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The Trials of a Malfoy Manchild

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By the time the car stopped, Scorpius was still kicking the back of the driver’s chair. He snapped his head towards Draco, narrowed his eyes, and said, “I really have to go to school here?”

“You really have to go to school here.”

“And I can’t tell anyone I’m a wizard?”

“No, you cannot.”

Why?”

Draco took a slow, steady breath. He was not about to explain this again. “Scorpius. You know why. It might seem silly now, but someday --”

The driver opened the door. Scorpius leapt out before Draco could finish.

“Hold on there,” said the driver, a middle-aged man who looked chipper despite probably having a foot-shaped dent in his spine. “Don’t forget your bag, lad. There you go. Enjoy your first day at --"

“I hate it in London!” Scorpius shouted, and kicked the driver in the leg.

Draco sprang out of the car, but his son was already darting around the moaning driver, hurdling between idle cars and over the curb, where he disappeared into a bunch of uniformed Muggle children.

The driver wasn’t so chipper-looking anymore. Draco slipped him an extra note and told him to take the rest of the day off; he imagined he should go and make sure his son wasn’t wreaking havoc on the place.

Scorpius had been assigned to Room 34, so that’s where Draco headed, but given the size of the donation it took to get Scorpius into Room 34 -- to get him into the posh, pompous Serpentine School at all -- he thought it prudent to examine his surroundings on the way. There were walls of trophy cupboards (the students appeared to be award-winners not only in football and rowing but in debate, chess, mathematics bees, and spelling, as if that were somehow extracurricular), and framed articles congratulating the institution on the number of Cambridge and Oxford graduates it had historically produced, and one pudgy security guard who badgered him about what his business in the school was (Draco was startled and deeply affronted and the only answer he could think of was “Er...Obliviate.”). He navigated the throng on the ground floor several times before realizing the “3” in “34” corresponded to the floor on which the classroom was located, and then the first bell rang.

The third floor was quiet. He leaned against a window on the classroom door. Scorpius was in plain view, sitting among ten or twelve other students, and he looked to be talking to an out-of-view teacher. There was no scowl on his face. There was joy on his face.

That was daunting.

But Draco didn’t want to embarrass Scorpius by charging in; plus, Harrods would only be open another twelve hours today, and the thought of finally spending time minding himself put a smile on his face. Draco elected to question him later. He was halfway to the stairwell when he heard an uproar from the classroom.

And that was the sort of short-lived peace he was learning to expect from this boy.

Draco charged for the classroom, certain at worst he would discover Scorpius had snuck in that blasted toad and was having it croak bubbles and eat flies off people’s noses. Merlin forbid he had really gone off the deep end and was levitating all the desks and declaring himself Overlord of the Classroom. He was prone to those sorts of fanciful dramatics.

It was none of that. Scorpius was standing on his chair, cheeks blotchy with laughter, while the teacher stood at the whiteboard wielding a meter stick like a longsword.

“And then what happened?” Scorpius cried.

“And then I vanquished him!” said the teacher, pointing the stick challengingly. “I aimed my wand at his head and blasted him clear across the battlefield, where he crumpled like a broken doll. The battle was over -- and we had won!”

The children jumped up and cheered. Scorpius turned, pointing at them all imperiously.

“I told you! I told you he was a wizard! The most powerful wizard in the world, and you all had better pay me and him some resp --"

Scorpius,” Draco barked.

Scorpius looked at him, wide-eyed. All the students did. So did the teacher, a stocky brunette man with black-rimmed glasses and tanned skin and a blazer covering his brawny chest and -- was that? -- was that who Draco thought it was?

“You must be Mr Malfoy,” he said, grinning like they’d never laid eyes on each other. “I’m Scorpius’s teacher, Mr Potter.”

Before Draco could respond, a girl in front was shouting, “Sorcerer Potter!”

“That’s right.” He spared a wink for Draco. “I am Sorcerer Potter. Trained by Merlin himself. But you should call me Mr Potter, Jennifer, or else I’ll throw you in the dungeon.”

The children laughed.

Draco’s eyebrows drew together. “Throw her in the…?”

Potter thwacked the board with his meter stick. There he’d drawn a box in red erasable pen. It was labelled thus:

 

THE DUNGEON
(where naughty children go)

 

Draco presumed he wrote their names in the box when they got into trouble (his wizarding primary school teacher had done something similar involving an actual box and the students’ ears and noses), but he wasn’t about to ask. He’d already drawn enough attention to himself and Scorpius, who looked about to bolt off to social services and put himself up for adoption.

“Why don’t you get to work on those name cards, while I have a word with Mr Malfoy?” Potter told the class.

As they made their way to the corridor, Draco heard Scorpius plop into his seat and sneer to a classmate, “Told you.”

“Didn’t expect to see you till Parents’ Evening,” Potter said, closing the door behind them.

Draco flung back the lapels of his jacket, put his hands on his belt, and leaned forward. “Are you mad?”

Potter seemed to weigh this. “Not usually the greeting one gives another person he hasn’t seen in fifteen years, but then when has our relationship ever been conventional?”

“You’re telling a classful of Muggle children about how you vanquished the Dark Lord? And using my son as your prop?”

“Listen, Malfoy...”

“It’s Mr Malfoy to you, as you made it clear inside that classroom, and I won’t have you undoing everything I’ve worked hard for. If Scorpius has to go to a Muggle school, then I want him to fit in here, not --"

“Now, hold on.” Potter grabbed his shoulder. Which required touching. Most curious. “Scorpius started it. And before you say anything, I’m not blaming him. He’s just a boy, he doesn’t know any better. But he recognized me, and I had to act fast, so I played along. Pretended it was a story, some kind of theatrical introduction to the first day, and it seems it worked. He’s satisfied, the other kids think it was a funny joke -- a joke he was a part of -- so he’s sure to be fitting in already. So. Happy?”

Draco wasn’t happy with Potter’s cheek, he could tell him that much. Still, he sniffed in the affirmative.

“I thought he was you for a moment when he walked in,” Potter said, sliding his hand off Draco’s shoulder, “like I’d warped back to first year. Then he introduced himself, stuck out his hand with that old Malfoy swagger, and if he hadn’t said his name was Scorpius my brain might have imploded right there.” He chuckled, folding his arms and leaning against the wall. The seams of his blazer stretched to accommodate the girth of his bicep.

Draco bristled, looking away. “What’s your point?”

“No point, just conversation.”

“Do you always make dull conversation with people you haven’t seen for -- ?”

“Mr Potter!”

Potter’s smile faded. Draco looked over his shoulder to find the headteacher, Dr Khan, striding towards them, his shoulders heaving, his brown skin condensing with what Draco assumed was first-day-of-term sweat, his necktie streaming behind him like a war banner in the wind.

“Distracted from your class already?” Khan asked.

“No, sir,” Potter said, his voice much colder than the one he’d greeted Draco with, “just having a word with one of our more invested parents. I’m not sure you’ve met him. This is Mr Malfoy.”

Khan noticed Draco for the first time. The way his eyes changed, seemingly into two distinct pound sterling symbols, Draco thought about joking, ‘invested, indeed.’

“Mr Malfoy?” Khan said. “The Mr Malfoy?”

“Present. Unless you mean my father, which you may well.”

“No, absolutely not, sir, I mean you. You’re young Scorpius’s father! A gifted boy, truly. His interview was remarkable, the board was most impressed.”

It was hard to tell if they were impressed by the sheer amount of glaring Scorpius had done during the interview or simply by his devotion to sustaining the dirty look for an entire hour.

Khan frowned at Potter, who was edging towards his classroom door. “Is there some kind of problem in Scorpius’s classroom?”

“Not at all,” Draco said, feeling the intense need to be done with this two-faced suit of a man. “I just wanted to speak with Mr Potter personally, make him aware of my son’s needs.”

“I see! Well, anything you or your son might require, do not hesitate to visit my office. In fact, our entire staff is at your --"

Thank you. I’m sure Mr Potter can handle things, otherwise you wouldn’t keep him on, would you?”

Khan laughed nervously, muttered something about his tie clip, and walked away.

Potter was staring in surprise. “Thanks.”

“For?”

“For standing up for me? I’ve been with this school eight years, and Khan still has it in for me. Not part of the old boys’ club, or what-have-you, so naturally I’m a suspicious character.”

Draco wanted to ask how Potter even got this job in that event, but felt it was appropriate to toe the formal line. Well. After saying this: “So your ego is shrinking, then, Potter? That’s why you’ve got to tell old war stories to groups of nine-years-olds?”

“Piss off,” Potter said without much enthusiasm.

“Is that any way to speak to a man funding your pay cheque?”

“You’re right, sorry. Piss off, Mr Malfoy.” The grin Potter gave him bordered on suggestive. Before Draco could analyse his rather heart-palpitating reaction to that, Potter was pulling him into a handshake and clapping his hand over Draco’s -- and his flesh was warm, firm, and had just the right amount of callus; funnily enough, he hadn’t known any amount of callus was the right amount until precisely that moment. “Hey, good to see you,” Potter said. “You’re looking good. Better than me, that’s for sure.”

He disappeared into the classroom.

Draco stood, staring into the empty space Potter once occupied, aware only that he thoroughly disagreed: Potter looked just as good as he did.

 

***

By the way Scorpius bounded into the cab, waving out the window to one of his schoolmates, it seemed his first day had gone better than predicted. Draco wasn’t about to poke holes in his son’s good mood, as rare as those were, so he decided not to mention this morning’s disturbances. He turned away to enjoy the passing scenery, so distracted by the yellow-green beauty of Hyde Park that he didn’t notice Scorpius’s mood souring. Before the taxi had fully stopped in front of Draco’s apartment building, Scorpius kicked open the door and sprinted for the entrance.

The valet took little notice of the child. “Sir, can I help you with -- ?”

“Will you send up my bags?”

“Right away, Mr Malfoy.”

Draco took the stairs up, which was irritating as it was quite a long way to the top floor, but he needed a few moments to cool down. He reached his suite. He had not cooled down.

What was that about?” he said, slamming the door.

Scorpius was in front of the open freezer, scooping ice cream primly into a bowl. “What was what about?”

“You most certainly know. Running off without me! I’ve told you to stop doing that. We’re not in the country anymore. London is different -- you could get lost or hurt.”

“But we’re at your flat. How am I supposed to get lost at your flat?”

“That’s beside the --"

Draco stopped himself, grabbing the handle of his drinks cart. He’d learned there was no winning these arguments, only an ever-deepening hole of frustration to dig. He received the bags from the valet and found himself sinking into his white velvet sofa with a glass of wine in short order. White wine. This sofa had probably cost more than Ron Weasley’s house, if he had one of those. He was shocked when Scorpius sat nearby (on the furthest edge, mind) and not as shocked when he began eating his ice cream while staring blankly at the opposite wall.

Draco sipped the wine, thinking that this sort of beverage was more exciting when you were sharing a sofa with a well-cologned man, rather than a pouting schoolboy, before he realized something.

“It’s our flat.”

Scorpius simply stared at the bookcase, or perhaps at the gas fireplace, or one of the many paintings or polished black mouldings.

“Do you hear me? It’s our home, Scorpius. Together. For good. At least until you go to Hogwarts. Then I imagine you’ll summer here, but we’ll work that out when the time comes. Do you understand?”

Scorpius lifted a shoulder, which still looked foreign to Draco in a pressed shirt instead of robes.

Which reminded him, “And you pointedly disobeyed me about telling people you were a wizard.”

“Did not.”

“Yes, you did.”

No. I said Harry Potter was a wizard. I didn’t say I was a wizard.”

Draco resisted the urge to scream. It was clear how the little rule-bender would be Sorted someday, and, no doubt, filtered right into a career as a law wizard. Nonetheless, he said, “You knew what I meant.”

Scorpius turned slowly. He tilted his head forward, his brow lowering to cover his eyes, which had gone as black as bats. “I didn’t tell anyone I was a wizard.”

