Prompt: # 19
Summary: Jamie Potter is most definitely a boy, but he also loves dresses, ribbons, and dolls. Harry has become protective of his unique son, and wary of those around him who seek to change Jamie to fit what they consider normal. He is wary of everyone, but most particularly he is wary of trusting Draco Malfoy to be his son's teacher while the Potters are in France.
Warning(s): suspicions of inappropriate behaviour, parents not understanding gender-creative children, minor bullying
Word Count: ~9500 words
Author's Notes: I couldn't resist this prompt, then the moment I had it, it nearly killed me trying to figure out how to do it right. In the end, the story became much more about Jamie than about Draco and Harry, but I had to stop here in order to finish it within the time frame. Thank you so much to S for helping me suss out where I was going wrong in the alpha phases, and to M for her wonderful beta work at the end. Any errors that remain are all my own fault!
Gold at the End of the Rainbow
It had been a decade since Draco last saw Harry Potter.
When he arrived at L'École du Ministère to find a folder on his desk labelled Jamie Potter, his breath caught. There were other Potters in the wizarding world. There must be some Yankee Potters, and quite possibly others in Europe. But somehow Draco knew that this child had to belong to Harry Potter. Four years old, born the fall of 2004. He didn't need to read the paperwork to know the child would be intelligent, headstrong, and likely have the bright red hair of a Weasley.
He stepped out to signal Jeanette, only to spot her at the door speaking to Potter himself. Potter took her hand, shaking it warmly, while his daughter peered around, looking ready to escape into the room. After a moment, Potter crouched down to whisper goodbye to the little girl, waiting while she threw her arms around his neck and gave him a big kiss on the cheek and told him to be safe.
Then Potter was gone before he even realized that he'd left his daughter with Draco Malfoy as one of his instructors.
"We have a new student," Jeanette said when Draco approached.
"I found the file on my desk. If you'd like, I'll take care to make sure she's comfortable and settles in. Is there a language barrier? Non? Perfect." He smiled then, waving away Jeanette's protest. "Her father and I knew each other once at school. It's the least I can do."
And he was curious, despite the wary way Jeanette said his name as he walked away.
The girl was watching the other children play, her expression wary as all children are upon arrival at a new school. Her face was soft, cheeks faintly freckled, and her auburn hair was pulled up in two pigtails bound by pale blue bows. Her dress matched, and her shoes were a sparkly bright white. When she caught him looking, she grinned and wiggled one toe. "I got new shoes just for France," she said, obviously pleased. "Daddy says they are properly brilliant, and said I could wear them for my first day with my new frock."
"I think your frock and your shoes are quite brilliant," Draco responded. "I am Monsieur Malfoy, and I shall be your teacher here along with Madame McCowan. Do you think you'd like to meet some of the other children?" He offered one hand to the small child, and she took it trustingly.
"Oui." She giggled then. "That's almost the only French I know. Daddy made sure I knew it before we got here. I'm Jamie Potter. Je suis un fils."
Draco blinked a moment at the statement and quickly readjusted his assessment. This wasn't Potter's daughter, it was his son, in a dress and sparkly shoes. "Oui, je comprends. Je suis un homme," he countered. "Which doesn't mean I can't appreciate a brilliant frock or a lovely pair of shoes. Is Jamie what you prefer to be called?"
"My full name is James Sirius Potter," the boy said seriously. "But only when I'm being terribly naughty. Everyone calls me Jamie."
"Jamie it is then."
The day began with an introduction of Jamie to his classmates, and ended with small children playing in groups. The pigtails were long gone, the ribbons tucked carefully into Jamie's desk, and he kicked off his shoes to play in the sand. He leaned forward to gather sand into a pile, carefully shaping a castle with two other children, while they all waited for parents to come collect them.
Draco spoke quietly with Jeanette, promising to intercept Potter while she took care of matching children to parents. He settled himself near the door, and watched for the man who had once been a very familiar face. The dark hair came into view first, shrugged out from under the hood of a rain cloak, then the glasses, glinting in the light. He had filled out during that decade, Draco noted, shoulders broader, a deeper set to the chin. There was a faint scruff on his cheeks, and Draco had to admit he looked good, if exhausted.
Potter's attention was so riveted on his son that he missed Draco standing there, until Draco reached out to touch his shoulder.
"Potter. A word if you please."
Green eyes narrowed immediately, Potter's expression twisting stubborn and spoiling for a fight. There was a moment when recognition occurred, those same eyes widening slightly before a glare began. "Malfoy. What are you doing here?"
With my son went unsaid, but Draco heard it anyway. "I'm one of Jamie's teachers." It was best to keep it simple. "And Jeanette and I thought that perhaps we ought to talk before you take him home tonight." When Potter looked past Draco to check on Jamie, Draco assured him, "He'll be fine. Jeanette will be with all of the children." Potter hesitated again, and Draco added, "There's nothing wrong, Potter. And I simply want to make sure everything stays that way."
Draco remembered that stubborn set to Potter's jaw, the one that said that he would ignore every rule in order to get what he wanted. This was one rare time when Draco agreed with him, that the rules ought to be flaunted for the sake of his son. "Jamie's a unique child," Draco began, as soon as the door closed.
"I'm not going to put him in trousers just to satisfy some ridiculous sensibility of other parents," Potter snapped immediately.
Both eyebrows rose. "Did I ask you to, Potter?" Draco gestured to the guest chair in the small office he shared with Jeanette, waiting for Potter to sit before he did. "I met Jamie shortly after he arrived, and he was very quick to assure me that despite his dress, he is, indeed, a boy. He seems very comfortable with himself. And yes, I will admit I observed him closely today during our lessons, and his interactions with the other children. As I'm sure you understand, I anticipated that there might be some difficulty."
Potter twisted his robes in his hands. "And was there?" His voice was tight. Anxious.
