Love in a London Tube Stop (Under Construction)
"What could my mother be
to yours? What kin is my father
to yours anyway? And how
Did you and I meet ever?
But in love
our hearts have mingled
as red earth and pouring rain." ~ Poem translated into English from ancient Tamil by A.K. Ramanujan. (posted in the London Underground)
Not Albus. Not Albus. Not Albus.
The flames shooting from the Goblet of Fire smelled peculiar to Harry Potter: smoky, with an overlay of ozone, like thunder without rain. The smell chased shivers of memory up and down his spine.
Not Albus. Not Albus. Not Albus.
He glanced at Albus. The ceiling of the Great Hall reflected a clear October night, the moon barely more than a crescent, the stars so close that his son's tousled hair seemed to spark. Al's mouth was slightly open. He looked scared to death and wildly excited, all at the same time.
The idiot. He was supposed to be a Slytherin, for God's sake. What the hell had possessed him to add his name to the Goblet?
The fire blazed the colour of turquoise. The Goblet spat out a slip of paper.
Not Albus. Not Albus. Not Albus.
Headmaster Flitwick snatched at it, missed, and good-naturedly accepted it from one of the seventh-year Hufflepuffs.
"The Durmstrang Champion is," the headmaster squinted, "Bytzal Grumenhamerin!"
An expression of hungry triumph lit the face of a dark-haired young woman sitting at the Ravenclaw table. She stood, glancing down at another young woman who frowned; Harry wasn't sure if it was in jealousy or disapproval. A message seemed to pass between them before, chin high, the dark-haired girl marched to the High Table, where Deputy Headmaster Longbottom shook her hand and motioned for her to stand by the podium, nearly knocking his glass of wine off the table in the process.
Not Albus. Not Albus. Not Albus.
The Goblet flamed. The headmaster managed to capture the slip of paper this time.
"The Beauxbatons Champion is — Scorpius Malfoy!"
"What!?" There was a brief disturbance at the other end of the High Table and Harry caught a glimpse of a man with being escorted from the Hall under the telltale distortion of a Silencing Charm. Draco Malfoy. Harry vaguely remembered that he'd attended dinner on several evenings, the guest of the headmaster. From the look of Malfoy's gestures, he wasn't any more pleased that his son had entered his name in the Goblet — much less that it had been chosen — than Harry had when Albus had blithely announced it to him just before dinner.
Young Malfoy — Good lord, he looks like his father did when he was that age — sauntered across the hall to join the Durmstrang girl amidst more polite applause.
The Goblet flared a third time. Harry's stomach churned.
Not Albus. Not Albus. Not Albus.
"The Hogwarts Champion is... Albus Potter!"
Harry groaned and sat back in his chair.
There was a moment of stunned silence. Harry watched heads swivel towards a young woman who sat at the Gryffindor table, a look of stunned disappointment on her face. Then the heads snapped towards Albus, rising from the Slytherin table.
A hesitant smattering of applause slowly grew as Albus joined the other Champions, white as a sheet yet wearing the grin that Harry recognized as one that had often forewarned him of trouble to come.
"I present our Triwizard Champions!" the headmaster squeaked. "Three young people, competing for fame and glory, against dangerous, yes — deadly — challenges! Now, would all of the Champions and their representatives please proceed to my office for photos and to receive the first clue."
Harry numbly rose and followed Albus and the others to Headmaster Flitwick's office.
The office looked little like it had when Harry was a student. The windows now arched from floor to ceiling, the headmaster's desk placed on a dais in front of the middle window. A huge fireplace dominated the inner wall, surrounded by portraits of former headmasters. Harry's eyes immediately sought Dumbledore, who shared the space directly above the mantel with a portrait of Snape. Dumbledore nodded and smiled; Snape glared.
"Over here, everyone. Group around the fireplace, please."
A flashbulb went off in Harry's face at the same moment as the Silencing Charm was lifted from Malfoy.
"What were you thinking? Do you know what you just did?"
Harry blinked, eyes watering from the flashbulb. Malfoy stood toe to toe with his son, the younger Malfoy several inches taller than his father. Albus also watched the Malfoys, through his intent gaze seemed focused on Malfoy's son.
"It wasn't enough that you Sorted into Gryffindor!" Malfoy shouted. "We finally settle you into a sane existence in France and you decide to put your name in the Goblet of Fire!"
His son looked dutiful, but largely unimpressed. "You were pleased when I qualified to be a Beauxbatons Triwizard candidate, Papa — Father," he said.
"Because you'd be closer to home!" Malfoy looked apoplectic. "You weren't actually supposed to enter into a magical contract with a non-sentient object determined to kill you!"
Another flashbulb went off.
"Monsieur Malfoy." The Beauxbatons headmaster, a tall, willowy man named Vangelis, wrung his hands. "Please. We are very proud of your son. He will represent Beauxbatons admirably."
Malfoy glared at him. "Of course he will." He whirled. "You!" He pointed at Albus. "Your job is to make sure that my son survives this idiocy!"
Suddenly, Harry was gloriously angry. "Leave off, Malfoy!"
Albus's eyes widened. "Dad, it's okay. Er, sure, Mr Malfoy." His eyes darted to young Malfoy and he shrugged. Young Malfoy shrugged back.
Malfoy whirled again and faced Harry. His grey eyes sparked, his sneer identical to the one he'd worn when they were young. "You stay out of it! This is all your fault, you know!"
Harry felt like hexing him. "You're deluded! I don't even know your son!"
"Always heroing around, as if it's a socially acceptable profession."
"I don't think 'heroing' is a word."
"Of course it's a word! And don't change the subject. If Scorpius is injured during this farce, if one hair on his head is singed, frozen, yanked out or curled, I will sue you for every Galleon you possess, Potter!"
The flurry of flashbulbs nearly blinded Harry.
"Monsieur Malfoy," Headmaster Vangelis pled, hands together and elegant handlebar mustachios quivering. "Please, do not insult Monsieur Potter! He is our honorary head of security!"
"I must agree, Mr Malfoy," Headmaster Flitwick piped. "Childhood rivalries have no place in the Triwizard Games!"
Harry stared at the headmaster. Childhood rivalries? Was that what they were calling the War these days?
He realised that Malfoy was still glaring at him and gathered himself. "Try suing me, Malfoy. See how far you get."
"Ever heard of the Goblin firm of Poormaker, Vicious and Turnipblood? They've been on retainer for the Malfoy estate for fifty-seven generations."
"Even in Durmstrang, I have heard of them," Headmistress Capella said. Her German-accented words were full of respect. "They never lose a case."
"Fifty... there haven't been Wizard courts for fifty-seven generations!"
"Actually, Dad, the first Goblin court was established in —"
"Right!" Harry glared at Albus, who fell silent.
"How's it feel to have a son smarter than you?"
Another flurry of flashbulbs went off, capturing Headmaster Flitwick's precise wand movement as he Levitated everyone into chairs quite obviously Charmed to make each person comfortable.
Malfoy's had transformed into a throne. Harry looked at his own bare wooden chair and frowned.
Flitwick brandished his wand again.
Inexplicably more relaxed, Harry contemplated the situation. Perhaps Al's selection wasn't the worst thing in the world. He thought about Al winning the Cup. He'd look very handsome on the podium... Harry frowned and shook his head.
Good God, Flitwick was using a Cheering Charm on them.
"Now, we've had enough photographs, I believe," the headmaster said. "Time to move on to the Triwizard Tournament itself. Headmaster Vangelis, Headmistress Capella, I believe you have some words to share with us."
Headmistress Capella inclined her head and gestured for Headmaster Vangelis to go first.
"Monsieurs et Madames," Vangelis began. "We of Beauxbatons are honoured to compete against such esteemed and prestigious rivals in the name of friendship and cooperation." Vangelis had hardly any accent; he waved his hands expressively, almost in slow motion, as he spoke. "The tradition is one that has remained pure, based in principals of integrity and excellence."
Harry watched as Al turned red. Interesting. He'd have to get to the bottom of that.
Vangelis gestured some more. His hands looked like seaweed drifting at the bottom of the lake. "The principles upon which this venerable Tournament was founded are magical prowess, daring, intellect and courage. Our young Champions are the latest in a proud procession of witches and wizards who have gone down in history. May the best Champion win!"
Everyone politely applauded.
"Auriga?" Headmaster Flitwick invited politely.
Headmistress Capella stood.
"Durmstrang has won the last three Tournaments," she said. "It will take a very great effort on the part of Hogwarts und Beauxbatons to defeat us this year. May the best Champion win!"
More polite applause. Harry noted that young Malfoy exchanged glances with Albus; they both looked amused.
"Now, the moment that you've all been waiting for," Flitwick squeaked. "Your first clue!"
The three contestants leaned forward.
"Your first clue is: someone in this room."
Albus blinked, then his head swivelled towards Harry.
Everyone else looked at Harry, too.
"That's not too hard to figure out," Albus said, a grin spreading across his face. "Looks like I might have the advantage this round."
"What?" Harry demanded.
"The clue is someone in the room," the Durmstrang Champion said, her words clipped and authoritative. "Logically, it would need to be someone we all knew. You are best known of all in the room, therefore, you must be the clue."
Harry had a horrified vision of Albus auctioning off the family's secrets to the highest bidder. He glanced at Malfoy. Oh, fuck. Malfoy's financial resources were endless.
Malfoy smirked. "Well, well, well. An investigation into all of the sordid secrets of the Potter household. I wonder how much worse they could get? I believe that you have what I understand Muggles call an 'open marriage.' Is there something you've been hiding from us, Potter? Perhaps the real reason that your wife left you and began a career comprised of writing about her many extra-marital affairs?"
"I can assure you that Mr Potter's relationship with his wife is not the clue," Flitwick said.
Harry couldn't believe this was happening to him.
"That's all for now, everyone," Flitwick continued. "May the best Champion win!"
Everyone arose from their chairs and filed out of the room. Malfoy bumped into Harry just as he was going through the door.
"Watch where you're going," Malfoy snapped.
"Follow your own advice." Harry walked out of the office, Malfoy on his heels.
"My son will trounce yours. No matter how many great wizards your son is named after."
"I'll believe that when I see it," Harry replied in a low voice. "In my experience, Malfoys aren't known for their success when it comes to competitions."
"You're nasty when you want to be, aren't you? One of the few things I respect about you. Right. A bet?"
Harry paused and faced Malfoy. The others disappeared down the corridor. "You honestly want to place bets on our sons?"
"If I win, you publicly acknowledge the debt you owe my family," Draco whispered, eyes blazing. "No more of the polite cold shoulder we've been receiving all these years. My mother saved your arse and you know it."
"Because she was trying to save yours, you git," Harry whispered back.
"Motivation doesn't count, just the result. Is it a bet?"
Harry looked at Malfoy. Though his hairline had receded and there were slight bags under his eyes, he still looked like the bastard that Harry had hated through most of his time at Hogwarts. "Right. Tell you what. If I win, you provide a hefty endowment to the Muggle-Born Integration Program at Hogwarts. Say, a million Galleons?"
Malfoy's eyes narrowed. "Done."
Harry was taken aback, but recovered quickly. "Done."
Thoughtfully, he watched Malfoy stroll elegantly down the corridor after the rest of the Tournament representatives.
Funny. He'd not felt so alive in years.
He woke up the next morning feeling like an adolescent fool.
"Idiot," he muttered as he stumbled into the shower. "Nothing but an adrenaline junkie..." He paused.
Ginny had always said that. Not that she was any different, which was what had added spice to the early years of their marriage.
Of course, that same craving for adventure had led her to start writing a sex-advice column for witches, which had led her to research new sexual techniques, which had led her to pressure him to try a series of sexual practices which left him variously sore, exhausted or vaguely disgusted with her and himself. Which had led to a bout of impotence. Which, ultimately, had led to her sitting down with him two years ago and offering him two options, neither of which he wanted and both of which she thought were quite reasonable.
Divorce. Or infidelity. Or, of course, he could simply make a full recovery from the impotence and participate in even more new and humiliating sexual adventures.
