It's not as if Jamie hasn't travelled by International Portkey before. He and Dad go to Germany all the time for matches and stuff. Well, if by all the time you mean twice in the past two years. But still, he thinks, that's enough--more than his friends in Gryffindor--and he likes Portkeys, most of the time.
Just not with Uncle Ron, it seems.
They land at the edge of a grove of trees with a thud that sends Jamie rolling head over heels. He blinks up at the bright blue sky, his fingers digging into the ground beneath him. Never again, he thinks. Never again. Aunt Ginny'd warned him Uncle Ron was shite at this. He'll have to send her postcard telling her how right she was.
Bushy red curls and a freckled nose hover above his face. "Are you alive?"
Jamie brushes a lock of long blond hair back out of his eyes. "For the moment." He lets Rose help him up, even though he's a full head taller than her. He's taller than everyone in the family for his age. Aunt Hermione used to say that he took after his mum that way, but she stopped after she saw the look on Dad's face. Jamie'd only been nine then, practically a baby now, but even he'd thought Dad looked sad. When he'd asked him about it later, wanting to know more about his mum because no one ever talked about her, Dad had just brushed it off, telling him he was too young to worry about it. Three years later and they still hadn't talked about her. Jamie'd stopped asking.
"The landing's always the hardest," Uncle Ron says heartily as he disentangles himself from a bramble bush behind them. "Never know what you're going to land in."
"But you always know how you'll land," Rose whispers to Jamie. They trade looks.
"Yeah," he shoots back as Uncle Ron nears them. "Badly."
Uncle Ron ruffles his hair. "Your dad's had more practice. Part of the glory of being Head Auror. Loads of official business and parchment-pushing trips to Brussels." He turns, scanning the flat horizon of the empty grassy plain around them. "So this is Canada."
"I certainly hope it is," Rose says. "You know that Mum will never forgive you for that trip to Ulan Bator for your anniversary."
"She enjoyed it once she stopped whinging." Uncle Ron hefts their bags to his broad shoulders in one strong motion. "Said Mongolia was much more interesting than the Italian Riviera. And we brought you those cool hats."
Rose rolls her eyes. That's what she tells him, she mouths to Jamie and he snorts. He's always envied his cousins their easy way with each other and their parents. He and Dad, they're good together, sure, but it's just them sometimes. Jamie thinks they both get lonely. It took weeks of storming around the house, slamming doors, and pointedly not speaking before Dad reluctantly approved his attendance at the International Quidditch Camp. Secretly Jamie's certain Aunt Hermione had something to do with Dad's change of heart: he saw them talking by Firecall just before Dad relented. But Jamie has no bloody idea what she said to change his mind, and neither of them has said a thing about it since.
A soft pop sends them all turning, Uncle Ron's wand in his hand. An elf eyes them warily, his long spindly fingers spread wide as he holds up his hands. He's wearing a too-large orange t-shirt with a white broom in cracked vinyl across it. It's belted around his plump waist with a colourful strip of braided and knotted threads that dangles down nearly to his bare feet.
For a moment, Jamie wonders if Canadian free elves wear pants. He'd been horrified last term when he'd figured out that the Hogwarts elves didn't bother under their kilts, even in the dead of winter.
The elf scratches his hip and sighs. "Quidditch?"
"Yeah," Uncle Ron says, and he looks bemused. "Why else would we be out on the prairie with a set of brooms?"
"You is never knowing, sir. Milton has been seeing many strange things in his life." With a snap of his fingers, a clipboard appears in the elf's hand. "Names? Last and first, please."
"Weasley, Rose," Uncle Ron says. "And Potter, James."
The elf frowns down at his list, running a fingertip along the parchment. He stops to make a careful tap against James's name, and a line shimmers across it, marking it out. Rose's does the same a moment later.
He motions for Uncle Ron to lay the bags down in front of him and carefully loops a coloured tag through each, a blue flower on James's and a red salamander on Rose's. With a snap of his fingers, the bags disappear.
"Wizardlings please to be carrying their brooms." The elf sizes Uncle Ron up and the effect is almost comical with the height difference. "No parents allowed, sir. Milton is sorry, but you must be queueing up over there for being given your return Portkey."
Uncle Ron's face crumples. "I thought I'd walk them in..."
Milton shakes his head firmly and for the first time in his life, Jamie wants to kiss an elf. Or shake its hand very firmly. "No parents, sir. Being camp rules and such."
"Right." Uncle Ron sighs. He runs a hand over Rose's hair and gives her a mournful look. "Sure you can last six weeks without me?"
Jamie's pretty sure Rose's eyes are wet, but she just lifts her chin and smiles. "Bet Hugo's made you forget all about me before I get back." Jamie doesn't think that's possible. Everyone knows Rose is a daddy's girl. Even Aunt Hermione admits that. He doesn't think she and Uncle Ron have ever been apart more than a week at most. Even counting Ulan Bator.
Uncle Ron chucks Rose under her chin. "Might even let him have your room." He grins as she shrieks. "Or not."
Rose glares at him and lifts her broom over her shoulder. "For that I might not send you any owls."
"The horror." Uncle Ron looks wounded and clutches his heart. "Your mother would have my head on a platter." His eyes narrow. "And come here to make sure you were still alive."
"So it'll be a letter every week then," Jamie says.
"Two," Uncle Ron says. He frowns at Jamie. "Each."
Milton coughs softly. "The Welcoming Picnic is being soon. Time to go."
Rose lowers her broom and throws herself against her father. Jamie looks away as she mumbles something into his robe and Uncle Ron kisses the top of her head. When she steps back, she drags the back of her hand across her eyes, then lifts her broom to her shoulder again.
Jamie finds himself wrapped in a huge hug, his face pressed to his uncle's shoulder. "Take care of yourself," Uncle Ron murmurs against his hair. "Or your father will be gutted."
There's a lump in Jamie's throat suddenly that he can't speak through. Instead, he just nods. He thought he'd got past the rough part earlier when he'd said goodbye to Dad. He squeezes his uncle tight before he steps back. Uncle Ron sighs and looks at them both.
"Right," he says. "Well. Off with you both then."
Just before they disappear into the grove of trees, Jamie looks back. His uncle's watching them, a wistful look on his face. Jamie raises a hand; Uncle Ron waves.
The trees close in around them.
Scorpius wakes up to Pip sitting on his chest.
"Hi," his best friend says, with a quirk of his thin mouth. Early morning sunlight gleams off his coffee skin, highlights his sharp cheekbones, and Scorpius itches to reach for his sketchbook and draw him. Instead he just shoves him off his bunk, not caring that he lands with a thud and a curse that Scorpius knows would earn him a scowl from his mum. Aunt Pansy's worse than Grandmother when it comes to enforcing appropriate language--even though Scorpius has heard her swear a blue streak at his father more than once.
"Knock it off, Zabini." Scorpius pulls his sheet up over his face. "I'm sleeping."
The sheet's pulled away. Pip looms over him. "Breakfast, Malfoy, and I'm starving, so move your lazy bum."
Pip's one year older than him and cheerfully admits that he's the reason his mum and dad got married right out of school. He's always been proud of the wedding pictures in their New York apartment that show Aunt Pansy ridiculously preggers with him in her white gown, Uncle Blaise beside her, looking slightly shell-shocked and possibly hungover. Or still drunk, Scorpius suspects. His godfather had quite a reputation when he was younger, or so Father says, usually with an affectionate smile.
They've both grown up in the States, he and Pip, between the Boston and New York areas and their rather large ex-pat wizarding communities. There'd been a war in Britain ages ago, and afterwards, loads of their families had come over for some reason--Scorpius had never been entirely clear on that, to be honest, although he had found a few odd things on the Internet recently that made him curious about the circumstances of their departure. Or Grandfather's at least. He and Grandmother had come over to Boston even before Scorpius was born. Father'd stayed through his pregnancy and then come back to be with his family. Scorpius doesn't know much about his other father, except that he hadn't wanted to stay with them. Or so he assumes. Father doesn't talk about him, and the few times Scorpius has asked, he's only fallen silent and told him that was a story for another day--most likely when he was twenty. Scorpius can't imagine ever being that old, so he's given up figuring it out for now. Besides, when he pushes, Father ends up in his study for the rest of the day, staring out a window and drinking copious amounts of brandy.
A camp t-shirt lands on his face. "Move it, buttface, or there'll be no bacon left," Pip says cheerfully.
Scorpius groans and pulls the turquoise t-shirt over his head. "If Aunt Pansy hears you speaking Yank--"
"Yeah, yeah." Pip throws a pair of shorts at him. His accent slides effortlessly from American to British. "Mumsy'll live. I don't know how she expects me to survive school in one piece if I sound like a ponce."
"You are a ponce." Scorpius pulls on the shorts and buttons them. "Who brings a manicure set to camp?"
Pip ties the laces on his trainers. "People who care about their appearance, that's who." He eyes Scorpius, looking him up and down. "You'll understand in another year or two."
That earns him a flipped finger--they'd quickly learned not to use two in front of their parents, unless they really wanted trouble. Scorpius slides into a pair of trail shoes and runs a hand through his short-cropped blond hair as he peers into a mirror. All it does is make it stand further on end. He sighs. His hair is Father's horror; unlike proper Malfoy hair, it never lays flat, and it's slightly darker than the white blond of the rest of his family. His other father's fault, he supposes. Whoever he is.
"You're fine," Pip says. "Or as fine as you'll ever be. Come on. If the fucking bacon's gone--"
Scorpius snorts and reaches for his smallest sketchbook, tucking it and a pencil into one of his myriad pockets. "You just want to see that girl with the red hair. Who, I might add, is too young for you."
"Piss off," Pip says easily. He smooths his short dreads back from his forehead. "She was watching me last night."
"You think everyone watches you." Scorpius pushes open the door to their cabin and clatters down the wooden steps. The air's cool and crisp this early, and sunlight shines through the bright green leaves of the trees above, dappling in golden patches on the ground. He can catch a glimpse of the lake between the tree trunks, shining and blue. It's nice here, he thinks, although he misses his airy room in the top of the turret in his family's old Queen Anne in Concord. This is his second summer here in Manitoba, and he secretly suspects that Father's glad to have him out of the house for a few weeks. He's working on his next book and doesn't want to be disturbed. Also Scorpius might possibly have driven him mad last winter - the snow'd been unusually heavy and icy and they were trapped indoors for weeks, except for the occasional Floo travel to get to the market, work and school. And there was only so much Father could take of Scorpius's newfound obsession with comic books, but really, he was to blame. Father'd foisted his old collection of Martin Miggs the Mad Muggle on him to entertain him one snowy afternoon, and Scorpius's doom had been sealed.
Oddly, however, it'd been the one thing he and Grandfather had been able to bond over. Who knew his uptight, often cantankerous grandparent had a secret love of old wizarding comics? He'd even bought Scorpius a mint copy of the first edition of Merlin's Chest for his birthday, and that was even older than Grandfather himself.
They make their way over to the larger cabin at the center of the camp, following the blissful smell of bacon and pancakes. Inside the dining room, there are three long wooden tables with rough-hewn benches that even at this hour are half-filled. Brooms and old photographs line the log walls, and ancient, dusty flags hover above them, marking out past camp awards and honors. The most thrilling one is Viktor Krum's over in the corner, back from the early 90s. Last summer Scorpius had caused a stir by telling everyone his father had spent a year at school with Krum once. He might have embellished the story a bit, making it sound as if Father and Krum were best of friends, but he figures no one could ever deny it, even though some of the Hogwarts arseholes had tried. He doesn't know why they hate him so much, especially when they hear his and Pip's last names, but he doesn't really care, either. As far as he can tell, they're all jerks. He doesn't even know who this Voldemort is. Or was or whatever. They haven't made it to the modern history section of World Magical History at school. That's scheduled for next year.
The ginger girl's at the buffet, poking warily at the far too yellow scrambled eggs. Scorpius rolls his eyes as Pip smooths his t-shirt across his chest and straightens the leather cuff on his wrist.
"Hey," Pip says, and the girl looks up in surprise. Scorpius isn't sure he's ever seen that many freckles on one face. Pip holds out his hand. "Phillip Zabini, but you can call me Pip."
The girl tilts her head, eyeing him. "Rose Weasley," she says after a moment, and then she smiles, a dimple forming at the corner of her mouth.
"Everyone calls him Pip," Scorpius says, reaching for a plate. "Don't let him make you think it's special."
Rose laughs. "I figured." When she looks at him, she starts. "Jamie," she says, and then she frowns. "You're not Jamie."
Pip thunks Scorpius's forehead; Scorpius bats away his hand. He glances over at Rose. "You're British." He lets his accent slide into proper Malfoy. "Scorpius Malfoy."
There's a flicker of something in her eyes. "Oh," she says. "Malfoy."
Scorpius's hackles rise. His eyes narrow. "Yes."
Rose looks at him curiously, and starts to say something, but another boy pushes between them.
"More bacon," he says, piling his plate high. "Good." He turns, and suddenly Scorpius is looking into a familiar face. He blinks. The other boy just stares at him. "Who are you?" he asks through a mouthful of bacon.
"Jamie, this is Scorpius." Rose nods her head in his direction. "And his friend, Phillip--I mean--Pip." She smiles warmly at Pip.
"Odd. It's kind of like looking into a mirror." Jamie moves his head to one side and then the other. He's wearing a flannel shirt open over a red t-shirt that has Gryffindor emblazoned in white across it. Oh, lovely, Scorpius thinks. One of those.
Scorpius stares down his nose at him. "I don't know what you mean. We look nothing alike."
When he looks over, both Rose and Pip are regarding them, looking back and forth like a tennis match.
"Uh, yeah, you do," Pip says after a moment. "In a totally weird way."
Rose waves a hand airily. "All wizards in Britain are related. And you did say your parents were English, didn't you?"
Scorpius looks away from Jamie. "No, I implied it." He hesitates. "My father's family is." He has no idea about his other father.
"That explains it, then." Rose nods. "You're probably distant cousins--"
"God forbid," Scorpius says, watching in horror as Jamie devours his bacon. His brow wrinkles when Jamie grabs a pancake with his bare hand, folds it in half and proceeds to stuff it in his mouth. "You're a Neanderthal."
Jamie flips two fingers at him. "Arsewipe," he says through a mouthful of pancake.
"We're all cousins, probably," Rose says, trying to ignore the growing animosity between the two boys. "Should we sit or do you want to finish your bacon standing?" This last bit is directed at Jamie.
Jamie crunches into another piece. "Whatever." He shrugs and heads back to one of the tables, wiping his mouth on the plaid sleeve of his shirt. Rose gives Pip a small smile as she follows him.
"That is so fucked up," Pip murmurs, watching them.
Scorpius fills his plate with bacon. "Hogwartians," he says grimly. "Never ones for manners, are they?" The irony is not lost on him that his own manners were drummed into him by an entire lineage of Old Slytherins.
Pip rolls his eyes and reaches for the pancakes. "Just ignore him."
Scorpius tells himself he'll try.
It's really hot in Canada. Jamie wasn't really expecting the blazing sun - London had been overcast and cool when they left and he realised he packed too many warm things. By midmorning, he's peeled off his long-sleeved shirt and is flying in a t-shirt and jeans. He's noticed that the more experienced campers are all wearing shorts and he thinks he might need to write an urgent owl home to get proper clothing. Or he might just find a pair of scissors and attack his trousers.
The wide, open field they're practicing in is literally filled with masses of girls and boys. It's only supposed to be a hundred and twenty but it feels like hundreds more. There are hurdles and aerial dodge courses set up, hoops and speed runs. Everyone is cycling through positions, testing their skills and showing their strengths and weaknesses. Jamie's always thought he was pretty good at Quidditch, and this morning hasn't knocked the shine off of that idea yet. He may not be the single best at everything, but he's a pretty good all-rounder.
As he waits in line for the next trial, he gratefully accepts a paper cup of water from the boy ahead of him, Pradeep, no, Prasad. He's from Ottowa, Jamie remembers, and he's really handy with a beater's bat. The assistant coach, Serafina, passes by, whistle in her mouth. She rolls her parchment further, Quick Quill settling on the next table of names. "Potter, Chittoor, Soerensen, Murphy, Tikolo, Vlakos. Pair up!"
Jamie grabs his Nimbus 2010 and legs it to the clearing on the edge of the field, near the trees. The five girls and boys with him are all large for their age, though none of them is as tall. Tikolo, a broad-shoulder, lanky boy with close-shaved hair and a wicked grin is nearly as tall, but Jamie still has an inch or two on him.
He taps Tikolo on the shoulder. "Hey, let's play together. I'm Jamie."
"Steffen." Tikolo sizes Jamie up and nods. "Sure."
Jamie's pretty sure they can take down anything in their path together, although he's still not sure what they're going to practice next. They've been through chasing, seeking, beating, and basic broom skills already. Jamie didn't make the Gryffindor team his first year like his Dad, but it's likely he'll have a place on the team next year. His Aunt Angela's all but said as much, with a whispered word or two about avoiding the appearance of favouritism. She's the new Quidditch Master at Hogwarts and she's utterly brilliant.
Serafina's appearance with a heavy bag and a box with contents struggling to escape bring Jamie's thoughts back to the present. He wipes a hand over his sweaty forehead as the assistant coach holds the bag out to the nearest camper. Athena Vlakos hefts a smooth wooden beater's bat from the rough canvas sack.
So that's what they're here for. Jamie and Steffen trade eager grins. They've got this.
"Listen up," Serafina says. "This is important. You boys and girls are among the strongest in the group. I want to see skill here, not just brute strength. It takes a lot of finesse to be a good beater. Make sure you have control of your arm."
She spreads them out, each pair about 10 metres apart and 20 metres across from each other.
"Mount your brooms."
Jamie stands astride his broom, left hand curled around the broom handle, right hand holding the bat casually against his thigh. The swoop as he soars into the air is always the best thing in the world. He loves flying and he's very good at it. Everyone says he's a natural.
He and Steffen take turns trying to knock each other off of their brooms with the Bludger, until Serafina comes to watch them. Then they volley like the polite gentlewizard beaters she wants them to be.
"I'm watching you two," she says as she departs. "You're good, but I'm better. And I'm watching."
They hit Bludgers back and forth for ages, until Jamie's arm is getting sore and the sweat is pouring down his back, making his t-shirt stick to his skin.
Just when he's almost getting tired, a horn blows in the center of the field, the sign for lunch. The stampede to the canteen begins almost immediately. Young witches and wizards drop to the ground, tucking their brooms under their arms or slinging them over their shoulders. They descend on the harried looking elves at the broom hut, who collect all of the brooms and hang them on wooden racks.
"Hey, James," Steffen says, catching him up.
"Jamie, mate. Jamie." Jamie smiles and rolls his eyes a little.
He waves his hand. "Jamie then. Want to sit with us for lunch?"
"Sure," Jamie says, feeling a momentary twinge of guilt. Rose. Maybe she'll have new friends to sit with too. Or she can join them. Maybe. "Cheers."
"We've all been coming here since we were ten." Steffen smiles, looking around the crowd, then waving as he spots another boy in a bright green jersey next to a girl in a Quodpot shirt. Jamie doesn't know all the American teams, but he thinks it's from the Pittsburgh Alloys.
They fall into step easily with each other, chatting back and forth as they make their way to the central cabin where huge trays of cold sandwiches and fruit juice beckon.
Rose is standing there, looking uncertain, her lunch tray clutched in both hands.
"Hi," Pip says with a smile, and Scorpius glares him. "Want to join us?"
Before Scorpius can protest, Rose nods and sets her tray down, stepping over the bench to sit next to Pip. "Sorry," she says. "It's just Jamie's..." Her gaze drifts over to where Potter's sitting with Tikolo and another boy and girl, all of them laughing over something utterly stupid, Scorpius is certain. Rose sighs. "I think he forgot he was going to meet me."
Scorpius snorts. Pip kicks him under the table; Scorpius kicks back. He fiddles with the pencil in his hand, letting the lead smear across his fingertips.
A bushy red curl slips from Rose's ponytail, and she tucks it behind her ear. She reaches for her orange and peels it, almost daintily, the way Scorpius's grandmother does. A lump forms in his throat. He misses home sometimes. He'd never admit it to Pip: he doesn't want to be mocked mercilessly. But as much as he likes camp and spending six weeks with his best friend, he prefers his his tree-shaded room filled with books and drawing materials. His pencil drifts over a clean page in his sketchbook, scratching lightly across the paper.
"You're American," Rose says through a mouthful of orange. "And British."
Pip shrugs. "Our parents are British. They came over when we were kids." He pops a crisp into his mouth and chews on it. "Scorpius and I are Yanks at school, and Brits at home." He slides easily from an American to a British accent in one sentence, and Rose laughs. "I live in New York, and Scorpius is from Boston."
"Concord, actually," Scorpius says. He looks up from his sketchbook. "It's just outside of Boston." At Pip's eyeroll, he sighs. "They're very particular about that distinction, believe me. At least the Wizarding Historical Society is."
Rose leans over the table. "Who's that?" She points a juice-damp finger at his sketch of a woman, her hair knotted loosely at the nape of her neck, a bouquet of peonies lifted to her nose. "Your mum?"
"I don't have a mum." Scorpius lets his pencil drift lightly along the curve of his grandmother's mouth. She smiles up at him. "That's Grandmother."
"She's pretty," Rose says after a moment.
Scorpius just scowls at her, then slams the sketchbook closed. "She's beautiful."
Rose doesn't look away. "That too," she says. She eyes him curiously. "Is she still in Britain?"
"Do you always ask so many questions?" Scorpius snaps. He doesn't like talking about his family with other people. They're private; they've always been private, as long as he can remember. He'd grown up with Father telling him that he wasn't to tell stories about home at school. The few times he'd indulged in it had been here at camp, but there's something about the way Rose Weasley's looking at him that makes him wary.
"Not always." Rose leans forward. Her yellow t-shirt's too big for her thin body; the neck slides over onto her shoulder. "I just wondered. My mum and dad knew a Malfoy ages ago. Back during the war. Maybe he was related to you."
Scorpius stills. "Probably not," he says quietly. They don't talk about the war at home. He knows something happened in Britain, and that it wasn't that great for his grandparents. Grandfather'd once told him about the house they'd left behind, the one that one day will go to him if he wants it, but he's only seen a picture or two, and he thinks perhaps it's far too grand for him.
"You're really good, you know." Rose eyes the closed sketchbook. "Where'd you learn to draw like that?"
Pip nudges Scorpius under the table, and he sighs. "My grandfather," Scorpius says. "He likes to paint. And the Muggles think my father's an art historian." He slides his pencil through the metal loops of the sketchbook binding. "He mostly works with magical artefacts though."
"Neat." Rose gives him a hesitant smile. "My dad owns a shop with my uncle, and my mum's deputy head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures."
"That's a mouthful," Pip says.
Rose laughs. "Isn't it just?"
"Sounds more interesting than my parents, though." Pip nicks a couple of crips off Scorpius's plate, wincing when Scorpius smacks his hand. "Father's in imports and Mumsy..." He shrugs.
"Looks gorgeous and throws brilliant benefit parties," Scorpius says. Or at least that's what Father says Aunt Pansy's best at.
Pip points a finger at him. "Exactly."
Rose sighs. "That sounds so glamourous."
"There's a lot of dieting involved." Scorpius takes his pencil out again and opens his sketchbook. "Or at least Aunt Pansy's always on the Floo asking Father to talk her out of eating carbohydrates."
Pip looks mournful. "Don't. I can't even think about the Carrot Incident."
At Rose's questioning look, Scorpius explains. "Aunt Pansy decided she could only eat orange foods one time. It was six weeks of mostly carrots and yams."
"Utter hell," Pip says. "And Father was in Singapore for a month, so he couldn't convince her not to."
"And then she started to get a bit of an orange tint on her palms."
Pip laughs. "And went absolutely mental."
"Father had to talk her down. It took him three hours." Scorpius snorts. "It was brilliant."
"It was rather funny," Pip admits. "And Mumsy felt horrible afterwards, so I had a week of pizza and crisps."
They grin at each other, and something settles inside of Scorpius. Pip likes Rose--maybe even like-likes--and Pip's been his best friend since they were babies. If he wants Scorpius to be nice, he'll be nice.
He looks at Rose. "I could sketch you." He flips his pencil between his fingers. "If you want, I mean."
Rose's face lights up, and Pip beams at him.
Friends are all right, Scorpius thinks, and his pencil flies across the paper.
Rose's been put on another team and even though they came to the camp together, Jamie hangs out with his new group more and more. Besides, she's been spending a lot of time with that Malfoy prat and his stupid friend. Jamie really, really doesn't like either of them, and Rose seems to have adopted them both. She always adopts the strays.
The first real match they play is against Malfoy's team, the Magpies. Jamie's team, the Sandpipers, have been practicing together a lot, even when they don't have to, and they're really good.
Before the game, Jamie bumps into Rose and Malfoy talking. He's evidently the Seeker for the Magpies or something, and that annoys Jamie. Dad was a Seeker, and Jamie's always wanted to play that position. He's never been good enough though. He's strong but he doesn't have the agility or the focus. Besides, he likes being a Beater; he likes the crack of the bat against the iron Bludger. Still, a little piece of him is very, very envious.
"Good luck out there, Scorpius," Rose says. "Break a broomstraw?"
Good luck? Since when was Rose wishing that arse Malfoy good luck?
Jamie brushes Malfoy with his shoulder, checking him a little bit. Unfortunately, he hits Malfoy harder than he meant to, and the skinny git stumbles to the side, losing his balance and landing on the ground. Rose whirls on him before Jamie can even laugh. "Jamie, must you be such a bully?"
Jamie'd been coming over to ask Rose to wish him luck, but now he doesn't want anything from her. "Sorry," he mutters, completely unconvincingly, he's sure. "I didn't see him."
He reaches out a hand to help Malfoy up and Malfoy ignores him, standing up and dusting off the dirt from his once-spotless red trousers. "It's fine, Rosie. Your cousin just resembles a Bludger more and more these days." He lowers his voice so only Jamie can hear him. "Watch yourself, Potter."
The kids around them are Malfoy's friends, and, of course, they all laugh at the Bludger quip. Wankers. Jamie's face is hot, and he suddenly hates Malfoy with a passion.
"Yeah, well, you watch yourself, Malfoy!" Everyone stops laughing, and Rose stares at him.
"Jamie, are you angry?" Her large brown eyes are full of hurt and surprise. Merlin. She can be such a baby sometimes.
He waves a dismissive hand as he walks away. "See you in the loser's circle, Malfoy."
Jamie doesn't know what just happened but he knows he probably ruined everything. And Malfoy's taken Rose from him now. It's just not fair. She's came to camp with him, not with that weirdo. And Jamie didn't mean to rude exactly, but Malfoy started it.
"Everything okay, Potter?" Steffen comes over to him with an easy grin as he approaches their bench. "What are the children up to?"
"Nothing." Jamie shrugs. "They're just being stupid."
Steffen nods. "Let's go play some Quidditch. That'll take your mind off of everything."
"Yeah." Jamie looks back over his shoulder. Malfoy and Rose's heads are close together, and the little group has circled around them. Then Malfoy's mates come over from his team and he goes to their side of the pitch. He catches Jamie watching him and shoots him a look of pure malice.
Jamie's jaw tightens. He scowls back at him, his resentment boiling up inside of him.
Right, then. It's on.
