Gregor was sulking under the bed.
Harry sighed and brushed his hair back from his forehead, then gave a nervous look into the mirror. He doubted the potion he had used to flatten his hair would work long, and he didn’t want to waste the time he had left by trying to soothe Gregor. You’ve known for a week I would be going to Malfoy Manor, he hissed in Parseltongue.
You stink of wanting to mate.
Harry grabbed the edge of the bed, hard. But he should have known Gregor would both smell that and think himself entitled to comment on it. So what? You’ve told me that I smelled that way before. Only Gregor had sounded amused, not as if he’d swallowed enough crickets to give himself indigestion.
Gregor hissed, no words, just a blur of sound. Harry bent his head down to watch him, and Gregor snapped at him. Harry kept his face still. As he had known would happen, Gregor’s strike fell far short of him.
You’ve been jealous of other snakes. But never another human.
This human sounds like a snake.
Harry rolled his eyes. Yes, Draco did wear a silver headband that allowed him to echolocate objects, since he was blind. But Gregor hadn’t commented on the sound until Harry had mentioned that it sounded like singing snakes.
He can’t communicate with me in Parseltongue. He’ll never take away the special bond we share. Harry extended a coaxing hand. Won’t you come with me? You’ll get to hunt on the grounds of Malfoy Manor, if you want to.
Gregor curled up hard enough that he looked like one of Hugo’s toys. Harry stood up. Then you don’t get to come. And I’m sure Draco and Scorpius and Orion and I will enjoy the dinner without you.
Gregor said nothing, but he had already made his opinion of a dinner that didn’t include insects clear earlier. Harry made his way to the fireplace, letting his hand trail for a moment over the mantel, over the smooth place he’d made when rubbing for luck before. Usually, he rubbed it when he was about to embark on a delicate or difficult breeding project.
Now, he did it because he did have to wonder exactly how well this would work. Gregor’s disapproval seemed like a bad omen.
But he had nothing to worry about, Harry thought an hour later, leaning back from the table, his stomach full of cold ice cream and warm roast.
Scorpius sat in his chair on the other side of the table, talking softly to Orion, his red-and-green snake, entwined around him. Orion answered lazily. Harry had made him able to speak English and bigger than most of the other snakes he sold, but some things never changed; Orion grew fat and sleepy after a meal, like every other snake.
“I’m glad I came to your shop.”
Harry turned to Draco, seated at the head of the table. He wore the thin silver headband of his device, as usual, but even this close, it was hard for Harry to hear the thin singing of its magic. He nodded back and picked up his glass of wine, taking a few sips. It was a cool white he hadn’t had before, but he liked it. “Orion is the companion Scorpius needs?”
“Much better than his old father.”
“Well, I can think of some other people who might like his father’s companionship.”
Draco turned to consider Harry, and then reached out one hand. Harry, who was used to this by now, bent down so Draco could touch his eyebrows and cheekbones and feel the expression he wore. Draco’s device could tell him a lot, including the magic of an object, but it didn’t function well enough to let him “read” the expression on someone’s face from a distance.
“I’m going to go away if you’re doing adult stuff,” Scorpius announced, without glancing up from the apparently enthralling depths of Orion’s eyes.
“What is adult about another man allowing me to touch his face?”
“Mum didn’t allow that.”
Draco stiffened, which Harry thought he could have felt even if Draco’s fingers hadn’t been on his face right then. “I don’t wish to discuss your mother right now,” Draco finally said. “Go away and play, Scorpius.”
“You should dismiss him properly from the table.” Harry had to smile. Orion was a stickler for manners.
“Very well.” Draco turned to incline his head to Orion. Harry thought his ears were sharp even without the magic of his device helping him. “Scorpius, go out to the gardens and let Orion hunt. I heard that he didn’t eat much at the table today.”
“I wasn’t hungry because I ate earlier!” Orion protested, but Scorpius had picked him up and was looking at him seriously.