Unable to bear seeing his family disintegrate, Harry chose the infidelity option. He hated it, but it was better than losing everything.
But, realistically, where else would she find her thrills? he thought as he dried off and dressed. He was Chief Auror of a wizarding world that was, for the first time in Harry's forty-odd years, at peace. Children could roam Diagon Alley with no fear. Families could sit around the Wizarding Wireless and listen to the latest generation of Muggle-influenced music. Harry could walk alone through Knockturn Alley and, while eyes might slide away from his, the expressions on the faces were merely guilty, not full of guile and hatred.
Kingsley had worked hard to bring safety to their world. Harry had supported him every step of the way. That was what he wanted, after all — a world free of the kind of dangers that surrounded him as a child.
Who would have known that he'd find himself to be so lost now that the word was done? He should be living happily with his wife, surrounded by his family. Instead, he was alone.
Harry shook his head, impatient with his descent into self-pity. Revisiting old issues wasn't going to accomplish anything. Albus's safety came first, the fire-blasted idiot.
He decided to Floo Ginny.
When he finally tracked her down to a sheep station deep in the Outback, she shrugged at the news.
"Albus is clearly quite up to taking care of himself, or the Goblet wouldn't have chosen him," she pointed out.
"Ginny, I was in that Tournament. I know what it's like. I nearly died a half-dozen times — it was sheer luck that I didn't."
"A Dark wizard was trying to kill you. Of course you nearly died. But unless Albus has somehow insulted the ghost of a Death Eater, I doubt he'll be facing a similar situation."
"Malfoy's mad at him. Does that count?"
"Malfoy is an idiot. Why would he be angry with Albus, anyway?"
"His son is the Beauxbatons Champion."
Ginny laughed. "A Malfoy? As a Triwizard Champion? Albus has won already, hasn't he? Is that why Malfoy's angry at him?"
"No. He wants Albus to take care of his boy during the Tournament."
"Good lord!" Ginny laughed harder. "I hope you told Albus to charge dearly if he provides protective services!"
Money. At some point or another, Ginny always mentioned it. Harry had hoped that the success of her adventure books — thinly disguised autobiographies of her sexual exploits — would have made it less of an issue for her. "Albus needs to protect himself," he said abruptly.
Ginny sobered, though her eyes still twinkled. "Wish him luck for me, will you?"
Harry nodded and paused. "So you're not coming home to watch him?" He kept his eyes averted, not wanting to see Ginny's reaction.
"You always ask, and I always say 'no'," she said after a pause. "I'm happy, Harry. If you're not, maybe we should get that divorce."
"No," he blurted, looking back at Ginny in a panic. "No, it's okay. I'm fine with it. I'm really glad that you're happy. I read your latest book," he offered weakly. It was a piece of trash, but it topped Flourish and Blott's bestsellers list.
Ginny looked at him doubtfully. "Thanks." She sighed. "I really need to be going now, Harry. It's early here. Nigel is taking me billywigging before it gets too hot."
"It seems that in this area of Australia billywigs have quite potent venom. You can float for days. Nigel says oral sex is..."
"Right! I'd better get going," Harry interrupted. "I'll give the children your love, shall I?"
Ginny looked angry. "You know we promised that we wouldn't ask each other to be monogamous once I left."
"I remember! It's just that I hear Albus calling me. Take care, luv."
"Albus is at Hog—" Harry closed the Floo connection before Ginny could finish calling him a liar. He stood and pinched the bridge of his nose.
Billywigging. With Nigel, whoever the hell that may be. This open marriage farce was a huge failure as far as Harry was concerned.
And he certainly couldn't do a thing about it from the other side of the world. He grabbed his cloak and Apparated to Hogsmeade.
The first person he saw was Malfoy.
"Potter!" Malfoy swept up to stand nose to nose with Harry. "There you are! I demand twenty-four hour protection for Scorpius."
"For what reason?" Harry stepped back.
Malfoy followed. "To keep him safe from the mobs of cretins who will undoubtedly swarm around him for his autograph and rip out locks of his hair and lie in wait for him outside of the loo —"
Harry held up a hand. "Wait a moment. I doubt that he's in any danger of all of that."
"Of course he is!" Malfoy grabbed Harry's arm and dragged him down the street and into Madam Puddifoot's teashop. Harry had a confused impression of lace, pink frills and wide-eyed patrons before Malfoy pushed him into a chair. "Earl Grey, sandwiches and cakes," he snapped.
"Of course, sir."
Oh. Malfoy hadn't been talking to him. The waitress curtseyed and snapped her fingers. Two cherubs flew to Harry's table, carrying a teapot between them, while a tiered tray of cakes and the rest of the tea set floated in their wake.
The cherubs put the teapot on the table and reached towards their little pouches. Malfoy laid his wand on the table. "If you throw confetti, I shall incinerate you."
The cherubs and the waitress instantly disappeared to other parts of the teashop. Harry stared at Malfoy's wand. It wasn't the same one that Harry had used to defeat Voldemort. He wondered how this one would feel in his hand, then felt uncomfortable. There was something intimate in thinking of handling someone else's wand.
"What?" Harry repeated, having been lost in thought.
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Pour, you idiot."
Harry flushed. "You're the one who brought us here."
"The guest always pours." Malfoy was looking at him as if he were mad.
"Oh, for God's sake," Harry muttered. He poured tea into each cup and pushed one towards Malfoy.
Malfoy gave an exaggerated sigh and reached for the milk. "I suppose it's too much to expect civilised manners from you."
"Right." Harry stood. "I'll be leaving now."
Malfoy caught his sleeve. "You'll sit down and we'll have a calm, cool discussion of Scorpius's security measures or I'll Petrify you."
Despite himself, Harry was amused. He sat.
"That's better," Malfoy said with a nod. "I never would have taken you for the sensitive type."
Harry ignored the insult. "What's all this about security, then?"
"Headmaster Vangelis said that you're the head of security for the Tournament. I want a detail of Aurors assigned to Scorpius immediately." Malfoy sipped his tea.
"Your son doesn't need a detail of Aurors."
"Of course he does. I told you, he'll be mobbed. I've seen it happen."
"In some Muggle contraption. You know, the one with the moving pictures."
"You mean a television?"
"If that's what you want to call that primitive device." Malfoy waved a hand. "There were little grey men in it. Being mobbed. If Muggles mob little grey men, what will happen to my much more attractive son? I demand protection for him."
"That was a movie." Malfoy stared at him blankly. "A moving story. You know, entertainment?"
"Muggles mob little grey men for entertainment?" Malfoy's eyes were wide with horror. "For God's sake, Potter, you have to help me! Scorpius is all I have!"
Malfoy's last outburst was so heartfelt that Harry's amusement died. After all, he was just as worried about Albus. He leaned forward a bit to reassure Malfoy. "He'll be safe. No Auror detail, but I'll keep an eye on him."
"You promise?" Malfoy's eyes were a startling grey; they searched Harry's with an intensity that made his heart beat instinctively faster. That kind of intensity was usually reserved for killers, he'd learned.
Where the hell had that thought come from? Harry sat back and took a sip of his tea, unaccountably flustered. "I promise."
Malfoy's perfect posture seemed to slump for a moment before he sat straight once again. "See that you do." He examined the tea sandwiches. "Oh, good. Cucumber." He selected several of them and put them on his plate.
Harry cleared his throat. "Er, what's all this about your son going to Beauxbatons?"
"A bit personal, aren't we?"
Ignoring Malfoy's sarcastic tones, Harry pressed. "Something must have sent him to France."
Malfoy sighed. "Astoria kept the Paris flat and changed her name to Asteria for some obscure reason."
"What does that have to do with your son leaving Hogwarts?" When Malfoy ate, no crumbs fell. Harry tried to figure out how he did it.
Malfoy looked pained. "Because he thought she was mad, of course."
"Because she changed her name?"
"Who would give up the name 'Astoria'? I mean, truly, Potter. Even you must see how insane that would be."
Harry thought that having a name in any form that could be shortened to 'Ass' was mad, but obviously he was missing something. He shook his head and ate a sandwich. They barely made one bite.
"Uncouth barbarian," he heard Malfoy mutter.
"So your son thought his mother was crazy and he followed her to France."
"Did no one teach you manners?" Malfoy looked scandalised. "You don't call people 'crazy'!"
"I do not."
"I distinctly remember hearing you call your son..." Now that he thought about it, all Malfoy had said was that they'd finally got Scorpius sane. "It wasn't your wife at all," he said with sudden realisation. "It was your son. You thought he was crazy. You sent him away from Hogwarts."
Malfoy went pale. "You're crazy."
"There!" Harry crowed. He flushed as he saw that everyone in the teashop was looking at him with avid interest. He leaned forward and spoke in a low voice. "You called me crazy. And you thought your son was, too."
Malfoy leaned forward, too. "Well, what should I have believed? Five years in Gryffindor and not once — not once — did he ever apologise."
"My son is in Slytherin. I'd never think of asking him to apologise."
"Of course not. It's an honour to be in Slytherin." Malfoy leaned closer. "No Malfoy has ever been in Gryffindor, much less unapologetic about not being in Slytherin. Can you blame me? I thought —" he stumbled over his words and sat back heavily in his chair. He mumbled something.
"He'd started forming an...attachment...to someone unsuitable."
"He was falling in love with another Gryffindor," Harry translated.
"I didn't say that."
"You may as well have shouted it." Harry regarded Malfoy thoughtfully. As strange as it sounded, he believed Malfoy had been doing what he thought was best for his son. It was completely uncalled for, of course, but in a family as custom-bound as Malfoy's, his son's behaviour must have seemed — well, insane. "Look, for what it's worth, he seems perfectly normal to me."
Malfoy looked at him, arms crossed. Finally, he nodded. "Thank you."
"You must be very happy that he's back in Britain."
A strange look crossed Malfoy's face, at once proud and panicked. An instant later, it was gone. "Of course I am. Other than this Tournament idiocy." He stood abruptly. "Lovely having tea with you, Potter. If anything happens to my son, I'll see you die slowly and in great pain. Good day."
Harry stood to follow Malfoy out of the teashop, but stopped when a voice called, "Here you are, Mr Potter."
Harry looked up to see the waitress hold out the bill. "Wait. Didn't Malfoy pay? He invited me."
The waitress frowned. "You poured."
"Guests always pour," Harry said, parroting Malfoy.
She looked at him reproachfully. "Mr Potter. Everyone knows that the host always pours."
"Right. Sorry." Damn Malfoy! Harry took out some Galleons. "Does this cover it?"
Her eyes lit up avidly and she quickly scooped up the money. "Very well, thank you. Have a nice day!" she called after him as he left.
Harry looked up in annoyance as his office door opened.
"Don't you have somewhere better to be?"
Malfoy sat, crossing his legs and tweaking the leg of his trousers so the crease fell sharp as knife. He laid his arm across the back of the chair next to him. "No."
"Care to pay me back for your tea last week?"
"Counting every Knut, are we, Potter? Now, where are those Aurors I told you to assign to Scorpius? He's already been assaulted twice."
"Assaulted?" He hadn't heard anything about an assault. "When? What happened?"
"I thought you were head of security!" Malfoy's eyes blazed. "You mean you have no knowledge of these attacks?"
"The first was a thievery. I noticed Scorpius wasn't wearing a signet ring I had given him on his last birthday. Scorpius told me that it disappeared. Mysteriously. While he was in the bath."
"That's hardly an assault." Though he'd need to implement additional theft measures.
"My son was naked in the bath. Vulnerable. Someone was in there with him. Someone with nefarious intentions. I'd call that an assault."
"Right." Harry scratched his neck. "What about the second time."
"He said," Malfoy hesitated. His eyes narrowed and he glared at Harry. "So help me, Potter, if you laugh —"
"I won't laugh. I promise."
"He was groped. In the Great Hall."
Harry's jaw dropped. "You must be joking. Malfoy, you must have something better to do than to tell me that another student groped your son. A job? A hobby? Spending time with your son?"