Pip jumps up out of his chair the minute Scorpius's breath shifts. Scorpius can smell the antiseptic tang of the infirmary, can almost taste it in the back of his throat. He tries to lift his head, but it aches, so he lays it back down against the nearly flat pillow.
"Hey," Pip says, and he's standing next to the bed now, his hand stuffed in the pockets of his shorts. He has that wrinkle between his eyebrows that he gets whenever he's worried but he's pretending everything's fine. There's a smudge of sweaty dirt on his brown cheek that he hasn't even rubbed away, which tells Scorpius how freaked out Pip really is.
Scorpius swallows, even though his mouth is dry. "Hey," he rasps out. Pip reaches for a cup of water sitting on the stand beside the bed, and he bends the straw in it so Scorpius can drink. The water's cool against his throat, and slowly the medicinal taste ebbs away.
"Skele-gro." Pip nods to an opaque bag floating beside Scorpius's bed. A thin tube dangles between it and Scorpius's shoulder, through which a pale pink liquid slowly seeps. "Madam Aglukark made you drink a dose when they brought you in, but your shoulder's so smashed she wanted to keep you on it while you slept." He hesitates, then grins. "Your dad's already sent a Howler."
"There's the Father I know and love," Scorpius says with a sigh. "Did he threaten to shut the camp down?"
Pip perches on the edge of the bed. "Never thought I'd see old Kauppila cry, but I'm pretty sure Uncle Draco made her." He gets a dreamy look on his face. "It was beautiful."
Scorpius can only imagine. Father in a right snit's a terrifying prospect. A horrible thought strikes him. "Wait, he's not coming up here, is he?" There's a small part of him that wants Father here now, raging at the stupidity of the counselors who'd let that awful Potter anywhere near his son, but, if he's truly honest, the last thing he needs is the utter humiliation of his father over-reacting the way he always does with Scorpius.
To his relief, Pip shakes his head. "They all think it was just an accident." His eyes narrow. "That Potter never meant to hit the Bludger your way."
"Balls," Scorpius says bluntly. "I saw him. You saw him."
Pip shrugs. "Yeah. Well. Adults never seem to notice the bullies, do they?" He gives Scorpius a long look that Scorpius glances away from. Pip pretends to know what it's like for him, but he doesn't. Everyone likes Pip. You can't help but do. It's a lot harder to like Scorpius. He's too quiet. Too bookish. Too lanky and thin. Too caught up in his stupid drawings and his daydreams about heroes and superwizards. Scorpius will never be either. He doesn't tell Father or his grandparents about what happens at the Academy most days. About how he ends up pushed into a wall or tripped by a leg-locking jinx or mocked in charms class. They'd just insist on talking to the headmaster and then everything would be even worse.
Scorpius gets his revenge in other ways. Small spells that change the answers on someone's homework. Hexes that make his tormentors smell like cat piss for the day. Little things that no one can prove he's done. It helps him through the day, helps him at least feel like he's not drowning in humiliation.
Potter reminds him of them. All bluster and bravado, and Scorpius hates, hates, hates that they look anything alike. Because they're not. At all. "He's a bastard," Scorpius says finally.
"Completely." Pip's agreement is fervent, and Scorpius is suddenly grateful for his best friend. He just wishes Pip lived in Boston again, instead of New York. He thinks school would be bearable with someone else with him. Pip reaches over and brushes his knuckles across the back of Scorpius's hand. "We'll get him, all right?"
Scorpius nods, even though it hurts. "Right," he says.
Potter's going down.
He writes a postcard to Dad, trying to sound all chipper about everything and talking about how good the Quidditch is and how exciting it is to play so much. Secretly, he wishes he'd never come to this stupid camp. The Quidditch is great, but everything else is terrible.
So he focuses on the game and getting better. The Sandpipers start a winning streak. Their reputation and performance on the field isn't hurt by the fact that half of the players duck when Jamie swings his bat. He wishes he could enjoy his notoriety, but he doesn't. Still, they're winning and that's what matters. Right?
Serafina and some of the other adults try to talk to him, in a casual but concerned way, but he doesn't know what to say. I didn't mean to. Or perhaps just I'm sorry. But the words stick in his throat, and every time he sees Malfoy his stomach hurts. It's taken a while for Malfoy's shoulder to mend, and the half of the camp that doesn't like Jamie follows Malfoy around like a wounded hero, which weirdly seems to freak Malfoy out.
The Sandpipers climb up the ladders of the chart outside of the canteen. Every new level pits teams against each other again for places, and there are lots of wild card draws, so luck and the right opponents are really important.
The day of the big match against the Kingfishers starts out with a rainstorm before breakfast. When James's team go to practice on the pitch, it's muddy and gross. The air is still humid with rain and thunderstorms are forecast for the afternoon. The mosquitos have broken through the wards with the rain and everyone's swatting themselves on the field in between plays.
"Potter, a little more to the left," Steffen calls out, and Jamie realises with a start that he's drifting off-sides.
"Sorry!" He corrects the course of his broom and they hit a few more Bludgers as Luca, Natalya, and Anna swoop overhead, rolling into a diving feint. Chasing practice is wicked, and Jamie wishes he could just sit and watch sometimes. They're amazingly fast.
"Eye on the Bludger," Steffen shouts. "We've got to win this one."
Jamie nods. This is a big match for them. They'll start out at the top of the next division and have an automatic place without having to compete for it. The Kingfishers are a good team, but their Chasing is weak, and there's a lot of opportunity for good defensive work.
Serafina whistles from the ground, and they all descend for a team huddle before the lunch break. Their keeper, Eun, takes off her protective gloves and rubs her hands together. "If you keep shooting like that," she says to Anna, "we might win the match even without Burcu being awesome."
Burcu smiles aloofly and tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. She has really beautiful, long, shiny-black hair that she pulls back with a braid on game days. She's also a really amazing Seeker. Secretly James likes her, rather a lot in fact, but they're on the same team and besides, he's pretty sure Steffen has a pash on her too and that won't do. He doesn't want anything to ruin the few friendships he seems to have left.
"All right, you guys. Listen up." Serafina crouches down a little and puts her hands on her bent knees. The rest of the team follows suit. "You're playing really well. Burcu, remember to stay out of the action enough. I know you like to play close, but you'll have better angles from higher up."
"And you two," she points to Steffen and James. "Keep the coast clear for the Chasers and don't space out. Jamie, I noticed you were having trouble with focus. We need your A game today. The Kingfishers are good, but we can prevent a lot of points with good defence."
With a few more strategy points, they huddle down closer, shoulder to shoulder. Serafina has them do this at the end of every team meeting. They lean on each other until they're holding each other up, and then they close their eyes. Slowly one, then the other starts. Play strong. Play together. Play fair.
Their voices build together, off-synch and then coming closer and closer together. Play strong. Play together. Play fair.
By the end, they're chanting as one voice. Play strong. Play together. Play fair.
Jamie loves this feeling, the closeness, the way their voices ring out as one, the stillness around them and the sense of protection and teamwork. When they break the chant and shout the final, "Go Sandpipers!" a sense of peace settles over him. Maybe things aren't so bad after all.
The first hour or so goes well. A huge crowd turns out to watch the match, even some of the bigger kids from the upper camp and one or two of their coaches.
Jamie and Steffen keep the Kingpipers Seekers on a tight leash defensively while Natalya, Luca, and Anna rack up the points. Jamie's broom keeps drifting a little to the right, and he decides he's going to take it down to the broom shack for a tune up after the game. Right now, though, they're ahead 120 to 50 and it's a beautiful day.
The crowd cheers and chants break out when Natalya scores again. Jamie's sees Rose sitting with Scorpius, Pip and some other campers. When Scorpius scowls in his direction, a finger of fear suddenly goes down Jamie's spine.
And then the Seekers spot the Snitch. Burcu vectors in, almost faster than Jamie can think. His broom suddenly jolts hard to the right and he collides with her mid-dive. They both go spinning out of control; the crowd gasp as one.
The straws of Burcu's broom hit the edge of the stands but she regains control and cuts hard to the left in a side-roll. Jamie spins out, managing to bring his broom up just a bit before he bounces off of the opposing side's posts and skids to a messy halt in the dirt.
As he lies stunned on the wet field, his face and body already starting to hurt, Jamie picks Rose's ashen face out of the crowd. Next to her Scorpius Malfoy looks almost...smug. Arms crossed over his chest, he juts his pointy chin in Jamie's direction and turns to say something to Pip. From the look on his face, it's not a very nice thing at all. Then he points in the other direction with a wide smile on his face.
On the far side of the field, the Kingfishers' Seeker stands tall. With rising horror, Jamie realises the lanky boy in a blue-green jersey is holding something aloft in his hand. It's the Snitch.
The game's over and they've lost.
Jamie's on his bunk in their cabin, his satchel open beside him. He'd discovered the first week of camp that someone--probably Uncle Ron--had slipped a few Weasley's Wizard Wheezes in between his neatly folded shorts. He's nicked Rose's as well--she'll never use them, and now he has a much better plan for them.
"This, my friend," he says, holding up a box of Weasleys' Wildfire Whiz-bangs and a packet of Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder. "This is the groundwork for a beautiful revenge plan."
Steffen eyes him. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." Jamie glances down at the spread of Wheezes in front of him grimly. "I'm going to get that arsehole back for stealing our match from us."
"Malfoy?" Steffen sits on the edge of Jamie's bunk.
Steffen picks up one of the boxes and studies it. "Need some help?"
Jamie grins. "Always, mate. Always."
Steffen stretches out beside him. "Tell me more."
It's easy enough to slip into Malfoy and Zabini's cabin in the middle of the night. Jamie uses a pinch of the Instant Darkness Powder to block the moonlight from the windows. It makes it a bit harder for them to set up the rest of the Wheezes, but better safe than sorry, Jamie thinks. Eun sets out the Chippersnacker charms--they'll carpet the floor and make it impossible to move without dancing the lambada, and they're impossible to get out of your sock drawers. Luca's responsible for the banana bomb that'll make everyone's face glow bright yellow like the colour of sherbet lemons, and Steffen ponies up with some magic moustache gas his brother had snuck past the counselors. The side of the box assures them that it'll produce "real-looking facial hair for a week! Without known antidote!"
The final touch is Jamie's own creation: a special floor slick whipped up from a jar of broomwax and some leftover grease from last night's chips that he nicked from the kitchen after supper. It smells awful. Jamie's thrilled as he spreads it thickly alongside Malfoy and Zabini's bunks, trying not to laugh at how loudly Zabini snores.
As they slip back out the door, Jamie tucks a couple of Whiz-bangs in the door frame, pulling at the tab on the time-delay mechanisms. They have three minutes to get into position under the cabin windows and watch. This is going to be so awesome.
Just before the Wheezes go off, somebody inside stirs. "Hey, what's that smell? Jones, did you fart again?" Jamie's pretty certain that's Zabini. He stuffs a fist into his mouth to stifle his laughter.
The Whiz-bangs go off in a glorious explosion of blue and gold and green fire and sparks that crackle and hiss and spin throughout the cabin. He can hear shouts as all the boys jump out of their bunks--and that's when Luca triggers the banana bomb. Jamie gives him a thumbs up when someone screams like a banshee. Eun can't stop her giggles. Jamie can't blame her, and no one notices over the din inside.
He sees someone dance past the window, cursing. A burst of a red Whiz-bang lights up the boy's face, and Jamie gets a glimpse of a handlebar moustache. He high-fives Steffen.
"Brilliant," he whispers, just before a twig snaps behind them.
"What on earth--" He hears Serafina say, and they all whirl around. She's wrapped in a bright pink dressing gown, a towel on her head. Her gaze fixes on Jamie. "Mr Potter."
The door to the cabin flies open and Malfoy comes careening out. He lands in the dirt at the foot of the steps, covered in grease. Even from here, Jamie can see his bright yellow face. Zabini comes dancing out after him and thuds against a tree, holding himself up as the Chippersnackers make his feet move.
Groans, moans, and shout issue from the inside of the cabin. Suleiman, Alejandro, and Mads stagger-slide out of the door, covered in grease and jerking wildly with involuntary dancing. The moustache gas got Mads and Alejandro, but Suleiman escaped. A shower of sparks fizzles over Mads shoulder and he jumps, pushing them all into a pile at the foot of the stairs.
As his teammates freeze around him, Jamie tries to look astonished. "Oh, my God, Serafina help them. Something terrible's happened."
She's not buying it. Instead she puts her hands on her hips, her stern face illuminated by yet another Whiz-bang exploding, this one bright orange. Cabin doors are opening across the clearing, sleepy faces peering out. "James Sirius Potter. Enough."
It's then that Malfoy decides for some Merlin only knows why reason, that this would be a fantastic time to launch himself on Jamie. Jamie tumbles to the ground, surprised, and he throws his hands up in defence as Malfoy tries to punch him in the nose.
"You bastard," Malfoy shrieks, and wow, that slipping accent thing he does sounds really bloody weird when he's this narked off. "What the buggering fuck have you done--"
Serafina jerks Malfoy off of Jamie with one hand. "Scorpius Malfoy! Language!"
"He's a git!" Malfoy takes another swing at Jamie, which he ducks, successfully he might add. It doesn't hurt that Serafina's still holding them apart by their collars.
Kauppila comes storming down the path, her dressing gown fluttering open over a pair of Karasjok Kites pyjamas. "What is this nonsense?" She looks between Malfoy and Jamie. "Serafina?"
"He ambushed us," Malfoy spits out.
Jamie kicks out, his trainer connecting solidly with Malfoy's shin. "You hexed my broom!"
"You hit me with a Bludger!" Malfoy's voice hits a shrill register.
"You stole my cousin." James swings, Serafina's hand twisting in the back of his shirt.
"Yeah, well, you're an arse!" Malfoy is reduced to near incoherent rage, his fierce grimace at odds with his glowing sherbert-yellow face.
"Enough!" Kauppila glares at them both, and they fall silent, still glaring at each other. "You will both pack up your belongings and report to the Penalty Cabin after breakfast." She cuts off their protests with one upheld hand. "Do I make myself clear?"
Jamie nods reluctantly, then Malfoy follows. Eun catches his eye. She looks miserable and like she's about to say something. He shakes his head at her, frowning. No sense in the rest of them getting mixed up in this. Steffen doesn't even look his way.
Kauppila glances at Serafina. "See to it they show up. One week living together should curb this nonsense."
Serafina doesn't look convinced. "Ma'am--"
"One week!" Kauppila turns on her heel. "Idiot children," she mumbles, but Jamie can still hear her.
"You heard her, boys," Serafina says wearily. "Get your gear packed."
This, Jamie thinks glumly, did not turn out the way he expected. The only good thing is that Malfoy looks even more dismayed.
Serves the prat right. Jamie cheers a bit. If he has to suffer, at least Malfoy does too.
"My life," he says melodramatically, "is over."
"We should be so lucky." Scorpius opens one of the dresser drawers and eyes it suspiciously for anything with eight legs before he sets his folded t-shirts inside, smoothing them carefully.
Potter just rolls onto his side, his back to Scorpius. "Don't talk to me."
"I won't," Scorpius says, reaching for his shorts. "But I'd like to go on record as pointing out you started it, Potter."
"You punched me!" Potter's voice is muffled by his pillow.
Scorpius rolls his eyes. "After you hijacked my cabin." He rubs at his face, peering into the peeling mirror hung on one of the posts supporting the roof. His skin still has a yellowish glow to it, even after several rounds of Mrs Henderson's Remove-It-All Soap.
Potter just grunts like the Neanderthal he is.
Fine, he thinks. Two can play that game.
At the sound of the lunch bugle, Scorpius stomps out of the cabin, heading down the winding path to the dining hall.
This is the worst year at camp ever. Potter's ruined everything.
Scorpius glares at her as he pokes at his sandwich.
Pip twirls the ends of his moustache. He's decided to embrace the look since there's nothing that can be done about it. It resists shaving, hexing, and depilatory potions; there is truly no known antidote. Scorpius is almost used to seeing his best friend with facial hair now.
"Your cousin's an arse," he says for the hundredth time.
Rose shrugs. "He's not. He's just mad at you." She glances over to the end of the table where Potter's eating with Eun and Natalya. Steffen's moved on to another group and is flirting ridiculously with Burcu which seems to annoy Potter, so Scorpius is absolutely thrilled with that. He hasn't spoken to Potter in three days now. They've only four more to go, and then he can move back in with Pip and the blokes. He never thought he'd miss Jones's flatulence or Suleiman's off-key, enthusiastic singing at random moments, but he does.
"You have a archrival," Pip says cheerfully. "That's brilliant. It's like a comic book. You're the superhero and Potter's the creepy, massively stupid villain."
That gets him a smack on the arm from Rose. "Jamie's not stupid."
"You didn't object to creepy," Pip points out.
Rose frowns. "Well, he's not that either. Although he does tend to fixate when he gets mad. Mum says Uncle Harry was like that too."
Pip eyes Scorpius. "I've no idea what you mean. None at all."
Scorpius flips two fingers at him. "Shut it, Pip. You're not fooling anyone."
"Well, you have to admit," Pip says, nicking a crisp from Scorpius's plate, "you do get a little obsessed at times--"
"I absolutely do not."
Pip looks dubious. "Remember when Alan Standish ruined that painting you were working on, and you stalked him for three weeks?"
"That wasn't stalking," Scorpius protests. "That was reconnaissance. I was looking for weak spots."
"You stole his dog!" Pip looks outraged. "His dog, Scorpius."
"I took really good care of him!" Scorpius sulks. "He didn't deserve to have such a nice dog."
Pip sighs and looks at Rose. "You can't imagine how many parent-teacher conferences this caused."
"Particularly," Pip goes on, "when Scorpius didn't want to give Murphy back."
Scorpius flicks a crisp across the table at him. "Shut your gob. That's nothing like when you fancied Matty Higgins and followed her around mooning until--"
"Scorpius," Pip says warningly, and Scorpius grins at him and takes a bite of sandwich.
"Until what?" Rose asks.
Pip and Scorpius exchange a smile. "Nothing," they say in chorus. Rose looks particularly put-out for a moment, but then her expression changes.
They look up at Serafina, who is standing by their table. "Scorpius," she says. "A word, if I may?"
Scorpius' stomach sinks a bit. "Yeah, okay." He pushes his tray across the table to Pip. "Take care of this for me?"
He nods as Scorpius stands up, stepping over the bench.
Scorpius follows Serafina outside. Potter's there too, waiting on one of the half-log benches set against the building's front wall. He frowns at Scorpius. "What's he doing here?"
"I wanted to talk to both of you privately," Serafina says. She doesn't look happy. "We're going to announce a trip to Calgary to see Canada play Pakistan in a Commonwealth Cup qualifier."
"Fantastic," Potter says, and for once Scorpius agrees with him.
Serafina shakes her head. "Not for you, Jamie. Not for either of you. Kauppila's decided you two aren't to come with us as punishment for your behaviour."
It would be almost funny, the way Potter's face falls, if Scorpius wasn't certain he had the exact same expression.
"What?" Scorpius asks. "How is that even fair?"
"Yeah," Jamie says. "I mean, we're already being forced to live with each other."
Serafina sighs. "I don't make the rules, boys. You can argue with Kauppila, if you don't think it'll make things worse." Her tone indicates that she's pretty sure it will.
Scorpius exchanges a long look with Potter. They both sigh and shake their heads, then sink back on the bench together.
"Right." Serafina shoves her hands in her pockets. Her Quidditch whistle swings against her chest. "I'm going to go make the announcement now." They both nod, and she pushes open the screen door. "Coming in?"
"I think I'll stay out here," Potter says.
Scorpius hesitates. "Yeah."
Serafina disappears back into the cool of the dining hall.
Potter leans his head back against the wall. "This sucks."
"If you hadn't--" Scorpius stops, then runs his hand through his unruly hair. "You're right. It totally sucks."
They sit there, morosely, as the cheers erupt from inside.
Behind him, through the open screen door, he sees Potter lying on his belly with a pillow over his head, snuffling in his sleep. Scorpius sighs. This is what he gets instead of Commonwealth Cup qualifier. It's yet another lesson in the series entitled, "The World is Not Fair and I Can Prove It: Personal Evidence Gathered by Scorpius H. Malfoy."
Pip waves mournfully at him from one of the side lines, Rose at his side, and Scorpius gives a half-hearted wave back. With their team scarves and flags and noisemakers, the assembly looks like they're off to a giant party, far too festive and excited for this early in the day.
Scorpius sighs again and pushes himself off the steps. No sense in moping about--at least out here where everyone can see how miserable he is. His father had taught him better than that. He slopes back into the cabin and plops down on the floor next to the foot of his bed. He scrabbles under the bed for his trunk. It scrapes across the wood noisily as he pulls it out, and Potter groans from across the room. His pillow hits Scorpius on the back of the head.
"Why are you awake?" Potter grumbles. "The only good thing about this awful day is that we can have a lie-in."
"Fuck off," Scorpius says testily, and that gets a laugh from Potter and a languid flick of two fingers. Scorpius reaches through neatly folded layers of jumpers and his wellies, feeling for the small bound parchment scrapbook he knows his grandmother tucked in to the bottom of his trunk when he wasn't looking. He thought it overly sentimental at the time--after all, he was twelve--but now he's grateful for the comfort of knowing it's there. His finger connects with the linen cover and he relaxes.
Potter rolls onto his side, watching Scorpius. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing." Scorpius opens it to the first page, and he smiles down at his father, who puts down a copy of the Boston Globe, his mouth quirking to one side in a private smile for his son captured by the overlit flash of Scorpius's once-new Pixie 5e camera. The colours of the print are so washed out, they're almost non-existent, but Father's expression is clear as day, affection mixed with amusement.
He flips the page, and there are his grandparents in the garden, Grandmother with a basket of roses over one arm as she points towards an overgrown rosebush trailing up the wooden trellis on the side of their house. Grandfather's levitated himself almost to the first storey, wand in hand, and he's snipping away, sending the the roses floating down to Grandmother.
A wave of homesickness washes over him. He misses the sprawling white house in Concord, high on Ripley Hill. He misses strolling through downtown with Grandmother as she shops or going off to Cambridge by Muggle train to visit comic and record shops and read in cafes. He misses the solitude of the back garden, the quiet rush of the Concord River as he sits along its banks, fishing with his father, and the beautiful wild clearing where he can fly if he's careful.
There's a creak of ancient mattress springs as Potter sits up. His hair looks about as wild as Scorpius's does in the morning, though the back's more matted and tangled. "What's that?"
Scorpius doesn't want to answer. He frowns. "Nothing that concerns you." He continues leafing through his pictures.
To Scorpius's great annoyance, Potter rouses from his bed and walks over to peer over his shoulder. "Wicked! Is that New York?" Scorpius has the page open to a picture in front of Aunt Pansy and Uncle Blaise's building on the Upper West Side, Aunt Pansy teetering on too-high heels, as usual, while Uncle Blaise hands a pile of parcels and bags to the doorman.
"Yeah, those are Pip's parents," Scorpius says grudgingly. "My godfather and his wife. They're Father's oldest friends."
Potter's attention is diverted and he reaches out a hand to stroke the cover of the book. Scorpius resists the urge to yank it away from him.
"Weird." Potter tilts his head, looking at the pages again. "May I see the back of it?
Scorpius nods, inverting the scrapbook so its carefully lettered spine is facing upwards. Potter shakes his head and looks a bit unsettled.
"What?" Scorpius says. "Have you never seen a scrapbook?"
"No, it's not that." Potter is unusually thoughtful for an oaf. "Actually, I have one that's almost exactly like it."
Scorpius sniffs. "That's impossible. My grandmother made this for me. It's not mass produced."
After a few moment, Potter blinks at him and then shoves off to stand, walking purposefully to his own bunk. He rustles in a messy pile of clothes and random Quidditch gear, emerging from the chaos with a dark red volume clutched in his hand. He brings it back, balancing it in his lap as he settles next to Scorpius, tailor-style.
He opens it to the front page. There's a photo there of a dark-haired man with glasses and hair almost unruly as Scorpius's own, a Quidditch broom slung lazily over one shoulder. A faint scar zig-zags over his eyebrow. "That's Dad," Potter says, and there's a softness to his voice that Scorpius has never heard. "He's a really great Seeker. Could have played for Pudd United if he wanted to, but he decided to go into the Aurors instead."
"He turned down a real spot on Pudd United?" Scorpius is impressed and slightly horrified.
"Yeah." Potter grins. "Second-string Seeker. Straight out of Hogwarts. But my Aunt Ginny plays for the Harpies."
"Ginny Weasley's your aunt? She's fearsome. Amazing Quaffle conversion statistics." Scorpius stops. "I knew Rose looked familiar."
"Yeah. She doesn't talk about it much, obviously." Potter turns a page. "Then again, half the kids in the camp seem to have professional Quidditch players in their family."
Scorpius wrinkles his nose. "Not me. Malfoys don't play sport for money."
"That's mad." Potter gives him a startled look. "Really?"
Scorpius shrugs. "So says my grandfather. He's a little particular about things like that." He looks more closely at Potter's scrapbook. "How did you get that anyway? It looks almost like mine."
"My Aunt Andromeda made it." Potter hesitates. "Well, she's not exactly my aunt. Dad's godfather her to her grandson." He sighs. "Relationships are a bit complicated in my family."
"Andromeda? My grandmother has a sister named Andromeda. She came to visit a couple of years ago with my cousin Teddy." Scorpius remembers playing Pooh sticks with his older cousin at Concord Bridge while the adults laid flowers from Grandmother's garden at the Tomb of the Unknown British Soldier.
Potter gives him a startled look. "Teddy's my dad's godson."
There's a long pause. "Huh," Scorpius says. "It sounds like our families know each other."
"Yeah." Potter hesitates, then holds out his scrapbook. "Want to trade?"
Scorpius has never let anyone except his family hold his book. But clearly Potter feels the same way about his. He nods. "Okay. Sure."
They're silent for the next few minutes, the scratch of flipping parchment almost muffled by the tap of rain against the windows. Scorpius looks down at the new faces smiling up at him, many of them topped with flyaway ginger hair. There's one woman who has to be Rose's mother--her hair's brown, but it's just as bushy, and her smile's as wide and warm as Rose's is. Scorpius has the weird feeling he's seen her before, but he shakes it off. It must just be the resemblance to her daughter.
And then Potter finds the thick, well-thumbed envelope. Scorpius had forgotten he left it tucked in the book. He usually carries it in his school satchel. Before he can stop him, Potter opens the flap and lifts out the half-photo with the raggedy torn edge. A small, blond baby is squirming in the arms of a very much younger version of Scorpius's father, who has dark circles under his eyes but looks blissfully happy despite obvious sleep deprivation. He's smiling to someone off camera, to his left, but the edge of the photo has always prevent Scorpius from knowing who it was. Behind them on the riverbank, there's a circular Ferris wheel shape on the horizon--the London Eye, his father's said, although Scorpius has never seen it.
Potter looks like he's been hit with a hex. His mouth drops open and he stares at the photo, turning it a little to peer at the details in the diffuse light of the cabin.
"What?" Scorpius reaches for it and Potter holds it out of his grasp, still staring. "Give it back, you prat--"
"Hold up," Potter says, and for some reason, Scorpius doesn't mind, although he's getting a little irritated that Potter's fixated on this particular photo. It's the only one he has of the time before they left England.
Potter takes a deep breath. "What's this?" He doesn't look at Scorpius.