"Nothing terrible." Draco watched as the other man breathed more easily, wanting to set him at ease. "There was one child...a little girl...who insisted that Jamie shouldn't wear a dress because he is a boy and only girls wear dresses. I must admit that your son cheerfully lifted his skirt at that moment, pointed to his pants, and informed her that he had a penis and therefore was most definitely a boy. I reprimanded him."
Potter's mouth twitched, and Draco fought for the same serious expression he had used with Jamie earlier, when he had longed to laugh out loud. "Thank you," Potter said, that smile slowly leaking free. "He needs to learn how to fight his battles appropriately."
"I can't think where he might have gotten the instinct to speak first and think later," Draco said dryly. "Your son is an intelligent young man, and he will be a joy to have in class. Jeanette and I will need your help ensuring his understanding of what may and may not be said and done, however. And I expect that you will not gainsay our instruction."
Potter's jaw tightened again slowly. "I'm not happy that you're one of his teachers, Malfoy." The words came slowly. "But the Embassy has only glowing words to say about the school and spoke highly of Madame McCowan. I know you're not the boy you were." He drew in breath slowly, let it out, and Draco could see the frustration simmering beneath the surface. That ability to keep his temper at bay...to wordsmith and speak carefully as if Draco were the public and this were a statement...made Potter seem older; they had both come a long way in the last decade. "Keep me posted on any occurrences," Potter continued. "You can owl me at the Embassy if you need me and I will come immediately."
"Of course." Draco rose and held out his hand. For a long moment, Potter stared at it before he stood as well and clasped it tightly. It was almost twenty years since their first meeting, and it was the first time Potter had accepted Draco's hand. It wasn't friendship, but it was acquaintance at the least. And a partnership of sorts in the raising of one Jamie Potter while he was in France.
"... And then Monsieur Malfoy..."
Harry's mind was afloat in the constant stream of words from Jamie, telling him every little detail about his first day of school. Emmaline liked croissants, and Jacque had let Jamie taste his brie and crackers during lunch (Jamie had reciprocated by sharing the fish and chips Harry had charmed to stay properly warm and crispy that morning). And Alyssa was the name of the girl who had instigated the pants incident (for which Jamie said he was quite sorry, but really, how else was he to make her understand?). It seemed that Jamie had truly enjoyed himself, a sprinkling of new French words scattered throughout his speech as he rambled.
It made Harry smile. He had worried about putting Jamie into his first real school here in France. They had tried the Ministry daycare when Jamie was three, but after a disastrous day of Harry being called down no less than four times in order to listen to other parents rant about the inappropriate behaviour of his son, he had chosen to remove him.
Harry was thankful for the role Molly Weasley played in her grandson's upbringing. Harry and Ginny might not have lasted past Jamie's first birthday as a couple, but she never pushed Harry or Jamie away. And while it might have been difficult at first, she and Harry had worked together to understand and accept that Jamie loved dresses and dolls and brightly coloured shoes and plaits in his hair. Harry trusted Molly with his son.
But when this assignment came up, Harry had refused to leave Jamie behind. Ginny was travelling with the Harpies, and Harry would have a stable place to stay in the Embassy in France. The assignment was for six months, so Harry made arrangements for Jamie to attend L'École du Ministère, the local Ministry sponsored school which was geared to children that spoke a mixture of languages.
He had done everything correctly before arriving. He had written pages of information about his son to prepare his teachers for Jamie ... his habits of dress, level of activity, what he had learned already in his year with Molly. He had spoken to the Ministry and the Embassy at length about the woman who taught the class Jamie would be joining.
It was a complete surprise to discover that Jamie would have two teachers: Jeanette McCowan, and Draco Malfoy. Somehow no one had thought to mention that fact to Harry. Which, when he thought closely about it, indicated that Malfoy was trusted. That he did well with the children, and that there was nothing to worry about. It didn't change the fact that it was Malfoy.
"Did you like Monsieur Malfoy, Daddy?" Jamie slipped his hand into Harry's. "I thought he was rather nice. He liked my shoes."
"He always did have good taste in clothing," Harry said before he thought better of it. He smiled faintly at Jamie's look and knew he was caught. "He and I went to school together, long ago. He was at Hogwarts."
Harry had done his best to raise Jamie out of the limelight. Not because he was ashamed of his son, but rather because he didn't want Jamie to have to be anything other than who he already was. He didn't want him to have to live up to his war hero father, or to become a household name before he even knew anyone. Harry wanted Jamie to meet the wizarding world on his own terms someday, not as a legend suddenly come to life. Harry knew what that was like, and hoped to save Jamie from it.
"Were you friends?" Jamie loved stories about Hogwarts (and heard them often thanks to the Weasley clan), and Harry knew he looked forward to when he was old enough to go there. Harry was thankful that it was still many years away.
Harry shook his head. "We weren't. We were in different houses." And on different sides in a war that shaped them.
"Maybe you will be now." Jamie slipped his hand from Harry's skipping ahead. "Can I have curls tomorrow?"
"The Muggle sort or the magical kind?" Harry felt tension slip away as the conversation fell into familiar patterns. He wasn't surprised when his son shouted "Muggle!" and laughed, spinning in a circle with his arms thrown out; Jamie loved the feel of the soft foam curlers in his hair overnight, and the surprise of unwinding his dark copper coloured curls in the morning.
That was the joy Harry loved to see from his son. That joy and love of life, and he never wanted to see it broken. He hadn't had the chance for that sort of life when he was growing up, and he couldn't deny his son the love he deserved.
For two days, they fell into a routine. Every morning Draco would meet Potter at the door and ensure that Jamie was welcomed into the classroom while Jeanette arranged the children into morning activities. For Jamie's third day, Jacques was at the door when he arrived and the two boys ran off while Potter lingered, watching after him.