"Has anyone told you that you ask annoyingly personal questions?"
"It's my job." Now that he looked at Malfoy more closely, Harry could see that his Muggle suit was obviously bespoken and his grey cape made of fine wool. "After the war, your family was broke. What happened?"
Malfoy smirked. "I became a famous cat-burglar."
"You can do better than that. What really happened?"
"So officious. Why don't you tell me?"
"Was your wife really mentally unstable?"
Malfoy laughed. "No, of course not. It's a story I told Scorpius to get him to live with her in France."
"Then did she really change her name?"
"Yes, she did." Malfoy looked amused. "She thought 'Asteria' suited her better. A new beginning, she said. So many questions. Is there any purpose to this interrogation?"
Harry hated the way the grey eyes mocked him. "Are you paranoid? Do you think that I'm biased against you? I'm head of security for the Tournament. I have every right to ask questions."
"Which I'll believe when I see you interview Ms. Grumenhamerin's parents." Malfoy tilted his head in a superior manner. "However, to demonstrate my complete lack of evil intent, I'll deign to tell you." He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his hands. "Dusty in here, isn't it?"
"Get on with it."
"Fine." Malfoy tucked the handkerchief back into his pocket. "Let's see. After the war, I played with the Muggle stock market and recovered the Malfoy fortune within a matter of months. Muggles really should take runes more seriously," he added thoughtfully. "After that, I cultivated as many social contacts as I could, identified a potential wife, learned what terms she and her parents deemed acceptable to arrange a union for our mutual benefit, fulfilled the terms, married, had a child, got a tasteful if outrageously expensive divorce, kept a series of attractive young men and now find myself sitting across from my childhood nemesis and making small talk."
"I wasn't your nemesis. You were mine," Harry retorted.
"Your social skills are sorely lacking. I'm chatting and you're calling me names."
"Wait! You called me —"
Malfoy sighed heavily. "Pointing fingers, now. How you ever defeat evil wizards is beyond me. Do you overwhelm them with your brute strength or do you just argue them to death?"
"Did you say that you kept a series of attractive young men...?" Albus. If Malfoy had corrupted his son —
"Yes. Why...? Oh." Malfoy laughed again. "Get your mind out of the gutter. I'd hardly seduce Scorpius's friends. They're children, for God's sake."
Harry flushed at being read so easily. "So you're gay?"
Malfoy's expression was shrewd. "Do you have a problem with that?"
Harry shook his head. "No. It just took me by surprise, I guess."
"What did? That I'm gay? Or that you know a gay person, even though you didn't know it? Starting to wonder how many other people you know are gay, too? How many of us are scoping out your arse? Which, by the way," he smirked, "is in remarkably good shape considering your age."
"You are so annoying." Harry picked up a parchment to hide behind. Malfoy's ability to divine his thoughts was unnerving. Was he practicing Legilimency? Harry kept his eyes averted, just in case.
"As said by the master of the art of annoyance." Draco examined his nails.
Harry dropped the parchment. "Look, if you don't get out of my office —"
"— temporary office —"
"— I'll have to evict you."
"Hogwarts is a public school. These aren't your private quarters. I presume that your office is open to the other Champion representatives."
"None of whom are parking their arse in here and harassing me!" Harry ran a hand through his hair. "Look. If you're trying to get information about the tasks, I don't keep it here. Sorry. I know how you love to cheat."
"Cheating is an old and revered Triwizard Tournament tradition," Draco said. He laid his arm across the chair again. "I notice that you didn't remove yourself as head of security when your son was selected by the Goblet. Wouldn't you say that's a conflict of interest? Dare I say — cheating?"
"I don't cheat!" Harry snapped.
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Then why haven't you resigned your position?"
Because I need to keep an eye on Albus. "The Tournament officials trust me."
"So you wouldn't help your son at all? Not even a small hint?"
"I wouldn't help Albus cheat!" Albus would do that well enough on his own, Harry suspected.
"What kind of father are you?" Malfoy's voice was derisive.
"The right kind," Harry snapped.
"Hmrph." Malfoy's eyes roamed up and down Harry's body. "Wait until it gets exciting. Even you cheat, Potter. You just aren't honest enough to admit it."
Good God. Malfoy's look scorched across his skin, even the bits safe behind the covering of his robes. He felt himself respond. "Don't do that," Harry said, his face hot.
Malfoy seemed startled, but a moment later, his familiar sneer returned. "I was just thinking that Aurors desperately need tailors with some fashion sense. If one wears a uniform, one should look spectacular. Power is directly related to sex, you know." He abruptly stood and walked out of the office. "What a ridiculous use of my tax dollars. I shall be sure to speak with the Minister about eyesores funded with public Galleons," floated back to Harry.
Harry waved his wand at the door, shutting and locking it. He groaned.
"Looks like I'm not impotent after all," he muttered. Adjusting himself and burning with shame at the thought of Malfoy making him hard, he bent to his work.
He didn't accomplish much that day.
Much Madness is divinest Sense -
To a discerning Eye -
Much Sense - the starkest Madness -
`Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail -
Assent - and you are sane -
Demur - you`re straightaway dangerous -
And handled with a Chain ~ "Much Madness is divinest Sense" by Emily Dickinson. (posted in the London Underground)
The sun was setting, though Harry couldn't see it through the weak, cold drizzle that ate through Heating Charms and burrowed into bones.
The first task was about to begin.
The Wizarding Ministry had reached an agreement with the Muggle Prime Minister to hold the first task in Muggle London and had promptly reserved Hampstead Heath for the day of the event. High on the officials' platform, Harry looked down on a sea of Weasley-red hair. The whole family had turned out to cheer Albus on. Except Ginny, of course. Harry wondered if she was still billywigging in Australia, or if she'd moved on to something else new and exciting.
Headmaster Vangelis turned to him. "The first task," he said dreamily. "What an appropriate test of ingenuity and resourcefulness. Finding the next clue without magic. A true test of character."
Harry reflected on Albus's attempts to recreate a Marauder's Map of London and stayed silent. Cheating.
Malfoy's words about a father's responsibilities towards his son had stung. While a part of him vehemently protested Al's pragmatic outside-of-the-rules approach to the task, another part of him wondered. He wasn't sure if his son had been successful or not, but he hadn't discouraged him from his attempt, either.
Would his father have helped him to win something, even if it was through underhanded means? Harry imagined that the answer would be 'yes', if only because of James Potter's history as a Marauder. And to be utterly fair, not all of Harry's successes had been attained through strictly honest means. Look at the help he'd received during his experience as a Triwizard Champion. Yeah, all right, it had been through the efforts of a murderous Death Eater spy, but he'd used the information in good faith long before he knew about the fake-Moody's true identity.
Harry watched as Albus and the two other Champions received their final instructions from Headmaster Flitwick.
"No magic is allowed. You have until midnight to complete the task. Remember, London has a long and proud history in the wizarding world..."
Harry stopped listening, his mind flashing back to Malfoy's assessing look yet again. Remembering it, he shivered. He seemed to be obsessed with it. Ridiculous, really — Malfoy could hardly be attracted to Harry as a person, even if he did profess an admiration for Harry's body. Still, that gaze had wakened a burning that Harry hadn't felt in years, though he'd occasionally noticed women looking at him like Malfoy had.
He suspected that his reaction had to do with Malfoy himself. The look in Malfoy's eyes still burned on his skin. The steel-blue gaze wasn't new, but the heat in it was different. Not anger. Not hatred. Not murderous intent.
He shivered again.
"Cold, isn't it? I remember back in 1943..."
Harry nodded and politely ignored Headmaster Vangelis as he continued his reminiscence.
Of course, Malfoy had always been a cheat. Harry couldn't remember a time when Malfoy hadn't blatantly flaunted his freedom from following rules that confined the rest of the students, including Harry. Harry shook his head. No. He definitely couldn't cheat for his own sake.
But would it be different if he cheated for Al's sake? Or Lily's, or James's, or Teddy's, for that matter?
A movement caught his eye and he looked back at the Champions.
"The hourglass starts... now!" cried Flitwick. A huge hourglass began to spill pearls into its base as the three Champions sprinted down the hill, headed for the Thames.
Ron pushed his way through the crowd on the platform. When he reached Harry, he clapped him on the back. "He'll do fine, mate. No worries."
"Albus knows London. He can take care of himself." Harry would keep telling himself that, anyway.
"I can't wait to see how they handle getting the clue without magic," Ron said, grinning. "I'd be hard-pressed to do it, myself."
"That's because you're afraid of heights, you git." Harry smiled back. "None of the Champions are. We checked. Didn't want to put anyone at a disadvantage."
"Look at Malfoy," Ron said in a low voice. "He looks green."
Harry followed Ron's gaze. Ron was right. Malfoy looked as if he were about to faint. "Worried about his son, I'd guess," Harry replied quietly.
Ron snorted. "Worried about saving face, more like. His poor kid. Malfoy probably sat him down last night and threatened to hex him if he doesn't come in first."
"I don't think so." Harry looked at Malfoy speculatively. "He's been worried about his boy's safety more than he's been worried about his performance. You have to admit, it takes guts for a Malfoy to deal with being Sorted into Gryffindor. I don't expect young Malfoy's life at Hogwarts was all that easy."
Ron shrugged. "It wasn't always easy for us, either. The trouble with Malfoys, they've never been targets before. They've always been the ones targeting."
"Yeah." Maybe Malfoy had a reason to be uneasy. His son would be vulnerable out there, running around London with no magic. Maybe that particular requirement hadn't been such a great idea after all. "You know, in the interests of security, Ron, maybe we better tell the Aurors watching the Champions to be extra vigilant, just in case."
"They're already watching pretty close. I mean, it's Albus," Ron said.
"Yeah. Thanks." Harry smiled again. "But the Malfoy boy may be even more of a target than Albus."
Ron sighed. "Right. I'll let them know. Not that it'd hurt the brat to have some sense knocked into him."
"He hasn't done anything to anyone," Harry pointed out. "If anything, you and I should be his advocates. He's a Gryffindor, too."
Shaking his head, Ron took one last look at Malfoy. "What's the world coming to, I'd like to know? Malfoys have never been anything but Slytherins."
"And Potters have never been anything but Gryffindors. Yet, look at Al."
Ron pulled a face. "Don't remind me. Right. See you in a bit." He headed off.
Harry continued to watch Malfoy, who was staring at the huge OmniocuScreen, looking anxious.
Coming to a decision, Harry made his way to him, keeping an eye on his son's progress as he wove his way through the crowd.
The OmniocuScreen had broken into several planes, tracking each individual Champion. The Durmstrang girl had left the two boys, but Al and the Malfoy boy were still together. They seemed to be headed for the City.
He reached Malfoy and stood silent, watching the Champions.
"Looks like they're doing fine so far," Harry finally said, his voice quiet.
Malfoy started, but immediately collected himself. "Your boy is obviously set on tagging after my son."
Since Al and the Malfoy boy were walking side by side and laughing, Harry thought that comment was a bit unfair. "They seem to be having a good time."
"They're not keeping their eyes open!" Malfoy was angry. "They act like there's nobody out to hurt them. Scorpius would be enough of a target, but walking with your offspring makes him ten times the target he'd be on his own."
"I've had Ron tighten security."
"For your spawn." Malfoy looked at him. "You can't tell me that the Weasel will tighten security for my son." He looked back at the OmniocuScreen.
"Don't call him that." Harry frowned. "Look, you and Ron may not get along, but give him some credit for taking his job seriously."
"Not much reassurance when you consider his lack of competence."
"Then you'll have to call me incompetent, too, since I promoted him."
"Of course you did, he was your friend."
"I don't practice nepotism," Harry said sharply.
"Then you're either a fool or a liar," Malfoy retorted. "No one gets to your position without surrounding himself with people he can at least nominally trust. Even if they aren't competent."
"Good lord, Malfoy, you really have some twisted ideas."
