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Before My Hopeless Sight

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[6 Hours Missing]

Normally, he would've walked them in. Normally, he would've taken them to the platform. Normally, he would've seen them on the train, and then, normally, he would've waved the train off, with promises of seeing them soon, at Christmas, at Hogsmede.

Normally.

Harry Potter didn't do normal, though sometimes he wish he did.

But there had been a meeting at 11am, and so Harry had dropped them off, taken them to the platform gate but hadn't gone in with them. Gave both boys a hug, kissed the tops of their heads, smoothed back their hair (Albus, blond and unruly; Scorpius, a darker blond and straight), and told them to have a good journey and to owl when they got there.

And then he had left them. Alone, in the middle of Kings Cross, students and parents and muggles alike bustling around them.

Harry had just walked away. If he had known…

He was just finishing off a report for the Minister that afternoon, when the floo in his office flared and his secretary Belinda's face appeared in the flames.

"I'm so sorry to disturb you, Mr. P, but I have an urgent floo from Headmistress McGonagall. Are you able to take her call?" she asked, and Harry looked at the carriage clock on his mantlepiece, a gift from Shacklebolt after he had taken over as Head of the MLE. The time was showing at quarter past five in the afternoon - the train wouldn't have arrived at Hogsmeade just yet, so why was McGonagall floo'ing? Harry pushed his chair back from his desk and went to kneel on the hearth, smiling at his secretary's rather harassed expression.

"Put her through, Belinda, thank you," Harry said and the floo flared and crackled before McGonagall's head appeared. Harry smiled at her. "Headmistress. How can I help you? It's a bit early in the school year for the boys to be getting into trouble, isn't it? They've not even arrived at Hogwarts," he said, jokingly, but the humour died in his throat when he took in McGonagall's pale face.

"Harry - the boys, they've not… The Trolley Witch, she reported them missing from the train about 5 minutes ago," she said and the bottom fell out of Harry's stomach.

"What?" he gasped out, falling back on his heels, feeling his knees protest. He reached out a hand and held onto the edge of the fireplace, steadying himself.

"She's done her usual walk-through of the train, and couldn't find them anywhere. She triple-checked, Harry - they're not on the train," McGonagall said. Harry stared at her.

"But - but I dropped them off. At Kings Cross. I left them there, they knew where to go, how…"

"I've contacted the Auror Office separately but currently - we don't know where they are," she said and Harry's whole world slid sideways, panic gripping at his throat.

Albus and Scorpius - his twins, his boys - missing?

Harry shut the floo abruptly, and hauled himself to his feet, staggering slightly. He felt sick and dazed, and it was only with a vague notion of what he was doing did he force himself to leave his office and head straight for the Auror's cubicles. There was a ringing sound in his ears.

Thompson was there, at his desk in amongst the Aurors, when Harry planted his palms on the smooth wooden surface and did his best to loom over the Head of the Aurors. Thompson barely glanced up from his paperwork. He had always been arrogant and dismissive, believing that Harry had gotten into the Auror program on his name alone, and not because Harry had proved his capabilities. He had been bitter about being passed over for the Head of Aurors position when Harry had been promoted six years ago, and was now bitter that Harry had become the Head of the MLE, and Thompson had been selected to take his place leading the Aurors. Meetings between them were forced and barely civil, and Harry wanted to punch him half the time. Now was no exception.

"What are you doing to find my sons?" he asked, though his mouth felt like it was stuffed full of cotton. Thompson blinked at him stupidly for a minute, before pushing himself to standing, matching Harry's height, adjusting the cuffs of his shirt underneath his robe.

"The Headmistress reported them missing not five minutes ago, Sir," he said, with forced respect, "We've sent Aurors to meet the train en route, and another team to Kings Cross to check the platform, but we haven't heard anything back yet. Please - wait in your office, we'll come find you as soon as-,"

"You want me to wait? In my office?!" Harry's voice became louder and more shrill, a feeling of sickness overwhelming him. "While you, what, wait for a ransom note to show up, demanding money or magic or blood for my sons?"

"We don't know it was a kidnapping yet, Sir, unless you know something we don't," Thompson said a bit snidely, walking around the edge of his desk, reaching out one hand placatingly towards Harry. Harry reached instead for the front of Thompson's deep burgundy robes and grabbed a handful of fabric by his throat, hauling him close.

"How could it not be a kidnapping?!" Harry said incredulously. Thompson looked suitably worried for his own safety. "Find. My. Sons," Harry ground out, aware of the sound of chairs scraping back from desks and other Aurors in the room standing, reaching for their wands. Thompson's eyes were panicked.

"Mr. P," another voice said from behind him, and Harry looked over his shoulder. Belinda was there - firm, kind, gentle Belinda, who reminded him of Mrs Weasley, who brought him endless cups of tea or coffee, and lunch when he forgot it, and shared the stories of her boys when they were teenagers so that Harry felt less alone than he really was. She reached out a hand and placed it on his forearm, and Harry let go of Thompson's robes, the other man staggered back into his desk, sheets of parchment spilling off onto the floor. "Let's go to your office, love. Have a cuppa, I've called Minister Granger and Mr Weasley on the floo, they'll be over any minute,"

Harry let himself be led away, feeling the fight leave his body. He suddenly felt like crying.

Belinda sat him down on the plush sofa in the corner of his office and then bustled off to her atrium outside his office, to make him a cup of tea. Harry sat with his head in his hands, panic occasionally seizing his body and thrumming through him. He felt like he was going mad.

From behind his desk, the portrait of Madam Hilda, the first female Head of Department, cleared her throat. Harry looked up and she gave him a watery smile.

"They shall find them, dear. I have the utmost faith in them, and you should as well," she told him and Harry gave her a nod, before covering his face once again.

Belinda came back with the tea, and pushed the mug into one of his hands. Harry reached for her with the other.

"Where are they, Bel?" he asked her, sounding broken even to his own ears, and she clucked her tongue at him and patted his hand.

"Wherever they are, you'll find them, Mr. P," she said kindly, and then the office door was flung open as Ron and Hermione came running in. Hermione was on him in a second, knelt over him and pulling him into a hug, her body shaking. Ron stood nearby, looking pale, his freckles standing out starkly against his skin. Belinda patted his shoulder as she left, pulling the door closed behind her.

"They're missing, Hermione," Harry murmured, sounding very lost, and Hermione made a soft, pained noise.

"Oh Harry, I'm so sorry. Whatever we can do, we'll do it. Location Charm? Have you tried it?" she asked and Harry shook his head.

"The boys are both warded against it. It was… a security risk," he explained and the words tasted bitter in his mouth. Yes, he had warded the boys against Location Charms. It was thought that, when they were younger, if someone had wanted to find them, it would've been a security risk to have them unprotected like that. And so Harry had warded them both, given them matching bracelets, explained them away as gifts, and then made sure that neither of those bracelets would ever come off.

If only he had known…

"Have you spoken to Rose? Have you asked her, has she seen them?" he asked as the thought swung into his mind. Their children had been raised as cousins, the boys Weasleys in everything but name, and as they were so close in age, they spent most of their time with Rose, who was undoubtedly one of their best friends. With a frown, Hermione shook her head.

"She hasn't even arrived at Hogwarts yet, Harry," she reminded him and Harry nodded, looking down at his hands. A painful silence fell until Ron cleared his throat, and Harry looked up at him.

"We'll find them, Harry," he said, his voice rough with emotion. "We can't… We'll find them," and he nodded, a look of grim determination on his face.

"Have you told-?" Hermione asked, and the look Harry gave her caused her to wince. "He might be able to help. You never know," she said placatingly and Harry leaned back onto the sofa heavily. He had spent years, eleven of them exactly, avoiding speaking to him. Any correspondence was sent by a borrowed owl, anything to do with money or property was through respective lawyers. There were no pictures of him in the house, and Harry doubted that either of his boys would even know his name.

What he had done was unforgivable, and Harry had made sure that his name was stricken from every record, every piece of paperwork relating to the boys, made sure that he couldn't contact them or talk to them, or even come within 100 feet of them.

But Hermione was right.

He might be able to help.

Harry pulled his wand out of his inner jacket pocket and thought hard for a happy memory - the day the boys had been born. Squalling, pink, green eyes and dark thatches of hair, his beautiful sons.

And the man who gave birth to them.

His Patronus slipped out of his wand and the stag shook his antlers, and gave Harry a solemn look.

"They're missing. You have to help us. Please," he said, his voice trembling, and the Patronus stamped one hoof against the floor nervously before galloping away, disappearing through the wall.


{#}

[7 Hours Missing]

Nearly an hour later, an hour sitting in quiet agony in his office, there was a wave of noise from the bullpen, and Harry escaped Hermione's clutches long enough to push through the Aurors to get to where he could see what was going on. The bullpen was an open space set into the floor, behind the cubicles that lined the entrance to the office. Several spelled backboards were set around the space, and all the Aurors were turned, focussing on one just out of Harry's sight. Thompson was speaking, his wand poised in front of him.

"The message was located on one of the pillars on the platform, etched on the stone in Hidden Words," he flicked his wand and a large image of one of the brick pillars on platform 9¾ appeared, floating in the air. Etched - no, burned - into the side of the pillar was some writing. Thompson began to read it out.

"I have taken the sons of Harry Potter, as repayment for the pureblood sons killed and lost. To find them would be to kill them quicker. This is your only warning,"

Harry felt his knees give way and he held on to Hermione's robes as he stumbled her yelp of alarm causing all the Aurors to turn to look at them. Thompson scowled.

"Potter, you shouldn't be here! As a family member, you have-,"

"Shut it, Thompson, or I'll do it for you," Ron snarled, whipping out his wand and pointing it at Thompson. They had never gotten along, even during their training days, and when Ron had left to join George at the joke shop, Thompson had seen it as a personal victory. Even so, Thompson looked suitably cowed.

"“Repayment'… a dark wizard must've taken the boys!" Hermione said, mind fitting the dots together. She had one hand tangled in Harry's robes, steadying him where he leaned heavily against her, and her eyes were flicking over the image again and again, a frown on her face. "A Death Eater, probably. Probably lost a son in the War," she continued, and the Aurors were all nodding along with her, a few looking at their relatively newly-elected Minister for Magic with newfound respect.

"Yes, well, that's all a given, really-," Thompson cut in, but he stopped when Ron raised his wand again. Another Auror, Mulligan, spoke up.

"Golden Forty-Eight," she said, and they all turned to look at her. She shrugged one shoulder. "The Muggles call it the Golden Forty-Eight. The first two days in a missing persons case are critical, otherwise it might…" and then she trailed off, looking down at Harry with a pained expression.

"Go on," he murmured and she frowned and sighed.

"Otherwise it might be a murder investigation instead," she finished, and Hermione sucked in a breath, while all the blood drained from Ron's face.

