“I wanted to apologize for the other day. I was a bit rude in not fully introducing myself. Cherise Wilhelmina Stanhope. But, please call me Willa.” Willa smiled as she lounged back in a chair watching Teddy play with a new training toy.
“It’s all right. I didn’t exactly make a great first impression.”
Willa turned bright blue eyes towards Harry who couldn’t help getting a little lost in them. Harry felt his face heat up the longer she looked at him.
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s very hard not to notice you, Harry Potter.”
Harry had known the potions were working, as well as the extra workouts and even working with his Parselmagic. They all combined to continue the physical healing. His skin was clearer, he had grown a couple of inches, he filled out in his shoulders, but was keeping a trim waist. His hips and legs were filling out better, and Harry just felt better overall. He was getting more nights with a full eight hours of sleep more often than not and the nightmares, even though they weren’t all gone, they were fading. Tony made him face a bit of reality in that he may always have nightmares, but he was learning better coping mechanisms for them.
Harry knew he looked good, even going so far as dressing better and better. The stamina he learned in the kitchen was unlike anything he ever had learned in school.
“Flattery will get you nowhere.” Harry teased back.
“Flattery, Harry, will get you everywhere. I am just careful who I choose to flatter.”
Harry smiled and found he very much liked Willa Stanhope. She was not only beautiful, but funny, intelligent, and there was something unassuming about her. She bucked convention and was unapologetic.
“I’ve never seen Teddy progress so quickly. All of us have tried to help him control his magic.”
“He just needs good outlets. The training balls that you had bought him are very good, these boxes are better. It forces him to calm himself and sit and concentrate. The shapes make it fun for him. I have other things that I’ll incorporate as he grows.”
Harry was unashamed in his staring at her. Val was draped over his neck and flicked her tongue against Harry’s neck, trying to snap him out of his stupor.
“I think your snake is trying to get your attention.”
“Oh, uh, I uh, I’m sorry.” Harry turned back to watching Teddy.
“She’s very pretty. Do you know what her magic is yet?”
“No. She most likely won’t come into her magic for another month or two. But, Kai thinks it might be Blue Fire. If it is, it will be interesting to play with it.”
“You do like to flirt with danger, don’t you?”
“Not really, just dangerous things seem to be attracted to me.”
“Do you think I’m dangerous, Harry?”
Willa curled a pretty pink lip up under her front teeth, gently biting making Harry swallow hard and turn his eyes away from her.
“Oh, I think you are very dangerous, but in an entirely different way.”
Willa smirked and turned back to see that Teddy had set the box down and wandered off.
“Merlin, he is quick. I’ll go get him.” Harry ran around the corner and found Teddy playing in the dirt. Harry sighed as he grabbed his Godson around the waist and lifted him up and over his shoulder making the boy squeal and giggle. Harry brought the boy back over to the patio and plopped him down on a chair.
“It’s time for your snack, short stuff.” Harry ruffled his hair and went to the kitchen to put together something they could all share.
“Here, you go, Teddy.” Harry set the plate he had for Teddy in front of the boy, the other one he put between him and Willa. She turned and gave him another smile, and Harry couldn’t help smiling back. They spent another couple of hours with Teddy, then Harry had to leave for work. He very much had Willa on the brain all through his shift at the restaurant. But, he wasn’t going to do anything about it, not while he was still in a relationship with Draco. He wasn’t sure what his feelings were for the man, but for the time being, he wasn’t going to look too hard at what was happening between them. Harry was enjoying getting to know the Draco that had changed so drastically since the war.
After work, Harry was too tired to walk all the way home, so he apparated and nearly stumbled when he saw a very naked Draco Malfoy nearly draped along Harry’s bed.
“I missed you. Thought I’d surprise you.”
Harry swallowed back the retort that was on the tip of his tongue, especially when his cock responded to the man.
“Just, give me a few.” Harry walked to his bathroom and quickly shed his clothes, taking the fastest shower he had ever taken. He used a drying charm, then he was walking naked back to his bed, and his lover.
“To what do I owe such a surprise to?”
Draco reached out and pulled Harry down on top of him, kissing him. The two got lost in each other for the next couple of hours, taking their time to bring pleasure to one another.
“I need another shower,” Harry laughed as he spooned behind Draco. His fingers tracing patterns all down Draco’s arm. He traced over the Dark Mark that still marred Draco’s almost perfect skin. Harry could take hours worshipping Draco’s body. He had done it before, but he was too tired at the moment, and the gentle intimacy was nice.
