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The Twenty

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The Twenty



Dedicated to [info]melusinahp,
for your prompt and for your courage.
You rock my world!

Later the sheer number of dead would overshadow everything else - their youth, their blood status, even the notorious name of their killer, who was as young and pure-blooded as they had been. But in this moment, not an hour after the last shot had rung through the Entrance Hall, numbers seemed irrelevant. The horror of those bundles lying on the grassy patch outside the Hogwarts gate was still visceral, smelling of blood and vomit and sweat.

McGonagall had never seemed so old to Harry. Her skin looked bleached, each wrinkle carved into it as if with a blunt instrument. The skin of the dead shimmered like smooth wax. Harry had quickly searched their faces underneath the covers, lime-green like St Mungo's robes. The colour made them look less human, a herbology project, perhaps, with the young plants covered up to protect them against too much sun or too much rain.

The sounds of Apparition broke into the eery quiet of this sunny September afternoon, not three weeks into the new school year. White feathery clouds hovered over Ravenclaw tower, a soft breeze rustled in the gold-leafed birches on the Lake side. The news of the massacre spread like wildfire in the wizarding world. It must have leaked when the healers were called in. By now, five students were lying dead in St Mungo's morgue. Or perhaps someone from within the Ministry had sent an owl. Harry couldn't even be sure of his Aurors, not with something like this. Too many families had children at Hogwarts.

The constant pop of Apparition was all around him. He kept looking around the grounds filling up with wizards and witches, in search of Dennis Creevey. But the slight man was nowhere in sight which could only mean, as unlikely as it was, that the Prophet had not yet received the news.

A cordon of Aurors kept people away from the dead. Only the Head Auror had been given the privilege to check whether his children were amongst them. Torwell was over at the birches, talking to a black-haired woman. She wore a huge apron over her dark robes, with Eeylops Owl Emporium written on it in yellow letters. Sally-Anne Perks. Tears streamed down her face. Harry remembered her from his very first year at Hogwarts, a chubby girl with a red skirt who was Sorted into Hufflepuff within the blink of an eye. He'd often seen her son at Eeylops, sitting behind the counter, a bored expression on his small face. Harry couldn't remember whether the dark-haired boy had been among the dead.

"Will you go in?" The Minister put his hand on Harry's shoulder, then quickly took it away. Gawain Robards had been the second person to receive the news of the massacre. After McGonagall's fire call, Harry had gone directly to the Minister's office without speaking to anyone else. Eight minutes later, they'd arrived at Hogwarts.

Harry nodded. "Alone." He glanced over to where Ron was holding Draco back from storming up the path towards the gate. No one was allowed to enter the castle. They had managed to get most of the pupils out without lifting the Anti-Disapparition Spell. For a whole five minutes they had discussed whether to lift the spell, to hasten the evacuation, but in the end decided against it. They couldn't risk to have the killer escape. Apparition tests for the sixth-years had been going on since January, and Scorpius Malfoy had passed his test flawlessly in May.

"You need back-up, Harry. At least let a team follow you." Robards, always watching out for his Head Auror but knowing Harry too well to give him orders that he'd never follow.

"Ron and Torwell have a trace on me. They will know at once ... should I get hurt or something." He heard the careless tone in his own words. But let Robards think he thought himself above death. Harry didn't care. He just knew that he had to enter Hogwarts alone, no matter how. "And I'm wearing a set of these," he added, and let the Minister see the inside of his robes where Extendable Ears were reaching from his ear around his neck, modified by a Sonorus charm so Torwell could pick up every word Harry said.

"A gun is different than a Killing Curse. You understand that, Harry, don't you?"

The Minister sounded patronising without meaning to. A privilege of his age and genuine care, for of course Harry knew. The Avada Kedavra needed intent, the strong will of the wizard or witch casting it. A gun, though? A second of blind rage or of weakness, the accidental slip of a finger, even – and someone was dead. If Harry was counting on Scorpius trusting him, Robards was saying, then he should be aware that he was confronting a frightened boy, from an old pure-blood family, with a Muggle gun. Nobody knew how Scorpius had got hold of the weapon – a 9mm Browning, Creswell from Muggle Relations had been quick to determine from the bullets carved out of the dead.

Draco had not looked Harry in the eye when the Aurors questioned him. They believed him when he claimed that there'd never been Muggle weapons in Malfoy Manor. Draco seemed calmer now than just a few minutes ago. Ron was talking to him, careful not to touch him, but standing upright and stiff, almost at attention, in case Draco should try to still break through and make a run for the gate. Dean was near, in the official red robes that few of the Aurors had found time to don when they'd Apparated at barely two minutes' notice. A tall, burly man approached the group, and Harry recognised Goyle. He was walking slowly and came to a stop when he took in the grassy patch, the cordon of Aurors and the row of bodies behind them.

"Oh no." McGonagall sounded so feeble that Harry quickly turned, in case she needed his arm for support. If only the Headmistress didn't break down. Harry had seen her sway like this only once, so many years ago, when he'd told her that it was Snape who had killed Dumbledore. For her, like for so many of her generation, betrayal cut deeper than the loss of life. Harry understood with sudden clarity that this time the Headmistress didn't sway because she felt betrayed, but because she felt like she herself had betrayed the dead and perhaps even their killer. But they needed her to be there, to calm the parents and the surviving students. They needed Minerva McGonagall to be strong and keep things together.

Harry put his hand on her shoulder. He couldn't help notice the frailty of her body underneath the tartan robes. "His daughter is at Hogwarts, isn't she?"

