"Dad, hurry up!" Scorpius called, bouncing on the spot, his impatience evident.
"Coming, coming," Draco replied coolly, taking an aggravatingly long time to pull on his coat, smooth down the lapels, dust off imaginary dirt, assess his impeccable hair in the small mirror by the door, and then turn to his son with a smile. "All set?"
Scorpius threw his head back and groaned, throwing his arms in the air and stalking down the stairs as he demonstrated his frustration, and Draco chortled to himself. He would never have dared exhibit such behaviour when he was his son's age, but he had decided years ago that he liked his—now ex—wife's more relaxed parenting style, and, over the years, it had helped him become less of a stick-up-his-arse kind of person himself.
Despite the fact that he and Astoria had chosen to separate due to irreconcilable differences, she was a loving but firm mother, a caring—even if often overbearing—wife, and a fiercely independent and talented witch with a brilliant mind. Draco wasn't prideful enough to deny the fact that she had been the much-needed pillar of support to his family during the difficult years after the war—and even later on, when his mother had fallen ill and passed away so unexpectedly that it had sent him and his father spiraling.
'If only circumstance hadn't turned her into someone that needed to micro-manage every aspect of our lives.'
"It's this way," Draco called as he reached the bottom of the stairwell, waving to his son and pointing in the opposite direction. With another display of irritation, the thirteen-year-old jogged back to his father and fell in step beside him. Draco patted him on the back. "You need to relax; it's just an exhibition."
Scorpius seemed aghast and betrayed by his father's choice of words. "It's not just an exhibition, Dad! You know I've been waiting all year for this!"
Draco chuckled, amused by how his son always managed to react the way he expected him to. "I know, but we've agreed to be there two hours early, just like you wanted, so I hardly think there's a need for you to—"
"This is why Mum said she couldn't live with you anymore," Scorpius said under his breath. When Draco paused mid-stride to turn to the boy with a set jaw, a raised brow, and pursed lips, Scorpius shook his head, eyes wide, aware of his error in judgement. "I didn't mean that; I'm sorry. I just meant I'm more like Mum when it comes to planning and stuff; I just can't help myself!"
Although Draco wouldn't admit it, the jab had had considerable effect on him, and he turned away with a sigh, proceeding around to the back entrance of his clinic-cum-townhouse to unlock it and step inside.
"Why don't you just connect it to the house?" Scorpius asked for the hundredth time, as his mother still did every chance she got, even in a tone of voice so similar to hers that it was undeniable Scorpius was his mother's son.
"Because nobody needs to know I live where I work," Draco replied for the hundredth time, wondering why he even needed to explain himself to his adolescent son.
"Why? Because you're the Draco Malfoy and nobody can know you live in a little townhouse in London?"
Draco bit back a sigh. "No, because the nature of my work causes nosey patients, like you, to ask me where I live, and if they knew it was right here, then it would cause problems for me, like serious invasions of privacy."
"Now, do you have any other condescending remarks to make on my character or choice of accommodation, or can we go?" Draco asked, gesturing to the fireplace in the foyer.
Scorpius winced, ducking his head at the bite in Draco's tone. "Sorry. Maybe I'm a little too much like Mum."
Draco sighed and shook his head. "It's fine. You just care."
"I do," the boy replied, perking up as he grabbed a fistful of Floo powder.
"But, Scorpius, I don't appreciate you talking to me like your mother does. I tolerate a lot of things that you say and do that your grandfather never would've with me, but there's a line that you crossed today, and I don't expect it to happen again," Draco said seriously, knowing he had to re-establish the dynamic of their relationship right then lest his son take him for a pushover.
Scorpius nodded, looking solemn. "I know I went too far today. Sometimes I say things without thinking and am sorry. It won't happen again."
"Good. I'm glad you acknowledge your actions and are willing to change them," Draco said, patting the boy's back.
"Can you please not use your 'Mind Healer voice' on me like you do with Mum? You may hate each other's guts so that's fine, but it really makes me uncomfortable."
Draco smiled, nodding. "I'll keep that in mind. And we don't hate each other." Scorpius gave him a quick hug, threw down the Floo powder with an, "I know", and stepped back as the green flames shot up. Just before he ducked into the fireplace, Draco said, "Oh, and I don't think you're too much like your mother."
Draco smirked. "I may have been just as controversial a lad as you, when I was your age."
Scorpius' grin was bright enough to light up the whole room.
"Good to know!" he said with a laugh as he practically skipped into the Floo. "See you on the other side, Dad!"
"Keep your arms by your sides!" Draco instructed when Scorpius waved, smiling as he watched his son disappear in a rush of green flames.
Little did he know that would be the last time he saw Scorpius for a long while.
Draco stepped out of the Floo, still smiling about his conversation with his son, when Astoria walked up to him with a frown. His smile growing tight, he started to greet her when she cut him off.
Draco frowned, looking around. "What do you mean? He came out before me."
Astoria crossed her arms. "No, he didn't. I've been waiting here this entire time and never saw him."
"Well, he left before me, so it makes no sense that he isn't already here," Draco said, turning in a slow circle as he examined the small, empty room. There wasn't even any space for a thirteen-year-old boy to hide. "Are you sure you've been here the entire time?"
"Why would I lie about something like that?" Astoria said, an edge to her voice as she peered down the hallway that was the sole exit out of the room.
"Maybe he mispronounced the destination," Draco suggested.
"That's not possible," Astoria retorted with a huff. "I ensured that he knew exactly what to say—as I always do."
"Of course you did," Draco muttered, curtailing the urge to roll his eyes. "Well, what other explanation do you have for him not arriving before me when he left before I did?"
"I… don't know," Astoria said, somewhat begrudgingly, and, with frustrated sighs, both parents exited the room.
They checked every room along the corridors that led to the main exhibition hall, even the locked ones, but found no trace of the boy. The large hall itself was mostly empty, save for stalls being put up by volunteers.
As the two stood looking around the room, a mousy-looking man that Draco recognised from one of Astoria's previous conventions scampered up to them, practically bent over in half as he shook their hands.
"Professor Greengrass, it's such an honour, as always, to be working with you. And, of course, Mr Malfoy, such a pleasure indeed."
"Yes, good to see you too, Mr Simpson," Astoria said impatiently, although she was gracious enough to put on a smile and shake the man's hand. "Have you seen my son?"
The man looked between them wide-eyed. "Your… son?"
"Scorpius. He's thirteen years old—a spitting image of his father here—about this tall," she held up her hand, palm facing downwards, beside her head, "and he's wearing dark trousers and a powder-blue button-down shirt with hummingbirds on them. Tucked in, of course." She added the last bit as though trying to prove that the fact that she obsessively remembered the minute details of her son's outfit wasn't strange at all, but, rather, was proving to be of use (something that Draco would never admit to).
Mr Simpson floundered, looking around the room like he had committed a grave error and was getting chastised for it. Sometimes, Draco still wondered how Astoria had this effect on people when she was never overtly commanding or authoritative.
"I can't say for sure, Professor. We've been rather busy preparing for the exhibition, you see," the mousy man said, motioning to the stalls and volunteers.
Astoria nodded, her smile patient. "Yes, of course; I understand. Thank you for your hard work." She looked around as the man gushed and said, "Is it possible to ask the volunteers if they happened to see him?"
"Oh, yes, of course. I can go around asking, if you would like—"
"Wouldn't it be faster if we simply make an announcement?" Draco asked, directing his question at Astoria, noting that the wizard looked chagrined at having been dismissed rather rudely but not having the patience to feel apologetic over it.
Astoria frowned. "Wouldn't that cause panic?"
Draco shrugged. "It may help our situation and make them more willing to help us find our son."
Astoria seemed to consider that for a moment before nodding. With a quick smile at the other man, as though seeking permission to go forth with Draco's suggestion, she brought her wand and placed the tip to the side of her throat.
