When Harry arrived home later than usual that night, he found Lucius in the living room with a book.
“Hey,” he said.
Lucius lifted his eyes from the pages with a frown. “I hear you’re telling tales about me,” he said coldly.
Harry frowned. He’d hoped Draco would reconcile with his father, but by the sound of it, that hadn’t gone according to plan. He should’ve listened to Hermione and kept out of it.
“Nothing I don’t believe is true,” Harry said and started for the door. After the prior night he really wasn’t ready to deal with Lucius’s acidic criticism.
Harry spun around on his heels, his eyes wide and his jaw halfway to his chest. Lucius was smiling. Smiling! Admittedly it was barely more than a tightness around the eyes and a minutely pulled up corner of his mouth, but in the case of the controlled aristocrat, it almost looked obscene.
“So, it went all right then?” he asked stupidly. No, you idiot! He’s smiling because everything went tits up.
Lucius gave a regal nod. “I was absent during much of his younger years. It was convenient to leave him in the care of Narcissa and the elves while I focused on my political pursuits. I did not take him for his first ride on a broom, nor did I explain to him about the hardships of life. It never occurred to me he would miss such things until our conversation this afternoon.”
“Now I’ve come to the realisation that I truly do not know my own son at all. I care for him a great deal, but I have never taken the time to observe the man he has become.”
Sitting down on the edge of the low coffee table in front of Lucius, Harry looked deeply into the steel-blue eyes. “I think that’s a mutual problem between you, but things can change. You can change them. Spend time with him. Just throw propriety out the window and talk to him. Make up for old times.”
Lucius breathed a sigh in relief. “I am pleased you agree, because I would like to share more of myself with him. I want to show him the gardens and the roses; the little things that makes Malfoy Manor a home, and not just a legacy.”
Harry stood up. “Er, no.”
Lucius blinked, a frown distorting his handsome features. “What exactly is the problem?”
Harry felt Lucius’s intense stare following him as he started pacing the room.
“I won’t allow you to leave the wards. I can’t take the chance of you making a run for it.”
Lucius made an annoyed sound. “I can assure you I have no intention of ‘making a run for it’ as you say. Did I not tell you just last night that I would not wittingly do anything to antagonize you?”
Harry turned to face Lucius and took a step towards him. “How do I even know that you’re not just playing me? Didn’t you also tell me that leopards do not change their spots?
“I know the kind of man you are, Lucius. Maybe you’re being sincere. Maybe you’ve come to care for me the way you say you have. But I don’t know, do I?
“Look me in the eyes and tell me you wouldn’t manipulate a person into giving you what you wanted! Swear on your son’s life that you would no longer use a person’s weakness against them for your own selfish needs!”
Lucius averted his gaze without answering.
“I can’t trust you, and it’s not just about my life anymore. As long as I keep you here, I can try and pretend there are no doubts in my mind. I could quite easily trick myself into becoming happy. But if I would let you leave and you bolted, it wouldn’t just be a case of chasing you down and bringing you back. If I gave you my trust and you betrayed me, it would break me, Lucius.”
By the time Harry finished with what he had to say, Lucius’s entire face was unreadable. Without uttering a single syllable he stood up and left the room. His tread heavy with whatever emotion he was hiding behind that famous stone-cold mask.
Harry slumped down into one of the leather chairs and buried his face in his hands. How had he become trapped in this inescapable paradox? Why couldn’t things just be as they had been before? Why couldn’t he just completely disregard Lucius’s wishes without feeling like the most horrible person in the existence of the world?
Because he’d fallen for his mate, that’s why. Not only that, but he’d actively reached out to Lucius to try and end the loneliness that resided in every corner of his soul.
Now he’d gone and ruined the tentative connection they’d managed to build and it wasn’t even his fault. One couldn’t just expect him to naively agree. He wished he could believe Lucius had no alternative agenda; that he was a trustworthy man.
When he did reappear, he came to stand in front of Harry who looked up from the desk in his study and raised a questioning eyebrow.
“I understand,” Lucius said. “I might not like it, but I will respect your decision. For now.”
Harry didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing.
After a moment Lucius turned and made for the landing. In the doorway he paused and addressed Harry once more. “I do hope for the chance to convince you of my sincerity.”
“Yes,” Harry whispered once Lucius had left the room. “That’s what I hope for as well.”
When Lucius had asked him why he never really had any visitors besides Draco, Harry had to admit he hadn’t wanted any of his friends to feel uncomfortable by having to decline an invitation.
With a little urging Harry finally decided to ask Ron and Hermione over for dinner, and it had gone surprisingly well. Apart from a barely mentionable spat when Ron decided to display his childish flaw of being a sore loser after a game of chess against Lucius.
Luckily Ron hadn’t pursued his belief that his opponent had been cheating, and Lucius was wise enough to let Ron’s little tantrum just fizzle out.