Harry just stared at the image floating overhead, leaning heavily against Hermione. He stared until the words all blurred together, until they blended into the brick, until it looked like they weren't there at all.

{#}

[8 Hours Missing]

By seven that evening, Hermione had written up a statement to announce to the wider Wizarding public in that evening's News broadcast. Harry had been ushered into his office after the meeting in the bullpen, and Belinda had been put on guard duty out front, fighting off any intruders who weren't relevant to the current situation (Cuthbert from the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes had come by 3 times, and had finally left after Belinda had hexed his ears to flap wildly as a final warning), and now Harry was waiting, pacing up and down the office, occasionally being forced to sit and drink something, or eat something, anything to stop the pacing, which was beginning to concern Hermione, who had left the office ten minutes ago to get to the Wireless studio.

Ron now had all the files out of Harry's filing cabinet, and was meticulously going through them, trying to find a Death Eater whose son had died in the War. Unsurprisingly, there were quite a few of them, and the pile of files for these individuals was slowly building up.

"Owen Rosier had a daughter who died in the War, no sons though… Shall we add him to the list?" Ron mused outloud, and Harry made a quiet noise of agreement. He wasn't used to this inactivity, but Thompson had thrown him out of the bullpen shortly after Mulligan had explained about the Golden Forty-Eight, and Hermione had agreed before she left that it was probably best if Harry didn't get overly involved in the investigation.

"Mr. P!" Belinda shouted through the door, which was pulled ajar, and Harry looked over. She had poked her head through the gap, a pained look on her face. "I've a man here to see you Sir, said it's important, won't take no for an answer. Tall, skinny, blond - actually, if I didn't know better, I'd say he looked just like Scorpius, Sir, just a bit more… pointy," she commented and there was a noise of outrage from the person just outside the door.

"You sent your fucking Patronus after me, Potter!" came a shout and Harry recognised that voice, had ached for that voice for years, and then he was on his feet and wrenching open the door, causing Belinda to topple into the room with a yelp.

Harry caught her with one arm, but his eyes were trained on the figure waiting there for him.

Draco Malfoy.

He was still tall, taller than Harry had remembered, but the boyishness of his face was gone, leaving his face with a defined jaw and high sweeping cheekbones. His hair was shorter than Harry had remembered, cut for practicality rather than style. His clothes were an odd mix between muggle and wizard - dragonhide boots with a Barbour waxed jacket. Harry felt a bit faint at the sight of him.

"Oh, Merlin, you came," he murmured, righting Belinda without really looking at her. Malfoy scoffed.

"Well, you seem to have misplaced our sons," he said by way of an explanation and Harry made a pained sound. Malfoy's expression softened, and then Ron was there, behind Harry, and Malfoy frowned at him. "Weasley," Malfoy greeted and Ron nodded curtly.

"Malfoy. Nice of you to help," he replied, and they stared at each other coolly for a few seconds. Belinda eyed the three of them, a little confused, for a minute and then cleared her throat.

"Shall I get another round of tea, Mr. P? And I think Minister Granger's broadcast is about to start, if you want to tune in?" she said. Harry nodded, and waved his hand in the direction of the wireless which sat in a corner of the room. It crackled to life and the dial adjusted itself into the evening broadcast. Ron went to sit back at the desk while Malfoy gaped at Harry slightly.

"Wandless? Really?" he asked and Harry nodded tiredly. He had managed to tap into this skill during his Auror years, and since then used it for minor things - turning on the wireless, making tea, sending Donovan from the Daily Prophet whizzing back to the elevators when he managed to sneak past security again (he hadn't tried coming back).

Harry stepped back into the office and sunk into the sofa, half-listening to the broadcast as Lee Jordan, now the main voice of Magic Daily, the evening News broadcast, introduced Hermione.

"And now, we have the Minister of Magic herself, Hermione Granger, here to make a statement on a new case that has come to light this afternoon. Minister?"

"Thank you, Lee. Ladies and gentlemen of the Wizarding World, I have the sad task today of telling you all that the sons of Harry Potter, twelve-year-olds Albus Severus and Scorpius Hyperion, were kidnapped today on their way to Hogwarts for the start of the September term. A message was left by the kidnapper at Platform 9¾, but the Aurors do not yet know if this was where they were taken, or if this was left after the kidnapping took place. We are urging all members of the public to come forward to the MLE if they witnessed anything suspicious between the hours of 11am and 5pm today, that could be related to the boys being taken. Please contact the Auror office on the dedicated floo line," she said and there was silence from Lee's end.

"… I'm sorry, Minister - Harry Potter's sons have been kidnapped?" he sounded shocked, horrified, and Harry buried his face in his hands.

"That is correct, Lee. We still don't know who could have taken them, or why, but it is of the utmost importance that both boys are found safe and well. I must let the kidnapper know, if he or she is listening to this, that the full force of the Ministry is searching for the boys at this time, and we will find them. This is a promise," she said sternly.

"Thank you very much, Minister. Big news here, ladies and gentlemen, and we'll keep you up to date as the story unfolds. As the Minister urged you all, if you have any information regarding the disappearance of Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Hyperion Potter, please contact the dedicated Auror floo line. In other news, broomstick sales have -," Harry waved his hand and the Wireless spluttered and went silent.

They sat in silence for a long minute.

"You got rid of the Malfoy then?" Malfoy eventually said, leaning back against the wall by the door. Ron shot him a venomous look.

"You had to sign the papers agreeing to it," Harry said quietly, into his hands, and Malfoy scoffed.

"I didn't realise you would go through with it! I thought that your sentimentality might win out, might mean that-," Malfoy cut himself off, running a hand over his face. "This isn't the time. Tell me what I can do," he said, pushing himself away from the wall and walking over to stand in front of Harry. Ron cleared his throat.

"They were taken by a dark wizard. Death Eater, we think. Someone who lost a son during the War. Look, here's the message they left," and Ron conjured the same image that Thompson had shown the bullpen, the scorched writing on the brick pillar. Malfoy studied it, frowning.

"How was this written, do the Aurors know?" he asked and Ron frowned.

"Hidden Words spell, apparently. Why?" he said, and Malfoy shook his head. Harry looked up, watching Malfoy look over the image.

"No - see the scorching? Hidden Words doesn't do that. It doesn't burn the message into the surface, like this one did. This was meant to be found too - nothing “hidden' about it. The kidnapper wanted someone to find this, they probably cast a timer charm on it so it didn't appear until the platform was empty after everyone had left. This was probably Odibilis Adnuntiatio," Malfoy said, moving a bit closer to study the image. There was a knock on the door and Ron called for whoever it is to come in - Belinda pushed the door open, a tray of tea hovering next to her, and then from behind her, Hermione walked in, followed by Ginny, Luna and Neville. They all had grim looks of determination on their faces.

"We came as soon as we could. We need to help," Ginny said by way of explanation, her eyes locked on Harry's. Luna sat down next to Harry and threaded one of her arms through his, leaning over to rest her cheek on his shoulder, humming quietly to herself.

"Hey, have a look over these files with me," Ron said, reaching for a mug of tea, which Belinda handed over - she slapped his hand away as he tried to pinch a few biscuits from the plate on the tray. Ginny went over and pulled one of the guest chairs up to the desk, taking a file from the stack by Ron's elbow and opening it to the first page. Neville joined her, casting wary glances over his shoulder at Malfoy, who was still studying the floating image.

Hermione cast Malfoy a look of thinly veiled distrust through the conjured projection, and he sneered at her in return. Harry felt like knocking their heads together.

"I asked him to come here, Hermione - remember?" he said and Hermione's expression softened slightly.

"I know. Do you think you can help?" she asked and Malfoy looked over to the image of pillar, and nodded.

"I want to. They're my sons too," he said and Harry felt a wave of rage sweep over him.

"They're not," he said into the room and they all turned to look at him. Malfoy had blanched.

"Pardon me?" he asked through gritted teeth. Luna's hold on Harry's arm tightened. Belinda left the room fairly quickly.

"They're not your sons. You… you walked away, you signed all the paperwork, you didn't raise them. Merlin, you didn't even turn up for their first journey to Hogwarts, you can't possibly think that they're your sons," Harry spat out at him, shaking Luna off and rising to his feet. Malfoy scowled at him, his eyes ablaze.

"You didn't want me there. You banned me from seeing them, laid that all out very nicely in the custody agreement, didn't you, Potter? I would've been there, I would've stood on the platform for them, Merlin, maybe if I had done that, they wouldn't have fucking gone missing on YOUR FUCKING WATCH," Malfoy roared, splotches of colour appearing at his cheeks. Harry reared back as if he had been slapped, breathing harshly. Dimly, he was aware of Hermione casting wards around the room, probably sealing off the room in case Harry's magic flared, which it did on occasion.

"It was one of you that took them! One of the Death Eaters, someone that you fucking knew, Malfoy! Someone who probably sat in your fucking house, had dinner at your fucking dining table, probably fucking tortured Muggles right next to you, SOMEONE YOU KNEW. You fucking tell me, Malfoy, who the fuck has taken my sons, because I swear to Merlin, I will rip them limb from limb," Harry screamed back, taking a few steps forward, reaching to grab the front of Malfoy's jumper, but Neville was there suddenly, putting himself between them.

"Enough!" he shouted and whatever Malfoy had been about to shout died in his throat. Neville looked between them, as if he were separating two bickering children. "Now is not the time. You are both - yes, both of you, Harry-," and Harry scowled at him, "upset, we get that, honestly we do. But whatever drove you two apart years ago needs to be put on the backburner for now. You both need us to help you find the boys, and you need to let us help you as well," he said and Harry felt deflated all of a sudden. He stepped back and allowed Luna to draw him back onto the sofa, her hands firmly planted on his shoulders. Malfoy took a few steps back until he was leaning heavily against the mantle of the fireplace, and he placed a shaking hand over his eyes. The others all gave him a moment to compose himself, looking away, but Harry kept watching.

Once upon a time, his sons had been Malfoy's too.

They fell into silence, the group, as they all poured over the files in front of them. Harry got lost in the details of Death Eaters he had encountered years before - Hollander, Grey, Rowle. Any one of them could have his sons, and the thought made a mixture of panic and rage rise in his chest. With a glance over a Malfoy, Harry could see that he, too, was struggling with the strange mix of emotions.

"We need a plan," Ginny said hours later. She gestured at the files they all held, and that were piled up by their feet. "We need to figure out who might've taken the boys. Whittle these suspects down. Malfoy - do you have any idea what we should be searching for?" she asked and Malfoy took a shaky breath, obviously composing himself.

"An old family - probably one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight, or a branch of one. Someone to whom family history, and an heir, would be highly important," he explained and Ginny nodded, picking a few files out of the various ones dotted around the room. She passed them around, until everyone but Harry and Malfoy had a few files sat on their laps.