"Sonorus." She coughed, attracting the attention of several of the people nearby. "Excuse me," Astoria began, her voice booming thanks to the amplifying charm. "If I may have your attention for a few moments; this is an urgent matter." Once everyone's gaze was fixed on her, she continued. "I'm Astoria Greengrass, one of the organisers of this exposition, as many of you may know." There were enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. "And this is Draco Malfoy, the father of my son." The cheers were uncertain this time around. Astoria held up a hand for them to quiet down. "My son, Scorpius, thirteen years old and around as tall as I am, seems to be missing. We would greatly appreciate if you could help us locate him. We think he may still be on the premises, as it's only been around fifteen to twenty minutes since we lost him, and the quicker we find him, the quicker we can go ahead with finishing our preparations."
She smiled, and everyone nodded, already looking around. "If you happen to see him, please bring him to one of us," Astoria said, motioning to the three of them with a sweeping gesture. "Thank you so much for your cooperation; it is greatly appreciated."
The volunteers rushed off in different directions to look for Scorpius, the mousy man himself wandering off, leaving Astoria and Draco to turn to each other. Despite her calm tone when she was relaying instructions, he could see the worry in her eyes. Scorpius was her pride and joy—the love of her life—and Draco knew better than anyone that she wouldn't survive it if anything were to happen to him. Astoria, who could stand strong through any adversity, could only be shaken up by her son.
"What could have happened to him?" she asked, wringing her hands. "If he really left before you, how did he not arrive before you did?"
"He may have mispronounced—" Draco began to reason again but was cut off.
"No; the Floo Network has improved by leaps and bounds over the years. A slight mispronunciation couldn't have caused this."
Draco swept a hand through his hair, his own anxiety causing his heart to race. What other explanation could there be for his son's mysterious disappearance? "Maybe there was a glitch in the connection?"
"You made it through just fine."
"True." He began to pace, his mind on overdrive, unable to process possibilities and variables like he usually would have been able to. "I can't think of any logical explanation besides him stepping out and leaving the room before you spotted him."
Draco expected her to shut down his claim instantly, but instead she crossed her arms and asked, "Why would he do that? I can't imagine why he would want to sneak past me without being seen."
When she looked away, her eyes filling with tears, Draco reached up and gently rubbed her back. "Hey, come on, you have to be strong here. You never know; he may have just wanted to surprise you because it's such a big day for both of you."
She sniffed. "You think?"
Draco nodded, trying to convince himself of his own suggestion. "You know how excited he was. He couldn't wait to assist you with your demonstration."
"That's true." She nodded, seeming like she was steeling herself for the inevitable. "Maybe you're right. Maybe he's around here." She looked up at him, as though needing reassurance, and Draco knew they were thinking of the same thing. "I'm sure he's fine."
Draco smiled, pulling her into a hug. "I'm sure he is."
Because the alternative was one neither parent wanted to relive again.
Astoria sniffled, burying her head in his chest, and it was times like this that made Draco realise that Scorpius was the only one who could bring the two of them together despite their differences.
Mr Simpson rushed up to them just then, standing a little away awkwardly until they separated and acknowledged him. "We're looking everywhere, but he doesn't seem to be on the premises."
"Are you sure you checked everywhere?" Draco demanded.
The mousy wizard bristled. "It is a rather small building, Mr Malfoy. There aren't that many places your son could be."
Draco and Astoria exchanged looks, and from the way her lower lip trembled and her eyes glistened with tears, he knew she was a moment away from bursting into tears. "Let's file a missing persons report," he said gently, caressing her arm as she clung to him. "We'll find him, Astoria."
Mr Simpson cleared his throat, looking somewhat confused by how tense the two were. "Er, if I may," he ventured, flinching when Draco glared down at him. "He couldn't have gotten that far; I'm sure there's no need to involve the authorities…"
"What are you trying to say?" Draco snapped, his patience wearing thin. Aurors should've already been swarming the place, considering Scorpius had been missing for over thirty minutes by that point. The last time they had believed what Mr Simpson was saying had been the time they could've lost their son for good.
"I'm only saying," Mr Simpson said, hesitant, looking towards Astoria for support, "having Aurors searching the place won't look too good for the exhibition, Professor."
Astoria dabbed a handkerchief to her cheeks to dry her eyes before saying, "The exhibition can be postponed, Mr Simpson. My son is the priority here." She turned to Draco. "Call the Aurors. Tell them… tell them…"
She broke off, unable to complete the train of thought, but Draco nodded anyway, knowing what she meant. Mr Simpson didn't look too happy, but he knew Astoria would take care of it and went off to call the authorities and inform them of his son's unexplainable disappearance.
Harry started awake when the door to his office slammed shut, scrambling up from under the thin blanket and falling off the sofa in the process.
"I wasn't asleep," he muttered, wiping drool from the side of his mouth and rising to his feet shakily.
His deputy rolled his eyes, clearly unimpressed by Harry's insistence at sleeping in his office and refusing to go home. "Right. Anyway." He held out a file. "You gotta see this, Boss."
Harry took the file and flipped it open, frowning when he saw that it was a missing persons report—that had only just been filed—his eyebrows shooting up when he saw the name at the top.
"This is… Draco Malfoy's son?" Harry asked, his voice low.
"We're unsure, but the parents claim that the boy went through the Floo before Mr Malfoy did but never arrived at the destination."
Harry looked up at his deputy. "Is this what I think it is?"
The older wizard nodded, his expression grim. "It may be related to the other Floo disappearances."
Harry swore, raking a hand through his hair. "The higher-ups are gonna have my head for this."
"That's why you need to personally lead the investigation, Sir," his deputy said. "We've already been getting flak for not having found the other three missing people yet. Besides," he dropped his gaze, looking guilty, "unlike the others, this one's only a child."
Harry nodded. "Alright. You take over the cases I've been overseeing." He handed back the file. "Where are the Malfoys now?"
"Malfoy, sir. Just Draco Malfoy."
"Astoria Greengrass took back her maiden name once they got divorced."
Harry winced at what could've been an awkward faux pas. "Right. Should keep that in mind. Anyway, where are they?"
"At Mr Malfoy's clinic, where the boy was last seen."
Harry nodded and pulled on his coat. "Let the DMLE know I'm handling this."
Harry arrived in the alleyway behind Malfoy's clinic, feeling somewhat conflicted over having to meet the blond again after so many years under less-than-heartwarming circumstances. Reporters were swarming outside the building, Aurors keeping them at bay, and he cursed under his breath, irritated that the media was already reporting the Auror Department's repeated failure at catching the criminal behind the abductions.
Ducking his head, he entered through the back door and was greeted by one of his men.
"Sir," the Auror said, looking agitated. "Samuel Ramsey is inside, interviewing the parents."
Harry frowned as they paused in the foyer doorway and he observed a balding blond head from an armchair facing Malfoy and Professor Greengrass. "The reporter?" he asked, his blood beginning to boil at the thought of the notorious journalist who had a penchant for getting to witnesses before the Aurors did and publicising potential evidence in an exaggerated manner. "How'd he get inside?"
"He was here before we got here, Sir, and seems to be an acquaintance of Mr Zabini's," the Auror said, nodding to the wizard standing behind Malfoy, looking grim.
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose in an attempt to quell his annoyance. He watched Malfoy shift, face red, looking angry at whatever question Ramsey was asking them, and Professor Greengrass seemed to recoil, fale pale and tears streaming down her face. Gritting his teeth, Harry strode into the room.
"I apologise for being late," he said to the three seated opposite Ramsey before turning and regarding the reporter with contempt. "Mr Ramsey, I see you're here, yet again making my job difficult."
