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Art and layout by saridout

All other image and content © Deirdre Riordan 2004. All rights reserved.

This chapter was co-written with the ineffable Miss Stella Revolution, but as she's dropped off the face of the planet for the time being, I'll be writing the next bits by me onesies until further notice.  As always, these characters belong to JKR, except for Saoirse, who belongs to Stella and me. And actually, I came to find out the other day that I accidentally stole the idea for a "daughter named freedom" from Roddy Doyle. Oops.


Hallways and Forgotten Spaces

By Deirdre Riordan and Stella Revolution

Chapter 1 

Harry had loved Brighid. There was no one who could question that for a second. Theirs had been a marriage of comfort, both of them longing to have someone to hold through the long nights during the war. She had come from Ireland to aid the Order in the fight against Voldemort and had quickly become indispensable, both to the Order and to Harry, even long after the battles ended and peace was restored. Had she attended Hogwarts, Harry was certain she would have been a Hufflepuff-- long-suffering, diligent, loyal to a fault. Who else could have put up with him, after all? There had never been real fire between them, but there had been warmth and love of the most steady and sure kind.

Her death had been no freak accident, and for that Harry was grateful. He couldn't have stood yet another person being ripped away from him with no warning. Though the last year had been excruciating just the same. There hadn't been much anyone could do, doctors and mediwizards alike, mostly for the reason that no one had ever seen her disease before. Her insides had merely begun to dissolve, little by little. They had been able to delay it, certainly, with potions and transplants, but it could not be stopped. The Muggle doctors had tried to give it some long Latin name. The Mediwizards just threw up their hands and said it could very well be the after-effect of some of the curses she'd been hit with in the war for all they knew. Harry had quit his job as an Auror immediately when Brighid fell ill, and had spent the remaining time taking care of her and doing things she'd always wanted to do. There had been wonderful times, seasides and holidays when Brighid was well enough, but they were always bittersweet with the knowledge that each one could be the last. Harry glanced down at the little raven-haired girl who was asleep next to him in the train compartment. They'd waited to tell her until it could no longer be hidden or explained away that there was something very, very wrong with Mam. For her five years, Saoirse had been surprisingly mature. She had bawled for hours, of course, when she found out, but when Brighid's final hour came, she'd tearfully kissed her mother goodbye and told her she'd see her in Heaven. That had just about torn Harry's heart out. But Brighid had died peacefully, more or less, and they had been as ready for it as was possible.

Now Harry and his daughter sat on the Hogwarts Express, on the way to the large, solemn Parting that was accorded to all former Order members. He could have easily Apparated with his small daughter, of course, or come to that, driven the car, but there was something about watching the Scottish countryside go by through the windows of the Express that he needed right now.

When they reached the station at Hogsmeade, Colm, Brigid's father (and incidentally only living relative) was there waiting, along with Hermione, Luna, and… Snape? What on earth was he doing there? Harry knew for a fact that he and his daughter were the only ones on the train, so he had to be coming to meet them.

"Daideó!" Saoirse exclaimed, jumping up onto her grandfather.

"Dia dhuit," Colm said, reaching around his granddaughter to shake Harry's hand.

 "Dia is Muire dhuit," Harry replied. This was pretty much the extent of his Irish, but Saoirse began chattering excitedly.

Hermione and Luna got hugs and kisses, and then came the problem of how on earth to greet Severus Snape. They had last parted with no ill-will between them, but they had parted strangely, on the brink of an almost-friendship. Somewhere past handshakes, but not quite to hugs. Eventually he gave up and just embraced the man briefly.

"Hello, Severus."

"Hello, Harry." They both of them held on longer than they meant to. Harry couldn't help it. The scent on the silky black hair pressed to his face was one he remembered well, one of rosemary and cinnamon and things being okay.

"Greasy git, don't bother owling."

"Insolent brat." But these insults were uttered with as much affection as one can put into any term of endearment. Harry felt relieved. At least things were where they had stood previously.

The group decided to walk up to the castle, since the sunny afternoon provided some ready-made cheer, and Saoirse needed to burn off some energy. They walked five abreast, with Saoirse running circles round them, demanding to be picked up and put down every thirty seconds. She catapulted onto her father, nearly knocking him over. "Oof! Love, you'll soon be too big to be carried," Harry said jokingly, knowing full well he'd carry her till she was twenty if she asked.