"Me and Father," Scorpius says, and even though he almost whispers, it seems too loud in the stillness between them.
Potter swallows and hands the photo back. "Our families definitely know each other," he says, and his voice cracks a bit.
Scorpius frowns as Potter rifles through his scrapbook. "What are you on about--" He breaks off when Potter pulls out a loose photograph with a raggedy torn edge. There's a rumble of thunder in the distance. Scorpius's stomach twists. "Potter..."
"I think maybe you should call me Jamie," Potter says, and he holds the photo up to Scorpius's.
The edges fit perfectly.
Scorpius stares down at the complete photograph. His father smiles over at another man. Dark haired. With glasses. And a zig-zaggy scar. Who's holding a small, blond baby who looks exactly like Scorpius.
"Oh, my God," Scorpius chokes out. He looks up at Potter, into a face that he realises with a start is virtually identical to his own under their different haircuts and facial expressions.
"When's your birthday?" Potter--Jamie--asks urgently.
Scorpius licks his bottom lip. "The fourth of April."
Jamie takes a shuddering breath. "Oh Merlin. Me too."
Jamie runs his hands over his face, slumping against Scorpius's bed. "Wow."
"Yeah." Scorpius can't take his eyes off the photograph. He has both sides in his hands, pressing them together like he'd always dreamed but never thought he'd actually do. Jamie's dad--his dad--grins at Father, and Scorpius is fascinated by the way his eyes crinkle in the corners, the way light glints off his glasses.
"I guess they had someone have us," Jamie says through his fingers. "You know. So there's a witch somewhere who's our mum."
Our mum. A shiver goes up Scorpius's spine. "That'd be Father," he says, almost absently. "I've always known he carried me." He looks at Jamie then. "I mean us, I suppose."
Jamie gives him an incredulous look. "What? He's a man, right? How can he have..."
Scorpius snorts. "You're an idiot." He looks back at the photograph in his hands. "Wizards can get up the duff. It just doesn't happen very often. It requires a lot of magic." He peers at Jamie. "Is there anything special about your--I mean our dad?"
That gets him rolled eyes. "Oh, only that he's Harry Potter and he saved the wizarding world by killing one of the most important Dark Wizards of the last millenium or so. You know. Other than that, perfectly ordinary."
"Fuck," Scorpius swears. He can't even imagine being related to anyone heroic. No wonder Jamie's such a prat. "Fuck. Really?"
"Yeah," Jamie says, eyes bright. "Our dad's a serious hero. But he's also just a nerd who sings Celestina Warbeck in the shower and makes Sunday fry-ups and supports the Chudley Cannons because he and Uncle Ron have gone to matches together since they were our age."
Scorpius can't imagine Father being his age. "Oh," he says. The two halves of the photograph drop out of his hands, fluttering to the floor between them and landing separately on the rough wooden floorboards.
Jamie picks them up with care. He's staring at Father, and when his thumb brushes along Father's cheek, Scorpius's throat tightens.
"He's brilliant," Scorpius says quietly. "Officially he's an art historian at Harvard, but he mostly does work with wizarding artefacts from the colonial period, British, American and French. He's fantastic at de-arming dark spells. They've even pulled him in to look at Jamestown and the White House."
"Where's that?" Jamie doesn't look away from the photograph. "It sounds important."
Scorpius pulls his knees to his chest. "The White House is sort of the American 10 Downing Street. And Jamestown is the oldest English colony we can find. It's in Virginia."
Jamie nods. "Wicked. He must be really good."
"Yeah, he is." Scorpius smiles, turning to Jamie and seeing an equal grin start on his face. Wow. That's...a bit odd. Scorpius swallows. "So. I have a brother."
"Twins, even." Jamie chews on his lip. "I suppose this is where I apologise for being a git?"
Scorpius's considers. "Let's just start over, right? Clean slate and all?" He holds out his hand. "Hi, I'm Scorpius Malfoy."
Jamie's fingers close around his, warm and firm. "Jamie Potter." His eyes sparkle. "Have I mentioned I'm your long-lost brother?"
Their delighted laughter fills the cabin.
"And this is the rose garden, the one I showed you in the picture. Grandmother has roses from all over the world and goes to the Horticultural Society once a month. She's also a ninja gardener."
Jamie laughs. "What's a ninja gardener?"
"She sneaks around and works on people's plantings in the neighborhood. Sometimes she works on the flower beds in Concord Center too. She says it's her own personal beautification campaign. It mortifies Father--he's certain she'll get caught--but Grandfather finds it amusing."
"You're joking," Jamie says. "Does she use magic or Muggle tools?"
"Both." Scorpius says. "And she does it in the middle of the afternoon when no one is about. She says that no one ever suspects an older lady in a sunhat."
"Jamie," Rose says hesitantly, and both boys roll over to look at her. She has a Canada pennant clenched tightly in her hand, one she'd bought specifically to cheer her cousin up. "What's going on?"
Scorpius looks at Jamie. They both sit up, and it's almost creepy how in unison they are as they settle cross-legged against the wall next to Scorpius's bed.
"That's weird," Pip chimes in. "They look totally alike now."
Rose looks between the two boys. "Oh," she says. "You figured it out."
A frown creases Jamie's forehead. "You knew?"
Pip just stares. "Figured what out?" He's looking at Scorpius as he asks the question.
Rose walks over to the bed, sitting down on the edge of the mattress next to Jamie. She hands him the pennant and he takes it, eyeing her curiously. She sighs. "It seemed logical. I mean, you both look identical." Her gaze flicks over to Scorpius. He gives her a small smile.
"What the hell's going on?" Pip's next to Scorpius. "Did something happen?"
Scorpius looks up at him, his fingers twisting in the hem of his shorts. "Jamie's my brother."
Pip's hair bounces as he looks between the two of them, and Rose tries not to laugh. "He is not."
"Swear on Uncle Greg's carpentry set," Scorpius says with a reverence that puzzles Rose. Pip blanches a bit and then sits down next to Scorpius.
"Really?" he asks.
Jamie leans over and hands him a torn photograph. Both Rose and Pip peer at it.
Rose looks up at her cousin. "Jamie," she says, because she knows how long he's wondered about that other half. The smile he gives her is slightly sad.
"Dad's got some explaining to do," he says after a moment. Rose can't imagine how he must feel right now, finding out Uncle Harry's kept something this big from him--and then she realises that Mum and Dad have as well. They can't have not known, and she knows she's heard Dad talk about the Malfoys when he thinks she's not listening. They never sounded very nice, and Mum always hushed him and told him not to say those sorts of things in front of Uncle Harry because it'll make him drink too much again and no one needs that.
She purses her mouth, thinking.
Pip pokes Scorpius. "So no wonder your dad won't go to the beach. Has to keep those stretch marks from both of you hidden."
Scorpius scoffs. "He doesn't have stretch marks. He's a Malfoy. Grandmother knows every trick in the book. He just burns easily and hates sand."
And then it all slots into place. "Oh," Rose says again. She turns a sharp look on Scorpius. "Your father was pregnant."
Jamie looks appalled. "Am I the only one who didn't know that could happen?"
"Yes," the other three say in unison.
Rose gives him a disapproving look. "Didn't Uncle Harry talk to you about sex yet?"
Jamie yelps. "No." His face flushes. "I'm only twelve."
The other three cluck and shake their heads. "Forewarned is forearmed, mate," Pip says. "Father had me demonstrating proper condom techniques two years ago." When the others turn their heads towards him, he shrugs. "Zabini genes?"
Scorpius punches him in the arm. "Shut it. You haven't done anything yet, you wanker, and you know it. Bananas don't count."
Rose's cheeks warm, thinking of the quick kiss behind the kiosk selling pumpkin juice that Pip had given her just a few hours ago. Their eyes meet, and he gives her a tiny, private smile that sets her stomach fluttering.
"Who won the match?" Jamie asks, interrupting the little moment with Pip without being aware of it.
"Er, Canada," Rose says, tearing her eyes away from Pip's face. "But it was close."
"Recap?" Scorpius asks, and Rose is still surprised by his sudden easiness around Jamie. Their knees brush, but neither of them pulls away. "Tell us everything we missed."
Pip shrugs, eyeing Rose. "I don't even know where to begin."
Neither does Rose. But she tries.
Zabini and Rose close rank, both of them telling curious acquaintances to keep their noses out of private business--although Rose is a lot more polite about it than Zabini is, Jamie thinks. You can tell he grew up in New York. Jamie's starting to like him, maybe a little, and he's definitely starting to like his brother a lot.
Wow. He has a brother. After all these years of pestering Dad--and at that thought Jamie scowls down at his plate of chipped beef. Dad. Jamie wants to shout at him, to ask him how he could let Jamie grow up alone like this. Even with all his cousins--that didn't matter. He'd always felt different. Like something wasn't quite right.
Plus the whole male pregnancy thing is really weird. He is still trying to wrap his head around Scorpius's dad being their...second father? Carrying father? How do you even talk about it? Scorpius seems to think it's perfectly normal, and even Rose just shrugged it off last night when he tried to ask her about it. Jamie's trying to figure out how he feels about it abstractly, but when he looks at the picture of Scorpius' father--his father--he doesn't feel abstract at all. He just feels a longing to know the other half of his family.
He pushes his fork through the cooling mess on his plate and sighs.
"Jamie?" Rose lays a hand on his arm. "Everything all right?"
Jamie shrugs. "Yeah." And then... "No." He looks across the table at his twin. "Does it bother you?" he asks. "I mean, them splitting us up the way they did?"
Scorpius picks up a carrot stick and chews for a moment. "Yeah. Totally."
"Yeah," Jamie says, and he looks back down at his plate, then shoves it away. "Me too."
"The question is," Scorpius points at Jamie with the half-eaten carrot stick,"what are we going to do about it? We can't just walk up to them and say we know everything, can we?"
Jamie shakes his head. He's thought much the same thing. "Exactly. If they've hidden this from us for so long, who's to say they won't just ignore the whole thing even if we try to talk about it? And I'm not pretending nothing's happened. I can't."
Rose clears her throat. "Maybe you shouldn't be such a Gryffindor about it."
The boys look her way. "What?" Scorpius asks.
Rose huffs softly, and pulls a sheaf of notes from her bag. "While you were running your drills, Pip and I were thinking."
"That's always dangerous," Jamie says under his breath. His cousin's plans are legendary. She narrows her eyes at him and brushes back a tendril of ginger hair that's fallen in her face.
"As I was saying." Rose lays the parchment on the table between her plate and Zabini's. "We have the advantage of surprise. They have no idea any of us know what we know."
"And?" Scorpius says at the same time as Jamie. They grin at each other.
Zabini sighs. "You're basically going to switch places."
Jamie's mouth drops open; he sees an equal look of surprise on his brother's face. "Wicked," he says, just as Scorpius protests, "It'll never work."
Rose smoothes out the parchment. "I've made a list of what we'll need to do. First off, Jamie, we'll have to cut your hair--"
Jamie yelps, and his hand flies to the back of his head. "Are you mad?"
His cousin gives him an exasperated look. "It'll be much easier to explain to Uncle Harry that you've cut your hair than it will be to try to convince Scorpius's father that he's grown it long."
"There are potions!" Jamie twists his hair around his fingers.
Rose's mouth purses. "You can use them afterwards. We've only a few weeks left and you're going to have to spend it teaching each other everything about your lives." She taps the parchment. "And then there are accents to work on--Jamie, you'll have to learn how Scorpius switches between British and American. Scorpius, you're going to have to learn not to switch."
"And how not to speak like a ponce," Jamie points out, and he holds his hands up to defend himself from the bits of roll his brother launches at him. "I'm serious! You sound too posh."
"He sounds," Zabini says, "exactly like his father. And yours, I suppose. You'll see."
Rose frowns. "Well. That means Jamie has to sound like that too."
Jamie groans and thuds his head against the table. "This is horrible."
"It's only a question of how much you want to get back at them," Rose says primly, and Jamie turns his head, looking up at her with one eye. Her face softens. "And how much you want to meet your other dad."
Jamie sits up, and his brother's watching him intently. "I'll do anything," Scorpius says quietly, and Jamie nods, thinking of the white-blond man in the photograph.
Rose sorts through the parchment, putting them into two piles. She hands one to each of them. "Questionnaires for you to fill out. Thoroughly." She turns to Jamie, a feral glint in her eye. "If you really want to do this, we have a lot of studying to do."
Jamie whimpers. Right. Great. His gaze meets Scorpius's.
Best get on with it then.
"Ready?" Rose asks, and Scorpius takes a deep breath, then nods. He's as ready as he'll ever be, he supposes. They've queued up at the camp gates, waiting for the International Portkeys to be handed out, and Scorpius has Jamie's knapsack tossed over one shoulder. He looks across the clearing at his brother, who's waiting alongside Pip for Aunt Pansy to arrive. Jamie rubs at his newly cropped blond hair, smoothing it down in back. Scorpius frowns at him, and Jamie just rolls his eyes and drops his hand. He looks as nervous as Scorpius feels.
"Weasley and Potter," Serafina calls, from the head of the line, and Rose and Scorpius give each other a long look. This is it. After weeks of studying his brother's life, of learning how to speak like Jamie, of poring over roughly sketched house plans to memorise where his room was in relation to the sitting room, kitchen and bath--wow. Okay. Scorpius could do this. Right?
He stays still as Rose steps forward. She looks back at him. "Jamie?" she says, her eyes wide and a bit wild.
"I can't do this," Scorpius whispers, and Rose groans.
"Pull it together," she whispers with a snap of her fingers in his face. "You fooled the whole bloody camp in that last match you and Jamie played."
True. Even Burcu hadn't been able to tell them apart and Jamie'd been making cow eyes all summer at her. "But this is Dad."
Rose sniffs. "Believe me when I say Uncle Harry's not the most observant adult at times. Honestly, sometimes I wonder how he even made Head Auror--"
Scorpius feels a wave a panic rising up in him like a screech. "I'm going to end up in that prison of yours--"
"Potter! Weasley!" Serafina sounds annoyed now.
Rose grabs Scorpius's hand. "I swear on Merlin's nasty beard, if you ruin this now, I'll smother you in your sleep." She drags Scorpius up to the table and smiles sweetly at Serafina. "Sorry."
Serafina just frowns and hands over an envelope with their names scrawled across it. "It's a two-parter," she says. "Your father'll meet you in the Portkey lounge at JFK."
"Where?" Rose blinks.
"New York," Scorpius says, and he's surprised when he hears himself sound exactly like his brother.
Serafina nods. "Make certain both of you are holding the Portkey; the staff doesn't have time to take you ourselves if you miss your activation."
"Right." Rose leads Scorpius into the clearing, ripping open the envelope. A large iron key falls into her palm. She holds it out to him, and he grasps the rounded edge. The metal's cool against his fingertips. They look at each other. "You can do this," Rose says. "Really."
The Portkey grows warm and Scorpius clutches it tighter, feeling the all-too-familiar tug in his stomach. Ugh. He hates this part--
And then they're swirling through darkness, and Scorpius feels Rose's fingers curling around his as they pop out of nothingness and into the brightly lit coolness of the Portkey arrival ramp in New York. Jamie's knapsack arrives a second later, slamming against Scorpius's back and sending him to his knees. The rough, blue-and-grey industrial-commercial carpet scrapes his skin a bit, and he winces.
"Dad," Rose shouts, and she's flying across the ramp, her ginger hair bouncing around her shoulders as she runs towards a tall man with broad shoulders, freckles and a shock of hair the colour of his daughter's. Scorpius's heart thuds against his chest and he takes his time standing up. So this is Uncle Ron.
He only limps a little bit as he walks down the ramp. Uncle Ron's just set Rose back down on her feet when he turns to look at Scorpius. He blinks the narrows his eyes, and for a moment the panic comes back in a rush. "You cut your hair."
Oh. Right. Scorpius brushes his fringe back off his forehead. "Yeah," he says, and he's amazed his voice doesn't wobble. "Had a bit of an accident with some Drooble's Best and an arsehole who thought it'd be fun to pop his blowing gum behind my head." The practiced lie tumbles off his tongue easily.
Uncle Ron tilts his head, studying him, then reaches out and tugs at Scorpius's hair. "I like it," he says with a laugh. "Your Dad'll probably have kittens, but I think it suits you."
Rose visibly relaxes next to her father. She grabs his hand. "How is Uncle Harry? Was he terribly bored with us gone?"
"Horribly." Uncle Ron grins at her. "He had to depend on Hugo for proper pestering.
Hugo, Scorpius thinks. His other cousin, Rose's brother. Almost nine... He shifts his knapsack onto his other shoulder casually. "Has he decided on his birthday party yet?" Rose beams at him from the other side of her father.
"Don't even bring that up," Uncle Ron says. He takes Rose's satchel from her and starts to walk towards the surprisingly short queue for European Portkey departures and security inspections. Anyone who goes through the International Portkey lounge has to be screened now, which annoys Father immensely every time he goes through New York. Uncle Ron digs through his pockets and pulls out an identification card, which he flashes at the bored witch sitting behind the desk. She waves them on. "Your Aunt Hermione's at her wits end with him. He changes his mind every other day. The latest is a Martin Miggs theme."
"Brilliant," Scorpius says, despite Rose's wildly shaking head, and Uncle Ron gives him a curious look. Oh. Damn.
Uncle Ron sets Roses' satchel on another table in front of two wizards in uniform, then takes Scorpius's and hefts it alongside Roses'. "I thought you hated comics."
"Right." Scorpius rubs the back of his neck. "There was a bloke at camp who had some. They weren't awful." He watches the wizards cast charms on their bags, then push them back over to Uncle Ron. Scorpius leans forward and takes his.
One of the wizards examines a parchment Uncle Ron hands him, then turns to rifle through an enormous, battered wooden box. "London?" he says.
"Finsbury Park, to be specific." Uncle Ron shoulders Rose's bag. "Address is on the form."
The wizard frowns down at the parchment in his hand, then grunts and moves to another box, just as large and just as beaten up. He pulls out a thin envelope, opening it up and shaking a large bronze disc onto the table. It lands with a soft clank of metal against wood. He touches his wand to it, and it glows pink-gold for a few seconds.
"Wicked," Rose breathes, and Scorpius has to agree. He's never seen a Portkey being made before. The wizard grins at them both, then picks up the coin, tossing it over to Uncle Ron.
"Just up the ramp," he says. "You've got a few minutes."
Scorpius's stomach lurches a bit as he follows Rose and Uncle Ron down the hall. Other than camp in Canada, he's never left the States, and while Father sometimes goes over to Europe for research purposes, he's steadfastly refused to let Scorpius accompany him. Scorpius wonders now if there's a reason for that. If maybe Father hadn't wanted him to see anyone--or for anyone to see him.
He doesn't know what to think about that. He's angry, maybe. No. Definitely. And that's an odd feeling, really. He's never been angry at Father before. Not like this. He's tried to stuff it down inside for the past few weeks, tried to ignore it roiling in his heart. But the fact of the matter is that Father's an arsehole for not telling him about his brother. About his other father. And after Scorpius has asked for years only to be rebuffed. His eyes prick hotly, and he blinks hard. Rose looks back at him, a worried furrow between her eyes. He shakes his head at her.
I'm fine, he mouths to her unspoken question. He walks up the departure ramp to where they've stopped.
Uncle Ron holds out the disc, then looks at his watch. "Best touch it, you two."
Scorpius's fingers shake a little as he presses them to the scrap of bronze. He meets Rose's gaze, and she smiles. A shiver goes through him. He's going to meet his dad.
He grins as he's whisked away.
She enfolds him in a fragrant hug. Her perfume is floral and warm and her pearls press into his cheek. "Scorpius, you've grown."
"Hello, Aunt Pansy," Jamie says as he hugs her back delicately, careful not to rumple her clothing. He suddenly understand why Scorpius had trained him to restrain his physical actions and practice being still. It's a completely different way of interacting and he can tell he's going to need everything he learned.
She ruffles his hair quickly and then cocks her head. "Did someone cut your hair here? It looks terrible."
Jamie's cheeks grow hot. How would Scorpius react? He doesn't know what to say.
Pip cuts in smoothly "It was part of a dare here at camp. Do you think Uncle Draco will mind terribly?"
After a moment of scrutiny, Aunt Pansy shakes her head. "Not if he sees the barber tomorrow to clean it up properly. I'll mention it when we arrive."
The last bit is addressed to Jamie. He nods and tries to look appropriately grateful. He's saved, for now. But he's certain he's going to make a mistake at any moment. Why did they think this would work?
She stands up again, balancing on her perilously high heels with ease. Turning her attention, she looks Pip up and down slowly. Pip automatically straightens his posture under his mother's gaze. Then they smile at each other, a genuine trade of affection. Pip raises an eyebrow. "Did you miss me?"
Jamie's heart tugs in his chest a little. He misses his dad and he's got a sick feeling in his stomach about what's coming. He doesn't know what possessed him to do this--he wants to run home, tell Rose that he's changed his mind, that it's a joke. He wants to go home to London and to Dad and forget this ever happened. But then a small voice whispers in his mind, you'll never know your other father. You'll never know what would've happened.
"Let's go home, sweethearts," Aunt Pansy says. "The elves have already sent your luggage on."
They all reach for the Portkey, a charmed wooden spoon with the camp's logo emblazoned on it. Aunt Pansy's nose wrinkles as her lacquered red nail touches it. "At least they could come up with something a bit more sanitary looking."
Jamie seems Pip trying not to smile and then something hooks under his navel and the next moment he's stumbling in a grassy lawn, the smell of summer and roses thick in his nose. It all looks... different. The light is very bright and his eye have trouble resolving the images in front of him. A lithe woman with pale blonde hair is coming towards them down the paved grey path.
"There you are!" Her hand flutters gracefully through the air. She's wearing gardening clothes - a fine linen shirt, clogs, and twill trousers. She still looks unspeakably elegant. James is sure he's stepped into the pages of Wizarding Life.
With a start, Jamie realises how familiar she looks--just like Aunt Andromeda. This is my grandmother, he thinks.
"My, you're quiet, Scorpius." She approaches him and he leans forward impetuously to give her a kiss on the cheek. She puts a hand to her cheek and smiles. "Goodness, what was that for?" Her eyes are warm. Then her gaze drops. "What's happened to your hair?"
"I believe it was a hazing ritual at camp," Aunt Pansy says drily from behind him. She has one slim arm around Pip's shoulders. He's going to be taller than she is in another summer.
His grandmother nods. "Well, I suppose it's not the worse that could happened. Not like all the broken bones last year, although the matter with the shoulder sounded serious."
"It wasn't that bad," Jamie says. He's actually feeling quite shy, which makes it easier to pretend to be Scorpius.
"Your father was ready to invade Canada." Her blue eyes sparkle as they meet his and he forces himself not to look away. A small smile quirks her mouth. "Let's go inside for lunch. Your grandfather is hungry and you know how he gets. Are you able to join us, Pansy?"
"Unfortunately, no," Aunt Pansy says. Pip opens his mouth to protest, then stops. He shoots Jamie a panicked look. They'd counted on time together at the Malfoys to orient Jamie, and the plan was already going wrong. "I've had a planning meeting come up at the Wizarding Fashion Institute."
"Then you must promise you'll come for dinner soon." Grandmother Narcissa smoothes a worrying hand over Jamie's hair. "Or we'll be forced to inflict ourselves on you if Blaise refuses to come to the hinterlands."
Pip smiles woodenly at Jamie while he smiles woodenly back. Blast, blast, blast, this is not going to work.
"You know you are always welcome," Pansy says, leaning in to give Grandmother Narcissa quick air kisses. They trade smiles and then they are holding the Portkey again. Pansy checks it with a Tempus. "Three minutes."
Pip gives Jamie a casual nod as he steps closer to his mother. "See you, Scorpius."
"Bye, Pip." Jamie hopes his churning feelings are not reflected on his face.
Aunt Pansy and Pip walk a few steps, down to the bottom of the garden. Jamie and Grandmother Narcissa wave and then they disappear.
"I don't know how she walks in those shoes," Grandmother Narcissa says, shaking her head. She loops her arm through Jamie's. "Let's go feed your grandfather before he turns into a bear."
They walk up to the glass doors on the terrace arm-in-arm. His grandmother drops his arm to open the door, pausing with her fingers on the long black handle. "It's good to have you home, Scorpius."
Jamie just smiles.
It's a little cooler here in London, and he's pulled one of Jamie's hoodies out from his knapsack, sliding his arms into the sleeves. He stares up at Rose's poster of The Grim Potioneers and purses his mouth. Supposedly it's one of his--okay, Jamie's--favourite bands, but Scorpius just can't see the appeal of the too pale, too undernourished lead singer who's currently scowling down at him.
He's been in London less than an hour, and his dad's on his way home from the Ministry to pick him up, or at least that's what Uncle Ron'd said when he dropped them both off in the foyer on his way to Floo to the Burrow to collect Hugo. He'd asked if they wanted to come with him, but Scorpius and Rose had just exchanged a look and both shaken their heads.
"I'm tired, Dad," Rose had said. "Think I could go by tomorrow to see Gran?"
Uncle Ron had tugged at her hair and agreed easily enough, and Rose had dragged Scorpius upstairs the moment he'd left for some last minute revising, as she'd called it, quizzing him on everything she could think of.
"Rose?" A woman's voice drifts up the stairs, and Scorpius stills. "Rose!"
Slowly Scorpius slides off the bed and walks out into the upstairs hall that's papered with enormous pink cabbage roses on bands of pale and dark olive green. Grandmother would be appalled.
"Rose!" The stairs creak, and Scorpius leans over the glossy white banister.
"Hi, Aunt Hermione," he says with a smile, and Rose's mum looks up at him, a wide smile breaking across her face.
"Jamie, love," she says. "Your dad's not here yet?"
Scorpius shakes his head. He studies his almost-aunt as she takes the last few steps two at a time. Her brown hair falls loose around her shoulders in thick waves, and her brown eyes are bright and warm, just like Rose's. When she pulls him into a hug, she smells like Grandmother's roses. He squeezes her tight.
Aunt Hermione laughs. "Why the sudden rush of affection?"
"I missed you?" Scorpius's throat tightens up as he steps back. He coughs and wraps his arms around himself, pulling the sleeves of his hoodie over his fists. "Rose is in the loo."
"Am not." Rose comes bounding down the hall. "At least any more." She hugs her mother quickly.
Aunt Hermione has a hand on each of their backs. "Why don't you come down and help me make supper while you tell me all about camp?" She smiles down at Scorpius. "I'll bet your father's running a bit late. There was a tiny kerfuffle at the Ministry today that he had to smooth over."
They follow her down the stairs and into the large, shiny kitchen. Aunt Hermione's briefcase is on the grey granite countertop, and Rose moves it as she perches on one of the stools. Scorpius hops up next to her. It's weird to think of it as supper time; back home it's just lunch. A pang goes through him at the thought of sitting across the table from Grandmother and Grandfather, telling them all about Quidditch camp. He can't even think of Father without a lump in his throat.
They've managed to assemble pesto tortellini and a mixed salad when the Floo buzzes, then flashes from the next room. Scorpius is chopping herbs to put on the salad and Rose is washing berries to serve with biscuits for afters.
"Hi everyone. Jamie, Rosie, there you are." A rich, warm, unfamiliar and yet fateful voice sounds from the kitchen doorway. His dad has arrived.
Scorpius drops his knife on the countertop, the hair at the back of his neck standing up. Rose coughs and puts down the sieve, then turns. "Hullo Uncle Harry!"
