The feeling that kept his feet firmly planted on the cobbled walk just inside the gate of the tiny cottage that he used to call home wasn’t the most familiar of sensations. He’d felt it before at times, yet he’d never really found a word that could sum up the peculiar quality of the feeling. It wasn’t apprehension, although someone else might describe it as such. There was no particular fear involved, no foreboding or feeling of impending danger, so “apprehension” didn’t fit. He wouldn’t name the feeling as “hesitation” either, or “nervousness” or even “reluctance.” There were no nerves involved, no butterflies in his stomach, no overwhelming desire to not do what he was about to do it. No, what kept him pinned to the spot was hazier, fuliginous in aspect: A sort of dark, breath-snatching mental fog which made him want to close his eyes, stand still and wait for the moment when he could open them and find himself, miraculously, somewhere else.
Of course, if he was that desperate to get away, he could just, poof, Apparate. However, Harry was aware that running away would just exacerbate the situation. Dragging this out was pointless. The children were all in school, things were only getting worse; Ginny had her job, things were only getting worse; they hadn’t talked in a month, things were only getting worse! So he should just give her the parchment scroll rolled up tightly and crushed in his fist and call it a day.
He could almost hear the sucking weight of the moment as he lifted his foot, as if he’d already sunk ankle deep into a bog of sludge and was wading out of it instead of walking the cobbled path up to his own door to give his wife a Dissolution of Marriage Decree. The school year was nearly over. It would be best if they signed the parchment and worked out the details of how the summer would proceed before James, Albus and Lily returned home for the holiday.
Ginny opened the door before he could even raise his hand to knock. She looked tired, and yet there was something hard in her eyes as she faced him. Hard, determined and... well, not cold. Ginny was never cold. But the heat and passion that Harry had once sworn would warm him forever had turned, become something itchy and uncomfortable, sweltering and scorching, as if Harry constantly stood over a bed of hot coals.
“What happened to us?” Harry found himself saying, not even realising he was saying it. Ginny just chuckled and shook her head.
“You happened, Harry. I wish you could see it, wish you could see how you’ve changed. Can’t you feel it? Doesn’t it stare you in the face when you look in the mirror?” Ginny had said these words before, or many just like them. She had sworn up and down and side to side that it was him, that it started with him when James went off to school, that it got worse with Albus and that Lily’s leaving had simply proven to Ginny that Harry was never going to come back from where he’d gone.
Harry, for his part, was pretty sure he hadn’t gone anywhere. He was pretty sure, on the other hand, that Ginny had suddenly discovered their life just wasn’t good enough anymore. Wasn’t satisfying enough. Harry was quite convinced, in fact, that Ginny had been treating him like the cage she’d locked herself inside for most of their marriage. The fact that she was able to make him feel that way and yet act as if their marriage was wonderfully perfect and just full of happiness around others was not lost on him.
So maybe he had changed. Maybe he’d gotten tired of hiding how tired he was of the pretending.
Harry shook his head and held out the parchment. “Here. We’ll just sign it then?”
Ginny seemed mostly unfazed by the document to Harry, with the proof being in the pen she chose. He felt his face go slightly slack as she picked up a cheap Muggle ballpoint that had been wrapped in green tape and topped with a plastic flower. He’d bought it from a woman at a street fair and presented to Ginny out of blue, telling her that unlike other flowers, it had the potential to brighten her day every time she had to write something down. She kept the pen in a jar on a table by the door, next to a pad and their Muggle telephone, where it was seldom used. Of course, in hindsight, Harry supposed he shouldn’t have expected more. He’d tried to surprise her often with small tokens at unimportant times and most of them had ended up in some drawer, or in some box at the back of a cupboard or closet, ignored.
“You’re taking up residence at Grimmauld Place?” she asked, running the flowered side of the pen along the words on the parchment, scanning over the text.
“Just asking. You don’t have to snipe.”
“And you don’t have to interpret tones where there are none.”
“That’s sniping, Harry,” Ginny said, glancing up briefly before moving to unroll more of the scroll. “This seems to be what we agreed upon.”
“Of course it is. Do you think I’m trying to cheat you with the fine print?”
Ginny blinked at him, but not in a way that would suggest that the thought had never occurred to her.
“I do have a higher paying job than you now,” she said in such a soft voice that Harry wanted to scream at her.
“Only because you always cared more for money than I did.”
The look passed over her face, the one she always got when they fought over money. As if she couldn’t believe he was implying that it was the money she cared for. As if she really was only concerned about giving her children an easier, more carefree life than she’d had. Sure, her parents struggled to keep her and her brothers in clothing and with books for school. But she had nothing to be bitter about. The fact that she always seemed to forget his own childhood with the Dursleys during these fights never ceased to amaze him. Their children were spoiled, flat out spoiled out of Harry’s desire for them to actually have things. At least Mrs Weasley had made sure each of her own children had things to call their own. All Harry had ever had were Dudley castoffs.
“I’ll never understand why you quit the Ministry.”
“I’ll never understand why you can frown so heavily at my current job. Assistant manager for Puddlemere isn’t bad.”
“Oliver offered you Seeker.”
“I didn’t want to play professionally. I’ve taught James, Lily and Albus to play. Ron and I always take out Rose, Hugo and the children. That’s all the Quidditch I need now, Gin.”
“I noticed. I just don’t understand it. I don’t understand why you decided to stop doing so much of what you used to do.”
“You should have taken that position that Professor McGonagall offered you. You were a wonderful teacher and Neville tells me compensation at Hogwarts far outweighs what you’ve been getting from Puddlemere.”
“That may well be but I didn’t think you’d want me gone from home so much. I mean, popping back and forth from here to Hogwarts would be exhausting. And I’d either have to work late grading assignments or drag them all home. Being a professor is a lot more involved than running the D.A. After all, I wasn’t handing out grades.”
“I could have moved us to Hogsmeade.”
“But this place is within walking distance of The Burrow! Mum and Dad loved it when we moved here. It would have made more sense if we’d just moved into Grim...”
“Enough! What does it matter anymore?” Ginny furiously rolled the parchment up and shoved it at him. “Why do you do this to me, Harry? Why do you always have to dredge up the same fight, over and over again, when you know I hate it!”
Harry snatched it from her hand with a frown. Yes, it was no use them fighting since it was over now anyway, but Harry was pretty sure that he wasn’t picking the same old fight. Harry was pretty sure that he’d just been trying, one last time, to understand it. Maybe if he could understand it he could change it, and they could go back to those shining moments they’d had at the beginning.
He was so glad when McGonagall had insisted that he, Ron and Hermione make up their last year at Hogwarts. Without the ever increasing fear of the war, and with Ginny under his arm, stealing kisses when they were able, spending their weekends at Hogsmeade... It had often felt like the best year of his life at school. At least, when the shadows of all the missing faces didn’t hang over him. And then there was the first year of their honeymoon. He thought his eyes would melt as she’d made him stand there watching her as she slowly undressed on their wedding night. She’d insisted they wait until then. When she’d settled the length of her bare skin beside him, he’d thought his heart would burst. The first year of their marriage was all smiles. Harry was her love. Her everything. Her hero.
Looking back, it was hard to say if those smiles and declamations of love and heroics were true or false. Ginny had a way of sounding so sincere, no matter what she was saying. Harry was her hero as much as he was the man who had no faith in her or her abilities, the man who tried to keep her from the battle, the man who had treated her as if she were a child while he led her entire family off to meet their fates.
Never mind that Harry would have petrified Ginny as well as Fred, Lupin and Tonks, and hidden them all in closets to keep them safe, instead of leaving Ginny with the ability to enter a fray that had claimed her brother and two of Harry’s finest friends.
Harry expected her to slam the door, but she just stood there, steaming and staring him down.
“About this summer,” he started but was quickly cut off.
“I met with James in Hogsmeade this weekend past, Harry, and went up to the school to break the news to the others. They know what’s going on, and they know they are coming home to spend the summer with me.”
“What? I won’t have them at all?”
“You think I really want any of them staying at that horrid house?”
“A week, Ginny? At least. You said that custody would not be an issue, that I’d get to see them often.”
“It’s not an issue Harry. You can visit them here, any day you choose. You know that.”
Harry frowned. It wasn’t really the same. “Fine then. I wish you had told me that you were going to see them, I would have gone with you. It would have been better coming from both of us.”
“They are fine. They understood everything just fine, after I talked to them.”
“Still, you should have...”
“Enough. I don’t want this fight. Will you be there to meet the train?”
“Of course, why wouldn’t I be?”
“Fine. I will see you in a couple of weeks.” She slammed the door on him so suddenly that it actually shook the frame.
Harry stood on his former front porch for a moment, slack-jawed.
“What about the rest of my things!” he screamed at the closed door.
From inside he heard the shrill reply, “You can get them when you visit.”
Harry shook his head and walked away. Maybe he could define the emotion that had made him pause before walking up to the door. Maybe it was anger. An anger so intense that he hadn’t even recognised it as such.
It made sense. It was probably the only thing that made sense at that moment. Once his hand hit the gate and he was standing outside on the uneven pavement of the street before his former home, he had the overwhelming desire to walk down it until he came to the intersection with the little lane that would either take him to The Burrow or to Ottery St. Catchpole.
Of course, it was unseemly to pay an uncalled visit on Ginny’s mother right after having her daughter sign a divorce decree. The woman had insisted that Harry call her “mum” from the moment he slipped a ring on her daughter’s finger. It was likely that his “mum” privileges had been permanently revoked, even if Mrs Weasley was the closest thing to a mother he’d really ever known.
So Harry turned the other way, wandered off into a field overgrown with grass, and, when he was sure he wouldn’t be seen, Apparated back to Grimmauld Place.
Albus wasn’t supposed to be on his doorstep with his school trunk and yet there he was. It was now the second Saturday of the summer, and except for meeting Ginny and his children at Platform 9¾, Harry hadn’t seen any of them at all. Neither had he had a word from Ginny about visits. Harry had wanted to return home with them that night, perhaps join them for dinner, but Ginny had begged off with some lame excuse and Harry had been helpless. Instead, he’d had to watch his children pile into the family car, Lily clinging to her mother’s dress as if she were still a small child, James pointedly ignoring Harry for all he was worth and Albus staring at him longingly.
“Does your mother know you’re here?” Harry asked without a greeting.
Sure, it probably wasn’t the most appropriate thing to say in that it made Albus shift from bright-and-smiling-young-man to crushed teenager in seconds flat. Then again, Harry wasn’t at all appropriate. Instead, he was the opposite of appropriate, walking around the Black family home in nothing but an undershirt, paisley boxer-style pants and a robe. While he wasn’t glad that Kreacher had died, necessarily, and while he often missed the strange little elf, or at least his cooking, in some ways Harry was glad that old age had taken the elf before he and Ginny had even gotten married. It would have been horrible for Kreacher to continue living on alone, and it would have been even more horrible, Harry often thought, for him to have found himself sharing the house, now that his marriage had fallen apart, with the aged elf.
“What do you mean you guess? Your mum was to have all three of you for the holiday.”
“I don’t want to stay there.”
“And James and Lily do?”
“I guess so. They never said they didn’t.”
Of course, why wouldn’t they? Harry thought, feeling a frown form at the corners of his mouth. After all, staying there, they’d get to see their cousins all the time, their favourite aunt and uncles, and get their fill of Gram’s cooking. All Harry could offer was take away or fine pub dining... Oh, and the fresh clean air of London, so much healthier than country air. I hope he likes curry. Harry thought with a sigh. “How did you manage to convince your mum to let you stay with me for the summer?” Harry asked, grabbing his son’s trunk and dragging it over the threshold. Just as he did, the somewhat less angry yet still very loud vapour of Albus’s namesake rose up to point an accusing finger. It used to never appear when Harry was around to open the door. Maybe the spell was taking on a mind of its own.
“It’s me, Albus. Albus Potter,” the boy called out to the phantasm, which promptly disappeared. There was a time when Harry had asked Hermione if she had any ideas how to break that charm. Now, he knew he’d never get around to it. It was almost nice, having the professor pop up every time he came home. It beat walking into a totally silent house. Even Sirius’ mum couldn’t be bothered to screech as much anymore, now that it was apparent that Harry was the owner and sole permanent resident of the Black home.
“Well, I didn’t really,” Albus said once his namesake had slipped away. “I just sort of packed up my trunk after Mum told me I couldn’t and snuck it out at night. Then I told Mum that James and I were going to go out on our brooms this morning but I told him I was walking over to Gramp’s and Gram’s instead. Then I caught the Knight Bus, just like you did,” he said, his voice getting softer as he went along. “Remember?”
Harry stood there frozen for a moment.
“Oh, no, no, no. You just...We’ve got to... She’s going to... We are in deep, deep trouble,” Harry leaned against the wall, and crooked a finger at Albus to follow him down the hall toward the kitchen.
“I’m not going to let you take the fall for me, Dad,” Albus said, picking up his trunk and dragging it after him.
“Just leave that thing by the stairs, we’ll take it up later,” Harry said pointing. Albus did as he was directed and followed Harry to the phone.
“Besides, if she sees how serious I am about staying here, she’ll just let me. It’s not as if I was in any danger. Unlike you...” Albus raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms over his chest.
Harry stopped and looked at his son a moment. That was true. Neither Albus, his brother or sister would ever have to live in a world where imminent death skulked around every literal and proverbial corner. Even so, Harry thought, Ginny was going to take his head for this. Two seconds before she grabbed up Albus and dragged him home.
He found the phone, picked it up and dialled his old number. Ginny answered after three rings.
“Hello.” Ginny’s voice wasn’t what Harry would call panicked. Or even angry.
“Albus is with me,” Harry said, deciding to forgo the pleasantries. The response he got was a crackling silence. Harry waited, tapping a finger on the table on which the phone sat. Finally, Ginny sighed.
“We’ve had our fights about it.”
“I can send him home by Floo.”
“If that’s what you want,” Ginny said, a funny tone to her voice. Almost malicious, as if she not only wanted him to not want his son, but she also wanted to yell at him for being a neglectful father. Harry found his jaw dropping. If he had any doubts about Ginny before, Ginny-the-ex-wife definitely filled him with dread.
“Of course not! I’d much rather keep him here.” Harry found himself hissing back, surprised at the anger in his own voice. “I’d rather have all of them here all the time. But I understood myself to be pretty helpless in regards to these wishes, since you had already decided that it isn’t to be. If I could have my way, I’d keep Albus this summer. He doesn’t want to be with you, he wants to be with me, and while I’d love to see all my children much more than this, I feel I should, at least, insist that Albus stay because he’s chosen to.”
Harry felt a little out of breath and light-headed, which was funny, since the rest of his body seemed to be heavy. He’d actually done it. He’d stood up and insisted on having his way, contrary to the wishes of Ginevra Weasley.
Ginny was silent for a very long time. Harry was just beginning to wonder if she hadn’t, in fact, just laid the phone receiver down and was currently on her way. He could almost see it, his wife, three or four thugs mysteriously appearing behind her (although where she would have found them on such short notice was beyond Harry) ready to beat Harry’s face in if he didn’t turn over Albus.
“Alright,” she said with a long exhale. “Fine.”
Harry felt his throat go slack. He hadn’t even realized it had closed. “Alright?”
“Yes. Alright. What else do you need to hear? I could Apparate over there right now, drag him back home, and he’d probably just try to run away again. That leaves me with very few choices. It’s either lock him in his room the entire summer or let him live with his father. I suppose I have to admit that you are the lesser of two evils.”
How big of you, Harry thought with a sigh.
“Good,” he said. “I’m glad you’re seeing this my way. After all, I am his father and I’ve always been good to them. I don’t hit them, I don’t scream at them. Some would say I’m a very good father for that reason. I feel I’ve done a sight better than, say, my own guardians. So I’m glad you’ve decided not to argue with me about this. After all, there’s no reason for us to fight over Albus, James or Lily. They are ours and that will not change, no matter what our relationship to each other is.”
“You don’t have to lecture me, Harry Potter.”
Harry shoved his free hand in the pocket of his robe and clutched the material to dry off his palm.
“He took his trunk?” Ginny’s voice was sharp.
“And I suppose his letter will find him there and you can go with him to pick up his school materials?”
“Then I guess we’ll meet you at the train.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Harry turned and looked at his son. “Did you at least visit your grandparents before you left?”
“‘Course. Who do you think gave me the idea? Gramps was telling me all sorts of stories, like the one where you and Uncle Ron drove off to Hogwarts in his car, and then of how you snuck out to the Leaky Cauldron. Then Grams went on about how she couldn’t think of a reason why I shouldn’t stay here with you. We made some tea cakes, then I hunted garden gnomes. Nasty buggers.”
“Language. You don’t talk to you mother like that do you?” Harry smiled. He knew he shouldn’t but he did anyway. Nodding his head toward the entrance to the kitchen, they walked down.
Albus shrugged but smiled slightly. Harry shook his head. “Well, don’t. Your grandmother must be planning to have a party in the garden. She never cares about the gnomes until she plans to invade their space.”
