“I admit that you don’t look like our son. But you are, Aldebaran.”
“The awfulness of that name is a good reason for me not to be.”
Mrs. Malfoy’s eyes widened a little, and she leaned towards Harry where he sat on the bed in the hospital wing. “Do not be so disrespectful to me,” she hissed. “I am your mother.”
Harry folded his arms. Mrs. Malfoy was pretty intimidating, worse than Aunt Petunia had ever been. But that didn’t matter. He wouldn’t let it matter.
Draco Malfoy’s eyes had gone very wide when Harry had hissed in Parseltongue at the dueling club. He had gone running from there as if his arse was on fire. Harry didn’t mind admitting he had laughed about that.
But it had turned out that he’d gone to Floo his parents—where he had got access to a Floo, Harry didn’t know, but he thought he could probably guess that it was Snape—and tell them that he thought Harry was his missing twin brother, who had apparently spoken in Parseltongue when he was little.
Then the Malfoy parents had shown up, and Harry had refused to listen. Sure, it was sad that apparently they’d had a kid who was kidnapped, but that didn’t mean it was him.
“Ah, Mrs. Malfoy. I just heard. I think you are claiming that Mr. Potter is actually your son, Aldebaran Malfoy?”
Harry shivered at the sound of those names together. Really, it was just…ugh. But of course, it would probably be lower-class or something of the Malfoys to choose names for their children that people would actually want to be called.
“Yes, Headmaster.” Mrs. Malfoy didn’t turn a hair, just went on sitting there as if it was her right to stare at Harry. “We have every reason to believe so. He spoke in Parseltongue, and so did Draco’s twin brother, who disappeared when he was just a few weeks old.”
Professor Dumbledore walked over to join them. Harry looked at him gratefully. His eyes were twinkling, and he winked at Harry on the side of his face that was pointed away from Mrs. Malfoy. That must mean that he didn’t believe a word of it, Harry thought. It was good to have the Headmaster on his side.
“Are you sure that your son spoke in Parseltongue, Mrs. Malfoy?” Dumbledore asked gently. “He would have been incredibly young to do so. The babbling of babies can sound like words, as I’m sure you know. And of course, Parseltongue is a genetic gift confined to the descendants of Salazar Slytherin, and no Malfoy has ever had it—”
“That is where you are wrong.” Lucius Malfoy swept through the door of the hospital wing. Harry tensed instinctively. The last time he’d seen the man had been when he was insulting Mr. Weasley, after all.
This time, though, Mr. Malfoy had eyes only for Harry, the way Mrs. Malfoy did, although he was speaking to Professor Dumbledore. “One of the granddaughters of Salazar Slytherin changed her name and married into the Malfoy line when we arrived on English soil, to hide what she was. It was a time of particularly virulent prejudice against Parselmouths. Ever since then, the talent has shown up every few generations. But we have been intelligent enough to keep it quiet. It is a source of some prestige among those we trust, however.”
“Great,” Harry said. “It doesn’t matter. I’m still a Potter, not a Malfoy. Or how do you explain this?” He gestured at his face, trying to cover everything, his glasses and his messy dark hair and his green eyes.
“Glamours,” Mr. Malfoy said. “Illusions. They can be powerful and hard to break if set in childhood. Not to worry, Aldebaran.”
“Stop calling me that!”
“For shame, Aldebaran.” Mrs. Malfoy’s voice was cold, and she caught Harry’s eye and frowned sternly. Harry found that he really wanted to cower away from it. “Young men do not say such things. This rudeness must be a result of growing up with Muggles.”
“Yeah, I did,” Harry said, snatching at the words. “So even if I was your son, you wouldn’t want me, right? Because I didn’t grow up the way you wanted and I don’t sound posh enough.”
“That’s not true.” Mrs. Malfoy’s face seemed to melt like a glacier. She smiled and reached out to put a hand on Harry’s, and Harry caught his breath. It felt like he imagined a mother would, touching him. “We would want you no matter how you behaved. It is simply that polite young men do not do that, to any adults, so we will teach you the manners you missed out on learning.”
Harry leaned back and shook off her touch. Sure, he would have liked a mother, but he had had a mum, and she had died for him. Harry owed her some loyalty. He ignored the stricken look that came over Mrs. Malfoy’s face, and turned back to Mr. Malfoy.
“So if you claim that I’m your son, it should be pretty easy to break these spells, right?”
“It should indeed.” Mr. Malfoy aimed his wand at Harry, and it took everything Harry had to sit still on the bed. But he reminded himself that Professor Dumbledore was right there and he would do something if Mr. Malfoy tried to hurt him. “Finite sanguis potentem!”