"Welcome to the real world. You damned little fool. Why are you leading him there?" Malfoy glared at the image of his son leading Al into Farringdon.
"Why?" Harry asked sharply. "Where should he be leading Al?"
"Away from any wizarding sites." Malfoy clenched his hands.
Malfoy had cheated. He'd had to. Damn him, anyway. "How did you know about that?"
"It's obvious. Why else hold the first task in London? Besides, everyone knows that there are five great wizarding structures in the city," Malfoy said impatiently. "The Fleet Prison, which was torn down ages ago but built many a Slytherin fortune, including ours. The Tower. St Paul's. The Underground. The Eye."
"Not everyone knows that." Was it that obvious? Flitwick had been a Ravenclaw, and he'd thought it clever when the Tournament Committee had proposed the idea.
"Of course they do. You know the nursery verse:
Wizards made them,
Muggles paid them,
The joys of London abide;
Fleet prison, Paul's Dome,
The Tower, the Tube,
And over them all, the Eye."
"Oh." Harry had never heard the verse. "Wait. The Eye only opened in 1999. How could it have been in a nursery rhyme before then?"
Malfoy sighed. "You are truly ignorant, aren't you, Potter? Everyone knows that the Eye has been around for more than a century. That was simply the year that our Ministry finally reached an agreement with the Muggles to take off the Obsfucation Charm that had hidden it until then. Good decision — it's making the Ministry a mint between renting out the land and the cut the Ministry gets of the profits. Wait! There they go!"
It was truly dark now, though the OmniocuScreen still showed the Champions clearly. Harry watched as the two boys ran down the street and descended into the nearest tube station. "Where are they going?" he muttered.
"Shh. If I know Scorpius, he's just shaking off your limpet of a son and headed for a reconnaissance point."
They watched as the boys jumped on a train, alighting at the Embankment. They ran across Hungerford Bridge.
"They're headed for the Eye," Draco said. "Shake him off, Scorpius! Shake him off!"
"Doesn't look like he's trying very hard," Harry said. He leaned forward as if he could make Al run faster. "Go, Al! You can do it! Wait!" He grabbed Draco's shoulder. "Look! The Durmstrang girl!"
"Bloody hell!" Malfoy squinted. "D'you think we can conjure a bus to flatten her? She'll reach the Eye before they do!"
"Malfoy!" Harry was shocked.
"Don't be such a berk. I wouldn't really flatten her. Just send her to St Mungo's for a few days."
Harry gazed horror-struck at Malfoy. "I should arrest you! You're a menace!"
"Shh," Malfoy repeated. "Watch."
All three Champions met at the Eye, darkened and still in the evening air. Malfoy's son took something out of his pocket and showed it to the others; the three Champions looked at each other and grinned. He put it back into his pocket, then the children slipped past security guard, who ignored them completely.
Al darted into the control room at the bottom of the Eye. A moment later, he darted out again. They piled into a car and then, Champions all safely ensconced within its glass embrace, the Eye began to slowly turn.
"How'd they get past the security guard and into a locked control room?" Harry whispered angrily at Malfoy. "Did you give your son something magical?"
"Of course," Malfoy whispered back impatiently. "Didn't you?"
"We'll have to disqualify him!"
Malfoy looked away from the OmniocuScreen for a moment. "You'd have to disqualify all three of them, then, because they all used it."
"Bloody hell!" Harry ran a hand through his hair. Malfoy was right. His son had been careful to show the device, whatever it was, to the other two Champions. They hadn't objected.
"Don't worry about it," Malfoy said, attention turned back to the Eye. "I told you — you'll be helping your son cheat by the time this Tournament is finished. Besides, I doubt anyone else noticed. If they did, just tell them that Scorpius must have offered them some Bertie Botts."
"I can't lie like that!"
"Who'd be lying? For all you know, that's what happened. Bertie Botts are magical, but hardly to a degree that the judges will mind. The rest will be put down to luck."
"'Luck' that a security guard missed seeing three teenagers run past him? 'Luck' that the control room just happened to be left open? 'Luck' that millions of Londoners won't notice the Eye turning on its own in the middle of the night?"
"Muggles." Malfoy shrugged. "Who knows how they think? Maybe security guards routinely ignore children and leave control rooms unlocked. Who's to say? And it's hardly the middle of the night."
Harry grit his teeth and turned back to the OmniocuScreen. The glass car had nearly reached the zenith of the rotation. Harry could see the three Champions staring intently up at the sky. "Looks like they got the clue, at least," he said.
"Nothing about me," Harry said with grim satisfaction. "It was Headmistress's Carella's first name, Auriga."
Harry nodded. "It rises over St Paul's tonight."
"And St Paul's is the objective." Malfoy looked pleased. "Perfect."
"What's perfect about it?"
"Scorpius knows St Paul's like the back of his hand. That's where the Malfoy vaults are."
"You mean, the crypts? Aren't they closed?"
"Not to wizards."
The three Champions had reached the zenith. The girl pointed at St Paul's. They immediately ran to that side of the car and began to gesture. Harry could hear them arguing, though their words were lost in the roar of the crowd as the watchers realised the Champions had deciphered their clue.
Harry watched. He could see Albus eyeing the beach of the Thames; the tide was out and the route more direct. He closed his eyes. Not that sewer, Al.
Sure enough, when the car finally deposited them back on solid ground, the three Champions piled out of it and dashed down to the river.
"Oh!" cried Vangelis, his voice melodic. "Such athleticism! If only it were a true beach! I can picture it: the waves, the pounding of feet on sand, the grey mist rising from the surf as they run along an endless stretch between land and sea! A blaze of glory borne by chariots of fire!"
"Shut him up," Malfoy muttered. Harry quietly agreed.
In reality, the beach was hardly more than a stretch of slick, sucking mud interspersed with garbage and piles of centuries-old rubble. "We're going to have to get the St Mungo's staff to give them all a good check-over," Harry said. "God knows what kind of diseases they're being exposed to down there."
Malfoy winced as the Durmstrang girl fell and the other two stopped to help her to her feet. "I'm burning everything Scorpius is wearing. Oh, God," he moaned as his son ran a muddy hand through his hair, "not the hair, Scorpius! Treasure it while you have it!"
Harry glanced at Malfoy's receding hairline and agreed. Sharp Malfoy features definitely needed the softening effect of the pale, silky hair. He wondered what it would feel like if he touched it.
A moment later, Harry's eyes widened in horror. Had he just thought of touching Malfoy's hair? He shuddered.
The Champions disappeared under a bridge, only to reappear moments later clambering up the stone steps of a quay on the other side. Harry realised that they'd actually shaved quite a distance from the twisting, up-and-down walkway that followed the South Bank, and were now just a few metres from the Millennium Bridge. They ran up the ramp and across the bridge towards St Paul's.
St Paul's dome shone midnight-slate and white against the dark sky, spotlights caressing its serene lines. Harry held his breath as the three children dodged through Fleet Street traffic.
They entered the Cathedral.
There, the OmniocuScreen split once again. Malfoy's son seemed to disappear, then suddenly reappear in a dark corridor. He ran down it as Al and the Durmstrang girl looked around in bewilderment. Then Al shouted, "Come on!" and ran towards the steps leading up to the Whispering Gallery.
Harry watched as Malfoy's son climbed a series of stairs that seemed to follow the curve of the dome. He then reached a series of metal rungs that led to a enclosed iron ladder and swarmed up it. He poked his head through an opening at the top; simultaneously, Harry saw his face appear far above Al.
"I've got it!" he heard young Malfoy shout.
"What's it say?" Al shouted back from the upper gallery, where he and the girl had found themselves stopped, unable to go any higher.
The crowd fell silent, waiting for the clue.
"'Remember how you got here.'"
There was silence for a moment, and then the sound of confused murmuring from the crowd.
The three Champions looked at each other. "Well, that's a pretty lame clue," Al finally said. "Are you sure there's nothing else?"
"No. Nothing." With shrugs, the three children began to make their way downward.
"A bit anti-climatic," Malfoy observed. "But of course, that doesn't matter, since Scorpius won."
Malfoy would be even more insufferable now. Harry sighed. "Congratulations."
Looking smug, Malfoy preened. "Thank you, Potter. I know how difficult it must be for you to watch your son fail like that."
"Al didn't fail!"
"Of course he didn't. He merely lost," Malfoy said in a consoling voice. "I'm going down to meet Scorpius."
Harry saw that the three Champions had reached the Portkey left for them in the vestibule of St Paul's. A moment later, cheers erupted as they materialised in the winner's circle in front of the OmniocuScreen.
"The winner of the first task is...Scorpius Malfoy!"
Harry made his way off the platform and rescued Al from his Weasley relatives. He saw Malfoy standing proudly beside his son as dozens of flashbulbs went off. Frowning, he hugged Al.
"I'm proud of you," Harry said fiercely. "You nearly had him."
Al sighed and looked forlorn. "I still lost."
Harry looked at him, worried. Then he saw Al's mouth twitch. He suppressed a smile of his own, keeping his voice grave. "Right. Look. I'm your da. What can I do to rebuild your confidence?"
"Tell you what," Al said with a cocky grin. "You can sooth my wounded ego with lunch at the Three Broomsticks tomorrow."
Harry cuffed Al on the back of the head. "Right. With your appetite, I'll be a pauper tomorrow afternoon. But I suppose it's worth it." He put an arm around his son and they joined the crowd streaming towards the Portkey site. "Let's get you back to the castle."
~Hammersmith & City~
Al had dragged Harry from one Hogsmeade shop to another before he finally allowed his father to steer them to the Three Broomsticks.
Now, they stood just inside the door, looking at the packed room in dismay.
"We could go somewhere else," Harry offered.
Al shook his head. "I'll only settle for Madam Rosmerta's shepherd's pie." He looked around, then grabbed Harry's arm. "Wait here. I see her. I'll work my charms on her — I'm sure she'll find us a table."
"Good luck," Harry said to his son's back as Al plunged across the crowded room.
His wish must have worked, because a few moments later, Harry found himself being seated at a table next to the large fireplace. The warmth of the flames was wonderful after the cold, brisk November wind.
"Harry Potter!" Harry found himself enfolded in a butterbeery hug. "You look as handsome as ever! Your boy's the spitting image of you, not to mention quite the charmer. And what can I get you, luvs?"
"Hello, Rosmerta," Harry said.
"We'll want lots of food. Fish and chips for dad and an extra-huge portion of shepherd's pie for me," Al said as Harry sat back, amused. "Oh, and two hot butterbeers."
"Be right back!"
When the butterbeers arrived, Harry wrapped his hands around his warm mug and took an appreciative sip. "Perfect. I don't know how you did it, Al, but thanks."
"Don't thank me. You're paying. I think I'll have treacle tart for dessert." Al looked dreamy. Then he sat up, concerned. "Oh. Look!"
Harry turned in his chair. Malfoy and his son were standing in the doorway, obviously looking for a table.
"There're no tables left," Al said. "Let's invite them to eat with us." Without waiting for Harry to reply, he stood and waved. "Scorpius! Over here!"
Harry's heart dropped as he watched the two Malfoys winding their way to the table. "Malfoy," he greeted without enthusiasm. "Please join us."
"Potter." Malfoy glared. "Thank you for inviting us," he added through clenched teeth.
"My pleasure." Good lord. This was going to be uncomfortable. He and Malfoy looked anywhere but at each other.
The two boys didn't seem to notice. Al cheerily ordered for their guests and then turned to the Malfoys. "Yesterday was brilliant. Didn't you think so, too, Scorpius? Oh, Dad, I almost forgot — you've never met Scorpius before, have you? Dad, Scorpius. Scorpius, this is my dad."
"I'm pleased to meet you in person, Mr Potter. Please, call me Scorpius." Scorpius extended an elegant hand to Harry.
"Scorpius," Harry acknowledged as he shook his hand. "Malfoy, I don't believe you've met my son —" he began, intending to maintain the appearance of civility, at least.
