The rain outside was pouring down, hard, against the glass window panes of the building. Inside a small, tastefully decorated apartment in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, Draco Malfoy sat tapping away on his laptop, ignoring the clamouring noise of the heavy precipitation. It had taken him more than a year to become accustomed to the wonders of Muggle technology, much of which had involved him repeatedly poking things with his wand and demanding for secrets to be revealed, but now that he’d gotten the hang of it, he found these devices incredibly nifty. While he’d always appreciate the charm of an ink-dipped quill and some parchment, they didn’t offer quite the same convenience that a computer did.
Adding a final sentence to the long passage he was writing, Draco leaned back in his chair, glancing around his study with a finite satisfaction. His freelance writing job paid him in British pounds, and with the conversion rates, it was a decent job that paid well enough for both him and his son to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in most aspects. It was by no means a match for the luxury Draco had become accustomed to growing up, but it was more than enough, and Draco was grateful. His walls were full of bookshelves, each stuffed with a seemingly endless number of books, there was a lovely green rug spread across the middle of the room beneath a comfortable pair of armchairs and a coffee table, and his desk was spacious and allowed plenty of room for the occasional piling up of paper.
Just then, the door to Draco’s study was violently shoved open and a small, overly excited blond boy with big grey eyes dashed into the room.
“Gentle with the door, please, Scorpius,” Draco reprimanded as the door fell shut loudly, its resulting noise temporarily overpowering the fall of the rain outside.
Scorpius didn’t seem fazed by his minor scolding. “Sorry, Father,” he said. “Are you busy?”
Draco pushed his laptop a little to the side so he could see his son more clearly. “Never too busy for you,” he smiled.
Scorpius giggled, then got serious very quickly. “My birthday’s coming up!” he announced.
“Yes it is,” Draco replied.
“I’ll be eight!” Scorpius added.
“You will indeed.”
“That means I’m big now!” Scorpius exclaimed. “It’s nothing on your sixty-seven years, of course.”
Draco winced. “You’re off by… quite a few years there…"
Scorpius didn’t seem to hear him. “And I thought eight is a very big and important age -”
“You say that every year, son -”
“Well, yeah, but every year’s big and important!” Scorpius retorted.
Draco laughed. “Alright, alright. What do you want for your birthday?”
Scorpius’ eyes went wide. “Oh! It didn’t take quite as much hinting this year.”
“You don’t need to hint for things, Scorpius. You can just ask.”
Scorpius nodded. His voice dropped to a bit of a whisper that almost couldn’t be heard over the pounding of the rain. “I always forget that.”
Draco smiled gently. “You can always try to remember next time. So, what do you want?”
“I’d ask for a party, but I don’t have any friends here,” Scorpius said thoughtfully.
Although Scorpius didn’t carry any sadness in his voice about his lack of acquaintances, the fact still tugged at Draco’s heartstrings. Scorpius’ control over his magic was a little weak, which was unfortunate for the sheer power of the magic he did produce. He’d already set fire to quite a few things and broken many an ornament in tantrums and fits of sadness or anger, and Draco couldn’t feel safe introducing him to Muggle children. But he hadn’t had much luck finding out about the Wizarding community in Malaysia, or if there even was one. It wasn’t like he could just Google it and find an answer.
Still, Scorpius’ mention of a party put Draco’s guard down. In past years, he’d asked for the most ridiculously out-there things and been quite sulky when he didn’t get them, and the fact that they were starting out with something like a party meant Draco could get his hopes up.
“You can have anything you want,” Draco said.
“Everything’s dangerous to you, Father.”
Draco laughed and shook his head. “Just keep it within reason.”
There were a few moments of silence.
“Oh! I know!” Scorpius exclaimed. “We can go camping!”
Outside, a strike of lighting cracked down, and thunder roared ominously, perfectly mimicking the sudden dread Draco was feeling. He had never been an outdoorsy kind of guy. He much preferred the comforts of the city over roughing it out in the wild. But Scorpius was the complete opposite. He loved nature, forests, rivers - anything that Draco would much rather keep himself away from. And he’d been trying to get Draco to take him to one of these places for ages.
