All skins are shed at length, remorse, even shame. —Edna St. Vincent Millay
Having spent two long years in the Dark Lord's service, Draco had experienced terror on numerous occasions. And yet when the mediwitch handed him a squirming, red-faced bundle and murmured, "Your son, Mr. Malfoy," he realized that until that moment, he had known nothing of real terror.
He held the infant close to his chest and peered into the tiny face with a sense of awe. His son. His to raise, his to guide—and his to protect from making the same kinds of stupid decisions he'd made in his own youth. His fingers trembled as he touched the small nose, the rounded cheek, the pale, downy hair. The baby let out an ear-splitting wail that made Draco jump.
"Mmm," murmured Cassiopeia, whom he'd assumed to be asleep after her hours-long ordeal. "With lungs like that, he's obviously a Malfoy."
He chuckled, but nervously, as he tried to calm the baby's squalls. His son—he couldn't get over the idea—subsided into low whimpers, then fell quiet again, a small, warm, breathing thing, sleeping with perfect trust against his thudding heart.
"It looks good on you, you know," said Cass.
With an effort, he tore his gaze away from his son's miraculously recumbent face. Cass's dark hair lay limp against her aristocratic cheekbones, and her eyes were tired, but glowing. "What does?" he asked.
She smiled, a little sadly. "Happiness."
* * *
Draco grinned in response to Scorpius's plea and the accompanying tug on his hand as his six-year-old son attempted to drag him bodily in the direction of Flourish and Blotts. Scorpius's grandparents in Ontario had sent him a book of stories about the constellations for his birthday, and now the boy was desperate to learn more about the stars—and particularly anything to do with his namesake constellation. Draco could only attribute the thirst for knowledge to something in Cass's corner of the family tree, because although he'd been a good student in his younger days, his pursuit of high marks had been a means to an end, not a drive to obtain knowledge for its own sake.
Gamely he allowed himself to be led into the bookshop, whereupon Scorpius paused to close his eyes and breathe deeply the scent of parchment and bindings and ink. Then those expressive gray eyes flew open and he bounced impatiently. "Where are the star books?"
"Let's look over here," Draco said, and steered him toward the children's section where, sure enough, they found an entire shelf of age-appropriate astronomy books. Scorpius fell to his knees and reverently pressed his hands to the spines, as though he believed he could absorb the books' contents through his very skin if he wished hard enough. "Why don't we pick out one to buy today?" Draco suggested, and Scorpius nodded and began examining the books critically, his small tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth. Draco bent to take a closer look at the shelf of books, but was distracted by a sound behind him. When he turned his head, he found himself confronted by a somewhat surprised-looking Harry Potter.
"Malfoy," he said, his voice placid, although his expression made it clear that he wished Draco hadn't heard him approach.
Draco straightened to his full height, which, he was pleased to note, was still just slightly taller than the other man. "Potter," he replied with what he thought was admirable equanimity, shifting his weight almost instinctively so that he stood as a barrier between Potter and Scorpius.
It wasn't as if he hadn't encountered Potter at all in the fourteen years since the end of the war. Potter had testified at the trial of every Death Eater, including Draco's own—and, astonishingly, his testimony had been the reason Draco and his parents had been kept out of Azkaban, although neither of his parents had lived much longer to enjoy their freedom, such as it was. Draco took care not to set foot in the Ministry if he could avoid it, but sometimes it was necessary, and as a result occasionally his path crossed with Potter's; however, Potter never showed any acknowledgment of Draco's presence other than a curt nod of his head. And it was difficult not to know what was going on in Potter's life, given that the Prophet still devoted vast numbers of column inches to his every move, whether career-related or personal.
But that didn't mean he liked Potter any more now than he had when they were just barely of age, and it certainly didn't make him feel any more comfortable standing face-to-face with him in this environment or any other.
The scarlet of his Auror robes made Potter look as much a Gryffindor as ever, although Draco was pleased to note that some silver had appeared at Potter's temples—a fair match for Draco's own prematurely thinning hair. Potter had put on a little weight, he could tell, but not in an unflattering way—there was a certain healthy bulk to him now that became him more than the weedy, half-starved look he'd sported through much of their time at Hogwarts. He caught himself eyeing the famous scar, which still zigzagged its way across a pale forehead, drawing one's gaze even more inexorably to Potter's vivid, bottle-green eyes, which were sweeping over Draco with a sort of rueful curiosity—much the same way, he realized, that he'd been giving Potter the once-over. He spared one fleeting thought to wondering how he measured up in Potter's estimation these days. "On official business, then?" Draco drawled in an attempt to steer his mind away from such thoughts.
"Er, no," said Potter. "Just picking up a birthday gift for my eldest son." He indicated the revised edition of Quidditch Through the Ages clasped in his right hand.
"My daddy read that to me," piped up a small voice from behind Draco.
Potter's gaze shifted to take in the small blond boy who, Draco saw, had risen to his feet while his father exchanged awkward pleasantries with his childhood nemesis. Surprisingly, Potter smiled. "This is your daddy?" he asked Scorpius.
"Yes," said Scorpius with the air of one exercising great patience. "Obviously."
Potter laughed—actually laughed. "Oh, he's yours all right," he said to Draco, and Draco was surprised to note that Potter's tone came across as teasing rather than mocking.
"Everyone says that," Draco murmured, affectionately ruffling his son's hair. Then he sighed and gave into the inevitable. "Scorpius, this is Mr. Potter."
Scorpius's preternaturally shrewd gaze hadn't left Potter during this exchange. "I've seen your picture in the newspaper," he said. "You're the one who killed Vol-der-mort."
Potter blinked at the sound of the name. "Er. Yes."
Scorpius nodded solemnly and leaned against his father. "That's good. He was a bad wizard."
Potter's gaze lifted again, but Draco averted his face and smoothed Scorpius's hair. "Yes," Potter said quietly. "But he's gone now."
Scorpius nodded again and glanced up at Draco. "Can we look at books more now?"
"Sure," Draco said, grateful for the excuse. He turned back to Potter, who still wore a bemused expression. "Duty calls," he said.
"Of course," Potter said. "Right. Well, it was, ah—good to see you."
"Right," said Draco.
"It was nice to meet you, Scorpius," Potter added.
"Bye, Mr. Potter," Scorpius replied politely, his mind obviously already back in the astronomy books.
When Potter turned away to head toward the counter, Draco let out a breath he hadn't even been aware of holding. He took a moment to collect himself, then knelt next to his son, who was enthralled by a moving illustration of the rotation of stars around the North Star.
"You don't like Mr. Potter very much, do you, Daddy?" Scorpius asked matter-of-factly.
Draco blinked. "I—what gave you that idea?"
"I've heard you call him names when you see his picture in the Daily Prophet."
Draco grimaced. "Well, it's—we have a long history, Potter and I. He's—we didn't always get along. But we're OK now."
"All right," Scorpius said, accepting this. He pointed at the book with the rotating illustration. "I like this one."
Draco gazed at his son with a sense of wonder and gratitude. He'd never quite figured out what he'd done to deserve a child like Scorpius, and all he could do was try his damnedest not to screw it up.
Scorpius looked up at him and smiled, as if hearing his thoughts, and Draco tapped the book and nodded. "Yes, I think that's a good choice."
* * *
"There it is!"
Draco's gaze followed Scorpius's pointing finger to just above the southern horizon and spied a reddish star. "Antares!" he said.
"Hello, Scorpius!" his son cried in triumph, and laughed.
Draco grinned in the darkness even as he fought to shake off the melancholy that had dogged him all day—ever since the letter from Hogwarts had arrived that morning. There had never been any doubt of Scorpius going to Hogwarts—not since he'd managed to levitate himself at the age of two—but to realize that it would happen in less than two months had been like a blow to Draco's solar plexus.
He and Cass had somehow never got around to talking about having other children. Theirs had not been a love match, after all, and it seemed to Draco like more trouble than it was worth to go through the effort. He wasn't, as a rule, attracted to women, though it had taken him many years to understand this. Regularly servicing Cass in pursuit of a son to carry on the family name had brought the matter rather front and center. But homosexuality was something that was Not Spoken Of among pure-blood families, and if it was spoken of, it was in terms of strongest disapproval, such as those he'd heard from his father many years ago, condemning a former political associate as a "bloody shirt-lifter." Whether the man truly had been one or not, Draco couldn't say, but the hint of scandal had been enough for Lucius to sever ties with him forever. Strange to think that a Dark Mark worn in subservience to a madman was somehow more acceptable than certain sexual proclivities, but there you had it.
He'd never acted on his deviant inclinations, and he'd certainly never spoken of them to Cass, although he wondered sometimes if she suspected. It would almost be better if she did, he thought, in spite of the disgust and censure the knowledge was sure to inspire, because then at least she'd know that his eleven-year absence from her bed had nothing to do with her personally. He liked his wife well enough; they were something like eighth cousins, actually, she from a branch of the Black family that had emigrated to Canada many years ago. He was perfectly happy to sit across the table from her and discuss their son or the news of the day; he just had no desire whatsoever to fuck her ever again.
Draco leaned back on his elbows and felt the cool night breeze tug at his hair. It had become tradition for him and Scorpius to come out here and stargaze on Scorpius's birthday each July, spending the night camping on the grounds of the manor, but far removed from the house. Scorpius had never yet lost his fascination with the star-strewn night sky, and he had amassed a collection of astronomy books and star charts, to the point where Draco joked that Scorpius soon would be more qualified to teach Astronomy lessons than Professor Sinistra. They didn't limit their stargazing to July, certainly, but Scorpius's birthday was the one date they planned on all year, and after they celebrated with cake and presents at the manor, Cass would wave them away with a smile, Draco armed with their tent and other supplies. His old school friends would never have suspected he had it in him. But neither could his old school friends have anticipated just how the hope of provoking a delighted grin from this one small, flaxen-haired boy could lead Draco to try things never previously in his repertoire. It was going to be painful watching him leave on the Hogwarts Express in September.