“Well, Molly may not have any idea why you shouldn’t stay with me. But I bet your mother had at least ten. Not that it matters. You’re mine for the summer.”
Albus whooped and jumped forward, grabbing Harry’s arm.
“You want some butterbeer?”
“Yeah,” Albus said loudly, pulling out one of the benches along the table and plunking down on it. “It’s not fair. I shouldn’t have to run away just to come here.”
“I’m sorry to disillusion you, but life becomes less fair with each passing year.” Harry placed two bottles of butterbeer on the table and sat down across from his son. He raked a hand through his hair.
“What did you do to make her hate you so much?” Albus asked after a couple of minutes of silent drink-swigging. Harry’s head shot up with a jolt and he frowned.
“What has your mother been saying?”
“Nothing. Just when we talk about you, she turns red and makes that face. You know, the one she made when James and I crashed into her flowers on our brooms.”
“Ah,” Harry said. “Well, that’s good. I don’t really think either of us should discuss the exact reasons why we’ve parted ways.”
“That bad, huh?”
“No. If we had stayed together, it might have turned ugly, but we both decided to end it before that happened. For your sakes. You understand this has nothing to do with any of you, right? It has everything to do with your mother and myself and the way we treat each other.”
“Gramps has a Muggle telly and we watch American television all the time. Everyone’s divorced and it’s never the children’s fault.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re learning something from the telly. My cousin Dudley never seemed to. What do you want to eat tonight?”
“Are you actually going to cook something?”
“Probably not, but I know a Chinese place that delivers. Sound good?”
Albus shrugged. “Not really.”
“I’ll get dressed and we’ll go out.” Harry stood and started toward the stairs. Albus smiled and followed him.
“Am I going to go with you to work on Monday?”
“I think you’re old enough, or maybe just mature enough, to stay at home by yourself. It occurred to me, however, that you might want to go with me, unless you have an overwhelming desire to be bored.”
“I want to go to with you.”
“You can. Just stay out of the way.”
“Mr Wood says I’m never in the way. He told me last summer when I went to work with you that day that if I wanted a job this summer just to let him know.”
“Good. You’re a better broom repairer than you are a broom flyer,” Harry said, punching his son on the shoulder and winking. They mounted the stairs.
“Ouch, that was mean, Dad.” Albus punched him back.
“No horseplay on the stairs.”
“Right,” Albus said, knocking a soft punch into his father’s arm before running up the rest of the stairs.
“No running either. You’re going to crack your head open,” Harry clunked up the stairs after his son.
“What’re we doing tomorrow?” Albus yelled down from the top.
“Going to Diagon Alley. Your mum kept Hobb even though James has Gunter.” Harry shook his head. There was no reason for Albus to see how annoyed he was, but it was hard to hide. Ginny had found about a dozen small ways to gouge him; keeping both the post owls was one of the craftier ones.
“What sort of owl are we going to get?”
“I don’t know.” Harry slipped into his bedroom and Albus stood outside the door, kicking at the wall trim very softly with the back of his foot. “One that flies, I hope.”
“Good. I’ve got to write a friend.”
“Oh, really? Harry Potter’s shy younger son has finally found himself a friend. Is this friend a special friend?”
“I guess.” Harry heard the tapping stop.
“You guess.” He zipped his trousers and sat down to pull on some socks. “That means yes. What’s her name?”
“His name is Scorpius.”
Harry ducked around the door to stare at his son wide-eyed. “S-Scorpius? As in Scorpius Malfoy?”
Albus scuffed his foot against the floor. “We’ve been best friends since our first year. I never said in my letters ‘cause I didn’t want Mum to know. And you don’t know what I had to give James to keep him from telling.”
“Your sister has kept it a secret too?” Harry sat down again and pulled on his other sock. Then he slipped his feet into his shoes.
“Yeah, only because I told her that she wouldn’t like what I’d do to her if she told.”
“Don’t threaten your sister.”
“Eh, she knows I don’t mean it. James is the only one who ever means it.”
“Why are you telling me now?” Harry pulled a T-shirt from one of his drawers and pulled it on.
“I thought you’d want to know. I know you and Mum don’t like Mr Malfoy, but Scor says his dad talks about you all the time.”
Harry finished tucking in his shirt, walked out into the hall and put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Is this a part of the reason why you’re here, Albus? Because you thought that if you stayed with me, you might get to see Scorpius Malfoy this summer?”
Albus looked up at Harry and shrugged. “I wanted to stay with you, Dad. But I thought I’d give the other a try as well.”
“Well, you’re quite a schemer. I think you get that from your mother.”
Albus smiled. “Then I can see him? You’re not mad?”
Harry felt his gaze shift to the wall. Mad? Actually, he wasn’t mad. Perhaps he should be, but he wasn’t. Thinking of Malfoy didn’t really bring the hot surge of ire it used to, even though he still sneered, at least internally, each time he saw the familiar blond head with its pinched, narrow face. But, more than anything else, he was curious to see why his son would actually want to spend time with a Malfoy. Who was this Scorpius that Albus would actually decide to befriend him? Then again, who was Grindelwald to Albus’ namesake? Harry looked his son up and down. The boy had been staring at his feet until Harry had turned his attention back to him. Albus met Harry’s eyes, his gaze unwavering.
“No. I guess I’m not. Maybe next weekend we can meet him somewhere and the two of you can have some ice cream or something.” Harry turned and started to walk back down the stairs to where he kept the phone he’d had installed.
“Actually, I got a message from Scor before I left home. He said he could meet me tomorrow at Fortescue’s. Some time this summer, he wants to go to the matinee. Maybe we can do that?” Albus followed Harry down, his feet clopping against the floorboards heavily. Harry recognised that gait. His son was very nervous about this conversation.
“Sure, I guess. I’ve some business to conduct at Gringotts. So you and Scor can eat your ice cream, I can finish my business, and then you and I can look for an owl.” Harry paused on the stairs and turned briefly to look at his son. “So... Scor’s father knows that you two are friends?”
“Yes. Scor said his father talks about you a lot... I guess because we’re friends.”
“Huh. I would have thought he wouldn’t want you two to be friends.” Harry went to his phone table and opened up a drawer. “Looks like my wallet has gone missing again. It wasn’t upstairs. It’s not here. I don’t know what I’ve...”
“I met them you know.”
“... done with it.” Harry turned and leaned against the table. “ What do you mean? You met Mr and Mrs Malfoy?”
“Yeah. The first time we went to Hogsmeade.”
“And?” Harry started. Albus blinked at him, confused. Harry sighed. “How was... I mean, how did Scorpius’ father act, I guess is what I’m trying to ask?”
“I don’t know. He was nice. He gave Scor fifteen Galleons and told him to spend it all in one place if he liked.” Albus shrugged. “He stared a lot, and he had a funny look on his face. Curious I guess. He kept watching us. Scor’s mum didn’t seem to care at all, except when Scor’s dad gave him the money. Then she complained he was spoiling Scor. They might have started fighting if she hadn’t started coughing. She wandered away and Mr Malfoy talked to us for another minute. But she didn’t stop coughing so finally he rushed off saying that he had to get Mrs Malfoy home. Scor and I had lunch and he bought a bunch of sweets.” “Which he shared with you. Did Mr Malfoy tell Scorpius to spend the entire fifteen Galleons on sweets?”
“No. Besides, he didn’t. He bought some gags too and a broom repair kit. He’s going to try out for the Ravenclaw team next year.”
“He’s in Ravenclaw?”
“Yeah. Why? You thought he’d be a Slytherin?”
“He’s like me, Dad. He didn’t want to be a Slytherin so he’s not in Slytherin. Besides, he’s too smart for it anyway. Sometimes he almost sounds smarter than Aunt Hermione.”
“I’m sure she’ll be happy to hear that,” Harry said with a smile. He pulled his wand out of his pocket, flicked it slightly, and a couple of seconds later was graced with his wallet zipping through the air to his hand. Albus’ eyes grew wide and Harry smiled. It always impressed his middle child to no ends that Harry could do certain charms without actually speaking them. Of course, Albus would more than likely become more proficient at it than Harry. He was a better student than Harry had been, and he apparently was spending time in the company of genius. “How did you two meet if he’s a Ravenclaw?”
“Herbology. It was the first class and nobody wanted to work with him. Professor Longbottom asked me if I would and I said yes. Scor’s great, when you can get him to talk. He only ever really talks to me. You’ll like him.”
“I can meet him first though, right? Before I decide to like him?”
“Good. What are we going to have tonight?”
Albus smiled and rushed past him toward the door. “I don’t know. Whatever is fine.”
“I know a place that has ‘whatever’ as the daily special.” Harry grabbed his keys off the table and started after his son.
“That sounds great.”
Scorpius Malfoy was exactly Albus’ height. Up close, he looked so much like Draco Malfoy had at that age that Harry felt his stomach turn in a strange fashion. He blinked when Scorpius thrust out his hand, not expecting this supposedly shy boy to be so forward with social formalities.
“Hello, Mr Potter. My name is Scorpius and I’m very pleased to meet you,” Scorpius said, the pace and tone of his speech giving away the fact that he was very nervous. His handshake was firm and fast.
“It’s nice to meet you too.” Harry stared at the boy. Scorpius had a similar pinched-faced quality that marked him, undeniably, as a descendent of Narcissa, and yet there was something soft about his chin and the curves of his eyebrows that detracted from the harsh Malfoy features. Harry had to admit that Scorpius didn’t nearly look as ferret-like as his father had at that age. In fact, he almost looked nice.
“So what do you two have planned? Mind you, my business at Gringotts probably won’t take long, but you can accompany Albus and myself to Eeylops if you’d like.”
“They’ve got a sign in the window that says they’ve got Great Greys now, can you believe that?” Albus said, a beaming smile breaking out uncontrollably on his face. “Come with us and have a look.”
Scorpius turned and smiled sadly at Albus. “Dad says I can’t stay for long. I wasn’t going to come at all, but he insisted. My mum’s real sick, Albus.”
Scorpius looked down at his hands. Harry turned and caught his son’s eye. Finally he heard himself whisper, “How sick?”
“Dad’s had healers coming and going for months, but it hasn’t seemed to do much good. She still coughs all the time and she wheezes when she breathes.” Scorpius sighed heavily. When he spoke again, his voice was softer. “They won’t tell me what it is.”
Harry swallowed and watched as his son put a hand on Scorpius’ shoulder. “That’s probably because they don’t want to worry you. It’s probably not serious. They’d tell you if it was serious. Right, Dad?”
Albus turned and looked up at him. Harry felt his eyes slide away. What could he say? It was more than likely very serious and that’s why Scorpius was being kept in the dark.
“I don’t know,” Harry finally said and Albus frowned. Harry widened his eyes and lowered his chin at his son. What do you want me to say? he thought. Albus seemed to understand because he was grabbing Scorpius’ arm and pulling him away.
“We’re going to get some ice cream now.”
“Alright. I’ll come and find you in the shop. Oh, wait, here,” Harry pulled a Galleon out of his pocket and handed it to his son. “Don’t you dare spend this all on ice cream. I’d give you more, but I’ve had tales of what you two boys do with large quantities of money when left to your own devices. And unlike another father, I’d rather see my son keep all his teeth. Understood?”
Scorpius turned and flashed a wan smile at him. “We didn’t spend it all on sweets. Did you tell him we didn’t spend it all on sweets?”
“I told him.”
Scorpius shook his head and then they were running into the shop.
“Don’t run down a busy street. What are you trying to do, sprain an ankle?”
But Albus didn’t listen to him once again. Harry shook his head and proceeded on to Gringotts.
Harry was downstairs when he heard his son yell down from Sirius’ childhood room. They’d cleaned it up, for the most part, except for the pictures Sirius had permanently affixed to the walls, and Albus had insisted their new owl stay in his room, even though Harry told Albus that the owl would stay with him throughout the year and that he was sure the creature would be more comfortable in the uppermost room, where Sirius had kept Buckbeak.
The new owl, a Great Gray Owl, was twice as large as Hobb and Gunter. Harry never would have chosen Alfred, as Albus named him, but that didn’t matter since Alfred chose them: Leaning forward in his perch at the store to peck at Albus’ hair as he walked by then spreading his wings with a loud clatter and hooting when Harry and Albus had the audacity to try to move on to look at smaller owls.
That was the main problems Harry had with Alfred: He was huge, standing about two feet high. He wasn’t heavy; he didn’t even weigh as much as Hedwig had, even though she’d been shorter in length. With his long greyish-brownish-white feathers and a very flat face with its little yellow, beady eyes, Alfred was, beyond a doubt, the spookiest looking owl Harry had owned so far. That was the second problem Harry had with Alfred, but Albus was already in love.
“What?” Harry yelled back, going to the bottom of the stairs just to see his son starting to run down them. “Running!”
“Sorry,” Albus said, grabbing hold of the rail to stop himself. Alfred, who was perched haphazardly on Albus’s shoulder, fluffed his feathers and let out a little shriek before resettling himself.
“Look what Alfred just brought me,” the boy continued, out of breath, a pained look on his face. Harry raised an eyebrow and reached out a hand to the piece of rolled parchment that his son was holding out. Unrolling it, he glanced over the contents and moved to sit down on the last step. Albus finished walking down the stairs so that he could stand in front of him.
“You want to go to the funeral?” Harry asked softly, rereading the first part of Scorpius Malfoy’s letter. It was short, to the point, and it claimed the reason why they hadn’t heard from Scorpius since the trip for ice cream, even though Albus had sent him three letters, was because his mother had only gotten worse. And now she was dead.
“Yes,” Albus said softly.
“I’ve got some time coming at work. I can take a few hours. Do you have something appropriate to wear, or do we need to go to Diagon Alley tonight?”
“I need a suit.”
“Draco’s mother was Muggle-born. Turn the parchment over.”
Harry turned it over and saw where Scorpius Malfoy said that Albus didn’t need to come to the funeral, but if he wanted to, he should wear Muggle clothing.
“So, Draco married a ‘Mudblood,’ as he’d call them. Wow. I never would have seen that coming.”
“Mr Malfoy uses the M-word?”
“He used to call Aunt Hermione that all the time.”
“Yes.” Harry turned the parchment over again. “Scorpius ever talk about his parents?”
Albus frowned. “Not really. Scor said his mother’s family is really wealthy, that she’s the only witch in that family and only her parents know about it. He also said that none of his grandparents were happy about it, and that he only ever sees his mother’s parents.”
“That’s sad, but I’m not surprised. Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy were not wonderful people and I’m sure they hate having a Muggle-born witch in the family. So, you’ve got a nice pair of trousers that still fit?”
“Black ones, yeah.”
“No, my arms stick out the end too far on the one I have.”
“Then we’ll have to get you one tonight. Let’s go.” Harry handed the letter back to his son. “We’ll get dinner while we’re out. Does your friend say when he can see you, other than the funeral?”
“No. Maybe we can find out tomorrow.”
Harry nodded. “Take Alfred back upstairs and send a message to the Malfoys. Tell them that we’re both going to be there. I don’t want it to be a surprise to Scorpius’ dad. This way, if he doesn’t want me... us there, he can say so.”
There was something very un-funerary about summer funerals in Harry’s opinion. He’d buried enough people during the warmer months to last him a lifetime, but it never seemed quite right. He’d always thought it was because the funerals in question were for people he cared a great deal for, but he was overcome with a mild form of the same feeling standing at the very back of a group of Muggles mourning the late Mrs Malfoy. Slowly edging around the group, Albus following closely behind him, he finally came to a vantage point where he could see two almost identical blond heads. Scorpius was standing in front of his father, his hands folded in front of him. Draco Malfoy was gently squeezing his son’s right shoulder. From the side their profiles were very much the same. Draco’s hair was a little longer in the back than the last time Harry had seen him, whereas Scorpius’ hair was short in back, but hung down over his eyes. Other than that, they were nearly identical.
Albus grabbed Harry by the back of the arm. “I want to go stand with them,” his son whispered.
They were a little late and the ceremony had already started, so Harry was pretty sure that it was unwise. However, when he met Albus’ eyes, he found himself nodding silently.
“Just try to be as quiet and as unassuming as possible, alright? I don’t want us disturbing the proceedings.”
Albus nodded and slowly started to weave through the group. Harry was proud that his son found his way to Scorpius’ side with little disruption of the people gathered. Albus gently reached out and laid a hand on Scorpius’ upper arm, at which point both the Malfoys turned to look at him. Scorpius smiled, but it was a broken smile, and his eyes filled with tears almost immediately. Draco, on the other hand, frowned at Albus for a moment, before looking up and across the crowd, meeting Harry’s eyes.
Harry blinked, expecting Draco to scowl or sneer at him. Instead he just stared steadfastly at Harry, his mouth turned down ever so slightly in a sad frown. The blond swallowed and turned back to the minister standing over his wife’s coffin.
When the ceremony was over, and the people that had gathered had finished paying their respects to Draco, his son, and, Harry assumed, Draco’s wife’s parents, Harry slowly made his way to the Malfoys to collect Albus.
