Chapter Nine

It was lovely outside, especially for this time of year. Perfect for an outside party. Harry didn't really notice this though. His mind was still whirling over Marvolo's very surprising admission. He couldn't seem to pull himself out of the shock to take notice of anything around him. He didn't even really notice the sharp jab at his back which had him stumbling forward off the patio and onto the thick green grass.

"Honestly," Marvolo muttered and shoved the boy again. "One would think I obliviated you again."

He was just about to lose patience and do more than shove Harry when he noticed Draco look their way, frowning at seeing Harry so spaced out. So Marvolo retreated back into the shadows where he was more comfortable to watch the goings on. He needed to make sure one of his schemes would work. He needed to make sure he wouldn't be cause Harry more pain.

Draco took a few steps towards Harry and then hesitated. He turned back to the people he was speaking with and nudged the redhead. He nodded off in Harry's direction. Immediately Ron and Hermione broke away to approach him.

"Harry! Hiya mate!"

Hermione peered at him worriedly. "Are you okay? Did something happen."

He finally looked straight at them. Ron whistled. "Blimey, he's in shock!"

"I'm in shock," he repeated hollowly.

Hermione grasped his arms, rubbing up and down. "You've just had a meeting with Voldemort, right? What happened? Did he do something to you?"

"He said some things…" Harry whispered, slowly but surely coming back to himself, focusing on Hermione's warm brown eyes.

Hermione tisked and moved to his side, wrapping an arm around his waist. "Let's get you something to drink. There's some yummy punch, or if you need something stronger…" she suspected he did.

"I shouldn't be here."

"Why not?" Ron demanded.

Hermione shook her head. "Anna and Draco have been waiting for you to arrive."

"I was rude to him."

Ron laughed. "He was worried you wouldn't come."


"Merlin, Harry. Still?"

"Ron, not now," Hermione whispered harshly.

"Yes, right now, Mione! Look at him! He's blushing and he's not shocked anymore! Perfect timing actually. He needs to-"

Hermione smiled and primly replaced her wand in her back pocket. And then she quickly grabbed onto Harry's arm since he turned around and was prepared to run away. She practically dragged him to the refreshment table and when they got there, Harry wasn't surprised by the amount of refreshments spread across it. Ice creams and cakes and fruit pops. Five different kinds of punch. Even a chocolate fountain.

"Want to talk about it?" she asked while pushing a cool glass of blue something into his hand.

"Not really," he murmured while releasing the Silencio from his pouting friend. "Not right now."

When a shadow fell across the table directly in front of him, Harry looked up and sucked in a breath. Professor Snape was standing there. Staring right at him. Harry had the urge to hide behind Hermione. Snape looked like he had something to say. But of course he did.


"H-hello, Professor."

Snape frowned harshly and his hand disappeared within a pocket. "I have something for you."

Merlin, he was going to be cursed now. Before he could duck under the table, the Professor thrust an old looking tome over the table at him.

"I'll admit to being impressed with your work station and your adept ability on the subject nowadays."

And with that, the Professor nodded sharply and walked away. Harry blinked after him before looking at the book in his hands. His eyes widened and so did Hermione's once she saw what he held.

"Oh, Merlin," muttered Ron. "He's back to being in shock again." He looked at the old book in Harry's hand and frowned. "Give me a clue, one of you. What's so shocking about this book?"

Harry seemed to pull himself together and shoved the book in Ron's face. "Look at it!"

Ron went cross eyed trying to find the shocking secret. "It's just a potions book."

"It's not just a potions book," Hermione explained as Harry went on to open the tome, skimming through it, enraptured. "It's a copy of one of the oldest potions manuals to ever be printed in England! There are potions in this manual that can't be found anywhere else!"

"This is a 2nd edition," Harry whispered in awe as he dragged his eyes away from the book to seek out the Professor, who had gone to stand near Mrs. Malfoy and others, including Draco's father. Though he noticed the Professor was standing too far away from any one person to actually socialize. The wizard caught him staring, sneered and turned away while tugging at the collar of his robes. They were nice robes, Harry noticed. As if the Professor had dressed to impress. For once it looked as if he hadn't just dragged himself up out of his potions rooms at Hogwarts.

A slow smile appeared on his face and his eyes lit up with mischief. Hmm, maybe…

"You're not going to say hello?"

Ooh, sexy voice. Merlin dammit. As he turned to face the owner of sexy voice, Harry tried to fight the heat claiming his face, though strangely he wasn't annoyed anymore that Malfoy could make him feel seventeen all over again.