"Oh, Mr Malfoy and I have known each other for years," Al interrupted. "He used to bring Scorpius and me here for lunch on Hogsmeade weekends when Scorpius was at Hogwarts."
"You know each other?" Neither Al nor Malfoy had said anything about it before.
Malfoy raised an eyebrow and sipped his butterbeer.
"How's —" Al scrunched his face, then relaxed it. "How's Christopher, Mr Malfoy?"
Malfoy nearly sprayed his butterbeer across the table. "I'm afraid that Christopher and I are no longer friends, Albus," he said, putting down his mug and using his napkin to wipe butterbeer from his clothes.
"Pity." Al turned innocent eyes to Harry. "Christopher was dead funny, always good for a laugh."
"He was quite attractive, as well," Scorpius said with a sly smirk at his father. "All dark hair and green eyes, if I remember. Had quite a nice arse, too, for an older man."
Harry felt himself turn red. "Er, yes, well..." He frantically tried to come up with a way to change the topic. "The butterbeer is good here, isn't it?"
If looks could kill, Malfoy's would have slain both boys. "Yes. It is."
Well, that obviously hadn't worked as a distraction. Harry turned to Scorpius. "I hear you're a Gryffindor, too. Are the dorms still as draughty as they were when I went to Hogwarts?"
"Yes, sir," Scorpius said, glancing at his father.
"Scorpius, tell Dad how you got into Gryffindor," Al said.
Malfoy looked as if he could explode. A malicious thrill ran through Harry. "I think most people found that particular Sorting to be quite unexpected. I know I did when it came to Al."
Malfoy turned furious eyes on him. Harry was startled to feel his prick stir, just as it had several weeks earlier. Then, Malfoy's gaze had been assessing, but now...now, it was pure passion. Harry surreptitiously squirmed to relieve a bit of the pressure that was building in his groin.
"It was quite interesting," Scorpius said, wresting Harry's attention away from his interested cock. "Papa — I mean, Father — had told me that the Sorting Hat was semi-sentient. So even before I went to Hogwarts, I decided to weigh my House options and present them once the Hat was put on my head."
"You PLANNED to go into Gryffindor?" Malfoy's shriek drew the entire room's attention.
Harry hastily cast, "Muffliato!"
"Brilliant!" Al said as the other patrons turned away. "I'm remembering that one!" He turned back to Scorpius. "So, you'd decided to go into Gryffindor even before you got on the Hogwarts Express?"
Scorpius nodded. "When the Sorting Hat was put on my head, I said 'before you put me in Slytherin, hear me out'. It told me to be quick about it, since others were waiting. So I said, 'Right. Put me in Gryffindor.'"
"Completely preposterous!" Malfoy said.
Scorpius grinned. "That's what the Hat said, too. I said, 'No, it's not. Gryffindor is the place to be if you want to get ahead in the Wizarding World. There's a Potter my age that will be going there, too.'"
Harry laughed. "Sounds like Slytherin logic to me!"
"The Hat seemed to think so, too. So I pointed out that if I went into Gryffindor, wouldn't there be widespread astonishment and anger? Wouldn't I be in possible danger? Wouldn't I be a fool to want to join that house anyway?"
"And what did the Hat say?" Malfoy sounded resigned.
Scorpius smiled. "It couldn't really say anything, could it? I ended by pointing out that a boy who wants to walk into certain danger just because he thinks it's the right thing to do even though he's a fool should be in Gryffindor."
Malfoy shook his head. "What did you hope to accomplish?"
"The same thing as you, Papa," Scorpius said quietly, his bravado gone. "I would have been honoured to have been placed in Slytherin, but I could do more good in Gryffindor. People need to know that Malfoys aren't evil."
The two Malfoys looked at each other, a dawning expression of frustrated pride crossing Malfoy's face. Harry glanced at Al, who watched Scorpius as if he were the most brilliant person in the world.
"And then it told you that it hoped you got hexed six ways to doomsday and shouted 'Gryffindor!'" Al finished.
"Yeah." Scorpius looked at Al fondly. "Then you went and Sorted into Slytherin. I nearly threw up my hands then and there."
"It worked out anyway," Al said. "We still got to be friends." The two boys grinned at each other.
Malfoy snorted. "Right. I think it should be made illegal to hire tutors who teach logic and debate to an eight-year-old."
"I think most parents would disagree. They'd love to have a logical eight-year-old," Harry said. He smiled, impressed by Scorpius's feat.
"Further proof of your vendetta against me, Potter. Have you ever had an eight-year-old who wanted a diamond-studded compass for his autographed, limited-edition Viktor Krum Nimbus 2010?"
Harry shook his head.
"Well, I did. It cost me ten thousand Galleons."
Scorpius said with fond remembrance, "I think Papa was finally persuaded when I pointed out the fifty-year trend in the average value of Galleons per carat." He beamed at Malfoy. "I'd have settled for twenty carats, you know. Though fifty carats was lovely — I could leverage quite a bit more when I used the broom as collateral."
Malfoy rolled his eyes and they all laughed.
Harry found himself watching Malfoy throughout the surprisingly pleasant meal.
Relaxed and full of obvious affection for his son, Malfoy seemed a stranger, far removed from the brittle, sarcastic man Harry thought he knew. Intelligent, though different to Hermione's intelligence: analytical and shrewd instead of the applied theoretical approach Hermione tended to follow. Malfoy's sense of humour was full of sharp edges, tempered with affection when it was directed at someone he cared for. He spoke with animation, his hands flowing through a series of graceful gestures that communicated as much, if not more, than the words he used.
Harry found himself wanting to get to know this Malfoy. As a friend, he hastily added as his uncomfortably aroused prick gave yet another interested twitch.
Really. Just a friend.
He refused to think of Christopher of the dark hair and green eyes. That kind of speculation led nowhere.
His cock disagreed. Repeatedly.
'Will you walk a little faster?' said a whiting to a snail,
'There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle - will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you,
Will you join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you,
Won't you join the dance? ~ Excerpt from "The Lobster Quadrille" by Lewis Carroll. (posted in the London Underground)
They shouted advice at him until he crouched with his hands over his ears, trying to block their voices.
Sirius was reproachful. "What's more important, your honour or your son?"
His father was jovial. "Cheating is a long and venerable Triwizard tradition, Harry. Show me that a Marauder's blood runs through your veins.."
Snape sneered and said, "Cheat," enunciating the last letter like a whip.
Ginny said, "I cheat all the time and it hasn't hurt me, has it?" She'd descended on him, grabbing his hands and pulling them away from his ears. "Come with me, Harry. Let's have sex."
And then Harry looked up and Ginny's hair turned white and her freckles disappeared and her features grew more pointed until it was Malfoy, the bastard, saying, "I told you that you'd cheat," and his lips were pink and damp and Harry found himself leaning in to kiss them...
Harry awoke with a start, heart pounding. He sat up and looked around frantically before he realised he'd been dreaming again. Throwing himself back on his pillows, he flung his arm across his face.
He hadn't slept well for the past week. Time was running out, and Albus still didn't seem to have figured out the clue to the second task. It was too obscure; he'd told the Tournament committee so, but the three school heads were sure that all of the children would realise what they'd need to plan for.
Groaning, he knew what he had to do.
Early the next morning, the library was empty except for Al. Harry choked off the little voice in his head that cried 'Cheat!' and walked over to his son. Malfoy had been right, after all — he hated to think of Albus trying to tackle the next task without knowing what he was up against. He stopped by Al's table. "Second task's coming up soon."
Al looked up from the book he was reading. "Yeah."
"Figured out your clue yet?"
Al shrugged. "'Remember how you got here.' It's a bit cryptic."
"Clues tend to be that way." Taking a deep breath, Harry blurted out, "Youmaywanttofindaspellthatcanhelpyouclimbslipperythings."
Al looked amused. "Cold slippery things?"
"Glass slippery things." Harry flopped into a chair across from him. "I'm pants at this."
"Yeah." Al sat forward and patted Harry's arm. "I'm proud of you, though. For a first attempt, it could have been worse. But don't try cheating with anyone else, okay? I'd hate to see you embarrassed."
Harry scrubbed his face with his hand. "I wouldn't be in such a moral quandary if you hadn't submitted your name to the Goblet," he pointed out. "Why'd you do it, Al?"
Al sighed. "I'm not sure you want to know, Dad."
"You don't have to tell me."
Al contemplated him silently for a few moments, then closed his book. "I've been in love with Scorpius Malfoy since I first set eyes on him."
Harry blinked. "Oh. Well. That explains it."
Al rolled his eyes. "You handled that well." He ran his hand through his hair; a familiar gesture, Harry recognised with a jolt — his own, when he was upset.
"Look, Al, it's okay," he said, leaning across the table. "I think Scorpius is a fine boy."
Looking away, Al shrugged. "He's Scorpius, that's all. And he doesn't know, either," he said fiercely, turning back to Harry. "So don't say anything."
Harry nodded. "So when you saw him put his name in the Goblet..."
"Someone had to watch over him. He's a Gryffindor maniac. Truly, Dad, the Hat put him in the right House all along."
"How'd you get the Goblet to pick you, though? It looked like everyone thought the Gryffindor girl would be chosen."
"Yeah, well, that." Al bit his lip. "I'd done a bit of research about the Goblet. Did you know it was made by Goblins?" Harry shook his head. "I started thinking about why the Goblins made it. Was it commissioned by a wizard? Was it a gift or a bribe? Or was it something else, like a weapon? So I went to Binns."
"You'd be surprised at what you can learn in his class," Al muttered, shifting in his seat. "Anyway, Binns said it was created by the Goblins to help them to select Champions during the Goblin wars.
"So I started thinking a bit more. It seemed to me that, while there were a lot of Goblins with warrior-sounding names, none of them really struck me as being, well — warriors. Just arrow-fodder, primarily. The really smart Goblins stayed behind the battlefield and plotted strategy. They were brilliant at it. That's why the wars would drag on so long. Well, that, and the fact that the Goblins had cornered the market on magical swords and shields and stuff, so they were making money hand over fist whenever there was fighting."
"Are you saying that they created the Goblet to figure out who..."
"...Should be their champions. Yeah." Al looked embarrassed. "All I had to do was to convince the Goblet that it wanted me for a champion."
"Arrow-fodder," Harry said.
"Oh, no," Al protested. "They picked those champions on their own. Probably had to do with who was unpopular at any given moment. No, the champions the Goblet picked were the ones who could make the most money out of the war."
Harry frowned, but the more he thought of it, the more it made sense. Everyone the Goblet had ever picked, to his knowledge, had money or connections of some sort. Even poor Cedric, he thought to himself with a twinge of old guilt. His father had a good job with the Ministry. He shivered.
"So you figured that the Goblet would choose you because of your connections," he said.
"Yeah. Well, that," and Al looked shifty, "and the fact that I created a spell that burned up all of the other Hogwarts and Beauxbatons names in the Goblet."
"What?" Harry yelped, then lowered his voice as Madam Pince glared, even though he and Al were the only ones in there. "If you could create a spell like that, why didn't you just burn up Scorpius's name and leave yourself out of it completely?"
"And miss the opportunity to get out of classes and my finals? You must be joking!" Al hissed back. "Besides, the publicity will do me good. I plan to start a security business as soon as I get out of Hogwarts. What better security testimonial than being chosen by the Goblet of Fire? That way, I don't have to rely on your name as much, either," he pointed out.
A true Slytherin.
A week later, as he watched Al use a modified Levitation Spell and ice skates to scale the glass mountain that comprised the second task, he reflected on how devious his second son truly was.
Harry suspected that Albus was behind the fact that the other two Champions were having so much trouble scaling the mountain. The Durmstrang girl seemed to be having a difficult time with the potion that she had brewed to dissolve the glass into footholds, while Scorpius's clever Suction-Cup Charm didn't seem to be working as well as it should.
"If you scar another Malfoy, Potter, I swear..." Malfoy muttered for what must have been the twentieth time.
"I felt guilty the first couple of times you said that, but at this point, the guilt has been completely replaced by annoyance."
