|Celandine's Chronicle (celandineb) wrote in cels_fic_haven,|
@ 2008-01-06 18:48:00
|Entry tags:||hp fic draco/harry, hp fic exchanges and fests, hp fic ginny/harry|
HP fic: The Only Final Path, part 1 [Harry/Draco, Harry/Ginny, adult]
Title: The Only Final Path, part 1
Pairing: Harry/Draco, Harry/Ginny
Rating: adult, although not very
Summary: Friendship between his son and Draco's gradually brings Harry to a realisation of what he really wants.
Note: Written for ninnive for hd_holidays in December 2007. This is very slightly revised from the original posting to clean up a few typos and discontinuities. The title comes from E.M. Forster's The Longest Journey. Many thanks to thevina for beta; all remaining errors and infelicities are entirely my responsibility.
Dear Mum and Dad,
James said he was going to write you but I hope he didn't, because if he did I expect it was to make fun of me. I hope you're not too disappointed to hear that I was Sorted into Ravenclaw. I know you expected me to be a Gryffindor like you both were, but at least it wasn't Slytherin. Although one of the other new boys in Ravenclaw wanted to be in Slytherin, can you believe that? His bed is next to mine in the dormitory and he has an unusual name too. Scorpius. I think I've spelled that right. Anyway, I like Hogwarts so far. I said hello to Professor Longbottom, like you told me to, and he was very nice, although we already have homework in Herbology. I'll write you again soon.
Harry passed the letter back to Ginny and smiled. "Ravenclaw. Not really that much of a surprise, and it's probably just as well that he's not in Gryffindor. I think it will be good for him to be away from James."
"Probably," Ginny agreed. "Even if all of my brothers were in Gryffindor, I think I had it a bit easier than Al would. Since I was a girl, the expectations of me were a little different. Ron always said that it was hard, living up to everyone, Bill especially."
"What House do you think I'll be in?" asked their daughter.
"I'm not sure." Harry regarded Lily thoughtfully.
"I want to be in Gryffindor like you and Mum were. Doesn't the Sorting Hat take into account what the person wants at all?" Lily demanded.
"Sometimes," said Harry. "Some students seem almost destined for a particular House, but others could fit into more than one quite comfortably."
"I hoped for Gryffindor, too. I don't know that I would have been well suited to the other houses," said Ginny. "I'm not all that clever, and goodness knows that back then I preferred to play Quidditch than study, and I certainly never had great ambitions." She gave Harry a wink. "Not for power, anyway."
"What were you ambitious for?" Lily put an enormous forkful of cottage pie in her mouth and chewed, looking at her mother expectantly.
"To get your father to notice me, mostly." Ginny chuckled. "It took a long time, but eventually I managed."
"I think you'd make a good Gryffindor, Lily, but you mustn't be disappointed if you end up in a different House. Even if it should be Slytherin. There's always a reason behind the Sorting, and there have been members of Slytherin who were just as brave as a Gryffindor, or as clever as a Ravenclaw, or as hard-working as a Hufflepuff." Harry thumped his hand on the table for emphasis. "That's why your brother is named after a Slytherin as well as a Gryffindor."
Lily nodded, looking a little intimidated by her father's insistence.
"I wonder who this other boy is?" said Ginny, picking up the letter again.
"Draco Malfoy's son, I think," said Harry.
"You're probably right, a name like that," agreed Ginny. "Only a few of the pureblood families keep using such names."
"Unless they're naming a child after someone special, the way we did with Albus Severus," pointed out Harry, feeling a bit of sympathy for young Scorpius. It was a rather dreadful name. He remembered glimpsing the Malfoys on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters when they had gone to see James and Albus off on the Hogwarts Express; Scorpius had looked very much as his father had, at that age. Harry was surprised to realise just how clearly he remembered the eleven-year-old Draco, twenty-six years later. He could almost see the proud head of fair hair, and blinked, dazed, when Ginny spoke to him about sending on some of James's things that he'd left behind.
As he had promised, Albus did write his parents again within a few days, and letters from James arrived slightly more irregularly. Both of the boys were settling in well, and Harry was happy to hear that even if he missed having them around at home. It seemed almost lonely with just himself and Ginny and Lily rattling around in the big old house, somehow much more so than last year when it had only been James who was away at school.
The autumn sped by quickly, however, and almost before Harry realised, the Christmas holidays had arrived, bringing his sons back. Albus had changed very little except to seem more quietly confident. James, on the other hand, had shot up like a weed, clearly taking after his uncles Ron and Percy, whom he resembled. Ginny had to find time to take him to Diagon Alley to buy new school robes, for his old ones were showing inches of wrist.
"Tell me about school, Al."
Lily had gone with her mother and oldest brother, and Albus and Harry were companionably munching a late breakfast of toast and a boiled egg.
Albus looked up from the copy of the Quibbler that he was reading. "I wrote you all term," he protested.
"I know," said Harry patiently, "but letters aren't quite the same as hearing about it. I know that you like Herbology and Charms more than Transfiguration, and that you're not the best on a broomstick but no disgrace to the family name either, but you haven't really told us anything about your friends, for instance."
"Well..." Albus tilted his head to one side. "I study most often with Daisy Bobbin and Michael Zabini, but I like Scorpius best for a friend. He was disappointed to be in Ravenclaw, although I don't understand why. Professor Flitwick says that he is as clever as Aunt Hermione was when she was in school."
"Why do you like Scorpius best?" Harry took a sip of his tea and waited for Albus's answer.
"I don't know." Albus shrugged. "He's clever, but he's not stuck up about it the way that James can be, you know? And..." he hesitated.
"He's sad a lot, and he says it helps that I listen to him, so that makes me feel good."
With some concern, Harry asked, "Why is he sad?" He didn't want to interfere in Albus's making friends, not even with the son of Draco Malfoy, but he didn't want him to be hurt, either.