He gazed into the distance, where the red giant Antares continued to lurk just over the horizon. "A pity we can't see the whole constellation this far north," he remarked.
"That's OK," Scorpius said, sounding immensely satisfied. "I know it's there, and that's all that matters."
* * *
The first day after putting Scorpius on the train at King's Cross hurt more than Draco expected it to. It wasn't like they'd never been separated before; in fact, Scorpius and Cass traveled to Canada at least once a year, usually for a period of a week or more, to visit her family there. Sometimes Draco went along as well, but other times business interests kept him in England, so Cass and Scorpius traveled alone. It was always a little lonely rattling about the manor with only the house-elves for company, but he knew that they would return soon enough. This time, though, he wouldn't be seeing his son until the Christmas holidays at the earliest, which made the quiet somehow more oppressive. And Cass was, if possible, having even more trouble adjusting to the change; back home, she explained, most wizarding children didn't attend boarding school. To her, she admitted, the European system seemed almost cruel to parents and children both.
Thankfully, Scorpius's first letter home from Hogwarts arrived by owl within twenty-four hours of his arrival there, and was full of news both expected and unexpected. Surprisingly, Scorpius had sorted into Slytherin—Draco had been all but convinced he had a budding Ravenclaw on his hands. Even more surprisingly, the Potter brat had sorted Slytherin as well. Draco had to put down the letter until he could stop laughing.
Seeing Potter at the station the day before had been—well, if not unexpected, since, thanks to the Daily Prophet, Draco knew very well that Potter had a son about the same age as Scorpius, then at least mildly unpleasant. Both he and Cass had been a mix of misery and terror, while Scorpius had been taking it all in stride. It was all Draco could do not to clasp the boy's shoulders the entire time they were on the platform, so as not to let him go a moment sooner than he had to. In the midst of this emotional maelstrom, he'd glanced up to see Potter and assorted other members of the Weasel clan staring at him with expressions ranging from mild curiosity (Granger) to outright hostility (Weasley). Potter himself had appeared thoughtful, and Draco caught a glimpse of shared memory in his eyes, recalling a bookshop five years past. Draco had nodded abruptly and turned away, not wanting to relive any sort of shared moment with Potter. Scorpius had noticed his sharp movement and turned in the direction Draco had just been facing, but the mist on the platform had thickened again, hiding Potter and the Weasleys from view.
The Potter boy had looked just like his father, Draco recalled. The thought of that child in particular ending up in Slytherin House almost made Draco wish he'd exchanged more than a glance with Potter the day before, just so Potter could squirm over the memory of it and the seeming foreshadowing.
Scorpius's letter indicated he was adjusting well, which was only to be expected. Hogwarts was tremendously exciting, and he couldn't wait for Astronomy lessons to start later in the week, in addition to all the other subjects he was required to take. He was getting on all right with the other Slytherins so far, and he thought maybe he and Al were going to turn out to be good friends.
It took a moment for the realization to hit Draco that Scorpius was, in fact, talking about Potter's child. If he hadn't already survived far worse, he thought, taking a fortifying gulp of Earl Grey, the irony might just kill him.
* * *
The Scorpius who barreled off the train at the end of June seemed just a little taller, just a little older than he had been the last time Draco had seen him, during the Easter holidays only a few months before. It struck Draco then that one of these days—in the not-too-distant future, in fact—his child would no longer be a child at all. He remembered his own train ride home after his first year, seething with indignation over Potter's machinations that had lost Slytherin the House Cup and then, once he was back in the company of his parents, full of bitter stories about Potter's various triumphs, until his father had ordered him to cease his unseemly complaints and Draco had subsided into angry silence. He'd thought himself so much older and wiser at the time than he'd been even the year before. Maybe he had been, at that. But if there was one thing Draco was painfully aware of now, it was how in so many ways he had failed to achieve any true measure of adulthood over his seven years as a Hogwarts student, wrapped as he had been in notions of pure-blood superiority and his own self-importance.
It wasn't a mistake he intended to repeat.
He watched as his son bade farewell to a black-haired boy he recognized as Potter's younger son, the famous Al of so many missives home. Potter himself stood farther down the platform with his wife and little girl, greeting his elder son, the one for whom he'd purchased that Quidditch book years before. He turned his attention back to his own son, and saw that Scorpius was pointing in his and Cass's direction, and the Potter boy was nodding; when he saw Draco looking, the child actually smiled at him before separating from Scorpius and running to join his own family. He did look remarkably like his father had at that age, and it was all Draco could do to tamp down on the feelings of anger and humiliation that still lay buried within him when he thought of his interactions with Harry Potter at Hogwarts.
Scorpius's gray eyes were bright and his expression open and happy when he met up with his parents at last. Like his father before him, he was full of stories, and Draco and Cass exchanged an indulgent smile and let him prattle on about Slytherin's decisive Quidditch Cup victory, and how they'd subsequently taken the House Cup as well; about how he'd led all the first years in their Astronomy exam results, but how the Potter boy had blown everyone else away in Defense Against the Dark Arts.
"Can we invite Al to the manor this summer?" Scorpius asked.
He and Cass exchanged a look. Having grown up in Canada, she had only a rudimentary understanding of what Harry Potter meant to the wizarding populace in Britain and even less understanding of the role Potter had played in Draco's own life; all she knew was that Draco didn't seem to like the man for reasons he wasn't inclined to share, and that now her son was best friends with the next generation. "I don't have any objection," she said, her eyes searching Draco's.
Draco cleared his throat. "If his parents agree," he said, thinking this a big if.
"Yes!" Scorpius actually bounced with excitement. "Can we invite him for my birthday next week? Maybe he can come stargazing with us, huh, Dad? I can point out all the family stars to him. 'Course, he's not nearly as good at Astronomy as I am, but he's not entirely hopeless."
Something tightened just a little in Draco's chest at the request. For so long, the outing had been a father-son experience only. But it was his son's birthday, after all, and he should be able to do as he pleased.
"Sure," he said. "We'll write to the Potters when we get home, OK?"
"Thanks, Dad!" Scorpius linked his arm through his father's and nudged him affectionately with his shoulder.
Perhaps there was still enough of the child left in Scorpius after all, Draco thought, taking comfort where he could find it.
* * *
"Master Draco, sir, there is a Mr. Harry Potter waiting for you in the fire."
Draco blinked at the house-elf, his teacup frozen halfway to his mouth. "There's a what?"
"A Mr. Harry Potter, sir. He is wanting to talk to you, sir."
Slowly, Draco lowered his cup, then rose from the breakfast table and followed the house-elf to the drawing room where, sure enough, the head of Harry Potter floated in the marble fireplace. Feeling a sense of unreality wash over him, he knelt in front of the fire. "What can I do for you, Potter?"
Potter's expression read to him as confused and possibly a trifle annoyed. "We got the owl you sent, and I guess I just need to clarify—you're inviting Al to camp out in the woods with you overnight?"
"It's a stargazing expedition, Potter," Draco explained patiently. "Scorpius and I do this every year. This year, he asked if your son could come along. Seeing as they're friends, I couldn't really object."
Potter's eyes narrowed. "Meaning you would have looked for a reason to otherwise?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "Meaning my son made a special request of me for his birthday, and if it is within my power to grant it, I will. That, however, depends on you."
Potter frowned. The flickering green Floo flames did strange things to Potter's eyes, he noticed, making them almost the exact green of the Killing Curse. He felt his stomach roll unpleasantly.
"Look," Potter said, "it's not that I don't trust you. It's just—Al really wants to go, but, well, I've barely met your son, and Ginny doesn't know him at all, and neither of us has met your wife, and I'm just not sure I'm comfortable—"
Draco closed his eyes and sighed. He couldn't believe he was about to make this offer. "Would you feel more comfortable if you came along on the excursion?"
Potter blinked. "I—" He looked pained for a moment. "Yeah, maybe. I mean, I don't want to intrude, but I guess—would that be OK?"
No, it was most assuredly not OK, but if this was a sacrifice he needed to make, then he was willing to make it. "Yes, it's fine. Do you have a tent?"
"A tent, Potter—a magical thing that you sleep in while out of doors? Ours only houses two people. We never use it otherwise."
"Oh," Potter said. "Um, we might. Or maybe Ron and Hermione do. I'll check."
"Fine," Draco said shortly. "Let me know, then."
"I'll owl you," Potter said, and disappeared from the fire.
Draco sat back on his heels and pressed two fingers to his temple. How was it that Potter somehow always managed to rub him the wrong way?
A small noise behind him made him turn around, and he saw Scorpius standing in the doorway. The boy looked about ready to burst with excitement, and Draco wondered how much of the conversation he'd witnessed.
"Al's coming?" Scorpius asked.
"It looks that way."
Scorpius whooped and skittered into the room to grab Draco in a hug. "You're the best dad in the world."
We'll see if he still thinks that after I'm forced to spend an entire evening with Potter, he thought, gratefully hugging his son in return.
* * *
"That reddish star over there in the south is Antares, and if you look closely, you can start to make out the body of the scorpion," said Scorpius, in his element under the night sky, with Al Potter hanging on his every word.
"Why didn't we ever see that in Astronomy?" asked Al.
"It's only really visible here in the summer," Scorpius explained patiently. "It's pretty south of the celestial equator, so most of the time it's below the horizon for us. If we went farther south, we'd be able to see more of it."
"Wow," said Al.