“You should have told me you were hungry,” he said, and carried him off. Orion’s protests faded behind him.
Harry chuckled and eased his chair closer to Draco, to let him touch and stroke Harry’s face all he wanted. “You use that tactic a lot to get him to go away and leave you alone?”
“I would never want Scorpius to leave me alone. But that doesn’t prevent him from being annoying sometimes.”
Harry didn’t bother to chuckle this time, instead holding still and letting Draco feel the bump of his nose and the slight scar on his cheek where a newly hatched krait had bitten him. He was feeling his way through Draco’s family life like that, he thought.
Draco was stiff, and formal about the most surprising things, and guarding hurts that Harry didn’t know existed because he tended not to read the scandal articles in theDaily Prophet. Scorpius was the center of his existence, and Draco didn’t always react well to jokes about him. He had hidden corners of his soul, Harry knew, rather like the corners of this dining room, where light from the chandelier fell only on the central table and the fire flickered dimly and revealed only itself.
“I don’t remember this scar.”
Harry flickered back to reality, and found Draco’s fingers on the krait scar. “No, it’s new. The eggs hatched last week that I told you about?” Draco made an assenting sound, and Harry relaxed. Another thing Draco got touchy about was being excluded from Harry’s life in any way, even if that was only not being informed when Harry started some new breeding project. “One of the hatchlings objected to being picked up.”
“Someday, your luck will run out.”
Draco’s hand never stopped hovering, touching, exploring. Harry would only have been concerned if it had. “I know. But snake venom is one of those things I don’t need much luck for. The amount I’ve swallowed and had injected into me and accidentally survived because of being a Parselmouth protects me.”
Draco shook his head, although Harry wasn’t sure it was in disagreement. “I had thought, when I first heard you’d decided against being an Auror and opened a snake-breeding shop, that it was one of your rare sensible decisions. I see now that you find as much danger and excitement as ever, even among the glass tanks.”
Harry smiled. “I do. And you ought to know I don’t court as much danger from hatching snakes as I would have from being an Auror.” He hesitated, then gave into his curiosity. “You kept up with the news about me?”
“With you being news in the mouth of everyone who wants to tell me, it’s hard not to.”
Harry winced. Of course Draco would be partially at the mercy of what people said to him. There was a charm that would enchant print to read itself to him, but Draco had told him it was draining to cast and tended to stumble over names. He rarely wasted it on the Prophet. “Sorry.”
“I can feel how sorry you are in the line of your jaw,” Draco said dryly, and then shook his head and sat back. “Come, let me show you the gardens.”
Harry swallowed the rest of his wine. The last time he’d been here, he’d spent all his hours in the dining room. Seeing the gardens, where Orion hunted, was an unexpected treat.
The Malfoy grounds were every bit as magnificent as Harry had hoped. They crossed soft, short, silver-shadowed grass to reach a small hedgerow. Beyond it was a tiny bed filled with silver, rose-shaped flowers that had their blossoms open to the moon, and beyond that came an orchard, and beyond that a slumbering flowerbed, and then playing fountains and continuous small clumps of trees. Harry leaned his elbows on the hedge and smiled.
“Is this where Orion hunts?”
“No. Scorpius has him in a wilder part of the garden where he can find mice.” Draco’s fingers took Harry’s chin and tilted it a little, and Harry obediently moved with the gesture. “Look up at the stars. They’re more beautiful than anything I can create on the ground in imitation of them.”
Harry looked up, and caught his breath. Astronomy at Hogwarts seemed like a lifetime ago. Still, he was sure that the stars had never looked this beautiful, this close and clear.
“There’s a spell that removes dust and debris from the air, and clears our view of the stars.” Draco had a deep contentment in his voice. He leaned his elbows beside Harry and tilted his head as though he could see the stars, too. “Shall I teach it to you?”
“Yes, please,” Harry breathed, his head lifted, throat straining, imagination bounding into the night. He knew from experience that, when he felt like this, some new idea would come to him about snake-breeding. The last time he had felt like this, he had come up with a way to enchant snake eggs so they would hatch a serpent that was always blue.