"Well." Albus bit his lip. "I suppose it's not entirely a secret. His parents are separating, and he's worried about what's going to happen. He won't be able to spend much time with either of them anymore, especially being away at school most of the year."
"That would be hard," Harry agreed. He wondered why Draco and his wife might be separating; not that it was any of his business, he chided himself. Draco had always been so certain of what he wanted – except when he was facing Dumbledore, Harry's thoughts veered to the past – that for him to admit to the world that he had failed in his choice of wife seemed astonishing. They couldn't have been married longer than Harry and Ginny had been, he guessed.
"Yeah. Dad, since Mum and James and Lily are having a good time in Diagon Alley, could we do something together, just the two of us?"
"Of course," said Harry, glad to change the subject. "What would you like to do?"
"Could we go flying?"
They could, and had a marvellous afternoon of it. If Harry's thoughts returned to Draco Malfoy more than once, still wondering what had happened to end his marriage, that was only natural given Albus's friendship with Draco's son.
The rest of the holidays passed uneventfully. As always, they went to the elder Weasleys' for Christmas Day, and the Burrow rang with the noise of the entire extended family. Harry had always loved spending the holiday there, even if it did become rather overwhelming by the end of the evening.
Once again the house seemed silent once the boys were gone, but they settled quickly back into the familiar routines. It was a lull period for the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad, for no discernible reason, and Harry spent quite a lot of time doing mind-numbing paperwork, catching up on reports that had been unfinished and unfiled for months. Sometimes he wondered just why he'd decided to pursue this career, although he had to admit he was glad he'd decided not to become an Auror. Ron enjoyed it, but Harry had had enough danger for one lifetime.
In May, Albus sent a letter that surprised his parents.
Dear Mum and Dad,
I've studying for my year-end exams, you'll be pleased to hear. James says I'm a little swot for worrying, but I want to do well. The weather is still quite cold. I nearly froze my toes off when I watched the last Quidditch match.
I wanted to ask you something about the summer holidays. I've been invited to spend a fortnight with my friend Scorpius. His dad wants to take him on a tour to Italy, I think it is, and says that he knows Scorpius would be bored with just his father to talk to, so he could invite a friend, and he asked me. Could I go, please? It'll only be for two weeks, and I'd be home the rest of the summer. Let me know soon so that I can tell him.
"I suppose there's no reason to say no." Harry scratched his cheek thoughtfully.
"With a Malfoy?" Ginny gave a frown of distaste. "It's odd that they should have become such good friends. And what's this about it just being his father? Wouldn't his mother be there, too?"
"No," said Harry, "Al mentioned that over Christmas. Apparently the Malfoys have separated, which I suppose is why Draco is taking his son to do something special. I think we should say yes; Al is the only one of our three who would actually appreciate the opportunity, you know. James couldn't care less about seeing foreign places, and Lily's still too young to have the patience for it." Harry would have liked to travel, himself, but with two careers and three children, it had never felt possible. He contented himself with getting to see much of Britain in the course of his work in reversing magical accidents.
Ginny still looked dissatisfied, but she shrugged. "If you think it will be all right, then fine. Write him back tonight and let him know we give permission."
"I think I'd better write to Malfoy, too," Harry decided. "I'd like to have more information about just when they'll be leaving and where they'll be going."
It was more difficult than Harry had expected it would be to pick up a quill and write a letter to Draco Malfoy. He didn't hate Draco any longer; he hadn't since the end of the war, when he realised that most of the nasty things Draco had done over the years had been on account of family loyalty. He'd even returned Draco's wand as soon as he had mended his own. Draco had seemed surprised, if very pleased, to have it back. His thin fingers had been warm in Harry's as he'd shaken Harry's hand in thanks.
Harry chewed the end of his quill, thinking. At last he dipped it into the ink and began to write.
He looked at the salutation. It looked wrong, somehow. He tapped the parchment with his wand and the words vanished.
Dear Mr. Malfoy,
No, that was worse. With a sigh, he restored the original.
My son Albus informs me that your son Scorpius has invited him to go on a trip with himself and you this summer. His mother and I are giving Al our permission, but I would like to know a little more about the details, if you would be so good as to send them to me.
I gather that you and your wife have separated and I wanted also to convey my sympathies.
Harry scowled at the page. Short and to the point, and polite enough, he thought, but how to end it? It seemed rude to simply sign his name, but all of the usual closing phrases sounded awkward. There was no way he could ever sign "love" to his erstwhile enemy, and yet something like "sincerely yours" sounded far too stiff and formal. Finally he wrote,
Hoping to hear from you soon,
He sent the letter off the next morning, not expecting a reply for several days, but Archimedes returned with an answer that very evening.
Ginny was making dinner and Lily was helping her. Harry sat in his favourite chair and opened the letter.
I thought I might hear from you once I found out from Scorpius that it was your son he planned to invite to travel with us. Thank you for giving your permission. I shouldn't have doubted that you would.
The trip as I've planned it will take us to northern Italy, mostly: Milan, Venice, Florence, and a few smaller towns. There are old wizarding communities in the cities there that I think Scorpius would enjoy seeing; the Muggles claim credit for a good deal that was actually wizard-created, as you may know, and I wanted to teach him about some of that. As Albus probably told you, I thought that Scorpius would enjoy having a friend to keep him company as we went. It's been a bit hard on him to have his mother and me no longer together.
If you want a specific detailed itinerary, I'd be happy to put one together for you. My regards to your wife.
Harry showed Ginny the letter and suggested that perhaps he should meet Draco in person to get his plan for the trip, rather than simply asking him to send it by owl. After all, they were entrusting their son to him for a fortnight, and Harry would feel more comfortable if he had a better sense of the adult Draco. Ginny agreed; her working hours were less flexible than Harry's, and he had known Draco better in their school days in any case, so he was the sensible person to do it.