Ramsey had risen to his feet at Harry's arrival, his eyes wide with excitement. He held a hand out. "Oh, my, Head Auror Potter! I didn't expect that you would come down here yourself!" When Harry crossed his arms and raised an unimpressed eyebrow, Ramsey redirected his stretched arm to motion to an empty armchair. "Please, I would love for you to be a part of this exclusive interview."
Harry turned to Malfoy and Professor Greengrass. "I don't want to be rude, but do you mind me arresting this man for interfering with the investigation?"
"Hah!" Ramsey exclaimed. "Unfortunately for you, I am a welcomed guest here! Isn't that right, Mr Zabini?"
When Zabini only looked away and Malfoy focused on comforting his ex-wife, all three ignoring the reporter, Harry turned back to the man and said, "Looks like you overstayed your welcome to me."
Ramsey spluttered, having the gall to look betrayed as two Aurors came to escort him out. "Be sure to confiscate everything he has and take him to the Auror Office for questioning," Harry instructed.
"You can't arrest me!" Ramsey exclaimed, slapping away the Auror's hands as they neared him. "I know the way the law works; this is foul play!"
Harry nodded to the Aurors, and they practically had to carry the screaming reporter out of the room. Harry knew to expect a scathing article regarding his inadequacies soon, but he would handle that later. The Auror who had come in with Harry, who was previously in charge of the case, came to stand beside him as he turned to regard the anxious parents.
"I apologise for that; he can be… overbearing."
"That was an error in judgement on my part," Zabini offered quietly, laying a hand on Malfoy's shoulder, but Malfoy shrugged it off in a clear sign of annoyance before nodding at Harry.
"Thank you for getting rid of him. I don't think I could've held back from hexing him much longer."
"I'm sorry you had to endure that," Harry said, then gestured to the armchair Ramsey had occupied. "May I?"
"Oh, please," Malfoy said, and Harry settled down in the chair and cleared his throat.
"As Auror Morrison here has informed you, I'll be personally overseeing this investigation, and I assure you that I will do everything in my power to find your son."
"Is… is it true?" Professor Greengrass said, her voice trembling. "Is Scorpius' disappearance really related to the other Floo abductions?"
Harry interlinked his fingers, placing his elbows on his knees and leaning forward. "We haven't found any evidence that can directly link it to the Floo abductions, yet, Professor Greengrass—"
"Call me Astoria, please," the witch sniffed.
Harry bowed his head. "We haven't found conclusive evidence yet, so we're trying not to jump to conclusions, but," he paused, glancing between her and Malfoy, "we have reason to believe that they may all be connected, due to how soon after the previous abduction your son's disappearance has taken place, as well as the similar m.o."
Astoria began to sob again, and Malfoy looked towards Zabini, who came around to escort the witch outside and help her calm down. Malfoy, his face gaunt, the tension clear in the constant creases at the edges of his tired eyes, sighed and offered Harry a small smile.
"Thank you for leading the investigation," he said, his voice soft. "I assume being the Head Auror doesn't give you all that much free time to personally handle simple kidnapping cases."
"There's nothing simple about your son going missing, Mr Malfoy," Harry said politely, surprised when Malfoy chuckled.
"As my wife insisted, I, too, would prefer to be addressed by my first name." His smile was tired but not strained. "Mr Malfoy is how my patients address me, and despite being in the clinic, it feels odd for the primary investigator of my son's kidnapping to address me in the same way."
Harry didn't really understand the logic fully but nodded anyway. "Speaking of your patients, Mr—Draco," he said, the word feeling foreign on his tongue. "Did any of them know your son, personally or otherwise?"
Malfo—Draco shook his head. "Like I told your colleague, I make it a point to keep my personal and work life completely separate." He sighed. "But, considering how alike we look, I've received compliments in the past on how handsome my son is on the rare occasions that Scorpius has dropped into my office."
Harry glanced up to see that Morrison was taking notes and returned his focus to Draco. "Can you think of anybody you know that could've had a hand in this?"
The blond shook his head. "Although I do still have people that resent me, I have a rather faithful client base, and the people I meet on a daily basis are ones I have a good rapport with." When he hesitated, Harry waited, patient. "But… this isn't the first time Scorpius has been kidnapped. It's happened once before, when he was around six, when we lost him in London. We were looking for a casket for my mother's funeral, and he disappeared. We didn't file a missing persons report then because we were confident we would find him, and it was hours before someone we knew informed us that they'd seen someone that looked like Scorpius all alone in a park. We found him, but we don't know how he got there as it was quite a ways away from where we had lost him and he couldn't have made it there on his own. Scorpius later told us he was waiting for the nice lady who said she would find us for him."
Harry nodded. He began to ask another question, when an Auror came bursting in. "Sir," he said, eyes wide. "We found a location."
Exchanging a glance with Draco, they all trooped out of the room and to the fireplace, where the forensics team was doing their job. The head of the team nodded to Harry. "It's as we suspected, Sir."
"Camberwick Green*?" Harry asked, and the man nodded. Harry turned to Draco. "I'm really sorry to have to tell you this, but…"
"What's Camberwick Green?" Draco said, looking around wide-eyed. "Is that the place my son went to? Where is it?" When everybody turned to Harry, weary-eyed, the latter tried to speak but Draco pressed on. "Why is nobody doing anything? Shouldn't you be trooping down there to save my son?"
"Camberwick Green doesn't exist," the forensics team head said on Harry's behalf.
"What do you mean?" Draco demanded, a crazed look in his eyes. "How can my son have gone to an imaginary place?!"
Harry tried to placate the man. "Camberwick Green is a fictional town from a Muggle children's show," he explained. "It's also the location that every other person who disappeared via Floo over the past several weeks was traced to."
"How're you tracing their location?" Draco shouted. "There has to be some sort of mistake!"
The forensics team head glanced at Harry, who nodded, then explained, "The Floo Network has a magical trace connecting various fireplaces that allows people to Floo from one location to another. A person can only travel to the places that their Floo is connected to. But, the problem with public-access Floos like yours is that it allows anybody to create a trace to it as long as they know its exact location."
"That doesn't explain how my son went to a town that doesn't exist," Draco said, now pacing.
"I wasn't finished with my explanation yet," the other wizard replied impatiently. "It is possible to manipulate the direction of the trace when someone is in the Floo as they essentially travel through vacuum to get to their destination. But this is a highly dangerous task, and if done wrong, can kill the traveler."
There was a strangled gasp from behind them, and Harry turned to see Astoria, who had just entered the room, collapse to the floor, Zabini catching her just in time. Harry motioned for one of the Aurors to help Zabini and turned to see that Draco wasn't looking too good either. When he wavered, Harry reached out and grabbed a hold of his arm to steady the man.
"K-Killed?" he whispered, placing a clammy hand on Harry's and clutching tight. "What… what are you saying?"
"Lee," Harry warned, annoyed at the wizard's long-winded explanation that was causing unnecessary confusion.
Lee held up his hands, looking apologetic. "I'm quite certain your son is fine, Sir, because we're able to sense his magical signature, even if we are unable to track it due to him being in an untraceable location."
"So you don't know where he is?" Draco asked, stumbling again.
Harry quickly placed an arm around the man's waist to steady him, alarmed by how slim it was, and Summoned a chair for him to sit on.
"The reason we keep getting a fictional location when we try to track the traces in these Floo disappearances is because someone has manipulated the destination of the trace to show us the non-existent town of Camberwick Green," Lee continued, unfazed by the effect he was having on the blond. "But now that we know your son's disappearance is linked to the others, we can use previously compiled evidence to help find him."
"Have you found the others?" Draco asked, looking up at Harry. "You keep saying 'the other disappearances'. Does that mean none of them have been found yet?"