"Everything is fine?" Potter asked, voice low.
"There have been no problems," Draco assured him. "There is no need to be such a mother hen."
"Do you have children?" Potter's voice turned sharp, green eyes narrowed. "Don't think to tell me how to behave towards my son's safety when you have no idea. What you do here? Taking care of children that are not your own? It is nothing like having flesh and blood that looks up to you."
Draco's smile thinned. "You may not trust me, Potter, but I assure you, I have nothing but the children's best interests at heart here. Your son is a strong personality. Very self-assured, very confident. Apparently the Weasley-Potter genes breed true."
He couldn't miss the faint wince at the mention of the Weasley name. Interesting. Draco knew the two were divorced, but had no idea if there were anything less than friendship between the two. Jamie had drawn a picture of his family recently and placed both parents on opposite sides of the page, but he had explained that both his Mommy and Daddy were at work. "Problem, Potter?" Draco asked mildly, curious what had happened to destroy the golden couple's marriage. He doubted it was Jamie; he still spoke fondly of his mother.
"No." Potter's gaze drifted to the door, and he leaned against it for a long moment, watching his son. "I'll be back this afternoon. Contact me if he needs anything."
"He'll be fine. Go to work and leave him to enjoy his day here with me." Draco touched Potter's shoulder, tugging to turn him from the door. It went against Draco's instincts to bridge the distance between himself and Potter; he could feel the wall Potter set around himself. But Draco had a feeling that if he did not, Potter might very well stand there all day. And as admirable as Draco found that protective instinct, the child could not grow were he not allowed to stretch his wings on occasion.
The day passed quickly, as it always seemed to, working with small children. When Potter arrived to collect his son, Draco was mediating a discussion between Alyssa and Jamie that threatened to become an argument.
"Maman says you can't wear red with red hair. It's terrible fashion sense!" Alyssa stomped one small foot, her arms crossed and expression mutinous. "You're a boy, that's why you don't know. You have to learn."
Jamie's hands were fisted on his hips as he rolled his eyes. "I couldn't wear the green headband with my red trainers! And I wanted to wear my red trainers. Don't they look brilliant?" He stuck his foot out, wiggling it until Alyssa bent down to inspect it.
"They're all right," she allowed.
"They have sparkles." Jamie twisted his foot again to show the line of bright dots along the sole of his trainers. "And the best part is the bottom. It changes every step so my footprints are always different." He held his foot up, using his hands to balance so he could show the bottom to Alyssa. "They're supposed to look like war heroes if I step in the mud, but I can't figure out which one is Daddy, so they aren't terribly good pictures. But it's still neat that they change."
"They're neat shoes," Alyssa allowed. "But the red still looks horrible with your hair."
"Just because you don't like the combination doesn't mean Jamie doesn't," Draco reminded her as he crouched next to them both. "He can wear whatever he wants, and I think the red looks fine. The trainers go particularly well with his overalls."
Jamie beamed, and Alyssa stuck out her tongue.
"Everything fine here?" Potter's hand fell to Jamie's head, and the small boy whirled and threw his arms around his father's legs.
"Brilliant!" he said cheerily. "Can we go get cocoa? I want cocoa. You can drink coffee. And Monsieur Malfoy can drink coffee, too!"
Potter's gaze flew to Draco, and he put his hands up. "I have no idea what your son is talking about," he said dryly. "I didn't promise anything." Not that he didn't enjoy the idea of continuing that morning's conversation. It was almost pleasant to be getting along with Potter.
"Please?" Jamie slipped his hand into Potter's and looked up at him, green eyes wide. "Can we ask Monsieur Malfoy if he'd like to have coffee? Then maybe you two could be friends. Since you aren't in different houses now."
One eyebrow cocked, Draco tried to school his smile, feeling it twist into a smirk. "It might be awkward were a parent to ask a teacher to coffee. Perhaps I should turn the invitation around, Potter. Would you and your son care to join me for coffee once the day is done?"
"I think Monsieur Malfoy is busy here," Potter said slowly. "He still has other students to see off, and he likely wants to go home and get some rest so that he'll be ready for school again tomorrow."
Jamie's expression shadowed quickly, a pout forming. "But I want cocoa."
"We can stop off for cocoa on our way home..."
"I want cocoa with Monsieur Malfoy!" Jamie stomped his foot, tears threatening at the corner of his eyes.
For the second time that day, Draco reached out to place his hand on Potter's arm, feeling the muscle there tense beneath his touch. "Normally I wouldn't suggest rewarding what looks to become a wonderful tantrum, but I have already said yes, Potter. It's one cup of coffee. If your son wishes us to be friends, surely we can manage to tolerate each other's company for that long."
Potter's jaw was tight and set, green eyes dark and stormy. Draco felt the muscle twitch again beneath his hand, felt the flinch when Jamie begged, "Please, Daddy!" Potter's gaze dropped to Jamie, then he pulled away from Draco in order to crouch down to his son's height and wrap his arms around him.
"If you want to go play for a bit, I'll sit off to the side and wait. We can't leave until all the children are settled and Monsieur Malfoy is cleared to go."
Jamie threw his arms around his father's neck and hugged him hard, kissing his cheek. "Thank you, Daddy!"
"I'd like to speak more with you sometime when Jamie isn't with us," Draco said quietly as the boy ran off.
"About his choice in clothes?" Potter asked dryly. "I'm not taking advice on how to parent my child, Malfoy. If Ginny couldn't convince me, you're definitely not going to be able to."
Draco caught Jeanette's eye; she would take care of the few children who remained while he continued to speak with Potter. "I'd ask if that's what broke your marriage, but I'm aware that it didn't last that long."
"We thought having a child would help." Potter's lips pressed together. "Or rather, I thought it would help. Ginny never wanted children. She was impossible to live with while she was grounded and as soon as she was able, she went back to the Harpies. If it weren't for Molly in those early days, I might've gone completely spare. We wanted different things, so we broke it off."