"Ní bheidh!" she exclaimed, and scrambled up Harry's shoulder onto a very surprised Severus. Harry braced himself for the fallout.

It didn't come. Severus shocked him. "Are we a monkey?" He asked in a playful voice, removing the girl from his shoulders and holding her in his arms.

The man's gone barmy! "I never knew you liked kids, Severus."

The Headmaster smirked. "I adore them until they turn eleven, Potter." The rest of the group stifled a laugh.

"Da, can I stay with Daideó when we get to the castle? He said I could if you don't mind."

"Is this true, Colm?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "Does the monkey speak the truth?"

"I'd love to have her, Harry. You probably have loads of catching up with people round here to do, and I'll not be seeing her till Christmas."

"Right, then. Hear that, sweetheart? You're staying with Daideó."

"Go raibh maith agat!"

Harry was thankful that the other guests weren’t due to arrive until the next day. They ate dinner in the Great Hall with the staff, and Harry was able to catch up on some of the old news in between sessions of his daughter showing off. Everyone found her adorable, and she knew it. Even the snarky Headmaster had a small smile on his face.

"Reminds me a lot of her father," Severus said quietly, leaning toward Harry.

Harry grinned. "Well, yes, she is gorgeous, isn't she?" This elicited giggles from those in earshot.

Saoirse eventually ran out of energy and was carried off to bed by her grandfather. Harry felt terrible for the man. It was Harry's opinion that parents should never outlive their children. Colm's wife had been gone for ages; Brighid had never even known her. Harry was grateful that Saoirse would be able to remember her mother, and that Colm had the little girl to take his mind off things. Harry had offered many times for his father-in-law to join him in Dublin, but the older man always shook his head, saying he couldn't bear to leave Connemara. Harry wondered about Dublin. There was little there for him now, other than a home that held more pain than anything else at this point, and a few acquaintances. But he felt it would be unfair to Saoirse, and to Colm. So, for the near future, he was staying. There would be a decision to make when it came time for her to go to school. She would likely get two letters, one from Hogwarts and one from Coláiste dé Danann, the school her mother had attended. Harry wanted her to go to Hogwarts, of course, and Brighid had wanted the same, but the choice would ultimately be up to Saoirse.

The staff began to excuse themselves from the table, in preparation of the long day ahead of them. Harry rose to leave as well, but Snape touched his shoulder. "Will you come for a drink?" he asked.

Harry nodded and silently followed him to his rooms. Harry was surprised to find that he'd taken Dumbledore's old quarters.

"Moved out of the dungeons at last, Severus? I think Hell must have frozen over."

Snape smirked. "Bloodstone," he said to the gargoyle. "If you must know, Potter," he said as they ascended the stairs, "apparently there's actually a clause in the school charter that says the Headmaster must inhabit these rooms. I was not particularly thrilled."

They entered the office and Harry looked around. Much of it was the same as it had been when Dumbledore was Headmaster. Some of the paintings were different (Severus appeared to have got rid of the more disagreeable former Headmasters), and the carpeting had been changed to a deep green. The chairs had been changed for some Harry recognised as having come from Severus' old office. Some of the Frightening Things in Jars had also made their way to the new office, as had the antique scales and vials. The effect was strange, seeing these artefacts mixed in with those of Dumbledore and many of his predecessors.

"The memories in this place," Harry breathed as he followed Severus up the stairs into his private quarters. Harry had never been in here before. The Headmaster gestured to the couch. Harry sat down and watched as Severus lit the fire and poured two glasses of whiskey.

Snape sat down across from him and handed him his glass. "I'm terribly sorry about Brighid," he said at length.

Harry nodded. "Thank you. It's all right, though. She was in so much pain."

"If you don't mind my asking, do you know what it was?"

He shook his head. "No, nobody knows. Her internal organs were basically disintegrating little by little. No one could figure out what caused it. Our best guess was the after-effects of curses reacting with one another."

"Why didn't you contact me?"

"Severus, you couldn't have done anything, no more than a fleet of Mediwizards and Muggle doctors could."

"She was a good woman."

"Yes, she was. I hate that Saoirse has to grow up without her. But she's got me, and she's got Colm. She'll be better off than I was."

"Her command of Irish is astounding for someone her age."

Harry laughed. "It certainly is. Sometimes I'm afraid she'll forget her English-- at times she'll speak Irish to me and not even know she's doing it. She learned from Brighid and Colm."