“Camping,” Draco mused. “That’s more of an abstract present, isn’t it?”
“I don’t mind,” Scorpius said cheerfully. “I read all about the parks and forest reserves here, Father! I want to go to one of them!”
“Oh, Scorpius, I don’t know,” Draco said slowly. “Isn’t that kind of dangerous, too?”
“Not if we have a guide!” Scorpius replied. He clasped his hands in front of him and looked at Draco with his best puppy dog eyes. “Please, please, please? You said I could have anything!”
Draco knew Scorpius wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable, and that he should accommodate his wishes, and maybe that he should also stop getting his hopes up too quickly. “Why don’t you think of where you want to go camping and we’ll see how it goes?”
Scorpius’ entire body seemed to light up with glee. “Oh, yay!” he exclaimed. “Thank you, Father! I’ll go think of a place right now!”
Sighing again as Scorpius dashed out of the room in excitement, the door falling closed behind him, Draco threw a glance over at the elegant, dark wooden photo frame on his desk, with intricate patterns of florals, leaves, and vines carved into its surface. Behind the clear glass pane was a picture of Astoria Greengrass smiling delicately for the camera, then throwing her head back and laughing at something Draco had said - something he couldn’t quite remember, now. Her long, flowing locks of dark hair were tossed back over her shoulder as she laughed, in a single, fluid, impossibly graceful motion. She’d chosen to keep her own last name, much to the rest of the Malfoy family’s disdain, and much to Draco’s carefully concealed delight. He smiled to think of the complexities of her character - her strong-willed, hard-headed determination, her bright, soaring intelligence that Draco could never hope to keep up with and honestly never truly wanted to, and her gentleness as she helped him understand new perspectives of the world he’d been shielded from all his life. Despite everything that had happened to her, and all the hardships she had been through, Astoria had always been full of joy, a direct opposite to Draco’s constant whining and pessimism. How she had ever been able to put up with him, Draco had no clue. He missed her dearly.
“There’s so much of you in him, Story,” Draco said quietly, reaching a hand out and gently running a finger down the side of her face, taking in her beautiful hazel eyes, twinkling and full of kindness and just a dash of mischief, even through a photograph. Their journey together had been riddled with misfortune and difficulty, from his parents’ outright disapproval of her abandonment of Pureblood ideals and preference for more liberal, tolerant ways of thought, to the sudden illness that had befallen her so quickly and taken her shortly after Scorpius’ fifth birthday.
Barely two months after, Draco, haunted by memories of her, sick and tired of his parents’ bigoted ways, and desperately longing for a fresh start somewhere no one knew his name, decided to migrate to Malaysia, which already had a large and steadily growing expat community. Scorpius, constantly excited by the idea of adventure, had been extremely eager about this move, but Draco’s parents had definitely not approved.
“You bring shame to the Malfoy name!”
Draco flinched as he remembered his father’s angrily shouted parting words to him. He knew that his parents loved him, and that they had only ever wanted what was best for him - but their idea of what exactly the best things for him were had always been very misguided. As he grew, Draco found it increasingly more difficult to believe that their anti-Muggle ideals were harmless, and it had been their refusal to see things from a different point of view that drove the final nail in the coffin in his decision to move. His mother, who he still corresponded with regularly, had been trying to shift her perspectives. His father, on the other hand… Draco often wondered if he was a lost cause altogether. It was a pity, because he’d always been very close to his father, and admittedly, he missed him quite a bit.
Draco lurched out of his musings when Scorpius burst back into his study, flinging the door wide open.
“Scorpius, what did I tell you about being gentle with doors?” Draco sighed.
Scorpius threw a far-too-casual look back at the door in question, then turned back and grinned. “Sorry!” he exclaimed, not looking particularly sorry at all. “Anyway, I’ve decided where I want to go!”
“Already?” Draco asked, quirking an eyebrow. Maybe this was a good thing. Maybe that meant Scorpius had chosen something closer to home - like a “camping resort” with decent facilities, lots of bug spray, and zero leeches to speak of.