McGonagall looked up at him and swallowed. "Was," she said, nothing more, then raised her slender hand and touched the Auror badge on Harry's robes.

Third body from the left, Harry remembered, and wished he didn't. A small girl, a third-year at the most, the fists in front of her still flat chest clenched tight, even in death. She had her mother's looks and brownish hair, only the thickset frame reminded of Goyle. Over at the group, Ron was speaking to Goyle who stood so close to Draco they were almost touching.

"Go Harry," McGonagall said, "go get him out before ... before ..." She moved her head in a sharp, desperate gesture, then stepped away.

Before more parents came, before the Daily Prophet arrived, before the shock was wearing off and the first called for instant revenge. Harry looked over to Robards who had his wand at the ready, eyes on a group of dark-robed pure-bloods who were gathering at the birches.

"Make sure not to lose the Ears, Potter. The minute you have him, we take the Disapparition Jinx down. Minerva?" The Minister glanced towards the Headmistress.

"It's a simple spell," she said. Now that she'd pulled herself together she was a presence even more powerful than Robards, despite the strands of hair loosened from her bun and no wand in her hand. "I can cast it from here."

Robards was still watching the pure-blood parents. The tall, imposing figure of Adam Bagnold left their circle and approached them with long strides. His eldest son was lying among the dead, the last body on the right. The expression on Bagnold's face did not bode well.

"Potter, you have strict orders to Petrify him on sight," Robards said quietly. "Bring him into the Ministry at once. Understood?" With that last word he turned to Harry, too bright eyes the only sign of worry in his face.

"Yes, Sir."

Harry could feel McGonagall's gaze on his back as he walked towards the group that still stood in the middle of the path. Behind the gate the sprawling battlements and high towers of Hogwarts Castle rose, the path leading up to it clearly visible through the wrought iron of the half-closed gate doors.

"Dean," Harry said, "get a couple of Aurors over to the birches. Nothing conspicuous. Just keep an eye on that group." He motioned over to the pure-bloods while seeking Draco's face. He looked at Harry now, eyes a liquid grey in the afternoon light. His hands were shaking and there was a sense of tension about him as if he could still snap. Had they been any place else, Draco would be smoking now, gulping down the nicotine as if it was water and he dying of thirst. Harry wished he could at least light a fag and put it between his lips. Fleetingly he wondered where Astoria was.

Torwell appeared and checked that the charmed Extendable Ears were securely fastened behind his ear and tied down below his robes. A last wave of her wand and she declared Harry ready to go. "Be careful, Sir," she said, the smile on her face faint but honest.

Then Harry was on his way, feeling ridiculous with his wand out. He put it back up the sleeve of his robes.

This was Scorpius who had been in Harry's DADA class each summer. He knew the boy, knew his magic, knew how bloody in control he was – always had been, ever since Harry had seen him for the first time, a lanky third-year with Draco's hair and build, but eyes that were sharp and dark like Lucius'. Whatever had happened, this had not been a tempestuous outburst, not some explosion of rage that Scorpius had no longer been able to keep inside. This was planned, controlled, like everything Scorpius did.

The boy had few friends at Hogwarts that Harry knew of. There had been a time when Lily and Scorpius were closer, back when they both had been in one of McGonagall's inter-house Transfiguration projects. But the friendship ended shortly after the project was finished. To this day Harry didn't know why exactly Lily hadn't wanted to speak to Scorpius Malfoy anymore, only that she emphatically refused to even greet him when they met on platform 9¾. He'd put it down to Ravenclaw-Slytherin rivalry, but now Harry thought he should have prodded more. Draco had been concerned. Harry knew from the puzzled looks he'd given Lily at King's Cross. But they never talked about their kids, not back then, not now.

Harry turned, the thought of Draco making him look back instinctively. There was a commotion over at the birches, with Dean and Robards talking fast to Bagnold. Ron was watching, but Harry only saw the head of white-blond hair, moving away from Ron, away from Goyle, who still stood like in a daze. Then Draco was running towards him, open robes flying, the crunch of his steps louder even than the shouting.

"Draco, don't!"

"Bloody bug- ... Malfoy! Get back here!" Ron had his wand out, his face pinched in concentration as he cast a Stun but missed. Red sparks ricocheted off the gravel at Draco's heels.

For a moment Harry thought he would run past him, towards the castle where his son was hiding with a Muggle gun. But Draco came to a stop so abruptly he almost slammed into Harry.

"Please," he whispered, "he's all I ... Harry, he's -" His voice turned high and breezy, like he'd been sucking in too much air. "Get him out alive. You have to get him out of there alive."

It shouldn't have been such a surprise that Draco was afraid for Scorpius' life, when everybody else was worried for Harry's. But Draco's hands were on Harry's shoulders, pulling him close - something that he'd never done in public before. Never so close, never so intimately that everybody who saw them had to know they were more than friends.

"I'm not going to hurt him," Harry said. "Robards wants him in the Ministry. For his own protection."

Draco sagged lightly against him, brushing a kiss along Harry's jaw so quickly that nobody could have noticed. He nodded, eyes bright and fully focused on Harry. His fingers lingered a moment longer on his neck, then he took three steps backwards before he turned and walked stiffly towards Goyle.

Only when Harry reached the gate did he understand what Draco had asked of him. Not that Harry'd spare the boy, as if he'd go in and strike him down. But Draco knew his son better than anybody else. Scorpius would want control until the end, even if it meant pulling the trigger on himself.

*

The sliding door to the Slytherin common room stood open, the grey slab of stone frozen before the stone wall of the dungeons. There were dark spots on it, and the threshold was covered in blood. The outlines of the dead, drawn with charmed chalk that could be spelled to reveal an image of the body, glittered on the floor.

