Draco Malfoy gave the appearance of sanity as he ate his salmon salad with small, efficient bites and spoke incidentally about the history of copper peppermills.
Harry nodded every few moments, but he wasn't terribly interested in whether copper reacted with green peppercorns. Harry found himself in a bit of a conundrum, you see, because despite the appearance of sanity, Malfoy was clearly mad. Barking mad.
"You can't have my sperm," Harry finally answered in response to Malfoy's request still hanging between them—copper peppermills, notwithstanding.
Malfoy ate a bite of salmon. He sniffed. "Why not? It's not like I'm asking for a body part, or anything. You're not even using it. Except to flush it down the toilet when you toss off."
"Shut it!" Harry whispered furiously, his head whipping around the snooty restaurant. "Look, Malfoy, I know we sort of get on now, but you can't just—just—" Harry waved his arms around, trying to convey the absurdity of Malfoy's request, but it was no use. Malfoy simply peered at him as if he were the one who'd gone mad.
"Can't what, Potter?"
"You can't just demand my sperm for some demented fertilization ritual. I'm not some sort of—of—" Harry tried desperately to think of the appropriate analogy, but failed spectacularly, spurting out instead, "—some sort of sperm cow, or something!"
A large serving tray clattered to the floor immediately to Harry's left. He closed his eyes and groaned. He could feel the heat of embarrassment bloom across his jaw and wondered why (for the fiftieth time) he'd ever agreed to this luncheon. He turned back to Malfoy, reddening even more at the expression on Malfoy's face.
"Sperm cow?" Malfoy mouthed, clearly trying to suppress a laugh. "Really, Potter. Some decorum, please," he said loudly enough for everyone in the immediate vicinity to hear. "This restaurant has standards, you know."
Harry clamoured to his feet. "Yeah, well find yourself another donor, then." He turned on his heel, ready to charge away, but Malfoy's words stopped him in his tracks.
"I'm calling in my life debt. You have no choice."
Harry stumbled and stopped. He turned slowly. "What did you say?"
"Life debt. I'm calling it in."
"What life debt? What life debt?" Harry repeated.
"You know the one. My mother could have given you away, but she didn't. And before you say a word, I inherited it when she died."
Harry gaped for a moment before remembering Malfoy wasn't the only one with life-debts.
"You owe me a life debt too, Malfoy. I call in my life debt and order you to never ask for my sperm." He was sure that at any moment, Malfoy—in a fit of non-plussed pique at being foiled—would leap to his feet, scream like a girl, and try to stab him with a dinner fork.
Only Malfoy didn't seem the least bit concerned. He snorted and rolled his eyes. Then he finished his salmon salad.
"Did you hear me, Malfoy? My debt cancels yours. Go find yourself another donor."
Malfoy pressed the soft, white napkin to the corners of his mouth. He dropped it on the table and stood. "Life debts don't work that way. You should really do your research before screaming to an entire restaurant that you're ordering me never to ask for your sperm."
"You can't be serious. Wait, why don't you just woo Parkinson into having sex with you? Surely you could accomplish that. You got me to, erm, not want to punch you every time I see you," Harry said, trying to suppress the image of all things he'd actually like to do to Malfoy, none of which involved sperm donation of the sort Malfoy was talking about. Harry found the idea of snogging him against a hard wall, preferably with a few bruises involved, was as thrilling as socking him in the jaw.
"Parkinson?" Malfoy asked, aghast. "You want me to have sex with that pug-faced cow?" Malfoy shuddered. "And here I thought we were beginning to get along."
"She's a woman, you prat, and—"
"—Precisely my point, Potter—"
"—as far as securing heirs, wouldn't getting her pregnant be a hell of a lot easier than trying to combine our sperm in some ritual? This is like something out of a horror novel—some contrived twist to suit the purposes of the story instead of just doing things the way they make sense!"
"This is the way things make sense to me!"
There was something behind those words that Harry couldn't quite grasp, but he was more concerned with how quiet the restaurant had gone and how many pairs of eyes he could feel staring at him to try and sort it out.
"Perhaps this isn't the best place for this conversation," Harry said slowly.
Malfoy just shook his head and pressed a card in his hand. "Be there tomorrow. Nine o'clock sharp," he said, before getting up and leaving.
"So how's the sperm cow this morning?"
"Sod off," Harry grumbled, trying to remain composed while splayed across a hospital bed in a thin gown, his feet in stirrups. It still stung that all Malfoy wanted from him was his sperm. Couldn't Malfoy see that there were far more likable parts to him?
"I don't see why I couldn't just hand it over to you in a little cup, or something. And why does he have to be here," Harry said, jerking his head in the direction of the aged Medi-Pharmacologist behind him.
Malfoy sighed. "This isn't a Muggle sperm bank—or cow, depending on which terminology suits—it's a delicate fertilization ritual. It has to be overseen, you dolt."
"You know—life debt, or no—I really wouldn't go around insulting the man who's giving you the means to secure an heir so that you can have all of those Malfoy vaults to yourself. That bloke back there mentioned something about how my thoughts about you could influence what traits our little bundle of joy inherits. Hmm… I seem to recall one of the Potters being unnaturally ugly."
Malfoy paled (as if that were possible) for the briefest second before a hint of colour returned to his cheeks. "I apologize," he ground out through clenched teeth.
"Your sincerity is overwhelming."
"Let's just get through this, shall we?"
"Just answer one question for me beforehand. Why me?"
"How many times must we go through this? Power, Potter. You're a powerful wizard. And, for whatever stupid reason, people that matter seem to like you. Your life running through my child's veins will secure its future. That's why. Now shut it and get yourself ready for the ritual."
"That's the only reason? My power?"
Malfoy's eyes slid to the left. "Yeah. The only reason."
"Right, gentlemen," the Medi-Pharmacologist said as he came around the bed. "I imagine you're familiar with the ritual, yes?"
Malfoy nodded. Harry grumbled and shoved his hands under his armpits.
"Mr. Potter, please close your eyes and clear your mind. It's very important that you focus solely on the ritual at hand. There are many pathways that open when one's mind is in the mix and it's best that we keep our collective minds on the same thing."
"Fine," Harry said under his breath, closing his eyes and trying to remember what Snape had said about clearing his mind.
After a few minutes, he thought it was actually starting to work. Until, of course, long, thin fingers wrapped around his flaccid cock and started stroking. Normally, this would have been cause for great rejoicing, but it was either Malfoy jerking him off or the Medi-Pharmacologist, and that was not on.
"What the bloody fuck!" he screeched as he tried to scramble off of the bed. His eyes shot open to find Malfoy's hand wrapped around his cock.
As it turned out, his traitorous cock didn't seem to mind. It introduced itself to Malfoy with a jaunty little pulse, puffed out its chest a bit, and said, "Charmed, I'm sure." Harry was mortified. His pent-up manly attraction for Malfoy was supposed to stay buried deep within his straight normative psyche, not stand at attention, sparkly flags waving.
"Mr. Potter? Is there a problem?" the Medi-Pharmacologist asked.
"Yeah. That perverted git's touching my cock."
"Fuck you, Potter," Malfoy said, looking oddly hurt.
Harry felt the flush of embarrassment creep across his cheeks. He'd not meant to say it exactly like that, but it was a highly stressful situation and Harry had never been eloquent at the best of times. To cover, he turned to the Medi-Pharmacologist and said, "He's still touching my cock."
"Well, erm, yes, of course, he is, Mr. Potter. How else did you expect this work?"
Harry opened his mouth to say something along the lines of, "I thought you'd Charm the sperm right out of me," but that sounded ridiculous even to him. His shoulders sagged and he said, "You can't be serious?"