With that, Draco swirled his wine, feeling very much put-off. Children could be really mental. Was he that mental at nine? He didn’t think so. He thought he was a lamb at every age. And now he was left not knowing what to do with Scorpius in the heavy silence.

“Anyway. Do you want to watch telly? Just no cartoons, for heaven’s sake.” Draco waved a hand, and the television screen began to descend from a panel in the ceiling. A giant frog emerged from the panel, too, plopping wetly onto the coffee table. Draco shot up. “Good Lord, is it dead?”

The frog croaked and hopped away, not before ploughing into a late-modern era vase he’d yet to insure, causing it to crash on the floor. That’d probably been worth two of Ron Weasley’s house.

Draco made to glower at Scorpius, who was already slinking back to the kitchen. There was a clatter -- the ice cream bowl flying into the sink. Draco drained his wine, his eyes searching the ceiling, his nerves wondering what he could drink next. It was too early for spirits. He went to the cooler and was dumping a great deal of Malbec into his glass when he heard a scoff behind him.

“Thought you couldn’t afford to shop anymore.” Scorpius was peering into one of the many bags the valet had delivered.

“What I can’t afford is for your grandfather to find out, so keep it to yourself,” he said, staring bitterly out at London’s rooftops.

“Did you get me something?”

“Rummage in that small black one.”

“Is it an Xbox?” Scorpius asked, throwing tissue paper over his shoulder by the sound of it.

“What’s that?”

“I don’t know. It’s like a box that lets you play games. Evander Patil has one. He says you can kill people with it.”

“Kill people?” Draco turned to frown at the back of his son’s head.

“Yeah, like in wizard’s chess, but on the telly.”

“Hm.”

In all his months living in Muggle London, Draco had never heard of such a thing. Must be for children, though the killing-people part threw him. He watched as Scorpius opened a black velvet box and wrinkled his nose at the contents.

“A watch?”

“It’s an Omega,” Draco said, hurrying over. Perhaps his excitement was in vain, but he thought he’d give the gift a try. “The best one they make, as far as I’m concerned.” When Scorpius continued to slump, he added, “James Bond wears that kind.”

“Is that a Muggle?” He tossed the box on the table and turned away. “If I have to have Muggle things, I’d rather have an Xbox.”

Draco hadn’t trusted Scorpius would like it (not knowing the boy’s favourite colour for the band, much less whether he’d inherited Draco’s affinity for expensive trinkets), but his heart still fell. And since his heart was directly wired to his temper, his hand tightened around his glass stem.

“Excuse me, that’s an heirloom! I mean, it could be someday. I got it, so -- you know, you could keep it always. Pass it on. Or whatever.”

Scorpius flounced onto the sofa with his frog on his chest. “You don’t care about heirlooms. You only care about buying new things. If you cared about heirlooms we’d still be living at the manor.”

The boy had a point. He seemed to be full of them, which was flustering because Draco was just trying to navigate this new living arrangement the most painless way possible without any prior knowledge of the care and feeding of smart-mouthed little boys.

Of course, now Scorpius was whinging, “I want to go home.”

“You know I can’t take you home.”

“Yes, you can. We have a whole house just empty next to Grandmother and Grandfather’s. I just want things to be the way they were!”

“Well, I really can’t give you that. And you’re old enough to understand why. So deal with it.”

There it was again, that dark little mental face. Scorpius looked almost sinister with his arms crossed and his eyes in shadow like that; if not for the angelic blond hair softening the facade, Draco might have made an excuse to flee. It was Scorpius who fled. All at once, he jumped off the sofa and pounded towards his bedroom.

“Scorp --"

The door slammed.

He didn’t see Scorpius again until dinner when he ordered in burgers and chips, the only thing Scorpius seemed to consistently like. Draco tried to talk to him again, but his questions were met with grunts or shrugs of the shoulder. It wasn’t until he brought up school that Scorpius appeared interested.

“Do you like your new teacher?” he asked, forgetting his new teacher was Harry Potter until that moment.

For the first time, the corners of his son’s mouth quirked. He was looking at his burger, not Draco, as he nodded.

 

***

When Draco moved to Muggle London last year, he’d imagined a life filled with excitement, sexiness, glamour, but most significantly bachelorhood. Ending up on the steps of a Muggle primary school, surrounded by dozens of ogling children, hauling a python to his car with Harry Potter on the opposite end of the cage -- Potter’s biceps flexing beneath the rolled-up sleeves of his shirt -- seemed to Draco to be quite the opposite of all that. He didn’t know why he felt it was the opposite. Maybe because he was supremely sexually frustrated (going on a month celibate because his son was always in his flat), and there was no chance in Hell he was going to alleviate that anytime soon. Wasn’t the point of being a bachelor being able to fuck whatever you wanted whenever you wanted? And Potter’s presence -- that handsome, good-natured, stout and self-assured presence -- was not making that pill any easier to swallow.

“Scorpius,” Draco huffed. “How did you even get this thing to your classroom?”

“I just had Marcus help me,” he said, strutting alongside them, nodding to his friends like he was the coolest thing since the Nimbus 3000.

“The valet?”

“Yeah, don’t worry. I tipped him out of your wallet.”

Potter guffawed, nearly losing his grip in the process, and then pretended not to be noticing their conversation.

“You can’t just…you can’t just go into my wallet, Scorpius. And you can’t bring pythons to school without asking.”

“I asked Mr Potter.”

“Oh, that makes sense, since he’s just as good as your father.”

Draco hadn’t meant to sound bitter. Luckily Potter was too busy guiding his end of the cage into the back of the car to have noticed.

“Thanks, Mr Potter!” Scorpius said, not only turning his back on Draco but hovering near Potter as though he were trying not to hug the man. Christ.

“Anytime.” He ruffled Scorpius’s hair.

Draco was about to shut the door when a tiny, messy-haired brunette child came flying down the stairs.

“Oy, is that the snake, Scorpius? Hold on!”

“Yeah, come look!”

“Er,” Potter said, looking uncomfortable. “Mr Malfoy seems to be in a hurry, Al. Why don’t you wait until -- ?”

“But, Dad!” The child looked at Potter with pleading eyes and then swivelled towards Draco. “I’m in a different class than Scorpius, Mr Malfoy, so I didn’t get to see the snake. May I look at it for just a second? Please?”

So this boy was Potter’s son. For some reason, that alone swayed him. He made a go ahead gesture, and suddenly his car was swarmed by the Potter child and all the others.

He and Potter hung back. The air was palpably awkward.

“Er, his snake presentation was a real hit today,” Potter said.

“Oh. Good.” Draco hadn’t known about any snake presentation. He instead he found himself admitting, “I didn’t know you had a son.”

“Ah. Yeah, two of them. And a little girl.”

That didn’t bode well for Draco’s interests.

“Does Mrs Potter like...?” He scrambled for the second half of that question. He was fishing for information and doing a horrid, obvious job of it. “...snakes?” he tried.

“Um.” Potter laughed, his eyes flicking over Draco’s face with, perhaps, interest? “I’m not sure. We haven’t spoken extensively about snakes. Not since second year, I reckon. You know, Basilisk, and all.”

Second year. Basilisk. Chamber of Secrets, diary, Father -- ah. Ginny Weasley. Of course, he’d married her. Draco felt himself growing cold.

“Then again,” Potter added, “we don’t talk about much of anything these days, so.”

Draco turned abruptly, but Potter was staring at the children. Well? Was he married or wasn’t he? And was he flirting with Draco or just being cordial?

“So the camping trip,” Potter said. “Are you going?”

Draco cocked his head. He’d never heard of a camping trip either.

“I guess Scorpius is far quieter at home? The Year 5 camping trip. We have it every year, close the beginning of term, partly because it’s still warm enough and partly because Khan has this idea it’ll promote unity and cohesion amongst the different religions and ethnicities at our school.” Potter leaned towards him, his shoulder pressing into Draco’s. “Personally, I think it’s just an excuse to be able to tell people we have a variety of religions and ethnicities at our school, but that’s Khan -- the self-promoting arse. I’m always roped into chaperoning, not that I mind.”

“Hmm.” Draco was focused on the warmth emanating from Potter’s skin through his cotton shirt.

“So, you up for it?”

“Up for what?”

His cheeks dimpled a bit. “Coming with. We’re short of a chaperone.”

“Oh. Um --"

There was a honk. Draco jumped, realizing he’d been deeply entranced by the patch of stubble just beneath Potter’s lower lip. When he looked, he found his driver leaning out the window.

“Mr Malfoy, we’re in a loading zone.”

“Apparently, I’m in a loading zone,” he said pointlessly to Potter. “Come on, Scorpius.”

“So...you’ll think about chaperoning?” Potter called after him.

“No, I think I’ll leave the roughing-it to the Dark Lord vanquishers. Not really my cup of tea.”

And it wasn’t, he thought, as he and Scorpius piled into the car. But he realized that wasn’t the reason he’d said no. He’d said no because, for the first time in a very long time, he felt intimidated by someone he was attracted to. Even more frustrating was that he didn’t even know if Potter was of a position (or persuasion) to be attracted back.

“Why’d you say no to the camping trip?” Scorpius demanded.

“Why? Because I don’t want to.”

“You should have said yes. You made me look like an idiot in front of Mr Potter.”

“I made you look like an -- ?” Draco glanced out the window, finding Potter teetering on his heels watching their car roll away. “I’m not going to talk about this right now.”

Which seemed fine with Scorpius. He crossed his arms and didn’t talk to Draco for the rest of the day.

 

***

“He doesn’t even look at me except to glare at me. He doesn’t speak unless it’s to complain or tell me I’m wrong about something. He acts superior, do you know what I mean? This child acts superior. I don’t know how much more I can take.”

Draco flopped a lemon slice into his tea and sunk his cheek onto his fist.

As far as Pansy’s reaction: it was always hard to tell with her. She played her cards close to her chest, and with that upturned nose, it always seemed like she was judging you even when she wasn’t. Presently, she removed her spoon from her tea, placed it on the saucer, and pinched the handle of her cup with all the delicateness of someone with freshly applied nail polish.

“He sounds like you,” was all she said.

Draco leaned back. “Me?”

“Yes, you were exactly like that as a child.”

“No, I wasn’t. Not to my father.”

“Certainly not to your father. You worshipped him. But to everyone else -- your friends, your enemies, even the Hogwarts professors -- oh, yes. Yes, you were. You were a right beast.”

Draco snatched his tea, but after a long, entirely-too-lemony sip his conclusion was the same: “I’m not seeing your point.”

“Oh, nothing. Just revelling in the comings-around.”

“Well, you’re no help at all.”

She lifted her cup. It seemed like an excuse to hide her smile. “I didn’t come here to help you. I came for early tea and on the off chance you’d want to buy me the Tiffany bracelet with the pearls.”

He rolled his eyes, sliding his hand across the tablecloth to hers and stroking his thumb over the gaudy diamond on her finger. “And what are you going to buy me?”

“Why, tea, dear.”

After tea, Draco took profound pleasure in watching Pansy toy with her pocketbook, fanning through it, counting her single notes, pretending to mix up her credit cards, and after smirking at her nonsense for about a minute straight, he tossed his Black Card onto the table.

“Cad,” she said to Draco, as the waiter swept it away.

“Sponge.”

She made a high noise in her throat, but didn’t regard him, simply scanning the rest of the tea room patrons as though she were at all interested in them and vice versa. It was a pointlessly expensive place with too many frills on both the patrons and the tables and a dozen flower bouquets past giving Draco a headache. Pansy wouldn’t be seen anyplace but. He’d told himself that’s why he invited her here. However, surrounded by lace and gold tea carts, mountains of glittering cakes everyone was too skinny to eat, stylish porcelain, and garden views in the heart of upper-crust London, he knew he’d wanted to come here himself; he felt good having the best. It made even the bleakest of days seem worth living.