Of course, Draco had, once again, gotten his hopes up for nothing.
“Yup!” Scorpius grinned. “I want to go to Endau-Rompin National Park!”
Draco had no idea where that was. Praying it wouldn’t be somewhere completely recluse, he turned quickly to his laptop and hastily typed it into the search bar. When the results came up, he quickly scanned for a location.
There was another vicious flash of lightning, followed by a thunderous rumble. Scorpius winced and shrank back slightly before quickly puffing his chest out again. He’s always been frightened of storms, even though he tried not to be when he was safe inside a building.
Draco read the top few results of his search, then groaned. “But that’s all the way in Johor!” he exclaimed.
“So?” Scorpius asked, pouting. “You said we could go wherever I wanted! Please, Father?”
“Look, Scorpius,” Draco said, trying to reason with him. “I know you’ve wanted to do this for a long time, but why don’t we take it in stages? Start small, work our way up?”
“But it’s my birthday!” Scorpius said sadly. “I only turn eight once!”
Draco glanced back at the framed picture of Astoria. She was mid-laugh, almost as though she was teasing Draco about his predicament.
“I’d have to take days off,” Draco said.
“Just a few, Father!” Scorpius cried. He was beginning to pout. “I’ll do lots of chores! Please?”
Knowing this was something he’d probably regret, Draco heaved one final, defeated sigh and nodded his head.
Scorpius whooped in glee. “Thank you Father!” he shouted, running towards Draco and leaping up to scramble onto his lap. Draco winced. The boy was getting heavy. “Thank you thank you thank you!”
Draco gave him a kiss on the head. “You’re welcome. Now, what about those chores?”
Scorpius giggled as he jumped off of Draco, accidentally stepping on his foot in the process. Draco barely contained his yelp as Scorpius zoomed out of the room again. The door closed, more gently this time, with an oddly finite-sounding click.
Draco glanced out the window. The rain had very suddenly let up, now only falling as a light drizzle. The sun was beginning to peer out from behind the clouds, too, and Draco realized that even after three years living here, the weather here was still a bit of an anomaly to him.
He cast one more look at Astoria’s picture. “Oh, Story, what am I getting myself into?” he sighed.
Draco had never learned to drive like Muggles, and he had almost never been outside of Kuala Lumpur. Perhaps he’d taken a few forays to Selangor, but going as far as Johor down south wasn’t something he ever imagined doing, so he couldn’t trust himself to Apparate there, much less bring young Scorpius along with him.
If anyone told Draco four years ago that he would consider riding in a Muggle car boring and ordinary, he would have laughed and probably hexed the person. But now, as he and Scorpius sat inside a taxi, all he could think of was how sick he was of travelling and how much he would rather they reached their destination already.
It was ridiculously hot that day, as it often was in Malaysia. The taxi driver’s air conditioning barely did anything for the sweat that Draco was working up. Meanwhile, Scorpius was curled up on the seat, his head in Draco’s lap. Usually, Draco would find the situation adorable, but with the temperature, all Scorpius was doing was causing Draco even more heat.
Draco didn’t hold it against him for being tired, though. They’d just endured a train journey that spanned four and a half hours and two separate trains, involving Scorpius running out of games to play about halfway through the first train and being impossible to entertain, them nearly missing their connecting train because of the long line at the bathroom, and Scorpius suffering motion sickness throughout almost the entirety of the second train.
“How much longer till we get there?” Draco called to the taxi driver in front, whose identification pamphlet stuck to the dashboard showed a rather unflatteringly stretched out picture of the driver alongside the name “Nurul Ashikin.” The photo showed her wearing a bright green tudung which looked exactly like the one she was wearing now.
“Just 60 minutes je , boss!” Ashikin replied.
Draco tried not to groan out loud. They’d already been in the car for half an hour and he could barely take a second longer.
Perhaps noticing Draco’s discomfort, Ashikin attempted to strike up a conversation. If there was one thing Draco had always appreciated about Malaysians, it was their friendliness, and their tendency to treat everyone around them like family - even those they’d just met.