"Will you be sending her to primary school?"

Harry sighed. "The eternal debate. I want her home, of course, but the only decent Wizarding primary school in Dublin was burned to the ground in the war. My choices are to move to Connemara with her, or just send her there on her own."

"Have you ever thought about coming back to Britain? There are plenty of respectable institutions in London, or Hogsmeade for that matter."

"I've thought about it. But I don't want to leave Colm alone, and he won't leave Connemara. He's been like a father to me these past six years, Sev. I feel as though I owe it to him to stay. I owe it to Saoirse."

"It's not as though it’s all that far."

"I know. It just isn't the same somehow, though. And if I'm sending her to primary school, I want it to be in the Republic. I don't want her to lose her Irish." Harry put down his drink and rested his chin in his hand. "I just wish Brighid were still around. She'd know what to do. I'm lost without her, really."

Something imperceptible crossed Severus' face, but faded back into the customary mask before Harry could place what it was. "You loved her greatly, didn't you?"

Harry sighed. "Yeah, I did. Maybe not the way you think, but I did."

An eyebrow raised in question. "Not the way I think?"

"Sev, you know how it was with Brighid and me. There were never fireworks. But we were comfortable together and made each other happy. We hardly ever made love, we mostly just held one another. It was all we needed most of the time. She always listened to me, never judged me, never labelled me or expected great feats of me. Other than my daughter, of course, she was one of maybe three people I've ever known who truly saw past the scar. Even Colm has a tendency to put me on a pedestal at times."

"Who were the other two?"

"You and Luna."

Severus looked more than a little surprised. "What about Hermione?"

"No, when it came right down to it, not even her. I thought she could, but it was never the same after Ron died. All the time, it was like she was silently asking me why I didn't save him. Luna, though-- well, I suppose she's too barmy to care about things like fame and glory. And you. You hated me. You were the only one who ever made me prove myself."

Severus laid a hand on his arm. "I never hated you. I did make you prove yourself, but only because I knew you'd be facing worse things than a snarky Potions professor. I wanted you to be ready."

"Well, then… thanks."

Severus sighed. "We shouldn't dwell on such things. What are your plans now?"

"What, for tonight, or for the rest of my life?"

"The latter."

"I'm not sure. The Aurors at the Dublin Ministry will take me back, of course. I was only on an extended leave. But I'm not sure if I want to go back to them. I don't strictly need to work. I've still got most of my parents' inheritance, and Brighid's insurance settlement will pay for more schooling than Saoirse could ever dream of needing. I'll probably go mad if I don't keep busy, though. I've toyed with the idea of writing a book. But every time I pick up a quill, I just choke."

"Have you ever considered coming back here and teaching? We could really use you. The Defence Against the Dark Arts position still seems to be cursed, and I think maybe you could break it."

Harry gave an exasperated sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Did you not catch the part where I don't want to leave Ireland?" he asked, a little irritated.

"Don't want to, or feel like you can't?"

Harry ignored the question. "Severus, if I'd known your only motive tonight was to try and rope me into a teaching contract, I'd not have come up here with you." There was an edge in his voice that was always there right before he exploded and started yelling.

"Harry, don't get upset. That wasn't my motive at all." He reached over and clasped Harry's hand.

Harry ripped his hand away. "What was your motive, then?"

"To make sure you were all right. To try and mend whatever it was that made you storm out of my office the night you told me you were marrying Brighid and not speak a word to me for six years. To try and keep that from happening again. To remind you that I care for you and that I'm here if you need me." His voice was calm.

"Do you want to know what happened that night? Do you want to know why I left and never looked back?" Harry asked in a choked, bitter tone. "Because it was you I was in love with! I wanted you to stop me! But you just smiled and wished me joy like you couldn't see what was written all over my face. And you could, I know you could. You knew. That's why I left." He stood up. "And that's why I'm leaving now."

"Harry…" Snape tried to grab his arm and stop him leaving, but Harry again violently pulled away, his eyes wild. He was out the door and down the stairs before Severus' next statement was out of his mouth. "I didn't know." Snape picked up Harry's empty glass and threw it against the far wall with as much force as he could muster.
 

*          *          *

 

Severus saw Harry the next day, of course, but they didn't speak. Harry wouldn't even meet his eyes. Hermione looked at him questioningly, but he just shook his head and went back to his newspaper.

