“We don’t serve Death Eater scum in here!” spat the shopkeeper, slamming the door. Harry turned at the sound and his heart compressed strangely.
Draco Malfoy stepped neatly away from the slammed door, a small boy clutching his hand.
“I’m sorry, darling,” said Malfoy to the boy.
“I don’t mind,” said the boy, a little too quickly. Malfoy drew him into a hug.
“What did I do to deserve you?” he asked.
Harry couldn’t tear his eyes away.
Malfoy had always been handsome, but Harry had forgotten how forceful his good looks were, like being hit over the head with aestheticism. Malfoy made everything look easy, even being insulted. His icy blond hair was in waves around his ears. He wore old robes, yet they somehow made him seem more fashionable and put together than all the expensive clothes Harry owned could have done.
The little boy was delicate and blond, as well. He closed his eyes when Malfoy hugged him. He didn’t squirm away, although he looked about the age when children start resisting their parents’ affection. If anything, he tried to pull Malfoy closer.
“You’d better go in to Ollivander’s by yourself, darling,” said Malfoy.
“Oh,” said the boy, sounding disappointed.
“I’m sorry,” said Malfoy.
“No, no, it’s fine.”
“Little liar. Here, take some gold. And after, we’ll see if we can get some ice cream.”
“If he’ll sell it to us, darling. But if not, we’ll find somewhere, I promise.”
“All right,” said the boy, squaring his shoulders, and marching into Ollivander’s by himself. Malfoy’s hands twitched at his sides, and he seemed to force himself not to follow. He leant back against the storefront to wait.
“Malfoy,” said Harry.
Malfoy’s head jerked up.
“Potter,” he said. He was cold and impenetrable, where before he had been elastic with emotion.
“How are you?” asked Harry.
“Well, thank you. And yourself?”
Harry frowned. He didn’t quite know how to respond to a polite Malfoy. In fact, he wasn’t even sure why he had approached him. Malfoy seemed to be wondering the same thing.
“Is that your son?” asked Harry. Malfoy glanced into the shop window, but the stacks of wands prevented them from seeing inside. Harry knew it was a meaningful moment, when children found their wands. The sort of thing parents photographed and put in albums. He caught the quick, pained expression that flashed across Malfoy’s face.
“Yes,” said Malfoy. “Scorpius. He’s starting at Hogwarts in September.”
“Christ, you had him young.”
“Seventeen. It wasn’t exactly planned.”
Malfoy looked rather dreamy.
“He’s all his mother, fortunately.”
His mother. Malfoy’s wife. He had one, didn’t he— Harry remembered someone mentioning it. Well, that makes things easier, thought Harry, before immediately asking himself why it should matter to him one way or another if Malfoy was married.
The door opened and Scorpius burst out.
“Dad! Dad! Look!” He brandished his wand. “Hawthorne and phoenix feather!”
“That’s brilliant, darling! And so fast!”
“It took me hours to find my wand,” said Harry. Scorpius froze and looked up at him fearfully.
“Scorpius, this is Harry Potter. Potter, this is my son, Scorpius.”
Scorpius solemnly shook his hand, muttering “How d’you do.”
“Nice to meet you, Scorpius,” said Harry.
Scorpius took a deep breath, clasped his hands, and fixed Harry with an earnest look.
“Thank you for saving my father’s life,” he said, formally. Harry tried not to laugh.
“That’s all right. He saved my life, too.”
“Really? I didn’t know that!” Scorpius’ eyes widened and brightened, and suddenly Harry wondered if he ever heard anything good about his father. He hadn’t seemed too surprised to hear him referred to as “Death Eater scum”.
“Yes, he was very brave,” said Harry.
“Potter, please don’t. He’ll believe you,” said Malfoy, his jaw tight.
Scorpius seemed to crumple.
“Oh,” he said, miserably. “You were joking.”
“No,” said Harry, frowning at Malfoy. “You did save my life.”
“That is a generous interpretation of events.”
“I don’t think so.”
Malfoy didn’t answer. He stared into the distance, a small crease appearing between his pale eyebrows.
“Dad,” said Scorpius, pulling at his hand. “You’re in Diagon Alley. It’s me, Scorpius. Dad. Dad.”
Malfoy shook his head abruptly and smiled down at Scorpius. He looked tired. How did he manage to make tired look so good?
“Sorry, darling,” he said.
“Dad gets lost inside his head, sometimes,” explained Scorpius.
“Oh,” said Harry, but before he could say anything, a young witch had approached him and asked for his autograph.
“Come on, Scorpius, let’s not disturb Mr. Potter any longer,” said Malfoy.
“Goodbye,” said Scorpius.
But Malfoy had taken Scorpius by the hand and walked away. Harry was distracted by the young witch, who had a lot to say about some article she had read about him in Witch Weekly. When she finally left, Scorpius was back, panting.
“Mr. Potter,” he said.
“You can call me Harry.” Harry looked around for Malfoy, but couldn’t see him.
“Could I write you a letter? I don’t want to bother you. You wouldn’t have to answer. Could I, please?”
“Uh,” said Harry, baffled. “Why do you want to write me a letter?”
“To thank you, of course,” said Scorpius, as if Harry was being deliberately thick.
“For saving Mal— your dad’s life?”
“No, for… for today.”
“I don’t understand,” said Harry.
Scorpius looked anxiously over his shoulder, to where Malfoy was hurrying out of a bookshop, scanning the crowd.
“Please say I can write, please. I won’t bother you, I promise, you won’t have to answer.”
“I— here,” said Harry, finding a piece of parchment and a quill. Scorpius looked like he might cry if he said no. Harry scribbled his address down and gave it to Scorpius.
“Thank you,” said Scorpius, fervently.
“Scorpius!” Malfoy put a hand on Scorpius’ shoulder. “Potter, I apologise. Scorpius, explain yourself.”
“I… I wanted an autograph,” lied Scorpius.
“How dare you bother Potter like that!”
“It was no bother,” said Harry.
Scorpius threw his arms around Harry’s neck.
“You’re just like Dad said you were,” he whispered into his ear.
“What do you mean?” asked Harry.
“Wonderful,” said Scorpius, as Malfoy tugged him away. “Wonderful.”
“Sorry, Potter,” said Malfoy. “I really am. Come on, Scorpius, we’re going home.”
“But you said we’d have ice cream!”
“If you think you’re getting ice cream after that…!”
And then they were gone, lost in the crowd.
He couldn’t really explain why he kept thinking about Malfoy and Scorpius all afternoon. Probably it was because he didn’t often encounter Death Eaters. It had been over ten years since the war, and most of them had melted away— they were dead or in Azkaban or abroad. Harry probably didn’t like being reminded of Voldemort and Lucius and… yes, that was all. If his mind kept returning to the sight of Malfoy pulling his son close and asking “What did I do to deserve you?” it was only because it reminded him of Lucius Malfoy.
Except, of course, it didn’t. Lucius had always bought Malfoy anything he wanted, but Harry didn’t remember him ever showing that sort of affection.
He thought of the way Scorpius’ eyes lit up when he called Malfoy brave, as if he had said something magical.
Harry wanted children, badly. So badly that he had even suggested to Ginny, as she broke up with him, that they just have a marriage of convenience and start a family. The suggestion had not gone over well.
Was Harry jealous of Malfoy? He couldn’t deny that Scorpius was adorable. And Harry wanted someone to lavish with affection, the way Malfoy clearly did with Scorpius.
Yet, he had also had the sense that Scorpius took care of Malfoy just as much as Malfoy took care of him. Harry had seen how disappointed they both had been that Malfoy couldn’t go with him to get Scorpius’ wand (because Malfoy kept Ollivander locked up in a dungeon for months, he reminded himself), but Scorpius had tried to hide his feelings. And it was Scorpius who had called Malfoy back to himself, when he went missing behind the eyes.
It was all very confusing, and Harry was relieved when Scorpius’ letter arrived in the middle of the night.
Dear Mr. Potter, I mean Harry,
Dad says that you only said those things about him being brave and saving your life to be nice to me. I think you’re the nicest wizard I’ve ever met, except for Dad of course. I know Dad was evil in the war and he was a Death Eater and did bad things and that’s why people can’t forgive him. He’s told me all about it, every bad thing, but I won’t tell you in case you don’t know. Although everyone does seem to know.
Anyway, because of all the bad things that can’t ever be forgiven, people are very unkind to us. I don’t mind so much, except when they say things to me, because that makes Dad sadder than anything. He says The Sins of the Father Are Visited On The Son and he’s sorry. But you were so nice to us even though you’re Harry Potter and you hate us. Well, I think being nice to people you hate is wonderful and noble. And even if you thought you were lying, you were really telling the truth, because my Dad is braver than anyone, and he never lets the angry men find me when they come, even though sometimes they hurt him so badly.
I know you won’t answer, but I just wanted to say thank you. You really are brave and good, just like Dad says.
Harry wrote back right away, even though it was the middle of the night.
Thank you for your lovely letter. Of course I don’t hate you. Your father really did save my life, although it’s true he did many bad things as well. But people can change, and I for one forgave him long ago. Could you tell me more about the angry men?”
Scorpius didn’t answer. The next day a letter came from Malfoy. It was on formal paper and arrived at his ministry address, the one that was publicly available. Clearly, although Malfoy had his home address, he had not thought it appropriate to use it.
I’m so sorry my son has been bothering you. It was good of you to write back. I have told him to leave you alone. I’m afraid he was rather taken with you.
I’d also like to thank you for your kindness in Diagon Alley. It was generous of you not to embarrass me in front of Scorpius.
Harry didn’t know what to make of this letter. Malfoy and Scorpius both seemed allergic to the idea of bothering him, which he found strange given that it hadn’t bothered him at all. In fact, he had very much liked Scorpius, who reminded him less of eleven-year-old Malfoy than of Harry himself. It had been nice to get his letter, and to write back. Harry didn’t really have many people to write to. He wrote letters to Teddy at Hogwarts, but Teddy was very popular and busy and rarely found the time to write back.
I’d like to write to Scorpius. He’s fun. Please tell him I’d be glad to hear from him any time.
Dear Mr. Potter,
Dad just said I could write to you. He said you’re just being polite but I don’t care. Is it true you stole a dragon from Gringotts? Do you really have a magical invisibility cloak? I’m going to Hogwarts in September and I’m so nervous. Dad says that it might be difficult at first because I’m a Malfoy. I wish I wasn’t a Malfoy sometimes, but don’t tell Dad that because it’s just the two of us left and I think it would make him sad and I try not to make him sad.
I think me leaving will make him sad.
Dad says your parents died when you were a baby and that he used to make fun of you for it. It’s hard to believe he did that.
I miss my mum a lot. Did you use to miss your mum? I wonder if it was different because you didn’t know her. My mum died when I was five. She took her own life, says Dad. I wish she hadn’t.
Tomorrow we’re having movie night. Movie night is the best night of the whole week because my friends Andy and Fran come over and Dad’s friends Eve and Nick and Flora come too and they drink wine and tease him and then we watch a movie and shout at the screen.
Dad says wizards don’t really watch movies. I asked him if I could go to a muggle school instead of Hogwarts but he said no. Muggles are so much nicer than wizards. Dad says people are people but that’s not how it seems to me.
I’m afraid to say it’s true, both about the invisibility cloak, and breaking into Gringotts, although I promise I had a very good reason. I feel sure you will have a wonderful time at Hogwarts, although it might take you a moment to get used to it. Would you like me to ask your cousin Teddy to look out for you? He’ll be in the year above, and could show you the ropes.
I miss my mum all the time, too. I’m sorry you lost yours. Movie night sounds very fun. My friends don’t really have much time to hang out all together anymore, so I’m quite jealous!
You still haven’t told me about those angry men you mentioned.
Dear Mr. Potter,
Dad says it doesn’t matter if you have a good reason to do bad things. “Evil can’t be undone,” he says. But I don’t know if breaking into Gringotts is evil. Maybe it would have been if Dad had done it.
I don’t want Teddy to think I’m a baby. I bet he’s really popular. He probably won’t want to be stuck with me— Dad says it’s important not to bother wizards. With muggles it’s okay because they don’t hate us. Dad says that’s ironic.
We’re going back to Diagon Alley tomorrow, to get my robes. I’m nervous. I wish I could just go to a muggle school, where people are nice.
The angry men come when they find us. They wear masks and break in and hurt Dad and then when they’re gone we have to move. Dad says I shouldn’t hate them. You can’t get revenge on revenge, he says. They’re just angry because of the war, and that’s understandable, he says. I try not to hate them. It’s hard.
Harry’s hands shook as he read the letter. They wear masks and break in and hurt Dad. And Draco bloody Malfoy telling his son that that was understandable! What kind of a father was he? How dare he let Scorpius believe that was fair? That Scorpius deserved to live in fear of his father being murdered in their home?
It was so strange, reading Scorpius’ letters, and learning about Malfoy through him. Scorpius evidently admired his father just as much as Malfoy had revered his. What was it about Malfoys and family? Malfoy had literally become a Death Eater to please his dad, could he not see that Scorpius swallowed everything he said as gospel truth?
Yet… a tiny part of Harry couldn’t help but pity Malfoy, and begrudgingly admire his remorse. It was excruciatingly painful, Dumbledore had told him once. So agonising that Voldemort would never have undergone it. Not even to mend his soul. Yet Draco Malfoy was remorseful. Draco Malfoy accepted the hatred of the Wizarding World with stoicism and patience, believing it to be just retribution for the mistakes he had made at sixteen.
Harry didn’t question himself too much the next day, when he went to Diagon Alley. He was just going to check in on George, that was all. No other reason.
"Harry! How've you been holding up?" asked George.
"Good, yeah, good," said Harry.
"Have you been getting our owls?"
"Oh, uh, yeah."
"It's been months, mate. We've been really worried about you."
"I've just been busy," lied Harry, and started asking about the new line of Anti-Embarrassment products (“Anti-blush blusher! For asking out the girl—without looking like a girl!”). Luckily, this distracted George from asking more questions about Harry's nonexistent personal life, and Harry was able to keep an eye fixed on the window, looking for… he wasn’t sure what.
Until he saw it, that is. A shock of blond hair. Two shocks of blond hair, and a crowd gathering around them, and Harry strode out of the shop mid-sentence (“Harry, wait, don't go--" said George, but Harry ignored him).
A man punched Malfoy as Harry opened the shop door.
“Leave my dad alone!” cried Scorpius shrilly.
“Scorpius,” said Malfoy.
“Shut up, you snot-faced brat. Your father tortured people, did you know that? You should be ashamed of him.” The man leant down to look at Scorpius more closely, and Malfoy stepped in between them.
“It’s nothing to do with him,” he said. “He wasn’t even born.”
Harry hurried forward, but he wasn’t fast enough.
“Diffindo,” said the man. A great, deep gash opened across Malfoy’s face.
“Dad!” screamed Scorpius.
The crowd parted as Harry pushed through it. Malfoy had dropped Scorpius’ hand to clutch at his face, blood pouring through his fingers.
“Harry Potter!” said the man who had hurt Malfoy. “It’s such an honour to meet you!”
“Fuck off,” said Harry. He grabbed Scorpius with one hand and Malfoy’s elbow with the other, and apparated them back to Grimmauld Place. Malfoy sank into a kitchen chair, still holding his face.
“Dad,” said Scorpius. “Dad—”
“Are you all right?” asked Malfoy. His voice was muffled.
“I’m okay, I’m okay, I’ll call 999—”
999? Did the Malfoys use muggle health care? Clearly they did. Scorpius pulled out a mobile phone and dialled. It didn’t work, of course. There was too much magic in the house.
“It’s okay,” Harry told him. “I can fix him. Accio dittany!”
But this didn’t seem to reassure Scorpius at all. He threw himself onto Malfoy’s lap (Malfoy’s arms drew instinctively around him) and pressed his cheek against his father’s. Blood stained his icy blond hair.
“Don’t you dare touch him! You’ll hurt him! I want Nick and Eve and Flora! You just want to hurt him!”
“Darling,” said Malfoy faintly. “He won’t hurt me. Don’t cry.”
“How do you know?” wailed Scorpius.
“Potter, that dittany— if you don’t mind— only I’m worried it will scar, and we can’t all pull off facial disfigurement…”
“Right! Sorry,” said Harry, and he handed Malfoy the bottle and a clean tea towel. Malfoy’s hands were shaking, and he clearly couldn’t see well with all the blood in his eyes.
“Here, darling,” he said, unscrewing the bottle and pouring liquid onto the tea towel. “Can you dab this on the cut?”
Scorpius smelled the cloth, looking suspiciously at Harry.
“It’s dittany,” he announced. Malfoy smiled.
“How can you tell?” he asked, as if he was testing Scorpius. Scorpius pressed the cloth gently to his father’s head. Harry knew how dittany stung when it touched a wound, but Malfoy didn’t make a sound. He barely winced.
“Because of the bitter smell combined with the colour and texture. Also, it’s working.”
“Yes, correct,” said Malfoy. “Ten points to your house, Mr. Malfoy.”
Harry noted that he didn’t say Slytherin.
“I’m a regular Hermione Granger,” he said.
Malfoy cleared his throat uncomfortably.
“I think you’ve got it all, darling,” he said, pushing away the cloth. He wiped the blood out of his eyes and cast a quick cleaning spell. There was a nasty bruise forming on his cheekbone. “Well done. You were very brave.”
“I don’t want to go to Hogwarts,” said Scorpius in a low voice.
“I know,” said Scorpius, miserably.
“I’d like to talk to your dad alone, please,” said Harry.
“You won’t hurt him,” said Scorpius, uncertainly. He couldn’t seem to make eye contact with Harry.
Harry shook his head. He had a lump in his throat. It was bizarre how jealous he was of Malfoy. Or maybe of Scorpius. He genuinely couldn’t tell which of them he envied more.
“It’s important to know when to trust people,” Malfoy told Scorpius.
“Yes,” said Scorpius. “I know.” He looked at Harry then, with wide grey eyes. “I trust you.” Harry tried to say something, but couldn’t. Scorpius hopped off his father’s lap and left the kitchen.
Malfoy frowned at his knees.
“Potter,” he began.
“Tea?” interrupted Harry. Malfoy blinked.
“I… yes. Thank you.”
They were both silent as Harry busied himself with the kettle. Harry realised he knew how Malfoy took his tea, or at least, how he had taken it at Hogwarts.
“Strong, splash of milk, no sugar,” he said. “Like you did at school.”
“I always knew you watched me,” said Malfoy.
“You watched me, too,” said Harry defensively.
“Everyone watched you.”
Harry put the two mugs on the table and sat opposite Malfoy. Even with the bruise blooming across his skin, he was the most beautiful thing Harry had ever seen. No wonder Harry had spent six years obsessing about him. How convenient that Malfoy had actually turned out to be up to something— otherwise Harry would just have been a run-of-the-mill, honest-to-God stalker.
“Potter,” Malfoy began again, but Harry didn’t let him continue.
“What the hell are you playing at, Malfoy, telling Scorpius that this is all fine and normal? That you deserve to be treated this way? You’re giving him a complex, you realise?”
“What are you talking about?”
“He’s scared, Malfoy!”
Malfoy slammed his hand down on the table.
“You think I don’t know that? You think you could do better in my circumstances?”
Suddenly, an expression crossed Malfoy’s face that Harry recognised. It hadn’t been there when he was attacked in Diagon Alley, but it was there now: terror, the same terror Harry remembered seeing on Malfoy’s face in the Room of Requirement, as the world burned around them.
“Oh, God— you want to take him away from me, don’t you?”
“You—the ministry threatened, when I got out of Azkaban—but I haven’t— of course I haven’t—if you think I would ever—”
“Malfoy, what the hell are you on about?”
“I’m not raising him to be a Death Eater!”
“What? Of course you’re not,” said Harry, but Malfoy didn’t seem to hear him.
“I— please don’t— I—I’m doing my best, Potter, and I would never do to him what my father did to me, not ever, please don’t take him—”
“Malfoy! Christ! I’m not trying to take Scorpius away from you!”
Malfoy stopped talking. His silvery grey eyes flickered up to Harry’s.
“Then what do you want to talk about?”
“I just…Fuck. He’s dreading Hogwarts, you know.”
“I’m aware,” said Malfoy, stiffly.
“Did you get his robes, in the end?”
Malfoy shook his head.
“I’ll just make some up myself. How hard can it be?”
Harry had a sudden, vivid image of Scorpius being called to the Sorting Hat, with his unmistakably Malfoyish hair, with his despised name, his Death Eater father, and shoddy, home-made robes to seal the deal.
“I’ll take him to Diagon Alley,” he said, decisively.
“You… you would do that?”
Harry was surprised— he had expected Malfoy to tell him to fuck off. But evidently it had occurred to him too that Scorpius would be an object of ridicule in home-made robes.
“He’s Teddy’s cousin, you know,” said Harry. “Teddy won’t want his social stock to plummet. And I’m sorry, Malfoy, but I reckon you’re pants at sewing, even with magic.”
“I’m good at everything, Potter,” said Malfoy, as if he was speaking from a script. He took a sip of his tea. “Well… thank you. It would set my mind at ease, honestly. I went by myself for all his other things, but he needed to be there for the robes and the wand.”
“I’ll take him tomorrow.”
Malfoy nodded. He seemed a bit more relaxed now. He took in Harry’s kitchen, and Harry suddenly saw it through his eyes.
Harry had got used to the shithole he lived in. It was his shithole, after all, and Sirius had grown up there, and it was meaningful to him. It wasn’t the house’s fault that the kitchen grout could never be cleaned, and that there was no light, and that the windows rattled, and that it was cold and dirty and horrible. But as Malfoy looked at it, he was keenly aware of how pathetic it was, to be rich beyond measure and yet to live in such a place. He was sure that wherever Malfoy lived (the Manor and all the Malfoy fortune had been seized by the government after the war), it was clean and neat and cosy.
“Right,” said Malfoy. “I’m going to do something, and I promise I’m not being a dick. But it is going to look as if I’m being a dick.”
“Er,” said Harry. “Okay. Should I get Scorpius back in here, or no?”
“Leave him, he’s reading,” said Malfoy, looking for something in his pockets.
“How do you know? Do you have a tracker on him or something?”
“What? No. I just know him. He’s reading. Ah, here.” He found a piece of parchment and a quill, raised an eyebrow at Harry, and began to write.
I, Draco Lucius Malfoy of House Black, hereby bequeath 12 Grimmauld Place to Harry James Potter in return for saving my life. He is the rightful owner and I relinquish all right to the Black inheritance. Signed,
Draco Lucius Malfoy
“What the fuck, Malfoy?”
“I’m not being a dick.”
“You can’t just give me my own house! It’s MY house!”
“It is now.”
There was something different about the house, he realised. It felt more comfortable. There was a cushion on his chair. The table was no longer pockmarked. The windows were clean. The kitchen was bigger.
“What the fuck did you do?”
“The house thought it belonged to me. I felt it when I arrived. Hasn’t it been resisting you?”
“What do you mean, resisting me?”
“You know. Staying dirty when you clean it. Refusing to warm up. That sort of thing.”
“Oh. Yes.” Harry had just thought that was because it was an abominable black magic house.
“Well, now it knows I approve of you owning it, it’s more likely to behave.” Malfoy looked almost apologetic. “I told you it would look like I’m being a dick.”
“I still can’t believe it didn’t know I owned it.”
“Well, my cousin Sirius left it to you, didn’t he?”
My cousin Sirius. Those words together made strange things stir in Harry. The idea of Malfoy being connected to people Harry loved. It was confusing.
“Yeah,” said Harry.
“The house didn’t approve of Sirius. Not after Great Aunt Walburga blasted him off the tapestry.”
“How do you—”
“I used to come here a lot as a child. It was lovely, back then. Apart from the elf heads. You haven’t kept them, have you?”
Harry shook his head. Malfoy stood, smoothing down his robes.
“It’s the least I can do,” he said. “I’ll send Scorpius via floo tomorrow morning at ten. He’ll need to change some muggle money into Galleons. Do they let you into Gringotts, after everything?”
“They don’t like me, but yeah.”
“Figures,” said Malfoy. He opened the kitchen door. Scorpius was sitting on (the suddenly extremely clean) stairs, engrossed in a thick novel. “Scorpius, Mr. Potter is taking you to Diagon Alley tomorrow. Isn’t that kind of him?”
Scorpius leapt to his feet.
“Really?” He looked at his father, his excitement leaking away. “Will that… will that change things?”
“I should think so,” said Malfoy, softly. “I think you’ll have a nice time.” The unspoken “without me” hung heavily in the air.
“I don’t want to put you out, Mr. Potter,” said Scorpius.
“Please call me Harry. And honestly, I’d like to. We’ll get your robes and go to Florian’s.”
“Oh!” said Scorpius. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to go there, but he’s never—” Scorpius shut his mouth sharply. Malfoy looked rather pained.
“Thank you again, Potter. For the dittany, and… everything. Come along, Scorpius.”
They went by the Floo, Malfoy giving some address Harry didn’t recognise, Scorpius waving cheerfully as they were swept away by the green flames.
The house was very big and very empty.
In truth, Harry didn’t go out very much anymore; at least, not without his invisibility cloak. People began approaching him the moment he and Scorpius arrived in Diagon Alley. Scorpius clung nervously to his hand and shrank back when people noticed him.
“What an adorable child!” cried an old witch, leaning forward to pinch Scorpius’ cheek. “Would you like a sweetie?”
“No, thank you,” said Scorpius.
“This must be your godson, Teddy Lupin,” she said, confidently. “I read about him in the papers. Your parents were war heroes, little boy.”