Harry's gaze was drawn to the high-backed chairs at the fireplace. He'd not been down here often, not even as an adult. None of his kids were in Slytherin, and Auror business rarely brought him to the dungeons. But there had been that one time, during the summer, a mere six weeks ago. It had been evening, with the watery orange light of the sinking sun falling through the tall windows. He'd seen Scorpius at once in the chair, his blond hair a beacon in the dimness of the room.

I love you, the owl had said, I've loved you since my father first told me about you.

A teenage crush. It explained the stutter in Scorpius' voice and the way his wand trembled ever so slightly whenever Harry explained the movements of a new spell to him. There'd been others, girls mostly, even after Skeeter's final shot at Harry, outing him on the front-page of the Sunday Prophet. He'd never expected it from Scorpius, who'd always been a sombre, quiet presence in his summer class.

Perhaps Harry'd been a bit more attentive to the boy than in the previous years. He knew, after all, what was going on at the Manor, with Astoria filing for divorce now that Scorpius had come of age, and the Malfoys fighting it tooth and nail. He'd talked to Draco, for hours and days it seemed, trying to convince him that divorce was the best for everyone. But pure-bloods didn't divorce, and if some did, then surely not the Malfoys, not even if their heir was gay as a hummingbird and fucking Harry Potter. Still, Astoria had gone through with it, with a surprising strength of will that made Harry think that Scorpius, despite his Malfoy looks, was a Greengrass at heart. He had seemed all right when he appeared in class. Harry had been so relieved that the boy did not hate him, that he was dealing so well with all of it. Perhaps he had given him one encouraging smile too many.

Then the owl had come, the writing precise like everything Scorpius did, but the parchment dog-eared and crumpled as if the boy had carried it with him for a long time before he'd sent it. What choice did Harry have but to come and talk to Scorpius?

*



Ministry of Magic, Department of Magical Law Enforcement
September 21, 2023, 8.30 am

Let it be stated that the full Hearing is recorded in writing in the minutes. The Auror Office and the witness are entitled to a copy of the minutes. The minutes may be amended from Pensieve memory, provided there is no objection from either party. The witness waived his right to legal representation at the Hearing. The use of Veritaserum has been approved by the Minister for Magic.

The following are present:
Draco Cygnus Malfoy (witness)
Dean Thomas (interrogating Auror)
Hollace Torwell (interrogating Auror)
Leanne Nettles (MfM mediwitch)
Tim Sterling (minute taker)
Gawain Robards (MfM, attendance with special permission of H. Potter, Head Auror)

Auror Thomas: Sir, would you state your name, date of birth, occupation and current address, please?

Witness Malfoy: I'm stating nothing. I agreed to be questioned, but not under Veritaserum. Salazar, Thomas, why the fuck should I lie?

Auror Thomas: You bloody lied to us when we asked about the Muggle gun, Malfoy. Why the fuck should we believe you?

Witness Malfoy: I didn't know about the gun. I told you that.

Auror Thomas: But it's the first time I believe you, because you're drugged to your gills in V.

Witness Malfoy: You're such a bloody wan-

Auror Torwell: Mr Malfoy, using the Truth Serum is standard procedure when questioning next of kin in a murder case. If you have nothing to hide, it works in your favour, Sir.

Witness Malfoy: Everybody's got something to hide. I don't want you bunch of perverts pry into my private life.

Auror Torwell: We won't ask anything that does not pertain to the case, Sir.

Witness Malfoy: And what, Auror Torwell, if your and my idea what pertains to this case are hugely different?

Auror Torwell: Your father did buy the murder weapon in Muggle London, Sir. This gives us reason to suspect the family was involved in the crime.

Witness Malfoy: My father is in St. Mungo's. This should give you a pretty good idea of what to suspect. He's been unstable for years, ever since he came back ... [amended "from Azkaban"]

Auror Torwell: Sir, we understand how hard this must be for you. But this is the biggest murder case in modern wizarding history. We have the victims' families and the public to answer to. If you cooperate with the questioning, we'll be out of this room by noon.

Witness Malfoy: Why is Potter not here?

Auror Thomas: Why do you think, Malfoy? Counting on getting off the hook because you're fucking the Head Auror, are you? This is not how the Ministry works. You're not going to wiggle your way out of this again.

Auror Torwell: God, Dean, would you please stop that shit? Mr Malfoy, Head Auror Potter has never been assigned to this case because of personal bias.

Auror Thomas: Let's get on with the hearing, shall we? Malfoy, would you kindly state your name, date of birth, occupation and current address?

[Witness refuses to answer.]

MfM Robards: Get on, Auror, please. I am certain the information can be added later.

Auror Thomas: Could you tell us when and where you last saw your son?

Witness Malfoy: When I brought him to King's Cr- ... In Knockturn. The last time I saw Scorpius was in Knockturn Alley. And damn you, Thomas.

Auror Thomas: Your wife brought Scorpius to London to catch the Hogwarts Express this year, didn't she?

Witness Malfoy: Ex-wife.

Auror Thomas: Did she?

Witness Malfoy: Yes.

Auror Thomas: Why did you not accompany them?

Witness Malfoy: I did not ... I was still mad at Scorpius.

Auror Thomas: About that meeting in Knockturn Alley?

Witness Malfoy: Yes.

Auror Thomas: When did that meeting take place?

Witness Malfoy: Beginning of August. Must have been the fourth, or the fifth. A Saturday.