"You see, Mr. Potter—"
"Get over yourself, Potter," Malfoy interrupted. "It's part of the ritual." Malfoy sniffed as he looked at Harry's cock. "It's all purely clinical, I assure you."
"Oh, well of course. Now that we have that sorted," Harry muttered, feeling a bit bruised that Malfoy could write him off—and his slightly-larger-than-normal penis—so quickly.
"Perhaps a Calming Draught?" the Medi-Pharmacologist asked, his eyes darting between Harry and Malfoy.
"Yes," they said simultaneously, finally able to agree on something.
Five minutes after drinking the Calming Draught, Harry would have let Voldemort get him off. "What's in that?" he asked in a sing-song voice as his head lolled to the side.
The Medi-Pharmacologist chuckled. "My own special brew, Mr. Potter. I get quite a few anxious parents in and it helps soothe their nerves."
"We're not—" Malfoy started, but Harry interrupted, his face split with a goofy grin.
"Parents," Harry sighed wistfully, his eyes slipping closed while he imagined teaching his son to ride a bike for the first time or playing tea party with his daughter, her eyes green like his.
"Remember to clear your mind, Mr. Potter," the Medi-Pharmacologist said.
Harry gave a perfunctory nod, but was already engrossed in passing ginger biscuits to his daughter, Clarissa, as she tried to pour for Mr. Grubbles, her teddy bear.
In the distant haze, he felt pleasure roil through him. He thought he heard a long string of Latin, too, but he ignored it all. Clarissa was asking him for more tea. Even Malfoy was there, joining in at the last minute and telling Clarissa what a lovely hostess she would make one day.
And then everything really did go blank. All Harry could focus on was the orgasm pooling low in his gut; all he could feel was Malfoy's hand stroking up and down, his thumb swiping across the top, while his other fingers squeezed the sides. Bloody hell, Malfoy was good at this. Harry felt himself shift, his hips buck. In the distance, he thought he heard a warbled moan, thought he felt Malfoy falter for a moment before squeezing and stroking him with a bit more relish.
The pressure built and built and built, until finally he was coming. A clanging bell went off inside of his head while an electric jolt ran through him. He heard the echo of a high-pitched little girl's giggle.
He fell back against the bed—suddenly drowsy—and slipped into sleep.
"Are you sure you'll be able to get Mr. Potter home? I've cast a stasis spell on your incubox, but it will only last for an hour or so. It's crucial that it not be unduly jostled while the spell works through the initial stages of the conception."
Harry blinked his eyes, feeling groggy.
"I've hired a car to take me home. The driver can make an extra stop."
"Smart thinking. Now remember, conception can take as little as a day or as long as two months. If conception doesn't take, however, you'll have to repeat the ritual."
"For all of those Galleons, of course," Malfoy grumbled. "And assuming I can get someone to perform it with me."
"My expertise is not inexpensive. You knew this, Mr. Malfoy. It's why you sought me out. And I imagine Mr. Potter would be willing to help again."
"I don't think you under—"
Harry groaned and tried to sit up.
"Ah. Mr. Potter's awake."
"Finally," Malfoy drawled.
Harry felt a hard shove to his shoulder.
"Wake up, Potter. I've got places to be."
"Shut it," Harry slurred, slowly getting to his feet, surprised to see he was fully clothed again. He blinked at his trousers. "Did you dress me?"
"Are you daft? The Medi-Pharmacologist dressed you with a charm. Let's go," Malfoy said, turning on his heel while cradling a small white box with windowed sides. Inside a faint purple spark flitted about.
"What's that?" Harry asked, stumbling behind Malfoy.
"Oh. What's that?"
Malfoy sighed. "Where the baby will be conceived and grown. Stop asking such stupid questions."
"We're going to make a baby in that?"
Malfoy whirled around and stared Harry down. "We're not doing anything together. And it's not your baby." Draco winced as if someone had matched puce and plum together. "You're not going to get all sentimental, are you?"
Harry opened his mouth to speak, but whatever words he might have said lodged deep and refused to come out. He settled for shaking his head glumly.
"Good. I've got enough to worry about," Malfoy muttered before turning back and striding out.
"I suppose that's it, then?" Harry asked.
"Life debt fulfilled?"
Malfoy nodded again, this time with pursed lips and faint blush to his cheeks.
When Malfoy made no move to say anything, Harry sighed and made for the car door. He'd just opened it when Malfoy finally spoke.
"I suppose you're expecting gratitude, or something."
Harry stared at the building in front of him, wondering what he really wanted, his heart squeezing for a moment, remembering the little girl with green eyes. "Or something," he said as he got out of the car and slammed the door shut. He listened to the car drive away until he could no longer hear the familiar rumble of its engine.
His flat was cold and dark by the time he made it inside. Harry wandered listlessly, but couldn't seem to find comfort anywhere. He was deeply troubled and didn't know what to do. Finally giving up, he called Hermione and told her everything that had happened, knowing she'd know what to do.
"What the bloody fuck are you doing here?"
Harry winced as the serpent doorknocker twisted and shouted Malfoy's words with its slithering tongue twisting around while its tail rattled and beat against the heavy door.
"For fuck's sake, Malfoy, just let me in. Your snake's trying to bite—AH! Correction, it's bitten me! What sort of demented berk has a biting doorknocker?"
"No. I'll stand here all night if I have to."
"I hope you brought your coat," the snake hissed, punctuating the statement with a vicious rattle of its tail against the door.
A wicked grin curved across Harry's face. "Not a problem. And to pass the time, I'll sing the Hogwarts' song at the top of my lungs. In fact, I might just introduce myself to your neighbours as your eccentric lover who's returned from a long, desolate journey to—"
The door clicked open. Harry heard a long string of obscenities just beyond the door. He let himself in, only to run straight into Malfoy, their chests colliding.
"Oof! Watch it will, you," Harry muttered, trying very hard to push away the disturbing revelation that Draco was actually warm-blooded. Hot, even. And that he smelled like soap powder which, for some unknown reason that Harry really didn't want to work out, smelled really, reallygood.
"What are you doing here?" Malfoy demanded. His hair was in disarray and his clothes were wrinkled. Malfoy all mussed was, quite possibly, better than the oddly compelling smell of the soap powder.
"I, erm…." Harry bit the inside of his cheek, trying to remember why he was there.
"Potter? Potter! Why are you—bloody hell, you're drooling on the carpets!"
"Er, what?" Harry asked, jarred from his thoughts.
"Why are you here?"
"Oh. Right. I'm here to see the baby."
As expected, Malfoy's eyes narrowed and his lips pinched into an unforgiving line.
"I have rights, you know," Harry said.
"You can't be serious."
"Now look here, Malfoy. That's my baby in that incubox, and I—"
"No. It's not."
"Are you trying to take the piss? My sperm equals my baby. Now shove off and point me in the direction of the incubox."
Malfoy stepped closer, as if he were about to go in for the kill. "You think you can come into my home and try and steal my baby? Discover a wonky will codicil all of your own, did you? Now you need an heir? Well, forget it! I got this one fair and square. Do your own fertilization ritual—this one's mine."
"You stupid sod, I'm not interested in any more vaults. There's a law—"
"And you're just begging to take away the baby, aren't you? So sure that I'm going to be a horrid father, you're already spying on me. Fine, I'll split one of my vaults with you if you—"
"I'm not interested in your money. I don't want your fucking money. I just want—"
"—go away and don't come back. I'm not going to live with you breathing down my neck, waiting for me to make a mistake. It's mine and you're not taking it awa—"
"I never said you'd be a bad father. I'm not spying on you. I just want—"
"Get out, Potter! I'm not dealing with this, or you. Go find your own little witch to—"
"I just want to see my baby! She's my family!"