“You’re still wearing that ring?” he wondered aloud.

Pansy’s cheeks coloured. “It looks nice. I’d wear it on my index finger, but it slides around.”

She’d been right before to call him a cad. He was a cad and a bane of a friend. Feeling apologetic, he stuck out his palm. She tentatively handed him the ring and he cast a simple shrinking charm on the band. He slipped it onto her index finger.

“Thank you,” she said, staring into her cold tea.

He let out a soft breath. “Pansy.”

“I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

“All right, but this thing...it happened to both of us, and I think if you’d just talk to me you’d feel --"

“Sir.” A boy in a cream suit was hovering over Draco. “Sir, I’m sorry, but your card has been declined.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s --" The boy looked at Pansy and seemed to break into a sweat. He leaned closer to Draco’s ear. “Your card, sir. I ran it three times, but it was declined. Would you happen to have another?”

Draco stuck his hand in his jacket, not taking his eyes off the boy, and dug out his wallet, a polished leather thing that cost quadruple the amount of cash he’d ever stored in it at one time. He flicked another card at the boy, who zipped away. Pansy was staring out the window when he turned back.

“I haven’t even got around to why I invited you here.”

“Not because you missed me?” she asked distantly.

“That, too. But I invited you because...there’s been a development.”

She inhaled slowly, looked at him, and fluttered her eyelashes in recognition. “Oh, it’s a man.”

“How do you always know?”

Always being the operative word. You’re predictable, Draco.”

“Am not,” they said at the same time.

Draco took in her smug face, and sighed. “Nevermind. There’s a problem. The man. He’s Scorpius’s school teacher.”

“How is that a problem? Are you worried he’ll take it out on Scorpius if things go south?”

“No, no, I’m sure he’s too noble for that. It’s a problem because he’s a clean-cut bloke with children of his own, which makes it really hard to tell if he’s bent. I mean, I think he was flirting with me. Maybe. I don’t think he’s married, not anymore. There was no ring, and it seems like he’s on poor terms with the mother.”

“Muggle?”

“No.”

“I see,” she said, nodding slowly. “So, it’s Harry Potter?”

Draco touched his chest, very nearly choking. “How do you -- ?”

“Just because you’re absent from the wizarding world, it doesn’t mean we all are. It’s common knowledge -- the scandal of Potter becoming a Muggle primary school teacher. The pundits were going on and on about the wasted potential for the wizarding world, what a loss it was, especially for the magical defence establishment -- and so forth -- and so forth --" She circled her fingers in the air, as if to indicate the third so forth. “Anyway, he’s still in the papers every so often when the press gets bored.”

“So you know things about him?”

“Some things,” she sang, perching her chin on her hand and looking out the window again.

“Pansy.” He made a tragic face, and etiquette be damned -- he scooted his chair around the table very loudly, to the offense of the purple-haired old woman next to him, and leaned forward with his hand on the back of Pansy’s chair. “I don’t think you understand my situation. Potter is hot. Like bottom of your cauldron hot.”

“I’ve seen pictures. And?”

“And I want him.”

She twirled a lock of tawny hair. “Rumour does suggest Potter prefers blonds…”

He gripped the back of the chair, feeling desperately close to victory, his fingers beginning to slip on the wood with sweat. “I thought his wife was a redhead.”

“Firstly, she’s pretty near strawberry blonde. Secondly, she’s not his wife anymore.”

“Yes! I knew it! And? Has he been with anyone since then?”

“Well...”

“Sir?” came a shaky voice.

Draco spun around. “What do you want?”

“Oh! Um. This card. The same thing happened. I’m sorry, I ran it ten times and the first one again for good measure --"

“Then you’re doing it wrong. I don’t run out of money!”

“Draco, mind your volume,” Pansy said lightly. She fished out her suddenly existent credit card and shooed the boy away. “Careful, one might mistake you for a spoiled child.”

“Who has Potter been seeing?”

She bit her thumb, swept her eyes around the room in devious enjoyment, and finally put him out of his misery. “Zacharias Smith.”

“That prick?” Draco said, his mouth spreading into a smile. “For how long?”

“Oh, I don’t know. They’ve been over for some time. Before that, it was a Muggle celebrity, he played some sport. What do you call it? Footy? I don’t know, but he was also a blond, which works in your favour, doesn’t it? And mine,” she added, twirling her hair again in amusement.

Draco was left grinning, and he didn’t know if it was because of the confirmation that Potter was at least bisexual or the thrill of envisioning him with some heavily-muscled, sweating, animal of a blond football star with a monster cock. Of course, in Draco’s imagination the footballer had Draco’s face. And Draco’s monster cock. In any case, he now had a chance with Potter, the first attractive man he’d come across in ages who wasn’t hopelessly straight or so gay he shat glowsticks.

Pansy settled the bill and gathered her handbag.

“Let me,” Draco said, jumping up to pull out her chair. “I can at least preserve some of my masculine dignity today.”

“Pish posh. What was that cheque business about, anyway?”

“Rude of you to ask me about money.”

“Rude of you to invite me out and have none.”

“I have some. Clearly the restaurant made a mistake. Or the bank was robbed.”

“Gringotts was robbed, Draco, really?”

“Or maybe --" Alarm bells went off in his head. “Maybe I should go see my father. Oh, Merlin. This is probably his way of forcing me to come home.”

“You poor dear,” she said, taking his arm as they trod down the steps into a cool, bright afternoon. She didn’t appear sympathetic at all with that smirk on her painted mouth, but she still said, “Let’s hit the shops, then. Perhaps I’ll buy you something from Tiffany's. I’ve got galleons to piss away since I got my dowry back.”

It was the first time she’d spoken of the matter in a voice better than a whisper. He told himself that was why he accepted her offer. In truth, Draco never turned down something shiny and new.

 

***

Scorpius ran ahead, his robes fluttering in his wake. He didn’t wait for Draco before bursting into the study, and by the time Draco rounded the corner, Scorpius had already thrown himself into his grandfather’s arms.

Lucius looked up, his hand on the back of the child’s head. “I honestly didn’t expect to see you until Christmas.”

“Why not?” Scorpius looked between them. “We’re supposed to be visiting all the time, just Dad’s been busy. Do you want to know what he’s been doing, Grandfather?”

“Nevermind. Go see what I have in my cigar box.”

He ran towards the desk, while Draco and Lucius shook hands. He might have liked to hug his father, too, but he restrained himself.

“To what do I owe this pleasure?” Lucius asked.

“You know.”

“Hmm.”

“Chocolate Frogs!” Scorpius was already ripping one open and speaking with his mouth full. “Dad lets me have these all the time now.”

Lucius raised an eyebrow. “Draco. After all the work your mother did trying to make sure he didn’t inherit your palette?”

If Draco didn’t need to stay on his father’s good side today, he would have mentioned that his mother was the one sending him sweet parcels every week at Hogwarts.

“Tobey,” he called instead. A house-elf appeared. “Fetch Mrs Malfoy. Tell her that her grandson is here.”

Tobey popped away, and Draco wandered to the drinks cart. There were two options: 18-year-old Scotch and his father’s prized 60-year-old Scotch. He snuck the sixty, while his father held Scorpius close to his knee and listened a school tale. Draco had already heard it. The only subject Scorpius would talk to him about was school -- really, Harry Potter, with whom the boy was becoming fast enamoured.

“I wanted to bring my runespoor to show the class -- it wouldn’t have been dangerous, you know, cause it’s defanged -- but Dad wouldn’t let me. Muggles,” he added, rolling his eyes. “So I brought my python, because Muggles have those, too, and even Al had never seen one up close, so I was really popular that day.”

“Who is Al?”

“Oh, Al? He’s my friend from another class. He’s Harry Potter’s younger son, and he can’t tell anyone he’s a wizard either. His older brother is Jamie, and he’s kind of mean. But Al says he’s not always mean and it’s only because he misses their mum, anyway.”

Lucius and Draco met eyes. Draco’s throat was starting to feel tight, so he walked away, standing by the window. His old pet dragon was gliding past at that very moment, slithering in the air as though it were immersed in water.

By the time Scorpius got around to telling his grandfather that Evander Patil got put into the dungeon twice this week (“Served him right, too, because you don’t just go putting bogeys on girls because you like them. Even though he won’t admit he likes Jennifer, haha!”), Draco’s mother appeared all a-fluster.

“Why weren’t you in the drawing room?” she asked with her fists on her hips.

“Because we were here,” Lucius drawled. “How do you expect us to be in the drawing room if we’re here?”

“We always entertain in the drawing room.”

“It’s hardly entertaining. They’re our boys.”

Narcissa thrust her hands out. “Come here, Scorpius. Grandfather is trying to hide you from me.”

Scorpius went. When his head was against her chest, she looked at Draco expectantly.

“Hi, Mum,” he said.

She tilted her head forward, looking rather like Scorpius when he was putting on his dark face. Draco sighed. He shuffled up on her other side for a hug, and had to stoop to press his head against hers.

Since he had his son close, Draco said, “Sophocles is out of his hidey hole, you know.”

“Is he?” Scorpius exclaimed, pulling his grandmother to the window. “Did you see him, Grandmother?”

“I didn’t, but he can’t hide too easily in the daylight, can he?”

“He flew past the window,” Draco said, gesturing with his snifter, “looked to be headed towards the lake. Perhaps you can catch him before he goes under.”

“Let’s go! I never get to see him!”

Scorpius tugged on Narcissa’s arm and she followed, laughing, her hair streaming behind her.

“Not so fast. I’m about a hundred years older than you.”

“No, you’re not! I’ve seen the family tree, you can’t be more than --"

The door shut behind them.

Draco turned to his father, who was now swirling a drink in his chair in front of the cold fireplace. The clinking ice cube made the room seem quiet.

“Excitable boy,” Lucius said.

“For you two.” When his father took a sip, staring questioningly, Draco elaborated. “You saw him. Wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. Even when I was speaking to him, he only responded to Mum.”

“He still needs time.”

“What he needs is --"

An image swam before his eyes: Astoria, sitting on the edge of Scorpius’s bed, stroking his forehead when he’d caught wizard’s flu at age five. She had wrung her hands over the boy for days. Draco had spent even more time out of the house, drinking, socializing, staying in his reserve suite at Claridge’s, sticking his hands deep into his father’s money pot, into Astoria’s dowry, and into the trousers of whatever man happened to be sitting next to him at the moment. Scorpius had been far from his mind. Draco had told himself he wanted to give him peace and quiet to regain his strength. That was a lie: he simply hadn’t known how to comfort the boy. Or hadn’t wanted to.

“He needs a whole family,” Draco said. “He needs you and Mum, at least.”

“You know our agreement. He can live here again if you do. Leave that nonsensical flat behind. And that lifestyle. I’ll find a place for you at the Ministry, and you can lead --"

“A respectable life, yeah, great, I’ll think about it.”

Lucius drained his glass, gritting his teeth as he breathed out the dark heat of Scotch. “I won’t strongarm you. But those are my terms.”

Draco didn’t come here to talk about such things. “Did you put a hold on my bank account?”

Lucius creaked out of his chair and went to the window to watch two blond heads scamper across the lawn; they were headed for the lake, but Draco knew the dragon was most likely in the rose garden trying to catch honeybees.

“Dad?” he pressed.

“You know I didn’t put a hold on your account. Though, I am surprised you depleted what money I left you. And the credit limit was meant to last you the year, Draco.”

“Merlin, I knew it. You’re planning to cut me off, aren’t you? Why? You know I lost access to the dowry last month.”

“I think you know why. Don’t make me say it.”

“No, I don’t know --"

“All right, then.” His father was using his quiet, slow voice, the one that brought you to attention as if he were shouting. “A £6,000 watch, Draco? No, hold on --" He snatched a sheaf of parchment off his desk, whipping it taut with a thunderous shake. “Two £6,000 watches! Do you know how many galleons that is? Did you even stop to consider it?”