The three of them were standing about three feet back from the coffin, and Draco was speaking softly to his son. When Harry was about a foot away, the other man turned suddenly and looked him up and down, surprise on his face.
“Potter,” Draco whispered with a nod, his voice a little ragged.
“Malfoy.” Harry bobbed his head as well but couldn’t think of anything else to say. He’d heard too many people tell him they were “sorry” for his losses, and at the end of the day, it really didn’t change things. Nothing much changed the way you felt losing someone. Not even time, really, although time made it easier to take.
Draco blinked a couple of times and turned back to his son. “Scorpius would like you both to come to dinner,” he said, somewhat out of the blue.
“Not tonight,” he continued after a pause. “Tonight the house will be full of family and I don’t think... I mean, I don’t mean to imply that you cannot come by the house tonight, as there will be people gathered and refreshments. What I am trying to say is that Scorpius would like both you and your son to come by for dinner some night in the future.” Draco looked up at Harry, his face almost perfectly blank. “If you would like.”
Harry felt his eyebrows drop in confusion. He couldn’t help it. He used to be better at hiding his emotions. Maybe he was getting old.
“I don’t know what to say,” Harry said finally.
“Can we, please?” he heard Albus suddenly pipe up. His son walked around Scorpius to stand beside him.
Harry looked down at him, his jaw hanging open a little, before he realised his was gaping at his son. He closed his mouth, swallowed and stood up a little straighter. “Of course,” he turned and smiled at Draco. “Or you can come to our house and have dinner with us. I mean, I...”
Harry found himself at a complete loss for words. Draco was staring at him and he was staring back, and for the life of him, he didn’t understand why it was hard. It should have been easier. Years had drained away all the hostility and anger he used to feel toward Draco Malfoy, as well as most of the bitterness. He hardly ever thought of his former enemy, and the last time he’d seen the man, standing on Platform 9¾, he’d actually found himself smiling, just a trace, when he caught Draco’s eye and saw that the other man wasn’t scowling. It had been amusing, watching his former enemy look up, raise an eyebrow at him, almost in greeting, and then look away.
Sure, they weren’t friends, but Harry had decided long ago that Draco Malfoy was one of the things it was best to leave behind him. So why was it hard now?
“I still have house-elves to take care of us, Potter, if that’s what you’re implying.” Malfoy’s mouth quirked in a way that Harry would have described as a friendly scowl.
“I didn’t doubt that for a moment,” Harry replied, actually letting a smile curve his lips.
“Then you’ll give us the... pleasure of your company? Maybe Friday?”
“Yes, sure. I mean, Friday sounds good.”
Draco nodded. “We should go. I... I appreciate you coming here today, Potter. Our sons are good friends and I know that it has meant something to Scorpius to know that he’s not alone right now.”
“Yes. Well, I know it’s important for a person to have their friends at a time like this.”
“Yes, it is,” Draco replied, putting his hand on his son’s shoulder and steering him away from the coffin.
Harry and Albus watched them walk away, their strides remarkably similar. Each were dressed in almost identical, tailored-to-fit black suits.
“Thanks, Dad,” Albus said.
“This... this has been a strange encounter,” Harry said, putting his hand on his son’s shoulder, just as Draco had, and squeezing just the tiniest bit.
Draco Malfoy’s house was a large, sprawling estate with columns and arches and buttresses and bushes trimmed into pleasing artistic shapes, and a drive covered in gleaming white gravel. All together, it was beautiful and wholly artificial, exactly the way Harry expected it to be. The bell that tolled automatically when they reached the top step of the entry arch was deep and resonant, and Harry could feel his blood running cold at the sound. It was all too much, the invitation and now this house. How he thought he’d manage to survive this night, he didn’t know, but he was hoping that Draco would have some Firewhisky. Nothing short of Firewhisky seemed appropriate for dealing with a former enemy while still steeped in grief. Of course, just thinking that was absurd. He wouldn’t drink in front of his son. Somehow it didn’t seem like something Draco would do either.
When the door opened to show Scorpius, Harry was relieved. He was standing behind Albus, a hand on his son’s shoulder, much as Draco and Scorpius had stood at the funeral. It was an unconscious gesture, but one he was immediately aware of as he met Scorpius’ eyes. The light from the two sconces to either side of the door gleamed over the boy’s face, and Harry realised that the eyes that met his own were a light green, like a young leaf. These were Scorpius’ mother’s eyes, more than likely, for they definitely weren’t his father’s, nor did they belong to either Narcissa or Lucius. That realisation made Harry feel calmer. After all, it was proof that Scorpius wasn’t just another Draco, made young again or even another Malfoy. He was his own self, and more than likely, his motives for bringing Harry and his son to this house were pure.
Draco Malfoy’s motives? Well, that was the great mystery to Harry. Harry doubted that Draco still hated him. He never would have let their sons be friends if he did. So, was this an attempt on his part to endear himself to Harry? That seemed unlikely, as Harry couldn’t really imagine a plausible scenario where Draco actually wanted to be his friend. At least, not now. Harry hoped Draco wasn’t overcome with some sort of post-loss epiphany, because if he was seeking a chance to apologise profusely for the things he’d done in the past, Harry didn’t want to hear it. Harry’d had apologies from others who weren’t nearly as horrible as Draco had been, and none of those had sat well with him. Harry was starting to regret taking Draco up on this offer. After all, whatever Draco ended up saying, Harry was convinced it was probably something he didn’t want to hear.
Scorpius waved them inside and led them through a long, marble-lined hallway done in soft silvery tones, offset with golden accents. A great sweeping staircase curved upward and the walls were lined on both sides by doors leading off into various sitting rooms, all of which were dark. There was a bright light, however, coming from behind the staircase, and that was apparently where Scorpius was leading them. Walking through a great set of double doors, Harry found himself in a large ballroom. To the far right, a formal dinning table was set and ready, complete with lit candles in the candelabra and Draco sitting at the head. Three other places were set, one to the left of Draco and two to the right. It was to these two seats that Scorpius directed Harry and Albus. Albus immediately moved to the second chair down so that Harry found himself standing at the back of the chair directly to Draco’s right.
Draco nodded at him to sit down. “I know this might seem a bit too formal, Potter, but I assure you, the only other table in this house is in the kitchen and the house-elves are loath to see anyone invade their territory.”
“It’s fine,” Harry said, pulling out the chair and sitting down.
“I, however, don’t know why they seated you both on this side. You can pick your place setting up and move over there.” Draco met Albus’ eyes and pointed to the chair next to Scorpius. “That is, if you wish. Just because this table is overly large doesn’t mean that we have to stand on the formality of it.”
His head suddenly swivelled toward Harry. “Do you want some wine?”
Harry found himself blinking at the request, not quite sure what to say. Draco’s face was very blank and pale, dark circles under his eyes. Aside from the dishes, water glasses had already been filled for all the place settings, and there was what looked like a bread basket and a dish of butter out. And there was the wine. Draco had already opened the bottle and had drunk half of it. Some of it still lingered at the bottom of his glass. Picking up the bottle, he uncorked it and poured some into Harry’s glass before Harry could push it away. Then he poured what was left of the bottle into his own.
Draco didn’t seem drunk, yet. There was something in the air that told Harry it was definitely a “yet,” and that was disturbing. Draco really couldn’t mean to drink like that in front of his son, could he? Harry frowned and didn’t pick up his glass; Draco didn’t seem to notice much. Instead he turned to watch Albus and Scorpius, who were moving dishes from one side of the table to the other.
“They tell me there’s to be steak for dinner. Do you like steak, Albus?”
Harry watched his son sit down, then look up to meet Draco’s gaze. He nodded and smiled politely, but there was a crease in his forehead that indicated he didn’t like the way he was being looked at.
That’s when Harry found himself saying the stupidest thing he could probably say. “How are you holding up?”
Draco’s head swivelled, no, fluidly bobbed in Harry’s direction as he picked up his glass and drained half of its contents before answering. Definitely more drunk than Harry had originally guessed, and yet he wasn’t ruddy at all. His eyes were glassy and distant but Harry wasn’t sure if that was the wine or... something else. Draco sniffed and set his glass down, then leaned in so that his face was only inches away from Harry’s. A pair of stark grey eyes searched Harry’s face from top to bottom before Draco shook his head, a loose waggle that made Harry feel a little dizzy. Draco didn’t respond verbally, but that head shake and the look in his eyes were enough to force Harry’s attention down to his plate.
A second later, their food poofed into existence in front of them. Harry was a bit surprised. He could count on his hands the number of fancy dinners he’d attended and they never just started with the main course. Harry stared down at his plate, confused.
“The elves were going to start us with soup, tonight, if you were wondering. A vegetable concoction, with a tomato base. Peasant fare my mother would have called it, but it was my wife’s favourite and a tradition at Friday night dinners.”
Harry looked at Draco but the other man was already picking at the vegetables on his plate. He didn’t seem inclined to continue with his discussion of what would and wouldn’t be served, but Harry had the feeling this was going to be a short meal. He picked up his fork and found himself digging in, just as everyone else did. The silence hung heavy in the room, and was only interrupted when Albus finally turned to talk to Scorpius.
“So, I can’t wait to get our letters,” Albus said.
“I can.” The younger Malfoy’s voice was slightly sullen and he was hacking away at his steak with his knife as if it still had a little life left in it. “I don’t want to go back.”
“Why not?” Albus asked, more than a hint of shock in his voice. Scorpius shrugged and the room fell into silence again.
“So, what’s it like being in Ravenclaw?” Harry finally pitched in. Scorpius looked up at him, then at his father, who turned to frown at Harry. Harry could see Draco out of the corner of his eye, but he kept his attention locked on Scorpius. “Did your house do well as far as points are concerned?”
“We won, actually,” Scorpius replied. “But Gryffindor was a close second.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t ever get the chance to be a hero like you, Dad, or we would have been ahead,” Albus said, his tone light. Even so, nobody laughed.
“What’s your favourite subject? Albus is doing really well in Potions,” Harry smiled and turned to meet Draco’s eyes. “Snape is either turning over in his grave or manipulating my son from beyond it.”
“We do share a name,” Albus said, nearly squeaking with false cheerfulness.
Draco’s head turned to Albus and he blinked once before focussing on his place setting. He fumbled with his fork for a moment before picking up his glass again. Scorpius gasped nervously then covered it up with a cough.
“I’m good in everything,” he said, after taking a deep breath. His voice so soft and strained that it didn’t seem pretentious at all. “I like Charms the most, though.”
“He levitated the feather on the first try,” Albus added, his voice edged with the tiniest bit of awe.
“That’s wonderful. Albus’ uncle, Ron, would be jealous.”
“How are the Weasleys?” Draco said gruffly, but his eyes seemed strangely watery as they met Harry’s. “I heard that George’s shop is doing well, and that Arthur is thinking of retiring?”
“Well, Mu– Molly, that is to say, Mrs Weasley is pressuring him to,” Harry paused. George, Arthur? Harry couldn’t decide what was more disturbing, the fact that Draco had asked after them, or that he was referring to members of the family by their actual names. “After his promotion they were able to start saving up quite a bit of money, I’ve been told. She’d like to travel more, but I don’t think he’s keen on it. I’d say it will still be quite a few years before he leaves the Ministry. George is doing so well that I heard he has offered to send them around the world. Ginny told me that, uh, Mrs Weasley was quite peeved when Mr Weasley turned him down.”
“Grams wasn’t just peeved, Dad, she was...”
Harry shot Albus a look and the boy shut his mouth before he could say whatever it bit of gossip might have passed his lips.
“From Mum and Dad to Mr and Mrs again, eh, Potter? Have they completely disowned you?” Draco’s head tilted to the side and he chuckled, his voice taut and scathing. But the watery look in his eyes, the distance, made Harry think it wasn’t directed at him or his former in-laws.
“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to them since...” Harry let his voice trail off. The silence that fell was far more intense that before.
“Albus will be staying with me the entirety of the summer,” Harry said suddenly, trying to fill up the void.
“That’s what Scorpius said,” Draco growled, before clearing his throat loudly and at length.
Harry pushed a bit of his food around with his fork.
“It must be interesting, living in that house.” Draco’s voice, this time, definitely could have cut glass with its sharpness. Harry found the man staring, eyes narrowed, at Harry’s untouched wine glass.
“Can we be excused, Dad?” Scorpius stood up and Harry watched as he grabbed Albus’ arm, dragging him to his feet as well. Their plates weren’t empty and Harry had to fight to keep his mouth shut. They were obviously not done, and yet there was no reason to keep them at the table with Draco in such a mood. Draco, however, apparently wasn’t that far gone. He glanced over at their dishes and frowned. “Only when you’ve finished your vegetables. Don’t you agree, Potter?”
Harry nodded silently and Albus’ gave him a pained look before sitting down. Scorpius followed.
“I was thinking, Potter, that perhaps Albus could come by to visit more often,” Draco said, his voice suddenly softly slurry. “I think it would be good for Scorpius. He doesn’t have many friends.”
Draco’s fingers began to twirl his wineglass, making the red dregs at the bottom roil with the motion.
“I was thinking that maybe Scorpius could actually come and stay with us.” The words were out of Harry’s mouth before he even realised he was saying them. Draco looked up at him and frowned. The look was so intensely wounded that Harry felt his hand twitch, as if he might actually reach out to Draco. He didn’t and the other man turned away and began to twirl his glass again, this time working the wine into such a whirlpool Harry was sure it would splash onto the tablecloth.
“I don’t know,” Draco said softly. “I don’t... the house is too quiet. However, Albus can stay here anytime he desires. There’s a guest room set up right across the hall from Scorpius’.”
“Draco,” Harry did reach out then, not for Draco’s hand, but for his glass. He gently pulled the wine goblet from the other man’s grasp and set it down next to his own untouched glass, out of Draco’s reach.
A pair of swimming gray eyes looked up, their gaze so heavy and steady that Harry felt his heart beat a little faster. Draco didn’t seem to be upset at all. In fact, Draco didn’t seem to be anything. His look was so abject, so raw in terms of pain that Harry had to turn away and run his hand over his face. When he put his hand down he saw that his son and Scorpius had diligently wolfed down their vegetables and more of their steaks.
“Was it just the soup that was cancelled, or have you done away with dessert as well? If that’s so, I think they can leave the table, don’t you?” Harry said this so quietly that he wondered if Draco heard him. The other man spared a glance at his son’s plate and nodded slowly before looking down at his own food again.
“You boys can go into the kitchen. There is dessert to be found there, if you like.”
Neither Albus or Scorpius seemed to need to be told twice before shooting up from their seats and running off.
Harry ran a finger over his wine goblet and realised that it was just the adults now. Did it matter if he drank the wine, just as long as he didn’t drink it in front of his son? Harry didn’t think it mattered. Neither did the hand that lifted the goblet to his lips, nor was his throat at all rebellious as the red liquid slipped down his esophagus. It burned all the way, coating his mouth with a bitter grape sourness almost unrecognisable as the fruit it once was. Harry found himself gasping as he put down the glass. Just as soon as he did it, though, another bottle popped into existence, and Draco was pouring more and taking back his own glass.
“How did it feel when you left her?” Draco asked.
Harry didn’t know what to say, but his body was infused with a sudden, uncomfortable warmth. “It felt... It was nothing like losing a person that I love.”
That sounded wrong. It sounded as if Harry meant to say he didn’t love Ginny, and that wasn’t right. He’d just wanted to say it was nothing like losing a loved one to death.
Draco stared at the wine bottle in his hand. “Who said I loved her?”
“Why did you bring me here, Malfoy?” Harry asked sharply.
“Back to last names again? I was almost getting used to you calling me by my first name... Potter.” Draco looked up and his eyes were now bloodshot as well as misty. Harry was surprised that tears weren’t spilling down his cheeks, even though his mouth was turned down in a scowl.
“Why here, why now?” Harry asked “I can’t image it’s because you actually wanted to talk to me. And truthfully, if this was all for Scorpius, you could have just invited my son and skipped whatever stupid attempt at politeness or whatever it was that prompted you to invite me.”
Draco shrugged. “Perhaps I was just being sociable. When did a person require a reason to be sociable?”
Harry snorted, then laughed. “That was funny. Maybe too funny. You’re a widower. You should try for solemnity, not hilarity.”
“Maybe I didn’t want to get drunk alone tonight, Potter.” Draco looked up at him and brazenly lifted the wine bottle to his lips to take a good, long swig. “Maybe, out of all the people I know, I thought you would want to join me.”
Harry played with his wine glass. “It’s not the same. Our marriage was over. Any grief I might have for the death of it departed a long time ago.”
“I don’t think that’s true. I think you still love that hag.” Draco sneered as he said the word, and there was something about his tone that made Harry’s stomach flutter. “Although only a fool would.”
“What are you saying? And don’t call her that. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Draco’s eyes seemed to pierce him. “Don’t I?”
Harry downed his wine. Draco raised an eyebrow and the bottle, tipping the neck toward Harry briefly before he put it to his lips and chugged it down.