Malfoy snorted. They stood together in silence as Al reached the top of the mountain and began to search for one of the three diamond keys hidden amongst shards of glass.
"You were right, you know," Harry said quietly as they watched Al materialise in the winner's circle, his diamond Portkey held high above his head. "Fathers need to help their sons."
Malfoy looked at him out of the corner of his eye. "Of course I'm right," he said dismissively, his attention turned back to Scorpius, who had finally reached the top of the mountain. "About time you admitted it."
"Would you like to go out to dinner with me?" Harry blurted without looking at Malfoy. He felt Malfoy stiffen next to him. "Draco," he added. The name felt strange coming from his mouth, but it fit the man standing next to him. Harry wasn't sure if he'd ever be able to think of him as 'Malfoy' again.
"What brought that about?"
Harry looked at him. Draco was still looking at Scorpius on the mountain. "I've been doing some thinking," Harry said. "A lot, actually. But I don't want to talk about it here."
Draco's nostrils flared. "I expect the best restaurant available." His voice was tight. "One that's both expensive and discreet."
Harry nodded. "I thought the same thing. I went to a place in Vienna, once, when I was consulting with the Wizarding Interpol on a case. I think you'd like it."
"Schumberg's?" When Harry nodded, Draco inclined his head. "Adequate."
They stood silently until Scorpius appeared in the winner's circle next to Al.
"Albus and Scorpius are tied for first place after the first two tasks," Harry observed.
"Bully for them," Draco muttered. He shouldered past Harry and left the room.
Harry was knotting his tie when Ron burst into the bedroom.
"What's this about you taking Malfoy out to dinner in Vienna?"
Harry frowned and started his knot again. "How did you find out?"
"The restaurant Flooed the office and asked me to tell you that all of the arrangements that you'd asked for had been made. They happened to mention that both Herr Potter and Herr Malfoy would be pleased with the results. 'Sehr romantisch,' he said."
Harry had known he'd have to talk to Ron sooner or later. He'd just hoped it would be later. Much later. "I know. That's what I asked for." He abandoned the knot and turned to Ron. "What's the problem? That I'm asking someone out? That I'm asking a man out? That I'm asking Draco out?"
"All three!" Ron glared, his hands bunched into fists. "Bloody hell, Harry. You're married! And it's Malfoy!"
"Ginny and I have an open marriage." Harry was suddenly afraid Ron would think that he was dating Draco to get back at Ginny, which was the furthest thing from the truth. "Not that it matters. Even if Ginny and I were still — anyway, I'd still have these feelings for Draco."
"Do you hear yourself?" Ron's face was red and he was shaking with anger. "You're cheating on your wife with Draco Malfoy!"
"I'm not cheating! Ginny left me, she's the one who wanted an open marriage!"
"You don't believe the stuff she writes about, do you?" Ron asked in astonishment.
"Yes, Ron. Yes, I do believe the stuff she's writing," Harry said, bunching his own fists.
"Well that's just stupid!" Ron roared. "That's my little sister you're talking about!"
"Ron, Ginny is happy. I'm not. Do you realise how long it's been since I've felt anything even approaching happiness?"
"Marriage isn't just about happiness! It's a partnership! It's happiness and sadness and joy and hurt! You don't give it all up just because you're unhappy!"
Harry paled. "Then maybe you're a better man that I am," he said, his voice quiet with anger. "But don't you dare tell me what I can and can't give up. In fact, tell you what. After Hermione has left you to go billywigging in Australia with a bloke named Nigel so she can see what it's like to have oral sex with someone other than her husband whilst floating, then you can come and tell me that you don't give up a marriage because you're unhappy."
"You bastard!" Ron leapt for Harry, but Harry, having anticipated Ron's actions, had his wand in his hand.
Ron crashed to the floor. Harry stood over his frozen form, glaring down at him.
"I still love Ginny. I intend to take care of her for the rest of my life, because that's a promise I made and I don't break my promises. But she broke her promise to me and I'm damned if I'm going to let my life come to a complete halt anymore because of it. I don't know if it's smart, or right, or healthy, but when I'm around Draco, I feel alive. I laugh. I get angry. I think. So even if he and I end up killing each other tonight, I'm going through with it. Because it's better than not feeling anything at all." He grabbed his cloak and stuffed his tie into his pocket. "The spell will wear off when I leave. Try not to trash the place. And if you follow me, so help me, Ron, even though you're my best friend, I'll hex you until your bollocks come out your nose."
Still glaring, Harry Disapparated.
He walked through the streets of Vienna for a few minutes before he made his way to the restaurant, hoping to get rid of his anger. Even so, Draco seemed to sense something was wrong.
"Having second thoughts, Potter?" Draco slipped into his chair. He seemed wary.
"Ron and I had a bit of a fight," Harry said. "You look nice," he added, trying to lighten the mood.
Draco tensed again. "Did you think I would dress poorly?"
"No, no. Look," Harry ran his hand through his hair and adjusted his glasses. "I'm nervous about making a good impression on you and still a little upset about Ron. I'm sorry if I'm saying the wrong things. I'm really quite happy you're here."
"Forget about making a good impression," Draco smirked. "You've already botched that, long ago."
"Right. Right. Call me Harry, would you?" Harry tapped his fingers on the table and looked around. "Shall we ask for menus?"
Draco looked amused. Harry was relieved to see that he was relaxing. "I'll have champagne, too. As long as you're paying."
Harry grinned. A waiter appeared and took their order. Once they had their wine and the remainder of the bottle nestled comfortably in ice, Harry raised his flute. "Here's to new beginnings."
"New beginnings," Draco echoed. He took a sip and then carefully placed his flute on the table in front of him. "Now, why don't you tell me the real reason you asked me to have dinner with you."
Harry paused. "I want to get to know you better."
"You've had thirty-odd years to get to know me."
He shrugged. "It takes me a while to think things through sometimes."
Draco snorted. "And I'm a Snork-Hangled Flycatcher."
"Actually, I think you mean Crumpled-Horned Snorkack."
The waiter descended upon them and served their meals in a flurry of graceful tweaks and garnishes. He disappeared just as quickly.
Draco cut his steak into small pieces. "Are you trying to seduce me so that you can coerce me to get my son to lose? Not even you could be that good in bed, Potter."
"What? Wait —"
"You're not even gay."
"I'm not sure how my wanting to get to know you led the conversation straight to sex, but can we back up a bit? Enjoy our meal, maybe?"
Draco narrowed his eyes. "I'm on to you."
"Yes. Well. Much as I'll have to restrain myself, I promise I won't try anything during the meal," Harry said dryly. "Why don't you enjoy your lobster?"
"I'm eating steak."
"So you are. How is it?"
Truce drawn, the dinner passed pleasantly. Harry found himself enjoying Draco's attempts to wrangle information about the third task from him; the other man's sharp tongue and ready wit nearly tripped Harry up several times.
By the time they reached the brandy stage, Harry was well and truly smitten. He forced himself not to squirm as his cock indicated its interest in an aperitif of its own, instead, using the burn of sexual arousal to keep him alert and focused on Draco. In particular, Draco's eyelashes. Damn. They were gorgeous. They fluttered, they concealed, they beckoned, they...
"You've got gorgeous eyelashes," Harry blurted.
Draco stopped mid-sentence and stared. "Did you just compliment me on my eyelashes?"
They stared at each other.
"Well." Draco folded his napkin and placed it on the table. "Compliments like that lead one to think that Harry Potter may actually be sincere in contemplating the wide, wonderful world of gay sex. Do you know what you're doing?"
Harry swallowed hard. "I don't have any experience with another man. But I think I understand the logistics of it fairly well."
"You should be blushing again right about now."
Damn. He'd notice those other times. "Yeah, well, that was before I knew how I felt. There's no reason to blush, now."
"So. How do you feel?"
Harry studied the man across from him. Draco looked stunning. "I want you," he said quietly. It would never last, Harry knew that, but what he'd told Ron was true. Draco made him feel. And Harry desperately wanted to feel tonight.
Draco tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. "A one-night stand?"
Harry shook his head. "I don't know. If it were up to me, probably not. I don't think I'm in love with you, but I know that I care for you. Want to know you better. I doubt that one night would be enough."
Draco's eyebrows shot up. "That was unexpected," he murmured. "I'd thought you were simply curious."
Harry shrugged. "I'm not that way," he said. "If I were just curious, I'd have probably just had sex with someone after Ginny left me, found a stranger, a Muggle or someone. But I never wanted a stranger. I never wanted anyone. Until you."
"Are you finished with dinner?" Draco asked.
Draco raised his chin in the air. "Then come have coffee with me. At the Manor."
Harry winced. "The Manor?"
Draco looked blank for a moment, then rolled his eyes. "Still living in the past? Fine. We'll go to my London flat." He stood. "Coming?"
This was it. If he went, he doubted he could gracefully back out without destroying whatever fragile friendship he and Draco had begun to build. But it also meant that he was really, truly going to cheat on Ginny. "It's too late," he whispered to himself. He'd already made up his mind. The act was secondary.
"I beg your pardon?"
Harry looked up at Draco. "Yeah. I'm coming."
A moment after they'd Materialised in Draco's flat, Harry found himself lying on his back with Draco on top of him — a Draco that was nipping and sucking and ohGodrubbinghisballsjustrightandpressingwiththeheelofhishandrightthere —
"Ungh!" Harry said as he came in his trousers. He panted while Draco watched him with a smug smile.
"A bit quick off the mark, there, Potter," he said. "Can you get it up again, or are you an old man who needs a day or two to recharge?"
Harry looked into taunting grey eyes and growled. "Come here!" He yanked Draco down on top of him again and kissed him fiercely.
Draco pulled away, pinning him with his weight. "Before we really get started, some rules. I only top. In case you don't know gay terminology, it means I don't get fucked, I do the fucking."
"All right." He could do this.
"I don't bask in the afterglow, cuddle or engage in any other euphemistic post-sex groping activities."
"No cuddling. Got it." Harry closed his eyes.
"When we're finished, I'll have Posey show you to the guest bedroom."
"Who's Posey? And why separate bedrooms?"
"Posey is the House Elf for this flat. And the separate bedroom is obvious, of course. I don't sleep with other people." Draco glared.
"Is that all?"
"No. One more rule. No kissing."
"I can't do this!" Harry abruptly sat up. "Draco, no normal person can make love under rules like that!" He pushed Draco off of him and stood.
"Who said anything about making love? We're having sex! Or not, as the case appears to be," Draco said bitterly, retreating. "No one else has ever complained."
"Were you like this with Astoria?"
"Asteria. Of course. Although I allowed her to kiss me, as she was my wife."
"No wonder she left you."
"Nobody is forcing you to have sex with me, you know."
"I don't understand how anyone could successfully manage to have sex with you!" Harry shouted. "What do you do, fuck your partner from behind and banish them from your bed when you're finished?"
"And I suppose that you think there's another way to go about it?" Draco sneered.
"Draco," Harry pleaded. "I want to touch you. To hold you. To watch your face when you come."
"That's what lovers do!" Draco said scornfully.
"I want to be your lover!" Harry shouted back.
"Let me ask you something. Do you ever plan to get a divorce?"
"I — no," Harry said.
"Then be truthful, Potter. If you were me, how much time do you imagine a relationship with a married man would last? One night, two? A month? Only an idiot ever gets involved with a married person unless he's seen the signed divorce papers filed in quadruplicate."
"Another rule?" Harry began to pace.
"Look, do you or do you not want to have sex with me?"
Harry paused. "No. I don't want to have sex with you. I wouldn't mind having a go at being your lover, but not with the rules you've set up."
"Take it or leave it." Draco stood defiant, arms crossed, chin in the air.
"I'm not going to take it. I don't want to force you." Harry looked away. "But I don't want to leave it, either. Draco, strange as it sounds, even to me, I — I like you. Maybe we should just be friends."
"Quite. Of course. 'Friends.' I don't have 'friends', Potter. I have enemies and I have allies and I have servants."