Auror Torwell: Could you elaborate on the nature of this meeting, Sir? Why did you and your son meet in Knockturn Alley?

Witness Malfoy: I certainly hadn't planned on meeting him there. He's seventeen. He shouldn't be out in Knockturn on a Saturday night. Not at that part of Knockturn, anyway.

Auror Thomas: And which part would that be, Malfoy?

Witness Malfoy: Don't play dumb, Thomas. I can tell you the names of at least four of your Auror colleagues who were in the club that night. And I don't mean in uniform.

Auror Torwell: So you were visiting a club?

Witness Malfoy: Yes.

Auror Torwell: A gay club, sir? The Brass Wand?

Witness Malfoy: Yes.

Auror Torwell: And why was your son there, Sir?

Witness Malfoy: I'll be damned if I know.

Auror Torwell: Any guesses, sir?

Witness Malfoy: Looking for me ...

Auror Torwell: Your son was looking for you in a gay sex club?

Witness Malfoy: He showed up right when I left. I assume he must have waited for me outside.

Auror Thomas: Tell us the whole story already, Malfoy. What was Scorpius doing there? Did the two of you have a row?

Witness Malfoy: He barely talked to me. Like I said, he showed up when we left and -

Auror Torwell: We, Sir? You were not leaving the club alone?

Witness Malfoy: It was a Saturday night. Of course I was not leaving alone.

Auror Thomas: Merlin, don't tell me it was Potter! I'll break his neck -

Witness Malfoy: It wasn't Potter, you idiot. I met the man that night.

Auror Torwell: Name, sir?

Witness Malfoy: I'd rather not say.

Auror Torwell: Sir. His name.

Witness Malfoy: M- ... Mauro Tramontano.

Auror Thomas: Italian? That's clever, Malfoy. How are we going to get hold of this bloke to corroborate your story?

Witness Malfoy: Minister?

MfM Robards: Um ... Have the Auror Office contact my secretary, Thomas. She'll get you in touch with Signore Tramontano if you need his statement.

Witness Malfoy: He will confirm everything I am saying.

Auror Torwell: What did happen, Sir?

Witness Malfoy: I came out of the club with Mauro, and Scorpius approached us. He asked Mauro if he knew who I was, and that I was a married man and he my son. I don't know what he was thinking. He's never done anything like that before.

MfM Robards: Sorry to interrupt. But Signore Tramontano must have known who you are, Mr Malfoy. He was an observer at the Wizengamot when you made your rather passionate plea to end the so-called financial discrimination of Death Eater families.

Witness Malfoy: I ... I used a Glamour.

Auror Thomas: He bloody uses a Glamour to pull!

Witness Malfoy: I don't, usually.

Auror Torwell: Do you think the fact that you were deluding Signore Tramontano about your real identity might have had something to do with why your son confronted him?

Witness Malfoy: It's possible.

Auror Torwell: Do you think it's possible that your son watched you and waited for this occasion?

Witness Malfoy: He was at Hogwarts until the middle of July, for summer school. But after that, yes, it's possible. I've not been to the Brass Wand in a long time. He must have watched me.

Auror Torwell: How did Signore Tramontano react to what Scorpius was telling him?

Witness Malfoy: How do you think he reacted? I ended the Glamour, and he saw the Mark on my arm. Minister Robards here can tell you what high opinion Mauro Tramontano has of those who were branded with the Mark. He left.

Auror Thomas: You meant to get back at Tramontano for speaking publicly against your campaign to unfreeze Death Eater Galleons. You wanted to show him that you know he's a poof. But Scorpius ruined that plan.

Witness Malfoy: Something like that.

Auror Torwell: What did Scorpius do after he'd driven your lover away, Sir?

Witness Malfoy: He ... I don't know. He seemed ... sad. Relieved. I don't know. I was furious at him. He didn't even come up with an excuse. Just stood there and watched the spot where Mauro had Disapparated. I had to Side-Along him back home.

Auror Thomas: He said nothing?

Witness Malfoy: Not a word.

Auror Thomas: What were you and that Italian chap up to when Scorpius approached you, Malfoy?

Witness Malfoy: We ... we were kissing in the streetlight.


*

The door to the loo stood wide open, and on a whim Harry stepped inside. Scorpius had not been in the Slytherin common room or in his dormitory. He could be anywhere in the castle, and this first floor loo was as good as any place for a hideout.

Two steps in, there was a faint chemical scent in the air, too clean and alien to the dusty magic of Hogwarts. Harry rounded the stalls to where the room opened towards a row of enamel basins. They sparkled in the bright light. The spray of blood slashing across the pristine mirrors seemed entirely out of place. A skinny boy was lying motionless below the basin to the very left, his face turned to the floor. Dried blood surrounded him, and a dark patch spread on his back. Relief mingled with the horror that flooded Harry. It wasn't Albus, not with that reddish shock of hair, not with those blue trimmings at the hem of the robes. When this was over, Harry'd go to Hogsmeade where the surviving pupils had been taken. He'd go there and gather Albus and Lily into his arms.

Harry moved the boy carefully onto his side. The body was stiffening already, the eyes open and green and dead. Nobody could restore this child to life, but it was a Healer's job to pronounce death.

"Ron," he said into the stillness of the sun-drenched room. "There's another body here. I'm in a boys' loo near the Trophy Room."

A few seconds later Ron's voice came muted but clear from the Extendable Ear attached to Harry's neck. "Did you find him?"

"No. He's not in the dungeons, and I didn't see a sign of him anywhere on the first and second floor. But be careful when you come to get the body. He could be hiding anywhere." Harry looked back to the door that was slowly swaying on its hinges.