“You’re going to end up face down in your own vomit,” Harry hissed, putting his glass down.
“I’ve got Firewhisky in the den. It will get us there faster.” Draco stood and staggered. Harry found himself jumping to his feet and grabbing the other man by the arm.
“I’m not going to be able to Apparate myself or Albus home if I take you up on that. In fact, I think we should probably just catch the Knight Bus right now.”
Draco pulled away from him, staggered a little, then pulled at his own shirt to straighten it. He rolled his head and shoulders and finally met Harry’s eyes again. He almost looked composed.
“There’re guest rooms made up already and it would mean a lot to my son if your son were around to keep him company. My own company is, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, thoroughly disagreeable now that I am short a wife. Scorpius needs someone here who cares about him and who can be supportive. I find it hard to be anything but angry and bitter lately. I would think that you could at least understand anger and bitterness, Potter, considering your wife is a two-timing wench who would have bled you dry if you hadn’t grown a backbone and left her... So, in other words, stay the night?” Draco sneered a smile that made Harry shudder.
Harry backed up and found himself tripping against the chair he’d just vacated. A second later he found himself on the ground.
“So my sources say. When the rich gossip, Potter, they are usually accurate.”
“No, I don’t...” Harry grabbed the end of the table and hoisted himself up. “You’re lying to me. You’re trying to start something. I don’t know what you’re about, but it’s obvious this is a game and you haven’t changed.”
“I want to get you drunk, Potter. I want to get myself drunk. You don’t have to speak to me, you don’t have to play nice. When the Firewhisky is gone, you can bloody well shuffle on home if you can still stand. You don’t have to stay... but I’ll be damned if I sit in a room alone and drink until I pass out when I can keep you from going. So put your paranoia away and sit with me awhile.” Harry met the other man’s eyes. Draco was sneering at him fiercely, but he still seemed seconds away from tears, and Harry just didn’t know what to believe or do.
“Aren’t you going to at least offer me some dessert before you spring your trap?”
Draco tossed his head back and laughed, deeply and smoothly. The light from the candles on the table shone off his throat and Harry found himself looking away.
“You’re right,” Draco said. “Where are my manners? I have been promised a chocolate mousse. Later there will be whiskey.”
Harry woke up in his own bed, which didn’t seem at all right. The light streaking through his window was so sharp and piercing and painful that Harry knew it had to be afternoon... thus it went unvoiced that he’d done something very, very bad. Nothing good could come from waking up home when the last thing he remembered was Draco pacing and waving a bottle of expensive Firewhisky about the room, sloshing it all over the both of them.
Harry turned his head and saw Albus standing over him with a glass of water.
“I’m sorry,” Harry found himself gasping first thing. “I don’t know what came over me.”
Albus shrugged and looked away. “Maybe you just haven’t dealt with some things you should have, Dad.”
His son looked much older than he should have, and that worried Harry. He bolted up and immediately regretted it when it seemed to physically make his brain bounce against the front of his skull. He gagged and reached out for the water. Albus put it in his hand and they were both silent as Harry drank. When he polished off the first glass, he found Albus ready with a pitcher to pour him another, then another, until Harry was sure he would throw up if he didn’t stop gorging himself on water.
“This was not... This is not the way it should be,” Harry said, addressing his lap instead of his son. “I don’t know what compelled me to act that way. It was gross stupidity and recklessness and... and I am so shamed by my own actions. You can’t imagine. I promise you, it won’t happen again. Not with Draco Malfoy, not alone, not with anyone else.” Harry looked up at his son. “If you feel it best that you went home, if you don’t think we can do this, I understand but I swear, Albus—”
“I am home, Dad.” Albus raised the pitcher and tried to pour another glass. Harry put up a hand.
“Slowly, it has to be slowly.”
Albus plunked down on the bed next to him. Harry shook his head and rambled on. “I can’t believe he... Well, never again. You can keep Scorpius company, you can bring him here if Malfoy consents. But I won’t be seeing that man ever again.”
Albus met his eyes, searching, but for what, Harry wasn’t sure. He looked down at himself again and saw that he was still in his trousers and socks, although he’d apparently somehow gotten his shirt off. Or maybe Albus had done that.
“What time is it?”
“Did you find something to eat alright?”
“’Course. You think I’m a baby?”
Harry shook his head. What had happened? He didn’t remember much. He didn’t even remember how many bottles they’d downed. That surely couldn’t be a good sign. He was probably lucky he wasn’t waking up at St. Mungo’s.
“No, but I’d say that your mother would think I was.”
“Scorpius says his father hasn’t been right, Dad. He thinks it’s much worse than just losing his mum. He says something else has changed in him, but... um, he doesn’t know what. He sleeps too much during the day and is only up at night. He drinks too much. The only time he’s gone out this week is to visit her grave. He doesn’t take Scorpius with him when he goes. He goes alone, at dusk or right after dark.”
Harry met Albus’ eyes. “Grief is different for everyone. Yes, Scorpius could be right, Malfoy might be changed. But short of him coming to a determination that he doesn’t like how he’s changed, it’s hard to help a person in that situation. I wish I could help, son, but... I just don’t know. Malfoy should see a Healer but I doubt anyone but his son can make him see the need.”
Albus kicked at the bed, stood up and walked out. “Can we... Can we go to the matinee today? I’m old enough to be out alone. Scorpius knows London really well. They lived here up until we went off to school.”
Harry sighed and shrugged. “You’re right, you are old enough to be out on your own... until dark, that is. I want you home before dark, no buts. Where are you going to meet him?”
“The Leaky Cauldron.”
“Okay, there’s Floo powder in the kitchen. Back before dark.”
“Yes. We’ll be back before dark.”
“Do you have money for this little endeavour?”
“Do you know where I’ve started keeping the emergency money?”
Harry stood and stretched. “Don’t rob me blind. Go and have fun.”
“Thanks, Dad.” Albus smiled and rushed away. Then he turned and rushed back. “You’ll be alright alone, right, Dad? You don’t need me? I don’t have to leave, you know. I mean, if you really want me to stay, I will.”
“Why would I need you to stay? It’ll be quieter when you leave. My head will love it.”
Albus smiled and dashed away.
“Running!” Harry screamed after him, grimacing as he felt his head begin to pound.
“That’s it,” he whispered to himself. “Draco invited me over to kill me slowly, and painfully. Apparently nothing much has changed after all.”
The house seemed to silently agree with him as he dragged himself into the bathroom to shower.
“Albus not here today?”
Harry looked up to find Oliver Wood standing over his desk, leaning on his cane. Harry nodded at the empty seat across from him and Oliver grunted as he lowered himself down into it. Oliver’s injury was old now, but Harry knew it still gave him troubles. It had taken Oliver out of the game and put him behind a desk as assistant manager. He’d tried to get Harry as a Seeker then and failed. When the manager retired, Oliver again offered Harry a job... one behind a desk. So, in some ways, Harry owed where he was to Oliver’s injury. Neither he nor Oliver would be the same if he hadn’t taken the fall he had, severely fracturing his hip bone and jarring his spine, which permanently damaged a couple of nerves. Even so, Oliver didn’t seem to complain too much about the nerve damage, even though it prevented him from lifting his foot. And he only complained about his hip or back in the depths of winter. Still, there was something to his mien, to the gray streaks shooting through his hair that suggested to Harry that Oliver felt it much more deeply than just when the fog and cold rolled in.
“George asked for him at the shop. Apparently my wayward son and one of his friends paid a visit there Saturday and George insisted that he needed summer help. So he might not be around quit as much as he was going to be.”
Oliver frowned. “That’s a shame. He was good with the brooms.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “You’ll not make cheap labour out of my son, Oliver Wood.”
“I don’t think it was cheap. I’d say I was giving him fairly good compensation, considering it was all under the table.”
“You’re getting bad in your old age.”
Oliver snuffed once and cleared his throat. “You look beat to hell, Harry. Something the matter?”
Harry was sorely tempted to tell him about Draco Malfoy and the magical Firewhisky tour, but he decided to skip it. Then again, knowing Oliver, the man would probably continue to pry just as he would have done with any of his players. He was a man determined to weed out the weaknesses of those around him, even if only for the sake of being aware of them.
“I drank a bit too much Friday night and woke up a bit too late Saturday,” Harry said with a shrug. It seemed to be the cleanest version. “Sunday I had a row with Ginny over the phone about something completely unimportant, except of course it gave her an excuse to scream about it, and all-in-all it was just another lovely weekend at the Black family asylum resort. And yourself?”
“Was Albus around when this happened?” Oliver narrowed his eyes at Harry. He disapproved of the idea of parents fighting in front of their children with such a passion that Harry often wondered about his past.
“He was with his friend again.”
“That’s good. I thought you said you’d both agreed that things wouldn’t end up like this? I thought she was being civil?”
Harry’s jaw went slack. Oliver was trying to needle the fight out of him, and Harry really wasn’t in the mood to say, “Well, she is. She stopped when I asked her if she was cheating on me,” so he decided to lie.
“Apparently word got around that I drank too much Friday and woke up too late Saturday.” Harry bit his lip and looked down at his desk.
Oliver shook his head and tapped his cane against the floor. It always made him look older and wiser when he did it, which is why he did it, Harry suspected. Otherwise, Harry didn’t figure Oliver would command quite as much respect, since beneath salt and pepper hair was a face that still seemed rather boyish.
“Would that I could advise you, Harry, but I’m shite at love and relationships. I can keep my eye on the Quaffle and defend my post as if my life depended on it. Everything else...” He shrugged.
Oliver rose and stretched. Harry smiled faintly. The other man raised an eyebrow at him before continuing. “So what can I say? If it’s flammable, don’t swallow it. Everything else will right itself with time.”
“I want to believe that,” Harry said suddenly, feeling his hands play over the papers on his desk. “I really do. But what will I do once Albus goes back to school and it’s just me in that house? I never imagined my life any differently than the way it was going. I never even considered the thought that I would ever be single again. I don’t know if I know how to live.”
Oliver shrugged. “It’s not like you’re dead, Harry. Just unmarried. Speaking as an eternal bachelor, the only horrible thing about it is having to clean your own whites. So, eye on the ball, Harry. Or in this case, ballpoint pen.”
Harry saluted his boss with his pen and the other man nodded once, then limped out, closing the door behind him.
Of course, at the back of Harry’s mind, a part of him said he was being a twit. After all, what had he really lost? His home and certain material items that he would have liked to keep but that he decided just to give to Ginny instead of fight over? As if his favourite chair were important enough to draw blood over, and that’s where she would have taken it. What he’d lost in comparison to say, what Draco had lost, well... Harry didn’t want to say it was nothing, but he’d be damned if he’d say it was the same. It didn’t seem right. Then again, what Draco had said about Ginny didn’t seem right.
And that of course was the crux of Sunday: He just couldn’t stop himself from calling Ginny and demanding to know whether Draco was right or not. It was no surprise to him that she denied it.
When lunch finally rolled around, Harry found himself standing and wandering out of the office. He usually ate his lunch there, had it delivered just like everyone else, and sat with the others in the lunch room. Today it felt too confining.
Harry wandered around for a while before finally Apparating to, wonders never ceased, the Leaky Cauldron. However, he realised just as he set foot inside the place, that he wasn’t there for food. As close as he was to George’s shop and his son, he figured he should just pick Albus up and perhaps take both him and his ex-brother-in-law to lunch.
It was this thought that compelled him through the hidden entryway into Diagon Alley, and kept him walking at a fair clip until he saw a familiar towheaded figure hovering one store-front away from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Harry found himself walking right up to Draco, even though he could have sworn that he vowed to never speak to him again.
“Where did you hear it from?” was all he said, his voice coming out in a pained gasp that Harry bit off with a harsh clack of his teeth. He felt them grind in his mouth. Draco turned slowly and blinked. His eyes were so red and puffy, it was a wonder he could see.
“Pansy, who else? You can’t imagine that I talk to any of the others, can you?”
“Where did she hear it from?”
Draco shrugged. “It’s hard to say. Her network of gossip is extensive. It may cross the entire world.”
Harry swallowed. “She denied it, you know.”
Draco sighed and frowned. “Of course she did, Potter. Just as I did, for a very long time, to both my wife and myself.”
Draco shook his head silently at this, and turned back to where he’d been looking. Harry continued to stand there and stare at him, his mouth hanging open. Had Draco just confessed to having an affair?
“Look, if it’s any consolation, Potter, people aren’t going around referring to you as some great fool. Your friend, Ms Weasley-Granger or whatever she fancies herself, can tell you that. According to Pansy, Granger actually confronted your dear wife about her affairs or affair, that much was never confirmed, a few months ago. If you are looking for validation of the facts, then your... former sister-in-law should be enough to satisfy that, at least. You need not continue to stare at me.”
With this Draco turned and met his eyes squarely.
“Unless,” he said with a quirk of an eyebrow and a sly smile that made Harry’s stomach turn, “You’d like to actually talk?”
“What are you doing here?” Harry said gruffly.
“My son disappeared through that,” Draco flicked his fingers at George’s door, “nearly two hours ago. I told him to meet me by Gringotts thirty minutes ago.”
“Why don’t you go in and fetch him?”
Draco squirmed against the wall, crossing his legs before snorting. “What makes you think I’d make it past the door?” Harry huffed and stomped toward the shop entrance, stopping only once to shoot a glance behind him. Draco raised an eyebrow but continued to stand against the wall of the neighbouring shop. Harry pushed his way into Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and looked around, taking a deep breath to calm himself. George was nowhere in sight, but one of his employees, a young witch that Harry recognised from last summer, was working behind the counter, putting price stickers on a pile of nondescript black boxes while bobbing her head strangely and snapping a wad of gum in her mouth as she worked.
Harry walked up to her and discovered that she was wearing some sort of Muggle musical player, her ears attached by two tiny ear buds to a pair of wires that trailed to her pocket. Now that he was close to her, he could hear the music, a crash static that produced the beat she bobbed her head to.
Reaching out, he waved a hand under her line of sight and she looked up at him, her eyebrow raised.
“Mr G. is on a business lunch. I can tell him you came by, Mr P.” She smiled.
“That won’t be necessary.” He paused, forgetting her name.
“Monique.” She snapped her gum.
“Monique... I just need to get Albus and his friend.”
“Oh, they’re back in the work room. Mr G. has them boxing up his new Skiving Snackbox selection. All the classics plus a new offering, Peanut Butter Poxies. Dark chocolate covers you in hives, white chocolate cures it. They’re so good, I didn’t even mind testing them.” She pulled up her sleeves to show off a bunch of faint red marks.
Harry chuckled a little, rattled off a “thank you,” then hurried away. He moved to the back of the store and pulled the curtain aside to find Albus bending close to whisper something in Scorpius’ ear. Scorpius was frozen in place, his gloved hands holding a bit of white chocolate over a half-full box. Scorpius flinched and his gaze turned to Harry. He twitched his elbow up and Albus turned to see Harry, still holding the curtain open.
“You are in trouble,” Harry said, meeting Scorpius’ eyes before turning to Albus. “And you need to eat.”
“My dad is out there?” Scorpius dropped the sweet he was holding and pulled off the gloves he wore.
“Right next door, leaning against the wall.”
Scorpius turned, met Albus’ eyes, then Harry’s. “So, you’ll come again Friday night, right? Please?” Harry felt his stomach turn at the imploring tone of the boy’s voice. The green eyes that met Harry’s looked tired and his lower lip had a raw look, as if he’d spent a great deal of time chewing on it.
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea... I mean, I don’t know if it’s such a good idea for me to go. But...” Actually, Harry didn’t like the idea of Albus going either but he still met his son’s eyes anyway. “It is fine with me if you want to eat with Scorpius and his father Friday.”
“Um...” Albus frowned at his father, then turned back to his friend. “I...”
“Or we could take them to a nice restaurant,” Harry found himself saying. Why? Why was he saying these things? How did he even find himself in this position? “Give their house-elves a break for once.”
Scorpius’ face lit up. Albus nodded as he spoke. “Yeah, you should ask your dad. We’ll all go eat some place together.”
“So go out there.” Harry shrugged to the curtain. “And we’ll be out in a minute.”
Scorpius ran off. Harry turned to his son. “Is George expecting you to stay all day?”
“I don’t think Uncle George expected me to stay one hour. But it’s actually really fun and... well, he seems lonely, Dad. Even with Monique here. Maybe especially with Monique here. All she does is listen to music when she works and she’s the only person he has on staff days.”
“Is there anything you need to finish before you leave?”
“Nope, not a thing,” Harry heard from behind him. He turned and saw George smiling cheekily at him before raising a small plastic cone, open at both ends, to his mouth.
“He did a great job.” George’s voice crashed out of the cone before he lowered it. “Great, isn’t it? I met with a wizard bloke from Wisconsin. Makes these horns, customizable, any Quidditch team colour. He can also make these giant ‘number one’ foam hands and change the raised index finger to another finger that means something a bit more colourful in America. I think its translatable. Puddlemere offensive foam fingers. What do you think, Harry, I love the idea. You think I should pitch it to Wood?”