"We're doing all that we can—"
"Well, that's not enough, is it?" Draco yelled, his voice trembling, and jumped to his feet. He grabbed Harry by the arms and shook him. "My son has been kidnapped, Potter! My little boy! Yet you're telling me your best effort hasn't been able to find him!"
Harry gently pried Draco's fingers from digging into his arms and held his hands for a moment before letting go. "That's exactly why I'm leading this investigation. But I need you to trust me so I can help you. Can you do that?"
Draco let out a shaky laugh. "You saved me from a mad evil wizard and from rotting away in Azkaban for the rest of my life. Of course I trust you."
Harry smiled, nodding with reassurance at the man, but, somehow, Draco's trust felt more like an added weight than relief.
Harry paced Malfo—Draco's living room, still somewhat surprised that he now lived in such a small house, one that was above his workplace, even, as compared to Malfoy Manor. Harry was waiting to hear from his men at the office, having decided to leave them to it for the time being since they knew the case inside-out while he had only overseen it and was aware of only the basic details. He didn't want to make them nervous by hovering around them and making it harder for them to do their jobs. They had promised that they were close to a breakthrough, and he was going to trust them on it—or at least give them until the next morning to figure something out.
"You're still here," Draco stated as he entered the living room, looking more haggard than he had a few hours ago. "I just sent Astoria home with Blaise. Considering how in love with her he is, I trust he'll take good care of her."
Harry didn't know how to respond to that bit of personal information, surprised not only because the blond had decided to share such private details with him but also because there was no malice in his tone. He sounded genuinely relieved.
"Er, how are you?" Harry asked stupidly, feeling useless simply standing in Draco's living room when his son was missing.
Draco shrugged but didn't answer. He looked around, as though trying to find some sort of distraction, and his eyes landed on the kettle on the kitchen counter. "Would you like some tea?" he asked.
"Oh, yes, I wouldn't mind some, thank you."
"Take a seat; it won't be long."
Harry sat down, the uncomfortable silence stretching between them, and he racked his brain on what to say. As though feeling the same, Draco began to speak.
"Today is the Annual National Potions and Potioneering Expo," he said to the kettle on the stove. "Astoria was a panelist and one of the main organisers this year. She was supposed to put on a demonstration, and Scorpius was supposed to have assisted her. He worked hard all year for it. He was beyond excited."
The blond fell silent, still staring down at the steaming kettle, and Harry cleared his throat, always terrible at knowing what to say in such situations.
"Why did the two of you separate?" was the first thing that left his mouth, and Harry mentally slapped himself for it.
He expected Draco to stare at him in astonishment or give an awkward response or something, but, instead, the blond asked, "Why didn't you and Ginny Weasley get married?" When Harry was the one to stare at Draco in astonishment, the latter scoffed. "It was all anyone ever talked about, all those years ago. The entire world was invested in your celebrity relationship."
"You don't have to actually answer," Draco said, pouring the water into two mugs. "Would you like milk or sugar in yours?"
Draco brought over the tea and placed a mug in front of Harry before taking the seat opposite him. They sipped their tea in silence, and Harry looked everywhere but at the blond, who was studying him.
"Nice house," Harry muttered when he had looked around for long enough that it was becoming weird.
Draco nodded. "After my mother's sudden passing, I couldn't live in the Manor anymore. It was claustrophobic. I saw her everywhere. And while my father still revels in that, it drove me over the edge." He looked around, a small smile on his face. "Astoria found this house. I had just been certified as a Mind Healer and wanted to start my own practice, and she thought this was the perfect place for it." He shrugged, his smile still affectionate. "She was right."
Again, Harry wasn't sure how to react to being told very personal details of Draco Malfoy's life, but the blond didn't seem to want a response from him as he kept talking.
"Astoria and I decided to finalise our separation when Scorpius left to Hogwarts. It wasn't that we absolutely couldn't stand each other—or maybe it was, considering how much we used to argue—but we had reached a point where we just wanted very different things in life." He shifted, crossing his legs and looking off into the distance, and there was something very serene about his demeanour that placated Harry. "Astoria had steadily gained popularity for her potion-making experiments and discoveries and was being invited all over the world to give talks and whatnot. And I… I was happy with my little charitable clinic, away from the limelight; being able to give back to the wizarding world was my way of atoning for my sins."
His eyes fell on the family portrait on the table, his smile faltering and his eyes turning glazed. "It's strange," he murmured, and he looked so heartbroken that Harry felt this immense need to embrace him and tell him that everything would be alright. "He looks just like me but his personality's just like his mother's. He really is both our son. It's such an odd feeling, thinking about him like this."
"We'll find him," Harry promised. "You have my word."
Draco finally looked at Harry and smiled, but it was the smile of a broken man who had seen far too many horrors in his lifetime to believe in promises.
Despite the fact that Harry hardly slept that night, he woke up feeling determined and ready to take on the world. He had spent most of the previous evening poring over evidence and details of the previous disappearances, seeing if he could piece any information together, and had fallen asleep on the sofa in his office again, but, despite not finding anything substantial, his determination was undeterred.
The fact that Draco said he trusted him was causing some sort of odd surge of energy within him. He wanted to show the blond that his trust wouldn't go to waste. It didn't make sense why he was so hell-bent on it, but whatever worked.
"Morning, lads," he said as he entered the conference room whose back wall was covered with information regarding the Floo disappearances.
"Sir," Morrison said, his expression grim. "We just got a new lead."
Harry looked down at the book he was holding. It was one he recognised all too well and it made his blood boil. It was one of many biographies about his life, except this particular one took the cake because of its author, Rita Skeeter. Smoothing out the note tacked under the title, he read it aloud.
"I'm not a stranger to your love of lost causes, dear one?" He looked around at the agitated faces. "What is this?"
"Flip through the pages, Sir. You'll see several lines have been highlighted in red."
"Where was this found?" Harry asked, leafing through the rather thick book.
"The original was found in Mr Malfoy's fireplace. This one's a duplicate we made before the forensics team took the other one."
Harry looked up with a frown. "Malfoy's fireplace? How?"
They exchanged looks. "We think someone may have planted it there, Sir, maybe to make it seem like it was a message sent via Floo."
"A message for me, obviously," Harry said, looking down at his name in the title of the book, which had been underscored several times using a sharp object. "And Mr Malfoy? Where is he?"
"He was in the other conference room, but Deputy Buxley said he'd take him to your office."
Harry snapped the book shut and strode out of the office, his heart racing. If the message was for him, then the perpetrator's target was him, and the abducted victims were probably their way of forcing Harry to take on the case. If so, what was it that they wanted?
He entered the room and motioned for Buxley to leave, who did just that after handing Draco a cup of tea. Harry came over to place the book on his desk and tapped it with his finger. "You found this."
Draco stared at it unseeingly. "They've highlighted my name in red." He looked up at Harry, his expression one of anguish. "I overheard the Aurors saying the red lines were things the kidnapper disliked. What if they kill Scorpius?"
His hands were trembling so violently he almost spilt the hot tea on himself, and Harry quickly took the cup from him and placed it on the table. Stepping closer, he placed a hand on Draco's shoulder and smiled. "Scorpius is fine. We can still sense his magic, and it's stable and strong. He's fine."
"For now," Draco said, sniffing. "My poor lad. What if the kidnapper is actually after me and decided to take my son hostage to punish me?"
Harry considered that for a moment before taking the book and flipping through it, pausing to read whatever lines had the blond's name in it. They weren't anything too out of the ordinary at first, just childish things, but as it got towards the end, Skeeter had painted Draco to be the poster boy of the Death Eaters. Even the highlighting seemed to grow angrier, with its jagged edges and uneven lines, as it progressed towards the end.
What alarmed Harry the most, however, was the final line that contained Draco's name in it. It was about how Harry had testified on the Malfoys' behalf in their trial, helping them avoid being sentenced to Azkaban, and this was highlighted multiple times, so vigorously that the page had ripped.