"Was she ever interested in Jamie's upbringing? He seems fond of her." Surprised as he was to get this much from Potter, Draco couldn't help but nudge at the details. It was Jamie, of course, that led him to want to know. The child was engaging, intelligent, outgoing... Draco disliked the thought of anyone causing him trouble. He understood how Potter could be so protective of the boy. And he admired the bond between father and son; the love they shared was clear, and left Draco wistful for something similar for his own.
"Briefly," Harry admitted. "After Christmas dinner, when he was two. I'd brought him in a dress. It was this butter yellow thing, all ruffles and lace, that he'd seen at the store and just had to have. I'd tried bringing home all sorts of things to wear, but that's the age when they start developing their own ideas about clothes. No matter what came home, he only wanted it if it sparkled, shimmered, and preferably whirled around when he spun. She pitched a fit when she saw him, and tried to take custody back from me."
"That wasn't in the papers."
"We kept it quiet. I didn't want it to affect Jamie." Potter didn't look at Draco while speaking, his gaze remaining firmly upon his son as he played. "Molly intervened on my behalf, and we got it sorted eventually. Ginny doesn't approve but she wants Jamie happy. She keeps saying he'd be happier if he could just fit in, and maybe he would, I don't know."
"He seems pretty happy to me right now." Draco watched as Jamie laughed and flipped his hair back with a careless twitch of his fingers.
"I know." Potter swallowed. "This is the first time in a while that he's been in a public group. Parents complained the last time."
Draco took the hint. "We've had a few inquiries," he admitted. "We've explained that we want all our children to be comfortable, and that while discussions of fashion have indeed become the norm over their morning snacks, none of the children seem uncomfortable with Jamie. Only the parents. And to be frankly honest, the parents aren't our concern."
Not entirely true, of course. Draco had already had one conversation where the parent threatened to withdraw their son, but the headmaster of the school had put that to rights. He suspected it would come back again. Children were willing to accept so many things that adults could not. Perhaps children ought to be the teachers at times.
Potter nodded. "Jamie really likes you," he said slowly, mouth twisted as if the words tasted sour. "Thank you for being so good with my son."
"He is a pleasure to teach. I wish that all the children were as easy going as he is."
Jamie waved goodbye to Jacques as his parents collected him, then rushed back to Potter's side. He slipped one hand into Potter's hand, and caught Draco with the other. "We can have cocoa now."
Draco met Potter's gaze, and the other man nodded. "Yes, we can," Potter allowed. "Go get your jacket on and we'll be right behind."
As Draco stepped into his office, Jeanette poked her head in. "Do you know what you're doing, Draco?" she asked quietly.
He didn't need to ask her what she meant. He'd been with the school four years now, and in all that time he'd never crossed the line between being a teacher and having social interaction with a parent. "I doubt it, Jeanette. I never have, where Potter is concerned."
Her look was assessing, concerned. With a small, huffed sigh, she shook her head. "Don't get yourself hurt. I don't think you're his type."
Draco shrugged. "We are going for coffee at the behest of his son; I highly doubt type matters. We shall see if we can even tolerate each other's company. It would make the child happy."
She didn't believe him, but that didn't matter. It was only coffee after all. Draco tried not to think about whether he might want it to be more.
Coffee on Wednesday, ice cream on Thursday, and a quick trip out for sandwiches on Friday. In those three outings, Harry spent more time with Malfoy without an argument than he could remember throughout all of Hogwarts, including class time.
It was strangely companionable. And Harry might admit Malfoy had a nice smile when it wasn't twisted into a know-it-all smirk. The man was intelligent, and obviously cared quite a bit about his work, which surprised Harry. Working with children was perhaps the last thing he might have expected Malfoy to be doing after the war. But he seemed to do it well, and if Jamie was any example, the children loved him for it.
"Can we firecall Monsieur Malfoy?" Jamie asked over breakfast Saturday morning. "Maybe he could spend the day with us." He paused for a moment, then added soberly, "Jacques says I'm Monsieur Malfoy's pet. It's not my fault he likes us, is it? I told him you knew Monsieur Malfoy before and that you're friends, so he's sort of okay with it." His brows drew together in a frown, and Harry knew there was something missing.
"What is it?" he prodded gently, nudging another croissant onto Jamie's plate. He added a slosh of cream to the mug of hot cocoa and placed it within his son's reach, cooled to a temperature that wouldn't burn his young tongue.
"Jacques's papa said that Monsieur Malfoy might be a weirdo who likes little boys in dresses." Jamie worried at his lower lip. "Am I going to get him in trouble because we're friends?"
Harry felt a familiar burst of white hot anger. "No, he's getting himself in trouble. He needs to pay you the same attention that he pays to all the other children, or else..." Harry couldn't finish the thought. It wasn't Malfoy that would be in trouble in the end, it would be Jamie. It would be Jamie's problem because Jamie was different. And the parents would know that everything changed when Jamie came to the school. "Perhaps you ought to be a bit less friendly with Monsieur Malfoy, Jamie."
His heart sank when he saw his son's crushed expression. Harry's hand fell to the top of Jamie's hair, fingers combing gently through the mass of not-quite-tangles from the night's curlers. But what Jamie said made Harry wonder. It was Jamie who'd been asking, but Malfoy had certainly taken him up on the chance to be social. And it seemed even the children noted the special attention Malfoy gave to Jamie in class.
When he started to put it together, Harry felt uncomfortable. There was a distinct twist in his stomach because this was new and this was perhaps worse than making Jamie feel bad about who he was. This was... Harry shuddered.
There was only one thing for it; he needed to withdraw Jamie from the school. Which would crush his son completely.