Right across the loo was the DADA classroom where he had been teaching for the last four years. Harry had been in this loo before, that one morning when Scorpius had walked out in the middle of his lecture on the Unforgivables. After class, Harry had found him here, standing in front of a basin, staring at his reflection in the mirror.

Scorpius had grown tall and lanky over the year, and his movements had had the awkward grace of a boy on the cusp of becoming a man. His hair had glinted in the bright morning light, resembling Draco's, but more golden, more blond than white, just as his eyes veered into a washed-out blue so unlike Draco's steely grey.

Waiting for the St Mungo's Healers, leaning against the wall of the stalls, Harry realised that Scorpius' infatuation must have started that summer. The boy hadn't cried, he hadn't been desperate like Draco had been in a similar loo many years ago. But there'd been something in his posture, in the way his body turned ever so slightly towards wherever Harry moved. It spoke of another kind of despair, one that Harry didn't want to see, much less discuss with Scorpius. Instead, they talked about the war. Harry hadn't been aware before how much Scorpius hated to be a Malfoy. He hadn't known that Scorpius still wished he was Sorted into Ravenclaw, the house he believed he truly belonged to. During the entire talk the boy stood with his back to the enamel basin, hips slightly pushed forward, while Harry remained at the threshold, only halfway into the loo.

Father cast the Cruciatus on you, Scorpius eventually said, a mixture of shame and awe in his face. Harry had lectured on the Curse in class, but he wondered why Draco had told his son about their encounter in Myrtle's bathroom. Too young, too early, he thought. How could a fifteen year-old understand that two people who hated each other to the point of throwing Unforgivables could still become lovers? Harry crossed the distance between them then and tried to explain. But with every word Harry said, Scorpius only became more distraught. When he started crying, Harry wrapped him in a hug, like he did with his own kids when words just weren't enough. It was the right thing to do. Scorpius relaxed at once and nestled against Harry's chest. They stood like this for minutes, until Harry loosened his arms and stepped away.

Scorpius gave Harry a shy smile as they walked to the door. They both stepped into the hallway at the same time, when his fingers brushed Harry's hip. The touch was light but so intense that Harry almost jumped. For a fleeting moment he felt Scorpius was flirting with him. Accidental touches didn't have that kind of gentleness, they didn't linger for that fraction of a second too long.

Harry pushed the awkward feeling away. Surely he was imagining things. Teenage girls might have crushes on the Saviour of the wizarding world, but not Draco Malfoy's son. There was some Ravenclawish level-headedness about the boy, even when Harry thought that Slytherin House suited him just fine.

But now, two years later, Harry was struck by the thought that Scorpius had somehow lured him into the loo deliberately, to remind him of Draco trying to Crucio him. Listening for the steps of the Healers in the hallway, Harry couldn't help wonder whether Scorpius had meant to impress on him how similar and yet how different he was from his father.

*



The Torrs Inn, Ilfracombe, Devon
November 12th, 2023

Draco -
I've never told you this, and I ask you to please not tell your mother. Yet in the light of our recent correspondence it may have some importance and help you find a sense of closure with the horrible crime our son committed.

Back then it seemed disturbing, even frightening, but not something I wanted to share with you, who was barely willing to claim responsibility for his child, much less his failed marriage. It was a time when I had not forgiven you yet for leaving me every single weekend with your parents who doted on your son but disliked his mother. I had not yet forgiven you for returning every Sunday for lunch, glowing and freshly showered, when I could just smell the men underneath your expensive after-shave. You should know better, Draco, than to think that a quick shower and shave can wash that away.

I never was the jealous kind, I would have been satisfied with a kiss. But you refused to touch me and refused to let me touch you ever since that first short year before Scorpius was born. Everything changed after that between us, didn't it? You and your parents planned it like this, I know and should have known back then. I didn't, and re-reading my words I guess I still have not forgiven you for that.

What I mean to tell you happened on your mother's fifty-second birthday. You will certainly remember the day – your parents had been fighting for weeks over the invitations, as your mother insisted on not inviting anyone formerly allied with the Dark Lord, and particularly not the Notts. You left shortly after tea, flaunting your Mark in your mother's face and storming off. Always taking the easy way out, Draco, didn't you, to disappear to your clubs and your boys (to your silly, smitten Harry). I seem to recall you barely made it to lunch the next day.

But this is not what I mean to tell you. Forgive me my ramblings. It's lonely here at the coast, in this forsaken inn in November. Queenie was amongst your mother's guests, and little Lorenzo was just about to be trained to use the toilet. I showed her to the guest loo and hadn't even noticed that Scorpius was following us. At this time, he'd been out of his nappies for months. It had been so surprisingly easy to toilet-train him, but he'd always been a fiercely independent child.

Queenie sat Lorenzo on the toilet seat and we waited for him to pee and then tell him how well he'd done. Lorenzo has always been eager to please and this time was no different. Perhaps it was the attention the toddler was receiving, or maybe Scorpius just thought it was a grand idea to have a wazz. Queenie heard the pitter-patter first, and when I turned he'd already wet his trousers.

You know the rest of the story, the struggle to get Scorpius to use a toilet, the many nights he wetted the bed even at the age of five. To this day I believe that it was our fight in the paediatric ward of St Mungo's that cost me your respect, after I've already lost your friendship. And so I want you to know how Scorpius' 'bedwetting issues' (your mother's favourite word) started. If that means bothering you with women's stuff, well, I won't apologise for that. Your mother certainly has made this one of her cherished anecdotes from Scorpius' childhood that she loves to recount at the few ladies teas the two of us attended during those last dreadful months. She wants to put the blame on me, and part of me understands her. But I know what happened, because I know what kind of child Scorpius was. And I know you know, as well.