“In a minute.” Draco hummed as Harry touched him only with his fingertips. When Harry let his fingers dance over the mark once more, Draco stilled his hand.
“I can try to find a way to remove it, Dray.”
Draco took a deep breath and let himself be held closer to Harry.
“You don’t need to, Potter.” Harry, at one time, would have been offended at the tone in Draco’s voice, but he had come to recognize that was the tone of voice Draco used when he was feeling especially vulnerable.
“I know, but I want to. You deserve to be free of it.”
“Maybe I don’t. Maybe I should leave it alone and live with it, a reminder of my mistakes and my attitude in school.”
Harry moved closer to the wall and rolled Draco over onto his back so that he could see Draco’s face.
“You didn’t succumb to it, Draco. You didn’t let Voldemort or your father turn you into what they wanted you to be. You deserve to have it gone. I don’t mind trying to find a way.”
Draco looked up and let out a humorless chuckle.
“You’re damn hero complex just can’t let things be, can you? Besides, for you to do that you’d have to come back to the Wizarding World.”
“There are ways I can research and not have to expose myself to the idiocy of Wizards and Witches who want a piece of me one way or another.”
“You know that sounds way filthier than I think you meant it.”
Harry laughed, then leaned down and kissed Draco. He never thought that in a million years would he reconcile and become friends with one of his schoolboy enemies, but if anyone proved that people could change, he and Draco both were the embodiments of change. That kiss turned into more and another round of some very vigorous sex.
“I’m serious, Dray. I want to find out if it can be removed.”
Draco was finishing up the breakfast Harry had made the both of them and took the time to finish what he was eating. Harry was being patient.
“Fine. If it will satisfy your need to save the damn world, then you can see if you can find a way to get rid of it. But, I won’t expect miracles.”
“I just have one teeny tiny condition.”
“And what is that?”
Draco smiled, but Harry wondered just what that smile meant. He waited till Draco put the last bite of food in his mouth to take their plates and move them to the sink.
“You meet Mum. I mean you meet her right and proper. She has wanted to talk with you for quite some time now.”
“Tea, Sunday. I know it’s the day you usually spend with Longbottom and your godson, but I think you can tear yourself away and come to tea.”
Harry was going to protest, but the earnest look in Draco’s face made him concede.
“Alright. Just tell me what time.”
Draco looked smug as he finished off his coffee, then dressed for classes. Harry watched him go and wondered once more what they really were to each other. Taking the dishes and cleaning up gave Harry time to think about it, but he didn’t want to. Right now, he was just enjoying himself. He would freak out meeting Narcissa much, much later.
After finishing his clean-up, Harry got ready for his appointment at the bank. He was going to be looking at listings for cottages and small houses. Harry was excited as he finished getting himself ready, then apparated right outside the bank. He had used a quick glamour spell that he had learned from Kai. He would be able to move freely about and no one would disturb him.
Once inside the bank and waiting for Ragnok, Harry dispelled the glamour and leaned back in the chair thinking about the Dark Mark and how it could be removed. He would have to do his research discreetly, he didn’t want anyone to know what or why he was doing the research.
“Ah, Harry Potter. You look very well young man.” Ragnok came in and sat down at his desk.
“Thank you, you look very well, Ragnok. I hope your gold is flowing and the markets are healthy.”
Ragnok did a Goblin version of a smile, which Harry knew without a doubt he never wanted to see again. He smiled back and tried not to look as horrified as he felt. Ragnok laughed a hearty laugh sensing Harry’s discomfort.
“Now, am I to understand you are wanting to look for a more permanent residence?”
“Yes, sir. I think it’s time.”
“Give me a moment and I will get Rizzle. He will show you what is currently available and talk with you to find out your requirements.”
Harry just nodded and waited. There were other things he wanted to get done at the bank as well. Combining the Potter and Black vaults were one and starting to go through what was in there. He knew there was furniture he might like, and a few portraits he had been meaning to look at. Part of his reluctance was he was afraid that his parent’s portraits were in there. It wasn’t that Harry didn’t want to see them, but it still hurt that they were gone and he never had the chance to get to know them very well.
“Mr. Potter, I am to understand you are looking to purchase a home.”
“Yes, I am.”
“Now, tell me what you are looking for and we shall see what is available.”
“I want at least four bedrooms, a good-sized kitchen, some land for a garden, unplottable. I want Goblin wards on it to keep the press and others out. I want privacy, but easy access to London as I still work there and have a lot of business dealings there.”