He needed to go about it quietly. Perhaps investigate other options in the meantime, see if there was another way that Harry could keep Jamie with him in Paris without sending him to the school or sacrificing Jamie's comfort. "I was thinking," he said slowly, "Perhaps I could take Monday off and you and I could spend a long weekend together and go down to the seashore."
"Can we ask Monsieur Malfoy if he'd like to come along?"
Harry tried to control the flinch. "Monsieur Malfoy has his own life outside of the school," he said gently. "And he'd need to be there for the children come Monday morning. This will be just for us." The more he thought about it, the less he liked the way Jamie seemed to worship Malfoy already, the way Malfoy had wormed his way into their lives. Something about it just didn't feel right.
Jamie considered it, his face serious before he nodded. "It will be fun, Daddy." He gave him a hug. "Are we going to see the tower today? You promised."
"I did indeed." Harry pointed to where Jamie's room was down the hall. "Go get yourself dressed. I have a few firecalls to make, then we'll be able to go and later today we'll go down to the seashore. Do you think you can entertain yourself for a bit while I get that done?"
Harry waited until his son was behind a closed door before he activated the floo. He didn't want his son hearing when he contacted the Ministry to find out about alternative options for childcare. Preferably the sort that included schooling in his home, where Jamie would be safe. Harry didn't trust Malfoy, and he was sure of it: Malfoy was up to something.
When Potter didn't drop Jamie off on Monday morning, Draco expected some kind of a notification. He hoped no one was ill, and no emergency had required Potter's attention in Britain. By the afternoon, Jeanette walked by him and whispered, "I'm certain everything's fine with the Potters. If you could get your head out of your backside and smile a bit, perhaps you can relax and be in a better mood when Jamie returns tomorrow?"
Draco forced a smile and tried to push the mood away. It shouldn't have worn on him, yet it did. Ten years without Potter, then one week and suddenly he couldn't stop thinking about him or his son. But Jeanette was right, of course. There must be a logical reason, and on Tuesday the Potters would return.
But on Tuesday the Potters did not return, and Draco's frustration leaked into his behaviour; soon the entire room was feeling the ill effects. Tempers were short, children started a paint fight during art, and Jeanette had had enough and pulled Draco into his office.
"Go to the Embassy," she said quickly. "Take your lunch and go. Check on the boy, if it's that important to you."
It wasn't just the boy, though. It was Potter as well. Draco couldn't get either of them out of his thoughts as he stalked down the streets to the Embassy. He could have Apparated, but he thought perhaps the walk would cool his mind.
Instead it gave him time to think through the prior week, and how much he had enjoyed the after school outings with the Potters. Jamie was an engaging child, of course, and Draco had been surprised how quickly he had bonded with him. But Potter himself had turned out to be charming as well. The last decade had stripped the boyishness from his face, leaving him chiselled and a little hard. There were more lines than ought to be around his eyes, as if he still somehow carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. And perhaps he did; it seemed that Potter's heart was wrapped around Jamie so tightly that every small ill Jamie felt was an attack on Potter himself.
Draco couldn't blame him. If he had a child, he'd protect him as well. But he wondered how much of himself Potter had lost to Jamie.
But it wasn't as if Draco was the one to find out, or to help. His footsteps slowed as he realized where his mind was taking him. Inserting himself neatly into the Potter family. Slipping into the cracks that were left where Harry might fall apart, or Jamie might need someone to lean on. His hands clenched.
It was an impossible situation. After all, Harry Potter had a son. And an ex-wife. Draco doubted that he was interested in a male partner of any kind.
When he arrived at the Embassy, Draco found his way to the suite of rooms that had been given to Monsieur Potter. Even without knowing the exact door, he could have guessed upon arriving on the correct floor. Jamie's voice was shrilled and raised in protest, answered by an unfamiliar female voice in French.
He hurried down the hall and rapped sharply upon the door. It was yanked open by a young woman, her pale hair pulled back in a quick chignon at the base of her neck, curls escaping around her face. "Oui?" she asked, tone irritated.
Draco spoke in English for Jamie's benefit. "I am looking for Monsieur Potter, either the younger or the elder, but preferably both."
"Monsieur Potter, he is at work." Her English accent was thick and nasal, lips twisted in distaste at the guttural sound of the words.
"Monsieur Malfoy!" Jamie wormed his way past the young woman to wrap his arms around Draco's legs. "Have you come to take me to school? Mademoiselle Celeste says I can't go. And she wants to make me wear these horrid black shoes. They're ugly! She won't curl my hair or put it up in pigtails or braid it. She says boys don't do that. She's awful. Can you send her back to wherever she came from and take me to school? Please?"
"He is not to go to school today," Celeste snapped. "Monsieur Potter ... as asked that I care for him. We will go to ze park."
"What is he wearing?" Draco asked mildly, although he could see it clearly. The neatly pressed trousers, the button down shirt. The hair carefully parted down the centre and pulled back into a dull queue at the back of his neck.
"He had nothing appropriate so I had ze clothes brought." Celeste's chin raised. "I could not have him in the streets as he was. He would have been laughed at."
"That's not your decision to make, is it." It wasn't a question, Draco's words falling flat. He nudged the door open, stepping past Celeste despite her protests. "Jamie, I cannot take you to school if your father has chosen to keep you out. But I can stay with you here and make sure you are safe."
"She's horrid," Jamie muttered.
"I shall let Monsieur Potter know of this!" Celeste whirled, heading for the fireplace.
"Do that." Draco shrugged. "I highly doubt that he knows you are forcing his son to act in a manner that upsets him. I cannot think of any case where discipline should result in a shouting match such as the one I heard clearly down the hall when I arrived on this floor. If you would be so kind, let Potter know that I'd be happy to take Jamie into school today."
He had a few choice words for Potter as well. This was no way to protect the child.