Harry owled Draco to suggest a meeting, and after a bit of back-and-forth, they settled on three o'clock on a Thursday afternoon, at what had once been Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour in Diagon Alley.
It was several minutes after three when Harry arrived, but Draco wasn't there yet either. Harry's sweet tooth had never gone away. He ordered an ice cream concoction that would have had Ginny frowning at him and reminding him that he didn't have the metabolism of a teenager any more, and was just lifting the first spoonful happily to his lips when Draco walked through the door.
"Potter." Draco held out his hand. "Sorry. Harry. If our sons are such good friends, I suppose we should be on a first-name basis as well."
Harry dropped the spoon and shook Draco's hand, which was as warm and slim as he remembered. Not that he had any reason to remember, but he did. "Agreed. I'm glad you could come," he said. "Go ahead and order something; it's on me, since I'm the one who wanted to have this meeting."
Draco raised his eyebrows slightly, but nodded and ordered plain vanilla ice cream and a cup of black coffee. "I've written it all out here," he said, pushing a piece of parchment across the table to Harry. "We'll take a Portkey to Rome, and then use the Italian Floo network to get from city to city. Does Albus have his own broom?"
"Of course." Harry tried not to sound offended by the thought that his son wouldn't have his own broom, even if he couldn't take it to school in his first year.
"Good." Draco didn't seem to notice. "I thought we would all bring our brooms, and then if we do any touring around the countryside, we could use those. My ability with the Disillusionment Charm is good enough that there wouldn't be any problems with Muggles seeing us. If you have no objection?"
"No, that sounds fine," said Harry. "So this is the definite schedule?"
"More or less." Draco ran his finger down the list. "The dates aren't absolutely fixed; I thought that if the boys particularly liked one city, it would be nice to be able to stay an extra day or so. But this should be pretty close. If you'd like, I can make sure that Albus sends you regular owls, so that you always know where he is. Or I could send them myself if you don't want him to feel too smothered."
"That would be a good idea," Harry agreed. "Either way, whatever's most convenient."
"Good." Draco's ice cream had arrived, and he ate a bite, followed by a sip of hot coffee. "It's an interesting sensation," he said conversationally. "The cold and the hot, one right after the other like that. Makes your mouth tingle." He ran a pink tongue across his lower lip, catching a stray drop of the ice cream.
"Er, yes," said Harry, watching, and slightly disconcerted by the fact that Draco was treating him rather as an old friend. Draco seemed more relaxed and at ease with himself than Harry had ever seen him, without the haughtiness that had used to characterise his behaviour. "You look well. I guess that separating from your wife agreed with you, even if Scorpius isn't so pleased about it."
Draco's lips tightened slightly, but he nodded. "It was the best thing to do."
"Do you mind if I ask why?"
Now Draco's eyebrows rose. "You don't know." He made the statement flatly.
"How would I know?" Harry ate another melting spoonful of ice cream. "If Albus does, he certainly hasn't told me."
"Ah." Draco tapped one finger against the outside of his coffee cup. "Well. Scorpius knows, of course, but he might not have told Albus; or he might have asked him to keep it private. A boy of that age isn't always going to be comfortable with the fact that his father's gay."
Harry choked at a matter-of-fact way that Draco said it. He swallowed hard and said, unable to keep the incredulity from his voice altogether, "You're gay?"
"Oh, Harry." Draco grinned at him. "I always have been. Macrina and I married because I needed someone to carry on the Malfoy name, and, let me be honest, she wanted to make sure that any children she had would have well-established connections in the wizarding world. Not that the family fortunes are all that they once were, but a pureblood heritage is still meaningful to some."
Harry couldn't help making a noise of disgust.
"Look, Harry, I'm well aware that you don't think it's important. I'm not sure that I really do any more myself, but my parents arranged the marriage and made it quite clear to me that if I didn't agree, every Galleon of the estate would go to the closest pureblood cousin they could find. I'm quite fond of my comforts and I couldn't let that happen. So." He shrugged. "Macrina and I reached an agreement that after she provided a son and heir for the Malfoy line, we would have no further amatory obligations towards one another, and once our child or children were of school age, we need not even live together any longer. A very civilised arrangement, don't you agree? And luckily for me, our first child was a son."
Harry's head was spinning. He couldn't imagine such a situation himself, but since evidently both Draco and his wife were fine with it, who was he to say otherwise? "I see."
"I'm looking forward to the trip, I must say. I'm glad that you and Ginny are willing to let Albus go along and keep Scorpius company." Draco smiled and shook Harry's hand again. "I'd best be going; I've someone else to meet still this afternoon. If anything in the plans changes, I'll be sure to let you know."
When Draco had left, Harry dabbled his spoon in the last melted drops of ice cream thoughtfully. He would share the itinerary with Ginny, of course, but did he need to tell her what Draco had just told him about the cause of the Malfoys' separation? Certainly Draco had not seemed to have any qualms about the information becoming known. Well, he'd play it by ear. It wasn't really something that made any difference, he supposed. Not in terms of whether or not he'd permit Albus to go, at least.
To Harry and Ginny's relief – they did want to see how their younger son was after his second term at school – the proposed holiday with the Malfoys wasn't to take place until the second week of July. Harry didn't worry quite as much as Ginny did about the heat of Italy in July; he assumed that Draco would cast suitable cooling charms on their rooms in the unlikely event that the hotel staff had not already done so. He did, however, give some thought to the details of politeness.
A few days before Albus was to leave, Harry took him to Gringotts, where Harry withdrew thirty Galleons, and then to Flourish & Blotts, where he bought a small notebook and a Muggle-style mechanical pencil. Then they went to have an ice cream.