Draco couldn't help the small smile that tugged at the corner of his mouth. He'd been prepared for the Potter child to be as arrogant as his father or as bitchy and badly mannered as his mother—or, worse, some combination of the two—but Al was a polite, engaging kid who seemed, oddly enough, to be easily awed by things as trivial as crystal chandeliers and albino peacocks. It made Draco wonder a little just how the Potters actually lived—he'd heard it said that Potter had a Gringotts vault to rival the Malfoys', and a hefty portion of the Black fortune besides. Most important, though, Al got on famously with Scorpius, which went a long way in Draco's book toward forgiving him for the accident of his parentage.
Al's father, by contrast, had been taciturn and unpleasant since the moment of his arrival at the manor, to the point where Draco itched to land a punch, savior of the wizarding world or no, and would have seriously considered it if their respective sons hadn't been lying on the ground just feet away, apparently totally oblivious to the tense silence between the elder Malfoy and Potter.
"Now, if you look toward the north a little, you can see some of the circumpolar constellations we talked about in Astronomy." Scorpius's small but authoritative voice carried easily on the night air. "You remember where Polaris is, right?"
"Right," agreed Al.
"Just a little bit over—you see that W shape? That's Queen Cassiopeia, like my mum's name."
"And over in the other direction—you see those couple of bright stars right around there?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"And then the other stars that kind of trail around this way?" He waved a hand through the air, indicating.
"Oh—yeah." "That's the dragon, Draco—like my dad."
"And you remember what circumpolar means…?"
"They never set, right?"
The smile threatened to erupt again, and Draco's gaze slid almost unconsciously to Potter, who looked like he was fighting his own smile. Coming abruptly to a decision, Draco stood. "Come on, Potter, let's take a walk."
Potter glanced at the boys. "I don't want to leave them—"
"They're fine," Draco said. "We're still on Malfoy land, you know. Do you have any idea the number of security spells I have on this property?"
Potter cast one more doubtful glance at Al and Scorpius, who had paused in their conversation and were watching the adults avidly. "All right," he said.
"We'll be back soon," Draco told Scorpius. "Stay here."
Draco set off down the path on the north side of the hill, with Potter trailing after him. "What's this about, Malfoy?"
Draco didn't stop walking until they'd reached a grove of trees that he figured were safely out of earshot—unless the conversation turned into shouting, which was not entirely beyond the realm of possibility, given his and Potter's history. "Seriously, what is wrong with you, Potter? You've been stonefaced and snappish almost all evening—if it's really paining you to be here, you don't have to stay, you know. I'm perfectly capable of watching the boys."
Potter frowned and turned away slightly. His shoulders were hitched up in a way that in another person Draco might have read as defensive, even embarrassed. The night shadows erased years from Potter's face, reminding Draco forcibly of another night more than twenty years ago—him and Potter in a dark forest, the chill gleam of unicorn blood, and a hooded figure that inspired more terror than he'd ever known before…but was as yet nothing compared to what he'd come to experience in the years ahead. The memory made Draco stand up straighter. He wasn't that frightened little boy anymore. He wasn't even that terrified adolescent. He might not have been a foolhardy Gryffindor, but these days he knew how to take care of his own.
Potter sighed, sounding exasperated. "It's not you, all right? I see how you are—you seem like a good father. Gin—some of the rest of the family were worried. That's the only reason I'm here. It's not like this is a picnic for me."
"Can't handle roughing it in our well-manicured park, eh, Potter?"
Potter's gaze was sharp. "Let's just say Malfoy Manor doesn't hold the best memories for me, all right?"
Draco swallowed. There were times he preferred not to think about in relation to the manor as well; he'd all but blocked out the memory of Potter's unwilling visit twenty years ago and his own clumsy attempts to pretend not to recognize him—when he had known Potter in an instant, and probably always would.
"Right," Draco said. "Right."
Potter shrugged, looking away again. "Also, I'm—not really one for camping. You might say I got my fill of that the year Ron, Hermione, and I were on the run. When I have to be outside for a stakeout on the job, I can handle it. But it's not exactly my preferred way to spend an evening."
Draco blinked, staring in bewilderment at the other man. "Then why on earth did you come tonight?"
Potter met his gaze. "Al wanted to come."
And clearly it was just that simple to Potter—the same way it had been a simple, but unpleasant, decision to invite Potter in the first place.
The two men looked at one another in the dark, quietly assessing. Slowly, the corner of Potter's mouth turned up. "Aren't we a fine pair, then."
Something about Harry Potter offering a half-smile by starlight made Draco's breath catch, although he covered it with a gruff chuckle. "Aren't we."
"You know, you're not such a bad character after all, Malfoy," Potter said, and extended his hand.
"I—" There was no reason for Draco's heart to be racing this madly at the sight of Harry bloody Potter with his palm extended in a clear offering of peace. Almost without conscious thought, he extended his own hand and grasped Potter's, letting the warmth of the other man's palm sink into his own, feeling the dryness of Potter's fingers against his skin, the small but discernible pressure of Potter's thumb atop their handclasp. They stood in silence for several moments, hands joined between them. Draco inexplicably felt heat rising into his cheeks and, only a little reluctantly, let go of Potter's hand. "Yes, well, perhaps you are—not entirely without virtues yourself, Potter."
Potter chuckled and tipped his head to indicate that they probably should rejoin the boys. Draco nodded and followed Potter back up the hill, his hands shoved into his pockets, fervently hoping the starlight hadn't betrayed his maddening blush.
* * *
The next morning, after watching the Potters depart through the drawing room fireplace, Scorpius remarked, "Al thinks you're cool."
The statement startled a laugh out of Draco. "Does he?"
Scorpius nodded. "Yeah. He said so. Mr. Potter is pretty cool too."
"I'm sure he'd be gratified to know that," Draco murmured, placing the Floo powder back on the mantel.
"He's an Auror, you know," Scorpius went on. "He's the Head of the Auror office."
A flash of blood-red robes in a bookshop skirted across his memory. "I did know that, yes."
"Being an Auror must be a cool job."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "It's also a very dangerous job."
Scorpius grinned. "Oh, I don't want to do it. I want to be an astronomer. But I think Al maybe is thinking about it."
Two Potters in the Auror office, Draco thought. Merlin preserve us.
"We should invite them back next year," Scorpius said.
Draco jerked himself out of his ruminations, not wanting to believe what he'd just heard. "Them?"
Scorpius nodded decisively. "Them."
* * *
The brief handshake he'd shared with Potter near the campsite played out over and over again in Draco's mind later that week. He occasionally found himself wondering what it meant, in the grand scheme of things. Were he and Potter supposed to be…nice to each other now? Or were they just forsaking active hostility for the sake of their children?
And every time he caught himself wondering, he scolded himself for dwelling on it at all.
What was worse, though, was how it crept into his unconscious thoughts too. More than once he awakened from dreams where he and Potter shook hands by starlight—and Potter pulled Draco into a deeper embrace, their bodies flush against one another, Potter's lips on his throat, his hand moving downward as Draco gasped with anticipated pleasure. When he woke to sticky sheets two mornings in a row, he pounded a fist on the mattress and vowed it wouldn't happen again—only to wake up the next morning with a painfully unrelieved erection that required him to jerk off in the shower to get rid of it.
It certainly didn't help that the Prophet ran another photo that morning of the Potter family, accompanying an article speculating on whether Potter's wife, the Holyhead Harpies' former star Chaser, would come out of retirement once their youngest child went off to Hogwarts in another year. Dislike her and the rest of the Weasley family though he might, Draco couldn't deny that Ginny Potter was an attractive woman. And since she and Potter had spawned three children between them, Potter obviously had no reservations about sharing his wife's bed.
Draco glanced across the breakfast table at Cass, who was nibbling on a croissant and reading the society pages. As if sensing his gaze, she looked up and met his eyes. When he didn't say anything, she offered him a slight, almost pained-looking smile and went back to her newspaper. Draco flipped the page of the sports section and refused to allow himself to think about Potter again. At least for the moment.
* * *
Draco knew something was amiss when Cass asked him to join her in her private suite the evening of September 1, after they'd put Scorpius back on the train to Hogwarts. He hoped she wasn't about to ask for a resumption of their marital duties.
"Draco," she said, settling herself into an upholstered chair across from his, "don't you think it would be better for all of us to end this?"
"End what?" he asked carefully.
He sat upright, as though her words had jolted him physically. "End our marriage? You mean divorce?"
"That's exactly what I mean."
"But—" His head swam. No Malfoy—or Black, for that matter—in his memory had ever divorced. It was rare in the wizarding world at large, and almost unheard of in the old pure-blood families. "Why?"
She blinked at him. "Why? Draco we haven't had sex since before Scorpius was born. In fact, we haven't had sex since you found out I was pregnant in the first place."
Panic clawed at him. "Well—yes, but—we have more between us than sex, don't we?"
She sighed. "Yes, but that's all we have between us. That's not a marriage, Draco."
She was wrong, he thought dazedly; in fact, in many old families, that was exactly what marriage was: Union for the sake of alliances, followed by sex for the sake of heirs, and then, if you were lucky, companionship in your later years or, if you weren't so lucky, separate residences and a competition to see who would outlive the other.
No, he'd never wanted to bed Cass again, but she was a good sort, and he liked having her around. They went to occasional society functions together, and sometimes they even partook of recreational activities together, like card games or, on a handful of occasions, broom races across the manor grounds. And Scorpius loved his mother; didn't that count for anything?
"Is there—someone else?" he asked, hardly aware of what he was saying for the thoughts spinning through his head.
"No, of course not," she said. "But I just don't think it's fair to either one of us to go on like this, do you?"
"Draco." She rose from her seat and chose another one next to his, so she could lean over and place a comforting hand on his knee. "Look, darling," she said, her voice low, "I know."