"What about us?" Harry asked, but Hermione shook her head.

"Sorry Harry, but you know the rules. No immediate family are allowed to be involved in any cases. It can cause a conflict of interest," she said and Harry raised an eyebrow at her.

"Ginny works for the Daily Prophet. Neville's a teacher, Ron works in a joke shop, Luna - sorry, Luna, I don't have the faintest idea what it is you do, but you're definitely not an Auror," he said, turning to Luna slightly to apologise. She gave him a sincere smile, and squeezed his arm where it was entangled with hers. "Why are you all allowed to help?" he asked, and Neville gave him a grim smile.

"Because we're the best hope you have, Harry," he said, and Harry's heart clenched. Hermione reached over and smoothed his hair back from his face.

"Go home, Harry. We'll get you first thing in the morning, but right now, you need to sleep," she said, and Harry swallowed his pride, and nodded. Hermione stepped back to let him stand up, and caught his hand in hers, giving it a squeeze. "Take Malfoy with you. He looks a bit lost," she said in an undertone and Harry started to protest, but it died in his throat when she gave him a stern look.

"Let me know, please… If you hear a-anything," he said and Hermione nodded, moving to go and take his spot on the sofa next to Luna. Harry felt untethered all of a sudden, like a ship come away from its mooring, until he turned to Malfoy, who looked as lost as he felt.

"You'd better come with me. I don't imagine you have anywhere to stay tonight," he heard himself say, and Malfoy nodded once, standing up straight, and following Harry from the door. Belinda was sat at her desk, a quick-notes quill writing up the minutes from this morning's meeting as she dictated them. She glanced up as Harry walked past, going for his outer robes that hung on a peg on the nearby wall.

"Off home, Mr. P?" she asked, tutting at the quill as it jotted down what she had just said. It crossed out the last words it had written apologetically.

"Yes, Bel. The others are staying, but go home soon, alright?" he said, pulling his robe on, and she nodded, going back to her dictation. It felt very strange, a little forced, a little hollow, to have a similar conversation to the one they had every evening, but he couldn't think of what to say, and from the look on her face, neither could Belinda. Harry left, with Malfoy trailing behind him like a silent, pale shadow.

They exited the Ministry via the telephone box, the wand-wizard giving Harry a mournful look from behind his desk on his way out, and once they were on street-level, Harry turned to Malfoy.

"You remember where it is, don't you?" he asked, and he didn't wait for a reply as he turned on his heel and Disapparated away.


{#}

[12 Hours Missing]

He landed into a pile of autumn leaves in the park opposite 12 Grimmauld Place. The house was dark - the curtains still drawn back to let in daylight which had faded into darkness a long time ago. There was a faint crack next to him and then Malfoy was standing at his side, staring up at the building.

"I hope it's not as dreary on the inside as it was when I left," he murmured and Harry scowled at him, storming off towards the front door steps. He pulled his wand free of its concealed pocket and tapped it against the door, which clicked open. Inside, the lights flared to life, a gentle welcoming glow which Harry felt at odds with.

It was only when Malfoy was firmly inside and Harry had shut the door, did the reality of the day hit him.

Albus' football cleats were kicked into a corner by the staircase, still muddy even after Harry had told him repeatedly to put them in the utility room. A stack of Scorpius' books were piled precariously on the bottom step, awaiting their owner to return them to their place on the bookshelves in his room upstairs. One of their jumpers, knitted by Mrs. Weasley, lay crumpled over the banister. Harry reached for it, stumbling to take it down and bring it to his face, and he buried his nose in it. He inhaled.

Albus.

It smelled of Albus.

"Merlin," he said, feeling his knees give way. He sat heavily on the staircase, and Malfoy sank down next to him.

"Yes," he agreed, bowing his head. He reached for one of the books next to him and picked it up, reading the title with a frown. "Anne of Green Gables?" he asked, and Harry nodded, hugging the jumper close.

"Scorpius. He loves muggle books," he explained and Malfoy made a small sound, flipping the book over to read the blurb.

"What House are they in?" he asked and Harry shook his head.

"Like you don't know," he replied, and Malfoy looked over at him, placing the book back on top of the pile.

"I do - I just want to hear you talk about it. Talk about them," he said, gently, and Harry thinks for a bit, running his fingers over the cuff of the jumper. A thread feels like it's about to come loose.

"Slytherin. Both of them. Everyone - the Ministry, the press, my friends - all thought I'd be horrified. But I wasn't. I was supposed to be in Slytherin, but I made my choice. The boys made theirs," he explained. Malfoy nodded.

"I'm sure my father would be simultaneously horrified and overjoyed to hear it," he said and Harry frowned. He set the jumper down on his lap and began to fold it, finding the careful movements soothing.

"He was released from Azkaban not too long ago," he said, and Malfoy made a noise of agreement.

"I'm aware. I may have moved to France, but I'm not completely cut off from English Wizarding society," he said. Harry studied him for a second, eyeing his face. There were now lines where once his skin had been smooth, and they all seemed to be focussed between his eyebrows - frown lines.

"Popular there, are you?" Harry asked and Malfoy scoffed, running a hand over his short hair.

"Hardly. For one thing, I'm the man who broke the Boy-Who-Lived's heart and supposedly abandoned him and our children. No, the Président de la Magie doesn't extend luncheon invitations often," he said, tilting his head back to look up at the winding staircase above him. Harry remained silent. "I'll sleep on the sofa, then, shall I?" Malfoy suggested eventually, and Harry looked over at him. He looked tired - exhausted, even, and Harry probably looked worse himself. Malfoy ran a hand over his face and breathed deeply, the inhale catching slightly in his throat, but Harry didn't comment. He was very sure that if he stopped for a minute, he would probably burst into tears himself.

"There's a guest room upstairs. I have some spare pyjamas. Come on - let's get some sleep. The b-," and here his own breathing hitched, tears quickly burning at his eyes, "They'll need us in the morning," he said and then he used the banister to pull himself to standing. Malfoy pushed himself to his feet and nodded.

"Thank you, Harry," he said Harry quirked an eyebrow at him. Malfoy shrugged. "It seems ridiculous to call you by your surname in what was previously our marital home," he pointed out and Harry swallowed his reply. He merely nodded and then led the way up the stairs, hugging Albus' jumper close to his chest.

They made their way to the top of the house in silence, Malfoy occasionally pausing to look at the photographs on the walls or a trinket on a side-table, or comment about the decor of the house itself. On the second floor, he paused and smiled, gesturing to the framed picture of both the boys in their Kiddie Quidditch Team, aged about six-years-old, Albus sat confidently on his broom while Scorpius stood, awkward, next to him, clutching a teddy bear. In the photograph, his broom zipped out of his hand and went flying away, while a silent cry of outrage came rushing out of Scorpius' mouth. Harry paused to look at it.

"Albus is on the Slytherin team, you know," he said and Malfoy's mouth quirked.

"Seeker?" he guessed, and Harry shook his head.

"Chaser. He's good - takes after both of us, I think. He was annoyed that he didn't beat me for “Youngest Seeker in a Century', though. He thought that if he was really good, the team would recruit him before he had even stepped on the train," he said with a laugh and Malfoy smiled. He tapped on the frame near Scorpius.

"Didn't my Mother send them those bears?" he asked, and Harry nodded.

"Yes. Albus keeps his in his room, but Scorpius has to have Aloysius with him all the time," he said and Malfoy barked a laugh.

"What a name for a bear!" he said with a hint of delight and Harry smiled. From the frame, both boys waved at them, Scorpius lifting one of Aloysius' paws to make him wave too.

They continued up the stairs.

On the third floor, Harry pointed at one of the closed doors. "Guest room is in there, now. There's an ensuite - I'll grab some pyjamas and a toothbrush and bring them down," he said, and Malfoy nodded, heading over to the room to investigate while Harry took the remaining flight up to his Master suite.

He had redecorated this room himself, after Malfoy had left, and it took up the entire floor. The door opened directly into a comfortable seating area, with a Muggle TV and DVD player in one corner and a large, over-stuffed armchair set at an angle to it, with a couch big enough to lounge on opposite. A blanket was thrown over the back of it, and Harry's heart lurched as he remembered how, last night, the night before, Scorpius had watched a film up here with him, wrapped in that very blanket, until he had been falling asleep and Harry had ushered him off to bed. He set the jumper down on top of the blanket and went into his bedroom proper, through a set of slatted folding double doors.

The room was decorated in shades of sage green, dark brown and hints of silver. Both boys had teased him about showing his Slytherin side, especially after he had revealed to them the truth about his Sorting (just before that very first train ride). A large four-poster bed was set against the wall between two windows, and both nightstands were buckling under the weight of books he hadn't read yet, and magazines he hadn't managed to unsubscribe to, and Ministry files he spent too much time pouring over. Harry tugged at the corner of the rumpled duvet, straightening it a little, and then went to rummage through the chest of drawers nearby.

He pulled out a pair of pyjamas trousers, a t-shirt and a thick-knit cardigan, because the mornings were getting colder again, grabbed a spare toothbrush and toothpaste from under the ensuite bathroom sink, and then headed back downstairs, all items tucked under his arm. The guest room door was ajar, but Harry knocked anyway, before pushing open the door.

Malfoy was sat down on the bed, staring ahead but not at anything in particular. He had shucked his shirt, but held it balled up, loosely in his hands, and Harry took a moment to watch where the moonlight from the window caught against Malfoy's pale skin. He looked lost and very alone in the darkened room. Harry shook his head, forcing himself to stop staring, and walked further into the room, startling Malfoy a little who looked up at him with wide grey eyes.

"Are you okay?" Harry asked and Malfoy nodded slowly, his eyes flickering to look at the clothing Harry had brought in for him. He stood up to take the pile from him, dropping his own shirt onto the bed, and Harry's gaze flickered down. Somewhere, hidden by the jeans that Malfoy wore, was the long thin scar that ran across his lower abdomen, where their sons had been brought into this world.

Malfoy plucked at the t-shirt on the top of the pile and smile. "I got you this," he said quietly and Harry looked at the t-shirt itself. It was old, but comfortable, and had the logo of a Muggle theme-park emblazoned across it, and he remembered - Malfoy had begrudgingly bought it for him after a day out when Harry's t-shirt had gotten wet after riding on a log flume.

"So you did," Harry said and Malfoy made a small noise. "I'll leave you to it. If you want anything washed, just leave it by the door. We have an Elf, Dinky, who comes in every morning to do some laundry and a general tidy," he explained, slowly heading for the door, but Malfoy called him back.

"Harry," he said and Harry turned back to look at him. "What do we do tomorrow? I mean - what can we do?" he asked, his voice desperate and Harry stared at him, feeling very lost.

"I… I don't know," he admitted and Malfoy nodded, taking a deep shuddering breath.