You know that Scorpius did all of that deliberately. 'To lose control' is not something that ever happened to this child of ours, not when he peed his trousers, not when he wet his bed. And I don't for a second believe that he lost control when he pulled the trigger to kill all those poor children at Hogwarts. I've seen him standing there that afternoon in the guest loo, one of his favourite shell-shaped soaps in his little fingers, smirking at me. Scorpius' smirk was a lot like yours but with an edge of evil that yours - even in your worst moments - never had.

Am I writing you this to wash myself of the Prophet's unflattering picture of myself and you - the overbearing mother, the closeted gay father? I don't think we gave Scorpius too much or too little love. The one thing I wonder is whether we didn't love him quite as we should, because his whole existence was the reason why there had been a 'we' in the first place. I'm torturing myself with those thoughts, and from your owls I gather you do, too. The fact remains, and it's the hardest thing for me to say: Scorpius was not an easy child to love.

I tried, and you did in your way, and perhaps trying to love him was all we could do. But sometimes I was frightened, not for Scorpius, but of him. That moment in the loo was the first time I felt this fear, and it increased over the years until the 'incident at St. Mungo's', as you insist on calling it. He could be so cruel one moment, and so in need of ... of everything the next - a hug, kind words, our undivided attention. I still wake up at night, wanting to rush into his room and hold him in my arms. But I doubt all the hugs in the world would have ever been enough.

I am very sorry to hear about your father, Draco. Please give him my regards and my love. When I return to London I will step by the Janus Thickey Ward for a visit. I'd like for you to come with me if you wish.

Astoria


*

From the window of the DADA classroom Harry watched the procession of Aurors and Healers carrying the small body of the boy, wrapped in St. Mungo's green. They had crossed the courtyard and were entering the front building. Soon they would be walking down the path to the gate and the lake, out of sight from where Harry was standing.

I've loved you since my father first told me about you. Can I see you, out of class? Please. I just want to talk.

They had met right here, in this classroom, late in the afternoon when no other pupils or teachers were likely to show up unexpectedly. Harry had thought it a good place for this meeting. The classroom emphasised his authority as Scorpius' professor. It carried the unspoken message that their relationship was that of teacher and pupil, and that Harry didn't want anything else.

Scorpius ruined all of that, of course, by strutting in twenty minutes late, his school robes opened at the front to reveal cool silk clinging to his chest and low-riding trousers that barely covered his narrow hips. He was a good-looking lad, gorgeous even. Astoria had passed on a smoothness of features that Draco lacked. Harry found himself searching for points and angles, for something sharp that touched him like good looks never could. It was hidden in Scorpius' eyes and became visible only when he stood close to Harry.

Down in the courtyard, the sunlight sparkled in the water of the fountain. Scorpius had grown to be almost as tall as Harry, and he smelled of youth and summer heat. He pressed himself against Harry's chest, just like in the loo two years ago. But there was nothing childlike about the way Scorpius' fingers trailed along Harry's collarbone and slowly moved up to cup Harry's cheek. His arousal was hot against Harry's groin, and he stepped back, grabbing both of Scorpius' hands.

Just talk, Scorpius. That's what your owl said.

Sharp anger flashed across Scorpius' face but passed so quickly that Harry wondered whether he'd imagined it. Then the boy pulled himself close again, using the leverage of Harry's hold. Not even one little kiss, Professor Potter? he murmured against Harry's throat, with a voice so similar to Draco's that Harry couldn't help the shivers running down his back. He let go of those smooth hands, but already Scorpius shoved him away with a force that made Harry stumble against the lectern.

He had called after him once he regained his balance, but Scorpius had already been out the door. The rest of summer school he'd been silent in class, never spoke to Harry, never came close to him again. Harry had left him alone. Time was supposed to heal all wounds, after all.

The door had closed behind the last of the Healers; silence sank once more upon the courtyard. Even the marble fountain fish seemed lifeless, with no water pouring from their round and open mouths. Harry turned away from the window. It was time to continue his search. All along he'd had an inkling as to where Scorpius was hiding. Slowly he made his way up to the seventh floor.

Harry quickly passed the closed entrance to the Hospital Wing. Spidery cracks reached outward from a hole where a stray bullet had cracked the glass door to the right. White curtains were swaying behind it. There was blood on the floor, smeared on the door jamb and on the ripped curtain. One would think that the final shoot-out had taken place in this hallway in front of the Hospital Wing. But Harry knew better. The majority of the dead had been found in the Slytherin common room. Down in the dungeons was little blood and the amount of damage was negligible.

Hastening onwards, Harry couldn't get out of his mind what every Auror trainee learned in the first year of training: that little blood meant no resistance, little damage a quick and easy death.

*




St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries


Date: April 15, 2021
To: Potionmaker Malfoy-Greengrass
From: Head Healer Pye
Re: House Ban against Scorpius Malfoy

As Chief Healer of St. Mungo's, in charge of the well-being of staff and patients, it is my duty to inform you and your husband that your son, Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy, will no longer be permitted to enter the premises of St. Mungo's Hospital as a visitor. This includes the Janus Thickey Ward as well as the Potions Laboratory.

After the incidents of the last days, we have reason to suspect that Scorpius Malfoy is responsible for the death of a patient entrusted in our care.