"I know, Draco. I'm not stupid, or blind. I know you prefer men." His heart jumped into his throat. "What? That's—how can you—"
"Draco." Her tone brought his gaze up sharply to meet hers again. "I don't know what sort of fears or other ridiculous thoughts are running loose in your head right now, but you need to understand that there is nothing wrong with being a homosexual."
He couldn't breathe. He couldn't—breathe.
"If anyone ever told you differently, they were wrong," she continued, clearly either not noticing or not caring that he must be on the verge of turning blue by now.
"I'm not wrong, Draco," she said patiently. "We both know it."
He shut his mouth, trying to calm himself. His breath came in panicky gasps. This wasn't fear, exactly. He'd experienced fear; he knew it intimately. This was different—more like shock.
When she leaned in again, her voice was soft. "Draco, did something happen between you and Harry Potter this summer?"
He jerked away from her touch. "No! What on earth would make you think—"
She shrugged. "It was just a guess. You seemed…on edge for a while after that evening. And I caught you looking at me in odd ways sometimes."
He felt hysterical laughter bubbling up in his throat and fought to suppress it. There Potter went, fucking up everything in Draco's life again, even when he didn't know it.
Cass sighed. "Besides, it's about more than just that. I want to go home, Draco. I've been in England for almost twenty years now, but I miss Canada, and my parents are not as healthy as they once were."
That brought him to attention. "But—Scorpius. You can't—"
"I know," she said, and her eyes were sad. "I wouldn't try to take him away from his home. But he's in school most of the year now anyway, and he can spend part of the summers and holidays with me."
"This is what I want, Draco." Her voice was firm, her expression resolved. "It's been a long time coming, and I think now that Scorpius is growing up and getting along well at school, the time has come."
He met her eyes again. "Cass."
Something in his expression made her smile, and she reached out a hand to cover his. "I do love you, Draco. And I know you care for me. You wouldn't be fighting me so hard on this if you didn't, in spite of whatever crazy pure-blood notions you have in your head. But there's nothing keeping us together but duty, and I don't want to live like that anymore."
They sat in silence for a while. Finally Draco cleared his throat and joked half-heartedly, "I should have known better than to marry a colonial."
She laughed and clasped his hand in hers, and it was reminder enough of another recent handclasp that he felt his stomach twist in a sick way.
Her fingers picked at his sleeve and she didn't meet his gaze. "Have you ever—been with a man?"
"What? No! Of course not."
She patted his hand. "You ought to try it sometime."
"No, really. I think it would do you a world of good."
He felt a blush heat his cheeks. "Cass."
She laughed again, then kissed his fingers. "You deserve a little more happiness, Draco. You're still living too much in thrall to your past."
He sighed. "I have a lot to atone for."
"I know you think so," she said. "But you were a child, and you can't spend your life feeling guilty for things you did when you were too young to know better—or, worse, trying to make up for your parents' mistakes. I didn't know you then, but I know you now, and no matter what might have happened during or before the war, I know that you've become someone who deserves more than you think you deserve."
Their eyes met, and she smiled and kissed his fingers again.
He shook his head, then took a breath. "All right," he said. "All right."
* * *
There was no birthday stargazing the following summer. Draco and Cass broke the news of the divorce to Scorpius over the Christmas holidays. To Draco's surprise, at least, Scorpius took it calmly, although he seemed loath to let either of his parents out of his sight for the remainder of the holiday, and when they put him on the train back to Hogwarts, solemn faces all around, he hugged each of them tightly, in full view of the other schoolchildren, something he hadn't allowed them to do since his very first departure on the Hogwarts Express.
By spring, divorce negotiations were well underway, and Cass prepared to move to Toronto to be near her parents. Scorpius spent July with her, then returned to Wiltshire in August. He was a little quieter now than he had been before, and Draco mourned the loss of that childish exuberance.
He and Scorpius lay on their traditional hill, gazing into the skies overhead. There'd been no talk of inviting the Potters even for non-birthday-related stargazing, for which Draco was grateful. He felt his son slipping further and further away from him, and the divorce seemed to have hastened the process. As he gazed at Draco and Cassiopeia, locked in their endless whirl around the North Star, he felt sweep over him a wave of sadness so intense that it left him shaking.
In the dark, a small, strong hand crept across the grass and slid into his. Draco squeezed it gratefully and kept his eyes to the heavens.
* * *
In one respect, at least, his fears about the divorce were overblown; he didn't appear to be frowned upon by society (at least, any more so than he had been previously), and any who did mention hearing the news were sympathetic rather than condemning, which merely told Draco they had no idea of the real reason at the root of the divorce proceedings.
Most of the expressions of sympathy caught him off-guard, but one more so than all the others. Draco had stopped into the Ministry to file some paperwork relating to Scorpius's Portkey to Toronto for Christmas, when Potter stepped into the lift on Level Seven and actually froze in his tracks when he came face-to-face with Draco. "Malfoy," he said.
"Potter," Draco returned with a nod, hoping Potter would leave it at that. Naturally, being Potter, he didn't.
When Draco stepped out of the lift on Level Six, Potter followed, although Draco doubted there was any legitimate reason for him to get off on this level. "I, uh—I heard about the divorce," Potter said.
"Hard not to," Draco returned matter-of-factly.
"Yes, well. I was sorry to hear about it. Gin and I both were."
Draco stopped and met his eyes, looking for anything that could be perceived as mockery or less than complete truthfulness, but found none. "Thanks," he said, resuming his steps, although not the rapid pace he'd set before. "It's—you know, it's been—difficult."
"Especially hard for Scorpius, I'd imagine," Potter observed.
Draco nodded. "He doesn't say much about it, but…"
"We'd be happy to have him come visit anytime, you know," Potter said. "Al just adores him. And he seems to feature a lot in Lily's letters home, too—I think she might be developing a crush."
The very notion surprised a laugh out of Draco, and he quickly looked at Potter's face to be sure the other man hadn't taken offense. Clearly, he hadn't; in fact, he wore an amused grin of his own. "I keep telling Ginny the apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Potter said, "but she just whacks me with her broomstick."
It hit Draco right then that Harry Potter had a heart-stopping grin when he chose to employ it. He was on the cusp of forty, but somehow better-looking now than he had been as a younger man—his face had subtle lines that had fallen in comfortable places, and the hints of gray Draco had noticed seemingly half a lifetime ago had grown and added a touch of distinction—he was no longer the Boy Who Lived, but a man who somehow radiated both power and calm. There was something disturbingly attractive about Harry Potter, even just standing in a narrow Ministry hallway in scarlet Auror's robes. Draco's palm tingled with a remembered touch and it took everything in him not to shove that hand conspicuously into his pocket.
He took a calming breath. "Your wife is back with the Harpies after all, then?"
"Yep," Potter agreed, still loping alongside him. "I think—no, I know she was getting restless. We talked for a while about more children, but…" He shrugged. "We're happy with the ones we have. They're all great kids. But they're growing up now, and Ginny missed Quidditch. The Harpies had an opening, she's still got her skills—it all fell together."
"That's great," Draco said, wishing he meant it—and especially wishing he could get past the mental image of Potter and his wife hard at work producing more little Potters. He halted his steps, and before he could gain control of his tongue, he found himself saying, "You know, you and Al should come back for Scorpius's birthday next summer. He'll be home in July. I'm sure he'd love to have you both there."
The invitation startled a smile out of Potter. "Well—sure. Thanks. We'd love to."
"Right, then. I'll—be in touch, I guess."
They stared at each other a moment longer, then Draco gestured at the Portkey Division sign behind Potter. "This is where I need to be."
Potter blinked. "Oh. Right. Well, I'll see you around."
Draco nodded and watched Potter walk away, wishing all the time that he could kick himself sharply without causing the other wizards milling about to wonder if that Malfoy bloke had finally gone 'round the twist.
* * *
But there was to be no birthday stargazing with the Potters that summer either. Scorpius's letter winged its way to Draco before the news even hit the Prophet: Ginny Potter had been struck in the head by a Bludger during a Harpies-Falcons match in Falmouth and was lying unconscious in St. Mungo's. There were only two days left to the term, so the Potter children had been whisked away to stay at their mother's bedside. The prognosis didn't look good.
Much as Draco might never have liked the Weasley family, it wasn't a fate he would have wished on anyone. He recalled his own many near-misses during his Hogwarts days, and knew it was only by the grace of whatever deity that he'd never received any more serious injuries than bruises of varying severity. A Bludger to the head—it was a miracle she hadn't died instantly. Although, he reflected, looking at the photograph of a pale, drawn Potter surrounded by his equally pale and drawn children that graced the front page of the next day's Prophet, perhaps it would have been a mercy.
When Scorpius stepped off the train later that week, he made a beeline for his father and, without pause, wrapped his arms around him. Draco gathered him close in return, knowing the emotions that prompted the display—gratitude and love and desperate fear.
Ginny Potter died five days later.
The funeral was limited to family only, but a public memorial service drew what seemed to be the majority of wizarding Britain to convey their condolences to their no-longer-boyish savior. Draco and Scorpius attended, naturally. Al threw his arms around Scorpius without embarrassment when he spied them in the throng. Scorpius patted him on the back and their heads—one so light, one so dark—bent together as Scorpius murmured something in the other boy's ear that left him nodding as he drew back, swiping at the tears on his cheeks. Potter, for his part, took Draco's hand with a quiet, "Draco."
"I'm so sorry," Draco said, and meant it.
Potter's eyes were hauntingly bleak. "I know," he said. "Thank you."
Later, after nightfall, one of the house-elves told Draco that Scorpius had left the manor, walking in a westerly direction. Draco walked in the direction of their usual stargazing hill and, sure enough, found Scorpius sitting atop it, his gaze on the northern sky.
Draco seated himself next to his son without a word.