The memorial service was beautiful. The front lawn of Hogwarts was draped in dewy white roses and lilies that glistened in the late morning sun. He gave a short speech about Brighid's sacrifices and her work for the Light. Then Harry got up to give the eulogy.

"Brighid was not merely my wife," he began. "She was my friend, my confidante, and my comrade, my partner in everything. She took every hardship with a brave face, found a little piece of triumph in even the worst defeat. It was no different when she got sick. We postponed the inevitable as long as possible, but when it came, she was ready, and she met it with a brave face. The only tears she shed through the entire ordeal, through all the physical pain and defeat and frustration, were when our daughter kissed her goodbye. She left us behind, yes, but she also left behind a great legacy of loyalty and tenacity that cannot be forgotten. In her last hours she said to me--" Harry paused to wipe his eyes, "--she said, 'Don't let them mourn me. But don't let them forget me either.' So, by the order of the late and great Brighid Aoife Uí Braonáin Potter, I must command you not to weep or to mourn, but to remember and to celebrate the thirty good years she gave us. And, also by her orders, due to the fact that I couldn't say no to her, I'm now to sing the song she wanted me to sing. It's a Muggle song, and one of her favourites. Luna." Luna Lovegood stepped onto the stage with a viola and took her place next to Harry. Severus didn't know whether to laugh or cry when he heard the opening notes of "Both Sides Now." He was also surprised when he heard Harry's rich tenor wash over the crowd. He'd had no idea the man could sing.

"…I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all.
"

Harry's performance was met by a round of tearful applause. "I think," he said when it died down, "That she wanted us to remember to live. To know life, and to revel in the freedom she helped us gain."

Harry stepped down from the podium and embraced his daughter. The crowd followed his lead to a banquet in the Great Hall, during which Severus had no opportunity to speak to Harry. There was a constant stream of people coming up to shake his hand or kiss his cheek. The luncheon lasted through dinnertime, when the guests at last began to leave.

Severus was about to leave as well, but a black-haired bundle of energy landed in his lap before he could stand up. "Hello, Saoirse," he said, trying to smile.

"Why aren't you sitting with Da?"

"Your father's a bit angry with me at the moment."

"He said that after Mam, you were his best friend."

"When did he say that?" Severus was surprised.

"On the train."

"Oh."

"So why don’t you visit?"

 So difficult to answer such simple questions! "I… your father and I are both very busy."

 "I like you better than Auntie Luna. Mam always said she was funny in the head."

 Severus was about to reply when a shadow fell over him and he heard Harry's voice. "There you are, Saoirse. You shouldn't run off like that. Now let's leave Professor Snape in peace so we can put you to bed. We have to get up very early tomorrow."

 Severus stood up and handed over the child, forcing Harry to meet his eyes. "She wasn't bothering me, really." Harry said nothing. "You're leaving in the morning?"

 Harry just nodded, and started to walk away.

 "Harry. Don’t walk away from me. At least hear what I have to say."

 Cold green eyes turned on him. "Let's have it, then."

 "Not here. Come up later. I'll be waiting." Severus turned on his heel and walked to his office.

 He sat at his desk with a glass of whiskey, attempting to catch up on some of his correspondence. But his hands wouldn't stop trembling with the anticipation of what he was going to say when Harry came. If he came. It was true, he hadn't known of Harry's feelings for him. He'd seen evidence of them, but he'd written it off as wishful thinking on his part. Yes, he'd loved the green-eyed Gryffindor since his last year at Hogwarts. Maybe it was mere lust back then, but as the war began, it did become love. He and Harry had grown closer every day those first six months. They were constantly paired up for missions and worked instinctively well together. Then Brighid had arrived, and all had been lost. Severus had injured his leg, so much so that he was no longer any good in the field. So she had been paired with Harry. And all had been lost. The night Harry had announced his engagement, Severus felt his heart ripped in two. But he wanted Harry to be happy. Blind to what was really on the man's face, he'd smiled and offered his congratulations. Which was where it had been left, until last night.

 And now he was prepared to confess it all, at what was, in all probability, the worse of all possible times to do so. He didn't expect that Harry would run into his arms, no. The man had just lost his wife, for Merlin's sake. He couldn't even expect that Harry might still love him after all this time. All he could ask for, as he had done so many years ago in this very office, was a second chance.