Malfoy's mouth dropped open and his eyes went wide. "What did you say?"
Harry wanted to crawl under the paisley sofa in the other room. That was not what he'd meant to say at all, but Malfoy wheedled it out of him with his stupid soap powder and stupid mussed hair and even more stupid accusations.
"Look, Malfoy." Harry sighed. "Let's try this again. I’m not trying to take the baby from you, or spy on you, or whatever else you've accused me of. I just want to see her, be a part of her life. I can be, um, an uncle or something. Why is this so hard for you? You can't really have expected me to just give you my sperm and walk away, could you?"
"Yes, actually, I could."
"How could you possibly think that?"
"First, you hate me. Second—"
"I don't hate you. Look, we settled this three years ago at that stupid Ministry thing."
"Yes, how could I forget that night? Cheap blended table wine and a black eye courtesy of you."
"You had it coming!"
"What? What did I do? What could have possibly justified socking me in the eye?"
Harry squeezed his eyes shut at the memory of that night and everything that had led to the two of them trying to beat the stuffing out of each other. "Just forget it. That was three years ago. What I'm interested in now is the baby. Move to the side, Malfoy."
"No. As I was saying before—once again—you so rudely interrupted, this was a business transaction. Nothing more. Yeah, there's a law, but the Life Debt Act of 1135, which specifically provides that children procured through the use of a life debt are the sole children of the one calling in the debt, contravenes it. The giver—that's you, by the way—has no legal right to the child. So unless you're going to—"
"Fine. I'm calling in my life-debt, too. Ron transferred the one you owe him to me, as well, so I have two to your one."
Harry enjoyed the look of shock on Malfoy's face for a moment, before feeling rather sad about the whole thing. It wasn't a Quaffle they were tussling over, after all.
"The Act is contravened by the Parental Access Act of 1456. I've got double your life-debts and I'm calling them in. The effect of the 1135 Act is nullified. And, according to the amendments in 1998, you have to get along with me. If you don't, you have to go to parenting conflict classes." Harry cocked his head to the side. "You know, I think Hannah Abbot's running that programme now. Did you know she increased it to a weekly commitment for three years? I think hand puppets are involved, too. Oh, and there are the golden circles of safe feelings we have to make together out of painted wooden sticks. It should prove—"
"All right! I get it." Malfoy crossed his arms in front of him. "You're calling in your debts so that you can have some sort of relationship with the baby."
"Yes. I'm doing that."
"Why would you—What are you really after?"
"That baby is a part of me. I just want to know it. We don't have to be best friends, or anything. We just have to, you know, try and get along. Besides, we're almost, erm, friends. Or something."
"Friends," Malfoy said, as if Harry had just told him Hornbacked Snorggles existed.
"Er… yeah. I mean, you periodically demand that I appear for some function and I usually show. Even keep the snark to a minimum. We've had quite civil conversations the last few years."
"You call those conversations?"
"Look, I’m just saying that we obviously can stand to be in the same room together and I think, based on that success, we should give this a go."
Malfoy seemed to struggle with himself. "And we won't have to go to those ridiculous parenting conflict classes?" he asked suspiciously.
"No. I swear on Gryffindor's honour."
"Like that means something," Malfoy mumbled. "And you're not trying to take the baby away? Or spy on me?"
"No. It's yours for—She's still your heir."
Malfoy eyed him up and down. "You'd be willing to put that in writing?"
Harry snorted before realizing that Malfoy was serious. "Yeah. Whatever you want."
"Fine. We'll set up a visitation schedule. You can come here every Tuesday and Wednesday night and do whatever you want to do, as long as you don't disturb the incubox."
"What about weekends? Can I take it home with me some nights?"
"No! It can't be moved—it's very delicate."
"But two nights a week isn't very much. What if I want to—?"
"Fine," Malfoy snapped, looking as though he was about to fly off the rails at any moment. "You can come every other weekend. And before you whine about having to Apparate back and forth, I'm sure one of the millions of guest rooms will suit you."
"Er, yeah. That should work."
Malfoy huffed in response.
"Can I, erm, can I see it now?"
"Oh, for the love of—Fine."
Malfoy led him up three flights of stairs, down a long hallway. He turned to say something, but instead, shook his head and opened the door.
It was the most beautiful room Harry had ever seen. Pale yellow walls were beset with prancing unicorns, hopping bunnies, and Crups scampering and chasing their tales. A smart crib was set against the far wall and a padded changing table sat under a broad window. The room was filled with books and toys. It was like a dream. In the centre of the room, set on a secure table and banked with cushions, was the incubox, the purple spark of the spell still darting around inside.
"This is amazing. Who did this?"
"I did," came Malfoy's subdued response.
Harry stared at him, incredulous.
Malfoy rolled his eyes and huffed. "Don't look so surprised. I wanted my child to have—Oh, for—Why am I telling you this?"
Harry wondered the same thing, but then Malfoy had seemed out of sorts from the moment he'd arrived. "What, no bed for the nanny?" he sneered, trying to get them back to familiar ground.
Malfoy shot him a look before turning back to the incubox. "I'll have one, of course, but, erm, not a live-in. I want… I don't…. The baby will be well cared for and I'm sure you'll be around often enough to make sure of that, won't you?"
"I just want to be a part of her life."
"Yes, of course you do."
Harry stared at the incubox while biting the inside of his cheek. "It looks the same as it did last week when we left that old bloke's office."
"The fertilization hasn't taken yet, you idiot. And that old bloke, as you call him, is the finest Medi-Pharmacologist in the Wizarding World. He's only one of two who can successfully oversee pregnancies between two men."
"Oh." Harry scratched his head. Perhaps he should have listened to Hermione when she'd been talking about the ritual and the thrilling science and magic behind two men having a baby together. Instead, he'd made a jam sandwich.
"How long should it take?" Harry asked.
"It can take as little as a day or as long as two months, but if it doesn't take by then, it means that the ritual has failed."
"Oh." Harry didn't know what to say to that. A sense of desperation hit him at the thought of never meeting Clarissa. "We'll read to her."
"You know, read to the baby. So that she knows that she's wanted."
"Are you mad? There's no baby in there. It's just the spell whizzing around."
"Well, we have to do something." Harry walked over to a shelf and picked out a book.
"Here, we can alternate pages of—," Harry looked at the front cover—,"uh, Bronby Brumble Bounces on His First Broom. Come on, Malfoy, it can't hurt."
"Will you leave after we read this book? Will you promise to stay away until next week if we do this?"
"Fine," Malfoy said, moving closer to Harry and staring at the book. "Well? Get started."
"Yes, your highness." Harry opened the book and began reading. "Bronby Brumble was very happy. Today he was getting his first broom!"
The purple spark in the incubox hesitated for a moment before zooming closer.
Malfoy gasped. "Give me that," he said, snatching the book from Harry's hands.
Harry smiled as Malfoy began to read.
Harry eyed the serpent doorknocker with resignation. He'd hoped that, somehow, Malfoy would just know that he was standing outside his door. The serpent hissed at him as he raised his fist to knock.
"If you bite me, I'll bloody well pry you off the door with my bare fingers."
The serpent hissed at him, but dutifully knocked against the door. As before, the door clicked open and Harry stepped inside. Malfoy was waiting for him in the front hall.
"Erm, hi," Harry said, shifting the overnight bag on his shoulder.
"Is this—I thought—This is the right weekend, right?"