Slowly Scorpius turns around, trying to keep his face impassive--he's a Malfoy, for god's sake--trying to make an expression Jamie would make.
His dad frowns. "Jamie, are you feeling ill?"
"Oh, Jamie, you should have said." Aunt Hermione chimes in worriedly, looking at him. "Does your stomach hurt?"
"Uh, no." Scorpius say, staring at his father. "I think it's just Portkey lag from Canada. I'm fine."
Harry comes forward and runs a hand over his head. The blood thunders in Scorpius's ears. His dad. It's his dad! He has dark curls but Scorpius sees immediately where his own unruly hair comes from. And his eyes - his Dad's are green as glass, just like his and Jamie's. His Dad is more muscular than Father and a bit shorter; he's wearing a grey and red Auror robe over a waistcoat and summer trousers. He has smile lines around his eyes and his grin is infectious.
"I'm glad to have you back in one piece. It hasn't been the same without you." He smiles again, and Scorpius smiles too and suddenly everything is okay.
"Yeah," Scorpius says. "I know what you mean. Canada was cool, though."
Rose chimes in. "Jamie's team won the team championship."
Harry puts an arm around Scorpius's shoulder and Scorpius stumbles with him to the dining room. "Tell me all about it while we set the places for supper."
Scorpius leans into the solidity of his dad, weirdly feeling as if he's come home.
"It's very dear of you to entertain me, but you need to spend more time with your comics. I don't think I've seen you outside this much in ages."
Ah. Comics. Right. Jamie shrugs. "We had to do gardening work in Canada," he fibs. "It wasn't terrible."
Grandmother Narcissa shakes her head. "Don't say such things, Scorpius, unless you want to learn to love weeding."
Jamie holds up his hands and smiles. "Very well. I yield."
Her bell-like laughter follows him up the stairs to his room. The turret is so cool--Scorpius has a wicked setup and now Jamie wishes they could build one in Islington. Surely Dad could... He stops thinking about it right away, before the tears well up behind his eyes. He will not miss his Dad. He has to be Scorpius now for this to work.
After lying on his stomach for a while, he remembers his grandmother's words. Comics. He should know more about them, although Scorpius has given him a primer to all of the plots of his favourite ones and how he gets them from the shop in Harvard Square.
Jamie stands up and reaches under the bed to the long white boxes under the bed. He decides to start with the newer ones. He already knows about Martin Miggs. Sort of. Dad and Uncle Ron talk about it every so often, and Hugo's obsessed.
Two hours later his neck is stiff and he's managed to read through a stack of the strange booklets. He had no idea where the time went, nor how Scorpius can actually keep track of what's happening in these pictures. All of the little figures make his eyes hurt. He starts making up stories about what's going on.
"I have big tits and bad posture. Look. I bet Scorpius likes me--But I have a Wand of Power and I am going to smite you." Jamie cackles to himself as he reads through the first two panels of a new booklet. "Big tits versus Wand of Power--Noooooo!"
He stills suddenly, listening to the sounds downstairs. He thought he heard a door. Yes, he definitely heard a door. And then he hears a new voice, neither his grandmother nor his grandfather's. Father.
The comics slide off his chest, hitting the floor, and Jamie doesn't care if Scorpius will be narked by the bent pages. He glances in the mirror on the wall opposite him and tries to smooth his hair down. His heart thuds in his chest as he hears Grandmother call him. Or call Scorpius, that is.
Jamie's palms are sweaty, and he wipes them on his trousers before resting one hand on the thick oak banister as he walks downstairs. He's a few steps from the bottom when he sees him. Father. Jamie stops, his hand tensing around the banister. His father's talking to Grandfather, his back to Jamie, and then Grandfather's eyes crinkle warmly when he sees Jamie standing there, and Draco Malfoy turns around.
Oh. Jamie sinks down onto the stairs with a soft thud. Wow.
"Scorpius?" Draco asks, and there's a worried look on his face. "Are you all right?"
Jamie's throat tightens. That's his father's voice. Speaking to him. He manages a nod, and his cheeks heat. "Missed a step," he croaks out, and he pushes himself back up to his feet and somehow manages to walk down the final few stairs and into his father's arms.
He presses his face into Draco's dress shirt. It's crisp and white and smells like sunshine. His father's thinner than his dad is and lankier too. Definitely taller, and Jamie wants to laugh madly. Instead he takes a long, ragged breath and looks up into Draco's face.
Jamie can see himself there, in the pointed chin and the high cheekbones. His hair isn't as white-blond as Draco's--neither is Scorpius's, obviously--and they both have Dad's green eyes. But still. He can't stop himself from touching his father's cheek, which earns him a small, sharp smile.
"Are you quite certain you're fine?" Draco says, and Jamie nods, letting his hand drop.
"Sorry," he says, and he steps away, shoving his fists into the pockets of his shorts.
Draco eyes him up and down. "Dear God, what happened to your hair?"
Grandmother laughs, coming in from the sitting room with two glasses of a deep red wine, one of which she hands to Father. "We've all asked the same thing. I've booked an appointment with Isabelle tomorrow to fix it." She smiles at Jamie. "How does an afternoon on Newbury Street sound?"
Jamie has no bloody idea. "Fine?" he mumbles, hoping that's the right answer. It seems to be, judging from his grandfather's snort of amusement.
"He'll have you in that Muggle comics shop again, Narcissa," Grandfather says, and Jamie watches as he leans in to kiss his wife's cheek.
"And if so, he'll spend an evening with me at the Symphony," she answers pertly. "I drive a hard bargain."
Jamie's pretty certain both sound like hell, but he keeps his mouth shut. Maybe Scorpius likes the symphony, although Jamie can't possibly imagine it.
Draco drapes his arm around Jamie's shoulders. "I'm sure he'd be glad to go with you regardless of your bargaining." He shoots Jamie a pointed look. "And you've spent too much time in the sun without your charms--I can see it from here. You're positively tan."
Shit. Jamie knows they forgot something. He glances down at his lightly browned forearms. "Oh, right." He thinks hard. "It was overcast a lot and I forgot them?"
His father hmphs and lifts his glass of wine to his mouth. "I would have burnt the first day."
"I know." Jamie grins at him.
Draco swipes a finger down Jamie's nose. "Wretch." He looks at Grandmother. "Dinner?"
"Elsie has it waiting," she says.
Jamie follows his family--his family--into the dining room as if he's floating on air.
There's something odd going on between those two, he thinks. Rose and Jamie have always been close, but now they're inseparable, and Harry's starting to suspect they're planning something devious. Most likely for Hugo's birthday, if he knows his son--although lately he's not entirely certain he does. In the past week, Jamie's been quieter than usual, and when Harry commented on his flying Sunday afternoon at the Burrow, telling him camp had definitely improved his Seeking skills, Jamie'd just flushed and looked away instead of crowing and lording it over his cousins.
And he's been virtually attached to Harry's hip.
Not that Harry minds. It's been a while since Jamie's wanted to spend time with Harry like this. Usually he prefers his room and his restricted Floo connection, but honestly, Harry doesn't think he's seen Jamie talking to his friends--other than Rose--since he's been home. Well, that's not entirely true. Last night Harry'd knocked on Jamie's door and walked in to Jamie closing the Floo off quickly. He'd claimed it was just a friend he'd met at Quidditch camp, but Harry'd seen the flash of blond hair in the flames. He wondered who the girl was--and if Rose would know.
And Jamie's been reading non-stop. Every night he curls up in the sitting room with Harry, a book in his hand, and when they're not talking--and suddenly Jamie wants to talk about everything--they're sitting there in companionable silence, Jamie with a book and Harry with his newspaper. Jamie hasn't wanted to turn the telly on even once, although Harry supposes he got used to its absence at camp.
Still. Reading. Not really Jamie's thing, before, even if Harry supposes he shouldn't look a gift Thestral in the mouth.
Harry hangs the tea towel on the hook beside the sink and sends the dried dishes into the glass-paned dish cabinets across the room. He's fond of this kitchen with its wide paned windows and worn wooden floor. To be honest, he's fond of the entirety of the white stone and brick rowhouse on Noel Road in Islington. It's been his and Jamie's home since--well. Since Draco had left all those years ago.
He straightens the tins of tea against the tile backsplash, his chest constricting a little. That still hurts, even though he's over it. Really. It's been almost eleven years now, and he's moved on. He's dated some. Not much. At least not until now, and maybe this one will actually work out. Penelope's gorgeous and smart and funny, and they've been seeing each other for a couple of months now. Harry doesn't know how Jamie will take it, since it's just been them for so long, but he thinks it'll go over all right. Jamie's finally stopped asking about his mum as much. Harry hasn't known what to say to him. It wasn't his idea to keep the boys apart, but Draco'd been adamant and maybe, in the end, it wasn't such a bad thing even if Hermione still pesters him about the ethics of telling Jamie someday.
Sunlight glints off the spotless countertop, but Harry still rubs a thumb over a non-existent smudge. He wonders what Draco's doing. He could find out, he knows, if he really wanted to. It wouldn't be that hard to track down a sharp-tongued academic specializing in colonial dark artefacts. But he won't. He doesn't want to open up that wound again, not now that it's finally scarred over a bit. Still, sometimes he sees a glint of Draco in the tilt of Jamie's head or the stubborn set of his jaw. Or the way his hair brushes against his cheek--and really that's one of the reasons Harry's so upset about his son's haircut. It's ridiculous, he knows, but he misses that whisper of Draco.
The glossy black front door flies open and Ron comes in, Hugo on his back and bags of takeaway in his hands.
"Curry!" Ron calls, and Hermione shuts the door behind them, a Tesco's bag filled with fizzy drinks hanging from her arm.
"Don't shout," Hermione chides as Harry comes into the sitting room. She kisses Harry's cheek. "Thanks for looking after Rose."
He smiles. "No problem. These two've just been in here talking all afternoon." Harry gives his son and goddaughter a faint smile. Rose looks up at him sheepishly.
"Sorry, Uncle Harry." She closes her notebook. "Jamie was just helping me with something."
Hermione and Harry exchange a glance. Hermione shrugs slightly. "Put it away now, and into the kitchen with you. Your dad's treated everyone to supper tonight."
Rose and Jamie jump up, and as they do a scrap of parchment slides out of Jamie's book. Harry picks it up before Jamie can and looks down at it, surprised. It's a sketch of him, dozing on the sofa, his glasses pushed up on his forehead and a newspaper on his chest, almost covering his Chudley Cannons t-shirt. It's from last night, Harry realises, and his eyes meet Jamie's.
"Did you draw this?" he asks.
Jamie looks miserable for a moment, and his eyes flick over at Rose then back at Harry. He nods slightly.
Ron peers over Harry's shoulder. Hugo slides off his back, his feet hitting the floor, and Ron stretches with a grimace. "It's good. Didn't know you could draw, Jamie."
"A bloke at camp showed me how," Jamie says, a little too quickly, and Harry's eyes narrow. He knows a lie when he hears one. Particularly when Rose's breath hitches like it just did. Something's definitely going on with those two.
Jamie nods and reaches for the parchment. "Yeah. It's not that hard. Just circles and boxes mostly, then you shape them out a bit. I'll show you some time." He tucks the drawing back in his book, following Ron, Hugo and Rose to the kitchen.
Harry just watches him, his mouth quirked. "Is it just me or have the pod people come and taken my son?"
Hermione rubs her hand over Harry's back. "He's twelve. Welcome to puberty--remember what we were like at that age?"
"I'm pretty certain I didn't suddenly learn how to draw overnight," Harry says dryly.
Hermione rolls her eyes and hands him the bag of fizzy drinks. "No, you just started speaking Parseltongue--"
"Valid point," Harry concedes. "Still." His brow furrows. "Do you think he's a little off?"
"Stop worrying, Harry." Hermione straightens the bright purple and pale lilac afghan Molly'd knitted for him last Christmas and which is now draped over the dark leather ottoman. "He's fine."
Harry gives her a faint smile. "I suppose I do fret too much."
"He's your son. You can't fret too much." Hermione squeezes his hand. "Speaking of which, have you talked to him about Penelope yet?"
"No." Harry hesitates. "I haven't wanted to upset things."
Hermione sighs. "You're going to have to tell him at some point. I'm fairly certain he's going to notice the next time you go out on a date."
"Probably." Harry chews his bottom lip.
"Harry," Hermione says gently. "You and Penelope--it's a good thing. Jamie'll be able to see that. He loves you and wants you happy."
Harry just nods. He's not so certain. Jamie's always been rather possessive of Harry, and now...well. He seems as if he needs Harry a bit more than usual. Harry doesn't want to admit he likes it, but he does.
"Come on," Hermione says, tugging on his hand, "or Ron'll have inhaled all the pakora."
With a sigh, Harry trails after her.
He still thinks something's up. Give him time. He'll figure it out.
In some ways, it's what Draco's always wanted for him. Surely he'll be less likely to be bullied again come fall and he seems genuinely happy in his own skin, even drastically so. Still, Draco misses the quiet of his routine with pre-camp Scorpius. He's so independent.
One day, Scorpius returns from a ramble and announces that he wants to try kayaking. Narcissa presses her fingertips to her lips, and Lucius quirks a skeptical eyebrow. Draco sets down his teacup. "Absolutely not. Malfoy's don't kayak."
Instead of conceding, as he always would have before, Scorpius gets a mulish set to his mouth and crosses his arms over his chest. "Why not?"
"It's common, and it's dangerous," Draco says. "You might get stuck in the infernal thing and then roll over and drown."
Scorpius scoffs. "Plenty of people were doing it down on the Concord River and I didn't see a single dead body. I watched all afternoon."
After he recovers from the shock of his beloved and once-well-behaved son challenging him, Draco shakes his head once, ending the conversation. "No, Scorpius. And that's the end of it."
Except it isn't. Despite clear instructions to the contrary, despite all of the sane reasoning Draco gives him, Scorpius actually goes kayaking. Of his own free will and against Draco's express wishes. And then he makes no attempt to conceal it when he returns.
Draco is sitting in the front room, reviewing an article and making notes in his journal. When Scorpius comes in, Draco notices immediately that the hem of his navy blue pants are wet.
"Scorpius, have you been in the water?"
Scorpius stops halfway up the stairs and comes back down. "No."
Draco tilts his head. The defiance is clear as day on Scorpius's face. Perhaps this is what Pansy means about teenagers, Draco thinks, and it's not fair, really. Scorpius should have another year to go before he turns into a complete arse. "Will you tell me where you've been, please." It's not a request.
Scorpius looks down at the untidy laces of his trainers, then rubs one toe against the other. "Out."
"Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy, where have you been?" Draco pinches the bridge of his nose to ward off the tension headache that's coming.
"On the river," Scorpius says, his excitement clear in his face. "And you'll never guess what?"
"What?" The low pounding ache starts at the corner of Draco's jaw. He makes an effort not to grind his teeth. He's suddenly reminded of Harry, which is another brutal twist of his heart. His annoyance with Scorpius rises higher.
"Malfoys do kayak. In fact, the man at the boat rental said I was a natural." Scorpius looks immensely proud of himself.
After a bit of shouting--all right, a lot of shouting--and one missed dinner, Scorpius apologises and promises never to go on the river again without Draco. Perhaps the punishment would be more effective, and the transgressor more contrite, if Draco didn't catch his father sneaking down the back stairs with the tell-tale crumbs, butter smears, and sticky puddles of a finished plate of bread and homemade strawberry jam. There are not words for such defiance of discipline and paternal treachery and Draco is reduced to incoherent noises of irritation and heavy breathing, followed by a lie-down with a wet flannel over his eyes.
Draco's headache lasts for days and defies all pain potions. He can't help but feel that his entire household is turning against him. Even his mother appears to enjoy the new vitality in Scorpius and exploits it shamelessly to have plants moved and ladders climbed. In fact, Draco suspects she's allowing Scorpius to sneak out with her on her horticultural ambushes of other peoples' property. The sheer inability to cope with the knowledge is all that prevents Draco from confronting the two gardening vandals.
Everyone is given pause, however, by the incident in the garden. It's on Saturday--sunny and bright--and they're taking lunch on the terrace under the shade of the grape arbor. A cool breeze is blowing up the hill and small, fluffy clouds leisurely traverse a crystalline blue Massachusetts sky. After setting up the cooling and screening charms, the elves bring out cold chicken with tarragon for luncheon and lemon squash.
All is well until a small striped garter snake makes its presence known in the grass near Scorpius's side of the arbor. Time slows down until everything seems like it's underwater. In his state of shock, Draco thinks that they're lucky Scorpius's back is facing the reptile and they might be able to get him in the house before he notices. Lucius sits very still, watching Scorpius's face. Scorpius keeps inhaling his chicken, but then, seeing his grandmother's alarm and Draco's hand motions to her, turns slowly around.
Draco manages not to call out "No!" but he desperately wants to. He thinks about seizing Scorpius by the shoulders and physically preventing him from turning around, but he can't. The distance is too far and a spell might do more harm than good.
There is a suspended moment where nothing happens, as if a freezing charm had been cast on the whole world. Draco's heart leaps into his throat.
And nothing happens. Scorpius turns back around and placidly returns to his chicken. The garter snake uses the moment of distraction to slither off into the underbrush.
Draco sucks in huge mouthfuls of air. His brain is completely shut down by the shock and then the anticlimax.
"Aren't you frightened?" Lucius asks.
"Of what?" Scorpius munches on a mouthful of rocket. "The snake?"
All three adults nod wordlessly.
Scorpius sets his fork down. "We had to... There were a lot of snakes in Canada." He seems ill at ease suddenly. He looks down at his plate and chews on his lower lip. "I didn't like the other blokes teasing me about being afraid of snakes. And then we had to do this meditation thing. In the woods. It was to face our fears. I'm still scared, of course. But it's not as bad."
Draco opens his mouth to say something but nothing comes out. He closes it again. He can't help but stare at Scorpius, wondering if he's really quite the same boy who went to camp, who was quiet and well mannered, who would do anything to go into a comic store.
After luncheon, while Draco's gathering up his writing things, his mother comes into the front room.
"You look alarmed, darling."
Draco sets his quill down next to the pile of books he's checked out from the catacombs of Widener Library. "What makes you say that?"
Narcissa sits in the wide wing chair next to the window. "A mother knows things." She gives him a pointed look. "As does a father. You're concerned about Scorpius."
With a sigh, Draco runs a hand through his hair. He sits. "I'm beginning to wonder if camp was good for him this summer."
"Ah." Narcissa crosses one leg over her knee. Even in the heat of late July she looks crisp and cool. Draco sometimes wonders how she does it. "He has changed a bit, hasn't he?"
Draco snorts. "I hardly recognise him these days." He frowns at the stack of books in front of him. "Sometimes I think Harry's coming out in him."
A small smile crosses Narcissa's face. "Is that such a bad thing?"
That earns her a pointed glare. "Mother."
"He did save the wizarding world, darling," she says mildly. "And as I recall you were terribly infatuated with him at the time."
Draco looks away. "People change." He'd changed. He remembers that final fight they'd had, the one that had ended everything. Now, all these years later, he can see what an utter idiot he'd been, so stubborn and so certain that he was doing what was right for him.
And he'd thought Harry would come after him. Harry always made those sorts of grand gestures. Harry always stopped Draco from being foolish. Except that time. Draco'd walked away from England and from Harry and from his other baby boy, and Harry had been supposed to find him. To bring him back.
It still aches.
"Draco," Narcissa says softly, and he looks over at his mother. "What is it?"
He shakes his head. "It's just hard to see him grow up."
Narcissa stands and walks over behind him. She slips an arm around his shoulders, pulling him back against her as she kisses the crown of his head. "You become used to it," she murmurs. "Eventually."
Draco doesn't think he ever will.
They're on the long, steep escalator at the Angel station after a well-spent Saturday of cinema, raiding the wizarding back room of Forbidden Planet, and gelato. Now they're almost home again, and Harry still hasn't reached the goal he has set himself when they left this morning: telling Jamie about Penelope. Jamie has his nose in one of his new acquisitions--a Muggle one, thank God; it wouldn't do to explain moving comics to their fellow Tube passengers--while Harry holds the two heavy bags for him and tries not to comment on the absolutely ridiculous cover, not to mention the fact that it defies logic to draw the female form in that particular position. Harry may have only closely contemplated the anatomy of less than a handful of women in his life, but even he knows that. Still, that's a conversation for Hermione to have with Jamie, Harry thinks, and he's certain the first time she catches sight of the comic, she'll without doubt have An Opinion.
The escalator ends and Harry extends a hand to help Jamie, but he's got perfect balance and comes off the escalator while still reading. He's awfully fleet of foot these days, Harry thinks. Six weeks on a broom's been good for him.
"Right, what do you want for supper?"
Jamie blinks slowly, lowering the glossy paper covering his face. "Oh, I don't know." One side of his hair is sticking up while the other falls across his forehead. Harry reaches out with his free hand to smooth it down. For once Jamie doesn't pull away. "I really like that Afghani place."
Harry is a bit surprised by this new sophistication of palate; Jamie is usually more of a fish and chips or hamburger sort of boy. As with all things, Harry supposes he'll get used to this new side of Jamie eventually, but it's still unsettling to think he can change so much in a few short weeks. He gives him a sideways glance, but doesn't say anything. Yet.
They take a hard left past The York. It's still early; people haven't yet begun to spill from the pub onto the sidewalk, but the atmosphere of Saturday evening excitement is building all along the pavement. The wend their way through Duncan Street, past the quiet of the primary school that is so loud during the week, and come out onto the gardens of Colebrooke Row.
Harry stops Jamie with a hand on his shoulder. "Hold up a moment. I've something I'd like to say."
Jamie blinks up at him as he weighs his words carefully. When he doesn't speak, Jamie shifts his weight from one foot to the other. "Is everything all right, Dad?" he asks quietly.
"Yes," Harry says. "It is. It's just..."
Jamie blinks at him curiously, almost owlishly, although Harry had never thought of his son as particularly owlish.
Harry sighs. Right. Best just to get to it. Rip the plaster off. Up Gryffindor and all that. He sits on a black steel bench; the curved metal slats bite into his thighs as he sets the bags on the ground. Jamie settles next to him, his comic slightly curled between his hands.
"Dad?" Jamie asks again, and there's a tinge of worry in his voice.
Harry takes a deep breath and looks at him. "I've been seeing someone and I'd like you to meet her. Her name is Penelope."
Jamie's face is blank. He's silent.
More silence. Harry's heart thuds against his chest. This isn't good, he thinks, and then there's a wild spark in Jamie's green eyes and he jumps up.
"I'm seeing Penelope Clearwater," Harry says again, patiently.
A flush rises on Jamie's cheeks. "You are not."
This isn't going as well as Harry had hoped. "I am."
"You can't date someone," Jamie snaps at him, and Harry frowns. "I won't let you."
"Calm down, Jamie." Harry looks around them. A couple's watching from across the street, and Harry feels his face heat.
Jamie kicks at the bags, not seeming to care that his purchases spill over the dirty pavement. "I can't believe you! After everything--and now this! You don't even like girls!"
Harry grabs Jamie's arm. "Yes, I do. What the hell is wrong with you?" He doesn't quite understand what's going on.
"You!" Jamie jerks away. "You're what's wrong with me." He stomps away, through the gardens, and Harry grabs the bags and jogs slightly to catch up to him.
"You're acting a spoiled brat," Harry snaps, trying to keep his voice down. "It's nothing to do with you if I'm seeing someone--"
"It has everything to do with me," Jamie nearly shrieks, and Harry winces. Jamie's always had a volatile temper but never in public. They're British, for Christ's sake. "I'm your son--"
Harry grabs Jamie's arm tightly, and Jamie glares up at him, his mouth a tight narrow line, his eyes bright and angry. "You are my son," Harry says, and he pulls Jamie up against him, rubbing at his tight, tense shoulders until Jamie relaxes a little into Harry's side. Harry smooths Jamie's hair back from his forehead and looks down at him. "But I'd like to see Penelope too. She's lovely. I think you'll like her."
"Is this about sex?" Jamie says, muffled into Harry's t-shirt. "Because if it is--"
Harry's face heats. "Don't be ridiculous." Of course it is; it's been a good four years since he's been as shagged out as the six weeks Jamie was away. Still, he's not admitting that to his son, and really, who's been talking to him about sex anyway? He's fucking twelve. Jesus.
Jamie looks up at him sceptically. "Right."
"Don't start." Harry tugs at Jamie's hair. It's grown a little bit since he's been home. Not much. Harry misses Jamie's longer hair. He doesn't like the idea of his little boy growing up--it's just been him and Jamie for so long. And then Jamie went to Hogwarts and Harry was left alone all term. He'd learned what loneliness was then, with the quiet house echoing its silence around him. Penelope'd helped keep that overwhelming emptiness at bay, at least a little. Harry can't bear to go back to it in the autumn when Jamie goes back to school. Maybe it's not love between him and Penelope, at least not yet. And it'll never be anything like what he'd had with Draco all those years ago. Nothing could ever compare to that, even with the spectacularly awful way it'd ended. But Harry thinks maybe at his age, it's better just to find someone you don't mind spending time with, rather than waiting for that Grand Passion again. Eleven years is long enough to sacrifice on that altar.
He looks at his son. "I want you to like her."
Jamie stares down at his scuffed trainers. "I know."
"Will you try?" Harry tilts Jamie's chin up. Jamie huffs a sigh. Somewhere in the distance there's the whine of a police siren.
Harry nods. "That's all I'm asking for."
They start walking again. Jamie frowns. "If I hate her will it make a difference?"
"Not necessarily." Harry gives him an amused look. "I can hear your brain churning, you know."
Jamie glares at him darkly. "I sincerely doubt you can hear what I'm thinking."
"Don't be too sure," Harry says, draping his arm around Jamie's shoulders. "I'm Head Auror, after all."
"A Head Auror who had to do remedial Occlumency," Jamie points out.
Harry smacks the back of Jamie's head lightly. That's still a bit of a sore subject for him. He wishes he'd never told Jamie about that particular academic struggle of his, but at the time, he'd thought it might cheer Jamie up as he wrangled with comprehending basic Potions. "Keep that to yourself."
Jamie raises an eyebrow--and when did he learn to do that? "What's in it for me?"
They're trudging up the steps to the house. Harry pulls his wand out of his pocket and taps it against the door handle, unwarding it. "I'm not above bribery, Jamie." He glances back at his son as he pushes the door open. "I want this to go well."
"Right." Jamie eyes him coolly, as he brushes past Harry. "I want a new broom."
"I just got you one last summer." Harry kicks to door shut and sets the bags of comics and books on the foyer table.
Jamie starts sifting through them. "It's your love life, not mine." His shoulders are still stiff, and Harry realises this definitely isn't going to be easy.
"Let's have curry first," Harry suggests. "And then we can talk about it."
Harry watches as James shrugs and turns away from him a little more. No. Not easy at all. He sighs and reaches into the table drawer for the takeaway menus.
"I've got it," he shouts as he dives for the Floo, even though most likely no one's paying attention. Father's upstairs in his study, Grandmother's out in the garden, and the last time he saw his grandfather, he was dozing underneath the Boston Wizarding Weekly. The Floo wheezes slightly as he opens it and Scorpius's face pops into the flames.
"Oh thank God, Jamie." Scorpius sounds out of breath. "We have an emergency on our hands."
