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Baby Steps

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Baby Steps

Draco walked steadily down Diagon Alley, doing his best to keep his head down. Even though it was early, and the day was cold and blustery, the street was packed with holiday shoppers scrambling to pick up their last minute Christmas gifts. He'd already been glared at enough for anyone's liking, and bit down a sigh as the Apothecary shopkeeper gave him a frown as he passed.

It was ridiculous; his family had been cleared of all charges thanks to Potter's testimony. His parents stayed out of the limelight for the most part, spending their days and nights at the Manor with the odd social engagement thrown in, and Draco was busy at the Ministry with his internship. He knew it had really only been seven months since the so-called final battle at Hogwarts, but surely that was enough time for people to stop airing their displeasure at his mere appearance among them.

He was working himself into a very black mood when he was interrupted by a shout from the old witch who owned the Magical Menagerie. He turned around and looked up just in time to see a whole flock of owls zoom out of the front door, followed by a very disgruntled gray cat and a hopping toad, the shopkeeper racing after them yelling out containment spells of some sort.

His amusement grew as one of the owls landed on the head of a very well-dressed witch, mussing her immaculate hairstyle completely. He watched as the Menagerie witch scooped up the toad in one hand and the cat in the other, and felt himself smile for the first time that morning. He was still looking behind him when he started walking again, and promptly collided sharply with something solid just as he went around the corner, sending him sprawling into a brick wall.

"Christ, watch where you're going!"

Okay, clearly that something was actually a someone, and they didn't sound pleased in the slightest.

Draco winced, rubbing at his elbow, which had collided sharply with the drainpipe. "I'm really sorry," he said, pushing himself away from the wall. "I didn't see you."

"Clearly," said a very amused voice, and Draco finally looked down to see Harry Potter sprawled on the ground in front of him.

"Potter," he said, pleasure leaking into his voice. It'd been six months since Potter had returned the wand that was now tucked safely into Draco's robes, and he'd been trying to come up with a legitimate reason to inquire after him ever since. This happenstance was the perfect excuse.

"Malfoy," Potter said in response, shifting slightly on the ground. It was then that Draco noticed he was holding a baby, which was a rather incongruous thing for Potter to be carrying about.

"You've a baby in your arms," Draco said, bemused.

"I had noticed," Potter said dryly. He turned the baby so Draco could see a green hat pulled down over the baby's hair, and large blue eyes staring up at him. "Malfoy, meet your cousin. Teddy, this is Draco Malfoy."

Draco blinked in surprise. He'd known, of course, that his cousin Nymphadora had had a baby with the werewolf, but hadn't really given it much thought. There had been a lot of other things on his mind these past few months, and while his mother was working to repair her relationship with her only surviving relatives, Draco had mostly stayed out of it. As he looked at the baby in Potter's arms, he had a flash of memory: the Dark Lord asking jeeringly if he'd babysit "the cubs" and Draco's own non-response. But now, faced with the living, breathing "cub" right in front of him, he had to admit that the baby was actually rather cute. Not that he'd admit that to anyone, mind.

"Hello," he finally said to the baby, whose only response was to put his thumb in his mouth.

Potter gave a slight laugh. "Would you mind holding him a minute so I can get up off the ground? The cold's leaking through my cloak."

Draco tensed slightly but nodded his head. "I guess."

Potter handed the baby over without further ado and hauled himself to his feet, gathering up the packages that had fallen to the ground when they'd run into each other. Draco continued to look at the baby, who took his thumb out of his mouth, tilted his head to one side as if in thought, and promptly squealed. Draco jumped, nearly losing his grip on the boy, then jerked in further surprise when he realized the baby's eyes had changed color; he was looking into a pair of gray eyes that perfectly matched his own.

"How….?" Draco began, staring wide-eyed at the child, and cleared his throat as his voice cracked. "How did he do that?"

"Hmm?" Potter asked, picking up his last package and tucking them into the seemingly bottomless baby bag that was resting against one hip. "How did he do what?"

"His eyes just changed color, Potter," Draco said, his shock making his voice sharp.

Potter frowned at his tone, but nodded once. "Yeah, they do that. He's a Metamorphmagus. Like his mum."

Draco looked at the baby, who was chewing on his sleeve, and wondered what the Dark Lord would have done with that knowledge. He knew his Aunt Bellatrix would have been furious if she'd known that the baby of a half-blood and a werewolf had such a rare gift, and felt a sharp stab of glee run through him; he'd really rather hated his Aunt Bella, especially toward the end when it became apparent that she'd gone off the deep end and had tried to take the rest of her family with her. 

He was unaware that he was grinning at the baby until Teddy returned his smile, knocking Draco on the nose with a wet arm. 

"Ouch," Draco muttered, and he heard Potter laugh, the sound surprisingly deep and warm.

"He likes you," Potter pointed out with a grin, and Draco turned to face him with an arched eyebrow.

"Of course he does," Draco said. "Everybody does." It was then that he remembered the glares and frowns he was getting whenever he went anywhere, so he amended the statement, frowning slightly. "Everybody with good taste, I mean."

Potter nodded, then reached for the baby. Draco relinquished him after only a brief hesitation. It had felt kind of nice to be smiled at like that.

"Are you finishing up your holiday shopping?" Potter asked as he settled Teddy into his arms.