“No, this is my friend Scorpius,” said Harry. “I’m afraid we have to get going.”
He made the mistake of letting Scorpius walk into Madam Malkin’s first.
“Your father knows perfectly well I won’t serve your sort, Mr. Malfoy—” she began, before spotting Harry. “Oh! Mr. Potter! So lovely to see you. Be off with you, Mr. Malfoy, I won’t tell you again!”
Scorpius turned to leave. Harry put his hands on his shoulders.
“Actually, I’m here to get Scorpius his school robes,” said Harry. Madam Malkin’s eyes widened.
“Oh,” she said. “That’s… that’s very generous of you, Mr. Potter. Of course, I’m not surprised. You were always so noble-minded.”
Harry shrugged uncomfortably. Scorpius’s face had gone blank, the way Malfoy’s had when Harry ran into him in Diagon Alley. He didn’t say a word as Madam Malkin fitted him, not even when she stuck a pin into him on purpose.
“I think you’re hurting him,” said Harry coldly.
“Oh, dear me, you should have said something, Mr. Malfoy,” said Madam Malkin, removing her pin.
Harry insisted that Scorpius order the most expensive, well-crafted robes available. He remembered how well Malfoy had always dressed in school, and he wanted Scorpius to look like that, too. Malfoy hadn’t given Scorpius enough money for more than the most basic robe options, so Harry paid the difference. He knew it would annoy Malfoy, but he didn’t care.
He had expected Scorpius to be talkative and excited, but he only grew quieter as strangers accosted them and told him what a charming child he was. The more people complimented Scorpius, the flatter his expression became. It only flickered when they passed the pet shop.
“Have you got an animal yet?” asked Harry.
“No. It’s a luxury,” explained Scorpius. “I don’t need luxuries to be happy.”
He didn’t say “Dad says”. He didn’t need to.
“Hagrid bought me my owl when I was eleven. As a gift,” said Harry.
“Hedwig,” said Scorpius, unexpectedly.
“Yes. I’d quite like to pass the gift on. How would you like an owl?”
“Oh!” Scorpius looked up at him with shining eyes. Then he seemed to pull himself together. “But you can’t buy me an owl.”
“It’s…” Scorpius looked unhappily at the owls in the window. “Dad wouldn’t like it. He told me specifically not to ask you for anything.”
“Well, you haven’t. I’d like to buy you an owl. That owl.” He pointed at a snowy white owl that reminded him painfully of Hedwig.
“He’s beautiful,” breathed Scorpius. “But…”
“No arguing,” said Harry. Scorpius stared spellbound at the snowy owl as Harry paid and signed an autograph and explained that Scorpius was not his long-lost love child.
“What will you call him?”
“Hogarth,” said Scorpius reverently.
“That’s a nice name.”
“He’s my favourite 18th century cartoonist,” said Scorpius.
“You’re a weird kid,” laughed Harry, then immediately wished he hadn’t, because Scorpius’ expression closed.
“It’s a stupid name,” he said.
“No! I like it! Hogarth. It’s perfect. Come on, let’s get ice cream.”
Scorpius dragged his feet all the way to Florian’s, and when they arrived he looked determinedly at the floor.
“Harry, my boy! And who’s this handsome young fellow—” Florian stopped as he recognised the Malfoy hair. If only he didn’t look so exactly like his father, thought Harry. But then, in some ways it was a blessing that he had inherited his father’s good looks. Neither Malfoy nor Scorpius were exactly eyesores.
“This is my friend, Scorpius,” said Harry. “What would you like?”
Scorpius shrugged his shoulders. Harry ordered him a sundae.
“It’s good of you to take pity on a Death Eater child,” said Florian, in a carrying undertone. Harry could feel the blush spreading up his face, could see the way Scorpius had become impassive and straight-backed, like a tiny marble statue.
“I’m not pitying him,” said Harry. “I like him. And he’s not a Death Eater child, he’s just a child.”
“Of course, of course,” blustered Florian, but he looked at Scorpius with more interest than before, and added a chocolate flake to his sundae that Harry hadn’t paid for.
They took their ice creams to the empty back room, and Scorpius finally relaxed, for the first time since they arrived that morning.
“I’m sorry about… everyone,” said Harry, uncomfortably.
“I’ve never had wizards be nice to me before,” said Scorpius. “Except for you, of course.”
Harry resisted scooping Scorpius into a big hug and promising to force people to be nice to him. Scorpius stirred his ice cream thoughtfully, apparently unaware of the distressing, protective turmoil that Harry was experiencing.
“Do people always ask for your autograph?” asked Scorpius.
“Yes,” said Harry. “Usually I go out in my invisibility cloak.”
“I’ll let you try it on, sometime.”
Scorpius grinned and swallowed a large mouthful of ice cream.
“What’s your job?” he asked.
“Uh,” he said, wiping himself with a napkin. “I don’t have one.”
Why not? That was, indeed, the question. The question that Hermione asked gently, and Ron asked bluntly, and Mrs Weasley avoided, and Luna Lovegood mused on— why hadn’t Harry found anything to fill his days with? Usually he made a joke and moved on, but under this small, Malfoyish eleven-year-old gaze, he felt disposed to be truthful.
“Well, for a few years after the War I was bit too unhappy to do anything. By the time I felt better, all my friends had started careers, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I also felt so behind. And… it was a lot of pressure. Everyone was watching me all the time, so I was scared of being bad at anything. Of trying anything new. So I just hesitated, and now it’s been ten years and I’m too embarrassed to start a new career.”
Scorpius nodded as if this all made sense.
“Like Dad, when he got out of Azkaban,” he said.
“Not really,” frowned Harry.
“Yes,” insisted Scorpius. “He was ashamed and no one would hire him and he had to find a muggle job and he didn’t know anything.”
“What does your dad do?”
“He runs a second-hand bookshop in Islington.”
Harry paused, trying to imagine Malfoy in some sort of Hugh Grant-esque bookshop, recommending novels to muggles. It was unthinkable.
“Is that why you don’t see your friends anymore?” asked Scorpius.
“In your letter, you said you didn’t see them much.”
Harry was blushing. He hadn’t thought too much about what he wrote to Scorpius. He certainly hadn’t expected Scorpius to remember the things he said.
“Well… yeah, I suppose so. I just feel a bit useless, sometimes. It’s pretty hard to top defeating Voldemort at seventeen.”
Scorpius twisted his mouth sympathetically, and Harry had the sudden urge to laugh. Draco Malfoy’s son was pitying him.
“I can’t complain, though,” he added, hastily. “I’m very lucky, in most ways.”
“You should come to our movie night,” said Scorpius.
“Er, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Why not? Is it because my dad is a Death Eater?”
“Was a Death Eater. No. I just don’t think he’d like me there.”
Scorpius looked unconvinced.
“I’d like to come,” Harry found himself saying. “If I thought he wouldn’t mind.”
“He wouldn’t,” said Scorpius. “He always wanted to be friends with you, in school.”
“No, he didn’t. He wanted me dead. He spent six years hexing me at every opportunity.”
Scorpius went very still.
“Oh… Scorpius… I didn’t mean…” Harry sighed. “Does anyone ever tell you nice things about your dad?”
“Nick and Eve and Flora. But Dad says they don’t count, because they don’t really understand about the War.”
“Right. Well…” Harry pushed his hair out of his face. “Your dad was always… well-dressed, in school. I mean, he always looked good. He was really handsome. All the girls were after him.”
Scorpius shook his head.
“But he wasn’t good.”
“Your grandad had some pretty nasty ideas, and Mal- your dad believed them all because he was loyal. He cared about his family. Usually that’s a good thing. It was just bad luck that his dad was awful.”
Scorpius shook his head again.
“It doesn’t matter if you have a good reason to do bad things. Evil can’t be undone,” he said.
“That’s what your dad says.”
“Well, look—” Harry wasn’t sure how he had got himself into this position, defending Draco Malfoy to Malfoy’s own son. He felt a bit hopeless. How was he supposed to make Scorpius feel better about his twat of a father when his father really had been a twat? But to his surprise, words came to him. “Of course your dad should have stood up to his father earlier. Or at all. But he had a lot of opportunities to do evil— real evil, Scorpius—and he couldn’t do it. It wasn’t in him. Because fundamentally, he wasn’t a bad person.”
Scorpius twirled his spoon through his ice cream.
“I’m serious, Scorpius.”
“I know he isn’t a bad person,” said Scorpius quietly. “He’s the best person in the whole world.”
“He was inventive,” said Harry. “Creative. Persistent. Funny, I think; at least, the Slytherins thought so. Handsome.”
“You already said that one.”
“Er,” said Harry, blushing.
“Do you hate my dad, Harry?”
“No,” said Harry, automatically, then remembered that it was true. “I really don’t. Actually, if you’re anything to go by, I reckon he’s probably a pretty good egg.”
“A good egg,” he repeated.
“Look, enough about the War. Do you play quidditch?”
Scorpius lit up, looking suddenly so smug and pointy that Harry was forcibly reminded of Malfoy in first year. It gave him a strange, wistful feeling.
“Yes! I’m very good. My dad says that it’s a crime if I don’t get on the house team. He and I play seeker’s games and I almost always win. I think I’d like to be a chaser. There’s much more glory in scoring goals than in catching a stupid snitch, don’t you think? My dad says he’s going to buy me a broomstick next year. We only ride Cleansweeps, which are fine, but my dad’s going to buy me a Nimbus. He’s promised. And—”
Scorpius chattered happily about quidditch for five whole minutes before Harry could even get a word in edgeways. The boy was quidditch-mad. It made Harry’s heart ache. He didn’t really fly anymore. He didn’t really do anything, anymore.
He slept about twelve hours a night, fitfully, with nightmares. He then lay in bed for a few more hours when he woke up, wincing at all the obligations he was neglecting, before getting up and wandering listlessly around his house, picking up books at random and putting them down, avoiding the pile of letters on his dining room table that grew larger and more reproachful with each passing week. Occasionally, he would give in and see a friend, but he clammed up around them, ashamed of himself for being so bloody useless. It was easier to just be alone.
Or it had been, reflected Harry that night, alone in Grimmauld Place, until Scorpius Malfoy came along. Because it had been so lovely, eating ice cream with him. Reassuring him that his father wasn’t a bad person, making him feel a little better.
“He always wanted to be friends with you, in school,” Scorpius had said. Harry was sure Scorpius had misunderstood, but somehow he kept thinking about it. It was strange to be learning so much about Malfoy without actually spending time with him.
Malfoy’s letter arrived the next day, to Grimmauld Place this time, although still on intimidatingly thick paper.
Those robes you ordered are an absurd extravagance & don’t get me started on the owl.
Scorpius claims that you’re longing to be invited to our movie night tomorrow. I have informed him that he’s mistaken, but he has been… persistent. So, consider yourself invited. Details overleaf.
You’re spoiling my son rotten and undoing years of good parenting.
Was Malfoy actually annoyed about the robes and the owl? He had signed “With gratitude,” after all. Harry decided he would go to the movie night, if only to find out whether he’d pissed Malfoy off. Not that Malfoy had any right to be angry, in Harry’s opinion.
I’ll be there.
He found that he was actually rather nervous, the next day. He changed his jumper three times before settling on the one he always wore. He just didn’t want to look stupid in front of Scorpius, he decided. Scorpius was a Malfoy, after all. He probably really cared about how people looked, what with his father basically being a fashion model.
Harry wondered, at great length, what Malfoy would wear, before deciding he was being stupid.
He wanted to bring something, but shopping was hard for him. People always bothered him, and it was difficult to pay under the invisibility cloak. Kreacher bought food once a week, but nothing that Harry could bring as a gift. In the end he didn’t bring anything.
Malfoy lived in an ordinary block of flats on a rather busy little high street. Harry apparated in an alleyway, found the front door, and rang the bell.
Scorpius came to let him in.
“Er,” said Harry, as Scorpius threw himself into his arms. It was very nice, actually. People didn’t really hug Harry all that much. Mrs Weasley did, of course, when he saw her. But he never saw her.
Scorpius chattered away as he led Harry up the stairs to the flat.
It was somehow both exactly what Harry had expected, and nothing at all like what he had expected. It was small and clean and crammed with books (this all made sense). But it was also cosy and unpretentious. It seemed thoroughly lived in. And just now, it was filled with laughter and noise.
Malfoy rose to greet him, drink in hand. He was wearing muggle clothes, and he looked predictably, effortlessly hot, despite the purpled bruise on his cheekbone.
“You came,” he said, like Scorpius, although with considerably less enthusiasm.
“Er, yeah, I hope that’s… okay…” said Harry.
“You must be Harry,” said a woman with pink hair and a nose ring. “I’m Eve. The two over there who look so disgustingly in love are Nick and Flora.”
Nick and Flora did, indeed, look disgustingly in love, and had two children, Andy and Fran, whom Harry remembered Scorpius mentioning in one of his letters. The three children instantly disappeared into Scorpius’ room to play with Hogarth.
“I can’t believe you got him an owl, Draco,” said Flora.
“I didn’t. Potter here did.”
“That was you?” asked Eve. “Why?”
“I had one as a kid,” said Harry. Eve ushered him to the sofa and handed him a bowl of pretzels.
“You went to that same school for posh freaks as Draco, yeah?”
Harry winced at the word “freak,” which reminded him so much of Aunt Petunia.
“It was just freaks, Eve,” said Malfoy, comfortably, from where he was lounging, his head in Flora’s lap. She was stroking his hair, and Nick didn’t seem to mind. “You didn’t have to be posh. It was hardly classist.”
“It was a boarding school. Of course it was classist.”
“Purist, maybe,” muttered Harry. Malfoy cast him an unreadable look. “But Malfoy’s right, I’m not exactly posh.”
“No,” said Eve, and smiled. It occurred to Harry that he had thought Malfoy’s muggle friends would be posh — more like the boys Dudley used to bring home from Smeltings; or little muggle Pansy Parkinsons. But Nick and Eve and Flora all seemed distinctly normal. They reminded him more of Tonks than anyone else.
“We’ve never met one of Draco’s school friends before,” said Nick.
“We weren’t friends,” said Malfoy quickly.
“Never too late to make friends,” said Flora.
“Potter’s just here for Scorpius,” said Malfoy.
“I don’t blame you,” said Eve to Harry. “I’m not too keen on Draco myself. Can’t abide with all his Suffer-In-Silence-Do-Gooder nonsense.”
Harry choked on a pretzel. Nick thumped him on the back.
“So, er, have you known… Draco… long?” asked Harry. He couldn’t believe the risk Malfoy was taking, inviting Harry over, when he had evidently pumped his muggle friends with lies about what a tragic victim he was. Must be convenient, he thought sourly, to have friends who don’t know that you were basically a Nazi.
“Pretty much since he got out of prison,” said Flora, continuing to stroke Malfoy’s hair. Malfoy closed his eyes.
“Oh, shit,” said Flora. “Did he not know, Draco? Only you always tell everyone—”
“He knew,” said Malfoy, drily. “He’s just surprised I haven’t been hiding it from you lot.”
Nick, Flora and Eve all laughed.
“Christ,” said Eve. “If you ever find a way to stop Draco talking about his checkered past, let us know.”
“You make me sound awfully repetitive,” said Malfoy.
“We love you for it,” said Flora softly.
“Quiet, wench, or your husband will find out about our affair,” said Malfoy.
“Scorpius said you’re lonely, Harry,” said Eve. Harry choked again.
“What? I’m not—”
“Eve is under the misapprehension that her rudeness is charming,” said Malfoy.
“Oh, come on. Harry, I’m having a wine and cheese party on Friday. You have to come.”
“Erm,” said Harry, looking at Malfoy, who smiled rather nastily.
“Don’t look to me for help, Potter. She captured me in her wily social net long ago.”
“And I fully intend to capture you too, Harry,” said Eve.
“You don’t have to come,” said Flora soothingly. “You can say no.”
“No, I… that sounds good. Yeah. I’ll come,” said Harry. He wasn’t sure why. Maybe it had just been too long since he had plans on a Friday night. Malfoy raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything.
“Are we ever going to start this movie?” asked Nick.
“Harry needs a drink,” said Eve. “Are you going to get him one, Draco?”
“No,” said Malfoy. “You are.”
“You’re a terrible host.”
“I’m an excellent host. I anticipate the needs of all my guests. Your need, right now, is to get Potter by himself and grill him, and I am graciously providing you with what you want.”
“Too right. Come on, Harry.”
“You want to grill me?” asked Harry nervously, as Eve took the bowl of pretzels out of his hands and pulled him to his feet.
“Oh yes, like a fish, on both sides, until you’re ready to eat.”
“Potter,” said Malfoy, and Harry turned to look at him. “Don’t forget the International Statute of Secrecy, will you?”
Harry goggled at him, but the others just laughed, and Malfoy smirked as if he had made a good joke.
“I don’t know how he comes up with that shit,” said Eve, pulling him towards the kitchen.
“Yeah,” said Harry. “So… inventive.”
He had told Scorpius that Malfoy was inventive. And he had been, inventively awful, what with the Potter Stinks badges and tricking him into a fake duel in first year and dressing up as a dementor in third year and any number of dreadful things he’d done to torture Harry.
Harry couldn’t help but notice that it was a special kind of clever, to use the truth to mask the truth, the way Malfoy had just done.
“So,” said Eve. “Are you single?”
“Er, yes,” said Harry, alarmed.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to hit on you.” She paused. “Unless you want me to?”
“No, that’s okay,” said Harry. Eve looked affronted. “I’m sort of… figuring stuff out.”
“Hmm,” said Eve, taking a bottle of white wine out of the fridge. “Draco’s perpetually single, too. He says he’s waiting till Scorpius goes away to school, but really he just doesn’t want him to know he’s gay.”
Harry could feel his face heating up.
“Malfoy’s not gay,” he said. “He had a wife.”
“So did Oscar Wilde. And I didn’t just out Draco, by the way— he’s not secretive about it generally, just around Scorpius.”
“Scorpius doesn’t strike me as a virulent homophobe,” said Harry.
“No,” agreed Eve. “But Draco seems to think that he’s going to be bullied at this posh freak school he’s so mysteriously intent on sending him to. He doesn’t want to add fuel to the fire.”
“Oh,” said Harry, suddenly miserable. “That’s awful.”
“Awful indeed,” said Eve, hopping up to sit on the counter. She tilted her head, birdlike.
“So. Spill. What was he really like?”
“No, the Queen. Of course, ‘Malfoy’!”
“Er,” said Harry, playing for time. It was hard to think of anything somehow other than Malfoy is gay. “What has he told you?”
“Everything,” said Eve, and for a second Harry thought she really meant it, that Malfoy had broken the Statute and told them about magic, but then she went on. “About how he was in some kind of violent white-supremacist gang or something.”
“Oh,” said Harry. “Right. Yeah. I mean it wasn’t really about race, but close enough.”
Eve looked at her knees, all traces of merriness falling away.
“I had breast cancer a few years ago,” said Eve.
“Draco came to every single chemo session. He made me stupid cards with cartoons in them. It’s not like he didn’t have a lot on his plate; I mean, he was so poor, and he blamed himself for Astoria, and he had all these enemies from prison or whatever who kept breaking in and attacking him and Scorpius— but he took such good care of me. He used to make me this weird herbal drink that I swear worked better than the chemo.”
Harry suspected that really was breaking the Statute of Secrecy. Wizards had long ago discovered an anti-cancer potion; it just needed to be taken every day for a prolonged period. If Malfoy had been caught giving it to a muggle, he would have been sent back to Azkaban in a heartbeat.
Which made Harry’s heart beat faster.
“I’m just trying to understand,” said Eve. “He makes it sound like he was some kind of mass murderer.”
“He never killed anyone,” said Harry. “Although it wasn’t for lack of trying. He did almost poison my best friend Ron.”
If he could have put the words back in his mouth, he would have, for Malfoy had come into the kitchen, and his easy expression froze as he heard what Harry had said.
Eve leapt down from the counter, looking panicked.
“No, he’s quite right,” said Malfoy, in a strangled voice. “I did almost kill Ron Weasley. And Katie Bell, and Dumbledore, and I’m certainly responsible for what happened to Bill Weasley’s face. I'm to blame for Astoria, and I might as well have killed Vincent Cra—” he stopped talking, his eyes suddenly blank. Eve took him by the wrists.
“Draco,” she said gently. “Draco, it’s Eve. You’re in your flat. In London. Draco.”
He shook his head and carried on talking as if nothing had happened.
“Fire, you know. Not a good way to go. But then, he was one of us, he probably deserved it. I don’t know. Let go of me, Eve.”
Eve stepped away, and Malfoy caught Harry’s eye.
“I’ve tried to explain to them, Potter. They won’t listen. Maybe you’ll have better luck.”
He turned around, leaving the kitchen without another word.
“Explain what?” said Harry.
“Why we shouldn’t be friends with him,” said Eve. “Draco…”
She went after him, leaving Harry in the kitchen, rippling with confused guilt.
When he got back to the sitting room, Scorpius and his friends were back.
“We were just going to come get you! We have to start the movie,” he said, pulling Harry to sit next to him on the sofa. Draco sat stiffly on Scorpius’ other side, staring straight ahead.
They watched Notting Hill. Harry had seen it before, and found it hard to concentrate, because he was drafting out speeches to Malfoy in his head. I’m sorry, but you did try to kill Ron, one began. I was just trying to explain that you weren’t some crazy serial killer! went another. I don’t have to explain myself to you, went a third. But none of his speeches got across his feelings, because he didn’t really know what they were.
All he knew was that, from Malfoy’s perspective, Harry had come over to his house and immediately told his friends about his behaviour in the war.
Scorpius cuddled into Harry. Malfoy’s eyes darted towards them and back at the screen. He looked as if he was sitting on straight-backed chair, not a sofa: his hands fidgeting on his knees, feet planted on the floor, his posture impeccable. Harry suspected he wasn’t watching the movie any more than Harry was.
Scorpius cuddled closer and Harry wrapped his arms around him, struck by the bizarre longing to hug Malfoy. To tell him he honestly had forgiven him for almost everything. (Some things he felt he couldn’t forgive without knowing for sure Malfoy regretted them, like calling Hermione a mudblood. But then, Malfoy was clearly close personal friends with muggles now, so his theories on blood purity must have changed. Mustn’t they?)
It occurred to Harry that Malfoy might have thought he was trying to talk Eve out of her friendship with him. The thought made his stomach churn.
And for Scorpius to be cuddling up to him, just when Malfoy thought that Harry was trying to turn everyone against him…!
“You should go cuddle your dad,” he whispered into Scorpius’ ear. Scorpius looked up at him curiously, but did as he was told. Harry watched out of the corner of his eye as Scorpius nuzzled under Malfoy’s arm. He knew instantly that he’d been right to suggest it, because everything about Malfoy relaxed. He smiled at Scorpius and leant back into the sofa, pulling him close and stroking his hair. Harry saw him speak quietly, saw his lips move to say “I love you.”
It was very hard to concentrate on the movie.
When the credits rolled, Malfoy stretched luxuriously.
“You know what’s amazing about that movie?” he asked.
“Dad,” said Scorpius warningly.
“I mean, the thing that gets me every time?”
Malfoy was grinning now.
“It’s how the director manages to get his message across so clearly—”
“Dad, everyone hates this joke!”
“I don’t,” said Eve.
“The message that it’s Scorpius’ bedtime,” finished Malfoy.
“I hate you,” said Scorpius.
“Say goodnight and brush your teeth.”
“Goodnight and brush your teeth,” grumbled Scorpius, peeling away from his father. “I don’t actually hate you,” he added.
“It’s all right if you do,” said Malfoy.
“But I don’t.”
“Quit stalling and go clean your teeth.”
Scorpius wished everyone goodnight, giving Harry an extra long hug before he went. Nick and Flora collected their two children and left as well. Harry, Eve and Malfoy were left hovering by the front door. Harry had hoped Eve would leave so that he could talk to Malfoy alone; but Eve was evidently hoping for the same thing.
“I’ll help you tidy up,” she told Malfoy. It seemed a pretty clear social signal that Harry should leave.
“I’d better get going,” he said.
“You should come again next week,” said Malfoy, unexpectedly. “It’s Scorpius’ last one before school, so it’s his turn to pick. It’ll be unbearably pretentious, but you should come.”
“I’m not lonely.”
“You don’t have to be lonely to hate-watch 1960s French cinema, Potter.”
“You’re just inviting me because Scorpius told you all that I have no friends. Which isn’t true.”
“Oh, I see. You don’t like my friends. They’re not special enough for you.”
“That’s not what I—”
“I’m sorry my friends aren’t all magical like yours—”
Was Malfoy accusing him of muggle-hating? In front of a muggle, no less?
“Don’t be ridiculous, Malfoy. That was your thing, not mine.”
Malfoy immediately stopped grinning.
“Yes. I had forgotten. I am an excellent reason for you not to come. Do as you please.”
“That’s not what I said.”
He said it with such finality that Harry found he couldn’t even argue. He simply nodded at Eve and turned to walk down the stairs. He was not halfway down them when he heard Eve shout his name.
She caught up with him.
“Harry. Can I just— did Draco ever hurt you?”
Harry almost laughed.
“He stomped on my face once. Broke my nose,” he said.
“Was that you? I remember him telling us about that. Well, listen. I’m not asking you to forgive him. But please, for the love of God, can you hold off on reproaching him? Until you know him better?”
“I know him plenty.”
Eve’s eyes flashed dangerously.
“Okay! Fine. But I wasn’t reproaching him, you know,” said Harry.
“I’ll see you on Friday for my wine and cheese party.”
“You still want me to come?”
“Oh, you have to come,” said Eve threateningly, before she returned to Malfoy’s apartment.
