“ Hogsmeade Declared Gnome Free.” Harry read this headline aloud then lowered the newspaper where a small hand immediately and almost impressively grabbed it and pulled it to the floor.
“Aha!” Lily cried, waving the paper around and grinning at the noise it made before she went tearing off on her little legs.
“Lucky Hogsmeade, what’s that like?” Ginny peered out of the kitchen window into their back garden where several gnomes ran rampant. They’d had to put up charms to keep them contained in their own garden and out of their muggle neighbours’.
“Ah, remember when we were gnome-free,” Harry sighed wistfully.
“Before that fateful visit to The Burrow, a simpler time.” Ginny joined him gazing out into their gnome-infested yard.
They lived in a predominantly muggle village, there were no gnomes for miles, until the day when James, aged three at the time, decided he wanted a pet and couldn’t wait until Christmas for his promised kitten. He’d crept into the garden when nobody was looking, and somehow convinced a gnome to peacefully ride in his pocket the whole journey home. The endeavour had been so successful, he did it again the next time they visited, this time taking two more gnomes. It didn’t take long for the three stolen gnomes to repopulate in the Potters’ garden. James was thrilled; his parents were not.
“Do you think we’ll ever be rid of them again?” Harry mused, but they didn’t have long to dwell on this question.
“Jamesy took my dwagon!” an enraged cry proceeded Albus’ entrance into the kitchen where he came running over to Ginny and stood at her feet.
Albus had at least ten different toys he could be referring to when he said my dwagon.
“Sparkly Dwagon,” Albus said sadly, his bottom lip trembling. It quivered for just a second and then he broke into a loud sob.
“Come here,” Ginny knelt down and pulled Albus into a hug where he buried his face into her neck.
Harry checked Lily was still happily shredding the newspaper then went to investigate what had happened to Sparkly Dragon in the playroom. He found the toy almost immediately; it was in the middle of the floor, face down, and James was nowhere to be seen.
“Jamesy?” Harry picked up the dragon in confusion, looking around for his oldest son. “James, it’s time to go soon! Where are you?”
“Daddy, Al always cries and says I was bad and I think I didn’t mean to make him cry,” he said very quickly, emerging inexplicably from a cupboard in the corner of the room.
“What were you doing in there?” Harry knelt to the floor and held his arm out to invite James over. He obliged and entered his dad’s embrace, seeking comfort by burying his face in Harry’s shirt. “What happened with Al’s dragon?”
“He was playing with Sparkly Dragon and I said I can make Sparkly Dragon fly! So I took him from Al’s hand to make him fly around and make Albus happy but Albus just got sad instead and then he said I’m telling Mummy and he did.” James sniffed sadly.
“Ah,” said Harry, turning James to face him. “The part where you took him from Al’s hand might have been the problem.”
“But I was doing it to be nice!” James looked appalled.
“Did you ask Al first if you could make Sparkly Dragon fly?”
James looked shifty. “I forgot. Am I in big trouble? Can I still come to Christmas lights?”
“No, you’re not in big trouble. Of course you can still come to the lights.” Harry sighed and held James at arm’s length. “Just, ask first next time. Remember there are things which make other people sad, even if you don’t think they would make you sad.”
James nodded glumly. “I don’t want Albus to be sad ever,” he said honestly.
“You’re a good big brother, Jamesy,” Harry told him. “Come on, let’s go and put your coat on.”
Harry reunited Albus with Sparkly Dragon in the kitchen and then helped both boys find and put on their coats, scarves and hats while Ginny wrapped Lily up for the cold weather. Albus was reluctant to wear his bobble hat and Harry strongly suspected he would pull it off the second he turned his back anyway.
“It’s freezing outside, Albus. Everyone will be wearing a hat. I’m wearing one, Jamesy is, so’s Lily.” Albus looked unconvinced. “Rosie and Hugo will have hats, so will Niamh and Lucas and-“
“Fine,” Albus sighed grumpily, rolling his eyes and taking the hat, shoving it inexpertly onto his head so that half of his hair was stuck over his eyes. He started to make a noise of complaint before Harry removed the hat and put it on properly, tucking his fringe into the front of the hat so he could see out.