The silence stretched for several minutes before Scorpius finally said slowly, "I can look up there and see Cassiopeia, and I know that Mum is out there. Even though I can't walk to her rooms and ask her to kiss me goodnight like I did when I was little, I know she's only a transatlantic Portkey away. It's not so bad. But Mrs. Potter—" His voice halted.
Draco put his arm around Scorpius's shoulders and drew him close. The boy was fourteen now and growing taller every day. "I didn't know what to say to Al today," Scorpius admitted.
"Sometimes it isn't the words that matter," Draco said.
Scorpius leaned into his father's warmth and rested his head against Draco's shoulder. "I know," he whispered.
* * *
The Prophet reported that Potter was taking a leave of absence from the Auror office to spend the summer with his children. A week or so later, Draco was surprised one morning to be alerted that Potter was in his Floo connection.
"Draco, I'm sorry to bother you," Potter began.
"No, no, it's no bother," Draco said, his heart tripping uncomfortably at the sound of his given name on Potter's lips. At the memorial service, it could have been attributed to stress. This was deliberate. "Is there something you need?"
"I wondered, if you wouldn't mind too terribly much, if we could borrow Scorpius for a few days," Potter said. "I know you only have him half the summer and it's a terrible imposition—"
"Potter—" He paused. "Harry." The word felt strange on his tongue. "It's fine. It's no trouble. I'll check and make sure it's all right with Scorpius, but I doubt he would even consider saying no."
Potter's expression relaxed in clear relief. "Thank you. It's—well, it's all been very hard for the children, and I think Al could do with a friend right now." Draco still could vividly recall the pain of losing his parents, first his father, then his mother less than a year later. Though he and Lucius Malfoy had never been emotionally close, he'd idolized his father for most of his childhood and adolescence. And his mother—he still missed his mother every day.
"It's fine, Harry," Draco repeated. He searched Potter's face and cautiously asked, "How are you holding up?"
Potter bit his lip, and his face turned in the green flames, as though looking over his shoulder, before his eyes met Draco's again. "It's really hard," he admitted. "It hurts so much, some days I don't know how I can stand it."
"I—" Draco swallowed. "Look, I know we barely know each other, and I'm shit at condolences, but if you ever want, I don't know, an ear to bend, or a drinking partner…"
Potter exhaled on a short laugh. "I'll keep that in mind," he said, his eyes warm with gratitude.
Scorpius was quickly packed up and shuttled by Floo to the Potters' for several days' visit, which Draco spent rattling around the too-quiet manor and fighting his guilt for offering himself up to Harry Potter in such a blatant manner.
And all for naught, too, because it was another two years before he spoke with Potter again at all.
* * *
Scorpius acquired his first girlfriend toward the end of his fifth year at Hogwarts. That in itself wasn't such a surprise—Draco himself had received his first blowjob from Pansy Parkinson after the Yule Ball in his fourth year, and he'd been pleased enough to repeat the experience in exchange for calling her his girlfriend for the next few years—but the identity of said girlfriend was enough to send him into a coughing fit when he read the name in Scorpius's weekly owl home. One of the house-elves had to whack him on the back to help clear his airway.
"Rose Weasley?" he finally gasped when he could find the air to do so.
Trippy the house-elf looked just as bewildered as Draco felt.
As the Hogwarts Express spilled its cargo of students onto the platform, Draco scanned the crowd in search of his either brave or foolhardy son, finally spying a tow-blond head bent toward one ariot with unmistakable bushy ginger hair. He tapped his son's shoulder when Scorpius drew back from the kiss. His son's eyes were shining when he turned to face Draco. "Dad! Have you met—"
Draco nodded at the girl. "Miss Weasley, I presume?"
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Malfoy," she said with manners that only could have come from her mother.
"Don't let your father hear you say that," he muttered, and the girl flashed him a sly, knowing grin. Suddenly he could see why the spawn of Weasel and Granger would have attracted his son: Her badge said Ravenclaw, but her expression was all Slytherin.
"ROSE!" bellowed a too-close voice, and Draco saw the towering head of the Weasel parting the crowd, trailed by a slightly shorter brown-haired boy with Weasley's distinctive long nose. "That owl better not have been—oh, bloody hell," Weasley moaned when he caught sight of Draco and Scorpius. "Why couldn't it have been a joke?"
"Dad, you haven't even given him a chance—"
"I don't need to! He's a Malfoy!"
"Greetings to you as well, Weasley," Draco drawled, scowling.
"Nobody asked you, ferret," Weasley snapped, then craned his neck to look beyond Rose. "Oi, Al!" he called, beckoning. "Over here!"
Draco glanced at Al Potter as he approached the small knot of Weasleys and Malfoys and was surprised to see a fleeting look of resentment on the boy's face. Al hadn't come to the manor at all the previous summer; the Potter family had gone to the seaside on extended holiday, and Draco had caught only a few distant glimpses of him at King's Cross over the last couple of years. He was considerably taller, although not as tall as Scorpius, who himself was rapidly catching up to Draco in height, and his resemblance to his father was, if anything, more striking, although Draco could detect hints of Ginny Potter as well in the delicate patchwork of his features. Draco remembered him as a bright, engaging boy; the shadows in his eyes now made Draco wonder if his mother's sudden passing had brought long-reaching consequences.
"Hi, Uncle Ron," Al said, pointedly not looking at either Scorpius or Rose.
"Your father's tied up on an assignment, so I'm to fetch you lot," Weasley said. "Where's your brother and sister?"
Al gestured vaguely toward the far end of the platform.
Weasley began to turn in that direction, but paused to tap his daughter on the shoulder. "You, come with me," he said with a freezing look at Scorpius. Rose offered Scorpius and Draco a shrug and a wry smile before trailing after her father.
Draco watched them leave. "Your girlfriend's father is a nutter, you realize," he observed.
"So you've always said," Scorpius replied absently, his eyes on Al, who was determinedly staring into the distance.
Draco looked back and forth between them. "Al," he said, and the boy turned toward him, looking a little surprised at being addressed. "How are you?"
"Fine, thank you, Mr. Malfoy," he said, shifting his gaze so that Scorpius wasn't in his line of sight.
"How's your family?" Draco asked. "Is everyone—all right?"
"We're all OK, sir," he replied, and Draco caught a glimpse of the old Al when he flickered his eyes toward Draco. "We're doing all right."
"Your father, too?" he asked, then immediately wished he could take it back. But it was this question that finally fixed Al's attention on Draco. "He's all right," Al said, his voice softer. "He's doing better. I'll let him know you asked."
Draco nodded, a little stiffly. "Better go find your uncle, then, and rein him in before he insults any more innocent bystanders."
A small smile tugged at the corner the boy's mouth, and he nodded and made his way toward where Weasley's head could still be seen over the milling crowd.
"And you," he said, turning toward his son. "We have a lot to talk about, young man."
Scorpius offered him a cheeky grin, and it was all Draco could do not to slap a palm to his forehead.
Once they'd returned to the manor, Draco sat down across from his son and considered him in silence for several moments. Then he sighed and closed his eyes. "Rose Weasley, of all people?"
"Oh, come on, Dad," Scorpius said. "I know you don't like her dad, but—you know, she's cool."
Draco opened his eyes and lifted a single eyebrow. "I don't think I need to remind you that her father would gladly eviscerate you if you did anything…stupid."
"How far has this gone?"
"Dad!" A blush stole up Scorpius's cheeks.
"I'm serious," Draco said, frowning. "Do I need to be worried that Ron Weasley is going to come pounding on the door ready to launch a severing charm at any unfortunate portion of anatomy that vexes him?"
Scorpius winced and sat up a little straighter. "God, Dad. No. It's just—kissing and stuff."
"It's the 'and stuff' part that worries me," Draco muttered. He pinched the bridge of his nose; he could feel a headache coming on. "Just promise me you're being careful."
"There's no need to be, honest, Dad," Scorpius said. "We've only just started going out. The only way we could be more careful is if we stopped kissing at all."
"Is that offer on the table?" he asked with a smirk.
Scorpius just laughed.
Draco sighed. "All right," he said. "Now explain what's going on with Al."
The mirth vanished from Scorpius's face. "He's angry with me."
"Because I'm going out with Rose."
"Why would he be angry about that?"
"I dunno," Scorpius said, looking down at his hands in his lap. "Maybe he's jealous that I've got a girlfriend and he hasn't."
Draco contemplated his son, whom he was not convinced was being entirely honest with him, but decided not to pry any more than he already had. "Do you still want to invite him over for your birthday, or is that out now?"
"No, I still want to invite him." Scorpius frowned. "I don't know if he'll want to come, though."
"Well, let's cross that bridge when we get there. You'll owl him tonight?"
"Yeah, I guess so." Scorpius drummed his fingers on the arms of the chair. "I'm going to invite Mr. Potter, too. Is that OK?"
Draco made an effort not to show a reaction. "Why would you want to invite Al's father?"
"So you have someone to talk to, of course," Scorpius replied with a smirk. "Can't have you just sitting there, listening in on our deep and meaningful conversations."
Draco hated even to suggest the idea, but given his son would be sixteen in a matter of days, it bore mentioning. "You know, I don't have to come along, if you don't want to. You two are certainly old enough to manage on your own."
"Dad." Scorpius's face was serious and, in that moment, so adult that Draco felt a small catch in his chest at the thought of the man his son was on the verge of becoming. "This is our thing. If you don't want me to invite the Potters, I won't. But you started this tradition with me, and I'm afraid you're stuck with it now." Scorpius offered him a smug smile.
"All right, all right," he said, with a longsuffering sigh. "If you must."
Scorpius jumped out of the chair. "I'll go owl them now." When he reached the doorway, though, he hovered. "Maybe it'll do Mr. Potter some good to get out of the house for a while. Al thinks he's lonely."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "I've already said you could invite him."
"Oh, I know. It's just—it made me wonder. Maybe you need to get out more, too."