"I'm giving you this in addition to your usual pocket money," Harry told Albus. "Now. I want you to use some of it on your trip to offer to take Mister Malfoy and Scorpius out for a meal. There will be more than enough for that. It's possible that Mister Malfoy will want to say no, that you're his guest and you shouldn't have to pay, but if he does I want you to say firmly that your father told you to. All right?"
"All right." Albus's face was solemn as he accepted the sack full of Galleons. "What's the notebook for?"
"That's to keep track of what you spend; as I said, thirty Galleons will be far more than enough to pay for a meal for the three of you, but you might have other unexpected expenses, or you might find some souvenir that you really want but don't have enough saved from your pocket money to be able to buy. This will let you make the choice; if you want to go ahead and buy something like that, you can, but you'll have to repay it later on. So I want you to write down everything that you spend money on, and how much, and we can settle things when you get back"
"Thanks, Dad." Albus grinned at him. "Scorpius never makes a big deal about having more money than I have, but it'll be nice to be able to treat him to a pumpkin juice or lemonade or something, if I want."
Harry nodded. "That's the idea. I know you won't be unnecessarily extravagant."
When it was time for Albus to leave, James and Lily both sulked a bit that they weren't going to get to travel, too, but a reminder that they would have a longer visit with their Weasley grandparents that summer than Albus would went some way to assuaging their disappointment.
Portkeys to the continent were arranged through the Ministry, and so on Monday morning the whole family went with Albus to meet the Malfoys for their departure. Harry was struck anew by how like his father at that age Scorpius looked, except that he didn't seem to have quite the air of smug superiority that Harry had always seen on Draco's face. Draco himself didn't wear it any longer, Harry admitted. He looked positively relaxed at the idea of spending a fortnight in Italy with a pair of active twelve-year-old boys. Well, if he enjoyed it, good for him. Harry repressed the wish that he were going along, too. Ginny would complain about the weather, James and Lily would be bored... and it was impossible to imagine travelling without them.
"Have all of your luggage?" said Draco to Albus briskly. "Good. Scorpius, why don't you show the Potters the map that we're bringing."
As Scorpius unfolded the map, which had been charmed to show the wizarding tourist attractions at various locations – touching the spot with one's wand caused the image of an attractive young Italian witch to appear and start describing the site in slightly accented English – Draco pulled Harry slightly aside and said in an undertone, "I'll make sure that if Albus doesn't send an owl each night, I do. Just so you don't need to worry." He pulled a face. "One thing when they're off at Hogwarts, but I know this is a bit different."
"We'll appreciate that," said Harry, equally quietly. No need to let Albus think his parents didn't trust him. He caught himself looking at Draco's fair skin and wondering if he would tan in the Italian sun, as Harry would. What a silly thing to think about. He ignored the way that Draco's hand was resting on his shoulder.
Draco glanced at Ginny, as absorbed as the children in the map, and nodded. "It's nearly time, boys," he said loudly. "Are you ready?"
"Oh yes, yes," came their joint reply in enthusiastic chorus.
"Say goodbye to your family, Albus."
Albus hugged his parents and sister, looked a little doubtfully at James, and broke into a relieved smile when James merely thumped him gently on the shoulder. "Goodbye! I'll bring you all back something from Italy. Have fun at Grandmum and Granddad's while I'm away."
He, Scorpius, and Draco pulled their trunks over to the sign that said Italy and reached out to touch the marble block that evidently served as the Portkey. Harry watched as his son vanished, then turned cheerfully to the rest of his family. "I'm sure he'll have a grand time, but we're going to have fun too. Who's ready to go home and pack so that we can go to the Burrow tomorrow?"
As promised, for the next few days owls arrived regularly to let them know that Albus was fine and enjoying himself very much. He had taken his hosts to dinner on the fourth day, and they had all tried octopus, which Ginny thought sounded revolting. Harry thought so too, but he imagined watching Albus and Scorpius and Draco eating it, and had to smile. The sixth night brought a note from Draco instead, explaining that they'd done some rather strenuous walking and the boys had gone to sleep early.
"Ha," said Ginny, "I doubt that. Probably pretended they were tired so that they could go off and talk all might. That's what my brothers would do. I remember Fred and George," her voice faltered only slightly, "in Egypt, doing exactly that."
"No matter. Since Albus didn't write, Draco did. I'm sure we'll hear from Albus again tomorrow."
And they did, each night up until the third day before the travellers were supposed to return.
The whole family was sitting outside at the Burrow, watching as James and Lily and the other Weasley grandchildren played an impromptu game of Quidditch. Harry was a little bit apart from the others, trying to get a better view, when an owl swooped down and dropped a letter into his lap. He recognised Draco's handwriting. Frowning, he opened it and the first words made his blood run cold.
Dear Harry and Ginny,
Albus has been injured.
"Ginny!" Harry called out, still reading. "Come here."
The letter continued.
I want to assure you that he is fine, or rather, will be so by the time you get this, but I did want to let you know right away what happened. I haven't been able to get a straight account out of either boy, but it would seem that they decided to sneak out and do a little exploration alone on their brooms last night. Somehow or other Albus misjudged and clipped the corner of one of the towers. He lost control of his broom. I'm not sure just how far he fell, but he did have several broken bones and a nasty knock on the head. Scorpius managed to get him back to our hotel and fetched me immediately. He asks that I say how very sorry he is that they did such a foolish thing, and please not to forbid the boys to be friends any longer.
Again, Albus will be just fine, after the local healers have finished with him. Please accept my deepest apologies for this mishap. I should have been more careful.
Ginny was livid with rage and worry. "I knew this was a bad idea," she fumed. "Malfoy. When has anything good come from the Malfoy family? Traitors, heedless of anyone's well-being except their own. We should go right now and bring Albus home."