Harry stood slack jawed, picturing offensive foam hand gestures, as George rattled on. “No, no. Probably not. You’re right. Ol’ Wood wouldn’t go for it.”
Harry sighed. “I was going to ask you to lunch.”
“Bad timing. Already had lunch, but get him out of here before he eats me out of Skiving Snackboxes and home.” George nodded at his nephew. “I hardly believe that.”
George shrugged, turning a wily gaze to Albus. “I’ll see you here in the mornings, eight sharp. You’ll be assisting me with a top-secret invention. So...” George pantomimed zipping his mouth shut and nodded at Harry. Turning, he lifted his horn and yelled, “Monique, finished those boxes yet?”
Harry gently took his son’s arm and guided him toward the door, waving to George as they walked out. It was for this reason that Harry almost slammed into Draco on the other side of the door.
“I don’t need your pity,” the blond man said.
Harry frowned at him. “What are you talking about?”
“I don’t need your pity, I said. I didn’t stammer or mumble. My son tells me you want to take us out to dinner. Well, Potter, my reply to that is, I don’t need your pity.”
Draco stood up straight and met his eyes. That’s when Harry felt it, another strange turn in his mind, which found him saying, yet again, the last thing he thought he would have thought to say in this situation. “Actually, the reason why I suggested we take you out to dinner is I believe it is customary for a guest to in turn reciprocate by becoming a host. In other words, it’s our turn.”
It was bull. Harry knew it was bull. He didn’t want to step another foot into the “Malfoy mansion,” but neither Albus nor Scorpius seemed to be giving him a choice when it came to Draco. They would all have to be friendly, whether Harry liked it or not, simply because their sons wanted it that way. It wasn’t right, Harry thought to himself. This was the sort of thing he’d expect a pair of wives to do on some television program, not a pair of teenagers.
Draco, for his part, went from surprise, to thoughtfulness, to anger, and Harry suspected he knew what was on Draco’s mind. First, “etiquette rules?” then “but he is right, it is their turn,” before the final “we cannot refuse.” Harry could have laughed.
“No pubs,” Draco finally said.
“No French restaurants,” Harry countered, raising an eyebrow.
“Nothing too exotic. I hate curry... Well, most strange spices. I have a very... particular diet.” Draco sniffed.
“Fine, no spices.” Harry raised his chin. “No black tie. Actually, no ties and jackets required at all.”
“You have someplace in mind?” Draco crossed his arms and lowered his eyebrows. “No. Well, there is this one pub.” Harry gave Draco a twisted smile.
“Oh, that’s just fine, Potter! It’s one thing to ask a man to dinner, but then to turn around and expect him to choose the restaurant. That’s extremely...”
“Déclassé,” Harry said, hitting the pronunciation so perfectly that he was a little surprised with himself.
“Well, that you are. Fine. I’ll make the reservations, mostly to make sure you don’t end up desperately dragging us off to some pub when you can’t find anywhere better to take us.”
“If you think that’s for the best,” Harry said with a bob of his head, putting a solemn look on his face.
“It’s a date, Potter.” Draco turned and nodded at Albus. “Younger Potter.”
Harry cleared his throat, trying to think of something snappy to respond with, but nothing was coming to mind. He couldn’t just leave the word “date” hanging out in the air without saying something sarcastic back, could he? Not that it mattered, since Draco was turning, face solemn.
“I still suggest you speak to your sister-in-law about that thing we talked about earlier. Clear the air with someone you trust.”
With that, Draco turned and strode away, Scorpius following after him, throwing glances and a wave behind him to Albus and Harry.
“Why does he want you to talk to Aunt Hermione?”Albus asked a beat later. “Or is it Aunt Fleur? That makes even less sense...” His voice trailed off as he thought about it.
Harry just shook his head. “We’ll talk about it later. We should grab something quickly and take it back to my office before I’m missed.”
“Is it true? Was she having an affair?” Harry asked again. Hermione pulled a plastic storage container down from one of her cupboards. From the other room, they could hear Albus, Rose and Hugo laughing at whatever foolish thing Ron was doing to entertain them.
Harry watched her silently as she spooned the leftovers of the night’s entree into the container. It was the least he could do, since the question was apparently a tough one. The difficulty of it, he suspected, was actually subjective since he didn’t think it was a tough question to answer at all, given that a simple “yes” or “no” would have done it nicely.
Harry watched as Hermione moved over to her very Muggle-looking red refrigerator. It matched her red oven and stove as well as the wallpaper, which was a soft gold with red pinstripes running vertically down it. Why Ron and Hermione had decided to do their kitchen in Gryffindor colours was beyond Harry, but he had to admit, it strangely suited them, even though it didn’t seem very kitchen-like.
Opening the door, Hermione put the plastic container away and moved to clean up the dishes. Finally, she shrugged as she dried off a plate. “She never admitted it.”
“There was a look in her eyes when I asked, one I hadn’t seen in many years. I didn’t like it, Harry, I don’t know what to believe. Sometimes I wish you hadn’t married her.”
“What? You married Ron!”
“No matter how close we are Harry, no matter how much I love you like a brother, it’s just a feeling, isn’t it? Ron and I are different.” Hermione put down the plate she was holding and crossed her arms over her chest. “You two should have waited longer, at least.” “We waited long enough. It’s not as if you and Ron had a particularly long engagement.”
“Once again, very big difference. I knew in the back of my head that Ron was going to be my husband ever since the Yule Ball.”
“I did. When he laid his eyes on me in my dress, I knew he would eventually ask me to marry him. It made me so mad that I could see it and he couldn’t.”
Harry flopped down into the chair he’d vacated to help Hermione clean up after dinner. He picked up the glass of butterbeer that Ron had poured for him, but he didn’t drink it. He hadn’t touched it at all during dinner. Staring at its surface, he could see that a bit of lint had fallen into it and was floating around. He put the glass down.
“So you believe it?”
“Yes. Yes, I do. I want things to be different, Harry. Maybe things could have been different if you two had waited longer. It’s just... I suspect that you just didn’t know what else to do with your life, since you finally had one, and I feel like Ginny loved the idea of you more than the reality.”
Hermione paused, then seeing the cringe on Harry’s face, rushed on. “None of this changes the way Ron and I feel about you. Just... don’t ask Ron about any of this, alright? I think it’s best as if we just maintain an air of— ”
“Normality, I was going to say. But yes, denial. He’s in it deep and that’s where he should stay. He’s placed no blame, taken no sides. He might be, at this very moment, rewriting history in his mind. Before long, your marriage to his sister will cease to exist.”
Harry tapped his glass. Hermione sat down across from him and pulled the glass away.
“How did you find out, anyway?” she said softly.
Harry sighed. “Draco Malfoy told me.”
“No!” She stood up, taking the glass with her. It trembled in her hand, sloshing butterbeer on the floor. Pulling her wand out of her pocket, Harry watched as, with a silent flick, she made the liquid disappear. Finally, she sighed and turned to him. “Malfoy?”
“So I guess if you’re talking to Draco Malfoy then you know about Scorpius Malfoy and Albus?”
“You knew about that and you didn’t tell me?”
“If Rose knows about it, we know about it. She’s a horrible gossip. Don’t know where she gets it. Anyway, Ron wanted to tell but I convinced him not to. From what the children have told me, Scorpius is not his father.”
“I know he’s not his father. I’ve met him and have been shocked by how very much he is not his father. That’s not exactly the point.”
Hermione sighed and turned back to meet his eyes. “What is the point?”
Harry stood up. “The point is... I have work tomorrow so maybe we should get going.”
“Yes,” Hermione put a hand on his arm. “You are mad. You should stay for dessert.”
Hermione went to her refrigerator, but stood therewith her hand on the door handle.
“I’m not mad but I’m not in the mood for dessert. I just... I’m just tired.” “How did you end up even talking to Malfoy?”
“He invited us over for dinner last Friday.”
“I never kid about Draco Malfoy.”
Hermione sighed and opened her refrigerator, extracting a pie. “What happened?”
“He got me screaming drunk. Yesterday, out of the blue, I found him standing outside George’s shop, waiting for Scorpius. He told me I should ask you for confirmation on... you know. Now we’re going to have dinner again, Friday...”
Hermione set the pie down on the table and went to pull a knife out of a drawer. She snorted before answering, “That’s interesting.”
“Oh, I don’t know. You’re socialising with Draco Malfoy.”
“It seems to be what Albus wants.”
Hermione turned to look at Harry. She wiped her hands on her trousers and moved to sit down across from him.
“Are you sure of that?” she whispered. “Or could it be what Scorpius wants? I hear they are very close, Harry. I worry about Albus. The things that Neville tells me... Well, just, he says they act very strangely when alone. Sitting very close to each other, whispering in each other’s ears. Reading the same book together under a tree, Scorpius holding it and Albus turning the pages. It’s odd, Harry, and while I am not saying there is anything wrong with their relationship, you still have to wonder what is going on in your son’s mind, especially concerning the Malfoys.”
Harry looked away and didn’t respond. “Albus has always been different from Lily and James, you know. I used to worry about it, but he’s a good student, he doesn’t get into any trouble. And Scorpius seems to be a good friend. I guess.” Harry shrugged and continued. “I mean he, well, uh, I’m getting the feeling that he thinks I can fix his father. Not that he’s asked me or said I should fix him, but I get this feeling that he is trying to get Albus to help him try to convince me to, uh, try.”
Hermione raised an eyebrow. “That made no sense, Harry.”
“Draco is drinking far too much and I think Scorpius some how thinks that I can save him from that. So I feel like they’re conspiring about that.” Harry shut his mouth, not really believing what he’d just said. Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Conspiring?”
“I’m tired. I don’t even know what I’m saying.”
“You feel Albus and his friend are pushing you and Draco into some sort of relationship and now you’re going out to dinner with him Friday.” Hermione leaned in closely and stared at him. “Anything you’d like to say about any of this?”
“I don’t want to talk to him. It just sort of happens. We could have ended up coming to blows yesterday and I think I still would talk to him.”
“You feel connected to him.”
Harry’s jaw dropped. “What... What are you implying, Hermione?”
She shrugged again. She’d been doing that an awful lot, too often for Harry’s tastes, so, when he spoke again, his voice had an angry snap. “Quit shrugging and say what you mean.”
“Just this: You never really dated Cho, you never had a real relationship with anyone but Ginny. That has come crashing down, finally, after becoming a crumbling shambles. It’s been wrong for years. I’ve told you I think it was wrong from the start. You had the world on your shoulders and to get close to anyone meant exposing them to danger. But you were lonely. No matter how much Ron and I meant to you, you wanted someone to lean on, someone to tell you you’re loved. But you really couldn’t seek it, couldn’t connect to anyone. You were afraid. Ginny, on the other hand, well she had a prize in sight. And there’s no denying her. You know that as well as I do...” Hermione shook her head. “It wasn’t destiny that brought you two together, Harry. She made herself convenient, and you latched on.”
Harry shook his head and backed his chair away from her angrily, but he didn’t get up.
She continued, “Maybe it’s not so strange that you find yourself drawn to Malfoy. I’m sure he feels himself drawn to you. You’re both going through... things. You both feel completely alone. It wasn’t just fear that your friends might get hurt or growing up alone, was it, Harry? It’s not just your divorce. Your loneliness runs deep and at its core is something you’ve repressed so much, you can’t face it now. You need to try. If there is some part of your life that you’re not living, find it and claim it, Harry, before it’s too late. You didn’t... die and come back just to slip into a mundane little life of mediocrity.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Draco lost his wife. I got a divorce. Our ‘things,’ as you call them, are completely different. He has every right to be devastated. I have every right to be angry. He should regret all that’s left unsaid. I should regret my marriage. We can’t be connected because we aren’t feeling the same things, period. No matter how much time passes, no matter how much the feeling fades, he will always be saddened by his loss, and I can’t help him with that. He has to find a way to deal with it himself.” “Harry...”
“No. No more.” Harry stood up and walked out of the kitchen. Hermione followed after him.
“Come on, Albus. You have to be at Uncle George’s early, remember?”
Harry turned and looked at Ron, who frowned at him and then at Hermione before asking, “You’re not going to stay for pie?”
“Sorry.” Harry turned to his niece and nephew and spread his arms. “Well, goodnight, Rose, Hugo.”
Hermione came up behind him, and he turned to give her a hug. He shook Ron’s hand while Albus hugged Hermione, and then he was following his son out the door.
“Harry,” Hermione called from the doorway as they began to walk down the path. “You can always tell me anything, you know that, right?”
“Of course,” Harry said, his voice curt. He cringed and turned back to give her a half-smile.
She raised a hand and Ron came up to hug her from behind. “Don’t worry, Harry. I’ll make sure that Hermione doesn’t harp on you again for at least month. In fact, I’ll work my magic and make sure she won’t try to set you up with any of her coworkers for at least two. How’s that sound?”
Harry waved back. “Sounds great.”
“See you next week, Harry. Albus.”
“Night, Uncle Ron, Aunt Hermione.”
“Night,” the two chorused as Harry opened the gate to their house and waved his son out onto the road.
*** “Hurry, Potter, we’ve got a Portkey to catch,” were the first words out of Draco’s mouth when Harry opened the door.
“Why?” Harry asked, glancing over his shoulder to see if Albus was behind him. When he turned back, he found Scorpius peeking around his father, his neck craning to look beyond Harry.
“We’ve got a long way to travel tonight. Apparating to a place you’ve never been with two children in tow would be impossible. It puts us on a schedule, true, but this isn’t the sort of place that is ever overwhelmed by people, not even on a Friday night. It’s quiet, secluded. A secret. Now come on.”
Harry turned and was about to call for Albus, just to be startled by the presence of his son right behind his back. The boys waved at each other and Harry shook his head, closing his door after them and locking it up with his wand. They walked quickly for a block, turned into an empty alleyway, and were halfway down it before they found an inconspicuous boot waiting for them.
“Why is it always an old boot?” Harry groused as Draco waved them over to it.
“Hands on in three. One...two... three!”
They all grabbed the Portkey at once and Harry felt himself jerked through the air. His stomach gave a lurch and settled momentarily before lurching again as they set down.
“You know, Malfoy, I hope you left us some time to digest before we catch the ride home. If not, I think we’re going to have some serious gastrointestinal difficulties that will cause the Ministry to be displeased with the state in which the next old boot will return to them in.”
Harry was speaking so much that he didn’t realise they were standing on a crumbling paved road, down which he could see a squat little restaurant with a lobster sign and old beat-up Muggle cars parked around it. To one side of the road was a line of trees, to the other a rocky beach. The restaurant was standing at the head of a small, working pier. Three boats, two small, one large, were anchored at the sides of it. There was something wrong with the light in the place, and it took Harry a moment to realise it was too bright: Afternoon light, not evening.
“Where are we?”
“Muh... Maine? Maine the United States of America Maine?”
“Yes, Potter. Conveniently located on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It took a pretty penny to get us over here, I will tell you, but trust me when I say it is more than worth it.” Draco slapped him on the back and started to walk toward the restaurant.
“Why are we in Maine?” Harry heard his voice grow a bit shrill as he walked after Draco. He could hear the boys’ shoes scraping over the raw pavement behind him.
“Two words: lobster tail. Best on the face of the planet. I’m sure you will be satisfied with the ambiance. The lobster is always fresh, the wine is always good, the prices are fair and the wait staff don’t wear uniforms. A restaurant that suits both of us is hard to find, Potter.”
The outside of the restaurant already had a couple of weak bulbs lit, which provided the only light to place’s windowless facade. It was still too bright to see if there were side windows facing the water, since there was no reflected or ambient indoor light to be seen, but it seemed that the side that faced the road had windows.
“Well, come on,” Draco said, opening up the door. “We’ve got a reservation.”
“How do you even know this place exists?” Harry hissed to Draco as they piled inside. The decor was made up of wood panelling and dark carpeting. The lights in the main hall were dim, but to the right Harry could see tables and chairs. To the left, a patch of neon light and the sound of some sort of sporting event, probably being broadcast over a television, told Harry it was more than likely a bar.
As they waited, a waitress wearing a nice shirt but a pair of blue jeans walked up to them. “Table for four?”
“I made a reservation. Potter, party of four, table with a view.”
“Oh, yes. Right this way, Mr Potter.” She smiled at all four of them in turn, but there was something in her eyes that Harry would have called suspicion, as she looked at where he and Draco stood, side by side. Harry glanced at the other man, frowned, and followed him and their sons down the hall, where they trailed after the waitress.
“You didn’t answer my question,” Harry said after the waitress dropped menus in front of them. Draco had taken a seat next to the window and his son sat down next to him. Almost on cue, Albus sat down across from Scorpius, leaving Harry to sit across from Draco.
“Which was?” Draco raised an eyebrow. “Oh, that’s right, how did I find this place. My wife has family in Maine, actually. Cousins. We visited them on our honeymoon.”
Draco looked down at his menu and for a second Harry thought he wasn’t going to go on.