Harry left and retreated back to his own room. And if both he and Malfoy lain awake for hours that night, until they both had been dragged into nightmares by exhaustion alone, neither of them mentioned it in the morning.


{#}

His dreams that night were a sort of distorted reality. He dreamed of stumbling around Grimmauld Place, heavy with sleep and fatigue, and hearing the boys voices from far away. Falling against a wall and feeling his body being dragged down, all while hearing Albus calling for him.

"Dad, Dad, where are you?" he could hear, but his mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton wool and he couldn't call out to reply.

"Daddy!" a young Scorpius screamed, a child in pain. Harry forced himself to stand upright, to move towards the stairs, but the room warped and twisted and he stumbled. He dragged himself towards the staircase, determined to go downstairs, to reach the boys, but the bannister turned into a snake and nipped at his hands as he tried to grasp it.

From where he could see between the staircase balustrade, the bathroom door was open on the floor below, and Malfoy was sat on the floor, facing the bathtub. In his dreams, Harry let out a groan, and Malfoy turned and looked up at him.

"It's all right, now. It will all be fine," he said in a quietly chilling voice, and Harry stumbled down a few more steps. Just past the landing, on the next flight down, two small boys pressed their heads together, curls tangling into fine straight locks. Harry reached for them and then fell again, straight into the waking world.


{#}

[20.5 hours missing]

The morning had been a bizarre experience - Harry had felt a little like he had fallen down a rabbit hole where he was in an alternate world. A world where he had lost his sons, but kept his husband. After his nightmare, he had woken up and stumbled down the stairs, quietly opening the door of the guest room to peer in. Malfoy was asleep, his face slack as he dreamed, his blond hair flattened to one side.

With his expression relaxed, Harry could see the boys in him. They had both inherited his blond hair (though Scorpius' was darker and Albus' curled), though both boys had Harry's bright green eyes. But there was something about their faces, sometimes - the catch of the light of their cheekbones, the curves of their smiles, that reminded Harry so much of Malfoy that it ached, just for a second.

They had parted so abruptly that Harry thought maybe he didn't really have enough of a chance to hate Malfoy long enough to stop loving him. He was there one minute and then he was gone, exiled to France with his books and potions and clothes and belongings all disappearing from Grimmauld Place overnight, leaving Harry with nothing but memories and two little boys who cried for their lost father.

And they had cried so much in those first few weeks, shrieks and weak hiccuping sobs of “Papa', their faces red and tear-stained. But Harry had pushed through and stopped mentioning Malfoy to the boys until eventually, one day, they stopped asking. And Harry had never found the right time to tell them.

Malfoy had found him in the basement kitchen at five in the morning, staring into the depths of a cup of tea like it held all the answers, and he had quietly made himself a cup and then sat down opposite.

"Why our boys?" Malfoy had asked and Harry ignored the urge to correct him - they hadn't been Malfoy's boys for a long time, but now wasn't the time to point it out.

"Because we're us," he had said simply, because it was true. They seemed to be the cursed ones, two doomed boys from either side of a War that was far greater than either of them. Doomed to wander, doomed never to find happiness or be at peace. Doomed to never be allowed to love.

The Wizarding World had been in an uproar when it came to light that they were in a relationship, and Harry certainly hadn't meant to end up in one, especially not with Malfoy. But after the War, he had struggled enormously with guilt of all those lives that had been lost in his name, and so he had wanted to speak to someone from the other side who might've understood - and that had been Malfoy, who had been under house arrest for nearly a year after the War, punished by languishing in the same building that Voldemort's memory haunted.

Harry had gone to meet with Malfoy soon after he and his Mother had been sentenced. They had started off coldly civil and had ended with a raging argument, but Harry kept coming back for more, because Malfoy understood. He got what it had meant to look at the War, the casualties, and realise that all of it had rested firmly at his feet.

"I didn't realise. It sounds so - pathetic to say it now, how could I have not realised? But when your parents tell you to do something, you do it, because they love you and you love them and you don't even realise that there might be something that they place higher than you," Malfoy had said once and Harry had nodded solemnly, realising something about his own relationship with Dumbledore in that instant.

"When I have children, I won't do that to them. There won't be anything more important to me than them, ever," he has said with conviction. Malfoy had looked at him, over the rim of his cup of tea, and maybe smiled a little.

At the time, it had warmed Harry's heart. And by the time Malfoy had been released from house arrest, they had been nearly inseparable.

Married at 20. Children at 26.

Divorced by 27, and Malfoy exiled to France.

And here they were, what felt like a lifetime later.

When they arrived at the DMLE, the Auror department was subdued enough that it made Harry nervous. Mulligan had looked up from her cubicle and given him a half-smile, but had turned back to her paperwork before Harry could approach her. Behind him, Malfoy shifted uneasily, and Harry remembered that he had spent a lot of time around Aurors after the Battle of Hogwarts, and not always for good reasons. They skirted around the cubicles and headed towards the bullpen and Harry's office, encountering Thompson along the way, a mug of coffee in his hand and a roll of parchment in the other. Harry wanted to knock the mug straight out of his hand but restrained himself.

"Not much movement overnight I'm afraid," he said, and Harry scowled at him. He felt Malfoy touch his elbow in a quelling gesture and Harry took a deep breath to calm himself.

"I'll be in my office. Tell me the second something happens," he said and then he and Malfoy made their way into Harry's office. Bel gave them both a smile as they walked past her, and Harry knew she'd be back soon enough with some tea and a spot of breakfast, maybe a croissant or some porridge, though neither Harry or Malfoy had the appetite for it.

His office was in disarray, with files lain across every surface, and one wall requisitioned for some sort of Case Summary which included a very complicated spider diagram (possibly showing the connections between several Death Eater families), and list of names, with a few crossed out. Harry recognised Hermione's handwriting, Merlin help him.

Malfoy moved some of the files to the side and sat heavily on the couch, long legs splaying out in front of him. Harry settled in behind his desk and slowly began picking his way through the files, making some space in front of him.

Belinda bustled in a few minutes later with a tray of tea and pastries, and tutted at the mess, but found a spot on top of a filing cabinet to settle the tray and then left them to it. They sat in silence while a warming charm kept the tea hot.

"Dumbledore would know," Harry muttered to himself and Malfoy looked up at him sharply. Harry shrugged one shoulder. "He would - I don't know, he would say something cryptic and then all the pieces would fall into place and then we'd know, wouldn't we, we'd know where the boys are," he said and Malfoy raised a pale eyebrow at him.

"Harry-," he said and Harry pushed his chair back so quickly it made an alarming scraping sound across the floor.

"Don't “Harry' me! Don't use that tone of voice! They're - they're going to be fine, we'll find them, we have to - we have to find them, I don't," and he clapped a hand over his mouth to stifle the rising urge to scream. Malfoy looked alarmed and stood up too, moving to stand next to Harry, a hand on his shoulder.

"I know," he said quietly, comfortingly, and Harry nodded, screwing his eyes shut. From behind them, there was the sound of a throat being cleared. Malfoy glanced back first and rolled his eyes, leaning away from Harry. "Speak of the Devil, and he shall appear," he muttered and Harry looked over - where Madam Hilda usually rested in her high-backed chair, Albus Dumbledore now sat, his fingers interlaced around his middle, his eyes twinkling behind his half-moon glasses.

Harry had the simultaneous urge to cry with joy and also punch the portrait.

"Harry," Dumbledore greeted him with a smile, and he then turned his gaze to Malfoy, who looked away. "Mr. Malfoy. I am sorry to hear about your sons," he said and Harry choked a little, his throat constricting. Malfoy knocked their shoulders together.

"Have you seen them? Heard anything? You have connections all over, you must have heard something?" Malfoy asked Dumbledore a little desperately, and Harry nodded along. Yes - surely Dumbledore would know something.

"I must admit, I haven't seen them. Truthfully, I have no idea where they might be. My reach is not as far as it used to be," he said, looking over at them both. Harry visibly deflated. "Tell me what you know, Harry, and I will listen," Dumbledore offered, and Harry took his hand away from his mouth to explain what had happened.

He had dropped the boys off at King's Cross, but hadn't taken them to the platform, as he had been running late for a meeting with the other Heads of Department. He had bid them goodbye and then found a quiet place to Disapparate. Between then and when McGonagall had floo'd him, he didn't know what had happened. No one could figure out if the boys had managed to get on the train or not. Harry told Dumbledore about the scorched message, and Malfoy had conjured an image of it for Dumbledore to look over.

After, Dumbledore leaned back in Madam Hilda's chair and looked like he was lost deep in thought. Malfoy made him and Harry cups of tea from the still-warm teapot that Belinda had brought in while Dumbledore thought, and they both waited with baited breath.

"I find the use of the word “lost' interesting," Dumbledore eventually said. Harry stared at him.

"What do you mean?" he asked after a moment, and Dumbledore tapped his fingers together and frowned slightly.

"One of the definitions of “lost' is “that which has been taken away or cannot be recovered'," Dumbledore explained and Malfoy frowned at him.

"So, dead. Children that had died?" he asked and Dumbledore shook his head.

"I think the writer of this message means children who cannot be recovered, by choice," he said and something clicked together in Harry's mind.

"Children who converted to the light after the War? Children who were disowned after denouncing Voldemort?" he asked, ignoring Malfoy's flinch.

"Quite possibly, Harry. Review your files, look for those parents whose children chose not to return to them. You may find some intriguing leads," he pushed himself out of the chair and rose to his feet, smoothing down his robes. "I have a standing appointment to play a game of cards with the Council of Wizards, 1592, so you will have to excuse me. Galileo is most insistent upon punctuality," he said and Harry began to protest.

"But my sons, Dumbledore, what about -," he started but Dumbledore cut him off with a raised hand.

"My dear Harry - if there were any two boys most likely to survive a kidnapping, it would be the sons of you and Mr. Malfoy here. I have no doubt that they have caused endless mischief for their captor, and that they will be returned to you soon enough. Have faith, my dear boy - in yourself and in your sons. They are rather remarkable children, after all," he said and Harry nodded dumbly, while Malfoy just gaped at the portrait. Dumbledore gave them both one last smile and then disappeared out of the frame, leaving them alone.

"He is right," Malfoy eventually said, and Harry gaped at him. "If they're anything like we are, they'll have a plan all of their own," he continued and Harry shook his head.

"How would you know? You don't even know them," he said under his breath and Malfoy glared at him.

"And who's fault is that?" he retorted and Harry clenched his fists.

"It was for their safety-," he started, but Malfoy cut him off, anger flaring in his eyes.

"I was sick. Do you still not realise this? When I was sent to France, I was diagnosed with Post-partum Depression and Psychosis, I was sick," he said through gritted teeth, his fingers tightening on his mug of tea.

"You tried to drown them," Harry snarled, and the room went very still, as if cast under Petrificus Totalus. Malfoy's face was ashen.