Sometimes his ideas were failures. But this time, as his thoughts spun dizzily into the fathoms of space, Harry had the feeling that it wouldn’t be.
“What are you thinking of, when you breathe like that?”
Harry answered without taking his eyes from the stars or hesitating, although until a few months ago, he could never have imagined confessing such thoughts to Draco. “I want to create a snake that can read the future in the stars. Reading the future in general is useful, but just about everything Trelawney showed us in Divination only works if you already have the Sight. The stars are different. The pattern of the constellations can tell us something about ourselves, and it can tell a smart snake, too.”
Draco was still. Harry turned to him and wondered if he’d said something insensitive. He did that sometimes, stumbling over words like “see” and then having to remind himself who he stood beside.
“I think that’s a magnificent idea,” said Draco. “I don’t suppose you think you might breed more than one of those snakes? Or is the talent going to be impossible to duplicate, like it is in Gregor and Orion?”
“I could breed more snakes that speak English if I want to!” Harry protested. “I understand the process now. It’s just that no one’s asked for them.” He hesitated. “And the factors that let Gregor see magic were unique. But I’ve come to suspect lately that I have more trouble than usual achieving them again. I think Gregor is deliberately sabotaging my experiments.”
“I understand.” Draco turned his head up to the stars and paused. Harry waited, listening. He seemed to hear more winds than the one that was blowing past them. He wondered for a moment what Draco would say, what new wind he would awaken. He had already caused more and more welcome changes in Harry’s mind in a few months than anyone else had in years.
That is another thing Gregor might be jealous of.
“Do you think you might bring one of the Divining snakes as a companion for me?” Draco finally whispered. “Hearing Scorpius talking to Orion has made me realize I miss that kind of close friendship.”
Harry blinked. “I hadn’t realized you did miss it. I thought you still had lots of friends.”
“Not as close as they once were. My blindness comes between us, no matter how much they try not to let it.”
Harry held back his opinion of friends like that, and only nodded. Then he remembered and said, “Yes, I can do that. I mean, assuming I manage to breed a Divining snake at all, and not simply turn this into an impossible dream of something else I can’t do.”
Draco turned to him with a deep, relieved smile. “Thank you,” he whispered, and trailed one finger down Harry’s jaw.
That he had known where to reach for it, without even pausing to make contact or ask Harry for permission, made a peace too deep for words wake up in Harry’s heart.
I don’t know how you would breed a Divining snake.
Harry only waited. Gregor was curled up on his shoulder and had yet to return to his usual cheerful mood. Or, well, not cheerful, Harry thought. Gregor always complained and asked and doubled back. But he did usually show more interest in the work of the shop than he was now.
Harry calmly moved among the cages and tanks while he waited for Gregor to make up his mind. He put down water for the rats that he fed to the larger snakes, exchanged hissed morning greetings with several of the currently pregnant live-birthers, changed the bedding in the bottom of the cage for the rabbits that he fed to the largest snakes of all, and paused thoughtfully in front of a cage of silver and amber bars. It channeled lightning, and Harry wondered if there was a connection between lightning and stars, if he could use this cage as part of the magical process of readying Divining snake eggs to be born.
You don’t even know what you would call them. Divining snake is a poor name.
Can you tell me why? Harry hissed back, and paced around to the other side of the lightning cage. It had been a long time since he used it. It was clean thanks to the spells that Harry kept on the other containers in the shop. He could put some eggs in it today if he wanted. He had a particular Runespoor cross, Sola, who had beautiful golden eyes but spent all day staring at herself in a mirror. She was an indifferent mother, and she had a new clutch.
A Divining snake with the handsome blue and red scales that Sola had might be a good start.
Because Divination depends on powerful magic that sees beyond the borders of the world. A special snake should have a special name.
