Summary: Anything can happen in a World Cup year.
By the time he got to Heathrow and parked, he was ten minutes late, and coming in to International Arrivals he realized with horror it was full of press. If they brought up the tabloid rumors, Draco was likely to go ballistic. But when he finally saw Draco, it looked like things were peaceful enough, and as he got closer Harry realized they weren't from the tabs-- they were from Q.E.D. and the sporting section of the Prophet.
Harry'd known, of course; there had been five or six years when Draco's face had been everywhere, and Ron had complained about it pretty much nonstop. But by the time he and Draco were together that had mostly been over. People recognized Draco, and occasionally they asked for autographs, but that happened to Harry, too. This was different.
There was easy, quiet familiarity to the way the reporters spoke to Draco, and the way he answered them, and there was a sense of muted excitement to the crowd. Harry thought of the announcer at the game, and wondered. He hadn't really protested when he'd aged out of active duty with the Aurors, but he hadn't loved it the way Draco loved quidditch. He could see why it might be almost impossible to give up.
Draco saw him and broke away from the woman with the microphone. He looked desperately tired, and the bruise on his cheek was spectacular. He hugged Harry hard, not saying anything, and waved to his fans before they walked out to the car together.
“Merlin,” he said, slumping in the passenger seat next to Harry. “That was a fucking great game.”
Harry glanced over at him. “Yeah.”
The corner of Draco's mouth turned down. “Pan called me about Teddy,” he said. “I can't-- I can't believe--.”
“I know.” Harry took his hand off the gearshift for a moment, and touched Draco's thigh. “Christ, I know exactly what you mean.”
“How did Andromeda take it?”
“How does Andromeda take anything?”, Harry said. His eyes were filling up, again. He'd cried so much in the last twenty-four hours that they actually hurt.
“I always thought knowing it was coming would make it easier,” Draco said, slumping against the window. “But it doesn't. If he just could have given it up, lived like a Squib-- if he'd just been born a Squib--.”
“That was the curse? That he couldn't use magic?”
“That his magic would go wrong. It's blood magic. Cygnus Black cast it on all three of them-- Sirius and Regulus and Andromeda, and on all their descendants-- that their magic would betray them, as they had betrayed him. You must have noticed Andromeda never does magic. But being born a Metamorphagus like that, of course poor Ted never had a chance. I thought--,” he sighed. “I thought you knew,” he said, so softly Harry almost didn't hear. “I thought everyone knew everything about us.”
“I didn't,” Harry answered. And then, to make Draco smile: “Not everything is about you, you know.”
Draco smiled at him, all his edges gone, all his defenses down, sweet and gorgeous. “That's why I love you, Potter. You remind me of how far I've come.”
Harry wanted-- not a fuck, necessarily, but something. To talk, to lie in bed beside Draco and watch something mindless on TV, to go to dinner and hold hands somewhere no one knew them. But Draco was almost asleep by the time they got home. Harry carried his bag and got him an ice pack for his cheek, aware that he was hovering but unable to stop himself. And Draco went to sleep without even a kiss, apparently unable to stop himself, either.
When he was out Harry wandered idly through the flat, opening drawers and wardrobes and cupboards and closing them without taking anything out. Andromeda didn't use magic, and he'd never even noticed. And Tonks, and Teddy, born with magic not only in their blood but in their bodies as well, as much a part of them as oxygen. Why had Adromeda got pregnant in the first place? But she wouldn't have known. There hadn't been a Metamorphagus born in generations. And Teddy had been an accident, if a much-loved one.
Fucking Cygnus Black. He thought of Draco saying, “My father told me once there was nothing I could do that would be so terrible he wouldn't love me,” and he wondered if he would be strong enough to do the same for James, for Albie and for Lily, if it came to that some day. Pray God it never would.
He went back into the bedroom and lay down beside Draco, listening to Draco's steady breathing, not quite snoring. The streets outside their building were dark and quiet, and after a long time he slept.