Next, Harry invited Draco and all the male Weasleys for a men’s night of cards.
Ginny was not amused, but she was quickly placated when Harry owled to include her husband Neville in the invitation. Hermione was not that easily satisfied. She made a point of telling Harry exactly how sexist she thought the whole exclusion of women was.
“She doesn’t understand,” Ron said as Lucius shuffled the cards like a Muggle croupier. “She’s not the kind of woman that has spa days and beauty treatments with her friends, or any of that girly stuff.”
“Oy!” Draco protested with a slight huff.
The corner of Lucius mouth twitched in amusement as the rest of the men burst out in laughter. They all knew Draco spent more money on clothes and salons than any of the women they knew.
It had surely broken the ice, and took away some of the bite of having Arthur politely decline the invitation with the assurance it had nothing to do with Lucius. The fact that he’d mentioned it at all made Harry believe it most certainly had been the primary reason.
Nonetheless, the evening was an unexpected success.
After two positive experiences, Harry had owled Andromeda Tonks. While Teddy was not allowed to spend the night, she had brought him over a few times to spend the day at Grimmauld Place.
Lucius had taken to the role of playful great-uncle in a way that had shocked Harry at first. He would join him in games of hide and go seek Teddy, laugh as the boy showed him all the pretty colours he could change his hair into and helped Teddy play tricks on an unsuspecting Harry.
Well, perhaps he wasn’t so surprised with that last bit.
When Andromeda came to pick up her grandson the fifth or sixth time, she’d found the three of them in the study. Harry was quietly reading a book while Teddy lay cuddled up to a sleeping Lucius.
As she sighed and smiled, Harry looked up and felt something ease up inside him. It was a relief to know that he would not be ousted from his godson’s life.
So yes, life became definitively more pleasant for Harry and Lucius. The true foundation of their relationship hovered over the calm like an indecisive raincloud, but they ignored it as best as they could.
That’s why it took him a moment to notice that someone was calling his name. He turned around and when he saw who it was his expression turned stony.
“Miss Greengrass, I would not have expected to run into you here,” he greeted, more politely than she deserved.
Her smile was anything but pleasant. “Well, that might be because you didn’t run into me,” she said. “I followed you here from the Leaky Cauldron.”
Harry couldn’t hide his annoyance when he left out a sharp breath. “And why would you be following me at all?”
“What a simpleton you are! You cost me my engagement,” she snapped. “You did not think I would simply let that pass, did you?”
Harry rolled his eyes. What was she going to do in the middle of a Muggle street? Start a duel?
“I honestly have no patience left for you,” he replied, his hand clutching his wand inside the pocket of his coat just in case. “I had nothing to do with your breakup, and I’ll thank you not to drag me into your issues.”
He turned away, hoping the alley just up the road could provide him enough cover to Disapparate.
She let out a frustrated cry, but the passing of a heavy truck masked the words she yelled next. Harry could feel the hex hit him in the back though, and he instantly started sneezing.
‘Steleus, how very mature,’ he thought sarcastically as he spun on his heels to face his opponent. However, the street behind him was empty. Astoria was gone.
He quickly returned home, almost splinching himself when a violent sneeze broke his concentration. It would pass. Depending on the strength of Astoria’s magic, it couldn’t take more than an hour for the hex to fade.
By midnight the sneezing let up a little, but it had caused him a painful headache, and a runny nose to go with it. Annoying as hell, but he thought he would feel better by morning and curled up against Lucius, who had permanently moved into his bedroom by mutual, though silent, agreement.
Lucius opened his eyes and gasped at the sight of Harry. He was covered in small festering boils the size of cigarette burns.
He carefully shook his lovers shoulder, but Harry didn’t respond. His breathing was laboured and his face pale, his skin an unhealthy yellowish hue.
Lifting the sheets only revealed more boils, ones that had rubbed open against the sheets. The smell that reached his nose nearly made Lucius vomit.
He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t contact anyone, not with the Floo warded and the owls unwilling to obey him.
He grabbed Harry’s wand from the night table and hurriedly cast every healing spell he could think of. Either he was out of practice, or his healing knowledge was insufficient, because all he accomplished was causing a few more of the boils to burst.
Lucius had to do something, anything. He quickly slid into a pair of trousers and picked Harry up from the bed, careful not to disturb him more than he had to. He was going to break through those bloody wards even if he had to bring the whole house down.
He braced himself and Disapparated.
He nearly fell to the floor when he appeared in the Emergency Room of St Mungo’s. He was shocked to find the wards had let him through without even tiniest bit of resistance. It had felt like kicking into thin air.
Harry’s wand clattered to the floor, but Lucius couldn’t care less about the thing.
One witch screamed and suddenly everyone was staring at the pair of them, though no one made any move to help the man in Lucius’s arms.
