Fic: Good Breeding (3/4) (Charlie/Draco, NC-17) for lilyseyes Author:joanwilder Recipient:lilyseyes Title: Good Breeding Rating: NC-17 Pairing(s): Charlie/Draco, Surprise/spoiler pairing—highlight to see* Harry/Snape* Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended. All characters engaging in sexual activity are 16 years or older. Summary: A year after the war, the Ministry takes steps to reverse the dwindling pureblood population by enacting the Pureblood Marriage Law. A year later, they introduce the Male/Male Pregnancy Program. No one is exempt. Warnings: Highlight to see: * forced magical bonding, semi-public sex, rimming, mpreg (not detailed or graphic)* Word Count: 31,000 Author's Notes: I've incorporated four of your six kinks, lilyseyes. Although the mpreg is not graphic or detailed, it's a significant part of the story. I want you to know I thought of you the entire time I was writing. Hope this tickles your fancy. Thanks to my partner-in-crime beta reader; what would I do without you?
Every morning, Draco and Charlie had breakfast together before Charlie headed off to the Ministry, and Draco to his libraries. In the evenings, they often went for walks, stopping in at the local pubs, on a rarer occasion sitting quietly in the main library and reading.
Sundays they spent at the Burrow; Draco couldn't always keep track of who everyone was in that large group of friends and relatives, but he continued to be humbled by how gracious and accepting they all were, and for the first time in his life he began to realize how warped his sense of family was.
He and Charlie talked about it one Sunday afternoon, almost a month after their wedding. They were sitting in the garden, the women in the group clearing the picnic table where a huge afternoon meal had been served. There were a few children playing on a blanket nearby—one belonging to each Weasley son, except for Percy, who, it was rumored, was 'working on it.'
Draco eyed the wild riot of color in the flower beds, the slightly overgrown hedges that bordered the entire space, and the lawn ornaments that dotted the greenery. It was a friendly garden, the heart of Weasley gatherings in season. He was suddenly struck by the comparison to the gardens of his youth.
"Has the garden always been like this?" he asked Charlie, who turned to him. "Such a busy place?"
Charlie looked confused. "You mean the people? Or the variety of…" he laughed, "everything else? Mum's decorative touches, and Dad's eye for pleasing design and color?" he asked ironically.
"I like it here," Draco said with a slight smile. "It's homey…and accessible. It's…" He groped for the right word. "…lived in." At Charlie's questioning look, he explained, "We had beautiful gardens at the Manor, you know. Several of them."
"Yeah, I'd imagine you did," Charlie answered.
"Only thing was they were just gardens." He shot Charlie a quick look. "Perfectly designed, flawlessly executed, the palette of colors exquisitely tuned," he said wistfully, then almost as if to himself, he murmured, "I was never allowed to play in them, of course. They were for show—for visitors and parties. When I was older, I could walk in them, but never to cut a flower or lie on the grass, or god forbid, have friends there."
Charlie didn't say anything for a while, then said softly, "Sounds like a waste of beautiful spaces."
"It was," Draco agreed, watching the children. "Much of the Manor was like that actually. Not like here. I'd wager," he hesitated as he narrowed his eyes, "that this garden is full of memories. Your parents can sit out here and recall all the milestones of your family because so many of them happened here."
"You're right." Charlie smiled. "Even I can do that. And you know what?" He turned to Draco. "Right over there, by that sapling, you and I were married. And just by the fence, that lilac bush by the gate was where I rescued you from Snape that day. And today, here by the forsythia, we've made a memory, I think. The garden talk in the garden. Something we'll tell our child one day."
Draco shook his head. "I can't believe how easily you said that. Our child," he said slowly.
Charlie shrugged. "It's coming, Draco. No sense in ignoring it."
"Thanks for reminding me," he said humorlessly, but then smiled when Charlie shot up out of his chair to rescue the Quaffle from a garden gnome.
In the spirit of making memories and remembering milestones, Draco wasn't all too pleased with the one he made a week later. Oh, he'd not remember the exact date, but he'd remember how the kitchen looked on that bright July day, the sun streaming in through its single tiny window; he'd remember the smell of apples baking, and the sense of well-being that he was just then beginning to accept on its merits and not question motives or what fate might do to ruin it.
It was the day when he'd felt jealous for the very first time in this fragile relationship.
Draco counted himself lucky. Harry had been right all those weeks ago about which of them was the luckier. He felt comfortable with Charlie now, in a way that he'd never felt with anyone else. He wondered how much of that had to do with the fact that they both knew there was no way out, and so were making the best of it.
It also helped that they rarely disagreed, that they spent their days apart, that Draco'd taken to archiving like a Kelpie to water, and that some sort of sex between the two of them was turning out to be a nightly affair, the Ministry edict of 'sexual concourse at least thrice weekly' be damned.