This was shortlived. When they were all dressed for the weather and standing in front of the fireplace to leave, Albus’ hat had mysteriously vanished from his head, leaving him with his hair all over the place as if it had been pulled off roughly in annoyance, which it probably had been. Ginny noticed first.
“Albus, what on Earth has happened to your hair?”
Albus threw her a grumpy look and immediately squirmed away when she tried to comb his hair with her fingers. The front was covering half of his face and the top was sticking up at all angles.
“No! Don’t bwush my hair, Mummy!”
“Daddy!” Lily cried excitedly as he picked her up so they could leave.
Ginny was still battling Albus’ hair. “I’m not, love, but,” she sighed, trying to push it out of his eyes, “you can barely see a thing. Where’s the hat Daddy put on you?”
Albus threw Harry an accusing look. “I took that hat off. I don’t like a hat!”
James started to jump up and down in excitement and clamoured for the Floo powder, which Harry quickly whipped out of his reach.
“Well we need to do something with that hair, you won’t be able to even see where you’re going, let alone the Christmas lights.”
Albus stopped squirming and froze. “I will not see fairy lights?” he asked very sincerely.
“How about a ponytail like Daddy has?” Ginny offered, thinking quickly.
“Fine,” Albus sighed, as if it were a great chore for him. They weren’t sure where he’d picked this expression up, but it was one of his current favourites.
Lily stuck her hand into the Floo powder and sprinkled a generous amount all over the front of Harry’s coat. He sighed and set the powder back on the mantlepiece, shifting Lily to the other arm and brushing his coat clean. Meanwhile, Albus stood reluctantly still while Ginny pulled the front of his hair back into a little ponytail which looped around on itself.
“There, that looks cute, very handsome.” Ginny patted his hair and Albus grinned, his little face completely unobscured for once. “Maybe we’ll do it like that more often.” This seemed, to Harry, like a good solution to the consistent battle with Albus whenever his hair grew past his eyes and he refused to have it cut.
“Can we go now?” James had his hands stuffed in his pockets and looked close to causing some kind of boredom-induced mayhem.
“Yes, come on, you come with me, Jamesy.” Ginny took his hand and picked up the Floo powder. “Hold on tight.”
“We might even be on time,” Harry muttered, holding the Floo powder pot so Ginny could take a handful out.
“Three Broomsticks, Hogsmeade,” Ginny said clearly, holding James close to her side and disappearing in a roar of green flames.
“Hot!” Lily announced, pointing at the fire.
“Our turn.” Harry stepped into the fireplace, Lily on his hip and Albus clinging to his side. He threw down the handful of powder, put an arm around Albus’ side and told the fireplace where to take them.
They tumbled from the fireplace and into the Hogsmeade pub, straight into Ginny and James. Harry passed Lily over to her mum and looked around the crowded seating area.
“Oh look, we’re the last ones here,” Harry said in a cynical voice, waving to Neville who had secured a large table in the corner.
“Evening, everyone,” he smiled, bounding over to greet them. “Hello, Jamesy. Albus! Hello, is that a dragon? Wow, he looks very scary.”
Albus was wordlessly thrusting his toy dragon in Neville’s face with a huge grin, his three-year-old idea of a good greeting.
James yelled a quick hello over his shoulder and dashed over to the table where he immediately scrambled up onto the window seat and pressed his nose up against the glass.
“You made it!” Hannah, Neville’s wife, appeared behind him, their baby daughter in her arms. She passed little Poppy to her dad and gave Ginny a quick hug.
“You got a baby there, Uncle Neville,” Albus pointed at Poppy with interest.
“So I do!” Neville pretended to be shocked at the sight of her. “Do you remember Poppy, Al?”
Albus waved at Poppy. “I got a baby too!” he told him excitedly. “Her is called Lily Luna, but she’s asleepy so we have to shhhh.”
Harry frowned and caught Neville’s eye. Lily wasn’t asleep at all.