He caught the eye of a robust witch in lime green healer robes. “Don’t just stand there! Help him!”
That seemed to move everyone out of their stupor. A bearded healer levitated Harry and two other healers rushed to his side, one of them the robust woman. They rushed him through an open archway, Lucius dead on their heels.
“What happened?” the original healer called over his shoulder. “Curse? Poison?”
“I have no idea,” Lucius answered. “He was ill last night, but nowhere near the condition I found him in this morning.”
They began to examine Harry in earnest. One healer reached out and checked the inside of his mouth. “No pustules on his tongue,” she informed the others.
“What are you thinking?” the third healer asked. He was young, maybe a year older than Harry.
The woman glanced sideways at her colleague. “A curse is the most-likely cause, but there are a number of poisons I can’t rule out at the moment.”
They had reached a door and the bearded healer levitated Harry through, following him with the woman in tow.
When Lucius made to enter the room as well, the third Healer stopped him. ”You can’t come with us, Sir.”
Lucius tried to push past him, but for a man his size the boy was very strong. “Please go back to the waiting room, Sir. We’ll inform you as soon as we know anything.”
In the past Lucius would’ve never backed down from anything he’d wanted. Cunning, threats and sometimes even brute force had always been sure ways to reach his goals. However, he had no wand, no one to back him up and he was fairly certain Harry would not condone him threatening someone for no good reason. He likewise didn’t think Harry would consider this a good enough reason.
With a resigned sigh he returned to the main waiting area, where he was met with no less than six Aurors immediately pointing their wands at him.
“Oh yes, those scars are certainly fading, aren’t they, Mr Potter? You should wake up any day now.”
That wasn’t Lucius.
Harry’s eyes snapped open and focused on the woman beside the bed, his hand unconsciously reaching out for the wand he usually kept on the bedside table. She let out a cry and almost fell over herself as she backed away, clutching her heart.
“Merlin!” Her chest rising and falling rapidly in the rhythm of her shallow breaths.
“Ah, Mr Potter,” a tall older man said from the doorway. He had a short white beard and a gentle smile on his face. “Awake I see? And frightening poor Healer Robbins already.”
“Caught me off guard,” the woman said, and only then did Harry notice the telling lime green robes she was wearing.
“Healer?” Harry’s throat felt dry and raw.
“Yes, Mr Potter,” the man said. “My name is Gregory James, and this is my colleague Jennifer Robbins.”
“Pleasure, Mr Potter,” she called from behind Healer James. “We’ve been keeping you alive for the past two weeks.”
“Lucius,” Harry said with a moan and tried to get up.
Healer Robbins rushed forward and pushed him back gently.
“Don’t worry, Mr Potter,” Healer James said. “Mr Malfoy has been taken into Auror custody after he brought you here. He won’t be cursing you again anytime soon.”
Cursing? He’d been cursed? By Lucius? That didn’t make any sense.
Something started nagging him in the back of his head. A Muggle street with pumpkins and skeletons. He’d been sick. No, that wasn’t right. He’d been hexed by-
“No,” he muttered tiredly. His head felt like a huge ball of cotton was trying to swallow him down. “Greengrass, Astoria Greengrass.”
Harry could feel his mouth curling up into a satisfied smile. He thought he could spend the rest of his life like this; enveloped by soft, warm blankets and being caressed so sweetly.
“Hmmm, Lucius,” he whispered. Wasn’t that a perfect way to wake up? Harry pursed his lips for a kiss.
A chuckle tickled his lips when Lucius obliged him. The kiss was over far too soon.
“Harry, wake up,” Lucius said softly.
Harry tried to move closer to his lover, but he was suddenly saved from falling to the floor by a pair of strong arms. His eyes snapped open. “Whut?”
“Careful now,” Lucius said.
Harry didn’t really hear the words. He was staring at the bruise on Lucius’s right jaw. It looked only a few days old. “What happened?”
Lucius shook his head. “He barely survives a murder attempt and is worried about a simple bruise.”
Harry looked down at the unfamiliar sheets covering him and started to remember. Healers, and- Something. And Lucius, who was with the Aurors.
“They thought you cursed me,” he said and reached out his hand to touch the nasty looking bruise. “Did the Aurors do this?”
“Hmmm,” Lucius replied and traced a finger over Harry’s bottom lip. “But do not concern yourself with that. I have been cleared as of yesterday morning. They’ve arrested Miss Greengrass and she confessed everything.”
“Yesterday morning,” Harry repeated. “You came here?”
Lucius leaned in and kissed Harry’s chapped lips before running his tongue over them soothingly.
“Where else would I go?”
Harry smiled tentatively. “You didn’t run.”
Lucius kissed him again. “No,” he replied, the words reflecting the promise shining in his eyes. “I’m not going anywhere.”