"I don't fit anywhere, do I?" Harry's heart felt as if it could pound out of his chest.
"I guess you don't."
"Fine. I — Thank you for a lovely dinner."
"Why don't you thank me for getting you off, too?" Draco taunted.
"You know, Draco, for a Slytherin who doesn't feel the need to abide by the rules, you sure seem to have a lot of them."
"For a Gryffindor who always lives by the rules, you seem to flout them with regularity."
"No." Harry watched Draco, cold and pale and remote. "I don't flout the rules. There are just some rules that I won't play by. There's a difference."
"Not from my point of view."
"Right." Harry looked at the floor. "I'm sorry."
"Damned if I know," he admitted with a shaky laugh. "Just — sorry." He met Draco's eyes. "I really like you, Malfoy."
"Not enough, apparently."
Harry dropped his eyes. "Apparently. Good night."
Harry looked up as the door to his office opened. Al peered around the corner.
"Want a butterbeer?" he asked.
Al entered, gesturing with his wand. The sconces on the wall flared to life. Harry squinted at their brightness. The dark had been just fine, as far as he was concerned.
"Scorpius says his dad is furious," Al said as he passed Harry a bottle.
"I don't think it's appropriate for me to talk to you about my love life," Harry said quietly.
Al sipped his butterbeer. "Fair enough," he acknowledged. "Would you be willing to talk to me about mine?"
"Of course." Oh God. He didn't want to talk about Al's love life. The self-centred little brat. Harry prepared to sacrifice himself on the altar of parental duty by burying his face in his hands.
"I think Mr Malfoy sent Scorpius away to France because...well, because of me," Al said.
Harry sighed and looked at his son. "And why do you think that?"
Al squirmed. "I think he could see that I loved Scorpius. I don't think he liked that."
"He'd started forming an...attachment...to someone unsuitable."
Malfoy had known about Al's feelings all along. Malfoy had thought Al was 'unsuitable.'
The absolute, utter bastard.
Al continued. "The thing is, I know that Scorpius doesn't feel the same way about me, so I never would have done anything about it. I mean, why risk a friendship like that?"
"Malfoys don't think like that," Harry said automatically.
Al sat silent for a few moments, peeling the label on his butterbeer bottle. "D'you mean that, since they're used to going after whatever they want, they assume everyone else does, too?"
"Something like that."
"So Mr Malfoy probably thought that I'd go after Scorpius." Al dropped the scraps of label and sipped his butterbeer. "Huh. That changes things a bit, doesn't it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it's just that I never really considered Scorpius to be someone I'd go after. But Mr Malfoy thinks of him as someone I would go after." Al began to grin. "I like those rules better. If Mr Malfoy thinks I'd go after Scorpius, then why shouldn't I?"
The butterbeer must have gone to Al's head. Or maybe his own. Harry looked at his bottle doubtfully. "I don't think I followed what you just said."
"It's actually pretty simple. Mr Malfoy thinks of Scorpius as a prize. Which he should," Al said, loyal to his friend. "It's just, well, you compete for prizes, don't you?"
"Yeah. But do you think of Scorpius as a prize? That doesn't seem very healthy," Harry pointed out.
"Who cares what I think? I can change my thinking," Al said impatiently. "The key is what Scorpius thinks. Does he think he's a prize? And if so, does he think I'm in the race?" Al smiled, a wide, hopeful, excited boy-in-love grin. "Thanks, Dad!" He stood.
"For what?" As Al continued to the door without answering, Harry called out. "Where are you going?"
"I've got a race to run," Al said, his smile incandescent.
An hour later, the door to his office burst open.
"You bastard!" Draco stormed across the room and slapped his hands down on Harry's desk. "You sent him to sabotage Scorpius's chances, didn't you?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Your spawn. You set him on Scorpius, didn't you? To distract my son from winning the Tournament!"
Easing away from Draco, Harry said, "I still don't know what you're talking about."
"I was just in Hogsmeade, hoping to meet Scorpius —"
"What would Scorpius be doing in Hogsmeade?"
"It's a Hogsmeade weekend, you dolt!" Draco flung himself into a chair. "I was walking down the street, when suddenly, I see my son and your cheating little swot walking out of Honeydukes holding hands!"
Harry blinked. "Al didn't waste any time."
"I knew it!" shouted Draco, springing from his chair. "You put him up to it!"
"I didn't put him up to it!" Harry sat back. "Al's in love. And it sounds like Scorpius might feel the same way, if they're holding hands."
"If Scorpius loses this Tournament because your son manipulates his hormones, I'll sue you for everything you have!"
"Quite a change of attitude from the man who was furious that his son was even chosen by the Goblet. In fact, weren't you the one who told Al to keep an eye on Scorpius?"
"An eye, yes. Not his bloody paws."
Harry watched Draco's face carefully. "Al thinks you sent Scorpius to France because you were afraid that Al would try to seduce him."
Draco twitched. Just a little, but enough.
Harry glared. "You did, didn't you? Didn't think my son was good enough for your son, is that it?"
Draco looked down his nose at Harry. "I suppose that you think he is?"
"Maybe I'm not the best catch for you," Harry said bitterly, "but my son is a damned fine catch for your son."
"This isn't about all about you, you selfish git! This is about my son! Call your brat off."
"No. I won't."
"On what grounds?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "That's a school rule, not a wizarding law. And if they're just holding hands, I doubt that they're breaking the improper conduct rule, anyway."
"You're not going to do anything about it, are you?"
"Draco." Harry felt defeated. "No, I'm not going to do anything about it. My son is in love. I think Scorpius is a fine young man. I'm not going to stand in their way."
Draco stared at him, his anger replaced by confusion. "You act as if they have a choice," he said in disbelief.
Harry frowned. "They do."
Draco slowly sat down. "You devious bastard. I see it now. Albus is your second son. Of course. It's fine for you. You've got an older son to carry on the Potter name." The anger began to build again. "But Scorpius doesn't have that choice. You can't use your son to take away Scorpius's future."
"I'm not using my son for anything!" Harry protested. "Draco, they're kids. Nearly grown up. It's natural that they fall in love."
"There's obviously no talking sense to you." Draco stood. His face was pale. "You've stolen my son's future. I never want to see your face again."
The door slammed.
Harry tried to meet with Draco. Many times.
Draco refused to talk.
For the next two months, the closest Harry could get to Draco was being seated at the opposite end of the Head Table when Draco was Headmaster Flitwick's guest.
Meanwhile, Al and Scorpius glowed.
The evening before the third task, Harry received a paper aeroplane from Headmaster Flitwick, asking him to come to the his office.
When he arrived, the first person he saw was Draco. "Is there a problem?" he asked warily.
"A small one," Headmaster Flitwick said while Headmaster Vangelis and Headmistress Capella nodded. "It appears that the 'thing you'd miss the most' for your boys would be each other."
"You've not only ruined my son's life, you've ruined my son's chance to win the Triwizard Cup," Draco said venomously. "I hope you're satisfied, Potter."
"I —" Harry turned to the school heads. "Isn't there something we can do?"
Headmistress Capella nodded, wand in hand. "We've come to a decision."
"We're very pleased with it." Headmaster Vangelis beamed, his wand also at the ready.
Headmaster Flitwick brandished his wand. "We simply decided to use the next best thing."
Before Harry could move, spells sprang from the three wands. A split second before the spells reached him, he saw Draco crumple to the ground.
Then the world went dark.
Once, in finesse of fiddles found I ecstasy,
In a flash of gold heels on the hard pavement.
Now see I
That warmth`s the very stuff of poesy.
Oh, God, make small
The old star-eaten blanket of the sky,
That I may fold it round me and in comfort lie. ~ "The Embankment (The Fantasi of a Fallen Gentleman on a Cold, Bitter Night)" by T. E. Hulme. (posted in the London Underground)
"Potter. Potter, wake up!"
The quality of Draco's voice was alarming enough that Harry pried his eyes open. "Wha'?"
"Wake up and get us out of here this instant! God! It smells like cat piss!"
"What smells like cat piss?" Harry blinked and breathed deeply. "Oh, fuck!" he choked, coughing and covering his mouth and nose. "Where the hell are we?" He sat up and reached for his wand, but it was gone. "Fuck."
"You should not be swearing, you know. We're underground."
Harry squinted, trying to see in the dim light. "Who are you?" A girl huddled on the floor against the far wall; she looked vaguely familiar. That's right. Durmstrang. She was the student who had exchanged looks with the Durmstrang Champion the night the Goblet chose them.
"Can we stop with the social niceties and get the hell out of here?" Draco wrapped his arms around himself and shivered. "I want to burn these clothes as soon as possible and bathe until this stench is nothing but an unpleasant and fleeting Potter-related memory."
"Do you have a wand?" Harry retorted. "Because unless you do, we're stuck here. I don't see a door anywhere."
"There isn't one." The girl sounded sullen. "I've searched. Und no wands."
"Did you search me?" Draco demanded. "While I was unconscious? What kind of manners do they teach at Durmstrang, anyway?"
"They teach us to survive," the girl said. "Much better than Hogwarts, I think."
"Look here, you little German —"
"I think that she's right," Harry interrupted quickly. "You'd make a good Auror," he added, smiling at the girl.
She glowered back. "Who would want to be an Auror? A stupid job!"
"Er," Harry said.
"The first sign of intelligence you've exhibited," Draco muttered.
"We won't be here for long," Harry said. "The Champions are coming after us. They should be here any time."
"Scorpius better win." Draco looked at them both. "Otherwise I'll end up murdering both of you. If they don't get here soon, all they'll find is our cold, stiff, rat-gnawed bodies."
As if to put the lie to his words, a door materialised in front of them and the Durmstrang Champion came in.
The two girls flew into each other's arms and kissed.
Harry blinked. Draco flung his hands in the air. "You'd think this was the Triwizard Sex Tournament!"
"Did you by any chance see our sons?" Harry asked.
Bytzal interrupted her kiss long enough to say, "Yes." She returned to kissing Helga.
Draco stomped his foot. "Where are they? Why aren't they here yet?"
Bytzal reluctantly released Helga and shrugged. "They told me where you were. They said they're not playing any more, und wished me luck. Durmstrang remains undefeated," she said with satisfaction.
"That's cheating!" Draco said. "You used some spell on them to make them quit!"
Bytzal stood proudly. "I do not cheat. I have played by the rules." She took Helga's hand and led her towards the door.
Harry tried to follow her but couldn't move.
Draco appeared to be struggling, too. "But wait! What about us?" Draco looked panicked.
"They'll be by," she said. "We can only take our own prize, not anyone else's. Come, Helga, we must return to claim the Cup."
"Gladly." Helga rolled her eyes. "I was beginning to wonder if I'd have to rescue these two old men myself."
"Old men!" Draco shrieked. He cast a wandless hex, but the two girls had already disappeared through the bricked-up wall.
"I didn't know you could do wandless magic," Harry said, impressed.
"I can't. I mean — oh, hell, I guess I just never had the proper motivation before." He began to run his hands over the brick-up wall that held the opening. "The little cow. Scorpius did not quit."
"Why would she lie to us?" Harry hugged himself to stay warm. "She's already won."
"Not unless she gets back to the winner's circle first. She's too young to Apparate, so it will probably take her a while. When Scorpius gets here, I'll Apparate with him. We'll beat her yet!"
Harry frowned. "Why is winning so important to you?"
Draco paused and stared. "Don't you get it? It's everything! If Scorpius wins the Triwizard Tournament, the Malfoy name will be saved!" He gave an impatient gesture. "Look, I've got to find a way out. Stop bothering me."
"Draco, no matter what happens, I'll publicly acknowledge the debt I owe your family," Harry said quietly. "I should have done it years ago. I'm sorry."
Draco's shoulders sagged. He remained facing the wall. "It's not enough," he whispered. "Maybe even winning the Triwizard Cup won't be enough. But it will be ours. The Malfoy name will go down in history for something good, and they won't be able to take it away from us." He shook his head fiercely, as if to rid himself of his fears, and began to examine the wall once more.