Harry paused, thinking. Gregor occasionally hit on a marketing coup as well as a magical one. He could see why it might be a good idea to choose a name other than “Divining snake.”
Does this mean that you’re talking to me again?
Gregor ignored him. Beginning with the vain one’s eggs is a good idea. But you will have to bathe them in starlight, and only starlight. Keep them away from the influence of the moon. It’s fickle.
And a gaze in Divination trained on the stars should shine as steady as the light itself. Harry nodded, pleased that he’d understood Gregor’s reasoning, and traced one finger over one of the stunning green lightning bolts on Gregor’s scales. Is it so hard to admit that someone else might follow you?
Gregor touched his head to the base of Harry’s chin and gave a flickering, fork-tongued sigh. Keep telling yourself that you understand me. It’ll compensate you for the inevitable disappointment.
Are you ever going to grace me with your presence again?
Harry blinked and shifted his balance. He’d only been able to spare one hand for the owl that had come barreling through the door of the shop, because the other was full of the snails that Gregor said he should place around the outer ring of Sola’s eggs. Now he still held the snails, and he had the parchment in the other hand and the owl on his shoulder, hooting and pecking at his ear.
Harry knew who it was from despite the lack of a signature. Draco had to write in a special, slanted way, bracing his parchment against charms on the desk and table, because of the limits of his magic. But he couldn’t think for a second what it was about.
Then he groaned aloud, and ended up slamming the snails back into their tank. He turned to the owl and said, “Wait a minute.” The owl finally let up pecking his ear and flew over to settle on the perch in the corner where Harry kept a bowl full of shredded meat (along with spells that prevented any free-roaming snake from climbing the perch to eat it).
Harry scribbled back hastily, Sorry. I forgot. I’m coming. It was honest, and he could only hope that his wording wouldn’t hurt Draco. He turned around and held up the letter, but the owl ate several more deliberate bites before it flew over to him.
Then it nipped his ear one more time before turning and soaring out the door, maneuvering carefully on broad wings.
You will spend the evening with that Malfoy creature, once again?
You really have no reason to be jealous, Gregor, Harry hissed back, turning around to clean slime off his hands. I spent so much time with you today that I entirely forgot Draco’s invitation for this evening.
Gregor didn’t respond, and when Harry turned around to look for him, he found him wedged into the smallest, furthest corner under one of their working benches. That was a really bad sign. He’d never refused to come home with Harry before, although he might curl up under Harry’s bed in the same position.
Harry bent down and hissed for him, but Gregor continued to ignore him. In the end, Harry had to admit it might be for the best. He was going straight to Malfoy Manor, no stopping at home, and Gregor would be safe enough in the shop and have plenty to eat.
Harry cast the spell that would dim the lights and raise more potent protective spells than he kept active during the day, when customers might come in and accidentally trigger something. Good night, Gregor.
Nothing at all. Harry hesitated once more in the doorway, but Draco was waiting. He went.
“Thank you for coming.”
Harry sighed the minute he heard that tone in Draco’s voice. He had retreated into the formality he had used most often when Harry first met him again. Well, Harry would have to be as honest as he was in his letter.
“I came right from the shop,” Harry said, and saw a trace of snail slime on his robe when he glanced down. Well, Draco couldn’t see it, so he might not care. He looked around. “I’m afraid I don’t recognize this place.”
“You wouldn’t. My ancestors used it as a drawing room, but I changed it when I decided to…entertain in a different way.”
That sounded promising. Harry turned back with a smile, and Draco came up to lightly link his fingers with Harry’s. At least his touch wasn’t formal.
The room around them was softer and darker with shadows than even the dining room had been. Harry could hear the soft calls of birds in the distance, and the rustle of leaves. Now and then he could catch a glimpse of a tree, which then retreated, as though they stood in the light of a campfire that was itself invisible. The ground beneath them rustled like leaves when they walked.
And yet, all of it was indoors. Harry thought he might actually see the doorframe if he turned around.
“Amazing,” he breathed.