There were still things about Charlie that Draco didn't understand. The man was always thoughtful, courteous and passionate when it counted. He included Draco in almost everything that he did, and solicited his opinion in things that didn't matter and things that mattered a great deal: from the tie he would wear in the morning to how to approach a colleague who was making an arse of himself.
He was funny too, but as Draco sat in the kitchen, reading the Prophet¸ he realized that Charlie was different when he was with Harry. He lowered the page a bit to watch, and listen.
"So, I cast the glamour and when he comes back from the loo, I'm just lying there," Harry said as he poured himself more tea, his face already red from laughing.
"Oh, this'll be good," Charlie agreed, laughing too.
"I'm never sure—what'll be funny and what I'll end up paying for. Part of his magical charm, I guess." He took a sip of tea. "So, he comes back, takes one look at me, then walks out again."
Draco lowered the paper, completely pulled in now.
Harry nodded as he grinned. "And doused the lights. I was thinking of getting up, when he came back and flopped down beside me. Real sexy like, he says, 'Harry seems to have stepped out, so we'll have to make the best of it.' Then he lip-locked me. Had fun getting the garter belt off—made a big to-do about the bustier, then we fucked like rabbits. Best sex of my life."
"Oh really?" Charlie said affectedly. "That's because you've never had me, dear."
Reaching across the table, Harry patted his hand. "Any time you're offering, look me up."
They both laughed as they sat back in their chairs, and that was when Draco felt it: a sudden, sharp stab of jealousy. He dropped his eyes, stunned, as Charlie and Harry moved on to another topic.
They were joking, not even serious. That much was obvious.
So why am I feeling like I'd like to push Potter's face in?
Because Charlie is yours,, a small voice whispered in the back of his head.
Draco looked up, startled. "I'm sorry, what was that?"
Charlie was smiling at him quizzically. "You coming with us tonight?"
Draco looked at Harry, and saw nothing but welcome in his eyes. "Sure thing, wouldn't miss it."
Later that day, he decided that it was perfectly reasonable that Charlie and Harry would be closer in ways that he and Charlie weren't. That chumminess was there because they'd known each other for years, while he and Charlie…. Well, someday…
But in the meantime, he decided he didn't have to like it. The voice in his head had a point: Charlie was his.
Only days later, Draco came down to breakfast and was shocked to find Snape sitting at the table, his coat off, his feet up on a chair angled out to the side. Snape looked up as he entered, and as Draco'd never been able to hide a thing from the man, Snape made a tsking sound.
"Why would you be surprised? We collaborate, you know. He's half-owner of the potions shops, although he doesn’t lift a finger." He scowled pointedly at the man sitting across from him. "I work my fingers to the bone; traveling between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley once a day is no bed of roses."
"Hey, I put up the capital, got you steady customers, and I still do the books, and occasionally slice and chop."
Snape let out a long-suffering sigh. "Had I known you'd continually bring up that isolated occasion when you once sliced a shrivelfig and made a pathetic mess of it, I'd've done without you, and been done more quickly, I might add."
"Pathetic, huh?" Harry asked, scandalized. "I'll remember that the next time you need a go-to boy to fix a problem."
"Potter, the day I need you as a, how did you say it, go-to boy will be the day the Dark Lord, may his damnable soul burn eternally, opens a lingerie shop in the Alley."
"Don't forget, I like lace knickers," Harry threw back nonchalantly.
Snape glowered, then muttered, "Queer."
"Takes one to know one."
Draco was aghast, his eyes moving back and forth with the volley between them. "You two are unbelievable. How do you ever get anything done?"
Snape slammed his feet to the floor, then stood. "That's it, I'm past due. Good day," he said stiffly, then stepped to the Floo and was gone in a puff and a shouted, "Hogsmeade Potions Parlour!"
Draco brooded as he watched Harry calmly buttering his toast. "It's not fair," he finally said to Harry.
"What's not?" Harry asked, looking up.
"Neither you nor Snape had to find a partner. Or think of having a…" He hated himself for blushing.
Harry's eyes narrowed, then he reached for the pot of marmalade. "No, that's a privilege for you purebloods. So Snape and Seamus and me, and all the rest of us unpure-bloods, are all off the hook. Remember when you didn't want anything but purebloods at Hogwarts? Well, now you have it—your own little exclusive club. Which, by the way, will need to have a daycare soon."
Draco didn't answer as Harry piled a ridiculous quantity of marmalade onto his toast, then watched, mesmerized, as the man made a big show of cramming half of it into his mouth. Catching Draco's eyes, he mumbled, "Wha'samatta?"
"It's still not fair," Draco said, fascinated when Harry shoved the rest of the dripping mess into his mouth.
"You s'aredy said tha'," he said as he chewed several times, then swallowed.
"What's not fair?" Charlie asked from the doorway. Draco waited until he was seated to answer.
"That half-bloods and Muggle-borns don’t fall under the Law," Draco explained.
Harry stopped making a production of licking his fingers. He glanced at Charlie, then said to Draco quietly, "No, you're right, it's not fair.