Harry thought of Scorpius and the Sorting Hat. Draco was right. "I'm sorry," he repeated. He watched Draco for a few moments. "What are you doing?"
Draco ran sensitive fingers over the surface of the vault. "Searching for weaknesses."
"I was a cat burglar. Naturally, I developed Muggle-based burglary skills to supplement my magical abilities. I'm searching for a hidden join in the stone."
"Wait. You said you played the market."
Draco looked at him as if he were an imbecile. "I needed capital."
"You're a thief!"
Draco turned back to his examination. "Yes."
"I'm an Auror. The HEAD Auror! You've just admitted that you're a criminal in my presence." Harry ran a hand through his hair. "I'll have to arrest you, you idiot."
"Of course you won't. Don't worry. I'll just Obliviate you once we're out of here."
"At least you're talking to me now." Harry wrapped his arms more tightly around himself, shivering. "What is this place, anyway? It doesn't look like a natural cave."
"It isn't. It's a Gringotts vault." Draco squinted at the wall.
"It can't be. It's huge!"
Draco turned. "It's one of their corporate vaults. A small one, at that. You're head of security. Surely you knew what they'd be using for this task? And it's no use. I can't find a doorway."
Harry rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah. About that. Actually, I had Ron deal with the arrangements for this task. I didn't want to have the temptation to, er, cheat. Again."
"So we're walled up God knows how far underground in a magically-sealed Gringotts vault of which you're completely ignorant, even though you're responsible for security, at the mercy of Weasley's non-existent competency?" Draco slid down the wall. "Fuck. We're doomed. I'm going to die with Harry-bloody-Potter."
"The boys will come and get us."
"No they won't. You heard the German bint. They quit. They're not in the Tournament any more."
"She also said that they told her where we were." Harry sat down next to Draco. "They'll get here."
They sat in silence. Finally, Harry sighed.
"Draco. Can't we bend your rules a bit?"
Draco looked over at him. "How much?"
"A lot." Harry draped his arms over his knees. "I want to kiss you. Hold you. Be your lover."
Draco remained silent.
"I don't get it, this whole love thing," Harry admitted. "I thought it meant that you met someone, married, raised a family and lived happily ever after."
"Those are fairy tales. In reality, you do what I do. Arrange a marriage, beget an heir, get a divorce if you can't decently live in opposite ends of the manor, and make sure that your son carries on the grand tradition in the family name."
"Where does love fit into all that?"
"It doesn't. You don't love your spouse, for God's sake. Well, if you're gauche, I suppose you could," Draco mused. "But not if you want your family to live on. Love is straight out, then."
"So if Astoria —"
"— Asteria —"
"—Asteria were to have had a lover while you were married to her, that would be okay?"
"As long as she was discreet enough not to get caught or didn't get pregnant, of course."
"So you're not opposed to love, per se. It just has to be in its proper place."
Draco looked at him approvingly. "I think you're finally getting it."
"So Ginny cheating on me is okay." Harry hung his head. "Other than the fact that she probably went about it in the wrong way."
"Why did you stay married to her? If Asteria had cuckolded me like that, I would have cut her off with nothing."
"She's my family. I made a promise to her and to the children. I want them to have both a mother and a father."
"It seems to me that she's not playing by those same rules."
Harry thought about that. "If we were lovers — hypothetically, of course," Harry hastened to add, "would you cheat on me?"
Draco was silent. "No," he finally said.
The silence stretched.
"I try to play by the rules!" Harry burst out. "But they keep changing! Why doesn't anyone ever explain them to me?"
"Hypothetically, if we were lovers, Potter, and you cheated on me, I'd kill you. Hypothetically."
"Really?" Harry's heartbeat quickened. "But the rules... I'd want to cheat. All the time. On Ginny, not you."
"It's not cheating if the rules change and everyone agrees to them."
"So, hypothetically, even if I were a married man, I could promise not to cheat on you or leave you, and we'd still be playing by the rules if we both agreed to them," Harry said hesitantly.
"Hypothetically, I might be willing to consider a change in the rules like that."
"What about topping? After-sex cuddling? Sleeping in the same bed?"
"...I'd give it some thought. Hypothetically."
"And what about," Harry paused, "kissing?"
"I think — I think kisses would be acceptable."
Harry took a deep breath. "Draco?"
"Would you change the rules with me?"
"I'd have to think about it. Potter?"
"Would you cheat with me?"
"In a second."
"Right. I've thought about it. I'll change the rules."
"Then I'll cheat." With one swift move, Harry straddled Draco, pushing him against the wall as he devoured his mouth in a hungry kiss.
The wall disintegrated behind them.
"Time to go home!" Albus and Scorpius grinned down at them, holding up the diamond keys from the second task. "We're setting you free!"
Harry and Draco peered up at their sons' faces. "You lost," Harry informed them.
"Not yet!" Draco shouted, struggling to get to his feet. "Quick, Scorpius, grab my arm. I'll Apparate us!"
"Papa, no!" Scorpius said. "Bytzal already got back. She won. It's over."
Draco froze. "I don't believe it. It can't be over." He looked at Scorpius. "We can't have lost."
"We did," Scorpius said. "But it's okay. We weren't trying to win, after all."
Draco gazed at his son for a long moment, clearly upset. "Right. Well, if that's the way you feel about it," he finally said, clearly disheartened. He pushed at Harry. "Get off me, Potter. You weigh a tonne!"
Al and Scorpius obligingly helped pull Harry off of Draco. "Honestly, Papa," Scorpius said. "Who cares about the Triwizard Tournament when Albus and I have had the opportunity to get first-hand experience of Goblin construction and security spells? This afternoon alone, we've identified ten separate designs to incorporate into schematics for our business."
"What business?" Harry asked.
"You remember, Dad. I told you I wanted to go into security? Well, Scorpius is my partner."
Harry glanced at Draco, who was looking blankly down at his feet. "How did you find us?"
"We found you with the Silent Seeker Charm. Papa created it." Scorpius smiled affectionately at his father. "It allows you to find hidden valuables."
"We modified it a bit, of course," Al chimed in.
"'Silent Seeker Charm'. Something like that would come in handy for a cat burglar, wouldn't it?" Harry stared hard at Draco.
"You owe me five Galleons," Albus crowed at Scorpius. "I knew he wouldn't Obliviate him!"
Harry shook his head. "What I don't understand is why you thought there would be Goblin-magic involved with the Tournament?"
"It's easy enough," Al said. "In your day, it was merpeople. At Beauxbatons, it was Veela. Durmstrang used vampires and Baba Yaga. For Hogwarts, it looked as though it was a toss-up between Goblins and Centaurs. I gambled that it would be Goblins, since everyone knows that Headmaster Flitwick has Goblin blood in his background."
"Besides," Scorpius added. "Centaur magic isn't that easy to understand or implement, what with the divination and all. We looked into it, and there wasn't any call for Seers before the Tournament, so really, it had to be Goblin magic, didn't it?"
"I can't believe that Gringotts allowed schoolchildren to wander around its vaults," Draco said, pushing Harry's hand away as Harry tried to help him climb over some rubble.
"We're not in Gringotts vaults. Well, I suppose that's not entirely true," Al corrected himself. "These used to be Gringotts vaults. But they were sold to the Muggles ages ago."
"To the Muggles? What for?"
"This is part of the Underground, Dad."
"The London Underground?"
Draco looked at Harry and, surprisingly, laughed. "Everyone knows that. Muggles have used Goblin tunnels and abandoned vaults for years. The Piccadilly Line used to house most of the Muggle royalty's treasures, until they decided to build the Tower. Fools. Goblins make a tidy sum on the rentals, you know."
"The history lessons can wait," Scorpius said. "Let's go home."
Harry and Draco climbed through the door after the boys. There, in front of them, was a beat-up London tube car, circa the turn of the century if Harry's guess were right. It sat on rickety tracks piled with rubble. The dark opening of a tunnel stretched beyond.
Albus beamed. "What do you think of it?"
Looking inside, Harry took in the sticky floors and the decades of grime covering all surfaces. Gum was ground into the upholstery, which Harry was shocked to see was identical to the horrible 1970s-retro upholstery that was installed on modern trains as well. He wasn't sure what to say.
Draco had no such qualms. "It's filthy!"
"Whoops!" Al waved his wand. Instantly, the interior of the car transformed into a tasteful modern apartment, bright chrome gleaming amidst black marble fixtures. A huge CellTV covered one side of the car, the last Quidditch World Cup Championship playing loudly.
"Forgot to take off the Obsfucation Charm," Al muttered, embarrassed.
"It's wonderful, Al," Harry said. He climbed in. Once they were settled, Scorpius tapped the arm of his chair with his wand to reveal a panel of buttons.
"Hold on," he said, and pressed a red one.
Harry laughed and turned to Draco as the car bulleted into the darkness. "It'll be all right," he said, leaning close. "Just wait and see. Who needs a Triwizard Cup when we have sons like these?"
He was gratified to see the familiar Malfoy smirk bloom across Draco's face.
"Who, indeed?" Draco replied.
~Waterloo & City~
I have a gentil cock
croweth me day
he doth me risen early
my matins for to stay
I have a gentil cock
comen he is of great
his comb is of red coral
his tail is of jet... ~Excerpt from "I Have A Gentil Cock" by Anonymous (early 15th Century). (posted in the London Underground)
Harry awoke to bright sunlight and the warm, slick feel of a hard cock entering his arse. "Mmmm."
Draco wrapped his arm over Harry's chest and began a gentle rocking motion with his hips. Harry relaxed and began to slowly massage his prick to full hardness, allowing Draco to do all the real work. Lovely. He didn't bother to quicken his hand's pace as he felt his climax build within him. He simply allowed the crash of his orgasm to swell and spill all over the sheets.
Utterly sated, he revelled in the heat of Draco's body in and around him. He closed his eyes. It seemed like Draco's soft thrusts would continue forever, but eventually he pressed tight and came inside Harry with a soft exhalation of breath against Harry's neck.
"They all wanted you last night," Draco murmured into his ear. "Greatest hero of our time, retiring young. You'll be Minister, next."
Harry nestled back against Draco's warmth. "Can't. I'm sleeping with a thief. Unethical."
Draco snorted. "Tame. If that were all the scandal that surrounds you, you'd end up being history's most boring Minister of Magic. Potter the Pitiful."
Harry just smiled.
Draco caressed his flank. "So, are you going to divorce the Weaslette yet?"
"If you loved me, you would."
Harry burst out laughing and turned over to face Draco. "You're rich enough already, you gold digger."
A kiss brushed his nose. "One can never be too rich," Draco said, and pulled him close again. "Besides, most of your fortune should rightfully be mine."
"So I should leave my wife and children destitute and shower my riches on you, instead."
"Mmhm. 'S only fair. Gryffindors are always going on about being fair. Put your money where your mouth is, Potter."
"I've better things to do with my mouth," Harry said. He proceeded to thoroughly kiss Draco to prove his point.
Several enjoyable minutes later, Draco pulled back and ran a hand through Harry's sleep-tossed hair. "I suppose I'll have to give up my uniform fetish now."
Harry arched his eyebrow. "No, you won't. I've got my uniform hanging in the wardrobe."
"That tacky thing?" Draco sighed. "I'll have my tailor design new uniforms for the Auror Corps, with you as the model. Something in black and silver, I think. With buckles. I like buckles."
Harry huffed with soft laughter and traced Draco's hairline with a finger. "D'you think we'll lose this?" Harry asked, gesturing to the bed but meaning something entirely different.
"I won't let us." Draco glared. "If you ever fucking get bored, I'll murder you."
"Right. Glad that's sorted." Ridiculously happy, Harry turned over and closed his eyes.
"I always knew you were a cheat, Potter." The words brushed the back of his neck. Then, Draco's arm draped over Harry and he felt Draco nuzzle his shoulder. "Good thing I happen to like cheats."
Harry smiled and curled deeper into Draco's warmth.