“It is,” Draco said, not sounding smug as he accepted the compliment, but simply as if he had taken something due him. “I find that I prefer environments like these now, even if most of the touches are illusion. It makes me feel as if I am in a wider world than the one the Manor can supply.”
Harry couldn’t help a glance at the silver headband around Draco’s brow. “And does the device help you?” he asked. “Can it actually let you see the illusions? Or, I mean, locate them.”
“It lets me sense the amount of magic that something has. I believe I already told you that.” Harry let his hand curl harder around Draco’s fingers, because yes, he had. Draco went on with his voice a shade softer than before. “It lets me sense the illusions, yes. As long as they are powerfully magical.”
“This is some of the strongest magic I’ve ever been inside,” Harry responded honestly, looking above him. The invisible branches rustled overhead with the sound of skipping animals and settling wood. Off to the side, he heard a nightbird scold, and then there was a huff and an explosion as something larger, perhaps a deer, jumped away.
“I did have time to work on that, after Astoria left me.”
Harry turned to ask more about that. He wouldn’t pry, but if Draco was offering details, then Harry would freely admit he was curious, the same way he was about how Draco’s magical device let him live.
But with a nose like armies trampling the leaves, Scorpius darted at him then from under a magical tree, shrieking. Harry jumped. Orion, who had curled up behind Scorpius and had leaves draped like decorations over his Christmas-colored scales, snickered.
“You were right. He does jump in the air a long way, Scorp.”
In a second, Scorpius went from a giggling child to the haughty young pseudo-Malfoy Harry thought he must play when someone insulted him. He swung around and scowled at the snake. “I told you not to call me by that ridiculous nickname.”
“But then I must call you by your equally ridiculous name,” Orion said, and coiled onto himself while he watched Scorpius with a scolding expression. “I am trying to decide which one you would prefer on a regular basis.”
Scorpius immediately chased the snake back into the forest. Harry shook his head and smiled. “Is Scorpius like that all the time?” he asked Draco.
“No. He has become like that only since Astoria left. I think I told you once, she wanted me to raise him more in what I believe you would call pure-blood snootiness.”
Harry hesitated, but Draco was the one bringing up Astoria. He could refuse Harry an answer if he wanted to. “Did Scorpius want to please his mother when she was here, then?”
“Yes.” Draco stopped and turned to face him. Harry was privately sorry to be bringing up old quarrels like this in such a magnificent place. He thought he could smell the spicy scents of trees probably not within a hundred miles of here. Draco had done a wonderful job.
“He thought she would cease to be cold if he could show her what she wanted,” Draco went on, and his voice sounded more detached than ever. Now Harry was really sorry he had brought up Astoria, because he liked Draco better when he was smiling. “What he didn’t understand was that the coldness was an essential part of her personality, the way she had been raised and thought it proper to behave. Small smiles are not enough to feed a child’s pride on, though.”
“No,” Harry said softly, thinking for a moment of the Dursleys, who had given him even less than that. “And what about you? Were you able to see through the coldness and into her heart?”
“I just told you, Potter, the coldness was as essential part of her personality.” Harry winced; he must really have pressed on Draco if he was demoted to “Potter.” “There was nothing to see through. That was the person she was, and I would have loved her for that or not at all.”
“Then I’m going to push for the answer to another question. You don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to,” Harry added hastily. He could see Draco’s face turned slightly away. Yes, he’d pushed past a boundary he hadn’t realized was there. Despite the uselessness of his eyes, Draco did turn towards someone he was talking to most of the time. “Did you love her for that coldness?”
Draco stayed silent. Harry thought that was a bad sign. On the other hand, he didn’t walk away to lose himself in the magical woods and leave Harry to find his own way out, and Harry thought that was a better one.
“If I could have loved a pure-blood woman like her, it would have been Astoria,” Draco whispered at last. “We talked it over, she and I. She was the only possible choice. The only one who didn’t have a family tainted from the war, or one in such a good position that they wouldn’t consider wasting a daughter on me. And she was educated, and patient, and wise, and she would never expose the family to public shame.”