“Got it, shhh.” Neville put his finger to his lips like Albus was. “There’s another baby here too, have you met Lucas before?”
“I don’t think he has,” Harry put in. “Here, Albus.”
Harry took Albus’ hand and lead him over to the table, where James was loudly commentating everything he could see out of the window to an amused Seamus, who was incapable of moving due to his four-year-old daughter lolling against him. Beside him, Dean had their son, Lucas, sitting on his lap and waving a spoon around while Dean chatted to Hermione.
Albus took one look at the collection of people and promptly hid behind Harry’s legs. He didn’t enjoy big groups of people all at once.
“Look, Albus, Uncle Ron is over there, talking to Mummy,” Harry said quietly, bending down to Albus’ level. “Do you want to say hello?”
“I want you to hold me,” Albus scrabbled at the front of Harry’s coat.
Harry obliged and picked his son up.
“Alright, Harry, hello, Albus,” Ron said brightly as they approached. “I like your very cool ponytail.”
“It’s a ponytail like Daddy so I can see fairy lights,” Albus explained from Harry’s arms.
“You all got here alright, then?” Ron was only half paying attention, his focus on Rose who was crawling under the table and popping out to make Hugo laugh.
“Just about,” Harry chuckled, lowering Albus into a chair which was too big for him.
Across the table, Seamus and Dean’s daughter, Niamh, had warmed up to James and ventured off her father’s lap to sit beside him. She was explaining something very seriously to James, who was still staring out of the window.
“I don’t have a mum, I have two dads,” she nodded smartly.
“I have two fish and an owl,” James replied, turning from the window. “Do you know what is the hardest spell in the world? Because my Daddy does and he does that spell all the day.”
“ My Daddy paintsed a picture of me,” Niamh replied proudly.
Harry chuckled at their sweet conversation and greeted Dean and Seamus.
“Glad you could make it in the end.” Harry clapped Seamus on the back.
“Bleeding nightmare, that was,” Seamus said with a sigh and pulled a face. “There’s a mountain of paperwork waiting for me in the office, I think almost every Obliviator was involved in the end.”
Seamus worked for the Accidental Magical Reversal Squad at the Ministry, and only the night before had been called away to deal with an exploding dishwasher at a muggle pub in East London. A disgruntled sixth year muggle born had become rather frustrated with his Christmas job apparently and the resultant incident had been witnessed by at least forty muggles. They’d had Aurors on the scene, confirming the cause of the explosion, and a team of Healers, but thankfully nobody was badly hurt. Harry hadn’t been there but it had been the talk of the office all day.
“If you ask me, it was rather impressive,” Dean put in.
“You can do the paperwork then,” Seamus scoffed.
Dean was still holding baby Lucas who continued to wave his spoon around, the handle coming dangerously close to Dean’s eye. He swiftly diverted the spoon.
“Just like Hogsmeade weekends at school, this,” Dean laughed, gesturing to the baby in his arms and the toddler in Harry’s. “Can you say hello to Lucas, Al?”
“Hello,” Albus whispered, hiding his face in Harry’s chest and sticking his thumb into his mouth, his sparkly dragon wedged uncomfortably against Harry’s throat.
Albus would not be convinced to part from Harry and sit with James or Rose, so he remained on Harry’s lap next to Ron who was holding Hugo, and baby Lily in a highchair. It was only when Lily made a fourth grab at Albus’ ponytail that he decided it might be time to move and sit with his cousin instead.
It was rare for all of Harry’s school friends to meet up at the same time, especially since they’d all had children, but the Hogsmeade Christmas lights event made the perfect excuse to all get together. This time last year, the four babies had only been tiny and it was a lot more of a challenge to keep themselves to themselves now all the kids were walking. They’d unintentionally drawn rather a lot of attention in the crowded pub, although that was always to be expected.
It wasn’t until about halfway through their meal that the attention became quite so unwanted.
“Oh no, really? ” Ginny swore under her breath and Harry followed her gaze, seeing what she had seen. A reporter was pointing a camera into the window of the pub, clearly under the impression they were being surreptitious.