Jamie glances back over his shoulder at the half-open door. "What are you doing? Anyone could have answered--you know the rule. Firecalls only after everyone's asleep."
"This couldn't wait until five in the morning." Scorpius huffs. "Dad's dating someone. And I think it's serious."
"What?" Jamie sits back on his heels. "Bollocks. Dad doesn't date."
"Her name's Penelope, she works at the Ministry, and he's been seeing her rather intimately while we were at camp." Scorpius bites his lip, which is already swollen.
Jamie wrinkles his nose. "Ew."
"I know, right?" Scorpius grimaces as well. The flames twist around his face, tugging at his hair. "I'm supposed to have lunch with her tomorrow."
"But Dad doesn't date," Jamie says again. He's shocked. Okay, sure, there've been a couple of times that his father's gone out with someone, usually to a film or one of those boring Ministry dinners he hates. "Are you sure about this?"
His brother glares at him. "I will reach through this Floo and punch you."
"What?" Jamie runs his hands through his hair. "Sorry if I'm a bit confused by the fact that you've been with Dad for almost three weeks and somehow managed to turn him into somebody's boyfriend."
They both look at each other in horror.
"That is just wrong," Scorpius says finally. "I mean, if he's going to be with someone, it ought to be Father. At least then we'd get to live with each other."
Jamie can't argue with that. It's something he's been thinking about too; he's glad he and Scorpius are of a mind. It must be the twin thing. Comes in handy. He sighs. "Well, obviously, it should be Father. He's bloody brilliant when he's not being an overprotective git. How on earth do you manage--"
Scorpius snaps his fingers. "Jamie. Focus."
My God, he sounds like Rose. Jamie narrows his eyes. "Okay, fine. But I still don't see what we can do."
His brother draws in a deep breath. "It's time for an intervention."
"Unh unh," Jamie says, knowing what's going to come next. "Scorp--"
"You have to show Father the picture, Jamie." Scorpius's look, even through an international Floo connection, is palpably a little crazed. He has a mad intensity to the set of his jaw and the firmness of his gaze. "You know you do."
Jamie's heart sinks, and he shakes his head wildly. "No. I'm not ready. I'm just getting to know--"
Scorpius doesn't give an inch. "Jamie, I need you. This is serious. I don't know what we're going to do."
"It can't be serious," Jamie says. He crosses his arms over his chest. "We were only at camp for six weeks."
Scorpius rolls his eyes. "If he does get serious with her, we're toast. I don't know about you, but I'm not really that keen on the idea of a new stepmother."
"I want more time," Jamie says stubbornly. "I'm just getting to know Father, and I don't think he likes me yet."
"Father doesn't like anyone." Scorpius's face flickers in the Floo. "You don't have to like people to love them."
Jamie sighs. "Why do I have to do it? Why can't you?"
"Because," Scorpius says, and he has that tone in his voice that lets Jamie know exactly how stupid his brother thinks he is, "the only way to stop this is if Father comes here. Dad'll see him, and they'll realise how much they miss each other."
"That's balls," Jamie says bluntly. "You've been watching too many sappy films."
Scorpius's mouth tightens. "Just trust me on this. We need to do something. Now." His face disappears from the fire for just a moment, and then he's back, eyes wide. "I have to go--he's calling for me. Jamie, promise me."
Jamie knows when he's beat. The thing is, he does trust Scorpius a lot--his brother's better at reading people than Jamie is, weirdly enough, and Jamie figures it has something to do with his being bullied because you'd have to be able to do that, right, if you were trying to avoid the bastards--and if Scorpius thinks something has to be done, then it does. He sighs again and holds up his pinky. "I swear."
"Brill." Scorpius reaches through the Floo and hooks his fiery finger around Jamie's. "Must run."
The Floo flames jump higher before settling back down into their normal faintly orange-red banked embers, and Jamie slumps his shoulders, hand trailing along the carpet. The wool is scratchy against his fingertips as he traces meaningless patterns in the short pile. Why? Why does it have to be like this? And while he's secretly a bit proud of Dad for finally dating like Uncle Ron's been after him to for years, it really does complicate things now that he's discovered his brother. Jamie'd never really thought about his dad being bisexual, although somewhere in the back of his head he guesses he's known that Dad's gone out once or twice with a guy. Back when Jamie was a lot younger. And it's really weird to think of Dad possibly having sex, but damn it, Jamie thinks that if Dad's going to do that, then he should do it with Father, not some random woman from the Ministry. And, besides, how underhanded is that that he's been seeing someone while Jamie was away? Like Dad doesn't trust him or something, which really irks him. Dad used to tell him everything--or so he thought. Now he doesn't know what to think anymore.
A dry cough from the doorway startles him and Jamie jolts upright. His grandfather is standing in the doorway, almost blending into the heavy dark wood of the frame in his long dark robe and dun coloured trousers. Only his silvery pale hair jumps out. Jamie has no idea how long he's been standing there; the bottom drops out of his stomach.
Lucius raises an eyebrow. "Yes?"
Jamie rubs the back of his neck, trying not to gulp. "Did you hear..." He gestures to the Floo. "...that?"
"Are you asking whether I heard my grandson, Scorpius, calling his own house, presumably from London?" Lucius walks in to the center of the room, sidestepping the ottoman, and sits down on the sofa near Jamie. He arranges his robes around him before looking directly at Jamie. "Yes. Yes I did, James."
A hooking sensation goes through Jamie's chest, almost like a Portkey but too high up. It's wonderful to be called his own name, and he wants to cry. But he's completely uncertain whether Lucius Malfoy will welcome him as his own. He tilts his face upwards, looking for some flicker of emotion or sign of opinion in his grandfather's aquiline face.
"I assume you met at camp."
Jamie nods silently. His grandfather eyes him speculatively.
"Is this some sort of prank you and Scorpius cooked up to embarrass everyone?" Lucius's face remains impassive and his nostrils flare a little.
Jamie blinks back the tears that prickle at his eyes. "No," he protests hotly. "It's not at all. I just wanted to know where I came from. I wanted to meet Father." He licks his dry bottom lip. "And Scorpius wanted to meet Dad. It's not fair, you know, us being split up like that and not knowing anything about each other, or our other parent or you--" His voice cracks, and to his great mortification, the tears flow then, rolling over his skin in salty, unquenchable rivulets. He's angry, and he's ashamed, and he's dripping onto the carpet. Damn it. He hates it when he gets upset. He's not a baby any more. He's twelve.
And then suddenly a large, soft linen square is pressed to his face. His grandfather is leaning forward to daub at the corners of his eyes, drying the tears and soothing the irritation.
"There, there," his grandfather says awkwardly. Jamie sniffles, and his grandfather hands him the handkerchief. "Here, go on then. Blow."
Jamie blows his nose, and he can breathe again, although he's still a bit water-logged and snuffly.
Lucius reaches out a long-fingered, bony hand, and strokes with his palm across Jamie's hair. "Now I understand the reason for the haircut. You must wear your hair longer at home." Lucius's own hair is long and tied back in a neat queue with a velvet ribbon.
Jamie nods, still not able to speak. His world has collapsed in on itself and he doesn't know where home is anymore. He understands what the word gutted means now; he literally feels like there's nothing inside of him.
His grandfather touches his cheek once, with barely noticeable hesitation. Jamie looks up at him. "You come from us, Jamie. You're a Malfoy, and you've been one since the day you were born." His eyes soften. "I remember holding you in St Mungo's when you were minutes old. You were the first one, you realise. All red and squalling and--" Lucius breaks off, and Jamie sees him swallow. His grandfather looks away. "I never agreed with Potter and Draco's ridiculous plan to separate you. Blood will always find blood eventually, but they didn't want to listen."
Overwhelmed, Jamie surprises himself and his grandfather by launching himself at him and hugging him, both arms meeting around his neck. "Thank you," he says into the smooth fabric of his grandfather's robe. "For telling me all that, I mean. It's the most I've ever heard about how things were before."
His grandfather recovers, pressing an arm lightly against Jamie's shoulder. "That can be corrected." He smiles at Jamie, and his eyes are fixed on his face as if he wants to memorise every one of Jamie's features. It's a bit disconcerting. "I'm quite pleased you found your way here. Perhaps we should introduce you properly to your father?"
Jamie swallows, closing his eyes for a moment. Father.
"Come on, now," his grandfather stands, bracing Jamie under the elbow. "Be brave." He hoists Jamie up beside him, giving him a shrewd look. "You're Gryffindor, aren't you?"
After a quick, affirming nod from Jamie, Lucius barks a laugh. "Excellent. This has great promise as a comedic situation."
As he leads Jamie out of the room, Jamie wonders what new chapter of his life awaits him beyond the double doors to Draco's study.
There's a knock on his study door, and he puts down his quill with a sigh. "Enter." He presses his fingertips to his temples as Scorpius's unruly blond head peeks around the door.
"Hi," Scorpius says, almost hesitantly. "Can I come in?"
Draco gives him a small smile. "I think I could use a break." His eyebrow quirks as his father follows Scorpius into his study. "And to what do I owe this particular family council?"
Lucius sits in a leather chairs near the hearth, crossing one long leg over his knee. "I rather think I'll let your son explain." He looks at Scorpius expectantly. "Well, go on, boy. In for a Knut, in for a Galleon."
"Right." Scorpius clears his throat. He's clutching a scrap of something in his hands as he shifts from foot to foot in front of Draco's desk. "You see, there's something I have to tell you."
Draco glances at his father. "What's going on?"
"Let the boy speak, Draco." Lucius's mouth quirks to one side. "I rather think you'll find it most interesting."
Draco's heart thuds. Something's wrong. He turns back to Scorpius. "What?" he says, and judging from Scorpius's flinch, he suspects he's not hiding his spike of fear all that well. He tries to calm himself down. "Is something wrong?"
"Not really." Scorpius chews his bottom lip, then straightens his shoulders, and Draco's heart nearly stops entirely then because he looks so bloody much like Harry that it hurts. "But I think I should show you this." He lays the paper--a photograph--on Draco's desk blotter, and Draco's breath catches at the sight of Harry holding--
"Jamie," Draco whispers, and suddenly everything slots into place. All the wrongness, all the oddity of the past few weeks. He looks up at Scorpius, except it's not Scorpius is it, now? He stares at him. At his son. His baby, whom he hasn't seen since the day he'd left, holding Scorpius tightly in his arms. "Oh, God." He shoves his chair back, standing. "Jamie."
His father's smiling, but Draco's barely paying attention as he almost runs around the corner of the desk to pull Jamie against him, and how could he ever have thought Jamie was Scorpius--
Draco leans back, his hand still cupping Jamie's cheek. "Where's your brother?" His voice is rough with all the emotion he can't adequately express.
"With Dad in London," Jamie says, and those green Potter eyes are looking up at him, taking Draco's breath away again. "We met at camp, and, well, he wanted to meet Dad and I want to meet you so badly...." He trails off, his teeth worrying his lip once more. "I had to practice to be like him, and I tried so hard all because I needed to know you--" He swallows and blinks. "It wasn't fair," he says after a moment. "You two splitting us up like that."
"No." Draco strokes his thumb across Jamie's skin, brushing away a slight bit of dampness under Jamie's left eye. "It wasn't, was it?" He wraps his arms around his son, holding him tight, leaning down to breath in the sweaty boyness of Jamie's sturdy body. "I've often regretted that decision."
Jamie looks up at him. "You better have," he says, but he's almost smiling at Draco, and Draco doesn't care that the boys have done this, that they've swapped countries and lives, because after all this time, he has his eldest here again. He smooths Jamie's hair back from his forehead, unable to stop staring at him.
"Merlin," Draco murmurs. "I can't believe--" He cups Jamie's cheek again. "I've thought about you every day of your life," he says finally. "From the first day I found out we were having twins."
"Really?" Jamie sounds wistfully eager. "You're not just saying that?"
Draco shakes his head. This is something he would never lie about. "I felt you move inside my body for months, James." He gives him a wry smile. "It's not something you easily forget. And every morning I've looked at your brother and wondered what you would be doing that day..." Draco has to stop. His throat constricts, almost painfully, and he manages to choke out a laugh. "My God, look at you." He glances at his father. "Look at him," he says, and Lucius nods.
"He's most certainly a Malfoy," Lucius says.
"Without a doubt." But Draco can see so much of Harry in his son, the echoes of their own distant past so visible in both of their boys now, and Draco can't ignore the wave of grief that washes over him. They'd been so young and so stupidly foolish, both of them. And if Draco had known then what he now knows, he would never have walked out of that door. He would never have prized his own academic success over the pain of separating his boys--from each other or from him. He brushes his knuckles against Jamie's jaw.
He doesn't want to think about what will happen next. He'll have to take him back, he knows. He'll have to face down Harry once more--something he'd hoped he would never have to endure again.
None of that matters at the moment.
His son is here. Home. With him.
For now Draco holds Jamie tightly, never wanting to let him go.
Claridge's is different from how Draco remembered it. It's been so long since he was last here--a good eight years, at least--but still, shouldn't hotels remain the same for their visitors? He doesn't mind the improvements, really, but they only serve to underline for him how he's become a stranger to his once-home country and its capital.
Conversely Jamie'd been in his element once they clear the immigration queue in the Portkey section at Heathrow. While waiting for the central London Floos, he'd been chipper and talkative, far less reserved than he had been during the weeks in Concord. He's been a different boy since Draco discovered the ruse, and Draco's still quite shocked it took him so long to notice. Mother'd claimed she'd known from the start, but Draco suspects that's utter bollocks, even for Narcissa Malfoy. Still, he and his father know better than to even imply they think that.
Draco checks the time again. They have fifteen minutes before they are expected downstairs to meet Scorpius and Harry. He smooths his cuffs and looks to the ensuite where James is still getting ready. He resists going to check on him and settles back against the thickly upholstered chair.
Jamie had firecalled Harry last night as Draco packed their bags--Draco will never admit it to his son but he'd been too utterly cowardly to face the possibility of Harry's wrath--and Draco still can't believe that this, this is how it happened, and he's angry with himself for sending Scorpius blithely off to an international camp and not thinking about the possible consequences to his neatly controlled and managed life. Without Harry.
But also without Jamie.
Jamie comes out of the bath and his hair is still curling wet on his neck and standing up at the back. It grows like a weed, Draco thinks. Inherited follicular misfortune, and it's not his side to blame.
"Here, Jamie," Draco smoothes a hand over Jamie's wet hair, and then waves his wand gently, letting just enough air dry his son's head. "That's better."
The rest of his outfit is at least clean and well pressed, of course, by the elves, but Jamie still looks ill at ease in his tailored black pants and crisp white shirt. He fidgets and picks at the sleeves. Draco swallows a sharp comment and sighs. This can't be easy for him either.
"Would you like to go downstairs?" Draco asks gently. "I don't think they're here yet, but perhaps the room is too confining?"
Jamie nods and is at the door to the suite like a bolt of lightening. He's more energetic than Scorpius, that's certain, but also less aware of his surroundings. A lamp on the side table teeters dangerously as he swipes past it, but rights itself before Draco has to catch it. To be honest, Draco doesn't quite know how he'll give him up again. It's not something he really wants to think about.
He follows his son out of the room and to the lift, cognisant of only the flutter in his chest and the twist of his nervous stomach.
Jamie looks up at him as the uniformed lift attendant closes the door and presses the button for the ground floor. "Are you all right?" he asks, worriedly.
Draco unbuttons his charcoal suit jacket and sinks down on the small tufted sofa. His face in the mirror is far too pale. "I'm fine," he says, and he appreciates the fact that the attendant discreetly doesn't glance his way even though his voice rises ever so slightly. He takes a deep breath. This is ridiculous. He's only going to meet Harry and his wretch of a son, and, really, neither one of them should be this unsettling. Except...Harry is. Harry always has been.
And the thing of it is, Draco knows he's never fallen out of love with Harry. Even if he's sworn to Blaise and Pansy that he did. Even if he's tried to tell himself that he has.
"Father," Jamie murmurs, and the lift shudders to a stop. "Are you certain?"
Of course he's not. But Draco stands up, forcing his knees not to buckle beneath him, and he smiles at his son. "Absolutely." Malfoys are nothing if not consummate liars. The attendant rolls back the lift gate. "Shall we, then?" Draco asks and the warm look Jamie gives him seems to calm him down.
Draco's hand settles on Jamie's shoulder as they step into the foyer. He can do this. Of course he can.
It's only Potter after all.
Still. Jamie needs him. He'd asked for him, for Christ's sake, and Harry's not idiot enough to look that particular gift horse in the mouth. Jamie's practically a teenager; in another year Harry doesn't expect to even be able to hold a proper conversation with his son.
Harry'd assumed the day would involve a trip to Diagon Alley, or maybe to the cinema again, but Jamie'd had a different idea. Tea. A proper high tea, at that, and Harry's a little perplexed by his son's sudden interest in the Art Deco interior of Claridge's. Not to mention Harry's need to wear a proper suit and tie. Harry's willing to admit he'd been utterly gobsmacked when Jamie had frowned at him before they left and actually insisted he change his bright orange and grey Chudley Cannons tie for the sedate burgundy silk with the thin black stripe that Hermione had made him buy for the times he has to meet with the Cabinet at 10 Downing.
So. Claridge's it is. Harry's been here of course--in fact, he remembers quite clearly a deliciously scandalous dirty weekend he spent here with Draco just weeks before they discovered he was pregnant. Well, it was meant to be a dirty weekend; it actually lasted six days. More of a dirty minibreak, really. Harry sometimes wishes he could forget it, wishes the memory of Draco's long pale limbs and arched throat, his flushed shoulders pressed into tangled white sheets, wasn't seared into his soul.
Jamie drags him through the entrance hall and into the Reading Room. The headwaiter nods when Jamie says, "Potter. Party of four."
"Back corner, sir," the headwaiter says with a small smile and a nod of his head to Harry.
Harry eyes his son suspiciously. "Jamie, what are you up--"
And then he turns the corner and the words die in the back of his throat. Draco's in the corner, framed by the red velvet of the high-backed banquette, a boy at his side. Draco hasn't seen them yet; he's smiling and the boy next to him, who is identical to the boy next to Harry, smiles back and shakes his blond head. Draco looks fantastic. Harry's breath catches in his throat and he has an overwhelming urge to run as fast as he can, far away from here. But nowhere would be far enough.
And then it hits him. The boy. The boy who looks like Jamie. Harry's whole body tenses, his fingernails digging into his palms.
His other son stares at them, dropping his fork. Draco's head turns slowly--does anyone have that colour of hair? Harry would recognise it in the shadow from fifty paces--and his eyes meet Harry's like a scene from an old movie. Harry couldn't move if he tried. He's completely immobilised by the rush of emotion and shock that overtakes him. After all these years. Draco. It's really Draco.
Harry registers Jamie leaving his side and the boy from the banquette, who is also Jamie in Harry's mind but he knows one of them must be Scorpius, gets up and meets his brother in the space between the table and the spot where Harry is glued.
"Scorpius," says the boy who was with Draco.
"Jamie," says the boy who was with Harry.
They smile at each other crookedly, like a slightly out of focus mirror, two shifting images of tousled hair and lanky limbs and green eyes. It's both boys together, which Harry has wanted more than anything since they separated them over a decade ago. He never thought it would happen.
Belatedly, he realises he must have had Scorpius with him all along. Now that he looks at them, he can see it. His Jamie is slightly more muscled and tan, also a bit clumsier and more boisterous. Scorpius is quieter and more reserved, more poised and less outgoing.
"Scorpius," Harry says, his tongue dry in his mouth. "My God."
Scorpius turns back to smile at him shyly. "Hi." His eyes sparkle. He walks back to Harry. "Dad."
Harry's heart constricts as he goes down on one knee in front of his son, his lost son, the one he missed for ten long years. He cups Scorpius's face in his hands, staring at him. "It's really you." His eyes are damp.
"Yeah," Scorpius whispers, and Harry's laugh is slightly choked.
"My God," Harry says again. He pulls Scorpius against him, burying his face in Scorpius's blue shirt. He can hear the steady thud of his son's heart. "You were just a baby..." He trails off, remembering how small the boys had both been when they were born, and Scorpius was even tinier than Jamie'd been. That moment when the Healer had placed Scorpius in his arms, and Harry had looked down at his younger son's perfect, squished, pink face....Christ. Harry's wanted Scorpius back in his arms for a decade now. He can't believe this. Three weeks he's had his baby boy, and he never realised...
Scorpius touches Harry's cheek. "Dad," he says quietly, and Harry looks up at him. Scorpius looks slightly amused. "Isn't it not-done to melt down in the middle of Claridge's?"
"You wretch," Harry says with a laugh, and somehow he manages to get back on his feet. He keeps his arm around Scorpius's shoulders, then he looks over at Jamie and holds out his free hand to his son. "Come here, both of you."
Jamie runs to him, and Harry embraces both of them, there in the middle of the Reading Room at Claridge's and Harry doesn't care. An older woman watches them from her table and says to her companions, "What a lovely family."
Family, Harry thinks. They're a family. All four of them are in this room and the boys--his boys--are back together.
When Harry looks over Jamie and Scorpius's heads, he sees Draco has his lips pursed. Harry can tell he's trying not to knit his brows because of wrinkles. Draco'd been horrified by that possibility even when they were twenty, and Christ, Harry suddenly feels old. Draco keeps his hands hovering at his water glass, wrists articulated at an elegant angle, while the boys lead Harry over to him, one on each arm. Draco watches them approach, leaning back ever so slightly with his shoulder blades against the wine-red velvet of the banquette. He looks absolutely stunning; Harry can't believe he ever let him go.
"Uh, hi," Harry says, and mentally kicks himself. Nearly eleven years, the all-time love of his life, and all he can say is "hi".
"Hello, Harry," Draco says, his voice low and a bit rough.
"How...?" Harry stops for a moment, the question dying on his lips. He looks at the boys. "Right. Well, one of us seems to have been expecting this."
Draco's eyebrows arch at this. "Oh." He gives Scorpius--no, Jamie--a sharp look. "I was under the impression that James had spoken with you via firecall. I take it you didn't actually invite us to tea," he says dryly. Jamie only looks slightly ashamed.
Harry shakes his head, a laugh starting. "No, although I'm glad the boys were kind enough to do so on my behalf. I'm afraid I'd no idea about all of this." He waves a hand in a circular motion, trying to encompass the enormity of what's right before him. This. His twins. Draco. All together.
"Yes. Well." Draco toys with a small fork on the side of his plate. "I only very recently became aware of it myself." The look he gives the boys is fondly exasperated. "Recently being Saturday evening, that is."
"Right." Harry gestures to the chair in front of him. "May I sit? Seeing as how I'm a horrid host, and I forgot the invitation." He fears his knees might buckle if he doesn't take his weight off of them, although his shock is receding enough that he can see the rest of the room now and hear the quiet noises around them.
Draco picks up his water glass and takes a sip. "If you like." He sounds bored, but his eyes are fixed on Harry's face.
"Here, Dad." Jamie's hand brushes across Harry's elbow, pushing him towards the table as he pulls the chair out for Harry. Somehow Harry manages to get into it without humiliating himself in front of God, his children, and the man he'd been arse over tit for eleven years ago. Scorpius smiles at him from across the table. Christ. He looks so much like Draco. Even the graceful way his hand moves as he brushes a stray lock of fringe off his forehead. How did Harry not notice?
"I've ordered a full tea," Draco says, "although I suppose we could send for a whisky if you'd like?"
Harry just nods, watching as Draco motions to the waiter.
"A Macallan, please, for my friend" Draco says. "I think the eighteen-year-old." He glances at Harry. "Neat and perhaps it should be a double."
"Thanks," Harry says as the waiter disappears.
Draco just shrugs. "You look like you could use a drink." His mouth quirks to one side, and God, how Harry remembers that particularly wry look of amusement. "Believe me when I say I've had more than one myself this weekend." His gaze slips to the boys, and Harry's follows. They have their heads together, murmuring across the table.
"God, that's weird." Harry only realises he's spoken aloud when Draco laughs.
"Completely." Draco turns back to Harry, and Harry's pretty certain he could lose himself again in those grey eyes. God knows he has before. "So."
Scorpius pipes up then. "Dad's Head Auror now. Did you know that, Father?"
"I had heard," Draco says over the rim of his glass, and Harry feels his cheeks heat. "Through the grapevine and all."
"And Father's at Harvard," James adds. "With tenure." His nose wrinkles. "Whatever that is."
"It's very prestigious," Scorpius shoots back."Particularly at Father's age."
Draco laughs. "Your father is not quite the bright young thing he once was."
"I wouldn't say that." Harry accepts the glass of whisky from the tray, eyes locked to Draco's. He takes a smoky sip and feels the rich golden burn travel down his throat into his chest. He's surprised when two faint spots of colour rise on Draco's pale cheeks.
"Although I'm still among the younger Associate Professors," Draco continues, and Harry's almost positive Draco's staring at his mouth. Or maybe that's just a bit of wishful thinking.
Harry just watches him for a moment. "Then you made the right choice," he says quietly, and suddenly the air between them is charged and tense. Harry curses himself. "I mean..." He trails off, then sighs. "I'm glad you found a uni spot. Yale must have been pretty good and all."
Draco's silent for a long moment, then he nods, and Harry's shocked that Draco didn't lose his temper at him, the way he used to when Harry'd said something ridiculously inane. "Thank you," he finally says, and Harry just leans back in his chair, surprised even more. "And it was."
"How long are you planning on staying?" Harry takes another swallow of his whisky. He's hoping he'll have time to--he doesn't know what, really. Talk to Draco? Meet him again? Fuck him? He suppresses that last thought with another swallow. He really shouldn't let his brain go down that path again.
The boys are watching them intently. Draco looks slightly uncomfortable, and he glances away from Harry's most likely too-open face. Harry's never been able to hide what he wants from Draco. Not after the first time they shagged, at least. Harry can still see the room at the Three Broomsticks if he closes his eyes, see the hesitant and willful expression on Draco's face.
"Soon." Draco straightens his shoulders as the tea trolley arrives, filled with cakes and scones and tiny sandwiches that the waiter unloads onto their table. Jamie and Scorpius both reach for the clotted cream at the same time, and for a moment Harry thinks they might have a duel at six paces with bread knives. Draco picks up the teapot and pours, adding the milk to Harry's with a heavy hand, just the way he likes it. Harrys oddly pleased that he remembers. "Scorpius and I have a Portkey back to the States tomorrow afternoon."
"What?" Jamie and Scorpius say in unison, and their fathers look over at them.
"Father." Scorpius's tone drips with dismay. "I thought Jamie and I'd have some time--"
His brother interrupts him. "I mean, it's not as if you haven't hidden us both from each other for eleven years." Jamie scowls at Draco. "It's not fair!"
Harry takes his napkin out of his lap and sets it gently on the table. "I think Draco and I should go outside and have a little chat while you both destroy the scones. But leave a few iced cakes or your father will go mental." He gives them a quelling look. "Trust me."
Draco snorts, but stands, slipping out of the banquette as he straightens his suit jacket. He looks bloody fantastic in Muggle clothing. "Fine, Pot--" He stops himself. "Harry."
Harry doesn't wait for him to follow; he just turns on his heel, hoping that Draco doesn't notice his shaking hands. He makes it into the black-and-white tiled foyer before he looks back, and Draco's right next to him. Harry can smell his cologne: it's tart and light and Harry has a mad urge to lean in and drag his tongue along the sharp angle of Draco's jaw. He can't control himself around him; he's never been able to. The thought of their sons gawking at them is the only thing keeping him in check. That, and Draco would probably hex his balls off for touching him.