"There's no point," said Harry. He was upset too, but all the years of working for the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad made him think practically rather than react emotionally to news of any injury. "This must have happened the night before last; by the time we'd be able to arrange a Portkey and get there, it would be practically time for them to return anyhow." He thought, but did not say, that Ginny was in fact not quite correct. Both Draco and Narcissa had had the chance to betray Harry to Voldemort at different times, and neither had done so. For their own reasons, of course, there was no question about that, but nevertheless the facts remained. "We'll certainly have a talk with Albus when he returns, and consider whether we want to allow him to spend further time with Scorpius outside of school, but there isn't much we can do about them remaining friends at Hogwarts, you realise."
Anger still radiated from every line of Ginny's body, but she nodded reluctantly. "I intend to meet with Mister Draco Malfoy and give him a piece of my mind, though, and if necessary, more than that. He'll find out that I haven't forgotten how to cast the Bat-Bogey Hex, even if it has been twenty years since I've done so. Come to think of it, he might have been about the last one I cast it on." Her smile had a touch of the vicious about it that alarmed Harry.
"Dear, remember that you work for the Ministry, and so do I. No hexes, please." It hadn't been Draco's fault; if Scorpius had been visiting Albus here at the Burrow something similar could easily have happened. Boys courted danger, that was all there was to it.
Ginny scowled. "Fine. I'll write him a Howler instead. If I see him, I don't know that I'll be able to help myself."
It was a very subdued party that reappeared in the Ministry's Portkey Hall two days later. Draco immediately broke into apologies which Ginny ignored, dropping to her knees to alternately hug her son and scold him for the worry he had caused. Harry stood by a little awkwardly. When he judged that Ginny was distracted enough that he could get an unnoticed word with Draco, he said quietly, "Watch out for Howlers. I'm pretty sure she's going to send you one; to where you work, I expect, for maximum effect."
Draco grimaced. "Thanks for the warning. You're not as upset, it would seem?" He looked more concerned by that possibility than by Harry's prediction about Ginny.
With a shrug, Harry said, "It was a boys' prank that went wrong, and no one was permanently hurt. I know it wasn't your fault. It might be rather a long time before Ginny is willing to let Al see anything of Scorpius during the holidays, though. Obviously we can't control their friendship at school, and I wouldn't want to if we could."
"I'm glad. The boys got on very well during the trip, and I know that Scorpius would be devastated if Albus couldn't be friends with him any more." Draco gave Harry a look that he couldn't quite identify.
They had to stop talking then, as Ginny had satisfied himself that Albus had taken no permanent damage, and was rising to go. She didn't look at Draco. "Harry, let's get the children home."
Harry had just enough time to nod to Draco and to say to Scorpius, "I hope that you had a good trip," receiving a smile in return, before Ginny dragged him away.
Albus was restricted for the rest of the summer holidays. Instead of being allowed to fly freely with his siblings and cousins, he had to practise flying for an hour every evening under Harry's or Ginny's supervision, the rationale being that if he had had greater control, the accident might not have happened. As for the fact that he had sneaked out without permission, there his punishment was to not be allowed to participate in any of the special summer treats that had been planned. When the rest of the family went to see the Puddlemere-Harpies match, Albus had to stay at the Burrow with his grandmother Molly, who didn't care much for Quidditch anyway.
By the end of the summer, everyone was glad to have the school year start again. Albus had grown quite sulky about the whole thing, clearly viewing it as excessive punishment, even though he had been permitted to write to Scorpius as often as he wanted.
In late September, after the boys had been back at Hogwarts for several weeks – and Ginny and Harry had had to deal with Lily's moans that she wasn't old enough to attend for another year – Harry had a letter from Draco delivered to him at his office.
Once again I wanted to say how sorry I am for the trouble with your son Albus this summer. I do hope that you can forgive me. Scorpius writes that Albus doesn't know if he'll be allowed to do anything with Scorpius during future holidays, ever. May I beg you to reconsider? My son has been much happier since he's become friends with yours.
Harry refolded the parchment and scrubbed one weary hand over his eyes. Although thankfully it was an increasingly rare thing, they still did occasionally get word of the location of a surviving Voldemort supporter, usually because of some hex or jinx or Dark Magic object causing trouble, and that meant work for the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad as well as the Aurors. There had been an incident late yesterday evening and Harry hadn't come home until well after midnight. He wondered if perhaps he was getting a bit old for his job. The days of paperwork were interminably dull, but nights like the last might be too much the opposite.
The letter needed an answer, but Harry didn't feel that he should make any decisions without speaking to Ginny about it. He was certain that she would dislike the idea, but if Scorpius was the sort to get his friend into trouble, there was little they could do about it while the boys were at school, and Harry didn't really think Scorpius was that sort. Draco was obviously concerned for his son's happiness, and convinced that Scorpius and Albus ought be feel that their friendship was not being discouraged by Albus's parents. Perhaps if Harry reminded Ginny of the sort of pranks that her brothers had used to play, she'd be a little more tolerant.
"No," said Ginny stubbornly. "The Malfoy boy is clearly a bad influence on Albus."
"Don't you think that most people would have said that Fred and George were a bad influence?" Harry saw Ginny's mouth tighten.
"That's entirely different," she snapped. "And ancient history, besides."
"Look." Harry sighed. "If we try to forbid their friendship, we'll look foolish. Al is old enough now that he isn't going to stop being friends with someone just on our say-so. If anything, it's likely to make Scorpius seem more exciting. We could stop him from sending letters, certainly keep them from visiting over the holidays, but that will only make him feel unfairly put upon. Whether or not it's actually unfair," he added.
"Then what do you propose we do?"
"I think that we should allow Albus to have Scorpius over to tea during the Christmas holidays. Perhaps even spend the night. And impress upon Al that future such privileges will be dependent upon good behaviour this time. Then we'll see what happens."
"All right." Ginny's voice held an uncompromising note. "But you get to supervise."
"Yes, dear," Harry acquiesced, thankful that his wife had given in so easily.