Jamie led Draco to where he had art supplies, and the two settled in to draw after a thorough inspection of Jamie's most treasured shoes and ribbons. He could hear the muffled sounds of a floo conversation, then the stomping of someone arriving.
Draco came to his feet slowly, not letting the bellow in Potter's voice get to him. "Oui?" He was prepared for the irritation, for the flash of anger in those green eyes. What he did not expect was the fear. Draco's gaze narrowed, trying to read and understand what was going on behind Potter's facade. "I came to see why Jamie was not in school and I found your..." He shrugged one shoulder, not certain what arrangements had been made and not bothering to name it. "Mademoiselle Celeste mistreated Jamie. I chose to intervene."
"Non!" Celeste stepped forward, hands moving with her speech. "It is the boy, Monsieur Potter. Even after I helped him, he refused to ready himself for ze day. Do you not see how he does not wear his shoes? How he has taken his hair from ze way I had prepared it? And where did you get those ribbons?" She moved closer and Jamie shrank behind Draco. "Zis is not how a boy appears."
"He brought out the ribbons to show me, and I helped him put the green ones in his hair. He told me they were his favourite." Draco crossed his arms, refusing to move. "Potter, this woman is not appropriate care for your child."
"Get out." Potter's voice was low and dangerously angry.
Celeste's mouth twisted up into a pleased smirk. "You see? I told you that Monsieur..."
"Not him," Potter snapped. "You. Get out of my suite. I'll be speaking with the Embassy staffing unit later regarding this post, but I can assure you that you will not return to care for my child."
In the wake of Celeste's shock, Draco pulled open the door to the suite and summoned her cloak, holding it for her. "It seems perhaps, that I was right, Mademoiselle," he said, tone drippingly polite. "Might I suggest that in the future you remember that the only ones who decide what is right for a child are the parent, and the child himself."
As the door closed behind her, Jamie crept across the room and threw himself into Potter's arms, holding on tightly. "She was horrid," Jamie whispered. "And she was mean and she wouldn't listen to anything I said. Can Monsieur Malfoy take me back to school now? I like school."
Potter hesitated, glancing briefly at Draco. "No, I'm afraid not. I'll stay home with you today, Jamie, but we'll find another arrangement for tomorrow."
"Bring him to the school." The words slipped out before the plan was fully formed in Draco's mind. He still couldn't read Potter, not entirely, but he could see from the hesitation that the difficulty with the school revolved entirely around Draco himself. He had thought they'd healed those wounds, or at least begun to do so, and he was determined that they would continue to do so, not least of all for Jamie's sake. "Jeanette will be there tomorrow, and I shall take a holiday."
He held Potter's gaze, kept his own mild but firm, and waited. "You cannot allow this to happen again," Draco said quietly. "How is it that you came to hire this woman?"
"I was rushed." Potter's lips pressed thinly. "I requested an au pair from the Embassy, and they sent Mademoiselle Celeste, assuring me that she came with excellent credentials. I left her with instructions, but..." His fingers tugged at one of Jamie's curls. "I'm sorry, Jamie."
"Do you truly think he is better off home?" Draco knew Potter would have to see sense, would have to realize that the school was the best place for Jamie to be. It was safe.
After a long moment, Potter finally nodded. "Fine. Jamie will attend the school tomorrow, but I cannot make promises beyond that."
"Thank you, Daddy!" Jamie hugged his father again.
"Jamie, would you mind taking your art to your room for a short while?" Draco asked. "I'd like to speak with your father."
"You're friends, right?" Jamie asked worriedly.
They were going to argue, Draco knew. But not here, not now. Not in front of the child. He trusted Potter in that, at least. "We are trying to be, oui," he said, and waited for Jamie to leave.
"What game are you playing, Malfoy?" Potter snarled quietly. "I don't want you toying with my son's affections. You have him so twisted up..."
"I have... what? Potter, you're not being reasonable." Draco caught Potter's wrists, held them so he couldn't wave his hands as he spoke, trying to calm him. He took one step closer, meeting him eye to eye. "Meet me for lunch tomorrow, and we'll discuss this when neither of us is upset by what that woman did. When I arrived, she and Jamie were yelling at each other loud enough to be heard outside this suite. He was panicked and upset. I understand that you do not want me teaching him, but I want to have the chance to discuss it with you. So tomorrow. Lunch."
"Fine." The word dropped heavily. "Lunch. Meet me here at the Embassy. We'll talk in my suite."
Draco couldn't think of a place that suited better, both private and personal. "Very well, I shall see you here at noon tomorrow." He raised his voice slightly. "Jamie!"
The boy raced out of his room, skidding to a stop, fresh lace socks on his feet to let him slide across the wood floor. He had changed out of the button down shirt and trousers, throwing on a sundress and a cardigan and three beaded necklaces. "Oui, Monsieur Malfoy?"
Draco sank down to the boy's height, crouched and balanced carefully. "I should like you to be on your best behaviour tomorrow, even though I won't be at the school. And if anyone gives you any difficulty, you will tell Madame McCowan. Oui?"
"Good." He reached out to ruffle the boy's auburn hair. "And tonight, convince your father to have some fun. I think he needs some cheering up, and perhaps a nice film ought to do it."
"Will you come with us, Monsieur Malfoy?"
Perhaps that was it, Draco thought, that habit Jamie had of inviting Draco along for everything. Perhaps that was what Potter objected to. "Not tonight, Jamie, but maybe another time."
Jamie's smile brightened his entire face. "I'll remember that then, Monsieur, and we will invite you again."
Draco straightened slowly, and held out one hand, waiting for Potter to clasp it. He held on a bit too long, perhaps, noting the way that the fingers fit into his own, the hand smaller, sturdier than his own elegantly long fingers. He noted the warmth, and the strength of Potter's grip. Draco squeezed slightly before finally letting go. "Tomorrow, Potter," he said.
They would figure this out tomorrow.
