Ron didn’t feel the need to introduce them.

“I barely speak to them anyway,” he shrugged. “You don’t need to know them.” Apparently, the Harry and Draco of this time did not spend a huge amount of time at the Ministry either.

Ron was walking them down the stairs, out the main door and out onto the street, heading for wherever the ex-hostages were being kept, all the while speaking. Harry listened and nodded to what Ron was saying, whilst keeping a close eye on Draco. The blonde was still, unsurprisingly, tired, despite his nap and despite the Healing Warmth Harry had offered. Harry had already made Ron slow down a great deal, so that Draco could keep up in the snow that lay heavy on the ground.

“You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff these Muggles told us about using guns,” Ron was saying. “There are so many different kinds – I don’t understand how anyone could ever see the difference between them. On the other hand, they are fascinated with our wands and they don’t get how we can tell a difference between them either.”

Harry nodded; he knew about the wide variety of guns, as Carl had already told him. There were handguns, rifles, revolvers, semi-automatics… The list went on and on and on.

Ron looked around and then walked into an alley. He tapped his wand to the wall, whispering a password after looking carefully around himself and it moved to reveal a door.

“C’mon,” he said, motioning for Harry and Draco to walk inside.

Inside was a small entrance hall where Bill Weasley greeted them.

“Draco, Harry,” he said, nodding to them before he led them down the hallway. “You will meet the eleven Muggle hostages that were on the field and hopefully you will be able to pick out who was the one that agreed to help the Death Eaters. Do you remember the Muggle from your vision, Draco?”

The blonde nodded. “I remember.”

They were placed in a room with a large glass window, looking rather like the Muggle police stations that Harry had caught a glimpse of when he lived at the Dursleys’ and they watched television. The room itself was small, without windows. It was lit only by candles. In the middle stood four chairs around a table. On the other side of the glass sat the ex-hostages, all under some sort of spell for they looked blankly ahead of them.

“Recognize any of them?” Bill asked.

Harry and Ron stood back as Draco paced back and forth in front of the window. The figures behind the glass were all familiar; after all, he had seen most of them before, first in his vision, then at the site and then at St. Mungo’s.

“The third one from the right,” he said finally.

“Are you certain?”

Draco raised an eyebrow at him. “Yes, I’m certain. What are you going to do to him?”

“Keep him under surveillance, just like the others,” Bill said. “Voldemort may approach him again.”

Draco nodded and Bill left the room. Ron held out a chair to Draco and the blonde sat down. Ron motioned for Harry to do the same. They sat down, Harry next to Draco and Ron on the other side of the table.

“Two of the Muggles have agreed to help us,” Ron said. “They have been informed of parts of the Wizarding world and they have agreed to teach us how to use guns. I want you two to continue training with Mr Hanawalt… for as long as possible,” he added with a look at Draco.

“I’m fine, Weasley,” Draco said, sighing. “I’m not dying just yet. Just a bit tired. Sorry to disappoint you.”

“You know I haven’t wished for your death for a long time, Draco,” Ron replied. “The Order will be doing everything we can to find an antidote.”

“You know as well as I do that the only person who could possibly find an antidote is Severus. No one else is even close to being able to find a solution. Not even Harry can help me. Still, I’m going to do everything I can to help in the war. I’m not about to sit down and wait for this poison to consume me.”

Harry smiled in spite of himself. It was still the Draco he knew, even after how he’d acted with Dumbledore and Snape. He wasn’t as hopeless as he had appeared at Hogwarts. For that, Harry was thankful.

Ron grinned as well. “Well put, Malfoy,” he said. “Now, let’s get back to the Ministry. We have to walk back as well; they have no fires in here – don’t want anyone to accidentally Floo here.”

“Draco, you up to it?” Harry asked.

The blonde nodded. “I’m not a porcelain doll.”

“I know you’re not.”

They walked back through the hallway to the small entrance hall and out the door. The air was crisp and fresh, the sky blue with only a few scattered clouds here and there. The walk back was calm. Ron and Harry spoke about Quidditch – Ron doing most of the talking – with Draco occasionally stating his opinion.

“Want to grab some lunch?” Ron asked, motioning at a Muggle café on the other side of the street.

“Sure,” Harry said. “Draco?”

The blonde shrugged. “All right.”

They sat down at the café. Ron and Harry ordered large sandwiches while Draco ordered a salad. Harry gave him a look and Draco met it squarely. “No use in ordering something I know I won’t finish by a long shot.”

“You need to eat. You’re getting too thin.”