“But it wasn’t enough.”
“No.” Draco was silent for a moment. Then he said, “I hadn’t thought—I changed after the war. Some of the things my parents had tried to drill into me, I realized I had never really believed. Or I thought them shams now.”
“And she still believed them,” Harry summed up. His heart was aching with pity for the both of them. He’d never married, but he had seen how well Ron and Hermione worked in their own marriage. He could imagine how desperately both Astoria, who believed that families stayed together, and Draco, who believed that he could have loved her, would have wanted to make it work.
“Yes.” Draco bowed his head. “If we had never had children, I would let her go on thinking what she wanted and putting up with the minor effects on me. But I couldn’t let her push Scorpius in a direction I didn’t want him to go.”
“I think you did the right thing.” Harry couldn’t imagine living with anyone, woman or man, who would try to teach his child something he didn’t think was right.
“I didn’t ask for your opinions on my parenting.”
“But you wanted me to offer them anyway.” Harry didn’t think he was wrong, even with the artificial distance that had grown up between them after his few wrong answers. He took a slow step towards Draco when he hesitated as though he didn’t want to admit how close Harry’s words struck to the truth. “Didn’t you?”
Draco didn’t respond with words. Instead, he reached out and took Harry’s hand again, and tugged him towards the spiciest scent of the leaves.
They walked through the enchanted forest all that night, leaves rustling along their feet, sometimes accompanied by Scorpius and Orion, sometimes only by shadows and silence, and although Harry was late to open his shop the next morning, he wouldn’t have traded the memory for a new Divining snake hatching that very day.
Harry sighed and sat back from the microscope, shaking his head. Sometimes Muggle technology really was the best means of getting a close eye on the problem.
There was a young snake in the egg he had chosen to focus on, coming clearer and clearer day by day. But although Harry could see its shadow, he couldn’t tell yet whether it would possess the ability of foretelling by the stars that he wanted to see most of all.
That was at least in part because the snake that was usually his biggest help had decided to sulk in the corner again.
Harry turned around and frowned at Gregor. This time, Gregor had curled up on a heated stone that Harry usually enchanted to warm Potions ingredients. He was curled in such a way that Harry could only see his gleaming white scales; all the green lightning bolts on them were tucked inside his coils.
I just wish you would tell me what’s wrong, Harry hissed at him, walking over and stretching out a hand to stroke across Gregor’s scales. I promise I don’t have a different interest in the Divining snake than the others. Only the same theoretical interest that I have in any snake I breed. You’ve never been jealous of them before.
It’s not them I’m jealous of.
Harry paused. Then he said, You’re jealous of Draco?
Gregor tried to snap into an even smaller ball, and for an instant, his scales looked like solid rock. It was one of the transformations that his breed, Alpine serpents, used to shield themselves from Muggle view in the Italian mountains. But it had never worked on Harry, and he patiently waited until Gregor had decided to uncoil from his ball.
You spend so much time with him, Gregor muttered. And the snake you made for that child of his. He stuck out his tongue and lapped it once over Harry’s fingertip, as if tasting the salt, and then turned his head sulkily away. You probably spend all your time over there laughing at me, a poor little snake who can’t compete for your time and attention anymore.
I mostly spend it lamenting how someone vital to the success of my business won’t talk to me anymore.
Gregor glanced up at once, and his transparent inner eyelids, jeweled in his breed, glinted. You mean that?
Yes. How can I bring the Divining snake to birth without you? How can I name it and get potential customers interested without you? You know how horrible I am at thinking of names.
Gregor moved slowly towards him. But how can I know what you say behind my back if I’m not there?
I suggest you come with me and hunt in the gardens and see the magical forest that Draco’s created.
Gregor paused with the bottom of his body curled in an S-rune. Then he said, He probably didn’t do it right.