Harry wrote to Albus, explaining the proposal, and adding – after consulting with Ginny – that James and Lily could also each invite a friend the same day, if they liked. Then he wrote a note to Draco.
I have talked things over with Ginny and we agreed to give the boys another chance. Al will be allowed to invite your son to tea and spend the night over the Christmas holidays sometime. If that goes well, I think we can consider the incident this summer forgotten.
Draco's reply arrived two days later, owled to Harry at work.
Thank you. I'm sure it must have been you who talked your wife into reconsidering. Scorpius will be very happy, and that makes me happy too. Perhaps another day this holiday the boys and you and I could have a father-son outing and go see a Quidditch match? Your older son would be welcome to come along, too. Let me know what you think.
Reading, Harry chewed thoughtfully on his lip. Draco's invitation was appealing, if he could think of a way to put it to Ginny so that she would not be offended that she and Lily had not been asked along as well. The father-son angle was doubtless the best one to take. It wasn't as if Ginny liked Draco or would enjoy spending time in his company anyway, not even at a Quidditch match.
The holidays came and went without incident; the children and their various guests for tea all behaved well, and the Quidditch excursion went off smoothly also. Draco was an excellent host and had arranged for very good seats for the four of them; obviously he took the father-son idea seriously too, since he didn't have the partner with him whom Harry had half-expected, with a frisson of curiosity as to who Draco might be seeing. He found, somewhat to his surprise, that he quite enjoyed talking to Draco these days, and the boys had great fun watching the Falcons-Catapults match.
When the school year was over and the boys were home for the summer, Harry asked Albus if Scorpius were travelling again with his father. Albus nodded.
"I think they're going to Germany, but Scorpius wasn't allowed to invite anyone this year. It'll just be him and his dad, I guess."
"Ah ." Harry thought that showed good sense on Draco's part. Presumably Scorpius would have wanted to ask Albus again, and Draco guessed that Ginny and Harry might not permit it; rather than rousing ill feeling, best to avoid the problem altogether for now. In a year or two, when the boys were a bit older, and more responsible, they could revisit the matter. "You could have him over for tea again, though, after he's back. Would you like that?"
"Oh, yes." Albus's face lit up. "Do you think I could have him come while we're at the Burrow?"
"We'll see." He would have to talk to Arthur and Molly about that. They'd never been fond of any of the Malfoys, but perhaps he could persuade them to set aside their feelings for the sake of their grandson.
That summer, too, Ginny prodded Harry into having a talk with his sons about sex. He really ought to have done so a year or even two before, with James at least, but somehow he had never quite gotten around to it. James sighed and rolled his eyes as Harry stumbled through his explanations.
"What about contraception charms?" he asked baldly when Harry paused after describing how sex could lead to pregnancy.
The thought of his son needing those charms already made Harry feel very odd indeed, but James was half-Weasley and had better know what to do, even if Harry hoped he wouldn't actually have any need of it for quite some time yet.
"The best one for a boy is Construere," he said. "You can cast it on yourself before you go out on a date, and then remove it after you're home. You don't want to leave it on for more than about eight hours, though, or it can cause damage, not to mention becoming quite painful." He showed James and Albus the proper wand flick to use along with the spell, and they practised for a while.
"You know, boys, that just because you have learned the contraceptive spell doesn't mean you have to use it," said Harry. "And in any case you ought to talk with your girlfriend about taking precautions before you even think about doing anything; that way she'll know that you're being responsible."
Albus nodded, still wide-eyed at having learned the spell at all, but James shrugged with the elaborate boredom of an adolescent.
"There's nothing for you to worry about, honestly Dad."
"Well, good. That's all I need to know right now then." He would have liked to know more, but there was no sense in hoping for that.
James shrugged again and sauntered out of the room, but Albus lingered.
"What is it?"
"You, um, you talked a lot about what it was like to be with a girl, but you didn't say anything about what it was like to be with a boy."
"No, I didn't. Did you want to talk about that?"
Albus looked uncomfortable. "Yeah."
With an effort Harry kept his expression smooth. "Do you think that you might like boys, is that why?"
"Oh, no." Albus shook his head. "I don't think so; but I don't really like girls that much either. But James didn't when he was my age, did he, and now he... um. Never mind. No, it's, well, I was curious about Scorpius's father."
"Well," said Harry, "I can't tell you much from my own experience, because I never really fancied boys, but I think it's quite all right if someone does. Like your Uncle Charlie, for instance. But I'm sure that kissing another boy would be very much like kissing a girl. You do it because it feels nice and you want to be close to the other person. And Albus, if it should happen that in a few years you decide that you do like boys that way, you should know that your mum and I won't be upset about it. Any more than we love your Uncle Charlie less, you understand?"
"Yes, but that doesn't really answer my question." Albus sounded frustrated.
"We could go to a book shop and see if there's a book that would explain what you want to know," offered Harry. He could hardly suggest that Albus go quiz Draco Malfoy on his sex life, regardless of the reason. Curiosity – and now that Albus had brought it up, Harry realised that he was curious too – was no excuse for bad manners.
A suitable book was duly purchased from a Muggle shop, and apparently answered most if not all of Albus's questions, for he didn't ask his father again that summer. Harry breathed a sigh of relief that Ginny would talk to Lily and that he didn't have to.
The next two years flew by. Lily went off to school and was Sorted into Gryffindor, to her great delight. James took his O.W.L.s and pretended nonchalance about how easy they'd been, but he snapped at his siblings for weeks until he heard his results – which were as good as his parents had expected, and evidently a great relief to James. That same summer, the one before Albus began his fifth year at Hogwarts, he again received an invitation from Scorpius to travel with him and his father. This time the proposed itinerary was to take them to Greece. Ginny grumbled and muttered and shook her head, but reluctantly agreed that at fifteen Albus would need to stretch his wings again sometime. Harry, of course, would have liked to go himself, and was happy to consent. Albus swore solemnly that he wouldn't go on any escapades without Mister Malfoy's knowledge and permission, and went off to Santorini promising to bring them all back souvenirs.