Draco nodded. "I had to pick up Mother's gift. I hadn't realized it would be so busy this early."

Harry made a sound of acknowledgment. "It's been that way for the past few weeks. Bloody difficult to get anywhere."

Just as he finished speaking, a girl stepped up to them with a shy smile. She was holding a piece of parchment and a quill, which she extended in front of her. "Um, Mr. Potter?" she said, and Draco watched, amused, as she hesitantly stepped closer to him. "Could I have your autograph?"

Draco wasn't sure what he was expecting, but the brief flash of annoyance across Potter's face hadn't been it. The look was gone quickly, though, as a rather forced smile replaced it. "Of course," Potter said. He handed Teddy back to Draco and took the parchment from the girl. "What's your name?"

"Oh, it's Tessa," she said rather breathlessly, and Potter nodded once, scrawling something on the parchment before handing it back to her. "Oh, thank you, Mr. Potter. I really appreciate it, and everything you've done. You're a wonderful man."

Draco had to smother his laughter as Potter's face turned bright red and he mumbled something back at her in response, then nearly snatched Teddy out of Draco's arms in his rush to get away from the girl, who was still beaming at him.

"God, I hate that," Potter muttered, walking quickly in the opposite direction he'd been headed when he crashed into Draco. "I can't go anywhere without at least one person doing that and it's bloody annoying."

"They really do it that often?" Draco asked, his amusement still coloring his voice.

Potter heaved a sigh and stopped walking, turning to face Draco. The look on his face was full of irritation. "Yeah, they do. And no, contrary to popular opinion, I do not enjoy it." His voice was rather waspish by the time he finished speaking.

Draco winced, unsure what to say. He knew full well that he was one of those who had said exactly that, and didn't know if he was supposed to apologize for that or do something else. It was clear from Potter's reaction that he'd rather people leave him be, and Draco wondered, not for the first time, just how many of his other preconceived notions were completely off the mark.

"Sorry?" he ventured and earned a grudging smile from Potter in response as he shifted the baby in his arms.

"Don't worry about it. It's not your fault that people won't leave me alone when I'm out. That's one of the reasons why I brought Teddy today. People are more likely to leave you be if you're holding a baby. Or at least keep their distance as they snap photos," he added wryly.

"One of the reasons?" Draco asked, falling into step next to him as they headed back to where they'd been standing originally, once Potter ascertained the girl had gone.

"Yeah. The other is that Andromeda is having tea with your mum today and asked me if I'd mind keeping him for the day."

"Why you?" Draco asked, aware that it wasn't really any of his business and yet hoping Potter would answer all the same. 

"I'm his godfather," Potter said quietly. "Remus asked me right after he was born."

Draco recognized the parallels between Potter and Teddy's lives, and realized again how lucky he was that his family had survived. Even if things were difficult, at least they had each other.

Wanting to acknowledge what Potter had just told him, he nodded solemnly, and Potter gave him a nod of his own.

They continued down Diagon Alley, making small talk about how each of their jobs were going and their hopes for next year's Quidditch season. Draco elaborated as much as he could about his internship, and Potter told him a funny story about Weasley and Boot from Auror training wherein Boot accidentally charmed Weasley's hair purple and it had taken a month for the color to go away. Draco was again struck at how easy it was to talk to Potter. He still had his friends from Hogwarts – he and Pansy were still close, although she was betrothed to some random French wizard, which cut down on the amount of time they could spend together, and he and Blaise got together occasionally to catch up – but there wasn't really anyone else that even talked to Draco and he suddenly realized that he was, well … lonely. And talking with Potter alleviated that, and God, wasn't that a kicker.

They'd reached Flourish and Blotts at this point, and Potter turned to him. "I have to stop in here to pick up some books for Hermione, and then I was going to head over to the Weasleys. I'm about done in, I think."

Draco nodded, keeping his disappointment off his face. He wasn't ready to let Potter's easy conversation and Teddy's smiles go; the boy had grinned at him nearly the entire time, and his eyes were still a perfect match of Draco's own.

"Listen, Malfoy," Potter said hesitantly. "The recruits from the Academy get together on Fridays at the Three Broomsticks for a bit of, um, relaxation, I guess. Would you … well…." He trailed off, adjusting Teddy, and Draco caught his breath, waiting to hear what he'd say.

After it became clear that Potter would need some prompting, Draco said, "Would I what?"

Something seemed to steel itself in Potter and he straightened up, looking Draco full in the face. "Would you like to join us this week? You know pretty much everyone there, I think, and it might be fun to catch up."

Draco had to work to keep the smile off his face, a little amazed that a simple invitation to go out could affect him so deeply – he clearly needed to get out more – but finally nodded. "That'd be great."

Potter gave him a rather dazzling smile, which Teddy saw; he grinned widely, exposing one tooth, eyes changing to match Potter's green ones.

"Wonderful," Potter said, sounding like he genuinely meant it. "Seven o'clock?"

Draco nodded again. "I'll be there."

Potter gave him a wave, which Teddy matched, nearly smacking Potter in the face with his enthusiasm. "Happy Christmas, Malfoy," Potter said.

"You, too," Draco replied, watching as Potter moved through the door into the book shop and out of sight. 

All the frowns in the world couldn't dampen Draco's happiness as he finished up his shopping and returned to the Manor. Maybe there really was hope for his and Potter's friendship after all.

END