“They weren’t both for me...one was for Scorpius,” Draco heard himself say like a child caught with too many biscuits in his pocket.

“As if that makes it any better. If anything, it’s worse. I worry you’re setting him up to be as frivolous as you with finances.”

“Save your worrying, he doesn’t even like the damn thing.”

His father’s eyes widened. Probably not the best thing to say.

Draco decided he should take the reasoned path before the petulant one. “Father, I understand your concern. However. I think your measures have been extreme. So I did one bout of extraneous shopping. That’s not strange -- the way you and Mum brought me up.”

Lucius was starting to look like a stone wall. So, finger-pointing wasn’t going to work either.

“Plus,” he tried, “all the things I bought this past month were necessities. Scorpius needed school uniforms and supplies and food for those reptiles of his. As for me, I needed to hire a second driver, and have a couple suits tailored, and --"

“And I suppose you needed a platinum dog collar to go with your suits.”

“Hm?”

His father was peering at the parchment again. “One platinum dog collar from Couture Canine, shipped from New York City three weeks ago.”

“Oh.” Draco waved a hand. “For Pansy. Her dog’s birthday.” When Lucius made a noise that sounded like Pansy’s dog having a fit, he amended, “Okay, I know that sounds bad, but if you were friends with Pansy Parkinson, you’d know --"

“I know all I need to. I turned a blind-eye at first, thinking you were depressed about the divorce, but your spending is out of hand. I don’t want to think about what spending was like when you had the dowry, but that’s none of my business. This is. And it’s ending now.”

“What? You’re just angry about Astoria and me! And you’re trying to punish me.”

“Is that what you think?”

“It most certainly is. You care about family honour first -- and then me.”

“Preposterous! I can care about both.”

“It’s clear you don’t, or else you wouldn’t have been so livid when we split up. We were unhappy, for Merlin’s sake, and we couldn’t go on fighting every day and storing Scorpius with you and Mum while we did it. It wasn’t right.”

“Then why didn’t you fix it?”

“See, this is what I’m talking about,” Draco barked, shoving his snifter onto the drinks tray probably too forcefully, knocking over the ice and tongs. He took deep breaths as he gathered himself (and the stupid ice). He wanted to be composed in front of his father. He respected his father. He understood that it was on his father’s kindness that he led the lifestyle he did -- but, damn it, he wanted his way, too!

“I thought getting married would force this childishness out of you,” Lucius was saying. “I thought having your own son would make you see. Surely your wife threatening to leave you would have knocked some sense into you. But no!”

“Dad.”

“No, I’m going to say this. You just turned your head and let her walk away.”

Draco clenched his teeth. “Hardly.”

“Imagine! My son! My loyal, proud, noble son -- turning into someone who divorces. The first Malfoy divorce in three hundred years. It’s unthinkable.”

Lucius stooped, his hands on the desk, revealing the portrait of Grandfather Abraxus over his shoulder. He was glowering at Draco from beneath the brim of that smelly top hat he used to wear.

“She left me,” Draco said roughly. “Not even. She was stolen. It couldn’t be helped.”

“You didn’t treat her like a wife, and you know it.”

“And how do you know?”

“Where do you think she ran every time you fought?” he said, his hands curling into fists on the wood surface. “Not off to London to drink and dance, I can tell you that much. She came here to your mother and wept.”

Draco didn’t know that. His throat worked, swallowing with difficulty, but he could think of no words to force out.

“I don’t care about the family over you, Draco. But I’m disgusted with you putting your own needs over everyone else’s. And now that your family is no more, your needs still seem to trump your son’s. These are all symptoms of the same problem. You haven’t grown up.”

Draco closed his eyes. He wanted to compose himself. He wanted to respect his father. But he couldn’t hold it in any longer.

“I tried to tell you I didn’t want to get married!” he shouted. “But you two pressured me. I knew before I ever met Astoria that it wouldn’t work out. And I told you what to expect. I wouldn’t be a perfect husband like you. I’d just do what I had to do and mind my own business the rest of the time. I’m gay, Dad! You know that! I’m gay. Sorry, but that’s how it worked out. You can’t choose who you’re attracted to.”

“You do, however, choose your actions,” Lucius said frostily. “That’s what’s disgusting. Not who you are, but what you did.”

It hurt to have his father admonish him. To use the word disgust in reference to him. He turned away, fetching another Scotch, but that did not block out his father’s voice.

“Why did you even agree to the marriage if you knew it wouldn’t last? Why didn’t you put up a bigger fight? We both know you’re good at that.”

Draco whirled around, Scotch flying out of the snifter. “Because I wanted to make you proud, of course!”

His voice cracked.

He realized his eyes were stinging.

He closed them and whispered, “You’d think I’d be appreciated. At least someone in this family gives a fuck what his father thinks…”

Draco’s hands shook as he set down the snifter, glass clinking against glass. His sleeves were soaked with the evidence of his outburst. He was such a weakling...a coward...a failure. He knew spirits wouldn’t wipe away those truths. Nor would shopping. But still...still...

“Well, go on,” came a strange, gruff voice.

Draco stood erect. Was someone else in the room? No. It was Abraxus. He rarely spoke.

Lucius was sliding a hand onto Draco’s shoulder. Once upon a time, Draco would have melted under that touch, pressed his face into his father’s shoulder, and cried all he wanted. Now he felt like a wound up spring, ready to pop his father in the nose.

“You still make me proud,” Lucius said.

When Draco didn’t respond, the other hand slid up, his thick fingers kneading into Draco’s shoulders like when he was small and aching for reassurance.

“I don’t want that to be your objective in life, though -- making me proud. Of course, I don’t. But when I look at you now, Draco...when I see how far you’ve pulled away from me...I know you’ll be devastated someday if you wake up and realize your son isn’t in your life.”

Draco scowled, looking over his shoulder. “Dad…you think we’ve…?”

Lucius ignored Draco’s concern, leading him to the window overlooking the garden. “This new living arrangement isn’t about punishing you. It’s about giving you an opportunity to make sure that doesn’t happen. Which is also why I’m setting this allowance.” He held out a bit of parchment scrawled with the most peculiar, miniscule number. “I hope you’ll spend less time in the shops and more time with him.”

Draco’s scowl deepened, but he said nothing. He stood with his father and watched Mum and Scorpius chase the dragon through the rose bushes.

 

***

Since Draco was now a pauper, or close to it, his usual Friday night ventures were out of the question. Between the restaurants, theatres, lounges, and extravagant company he kept, it would not have been unusual for him to blow the equivalent of his new monthly budget in one evening. As a precaution, tonight he’d found himself throwing on his best blazer, combing back his hair, and seeking out entertainment in probably a wholly inappropriate venue: Parents’ Evening.

He entered Room 34. Potter was humouring a dozen parents at once and looking delectable in a tie and sweater pushed up to his elbows, so Draco took a moment to stroll around the perimeter of the classroom, where he found a dozen poems strung up in front of the windows. They were written on flimsy paper, bordered with doodles and stickers, and each one seemed to be penned by a different hand. Since there were no names, Draco was forced to gloss over each one in search of his son’s, but after several minutes he had only discovered that the poems all followed the same format and were all very dull.

“They’re based on The Important Book,” someone said. Draco found a woman with a plastic-seeming smile next to him. “You know it, right?”

“No.”

“Oh, no? But it’s so popular right now. Everyone in the parents’ group has a copy. Let’s see.” She dug in a handbag the size of airport luggage. “No, mine’s at home. But here’s the photocopy Mr Potter was handing out -- one of the poems from the book. The boys and girls were meant to mimic the style, except the subject was their families, not a spoon, and we’re supposed to guess who wrote which. Isn’t that darling?”

“Um, sure.”

Draco read.

 

The important thing
About a spoon is
That you eat with it.

It’s like a little shovel,
You hold it in your hand,
You can put it in your mouth,
It isn’t flat,
It’s hollow,
And it spoons things up.

But the most important thing
About a spoon is
That you eat with it.

 

He didn’t get it, why this “Important Book” was important. Or its spoon. Or, quite honestly, the students’ poems. All he said was, “Okay.”

The woman was fluttering her eyes in Potter’s direction.

“Isn’t he wonderful? I don’t mean, you know -- that kind of wonderful. Though, most of the mums in the group seem to fancy the pants off him. I mean, I don’t blame them. Look at his eyes, right? Sorry, not me, I’m married.” She glanced at a portly man thumbing away on a mobile phone. “Anyway, he’s so good with the kids. Really gets to their level like no other teacher Georgie’s ever had. That’s my girl. Georgina. Who’s yours?”

“Scorpius. He’s --"

“Oh, I know him,” she said, closing one eye slightly, as if she’d meant to wink but never learned properly how to do it. “He’s popular with the girls, too. Course he’s too young to care, I imagine, but the girls couldn’t stop talking about him at Georgie’s sleep-over.”

This was news. Scorpius was talked-about, and not because he’d hexed anyone. People knew Scorpius, even other parents. Girls fancied Scorpius. While all this made Draco swell with pride, he was starting to feel deflated at how little he knew about his son’s life except that he hated everything about living with Draco but getting to have cheeseburgers and Chocolate Frogs every day.

“You look a lot like that handsome little boy,” Georgie’s mum said lingeringly.

Draco’s eyebrows shot up. “I’m going to keep looking for his poem, then.”

He darted away, but try as he might he couldn’t find one stanza that reminded him of the Malfoys or the Greengrasses.

After an hour examining Scorpius’s marks, all top notch so far, Draco resigned that he probably wouldn’t get to speak to Potter tonight, much less flirt with him. That was when Khan walked in with his necktie thrown over one shoulder again. He raised his hands and addressed the room.

“I’ve just been in Mrs Stephenson’s classroom and learned some distressing news.” The noise ebbed. “She received word this afternoon that the Year 5 camping trip has been cancelled.”

The room exploded into chatter.

“Why?” someone demanded.

“Apparently, last year,” Khan said hesitantly, “some...well-meaning parents tried to sue the campsite because their boy had an allergic reaction to some local shrubs. They belatedly realized that ours was the school associated and sadly have cancelled our reservations.”

“I expect you’ll be writing an angry letter to the campsite?” asked a brunette woman in pearls. “My son has been looking forward to this all summer!”

“Yes, yes, a letter will be written.”

“An angry letter?”

“Sounds like those parents should be taking responsibility for their own child’s health,” said Georgie’s father, his nose still in his mobile.

“How dare you?” came a shrill voice. “That boy could have died!”

“Dr Khan,” someone shouted, “how are you going to prevent shrub-related deaths in the future?”

While the parents argued, Draco lamented one thing he did know about Scorpius: he was really looking forward to that camping trip. And now he would have to be the punching-bag to deliver the bad news.

“There’s simply not enough time,” Khan told someone insisting he organise a new trip. “We’d have to find a campsite that could accommodate twenty students, plus chaperones, in less than a week. Unless someone here has a garden big enough?”

In the silence, Draco felt Potter’s eyes fall on him. He knew what Potter was thinking, but no. No, no, no. Draco, quite pointedly, said nothing.

After the last of the parents had gone home, Potter sighed, perched himself on the edge of his desk, and gave Draco a weak smile.

“Sorry, I never get a break during these things. I’m sure you have loads of questions about Scorpius.”

“Mm, well.” Draco was embarrassed he had none. Embarrassed he’d genuinely come here out of boredom and on the off-chance Potter might have five minutes to stand awkwardly with him and drop hints about his ex-wife again. Now that they were alone (in ringing silence, to Draco’s discomfort), he felt silly, perhaps even creepy, so he opted to do what came most naturally to him -- scramble to preserve his dignity. “Look, I spoke to enough parents tonight to get the impression you’re a fine teacher. You look worn out, and I don’t feel the need to stand around and interrogate you, so…”

He stuck out his hand.