"When did you find this?" he asked.
"This morning, when I returned home from Blaise's house. He had insisted I spend the night with Astoria at his place, and I decided it was better than being alone, so I conceded."
Harry nodded. If someone had broken into Draco's house the previous night, they may have attacked him in his sleep, so it was a good thing he hadn't been there. "Was anything else out of the ordinary or misplaced?"
Draco shook his head. "Nothing that I could see. I wouldn't have even noticed the book because it was hidden under the ashes, but I was staring at the fireplace, wondering where Scorpius could have gone, and found it."
There was a knock on the door, and Buxley poked his head in. "Sir, Lee wants you down at the clinic."
Harry nodded and moved away to grab his coat. He turned around to see Draco ready to leave as well and said, "It would be better if you stayed here, where it's safe."
"I can take care of myself just fine, Potter."
Harry shrugged. "If you're going to insist I call you by your first name, then I'm going to insist you do the same, just so the awkwardness is mutual, if nothing else."
Draco chuckled, shaking his head. "You're something else."
Harry grinned. "That I am."
Draco watched the goings on from his armchair in the corner of the room. The protective shield Potter—Harry had erected around him hummed when he touched its surface, and he sighed.
He couldn't hear anything that was being said thanks to the Imperturbable Charm that had been placed on the barrier separating him from the Aurors milling around his clinic. He wasn't an expert in lip-reading either, so he couldn't exactly decipher if things were bad or not, except from Harry's physical reactions.
Just then, Harry and the forensics team leader, Lee, were standing by the far wall, and Harry was nodding as Lee pointed at the edge of the wall and made peeling motions with his hands.
Was there something under the wallpaper?
After that, Harry came over to him, looking conflicted. He pulled down the shield long enough to step through it before putting it back up. "We've found that a powerful Disillusionment Charm has been used on some areas of the room," he said. "And considering they're all large, flat surfaces, we think the perp may have left messages."
"What kind of messages?" Draco asked, standing.
Harry grimaced. "Nothing too pleasant, I reckon."
"Right. Of course."
"Well, er…" he seemed to be struggling with whatever he was trying to say, his awkward demeanor around Draco persisting from the previous day.
"You want me to leave the room," Draco said for him.
Harry nodded, scratching his ear and looking sheepish. "I feel bad for having to kick you out of your own house, but the messages may be slightly… you know…"
There was some sort of commotion behind Harry just then, and Draco peered over the other man's shoulder. Harry followed his gaze and turned around, and they watched as Lee and a few other Aurors rushed away from the wall they had been examining.
"Those idiots," Harry said, starting to pull the magical barrier down and step out, when the far wall pulsated, sparks flying.
Before anybody could react, there was a bright explosion, whose sound was muted by the Imperturbable Charm, and Draco squinted through the dust, trying to see what had happened.
From what he could see, everyone outside of Harry's barrier were collapsed on the floor, and there seemed to be smoke emanating from the far wall. They watched as the smoke slowly turned a sickly shade of green.
"Looks like it's poisonous," Draco said, pressing his hand against the barrier. "It's not safe for them to inhale too much of it!"
Harry swore under his breath and, after casting Bubble-Head Charms on the both of them, pulled down the shield. He swirled his wand, creating a vacuum, and the gas was sucked in fairly quickly. Instead of making it disappear, however, he Transfigured a nearby notepad into a vial and channeled some of the smoke into it, sealing it shut before pocketing it.
Leaving Draco to be impressed by his presence of mind, Harry went about casting Bubble-Head Charms over all of the Aurors, and Draco joined him. Once the other witches and wizards regained consciousness while coughing and spluttering, Harry went over to the far wall and inspected it, possibly for any more trigger jinxes.
Draco came up behind him, and Harry held a hand out as he waved his wand and pulled down the Disillusionment Charm. Draco's eyes widened as he took in the bloody words so alike the ones that had been scrawled on the walls of Hogwarts in his second year, the message making his blood run cold.
YOU SHALL PAY FOR YOUR SINS
Draco shuddered, his legs growing weak, the air inside the bubble feeling sparse, and as his knees buckled, Harry caught him and eased him to the floor. He moved in front of Draco, his face too close, his emerald eyes shining with concern as he physically blocked the message from Draco's view.
"So I was their target," Draco whispered brokenly, the misery and guilt that had taken years of therapy to get over rising up beneath the surface.
"You don't know that," Harry said, holding Draco's gaze. "The book and the note had been for me—this one may also be for me."
Draco stared at him, belatedly realising that Harry still had his arms around him but feeling relief in the warmth of his embrace. "How are you so unfazed by all this?"
Harry smiled, the corners of his green eyes crinkling and a hint of his teeth visible from the edge of his lips. "I'm not. But I'm the Head Auror who's in charge of finding your missing son, so I can't crumble under pressure, now, can I?"
Draco closed his eyes and inhaled a deep, steadying breath. He opened his eyes to see Harry's mouth move to form the words, "You OK?"
He nodded. "I will be."
A little while later, Draco turned in a slow circle as he took in all the bloody messages scrawled across the foyer of his clinic that the Aurors had uncovered. Three of them were similar to the first; one on the door read, 'YOU ESCAPED ONCE BUT NOT AGAIN'; there was one on the coffee table that read, 'THE TABLES HAVE FINALLY TURNED', and a big one right above the fireplace read, 'LOOKS LIKE THE CHOSEN ONE CAME TO YOUR RESCUE YET AGAIN, YOU VILE SCUM'.
A shuddering breath escaped his lips and he closed his eyes, trying to block the words out, but they were burnt into the back of his eyelids. He felt a warm hand on his back and turned to see Harry's worried face.
"This is why I didn't want you to see this."
"No," Draco said, looking at the message above the fireplace. "These messages are clearly for me. Whoever wrote them is displeased that I wasn't punished for my crimes and was saved by you. I may be able to help you find this… this monster."
Harry seemed to consider Draco's proposition for a long moment before relenting with a sigh. "Alright. But you have to stay within my line of sight at all times."
"Wow, who would've thought I'd have Harry Potter as my own personal bodyguard. Wait 'til my father hears about this," Draco said sarcastically, to which Harry rolled his eyes.
He clapped Draco on the back and said, "Good to see that you still have some fight left in ya."
Harry walked away, leaving Draco to stare at the message over the fireplace, feeling sick to his stomach.
"Why're you here," Draco demanded as he motioned for the Aurors to let Astoria in. "It's not safe."
"I'm not here for you," she snapped, pushing past him. "I'm here for my baby boy, who's being kept Morgana-knows-where, scared and hungry, waiting for someone to come rescue him." She spun around, jabbing a finger in Draco's chest and rounded on him, her dark eyes bloodshot and teary. "I'm here because you couldn't do your damn job as his father and keep him safe. Again."
"You made me a promise last time he was kidnapped," she said, her voice quavering. "You promised that you would always protect him." She turned away, shaking her head. "It's my fault for believing you. It's my fault for thinking you would—"
Draco grabbed her and pulled her to the side, looking around to ensure they weren't in the Aurors' way before turning back to his hysterical ex-wife. "Astoria, I have been here, staring at these horrible messages all night trying to see if I can think of something useful that could help us find Scorpius. I know I didn't do my job as his father, I know I didn't keep him safe, and I'm sorry I broke my promise to you, but I'm doing everything in my power to find him, and I can't have you here right now."
"Why? Do you detest me so much now that you can't even stand my presence?" she sniffed.
He sighed and caressed her cheek. "No. It's because I can't end up losing you as well." He turned her to face the fireplace so she could read the message over it. "Whoever kidnapped Scorpius is clearly after me, and I can't have him go after you too, in his pursuit of revenge." He turned her back to face him. "We may not be married anymore, but I still stand by my wedding vows, Astoria. And I wouldn't survive it if I lost you too."