"I did," he said quietly after a second.

"I came home from work to find both boys face down in a bath tub of water and you sitting next to them," Harry said, his voice sounding hollow even to himself.

"Yes," Malfoy said.

"Do you have any idea how terrified I was?" Harry asked and Malfoy nodded. Harry was quiet for a long moment, gathering his thoughts and memories from that terrible day. "My husband tried to kill the children we tried desperately for. In our home. I did everything I did to protect them, to keep them safe - from you. Because you tried to kill them," Harry continued and Malfoy sat down heavily on top of the desk. Harry continued, "Because you hated them enough to want to kill them,"

"I loved them," Malfoy snapped angrily, his hands clenched into fists around the edge of the desk. Harry stared at him, and he visibly deflated, hunching over and shaking his head. When he next spoke, his voice was much quieter, "I loved them so much it hurt. I still do," Malfoy explained with a desperately sad smile. "I dream about them most nights, dream about holding them, about kissing their faces. And I wanted to be so good for them, better than I had ever been. But I thought I was bad for them, I was convinced of it. After all, my parents loving me was bad for me. I felt… tortured by this idea that someday, maybe my love would be bad for them. And I didn't want to live like that, and I didn't want them to live like that," he explained and Harry let out a shuddering breath.

Maybe he had been wrong, for all these years. He thought back and remembered the way Malfoy had been then - pale and drawn, quiet and still. He had muttered to himself a lot, but gave Harry a mask of forced cheerfulness. He had barely slept, tossing and turning for most of the night, keeping Harry awake too.

The worst night had been when he had woken Harry up, convinced that Voldemort was in the house, trying to steal the boys. Even though Harry had tried to talk to him, tried to convince him otherwise, Malfoy couldn't be persuaded, and had eventually started screaming in fear, while Harry floo'd everyone and anyone in his desperation, the boys shrieking, terrified at the loud noises.

It had been Molly Weasley who had come barrelling through the fireplace at 4am, taken in Malfoy trembling in a corner, rocking backwards and forwards, muttering to himself, and Harry, pale and exhausted, in front of her, and she had pulled herself up to her greatest height and nodded, as if steeling herself for the forthcoming events.

"I'll take him to St. Mungos. You get your boys sorted," she had told Harry, before going to crouch in front of Malfoy, talking to him with a low soothing voice.

Malfoy had been given potions to drink and pills to take and then two weeks later, Harry had come home to find him knelt by the bath tub in the second floor bathroom, lazily drawing patterns on the waters surface.

Both boys had been face-down in the tub. With a strangled shout, Harry had pulled them both out and taken them both straight to St. Mungos, ripping apart the Anti-Apparition wards all over Grimmauld Place. Both boys had been saved just in time, the Healer had told him.

And when the Aurors came knocking, Harry had told them the truth. His husband had tried to kill their sons. Harry had shut the door behind them, while Malfoy was dragged, crying, from the house.

Back in the present, before he could say anything further, there was a knock on the door. Malfoy slid away from the desk and settled himself onto the sofa, picking up a stray file and opening it. Harry watched him for a second, before waving his hand at the door - it opened with a click, revealing Hermione, Ron, Ginny and Luna behind it. They trooped into the office like soldiers reporting for duty, but Hermione broke away from the group and went behind Harry's desk to pull him into a hug.

"How was last night?" she asked him quietly, and Harry tucked his face into her bushy hair for a moment, taking a second to pretend they were young again, though they had never been carefree.

"Difficult," he admitted and she pulled away and gave him a soft smile, patting his shoulder comfortingly. Ginny and Luna both embraced him too, and Harry accepted both - Ron just gave him a clap on the back, but Harry could see in his face that he was struggling too. "Where's Neville?" he asked and Ginny sighed.

"McGonagall asked him to go into work today. He tried to explain that he was helping us here, but she was insistent. He sends his apologies," she explained, and Harry nodded, settling himself into his armchair. Hermione and Ginny took the chairs opposite, while Luna cleared a space for herself on the sofa and settled in next to Malfoy, tucking her legs underneath her.

"Did you find anything last night?" Harry asked, and Hermione flicked her wand at the spider diagram on the wall - it shivered and then moved around, as if orbiting itself.

"The only party we think could fit what we're looking for is Rothbart Yaxley. He supposedly died during the Battle of Hogwarts, but his body was never recovered. His son, Fergus, died too, though his body was found in one of the corridors on the fifth floor. Ron has a theory that Yaxley Senior might've survived," she explained, Yaxley's name glowing gold from the wall.

"And what - wait all this time to kidnap our children?" Malfoy asked - Hermione shot him a cool glance over her shoulder, and then turned back to Harry.

"It's a possibility. There have been sightings of someone who looks like him over the years, though, as you know Harry, nothing ever came of it," she said and Harry nodded. While he had still been in the field, he had been sent on a few wild goose chases in order to track down a supposed Death Eater. They only ever caught one or two for every thousand sightings that came in weekly, especially in the later years.

"It doesn't make any sense," Malfoy protested from the sofa. "Yaxley couldn't have known that Harry was even going to have children,"

"Yes, but it was a possibility. And that's all this is, Malfoy," Ron argued back, and Malfoy glared at him, "a possibility,"

"While you're all playing Sherlock Holmes, our sons are out there, being held hostage by a madman," he exclaimed, outraged, while rising to his feet. Hermione gave Harry a glance, waiting for him to protest, but Harry held his tongue. Malfoy turned on his heel and stormed out of the room, slamming the door shut behind him, causing Harry to flinch slightly. Hermione raised an eyebrow at him.

"He's upset. He has a right to be," Harry said quietly. From her chair, Ginny's eyebrows shot up, but she didn't say anything further. Strangely, she had been one of Malfoy's most vocal supporters when they were divorcing - she argued that he had needed help rather than punishment.

Harry was ashamed to admit that she might've been right after all.

Harry cleared his throat and began to tell the group about what Dumbledore had said to him and Malfoy. "He said that he thought “lost' might mean someone who couldn't be recovered, by choice. A child who converted to the light side," he said and Hermione's eyes lit up.

"Well, that changes everything," she said, raising her wand again and flicking it in the direction of the wall covered in writing and it all vanished. "So we need to narrow down the families to those whose children left them," she waved her wand again, and all the files in the room flew into neat stacks in the centre of the room. Ron, who had been leaning against the wall, nearly toppled over as the file he had been holding flew out of his hands. "Right… let's eliminate those families that had no survivors after the war," a flick and a few files vanished, the piles shrinking. "And those who had survivors, but they all ended up in Azkaban," another flick, more files disappeared. "We should now be left with surviving families who have “free' members, as it were," Hermione explained, slipping her wand away into her robes. Lune reached forward and plucked a few files from the top of one stack, and the others began to help themselves, Hermione passing Harry a few as well.

"Did you speak to Rose?" he asked, as the memory of their conversation sprung into his head. Hermione nodded.

"We managed to floo her late last night, McGonagall let us use her floo. She's devastated, obviously, but she said… she said she didn't see them at all on the train," she explained and Harry's heart dropped. Hermione met his gaze again. "I've told the Aurors. They don't think the boys ever made it to the train, Harry," she said, reaching for his hand where it was clenched around the files he held, his knuckles blanching white. "I'm so sorry," she murmured and Harry felt himself nod automatically. Of course she was sorry - for the last 21 hours, everyone had been “sorry'.

Outside there was a clatter and a wave of noise, and Harry stood up from behind his desk, his heart racing. Had something happened? Had they found the boys? What was going -

From outside, his office door was thrown open and Mulligan poked her head in, nodding at Harry.

"They've found something, Sir," she said and Harry was following her outside into the bullpen in a second, his heart racing. Malfoy appeared from wherever he had stormed off to, and as Harry walked past, he reached for him. Harry didn't hesitate and took Malfoy's hand in his own, lacing their fingers together and squeezing tightly. Malfoy held on just as tight.

In the bullpen, the Aurors were gathered around their own Case Summary, written on one of the spelled blackboards, where Thompson was conjuring another image. There was excited, low muttering around them, and Harry wanted to tell them all to be quiet, but he held his tongue and gripped Malfoy's hand as the image slowly appeared before them.

Two trunks, dumped haphazardly in a field. Their contents were strewn on the grass around them - cosy knitted jumpers, books, and a small, stuffed teddy bear. Aloysius.

Harry's mouth went dry.

"These trunks were spotted by Muggles, who “tele-phoned' it into their local council. They thought it might be someone dumping some rubbish. Thankfully, we got there first, and we've now secured the area," Thompson explained. He tapped on the image and it zoomed in - printed on one of the lids of the trunks was “ASP' in gold letters. Albus' trunk. "Based on the initials on the trunks - the other says “SHP' - we can safely assume that these are the Potter boys trunks. Forensic Wizards are there currently, analysing them for anything that might tell us who took the boys. Now, Aurors, I want at least three of you out there with them. Mulligan, Coles, Demir, you take the first shift. The rest of you, I want-," and Thompson's voice faded away as Hermione ushered them back into Harry's office, Ron, Ginny and Luna behind them.

Harry sat down heavily on the sofa, dragging Malfoy down with him. For a while everyone remained silent.

"There will be something in the trunks," Luna said, cleaving the quiet in two. She looked at Harry from where she had been stood in the middle of the room, her penetrating gaze catching his own. "There will be, Harry. There will be something for the Aurors to find, something to lead them to the kidnapper,"

Malfoy's grip on his hand was tight, and got tighter still as Luna spoke. Harry glanced over at him and Malfoy looked pained, his lips pressed firmly together, his brow furrowed. Harry squeezed Malfoy's hand, trying to be reassuring, though he didn't feel calm at all himself.

His whole body felt like it was in turmoil. His head was pounding and his mouth was dry, his heart was racing and the muscles in his legs twitched with unspent adrenaline, and every nerve was shrieking at him to go and find his children - to find them and rescue them and then kill the bastard that dared to even think about taking them from him.

Malfoy was possibly feeling the same way.

Without a second thought, Harry reached over with his other hand and placed it firmly on Malfoy's stomach. He tilted his body inwards, towards Malfoy, angling his legs so that their knees locked together. Malfoy's grip on his hand tightened for a brief second, and then relaxed.

They used to sit like this when Malfoy had been pregnant. Harry would press his hand to Malfoy's middle and feel their twins kicking and moving, while Malfoy hummed songs to himself, or read out a newspaper article he found interesting, or a passage from a favourite book.

It had seemed so simple then, to have children. After all the work they'd put in, the spells and the potions, after all that, it seemed so easy. They're born and you raise them, and hope that they don't stumble into a War, like their parents had. It had never even occurred to Harry that maybe the boys would be kidnapped. It never occurred to him that a parent might - possibly, terrifyingly - outlive their child.