Owls from him arrived more irregularly than on the previous trip, but this time his parents were less worried. Draco sent a couple of notes also, assuring them that all was well and the boys were having a fine time, that they were doing some evening flying under Disillusionment spells and enjoying themselves tremendously. Harry wondered a bit that Draco didn't have a companion of his own along. Perhaps he wanted to spend the maximum time with his son, or perhaps he just didn't have a long-term partner at the moment. Not that it was any of Harry's business. He just wondered.
Albus returned, very tanned, much to his brother's disgust. He chattered about the pretty Greek witches that they had met while touring around some of the historical sites, and Harry relaxed, hearing that. It wasn't that he would be upset if Albus did turn out to be queer, he told himself, he just somehow didn't want Scorpius Malfoy to be his son's life partner – or even temporary fling. Though really, there was nothing to be said against the boy at all. With Scorpius as friendly competitor, Albus was doing quite remarkably well in school, and seemed to get on with most of his classmates, too.
Albus clearly enjoyed his trip with you and Scorpius tremendously, and I want to thank you for that. Perhaps you and your son would like to come for dinner next Saturday? And if there's someone else in your life that you'd like to bring, he would be welcome as well.
Draco's response arrived the next evening.
Thank you for the kind invitation. I am pleased to accept for myself and Scorpius; there is no one at present with whom I am close enough to request his inclusion as one of the party. Looking forward to seeing you and your family on Saturday.
Harry read the reply and considered. Charlie Weasley would be visiting his parents that week; Harry knew that Charlie was presently unattached. Perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to invite another adult, bring the number up to eight around the table. Ginny was pleased by the suggestion, although she warned Harry that if he were thinking along matchmaking lines, he ought not to expect anything, because Charlie was very much the footloose and fancy-free type, and Malfoy wasn't the sort he'd go for in any case.
"I wasn't matchmaking," Harry protested. "Not seriously, anyhow. For goodness' sake, Charlie's in Romania eleven months out of the year. It wouldn't make sense."
Charlie accepted the invitation with alacrity, although Harry strongly suspected that his enthusiasm was due in large part to a wish to spend a little time away from the Burrow and his sometimes too-attentive parents.
Dinner itself went off well enough; Ginny made a roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and vegetables that would have done her mother proud, and the conversation over the table was amiable and general, focussing largely on the children and what they thought they might do once they had finished at Hogwarts. It was a question without pressing importance even for James yet, and Charlie entertained them all by talking about some of the pros and cons of dragon-keeping and the ancillary professions.
After the meal the four children went off to play a noisy game of Exploding Snap while the adults settled in the living room, drinks in hand. Although Harry had expected that with only four of them they'd be able to maintain a general discussion, somehow it fell out that Ginny talked mostly to her brother, leaving Harry and Draco in an unanticipated tête-à-tête at the other end of the room.
"Tell me about Greece," said Harry. "Al described it from his point of view, but he leaned largely to descriptions of the local beauties, rather than the scenery."
Draco chuckled and took a sip of whisky. "I looked at some of the local beauties myself, I have to say," he said easily, "although it was a different group from those whom Albus and Scorpius were ogling, I'm sure. The countryside was glorious. Looking at the ruins helped me to recognise how unimportant so much of tedious daily reality is. There is a timelessness there that I've only rarely felt at home. And the light..."
Harry waited for a moment or two, then prompted, "The light?"
With a start, Draco seemed to come back to himself. "The light is indescribable," he said softly, but Harry thought he caught a glimpse of it in Draco's own eyes. "You'll have to go there someday and see for yourself."
"Not likely," said Harry with a snort.
"That's too bad. I'd have rather liked to have you along, actually." Draco's voice was quiet. "There's a peace there. I think you'd have appreciated it."
"My life is peaceful enough as it is," said Harry sharply. Damn Draco for making him long for something that he couldn't have. He could imagine the light, the sharp gold and the blue of the sea, and the image sliced at him.
Draco shrugged, taking another drink. "I just think you'd enjoy it, in the right company anyway." His eyes flickered towards Ginny and Charlie. "I gathered from Albus that you will soon be going to spend part of the summer with his grandparents?"
"Yes," said Harry, gratefully seizing the chance to shift topics. "We do that every summer; how long we're there depends on how many of Ginny's brothers, and their wives and children, are going to be visiting too."
"No wife and child for that brother," said Draco, a slight smirk settling across his face. Harry felt a twinge of embarrassment at Draco's perspicacity.
"No, but I didn't invite him tonight because..." he began lamely.
"Of course you did. I don't mind." Draco shrugged. "He's an entertaining fellow in his way, but not my type."
"What is your type?" Harry felt compelled to ask. He'd never actually seen Draco with any male companion, and his curiosity had the best of him.
"Oh," Draco said lightly, "I prefer my men dark, rather than redheaded."
Harry wasn't sure how to respond to that. Draco couldn't possibly be flirting with him, could he? Not with Ginny across the room, not when Harry had never shown any interest. Harry wasn't interested, couldn't be. If he enjoyed hearing Draco talk of Greece, it was because he would have liked to travel to foreign countries himself, that was all. Perhaps Draco intended it as a gentle brush-off for Charlie to overhear. In his confusion, Harry found himself telling Draco about his long-past conversation with Albus, in which his son had expressed an interest in learning more about boys liking boys.
"I think he was curious because of knowing you. Have you talked to Scorpius much about it?"
"Have I given him The Talk, you mean?" Draco said, somehow managing with his inflection to capitalise the words. "Oh yes, years ago. He didn't ask about that, though." Draco pursed his lips. "Now I wonder if he wasn't curious, or if he felt awkward asking because I'm his father?"