“I’m not too thin; I’m lean. And I’m perfectly all right, so leave me alone.”

Harry shot him a glare that said, ‘You are most definitely not all right.’ Draco pointedly ignored him.

Lunch proceeded calmly after that. The three young men spoke of Quidditch, of Ron’s work at the Ministry, and a bit more of Quidditch. It seemed that the Ron of this time loved the sport just as much as the Ron Harry and Draco knew did.

A week passed in which not much happened – Draco went shopping for Yule gifts, despite Harry’s protests that he shouldn’t go anywhere alone in the state he was in. Draco replied by throwing the Floo into the fire and disappearing. Three hours later he came back, exhausted but happy, with gifts for everyone. Harry yelled a bit at him, the blonde yelled back, before Draco lay down on the bed and fell asleep, with Harry hovering with close proximity.

The two also continued to take classes with Mr Hanawalt. They were getting better, they noticed with both delight and sadness. It was fun to see how they both became more skilled with each session. Still, there was sadness that they needed to have this competence at all – if it weren’t for Voldemort, the abilities would not have been required.

Severus kept working on finding and antidote for Draco, yet so far he had been unsuccessful. Dumbledore kept them updated; as the Potions Master understood more of what the poison consisted of, he could tell Draco and Harry what it would probably do to the blonde. None of the news was ever any good.

Now it was Christmas Eve and Harry and Draco were about to leave to go to the Weasley Castle, where they would be spending a few nights. The two young men had both shrunk their gifts as well as their clothes, so that they could travel by floo without a problem.

“Are you ready?” Draco asked Harry impatiently as the latter checked through his pockets again to see that he had brought everything he needed.

Finally, Harry straightened up and nodded. “Yup, I’m ready.”

They travelled by Floo and arrived without any problem at the Weasley Castle a moment later.

“Harry! Draco!” Hermione squealed happily when she saw them and waddled over to the fireplace to hug them. They hadn’t seen each other since the meeting at the apartment, over a week ago. It seemed Hermione’s belly had grown even bigger since then. She looked about ready to burst.

The castle was decorated even more now than it had been during the Christmas party. Garlands hung around the windows and out in the backyard, the bushes and trees were decorated with lights. The large Christmas tree stood next to the fireplace, just as green now as it had been at the party.

“Look what I found,” Draco said with a grin, pointing upwards. Mistletoe hung right above their heads.

Harry swallowed.

“Oh,” said Hermione, “Just one sec’. I need to get the camera. Need the yearly picture of mistletoe loveliness, after all.”

The raven-haired young man groaned and Draco’s grin became wider. “No getting out of it.”

“You’re enjoying this way too much,” Harry said.

Draco arched a fine eyebrow, but didn’t reply as Hermione returned, camera in hand.

“Okay,” she said happily. “Snog-time!”

Draco didn’t need more of an invitation – he placed his hands around Harry’s neck and pulled him down gently to meet his own lips.

Draco’s lips were soft and warm. Harry stood still for a moment before his brain registered that this was Draco, kissing him of all things. A part of him screamed at him to pull away, yet two things – he told himself it was two things – kept him from doing so. One, Hermione was still standing a few feet away, clicking her camera and watching them. Two – and this one was a very small reason, he told himself –

It felt nice.

It actually felt good to kiss Draco.

He found himself responding to the kiss, if only just a bit, before he realized just what he was doing and what ideas may get into Draco’s head. He pulled away, trying not to let his feelings show on his face. Hermione was too smart to miss any more clues that things were not right for him to look disgusted with himself.

Draco opened his eyes slowly to look at him. He gave Harry a small, content smile, before leaning into his embrace, his head resting tiredly on the raven-haired young man’s shoulder. Harry could do little else than wrap his arms around Draco while Hermione was watching.

“Aw,” Hermione said, taking another picture.

“You are starting to remind me of Colin Creevy,” Harry said pointedly.

“Thank you,” she said, smiling and pretending that he’d just paid her a compliment. “Now, your room’s ready, so if you want to go put your things away, Ron should be back in time for lunch.”

“Where is Ron anyway?” Harry asked, still with his arms around a now half-asleep Draco.

“At his parents’. I can’t travel by Floo right now, so he went alone to… actually, I don’t know what he was supposed to do.” She shrugged. “I think they’ll be by tomorrow afternoon with the rest of his family. My parents are coming to stay over as well; they should arrive later this afternoon.”

“Sounds good,” Harry said. “Well, I guess we should settle in.”