Draco frowned. "Excuse me?"
Scorpius propped himself against the doorframe. "Well, you know, it's been three years since the divorce. Have you even thought about dating?"
"Scorpius, that is none of your business."
"Well, maybe it ought to be. Maybe I'd like to see you happy."
Draco sighed. "You think dating is going to make me happy? At my advanced age?"
Scorpius winked. "Oh, come on, Dad. You're never too old for a little kissing and stuff."
He bolted, laughing, to avoid the pillow Draco launched at his head.
* * *
To Draco's surprise, both Potters came to the manor in response to Scorpius's invitation. It was a cool, clear night, perfect for stargazing, and as the four of them lay atop the hill, Draco was acutely conscious of Potter's supine form only an arm's length away. Potter had been quiet for most of the evening, although not the uncomfortable, borderline hostile silence of four years previous. His greeting to Draco upon his arrival had been reserved, but warm in tone, and he had been unfailingly friendly to Scorpius all evening—perhaps to compensate for the unusual reserve of his son, who, while lacking the seeming resentment Draco had spied at King's Cross, nonetheless seemed uncomfortable in Scorpius's presence—although he was the first to point out Antares, which made Scorpius grin in a way few other gestures could have.
Draco wanted to ask Potter about a hundred things: how he was coping, given the second anniversary of his wife's death had just passed; whether the rumors in the Prophet that he'd recently been spotted in the company of various beautiful witches were true; why he'd never taken Draco up on his invitation; whether he ever thought about Draco the way Draco couldn't stop himself thinking about Potter. But he didn't ask. He made small talk about the state of the world, about the boys' progress at Hogwarts, about witches and wizards of their mutual acquaintance. He joined in the conversation arising from Scorpius's discourse on the properties of various stars and other celestial objects. But he did not ask what he really wanted to know.
As the hour grew later, the conversation began to lull and all four could no longer control their yawns, so they made their way to the two tents they had pitched before ascending the hill. Scorpius caught up with Draco and tugged on his sleeve. "Dad," he said in a low voice, "would it be all right if Al and I shared a tent this time around? I'd really like to talk to him privately, and I'm not sure I'll get a chance to otherwise."
Draco halted. "I—sure. I suppose that's all right."
His son's face was entreating in the low light. "You don't mind terribly bunking with Mr. Potter, do you?"
Draco inhaled slowly. "No," he said. "It's all right. But let me check with him first."
Draco nodded, and slowed his pace a little to let Potter catch up with him. Potter looked faintly surprised at the request, but nodded without hesitation. "That's probably a good idea," he said. "There's something off between them, and as far as I know, Al hasn't wanted to talk about it to anyone."
Draco let Potter be the one to suggest the boys share the Potters' tent, and he saw Al cast his father a deeply suspicious look, but appeared resigned when Scorpius made to follow him into the tent. Draco, for his part, fought an absurd rush of nerves at the knowledge that he and Potter would be sharing quarters for the night.
The tent was magical, of course, but small and close, selected for just these outings when Scorpius had been a boy. Scorpius hadn't wanted anything elaborate because it would seem too similar to home and the point of camping out on the grounds was to do something different. So the interior of the tent bore only a two twin beds, a small kitchenette with a table and two chairs, and a tiny bathroom.
Potter changed into his pajamas in the bathroom while Draco did so in the bedroom, then sat to wait for Potter to return. When he did, he seated himself on the edge of the opposite bed and stretched his arms above his head, drawing Draco's helplessly avid gaze. Potter didn't appear to notice. "I shouldn't be this tired," he explained with a wry smile. "I've pulled a lot of later nights on the job."
Their knees were separated by only about a foot and a half, which somehow had never seemed so close when he'd shared this tent with Scorpius. "Well," Draco said, "Scorpius can be a little exhausting when he gets going on stars."
Potter laughed, and Draco felt an answering smile creep across his face. "Scorpius is a good kid," Potter said.
"He is," Draco agreed. "He really is."
Potter slanted him a sly look. "Not much like you were at that age."
Draco snorted. "Oh, he is in some ways. He just knows enough to hide it in front of company."
Potter laughed again, provoking a distinct fluttery feeling in Draco's stomach that boded ill for his prospects of sleeping peacefully tonight. "Al's great, too," he said.
Potter shook his head with a smile. "He's been a surprise, that one. We never expected him to sort Slytherin, let me tell you. Ginny—" His voice faltered a little, and he cleared his throat. "Ginny used to say that Al was so determined to prove to his brother that he wouldn't end up in Slytherin, that his ambition not to be sorted there backfired on him." He summoned another smile. "But it's been good for him, I think. He's had to make his own way there, rather than riding James's coattails in Gryffindor. And his having Scorpius has helped."
Draco nodded absently, and steeled his courage. "How are things, really?" he asked. "I mean, without—Ginny." How are you?
Potter sighed. "It's never going to be the same as it was before, but I think the kids have adjusted as well as possible. We saw a grief counselor for a while, all of us," he confessed. "That helped. It's just one day at a time, really. I threw myself into my job really hard for a while that first year, once the kids had left for school and I was all alone. I didn't want to allow myself time to think about her or to feel her absence. The Minister actually made me take the next summer off; he was afraid I was going to do myself harm if I kept up that pace. So that's why we went to the seaside last summer. And then this past year—well, it's been tough to resist the urge to work too hard. I haven't done much of anything socially that didn't relate directly to work or the kids, and I'm starting to sense they might be worried about me." He grimaced. "Actually, I'm not even sure Al would have come tonight if I hadn't been included in the invitation—I think he accepted for my sake, to get me out of the house."
Draco wanted badly to lay his hand on Potter's knee or hand, to convey comfort with a touch, but he didn't know if he could limit himself to that, so he merely curled his fingers around the edge of the mattress and forced himself to leave them there. "Well," he said carefully, "you're always welcome to visit if you need to get out of the house."
"Thanks, Draco," Potter said. "I mean it. And I haven't forgotten your invitation from before, either. It's just—well, like I said, I haven't let myself be very social. I probably wouldn't be very good company."
Draco shrugged in what he hoped appeared to be a casual way. "Oh, don't worry about inflicting yourself on me. Just think of it as payback for all the ways I tried to make your life miserable when we were kids."
Potter grinned at him. "I'll keep that in mind." He paused, and the smile faded. "Seriously, though. How is everything going for you? Since the divorce, I mean. You seem to keep to yourself a lot."
Draco picked at the duvet. "Not much has changed, really, other than Scorpius being gone to Canada for part of the year. I keep myself busy with work—estate matters, business investments, you know. And I have some—well, charitable things."
Potter blinked. "You're a philanthropist?"
"I don't really think of it that way," Draco said with a pensive frown. "It's more—doing some good to balance out all the bad."
"Atonement?" Potter murmured.
"Sort of," Draco said, embarrassed. "I guess."
"What sorts of things do you do?"
He squirmed a little. "It's mostly anonymous. It isn't anything I want to brag about."
"I can understand that," Potter said. "I won't tell anyone. I'm just curious."
Draco hesitated, then sighed. "It's a variety. It started out with funds for victims' families. But sometimes it's medical research, sometimes it's education—it's—I like to think I'm helping," he said finally, his tone almost daring Potter to disagree.
But Potter was staring at him like he'd had a revelation. "There was an anonymous gift to St. Mungo's in Ginny's memory two years ago to found a trauma center," he said slowly. "Was that you?"
Draco wouldn't meet his eyes, but his silence seemed to be all the confirmation Potter needed. To Draco's shock, the other man reached across the distance between them and laid a hand on his. When Draco jerked his head up to meet Potter's gaze, his heart was pounding and he wanted more than anything in the world to lean forward and kiss that sincere expression off Potter's face. But he didn't. He couldn't.
"Thank you, Draco," Potter said, his eyes shining with it.
But Draco just shook his head. "I didn't do it for you," he muttered. "I did it because someone needed to."
Potter clasped Draco's hand tightly before letting go and resuming his former posture. "You didn't need to," he said. "But you did, and that's what matters."
Draco shrugged as Potter continued to contemplate him.
"Have you ever thought about remarrying?" Potter asked.
The question made Draco laugh before he could stop the impulse. "No," Draco said wryly at Potter's look of surprise. "I'm pretty certain I'll never marry again."
"You're still young, though," Potter said. "How can you be sure—"
"Oh, I'm sure." Not wanting to discuss the matter further, he asked, "What about you? Have you given any thought to remarriage someday?"
A flicker of sadness passed across Potter's eyes, and Draco briefly regretted the question. But Potter shook his head. "No, not really. Even if I wanted to, the truth is, I'm not sure I could find anyone who would look past the name, the public figure."
Draco raised an eyebrow at him. "Not everyone gives a damn about your name, Potter."
Potter laughed and gave Draco a look that was hard to interpret. "I'm starting to appreciate that," he said.
* * *
Morning gave Draco the dubious pleasure of watching Potter wake up a short space away from him. He was sprawled across the twin bed, his hair an even more hopeless mess than usual, his mouth slack, lips slightly parted, bedcovers rising and falling subtly over his chest with each breath. The image gave rise to a hundred split-second fantasies of seeing that next to him every morning for the rest of his life, of setting his mouth on top of Potter's to wake him up like the Sleeping Beauty, of sliding his hand beneath the covers to explore what lay concealed.
When Potter's eyelashes began to flutter open, it was almost as if he were responding to the images, and Draco nearly groaned with the thought of it. He drew in a calming breath as Potter writhed and stretched on the bed across the way before turning his head to smile sleepily at Draco. "G'morning."
"Morning," Draco said, and was proud of the way his voice didn't tremble.