“Will they stop at nothing?” Hermione complained, handing Rose a new fork and whipping her wand out. A quick spell maneuvered a fussy Christmas garland to obscure most of the window.
“If only that was enough to make them give up,” Harry muttered.
And he was right.
When they’d finished eating and feeding the children, bundled everyone back into coats and hats and de-shrunk pushchairs for the littlest ones, they exited the pub to find a second reporter waiting with a camera.
“Can I just ask you a few questions, Harry?”
“Not today, I’m trying to enjoy an evening with my family, thank you.” Harry used a firm voice, a bit like when he had to tell James he couldn’t fly his training broom inside the house, and the reporter nodded.
“How about a quick family snap?”
“We really can’t stop.” Harry took Albus’ hand, pushing Lily’s pushchair with the other.
The reporter went to speak again but Ron cut him off. “Oi, mate, leave it.”
They moved away from the pub entrance and away from the faintly put-out looking reporter who was muttering to himself. Harry very much hoped that would be the last of it but he doubted they’d get that lucky at an event so public.
Hogsmeade village was packed with people here to see the Christmas fairy lights launched. There were stalls dotted around selling hot butterbeer and magical candy floss made from spun fairy silk. Being such a large group in such a packed space, they naturally split off and arranged to meet up again for the main event.
“When is it the fairies?” Albus looked up at his dad curiously. “Can I go on your shoulders when it’s the fairies?”
“Er, soon, and yes you can.” Harry looked back to make sure Ginny and James were keeping up; he had a tendency to walk a bit too quickly. “Look, a market! Shall we choose Grandma Molly a Christmas present from one of these lovely stalls?”
A section of the village square had been marked off and was filled with small wooden stalls, each selling handmade goods. James immediately pulled away from Ginny’s grip and dashed over to the nearest stall, picking up what looked like a bar of soap in the shape of an owl.
“Look a chocolate owl!” James held it proudly aloft. “Can I have one? Please? I eated all my broccoli, Mummy!”
Ginny followed him with a chuckle. “You don’t want to eat that, Jamesy.”
“Yes I do,” James insisted. “I’ll share with Al! Please?”
All of a sudden, James broke into a fit of giggles as if invisible hands were tickling him and he dropped the owl soap to the ground, breaking away and rushing off to the next stall. Ginny dashed after him.
“Jamesy is being naughty to run away,” Albus told Lily solemnly, holding onto the side of the pushchair and leaning over her. “We not allowed to run off.”
“Ah!” Lily said, happily pointing at her brother.
“I’ll… just buy this, please.” Harry picked up the fallen owl soap (one wing was cracked off) and sheepishly handed it to the owner of the stall.
They caught up with Ginny and James a few stalls down. She was knelt in front of him and he was kicking at the ground moodily.
“I didn’t mean to,” he insisted.
“Gwyffindor!” Albus interrupted the conversation and ran up to the stall they’d stopped in front of. He was jumping up and down and pointing excitedly at something on display. “Look, it’s Gwyffindor!”
“That’s not Gryffindor,” James said judgmentally. “Gryffindor is at home.”
“It is Gwyffindor!” Albus insisted, still pointing. “Look, Sparkly Dwagon.” He held his toy up to see.
Harry followed his son’s attention, which was directed towards a large and very beautiful glass dragon hanging from the top of the stall. It was green, just like Albus’ favourite toy, and had a similarly shaped tail. Overall, it did look a lot like Gryffindor.
“Well spotted, Albus,” Harry smiled. “He does look like Gryffindor.”
Albus chatted a mile a minute about Gryffindor the dragons and fairies from his secured place on Harry’s shoulders. Harry couldn’t hear most of what he was saying, but it seemed to all be for the benefit of Sparkly Dragon anyway.
They bumped into Neville and Hannah again closer to the village square, but unfortunately the reporter from before was back, and this time, he’d brought reinforcements. They gleefully surged forwards, waving cameras and magical microphones and stirring up an excited buzz in the crowd. It was too late to turn back, the crowd was too thick, there was nothing to do but face it.
Harry reached up, took Albus off his shoulders and lowered him to the ground. “Albus, it’s going to get a bit loud. I think you should go with Mummy.”