Harry smiled. That’s right. So why don’t you come with me and show him how to do it properly?
It seemed like days since Harry had last heard the familiar, peremptory command. He hoped he hid his relief as he scratched under Gregor’s chin, although Gregor could probably smell it on him.
I will come to the Manor, Gregor said after a moment, graciously. But only because all things go wrong when I am not there.
His singing thing is much more distracting when you are this close to him.
Harry scratched under Gregor’s chin, which was usually the only thing needed to quiet him, and smiled at Draco. “Gregor is impressed by your Manor thus far.”
“I wish I could hope that he would be as impressed by my observatory, but I don’t know if snake eyes can see that well.”
“It depends on the breed of snake,” Harry said absently, tilting his head back so he could look up at the flat, black ceiling sparkling above them. There were hints of stars here and there, but Harry didn’t think the magical display as impressive as the real one above Malfoy’s garden. “For example, those descended from Runespoors can combine the powers of three sets of eyes into one head, if they’re born with only one. Other snakes I’ve bred have such a good sense of smell that they neglect their eyes on purpose. And when you’re dealing with a snake that spends all its time staring into a mirror…”
Draco put his hand on Harry’s leg. Harry started and turned his head. Draco smiled at him and shook his head a little. “I love to listen to you talk.”
Harry smiled and glanced back up just as the observatory’s field seemed to part. Now he could see the colors of a sunset unfolding and fading above them, and much brighter and diamond-like constellations took the place of the stars he had seen.
Harry leaned against Draco as he watched them shine into life, and whispered, “Does it bother you? That you can’t see them?”
Draco chuckled into his ear, stirring subtle hairs there that Harry hadn’t known he had. “No more than it would bother me to listen to my guests drink wine if I had no taste for it.” This time, his hand slid a little up Harry’s leg towards his groin. “I know what I can offer, and my pleasure is in feeling your pleasure.”
After that, it was honestly hard to look away from Draco and up towards the observatory again. But Harry reminded himself that Draco had decided to show him this on purpose, and he leaned further back. The seats were as soft as any chairs elsewhere in the house. The observatory was off to one side of the gigantic dining room.
As Harry watched, comets and meteors bloomed to life in the darkness, and strange planets that had never traveled beneath the watchful eye of Earth’s sun. Harry saw swirls of green and pink and orange as galaxies spun and died. But the constellations stayed the same, and Harry saw Orion and Ursa Major and the Southern Cross and others he had never known so well.
“I love to feel you look.”
Harry managed the hardest feat he had ever done while Draco was touching him, and kept his eyes open and locked on the stars while Draco traced his eyelashes and lids. Draco sighed, then, and bent over until the shadow of his head hovered in front of Harry. Harry couldn’t help the quickening of his own breath, and Draco smiled. Harry knew he did, although the starlight was too faint to let him see that.
“I know you want this,” Draco whispered, and kissed him.
Harry did have to close his eyes then, while an icy planet danced above him and a cloud of gold embraced Sirius. Gregor was right, he thought in distraction. This close, he could hear the singing of Draco’s device extremely clearly.
“I do,” he whispered back, when Draco lifted his lips, and drew him close again. “And Scorpius and Orion and Gregor and your ridiculous Manor and your hands learning me and all of it.”
There seemed to be too heavy a silence after that. Harry wondered if Draco had really expected to encounter all that, and decided he wouldn’t blame Draco for drawing back and leaving him in a different kind of silence.
But then Draco said, “I never realized.”
He kissed Harry again, then sat back down in the seat beside him and traced Harry’s chin and eyebrows again, learning the pattern of him. Harry watched the stars with one eye and the shadow of Draco with the other, not minding at all that he was nearly as invisible in this darkness as Harry would be to him. Probably more, with Draco’s device singing all the time and sending him silent reports on Harry’s location and size and magic.
And the greatest approval of all, Harry realized, was that Gregor stayed silent on his shoulder the whole time.
“Draco. You came?”