Harry thought about not bringing an actual meal to lunch but decided that he was hungry and it would be a petty manoeuvre to keep both of them from eating. He didn't see a point to go all out, however, simply bringing in baguettes, cold meats, and good cheeses, along with a selection of fresh fruit. Harry wasn't comfortable yet with the French way of eating an extended mid-day meal, and preferred to keep his own fare simple.
When he heard the knock, he gestured with his wand and the door opened to allow Malfoy entrance. Harry could see him out of the corner of his eye, although he gave the impression of not caring, his back mostly to the door as he laid plates on the table.
The door clicked softly when closed, Malfoy's footsteps sure and steady as he approached.
"I don't want you near my son," Harry told him bluntly. "Which means the school isn't a permanent option. I'll find another au pair, one that won't be a problem for Jamie."
"Why?" Malfoy sank into one of the chairs, somehow managing to look elegant. It drove Harry mad the way he did that, made everything look somehow attractive. Malfoy was never awkward or unsure, even when faced with accusation. "I thought we'd got past our childhood differences, Potter. Your son is an engaging, interesting child. He has somehow managed to twist the Weasley genes and absorb only the good influences. I suppose I should credit you for that."
"Stop talking about my wife like that," Harry snapped.
Harry nearly bit his tongue trying to keep the words from coming before he could think them through. "Ex-wife," he agreed tightly. "But she's still Jamie's mother and I don't care what you think of the Weasleys, I loved her. And she loves him."
"What does my opinion matter to you, anyway, if you are determined to remove Jamie from the school?" Malfoy tapped his fingers against the table, long and elegant, the fingernails perfectly formed. Harry compared them to his own blunt fingers, the nails rough-edged from the work he did. His hands curled into his lap.
"Look, Malfoy." Harry raised one hand, pushing it through his hair. "I can't keep Jamie in that school. The interest you've taken in him... it's not natural. I don't want him getting any more attached to you, and you need to know people have noticed. They realize you've got a thing for him." The words came faster the more he spoke, tumbling out, his revulsion evident. It took everything he had to stay still and calm and not simply pound his fist into Malfoy's face. "I don't care what you do in the privacy of your own home as long as it's with boys who are of age and you stay away from my Jamie."
Malfoy blinked twice, his mouth slightly open. "Potter, are you trying to say that you think I'm aroused by your son? Merlin, no. Never. I like men, yes. That's no secret at all at the school, but I would never touch one of the children."
"That's not what the children see."
Malfoy's thin lips pursed tightly. "It's not what the children see, or it's not what their parents see?" he asked.
"Jacques told Jamie that his father..."
"I see." Malfoy's tone went flat. "I will speak to Jacques's father and ensure he understands the situation. In the meantime, let me assure you that my intentions towards Jamie are no way untoward."
"Aren't they?" Harry took a baguette and pried it open, laying it flat to layer meat and cheese upon it. His stomach churned, but he knew he would need to eat something before returning to work. "You spend more time with Jamie than the other children. He considers you a friend, which means he will be in for a disappointment eventually. You are one of his teachers, not a friend. And the other children are well aware how much more attention he gets."
"Are you gay, Potter?"
The question fell bluntly to the table between them, and Harry fought the rising flush. His hands clenched, twisting bread into an unrecognizable clump, and he set it down as carefully as he could. "That doesn't matter here, does it?"
"Actually, I think it does." Malfoy's fingers tapped more quickly, light and swift against the table. "You've been divorced for three years now, and Jamie is aware of the fact that most children have two parents. I believe he is also aware that you do not wish a relationship with a woman, am I correct?"
Harry couldn't look at Malfoy, didn't want to see how those grey eyes seemed to pierce through him. "I've dated one man since Ginny. It was about six months ago, and I made the mistake of introducing him to Jamie. I would rather be on my own than have another potential partner try to change my son again."
Malfoy smiled then, soft and true, without the usual sharp-edged smirk. "You haven't taken your son into consideration, Potter. Perhaps he has decided that you need companionship."
Impossible. Harry looked at Malfoy, rolled around the idea in his mind. "It's only because you're kind to him." Which still made no sense. "Why are you, a traditionally raised pureblood, so open to the idea of Jamie's habits?"
"Even traditionally raised purebloods can change," Malfoy said dryly. "After the trials, I came to France and attended university. I rather quickly learned that humanity comes in all shapes and colours, as well as all desires and habits. It is the person beneath the skin that matters."
It seemed impossible that Malfoy, of all people, should say that. "Muggles?" Harry asked.
"Muggles," Malfoy replied easily. "They have good food, interesting clubs, and I dated one Muggle man for about three months. I am not the boy you knew, Potter."
"I can see that." Harry found himself breathing more easily, although he wasn't sure that he was completely comfortable yet. He believed, at least, that Malfoy had no ill intentions towards Jamie. He wasn't sure he believed that Jamie was trying to bring the two of them together. "Fine. Jamie can attend the school."
"And the social engagements?" Malfoy raised one eyebrow, and Harry felt something twist in his gut. Something unexpected and confusing that he had no idea what to do with.
"I know Jamie likes you," he said slowly, "but we'll leave France eventually. I don't want him to get too attached and be crushed to leave you behind."
"I doubt I'll be in France forever." The tapping slowed, stopped, Malfoy's expression calm and even. "And it might occur to you that while I am pleased that your son wants to spend time with me, I have quite enjoyed spending time with you, Potter. Surprisingly enough, when we are not at each other's throats, we seem to have a good deal in common."
"I just finished explaining that I don't date," Harry protested. Letting Jamie attend the school was one thing. But he didn't want to risk hurting Jamie.
"Just think how happy it will make your son."
Harry winced. "That's very Slytherin of you." Considering Harry would do anything to please Jamie, and it did please him to spend time with Malfoy. "Fine. Come to dinner tonight."