The press tended to go a bit crazy over photos of Harry and Albus together, presumably because Albus looked so much like him. They were already snapping away now as Harry knelt down to speak to him.
Ginny knew what was going on and swapped with Harry, giving him James’ hand to hold and gathering Albus close to her side. He was clutching Sparkly Dragon tightly and biting his lip. Neville was muttering under his breath, gripping Poppy’s carrier to his chest.
“Over here, Harry!”
“Can you turn your pushchair this way?”
“Which one’s Albus Severus?”
Cameras flashed, reporters jostled and Harry gripped onto James’ hand tightly, steering the pushchair with the other.
“Please move out of the way,” he muttered with as much patience as he could. “I’m not answering any questions.”
“Will you comment on the recent Ministry cutbacks with regard to the Azkaban security officer background checks?”
“Pretty sure that’s a question,” Ginny said nastily in the reporter’s face.
Harry was having great difficult steering Lily’s pushchair with one hand and he guided James over to Ginny so he could use both hands and get them out of here faster.
“So is that a no comment? How do you really feel about them? Is it true you disagreed with the initial movement to remove dementors?”
“What’s your patronus of, Harry?”
“What do you hope your children’s patronuses will be?”
It was utter chaos and it wasn’t going away. All Harry could do was keep shrugging them off and guide the pushchair along but the urge to grab all three of his children and Ginny and just apparate home was strong. They’d been separated, Harry and Lily and Ginny and the boys. It was making Harry uneasy.
“Stop pushing, please. Mind my daughter, please watch out.”
A loud bang, almost like gunfire, made everyone jump and then there was a panic as everyone looked for the source of the noise. A wizard in dark red Auror robes was holding his wand out and casting a commanding aura around him.
“Please keep this area moving, this is a no press zone. Step back.”
“Cheers, Toby,” Harry saluted him as the reporters groaned and put their cameras away.
It was still busy and crowded, but less chaotic without the reporters and the flashing of cameras. Harry leant over to check on Lily in the pushchair (she’d fallen peacefully asleep somehow) then looked around for Ginny and the boys, spotting his wife almost instantly.
“That was a bit mad,” she ruffled James’ hair, the epitome of calm for the children, but Harry could tell it had shaken her a bit too.
“Where’s Albus?” Harry looked at Ginny’s grip on James and then her other empty hand and felt his blood run cold.
Her face fell and Harry felt his stomach drop. “I thought he was with you. I told him to hold onto the pushchair, I thought you saw him?!” Ginny span on the spot, frantically searching for Albus.
“No, I was too preoccupied moving Lily away from that man. Where is he? Albus?!”
“Maybe he’s with Nev, where did he get to?” Ginny picked James up and placed him on her shoulders. “Look out for your brother, Jamesy.”
Harry scanned the area around them for a flash of green coat or a little ponytail but the crowd was so thick and moving constantly. Even if he was with Neville and Hannah, Harry couldn’t see them either. He and Ginny called his name out repeatedly and pushed their way through the crowd but Albus was nowhere to be seen.
They went back the way they’d come, still seeing no sign of Albus. Harry stepped on something soft and he bent down to pick up Albus’ Sparkly Dragon, dropped haphazardly. “Albus?!” He spun on the spot, Albus must have been near here to have left his dragon behind.
“What’s happened?” Neville appeared from nowhere and came running over, still wearing Poppy but with no Albus in sight.
“We’ve lost Albus,” Harry momentarily sank his head into the dragon and breathed hard. “He’s lost.”
“Right,” Neville said, business-like all of a sudden, “I’ll tell the Aurors and take James, we’ll let the others know too, you keep the pushchair, we’ll split up and search. Meet in front of the Broomsticks at,” he checked his watch, “seven.”
“What?” Harry said weakly, not even looking at Neville and staring in disbelief at Sparkly Dragon.
“You heard him, Harry.” Ginny took the pushchair from him and took off at as much of a run as was possible in such a crowded place. Harry followed her, trying to clear his head and approach this rationally like it was an Auror mission; it was incredibly difficult to feel rational when it was his own young son missing.