“They brought us here,” he said finally, softly. “Not the fanciest restaurant, it’s true. But everything is fresh and I can honestly say they have a chef in their kitchen, not just some cook.”
Harry opened his menu and glanced at the prices... and sighed in relief. When Draco had said lobster, Harry could almost imagine his money flying out of his wallet. But the other man was right, the prices weren’t bad. When the waitress reappeared a moment later, Harry actually had a smile on his face.
“What can I get you to drink,” she asked.
“We’ll have water to sta—” Harry began, but he was quickly cut off by Draco.
“Can I see your wine list?” the blond man asked, a smile twisting across his face. Scorpius sighed loudly and Albus turned to look at Harry. He could feel his son’s eyes boring into the side of his face.
But it was already too late, the waitress was handing over the list, and what could Harry do? Yank it out of his hand and tell him “no, bad” like he was some sort of child?
Draco rattled off some French-sounding wine, before smiling and saying, “Bring the bottle. And we’ll all have lobster, won’t we, Potter?”
The waitress raised her eyebrows and turned to Harry. “Is that right, sir?”
“Albus,” Harry said. “Scorpius. Do you two want lobster?”
“Do they have fish and chips, Dad?” Albus’ eyes were darting wildly over the menu.
The waitress smiled and turned the menu over, pointing to the top where the “Fish and Chips Special” was listed.
“Albus and I can get the big one and share it,” Scorpius said, after turning his own menu over and looking at the special.
“Alright, then you and I will have lobster, Potter.”
“Yes.” Harry looked up at the waitress as he handed her his menu. “We’ll both have lobster, the boys will share a large fish and chips. And can you bring water along with the wine, and, um... do you boys want anything else to drink?”
Albus and Scorpius exchanged a glance and Albus shrugged. “I don’t know. Do we?”
“Beverages are listed at the bottom there, sweety. In the mean time, what sort of dressing do you want on your salads, gentlemen?”
“Do you have a vinaigrette?” Draco asked, one eyebrow cocked.
“Yes. And you sir?” She turned to Harry.
Harry looked down at the menu and said the first thing that popped out at him, “Bleu cheese?”
“Very good. How about I just bring you boys some soft drinks? We have Coke, Diet Coke, root beer?” The waitress smiled at Scorpius then at Albus.
“Root beer,” Scorpius leaned over to whisper to Harry, “is that like butterbeer?”
“I don’t know, why don’t you try it?” Harry whispered back.
“Root beer,” Scorpius said.
“Me too,” Albus said.
“Alright.” The waitress took each of their menus in turn. “Wine, two glasses, two root beers...”
“And some water,” Harry said.
“And water, coming up. Thank you.” The waitress turned and walked away.
“Can we go outside until the food comes, Dad?” Albus turned and met his father’s eyes. His own were wide and begging.
“Whatever you think is best, Potter. But stay off the pier, you two, and don’t go too close to the water. And don’t wander too far away.”
“Alright,” the boys chorused before getting up and walking back down the hall of the restaurant to go explore outside.
Harry found himself left alone with Draco once again, and this time, there was no alcohol, yet.
“I talked to Hermione,” Harry started in a rush.
“And she confirmed it.” Draco tapped his fingers on the table, but stared out over the water.
“So, what do you have to say about your ex-wife now, Potter? Still love her with all your heart?”
“Shut up, Malfoy.” Harry narrowed his eyes and continued on, even though he knew it sounded a bit childish. “Starting a fight is absurd... It’s stupid, even from you.”
“I am trying to start a fight.” Draco played with his cutlery. “You’re right. I won’t apologise for it.”
“Because fighting with you is easier than talking to you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you remember what we talked about last time, when we were drunk?”
The waitress came by and started to place their beverages on the table, with the root beers and waters going down first. She put down two wine glasses, one in front of Draco, the other in front of Harry, before setting down the bottle.
“Can I get you gentlemen anything else?”
“No, thank you,” Draco said, pulling the loosened cork from the bottle. “We’re just fine.”
“Alright,” the waitress said softly, an edge to her voice that suggested she didn’t believe it. “I’ll be back with your salads.”
“Well, it’s a shame I don’t remember it. Sounds like an engaging conversation,” Harry said, picking up the paper-wrapped straw the waitress had brought with the root beers and tearing the straw out of the wrapper. He plunked it down into Albus’ drink, and started to play with the paper tube, flattening it out so he could roll it up.
“I wanted to say more to you, so much more. But you kept on talking about your job.”
“Maybe I didn’t want to hear what you had to say,” Harry said softly. It sounded cruel, but right that moment he was too nervous to care. He didn’t want to meet Draco’s eyes.
“No. You didn’t want to hear. I was going to tell you I had an affair. I was going to tell you what it is like to be the one having an affair. I was going to tell you that I didn’t once think about my wife or what she would think if she ever found out... not while I was doing it. Not while my... lover and I were together. I didn’t care about the shame it would bring her, or the pain. We were going through a rough spot. Scorpius was a young child, Lydia wanted another one. And we started to try, but Scorpius’ birth had been difficult and the Healer we consulted told Lydia that the chances of us conceiving again naturally were not good. She set us up on this schedule and I began to feel like some sort of prize winning stud instead of a man. That’s when the fights began. Then Scorpius came down with a terrible fever. Lydia devoted herself to taking care of our child, and started to ignore me.”
Draco swallowed and poured himself some wine. He drank it all in one gulp. Harry narrowed his eyes at the man.
“And that’s when I met him,” Draco said softly, putting down his glass.
“Huh-Him?” Harry’s hand trembled as he picked up the wine and poured himself a small glass.
“He was about five years younger than I, a University student. Brown hair...” Draco looked up and met his eyes. “Green eyes.”
Harry looked away.
“It went on for a year,” Draco leaned forward. “My wife found out and we stopped it. We were never the same after that. I want you to know that I loved her, the best I was able, considering that what we were was very much based on a lie. But it was our lie, our defence against our parents. I entered into it willingly because Lydia really was a kindred spirit. Her parents were Muggles, but they were rich and they had certain conceptions about the way the world was and her place in it. When they found out she was a witch, they didn’t hesitate. They shipped her off to France, to Beauxbatons and left her there to rot. She was a freak, a problem they couldn’t deal with at home. When she was with them, she had to be one of them. When she was away from them, she could be free.”
Draco played with his glass, “Except not really, because there was still a great deal of expectation around her even in school. I met her after we all graduated, I was on a trip to Paris. She continued living in Europe, travelling around, after she left school. She was really the first woman I ever told myself I loved. And I did love her. I was infatuated with her. It just wasn’t sexual. There was no passion. I wanted to be around her, talk to her, live part of my life with her because I felt close to her. She was a good friend. I suspect you understand this feeling when you think of Hermione Granger. I would have done most anything for Lydia. But the older we got, the more I think she felt it, the missing parts to our marriage. The more she felt it, the tighter she clung. The tighter she clung, the more I wanted to be free.”
Draco poured more wine and Harry sat there silently, starring at his glass. The waitress brought their salads, but Harry didn’t touch his. Draco started to eat his own slowly.
“What do you want from me?” Harry finally rasped.
Draco snorted, then laughed. It lasted for a few minutes before he finally sighed. “What I did want from you is unimportant. I believe our sons want us to be closer. I believe Scorpius thinks it will make me stop drinking.”
Harry looked up and met Draco’s eyes. “That would be my guess.”
“What my son doesn’t realise is I don’t want to stop drinking. When my wife became ill, she told me she hated me. I took care of her, day after day, and each day she told me she hated me.”
Harry shook his head. “And when she died?” he whispered.
“Well, when Lydia finally died... I realised the reason why she hated me so very much was because she loved me, ten times, one hundred times, more than I’d ever loved her. She would have died for me. She wanted me with every inch of her body and with every breath. I was the greatest disappointment of her life, because I didn’t love her. I did... but when I said it, she never believed it. I didn’t prove it to her, and then I cheated on her with a man.” Draco spit the last word out like it was dirty. “So you can see why I find it difficult to stop drinking.”
“What do you want me to do?” Harry said through clenched teeth.
“Do you want to hate your wife, Potter? Do you want to stop loving her?”
“No.” Harry didn’t even pause to think about it.
“I didn’t think so. I don’t want anything from you, except, I think, for you to take care of my son the rest of the summer.”
“Get him out of my house, Potter. I don’t want him around me anymore.”
Harry swallowed, but wasn’t able to say anything else because the boys were rushing back to the table, talking excitedly about something they’d seen outside. They both sucked deeply from their root beers. Harry could do nothing but eat his salad. He barely got three bites into it before their food showed up.
“We will talk more about this when we get back to London,” Harry hissed, leaning close to Draco. The blond smirked at him and picked up one of the lobster bibs that the waitress left with their meals.
“You might want to put this on, Potter.” Draco waved the bib at him.
Harry frowned and grabbed it from the other man’s hand. “I don’t know what the...”
“Dad,” Albus said, a warning in his voice. Harry turned to find that his son and his friend were both holding fat, pale American-style steak fries in their hands. Scorpius had a red bottle of ketchup in one hand, which he was reading as he ate.
Harry put the bib up to his neck, tied it around and turned to look at Draco, who tilted his head at him.
“Need instructions on how to eat your lobster, Potter?” he asked maliciously. Harry watched as Draco tore into his lobster tail with fervour, smirking as he lifted a bit of it to his mouth.
“No, thank you, Malfoy. I can get along just fine.” And with that, Harry started to eat his own meal.
Draco was right. It was the best lobster Harry had ever eaten. When the check came around, he tipped well, but didn’t talk to Draco as they walked back to the Portkey, which was supposed to return them home.
They were delivered right to Draco’s doorstep.
“Can Albus come up to my room?” Scorpius immediately asked when they touched down. Draco nodded and started to sweep into the house after the boys. Harry grabbed his arm and dragged him away from the door down onto the gravel drive.
“What the hell do you mean by it? I don’t care how sad you feel right now, you can’t just decide you don’t want a son any more. You can’t abandon him, not when his mother has died!”
“What makes you think this is permanent, Potter? Do I seem that heartless to you? Just last week you were quite willing to sweep him away from my melancholy gloom and now you’re acting as if I expect you to take him forever. Albus is better company to him now than I am. He needs that. He needs someone who can support him in his grief. I can’t do that, not right now. Besides —”
“Besides nothing.” Harry shook Draco’s arm, and the rest of the man wobbled in response. Draco’s eyes narrowed, but he didn’t try to pull away. “This is wrong. You are wrong. If you are concerned about the way you appear to your son, then change the way you are acting. He wants you too. But don’t think that I am going to let you wander off and leave him just so you can drink yourself to death.”
“I don’t plan on dying, Potter. I will be moving us out of this place,” Draco waved his hand at the mansion, “and into a flat I own in London. Once that is finished, I will shut this house up and go on a trip. An extended trip. Hopefully, by the time I return, Scorpius will be in school again. Hopefully, by the time I see my son again, I will have... straightened myself out.”
Draco snickered and burst out into laughter. Harry let the other man’s arm slip out of his grasp. He realised he was staring at Draco slack-jawed, but he didn’t really care.
“I don’t understand,” Harry finally said.
“What is to understand, Potter? Take care of my son for the rest of the summer. I trust you with him. He will be happy with you and yours. What he doesn’t need right now is a father who has no hopes, no dreams, and nothing to live for.”
“So, what, you think you’re going to just rush off and find something to live for somewhere else?”
“There was something I thought I could live for here, but I realised tonight that it will never happen. So, yes, I need to look elsewhere. I need to clear my head. Find myself, as the saying goes. I need to leave this place before it rips me apart!”
“You should be living for your son.”
“I should, but I guess I’m not the man you are, Potter. Maybe I’m not a man at all.”
Draco turned and stalked to the house. Harry chased after him. “No, you aren’t. A man wouldn’t run from his problems or his son. But you always were a coward.”
Draco stopped, his shoulders heaving. Harry smiled gently to himself. He’s angry now, Harry thought. But when he moved to stand in front of Draco, he found that the other man was crying, softly. Harry blinked. He’d only ever seen Draco cry once before, and that was so long ago he could hardly remember it.
“Just do it,” Draco whispered. “Please. Please just do this. I... I know I don’t deserve anything from you, shouldn’t ask anything from you. I know you must hate me. And I am a coward, I always was. A coward and a bully. But you can’t expect me to change that, not right this second, not here in this place.”
Those grey eyes looked up at and met his. “Don’t you understand, Potter? I am broken. You aren’t. Help me. I’m not asking you to fix me, I’m not asking for your friendship or for... I’m not asking for that. I know it is beyond all hopes to expect that. I just need you to take care of Scorpius while I try to piece my life back together. Do it for him, at least, if you cannot bring yourself to do it for me.”
Harry blinked, and felt his head bob down and up... Agreement. He was agreeing to this.
“Thank you, Harry,” Draco whispered. He swiped a hand across his face, and brushed past Harry, heading to the door. “Wait in the foyer and I will send them down.”
“When are you leaving?” Harry said, stepping over the threshold.
“I think I should have everything settled and ready Friday.”
“What is so special about Fridays to you?”
“Lydia loved Fridays. We met on a Friday, married on a Friday, and had our son on a Friday. She found out I was cheating on her and confronted me about it on a Friday. She died on a Friday. It’s a unique day.” Draco started up the stairs. A few minutes later, Scorpius and Albus came clumping down them, dragging Scorpius’ trunk. The boy didn’t raise his head as he walked, and Albus was very quiet.
“Come on. We’ll walk this down to the road and catch the Knight Bus,” Harry said, grabbing an end.
“You ever been on the Knight Bus, Scor? It’s a wild trip,” Albus said. Harry could barely hear the towheaded boy’s grunted response. He didn’t say anything else on the way home, and Harry could sympathise.
When they were finally dropped off in front of Grimmauld Place, Harry put his hand on Scorpius’ shoulder.
“He’s only doing this because... because he realises that he’s not well right now, Scorpius. But he said he knows a way to make himself better.”
Scorpius met his eyes, and his were so pale and shining that Harry felt a chill run down his spine.
“You don’t care about him at all, do you?” Scorpius tone was flat when he said it, but there seemed to be anger in his eyes.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Harry said softly.
But he was beginning to suspect. He was beginning to see. He shook his head, stood up, turned away from them and started toward the door. He stopped at the threshold, turned back and squatted in front of Scorpius again.
“I don’t know what to say to that, Scorpius. I suspect I know what you are thinking, but your father... your father and I were never like that.” Harry looked at his son. Albus avoided his gaze.
Harry put his hand under Scorpius chin and raised it. “You will go where Albus goes, to his Uncle George’s shop and to work with me. When your letters come, we will make sure you have everything you need for school. And when the day comes, you will come with us and meet my... Albus’ mother and his brother and sister to board the train. Are we understood?”
Scorpius bobbed his head once. “I don’t know what you two are trying to do, but,” Harry stood and opened the door for them, “I think what’s best for now is for Albus to show you up to his room and for you both to stay there. I have to talk to Aunt Hermione.”
He watched the boys disappear inside with Scorpius’ trunk. He locked up the house again with a wave of his wand. Turning, he quickly walked to his favourite secluded spot to Apparate away.
“You knew he was gay,” Harry hissed at Hermione when she opened the door. She shot a glance behind her, and hurried out onto her front porch, pulling the door closed as she went.
“What are you doing, Harry?”
“That’s what you were saying the other night. How can you think it? It’s Draco Malfoy. It’s...”
“Yes, I knew he was gay.” Hermione crossed her arms over her chest. “Well, actually, I didn’t know. But I heard it from the same gossip that delivered the news of your wayward wife to me. It was unconfirmed, but when you said you were starting to talk to him... Well, it seemed to make sense to me. I always suspected there was a reason why he acted the way he did to you.”
“And it never occurred to you that maybe he hated me because his parents were bloody Death Eaters and he was a bad, bad little boy in training to become a bad, bad man?”
“Oh, it occurred to me. I just often thought his actual actions fell short of that. No, Harry, I’d say he was a little coward, a bully and full of hot air. Just because he didn’t stand up and join you doesn’t mean that in the back of his mind, he didn’t consider it. I think he’s considered you for a long time.”
Harry frowned. “You hated him.”
“I hated him for that reason,” Hermione threw up her hands, “and because he was a pure-blooded arse! I always thought there was something wrong with it, until, of course, Ginny decided that you were gay.”
Harry took a step back, shocked. “When did she decide this, exactly? Because nobody ever told me! And...”
“Oh, right when I confronted her about her affair. She didn’t admit to it. Instead, she turned around and said she thought you were gay.”
“But— ” Harry started, but Hermione was stepping forward and putting a hand over his mouth. “I’m not saying it justifies what she did, if you are gay, but Harry, you have to realise— ”
It was Harry’s turn to cut her off. He pulled her hand down and started to walk away. “No. I don’t have to realise anything, Hermione. None of this makes any sense to me.”