Rizzle pulled out the real estate book and looked through it, marking pages quickly before handing it to Harry. The first three Harry rejected for one reason or another, but the fourth he immediately liked. There was a charm to the place that caught Harry’s immediate attention. The ivy-covered front, with the wild garden that lined the path up to the house, had Harry smiling.
“I’d like to see this one.”
Rizzle nodded and it was but a few minutes later that Harry was standing in front of the house. When he looked in the garden there were a few Gnomes who scurried out of his way and went back to what they were doing when they realized that Harry wasn’t going to banish them. It was rare anymore to see actual garden Gnomes but from the looks of the gardens, they were doing a wonderful job. If he acquired the place he would take the time to get to know the small creatures and talk to them about what he wanted. He knew they were intelligent, just often ignored by the Wixen society.
“Would you like to look inside?”
Rizzle opened the front and Harry walked into a lovely entranceway. To the right was a large open space with a fireplace. The walls were bare but there were several windows that looked out at the gardens. Harry could see it with several comfortable chairs and couches scattered around. A couple of bookcases as well as side and coffee tables. He was getting a picture in his mind and he was liking the feeling he was getting.
Walking further inside he noticed the dining area that was directly across from an open kitchen. Harry was surprised to see all clean and modern appliances. He loved the sturdy butcher block counter to one side of the refrigerator. The other countertops were a lovely shade that matched the butcher block, but Harry was curious about the material.
“Rizzle, what are these countertops made of?”
“Ahh, yes these are highly unique. They are lava stone, and they have a few magical properties embedded in them. Lava is unique in that it takes kitchen spells extraordinarily well. There are self-cleaning spells, runes to activate them are on the sides.” Rizzle showed Harry the various runes. Self-cleaning, warming and cooling runes, as well as some food prep. While Harry liked to do all his own food prep he could see where the help could come in handy. There was a pasta drying drawer with runes to keep the pasta fresh for as long as Harry wanted, a separate marble top for pastry making, spice drawer, and more. The kitchen was created by someone who loved to cook and everything in it made sense. He wasn’t keen on the decor and would take the time to redecorate, but he loved the natural woods and stone. The walnut was a naturally long-lasting wood and easy cleaning with the clear stain that had been used.
All of the bedrooms were on the upper floor, the master bedroom was a dream as was the bath next to it. The spa tub was an indulgence Harry could see him using often. Charms and spells to warm the water, create a bubble bath, and other features. The shower had several showerheads that could be used individually, or all at once. The water had a collection system that was recycled and reused. There was a spacious balcony and a sliding glass door that led out to it.
Harry could see himself sitting out there in the mornings having some tea and reading the morning papers. He leaned on the rail and looked out on the grounds. They weren’t overly large, but what there was he could see a vegetable garden, some herbs, and a few perennials. He envisioned it all and liked what he was seeing in his mind’s eye. There was work the would need to be done, he didn’t like the statues, he wanted the gardens to be more natural, but he also would like to put some bench seating out there so he could enjoy them in spring and summer.
Going back inside the bedroom, Harry checked out the walk-in closet. Another indulgence Harry had never considered before. The other three rooms were spacious and all had good closet space as well as large built-in bookcases. Going back to the bottom floor there was a room that could become his office and a larger room that he would make the library.
“I’ll take it.” Harry didn’t even hesitate. He had plans to get the place somewhat in order for the rest of the day. “When can the wards be taken care of?”
“As soon as you sign the contracts and transfer of money, we will get it all taken care of as soon as we can.”
Harry followed Rizzle back to the bank, signed an ungodly number of papers, approved the transfer and was given the keys to his new place. Harry was beginning to feel more settled than he had in years.
Harry spent a couple of weeks at the bank going through the various vaults he was entitled to. He began with all of the things that weren’t already in trunks, or some kind of storage bin, and were just on shelves or scattered around willy nilly. He bought a few new dimensional trunks in various sizes and styles to make the job a little easier. He began by sorting all of the family books, journals, magical tomes, and written histories into a book trunk. There was one special trunk made just for portraits, which were currently, and thankfully, dormant. There were almost a hundred of them as he sorted them and a log was magically created as he slipped each one inside the trunk.
Next was the various pieces of furniture, which the trunk he had saved for it was special in that a magical photo was taken of each piece after it was shrunk down and placed in the trunk. A photo album of sorts was created and the photos were sorted by the type of furniture it was. There were cabinets, shelves, bookcases, a four-poster bed, several small tables, chairs and more. Harry decided the first thing he was going to do was apparate all of the trunks with furniture to his new place and go through them one by one. There were several pieces that he wanted and knew would look good in the cottage.