There was a flicker that seemed to strain the corners of the room as though the spell had really woven a huge spiderweb through the air, and then something pulled at the corners of Harry’s face. He gritted his teeth. It didn’t hurt as much as the times that Dudley and Piers had caught him and beat him up, or being thrown in the cupboard without meals.
When the sensation passed, Harry blinked and looked at the Malfoys. They wore unmistakable expressions of disappointment. Harry smiled a little. “I still look like me, right? Sorry that I’m not who you were looking for,” he added, because he thought he could be a little gracious now that he’d won, and he did hope they found their kid. “Maybe you’ll find him someday.”
“Now that it has been proven that Harry is indeed a Potter,” said Professor Dumbledore cheerfully, “I think he should get back to class.”
But Mrs. Malfoy had abruptly stood, her eyes very wide. “Could he have?” she breathed. Then she brandished her own wand, and the incantation that came out sounded like it was in some other language, not Latin. Not that Harry knew Latin very well.
This time, the pulling sensation was brief, but there was a sharp, stinging sensation on his scalp that raced up and down. Harry gasped and buried his face in his hands. His eyes were stinging and tearing up, and he didn’t want anyone to think he was crying. It didn’t really hurt, it just pulled a bit, that was all.
When he looked up, his eyes weren’t tearing up anymore, but there was something that still blurred his sight. Harry scrunched up his face and rubbed at his forehead. Had Mrs. Malfoy tried to blind him, or something?
“Oh, look at you, Aldebaran.”
Harry jerked back in surprise as Mrs. Malfoy abruptly hugged him. Her embrace was warm and comforting, and yes, it was exactly the way he had sometimes seen Aunt Petunia hug Dudley. But he shrugged off the idea at once. That was ridiculous. Mrs. Malfoy wasn’t his mum.
“Let’s get those glasses off. They must be tremendously uncomfortable for you. No Malfoy has ever needed them. Or Black, for that matter.”
Harry stared at her, not knowing what she was talking about, and Mrs. Malfoy whisked the glasses off his face. Harry opened his mouth to object that he wouldn’t be able to see without them, and then closed it. The hospital wing around him was clear and shining, and he could see the faint smile on Mr. Malfoy’s face and the shock on Professor Dumbledore’s perfectly.
Unease grabbed him and strangled him so tightly that he couldn’t breathe.
Mrs. Malfoy was laughing, slightly, her eyes wide open and her smile so bright that Harry thought it looked unnatural on her face. “Oh, Aldebaran!” And then she conjured a mirror, or took one out of her robe pockets for all he knew, and held it out to him.
Harry jerked back from it like he had from her hug. That wasn’t him in the mirror, it was Malfoy! White-blond hair and grey eyes and somehow they had attached an illusion to his face to make him think—
Except for his clear vision. And the fact that a lightning-bolt scar still stood out on the forehead of the berk in the mirror.
Harry put down the mirror. “You’re really desperate to pretend that I’m the son you lost, aren’t you?” he asked, his eyes flitting back and forth between Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy.
“You are our son.” Mrs. Malfoy stepped back to him and shaped the contours of his face with her hands. Harry tried to ignore the feeling that they really had changed and just shook his head.
“You can say whatever you want, but I’m not going to believe you.”
“I, too, would like some reassurance that this is not a complex illusion.” Professor Dumbledore seemed to have recovered from his initial shock and was smiling, but Harry took comfort in the fact that it was a steely smile. “While it is always a sad thing to lose a child, you cannot take over Harry’s life and make him into a replacement for the son you lost.”
“The spell I removed is one exclusive to the Black family,” Mrs. Malfoy said, not bothering to look away from Harry as she answered Dumbledore. “I thought that perhaps Sirius Black might have put it on him. I knew the reversal charm, but there was no way the true illusion would have been removed without it.”
“Who’s Sirius Black?” Harry asked. Professor Dumbledore had narrowed his eyes, so he might know, but Harry didn’t.
“He was your godfather—or at least, the man picked by your supposed parents to be your godfather.” Mr. Malfoy’s voice was as hard as Professor Dumbledore’s smile. “He is a member of the Black family, as my wife also is. He betrayed the Potters when he was meant to keep the secret of their house from the Dark Lord, and he paid for it. He’s in Azkaban. The wizarding prison,” he added, with a slight sneer.
Harry braced himself with that sneer. He knew that it was his expression of confusion that had made Mr. Malfoy do it. That suggested that they would always despise him for what he didn’t know, and it didn’t matter if they were related or not.