 Severus waited for two hours, brooding and mulling over things in his mind. At last, just when he was about to give up, he heard the telltale scraping of the stone staircase. Harry entered. He had quite obviously been crying.

 "What was it you wanted to say?" Harry asked, his voice trembling.

 And Severus spilled everything from beginning to end.

 When he finished twenty minutes later, Harry, who had been motionless for the entire speech, came around behind the desk and embraced him. "Oh, Sev. I wish I'd known," he said into his hair.

 Severus pulled Harry down into his lap and held him. Harry put his arms around his neck and sobbed into his shoulder for an eternity. Finally, he whispered, "Don't cry, Harry."

 Harry lifted his head and sniffled. "I'm sorry. It's just that, well, we missed all these years because we were both stupid."

 He gently wiped the tears from Harry's cheeks. "That doesn't mean we can't get them back."

 "I know. But at the same time, I can't offer you anything right now. It wouldn't be right, and it wouldn't be fair to Saoirse or Colm or Brighid for me to have a new partner so soon. I had a long talk with Colm, though, and we came to an agreement. I'm going to move down to Connemara with Saoirse until she turns eleven, at which point she'll go to Hogwarts and I'll move back to London or Hogsmeade, or take the DADA position if it's still open."

 Well, this was certainly better than Severus had hoped for. But… "Six years? Are you telling me I'm not to see you for yet another six years?"

 "I didn't say anything about that. Once every few months, at the very least."

 Harry gave him a tentative kiss goodbye and walked out the door, promising to write.

 

*          *          *

 

2 August, 2003

 

Dear Severus,

Connemara is gorgeous. Well, gorgeous if you like bogs and rocks. I think it's lovely. Saoirse and I have moved into a cottage a little way down the road from Colm, and she'll be starting primary school in a few weeks. She seems happy. She's trying to teach me Irish, and failing miserably as usual. I think I'm just too old to learn. I managed to get to the point where I could sing the national anthem at Quidditch matches, but I don't think I'll get much further. There's not much news, really. It's very quiet here. Colm is going to take Saoirse on the ferry to Inis Mór tomorrow to show her the house he grew up in. I'm going into town to try to get a few more things for the house. We didn't sell the house in Dublin, so most of our furniture and things are still there. You'll be thrilled to know that my daughter wants her new room decorated in Slytherin colours! I don't know what you did to her, but you're going to pay! Only joking. Anyway, I should go and get started cooking dinner before the lady of the house has my head. I miss you. Write soon.

Yours,

Harry

 

*          *          *

 

10 August 2003

 

Dear Harry,

I'm sorry to take so long to respond to your letter. It's been absolute mayhem here these past few days. I've been interviewing five or six imbeciles a day for the DADA position, the house-elves are constantly popping in and getting up my arse about something, and yesterday Draco bloody Malfoy showed up in my office--with his five-year-old child, no less!-- seeking asylum. Apparently some of Lucius' old friends aren't too pleased with him. I've set him and his son up with rooms, but I don't really know what I'm going to do with them. We haven't got a proper Potions professor, either, so I suppose Draco could teach that and I could just teach DADA myself. Draco is, perhaps, qualified for Offence With the Dark Arts, but certainly not Defence Against. It's all such a headache. On top of that, Poppy is pestering me about her potions stores. Did I happen to mention that I never wanted to be Headmaster? Must go. Poppy is screeching again. I miss you too.

Love,

Severus

 

*          *          *

 

20 August 2003

 

Dear Severus,

I hope you've not gone round the twist yet, and that things are working out with the staff. The house is pretty much respectable-looking now, other than the silver and green travesty that is the room across from mine! Saoirse keeps talking about you. I think you must have made quite an impression. If you can get away before term begins, we'd love to have you over for dinner some night. I promise my cooking is better than my potions. Let me know as soon as you can. Portkey enclosed, as I know how you hate Floo. Just press the button. It's good for a week.

Harry

 

H-

Will come day after tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

-S.

 
*          *          *

 There was quite a ruckus in the Potter household.  Saoirse was practicing the piano, and Harry was attempting to cook dinner, in between listening to the Puddlemere match on the WWN and Apparating back and forth to the market for forgotten ingredients. On top of that, he'd gotten two fire calls from Luna and one from Hermione asking what Saoirse wanted for her birthday. He began wishing that his five-year-old knew how to cook so he could go lie down.