"Yeah, I'd just heard that you'd been invited to some elite Ministry affair."
"Checking up on me?"
Harry blinked at Malfoy's honesty. "Oh." He shifted his feet. "This was more important to me."
Malfoy rolled his eyes and muttered something under this breath. "I've given you a small suite near the baby's room."
"Thanks," Harry said, following Malfoy as he made his way up the stairs.
"I have—I'm going out this evening, so you'll have all the time you could want to spend with the incubox."
Malfoy was going on a date, Harry just knew. His robes were far too dashing for a work event. An odd sort of pain filled Harry's gut. It felt reminiscent of the pain that he'd felt when he'd seen Ginny flirting with other boys, but much lower and more insistent. "Oh. I thought you'd be here. I mean, it's okay for you to go, obviously."
"Why thank you, Potter. Good to know that you'll allow me to leave my own home."
"Look, I didn't mean it that way, I just—" Harry closed his eyes and sighed. "You're taking the piss, aren't you?"
"That's the general idea. Good one, Potty. You're finally getting the hang of things," Malfoy said with what looked suspiciously like a wink. Harry thought his stomach might drop out.
"So, you'll be back later tonight?"
Malfoy gave a half-smile and left Harry to his own devices. Harry didn't understand the fluttery feeling in his stomach or the desire to punch some unknown person's nose.
Someone was poking him. "Go 'way," Harry muttered, trying to get away from the poking.
"Wake up, Potter. I'm going."
"I’m going out. I thought you were here to spend time with the incubox, not nap."
"I am… what are you—what's going on?"
"You fell asleep."
"Oh." Harry struggled to sit up, the thick web of sleep still sticking to him. "Must have fallen asleep."
"You don't say."
"Sorry, it's been a rough week. I guess I didn't realize how tired I was."
Malfoy was staring at him now. "You look pale. Are you ill? Because if you are, you can leave right—"
"I'm not sick. Just a bad week, I told you."
"Then why are you so pale? Why are you asleep at eight o'clock in the evening?"
"Ow! Stop poking me! I took a nap, that's all! What's your problem?"
Malfoy muttered something under his breath. "You can't be trusted. I'm cancelling my da—er, my engagement. My very boring business engagement."
"That's really not necess—"
"I'm not going to let you infect the incubox with your strange sleeping sickness." Malfoy peered closer. "You didn't go into the back garden did you? Because there are some very dangerous plants back there, Potter. And I certainly hope you didn't enter the greenhouse on the left with the blue door. Without the right protective equipment, you could become permanently impotent—the unable to get it up variety—just by passing the first potting tier on the left. Mother sometimes sent a few of Voldemort's minions as punishment when they'd scuffed the floors with their horrid boots."
"Showing signs of delirium. Yes. I'd better stay—no telling what you'd do in my absence." Malfoy sniffed. "Probably ruin the whole thing."
"Listen here, Malfoy, just where do you get off—"
"Don't go anywhere near the incubox until I get back."
Harry blinked at the space once occupied by Malfoy, wondering what in the name of God was going on. It was almost as if Malfoy didn't want to go out on his date, like he wanted to spend it with Harry. "Stop right there, you idiot," Harry muttered to himself. "That kind of barmy thinking led to broken noses last time."
Harry crept into the baby's room, unable to sleep. He thought he might try singing a few more songs to her. She'd seemed to like it earlier—even when Malfoy was singing. As he moved closer, he tripped over Malfoy—who was sitting in the middle of the floor like a nutter—and nearly toppled to the floor.
"Bloody hell!" Harry exclaimed, trying to right himself before completely squashing Malfoy.
"Good thing I paid the Medi-Pharmacologist extra to compensate for your appalling eyesight."
"Malfoy? What are you doing in here?"
"What, come to check up on me? Make sure I'm not reciting Dark spells to the incubox in hopes of raising the perfect Dark wizard?"
Harry sighed, too tired to think of anything remotely witty. "Stop being such a defensive prat."
Malfoy didn't say anything in response. Harry sat next to him on the floor. The spell flitted about in the incubox, diving and twisting. They sat watching it in silence for a long while.
"I won't be my father, you know," Malfoy said at long last.
"My father. I won't be like him. I won't—" Malfoy shook his head. "The baby… it won't have Lucius for a father."
"I know that." Harry bit his lip. "She could do worse, you know."
Malfoy stared at Harry, incredulous.
"He was a bastard, don't get me wrong. He tried to kill me on multiple occasions and participated in the deaths of countless others, but you know, he loved you in his own way. For a psychotic murderer, that's saying something, right?"
Malfoy blinked. "Is this supposed to make me feel better?"
"Well—okay, look. Obviously I didn't say it well. I mean, if nothing else, he taught you what not to do."
"Still not helping."
Harry let out a frustrated sigh. "It doesn't matter who you father was. All that matters is who you are, who you've become. I mean, look at this room. Look at all of the things you've already done. You could have told me to stuff it and fought me in the Wizengamot, but you're letting me be a part of this now. I think that says a lot about you."
Malfoy looked down and dragged his fingers through the thick carpet. "You always this sappy?"
Harry grinned. "Yeah. It's in my nature. Gryffindor and all that."
The silence stretched for a long moment. Harry felt like there was something he should say, or that Malfoy wanted to say to him, but neither of them was talking.
"S'pretty. The purple," Harry said, gesturing towards the incubox when the silence had become too loud.
"I'd be happier if it were green or yellow," Malfoy mumbled.
"That's how we know that the baby's been conceived."
"Oh. Why two colours? Why not just, erm, red, or something?"
"How else would we know the sex of the baby?"
Harry blinked at him, again wishing he'd paid more attention to Hermione's long speeches about the miracles of Paediatric Engineering. "Right," he said. "How silly of me."
Malfoy's gaze narrowed until his eyes were haughty little slits. "Was that supposed to be sarcasm?"
Malfoy's gaze cleared and the hint of sly grin flickered for a moment. "It wasn't half bad, if it was."
Harry shook his head and chuckled. "There's the Malfoy I know and love. I've missed that, I think."
Malfoy grinned. "What did you expect? You were trying to steal my baby."
"Any more accusations like that, Malfoy, and I think you'll have to do a golden circle of feelings, yet."
"Scary. Going to make me use the tempera paints as well?"
"And the glitter."
"No! Stop! Please, I'll do anything you ask!" Malfoy said with a dramatic flutter of his eyelashes."
"Prat," Harry said, laughing, his heart hurting just a bit at how much he was enjoying bantering back and forth.
The last week had been miserable because of all of the baby nonsense. But Harry had to wonder where all of this was leading. The idea of raising the baby together as compatible parents couldn't be anything more than a fantasy. Malfoy couldn't possible want to have anything to do with him. Not like that, anyway.
He looked up and imagined he saw warmth and invitation in Malfoy's eyes. He had to look away.
"Erm, I guess I should head back to bed," Harry said, feeling shy and clumsy once again.
Malfoy nodded and turned back to the incubox.
"You coming? —erm, I mean, to bed, your bed, I mean. Not—Your bed. To sleep."
Malfoy stared up at him with a bemused expression. He opened his mouth to say something wicked—Harry could tell by the way the left side of his mouth curled up—but closed it before he said anything. He shook his head and whatever he had prepared to say before was lost forever.
"Practicing your parenting skills already, eh, Potter?"
Harry smiled, the stretch of his lips hurting in a way that had nothing to do with the way they scraped across his teeth. "Something like that," he said, turning away and leaving Malfoy with the incubox.
"What are you doing?"
Harry started at the sound of Malfoy's voice. The weekend was officially over and Harry found that he didn't want to waste those last few hours with something as silly as sleep. "Making a jam sandwich, obviously."