When he woke it was light out, and Draco was standing in front of the mirror on the dresser, wearing only a towel, admiring the bruise on his cheek. “Hey,” he said, turning, as if he'd felt Harry's eyes on him. “We have to leave in a hour. Pansy's already texted at least twelve times this morning. “We're not to be late, and we're not to wear black, and we're not to talk to anyone we don't know, in case they're press.”
“Why can't we wear black?”, Harry asked. “They couldn't have healed that for you?”
“The last game of the regular season is Friday,” Draco said. “You know how strict the meds rules are.” He dropped his towel on the floor and flopped next to Harry. “No black,” he said, “because we don't want to be mistaken for Death Eaters. Have you got dress robes that aren't black? She said you could wear a dark suit if you haven't.”
“I can transfigure my old ones,” Harry said, yawning, “if it ruins them, so much the better.” Draco's head was on his chest, and Harry ran his fingers absently through Draco's fine blond hair. Draco was far fitter than anyone their age had any right to be, but he was losing his hair a bit, which made Harry smile. If he'd really been perfect, Harry couldn't have stood it.
“There was an owl, too. From the Ministry. You were sleeping like a rock.”
“Says the man who went to bed last night at seven.” Harry got up, reluctantly, and went into the bathroom. “Go make coffee,” he yelled through the open door. “If you want there to be any chance of us being on time.”
When he'd showered and dressed in his newly navy blue dress robes, he went out into the kitchen. Draco had made coffee, and there were pancakes browning on the stove. Harry found his letter on the counter and ripped it open without looking at the seal. It wasn't from Penny, and it wasn't Justice business, at least not the kind he'd thought. It was from Internal Affairs.
“I've been suspended indefinitely,” he said numbly, reading it, “for conduct unbecoming a Ministry official.”
“You're kidding.” Draco swung around with the spatula in his hand. “Harry--.”
“It was the tabs. That story about Teddy, that we'd had some kind of menage a trois, that he snapped because of it.”
“Okay,” Draco said, turning the burner off and pushing the pan off the heat. “Pansy will sort this. It's what she does.”
“Not with the Ministry, she doesn't,” Harry pointed out. “She hasn't got any more connections there than any other ex- Death Eater.”
“No. but she'll know how to sort it. They can't possibly believe you would do something like that.”
“I'm gay,” Harry said, and took the spatula from Draco so that he could scoop up some pancakes. “There's no telling what I might do.”
There were protestors at the funeral, but they, and the tabs, were held back by the barrier spell at the edge of the cemetery, maintained by half a dozen Aurors. Harry stood between Draco, in gray robes, and Lucius, in very dark green. The only black in sight was Andromeda's neat suit, the one she'd worn years ago to bury her husband, her daughter, her son-in-law. He felt-- not distracted. Something even worse. Distanced, maybe, as if his body were there but his mind was somewhere else entirely. It wasn't what Teddy deserved, none of it was, but it was all he could manage.
As they were walking out, someone yelled, “Death Eater scum,” and hurled an empty bottle at them. Draco caught it out of the air with reflexes like a cat's, and held it for a minute before he set it carefully on the edge of a tombstone.
Despite everything that had happened, or maybe because of it, there were too many mourners to fit into Andromeda's tidy little house. Instead they went to Malfoy Manor. Harry saw Hermione pale at the sight of the wrought- iron gates, and Greg Goyle squeeze her arm, and then they were through, moving slowly down the drive. The trees were bare, graceful, sad; Harry didn't know if it was better or worse, being buried in winter.
Inside, everyone stood about politely, afraid to touch the walls and furniture. Teddy's friends from the Aurors College were subdued, shy. One of the girls couldn't stop crying. There were faces Harry hadn't seen in years: Luna, Neville, even Ginny, but he couldn't bring himself to talk to any of them. He sat on a sofa in the corner, and let Draco and Pansy and Ron and Hermione fend everyone off. He was fairly sure Draco was being really rude, the way he only ever was at the worst possible moments, but he couldn't bring himself to care.