She burst into tears, and he held her close as she cried, her body shuddering from the force of her sobs, feeling his own eyes tear up. He swallowed thickly and closed his eyes, letting the tears flow and giving himself a moment to mourn over the fact that it had been two days since his son had gone missing and they were no closer to finding him than they had been on day one.
Someone cleared their throat, and Draco opened his eyes to see Harry awkwardly standing a little away. Pulling away from Astoria, Draco wiped his tears and, with a few comforting words, sat her down on a nearby armchair before walking over to Harry.
"Sorry, she's really upset. I'll ask Blaise to bring her home."
Harry looked sympathetic. He offered him a kind smile and a gracious apology before motioning to the message over the fireplace. "So, we've been going through our list of anyone who could have a grudge against you and narrowed down the most likely suspects. From the messages, it sounds like this person may have, in some way, directly been impacted by your actions before and during the war."
Draco nodded, contemplating.
"We initially considered the former Death Eaters, but considering they're all… you know…"
"Dead or rotting in Azkaban," Draco finished for him, and Harry grimaced but nodded.
"Since they're all… dead or rotting in Azkaban, we thought to look at families of people who knew you and had lost someone during the war." Harry paused as he rummaged in his pocket and pulled out a torn piece of paper. "And, surprisingly, we found one name that fit both bills."
"You did?" Draco asked, taking the crumpled piece of paper and reading the name scrawled on it. "Christopher Macnair?" He looked up at Harry, his heart starting to race. "Macnair… is this the same as the Macnair I'm thinking about?"
Harry nodded. "He's Walden Macnair's only son. He used an alias up until fairly recently, which is why our database never recognised him before, but we believe him to be the abductor because the day after he legally took on the name Christopher Macnair is the day the first person went missing."
Draco ran a hand through his hair as he eyed the name on the piece of paper, the brief exchanges he had had with the dead Death Eater Walden Macnair coming to mind as fragmented memories. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he asked, "But how're the other people that disappeared connected to me?"
"They aren't." When Draco looked up, confused, Harry said, "We've managed to connect them to Christopher Macnair's alias—Adam Wilkins—and now we know the abductions are all interconnected because we never would've thought to connect them to his alias."
He reached over and squeezed Draco's shoulder. "Now we just have to catch this bastard and we can get your son back to you."
Astoria had come up behind them just then, her eyes full of hope, and Draco steeled himself as he asked Harry, "How're we going to do that?"
Harry bared his teeth in a grin. "By luring him into a trap, of course."
Harry watched as Zabini squatted beside the armchair that Astoria had fallen asleep in, with her head resting on the armrest. He was stroking her hair with a loving smile on his face, and the sight disgruntled Harry. He pitied Draco, who had to witness his supposed best friend and ex-wife get together.
Good thing Ron and Ginny are related, he thought to himself as the blond walked up to him and followed his gaze.
"He was going to propose to her soon, before all this happened," Draco murmured softly, as though afraid he may disturb the duo in question.
Harry turned to eye him with a frown, and his disgust must have shown on his face because Draco chuckled and shook his head. "He's good for her. Being a world-renowned historian himself, their careers blend together perfectly; they were traveling together to conferences even before Astoria and I separated."
Harry scoffed in disbelief. "You say that so nonchalantly that I almost believed this had nothing to do with you for a second there."
Draco's smile was wry. "Technically, I'm the villain in this story because I'm the one that stole Astoria from Blaise and married her. He's been in love with her for decades, and, being the cold-hearted narcissist that I am, I pretended that I believed his hesitation to be indifference and took her for myself."
Harry studied Draco for a long moment, trying to find the so-called cold-hearted narcissist in him. In fact, the man standing beside him was so different from the Draco Malfoy that he remembered that it was as though they were two completely different people.
"While I do like being admired, it's still a tad embarrassing if you do it so blatantly," Draco said with a telltale sign of his trademark smirk.
"There's the Malfoy I know," Harry said, and Draco tilted his head back as he regarded Harry with a smile.
It may have been the lighting, but Draco's eyes were so perfectly silver just then that Harry found himself mesmerised.
The two men looked over their shoulder as Harry's deputy stood behind them, looking between them with an odd expression on his face. Harry cleared his throat. "What is it?"
"The reporters have arrived for the interview. We've set things up in the foyer as you requested."
Harry turned to Draco. "Are you sure you're up for this? We don't have to if you don't want to."
"Have a little faith, Potter," the blond said with a determined expression. "Christopher Macnair messed with the wrong Malfoy."
Harry snorted. "That makes no sense."
"Shut up. It sounded good in my head."
Harry chuckled, shaking his head as they made their way towards the stairwell. Harry glanced over his shoulder, surprised to catch Zabini's eyes, and the man looked away, leaving Harry feeling like he had been caught red-handed in an intimate moment and not the other way around.
Harry watched as the cameras flashed away, a pale-faced Draco standing before the fireplace his son had disappeared in, the bloody message above his head glistening. Draco looked overwhelmed, nauseous, even, after his powerfully worded warning taunting Macnair to come after him, and Harry was glad the interview was over. As the reporters thanked the blond and began to clear out, Harry walked up to Draco, who was standing stockstill, his eyes wide and unblinking.
He looked down to see that the man was clutching his fingers in a tight fist, and he reached down to ease them open, wincing at the crimson, semi-circular marks from his nails digging into his palm.
"This'll work, right?" Draco asked, sounding breathless and unsteady. "I feel sick."
He doubled over and threw up all over the floor, and Harry quickly Scoured the vomit before the forensics team noticed—they were already annoyed that the reporters walking around had contaminated the scene—and Transfigured a bauble on the mantle into a glass.
"Aguamenti," he said, holding the glass of water out to Draco, who took it shakily and gulped it down. He sighed, his eyes glassy, and Harry decided that the blond had done more than enough.
"Come on," he said, leading him out the backdoor by the elbow and helping him up the stairs. Glancing into the living room, he was irritated to see that Zabini had shamelessly pulled up a chair next to the still-sleeping Astoria and was now reading a book.
He only looked up when Harry and Draco entered the living room. With a frown, he asked the blond, "Are you alright?"
In that moment, Draco groaned, his knees buckling under him as he lost consciousness, and Harry lunged to the side, catching him just before he hit the ground.
"Looks like they're good at passing out, these two," Zabini said humourlessly as he came around to help Harry, but Harry didn't want his help.
In an attempt to prove a point, he hefted Draco up and rose to his feet shakily. "Where's his bedroom?" Harry asked Zabini, whose eyebrows were raised so high in surprise that they were almost off his forehead, and the latter pointed in the direction of the room. "Thanks."
Harry stalked into the bedroom, shifting Draco in his arms, wondering if he was just that strong or if the blond was unusually light, and gently lay him down on the bed. The moment his head touched the pillow, however, Draco's eyes fluttered open. He looked around for a second, looking confused, before his eyes fell on Harry.
"You could've remained unconscious for a few seconds longer, at least, considering the effort it took to carry you here," Harry joked, amused by the way the other man's cheeks coloured.
"You should've slapped me awake. Who carries another grown man to his bedroom?"
"The mighty Harry Potter, that's who," Harry said, so unenthusiastically that Draco looked like he felt bad.
Draco pushed himself up with a sigh. "Well," he said, "I did what you told me to. Do you think it'll work?"
Harry licked his lips. "Let's hope it does."
Draco lay in bed, wide awake, using all his will power to keep his eyes shut and remain perfectly still. He knew Harry and a dozen other Aurors were outside his bedroom, lying in wait of Macnair, but that didn't calm his nerves too much.