"I can't believe you actually trust them in there alone," Draco says, walking over to one of the heavy, black leather club chairs beside the fireplace and sitting down. He crosses one impossibly long leg over the other, and Harry catches a glimpse of a silver grey sock on a slim ankle.
Harry takes the chair next to him. The leather creaks as he sits down, and Harry stares into the empty fireplace, trying to settle himself. His heart's thudding like a school boy's. "I trust them more than I'd trust us," he says lightly, and he doesn't realise how that sounds until Draco raises a single eyebrow at him. Harry feels his face heat. "You know what I mean."
"Not entirely," Draco says with a small smile. He tucks a stray lock of hair behind one ear. Harry likes the way it's cut, longer in the front than it used to be, framing Draco's angular face. He can still remember the way Draco's hair felt in his hand, soft and silky and thick strands twined around his fingers as Draco arched beneath Harry, his legs wrapped around Harry's waist. "Harry." Draco's voice is soft. "Don't go there."
"What?" Harry blinks slowly. "I haven't said a thing."
"You've said volumes." Draco brushes a hand over his trousers. He meets Harry's gaze warmly. "I believe you wished to discuss the boys."
Harry nods, grateful for a topic he can be more sure of, even though it's so new. "I don't think we should separate them right now."
Draco tenses. "Don't."
"Don't what?" Harry's confused--and taken aback by the fierce look that crosses Draco's face.
"If you think you're taking away my son--"
And Harry gets it then. Shit. "No." Harry shakes his head, and he raises his hand, stopping himself before he actually touches Draco's clenched hand. "All I meant was, I think they need a week or so before saying goodbye again. That's all."
Draco's shoulders relax. "Oh."
"I'm not going to take Scorpius from you," Harry says gently. "Nor prevent Jamie from seeing you. They're your children. You carried them. I'm not that enormous of a prat."
"One never knows," Draco murmurs, but he's smiling slightly again. "But at least you remember who went through nine months of elephantine hell."
Harry snorts. "I could never forget that. The whinging when you hit twenty-one weeks alone was epic."
Draco's hand settles lightly on his stomach, his fingers smoothing across his suit jacket. "Perhaps you might have considered that when you got me up the duff with twins."
"It wasn't really a conscious decision." Harry suppresses a laugh because he's still not sure how skittish Draco is. "At least, the twin part. I do remember how it happened."
"Hmm." Draco's mouth twitches. "I suppose it was inevitable, given the amount of time we spent in bed." His eyebrow rises once again. "Not to mention the monumental nature of your ego."
Harry grins at him. "Potter sperm, baby."
Draco looks around the foyer, clearly exasperated. "Be couth. Please."
"Always." Harry leans forward, his elbows on his knees. "Stay with us."
For once, Draco looks startled. "What?"
Harry twists his fingers together. "We're still in the Noel Road house and your old study is the spare room. Remember how close it is to the library?"
"Oh," is all that Draco says.
Harry can't stop himself. "It's just that I think it'd be good for the boys, right? They could spend all day together, and we wouldn't have to worry about ferrying them between Mayfair and Islington." He hesitates. "And I'm at work all day, so I wouldn't be a bother to you. And Jamie has free run of the Burrow and Ron and Hermione's house during hols and you know Scorpius would be more than welcome, seeing as how he's been doing it for almost three weeks already."
For a moment he's certain that Draco will say no. Christ, anyone in their right mind would, Harry knows that. And the way they've been looking at each other, Harry wouldn't blame him for saying it was too risky. But Harry wants it, he wants it so much, not just for himself but truly for the two boys stuffing themselves on baked goods in the next room and this strange little family that has been brought back together.
And then Draco nods, slowly. Cautiously. "Perhaps you have a point," he says. "The boys..."
"Yeah." Harry glances back towards the Reading Room. "They're right, you know. We've kept them apart for so long--we can't take them away from each other."
A look of pain twists across Draco's face before his features smooth out again. "So it's to be six months on, six months off, or some sort of ridiculous trans-Atlantic custody arrangement like that, then."
"No," Harry says. "We're not deciding anything like that right now. They have their separate lives and they'll go back to them after this week. But we're going to have to figure out a way for them to be a part of each other's lives. And ours." He tries to catch Draco's eye. "Let's just start with this week. Can you agree to that?"
"I might have some research I could occupy myself with," Draco says, evading the question. "And I'd rather invest the time here now than listen to them complain after, much less tie up the Floo."
A wave of relief surges through Harry. "So that's a yes."
Draco nods curtly. "Yes." He twists the button of his suit jacket between his fingertips for a moment, then looks at Harry. "You've done well with him," he says. "James."
Harry smiles faintly. "Thanks. He's a good kid. So's Scorpius, for that matter."
"I know." Draco's mouth quirks up at one side. "Although horribly spoiled by his grandparents. Or their grandparents, I suppose, given that Jamie had a taste of that lately. Not that he didn't wrap them around his little finger, of course."
"Of course." Harry stands up and holds a hand out to Draco. "Should we go tell the little beasts? I'm rather certain it'll make their life at the moment."
Draco's fingers curl around his, and Harry's breath nearly stops at the warmth of his touch. He pushes himself out of the chair, steadying himself against Harry. "If they've eaten my iced cakes you can have them both. For eternity."
Harry just laughs. He feels happier than he has in years.
Perhaps he shouldn't think about that too closely.
The boys are already racing up the stairs, both his and Jamie's luggage bouncing against the steps between them. Draco stops at the sitting room, looking in. The furniture's changed. He never would have chosen that sofa; it's far too big for the space it's in, but Harry's always liked to stretch out on the sofa with the newspaper on weekend mornings and doze. This one was obviously purchased with that in mind. The chimneypiece's filled with photographs of various Weasleys and their spawn, and Draco recognises a few more of their schoolmates as he steps closer. He picks up a photograph of his cousin Luna--second, once removed, thank God--and her two platinum-haired twins. He looks over at Harry.
"Runs in the Malfoy genes evidently," Harry says with a laugh. "That's Lorcan and Lysander. They're almost four now."
"Tempus fugit," Draco murmurs as he sets the photograph back among the frames. He turns and his gaze falls on a rocking chair, solid and wide enough to seat two people, the seat and back upholstered in leather. "Oh." He walks over to it, his hand stretching out to brush fingertips across the polished wood of the arm. The chair squeaks softly as it moves beneath his touch, and Draco can't stop himself from sitting in it. He closes his eyes and rocks back, once, twice, and his throat tightens as he remembers the sleepless nights of that first year, both he and Harry sitting here, rocking the boys as they fed them, soothed them, rubbed hard little bellies swollen with colic.
When he looks up again, Harry's eyes are fixed on him. Draco lets his hand smooth over the empty seat next to him. The leather's buttersoft to his touch. "You kept it," Draco says finally.
Harry just nods. "Jamie likes it." He steps closer, and then he's sitting beside Draco, his shoulder pressed to Draco's. It's oddly comfortable. "I spent a lot of nights in here with him after..." Harry trails off for a moment, then sighs. He doesn't look at Draco. "Neither one of us could sleep well."
Draco wants to tell him how difficult it'd been for him too. He'd been mostly alone in a new country with a small baby, hoping every time the Floo rattled that it'd be Harry finally coming to bring them back home--and every time his mother or father or Pansy or Blaise stepped out, his heart would break just that little bit more.
Instead, he just looks at the row of small awards on the bookcase across from him. Harry follows his gaze, and then chuckles.
"Those are Jamie's." At Draco's puzzled look, he clarifies. "From primary school. He was always top of his class in maths."
Draco stands up and walks over to the bookcase, studying the tiny trophies and boxed medals engraved with Jamie's name and the year. "You sent him to Muggle school."
"Well, yeah." Harry's behind him now, and Draco tries not to shiver at the warmth of Harry's breath on the back of his neck. Harry reaches past him and picks a medal up. "This one was his pride and joy in Year Three."
"Football?" Draco says, appalled. "Really, Harry." He turns and Harry right there, so close that Draco could reach out and pull him into a slow heated kiss.
If Draco wanted to do such a thing. Which he most certainly does not.
"I can't believe you schooled him with Muggles," Draco says because he knows that will annoy Harry.
Harry's mouth turns down slightly, but he doesn't rise to the bait. Entirely. "I suppose you had Scorpius tutored at home."
"Only for the first year," Draco admits. "The wizarding academy in Concord has a primary level."
"Concord?" Harry's brow furrows. "I thought you were at Harvard. Isn't that in Boston?"
Draco takes Jamie's football medal from Harry, turning it between his fingers. "Close by. Harvard's in Cambridge; I live in Concord with Mother and Father." He's impressed by the way Harry hides his flinch; if Draco didn't know him as well as he does, he'd not even notice.
"Oh. Right. Of course." Harry shoves his hands in his trouser pockets, utterly destroying the line of his suit. "How are your parents?"
"Well, thank you." Draco smiles faintly at Harry's discomfort. "Mother sends her affection, of course."
Harry's face brightens. He's always had a bit of a soft spot for Narcissa; it's Lucius he'd claimed he hadn't been able to abide, but frankly, Draco suspects that Harry and his father actually enjoyed their mutual animosity. It gave them something to bond over in an entirely irritating way. "Is she still gardening?"
Draco sighs. "She's a secateurs-wielding, one-witch justice league for the poor benighted plants of the community, saving Concord from terrible gardening one beleaguered rosebush at a time."
Harry laughs, then, a warm and wonderful chuckle that sends a shiver down Draco's spine. "You've been reading Scorpius's comics."
"It's impossible not to," Draco mutters, setting Jamie's medal back on the shelf. "The damned things are everywhere, and he has Father encouraging him--"
Draco looks at Harry in surprise. "Oh. I suppose you wouldn't know. Father evidently shared Scorpius's interest when he was younger. I hold him fully responsible for this ridiculous phase of Scorpius's, but he's also supported Scorpius in his artwork, so..."
"I think I've seen some of that," Harry says. "He's quite good."
Draco smiles fondly, shaking his head. There are sketches of everything and everyone papering various walls of the Concord house. None of them can bear to tell Scorpius to take them down. "I should certainly hope so, the amount of time he spends with his nose in that sketchbook. Although his Charms marks seemed to suffer this year because of it."
"Maybe he should have Jamie help him with that. Top of his class in Charms and History of Magic. Utter shit at Potions."
"Sadly, so is his brother," Draco admits. "Severus would be horrified."
Harry just grins, and Draco can't look away from him. Harry's gaze falls to Draco's mouth. Draco's breath catches as Harry leans just a hair's breadth closer.
"Draco," Harry murmurs, and Draco shifts then, sidestepping Harry. His stomach twists and churns.
"I should..." Draco doesn't look at Harry. "You said the spare room was my old study?"
Harry clears his throat. "Yeah."
Draco nods. "I have reading I should catch up on and an article to revise," he says, and he's amazed at how calm his voice is when inside he's shaking. "I'm certain you've Head Auror-y things to prepare for work tomorrow."
That earns him a small smile. "Head Auror-y. Yeah. I probably should firecall Fiona for the red box."
"Ah, the toils of those in Government," Draco quips. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown?"
"I'm not particularly certain heading the Auror department qualifies for that," Harry points out. "It's not like I'm the Head of the MLE."
Harry shakes his head. "Not for quite a while, thanks. I need to get Jamie through Hogw--" He breaks off and looks at Draco. "I suppose we'll have to discuss schooling at some point."
"Possibly." Draco doesn't want to admit that Scorpius's Hogwarts letter arrived last summer and he'd incinerated it with a flick of his wand and sent a strongly worded refusal back to McGonagall. He hadn't wanted Scorpius coming here to find out about his family history. They'd kept it from him for so long. And now.... Draco sighs. There's another discussion he suppose will be forthcoming. There's no sense in hiding it now. "But not tonight," he says to Harry, and Harry nods.
Draco's almost to the sitting room door when Harry says his name and he looks back, his hand on the door frame.
"Thanks for staying," Harry says quietly. He looks slightly morose in his rumpled suit and unruly hair, and Draco sees so much of their sons in him at that moment. His heart twists painfully.
"The boys need to be here," Draco says. He looks away. He refuses to admit that he might need to be as well. "Perhaps we'll talk in the morning, Harry."
He flees before Harry can answer.
His whole body feels on fire now, and it's mad, he knows. And it's nearly half eleven when Harry belatedly realises, seated at his desk surrounded by piles of paperwork, that he hasn't even thought about Penelope for--Christ--nearly an entire day. Guilt washes over him. After all he's said, after the way he pushed Jamie--Scorpius, rather--about coming to terms with Penelope...Draco just waltzes back into Harry's life and all Harry can think about is him.
Harry runs a hand through his hair with a breathy huff through clenched teeth. He stares at his paperwork for a good quarter hour, then flicks his wand and buzzes Fiona. A moment later she sticks her head in his door, curly hair a thick halo around her dark face.
"Hypothetical question for you, O dating queen." Harry leans back in his chair, lacing his hands behind his head. "If you were seeing someone but you knew you might still be interested in an ex, do you have an ethical requirement to inform the person you're seeing now--or do you just wait for the idiotic interest in your ex to die down?"
Fiona sighs and comes into his office, closing the door behind her. "Is this ethical dilemma about you?"
Harry frowns at her. "No." He shifts in his chair. "A friend."
"Right." Fiona sits across from him, smoothing her bright turquoise robe over her crossed legs. "And what kind of interest do you--I mean, does your friend--have in this ex? Is it just sexual?"
Harry shifts in his chair, suddenly uncomfortable. "Hey."
Fiona shrugs. "I need to know the parameters if you're going to ask my advice."
"No," Harry says slowly. "It's not just sexual. I mean...there are other things involved. Kids and such. They had a life together."
"Oh, Christ, Harry." Fiona gives him a long-suffering look. "Just admit you're in still in love with Jamie's mum, whoever she is."
Harry hesitates, then decides what the hell. "Whoever he is, actually. And he's quite real, I assure you."
Fiona's mouth opens in a small o. "My God. I thought it was too outrageous to be true."
"What?" Harry frowns at her.
"The goss." Fiona looks slightly uncomfortable. "I mean, it's just the older people mostly talking, but they said you and Draco Malfoy..." She bites her lip. "Well, before the Malfoys all disappeared."
"For fuck's sake, they didn't disappear; this isn't Stalinist Russia and we didn't send them off to the gulags in the dark of night. They just moved to the States, which is possibly the same, so okay, fine." Harry sighs. Jesus Christ. It's not like he's tried to hide Jamie's parentage--well, fine. Okay, he has. But he knew it'd be entirely impossible to hide everything. Too many people knew about his relationship with Draco, and while they'd done everything they could to keep Draco's pregnancy out of the press, there were still whispers and rumours. Harry rolls his quill across his blotter with one finger. "As for me and Draco...well, it's not untrue," he says finally. "But there's a little more to it."
Fiona's eyebrow goes up and she leans in. "Yeah?"
And it's then Harry realises how good it feels to talk openly about it after all these years. "Jamie has a twin. Scorpius. Draco raised him. And, long story short, the boys found each other and switched places and now my ex--" My gorgeous, irritating, amazing ex, he thinks. "--is sleeping in my spare room for the week."
The silence stretches out between them.
Fiona lets out a low whistle and Harry shrugs and rubs a hand across the back of his neck. It is a pretty incredible story, now that he hears it aloud.
"And," Fiona says finally, measuredly, " you think you should tell Penelope. Because you might still have feel--"
Harry squirms in his chair, then picks up a quill and starts fidgeting with it. "I didn't say that. I said interest."
"Men." Fiona points her long finger at him. "You need to admit emotional intimacy is not the end of the world."
"I'm fine with emotional intimacy," Harry protests. "As long as it isn't with Draco."
Fiona shakes her head and pushes herself out of the chair. "You, boss, have serious issues. And could possibly use a visit or two to a Mind-Healer. How did you father two children without emotional intimacy?"
"Thanks for the advice," Harry grumbles. He knows how cocked up this situation is. It's impossible not to. It's just that he doesn't want to think about his feelings for Draco. They've been there for years, simmering under the surface, and he'd thought he had them in check. He thought he was finally going to be able to move on from Draco, to have some semblance of a normal life again, and then Draco's here again, ripping away the plasters he's patched his wounded heart up with, and Harry suddenly realising that he can't keep those feelings in check any longer. And that maybe he doesn't want to. Christ. He's buggered six ways from Sunday, and this is going to hurt.
At the door, Fiona looks back. "You should tell her though," she says tightly, and Harry suddenly realises she might be speaking from experience. "No woman deserves to be the second choice."
When she closes the door behind her, the windows in Harry's wall shake. He thinks maybe she has a point.
Anthony ushers him to a corner table and he waits impatiently until Penelope arrives in a rush of sweet floral perfume, high heels, and tailored linen robes. "So sorry, Harry. You know how Kingsley is when he's irritated yet again with the Wizengamot."
When she leans in to kiss his cheek, Harry pulls away slightly, and she frowns, sliding into a chair across from him.
"Is something wrong?" she asks, and she smiles up at their usual waiter. "Hello, Anthony."
"Miss Clearwater," Anthony says, pouring her a glass of wine. He steps a discreet distance away.
Penelope turns back to Harry, lifting her glass to her lips. "Harry?"
"Draco's back," Harry blurts out, and Penelope stills. "In England, I mean."
"Oh," she says after a moment, and she sets her glass back down. "Really?"
Harry just looks at her, then nods. "It seems we sent the boys to the same camp."
"How fateful," Penelope says lightly. "I take it they figured out the familial connection."
If he's honest with himself, Harry's rather ridiculously proud that they did and then exploited their knowledge. "Yeah. They wanted to be together." He twists his napkin around his fist. "And now Draco's sleeping in my spare room for the rest of the week."
Penelope doesn't say anything.
"It's...complicated," Harry says, just to fill the silence between them. The bustle of the restaurant fades behind them.
"I can only imagine." Penelope tucks a lock of dark hair behind her ear. "And now?"
Harry picks up his whisky and drains it. He raises it to Anthony who nods and slides away, hopefully towards the bar. "I don't know."
Penelope twists the stem of her wine glass between her fingertips. "Are you sleeping with him?"
"God!" Harry shakes his head vehemently. "No."
"But you want to," Penelope says, glossy lips pressed together.
Harry doesn't answer. He just takes the glass of whisky Anthony set down and knocks back half of it.
"I see." Penelope pushes her wine glass away. "Well."
Harry looks up at her then. "I'm sorry, Penny. It's just..." He rubs at his jaw. "Draco and I..."
Penelope gives him a small smile. "Harry, I knew that the first time you told me about him. You're not exactly discreet."
"I like to think I am," Harry says wryly.
She shakes her head. "You might as well give up that illusion."
Harry runs a fingertip along the rim of his whisky glass. "I told Jamie about you. Well. I thought it was Jamie at the time, but--" He breaks off and laughs. "God, it's just too ridiculous of a story."
Penelope lays her hand over Harry's. "Look, may I speak frankly? I think, perhaps--" and she says this in a gentle tone, "--you might have thought this situation between us was more serious than it is? I never cared if you told Jamie. I never cared if you wanted to keep it a secret. I just liked having sex with you--and going out from time to time. You're a nice bloke, Harry, and you're great fun. But--"
"Are you breaking up with me?" Harry asks with a laugh.
"Yes," Penelope says, and that's what Harry's always liked about her, really. That blunt directness. "You have kids. I like kids well enough on occasion, and from what I can tell Jamie sounds quite lovely, but I've never seen myself as a maternal figure. And you want to settle down, which I'm not ready for either." She squeezes Harry's hand. "The sex was brilliant, don't get me wrong, but I also know when some guy who's sleeping me is still in love with his ex. And there comes a point when that's just not what I'm interested in."
Harry thinks he should be offended, but he's not. He's relieved. Fantastically, wonderfully, amazingly relieved.
"I'll definitely miss your cock, though," Penelope says, flashing a bright grin at him. She brushes her hair back off her shoulders again. "Terribly unfair, that. Head Auror and brilliantly hung."
Warmth floods Harry's cheeks. "Pen."
Penelope picks her wine glass back up again. "In recompense, I'll allow you to buy me a horribly overpriced lunch and expense it to your account."
"Under what itemisation? Breakup expenses?"
"Something of that sort. Fiona'll know." Penelope takes a sip of wine. "It'll be a lovely front page article for the Prophet in a few years. Head Auror has Ministry pay for kicking girlfriend to the kerb, or some such rot from Skeeter's pen."
"I'm going to miss you, you realise."
Penelope motions for Anthony. "Of course you will, darling. Just for the love of Merlin, stop pretend it's not obvious how you feel about Draco. Perhaps even do something about it. If you cast me aside for nothing, I'll be quite put out."
"Right," Harry says glumly into his whisky. "And there's the rub. I've no idea what to do about it. What I should do about it."
"Perhaps it's a touch out of line for the woman you've only just broken up with to advise you on how to rekindle love with your old flame, but..." Penelope picks up a roll from the basket between them, breaking off a small chunk and buttering it. "I must say, taking him to bed and reminding him again how gifted you are in that particular environment might be a good start." She sets the butter knife down on her plate and eyes him speculatively. "Particularly given how terrible you are with words. Actions, darling, speak much, much louder."
Harry can't argue with that logic.
"Parents are morons," Pip's voice comes cheerily from the green flames on the hearth. "I thought we'd established that years ago."
"Truth," Scorpius mumbles from his slump. "But it doesn't solve anything."
Jamie nods in wholehearted agreement. "The fact remains that we can barely get them into the same room together. Every time we've got Father in one room, Dad suddenly needs something from his room or back at his office, if it's really bad."
"Yeah. And every time Dad has some time to spend with us, Father suddenly has to stay late at the archive." Scorpius has his head on his arm. Jamie resists the urge to pat him on the shoulder. He knows how his twin feels--they need a solution. And they've been trying for days.
Rose squeaks, and both Jamie and Scorpius swivel to look at her.
"What?" Pip says from the fireplace. "What's going on? Damn International Floo. Don't make me come over there."
A look of wonder crosses Rose's face, and Jamie can feel hope swelling suddenly in his chest. She only gets still like this when she has An Idea.
"I've got it." Rose says. "Dinner. At the Burrow. All together."
Scorpius cocks an eyebrow. "Really? Father will never agree. Weasleys and all." At Rose's glare, he shrugs. "No offence. Evidently he's not fond of you lot? I've always wondered why he had such a dislike of gingers."
"That's prejudice." Rose sniffs and twirls a lock of bright red hair around her finger.
"I, for one, think red hair is stunning," Pip says from the hearth, and both Jamie and Scorpius give him a disgusted look. Pip snorts. "You know, it's really disturbing when you do that together."
Rose laughs. "Isn't it just? It's enough to chill your blood sometimes." She fake-shivers. "Creepy."
"Right. Whatever. Rose, your idea's brilliant," Jamie says, ignoring the obvious flirting between his cousin and Scorpius's oldest friend because, yeah, he can't deal with it right now. They have bigger fish to fry. "We do have to get them both there, but it's better if there are more adults so they can't escape."
"You have to socially obligate him." Pip props his chin on his fist which looks really weird floating in the flames, Jamie thinks. "Make it so he can't back out. You know how Uncle Draco is."
Scorpius nods, and they trade a knowing look. Jamie wishes he understand all of what they're conveying without speaking. He'll ask Scorpius about it later, but some things about his other family he knows he's just going to learn with time.
"Make sure he doesn't overdress, too." Pip says. "You know how our parents get when they're nervous."
"God, do I ever." Scorpius laughs. "Remember Aunt Pansy's Norita Takehana shoes for the parish picnic?"
Pip grins. "She still hasn't forgiven the rector for ruining them by deciding to hold the picnic in that awful field, darling." His voice slides into a decent mimicry of a posh woman--or at least what Jamie assumes a posh woman sounds like. He hasn't ever met too many of them. He feels a flare of jealousy when both Scorpius and Pip snicker. It's not that he resents his twin's friend. Not exactly. It's just...well. Even if he and Scorpius just found each other, Scorpius is still his brother, damn it, and Pip Zabini better remember that.
Scorpius is still grinning when he looks over at Jamie. His smile slips a bit. "You okay?"
Jamie only then realises that he's scowling. He gives his twin a small nudge of his shoulder. "Course I am."
Scorpius relaxes against him. He picks up his pencil and starts to doodle in the corner of his sketchbook. "So, the question is, how do we work it so Father has to come?" He wrinkles his nose. "He can be awfully difficult when he wants to be."
Rose and Jamie look at each other. "Gran?" Rose asks, tugging at her hair. "I mean Mum might be able to, but she's so busy right now, and if we ask Dad, he'll want to know why, and once he figures it out he'll tell Uncle Harry and then we're bollocksed." She purses her mouth. "So I think it'd have to be Gran. She'll just be thrilled to see you both again. I heard Mum telling Dad that last night, that she wished Uncle Harry would bring you both over." She grins at Scorpius. "Gran's an old softie at heart. You'll love her. Everyone does."
Jamie considers, biting on the tip of his thumb. "Yeah, that might work. But Gran has to lean on Dad, and then Dad has to bring it to Father, I think." He looks around the room at the others. Rose nods; Scorpius looks thoughtful. "Right?"
"Too easy," Pip says. He shakes his head. "Parents never trust anything that simple. I mean, your dad might buy it, Jamie, but there's no way Uncle Draco won't be suspicious."
"He has a point," Scorpius says slowly. "And Father would probably find some way to slide out of it, even with Dad and your Gran hounding him."
Pip nods. "Exactly. I'm afraid you have to do it, boys. Lay it on thick about being separated from each other and how you want a family dinner, all together, with Rosie and everyone."
Scorpius and Jamie look at each other. They can do this, Jamie thinks. An answering smile twists Scorpius's mouth.
"Tomorrow?" Rose asks. "It's soon, I know, but in case we fail, we still have Sunday to work with. And Gran's always ready to throw a feast at a moment's notice. I think she misses cooking regularly for seven."
Pip nods his a fiery head. "Absolutely tomorrow. Rosie, you get your Gran on board right now. Tell her to ask your Uncle Harry, pretty please." He bats his eyelashes and Jamie wants to tell him he looks like a dork--a brilliant dork, sure, but still a dork--but he's afraid Rose and Scorpius both will deck him.
"Right." Scorpius sits up. "Jamie, you and I will have to work on Father immediately about wanting to do more together. Tonight. So he has time to sulk at the archives tomorrow morning."
Jamie looks at the clock on the chimneypiece. "Dad'll be home in three hours. When did Father say he'd be back from the archive?"
Scorpius's brow furrows. "He didn't, but he usually comes in right after we have supper. But I can firecall the Keeper of the archives and ask him to find Father in the reading room and give him a note. We could probably get him home earlier then."
"That works," Pip says. "If you can actually tear him away from his research."
Jamie grins at his brother. "Feel like having an emergency?"
"Always," Scorpius says.
Operation Get Fathers A Life, Preferably Together is officially a go.
Still, he agreed, and it was almost worth it to see Harry's stunned face.