Next were the lamps of all shapes, sizes, and styles. Knickknacks, vases, and other odds and ends went in that trunk as well. He found two large wardrobes, one he was going to put in his kitchen and refurbish it to use as his baking pantry. He already had ideas to add shelves and additional drawers, he could use the existing rod to hang various baking pans using clips and hangers. Another was going into the study along with the matching desk. Harry didn’t think he would need to purchase any furniture except for a good comfortable couch and some reading chairs. He wasn’t too keen on the ones in any of his family’s vaults.
The coin trunk he had all of the Galleons, knuts, and sickles sorted out and a total was placed on the underside of the trunk lid. A biometric and magical signature lock was used on it. No one but Harry and his Goblin accountant could gain access to that particular vault. There were also slim drawers that he could place important papers and ledgers for easy access to them. The trunk was magically placed in the center of the vault, and the other trunks were stacked against one wall and a small label was placed on the side where there was an indent for just such a thing. As Harry went through things, a room that was cleaned out was then automatically magically deleted from the vault. Harry was happy when he had gotten down to only two rooms after going through things for hours at a time.
The last room contained odd bits of clothing, which Harry wanted none of, and donated it all to various Wixen charities. The only thing he kept was his parent’s wedding clothes. He knew it was kind of silly, but Harry didn’t care. He had them put into his closet in the cottage and would figure out what he wanted to do with them at a later time.
Harry also came across an inordinate amount of children’s toys. Some were magical, some weren’t. There were also children’s books, clothing, and furniture. He was going to decorate Teddy’s room with some of it and see which toys the boy took to. As Harry sat on the floor touching each game, toy, and stuffed animal Harry knew that soon he would want Teddy to live with him full time. As he clutched a particularly adorable teddy bear to him, the longing to have children hit him in the gut almost as if he had been punched. He knew Teddy wanted to be with him, the boy asked quite often and him living with Andromeda had always been temporary until Harry’s life had sorted itself out. After he got the cottage together, Harry was going to speak with Andromeda about this and see what she thought. It also meant that Willa would be around his house more and that made Harry smile to himself.
Harry purchased a smaller trunk that was made just for storing jewelry and things like pocket watches, gentlemen’s handkerchiefs, ladies’ hair combs and other bits of physical adornments. Harry didn’t want to take the time to sort it all out while in the vault so he just put everything in the little drawers, on necklace hooks and earring holders. That he also apparated to his cottage and would sort through it at home. He had a feeling that there were a lot of very valuable pieces in there. When he had a better accounting of everything he was going to make an appointment with Bill to give him an inventory of the personal Potter-Black assets and obtain the necessary valuation on everything and have insurance papers, as well as a living, will be drawn up.
As Harry sorted things if he came by artifacts that he didn’t recognize he set them upon one of the bookshelves he had decided to keep in the vault. That went along the opposite wall to that of the trunks. The bookcase had expanding charms on it and when Harry ran out of room, it grew just a few inches at a time to allow additional items to be placed on it.
Harry found a trunk for everything and after weeks of sorting, he collapsed in his apartment worn out form the mental and physical toll. He knew it was an important thing to do, he just had hated doing it. Fortunately, he had been able to talk Neville into helping him a couple of days a week. The two actually had a lot of fun going through the various bits of Harry’s inheritance.
The trunks of furniture, the unhatched snake eggs and the portraits trunk all went to the Cottage. Harry would sort through the furniture, choose what looked good in each room, then he thought about selling off the excess. He didn’t see the need to keep thirteen desks, ten wardrobes, an ungodly number of tables, big, small, and everything in between. He wanted to fill his house with his legacy, but he didn’t want to hold onto things just because. He wanted to clear the physical clutter out of his life as he had cleared the emotional and mental clutter. He understood the value of legacy, especially after sorting through all of the things his various familial lines had kept, but he didn’t understand holding onto those things that had no place and just gathered dust.
Another week of sorting through the furniture and Harry officially moved into his cottage. He had taken up the carpet in most of the rooms and used some of the beautiful area rugs that were still in excellent condition in each of the rooms. A couple of tapestries he had found in his vaults went on one of the walls in the library room. Portraits were hung, but Harry had not woken up the various occupants as of yet, especially the ones of his Mum and Dad, which he placed on either side of the fireplace in the living room. One of Sirius and Remus occupied space in Harry’s library right behind his desk. Other portraits were hung along the hallway of both floors. None were in bedrooms, Harry found that a bit creepy.