Draco stood behind him, flanked by the Notts. Though they stood some feet back, studying him. Again it wasn't anything but a curious study, which was in itself curious. He made an effort to give them a little friendly wave. Parkinson-Nott returned his wave with a little smile of her own and Nott dipped his chin. When he turned back to the man in front of him, it was the look in Draco's eyes that had Harry calming down. The uncertainty that the blond couldn't quite mask.

"Hi, yeah. I was making my way to you," he replied, noticing out of the corner of his eye Ron and Hermione going off to talk with the Notts.

"Are you alright? You looked shaken when you came out."

"Did you see the evil wizard standing right behind me?"

Draco laughed. "Yeah, suppose I did. He does seem to rile you up in one way or the other…" Draco's smile fell away and so did Harry's.

"I keep being rude to you. Even when it's not your fault. I…"

"Don't apologize for last time," Draco interrupted lowly. "You have every right to still think those things."

"Not really. You haven't really given me reason to."

"You aren't stupid, Harry. You're you. They are understandable reactions considering everything that's happened since your return."

"I don't think I like reasonable mature Malfoy," Harry returned with a grin.

"Then I'll stop at once."

It felt like a dance. An awkward wonderful dnace that had his heart skipping beats and fluttering around all over the place, and it was Draco Malfoy making him feel this way, and yet now he didn't care. Or, more to the point. He did care. A great deal. Because Draco was making him feel a great deal and he wanted to drown in it. He hadn't thought he could feel this way again.

"Hi, frin Harry!"

"Anna!" Harry dropped down to a knee. Gave the birthday girl a big smile. "Happy Birthday!"

In return she gave him a big hug with such enthusiasm that it surprised him. When she pulled back, she asked, "did you get me present?"


"It's my birtday. I get presents!"

"Anna. Manners."

Harry grinned hugely as he picked her up on his way to standing and perched the cherub on his hip. "Yeah, I can see your influence," he said to Draco, in which the blond cleared his throat. There was that heat flush along Draco's neck as well. "As it so happens," he told Anna, "I did bring you a present. Oh, but I forgot it inside."

"Anna, return to your party guests. Make sure they aren't being too rough with Bast. Remember what we talked about?"

Anna nodded with huge wide eyes that seemed entirely too familiar. "Yes, Uncle Dwaco. Bass is spess…special!"

"That's right. Harry and I will go get your present."

"What was that about?" Harry asked after depositing Anna back to the ground and watching her race away. "About Bast?"

They turned in unison to head back to the manor. Draco glanced at him sideways. "I would say it's typical you haven't figured it out yet-"


Draco grinned. "But I only found out from the Dark Lord this morning when he was addressing my parents on the matter of your cat."

"Found out what?" Harry had to jog a couple of steps to keep up with the long legged arse. "Do you mind slowing down?"

"Keep up, Potter. Haven't got all day."

Harry did notice the blond shortened his strides though and that infuriating smirk was on his face. The one he was starting to love. "You're enjoying this."

"Entirely too much."

Marvolo watched them enter the mansion, both with stupid smiles on their faces. Then his eyes travelled back to the garden, to the party, and inevitably to Severus where the man was trying to do as he was. Disappear into the shadows but with less luck. The wizard was really only there for Draco and Anna; Severus didn't like Lucius all that much. At least not enough to want to chit chat with him or anyone else around him for that matter. He was sure Severus was counting down the minutes until he could slink off.

The dark wizard produced his wand and lightly tapped it against his palm. "Severus," he hissed softly in parceltongue. Immediately said wizard straightened. His left arm twitched just slightly and his eyes began to roam the area, knowing the Dark Lord was very near. And even before Marvolo could lessen the effects of his disillusionment shroud, Severus was already walking straight too him. The wizard had very good training. And what's more, most of that training was self taught.

Severus took up position of his right and went right back to being a wall flower. "My Lord?"

"Are you enjoying yourself?"

"Annalisa is enjoying the party."

"Can you not do the same?" he only asked just to see the look on Severus' face. That cock eyed incredulous look thrown his way.

"Are you well?" Severus demanded; albeit in a respectful manner.

"Yes. Do I not seem well to you?" Severus remained silent a moment. And then he swallowed thickly, clearly unsure about his next words. "Speak."

"My Lord, you seem… cheerful."

"I think shocking Harry Potter into a dumb state will always bring me cheer."

This elicited a snort from the man beside him and he nodded. "It is amusing."

Marvolo watched the man flatly. "What did you give him?"