 Dinner managed to come together, though, and Harry had just enough time to spare to shower and change out of his food-splattered clothes and be standing in the living room in a fresh shirt and slacks when Severus materialised. Before Harry could even greet him, Saoirse screeched, "Severus!" and practically catapulted off the piano bench to latch herself onto the man.

 To Harry's relief, Severus just laughed and kissed the top of her head. "Saoirse, why don't you go and set the table so we can eat, love?" Harry said, prying his daughter off of his love interest. The child trotted into the kitchen to get the dishes.

 "Hi," Harry said with a laugh.

 "Hi, yourself," Severus said, brushing a kiss over his cheek and squeezing his hand.

 "Sev…" Harry warned.

 Snape sighed. "I know, I know."

 Dinner was pleasant. Severus complimented Harry's cooking (accompanied by a jab about his potion-making skills) and they drank glass after glass of wine.

 Saoirse chattered about turning six in two days and about going to school. Suddenly, she got a quizzical look on her face and addressed her father. "Da, if we can't get a new Mam, can we get another Da?"

 Harry turned bright red and nearly choked on his potatoes. "We'll see, love," he said. Severus snickered and Harry glared at him.

 Saoirse played the piano for them after dinner and Harry couldn't help beaming like a proud father over his child's talent. At last the pint-sized chatterbox fell asleep on the hearth rug and Harry put her to bed. He poured two more glasses of wine and rejoined Severus on the couch in front of the fire. "I'm glad you came," he said.

 "I am too."

 The two men stared silently into the flames for a long while, listening to the peat crackle. Harry wanted desperately to kiss Severus into oblivion, but settled for holding his hand and letting him stroke his hair.

 After a long time, Severus broke the silence. "Harry, I'm afraid I have to ask you a favour."

 "What's that?"

 "Draco Malfoy and his son. They need protection. Hogwarts is too obvious. If there were anyone else I'd never ask you, but---"

 Harry cut him off. "It's all right. They're welcome here as long as they need. The boy-- what's his name?"

 "Christopher."

 "Right. Christopher can go to school with Saoirse if they get here by next week."

 "I was going to send them first thing tomorrow. You'd have to talk to Draco about the school, though. Isn't it all in Irish?"

 "No, it's bilingual. Many of the children around here are going to be just learning Irish for the first time. He wouldn't be behind at all."

 "I'll mention it."

 "It would be highly beneficial, I think. There aren't so many restrictions on underage magic here, as long as the child is enrolled in school and an adult is supervising."

 Severus nodded. "Thank you, Harry."

 They sat, talking idly for an hour or two more and enjoying each other's warmth and proximity. Finally, Severus had to go back to Hogwarts. Harry stood up to see him off and was surprised to find his lips instantly captured in a soft, sweet kiss. He was shocked motionless for a moment, but then gave into sensation, moaning and curling his fingers into Severus' hair. They held each other tightly, lips and tongues exploring, until they both came to their senses and pulled away, breathless.

 "Oh, Merlin," Harry murmured.

 "I'm sorry. I didn't mean for that to happen."

 "Don't be sorry," said Harry, still reeling from the kiss. "Just… know that we can't take it beyond that for a while."

 Severus nodded. "Well, Saoirse did seem pretty keen on getting another father," he said with a smirk.

 Harry rolled his eyes. "Of all the things that have come out of that child's mouth. She'll probably think Malfoy's a birthday present."

 "Just as long as you don't."

 "Oh, please." Harry planted a much more chaste kiss on his lips and swatted him on the bum. "Off with you. I'll see you in the morning." Severus Apparated away.

 Harry went to bed, dreaming about the kiss and worrying about what on earth he was going to do with a house full of Malfoys. And yes, two Malfoys did, in his opinion, qualify as a house full.

 The next morning, Harry got his daughter up early and explained the situation. She fortunately understood, and agreed to be particularly nice to Christopher. Then she asked to go round Colm's and help him feed the goats.

 Left to his own devices for a while, Harry began making breakfast (for six, just in case) and singing along with his David Bowie record at the top of his lungs. Until, that is, he saw two extremely amused Slytherins and a small boy in his kitchen doorway. He blushed and turned off the music. He shook hands with Malfoy and was introduced to Christopher, who immediately smiled and gave him a kiss.