“Your first time visiting here ah?” Ashikin asked.
“No, I’ve lived here for about three years,” Draco replied. “I’ve never been to Johor, though.”
“I see. So, come here for what?”
“Needed a change,” Draco replied shortly. He tried to change the subject. “How long have you been a taxi driver?”
Ashikin laughed. “Funny question,” she said. “I did it since my kids left. They went overseas to take big jobs. They say I don’t need work anymore and they will pay for my life, but I like driving. So I quit my office job to do this.”
Draco smiled. “That’s… quite a story.”
On his lap, Scorpius stirred. “Father, what would you do if I could work enough to pay for your life?”
“Oh, I don’t know, Scorpius,” Draco replied, leaning back against the leather seats. They weren’t real leather, but they were soaking up the heat and causing more sweat all the same. “Maybe I’d be a taxi driver too.”
“But you can’t even drive, Father!” Scorpius exclaimed.
Ashikin laughed again. “So nice ah, your boy,” he said. “When my kids were his age, they only want me to buy them things.”
Draco shook his head good-naturedly. “Don’t praise my son too much yet. He’s the reason we’re going to Johor.”
As they talked, laughed, and discussed a wide range of different things, Draco found that, although the sweltering heat was still making him very uncomfortable, he was able to take his mind off things for a bit. Scorpius was especially eager to have someone other than Draco to talk to, and Draco realized sadly that Scorpius really didn’t get out much.
And then, Ashikin said the words Draco had been longing to hear. “Boss, dah arrive dah !”
“Finally!” Draco exclaimed. Scorpius was already scrambling off his lap to stare out the window. Draco followed his glance and felt his heart beginning to sink already. Even though they hadn’t entered the park itself yet, everything was overwhelmingly green. Trees stretched overhead, their branches reaching far and wide in an evergreen canopy that seemed to go on forever. They appeared to be working very hard to ensure shade for those beneath them, and Draco appreciated the sentiment - really, he did - but the moment he thought about roughing it under them for five days and four nights, he began to feel a little sick.
Scorpius had opened the door of the taxi and was running out, whooping in glee as he went. Draco sighed, leaning over to pay Ashikin, and found that the driver was getting out of the car himself.
“I have a friend here,” Ashikin said. “When I send people here I go see him.”
“That’s nice,” Draco said. “How much do I owe you?”
“70 ringgit, boss,” replied Ashikin.
Draco was in the middle of handing over the money when Scorpius began to shout. “Father, Father! Look!”
Scorpius was eagerly pointing upwards, where a gigantic sign loomed ominously. It was designed to look like a gigantic log with a section carved out in the middle, and it read “ Taman Negara Endau-Rompin Johor Malaysia National Park. ”
“Are you doing a guided tour?” Ashikin asked.
“Yes,” Draco replied distractedly, his mind already half conjuring thoughts of icky blood-sucking leeches, a variety of different creepy crawly bugs making their way up his pants, and the horrifying lack of running water. But luckily for him, he had a secret - the tent he’d brought along was a Wizarding one, equipped with all the luxuries he’d grown accustomed to, and with lots of space. He’d also charmed it so that it would remain firmly zipped whenever an unsuspecting Muggle attempted to open it. He felt a little guilty - as though he was cheating his way through this trial Scorpius had put him up to - but the kid needed to learn about compromise eventually, right?
Now that he was out of the extremely stuffy atmosphere of the taxi, Draco felt a little more confident. The trees provided quite a good roof and the rays of the sun lightly beat down on him in speckles from between the leaves. It was almost as if the sun was hiding behind the trees, hinting at good things coming just around the corner.
“Father, Father, hurry up! You’re going to slow!” Scorpius shouted.
“It’s slowly, not slow,” Draco said, shaking his head and correcting him.
Scorpius didn’t seem to care about his grammatical error, instead skipping off ahead in eagerness.
As Ashikin helped lead Draco towards the guide centre where they’d meet their tour guide, chatting cheerfully away about all the friends she knew, Draco felt his spirits lifting. Sure, maybe nature wasn’t his thing, but he had to admit that the surrounding area looked absolutely beautiful in all its lush green, and Scorpius was excited and happy, which was something Draco treasured seeing very much.