Auror Office investigations affirm our initial in-house diagnosis: patient name blacked-out was administered Skele-Gro laced with scurvy-weed. Death occurred within minutes due to the subsequent inflammation of the patient's brain. Skele-Gro was freshly brewed on April 8 in the hospital's lab. One witness and your own testimony confirm that Scorpius was left unattended for at least two hours in the lab near where the potion was simmering.

During the last months, Healer-in-Charge Strout and Trainee Healer McKenzie witnessed several heated arguments between name blacked-out and Lucius Malfoy, currently an outpatient of the Janus Thickey Ward. At least on one occasion Scorpius Malfoy was present. Both witnesses stated that Scorpius seemed very upset by the argument, taking his grandfather's side. At one point Healer McKenzie had to forcibly remove him from the Ward to guarantee the safety of name blacked-out.

Several witnesses saw Scorpius leave the Janus Thickey Ward on the evening of April 8, shortly after 11 p.m. when the Ward closed for visitors. Healer Strout discovered the death of name blacked-out in the early morning of April 9 on 5 a.m. when her shift at the Ward started.

The Department of Magical Law Enforcement is of the opinion that they cannot bring Scorpius to trial on circumstantial evidence alone. As he is under-age, an interrogation under the influence of Veritaserum is legally prohibited. When questioned, Scorpius denied any knowledge about the death of name blacked-out.

St. Mungo's bylaws, however, allow to ban a wizard or witch in case of such a severe charge.

The ban will be revoked in one year's time if no further evidence comes to light.

Augustus Pye
Head Healer


*

Even twenty-five years after the Fiendfyre had ravaged the Room of Requirement, there were sooty smears on the wall opposite the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy and the dancing trolls. The room itself had been miraculously and immediately restored. When the Aurors went in to retrieve the body of Vincent Crabbe, it had changed into the Crabbe family's parlour. The boy was lying on the floor, with a peaceful expression on his face as if he'd just lain down for a nap.

I need to find Scorpius.

Wand in hand, Harry walked back and forth before the nondescript wall, concentrating on Scorpius and imagining what the room would look like for him, should he indeed be hiding there. He barely had turned around for the third time, when the outline of the familiar door became visible and quickly solidified. Harry pressed the wrought-iron handle, and the door swung inward.

A huge study opened before him, complete with a polished hardwood floor, ceiling-high bookshelves and an oversized desk. A large window behind the desk showed parts of a well-kept garden. Scorpius was nowhere to be seen.

For a moment Harry wondered whether the Room of Requirement had appeared as Draco's study in Malfoy Manor, but then a life-sized portrait of Abraxas Malfoy told him otherwise. Draco wasn't fond of his grandfather so this had to be Lucius' study. The long shelves filled with leather-bound ledges made more sense then.

A quill had been dropped onto the desk, with a piece of parchment rolled up beside it and the inkstand left open. Someone must have sat at the desk just moments ago.

Harry felt the pressure against his Adam's apple before he heard Scorpius' voice at his ear. "What a surprise, Professor Potter. They're sending the Head Auror in to get me."

He must have hidden behind the opened door and sneaked up on Harry when he entered the room. It was not as if Harry hadn't expected a trap. But putting up a fight was too dangerous. He was here to get Scorpius out of Hogwarts alive, preferably without anyone injured. Something hard was boring into his side. It felt distinctly like the nuzzle of a Muggle gun.

"There's no need for the weapon." It hurt to speak with Scorpius' arm almost crushing his windpipe. Harry moved his head back instinctively, then he saw the Dark Mark. It was crudely drawn onto the inside of Scorpius' arm, a blotchy parody of Voldemort's brand in ink.

"God!" Harry couldn't suppress a gasp. He tried to turn and face Scorpius, but before he even moved, the arm at his throat choked him viciously. The muzzle was suddenly higher, stabbing into his kidney. All that talk about accidental slips came back to Harry. Even with magic, his chances to survive a kidney shot were pretty low.

"You're here to talk, aren't you?" Scorpius said softly.

Harry nodded, as much as he could.

"What could we still talk about now, Professor?"

It sounded like a real question. There was a faint tremor in Scorpius' voice, of fear, Harry hoped. The boy was seventeen. No seventeen year-old wanted to die. The strength of Scorpius' hold didn't feel frightened, though. Rather it felt as if he'd made up his mind about something. Harry moved his head backwards again, to lessen the pressure against his throat. Scorpius allowed it, waiting for an answer, it seemed.

"The Minister wants me to Petrify you and bring you in. Will you come with me voluntarily, Scorpius? If you hand yourself in, your case will look a bit better before the Wizengamot."

The answering laugh was so light Harry could hardly hear it but felt it vibrating through Scorpius' body. He was pressed closed to Harry's back, the weapon wedged between them. "My case, Professor Potter, will never look good. It's the Dementors' Kiss for me. Or will you take pity on me and do it here?"

An icy cold much like the Dementors' swept through Harry. A small part of him had clung to the hope that there was an explanation for what Scorpius had done. A painful slight, an unfair mark, a lover who'd ditched him - anything, so the wizarding world could understand at least what had set off the rampage. Harry should have known that Scorpius couldn't be hurt, neither by slights nor bad marks. And he knew, with a certainty that scared him, that Scorpius had no lover. Because he thinks he loves you. "Do ... do what here?"

"Kiss me, of course. Will you kiss me in this room? You wouldn't in the DA classroom, but here? It's grandfather's study. I used to hide underneath his desk as a child, when my parents were looking for me. Grandpa never gave me away. Oh, but you don't want to kiss me in front of great-grandfather Abraxas, do you? It's just an -"

"Scorpius."