"With pickles? At three o'clock in the morning?"
"Yeah. Course. How do you make jam sandwiches?"
Malfoy stared at him. "You're mad."
Harry shrugged, continuing to make his sandwich.
Malfoy leaned against the nearest work surface. "So, the weekend went well."
"How do you mean?"
"We're still alive. No one's smarting from a punch to the eye."
Harry winced. "I'm not going to continue apologizing about that."
"Didn't ask you to, though it was completely your fault."
Harry whipped around. "No. It wasn't. It was completely your fault. If you hadn't—" Harry stopped. Malfoy had almost tricked him into telling him why he'd punched him at the Ministry Ball three years prior. But there was no way Harry would ever voluntarily say that Malfoy's snogging habits had started the whole thing. He'd just sound pathetic, in a creepy, desperate sort of way, and Harry wasn't desperate. At least, he refused to give the impression that he was.
"If I hadn't what, Potter?"
Harry turned back towards his sandwich. "No use getting into it now."
"I think now's a perfect time, actually. It's three in the morning, you're eating disgusting food, which annoys me, so I think you owe me."
"Owe you? I owe you? Not anymore. You've cashed in your life debt, now haven't you."
Malfoy's face went stony and Harry—he blamed the late hour and the lack of good pickles for his latest slip of the tongue—felt horrible. He was sure he'd just wrecked all of the good that had come out of their first shared visitation weekend.
"Malfoy, I didn't mean—"
"Yes, you did."
"Maybe so, but I didn't mean to actually say it," Harry muttered under his breath as he swept the crumbs from the work surface to the floor. He almost dropped his jam sandwich when Malfoy started to laugh.
"What's so funny?" Harry asked.
"Nothing, really. Just realizing you're not a complete idiot."
"I knew it was too good to last."
"Damn it, Malfoy—"
"This weekend went well. Did you notice that the spell responded better when we were both in the room?"
"Er… yeah, I guess."
"You didn't destroy anything or break priceless antiques. I'd say it was a win-win, wouldn't you?"
Malfoy glanced to the side and licked his lips. "So I was thinking that maybe you could come every weekend—for the spell, of course. Maybe a few more nights during the week."
Harry took a bite of jam sandwich to stop from immediately answering, "Yes. Absolutely. Brilliant idea. Yes."
"Well?" Malfoy asked.
Harry swallowed. "I'll think about it. Let you know on Tuesday, yeah?"
Malfoy pursed his lips together and nodded sharply.
"Brilliant," Harry said under his breath, covering with a large bite of sandwich.
Harry tickled the iron snake's underbelly and smirked as the snake writhed and hissed indolently. He reached up to grasp the knocker but before he could knock, the door sprang open. Well. That was new. Harry entered cautiously.
"Hullo?" he asked, as he moved slowly through the front hall. "Malfoy?"
He heard a noise in the front parlour and moved in that direction. "I picked up the shopping you asked for. Did you know that there were fifteen different varieties of beef and onion crisps? And you complain about my jam sandwiches. That reminds me, when next you're in Knightsbridge, will you pop into that bakery on Vauxhall and get more of those jam roly-polys? You ate the last red currant one this weekend, you wanker, and you didn't—"
He stopped short when he saw Malfoy draped across a sofa, a glass in one hand. A half-empty bottle of Firewhisky sat on a side table. "Malfoy?"
"Oh. Is it Thursday?"
"No." Harry hesitated. "It's Tuesday. Erm… remember?"
Harry cleared his throat. "I assume it's still purple."
Disappointment fell across Harry's shoulders, making him slump. "Oh."
"It's only been a month, you know. There's still four weeks left."
But Draco wasn't listening. Instead he was talking to the chintz pillow hugged to his chest. "I should have known. I should have known the damn thing would fail. And now I'll have nothing. No money, no name, no legacy. Nothing."
This rankled Harry quite a lot. "Stop your snivelling."
"This is my house, I'll snivel all I want. And I’m not snivelling. I’m in mourning." Malfoy shook his glass at Harry, apparently oblivious that it was half-full. Firewhisky sloshed over the sides, splattering the small sofa and the carpet. "Care to mourn with me?"
"No, thanks. Ron made chili pepper pie last night and I've been feeling off today. Better not to combine it with alcohol."
"Chili pepper pie? What's that? Never mind, don't answer. The mere thought of it makes my stomach turn."
"Mine too, as it seems," Harry said with a strained laugh.
Malfoy twisted around, nearly falling off of the sofa. "What are you doing here?"
Harry hesitated, trying to gauge just how drunk Malfoy was. Direct and straightforward seemed to be the right approach. "I've been sort of living here for a few weeks, and—"
"I know that, you idiot. What are you doing here tonight? I thought you weren't coming back until Tuesday."
"It is Tuesday."
Malfoy peered up at him, and said with a desultory drawl, "Oh, really?"
"Yes, Malfoy. It's Tuesday. I was here on Sunday, told you I had things to do on Monday, which was yesterday, and because you were such a mopey snot about it, I even offered to pick up those stupid crisps you wanted before coming over this afternoon, which is Tuesday. Today is Tuesday."
Malfoy took an indecent slurp of Firewhisky. "You don't have to get shirty with me." He looked up, his expression piteous. "Did you get the crisps?"
Harry wanted to be mad at him, he really did. But he was finding it harder and harder to muster up any real ire. Especially when Malfoy looked like a bedraggled ferret, staring up at him and sniffing. Harry snorted. "Stupid sod. Here are your bloody crisps," he said, tossing them to Malfoy. "D'you get my pickles?"
Malfoy shuddered. "Yeah. They're in the cold box. Bought some jam for you. Might look pretty with the pickles."
Harry was inexplicably warmed by this. "Thanks."
"Are you going up?"
"Was waiting for you. I, erm, I bought a new book. Thought we could—"
Malfoy laughed, the sound beginning as a huffing rumble of breath and finishing like a choked sob. "I'm not going up there. I can't—Just go. Go read, or sing, or do those stupid faces again. Just leave me alone."
"You liked the silly faces. You even smiled that one time. I saw it in the reflection on the incubox, which was surprising in itself, really."
"I was referring to the reflection," Harry riposted, hoping to rile Malfoy out of his funk.
"I'm not in the mood," Malfoy said, flopping on his back, making the sofa wobble.
"Look, it's not as bad as it seems."
"If the words, 'look on the bright side,' or 'there's always a silver lining,' or anything remotely to that effect come from your mouth, I'm going to sock you."
Harry doubted Malfoy could do it in his current state, but he wasn't particularly anxious to find out, either. "No, nothing like that. Remember when I told you that I had lunch with Hermione last week?"
"So what?" Malfoy slurped more Firewhisky.
"I told her about the ritual and that it hadn't taken yet."
That got Malfoy moving. He wrestled away from the chintz pillows and got to his feet—more or less. "How dare tell that Mu—"
"Bloody hell! Just shut it, Draco!"
Malfoy blinked, caught totally surprise by the sound of his given name falling from Harry's lips.
"She's got that classified Ministry clearance, which gives her access to the files of children created through this ritual. I wanted information. That's all. I want the ritual to take as much as you do."
Malfoy stumbled forward and grabbed hold of Harry's robes, shaking him. "What'd she find?"
"Almost half weren't fertilized until the second month, so we've got plenty of time. Well, four weeks anyway."
"Why'd you do all of that?"
Harry shrugged. He couldn't help himself as he pushed a bit of Draco's hair from his eyes. "You've been so tense and anxious. And so have I. Just wanted to reassure you, I guess."