"He seems to enjoy potion making now. I gave him my extra copy of Sorcesar's Art of Potions. I no longer needed it after you gifted me with the first edition."

"Ah, yes." He had forgotten all about that gifting. But now, as he remembered that time, he recalled much more than he had back then. Specifically, Severus' reaction to the gift. And now he was thinking about something else he might gift to Severus. Just to see his reaction. That was all. He wanted to study the reactions.

"My Lord, have you taken your potions this week?"

Marvolo frowned harshly. The man beside him went very still. And still he went on, despite knowing he'd just infuriated his lord. "You mustn't forget-"

Marvolo spun in on him and grabbed the front of his robes, red eyes lit in fury.

"-not that you would," Severus went on in the calmest manner he could muster since there was now a very dangerous wand pressed under his chin.

"Did I ever ask for your care?" the Dark Lord questioned lowly.

Severus slowly lifted a hand between them. Within his fingers he held two small slim potions vials containing the acidic green potion. "I would rather endure your ire than see you crumble, My Lord. It's only for a few months more and then you will never have to take it again."

Marvolo's eyes dropped down to the vials. He released the man's robes to wrap a hand around Severus'. Their bodies were angled in such a way none of the guests could see what they were doing or what Severus was handing him. No one knew he had to take potions once a week for a year to make sure the transformation became permanent. To make sure his mind and body remained stable. No one but Severus. And he did forget on occasion and Severus was always there with the potions tucked in his robes. And that realization drew forth a wave of… something from deep within him. He didn't like it and it infuriated him.

Marvolo lifted his gaze back to Severus' and when he spoke next, his voice dripped with cold venom. "I suppose this is why I continue to bare your presence. Good followers are so hard to find." He ripped the vials from Severus' hand and abruptly turned away, striding for the doors into the manor.

Severus didn't move a muscle, didn't even breathe, until he felt his Lord and Master Apparate from the grounds. And still, breathing was painful.

"Are you going to tell me? About Bast?" Harry demanded when they'd entered the room and he'd grabbed the present off the table.

"Your cat is some special breed. Very old and unique. Something about unusual intelligence…"

Harry peered at Draco with a brow raised. "You didn't hear everything, did you?"

"I heard enough."

"Enough to make yourself sound like an expert?"

Draco's nose lifted slightly in defiance of that statement. It was a move that once upon a time would have caused Harry the urge to swing out with a fist. Now, not so much. Draco then gestured to the present. "You didn't fill it with chocolate did you?"

He grinned. "And if I did?"

Eyes narrowed on him. "You better not have."

"What's a little chocolate in the present compared to the lawn length table out there?"

"I told Mother over and over again she'd gone too far! But she wouldn't listen. She never listens!"

"Your mum, she seems to adore Annalisa."

Draco eyed him and then nodded, jerking his chin as he turned to the door, indicating they should go. "She does. Spoils her rotten. Another reason why we do not live here. Spoiling and Mafloy rules… not anymore," he muttered.

As they returned to the party, Harry was startled to realize he wanted to stop and talk to Draco. And not just idle chit chat. He wanted to know things; things they wouldn't talk about in a social setting like this. A highly sociable setting.

Mentally he groaned. "Do I need to go back out there?" he muttered to himself.

Draco paused out in the hall, Harry stopping a few feet behind him. After a moments hesitation, the blond responded. "Just stick with me, Harry. You don't have to speak to anyone. I'll let you escape after cake."

Draco wasn't looking at him and Harry had the distinct impression the blond was extremely nervous. Harry laughed. "Yeah, okay."

The blond blew out a breath. "Besides, Anna would be really upset if you left now."

"I don't see why. We hardly know each other."

"You hardly know her," Draco whispered under his breath, and then louder, "you read to her her favorite book, Harry. In the comfy chair. She's hooked."

Harry didn't respond to that, but when Draco glanced at him he could see the pleasure swimming in his eyes.

They were just about to head back outside when the same House elf who allowed him entrance appeared beside Draco. "Master. You's has a Floo call."

"Take a message."

"But they says its important. It's Mister Zabini."

Harry noticed the immediate tightening of Draco's jaw and the frost entering the man's eyes upon this announcement.

"Very well. Harry, excuse me. I need to take this."

"Sure." He watched Draco walk off and then enter a room down the hall. Then he turned to the House elf who had yet to disappear. "Err. Periwinkle?"

"Yes, sir, Mr. Potter?"

"Do you know if the Dark Lord is still here?"

"He is not. We felt the angry wizard leave just moments ago."