When Harry got back to Grimmauld Place, he was disturbed to find that there were enormous, yet tasteful, crystal vases of flowers in every room. The curtains had changed, too. They were now uniformly silk—thick, rich silk, in different colours. A golden yellow in the sitting room, shot-green silk in the library, deep red in the dining room. Harry strolled through his house by candlelight, admiring it.
The next day, he got a letter from Malfoy. It was delivered by Hogarth, rather than by floo, as their letters had been so far. Harry felt a little apprehensive as he opened it, sure that it would berate him for what had happened in the kitchen, but it made no mention of that.
Thank you for coming last night, you made Scorpius’ week. Again.
Your house ought to have a wine cellar if you ask it nicely. See if it will give you a bottle of Chateau Perrault for Eve’s party, she’d love it. Details for Friday overleaf. Don’t feel you have to come if you don’t want to.
His house did indeed have a wine cellar, and Harry chose a bottle of Chateau Perrault as Malfoy had suggested.
He was distinctly nervous before Eve’s wine and cheese party, even though he knew Malfoy’s friends weren’t posh. But he’d gone to the movie night for Scorpius, hadn’t he? This was just him hanging out with Malfoy and his friends. Willingly.
Yet, it didn’t even cross his mind not to go. Partly this was because he was genuinely intimidated by Eve, but mainly it was that he hadn’t spoken to anyone since the movie night. He had floated around Diagon Alley in his cloak, feeling a bit useless, and moped around in his increasingly beautiful house, and flown a bit in the afternoon. Usually that was enough to tire him out, but on Friday, he found he was really looking forward to talking to people.
It helped, of course, that Malfoy’s friends didn’t think of him as the Chosen One.
Eve’s flat was much bigger than Malfoy’s and it was packed with people. She let him in with a squeal and went into raptures over the wine he’d brought. It transpired that she collected bottles with unusual labels, and the Chateau Perrault, with its intricate fairytale pattern, most certainly qualified.
Eve plopped him next to Nick, and went to butterfly around her party.
“Where’s Flora?” asked Harry.
“She’s at home with the kids. Scorpius, too,” said Nick.
“We’re really going to miss Scorpius. Not long till he goes, now, is it?”
“No,” said Harry. August was hurtling to an end, and Scorpius would soon be boarding the Hogwarts Express.
“We’re all so worried about him.”
“He’ll make friends,” said Harry, reassuringly.
“Not Scorpius. Draco.”
He jutted his chin towards a corner of the room, where Malfoy was smiling politely at an animated young man in a jean jacket. The young man seemed utterly enchanted by Malfoy, who looked exquisitely handsome in a white shirt with the cuffs rolled up, his hair loose around his face. The bruise on his cheekbone somehow only added to his good looks.
“Oh,” said Harry.
Nick was a big guy, but he had gentle eyes, which he turned now towards Harry.
“Listen… you knew him before…”
“It sounds as if he’s already told you everything there is to know,” said Harry, firmly. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. “If you want to know about the stuff he got up to, you’ll have to ask him.”
“No, I know. Just… these people who keep attacking him… do you know who they are? He always insists we can’t tell the police, but after last spring…”
“What happened last spring?”
“They left him for dead. He hid Scorpius in a cupboard or something, not sure how they didn’t find him, because the whole flat was trashed. But if Scorpius hadn’t been there to call the ambulance when they left…”
Across the room, the young man in the jean jacket touched Malfoy’s Dark Mark with an inquiring look. Malfoy answered him, and the young man’s face became somber.
“That’s fucked up,” said Harry.
“It’s terrifying,” said Nick. “I just thought you might know more about it.”
Harry did know more about it, but it hardly made a difference. There was a whole world of people who thought Malfoy had got off lightly, and any one of them might have broken into his flat to ensure that he received the punishment he deserved.
“I don’t know,” said Harry. “I wish I did.”
“Well, it was just a thought.” Nick sighed. “Fuck, he would be so pissed off if he knew I was talking to you about this. He was really nervous about us meeting you.”
“The guilt fucks him up, you know? He wants to make amends, but he doesn’t want forgiveness. Or to look like he thinks he deserves forgiveness. I think it’s all bollocks, personally.”
Harry thought of Lupin and Tonks lying motionless in the Great Hall, and of how stilted he felt around Teddy. How often he bit his tongue, sure that Teddy resented him for their deaths.
“Yeah, guilt is weird,” he said.
“Hey ho. I’m going to get a drink. You want one?”
“I’m okay,” said Harry.
Malfoy had finished explaining about his Dark Mark (Harry wondered how detailed his muggle cover story was) and the young man in the jean jacket reached up to touch the bruise on his face. Malfoy went very still, and then the young man was on his feet, heading towards the kitchen.
Harry made his way to Malfoy through the throng of people and leant against the table near him.
“Oh, thank God,” said Malfoy. “That man was so earnest I thought I’d die.”
“Not your type?”
“He told me he could see from my eyes that I’d suffered,” he said, with a sneer. Harry did not remark that it was true— there was something wounded about Malfoy’s eyes. “Eve is really scraping the barrel.”
“He’s good looking, at least.”
“Oh, God, he’s coming back—”
The young man returned with two glasses of wine. He handed one to Malfoy with a look of sickening pity.
“I think it was really brave of you to volunteer that information,” he told Malfoy. Malfoy looked as if he was seriously considering hitting something.
“Feels dishonest not to mention it,” he said, through his teeth.
“Hi, I’m Harry,” said Harry, holding out a hand.
“Jed,” said the young man, shaking it quickly and turning his softened gaze back to Malfoy.
“You must be feeling vulnerable right now,” he said. He spoke as if Malfoy was a small child.
“I assure you, I’m quite all right,” said Malfoy.
“So brave,” murmured Jed.
Harry didn’t really have time to think. He just did what felt right.
He took Malfoy’s hand, laced their fingers together, and kissed his knuckles.
“You are brave, darling,” he said.
Malfoy, to his credit, mastered his expression almost immediately.
“Thank you, my love,” he said, rather pointedly.
“Oh, are you two…” said Jed.
“Yes,” said Harry, wrapping an arm around Malfoy’s waist.
It was a very good waist.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” said Jed.
“That’s all right,” said Harry.
“I, um, think I see my friend,” said Jed, and hurried away.
“I knew you had a saving-people thing, but I didn’t think you’d fake being gay to come to my rescue,” said Malfoy lightly, disentangling himself from Harry’s grasp.
“Oh. Well. I wasn’t really pretending.”
“What do you mean?” asked Malfoy, his voice suddenly sharp.
“I’m a bit gay. I think. I mean, I’m definitely quite gay.”
“You don’t seem too sure.”
“Haven’t had much opportunity to experiment. It’s sort of hard, with the press.”
“Hmm,” said Malfoy, looking him over thoughtfully. “Virginal Harry Potter. You do make a good sacrifice.”
“I’m not a virgin!”
“I’d forgotten. Ginevra. But men are so different, you know, that if you haven’t been with one—”
“Do you remember Justin Finch-Fletchley?”
Malfoy raised his eyebrows.
“Is he queer?”
“Yeah. Anyway, my point is, I’m not a virgin, in any sense of the word.”
“Point taken,” said Malfoy, smirking into his wine glass. Then he put his face into his hand and laughed.
“I’ve just remembered that Finch-Fletchley tried to kiss me, once. In second year. After you set that dirty big snake on him.”
“I did not set a snake on him!”
“Oh, yes, you did,” said Malfoy slyly. “Eventually.”
Harry felt himself blush.
“What about you? Did you ever hook up with anyone at Hogwarts?”
Malfoy’s eyes went dull.
Malfoy hesitated before answering. Then:
“Blaise! I run into him now and again. He’s very good looking, isn’t he?”
Malfoy said nothing.
“Was it… serious?” asked Harry.
“Not to him,” said Malfoy, tapping his fingers lightly on the table.
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“Christ, this party is tedious. Listen, d’you want to get laid? I can sort you out.”
Something in Harry’s brain frizzled.
“There’s a good gay club near here. Muggles. No one to run off to Rita Skeeter if it turns out your dick is wonky, Chosen One.”
“Oh. Er. I’m not really dressed for clubbing.”
“If that’s your only concern, let’s go. We are wizards, Potter.”
When they were outside, Malfoy cast a few spells on himself, making his jeans tighter and darker. He unbuttoned his shirt and shook out his hair. Harry watched him compulsively. Listen, d’you want to get laid? I can sort you out. Fuck. He fancied Draco Malfoy. He really, really fancied Draco Malfoy.
Malfoy cast a few spells on Harry, too, then sighed.
“It’s a crime to have money and dress like you do,” he said.
“I’m not great at shopping,” admitted Harry.
“No, I can see that,” said Malfoy. “Come on.”
And he apparated them both straight into the middle of a dance floor.
Harry would have been concerned about the Statute of Secrecy, except that Malfoy had clearly accurately judged the level of drunkenness of the club patrons. No one blinked an eye at their sudden appearance.
“Want a drink?” shouted Malfoy over the blaring music. Harry nodded, and they made their way through the slippery crowd to the bar.
Harry had been to gay clubs before, but never ones where the clientele was this uniformly gorgeous. He felt extremely out of place. Malfoy, however, was in his element. He smiled winsomely at the bartender and got a row of shots.
“Loosen up,” he shouted at Harry, and they each took three. Malfoy leant forward, and for a crazed second Harry thought he was going to kiss him. But he was only leaning into Harry’s ear. “Happy hunting,” he said, and disappeared into the crowd.
Harry went to the dance floor and bopped about aimlessly. He wasn’t good at this. He knew he looked like an idiot when he danced. He couldn’t deny that the thought of going home with someone (with Malfoy, his brain suggested unhelpfully) was appealing, but he had no idea how to go about it.
After about fifteen minutes, he caught sight of Malfoy. He was pressed against a wall, one long, slender leg wrapped around a man’s hips, his eyes closed as the man sucked on his neck.
Well, that was an image Harry would never unsee. The man was grinding into Malfoy, who looked delirious with pleasure, and Harry decided he needed to cool down. He went to the bathroom, which was empty and pleasantly quiet.
“Fuck,” he told his reflection. He bent over the sink and splashed cold water on his face. This is stupid, he told himself. I’m just drunk. I don’t actually fancy him. I mean, more than anyone else does. Probably everyone fancies him, a bit.
The door opened, and Malfoy himself came in, his pupils wide and his lips pink.
“Had any luck?” he asked.
“This isn’t really my scene,” said Harry.
Malfoy rolled his eyes.
“You’re hopeless. I’ll help you.”
He gripped Harry’s bicep and drew him towards the door.
“You’re going to point at the hottest guy you see, and I’m going to get him for you. Okay?”
You’re the hottest guy I see, thought Harry.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked, instead.
Malfoy’s face twisted.
“Potter, I owe you about a million years worth of favours. The least I can do is find someone for you to fuck.”
“That’s… a bit sinister, Malfoy.”
“Yes, well, that’s me. Sinister Draco Malfoy, always up to no good,” said Malfoy grimly. “Now come on. What’s your type?”
“Blond,” said Harry, without thinking. Malfoy laughed.
“We do have more fun. All right. Follow me, Potter. I’m going to find you such a pretty blond boy.”
And he did. He led them through the crowd to a handsome blond man, whispered in his ear, and gestured at Harry. The blond man smiled hungrily and nodded. The next minute he was dancing with Harry, his hands on Harry’s waist, his mouth at Harry’s ear.
“Hey,” he said. “You’re pretty cute.”
They went back to the man’s flat. His name was Kevin. He was nice. He made Harry a cup of tea after they’d had sex, and asked if Harry wanted to sleep over.
“I’d better get back,” said Harry.
“Suit yourself,” said Kevin.
Harry went back to Grimmauld Place, which now appeared to have a vast and perfectly curated front lawn, and went to bed, determinedly not thinking about Draco sodding Malfoy.
Harry spent the next few days gloomily reading letters from his pile on the dining room table. The house had organised them for him, and arranged them on silver salvers he didn’t know he owned.
Dear Harry, wrote Hermione.
George says he saw you the other day. I’m so glad you’ve been getting out, although he says you didn’t say much or stay long. I miss you terribly.
I’m sorry if I put you on the spot with my last letter. We’d love for you to be the godfather, but of course we understand if that feels like too much.
I don’t know if you even read these. Do you know we haven’t spoken in four months?
Godfather, thought Harry, scrabbling through the pile of letters, godfather? Was Hermione pregnant?
She was, as became apparent when he read her last few letters.
I’m such a shit friend, he thought. He would have to write a really long, proper letter to make up for it. But he didn’t have the strength. So he just put it off.
He went out flying. Draco Malfoy was messing with his head. It didn’t matter if Scorpius was adorable. He wouldn’t spend any more time with the Malfoys. He wouldn’t.
Scorpius’ next letter arrived the next day.
It was so so nice to have you at movie night. I hope you’ll come to the next one, because it’s my last one before I go to Hogwarts. I have picked Jules et Jim, which is a French film my mother liked. I speak fluent French, you know. My mother and I lived in Paris before she died. I don’t remember it much, but I like watching French films. I hope you’ll come. Dad says you’re probably too busy and I mustn’t expect things of you.
I was sick this morning (it was DISGUSTING). Dad says it’s because I’m nervous about Hogwarts. I am, but that’s not really it.
I’m scared something will happen to him while I’m gone. I’m scared I won’t get to see him again.
Dad says complaining is selfish, and acceptance is wisdom. If anything happens to him, I will just have to accept it.
Hogarth is nibbling my paper so I have to stop writing. Oh! I never thanked you for him. THANK YOU. He is the best present anyone has ever given me, and it’s not even my birthday! Thank you thank you.
Harry stared at the letter for a long time, tears obscuring his vision. Eventually he got to his feet and found his best cloak. He wasn’t really sure what he was doing; he only knew that rage was propelling him in some direction, and he followed it blindly, followed his anger till he found himself at the Ministry, and people were crowding around him, reporters taking pictures of him, but he didn’t stop to talk to any of them. He pushed his way past secretaries and under-secretaries until he got to Kingsley Shacklebolt’s office.
“Mr. Potter!” cried the secretary. “Have you an appointment?”
“No. It’s urgent.”
To his relief, the secretary took him at his word, and ushered him into Kingsley’s office.
“Harry,” said Kingsley. “What a wonderful surprise—”
“Why are people attacking Death Eaters?”
“Draco Malfoy has been repeatedly attacked since he got out of prison.”
“Harry, take a seat.”
“No! Did you know about this?”
“We’ve had a few reports, yes. I seem to remember one from Mr. Malfoy, five or six years ago. Nothing since.”
“And? What happened when he reported it? Were his assailants caught?”
“Harry… you know how backed up the MLE has been since the reconstruction. I’m sure they got to it as soon as they could, but by then the trail had probably gone cold.”
“So no one did anything.”
“Please sit down.”
“They almost killed him last spring. His son is scared to go to Hogwarts, in case Malfoy’s murdered while he’s gone!”
Kingsley observed him over his fingertips.
“You seem surprisingly invested in Mr. Malfoy’s case, Harry.”
“I just want justice to be served!”
“Some would argue that justice is being served. People have good reason to hate Death Eaters.”
Harry glowered at him.
“Is that what you think? He deserves what he gets, because when he was sixteen he joined the same club as his dad?”
“No, of course not, Harry. I’m just trying to wrap my head around this visit. I’ve been trying to get ahold of you for two years, with no success. Hermione Granger says she hasn’t heard from you in months. You ignore all owls, reject all Floo messages, and now you’re showing up in a rage about… Death Eater rights? You have to admit it’s unexpected.”
Harry sat down.
“It’s not fair,” said Harry. “The war is over. It’s over. People shouldn’t still be killing each other.”
“Murder doesn’t stop when wars do, Harry. And I’m afraid there will always be people who would like to murder Mr. Malfoy.”
“He’s a completely different person from who he was then!”
“You’ve been spending time with him?”
“I’ll look into the Death Eater attacks, Harry. But I can’t promise anything.”
“I’d like Malfoy to be afforded Ministry protection.”
“Oh,” he said, seeing Harry’s expression. “You’re serious.”
“Of course I’m serious!”
“Harry, I can’t do that. For one thing, Mr. Malfoy hasn’t reported an attack in six years. If something else happens and he reports it, I will of course do everything in my power to help.”
“It’ll be too late by then!”
“That’s the best I can do, Harry, I’m sorry.”
The best he could do, thought Harry mutinously, as he wandered through Grimmauld Place’s new rooms. There was a portrait gallery now, and something that looked like it might be a small, private opera house. None of it made him feel better, but it did distract him.
He was more nervous than ever by the time movie night came round. He had sent a quick reply to Scorpius, assuring him he’d be there, and not heard anything back.
He kept thinking of Malfoy, pressed up against the wall of the club, his leg wrapped around some guy’s hip.
Then he would think of Scorpius’ pitiful letter, of the men who had left Malfoy for dead last spring, and something in his rib cage would clench painfully.
It was all very confusing.
When he arrived at Malfoy’s flat, however, Nick, Flora, and their two children were just leaving.
“Harry!” said Flora. “Scorpius is a bit upset— I don’t think a movie’s in the cards, tonight.”
Harry could hear shouting inside the flat.
“Should I go home?”
“No,” said Nick. “You might do some good.”
So Harry slipped past them, to where Eve was hovering in the hall. She put her finger to her lips.
“…because I don’t want to go to Hogwarts!” shouted Scorpius.
“Believe it or not, Scorpius, I know that already. You’ve made it perfectly clear,” said Malfoy.
“Then why are you making me go?”
“You know why!”
“I don’t CARE about their stupid world!”
“I don’t want you to have to live your life in exile, Scorpius! I want you to be able to be who you really are!”
“Oh, be myself? Like you are, Dad?”
Malfoy didn’t answer for a long moment. When he did, he spoke quietly.
“I’m doing what I think is right for you. You’ll thank me when you’re older.”
“As if you’ll be alive when I’m older!”
“But that’s fine, isn’t it, it’s fine if I never see you again, because it’s what you deserve, that’s what you think. What about what I deserve?”
“Don’t be melodramatic, Scorpius.”
“I don’t want to go! Please don’t make me!”
Scorpius shot suddenly out of the sitting room door, racing past Eve and Harry and slamming his bedroom door.
Eve and Harry looked at each other, then went into the sitting room. Malfoy was standing perfectly still in the centre of the room. He was very pale.
“Why does he have to go to boarding school?” asked Eve.
“I can’t explain it to you,” said Malfoy, evenly.
“He loves his school. He loves his friends. Why are you making him leave it all behind?”
“I can’t… I can’t explain it to you,” said Malfoy again, his voice more strained this time, and Harry was struck by the intense loneliness of having to keep such an enormous secret as magic from all your closest friends.
Eve was shaking her head.
“Fucking hell, Draco. You know, you say you’ve changed so much, that you used to be such a classist snob, but you haven’t changed at all, have you? You can’t stand the idea of your precious child going to a state school with the riff-raff.”
“It’s not about class, Eve,” said Harry, because Malfoy looked like his world was crashing down around him.
“Then what is it about?” she said, rounding on him, furious.
Harry opened his mouth to explain, but found he couldn’t. There wasn’t anything he could say without breaking the Statute of Secrecy.
“I can’t explain it to you,” he said.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, you’re both snobs. Draco, he’s your kid, if you want to make him miserable, go right ahead. Send him to the same school that fucked you up. What a great fucking idea.”
With that, she stormed out of the room. They heard the front door slam shut a moment later.
Malfoy sank onto the sofa.
“Of course he has to go to Hogwarts,” said Harry.
“I don’t know,” said Malfoy.
“He’s a wizard. He can’t just stay in the muggle world forever. He won’t belong here.”
“He’s not going to belong anywhere. Merlin; what are the chances he’ll make a single friend by Christmas? Because I reckon, with me as his father, he’s as much a chance of being popular as Eloise Midgen had of being asked to the bloody Yule Ball.”
Harry laughed a little and sat next to Malfoy on the sofa.
“Malfoy… would you let me introduce him to Teddy? It might help.”
“If you can persuade Andromeda to agree to it, be my guest,” said Malfoy bitterly.
“She won’t let Scorpius meet Teddy?”
Malfoy put on a high voice.
“Even if I believed your apology was genuine, I would not risk Teddy’s well-being by letting him near a Malfoy, given your family’s persistent Dark loyalties.” He put his head in his hands. “But I bet it’ll work if you ask.”
“Maybe,” said Harry, guiltily. “I can try.”
Malfoy’s shoulders were shaking, but when he spoke his voice sounded more clipped and composed than ever.
“You’d take Scorpius, if I died, wouldn’t you?”
It wasn’t a question. It was an accusation.
“I know you. I know you would. There's no one else. You’d take him and adopt him and buy him a Firebolt for his twelfth birthday and go to all his matches. And everyone would want to get invited back to his house for the summer holidays so they could meet you. No one would dare be unkind to him. They’d get to know him, and see how marvellous he is, and they’d say, What a difference Harry Potter made, and he’d be happy. He would love you. So quickly. I didn’t meet him until he was five, did you know that? So I would just be a strange little chapter in his life, five to eleven, formative years, but blurry—”
“You wouldn’t let him get vengeful, either, he wouldn’t get all twisted by anger and hatred, you wouldn’t let him, so he would just be… happy…You will take him, won’t you?”
This time, it was a question.
“I won’t need to, Malfoy.”
Malfoy laughed breathily.
“That’s all right, you don’t need to tell me. I know. Harry Potter will come to the rescue. I’m grateful, honestly, I am. I want to claw my eyes out when I look at you, but I’m grateful.”
“Let me be your secret keeper,” said Harry.
Malfoy looked up. His eyes were sparkling wet.
“I went to the Minister for Magic, and he said he couldn’t put you under protection—”
“I was worried about you!”
“Well, don’t be! Christ alive, do you know how much worse it is, if they think you’ve been tattling? In any case, I’m fine. You mustn’t listen to what Scorpius says. He’s a drama queen.”
“He absolutely is not.”
Malfoy pursed his lips.
“You can’t cast a fidelius charm if the subject has interactions with more than two muggles,” he said. “It’s against the Statute of Secrecy.”
“The Statute makes it pretty hard to be friends with muggles, doesn’t it?”
“So I’ve found.”
“I want to help, Malfoy.”
“I know you do. God knows why. You do remember that you loathe me, don’t you?”
“I don’t loathe you. I hated the bigoted prick you were at sixteen, but I don’t get the impression you’re too keen on him, either.”
“He and I are one and the same, Potter. I’m still the person who stomped on your face in a train carriage.”
“And I’m still the person who nearly murdered you in a bathroom.”
Malfoy laughed, his hands going to his chest.
“Your brief dalliance with the dark side. It’s touching, really, that you used more vicious magic on me than you did to kill Voldemort.”
He looked so fragile. It was all Harry could do not to pour himself around him, to kiss his eyelids shut, to tell him that it would all be okay.
“Yeah, well. I’m sorry about that. I was sorry at the time, too.”
“I don’t hate you, Malfoy.”
Malfoy sighed and pushed his hair out his face.
“Take him to the station for me,” he said, sounding resigned.
“On September 1st?”
That was the day after tomorrow.
“Yes. Take him, and shower him with affection, and maybe people will think of you instead of me when they call his name to be Sorted. Oh God, if he’s a Slytherin…”
“Slytherins aren’t all bad,” said Harry, somewhat defensively.
“Yes, thank you, for that wonderful insight. Slytherins aren’t all bad.”
“I just mean… if he’s a Slytherin, it’s no big deal.”
“It will make his life ten times harder. I haven’t told him that, but he knows.”
“I’ll take him to the station, but you have to come with me.”
“That would rather defeat the purpose,” said Malfoy, raising an eyebrow.
“It was awful, not having my parents on that platform. It’s such a…parent-y situation. You have to go.”
Malfoy cast him a strange, unguarded look, and Harry wondered suddenly what had happened to Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. He knew they must be dead because Scorpius had said he and his father were the last two Malfoys, but he wasn’t sure how or when it had happened.
“Fine,” said Malfoy. “I’ll go. And if you’re able to convince Andromeda to let Scorpius meet Teddy, I’d be very grateful.”
“This would all be easier if I had some sort of official role in his life. Like godfather, or something,” said Harry, boldly.
He knew straight away that he had overstepped. Malfoy’s face hardened.
“You’re not going to be interested in Scorpius for long enough to be his godfather.”
“That’s not true. Anyway, you just made that whole speech about how I’ll raise him once you’ve been tragically murdered.”
Malfoy waved his hands impatiently.
“Yes, yes, if he needs rescuing you’ll be there, but if I continue, inconveniently, to live, then you will quickly get bored and turn to some other, more deserving charity case. I’m not putting Scorpius through that. No.”
Harry frowned, but decided not to argue just then. Not when Malfoy’s eyes were still sharp and watery. Harry hadn’t forgotten that the last time Malfoy cried in front of him, he had tried to cast the Cruciatus curse at him.
“Fine,” he muttered. “It was just a suggestion.”
Malfoy got unsteadily to his feet.
“I’m going to go check on Scorpius,” he said. “Would you like anything to drink?”
It was transparently obvious that he wanted Harry to leave, and for a second Harry considered accepting a drink, just to mess with him. But Malfoy still looked so delicate, and Harry didn’t really want to make his life any harder.
“No, thank you. Say hello to Scorpius for me. I’ll write as soon as I know about Teddy.”
“Thank you,” said Malfoy. He says thank you so easily, thought Harry. It wasn’t something Harry would have expected. He would have thought that gratitude would catch in Malfoy’s throat, trapped by his pride.