Walls had been painted, and the bathrooms updated just a bit, but all in all, Harry was quite satisfied with all he had accomplished. The final thing on his list of to do’s was to talk to the Garden Gnomes and let them know his plans for the back gardens.
“I did not expect this of you, Potter. A very grown-up place indeed.” Draco was draped over one of the couches in the front room and Harry couldn’t help being amused by his lover.
“It was time. The apartment was always a temporary thing and this place, even though it’s big, has potential. I fell in love almost immediately. I wanted something more permanent.”
“Putting down roots as they say?” Draco had taken off his robes, jacket, and tie. Harry was appreciating the look the man was presented to him. Taking the few steps towards the couch, Harry pushed Draco down on his back then blanketed him with his body.
“The beginnings of anyway. The thing that really sold me was this place has a basement. I’m going to create a ritual space in half of it, the other half will be used for my snakes.”
“I’ve been working with Kai and she is amazing, Dray. She’s opened up such possibilities for my magic that I never even knew existed. Parselmagic is most potent when a witch or wizard has embraced ritual. I’ve never felt so alive, Dray. She was a little worried at first because when we started, my magic is wild. We started with short rituals and I just…I felt so in tune with everything. It was amazing.”
Draco pushed some of Harry’s wild hair behind his ear and couldn’t help the smile that crossed his lips. Harry’s enthusiasm could be catching. Pulling Harry further on top of him, Draco pressed a kiss to his lips.
“What are we, Dray?”
“Do we have to be anything, Potter?” Draco slid a hand under Harry’s shirt.
“I don’t know. Are we friends, and not just lovers?”
Draco wrapped his legs around Harry’s waist holding him where he was.
“I’d like to think that we’ve put schoolboy rivalries aside and become friends. You saved me as much as Sev did. I hate it that I was used like I was, and I have as many resentments against Dumbledore as you do. Probably more.
“We were children, Harry. Children who weren’t protected, thrown into a war we had no damn business being in. But, I like to think we got past most of our issues, or why else would I let you fuck me?”
Harry laughed and took Draco’s mouth in a kiss. It didn’t take long for the two of them to divest each other of their clothes and Harry was on his back with Draco riding him hard and fast. They were having fun christening Harry’s new house. Lying together, sated and sweaty, Harry knew that what he and Draco had wasn’t going to last. He didn’t know how he knew, he just did. Things were changing for Harry. He was growing up, finding himself and letting go of things that could never really be resolved.
Getting up, Harry looked down at a sleeping Draco and hoped that their friendship could survive past whatever it was they were doing with each other. Harry went to his new bedroom and loved how it was shaping up. He had used a bit of magic to paint the walls a beautiful burgundy color. The accents were chartreuse, and his new bedding was a mixture of complementary colors. The bed was an ornate four-poster that Harry absolutely loved. The new mattress was comfortable, even without spells.
Walking into his bathroom, Harry decided to take a long shower after all the work he had put into the house that day. The bulk of the work in the last few days had been Harry cleaning up and organising his vaults. Giving the Goblins back any treasures that had been theirs. The Goblins were so grateful they gave Harry a finder’s fee, which he had tried to refuse until Ragnok just glared at him until he graciously accepted.
Harry was fully under the water when a warm body was pressed against his, arms wrapped around him.
“I think, Harry Potter, that I love you.”
Harry turned around and cupped Draco’s cheeks.
“Don’t get all mushy. I’m not in love with you, but you’ve become important to me in ways that you’ll never understand. I know this thing between us, isn’t going to last, but I don’t want to lose you either.”
Harry leaned in and kissed Draco, he felt the same as he backed the man up against the tile and once more slowly took him apart.
“I love you too. And, I don’t want to lose you either.”
Harry felt something shift inside of him. Another reminder that he was growing up and learning his place in the world. He no longer felt so alone, he had friendships, lovers, and family that truly cared for him on a deeper level. There wasn’t the stigma of his parent’s death and his previously on-going battle with Voldemort hanging over his head. He had a career he was proud of and wanted to do better at, and he was learning what his magic truly was and how it could be used in a healthy way.
After getting out of the shower and drying off, he invited Draco to dinner and to stay the night. He held on a little tighter than normal, not because he felt unsafe, but because he knew his time with the man was ending. But, as he thought of Willa, there was maybe something more on the horizon for him.