"Thank you."

Harry wandered to the back patio and remained there as he watched the children playing some sort of game; and then his eyes wandered to his friends. Ron was still with the Notts- rather surprising- while Hermione had moved to across the lawn and appeared to be speaking with Severus, despite the very sour look on the wizard's face. Bast had disappeared.

As he continued to watch, he wondered at the look on Draco's face. Wondered why the mention of Zabini made him cross. Aside from the fact Zabini would be returning soon permanently, which meant Draco would have to hand his little girl over to her birth father. But he didn't think that was the reason. It was something else. He also wondered why Zabini wasn't here right now for Anna's birthday. It was the weekend. Surely he could have made a little time to come.

He settled against the doorway and let his thoughts drift to Marvolo; going over the man's abrupt surprising announcement. The most shocking thing, he knew Marvolo meant those words completely. This wasn't a trick. And he… he couldn't deny being warmed by them.

"Mr. Potter?"

Damn! She snuck up on me! As she stopped in front of him, he wondered if Draco would be terribly upset should he run away from his mother.

"Mrs. Malfoy…"

Narcissa studied the young man with wide anxious eyes and internally wondered at this revelation. Draco had confided in her; about his feelings for Harry Potter and the recent discoveries concerning this wizard's character. She hadn't believed some of it until this very moment. But the anxiety written across Potter's face was unmistakable.

She put on the calmest expression she could muster and extended to him a tall glass of Rumscow's Lemonade. "Here you are, Harry. I thought you could use a drink. Won't you come back out with me?"

"I… I was waiting for Draco," he replied quietly, accepting the drink with a frown. "He's on a Floo call with Zabini."

"He'll be out shortly," she said, grabbing at his elbow and pulling him back out to the lawns. "So Draco tells me you're a professional curse breaker…"

Harry took a small sip and when he realized it had alcohol in it, took a long drink more. "Yes. Did Mar- Did Voldemort tell you to be nice to me. Is that why you're being this way?"

"He told us to accept you into our home graciously and without bias, but I would have done so regardless of the order. I'm being nice to you because I want to."

"But why?" he demanded.

Narcissa stopped and faced him, frowning slightly as she steadily locked gazes with him. And then a small amused smile lifted her lips. "You really have no idea do you?" she went on before he could respond. "It's not as if we've ever fought. We were never personally at odds, were we? And you have come here without threat to my family. Your manners, if a little awkward, are impeccable. I have no reason to be anything but civil. I want to get to know you… ah, Harry? Are you alright?"

He was being tossed around again. Thrown into a different universe. What should he do?

"Mother!" a voice called from across the lawn at the same time he vaguely noticed Hermione speed walking their way.

Draco reached them first and inserted himself between Harry and his mother. "Mother, I told you," he hissed, dragging his mother a little away and giving Harry breathing space. "You can't just walk up to the man and…"

Bast appeared at his feet just as Hermione arrived. Harry automatically bent down to allow Bast access to his shoulder. The cat jumped up on his right, circled behind his neck to then hang over his left shoulder. The sound and vibrations of Bast's purring calmed him a little.

Draco then approached after apparently shooing his mother away. "Would it make you feel better if I had everyone point their wands at you in a threatening manner?"

Harry groaned. Because despite it being nothing more than a tease, yes, it probably would make him feel better.

Hermione scoffed. "They're too wary of him now to do such a thing without cause. That raid has made them all think better of it."

And then Draco's teasing smile faded. "I can make you feel better."

"Yes, I think you probably could." The blond's eyes widened in wonder; having not expected that response. And then all of a sudden that predatory grin was on Draco's face, and because he was looking just a little too cocky, Harry continued- and had to constantly fight off the smile as he spoke. "You could bring Anna to my place tonight and let her read to me again. That would help."

Draco narrowed his eyes, severely put out and yet jumping at the offer, which may or may not have been real. He didn't are. "Very well. And we'll also go over the plans for your wine cellar."

Harry stared steadily back; understood exactly what he'd gotten himself into despite all his personal promised to keep himself on guard. And smiled. "I don't have a problem with that."

Harry was pondering his actions as he made it home a short time later. Draco had announced it was cake time shortly after that, and true to his word, allowed Harry to escape home. He knew what he'd just done. Given Draco encouragement. He didn't regret it either. Strange, that.

Maybe, he thought as he let himself into his cottage, maybe it's because he hadn't met anyone since Myles who had this effect on him; and unlike Myles, Draco didn't make him just feel hot. Draco made him feel warm too.