Harry had grown more used to how his voice sounded since he began dating a blind man, and he winced a little at the stupid wonder in it now. But Draco only smiled and shook his head a little as he leaned forwards and kissed Harry without any guidance from him.
“Of course I did. Would I not be here to sense my snake hatched?” And Draco moved imperiously past him to the correct tank, the one with Sola’s eggs in it. They had been rubbed with snails, and set to cool in starlight, and placed in enchanted water, and placed inside crystal balls, and rolled on top of mirrors, and meditated on in front of crystals. Harry thought they were as ready as any eggs could be to hatch a Divining snake.
But seeing Draco standing beside the tank and turning a pale, expectant face towards him suddenly suffused Harry with worry.
“I’m afraid that I don’t have something better to call them than ‘Divining snakes,’” Harry apologized as he came up to Draco. Gregor’s genius had failed at naming them. Probably on purpose, Harry had to admit, as he spared a small glare for Gregor, who was curled up napping innocently on his heated stone.
“What does that matter, when my snake will have an appropriate name as soon as it hatches?”
“Yes,” said Scorpius, coming up behind his father. He and Orion had lingered in the front of the shop, where Orion demonstrated his superiority over all the snakes who could only speak in Parseltongue instead of English. “Like Orion.”
“Orion would be the most appropriate name of all, of course,” Orion agreed in a voice like a flute. “What a shame it’s already been taken.”
“I have a name.”
It was strange, Harry thought, how Draco’s voice could make them all shut up when it was quiet. Or maybe it was because everyone wanted to hear what he would say, so they shut themselves up.
“You think that you do?” Harry murmured, deliberately challenging. He had learned Draco liked that.
Draco gave him a smile without turning his face away from the clutch of eggs and the one near the edge that had begun to rock, cracks racing across its surface the way that comets danced across the dark sky of his observatory. “I know I do.”
The egg split so suddenly that Harry didn’t have the chance to make a rejoinder. He found himself turning around with a smile to welcome the new young snake.
It was a pale blue, with a white chin and random white markings elsewhere on its body. Harry saw the brilliant golden eyes and nodded, pleased. The snakeling had inherited Sola’s most attractive feature.
The snake turned its head from side to side, and then Gregor cut in, Do stop calling it it. It’s a male hatchling.
Why do you call him ‘it,’ then?
I’m allowed. I’m practically its godfather.
Harry didn’t get the chance to argue the matter further with Gregor, because Draco cut in, and his voice was both soft and wonderful. “Tell me what he looks like, Harry. I can feel his magic. Cool like starlight.”
The blue hatchling had turned around, as though attracted by the heat of Draco’s hand resting on the bottom of the tank or the singing sound of his headband. He darted out his tongue, and Harry watched in helpless wonder as he caught the first edge of Draco’s scent and immediately twined around his fingers.
“Um.” Harry shook his head. “He’s pale blue. The kind of blue that breaks on the edge of dawn. And he has a white chin marking, and white dots like clouds elsewhere. Golden eyes. Beautiful color.”
Draco nodded. “His name is Hyperion.”
“That is also a good name,” said Orion helpfully.
“Why that, Dad?” Scorpius asked at the same time.
Draco raised his hand and held the young snake directly in front of his eyes for a moment. Hyperion kept still. Maybe he could sense the magic bouncing off him and sending echoes of him to Draco.
“Hyperion is a moon,” Draco whispered at last. “But he was also the father of the sun. And he can foretell the future in the stars. And he looks like the sky. What matters is that he has aspects of all the heavens.”
“I like it,” Orion said. “Sometimes, Scorp, your father is wise.”
“Don’t call me Scorp.”
Your mate is ridiculous.
“Isn’t it a beautiful name?”
“It is,” Harry said, and looked into Draco’s face, feeling as if he was tumbling into the space on the observatory ceiling, the shadows in the autumn forest, the wine in the dining room, and above all the soft touch of Draco’s fingers on his face. “It’s beautiful.”