The cool breeze caressed his cheek and rustled through his hair, and he pulled the covers higher over him, shivering from the cold. Why hadn't he shut the window?
A sudden realisation hit him a moment later: he had shut the window. In a moment of panic, he opened his eyes, only to come face to face with a man who looked so much like his father that it felt like Draco was reliving his nightmares all over again.
Draco opened his mouth to make a sound and alert the Aurors outside, but the man pressed a hand against his mouth and motioned for him to be quiet. Draco remained frozen, pure terror coursing through his veins, trying to send telepathic messages to the men outside, when something caught his eye.
The air behind Macnair warped, and for a second, Draco was unsure what was happening, but in the next moment, Harry was throwing off his Invisibility Cloak, the tip of his wand pressed to the back of Macnair's neck.
"Stand up," Harry commanded, his voice booming in the silence of the night, and three Aurors burst in, wands brandished.
Macnair let go of Draco and held his hands up in surrender, slowly rising to his feet. One of the Aurors came up behind him and secured his hands behind his back, confiscating his wand in the process. The other Auror flicked on the light switch, and everybody was blinded for a moment.
Macnair used the Auror's poor judgement to his advantage as he shoved past Harry and the other Auror in an attempt to escape but was Stunned before he reached the door.
Harry looked at Draco and then at the wand he was holding, and it took Draco several seconds to realise that he was the one who had stunned Macnair.
"You never fail to surprise me," Harry said, holding a hand out as the Aurors secured Macnair.
Draco took it, allowing himself to be pulled off the bed, and stood still for a second, focusing on the feeling of solid ground under his feet.
Macnair was neither struggling nor speaking. He simply glared at Draco, his hatred evident in his sneer.
"Take him away," Harry said, and the others escorted him out, leaving Harry and Draco alone in the room.
Draco shivered as a cool breeze blew past again, and Harry shed his overcoat and draped it over the former's shoulders. "I knew it," he said, his voice low. "I couldn't tell because of the layers you were wearing, but you're really skinny."
"I'm not a big eater," Draco replied, pushing his arms through the sleeves and sighing as the warmth enveloped him. "Thanks for the coat."
Harry nodded, looking awkward. "No problem."
They dawdled for a moment before Draco asked, "What now?"
Harry scratched his head, eyeing the bed. "You, uh, wanna come to my place?"
Draco watched as Harry cleaned the bedroom in a chaotic rush, waving his wand to change the sheets, dust the table lamps, and fix the drapes all at once as he bustled about.
"Sorry," he said as he dodged the mop. "I usually sleep on the sofa in my office. It's been a while since I slept here."
"That's really not good for you," Draco replied, watching with mild amusement as Harry got smacked in the face with the dust cloth.
"I know, I know," Harry said, sounding like he had heard that enough times before. "But I just can't fall asleep while I'm here anyway, so one night, I decided to go to the office and get some work done, and I fell asleep on the sofa so peacefully that it turned into a habit."
"Why can't you fall asleep here?" Draco asked despite himself. He had divulged a little too much of his best kept secrets to the other man over the past two days and thought it right that he get a few juicy tidbits in return.
Harry probably felt the same way because, after a pregnant pause, he scratched his head and said, "It's a bit lonely to sleep in a king-sized bed by myself."
Draco found himself smiling before he realised it, and Harry frowned, his cheeks colouring in embarrassment. "It's rude to laugh," he groused, which made Draco laugh anyway, and he came around to straighten the sheets.
Harry waved at the bed, refusing to meet Draco's eyes. "You sleep here. I'll sleep on the sofa."
"While I respect the fact that you sleep better on sofas, it would make me uncomfortable to kick the owner of the house out of his own bed," Draco said relaxedly, although the true reason for his insistence was that Macnair's face at the side of the bed was still fresh in memory. He didn't trust himself to be able to shut his eyes if he were alone in the room.
Harry crossed his arms, practically pouting. "Two grown-ass men lying in bed together? That's disgusting."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "You offended a whole lot of people with that statement just now."
Harry blustered, then sighed in frustration. "Fine, whatever. I'm too tired to argue with you." He climbed under the covers and patted the space beside him, saying in a sickly sweet voice, "Hop in, honey."
"Now that is disgusting."
Harry snorted, taking off his glasses and placing them on the nightstand as Draco climbed in beside him, now feeling the embarrassment take over. He cleared his throat as Harry flicked the lights off.
"Well, good night."
Draco stared at the ceiling for a long time, recounting the events that had transpired since Scorpius' disappearance, feeling oddly detached from it all as Macnair's face flashed before his eyes.
"Harry? Are you asleep?"
A deep breath. Then: "Yes."
Draco smiled. Before he could stop himself, he asked, "Why didn't you and Ginny Weasley get married?"
Harry didn't respond for so long that Draco didn't expect to receive an answer. Then, with a sigh, the other man said, "It's a long story."
"We have all night."
Harry shifted. "That we do." He cleared his throat. "Well, I suppose it's similar to why Astoria and you got divorced. Ginny and I just wanted very different things from life." Draco thought that was all the answer he was going to get, but Harry kept talking.
"After the war, it took us a while to regain stability and peace of mind. Even then, our respective careers had tumultuous starts. The Harpies weren't doing too well in official matches, practice sessions were hard, and Ginny came home injured every other day. The same went for me: my superiors and seniors didn't think I was all that despite having defeated a Dark Lord, and they made Neville, Ron and my lives miserable. Neville eventually left to take up the Herbology Professor position at Hogwarts, and that was the wakeup call Ron and I needed to fight back and create change."
He sighed. "Ginny's career picked up around the same time. The Harpies made it into the later rounds of the World Cup, went on tour, and she was gone for months at a time. I was offered the Head Auror position sooner than later, thanks to Ron and my effort in 'revolutionising the department', and that's when I sort of hit the brakes and thought about what I wanted from my personal life."
Draco felt him shrug. "I called Ginny and told her that I wouldn't take up the position if she was willing to take a break from the Harpies and get married. I wanted to start a family soon and thought she would be on board." Harry pulled the covers higher over himself. "She laughed, thinking I didn't seriously expect her to quit the team when she was at the peak of her career. We didn't talk for three weeks after that. Then she called me one fine day, just when I had made up my mind to tell the higher-ups that I wouldn't take the job, and told me that it was extremely unfair of me to expect her to give up what she had spent years striving for to get married and start a family."
Harry sighed again. "Well, anyway, I asked her if she ever intended to settle down, and she told me it wasn't on her mind just then, but it was all I could think about back then, and I realised that it just wasn't working out. I took the position of Head Auror, and we talked every once in a while about nothing in particular until she told me she wanted to focus all her energy on Quidditch and I said OK. And that was that."
Draco inhaled deeply, not having expected Harry to give him an entire run-down of his life since the last time he had seen him. He swallowed, not knowing what an appropriate reply would be to such a heartfelt confession. "I'm sorry for making you talk about it," he finally said.
"No, I'm glad you did. Come to think of it, I don't think I've actually ever spoken about it before. Everybody who was close enough to the two of us sort of watched our relationship disintegrate in the same way we did—and got to hear Ginny's side of things anyway—so I never really bothered explaining what had happened."
Draco cleared his throat. "Well, then, you're welcome."
Harry scoffed. "Prat."
Draco found himself smiling, belatedly realising he hadn't felt this relaxed with someone in a very long time. They talked and talked for ages, and when Draco finally fell asleep, it was a fulfilling night's rest.
Harry watched Draco read the newspaper. The blond's appearance was the worst of the three days that morning. His cheeks were sunken, his complexion was doughy, his hair hung limply on either side of his face, and he looked worse for wear. Harry never thought he'd ever seen a badly groomed Draco before, and he never wanted to see it again.