"Still probably a mistake," he muttered as he descended the stairs from the kitchen into the cellar where he got to cleaning it up a bit in case Draco and Anna did come over. It wasn't a for sure. Draco said there was a chance he and Annalisa would get stuck at the manor. And even if they did come over, it was unlikely he and Draco would get anything done in the cellar. Not with Anna there.

Once done with the dusting and floor cleaning, Harry stepped back to sit on the second to bottom step of the stairs. He sat and thought about things. Coming to decisions and then changing his mind again. And then grew angry with himself; with the constant doubts, with the cowardice he was portraying.

"Bugger this!"

He shot to his feet and returned to the ground floor to grab his cloak. He would need to go to the market if he were having dinner guests.

When he returned home from the market, it was to find his house was not empty. "Didn't think I would be seeing you so soon."

"Or you hoped," Marvolo replied from where he sat near the hearth. Sitting in a high backed chair Harry had never seen before. Harry studied the chair in confusion. Where had it come from? And then he asked, but Marvolo remained silent on that.

So Harry shrugged and turned to go deposit his basket of goods in the kitchen. "I might be having guests later," he announced. And still no answer. So apparently Marvolo was in a brooding mood.

Harry dashed upstairs to take a quick shower. On his way to his room, he noticed one of the guest room doors was opened. This caught his attention because he always had the doors shut. This was the room he let Draco use all those weeks back. The one with the connecting bathroom. He detoured and stuck his head inside, thinking maybe Bast had somehow opened the door and was inside—the cat had done so before. There was no cat. However, there were three trunks lined side by side at the foot of the bed.

Now Harry had a sinking suspicion as to what was going on. He went to take his shower before confronting the Dark Lord, who was still in that same chair, now with a scowl on his face.

"Why's it look like you're storing your possessions in my house?"

"I'll be staying here for a while."

Harry processed this fairly quickly. "B-but, you can't just decide that on your own! And it's not safe for you here! We haven't even finished with the peace talks!"

"Did you say you will be having guests?"

"Anna and Draco. Don't you have your own home? Surely you wouldn't be comfortable staying here."

"As I said, it is only for a short time. You needn't worry. I will not disturb you. You won't even notice I'm here."

"I'm noticing right now!" And then someone knocked on the door. Harry groaned and collapsed to the floor, staring blankly up at the ceiling. "Wonderful."

Marvolo finally moved, though he only raised his wand in the direction of the foyer while sneering at the dramatic young wizard on the floor. Before Harry knew what he was about, the Dark wizard had opened the front door. A moment later Anna and Draco came walking in. The moment Draco saw Voldemort across the way and then Harry lying on the ground motionless, his face paled dramatically and he shoved Anna back towards the front door with a gentle command to stay quiet and still. Once she was hidden out of sight, Draco hurried over to Harry, dropping to a knee. And Marvolo became only a little annoyed the blond's wand appeared in hand with a quick sharp look at his Lord. But the look in his eyes when he focused on Harry was also very telling. On so many levels.

"Harry? Harry, are you alright?"

"No, I'm not alright!" he snapped with temper, which had Draco sagging in relief. "Apparently I've acquired a house mate!" And then he cracked a smile. "Hey, you came."

Draco made that wonderful annoyed sound at the back of his throat and grabbed Harry's arm, pulling him to his feet. He then shoved Harry towards the kitchen. "I'll be in in a moment. Anna love," he called. "Follow Harry and go play in the back garden."

"Okay, Uncle Dwaco." Anna appeared and then skipped after Harry with a small wave at the Dark Lord.

As Harry let Anna out into the back, he heard Draco greeting the Dark Lord properly. "First house rule," he shouted towards the sitting room. "No cursing my friends in the bloody house!"

By the time Draco returned to the kitchen, Harry was banging his head against the pantry door over and over again. "This can't be happening. This can't be happening. What the FUCK?!"

Draco made a detour from approaching the wizard who was currently freaking out to go check on his girl. He opened the back door to find Anna frolicking around with Bast. Harry's owl was also in attendance, watching the two from her perch upon the back of one of the patio chairs. The attention Annalisa was receiving from Harry's companions made him smile as he shut the door.

"Merlin, Potter. You've given me a small heart attack," he muttered. When Harry didn't respond, he asked, "want a drink?"

"No I don't want a drink," Harry snapped and spun around on him, his chest heaving and eyes super wide. "I want to know what's happening!"

Draco grabbed a chair from the kitchen table; he straddled it and dropped his arms over the back, watching intently.