"When Al asked, I wondered if he might be inclined that way, but he seems too interested in girls for that to be likely," said Harry.
"How would you feel if he were a poof?" Draco's eyes were intent on Harry's, and he deliberately lingered on the last word, emphasising it.
"I'd be a little concerned," said Harry honestly. "More because I'd be worried about him having to experience possible prejudice than because I personally see anything wrong with it." Harry shrugged. "He's my son and I'll love him no matter what."
"That's good to know. I suspect that the boys have done a little experimenting together," said Draco calmly, "but I think that they both prefer girls."
Harry suddenly realised how odd it was to be having this conversation. He hadn't ever talked to Ginny about Albus's questions. But before he could try to move them onto another subject, Draco asked, "Did you ever do that? Mess around with one of your friends?"
"No." Harry could feel his face growing hot. He might have done in his teens, with Ron; he'd thought about it in passing more than once, but there had never been a time when Harry had felt he could suggest it. At the Burrow seemed too awkward, and then during that year they had spent chasing down the Horcruxes, part of the time Ron hadn't been there anyway, and the rest he'd been mooning over Hermione. "No, I didn't."
Draco nodded, as if Harry had just told him something of great significance. "I actually fancied a Gryffindor for awhile."
Before Harry could react, Draco continued, "Your Quidditch captain, Wood. Not that I never did anything about it. Not with him being a Gryffindor, and years older, and I don't think he was queer anyway, but that was what first made me think that I might prefer other boys. Then later... there were others."
He didn't say anything about who he might have experimented with, though, for which Harry was grateful. If it had been Vince Crabbe or Greg Goyle, he wasn't sure he could have repressed his disgust. But perhaps Draco had better taste in bed partners than in cronies. Harry shifted uncomfortably.
It was a relief when Draco at last changed the subject and talked about Quidditch instead. Not that they agreed on who they supported, naturally; Harry was a somewhat half-hearted Cannons supporter, largely because of Ron, whereas Draco proved to be a Magpies fan. Nevertheless it was a far more comfortable topic, and one in which Ginny and Charlie eventually joined in.
Draco sent an owl to Harry a few days later.
Thanks once again to you and of course Ginny for inviting Scorpius and myself to dinner last week. I very much enjoyed the evening, and I gather that Scorpius did too; he tells me that James owes him a rematch in Gobstones.
I was wondering if perhaps you would like to have lunch with me sometime?
Harry frowned slightly as he read the letter. Why would Draco went to have lunch with him? Yes, it had been an enjoyable evening, but there was certainly no obligation on Draco's part to reciprocate. He'd been more than generous in taking Albus travelling with them. Well, perhaps he simply wanted company once in awhile that was someone with whom he'd already been through so much that he needn't worry about being careful and polite, lest gossip make it into the Prophet. So Harry scrawled back a note of acceptance.
Fine. Noon Friday, at the Leaky Cauldron?
They met as scheduled and had a pleasant enough meal and conversation, although Harry still felt puzzled as to why Draco seemed to be making an effort to cultivate him. It could hardly be on his son's behalf, now that the second holiday trip had gone so successfully, and there was no longer any question of Albus's parents trying to interfere with the boys' friendship.
Still, Draco apparently enjoyed Harry's company enough that before they each returned to work he suggested that they might make this a regular thing, perhaps every month or two. Harry agreed without being entirely certain why he had done so, and Draco gave him an apparently casual hug as they parted.
They carried on with their occasional lunches over the course of the next couple of years, until the spring when both Albus and Scorpius were to take their N.E.W.T.s. Harry mentioned the meetings to Ginny, naturally, although she didn't seem particularly interested, only rolled her eyes and wondered aloud if Draco was hoping to get some favour from Harry in his capacity as The Boy Who Lived.
"I don't think so," said Harry. "I mean, he can't imagine that I would give him preferential treatment, even if there were any occasion for me to be dealing with something that concerned him. He's certainly never even hinted about it." No, Draco simply seemed to like spending time with Harry once in a while. He never talked about anything political, just about Quidditch and places he'd travelled. Once in a while it was clear that he'd done some of that travelling with a partner, but he never volunteered details of his relationships and Harry couldn't ask. He didn't want to know, somehow.
Ginny shrugged. "I don't trust him. I never will. He seems to have improved, but he'll never be my favourite person."
She herself was spending longer days in the Ministry now, working at the Department for the Regulation of Magical Creatures. Hermione had encouraged her to try to revisit some of the laws regarding such beasts, and she had Charlie's support for it as well. Quite often she didn't get home until eight o'clock or even later. She described the meetings she had to sit through as dull, although luckily several of her colleagues – Euan, Marguerite, and Stephen – had senses of humour that helped keep them all cheerful in the face of both Ministry reluctance and public disinterest.
James, of course, had left Hogwarts the year before, and was now working somewhat reluctantly under his grandfather Weasley in the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects. He didn't seem likely to want to stay in the post, but until he decided on what interested him more, at least it was a job, something to get him out of the house, and indeed in February he came to his parents to say that he'd arranged to share a flat with Bruce McLeod, who'd been a Hufflepuff in his year and was now employed at Gringotts.
"I suppose that really drives home that they'll all leave eventually," Harry commented to Ginny that night as he was unbuttoning his shirt.
She was brushing her hair before bed, and laid the brush down on the dressing table to look at him with a peculiar expression. "Things can't stay the same forever, Harry. They'll still be our children, whatever happens, whether they're living here or somewhere else, and even when they marry and have families of their own."
"I know," said Harry, "but the years seem to have gone by faster than I ever expected."
Rising, Ginny stood on tiptoe to brush a kiss across his temple. "You can handle change better than you think, Harry, I'm sure of that."
Harry felt less certain about it than Ginny sounded, but he didn't protest.
part one / part two