Now, however, he's wishing he could send his regrets. He's been enjoying his freedom. He's managed to bury himself in the British Library wizarding archives this week--virtually rolling in the smell of old manuscripts and conservation materials--and to avoid all social obligations save one rather pleasant lunch with Aunt Andromeda and young Teddy that he'd brought the twins along to, much to his aunt and cousin's delight. It's been years since Teddy and Scorpius have seen each other, and Draco can't help but wonder how Andromeda had explained the twins to him, given that his blue-haired cousin doesn't seem the slightest bit nonplussed when they arrive. Then again, Teddy Lupin was always an extraordinary child, and at the grand age of fourteen, that doesn't seem to have changed.
All in all, the week's been glorious; under other circumstances, it would be one of the more pleasurable trips of recent memory. But now, here he is, casually attired in soft grey summer-weight trousers and the blue-striped shirt Scorpius convinced him looks good with his eyes, awkward waiting for Harry to gather the wine and his present for Molly.
Draco raps on the solid wood of the chimneypiece with his knuckles and then sifts a little Floo powder through his fingers, watching it trickle and sparkle. He blows it off of his fingertips. He doesn't know what he's doing here; one moment, it's all so natural and the next he can barely breathe from the surprise of Harry and the strange familiarity of the house.
The boys are a joy to see together, two sides of the same coin, two pieces of the same puzzle. Draco watches them cavort and play and run side-by-side, but they're equally close when they are quiet, shoulder to shoulder while Scorpius sketches in his book and Jamie reads Quidditch statistics out loud, or listening to the WWN sprawled on the floor together. The way they tug at his heartstrings, his boys together, his boys. He knows in his heart that he couldn't separate them now if he tried, no matter if they live together or not. They've always been joined in some intrinsic way, and upon this new rediscovery, no one can take that completion away from them, that still wholeness of common birth.
Avoiding that topic, he returns to fretting about his reception chez Weasley. After all these years, he still can't imagine he's welcome at the Weasley family home, despite a number of relations in common and his status as the father of Harry's children. When he and Harry were together, he'd always made excuses not to go to the Sunday dinners Harry loved. First it was the pregnancy, then the babies. Draco hadn't felt right at the time, invading the home of a family who had lost someone in the war, not to mention the fact that Molly Weasley had killed his aunt and his father had evidently allowed the Dark Lord to possess the Weaselette or something along those lines. He'd never been entirely clear about that. But the crux of the matter is that, back then, he had been mostly worried about their reaction to him and how it might hurt Harry.
Now Draco is more concerned about himself. It's childish to worry; he knows this. He shouldn't be so sensitive. It's just a family dinner with a family he knows somewhat, and the children want him to come. The boys seem to both be very fond of Rose, if the amount of time they spend together was any indication. Scorpius is already making noises about having Rose come to visit them in Concord, along with Jamie. Draco doesn't know if his own nerves or those of his parents can stand it, but he's willing to try.
Still, he'd prefer to make his excuses and not go tonight. He'd love to have a quiet dinner and read a bit more into the books he bought at the antiquarian bookshop on Coptic Street. But he can't, he simply can't. It would be too terribly rude to back out now, when he's already given notice that he's coming. Wouldn't it?
Just when he's ready to flee, Harry appears in the doorframe, juggling three bottles of wine and a small cloth bag. When Draco reaches to take something from him, the bag spills open and a skein of fine ivory wool bounces onto the dark planks of the floor. Draco bends to pick it up. "Encouraging her, Potter?"
When he touches it, however, he's amazed by the softness. "It's vicuña," Harry says. "I got it at a convention in Arequipe. I thought Molly'd like to make something for herself for a change."
Draco nods. It's thoughtful, far beyond the capacity of the Harry he once knew. In this moment, holding the almost weightless plied fibers, he realises that Harry has grown now. He's a man and he's a different man to the almost-boy Draco left.
We were so young. he thinks.
Harry shifts the wine bottles to get an arm free and reaches across Draco for the Floo powder. "Here, I'll go first."
Draco nods, smelling the deep Harry smell of him, maleness and warmth and something fresh and indescribably Harry. His body stirs, sense memories overriding his desperate attempts to get out of this week unscathed. Harry's skin is so close and Draco wants. And he cannot have.
He steps to the side to give Harry better access, and bumps into Harry stepping to the same side. Harry grins at him. "You're not trying to escape, are you Draco?"
Draco shakes his head. His voice is barely more than a whisper. "I wouldn't dream of it. But would you'd come after me if I did?" The unspoken this time lingers in the air between them.
Harry opens his mouth to speak, then shuts it. The ticking of the standing clock in the hall is suddenly loud.
"Yes," he says after a long moment, and he doesn't look away from Draco. "Always."
Harry throws the pinch of powder, which explodes into green flames, and steps into them.
Draco follows him, wondering what the hell he's doing. After a swirling, tunneling feeling, he steps out on a flagstone hearth into a warm and inviting kitchen. There are several cooking spells active, and shouts and thunks are coming from throughout the house as the children chase each other.
The first person Draco sees is Molly Weasley. She's older now, her ginger curls streaked with snow, but she's still as he remembers her. She has her back to him and she's peering at a cookery book, wand raised, while a pot steams on the hob to her side. She turns around and the look of concentration on her face smoothes out in wonder as she catches sight of him. "Draco, you made it."
She steps forward to welcome him, holding her arms out. Draco watches as she drops them again, likely unsure of whether he will reciprocate. It's perfectly reasonable given their few, awkward encounters at Harry's insistence many years ago. He smiles as sincerely as he can. "Hello, Mrs. Weasley. Thank you so much for putting up with my terrible children. It's very kind of you to have us all."
Her eyes are bright as she spreads her arms again, and Draco lets himself be pulled into a warm hug. "Welcome to the Burrow. I'm so glad you could make it. And your children are a delight."
"I'll bring these outside to Arthur," Harry says from the corner of the kitchen. "Is he still in love with the Rabbit?"
"Like a schoolgirl with Gilderoy Lockhart," Weasley's voice comes from closer by. Draco can't see past Molly's sleeve, which is blocking his face. "I've never seen a man so obsessed with a corkscrew."
"Oh, Christ, don't remind me of Lockhart." Harry groans "That man was awful."
Mrs Weasley pinches Draco's cheek as she lets him go. "Yes but he was quite a looker," she says over her shoulder. "I wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating cauldron cakes."
Weasley splutters a protest as Harry laughs. "Mum, that's just not right. Not before supper and in front of the children." The door slams behind Harry, and Draco's left alone with Weasleys. He's oddly nervous.
"I do have grandchildren, Ron," Mrs Weasley says, waving her wand vigourously at a sieve full of rocket and drying it. "Which means you must know what i'm talking about after all."
Ron all but moans. "Mum."
When Draco looks up he has a full view of Ron leaning against a side cabinet, glass of wine in hand. If possible, he's grown even more since Draco last saw him; he's certainly filled out with muscle and perhaps the slightest hint of fatherly padding.
"Malfoy," Ron says, lifting his glass in a salute.
"Hullo, Weasley," Draco says. Ron hadn't taken his and Harry's past relationship well. He'd spent all of the time they were together telling Harry he was making an enormous mistake; he'd probably turned the day Draco left into an unofficial holiday.
Weasley's eyes skimming Draco's face and attire. "Harry said you were visiting from Boston. I gather the kids met at Quidditch camp."
"That they did." Draco clears his throat. "Speaking of camp, I hear Rose is an excellent Chaser. The boys can't seem to stop talking about her goals in their final tournament."
Weasley nods again, a slight upturn noticeable on his lips. "She takes after her aunt, Rosie does."
"Whose statistics just get better and better by the year, don't they?" Draco asks, remembering the disappointment Harry's liaison with him had caused across wizarding society, only slightly less than Ginny's own brief liaison with Katie Bell. "I saw her with the Harpies a few years back in Canberra. Her form's excellent. I think she scored half of the points in the match herself. And then of course, there was the World Cup two years ago. England have only themselves to blame, but she was amazing."
At this, Ron beams. "Yeah, she's playing really well. She's thinking about trying coaching eventually, but I think that's a ways off. Although if Moira gets her way, that might change. She's wanting them to start a family soon."
"I like that girl," Molly says from the hob.
Ron rolls his eyes. "Mum, you like anyone who wants to give you more grandkids." He looks back at Draco. "Listen, do you want some wine?"
Draco accepts the glass gratefully and they strike up a conversation about the fate of English Quidditch and international rankings. He's absorbed enough that he doesn't see Harry come back into the room. He realises with a start that he must have been watching them for some time.
Harry nods to Weasley and then flashes a grin at Draco that takes his breath away. "May I have that?"
Draco stares at his wineglass for a moment and then realises he's still holding the small bundle of wool under his arm. "Oh. Of course." He holds the bag out.
Harry's hand brushes Draco's as he accepts the it. Their eyes meet for a long moment before their hands let go. "Right," Harry says, "I'll just take this to Molly then."
Weasley looks between the two of them, a slight frown of concentration settling on his pale, freckled forehead. Draco swallows half of his remaining wine in one swallow. He just has to survive through dinner, then he can make his excuses and leave. As Harry ambles off to deliver the present, Draco most certainly doesn't watch his arse. Much.
Mrs Weasley squeals in delight and Draco drains his glass. Weasley fills it before Draco can ask, his face devoid of expression, and Draco knows he's twigged. Draco is still arse over tit for Harry bloody Potter, and even Ron Weasley knows it. He takes another swallow of wine. He's so fucked.
Harry sets the glasses on the table, and a flash of white-blond hair in the late twilight catches his eye through the wavy glass of the window. Draco's head tilts back, and the smile on Draco's face as he watches their sons on brooms nearly takes Harry's breath away. He's beautiful, Draco is, and no one's ever been able to take his place. Harry knows this now. He doesn't even care if that makes him pathetic.
"Mate," Ron says from behind him, and Harry doesn't even look away from Draco. His heart twists as Draco applauds some ridiculously daring move on Jamie's part--and really, he probably shouldn't even been on the broom as it is, given his sprained ankle's still wrapped tightly in gauze and a poultice that reeks of yarrow. Mad boy.
"Hmm?" Harry flinches as Jamie barely misses colliding with eight-year-old Fred. "What the hell is George thinking?"
"Nothing's changed, has it?" Ron's voice is soft but clear.
Harry turns around then. "What?"
"With you and him, I mean." Ron gestures with his glass out of the window. He doesn't meet Harry's gaze but rather focuses his eyes on the scene outside.
"Oh." Harry feels his cheeks warm. He glances back at Hermione. She's wiping her hands on a tea towel, watching them sideways. Harry runs a hand through his hair. "He's the father of my kids, Ron."
"Mmmm. Is that all he is?" Ron takes a sip of his wine and continues to watch the game as though they were talking about Quidditch and not the most important thing in Harry's life.
Harry doesn't answer, not right away, and then he sighs. "No. It's not." His eyes prickle hotly, and his throat closes. He swallows past it. "You know that."
Ron meets his gaze then. "I do. But I think it's more important for you to know that. I mean, yeah, okay, he's Malfoy, but he's always been the one, mate."
"I know." Harry's known that since the first time he and Draco ended up in bed together, that horrible year after the war. Everything had been so chaotic, and he'd been so alone. And then he'd found Draco drinking in a pub on a Saturday night, alone and bitter and terrified, and when he'd offered to buy Harry a drink, Harry'd agreed. This handshake he hadn't refused. They'd woken up twined together the next morning, and it'd been another three years before Draco'd finally pulled away and left him, left them.
"Have you thought of telling him?" Ron asked, and his quiet earnestness twists through Harry, painfully. "Seeing as how he's the father of your children and all."
Harry rubs at a smudge on the window, smearing it more. "I don't think it would do any good. What the hell am I supposed to say, anyway?" Harry's voice rises, a touch of anger tingeing it. "By the way, I'm in love with you, you sodding bastard? Even if you ran away from me eleven years ago with one of my babies?"
"Yeah. You just tell him, even though it won't do any good. Up Gryffindor and all that." Ron grips Harry's forearm, hard, and Harry remembers how strong his best friend is. "You know you won't forgive yourself if you don't."
Harry feels his face crumple. The fight ebbs out of him. "I love him, Ron."
"I know," Ron says quietly. "I always have, as much as it pains me to admit. Now that we're older, I understand how unusual that is."
"Yeah." Harry wraps his arms around himself. He looks back at Hermione, who's beside her husband now, her arm slipping through his. She's clearly heard everything.
"He loves you, Harry," Hermione says. "I can see it on his face when he looks at you. It's the same look Ron gives me."
They both seem to think this makes it easier. It doesn't. If anything, it makes it twice as hard. Harry glances back out the window. "It's just that there's so much at stake," he whispers.
Hermione reaches for his hand and squeezes it gently. "All the more reason to be brave."
They're silent for a moment, then Harry sighs heavily. "I guess." He thought he was done with being brave, but he supposes he's only just begun.
"Go out there," Ron says gruffly. "Talk to him. Do whatever you need to." He gives Hermione a quick look. "We'll keep the kids tonight."
Harry wants to laugh, but he can't. "You're offering to babysit so I can shag Draco Malfoy?"
Ron shrugs. "I suspect I'll have to get used to it." He grins then, a bright smile that crinkles his eyes. "Just try not to get him up the duff again, mate. I think those two out there are a handful enough."
Harry can't exactly argue with that.
"Go," Hermione says, and she pushes Harry towards the door. She smiles. "Have fun."
"Right," Harry says. "More like have my balls handed to me on a silver platter after being spit-roasted and sauteed."
Hermione shrugs. "You picked Draco in the first place. Consider it foreplay."
"You're an awful woman," Harry says. "You do realise that, yes?"
Hermione opens the door to the garden expectantly. "Harry. Don't be a coward."
With a sigh, Harry squares his shoulders and steps out in the unknown.
Seeing them like this fills Draco with an immense guilt for the decade they spent apart. That wasn't one of his and Harry's better moments, he thinks. But they'd been so stupidly immature at the time; perhaps they'd had to grow up to realise what they'd done to their children.
And themselves, his traitorous mind whispers.
"Hey," Harry says from just behind him, and Draco startles and turns. Harry's there, with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans, pulling the waistband lower than it really should go. Draco fights the ridiculous urge to press his mouth against the small sliver of golden skin between the denim and his dark olive t-shirt. And let's not even consider the vee at his throat, showing off Harry's perfect collarbones. Draco can remember a precise hour that he'd spent licking and kissing that beautiful stretch of skin. As he recalls, Harry'd been tied down at the time, but that hadn't prevented him from squirming and bucking his hips between Draco's bare thighs.
"Can we talk?" Harry asks, when Draco doesn't reply.
Draco clears his throat softly. "About?"
"Just talk." Harry says. "I don't know yet what all we need to say because we haven't tried."
"Oh." Draco's heart sinks. That sort of talk. He'd been desperately hoping to avoid it, but he supposes that was an impossible dream. He glances back at the Quidditch going on behind them. "Not here."
Harry nods. "Perhaps we should use Arthur's workshed. It's a bit more private."
Draco wants to say no. He can't. Instead he lifts a shoulder in the most bored approximation of nonchalance he can muster. "Fine."
He follows Harry around the corner of the Burrow, casting only one glance back at their sons up in the air, and into a ramshackle old shed in a side garden. He winces as the wood of the door crumbles a bit on his fingertips. Disgusting. He tries to discreetly wipe them off on his trouser seam.
Inside the shed is cool and dark. There's a workbench along one wall covered with bits and pieces of Muggle electronics and gadgets. Draco can make out the pieces of a toaster, a transistor radio, the beaters from a kitchen mixer, and what he thinks might actually be the dessicated interior of a laptop. He supposes he should be slightly frightened that he can actually tell what they are, but then again, wizards in the States aren't as segregated from their Muggle counterparts, which his father still isn't entirely happy about, despite all of his new halfblood friends.
He sits down on one of the rickety stools next to the workbench and looks up at Harry. "So what do we have to talk about, Potter?"
"I don't know, Malfoy." Harry remains standing with his hands in his pockets. "Perhaps the fact that our sons are desperate to see each other in some fashion and we're going to have to work out the details." He pauses for a moment, and Draco is suddenly terrified of what he's going to say. "Or perhaps we should talk about the fact that I love you."
Draco stares at him. "What?"
"You heard me." Harry doesn't flinch or take his eyes off Draco's face, which utterly unnerves Draco. "I love you."
"You can't. We don't know each other, Harry. It's been eleven years--"
"I do know you," Harry says. "And I've always loved you. I never stopped."
Draco stands up then, turning away from Harry, his heart pounding. He's angry and scared and he doesn't know what to do or to say. He runs his hand through his hair, not even caring that he's most likely streaking it with wood dust. "You can't say that sort of thing. Not now. Not ever."
"You can't tell me what to say just because you don't like it." Harry has a mulish set to his jaw that Draco remembers well. "I don't like it either, but it's true and I can't pretend it's not any longer."
Draco presses a fist to his mouth and breathes out heavily. He shakes his head. "No."
Harry cocks his head. "No what?"
"You stupid Gryffindor." Draco drops his hand. It's shaking. "You stupid, stupid Gryffindor."
"Why not?" Harry moves closer to him, and Draco wants to run, wants to Apparate, wants to do something other than stand here like a foolish idiot. "You're not seeing anyone. Scorpius made certain to tell me that."
At that moment, Draco loathes his meddling son. Really. He does. "Of course he did." He glares at Harry. "You however--"
"I broke up with Penelope two days ago." Harry takes another step, and Draco tries to hide the shiver that goes through him when Harry reaches out and settles his hand on Draco's hip. "Because I realised I still had feelings for you."
"Feelings," Draco scoffs, but his voice hitches at the end, softening as Harry pulls him closer. "Harry--"
"Shut it, and let me be a stupid Gryffindor," Harry whispers, and then his mouth brushes Draco's.
Draco shoves him away. "Stop." He sidesteps Harry and puts a good distance between them before he looks back. "You've lost your goddamned mind."
Harry pushes his hair out of his face. There's a flush on his cheeks from the wine and his eyes are greener than Draco remembers. "I have not. Everybody else seems to know what we can't admit, Draco."
Panic rushes through Draco. "I have no idea what you're on about."
"If even Ron notices, we're being patently obvious about things." Harry's voice has a hard edge to it, but his gaze is soft as it sweeps Draco's face. "It's one thing to say you can't deal with it, but it's quite another to deny it entirely."
"I'm not in love with you, Harry," Draco says, and he means it to be harsh. Instead his voice breaks halfway through, and, horrified, he lashes out. "How could I be in love with someone who never came after me?"
"Draco." Harry raises a hand as if to stop him, then lets it fall.
"You left me there," Draco says hotly. "You left me alone, and you were supposed to come after me. Everyone knew that. Pansy. Blaise. Mother. Even Father didn't understand why you never showed up."
"Well, I'm sorry I didn't get the playbook. I had no fucking idea. You were extremely clear about never, ever wanting to see me again and I thought I was respecting your wishes, you absolutely maddening git." The flush on Harry's cheekbones spreads, staining his throat.
Draco's anger flares higher. "And this was the time that you actually decided you should listen to me. Christ. You utter, fucking wanker!"
"I was twenty-two, perpetually sleep deprived, and I had no fucking clue what I was doing, with you or with the boys." Harry's breath is coming in shallow pants. "I thought you were right when you said that we'd do better separately, that it would be better for them. I'd never do that now."
Draco just looks at him. "I hate you," he says, and then he strides over to Harry, pushing him back against the workbench as he kisses him roughly.
Harry's arms come around him, holding him in place while Harry's tongue does wicked, wicked things to his mouth, and good Lord, when had he learned to kiss like that? Jealousy spikes through Draco, setting his blood on fire. Harry is his, even when they're not together.
Draco rips his mouth away from their fierce kiss and stares into Harry's wide eyes. "How many people have you fucked, Potter?"
Harry's lips brush Draco's throat and Draco arches his neck as gooseflesh rises on his body. "No one else who mattered," Harry says. "And not very many people, if we're being honest."
"Still too many for me," Draco claims his mouth again, biting into the fullness of Harry's bottom lip roughly before licking his way into his mouth. Harry groans and opens his mouth to give Draco full access, angling his hips flush against Draco's and pulling him close with two hands cupping his arse cheeks.
They rub against each other like this, Harry leaning back and Draco sucking at his mouth, and oh, Draco'd forgotten what it feels like to have Harry against him like this, his cock beginning to swell in his trousers. Still, it's hard to get enough friction against the table and with a frustrated noise, Harry breaks the kiss. With his forehead touching Draco's shoulder, he walks Draco backwards until his back hits the wall of the shed.
"You have no fucking idea," Harry gasps, licking Draco's jaw, "how much I want to fuck you. I've been thinking about this for days."
"Me too," Draco sucks in a long breath as Harry's knee wedges between his, Harry's hipbone rubbing into him deliciously and the hardness of Harry's obvious arousal on his thigh. "Why do you think I've been avoiding you all week?"
Harry laughs against Draco's skin, his teeth delicately nipping under Draco's ear. Draco stretches his neck, breathless, letting Harry nuzzle his skin. "So you admit it finally."
"Like you haven't been doing the same," Draco presses a palm between Harry's thighs, his fingers sliding across Harry's swollen cock. He's rewarded with a muffled curse.
Harry retaliates with a hard nip to Draco's earlobe and a nudge, spreading his hips further apart. "Christ, yes. I have. I've been thinking about laying you over my desk in the Auror Office and having my way with you for hours, or finding you in the archives and dragging you back into the stacks to suck you until you beg for mercy."
Draco's eyelids descend and his hips stutter against Harry's. Breathing is becoming more difficult by the second. His hands slide up Harry's firm arms. "I would have let you do anything to me, anything at all. I knew once we started, it wouldn't stop."
Harry gives him a wicked, wicked grin. "Does that mean you'll let me do anything to you now?"
Draco claws his fingernails into the thin cotton covering Harry's shoulders, enjoying the flinch of pain and then flare of lust in Harry's eyes. "Fuck, yes," he chokes out, and he means it. Anything Harry wants, Draco will give to him right now. He's missed this too much, this remarkable way they fit together, their bodies moving in unison. None of the tiny handful of men he's slept with over the past decade have come anywhere near to what he once had with Harry. They hated each other, and then they loved each other, and sometimes Draco's not sure he can tell which from which any more.
Harry's whole body is shaking, and the tremors travel into Draco's body. "Not...Not here. It's not really safe and anyone could find us."
Draco nods, although he wants nothing more than to spread his legs for Harry right here, right now, and damn the consequences. He's far closer to the edge than he has any right to be. It's been so long. "You're probably right," he manages to say against Harry's jaw. "Can you Apparate us?"
In answer, Harry's muscled arms pull Draco against his chest, and Draco hears a distinct pop. Then they're in Harry's bedroom--their old bedroom--and the backs of Draco's knees are meeting the edge of the bed and he's falling backwards onto the thin summer coverlet. Harry catches himself on his arms over Draco, nose almost touching Draco's face. He wriggles his hips against Draco's. "Budge up."
"Clothes, Harry, clothes," Draco says in frustration. Harry rises to his knees to divest himself of his shirt while Draco does the same lying down. He barely gets the sleeve off before Harry is back on top of him again, his trousers open and his hands sliding beneath Draco's hips to knead Draco's arse.
"Fuck, Malfoy. You feel so good, I think it might be illegal," Harry nuzzles Draco's neck with his stubble, then his lips travel lower, finding Draco's nipple. Draco's back arches off the bed into Harry's mouth.
"Perhaps you'll have to apprehend me," Draco says when he can speak again, one hand on Harry's shoulder and the other tracing the ridge through the cotton of his pants. "And then do unspeakable things to me."
Harry looks like his eyes are going to roll back in his head. "Auror brutality fetish, Malfoy? Who would have guessed it?"
"Only for the Head Auror," Draco shoots back, and damn if that doesn't work Harry up further because he all but tears Draco's trousers and pants from his body, then stands up to divest himself of his own.
Draco raises himself on his elbows and looks at Harry's naked form frankly. His shoulders and torso are gorgeously muscled, far more so than Draco remembers, and his abdomen is flat from what must be hours of weekly training. The definition of the ridges next to his hipbones is sharper and lead Draco's eyes down to Harry's cock, which is as gorgeous as ever. Suddenly Draco wants, more than he can say, and it can't happen fast or hard enough.
"I get to be on top," he says, as Harry fumbles in the bedside table for lube. Harry quirks a brow at him and then nods.
"The first time, I imagine," Harry says. "It might be tiring all night."
Draco just grins, balancing on his knees on the hard surface of the mattress. He lets Harry crawl onto the bed, then pounces on him the minute his shoulder blades hit the mattress. They kiss roughly, their teeth clacking. Draco grinds back against Harry, his cock leaking onto Harry's chest as he bends over him, thrusting his tongue into Harry's mouth. Harry's hands cover the cheeks of his arse, prising them apart with strong fingers.
"Now, Draco," Harry says against his mouth. "Now or I'm going to come all over the bed."
Draco grins and grabs the lube. Slicking three fingers, he makes Harry watch as he works one, then two, then three into himself. The flush completely covers Harry's neck and spills down his throat onto his chest. Draco wriggles, finding the right angle and his mouth opens when he does.
As much as he'd like to torture Harry by fucking himself on his fingers and making him watch, Draco knows that neither of them will last long and he does want to come with Harry inside of him. He spreads his lube-slicked hand across Harry's stomach, bracing himself. Harry curls up, his muscles bunching under Draco's hand, and guides himself to Draco's body. Draco feels the thick crown of his prick nudge and then spread him open. It burns and then his muscles move to accommodate him. With a small sigh, Draco settles himself, working himself down on Harry's cock until his arse is touching Harry's hips.
Christ. He'd forgotten what this felt like, to have Harry inside him like this. His eyes flutter closed for a moment, and he lets himself remember how it was to be young and madly, stupidly in love with a boy his father hated and his friends mistrusted. They'd all thought he'd lost his mind, and perhaps he had, but nothing had been like being in Harry's bed for days on end, lost in each other's bodies. Nothing would ever come close.
Harry groans softly and Draco looks down at him then. Harry's beautiful beneath him, his hair black and messy against the pale blue pillowcase. Outside the streetlamps click on, warm pools of orange light in the blue-grey-purple of twilight that cast shadows across the darkening room. Draco lets his one finger trail down Harry's chest, rubbing lightly across his swollen brown nipple. Harry's hands clench Draco's hips hard enough to leave bruises.
"Draco," Harry says, and there's such need in Harry's voice that Draco can't stop the shudder that goes through him. "Please..."
Draco cuts him off with a kiss, letting his arse slide up the length of Harry's cock as he leans forward. He pulls back just enough to whisper, "Do you want me to fuck you, Potter?"
Harry's hips buck up, nearly knocking Draco off him. Draco hisses as Harry's prick slides deeper into his arse. "That'd be a yes," Harry says with a breathy laugh.
Slowly, Draco sits up again, taking Harry into him. His cock is hard and heavy against his stomach and it's already wet and sticky at the tip. He knows he won't last long. He doesn't particularly care. He rolls his hips and Harry's breath catches. Draco smiles. There's nothing better than having this sort of power over the Saviour of the wizarding world. Draco knows Harry would give him anything he wanted right now. Anything at all. Perhaps it's fortunate that all he cares about at the moment is Harry filling his arse with spunk.
He moves carefully at first, almost hesitantly, wanting to drive Harry mad with want. Harry tenses beneath him, digging his heels into the coverlet as he pushes up to meet each press of Draco's hips, and Harry's hands are heavy and hot on Draco's skin as they drag along Draco's thighs, pushing them wider.