Then he understood: Malfoy no longer had any pride.
“No,” said Andromeda, flatly.
“What do you mean, no?”
“No, I do not want Teddy associating with Death Eaters.”
“Scorpius Malfoy is eleven years old, Andromeda. And he’s Teddy’s cousin.”
Andromeda did not look at him. She only carried on cleaning her kitchen.
“Malfoy’s changed, anyway,” said Harry.
“Oh, please. You haven’t fallen for his remorseful villain act, have you? You should have seen the letter he sent me when he got out of Azkaban.”
“I’d like to see it,” said Harry.
“No, you don’t. It was sickening. Completely over the top. Tear-stained, for crying out loud, all about how family was the only thing that counted and Scorpius didn’t have any—”
“Well, he doesn’t,” said Harry, trying not to think about Malfoy crying onto stationary. The thought made him want to apparate straight into Malfoy’s flat and kiss his face off.
“I don’t trust any Malfoy,” said Andromeda. “I find it frankly unnerving that you do.”
“Teddy doesn’t exactly have much family, Andromeda. Do you really think he’s going to thank you for keeping him from the few members he has left?”
Andromeda pointed her wand at a stack of plates, and they went rushing back into a cupboard.
“Has it occurred to you that Teddy won’t benefit socially from being seen with Scorpius? He’s your godson. You should be looking out for his best interests.”
“You’re saying that even if Scorpius is wonderful—which, by the way, he is—Teddy should avoid him out of fear of social stigma?”
“Hit the nail on the head,” said Andromeda.
“You know, there were a lot of things I was scared of growing up, but standing up for good people when everyone else was against them was never one of them,” said Harry coldly.
“Malfoy’s not a good person.”
“Firstly, yes, he is, and secondly, that’s irrelevant, because Scorpius isn’t his father.”
Andromeda gave him a long, appraising look.
“I haven’t seen you in months,” she said.
“I’ve been busy,” mumbled Harry.
“Liar.” She wiped down the kitchen counter and threw the sponge into the sink before looking at Harry. “Fine. You can bring Scorpius round tomorrow. But if it doesn’t go well, that’s it. And Draco is not to step foot near my house.”
“He won’t!” grinned Harry. “Thanks, Andromeda. You won’t regret it.”
Andromeda made a wry, noncommittal sound as Harry kissed her cheek.
That evening, Harry wrote to Malfoy.
Andromeda has given us the all clear! I’ll take Scorpius over at ten tomorrow.
Harry paused, his quill in the air. He couldn’t stop thinking about Malfoy’s strange, clipped speech from the night before, when he’d practically told Harry that Scorpius would be better off if Malfoy were dead. He’d be happy, he’d said, twice. Harry knew that he wasn’t the right person to talk to Malfoy about his insecurities, but he also suspected Malfoy didn’t have a good person to talk to about them. Determined, and ignoring the butterflies in his stomach, Harry wrote on.
I may be completely wrong here, but it seems like you think you’re ruining Scorpius’ life. And I guess it makes sense that you would worry about that, because (at least from my perspective), your dad ruined yours. But I grew up without a father, and I would have given anything to have someone love me like you love Scorpius. I know you think he’d be better off without you. I promise you, he wouldn’t.
I’m sorry if I’m overstepping by saying all this. I just thought you should know that you have no idea how lucky Scorpius is to have you. You’re a wonderful father.
He stayed up till almost three, not admitting to himself that he was hoping for a reply. None came.
The next morning, Scorpius arrived through his floo, looking aggressively clean and polished. Now that Harry had seen him at the movie nights, when he wore fairly normal, comfortable clothes, he understood that this was how Malfoy dressed him when he was nervous.
“Oh good, your dad got my letter,” said Harry, in a pathetic attempt to get Scorpius to tell him how Malfoy had reacted to it.
“What if Teddy doesn’t like me?” asked Scorpius.
“Then he’s an idiot.”
Scorpius smiled, then went red, and looked at his shoes.
“You heard me, last night, didn’t you? Shouting at Dad.”
“You sounded pretty upset.”
“I was,” mumbled Scorpius. “I am.”
“I think you’re going to love Hogwarts.”
“Maybe,” said Scorpius.
“But that’s not really what you’re worried about, is it?”
Scorpius shook his head.
“What if I checked on your dad, now and then? Would that make you feel better?”
“Every day?” asked Scorpius, hesitantly.
“I think he’d hex me if I tried that. What about once a week?”
“I don’t want to put you out,” said Scorpius.
“It won’t at all. So, that’s sorted. I’ll write to you once a week and tell you how he’s doing, and you’ll go to Hogwarts without any more screaming matches. Deal?”
“Deal,” said Scorpius, holding out a hand. They shook on it, and Harry tried not to think about the fact that he’d just promised to see Malfoy at least once a week until Christmas.
Andromeda and Teddy were waiting by the fireplace when they flooed in.
Harry introduced Scorpius, who had gone extremely blank and self-possessed, the way he did when he was frightened. He shook hands with both of them, then took a deep breath and looked up at Andromeda.
“My father and I are very grateful that you are allowing us to meet,” he said, in the same formal tone Harry remembered him using that first time in Diagon Alley. “It’s very generous of you.”
Andromeda looked uncomfortable.
“Yes, well,” she said.
Scorpius turned to Teddy.
“I bet you can do loads of magic already,” he said.
“Loads,” said Teddy, brightly. “I bet you can’t do any. I’ve heard you live with muggles.”
“Yeah, mostly,” said Scorpius.
“Why don’t you go show Scorpius the stuff you got from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Teddy?”
“Oh, please do!” cried Scorpius. “I’ve never been!”
“You’ve never been to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes?” asked Teddy in disbelief. Scorpius shook his head. “You haven’t lived!”
Teddy took Scorpius by the hand and pulled him into his bedroom.
Harry sat with Andromeda in the kitchen while she made lunch, and avoided answering her distinctly probing questions about His Future and What He Was Going To Do With His Life. Finally, lunch was ready, and Teddy and Scorpius trooped in, flushed with happiness.
“Scorpius and I went flying,” announced Teddy. “He’s not bad.”
“Not bad!” protested Scorpius.
“Okay, okay. He’s quite good. For a first year.”
“How long has it been since your father left Azkaban?” asked Andromeda abruptly. Everything about Scorpius seemed to shrink.
“Six years,” he answered.
“And he lives among muggles now, does he?”
“Yes.” Scorpius cut a tiny piece of meat, speared it with his fork, and stared at it without bringing it to his mouth. It reminded Harry of something, but he couldn’t think what.
“What does he do for money? I know he lost his fortune. That’s what comes of fighting on the wrong side of a war.”
Scorpius’ knuckles were white on his cutlery, but when he spoke, his voice was just as polite as ever. It occurred to Harry that Malfoy had probably told him that he mustn’t be rude, no matter what Andromeda said.
“He runs a second-hand bookshop in Islington.”
“Draco Malfoy, reading muggle novels! How the mighty have fallen!”
Suddenly, Harry realised what Scorpius reminded him of: himself, when Aunt Marge had come to visit. Except it was obvious that Scorpius had far more self-control than Harry had had, at that age. Scorpius managed a tight smile and took a sip of water.
“Has your father told you about what he did in the war, boy?”
“That’s enough,” said Harry.
“Yes,” said Scorpius, quietly. “He’s told me everything.”
“What are you trying to get at, Andromeda?” burst out Harry. “You want to know how Malfoy is? I’ll tell you. He’s hard working, he lives in a lovely flat in London, he has friends who care about him, and he’s raised a thoughtful and compassionate child despite the odds. Is that what you want to know? Or do you want to unpack the war with someone who wasn’t even born when it happened?”
An awful silence fell as they all avoided looking at each other, except for Teddy, who Harry noticed was flicking peas at Scorpius. Scorpius glanced up when one hit his face, looking hurt, but his expression changed when Teddy winked at him.
“It doesn’t do any good to avoid the elephant in the room, Harry,” said Andromeda, after a moment. “The fact is, Draco fought for the Death Eaters at the battle where my daughter was killed. Teddy’s parents.”
“Gran,” said Teddy. “Scorpius already apologised to me about that.”
“Scorpius!” said Harry indignantly. “You don’t have anything to apologise for!”
Scorpius seemed to become even smaller, which Harry would not have thought possible.
“But I am sorry,” he said. “Of course I’m sorry my Aunt and Uncle are dead.”
The simplicity of the words appeared to take Andromeda’s breath away.
“Your aunt and uncle,” she repeated.
“Yes,” said Scorpius. “Dad’s told me all about them. Well, more about your dad,” he said, turning back to Teddy, “because he had him as a teacher, of course. He said he was the best Defence teacher he ever had. Did you know that for their end of year exams, your dad made a sort of dark creature-obstacle course?”
“Cool,” he said.
Andromeda looked rather faint, and was very quiet for the rest of the meal.
When it was time for them to go, Teddy hugged Scorpius and said he’d see him on the train the next day. Scorpius then held out his hand to Andromeda.
“Thank you for having me,” he said.
“Come here,” she said, and hugged him. Scorpius looked extremely alarmed, but allowed her to squeeze him tight. “Come back any time you like, Scorpius.”
“Yeah!” said Teddy. “At Christmas!”
“Really?” asked Scorpius, very seriously. He looked only at Andromeda, who Harry was pleased to see looked rather guilty. “Do you really mean it?”
“Yes. I… I’m sorry we didn’t meet earlier. That was a mistake.”
“You don’t say,” muttered Harry.
“Thank you,” said Scorpius to Andromeda.
And she hugged him again, whispering something that sounded like “Just like Narcissa” into his ear.
Harry flooed them straight back to Malfoy’s flat.
Malfoy sprang up from the sofa and threw himself around Scorpius.
“How was it? How were they? Are you all right?”
“Teddy’s AMAZING,” said Scorpius excitedly. “And Aunt Andromeda said I could come back whenever I like!”
Harry saw Malfoy close his eyes in relief.
“Oh, well done, darling. You must have been so well-behaved.”
“He was astonishingly polite,” said Harry. “Even when Andromeda was being a total nightmare.”
“Manners are the best defence,” said Malfoy, without looking at Harry. Harry bit back a laugh. It was no wonder that Scorpius spent half his time quoting his dad, when he insisted on speaking in aphorisms. He could practically see Scorpius filing “Manners are the best defence” into his head for later use.
“Teddy said I was good on a broom!” said Scorpius, now.
Malfoy beamed, stroking Scorpius’ soft blond hair.
“I bet you wiped the floor with him!”
“Not quite,” said Scorpius modestly.
“Are you still dreading Hogwarts?”
“Less,” admitted Scorpius. “You did like Hogwarts, didn’t you, Dad?”
“I had… a complicated relationship with it. But that was my own fault, as you know.”
“What about you, Harry?”
Harry blinked, surprised to be addressed. When Scorpius and Malfoy talked to each other like that—when Malfoy called Scorpius “darling”—it felt like the rest of the world disappeared, and it was just the two of them, united against everything. Harry had been so caught up watching them, tangled in the complex web of envy they made him feel, that he had almost forgotten he was still there.
“I loved Hogwarts,” he said. “It’s the only home I’ve ever had.”
They both stared at him with identical looks of sympathy, and Harry had to rewind to work out what he had said to garner such a response.
“I mean, obviously I have a home. I’m not homeless. I live in a house. You’ve, uh, been there. Um.”
“Has it been behaving itself better?” asked Malfoy, graciously changing the subject.
“Oh, yeah. Did you know I have an ice rink? On the sixth floor. I didn’t even know I had a sixth floor.”
Malfoy was looking at him now, with his silvery grey eyes. Would he mention Harry’s letter? Had it angered him? Had he liked it?
“You might not really have an ice rink,” said Malfoy. “It’s just getting to know you. Once it figures out what you like, it’ll redistribute its resources.”
Harry ran his hand through his hair. He had just remembered that this was Malfoy’s last night with Scorpius, and the thought saddened him for a variety of reasons.
“Magic is amazing,” he said. “Anyway. I’ve got to get going. I’ll see you tomorrow at the station, yeah?”
“Do stay for a cup of tea,” said Malfoy politely.
“No, thank you, I need to get home. I’ve got to…” he trailed off. He was aware that Scorpius, at least, knew that he had nothing to do; no one waiting for him.
“Potter, I…” began Malfoy (and Harry noticed that it was very hard to think of him as Malfoy all the time, when his name was Draco). Malfoy kissed the top of Scorpius’ head, lost in thought.
“Er,” said Harry, looking at Scorpius. “Is he okay? Has he, you know, done that thing?”
“I’m fine, Potter. I was just trying to think how I can thank you. I don’t suppose you need a book recommendation?”
“Pity. Well, thank you.”
“Yes, thank you, Harry,” said Scorpius.
“It was really nothing,” said Harry.
“Not to us,” said Malfoy softly.
Harry couldn’t say anything, so he left.
King’s Cross was packed, but Harry spotted Malfoy and Scorpius from miles away. They were standing still, two slim, straight-backed, blond figures among the seething crowd. As Harry got closer, he noticed several wizards in poor attempts at muggle dress knock into Malfoy deliberately.
“Hey,” said Harry. “Sorry I’m late.”
“Dad says punctuality is a form of respect,” said Scorpius.
“Pipe down, Scorpius,” said Malfoy, rolling his eyes.
“He quotes you a lot, you know,” said Harry.
Malfoy’s eyes grew concerned.
“But you’re not going to do that at school, are you, darling?”
“I’ll—I’ll try not to,” said Scorpius.
Harry’s heart squeezed. He took the trolley with Scorpius’ trunk and owl and went through to the platform.
Scorpius and Malfoy followed behind him. Scorpius looked up at the Hogwarts Express in wide-eyed wonder.
“I love you,” he heard Malfoy say, his words barely carrying over the sound of the train. Scorpius turned to his father and Harry watched as they both formulated their faces to hide their distress. Neither of them could quite manage it.
“If anyone says anything about me that you haven’t heard before, write and ask me. I’ll always tell you the truth,” said Malfoy.
“I know. And I’ll try not to hate them.”
“I always do. You will write, won’t you?”
“Scorpius!” It was Teddy. He had stuck his head out the train window. Scorpius smiled. “Come sit with me!”
Scorpius turned to Harry then, and wrapped his arms tightly around Harry’s waist.
“Please don’t forget our deal,” he whispered.
“Of course not,” said Harry. “Once a week.”
Scorpius nodded, cast one more bald look of misery at his father, then wiped his face clean of emotion.
“Goodbye,” he said.
“I’ll see you at Christmas,” said Malfoy. Scorpius’ expressionless mask cracked, but only for a moment.
“I love you,” he said.
“I love you too,” said Malfoy, his voice husky. Harry wished he hadn’t come. He was intruding.
But when Scorpius got on the train, Malfoy took a step closer to Harry, so that they stood shoulder to shoulder, and Harry knew that Malfoy was glad he was there.
The train began to move. Other children poked their faces out of the windows, but not Scorpius. Harry suspected that he would find that sort of thing undignified.
Malfoy followed the train with his eyes until it was out of sight. The platform cleared (Harry was aware of several people taking pictures of him standing with Malfoy, and knew that he would be in the Prophet the next day) but Malfoy didn’t move.
“Something is severed, when that train leaves the station,” said Malfoy, eventually. Steam was still curling along the platform, but it was quiet now. “I remember feeling it, when I was eleven. It was like a rubber band stretching until it snapped, and no matter how many letters and parcels my parents sent, nothing could make that connection whole again.”
Harry remembered Malfoy crowing as he opened his endless parcels in first year. Harry had been so jealous of him. It had never occurred to him that Malfoy might have been suffering from something as prosaic as homesickness. How could it have occurred to him? He had never had a home to miss.
Malfoy seemed suddenly to realise what he had said, and who he had said it to.
“That was inconsiderate. I’m sorry, Potter.”
The spell of stillness was broken. Malfoy strode through the platform barrier, heading towards the nearest apparition point.
“It’s fine,” said Harry, catching up with him.
“Thank you for coming today.”
“There’s no ‘of course’ about it, you idiot,” said Malfoy, but there was no bite to it.
“Teddy will look after him.”
Malfoy nodded. They were out of the station now, waiting at a crossing.
“What if I’ve made a terrible mistake?” he asked, under his breath.
“He’s going to love Hogwarts,” said Harry.
“Astoria wanted him to go to Beauxbatons. No one knows who I am, in France. That’s partly why she—she had a life insurance policy—they don’t do scholarships like Hogwarts does. But—”
He was craning his neck, watching the cars go by. Harry found himself putting a hand on Malfoy’s elbow to steady him. His eyes were wild, and Harry worried he might randomly dart out into the road.
“—all that money,” Malfoy went on, “that she thought would go to him, if she killed herself—she was never very organised—she hadn’t counted on my fucking debts—”
His face went blank and he stopped talking.
“Malfoy?” asked Harry cautiously. Malfoy did not answer. He looked as if he had been Imperioused.
“Dad gets lost inside his head, sometimes,” Scorpius had told him, the first time they met. Harry remembered how Scorpius and Eve had called Malfoy back.
“Er… Malfoy? You’re in London? It’s me, Harry.”
It didn’t work. The only change was that Malfoy’s forehead creased in a tiny frown. Harry put his hand on Malfoy’s shoulder and shook him, to no effect, and when he tried to get Malfoy to walk, he collapsed into Harry’s arms. Harry took him by the waist and half dragged, half carried him to the apparition point.
When they got to Malfoy’s flat, he fumbled through Malfoy’s pockets for his keys and dragged him inside.
Eve and Flora were in the sitting room. Harry dropped Malfoy on the sofa.
“He had one of his…” said Harry, gesturing vaguely at Malfoy’s blank expression.
“Draco,” said Flora, leaning gently over him. “It’s me, Flora. You’re in your flat in London. Won’t you come back?”
Malfoy blinked and sat up. He glanced around, looking confused, then saw Harry.
“Awfully sorry about that, Potter,” he drawled.
“Are you all right?”
“Fine,” he said.
“I’ll make tea,” said Flora.
“I’m sorry about the other day, Draco,” said Eve. “We wanted to be here so you wouldn’t be alone.”
“You’re very kind,” said Malfoy softly.
“We love you,” said Eve. “Unconditionally. Even if you are a posh twat.”
“Guilty as charged,” said Malfoy.
“I should go,” said Harry, because once more, he felt as if he was intruding on something intimate.
Malfoy’s eyes flickered to meet his.
“Thanks for everything, Potter. I’ll see you when Scorpius is back for the holidays, if you’re still… invested.”
Harry could feel the blood rush to his face.
“Er, actually, I sort of promised Scorpius that I’d check in on you once a week.”
Eve burst out laughing.
“That sly boy!”
“Scorpius asked that of you?” asked Malfoy carefully. “He knows better than to bother you for favours.”
“Well, I sort of… offered?”
Malfoy’s mouth twitched as if he might laugh.
“So, er, I thought I might just keep coming to movie night. If that’s okay?”
“Knock yourself out, stalker.”
Harry blushed even harder.
“Right. Well. Goodbye.”
“Potter— stay. We’re just going to get drunk and chat shit. Stay.”
To his surprise, Harry found that he really wanted to, and he felt that Malfoy wasn’t just being polite. So he did stay. He was mostly silent, watching the comfortable way Eve, Malfoy and Flora interacted. They drank white wine and ordered in pizza and talked about everything but Scorpius.
At about eleven, a sudden green flame burst out of the fire place, and a letter fluttered out.
“What the fuck was that?” cried Eve.
“Obliviate,” said Malfoy quickly. Flora and Eve blinked.
“What was I saying?” said Eve.
Malfoy pocketed the letter.
“Something about men who won’t go down on you being secretly gay,” said Malfoy, and Harry wondered how often he’d had to modify his friends’ memories.
“It just makes sense,” said Eve.
“Excuse me,” said Malfoy, and Harry followed him to the kitchen, where Malfoy had taken out the letter and was scanning it.
“What does it say?”
“Ravenclaw,” said Malfoy. “He’s in Ravenclaw.”
“That’s brilliant,” said Harry.
“Yeah,” said Malfoy, a little sadly. “Yeah.”
“You were going to be disappointed either way, weren’t you?”
Malfoy smiled ruefully.
“Don’t tell Scorpius,” he said.
“He suits Ravenclaw.”
“Every Malfoy has been a Slytherin for the last five hundred years.” Malfoy frowned. “I bet he asked the hat not to put him there.”
“That’s what I did,” said Harry.
“You?” asked Malfoy, shocked.
“Can you imagine,” said Malfoy dreamily. “We might have been friends.”
The room was spinning, and Malfoy was stepping closer.
“Friends now, though,” said Harry.
Harry could feel Malfoy’s breath on his face as he chuckled.
“You’re drunk,” said Malfoy.
“So’re you,” breathed Harry.
“Mhmm,” said Malfoy, and he closed his eyes. Harry stared at him, wondering what part of him it was that made him so attractive. Was it the pale eyebrows? The porcelain skin? The pointed nose and chin? Some combination of it all?
Malfoy opened his eyes again, looking strangely disappointed.
“I’m wasted,” he said, and left the kitchen.
When Harry woke up the next day, he knew three things.
1. He was extremely hungover.
2. His crush on Draco Malfoy was getting out of control, and
3. He needed to speak to Hermione.
He could barely remember stumbling home the night before. He knew they had ended up watching several episodes of a show called Absolutely Fabulous, and Harry had been utterly charmed to learn that Malfoy knew all the lines off by heart. Flora had thrown up in a pot plant, and Eve had drunkenly grabbed Harry by the collar and told him that he’d be hot if he stopped wearing hoodies.
But when he woke up and took his anti-hangover potion (it was sitting on his bedside table in a crystal tumbler, courtesy of his house), he couldn’t stop thinking of how it had been when Malfoy got lost in his head. It had frightened Harry, and he didn’t know what it meant that he had been unable to call him back to himself. Eve and Flora both acted as if it was nothing, which Harry worried meant it happened frequently.
Hermione would know what to do.
He had intended not to reach out to her until he had the energy to write her a proper letter of apology, but there wasn’t time for that now. He wanted to find out what was going on with Malfoy right away.
He wrote a quick note asking if he could come over for dinner, and got an answer almost instantly.
Yes! Yes that would be lovely!! Oh, Ron will be so pleased!
See you tonight!!
Ordinarily, this response would have made Harry feel so guilty that he would have cancelled the plans last minute. But there was Malfoy to think of. What if that happened to him when he was alone? He might have been knocked into the street and run over. He might have been killed!
It had been a long time, Harry realised, since anyone had needed him. The entire Wizarding world used to need him, but since defeating Voldemort, no one had. Ron and Hermione had each other. Ginny had never been happier. Neville loved his job, and Luna had (rather improbably) married Millicent Bulstrode.
For eleven years, people had pitied or admired him, but no one had depended on him. Without that steadying pressure, he had felt himself grow slack and rudderless.
Malfoy would surely vociferously argue against the idea that he needed Harry.
It didn’t matter. The fact was that he did, and it felt good to be needed.
Hermione was visibly pregnant.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been answering letters,” said Harry, uncomfortably. “It just started to feel like there was so much to say that I couldn’t answer without writing you a whole novel, and I just… wasn’t up to it.”
“That’s what I told her,” said Ron. “That’s why I stopped writing to you ages ago. But you look good, mate, what’s going on?”
Harry shrugged. Ron and Hermione glanced at each other, and Hermione changed the subject.
For the first couple of hours, Ron and Hermione got him up to date on everything he had missed. There was a lot. The last time they had spoken, months ago, Harry had flooed in without warning, paced around their living room a few times, shouted “Stop pitying me!” and then stormed out.
They waved away his apologies.
“You’ve been depressed, Harry,” said Hermione. “I only wish you’d let us help you.”
But that was just it— Harry didn’t want to be someone who needed help. He wanted to be someone who helped.
“I’ve sort of been hanging out with Draco Malfoy,” he said.
Ron and Hermione looked at each other.
“Kingsley mentioned,” said Hermione.
Hermione worked in Kingsley’s office. She was on track to become Minister for Magic herself one day. Ron, meanwhile, worked as an auror.
“Well, it’s just… there’s something weird going on with him.”
“I knew it!” said Ron. “He’s up to something!”
“No, he’s not,” said Harry sharply. “He’s great, actually. Really different from how he used to be.”
“This is Malfoy we’re talking about, yeah?”
“Ron, don’t be so prejudiced,” said Hermione. “He was all right at the end, wasn’t he? I have to say, Harry, I think he was trying to save you from Crabbe and Goyle in the Room of Requirement. Remember how he kept telling them not to kill you?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” said Harry, who increasingly found himself looking back on his history with Malfoy in a positive light. Sometimes he had to remind himself that Malfoy really had been a bastard. “Anyway, the point is, there’s something wrong with him.”
He explained about Malfoy getting lost in his head. To his surprise, it was Ron, not Hermione, who spoke when he was done.
“Thought damage,” he said.
“Thought damage. You see it a lot with ex-prisoners. It’s from sustained contact with dementors. Usually only in people who were in Azkaban for like twenty years, though.”
“Malfoy was so young when he went in,” said Hermione, sadly.
“Yeah, that’s true,” said Ron. “He was probably more susceptible to it.”
“What is thought damage??”
“It’s terrible,” said Ron soberly. “Basically, it’s when your thoughts get trained to follow certain tracks. Healthy people might get a sad thought, and then chase it up with a happy one. But when you have thought damage, you stop having access to the positives. You get stuck in a kind of logic gridlock.”
“So it’s like… depression?”