“Think, think, why would Albus run away?”
“Because he was scared of the loud bang, next question,” Ginny matched his pace.
“What does Albus do when he’s scared?”
“He comes to us,” Ginny said desperately. “And he sucks his thumb and squashes Gryffindor against his face. But he doesn’t have Gryffindor with him.”
“And he dropped Sparkly Dragon,” Harry added, throwing the toy into the top of the pushchair. “Could he be looking for this?”
A silvery shape blocked Harry’s view, before materialising into a brown bear and speaking with Neville’s voice. “ Someone spotted Albus in market and told Aurors.”
They met each other’s eyes in an instant. “The glass dragon, in the market!”
Lily’s pushchair made for a very effective crowd divider as they hurtled back in the direction of the market stalls. If anything, it seemed even busier now than it had earlier, hoards of people crowded around each stall, making it difficult to locate the one with the glass dragon. Harry just hoped nobody else had found Albus all by himself before they could.
“Where is it?” Ginny scanned the stalls nearby.
“There! Dragons!” Harry pointed over several heads and lead the way. His words caused an old couple browsing a selection of lanterns to look rather alarmed and frightened, looking around them fearfully.
“Maybe you shouldn’t loudly announce dragons and then run away,” Ginny said breathlessly as they kept going.
“I don’t care right now!” They were almost at the dragon stall now. “Albus? Albus!”
“There he is!” Harry careered dangerously around a tree with the pushchair, flying towards an uncertain looking Albus. He was standing to one side of the dragon ornaments, peering around with a worried expression, his finger pressed to his lip.
“Albus!” Ginny rushed over to him and picked him up, startling him. He immediately cried hard into her shoulder. “Where have you been? We were so worried, my lovely, so worried. You’re safe, you can cry, you’re safe.” She rubbed his back in soothing circles.
“It was too scawy,” he explained tearfully. “There was a loud noise and it went bang! So I wunned to Gwyffindor to protect me.”
“You can’t run off, we didn’t know where you were!” Harry tried very hard not to let his fear for Albus’ safety translate into anger at his son. He gripped the handlebar to Lily’s pushchair until his knuckles were white.
Ginny placed a gentle hand on his forearm, her other arm supporting all of Albus who was still buried into her shoulder. “You must stay with a grown up, Albus. Even if you feel scared, stay with a grown up” she said softly into his hair. Albus continued sobbing and Harry felt a surge of anger towards the reporters who had caused the commotion.
He turned from the pushchair and muttered a quick patronus, telling the Aurors they’d found Albus. Then he reached for his trembling son, needing to show him some physical protection in that moment. Ginny understood his look and passed Albus over.
“Daddy,” Albus whispered, his sobs settling down now. “I’m sowwy I wunned away.”
“I’m just glad you’re safe, Al.” Harry felt ten times calmer now he was holding Albus in his arms. “That was scary, not knowing where you were or who you were with.”
Albus raised his head. “I was wiv the dwagons,” he said like it was obvious. “And a nice lady.”
“Is that who tipped off the Aurors? Who was it?” Harry felt a panic rise in him and he exchanged looks with Ginny.
“A nice lady over there, she was looking at the dwagons too and she said are you on your own? and I didn’t say nothing because you shouldn’t talk to strangers. But the nice lady had a nice boy with a dwagon too and I know that he is a stranger but I talked just to his dwagon.”
Harry frowned. “Is the lady still here? I’d like to know who that was.”
Albus looked around from his vantage point on Harry’s hip. “That lady there.”
He was pointing to someone not that far from them, a young woman who was clearly watching them all. She smiled and waved in acknowledgement that they’d found Albus; it looked like she’d been watching him from afar, waiting for them to find him. Harry placed Albus on his feet beside Ginny and marched straight over to thank whoever she was when he found himself frozen in shock.
Someone had come up behind the young woman, someone he hadn’t seen for many years, someone who was carrying his own, smaller someone who looked to be the spitting image of him. He passed the child he was holding to the woman and leaned over to whisper something in her ear. The woman laughed and the man looked up, locked eyes with Harry almost immediately and blanched.