After a while Harry got up and went into the kitchen. Narcissa was there, loading mini-quiches onto a silver tray, and, Harry saw, crying. His first impulse was to back quietly out, but there was something about the angle of her shoulders that made him think of Draco. “I loved him too,” he said, and she swung around to face him.
“Oh, Harry. I know you did. We all did. And whatever else, Teddy knew it. There was never a child so loved.”
Harry thought of the fierce set of her jaw in the early morning the day after Ted's death, and believed her. “The Ministry's suspended me,” he said. “Because of the rumors.” It wasn't something he'd meant to tell people today, and certainly not to tell Narcissa. And yet-- somehow when he wasn't looking, the Malfoys had become his family, too, as much as Draco, Teddy, Hermione, Ron and the rest of the Weasleys.
Narcissa put the heavy tray down. “Unwise of them,” she said. “But it can be undone. Someone panicked, that's all.”
She met his eyes, saying it, and he saw, incredulous, that she didn't believe it. She didn't believe that they would have him back, she thought he'd lose his job because of a ridiculous obscene fucking rumor. But then, why would she believe it? She and her family and her friends were still being punished for the war, for things that had happened twenty years ago. And Narcissa's greatest crime had been being the mother and wife of Death Eaters, not being one herself. Why should she have any faith in the innate rationality of the Ministry?
It was something he hadn't said, had hardly dared think, but-- “What if I don't want to go back?”, he asked. “They keep doing this, they keep screwing me over on no grounds at all. It isn't a crime, being gay. What if I'm tired of always forgiving and forgetting?”
“Then,” Narcissa said, picking up the mini-quiches with a flourish, “you'd better get a damned good lawyer and sue them for every sickle they've got. It's about time someone did.”
When she had gone, Harry sat down at the table and put his head on his arms. He didn't precisely love his job, but he liked it, liked most of the people he worked with. He didn't owe Justice anything, though. Not after this, not for being dismissed this way. And maybe-- maybe it was time someone took a stand.
By the time he went back in, half the people had gone. Ginny had gone, which was good. Things were mostly amicable, these days; having decided that he liked other men he could hardly hold a grudge about Ginny's doing the same, but it would never be anything but awkward. He sat down with Ron, Neville, Draco and Goyle and got to listen in great detail to a replay of the South Africa game. He didn't mind. It was better than thinking.
That night after everyone had gone, he and Draco curled up in Draco's old bedroom, under a night-sky ceiling charmed to show the stars the Blacks had been named for. And surrounded by faded posters of half dressed quidditch stars, most of them male. “It must have been a terrible shock to your mother, when you finally came out,” he said sleepily, and beside him Draco snorted.
“I think the only one surprised was me,” he admitted. “Mum and Dad were great. They hated Sergei, you know. Dad called him the Communist Manifesto.”
“Do you miss him?”, Harry asked. It was something he'd never dared to think too much about.
“I did at first,” Draco said. “When I wrecked my shoulder, and ended up in hospital, and they said I'd never play again. I kept thinking he'd call, that he'd come back, that he'd say it was all a mistake. But afterward-- when I went home alone-- it was Astoria I missed. She was pretty great, and I never realized until it was too late. I was crazy about Serge, but she was the one I went home to every night, and it was hard to sleep without her.”
“I don't really miss Ginny,” Harry confessed. “I feel like I should, but--.”
“You always liked her brother better anyway?”
Harry laughed at that. “No. I can't say I ever really thought of Ron that way.”
“Neville? Because he's gotten awfully fat.”
“Nope. I didn't really look at boys. I barely looked at the girls. I wasn't-- I was looking for family, I guess.”
Draco reached over and squeezed his hand. “Sorry,” he said. “I take Lucius and Narcissa for granted, sometimes, but I know...”
“It's okay,” Harry said, squeezing back. “It wasn't your fault.”
“No,” Draco agreed, “but a lot of other things--.”
Draco laughed a little, his breath warm on Harry's neck. The bed was much narrower than the one in their flat, as narrow as the one they'd almost shared their first night together, when Harry had gotten shitfaced at a charity dinner and Draco had reluctantly taken him home with him. Harry had gone to sleep on the floor, but, still drunk, he'd gotten up to piss and gotten in bed with Draco afterward. He could still remember lying there with Draco asleep beside him; he'd thought then that if he could only have that for the rest of his life, there was nothing he wouldn't be willing to give up.