Potter pretended not to notice, swiping a sherbet lemon from a jar on his desk. “I appreciate it. I am tired. But we could talk about it another time. About Scorpius, I mean.”

Another time? Draco supposed all he had was time now. “Sure. That’d be fine.”

“Right.” Potter slung his briefcase over his shoulder. “Doing anything tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow? Tomorrow’s Saturday,” he said, before noting how that dimple in Potter’s cheek had appeared again. “Oh. I mean. Nothing. I’m doing nothing.”

“There’s an Italian place down the road from my flat, if you like that kind of thing. Though, they have live music Saturdays, so perhaps it isn’t the best place for discussion.”

Draco was feeling strangely bold. “If it’s loud, we could just...lean close to each other.”

“Now that’s an idea,” Potter said, the dimple growing into a smile.

He pushed off the desk, snuffing the lights with a wave of his hand. Now there was just moonlight and the red glow of a science contraption on the shelf, and as Potter approached Draco’s heart paused. He was close enough that Draco could hear the sweet clacking against his molars, smell the lemon and something else, something deep and woody, but there was no time to wonder. Potter was so close now. Was he really as forward as he was attractive?

Potter gestured to the door and said, “After you.”

Draco was a touch humiliated with himself as they left. Before he could make a beeline for his car, Potter exclaimed, “Oh, Malfoy, I forgot to give you this.” He pulled something out of his briefcase. “Scorpius’s family poem. It was...a little personal. I didn’t feel comfortable hanging it for the other parents to read.”

“Is it that bad?”

“Not too bad. Just personal, like I said.”

It wasn’t until Draco returned home, told Scorpius the news about the camping trip (thankfully met with a scowl and a door-slam, rather than a tantrum), and started undressing for bed that he remembered the poem in his pocket. He had to put on his reading glasses to make out the tiny writing in bright green felt pen.

 


The important thing
About my family is
That it is gone.

It has a grandfather
For chocolate,
A grandmother
For books,
And a mum, who sends letters
From the Caribbean.
And a dad

But the most important thing
About my family is
That it is gone.

 

***

“What do you think your kids would say about you if someone asked them to describe you?”

Potter dropped the breadstick he was pulling apart, shaking steam off his hand. “Like the way I look?”

“No, like you,” Draco said, slumping over his wine. “Your personality. What you do with yourself or what you do with them, things like that.”

“Besides my love of conquering Dark Lords on the weekends?” He waggled his eyebrows, and Draco was left feeling like a dolt; he’d been sombre most of the evening, and Potter was trying to cheer him up.

Draco took the bait. He leaned forward and smirked in the flicker of a fake candle. “All right, Potter, just so we’re clear, you’re an arrogant sod. And it wasn’t a weekend. It was a Monday.”

“Nah, it was a Saturday.”

“I think I’d know.” He drank slowly, harkening back to that awful morning. “Tobey served soft boiled eggs for breakfast. He always served soft boiled eggs on Mondays.”

“Battle started too early for you to be enjoying breakfast.” Potter said this casually, as if they were discussing the details of a sitcom plot, and for some reason started digging in his back pocket.

“No. I remember because my mother turned to me and said, ‘Seems like a dreadfully nauseating day to be eating something of this texture,’ and then I said --"

Potter shoved something in front of his nose. A smartphone, one of the many contraptions to which Draco had never grown accustom in the Muggle world. If he had, he’d probably have been able to whip out a calendar set for 1998 and seen that May 2nd had fallen on a --

“Saturday,” Potter said, grinning and pocketing the phone. He tried again with his breadstick. It was cool enough now that stuffing the full length into his mouth seemed appropriate.

Under the table, Draco adjusted himself in his trousers.

Well,” he said, not looking at Potter but at the back of the pianist’s head, “that has nothing to do with my question.”

“All right, give me a second to think.” He watched the server place their entrees in front of them, not at all disturbed that the woman was wearing rubber clogs or that their table had mismatched cutlery, and was twirling entirely too much spaghetti around his fork by the time he continued. “Lily...she’d probably say I do nothing but talk about Quidditch. James would say I work a lot. Or, at least, I bring my work home a lot. And Al? I imagine he’d call me the fun parent, but that’s usually just him taking the piss out of his mum.”

Draco felt obligated to ask, “Is she strict?”

“Not too strict. But Al can be feisty. And I imagine growing up in a house with all those brothers, Gin fell in love with the idea of peace and quiet. Why do you ask?”

“About your wife?”

Potter chewed slowly, wiped his mouth, and was a touch pink when he lowered his napkin. “Ex-wife. But I meant your original question.”

Draco could think of no vague way to put it. “That...poem. Scorpius didn’t write one word about me. It’s like his mum and grandparents are people with roles in his life and I’m just someone who exists. Sorry --” he said, scoffing at himself. “I don’t want to make this into therapy.”

“It’s all right. We’re here to talk about Scorpius.”

Were they? Did Potter usually take the parents of his students to middle-class restaurants, order them Primitivo, and shoot them the occasional handsome-but-thoroughly-confusing smile? Logic told Draco this situation was highly unusual. But his pride and heart wanted to be sure. He rested the tip of his shoe against Potter’s, but Potter was distracted by the rant he had launched into and did not appear to notice.

“-- really don’t think you should worry about the poem. Just the other day Scorpius told a schoolmate, ‘My dad will buy me a better football than your dad.’ Which, you know, shows the amount of...er, faith he has in you.”

And with that weak comfort, Draco dropped his fork into his risotto and gave Potter the look he gave all people who said stupid things. Potter laughed, shaking his head at himself, as if to admit his optimism about his students were far stronger than his good sense.

“In all seriousness, though. Scorpius laboured through that assignment. He prefers science and maths. He was probably just bored of the thing by the time he got to his description of you. Honestly, I thought you’d be more concerned with the ‘my family is gone’ bit.”

“That, too.”

If Potter wanted to ask about their family troubles, he was polite enough not to.

“How do you do it?” Draco asked. “You’re good with kids. Your kids, my kid, everyone’s kid. I mean -- they’re so annoying. Don’t they annoy you?”

“Sometimes, but no more than adults do. It’s not like I’m a kid whisperer.”

Draco disagreed. When he arrived at Potter’s flat that evening, he had found Potter and his children piled up on the sofa all watching the same television program; there were no folded arms, sneers, or grumblings that game shows were completely boring. On top of it, as they left for dinner, Potter had laid down the night’s rules both firmly and amiably.

“In bed at half ten. I don’t want to see the lights flick out just as I’m walking up the path.” He’d rustled the eldest child’s hair, kissed the other two, and added, “Don’t burn the place down.”

The eldest boy threw up his hands. “Damn it, so much for that plan. Lily, go pour the petrol down the drain.”

Goodnight. Half ten, not a moment later.”

If Draco had said any of that to his son, Scorpius might have torched the place out of spite. When he relayed this to Potter, he earned a deep laugh.

“Not to pry, but have you two always had trouble getting on?” Potter asked.

“Worse, I’d say. Aside from occasional suppers or holidays, I never saw him much until recently.” He took pity on Potter’s curious look. “He was raised by my ex-wife and my parents. He only just moved to London with me when his mother remarried and went on an extended honeymoon. We’re not quite sure when she’s coming back.”

“Then he just misses his mum.”

Draco snorted. “No, it’s me. He hates me.”

“No, hear me out. Jamie was the same way when Ginny and I split up, all bad attitude and acting up. He was upset that the life he was used to was coming apart at the seams, you know? But he came around. And Scorpius? Things are a bit different with him, but really the same. He just needs to settle in, find his comfort zone.”

Draco nodded grimly.

“It’s part of why I’m so disappointed the camping trip was cancelled,” Potter went on, twirling another breadstick between two fingers. “You should have seen Scorpius when they announced it. He’s never done anything like it, it sounds like -- the whole outdoor camaraderie thing with his mates.”

“He didn’t have many friends when he was small, living out in the country like we did. He had his reptiles for that.”

“Right, see? It would have been great for him. I imagine he was heartbroken when you broke the news?”

The look Potter gave him was horribly transparent.

“I’m not having the camping trip at the manor.”

Potter grinned, leaning forward. “So you do get my brain signals.”

“Have you been sending me brain signals?”

“Loads of them. More wine?”

“Please,” Draco said softly, tickled that Potter had not waited for his answer before signalling the waiter.

Halfway through the new bottle, Draco was positively rambling. He imagined his tolerance had gone down since he’d stopped going out at night.

“He wasn’t, you know, hideous,” he laughed, covering his eyes at the memory of one handsy Portuguese diplomat, “but he wasn’t so rich that I could look past his appearance! I mean, he came up to my sternum. Like there.” He put his hand there.

“And what do you have against short men?”

Potter was leaning on his fist with a calm, wide smile on his face.

“Oh -- nothing,” Draco said, feeling his breath leave him. “I mean, just not that short.”

Potter drained the rest of the bottle into Draco’s glass, all the while holding eye contact. “That’s good, because I’ve got nothing against tall men.”

He’d sat forward enough that the candlelight was washing over his face, and where it usually would have been flickering in his glasses, Draco realized there were only green eyes. Potter had left his glasses at home. And there was certainly a suggestive tone woven throughout that last exchange. And, all at once, he realized Potter’s foot had slipped between both of his; he could feel Potter’s pulse through his ankle.

Feeling bold and tipsy, Draco said, “You could.”

“Could what?”

“Have something against a tall man.”

Potter tried to hide a smile with his fist. He wiped it across his upper lip, as if to diffuse a sheen of sweat, but Draco saw through the gesture.

“And what might that something be?” Potter asked quietly.

“Whatever you like.”

Potter did smile this time, staring at the tablecloth while he reached for his wine glass.

Draco shrugged. “I liked the look of that meter stick, Mr Potter.”

Potter coughed, nearly spilling the wine. Then he seemed to come to his senses, meeting Draco’s eyes and leaning forward with both forearms on the table.

“All right. I’m pissed enough to tell you I didn’t invite you out for a parent-teacher conference.”

“And I’m pissed enough to tell you I had the waiter hold the garlic because I didn’t know if you planned on kissing me tonight.”

Potter threw his head back and laughed. The sound made Draco break into a sweat himself. “Well, I had practically a whole head of the stuff, so perhaps I’m due for a Scourgify to the mouth, if I’m playing my cards right.”

Draco smiled, leaning on his fist. “Oh, I think you might win this hand.”

When the bill came, Potter immediately reached into his jacket for his wallet (which was good, because for the first time in his life, Draco felt the urge to perform Pansy’s can’t-seem-to-find-my-money dance), and then ushered them into the night. In the cold, their intoxication began to drain away, and while they traded smiles and bumped shoulders all the way back to Potter’s flat, Draco could think of no way to fluidly initiate the much-teased kiss.

They entered the apartment building and arrived at Potter’s door. From the galloping and shouting on the other side, it seemed the children had spied them approaching through the outer window.

“Lily, stop setting the whole place on fire!”

“No, you stop setting all Dad’s clothes on fire! Ahahaha!”

“Why are you laughing when our home is going up in flames? Jamie, look out -- a kidnapper!”

“It’s not a kidnapper! It’s a terrorist! And I’ve forgotten how to phone the police. Oh, the humanity!

“Well, if you’ll excuse me,” Potter said flatly with his hands in his pockets, “I’ve got to go administer some beatings.”

“Oh?” Draco slid his hand up Potter’s shoulder. “I’m sorry I’ll miss out.”

Potter’s eyes narrowed. Draco worried for a moment his joke had been misunderstood, but then Potter jerked him close, stroked a hand down his back, and smacked him on the arse.

“Oh, fuck!” he said, shocked. He wrapped his arms around Potter’s shoulders.

“You like that?” Potter looked him up and down. “With that remark and the bit about the meter stick, I thought I’d take my chances.”