The boys emerged from their tent at about the same time Draco and Potter did from theirs. The tension appeared to have lessened between them, though it hadn't disappeared entirely. Al was slightly less reticent with Scorpius, and Scorpius appeared slightly calmer. The situation didn't seem to be entirely back to normal, but Scorpius flashed Draco a smile as they took down the tents, which Draco assumed meant he was pleased with whatever progress they'd made.
More thrilling—and terrifying—though was that once Hogwarts was back in session, Potter took Draco up on his invitation to visit, and they began sharing tea or a drink every few weeks. Potter returned the favor by inviting Draco to visit the Potter home, which turned out to be a modest but cozy house on the edge of Godric's Hollow, filled with photographs of family and friends. On one shelf he spotted a photo of Scorpius and Al with their arms around each other's shoulders, making faces at the camera. Something in him was darkly amused to wonder what his father would say if he knew a photograph of a Malfoy was displayed prominently in the Potter home.
It was astonishing to think that he and Potter were becoming friends, of a sort, and more astonishing to realize that Potter actually seemed to enjoy his company. All it had taken to begin to bridge the chasm between them, it seemed, was thirty years, a war, and a couple of camping trips. Who would have guessed?
Draco still had unfortunate thoughts about Potter. After an evening of watching Potter sink into a three-glasses-of-scotch-deep sense of relaxation that involved warm smiles, bawdy stories, and that deep laugh that these days always shot straight to Draco's groin, he'd had to beat off twice before he could even fall asleep, and then he'd been tormented by dreams of Potter all night long. Sometimes he thought he detected a strange sort of curiosity or intensity in Potter's gaze when he looked at Draco, but he knew he was being foolish to let himself imagine it was anything other than the manifestation of Potter's own astonishment that he'd become friendly with Draco Malfoy, of all people.
That spring marked the twenty-five-year anniversary of the end of the war and thus prompted a great deal of pomp and circumstance on the part of the Ministry. Potter was trotted out at no less than a half-dozen different commemorations and memorial services, and Draco knew that he had given a firm "no" in response to requests that he attend nearly two dozen more scattered across the length of Britain. The actual anniversary of the climactic battle found him first at Hogwarts for a midnight ceremony of remembrance in honor of the war dead, and then, improbably, at Malfoy Manor, where Draco watched as the man attempted to drown himself with scotch while reeling off the names of all the people he'd been unable to save.
Draco had his own sorrows to drown; this, of course, was also the anniversary of Vincent Crabbe's death, and of his own final, futile attempts to prove himself as a Death Eater—attempts from which Potter had had to save him not once, but twice. The irony that he should be spending this night with the man in question was not lost on him, even through the haze of drink.
"And you," spat Potter, pointing drunkenly at Draco, who'd known the moment would arrive eventually. "You were still trying to be one of them. Fucking pathetic. Had to rescue your arse from the fire. Had to save you on that broomstick."
"I remember," Draco said dully, tossing back the last of his scotch and rising for a desperately needed refill.
But Potter seized his wrist as Draco tried to pass him. "I saved your life," Potter said.
"I know," Draco said. The heat of Potter's hand was like a brand on his skin. He was already unsteady on his feet from the amount of liquor he'd consumed, and Potter's nearness was not helping in that regard.
Potter tugged on his wrist to pull him closer, and Draco staggered, nearly falling into the other man's lap. "I saved you," Potter said quietly, his eyes startlingly lucid. "I'm glad I saved you." And with that, he curled his other hand around the back of Draco's neck and yanked his head down for a messy, scorchingly hot kiss.
Draco wasn't even aware of dropping his glass onto the thick carpet. All he knew was that his fingers had sunk into Potter's hopeless mop of hair and Potter's mouth was devouring his like the man would die if he couldn't taste all of him. He gasped as Potter rose unsteadily to his feet, still clinging to Draco, their mouths fused together, and Potter slowly backed him up against a wall and pressed their bodies together from chest to knees.
All of Draco’s senses were on overload: The thrusting wet heat of Potter's mouth, the smoky taste of scotch on his tongue, the thud of Potter's heart in counterpoint to his own, the sound of his name gasped against his own lips, the nudge of what was undeniably Potter's hard cock against his hip. It had been so many years since anyone had touched him this way, and even then it had never, never been like this.
Potter's lips trailed down his throat, and Draco arched against him, lost to everything but sensation as Potter kissed and licked and nibbled and whispered his name over and over and over, Potter's hands tracing over ribs and abdomen and hipbones, pulling Draco close, thrusting against him, thrusting again, harder, at the sound of Draco's choked, helpless moan.
The sound of Potter's growl against his throat made Draco's eyes fly open with sudden awareness of what was happening. "Potter," he gasped. "Oh, my god."
One of Potter's hands slid up Draco's chest to curl again behind his neck, and Potter brought them face-to-face. Draco had never seen anything as green as his eyes in that moment. "My name is Harry," he said, pressing his lips to Draco's again, more slowly this time. But Draco had tensed up, frozen with shock, and Potter, feeling his lack of response, drew back slightly, looking puzzled and lost and a little fuzzy around the edges. Seizing the opportunity, Draco pressed his palms against Potter's shoulders and shoved him away, shaking as he staggered toward an end table to grab for support.
Potter took a step toward him. "Draco, what—"
"What in Merlin's name was that?" Draco shouted.
Potter dropped into a chair, his face reflecting his confusion. "It was a kiss. What did you think it was?"
"That was not a kiss. That was—it was—" His head was spinning with alcohol and lust and something far too close to fear. "I need to get out of here."
Potter's looked stricken. "Draco, what? No. I'm sorry—I didn't mean—I thought you—"
"You thought I what? That I wanted to be—to be manhandled? That I wanted—" He did want, he wanted so much he thought he might die from it, but he wasn't supposed to want, and Harry Potter certainly wasn't supposed to want, and what had made Potter think—
He closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands. "I need to get out of here," he said again, and Disapparated.
He spent the rest of the night lying wide awake on top of the hill where he and Scorpius did their stargazing. The night grew colder and damp, but he didn't move or seek shelter. At dawn, he returned to the manor, bedraggled, wet, and shivering, and was informed by a house-elf that Mr. Harry Potter had taken his leave overnight. No, there was no note for Master Draco. There was no note in the months to come, either. Not, Draco told himself, that he'd been expecting one.
* * *
To Draco's probably not-so-secret relief, Scorpius and Rose Weasley broke up at the end of their sixth year. "It just wasn't working," Scorpius explained, and that was the end of it.
Potter had been at King's Cross to pick up his children—his eldest had just completed his final year, Draco remembered—but Draco had managed to escape without making eye contact. He didn't know if Potter had seen him there or not. He told himself he didn't care.
For weeks after that night, he'd hardly slept and could barely concentrate on his work. He snapped at the house-elves and refused to leave the manor, putting it about that he was ill. The scene with Potter played out over and over again in his waking thoughts and, when he slept at all, in his dreams. He'd craved that touch, that desire for so long—but it was wrong. It wasn't supposed to happen. He'd resigned himself to that. And for Potter to attack him like that when both of them were stupid with drink—it was like he'd hurled a blasting hex at the new, delicate thing that had been their friendship, and in a way that preyed on all of Draco's worst fears about his own weak, base nature.
Scorpius spent the first half of the summer in Canada with his mother, so at least there was no talk about inviting the Potters for a birthday celebration. When he returned, if he noticed anything off about his father's behavior, he didn't remark on it. In the last month before Scorpius's last year at Hogwarts, they spent many evenings together on the hilltop, usually in near silence. Scorpius was seventeen now and of age. It was difficult sometimes to think of his son as an adult, especially on the hill where they'd made their starry pilgrimages for so many years. But he recognized that there was an admirable maturity in knowing when was—and wasn't—a time to speak, and on evenings like these he thought that even the unending sky, with its vast panoply of stars, would not be wide enough to encompass all the pride he felt in the man his son had become.
* * *
Scorpius's seventh year found him in good spirits. His owls home had a chatty quality that had been lacking over the previous couple of years, and—more significantly—they were peppered with news of Al Potter to an extent unmatched since before the Rose Weasley situation. Draco wondered sometimes if Potter had in any way indicated to his children that there had been something—good or promising or awkward or terrifying—between him and Draco. It seemed doubtful, but it was just one more fear on top of many.
Scorpius and Al emerged from the Hogwarts Express in June as triumphant newly minted Hogwarts graduates. Seeing the two of them step off the train together gave Draco a pang to wonder how many things in his life might have been different if he and Potter had become friends early in life like their sons had. He felt a prickle of awareness, and glanced away from the two young men to find Potter gazing at him with an inscrutable expression that made Draco wonder if his thoughts might have been similar.
Breaking the eye contact, he made his way to his son's side and was welcomed with a grin and a hug. There'd be so little time together this summer—Scorpius and Al had planned a tour of the continent before Scorpius departed for a university astronomy program in the fall, and the two would be leaving shortly after Scorpius's birthday next week.
"Dad," Scorpius said, "we have to do one more birthday stargazing expedition before Al and I leave. I already told Al—I hope you don't mind?"
"No, of course not," Draco said.
"I asked him to bring his dad along, too," Scorpius continued, blithely unnoticing of his father's sudden pallor.
"You—" Draco had to clear his throat. "Are you really sure that's the best idea?"
"Sure," Scorpius said, "why wouldn't it be? I thought it worked out well last time."
Draco could give him one very big reason why it was a very bad idea, but instead he just shook his head and gave Scorpius a ghost of a smile. At least, he thought, there was no way Potter would accept the invitation.
Except, damn the man, he did.
Draco and Potter's faces sported matching expressions of careful blankness throughout the evening, and if their sons thought it odd that their fathers exchanged nary a word outside of requisite pleasantries, they didn't remark on it. The way the two young men conversed eagerly and easily throughout the evening, it was entirely possible they didn't notice the lack of conversation between the other two members of the party at all.