He still thought that. “No,” he said again. “None of this is your fault. Not my parents, not Teddy, and not my job.”
“I might also have been gratuitously unpleasant to your ex-wife.”
“A little unpleasantness never hurt anyone,” Harry said, watching the lazy wheeling stars overhead: Cygnus and Orion and dim Merope, Pegasus and Adromeda, Bellatrix and Sirius and Draco.
“I guess you wouldn't be willing to fuck me blind in my childhood bedroom?”, Draco asked wistfully.
“Not with Viktor Krum watching us and judging, sorry.”
“He's seen worse,” Draco said sleepily.
The house was freezing in the morning, the heating charms worn off and the fires gone out. Draco went straight to practice, and Harry went home. He sat on the couch in jeans and a sweatshirt, watching a cooking programme and trying not to panic. Soon enough Draco's career would be over and they could do this together-- they could do it with Draco's parents, at Malfoy Manor-- he wondered, distracted, what Lucius and Narcissa actually did do all day. What did anyone do?
Ginny had stayed home with each of the children for a month, and gone straight back to work afterwards. “Too quiet,” she'd said when he'd asked if she was sure, “and anyway I don't see you volunteering to try it.” Now that he was trying it, Harry agreed completely. He was dying of boredom and it had been-- he checked his watch-- an hour and a half.
There was a knock on the door, and he answered it gratefully, thinking that maybe it was Penelope, come to tell him that she'd sorted things after all. She'd sent him six texts yesterday, all of them apologetic and optimistic and utterly fucking useless. But it wasn't Pen, it was Pansy Parkinson, on her mobile as always.
She smiled at Harry, still talking, and he let her in. She wasn't his favorite person, but she was company, at least. He made coffee while she talked, putting milk in hers, but not sugar. He knew how Pansy drank her coffee, which was just weird. She'd always be Draco's friend, not his, but he knew her better than he knew Neville or Luna these days.
“Okay,” she said when they were sitting across from each other. “There's something I need to show you. Draco won't like it, but what else is new?” She reached into her bag and pulled out a stack of letters, some on parchment, some typed on paper.
Harry flipped slowly through them. They were job offers for Draco. Seeker positions mostly, but a handful of coaching jobs, too; Riga, Belarus, Malaysia, Texas, Ivory Coast, and a half dozen more, some big teams and some for cities or even countries Harry'd barely heard of.
“Draco could go,” Pansy said. “Take one of these, take any of these and go. And I think he should. They're going to put him on the World Cup team, I think, and maybe the Cannons will give him another contract, maybe even one of the better teams. And then this will happen again in two years. He'll run out of miracles eventually. As it is-- half the country is waiting for him to fail, and the other half is waiting for you to fail. But Draco's too damned stubborn to leave, unless you ask him to.”
“I never thought--,” Harry said, because it was true. He'd never thought of leaving England. He thought of it now, touching the horns of a tiny inked longhorn, the wings of an imprinted dragon seal. “You think he would go?”
Pansy laughed, not unkindly. “He would go anywhere for you, idiot. And he wants to go.”
Pansy pulled the top letter away from him. “In-- Amarillo, you wouldn't be Harry Potter, savior of the wizarding world turned practicing homo. And he wouldn't be Draco Malfoy, quidditch star and former genocidal maniac. You'd be that cute English couple who leave drinks parties early so that you can slope off to bed.”
“Is genocidal even a word?”
She sneered at him, but without the edge she usually gave it, and he could see the girl Draco had been friends with forever under the spare elegant lines of the woman she had made herself. “You're his agent,” Harry said. “Do you think Texas is the best offer?”
Pansy took the letters back, and sorted them into three neat piles. “Good, better, best,” she said. “I burn the insulting ones before he has a chance to see them. Any of these, adjusted for cost of living, is a bigger offer than he'll get in England even if he wins the fucking Cup single-handed.”