He picked up the two mugs of coffee and walked up to the blond, sitting down beside him and offering him one. Draco took it from him with a slight bow of his head, his focus still on the article he was reading, which had a picture of him with the bloody message and flashes going off on the right side of the page.
"They're blaming you for still not having found the abducted people despite having caught the abductor," Draco said, sounding somewhat irritated. "If it were that easy, why don't they do it?"
Harry smiled into his mug as he sipped on his coffee, not having expected Draco to take his side but pleased nonetheless. He then placed the mug down and said, "We're close."
Draco turned to eye him wearily. "How close?"
"Lee said the location was untraceable, but there're only so many places in the UK with wards powerful enough to make them difficult to trace."
"And we've narrowed it down to two possible locations for now, after putting together all the facts."
Draco eyed him impatiently.
"One of them is Malfoy Manor, but we think it's more likely that it's the other one."
"What's the other one?"
Draco raised his eyebrows. "What? Wasn't that the Order's hideout? Why would he be there?"
"Because that's the only place that can be tied to me," Harry explained. "There's also my parents' home in Godric's Hollow, but the wards on that one were taken down a long time ago and it's a rather well-known tourist location now." Draco continued to stare at Harry until he began to feel uncomfortable. "What is it? You're scaring me."
The blond shook his head and looked away. "No, I was just thinking that you've spent more time babysitting me than leading the investigation, as you're supposed to."
Harry grimaced at that. "I'm only trying to keep you safe. We don't know yet if Macnair was working alone or with an accomplice. And considering there've been two threats to your life in the past three days, we thought it prudent that someone guard you, for the time being."
"And that was the right job for the Head Auror because…?"
Harry scratched his ear, acknowledging that Draco had every right to be in a foul mood. It was the fourth morning since his son's disappearance, and they were sitting around, drinking coffee like it was just another day. Although Harry was doing everything in his power to make it so Draco could relax, it seemed to be backfiring.
"I've only been overseeing this case from the beginning and wasn't directly involved in the investigation," Harry explained. "I would be more useful here, where I won't be making the others' job more difficult by hovering over them and can ensure your safety." He placed a hand on Draco's knee in an effort to placate him. "I'm getting periodic updates and participating as much as necessary. As soon as the Aurors find your son, I'll take you to him."
Draco rose and began to pace. "Astoria is beside herself with worry. Blaise told me she's worried herself sick and is down with a high fever. I don't think she's going to be able to handle any more uncertainty."
Harry was about to reassure Draco when his mobile phone rang. He quickly answered the call and placed the phone to his ear. "Talk to me."
"Sir, we just finished searching Grimmauld Place."
"We've found them, Sir."
Harry rose to his feet, a rush of joy flooding through him, and he had to hold back the urge to crush the blond in a hug as he yelled, "They've found them! They found your son!"
Draco's eyes were wide and glistening with unshed tears as he whispered, "They found Scorpius? They found my boy?"
Harry nodded. "Come on, grab your coat. We're going to see your son."
Harry watched as a boy that looked exactly like he remembered thirteen-year-old Draco to have looked ran up to them the instant they Apparated outside Grimmauld Place and threw himself at his father. "Dad, you found me!"
"I found you," Draco gasped, the both of them sinking to the floor in a tight embrace. "Oh, my son. I finally found you."
Over the commotion of the Aurors holding the public at bay while retrieving the others who were held hostage, he heard soft sobs and was mildly surprised to see Draco crying into his son's shoulder as the boy whispered soothing words and patted his dad's back.
A moment later, Astoria and Blaise appeared, and, with a strangled cry, the witch threw herself at her son, besides herself with joy. "Oh, my love!" she cried. "Oh, my precious boy!"
As mother and son reunited in a teary embrace, Draco came up to Harry and, to his astonishment, pulled him into a rough hug.
"I can't thank you enough," he said, his voice trembling. He pulled away, his eyes moist with unshed tears. "I feel like every time I see you, you end up saving me."
Harry laughed awkwardly, embarrassed in the face of Draco's genuinity. "Just doing my job."
Draco cleared his throat. "You have to let me do something in return to show my gratitude."
"There's really no need—"
"A Malfoy always repays his debts," Draco said seriously. "And the ones I owe you seem to be piling up."
Harry scratched his head, nodding. "Well, alright."
Just then, one of the women who had been rescued rushed up to Scorpius and hugged him tight, sobbing as she thanked him. "We wouldn't have made it without you," she said as the other two older witch and wizard came up to them to offer their thanks to the boy as well. "You re-ignited our hope and kept us believing, even when things looked bleak. Thank you."
After they had thanked Draco and Astoria and were reunited with their family, Draco turned to his son.
"How did you get so brave?"
Scorpius hugged his father, looking up with shining silver eyes that were the exact same as Draco's. "I learned it from you."
Draco laughed, ruffling his son's hair, and Harry moved away, deciding to give the family some privacy while he wrapped things up.
As the reporters bombarded him with questions, he was relieved that he could finally answer them with confidence and certainty.
He was seated beside two witches who, from having eavesdropped on their conversation, turned out to be friends of the older couple that had been abducted. One had just returned from a purported trip to the ladies room, her eyes shining with newly acquired gossip.
"I'm telling you, he's dead," she was saying to her friend, beside herself with excitement. "Hung himself, they said."
"Who said?" her friend asked, sceptical. "Who said, Marney?"
The first witch waved a hand in impatience. "Oh, what does it matter who said. One of the Aurors, they was standing outside the ladies room—a rather odd place to stand for some idle chatter, I thought—and one of them was shaking his head and saying, 'He hung himself by his shoelaces, mate. We didn't get a peep outta him'. I'm telling you, Bernice, Macnair is dead!"
"Mr Malfoy?" a witch called just then. "Head Auror Potter will see you now."
Draco rose to his feet, walking away from the chattering witches, his heart racing from what he had heard.
Had Macnair really hung himself?
He had his head in his hands from the recent news of Macnair's unexpected death, knowing the media was going to give them flak for poor vigilance, when the door was thrown open and Draco came bursting in.
"Is it true?" Draco all but gasped, collapsing in the chair opposite Harry's. "Is Macnair really dead?"
Harry sighed. "People are already gossipping about it, I see."
Draco sat back, a stunned expression on his face. "So it's true."
Harry tapped the crumbled piece of parchment in front of him and, after some deliberation, turned it to face the blond so he could read it.
"Macnair's suicide note."
Draco looked up at Harry, his eyes as wide as saucers, then plucked the note off the table and read it. He scoffed, then read it again, then scoffed again.
"He apologises for what he did and decided that, since the ones that needed to be behind bars—aka me—were never going to pay for their sins, he was done suffering for his father's crimes?" Draco looked up at Harry with stormy eyes. "This man abducted four innocent people and thinks I'm guilty?"
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "He had to live his entire life in hiding because of his father's decision to join the Death Eaters. He almost died, once, when someone that had seen Macnair Sr saw the son and realised that if they looked that similar, they may be related. After that, he's been laying low, plotting his vengeance on you, who got away, and the three others who he apparently hated for various reasons."
Draco sat forward, emanating anger. "I didn't get away. We—my parents and I—betrayed the Dark Lord. If you hadn't killed him, we would've died for the betrayal."
Harry reached forward to place a hand on the blond's and smiled. "I know. I know what your family did." He inhaled deeply. "Your mother saved my life. I don't think you're guilty."
Draco sat back slowly, nodding, looking somewhat placated. "That's right," he said, as though to himself, "I'm not guilty."
Harry abruptly stood, deciding he had had enough bad news for one week. "Did you mean it when you said you'd repay me with whatever I wanted?"
"Yes, of course," the blond replied, rising to his feet as well. "Anything."
Harry grinned. "Great. Let's go."
He grabbed his coat and walked out the door, a confused Draco following behind him as he asked, "Where're we going?"
"To eat. Your treat."