They arrived at a small hut that read “ Informasi” on it. It was quite shabby-looking but it suited the air of the place, so Draco found it almost charming. Almost, but not quite. Perhaps he was softening up.
There was a sudden break in the trees in front of the information cabin, and the sun did not waste its time in making itself known again. He shielded his eyes and winced, squinting uncomfortably as he ducked hurriedly into the hut, glad to be away from the overwhelming back-to-basics rusticness of the outdoors for just a moment. Forget softening up - he had just experienced a lapse in judgement, surely. He wondered how long they would be hiking before setting up camp so Draco could retreat to the soft sofa inside his tent.
Ashikin was still talking at this point, but she stopped as soon as she got to the receptionist’s counter. It was made rather sturdily out of some sort of heavily varnished wood and smelled very much like the entirety of an old furniture store was contained inside it.
“Eh, Macha ,” Ashikin grinned, speaking to the man behind the counter.
“Back again I see, Ashikin. You make friends everywhere,” said the man, who had a slender nose, dark skin, and wore rectangular glasses. “Hello, sir,” he added to Draco.
Draco tried to push more thoughts of the heatwave and leeches out of his mind for long enough to send a smile in the receptionist’s direction. “Good morning.”
“Do you have a booking for a guided expedition today, sir?”
“Yes I do,” Draco said, fumbling in his bag for the papers.
Meanwhile, Scorpius was busy dashing from one end of the little hut to the other, shouting. “This is so cool!” he exclaimed. “Father, Father, look at this!”
Draco looked to see Scorpius pointing at a spot in the wall. “Yes, Scorp, very nice… err… wood.”
“No, Father, you’re not looking properly!” Scorpius pouted. “It’s a spider!”
Draco struggled to suppress a shudder.
At that moment, a woman with her already short hair pulled back in a tiny ponytail came out from a door behind the counter.
“Hui Ying!” Ashikin exclaimed, beaming from ear to ear.
Hui Ying, as Draco supposed the woman’s name was, looked up and smiled, too. “Huh, back again ah, Ashikin?” she laughed, echoing the words of the receptionist from a moment ago. Her gaze fell on Draco and she gave him a very warm grin. “Oh, welcome, sir!”
“Yes, thanks,” Draco said, absentmindedly trying to hand the receptionist his booking receipt while Scorpius pulled at his arm.
“You, ke, yang guide my friend today?” Ashikin asked.
“ Tak lah hari ni ,” Hui Ying replied. “I have a booking for later. Big family.”
“Pity,” Ashikin said. He turned to Draco. “Boss, Hui Ying is the best guide here. She knows a lot about nature and survival, and she’s gone around these woods many times.”
Hui Ying laughed, waving Ashikin’s statements off. “Don’t tell the other guides you said that!” she said.
The receptionist handed Draco back his booking receipt. “All seems to be in order,” he said. “Please wait a moment and I’ll go get your guide.” He turned to Hui Ying. “Ying, please get the Mat Salleh out here.”
Hui Ying made a mock salute and vanished back through the door.
Meanwhile, Scorpius had latched on even harder to Draco’s arm and was trying to drag him over to the wall he’d been engrossed with earlier. “See, the spider’s right here…”
“Scorp, I’m not really a fan of arachnids -”
“But look how pretty it is!” Scorpius insisted.
Draco heard the door behind the counter swing open and shut again and tried to use the appearance of their tour guide as an excuse to convince Scorpius to stop bringing him towards the spider, which Draco could now see had long spindly legs with yellow dots on their joints - a sure sign that it was poisonous or venomous.
But as Draco wheeled around and caught sight of the guide in question, he felt his jaw drop. “You!” he shouted. And in that moment, Draco wondered to himself how unlucky he had to be if he travelled halfway across the world to escape his past only to find it had followed him there.
Standing in front of him, mouth agape in shock, glasses crooked and smudged on their lenses, hair messy as ever, was Harry Potter.