“I'll think about it,” Harry said, and was surprised to realize he meant it. It wasn't that London wasn't home, because it was. But what he had said to Narcissa was true-- he was tired of the Ministry, tired of being blamed every time something went wrong, tired of the endless nasty digs in the Prophet. Maybe starting over wouldn't be so bad.
Pansy had gone but Harry was still sitting at the table when Draco's key turned in the lock. Harry stayed where he was, waiting, fingering the edges of the letters Pansy had brought, half nervous and half excited. Draco threw his bag in the corner and his jacket on the couch, and came into the kitchen, leaning over Harry to kiss the top of his head. “What are you doing?” he asked, looking curiously down at the papers Harry held. “Did you hear back from the Ministry?”
“No,” Harry said. He held the top sheet up for Draco, who squinted at it. “Pansy brought them. She thought--.”
“She had no business thinking.”
“No, but-- the thing is, she wasn't wrong. I mean, maybe about Belarus, but Draco, what if we did go?”
Draco dropped heavily into the seat next to Harry. “You're serious,” he said.
“Yeah. I kind of am.”
Draco sighed. “I meant to, you know? After Serge-- after Astoria left, I thought I'd pack up and head somewhere warm, play a couple of seasons in L.A., or Rio, somewhere no one had ever heard of me. But then I thought maybe that was too much like running away. So I stayed. And now--.” He looked down at the parchment. “We can do it, if you want,” he said.
“But it isn't what you want?”, Harry asked, confused.
“Yeah. Of course. Where were you thinking? They're all good offers, Pansy doesn't show me the bad ones.” He slid his chair closer to Harry's. “What about Rabat? Aunt Bella's daughters live north of Marrakesh, I think--.”
“Yeah, so not Rabat,” Harry said, although he'd never actually met Delphine and Hydra Lestrange. “You realize I've never been farther than the south of France, right? And that was for an epically disastrous holiday with Ginny and the kids.”
“It'll be an adventure,” Draco said. He was a pretty good liar. Six months ago, Harry might not have realized. But he knew Draco better, now, better in some ways than he'd ever known Ginny. He knew him well enough to know what that second's hesitation had meant, that heartbeat of anger at Pansy.
“I thought this was something you wanted,” he said. “Draco--.”
“I love you,” Draco said. “And this is my fault. It's my fault they dragged your name into this. It's my fault they dragged Ted's name into this. I want you to be happy, if you can be happy somewhere else, because I'm not sure I can fix this, okay? So if you want to go to Kuala Lumpur or Amarillo or pretty much anywhere, I'm okay with that. Just give me a chance to make it up to you before you leave.”
“That wasn't me trying to leave,” Harry said, taking his hand. “That was me saying, Pansy told me this is something you wanted, and I figured why not, but if it isn't we'll stay here and I'll be the best quidditch WAG in the history of WAGs. I'll come to all your games with pompoms--.”
“I don't want to play quidditch,” Draco said very quietly, not looking at Harry. “I don't want to play it, I don't want to coach it, I don't want to manage or do broadcasts or any of it.”
“What do you mean, you don't want to play? Draco, you love quidditch. No one loves it more than you, and no one's better at it than you.”
Draco did look up, finally, at that. “Used to. I used to love it. I'm tired of it. All of it. I'm never going to be twenty-one again-- I'm never going to be thirty-one again. These kids, I've got to work twice as hard as they do, and I'm only beating them now because they never think. And I'm just-- I'm tired of being tired all the time, and hungry, and never being quite good enough. There's got to be something else I can do, right?”
“Of course there are,” Harry said, and Draco squeezed his hand. “But in September you were dying to play for as long as they'd have you. I don't-- are you sure this isn't about Lynch?”
“It's about Lynch,” Draco said. “Lynch, and Teddy, and Malcolm, because fuck am I sick of going to funerals.” He was crying, Harry saw. He didn't think Draco'd cried for Teddy before; he hadn't seen him cry since Malcolm had died. He hadn't known what to say then and he didn't know now.