Malfoy nodded. He looked away and swallowed. Harry felt the faint tingle of magic and wondered if Malfoy had cast a wandless, non-verbal Sobering Charm. Because when he turned back, there was an odd, clear determination in his eyes.
"You okay? You look—"
"There's something I wanted to tell you," Malfoy interrupted.
Harry felt an odd tingling in his gut, like something monumental was about to happen. "Okay."
"First, erm, sorry you had to see all of that."
Harry shrugged, feeling far more nervous than he should. Why was it that he could stare death down but the idea of a having his heart broken made him want to run for cover?
"I don't mind," Harry said. "That's what friends are for, right? S'nice being able to, you know, help, or whatever," he said, kicking himself inside for sounding like such a besotted git. He licked his lips and looked anywhere but at Malfoy.
Malfoy continued staring.
"Erm, so, what did you want to say?"
Malfoy didn't answer. Instead, he cocked his head to the side and stared at him, his gaze making him feel uncomfortable in a giddy sort of way.
"Are those new trousers?" Malfoy asked.
Harry blinked. "What?"
"The trousers, are they new?"
"I—" Harry looked down. He had no idea how new—or old—his trousers were. "Dunno. Maybe?"
Malfoy moved to the side, staring at Harry's arse. "They look good on you."
"Um, they do?"
"Yeah, they do," Malfoy said as he circled Harry.
"Oh. Well. Good. Erm, right?"
"Oh, yes, very good," Malfoy said as he stopped in front of Harry, standing far closer than before. "I've been thinking."
"Oh?" Harry winced as his voice went squeaky at the end.
"Yeah." Malfoy reached out and ghosted his fingers across Harry's shoulder. "We've been getting on now for quite a while. I mean, really getting on, you know?"
"And I was thinking that maybe we should…"
Malfoy tilted his head down. Harry could feel soft puffs of his breath skate across his cheek. "I was thinking we should—"
Harry had already started tilting his face up. He was fairly certain that his lips had already begun to pucker. But the whoosh of the Floo sounded and broke the moment. Malfoy stepped back and Harry, following the laws of Inertia, kept moving forward, nearly toppling over.
"Careful there, Potter!" Peter Peskinski called out.
Harry felt like freezing water had been dumped down his back. "Peskinski?"
"In the flesh. What are you doing here, Potter?"
"Peter, I forgot I'd called you," Malfoy said, looking uncharacteristically flustered. "You came."
"You sounded so wretched, Draco, of course I came."
"You called Peskinski to come over?" Harry spat, incredulous. He felt a hard thumping in his chest. Dear God, his hormones thought he was fifteen, again.
"He's my friend, Potter."
"And he sounded wretched. I've come to cheer him up."
"He's fine now," Harry said. "You can leave, thanks."
Peskinski frowned. "I really don't see where that's any of your—"
"Get out, Peskinski. Tell him, Malfoy. Tell him to get out."
Harry growled deep in his throat. Fucking Peter Peskinski, what the bloody fuck was he doing there? Harry had had enough. Malfoy had been about to kiss him, he knew it, and there was no way he was going to let Peskinski get in the way of that again. Harry was a fucking Gryffindor and he was bloody well going to prove it.
"Now see here," Peskinski started.
Malfoy scrutinized Harry.
"What?" Harry asked.
"You—" Malfoy began, but stopped. "Just go, Peter, I'll Floo you tomorrow," he said. He shot a glance at Harry.
"Why do I have to leave?" Peskinski pouted.
"Because you're a philandering twat, that's why!" Harry blurted, already moving between Peskinski and Draco.
"I'm a what?"
"I saw you that night. You came with Melissa Shiverington but it was Draco here that you were snogging in the back corner of corridor. 'Oh, Draco! Yes right there, Draco!'" you kept saying, all the while your date was standing alone in middle of the ball.
Peskinski hadn't a clue what Harry was talking about—his slack-jawed expression was proof enough of that. But Malfoy was not suffering such deficiency if the sharp look in his eye was anything to go by.
"Night, Peter," Malfoy said, not taking his gaze away from Harry.
"I'll call you," Draco said as he stalked towards Harry, pinning him with his possessive gaze.
Peskinski may have said something before he left—Harry had no idea. All he knew was that Draco was staring at him with a rather triumphant gleam in his eye.
Harry backed into the wall and swallowed as Draco kept advancing.
"You tried to beat me to a bloody pulp because you found me kissing Peter the night of the ball."
Harry didn't even try to deny it. "It was obscene. Something had to be done."
"All these years… I thought—" Malfoy's mouth curled into a lazy smile. "And now? Does something have to be done now?"
"Something like this?" Malfoy asked as he slid his hand behind Harry's neck and pulled him forward. He crashed his lips against Harry's and his fingers curled possessively in the hair at the nape of Harry's neck.
Harry felt like he'd waited his whole life for that kiss.
And then everything was a blur of lips, tongues and teeth, a tangle of clothing and limbs. Harry had Draco backed against the wall, marking his neck with not-so-gentle bites as Draco writhed against him.
Harry could have kissed Draco forever, but when Draco squeezed his arse and said in a long breathy whisper, "Want to fuck you. Want you to fuck me. Want to fuck. Right now," Harry's very hard cock determined how the night would proceed.
Harry grabbed Draco by the wrist and started dragging him towards the staircase.
"Aren't you the eager one?"
"You have no idea."
Within minutes they were tangled together in Draco's sinfully large bed. Pushing and pulling, growling and biting, they sounded more like savages than lovers. But Harry couldn't imagine them going about it any other way.
"God, you've got a beautiful cock," Harry said, mesmerized by the blond curls nestled at the base of Draco's penis.
"And you've got a beautiful arse. Swing around and let's take care of each other."
Harry's eyes rolled back at the thought of what Draco meant by that. "Please tell me you're talking about rimming."
"If you don't shut up, you'll never know, now will you?"
Harry moaned and scooted backward until he felt a soft hand on his arse. Before he could say anything else, his cheeks were prised apart and a warm puff of air skated across his cleft. When the soft point of Draco's tongue lapped at him as if he were made of cream, Harry knew there was a God, a heaven, a hell, and everything in between. "Fuck me," he whispered before diving down and taking as much of Draco's cock into his mouth as he could. The resulting moan and stabbing tongue at his arsehole made Harry see stars. There may have even been choirs of angels, but Harry wasn't really paying attention.
On and on they went, moaning and licking and driving each other to the edge of bliss.
"Fuck, Harry. Going to come – got to—oh, fuck—got to come," Malfoy said, thrusting his hips and fucking Harry's mouth.
But that wasn't how Harry wanted things to end. He pulled off and rolled to the side, ignoring Draco's squawks. He yanked open a drawer in the bedside table and shuffled through its contents, sending things scattering to the floor.
"What are you doing?"
"Third drawer down."
Harry ripped the drawer open, found the lube and threw it at Draco. "Give me some, slick yourself. Now."
Draco—for once in his life—did what Harry told him to do without question.
Harry slipped one and then two fingers into himself and circled them around a few times. Not great preparation, but bloody well good enough. He couldn't wait another moment.
He mounted Draco and started sinking down on his cock, wincing at the burn of penetration.
"What are you—oh, fuck, that's good," Draco moaned, scrambling to help guide his cock into Harry. "Fuck, Holy Gods, Fuck," Draco said over and over as Harry continued the long, slow downward slide.
When Draco was fully seated, Harry smirked and started moving up and down, delighting in the way Draco squeezed his eyes shut and moaned low in his throat.
"Feels so good… so good…." Draco babbled. He fisted the sheets and arched his back.