On the hill, Scorpius was, as always, in his element, describing once again, for old times' sake, the circumpolar stars and constellations while Al listened with a smile and the occasional "wow," and Draco and Potter remained locked in uncomfortable silence. And when the hour grew late, Draco's fear, naturally, came to pass.
"Al and I will share a tent again," Scorpius announced as they made their way back to the campsite. Draco closed his eyes in defeat, and opened them to find Potter watching him. He gave a moment's thought to abandoning the camp in favor of spending the night alone at the manor, but knew that would lead to awkward questions he didn't want to answer. So, feeling nigh sick with dread, he followed Potter into the small tent.
As soon as the flap had closed behind them, Potter turned to face him. "Draco, we have to talk."
"No, we don't," Draco said, veering past him toward the beds. "All we have to do is sleep, or at least pass the night here together without incident."
Potter seized Draco by the arm. "Stop it. Just—stop it. This is ridiculous."
Draco responded with a frosty glare.
"Damn it, I want to know what happened last year!" Potter snapped.
"You know very well what happened," Draco said, his heart lurching in a sort of twisted tap dance of old fear and rekindled desire that he tamped down on mercilessly. "You forced your attentions on me—"
Potter reeled at the words, looking offended and a little sick. "I did not force you into anything," he said. "You responded. I remember that very clearly. I never would have taken it that far if you hadn't responded."
"I shouldn't have!" Draco shouted, and Potter's jaw fell open. "It was wrong and I shouldn't have and you shouldn't have tried to make me!"
Potter took a step back and sank heavily onto the bed, his eyes locked on Draco's face in an expression of shock. "Draco," he said with the tone of one approaching a trapped animal. "'Were you—scared by what we did last year?"
Draco crossed his arms across his chest and fought to stop his trembling. "It doesn't matter if I was scared or not. It's wrong for two men to do—that." "Says who?" Potter asked patiently.
"Says—I don't know. Everyone."
Potter sighed. "'Everyone,' I assume, meaning your father."
Draco didn't respond.
Potter rubbed his hands across his knees slowly. "I'm sorry if what we did last year made you uncomfortable," he said quietly, his gaze on his hands. "It was—I know I was drunk, we were both drunk, but—I'd been wanting to kiss you for a while, and I thought that, well, maybe you felt the same way."
He paused, as if waiting for a response, but again Draco refused to give one.
Potter sighed. "I like you a lot, Draco. I never would have thought I'd say that, but I do. I liked spending time with you. I liked that you were willing to share things with me that you don't share with other people, and I like who you've become—who you've made yourself." He frowned at his hands. "I find you attractive, which came as something of a shock, I have to say. I found myself thinking about you—a lot—and sometimes I caught you looking at me like you were thinking of me the same way. I hoped you were."
"I thought about you all the time," Draco murmured before he could stop himself.
Potter looked up at him again. "It hurt a lot when you disappeared like that last year. I wanted to demand an explanation, but I was afraid my temper would get the better of me and I'd ruin all of this forever, if I hadn't already."
For a moment, Draco stood at a precipice. Then he closed his eyes. "I still think about you all the time," he whispered.
Potter rose from the bed and touched a hand to Draco's face. "How can I help you not be afraid of this?" he asked.
Draco shook his head and opened his eyes again. "How can this not be wrong? It's—it's not normal."
To his surprise, Potter laughed. "Like being a wizard is normal? Like surviving the Killing Curse twice is normal?"
Draco scowled. "You know what I mean."
Potter sighed. "Does it feel wrong? Other than the things your father told you—did it feel wrong to kiss me?"
Even now, the memory of Potter's mouth on his sent a lance of heat through him, and he could feel a blush rising in his cheeks. "No," he admitted. "But that doesn't mean anything."
"It means everything. I want you. I think you want me, too. We're two reasonably intelligent adults. There's nothing stopping us from doing what we want to do together except for old prejudices your father no doubt fed you along with his beliefs in pure-blood superiority." Draco wanted badly to put his hands on Potter and draw him close, and the thought that it might not be wrong to do so was both thrilling and terrifying. "What if people find out?" he asked. "My father wasn't the only one who thought like that. What if people talk?"
Potter shook his head. "When have I ever let the opinion of the rest of the wizarding world stop me from doing what I knew was right?"
The flat conviction in Potter's tone broke something inside of Draco, and he curled his fingers into the front of Potter's robes and tugged him into a kiss, which Potter greeted with a hum of deep satisfaction. He was gentler this time, Draco noticed absently, his lips slower and more thorough, his hands more deliberate in their explorations. Draco flattened his palms against Potter's chest and relished the feel of the man's heart beating a steady pace under his fingertips.
Potter spelled the two twin beds into one larger one, and they lay on it together, discovering one another. Potter undressed him slowly, kissing along each patch of skin revealed, even the lingering scar of the Dark Mark, while Draco's own fingers fumbled with mortifying eagerness to release Potter from his clothing. When they pressed their bodies together and he felt Potter encircle both their cocks and begin a slow, steady stroke, Draco felt as though all the stars in the universe could not burn brighter than his desire for this man. Draco seized Potter's—Harry's—face in his hands as he felt his climax approaching, and he cried his release into Harry's mouth even as Harry, too, came with a series of desperate shudders.
Afterward, they lay entwined in the darkness, Harry pressing kisses against Draco's skin until his eyes seemed to grow too heavy to remain open. "It figures you'd be named after one of those circumpolar constellations Scorpius was talking about tonight," he whispered into Draco's neck.
"What do you mean?"
"They never set, right? They're always up there in the northern sky."
"Uh-huh," Draco agreed sleepily, breathing the scent of Harry's tousled hair.
"That's like you. You were always there. I just had to take the time to take a closer look and find you."
Draco kissed him again and fell asleep smiling.
* * *
The morning sun was already well on its journey across the sky by the time Draco emerged from the tent the next day, feeling lighter and happier than he had in a very long time. Harry had tried to convince him to linger in bed for another round, but there was the possibility of discovery should the boys wake before they did and wonder why their fathers were being such layabouts, so Draco had kissed him thoroughly and extracted himself from Harry's greedy arms with promises for another day.
He spotted his son sitting in the shade of a nearby tree, watching the clouds with a smile, and strolled over to settle beside him.
"Al's in the shower," Scorpius offered by way of explanation.
"Harry, too," Draco replied, and saw his son's eyebrow quirk at the choice of name.
They sat in silence for a minute or so before Scorpius said, "I'm in love with Al."
Draco blinked in surprise and turned to face his son, who was looking at him with a serious expression. "You're what?"
"I'm in love with Al. I have been for years."
"I—" Draco's head spun. "Does he know?"
A look of deep contentment crossed Scorpius's face. "Yeah," he said. "I finally told him last fall, because he was an idiot and hadn't figured it out for himself. He's been in love with me for years, too. He was just too stupid to admit it."
"But—you had a girlfriend—"
Scorpius laughed and leaned back against the trunk. "Not really. Rose knew what was going on. I was hoping that maybe my dating someone else would spur Al to confess, and she agreed to play along. But all it did was make him pull away. So—" He shrugged. "I confessed instead."
Draco took a few moments to try to absorb this. When he turned to his son again, he found that Scorpius was watching him with a look of trepidation. "Are you OK with this, Dad?" Scorpius asked. "I know we never—well, we only ever really talked about, you know, girls."
"No, it's—" Draco searched his son's face. "Does he make you happy?"
Scorpius's grin dawned like sunshine. "Yeah. He does."
Draco nodded. "Then it's OK."
Scorpius flung his arms around his father's neck like the child he'd been not too long ago, and Draco held him close, just like he always had, always would, no matter how far away his little boy went from him. It was like the stars, he thought—even when you couldn't see them, you always knew they were out there, burning bright and alive with a magic all their own.
When Scorpius drew away, there was an odd look on his face. "Um, Dad. Is that a love bite on your neck?"
Draco slapped a hand to the side of his neck and knew that his face had flushed beet-red.
"Oh, my god, Dad! You and Mr. Potter!" Scorpius fell over laughing.
Draco scowled at him. "I don't see what's so funny, young man."
"I've been throwing you two together for years," he said, clutching his stomach. "Why do you think I insisted on asking Mr. Potter to come the last couple of times? Al said I was delusional. Ha!"
Draco stared at his son with astonishment and a renewed appreciation for the Sorting Hat's prescience in sorting his bookish little boy into Slytherin.
"Hey, what's going on?" Harry asked.
Draco looked up to see that both Al and Harry had approached, and Al was looking down at the now howling Scorpius with an expression of utter bemusement. Draco rose to his feet with great dignity, took Harry's hand, and led him away, trailed by Scorpius's unintelligible explanation and Al's subsequent shout of, "What?!"
"Someone got a little territorial last night," he murmured, tipping his head to expose the hickey, "and someone else has rather keen eyesight."
"Oh." Harry glanced over his shoulder at their sons, one of whom was still rolling on the ground laughing, the other of whom was staring at them with his jaw hanging somewhere around his knees. "So much for breaking it to them gently."
"I think they'll understand," Draco said dryly.
Draco led him past the campsite to a clump of trees where they were no longer visible from Scorpius and Al's vantage point, and pulled Harry close for another slow kiss.
When they drew apart, Harry stroked a thumb along Draco's jaw. "No regrets this morning?" Draco shook his head.
"How do you feel?"
Draco seriously considered the question, then gave the first and truest answer that had come to him. "Happy."
Harry grinned. "Really?"
Draco nodded and kissed him again.
Harry's eyes were full of something Draco couldn't quite identify, but which he hoped to see a lot more of in the future. "It looks good on you," Harry said.
Draco smiled and twined his fingers with Harry's. "So I've been told."