The brunet narrowed his eyes. "What are you doing?"

"Watching you."

"Aren't you supposed to be helping me?"

That smirk appeared. "I'd rather help myself."

"Finally! Something typical."

Draco snorted; nodded a little. "I can't help you if I don't know what's going on."

Blowing out a breath, Harry crossed the kitchen to set the tea kettle on. "I went to the market and when I returned, he's here. Says he's staying here for a while. He even brought his bloody chair. And then, earlier at the manor…"

Draco vacated his chair to go stand next to him when Harry shot a glance towards the sitting room. "Go on."

"He said," Harry began in a whisper, "he was looking to be a father figure for me. He said he regretted taking my parents, Draco. And he meant every word."

"Your laying on the floor like a dumb wanker makes sense now," Draco murmured, eyes going across to the doorway; in just as much shock now.

"You're the wanker."

"Potter, please. You used to be better at the comebacks."

Harry's responding laughter was shaky. But at least he was able to laugh. "Y-yeah."

Those gray came back to him and looked down at his hands, which were of course shaking. Draco frowned. "Is this my fault?" he asked, grabbing at his wrist. "The shaking?"

"No. I don't think so." Harry blew out a breath, met his eyes. "Not anymore."

The smile that immediately erupted on Draco's face made the admittance worth it. That smile was brilliant.

"Draco," interrupted a voice from across the way, "a question?"

Harry spun around, glaring because the moment was ruined. "I'm still noticing you!" Then his glare lessened a little bit upon noticing Marvolo held the Derric Mills novel he lent him. "Did you read that?"

"I did. Last night."

Draco shifted on the spot.

"It's good, isn't it?"

Marvolo's attention went from Harry to Draco for a brief moment. "Surprisingly so. Very entertaining." Harry didn't notice the startled intake of breath from beside him. "I'm going to borrow the second one."

Harry grinned smugly. "I've gotten the Dark Lord into reading mystery fiction."

"I…" Draco shifted again. "I didn't think you would ever read those, My Lord."

"That brings me to my question. Do you think the author bases the characters of his novels on actual people he knows?"


"Don't all writers in some fashion," Harry replied with a shrug.

"You are not helping," Draco ground out.

"How's that?"

Marvolo turned back to Harry and shook his head. Clueless again, this one. "Because there is an overall villain in here who seems to be painted as a ridiculous figurehead who is more comedic than brilliant and evil. What are your thoughts, Draco?"

Said blond was becoming increasingly paler. "Err… I'm sure it's just the author's imagination, My Lord."

"Actually," Harry went on, "there's going to be a book signing this coming week for the new release. I'm going to go. Maybe I can ask Mr. Mills." He bounced on his toes a little in excitement. "At Flourish and Botts."

Draco rubbed the spot between his eyes with two fingers. "I'd forgotten about that."

Harry turned to him. "Wanna go?"

The blond raised a brow and wondered if he'd just been asked out on a date. Probably not. He couldn't be that lucky. "I would, but unfortunately I've an appointment at that time." Draco took a breath, flexed his fingers behind his back. "Maybe we could have dinner afterwards. If you want. If you're still out and about."

"Um…as a date?" Harry inquired, somewhat warily because that's what it sounded like.

"Unless you want it to be, then no. But yes, ah…" Draco stammered, increasingly aware he might have just mucked up all the progress he made because Harry was now frowning. "A date would be nice, but just dinner, between friends and uh," now Harry's eyes were widening on him. "Um… I need to check on Annalisa."

He quickly turned away, aiming for the back door. He made it two steps before his hand was grabbed. Looking over his shoulder, he found Harry smiling shyly at him.

"Dinner sounds lovely."


Harry laughed kind of shakily and released Draco's hand. His own hands were shaking. But in a good way. Draco's smile was making him breathless. "Yeah."

Marvolo sneered at them and retreated back into the sitting room. He couldn't very well curse Draco in front of Harry could he? Harry followed shortly after as Draco had gone out to check on Anna.

"I'm still noticing you," Harry murmured, but he didn't sound upset at all.

"You're going on a date," Marvolo answered with a smirk.

Harry blushed as he dropped onto his sofa. "Guess so." He hadn't planned on agreeing. In fact, he was going to say no. But then Draco started stuttering; stammering with nerves. The fact that he wasn't so confident is the reason Harry accepted. It was just another thing about Draco he found attractive. He wanted to know everything about this Malfoy. This grown man who wasn't anything like he remembered. He didn't think this was going to be a horror.