“Tired, Draco?” Hermione asked. She received only a mumble in response. “Take a nap if you need it. I’m sure Harry won’t mind.”

“No, I don’t mind. I’m getting used to this,” Harry said with a sad smile. “Come on, let’s go, Draco.”

He led his pretend boyfriend down the hallway to the rooms that were his and Draco’s. They looked just the same as they had the last time they were there, except for the view out the window that was now covered in white snow. The thick blue mat felt warm and soft beneath his feet.

Draco didn’t seem to pay much attention to the room, however. He went over to the bed, closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.

“I don’t want to be like this,” he said, so softly it was barely more than a whisper.

“I know. I’m sorry I can’t do anything about it,” Harry replied quietly.

He looked over at the bed to see Draco drifting off to sleep yet again.

Harry enlarged their bags and began putting the few clothing items they’d brought away in the closets. As they already had several sets of robes and other clothes at the Weasley Castle, it seemed highly unnecessary to bring all that much, and he was quickly done. At the bottom of Draco’s bag, he found two books. “Where do you want these?”

The blonde opened one eye to see what Harry was talking about, then mumbled, “Over on the table’s fine.”

Harry nodded. As Draco closed his eyes once again, Harry stole a look at the books. They were both diaries. One was worn and old, the other one very new.

Harry set the books away on the table in the corner, never even trying to glance into either diary. It would be far too much of an intrusion into Draco’s life for Harry to ever forgive himself – or for Draco to forgive him, for that matter.

He stood by the window, watching the beautiful scene; the large field, covered in untouched snow and much further away, the dark looming forest, with only its top of white. The rest of it was dark, black like the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts was. The sky was blue, an icy cold colour with a few specks of clouds here and there. He saw a lone bird fly off, away above the forest and he realized that he himself hadn’t flown since the time he and Draco stayed here the last time.

He listened to Draco’s quiet breathing, even and steady now that he was asleep. He didn’t dare to turn around to look at the blonde; he knew that if he did, he would think of the kiss they had shared and if he thought of that, then he would wonder why it hadn’t felt wrong. Why it felt perfectly all right when his own lips met pale pink ones. Why he, despite how much he tried to tell himself that he was, was not disgusted by it.

He dared not turn around, even as Draco began mumbling in his sleep, muttering incoherent sentences to the cast of his dreams. Instead he searched his bag and when he had found what he was looking for, he left the room.

He enlarged the broomstick once he was outside the bedroom. He was thankful that he had thought to bring it along; flying did seem to be just what he needed right now and the Weasley Castle’s grounds seemed as inviting as ever.

“I’m going to fly some,” he told his very pregnant friend.

“I’d recommend some more clothes, Harry,” Hermione replied. “It’s chilly outside.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Harry said, mock saluting her.

She frowned at him. “I’m serious. It’s enough to have Draco sick – we don’t need you down as well. Ginny especially wouldn’t be happy.”

Harry threw his hands up. “I know, I know. I’ll put another cloak and some gloves on. Will that satisfy you, milady?”

Hermione nodded. “I’ll call you in when lunch is ready. Although you may not get any if you continue to act like that towards me.”

Harry just grinned at her.

A few minutes later, Harry was soaring high up in the air, the wind blowing in his hair and his nose red from the cold. Hermione had been right when she said it was chilly – Harry’s breath crystallized itself in front of him when he was still in the air. Soon, however, the Gryffindor was warm from doing loops and racing through the air. He wished for a moment that there were birds he could compete with, but forgot about it after a while, realizing there were plenty of ways to enjoy himself on his own.

It was almost an hour later when Hermione called to him from the porch that it was time for lunch. Harry landed, his face and body sweaty and tired, yet his mind in pure ecstasy after flying again.

The lunch was nice and uneventful. Draco had been woken up to join them and Ron had arrived home whilst Harry was out. Ron told them that his parents and siblings would definitely join them the next day, with their respective families.

Sirius and Remus would also arrive, most likely during the afternoon.

“Hopefully they won’t come at the exact same time as my parents,” Hermione said.

Harry grinned. “That could get messy if they all tried to get out of the fireplace at once. I am, of course, assuming your parents will be arriving by Floo.”

Hermione nodded. “No way for them to find the castle otherwise, but you know that,” she said, a bit pointedly. Harry just shrugged and smiled at her, hoping she would forget any suspicions she may still harbour. After the last operation, she seemed to have decided that they were either who they were supposed to be, or very close to it – after all, they had proved that they were on Dumbledore’s side, and Dumbledore himself wasn’t suspicious.