As they approached the six-week mark, Draco was working in the attic library one afternoon, now at the point where he was almost ready to move books from one place to another. He heard the sound of the door creaking open, and looked up, surprised to see Snape standing there.
"I was told you had some questions about…questionable volumes," Snape said, as he eyed the disarray around them.
"Hmm, yeah, I guess you'd be an expert," Draco said, as he Summoned his inventory list from the desk in the hall. "These are definitely on the Ministry list, but they've been in the family for generations. Harry said you'd be the best judge of whether they're really harmful, or if it's just the Ministry backlash against…you know."
"Dark Arts," Snape enunciated the words clearly and precisely. "And you're right, I'm the one who would know." He took the attic inventory from Draco.
"The ones in green," Draco murmured, making Snape look up at him.
"So I gathered," he answered, his eyes back on the pages, flicking through them quickly. "This one…this one…as well as these two," he paused as he trailed a finger down the list. "Here, and here. And this one," he hesitated, "no, keep it." He flipped back to the front page and handed it to Draco. "I've marked them. All six of them must go to the Ministry archive. Don't be caught selling them," he warned.
Draco turned the pages of the list, taking note of the ones that Snape had marked. "Wouldn't dream of it." He looked up. "Selling them."
"You are selling quite a few, so I've heard?"
"Mostly duplicates, or old editions that have updated versions. I've only had to run things by Harry once or twice. Most of it's cut and dried." He decided to show Snape that he'd resisted temptation. "I know there's a market for Dark Arts books. And for anything Harry Potter owns. They've tried to entice me a time or two." He shot Snape a dark look. "I’m not stupid, Severus."
Snape stilled, then closed the book he'd been perusing. "Good for you, then. It would be a foolish thing to risk it all for money." He set the book aside, then looked toward the door, lifted his hand and waved lazily. It closed with a thud.
"How are you getting on? You and Charlie seem remarkably well-suited," he observed, as he leant against a stack of boxes.
"It's fine," Draco said awkwardly, shifting his weight so that he sat on the box behind him.
"Fine?" Snape said as he lifted an eyebrow.
Draco bit his lip. "All right. You deserve more, I suppose. I'm contented; I look forward to him coming home, I look forward to my days because I'm enjoying this work more than I have a right to, and to be honest, I'm scared to death of what's about to happen to us. If only…" He shook his head. "If only we could just go on like this," he lamented.
"Ah yes, the mantra of youth," Snape told him. "Just remember, before this all happened, you believed being forced to marry a stranger was the worst thing in the world. Look at the two of you now." Draco could hear the unstated, 'Look at you,' in his voice.
He seemed to measure Draco with his eyes. "Remember, you're not in this alone. One thing I'll say for the Weasleys, they've made fine husbands…and a wife. You're fortunate." He cocked his head to the side. "As is Charlie. He couldn't have brought out the best in you if there hadn't been a 'best' to bring out." He stood and dusted off his robes, then turned toward the door. "If you ever need me, for any reason, nothing has changed, Draco. I've always wanted what was best for you. You know where to find me."
"Thanks," Draco said as he watched him go. He knew he hadn't been entirely truthful. He didn't just look forward to Charlie coming home at night. No, Draco was hungry for his affection, which Charlie seemed only too happy to give. For the first time in his life, sex wasn't a tool to pleasure himself, nor a means to get what he wanted. It was no longer a game of power to be used by and against him, as he'd painfully learnt near the end of the war and during his time at the Ministry.
Now, sex was something he couldn't seem to get enough of…or was it Charlie he couldn't get enough of? Draco had a feeling it was both.
That Sunday, the heat was oppressive. Everyone at the Burrow had seemed to find a cool spot to wile away the afternoon. All of the women except for Molly had taken the children down the lane and across the bridge, to dangle their feet in the stream and allow the children to splash in the shallows. George and Bill were off with their father, sitting in the shade behind the garage, drinking some concoction that Arthur had cooked up in his newly acquired Muggle still. Molly was stretched out on the settee, listening to the wizarding wireless, singing along when she knew the words.
Charlie and Draco had been in charge of table cleanup this time, and once they were finished, Charlie took him by the hand and, putting a finger to his lips, pulled him around the side of the house. There, at the far end of the back garden, stood an arbor with a small framed swing tucked in between its trellised walls.
They sat gingerly, testing the fragile structure with their combined weight. When it held, Charlie pulled Draco close as he kicked his shoes off. Draco followed suit, then pulled away. "Ugh. It's too hot."
They swung lazily back and forth, lulled by the creaking of the wood and the smell of the clematis overgrowing the roses. Close by was a window to the sitting room, and they could hear the haunting refrain with Molly singing a word here and there: Just to have you near, dear, just to have you hear me… hear me… say that I love you…..
Charlie laughed softly.
Draco cast him a sideways glance, then laid his head on the back of the swing. "What?"