Harry cleared his throat and sat straighter. "So. House rules."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Hey, this is my house! And while you're here, I have control over what happens!"

"Potter," warned Marvolo.

"Yes, person who is a guest in MY house."

Marvolo's eyes narrowed to slits. "Go on."

"Like I said, you are never allowed to curse anyone in this house… unless, of course, someone is trying to break in. This is neutral ground now."


"Rule number two: you are not allowed to hurt or kill my Bast or Hedwig."

Marvolo may have huffed here, but Harry couldn't be sure. "I haven't any reason to hurt your owl."

"Rule number three," Harry went on with a flat look, "do not bring your Voldemort business here. Ever. That includes Death Eaters… with the exception of the ones who have already been here," he hurried to say since Marvolo would point out Draco, Ron, and the Professor visits. Nor are you allowed to punish my friends outside of this cottage if they've done something to annoy you here."

"Somewhat acceptable."



"Um… Rule number four. Tell me why you've decided this."

"That's not a rule."

"I deserve an answer, Marvolo."

Said wizard crossed his arms over his chest and turned to the low burning fire, which gave off no heat. "I like it here," he muttered softly. "I don't like my house. It's empty and cold and bare…"

Just like you used to be, Harry thought with realization.

"And I don't like Malfoy manor either. It's too big. It feels like a Fabergé egg… here, your cottage is…"


Marvolo sneered at him but he didn't say anything against it. "And I told you earlier at the Malfoys. This is why I'm here. In order to get to know one another better. To watch over you. Visiting you here these last few weeks has been enjoyable."

"You said we'd talk about it later. You didn't say you'd be moving in uninvited."

"I had already made up my mind."

"Do I get a say in this?"

"Clearly not."

"You were mean to the professor today," Harry accused. Marvolo's sharp eyes focused on him and then shot back to the fire. "I know because I could see it on his face after you left."

"I am not kind to anyone."

"This is different. You know it and so did he."

"He made me feel," Marvolo replied. "I did not appreciate it."

"Did he do something out of the ordinary."


"Then you're an arsehole for taking it out on him when he didn't even know what was going on."

"Harry, be warned. There is only so much I will take from you."

Knowing he was pushing his luck, Harry didn't reply as he wanted. But he did get up and walk away. He had trouble not speaking his mind when he shouldn't. He went out to join Annalisa and Draco.

"Did you want to check out the cellar now?" he called as he walked to them. They were standing at the far end of the garden, near a cluster of trees and border hedges.

Without turning around, Draco lifted a rigid finger for silence- Harry wondered how he automatically knew that- and then waved for him to come closer. When he stopped next to the man, it was to find Draco with a completely straight face, carefully watching Anna.

"What's going on?" he whispered.

"Ask her."

"Anna, what are you doing?" he asked, since the girl was just standing there, swaying slightly, looking up into the tree canopy.

"Watching the nargles."

Harry went rigid also.

"I've heard that word before. Is this your doing, Potter?"

"No, I… Anna, what are nargles? How do you know that word?"

"Can't you see them?" She pointed into the canopy. "There's lots! They say nargles. They are mean and funny!"

Harry knelt down in front of her, smiling as he lifted his hands to her hair, studying her face and those eyes. He blew out a shaky laugh and kissed her forehead. "Annalisa, beautiful girl." He then stood and hoisted her up onto his hip. "Want something to drink?"

"Yes, please."

"Potter," Draco hissed at his back.

"Come along, Draco. It's not the end of the world."

"I beg to differ!"

A little time later the two of them were alone down in the cellar. "It's not the end of the world," he repeated since Draco was still somewhat glaring at nothing in particular. "But one thing is clear. Zabini is a monumental cad."

"What? Harry! She left her! On the bloody doorstep!"

"You realize how old she was?! She wasn't even out of Hogwarts! Merlin, she was still in Hogwarts at the time of Anna's birth!" Harry took a breath and then poked a finger against Draco's chest. "And if I know her- which I bloody well do!- I'm absolutely certain she lingered around and waited until that door was opened. She would never have done what DUMBLEDOR DID TO ME!"

The brunet sucked in a breath and spun away, cursing under his breath. It was not the time for those feelings to be dragged to the surface.

"Have you thought about how you want the cellar set up?"

Harry turned back to him, saw Draco was prepared to drop it and was grateful for it. "Not really. Shelves, right? How complicated could it be?"

The blond rolled his eyes. "You've never been in a proper wine cellar, have you?"