“A bit,” said Ron. “Not really. It’s tiny mental breakdowns. Say you have thought damage, and you think, I’m bad at my job. That leads you straight into I’m bad at everything —>I’ll get fired —>no one will hire me—> my children will be ashamed of me—>they’d be better off if I was dead—> I’m too much of a coward to kill myself—> I’m bad at everything. And then you’re back at the beginning again. I’ve heard it described as running through a house, trying to find a way out, but every door slams shut as you reach it.”
“So how come he snaps out of it when Scorpius talks to him?”
“With thought damage, you’re just hurtling around a closed circuit, looking for an escape. The only way out is if someone opens a door. If someone says something that breaks the circuit.”
This made sense. Eve and Flora and Scorpius all made Malfoy feel loved, so when they reminded him that they were there, they pulled him out of himself.
Harry wanted to be able to do that.
“It’s really serious, Harry,” said Ron. “I’ve heard of people going into permanent catatonic states because of it.”
“That’s awful,” said Hermione. “Poor Malfoy. I have to say, I think it’s really unfair how he’s been treated. They’ve completely given up on finding Narcissa’s murderers.”
“His mum was murdered?” asked Harry. Ron and Hermione both made exasperated noises.
“Honestly, Harry, when was the last time you picked up a newspaper?”
“Probably around… 1998?”
“Narcissa was murdered ages ago. While Draco was still in prison,” said Hermione. “We don’t know if it was by old supporters of Voldemort’s, or by Death Eater Catchers.”
“Death Eater Catchers?”
“Yeah. Vigilantes who go around beating up old Voldemort supporters.”
“Shouldn’t the aurors be stopping them?” asked Harry hotly.
“Yeah, well, it’s not exactly top priority, is it?” said Ron. He must have caught the thunderous expression on Harry’s face, because he hurried to continue. “I’m not saying that’s right!”
“That must be who’s been after Malfoy, then. Apparently they almost killed him last spring.”
“I want to see him,” said Ron.
“I want to see if it’s really thought damage, and how bad it is. I need to talk to him. Take me with you, next time.”
“Mate, I don’t know if that’s a good idea…”
“No, Harry, he’s right,” said Hermione. “Ron can help.”
“Yeah, all right,” said Harry, but he had a bad feeling that Malfoy wouldn’t appreciate help from that particular source.
I have a strange request. Would you be willing to meet up with Ron? He thinks he might be able to help with that thing that happens where you tune out.
I know it’s going to piss you off that I’m suggesting this. Just think about it, okay?
I am in your debt. If you would like me to meet up with Weasley, I will do so.
Harry wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. In the end, it was the “sincerely” that decided him. He knew that Malfoy’s sign-offs tended to be meaningful, so he assumed that Malfoy was sincere in his willingness to meet up with Ron.
“Ferret,” said Ron, when he stepped through the floo into Malfoy’s flat. Malfoy raised his eyebrows.
“You know, in a parallel universe, those would be adorable nicknames,” said Harry. Ron and Malfoy glared at him.
“Please, make yourself at home,” said Malfoy glacially. Ron sat down.
“Right. Malfoy, Ron’s promised not to bring up the war,” said Harry.
“Although it’s still open season on you being a general, pre-war git,” said Ron.
“I see,” said Malfoy. “And what promise are you exacting from me to ensure this doesn’t end in disaster?”
“None,” said Harry. “I know you’re not going to antagonise him.”
Malfoy looked delighted. Ron made an outraged sound.
“You trust him more than me?”
“I’m very trustworthy, Weasel,” said Malfoy. “Try me. Tell me all your little secrets.”
Harry cast him a warning look, and Malfoy leant back against the seat cushions, a smug smile on his face.
“All right, Weasel. This was your idea. Proceed.”
Ron took a deep breath.
“Harry told us about the way you sometimes ‘get lost in your own head.’ Could you describe what he means by that?”
Harry expected Malfoy to resist answering, but he spoke quickly and politely.
“A thought will tangle me up, and I can’t get out.”
“And you get trapped until…”
“Scorpius or one of my friends calls me out of it.”
“Why do you think that works?”
“I don’t know.”
“What’s the longest it’s ever lasted?”
“A few hours.”
Ron looked at him, and Malfoy huffed.
“Maybe twelve. Sixteen, at the most.”
“Sixteen hours??” repeated Harry in horror. Malfoy shrugged.
“Scorpius was having a sleepover. I went through some old letters; it was foolish of me.”
“I think you’re suffering from thought damage,” said Ron. “It’s something we see a lot in my line of work.”
Harry could see Malfoy resisting making a joke about Ron’s job. After a brief pause, Malfoy asked, polite as ever,
“And what might that be?”
“I’m an auror. We see thought damage a lot among people who’ve had prolonged exposure to dementors.”
Malfoy crossed his legs, but didn’t say anything.
“It can be quite serious,” said Ron.
“Is there a cure?” asked Malfoy. He asked it casually, but he was fiddling with the frayed edge of the sofa.
“Treatment. It’s important to see a mind healer.”
“That’s not an option for me,” said Malfoy, sounding bored.
“What do you mean?” erupted Harry.
“Just what I said. It’s not happening, so drop it. It’s not a big deal, anyway, Eve and Flora are always around to snap me out of it.”
“You spent six months with your arm in a sling because a hippogriff looked at you funny, but you won’t go to a mind healer when your mind’s literally breaking down?”
“Harry, back off,” said Ron.
“Maybe I’m faking it, Potter,” said Malfoy, sounding more like he did at school than he had in a long, long time.
“Oh fuck off, Malfoy, with your long-suffering bullshit. Think of Scorpius!”
Malfoy gave him a withering look, then turned to Ron.
Ron nodded, and Malfoy swept gracefully out of the room.
“I’m sorry, Ron, I don’t know why he’s being so difficult—”
“He can’t afford it,” said Ron, quietly.
“He can’t afford to go to a mind healer. That’s why he’s reacting like that.”
“How do you know?”
Ron looked around the room, and Harry noticed for the first time how cheap and run down it was.
“I just know,” said Ron.
“Well, that’s not a problem, I’ll just—”
“Don’t you dare offer to pay for him,” said Ron.
“Because—and I can’t believe I’m saying this, as if I care— it will make him feel like shit. Trust me. If you want to be friends with him, don’t offer to pay for stuff.”
Harry started to argue, and then gave up. He knew Ron was right. Ron was paid a decent wage as an auror, which had lessened the financial tension between them, but he couldn’t deny that Ron knew what he was talking about when it came to economic disparity within friendships.
Malfoy returned with three mugs of tea.
“There are some things you can do on your own, without a mind healer,” said Ron.
“Oh, are we still on this? I thought we had moved on,” said Malfoy.
“Writing out your thought process can help you break the logic. And avoiding talking about fraught topics except with people who you know can get through to you when you fall into a thought loop.”
“That’ll be no one, then,” said Malfoy. Ron gave him a surprised look. “I can hardly talk to my eleven-year-old son about… all that. And my friends are muggles.”
“You and Harry are still mortal enemies, then?” asked Ron.
Malfoy sipped his tea, watching Harry, and didn’t answer.
“We’re friends when we’re drunk, at least,” said Harry. Malfoy laughed.
“It is truly bizarre to imagine you two getting drunk together,” said Ron.
“Why imagine it? Let’s go to the pub,” said Malfoy.
Ron narrowed his eyes.
“I’m suggesting it so that I can poison you again, Weasel,” said Malfoy. “Finish the job.”
“Shut it, Ferret.”
“Maybe it’s the muggles that frighten you.”
“Malfoy, don’t bait Ron.”
Malfoy’s expression tightened.
“Never mind. It was a stupid idea. I apologise for suggesting it; I understand Weasley has very good reasons not to want to get a drink with me.” He stood, picking up Ron and Harry’s still-full mugs. “Thank you for your advice, I appreciate it.”
Ron looked at Malfoy as if he had grown a second head, then turned to Harry.
“Is he okay?” he whispered.
“Yep,” said Harry. “He’s just not a prat anymore.”
Malfoy went into the kitchen.
“You weren’t joking,” said Ron.
“I thought you’d been, I don’t know, bamboozled by his good looks or something.”
“Well, there is that.”
“He thanked me. He wants to go to the pub?”
“I quite want to go to the pub, in fairness,” said Harry.
Ron shook his head, looking slightly dazed.
“Well, fuck,” he said. “Let’s go to the pub with Malfoy.”
Malfoy didn’t relax when they told him they’d decided to get a drink with him. He seemed, if anything, more tense, as he led them to a quiet muggle pub down the street, and bought them a round of drinks.
“Quidditch,” said Harry. Malfoy’s lips twitched.
“Quidditch will bridge the divide between us, Potter? Is that your suggestion?”
“Hmm, I’ll bite. Favourite team, Weasel? No, wait, let me guess.”
Harry was right. Quidditch proved a rich topic, and soon Ron and Malfoy were cheerfully arguing about the Chudley Cannons. From there they began to talk about muggle culture, which Ron could not seem to believe Malfoy knew so much about. Malfoy bought round after round of drinks because he was the only one with muggle money, and the more Ron drank, the more vocally impressed he was with how easily Malfoy handled the unfamiliar coins. Harry leant back in the booth, feeling something that he realised was pretty close to contentment as Malfoy explained the internet to Ron.
“So what does this Facebook ‘poking’ feature… do?” asked Ron. Malfoy widened his eyes dramatically. Harry idly wondered if Malfoy had ever tried wearing eyeliner.
“No one knows for sure, Weasel. But it’s almost certainly sexual.”
Occasionally Harry would overhear Malfoy telling Ron some absurd lie about muggle culture, and he would have to intervene.
“Ron, don’t listen to him. Muggles do not have to take electricity tablets to charge their phones.”
“Oh, do they not?” asked Malfoy innocently. “I must have misunderstood; so sorry, Weasel.”
“You’re an untrustworthy git, you know,” said Ron.
“Harry trusts me not to antagonise you,” said Malfoy smugly.
“You just called me Harry!”
Malfoy looked mortified.
“It’s because of Scorpius— he always calls you Harry, he’s giving me his bad habits…!”
“No problem, Draco,” said Harry. Malfoy glowered at him.
“Fuck,” said Ron. “You two are actually friends, aren’t you?”
“I’d never be friends with Potter,” said Malfoy, putting his nose in the air.
“Yeah, we hate each other,” agreed Harry. “Get us another drink, Malfoy?”
“You’re a drunkard. What’ll it be?”
By the time Ron said he had to go home, they were all quite tipsy.
“Well, I’m going clubbing,” announced Malfoy.
“You go clubbing alone?” asked Ron.
“Yes,” said Malfoy, leaning into Ron’s ear suggestively. “But I never leave alone.”
“I’ll come with you, Malfoy,” said Harry.
“Not dressed like that, you won’t.”
“Whatever, just fix me up like last time.”
“Last time?” spluttered Ron.
When they got outside, Ron hugged Harry goodbye.
“You’re still a twat,” he told Malfoy.
“I can’t tell you what you are because Harry trusts me not to antagonise you. But I assure you that my thoughts regarding you remain extremely antagonistic.”
Ron laughed and disapperated.
“Right, now to fix the car crash that is your fashion sense,” said Malfoy, casting several spells at Harry.
“Hey! Where’d my hoodie go?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you must have put that on by mistake. I’m afraid I’ve banished it, what a shame.”
“You’re such a dick,” said Harry, knocking his shoulder in Malfoy’s, who grinned.
It was strange how easy it was to tell that Malfoy had enjoyed himself. With Ron.
“You’re better around him,” said Malfoy.
“What do you mean?”
Malfoy tilted his head and fixed Harry with a contemplative look.
“You’re a bit more, I don’t know, awake. You should see him more.”
“I see him.”
“When you went to the loo he said he’s lucky if he sees you three times a year.” Malfoy ran his hand over the back of his neck. “Just… don’t undervalue old friends, you know? You’re fortunate to have them.”
Not for the first time, Harry wondered what had happened to all of Malfoy’s friends from Slytherin. Crabbe was dead and Goyle was still in prison, but what of the others? Pansy and Blaise, and all the other Slytherins who used to laugh at Malfoy’s jokes and admire everything he did?
“Draco,” he began, but Malfoy shook his head, as if he was trying to get water out of his ears, grabbed Harry’s elbow, and apparated them to the club.
As before, Malfoy bought them a row of shots. (Harry would have to start carrying around muggle money, he decided. It wasn’t right that Malfoy was paying for everything, especially if Ron was right about his finances.)
When they had done the shots, Malfoy pressed his face to Harry’s ear. Harry shivered.
“Tell me the hottest guy you see, and I’ll get him for you,” said Malfoy, his lips touching Harry’s ear on some of the words. Harry leant back to look at Malfoy, who scanned the crowd, impassive. Even if he hadn’t been handsome, Harry would have wanted to eat him up with a spoon.
But yeah, he was also pretty fucking handsome.
“Uh, that guy,” said Harry, pointing an attractive guy across the room.
“You really like blonds,” said Malfoy. Harry was too embarrassed to answer. Malfoy took him by the wrist, and it was like the last time. Malfoy had a whispered conversation with the guy, who then came over and put his hands around Harry’s waist.
“What did he say to you?” asked Harry, when they got back to the guy’s flat (his name was Evan). An uncomfortable thought had occurred to him. What if Malfoy was using magic to get people to go home with Harry? He wanted to think Malfoy would never do something like that, but he had been a Death Eater…
“That you were shy but you liked me,” said Evan. “And that if I did anything you didn’t like he’d kill me.”
Evan smiled and kissed him.
“He told me to take care of you,” he said.
“But why did you agree?”
“Mate, look at you,” said Evan. “Who wouldn’t?”
Hogwarts is the best place in the whole world. I can’t BELIEVE I didn’t want to come. Anthea says it’s no wonder I didn’t want to because of Prejudice but she believes in Tabula Rasa which means Blank Slate and whenever people say things about Dad she quotes this long speech or something from an 18th century philosopher until they go away. It works much better than you would think, although that may be because of the jellylegs jinks Titus casts on them while Anthea talks. Titus and Anthea are my best friends and I can’t wait for you to meet them.
Is Dad okay?
Yours Sincerely (Anthea says I’ve been spelling it wrong all this time, you should have said!!)
Your friends sound wonderful. I can’t wait to meet them!
I know I wrote after the movie night two days ago, but I ended up seeing your dad again today. We went to the National Portrait Gallery and he told me about all the people in history who were secretly witches and wizards. I learned a lot! He’s been well. He hasn’t had another episode since the one I told you about, after you got on the train.
Hope you’re having a good time! Say hello to Hagrid for me. (Maybe show him this letter.) (Hagrid, be nice to Scorpius, I’m pretty fond of him.)
Hagrid warmed right up to me when I showed him your letter. I think he was a little… well, Dad told me not to expect Hagrid to like me. So it was really really nice that he invited Anthea and Titus and me around for tea tomorrow.
I’m not very good at Defence but I’ve been coming top in the year in Potions!!
Is Dad okay?
I bet Hagrid would love your dad if he met him now. Make sure you don’t eat any of his rock cakes, they’ll glue your jaws shut. But don’t tell him I said that!
I saw your dad again today, we went for a drink and talked about Eve’s new boyfriend, who is huge. Bigger than Nick. It’s actually quite scary.
Not surprised you’re doing well in Potions, your dad was always brilliant in that. I can help you with Defence over Christmas, if you like.
Don’t tell Dad but a fourth year Gryffindor named Henry Biggs said some pretty horrible things to me today. Titus and Anthea weren’t around and I know it’s important for me to be Above Reproach and anyway Dad says manners are the best defence. So I stayed very still until he was done and I said I understood why he felt that way. He hit me in the back with a stinging hex when I left. Anthea says that was cowardly of him, and that I behaved like a gentleman. Titus says I should have blasted him with a jellylegs. It’s okay though, I understand why Henry Biggs was upset. It doesn’t make it right, but I understand.
Is Dad okay?
Henry Biggs had no right to do that to you, and Anthea is right, he is absolutely a coward. I’m so sorry that happened. You don’t deserve that at all. I know your dad would approve of how you reacted, and I see his point, but personally I would have gone the jellylegs route, like your friend Titus.
I saw your dad today, we went to a party at Nick and Flora’s. He seemed happy, although he misses you a lot.
That howler you sent Henry Biggs was INCREDIBLE! He looked like he was going to sink through the floor. Everyone was talking about it. Anthea says you shouldn’t have because you’re a public figure and supposed to be non-partisan, but Teddy, Titus and I all think it was wicked.
Is dad okay?
Every week, Harry only intended to check in on Malfoy once, and every week, he ended up seeing him an awful lot more than that.
Malfoy’s friends kept inviting him places, for one thing. He went with Malfoy and his friends to plays, to restaurants, to the pub. He went to movie night. About once a week, he went clubbing with Malfoy. It was always the same routine (“Tell me the hottest guy you see and I’ll get him for you”, Malfoy whispering to a good looking stranger, a night of meaningless sex and a strange, empty feeling the next morning).
He saw Malfoy so often because he fancied him, of course, because he loved watching Malfoy in different situations, seeing him shift from poised to comfortable in a matter of seconds depending on who he was with. He went because he liked Malfoy’s friends, liked how they didn’t know who Harry Potter was, only Harry.
But mainly, he went because he knew Malfoy needed him. Malfoy had no one else to talk to properly about Scorpius, and Harry liked being there for him. When Scorpius won a Potions prize, he and Malfoy went to the pub. Harry listened patiently as Malfoy explained all the details of the potion Scorpius had made; what could have gone wrong, how Malfoy had primed him for success by teaching him potions basics before Scorpius went to Hogwarts. When Malfoy told him, in an offhand sort of way, that he didn’t even know what the Ravenclaw common room looked like, Harry described it to him.
“Thank you,” said Malfoy, often.
Harry didn’t like being thanked nearly as much as he liked the way Malfoy looked at him when he thanked him.
He was seeing a lot more of Ron, which was also because of Malfoy. A few days after they had gone to the pub together, Harry went to Malfoy’s and found Ron already there.
“He’s not going to say yes,” said Malfoy.
“Say yes to what?”
“I want to play a game of chess with this poisonous git but we need an umpire,” said Ron.
“An umpire? For chess?”
“I don’t trust him not to cheat!” said Ron.
“Cheating is an integral part of chess,” said Malfoy, studying his nails.
“No, it isn’t!”
“Well, I don’t trust you not to be a sore loser. I don’t fancy nursing a black eye all week because losing your queen made you feel emasculated.”
“Come on, Harry. Say you’ll do it,” pressed Ron.
“Er, yeah, all right,” said Harry.
And actually, Ron and Malfoy did need an umpire for chess. Malfoy managed to cheat in such varied and elaborate ways that most of the game was devoted simply to figuring out just how he was doing it. When Ron lost, he picked up the board and tried to hit Malfoy over the head with it. Malfoy taunted him, Ron blustered, Harry put up a shield charm, and they agreed to meet at the same time next week to do it all again.
Harry and Malfoy almost never talked about the past, but once in a while Harry gleaned a snippet of information about what he privately thought of as Draco’s Lost Years.
“Milly?” asked Malfoy in surprise. “Luna Lovegood married Milly Bulstrode?” They were walking along the Thames, having just left a drinks party at Eve’s.
“Yeah. Unexpected, right?”
“I don’t know.” Malfoy looked thoughtful. “I did wonder… I ran into Milly, when I was getting Scorpius’ books in Diagon Alley. She didn’t snub me.”
“You think Luna told her not to?”
Malfoy shrugged, a cold, jerky movement.
“Luna was kind to me, in the manor.” Harry didn’t say anything, waiting for Malfoy to go on. Malfoy often needed a bit of space to talk, as if he wanted to be sure that he wasn’t hijacking the conversation. “She and Dean came to Astoria’s funeral,” he said after a few moments. His breath was shaky. “It’s extraordinary how good some people are.”
Harry could sense Malfoy was close to getting trapped in his thoughts, so he knocked their shoulders together.
“Will you help me buy some new clothes, sometime?”
It worked. Malfoy laughed, and Harry knew they had got away from the treacherous black hole in Malfoy’s brain.
“Yes,” said Malfoy. “But you have to give yourself over entirely to my superior judgment.”
That night, Harry reached out to Luna and Dean. He hadn’t spoken to either of them in years, but they both answered right away. The next day, they came over for dinner.
Harry should have been nervous. He knew he had been a terrible friend to both of them. He had dropped out of contact, and he known for a long time that he ought to rectify the situation. But he couldn’t be nervous. He had to ask them about Malfoy.
As with Ron and Hermione, they spent the first few hours catching him up on their lives. When they asked him questions about himself, he deflected.
“Your house is lovely,” said Luna, as they finished their ice cream. The crystal dishes disappeared when they were done, and tiny porcelain bowls of mints appeared in their stead, along with a silver cart laden with tea paraphernalia.
“Thanks. I had a bit of help with it.” Harry paused. “I’ve been spending a lot of time with Draco Malfoy.”
“How is he?” asked Dean, at the same time as Luna asked “Is he okay?”
“Yeah, he’s all right,” said Harry. “A bit lonely sometimes, I reckon.”
“We haven’t seen him since his wife’s funeral,” said Luna.
“He mentioned that you guys were there.”
“It was awful,” said Luna, in a low voice. “He saw us and went blank behind the eyes.”
“We shouldn’t have gone,” said Dean.
“No, he was glad you came,” said Harry.
“But he went completely to pieces when he saw us,” said Dean. “It was like he wasn’t there anymore. He only snapped out of it when his son started crying.”
“It was awful,” said Luna, again.
“I think… if you were up for it, I think it would help him to see you guys again,” said Harry.
“If it means we get to see you more, I’m game, Harry,” said Dean.
“I felt sorry for him, at the manor,” said Luna. Dean nodded.
“They treated him worse than us, most of the time,” he said. “He was in over his head.”
“So you’ll see him?”
“Any time,” said Dean.
“Luna and Dean want to see you,” said Harry. Malfoy’s hand froze holding his bishop.
“What,” he said.
“Stop hovering,” said Ron. “Put your bloody bishop down already.”
Malfoy knocked out Ron’s knight. They were playing muggle chess, because they were in a games cafe.
“What d’you say, you up for it? I figured I could invite them to movie night, if you want.”
“Not a good idea,” said Ron. “I don’t think Luna can pass for muggle.”
Ron had been to one movie night. It had not gone well. Malfoy had had to obliviate his friends three times, and told Ron he couldn’t come again.
“They don’t want to see me,” said Malfoy. He squinted at Harry. “Hang on, how long is it since you last saw them?”
“A few nights ago. Years, before that.”
Malfoy considered him for a moment, then hunched his shoulders.
“Sure. I’ll see them, if you’re there.”
They decided to meet in the quiet muggle pub near Malfoy’s house. Harry had learnt pretty early on that Malfoy refused point blank to go anywhere in the wizarding world, and after what he had seen in Diagon Alley, Harry couldn’t really blame him.
Harry, Ron and Malfoy got there early. Malfoy was dressed rather severely, with his hair slicked back. He was wearing a tie. He barely spoke as Harry ordered them a round of drinks. He had picked up one of the cardboard coasters and was turning it over in his hands, his eyes fixed on the door. Harry could feel him trembling next to him.
He blanked out the moment Luna and Dean arrived.
“Shit,” said Ron. Malfoy stared straight ahead, that eerie, impassive look on his face.
“Oh, dear,” said Luna. “Maybe we should go.”
“No, wait,” said Harry. “Just sit down.”
They did, and Harry leant in close to Malfoy.
“Hey, mate,” he said. “It’s Harry. Come on, hang out with us.”
His heart was in his throat. He had Eve’s number, in case this didn’t work, but he had a feeling—a hope—he wouldn’t need to call her.
Malfoy blinked. He turned to look at Harry.
Their noses were almost touching.
“This is a bad idea,” he said.
“Don’t be such a drama queen.”
Malfoy’s eyes flashed with anger.
“It’s just a drink. You can do it.”
“It’s going to happen again. The thought damage thing; I can tell.”
“That’s okay,” said Harry. He tipped his head suddenly forward and nudged his nose into Malfoy’s, who made a shocked sound. “Now say hello. You’re being rude.”
Malfoy turned to look at Dean and Luna, who had observed all of this with puzzled expressions.
“Hello,” he said. “I… It’s good of you to see me.”
“We wanted to,” said Luna. “How’ve you been?”
Malfoy was mostly silent throughout the evening. Dean and Luna didn’t speak much either, so Ron and Harry carried the conversation. Malfoy continually went blank behind the eyes, sometimes with so little fanfare that it was Luna who had to point it out. Harry would lean over and quietly ask him to come back.
And Malfoy did come back, every time, with a quick little apology.
“I’m sorry. I know this is much harder for you than it is for me,” he said to Dean and Luna, the third time it happened.
“I don’t know if that’s true,” said Luna.
“We should bring Hermione next time,” said Ron, loudly. Malfoy rubbed his eyes. He had been about to blank out again, and Harry was grateful that Ron had noticed.
“Next time,” said Malfoy, faintly.
“Yeah. They do a pub quiz on Thursdays,” said Harry.
“That’s not fair, it’ll be all muggle stuff,” said Ron. “Luna and I will be rubbish.”
“Hermione will know history, Dean will know sport, and Draco is great with pop culture,” said Harry.
“I’m pretty good at pub quizzes,” admitted Malfoy. His eyes flickered over to Dean and Luna.
“Good idea,” said Luna. “Maybe I can bring Milly.”
A muscle tensed in Malfoy’s jaw.
“I’d like to see Milly,” he said.
Harry glowed with pleasure.
It was amazing how easy it was to make plans with his friends when he was doing it for Draco, not himself. Where before he would agonise over letting them down, over whether he’d have the energy to field questions about himself, now he thought only of how much happier Draco would be if he were more connected to the wizarding world.