“Maybe.” Draco whispered this. If he hadn’t, his voice might have shook. And, not wanting to lose complete control of the situation, he shoved Potter against the wall and kissed him.

Potter took a heavy, satisfied breath as they kissed. Something about him smelled woody again. He was starting to wonder if it were Potter’s cologne, or some kind of tobacco, or if he really did go running around in the forest on the weekends. Potter’s foot drew up the wall so his thigh pushed between Draco’s legs, parallel to the floor; Draco was practically sitting on it. Potter smacked his arse again, this time very hard. Draco broke the kiss, making a breathy noise he’d never heard out of his mouth.

“I think you like that,” Potter said, trailing his fingers along Draco’s snakeskin belt until they were resting on the buckle...and then sliding over the zipper of his trousers...until his hand found Draco’s erection. “Your dick says you like that.”

“Fuck, Potter,” he moaned.

“Mm? What happened to Mr Potter?”

He pressed his nose onto Potter’s forehead, vaguely aware of the presence of the scar. Potter was short. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed before. Perhaps it was the powerful air Potter gave off, the air of someone confident and controlled enough to make Draco strain against the seams of his pants like he hadn’t since he was a teenager fooling around beneath the Quidditch stands for the first time. And Draco hated losing position with men, simply hated giving the impression he longed to be fucked rather than the other way around, but the way Potter’s arm held Draco to his chest, the way that chest heaved, hot and wide and firm, the way his free hand devoured the exposed skin of Draco’s lower stomach as if it already belonged to him, Draco was turned on enough to admit it freely: he wanted Harry Potter’s dick. Right now.

“Daaad?” a little girl asked from the other side of the door. “Jamie won’t read to me, will you do it?”

Potter cleared his throat, bringing his register up to something normal. Still gazing at Draco, he said, “Yeah, sweetheart, I’ll be right in.”

Draco stepped back, straightening out his hair and trying not to look at his erection. “Well, I’m not one for bedtime stories, so I guess we’ll part ways.” He stuck out his hand.

“What are you doing?” Potter slung an arm around his waist and pulled him close. They kissed, and this time it was slow and promising. “Maybe we can work this out another night.”

“I should think so.”

“Well,” he teased, “since there’s no camping trip next weekend, I expect I’ll be free.”

“You’re damn right there will be no camping trip.”

“All right, I can take a hint. Goodnight.”

Draco was so elated he had to keep himself from strutting into Malfoy Manor when he went to collect his son. He exited the floo into his father’s study and was taken aback to find Scorpius bounding towards him, apparently in a rare mood himself.

“Dad! Dad, good news!”

“Good news?” he asked cautiously.

“Grandfather said my class could have the camping trip here! Isn’t that brilliant?”

Draco felt his blood run cold. He looked at his father, who was lounging near the fire with a book, and then back at Scorpius's shining face. “Who put you up to this? Potter?”

“No,” he said, stepping back. “You just told me the trip was cancelled yesterday. I haven’t even seen Mr Potter.”

“Right. Fine. But there’s no way we can invite your school here.”

“But why?” He looked over his shoulder. When Lucius provided no answer, he turned back to Draco. “Why not?”

It wasn’t even worth explaining. Muggles on ancient magical lands? Muggle children? Who knew what sort of cursed artefacts from the war might be dug up around his father’s property? Who knew what ghosts and graves and magical creatures might be in the forest? And they had a gigantic pet dragon, for Merlin’s sake.

“Because it’s out of the question,” he said.

“That’s not fair! Grandfather said he’d cast Muggle-repelling charms on all the magical places. And he’d put Sophocles in his cage, and --"

“I said no, Scorpius. Not another word.”

Scorpius didn’t yell or stomp. He turned scarlet, went misty in the eyes, and sprinted for the floo.

Dad’s flat,” he said shakily, and disappeared.

Draco should have felt proud. That was the first time Scorpius hadn’t put up a huge fight about his wishes. The boy was learning respect. Wasn’t he?

“What was that about?”

Draco looked at his father.

“What?”

“He asked my permission.”

“He should have asked mine.”

“I see.” Lucius stared at Draco for a long moment, the fire crackling behind him. “I’m starting to think this is less about Scorpius’s respect for you...and more about making sure your life isn’t disrupted.”

He blinked. “I don’t understand.”

Lucius stood up and slid a hand onto Draco’s shoulder as he escorted him to the fireplace. “You can be his father and his friend, you know.”

Draco didn’t know what to make of that either.

At home, he stared at Scorpius’s shut door. He could hear the boy murmuring indistinctly to his python, or his frog, or his turtle, or all of them at once. It didn’t matter. They were all animals...and Scorpius’s only true friends for most of his life.

Draco sighed and rested his head against the frame. He thought of his father’s words. Of Potter’s. Of that ruddy poem. And cursed his selfishness.

 

***

He couldn’t believe this.

Imagine. Draco. Deep in the forest, gathering firewood so he could sleep warmly when there were rooms and rooms of perfectly empty beds not a kilometre away at his own family manor.

At least someone was happy. Scorpius ran up behind him and said, “We’re going to go swimming! We couldn’t find Mr Potter to tell him.”

“Weren’t you supposed to put up your tents before you did that sort of thing?”

“Can’t you do it with magic?”

Draco turned around, dropping several logs. Albus Potter and Evander Patil were behind Scorpius, but thankfully they were engaged in some treasure map they’d drawn on the bus.

“What do you think?” he hissed at Scorpius.

And so the mental face returned. “Come on, you guys,” Scorpius said. “My dad says we have to do work before we can have fun.”

Draco thought he might have earned some points for allowing this trip at all, for making clear efforts to be accommodating -- really, he was doing house-elf work out here -- but apparently all this would be in vain. He sat on a fallen tree and put his elbows on his knees, watching the boys try and figure out the mechanics of their tent. Scorpius had already forgotten about their tiff and was laughing as he tried to fit one metal pole into the receiving end of another metal pole.

A shadow appeared over Draco’s shoulder.

“Having fun?”

Draco snorted, snatching a twig off the ground. He started breaking it into little bits.

Potter straddled the log. “What’s the problem? That’s the third time you two have come to blows today for no reason at all.”

“He should know better. Talking about putting up the tent with magic? Right in front of that Muggle boy?”

“That’s easy enough to deflect. A Muggle child might say that sort of thing as a joke to get out of doing a chore. What’s the real problem?”

“I’m no parent,” Draco bit out. He glowered at Potter’s hiking boots. “I told you we didn’t get along because I hadn’t been around. But the truth is, I didn’t want to be around. I don’t want to take care of someone else. It’s inconvenient and hard. How do you do it?”

“I like it.”

Why?”

“I dunno. I reckon it’s nice that they need me. And not because I’m the Chosen One. Just because I’m Dad.”

“I stink at being Dad.”

Potter hummed. He scratched the bark of the tree with his fingernails, which were already filthy despite them only having pulled up in the bus an hour ago. Even so, Potter was still unnervingly sexy. “So don’t be,” he finally said.

“What?” Draco nearly laughed. “How can you say that?”

“You want him in your life, don’t you? At least, you want the best for him, but you can only give what you’re able to provide. Don’t be his Dad. Be his friend. Who happens to be his Dad.”

“You sound like my father, but crazier.” When Potter didn’t respond, he asked, “How can I be friends with a child?”

He shrugged. “Get on his level. Do what he’s doing, take interest in him. What was he asking about before he ran off looking sullen?”

“Swimming.”

“Then go swimming.”

“Oh, come on, Potter.” The idea was preposterous. He was a grown man. He wasn’t about to strip down to his pants and jump into a muddy pond. But Potter was looking through the trees rather wistfully at the pond, as though it sounded appealing. “Will you come?” Draco asked.

He adjusted his glasses, mildly surprised. “Sure.”

Draco sighed. He was stuck here. He may as well give it a shot.

“Scorpius,” he said, standing.

The three boys looked up from their task. Evander and Albus had abandoned setting up the tent in favor of wrapping Scorpius in the fabric and slinging vines across his chest like Muggle artillery. It seemed the tent poles had been modeled into a makeshift gun.

“Save that for later,” Draco said. “I want to go swimming.”

Evander and Al whooped. They sprinted for their backpacks. Scorpius was staring at Draco as the neon fabric slid off his shoulders.

“Are you...sure?” he asked.

Draco pulled his shirt over his head and started unbuckling his belt. “What does it look like?”

Scorpius nodded, unblinking. He edged around Draco to get to his backpack, and Draco was left feeling hollow but hopeful.

Potter coughed. “Er, so Muggles are touchy about men in their pants around children. Best go transfigure those lovely briefs into swim trunks.”

“Oh, right.” Draco’s skin prickled as he noticed a group of mums and girls giggling and covering their eyes.

“Nice bum, though,” Potter said, winking.

So, there was swimming. And hiking, and song-singing, and ghost stories, and howling and moaning in the night as children pretended to be monsters while all the respectable people tried to sleep, and bird-watching, and drawing moustaches on Headteacher Khan while he napped. Draco pretended to enjoy it all. And if he wasn’t mistaken, Scorpius’s normally scathing tone with him was warping into something neutral.

After nightfall on the last day, just as the wolves had begun to howl in the distance (Draco instinctively looked up, but the moon was in wane), Scorpius skipped up to him as he sat alone with a book and a flashlight.

“Dad! Can Al and I go to our house really quick?”

“What? You mean --" He looked up. It was pitch black, but he knew exactly where his and Astoria’s old cottage was. “Why?”

“Marshmallows. No one brought marshmallows, and I’ve never had a s’more, and Al says they’re the best thing ever, and I know Grandfather gave me some marshmallows for my birthday right before we moved out. I think they’re in the top cupboard. So can we go?”

“No,” he said automatically.

“But. It’s not far.”

“It’s not a good idea. We’re camping. You shouldn’t be in a house, should you?”

He traded a confounded look with Albus. “We’re not going to stay there. Just grab the marshmallows and come back. I can find my way. Or, if you want, you can come with --"

“I said no,” Draco snapped. Except he hadn’t meant to say it so harshly.

Scorpius thinned his lips and stomped away, his friend trailing behind with his head bowed.

Potter was easy to find. He was in a far corner of the campsite, tamping a churchwarden pipe with the stem stuck in the side of his mouth. This weekend, Draco had not only learned the source of Potter’s unique smell but that it was a nightly habit. His eyebrows lifted amiably as Draco approached, but he probably looked confused when Draco sighed and dropped his head onto his shoulder.

“God damn it,” he moaned. He felt Potter’s arms spring up and hold him close, the bowl of the pipe warm where it pressed against his back. “I think I’ve backtracked on any progress I’ve made with Scorpius this trip.”

“What happened?”

“I barked at him in front of your boy. Just because he wanted to fetch marshmallows from our old house. I’m such an arsehole.” Strangely, it was not embarrassing for him to stand and let Potter’s free hand scratch circles on the small of his back. He really wanted to be told all about how he was a stand-up man in reality, not an arsehole, but this was almost as comforting. “Can anyone see us from here?”

“No.”

“Kiss me?”

Potter pulled him back by the neck and kissed him. It was much softer than their first kiss.

“You taste like my grandfather smelled,” Draco said with a cough.

Potter hummed, his diaphragm jumping with amusement. He inhaled from the pipe, staring at Draco, the tobacco in the bowl sizzling bright orange and then fading to smoke.

“I want my son to love me,” Draco said.

“He does.”

“No, he doesn’t. He wants to come back to live here, and not with me. I don’t blame him. I’ve been a horrible father. I’m trying to make up for it, but I’m balls at it because I’ve avoided it for so long.”

“Hey, now...”

“I’m sure that’s why he wants to go to that cottage. He’s homesick. I don’t want to let him get all nostalgic and hate me even more for it. He’s finally coming around and --"

“Draco.” Potter’s hand was on his face, warm despite the chilly air. “You need to relax. If you’d just relax and have fun, Scorpius would have fun. I promise.”