Harry continued his slow, deliberate assault, the pain lessening with each thrust. Harry closed his eyes and threw his head back, revelling in the sense of fullness.
"Move faster, damn it," Draco moaned.
Harry laughed deep and low. "Not on your life. I'm enjoying torturing you."
Draco grasped Harry's hips and used his feet to thrust up. "Turnabout's fair play, I reckon," he said as he started snapping his hips back and forth.
"Bloody fucking hell," Harry swore. "You're going to—ah, fuck! I'm going to come," he screamed as Draco wrapped his hand around Harry's cock and moved it up and down in time with his thrusts.
"Going to come, too," Draco panted, arching and wheezing and screaming as he thrust up one final time. He held his body in a rictus of pleasure for a long moment before collapsing and renewing his grip on Harry's cock.
"Come on, Harry. Time to come. Got to come," Draco chanted, rubbing and squeezing and making Harry see stars.
All too soon, Harry felt the familiar pooling of pleasure low in his gut. His balls tightened and before he could warn Draco, he came all over Draco's hand and stomach.
Harry had never felt so boneless before. Or so content.
He pushed himself off of Malfoy and rolled to the side, not caring that he felt sticky absolutely everywhere.
"Wanted to do that… wanted that a long time," Malfoy panted.
Harry groped blindly for any part of Draco he could find and squeezed. "Me too," he said.
Eventually, the uncomfortable feeling of stickiness and sweat overtook him. Harry made to get off the bed.
"No. Don't go."
"Fine. Do it?"
Draco grunted, but obediently rolled to the side and searched for his wand. He waved it around and Harry felt a Scouring Charm scrape across his skin. Draco dropped his wand arm as if he'd just moved one of Hogwarts' walls.
"Guess that answers my question about visitation after the baby's born," Draco slurred as if sleep were just around the corner.
Harry snickered, the effort of a full-blown laugh beyond him. When he heard Draco's breathing even out, he made to move again, but Draco reached out and grabbed hold.
"Told you to stay," Draco mumbled.
"Not a bloody cat."
Draco grunted again and nestled against Harry, pulling him close. Soft snores followed a few minutes later.
Harry couldn't imagine a more beautiful sound.
The following weeks were bliss.
Well except for some odd Wizarding virus that was going around that had got hold of Harry and had him throwing up three days in a row. And except for all of Harry's pickles going bad. ("They just taste off, Draco. I don't know what else to say."). But most grim of all, the spell zooming around in the incubox was still purple.
They were down to their last day. Hope was beginning to fade.
"Want some tea?" Harry asked.
"Erm, want to listen to the Wizarding Wireless?"
"We could send Peskinski to the back greenhouse and see if your Mum's—"
Harry sighed. "Staring at it isn't going to make it change."
Draco ignored him. "Only an hour to go. An hour for it to take. Why's it not working? I don't understand?"
Harry didn't know what to say. He reached over and pulled Draco to him and sat silently.
"We should talk about what to do if the spell doesn't—"
"What are you doing?" Draco asked, panic causing his voice to go thin and reedy. "Don't say anything more! You'll jinx it, and then if the spell doesn't take it'll be all your fault."
The sting of those words was too much for Harry to take. He pulled away and scrambled to his feet, swaying a bit as the blood rushed to his head. "Fuck you, Malfoy," he spat, stumbling away. "I wanted this just as much as you. Don't you dare think otherwise."
"I’m sorry. I just—hey, what's wrong with you?"
"Nothing. Just feeling light-headed. Stood too quickly, I guess."
Draco got to his feet and walked over to Harry. He pressed the back of his hand against Harry's cheeks and forehead as if checking for fever. "It's not that viral thing coming back, is it? You did take all of your potions, didn't you?"
Draco's brows were all crinkled. Which only happened when he was concerned about someone—namely, Harry. Harry loved that look. "Yes, I took them all. You sat there and watched me take them all. Didn't believe I could take care of myself to do it."
"Don't take that tone. You loved being mothered. I could see it in that dopey smile of yours—the one you only get around me."
"Is that so?"
"Yeah. That's so."
Harry cradled Draco's head in his hands and leaned in for a kiss. Draco's arms wound round his back and waist, pulling him closer. Harry would never tire of kissing Draco.
With great reluctance, they broke apart, the purple spell in the incubox weighing heavily on them.
"Do you think it knows?" Harry asked.
"That we're, you know—"
"Fucking each other's brains out?"
Harry laughed. "Yeah, something like that."
Draco shrugged, his playfulness subduing as he considered the incubox once more. "Only thirty minutes left."
Harry bit the inside of his cheek.
"It's not going to work, is it? We will have done all of this for nothing."
Harry hesitated for a moment, but remembered that the best things he'd ever got in life he'd taken with relish and audacity. He took Draco's hand. "Not for nothing."
Draco looked back, surprised.
"What, you think I'm just going to leave if this doesn't work?"
"I won't have—there aren't any more life debts."
Harry rolled his eyes. "No wonder you were snogging Peskinksi at the ball. You haven't got a bloody clue, do you?"
"Just what are you imply—"
"I'm doing this with you, because I want to, you stupid sod. Not because of some stupid life debt, or your vaults, or anything else that dumb Slytherin brain of yours can think up." Harry advanced slowly, forcing Draco back against the wall. "See, I wanted you, and now I have you, and I don't give up the people I want. And I certainly don't share. So if you think you can get rid of me now, you're wrong."
Draco smiled—the saucy one that curled up on one side of his face, the one that usually led to incredible sex for hours. But then his gaze flickered back to the incubox.
"There's plenty of time," Harry murmured. "Right now, we've got some waiting to do and some decisions to make, I reckon."
Draco nodded. He stepped away from the wall and sought out Harry's hand. They stood in front of the incubox, waiting.
The purple spark slowed until it merely listed from side to side. Still, they held out hope. However, as the last second slipped away, the purple spark hovered for a long moment before fading away. The sides of the incubox dimmed.
Draco stared while his hand fisted and reached out in fits and starts as if Seeking the Snitch.
Harry didn't know what to do, what to say. But then he did. He heard the faint giggle of a little girl. It made everything flutter inside and Harry knew exactly what to say.
"S'okay, Draco. We'll just do it again."
Draco's head jerked up. "What did you say?"
"The ritual. We'll just do it again. We can call that Medi-pharma-frankigist, or whatever he's called, and set up another appointment. Won't even need the Calming Draught this time."
"Are you serious?"
"Course. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Are you sure you want—"
But Draco never got to ask what was undoubtedly a stupid question, because Harry pulled him in for a long, desperate kiss.
"That answer your question?" He asked, resting his forehead against Draco's.
"Yeah. I'd say it does. Okay. Let's make a baby, then. I'll call him now."
"Perfect. I'll make us sandwiches to celebrate."
"What'd he say?" Harry asked, carrying in an unwieldy tray of sandwiches.
"How many people were you planning on feeding?"
Harry looked down. So he'd made a few more sandwiches than he'd intended. "What? I was hungry."
Draco shook his head and muttered something under his breath. Out loud, he said, "Says we can come back tomorrow. He doesn't know why the conception didn't work, but these ritual fertilization spells are tricky."
"I'm really sorry, Draco. I'm sorry this one didn't work."
Draco shrugged and blinked his eyes. "Wasn't meant to be, I reckon."
"But the next one will. We'll just keep doing it until it takes."
Malfoy laughed, the sound a bit more happy than sad. "Hope you've got your own vaults to contribute to this."
"I do. We'll use all of them if we have to."
Malfoy shook his head. "How'd I wind up with you?"