Laughing again, Charlie shifted in the swing. "Just listening to Mum. Reminded me…"
Draco snapped his head up as he felt Charlie's weight leave the swing. His eyes grew wide when Charlie knelt in the grass in front of him. "What're you doing?" he asked as Charlie stilled the motion of the swing, then reached out and pushed Draco's knees apart.
Sitting himself between his legs, Charlie smiled. "You know how you like it when you think Harry can hear us?" He leant forward and rested his elbows on the wood of the swing between Draco's legs. His hands went to Draco's flies, then began to undo them.
"What're you doing? Your mother's ten feet away." He tried to stop Charlie's hands, but they were swatted away impatiently. He gave in, watching with a mixture of amusement and trepidation.
"I'm going to give you head." Charlie looked up at him slyly, working his hand through Draco's y-fronts now. "Just think…" Draco gasped as his cock sprang free. "Here were are…out in the open. Dad and my bros are right there, on the other side of that fence. If you make any noise…."
He buried his face in Draco's crotch, making him grab onto the back of the swing as he swallowed a cry. He felt Charlie's hot breath on his cock, and almost whimpered when he pulled away.
"Not to mention Mum. She gets up while we're at it, she'll see us for sure. Well, she'll see your face, not mine." He dropped his head into Draco's lap again, this time holding his cock in place with his hands as he covered just the head of it and sucked hard.
Draco's legs whipped out straight, his knees locked, as he brought his hands up to Charlie's head and pushed down hard.
Charlie resisted, and twisted his neck until he was free. Looking up, he made a point of licking his lips, then said, "Unh-unh-unnnh, bad boy." Using one hand to cup Draco's balls, he reached up with the other to slip a finger into Draco's mouth. "What do you say? Could be risky. Just think if she sees us…hmmm?" He pulled the wet finger from Draco's mouth, and used it to finger the slit of his cock. "Are you feeling lucky? Or maybe we should just wait until we get—"
"No!" Draco almost shouted, then was horrified at how loud he'd been. "No!" he said quietly, but just as urgently. "You started this, now finish it." He tugged on Charlie's hair.
"You asked for it, remember that when they catch us," Charlie needled right before he plunged.
Draco needn't have worried about making more noise, as he now had no breath to put behind it. Charlie was merciless, bobbing on and off his cock, gripping it with one hand as he fingered his balls with the other.
It didn't take long at all; the circumstances alone would've been enough to make him come, but Charlie knew exactly when to stop, when to wrap his arms around Draco's hips and pull forward with all of his might and just stay there.
Draco arced upwards into his mouth—once, twice, three times, and then it became one continuous rolling motion of his arse on and off the swing. He could feel Charlie swallowing around him, and for a moment, he thought about Molly Weasley standing at the window watching them, then he let out a happy sound and pulsed some more.
Charlie finally backed off, sitting on his heels as he wiped his mouth with the hem of his t-shirt. Smiling at Draco, he leant forward and tucked his flaccid cock back into his trousers and did up his flies. Then he stood to his feet, and took a step to the window and glanced in furtively. Turning back to Draco, Charlie grinned. "She looks shocked."
Draco laughed weakly, motioning with his hand. "Come here, my turn."
Shaking his head, Charlie sat beside him and put his arm around his shoulder. "Not a chance. As soon as you're able, we're heading for the garage. There's an old Muggle car in there, and I've always wanted to fuck someone in it."
Rolling his head to look at him, Draco protested, "But your dad and brothers are just outside."
"I know, isn't it great?"
Throwing his head back to look at the sky, Draco groaned, "I've created a monster."
Snape was at breakfast again, sitting at one end of the table, ignoring everyone. Charlie, Draco and Harry sat at the other end, talking over the upcoming first round Quidditch draft when Kreacher appeared at Charlie's elbow with a letter on a plate.
"What's this?" Charlie asked as he took it. After a glance, he turned it so Draco could see the Ministry seal. "It's that six-week letter they warned us about." He used a table knife to slit the envelope, then pulled out the parchment. "You want to read it first, or should I…"
Draco waved impatiently. "Just read it. We all know what's in it."
Laying it on the tabletop, Charlie smoothed out the creases, then bent in to read.
Dear Pregnancy Program Participants,
Congratulations! Today, August first, marks the six week anniversary of your binding ceremony. It is our sincere hope that this letter finds both of you well and ready to move on to the next stage of the Male/Male Pregnancy Program!
You are both required to appear at the MMPP Preparatory Office one week prior to your three month anniversary. This appointment is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on September thirteenth. On this day, you will identify the partner who has chosen to take part in the MMPP as primary carrier.
At that time, the selected individual will be interviewed and examined: the MMPP is an individualized program that is customized for each wizard. Height, weight and other parameters must be assessed in order to formulate the proper composition of potions, spell strength and optimal length of gestation. One week later, on September twentieth, both partners must present to the MMPP Initiation Office for the first round of potions and spells. Please expect to repeat this visit weekly until conception has occurred. Further instructions on the scheduling of supportive pregnancy visits will be deferred until this time.