 "Where's Saoirse?" Severus asked. "I should have been mauled by now."

 Harry laughed. "She's just gone round her grandfather's. I'll call them. Help yourselves to breakfast if you like, I made plenty."

 When Harry returned from the living room, his three guests were seated at the kitchen table, eating happily. "They'll be round directly," Harry said, fixing himself a plate.

 Once everyone was present and introduced and fed, Harry and Severus went outside to set wards for the Malfoys' protection. "I don't think you'll need these," Severus said. "I don't think these people are serious enough to risk crossing international boundaries. But I wanted Draco and Christopher out of harm's way until they're caught. Which should be soon."

 They returned to find Saoirse and Christopher gone and Draco and Colm talking about Quidditch. "Where'd the kids go?" Harry asked.

 "Yours wanted to show mine her Chocolate Frog cards," Draco said, rolling his eyes.

 "Ah, yes," Harry said. "She has them all, you know."

 "Well, at least we don't have to worry about them being like the previous generation of Potters and Malfoys," Severus said pointedly.

 Colm took his leave, saying he needed to finish up with the goats. Severus stuck around for a second cup of tea and gave them emergency instructions, then left as well. And so it came to be that Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter were alone together at the latter's kitchen table, picking at their rashers and staring into their teacups.

 "Look, Potter--" Draco began.

 "Please call me Harry."

 "Harry. I know saying things like this isn't really in the Malfoy vocabulary, but… well, you're saving my arse, and my son's. And thank you."

 Harry smiled. "You're welcome. And as long as you're here, I want you to treat this as your home too, understood?"

 They went on to discuss the subject of school, which Draco seemed to think was a good idea. Harry showed him the guest room and gave him the tour of the house. "I figured Christopher could either sleep with you, or in Saoirse's room if they get on."

 "They seem to be," Draco said, poking his head in the doorway of the little girl's bedroom, where she was pointing out things in a picture book and apparently giving Christopher an Irish lesson. Draco smirked. "Nice décor."

 Harry sighed. "Her idea, not mine. She seems to be destined for Slytherin, though."

 "Odd, that," Draco said. "With a Gryffindor for a father and a might-as-well-be-Hufflepuff for a mum."

 "You know I'm part Slytherin."

 "It's still strange." He clapped a hand over his mouth. "Oh, bugger, Harry, your wife! I'd forgotten! I'm sorry!"

 "For what, mentioning her?"

 "Well, I thought maybe it was too soon…"

 Harry shook his head. "Don't worry. It's fine. Saoirse doesn't even want a new mum, she's hell-bent on having Severus for her new dad."

 Draco spluttered and laughed in an extremely un-Malfoy manner. "I'm sorry, it's just-- well, you know!"

 "Yes, I know. Imagine how Sev felt when she said as much in the middle of dinner!" Harry chuckled. "It's all right, though, they adore one another, even though Severus won't admit it."

 "Where'd you come up Saoirse for a name, anyway?'

 "It means freedom. It seemed appropriate. What happened with you and Pansy?"

 Draco snorted. "She was an evil bitch, for one. For two, she left me for Blaise Zabini."

 "I'm sorry."

 "Don't be. She was horrible to Christopher. Fortunately he doesn't remember it since he was so young."

 "How can anyone not love their own child?"

 "It helps if one's not capable of feeling in the first place." Draco grimaced. "Arranged marriages are cruel and unusual punishment in my opinion."

 Harry helped Draco unpack and they talked most of the morning, through cleaning the breakfast dishes and through cooking lunch. The children ate with them but scurried off immediately back to whatever they'd been doing, and the two men continued talking, through a few games of chess and the Daily Prophet crossword. By the time they had cooked and eaten dinner and the children had gone to bed, they were both growing hoarse, but they kept talking, through several glasses of Cognac and the chocolate that Draco had brought, until they were both sleepy and tipsy and stumbled off to their respective beds.

(tbc)

©2004  Deirdre Riordan and Stella Revolution

Email comments to deirdre.riordan @ gmail . com (remove spaces)



• WIPS:
Striking Thirteen
Hallways and Forgotten Spaces
La Découverte ou L'Ignorance
Legal

• ONE-SHOTS: 
Coming Around
Operation: Parkinson
Wanna Touch

• ON HIATUS:
Far From Innocent
Riverrun
An Accident of Birth

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