The afternoon passed in the same calm manner the morning had. Draco sat down in the living room after finding a book he thought looked interesting. Harry sat down after taking a shower, with a book he knew he would find interesting – ‘Quidditch of the world, fifth edition’ by Avihex Phineas. Hermione was in her study and Ron was who-knew-where. Harry doubted they’d find him reading or writing like the three others – neither were Ron’s favourite pastimes.

It was like this, with Draco lying on his stomach, nose in his book and Harry lazily flipping through ‘Quidditch’, that Sirius and Remus found them when they arrived at around four in the afternoon.

“Hello boys,” Sirius greeted them. Harry stood to hug them both while Draco stayed on the couch and let the two older men come to him instead.

“How are you two? Haven’t seen you since the last op’,” Sirius said as they sat down.

Harry and Draco exchanged looks for a moment, before the blonde asked, “You do know…?”

Remus nodded. “We know. Severus informed us of your… situation,” he said. “Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help you.”

“There’s nothing,” Draco said. “Except perhaps change the subject, because it’s making me depressed to talk about nothing but it.”

“Of course,” Remus said. “So where are our hosts?”

“’Mione is in her study writing some paper, or at least that’s what she was doing an hour ago. Ron is doing – something,” Harry replied.

“Still no babies, I take it,” Sirius said, “Or else there’d be screaming all over the place.”

“Nope,” Draco said, shaking his head. “No babies yet, thankfully. I wanted to get through another peaceful Yule holiday before the second set of Weasley twins arrive. One pair is quite enough.”

“Oh, I don’t think it’ll be a calm holiday,” Sirius said, “Not with the whole Weasley family coming here.”

“You’re right,” Draco said, sighing dramatically. “I guess we are just doomed to the Christmas Chaos.”

“Well, you could always leave if it doesn’t fit your needs, Malfoy,” came the reply from behind the blonde. Remus and Harry – the two who’d see Hermione come into the room – grinned at her while Draco’s cheeks turned a bit red.

“Sorry, Hermione. No more complaining, I promise,” he said with a grin.

“I’ll believe that when I see it,” Hermione muttered as she went to hug Sirius and Remus.

“Still no babies, huh,” Sirius said and received a glare from the pregnant young woman.

“You look beautiful,” Remus said smoothly, giving his lover a look as he embraced Hermione.

“That’s what Ron tells me. I say I just look fat,” Hermione said with a sad smile.

“Oh, but it’ll be worth it, don’t you think?” Remus asked.

Hermione’s smile widened. “It will definitely be worth it.”

Ron came downstairs a few minutes later, joining the group. He showed Sirius and Remus to their rooms – apparently they weren’t sleeping in their usual ones, as all the Weasleys and Hermione’s parents were supposed to fit into the Castle. Harry didn’t think it would be that hard; after all, the Castle was huge.

“Mum and dad are bringing Crookshanks,” Ron said when they came back to the living room. “They didn’t want to leave him alone during the holidays.”

“I haven’t seen him in so long,” Hermione said wistfully. Harry realized that neither had he; the ginger cat hadn’t appeared once in the two months they had now been here. He wondered why Mr and Mrs Weasley took care of him now, but did not ask the question – there was no need to increase the suspicions Hermione already harboured.

Sirius however, had no such qualms about asking. “Why doesn’t Crookshanks live with you, Hermione?”

“Didn’t I tell you?” Hermione said, slightly surprised. “One of the girls in the Order is allergic to cats – yes, she is a Muggleborn – and so when Dumbledore made the Castle the Order’s second headquarters, we could no longer have him here. I still wanted to be able to see him though, so we asked Molly and Arthur if they would take him. They did, and he’s been living there since.”

“I haven’t seen that cat in such a long time,” Sirius said. “My first friend after Azkaban…” He trailed off, lost in memory.

Just then, the fireplace gave a small sound and in the next second, the flames turned green. A moment later a woman in her early fifties stepped out, closely followed by a slightly older looking man. Harry noticed that Hermione was the splitting image of her mother; the grey hair and the lines on Mrs Granger’s face were the only differences.

Mr Granger was quite short, although still taller than his wife. He had short grey hair, which had thinned out on the top of his head and the same kind brown eyes as his daughter.

“Mum! Dad!” Hermione exclaimed and hugged them happily.

“Hello sweetheart,” her father said, kissing her forehead. “You look beautiful.”

Hermione blushed a bit and her mother had tears in her eyes. “My little baby,” she said. “All grown up.”