In the unhappy event that you have not chosen a pregnancy partner by September thirteenth, the default candidate will be the younger of the two wizards. We strongly advise that every attempt be made to effect this decision before appearing on the above date.
Claudia McElvanhey Administrator MMPP/FFPP
Draco's face had drained of color. He bit his lip, then murmured, "The younger of the two wizards." He sat back in his chair and laughed, then said bitterly, "Well, that's that, then."
Harry and Snape were sitting quietly, both of them watching Charlie, who folded the parchment carefully, then slid it to the side before he looked up at Draco. He seemed suddenly pale beneath his freckles. "What do you mean? You think that's how we'll decide this?" He shook his head in disgust, although it was unclear whether it was for Draco's assumption or the letter itself. "We should weigh the pros and cons, and make the best choice."
"Oh really," Draco said sourly.
"It's a moot issue, in any case," Snape said suddenly from the end of the table. "I've been dosing Draco's tea for weeks with a pregnancy enhancer. I'm surprised he's not with child already." He stood and drained his teacup, then cocked his head at Draco, whose mouth had fallen open.
"You…you…" Draco managed to croak, half out of his chair when Harry put his hand out.
"Stop it, Severus," Harry said darkly. "More evidence of your sorry social skills. Not the best thing to joke about just now."
Setting his cup in the saucer, Snape shrugged. "I thought a touch of levity was called for."
In a rare criticism of Snape, Charlie waved him away. "Bad timing, Severus. It's no laughing matter." He shot Harry a beseeching look. "Can we have the kitchen for a moment?"
Harry responded by standing with his cup, then headed for the door, calling to Snape over his shoulder. "You're almost late, Severus! I'll see you in the Alley shop at two." The door closed behind him, just as Snape stepped into the Floo, leaving Draco and Charlie alone at the table.
For a moment, neither of them spoke.
"It's what I've been afraid of all along," Draco said quietly. "That there'd be no choice in the end. I don't want to do it and neither do you. You know it's true, or we wouldn't be sitting here talking about it. If you won't do it, it'll be me. So all you have to do is refuse," he repeated.
"There's something else to consider as well," Charlie finally said. "We have to look at the big picture."
"The big picture?"
"Sure. What we're going to be doing after this…" He pointed to the parchment. "…part is over. We have a long time to live after that. Maybe we should think about that for a while."
Draco stared at him for a moment. "I…I don't know what to say. This is the first meaningful employment I've ever had. But it won't last forever," he finished softly, thinking to himself that he'd never been able to think much beyond winning, and then surviving, the war. The only picture he'd had of himself had been at the Dark Lord's side, and that picture had been destroyed well before the war's end. He'd had neither the time nor optimism to think up another future for himself. He refocused on Charlie, surprised to see the longing in his face. "What about you?"
Charlie shrugged, an uncharacteristically closed look on his face. He seemed to be afraid to speak his mind, a rare enough occurrence that it made Draco sit up straight. "Come on, say it."
"Nah, it's completely selfish," Charlie said dismissively.
"Well, say it, then. You said we should look at the pros and cons. How do you know I won't like it?"
Sitting forward, his hands clasped together on the tabletop, Charlie looked him in the eye. "I miss my dragons, Draco."
Draco thought about it for a moment, then smiled lopsidedly. "That's funny."
Charlie frowned. "Funny? I don't think—"
"No, it's funny because that's what my mother used to call me. Her 'dragon'." He shook his head. "I don't think it's funny that you'd miss it. You did it for years."
"It's not just the years, it's what I was meant to do, I've always known that," Charlie said mournfully.
Draco took a deep breath. "Well, after there's a child, you should go back. I don't think they'd stop you."
Narrowing his eyes, Charlie seemed hesitant. "Why…would you think I'd want to go without you?" He shook his head as his face cleared. "We took a vow, didn't we?"
He couldn't help it; Draco guffawed. "You really are a Gryffindor. The minute they've punched out a kid, most of these forced marriages will be history."
Charlie's eyes flashed as he reached out and caught Draco's wrist, pinning it to the table. "First of all, the Law has eight more years on us—remember that. And as for what will happen to you and me after we've…had a child. I have every intention of keeping my word. If you feel otherwise, well, you do what you have to do." His voice took on a tone of desperation. "I honestly thought we were doing all right, the two of us."
Draco had to hang his head. He knew what his problem was, but he had no idea of how to say such a thing. He had to make an attempt, though, because he couldn't stand the thought of what Charlie might think. Looking up, he began, "I didn't mean us…specifically. I…I…" He took courage from Charlie squeezing his hand. "I figured you'd want an out if there was one, and if it's just some honor thing, I wouldn't want you to stay because of that either. I'd only want you if...you wanted me," he managed to finish, then had to look away.
"I want you," Charlie said simply, lacing their fingers together. "Not because I have to, or am honor bound. Just because I do."