There was a hand on Harry's shoulder which knocked him out of his daze, and he moved away again, leaving Malfoy's stomach uncovered. Ron was standing next to him, looking concerned.

"One of the Forensic Wizards just floo'd in. They've found something with the trunks," he said and Harry felt dazed.

"But they've only been there a minute!" he said, and Ron shrugged.

"They work quick. Found some hair, apparently. They're going to bring it back to the Ministry, have it analysed," he explained and Harry nodded. Malfoy was very still next to him.

"Did they describe the hair?" he asked and Harry looked over at him, frowning. Ron pursed his lips.

"Long and blonde - but you don't think-," Ron began, his eyebrows shooting up towards his hairline, but Malfoy stood up, breaking the connection of his and Harry's hands. Harry looked up at him, and he was white, all blood drained from his face and he looked down at Harry with a terrified glance. He ran to the office door and threw it open, shouting to the room at large.

"The trunks! Where were the trunks found?!" he asked the assembled Aurors, most of who gaped at him as though he were the recently risen dead. Eventually, one of the junior Forensic Wizards, Manco, responded.

"Wiltshire, just outside Amesbury," she said and Malfoy turned back to face the group in the office - he looked as though he had seen a ghost.

"My father," he said quietly, as though all the air had been knocked out of him. He locked eyes with Harry, who suddenly understood. "Harry, it's my father. He has them,"


{#}

[24 Hours Missing]

Harry had started throwing his considerable political weight around the moment that Malfoy had his revelation. He had demanded that the floos were shut off, that there was no intermingling between departments, and that all Aurors were recalled immediately from the field. Harry threatened to go straight to Malfoy Manor himself, and Hermione had started to protest but then a glass lampshade had shattered ominously behind her head, and she had begrudgingly agreed to Harry's demands, all the while picking glass out of her hair. Ron (and surprisingly, Luna) had talked Harry down from storm the manor while she addressed memos to the Heads of Department, and then Manco came knocking on Harry's office door. When Ron opened it, she had merely nodded in greeting, and swallowed, her throat clicking audibly.

"The hair has been identified. Lucius Malfoy," she had said, looking very shaken. Ron had thanked her very politely while Malfoy's skin had paled by another three shades. Harry dug his hands into his own hair and tried very hard not to scream.

Thompson, to his credit, had managed to pull together a Strike Team of the Ministry's best Aurors, including some of the Aurors that Harry knew from his field days. He had, however, tried to discourage them from following the Auror team to Malfoy Manor, but Harry had pulled his wand out and pointed it directly in his face. The other man hadn't said another word, only to say that Ginny and Luna were definitely not permitted to follow them, to which the two had grudgingly agreed.

Gathering together the team who were going to Malfoy Manor, they took the lifts down to the atrium and headed towards the Apparition point, the Aurors marching in time while Harry, Malfoy, Ron and Hermione strode alongside them. One of the most experienced Aurors, Begbie, a strapping man with grizzled features and hair more salt than pepper, was leading the team, and he ushered them all into a formation at the apparition point.

"Dinnae do anything stupid," he told them all, in a thick brogue. "When ye ge' tae th' location, assume formation but bide for my signal. If tha' bastard Malfoy - nae offence, mind," he said, looking at Malfoy who nodded dumbly, "If he is waitin' for us, cast tae stun only," Everyone nodded. Begbie crossed his arms over his massive, barrel-like chest, and called forward the first team members to Apparate. Four Aurors stepped forward, and he counted down for them, all four turning and disappearing with a crack in sync. Another four stepped forward, and another, until it was only Harry, Ron, Hermione and Malfoy left behind, along with Begbie, who eyed them all suspiciously.

"I dinnae agree with this, Po'er," he announced to this, squaring his shoulders. Harry nodded, and Begbie's expression softened. "But, it's yer sons. Try nae tae ge' killed, mind," he said finally, before turning himself and Disapparating away. Malfoy gaped after him.

"Encouraging words, there," Ron murmured, and Harry nodded. He turned to look at Ron and Hermione, and they looked at him expectantly. His mouth felt dry and his grip flexed on his wand, while he thought of the words he wanted to say.

"If anything happens," he started, but Hermione opened her mouth to protest, "No, Hermione, listen," Harry told her sharply and her mouth shut with a click. Harry took a deep breath and shook some of the tension out of his hands. "If anything happens to me, the boys go with M- with Draco. No arguments," he said and Draco made a small disbelieving sound next to him. Harry reached out a hand for him, and Draco took it, holding on to him tightly. "And if something happens to the both of us, then-,"

"Take care of our sons," Draco murmured and Hermione blinked rapidly, fighting back tears. Ron sniffed loudly, and nodded. Harry have them a weak smile, and let go of Draco's hand, stepping away slightly.

"On my count! Three, two, one-,"

And with a twist, Harry's world went falling away.


{#}

[27 Hours Missing]

The Strike Team had been scouting the Manor for the two hours, while they waited nearby, eyes and ears keen to glean any information from the Aurors around them. Even Begbie wasn't giving anything away, speaking in low murmurs to his team as another four Aurors returned from a patrol.

"Why aren't they doing anything?" Hermione muttered, annoyed, from behind Harry, and he resisted the urge to whip around and glare at her. If she thought she was feeling impatient-!

"We cannae see a'thing," Begbie announced to them, and Draco startled next to Harry.

"What do you mean?" Harry asked, gesturing to the Manor which rose like a nightmare in front of them, set a top a hill which was covered in a fine mist this morning. Begbie gestured them closer, and Harry led the way.

"Y'see the Manor? Around “at, someone has put an Obscura charm - my team are close enaw “at they should be able tae see inside, but they cannae. We cannae ge' a clear visual tae see what's happenin' inside th' property, or e'en if they're there," Begbie told them, pointing at the border of hedges around the Manor, and Draco scoffed from next to Harry.

"Oh, he's in there. He wouldn't have set Obscura otherwise," he said. Ron made a noise of agreement.

"You're sure of it?" Begbie asked, raising an eyebrow, and Draco nodded.

"I know my father," he said and Begbie eyed him before nodded once.

"Reit. All Aurors, tae me," he called to the nearby Aurors, who fell into a horseshoe formation around Begbie, looking at him with rapt attention. "Mr. Malfoy “ere is confident “at his Father is inside, potentially wi' th' two boys. Team Alpha, ye will be enterin' th' property an' securin' th' entrance - the res' of us will follow suit. Misra, ye will be leadin' Team Alpha tae-," and then Harry tuned out because behind Begbie, a light flickered on in one of the rooms of the Manor. He grabbed Draco's arm and pointed. Draco turned to look and his jaw went slack.

"Begbie, there's a light," Hermione said, her voice trembling slightly. Ron was stood next to her, holding her hand tightly in his own, his lips pressed together tightly. Begbie looked over his shoulder at the Manor and his whole face lit up as though someone has just told him it was Christmas.

"Och, great! Well, nae time like th' present. Team Alpha, intae yer positions," he told them and Team Alpha peeled away from the main group and began to slowly make their way down to the Manor, keeping to the dense trees that obscured the Manor from the road nearby. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco fell into line with the other Aurors, wands out and prepared, while they all waited for the signal that the entrance had been secured. The light that had flared on only minutes ago, died out, and Harry stared at that window - was that one of the boys, trying to signal to someone his presence? In some ways, Harry was too terrified to think of any other possibility.

After five minutes or so, a flare of silver sparks flew up from in front of the Manor, and Begbie called at them all to "Move!", so Harry took off at a run along with the Aurors. They skirted around the hedge, coming to the large wrought iron gates, which were now twisted and charred, and in a few select places, still smouldering. Harry ducked through them, Draco just behind him, and they ran up the gravel driveway with the Aurors, Hermione and Ron following suit.

The front doors were being held open by the Aurors, who looked to be struggling against them, so they ducked inside quickly. With a shout, Team Alpha stepped away from the doors, and they quickly slammed shut, as if forced shut by a strong gust of wind.

The Manor was silent, aside from the breaths of the Aurors, which clouded like mist in front of them. Hermione shivered next to Harry, and he reached for her, gave her shoulder a squeeze - the last time she had been here was when they were caught by the Snatchers all those years ago, and she had declined accompanying him to the Manor when Harry had started to visit Draco there. He wanted to give her some form of comfort, though he was feeling very unnerved himself.

Above them, a wrought iron and crystal-laden chandelier swayed slightly in the breeze caused by the door slamming, and several portraits seemed to jolt awake in their frames, frowning in confusion. One of them, a tall, willowy woman with strawberry blond hair, gasped when she spotted Draco in their group.

"Draco?" she called, leaning forward on her garden swing, and Draco stepped forward, his eyes scanning around him as he walked towards her, wary.

"Hello Grandmama," he greeted her and she smiled at him, indulgently. In the dim light, Harry could see her name plate inlaid into her frame – Delphinia Ursula Malfoy, née Fawley.

"How marvellous, Draco darling. Your Father has returned to the Manor too!" she told him excitedly, fluttering her fan by her face. Draco gave Harry a quick glance over his shoulder.

"Did he have any children with him, Grandmama?" he asked and she pursed her lips at him.

"Why, yes, he did. Two rowdy little boys, shouting and pulling against him they were. Why, one of them even kicked at Lucius' legs! I hope he learned his lesson, what with the jolly good whack Lucius gave him," she said, sniffing disdainfully. Harry felt rage boil up inside him and he turned to shout into the atrium.

"I WILL KILL YOU, MALFOY!" he screamed into the dark abyss of the house, and somewhere behind him, he heard Begbie drop his hands into his face. So much for the element of surprise.

"My word, Draco, who are these people? Aurors, judging by their robes," Delphinia asked, sniffing a little in disdain, and Draco nodded.

"Those boys, Grandmama - they're my sons," he told her with a smile, and Delphinia looked as though she had swallowed a lemon. "And that man," he gestured at Harry, "He's their other father. My father, he kidnapped them yesterday. He took them from Kings Cross, and we've come to get them,"

"Oh, well," Delphinia said, leaning back in her swing. It drifted to and fro lazily for a moment, while she fluttered her fan thoughtfully. She looked between Draco and Harry a few times, and then rolled her shoulders and nodded resolutely to herself. "I can't tell you exactly where they are, Draco, but they are here, darling. They're in this house. If I were you… I would have a look in all the unusual places," she told them cryptically. Draco went a little pale but nodded to himself and thanked his Grandmother quietly. He turned to the Aurors, Harry, Ron and Hermione and nodded.

"I know where he might have them," he said in a trembling voice, and he set off into the darkened house, heading for the stone staircase. They all followed.

"AND PLEASE, NO MUD ON THE CARPETS," Delphinia shouted after them, causing a rise of sound from the portraits around her. They ignored it.