“Or it does. Maybe it makes perfect sense. I’m only saying think about it.” Hermione followed him down to the road, but didn’t follow him out the gate. “Just think about it, Harry!”
Harry turned, frowned at her, but didn’t respond. Instead, he Apparated back home.
It all started Saturday. Scorpius claimed their house needed a “spruce,” Albus immediately fetched every single cleaning potion or product in the place, and Harry found himself following the two teenagers around as they waged a dust bunny war, all the time thinking that it just didn’t make any sense, Draco walking off and abandoning his son like this. It was wrong but so typically Draco. It was foolish and cowardly and petty... And it made Harry angry to know that the stupid arse hadn’t changed! Draco could be one hundred and ten and he’d still be a cowering little rat, constantly scurrying away from his fears instead of facing them.
Sunday, Albus and Scorpius decided to take in a matinee and have ice cream. Harry tagged along, sat four rows away from them in the theatre, and two tables away in the ice cream shop, and worried... What would Draco do once he found himself alone? Maybe he didn’t have any intention of drinking himself into an early grave, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t. Sitting there, biting his lip, Harry began to wonder if he shouldn’t have pressed Draco just to come to London instead of going away. He could have stayed with Harry and Albus for a while. That way, all three of them, Harry and the two teens, could have been there for Draco to make sure he didn’t do anything too self-destructive. That night he was plagued by a dream of following Draco around as he staggered drunkenly through his own house, screaming and breaking things. Harry would wake up from it, more than once, just to fall back into it each time he fell asleep.
Exhausted, but trying hard to hide it, Harry got Scorpius and Albus up early so they could help George. He trudged off to work himself but could only sit sullenly at his desk, tapping his pen against his ink blotter slash oversized calendar, thinking that he should go and talk to Draco, say whatever he had to say, beg even. Harry would tell the elder Malfoy that he was worried, tell him that he would help, that they could be friends. Harry could do what Ron was doing in regards to Harry and Ginny’s marriage: He could deny, ignore and rewrite history until there were no longer any hard feelings between him and Draco. All Draco had to do was stay. Albus and Scorpius ate well that night; Harry picked at his food. By the time they moved to retire, Albus and Scorpius were already whispering and shooting glances at Harry, which he was aware of. He just tried his best to ignore it.
Tuesday morning, they insisted on following him to work, where they watched him the entire day, whispered behind his back, and when it finally came to time find dinner that night, they suggested a pub instead of trying to make something at home. Harry was so exhausted that he didn’t argue. When the boys wanted to watch television, he didn’t argue. Instead he sat down with them in the room where he and Albus had decided to keep the small television Harry had just only recently bought. Instead of watching, he ended up falling asleep, curled up on the couch, where he stayed all night, dreaming of Draco clinging to him, holding him tightly. When Harry woke up the next morning, he could still remember it all, the feeling of Draco’s cheek brushing against his own. The smell of the other man lingered in Harry’s nose, as if Draco were standing in the room with him. It was a strange smell, sweet yet bitter all at once, heady with the expensive musk cologne that Draco wore, and nose-tingling, like the scent of wine.
Wednesday Harry decided to call in sick, and thus never got the boys up. Oliver seemed more than understanding, and he didn’t even try to get Harry to explain. He just told him to get some rest, drink plenty of fluids.
“Summer colds are the very worst,” Oliver had said. Harry agreed before hanging up.
Harry found himself opening up his old school trunk, which now served as the main storage space for everything from his past that he couldn’t bear to part with. Some of it held only good memories and he took these items out often, like the photo album with pictures of him and his parents. Some of it hurt, such as... well, each and every one of the items that reminded him of Sirius Black. And some if it he couldn’t bring himself to look at, at all, such as the album that Ginny had made during and right after the war. It was filled with clippings and pictures and notes written by her or Neville or numerous others who had joined in the cause at Hogwarts to undermine Snape and his henchmen. He knew what was in it, had closely examined every scrap. He skipped to the very last page which contained the only picture of Draco Malfoy that was in his possession. The story was on the charges being brought against the Malfoys. It hadn’t ruined their family completely, but things had certainly changed after Lucius Malfoy was found guilty. The picture was of Lucius being dragged away, shaking his head furiously while Narcissa and Draco watched. Narcissa’s eyes were on her husband, and she was crying, but Draco was looking directly at the camera, an angry scowl on his face that slipped into a look of utter despair each time he glanced over at his father.
And it was at this picture that Harry stared for hours, not really thinking... He was just mesmerised by Draco’s face. He didn’t really look all that much older now, and the passed time had only made his face softer, and, Harry had to admit, more handsome. It was only then that Harry realised that Draco had never really been all that unattractive. That he’d never been as malicious as could have been... That Hermione was right. Draco had been obsessed with him in school, Draco had hated him, but in a way that was both bitter and impassioned, resentful and attached. Draco had hated him the way Ginny hated him now, like a person scorned.
Harry left the boys still in bed to go out. He ran every errand he could possible think of, then he went to the market. When he returned home, Scorpius and Albus were there waiting for him, sitting in the kitchen, in fact, drinking butterbeer.
“Are you going to try to stop him?” Scorpius asked Harry when he walked in with his packages. “How would I be able to?”
“You mean something to him, Mr Potter. You really do. He used to tell me stories about you all the time when I was little. Eventually I figured out why. I guess I could have resented him for being the way he was, I know my mum did. But I didn’t, and in the end she didn’t either.”
Harry sat down next to Scorpius. “What have you and my son been trying to do this summer?”
“My mum, when she died, I heard her tell him that he should go out and tell you the truth,” Scorpius said, mostly addressing his own hands, which were down in his lap. “That my dad should tell you he loved you. I heard her say it. I heard her tell him that she wanted him to be happy after she died, that she didn’t want his life to end. That she was sorry that she never could bring herself to feel that way before.”
Scorpius looked up at him, a frown lining his face. Harry shook his head. “What do you want me to do?”
“What you want to do, Dad,” Albus said. “Scorpius and I haven’t— ”
But Scorpius cut him off. His light leaf-green eyes met Harry’s. “I don’t want my dad to be alone. I want him to be happy. I guess, though, it’s really up to you.”
Harry found himself shaking his head, unable to say anything in response to that.
“This isn’t right,” was all he could say when he finally spoke. “You know where the emergency money is. Have something delivered. I’m going to bed.”
And he did go to bed. He just didn’t sleep. Instead Harry lay awake, hearing Draco’s voice, his laughter, echoing inside his own head.
Thursday Harry was tempted to go out and get drunk. Instead, he got the boys up early and shipped them off to Uncle George. He went in to work. He actually got work done. He sat at his desk the whole day and didn’t think of Draco Malfoy. He prepared dinner for his son and his son’s friend. He sent them up to bed then left to Apparate to the Malfoy home. Harry didn’t know why he felt the overwhelming desire to stand on Draco’s doorstep listening to the bell toll to announce his arrival. But when Draco opened the door, he didn’t seem at all surprised.
“Scorpius?” Draco started, raising an eyebrow.
“They’re both at my house, asleep. Or lying awake talking. Either way, they’re safe.”
Draco nodded. His eyes were clear, and Harry didn’t smell alcohol.
“You already seem to be doing better,” Harry started, but Draco waved at him. “I’m going, Potter.”
“I’m not stopping you, Malfoy. I’m just saying you seem to be doing better. I suppose, given your reason for leaving, I can’t argue with you. Not now.”
Draco led Harry to his den; Harry recognized it from the previous night. He didn’t, however, break out any more Firewhisky. The furniture, when Harry looked around, was covered with sheets.
“You can pull them off if you want to sit.”
“I don’t think I’ll be staying that long.” Harry shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and shuffled a foot against the carpet. “I came here to listen to what you have to say to me. So say it.”
“I don’t have anything to say,” Draco replied, settling himself on top of a sheet-draped couch.
“So you weren’t trying to tell me anything when you said this lover of yours had brown hair and green eyes?”
Draco met his eyes, but his face was stony.
“And you’re not leaving because of me?”
“You always did think very highly of yourself,” Draco whispered.
“No, actually I never did, Draco. I never was that self-involved. I never was everyone’s little darling hero. The Boy Who Lived, that’s who you are thinking of. Not me.”
Draco glanced at his empty fireplace and turned back to Harry. He clutched his hands together in his lap and finally said, softly, “That’s right. That’s who I’m thinking of, every time I say something cruel. After all, I realised early on that thinking about Harry was only going to get me in trouble.”
Harry turned and paced away from Draco. He wanted to say, “It doesn’t matter. Scorpius already told me the whole story.” But he knew he wouldn’t. It didn’t seem appropriate. None of it was appropriate. Neither of them should have their sons meddling in their personal affairs like this. Harry was still slightly astounded that Albus agreed with Scorpius on the subject of his father taking up a romantic affair with another man. Apparently, Harry thought, turning again to look at Draco, everyone knew Harry was gay. Everyone except himself.
“Is that what you wanted to hear? That I think about you? That you’re on my mind or in my heart or that I dream about you at night? Well, you have heard it, so you can leave. Trust me, Potter, I know what’s what now. You don’t need to worry about the truth. I will leave and when I come back, I won’t be thinking about you. I won’t want you anymore.”
Harry moved closer to Draco. “It’s that easy for you. You can just shut your heart off just like that? Well, it shouldn’t be that easy, Draco. You shouldn’t just be able to shut off feelings like that. I suppose you thought you could teach me how, though. Or maybe you thought if I spent enough time with you, Ginny would fade until she was nothing but a distant memory in my mind.”
“I thought... I just thought maybe I had a chance. I know better now.”
Harry walked over to him until he was standing over Draco. “Do you? What makes you think you don’t have a chance now?”
Draco stared up at him. “What are you saying?”
Only that I’ve thought about nothing but you for this entire week, Harry started in his mind, but he shrugged and walked away. He couldn’t open his mouth to say it. It dried up and turned to ash on his tongue.
Draco snorted and rose, moved away from Harry. “Alright. That’s fine. You want some Firewhisky? I’m thirsty.”
Harry turned on his heel and came back. He put his hand out and gently wrapped it around Draco’s upper arm. Draco turned, laughter bubbling from his mouth.
“I don’t need another intervention, Potter. I need for you to leave. I was headed to bed when you came knocking at my door.”
Harry didn’t let him go; instead he fixed his gaze on his own hand and on the way Draco’s shirt crumpled beneath his own fingers.
“You might have a chance,” Harry found himself saying. “I’ve been thinking about us. I’ve been dreaming about you. I’ve been wondering...”
Harry looked up at Draco, who blinked at him, and laughed. “Aren’t you a little old to be sexually curious, Potter? I’m not a plaything.”
The blond jerked his arm from Harry’s grasp and started to walk toward the enclosed cabinet where Harry remembered him keeping his wet bar.
Harry followed him over and moved to stand right behind him. He put his arms on the other man’s shoulders. Draco reached out and balled the sheet over the cabinet in his fists, but didn’t pull. Harry leaned forward and breathed in the scent at the back of Draco’s neck. It was just as he’d imagined. Musk and the distant tang of wine. Up close as he was, Harry knew it wasn’t alcohol, it was the way Draco smelled naturally, sweet and sour all at once, like bitter grapes. Harry leaned closer until his nose was against Draco’s skin. He breathed in again, and this time, Draco shivered in response.
“You’ve just been... thinking about it, Potter?”
“I don’t know what I want anymore. But I realised an hour ago that I needed to see you again before you left, even if it was only to tell you goodbye.”
Harry pulled on one of Draco’s shoulders, turning him. Their eyes met, and standing this closely, Harry found himself really looking at Draco Malfoy, at the way his grey eyes, which Harry used to think were cold and sharp, were actually deep and soft and varied in their shades. Harry found himself thinking it was like staring into a clear pool with pale grey pebbles at the bottom, worn smooth by time and the water. He bent toward Draco, his lips parted. He put a hand on the other man’s chest, right over his heart. Draco breathed in deeply, but the breath hitched once before it exhaled out of his mouth, a soft breath against Harry’s face. Harry found he couldn’t move anymore. He could only wait for Draco to close up the rest of the space between them.
“You going to do this or not, Potter?” Draco’s mouth curved up slightly in a smile. Harry found himself smiling in response and then he could move. Just a breath of space, but he could close it. He could press his lips against Draco’s, could let his own soft sigh pass from his mouth into another’s, open and waiting for him.
Draco wrapped his arms around Harry’s back. Harry returned the gesture. Before he realised what was going on, Draco’s tongue was in his mouth, hungrily exploring. Harry let his fingers twine through the other man’s hair, pulling out the small band that he wore to keep it tied back. It swished forward and Harry felt it slip against his own cheek, just long enough to tickle at his chin.
He finally pulled away, slightly breathless. Laying his forehead against Draco’s, he swallowed and licked at his lips.
“I’m still leaving,” Draco whispered.
Harry bit his lower lip. “Why?”
“You know why.”
“No. I don’t.”
“I can’t be happy just like this. I can’t accept this.” Draco’s voice cracked and he turned his face away from Harry’s. “I don’t feel like I deserve this. I don’t think I can make it work. I need time to grieve, alone. I can’t make it work any other way.”
Harry stepped away from Draco and nodded. “Come back, at least to see your son off on the train.”
Draco looked into Harry’s eyes. “That soon? I can’t promise it.”
“Then promise just to come back.”
Draco nodded his head. “Of course I will come back for him. He is my son.”
“That’s not what I meant.” Harry ran a hand over his face before turning and quickly leaving the room. He stopped at the threshold and turned to look at Draco. “Promise to come back for me.”
“I... don’t know, Harry. What if I can never be... What if I simply can’t fix it.”
But you are at least trying, Harry thought to himself. He couldn’t say it, and so he nodded at Draco once, then walked away.
Just as Harry promised, he took care of Scorpius to the best of his ability, which was hard, considering Scorpius had decided that since his own father wasn’t around to blame, Harry should bear the brunt of it. The atmosphere of the house soon grew tense: Harry tried to talk to Scorpius, tried to get him to open up, Scorpius responded back with anger and sharp retorts. Albus did his best to keep the peace, but locked in the middle, he often found himself the target of Scorpius’ anger as well.
When the boy’s letters came, Harry was relieved. They spent that Saturday moving around Diagon Alley, first going to Gringotts, where Harry considered himself lucky that Scorpius had access to his father’s vault, before making the rounds: They picked up books, new robes and school supplies. Harry took them by George’s shop where George insisted on giving both the boys the family discount, which was apparently 75 percent off. Harry still tried, and failed, to pay in full. Hey then steered the boys to the broom shop to look at the new sport models. Scorpius was less than enthused.
The rest of the summer passed quickly and finally it was the big day. Harry woke up feeling nervous, almost as if he was the one going back to school. If he was lucky, Draco would be there and all this would end. Scorpius would stop being mad at his father and Harry both. Especially when he saw them together.
Harry got up and took a shower. He took extra pains to groom himself, including combing a potion through his hair that was supposed to tame it. He wasn’t surprised when it didn’t work. No matter how many years passed, his hair was still his hair. He then splashed on the only cologne he owned, which was given to him the previous year for birthday by Lily and Albus. Even though he’d never been the sort of wear cologne, he had to admit that it smelled wonderful, like sandalwood and pine needles. When he dressed, it was with care: He put on trousers instead of jeans, a button-down shirt instead of a T-shirt, and polished wingtips instead of his dusty old trainers. When he finally caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he realized that he looked similar to the way he’d looked at Draco’s wife’s funeral. It was that thought that drove him to replace the shirt with a clean, dressier T-shirt.
They didn’t’ have much time so he was glad the boys were already up, dressed, and sitting at the table in the kitchen eating.
“What are you so dressed up for?” Scorpius asked when Harry walked in. Harry noted the tone, which was overly mocking. Harry suspected it was to cover up what Scorpius was really feeling: An intense wave of hope that maybe Harry was dressed up for Draco.
As that was exactly the reason, Harry was at a loss as to how to respond. More than likely, if he said that Draco was going to be there, the other man wouldn’t show, and Scorpius would really be shattered. So, instead, Harry shrugged.
“Just felt like it, I suppose.”
Albus smiled at his father. “You didn’t dress up for Mum did you? I don’t think she’ll care.”
Harry narrowed his eyes at his son, but catching Scorpius’ venomous gaze, he let his face fall into a sombre look. “Of course not. Now come on. I’ve hired a car to take us to the station.”
Scorpius’ attitude seemed to improve once they got to the station and Harry found carts for the boys to put their trunks on. After they loaded up, Albus quickly suggested they race to the secret opening onto Platform 9¾, a suggestion that Scorpius responded to with a yell, before rushing off ahead. Albus sprang into action to catch up.
“Running! Don’t make me say it again.” Harry yelled at them, quickening his own pace. He stepped through the magical barrier seconds after they did. The platform was already crowded, but Harry knew they weren’t late. If anything, they were right on time. Which, when Harry thought about it, probably wasn’t a good thing. After all, it meant he wouldn’t have long to say goodbye to his other children, once he found them. He’d have even less time if he went looking for Draco.