It was a strange sensation, Draco thought to himself, having three little words dispel so many insecurities. He leant to the side to lay his head on Charlie's shoulder, watching as Charlie rubbed his thumb back and forth over Draco's slender fingers. "All right, I've only ever been to France, and it was horrible. So, what about this place where you were?"
"Romania. You've never known anyplace like it. The reserve's in the Carpathians; that’s where the dragons thrive. Summers are beautiful there, but the winters will freeze your balls off." He seemed to warm to his subject. "We're out in the middle of nowhere, but when there's time off, the country has a lot to offer—places with histories, the seaside, Bucharest for the hols." He paused as he twisted in his seat to look Draco in the face. "There's a close-knit wizarding community on the reserve. About seventy of us, counting spouses and children."
"What would I do there?" Draco asked.
"Well, I've been thinking of that. They're about to start a wizarding school."
"Me? Teach children?"
"I don't know, you'd have to think about it. Unless you'd like to work with the dragons."
His eyes wary, Draco said flatly, "You're having me on."
"No, really. I've thought about this."
"Really. There are any number of things you could do. Some of them in the office, some of them working out on the reserve. And besides, we'd train you up right."
Draco was pensive. "I'll think about it," he said dreamily, then shot Charlie a rueful smile. "We haven't decided what to do about…the Program. Romania was a distraction technique, wasn't it?"
Charlie stood, then reached down and pulled Draco to his feet. "No distraction. Just putting the Program in perspective, is all. This time next year, it'll all be over, and the question of what to do with the rest of our lives will be the larger one."
"So…we've not decided who the lucky one is, I guess," Draco said, suddenly dejected.
Charlie, who'd headed for the door, stopped and looked back. "We have five weeks to talk it over and decide."
Later that morning, as Draco was perplexedly sifting through the complete works of André Gide, it struck him that one of them would definitely be changing his mind; he just couldn't imagine it would be him.
As Draco worked his way through the libraries, he became aware that the total worth of the volumes was staggering. He found first editions, both wizarding and Muggle, as well a sizable number of rare wizarding books that had been out of print for years; the worth of these was considerably enhanced by the fact that the tomes themselves were in excellent condition.
When he encountered one particular volume on alchemy that had been written in the eighteenth century, well-preserved, and worth a mind-boggling sum of money, he decided to alert Harry that something should be done to safeguard its condition and security.
Harry was often at Grimmauld Place, especially in the early afternoon. He was sometimes there for breakfast, but rarely in the evening unless the three of them had made plans to go out. He was busy with his own life and business. In addition to being the silent partner in Snape's two potions shops, he'd been contracted by the Ministry to write a series of seven books—texts, more exactly—for the seven years instruction at Hogwarts for Defense Against the Dark Arts. This course in particular had come under criticism after the war's end, with the charge leveled that the school had been inconsistent at best in preparing young witches and wizards to defend themselves. Especially embarrassing to the Ministry was a fact that had come out over and over in the war trials: the Dark Arts were being passed down from parents to children, and the only evidence of an effective counter-program had been Harry's own vigilante group, where those who'd fought so admirably in the Battle for Hogwarts had honed their skills.
When approached, Harry had been hesitant at first, but had then closed a lucrative deal with the Ministry. In addition, the Ministry had asked him to consider the position of ghostwriter in a similar project aimed at standardizing the Potions curriculum. As Harry was the only one whom Snape had indicated he'd tolerate in this position, Harry had said he'd think about it, but Draco guessed that he'd decided to take it on; why else would he have notebooks and outlines for Potions classes on his desk?
On a day when Snape and Harry both happened to be there for lunch, Draco brought up the matter of the valuable books, and one in particular.
"You're joking," Snape said, putting his cup down when Draco mentioned the Galleon amount. "And this is the Durgess Alchemist's Alcove?"
"That's the one. Not a large book at all. I didn't even take it to the appraiser; I had him come here. And that's what he said."
"Imagine that," Snape murmured, eyeing Harry, who'd yet to speak. "Sitting on the shelf all these years. Worth a small fortune. Pity to keep it here. It requires a controlled environment. A preservation specialist."
Harry shook his head. "I want to keep it. It was Sirius'."
Draco and Snape exchanged a glance, then Snape said dryly, "They were all Black's."
"I know. Just…" He looked at Snape with seeming hostility. "This is my decision."
Snape's lips thinned. "Yes, indeed. It is. But it's irresponsible to not take care of something so valuable. But as you said, your decision." He stood, threw his napkin to the table, then stepped to the Floo. Nodding in their direction, he said curtly, "Draco, Potter," then was gone in a flash of green.
Draco didn't say a word, but hazarded a look at Harry, who was moodily making patterns in his mashed potatoes with his fork. He looked up and caught Draco watching. "Not my best moment."
"As you said, it's your decision."