"What? He's not really in the picture. It's just an illusion, like everything in this room."

Scorpius stopped. He adjusted the weapon and dug the nuzzle harder into the flesh underneath Harry's shoulder blade. Harry still had his wand; his wandless magic was formidable, if not flawless. Scorpius knew that; he'd been in Harry's class every single year.

"I'll kiss you."

It was only a fine jolt rushing through Scorpius' body, but Harry knew he'd taken him by surprise. Whatever Scorpius' plan was, Harry kissing him was not part of it. Or was it? The gun had not moved a fraction of an inch.

"I'll kiss you, and then you hand me the gun and let me take you in." Harry's hand was sweaty, he was holding on so tightly to his wand.

The next moment, the nuzzle was gone. Scorpius loosened his hold on Harry's throat. "Turn around slowly. The weapon is aimed at your heart. Whatever spell you think of casting at me, I will be faster."

Harry turned and lowered his wand, discarding quickly all possible spells, but focusing on Scorpius' right hand with the gun. Another shockwave of fear ran through him. Scorpius had been lying: the weapon was not aimed at Harry's heart but at the underside of Scorpius' chin.

"Please don't, Scorpius. Please don't." He hadn't meant to sound so desperate but that at least brought a reaction from the boy.

He swallowed, whether pride or embarrassment Harry couldn't say. "You'll really kiss me?" he asked, sounding curious and afraid and just like any other boy his age.

Harry touched Scorpius' left arm, wand held loosely between his fingers, and let his hand move over the self-inflicted Mark, the soft crook of Scorpius' arm until he reached his neck. He wrapped his other arm around the boy's waist to bring him closer, and Scorpius yielded. Their bodies did not touch, but Scorpius' warmth was all around Harry. His hair was incredibly soft, so different from Draco's, and he leaned into Harry's touch.

Scorpius never moved the gun from his throat, but he opened his mouth, fine-cut pink lips chapped and looking too dry for kissing. Harry moved his tongue across them before he pressed his mouth lightly on Scorpius'. No moan, just a soft intake of breath, then Scorpius responded and placed shy, hesitant kisses on Harry's mouth and jaw. Harry kissed him back for real, using tongue and spit, piercing his lips, opening him up. He felt that rigid control loosen in Scorpius who started moaning around Harry's tongue and sucking eagerly. Whatever had held his body upright seemed to fall away, for he sagged against Harry and only the arm around his waist kept him standing. They kissed for long moments, going from gentle to wild, licking and biting at lips and tongues.

Human flesh muted the shot, but the stink of burnt skin was unmistakeable. Scorpius' lips were wrenched away from the kiss, as his head was yanked back with a violent snap.

Harry screamed, he dropped his wand and whipped the weapon from Scorpius' hand. But already the boy was sinking backwards, held only by Harry's arm, his body heavier than just moments ago. Harry's hand came away red when he reached around Scorpius' neck.

It could have been a sweaty finger slipping from smooth metal in a moment of passion. But Harry didn't think so. He felt tears run down his face as he looked into Scorpius' eyes.

"Why'd you do that, silly boy? All of that?" he whispered as he pulled Scorpius close.

Scorpius reached for him, his fingers wet with blood, and wiped away a tear from Harry's cheek. He started to speak, but only bubbles came out of his mouth. A pained shrug, a slight shake of his head, and Scorpius died. Harry could see it in his eyes. They still looked at him but the blue and grey in them was quickly fading.

*

"Harry! Harry! Bloody fuck, talk to me, Harry!"

He was breathing through the mouth, a jarring noise in the stillness of Lucius Malfoy's study. For a moment Harry thought he'd seen Abraxas sneer at him from the portrait. The dead boy in his arms looked so fragile, despite the blood drenching his shirt and the skull and serpent inked onto his pale Malfoy skin.

"Harry! Talk to me, mate!"

He slowly lowered Scorpius' body to the floor, then reached for the Extendable Ears hanging down the back of his robes.

"Ron ..." He had to clear his throat to have his scratchy voice carry through the charmed string. "Ron."

"Harry! Thank Merlin! We heard a shot. For a moment there, Harry ... Harry, I thought ..." Shuffling noises and an angry yell rang through the Ears, and Ron's voice suddenly sounded as if the Sonorus charm was weakening. "What! I can't believe ... Don't stand here, Dean, stop him! Merlin's beard! Go after him and bring the bloody git back!"

"Ron ..." He crouched down beside Scorpius' body. Powder burns blackened the boy's fingertips. The skin at his throat was scorched around the bleeding wound. Harry moved Scorpius' arms so they were lying on his chest, the Mark hidden from sight.

"Sorry, Harry. We're trying to keep the parents under control. Are you all right?" More shuffling could be heard in the background, and Ron yelled a muffled order.

"Draco is coming, isn't he, Ron?" The bleeding had slowed down to a trickle at Scorpius' throat, but there was more blood collecting underneath the back of his head. Harry moved a stray lock of hair from his cheek.

"Sorry, mate. He dashed off the moment you responded to my call." Another shout and a shuffle, and when Ron spoke again, Harry could hear the apologetic note in his voice. "He's through the gate, Harry. If Dean doesn't get to him, he'll be up in the Room in a couple of minutes."

"Don't try to stop him. Let him come in."

Ron swallowed. "All right."

"And Ron," Harry squinted into the brightness of the Malfoy gardens, then turned to the boy. With a last gentle caress he closed Scorpius' eyes, "there's another body here."


fin

The gay wizarding club "The Brass Wand" is from [info]mayfly's The Path of the Serpent. ♥