Luckily for him, Ginny’s hair made her easy to place in the crowd. She stood off at the end of the platform, where it was less crowded, with James, Lily, Rose, Hugo and their parents. Harry moved toward them, tapping Albus on the shoulder to follow. Scorpius hesitated but fell into step behind them. He kept on glancing over his shoulder, more than likely, in an attempt to find his father.
Lily saw Harry first and ran into his arms. Hugo and Rose followed. Harry wasn’t surprised that his oldest son frowned at him and kept his place. Ron, Hermione and Ginny, on the other hand, were flat out staring at Scorpius. “Why is he with you?” Ginny snapped, moving to tower over the younger Malfoy. “What’s going on here, Harry?”
Harry turned away from the kids who had gathered around him to stand behind Scorpius.
“I have been watching him for the last few weeks,” he said quietly, putting his hand on Scorpius’ shoulder.
“What? Why!” Ginny put her hands on top of her hips.
“Because we’re friends, Mum,” Albus said. “And his mother died this summer.”
Silence descended, leaving Ginny too look around amazed. Of course, what she saw on everyone else’s faces quickly morphed that amazement to fury.
“I don’t believe this. I don’t believe nobody told me about this. And you! How can you let him be friends with that boy?” Ginny snapped, pointing. “How could you, Harry, after all those people have done to our family. Do I have to remind you of the diary, Harry? Lucius almost got me killed!”
“What Lucius did has nothing to do with Scorpius,” Harry said quietly. “And I would appreciate it if you kept your voice down. For once in your life, Gin, could you just take a deep breath and try to see things from someone else’s perspective?”
Harry was slightly amazed at how cold the words sounded once they were out of his mouth, and yet, meeting Ginny’s wide eyes, he didn’t feel one twinge of regret.
“Harry...” She gasped.
He shook his head in return. “You know what, this really isn’t the time or the place to have this fight. But, when we do have it, I will again insist on winning. Albus and Scorpius are friends by choice. Scorpius is a well-mannered and intelligent young man and I see no reason for you to treat him like dirt because of the things his grandfather did. No one is arguing that Lucius Malfoy was a monster, using you the way he did. What I am arguing is your desire to continue punishing his descendants for his actions.”
Ginny turned and looked at James and Lily, who were both staring at the ground. “You two knew about this?”
“Yes, they did, Mum. Everyone knows about it.” Albus moved to stand between Ginny and his siblings. “I made them promise not to tell, alright. So don’t get angry with them.”
Ginny swallowed and walked away from them. Ron and Hermione looked at each other and finally, after Hermione’s face grew dark and pointed, Ron walked over to talk to his sister. Conveniently, Harry heard the train whistle. The noise level rose as children began to shout excitedly, covering up the sound of Ginny’s raised voice. Harry was glad when everyone began to push closer to the edge of the platform, expectant. If Draco showed, he’d probably hover toward the back of the crowd. Hermione and Harry herded their children into a group, then directed them to start moving toward the crowd.
“Can we visit you for Christmas?” Lily asked as they moved.
“Yes. I would love if you stayed with me.”
“I don’t know if we’ll stay with you,” James said, his voice sounding grumpy. “But maybe you can at least stop by once or twice, Dad? It would be nice to know you actually cared.”
Harry took a deep breath and bit his lip.
“James, I know I owe you an explanation.”
“Put it in a letter,” the boy retorted, turning away from Harry and crossing his arms over his chest.
The train began to pull into the station. Harry turned and found that Ron and Ginny were walking back toward them.
“Did you even bother to tell them that you never invited me over?” Harry said, grabbing Ginny’s arm and pulling her aside.
Ginny smiled meanly. “You could have just shown up, Harry, if you wanted to see them.”
“Maybe you would have hexed me if I had!”
Ginny paused, her mouth falling open before a smile touched the corners of it. “You know me too well. But what’s a little hex between exes? You should have come anyway.”
Harry let her go and turned away, finding that James, Lily and Albus were all staring at him. So was Scorpius, but Draco’s son had a different look on his face, not horrified like Harry’s own children. His look was entirely thoughtful. Harry gave him a small smile, and Scorpius returned it.
Then the train was rolling in and everyone was pressing closer. Harry bent down and hugged Lily, pressing a brief kiss against her cheek. He turned to Albus, who hugged him willingly. James, on the other hand, was stony-faced and sullen when Harry pulled him into the embrace.
“I’m too old for this baby stuff,” he growled when Harry let him go. Yet, he didn’t shrug away when Harry laid a hand on his hair and ruffled it. Harry turned to Scorpius, who nodded at him. Scorpius glanced at Ginny, then, unexpectedly, threw himself against Harry, who enfolded the younger Malfoy in a tight hug.
“He didn’t come.” Scorpius looked up at Harry.“Did he say he was going to come?”
“I wanted him to promise. He wouldn’t.”
Scorpius shook his head. “Thank you,” he said pulling away. Harry smiled and put a hand on Scorpius cheek. Rose and Hugo crowded in for hugs, which Harry doled out in turn, and then he was saying good bye, one by one, to each of the children.
Finally, he was left to stand with his ex-wife, Ron and Hermione as a crowd of children and teenagers slowly made their way onto the train. Albus and Scorpius came out one last time, so that Albus could give Harry one final hug as Scorpius surveyed the platform one final time for Draco. The last call for boarding was given, the last students scurried onto the train and Harry was left to watch the Hogwarts Express puff away, blowing smoke as it went.
Ginny turned on him just as soon as the train disappeared around the first bend.
“What the bloody hell do you think— ”
Harry put a hand up to cut her off. He turned full circle, taking in every corner of the platform, then directed his gaze at her, shaking his head.
“Maybe in December, Ginny. But not now. I will not talk to you right now.” Harry lowered his hand and turned to Ron and Hermione. “Be seeing you for dinner this week then?”
“’Course, Harry. We can play chess now that the swarm has left the hive,” Ron said with a smile, reaching out to shake Harry’s hand.
“That sounds great. Hermione,” Harry reached out and hugged her.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly in Harry’s ear. Harry hadn’t given her any specifics, but he wasn’t surprised that she just somehow knew that this was an occasion for sympathy.
“And I’m sorry,” Harry said as he pulled away. She raised her eyebrows at him questioningly but he shrugged. “You were right. I thought about it, and came to realise what I was doing with Draco Malfoy just in time to see him leave.”
She nodded and let him go without another word. Harry turned to Ginny.
“You can’t walk away from me, Harry. Not when we still have so much to discuss,” she hissed.
“We weren’t discussing anything, Gin, we were fighting, and now it’s over. I’m going home. Ron, Hermione. Later.” He waved as he walked away.
Harry stood waiting on the other side of the secret entry way to Platform 9¾. Ginny stood four feet away from him. She was bundled up in one of his old coats and it made Harry feel angry to see her, blatantly wearing something that used to belong to him.
“James sent me a letter about you,” Ginny said, her breath puffing out in the cold air. “He wants to know if I’m going to invite you over to dinner at all during the holiday.”
“After this last summer, it’s obvious to me, at least, that you aren’t going to invite me.” Harry rubbed his hands together to warm them, then shoved his arms to shove them under his armpits. “So if he’s still angry with me, tell him not to worry. He can stay angry for as long as he wants. I won’t push him.”
Ginny turned and met his eyes. “You lied to me throughout our entire marriage,” she hissed.
“You cheated on me.” Harry cocked his head to the side and met her gaze steadily.
“You never loved me.” She pressed her finger into his chest.
Harry bent his head back and laughed. “Ah, but it doesn’t matter, because you never loved me. I often thought I would have done anything for you, but maybe you’re right. Maybe I didn’t love you one hundred or even ten times more than you loved me. If not, then we loved each other about the same and if that’s the case, I don’t see why we have to hate each other. After all, love is just a twisted form of hate. So why start investing all this passion in our relationship now when all it will bring us is bitterness?”
Ginny stepped back. “Albus will want to stay with you.”
“Albus will want to live with me.”
“I know,” she said softly, looking down at her feet.
“He still thinks you hate Scorpius.”
She glanced at him and then away. “He wouldn’t be wrong.”
“You’re being unfair.”
Ginny snuffed derisively before muttering, “I still can’t believe you’re okay with it. You have as much of a reason to hate Draco Malfoy as I do.”
Harry threw up his hands and moved away from his wife, getting closer to the edge of the platform. But then it occurred to him that there was no reason for him to back off. No, this was a fight he would stick with. “That’s not true at all. After all, Draco’s shown me more honesty lately than you have. I would have never known you had cheated on me if it wasn’t for him.”
“You son of a— ”
“Don’t even go there, Ginny. You won’t like what I say next.” Harry stepped up to his ex-wife and looked down on her. Ginny backed off, apparently realising, perhaps for the first time, that Harry wasn’t someone she wanted to butt heads with.
“I worry about our children. Albus with Scorpius... and Lily actually wrote me to tell me that she is insisting on staying with you for the winter holiday.” Ginny backed off with a haughty sneer and a cocked eyebrow. She crossed her arms over her chest.
“Well, I’d love to have her. I’d love to have James too. Maybe then I can work on divesting him of whatever bit of slander you’ve used to poison him against me.”
“Oh, he’s not so poisoned now that he’s had time alone with Albus and Lily. He really does want to see you.” The sound of a distant whistle blew. Harry leaned forward until he could see the Hogwarts Express, smoke spinning up from its stack.
“James and Lily are old enough to make their own decisions, just like Albus. I would hope that you let them do so.”
“I’ll tell them that you want them to stay with you, if that’s what they choose. Maybe James will even take you up on it.”
Turning back, he realised that a familiar figure was walking toward him and his ex-wife. He felt his heart begin to thud in his chest. The other parents standing around the platform didn’t seem to notice, but Ginny did. She turned and gasped as Draco Malfoy raised his head and looked at them. He walked around Ginny and came to stand right in front of Harry, who watched the other man look him up and down, then turn to do the same to his ex-wife. A frown began to form on Draco’s mouth, but his eyes were clear.
“You two together?” he whispered, his voice hoarse.
Ginny sneered at him and said, in a voice so childish that Harry could have laughed, “What’s it to you, Malfoy?”
Harry reached out and grabbed Ginny by the arm, pulling her away.
“Don’t make him angry,” Harry hissed. She jerked out of his hold.
“Why not, Harry?”
“Because...” Harry opened his mouth to say, “I’ve been waiting for him to come to me, don’t ruin it,” but all he found himself saying was, “He doesn’t deserve your attitude. After all, he would never have been able to say an ill word about you if people weren’t already spreading it around.”
Her faced flushed at that and her mouth twisted down in a familiar frown: It was the look she got when she couldn’t think of anything to say. She pulled away from Harry to walk over to Draco. “I can’t stop Albus from being your son’s friend. But I want you to know that I don’t approve.”
Draco shrugged. “That is good to know.”
He stepped past her and walked toward Harry, who turned and led him down the platform, away from the train, until Harry was sure they were out of earshot of everyone.
“You finally came,” Harry said, turning to meet Draco’s eyes.
“I couldn’t bring myself to do it in September.”
“Scorpius was hurt.”
“I know, he didn’t write me for a month. I sent him letter after letter, explaining. Finally he sent one back to tell me to stop wasting the parchment. I was told, in no uncertain terms, to be here now, or he was going to defect and become a Potter.”
Harry smiled and shrugged. “I wouldn’t mind. It was nice having them both around. Your son likes to clean house.”
Draco raised an eyebrow. Harry moved closer until he was standing a breath away from Draco. “I haven’t stopped thinking about us, Draco, if you’re wondering. When I think of you, I... I don’t feel lost. I can finally see the life I want. You’re in it, so is your son.”
Draco took a step back from him. “I’m still... I don’t know if you want me to do this, Harry. I’m still not alright, and I can’t guarantee anything. If we do see each other, I think it would be best if we moved slowly. What I feel... I came back because I miss my son. I can’t be away from him anymore.”
“But you can be away from me?” Harry was glad that the words, when they flowed out of his mouth, simply sounded sad and nothing else.
“No,” Draco’s voice hitched as he spoke the word. “I found that I missed you just as much as I missed him.”
Harry moved forward and started to wrap his arms around Draco, but the other man took another step back. He turned and threw a look over his shoulder. Harry followed his gaze to see that Ginny was staring at them.
“I want to kiss you, Draco, very much,” Harry said, his voice no longer all that soft. The train was pulling in and they didn’t have much time. “Can I?”
“She is watching.”
Draco turned back to Harry, reached up and put a hand on his face. “I tried so hard to straighten my life out. Sometimes I think I should have stayed. As crooked as I was, at least I would have been near you.”
“Kiss me before the train rolls in, so we don’t make a scene,” Harry said softly, putting his forehead against Draco’s.
The blond laughed. “Oh, we’re already making a scene. At least in front of one person. I don’t mind telling you, Potter, that I could kiss you just to see the look on her face after it’s over.”
“Well then, let me help you vent your maliciousness,” Harry said seconds before their lips locked. The kiss wasn’t nearly as long or as deep as Harry wanted it to be, and Draco broke it just as soon as they heard the breaks begin to squeal on the Hogwarts Express.
“I have dreamed of that sensation for months,” Harry said, sucking in a deep breath so he could yell over the sound of the train.
“Really? Your dreams didn’t mature at all during that time? That’s not exactly a flattering thought to leave me with, Harry.”
The train was nearly at a stop. Harry gently squeezed Draco’s arm and started to walk back toward the busy part of the platform.
Harry shrugged. “According to Hermione, you’ve been pining for me since you met me and I’ve been in denial for just as long. My mind may be moving through the paces slowly, but you should have enough patience to spare.”
“Lets hope you have patience as well.”
Harry stopped him. “You know I will do whatever it takes, don’t you?”
Draco spared him a slight smile. “I suppose I do.”
Ginny walked up to them, and if her face had been red before from the cold and their earlier spat, it was nothing compared to how she looked now.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she pressed a finger into Harry’s chest. “I hope you don’t plan on doing... that sort of thing in front of our children!”
Harry sighed. “Truthfully, Ginny, one of our children worked the entire summer to see to it that Draco and I come together to do exactly that sort of thing. So before you worry about what sort of perversions I’m going to heap upon them, you might want to ask Albus what he’s been telling his brother and sister about his father. Anyway, you already knew I was gay. Why are you acting so shocked now?”
Ginny was grinding her teeth, but whatever retort she might have snapped out was cut off by Ron and Hermione walking up, yelling greetings as they came. They didn’t have much time to talk, as the doors of the train were opening to let off those children who had elected to come home for the winter holiday.
“So,” Ginny yelled over the din, no longer able to meet Harry’s eyes. “How do you plan on getting the children back to your house? Did you bother to get a car, or were you planning on piling them all on the Knight Bus?”
Harry started to open his mouth, but Draco stepped forward.
“We’re giving him a ride back,” he said. “Then we’re long overdue for a dinner date. It’s my turn to pay, I believe.”
“That’s right,” Harry replied, reaching out and taking his hand. Ron’s mouth dropped open, Ginny gritted her teeth, and Hermione laughed.
Harry’s children, on the other hand, didn’t react much at all when they stepped off the train. Albus and Scorpius both smiled, as did Lily. James blinked a couple of times, looked at his mother, then went to stand with the rest of his siblings. A second later, Hugo and Rose appeared, and went to join their parents.
“James, Lily,” Harry said, pulling Draco toward his children. “This is Draco Malfoy. Anyone who is with me is also with him.”
“See, I told you it would end up this way,” Albus said, turning and nudging Scorpius in the ribs. He turned to look at his brother. “I wasn’t lying. I told you Dad would see the light. Everything’s alright though.”
James dragged his trunk a little closer, the arm holding his owl going a little slack. He looked Draco up and down and said, quite clearly, “I call shotgun.”
“No fair,” Lily screeched. “Come on,” Scorpius said. “Dad, we’re going to the car now.”
“Why does he get to sit in the front?” Lily whined, dragging her feet behind Scorpius and Albus. James looked at his father one last time, and started after his siblings.
“Mum says she wants us all for Christmas,” Ginny said. “The entire family.”
Harry nodded. “I wonder if she’ll let me bring guests.”
Ginny crossed her arms but most of the steam had gone out of her body. When she spoke, however, her words were still edged with ire. “I don’t know, Harry, but I suspect, knowing my mother, our mother, she’ll probably want to meet your new boyfriend.”
“We’ll see, won’t we? Well, later then, all. Ron, Hermione, Hugo, Rose... Ginny.” Harry nodded to each in turn, waving to his niece and nephew one last time before letting Draco lead him away. “If I know Draco, we’ve probably got reservations at some fancy restaurant that we won’t want to be late for.”
“Just as soon as we get home, I’ll call and have two more places added to our table.” Draco moved on ahead. Harry glanced back one last time, then moved to catch up with Draco.
“Home? We haven’t even dated and already you’re moving in?”
“It’s a figure of speech, Harry.”
Harry stopped Draco for a moment and leaned in to kiss him chastely on the cheek. “I guess we’ll see about that.”