On the next floor up, Draco turned a left and followed a dark hallway to the end, and then up another set of stairs, this one narrow and winding. He did not stop and he didn't look back and Harry jogged to keep up with him, his heart in his throat with the feeling that with every turn, he'd find his sons.

"Just up ahead," Draco called back to them, and a wave of sound went through the Aurors. They seemed to fall into some sort of line formation either side of Harry, like a ripple behind him. They reached the top of the stairs and Draco led them right, through a narrow wooden-panelled hallway. The corridor was draped in cobwebs, but there were tracks on the floor - something had been dragged through here.

"Draco," Harry said quietly, almost like a moan, looking down at the floor. Draco paused and looked over his shoulder, down at the floor and at Harry's anguished expression. He stepped back a few steps and took Harry's hand in his own, held it tight.

"They're just up ahead, Harry. I can feel it," he said and Harry gave a shuddering gasp, taking a second to compose himself. Draco gave him a small encouraging smile. "We need to get going. My father will know we're here," he told Harry, who nodded. The Aurors around them started up the hallway again, Draco leading the way, while Ron and Hermione came up behind Harry, following him down through the corridor that seemed to run the length of the house.

At the end, there was a single door, made of a wood so dark that it seemed to blend into the wall. Draco gripped the large iron handle and turned it, the door creaking open. He went inside, and Harry followed him in.

The room was dark and empty, and smelled of must and damp. The only thing inside it was a large mirror with an ornate but rusted frame, the surface tarnished and speckled. Draco was squaring up to it, sizing it up, his wand clenched in his hand.

"What…?" Harry asked confused, while the Aurors crowded into the room. Begbie looked just as perplexed as Harry felt.

"They're in the mirror," Draco said quietly, firmly, and for a second Harry felt like he had eleven years ago, when he had found Draco lying flat on the floor, staring at the blue patterned wallpaper of their room, telling Harry in muffled whispers that a woman was trapped behind it, and she needed to get out. Draco looked over at Harry and took a deep breath. "The Mirror - it's enchanted. It used to be an escape route, during the witch hunts. Those of Malfoy blood can enter the Mirror and be kept in a safe space. He'll be keeping them in there," he said and Harry nodded, stepping up to stand next to Draco. He shook his head. "You can't come through with me, Harry. I have to go alone," he told him quietly, and Harry felt himself go pale.

"But what if-," he heard himself say, Hermione coming up behind him to grip at his hand in her own. Her grip was verging on painful, and Harry clung to it. Let Draco go in, alone? But what if the boys were hurt, what if they were scared, what if they didn't trust Draco to go with him, what if-

What if Draco died in there, and Harry could never reach him again.

With a surge of emotion that threatened to break him, Harry shook off Hermione's hand and reached forward, taking Draco's shirt in his fist and pulling him close, catching his mouth in a searing kiss. His glasses were crushed awkwardly into his nose, and his hand was trapped between them, but Harry felt something inside himself surge to life again, even as the rest of him felt like he was lost and alone in the dark.

He pulled away, breathing deeply, and Draco blinked at him, his lips bruised red and his eyes glazed over slightly.

"Bring them back," Harry murmured and Draco nodded, leaned forward to kiss him softly one last time, and then turned to the Aurors.

"Don't follow me in," he told them, his voice croaking oddly, "If you try to step through that glass, it will cut you to ribbons. If the frame turns silver, it means someone has died inside… You might have to wait for me to come out. It depends how far in they are. If I don't come back out within the hour, well - I won't be coming back," he told them and Hermione gave a little hiccup of a sob behind Harry. Draco turned to face him once again, looked as though he were about to say something but thought better of it, and then turned to face the mirror.

He took a deep breath and stepped inside, the surface warping and rippling around him, accepting him in until it settled into a single sheet and went still once again.

Like that child on Christmas all those years ago, Harry went to stand in front of the mirror, and stared at its reflective surface.

Only his own reflection looked back.


{#}

[28 Hours Missing]

The Aurors had dispersed to go and search the rest of the Manor, while Harry, Ron and Hermione remained with Begbie and three other Aurors in the attic room. The surface of the mirror hadn't changed and Hermione's conjured sand timer next to it calmly told them that Draco had been inside the mirror for 40 minutes now. Harry refused to look at it, instead pacing up and down in front of the mirror, or pausing to stop and stare at it. Occasionally he thought he saw glimpses of features, or a flash of white-blond hair, but every time he tried to look closer, the image faded into the tarnished surface again.

Hermione was talking with one the Aurors, trying to devise a way to charm the mirror into letting them in, while Ron stared out into the hallway, quiet and unmoving. Harry kept looking at the frame of the mirror, silently daring it to change, until, all of a sudden, it did.

From the top, the rust began to melt away as highly polished silver ran down the frame. Harry staggered backwards and made a choked sound.

"Harry! What is it?" Hermione asked, rushing forward to catch his elbow and keep him upright. Harry pointed at the mirror.

"The frame, Hermione, the frame," he said desperately and Hermione gasped. Ron came from the doorway and stood at Harry's other side, studying the frame too. "Oh Merlin - have I lost them all?" Harry asked desperately, quietly, to himself, and Hermione gripped his elbow tightly.

"No, Harry, you mustn't think that. Draco will have the boys, he'll bring them out soon," she said to him in a furious whisper, and Harry tried to believe her, staring at the surface of the mirror until it warped and blurred in his vision.

No.

The surface of the mirror itself was twisting, rippling outwards. Around them, the Aurors stood straighter, pulling out their wands from where they had been stowed away. While Hermione and Ron leaned back, Harry took a step forward as a figure emerged from the mirror.

A hand reached through first, young and slim, with calluses on the palm from gripping a broom. A curled lock of white-blond hair and then his own green eyes, a slim nose. Albus was emerging from the mirror.

"Dad!" he shouted as he fell forward out it's hold, scrambling towards Harry desperately. Harry reached for him and pulled his son to his chest, half-intent on absorbing his son into his body. Hermione let out a sob next to Harry, and Ron reached over to cup the crown of Albus' head in his hand, soothing back his hair comfortingly.

"Oh Merlin, Albus," he said, pressing his face into his son's mop of hair. He released him after a second, holding his son slightly away from him, studying his features. Albus had a cut lip and some crusted blood under his nose, but aside from general grime on his skin, he looked to be in one piece, though very tearful. He looked up at Harry again and started crying, telling Harry something unintelligible, and Harry brought him in for another hug.

"Where's your brother, where's Scorpius?" Harry asked and Albus made a weird sort of noise and gestured to the mirror again. The silver-framed mirror. Harry's knees went weak, his mind running at a hundred miles an hour. "Oh Merlin, no. No, please," he begged some unseen entity. The mirror surface began to churn like restless water again, and bulged outwards, straining against something on the inside, until, at last, Draco and Scorpius broke free.

Draco was holding Scorpius in his arms, his face tear-stained and his right eyelid swelling shut. Scorpius was pale and shivering, his right leg hanging at an odd angle, and when Draco dropped to his knees in front of the mirror, Scorpius gave a cry of pain.

"Scorpius!" Harry cried, elated but tearful all at once. His younger son cried in response and, child-like, reached for him. Harry awkwardly shuffled himself and Albus over and onto the floor, reaching for Scorpius and half-pulling him onto his lap, pressing kisses to both of their hair and crying over them, while the boys sobbed quietly against him. He caught Draco's gaze, who shook his head, and Harry drew him into their family embrace, Draco bowing his head over Scorpius' chest, knocking heads with Albus.

"Boys," he said thickly, his voice croaking with emotion. "This is your father, Draco," he said and both boys turned to look at Draco, as if seeing him for the first time. Albus flung an arm around his neck first and dragged him down, and Draco wrapped a shaking arm around his son, pulling him close. Scorpius tilted himself too and tucked himself in close to Draco, sobbing but with a slight smile on his face.

Behind them, the Aurors were springing into action, some firing spells at the mirror, others alerting the Mediwizards on standby. Distantly, Harry could hear Hermione crying and Ron sniffling, but there were more important things to focus on, like his family before him. A bit battered and bruised, but finally whole.


{#}

[365 Days Reunited]

"I SWEAR TO MERLIN ALBUS, THAT TRUNK BETTER BE PACKED," Harry shouted up the stairs, his voice drowned out by the half-wailed singing of Albert Malifance, the pouty, broody, guitar-strumming singer that Scorpius had developed a liking (and a bit of an infatuation) for. There was, unsurprisingly, no response. Harry shook his head and stomped back into the kitchen, throwing himself down on one of the nearest chairs, and crossed his arms over his chest.

"Your sons are being particularly difficult this morning," he told the other figure in the room. Draco shrugged and turned around from where he had been buttering toast, raising an eyebrow at Harry.

"Why are they my sons when they're causing you problems?" he asked and Harry shrugged, a small smile creeping on to his forced poker face. Draco's face turned a bit worried, and he nibble on a corner of the toast he held in his hand. He didn't look to have much appetite, but then, neither did Harry. "You don't think they're anxious about today, do you?" he asked, and Harry nodded slowly.

A year ago, after a bath, and a hot meal (and a healed leg for Scorpius), the boys had been able to talk about what had happened to them, after some coaxing from Ron. Lucius had charmed the barrier shut, much like it had been for Harry in his second year, and during the boys confusion, had confunded them both and led them away from the station, where he had Apparated them both to Malfoy Manor. Scorpius' broken leg had happened during this Side-Along Apparition, and the Aurors theorised that it was because Lucius took on more than he could handle, causing a splinch. He had kept them in the Manor proper for a few hours, but when neither boy would stop screaming, and their magic started making things explode (one of the Aurors had found the chandelier in the Dining Room on the floor in a shattered heap), he had moved them into the mirror.

Neither twin could tell the adults what his actual plan had been, but Draco had hazarded a guess. "He wanted heirs. I denounced the Malfoy name years ago, removing myself as heir, so it dies with me. He probably thought he might be able to convince at least one of the boys to come around to his way of thinking," he said through clenched teeth when they were at St. Mungos, where the boys were being monitored. Harry gripped his hand next to him, and smiled slightly.

"I don't think he counted on these boys being so stubborn," Hermione said quite proudly, glancing over at the hospital beds where the boys were asleep. Albus had fallen asleep as soon as his head had touched the pillow, while Scorpius had taken longer to settle, jerking awake with a start a few times before finally drifting off.

That night, while the boys slept, Draco admitted that he had killed Lucius while in the mirror. He had said so quietly, his voice numb, and Harry had reached for him and held him tight while he sobbed. He hadn't cried for his father since.