Hermione couldn’t come to the pub quiz the next week, but Luna brought Millicent Bulstrode. Draco and Milly sat next to each other and talked in quiet undertones all evening. He didn’t blank out once.
The next day, Draco finally took Harry shopping. They went to Harrods. Draco was more Malfoyish than Harry had seen him in a while, imperiously demanding things from salespeople, refusing to let Harry pick anything out for himself, and insulting Harry’s fashion sense to anyone who would listen. Harry was surprised to find that he thoroughly enjoyed it.
“Green?” said Harry, as Draco handed him a cashmere jumper.
“I haven’t got an agenda, Potter. Take this up with your eyes, not me; I’m only matching them.”
Harry was forced to admit that green was his colour when he tried the jumper on. He looked… well, Harry hadn’t thought he could look like that. Draco stood next to him in the mirror. They looked good together; Draco in his crisp white shirt, Harry in his soft green jumper.
“Think how different everything would have been if you’d been in Slytherin,” said Draco. “You might have actually pulled.”
“I’ll have you know I snogged two girls at Hogwarts!”
“Go on, how many people did you snog, then?”
“A gentleman never tells.”
“I wish you’d help me buy robes,” he said.
“No can do,” said Draco lightly.
“All this is a bit of a waste of time,” said Harry, brushing his hands up and down the soft cashmere sleeves. “I’ll still look like an idiot in the real world.”
“This world’s real enough to me,” said Draco, and Harry knew he had upset him. He could tell from the way Draco’s voice had become neater and more precise, his posture straighter, everything about him refining and heightening. He shrugged on elegance like a coat he had thought he was allowed to take off, and Harry didn’t know what to do about it. If he apologised, Draco would act as if he was crazy— Harry knew him well enough to know that.
“Draco,” he began.
“I should get home.”
“Get a pint with me first,” said Harry. Draco could never resist the pub. Not that he drank so much— sometimes they went to the pub and just got tea. Harry thought it was because pubs were old fashioned. Draco’s local might as well have been the Leaky Cauldron. Draco could go to a pub and pretend.
“One drink,” said Draco.
Harry apparated home with his shopping and met Draco at the pub. Draco was silent and drawn, and Harry knew he really would go after one drink.
Harry desperately wanted him to stay, so he began to talk.
He talked about the Dursleys, about how he still had trouble identifying hunger pangs because he had become so immune to them growing up. He talked about the cupboard, and relating to that boa constrictor in the zoo (Malfoy laughed when Harry told him about setting the boa free). He talked about his horrible second year summer.
“I remember thinking I would even want to see you, if only to prove Hogwarts really existed.”
Draco raised his eyebrows but didn’t say anything.
Harry told him about the bars on the window and the flap in the door, and about feeling crazy. That came up again and again, he told Malfoy. Feeling crazy.
He skipped ahead, then, to the years since the war. They were on their third drink now, or maybe their fourth. Draco sat quietly, asking infrequent, neutral questions. “So what then?” “What did you tell them?” “What did you think?”
But mostly he was silent, his grey eyes calm and soothing, as Harry explained how washed up and spent he felt. How everyone still expected things of him, and he couldn’t keep delivering. How he was a shit friend and a shit adult, how he lived a selfish little life.
“And I know you’ll call me stuck up, but I think a lot about my biographies. Dumbledore’s biographies are packed all the way through—” (Draco blinked several times when Harry said Dumbledore, but he stayed present.) “—because Dumbledore accomplished just as much at the end of his life as at the beginning. But my biographies will be top heavy. It’ll be twenty chapters to cover my life up until 17, one to sum up the rest.”
“The happy ending,” said Draco. It was the most opinionated thing he’d said in hours. They were on their sixth pint now, probably. Hard to tell. Harry was a little dizzy.
“Yeah, exactly. ‘And then he lived happily ever after.’”
Draco didn’t say anything. He just listened. Harry didn’t know what he was thinking, he only knew that Draco hadn’t left.
“I sometimes think the story would have been neater, if I had stayed dead,” said Harry.
“What do you mean?” asked Draco, measured and patient.
Harry explained, and explained, and explained, and it was impossible to know whether Draco understood because he was so quiet.
“Let’s—let’s go clubbing,” said Harry, when the bell rang for last call.
“Okay,” he said, slowly.
They irresponsibly apparated to the club. It was much louder than the pub. Draco got them shots, as he always did, although Harry was extremely drunk by now. Draco was too, he swayed as he ordered.
“Let’s dance first,” said Harry. Malfoy frowned again. He was still upset, maybe, thought Harry. It was hard to think. They made their way to the dance floor and Draco rested his arms on Harry’s shoulders, crossing his wrists behind Harry’s head. His eyes were glassy. Harry put his hands on Draco’s waist for the first time since he had briefly pretended to be Draco’s boyfriend at Eve’s wine and cheese party.
He kept thinking of how Draco had looked in the bathroom in sixth year, blood spurting out of his chest. Sectumsempra - it came from the Latin for “Always Cut”. A cut that would last forever. He remembered how dazed Draco had looked as he bled to death. How fragile.
He was the same now, thought Harry. Dazed. Fragile.
“You know the drill, Potter,” said Draco into his ear. “Tell me the hottest guy you see, and I’ll make sure he goes home with you.”
Harry hadn’t been this drunk since those first few months after the war, when he would crawl into his bathtub every night after the trials and drink till he passed out.
“You,” he said.
“You know the drill, Potter,” said Draco into his ear. “Tell me the hottest guy you see, and I’ll make sure he goes home with you.”
Harry hadn’t been this drunk since those first few months after the war, when he would crawl into his bathtub every night after the trials and drink till he passed out.
“You,” he said.
Draco looked at him. Harry remembered watching him torture Rowle. Remembered his face appearing in the window of Hagrid’s cabin in first year, and knowing they had to get Norbit away immediately, because Draco Malfoy was trouble. He was always trouble.
Draco leant tentatively forwards, and their lips touched. Harry chased after the kiss. It was gentler than Harry had imagined it would be, and he realised he had imagined it a long time ago, long before he ran into Draco and Scorpius in Diagon Alley. He had imagined it the night after he almost killed Draco in sixth year, and after the Battle of Hogwarts when he thought of the fiendfyre. Maybe he hadn’t noticed imagining it, but he had. This was an old desire. This was a reawakening.
Harry apparated them back to Draco’s flat.
“Potter, you crazy fucker, you could have splinched us!”
Harry pushed Draco backwards towards the bedroom. He’d never been in it before. It was little and shabby. Draco had grown up in a manor house with servants, remembered Harry. Draco grew up believing he would be rich all his life.
Draco fell backwards onto the bed.
“Harry,” he said, propping himself up on his elbows.
“Budge over,” said Harry, climbing next to him. Draco moved so that there was space for Harry, but Harry had by that time realised he didn’t need space. He straddled Draco and kissed him.
“Harry,” said Draco again.
“What,” said Harry. He wasn’t sure he could handle a conversation.
“So are you.”
“Yes,” said Draco. “We’re very drunk. This is a bad idea.”
Harry pulled away.
“Do you want to stop?”
Draco shook his head violently.
“Then it’s not a bad idea,” said Harry.
The room spun around them as they undressed each other. Everything was blurry and time moved strangely; Harry couldn’t tell what was going on, really. Draco seemed confused too. They kept laughing.
“This is such a bad idea,” Draco said, over and over, but he didn’t stop. His skin was soft and damp and overwhelming. Harry focused on the bits of Draco that were undamaged. He kissed his way up the pure white of Draco’s neck.
He did not look at the scars on Draco’s chest. The mark on his arm.
It wasn’t sex like anything Harry had had before. It was conflicting and inexplicable. Draco Malfoy wasn’t just a person, he was an accumulation of memories and feelings that Harry knew he would never untangle. Draco was everything Harry hated and wanted, and he was his friend, and his enemy, and he was irrepressibly handsome, and he was unhappy, and Harry wanted to love him back to wholeness, and there were so many different versions of him that Harry couldn’t understand him, would never know him completely, all over, the way he wanted to.
From the way Draco was looking at him, Harry knew he felt the same. He knew Draco was just as mystified by this turn of events as Harry was. Not just the sex: the friendship. The survival. The fact that they were there at all, that they hadn’t both been killed as teenagers, possibly by each other.
“Draco,” said Harry, eventually. “This feels amazing, but I don’t think I can finish.”
“Thank God,” said Draco. “Me neither.”
Harry pulled out and collapsed on top of him.
“I’m so fucking drunk,” said Draco.
“I think I’m going to throw up,” said Harry.
“Don’t you fucking dare.”
They caught each other’s eye and burst into peels of helpless laughter. Draco actually cried with mirth. Harry didn’t think he’d ever laughed so hard.
“We didn’t eat dinner,” he said, when they’d calmed down.
“Because you suggested the pub!” said Draco.
“Yeah, because you love the pub. You were upset.”
“We can’t not eat every time I’m unhappy. We’d starve.”
Harry kissed him. Had they made a mistake? There was a nasty feeling growing in the pit of his stomach. Something ominous. This is a bad idea.
“Do you like pancakes?” asked Draco.
“We can’t have pancakes. It’s night time.”
Draco pried himself loose from Harry’s grasp and pulled on a pair of boxers.
“You’ve never had Midnight Breakfast?” he asked.
“What the fuck is Midnight Breakfast?”
Draco shook his head sorrowfully.
“I’m sorry about your parents,” he said, and stumbled out of the bedroom.
“Malfoy!” shouted Harry. “What the fuck?”
“Stop lazing about and help me!” said Draco from the kitchen. Harry swore under his breath, pulled on his boxers, and joined Draco in the kitchen.
Draco made chocolate chip pancakes and bacon and eggs. He poured Harry a glass of orange juice and set the rickety IKEA table with placemats and cloth napkins.
“Midnight Breakfast,” he said proudly.
Harry fell upon his food with enthusiasm, and Draco did not comment on his table manners.
“My mum used to make Midnight Breakfast when bad things happened,” said Draco, when they were done.
Dread roiled in Harry’s stomach.
“Did a bad thing just happen?” he asked.
Draco’s eyes were wide and unreadable.
“I don’t know.”
They fell asleep in Draco’s bed, the sheets tangled around their legs, their limbs overlapping in odd, amicable ways. It wasn’t really cuddling. It was hard to say what it was, thought Harry.
He slept uneasily, with a sense of foreboding.
Harry woke up with a pounding headache and a foul taste in his mouth.
Draco was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking at him.
“Drink this,” he said, and passed Harry a hangover antidote. Harry knocked it back and collapsed into the pillows as he felt the potion burn the alcohol out of him. After a few minutes, his headache had ebbed away, and he merely felt tired.
He opened his eyes. Draco was only wearing boxers.
“Fuck,” said Harry. “We shagged.”
Harry had been almost black-out drunk, but hangover potions prevented memory lost. He remembered everything. The curling dread that had stirred in him the night before seemed to have stretched and grown while he slept, and now he understood.
Draco was looking at him with gentle sympathy.
“It was just a shag, Potter.”
But it hadn’t been. That was the problem. Harry Potter was allowed to fuck a Death Eater, that was probably appropriate, even. Shag the enemy into submission.
Harry Potter wasn’t supposed to have giggling, impotent, shameless sex with a Death Eater. He wasn’t supposed to have fucking Midnight Breakfast with Draco bloody Malfoy.
He wasn’t sure why it mattered, when before it hadn’t. He just knew it did. He was Harry Potter. He was supposed to be with Ginny Weasley. He was supposed to be a wonderful friend, a noble person, a hardworking, productive member of society. Sleeping with Draco Malfoy was an abject failure of the heroic ideal. It went against everything that was expected of him. It was a Bad Idea.
“We were drunk,” said Draco. If he had sounded bored or casual, Harry would have known he was hurt. But Draco’s eyes were soft, concerned. It was as if he knew what Harry was thinking.
“We can’t be together,” said Harry.
“I know,” said Draco. “I would never expect that of you.”
“We shouldn’t have—”
“It was just a shag. A drunken mistake. Don’t overthink it.”
“I’m— and you’re—”
He knew Draco knew what he meant, because he shoved his left arm quickly behind his back, so that Harry couldn’t see his Dark Mark.
“Trust me, I know,” he said. He was still being so understanding. Which made Harry want to kiss him. Which wasn’t allowed.
“Christ, Malfoy, would you put on some fucking clothes already?”
Now he had hurt his feelings. Draco dressed with quick, deliberate movements. Harry watched him from the bed as Draco covered up the parts of him that made him untouchable. Those scars on his chest. The mark on his arm. Scars like an enemy uniform, marking him out as the opposition even when he was naked. Especially when he was naked.
Harry threw his own clothes on.
“It was just a shag,” he said.
“Yes,” said Draco, his voice clipped and precise.
“A drunken mistake.”
“It won’t happen again.”
“No,” said Draco.
“We can’t be together,” said Harry. Why did he say it again? Did he expect Draco to disagree? To fight him on it? He knew Draco wouldn’t. Draco didn’t ask for things easily.
Draco didn’t say anything, in fact. He watched Harry with his politest expression.
“I’m going,” said Harry. Draco inclined his head and led him to the fireplace, handed him the pot of floo powder.
“I’ll see you Saturday?” he said. “At Eve’s birthday drinks?”
“Yeah, maybe. I don’t know,” said Harry. “I’ll have to see.”
“It—it was just a shag, Potter. Don’t… it didn’t change anything.”
“Yeah, I know,” lied Harry, and flooed back to Grimmauld Place.
To his great relief, no one tried to contact him. He expected his friends to send him concerned owls as he flaked out of every single social commitment he had made, but no one said anything. He wore his invisibility cloak constantly, even in the house.
Draco didn’t reach out. Harry had known he wouldn’t.
He couldn’t explain his panic more clearly than— than it was wrong. There was a way his life was supposed to go, and he had fucked it up in every possible way. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be. He kept imagining the Prophet headlines: CHOSEN ONE IN GAY DEATH EATER SEX SCANDAL!
That bruised-looking mark on Draco’s arm. The scars on his chest. Sectumsempra, Always Cut.
He was furious, actually. More angry than he had been the summer after fourth year, when Ron and Hermione had been together, in the loop, while he was stuck in Privet Drive, isolated, unimportant. Everyone else had got their happy ending, while, Harry, who had died in the war, had nothing.
It wasn’t how things were supposed to be.
The problem was, Harry was no longer immune to loneliness. His time with Draco and his friends had reminded him of how good it felt to be around people. Harry flew around the indoor quidditch pitch his house had provided for him, and felt his loneliness like an injury.
He didn’t reach out to Ron and Hermione. He was angry with them, and with himself—he knew he was being irrational, but it didn’t change how he felt. He didn’t reach out to anyone. He just walked around Diagon Alley in his cloak, hating people.
One night, however, he went out without his cloak. He went to an expensive, unfashionable bar on Knockturn Alley and bought an overpriced gin and tonic. A few people asked him for his autograph, but he was so profoundly rude to them they started to leave him alone. He wrapped his hands around the cool glass and tried not to think.
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t old Scarhead,” said a posh, drawling voice. It sounded like—
Harry turned around eagerly—
It was Blaise Zabini.
“Drinking alone is the first sign of a problem,” said Blaise, falling into the seat next to Harry.
He was extremely handsome. He and Draco must have looked amazing together.
“Haven’t got a problem,” said Harry.
“No?” Blaise smirked. It was such a Malfoyish expression. The way he moved was Malfoyish, too—elegant and sweeping. Long, graceful fingers. Arrogant and charming.
“What do you want, Zabini?”
“Please, call me Blaise.” His voice was a low purr.
“What do you want, Blaise?”
Blaise didn’t answer right away. He ordered them another round of drinks. Harry noticed that he was wearing exquisitely cut robes. They probably cost a fortune.
“Do you like my robes, Harry? You keep staring at them.”
“No need to apologise. They look good, don’t they? I’ll let you in on a little secret.” Blaise leant in conspiratorially, and Harry leant forward despite himself. “The secret to dressing well… is to have a spectacular body.”
Harry blushed and pushed away from Blaise.
Blaise smiled lazily.
“You could dress well, you know. Maybe I’ll take you robe shopping sometime, hmm?”
Harry was uncomfortably aware that Blaise would probably do an excellent job of dressing him in wizarding clothes, just as Draco had done an excellent job of dressing him as a muggle.
The bartender handed them their drinks.
“Thanks, ever so,” said Blaise with heavy-lidded eyes. He licked his lips. “Yum yum.”
Harry knew why he wasn’t trying harder to get away. He had been curious about Blaise ever since Draco mentioned that they had dated.
It was as if Blaise could read his mind.
“So, how is Draco?” he asked.
“Draco Malfoy? Do you know many Dracos? I don’t, personally. But perhaps you have been more fortunate.”
“Really?” Blaise looked suddenly earnest. It was so like Draco that Harry startled. The abrupt dropping of the veil, the flickering between laconic charm and sincerity— it was like a glimpse into a parallel universe. Blaise was who Draco might have been, if he hadn’t been a Death Eater. Confident. Well-dressed. Hitting on Harry in a wizarding bar.
The thought made Harry ache.
“He’s got a lot of friends,” said Harry.
“Good,” said Blaise earnestly. “He deserves them.”
Harry didn’t answer. He remembered asking Draco about his relationship with Blaise.
“Was it… serious?”
“Not to him.”
“Are you two…” Blaise paused delicately. “An item?”
“No!” said Harry, more forcefully than necessary. “We’re just friends.”
“Ah,” said Blaise cheerfully. “Isn’t that nice. Friends.”
“Hang on. How do you even know I’ve seen Malfoy?”
Blaise raised an eyebrow in another painfully Malfoyish expression. Is this why they had dated? Because they were mirror images of each other?
“You went with him to the Hogwarts Express. It was in the Prophet.”
“Oh,” said Harry. A horrible thought occurred to him (“CHOSEN ONE IN GAY DEATH EATER SEX SCANDAL!”). “What was the headline?”
“I don’t remember. Something about The Boy Who Lived ushering in a new era of tolerance. And then there was that incident with the howler, of course.”
“That was in the Prophet?”
“Oh, yes. The Prophet’s always been overly interested in the lives of school children, as I’m sure you recall.”
“Yeah, I do,” said Harry gloomily.
“I’d like to thank you, by the way. Now that you and Draco Malfoy are friendly, people appear less inclined to be rude to me.”
“Rude to you? But you weren’t really in the war, were you?”
“Slytherin, darling. House of evil. Much easier to hate the lot of us. Anyway, you’ve certainly unsettled everyone. People are speculating that you’ll come out in favour of Granger’s Reconciliation Act.”
“Honestly, Scarhead, do you even read the paper?”
“Not really, no.”
“Or ask your friends about their jobs? Their passions?”
“Do you have a point? Because I don’t have to stay.”
“You are too handsome when you’re angry, Harry. No! Don’t go. The Reconciliation Act is Granger’s pet project. She thinks measures need to be taken to reduce discord among war survivors. Crack down on Death Eater Catchers, ban war-based workplace discrimination, that sort of thing.”
“That sounds brilliant,” said Harry.
Blaise smiled rather earnestly.
“Do you want to get a drink sometime, Harry?”
“Like… a date?”
“Yes. Like a date.”
CHOSEN ONE’S GAY AFFAIR WITH SLYTHERIN HEART THROB, thought Harry. It didn’t sound so bad. That’s what they would have said about him and Draco, if— if things had been different.
Blaise was so similar to Draco. Draco without the scars.
“No,” said Harry. “Thank you.”
Blaise looked disappointed.
“Pity,” he said. “Let me know if you change your mind.”
He downed the rest of his drink, winked at Harry, and left.
Harry hadn’t forgotten his promise to Scorpius. A week passed, and he knew he had to check on Draco.
He wondered whether Draco had gone to the pub quiz with Ron and Dean and Luna, as usual, or whether that only happened when Harry was there. It made him miserable to think that Draco was cut off from people because of Harry. In fairness, everything to do with Draco made him miserable.
He decided to go to Draco’s bookshop. Less intimate than going to the flat, he reasoned. That was the problem— they had become too intimate. Two single gay men shouldn’t spend so much time alone together getting drunk and talking about their feelings. If it hadn’t been for that, it would all have been fine, probably.
It was a disorganised little shop, crammed full of books that were stacked so precariously that Harry was sure Draco was using magic to maintain them. He heard Draco before he saw him.
“Sure, if you value fame over quality, by all means read Hard Times.”
“Look, will you just ring the book up?” said an annoyed female voice. “I really don’t need a running commentary.”
“I’ve got Bleak House right here. It’s a far superior Dickens novel.”
“It’s huge. I haven’t the time.”
“Oh, I see. You don’t like to be challenged. Prefer your books easy and unrewarding, do you?”
“Sometimes difficult things are the most worthwhile.”
“I should have listened to the Yelp reviews. They said you were rude.”
“Charmingly candid, surely?”
“I’ll take Bleak House AND Hard Times,” said the woman, sounding resigned.
“You won’t regret it. Unless you read Hard Times. You will regret that.”
The woman laughed. Apparently Draco had successfully charmed her.
“I’ll be back, young man.”
“Thank you for your business,” said Draco, smugly.
The woman bustled past Harry, clutching her two books, and Harry sidled past a stack of WWI memoirs to the cash register.
“Hey,” he said.
Draco looked up, startled.
“You terrorised that poor woman.”
Draco waved his hand.
“She should be grateful. I’ve given her the gift of Bleak House.”
“How have you read so many muggle novels?”
Draco picked up a scanning contraption and started scanning barcodes on a pile of books on the counter.
“Granger,” he said. “She passed a bill that put a library full of muggle books in Azkaban. Read quite a bit, in there.”
Draco wasn’t looking at him. Harry leant his elbow on the counter. He kept getting distracted by remembering that he had been inside Draco.
“Promised Scorpius I’d check on you once a week,” he said, because it was an appropriate thing to say and that was what Harry wanted to be; appropriate.
Draco’s clever grey eyes flicked up.
“I can send you an owl next week. You don’t have to actually come and check on me.”
Harry considered this. It was proving more difficult not to kiss Draco than he had anticipated. And he couldn’t kiss Draco, so maybe it would be best if they just didn’t see each other, until this crush had run its course.
Harry wondered if Draco was thinking about kissing him, too. He didn’t seem to be thinking of anything but the shop as he scanned the books with his long, nimble fingers…
“I saw Blaise,” said Harry, sort of by mistake.
Draco’s fingers paused on Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, then brought it up to be scanned.
“He asked me out. I said no,” said Harry.
“Why? Because he’s a Slytherin?” Draco didn’t sound bitter. He sounded curious.
“No, because he’s your ex.”
“You didn’t mention that to him, did you?”
“No. He asked after you, though.”
Draco gave a low, unhappy laugh.
“Did he,” he murmured. “What did you say?”
“That you were well.”
“How delightfully vague.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t know the whole story between you two, I didn’t want to put my foot in it.”
Draco shot him a knowing look.
“Sorry,” said Harry. “I’m not trying to worm it out of you.”
“I know you’re not,” said Draco, and now he was looking at Harry properly, his eyes gentle and understanding. He sighed. “I’ve often thought that Blaise is who I would have been, if I hadn’t made so many God-awful decisions.”
This was so exactly what Harry himself had thought that he was taken aback.
Draco looked thoughtful.
“Maybe you should give him a chance,” he said.
“Go on a date with him. I think you two would be good together.”
“Come off it.”
“No, really. He’s handsome, funny, well-dressed. Just the right amount of bad. Lives in the real world with you.” Draco was looking at him intently, but again, he didn’t seem hurt or closed off. He seemed… concerned. “I’m serious. You could do worse. If anyone could make you happy, he could.”
“You actually mean it.”
Draco smiled lopsidedly.
“I’m your wingman, aren’t I?”
“Best wingman I’ve ever had,” said Harry. He frowned at the counter. “I’m sorry I disappeared. I just… needed a bit of space. Still do.”
Draco rolled his eyes.
“I know, Potter. I can read transparent social signals.”
“Right, I just wanted you to know I’ll come back. Cos we’re friends, yeah?”
“Christ, Potter, don’t be such a girl.”
“I’ll make you a friendship bracelet if you’re not careful.”
“Go on a date with Blaise,” said Draco firmly.
“Yeah. It will clear your head, I think.”
Suddenly, Harry understood. Draco wanted to be allowed to make stupid decisions again, to make mistakes like a normal twenty-something, without it having far-reaching consequences on himself and his son. To be able to drunkenly shag a friend without it mattering.
Draco could sense that it had mattered to Harry, and he was trying to divert Harry’s attention elsewhere, so they could get back to being friends. Harry remembered how quickly, how pleadingly he had reiterated that it was just a shag.
The pained feeling in Harry’s chest at the thought that Draco didn’t really like him was incredibly selfish, Harry told himself.
“All right,” he said. “I’ll go on a date with Blaise.”
8 pm, tonight. The Italian restaurant off Diagon Alley. You’re paying.
You are so charmingly brusque! Like a lumberjack. Makes me shiver all over.
A plus tard,
Blaise was fifteen minutes late.
“You’re late,” said Harry.
“Am I? My hair was being uncooperative. But I cowed it into submission. It looks lovely now, doesn’t it?”
Blaise ordered for both of them in Italian without consulting Harry.
“I hope you like mussels,” he said. Harry swallowed uncomfortably.
Blaise continued to make sexual innuendoes and smirk at Harry until their food arrived. Then he became abruptly earnest again.
“Did Draco mention me?” he asked.
“Er… a bit?”
“What did he say?”
“Not much, really.”
Blaise seemed to take this in. He put his chin in his hand.