“How am I supposed to have fun here?”

“I’ll help you,” he said with a slow smile.

Which, of course, put images of him fucking Potter’s mouth in the depths of the forest into his head.

“Um, Dad?” came a small voice.

Albus Potter was shuffling up to them, and Potter didn’t stop holding Draco as he said, “Yeah, mate?”

“I was just wondering,” he asked, sparing a hesitant glance at Draco, “could Scorpius come over next weekend to play videogames? He’s never done it before.”

“No problem. If Mr Malfoy agrees.”

Draco nodded, not looking at the boy. When Albus ran off, he said, “See? He’s trying to get away from me. He probably wants you to adopt him.”

“He’s just a kid who wants to shoot things,” Potter said flatly, pulling him by the wrist. “Come on.”

“When I was a kid, we played gobstones…”

“We’re going on a walk,” Potter said to Georgie’s mum, the only conscious chaperone. She lifted an amused eyebrow and went back to watching a group of kids play truth or dare. Potter dragged him a few yards into the woods before he lit the tip of his wand and asked, “Now, where's this cottage?”

 

***

The torches ignited when they entered. Draco took note the house-elves had been keeping up with the dusting, and then felt the overwhelming itch to leave.

“What are we doing here?”

“I told you. Relaxing you.” Potter walked to the kitchen and started flinging open cupboards. “Quaint place. I like it.”

“Is that a veiled insult? It used to be a peasant family’s residence back when the Malfoys were in farming. But I think my mother spiffed it up nice.” It was bigger than Potter’s flat, at least.

“Not an insult. It is nice,” he said, muffled.

Draco folded his arms, looking around the drawing room.

“And how do you intend to relax me?”

“By giving you another opportunity to bond with your son. Found them.”

He chucked something at Draco, who scrambled to catch the object against his chest. It was soft and plastic. A packet of marshmallows.

“Anything else you want while we’re here?” Potter asked.

“No, I never really kept much --” Draco noticed something on the mantel. “Funny. I thought she kept this. Mother will be thrilled to have it back.” He rolled the emerald ring between his fingers, and then shoved it in his pocket, feeling the weight of Potter’s stare on the back of his neck. “You never told me what happened with your wife.”

“We just grew apart. She was away for work all the time. Sports reporting for the Prophet. And I suppose I was starting to question my sexual preferences. It just...seemed like the best thing for both of us. We’re lucky. Still friends.”

Potter drew up behind him, putting his hands on Draco’s hips, his chin on Draco’s shoulder. They looked at the photographs on the mantel: a baby Scorpius sleeping on Lucius’s chest...Scorpius and Narcissa reading a book on her balcony...Scorpius and Astoria opening gifts at Christmastime...

“So that’s why your kids live with you full time?” Draco asked. “She travels?”

“Yeah,” he said, turning his head so his breath ghosted over Draco’s skin. “Plus, I’d go bonkers without them.”

Draco closed his eyes as Potter slowly kissed him on the neck. He leaned his head to one side, offering more skin, and Potter’s tongue grazed upwards, touching his earlobe, making him grab onto the mantel to still a shiver.

“I just realized we have a house to ourselves,” Potter whispered.

Draco smiled, eyes still closed. “How novel.”

Potter bit his earlobe. He was agonizingly gentle. He exhaled -- the low, steady breathing of a man who knew exactly what he was doing -- and touched his tongue into the shell of Draco’s ear. This time, Draco did shiver. He arched his back and clutched the front of Potter’s trousers. It was an involuntary action, but Potter took it as invitation. He pulled Draco flush, rising slightly onto his toes to fit his erection into the crease of Draco’s arse, and exhaled again, this time not nearly as controlled.

That was quite enough of that. Draco spun around, grabbed Potter by the front of the shirt, and dragged him down the corridor.

“I’d rather consummate my bed than the fireplace,” he threw over his shoulder.

“Your bed’s never been used?”

“Sure, it’s been used. But not for what I’m about to do to you.”

He slammed the door -- and Potter against it -- and took two kisses to find Potter’s mouth in the darkness. He waved his wand and tossed it on the floor as the grate went up in flames.

“I don’t think...this is going to work out,” Draco said between kisses, as Potter worked on his belt buckle, “if I only get to see you naked...once a month.”

Draco’s trousers fell. Potter started on his shirt-buttons, saying, “I think I can be patient. Just look at you.”

He hadn’t been to the gym since Scorpius moved in, so he was glad for the low light. Potter seemed to appreciate what was left of his efforts, using his tongue and lips to wet a path from Draco’s neck to his navel, and falling to his knees to hold Draco close by the arse, and pressing his nose into the fold between Draco’s thigh and balls, and looking up and inhaling longingly.

“Mmm, I can be patient,” he breathed.

Draco could have wept. “Right! Bed.”

When they made it to the bed, fumbling to shed Potter’s clothing, Draco found himself on his back with Potter pulling on his thighs, and Draco got the hint. He wrapped his legs around Potter’s waist as they kissed, and Potter kissed urgently, his mouth wide, his tongue unabashed, his stubble making itself known against Draco’s chin and cheeks. Potter began rocking, his cock falling heavily onto Draco’s, their sweat easing the slide, making Potter pull back and close his eyes. He made no sound, but he stroked a hand up the round of Draco’s arse, close to tender, before smacking it hard.

Draco shouted his surprise. “That again?”

“That’s right.” Potter pulled his hand back for another.

“Knock it off!” He couldn’t help snickering as he grabbed Potter’s hands. He was used to seductive partners, self-absorbed partners, not playful ones. “I said knock it off!” he cried, as Potter fought back, using his denser body to pin Draco’s hands to the bed.

Potter kissed him firmly. “Mmm, come on, Malfoy. Show me why you walk around like such a cocky shit.”

Draco’s gut clenched with excitement. He threw one leg up, catching Potter off guard. When he lost his balance, Draco rolled them over, straddling him, reaching behind himself to press Potter’s erection between the cheeks of his arse.

“Hey, slow down,” Potter laughed.

Draco waved a discreet hand, casting muscle relaxer and a lubrication charm in the same instant. He sat back and put his weight onto Potter’s cock.

“Draco, hey! Hold on, hold on --"

He sank down to the base. He bit his lip, staring with hooded eyes, wanting to savour the image of Potter with his back arched, his entire body tense from arousal.

“Oh my God. Oh my God, your fucking arse.”

“Is that nice, Potter?”

“You don’t know how nice.”

“Shall I make it better?”

Draco rolled his hips, steadying himself on Potter’s stomach, trying to lift the curve of his arse alone, over and over, wanting to remain close, to feel each distinct ridge and flex of Potter’s body between this legs. He would come soon if he kept this up this steady pace. Certainly Potter would come, the way he was grabbing his own hair, gritting his teeth in attempt not to make a sound.

“Let me fuck you,” he said, grabbing Draco’s hips.

“I’m fucking you, Hero. How would your fans feels if they heard you whinging like this? Your adoring students?”

Potter wasn’t in the mood to banter. He scooted his lower body around so his feet were on the headboard, and lifted his arse off the bed, taking Draco with him, and started fucking powerfully. Draco fell over, bracing his arms on either side of Potter’s head. They were nose to nose, Potter’s breath hot, quick, and smelling of vanilla smoke.

“Where do you want me to come?” Potter asked frantically.

“Come inside me.”

“Yeah? That’s what you like? You like taking come up the arse?”

Draco closed his eyes, letting Potter’s words wash over him, relaxing to allow Potter’s cock deeper, until Potter gripped his hips, pinning them tightly together as he came. Only then did Potter let himself moan. He made a breathy, high noise, which made Draco clutch his own cock; the idea that he made strapping Potter go to pieces like this enchanted him.

“Shit,” Potter said faintly. He kissed Draco. “Meant to go longer...but you’re so fucking sexy…”

“Do you hear me complaining?”

“I’m not about to give you the chance, either,” he said, grabbing Draco’s hand and cock at once.

“You’re such an animal.” He let himself fall off Potter’s lap and onto his back. His legs opened. “You don’t do gentle too much, do you?”

Potter slid an arm under Draco’s neck and used the forearm to turn Draco’s face towards him, his opposite hand still pulling strong. “You want me to be gentle? I’ll be however you like.”

“No. This is g-good. I’m going come.”

“Not yet.”

He slid down the bed with hungry eyes. Draco closed his eyes, prepared to feel the hot suction of Potter’s mouth working down his shaft. It never came. As soon as Potter’s lips slipped over the head, he pulled off again. He did this rapidly, popping on and off, making the wettest, dirtiest noise with each motion.

“More than that,” Draco demanded, but when he lifted his head he was caught by the debauched sight of Potter: curls were sticking to his forehead, black licks flew away from his crown, and with his hollowed cheeks, wet chin and knuckles, those plum-red lips on Draco’s cock, and that sinfully round arse sticking up behind him, he looked every bit as naughty as he acted.

He looked Draco in the eye and whispered, “Come in my face.”

“Uh, fuck.”

Draco’s thighs were shaking. He felt his balls getting firm. But he didn’t think he could come yet. It was like his body wanted to hold onto this moment for fear it wouldn’t come back. Relax, he told himself. Relax, like Potter said.

“Come in my face, Draco. Give me your load.”

“Harry,” he moaned.

“You want a finger in your arse? You want me to suck on that pretty hole? Tell me what you want.”

“Let me do it.”

Potter let go right away. Draco grabbed his hair brutally tight, fisting himself against Potter’s lips. He lifted his hips, working the head into the warmth of Potter’s mouth, and for once he was passive, letting Draco fuck just the head inside while he jerked the foreskin.

They locked eyes. Then Potter opened his mouth wide: an invitation.

Draco’s whole body tightened. Potter left his mouth open, flicking out his tongue to lick the slit as it spurted. He smiled as come drenched his cheeks, mouth, and chin, and by the time Draco stopped moving, Potter was rubbing his cheek along the swollen head and opening his eyes as he gave Draco’s cock a final, lingering kiss.

Potter swiped his arm across his face and leaned up to kiss him on the cheek.

Draco sighed. “Who knew you were so dirty?”

“Ended up with three kids some kind of way.”

“Ugh, I did not need that image.” He swung his legs off the bed to search for his wand. He made sure to smirk over his shoulder, so Potter knew he was not actually upset, and Potter chose to tease him by putting both hands behind his head and grinning.

“Jealous already? Can’t think about me with other people?”

“Not people,” Draco said, flicking a cleaning charm over them both. “Women. With the softness, and the things bouncing, and the -- you know, the lipstick and stuff -- ugh. No offense. Just not my preference.”

“Must have been hard for you then. With Astoria.”

“What do you mean?”

“You have a son, so I assume you did it at least a few times.”

“Hell, no. That was done artificially. I made sure that was in the contract.”

“Contract?”

“Yeah, the thing I drew up when they betrothed us, so I wouldn’t be obligated to do anything -- untoward.”

“Wow. Your family should have known it wouldn’t work out.”

“Too right. Not like I didn’t warn them, either. If I’m one thing, Potter, it’s honest with people.”

Potter looked at him like he was full of shit.

“And by that,” Draco said. “I mean I tend to get what I want.”

“That I believe.” He hopped up and grabbed his trousers. “Come on. You’re going to get what you want tonight. And that’s your son.”

 

***

When they returned, Georgie’s mum was asleep in a camp chair with her chin on her chest. The children were telling either ghost stories or dirty stories; probably the latter, because when Potter and Draco approached they shut up and snickered right quick. All except Scorpius. He was looking at Draco.

“You came back,” he said, walking over.

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I have?”

“I didn’t think you liked camping.”

“Not without marshmallows.”

He tossed the bag to Scorpius, who rolled his eyes, and walked away without a word.

Potter was smiling at Draco sadly. He opened his mouth, probably to say some sweet and patronizing words, and suddenly there was a shuffling noise and warm head on Draco’s chest.