Malfoy shook his head. "No. We're doing this properly, and I shall be taking the two of you out. It will be an appropriate place for someone Jamie's age, I promise."
Harry wasn't sure how they'd come around from him yelling at Malfoy for being a pervert, to setting up a date to go out that night, but there they were. And there were parts of Harry that thought it sounded like a brilliant idea, even more when they both pushed back their chairs to stand, and Malfoy approached close.
"You are attractive," Malfoy said, voice low. "And strangely enough, I find that you as a father makes you only that much more attractive. I might have designs on your arse, but I assure you, that will not interfere with Jamie. I promise."
Those words made Harry shiver, said so carefully and solemnly. He nodded once, frozen like a deer as Malfoy stole a kiss.
"Until tonight." Malfoy caught one of Harry's hands, squeezing, lingering.
Again, all he could do was nod, and watch as Malfoy left. Harry wondered just what he'd gotten himself into.
Draco had picked a restaurant he knew on the edge of a park that had a play area (both outdoors and indoors) for children as well as good food and a good view. He had recommended that Jamie wear his favourite overalls...better for rolling down hills...and the boy had asked Draco to plait his hair into two proper beribboned braids before they left.
The meal was lazy, and in Draco's opinion, perfect. He and Potter had shared glasses of wine and eaten tapas while watching Jamie play enthusiastically with a small gaggle of other children. When Jamie found Alyssa from the school, her parents spotted Draco and settled themselves in at the table. Potter was quiet at first, but quickly warmed to the couple and they passed a half hour in comfortable conversation.
It didn't feel like a date. It felt rather more like a comfortable evening between two people who had known each other a lifetime. Draco remembered Jeanette's warning to watch himself, and wondered if he truly did know what he was doing, or if he were already in over his head.
He looked at Potter as they walked back to the Embassy, Jamie on his back, the two teasing each other... Draco was in over his head. He was attracted to Potter, and the child had already somehow wormed his way into Draco's heart. He didn't know what he would do when the pair returned to London.
Perhaps it was time for Draco to investigate returning to London as well.
"Will you come up and read me a story before bed?" Jamie twisted on Potter's back, reaching for Draco. "Daddy says you might say no, and that I need to say a proper please."
"Of course." Draco met Potter's eyes, and cocked one eyebrow. He was pleased to see a flush in response. Somehow they managed to transfer Jamie to Draco's shoulders, freeing Potter to work the locks on the doors and gain them entrance to the Embassy, then to Potter's suite of rooms.
"This way!" As soon as Jamie had both feet on the floor, he grabbed Draco's hand to pull him to his rooms. "Story first, then I'll put on my pyjamas and clean my teeth."
"Pyjamas and teeth first!" Potter called after them, Jamie making a face in response.
Draco waited patiently in the hall while Jamie changed, then directed him through taking care of his teeth and washing his face and hands. It was... shockingly domestic. Draco kept finding the word comfortable in his mind, and being surprised how well it fit.
He'd never been attracted to a man with a child before, but then, should he be surprised that his attraction to Potter would be different? As Draco carefully tucked the sheets around Jamie, pausing to take the ribbons from his hair and put them carefully on the side table, he caught the trusting smile the boy gave him. Jamie tucked his fingers into Draco's hand, holding on while Draco told the tale of a boy who wanted a broom so badly, just so he could touch the sky.
"I'm going to fly someday," Jamie murmured tiredly.
"You're going to touch the sky just like your father did," Draco whispered in response. He brushed a kiss against the boy's forehead, and slipped carefully from the room.
Potter was waiting in the hall, a flush across his cheeks as Draco walked into him. He drew back slightly. "You really are good with children," he said.
"It's my job," Draco replied, and immediately wished he hadn't as Potter's expression went blank. "Jamie's different," he admitted. "If I were to have a son..."
A small smile quirked at the corner of Potter's mouth. "Is that why you keep borrowing mine?"
"That and some small fascination with his father." Draco took a step, then another when Potter didn't move. He risked crowding in close, pushing Potter back until there was nowhere left to go. Hands fell to either side of Potter's shoulders against the wall, and he leaned slightly, letting his weight press in.
Draco liked the flush that rose to Potter's skin, the way his breath caught. "Don't be afraid of me," he murmured.
"I'm not afraid."
Draco smirked. "Prove it." Cradling Potter's face, he kissed him, waiting for that moment when Potter's mouth opened. Sighing slightly when Potter chose to kiss him back.
He didn't try to press for more than that, not as fragile as this was and as important as it felt. Baby steps were called for, and Draco could be a patient man.
When he drew back, Potter was smiling, his hair mussed and lips bruised. "I'm not objecting if you want to do more of that."
"We're going to do more of that," Draco told him. "But we aren't going to go any further tonight. I want you to trust me, and when I finally have you in bed beneath me, I want to know that it is not a one off. I want us to both be ready for it, and I want you to be confident that I am not going to hurt your son."
"Tomorrow night..." Potter's voice trailed off as he nudged Draco and pointed to the living room. "We'll go out again, if you like. Take it slow. I don't want to monopolize your time."
"You don't want to be hurt," Draco said plainly. "And frankly, neither do I. And there is Jamie to consider." They settled together on the couch, knees touching and fingers cautiously intertwined. "We have all the time in the world, and we shall take whatever is needed. And perhaps I shall take Jamie shopping. After all, he does think I have splendid taste in shoes."
Potter's hand squeezed his. "If you can tolerate my presence, I'd like to be there when you do."
It could be that Potter didn't trust him alone with Jamie yet, or it could simply be that Potter wished to spend more time with him. Draco didn't think the reason mattered. "I think that would work." He glanced at the man by his side. "I'm very glad someone insisted we become friends."
Potter leaned in for a kiss, whispering words against Draco's mouth. "So am I."