“I was once very much in love with Draco Malfoy,” he said.
“Oh,” said Harry blankly. “Were you— was it serious?”
Blaise stirred his drink idly with his straw.
“I asked him to marry me.”
“In seventh year,” said Blaise, twisting his mouth into a strained smile. “He said yes. I hope you won’t think me conceited if I tell you that he was in love with me, too.”
“So… what happened?”
Blaise raised his eyebrows.
“You, Harry. You defeated the Dark Lord, and I no longer thought it wise to associate myself with a Death Eater.”
“So you just dumped him?” asked Harry, suddenly finding Blaise considerably less attractive.
Blaise shrugged self-consciously.
“I had to think of myself.”
“But you loved him.”
“Oh, yes. I loved him.”
Harry frowned. Blaise was looking at him with an intense, hard look in his dark brown eyes, as if daring Harry to ask more. He was clearly still hung up on Draco, and frankly, that wasn’t a can of worms Harry was interested in opening.
“So… when did he marry Astoria?”
“He fell into bed with her on a rebound, knocked her up, and married her to preserve her honour. Oh—I know what you’re thinking. But we pureblood families are so particular, you know. It would have been more disreputable for her to have a child out of wedlock than for her to have an imprisoned war criminal as a husband.”
That hadn’t been what Harry was thinking, in fact. He had been thinking that Malfoy had never been in love with Astoria, which gave him a peculiar feeling behind the ribs.
“Draco’s really never told you all this?”
“We don’t talk about the war much,” said Harry.
“Ah,” said Blaise. “Well, I must say that that is unexpectedly generous of him.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, does he know you’re here with me?”
“Yes. He said we’d probably get on.”
An expression that was unmistakably guilt crossed Blaise’s handsome face.
“And he didn’t mention anything about… after Azkaban?”
Blaise’s eyes glittered.
“What happened after Azkaban?”
“I shouldn’t be telling you this. It doesn’t paint me in the most flattering light.”
“Why are you telling me?”
“Guilty conscience? And… well, Draco’s never been good at complaining about the things that actually hurt him. We were always talking about him behind his back, in Slytherin. Telling each other his problems so that he wouldn’t have to.” He took a sip of wine. “Part of being Draco’s friend is having other people tell you what’s going on in his head, I’m afraid.”
“Who said anything about healthy? It’s Draco.”
“Fine. Go on.”
“He was let out of Azkaban four months early. Good behaviour. Only Astoria was never very organised; she missed the letter with his release date, so he got out—wandless; that was one of the stipulations; a year with no magic— and she and Scorpius were still in France. His parents were dead, of course. He was allowed to send one short-distance owl. He asked me if he could crash on my couch. I said no.”
Harry made a small, outraged sound.
“I know,” said Blaise. “It didn’t occur to me that he wouldn’t have anyone else—and you have no idea what it’s been like for Slytherins; the amount of prejudice—I might have lost my job…” he petered out, took another sip of wine, then continued. “Then that Prophet article came out.”
“What Prophet article?”
“‘Homeless Death Eater Starving on Streets of London.’”
“He was homeless?”
“I went looking for him after that. Astoria found him first. Took him back to France. Killed herself a few months later. It was a pretty rough homecoming, I imagine.”
“Would you like the dessert menu?” asked the chirpy waiter.
“Ooooo, do you have banoffee pie?” asked Blaise. “I adore banoffee pie.”
“How marvellous. Two banoffee pies, please.”
Harry felt as if his thoughts were trudging through thick mud. Horror and guilt clung to him as he tried to find words.
“You… you were a coward,” he said.
Blaise looked taken aback.
“Yes. I suppose I was.”
“You were so concerned about what other people would say if you were with him that you didn’t stop to think about how he was feeling.”
Blaise stared at him, wounded.
“You hurt him,” said Harry.
“Yes, Harry, all of this has occurred to me before—oh.”
Harry put his head in his hands.
“I fucked up.”
“Oh,” said Blaise again.
“What do I do?”
“I’m not sure I’m the best person to advise.”
“I’m so fucking useless.”
“Pull yourself together,” said Blaise, looking around anxiously. “Don’t have a break down on me, Chosen One, I implore you.”
“I have to go.”
“Yes, I think that’s probably best.”
“I’m such an idiot.”
“Glad I could help you come to that conclusion.”
Harry glanced up at him.
“Did you know?”
“No. But I thought it was a possibility. You two were always obsessed with each other, in school.” He paused. “You’d be good together, you know.”
“That’s what he said about you and me.”
Blaise shook his head.
“I’ve dated people who fought in the war before. It never works out. I can’t relate. We don’t… match.”
“Banoffee pie!” said the waiter, brightly.
“Heavenly! All for me! Off you go, Harry.”
“See you around, Blaise.”
“Do send my love to Draco.”
Harry hurried out of the restaurant and apparated straight into Draco’s living room.
It was empty.
“Draco? I have to talk to y—”
There was blood on the floor, rather a lot of blood. Heart thudding in his ears, Harry followed the red trail to a horribly familiar sight: Draco Malfoy bleeding to death in a bathroom.
Draco was breathing, barely. He did not respond to Harry’s frenzied cries, nor did he open his eyes. Harry immobilised him and apparated them to St Mungo’s, where Draco was hastily placed on a gurney and carted away.
“I need to go with him!”
“Are you family?” asked a healer.
“I’m—no—I’m Harry Potter!” said Harry, stupidly, but it seemed to work. Harry was permitted to stay near Draco as healers pored over him, diagnosing curses and stopping the blood flow.
“Can you tell us anything about the assailants? It may help us diagnose the curses used,” asked a healer. Harry explained everything he knew about Death Eater Catchers.
“Is he going to be okay?”
“He’s in a critical condition,” said the healer.
Harry cast a patronus.
“Tell Professor McGonagall that Draco Malfoy has been injured and Scorpius must come to St Mungo’s immediately.” His stag galloped away. He quickly cast another, telling Ron to what had happened
Then he waited by Draco’s bed, feeling sick.
Ron arrived ten minutes later, his freckles garish on his pallid face.
“Is he okay?”
“They don’t know yet.”
“I’ve informed the auror office, they’re at his flat now, collecting evidence,” said Ron.
“If they don’t catch the people who did this, I will,” said Harry, fiercely.
Ron put an arm around him for a quick side hug before dropping him.
“Have you sent for Scorpius yet?”
“Yeah, they’re probably sorting out the portkey now.”
Ron sighed and leant back in the plastic visitor’s chair.
“What happened between you and Ferret, anyway? Did you break up? He’s been really down all week.”
Harry stared at him, baffled.
“Break up? We weren’t… together.”
“Okay, mate,” said Ron, evidently unconvinced.
“We weren’t! And when did you see him this week?”
Ron looked at him as if he was being deliberately stupid.
“We have a standing weekly chess date.”
“But I wasn’t there to umpire.”
“Harry, mate… you don’t need an umpire for chess. That was just Ferret’s plot to get you to spend more time with me.”
“Same with the bloody pub quiz with Dean and Luna. You think he wanted to see them?”
“I thought—he’s been lonely.”
“I guess. I mean, he sees his muggle friends literally every day. And you know how traumatic it was for him to see Dean and Luna. He did it so that you’d start hanging out with us again.”
Harry stared at Draco, who was incased in a thick bubble of healing spells.
“I didn’t…” he suddenly understood something. “Did he owl you all and tell you to leave me alone this week?”
“Yeah, said you needed a bit of space. Seriously, what happened?”
“We slept together. Then I freaked out and vanished. Not before making some cryptic remarks about him being a Death Eater.”
Ron looked deeply unimpressed.
“Nice one, mate. Just what he needed; to feel more insecure about his past.”
“Yeah, I know, all right? And then I went on a date with Blaise Zabini and realised what a monumental twat I was being, and when I went to apologise, I found him like this!”
Ron made a face.
“What a fucking mess.”
Harry nodded glumly.
The door opened. Scorpius came barrelling through it, looking tiny and terrified in blue pyjamas.
He stopped short at the bed, his face working, then turned to Harry.
“He’s going to die,” he said.
“No, they don’t know yet,” said Harry. He held out his arms and Scorpius crawled into his lap.
“What if he dies?” he asked.
“He won’t,” said Harry, hoping he wasn’t lying. Scorpius nuzzled into his shoulder, trying not to cry.
“But what if he does?”
“He won’t. And I’ll take care of you until he’s better, okay?”
Scorpius nodded and started to cry quietly into Harry’s shirt. Harry made soft noises and stroked his hair, conscious that Ron was watching him.
“We need to tell Eve and Nick and Flora,” said Harry.
“You can’t!” said Scorpius, jerking his tear-stained face up to look at Harry. “It’s against the Statute!”
“I really couldn’t care less about the Statute, Scorpius. When Draco wakes up, I want his friends to be here. And they’ll be worried about him.”
“They’ll send him back to Azkaban!” said Scorpius shrilly. “We can’t!”
“Mate, drop it,” said Ron.
“Scorpius, darling, listen to me,” said Harry. “Let me worry about all this. I’ll go to the minister tomorrow and explain the circumstances.”
“The Minister for Magic?”
“If he says it’s okay, they can’t get dad in trouble, can they?”
“Okay,” said Scorpius. He turned tearfully towards Ron and stuck out his hand. “Hello, I’m Scorpius Malfoy.”
“Ron Weasley. You can call me Weasel.”
“My dad almost poisoned you once,” said Scorpius, shrinking nervously back into Harry’s arms.
“That was kind of an accident,” said Ron uncomfortably.
“Evil can’t be undone,” said Scorpius.
“Ferre— Malf— your dad wasn’t evil,” said Ron. “He was just a bit of a prat. Anyway, we’re friends now.”
“You’re friends?” repeated Scorpius.
“Yeah,” said Ron. “He’s really good at chess!” he added defensively.
“I didn’t say anything!” said Harry.
They waited in the hospital for another hour. Scorpius alternated between standing very close to the bed, staring at Draco, and curling up in Harry’s lap. He did not cry again. Finally, a healer told them Draco was in a stable condition, and that nothing more would be done for him that night.
“Come on,” said Harry to Scorpius. “You can stay at mine.”
When they got back to Grimmauld Place, Harry went to the kitchen and made pancakes.
“Midnight Breakfast,” said Scorpius, when Harry put a plate in front of him.
“For when bad things happen,” said Harry.
Scorpius shook his head.
“Only sometimes. Sometimes it’s just because Dad is happy.”
Harry found it hard to eat his pancakes, after that.
Scorpius encountered no such difficulty. He ate every bite. His table manners were exemplary. When he was done, he placed his cutlery neatly on his plate and stared at his clasped hands.
“Henry Biggs said… Henry Biggs said you’re only being nice to us because you’re sleeping with Dad.”
For a second, Harry thought he had misheard. But Scorpius looked so unhappy that he knew he hadn’t.
“The more I hear about this Henry Biggs, the less keen I feel on him,” said Harry, weakly. Scorpius didn’t say anything. He didn’t even look at Harry.
“Scorpius…” Harry sighed. “Look. There is nothing that could happen between me and your dad that would change the fact that I love you.”
Scorpius put his head on the table and sobbed. Harry had never heard him cry like that, and he instinctively knew that Scorpius wouldn’t have cried like that in front of him, if Harry hadn’t told him he loved him. He would never have allowed himself to.
Harry walked around the table to crouch by Scorpius. The moment Scorpius felt Harry, he melted into him.
“I… I don’t want to go to a home for war orphans,” he said, between great, gulping sobs.
Harry picked him and carried him to the sofa.
“Your dad’s going to be fine,” he said, kissing the top of Scorpius’ head. “But if he’s not, you can come live with me.”
“Do you promise?”
“I promise. Although you could also live with Nick and Flora, you know, or Eve. You have so many people who love you, Scorpius. So many people who would love to take care of you.”
“But I could live with you? You promise?”
“I promise. You want to shake on it?”
Scorpius nodded. Harry held out his hand. It was awkward, given the way Scorpius was nestled in his arms.
“I promise you can live with me. I promise to take care of you,” he said.
Scorpius took his hand and shook it.
“Thank you,” he said.
Grimmauld Place produced a small, neat bedroom, all hung in Ravenclaw colours. Harry tucked Scorpius in and left the door open.
“Harry?” said Scorpius, as Harry was about to leave.
“I love you too.”
Harry went back in and kissed him on the forehead before going to his own bedroom. He had an owl to send.
The next morning, Draco was still unconscious. He had been changed into a loose hospital gown, and was heavily bandaged.
“Here are his personal effects,” said a healer, handing Harry a neat pile of clothes, a wallet, and keys.
“I’ll keep them safe,” said Harry, moving to stow them in his robes— until something caught his attention, a crinkling in the inside jacket pocket. Harry reached in a found a letter. It was a little crumpled, and in very familiar handwriting. Harry’s handwriting. Glancing around to check that no one was looking, he unfolded it.
Andromeda has given us the all clear! I’ll take Scorpius over at ten tomorrow.
I may be completely wrong here, but it seems like you think you’re ruining Scorpius’ life. And I guess it makes sense that you would worry about that, because (at least from my perspective), your dad ruined yours. But I grew up without a father, and I would have given anything to have someone love me like you love Scorpius. I know you think he’d be better off without you. I promise you, he wouldn’t.
I’m sorry if I’m overstepping by saying all this. I just thought you should know that you have no idea how lucky Scorpius is to have you. You’re a wonderful father.
Something was clutching in his throat. Draco had never mentioned that letter, never responded to it. No, he’d just kept it in his pocket. For months.
He folded it back up and put it away.
“Come on, darling,” he said Scorpius. “We’re going to the Ministry.”
Harry held Scorpius’ hand tightly as he fought his way through crowds of interested well-wishers in the atrium.
“Is that Teddy Lupin?” asked a witch, smiling beatifically at Scorpius.
“No, it’s Scorpius Malfoy,” said Harry, pulling Scorpius closer.
“Oh, how— how lovely,” said the witch.
“Excuse me, we’re in a hurry,” said Harry.
Hermione was waiting for them outside Kingsley’s office.
“Hello,” she said. “You must be Scorpius. I’m Hermione.”
“Hermione Granger,” breathed Scorpius, looking starstruck.
“Yes. I’ve heard all about you from Harry and Ron, of course. I’m so sorry about your father.”
Scorpius seemed at a loss for words. Hermione turned to Harry.
“I think this is a wonderful idea, Harry. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before. I’ve written a draft of the amendment already.”
“But I only owled you about it last night!”
“It’s very rough. Just a few notes, really,” said Hermione, taking out an enormous stack of paper. Harry laughed and shook his head.
“I’ve missed you,” he said.
Kingsley sat behind his desk. He did not seem surprised to see them.
“There was a rumour that you were rampaging around,” he said to Harry. He turned to Scorpius. “Mr. Malfoy, I presume?”
“Scorpius. How do you do,” said Scorpius.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Scorpius. I’m Kingsley. I was sorry to hear about your father. How is he today?”
“They’re still trying to figure out what spells were used by his attackers,” said Harry. Kingsley nodded gravely.
“How can I help you, Harry? Hermione?”
“I’m just letting you know that I’m going to be bringing Draco’s muggle friends to St Mungo’s. Five of them.”
“I’m not asking, Kingsley. I’m telling you. If you had put Draco under ministry protection when I asked you, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“That’s what we wanted to talk about,” interjected Hermione. “We’d like to propose an amendment to the Statute of Secrecy to facilitate muggle-wizard interactions. Under the new legislation, a witch or wizard would be able to file for exceptions to the Statute on the basis of personal relationships.” She put her stack of papers on Kingsley’s desk. “It would function something like muggle immigration systems.”
“Does that mean that we could tell Eve and Nick and Flora about Hogwarts?” asked Scorpius.
“We’re telling them no matter what,” growled Harry.
“Yes, well,” said Hermione, slightly nervously, “under ordinary circumstances there would be an application procedure—”
“Just try to put me in Azkaban. Just try,” said Harry.
“Harry,” said Kingsley. “There’s no need to be inflammatory. You may of course inform Mr. Malfoy’s friends about his position in the wizarding world, given the circumstances. I’ll send the paperwork over to St Mungo’s. As to the amendment, I’m intrigued by the idea, myself. Don’t forget I lived in the muggle world for quite some time, during the war. I well remember the difficulties the Statute posed in making meaningful connections there.”
“Right. Well…good,” said Harry, who had come prepared to fight. Scorpius went to the desk and took Kingsley’s hand in both his own.
“You don’t know how much my dad wanted this. Even if he—it would have made him happy. Thank you.”
Harry never tired of watching Scorpius disarm people.
When they took leave of Hermione, Scorpius blushed furiously red and said something in a low voice.
“What was that?” asked Hermione, kindly.
“Would… would you let me write you a letter? You wouldn’t have to write back. I wouldn’t bother you, I promise. Only dad always said you were the cleverest witch he ever met, and I—”
Hermione had gone bright red as well.
“Oh! That’s… unexpected,” she said. “Of course you can write to me. I love getting post.”
She scribbled her address on a piece of paper and gave it to Scorpius, who folded it reverently, as if it was a priceless treasure.
“Come on, Scorpius,” said Harry. “Let’s tell your friends you’re a wizard.”
“Eve is going to be so mad,” he said.
“Magic,” said Eve, staring at the cupboard Harry had set on fire and then doused. “Fucking magic.”
“Is that why your books are never heavy, Scorp?” asked Fran. Scorpius nodded.
“It’s called accidental magic.”
“Your accidental magic makes your books lighter? You really are a Ravenclaw.”
“But why didn’t Draco tell us this before?” asked Nick.
“It’s illegal. They would have sent him back to prison.”
“Wizard prison,” said Eve, faintly.
“So how come you’re telling us? Won’t they send you to prison?” asked Nick.
“Harry’s a war hero,” said Scorpius.
“Er,” said Harry, as Nick and Flora stared at him. Eve still had her eyes fixed on the cupboard Harry had enchanted.
“But is Draco okay?” asked Flora. “You said he’d been attacked again.”
“Of course he’s okay,” said Eve. “He’s got magic!”
“Well. Magic can’t really solve everything. And the people who attacked him used magic, as well.”
“Draco always said the people attacking him were enemies from prison,” said Nick.
“Wizard prison,” said Eve.
“Not exactly. Draco… sort of fought on the wrong side of a war.”
“So you guys were enemies?” asked Nick.
“Not… not really.”
“You were,” said Scorpius. “He broke your nose.”
“Yeah, well, we weren’t… close.”
“You cursed him. That’s why dad has those scars on his chest.”
Harry was extremely uncomfortable.
“That was you?” asked Nick, his voice edging towards hostility. “Those scars are fucking horrible!”
“Language,” said Flora.
“I didn’t know what that spell did! And he cursed me first!”
“He told us they were from a prison knife fight!”
“Look, it was complicated! We were sixteen—”
“Hang on,” said Eve. “This happened in school?”
“The same school that our Scorpius is currently attending?”
“It wasn’t the school’s fault—”
“What the hell kind of school for wizard psychopaths is this? It doesn’t sound safe!”
“Hogwarts is the best place in the whole world,” said Scorpius.
“But is Draco okay?” asked Flora again.
“He’s… I don’t know,” admitted Harry. “But I wanted you guys to be able to visit him in hospital.”
“Wizard hospital,” said Eve.
She kept this up when they arrived at St Mungo’s.
“Wizard doctors,” she said.
“They’re called healers.”
“It’s more like potions— you know what, never mind.”
But Draco was still unconscious. A healer explained that they were keeping him in stasis while they tried to figure out how to close his wounds. They kept re-opening, she said. Fran and Andy seemed perfectly happy to accept the sudden existence of magic, but Nick and Eve and Flora were clearly too distraught by the sight of Draco’s bloodied wound dressings to notice the spells that were wrapped around him.
A week went by, and Draco still had not woken up. Harry and Scorpius spent all day at the hospital. Often they were joined by Draco’s friends, and sometimes by Ron or Hermione. Scorpius was completely tongue-tied whenever Hermione was near, and blushed if she so much as looked at him.
“Do you want Anthea and Titus to visit?” Harry asked him.
“Anthea wouldn’t let them miss school, I don’t think.”
“Maybe they can come in the Christmas holidays,” said Harry.
Scorpius nodded unhappily. Harry knew they were both thinking that if Draco wasn’t better by then, it would be because he was dead.
But finally, the healers announced that they would be bringing Draco out of his stasis.
“Does this mean he’s out of danger?”
“We think so,” said the healer. “Although he’ll still be very weak.”
The next morning, Harry, Scorpius, Nick, Flora and Eve gathered around Draco’s bed. The healer removed the spells that had been keeping him unconscious, and he began to stir.
“Dad,” breathed Scorpius. Draco turned his head and opened his eyes.
“Scorpius,” he whispered.
“Dad, dad, you’re okay,” said Scorpius. Draco smiled, and fell asleep.
He woke up up again a few hours later.
“Scorpius,” he said.
“How much school have you missed?”
“A bit over a week,” said Scorpius.
“A week??” said Draco, starting. He tried to sit up, before wincing and collapsing back into his pillows.
“Oh, don’t be such a hard-arse, Draco,” said Eve. Draco frowned at her.
“I’m dreaming,” he said, and fell back asleep.
Half an hour later, he opened his eyes again.
“Where am I?”
“St Mungo’s,” said Flora.
“Why can’t I wake up,” he said, more to himself than to anyone else.
“You’re not dreaming,” said Harry. “I told them about magic.”
“Hey. It’s good to see you awake.”
Draco was looking at him as if he was still dreaming.
“You told them,” he said.
“Can’t believe you didn’t tell us you were a bloody wizard, Draco. That’s a next-level secret,” said Eve. “Remember how mad you got when I didn’t tell you I’d shagged Hot Jeremy from Starbucks?”
“Harry,” said Draco, urgently. “Did you tell them—did you tell them about—did you—do they know—”
His expression went blank.
“Dad,” said Scorpius. “It’s Scorpius. You’re in St Mungo’s. Dad.”
Draco blinked, reached up a hand to stroke Scorpius’ chin.
“You shouldn’t be missing school, darling,” he said.
“You were about to die!” said Harry.
“Don’t be so melodramatic,” murmured Draco. “Scorpius, darling, I love you so much.”
“I love you too. I was scared.”
“We were all so worried,” said Nick. Draco turned to look at him, and his expression immediately went blank again.
“Let’s give them some space,” said Harry, as Scorpius started calling his dad back. “Come on.”
Eve, Nick and Flora followed him out of the room.
Harry was pretty sure he knew what was upsetting Draco.
“You know how Draco told you he was in a white supremacist gang?”
“It wasn’t white supremacy. It was magical supremacy. He was prejudiced against people without magic. The group he was a part of— and by the way, he didn’t have much choice in that, it was sort of kill or be killed, I reckon—they attacked muggles. People without magic. Like you guys.”
Flora laughed softly.
“We always knew it was something like that,” she said.
“That whatever it was, he used to hate people like us. We could tell, just from the things he used to say. Especially at first.”
“He used to apologise all the time,” said Nick. “In these weird, excessive ways.”
“We thought it was to do with class,” said Eve.
“Poor Draco,” said Flora. “He must think we won’t like him anymore.”
“He’s a fucking idiot,” said Eve. “He’s always been a fucking idiot. Right, let’s go and tell him we don’t care what a prick he was ten years ago.”
Harry didn’t go in with them. He sat in the corridor and waited. Finally, Flora poked her head out of the door.
“It’s all right,” she said happily. “You can come in now.”
Draco was propped up on his pillows. Scorpius had climbed into bed with him, and Draco’s chin was resting on his head. They both looked slightly dazed, and kept laughing, although Draco’s laughs quickly turned to pained winces.
“…so what about Father Christmas?” Eve was asking.
“Not real,” said Draco.
“Real. But not like in Twilight. Unfortunately.”
The game continued until a healer came and told them visiting hours were over.
“We’ll be back tomorrow,” said Harry.
Draco nodded. He seemed to be having trouble looking Harry in the eye.
“I’m so glad you’re okay,” said Harry, so that no one else could hear. “You have no idea.”
Draco made the gentle sound that was him trying to laugh without hurting himself.
“You lot are all so bloody dramatic. I’m fine.”
Harry rolled his eyes.
“It’s really pretty hard to adjust to the idea that you’re the stoic, suffer-in-silence type. I spent my whole life thinking you were a hypochondriac.”
“That hippogriff practically tore my arm off!”
“But this?” Harry gestured at the wound bandages that covered Draco’s entire body.
“What, this? This is nothing. Piece of cake, compared to Buckbeak.”
Harry made Midnight Breakfast again that night.
“Sometimes it’s just because I’m happy,” he explained. Scorpius grinned at him, although only after he had carefully chewed and swallowed his food. He was a Malfoy, after all.
Harry and Scorpius continued to visit Draco every day. There wasn’t much opportunity to talk to Draco properly, but Harry didn’t mind. It was lovely, just to sit in the same room and watch Draco deliberately lose chess games to his son. Scorpius was an insufferably smug winner. It was one of the few times he reminded Harry of how Malfoy had been at school. The effect was strangely heartwarming.
But after about three days, Scorpius fell asleep while they were visiting. He had his head in Harry’s lap, his feet curled up on the hard plastic chair, and Harry let his hand rest on Scorpius’ blond head.
A long silence fell. It was Draco who broke it.
“I knew you’d take him.”
His voice was soft and wistful.
“You’re his dad,” said Harry. “You’re all he wants.”
“Mhm,” said Draco.
“I’ve been thinking, though,” said Harry, feeling brave. “I think you should move in to Grimmauld Place with me.”