"Guess not. Let's talk about the cellar another time," he said, shoving his trembling hands into his pockets and aiming for the steps. "I want to get dinner started and read to Annalisa. Did she bring her books?"

"Yes." Draco followed slowly after. He saw the shaking, but knew it wasn't from being nervous. This time Harry was fighting off anger. He was fairly certain that anger wasn't directed at anyone in the cottage. "That's part of it then," he quietly stated to himself. "Dumbledore?"

Harry hurried into the sitting room and crossed over to his potions nook, where his work station was set up as well as the potions cupboard. He pulled out a small vial of calming drought and knocked back a quarter of it; intensely aware of the narrowed crimson eyes on him. Annalisa had been sitting quietly on the rug in front of him, paging through her new books.

"It's nothing. I'm fine."


"Frin Harry? Can we read now?"

Marvolo bent over to pluck the girl up from the rug and perched her on his lap. "Harry will need to begin dinner now. We can start now and he'll pick up when he can. How does that sound, Annalisa?"


Harry watched, wide eyed, as Voldemort relaxed back with the little girl in his lap and opened the book. He then popped open the vial again and took another swig.

"Stop that, Harry," sexy voice said from behind him, and a hand reached around to grab the vial. Draco set the calming drought on the worktable before dragging Harry back into the kitchen. "What are we making for dinner?"

"Shepard's pie."

"I thought you said you didn't know her."

"Well I heard her mention it's her favorite and it is her birthday. And I thought after, some hot fudge sundaes might-"

A wild deranged look appeared in Draco's eyes. "Don't you bloody well dare!"

"I'm going on a date with Draco Malfoy," Harry said to himself later that night, sitting out on his back patio; alone again as Draco and Anna had just departed. Marvolo sat just beside him, reading. He took a drink from his wine glass, hardly believing the words he'd just whispered. "I'm going on a date with Draco Malfoy." He then laughed. It sounded absurd. And yet it didn't feel so. He was beyond excited about it.

He quickly sobered, wiping the stupid smile off his face, remembering just who was sitting next to him. Marvolo had picked up his new potions book off the desk and was paging through it. Harry studied the man's face in suspicion. Marvolo was looking very pleased with himself. He was about to demand to know what Marvolo had done when he heard the Floo roar to life inside from the open door.

"Harry, are you in?"

Harry popped up and hurried into the sitting room. Hermione's face floated in the green fire.

"Mione, hi. Merlin, Malfoy asked me out!"

She laughed a little. "I know. I just ended a floo call from him." Her smile grew. Draco had sounded as excited as Harry was looking now. "And you said yes."

"I don't know why I said yes…"

"Yes you do. Harry, if he were anything like Myles, you would never have given him the time of day. He's changed for the better. You could instantly see that. We love him and you saw that too. And Harry," she said sharply, "you've had an eye for Draco for years too! Don't deny it!"

"All right already! Yes, fine. I maybe might have fancied him a little bit 7th year when he stopped being a complete self-absorbed wanker."

"Finally!" Ron cried from somewhere in the background.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Ron…"

"This proves I'm not so thick. Everyone thought I was thick! But I caught on, didn't I?" Ron ranted in the background to no one in particular. "He's my best mate. Course I was gonna see he was drooling over Malfoy the Git!"

"Oi, Ron! I was not drooling okay! It's not like he had the legs on him he has today!"

"Budge over, love." A moment later, Ron's head joined Hermione's. "A legs man, huh? And you so were…" both Hermione and Ron frowned at the same time. "Um. Speaking of legs, who's that standing behind you?"

Harry cleared his throat. "So… I have some news. Ron, your boss decided to move in with me. Temporarily." He looked over his shoulder to find Marvolo's eyes narrowed on him in warning. "I'm not going to say more," he said reassuringly.

"My boss?"

Turning back to them, it was clear Hermione immediately understood. She looked shell shocked. Ron- bless him- looked confused.

"I don't really have a boss. I work with Fred and George, so—ah!" Ron fell back out of the Floo in fright once Marvolo had dropped beside Harry to spear Ron with a death glare.

Harry chuckled. The look on Ron's face! And Hermione looked like a stone statue, with slightly narrowing eyes.

"I'm still noticing you."

Marvolo gracefully stood. "I'm going to bed."

"Night then." Harry turned back to Hermione as Marvolo climbed the stairs. Ron was still out of sight recovering. "Yeah. So that's happened too."

A/N:So another one done. Hope you enjoyed :) And I'm hoping to get the next chapter of The Black Bunny finished soon. Have a great weekend!