"Just lucky, I guess."
"Your prat," Harry said with a goofy grin.
"Yeah, I suppose so."
Harry picked up one of his peanut butter and pickle sandwich and took a huge bite. He moaned at the sublime taste.
"What the fuck are you eating?"
"That's not a sandwich, that's an implement of torture. Is that—oh, hells—is that peanut butter? With pickles?"
"Yeah. What's the big deal?"
"Is this a joke?"
"Erm, no. I happen to like my pickle sandwiches. Want to try a bite?"
Draco looked green about the gills. He waved his hands in front of his face. "Absolutely not. Get that away from me."
Harry shrugged. "Suit yourself," he said in between bites, ignoring Draco's gagging.
Harry felt an odd sense of déjá vu as he lay down on the hospital bed and worked his feet into the stirrups. He shivered.
"Cold?" Draco asked.
"A bit. Why's it so cold in here?"
"Dunno. I'll get you a blanket."
A warm rush of affection made Harry feel quite toasty for a moment.
"Ah, Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Potter. It's a pleasure to see you again. I'm sorry it's not under the most pleasant circumstances," the Medi-Pharmacologist said.
"Thank you for seeing us so quickly," Draco said as he draped a blanket across Harry.
"I see you're getting along much better, now."
"Yes, sir," Harry said. "We just had to sort some things out."
The Medi-Pharmacologist chuckled. "I suppose you lads would like to get straight to it."
Both Harry and Draco nodded.
"Before we begin, just a few questions. Have either of you taken any anti-biotic potions in the last month?"
"He has. He had a viral infection about three weeks ago."
The Medi-Pharmacologist frowned. "How are you feeling now, Mr. Potter?"
Harry shrugged. He felt fine. Well, except for being tired all of the time and the throwing up thing. Both of which he'd successfully hidden from Draco for a week. "Erm, well… " Harry began slowly.
"Yes, Mr. Potter?"
Harry glanced at Draco. His eyes had gone all slit-ish again. "You see, um, I think I ate some bad pickles."
"I’m sorry?" The Medi-Pharmacologist asked, clearly confused.
"Erm, yes. Right. Bad pickles. Still, erm, working them through my system I suspect."
"You're still throwing up," Draco barked.
"Well, sort of."
"Fuck, Harry! Why didn't you say something? How long has this been going on? You could be really sick, you know. I'm calling the family Healer this afternoon. You clearly can't be trusted to look after yourself."
"I'm not a child, Draco. I've looked after myself for a very long time, and I'm still in one piece."
"Hey, what's that supposed—"
Harry and Draco turned to the Medi-Pharmacologist. "You're a rather tempestuous pair, aren't you?"
Both Harry and Draco opened their mouths to respond, but the Medi-Pharmacologist stopped them.
"Rhetorical, gentlemen. Rhetorical. There's a very easy way to determine if Mr. Potter is still suffering from this viral infection." The Medi-Pharmacologist withdrew his wand. "A simple medical scan, yes?"
"Fine," Draco said. "If you're still sick, we're going to have a long chat about the state of things, Potter."
"Yes, well, let's get to it," the Medi-Pharmacologist said as he flicked his wand and murmured the incantation.
Harry felt a slight tickling sensation run up and down the length of his body several times before the Medi-Pharmacologist ended the scan and stepped back, staring at Harry with the most peculiar expression.
"I'm sorry to say, gentlemen, but the ritual can't go forward."
"What?" Draco squawked. "Why not? Just how sick is he?" To Harry, he said, "I can't believe you let it get to this point."
"He's not sick, Mr. Malfoy. Well, not in the traditional sense. Mr. Potter is pregnant. Just over two months along, in fact."
Stunned silence followed. And then Draco seemed to fly through the air like a vengeful warrior in one of the Muggle Ninja movies he was so fond of. He grabbed Harry by the front of his hospital gown and hauled him up. "Who the fuck did you sleep with!"
"No one, you arsehole. Let me go!" Harry sent a wandless, non-verbal Stinging Hex at Draco's hands.
"Ow! You bloody bastard, you hexed me!"
"You were shaking me around like I was a bowl of marbles. You're damn right I hexed you. And—oh, fuck—I'm gonnabesick," Harry moaned as he leaned over and threw up his breakfast. All over Draco's shoes.
Draco screamed like he'd just been Crucio'ed. He danced about, trying to kick his shoes off, raving about stupid Potters and stupid broken hearts and stupid men he'd have to kill for knocking Harry up.
"Enough!" the Medi-Pharmacologist roared. "Mr. Malfoy, a Scouring Charm wouldn't be amiss for your shoes, I think, followed by a nice Vanishing Spell. I think you'll remember those from your first few years at Hogwarts."
Draco nodded, looking appropriately cowed, in Harry's opinion.
"And Mr. Potter. A Stomach Calming Draught is in order," he said, Summoning a small bottle.
"Thank you," Harry said.
"Now, Mr. Malfoy, I would remind you that men cannot become spontaneously pregnant. There are spells, rituals and potions involved. You do remember this, yes?"
Draco nodded. "But how—"
"I'm getting there. Mr. Potter is exactly two months and one day pregnant. Tell me, Mr. Malfoy, what was Mr. Potter doing two months and one day ago?"
"He was…. " Draco gasped. "He was here."
"That's right. He was here. Performing a fertilization ritual. Now Mr. Potter, when I asked you to clear your mind, did you?"
"Erm… Look, I've always been pants—"
"No explanation needed, Mr. Potter. Tell me, what were you thinking about? What image came into your head?"
Harry glanced at Draco. "Well, erm, at first, you know, it was all sort of blank. But then I was helping my son ride a bike for the first time, but that went away quickly, and then I was sitting with my daughter—Clarissa—and we were playing tea party. And Draco was there, too, telling her what a good hostess she'd make one day."
The Medi-Pharmacologist beamed. "I suspected as much. You redirected the fertilization to yourself, Mr. Potter. A difficult thing to do. You must have really wanted a family."
Harry glanced at Draco again, heartened to see a soft smile on his face. "Something like that. So I'm really pregnant?"
"And I'm the father?" Draco asked.
"You are," both Harry and the Medi-Pharmacologist responded, though with slightly different inflections.
"Well, then. I suppose we should set up a monitoring schedule, Mr. Potter."
"Yeah," Harry said, a goofy grin splitting his face as Draco stood behind him and pressed his hand at the small of his back. "Yeah, we should."
The bed sheets were tangled, pillows thrown about the room, and Harry and Draco lay in the centre in their own decorous tangle. Draco traced the lines of Harry's abdomen, slightly distended already.
"Guess you were a sperm cow after all," Draco said.
Harry laughed. "You're never going to let me live that down, are you?"
"Not a chance."
"Figured as much," Harry said, his eyes slipping closed.
"Yeah, sorry. It's the baby and everything. Just don't have energy to—"
"Shh. Just shut up for once and let me take care of you."
"And if don't?"
"I'm never buying those pickles you like again."
"Okay, maybe I wouldn't, but only because I fear for my life when you're having a craving."
"You like a lot of my cravings. Like the one I had this afternoon, in fact."
Draco leaned down and kissed him. "Very true," he said before nestling behind Harry and pulling him close.
Harry tried to wriggle into a more comfortable position.
Draco pulled closer. "Told you to stay," he said, the sound muffled by the nape of Harry's neck.
"Not a bloody cat."
"My bloody cat." His hand stretched possessively across Harry's stomach. "And my kitten, too."
"Your prat," Draco said before nuzzling Harry's neck and drifting off.
Harry smiled. What a strange, perfect little family they made.
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