Draco raised his eyebrows.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I put it under fidelius last week. Ron’s the secret keeper. You’d be safe there.”
“I don’t need your protection, Potter. Now that my friends know about the wizarding world, I can just get a flat and put it under the fidelius myself.”
“I know. Or the ministry would give you a safe house, until they find the people who did this to you.”
“So. There’s no need for you to take us in like little beggar children.”
“I was so fucking lonely before you, Draco.”
Draco blinked and swallowed.
“I know,” he said.
“I… look, just think about it. I love Scorpius. It’s been so great having him. It’s… you’d be doing me a favour.”
Draco didn’t speak for so long that Harry was about to recant his offer.
“We’ll pay rent,” he said, finally.
“Do you have to? I’m honestly so rich.”
“Yes. Rent or no deal.”
“Fine. But I decide the amount, and it’s not going to reflect current London housing prices.”
“Fine. But you’re not allowed to spoil Scorpius.”
“I can’t promise that. Maybe I can have, like, a monthly gift allotment or something.”
“This is such a bad idea,” said Draco sadly.
Harry met his eyes.
“I really don’t think it is.”
Draco looked away.
“How was your date with Blaise?” he asked lightly.
“Enlightening. He’s still in love with you, did you know?”
“Yeah. Spent the whole date trying to weasel out information about you.”
“Doesn’t mean anything. He always was a nosy bastard.”
“Trust me. It was more than nosiness.” Harry paused, trying to avoid thinking about the painful twisting in his stomach. “Would you want to be with him, if he was up for it?”
Draco shook his head.
“No. He was never the right person for me, really.”
Harry’s mouth went dry.
“Who… who was?”
Draco fiddled with his hospital blanket.
“Not sure there is a right person for me, to be honest.”
“There is, for me,” said Harry. Draco looked at him sharply, and Harry opened his mouth to go on—
Scorpius sat up, rubbing his eyes.
“What time is it?” he asked.
“Bed time,” said Draco. “And you’re going back to Hogwarts tomorrow.”
“That’s not fair! I want to be here with you!”
“I’m fine. Even the healers say so.”
“I don’t want you to be alone,” said Scorpius.
“He won’t be,” said Harry.
Scorpius did not protest as much as Harry expected him to. It was obvious that when Draco decided something, there wasn’t any chance of convincing him otherwise, and Scorpius saw the futility of disagreement. A portkey was organised for the next day, Harry left Draco and Scorpius alone to say goodbye, and before he knew it he was saying goodbye to Scorpius himself.
“Dad says we’re coming to live with you,” said Scorpius.
“If that’s okay with you,” said Harry.
“Of course it is!” Scorpius paused, looking suddenly serious. “You will take care of him, won’t you?”
“Yes,” said Harry, matching his seriousness. “I’m going to take such good care of him.”
Scorpius nodded solemnly.
“That’s good,” he said. “I’ll see you at Christmas, Harry. Can I invite Anthea and Titus?”
Scorpius placed his hand on the portkey (an old coke can) and disappeared.
Three days later, Draco was discharged from St Mungo’s. Harry took him back to Grimmauld Place through the floo. It was difficult to manoeuvre because Draco had insisted on transfiguring the efficient wheelchair St Mungo’s had provided for him (Draco was too weak to walk more than a few steps) into a more aesthetically pleasing, Victorian wicker contraption.
“If I’m going to be an invalid, I’m going to do it with style,” he said.
He was certainly the most stylish invalid Harry had ever seen. Ron had brought him clothes from his flat, so he was exquisitely dressed as always. Harry wheeled him out to the garden, because it was a miraculously sunny day for late November.
Draco turned his face up to the sun.
“I used to play here when I was little,” he said.
“Is it weird to be back?”
Harry wanted to ask more, but Draco has closed his eyes and fallen asleep.
The first few days that Draco lived in Grimmauld Place were among the most peaceful of Harry’s life. Ron came over and played a quiet game of chess with Draco. Draco read Harry passages from Thomas Hardy, his favourite muggle author. (Harry was disturbed to learn that the main reason for this was Draco’s assertion that Hardy understood “what life was really like”. As far as Harry could tell, Hardy’s worldview was unremittingly bleak. But Draco told him it was beautiful, and honestly Harry didn’t care too much what Draco read him, when his voice was so rich and lilting.) They drank copious cups of tea. Draco fell asleep constantly, in the middle of sentences, halfway through meals, or while Harry pushed him through the garden.
They kept touching each other. Little gestures, at first— Draco tapped Harry’s arm to get his attention. Harry brushed a strand of Draco’s hair out of his eyes when he fell asleep. Draco rested his head on Harry’s shoulder when Hermione came to visit, and talked about the Reconciliation Act for forty-five minutes without pausing for breath. (It had been hard for Draco to see Hermione again, anyway. He did not apologise to her—Harry noticed that he rarely apologised to anyone for his role in the war; Harry suspected because he did not want to be forgiven—but he blanked out several times when she first arrived, and was so polite that he made everyone uncomfortable.)
Harry helped him in and out of his wheelchair. There was often a moment when they lingered in each other’s arms before Draco groped his way to or from the chair.
He was using it less and less, anyway. By the time he’d been at Grimmauld Place a week, he walked with a cane, and they only used the wheelchair if he got one of his headaches.
“I’m sorry I can’t give you career advice,” said Draco one day. They were sitting on the balcony overlooking the garden. Draco wore a thick, quilted dressing gown and shabby monogramed slippers. He clutched his cup of tea for warmth. He was always cold, since the attack.
“I didn’t ask you for career advice,” said Harry.
“I feel as if I ought to be able to say, Aha, I’ve got it, your true calling is… wand making!”
“No. I don’t think you have a true calling.”
“I do. It was to kill Voldemort. I did it already,” said Harry, emptily. He didn’t know why they were talking about this.
“You barely even killed him. He killed himself.”
“You should write my biographies. ‘Harry Potter and the Anti-climax.’”
“Don’t tempt me. No, listen, Potter. You haven’t got a calling. Most people haven’t. But you need to feel needed. Don’t you?”
“So? What kind of job should I get, then? How can I be professionally needy?”
“No need to get defensive.”
“It’s just useless, that’s all. I’ve thought about all this already.”
“All those things you did in school— killing the basilisk, learning to cast a patronus at thirteen, the Triwizard Tournament— all of it—you did because you had to. An external force pushed you.”
“Yeah, and it turns out if there’s no one pushing me I’m a total fucking waste of space; I know, Malfoy.”
“I’m pushing you.”
“No, you’re not.”
“I am. You’re to stop feeling so sorry for yourself and get a job.”
“Or I’ll lose respect for you.”
Harry surveyed him over his tea cup. Draco was watching him steadily, and Harry’s pulse quickened.
“You’re being a dick,” he told him.
“Mhm. It’s what I do best,” said Draco.
“What kind of job?”
“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You can get a different one in six months if you don’t like whatever you choose. You just have to try something.”
Harry leant back in his chair.
“What if I’m bad at it?”
“You probably will be. You’re a dunce; I’ve always said so.”
“It’ll be in the papers. CHOSEN ONE IN OFFICE FAILURE.”
“You don’t read the papers.”
“I don’t need a job. I’m rich.”
“Your biography doesn’t have to be top-heavy, Harry,” said Draco, his voice suddenly gentle. “So you’ve taken a few years off, so what? You have decades and decades to accomplish things.”
“Why should I listen to you, when I haven’t listened to Ron and Hermione, and—and everyone else?”
Draco cocked his head.
“Has it occurred to you that you could improve my standing in society? Only if you’re a member of society yourself, of course.”
“You’re such a Slytherin.”
“Surely you didn’t think I was motivated by anything other than self-interest.”
“No—I mean, because you’re a conniving, slippery bastard. You don’t want me to improve your standing in society. You just know that if I think you want that, I’d do anything to help you. Including getting a job.”
Draco tapped his fingers on his teacup, clearly confused.
“You didn’t think I knew you so well,” said Harry.
“There’s a muggle novel called The Bell Jar. In it, there is a description of a girl in a fig tree, trying to decide which fig she should eat. She takes so long to decide that all the figs rot and fall off the tree.”
“You miss your job,” said Harry, realisation dawning on him. Draco’s expression closed, and he put his cup down.
“I’m afraid I haven’t got a job anymore,” he said, sounding about six times posher than normal. “Nick was unable to convince the shop owner that my leave of absence was legitimate.”
“I have savings. You won’t be short of rent.”
“You know I couldn’t care less if you pay rent. I’d much rather you didn’t.”
“I’m not your pet,” snarled Draco. Harry snapped his mouth shut.
Draco rubbed his eyes.
“I’m sorry. My head hurts. It’s hard—”
“I like teaching,” said Harry. “I think I would feel… useful…if I could teach.”
Draco smiled wanly.
“Well, then, Professor. Let’s get you a teaching job.”
Harry thought the only teaching jobs available in the wizarding world were at Hogwarts. Draco soon showed him that he was mistaken. There were a few wizarding universities; there was auror training, there was tutoring, magical primary schools, and homeschooling.
Draco helped him pour over newspaper want ads and draft out a CV.
“Defeated Dark Lord: May 1998,” wrote Draco. “Skills learnt: dedication & teamwork.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“Do you think we can put Dumbledore as your employer for that? Shame he can’t give you a reference.”
“Sorry. Have you any special skills?”
“That’s a first year spell, Harry.”
“My patronus is good.”
“Can produce corporeal patronus,” wrote Draco, biting his lip in concentration.
Predictably, Harry got the first job he applied for, as a tutor for a fifteen-year-old witch who had to be homeschooled for health reasons.
“I’m going to be crap,” he said, ten minutes before the first session.
“Yes,” agreed Draco. “You’ll probably spoil her entire education.”
“What if I just… panic…and shout at her?”
“You’ll scar her for life. I certainly would never let you forget it. Haven’t you got any robes that fit you properly? Here, take mine.”
“You’re taller than me.”
“Not by much.”
As it happened, Harry did not panic. Homeschooling Mabel Manning was very similar to teaching the DA. She was a shy girl who had suffered a traumatic head injury, and so couldn’t focus for long periods of time. Harry was used to dealing with that sort of thing, because of Draco. By the end of the session, he felt confident that not only was this something he could do, but it was something he could do well.
“Oh, were you perfect? What a big fucking surprise,” said Draco, upon his return.
“You got a job?” asked Hermione, when Harry told her about it on her next visit.
“I’ve had a job for years,” said Draco.
Hermione ignored him.
“But that’s wonderful, Harry, really wonderful!”
“It’s only four hours a week,” said Draco.
“Fine!” said Harry, exasperated. “I’ll get another student!”
“You’re a lazy shit until you’re working at least ten hours a week,” said Draco.
“Malfoy!” exclaimed Hermione.
Draco’s smile dropped. He cleared his throat politely and left the living room.
“He wasn’t being—that’s just how he and I are, Hermione.”
“I want him to support you.”
“He is. Trust me.”
“I’ve done something that’s going to piss you off,” Harry told Draco, that afternoon. Draco was leaning against the kitchen counter as Harry filled the kettle.
“I don’t care if you can afford to buy a Firebolt, that’s an absurd broomstick to give a twelve-year-old, and anyway I’ve been saving up to buy Scorpius his Nimbus for years now—”
“I’m not buying Scorpius a Firebolt. I’ve bought a storefront on Diagon Alley.”
Draco stopped mid-rant.
“I want you to run a muggle bookshop.”
A variety of expressions crossed Draco’s face, so quickly that Harry couldn’t track them properly.
“You bought me a shop,” he said, finally.
“No,” said Harry. He had had time to think, ever since Draco had told him he’d lost his job. “The shop is mine. I want to hire you to manage it.”
“I see. You think that will make me feel less indebted to you.”
“Christ, Draco, I don’t know, maybe you’ll always feel indebted to me.”
Draco laughed unhappily.
“But what I do know is that people will be more likely to go to our bookshop than to yours. And it’s a great idea, you know it is. A pureblood guide through muggle literature? People will lap it up.”
Draco nodded slowly.
“It is a good idea.”
“You’re thinking of reasons to turn it down…”
“…none of which outweigh the benefits it could give Scorpius, if I was less of a social pariah, yeah,” finished Draco.
“So? What do you say?”
Draco groaned and pressed his forehead into Harry’s shoulder.
“I get to pick the name,” he said. “You’d probably just call it BOOKS.”
“Hang on, BOOKS sounds like a great name for a shop,” said Harry, putting an arm around Draco’s narrow shoulders and squeezing.
“‘Bookshop’? ‘The Place Where You Can Buy Books’? ‘Come In Here, We Have Books’?”
“Shut up,” said Draco, and Harry pressed his mouth to the top of his head. “Imbecile.”
“You’re going to be so rude to the customers.”
“I won’t, actually. I’m not rude to people who hate me. Anymore.”
He peeled away from Harry, their moment of contact broken by whatever sadness had reawakened in him.
“They won’t always hate you,” said Harry, softly. Draco didn’t look at him.
“Black tea or mint?”
“Black,” said Harry.
Draco made the teas in silence. He didn’t drink his. He fell asleep at the kitchen table, his head in his arms.
It was snowing, and Harry couldn’t find Draco. He wasn’t in any of his usual spots— the library, with its roaring fireplace and dark green sofas, or the kitchen, or the cosy study where Draco sometimes sat to jot down notes on his books
Finally, Harry tried the garden.
The sun had set, but it wasn’t dark. The moon cast too much light on the fresh, white snow. Draco stood, straight-backed and tall, his arms wrapped tightly around himself, shivering and coatless.
“It’s freezing,” said Harry. Draco didn’t turn around. Harry took off his jacket and slipped over Draco’s shoulders. He left his hands on Draco’s arms, and Draco leant back into his chest.
“What are you doing out here?” asked Harry.
“It snowed like this when I got out of Azkaban,” said Draco. Harry hooked his chin over Draco’s shoulder so that they were cheek to cheek. “I’d always liked snow, before then.”
“I wish I’d tried harder at your trial,” said Harry. “You shouldn’t have gone to Azkaban.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. The fact you spoke at all halved my sentence.”
“You didn’t have a place to stay when you got out. It must have been so cold.”
“Blaise told you,” he said, tonelessly.
Harry nodded, his chin digging into Draco’s shoulder.
“It was fine,” said Draco. “I was fine. It was my first experience among muggles.”
“Not much of an introduction.”
“Actually, I was shocked by how many people were kind to me. A teenage girl brought me a hot chicken sandwich and told me I was handsome, once. It’s silly, but it meant a lot, that someone could still think that of me.”
Harry wrapped his arms all the way around Draco’s slender body and squeezed.
“Fucking hell, how could anyone not think you were handsome,” he said into Draco’s throat. Draco breathed a laugh. “Sorry,” added Harry. “That probably wasn’t the most important part of the story.”
“I’ll never turn down a compliment, Potter.”
Draco’s hands were on Harry’s arms. They were knotted around each other, Harry pressing all the way up Draco’s back. Draco was trembling and fragile— except he wasn’t. He never seemed to break, no matter how many times he was dropped.
“You’re incredible,” said Harry.
Draco turned around. Harry caught him and pressed him even closer. Draco’s arms slipped around to rest, flat-palmed, on Harry’s back.
“When people tell you that, do you believe them?” asked Draco. Harry shook his head. Draco’s mouth jerked into a smile and Harry was suddenly aware of how very, very close their lips were.
“I…” said Harry. It was hard to think when Draco Malfoy was just letting him hold him. “I think I’d believe it if you said it.”
Draco looked completely bewildered.
“Because,” said Harry, leaning in so that their lips touched as he spoke. “Just… because.”
And then they were kissing, a cold, stuttering kiss that set Harry’s insides on fire.
Draco pulled away first.
“I—Harry—this was such a bad idea. I shouldn’t—fuck, oh—”
“Draco, darling,” said Harry, drawing him closer, tucking Draco’s head under his chin. “Talk to me.”
“You just called me darling.”
“Harry…” Draco broke free and took a step away. His eyes met Harry’s with a burning look. “I can’t do this. I’m in love with you.”
“That’s convenient. I’m in love with you, too.”
“No, you’re not.”
“No!” Draco took another step backwards. “You’re not, Potter, you absolute fucking idiot! You’re you and I’m me and you already said we can’t be together and this isn’t a fun game for me!”
“I was an absolute fucking idiot. We had the best sex of my entire life—”
“We didn’t even finish, Potter.”
“Doesn’t matter. It was with you. Draco, fuck, I’ve been obsessed with you since I was thirteen!”
“Because you thought I was up to something! And I was! I was trying to murder your fucking father-figure!”
“Yeah, look, I’m not saying we don’t have shit to work through! But… Draco, look at me. Look at me!”
Draco reluctantly looked at him, and Harry took a tentative step forward. When Draco didn’t shy away, he took another, closing the gap between them. He plunged his fingers into Draco’s hair and tugged their faces together, so that their foreheads touched. Draco’s hands rested on his chest.
“I’m so sorry that I freaked out after we slept together. If you don’t want to be with me, or if we try this and it doesn’t work out, I promise if won’t change me helping you and Scorpius. But I love you,” here, he shook Draco’s head a little, as if to emphasise his point, “and I want to be with you. I want to be part of your family. I want you to pretend to let me look after you while you’re really just looking after me. I want to take you places and get into fights with you and have sex with you and listen to you talk about books and make fun of you. You make me feel like the rest of my life isn’t a fucking afterthought. I just want you. I think I deserve you.”
“I don’t deserve you,” said Draco. He spoke so quietly that Harry had to strain to hear him.
“The war is over, Draco. You have to forgive yourself.”
“I will never forgive myself,” said Draco fiercely. “Never.”
“Okay,” said Harry, kissing him chastely, soothingly. “Okay. We’ll revisit that later. Fine. You think you don’t deserve me. But what if you’re the only thing that can make me happy? Do I deserve happiness?”
“You manipulative little pseudo-Slytherin,” said Draco. He was trying not to smile.
“I know I deserve you. You’re my happy ending, Draco. Let me have it. Please.”
“You love me?”
“I was on my way to tell you the night you were attacked. I was so scared I had missed my chance.”
“It’s cold,” shuddered Draco, closing his eyes and leaning into Harry.
“Shit, let’s get you inside.”
The kitchen was bright. Harry conjured blankets and swaddled Draco until all that could be seen of him was his pale, pointed face and his slippery, white-blonde hair. Draco’s delicate hands poked out of the blanket folds to clutch at the cup of tea Harry brought him.
“Better?” asked Harry.
“No. Okay.” Draco looked at him, and Harry’s heart soared at the smug expression on his face. Draco and Scorpius both—he loved it when they were smug. “Okay, you can be in love with me.”
“You’re in love with me, too,” said Harry.
“I never said that.”
“Hmm, don’t think so. Doesn’t sound like something I’d say.”
“You love me.”
“Dream on, Potter.”
“Do you mean it? You’ll try?”
Draco’s eyes were wide and frightened.
“I think it’s doomed. But fuck it.”
“Darling,” said Harry, and kissed the tip of Draco’s nose. “You’re wrong. You’ll see.”
Harry lay curled around Draco, his head on Draco’s chest, almost asleep. They had had sex twice, and he was so happy and tired that he almost couldn’t stand it.
“Since that letter you sent me,” said Draco, quietly. “When you told me I was a good father.”
Harry tilted his head up to look at Draco.
“A wonderful father,” he corrected. Draco smiled.
“Yeah. Since then.”
“I was hurt you didn’t answer me.”
“I couldn’t answer.” He stroked Harry’s sweaty hair. “How about you?”
“I didn’t realise until I had dinner with Blaise,” admitted Harry. “But I’ve fancied you since sixth year.”
“I’m not. I hated you, but I also couldn’t stop thinking about you. Drove Ron and Hermione spare.”
“I just hated you. Until the battle, and the trial, and…everything. Having time to think, in Azkaban. All those fucking muggle novels.”
Harry ran his hands over Draco’s scarred chest.
“Please don’t. If you apologise then I’ll have to, and my apologies are always hopeless.”
“Okay. No apologies.”
“You are incredible, Harry,” said Draco.
Harry buried his face in Draco’s chest, embarrassed.
“Your capacity for compassion and generosity astonishes me,” went on Draco.
“I’m washed up.”
“You’re free,” said Draco sleepily, his fingers soft and tingling against Harry’s scalp. Something clicked in Harry’s brain. It was as if, for the first time, the full realisation that he didn’t have to do anything really, truly registered.
“Yeah,” said Harry. “I am.”
BOXING DAY, TWO YEARS LATER
You are cordially invited for a Boxing Day lunch with the Malfoys. RSVP.
Grimmauld Place had outdone itself, thought Harry. It clearly liked being full, even if it was mainly with Weasleys.
Everyone was in a food coma after the sumptuous feast the house had provided (“It’s fascinating that your house can cook, Harry. That’s really unusual, even in old magical houses!” said Hermione), and they were lounging around the living room in varying states of digestion.
Scorpius, Titus, Teddy and Fran were outside flying. (Technically, muggles weren’t supposed to fly on broomsticks, but Fran was so good at quidditch that no one ever stopped her.) Andy and Anthea were talking quietly by the fireplace, their heads bent towards each other. Nick and Flora had already told Eve that she wasn’t to tease Andy about his feelings for Anthea, which were apparently quite intense. Mr Weasley was engaged in an in depth conversation with Flora about muggle plumbing.
Andromeda and Mrs Weasley were sampling the cheese platter. Draco and Andromeda still avoided each other, although Harry knew it was because Andromeda felt guilty for having kept Teddy and Scorpius apart all those years. Draco, too, was overwhelmed by guilt about Teddy’s parents. Harry hoped they would get over it one day, but so far the best either of them could do was nod politely at each other before moving to opposite sides of the room.
Mrs Weasley had taken a while to warm up to Draco. In fact, it wasn’t really until she met Scorpius that she understood why Harry had married Draco in the first place. This was often the case, Harry had discovered. It was hard not to love Draco, once you knew Scorpius, even though Scorpius was being a right moody prat these days and rebelled against literally anything Draco said. Unless Draco and Harry had a fight. Then Scorpius would aggressively freeze Harry out, to demonstrate where his loyalties lay. Harry was a Malfoy now (Draco had been horrified when Harry had insisted on taking his name, but to Harry it was a no brainer. He had always longed to be part of a family; and the Malfoys were too firmly Malfoys to become Potters), but ultimately it was still Draco and Scorpius against the world.
“Contra mundum,” Scorpius told him fiercely, the last time he and Draco fought, because the awful little Ravenclaw was continually speaking in Latin.
But mostly, Harry and Scorpius got on wonderfully, even through Scorpius’ teenage rebellion. In any case, as rebellions went, it was pretty harmless. He seemed to think that the best way to distance himself from both Harry and Draco was to be the most Ravenclaw that ever did nerd. He quit the quidditch team (even though he loved it) so that he could study harder. It made Draco sad, but they both knew that Scorpius had a lot of repressed anger to deal with somehow or another. Contra mundum. Harry understood. Not all the Death Eater Catchers had been caught, and although public opinion had changed a great deal since Hermione passed the Reconciliation Act, people were often rude to Draco in the shop (BOOKS— Harry had worn Draco down in the end). Scorpius claimed he had nothing to do with the mysterious boils that bubbled onto people’s tongues all over Hogwarts if they said anything negative about Draco Malfoy. Hermione said it was an incredibly advanced spell, and that Scorpius had a promising future as an Unspeakable.
“It’s magic with no marker,” she said. “It’s honestly quite brilliant.”
“It’s Dark Magic,” said Draco, bitterly.
“No, it isn’t,” said Harry. “Stop assuming he’s about to morph into some kind of Super Villain. You know that just makes him worse.”
Hermione, Professor McGonigall, and Eve were the only adult figures who were able to get through to Scorpius at all, really. Draco was desperately worried about him. Scorpius told Harry privately that he was worried about how much Draco worried. Harry thought they were both adorable. So, fundamentally, the dynamics between them all remained unchanged.
Rose Weasley was crawling around the carpet, putting things in her mouth.
“Stop staring,” said Draco, falling into the seat next to Harry.
“I’m allowed to stare,” said Harry. “She’s cute.”
Harry was about to protest, but it was useless. He was.
“Yeah,” he said, letting his head droop onto Draco’s shoulder.
“You know,” said Draco, slowly. “We could get one.”
“A baby? What, from the baby shop?”
“Don’t be insensitive. We’d adopt.”
“We have Scorpius.”
Draco waved his hand dismissively.
“The first pancake is always rubbish.”
“Come off it.”
“I missed the first five years with Scorpius. You missed the first eleven.”
“Are you serious?”
“I’ve thought about it a lot.”
“I don’t actually want Scorpius to feel like a first pancake,” said Harry, frowning.
“He and I agree that it’s a good idea,” said Draco.
“You’ve talked to Scorpius already??”
“Of course I have. You don’t think I’d risk his ire, do you? He’d probably hex us both into oblivion, and no one would ever know who’d done it.”
“A baby,” said Harry dreamily. “I’d have to cut back on my students.”
“You’ve been trying to quit teaching Cuthbert for months now.”
“Yeah, well, he’s the most boring teenager on the planet. Fuck, Draco, a baby!”
“I take it this is a yes.”
“Good, because I’ve already filled out the paperwork. Happy Christmas.”
“You’re terrifyingly efficient, sometimes,” murmured Harry.
“Get a room, you two,” said George Weasley. Harry smiled and kissed Draco harder.
All was well.
I know that last line was cheesy af, I couldn't help myself, sorry. I review books on instagram at @let_them_eat_books if you're interested in that. Hope you enjoyed reading this fic as much as I enjoyed writing it! Thank you for all your lovely supportive comments!