"Hmmm, guess so. The way these things usually go is that I'll think about it and end up doing what he thinks anyway. He's usually right, you know."
Grinning wryly, Draco answered, "I seem to remember that's how it worked."
Sighing, Harry set his fork to the side, then Summoned the teapot. After pouring for himself, he lifted it in question, then poured for Draco when he nodded. "While we have time, I wanted to talk to you about something."
Draco felt his heart beat strangely. "Oh? All right." He was suddenly afraid; there was so much history between him and this man, so much of it bad history, that he'd lived here waiting for the shoe to drop, then had gradually relaxed when it hadn't.
Harry was watching him, a sardonic smile spreading across his face, and suddenly Draco just knew that Harry knew what he was thinking.
"Tsk, tsk, Draco, why would you think I'd bring any of that up, after all this time?" Harry asked him. When Draco stared at him, refusing to look away despite the sudden heat in his face, Harry sobered, then ran a hand through his hair. "Maybe I should've mentioned that at the beginning, huh? Well, you can rest assured it's dead and buried, so far as I'm concerned."
Swallowing hard, Draco nodded. "I did wonder," he said hoarsely, then self-consciously cleared his throat.
Harry's smile was genuine now. "Well, come to think of it, what I have to say will prove my point." He paused as he spooned sugar into his tea. "I was wondering if you'd be interested in more archiving work?" He glanced up at Draco, lifting an eyebrow.
Confused, Draco said, "Well, what did you have in mind? This will take me months yet." He frowned. "You have another library somewhere?"
"No, but I've recommended you to a few people, and two of them have contacted me and asked how to reach you. Really, you could slow down on the libraries here, if you'd like to take these on. And they'd pay you well, of course."
"You recommended me?" Draco asked, stunned.
"Why're you shocked?" Harry teased. "You're doing a fine job here."
"I'm trying," Draco mumbled, in full flush now.
Harry gave him a moment to regroup, then prodded, "So, what say you?"
Draco opened his mouth with the instant answer, then thought better of it. It was a novel sensation, this check in his psyche that made him hesitate. How odd, he thought: normally he would consider only what he wanted to do and then do it. "Can I let you know?" he asked. "I'd…like to talk to Charlie about it first."
Harry seemed to bite back what he was about to say, his eyes solemn. "That'd be fine."
Of course, Charlie was thrilled, his eyes sparkling as he slapped Draco so hard on the back that he'd had a coughing fit. Draco hadn't thought it'd turn out any differently, but he was glad he'd asked. He refused to think of what he'd've chosen to do if Charlie disapproved, but that was the point, he thought to himself. He'd known Charlie well enough to guess what his response would be.
He was slightly chagrined by how much the man's pride in his accomplishment meant to him; he'd always pleased himself first, and this…sharing 'first place' felt foreign and disconcerting.
Over the next few weeks, Draco became increasingly optimistic. Thoughts of Romania filled his idle moments, and even the pregnancy decision looming on the horizon wasn't enough to dampen his new-found joie de vivre. He reasoned critically that the fact that Charlie was so obviously concerned with how he felt about things would in the end produce the result that Draco hoped for. He didn't know exactly how that would happen, but it was his hope, nonetheless.
There was one thing that chafed, and it was almost foolish to let it bother him, now that he was going to be able to really add to their income. The little that Harry gave him hardly counted, and Charlie had never offered any either. At the beginning, he'd wondered if this were part of a conscious effort to keep him from taking off, but now…now he believed that they just hadn't considered that having to ask for money, were he to need it, would be humiliating.
They seemed to have their most serious talks at the Burrow, when the rest of the family was briefly in 'siesta mode', as Hermione liked to call it. It was that empty hour between lunch and Quidditch.
Draco was still, on occasion, overwhelmed by the large family. And he'd watched Charlie's parents today in particular, marveling at how they took every thing in stride.
"Did your parents plan to have so many of you?" he finally asked. "Or…did it just…happen?"
Charlie made a face. "It never just happens. But yeah, they wanted a large family."
"So…do you ever wonder, being there are so many of you, if they have favorites?"
"Of course they have favorites." He smirked at Draco. "Seven of them."
Draco snorted. "That sounds like something parents would say."
Shaking his head, Charlie said, "In a family this size, do you know how many times we asked that question when we were growing up?" His brown eyes were smiling, and Draco noticed for the first time the crow's feet gathering at the corners. "'Course, they changed the answer over the years as more of us were born. Let's see." He seemed to think for a moment. "Bill was special because he was the first—same with Ginny, because she's last, and oh yeah, the only girl. The twins, well, they were twins, and that's pretty damn outstanding. Mum and Dad said Percy, well, they always knew he'd be the great achiever and make us famous. Even as a child, he was odd. One day, no warning, he could read. No one knew how."
"That leaves you and Ron," Draco pointed out.