After a year of being back in Grimmauld Place, Draco had long since gotten used to the boys' quirks and charms. Scorpius was a bit of an insomniac, while Albus slept like the dead. Albus was loud and brash and laughed hard, while Scorpius was quiet, reserved, and fairly emotional. Albus' anger burned hot and bright for a short amount of time, while Scorpius could hold a grudge like it was a sport. And some of these things, Draco had learned the hard way. When he had been cornered in the kitchen on Sunday morning, and had a very formal conversation with the boys about Harry, during which they both subtly threatened to make his life very miserable if he hurt their Dad, Draco had been left feeling both proud and fond of his boys, and could see exactly why the Sorting Hat had put them both in Slytherin. (He also believed every word they had said and vowed never to so much as make Harry a bit upset if it meant preserving his own life.)

He hadn't moved straight back in to Grimmauld Place, which he and Harry had agreed on soon after the boys had gone back to Hogwarts (only a week and a bit later than planned, and escorted by Aurors the whole way). He had moved back to London, though, and rented a flat for six months in Peckham, and then after his lease had ended, he had moved into a spare room at Grimmauld Place. And then one day, which hadn't been a very special day at all, he had woken up in Harry's bed in the morning, and went to sleep in it that night, and hadn't slept anywhere else since.

Though the boys seemed to enjoy having him around, Draco had not been able to comfort them after their nightmares, during the days following their kidnapping - in the dark, he had looked too much like Lucius, which had caused both boys to rear back in fear. Harry had given him apologetic smiles and comforting kisses, but it still stung, and it hurt even worse to hear them sob and cry and not even be able to comfort them.

But now, a year to the day since the boys had been kidnapped, he smiled at Harry from behind his toast and glanced up at the ceiling, where a muffled banging signalled that one of the boys was attempting to move his trunk.

"I'll go help them, shall I?" he asked, putting his toast down on a plate and slipping through the open kitchen door, taking the stairs two at a time up to the boys' floor. It was Scorpius who was trying to move his trunk, his dark blond hair in his face, his cheeks flushed pink from the exertion. He had managed to get the trunk quite far, and it was now balancing precariously on the edge of the top step. Draco caught it on the underside and steadied it from rocking too far over.

"All packed?" he asked brightly and Scorpius nodded, taking a deep breath. "Looking forward to it?" Draco continued and Scorpius nodded again. Both boys had grown a few inches over the summer, and both were now lanky, coltish, though Albus was broader at the shoulders than his brother. "Oh, I almost forgot!" Draco said, remembering. He reached for his wand, bring it out from his back pocket and flicked it overhead. From upstairs, a door clicked open and there was the sound of rushing wind, before a small, tattered but well-loved looking bear came zooming down the stair bannister, heading straight for Scorpius.

"Aloysius!" he cried with delight, opening his arms for his bear and letting it fly straight into his embrace. Draco grinned at the look on Scorpius' face, which was elated. "How?! I thought the Aurors still had him!" he said, his bear squeezed tightly in his hold. Draco smiled. Aloysius had been kept for evidence while the Aurors had completed their files, but they released him into Harry's custody a bit earlier than planned.

"Your Dad pulled a few strings, and they handed him over yesterday. Granmol," (which was the unusual term for endearment both boys used for Mrs. Weasley, which Harry explained was a portmanteau of “Granny' and “Molly'), "had him overnight to give him a bit of TLC, and he came back by Owl this morning," he explained and Scorpius gave a giddy laugh of relief. "Go on, your Dad's in the kitchen, go thank him," Draco said, standing aside on the staircase. Scorpius hurried past him, feet thumping on the staircase, but he paused on the landing below and looked back up, grinning.

"Thanks, Papa," he said and Draco felt his heart soar a little, and he smiled back. The boys had really struggled with what to call him, and he had been “Draco' for a few months, until Albus had tried “Father' which made Draco go pale. Since then, they had tried various names for him, including ones in other languages until they had unanimously decided on “Papa', though it had only been in the last few weeks of the summer holidays that it had been used. It still gave Draco a thrill to hear it.

As Scorpius hurried down the stairs, Albus' door clicked open, and he stepped out, giving Draco an approving look.

"Thanks. He's been missing that bear all summer," he said with a small smile and Draco nodded a little.

"You go down too, your Dad has something for you as well," he said, thinking of the small parcel wrapped up and hidden in one of the kitchen cupboards.

He and Harry had had a fair few fights about giving Albus' the Invisibility Cloak (with the proviso that he shared it with Scorpius, of course). Harry thought it was useful for both boys, while Draco was convinced it was dangerous and would get them into more trouble. A fair few times Harry had thrown the fact that he had raised the boys alone (without his help, thanks) back in Draco's face, and a fair few times Draco had stormed out of the house and found himself drowning his sorrows at the Leaky Cauldron, but they had finally agreed that Albus could have it, as long as the Headmistress was aware, and agreed, to let him. And surprisingly, she had.

While usually I would never condone the use of an Invisibility Cloak, or even agree to have one in the school where a student might access it… On this occasion, I think that maybe Albus and Scorpius might be in need of an escape from their fellow students, from time to time. The Cloak will remain in my office otherwise, and they will have to ask permission to use it, but I will not be unfair to them, that I can promise you,' and Draco thought that was as close to approval as they were ever going to get.

Left upstairs alone with Scorpius' trunk balanced in front of him, and Albus' just inside his room (Draco could see the leather of the trunk just inside the doorway), he took a moment to reflect on what his life was now compared to what it had been a year ago.

A year ago, he had received a Patronus. The large silver stag had barrelled into his workshop on la Rue de la Tremoille, and gave him Harry's message. "They're missing. You have to help us. Please," and he had frozen where his hand had been holding a Moly, about to drop it into a bubbling cauldron. He had taken a while to compose himself, to snuff out the fires under the potions that were already brewing, and gather his things (and his thoughts). And then he had Apparated to London, and helped to find his boys, and regain his family.

Draco pointed his wand at Albus' trunk. "Locomotor trunk," he said and it lifted into the air and began wobbling towards him, catching briefly on the doorway to Albus' room. He cast the same spell at Scorpius' trunk and set off down the stairs, both trunks drifting lazily behind him.

On the ground floor, he set them down by the front door and went back into the kitchen, where Albus had his arms flung around Harry, making excited noises about the Invisibility Cloak that was clutched in his right hand. Scorpius was smiling indulgently, but he grinned when he noticed Draco had entered the room.

"He's very excited," he said simply and Draco nodded, resting a hand on Scorpius' shoulder as he made his way past and back to his toast. Albus let go of Harry and rounded on Draco, flinging his arms Draco's neck and pulling him into a hug. Draco caught him around the middle and smiled, catching Harry's eye - he looked pleased.

"Thank you thank you thank you!" Albus said in a rush into Draco's ear, letting him go after a second and stepping back, his face flushed and his grin threatening to split his face in two. "This is going to AMAZING!" he cried, punching the air. Harry laughed a little, and shook his head.

"You'll have to ask Headmistress McGonagall when you want to take it out, but I don't think she'll be too strict with you. Now, we have -," Harry looked up at the clock on the wall and his eyes widened. "Fifteen minutes to get you to the train, oh Merlin, where did the time go?! Boys, get your things! Draco, the trunks-," Harry said worriedly, and Draco nodded, abandoning his toast and going for the trunks, shrinking them down and putting them in his jacket pocket, pulling it on while Harry hustled the boys out of the kitchen and into the corridor, where they donned jackets too.

"Right, everybody out!" Harry announced, and Draco pulled open the front door, stepping out into the early Autumn sunlight. They made their way across to the park opposite the house and stood in a well-shaded area. Harry took Scorpius' hand while Draco took Albus' and together, they Disapparated.

Landing in the Apparation zone for Kings Cross, they headed for Platform 9¾ and slipped through the barrier, leaning against it faux-casually and stepping backwards into it, coming through the other side into the bustle of parents sending their children away for another school year. Next to him, Albus' hold on Draco's hand tightened.

Harry fetched a trolley while Draco enlarged the boys' trunks, and the boys helped them load their trolleys on. As they made their way down the platform, various people turned to look and point, but Harry and the boys ignored them, while Draco tried to tune them out. There had been all sorts of rumours when he and Harry had gotten back together, including some that claimed that he had bewitched Harry in some way, much like he supposedly had all those years ago, but together they had navigated them all and came out the other end, though there were still whispers that followed them everywhere.

"There they are! Rose!" Albus shouted, pointing in the distance to where Hermione, Ron and their children waited. They reached the Granger-Weasley family and greetings were exchanged, Rose hugging both boys as they chattered excitedly among themselves.

"All okay?" Ron asked, eyeing the boys with a concerned look on his face.

"Everything's fine," Harry said with a smile, and Hermione looked relieved. Next to her, Hugo was casting nervous glances around them, and Draco gave him an encouraging smile.

"Are you looking forward to going?" he asked him, and Hugo gave him a wide-eyed terrified look, but didn't respond. Hermione gave his shoulder an encouraging squeeze.

From around them, the train's whistle sounded, and everyone started to scramble to get on the train.

"Right, on you get!" Ron cried, opening the nearest door and, with Harry's help, loaded the children's trunks in. Rose scampered in, her brother following behind her, while Albus and Scorpius lingered. Harry drew them both in for a hug and kissed the tops of their heads, promised that they would both be up for their first Hogsmeade weekend, and then let the boys go.

They turned to Draco, who opened his arms, and the boys rushed in, falling into his embrace. He pulled them in close and took a moment to just breathe them in. His boys, his babies, the sons he had carried and nearly lost, not once but twice. He loved them so much it ached sometimes, and yet he couldn't imagine life without them. Taking a second to blink back the sudden sting of tears, he stepped away from them, his hands sliding to cup the back of their necks, giving them both a wobbly smile. Scorpius looked tearful while Albus' chin was wobbling, his lips pressed firmly together.

"Like your Dad said, we'll see you soon, okay? Be good boys, listen to your teachers, and do your homework," he said and the boys nodded. He pulled them in, dropped kisses on both of their heads, and then let them go. "Go! Have fun!" he said and the boys nodded, and jumped on to the train, just as the whistle sounded again.

Around them, a chorus of “Goodbye!'s and “Be safe!'s rose up around them. Hermione pressed a hand to her mouth as Rose and Hugo leaned out of a window to wave, and Albus and Scorpius joined them in their compartment, leaning out of the window as well. Ron gave a sniff and waved back, while Harry reached for Draco's hand and laced their fingers together.

"They'll be alright, won't they?" Harry asked in a low voice, raising his hand to wave. Draco gave a small snort, lifting his hand too.

"Well, we got them on the train. That's a whole lot better than last year," he said and Harry jostled his shoulder a bit, but they both look relieved.

"Bye Dad, bye Papa!" Albus shouted out the window as the train gave a shudder and began to trundle out of the station, steam billowing around them all.

"LOVE YOU!" Scorpius shouted, waving frantically, Aloysius wedged under one arm. Draco gave a happy hiccup of a laugh, and waved back, and kept waving until the train turned and, with one last long whistle, disappeared out of sight.


THE END