“When you and Draco were only a few weeks old,” Mrs. Malfoy whispered, “Sirius came to visit me. It was a tradition in my family for all the cousins who could to come and see the newest children who had Black blood in them and offer them a blessing. Sirius made all the right noises, and at the time, as far as I knew, he had always been kind to me, despite being on bad terms with his parents and his brother and one of my sisters. He—he made a comment about the security arrangements on the nursery, and laughed. He was always joking.” Mrs. Malfoy closed her eyes. “Then you vanished a few days later. Of course I spoke to Sirius, because I thought he might have taken you for a prank. It was the sort of thing he would have done. But he didn’t have you with him, and he let me search the rancid flat where he was staying.”
“You’re saying that he took me to my mum and dad and put this illusion on me,” Harry said flatly, and then shook his head. “I’m talking like I believe you. Of course I don’t.”
“You will have to learn better manners, son.” Mr. Malfoy had dropped all trace of the sneer, but Harry still watched him suspiciously. This didn’t mean he was going to be fool enough to trust him. “We are your parents.”
“No, you’re not. You could still be lying. It’s convenient that you’re blaming someone who’s in prison and can’t defend himself, isn’t it?”
“A stubborn, suspicious child,” Mr. Malfoy said, and turned to Professor Dumbledore as if he was going to ignore Harry for the rest of the conversation. “There is a simple way to find out the truth, if you still doubt it. Permit your matron to draw blood and—”
“That is blood magic, Lucius, and I forbid it in Hogwarts.”
Harry shrank back. There seemed to be a shadow looming around Professor Dumbledore, and his eyes were narrowed and his face harsh and fierce.
“Of course it is,” Mr. Malfoy said. “But we have a right to authorize it for our child.”
“Only if he is your child. You have not yet proven that to my satisfaction.” Professor Dumbledore put his hand on Harry’s shoulder, and Harry sighed in relief. He’d been afraid that people would ignore him all day, when this was his bloody life. “You will have to come up with another solution.”
“Administer Veritaserum to Sirius Black. He will tell the truth.”
“He would have to consent to it first, and you would need more proof than you have.”
“Men,” said Mrs. Malfoy, not quite under her breath. She placed her hand in her pocket and took out a diamond bracelet that Harry blinked at. All he could think was that it was so rich Aunt Petunia would probably have liked to own it, even if “freaks” had made it. It looked as though there was something in the middle of it, though, so you couldn’t really wear it like a bracelet. Mrs. Malfoy held it up. “Professor Dumbledore, I think you recognize this.”
For the first time, Professor Dumbledore hesitated. Then he nodded. “I saw it pass through the hands of several Malfoys and Black students in this school, although I must admit that I never saw it in its present form.”
Dread pooling in his stomach, Harry stared at Mrs. Malfoy as she brought it over, smiling comfortingly at him. “We combined two bracelets to make this, Aldebaran,” she explained, and turned it around. Harry could see that strands of diamonds joined in the middle to form two birds. One of them might have been a swan. “Only someone who has the blood of both families, or blood from one of them and a marriage bond to the other, can touch it. Not even my husband can. It will prove that you are who you really are if you can touch it.”
“So, what happens if I touch it and I’m not a Malfoy or a Black? It stings me?” Harry was considering faking a reaction like that, if only to get them to leave him alone.
“No, it merely fails to show any magic. Do try it now, Aldebaran.” Mrs. Malfoy held out the bracelet encouragingly.
And that reminded Harry of Aunt Petunia coaxing Dudley to eat. Harry concealed a shudder as he let his fingers glance gingerly along the joined birds in the middle of the diamond chains.
The bracelet lit up from within, a buzzing, ringing sphere of brilliance that made Harry lift his hand to shield his eyes. He paused when he noticed that his fingers were longer, too, and his skin paler.
“Why do I look like I’ve never spent any time in the sun?” he demanded.
“That is the mark of a Malfoy, that pale skin,” Mr. Malfoy said. Harry peered at him warily. There was a weird tone in his voice, like he was enormously proud but trying not to show it. “Oh, Aldebaran…” He bowed his head. Harry now had the deeply uncomfortable feeling that Mr. Malfoy was trying not to cry or something.
But before he could say anything, Mrs. Malfoy was at him again, folding him in her arms and cuddling him to her chest. Harry sat stiffly, while his heart dropped straight down to his shoes.
He could see Professor Dumbledore’s face over Mrs. Malfoy’s shoulder. As he watched, all the twinkle went out in Professor Dumbledore’s eyes. He bowed his head.
Shit, shit, shit, went back and forth in Harry’s head. Malfoy is my brother, and my parents hate Muggle and Weasleys, and I don’t look like myself.
And my name is bloody Aldebaran. Ron is going to laugh so hard.