Charlie grinned. "This is where they got creative. Ron and I were the 'in between' children. They enjoyed me because I was the second; they'd figured things out by then, and weren't so nervous about doing it wrong. Ron, he was Mum's huge relief after the twins. She says Ron reminded her that she really did love children. And I quote, 'Every single one of you is important to us. We love you all the same.' And you know the funniest part?" he asked. "I think they really do."
"So, it never seemed like they favored one of you more than the others."
"Of course it did. We were sure of it, and who we thought it was changed from one week to the next. But now…we know it's not true. Except…for a while there, it was Percy, I think. When he was being a berk."
Draco frowned. "He was their favorite because he was being a berk?"
"Yeah, the ol' prodigal son thing. Though he didn’t get a fortune or a fatted calf. But a parent-like equivalent. I've always believed the timing of his coming back was…fortunate. We'd just lost Fred, you know, and got Perce back the very same day." His face was somber. "I think it helped Mum, at least." He glanced over at Draco. "Why did you want to know all this?"
Draco waved his hand toward the kitchen. "I just don't know how they could've kept it all together…so you all turned out…the way you did." He looked away to the side. "There was only one of me, and my parents still managed to fuck it up."
"For what it's worth, I think your parents' big mistake was that they didn’t do the most important thing."
"What was that?" Draco asked.
"Put you first." He reached out and took Draco's hand, rubbing his thumb across his wrist. "It makes all the difference in the world. It's what love does."
Draco stared at him, watching as he placed a kiss to the palm of his hand, then squeezed it. Charlie stood and stretched, then left to rouse the Weasley Home Quidditch team for their afternoon game.
A week later, Draco was working late into a Friday evening. Harry was in the house somewhere, spending a rare overnight, and Charlie was having dinner with a visiting foreign Ministry's dragon delegation.
He ate in the kitchen with Harry, then shut himself into the main library. He was now at the point in his work where he was beginning to clear entire sections of the walls in preparation for re-shelving. The first small sub-category of books had been inventoried and cataloged. Draco had picked out a small wooden chest with tiny filing drawers, constructed specifically for housing an archiving system.
He'd looked forward to this part of the project for weeks. The card for each volume had been painstakingly prepared; Draco held them in one hand as reference, placing the corresponding book on the shelf in its place, then moved its file card to the bottom of the pile. It took him several shelves to complete this first small subtopic: wizarding genealogy. He'd taken a step back to admire his work when a small book in the unsorted section to his right caught his eye.
Puzzled, he pulled it out to examine it. The binding was a dark blue, the title, Wizarding Traditions of Northern Scotland. It seemed fairly new, so Draco gasped aloud when he leafed to the cover page and discovered it was a nineteenth century first edition. Mint condition, too. Poring over his master inventory, he saw that the book was indeed listed, although the year was noted as 1930 instead of 1830.
Draco whistled. The book was worth a pretty Knut. This was one of his favorite parts of archiving: sometimes it was like a treasure hunt. When he least expected it, at any moment, the next book off the shelf could be a gem, undiscovered and unappreciated, literally, for ages.
Happy with his work of the evening, and even happier with his recent find, he wandered off in search of Harry and Charlie, book in hand. He was certain he'd heard the front door open, and steps in the hallway not too long before. They were probably in the kitchen, waiting for him to finish.
But the only one in the kitchen was Kreacher, who gave him a low bow, and without waiting for the question, he pointed a long spindly finger upward.
Ah, they're in Harry's study.
It was a small room that connected to the Harry's bedchamber, the real reason he'd chosen it over the master one. It was a horrible room, with piles of books and parchments everywhere.
At the top of the stairs, Draco headed first for his and Charlie's room, and after verifying that it was empty, he took the long corridor for Harry's rooms at the other end.
He wasn't to the door when he heard the sound of voices—Harry's distinctive tenor and Charlie's lower bass. The door was closed, which pulled Draco up short. That was odd—when Harry was working, it was always open.
Draco raised his hand and was just about to knock when the sound within made him freeze. It was a long drawn-out moan, then what was clearly the creaking of bed springs. Harry's voice again—strained—then a longer trail of a moan with Charlie's voice superimposed atop it.
Dropping his hand to his side, Draco listened in shock, rooted to the spot, horrified and certain of what he was hearing. But just to make sure, he stepped to the side of the door and stood with his back against the wall. Rigid, his arms stiff at his sides and hands balled in fists, he forced himself to listen to the bitter end.
Although most of the words were muffled and couldn't be made out, the gist of it was crystal clear. Harry was the more vocal one—the moaner and groaner—reduced to begging and pleading as the sound of the bed creaking became louder and continuous. Charlie laughed lowly, his voice punctuating Harry's more melodious phrasing with one-word questions or sounds of encouragement.
Draco could tell when they came. All the sound stopped, except for the bed stretched to its limits. He leant limply against the wall, flushed and trembling, wanting to cry, but overwhelmed by a much stronger emotion.
When he heard the bed creak again, his eyes flew open and he fled down the hallway and then the stairs, to the sanctuary of his library.