“Oh mum, stop it.”

Mr and Mrs Granger turned to the rest of the group in the room. “Mum, dad, this is Sirius Black and Remus Lupin,” Hermione presented them. “Remus, Siri’, this is my mum and dad.”

Sirius and Remus both shook hands with Hermione’s parents.

“You look familiar,” Mrs Granger said as she took Sirius hands.

He grinned at her. “I have that kind of face, madam.”

“Oh, please call me Wendy. I sound much too old with all the madam and Mrs-business,” she smiled.

Ron showed the two Grangers to their room and they came back out twenty minutes later after having settled in. Together they then ate dinner, all laughing and joking together. Harry found Hermione’s parents quite enjoyable, especially as he could understand their references to Muggles and their inventions. Draco on the other hand, had immense problems in understanding what the Grangers were talking about. They didn’t mind stopping the conversation to explain to Draco, however – after all, he was “such a charming young man”.

They all sat and talked for hours. When dinner was done, they moved from the table to the living room and its comfortable couches, where Draco laid down in Harry’s arms and where Hermione snuggled up next to Ron. Remus and Sirius transfigured a Christmas ornament into another couch and snuggled up as well, with Mr and Mrs Granger beside them. Then they continued to talk until after midnight.

When the clock on the wall chimed once to tell them it was one in the morning, Wendy made the by-then very sleepy company go to bed. She fussed like only a mother can do over Draco’s tired form as Harry picked him up in his arms without a word, knowing it would do no good to try and make the blonde wake up to walk to their room.

Harry saw Hermione’s parents hug their daughter goodnight as he walked with the small blonde to their room. Once in there, he set Draco down, performed a quick changing spell on him to get him into nightclothes and then switched clothes himself.

Finally, he lay down on the bed. He glanced tiredly over at Draco, feeling the need to be close to the blonde. He wondered if it was their Heart Bind and the fact that Draco needed healing, or if it could possibly be something else… After their unexpected kiss, he didn’t know what to think. It had felt good, after all, and not just any sort of good, but really good.

Was he gay? Could he possibly be gay? Could it be that he was falling in love with his enemy? Was that even possible, for Harry Potter to love Draco Malfoy?

His thoughts returned once again to the fact that this was the future. He figured, however, that this was a future, rather than the future. It could be like this in seven years – it could also be completely different, if someone somewhere made a different choice during one of the seven years.

Still, if this was the future… Then he did love Draco. If this was the future, then he would, sooner or later, fall in love with the blonde.

Why not now?

He frowned to himself. He could not just choose to fall in love with someone all of a sudden.

But it wasn’t all of a sudden. He had been falling in love with Draco Malfoy for weeks, maybe even months. As their relationship had been forced to go through changes since coming here, they had both come to understand and accept each other. They could spend time together without insulting one another; in fact, Harry enjoyed spending time with Draco. As he had realized earlier, if he had to choose between the Draco he now knew and the Hermione and Ron at home, he wasn’t so sure that he would choose the latter anymore.

Why not now?

It had felt good to kiss him, and no matter how much he tried to tell himself that he had only stayed in the blonde’s embrace for Hermione’s sake, he couldn’t. It had been a reason, but not the only one.

It had just felt good. Somewhat awkward for him at first, yet still good. In fact, the more he thought of it, the more he realized that it had been wonderful.

Why not now?

He wanted to do it again. To feel those soft lips on his own, experience their warmth and wonder… What would Draco’s tongue feel like? It had been a long time since the last time Harry kissed – it had never been a very good experience, nothing like those walking-on-clouds and just wanting more, more, more, that the other boys in the Gryffindor common room spoke of.

Malfoy had felt good.

Why not now?

He asked himself the question again, why not now? And all of a sudden, he could come up with no reasons why not. It might be that he had no choice at all in the matter, of course, seeing how it was fully possible that he had already fallen in love with Draco, but he wanted to tell himself that he was in full control.

Making up his mind, he moved slowly closer to the blonde who’d been occupying his thoughts. His high hopes and dreams fell to the floor as he saw Draco’s pale face, thin and sickly with his eyes slightly sunken in. His heart went out to the other boy and he stretched his arms around the boy, pulling his body closer. Draco weighed hardly anything in his arms, as he had noticed earlier when Harry had carried him to their room.

Their room.

Something about those words sounded right in Harry’s ears, and even more so when Draco sighed softly into his arms, curling up next to him.

Harry held him protectively, having finally made up his mind.

Definitely now.

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