He looked down and saw Scorpius there. Hugging him.

“Thanks, Dad,” he mumbled.

He shot away before Draco could respond. Not that it mattered. Draco couldn’t form words for a little while after that.

 

***

They still fought. Merlin, how they fought. It was usually about dinner. Draco couldn’t tolerate another cheeseburger. Probably his cholesterol couldn’t either, but he didn’t say that. What he said was, “No! Out of the question!” which was usually met with, “YOU NEVER GET ME ANYTHING I WANT!”

Until one night when Draco remembered what a budding law wizard Scorpius was.

He said, “Every two times you try something new for dinner, I will give you one night of cheeseburgers.”

“And an Xbox?”

Draco considered. “No.”

Scorpius considered. “All right, then.”

Eventually, Scorpius had taken to pad thai, curry (but not the spicy kind), and, to Draco’s abhorrence, canned ravioli. Once, they went out to dinner with the Potters, and Scorpius was so excited to be spending time with Albus outside of school that he didn’t even complain about bedtime once he and Draco returned home. Things were looking up.

One day the doorbell rang.

Draco stretched off the sofa, where he and Scorpius had been watching some cartoon about children who could warp the elements to do their bidding. Such fantastical nonsense. He opened the door and found a leathery brown woman in sunglasses. She was wearing entirely too thin a sundress for the wet November weather and also for someone not wearing a brassiere.

“Haven’t you learned any manners?” she asked.

“Astoria?”

“In the flesh.”

“Certainly your flesh has something to do with it. You look like a boot.”

She snatched off her glasses. “So I fell asleep on the beach a few times. No need to rub it in. Where’s my Bug?”

Astoria glided in before Draco could think to ask what she was doing here. It was unlike her to waive manners by showing up someplace uninvited. He heard Scorpius shout, “Mum!” and found the two of them hugging in the drawing room, the cartoon blaring behind them.

“Go and get your froggie, yes? I’ll send for the rest of your things later.”

“What do you mean? Are we going back to Wiltshire?”

“No, darling, it wouldn’t be prudent for me to stay with Daddy’s parents anymore, would it? I bought a quaint little house in Tuscany for us. I can’t stand this British weather anymore,” she added to Draco, letting a manicured hand go limp. “It’s only 5 beds and 4 baths, but I think it’ll do for now, don’t you? And it’s right on the coast.”

“Where’s Tuscany?” Scorpius asked quietly.

“No time for chatting, run along.” She pushed him gently down the corridor.

“Astoria,” Draco said slowly. “What are you doing? This isn’t the arrangement we discussed.”

“I know, I know,” she said, looking around his flat appraisingly, “but you put up such a fuss when I left I didn’t think you even wanted the boy. I’m doing you a favour.”

Draco widened his eyes, glancing over his shoulder and hoping dearly that Scorpius was out of earshot. “Maybe I didn’t. But now we’re settled, him and me. We’ve got a routine, and he’s doing so well in school that I don’t think --"

“This place is really nice. Can’t believe you never invited me here.”

He frowned. “I’m...I’m sure I invited you….”

“Yes, to your housewarming party. I couldn’t believe it! Invited to my own husband’s housewarming party -- as if that makes any kind of sense. And then you promptly ushered me out at the end of the night when you wanted alone-time with your amoureux. What was his name? Something Italian. At least we have that preference in common. Honestly, you were so cruel to me.”

“Well, I’m sorry about all that, but it’s in the past. Scorpius and I have a life here now. He’s fine here.”

“Draco. I’m his mother. He’s supposed to be with me.” She put on her sunglasses and started towards the door. “Hurry up, Scorpius! We’re waiting in the car!”

Draco was so distracted trying to sort out this development that he almost didn’t catch what Astoria had said. He hurried after her, cutting off her path.

“We?” he asked darkly.

Even behind the glasses, he could see her face fall. “Now, Draco --"

He was out the door.

“Draco!” she cried behind him as they slammed into the stairwell. “Don’t do anything rash!”

“You brought him here?” he shouted. He took the stairs two at a time. Astoria’s heels clattered as she tried to keep up.

“What was I going to do? Take two different cars from the airport?”

“Can’t believe you brought that betraying bastard to my --"

He burst out the front door and into the rain.

There he was: Blaise Zabini, standing outside a limousine with Draco’s valet holding an umbrella over his head, his hands in his expensive-looking suit pockets, a cigarette burning on the edge of his lips. He nodded at Draco, twitched his lips -- a greeting, as if everything were perfectly normal.

Draco strode up to him, pulled back his fist, and punched Zabini in the face. He fell to the ground with a great spray of rain water.

“Draco!”

He ignored Astoria’s cries, grabbing Zabini by the shirtfront and hauling him off the ground. Zabini’s shoes were slipping on the pavement as he tried to scramble up, but Draco would not let him more than halfway.

What the fuck, Malfoy? It’s not like I actually stole your wife! You were already single when I started seeing her!”

The rain streamed off Draco’s hair and into Zabini’s face as he hissed, “But you weren’t, you fucker! This isn’t for Astoria! It’s for Pansy!”

Draco’s fist connect again. Zabini’s shirt slipped out his hand and his whole body collapsed on the ground.

“Mr Malfoy!” the valet cried, pulling Draco back by the waist. At the same time, Astoria was moaning, “You monster!” She cradled the back of Zabini’s head, her hand flitting towards the bust of her dress, where Draco knew she would be stashing her wand. She glanced at the valet and thought better of it.

It was pouring so hard Draco couldn’t hear the cars speeding by. But he heard his son’s shout as clear as day.

“DAD!”

Scorpius stood under the awning, holding his frog and his turtle in a tiny clear box. He was wide-eyed.

“Merlin,” Draco breathed, holding up a hand. “Scorpius, I know this looks barbaric --"

“You hurt him!”

“And I’m sorry you had to see that, I’m so very --"

“Sorry? Are you joking? That was so wicked!” He rushed forward to examine Blaise like he were some kind of circus attraction writhing on the ground. He turned, giving Draco a look of pure joy. “You totally beat him up!”

“Um --"

“I can’t wait to tell Albus my Dad can beat people up, too!”

Draco had no time to preen. Astoria was taking Scorpius by the arm.

“You’ll do no such thing. Come along, we’re going.”

“No, Mum, wait! I don’t want to go.”

“You don’t?”

Draco met eyes with Astoria. They both had spoken at the same time.

“No, I like it here,” Scorpius said. He seemed to realize he was standing in the rain; he lifted an arm to shield his pets from being flooded with water. “My friends are here.”

“We can take your friends with us, Bug.”

“No, my people friends! Evander and Al and Jamie. We hang out all the time, and I --" He threw Draco an unreadable look. “I just want to stay here. Please?”

Though Zabini was still holding his nose on the ground, moaning like a ghost, Astoria’s anger had washed away. She only had eyes for Scorpius. She touched his silvery, wet head, looking somewhat deflated.

“If that’s what you want, darling. You’d...you’d just have to promise to write to Mummy and visit often.”

“Yeah! Yeah, I would.”

“And do as Daddy says. I know he’s mean, but he loves you in his way.”

Draco rolled his eyes, making no comment. Scorpius hugged his mother and then splashed over to stand by Draco’s side.

Astoria stared at them for a long moment, as if it were the first time she’d ever seen them together, and then stepped over her husband. “We’ll be late to our portkey, Blaise.”

“Can you teach me how punch people?” asked Scorpius as they walked into the lobby.

Draco smirked and said, “Sure, why not?” choosing not to mention that it was the first time he’d ever punched another person. And that his hand was screaming for a bag of ice.

 

***

Christmas morning found Draco and Scorpius lounging in pyjamas, drinking spiced pumpkin juice, and reading the books Lucius had sent as gifts: one was a moving encyclopaedia of reptiles and one was a tome on financial management. Lucius wasn’t subtle, but at least he cared. As for Draco’s gifts to Scorpius, he’d had to sell the boy’s twin Omega to afford the mountain of toys and electronics lying unwrapped under the tree.

The fire turned green and spat out four people: three bright-eyed children and their sleep-mussed, unshaven father.

“Albus!”

Scorpius leapt off the sofa and tackled his friend into a nearby armchair. Lily laughed maniacally. James stood by, advising his brother to get Scorpius into a chokehold before he got too much leverage.

“They’ve been like this all morning -- animals, the lot of them.” Potter fell beside Draco and put his slippered feet up on the coffee table. “I see Scorpius is no better.”

The boy in question looked up, grinning as he smothered Albus with a throw blanket. “It’s Christmas! You’re supposed to be happy at Christmas!”

“Yeah, well --" Potter cut himself off with a jaw-cracking yawn. “I’m happiest when I get to sleep in.”

“You’re getting that much closer to peace, Dad,” James said, whipping a piece of paper out of his pocket and fanning himself like a lady on a hot day. “Best Christmas gift ever.”

Potter threw Draco a bored look. “His eleventh birthday was last week. Hogwarts letter.”

“Congratulations,” Draco said, laughing at James’s antics. He was now rubbing the letter on his face, as if it were sweetly perfumed. Over the weeks, Draco had learned that James was not just mischievous but endlessly weird.

“Gets it from his uncles,” Potter kept saying defensively.

“OH!” Scorpius said, springing off the chair. “Guess what I got?”

Albus sat up, throwing the blanket off his head and shaking out his hair like a wet dog. “What.”

“AN XBOX.”

“So what? I already have one of those.”

Scorpius looked at him seriously. “Do you have an Xbox Platinum 3000?”

Albus and James went slack-jawed.

“Dad, can I play it now?” Scorpius implored.

Draco nudged his chin towards the television, simultaneously bidding farewell to his peaceful morning -- to all peaceful mornings forevermore. After twenty minutes, the children were mesmerized, occasionally shouting epithets their mothers would have scolded them for, and Potter had his arms crossed and his head on Draco’s shoulder.

Scorpius threw his hands up. “Boom! Clocked you right in the face! Just like my dad did my mum’s new husband! Did I tell you?”

“Only about a million times,” said Albus, mashing buttons furiously.

“It was so cool.”

“Why haven’t I heard about this?” Potter murmured.

Draco shook his head, admitting, “It was not a shining moment of mine.”

“You punching Zabini in the face?” Potter ran a hand up Draco’s thigh. “Sounds pretty hot, if you ask me.”

Draco turned so their noses were touching. Potter had been smoking the pipe far too early in the day. “It was hot, now that I think of it.”

They kissed quietly, their hands clasping in Draco’s lap. He put his opposite hand into Potter’s hair, rubbing his scalp and making Potter sigh and practically pull Draco into his lap.

“Daaaaad,” Lily said. “Kissing is gross.”

Potter pulled back, looking at her like nothing had happened. “But I kiss you.”

“Yeah, but I’m me.”

“Well, you’re pretty gross, Lily,” Albus said absently, as he stared at the television screen.

“Am not!”

“Nah, he’s right for once,” added James, who now had his nose in a comic book.

“Leave her alone,” said Scorpius. “She’s not that gross.”

James lowered the comic book. “Ooooh, Scorpius fancies Lily!”

“No, I do not!”

Once the children were engaged in their argument, Potter looked at Draco and jerked his head towards the bedroom.

Hell no, Draco mouthed.

Potter made a tragic face. Quickie? he responded.

It had been a couple weeks. The children were always around. Which, sometimes, was annoying. But sometimes not. Draco was growing accustomed to his son’s presence, even fond of it (even fond of Potter’s brood, as rowdy as they were), and it wasn’t because he was afraid of getting caught with his pants down that he put his arm around Potter, kissed him on the temple, and whispered, “It can wait.” It was because, for once in his life, he didn’t want to miss a second of Scorpius’s childhood.

For once in his life, Draco had no money, no peace, and no bachelorhood -- and that was exactly the way he wanted it.