If Harry could have chosen a time to bump into Draco Malfoy in public, it would not have been minutes after finding his lost son after a frantic chase through a crowded village with a pushchair.
“Um,” Harry stammered, completely wrongfooted.
“Potter,” he said curtly.
“I… came over to say thank you.” Harry rubbed the back of his neck and tried to ignore the piercing gaze Malfoy was sending his way, instead focusing on the woman, presumably Malfoy’s wife, who had a kind and inviting expression.
“I’m glad you found him,” the woman said kindly while the little boy in her arms gazed at Harry in wonder.
“Yes, er, thank you very much for finding Albus and telling the Aurors. He got scared by the press, ran away,” Harry tried to explain, hating that he was coming across as an inferior parent to Malfoy.
“Understandable.” Malfoy’s lip curled just slightly.
Malfoy’s wife cut across him with a light laugh. “Really, he found me. We were shopping, Scorpius and I. I noticed he was on his own, it didn’t seem right. I’ve been waiting over here keeping an eye on him until you could get to him.”
“Everything okay?” Ginny had come up behind him with Albus and Lily in the pushchair. “Oh, hello, Draco,” she added politely, as if they often bumped into each other like this. “Astoria, hi.”
Harry goggled at his wife. How on earth did she know her name?
The woman, Astoria, smiled back. “Lovely to see you again, Ginny.”
From the expression on Malfoy’s face, he hadn’t expected their wives to be familiar either. Malfoy narrowed his eyes for half a second. “What a cosy reunion. You should misplace your children more often, Potter.”
Harry opened his mouth to retort but Ginny nudged him and spoke instead.
“Has Scorpius turned four yet?” she said quickly. “I can’t remember when he was born now.”
“Yes, yes, Scorpius was four in October,” Astoria said casually, looking at him proudly. “Of course, he’s already talking about when he’ll turn five.”
The little boy, Scorpius, shyly hid his face in his mother’s shoulder. He was almost identical to Draco, but with a softer expression than Harry had ever seen on his old school rival’s face.
“It’s a fun age, isn’t it?” Ginny continued chatting as if they were old friends.
Harry caught Malfoy’s eye by accident and something passed between them. A sense of how are our wives doing this while we stand here like goldfish with nothing to say?
“So, Malfoy, are you-“
“Don’t, Potter,” Malfoy interrupted with the tiniest of smirks. Harry couldn’t help but join him, thankful he wasn’t expecting forced conversation.
“Daddy, hold me.” Albus was grabbing at the bottom of his coat, reaching to be picked up. When Harry did, he stared at Malfoy curiously then pointed with excitement. “Look, he has a ponytail too!”
It seemed to occur to Albus just as he said it that Malfoy could very easily hear him and he immediately blushed, hiding his face in Harry’s neck.
“She looks like you,” Malfoy said bluntly, watching Albus.
Harry could have been forgiven for thinking Malfoy was being deliberately facetious, but it wasn’t the first time he’d had to gently correct someone who had mistaken Albus for a girl. He still had such a baby face, even though he was almost four, and huge green eyes edged with thick lashes. James had been cute in a cheeky, mischievous way at this age whereas Albus could more accurately be described as pretty than anything else.
“Er, no, this is Albus. He just… has a ponytail,” Harry said, feeling very awkward.
Malfoy had turned the faintest shade of pink. “My apologies. He still looks like you.”
“I could say the same about…” Harry felt stupid using Malfoy’s son’s name; he’d only heard Ginny say it once, he might have misheard it.
“Scorpius,” Malfoy supplied. There was a pause - Malfoy eyed the pushchair. “You have other children?”
“This is Lily,” Harry nodded to the pushchair where Lily still slept, “and James is with Neville. He’s five.”
“Neville,” Malfoy echoed under his breath, an unreadable expression on his face.
“Have you finished gossiping?” Astoria interrupted them and Malfoy looked exasperated.
“We’re not…” he hissed.