"Let me see," Harry says roughly. "Let me see my cock in you," and that's Draco's undoing. He reaches back, balancing himself on his palms as he spreads his legs as far open as he can, and he bounces on Harry's prick, letting it as far into his arse as he can possibly manage.
All Harry can choke out is beautiful, God, you are so fucking beautiful as Draco rides him, his head thrown back, his eyes fluttering closed again, because this all too much. And then there's a sharp pain as Harry's nails scrape along the skin of Draco's thighs, and when Draco looks down at him, Harry's face is tight, and his body arches almost off the bed.
"Do it," Draco rasps, and he leans forward, catching himself as he kisses Harry roughly. "Fill me."
Harry groans into Draco's mouth, and it's gorgeous. He's gorgeous. Draco watches as Harry's eyes widen, and then Harry grabs him, rolling him over so that Draco's pressed into the mattress. Draco wants to protest, but then Harry thrusts into him, and all Draco can do is wrap his long legs around Harry's waist and groan, his fingernails digging into Harry's arms.
"God," Draco nearly keens, and Harry laughs against Draco's throat, his hips snapping against Draco's.
"Something like that," he says, and then his breath catches too as Draco tightens his arsehole with that particular thrust. "Fuck--"
Draco grabs Harry's face and kisses him again. The headboard slams against the wall, over and over and over again, shaking the lamp on the night table. "Harry," he says, "Harry, Harry, Harry--" He groans, and his heels slap against Harry's tight arse.
Harry's hand slides between them, his fingers wrapping around Draco's prick. "Come on, baby," Harry says into Draco's moan, and Draco doesn't even bother to chide him about that idiotic endearment because--oh Merlin--he's afraid if he does Harry will stop doing exactly what he's doing and Draco might just die.
Draco's body tenses, and then Harry's palm smoothes across the wet head of Draco's prick and Draco cries out, arching up against Harry as he comes. Harry keeps stroking him, coating Draco's cock with sticky spunk until Draco can't take it any longer. He grabs Harry's hand, lifting it to his mouth, and he kisses Harry's slick fingers, flicking his tongue out to taste himself on Harry's skin.
"Shit." Harry cups Draco's cheek, and spunk smears across Draco's skin and into his hair. Harry's hips press into Draco's arse, faster, harder. "I need--"
He throws his head back, and Draco can't not touch that long, smooth expanse of sweaty, flushed skin. Harry shudders at his touch and his hips slam into Draco, his cock so fucking hard that Draco can barely bear it, and then he groans again, a harsh guttural gasp of want that makes Draco's spent cock ache once more. Draco spreads his legs wide, pushing up against Harry's body.
"Harry," he says.
That seems to be all Harry needs. He swears and he shoves against Draco once more before he stills, his eyelids fluttering as his hips judder. Draco falls back against the pillow, gasping. He can feel Harry's spunk inside of him, seeping out slowly as Harry pulls back, collapsing beside Draco, breathing hard.
"God," Harry says finally.
"We were always good at this part," Draco murmurs, and he doesn't pull away as Harry's arm slips over his chest.
Harry rests his chin on Draco's shoulder. He kisses the skin there, softly,almost reverently. "We've got all night."
Draco shifts, turning to face him. He lets his fingers trace the angle of Harry's jaw. "The children--"
"Ron and Hermione are going to keep them." Harry turns his head and kisses Draco's fingertips. "All night."
"I never thought I'd be so indebted to a Weasley," Draco murmurs. He's not entirely comfortable with that, he has to admit.
Harry leans over him. "I'm going to kiss you again," he says solemnly. "Just so you know."
Draco doesn't object. In fact, he returns it with interest.
They've an entire night to fill, after all.
"Hey," Harry says, sleepily, and he reaches out to let his fingertips trail along the bumps of Draco's spine. There are bruises and scratches all over his skin, and Harry feels a small twinge of guilt. It disappears when Draco pulls away from his touch and stands, sliding his arms into his shirt. He doesn't look at Harry.
"Hey." Harry sits up, suddenly aware something's wrong. "What is it?"
Draco shakes his head as he walks to the window and looks down at the street below. The morning sunlight shines in his blond hair, warms his pale skin. "This wasn't a good idea," he says finally.
Harry rolls out of bed, not bothering to put on pants. "It seemed like one to me." He walks towards Draco carefully, hesitantly. He knows from experience that Draco in a mood needs to be handled with caution. It's too easy for him to strike out. Painfully.
"You're an idiot, Potter," Draco says, and there's bitterness in his voice. "How did you think this was going to end? Me giving up everything I worked for to be at your beck and call?"
"I hadn't really thought--"
Draco turns then, his eyes sparking. "You never do."
Harry's silent for a long moment, calming himself down from his immediate defensive reaction. There's a pit of dread forming inside of him. "We can work this out," he says slowly. "I want you--"
"You want the idea of me." Draco buttons his shirt. "You want the twenty-one-year-old who left you--"
Harry grabs Draco's arm. "I want you," he insists.
Draco jerks away. His eyes are wild and bright. "Stop saying that," he hisses. "You don't mean it."
"Like usual, you're being incredibly irrational," Harry insists, irritated. "And melodramatic."
Draco's eyes widen. He's out of the room before Harry can stop him, and by the time Harry makes it out to the landing, he can hear the front door slam. Harry swears and sits down on the top stair, his head in his hands. He doesn't know what just happened, but he's pretty certain he fucked something up that he can't make right.
"What happened?" Scorpius asks, dropping his broom--Jamie's broom, actually--and hurrying across the kitchen to peer at his puzzled father's neck.
Draco bats Scorpius's hand away. "What are you doing?"
"Did Dad hurt you?" Scorpius pushes a few locks of Draco's hair back. "You're bruised."
A flush spreads over Draco's face and down his throat. "Oh. No. Just missed a spot." He picks his paper up again, his usual symbol for stop bothering me, brat, but Scorpius can't leave well enough alone.
He sits across from his father and just waits.
The paper lowers again. "What do you want?" Draco asks wearily. "And where's your brother?"
"Loo," Scorpius says. "He drank too much pumpkin juice this morning at brunch. Where's Dad?"
Draco folds the paper and sets it aside. "At the Ministry for a few hours, I suppose."
Scorpius ponders this. He's not entirely certain what's going on, so he supposes the direct approach might at least shock his father into telling him something useful. "Did you have sex last night?"
His father nearly chokes on his tea. "Scorpius."
"So that's a yes?" Scorpius nicks a biscuit from his father's plate. He doesn't even object, which is never a good sign.
"And what might you know about sex?" Draco sidesteps the issue deftly. Scorpius is impressed.
He gives Draco an amused look. "Pip's my best friend, remember?"
His father huffs. "I think I should have a discussion with Blaise when we get home."
Scorpius's stomach drops. "Oh." He and Jamie'd been so sure things were going well and the crisp way his father speaks that last sentence makes it sound final.
Draco eyes him. "Yes, we're still leaving tomorrow. I have our Portkey booked, if you recall."
"It's just-- I thought, we thought, with everything--" Tears start to form in Scorpius's eyes and he rubs at them with an angry hand. He doesn't need to cry like a baby now, on top of everything, but he's miserably, miserably disappointed.
Draco's head turns back to his paper. "Well, that may be good for a fairytale, but not in real life, I'm afraid."
Scorpius resists the urge to yell at his father. It wouldn't make anything better now, he knows that. "Yes, sir."
Draco sets the paper down. His voice takes on a softer tone, perhaps even tinged with regret. "I'm sorry this comes as a surprise. We'll have time to talk about it at home, where we are most certainly headed tomorrow."
Scorpius pushes the chair back from the table and stands up. "In that case, may I go pack then?" he asks with as little emotion as possible.
He continues standing there, stone-faced, as his father examines him. When his father finally nods, he turns on his heel and leaves the room, tears streaming down his face.
Draco looks away as Jamie whispers into Scorpius's ear. He doesn't want to hear what they are saying. He checks his watch again. They've still ten minutes before timing gets tight, but he'd rather have left half an hour ago.
Harry's leaning with one shoulder against the door to the kitchen, hands in his pockets. His mouth is thin, lips pressed together, as he watches their sons. Scorpius detaches himself from Jamie and flings himself on Harry, thin, bony arms around his neck. Harry bends down to hug him and stays like that for several moments.
Jamie glances over to Draco shyly. "Bye," he says. "Please say hi to Grandmother and Grandfather for me. And don't forget about the rose arbor--it needs to be fixed on the second storey or it might fall."
Draco nods and promises for the fifth time to have it looked at. He's surprised when Jamie hugs him suddenly, linking his arms around him and whispering against his shirt. "I'm going to miss you, Father."
Awkwardly, Draco reaches out and strokes Jamie's hair. Something in his heart swells and feels like it might burst. He doesn't dare look across to Harry right now, who is still holding Scorpius.
"I'm going to miss you, Jamie, but it won't be for long," he promises. "You'll be back at Hogwarts before you know it and then we'll see each other for the Christmas hols." As he says it it sounds hollow. Christmas is very far away from August, even for an adult.
Jamie squeezes him again and then gently detaches, stepping back. Harry and Scorpius haven't moved. Draco sighs. Clearly he has to be the one to make everything happen. "All right. Time to go. Scorpius, don't forget your rucksack. Let's get to the Floo so we have enough time for formalities before our Portkey."
He takes Scorpius gently by the arm and adjusts his briefcase on his left hip. He can do this. He's faced worse.
At the fireplace, Draco throws in the powder and calls out, "Heathrow, Wizarding Departures." With a half-hearted wave back to James and Harry, Scorpius steps into the Floo.
Draco throws in his own pinch and follows his younger son. He doesn't look back.
He's too afraid his own heart might break.
Jamie's sitting on his bed, flipping through the pages of the International Quidditch Illustrated edition that arrived that morning by owl. Even though there's a really sweet retrospective of Viktor Krum's career and a full ten-page summer round-up, he can't be bothered to care. He still looks because he has nothing else to do, but it's like the colour has gone out of the world.
The house has been so quiet since Scorpius and Father left. He and Dad have managed to survive the first week, but it's not been easy. Jamie spends most of his time waiting for the next Floo call with Scorpius or over at Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione's with Rose. Dad's working a lot, but he's been making an effort to be home on time and do more things with Jamie, even though Jamie can tell he's sad. Although he would have been thrilled before, now Jamie just wants to be left alone. He doesn't even care that Dad's drinking a lot more whisky than usual. Frankly, Jamie thinks he should. He must have done something to upset Father.
When his dad knocks on the door, Jamie rolls to his side and sighs. "Yeah."
"Hey." Harry's voice is muffled through the door. "I have something to talk about with you. May I come in?"
Jamie sits up on the side of the bed. "Okay. Sure." He doesn't really want him to, but it'll be more of a nuisance if he refuses, and Jamie doesn't really have the energy to put into a proper row with Dad, so, yeah. He doesn't argue; he just tosses Krum to the floor with a sigh. His Krum poster above his dresser scowls at him. Jamie flicks two fingers its way.
His dad opens the door. He still has his grey Auror robe on and he's holding a file jacket in his hand. "We have to go after them," he says without preamble.
Jamie's heart leaps within his chest. He can't have heard that right, but his body is convinced otherwise. His pulse races. "Sorry?"
Harry steps through the doorway, the hall light bright at his back. "Your father and Scorpius. We have to go after them. We can't just let them go."
Jamie is suddenly incredibly alert, filled with energy he didn't think he had. "Wow. Really?"
"Yeah." Harry holds the file jacket out to Jamie and Jamie takes it, opening it carefully. Inside are two Portkey certificates of passage. With trembling hands, Jamie slips one from its cloth cover and unrolls it. It's for an itinerary to Boston Logan, Wizarding Terminal, and it's dated two days from now. His jaw drops.
With a shout, Jamie launches himself into his dad's arms. Harry staggers backwards a little under the force of Jamie's hug, then holds him tight. Jamie feels like laughing, except he's crying a little too.
"Finally." Jamie steps back and wipes the back of his hand across his eyes. "I thought you'd never get your shit together."
"Jamie." Harry grins at him. "Language.
Jamie thinks his dad's eyes might be moist, too, but that could just be a trick of the light. Jamie smiles his first genuine smile since Scorpius left as he grabs his satchel out of the wardrobe and throws it on the bed.
"Let's go get them, then."
And Dad just laughs.
He's not been to the States very often, except for the occasional business travel to D.C. and New York and once to Los Angeles for an international Auror conference. All he remembers about that is that there'd been a great deal of alcohol consumed in the evenings, and he'd had to down two bottles of hangover potion to give his keynote address. Mostly he's just thought American cities look a bit too new for his tastes. But Boston's both more modern and less than he expected. And it all feels very new, but simultaneously older in places. It's hard to define. And there's something oddly British about it in ways he can't quite explain. He can see why there's a large ex-pat wizarding community here, and why the Malfoys might actually fit in. Weirdly.
When they reach the Concord Auror station Floo, a strange excitement starts to build in the pit of his stomach. This will either go very well or Draco'll send them packing, Harry's not sure which. But he thinks maybe it'll work, this mad scheme of his. Even Hermione'd agreed that he should try, and she'd have told him if she thought he was completely off his nut. And Ron had just fortified him with a good stiff whisky at one of the Heathrow bars before their Portkey was due to activate, slapping him on the shoulder and telling him not to come back without the pointy bastard. Harry fingers the box in his pocket and takes a deep breath.
The Auror on duty offers to escort them up the hill, but Jamie knows the way and Harry politely refuses. He does promise to return for a proper visit and tour while he's in Concord. He likes smaller Auror teams; they generally have more common sense than most of the Aurors he's worked with over the years.
Jamie bounds ahead of him, his blond head gleaming in the sunlight as he leads Harry down a quaint but very wide high street and then through a large roundabout with wide green spaces and monuments in the middle. Harry's first impression is that there are a lot of churches along the black-paved streets, and the gravestones in the churchyards look rather older than he'd expect. The wooden houses everywhere are storybook colonial New England; Harry oddly feels like he's walking through a postcard. A Muggle on a bicycle nearly runs him down and he steps back onto the kerb quickly. Right. Look the other way, he reminds himself. Different traffic patterns than he's used to.
By the time they pass the Concord Inn and reach the foot of the hill, Jamie's almost running and Harry's walking quickly to keep up. The sun beats down on them and Harry can hear the rattle of cicadas in the high grass behind the neatly manicured lawns.
Jamie stops at the gate to a large, sprawling white house with a turret to the side, flanked by large maple trees on both sides, and Harry knows from Jamie's description that this must be the Malfoys' residence. An older woman in a neatly tailored, pale grey dress is out front with a watering can and a frown on her face, examining a sun-drenched plant bed that's an explosion of colours and greenery against the white clapboard. As Jamie drops his satchel and runs toward her, Harry realises with a start that it's Narcissa Malfoy.
She turns when she hears Jamie's Grandmother, dropping her watering can. As Jamie hugs her, she laughs and wraps her arms around him, kissing the top of his touselled head. When she spots Harry, she smiles slowly. A little shiver of fear travels down Harry's spine. He knows he better do this right.
Harry steps into the front garden, gathering up Jamie's satchel and slinging it over his shoulder next to his own. "Narcissa."
As Harry approaches, the white shelled path crunching beneath his feet, Jamie lets go and stands next to Narcissa, still holding her hand. He looks between his father and grandmother, his teeth worrying his bottom lip. Narcissa smiles at Harry again, cocking her head. "Well," she says, holding out an elegant hand, "Harry Potter, as I live and breathe. What brings you to Concord?"
"Your son," Harry says, taking her hand and kissing it lightly. He looks up at her. "And my other son as well."
Jamie beams. "We're here to take them home."
"Are you?" Narcissa looks amused. She ruffles Jamie's hair. "And why would that be?" She doesn't look at him, but Harry knows her question isn't for Jamie.
Jamie answers anyway, before Harry can stop him. "Because they're ours," he says, as if it's obvious, and Harry can't think of a better answer. They are theirs. Both of them, and he doesn't intend to walk out of this house without them both in his life. A hesitant look crosses Jamie's face. "You don't mind, do you?"
Narcissa meets Harry's gaze evenly. His heart thuds against his chest. "Not if you treat them well." Her hand settles on Jamie's shoulder.
"Why wouldn't we?" Jamie grins up at her as she leads them into the house. "I mean, Scorp's my brother, and Dad's arse over tit for Father. I heard Uncle Ron say so just this morning."
"Did you?" Narcissa raises an eyebrow at Harry. He doesn't look away. The truth is the truth, and he's tired of running away from it. "I see." Narcissa has the house elf take their bags and offers them cold lemonade to drink, which she pours herself. "Let me call Lucius and Scorpius from the back garden. Draco's upstairs in his study, of course."
James puts down his lemonade without touching it and follows his grandmother--his grandmother, Harry thinks and that thought will never not be weird because Narcissa Malfoy is his sons' grandmother--through the glass doors and onto the terrace.
Harry looks around from his vantage in the large, spotless pale-blue-and-white kitchen. There's a spacious back garden filled with rose bushes and trees behind the house. The interior is sunlit but cool and rather more modern than he'd have expected from the Malfoys. The last time he'd been in the Manor, everything had been dark and sheet-draped as Draco prepared to lock the house up for the forseeable future. Someday they'll have to take the boys back, he thinks. It's part of their family history, and one of them will inherit it one day. Still, that'll take some convincing of Draco; he'd hated the place after the war. Too many nightmares and bad memories of Death Eaters and Voldemort.
This house must have scrubbed away some of that. At least Harry hopes so. It's certainly more bright and cheerful than the Manor ever was, and Scorpius's drawings are literally everywhere, tacked up with sticking charms. Harry leans in to examine a particularly colourful one of several heroic looking figures in tight clothing with the New York skyline at their backs.
"Mother, what's going on?" Harry freezes as he hears Draco's voice and then his quick steps on the stairs. "Who's arrived?"
Draco is nearly on top of Harry before he sees him, standing in the archway between the kitchen and the hallway. Draco wheels back with a start and his nostrils flare. "What the devil?"
Harry coughs. "Er. It's just me. And Jamie." He presses the advantage of surprise. He know it won't last long. "While you're listening and before you run away, let me just say that I've followed you this time because I can't let you go, and I was an idiot not to have come after you eleven years ago."
Draco just looks at him. "Are you mad?" he asks softly, and his arms are crossed against his chest, but Harry doesn't care.
"Probably." Harry takes a deep breath. "You see, I realised something this past week. Something I probably should have known a long time ago, but you know how thick I am." Draco snorts, which Harry thinks might be a good sign. He reaches for Draco's hand. "It's absolutely essential to my happiness and to that of our children that I be where you are." He curls his fingers through Draco's, pulling him closer.
Draco doesn't resist. "It's impossible, Harry." The door opens behind them and Harry can see the boys out of the corner of his eye.
"I have no idea how we'll make it work." Harry's afraid if he doesn't do this now, he never will. He hadn't planned on an audience, but fuck it. "I'll give up whatever I have to to be with you. The boys need both their fathers, and I need you." Harry fumbles in his jacket pocket and pulls out the small box. Inside's the platinum band he'd bought ten years ago and never told Draco about. He'd been waiting to surprise him, only the wait had been a bit longer than he'd expected.
Narcissa makes a soft sound, and Harry's pretty certain Lucius hushes her. Draco's face is paler than usual, and he's just staring at Harry as if he truly has lost his mind.
Harry stops talking and gets down on one knee in front of Draco--not to mention his two children and their grandparents who are standing at the terrace behind the open doors, trying to be quiet as mice but failing. Lucius has an arm around Jamie's shoulders, his fingers over Jamie's mouth, and Narcissa is holding Scorpius back. "Draco Malfoy, will you marry me?"
"You utter, utter cretin." Draco bites off a curse. His cheeks flush. "Honestly, Harry. Of course I bloody will. I would have done ten years ago if you'd asked properly."
Harry looks up at him. "You ran off before I could," he points out, just because he can and because he likes annoying his...fiance? Yeah. Fiance. He likes the sound of that.
Draco glowers at him. "Harry." He holds out his hand. "Do it properly."
"I'm sorry about the past," Harry says with a grin, "even if you are a stubborn git. So will you marry me now?" When Draco doesn't protest, Harry slips the ring on his finger.
Narcissa sighs and the boys cheer. Lucius gives Harry a quick clap on the shoulder, then heads purposefully into the front room muttering something about fetching the good whisky since he'll obviously need it if he's to be officially related to a Potter.
Harry thinks that's actually a rather good start with his father-in-law, all things considered.
Draco's eyes are bright with unshed tears and Harry's sure his are as well. "Don't you fucking dare kiss me in front of everyone, Potter," Draco warns, and Narcissa frowns at him. "Hush, Mother."
Harry kisses him anyway.
The leaves have only just begun to turn in Concord whereas in London they're in their full autumn glory now. Draco walks through the back garden of his parents' house; the tables for Mother's birthday party tonight are set up and dressed in Malfoy china, white damask and small, round crystal vases filled with the late yellow roses still blooming on the trellis. Tiny fairies flit through the tree branches above, casting a twinkling glow that gleams in the soft early October dusk.
It's been over a year now since Harry slid the platinum ring on his finger. Draco had returned the favour a few weeks later in a small private ceremony in Boston with only the two of them, the boys, and Mother and Father. There'd been a proper celebratory party that autumn in London, and even Blaise and Pansy had come over for that. The look on Blaise's face when he realised his son was infatuated with a Weasley had been utterly priceless and worth enduring the strained politeness between Draco's father and Arthur Weasley.
It hasn't been an easy year. Scorpius had stayed in Concord for school--it was too late to enroll him in Hogwarts, really--and Draco's classes had already been planned for another two terms. It'd given him some time to talk to his son, to explain what had happened in the war and why the Slytherins had emigrated. Scorpius had been a bit taken aback, but he'd listened, and Draco likes to think maybe he understood, at least a little bit. Harry Portkeyed over on weekends and both he and Jamie spent every hols in the States. Not the most optimal first year of marriage, but Harry'd been right. Between visits and international firecalls and trans-Atlantic owl post, they'd found a way to make it work.
And in the end, Draco thinks, it just may have been the best year of his life. So far.
"Father!" Scorpius calls from the open French door. The smell of filet de boeuf Richelieu drifts out of the kitchen, making his mouth water. Elsie is an amazing cook, possibly one of the best his family has ever had. "We need you; Imogen's upset and Dad's not home yet."
Draco hurries towards the house. Scorpius had switched to Hogwarts this term; he and Jamie are on leave from school just for Narcissa's birthday party, and Harry'd had to pull a few strings with McGonagall to even allow that to happen. Draco's in London too this year--they've all been since July. The university's given him a year for research leave, since his last book has done so well in scholarly circles. He doesn't think he'll come back; Oxford might be coming through with an offer.
The kitchen's warm after the crisp chill of the garden. The guests have started to arrive, and Father's greeting them in the foyer, cheerfully gladhanding them all, then passing them on to the hired elves for wine and whisky and various canapés. He can hear Mother's laughter in the sitting room as people tell her she doesn't look old enough to be a grandmother thrice over.
"Oh, thank God," Jamie says, as he catches sight of Draco, and he stands carefully, his four-month-old sister cradled in his arms. "She just keeps fussing."
Draco takes his daughter from Jamie, and she stops fretting long enough to look up at him with clear, Malfoy-grey eyes. He smiles down at her, and Imogen Narcissa wrinkles her nose, waving her small fist in his face. Wisps of dark hair peek out from under her knitted mouse cap, a gift from her Gran in England. Draco looks up at the boys. "Escape while you can," he says with a smile. "But don't go far--I'm certain dinner will start soon. Your grandfather's already been trying to get into the mousse de saumon fumé and your grandmother will want to show you both off to her friends."
Scorpius rolls his eyes. "Great fun, that." At his father's admonishing look, he sighs. "Don't worry, I'll be polite."
"You better." Draco narrows his eyes at both of them as he bounces Imogen gently in his arms.
They dash outside, eager to be free of responsibility for at least a few brief moments, and Draco steels himself for the onslaught of his parents' social circle. He wishes Harry were here, but he'd been called back to London unexpectedly that morning, promising to be back in time for the party. If he's not, there'll be hell to pay, Draco will make certain of that.
Draco uses Imogen a shield, smiling blandly as old men and women of the Boston Wizarding Brahmin set coo over her, telling his mother, not him, how lucky she is to have such a delightful granddaughter. It sets Draco's teeth on edge; he knows they don't know what to say to him. Not many wizards of their generation got pregnant, much less married their male lovers. He and Harry'd caused quite the scandal on both sides of the Atlantic, which Draco's rather pleased by. There's a part of him that quite likes the attention. Still, he has to give his parents credit for coolly ignoring their friends' pointed barbs. Even Father had started defending Harry, particularly once Draco had discovered he was pregnant again--although Lucius had pulled Draco aside and suggested that, although he enjoyed grandchildren, the use of wizarding condoms and contraceptive potions might not go amiss. Draco'd just laughed.
Father's started to suggest that dinner might be waiting on the terrace when Harry finally arrives. He looks tired, but he's taken the time to change out of his Auror robes and into proper attire. Draco particularly likes the open, charcoal robe he's chosen, even if he's paired it with that horrible Gryffindor red tie.
"Hey," Harry says, leaning in to kiss Draco, and Draco doesn't care that they get a few sideways glances. Imogen reaches up and grabs Harry's tie, and he grins down at her. "How's my girl?"
"Cranky and overstimulated." Draco hands Imogen over. She squirms and laughs. "And rather put out that her dad's this late."
Harry busses the top of Imogen's head. "Sounds more like her father, if you ask me."
Draco just hmms as he follows the dinner guests out into the back garden. "Is everything all right?" he asks, a touch of worry in his voice. He's seen the small cut on side of Harry's throat that he hasn't yet healed. He pulls out his own wand and casts the spell discreetly.
"Just a bit of a brawl with a perp," Harry murmurs. "Nothing much."
"Since when did the Head Auror go back into the field?" Draco frowns at him.
Harry shrugs and touches his fingertip to Imogen's nose. She tries to grab it. "Since someone went after Kingsley?" At Draco's sharp breath, he looks up. He obviously sees the fear on Draco's face. "Hey," he says gently. "Hey. I'm okay. Everything's okay."
Draco steps on his foot. Hard. "If you do anything stupid, Harry Potter, I'll come after you and kill you myself."
Harry grins. "I'd expect nothing less."
The boys are already at the table, heads bent together over Scorpius's sketchbook. Jamie chortles and Scorpius grins over at him.
"What are you two up to?" Harry sits beside them; Draco takes the seat between Harry and his mother. She smiles up at him, touching his hand lightly.
Jamie nudges his brother. "Show them, Scorp."
Scorpius hands the sketchbook over, a bit shyly. Across two pages, he's drawn a family portrait. Of all of them. Harry. Draco. Himself and Jamie. Imogen. Both his sets of grandparents. Blaise, Pansy and Pip. Granger, Weasley, Rose and Hugo. The myriad other Weasley aunts, uncles and cousins.
Draco's chest hurts. He looks at his son, who's watching him eagerly, but with a furrowed brow.
"It's our family," Scorpius says, unnecessarily. "All together, finally."
Draco looks at Harry. "Finally," Harry whispers, and he reaches for Draco's hand, pulling it up to kiss his knuckles. A swirl of fairies circles their table, dancing brightly in the cool air, to Imogen's delight. Draco smiles at his sons, now beaming at them both.
Finally, he thinks. He rather likes the sound of that. They're together.