“We were just discussing how lovely it would be if we arranged weekly playdates for Albus and Scorpius, they are the same age after all,” Astoria said cheerfully.
Harry felt his stomach drop and he accidentally caught Malfoy’s eye, who he was pleased to see looked equally as horrified at this concept. He goggled at Ginny, wondering why she’d agreed to this, but she was smirking and snorted with laughter when she saw Harry’s face.
“Joking.” Astoria nudged Malfoy and he rolled his eyes at her, but his expression was so fond Harry felt a bit intrusive watching the moment. Astoria turned to Ginny. “You’re right, that was fun.”
“Well, they’ll be releasing the fairies any minute,” Ginny said briskly, refusing to meet Harry’s eye, biting back laughter as she steered Lily’s pushchair away.
“Lovely to see you,” Astoria waved cheerfully and the little boy in her arms waved too. Malfoy looked as relieved as Harry felt that their encounter was over, his eyes flicking between his son and Albus in Harry’s arms as they left.
“Dat boy’s got a dwagon wiv green eyes,” Albus said in awe, vaguely returning the wave.
“Green eyes like yours?” Harry offered.
Albus looked thrilled, he clearly hadn’t thought of it like that. He mouthed what looked like dwagon eyes to himself and smiled.
It didn’t take long for them to find Neville and James back in the village square. Lily was still sleeping peacefully which, now Harry thought about it, was a bit of a nightmare this close to bedtime, but knowing all three of his children were safe and present now seemed more important.
“As you can see, he’s been in bits over his brother going missing.” Neville grinned as James happily sucked at a handful of fairy silk candy floss. James spotted them approaching and his face broke into a delighted grin when he saw Albus riding on Harry’s shoulders, then it turned to his candy floss and immediately fell.
“James? What is it?”
“Now I have to share my candy floss.”
By the time they’d convinced James to share his candy floss, roused Lily reluctantly from her impromptu nap, watched the Christmas fairy lights appear by magic and explained to a tearful and exhausted Albus that no, they couldn’t take a fairy home to live under his pillow, being home was most welcome.
“So are you ever going to explain to me how you’re so chummy with Malfoy’s wife?” Harry whispered, due to the fact that Albus was curled up against him sleeping on the sofa.
“Oh, we’ve just bumped into each other once or twice,” Ginny said off handedly, putting Lily’s pyjamas on. “I wouldn’t say chummy.”
“Hmm,” Harry frowned in annoyance.
“You really should get used to bumping into Draco out and about though, Harry. Scorpius and Albus will be at school together, what if they make friends?”
Harry had a sudden vision of a likeness of Draco Malfoy, aged twelve, showing off his Nimbus 2001, except this time the Malfoy in his head was in the Potters’ kitchen alongside Albus, who looked exactly as he did now, aged three. He shook his head to clear the image.
“Unlikely,” Harry said, mostly to himself.
James suddenly started making noises of utmost frustration. He stuffed his hand into his pocket and, with great difficulty, wrenched something rather large from it, holding it at arm’s length.
“Stop tickling,” he commanded. “Or I won’t take you on adventures again.”
Harry’s heart sank as he saw what it was.
“Jamesy,” Ginny said quietly, and with a resigned sigh, “why do you have a gnome in your pocket?”
“Barry wanted to see the fairies lights,” James explained. “But he was tickling me all the time!”
“You took a gnome to Hogsmeade?!” Harry tried to sound stern without waking Albus. “James, that’s not what we do with gnomes! What if it had escaped?”
Silently, Harry imagined an alternative where his son revealed he’d released Barry into the recently declared gnome-free Hogsmeade village. Where his son was responsible for bringing gnomes back to the village only a day after the announcement. He shuddered at the thought.
James looked appalled. “Barry is so good and he never escapes! Only tickles.”
“Well.” Harry wasn’t sure how to handle this one.
“It’s only Blinky who tries to escape all the times.”
“Blinky?” Ginny said fearfully.
James stuffed his hand into his other pocket and his eyes widened.
“Oh no! I left Blinky behind in Hogsmeade!”
Harry groaned and buried his face in his hands.